Friday, June 24, 2016

Brave New World?

Who else thinks Jeremy Corbyn secretly voted Leave?

Posted at 12:27 PM | Comments (8)
 

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

On absence

It seems that I have fallen out of love with the internet.

I could write a thousand (maybe ten thousand) words on why, but I won't; the 'Boaty McBoatface' saga, and surrounding coverage / attendant publicity, goes some way towards illustrating the point.

One thing niggles at my mind though - I know that that name is not original - something about it (or maybe it's something quite similar, or similar in the [Name McNameface] construction) rings a bell... not sure if it is from a (probably children's) book, or TV or film, or somewhere else entirely. I've searched and searched, and talked to people, face-to-face, about my suspicions, but nowhere and no-one has been able to shed any light on the subject.

No, it's not important, it's just my innate curiosity, that isn't satisfied by the internet.

 

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Thought for the day

Every time you spend money, you're casting a vote for the kind of world you want.

- Anna Lappé


(see also "You can buy a cheap chicken today, but we all pay for it in the long run.")

 

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Thought for our times

Extremism can flourish only in an environment where basic governmental social responsibility for the welfare of the people is neglected. Political dictatorship and social hopelessness create the desperation that fuels religious extremism.

- Benazir Bhutto

 

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Thought for our times

Time is the coin of your life. It is the only coin you have, and only you can determine how it will be spent. Be careful lest you let other people spend it for you.

- Carl Sandburg

 

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

The Truth is about to be Out There

While we were away...

Terry Wogan died, Stephen Fry left Twitter (again) "...let us grieve at what twitter has become. A stalking ground for the sanctimoniously self-righteous who love to second-guess, to leap to conclusions and be offended - worse, to be offended on behalf of others they do not even know."

All this could, of course, get worse if rumours about Twitter raising its character limit prove to be true.

But, it's worse than that.

One-fifth of the world’s adult population already has its thoughts controlled.

"Every time you open Facebook, one of the world’s most influential, controversial, and misunderstood algorithms springs into action. It scans and collects everything posted in the past week by each of your friends, everyone you follow, each group you belong to, and every Facebook page you’ve liked. For the average Facebook user, that’s more than 1,500 posts. If you have several hundred friends, it could be as many as 10,000. Then, according to a closely guarded and constantly shifting formula, Facebook’s news feed algorithm ranks them all, in what it believes to be the precise order of how likely you are to find each post worthwhile. Most users will only ever see the top few hundred.

No one outside Facebook knows for sure how it does this, and no one inside the company will tell you. And yet the results of this automated ranking process shape the social lives and reading habits of more than 1 billion daily active users - one-fifth of the world’s adult population. The algorithm’s viral power has turned the media industry upside down, propelling startups like BuzzFeed and Vox to national prominence while 100-year-old newspapers wither and die. It fueled the stratospheric rise of billion-dollar companies like Zynga and LivingSocial—only to suck the helium from them a year or two later with a few adjustments to its code, leaving behind empty-pocketed investors and laid-off workers. Facebook’s news feed algorithm can be tweaked to make us happy or sad; it can expose us to new and challenging ideas or insulate us in ideological bubbles."

But, all that is as nothing compared to what is about to happen (has already started happening in Somerset, West Hampshire, Blackburn, and Leeds) to your NHS medical records.

You may remember a couple of years ago there was a lot of publicity about the 'Summary Care Record' database. There were many concerns about its use and the potential for abuse, and many people chose to write to their GP surgery to opt out.

Perhaps because of this, there has been much less publicity about the new 'care.data' database (AFAIK - but then I've just spent a month out of the country, so do please correct me if I'm wrong). We certainly haven't had a leaflet about it, as we did when Summary Care was about to be introduced.

'care.data' is not about sharing your medical information with doctors, nurses and other health professionals outside of your GP surgery. It's not about enabling the sharing of patient medical records between hospitals and GP surgeries. It's not about the ways in which your GP shares information about you as part of providing essential medical care. It's not about ensuring that hospital specialists have the information that they need when you are referred to see them. It's not about creating a single electronic record that can be viewed by healthcare professionals in any clinical setting. And it's not about submitting information so that GP surgeries and hospitals are paid appropriately for the care that they provide.

It is about data extraction, linkage and analysis: in other words, data mining. Once your personal medical data is uploaded you can never get it removed from the HSCIC databases.

Once your personal medical data is uploaded, it will be released or sold for commercial purposes. Some of it will identify you personally. Who knows where the data will end up?

Add to it the data about you that is already freely available (some of it because you choose to put it out there), and...

It will happen.

Perhaps it doesn't bother you.

But, if you're already frustrated by the 'relevance' of the Amazon ads that pop up after you've been researching something online, just imagine where this could lead.

You can write to your GP surgery requesting that they add certain codes (eg 9Nu4) to your medical record to prevent the HSCIC from releasing or selling any information that it holds, and that clearly identifies you. There is lots of information (perhaps too much - it's very complicated, and the project keeps being delayed) on a website put together by a GP. Of particular interest are links from it: this, this, this.

But, if you act quickly, and write to your GP, you can opt out. There are suggested letters within the information here (none of which, I think, are great, so I'm not directly linking). There are also a lot of links to other sources of information right at the bottom.

One thing I do not understand is how doctors have gone along with this. Surely it is in direct contravention of the Hippocratic Oath that they all take?


On a related note, isn't the new series of the X-Files great?

 

Sunday, February 14, 2016

From a prickly pear/pair


Happy Valentine's Day.

The fruits are in season currently and are delicious, if a little seedy.

Posted at 11:16 AM | Comments (1)
 

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Storm clouds gather over The Cape

But sadly, it's not for us - this rain is bound, we are told, for the area around Pretoria. This is our fourth visit here, and it is much, much drier than we have ever seen. Almost every stream and river is currently arid.

The moody clouds make for some fabulous pictures though.

Your Fact For The Day: Africa is the second largest and second most populous continent in the world and was formerly known as Ifriqiya or sunny place. It covers 20.4% of total land area and 6% of earth's total surface area. The African continent comprises 54 fully recognized countries and Western Sahara, whose statehood is disputed by Morocco. South Sudan is the continent's newest country.


We found another gorgeous garden, with an amazing history, at the Vergeleden Estate and vineyard:

Almost the only place that still has agapanthus in flower, as the season is so dry:

I've been feeling quite droopy and so have gone off winetasing a bit (unheard of for me):

So instead we found olive oil tasting:

And for those of you who are dog lovers - this resident of the place we are currently staying will be (or maybe already is) starring in TV adverts in the US and Europe, recently filmed on beaches near here:

 

Thursday, February 11, 2016

The Other Side

Today we went into Cape Town to find out all about the Square Kilometre Array.

Unfortunately we failed as a man was stabbed just in front of us in the museum foyer, and everywhere was rapidly closing. Museum staff told us to get out of the city fast, and while we still could, as there were three marches, several strikes and likely violence, due to this.

