Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Value Witch

I haven't done one of these posts for a while... probably because I got sick and tired of all those 'frugal' blogs... but, well, I've found a few good offers you may not know about...

  1. For those of you with nasty smart phones that aren't that bright when it comes to energy management, provided that you are a mobile or broadbank customer with EE/Orange/T-Mobile from tomorrow you can get a free portable energy pack (which you can recharge yourself after use, or swap at any EE shop for a fully charged one).

  2. But, if you are on EE, after you've grabbed this offer, may I suggest you look seriously at GiggGaff? It runs on the O2 network but is much cheaper as a SIM-only package, particularly if there are two or more of you who regularly make mobile calls to each other as all GiggGaff to GiffGaff calls are free. Use that link and you get £5 extra credit, and so do I. You can port your existing number (very easily) and I can honestly say that I have have never had such excellent customer service form any phone company. Tech support is provided by 'the community' (nerdy users, who get free airtime for answering community queries - loads better than Indians in call centres with bad English and poor understanding and knowledge) and financial support by an employed email team (in the UK) who answer queries, and put right issues, faster than you can send them email!

  3. Given that a major factor in our successful 'retire by 50' strategy was that we paid off our mortgage by stoozing using an offset mortgage account (as well as other high-interest savings accounts - some at 8% interest; those were the days - when we'd filled that with money borrowed at 0%, no fee), I am delighted to find that I was a better stoozer than the best MSE knows about.
    "In stoozing's heyday, the amounts people could get were huge, with the biggest stooze-pot we heard about being £80,000 of 0% credit card debt (multiple cards, continually rolling onto 0% deals) which saved that stoozer nearly £5,000 a year as the money was offset in his flexible mortgage."

    He made just five grand a year? Amateur.

    It scares me stupid, now, to think about the amounts we were playing with. But, it served its purpose. BUT despite what the linked article says, I would not play the stoozing game again now, as, with interest rates as low as they are, it is totally impossible to make enough money to justify the time it takes, and the risks to your credit rating if you mess up payment dates (or get carried away and spend rather than save what you borrow).

    It does rather irk me that stoozing was absolutely NOT something that Martin MSE invented, or even promoted back then, despite his attempting to now claim credit for it at the end of the linked article. This gives a much better history, and the true date of when it started - around 2003-4. IIRC (and I'm fairly certain I do), in 'early 2000', Martin was still not known, and was annoying posters on the Motley Fool discussion boards (with his 'gatecrashing' posts), and not 'broadcasting about this technique' as he now claims.

  4. And a final one... this time from my own inbox... if you go to this website, you can buy a free pack of 3 National Trust greetings cards, each containing a voucher that entitles you to a pot of tea for two at most major NT attractions, for just the delivery charge (£1.49). 50p per card wouldn't be bad (they're £2.99 each in WH Smith and National Trust gift shops), but a pot of tea for two is probably about £3.50, so that's a tenner's worth of free tea, plus 3 nice cards, for £1.49.

    "How to obtain your free pack:

    1. Visit our homepage, Click 'Packs' then 'National Trust'.

    2. Add a National Trust Taster Pack to your basket, (plus any other items you wish to order).

    3. Checkout. Type TASTER in the voucher code box on the shopping basket page and click 'Apply'. A £5.49 discount will be applied.

    Terms and conditions:

    One free pack per customer. The offer is valid until 18th April, 2015 and cannot be used with any other discount. Free delivery for orders of £10 or more. You are welcome to forward this offer to family and friends"


Sunday, April 12, 2015

Tell me on a Sunday

The sun has been out again today. My crown imperials are starting to come out:

That last photo was for those who don't like kittens.

The next two are to prove how hard it is to photograph two day old kittens:

Their mummy came and grabbed one of the white ones from us, and, grasping it firmly in her jaws by the scruff of its neck, started to take it on her tortuous route back to the feline maternity hospital: jump onto Mi1dred's bonnet, jump onto Mi1dred's roof, jump onto the top of a set of sheves, run around the brick top of the walls, across some rafters, avoiding some hanging hooks. We had to wrestle it back. It may have been the same one that Mr BW saved from death yesterday by warming it in his hands as he found it, freezing cold, after she'd managed to lose it.

