Monday, February 19, 2018

Day 18 and 19: SA 2018

Dearie dearie me. It seems to be raining everywhere we go, even in the middle of nowhere - that is, currently, the dusty far edge of the Klein Karoo (now our third visit to this tranquil spot).

It's warm rain mind, but extremely loud thunder and exceedingly bright lightning. Scary when all the other noises around are bird noises.

[insert pictures when internet allows]

Magnificent thunderstorm yesterday afternoon... you see, I felt sorry for the farmer, who told us he'd only had 80mm of rain in the last 12 months, and most of that in 2 sessions of around 25 mm a time. You can't raise ostriches and sheep (most of whom look more like goats, but we are assured they are sheep) and grow seed for Europe with no rain.

[insert pictures when internet allows]

So much for 47°C last time. But, 25 to 30°C is really more pleasant, even though there is a glorious 40 foot diameter, 4' 6" deep swimming pool (the - very - old concrete water store for the farm, repurposed).

[insert picture when internet allows]

With no Moon at the moment, the night sky up here, where there is no light pollution at all, is even more wonderful than normal. There are so many stars visible that it is very hard to find constellations other than Orion, who always makes me laugh (as I've said before) as he is upside down here (it being the southern hemisphere).

Not only can we see the Milky Way, but also a second similar Milky Band, and a similar Milky Patch (no idea what they are, except stars - does anyone know? (CBATG)). We've only seen it the first night so far, as it's been too cloudy on the two nights since. But, we still have 3 more nights here, so hopefully clear skies will resume before we leave. If not, there's always next year.

South Africans seem very happy that Zuma is a thing of the past, and, reading the SONA text from Friday night, I can't say I disagree with them. Our Queen's Speech and annual government budget speech are not a patch on SONAs.

Posted at 10:19 AM | Comments (1)

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Days 15 - 17: SA 2018

We've moved on again. We've been in Wilderness, down on the south coast, for a couple of days. Actually as a stop-over to enable us to be in Sedgefield for the wonderful food and craft Saturday market.

This time we've been staying in a converted garage, at a house with a delightful huge garden (almost 'rain forest' in parts, although there shouldn't be rain forest here), and wonderful view over the mountains, and a cool swimming pool many metres down below:

The elderly lady owner delighted in telling me, yesterday morning as we went for a qick dip to start the day, that we had just missed her swimming in the nude. Fortunately, with a lifetime's experience of children telling me much more than I ever wanted to know, I just smiled and said, "Oh, glad it's not just me who does that when there's no-one around!"

We found an 'art exhibiton' in the large 'hotel'. The best thing was a cushion that wasn't actually part of the display. An interesting way of joining small pieces of furnishing fabric, the opposite way to normal, then pulling out the side threads.

Given the out-of-focus-ness of this picture, I think we must have partaken of too many wine tastings:

I was glad that Mr BW persuaded me to overlook the mis-spelling:

and try the pizza:

The best gluten-free pizza that I have ever had, anywhere. Pesto on the base, spinach, seeds, feta, chilli, pine nuts. Delicious.

We went up another gravel road to see a special place we enjoyed last time we were here in 2012 - Map of Africa:

I was dismayed to note the new luxury houses that had been built (LHS) since our last visit. Nothing is sacred anywhere it seems. Developers greedily consume what should never be for sale.

Luckily the beach has not yet been built upon; yet:

The weather here is rather more overcast and cool (low 20s) late afternoon than normal, and it has rained during the night for the past two nights. Time to get some provisions from the local market and head north to the Karoo. It was 47°C there last year.


Thursday, February 15, 2018

Days 12 - 15: SA 2018

Staying just outside Robertson, the third largest wine-producing area in SA. We've been through here many times, but never stayed, until now.

There is less of a water shortage here, but it is still much less green than we've seen it in the past, and any crops/vines not being irrigated are just not thriving.

There is a recent huge increase in 'things' for tourists to do, and many more places for eating and drinking. Not what we like doing really, so it just pushes us more off the tourist trail and up more gravel roads.

But we still like the 'farm stalls' - producers' outlets, with rather more authenticity than in the UK. Here we are having a sit down before buying a new broom:

And here is another that speciaises in pumpkins. They also do amazing pickled onions with chilli, a jar of which we have already demolished.

We counted 101 bats in 20 minutes coming out of the roof of the far end of the building we are staying in (picture below). That was the evening after the evening of the biggest thunderstorm we have ever seen outside of the Tropics. Quite scary actually. I was tempted to go and sleep in the car (it being a Faraday cage) rather than in a metal-roofed building.

This was the garden, during the storm:

38mm of rain fell in four hours as the storm wandered up, down and around the mountains. The power went off 5 times, according to our host who seemed to like counting things, and drawing maps for us with directions to the best local vineyards and gardens:

On our way out, down the long and gravel road, one morning, we found first a dead tortoise (which I refused to let Mr BW 'collect'), then two tortoises fighting.