Our car was parked a mile away.

We had no idea what was going on when we arrived shorty after mid-day: we saw lots of suspended parking bays, closed roads, and lots of police, but we'd asked three separate groups of police what was happening (including a senior officer in a police car) and were reassured that it was just routine and nothing to worry about.

The kindly retired ex-director of the museum (who happened to be there delivering something, and who also hadn't expected what was happeing to be happening) saw how white I'd gone as I cowered behind the large pillar behind the entrance desk, to keep away from knives and sticks, and those wielding them, and took us in his small car (that was safely tucked up in the secured compound right next to the museum) back to our car, and then we headed for the local wine valley for some wine tastings to make ourselves feel better.

We got back to where we are staying and two more people were stabbed, and several shot, right in front of our eyes.

The last part was on TV (Silent Witness: downloaded before we left the UK, I hasten to add).

But only the last part.

I've never liked Cape Town.

It's very interesting to talk to people we meet on our travels. There seems to be a huge amount of ignorance of what is currently going on here politically, culturally, and economically, and the best quality information seems to be coming from expats, or people who have come, lived, and returned home and now return to holiday here, with the occasional SA white businessman telling us that the 'bubble' in this area is about to burst and that he's got an exit plan (which has already involved selling a lot of his property in highly-affluent white-dominated towns). After four visits we're beginning to understand a bit...

Nelson Mandela must be turning in his grave. 26 years today from his release, I don't think that what is happenning is at all what he had in mind; at least in his latter years.

Interesting words in the SONA, though.

Some random shots from the past couple of days

Chapman's Peak, from a moving car (coastal/blasted from the rock road that runs up from Noordhoek to Cape Town):

Scarborough Beach (a nature conservation area) - down near Cape Point:

Sunbird on agapanthus at Kirstenbosch (botanical gardens in Cape Town, my favouritest place):

Almost too late for protea this year (the weather has been so hot and so dry the season is two or three weeks ahead of normal), but there are still a few to be found by those who love them:


The new(ish) tree canopy walk at Kirstenbosch:


I cannot describe just how hot it was on there:

One of the six courses (for £16pp) of last night's delicious dinner:

And, from the chapel in the SA Naval Museum in Simon's Town (a most surreal place, with random models of ships, mock-ups of submarines and liferafts, and random facts about historic battles), a brief history of time:

Jesus, St George and the Dragon, Nelson, and then a few sailors from their navy.

Nice to see a 1982 made in Yeovil helicopter preserved:

And a 1935 Leyland Cub, made in the Midlands, fire engine in excellent condition:

There was a whole room of annual photographs of various ships' companies. We spent a good twenty minutes amusing ourselves looking at the ageing process on board, the paucity of women sailors, their placement in the photos, and the shortness of their skirts. We spotted a 1957 example of the early use of Photoshop (RHS):


 

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Henrietta arrives at her final destination

hennoord.jpg
Well OK, she's not actually going to live on the beach, but near it.

From Kiln to Kathy, via an Olive Farm, an Ostrich Farm, a Vineyard, and the beach.

Over 1,000 miles by road since we got here 13 days ago now, plus however far it is from UK to SA (cbatg), plus however far it is from where they make the glass in the US to the UK.

Grief, that chicken has one hell of a lot of airmiles under her wing.

 

Monday, February 8, 2016

Vineyard gardens

The larger vineyards have impressive old Cape Dutch houses at their centre, and wonderful surrounding gardens.

"How quaint," I thought," an English-style post box; they must have known I was visiting!"

I looked a little closer and sighed:

Luckily, they were saved by their cushions in the facilities. Always judge a place by its facilties, I say.

We sent our postcards last week.

 

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Don't mention the war

"Hullo, we are de Germans who stay over there... [indicating the other cottage on this vineyard, in the distance] yesterday there was four pool chairs and today there is two. Where is de others, do you know?"

"Well, it's like this," I said, smiling engagingly, "in England we know that Germans always get up early and put their towels on the sun loungers so that no-one else can use them. We decided to get ahead of the game and so we took the sun loungers."

They looked at each other and didn't laugh. We didn't see them again, and the've gone home now.


[actually, the real story about the disappearance is rather different - having had the old wooden sun lounger by our cottage collapse with him in it - the fabric lacing strap had frayed and snapped - the lady who runs the place suggested that we take the poolside sun loungers for our cottage, but I wasn't going to tell the Germans, who clearly thought that we were breaking the rules, that]

 

Friday, February 5, 2016

In wine country


Perhaps surprisingly, this air-cooling ice-filled suspended balloon structure was not a feature of the fun, wine-filled Abba- and Gloria Gaynor-fest that we attended last night (first time I've ever seen five grand's worth of 'product' in a 'bathroom', and, had I known that they ran a hugely successful hairdressing and spa business in Switzerland, I might have been less confident in my rub-and-go hairstyle and minimal blue mascara look), but a cooling device in the 8 acre garden of Babylonstoren, a delightful organic and biodynamic principled garden in a vineyard that we visited (again) today.

We had an interesting and informative garden tour (with nibbly samples of things growing all the way around) with a stand-in guide as the usual bra-less wonder (having now experienced temperatures in the mid-30s or above for the past 10 days, I can understand exactly why she does it) was unfortunately sick. I won't tell you that Mr BW was disappointed, because he'll probably deny it.


This year, though, we knew about it, and Mr BW booked a table in the award-winning restaurant the requisite two months ahead.

Fabulous meal (I've never seen Mr BW defeated before the dessert course before, but he ordered the chicken and got a whole, full-sized dissection), with all fruit and vegetable ingredients grown in the garden.

The Red Starter (more than a meal in itself, but no-one told us, and we'd ordered mains too and didn't like to disappoint):

The Green Starter:

The two courses, with appetisers, cocktails and delightful refreshing natural iced 'teas' we had were so large that we had to go home and sleep for two hours afterwards. In the UK you'd get a bill for at least a hundred pounds for food and drink of a similar quality at a similar establishment. The damage here? £35 including a generous tip.

Tomorrow we're off early to an excellent craft and food market, and then to the summer wine festival here. We've been given free tickets. No, I don't know how we manage it either. Everyone is so friendly here.

 

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Keep up, keep up, we're two days ahead of you...

(The other posts are still in draft awaiting the pictures. Sorry.)

We went here for a wine tasting, and we got a personal tour, because, although it is a big vineyard, they weren't busy.

It's peak grape-picking season here and it was utterly fascinating watching the grapes come in by tractor in crates, being crushed, passed through pipes into huge stainless steel tanks, and then (a variable amount of time later) into barrels.




We also went in the museum and admired the art, and the sculpture, but particularly the lino prints.

Undoubtedly millions of pounds worth, because that's what rich people here buy, but we didn't know the artists and so smiled knowingly while being underwhelmed, and thinking, "I could do that!"