First room now washed, painted, soft furnishings all washed (or dry cleaned and very badly pressed), carpet washed, and all fully reassembled. Bored with repainting now (and I didn't do any of the actual painting). Which is a shame, really, as there is a lot more to do.

Cleaner BW will be here tomorrow. I fear for her ability to do her job without unwanted 'help' of a 'grubby hands/footprints/need some tea/need the toilet even though you are just cleaning where I want to be' nature, as I shall be out with some of my Rotating Ladies.

Mr BW has retired. I am exhausted. It's hard work keeping one step ahead of his speed...


Friday, April 10, 2015

Kitten Pictures

Mr BW, happily rejoicing in the news that there isn't to be a local election (*breathes sigh of relief at the work that will save, and that the BW Party continues to have a local councillor*) has risked life and limb and climbed up a ladder and ferreted in the workshop rafters to bring you some photos.

Apparently there are 5 kittens, rather than 4 as he thought earlier - 3 white cats with tiny black patches and two black with white:

And the current favourite (who gets to stay if it is a girl):

Things have come full circle: when we 'inherited' our first cat, to control mice and rats soon after we moved here, nearly 20 years ago (10,000 acres of arable land behind us made it essential), she was a black and white, and we haven't had a black and white again until now.

If you've got them, flaunt them ;)


My suspicions were correct... as I said on 3rd February,

"So, I did another spell, for enough snow to make a Snow Cat, but all that succeeded in doing was producing an ugly bruiser of a white tom cat - who we'd never seen before - and who proceeded to chase my girls. I guess it will add variation to the next batch..."

By my counting, the kittens were due last Saturday, and I was rather hoping that they'd be born on Tuesday, but they weren't. We saw Youngest Feline yesterday morning, still fat, so they were born sometime yesterday or in the early hours: Mr BW tells me that we now have 4 more mouths to feed.

Two black and white, and two white and black.

I haven't seen them either, as they are in the usual feline maternity ward - the furthest reaches of the workshop rafters...

Regular readers may recall that the older two black cats (who we homed as rescue kittens from a private source) each had kittens on Easter Sunday 2014. They then proceeded to share responsibility for raising the 9 kittens, and then had a trip to the vet. Current Mum is the only one of the all-black 9 that we still have (we gave 7 away to what we hope were good homes, and one suffered the usual 'instant death by speeding motorist' last autumn - replacement purposes are the only reason we allow one young female to breed: the local cat charities won't rehome to anyone who lives anywhere other than on a housing estate), and GrandCat and Great Aunt are taking it in turns to be on watch.

Posted at 11:55 AM | Comments (0)

Retirement: Day 3

I was kept too busy to write even a few words yesterday, but, for posterity, we woke up at 6.30am (just before diddely doo time). I stuck green fluorescent dots onto the heavy cream curtains before taking them to the dry cleaners, (£16.62 each curtain, ready Saturday afternoon), and then spent the rest of the day cleaning paint off where it shouldn't be as fast as Mr BW was spreading it on.

In the late afternoon, I then wet-cleaned the carpets for the first time in far too long, as evidenced by the colour of the waste water. *shudders*. I was then so exhausted that I went to sleep.

Fortunately, for carpet drying purposes, the glorious weather that started on Tuesday continues: 41.5°C in the polytunnel and 28°C on the in-the-sun wall thermometer. But it went down to 4°C last night.

Today we woke up at 4.45am, and had hot chocolate, but it didn't work well enough and I still woke up at 6.45am (diddely doo time). Given that I rarely woke up at diddely doo time when Mr BW used to have to get up at that time, I wondered what was going on.

Mr BW is currently satinwooding the skirting boards and eggshelling the cupboard doors. That was after he re-emulsioned the wall that had dried patchy (the danger of using old paint and mixing part-tins).

Despite having all the windows and most of the doors open, the paint is not doing my dry cough (leftover from the flu attack a month ago) any good. Not sure what I'm meant to do - the weather forecasters are telling vulnerable people not to go out in the south and east, and I can't stay in.

I'm amused at how many people are trying to blame the Coalition for the high pollution.

Posted at 10:40 AM | Comments (6)

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Retirement Day 1

We woke up at 6am.

By 10am Mr BW had done a stock-take on paint-in-stock, cleared the Rest Room (note for non-UK readers, this not what you think it is), and had protective covering on the floor, and was washing the walls with sugar soap solution.