The big one had flipped the smaller one on his back and was biting him viciously.

Mr BW righted the smaller one and moved him a few yards off the road, but the big one then came over and overturned him again before running off. Tortoise bullying. A whole new experience to add to our travel stories.

We then went to the local museum. The original old museum had fallen down, so the objets had been moved into a 70s portacabin in the grounds. It was very surreal. But with some beautiful several hundred year old patchwork, probably made out of worn-out garments cut up and stitched back together. One of the quilts was made of hexagaons the size of 10p pieces:

Later, we found a fantastic pottery in the middle of nowhere. I could have bought a lot of his work:

Much of the work was wood-fired, with a firing of his largest (of 4) kilns taking 5 tonnes of wood.

We liked this quote on the wall, which perfectly sums up the artist's lot:

There are many, many 'old' cars out here. We're told that there is no annual MOT test (apart from HGVs and PSVs).

Mr BW is making it his holiday's work to photograph the 'best' of these (hoping they will appear in some classic car mag I think), which is involving rather too many emergency stops and unexpected u-turns. This one (which had flat tyres) made me laugh, but only because of the (no doubt unconnected) sign on the wall. I don't think one needs to be a polyglot to get the gist:


Sunday, February 11, 2018

Day 11: SA 2018

Like days 9 and 10 really.

Without spiders, and with fewer tortoise sightings, but with just as much doing nothing, wine and yummy local produce.

We both failed miserably in the 'know your wine' blind rosé tasting competition that we held between our three favourite pinks. I knew there was an after-use for those silly sleep mask thingys you get on planes.

Still mid-30s by day and mid 20s by night. And this isn't even the hottest bit: that's still a week away.

Posted at 11:11 PM | Comments (0)

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Day 10: SA 2018

Host 1, south of Cape Town, asked us for some English rain. It had to wait until we left, but the delay on the spell worked well, and she emailed to say that they had nearly 1cm overnight on Friday/Saturday, and it was soft and persistent, so excellent for gardens. I aim to please. Every happy clappy church pastor is claiming the downfall for himself, but I know the truth, and I do my good works for free.

Oh, and, Capetonians, I've found where there is a supermarket that still has plenty of 5 litre containers of water. I'm not telling you where it is though, because some of you would be daft/greedy enough to drive the 200kms to get some to add to your stockpile.

On the subject of drought, Z spotted a letter in The Times last week, and kindly sent it over via carrier D'Ove. Just like the electricity crisis of 2 years ago, the current dire water situation was predicted but the ruling Party did nothing about it:

One of the things we like best about holidays is buying produce from little roadside stalls and markets.

In the middle of this surreptitiously taken picture is the watermelon:

That later became watermelon and feta salad (something I saw on a menu somewhere and fancied trying out):

It had lots of black pepper and a fig vinagerette dressing that we bought in a vineyard somewhere else, but that was lots too sweet (to our taste), although the dish was still delicious. I think a bit of finely chopped chilli, with lemon juice and olive oil would be better next time.

Talking of condiments, I could not resist buying a tub of mustard when I saw some in a supermarket. It is plastic, and has a 'sprinkle' side as well as a 'pour' side. It will be added to my collection of various sorts and sizes from over the years. Surprisingly, it is produced in RSA, cheaper than in the UK, but less hot.

We watched an episode of 'Inside the Factory' recently, in which they looked at mayonnaise and how it differs from country to country. The best-selling local variety here had 17 different e numbers, so I bought Hellmann's. While ostensibly having the same ingredients as at home, it was a totally different colour, and a 'whipped' consistency:

A knife in our current thatched cottage made me smile, and wonder about who had purloined it and why:

Mr BW spent the day tortoise torturing:

Well, he'd probably call it studying tortoises (in the interests of future wood carving projects), but the tortoise didn't look too impressed by all the photography of all sides and all orifices.

And finally, dinner, on our patio, under the stars, by the mountains. Complete with almost-finished BW blue string bag.

Posted at 10:10 PM | Comments (5)

Friday, February 9, 2018

Day 9: SA 2018

Because we stay in out of the way places, often on farms (which, unlike in the UK, are lots cheaper than accommodation in towns - our present 2 bedroom, 2 bathroom, huge well-equipped kitchen, thatched cottage, with lavender and rose edged huge garden, and pool costs £36 per night - less than a Travelodge), there are often bees:

This time for pollinating blueberries (much greener and healthier than the ones we attempt to grow at home):

Because of the long gravel road, and the heat,

And the long gravel road, and the heat:

We haven't felt the need to explore this new area every day - although we shall return next year - and have been doing lots of swimming, relaxing in the shade, and doing not very much except eating and drinking and enjoying the peace and scenery, and marvelling at the person who restored this place (a writer, 3 owners ago, we have deduced from old books lying around the place), planting the trees exactly where shade is needed, and positioning the spring water pool perfectly for both sun and view.

