Sunday, 31 March 2013

Easter II

Apparently one third of the UK's population believes in the resurrection of Jesus. I find that incredible.

There again, I should not really be that surprised - the largest superstition in Britain today is astrology. More people read their star signs than attend church. Humans seem to be naturally superstitious.

Our local Jehova's Witness called round the other day - we usually have a bit of friendly banter before she launches into her life's purpose - the conversion of The Chairman. She was at great pains to point out that over 500 had witnessed Jesus' resurrection. When asked where the testimony of these 500 is in the bible, she became a bit evasive. 1 person's report about the words or experience of 500 others is hearsay and simply doesn't stand up as evidence in support of truth; it's too easily manipulated.

Saturday, 30 March 2013


Easter is like having two Saturdays and then two Sundays strung together.

Thursday, 28 March 2013

Overheard at the Tip (Again)

The Chairman is depositing yet more detritus at the municipal tip.

Tip Operative: "Oi, mate, switch off your engine while unloading."

Chairman: "Oh, it's you again, mate. Any idea why? I arrive with my engine running and depart with my engine running - why on earth do I need to switch my engine off in the 30 seconds it takes to discharge my rubbish?"

Tip Operative: "Rules, mate."

Chairman: "Give me strength, mate!"


Wednesday, 27 March 2013

The BT Man Commeth

Had the BT man come to install the broadband on Monday. The notification said any time between 1pm and 6pm. I just knew it would be a care of several return calls, as it involved stringing a cable from our pole to the house and a lot of buggering about. The guy would probably arrive thinking all he had to do was connect a couple of wires.

Come 5pm he still hadn't shown up and I was giving up hope, but surprise, surprise, at 6pm on the nose he turned up all jovial and laughing. I'll give him his due, he knuckled down like a Trojan and got on with stringing up the tightrope, but as he didn't have a cherrypicker he couldn't finish the job. However, he was clambering up and down ladders in freezing conditions while illuminating the work area with a miner's lamp strapped to his safety helmet. He even gave me advice on my satellite dish, as he used to be a Sky installer.

When finished he said someone else would follow up to effect the final connection with a cherrypicker and install a master box. I guessed this would be where I'd have obligatory 2 week wait - but no - the next morning the cherrypicker gang arrived and by midday I was fully connected.

The equipment came with a set of Powerline plugs, which turn your electrical ring-main in to a LAN. I now have the printed connected into the Powerline and am able to print wirelessly from my laptop, anywhere in the house.

Good job, BT - well done!

Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Knorr Knuckle-Heads

Spotted yet another stunningly stupid advert last night - Knorr Stockpots instant gravy.

The bloke doing the voice-over (dressed like a chef, but obviously an organic chemist) said his inspiration came from home cooked beef and gravy made with real meat juices. The ad then went on to show someone pouring this erzats gravy over - you guessed it - a plate of roast beef. 

Now if someone had made a roast - and it was the real, pink-in-the-middle variety and not the grey/brown frozen meal type - why on earth would they spend 3 minutes making erzats gravy when they had the real gravy already in the roasting pan that needed nothing more than a bit of wine or water (which also needs to be added to the fake stuff) and a little thickening agent.

Perhaps it's targeted at the brain-dead, who don't realise you can make a real gravy quite easily?

Monday, 25 March 2013


Had to deliver the papers for Hay this morning, as she's away for a couple of days up north.

Most of the dailies had something predictable on the front page; 

  • Daily Mail = crackdown on immigration; 
  • Times = Berezovsky and Cyprus; 
  • Telegraph = relaxation in planning laws; 
  • Sun = some tart in a bikini;
  • Racing Post = the going is hard, etc.

The one that threw me was the Daily Express - that colossus of investigative reporting - had headlines telling us that it's going to be a cold Easter (no shit, Sherlock) and that Carol Vorderman has broken her nose.

Need I say more?

Sunday, 24 March 2013

Smoke on the Water

I was watching Deep Purple on Vintage TV doing a relatively recent concert. The number was the iconic Smoke on the Water.

It was sad to see men, fast approaching their 70s, dressing up as if they were still in their 20s and sporting batwings - armless black T shirts, bandanas and waistcoats over bare torsos. Had they been in possession of rippling abs it may not have been so sad.

Led Zep (the ultimate Rock Gods) and Pink Floyd know how to do it - they dress their age (with a slight rock edge, if absolutely necessary), but displaying flabby arms on stage is the ultimate in sad, fading rock star. The music speaks for itself. 

