Wednesday, April 8, 2020


It's been rather busy at the end of the drive in the past couple of days.

The sheep have learnt to escape from their field.

Numbers 14, 17 and 42 are the worst mothers, from Farmer Bernard's point of view, but the best mothers from mine. I haven't yet told him that we're not going to be wanting their flesh.

The boldest ones even came in, and were bleating at the front door:

While we're at that location, here is our nice electricity/telephone pole, and my nice glass insulators. It's all ours, as we are absolutely the end of that line:

4 beautiful old glass insulators:

I shall put a note on the pole saying, "If you have arrived here to change the glass insulators, please knock on the house door first." That should guarantee I get to keep them, because they do change them sometimes, and have done so along many stretches over to the west from here.

Talking of notes on things, the post box now has the following message:

Unfortunately, it has only been heeded once as there was no post on Monday and none today, and no deliveries at all since Sunday (when the DPD man arrived in a small removal van).

The delivery system is clearly grinding to a halt, as we know there are lots of each expected, and we haven't had anything in the redirection since last Friday.

Does anyone know how often Royal Mail forward letters subject to redirection, in normal times? We have on average probably 8 to 10 pieces of mail a day, and so far we have had just 3 plastic wrappers of redirection in 3 weeks. I know that it isn't being delivered at Coven Sud, so it is obviously hiding somewhere.

We have never had so many birds, of so many different sorts, anywhere either of us have lived. A bullfinch was eating the buds off one of the old plum trees. Naughty bullfinch. This shot taken in haste, through a window:

The only bird missing is a robin. Which is quite an omission, so I'm keeping the bird feeders filled (2 whole large feeders of mixed seed are being consumed every day, plus peanuts, niger seeds and fat balls), and hoping one or two may chance along.

Today has been gloriously hot and sunny, which makes up for Sunday, when the rest of the UK seems to have had sun - while it was sunny first thing, we then had strong winds.

Today Mr BW cleared some rather nasty plants out of a strip of soil along what will be the vegetable garden, and we've temporarily heeled in the 50 raspberry canes that arrived 2 weeks earlier than I expected, from notes on the suppliers website.

I've been sorting out the area where Bodgit and Coverit (the previous owners) once had a stone built-in BBQ area. An awful lot of old rubbish, but also some good pots (clay and plastic), and piles of crock, sacks of old charcoal, a large tub of bonemeal (wet, but tip off the water and the rest should do for nourishing something), and various other useful metal shelving and grid-work. Amongst everything, a preserved peacock butterfly wing, which perfectly matches the house's stonework, with a bit of bright BW blue thrown in:

It's a sign, I tell you, a sign. Of what, I've no idea, but it's definitely a sign.

Wasn't the super moon last night wonderful?

This taken through the conservatory glass, at around 5am. It was almost as light as a dull day.

We have realised that The Black Feline Familiar, fearless in the face of squirrels, mice, and foot-long rats, is scared of sheep, and lambs. Given the 390 fluffy neighbours, she'd love to be kept in. But, as a life-long outdoor cat, now in the most rural area imaginable, it's just not going to happen.


Monday, April 6, 2020

Preparing to kill the elephant

In between other tasks (mostly me needing assistance with things I'm doing), being unable to work on the bedroom where the wall ended up on the floor, Mr BW has been working on what the estate agent described as 'Bedroom 2' but I describe as 'Soft Textiles Room'.

Mr BW probably calls this endeavour, 'getting this room done so BW's 2 cubic metres of prepared fleece can get out of the room next to the garage/workshop so BW stops going on about it taking on the smell of old dog (which persists even after 4 shampoos with special pet odour removal shampoo), despite it being wrapped in polythene storage bags'. And yes, it really is 2 cubic metres of sheep fur, as the plastic bags are sitting inside two of those builders' bags that are made to hold a cubic metre of sand or aggregate.

This room is currently painted a colour known as 'Elephant's Breath'. Much as we like elephants, we don't like that colour. At all. And it makes the room look dark, and grubby.

The skirting boards were also nasty and thin, and covered in drips of Elephant's Breath emulsion by the previous owners, Bodgit and Coverit (who, for once, unfortunately appear to have done - tried to do - the job themselves, rather than pay someone else to).

So the skirting boards came off. Along with a couple of inches of carpet all the way round (the nasty brown carpet will be replaced once one can buy carpet again, and will then become weed suppressant in the garden, but for now has to stay for insulatory and dust-prevention purposes), and the carpet gripper. The floorboards underneath aren't even, and why would anyone lay a good quality carpet on good quality underlay, without first boarding the floor, to make it even? Given that they definitely weren't on a budget, Bodgit and Coverit Logic is beyond me.

The room that had the wall on the floor now doesn't (my Dyson was saved by some quick online searching for a 'workshop vacuum cleaner', which was not only cheap, and arrived the next day, but Mr BW says is excellent), and Mr BW is using it to paint the lengths of skirting board before attaching them to the wall.

Luckily we used Luton Van Trip North 1 (about the 12th of March I think, so well before 'lockdown', but, having been closely watching docujournalism of the lockdown in China, I had a Witchy Feeling where things were going) to visit a DIY shed and pick up lots of long and bulky necessary things.

And here is a piece of the new skirting board, more in keeping with the age of this house, in situ.

Things have advanced more since these pictures - including single electric sockets being doubled, and phone points being moved to get rid of miles of nasty old wiring - but I don't have any more up-to-date photos, and I'm posting from 'Bed in the Lounge' (as I'm absolutely knackered), so they will have to wait.

Oh, and the radiator will eventually be changing too as this is an original 1974 one which is beyond salvation.

I keep hearing on the news about people being bored and at a loss for things to do. I wish I was those people...

Posted at 10:08 AM | Comments (2)

Sunday, April 5, 2020

News from t'North

We're loving the news coverage right now.

At last, we have some real people, who are experts in their field, and not the usual media monkeys (def: those who have undergone extensive media training and have learnt how to convincingly not answer a straight question, and to say exactly what they came on to say, irrespective of the questions asked by the interviewer). And also, lots of inspirational good news stories, that one rarely sees. Very refeshing.

It's also interesting to see what the various correspondents and journalists are choosing as their 'backgounds' when they are broadcasting from their own homes. Bookcases seem to be the choice of many, and we're enjoyiing playing 'Spot the Billy!" Our TV definition isn't good enough to see what the actual books are, but if it was we'd be playing bingo with various titles.

I'm sure that in future, journalists and others will deliberately 'style' an area of their homes to broadcast from, to future-proof. It is difficult if you haven't planned: a couple of years ago, Mr BW was asked to do a piece on a local issue, from home, but we couldn't find anywhere 'suitable' (there are lots of no-nos, not near windows being one, and both Covens have lots of those as I require large windows and lots of light at all times) so in the end he took the journalist/cameraman to the Council Offices. He'd done a previous article for them on the same subject from outside, where there are plenty of suitable backdrops (in this case, the runner bean forest, as I recall), but to find a suitable area inside was much more challenging.

Glimpsing inside lots of homes at the same time as we watch the news is giving us lots of good ideas as we try to work out how we're developing this old house. Interestingly, given that most Councils are severely restricting services, the Planning Departments of the Councils I've checked are still operating. I think that probably tells people all they need to know about where the world is heading.

Also, the Sunday moring A to Z of TV Cooking (available on iPlayer here, if you are in the UK) is great for kitchen design ideas. One just has to see past John Torode... although, in this case, at least he's only doing the links.

Anyone else finding anything good in the present 'interesting' situation?


Saturday, April 4, 2020

Missing the Buzzy Familiars

While Mr BW was putting in the letter box a couple of days ago, I saved a Queen Bumbler who was seemingly dead on her back on the conservatory floor.

At this time of year, it is very easy for bees to get chilled when they fly. Bumblers will fly at much lower temperature than honeybees (who rarely fly below 13°C), so are much more vulnerable if the temperature suddenly drops, or they get trapped somewhere and can't fly back to their nests.

A tiny bit of honey, diluted 1 to 4 with warm water, and fed off a shiny spoon (for warmth and because bees like seeing other bees, even if the other bee is themself):

And then 20 minutes of hand warmth, followed by a bit more diluted honey:

After half an hour, I put her outside on a warm rock, and she soon flew away. I hope I'll see her offspring all summer.


Friday, April 3, 2020

Spot the difference

If you ever wondered what is inside a UPVC door, here you are:

Cuts like butter, with the right power tool.

Why anyone would have a front door without a letter box beats me. There was (is) a black cast mail box to the RHS of the door, with a key always in it so that the postie could leave larger items. Not very secure!

Now, all we need to do is train the postie to put stuff through the letter box. Today is Day 4 of the door having a letterbox, and he still hasn't noticed! Habits of a lifetime...

"Zoom is malware"

...says an article from yesterday's Guardian newspaper.

" researchers have called Zoom “a privacy disaster” and “fundamentally corrupt” as allegations of the company mishandling user data snowball.

On Monday, New York’s attorney general, Letitia James, sent a letter to the company asking it to outline the measures it had taken to address security concerns and accommodate the rise in users.

In the letter, James said Zoom had been slow to address security vulnerabilities “that could enable malicious third parties to, among other things, gain surreptitious access to consumer webcams”."


"A number of security flaws affecting Zoom have been reported in the past and as recently as this week. In 2019, it was revealed Zoom had quietly installed a hidden web server on user devices that could allow the user to be added to a call without their permission. And a bug discovered this week would enable hackers to take over a Zoom user’s Mac, including tapping into the webcam and hacking the microphone."

The basic problem seems to be that there is no end-to-end encryption (and Zoom lied about this, when promoting its product).

BBC News' version of the story.

More disturbing info on where your meetings could end up.

Don't forget the piece of tape over your device's webcam, when you're not using it...


Thursday, April 2, 2020

Future imperfect

Has anyone thought about how soon we are going to run out of non-food essentials in this country?

We've been ordering a lot of stuff online the last 20 days.

A lot.

Mr BW is doing a lot of projects, and I am forward planning and resourcing. I'm predicting that this lockdown will be at least 12 weeks.

We have had more than 60 deliveries. The local delivery men are loving us. We are keeping them in work.

But, over the past couple of days, the delivery times, and the range of product available online have hugely increased/deceased. Some stores now have 'virtual queues' whereby you have to wait up to half an hour to actually get to the front of the queue to even be allowed onto their website.

Much of our 'stuff' in the UK is currently made in China. China has been on lockdown for many weeks, so goods have not been made. The goods are shipped here, in containers, on cargo boats, and much freight has stopped, for lack of crew, or for other reasons.

Many of the 'spare parts' we use in the UK come through Europe, and most flights have now stopped (and a significant amount of freight comes into the UK on passenger flights).

It won't be long before not only can you not get a tradesman/technician, but, even if you can, they won't be able to get the parts needed to mend basic appliances such as boilers, cookers, washing machines and similar.

Now, remind me, why was it that all those British manufacturers and engineers went out of business?


Wednesday, April 1, 2020

This sheeplet knows the answer


Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Of broadband, greens, and death

You can always rely on BT to cock things up.

Yesterday we officially took over the phone and broadband line here (although it's a new phone number and, unfortunately, a different line) - the moving date having been changed so many times and their systems being so bad and so incapable of being changed, that we had to have 4 separate orders, and each has its own minimum time scales. We also had the joy of over 14 hours on the phone to them. Great service, huh?!

The previous owners don't yet know that they have been paying for our service for the past 18 days, because they couldn't be bothered to do their own cease process on the line (money's clearly rather easy-come easy-go to them, as we have discovered with many other things, a subject I will no doubt return to in the future), but, given the filthy state of the house when we moved in, if they dare say anything, or demand repayment, they will be treated to a BW Special Speech, and a few Home Truths.

And so it is that we went from a previously stable 2.65MB line (slow but adequate) to a highly unstable 0.8MB line (frustratingly inadequate). I have been through solving this problem so many times at Coven Sud (where we had similarly slow speeds until December 2019 when going onto 'superfast fibre' gave us a whole 6MB), that I know exactly what it takes to solve the issue. However, BT technicians are now only working at their own exchanges, and at their own area cabinets, and not in people's homes until after June 1st, at the earliest. Imagine the backlog of 'problems requiring home visits' by then!

If there was anyone other than BT who could provide service here, I'd be with them. The Government's Gigabytes for Rural Areas programme has now been put on hold indefinitely, so no hope for a quick fix there either.

I've already lost half a post this evening. For posterity, I update the cases/deaths figures in the 11th March post, "Some BW-checked facts" most days, and the connection dropped half way through reposting, and I lost the second half of the post in the process. Luckily, Mr BW still had an unrefreshed tab of BW open, so we were able to salvage it, and I've re-inserted the links. But that took the better part of an hour. ctrl/c, ctrl/v always used to be my friend, so it's back to that again.