At 11am a Nice Lady Friend unexpectedly (well, OK, she rang twenty minutes before arriving) arrived with her German teenage grand daughter and the grand daughter's best friend to buy eggs and h0ney and meet the livestock.

She was impressed by the industry being shown.


Posted at 11:59 AM | Comments (2)

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Today is the first day of the rest of our lives...

The cats and I have just waved Mr BW off for the last time.

Off to work that is.

After 33 years and 7 months in the same place (and, as his Mum said, his Dad started work there the year before he was born, so he's actually a Company Baby). 63 years of service between them, although they overlapped by 12 years in the 80s and early 90s).

Car loaded with cakes (78) for this morning (not forgetting that there was already Cake Day Part 1 last Wednesday for all those who were on leave this week), and a huge chocolate extravagance (serves about 200 by the look of it) for this afternoon (picture later, when I have my camera back), and goodbye presents for various colleagues and secretaries (all home-made or home-grown)

And... the iCrap has left the building! Hurrah! It's been embarrassing being such an Apple Non-Fan Girl having a husband with work-issue (Blackberries were changed to iPhoneys a couple of months ago).

We'd always planned to retire when Mr BW was 50.

We've been saving towards it, and putting extra into pension pots. The joy of compound interest, and the fact that we have always put the maximum amount of money into ISAs every year since they came out (which sometimes was very hard), and never touched it, has helped a lot.

But, then, a couple of years ago, the governmint changed the goalposts, and decreed that no-one could take their personal pensions until they were 55. We weren't happy.

Two years ago, Mr BW chose to move to working 3 days per week. We got the idea in the summer of 2008, when the global crash led to everyone at his company being asked to work part time for three months. We managed fine (and even managed to still save), helped by not paying such a huge amount of tax and national insurance, and realised that it was a permanent possibility.

And then the governmint moved the goalposts on when one could take one's state pension. Several times. We're now up to 67. Fourteen and a half more years for me, and sixteen and a half for him, rather than the seven and a half for me (and fourteen and a half for him) that we were promised when we started paying national insurance at 16.

While we were in Northumberland last autumn celebrating Mr BW's 50th birthday (I see that Jay Rayner recently also liked the place we went to on the actual day), I jokingly asked him how much longer he was planning to go on working. "Until I don't enjoy it any more. Or 55. Whichever comes first!" was his reply.

On our return, a major restructuring by a new CEO had moved on, and he found that the job he'd been happily doing on three days per week (and some time at home on the other days) was impossible.

There were other options. All of which involved overseas travel again: but, he'd had enough of that in the first ten years of our marriage. Overseas travel isn't what it was then.

No-one wanted him to leave.

No-one expected him to leave.

But, he insisted.

He signed the papers on 9th December (remember the sunrise post?), and has had a four month lead-out.

I've laughed at the number of jobs that have had to be created to cover all the things he's been doing in 3 days per week for the past two years. When you've been somewhere for a long long time, and have had 8 bosses in 7 years (or maybe 7 in 8, I'm not sure), and are extremely time-efficient and organised, no-one has a clue of the totality of what you do.

And today is The Day.

D-Day (or, R-Day, for those of you who have been mystified by the count at the bottom of recent posts - it only moved downwards on work-days).

The first day of the rest of our lives.

No more diddley doo times every morning, unless we so choose.

I can't wait!

My Patchy Ladies inform me that within weeks, if not days, I will be tearing my hair out. They under-estimate me. And him. I've been slowly adding to his list of hobbies in recent years. Sending him off on a course here, or encouraging an interest there. Mr BW is not someone who is ever at a loss for something to do - he's not the sort of person who can happily sit in a chair all day, and, indeed is unhappy if he is not making or tinkering with something. The four day weekends for the past two years have proved that there still isn't enough free time in a week.

And now he is free all week.

I look forward to sharing our adventures with you. Mind you - Mr BW now has his own website (and blog). Which I'd rather wasn't linked from here, or linked with here. But I have a suspicion that some of you might be able to find it...

Happy Retirement Mr BW. And thank you for working so hard for us for the past nearly 21 years. (Actually, he's calling 'retirement' his 'gap year(s)', because 33.6 years of compound interest on a gap year never taken at 16 is exactly the time left until he can take his occupational pensions.)