We went somewhere else just down the road from where we are now staying for a wine tasting (small vineyard that we think produces some of the best wines in SA, the lady owner recognised us from our previous visits - wellllll - she said that she recognised me as I looked like the midwife who delivered her two children, which may or may not be a compliment) and then we went for a wine tasting at the tiny vineyard where we are staying.

It must be said that the amount of wine that one can consume at a wine tasing is more than enough to put you over the driving limit, so Mr BW, who does most of the driving, tips most of his wine into mine and I end up utterly pissed amusing.

And so it was that two Swiss gays, a bit younger than us, came into the tasting rooms. They were after 24 bottles for their party tonight.

After I'd guided them in their choice (remember I had had 3 times the legal driving limit by now, and I am at my most amusing when pissed, and am quite gay-friendly), they let slip that they know the previous but one owner of this vineyard, and that they bought the house where the party is from the ex-CEO of Eur0tunne1, and that they'd visited this house for a "short break" 5 times in the last year.

Chief Gay (the one with the platinum credit charge cards and the most neatly trimmed beard) then scribbled something in red pen on the back of a tasting sheet, thrust it in our direction, with a, "You seem fun people, come to our party!" and left, clinking.

We have two hours to sober up, see if we have something suitable to wear, get dressed, and turn up to be amusing (note, SA time is 2 hours ahead of UK time).

Now, do we go, or do we stay?

If we go, I'll have to shave my legs, because gays will notice that it's nearly two weeks since I last did, right?

Hmmmm...


 

Friday, January 29, 2016

Hot hot hot

We're up in the Klein Karoo, in the hot pointy bits. As ever with us, in the middle of nowhere. 25kms from the nearest village, plus 3kms down a gravel track. Very very dry and dusty.

I finally found how hot was too hot yesterday: 47°C. About 3 degrees above my bearable maximum, I think. Mind you, even the farmer on the vegetable seed and ostrich farm where we are staying said it was too hot, and his seventeen workers are moving at snails' pace. And let's not mention the field of rams and goats just across the track from our front stoep (veranda), because looking at them trying to keep themselves cool is making me feel quite ill. Southern hemisphere Orion has nothing on them.

We have the whole of a colonial farmhouse, built in 1907, but abandoned 50 years ago in favour of a new homestead on the other side of the land. It has recently been renovated, keeping all of its original charm, but with modern luxury bathrooms and kitchen. 4 beds, and just over £30 a night for both of us. And the blacksmith's stamp 'Ambrose' is on every piece of original ironmongery (such as the shutter clips). We suspect he was a slave.

The farmhouse was originally built in the shelter of a mountain so that the breezes kept it cool. But, the weather has changed since then, and when it gets very hot the breeze disappears. As there are no fans, for the past three nights we have just had cold showers every time we woke up too hot. But, I have now discovered some hot water bottles in a drawer in one of the old dressers, so they are in the freezer and tonight we will have cold water bottles. Nothing like a bit of lateral thinking.

Today we have travelled up the Swartberg Pass again: just as spectacular as last time, but less scary as this time we had a full tank of fuel and 26 litres of water, just in case (well, OK, we'd just been shopping), whereas last time we had a quarter tank and a couple of litres. As a couple we met in Montagu (on their first visit here) said, "You run out of words to describe this country, don't you?"

We're now sitting in an antiquey collectables shop in Price Albert, sipping home-made lemonade and availing ourselves of the free wifi. It's still 36°C here. Can't see the screen properly, so will have to post the pics next time we grab some bandwidth from somewhere.

Hope it's not wet wet wet where you are.

 

Thursday, January 28, 2016

I love the Southern Hemisphere

Orion is always upside down.

That always makes me laugh.

You may need to know something about constellations to appreciate that one, because I don't think the picture, even from these dark skies up in the Montagu mountains, will allow you to see my point...

Caption competition:

"What you looking at, eh?"

"Shut up or I'll get Mr BW to eat you!"

We're back at our usual first stop: 360° views like this and utterly peaceful (apart from the farm worker on a 1950s tractor spraying the olive trees at 8am). Just as lovely, although the people who created this idyllic place from a derelict colonial farm, 13 years ago, have unexpectedly moved on last autumn. The new 'chief of hospitality' (my title for him, not his boss's) is delightfully camp, and the place where we had a superb dinner tonight has a delightfully Aspergers owner.


Luckily, we had been warned, and it took me all of 3 seconds to make the diagnosis: no, you can't order your dinner until you have selected your wine (which was fabulous), because that's the correct order of service here; no you can't order your dessert until you have finished your wine, because it won't go; and no, don't tell me you've had a wonderful evening and then go and write something different on Trip Advisor.

We took the piss somewhat mercilessly, and we almost got the upper hand. Although, had we not been warned, we too might have thought him rude. Must remember to tell our camp CoH that he's harmless and socially challenged, rather than odd and unpredictable, as we were informed.


Did I ever tell you how much I love mountains?

 

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Things that Go A-Round

It finally went from September temperatures and colded down to around 2 degrees°C during the day and minus two by night, for the week from Wednesday 13th to Thursday 20th. The full moon has been fabulous in the early mornings too (here with a few clouds across it):

Mr BW decided to repaint the hall, stairs and landing during that time. They hadn't been done since we had the extension back 2006, so they needed doing, as, despite being regularly touched-up, the oil from the satinwood on the stairs and panelling had risen to the surface (as it does in old paint) and was making them look grubby.

We looked at a colour chart, shuddered, and decided to use exactly the same colours we had before: Dulux Ivory Lace matt emulsion for the walls and (new low-odour formulation - and it really was - the smell went away in 4 days, rather than the 6 weeks the old fornulation took, and it was dry well within two hours rather than still being sticky after 48) Dulux Trade water-based satinwood Natural Wicker, which now only exists as a 'special mix' colour (and is hideously expensive - £75 for 5 litres) for the stairs and panelling. (Just writing the names down there for my future benefit).

As I am ever-increasingly disturbed by paint fumes, that meant turning off the boiler, keeping the windows open all the time, night and day, for 5 days. During this time one of our h0ney customers rang the bell and asked me if I realised that all our windows were open. I had to work really hard not to say what came into my head. We did have two little oases, kept warm and smell-free with closed doors - the kitchen/dining room, which is heated by the Aga, and our bedroom, which is never very warm, and has the window open year-round, as that's how we like it.

Mr BW has done a fabulous job. And, as one of my Patchy Ladies said, saved us £800 in decorator's bills.

We've also been making lots and lots and lots of marmalade (adding Value to h0ney). The Seville (marmalade) oranges were very early this year - I bought the first on 6th January, whereas I usually reckon to buy them in the 3rd week of January - large, but dry - a friend whose brother lives in Spain told us that this is an indication of the successive summers of drought, which is now so bad that whole areas of olive and almond trees have died in the last year.

