Friday, 31 May 2013

Sham Marriages

Marriage of Convenience: aren't they all, or am I missing something?

Marriages of convenience, according to a local news items last night, can cost up to £10,000. That's bloody good value for a marriage these days; most young women aren't happy unless their father spends twice that.

Tuesday, 28 May 2013


Apparently there's been a fire at the St Ives Tate and it's feared there may be smoke damage to some works by Barbara Hepworth, Patrick Heron, Marlow Moss, Linder Sterling, Allen Ruppersberg and RH Quaytman.

Here are my suggestions to minimise the loss:

  • Hepworth - get a large pebble from the beach and bore a hole though it,
  • Patrick Heron - get a 5 year-old to do a daub in primary colours,
  • Marlow Moss - do a reasonable facsimile of a Piet Mondrian,
  • Linder (as she is known) - get some soft porn and superimpose a piece of ironmongery on it,
  • Allen Ruppersberg - think of some trite comments, write them on a multicoloured background, photograph them and enlarge,
  • RH Quaytman - muck about with Photoshop in monochrome.

No-one will notice the difference.

Monday, 27 May 2013

Council Secret Police

There was an item on the news last night about the Labour Party saying council cuts have hampered councils' abilities to combat radicalisation. 

First time I've heard that South Gloucestershire Council has a secret police service, although I've long had my suspicions about the Chipping Sodbury parking wardens.

Sunday, 26 May 2013


We went for a nice lunch in Wells yesterday (I can heartily recommend Old Spot on Saddler St) and I spotted this house sign outside a hardware shop.

I was sorely tempted to buy it, but it was only a shop sample and I really want something with a more artisan feel to it.

Something I am going to have a go at making is this clothes dryer we saw one of those twee shops selling enamelled kitchenware and scented soaps. Will go well hanging from the oak beams in the kitchen.

Can't be too difficult, with a bit of assistance from Messrs B&Q's stair department, but I'll use a little less lacquer. Perhaps using recycled legs from an old Freecycle gate-leg dining table might be more in order.

I'm already well into make-do-and-mend - I'm using an old sanded down pallet as a temporary dining table centre-leaf till I decide whether to have one fabricated in stainless steel by the guy who did the kitchen canopy (which would look spectacular), or recycle some spare oak floorboards (which are an almost perfect match).

Saturday, 25 May 2013

Bigotry Masquerading as Religion

I never cease to be amazed at some of the views people feel free to express on the Have Your Say section of the BBC website.

Yesterday one of the items available for a rant was the story that the Boy Scouts of America have decided to admit gay boys into the movement. Typical comments from the bigot (mainly religious, it has to be said) tendency were as follows:

"Political correctness triumphs over the most elementary common sense. Congratulations. We have achieved a state of complete idiocy."

Common sense, really? So is not discriminating against black people Political Correctness gone mad too?

"The fact is that homosexuality is a sin under many if not all faiths,supporters are asking persons of faith to abandon the teachings of their religion in favour of what? The views of a minority group? the real question should not be 'how can we make people accept homosexuality as normal' but 'why should millions of people abandon their faith to suit me'."

Because your "faith" is an abomination and an affront to society if it encourages discrimination on the basis of colour, gender, sexuality - in fact anything over which the individual has no control!

"Why don't they just have their own clubs, associations etc."

I suppose this person thinks black people should have their own clubs or sit at the back of the bus?

"How sad to promote homosexual views in a boys camp. It cant be right."

Promote? Homosexuality is a sexuality, not a proselytizing religion. 

Bigotry masquerading as, or hiding behind religion is the worst form of bigotry (and not a nice form of religion either). The bible prohibits many activities, and yet condones a number which today are forbidden by law and the fact we live in an enlightened society. Religious people seem to focus on only those prohibitions which reinforce their personal prejudices, conveniently ignoring those in which they indulge themselves. Try reading the bible to see which ones I mean, specifically those where the sanction is stoning to death. 

Discrimination on the basis of something over which one has no control whatsoever - like ethnicity, colour, disability, gender, economic status, etc., is to be abhorred in the 21st century; however, one's "faith" (or philosophy) is something over which one does have control (else why would there be converts or apostates?), thus discrimination on the basis of irrationally (albeit deeply) held views should be allowed, and indeed encouraged in the spirit of the Enlightenment and the advancement of ethics. Bigotry, no matter its origin, should have no hiding place. Dressing it up as religion is doing religion itself a disservice.

