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


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*


Friday, October 16, 2015

I was born with a plastic spoon in my mouth

I am utterly delighted by the news yesterday that a grammar school in Kent is to be allowed to open a second site.

How Labour can call grammar schools 'socially devisive' I have absolutely no idea.

The grammar school system was responsible for raising the social and life chances of many wartime, post-war and 'baby boomer' children, my parents, my aunts, me, and my brother, included.

On the back of five years in grammar school I was awarded the biggest scholarship that had ever been awarded to study A Levels at (what was then) the third most expensive public school in the country. I only chose to stay for less than a term, mind, but that's another story.

My plastic spoon became gold plated because I went to the right type of school to nurture my abilities.

There is no way that I'd have achieved what I did had I gone to a comprehensive school. Without doubt, my rebellious streak would not have been sufficiently challenged and I'd have been bored and gravitated to the lowest level, like so many of the able but disaffected youngsters I've worked with over 30 years of visiting every type of educational establishment.

In my opinion, it is the remnants of the grammar school system that is socially devisive now, as there are so few places that the children who are 'selected' for them are those who have been to fee-paying primary schools, or whose parents manage to afford private tuition out of school, rather than those of greatest academic potential. In my own county there were more than ever children competing for the few grammar school places that exist this year - I'm told that 16 sat the tests for every one place.

The solution is to make more grammar school places, which would lessen competition for them, and then there will be sufficient places for all those of ability to benefit from them.

"Oh it's unfair and the country can't afford it!" I often hear from my champagne socialist acquaintances. "The country can't afford NOT to afford it!" I reply. "And do you know how much is spent to support those kids with special needs, those at the other end of the spectrum who will never be the economic future of this country?"

I've said before that I hate the idea that people are viewed as economic units, but, in a developed capitalist country, there is no getting away from the fact that we need the able minority to generate revenue to support the less able majority. And there is no getting away form the fact that educational success largely shapes one's future life.

It amuses me greatly that many of those who now speak out against grammar schools either went to them (or to fee-paying schools) themselves, chose to send their kids to them, or moved to be in the 'catchment area of a 'good' school, in areas where there are no grammar schools.

If religious groups (and others) are allowed to set up their own schools, why should there not be schools for those of above average academic potential, who want a more pressured educational experience?

There should be all types of school, for all types of abilities.

Posted at 12:02 PM | Comments (9)

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Left, Right, Centre, Outcast

"May you live in interesting times," the saying goes.

Oh what's happening to the world?

Half of Africa and half of Syria are still heading for Europe (and being given chauffeur driven stretch-limo transport once here), while nearby Middle Eastern countries refuse to take any of them.

Given that many Americans spent many months in ''holding camps'' in or near New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina when it was unsafe or impossible for them to return to their homes, why can't Syrians be kept in similar camps, near their own country until the situation can be sorted out? They may think they want to come to Europe, but wait until they get here. The weather and the way of life is so different to that to which they are habituated.

The world's countries are run by mad men with mad ideas and mad ways of getting their own needs for power met. Oink oink.

Could get madder, mind, if Boris becomes Prime Minister here and Bernie Sanders (aside: does he, visually, remind you of someone from British politics?) ends up as the Democratic successor to Obama. Good old Vox comes to the rescue again - this time with the answers to 6 questions about socialism you were too embarrassed to ask. That's interesting reading.

Still, all this current political and religious merriment is making for excellent material for the satirical news programmes, which, for once, are being rather more balanced than their usual Lefty, I feel.

I'm enjoying the new weekly series of The New Quiz, with Miles Jupp proving a more than worthy successor to Sandi Toksvig's nine years in the chair (despite my initial misgivings when the succession was announced), on R4 on Friday evenings, repeated Saturday lunch-times: listen again here. Episode 1 is probably the funniest thing I have heard in a long time. Jeremy Corbyn-Laden indeed. It's not good, that is now imprinted permanently on my mind, and the 'Laden' auto-appends every time I hear his name.

Can someone please explain to me (and this is a genuine question) why police and other authorities keep wasting their ever more scarce resources on families who choose to go to Syria?

I don't know the answer, and nor does anyone else I know. Usually between us (and a significant proportion of my acquaintances are 'champagne socialist' types, who are always good for a wind-up) we can come up with some kind of idea, but this question has us all stumped.

Even Mr BW, who has an elephantine memory for factual information, and has travelled and interacted with local populations so extensively that I sometimes wonder if there isn't a country and a people he doesn't (a) know about, and (b) have a balanced and informed view on, has no idea.

Surely these non-white 'British' people are better off out of the country than being here, holding views so opposed to our culture, and radicalising and negatively influencing others?

"Oh think of the poor children!" I hear some wailing. Who are we to tell people how to bring up their kids? Teaching the six year old son of Jehovas Witness parents back in 1986 made me realise the power of parental belief and persuasion ('brainwashing'). Let 'em go. Make sure their child benefit is stopped, and never let 'em back in again. Simple. Or is it?


Tuesday, October 13, 2015

From the inbox

I was chatting to one of my Rotating Ladies yesterday. "I just do not understand why my grandchildren put the things they do on the internet. I am embarrassed just reading it, but they seem to have no shame! What if a prospective employer reads it?"

I sympathised and reassured her that, while nearly thirty years her junior, I feel exactly the same way. Another nearby person overheard. "I shall email you something," she promised.