We have now, for the first time ever, totally run out of jars. I've even been eyeing up ones used to store things in the Studio, thinking that I might requisition and repurpose them. People are much less good at returning jars, or passing-on unwanted jars these days, we've found. Probably because glass is now collected in the mixed-recycling, from the kerb-side, so it's easier to just throw it 'away'.

Talking of refuse collection - one of our wheelie bins had its lid and lid mechanism clips ripped off during collection a couple of weeks ago. Not only did the refuse collectors not bother to tell us, but (I have discovered) the only way to get a new one is to find the correct place to ring, and then to wait "6 to 8 weeks". I have been advising the Director in charge of that service how to run her Department rather better (including adequate replacement stock planning and timely requisition, and putting a sticker on bins that have been broken, apologising and explaining the replacement process) and ensuring that she does by involving elected members.

But, it all takes time.

We've also been making lots of crafty things, and the glass kiln has been on again. This time full of hens, b33s and beads.

Turned out rather well.

These ones told me they want to go and live with one of our friends in South Africa, so we're off to take them (just as the weather is back up to 10 to 12 degrees C by day and night again, and the b33s, lacewings and ladybirds are all flying about).

Here a real bee (RHS, just below centre) is 'inspecting' her glass representation. I'm not sure that she was too impressed by the lack of anatomical correctness.

And we won't mention This Little Madam (never the tamest of creatures), who chose yesterday to fall out of a tree, or off the roof (or something similar), and require an emergency trip to the vet's. Luckily leg not broken, but the house-sitter could have done without having to catch her and force anti-inflammatories down her neck every day for the next week.

Updates as and when internet connectivity allows.

Posted at 11:26 AM | Comments (3)
 

Monday, January 25, 2016

The Truth is Out There

Back on American TV last night and tonight (snow permitting), The X-Files.

Looking it up, I can't believe that it is 14 years since new episodes were last on our screens (for 201 episodes between 1993 and 2002).

It's unclear when it will be back with us in the UK - "sometime in February 2016" seems to be the current best guess, as far as I can see, although there are currently 20 key past episodes being shown on 5* (which, hitherto, I had no idea even existed) at 1am (I had no idea that existed either).

I think that it was probably watching The X-Files back in the early 90s that finally made the penny drop for me: nothing was what it seemed. That and working in a senior position in various Local Education Authorities.

The Daily Telegraph's Jonathan Bernstein perfectly captures my thoughts on this:

"What has changed is the internet. In The X-Files’ Nineties heyday, when network TV was dominated by cops, doctors and lawyers, a weekly show that baldly stated we were being lied to by our elected officials was a lone voice, and a unique one. The series took the paranoid ravings previously only shared by a shadowy minority and shoved them under a national spotlight.

But today, the comments section of any website no matter how monstrous or obscure, is it’s own X-Files. Everyone’s got insane theories they need to share. Everyone believes the worst about what we eat, what we watch, what we read, and who we vote for. (my bold; their mis-placed apostrophe)

This 14-years-later version of the series uses a professional fear-monger, a TV conspiracist (played by Joel McHale) to bring estranged ex-FBI agents Mulder and Scully back into each others orbits. McHale’s prophet of doom, who swans around in a bulletproof limousine guzzling champagne, informs the pair he needs them to help “…blow open maybe the most evil conspiracy the world has ever known.”

Characteristically, Scully is having none of it and Mulder is ablaze with a fervour—or as close to a fervour as David Duchovny can summon — to uncover the truth.

The truth he’s chasing in this mini-series isn’t the same truth he pursued in the Nineties.

This time, he’s convinced there is no alien conspiracy. Aliens, he now believes, were friendly emissaries worried about our warlike tendencies. The real conspirators are in the industrial-military complex which has been using stolen extra-terrestrial technology to stage fake alien abductions — “Roswell was a smokescreen!” seethes Mulder — harvest human foetuses and keep us in a state of passive, over-fed consumerism while they plot to take over America and, ultimately, the world.

You know who else believes that? EVERYBODY! At least everybody online.

Reputable sources claim the series grows a pulse and a sense of humour after the second episode. I want to believe - see what I did there? - that’s the case, but we’re in for a welter of similar TV revivals over the next few years. I don’t want to be in constant state of feeling old, disappointed and mistrustful of my own taste.

Unless, it’s all a conspiracy designed to make me feel that way."

From my point of view, the best thing about seeing revived series from the past, with their original characters, is that the once-glossy stars all look much older too! Ah, we can all grow older together.

Or not, as the case may be...

The party at the entrance to the next life is definitely the place to be right now, isn't it?

Lemmy, Ed Stewart, David Bowie, Alan Rickman, Glenn Frey, Dale Griffin, all taken from us in the last month already.

The fact that many were only in their 60s makes us more glad than ever that we eased into retirement 17 years before the governmint will pay us out. Fewer than 14 years to go for me now. At least until the rules are changed again...

 

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Things you might not know, but which might be helpful to you or someone you know: Part 1

The best gadget I discovered last year?

Clover Wonder Clips.

Replace pins for many sewing uses.

Can also be used for holding many other crafty things in place while you are working on them.


Here I'm using them to hold a horrible collar construction in a stretch fabric.

As you can see, I wimped out and (most unlike me) tacked before sewing, but that's only because on the last jacket I made in this pattern I spent two hours unpicking the tiny machined stretch stitch on the stretch fabric, when it didn't hang properly when I'd finished it.

I've been finding more and more that, with my bad eyesight (especially in the dark) and poor fine motor co-ordination (especailly when I am tired), I stab myself on normal sewing pins, or fail to see pins in time to remove them before they go under the sewing machine foot and break a needle.

While it's good to replace a sewing machine needle about every 8 hours of sewing use (and these cost less than a pound, and much less if you buy them in bulk - 100s - and sell/share them with other sewers you know), now that I have an overlocker, not only would pins damage the two sewing needles, they'd also wreck the knife blade that trims the fabric as you sew, which is £25 to replace.

But - these clips are great. They don't leave pin holes in fine or sheer fabrics, they hold thick layers together without distorting or moving the fabrics, and they are impossible to sew over.

I don't know how long they have been around in the UK, and they're not widely available in haberdashery shops (where they still exist!), but you can get them from lots of places online, for hugely varying prices (around 30-40p each, and you'll want 50, but, if you are a serious sewer - or know someone who is - I promise you it will be the best money you spend this year).

Video of use here (I have permanently cut my computer's vocal chords, so I only watched part of the silent version of the three-minute movie, but it gives a good idea of what they can do).

Don't buy the cheap unbranded replica version as I did to start with - they are poorly made, with sharp plastic bits that catch on fine fabrics, and they pop apart (and cannot be reassembled, even by Mr BW) after a couple of uses.


