Friday, 28 February 2014

Weird Al Yanukovych

Part of me thinks the Ukrainian interim government should call Yanukovych's bluff, offer him a guarantee of safety and invite him back to Kiev, along with the $37Bn he plundered from the treasury (which he will doubtless claim he's keeping in order to prevent it falling into the hands of extremists), in order that he can stand in the early election he previously agreed to. That should smoke out the bugger's true intentions and embarrass the hell out of Putin.

It's ironic that Kiev was the seat of the Varangian Rus people - Viking in origin - who were the first Russians until their empire was overrun by the Mongols. What followed - the primacy of the Grand Duchy of Moscow - was a Rus principality that eventually became Tsarist Russia. Kiev can therefore be said to be the ancient heart of Russia.

Thursday, 27 February 2014

No Hiding Place for Tree House Planners

Who remembers No Hiding Place on TV? With the discovery by CERN physicists of a Higgs-like particle, it seems as if scientists are closing in on God and he has to look for yet another place to hide.

Saw another installment of 'Permisison Impossible' on TV last night (it's compulsive viewing).

Mr and Mrs McKenzie-Wiley (who by their accents had moved to the Cotswolds from London) were huffing and puffing with righteous indignation at a local, who lives over half a kilometer away across a valley, building a tree house in his garden. The minute Mrs McKenzie-Wiley open her mouth and said; "But if you look out of our living room with binoculars....", I knew she was on a hiding to nothing and her objection had no merit. The tree house was approved. I could just imagine her scowling into her gooseberry and cinnamon yogurt.

In another application the local planning officer had recommended a plan for 3,000 homes should go ahead due to a lack of valid objections. However, the councillors sided with the protesters (on whose votes they count) and turned the development down, regardless of the planning officer's warning that unless they had a valid objection (which they didn't, other than 'it's our town') the rejection would be guaranteed to be overturned on appeal, as had every previous rejection of a similar nature, racking up yet more futile and ill-afforded costs for the cash-strapped council. A classic case of councillors buying votes with the voters' council tax money - but then that's one of the downsides of democracy.

Think I'll become a serial planning objector when I retire and hire myself out to Little Englanders.

Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Daily Mail Planning

I wonder when the Daily Mail will apologise for Lord Rothermere cosying up to Hilter.

Talking of Daily Mail Readers, last night we were watching a TV programme about planning applications called Permission Impossible.

A millionaire had a plan for a couple of absolutely gorgeous Bauhaus style houses, but a local grump who lives in a hideous, 1970s, semi-detached, mock-Georgian monstrosity (the value of which would only be increased by the development) complained that these architect-designed, elegant and beautiful houses were carbuncles. If I were the developer I'd be lobbying for the moronic 1970s boxes to be demolished as a blight on the landscape. The developer got his permission, thank God!

The one attribute than linked all those vociferously objecting to planning development was the fact they were retired and were cut from the same cloth as Victor Meldrew. Seems once you're over a certain age the default mode becomes; "Not in my back yard, even if my back yard is a dump and I live in a hideous piece of clapboard that belongs on an inner city estate."

On leaving the planning meeting where another development had been passed by councillors, an objector ranted about the result not being democratic. It had been voted on by councillors he and his fellow voters had voted in - that's democracy. It's only "never democracy" when it doesn't go our way, or the Daily Mail disagrees.

Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Let Me Get this Straight

Let me get this straight - so Alex Salmond is accusing English politicians of being bullies for not allowing an independent Scotland to retain the pound, yet at the same time he announces North Sea oil is for Scotland only. I suggest he agrees a swap - the British pound in return Scottish oil. Both parties should be satisfied. God help the greedy bugger if oil ever runs out, which it eventually will.

Let me get this straight - so there's going to get an open-topped bus tour and civic reception in Bristol for Jenny Jones, who came 3rd in the snowboarding at Sochi. I have no wish to be churlish, but isn't that a bit like the runners up in the FA Cup getting an open-topped bus tour and civic reception? It just wouldn't happen. Perhaps it's a mark of the changing times and the emergent philosophy than no-one should lose.

