Monday, 31 October 2016

The Doors

Spotted this innovative use of 20 foot containers yesterday:

Look at the doors of the sheds.

Sunday, 30 October 2016

Game of Thrones - House Green


Hay: "It's statistically proven that people who have religion live longer than those who don't."

Chairman: "Not if you're an ISIS suicide bomber!"

Hay tried to kill me on Friday night. We went out for dinner and she offered me a chip with sour cream on it. From my reaction she may as well have offered me a dog turd on a stick. Sour cream, for God's sake - it's cream that's off! Any civilized person knows that mayonnaise is the only condiment allowed on chips.

Been doing a bit of tangential reading of late. I  started with a biography of King John (Lackland), from which I reread my copy of the biography of William Marshall, often called England's greatest knight (he served 5 Plantagenet kings with unswerving loyalty, even in the face of oppression). Tangentially, this led to me Geoffroi de Charnay's treatise, A Knight's Book of Chivalry. Interestingly, de Charnay is thought to be the first documented owner of the Shroud of Turin.

I started to think about Sir Philip Green and his knighthood. At the heart of knighthood is the concept of chivalry, which includes honour and loyalty. Green deserves to have his K withdrawn.

Went round to a neigbour's house on Friday evening to retune her TV and sort out her latest iPad. At 76 she's not very tech savvy and considers either me or No.1 Son as her tech support. In fact, whenever she phones me I answer with; "IT help desk." She got round to talking about her favourite TV shows, and it transpires she's an ardent Game of Thrones fan.

Talking of Game of Thrones I  hear Old Etonian Brexiteer, Jacob Rees-Mogg, is being touted as a possible replacement for Mark Carney. I'm not surprised Carnery wants to leave after all the invective he's receiving from people who are spectacularly unqualified to judge him. He's probably also keen to get out of the job where his salary has already fallen 18% (in Canadian terms) since the referendum.

Rees-Mogg set up a firm called Somerset Capital Management in 2007 with two other partners, specialising in emerging markets. Rees-Mogg is not an economist, he's a trader, and as such relies on forecasts (which Brexiteers deride) to determine what shares to buy or sell on behalf of his funds. The market and the economy are two very different animals. The big difference between the market and the economy is that the market is forward looking, and it's unexpected events that primarily drive future stock prices. Thus, it doesn't even matter whether future news is good or bad. What matters is whether it's better or worse than already expected. So with all the bad news, unless things turn out to be worse than expected, stocks should provide good returns. I'm not sure putting a market trader in charge of an economy is a particularly good idea.

Saturday, 29 October 2016

Political Conundrum

Regarding Thursday's post about the slimming advert that was banned for preying on women's body insecurities; what do cosmetics adverts prey on, I wonder?

Saw a video post on Facebook yesterday where an MP on Question Time was asked by a Brexit audience member what she didn't understand about democracy. That's a bit like being on a bus and there being a slim majority vote to drive off a cliff because some of the passengers are not particularly enamoured of the driver. Do you just sit there and bow to democracy, or argue the toss?

Anyway, here's the conundrum - the MP in question was Labour and hence she didn't stand on a platform of Brexit at the last General Election. What's she to do in this case, as she could easily lose her seat at the next election if she's seen to go counter to her electorate and support Brexit. Her electorate is her first concern and duty, not a referendum result from people who did not elect her.

Herein lies the main danger of a referendum, especially one having a very slim majority. You don't, in the normal run of events, hear opposition MPs being slammed down in the name of democracy in the face of a slim mandate on the part of the government - or even a huge mandate, for that matter. They keep campaigning. If, as an opposition MP, you disagree with a government policy for which the government has a mandate, you don't just kow-tow to it - opposition is what Her Majesty's Opposition is all about. The clue is in the word 'opposition'.

Any opinions as to where  this MP's loyalty should lie?

A quick calculation:

Not exactly Utopia. It could be argued that the increase could be offset by the drop in the £, but we're assured by the Brexit camp that this is only temporary and due to short-term currency speculation. The above calculation is before any impact on the overall level of trade of price increases due to the higher tariffs. So much for bolstering the NHS with any savings...

I see the Marmite wars have begun with Morrison increasing the price at the till by a whopping 12.5% and tea traders saying the price of the national  brew is going to rise.

Friday, 28 October 2016

Android Pay Spectacle

Android Pay - anyone used it? Anything I need to be aware of?

Decided to clean my desk up a bit yesterday - it tends to get somewhat overpopulated by bits of paper, various cables, assorted vaping paraphernalia and dust. Anyway, I had a few pairs of old spectacles secreted in the cubbyholes and thought I'd sort them out and ascertain whether any of them were worth keeping as backups or could be taken to the local charity shop for distribution to myopic refugees. Got through some 3 pairs and alighted on a rather manky and unsavoury looking pair covered in dust. On trying them on I said to  myself; "These aren't perfect, but they don't feel too bad and I can see reasonably well with them, if not perfectly - perhaps I'll keep them." Needless to say, when I looked around for my usual pair I realised that the manky ones were in fact my usual pair - the very ones I'd taken off while inspecting the old ones and I'd failed to recognise them. Methinks I need a new pair of specs.

Was watching an old episode of The Avengers on TV last night - one with Linda Thorson as Tara King. Alan Wheatley was in it as a baddie. I always remember him as a suave and polished Sheriff of Nottingham in the 1950s TV series of The Adventures of Robin Hood with Richard Greene as Robin Hood. An excellent villain.

