Monday, September 1, 2014


To laugh often and much.

To win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children.

To earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends.

To appreciate beauty, to find the best in others.

To leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition.

To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived.

This is to have succeeded.

- Ralph Waldo Emerson (or maybe Bessie Stanley)


Monday, August 18, 2014

Sea air and numbers

Having been struck down (and mostly in bed) for the past 5 days with the worst migraine I have ever had (probably made worse by unknowingly taking 5 years out of date pink Migraleve at 3am - I rarely take any kind of drug because they do terrible things to my system, but I was desperate), I'm off to the seaside today, to see an old friend in an old hospital.

While I was looking for information about the place, I discovered that the last (2011) census data is now online, for free, broken down by each question that was asked, for areas of around 140 - 200 homes (the range I found was from 142 to 182, let me know what you find).

I found it very interesting. And quite addictive.
Have fun.


Thursday, August 14, 2014

Things that puzzle me, part x+n

  • Why numbers are always pointlessly attached to every name that is published in a newspaper. “Joe Bloggs, 45, and his daughter, Phoebe, 9, were merrily chasing a bunny, Miffy, 2, when Phoebe tripped on a root of an oak tree, 106.”

  • Why so many new cars drive around with their side lights on in the day time. I know that this is the 'default' setting at delivery for many manufacturers these days, and it's not easy to find how to switch them off permanently, but they add nothing except distraction. I do wonder whether those drivers actually realise that their lights are on?

  • Similarly, if everyone wears high-visibillity jackets, their impact lessens. And as for the practice of groups of schoolchildren out on visits wearing hi-vis, well, all it does is distract, which, in my opinion, increases the risk of accidents.

  • Why people write blogs but make it really really difficult for people to comment. I don't want to sign in, most of the time I can't read those 'captcha codes', and I don't have any of those unsociable networky login thingys. I'm ageing, grumpy, half-blind, badly co-ordinated, and mostly exhausted, see. There are at least a dozen blogs that I now read occasionally where I'd leave a comment after I'd read a post, if it was easy. But I'm not going to spend more time fiddling around trying to fill in 'so I can be accorded the privilege of commenting' details than it takes me to type a comment. They also don't work with VRS or screen readers. If I can delete the odd bit of spam that gets round the spam catcher, then so can they. If they can't be bothered, then I can't be bothered to comment (it's like them saying, "MY time is more important than yours!"). And what do I always say about comments? [altogether now] "A blog wtihout comments is just a website." I'm pretty sure that it's these artificial barriers to commenting that are killing blogging.


Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Signs of the times

Definitely very autumnal this morning.

I don't like it.

Nor do the tomatoes, which are not repeat flowering as they usually do, despite receiving exactly the same feeding, watering, and care as they have for the last 19 years (last Saturday) that we've lived here.

Yesterday was a very surreal day. Mr BW was on telly last night.


Sunday, August 10, 2014

Bertha is a wimp. And pickles.

All week we've missed the rain that has seemingly swept most of the south/east of the country. A couple of hours' of pitter patter before dawn, on Thursday and Friday morning, but that has been it. We've still had to water and feed like mad.

And today - where is this major storm - gale force winds and torrential rain?

We've seen a couple of bits of rain and a few blowly bits - but nothing more than we get at the start of a normal autumn.

I've been singing, "Bertha is a Wimp!" (no particular tune, and not very tuneful) for hours.

But... I thought I'd tempted fate when this cloud came over half an hour ago, but after three rolls of thunder, a spike of lightning, and five minutes of bluster, it all blew over and the sun is out again.

Long term readers might recognise Woodhenge, now in its fifth year.

Autumn is a-coming though. My gauge is always the condensation on the bedroom window. All year round we sleep with the windows open (our bedroom windows are huge and side-hung), and when there are droplets on the outside, autumn is-a-coming-in.

At least this year we have had summer; weeks of near-constant sunshine, and, this year, the outside crops are better than those inside the polytunnel.

I am constantly amazed by how hard some people make tasks - or at its greatest extrapolation, life - for themselves. Me, I'm into task-analysing everything, working out the easiest way, and then doing it like that. Professional training and a lifetime of advisory work die hard. I do it without thinking, and it really annoys some people whose minds don't work like that. Their loss.