Unfortunately Ian Gillan's voice is simply no longer up to the job.

Saturday, 23 March 2013

The Gas Man Commeth

Precis of a conversation with the gas man who came to the house on Friday to fit a pipe for the additional Calor gas hob in the kitchen work surface.

Gas Man: "You can't have an exposed Calor gas bottle next to a wooden house in case it catches fire."

Chairman: "If a gas bottle catches fire, the last thing I'll be worried about is whether the wood catches fire - the entire bloody house will be destroyed."

Gas Man: "You need to put the gas bottle in a fireproof metal container that can be attached to the house, a bit like those metal garden tool boxes you can get from any DIY store."

Chairman: "But that would spoil the lines of the house. How about I disguise the metal box to look like a common or garden galvanised bin? I'd only be using one of those small 15Kg bottles anyway."

Gas Man: "Oh, that wouldn't pass the building inspector and we couldn't sign it off."

Chariman: "Why on earth not? It's metal, it's fireproof - people use galvanised bins to burn rubbish - and it can be fixed to the house with a metal strap. Perfect, unobtrusive solution that meets the rules."

Gas Man: "It just wouldn't pass the building inspection."

Chariman: "Again, why not? It satisfies all the criteria - it just happens to be a touch innovative and no-one has thought of it before."

Gas Man: "Dunno. It's the rules...."

I'm going to pursue this one to the bitter end.

Friday, 22 March 2013


How is it possible for a 14 year-old boy to go through a pair of school shoes every half term?

Should I buy cheap school shoes, in the certain knowledge they'll be trashed in a few months (and that he's growing), or should I buy him some Grensons in the hope they last at least a couple of terms?

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Victor Meldrew Has a Point

I simply don't believe people can be so stupid as to complain that the new £1,200 childcare allowance for mothers who want to work discriminates against stay-at-home mothers. That's like saying the state pension discriminates against young people! I just don't believe it!

I suppose the government's thinking is that they can recoup the dosh from the extra tax revenue from the working mum, but that pre-supposes the labour market can absorb these extra workers and they don't replace more expensive workers already in the workforce. Unintended consequences, etc...

As for the freedom of the press thingie - if the press concentrated on reporting news in a factual manner I don't think anyone would have an issue with the freedom of the press; however, journalism is now one notch  below prostitution as a career aspiration. Occasionally helping Hayley with her newspaper delivery round I get to see most of the headlines, and they are generally inaccurate, shoddily written, misleading and serve no purpose but to reinforce the stereotype of the readership or to function as a party political mouthpiece. 

Take the Daily Mail - I don't believe for a minute that Paul Dacre believes any of the drivel he publishes, but he knows full well that the average, lobotomised Daily Mail reader laps up the xenophobic, fascist, Edwardian-tinted Olde-England crap he prints.

Newspapers are not there to bring evil people to book - they are businesses having the sole aim of increasing the readership and maximising profitability - and scandal (whether real or made up) sells. So long as the penalties are outweighed by the increased profits, they will continue to harass innocent people and pry into the lives of whosoever they wish.

Just because they - very rarely - turn up some genuine skull duggery, that should not give them carte blanche to trample over private lives. Put a teaspoon of water into a bucket of sewage and it's still sewage; put a teaspoon of sewage into a bucket of water and it's also sewage.

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Medication Probability

You know how when you open a packet of pills the law of averages inexplicably fails and you always manage to open it at the wrong (the one with the folded over list of instructions / nasty side effects) and have to turn the packet round? Opened 4 new packets of medications yesterday and managed to get the correct end on 3 of them. What are the chances of that happening again? - the odds are phenomenally against it

Not long to go now as far as the house is concerned - we put some furniture in over the weekend. Yet to be done are:

  • The wood burner chimney (today or tomorrow) and inserting a ventilation air-brick,
  • Hoicking the range into place,
  • Final visit by the electrician to hook up a few more lights and the range,
  • Fabrication of a 2 metre, stainless steel cooker hood / extractor fan,
  • Plugging all the gaps on the oak,
  • Connecting a Calor gas supply for the separate gas hob.

Got to get this...

...into here...

...and get the dining table into where I'm standing to take the photo.