"I am trying to make friends outside of Facebook while applying the same principles.

Therefore, every day I walk down the street and tell passers-by what I have eaten, how I feel at the moment, what I have done the night before, what I will do later, and with whom.

I give them pictures of my family, my dog, and of me gardening, taking things apart in the garage, watering the lawn, standing in front of landmarks, driving around town, having lunch, and doing what anybody and everybody does every day.

I also listen to their conversations, give them the "thumbs up" and tell them I like them.

And it works just like Facebook. I already have four people following me:
two police officers, a private investigator, and a psychiatrist."

Well, I'd not seen it before, and it made me smile...


Monday, October 12, 2015

Amazing light this past week

Right. Who can name all of those?


Sunday, October 11, 2015

Quote, misquote

"BW shall never vanquished be until
Ickworth Wood to high Coven Grounds
Shall come against her."

Oh bum.

Never mind, eh... half a tree worth of lime, ash, and sycamore might have sneaked into Mr BW's workshop, but this was what sneaked into my Studio after the Knit&Stitch Show on Thursday:

The sharp-eyed amongst you might note the brochure and samples on the RHS. My new toy will arrive on Tuesday. And then I'll be able to tranform the two bits of stretchy fabric into new cloaks.

It's been great to see some old friends' names appearing in the comments over the past few days. Nice to see you again and pleased you're still visiting!


Saturday, October 10, 2015

Reuse rather than recycle

Cotton p@tchwork fabric is now anything up to £16.50 per metre. That's up to 16.5 pence per centimetre cut across the width.

I'm always amazed that all my Patchy Ladies lived through the last war, or were children in the post-war rationing years. When they straighten up their fabric before cutting strips, they waste lots. When they have finished a project, they ditch any cut-out bits (and sometimes even sewn blocks) left over. And, because I hate to see waste, they give the bits to me.

I sort them into colours and keep them in a set of plastic drawers. And, when I have no inspiration for a new Patchy Project, or, as is more often the case, no time to sort out the necessary supplies before the next Patchy Meeting, I take their offcuts and make them into new fabric.

They are always mystified by how I do this. As I tell them, it's a case of:

Select just a couple of colours (thinking of colours that go together in nature is often a good starting point). Sew two little bits of fabric together with the narrowest seam you think will hold when in use and survive washing - somewhere between 1/8" and 1/4" (you can chain-piece lots of two bits to save time and thread), press seam to one side, cut a straight edge, add another bit, press seam to one side, cut a straight edge, and repeat until your boredom threshold is reached. Then, recut across the bits already made, rotate, and add strips or other new and/or recut bits until it looks pleasing. You have to watch our for dominant colours (yellows, whites, lime green, fluorescent colours, darks within an otherwise pastel palette, and anything with a large pattern) and spread them out by judicious cutting and repositioning, or, if they just don't look right, cut them out totally!

Then I make the fabric into something useful: here a cushion for the bench that was part of Mr BW's retirement present:

That photo was taken a few weeks ago. The flower troughs under the bench are now three times as bountiful.

Not to be outdone, Mr BW has been sculpturally reusing cans (not quite eaten enough yet, but he's threading them on to the LHS as we munch...):

And old spanners:

And he hasn't been near my spell book; it's all done by traditional forge, heat, and hammering.


Friday, October 9, 2015

More lino

Tuesday was Day 2 of our lino printing course.

Unfortunately, my wrists were wrecked after Monday (they still haven't fully recovered now) and I was finding it very hard to co-ordinate what was in my head with what emanated from the carving tool in my hand. I also wanted to do a small design that I could use for the front of cards.

This was the inspiration in my head (more Bawden):

This was my flower and my design sheet (the lines, the colours, and the double print, with some unprinted white border, abstracted from the original idea I'd liked):

These were the two (3") blocks inked up. The pink was printed first, and then the green:

This was the second layer on the registration sheet about to go through the press:

And this was the finished item (impression 1 at the top, and the second print without re-inking at the bottom; the second impression has the two prints more accurately placed and is how I hoped it would come out):

And yes, I forgot to reverse the design when I transferred it onto the block before cutting. I have no idea why most designs have a 'looks better in a particular orientation' quality. I'm left thinking, Echinacea or Sputnik?

If only my manual dexterity skills were up to what I'd like them to do. And we won't mention how I had to offset the flower stem to cover a slip (although I can now see how I can easily fix that, by removing a bit more of the block before I print that design again, which I plan to do, on fabric to use in other projects). But, at least I didn't run any blades into any digits, because (amazingly) I managed to do as the tutor told me: "Keep your hands behind the cutter at all times!"


Just making up the cards I've realised that I can rotate the image, even if the lines aren't then quite as I intended them. Not sure which orientation I prefer.

And, for those of you like me with 'perfect line', I can see that one of the margins needs another slight trim, and these aren't stuck down yet!


Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Journey to The Moon

NASA has recently posted all photos taken on Apollo missions to Flickr, licensed as public domain.

That's my childhood viewing and newspaper reading recreated.

And The Planetary Society has taken the Apollo 11 ones and made them into a one-minute sequence.
It annoyed me the first time I watched it, but, it grew on me, after I'd watched it five times.

I wish they'd slowed it down... Mr BW informs me that I may be missing the point.