By the way, if you do stab youself while sewing, and get spots of blood on your fabric, did you know that your own saliva, rubbed in immediately, will get it out?
Only your own saliva will do, though. No idea why this works, and when someone first told me, I looked at them very doubtfully, but work it does.

Posted at 12:02 PM | Comments (8)
 

Monday, January 4, 2016

Happy Blogday to me

It's my thirteenth blogday today.

I'm a teenager again!

Perhaps I should take to writing some of those Grumpy Blue Witch posts that I used to.

Or maybe not. I think I'd be shouting in the dark these days. No-one is interested in discussions on small blogs anyway (social media unsociably killed all that). You can't be petulant as a teenager if you've been a tantrumy toddler, after all.

No point writing about Value and how to save money these days: there are plenty of other trendy blogs to provide support and encouragement there. Although we always have been more extreme than most of them.

No point writing about how to be self-sufficient: ditto, and ditto, above.

No point in writing about how to retire at 50, as, unless you have no kids, no debts - including mortgage, and are prepared to play with your money frequently (eighteen current accounts and around thirty savings accounts, anyone?), you can't hope to ever achieve it. Unless you are hugely 'independently mean'ed, of course, which we're not.

You also need a love of gardening and growing/producing things to eat, to be - largely - vegetarian, have advanced DIY skills in every area so you don't have to employ trandesmen and can extend the life of almost everything, and you mustn't celebrate the FOTCR™ (ha, got it in on January 4th, that must be a BW Record!) lavishly, or buy-in to consumerism (if you know what a brand or celebrity is, or know what the media is currently pimping as 'fashion', don't bother).

And you mustn't have a penchant for coffee shops, daily newspapers or magazines, gyms, ready meals, fast food, or eating out.

Without all those pieces in your puzzle, you haven't got a chance as your life will be just too expensive.

And, there aren't many people who'd be prepared to go to the lengths we do. That said, we do enjoy our lifestyle. Plus, I suspect no one would read as it would just seem like bragging.

Perhaps I should post more photos of the things we make. But, that always seems a bit dull, and again, rather like bragging.

Perhaps I should just post cat photos and be done with all the worrying about whether I'm interesting enough these days...


Whether you've been visiting and reading for one day or thirteen years, thank you. As I've always said, a blog without comments is just another website.

Posted at 11:57 AM | Comments (19)
 

Friday, January 1, 2016

Happy New Year

Last night was only the second frost of the winter.
But it still wasn't that cold.

Today we went to church.
We took Mi1dred to see her friends.
We didn't go to the pub with everyone else.

We are reformed I tell you, reformed.

 

Monday, December 28, 2015

It wasn't a spell. Well, at least I don't think so...

The sun shone today.
It was 12°C at 3am and 13°C at 3pm.
Mr BW was outside pruning clematis in a t-shirt.

It wasn't cold.

It's drier than it's been for ages at this time of year.

Not sure what's going on elsewhere... I do suspect, though, that this is just the tip of the iceberg.

 

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Mooning

The BBC responded to my spells and put The Clangers into the schedule for yesterday morning.

The Universe provided the first full Moon on 25th since 1977 (and it will not happen again until 2034).

Signs, I tell you, signs...

Posted at 10:21 AM | Comments (1)
 

Friday, December 25, 2015

Happy FOTCR™


Hope you all have an enjoyable day.

 

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Missing pictures

Technology is just so frustrating when it doesn't work. Whilst I may choose not to use a lot of it, I do know what it could (and should) do, so when it doesn't I just get annoyed by it and walk away.

And so it was that there have been lots of missing pictures of late... here's a quick run-through of a few.


Our first attempt at slumping bottles resulted in conjoining. Cute when you consider it was 23 years since we met on 23rd (yesterday):

As it was an unnaturally warm and sunny day, we went off to see a special place for us. Our original stump had disappeared, but the National Trust had kindly made us a replacement nearby:

Sadly they had also made a duck-feeding pontoon (heaving with over-excited and under-mannered small brats and doting grandparents), and hadn't thought to provide information on current wisdom which is "don't feed ducks bread!"

Here is our first kilnfull of glass test pieces (note the kiln is BW blue):

Those irregular shaped scraps of glass stacked on top of each other turn into wonderful smooth glass pellets/pebbles:

Here is an abstract panel and a sheep that I made on the original course we did a couple of weeks ago:

and a blue hen by Mr BW:

There is lots of this sort of cutesy stuff around to buy (craft fairs, galleries in country market towns, and etsy are full of it), but, once we have mastered the kiln temperatures, and the basic techniques (which are not hard, once you can reliably cut glass, which we can already, as we first did leaded glass work back in 2002, and Mr BW has done quite a lot since), I doubt we shall be doing much more of it...

I've already ordered several 'advanced techniques' books, once of which arrived at lunchtime, and has been half half-skimmed while watching a recording of last night's penultimate Professional Materchef episode (it only requires/is worthy of half-watching anyway). My aim is to make items that can work with other things I do (for example, printing onto glass before melting it, nuggets to use with yarn, or in felt pieces), and Mr BW will be incorporating custom-made panels into his b1acksmithing.

Here is the item that was piped into our festive get-together with friends last weekend (we don't eat haggis, but we do eat cheese):

And here is the seafood platter that we devoured: including home smoked salmon, prawns, eggs, and rocket and lettuce from the garden (we only finished the last cucumbers last week and the last tomatoes a couple of days ago).

Must go as I can feel a 'shouting at someone in the regional hospital' coming on - they discharged our almost-90 year old neighbour (who was blue-lighted in on Monday afternoon with undiagnosed severe pains in his side) from hospital last night at 9pm to an empty house (he lives alone, and has just a similarly aged brother who has terminal cancer and is very unwell and a niece and nephew living 3 miles away who are already trying to look after their dying father), without checking he had food in the house, and (supposedly) a care package which has turned into a district nurse coming in just now to tell him (but not ensure he could do it himself) how to change the bag they fitted him with until 'some time in the new year' when they will get him in again to operate to remove the bladder stones that they think are causing the problem - the operation that they had him prepared for yesteday when they decided to insert a catheter and send him home instead - when the district nurse came just now she said she would be back to see him, "In a week," but left no record sheets and no telephone numbers in case anything happened before then. Really? I'm wondering about professional accountability and responsibility issues here...

One of the other residents of our hamlet (who lives a good half a mile away) has already popped in and, hearing of his plight, offered to take him round a hot lunch tomorrow, as he obviously can't go anywhere, but why are we local residents being let to care for this elderly and vulnerable man who is far from well, over the festive period? What would happen if he didn't have neighbours who care? The hospital didn't know that we would pick up the pieces left by them discharging an elderly and unwell person so that they could close the ward.

I've got a bad cold and cough and am not at all well, so obviously can't go round to help out... but I am good at shouting.

I can feel a call to the local paper coming on too... our neighbour, who has lived here all his life, is well-known locally for his spiritual and financial kindness to people in need, and often receives mentions in the local paper, so it's exactly the sort of story they love.