Let me get this straight - so Putin and Medvedev believe that a legitimately elected government has carte blanche to do absolutely anything it wants and any mass protests against gross abuses of power are armed mutiny?

Monday, 24 February 2014

I've Seen that Mixer Before

Chairman: "There's a film on NetFlix called Deja Vu, want to watch it?"

Hay: "I have a feeling I've seen it before."

Had a stroke of luck on Saturday - found a brand new, unused Kenwood MX300 mixer in our local charity shop for £45. The old A901 is now on eBay, where I should be able to get £70 for it.

Been spreading my baking wings of late - lemon drizzle cake and yesterday I did a Peshwari naan. Used a standard bread mix (not sourdough) and concocted a filling paste made of dates, sultanas, walnuts and ground almonds. Hay loved it.

Friday, 21 February 2014

Sochi Windows

How come a triple Axel, triple Lutz and triple Salco all look exactly the same to me?

Have you seen the news story about the jet that's being designed with a computer screen panel instead of passenger windows? I wonder if they might experience the Blue Screen of Death?

Thursday, 20 February 2014


I found this image on t'internet - an optical illusion.

Chairman: "Seen this? It just goes to show that what we think we see isn't always what's actually there."

Hay: "You don't need an optical illusion to demonstrate that - you just need to look into the bathroom mirror. You see someone completely different to what other people see..."

Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Halal or Not

One hears the Danish are being accused of anti-semitism regarding their ban on the ritual slaughter of meat. Anti-superstitious, more like!

I dare say that, under perfect conditions, ritual slaughter is no less distressing to the animal than a bolt gun; however, slaughter is done on a production line method and throughput is key - that does not lead to perfect conditions.

I have seen videos of halal slaughter on an industrial scale where the animals (in this case sheep and goats) are struggling for the best parts of a minute with their heads half severed from their bodies while hanging from a meat hook by a hind leg. Cows flailing on the floor, again with their heads half severed. The bolt gun, however, is instantaneous and ideally suited to production line methods.

I'm afraid I come down on the side of being anti-superstitious.

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

Internet Trauma

BT Engineer arrived at 09:00 yesterday morning and told me we had him for the day until the broadband was fixed. He finally left us at 15:20 with a fully operational BT Infinity broadband, although there have been two router resets during the night.

At least I now have broadband and the speed has gone up to 36/7. It remains to be seen whether the reset issue improves or gets worse again.

The reason that we lost broadband completely was due to the instruction to switch off Infinity in preparation for a switch back to ADSL had not actually been rescinded..... Utter incompetence on someone's part.

Used nearly a Gig of mobile phone data in the 4 days since the broadband went off and No.1 Son was insufferable - pacing around like a caged lion. At least I knew life pre-Internet; he didn't and was traumatised.

Monday, 17 February 2014

Getting Tedious

Still no broadband. Engineer expected this morning. Latest issue is that the modem appears to have failed, along with the line. This is never-ending!

If Scotland exiting the Union also means it exits the EU, perhaps that's a massive and unforseen boost for the Yes party...

I heard some Scottish MP berating the UK government for selfishly refusing a currency union with Scotland in the event of a Yes vote. Hang on - isn't the whole premise of a split from the Union an issue of self-interest? Pot, kettle, black?

Saturday, 15 February 2014

Bastard BT II

No internet since Thursday lunchtime (bloody BT Infinity) - stay tuned.

Friday, 14 February 2014

Going for Broke

Now we're going for broke - these are the plans for the development of the rest of the field. 1 detached and 4 link-detached houses, but it won't be happening for a while. Planning permission needs to be sought and granted, and then we'll build the first garage from our house (being the house on the left). Once that's started, we can just sit on the rest of the plan forever, or until we scrape the money together to start building, with the plan virtually being money in the bank.