Is being an atheist itself tantamount to being a bigot? I suppose it is, according to some definitions; however, when a view is held rationally and after many years of careful enquiry, I find it hard to call it bigotry. It's like calling an evolutionist a bigot with respect to creationism; the evolutionist at least has factual evidence on his side.

Faith, as defined by religion, is nothing more than opinion based on the prejudices and beliefs of ancient, pre-scientific societies. The mere fact of the myriad religions and sects makes a mockery of their claims to "ultimate truth". They can't all be right - they can, however, all be wrong.

"Judge not, that ye be not judged," is a quote many Christians should consider. I dare to judge (in this specific case), because I can argue my case rationally and am willing to be judged. When your argument depends on a book, many thousands of years old, with unattributed multiple authorship, containing stories where the laws of physics are severely compromised (without the aid of a Large Hadron Collider), is shot through with contradictions and inconsistencies and purports to be the word of a mythical creator with the aid nothing more evidential than circular logic (it is the word of God because it says it is), then you're treading on ground that's about as solid as water (if you'll forgive the analogy) and your cause is intellectually bankrupt.

I have no desire to ban religion, just for it to have a long look at itself, drag itself into the 21st century and drop the more barbaric and morally repugnant aspects. If it can't do that, it should just shut up and keep its views within the confines of its temples.

James Henry Breasted (1865-1935) American archaeologist, Orientalist, and historian
"It is important to bear in mind the now commonly accepted fact that in its primitive stages, religion had nothing to do with morals as understood by us today."

Friday, 24 May 2013

Nice Lines

Having an oak floor provides nice, parallel lines with which to align the furniture, but it's playing havoc with my OCD - I'm continually moving setees and tables to ensure they're properly aligned with the floorboards.

Who first coined the term OCD? Let's get it right, it should be CDO!

Monday, 20 May 2013

Politician Denies...

Danny Alexander has said that rumours of a leadership plot against Clegg are nonsense. That's 100-1 on for a leadership contest then.

"Tories united on Europe," says Hunt. So the rumours they're in total disarray must be correct!

I think we should pull out of the Eurovision song contest. It's nothing more than an exhibition of mutual admiration between cliques. The idea that it is an egalitarian cultural exchange was trashed decades ago; that's why the Brits field geriatrics or no-hopers every year. It is, however, more democratic than the EU itself.

A group of business leaders (those same institutions that engage on tax avoidance on a massive scale) say Eurosceptics are putting politics before economics. Well, as has been proven countless times, economics is not a science, but a matter of opinion; for every economist who takes one view, there will be another who takes a diametrically opposed view. The real question is whether there is a will within the EU for massive reform. I have my doubts (which is also a matter of opinion) - there are simply too many with vested interests in maintaining the status quo.

Sunday, 19 May 2013

Swivel-Eyed, Quantum Shed, Beckham Chocolate

I'm not sure whether UKIP's politicians are "mad, swivel-eyed loons", but many of them do seem to like their Wagner, if you get my drift.

I'm a salesman, despite also being an MD. One of my problems (and I have many) is working out an optimum route around Europe to see customers that's  both cost effective and efficient in terms of my time, which is rather expensive. Quantum computing appears to be the answer - a quantum computer calculates all possible routes simultaneously before selecting the optimum. Conventional computing, on the other hand, does the calculations sequentially and takes a lot longer. Well, providing I can take a garden shed sized quantum computer, chilled to near absolute zero, along with me on my travels (as schedules do change in midstream), I'll be able to have my route optimised on the trot.

Had a Walnut Whip yesterday - couldn't finish the damned thing. It was the first time I'd had one since around the early '70s and either my sense of taste has changed (which is quite feasible - I didn't like wine or butter beans in my 20s), or today's chocolate has a much higher sugar content. Never tasted anything so sickly sweet.

So Beckham has retired. Much as I hate football and all the prima donnas in the upper echelons, I have to say do like Beckham. Yes, he's made a lot of money, and some despise him for this out of pure envy, but his career has been exemplary - no drug or sex scandals (that were found to be true), no car crashes on the M1 while pissed - he seems to have been just a normal bloke who handled the adulation and money in a much more mature manner than many of his footballing colleagues. If only more footballers were like him - if only more celebrities were like him.

Saturday, 18 May 2013

Overheard in the House II

Hay: "What are you watching Badger?"

Chairman: "Duuno."

Hay: "Oh, it's the Horror Channel - everything on the Horror Channel is garbage."

Chairman: "Ah, this is the Horror Channel +1."

Hay: "That's OK then...."

Friday, 17 May 2013

Overheard in the House

Overheard while Colin is building our bookshelves:

Hay: "Bloody hell, Colin - those shelves are fantastic! They look almost like a professional did them."

