Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Double Trouble

These two white lumps really scare me.

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

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

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

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

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


Friday, January 12, 2018

Dear Nanny State: Part 1

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

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

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

Someone has let this situation happen and proliferate.

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


Tuesday, January 9, 2018

But what about the germs?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Sunday, January 7, 2018

The earth is flat

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Billy Joel - We Didn't Start The Fire

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


Friday, January 5, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy searching!


Thursday, January 4, 2018

A bunch of fives

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

At the time I first posted this, I said,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted at 10:15 AM | Comments (9)

Monday, January 1, 2018

In which the year starts badly...

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

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

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

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

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

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

She was not happy.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy New Year

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

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

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

- Marcus Aurelius


Sunday, December 31, 2017

Through 2017 in one picture


Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Let there be snow...

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

Thanks for the help with the spell Scoakat!

You can now officially be a Witch's Apprentice.

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

Posted at 10:17 AM | Comments (8)

Tuesday, December 26, 2017


Monday, December 25, 2017

Posted at 10:07 AM | Comments (2)

Sunday, August 13, 2017

The latest in 'political correctness' gone mad

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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


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

Whichever, Percy Shaw must be turning in his grave.

But, they are all being replaced, apparently.


Saturday, June 10, 2017

The true cost

How much has this election cost the taxpayer?

How much will the pay-offs to deposed MPs and their staff cost the taxpayer? (hint)

Does anyone know?


Friday, June 9, 2017

I didn't mean to do a Rainbow Spell, honest...

Ah, the power of financial carrots being given to the young or taken away from the old is oh so clear this morning.

And also, how, in our consituency, where the incumbent retired after decades, the old saying about some areas being so blue that even a pig with a rosette stuck on it would get elected has proved to be true.

A 69% turnout, the highest since 1997... British politics has returned to a two-party system on the greatest scale since the 1970s... but why did Mrs Me (*nods down*) wear red last night?

It's the 1970s all over again I tell you. So many parallels. At least we'll get some decent music for a change.

Posted at 10:00 AM | Comments (1)

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Vote, if only to honour the suffragettes

Now, Comrade Cor-bin of the 80s Workers' Rights' Party, or Mrs Me and the Toresa Party?

Whichever, I fear the country is in for a shock sometime in the early hours of Friday morning (or maybe at 10.01pm this evening, if the exit polls are as accurate as they were last time).

The ballot papers are now designed to have no room at the bottom to add a 'none of the above' box.

I have never not voted in a general or local election.

But, this time, I feel like getting my ballot paper, ripping it into teeny tiny pieces and then putting them one by one into the ballot box, to create maximum mess when it is opened. Because, whichever colour is in power tomorrow morning, it isn't going to get any better any time soon: largely because it isn't politiicians who run the country.

Who runs any given country at any time depends on what stage in a (predictable and repeating) timeline the country is at.

Currently ours is still run by Big Banks, Big Old Money, Big Pharma, and Big Media (with social media providing new impetus and new uncritical group think to that), and, increasingly, Big Terror and Big New Money.

No political party has the answer.

This time we can be grateful that we only had seven weeks of 'campaigning' which, together with two terror attacks on our shores, largely obliterated reporting of Donald the Elephant's shenanigans on another continent.

But, that 'seven weeks in social media' has caused even more division in Britain that any political party ever could. Although (this declining blog aside) I don't use any social media, I do look at some of it occasionally, and what I have seen recently has shocked me to the core. Such venom, nastiness, division, and jealousy.

Taken as an 'evidence base', the professional in me can explain all of it away in psychological and sociological terms that follow established theories. But, on a personal level, it just makes me glad that I don't engage in that chaotic non-stop world of wooly and uninformed thinking, fuelled by group / peer pressure and one-upmanship.

Social media at its worst is just one small step away from terrorism. The driving forces, analysed to their purest (or do I mean 'basest') level, are almost identical.

The future isn't bright, whatever colour it may be this time tomorrow.

Posted at 10:32 AM | Comments (3)

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Challenging Times

Larger version.

Cyber attack on the NHS predicted by a 3-part play on R4 last autumn (one of the most disturbing plays I have ever heard, that I thought at the time probably wasn't too far away - sadly not currently available to listen again).

(from Private Eye)

I'm finding it very hard not to challenge every single political statement made within my hearing with the phrase, "Do you have a source for that assertion?". When they do it tends to be 'Facebook' or 'The Daily Mail' or 'What someone said to me'.

Critical thinking is a dying dead concept. Discuss.

Posted at 12:34 PM | Comments (1)