Not on a floodplain either!

Thursday, 13 February 2014

My Abode Has Been Destroyed

The caravan that was our home for 5 years until April last year is being 'deconstructed;. Sad, but it's an eyesore now. 'Ironman' is charging us £400 to dismantle it; the wood is being burned on a bonfire and he will cart away any metal to sell as scrap - and there ain't very much of that left.

Dirt cheap really - the lowest quote prior to speaking to 'Ironman' was £1,500. It will take 3 blokes 2 days - should be gone by tomorrow night. Folding it up during the worst storms in decades is perhaps not the best time to perform this activity, but he was not put off.

The shed attached to the caravan, which was No.1 Son's bedroom, is staying as storage space.

Soon we'll be able to follow in the footsteps of Sir Roy Strong and start creating a wonderful garden.

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Bastard BT in Floods

Yet another BT OutReach engineer called yesterday to try to fix the BT Infinity line, and made it worse. I'm back to where I started 4 weeks ago with the router tripping out every few minutes. I've cancelled the contract and am going back to the reliable ADSL service, hopefully with a rebate.

Later - damned thing seems to have stabilised now. Router hasn't tripped for 8 hours. May have to eat my words.

Ed Milliband predicts more flooding - no shit Sherlock! He must be psychic.

Tuesday, 11 February 2014

Bronze Flappy Bird Sardine

For reasons best known to himself, No.1 Son downloaded the Flappy Bird game to my phone just before it was pulled from circulation. I'm now open to offers in excess of £1,000 for the phone, including the Flappy Bird app.

The media is going a tad over the top with Jenny Jones and her Olympic Bronze. Last night I was convinced our local news was about show us a paving slab she'd actually stepped on at some time in her life. It's a Bronze, for God's sake! You get shot in North Korea for only getting a Bronze.

All I can say is when the seagulls follow the trawler, it's because they think sardines will be thrown into the sea.

Monday, 10 February 2014

Saluting The Cat's Whiskers

If you can make a crude radio from a cat's whisker, could you make a crude TV if you used the whole cat?

Must mention what must be the best restaurant/pub in the area - the Salutation Inn at Castle Combe. The food is to die for. We visited once a few years ago, but were unimpressed; however, there was a change in ownership 18 months ago but we never knew about it.

Here's the Sunday Lunch menu from yesterday, along with a photo of the roast beef. Prices are not the cheapest in the area, but the quality is top notch.

Click to enlarge. 

Well worth a visit if you're in the area - the reviews are excellent.

Sunday, 9 February 2014

The Cinnamon Kid

I learned something yesterday.

Last week I made a cinnamon, sultana and date tea bread, and it was delicious.

Yesterday I decided to make a couple more loaves, but disaster struck - none of them rose. Tried two successive batches and managed to get a slight rise on the 2nd batch, but only after having doubled the yeast. Certainly not enough to knock back the dough and have a 2nd proving. 

I just couldn't understand why this was happening, until I realised that when I made my first tea loaf, I had forgotten to add the cinnamon to the mix and folded it in after I'd already kneaded the dough. The cinnamon was consequently in thin layers and not fully incorporated into the dough. I felt sure cinnamon had an adverse effect on yeast.

On doing a little interweb research, sure enough, cinnamon contains an aldehyde, which is an acid. Acid inhibits yeast, therefore the first loaf was a success only because of my 'mistake' in not adding the cinnamon to the dough before mixing.

This baking thing is quite scientific.

Friday, 7 February 2014

'Tash Tales

Further to my previous post on 'tash wax; I've changed the formula from 50:50 beeswax and coconut oil to approximately 25% oil and 75% wax, as the hold achieved by the previous mix was insufficient and left my 'tash greasy, rather than "controlled". It's too hard, however, for furniture polish, and so I have to maintain two stocks.

The new composition is now more akin to the commercially available preparations on the internet (costing twenty times as much).