We made a delicious dinner with the hake we bought in the local fishing town: flash fried in butter, with capers, lemon juice and black pepper added before popping on a lid for a couple of minutes. It was better than any restaurant offering (not that there is a restaurant nearby):

And in the evening 4 bats came out to play (too zippy for a picture), and a spider (of unknown type and venomosity) was found dead on the kitchen floor next morning. I called it 'prawn spider'.

With apologies to arachnophobes.


Thursday, February 8, 2018

Day 8: SA 2018

Several South Africans that we'd encountered on our travels had asked us to pray for a good outcome to the State of the Nation Address (SONA) that was due to take place on 8th. We didn't like to disenchant them with our ideas about the efficacy of prayer in such a situation, but a spell or two managed to postpone the eventuality, while not affecting the delivery of the budget speech on February 21 (budgets/prudent annual spending are very important to the future of South Africa after all).

Given the unrest and protests in Cape Town 2 years ago (when a protestor was stabbed in front of us, just outside a museum, when we were unwittingly there on SONA day), I think that the Chair of the National Council of Provinces, Thandi Modise, was not wrong when he said, "... there is little likelihood of an uneventful joint sitting of Parliament this coming Thursday."

As it says in the linked article, "The new date for SONA is now very much dependent on the outcome of ANC president and South Africa's deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa's discussions with President Jacob Zuma about what is termed the "transition", otherwise known as Zuma's resignation."

We all live in interesting times.

Apparently they have been expecting me:

The nearest place to here is Velddrif, which isn't very near here at all, but it does have a quirky fishing museum:

It was curated somewhere around ten years ago by someone with an interest in model ships and a new laminator. We love SA's museums: they are unfailingly interesting, and the focus is always on objets (which delight) and social history (which fascinates):

We took a peek at the fishing port, but there wasn't much to see. The whole area here is very sparsely populated (and so perfect for us):

We then tried to go to see the Paternoster lighthouse, in the middle of a nature reserve, but missed it as it opens from 8am to 3pm and it was 3.15pm. This was the best shot I could get:

But, down on the nearby beach, Mr BW found me a substitute glass lighthouse, which just qualified for my collection of sea glass (ie no edges still sharp enough to cut):

I also found some tortoise shells (hold on to this idea, it will become important in a couple of days):

On the way back to our blueberry farm, through miles and miles and miles of mostly flat and arid countryside, I spied a new wind farm on the horizon (actually, we flew in over this last week, but I missed getting a picture, so I was pleased to see it in person):

Two years ago there was an electricity supply crisis, with a rolling daily programme of power cuts across the Cape, and, finally, they are getting on top of that - rather than burning diesel to make electricity, there is an increasing incidence of PV panels on roofs, and wind farms in suitable areas.

In the evening, Mr BW decided to put on one of the programmes he had downloaded to his laptop. This was something I studied for A Level English, but hadn't re-read or re-heard since. I knew as soon as he told me what it was that he wasn't going to like it. But, it was oh so appropriate for today.


Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Day 7: SA 2018

It's hard to believe that it's a week since we got on that plane. We have been so busy, and it is incredibly hot, even by usual SA standards.

The second spooky coincidence of the trip: the owner of this 1831 reed-thatched cob and stone built cottage (smells divine, more divine as the day goes on and it heats up) in the middle of nowhere, in the middle of a blueberry farm surrounded by rocky hill/mountains, 9km down what South Africans call a 'gravel track' - but I call a dust track with added boulders to test your driving skills (don't worry, we always buy excess damage cover in the UK for £30 to cover all hire cars one hires in a year, rather than pay the hundreds that they want out here for extra cover-all insurance) - moved here 7 months ago from the last area we stayed: and she knows our friend the owner of our first stop (and her daughter worked at the school where first owner's husband is the Principal).

The owners here have even provided me with a cauldron:

I don't know what this is for, but we have seen them before by old ranges in old homesteads.

We have been far too busy for the first six days, so today we did nothing except swim in the pool, drink beer, drink wine, sit in the shade and read a book (him) and start some black/redwork-type embroidery (me) (with blue thread, naturally). My Patchy Ladies are really into this at present, and, needing something to do on holiday, I cannibalised some of their books of designs (the less cutesy ones as I'm not keen on hearts or lettering), and added a few bits of my own, to make something fitting to us:

I think the thread I am using is really a bit thick, but it will have to do as it is all I have, and we are 40 miles from the nearest shop, and I just know it won't sell embroidery cotton.

The pool, although small, is perfect: set amongst citrus trees, with mini-mountains on every horizon, you can smell orange blossom as you swim rather than the usual chlorine. It is totally silent, apart from the (many) birds.

Despite near-desert conditions all around, there is plenty of water (enough to water the plants and water blueberries in net tunnels) so I'm OK for a bath and clothes wash now. Thankfully.


Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Day 6: SA 2018

We were sad to leave our first base, south of Cape Town, as we are now, 5 visits there on, firm friends with the owner, who shares our interests. Her garden (one acre) was still lovely, as her friends without gardens are saving their greywater for her to use on the garden. She gets more excited about every delivery of used shower water than she ever would if you gave her any other present. I feel the same way about my friends who give us jars, boxes and egg boxes to re-use.

This is breakfast in the garden:

I can't say that I was sad to leave the gallon cans behind though. In case of doubt, the label says, "Rainwater/greywater to top up the cistern." Any water from the shower or bath is caught at the bottom and the maid fills up the containers and brings it back up again for its second usage.The water then goes to the septic tank, and then out of the spreader drains underground into the garden.

A new fruit out here this year is 'nectacot' - as you'd expect, a cross between a nectarine and an apricot. Divine.

Coming to a Waitrose near you soon, no doubt.

On our way 2 hours northwards to our next stop (an area we haven't explored before, near Citrusdal), we noticed an area of green among the desert-like landscape. Turned out it was an organic vineyard. Which wasn't as lovely as it sounds. It's very very rare to find a naff vineyard; in fact, in six trips, this is the first. The only thing even vaguely to our palate was the cheapest wine they had - a 40 rand (£2.35) a bottle white. Definitely not coming to a Waitrose near you soon.

Did I read somewhere that it's snowing at home?


Monday, February 5, 2018

Day 5: SA 2018

We were tasting wine in our second favourite small vineyard in Franschhoek today, chatting to the owner, who we have known since our first trip out here in 2012. He told us that sadly, the South African wine production this year was likely to be just half what it usually is, because drought equals low grape juice yield.

Franschhoek is always ahead of other areas in starting picking due to its climate (it was 39°C there today: blisteringly hot, with no breeze). He said he had picked two blocks of different varieties in the last week and one was only a third of the normal quantity and the other was under a half. For small vineyards, for whom grapes are their passion and their livelihood, this sort of bad year can put them out of business, whereas the rich vineyard owners (the majority - many of whom just play at winemaking) just throw more money at the problem.

"Where are you going next?" he asked. We reeled off our next couple of stops, and he said that we'd be hot. "Not as hot as the farm near De Rust where they grow seed and raise ostriches!" we said, and recounted the story of our first year there, in the old homestead, with no air conditioning, and how we'd had to fill the hot water bottles with cold water and put them in the freezer to keep us cool in the night. "But, this year," we said, "we'll be OK because we're in the old schoolhouse which has air con."

At the mention of 'old schoolhouse' he looked pensive, then asked the name of the people.

Not only did he know them, but he goes cycling all over the world with our farmer and a couple of other friends. Last year, while in the swimming pool (actually the old concrete water dam) with our farmer, he'd told us all about a cycling trip to Northern Spain that he'd made where he'd given the other team members all ostrich feathers from his farm to wear in their hats. Lo and behold... our winemaker had a picture on his phone of them all together, on their bicylces, complete with feathery hats.

The vineyard and the seed farm are 500km apart. The only thing connecting them, as far as we were concerned, was that we had visited them both several times because we like how they think, how they approach life, how they treat their workers, and the way they do business.

How strange that, firstly we should happen to mention where we were going, secondly that he recognised the place from our description, and thirdly that they should all be good friends.

Sometimes the world is scarily small.

And sometimes the internet is too slow to upload pictures. Drat.


Sunday, February 4, 2018

Day 4: SA 2018

Scarborough Beach:

[insert picture of fabulous white sand, turquoise water, wavy waves, when the internet allows]

Favourite Restaurant (Michelin star quality, 6 courses, with a bottle of wine for £30 a head):

[insert pictures of fabulous plates of delicious cuisine, when the internet allows]

It's usually mid 20s when we are in this part, near Cape Town, which is why we come here first to acclimatise. This year, though, it is closer to 30° every day, with much less cooling breeze straight off the sea. I don't usually approve of wet wipes (far too environmentally unfriendly), but, given the water restrictions, I'm glad I brought lots out... they're a life-saver. Perhaps I'll have to start keeping them in the fridge.


Saturday, February 3, 2018

Day 3: SA 2018

Hermanus is two hours by car from Cape Town. We like Hermanus Market, which is a gorgeous craft and food market, full of real producer-makers, held every Saturday morning at the cricket ground, from 8am. We're not going to be anywhere nearer to Hermanus on a Saturday this year, and so it was that we found ourselves in the car shortly after 7am, despite having had two busy days.

On the N2, we saw a truck with a dead body balanced on the tailgate:

Then, just as I was taking this picture, the body moved. Ahhhh...

Almost the first thing I saw when we got there was the local version of what we have been fighting at home for the past two years. I got chatting to the people. "What is causing this here?" I enquired. "Over-population, greed, and a lack of understanding of the countryside by city types!" came the reply. "Are you a mind-reader?" I asked. It seems destruction of the environment is an endemic problem.