But it's all fabulous viewing.

As was the lunar eclipse last month. Sadly the photos (hand held camera) don't work well at the low resolution I need here, but, if you didn't see it, here's the sequence to give you a feel for it (over two and a half hours worth, reduced):

I have been enjoying flicking through all the photos I took on the camera - it's like viewing it all over again. Albeit without the amazing dark sky view of the stars and the Milky Way, or the eye-hurting brilliance of the moon at the outset. And rather like one of those 'flick for an action sequence books' anyone of a certain age will remember.

Posted at 10:44 AM | Comments (3)

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Date Lino

I loved the date yesterday. 5.10.15 (and 20, albeit out of order). A little frisson of excitment every time I wrote down the date. Which I did quite a lot of times, specially.

And I loved more, that one of the ex-Pupils BW (now at medical school) sent me an email late last night saying that he'd thought of me all day, every time he wrote the date, because it was me who had first enthused him about dates, when I worked with him a decade ago.

To mark the auspiciousness of the day, we went on a linocutting course.

I felt terribly Bawdenesque all day, even though the results weren't quite Bawden, despite being allowed to use Mr BW's special wood-cutting tools. I'm not allowed to sharpen them though..

Cutting the tile:

The tile with the ink-stain, after printing (so that you can see the relief). I was trying to get movement into the design, through the tool marks left in the material of the background:

After I'd given up hope of emulating Bawden, I decided to be Morrisesque in colourway:

And then I thought I'd go for contrast:

And today we have another day of it. Sadly my wrists aren't up to it though, so I shall have to do simple. Mr BW had already spent 24 hours woodcarving over the weekend, on another course. His wrists are fine. Which is just as well, as he may end up having to carve mine, once I've designed it and drawn it out.

Talking of Edward Bawden, my favourite art gallery is probably The Fry Gallery in Saffron Walden. Tiny but perfectly formed (and with a fabulous website that enables you to see most of their collection).

They currently have two stunning exhibitions:

"From Eric Ravilious to Grayson Perry

Sunday 5th April 2015 to 25th October

In 2015 we mark the thirtieth anniversary of the opening display of the North-West Essex Collection in the Fry Art Gallery. The Collection now numbers well over 2000 items, including paintings, prints, ceramics, books, designs and many other objects produced by the diverse artists who have lived in and around the Essex village of Great Bardfield since the early 1930s.

From April until the end of October 2015 our main gallery displays works by the 'Bardfield Artists' in broadly chronological order, from the arrival of Edward Bawden and Eric Ravilious around 1930, through wartime, the resettlement after the war, the growth in the community of artists, and the emergence in the 1950s of Great Bardfield as a significant centre for British art and design."

And the second, in the other main room, is:

"The Art of Acquisition, The Great Bardfield Artists' Houses.

July 25 - October 25th 2015

This exhibition captures the spirit of the Great Bardfield artists' houses, from the eye to the home. Wallpaper designs, rag rugs, needlework cushions, fabrics, watercolours and ceramics, as well as found treasures, creating an approach to the domestic interior which has informed generations ever since."

Possibly the best exhibitions I've seen there. If you go let me know and I'll meet you there. It's not far away.


Monday, October 5, 2015

Update: Project Sweet Pea

Five weeks ago, at the end of August (how is that 5 weeks already?) I showed you this. Wet sweet peas:

I'm often quite bad at updating you on things I publish. A bit like the BBC News service.

I was reminded of this yesterday afternoon when the noise of a two cock pheasant stand-off in the field drew my eye/camera back to the same scene. Sunny sweet peas:

We've just had the tenth day of glorious sunshine here. Low 20s by day, but getting much colder (down to about 4 or 5°C) at nights (and hence some mist in the early mornings, which has quickly cleared). The weather bods are saying that we've just had the most consecutive days of sunshine that we've had all summer. Summer in autumn, then.

So, here is what happened with the yarn project in the week after we got back from holiday.

The fleece cooling after dyeing (with the A4 printed-version of the original photo that I used to colour-match):

The separate colours, when dried. I know that my tedious days of learning to colour-mix in watercolour paint (years ago) are responsible for my ability to colour-match by mixing dyes with (so far) no errors at all.

Here is the fleece around the drum-carder drum that I use to blend the separate colours:

These are the finished batts (each one is about 40g):

And here is the finished yarn. I dyed somewhere around 600g of fleece, and this is about two thirds of it. Lovely and chunky.

Don't ask me what I'm going to make with it, because my reply to that question is always the same: look at it, stroke it, and love it. And I'm guessing that only a couple of you will understand that :)

This might be my next wooly project:

A grapevine at Hyde Hall, photo taken on a recent visit.


Sunday, October 4, 2015

More mystery

As if Pigs' Tail Beans weren't enough, we've now got co-joined eggs.

Shared a white but not a yolk (as it was a double yolker).

Usually double yolkers don't have obvious join marks where the two eggs were merged into one as they were forming.


Saturday, October 3, 2015

It's a mystery

Our beans are still doing well.

We grow a few runner, but most are climbing French, because they are less stringy if they hide and get a bit old, and taste and freeze better.

We grow them up all sorts of Heath-Robinson structures, and even some in old galvanised buckets on the balcony (these ones have an auto-watering system to save time, effort, and water). Next year we're going to make a bean tunnel by planting either side of the gravel path and growing them up and over some sort of structure made from whatever wood, branches and home-grown bamboo is around.