Today has been a day of Mr BW ripping off more plaster and skirting boards, planting seeds (yep, we grabbed all the seeds and seedlings Mr BW had already sown as we locusted Coven Sud to get stuff up here a week ago), burying our first deceased at Coven Nord Familiar (an old brown hen, who had been sad and droopy for ages, who we didn't expect to see when we returned from SA, let alone to even make it up here), and lots of small but important other jobs.

Found a nice swiss chard, chickpea and mushroom curry recipe online earlier: I had a found at the back of a Coven Sud cupboard, last week, half packet of 'well out of date but still tasting fine' cashew nuts (well, OK, they were actually sell by October 2016), that got fried up with the mushrooms and added in too. I doubled all the spices, and the garlic, and used turmeric instead of garam masala (which I don't have up here), and it was yummy.

Before we left Coven Sud, I went round all the greenery beds and polytunnel and chopped all the carefully-nurtured, for eating about now, chard, kale, cabbage and brocolli/purple sprouting down almost to the ground and put the removed leaves into 6 huge poly bags. All are still fine in the fridges, and should last several more weeks yet. I couldn't bear to think of them all going to seed during our enforced absence, after all the work that had gone into getting them to this stage.


Monday, March 30, 2020

I knew before

The Black Feline Familiar decided that she missed sitting in the road outside The Coven, so spent an hour on guard in the gateway. In that time she saw precisely no passing traffic.

Don't you just love my very old glass insulators? Not a very good picture of them, there, though. I'll see if I can get a better one for those who like such things.

While I was attending to the paperwork that has built up, Mr BW decided it was the day to strip the backing of the vinyl wallpaper off the walls in the biggest bedroom. I had been putting off getting round to this, because I knew how this game ends. I chose not to enlighten Mr BW, though, as I thought he deserved a surprise.

Back in 1985, I did up a farm cottage in Somerset, and, on several occasions stripped wallpaper.

And then the top layer of plaster skim, where the steam of the wallpaper stripper makes it pop away from the sub layer.

And then the lower plaster layer starts falling off. And before you know it, the whole wall is on the floor.

And you think, "Shit, why did I start this job?" Especially when the local tips are closed and plasterers aren't working.

At least this time there was the reward of discovering the name of the original plasterer - Robbie - and the date - 1974 - which fits with what we already knew of when the property was purchased as a wreck, from the local Estate (we suspect that it was sold to pay death duties) and renovated by the previous but one owner.

There are other things written, but I think a wax crayon and a large sheet of paper will be required to read them. I have the paper but probably not the wax crayon.

Luckily we don't have any buzzy familiars up here yet, as this (which is very partial to b33 larvae) spent half an hour banging its head against fat balls. Which no other bird seems to like.

However, as buzzy familiar keepers, we are now the fortunate owners of a movement permit. Whether or not it will work to allow us to travel 300 miles south to tend to them we don't yet know, but it does say we have the right.


Sunday, March 29, 2020

Sunday snowday

On Wednesday and Thursday it was 18°C and I was wishing my shorts weren't 300 miles away.

Today it snowed. Thank goodness I planned ahead and ordered half a tonne of coal and 1200 litres of heating oil as we moved in. It's still bloody cold though, and I can't wait until we can make this place more environmentally friendly, and better insulated.

I now know the name of the CEO of every company I have ever ordered from.
Some of them are more literate and empathetic than others.

A couple of weeks ago Mummy Mr BW told us that she was having trouble getting shopping as the Co-Op down the road, where she has been a faithful regular shopper since 1957, was being locusted by people who had never shopped there before in their lives. It has taken her (over 80) until today to get a supermarket delivery slot: and then she's shopping for 3 other friends too (all over 80, but unable to procure their own slots). Why?

Now, I find myself in the same positon. Aldi Wines has been locusted by every wine-drinking person in the UK, such that absolutely nothing is now in stock. Half an hour ago, they still had the £16+ range, and champagne, in stock, but now, nothing at all.

I've been buying from Aldi wines since they started (tipped off about the Quality and Value by Mr Old Friend BW who worked in the industry)... but, do I get preference? No. I totally understand how Mummy Mr BW feels about her local Co-Op now (and yes, my tongue is firmly in my cheek as I type this).

Here's a picture of another of the 360° views from Coven Nord - this time, from the 'drive' - Brian used to fill a quarter of our drive in the south, now he just looks an insignificant spec (and this is from half-way down the tarmac area, which will soon be under attack by Mr BW's new kango-hammer).

It's a half mile return trip to where our bins are, out on the main (minor) road (single track with a few passing places if you don't mind taking your chance on boggy verges). Bin Day is Monday, and Mr BW had just taken the rubbish down when I remembered we'd forgotten the vinyl wallpaper we stripped/peeled off the biggest bedroom walls, a couple of days after we moved in, on a whim, in the 7 minutes before The Archers started. Cue another trip down to the bins.

But, seriously, who'd put vinyl wallpaper on the walls of a 300+ year old house? And they wondered why there was a damp problem...

And no, that's not Hadrian's Wall, just a bit of drystone.

Today has been a bit of admin: registering online for the Electoral Roll, Council Tax, and TV Licensing, plus a bit more cleaning, reorg and unpacking.


Saturday, March 28, 2020

Sheep, cats and cupboards

Yesterday Mr BW was moaning that Roger the Farmer had put a big white bucket just the other side of our hedge, right in the way of his panoramic photos.

Today he had changed his mind.

"Do you think," he wondered, "that he put the bucket there so we could watch the lambs?"

Meanwhile, having seemingly got over her initial fear of the sound of ewe baa noises and lamb bleatings, the Black Feline Familiar has ventured out of the garage through her new cat-flap, and is making out that she owns the place. In between attempting to be a house cat, and creeping in every time the connecting door is accidentally left open, which is quite often.

I'd rather she started sorting out the extensive bunny population, and indeed bunny was her favourite food down south (she left just the skin connecting the legs and sometimes the tail), but she seems to suddenly prefer cat food.

Today we've been doing some higher order sorting: rearranging the kitchen cupboards, putting stuff back into Brian, putting away laundry etc etc. It's got much colder again, but there is always different weather on each of the four horizons, so if we don't like one sort, there are three others to choose from, if we just do a quarter turn.


Friday, March 27, 2020

14 days on

Tonight we are thanking our lucky stars that we found a way to break the deadlock in our house-buying process, and get moving, after 18 weeks of dithering by the legal teams working for the vendors: we've been here for two weeks now.

Today the housing market has been officially closed down by the government for an indefinite period (no-one is allowed to move house) so our push to ‘just get it done’ proved the only way.

Coven Nord is over 300 years old (we have a map of 1711 where it is shown, but don’t yet know how much earlier it actually is), and so has a few quirks to get used to, not least the arrow slits in the walls to fight off invaders, which might prove useful in the coming weeks, as I am amazed at the amount of useful supplies we managed to get up here in one small hatchback car + Brian load, and two Luton van loads. Mr BW's skill at packing stuff into vans is unsurpassed.

We undoubtedly have more food, materials and equipment for renovations than anyone else for miles around (no 'panic buying', my stocks are always very high, due to living in the south-west, 23 miles from a supermarket, in my 20s), and definitely enough to enable us to remain totally isolated and busy for a couple of months if necessary. I've just found another 5 x litre UHT skimmed milk tetra-pak containers in one of the boxes that we brought up from Coven Sud on Tuesday too, so non-milk tea day has moved forward another couple of weeks. Addiitionally, we have pelleted hen food for 12 weeks, and 16kg of rice (Costco only had 10kg bags last week, so that is what we had to have) which could become hen food if necessary after that, so a ready supply of fresh eggs.

We are literally in the middle of nowhere. Totally quiet. And 17 miles from a supermarket.

Looking down the valley this morning (you can see for about 50 miles we're told):

Looking back towards the house:

Although the last two weeks have been nothing like the start to the leisurely 'year to two years' of ‘gradual move and renovation’ process we were planning, at least we are getting things done, and not having to hack up and down the A1 on a weekly basis, travelling between existing commitments in the south and renovations in the north.

The only things keeping us awake now are the bleating new lambs in the adjoining field and the need to look up at the clear night skies looking down the valley towards Yorkshire.

This all seems very distant and surreal:

Hope everyone is staying well, and keeping usefully occupied?


Thursday, March 26, 2020

Nutty day

Today has been another gloriously sunny and warm true spring day, and we have had 7 visits from separate delivery companies.

We now have 3 sets of caster cups, 6 water butts, 2 compost bins, 12 bottles of wine, a laundry basket, 2 sets of printer ink, a spindle of 50 DVD+Rs, and some other things I can't currently recall, more than we did at 10am. We're trying to keep online businesses going!

The internet has been our saviour for the last 13 days, and every single delivery has been on (or ahead of) time, polite, and friendly. And clearly they have 'local jobs for local people' around here. More than we ever got down south. And, the postie gets here, the middle of absolutely nowhere, 2 to 3 hours before our southern one. How?

The van was reclaimed by the Bolton office - what a long way for 2 people to come, but, apparently it is standard practice to share/reclaim vehicles between offices.

One delivery man rang and politely asked if we'd mind if he delayed our delivery until tomorrow as he was delayed by hospital deliveries. "Of course it's OK, no problem, why would there be?" said Mr BW, and the man sounded relieved. "You'd be amazed how many people have said I need to get there today!" he said. "Let's hope they're not those who'll need those hospitals soon!" replied Mr BW.

The Black Familiar was petrified of leaving the safety of the garage yesterday, and spent most of today 20 foot up a conifer, pretending she couldn't get down. Meanwhile, there are large and small bunnies that she needs to catch and eat, before they decimate our crops.

And tonight, we found that we have a nuthatch, to add to the long list of other birds that visit. My heart is happy.

We have a real bed tonight, for the first time in nearly two weeks. Rejoice.

How are you?

Bed situation

We had intended the Coven Nord/Sud project to last for around 2 years, with us being down south for Mr BW's Council and speaking/experience day commitments, and to care for the bees (who need looking at every 9 or 10 days all through the summer months), and up here to carry out renovation/development projects in between. We knew we had 3 years to stage and sell Coven Sud, in order to get our 'second home' stamp duty back. We had it all planned.

We have Brian up here, and intended to camp out in him when we couldn't sleep indoors for project reasons (there's a lot to do!). And, we had enough equipment in him to be able to survive for a few days up here on the first trip. He is incredibly well (if lightly) equipped, because micro-caravans have to be as they can't carry much weight. And, he does have a solar panel and a freezer box!

And then everything changed.

Everything Mr BW had in the diary was cancelled at a stroke, so we thought, hell, we might as well be happy but safe and busy in the north as unhappy and unsafe in the south. We hadn't intended to take our comfy beds from Coven Sud northwards until the removal men take the huge things out and up after we've sold.

But, quick rethink, and it became obvious that we wouldn't be able to get new beds delivered up here, as we'd intended (and these would have eventually been guest beds) in the current climate, so we took those we had.

Our comfy beds are still in the van outside. We hadn't got the strength to unload them yesterday.

We had to sleep on the floor again last night. Well, in my case, evening and night, as I was asleep by 5.45pm. Brian's memory foam mattress bits, which slot together to make a bed, are comfy, but rolling off/out of them isn't.

Mr BW's knees are at breaking point, and although I have offered him some of my special therapy support tape, he doesn't like the idea of having to shave his legs to use it. The whole of my body is screaming, "No, no more!" and I can't straighten my hands or fingers this morning.

We've only got until 2pm to get the remaining half van load off...


Wednesday, March 25, 2020

The Ladybird Book of COVID-19

In these sorts of situations, if you don't laugh you cry.

Can't credit whoever dreamt this up as the car forum where MrBW found it did not give the source.

Up and down

And we're back at Coven Nord again.

What was intended to be a down on Monday afternoon, fill the Luton van on Tuesday and finish off on Wednesday morning, back up late Wednesday, unload Thursday, before the van was collected from us at 2pm Thursday, leisurely jaunt turned into a mad, mad, 'let's not get detained down south, there'll probably be a 24 hour window before they're restricting movement' after the compulsory lock-down announced at 8.30pm on Monday night, just before we reached Coven Sud.

9pm Monday: arrived Coven Sud.

5.30am Tuesday: woke up, got up, started the mammoth task of cramming whatever we might need for an unspecified enforced northern sojourn/restoration project into crates, boxes and trays.

During day: in addition to packing, Mr BW watered greenhouses, polytunnels, planted out whatever seedlings would survive, and I gathered whatever gardening tools, trugs, wheelbarrow, seed trays, grow-bag trays, fleece, plant pots, seeds, seedlings and spare plants I could find - whatever would give us most food most quickly.

