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)

Wednesday, July 24, 2019


Posted at 12:39 PM | Comments (0)

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

And so beginneth a new era...

... in which the UK gets Trump Lite.

Similar antics... waving words around, talking off the top of their heads with little regard for hard facts, buffoonery, teflonery (nothing sticks), inappropriate name dropping, dishevelled look, sexism, racism, homophobia, bluster, untruths, manipulation of statistics... all deliberate in cultivating their self-importance, their world, and their uncaring Capitalistic world view, in which money always trumps equality, the wishes of the affected majority, and common sense. What a load of de Pfeffel.

But, I continue to maintain my view that we remain in the Hotel California as far as the EU is concerned. My book is open... how long before Trump Lite revokes Article 50?

Posted at 12:05 PM | Comments (6)

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

The Life Of

"George!" decreed Mr BW. "The Snail-let can be called George!"

"Why George?" I said, slightly miffed that my job as Chief Namer of Newcomers to The Coven was being usurped.

"Well, it's quite amusing, isn't it, you know... George and Mi1dred..."

I gave him a look of Extreme Witchy Distaste, and stated, in a That's The End Of The Matter way, "We are not calling the Snail-let after an ITV programme." A couple of years ago I finally met another person (an ex-blogger) who had been, as I was, denied ITV as a child on the grounds of taste. Old habits die hard.

"But, oh, inspiration just is not arriving... the Snail-let can't be called that, as it's too much of a mouthful..."

Inspiration then flashed, but not in my direction.

"Bri@n!" exclaimed Mr BW excitedly, "Bri@n! It's perfect!"

And so it was.

And today we go on yet another epic cross-country journey to collect him (one way and another we've done more miles in the past couple of months than we've done in the past couple of years... environmental credentials currently in little Blue pieces).

Anyone know where I can get a waterproof stick-on Bri@n decal?


Thursday, July 4, 2019

Shape shifting

"What," I asked Mr Farmer, who'd phoned about something else entirely, "are those strange shapes that have appeared in your field behind us?"

I tried to sound as if I did not fear that they might, just possibly, be the unfortunate result of over-zealous spells. They did, after all, have more than a passing resemblance to a Snail-let being towed behind a Broom.

"Ah. Ahem. They are... erm, yes, well, they are weed control patches. Nasty things weeds."

I sighed silently and wished that he understood what he was doing to the soil every time he drowned it with chemicals.

I know what he's doing: and I know that the reason he has to so do is that he doesn't practice sound farmering methods. If there's a quick and easy pharma-farmer-fix, he'll take it.

What he should be doing is employing cultural methods: rotating crops (he doesn't, he grows wheat almost every year), burying weed seeds by ploughing (he gave that up 20 years ago, now re-seeding into stubble), plant in spring not autumn (nope, he plants in late August most years), and leaving the field fallow occasionally (what, no income at all for a whole year? Never!).

I can remember* spending many days of my summer holidays in my early years of teaching helping rogue fields of cereal crops when I lived in the West Country 30-odd years ago. Great fun, but hard work. Mechanical methods don't damage a crop, or reduce its yield, unlike spraying off (killing) whole areas with chemicals.

The huge rise in food allergies are, I believe, caused by chemicals sprayed onto food that is ever-increasingly intensively farmed.

Increasing population = increasingly more glysophate in every bite.

It's hard being an organic gardener when tonnes of unknown stuff is being regularly and liberally distributed just over the hedge.

* (surprisingly, given the amount of local farmhouse scrumpy we all consumed afterwards)


Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Note to self

Remember that when you debrief with parents after a frustrating meeting to discuss why a 13 year old's particular learning needs aren't being met within a school, the person who is failing to adequately identify, let alone solve or support, the problem (undoubtedly for many other students too), who happens to be the person in charge of that area, may be standing invisibly on the other side of an open window.

And that person may, as a result of what they overhear, decide to take early retirement.

I just wish that all my current community-supporting projects were turning out so successfully...


Tuesday, July 2, 2019

New adventures

Yesterday I did something that I said I'd never do. Never, never, never.

No, not join Farcebook or get a smartphone. Not that radical.

What we did was... we bought a snail.