We buy seed cheaply at the end of season (the germination is fine for several years), and also save some of our own. I suspect that some varieties have hybridised now. But, we have a mixture of yellow, black, and green pods, with seed colours ranging from brown, to black, white, and pink and white.

This year we've grown a few sweet peas (mixed colours) up each structure. They look pretty and provide nectar for insect pollinators. With half a million Buzzy Familars at Peak Bee (mid-summer), every bean flower gets pollinated almost before it is open.

Mr BW generally starts plants off in the polytunnel in modules and then plants out later. We've found this gives an earlier crop and the young plants suffer less from pigeon, rodent and slug damage. He plants them out quite randomly, so different colour beans grow alongside each other on the same structure. There are bean structures dotted around all areas of the vegetable garden.

What I can't understand is why all the pods (irrespective of variety) on one particular structure this year are curly, like pigs' tails, or growing back on themselves at right angles. Another similar struture just a couple of feet away has normal straight pods, as do all the others in other areas of the garden. They haven't been treated any differently, and the soil, added mulch (our own garden compost), sun, and water conditions are identical. And there are no signs at all of pests or disease.


Friday, October 2, 2015

There's always someone looking at you

Mr BW has been topiarizing a friend's hedge.

It's on a hedge end, on a main road (well, main for the rural north part of the county) and is intended as a talking point / marker for directing delivery drivers.

It's quite tall, as you can see from Mr BW alongside (he's 6' 3").

It's not really the right kind of hedge for topiary, but this is it after its second cut.

After the first cut the mouth was rather overly large, so it's still growing back. As it looked rather grumpy with just a partial cut, we decided to give it a strategically-placed piece of downpipe with an attached elbow-bend section (not plumber's terms, obviously!) to distract attention.

The nose is now quite three-dimensional from the side, but the photo doesn't capture that. The effect is currently better than this is certain lights too.

Apparently Friend BW is going to add a pointy hat in a couple of weeks.


Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Food for Thought

If there's a game to be played, especially with matters financial, I'll play it.

And so it is that I find myself wtih a purse overly-full with store 'reward' cards.

And so it is that my email inbox and my snailmail letterbox are full of utter rubbish.

The latest offering (in the snailmail post that has just been delivered - I don't know what the postie is up to, but this is the second time this week that the post has been delivered this late): the bimonthly vouchers from Pets at Home. I only ever buy items in there when I have a voucher(s), and I actually only ever go into the store to be amused by the things that some people will spend money on for their pets.

In their last newsletter they were trying to flog me toothpaste and toothbrushes for cats, and this time they're trying to flog me medications 'proven to help pets cope with fireworks'. Holy god (or should we now be saying 'holy allah?'), they are AMIMALS. Treat them as such and you won't need such first-world products.

Is it just me or has the world gone mad?

I go to the shops and they are full of clothes straight out of the 70s. I turn on the news and the politics is full of ideas and characters straight out of the 80s dressed in scruffy clothes that look as if they are original 70s items. (Aside - dear men of the world, if you must go tie-less when you are wearing a formal jacket or suit, please wear a shirt that is meant to be worn open-necked or you just look ridiculous/ underdressed/ like you left the house in a rush and forgot your tie / like you spilt your coffee or dinner down it and had to remove it).

As I've said before, I've now given up on the dumbed-downess (and lack of citing of source material) of the BBC News website (try loading the visuals on that when you have a 'broadband' connection that is around 1.5MB), but, at last, I think I've found a reasonably balanced source of news.

And no-one is more surprised than me that it comes from the US

As far as Eurpoean issues go, it appears to be unbiased journalism with balance, and it has embedded links to external/original sources to read if one wants further information.

Plus, if one goes back to a story one has read a couple of days previously, at the bottom of the page it links all updated items on the story (I do find that in the UK often one never hears the end of what were yesterday's red-hot news stories).

Perhaps a US reader could tell me how it is viewed over there, and whether, from the viewpoint of US stories, it's as good as it seems?

Here are a few recent stories so that you can judge for yourselves:

Jeremy Corbyn explained.

Health and red wine.

The best treatment for lower back pain.

The Bush administration's enormous national security failure, in one tweet.

And a summary of the Syrian 'refuge crisis' (and read the updates at the end of the page).

What do you think?


Monday, September 28, 2015

We've been as busy as our buzzy friends

Not sure what type of pollen this is, or where it's coming from, but they're madly collecting it on this beautiful September day. I'm amazed that they can still fly with the pollen baskets on their legs so full! This one seems to be collecting water too, before going back into her hive.

Where has the time gone?

It's now three weeks since we came back from Turkey and, aside from a couple of journeys around the M25 (once to the Wisley Flower Show, once to the Handmade Fair - both of whcih we got into for free), lots of harvesting and freezing (the freezer is now completely full), jarring (we've run out of jars and the cupboard for jams and chutneys is overly full), and drying (not even any more room for the ice-cube size portions of liquidised oven-dried tomatoes), tidying up the garden, sorting out the b33s, an emergency dentist visit for each of us (damage nearly £1,000), an optician visit for me (damage nearly £500), and a few meetings about things of local concern (of which there an increasing number), there's been little time for anything else.