And, if anything happens to him as a result of this (an infection, or another fall - he's already had several - so it easily might), then it will make national news, and questions will have to be answered at the highest level, you can be sure of that.

Any other ideas welcome...

 

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

At 23 on 23

Posted at 11:23 PM | Comments (4)
 

Monday, December 21, 2015

Happy solstice,

happy Yule to you all

It was 17°C on Saturday afternoon, and 10.5°C in the middle of the night last night (not cold at all, more like a May night, amazing stars), when I decided to go to the summerhouse in just my nightie, to get the Turtle Mat to wash it.

Ah, strange happenings, strange happenings.

 

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Twas the Saturday before the FOTCR™

Mr BW informs me that the FOTCR™ has started. Well, that's not exactly what he said, he used the C-word, and we can't have that.

Anyway, it has, according to him, because the FOTCR™ Radio Times has started.

The new kiln (proudly made in Britain, and, despite it weighing 75kg, the least troublesome delivery of the week) has fired our first glass samples and creations. We've peeped in, but it's still got to cool some more. Most impressive. And less than 5kwh to get up to nearly 1000°C over several hours. That's 30p on our low-rate economy 7 tarrif. The incomers (typo there originally, I put 'incomes', which is the best Freudian slip of the month) round here burn lights around their houses at all hours, causing lots of light pollution. I'm sure that, even with the kiln on, we use lots less electricity than them, and at least we've got something useful and pretty.

We have friends coming for lunch. I seem to have over-catered, as usual.

I rarely go into Lidl, but I did yesterday, at 7.15am. I wanted a few perishable things and didn't want to have to fight my way into the town, or meet the hordes, so went early. The place was empty. Bliss. They have some fabulous festive goodies in the savoury non-wheat nibbles, cheese, and fruit and veg departments (can't comment on others as I didn't look or buy them). Much better than the selections I've seen in Sainsbury's, Waitrose or Aldi. And about half the price.

But, most of our feast is home-made. And also home-smoked, home-grown and sugar, wheat and meat free. Oh, and low-fat and non-creamy. Bloody hell, that was a difficult menu to devise.

 

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Happy Witchday to Me

After 53 years, I have finally discovered how my godmother has managed to be the only person who has always, unfailingly, reliably, managed to get a birthday card to make it through the annual snarl-up of FOTCR™ mail to arrive on or before my birthday.

She thought it was the 14th rather than the 17th.

But, I'm still impressed with her efforts. She is the only person who has sent me a card that I have had to open on the correct day, for every year of my life.


Incidentally, I've had several cards this week with notes in that suggest there may be an ongoing problem with my incoming email. If you've sent anything that hasn't received a reply, I apologise, and do please resend it... I don't always reply as immediately as I used to, as I spend much less time at a computer than I once did, and I choose not to have a smartphone (so only access email from a PC), but I do reply to urgent stuff within a few hours and less-urgent within a couple of days. Thank you!

 

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

This is Ground Control to Major Tim

The UK's first publicly funded astronaut, all set to go.

Delighted that he tweets and hope he will be as good as Chris Hadfield.

Stargazing Live special at 10.30am this morning, and 7pm tonight, and available on iPlayer later (sorry, UK only, unless you can find a friendly proxy server).

Slightly disappointed that this will be the first late afternoon for a couple of weeks that the ISS won't be visible from here.

And he's 43. In case anyone wondered, because I did, and I thought I'd save you the effort of looking it up.


The unseasonally warm weather continues. As warm at night (ie 13°C) as is usual in July, apparently. No hot air coming out of Paris is going to stop the climate changing, methinks. Just as well we're exploring space, then...

Posted at 10:06 AM | Comments (0)
 

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Time continues to pass

The festive Radio Times has arrived in the post.

All is well with the world.

Well, at least it was for 20 seconds, until Mr BW pointed out that 'The Archers' Calendar Girls are pictured...


In other news, Mr BW took me to an excellent course in glass fusing today, as a week-early birthday pressie. Us two, plus an early-retired GP, who shared our belief in not working beyond what one needs to.

I can now do glass engraving (learnt 30 years ago), flamework (introductory course completed 6 weeks ago), stained glass (leaded and copper foiled, learnt 13 years ago) and fused. We already have materials for the former sorts. I can feel some serious expenditure on supplies for the the latter coming on tomorrow.

I love glass. I love colour. I love flowing form and undefined shape. I love design.

I think I might finally have found the right glass craft for me. I thought it was glass engraving, but sadly my eyesight is not up to this now. I can do the others, but I don't enjoy them the way Mr BW does, or the way that I enjoy textile crafts and printing.

And the best thing is that fusing combines beautifully with other crafts that we do between us.


Oh, I know, this post useless without pictures. But, this little netbook is useless, and I thought I'd solved our broadband speed/access problems when I took advantage of a free BT broadband offer last week. We can now have one connection each. The original TT one is 1.7 - 2.1Mb (on a very good day). The new BT one is 0.8Mb (they told me it would be between 2 and 3Mb). I need to complain, but I'm all out of strength to complain this week having already hit one shoe manufacturer, one credit card company, one ombudsman, and one small bank. Yield so far over £160, but I'd rather have decent, reliable, timely, service, and competent backup customer support, than cash compensation, frankly. Although... thinking about it... pretty glass doesn't come cheap...

 

Monday, December 7, 2015

The way of the world

A friend rang this morning.

She told me that the local vicar says that all the current terrorist atrocities and catastrophic weather events in the world are God's way of testing mankind and that all we have to do is have faith, and pray hard enough, and it will all be OK.

Had she not been a friend of 20 years, and of the Strong Godly Persuasion herself, she might have got a few words of BW Wisdom on those subjects. And god help the vicar if I happen to stumble upon him if he says such things to me.

Instead, I suggested to her that if people stopped bleating to each other, bleating to whichever 'god' they chose to use for offloading/guilt assuaging, bleating on Twitter and/or Facebook, and signing pointless online petitions, and actually did something tangible in the non-online world, then things might resolve somewhat more quickly.

She admitted that I did have a point.

 

Sunday, November 22, 2015

On heating

We never put the heating on until we return from Northumberland. That was two weeks ago.

We had the first fire in the downstairs log-burner last Tuesday.

Yesterday we had fires in the Studio and downstairs log burners.

The temperature, which has to date been unseasonally warm, fell ridiculously overnight - thick ice on standing water, but no frost, most odd - and we finally gave up and put on the central heating this morning.

Mind you, heating oil is currently at its cheapest since the beginning of 2005 (27.20ppl), so I've arranged to top up the tank. Given that a year ago it was 50.2ppl, and two years ago 58.5ppl, for once I'm feeling quite happy that we don't have mains gas here.