Monday, 18 March 2013

I was reading an academic paper about co-habitation law reform the other day and learned a few things:

  • Prior to a reform of the marriage laws in 1969, divorces would not be granted unless both parties agreed.
  • If the divorce resulted in one of the parties becoming a burden on the state (benefits), the divorce would not be granted.
The reform allowed divorce without mutual consent and allowed divorced people (usually the woman) to claim benefits, which resulted in an explosion in the welfare payments.

Perhaps if marriage went back to the pre-'69 laws, people would think more carefully before entering into marriage in the first place, with a concomitant reduction in benefits and fewer divorces?

The '69 reform was a classic example of rights of the individual (being able to divorce at the drop of a hat) trouncing the rights of the group (to keep taxes low) and had consequences which were probably unintended.

Sunday, 17 March 2013

Overheard at the Tip - Economically

The Chairman is on a run to the Yate municipal tip in order to dump some rubbish from the house, including a couple of bags of superfluous K-Rend.

The Chairman is staggering under the weight of a bag of said K Red, which has split in his hands and running out.

1st Council Tip Operative: "Not there mate, over in the skip."

Chairman: "Oh, OK."

The Chairman staggers about 30 yards to the skip and throws the bag in..

Council Tip Operative: "No bags mate."

Chairman: "Too late - MATE!."

The Chairman hears that the majority of people in the UK have little faith in Chancellor Osborne's financial policies. Given the majority doesn't even have a clue as to what they are, I'd say that's not necessarily a bad thing in itself.

I guess they see their incomes being hit - but isn't that exactly what he said he'd do before the election in order to reduce the deficit? Isn't reducing expenditure what everyone who is overdrawn does? Doesn't exactly come as a surprise, but apparently it does - especially to those who voted Conservative.

The Chairman also sees the government is to investigate claims of a rip-off culture in energy companies. By all accounts they are set to make £110 profit from every UK household - that's about 10% profit. Retail in general is 7%-12%, manufacturing is around 7% and telecoms is 10%-15%. I wouldn't exactly call 10% a rip-off.

Saturday, 16 March 2013

TV Adverts

An advert on TV last night was urging me to adopt a tiger. A tiger, for God's sake - where the hell do they expect me to keep one of those?

I'm a bit annoyed at all these broadband adverts that go to such great extent to tell me I can get a gazillion megabits per second free for 6 months and then tuppence a month, then right at the end they tell me I have to pay £1,000,000 a month line rental as an aferthought. As if I'd miss that! Ofcom should make them average out the cost of their nefarious contracts over the term and give an average all-inclusive price per month. It's senseless to say that's impossible because the ISP doesn't know how much anyone's phone usage will be, as no-one I know ever uses their land-line phone in these days of more monthly mobile minutes than they can use in a lifetime. People simply don't talk anymore!

No.1 son wants me to take him to a Chinese supermarket in Bristol today - probably wants to buy some tiger bone medicine....

Friday, 15 March 2013

Habeamus Food Industry

Bought a pack of air-cured Serrano ham yesterday. This stuff has been air-cured for some 11 months, during which it lost about a third of its moisture content - and what do they do before selling it? they pump it full of bloody water again!

So we have a new Pope and he's an Argentine. Wherever they're from, they're a Rome-clone. It makes not one jot of difference where he's from - carry on as before...

He does, however, look suspiciously like Jim Bowen.

China has appointed its new leader too - which institution, the papacy or China, is the more democratic? Mind you, heaven is not exactly a democratic state - one leader in perpetuity and everyone's expected to be blissfully happy, apparently.

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Microsoft Dynamics - Ha!

Beastly sorry to have been off-line for such a long time - issues with the house and struggling with an abortion of an implementation of a new Head Office CRM (or Customer Relationship Management) system. In simple words, a sales tracking system - or at least it's meant to be.

The justification for the new system (Mircosoft Dynamics) is that it provides senior management in Israel with greater detail - at the expense of us on the ground not having a clue how to operate it and having to spend all day adding more and more information into an unfamiliar system that's as friendly as a cornered rat.

The transition was not the tried-and-tested hands-on training followed by some interactive discussion on improvement and then a gradual migration, but a totally chaotic Big Bang. Thursday switch-off of the old Salesforce system (we are talking Israel here), a brief 1 hour overview in a webcast (with a Friday and a weekend to forget it), a port of the old data over the weekend, and then full-on Microsoft on Monday with a concomitant download of the live system and our first true experience of it. Hideous and deeply dangerous!