This one is to remind me to string up some of those long dangly things with holey stones and shells from a previous trip, when we get home:

All the fresh veg are locally grown:

Having banned Mr BW's Hand from the house (I think it now lives with the cats in the workshop), I am now haunted by carved hands.

This one is to remind me to use bicycle wheels in creative ways (I need to source some first, but I'm sure that an APB to my various crafty group ladies will work a treat - quite a few grandchildren might not have wheels on their bikes, thereafter, but my need is greater than theirs...):

A few miles east of Hermanus is Stanford, a quaint olde-worlde charming, not too touristy, village. We managed to locate a place to stay here for next year. Every year we stay in roughly half revisited and half new places, and because we are very fussy, we like to research a year ahead, in person, rather than online, because online can be so deceptive.

We didn't go in the internet cafe, but its wooden signs (there's probably a by-law) amused me.

The temperature is well over 30°C, but with a cooling breeze off the sea most of the time.


Friday, February 2, 2018

Day 2: SA 2018

This year's visit to my favouritest garden in the world:

The flowers are wonderful, the wine is wonderful, the weather is wonderful, 50 litres of water a day is a challenge (but doable, and quite fun, in the short-term, providing one reuses grey water for - occasional - toilet flushing), if only technology wasn't giving me grief, and slowing down and frustrating my efforts, all would be well in Witchy World.


Thursday, February 1, 2018

Day 1: SA 2018

Ah, I've missed you so much my Table:

It was worth the 6,500 mile journey.

Bright blue skies, 23 degrees at 9 o'clock in the morning, and a reassuringly small number of kilometres on the hire car (and some quite nice numbers). Time to change all that...


Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Despite the recent appearance of snowdrops, I've had enough of English winter and English politics (national and local)

So, we're off to check that Noluthando and Kate aren't killing each other.

Plus, in order to restock my Witchy Powers, I need to be flying at the time of the super blue blood moon, as my own besum is currently muchly battered from over-use.

There will be updates, internet permitting (which sometimes it won't).

There won't be much water though (50 litres per day per person, for everything; what fun): "Climate change and massive growth in population have been blamed for the water crisis," - it'll happen here (at least in the south/east) within the next 50 years, for all the same reasons, you mark my words.

Posted at 10:21 AM | Comments (7)

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Double Trouble

These two white lumps really scare me.

They sit on top of the external boiler (situated outside our bedroom window) every morning and stare in at us menacingly.

They refuse to wear collars: I don't know how many they have lost between them, but it's many.

I can't tell which is which just by looking (I used to rely on collar colour), and they are only distinguishable because one makes annoying cat noises when she is near you and the other doesn't.

They eat and eat and eat. No other cats we've had have ever eaten the way they do. Or been as fat. Their mother was tiny and petite. Their father was a gigantic bully. Who says genes don't count?

I dread to think what these two sisters are plotting...


Friday, January 12, 2018

Dear Nanny State: Part 1

Why does every official announcement make it seem like we (the public) are at fault these days?

Plastic: manufacturers and retailers (which is chicken and which is egg?) put things in plastic, not the consumers (who, much as many of us would like to buy unwrapped produce, can no longer do so).

It's not our fault, as consumers, that there are (soon to be were, in the UK and Canada) plastic micro-beads in products and that the price (environmental as well as production) of packaging on many products is more than that of the product itself.

Someone has let this situation happen and proliferate.

And what about glitter? I spied more glitter than ever on FOTCR™ cards last year, and in 'party' cosmetics.


Tuesday, January 9, 2018

But what about the germs?

I can't remember a winter when so many people are/have been ill.

I am utterly convinced that it is because people do not understand how germs spread and multiply.

I shudder every time I watch people eat and drink in the street, or in cafés, without having washed (or used disinfecting gel on) their hands. I cringe when watching people put shopping in trolleys with hands that haven't been washed for hours, or watching people put their shopping away when they get home before they have washed their hands... so moving and spreading possible contaminants around.

How many surfaces covered in multiplying bacteria have those unwashed hands touched, and how many other people's hands that have been sneezed or coughed into, have touched those surfaces?

I am constantly shocked by how many people don't wash their hands when they have used the toilet, and how many people cough and sneeze into the air, rather than into their hand or (preferably) their sleeve.

And now, to cap it all, people are increasingly being encouraged to carry round their own mugs (covered in bacteria from normal use that will multiply as the day goes on) for people in cafés to dispense drinks into. Bacteria transfer off mug handles and rims onto machinery used to make drinks, and onto food handlers' hands, ready for onward transmission. Much as I don't like all the waste from disposable beverage cups, I like the idea of unwashed, bacteria-incubating, reusable personal mugs even less.