"But it's a very very small snail," consoled Mr BW. "In fact, it's so small that it's a snail-let. And it has a solar panel."

Last week (and for several weeks before) we were searching for a small house.
But it proved too elusive, and tiny houses were just too reminiscent of our youth.

Plus, anything that we found in a rural-enough location to suit my sensibilities had all the same permanent risks of development roundabouts as we are suffering here.

And, realistically, running two houses, even if temporarily, for a couple of years, would have made a big dent in the Witchy Piggy Banks.

And then the environmental vandalism started in our lane. Hedges and trees being ripped out. Starting a process that is going to change the landscape from individual rural idyll to semi-urban anywhereness. We don't want to live in such a place, and we didn't choose to live in such a place when we moved here 24 years ago. It's heartbreaking.

We had to do something, so have spent what would have been the second home stamp duty on a snail. So it's actually cost less than half of what legal costs, purchase costs, moving-in costs would have been, and it should be a lot more fun.

A big bonus is that we can now spend more time visiting rural parts that we don't know, in the hope that we might stumble across the ideal future location, and we now don't have the pressure of moving from our main residence and selling the little house within 3 years to get the 2nd home stamp duty back.

Now, does anyone know anything about micro-caravans and the best places to stay that are small, uncommercialised, adult only, in the depths of beyond, and not necessarily with facilities?

Does anyone have any personal recommendations of such sites that they have visited - or of any organisations worth joining?

Is wild camping allowed anywhere in the UK?

Does anyone have a field we could visit?

Years ago, in another life, when I lived in South Somerset, we ran a CCC certificated site - which in those days involved cutting the grass in the field once a month, digging a new pit for emptying loos occasionally (and filling in the previous one), making sure the water tap in the yard was turned off tightly every night, and receiving £1.50 a night from people who stayed. There is now so much choice and it's all rather confusing.


Saturday, June 29, 2019

Thought for the day

In a time of destruction, create something: a poem, a parade, a community, a school, a vow, a moral principle; one peaceful moment.

- Maxine Hong Kingston


Monday, June 3, 2019

First cut is the deepest

I now know why A&E Departments are so over-stretched.

Yesterday, I cut the end of my thumb on my dominant hand on a piece of broken glass flower that I was cleaning (stupidly with my fingers) prior to re-firing in the glass kiln to put it back together (we make it, a cat breaks it, and the kiln can mend it).

It was a deep cut, from side to side, and then down a bit, as I stupidly, without thinking, ran my thumb over the sharp broken edge to remove the mud, just above the upper thumb joint. I had just put the tenth piece of kitchen roll on it (the first nine having been sodden with blood to the point of being able to ring them out) when an old colleague arrived to catch up on the past 6 years since we last met.

She nearly fainted as I opened the front door, a trickle of blood running down my arm, jingled her car keys, and said, "Time for a trip to the hospital!"

"Nice to see you again too! But, it's fine," I said, "just needs a bit more pressure and then maybe some steri-strips."

"I've had two kids," she said, "and although it's a few years since I've had to take them to A&E, that definitely needs to go." (Aside - her kids are mid/late 20s now - one, she told me, is currently pregnant; I said, "Does she have a partner?" "Well, we assume that she did, once..." came the reply.)

I led her into the kitchen, poured two glasses of water, added some ice (when the sun shines, I can make ice), dripped some blood in by accident... tipped out the water and ice, refilled the glasses, and changed the 'dressing'.

"I can't watch that!" she said, "We need to go!"

"Stop fussing, it's slowing down. Honestly, it's fine. It will be fine. I've washed it out, sprayed it with anti-viral spray, and re-washed it. It will be fine. It hurts, but a couple of paracetemol will sort that."

We sat outside, enjoying the sun, by the pond.

"How many times did you take your kids to A&E?" I asked. She thought for a moment. "Oh... 40 or 50, in total, I suppose..." "Didn't you ever do a basic first aid course?" I enquired. "Well, it's better to be safe than sorry, surely? And I don't have the right bandages and stuff in the house." "Baaad mummy!" I joked. "You haven't changed, have you?" she said, laughing.

This morning I asked Cleaner BW how many times she had taken her her two boys to A&E (they too are now in their twenties). "Less than 20," she said.