I must have watched re-runs, as I didn't move to the UK until 1961.

Thursday, 27 October 2016

Marmite Body Mass Jungle Ban

Marmite sales have rocketed 61% since the price row between Tesco and Unilever. A marketing man's dream! Threaten to put up the price and everyone (or at least the 50% who like it) goes nuts thinking there will be a national Marmite shortage. Well, either that or those dastardly continentals have cottoned on to it as a cheap weedkiller.

The Advertising Standards Agency has banned a slimming advert and called it socially irresponsible, saying it preys on women's body insecurities. Doesn't all advertising prey on some insecurity? "Buy the latest gee-gaw and simper when among your friends." What with today's epidemic of Type 2 diabetes, people's body image is exactly what advertisers should be focusing on! The ASA fully facilitate fast-food and sugary drink adverts, and if anything is socially irresponsible, then that has to be. I'm currently about a stone overweight (developing my winter plumage), and I'm not exactly ecstatic about it. No person in their right mind would be happy about being overweight and the massive health implications of that. I hope there's an appeal. More people need to be encouraged to take control of their lives, as being overweight is not attractive, nor is it healthy.

Christ! I'm starting to sound like Katie Hopkins.

The Jungle at Calais. There is a solution here and it's entirely in the hands of the French - just declare the Treaty of Brétigny valid and Calais once more becomes English - along with Guyenne and Gascony, Poitou, Saintonge and Aunis, Agenais, Périgord, Limousin, Quercy, Bigorre, the countship of Gauré, Angoumois, Rouergue, Montreuil-sur-Mer, Ponthieu, Sangatte, Ham and the countship of Guînes. The Jungle will then be our problem and the refugees/economic migrants will already, de facto, be in the UK without moving an inch.

Wednesday, 26 October 2016

Titans of Pop in Devon Art Runways

The 3rd runway at Heathrow - I think it's just a ruse to forcibly relocate the entire population of Harmondsworth to a remote island off the coast of Scotland because a) they don't vote Tory, or b) they're not really into being Londoners.

I noted yesterday the deaths of Bobby Vee and Pete Burns, whom the BBC news website inexplicably called 'Titans of Pop'. Bobby  Vee was before my time, but to call Pete Burns a  Titan of Pop is stretching credulity somewhat. He was a one hit wonder, for heaven's sake! Vee at least had 38 hits and 10 Top 20s, which was a good record for the 1960s.

Saw a Facebook post this morning from an outfit calling itself Refugees Not Welcome in Devon, filled with hateful invective from small minded Neanderthals. I wouldn't mind, but half  the people in Devon are refugees from the Midlands.

There is a counter page called Refugees ARE Welcome in Devon.

In Hamburg yesterday I spotted this painting in a conference room.

Now the passenger ship is decked out in Blue Funnel Line's colours - a blue funnel with a black top.

Above is the signature, which looks like R. Gutschmidt, or Richard Gutschmidt, who was the first illustrator or the Sherlock Holmes stories. Here's one of his illustrations and an example of his signature from another painting.

The conundrum is that Gutschmidt died in 1926 and the vessels in the painting look later than that date. On top of that, none of my Blue Funnel (also known as Alfred Holt and Co.) friends can recognise the vessel in question.

It was painted in Hamburg and you'll also see that the tugs have the same funnel colour. Now Blue Funnel Line didn't have tugs, and certainly not in Hamburg, so the only conclusion is that either a) the blue funnel was copied by a German shipping line, or b) the blue wasn't originally blue and has somehow turned into blue with age.

Tuesday, 25 October 2016

Cats' Whisker Wi-Fi Burqa

Quick jaunt over the Hamburg today, leaving two teenagers in charge of the house, as Hay is in Nice on business for the week.

Don't ask me why, but our neighbour's cats have taken to kipping next to the BT Wi-Fi router.

Whether it be the warmth, a comforting, ultrasound hum or the fact they're tuned into the 2.4GHz signal and downloading cat porn, I know not. Apparently it's quite common, although our own Kitty doesn't do it. These two are blokes though - or were.

Saw some post on Facebook yesterday about banning the burqa. The wearing of the burqa in France was extremely rare prior to the ban; since then it has gone exponential and the ban has become a red rag to a bull, Not only that, but ISIS are using the ban as a recruitment tool. Sheer stupidity and typical Lecteur de Courrier Quotidien stuff.

As people become older their lives become less relevant and meaningful, with the consequence that they retreat into a mythical past and keep muttering; "The country's going to the dogs," despite this being manifestly untrue. Lower crime, less poverty, better education, improved health, etc. Change frightens them, even change from which they are insulated. Little things get blown out of proportion as their influence declines.

The ironic thing is that Britain invaded half the world, imposing its culture and religion on the locals, and then the people that hark back to that very Empire have the nerve to say they don't like a few immigrants and their culture.

Statistically, people are in more danger form Type II diabetes than women in burqas; however, they're curiously reluctant to do anything about that though. If you're frightened of a woman in a burqa, you wouldn't have been much bloody use in running an empire, unless you were standing at the back urging the fearless on. Colonel Blimp and the Earl of Cardigan would turn in their graves. Doubly ironic is that these people are predominantly Brexiteers who revere glorious, yet utterly futile and doomed actions like the Charge of the Light Brigade (you can just imaging the good Earl stroking his magnificent whiskers [back to the whiskers] saying; "Total disaster, yes, but it'll teach those Roosians not to trifle with us - harrumph, what, what!").