British MPs shouting for a 25p levy on disposable drinks cups seem to be failing to understand basic rules of hygiene.

Remember - MRSA lives on the skin of 1 in 30 people: often in the nose. MRSA spreads through:

- touching someone who has it
- sharing things like towels, sheets and clothes with someone who has MRSA on their skin
- touching surfaces or objects that have MRSA on them

I wonder what the advice to food handlers will be next time they have to renew their Food Safety in Catering Award training?

I'm glad I don't buy drinks out of the house, and always take my own mug to regular meetings (village hall washing up is too often a 'lick and a promise' and a wipe of a grubby tea towel) as my immune system just isn't up to battling bacteria it doesn't have to.

And don't get me started on office or school staffroom mugs...


Sunday, January 7, 2018

The earth is flat

Everywhere I've been recently has a feeling of 'flatness' about it. Everyone, en masse, seems to be totally devoid of any spark or drive.

I've been in rooms with groups of usually lively people, and in shops which are usually humming with energy, which have just felt flat. When I voiced this concerned observation to my Patchy Ladies last week, everyone heaved a sigh of relief and, without exception, said, "I thought it was just me!"

I cannot remember a time when I have felt less energy coming off people.

At times in the past when things have been fraught, there were great uprisings of negative energy: the Jarrow March (1936), protests against road building, and against the siting of nuclear missiles at Greenham Common (early 1980s), and the miners' strike (1984-5).

No-one seems to want to really protest these days. Signing online petitions and re-posting others' comments on social media really doesn't count.

Why aren't people more angry about what is going on (or not going on, depending on your point of view)?

Is it because they are being over-medicated to remove the natural highs and lows of emotion?

There are no official national figures specifically about incidence of clinical depression, but the media would have you believe that 1 in 10 of the UK population takes anti-depressants, and, of those, 8.3% have a diagnosis of clinical depression. More of these live in the east of the country. There is now one prescription for anti-depressants written for each and every person in the UK, which is double the number of scripts written ten years ago.

Britain is now in 4th place in the international 'consumption' tables: behind Iceland, Australia, and Portugal.

Ah, the power of Big Pharma, to whom the NHS gives over 9 billion pounds of the nation's GDP every year.

After all, what is there to be unhappy about in the world currently?

The lyric line, "North Korea, South Korea, Marilyn Monroe," seems to be stuck in my head. The Korean War began on 25th June 1950.

I blame it on Trump and King Jong-un's 'my willy is bigger than your willy' contest this week.

In 1989 Billy Joel chronologically listed 117 events from 40 years of history (without meaning or comment) thus:

Harry Truman, Doris Day, Red China, Johnnie Ray South Pacific, Walter Winchell, Joe DiMaggio Joe McCarthy, Richard Nixon, Studebaker, television North Korea, South Korea, Marilyn Monroe

Rosenbergs, H-bomb, Sugar Ray, Panmunjom
Brando, "The King and I" and "The Catcher in the Rye"
Eisenhower, vaccine, England's got a new queen
Marciano, Liberace, Santayana goodbye

We didn't start the fire
It was always burning since the world's been turning
We didn't start the fire
No we didn't light it but we tried to fight it

Joseph Stalin, Malenkov, Nasser and Prokofiev
Rockefeller, Campanella, Communist Bloc
Roy Cohn, Juan Peron, Toscanini, dacron
Dien Bien Phu falls, "Rock Around the Clock"
Einstein, James Dean, Brooklyn's got a winning team
Davy Crockett, Peter Pan, Elvis Presley, Disneyland

Bardot, Budapest, Alabama, Krushchev
Princess Grace, "Peyton Place", trouble in the Suez
We didn't start the fire
It was always burning since the world's been turning

We didn't start the fire
No we didn't light it but we tried to fight it
Little Rock, Pasternak, Mickey Mantle, Kerouac
Sputnik, Chou En-Lai, "Bridge on the River Kwai"
Lebanon, Charlse de Gaulle, California baseball
Starkweather, homicide, children of thalidomide

Buddy Holly, "Ben Hur", space monkey, Mafia
Hula hoops, Castro, Edsel is a no-go
U-2, Syngman Rhee, payola and Kennedy
Chubby Checker, "Psycho", Belgians in the Congo

We didn't start the fire
It was always burning since the world's been turning
We didn't start the fire
No we didn't light it but we tried to fight it

Hemingway, Eichmann, "Stranger in a Strange Land"
Dylan, Berlin, Bay of Pigs invasion
"Lawrence of Arabia", British Beatlemania
Ole Miss, John Glenn, Liston beats Patterson
Pope Paul, Malcolm X, British politician sex
JFK, blown away, what else do I have to say

We didn't start the fire
It was always burning since the world's been turning
We didn't start the fire
No we didn't light it but we tried to fight it
Birth control, Ho Chi Minh, Richard Nixon back again
Moonshot, Woodstock, Watergate, punk rock