Monday, April 6, 2015

Whose dinner was whose?

Another night, we had a very nice (and very quick to make) Crab and Prawn Lasagne, adapted (to make it gluten-free) from this Nigel Slater recipe here.

Someone on Masterchef tonight made their own rice noodles. Has anyone ever done this (I haven't)? I've found a recipe here... and here... and it's gluten-free (and I have all the ingredients in my non-wheat dry ingredients cupboard).

R -1


Sunday, April 5, 2015

Happy Island Day!

A mystery has been unfolding at The Coven.

The Mystery of the Disappearing Hot Cross Buns.

"Where have all those buns gone?" I asked on Friday afternoon (I only dropped one in the washing up water, accidentally).

"Mice, must be mice!" replied Mr BW.

"Blimey, they've evolved since the last lot! I'm worried - mice that can open the fridge, get out the butter, unwrap the butter, get a knife out of the drawer, cut, spread, and put everything away after are clearly to be greatly feared!"

"I didn't have butter!"

Enjoy your chocolate eggs. Mr BW is threatening to have creme egg on his porridge.

R -1


Friday, April 3, 2015

The Friday Question

After a sunny, if not particularly warm, day yesterday, we're back to the cool damp gloom again today. Mr BW is having to pot-on tomato and pepper seedlings in the utility rather than the polytunnel as it is too cold to be outside.

I am amused that the 7th of May, election day in the UK, is also (according to my calendar) the National Day of Prayer in the US. If you're over the pond, say one for us, won't you - we're certainly going to need it?!

I was also amused by the 2-hour 7-way election debate (watched by seven million people) last night. Actually, I fell asleep half way through, but Mr BW had predicted this, and recorded it, so we were able to watch the rest this morning. I have deliberatly chosen not to look at any of the 'public reaction' in the media (eg I haven't yet read that link just above that I've just dropped in), so what follows is my own opinion.

Here is the BW ranking of the leaders' performance (self-presentation, and clear presentation of their party's policies - and not the order of my voting preference):

1. Nick Clegg (undoubtedly the best orator of the lot, but he was good last time, and look what then happened; after such a good performance he may not lose his seat as the media/polls were previously predicting)

2. Nigel Farage (he was the only one getting any laughter/applause/reaction etc from the audience - who were no doubt strictly briefed not to react as it would waste time; a showman of the highest order; clearly believes what he says; has identified the issues that bother the indigenous people in the Shires, but hasn't a hope of solving them with his 'ego first' policies)

3. David Cameron (looked really tired and worried all the way through; but sounded as if he genuinely cared and believed in what he said; handled The Heckler well)

4. Nicola Sturgeon (but she's had lots of practice at this type of thing over the past couple of years; clearly all-out solely for Scotland's interests)

5. Ed Milliband (looking at the camera rather than the audience after the first 5 seconds of each answer was creepy - he just used this as an oportunity for extra party-political broadcast time; far too slick and polished, after obviously hours of coaching; very hard to know if he truly believes what he says or just says it because he knows he needs to if he is to stand any chance)

6. Leanne Wood (utterly out of her depth, and seemed under-informed on anything beyond the Welsh Valleys but, unlike the rest, at least she directly took on Farage a couple of times)

7. Natalie Bennett (oh for goodness sake, at least wear something bright, and some obvious make-up, or you're just perpetuating the sackcloth and lentils stereotypical image; hard to see how she had any policies or vision that will keep the country from falling back into a pre-2010 state)

What do you think?

Posted at 10:51 AM | Comments (3)

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Sold out, soldiers, and buns

The internet is nearly out of sensible email addresses and domain names.

The position isn't helped by people like me sitting on domain names and Twitter usernames, just in case they might one day get round to doing something with them, or because they match another name they already own and they don't want someone else to grab it, so that a 'complete set' is no longer available.

I suppose it is like human names - as the world of cave people and medieval people expanded, so their names became longer to identify the particular individual.

I was expecting 3 bottles of contact lens solution in the post. Instead I got three lead soldiers. I don't want lead soldiers. Gotta love eBay. The person concerned seems to have muddled up the labels on the parcels. They can think themself lucky that I use Mr BW's account (so must be polite) - it's this sort of thing that made me hate eBay and delete my account after a series of similar problems back when it first began.