5pm: loaded 9 hens into hastily-improvised crates with plastic mesh lids (the plastic mesh was once fish pond covering), and put them on the top of the crates, wedged against the van's roll-up door. At the last minute, we decided to put their heavy metal mesh mini-run over the top, as it will be useful until we know whether all the Mr Bushies have been 'accidentally' killed by the local non-hunting hunt. Cleaner BW was looking after livestock while we were not at Coven Sud, and passes our house twice every day on here way to and from work, but, as she works in the NHS now, we decided it was completly unfair to expect her to be a hen-keeper as well as cope with all the pressures at the hospital now.

6.20pm: left Coven Sud. The only things missed out were half a tray of broad bean plants and a galvanised bucket of fully-grown carrots. They just could not be safely squeezed in.

11.45pm: it would have been the quickest trip up ever (5 hours), but for the detour around the arse end of the Metro Centre due to the A1N being closed. A surprising number of night-time closures for roadworks, and an abnormally high number of vehicles (including many camper vans - no idea where they are going, given all caravan sites are closed) all the way to Darlington, then it thinnned out a bit. With the limit on lorry drivers' hours temporarily lifted, there were a lot of very tired drivers around (as evidenced by trucks wandering all over the road, and trucks stopped on the hard shoulder with their cab curtains drawn, where clearly the driver couldn't go any further, even to the next rest area). All I will say, on the subject of driving while tired, is that it's amazing how many more miles per gallon a loaded Luton does travelling at 60 than 70mph, and it's surprising how much quicker it is to swap drivers and have a wee at the side of the road than in a service area.

Anyone who knows us will know that we are pretty good at being able to work together and get everything done, without explicit discussion, but this was truly the most amazing operation we have ever undertaken. We even, somehow, managed to load our beds, as, although Brian's memory foam bed is very comfy, getting up off the floor is not.

There are hens to unload, so must away...

(after unloading, we're having a rest/sleep/energy crash for a few days, so I should be able to get some pictures up: Mr BW tells me that we are up to 117 ewes with lambs now, and I have never seen so many different bird varieties in one place).


Monday, March 23, 2020


This morning I had a Witchy premonition. Sadly it has proved to be correct.

We are now at Coven Sud again, with the same large van we had last week. The plan was to fill it up with essentials to last us until the crisis is over, and return to Coven Nord on Wednesday afternoon. The original plan was to come down by car on Saturday, stay a week, then go up again.

Just before we got home we heard on the radio that we probably can't do that. We managed to fill up with diesel without queueing, but as we pulled away from the filling station, the queues were starting to form.

So, we'll just have to load up quickly tomorrow and get going again. At least we have solicitor paperwork to show our new address. Otherwise, having a rental van for several months, that we are unable to use, could be very expensive. We were told that the van would be collected from us at Coven Nord on Thursday afternoon, as the company (a large national one) were shutting many of their offices (including the one we used) tonight or tomorrow.

How do you choose what to take for an indefinite stay?



Sunday, March 22, 2020

Sunday roundup

The current virus situation all seems very surreal, up here in the middle of nowhere. The latest new regulations are here, in case anyone is interested. We have provisions and alcohol aplenty, but stocks are no higher than I usually have them, particularly now that we are 14 miles from the nearest shop.

We were meant to be returning down south next weekend, to attend to some business matters, and collect some further stuff to bring north, but who knows what will be officially allowed by then. We have plenty of decorating to be getting on with anyway, and Mr BW struggled to load 9 x 100 litre bales of compost (on a 3 for 2 deal) into the hired van while we were at Costco on Friday, so we have plenty for sowing seeds and filling pots.

It's been a gloriously sunny weekend, with the sound of small sheeplets talking to their fleecy mummies filling the air. Aside of this, it is so quiet that it hurts your ears. There are a few daffodils just beginning to burst, whereas down south, the daffs have been out for a month now.

It took 16 buckets of Flash + bleach, and 6 different microfibre mop heads, and two and a half hours during Johnnie Walker, to clean the kitchen/dining room floor. I thought that the tiles had a rather rough surface, but it turns out it was just dirt and dog hair. Mr BW cleaned most of the kitchen cabinets, and they were equally nasty. But not as bad as the fridge, which was the first thing cleaned, 9 days ago, when we got here. How is it 9 days already? I really cannot believe that professional people could leave a house so filthy. Or that, until recently, they paid someone £22.50 an hour to clean here. I thought the tiles were brown/grey. It turns out that they are actually blue/grey.

It's going to be cold tonight. There should be stars, for the first night since we arrived. Mr BW has set up my telescope. My observatory is currently the conservatory. I rather fancy one of those domed ones with slidey roofs in the garden. One day, if we can ever sell Coven Sud, and free up some money.

The black feline familar is being very cute. I've never heard her purr before, in all her 7 or 8 years (we can't quite remember) so she must be happy, despite still being confined to barracks. Mr BW has put a cat-flap into the back door of the garage, so tomorrow might be the day she discovers sheep. And space.

Hope everyone is staying safe, and finding interesting things to occupy any unexpected free time.


Saturday, March 21, 2020

Thoughts from an isolated, but not in isolation, house

Kenny Rogers dead and cononavirus madness. And people thought it couldn't get worse than Brexit.

I'm not seeing any element of 'normal death rates from flu/winter ailments + vulnerable people' in all the stats being bandied around. Baselines, we need baselines, for any of this mortality rate stuff to make sense.

There are now 4 confirmed cases in Numberland. Mr BW has helpfully pointed out that if people are eventually banned from travelling except 'home', we'll still be OK, whether we are travelling northwards or southwards when we are stopped and questioned. There has to be an upside to the slump in housing prices that will inevitably follow and will leave us out-of-pocket in both places.

Waitrose in Hexham was completely empty of all fresh fruit and veg (except for 10 packs of organic garlic and 3 chinese leaf cabbages), flour, frozen veg (except Birds Eye petit pois and Essential sweetcorn), soup, canned veg, water, all skimmed milk, all long-life milk and any paper products (including paper serviettes) at 4pm yesterday, when we popped in after we had we returned the van. The last time I saw this kind of emptiness was in 1991 in Romania, shortly after the end of the Romanian Revolution and the death of Ceaușescu.

And for those of you who doubt that Rothbury is an evil place, I give you further proof.

Why hasn't any mention of coronavirus been dropped into The Archers? The scriptwriters are usually very good at topical inserts, but they seem to have thought that their current explosive storyline shouldn't be diluted. Production has now been halted. I'm not sure how many weeks ahead they work, but they'll run out of episodes before the country runs out of cases I think.

Posted at 10:55 AM | Comments (1)

Friday, March 20, 2020

How I spent the first day of spring

Hard frost overnight and a glorious sunny morning, and breeze-less day, where temperatures didn't rise above 8°C all day.

Mr BW was concerned that several of the tiny new-born lambs seemed not to be with their similarly numbered mummies. "Did you," I asked, "never go to tea at a friend's house when you were young?" And I choose not to think any more about this analogy ;)

It took two and a half hours to unload the van. We started at 8am and were finished by 10.30am. Most things are now in their place, and it's beginning to come together.

We then took the van off to Costco (we are now nearer than previously to a Costco) to buy some more provisions (only one per for each item) and to get a large roll-y tool chest for Mr BW. £70 cheaper to buy instore than to get it delivered from online. He has a small such chest at Coven Sud, but it was either spend some Witchy Pennies or have a dining room coated in tools for the next 2 years. We also got 9 x 100 litre bales of compost (on a buy 3 get 1 free deal). Yes, this garden has it all to do, depsite one of the previous owners having once been director of a botanic garden, and despite us having been told they were leaving all the plants, they clearly haven't.

We got home to find had delivered out new fridge freezer. Apparently they have had a 600% increase in sales this week, compared to a normal March week.

I've eaten so many ibuprofen to numb my aches, pains and ripped shoulder muscle that I feel spaced out. Especially when combined with a couple of bottles of cider.

Has anyone ever moved a pussycat a long distance?

The black familiar, always an outdoor cat, who has probably never been kept in before, and may never have used a litter tray (I can't remember), appears not to have had a wee or poo since before we caught her, sometime yesterday morning. She has been eating and drinking, but I am a bit worried. She is also miaouwing pitifully to be let out of the garage. I've already told her that rabbits are fair game, but hares (of which I have already seen several) are not. I'm scared to let her out too soon lest she disappear and never return. We did scrabble her paws in the litter tray, when she first arrived, and several times since, but to no avail.


Thursday, March 19, 2020


We are safely up at Coven Nord again.

Another quick journey, although there were many more cars and perhaps double the number of lorries on the road as on Tuesday. Still not many branded supermarket lorries, mind.

We left at 12.30pm, and arrived around 6.15pm to a beautiful sunset. I am heartened that we have not lost our fabulous sunsets.

{insert picture sometime soon}

We left the A1 rather earlier than normal, and had a wonderful trip up the A68 from the top of County Durham to the end of our lane. The A68 is truly my favourite road in the whole country, and possibly the whole world (there are some mountainous stretches with amazingly coloured rock in South Africa that I love too). Where is your favourite road?

The black familiar moaned pitifully almost all the way up, but is now loving her new garage as it is warmer than her last one as the oil boiler is in there. Oh, and I bought her a pet bed - first time ever - usually feline familiars get bits of old duvet or old towels, and sat it on top of the boiler. I must be going soft in my old age.

We have enough provisions and DIY supplies for about 4 months, and I have just ordered another two dozen bottles of wine to go with the 18 that were waiting in the shed for our arrival. I also have 20 lemons and 10 jars of honey, together with probably 20 packs of assorted painkillers (I raided my stocks at Coven Sud, which were rather more extensive than expected), just in case. We know the important things in life.

So, once we have unloaded and returned the van tomorrow, we can safely isolate ourselves in our isolated rural house until we have finished the decorating and drawn up some plans for some extensions from all the photos we have taken of houses that have some features of what we are looking to do. Provided that our new fridge freezer gets delivered tomorrow as planned. Otherwise, it's a free-standing plug-in cool box, and plugging Brian into the mains and turning his cool box's thermostat down so that his cool box turns into a freezer.

Does anyone actually know anyone who has, or has had, corona virus?

The best infographic on differential identification that I have seen comes from Boots, adapted from WHO:

Another 'test' that I heard quoted from an Australian source is: breathe in for 10 seconds, hold your breath for a count of 4, then breathe out slowly for 10 seconds, and if you don't cough during the process, you don't have it.

Two tunes that keep going round in my mind are "Nineteen" by Paul Hardcastle, and "Germ Free Adolescents" by X-Ray Spex. I'm sure there are other appropriate tunes?


Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Always up for a challenge, the BWs are about to move the first major load, and one black feline familiar, North, in the middle of an epidemic

The BWs have also spent rather a lot of Witchy Pennies in various DIY stores in the last two days. Have you seen the price of paint recently?!

DIY stores, like supermarkets, are very very busy. As Cleaner BW (who used to work in a supermarket and now works in the NHS) said this afternoon, most of those "self-isolating" are taking the piss. Or, seemingly, redecorating their homes with their employer paying for their labour to so do.

How is it that the entirety of a 7.5 Tonne Luton Van (loading capacity approximately 25-27 cubic metres) is full, and Coven Sud doesn't look any different (give or take the Office which is now minus its fleece which makes it seem huge again)?

Hope everyone is avoiding bugs?

Next report with be from Coven Nord, hopefully tomorrow, if the internet is still on (long story, but, basically BT has now proved beyond any doubt whatsoever that it is utterly incompetent... but, 1 GB broadband, paid for by the taxpayer, is coming soon, to our boundary, we discovered a couple of days ago).


Tuesday, March 17, 2020

I know why supermarket shelves are empty

We left Coven Nord at 8.05am and had the best run south we have ever had in maybe 60 journeys: largely because there was absolutely no traffic on the A1.

300 miles in just over 5 hours (including stopping briefly to change drivers every hour - note that there is absolutely no sign of extra hygiene measures, or advisory signage, in motorway services) had we not stopped to collect nearly £500 of DIY supplies in Wickes on the way home (oh shopping, I love you, why have I not worshipped at your holy grail for so many years now?). If we're going to be stuck somewhere on lockdown, we might as well have enough paint, filler, skirting board, low energy light bulbs, new plumbing bits etc etc to keep ourselves out of mischief.

I had a great sense of déjà vu as I last drove a hired Luton van with a tail lift in 1985 when, having finished my year of studies in Cambridge, I moved myself down to the West Country, to begin my career in the educaiton world. On that occasion only one petrol pump was slightly damaged when I came in rather close as I filled up with fuel just prior to returning the vehicle. The girl in the petrol station turned a blind eye, and there was no damage to the van. But I still remember the sound. Power steering has greatly improved the drive, and even though much larger than Bri@n, it was much easier to drive than car + micro-caravan. And lorry drivers are ever-so-helpful at alerting you to when you can pull back in, having overtaken them. There is a real sense of camaraderie: large vehicle driver v car driver. I'm not after any of their jobs though.