I don't remember telling the greenhouse cucumbers that resting in the tomato aluminium swirls would make their time hanging around waiting to be eaten easier, but this one must have vicariously absorbed the idea.

So much better to be cradled horizontally than to hang vertically.

Mr BW tells me that it was a devil to untangle, so I served it right and chopped it up.

And then I got its friend, which had been growing on the balcony:

A gigantic 16" long, 7 3/4" round, 942g, and, being unable to think of anything else to do with it, similarly chopped it into bits and left them to cry drain into the sink.

Then I made some sweetly sour vinegar, added the chopped and drained cucumbers, and immediately poured the whole lot into a jar.

The recipe was adapted from a great cookery blog (largely about dealing with gluts) that I've only recently discovered, here (and, in case that disappears, or I mis-file my paper copy), my adaptation of the recipe is:

Quarter two large cucumbers, remove the seeds, chop them into roughly half centimetre dice (I left a piece of green skin on each piece) and leave to drain in a colander over a bowl or sink for half an hour.

Put 300ml of cider vinegar and 240g of white sugar in a saucepan and place on a gentle heat until the sugar dissolves.

Add the cucumbers to the pickling liquid in the saucepan, with a handful of fennel fronds and a tablespoonful of juniper berries (mine were from 1998, but we've eaten gooseberries from the freezer from 1997, and plums from 1999 in recent days, and are still alive). Stir gently.

Remove from the heat and ladle it all into large jars, pushing the cucumber dice under the vinegar. If you have some vinegar over, use it for another batch.

Unlike some chutneys and pickles, it’s ready to eat after just a few minutes marinating, and it is delicious, so make lots.

Mr BW has been making plum sauce (like brown sauce only nicer and without e-numbers and preservatives) and we've been stoning and freezing plums.

Better go and deal with the latest 8lbs of produce picked in 10 minutes...

It's nearly 3 weeks since I last went food shopping. All we need to buy at present is milk, yoghurt, and cheese (milk freezes wonderfully and chese and yoghurt last ages in the fridge). As I always say, if we had a house cow, we could be almost self-sufficient.

Super Moon visible from 6pm tonight (14% bigger and 30% brighter than normal and better than it has been for the last 20 years, as the moon comes within 221,765 miles of earth), and the International Space Station is over the UK several times a night again currently.

Now, will there be too much cloud to see them? Don't worry if so, there is another Super Moon due on September 9th.


Thursday, August 7, 2014

The death of the car tax disc

93 years they lasted.

"From 1 October 2014, the paper tax disc, first issued on 1 January 1921, will no longer be issued and required to be displayed on a vehicle windscreen. Vehicle tax will still need to be paid but with DVLA having a digital record of who has and has not paid, a paper tax disc is no longer necessary as proof that vehicle tax is paid. The vast majority of motorists pay their vehicle tax with latest figures confirming that over 99% of motorists’ tax their vehicles on time… Most on-road enforcement action is now based on using Automatic Number Plate Readers. These cameras use the number plate rather than a visual inspection of the tax disc. The police also have access to DVLA records via the police national computer. There are significant savings for fleet operators and other businesses from not having to handle the administration of tax discs."

I am rather pleased that Mr BW's broom will get one of the last month's issue. I will be able to add it to my stash of 30 years' worth from every vehicle that I have owned, or had in my household.

I do think it is a mistake not to have any replacement that can be accessed by the public though: at present if there is a dumped or abandoned car, getting anyone 'official' to do anything about it is usually hard enough. Without being able to say, "It's got an expired tax disc..." I suspect that it's going to be nigh impossible.

And "99% tax their vehicles on time" sounds great until you consider that there are 35 million licensed vehicles on the road in the UK. Presumably the untaxed 1% are also uninsured, and may not even be tested as roadworthy? A third of a million untaxed vehicles on our roads is a disgrace (not to mention the lost revenue).

But, the good news for those who need to spread their payments:

"DVLA will offer motorists the ability to spread their vehicle tax payments should they wish to do so. For vehicle tax starting from 1 November 2014, motorists will be able to pay vehicle tax by direct debit annually, biannually or monthly. There will be no additional handling fees for annual payments but to limit the impact on the public finances there will be a small surcharge of 5% of vehicle tax for biannual and monthly payments. This is half of the 10% surcharge that is currently applied to 6 monthly tax discs and which has been in existence for a number of decades."