As a systems analyst and IT project manager in a previous incarnation of a few decades ago, I did warn them it would be chaotic, but of course, what the hell do I know? I've only worked on what was the largest Oracle implementation in Europe at the time.

The last week and a half have been spent amending the data by adding the new fields, which are still woefully inadequate to the intended requirement. In the process we lost the ability to view the data in such a way that it means anything to the sales force during a management review. Oh, and you can't add a new account without manually porting your entire Outlook contact data across to the new system before you want to do it. Bloody system doesn't even do it automatically in background!

The system even allows you to enter a delivery before you've received the purchase order.... Lunacy! The Old SalesForce system facilitated staged deliveries; the new system facilitates only 1 delivery, and forecasting the delivery schedule was one of the main requirements, for heaven;s sake! So much for financial and operations planning....

Anyway, management are half way to getting what they want (aka micromanagement), we have been totally diverted from sales activity for the best part of a week and a half and we've additionally lost sight of what's going on in our accounts without performing mysterious rites and magical incantations, backed up with frantic emails to HQ requesting a work-around. The word SNAFU comes to mind.

The mistake everyone in a position of power makes when implementing these systems is to assume it's a CRM system they're launching and that we sales people will be ecstatic at the prospect of having our lives made easier. No it's not - it's a finance system that tries (badly) to emulate a CRM system. Its primary function is abysmally bad financial  tracking - including the word Customer in the name is a travesty of English grammar, as that's the last thing that's considered in implementations. The sales force is also an irrelevance in the equation as none of us was consulted on what we need.

3 minutes to enter an opportunity is farcical; 4 hours to effect a reconciliation which previously took a max of 20 minutes is criminal.

Sunday, 10 March 2013

Moisture Overheard in the House.

Went to Aldi in Thornbury yesterday for our weekly shopping. Looked at the fresh steaks which had a use-by date of a week hence. Just next to them were "30 day aged steaks". How do they explain that then?

This sell-by and use-by date thingie is a load of crap - just use your nose to smell if it's off, like your mum did.

Looked at their cat food too - I think I'm going to launch a charity to teach cats to read, as the label said it  was 82% 'moisture' and only 4% meat. Surely if there was water in it they would say water - the mind boggles at what 'moisture' means in food industry-speak. Phlegm, possibly? The rest of it is ash, of all things, and a bit of fibre to hold the phlegm together.

No bloody wonder our cat is continuously hungry - the damned thing in malnourished! It would get 14 times more meat by eating British sausages, which contain only 56% meat at best.

It's scandalous! I shall write to my MP...

OK - here's the house as it stood yesterday - a few things to finish yet. It's in full Sodbury-Vision, with Sodbury-Surround-A-Sound!

Saturday, 9 March 2013

More Overheard in the Caravan

Hay: "Did you read that piece in the Sunday Times last week about women's brains?"

Chairman: "Tiny piece, was it?"

The US state of South Dakota has enacted a law allowing school districts to arm teachers and other school staff. The law's backers say it will prevent mass school shootings like a December massacre in Connecticut that killed 26.

What's going to stop one of these armed teachers going berserk at some stage in the future? I despair of the intelligence of some Americans. Seems the whole country is engaged in an arms race. I wonder when they'll be positioning ICBMs on school property in the name of freedom?

The thing I'd want to free from is the thought that the loon next to me on the bus who is muttering into his beard could be carrying a weapon.

Friday, 8 March 2013

Overheard in the Caravan

Overheard in the Caravan:

Hay has just returned from a very positive job interview.

Hay: "The National Sales Manager was nothing like I imagined; I always think of sales managers as overweight, anxious......"

Chairman: "Hang on - I'm in sales!"

Hay: "...... a bit like you, Badger."

Thursday, 7 March 2013


Was watching an item on the local news last night about some hospital that's in line for a face-lift. One of the passers by being interviewed said: "It's old, tired and rather dowdy - it needs a facelift." The irony of her looking old, tired, dowdy, toothless and in need of a make-over was totally lost on her. People who live in glass houses, etc.

Also heard the Milliband (the adenoidal one) on a Labour Party Political broadcast saying: "We need to curb immigration from Eastern Europe," when his own parents were immigrants from Poland and Belgium. Irony?

Juxtaposed BBC News Headlines demonstrating irony:

Cable suggests 'more borrowing'. The government may need to borrow more to fund capital spending if the UK's economy is to recover, Business Secretary Vince Cable suggests. 