But... the complete lack of the normal quantity of lorries on the road astounded me. The only food lorries in 300 miles were: Fresh Lincs x4, Co-Op x2, and Morrisons x1. The A1 is usually full of many examples of Aldi, Waitrose, Sainsbury's, and Tesco's lorries, but there was not a single one. I also only saw 2 Eddie's, whereas normally there are many tens of examples..

One can only wonder why.
So, are the empty shelves a result of retail manipulation?

"Don't panic buy!" say Official Sources in one breath, but, "Soon you won't be able to go out for 12 weeks if you are over 70!" in the next. And it's all very well Them saying, "Shop for vulnerable neighbours!" but if you're only allowed to buy one or two of most items, how are you meant to do that?

Posted at 10:22 PM | Comments (4)

Monday, March 16, 2020

Monday night summary

We've now been here 3 days. It seems much longer.

We left Coven South with Brian in tow, full of (we thought) 'light but essentials' at 7.05am on Friday 13th, and arrived here, having had to detour via the estate agents 20 miles away to collect the keys, at 2.45pm. There was very little traffic on the road for a weekday. Our solicitor moved our money to their solicitor at 9.25am, but it took them until 1.18pm, just as we were passing Angel of the North at Gateshead, for their solicitor to confirm receipt, and for us to get a phone call. It seems they were just as slow checking their client bank account balance as they were at producing and collating paperwork. Thank goodness there wasn't a chain - if it had been a long chain, only two or three people would have moved in on Friday.

AOTN has always been our, "Ah, we're on holiday, now we can relax," marker on our journey up the A1, so the timing of the, 'It's all yours!" phone call was hugely significant, and slightly spooky. 18 weeks to the day since we first saw the place: 15 of them unnecessary and stressful.

Apart from the car's engine management light coming on 12 miles from here (we ignored it, it went away by the next morning) all was good. When we came to survey how much Mr BW had actually managed to cram into Brian and the car, it was no real surprise that the car had done 44mpg rather than its usual 64+mpg, and that it had thrown a hissy fit. It didn't feel heavy, but thank goodness we had new brake pads and discs put on the car when it was serviced last October.

I have no real desire to ever go back to Coven South. This feeling has surprised me a lot. We had planned to live between the two Covens for a year of so, clearing South (and removing and relocating hundreds of plants and shrubs) before painting and staging it to sell, but corona virus and my (probably our) desire to leave that stressful and increasingly unfulfilling life behind asap has overtaken our plans.

In the 3 days that we have been here, we have done more cleaning than I've done in the last 29 years (since I first found out the wonder of house cleaners), more shopping than we've done in the last 10 years (at least), and met some wonderfully kind and helpful people.

Carpets have been vacuumed and washed, floors have been de-grimed and steam-mopped, the garage has been cleaned to within a inch of its life (took me all afternoon and half a gallon of bleach and a bottle of caustic soda to unblock the butler sink), Mr BW has changed 5 sets of external door locks, and I've cleaned a lot of cupbaords and bathrooms.

I couldn't leave a house as dirty as this was as I'd worry what the new people would think of me. I shall write more on this at some point soon. They'd left the light bulbs (although some were dead, and not one was low energy), but no loo rolls. So, Textile Friend down south won half her bet. There was half a turd left floating in one of the toilets too. How hard is it to check that a toilet has flushed properly before you walk away?

On Saturday, our first visitors, at 9.30am were two men with a washing machine. "We don't need one of those yet!" said Mr BW when I ordered it last Wednesday as soon as we had finally exchanged contracts at 4.30pm." "Oh yes we do!" I replied, and, oh yes we have. Luckily the dishwasher, fridge and cooker are all integrated, so, other than all being filthy (like the rest of the house), saved us a lot of money, at least initially.

One of the delivery men informed us we didn't have to sign for the washing machine, "Due to corona virus, you're not allowed to touch the gadget's touch screen," and the other took one look at our car and said, "That got 4-wheel drive?" "No, not yet..." I replied. "Best get it soon then!" he advised. The lanes are narrow, twisty, muddy and flooded, but not, at present, and thankfully, icy. We've discussed getting a 4WD once we've sold Coven South: I fancy an old Landie, but Mr BW has his eye on a Duster. Nothing pretentious for us.

The dishwasher filter looked like it hadn't been cleaned out for 3 years at least. I do ours twice a week at home, but then I do have a nose like a bloodhound, and an Essential Food Hygiene Certificate. And let's not mention the fridge - so much accumulated food debris and black mould that I only managed to spray it with bleach solution before feeling so nauseous that I had to get Mr BW to wipe it out. You wouldn't believe that the previous owners were academic biologists. There were enough bacteria in the fridge, dishwasher, bath and shower traps, and around the toilet bowls to kill the entire population of Numberland.

Our nearest neighbour (over a quarter of a mile away), Brenda, hiked round with a rucksack with generous gifts of a bottle of red wine, some just-made flapjack, and some coffee (we hadn't any at the time and she only drinks coffee). "Oh, I'll just put the wine with the rest, then..." she said on seeing the 12 bottles already on the kitchen counter. Wine was about all there was left in Hexham Waitrose on Friday afternoon, as the locusts had descended, but there was 25% off, which makes it the same price as more normal supermarkets. In the absence of ibuprofen to buy in the shops, red wine will have to do to anaesthetise my aching and exhausted muscles and ripped shoulder muscle (a year of sports massage every 3 weeks had just about cured that, then I unwisely stretched up to unhook filthy curtains from their curtain pole, and owww, owwwwwww, owwwwww).

I bought a few bits in a local southern supermarket, on Thursday last week, before we left, and saw people pushing, shoving, grabbing and taking items from other people's trolleys. I went to the nearest Aldi (14 miles away from here) for 10am when they opened on Sunday, and everyone was good natured and making the best of things. "Must be some jolly good Sunday Specials today!" quipped one man, and everyone laughed.

I had quite a trolley full, as there were some good buys on garden and household equipment that we needed eventually. I was aware of people looking at me, and confided in the lady behind me, "I'm not one of those panic buyers you know, we've just move 300 miles north and have nothing in the house, which has been left filthy, and we've only come up with a car and a small caravan's worth of stuff, as a first trip... I'm really aware that people are staring..." "Ah, let them look, don't worry pet!" she reassured, doing a great impression of Vera.

I asked the Postie, Malcolm, whether he'd be able to take any outgoing letters when he delivered (earlier than our Southern Postie) and he said, "Why wouldn't I love?" as if the idea that Posties don't take outgoings as well as leave incomings was bizarre. It took me right back to living in the equally rural south west in the 1980s. It's a good job as I think that our nearest post box is 4 miles away, at the nearest post office.

Farmer Friend who we've stayed with for a week every autumn for the past 15 years has found us a cleaner (actually, sharing someone who already works for him in various roles), but sadly she can't start until Thursday week. I cannot tell you what a relief that is.

We've hired a Luton van with a tail lift and are off the 300 miles back down south early tomorrow. The plan is to fill the van, then come back up on Thursday afternoon, and some lovely Friends From The North, met through blogging when they lived in That London, have kindly agreed to come over to help us unload on Friday morning. Mostly plastic boxes, some very large bags of sheep fleece and my material, a couple of side tables, some folding tables, a garden bench, lots of garden cushions, some gardening stuff (mostly plastic pots), and 4 armchairs (Mr BW's Mum has just had a refit and we've got the old ones, which is great for now). They are already in pieces, so not heavy. It's mostly bulk, not weight. Most of it is going into the garage and the office (next to the garage) and the van can reverse right up to the garage door.

Now, must get some sleep; I'm feeling rather hyper-active, and no doubt the crash from over-exertion is only just around the corner. It's all good fun though.

One question - we have some lovely birds (despite the previous owners taking all the - old, plastic, nasty - bird feeders - how could anyone leave their birds hungy?) , including a wren (so I won't need to catch and transport our one from Coven South) and a nesting pair of things unknown and previously unseen - between a sparrow and a thrush in size, russet head, white ring aorund neck, several shades of brown and black feathers, very pretty and very defined markings. Spreads tail like a buzzard when landing with nest twigs in mouth. Must bring a bird book back up when we return...

Posted at 10:20 PM | Comments (6)

Saturday, March 14, 2020

Proper Country Life

"The farmer has just delivered a sheep and two lambs!" exclaimed Mr BW, shortly after we arrived at 2.45pm yesterday (having left, with Brian in tow, at 7.05am, and having had to go via Hexham to pick up the keys from the estate agent, and to attempt to find provisions - clearly the Waitrose shoppers of Numberland have the same strategies as general shoppers down South: if it stores, buy it!).

"No, I think the ewe has just delivered two lambs!" I said, but to myself.
The farmer, and his son, on an enclosed quad bike, with trailer, had deposited a new mum and her offspring by the field gate.

I think that Mr BW might finally have become a full-time vegetarian, rather than just an 'at home' vegetarian.

I keep catching him outside, admiring the view, and the lamblets, with child-like wonder. I'd never thought that he's actually never lived in a livestock farming community before. They farm all around Coven South, but only wheat, oil seed rape, field beans, borage or echium, liberally and regularly dosed with lots of chemicals.

I'd lived in such communites, on and off, for much of my pre-Mr BW life. This feels totally like I have come home. Mr BW keeps saying, "I'm still not sure this is really ours... it feels like we are on holiday!"

Me, I feel completely and utterly at home. And, finally, after many years of increasing unease, and living in a state of hyper-vigilance ("What will happen next/while we are out/while we are away?) at peace. Now, I just want to magic everything up here, Coven South sold, and the hassles and nightmares of latterly moved-in developers and horrible new neighbours of South behind us.



Friday, March 13, 2020

And Northwards...


Wednesday, March 11, 2020


I noticed last week that our local Sainsbury's had hung out some flags from the ceiling by the tills. At that point they clearly knew something that I didn't.

After 17 weeks and 2 days of complete and utter hassle, frustration, cajoling, desperation, blood, sweat, tears, sleepness nights, swearing, and spells, we finally exchanged on the Numberland future home at 16:47 today.

It's been a horrible time recently - while we were on holiday in South Africa (with intermittent electricity, due to ongoing poor infrastructure planning by the ANC, and often poor internet connectivity) the Bastard Greedy Developer, who is buying up everything that comes on the market in our small hamlet, cut down the 3 acres of woodland 200 yards up the road from us (without permission or permits, and having been told several times by the District Council that he wasn't allowed to), and put up 6' metal fencing around the tiny, now empty bungalow next door to us (as our aged neighbour's 'family' - nieces and nephews - put him into care against his will and then sold his house to Bastard Greedy Developer who outbid everyone else, some of whom wanted to live in the house as it was), and removed the neighbour on the other side's tall hedge (their hedge), presumably to intimidate us all - because all his planning applications have all been refused and then turned down on Appeal to the Secretary of State. We live outside the village development zone, miles from facilities, so in an 'unsustainable' location, in an area where development has been officially planned against.

Yesterday I was standing in the road outside our house and Bastard Greedy Developer, who drives up and down the road, very slowly, numerous times a day (why?), came towards me in his £100K's worth of vulgar penis-extension car, accelerated (I'd say to nearly 60mph) and drove his car straight at me, swerving at the very last minute. I had my camera in my hand as I was taking photos of damage to the verges by over-sized lorries, for official purposes, but, unfortunately, I only got a slightly out-of-focus picture of the back of his car as it all happened so fast. I honestly thought I was dead, and I am still shaking at the thought, a day on.

Last night the vendor told us (by text) that he wasn't moving out. Well, it wasn't quite that politely put, but.

We concluded that he is a psychopath with an alcohol problem. Even our - very efficient and very measured - solicitor said, "I'm told he blows hot and cold..." which could only have come from the vendors' solicitor as it wasn't from us.

What we've learnt from this episode - never try to buy a house from a pair of Professors (particularly the male variety who is short, fat, and laughs nervously and overly-loudly at each of his many exaggerated/boastful utterances, and the female variety who has a serious clothes and shoe obsession - 43 pairs of designer footwear, in boxes, taking up the whole of a bedroom, and 4 wardrobes full of designer labels, mostly unworn and with purchase labels still attached): they just do not live in the real world, and have no grasp of the need to have proper documentation/regulatory certificates for alterations they have done to a dwelling, or for the siting of necessary facilities on land that they don't even own (hence the hold up as we are effectively cash buyers, and will sell later, or rent out, our current southern house, depending on how things go on).

We are moving in as scheduled (well, as scheduled for the 3rd time, the previous 18th December and 27th February dates having passed without discernible progress on the vendors' parts - we were ready to go after 3 weeks) on Friday 13th (that seems appropriate after all the hassle). *If* we can get organised in time. It's too late to hire a large van (none left to hire for the weekend) so we will take minimal and light stuff up in Brian and probably sleep in Brian if the house is dirty (as we fully expect), then leave the car up there, hire a van up there, come back Tuesday, load up again, then back up next Friday with more stuff.

