Thursday, 23 February 2017

Ripped Eyes

Spectacles are becoming a rip-off. Time was when you could get your old specs reglazed for next to nothing, but these days they bring in a frame design only to withdraw it a nanosecond after you've invested in it, meaning you have to buy a new frame every time you need a new prescription, and the frame is often, and inexplicably, more expensive than the lenses. I was ripped off for £156 the other day at Specsavers - I could buy a car for that! But at least I get the eye test for free now.

Now for the interesting part. It was £156 for one pair, but the two-for-one deal resulted in a cost of £208. I think that may be because I have varifocals.

Roll on the day they develop a reliable pair of self-adjusting specs that last a lifetime.

Wednesday, 22 February 2017

The Stable

I ignored my own advice a couple of weeks ago. I couldn't find a Mazda Premacy or a Chevy Tacuma to add to my stable anywhere within 100 miles of where I live and the Hyundai Getz pool car was on its last legs, the exhaust having fallen off a couple of days after it just about scraped through its MoT. At £200 for a new one, it just wasn't worth it, as it's highly unlikely it would get through another MoT without some serious attention to the bodywork.

Anyway, the 2nd hand car place a couple of hundred yards up the road happened to have an '05 Jaguar X Type diesel estate hidden round the back for £995 - I thought a number had dropped off the price tag, but no, the dealer got it as a part-ex and wanted to get rid of it quickly as he needed the space for more expensive cars. 160k on the clock but, with a 2 litre diesel engine, it's good for another 140k. It also has a tow-bar - an essential requirement. With the exception of a couple of scrapes here and there on the nearside (not to the metal and which I can easily blow in myself when the weather warms up a bit) and the perennial problem of rusted window seals, it looked an absolute bargain.

Kicking the tyres got it down to £900 (tyre kicking will always produce a result, especially done while tutting, sucking your breath through your teeth and shaking your head from side to side). I spent no more than £140 on new window seals all round and gave it an oil change (regular oil changes are the secret to engine longevity on a diesel). It has one major design fault - the Jags of this type and age have Ford engines. Can't be helped - will probably make servicing cheaper though.

Even if I only get 5 years out of it, that will be very cheap motoring. To cap it all, No.1 Son's mate's mother was desperately looking for a cheap runaround and snapped the Getz up at £200 (with a full tank of petrol, which probably accounted for 1/3rd of the price). So all-in-all, a net cost of £840 for a 2 litre diesel Jag estate, with no rust whatsoever, has been added to the stable. Not a bad deal.

If anyone's interested, the '93 Mercedes 300SL (R129 model) will be up for sale come March/April. Hay won't let me keep that, the 500SL and a Jag.

Estimate of around £4.5k. 3 litre straight 6 and not a spot of rust. Under 100k miles (97k, if I remember correctly).

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Art is As Art Does

Art - what is it? Has the word lost its meaning - if it ever had one in the first place?

Everyone knows when they see a great painting or play, or hear a great piece of music that moves the body and stirs the soul, or reads a wonderful book that keeps one riveted. The problem comes in that area where art nudges up against craft of even mere decoration and it's impossible to tell whether, say a painting, is a 'work of art' or merely some commercial art or even a scrawl.

Hay maintains it's all in the intention; I have my doubts and feel a level of skill is required. There are disciplines where such levels of skill are readily apparent between practitioners and the men are easily sorted from the boys. Playing an instrument is within everyone's capability, but playing it well is evident to the average listener. Acting is also within everyone's repertoire, but most of us make a complete hash of it. As for dancing, dads the world over make a bold attempt, but few can master the necessary skills.

The visual arts are where opportunities open up to mere mortals and virtually anyone can pass themselves off as an artist, with the consequence that charlatans abound. Not, of course, in traditional painting and drawing of reality, but the more modern visual art forms, such as expressionism and art installations, which can mask a total lack of talent, as demonstrated below.

Marcel Duchamp's famous 'Fountain' had the following said about it; "Whether the artist, with his own hands, made the fountain or not has no importance. He CHOSE it. He took an ordinary article of life, placed it so that its useful significance disappeared under the new title and point of view – created a new thought for that object." To me that sounds like pretentious twaddle - it's declared as art merely because the person who 'created' it says it is. If that's the case, a bricklayer can declare his wall a work of art and Colin (our tame builder) has been creating art all over our property for  the last 10 years. Not the house, of course, as the designer was an architect and Colin merely the assembler.

Duchamp did have talent though, but this is only evident through his early work before he started his experimentation and went from what he called retinal art to a form of art that challenged the intellect. He was actually challenging the very notion of what art is.

The concept of a work being defined as art (rather than decoration) purely because the maker defines it as such not only democratises art, but opens the floodgates for all manner of charlatans, as evidenced by the burgeoning 'modern art' market controlled by the Sarotas and Saatchis of this world, who cannily set themselves up as arbiters of not only of what art is, but what constitutes great art (because no-one actually knows). It's a master class in creating a market demand, fulfilling it and making a fortune through patronage. It's a con on a massive scale, but because institutions and luminaries have bought into the scam with vast amounts of money, it's self-perpetuating and there's too much to lose by highlighting the fact that the Emperor has no clothes.