I've been disenchanted with almost every bit of technology we own recently. Hence why I haven't been at the computer. Except my camera, which, for a tiny piece of cheapish kit takes amazing images.

I'll post some pics of last night's total supermoon lunar eclipse soon. I'm a bit tired today because I spent over three hours wrapped in fleece blankets and patchwork quilts, watching it, from my 'observatory' in the utility room, in the early hours - quite accidentally, as I only half-heard something about it on the radio yesterday, and I happened to need a bathroom visit at the perfect time to see it starting.

What have you all been up to?


Friday, September 4, 2015

Today we didn't do much

We did some swimming, some painting, and some designing for wood carving:

Some capturing the beautiful single red/copper damsel fly (well, I think it's a damsel fly...) that has been around, drinking from the pool, all week:

And some kitten watching. The answer is no, cat.

And, as it got dark, the five wild boarlets and (for the first time) their three scarily large elders visited to scoff the fallen figs.


Thursday, September 3, 2015

These BWs got in their car and drove an hour to the regional weekly market

Where there were no tourists, and almost no-one spoke English. And they loved it.

And then they drove another 20 miles to here a place that is in few guidebooks:

Rather half-heartedly as there really are only so many Greek/Roman etc etc remains that one can appreciate in one lifetime, and we thought we'd already done enough for at least two lifetimes on previous visits.

However, this was utterly fascinating, as it is a site that has been continuously inhabited since the late Bronze Age (about 1500BC). While the majority of people left in the 1950s when mining lignite for energy production commenced, there are still 5 familes who live there today. In houses, and with boundary walls constructed from - wait for this - old stones, old pillars and old artefacts. Recycling at its best. Or worst, if you are an archaeologist.

It is currently a suggested UNESCO World Heritage Site. And, if/when this happens, no doubt the barriers will go up, the hi-vis and safety helmets will have to appear, and there will be an entrance fee, and one will no longer be allowed to wander, touch, and wonder at will among the remanants of history.

I visited Angkor Wat when I went to Cambodia in 2006, but this is more amazing. And, aside of one bride and groom, a couple of photographers, and a handful of archaeologists (working on the Gymnasium), there was absolutely no-one else on this huge site.

The amphitheatre - which seated 12,000:

Ah, we do love to go where the hordes don't.

Mr BW found a scorpion in the sink in his bathroom this morning. I'm really glad that I chose the other bathroom.


Wednesday, September 2, 2015

From a distance

In the days when I used to take watercolour classes, I can recall being told, many-a-time, how to paint mountains or hills to get perspective. Being a person of minimal visual memory, this used to frustrate me as I could never bring to mind a picture of such a scene.

It's also really difficult to find/take a photo to show the effect.

Until yesterday, when the view from the top of a 3km dirt/boulder track was, through the heat haze, this:

Where we are staying is off to the right of the picture, in the middle of the forest, and we look over the sea/mountain view at the top/left.

Posted at 12:50 PM | Comments (2)

Dusk commotion in the car parking area

Luckily outside our stone boundary wall.

These five seemed like babies and were foraging the over-ripe figs that had fallen off the top of the huge tree (the ones we can't get at).

It's true, I prefer pigs to cats.

But the smell...

Mind you, they probably said the same about us.

Oh OK, here's a kitten picture. This is the white and tabbykitten drinking.

I think that the three kittens (two tabby, and this one) are a bit younger than ours, who were born on the 10th April. The tabby mum appeared yesterday too. Clearly previous visitors have let them in the villa and they are, let's say, taking some training. It's really hard watching four at once.

Still, they are beginning to learn. I'm sure the pool-man (who comes at 7.30am, usually before we are up) wonders why there are several lined-up plastic beakers of water on the table outside the door.

The visitor's book suggests that previous guests have been feeding them Whiskas and tuna. Clearly they know nothing about feral cats: if the mother only teaches the kittens to beg now, between October and May, when there are no visitors and it is very cold here (being mountainous), they will starve.

I'm a bit stymied with pictures currently - the files from this new camera are mostly around 8-10MB and will not display as thumbnails in Windows Explorer on the little netbook I travel with. The camera screen is too small to see enough detail to pick out the shots I want to use. So, there isn't an easy way to see the entirety of the photos I have taken on one screen. Anyone know if there is any way around this (short of shooting at a lower resolution)?


Monday, August 31, 2015

You didn't seriously think we'd give up that easily did you?

There were also another eight photos and I'd just spend the last hour writing all about them and somehow it all disappeared into cyberspace (even the kitten photo that Mr BW insisted I post for Debster and Ambermoggie), despite me saving it before I pressed 'post'.

It must be suffering from the 37°C afternoon hot hot heat. I'm certainly not.

I hate to say it, but this last-minute 4am Friday morning when we couldn't sleep for swearing at a holiday company that had gone bust, that had a motto, "Be Inspired!" (now known as, "Be let down!") fortuitous find is probably even better than the one we'd carefully researched and booked last year.

Certainly the cleanest villa and pool we've ever stayed in; totally secluded, totally beautiful area and views, and totally peaceful (give or take the odd tractor laden with agricultural produce rumbling past along the stony lane every few hours).

And to think we nearly went to Northumber1and instead (where the forecast was 14°C and cloudy all week)...


Saturday, August 29, 2015

Tonight we should be...