Given that none of these four kids had any kind of chronic health condition, I was quite shocked by this. "Is that more or less than other people you know?" "Probably less, yes, definitely less," she confirmed.

I've been to A&E three times in my life. Once, aged 6 when I was taken by the school secretary, having fallen off a PE bench while (not) balancing along it, and broken my nose. Once, aged 17, having fallen from top to bottom of the long flight of stairs in the underground at Rickmansworth, while rushing for a train (that's my only trip, on my own account, in a blue-light ambulance). Once, aged 29, having fallen over on a dry ski slope and been crashed into by several other skiers, and having split my eyebrow open and dislocated my little finger (which I pulled back into place on the way to hospital, as no-one else would do it for me, and I knew it would have a worse outcome the longer it was left).

Yes, I have done many first aid courses (starting with first aid badge in Brownies) and progressing to first aid in extreme outdoor education (the trauma doctor running the training remarked that he had never met anyone so totally unflappable and clear-thinking in a full-medical-make-up, acted by actors, medical accident crisis), and I did once deliver a baby in a mountain hut near Fort William one New Year, when those there with me were too drunk to drive to the hospital, and the ambulance was delayed and then couldn't find the location (note - it was easier than delivering breech piglets) but, surely, not everyone goes to A&E for insignificant things?

Perhaps it's the fault of the system: if it cost, say, £20, to go to A&E, people might think a bit harder about whether they could just apply a plaster themselves?

How many times have you been to A&E?

How many times did you take your kids?


Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Thought for the day

"We have come to live in a society based on insults, on lies and on things that just aren't true. It creates an environment where deranged people feel empowered."

- Colin Powell


Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Thought for the day

"The day will come when man will have to fight noise as inexorably as cholera and the plague."

- Robert Koch (1843-1910), bacteriologist, recipient of a Nobel Prize in 1905 for his discovery of the cause of tuberculosis, anthrax and cholera.


Thursday, May 9, 2019


Tuesday, May 7, 2019


Friday, May 3, 2019

Less Blue but much happier

It's been a brilliant week.

I must get more Witchy Powers in the week of our 25th anniversary (I shall return to that subject soon - and thank you for the good wishes).

Today, late-afternoon, the BW Party took control of our District Council :)

Well, the closest thing that there will ever be to the BW Party.

A non-Party Political group of local people who understand and care about local issues, with brains and aspiration. More Bins than Brexit round here - the opposite to what the media have been saying all day has happened across the country.

'Keep National politics out of Local politics' and 'People not Parties' have always been my mottos.

The way decisions have been going at District levels in recent times has really upset me. Anti-environmental, pro-over-development, pro-airport expansion, anti-local interests, and, most importantly, anti-the-work of many excellent (unpaid) Local councillors.

A couple of months ago, Mr BW was chased around the non-phone and non-internet connectivity of SA by them wanting him to stand for them on the back of the work he does (as an independent) more Locally, but, amongst other reasons, the thought of then having to work in a minority against the Smug Arrogant Blue Moneyed Gits, knowing that common sense and representing local interests would always lose out to whipped votes along National Party lines, was just too much for him.

As it turned out, the SABMG's have (against all the odds) gone from having overall control to now having just 4 seats left (of whom 3 didn't have residents standing against them, 1 is new, 1 was previously an independent, and 1 was one of only two to defy the whipped votes previously), with the Chair and Leader both having lost their seats, along with our two local Useless Blues (hurrah!). I'm amazed that it has missed the national news, but, it is so amazing that it was unsurprisingly overlooked as a place to send reporters.

So, I am delighted to admit to being wrong in my previous assertion that, round here, you could stick a blue rosette on a pig and it would get elected.

I'm sure it will be a different story come the next General Election - the Blue Rosetted Pigs will remain - but, for now, it's People Power all the way.


Sunday, April 28, 2019


... we attained our first flower badge for longevity.

I'm still deciding whether the spelling mistake came into the choice. Regardless, I am delighted to finally have a rose of our own, given how many I have bought for other people over the years.

We also attained 14 cards - only two from people present at the first party (and none from those present at the first ceremony, which is unsurprising given that it was half way round the world), 3 beautifully hand-made ones, a twin pair and a quadruplet pair. What are the chances?