I somehow suspect that not a single Brit would be upset by the people in the photo above confronting them on the tube in London, which just goes to prove something. I shan't say what, as it's bloody obvious.

I can't prove it, but I'd bet a pound to a pinch of poo that it's predominantly Christians who are anti-burqa and atheists couldn't really give a monkey's nut about the issue. The type of Christians who wear their religion on their sleeves and yet seem ignorant of Jesus' teachings.

Talking of Christians, Gay Cakegate got a result this week - the baker who refused to do a job for a gay couple had his appeal dismissed. Christians who maintain they are being persecuted seem to forget Jesus was a Jew and kept Jewish laws. Christians seem to cherry pick the laws that conform to their prejudices and conveniently forget the rest (dietary laws, the actual affirmation of the Covenant, etc.,) as they're either inconvenient or not acceptable in polite society. The anti-gay thing is one of the last bastions they are trying to defend under the pretense of religion, freedom of speech and the right to be a bigot. Some would say Jesus  made a new Covenant and the OT is redundant, but in that case, Jesus said absolutely nothing about homosexuality or women being 2nd class citizens (in fact, the early Jerusalem church had female bishops) and the; "Let him who is without sin," saying trumps all.

If you hand't guessed, I'm feeling particularly anti-hypocrite today.

Monday, 24 October 2016

4 Day Week

I wonder why we haven't moved on to a 4 day working week? I'm convinced that, for those who work in offices, what's achieved in 5 days could easily be achieved in 4. When you consider that most people don't work full pelt for 5 days and a lot of what we do is answering people just because they also happen to be in the office for 5 days, one day less would probably make no difference, providing all were working 4 days.

Sunday, 23 October 2016


Was walking through town doing the weekly shopping yesterday and spotted a bloke in a hoodie that said Hollister. My immediate reaction was to chuckle. Hay asked me what I was giggling about and I said I thought it amusing that someone would wear a hoodie bearing the name of our local ironmonger, Hollister's being where I get LPG gas bottles, tools, lightbulbs, plugs, etc.

Hay then inducted me into the mysterious world of the latest fashions.

I'm obviously fast becoming a dinosaur when it comes to the satrorial matters. I genuinely thought Hollister's had started giving their staff hoodies emblazoned with their name as an advertising exercise and blokey was out on his lunch break.

Saturday, 22 October 2016

Brexit Buy British

Given the rancour between Brexiteers and Remainers, perhaps the UK should be partitioned like India in 1947. We could have Brexitstan - the nationalistic, inward looking, yet impoverished part filled with fundamentalists who hanker after a glorious but mythical past, and Remindia, an expanding land of vast riches, opportunity and free trade.

Here's a list of British cars. In the spirit of Brexit, the government should perhaps ditch the Mercs and BMWs in favour of a British manufactured car - but which should it be?
  • McLaren - would be nice, but impractical and a tad costly.
  • Rover - more Mrs Queen, and they haven't been the same since the P4B.
  • Bentley or Rolls - too vulgar these days.
  • Bristol - lots of prestige, but too sporty and cramped.
  • Morgan - mmmm.
  • Caterham - nice, but Mrs May's hair would suffer.
  • Jaguar - I suppose it has to be the Jag, but they're not what they used to be. Ideal for Brexit though - trading on heritage, but having lost a lot of prestige.

What's your suggestion, and why?

Friday, 21 October 2016

Squash Refusenik Gays

I don't get it. If Trump loses the election he's not President. If he refuses to accept the result he's still not President. Does it matter one jot if he refuses to acknowledge the result if Clinton wins?

Talking of Trump, apparently that gorilla that escaped from London zoo managed to glug 5 litres of undiluted blackcurrant squash while on the loose. That's him headed for Type II diabetes then. Wonder if he used it to wash down a battered, deep-fried Mars Bar? He'll be asking for a Costa hazelnut syrup frappuccino next. I suspect he'll have a dicky botty for a few days. I wonder if Ribena will use his as a mascot?

Gay men being pardoned for having been found guilty of homosexual acts committed before 1967, when homosexual activity was on the staute book as an offence. Rather than applauding the fact that this government has done something about it, some are demanding an apology from the very same government.

Until the Sexual Offences Act came about it was a criminal offence, so a pardon is apt - I don't know what could be 'more than a pardon'. A government apology for something that happened more than 50 years ago, when the act was illegal, makes me feel uneasy and it doesn't sit well with me that governments are held responsible for the actions of previous governments. Governments could be apologising for every conceivable offence caused by previous governments since time immemorial. What about the women who were denied their right to vote? They'd have to set up a special department - the Department of Silly Apologies, apologising for things they were never involved with in the first place. I certainly wouldn't dream of apologising for something my parents did (unless I personally benefited from it) - it was nothing to do with me (and I have a problem with apologies anyway - at least Hay believes that). This presupposes that responsibility is not only institutional, but that the sins of the father are visited on the children forever. The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there.

Now compensation is possibly another matter and something I could feasibly agree with. But that could spawn a host of associated problems, and offering compensation could, in itself, be interpreted as an admission of liability. That said, compensation has been paid to people without admission of liability. A thorny issue.