Fortunately my broom is entirely tax free as, although it is blue, it is very green.

I will miss the three times a year challenge of the 'can I tear the paper circle it out of its square without spoiling any of the perforations'.

I fear that the audience's shared understanding of this post will be very limited ;)


Wednesday, August 6, 2014


Is it just me or has anyone else noticed a trend towards people sending emails from just their first name, and not putting anything in the subject line?

FFS people, I know twenty-four people called 'Sue' and sixteen called 'Trish' (or close variations).

If you're called Sue or Trish, please don't be surprised if I don't notice your email or don't open it and respond. I only read about 1 in 50 emails that I receive these days anyway.

And as for all those companies who think it OK to put you on a Hotel California Stylee email marketing list because you once, in 1999, bought something from them (even if you ticked the 'no further contact' box)... well, what can I say? I thought that an 'unsubscribe' button was now mandatory for unrequested email originating from within the UK? When one clicks to unsubscribe, one shouldn't need to put in the email address the mail was sent to (which isn't always disclosed anyway, so could be any one of several that most people use), it should be automatic.

"Rosetta are you better, are you well, well, well?"

It was a song on the first album I was given when I was nine years old. A colleague of my Dad's ran a disco and had a spare KTel compilation album (BW Blue cover) which he passed on when I was given a Dansette record player (which I still have).

The year was 1971, and the track was sung by George Fame & Alan Price. I knew every word, every chord change, and every tiny scratch between tracks on that LP. I can't say that any of the tracks were particularly to my taste, but, in the absence of anything else, I played it non-stop for months.

And now Rosetta has a new meaning. Comet chaser. Comet catcher.

Yet another space mission where Mr BW's lot have kit on-board, so it's very exciting hearing the inside story on what is happening and the technology behind the pictures.

Posted at 11:45 AM | Comments (2)

Monday, August 4, 2014

100 years on

Why do men never learn?


Sunday, August 3, 2014

Back to the 80s

Big glasses, big phones, and smart jackets with smart tie-less shirts and jeans.

It all comes full circle, if you wait long enough.

I will be trendy again, by accident, any time soon.



Saturday, August 2, 2014


The man came to empty our s3ptic tank at 7.30am this morning. He was meant to come at 8.30am. Actually, he was meant to come between 12 and 2 yesterday (Friday), but had previously attended at 7.45am on Thursday (and been sent away as we had things to move out of the flower bed where the 'insert emptying pipe here' manhole is buried), then failed to attend yesterday, due to 'an emergency' and 'staff sickness' (not notified to me until an hour before the due time), and then had wanted to come at some unspecified time next week. Having booked (and paid) last Monday specifically for Friday, and knowing that oily film on puddles when it rains means 'empty effluent urgently', I threatened the MD (when I finally got to speak to him four hours after I'd been promised an immediate callback) with blog, Twitter, FB and every review site I could find. He wan't to know that I only use one of these things. Ah, the power of t'inter. I blame the fashion for over-quilted toilet paper, which is harder than the old quilted toilet paper, which biodegraded much more quickly. For those of you on mains drainage, that's probably more than you either needed, or wanted, to know.

We went to the local Fuchsia Show we always go to on the first Saturday in August. It was lovely. I would post some pictures but the USB ports on the netbook have died and I'm not buying a new machine and doing battle with Windows 8 for anyone.

We are at Peak Vegetable. Well, I hope we are, but I fear that we may not be. Beans, courgettes, summer squashes, potatoes etc etc.

Peak Fruit will be next week, if this unusual summer weather continues. Summer stawberries and raspberries have all but finished, the first apples are picked and the later apples and pears are swelling. I have never seen such crops of peaches, figs, or plums: Czar, Marjorie, Victoria and damsons (and maybe Stanley in the field behind the polytunnel, haven't yet checked). Hindreds of pounds. Don't mention the wasps. Thousands are being trapped every day. Morrisons £1 for 4 cans of lager to be praised. Buzzers are relieved.

Peak Salad is building. There is nothing like a home-grown tomato, fresh from the plant. Except maybe a home-grown cucumber.

Yes, some photos would be good.

Back to the Commonwealth Games... aren't some of the competitors young? And as for the bagpipeists... thankfully they are nearly 500 miles away.