Yesterday afternoon we spent a lovely 3 hours rewatching our wedding/honeymoon video footage, and today we are heading up to a glassy cathedral, having yummy dinner and snoozes in a watery mill, before going to either a Fen or the coast tomorrow, depending on what the weather looks like in the morning.

We're taking some money and plenty of h0ney.... oh wait, no, that's not right, we're taking a cool box filled with ice and champagne (because £80 restaurant champagne is not Value, and I prefer drinking champagne in my nightie to sitting at a table with unknown onlookers). The silver ice machine, which started off as our anniversary present to each other (and a way of using up some of our over-supply of solar power, rather than donating it to the grid), ended up being a gift from the supplying company who sent out a second hand one then messed up the replacement. And I didn't even have to ask!

Only the current wind is reminiscent of the weather on the day, which was hot and sunny. And 3,600 miles away on an islanded Commonwealth country.

Plenty there for you to work on if you like cryptic challenges.


Thursday, April 25, 2019

Thought for the day

“All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.”

- Edmund Burke

Posted at 10:21 AM | Comments (1)

Monday, April 22, 2019

Politically motivated Art

I have 16 posts sitting in drafts that I have started in the past few weeks and then not had the enthusiasm to finish and post.

Part of it was that I was still really unwell, but the rest is that the decline in democracy, locally, district-ly and nationally, and the breakdown in morals and ethics in our society, and avoidance of some hard truths by those placed to take the hard decisions, is depressing me into inaction.

In such circumstances, I haven't had the urge to be creative. That is not good for me.

Most of the local centres that used to run reasonably priced arty/crafty courses have closed or put up their prices to unaffordable levels.

A few days ago I noticed a free, daily, online, 13 session, course on 'sketchbooks'.

It started today, and runs until May 4th (with catch-up access until May 18th), and, for those of you who may be creatively inclined, but currently in the doldrums, or who would like to start being creative but don't know where to begin (or are scared and would value a simple introduction), it might be worth a look.

A list of the sessions is here.

It's a bit American, and everything is a bit 'super-this' and 'super-that', and you need to skip the last minute of each video as it's a commercial, but the rest is OK - a nice concise reminder of the sorts of exercises I have done many times before, but which are just the thing to re-inspire and re-energise. I've even got Mr BW to participate!

Starting places...


Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Thought for the day

"I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be."

- Douglas Adams

Posted at 10:01 AM | Comments (1)

Thursday, March 21, 2019

7 weeks on...

Little Ben (faithful old tiny battery-operated alarm clock by the bed) told me it is 8.30am. Netbook clock tells me it is 08:47 (how/why do computer clocks go slow?). Radio 4 starts its 9am programme.

Is it any wonder I have no idea what time it is, let alone which day of the week?

It's 4 weeks today since we left South Africa after 4 weeks, 4025km and 4141 photos.

We had reliable internet and phone access on just 5 days, and variations on reliable/unreliable and internet/phone on the 23 other days. For most people that would be a disaster, but for us it didn't matter at all.

We went to places where most tourists wouldn't either go, or want to go. It was fantastic.

It was the year of the zebras, the three very old flat irons with interchangeable handles (weighing 6kg) that just had to come home with us for my collection, rain where there hadn't been rain for several years (much to the delight of the locals), and the stand-in taxi driver (arranged by our normal man who was ill) who had flu and kindly shared it with me.

And so it was that all the good of 4 weeks of hot sun (with warm rain short interludes) was undone with one nasty virus that has totally wiped me out... most days in the last 4 weeks have had to be spent in bed, and when I have managed to get up and dressed, I have often ended up being unable to do anything for the rest of the day, and if we have gone out for an hour (for example, to get plug plants from a local nursery) I have had a total relapse.

Hopefully things will get better soon.

Oh, and that might apply to that other Elephant in the Room too... all I can say is, told you so.


Tuesday, February 5, 2019

20 missing degrees

Ah, the joy of a whole week without internet.

"We've only had 80mm of rain since you were last here this time last year," said our ostrich/seed/sheep farmer host.

"We'll see what we can do about that, we are English after all!" I joked.

And lo it came to pass that they had more than that in 2 days, over the weekend, despite none being forecast.