Colin (looking hurt): "But I am a professional - I do nothing but build houses and make things out of wood!"

Hay: "That didn't come out right..."


Colin: "I don't agree with those fire doors you have to put in some properties. There's a seal around them that expands and locks the door into place and stops the fire or fumes progressing. Just imagine if Jan's door was locked in a fire - how would he be able to get out of his bedroom?"

Chairman: "He's on the ground floor - he'd climb out of his window."

Colin (looking sheepish): ".....Oh yes, there is that...."


Hay: "Badger, you're going to have to sort out this tea making thing. You put the kettle on to boil and then go back to your computer and forget it has boiled. This happens about 3 times before you manage to remember to pour the water into the cups immediately after the kettle has boiled. Then you forget you poured the water into the cups and the teabags have stewed. You then have to throw away the tea and start all over again. A simple cup of tea takes you 30 minutes to make!"

Thursday, 16 May 2013

Bookish Under Floor Magnetism

Well, you live and learn, Discovered yesterday that, counterintuitively, stainless steel is non-magnetic.I put No.1 son's most powerful niobium magnet against the cooker hood and - zilch. About as magnetic as paper. Apparently is has something to do with the impurities they add to increase corrosion resistance and the temperature at which it's manufactured.

Colin has made good progress on the bookcase - we went for painted MDF with some oak skirting around the base to make it look fully built-in, as opposed to an aferthought. Rather than Farrow & Ball Elephant Breath, Hay went for B&Q Cool Slate, at less than 1/3rd of the price. I'm sure the F&B paint on the kitchen furniture must have doubled the cost of making it (5L of the stuff is an extortionate £86, so I discovered).

Another similar section is being constructed today to sit atop the one in the photo and take it to almost full roof height upstairs.

I could probably have done it myself, but it would have taken several months to think about it, another 6 weeks to do it, and lots of wasted MDF. Better to use a professional and, at £150 a day, Colin is worth his weight in gold. Him being a neighbour and friend helps too, along with the fact that as he built the house he knows to within a centimetre where all the pipes and cables are located in the walls, thus minimising the potential for total disaster.

The under floor heating is marvellous (seems I've adopted the American spelling with one L and the spell-checker picked it up). We had to switch it on again this week due to the inclement weather. On a couple of occasions we've had the double doors at each end of the house open for some door adjustment and fixing stays to them; whereas in a radiator heated house it would have taken several hours for the house to get back to a reasonable temperature, the massive under floor heat-sink meant you never even knew the doors had been open in the first place.

I absolutely adore this house!

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Kanopied Library of Thought

Realised yesterday's post should have been titled; "Kwik-Fit Kitchen Kanopy". Also realised we should have given some consideration to a light for the said kanopy - somehow it got left out of the design, despite having been mulled over. Hay has ordered a magnetic jobbie, but we both agree a couple of old-fashioned inspection lights (the ones in wire cages) would look perfect as a post-industrial addition.

Going to give Colin (the builder) free rein on building us a library-sized bookcase at one end of the living room right up to the top through the minstrel gallery - I desperately need somewhere for all our books. I'm certain it will be spectacular. Colin enjoys working for us, as we don't interfere and allow his own creativity to flower, just providing the initial concept.

Here's a challenge - try thinking without using words. Clear your mind of words and see how far you can get without words popping into your head. Animals must think  that way.

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Very Kwik Fit Kitchen Canopy

Was watching the closing stages of the Spanish Grand Prix on Sunday at which Hay expressed wonderment at the speed with which the cars completes pit stops. This prompted us to consider the consequences of Team McLaren starting an innovative new business - Very Kwik Fit. Imagine a string of Very Kwik Fits studded along our major motorways where you could stop for your car's annual service, having it completed in under 10 seconds.

The cooker hood/extractor was installed yesterday - just the electrics to be sorted out by Hay's dad and the cable to be plastered over.

Not bad for a urinal.

Hay and I are thinking of some black or grey dado-style topping tiles to the splash back, for want of a better word.

Monday, 13 May 2013


I don't think many will disagree with the observation that the EU is flawed, I would go so far as to say fatally so.

Over the weekend I was listening to a phone-in program where callers were giving their opinions on whether the UK should stay in or leave the EU. The oft-repeated mantra from the pro lobby was that the EU is our largest trading bloc and to leave would do irreparable harm to trade. What not one of the pro-EU lobby was able to do was to say specifically what trade would be lost or name the harming mechanism.