Take for example Nazi loot from WWII. You'd expect a child of a Nazi looter having some art treasure in his or her possession to hand it back to the original owner. However, theft was and still remains a crime. Possession of stolen goods was and remains a crime.

Wrongful conviction is precisely that - a miscarriage of justice. But prior to '67 homosexual acts were illegal, like it or not, so because the law was subsequently changed you can't simply claim wrongful conviction by retrospectively applying the laws of today to the past.

I'm not entirely clear in my own thoughts on this one. Any opinions?

Thursday, 20 October 2016

Absentminded Trump

Had a business meeting in Chelmsford yesterday. Could have sworn it was at 11:30. When I turned up the receptionist said the chap I was to meet was in the Colchester office. While she was frantically trying to contact him, I looked at  the email from last week again and was horrified to read; "Before 11:30 or after 14:30." Luckily the chap my contact wanted me to see was working from home some 10 minutes away and I had a meeting with him instead. Day saved! Must learn to read emails properly.

Trump vs Clinton. Is it just me, or is Trump adopting the tactics favoured by his hero, Putin? It  does seem rather ironic to me that an establishment figure (and millionaire to boot) is positioning himself as an anti-establishment candidate.

Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Victor Mentality II

Was having a chat with an old school friend yesterday who works for Cammell Laird's and talk got round to the MoD and its Byzantine procurement processes. He quipped that with the number of RFA vessels laid up there, Cammell Laird's in Birkenhead must be the UK's largest Royal Navy base.

I have personal experience of selling things to the MoD. When some new technology is ordered they require spares for at least 10 years to guarantee continued availability - the fact that the spares sit in a warehouse, degrade and go out of warranty seems lost on them. Not only that, but the technology itself becomes redundant in half that time, resulting in subsequent spares being astronomically priced due having to retain tooling to make them. Additionally, you have to fill a myriad forms that take forever to collate. Someone has to pay for this, which invariably results in the price of a pencil rising to well over 3 times the price of buying one in Rymans. The waste is just phenomenal.

A friend over the road makes a mint from repairing UK Navy technology for which they don't have the expertise to repair themselves, or was fitted badly (by the RN) in the first place.

I'm convinced a Merchant Navy ship management company (of which there are hundreds, and several within the UK) could run, staff and provision the UK Navy for less than a tenth of what it costs using the MoD's own bureaucracy. That would free up money for recruiting staff, rather than having vessels laid up due to the lack of suitably qualified and experienced technical senior rates .

It's another example of the public believing we have one of the world's premier navies, when in reality most of the vessels never put to sea due to having no-one to man them. Victor Mentality at work again.

Tuesday, 18 October 2016

Victor Mentality

I wonder why Melania Trump felt the need to forgive the millionaire, Donald Trump, his locker talk?

On swapping my phones and transferring the data, I happened to look at the notes on the old Galaxy Note 3, where I jot down thoughts for blog entries and spotted one from a few weeks ago about the Victor Mentality, which I never got down to posting.

This was mentioned by an army officer with respect to the proposed creation of a European Army. The officer mentioned that the UK's army is woefully inadequate, with respect to both manpower and materiel, should even a minor war kick off, but that there's a certain amount of reluctance to countenance this within the general population. She put this down to the Victor Mentality - a cognitive dissonance manifesting in us not facing up to reality and still living in a glorious past.

There are many reasons for leaving the EU, some very good (the return of duty free, not that you'll be able to afford it) and some woefully bad. However, the level of a lot of the arguments hinge on this Victor Mentality and a totally false view of the UK's abilities. Merely wishing for things to be a certain way can sometimes have a positive outcome, but if the reality is so divergent from the rosy image and the forces for change are ranged against that change, then the outlook ain't too bright. Ken Loach summed that up in the news today by referring to Britian's obsession with fake, sugar-coated period dramas that don't reflect reality.

We have;  the lowest GDP of any northwestern continental nation, unions who consistently prove themselves incapable of supporting productivity improvements unless they are attached to massive wage increases which immediately wipe out any productivity gains, a pound that's practically in free-fall, increases in ethnic attacks. Doesn't look good in the harsh light of reality. Should solve the immigration problem through - no-one in their right mind would want to come here and, failing that, we could absorb increased unemployment by deploying job seekers as border guards.

The fact we have two thirds of the Top Gear team in the government, however, bodes well - May and Hammond. We just need Clarkson to join them for any real movement on getting caravans off the roads.

Monday, 17 October 2016

A and Spoons

Went to an Old School reunion dinner in Bournemouth on Saturday evening. Met up with an old friend who I rarely see - Josh. Josh was 3 years senior to me and was in his last year of A levels when I was in my first year of O levels.

Josh was the head of my mess table, meaning he had to control 6 cadets when having their meals in the mess hall. Josh was insistent on having his own teaspoon - teaspoons being in short supply. Becoming so pissed off with this demand, I wrote home and had my parents buy a teaspoon and have it engraved with Josh's name. We presented it to Josh on his final day at the school, in 1970 - and he still has it! It's a treasured memento. 

Josh ended up as Master of the superyacht A - just A - by way of Alfred Holt (the company I joined, but it was called Ocean Fleets by then), the British Antarctic Survey and the Sultan on Oman's Royal Yacht Squadron (Josh was a keen sailor). The A is owned by a Russian billionaire and looks more like a futuristic battleship than a superyacht.

See what I mean?