No way can we now get a carpet cleaning company or even a cleaner to clean through, at a day's notice, so we will be busy... I have, however, managed to get a washing machine delivery for Saturday (thank you, and for the £30 off voucher that came through the letterbox with the post last week: that made up for the £30 price hike since I first looked at the machine online at the begining of the week ). And the weirdest thing - when I came to move on the date for the new house insurance while we were away, as it became apparent that the 27th February date wouldn't happen, I just spun the 'new date' wheel - and when I came to take the policy out tonight, I found that it had landed on 11th. Like Sainsbury's and their flags, someone clearly knew something that I didn't.

And yes, this time we really have hedged our bets. It is in a very rural, dark-sky area of 'High Landscape Value' where development won't be permitted. Just a few miles away from where we have stayed every autumn for the past 15 years, so we already know the area and have friends up there.

It's not the red blob, but rather the smaller blob to the NW. Our nearest neighbour is quarter of a mile away (and she's a lovely, interesting, retired lady who we have already befriended, and who has been 'spying' for us on whether the required items have been dealt with by the vendors).

It's on high ground, way above any burns or brooks, so no potential for flooding, 360° open rural views over stunning open countryside, with a south facing garden. It's 400m down a private tarmacked track off a minor road, with no overflying aircraft (or potential for future re-routing of same, as happened to us here, 4 years ago). And it has lots of potential. Lots. Enough to keep Mr BW out of mischief for several years.

But, we are back to a 1MB broadband connection - as of this week there is now 1GB available here. And the nearest supermarket is 13 miles away.

So, here begins the next chapter... and apologies for the cryptic comments in previous past posts and comments... I just didn't want to jinx things, after the debacle of our first attempted move north, 3 years ago.

Oh - and - it's got arrow slits, and appears on a 1710 map.

Posted at 10:14 PM | Comments (11)

Some BW-checked facts

I've just discovered that this year's "in'' colour (according to one source who pick a different colour to attempt to make trendy each year) is a variant of BW Blue:

I have no idea if this is feeding into the shops or not as I don't go to that sort of shop. But, it looks like I might be unintentionally trendy. Damn.

Looking at the list of 'Preoccupations of The Coven' that has been in the sidebar since early 2003, it seems the rest of the world are slowly coming to share my concerns. Except maybe the 'spelling' one, where things in the orthographic arena continue to deteriorate.

The rest of the world is having to come round to my way of thinking on hand washing too.

I wouldn't have wished the circumstances, let alone spelled them, but, I have long been horrified at the number of people who don't wash their hands after using the toilet, or touching their pets and then food, or not washing their hands before eating, or before putting food shopping away on returning home. People who get up in the morning and put the kettle on without washing their hands first also disgust me. Since 2012 when we first went to South Africa, I've always carried an anti-viral handspray in my pocket, and use it frequently when out, as there are fewer and fewer places to wash your hands. I've never willing kissed people socially either, as I've sat through far too many Environmental Health 'understanding bacterial spread' training films as I have to keep my Food Safety certificate updated.

I've been collecting links to websites of good factual quality as I am tired of the level of fakebook drivel that people are forwarding to me, 'Knowing you won't see this, thought I'd better pass the information on to you". I've given up replying other than with, "Do you really think this could be true? Here are some proper factual sources for you." All of my correspondents are older than me, most in their 70s, but it does worry me how easily they are duped. I'm actually quite disappointed that the hours I have spent discussing and questioning issues in their Crafty and Patchy company over the years has not led to an increase in their ability to critically appraise information. Perhaps it is the level of media-driven hysteria that is affecting their critical faculties.

I do think that the government were very slow off the mark in terms of providing information and biosecurity in UK airports. We came into Heathrow Terminal 5 on 21st February and there was absolutely no sign of either. Good Friends BW flew back into Heathrow Terminal 3 from Vietnam on 27th February and there was still nothing (they report having been temperature checked and health screened at every port and many public places in Cambodia and Vietnam from the time they arrived at the begining of February). Cleaner BW flew into Stansted from Tenerife on 9th March and there was still no screening and no information.

Number of cases of COVID-19:

As of 9am on 9 March 2020, 24,960 people have been tested in the UK, of which 24,641 were confirmed negative and 319 were confirmed as positive. Three patients who tested positive for COVID-19 have died.

As of 9am on 10 March 2020, 26,261 people have been tested in the UK, of which 25,888 were confirmed negative and 373 were confirmed as positive. Six patients who tested positive for COVID-19 have died.

As of 9am on 11 March 2020, 27,476 people have been tested in the UK, of which 27,020 were confirmed negative and 456 were confirmed as positive. Six patients who tested positive for COVID-19 have died.

As of 9am on 12 March 2020, 29,764 people have been tested in the UK, of which 29,174 were confirmed negative and 590 were confirmed as positive. Eight patients who tested positive for COVID-19 have died.

As of 9am on 14 March 2020, 37,746 people have been tested in the UK, of which 36,606 were confirmed negative and 1,140 were confirmed as positive. 21 patients who tested positive for COVID-19 have died.

As of 9am on 17 March 2020, 50,442 people have been tested in the UK, of which 48,492 were confirmed negative and 1,950 were confirmed as positive. The latest confirmed number of deaths will be announced later today.

As of 9am on 18 March 2020, 56,221 people have been tested in the UK, of which 53,595 were confirmed negative and 2,626 were confirmed positive. 103 patients in the UK who tested positive for coronavirus (COVID-19) have died.

As of 9am on 19 March 2020, 64,621 people have been tested in the UK, of which 61,352 were confirmed negative and 3,269 were confirmed positive. As of 1pm 144 patients in the UK who tested positive for coronavirus (COVID-19) have died.

As of 9am on 20 March 2020, 66,976 people have been tested in the UK, of which 62,993 were confirmed negative and 3,983 were confirmed positive. As of 1pm, 177 patients in the UK who tested positive for coronavirus (COVID-19) have died.

As of 9am on 22 March 2020, 78,340 people have been tested in the UK, of which 72,657 were confirmed negative and 5,683 were confirmed positive. 281 patients in the UK who tested positive for coronavirus (COVID-19) have died.

As of 9am on 24 March 2020, a total of 90,436 people have been tested, of which 82,359 were confirmed negative and 8,077 were confirmed positive. 422 patients in the UK who tested positive for coronavirus (COVID-19) have died.

As of 9am on 25 March 2020, a total of 97,019 people have been tested, of which 87,490 were confirmed negative and 9,529 were confirmed positive. 463 patients in the UK who tested positive for coronavirus (COVID-19) have died.

As of 5pm on 25 March 2020, 578 patients in the UK who tested positive for coronavirus (COVID-19) have died.

As of 9am on 26 March 2020, a total of 104,866 people have been tested, of which 93,208 were confirmed negative and 11,658 were confirmed positive.

As of 9am on 27 March 2020, a total of 113,777 people have been tested, of which 99,234 were confirmed negative and 14,543 were confirmed positive.

As of 5pm on 26 March 2020, 759 patients in the UK who tested positive for coronavirus (COVID-19) have died.

The figures for test results and for deaths are compiled from different sources. This is why the figures for deaths are reported from an earlier point in time than the figures for test results.

As of 9am on 28 March 2020, a total of 120,776 people have been tested, of which 103,687 were confirmed negative and 17,089 were confirmed positive.

As of 5pm on 27 March 2020, 1,019 patients in the UK who tested positive for coronavirus (COVID-19) have died.

As of 9am on 29 March 2020, a total of 127,737 people have been tested, of which 108,215 were confirmed negative and 19,522 were confirmed positive.

As of 5pm on 28 March 2020, 1,228 patients in the UK who tested positive for coronavirus (COVID-19) have died.

As of 9am on 30 March 2020, a total of 134,946 people have been tested, of which 112,805 were confirmed negative and 22,141 were confirmed positive.

As of 5pm on 29 March 2020, 1,408 patients in the UK who tested positive for coronavirus (COVID-19) have died.

As of 9am on 31 March 2020, a total of 143,186 people have been tested, of which 25,150 were confirmed positive.

As of 5pm on 30 March 2020, of those hospitalised in the UK, 1,789 have died.

As of 9am on 1 April 2020, 152,979 people have been tested, of which 29,474 were confirmed positive.

As of 5pm on 31 March 2020, of those hospitalised in the UK who tested positive for coronavirus, 2,352 have died.

As of 9am on 2 April 2020, 163,194 people have been tested, of which 33,718 were confirmed positive.

As of 5pm on 1 April 2020, of those hospitalised in the UK who tested positive for coronavirus, 2,921 have died.

As of 9am on 4 April 2020, 183,190 people have been tested, of which 41,903 were confirmed positive.

As of 5pm on 3 April 2020, of those hospitalised in the UK who tested positive for coronavirus, 4,313 have died.

As of 9am on 5 April 2020, 195,524 people have been tested, of which 47,806 were confirmed positive.

As of 5pm on 4 April 2020, of those hospitalised in the UK who tested positive for coronavirus, 4,934 have died.

As of 9am on 7 April, 266,694 tests have concluded across the UK, with 14,006 tests carried out on 6 April. Some individuals are tested more than once for clinical reasons.

213,181 people have been tested, of whom 55,242 tested positive. Today’s figure for people tested does not include Manchester and Leeds due to a data processing delay. The tests concluded figure excludes data from Northern Ireland.

As of 5pm on 6 April, of those hospitalised in the UK who tested positive for coronavirus, 6,159 have died.
As of 9am on 8 April, 282,074 tests have concluded across the UK, with 14,682 tests carried out on 7 April. Some individuals are tested more than once for clinical reasons.

232,708 people have been tested, of whom 60,773 tested positive. Today’s figure for test data does not include Charing Cross and Southampton due to a data processing delay. The tests concluded figure excludes data from Northern Ireland.

As of 5pm on 7 April, of those hospitalised in the UK who tested positive for coronavirus, 7,097 have died.

[to be continued]

BBC graphic of cases in Europe according to WHO as at 10.03.20:

UK Government guidance and case numbers.

UK Government regional figures for England.

OurWorldInData info from research.

WHO info.

BBC updates.

And if you really want to scare yourself, here is 37 minutes of docujournalism from Beijing:
Quarantine communist stylee.

And on other matters, erm, closer to home, no, no progress, so the exxxxtreme stress level of the past 5 weeks continues. Now into Week 18. You really couldn't make this stuff up.


Sunday, February 2, 2020


Couldn't not have a post today, with a date like that.

Despite it being 35°C, 80% humidity and a splendid thunderstorm last night and probably another tonight.

South Africa 0 - England 1 on that score as our Farmer Friend Host assured us that although it looked like it would rain, it wouldn't, as the wind was from the south, and it never rains on the farm when the wind is from the south, whereas we said we were English and we knew storm clouds when we saw them.

As of Friday we are back on 'load shedding' here again. Quite why they need power cuts due to an overloaded grid in the early hours of a morning, or on a Sunday is beyond me. We keep hearing snarky references to, "Well, that's Eskom for you!" on chat programmes on the car radio, so we assume that games are being played by the national energy supplier. At least this time there is an app/webpage that provides some sort of timetable, so one can (attempt to) plan one's electricity usage around it. Anyone would think this is a third world country...

Posted at 12:54 PM | Comments (3)

Thursday, January 30, 2020

SA 2020 Stop 2

After a hectic 6 days and 5 nights in Noordhoek, just down from Cape Town (local produce and food markets, wine-tasting, visiting gardens, seeing people drive over cliffs, and inhaling far too much welt-fire), we headed east and up a bit, to our next destination, also somewhere we have stayed before, so regular readers may recognise the views from the farm.

The journey is a little over 300 miles, and should have taken around 5 hours, but took 8, due to the never-ending road works this country engages in. I am convinced they are job creation schemes.

We stopped briefly to buy farm-grown fruit and veg at the PumpkinStall outside Worcester (pronounced with a ‘v’ not a ‘w’):

We were amazed that a year on (or maybe it’s 2 years on), there is still little progress on the replacement bridge at Robertson:

We stopped briefly again at Montagu to pick up our annual dried fruit import:

And then we were stopped again by a policeman standing dangerously in the middle of the road waving his arms, who informed me that he was doing a, “Random vehicle inspection madam, please, driving licences!”

I was initially in two minds whether to stop, as there was nowhere safe to so do, and he might have been a carjacker. I did stop, largely because Mr BW was shouting at me to so do, and there were several police vehicles on the side of the road (taking up all the safe space to pull in). As Mr BW got out to get the requested documents from the boot of the car, a township minibus (locals’ transport) nearly ran up the back of the car, and, had the policeman not stood up rapidly from where we was bending over to peer in the car window, would also have removed his posterior.

I refrained from saying, “It’s not me who you should be stopping mate, it’s your bloody countrymen who drive like maniacs - probably because they are as high as kites!” In the UK, without doubt, one of the other police vehicles would have given chase to the miscreant, but they were more interested in scanning the car’s tax disc and trying to work out our pink and green paper driving licences. Undoubtedly they’d never seen the like before.