In other news, Mr BW is trying it on with hot cross buns. I do the shopping, but he decided he'd 'help out' by buying two packs when he was in the supermarket buying cakes for something else yesterday. Given that I can't eat them, that he's already eaten 7 this week, and with the 8 I bought yesterday, I feel that we are in a serious over-stock situation.

R -1


Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Something fishy is going on

No point putting anything up here this morning, is there?

Let me know if you see or hear any good ones...

R - 1.97


Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Far Side of the Moore

For the fellow space lovers amongst you, there was a wonderful drama on R4 yesterday afternoon: the life of Patrick Moore, brilliantly played (complete wtih utterly authentic eccentricity and accent) by Tom Hollander.

Just what Sir Patrick brought to the era of stuffy science on the BBC (remember Open University broadcasts on TV?) is perfectly summed up by a phrase from the play, "You do realise he's a hobbyist?"

Now available on listen again until the end of April.

R -2

Doctors don't know best

I am delighted to hear on R4 this lunchtime that there is, at last, a system 'Patients Know Best', which allows people to own and manage their own medical notes, and share them with their treament teams.

I have wittered on about this on here before: I believe very strongly that, in order to survive, and be able to meet ever-increasing demands for healthcare, the NHS needs to make people feel that they are responsible for their own health, by putting them at the centre their own health management.

So many people feel disempowered by the current (and past) attitude of the medical (and often paramedical) professions. If you feel disempowered, you develop an 'external' locus of control, and feel that nothing you do makes, or can make, any difference. Hence the queues of people every day at doctors' surgeries with ridiculously minor complaints that they could easily treat at home, if they felt confident.

Many people now use technology to regularly measure and record their own blood pressure, weight, activity levels, blood sugar levels etc etc, but, they have no way to feed those back to those they consult when they are ill. Until now.

Blurb from the website (where you can listen again - it's only a 15 minute programme):

"In the second programme of this Healthy Visions series, Dr Charles Alessi argues that this model of how we access and interact with our health care system will be required to undergo considerable change in the future. Not only do NHS resources need to be saved, but people are becoming increasingly knowledgeable and interested in their health and want to be more involved and in charge of their own care.

In the digital age it is now becoming much easier to access and share information about health. Patients Know Best is the world's first patient controlled online medical records system and is based on the premise that patients have the right to, and are best placed to be in control of their own records. By having their own unique profile on a website, patients are able to gain access to their data via a computer or smartphone. Linking together the care teams that treat them, management of any condition is made much easier for all involved.

Patients are also becoming more active in their own care as treatment moves away from solely being provided by health care professionals. An illustration of this is the self-care kidney dialysis unit in Harrogate, Yorkshire, the first of its kind in the country, where patients undertake their own dialysis at times that are most convenient for them. This affords them much greater flexibility and can substantially improve their quality of life."

R - 2.5


Monday, March 30, 2015

I hate computers

I hate computers.

I really really hate computers.

If my archives were still clickably available, I'd be able to point newer readers to numerous posts about my dislike of packaged websites, dating from the first few months when I attempted to use Blogger to inflict BW on the world.

But, as my lovingly-hand-written-in-2003, by the sadly now-not-inhabiting-these-parts Oddverse Alan, code is now obsolete, when I was moved to a new server last year, the archives ceased to function. I can still access them from within my CMS dashboard, but you can't get to them, and so I can't link to them.

Mr BW has spent the weekend creating himself a personal website, for reasons that will become apparent soon.

He hates computers too.

After this last weekend, probably more than I do.

For the past 8 years he has been responsible for his company's corporate global websites. Unfortunately, he has got rather used to issuing orders for stuff to be hand-coded to his (discerning and specific) specifications, and returned for his (dis)approval. Others have done all the donkey work, and sorted out the problems when they arose. He's also recently overseen the creation of the new local Parish Council website, so he has an excellent grasp of what can be done, if not the skills to be able to do it himself. The worst possible combination.

So, after I'd helped him think of and register a domain name, and arrange hosting (also things he'd never had to do - and gosh, I think that got me a free month too), and get WP installed within the hosting (hint: stop clicking the 'return' button when it doesn't happen fast, we live in an area of very slow broadband, and we don't have an on-the-end-of-a-phone IT helpdesk to sort out the technological problems caused by your impatience) he drove me mad trying to find a WordPress template, for free, that will do everything that his custom-designed tens (if not hundreds) of thousands of pounds corporate affairs do.