Sunday, 16 October 2016

Marshmallow & S7 Edge Kitty

Linking yesterday's post about cat fleas and today's more technical post, here's Kitty texting on her tiny phone (old fleabag!):

Discovered a problem with the new Galaxy S7 Edge. Marshmallow restricts write access to the Micro SD card in certain circumstances, even on rooted devices, meaning some apps, like Foldersync, don't work when syncing from say Dropbox to the SD card.

The reason is to restrict possible malware from writing to other folders, but it's a big issue for me as I keep all my data on my mobile phone (and I mean all). 

Not much use having a phone that has a 200gb SD card if you have to load it up manually by taking it out of the phone. Luckily I haven't bought a 200gb SD card yet - nor am I likely to if a quick fix can't be found. Doubtless someone will find a fix and write an app for it, but it can't be soon enough for me.

There is one fix, which is to format the SD card as internal (rather than external) storage, but it has to be done on a PC with special software. Bit of a faff, but I'll try it on the current 64gb SD card to see if it solves the problem.

I have discovered that I could have flashed the S7 Edge ROM to my Note 3, which I loved. Bit late now that I've rooted the S7 though, but I do think the S7 is a bit more ergonomically attractive.

Might just flash the S7 with a ROM that doesn't have the SD card issue, as it's not so much a feature of Marshmallow as a quirk of Samsung - they switched off the ability in their version,

Saturday, 15 October 2016

The Humble Flea Pump

We've got a small problem with fleas. Kitty was obviously left too long between treatments and we now have a bit of an infestation. Given we have wooden floors, the infestation is contained within a couple of rugs, but I am manna from heaven for all manner of biting bugs, from fleas to mosquitoes and horse flies - they just love me. Hay never seems to be touched by the little buggers and believes the infestation is all in my mind. The fact No.1 Son is also biting-bug fodder and is covered in bites on his ankles hasn't convinced her. I consequently ordered some flea spray for the furniture from Amazon, which was promised to be delivered early last week. I got a message several days later that it would be delivered next month. I cancelled the order (a pity, as it had good reviews) and bought some other preparation, again from Amazon and again with a delivery date of a couple of days. Got a message yesterday that it wouldn't be delivered till late next week. Finally got some on Wednesday on eBay and both it and the last Amazon order arrived yesterday.

Getting a tad fed up with my plumber. A few weeks ago it was the air-source heat system pump - he was sent the wrong pump and it was a week before he called with the correct pump. This week it was the solar thermal circulation pump - yet again he maintains he was sent the wrong pump. He has a big problem with ordering the wrong pump, or perhaps he's overbooked himself. shan't be using his services again.

Friday, 14 October 2016

The Privacy of Political Elites & Shares

Trump has responded to allegations of sexual assault by saying he's never made unwanted sexual advances to women. There again, he seems to be the kind of Neanderthal who would maintain all women are 'up for it' and therefore advances from him are welcomed.

The Moral Maze had a session the other night on people's right to privacy. I haven't listened to it yet, but in the case of politicians you are voting for them on trust. You need to be sure that such trust is not misplaced and their actual motives are not diametrically opposed to their espoused motives that are the basis of the vote. That presupposes their private lives and peccadillos should justifiably be under scrutiny. When to comes to actors and pop stars, etc., I don't need to take anything they say on trust (most of it is vacuous anyway) and as such they should have a right to privacy so long as they stick to their area of expertise and don't become involved wanting political office.

I can understand the attraction of Trump to American voters - they want to rid themselves of a self-perpetuating political elite, and Trump is seen the only way to do that. However, they should be careful of what they wish for as the law of unintended consequences may kick in. Better to wait for a qualified candidate than jump at the first one, however unsuitable he may be. One thing Trump doesn't eliminate is the involvement of plutocrats in politics.

I don't think we in the UK suffer so much from political elites - yes, there is the well trodden path of Eton and then PPE or journalism at Cambridge or Oxford and a position in some party's research department, but, in the main, the  vast majority of our politicians have had a real job. The Great British Public, on the other hand, seems to think not and I suspect that is why Brexit got such a high vote, as well as the view that the EU itself is a political elite.

Political elites are not necessarily a bad thing - they at least have experience of politics (I wouldn't want to undergo brain surgery by a novice), something a maverick doesn't have. The irony is that the monarchy is itself a self-perpetuating elite, but most Britons are pro monarchy. Perhaps it's because the monarchy has no real power.

Trump got a bit of a beating on Radio 4 yesterday morning when a retired British brigadier totally demolished Trump's argument for using strategic surprise in Mosul by just going in there mob-handed with no  warning. The brigadier, in a very calm and understated manner, pointed out that aid agencies  and civilians need warnings to clear out if they're not to become casualties of the conflict and that strategic surprise has only worked in very few instances. Asked whether Trump had a particular insight that the USA military did not, he said: "If Mr Trump has military advisors then he's clearly not listening to them."  A superb put-down and an example of the triumph of experience over political naïvete.

Here we go - Unilever (an Anglo-Dutch conglomerate) is putting up its prices due to the fall in the pound. The bone of contention is raising the price of UK manufactured products, specifically Marmite, but Unilever does its accounting in Euros, so even if sales are steady, the value of those sales in Euros is decreasing. Allow that to continue and the revenues in Euros and share price will be adversely affected. Yes, Marmite exports from the UK will result in increased sales - but do continentals even understand Marmite, never mind about like it? The law of unintended consequences as a result of Brexit. Doubtless many things will generally become a lot more expensive in the future, Sadly most of them will be things we don't manufacture in the UK and so don't have an alternative,

Bit the bullet yesterday. Gave up hope of ever getting a Note 7 and went for an S7 Edge. Nice piece of kit, but I miss the stylus. Easy to transfer all my apps and data too.