“All is in order, you may proceed!” said nearly-cut-in-half officer. I doubt he intended to stop a hire car, particularly one containing foreigners, and he seemed most disappointed that all was in order.

On the subject of locals, the rebuilding of corrugated metal shanty towns is continuing apace. This settlement has been replaced since last year. What is amusing is that where there is even a tiny garden beside the new rendered brick building, a metal shack is put up in it. We can’t decide whether this is extra accommodation for relatives newly arrived from upstate, looking for work, or whether it is for old time’s sake:

When we arrived at our destination, a seed and ostrich farm in the middle of nowhere, having driven the 5 miles down a dirt road, we were met by a foreboding new electronic gate (the previous gate remains on the LHS, padlocked up).

Our farmer friend had emailed us the code, but it didn’t work. Mr BW tried it lots of different ways, then tried to phone for help (there not being a button to summon assistance), but there was no mobile signal. I tried to get the gate to open by squeezing through a gap and acting like a car (we knew it auto-opened on exit), but failed. Just as we were deciding whether to walk the half mile (in 35°C) to the farmhouse, or to drive back down to the main road to try to find a mobile signal, a worker on an old moped appeared in a puff of dust. “Must fast!” he repeated, several times. Eventually we realised that the number had to be tapped in very quickly, and the gate then magically opened.

This view you have seen before:

And while we had bats in the original farmsteading here that we stayed in the first year we came here, we hadn’t had bats in the old schoolroom, where we’ve stayed ever since. Bats at dawn (rather than dusk), in fact:

We love wending our way through the countryside, picking up locally made or produced foodstuffs for our meals. Here we have lunch of local sweetcorn, olives, 100% rye bread, curried peach chutney, gouda with wild garlic leaves, and beer:

It’s definitely too hot to be trying to work on a complicated crochet pattern. I needed something light in weight to bring to occupy me while Mr BW reads his 13 books, and had only this home-spun fibre to hand, and, being rather special, it needed a delicate pattern. Here I have (I think?) already done one increase too many too quickly (and I haven’t had a drop of wine or beer since yesterday!):

Definitely not a pattern to be done when anything other than completely sober… meaning that I shall either (a) drink less than normal in SA, or (b) not get this item finished. Hmmm, I wonder which it will be?

We have a few more days here in the silent, dark-skied, arid semi-desert, before we head further east and down a bit to the Port Elizabeth area. We’ve not been anywhere we’re visiting from here on, or ventured so far across or up.

Mr BW has a date with some of Mi1dred’s sisters that he met on the internet (I get to go too, oh joy), and we’re also hoping to get to the elephant park (one of the SA Nature Park reserves through which you can self-drive).


Monday, January 27, 2020

Foreign objets

One of the most exciting things for a collector of objets is to find a cheap source of original and hard-to-fine pieces.

South Africa is one such place. It has a huge stash of objets brought out by European settlers, and now, as the generations who understood the value of objets die off, they (the objets, not the dead people) find their way into junk shops and onto country market stalls.

It is also considerably cheaper than most of the UK places left. 'Vintage' has a lot to answer for.

I rescued this specimen from a market in Franschhoek at the weekend, for less than a fiver:

The photo is a bit indistinct, but it is a wooden type size gauge, about 16" long. Complete with two previous owner's names, scratched on. The best type of social history.

I have seen one before, in a local museum in the UK, but I can't find any similar items currently online, but maybe that is because Googling from SA isn't bringing up the best results.

The stallholder I bought it from told me that she had intended to use it as part of an altered art piece. How I hate 'altered art'. I'm having a museum room in the new house. Originally it was going to be the smallest bedroom (which is still quite large), but now, given our extension plans, I think it might be able to be the whole of the upstairs. Don't tell Mr BW, will you?


Sunday, January 26, 2020

Sunday sunshone

Yesterday Mr BW discovered where this, used in the last film, hides out these days, along with many other similar, including Mi1dred's older sister (who may not currently feature on the Register of Surviving Mi1dreds, but will once Mr BW gets home), about 300 rusty restoration projects - pot metal from around the world, a retired aeroplane, and several million pounds worth of other vehicles. All visible from the N1 - we usually see them as we rush to the airport from up-country on our last afternoon - and track-down-able if one follows one's nose.

Another market today: I loved the giraffe plate, but we had gone to pick up a pre- order of white tiles (some pictorial, in a similar style, some plain) to make a table-top, so the extra weight would probably not have worked. Next year...

The acre-big garden of the place we always stay for the first few days, in Noordhoek, was ravaged by the drought of the past 4 years, but is now back to its prior splendour, after the winter rains. This apricot brugmansia tree (ours at home only ever get to about 4 - 6 spindly feet, are in pots, and don't always survive the winter, even in a heated greenhouse) has never been in flower when we have been here before:

With the mid-afternoon sun streaming through its trumpets:

I've not seen this before, but I'm told that it is of the bromeliad family:

But I need to know which type, and where in the UK I can get one.

While I've been enjoying looking at my photos from the past couple of days and putting a few up here, I've managed to turn a rather lovely bottle of sauv blanc into slush puppy. The freezer is rather too efficent. Actually, despite my fears, it's rather good. Cheers!

I've just added a gratuitous picture of Hout Bay (not far south of Cape Town), and another view from the coast road, because, having just looked remotely at how little electricity the solar panels have made again today, it must be pretty awful weather at home, so I thought a bright picture ot two might warm you up.


Friday, January 24, 2020

We just can't stay away...

Favourite landing:

We got elly plates on the hire car again. 2 times out of 8 ain't bad. It doesn't take much to make me happy.

The view of the Beach from the Peak was sparkling:

Kirstenbosch on a Friday was magic.

We arrived by chance at the right time and were able to do the free 2 hour guided tour, with a fantastic older lady volunteer guide who was incredibly knowledgeable, and very energetic! She assured me that she hadn't been a professional botanist, but she was far too informed to not have been connected to horticulture in some way. We learned things and saw parts of the garden we'd never seen before.

The proteas are still my favourites though:

Or maybe the navy agapanthus:

I'm thinking that this stylised protea might make a good patchwork design:

One major change we've already noticed this year - solar panels seem to finally be The Thing. We've never understood why, in a country with so much sun, in recent years they have been burning diesel to make electricity. The radio informed us that this is "owner generated power" and has lessened the need for loadshedding (rolling power cuts in times of high energy requirement). This bank over the shade parking in a vineyard. They do, however, appear to be the first generation panels that are no longer widely fitted in Europe...

I remarked to a local that the powers that be seem to have solved the water problem in the Cape Area. "Oh, no," came the reply, "we've just had a really rainy winter." It's great to see the greenery green and the flowers flowering again, after the past couple of years of aridity.

I have a terrible cold that came out on the plane (the first of the winter) and is using half a box of tissues a day. Not the best thing when attempting to taste and buy wine from the vineyards for the rest of our month out here, and the 16 bottles to take home. It's mid to high 20s C and sunny, wiith a light breeze though, so hopefully that, and lots of vitamin C from fresh fruit will soon see me better. That, and observing our solar panels at home (via the web interface), which today managed to make the total - unimpressive - amount of 0.4kWh. Almost the worst ever daily yield. Being away from that climate definitely improves things.

We're travelling further afield this year, and will eventually be departing via Johannesburg, rather than doing our usual circular trip in and out of Cape Town. We're staying, as ever, in non-touristy spots, often on farms in out-of-the-way places. No idea what the internet coverage will be like off the tourist trail, but, watch this space as I'll post when I can.


Monday, January 20, 2020

It's a sign I tell you

Mr BW tells me that he heard on the radio that we currently have the highest pressure since 1958.

I'd agree with that.

Packing to go on holiday, and then to move northwards shortly thereafter, at the same time, is not easy.

Perhaps I need a nice sit down on our nice new cushion, made by me from tiny scraps of material discarded by my Patchy Ladies, with a background of cheapy material, dyed by me in various shades of green, on our nice new bench, carved by Mr BW from oak (the cast ironwork ends were salvaged from an old bench purchased in a junk shop for not very much):

It is currently residing in the polytunnel.

"Aren't you clever!" remarked one of the Patchy Ladies, on seeing the finished items, "Mirroring the angles of the letter carving on the bench and the swirls of the carved ribbon in your cushion design?" "Oh yes!" I thought, after the event. Subconscious design if ever there was such a thing.

It's a nice date today, isn't it?


Saturday, January 4, 2020

Time passages

Buy me a ticket on the last train home tonight.

Ooops, oh dear, the title triggered a burst of Al Stewart, rather than what I was about to say.

On 1st January I was 30,000,000 minutes, or 500,000 hours old. I forgot, despite someone posting about it quite recently, and me leaving the tab open in my browser to remind me. On 15th June I will be 3,000 weeks old. Perhaps one of you would remind me, as these dates are quite rare.

Also on 1st January, while escorting Mi1dred on her NYD run, I found that the youngsters in the local police control centre are now unable to produce grammatically correct road signage on the digital display boards on main roads. "Happy New Year, Drive Safe!" they proclaimed. I sighed and wondered which year had been Peak Grammar. What have they got against the letters 'l' and 'y' I pondered?

On 2nd January, while cleaning out the tin and spice cupboard, I discovered that the best before dates on tins and jars are now so small that I struggle to read them, I got a fat black permanent marker and wrote the dates on the ends and sides of each can. In future I shall do this each time I put new tins in the cupboard. I am sure that best before dates are becoming shorter.

Also on 2nd January I realised, while looking at my passport, that in 2 years time I will get a bluey again. I delightedly relayed this information to Mr BW, but, as I spoke, I realised that there would be another cost to this than the pure financial. "I can have a bluey, but I also get an old person's photo..." Mr BW made the socially correct (or maybe, maritally correct) comment, but left it 10 seconds too late to so do.

On 3rd January I had an epiphany about why people waste so much food, wear clothing items so few times, and drive so badly. I shall whitter on about that another time. If I remember.

On 4th January - that is, today - BW is 17 years old. 17 years. Good grief. How did that happen?!


Tuesday, December 31, 2019


As the sun sets on another year, another decade, many people are reflecting on where they are and where they would like to be.

I was in bed the other morning, looking out of the window at the birdfeeder, which is just a couple of feet from the window, when I saw a sight that delighted but concerned me.

Woodpeckers are very partial to bees. But, they don't like other woodpeckers, so we drawing pin old or used CDs and DVDs to the outside of our hives, in an effort to dissuade the woodies from their quests by tricking them into thinking their reflection is a competitor.

I got to thinking about woodpeckers, and how I frequently feel like one... banging my head against a wall, trying to fight off 'progress' which I do not perceive as for the long-term best of the area, the environment, or, sometimes, humankind.

Just occasionally though, there are some sparks of hope that past efforts have not all been in vain.

I read yesterday in the free newspaper of a town in a neighbouring county that they are to create nearly a thousand new places for children with special needs, because the purse-string-controlling Powers That Be have decided that those needs cannot be met within mainstream schools. Not that they weren't told this more than 20 years ago by those of us working in this area at the time when They were determined to close much of the excellent special provision in the interests of 'integration'. As a result, the happiness and future lives of many children (and their familes) have been damaged. Let's hope that this new practice spreads more widely, as the education of all children will be enhanced as a result: and there is no need for segregation, just sensible co-located provision for differing needs. I'm sure that many mainstream teachers will also breathe a sigh of relief that they no longer have to try to teach the unteachable.

Over the FOTCR™ season, Freeview in many parts of England has been affected by 'high pressure'. I've noticed that the barometer has spent much of its time recently around where it would be if we had either snow or frost in winter or very hot weather in summer. It's been too warm for snow, but it's been damp, with only odd bursts of sunshine, so very peculiar. In his pre-early-retirement life, Mr BW was, at one time, heavily involved in the technology behind digital TV. The company he worked for advised those setting up the digital system that their required specification would prove to be too low powered, in the longer term. Despite the engineers' protestations, the purse-string-holding Powers That Be knew best. It looks like they were wrong too. It doesn't hlep those of us who have had fluctuating TV for the past few days though.

As I often say, all you have to do is wait.

So, what did we do over the FOTCR™?

Well Mr BW made me a wooden table, about the height of a chair seat, out of a nicely seasoned plank of ash, bought from the wood fair at a local National Trust property. It has two 50cm circles of tempered glass, top and bottom, with the top one being removable.

Sandwiched between them now is my collection of old cotton reels, which have been given to me, over time, by those of my aquaintance who want their cherished threads to live on after they have gone. They know I appreciate such simple things.

I had a lovely time on the afternoon of the 25th, arranging all the reels, and imagining their past lives. The Sylko threads have such fitting names. My favourites are 'elephant' and 'dark elephant', which are exactly the colours you'd think they'd be.