I have never heard so much sighing and moaning emanating from him in all the 22.25 years I've known him. Never.

In this brave new world of 'responsive' website design (ie websites that render appropriately for whatever device you are using to view - and no, I didn't know that until recently either) and the visual overload that is now being foisted on the browsing world, all the templates for 'slick and clean' have vanished (I know, I've been to many websites hosted on WP with clean designs, looked at their source, and found that they are now no longer available for new downloads from WP).

Mr BW discovered that there is a very limited amount that one can change within these free WP templates; presumably to make you give up and buy the pro versions at thirty quid minimum per year.

And there was me, thinking that when Mr BW had finally conquered the beast, and done his own website, then he could put me up a new WP installation that I could use for BW from now on.

No way.

And I'm jolly glad that he doesn't usually sit in front of a screen when he's not at work. How those of you put up with partners or family members who spend their out-of-work time gaming or on FB or forums, I have no idea.

All this also explains why there are several blogs that I no longer read because I can't stand their new (WP) formats. At least I now know that it's not the owner's fault that they can't get a simple template!

I hate computers.

R -3.5


Sunday, March 29, 2015

In the news

The London Evening Standard is now available for free every afternoon in Morrisons in Local Small Town. This is 55 miles from the centre of London. It is delivered by a man in a white Luton van, with a sack barrow.

He was changing Thursday's almost untouched stack for Friday's when I popped in mid-afternoon on Friday. He was pleased that I took a dozen copies. Printing on, or hen-house lining with, flat unread paper is so much easier than using the recycled issues that kindly aquaintances provide to us (we don't get free papers delivered here and we only buy one Sunday paper a year, when we go to Northumberland in the autumn).

Thanks Evening Standard.

But - why do they think it is appropriate to distribute it out here (in a venue that is over a mile from the railway station which is an end-of-the line from London commuter route)?


Friday, March 27, 2015

The Friday Question

Just a reminder that Royal Mail's prices are going up on Monday (30th), so stock up on stamps if you need to!

The non-denominational stamps are valid for their marked service (1st or 2nd) indefinitely, irrespective of their colour.

First class standard size up to 100g will now be 63p, and large 95p.
Second class up to 100g will be 54p and 74p.

While I may be in a small minority in thinking that this is still truly amazing value, I cannot believe the new prices that they will be charging for parcels.

I use Collect+ to send parcels now, and have never had, or heard of, a problem with them.

When receiving parcels, I like DPD as one can track parcels online minute-by-minute. My local driver is Gary (so the website says) and he is the most helpful and courteous delivery driver I've ever met. I recently emailed and told the company that, and he thanked me the next time he delivered to me, so the customer service online team do pass all feedback on, rather than just berating the drivers for people's moans. We had a chat and he told me that many people don't even speak to him (even to say 'thank you') when signing for received parcels. Ah, the modern world.

I hate Hermes, UK Mail, and Yodel (who, I've recently discovered, took over the also-awful but now defunct CityLink, at least in this area) most, but the rest of them can be variable depending on which company particular drivers are working for this week (wherever they haven't yet been sacked from for lying, throwing parcels over gates, deliberately breaking or opening parcels etc etc).

I do think that online and mail-order companies should all have to be clear about who they will be using to send your order, before you place the order. Then one could avoid ordering from companies who use couriers that are problematic in your area.

Who are your good and bad delivery companies?

Posted at 12:50 PM | Comments (8)

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Delighted... hear the news from the BBC that they have sacked Clarkson.

I refuse to watch Top Gear as I dislike his attitude intensely. Mr BW has to watch it after I am asleep. I know I am in a small minority here, but young male petrolheads generally need no encouragement to speed, carry out dangerous stunts, or be sexist. Every week local papers around the country are full of tales of teens killed or injured in road accidents. I've known a few myself. The removal of any form of encouragement to consider cars as anything more than means of transport is to be encouraged.

I am still shocked that a million people signed a petition to keep him, without knowing the full facts of the case. Baaaa. Baaaaa. I wonder how any of them would feel were it their partner who had been insulted and physically assaulted at work?