Thursday, 13 October 2016

Airport Developments

Went on yet another business trip to Glasgow yesterday.
  1. I'm going to have to get myself some plastic cufflinks; I'm sick of having to remove them for airport security and having to fiddle about putting them back in again with cuffs flapping all over the show.
  2. There was a security alert at the airport - some bugger was caught trying to sneak a Galaxy Note 7 through in his baggage...
  3. The EasyJet flight was delayed by 2 hours and 50 minutes; 10 minutes short of the deadline for claiming a refund. They just don't delay planes like they used to - time was when a 6 hour delay was nothing.
  4. Managed to find the EasyJet VIP lounge - it had a sign saying WC, which I presume means Waiting Chamber. There were even some seats behind doors, so you could have some privacy..
  5. At one of the coffee outlets they  had espressos weighing in at 6 calories for a single shot. The same thing as a frappuchinno (whatever that is) weighed in at 148 calories. What the hell do they do to it to add 137 calories, for heaven's sake?
  6. Was watching the outbound flight captain inspecting the plane at the departure gate. It was a lady pilot and she was wearing boots with quite high heels. I just hope she changed them to something more sensible before takeoff, as we men all know that women wearing heels risk their feet slipping off the accelerator.
  7. Took a Scottish £5 note with me to try and get rid of it (yes, I know it's legal tender, but you try telling that to some English people). Managed to get rid of it, but gathered another one a couple of hours later. 
  8. Looking at WH Smiths' concession top 10 best sellers in airports makes you wince. Littered with biographies of footballers, football managers and minor C list celebrities you've never heard of unless you watch daytime TV. Can the British be so bloody shallow? 
  9. On the way back I inadvertently left my laptop in the main departure lounge and it was only about 3 minutes after an announcement was made that I realised it was my laptop that was being referred to and I was already at the departure gate waiting to get on the plane. Airport blokey at the departure gate kindly went and got it for me. Unfortunately he refused a Scottish £5 note as reward. Can't say I blame him - they're difficult to get rid of, even in Scotland, it would seem.

On another Note - remember me banging on a couple of weeks ago about the new housing development at Lee Bay in North Devon? The local council planning department has refused planning permission to the developer. Yay!

Wednesday, 12 October 2016

Pumpkin Locker Talk

What with it being the season, we bought a pumpkin at the weekend. It was in a basket labelled with "Carving Pumpkin". The first time I was aware of there being a distinction between an eating pumpkin and a carving pumpkin. Given it was rather light, I can only assume it was relatively hollow compared to an eating pumpkin; nevertheless it was good eating and the remains were used for a delicious pumpkin soup. I hate the idea of using good food in a frivolous manner.

Do you think with the latest revelations about Trump's locker talk, he's exposed himself?

I do hear American women who have to suffer being near Trump are hoping the burqa will become a fashion item in the USA...

Tuesday, 11 October 2016

Religious Note 7 Photos

Louis Smith (not that I'd ever heard of him before) has apparently published an apology after a video leaked online suggested he was mocking Islam. Many are calling him a racist for appearing to mock a religion. How can mocking a religion be racist when religion (in almost all cases) transcends race? The issue is really what religion he espouses and whether he believes his form of religion is superior to another, and if so, why. If he's not religious at all, then I suppose it could be called anti-religious, but not racist. A person's race cannot be changed while their religion can.

Personally I've no truck with any organised religion; all religions rely on heresay alone and not heresay with evidence - that being the prime reason we have so many of them and a myriad factions within each one. Does that make me an uber-racist? I think not. There are, however, some religions that are dangerous to life and limb to mock - and that makes their more fanatical adherents really, really bad people.

Here's a bit of advice I've gleaned from the press over recent months - never, ever put your naked photos of yourself on iCloud. Apparently is't an open invitation to hackers. Just do what I do and keep them in a drawer at home, along with your $5m diamond rings.

Seems I'm not destined to get my new Galaxy Note 7 that was ordered months ago.

Monday, 10 October 2016

Christmas Trousers

Overheard while Hay was talking to her father:

Hay: "Well, this year we're all going to have Christmas at your place.

Hay's Dad: "Oh yes, it's my turn, isn't it. I'll have to give some thought as to where I'll be going then."

No.1 Son lost his phone on Saturday night, but didn't realise it till Sunday morning. He finally discovered he'd left it in a friend's car and wanted me to drive him to collect it. He was still in his pyjamas, so I told him to get ready immediately and I would take him. Two minutes later he presented himself - and suddenly realised he'd put his trousers on inside out. It wouldn't surprise me if someone turned it into a fashion.

Sunday, 9 October 2016

This 'n' That


TV Voice: "Just what brought ancient man to Amesbury?"

Chairman: "The A303!"


Chairman: "Did you read that story about a boy in India having a 20cm vestigial tail surgically removed?"

Hay: "Weird bits of DNA from our distant past keep cropping up - you occasionally get people covered in a thick layer of hair, for example. Just look at yourself, for a start."