For posterity, I'll record that petrol is currently 103.9ppl and diesel 106.9ppl. Which is also cheaper than it's been for a while, but I'm not sure how long becuase my fuel book is in the car and it's now so cosy inside that I'm not venturing outside to get it.


In other news, this week I made cranberry mincemeat, cranberry and orange chutney, bought some new LED outdoor tree lights and a new FOTCR™ tree. The last one 8 years ago, cost £20. This one cost £34.99, minus a £5 voucher. And it will also be expected to last at least eight years. Please do not worry. I am not giving in. That is the FOTCR™ all sorted now.

 

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Computer might say no, but human says yes

Just for once, I had a good customer experience yesterday.

I went into the local library to collect some books Mr BW had ordered.

Unfortunately I didn't have his library card with me. I glanced over to the enquiry desk, where one can take out books if one has special needs or is unable to use the technology provided. None of the librarians I know were on duty. "Damn!" I thought.

I went up to the counter with the three books, and my library card, and explained my predicament. "Is there any chance that I could take them out on my ticket?" I asked the (very) young man.

"Of course," he said reassuringly, "we're here to get people reading, not provide reasons why they shouldn't!"

There is hope in the world after all.

 

Friday, November 13, 2015

Hell fire and damnation

Despite being sunny first thing, the weather forecast threatened howling winds and torrential rain, plus it was Friday 13th, so Mr BW decided that he'd fire up his forge.


It wasn't long before the rain came down and the wind started blowing.

But, that forge (fanned by a bouncy-castle blower - the yellow thing at the bottom of the picture) is extremely hot, and no amount of rain could either, (a) put it out, or (b) dampen Mr BW's enthusiasm.

He made parts of a sculpture commission for a friend, a tripodal kettle-hanging device for my new outdoor kettle (2 gallon size, as last seen at guide camp), no doubt a few other things, but I missed those, and then decided to harden the small portable anvil he'd previously made from a bit of leftover RSJ (steel beam used in construction), some scaffolding poles, and a few other things, and a whole lot of dangerous processes, that I don't understand, seek to understand, or indeed want to understand. He had fun doing it, and that's the main thing.


This hardening involved putting the contraption upside-down into the fire, and heating it for ages. Ages and ages.

So long that, while it was happening, I had time to peel and slice some cooked beetroot, put the end-of season grubby bee-suits into the washing machine, make two cups of tea, look through my notes from a meeting last night, wash some woolly slippers, wash up the pressure cooker used to cook the beetroot, take some braised red cabbage out of the Aga and curse that I'd forgotten it and cooked it for rather too long for it to still have any nutritional value at all, and open today's letters (sadly, our postie recently unexpectedly dropped dead, but the new one seems to get here at least an hour earlier; I'm still wondering if it was my spells...):

Then grabbing hold of it - despite it being 'small' and 'portable' it's jolly heavy and very hot, so hot that the heat coming off it was uncomfortable ten feet away - and chucking it onto the ground, luckily not hitting his feet or any stray cats in the process.


And then spraying water onto it with a hose. The picture below doesn't do justice to the amount of steam produced, and the ferocity with which it was emitted.

It was impressive.

A more technical explanation is to be found here. It is totally possible (nay, highly likely) that I have the names and procedures all wrong. I prefer my version though.

And soon after Mr BW had put the forge out (the price of coke is outrageous, and every little saved for re-use is helpful) the sun came out again.

Sounds emanating from downstairs suggest that he now has the arc welder out. I refuse to get stressed by the thought of what it's doing to the electricity bill. At least until the bill comes in.

Never a dull moment.

Posted at 12:47 PM | Comments (4)
 

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Degrees of involvement

I often think that the skills, knowledge, and work and life experience that Mr BW and I have between us are a curse. They can make life complicated.

Between us, we often have a very wide - and sometimes differing - perspective, often backed by hard-won real-life experience, and a basic skeptical/questioning philosophy. Believe nothing until you see the proof, and always go back to original documents, especially when they involve statistics.

Plus, our differing professional skills, honed over many years, give us both the ability to make unexpected connections between things and extrapolate beyond the obvious. As one service head I worked with once said to me, "Everyone else is now just-about thinking outside the box; you're not even seeing the box as a necessary construct." Mr BW has an elephantine memory. I used to have a good memory, but sadly it's fading fast these days. Living memory is useful.

And, we are both 'doers' rather than 'moaners'. If we see something that needs improving, fixing, or exposing, either locally, or with consumer issues, we will tackle it and not give up until things change for the better.

We also both believe in issues being the important thing, particularly at a local level, rather than party politics. Politics always divides people. Issues can often unite people unexpectedly.


DG today has a post where he wonders why there isn't more protest within the UK about current cuts in public services. Despite stressing, several times, "To clarify, today's post isn't about your opinions on cuts, it's about general attitudes to cuts," predictably (given the political leaning of many of his readers) comments quickly deteriorated to party politics and let's blame Thatcher and/or the bankers.

My answer was:

"Of course, one simple answer must be that many people must believe that more cuts can be made without affecting front-line services.

People are now better informed by the availability of good-quality information on what is spent/wasted on what by public bodies.

Freedom of Information requests, and groups like the Taxpayers' Alliance show just how poor value for money public sector organisations often achieve.

The question that needs answering is why this happens. My view on this is that:

(1) people who bid for contracts know what they can get away with, price-wise, and

(2) people who commission services are often not well qualified/trained and often can't even manage their own finances, therefore have no grip on what is a fair price to pay, and lack understanding of Value.

Plus, there is information overload. People don't know what to believe these days (look how things often 'kick off' on social media - and, when one tries to find sources on assertions/statistics, it's often not as it seems).

As several older people have said to me recently (and I'm summarising/paraphrasing hugely here), "When you have little of your life left, you have less desire to spend what time you have on things that don't directly affect you - for example, getting involved in local issues, or protesing about things as you might have done in the past - there is no desire to bang your head against a wall as you know you'll be dead soon enough."


In our local area there are currently several huge issues that will change the quality and rurality of everyone's way of life, irrevocably.

Out of an area population of a couple of thousand, only about 30 (the 'usual suspects' who always give freely of their time for the community good) were regularly getting involved with attempts to consult and involve everyone in having a say, before it was too late to design the shape all our futures.

Until one day recently when something immediate threatened to happen right on people's doorsteps. Four or five times the number of people turned up at the next local meeting, vocally demanding that someone do something to stop it. I'm afraid I just sat and smirked and wondered how anyone could be so oblivious of the facts, given the availabilty of the basic information.

But, a third of the area's poluation are retired, so the last point of my comment that I've quoted above may apply. And that was something that hadn't occured to me until older friends from my crafty groups pointed it out.

I do hope that I never get to the point of not being interested in what is happening around me.

 

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Saturday in Sunderland

Mr BW knew that we were going to Sunderland, but not why.