Begin, Reagan, Palestine, terror on the airline
Ayatollah's in Iran, Russians in Afghanistan
"Wheel of Fortune", Sally Ride, heavy metal, suicide
Foreign debts, homeless vets, AIDS, crack, Bernie Goetz
Hypodermics on the shores, China's under martial law
Rock and roller cola wars, I can't take it anymore

We didn't start the fire
It was always burning since the world's been turning
We didn't start the fire
But when we are gone
Will it still burn on, and on, and on, and on...
We didn't start the fire
It was always burning since the world's been turning
We didn't start the fire
No we didn't light it but we tried to fight it
We didn't start the fire
It was always burning since the world's been turning
We didn't start the fire
No we didn't light it but we tried to fight it

Billy Joel - We Didn't Start The Fire

Ah, I wonder what events Billy Joel would come up with if he updated the lyrics for the last 30 years?


Friday, January 5, 2018

For those who like nostalgia and who remember the registration numbers of all the vehicles they have owned...

For a few years now, it's been possible to discover whether a vehicle you have owned still exists, by putting its registration number into one of the 'buy tyres' websites.

Just in case I'm not the only one in the UK who didn't know that there is now an official way of finding out lots of info about the history of any car... DVLA now have a tool that checks the past results of a vehicle’s MOT tests, including:

- if it passed or failed
- the mileage recorded when it was tested
- what parts failed at each test, and if any parts had minor problems ('advisories')
- when its next MOT is due

You can only get results for MOT tests done in England, Scotland or Wales since 2005, and it doesn't tell you that a car has been scrapped or has a SORN (but you can deduce this from the info given).

But it's lots of fun. And a good memory test. This morning I remembered the last two of the registration numbers from all the cars I or my family have ever owned that I couldn't completely recall yesterday.

As well as the obvious uses, it's good for easily checking how many miles you cover a year as I read recently that 90% of people over-estimate the mileage they will cover (and so over-pay) when they buy or renew motor insurance.

It also pulls information from another database to tell you whether there are any outstanding manufacturer's recalls on a particular car.

Happy searching!


Thursday, January 4, 2018

A bunch of fives

This is my third significant number anniversary in the last 18 days.

First was my 55th WitchDay, followed by 25 years since MrBW and I met, and now today is the 15th BlogDay of BW.

I have been giving some thought to what to write today, without coming to any conclusion.

But, in the eventuality, any thoughts I might have had about ways to link 15 years ago and now have been overtaken by events today.

Long-term readers will know of my loathing of Tony 'War-Criminal' Bliar. Much of my writing 15 years ago was commentary on the appalling events he presided over. Events which undoubtedly caused contributed strongly to the chaotic situation in Britain and the world today.

Over a quarter of an hour of Bliar being squarely trounced by John Humphrys on R4's Today this morning (starts around 8.10am on this link) made my day. It really is time that he stopped trying to re-invent himself, and detract attention from the past damage he has done, by interfering (unasked?) in current events.

A few minutes after this intertrounce, while delving in the BW archives to find an early post (which can now only be done via searching from the posting page), I discovered the following, supportively sent to me 15 years ago by someone (sadly now deceased) involved with us in a difficult situation of the time. Undoubtedly not original, even at the time, but still so fitting to so many current situations both locally and nationally:

1. Get yourself elected (?) to a post by fair means or foul.

2. Once in post browbeat everyone else into accepting your point of view and no other.

3. At meetings do not listen to what anyone else is saying and/or interrupt them at every opportunity and talk them down until they give up.

4. Impress upon everyone your importance both past and present, implying, even if not actually saying, that industry and every activity, even the country, would have collapsed but for your intervention.

5. Go in for name dropping in a big way and if anyone ever mentions someone in an organisation always name another higher up the ladder who is, of coure, a personal friend of yours.

6. Always mention your wealth, whether real or imaginary, because wealth always impresses.

7. If democratic decisions are taken at meetings, always ignore these if they do not meet with your approval and continue with your own agenda.

8. Always decry the efforts of your predecessors and always emphasise how the organisation has deteriorated during their period of office, even if it hasn't, and in true politician style gloss over any imperfections that might have existed during a time when you earlier held office.

9. Pay little regard to the limitation of duties covered by your post and usurp those of other people to gain control.

10. Always remember that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

At the time I first posted this, I said,

"Why am I expending so much effort on agonising about a voluntary role, which has taken up about 2000 hours of our time over 6 years, something from which we have nothing to gain, in any way, at all? Why? Because I believe passionately that if *someone* doesn't do something about situations like this, and *everyone* waits for *someone* to do *something*, then no-one does anything except accept the inevitable. I should just say fuck you and walk away. At the moment I am sorely tempted.

We did eventually walk away from that one. But, of course, that situation has just been replaced by others. Which of course are more important than that one was.