Payday lenders told to improve. The UK's top payday loan companies are given 12 weeks to change their behaviour after a study finds evidence of "widespread irresponsible lending".

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Chilly Pony Whisperer on Half-Day Closing

Overheard in the Caravan:

Chairman: "I know it's sunny, but should I keep the log burner on a bit longer before letting it go out?"

Hay: "Yes, it's going to be much warmer today."

Chairman: "But I feel a little chilly."

Hay: "Badger, it may have escaped your attention, what with working from home and all that, but you're sat in your boxer shorts - no bloody wonder you feel cold!"

On her paper round yesterday, Hay came across a pony that had escaped from its field and was running amok in Chapel Lane up in the village - well, when I say running amok, it was lazily grazing on some herbage hanging over the wall of a cottage. Chapel Lane is not exactly the M25, or indeed the B25, when it comes to traffic.

She phoned me to ask me to call the police station, but of course the police station is closed on Tuesdays. I suspect they must come in the rest of the week to clear up the crime perpetrated on Tuesdays, unless it's a legacy of the half-day closing of the 60s.

Whatever happened to the half-day closing?

Tuesday, 5 March 2013

The Great British Something Or Other

Overheard in the Caravan:

Hay (reading the local rag): "I see we have a Michelin starred chef not too far away from us. He won The Great British Something or Other. Peter Sanches Iglesias."

Chairman: "Does he sing too?"

Is there no end to bloody food programmes and the Great British Something, with incredibly talented people cooking things you or I could never even attempt? Surely the foodie thing has had its day? Can't the TV channels afford decent entertainment anymore?

What we need is 'The Great British What to Do With a Kilo of Horsemeat and some extruded potato'.

Monday, 4 March 2013

Supermarket Sweep

Overheard in the Supermarket:

Woman shopper to husband: "That tomato doesn't even look human."

I was horrified to see what the fat couple in front of us at the checkout had in in their trolley. None of it, with the exception of some beef (?) mince and a squash, was fresh and comprised mainly quick-noodles, chocolate rolls, pre-prepared meals and the obligatory 2 litres of Coke. I was a bit slow to take the snap, but this is the tail end of it. Total cost, £30.

Here's what was in Hay's trolley - total cost £39, and a lot of that was catfood (80% moisture, according to the label!) and Andrews liver salts:

Is it surprising there's an obesity problem when people sacrifice quality and nutrition for convenience? It's not as if Hay and I don't have full-time jobs either, so the convenience issue is a bit of a blind, as Hay can whip up a meal from fresh ingredients within 20 minutes.

I have to say that we'd normally buy our fruit and veg at Ian's green grocer's store in Chipping Sodbury, where you can get a full week's supply for about a fiver.

Sunday, 3 March 2013

Overheard in the Caravan

Overheard in the Caravan:

The Chairman is looking somewhat svelte as a result of the 5:2 diet.

Chairman: "I need some 32 inch waist trousers."

Hay: "You need some teeth first, Badger."


Hay: "I woke up this morning with terrible indigestion..."

Chairman: "Is this the start of a blues song? Has your dog died and your boyfriend left you?"

Hay: "Yup, an' I'm drivin' down to Memphis."

Not too many 'Overheard in the Caravans' left; before long it'll be Overheard in the House...

Saw this advert on TV last night - thought it amusing...

Saturday, 2 March 2013

Under the Stairs for Cat Food

We've been living in the caravan for some 5 years now, with D Day for moving into the new house being April 1st - April Fool's Day.

The Caravan, despite having No.1 son's shed tacked on the side, is obviously single storey; however, we have a bottom cupboard in the wall unit that we have constantly and somewhat curiously referred to as 'the cupboard under the stairs'.

It's the coldest cupboard known to man, even in the summer, and I'd place a bet that if Bird's Eye knew about it they'd rent it from us as a coldstore, or a stable for the horses that have been found in their products.

I wonder if anyone has tested the messy offal that passes for cat food as to whether it's been adulterated with meat considered fit for human consumption? If our pre-prepared food is full of crap, God alone knows what we're feeding our animals.

Just had a look at the cat's food pouches (yes, I know, I do keep telling Hay to put the damned thing on some form of crunchies) - only 10% meat 'derivatives', which basically means meat slurry and abattoir floor scrapings. Aren't derivatives what caused the global recession? What on earth can the rest of the garbage in the pouches be?

Friday, 1 March 2013

The Diet

80.5kg. Nice - half a kilo to go!