Don't get me wrong - I have no issue with artists who have demonstrated talent in a more conventional sense then pushing the boundaries and experimenting, but when someone starts out as an experimenter with no underlying talent whatsoever - and some modern art forms facilitate that - then it becomes a decorative gewgaw at best and a scam at worst. Even then, one can't tell whether what's produced is great art and it all boils down to whether the artist showed earlier skills in the more traditional works, and even that is not a guarantee.

One only has to remember that great artist, Pierre Brassau, who wowed art critics in Gothenburg in the '60s. Only one critic saw through the hoax. Pierre died aged 10 from tuberculosis - not a common ailment among chimps. Below is one of his works.

Much of what's termed modern art is the equivalent of someone pressing random keys on a piano and declaring it an artistic endeavour.

Monday, 20 February 2017

Crackling-meister Fiver

I have finally become a crackling-meister. While I've never had a problem getting a lovely crackling on a pork roast bought fresh from a butcher, I've always had problems with vac-pack pork bought from a supermarket, resulting in some chewy, flacid stuff that had to be thrown away. 

The secret with waterlogged pork is to raise the heat for the last 30 minutes of roasting (not the first, as seems to be the orthodox recommendation) and to leave the roast in the oven with the door slightly ajar while cooling and resting.

I was stood in a queue at our local Tesco on Friday evening and had to endure some punter inspecting a new, plastic fiver for one of those micro engravings that signify it could be worth £50k and discussing the issue with the lady on the till for five minutes, oblivious of the ire he was causing to those waiting to be served. Some people really don't have a clue.

The lady on the till seemed to think all you had to do on finding one of these fivers was to take it to the bank and they would give you £50k. I had to tell her that it might be worth £50k, if she could find someone on eBay who was daft enough to pay £50k for one, but the bank would only give her an exchange fiver.

Sunday, 19 February 2017

Post Truth Memory

Blair calling for a coalition of the willing against Brexit is attracting all manner of opprobrium, including calls for him to be tried as a war criminal. My, my, how short memories are.

Polls conducted well before the Iraq invasion showed majority support for the invasion (more than the number supporting Brexit), with only a small minority of the left being against it - and this was before the release of the 'Dodgy Dossier' in February, a few weeks prior to the invasion. People were citing Saddam's ruthless killing of up to 300,000 of his people as sufficient reason to remove him. Statistically, most of the people reading this today supported the invasion with no dodgy dossier. Where have you all gone? Some people need to inspect the deeper recesses of their memories and consciences.

The Dodgy Dossier is attributed to Blair and Alistair Campbell, but he had no part in its production - it was produced by the Joint Intelligence Committee, part of MI6. Blair's fault, perhaps, was not to question its veracity with sufficient robustness. It was Andrew Gilligan who claimed the government had 'sexed up' the dossier; a claim that was totally untrue and led to his sacking. Chilcot absolved Blair of any part in the dossier.

Once the aftermath of the invasion showed the result to be a litany of incompetence on the part of the occupying forces, people started to conveniently change their minds and failed to recall that they'd actually supported the invasion in the first place. A case of post truth memory. The mob can be extremely fickle, as well as riddled with hypocrisy.

The charge of war criminal has been repeated so often that it seems to have acquired the status of a self-evident truth, although a court of law is the only place where this question could be definitively settled, and the likelihood is that a properly constituted court would find that Blair is not a war criminal at all.

If Blair is a war criminal, then the charge must also lie at the feet of St Margaret Thatcher, who purposely rejected military advice (and the advice of Peter Carrington, who resigned as a consequence) to beef up forces in the Falklands and incredulously withdrew HMS Endurance from the area, basically inviting Galtieri to invade, safe in the knowledge she could send a massive task force, win an astounding victory, and gain another term as PM (which at the time was against all odds) on a wave of popular triumphalism. She certainly had blood on her hands, but we'd best forget that, as we won with no nasty aftertaste. Blair's mistake was to win, but not convincingly, and the mob can't forgive him for that as it's on their conscience.

Saturday, 18 February 2017

Packaging Show Titles

I don't know if you get calls from recruitment people, but I get them quite frequently (a result of having some 2,000 plus Linked-In contacts). I've noticed that recently recruitment executives seeking people for relatively lowly positions call themselves headhunters. Time was when a headhunter was retained purely to seek out high level CEOs, MDs and FDs.