... sitting by the infinity pool enjoying 34°C in a secluded luxury villa in the middle of rural nowhere in Turkey.

Instead we are starting out of the window at this:

Sadly, the company we were due to go on holiday with (who we have successfully used three times previously) found it impossible to balance their books.

On Thursday at 5.15pm Mr BW took a phone call advising us that the company we were due to fly out with in 36 hours had gone into administration (unsurprising if one believes internet peeps who have looked up the company accounts and seen the amounts the two directors have taken out of the small company in the last ten months).

Holiday companies going bust is now so common that I don't think it even made the news.

Thank goodness for ATOL protection, and S75 credit card protection: we will be getting all of our money back (bar the loss on entry visa costs, travel insurance, and loss on currency exchange: somewhere around £100).

There was not an airline seat left to our destination from Stansted (where there was due to be a baggage handlers' strike anyway) or Luton, for less than £800 return each.

I had only spoken to the company the day before. I did remark to Mr BW at the time that the chap I spoke to sounded strangely flat and off-hand. I do understand that pending administration can't be disclosed, but he didn't have to give me 'freebies' I'd never be able to take up.

The internet seems to be full of people commiserating with the directors, the staff, and the suppliers. There seems to be little thought of those of us left, at 36 hours notice, without an eagerly-anticipated holiday (much needed, given the dreadful summer we've had), paid for in full, eight months ago.

Still, at least we got to watch Mo Farah achieve a 'triple-double', live. Undoubtedly the most exciting race I've seen in a long time.


Monday, August 17, 2015

Judging by the weather, it's not August

It's getting very autumnal - the light is autumnal, the evenings and early mornings feel autumnal, and the cooler-than-we'd like weather isn't great for the fruit and veg.

Still, nothing that a nice glass of Pimm's (aka Aldi's Austins which everyone we know prefers in a blind taste test) won't cure.

The honey tank (silver cylinder on LHS) is out because Mr BW and Young Helper Mr BW will be extracting honey on Friday (the first extraction of the year; it's been a bad year: often we're on the third extraction by now). I'm going out for the day with a friend. Ahem.

And here we have Confetti and Fizz. I was returning from the wine cellar (aka Mr BW's workshop) with a few bottles in my arms (as you do on a Monday afternoon when you've retired), when I thought, what a nice shot that would make.

A gorgeous pinky-mauve clematis, and some asparagus fern, together with the best dry fizzy wine that we've found, posed on the old mangle.

Prosecco has gone the same way of most whites - far too sweet for my Witchy palate. But, Waitrose's own 'Bright and Fruity' sparkling Italian (usually £6.49 a bottle) is currently on 25% off - which works out at £4.86 a bottle, with free delivery, but only until tomorrow midnight (you do need to buy 6 bottles if you buy online). And no, sadly I'm not on commission.


Sunday, August 16, 2015

You don't get many of these to the pound

Delicious figs. Ripening on a south facing wall near us.

Being eaten with Greek yoghurt and a drizzle of our honey for breakfast (by the way, Mr BW is now selling honey by post within the UK - clear or borage or soft-set - £4.50 per 1lb/454g jar, container of comb £6, Royal Mail 2nd class postage on up to two items £3; larger quantities available - carriage works out cheaper per jar; drop me an email for details).

I have no idea what variety these figs are... I thought the plant was a cutting from our Brown Turkey fig that has been living in a large stoneware pot by the back door for at least the last 15 years, but the size, internal colour and texture, and taste are much, much better. Any ideas?


Thursday, August 13, 2015

Technology redefines lines

Apparently man with telescope in 1851 (agreed by the world in 1884) got the position of the Prime Meridan (zero degrees longitude) at Greenwich wrong.

GPS technology now reveals that it is actually 102m east of where it is currently marked.

This is now the fourth 'Meridian'... to be known as the 'GPS Meridian'; previous superseded meridians (meridia?) include the Halley (1721) and the Bradley (1750).

At least those wishing to immortalise themselves with one foot on each side won't now have to fork out a £9.50 entry fee to so do. The new location's nearest physical marker is currently a bin.

Now, this story is a most interesting demonstration of how our media 'works'. R4 is currently reporting it on Today (early morning current affairs / news programme). Google reveals that it isn't a new find... a correspondent on The Telegraph letters page pointed it out on 8th October 2012. He says that the litter bin has been removed... maybe they've put it back in the last 3 years? Surely someone could have checked? And the comments under that post perfectly demonstrate why I don't usually bother to read them.

On a similar sort of theme - did anyone manage to see the Perseids last night? Unfortunately it was too cloudy here. With thunderstorms forecast for today, I'm not sure that it will be much better tonight.


Monday, August 10, 2015

Playing around

I've enjoyed playing with my new camera. This shot from 12 feet:

I've been immortalising echinacea using dye and wax on silk. Stages:

Finished, but before steam fixing (which should make the colours even brighter:

I can also capture images of things I can't see. The other evening around dusk, I thought I saw a large deer in the hedge. I took a picture, downloaded it (apparently images can transfer wifically to my computer but I'm too old fashioned to be bothered to work that out), and lightened it up.

Turns out it was just a hipster. Well, I presume it was a hipster. About 50 miles from his normal stomping ground. We don't get many round here usually. Definitely rarer than deer.