Well, I might have told him that I'd booked a course for his birthday treat, but he had no idea where, or what we'd be doing. When I mentioned the Stadium of Light yesterday (I'd seen it on the map on the way to where we were going) he became convinced that it was a football course. Not that either of us likes football, but.

Luckily we had built an extra three quarters of an hour into our travel time (in case of Saturday morning delays around the Metro Centre, where they also have 30mph road works currently), because we had to change a wheel even before we left the farm after someone ran over a piece of angle iron scaffolding that the odd-job man/'builder' had left in a stupid place right next to our car.

It took Mr BW nearly a quarter of an hour of questions to which I'd only answer 'yes' or 'no' on the way down there to guess what we were to be doing in a futuristic building overlooking the wharf.

We had a great day. We have to return later in the week to collect the items we made. And I now have no fingerprints on my left thumb and forefinger where I dropped a piece on the floor and forgot it had been heating at 1200°C just seconds before I tried to retrieve it.

And a two-bedroom new flat overlooking the wharf: £135,000. It's a different world up here. I can see similar in London being £1.35 million.

The ill piglet missed us. He's poorlier tonight. And wrapped up in a blanket in the tack room. Snoring his snout off.

 

Friday, October 30, 2015

Update from The North

Everywhere above Scotch Corner there are Bales.

Some Round Bales have arrived at The Farm.

There are five five week old piglets. One is very poorly. I'm blaming The Bales. We are trying to help save him. Memories of helping out on various pig farms during my decade-long sojourn in the south west thirty-odd years ago are coming in very handy.

Meanwhile, all the reasons we eventually decided against moving up here 18 months ago have proved founded. And people are illegally hunting over what would have been our land on a regular basis.

Yeah, I know, you need pictures.... The camera has pictures. But technolgy is failing me.

 

Thursday, October 29, 2015

It's Mr BW's Witchday

So we are packing the Broom and heading north, to the land of halloween spells.

Whether or not t'inter works this year is anyone's guess.

 

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Why is it...

... that whatever system is invented, there will always be some moron(s) who wants to spoil it for others?

Hackers, spammers, vishers, terrorists, cyclists who jump red lights, motorists who drive with the phone to their ear (or, worse, sending/receiving text messages), people who don't put their phones on silent in meetings and performances...

 

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Kittens become Cats

Here are the now 6 months old kittens.

All four turned out to be girls. They're impossible to photograph. Except when they are taken out of cat carriers having had their bits chopped out:




I do wonder about young vets thse days. "They are outdoor cats!" Mr BW told them. "They are not very tame!"

So, they came back to us having been neutered through their tummies rather than their sides, with their heads in cones, with their front paws still wrapped in gauze and tape (stuck to their fur), and with the instructions, "Don't let them run or jump for three days, bring them back for a check up in four days, and keep them in, with their cones on, for ten days!" It was hard enough for Mr BW to catch them all in the first place. Chances of catching them all again? Nil.

Still, five days on they are all fine. And certainly not still. The first night, even with their cones on, after they'd given up trying to back out of them, they still managed to get into their usual sleeping places in the roof of Mr BW's Workshop, or on top of Mi1dred.

Any guesses as to who is the friendliest? Naughtiest?

 

Monday, October 26, 2015

Camouflage

Autumn has hit with all its might.

Yuck, yuck, yuck. Low light, short days, dark evenings, cold, wet, murk, browns and greys.

There is nothing nice about it, in my book.

I'm going to hibernate.

Wake me up in March.

This little chap/ess was hiding in the polytunnel as we were giving it its autumn sort-out yesterday:

What amazing camouflage.

I've been fighting the good consumer fight with the CEO's offices of several large companies in recent months (when I have a consumer issue that I feel will affect others, I tend to escalate it to the highest level, because that's the only way to get things sorted for all consumers, and, I like making suggestions for how they can solve issues: sometimes they even listen). I haven't lost yet.

I told the (very very unpleasant - undoubtedly the most unpleasant man in PR that I have ever had the misfortune to deal with) head of TalkTalk's CEO's office that their first data breach this year (which caused us to get several phone calls per day/night from scammers allegedly from TT for several months) would not be their last, because of their cavalier attitude and insistence that "all companies lose data to hackers" and that "data offshored to India is just as safe as data held in the UK".

I wish luck to anyone affected by the latest: I eventually got twenty times their initial compensation offer, but my Sharp Witchy Teeth suffered severe erosion in the process (mind you, he's probably still having nightmares about his dealings with me).

I still haven't had any communication from them - email or letter - following last Wednesday's data breach. No point going to the Information Commissioner's Office: last time I was told that, "We don't have the resources or time to investigate individual's concerns."

Would that there were a viable alternative for internet service here.

And the World Health Authority have said that processed meats cause cancer ("Its report said 50g of processed meat a day - less than two slices of bacon - increased the chance of developing colorectal cancer by 18%.")

What a surprise.

What an abuse of statistics?

 

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Rough around the edges

The very wide field margins of the farmer of the fields behind us are a source of great annoyance.

While they could potentially be of great benefit to wildlife and insects, unfortunately they are just one gloriously huge weed generator. Thistles, dandelions, and ragwort delight in seeding and blowing all over our garden, and we spend tens of hours each year removing seedlings from our pots, gravel paths, flower and vegetable beds.

We've spoken to him about it several times, over several years, but he doesn't consider that topping it before weed seeds form, or pulling common ragwort (which is a legal requirement under the Weeds Act 1959 and The Ragwort Control Act 2003) should be high on his priority list.

He's quite happy to trouser the government/EU subsidy for having the uncultivated strip, but not prepared to spend any of it on maintaining it. Mr BW has given it a quick strim several times this year, just before the seeds would be viable, which hopefully will help the situation next year, but it's a huge area that takes hours to do with our tools, but would minutes with a tractor with the proper kit attached.

We were driving to see the Old Friends BW up on the Suffolk/Essex border at the weekend when we spied this:

Alive with insects and wildlife, and showing just what a well-managed field boundary can/should be.

I'm just contemplating how best to transmit this idea to our farmer...

 

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

More peristent that Jehova's Witnesses

Front door: *knock knock*

Me (opening door): Hello?

Smartly dressed woman: Hello, I'm from [name of locally-based company that sells expensive meat, poulty and fish, door-to-door]. Have you heard of us?

Me: No... but I'm vegetarian.

Smartly dressed woman: We have vegetarian ready-meals too...

Me: We grow most of our food, and it's all cooked from scratch.

Smartly dressed woman: The meals are really nice... meat-free lasagne, spaghetti bolognese, cheese and onion pie...

Me: I am also wheat intolerant.

Smartly dressed woman: You're making this up aren't you?

Me: Maybe, maybe not. And that's something you'll never know. Now, I admire your persistence, but a no really is a no, and you need to learn to accept that. And that some people really are vegetarian and wheat intolerant. *fixed smile* *shuts door firmly*