15 years on, and the only conclusion I can come to is:

Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose, as Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr said in the January 1849 issue of his journal Les Guêpes (“The Wasps”).

But, 15 years on, thank you to everyone who has read, commented, and maybe even continues to read, despite the ongoing decline in frequency and quality of posting.

As I've been saying for 15 years, a blog without comments is just a website.

So, do drop a 'hello' in the comments, and say how long you have been reading (and don't worry if you get a strange message - it's just the elderly software misbehaving - I'll do a spell and your comment will appear later).

Posted at 10:15 AM | Comments (9)

Monday, January 1, 2018

In which the year starts badly...

Last night we were in bed and asleep at 9pm (me) / 10pm (Mr BW), and, for once, there were no fireworks to rudely awaken us at midnight.

This morning we were up bright and early to take Mi1dred out with her friends. We met at the usual church, and were welcomed/photographed by the local villagers.

We set off in two groups of about 20 cars each, down some very narrow lanes that, as usual on these trips, and despite living here for over 20 years, we never knew existed.

At one point we spotted members of the other group coming towards us, but we had been pre-warned that the two routes crossed over, so were not alarmed.

Mi1dred had been rolling along purringly, and sounding happier than she had for ages. When you're in your 85th year, you do suffer from the odd grumble, leak, and rattle, especially if you are a car.

However, she clearly hadn't been listening to the announcement in church about the cars crossing over (unsurprisingly as she was waiting outside in Church Lane with her friends), and clearly thought that we were cheating her of a chance to catch up with the Old Girl Gossip.

She was not happy.

She made some odd noises and lost power, causing Mr BW to have to make a rapid stop. Not an emergency stop because those are not possible when your car only has string brakes.

And so it came to pass that the next hour was spent in a cold and grey country lane in the middle of nowhere awaiting rescue and looking at how muddy this usually dry part of the country has become in the last couple of months.

Luckily we had an old satnav that helped us identify where we were, warm coats, thick gloves and water. Unluckily, to cut down on weight, Mr BW had taken out the stove, and the fold-up chairs, that we usually carry.

Recovering Mi1dred clearly made the truck driver's day, and we saved half a gallon of fuel getting home.

Strangely, when we were outside the church searching Mi1dred for a pen to tick off the route directions as we completed them, I lifted up my seat and found a new head gasket underneath. "Hmm," I thought, "that will come in useful!" Not, "that could come in useful!" but, "that will come in useful!" Not at the side of a narrow lane though.

Ah well, working it all out and taking it apart and putting it back together will keep Mr BW busy for a few days...

Happy New Year

This year I am giving up a professional/personal lifetime's worth of attempting to make sense of the world and am taking a much more simplistic view.

I shall henceforth be adopting the wisdom of the ages, and becoming even grumpier, and saying what I think, out loud, rather than trying to be encouraging and inclusive, and spreading understanding (I always wondered at what age that happens, and why, and now I know):

"Can a world exist without stupid, ignorant, lying and selfish people? No. Then learn to never be surprised by them."

- Marcus Aurelius


Sunday, December 31, 2017

Through 2017 in one picture


Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Let there be snow...

And there was. Enough to cancel all local bin collections and all the planes. Hurrah!

Thanks for the help with the spell Scoakat!

You can now officially be a Witch's Apprentice.

Take care with those new powers now (and wishing for the painful and rapid demise of your President would not now be a good thing to do...;))

Posted at 10:17 AM | Comments (8)

Tuesday, December 26, 2017


Monday, December 25, 2017

Posted at 10:07 AM | Comments (2)

Sunday, August 13, 2017

The latest in 'political correctness' gone mad

After years of neglect, County Councils local to us are now busily 'surface dressing' roads.

That is to say, shutting roads for a day or two days (at what seems less than the statutory road closure notice period), and throwing down some rocks, stuck down with a thin skim of tar, and waiting for the traffic to roll the rocks into the previous surface.

The cheapest contractor tendering gets the job, and the Councils' Legal Departments have already written the reply letters denying any responsibility for the inevitable broken windscreens. 'Act of God', not 'Act of Council'.

In the last couple of days we've noticed temporary yellow signs proclaiming, "Road studs removed".

After a couple of minutes of thought we have come to the conclusion that either,

(1) cat welfare charities have complained about the use of the phrase "cat's eyes" in this context,


(2) there are now so many 'migrant workers' around here that someone has decreed that the phrase "cat's eyes removed" will cause confusion,


(3) the term "cat's eyes removed" will give local yobs even more ideas for mischief,


(4) the person making the signs couldn't decide where the apostrophe was correctly placed (and, I would have placed it differently, were it not for this: surely it is 'the eyes of cats' (therefore apostrophe after the plural) not the 'eyes of a cat' (so apostrophe after the singular) as one cat has only two eyes and there are thousands along a stretch of road?)

Whichever, Percy Shaw must be turning in his grave.

But, they are all being replaced, apparently.