Sunday, August 9, 2015

Momentous events

On Tuesday evening, as if to impress our visiting German friends, a double rainbow appeared in the east:

I haven't quite got the camera under control yet, so the shot disappointed, but that wasn't as bad a miss as this:

That isn't a shot of washing drying in the sun, but of a missed opportunity (the tiny dark spot inthe middle of the picture - blown up below).

I was relaxing in my hammock at about quarter past three yesterday afternoon (as one can, now that one's husband has been retired for four months so has everything absolutely completely under control in the garden, meaning that one's intervention is unnecessary, nay futile), when, flying low and rumbling down the entire length of the garden, came a huge old plane.

Even though I had my camera within six feet, I was so surprised that I just watched, transfixed, while calling Mr BW who had gone inside to make me a cup of tea (I know, I know).

We thought it was the last remaining flying Lancaster in the UK, but a bit of research suggests that was due to be in Northern Ireland yesterday, but is currently out of service due to an engine fire in May, so it was more likely a B17 Flying Fortress en route to a show in the south of the county. They're about the same size.

And finally - we've been at The Coven for 20 years today.
Where has all the time gone?


Tuesday, August 4, 2015


Just because I had to print off some images for the silk batik course I am doing today, I thought I'd show you (nearly) the same view 10 hours after the last photos. The sun rises in the east, and there are some very tall poplars opposite.


Monday, August 3, 2015

When good comes from bad

Mr BW had a bit of an accident-prone week a couple of weeks ago.

He stood on his almost-new tablet, breaking the screen, and he dropped my camera onto a stone-tiled floor. There were other things, but I've forgotten what they are now. Luckily for him.

Now, this was the first camera I had ever got past 10,000 pictures, so I was slightly piddled off that it then wouldn't take a single in-focus picture. I take a lot of photos. I have zero visual memory, so I need to. But, with every new purchase, I had become increasingly disenchanted with Sony small-but-powerful-with-excellent-zoom cameras. However, with its performance on sunset shots tonight, the new one (a WX350 - small, light, but with 20x optical zoom) might just have redeemed the brand.

These are out-of-the-camera shots (just reduced in size), and are absolutely true-to-colour:

In other news, The Coven is cleaner than it has been for several years. Not that it is usually dirty, but, we haven't had any overnight visitors for nearly a year now, and there is nothing like visitors to make you clear up and sort out the piles of papers and junk that accumulate when there are two people around all the time, and no good reason to tidy.

We have been tidying up, and Cleaner BW surpassed herself by cleaning every nook and cranny, and vacuuming even the curtains, this morning.

And tomorrow, we have a German invasion.


Friday, July 31, 2015

Blue Moon tonight

First since 2012.
Last until 2018.
Will only occur 12 times between now and 2043.

I may have turned into a Witch of Few [publishable] Words.
I have plenty to say, but much of it would, I suspect, get me locked up.

Let's not talk about the five hours it took me to get back home from visiting an old colleague/friend in Margate today (usually takes just over two hours), due to The Calais Problem. We cannot solve the (over-population/violence/greed/people smuggling) problems of the world. Send in the army, not a few fences and sniffer dogs.


Wednesday, July 8, 2015

" Do you know who aren’t your friends? Brands.

Repeat it slowly: “Brands are not my friends.”

Brands are psychopathic constructs, infesting your social media timelines with carefully-constructed babble, a hollow echo of a real human voice.

Brand Twitter accounts should be functional. Brands are not your friends. Brands are just 140 character frauds powered by creative people who deserve a better job. "

- Mic Wright


Monday, June 15, 2015

One hour forty minutes to go

What to do (and what not to do) if you meet a Clanger.

Mr BW is delighted that the BBC favourited his second ever tweet (well, his second ever from his own account: he used to do it all the time when he was at work and is clearly feeling the loss *adds lots of jobs to 'To Do' list to prevent further unacceptable behaviour*).

I wouldn't mind, but it's what I said to him last night when he got back from Cornwall. Philae waking up just as the Clangers come back is no coincidence.

We've had no water all day. Apparently a burst main over 10 miles away is affecting the whole area. I'll bet the Clangers could have fixed it by now. It's amazing how many things you can't do without water.


Friday, June 12, 2015

The rest of the world are catching up with us...

... despite my best efforts to live up to others' attributions and stay 'defiantly and resplendently untrendy'.

The latest - the Clangers are returning to TV screens next Monday. They originally appeared in 1969, the same year that man first landed on the Moon (but not on the little blue planet).

Our collection of original Clangers memorabilia has suddenly become very much more valuable (apart from the one that used to sit on Mr BW's desk that shows evidence of a coffee accident). Not that they are for sale, of course.

One of the supporting cast was the Iron Chicken. A few months ago, Mr BW made a giant one (three times the size of the plan in a book I bought him as a gift). The cats are all scared of it. Actually, so am I.

I might buy a couple of Clangers duvet covers next week when they go on sale. I could join them together with some Clanger-pink sashing to fit our super-king quilt. I doubt they’d make them in that size...

I shan't, however, be knitting any more Clangers. The two I made forty years ago were kidnapped by Brother BW and now live in the US. Or, more likely, in landfill.

Long live the Clangers.

Posted at 11:35 AM | Comments (7)

Friday, May 15, 2015

First outing

Actually, this was a week ago, but I've been busy...