Trade is dictated by supply and demand. The mantra is meaningless unless backed up by facts - you can just say; "It goes without saying....". Iceland, Norway, Switzerland, Monaco, Lichtenstein - they all manage to survive on the fringes of the EU, and I doubt they have more trade with non-EU than EU countries. Non-membership of the EU is not the death-knell of trade.

Forget not that we have the benefit of the Commonwealth and can create our own trading bloc, having less overlap in goods and services than the EU could ever enjoy, and thus we wouldn't be competing to trade in goods that most member states have in abundance already.

The only casualty from a departure from the EU would be the hundreds of Euro MPs and their gravy train.

Sunday, 12 May 2013


Noticed an article in the paper this morning about the Tory party being in disarray over Gay Marriage and some reactionary quarters being sufficiently emboldened by the increase in support for UKIP to demand registrars' religious views should be taken into account when presented with a gay couple wanting to get married.

To me this is raising religious views to the level of being rational. Let's not beat about the bush; having views that are dictated by a mythical being is not a rational standpoint. Saying your God or god(s) (and there are many, each saying different things) says it's a sin is an irrational viewpoint that can be used to justify any position, be it high-minded or utterly bizarre, the majority of religious views falling into the latter category. 

Present a rational argument based on ethics, possible harm to others, etc., and I will listen, but just saying your non-corporeal and impossible-to-prove deity says it's not allowed is an argument having no credibility whatsoever.

The maxim should be, so long as it harms no-one and doesn't frighten the horses, allow it! To maintain it's an affront to your personal deity carries no more weight than for me to say it's a personal affront to my washing machine - at least I can prove my washing  machine is real.

Saturday, 11 May 2013


Yesterday, in a moment of ennui on the plane back from Milan, I checked Google Maps on my phone to see if I could ascertain where the plane was. I was extremely surprised that my phone's GPS was still running, as I thought Airplane Mode switched of all TX and RX activity; however, GPS still remains active.

Obviously, given your phone GPS assumes you're at ground level, there is a slight error, with the GPS putting you slightly behind your actual location - as noted when flying over the French coastline, but this disappears as you come in to land.

Friday, 10 May 2013

Predictive Text

An exchange with a colleague while in Rome:

A bit fishy, if you ask me.

Sunday, 5 May 2013

Coffee Faffing

Got me one of those big espresso coffee machines from the charity shop a few weeks ago. Decided to get it out and test drive it last night. What a kerfuffle!

The number of processes and faffing around that's needed to make a single cup of coffee are increased exponentially by this thing, added to which if you want to make coffee for 6, the first one is stone cold by the time you're only half way through. Even cleaning it involves more effort than washing the dishes and pans after dinner for 6 - and the milk welds itself to the milk frother thingie.

We've got one of those pod coffee machines at work (Nespresso?) - damned thing hardly ever gets cleaned and is one day sure to kick off an epidemic of something nasty in the Eastleigh area.

I'm usually all for labour-saving machines, but this one is misnamed. The old fashioned cafetiere is an infinitely simpler, more efficient and more elegant device. 

The espresso machine is going on FreeCycle today or back to the charity shop on Tuesday; some things are just for show and not practicality

Saturday, 4 May 2013


Hay's sister, Michelle, is an art therapist. I do worry sometimes about the result of her therapies; take this playful little ceramic vase, for example.

Mmmm - not sure if it's one of hers or one a patient knocked up.

Friday, 3 May 2013

House Update

Bespoke stainless steel cooker hood/extractor arrived yesterday, and very nice it is too, despite my initial misgivings on Hay's choice of a country kitchen meets post-industrial wasteland.

It's been variously described as a urinal, a bath and a boat. It will be fitted the week after next, when both Colin and the fabricator are available.

So impressed with the fabricator's work that I may get him to make the missing leaf  for the oak dining table from stainless steel - that would look spectacular, not to say unique.

Damned glad I installed the block and tackle in the main minstrel gallery - a rather heavy tallboy arrived yesterday and hoisting it up into the bedroom was the only way of getting it up there.

Been busy buying art deco oak furniture off eBay like it was going out of fashion, if you get my drift. My massive, oak, roll-top desk was a steal at £350 (I was the only bidder); a set of 1920s dining chairs and a chair for the desk arrive today, among other various items.

The next project will be a guest chalet cum office, and I quite like this idea, although I balk at the price.

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

The House of Orange

I bet Prince Charles is green with envy at what's happened in Holland with Beatrix passing on her crown to her son, Willem.

Can't help thinking though that there's just the teensiest bit of nepotism going on there, however. Don't you agree?