We were travelling through the countryside yesterday on the way back from the garden centre in Nailsworth, through acres of fields of stubble from this year's crops, and it struck me that if wheat is a variety of grass, then why when it's cut do farmers need to plough the fields and plant new seed? Surely it should just grow again from the roots, like my lawn?

I understand that wheat, unlike wild grasses, retains its seeds and hence it's difficult to reseed a field naturally, but then my garden lawn never even gets to seed stage, yet it continues to grow from year to year without self-seeding. Perhaps a farmer can explain? Must be something to do with the root system.

The same goes for other crops. I can hack weeds down in our field, and they keep coming back year after year. Why not cabbages? Perhaps they would, but they wouldn't be as vigorous?

Saturday, 8 October 2016


Term time holidays were in last week's papers again. The headline in the Sunday Times was; "No causal link between term time holidays and academic performance." However, when you read the story, what the researchers said was that the data was contaminated by absences for reasons other than holidays and therefore no hard evidence could be concluded, Not exactly the same thing as 'no causal link'.

It's simple common sense that absence from school, whatever the cause, will have some effect on learning if no remedial steps are taken. The effect will lie on a continuum - no school at all and you wouldn't expect good academic performance;  a perfect attendance record in itself does not guarantee a good performance, but it would guarantee a better performance than no school at all. If the pupil concerned is diligent and catches up, then yes, there will be no effect.

The problem as I see it is that parents who put holidays before school, for whatever reason, are generally the kind who don't place a high value on education. With that kind of millstone, the child is, unfortunately, unlikely to be academically inclined in the first place.

I would never dream of taking my child out of school for a holiday, unless it was justified from the perspective of adding to their overall education, and even then I'd have to think very hard about it. Sitting on a beach in either Benidorm or the Maldives adds nothing to a child's education, whereas touring the Prada Museum or being forced by their parents to speak a language they are learning with locals in the holiday destination will. That said, that can be done outside of term time.

If you can't afford a foreign holiday in the peak season, then rein your expectations. A foreign holiday is not a human right. Your child's education is infinitely more important.

Friday, 7 October 2016


I don't actually suffer from insomnia, but for various reasons I do get up frequently in the middle of the night and can sometimes find it quite difficult to get back too sleep due to thoughts crowding my mind.

I have developed a strategy to counter this; I imagine a thruppenny piece coin, enameled with various colours - the type you sometimes see as pendants or cufflinks. I find that focusing on that mental image stops the extraneous thoughts, calms my imagination and helps me drift off to sleep quite swiftly. Why a thruppenny piece? I have no idea - it just works for me, but it has to be highly coloured, more than the one below.

The other solution would be to read, but switching the light on would bring complaints from her indoors. I always  read, without fail, on going to bed in the evening and it takes no more than half a dozen pages to send me into the land of nod, regardless of how I feel.

Thursday, 6 October 2016

Carpe Diem

Theresa May's carpe diem speech.  Rousing, invigorating, but just words. Can the leopard change its spots? She wants to turn the Tory Party into the party of the average, working-class millionaire - sorry, worker.

For  long time the Tory  Party has been like a lot of (not all, by any means) self-professed evangelical American Christians, the type who flaunt their Christianity in public - the least tolerant of individuals. The more Christian they proclaim themselves to be, the less tolerant they appear.

I suppose that begs the question of whether Jesus was a socialist. He must have been - looking after the poor, loving your neighbour, diatribes against violence, turning the other cheek etc., etc.. You couldn't get much more socialist. Why is it them that American Republicans, who  never miss a chance to exhibit their Christian credentials, are among the least tolerant people in the world and don't appear to give a toss about the poor or the dispossessed?

I'm not talking about the many Christians who wear their Christianity quietly and unassumingly, but the vociferous ones whose politics defines their brand of Christianity, rather than the other way round. That, I believe, is the root of their problem. He did preach against tax avoidance though (Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar's) so he came from the socially responsible wing of whichever strain of politics he represents.

Wednesday, 5 October 2016

Back to Tats

No.2 Son has been progressing an application to join the Royal Navy, wanting to become helicopter aircrew, using the RN's facilities for gaining A levels and possibly a degree - after all, some 40% of RN officers come up from the ranks. The CPO looking after No.2 Son's application doesn't think commissioned officers actually do any work, as evidenced by his comment when No.2 Son called him 'Sir'. He barked; "You call me Chief, not sir. I'm not an officer - I actually work for a living."

The subject of tats came up during the application, with the rule being: "Tattoos that are offensive, obscene or excessive in size or number will be a bar to entry or re-entry. Tattoos that are visible on the head, neck and hand when in parade uniform are a bar to entry. If you have any you will be asked to complete a form describing your tattoos. They will be seen during your medical examination."

While looking up potential recruits' reactions to this I came across the following: "Completely understand where you're coming from but the problem is that it's supposed to be a disciplined service and the fact is that most people actually know what the rules are, but wish to challenge them. Those that display a poor attitude to discipline and authority in these days of lean manning and a surplus of applicants are entirely at liberty to apply for jobs elsewhere. No, it doesn't mean that they would be any better at their job, but it does perhaps suggest they would be prepared to do what they are required to do when it matters most. Doubtless there are many tattoo-free drug addicts and career criminals knocking about, but a line needs to be drawn somewhere."

While aggressive tattoos may make you look more fearsome in a battle, which could be a psychological plus in a hand-to-hand combat, I doubt they'd go down very well on parade inspection by Mrs Queen.