And, current discussions around Clarkson's sacking (seemingly everywhere you read, listen and watch) seem to imply that the majority are OK that the more famous you are the less normal rules should apply to you. I truly despair.

I am also unimpressed by the redesign / further dumbing down of the BBC News website. Can anyone recommend a good, comprehensive, well written, and well researched, alternative?


BW questions: 1

Why is no party campaigning on what they would do to prevent another banking crash? It's still all about dealing with the aftermath of the last one...



Tuesday, March 24, 2015


Oh what a lovely date.

And there will be another next month.


Monday, March 23, 2015


I'm trying to work out how I have used 5000 26/6 staples in the past 4 years and 1 month.

That's over 3 staples per day. I know that I don't use 3 staples a day, or 21 a week.

Oh, the joys of dating things when I start them/insert them (batteries, light bulbs etc etc).

It's the small things that make me happy.


Saturday, March 21, 2015

Natural subjects

Fantastic coverage of the eclipse yesterday from the Stargazing Live team, I thought (all of this week's episodes are available on iPlayer for those who are interested and missed them).

For those, like us, who were stuck under cloud, one of their experts was recommending as close to a certain view as you'll ever get: Luxor in Egypt in the summer of 2027 - a three hour total eclipse, with over 6 minutes of totality.

The sun tried to make amends by putting in an appearance late morning, and then providing a coloured sunset - but it was an overly-dilute watercolour effort. 2/10.

I'm always amused when astronomers discuss astrology, and last night's Stargazing revealed that 86% of us were actually born under a different constellation to our assumed 'star sign'. The dates of the ‘star signs’ were fixed over 2,000 years ago, when the zodiac was first devised, as a way of measuring time. Then, they corresponded to the constellation of stars that appeared behind the Sun on the day you were born. But, due to various astronomical phenomena, the constellations have drifted since then.

The calculator here shows that I am not really a Sagittarian, but an Ophiuchian (as is everyone currently alive born between 30th November and 18th December).

The astronomical zodiac actually contains 13 star signs - Ophiuchus (the 'serpent bearer') was deliberately left out of the original zodiac, over 2000 years ago, even though the Sun clearly passes in front of it after passing in front of Scorpius (commonly known as Scorpio) and before reaching Sagittarius. The reason for this is not known, but it may be because ancient astrologers wanted to divide the 360 degree path of the Sun in a mathematically pleasing way - 12 equal parts, each one of 30 degrees. But, the true boundaries that divide the constellations, as described by the International Astronomical Union, are far from equal. For example Ophiuchus is behind the Sun for a full 19 days of the year - which is 12 days more than its neighbour, Scorpius.

Never again will I have to endure someone reading me 'my' horoscope from some tabloid or cheap magazine. "What star sign are you?" "I'm an Ophiuchian!" "That's not listed..." "Exactly!". My only problem will be with remembering how to pronounce it correctly.

Also on natural subjects, on Wednesday we went on a fascinating and inspiring course on Nature Printing. I didn't realise that seventeenth and eighteenth century images of leaves are generally not botanical drawings, but prints. We were shown some two hundred year old books with beautiful prints taken from real plant material specimens. Apparently these were often produced on a subscription basis, with parts being collected, and then bound into books. The last two links explains more.

Working area, with an early print on the lower RHS:

A few of our prints (I mixed and used green ink that almost matched that used for many of the original examples we were shown):

The front and back of each leaf can be printed at once (either by folding the printing paper, or by using two pieces):

A close-up of the sort of detail obtainable (sadly the limitations of 72dpi can't show it well enough):


Friday, March 20, 2015

The Friday Question

So, how far do we have to drive to get out from under this cloud? And, given that I've only just woken up, have we got time to get there?

Mr BW had even located the sheets of welding glass we used in 1999.

Still, at least there is Stargazing Live. And DG.

Roll on 2026...

Update: Here is what we saw during the eclipse:

It did get distinctly darker slowly, and then lighter again much more quickly, but, had we not known that it was an eclipse, we wouldn't have noticed.

Here are the two 'diamond rings' that we should have seen... on the way in...

and on the way out...

Thank goodness for TV.

The sun did finally put in an appearance at 11.45am. I have given it a severe talking to, and it has promised to be good for the rest of the summer.

Happy Equinox!