The fact mine is in a beeswax shoe cream jar is neither here nor there - at least not until I start marketing it...

I quite fancy the General Melchett look - or at least to use General Melchett's image in the commercial branding.

Thursday, 6 February 2014

A Little Personal History

A friend of mine was trawling through the maritime archives at the Guildhall Library in London and came across an entry for my first and second voyage to sea in 1971 and 1972 as a fresh-faced 16 year-old straight from naval college.

(Click to enlarge)

I signed on as a cadet on the 1st October 1971 in Rotterdam, leaving in Amsterdam on the 26th November. I then had a couple of weeks leave before rejoining the same ship on 13th December in Southampton and leaving again in Antwerp on the 23rd April 1972. Here's the proof from my MN Discharge Book.

And here's the vessel itself.

She was sold to Greek interests (as it's called in the trade) just after I left. She then caught fire in the USA and was towed away for razor blades. 

Fond memories - the Onitsha was the training ship for Elder Dempster Lines of Liverpool and she carried 12 cadets in the old passenger accommodation. Simply the best time of my life!

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

The Somerset Fens

Given what's been happening in the Somerset Levels, and the fact it will happen again and again, perhaps the area should be redesignated the Somerset Fens.

It might be wise, in light of the Scottish referendum, to declare them as an integral part of Scotland....

When you consider a good proportion of the Netherlands is below sea level, it's criminal that nothing has been done about the Levels before - like turning them into a boating paradise....

Tuesday, 4 February 2014

Of Shoes and Ships and 'Tash-Wax, of Cabbages and Kings (and Tzars and Kaisers)

Well, from designer stubble to King George V is taking a while (I've been cultivating it since New Year), but progress is being made, aided by the artisan 'tash wax I made the other day from beeswax and coconut oil.

It's still a work in progress, as you can see from the Selfie (I know all the latest buzz words). Hay hates it and maintains I'm starting to look like Sir Roy Strong. However, as one grows greyer, one has to make an effort at cultivating an interesting beard, rather than looking like a mouse peeping out from a bale of cotton waste, don't you think?

A distinguishing beard lends one gravitas, an air of playfulness, of James Robertson Justice.

May go for a Kaiser Bill before summer...

Stars have been paying tribute to Philip Seymour Hoffman - probably for his prodigious contribution to Mexican and Colombian heroin.

Sunday, 2 February 2014

Incredible Names

Was checking who has been looking at my Linked-In profile and spotted this chap. 

It just has to be a made-up name...

Saturday, 1 February 2014

Wax On, Wax Off, Wax On, Wax Off...

What with my homemade furniture wax experimentation, I was Googling furniture polishes and trying to find why there's such a mystique about it.

Almost every advert for furniture polish waxes lyrical (if you'll forgive the pun) about "nourishing" the wood. This is a load of old tosh - most wood furniture is covered in either French polish or a polyurethane lacquer, which is impenetrable to almost anything except alcohol derivatives (and certainly furniture polish). It's like applying skin cream to your body on top of a plastic mac; totally futile for nourishing your skin, but great at shining your mac.

All polish does is fill any slight imperfections in the lacquer and make it smooth. In no way whatsoever does it even touch the wood beneath - unless your wood happens to be bare (which is rare for furniture). Furniture wood is meant to be dry - if not it becomes bendy. The only use for a preparation that is absorbed by wood is as a preservative, like linseed or tung oil, on bare exterior wood.

Imagine wax furniture polish penetrating the lacquer to "nourish" the wood; what do you think would happen to the lacquer with wax or oil underneath it? It would lift it off, and possibly also lift off any veneers if penetrating more than a few millimetres, thus destroying the item of furniture.

The professionals also advocate applying wax with the grain, which is only of use if the grain is evident in the surface of the lacquer, the purpose being to fill these grainy indentations in the lacquer so as to create a smooth, shiny surface.

Advertising, eh? We all fall for it in some guise and then keep trotting out the crap we "learned" as if fact.