Amongst my collection I found some half-size Sylko reels, including one called 'khaki'. I'd never noticed this size before. The khaki reel had many 6" short lenghts of thread wound back around the reel, and I wondered whether it had belonged to a soldier who had thriftily kept all the leftover ends, just in case.

For those of you contemplating a 'digital detox' for the new year, I'd highly recommend the book below. One of the few books I've read that has real insight into the problems of our age, and how it doesn't have to be like that. There is a gem on almost every page.

I'm glad that I never fell into the social media trap. I'm the last person I know who only has a non-smart phone. I'm also the only person I know who can happily spend an afternoon playing with old cotton reels.

But, I'm a Simple Witch and I prefer to make my own entertainment than to have it made for me.

Wishing you all the best for the next decade: may it be as simple or as complicated as you wish.


Thursday, December 26, 2019

Sunny and mild and light

Yesterday morning, I looked through the kitchen window (slightly misted up from boiling potatoes prior to roasting, and what did I see?

A white cat, in a pot, behind a clump of Midwinter Fire Cornus:

Just after this she sat down, clearly sunbathing, with her head on the surrounding metal plant support. The height of laziness. Mr BW dashed outside to capture this moment, and managed admirably, but a white cat, however cute, who has been nosing about in a pile of fire ash is not a good look, and I can't be bothered to photoshop the picture.

Later, in another room, after dark:

I am forever grateful that we don't have anyone but ourselves to worry about on the FOTCR™, so we can please ourselves, rather than try (in vain, judging by reported experiences) to keep others happy. However, I think I am now completely vaccinated/desensitised about the festive annoyances, and nearly cured of any need to complain about them.

Which allows me to start on another pet peeve. The abuse of the adjective "super".

If you think something is "super cool" or "super cute" or if you are "super happy" please do not do not say it in my presence.

A most interesting piece on the subject here... and yes, it's another nasty creeping Americanism.

Posted at 10:00 AM | Comments (0)

Wednesday, December 25, 2019

Happy Festivities to you all

This was taken back in November in Northumberland (our 18th visit over the past 15 years to the same place) in the grounds of our favourite National Trust property.

While preparing this image, I noticed that its number was 01919. Seemed appropriate.

My festive message?

"We need to be working with this incredible world, not against it. Live lightly, take less - and give more - than your share. Take time to stop and stare and think. Think for yourself and question everything: challenge things that do not make sense, and don't ever give up the challenging and questioning."

What is yours?


Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Past times

Yesterday, at 9pm, 27 years ago, Mr BW & I met for the first time.
And the rest is history, as they say.
It's strange to think that although we seem to have been together forever, this time still isn't half my life, and indeed won't be until 2022. Hopefully that will be a year of celebration, with lots of zero year events.

There are some great 'Review of 2019' programmes on TV at present. 8 so far, on topics ranging from science, to film, media, the collapse of Thomas Cook, Brexit, obituaries, royals, and the fishing indistry, but they are on at varying times, so set your recording technology, or watch on iPlayer.

I've not felt like writing much on here of late.

It's not that things haven't been happening - they have - but, for us, it's been an odd year, involving lots of deaths or deteriorations in health amongst those close to us, and continually fighting off unwanted development on all fronts, including from the air. No sooner has one been turned down, than another one appears. Seems like the very worst of London comes to the area around us, courtesy of the green belt not being able to be built on, so development skipping over it and out to where we are. No facilities, roads already gridlocked at almost every hour, outside the development zone, in open countryside... but, the holy dollar pound rules, and if a developer can afford to pay (or pay off) the right professionals, and commission the right reports, they get their unjust rewards. We have plans to deal with this encroachment, because constantly fighting, and constantly waiting for the next attack, is not good for anyone, and spells aren't proving effective enough (although one can always hope that karma will be, if one waits long enough), but, for now, and in order not to jinx them, those plans must remain firmly under wraps.

The past cannot disappoint the way the future always can... and nostalgia has a lot to recommend it at such times.

Last night on TV, a look back to the festive TV of 1979. 40 years ago, and I spent the time crawling around on hands and knees as a few days before I had fallen from the top to the bottom of the stairs in Rickmansworth tube station, necessitating a trip in an ambulance to Mount Vernon Hospital. By the time I got to the hospital, my ankles were four times their normal size. "Are my ankles broken?" I asked the A&E doctor as he squinted at the x-rays as I breahted gas and air. "No, I don't think so, but you might wish they were, as this sort of injury will take much longer to heal, and be much more painful." He wasn't wrong. Thinking about it still makes me shudder now, 40 years on.

If you like cats... here are some cat nativity photos, although a couple look distinctly photoshopped to me.

And finally, for those who haven't yet discovered the joys of roast cauliflower (which we hadn't until last week), can I recommend it to you?

Basically, take a whole cauli, remove any leaves, cut it all the way across into as thin slices as you can manage (the thinner the better), then place these slices, and any bits that have fallen off, in a single layer on a large baking sheet. Rub on a couple of tablespoons of olive oil and sprinkle over some flavourings of your choice (eg select from salt, pepper, ground chilli, citrus zest, curry powder (or cumin and coriander), smoked paprika, chopped rosemary etc etc - about a teaspoon in total) then roast in a really hot oven for about 30 - 40 minutes, turning a couple of times, until it is all really golden and crispy.

For added calories scrumptiousness, you can sprinkle over some finely grated cheese (cheddar, parmesan, or whatever you have) half way through (but then don't tun it further).

Eat as a snack, hors d'oeuvre, or as a side dish. Delicious.

I think it would work with brocolli too (although I haven't actually tried it yet), and I have a friend who always roasts sprouts (whole)... although I like them too much boiled to do that to them.


Sunday, December 22, 2019

Happy Solstice

It is no secret that I hate this time of year.

That is, hate in its entirety: weather, lack of light, lying to children, consumeristic excess, over-indulgence, drinking and driving etc etc.

I blame my mother entirely for my hatred of December, in that my emergence into this world was during the worst winter since 1895. However, as she died in September, and one shouldn't speak ill of the dead, even her, I'll just say that being cold during my early life must have led to my present hatred of all things Decemberly cold and wet and crowded.

The winter solstice is the moment in time when the Earth's tilt away from the Sun is at its maximum and the Sun's maximum elevation in the sky is at its lowest. In the Northern Hemisphere the day of the winter solstice is the shortest day of the year (the day with the least daylight and the longest night) and occurs every year between December 20 and December 23.

This year it's today.

So: Happy Solstice, Happy Yule!
The small village hall where I meet bi-weekly with the Patchy Ladies has a caretaker who is lovely, but struggles with literacy.

By the kitchen taps is a printed and laminated notice that reads, "Please turn of tap's tight."

This is his latest offering. Santa bog rolls and a laugh.

For the visually challenged, like me, here is a close-up of the wording:

We've decided to start the FOTCR™ early here at The Coven.

I've already made fresh cranberry sauce (although cranberries seem to be in short supply this year), and the first FOTCR™ dinner is shortly to be consumed. With veg at 15p in Lidl's and 19p in Aldi's it's daft not to. All shopping is done and we'll not be venturing to any shops until the New Year now.

In the past I have bought us a Yarg. But, after several episodes of late delivery and subsequent appalling customer service, I decided that this year I wouldn't bother.

However, I failed to inform MrBW of this, and he decided that his Mum would provide the goodies. But two rather than one.

Once again they failed to deliver on time - delivery was requested for 19th, but they didn't even dispatch until that day, resulting in us not being in when deivery was attempted, and then having the choice of a 28 mile round trip to collect from the courier's depot, or risking the two rounds of cheese spending the weekend in a less-that-ideal environment. We chose the former.

Yum. One eigth's gone already.

But, we also went to RHS Hyde Hall on the way home. The cornus (dogwood) in the new-ish Winter Garden, and the silver birches, were a delight:

Happy Yule, whatever you are doing.


Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Final Thoughts

A quick 'who should I vote for?' site is here.

How to spoil your voting paper properly is here.

Other than the obvious 'none of the above' (which apparently, according to a polling organisation commenting on R4 yesterday, applies to at least one in eight of us), there are many good reasons to spoil your ballot paper or vote for the Party least likely to win in your area: a key one is that the subsequent complaints that it is 'rigging' the vote will be perfect for driving necessary electoral reform.

How much this (and other recent) elections have cost is here.

And won't we all be glad when it's all over on Friday?


Friday, December 6, 2019

I need to know...

... is it illegal to tear up your ballot paper and post the tiny bits in the ballot box?

There is, as in previous elections, a 'which Party should I vote for' online tool.

It seems more complex than in the past, and takes significantly longer: 30 minutes if you pick all the 16 issue areas, and even longer if you don't click any 'maybe' boxes, as you then have to go back through that bit again, to pick your 'least worst set of lies' option.

Anyway, having invested more than half an hour of the life I have left, I still was none the wiser:

Interestingly, once you have your results, you can click to see what others in your constituency, and in your country as a whole, are finding. I really, really, really hope that what it says for our constituency happens. The smug arrogant uncaring uninterested lazy central-career-driven unrepresentative-of-the-local demongraphic doesn't-even-live-in-the-constituency has-more-than-replacement-number-of-kids item we had foisted on us when our previous excellent moderate long-serving MP retired at the last election deserves to be un-seated.

I continue to say that Brexit will never happen - even without John Bercow (who I consider is the central reason that it hasn't already happened and is the most responsible for the current undemocratic position we are in). So... one should vote for the Party that has the most other policies that accord with one's views.

Which brings me back to the question I started with.

Anyone else having the same dilemma?


Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Everything I know I learned from a book

One of my most successful campaigns this year has been to enthuse people to complain about our Tory County Council's plans to close one third of public libraries, and to staff the remaining ones mostly with volunteers.
At the beginning of 'austerity' County Councillors cut all library opening hours, and, in many areas, stopped evening and weekend opening altogether, although no libraries were actually closed.

But, these total closure announcements were made just after the (joke of a) consultation on cuts to mobile library services that serve the more rural areas - including where we are - had finished, and the plan to take half the vans off the roads had been rubber stamped, with no notice whatsoever being taken of public input to the consultation.

If you follow this type of process in your own area, I'm sure the joke of public consultation will be only too sadly familiar to you.

I wasn't involved in the 'official' campaign to stop the closures (these days I don't have the physical stamina to protest in person, or to personally spearhead or coordinate action), but I did load the bullets for many others to fire (young mums - it helps to have several social-media-active friends with very young children or grandchildren; older people's groups - it helps to know lots of crafty ladies who are often retired teachers, and still have a lot of contacts; national librarians groups - it helps to have a friend whose daughter is a dedicated and passionate children's librarian in another part of the country).

Many individually written submissions put in were directly elicited by people encouraged/cajoled/bullied by me. Individual submissions are always much stronger than signatures on petitions or responses to (often biased) consultation 'questionnaires'. And I have a suspicion that the phrase quoted in the early stage link, "an act of cultural vandalism" was originally one of mine (although I undoubtedly pinched it from elsewhere, back in the mists of time).

My early childhood was made bearable by the opportunity to escape into books, mostly borrowed from a lovely musty tiny public library in an old house with polished parquet floors and creaky stairs, and I believe passionately that electronic gadgets are a very very poor substitute to the tactile and olfactory experience of a real paper-paged book.

I heard on R4's Today programme this morning the shocking statistic that 380,000 children in this country do not own a book, and one in 8 schools no longer has a library. I would put money on most of those 380,000 children living in a home which has a smartphone though, and I know of several schools locally where the library has had to be turned into a classroom because new housing development in the area has not been underpinned with infrastructure.

The current Children's Laureate, Cressida Cowell, is trying to raise awareness and support the profile of those groups working to get books into chidren's lives.

Regular readers will know that we have travelled extensively, over many years now, in South Africa. In this time we have constantly been awed by the esteem in which libraries are held, and the frequency with which they are used, particularly by Township Communities. They still understand the importance of libraries as a route to education, and a better life. In many remote areas, the library is an important, prominent, and often architecturally beautiful, building in the centre of a small settlement. This is just not the case in the UK now. Stop a stranger in an unfamiliar-to-you town and ask where the library is, and you are most often met by a bemused unknowing stare.

I don't think that the history of libraries, and of public libraries in the UK is well understood, these days. If we lose the knowledge of an institution's history, and an understanding of what it can do and be, then, eventually we lose the institution.

If you're still into the practice of buying gifts at the FOTCR™, please consider buying books, particularly if the gifts are for children.

What has happened to libraries in your area?
Do you still use your local library?

Posted at 10:21 AM | Comments (6)

Friday, November 29, 2019

A Cautionary Note

This tip brought to you by a textile friend whose son works in cyber security.

I'd not heard it before, so am passing it on...

Fun as it may be to lead on all those nuisance callers: real or machine, do not say anything (at all) to them.

Just hang up.