And the three white ones are just like the white one that featured on HIGNFY last week.


Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Hopefuly not tempting fate

Oh look, against all information and expectation, I'm still here...

My grandmother would have been 100 today.

I inherited my love of cooking, gardening, nature, and working with yarn to make practical things from her.

And probably my tendency to being a perfectionist, a very private person, and of being quite happy with my own company, or that of a few close and trusted people, who are often of similar temperament and lack of neediness.

She, like me, hated having her photo taken. I know that the concept and need for 'selfies' would have been as alien to her as it is to me. In fact, I'm considering making it the first question I ever ask anyone that I meet. "What do you think of 'selfies'?" If yes, then no.

Coincidentally, one of my Patchy Ladies today brought me in a copy of Woman's Weekly, which was the weekly magazine that Grandma always read. She knows that I love Miffy and the presented issue had a knitting pattern for creating one.

Spookily, it was published a couple of weeks ago on our 21st wedding anniversary, and also had a double page spread on b33s, and an article on gluten-free baking. For a thin magazine, and on the centenary, that was far too many coincidences for me.


Tuesday, May 12, 2015

The Town Mice and the Country Mice

In London there is to be a judicial review of plans to make a garden bridge.

Apparently residents are angry that views of the urban built environment will be blocked by 270 trees and 2,000 shrubs and climbing plants.

Meanwhile, in many rural areas, residents are distraught that their views of trees are being compromised by property developers' desires to erect buildings.


Monday, May 11, 2015

The end is nigh

And not just because Michael Gove is now Justice Secretary (presumably as reward for his key role in the election campaign). The most despised Education Secretary ever (so many changes with no evidence base, or against the evidence base).

Spare a though for the legal system... already under Grayling, Legal Aid has suffered 30% cuts. This has reduced the number of lawyers prepared to do this type of work as their income (not pay - that is less because of their costs) has been cut. It has also removed legal aid for most Judicial Review cases, and for whole classes of vulnerable litigants.

This has placed increased loads on courts, and slowed down proceedings, because unrepresented defendants need to be supported by the Judges.

Now we are to expect that the Human Rights Act will be repealed - and what other good ideas might he have? While one might dislike the way some people abuse the Human Rights Act, if it's repealed, it MUST be replaced by something better.

Remember Gove was the architect of the "bonfire of quangos" - but actually only the ones he didn’t like, which were probably not the same ones the person in the street might have chosen.

But, the end might be nigh for me too.

Tomorrow I shall probably cease to exist.

An update to the PHP being used on my hosting server might render me invisible forever. I shall probably become incompatible with the modern world - in code as well as in life.

We shall see - or not, as the case may be.

Mr BW thinks that he can make me a new dress (he's already made himself rather a good one). But, according to a thorough search of t'inter, there is seemingly no easy way to import over twelve years worth of posts and comments from my very old MT to an over-endowed, overly-complicated for me, new WP. I'm not even clear about whether any of it will still be available to me through my posting panel.

So - if I disappear - I may reappear. Or not, if it proves too complicated.

Ah, the joys of modern life. Why do external forces keep trying to mend/discard things that aren't broken?


Sunday, May 10, 2015


Why the polls got it wrong.

What the UK election result means for science.

Update:Leo Hickman has added the ONS map of Life Expectancy to the preceding duo:


Saturday, May 9, 2015


Friday, May 8, 2015

Dear BBC, please put some more coins in the meter

Fell asleep some time after midnight, knowing from the news-service-sponsored exit poll that the economy was safe.

Woke up at 4am. BBC online election results service OK.

At 5.07am a page refresh resulted in the above for the first time. This continues intermittently.

Conclusion: Britons woke up around 5am, just as the old boys doing the BBC commentary started showing their age by making slip-ups and being less polite than normal (and I do wish they'd stop blathering over the live coverage of results announcements). But, it was 6am before the actual number of blue seats outstripped the red (people in towns count faster than people in the sticks).

Summary: The threat of Wallace has gone. Tampon continues to rule. It was The Night of the Scottish Fish. Vince Cable, Danny Alexander (where did his glasses go?), David Laws, Simon Hughes, Lynne Featherstone, and Charles Kennedy will be down the labour exchange on Monday. Paddy Ashdown (once my local MP, when we were both much younger) looks set to have to eat his hat.

Gotta love the resurgence of satirical comedy on TV in this country (at last). It's the only thing that has made the dire 'election campaign' bearable.

There is only one seat that I am pleased Labour won. People of Bradford West deliver the bloody nose the cat deserves. Old Friend BW of that Parish, and Quite Old Friend BW of his previous Parish, will be delighted.

But, I can't disagree with this analysis of the elephants in the room.

My local constituency hasn't yet declared, but I hope the 78-year old incumbent gets a shock when he sees how his majority has shrunk (Update 06:20: sadly it didn't; UKIP now second largest party, but all gains came from the LD; 71.4% turnout). Utter arrogance throughout the campaign, refusal to attend any hustings, because he was told when they were rather then asked when he'd like them to be, and then a 'don't forget to vote' leaflet appearing through the letterbox at 9am yesterday, with the message, 'please feel free to take this leaflet to the polling station to remind you who to vote for'.

What will Dave say to Queenie I wonder? "Do you think your Newzoid cross-country skier is better than mine Ma'am?"


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.