We started watching the One Show on TV last night and listened to some 3 minutes of self-congratulatory bollocks before realising it was totally irrelevant to us. Didn't have a clue as to who the presenters, or the first guest, were. We need a TV channel that has wall-to-wall reruns of The Two Ronnies, Rising Damp, Porridge, The Morecambe and Wise Show, Only Fools and Horses, Tomorrow's World, etc., with the odd documentary (not about people on the dole or people merely doing their dreary jobs) and some good films or dramas. The odd talent show lasting no more than 30 minutes might be tolerated, but only if hosted by a resurrected Hughie Green (and I mean that most sincerely, folks) and not some orange arsehole with a show-biz career spanning all of 10 seconds. The contestants must have learned their craft in northern working men's clubs and be able to suffer heckling without requiring a trauma counselor.

Lidl really need to d something about the excess of packaging in their coffee pods. Aldi do it so much better.

And before anyone has a go at me for the coffee pods themselves, the coffee is recycled in the compost and the blue plastic pods go into the plastic recycling.

Friday, 17 February 2017

Sheltered & Protected Food

Sheltered accommodation. Isn't all accommodation sheltered? Bit if a dart term really.

As part of its focus on Brexit, the Today Programme on Radio 4 yesterday was focusing on Cornwall. A Pasty Baron was interviewed about the Cornish pasty and it being a protected species under EU rules and the fact this may be under threat following Brexit.

Load of bloody nonsense all this protected food designation. For a start, a Cornish pasty has to be made of minced beef, potatoes, swede and onions. If it has anything else in it, it's not a true Cornish pasty, meaning the cheese and onion ones and the chicken ones you can buy at any pasty emporium in St Ives and labelled as a Cornish pasty is, by implication, not a Cornish pasty.

Should it matter where a foodstuff is made? It's not as if it's a guarantee of quality in any way, shape of form, Why is it that Stilton has to be made within a few square miles when Cheddar is made all over the world? This is especially daft when Stilton is not even real Stilton anymore as it's now made from pasteurised milk and by some quirk of fate this has been enshrined in the rules on Stilton manufacture. Idiocy! The real Stilton recipe with unpasteurised milk has to be called Stichelton. 

For a start it's anti-competitive and protectionist, as well as resulting in many millions of additional food miles in transporting it from its small region of manufacture to the point of sale. Foods should stand or fall according to their quality, not where they were made, unless they have a patent slapped on them, which I believe is almost impossible anyway and certainly not on simple recipes.

While on the subject of Brexit, Tony Blair has gone on a crusade to persuade the British public to to change their view on Brexit. Blair is perhaps not the ideal choice as persuader; however, Iain Duncan Smith said Mr Blair's comments were arrogant, utterly undemocratic and showed that the political elite was completely out of touch with the British people. It's a bit strong to say 'completely' when the majority was extremely narrow and all the polls say that if the referendum were to be rerun today the vote would go the other way. It's Duncan Smith who seems out of touch.

Thursday, 16 February 2017


Still nothing from BT as to why they never turned up to install the new line on Monday and when they will return, if ever. 

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Customer Service

Whatever happened to customer service? Last month it was the people who install new power supplies and it took 3 missed appointments before someone actually came out on site and put a meter in. This month it's BT, who were meant to have installed a new phone line on Monday - not only didn't anyone show up, but BT themselves don't know what went wrong and say it will be 24 hours before they do - needless to say that 24 hours went by without feedback.

Bad customer service seems to be peculiar to public utilities where the product is a commodity and the only differentiator is price. That said, customer service is also a differentiator, but one that affects price. So I guess utility owners have taken a gamble that the instances of customers having to utilise customer services are so few that they're prepared to take the risk. However, it's a mistake to take the risk at the start of a service.

Regardless of any of the above, all the utilities outsource new power supplies to, I believe, 4GS and you have no alternative to BT for a new line, so that's just a case of hostage taking.

Tuesday, 14 February 2017

Back to the Wood in Headscarf Prisons

I wasn't aware that Wetherpoon's has been taken over by Punch Taverns...

I've been cultivating a luxurious muostache and BIG beard since before Christmas, but of late it's been getting on my nerves as I  couldn't drink a coffee without the moustache soaking half of it up and then dripping it on whatever I'm wearing. Waxing it and turning it up was one solution, but moustache wax doesn't react well with hot drinks and you just end up where you were before, but with added wax on your shirt front.

Anyhow, I removed the lot yesterday and took my face back down to the wood - or rather a designer stubble that's just a fraction longer than my usual length. The following was overheard:

Hay: "That's better, you look 10 years younger."

Chairman: "Ooh thanks."

Hay: "Yes, you now look 61 instead of 71."

The Chairman is 61. Just as well she's gone off on a business trip and won't be here for Valentine's eve...

She's right though - beards do age one, especially when they're grey.

The Swedish government has defended its decision to have its female officials wear headscarves during a trip to Iran, saying that failing to do so would have broken Iranian law. However, to mollify the protesters, why don't they just get the men in the delegation to wear headscarves too? They could call them turbans.

Overheard on a BBC News item about UK prison overpopulation:

Mark Easton: "Why is it that the prison population has doubled when crime has halved?"

Chairman: "Am I mistaken or wasn't the answer given in the question?"