With an increasing number of organisations using voice recogntion technology (including HMRC and banks), fraudsters are now targeting spam calls to known people at known addresses on known telephone numbers to get a speech sample.

I'm told that very little speech is actually needed to allow the fraudsters to digitally replicate your unique voice patterns, and then use these to hack into anything that now requires voice recogntion security.

Scary stuff: and there goes one of my favourite pastimes...


Thursday, November 28, 2019

Thought for the day

"Common sense and a sense of humour are the same thing, moving at different speeds."

- Clive James


Thursday, November 21, 2019

Explanation, please

Many years ago (probably around 20 now) when life was good in the business world, profits boomed, and big bonuses were frequent sightings, we purchased a Tempur adjustable bed with one such windfall. A 6 foot bed, made up of two separate 3 foot beds with memory foam mattresses, joined together at the top and bottom of the bases, with rising head and feet, storage underneath, and adjustable firmness.

It has turned out to be one of our best ever purchases.

And yes, I'll happily accept that while it may appear that we were old before our time, it is amazingly comfortable, and has prevented my many aches and pains being much worse than they are.

A couple of weeks ago, there was a clunk and a sudden drooping as I got out of bed with the head raised at 70 degrees. "What am I going to do now?" I wailed. "I can't cope with getting in and out of bed without bits being up and down!" "Let me look, I'm sure it can be fixed," reassured Mr BW. Fortunately for me and the many 'accidents' that somehow randomly occur to me, Mr BW can fix most things.

He pulled up the mattress and looked. He sucked his teeth in what is usually a 'workman about to impart large estimate' mode (well, from what other people say, I assume that's what happens as we don't often need the services of workmen, given Mr BW's skill set). "Hmmm. It's the metal strut, it's sheered right off. Could be tricky... I'll investigate and think further in the morning." I was waiting for him to say, "But never mind, you can have my side of the bed for the time being!" but sadly he didn't, so I had to make do with using several cushions to prop myself up, just like most people do.

I was worried. "If you can't fix it, we can buy a new one, can't we... this one is about 20 after all...?"

The following morning I turned on my little netbook, which had been by the side of the bed when it broke. I clicked onto a recipe page. Up popped an advert for... yes, you've guessed, adjustable beds.

Now, given that:

- I have never Googled 'adjustable beds',
- I have never before been served an advert for adjustable beds,
- adjustable beds have nothing at all to do with recipes,
- I hadn't had the netbook open since before the bed broke,

How did that advert pop up?

A similar thing happened just a few days later. I'd misplaced my Fiskars orange-handled embroidery scissors. My sharpest pair. I turned the Studio upside down looking for them, but failed to locate them. The netbook was in the same room. When next I turned it on, I was immediately served a pop-up for the identical scissors.

How did that happen?

I always cover over any webcam on any computer with paper and then with thick black tape.

Is there a microphone in the netbook that is constantly listening? It is nearly 4 years old, and has no VRS and no whizzy software. We won't have Alexa or Echo or any similar gadgets in the house, due to privacy and security concerns.

If there is such a microphone, how can it be permanently turned off? I don't use it for anything else.

George Orwell's ideas about Big Brother are as nothing compared to the apparent powers of the internet these days.


Sunday, November 17, 2019

Thought for the day

"The one who plants trees, knowing that he will never sit in their shade, has at least started to unerstand the meaning of life."

- Rabindranath Tagore


Wednesday, November 6, 2019

You're FIREd

And not an Alan Sugar or delusional picked-for-TV-entertainment wannabee oddball in their early 20s in sight.

It occurred to me this afternoon, as I was listening to a Money Box programme on R4 about retiring early, and what you have to do to achieve it, that there are at least 7 other people listed in my (hugely out of date but unalterable due to 'old code' impossible to update issues) sidebar who have also retired early. Most of them (sadly) left blogland long ago.

It was an interesting programme, although I admit to having shouted at the radio several times during it.

It's not that difficult, really.

Although... two years ago we were raking in around £300 a month in interest on (17 different) current accounts and 7 regular savings accounts, which is down to less than £100 a month now. Thank you banks. With CPI currently runing at 1.7%, and such offers dying on a near-daily basis, I am dubious about the future possibilities, unless you are in a hugely well paid job (which we weren't), and are comfortable taking huge risks with stock markets (which we're not).

I don't actually like the 'FIRE' acronym, or what its extreme proponents push (plenty of them available on a Google search, but, none I could actually recomment as I don't read them, or indeed believe in - most of - what they preach).

I'm actually uncomfortable being part of that 'movement' actually: I am sure that there are a lot of people who are retiring early who will run out of money before they run out of life, and will then need the rest of us to prop them up, and I don't think that is right.

I already know of several people who are stilll working, but taking money out of their pensions at 55 and 'blowing it', because they believe that The State Will Always Provide for those who haven't been prudent. Not sure what the answer is, but I am sure that it will become an increasing problem.

This, together with the huge complexities of the pension market that I alluded to last week, leave me hugely uncomfortable that those who aren't financially savvy, and can't do their own calculations, or live within their means, are very vulnerable to schemes and scheming individuals. My advice, as ever, remains: if it sounds too good to be true, it almost certainly is.


Thursday, October 31, 2019

Flying tonight

*cackles evilly*Halloween at The Coven

Last seen in 2004.


Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Happy Birthday Mr BW!

Four and a half years after officially 'retiring', Mr BW can finally get his mitts on his retirement funds (with thanks to Golden Brown for delaying the process we'd always planned and saved for by 5 years). Despite working for the same company for the better part of 34 years, his funds are were in lots of different pots (several sales of the company, changes of pension providers and pension types, extra bits in AVCs and contracted out bits). Complexity.

All I will say about the process of sorting it all out is, it's next in the queue for companies to move in to fleece people who aren't good with figures and finance. Even the nice pot of final salary had 8 different options. Yes, 8! And the nice fat birthday present isn't in the bank today. Grrrr (but, realistically, we weren't really expecting it today).

I was absolutely determined that our savings pots weren't going to reduce in that four and a half years, and, despite all the banks continually cutting interest rates, and rates paid on current accounts if one meets their strict conditions, I have managed it.

It's amazing how little you can live on if you: practice 'repair, reuse, repurpose, recycle', don't engage in consumerism, don't eat or drink out, grow your own food, cook from scratch, make your own entertainment (by having creative interests and hobbies), generate much of your own electricity, can mend practically anything that breaks or goes wrong, don't need the latest gadgets or garments, and ensure you always get the best price for everything, particularly insurance and utilities. Mr BW has been giving talks to groups and running 'experience days' on subjects he loves, and this, together with h0ney sales, has nicely topped up the income from my pension. Actually, we've even managed to add to our savings, and we haven't gone without anything that we wanted. It can be done (but probably not if you have kids, have got divorced, moved lots, or haven't paid off the mortgage early).


Anyway, all my love and have a lovely day Mr BW xxxx
(and, as a special treat, you can have a day off from the spreadsheets... and we can have something other than blue string pudding and soup for lunch)

(pictures and prehistoric font size and colour use recycled from my post of 29.10.2003)


Monday, October 28, 2019

A thought...

...on bulldozers and ditches.

I can see a great plan here... not to bury the Deal, but to bury the current incumbent by using one of his previous lies to achieve another. Hmmm, tempting.

I'm still predicting 'we're not leaving'.


Friday, October 25, 2019

Thought for the day

"British journalists have become part of Johnson’s fake news machine

It’s chilling. From the Mail, The Times to the BBC and ITN, everyone is peddling Downing Street’s lies and smears. They’re turning their readers into dupes."

- Peter Oborne

I am increasingly concerned about the state of news reporting - particularly political media reporting - in the UK.

Fortunately, Mr BW and I have doubting and questioning minds, and a solid academic background that enables us to understand the limitations of statistics, and the spin that is placed on almost everything these days.

Living outside of the social media bubble (and so not being subject to hive-mind and group-think and group-speak), and very connected to local politics (in a non-partisan way), because of our belief in protecting wildlife, biodiversity, the environment, and the countryside, from developers' greed and 'profit at any cost', we spend a lot of time shaking out heads in dismay at what we see, hear and read from what was once the best, most neutral, news media in the world.

Of greater concern is that very few people - even bright, articulate, educated people - seem to question the information that they consume, or the sources from which they consume it. As a nation we seem to have lost our 'intelligence'. To me, this seems to directly correlate with the rise in 'electronic information' and connectivity.

Politicians and political jounalists seem to use Twitter to compete with each other to show images or provide personal opinion, bias, and spin, which is totally unhelpful, and, on occasions, even damaging. It's a race to the bottom. What would once have been referred to as 'gutter jounalism' is now all the 'journalism' there is.

Since the rise of Laura Kuenssberg and her ilk, the BBC is no longer impartial. It seems to me that the BBC's mission statement, "to act in the public interest, serving all audiences through the provision of impartial, high-quality and distinctive output and services which inform, educate and entertain" is now completely and totally irrelevant. I object to having to pay £154.50 a year for a service that no longer adheres to its values, and is not objective.

The internet has not fulfilled its positive potential. The internet is totally out of control, and is in the hands of manipulative scammers, fraudsters, and others with only their own interests in mind.

All part of the long drawn out death of capitalism, perhaps?

This article shows how British political journalists have got chillingly close to providing the same service to Boris Johnson that Fox News provides to Donald Trump.


Saturday, October 19, 2019

Barbara Dickson on my mind

I seem to have been humming this tune for most of the afternoon.

So what happens now?

Another Suitcase in Another Hall

Never fool myself that my dreams will come true
Being used to trouble I anticipate it
But all the same I hate it, wouldn´t you?

So what happens now?

Where am I going to?

You´ll get by, you always have before

Where am I going to?

Call in three months time and I´ll be fine, I know

Well maybe not that fine, but I´ll survive anyhow

I won´t recall the names and places of each sad occasion

But that´s no consolation here and now.

So what happens now?

Where am I going to?

You´ll get by, you always have before

Where am I going to?

Don´t ask anymore.


I still say, it's not going to happen.

Democracy is dead. Long live democracy.

It was so much simpler in 1976.


Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Life, but not as we know (knew) it

The latest news (and Judge says proroguing is not illegal).

- From Led By Donkeys

And don't forget Parody Boris Johnson Twitter - scroll down to see video of IDS snacking in the HoC last night.

- The closest JRM's upbringing would allow him to get to actually putting his feet on the top table.

I maintain my long-term view that we're not leaving.

Posted at 10:40 AM | Comments (1)

Sunday, September 1, 2019

Thought for the day

"A nation of plenty so concerned with gain
As the seasons come and go, greater grows the pain
And far too many feelin' the strain"

- Isley Brothers - Harvest for the World (1976)


Wednesday, August 28, 2019

The Wednesday Question

Because comments elsewhere are sometimes worth recycling...

Is there something in the Labour Party Rules that says Jeremy Corbyn can't be ousted by a vote of no confidence from his own Party?

He is the one thing standing in the way of a different progress for the UK's future - as I understand it, only he can call a vote of no confidence in the current government and definitely have it approved (others can try, but the Speaker needn't give heed to the request), but no-one wants Corbyn to lead a Government of National Unity (which he is currently insisting on), so his call for a vote of no confidence won't be supported by enough MPs to be carried.

Give Labour a new leader (hence my first question) and there may be a chance. A slim may but at least there might then be some sort of effective Opposition.

Lack of a proper Opposition for the past x years is what has brought us to where we are now.


Monday, August 12, 2019

Three things that have amazed me recently

Our county police force and our local NHS Trust are both still running on Windows 7.

A local MP (now in the highest tier of government) replied to an email a good friend of mine sent just before that promotion with, "I am not minded to assist with this matter." No greeting, no sign-off, just those nine words. The lady in question is 80 and was asking for help with a problem of a sort that, once upon a time, was the bread-and-butter of an MP's work for their constiuents: rail commuters parking in her road all day (well, actually from 6am to 10pm) while they go to work in London, often blocking her drive so that she is completely unable to get out at worst, or, at best, to get out safely, a problem that the local council are completely failing to deal with, and the police aren't interested in managing.

People/journalists/politicians don't understand that wind turbines have to be turned off when it gets too windy. No, that major loss of power last week wasn't the Russians hacking the Grid (this time) (aside: is that running on Windows 7 too?), it was a demonstration of just how perilously balanced our ageing infrastructure is. And that's before every car is electric and needs 35kWh to drive 100 miles (that's around three times the electricity that the average UK home currently uses per day). Our major problems in this country aren't Brexit, despite what some would have you believe.


On a brighter note in these dire political times, I heard on R4 last week that Spitting Image (18 series, 131 episodes) is coming back (although I currently can't find a link from a reputable source to confirm this). Until it gets here, this is nearly as good.

I particularly like the August 9th question, "Alexa – why does America have a gun problem?"

Posted at 10:02 PM | Comments (2)