Older people dislike tattoos as they once had a very identifiable association with an underclass - criminals, thugs, ladies of the night, sailors, Edward VII, etc.. That association is had to break. I'm of the generation where our parents frowned deeply on tattoos and I was intensely ashamed of mine. The fact they are now fashion items (mistakenly, in my opinion) should change attitudes over time, but don't expect me to like your tat or give you a job if you look like Keith Flint in Firestarter. I have my reasons...

Tuesday, 4 October 2016

Funeral For a Friend

Went to an Old Boy's funeral yesterday afternoon. I'd been asked to do a eulogy, which I accomplished without fluffing my lines. Also had a couple of poems to read - The Conway Gulls by John Masefield (who was an Old Boy of the school) and Tennyson's Crossing the Bar.

Masefield imagined gulls on masts being the souls of returned HMS Conway Old Boys.


They died in the gales' roaring, in the smash
Of some green billow whence they never rose;
Some diced with Death with many lucky throws
Till the last throw, that nulled them into ash.

Some were for all adventure, being rash;
And others died, in thirst and fever-throes,
On frontiers at the furthest that man goes,
Or on the foreman's muzzles, in the flash.

And being gone, they wander home again
Here, to the Ship, and settle on her spars,
Mewing and going gleaning in the sea. 

They are our brothers, so let them be,
Old Conways, fellow-sharers of the stars,
Advanced another link upon the chain.

A bar in nautical parlance is a shallow, generally sandy area across an estuary which can only be crossed at high tide, or you go around, if you can. Crossing the Liverpool bar is a colloquialism for arriving at one's home port, or kicking the bucket.


Sunset and evening star, 
And one clear call for me! 
And may there be no moaning of the bar, 
When I put out to sea, 

But such a tide as moving seems asleep, 
Too full for sound and foam, 
When that which drew from out the boundless deep 
Turns again home. 

Twilight and evening bell, 
And after that the dark! 
And may there be no sadness of farewell, 
When I embark; 

For tho' from out our bourne of Time and Place 
The flood may bear me far, 
I hope to see my Pilot face to face 
When I have crost the bar.

Eulogising held no terrors for me, as I wrote the words and can generally remember the gist with just a few key words on a piece of paper. The wedding speech was good practice too. With a poem, however (especially when the audience has a copy in the Order of Service) it's not easy to cover a fluff with some ad-libbing. Archaic language only adds to the problem.

Monday, 3 October 2016

Overhard at Tyntesfield

Went to Tyntesfield (National Trust) in Somerset again yesterday.

Overheard in the grounds of Tyntesfield:

Visitor: "Hebe!......Hebe!......Hebe, where are you?"

Chairman: "Is that chap calling a plant?"

Later, on seeing a chap in a Hawaiian shirt:

Chairman: "I'd like a Hawaiian shirt."

Hay: "You have to be rake thin to wear one, else you'd look like Christopher Biggins or a children's entertainer. Come to think of it, you already look like Christopher Biggins."

Bet you've never seen poinsettias like these in the Tyntesfield greenhouse:

Apparently the ones you get at Christmas are treated with a growth inhibitor to keep them small. These specimens were over 7 feet tall.

Sunday, 2 October 2016

It's Not for Locals Anymore

I do TripAdvisor reports for most hotels and restaurants I visit, but I get annoyed at some of the reports I read for pubs where locals complain that it has been taken over by new management and is no longer a local pub.

The point of owning a pub/hotel is to make money, not just cater for the odd local who sits in a corner nursing his pint for several hours. One place in the North Yorkshire Dales comes particularly to mind. It was losing money hand-over-fist under the previous owners, who sold up precisely because it was what the locals wanted - swirly carpets and bad beer. The new owner spent a fortune refurbishing the whole place (some 11 bedrooms, a restaurant and bar) and has turned it onto a boutique hotel attracting people from all over the country. It's pricey, but it has to be to pay for the renovations and a top class chef, but it brings wealthy people into the village who spend money locally when there.

It will doubtless be a while before it's profitable and the owner has recouped his costs, but we make a beeline for the place every time we go oop north for a weekend of walking. Were it not there, we probably wouldn't have ever gone to Clapham.

If locals want a local pub, they should get together and create their own - and learn what it's like to lose money with a business.

Saturday, 1 October 2016

A Series of Overheards


Hay: "Right, I've made an executive decision, we're going for dinner tonight to The XXXX."

Chairman: "But they'll not be best pleased with us - remember we were in serious discussion with them about having the wedding reception there. I suppose we can just say we put it off for a couple of years."

Hay: "The wedding rings will be a bit of a give-away."

Chairman: "We can say we ended up marrying other people, which is why we had to put it off for a couple of years - till the divorces come through."

Overheard on the way to the restaurant:

Chairman: "Which car shall we go in?"

Hay: "The Pool Car."

Chairman: "But you can't go out looking like a million dollars and turn up in the Pool Car."

Hay: "But you only look like thrupence."

Overheard at the venue:

Hay: "So what is it?"

Chairman: "An Allard."

Hay: "Is that like a Mallard, but less ducky?"

Wasn't as nice as this though, which I saw in London earlier in the week:

Overheard during dinner when talking about universities:

Chairman: "But I never went to university."

Hay: "You didn't need to, you already know it all."

Overheard later during dinner:

Chairman: "Do you think I should select my pall bearers now, and tell them, or is that a bit morbid?"