It was warm rain though (but 20°C less than it usually is here at this time of year), and it was fascinating to see how the mountains and the clouds altered the scenery in what is usully a sun-parched arid landscape. And they are beyond happy to see the rain, so we are happy for them.

Off to Eastern Cape today (further east). I'm not sure of the internet availability there.

And apparently Mr BW is scheming to meet up with some of Mi1dred's SA cousins. Oh joy.

We haven't seen any news for a whole week. Updates please.


Monday, January 28, 2019

It's true

The 'Entitleds' in SA have a way of personalising their multi-million rand transportations.

It's to buy a personal plate in Western Province (the only area that allows such frippery) and put it on their vehicle in another region (usually Western Cape, because it's really the only region where there are many 'Entitleds' - similar to our Bright Young Banker Things, inhabiting capital and major cities, not Russell Group Educated, unable to cook (or indeed do anything else even vaguely domestic) and not giving a Flying F**** about anyone but themelsves).

Luckily they are easily identified by the 'WP' suffix on their registration plates. The 'P' stands for 'Plate'. The 'W' stands for... well, you know, you hopefully get the drift, and if you dont, you'd probably fit in well with them.

There is a very thin line between 'swanky' and 'wanky' round here. Very, very thin, more than an 's' thin, and the more we visit here, the thinner it gets.

We also saw "1JAMES WP". Or rather, we encountered him, cutting in front of us, causing us to brake, in an area of road works.

It's been 33°C here today. We went to Kirstenbosch, and there was not a breath of a breeze, so we hastened from shade patch to shade patch. The gardens were beautiful, as ever, and the factor 50 seems to have earnt its keep.

At home it appears to have been sunny and 4°C. Tonight is set to be -4°C. Snow is forecast for tomorrow. Despite this, our solar panels made over 5kWh today.

Tomorrow is a travelling day. Off to our usual ostrich/seed farm in the Karoo. 6 hours driving distance away from Cape Town. We usually stop somewhere for a couple of days on the way, but we've now seen most of the places on the way as much as we want, and as we are going much further this year (to areas we've not been before), we're pushing it. So, early night for me.


Sunday, January 27, 2019

SA2019 - Early Days

No matter how many times I fly into Cape Town, there is still that *eeeeeee!* feeling on first sight of Table Mountain (flat mountainy bit in the background) and Signal Hill (peaky bit to the RHS) from the plane.

It was 0°C all the way from home round the M25 to Heathrow on Wednesday afternoon, but had dropped to -4°C by 6.15pm, so we had to wait for the de-icing machine to spray our wings and tail before we could take off. That made the 22°C when we landed at 9am the next morning much more welcome.

It's breezy (as ever just down the coast from Cape Town) but mid- to high- 20s by day, and 17°C by night. Great to acclimatise before heading up into the drier regions where it is likely to be in the 40s. Hopefully.

The nice hire company gave us an almost brand-new car - only 309km on the clock - probably as we have booked a (comparatively) long rental, so we'd better be careful. No going down unmade rocky roads, or any of the dangerous off-road detours we're (in)famous for. Well, at least not for the first few days.

No Elly Plates (a pictorial registration from the Eastern Cape region, down towards Port Elizabeth) this time, just a Cape Town registration, so we'll be obviously tourists as soon as we leave the Cape, which is a bit of a pain. The car is the current 'trendy' colour here, a sort of nasty metallic 'mushroom'. Amidst a sea of white and silver, it's visible in a car park, which is a good thing. I've had to take a picture of it in case we misplace it as my memory card seems to have run out of space for random car registrations, only needed in the short term. Must be an age thing.

On which subject, I'm still delighting in the owner of our favourite vinyard in Franschhoek telling me that she was feeling tired and visibly slowing down. "I know how you feel!" I empathised. "But you're not as old as me, yet, I think," she replied. It turned out that she was 4 years younger than me.

Perhaps on the back of this, she let us buy from the 2018 rosé vintage (beautifully young and fresh), which they hadn't yet labelled (or, indeed, actually released), and her daughter (about to go off to university) wrote on the bottles for us. And then also signed a bottle of her own first make (of which we acquired a delicious one last year), which had now sold out, to everyone except friends. OK, so we spun her a tale (albeit true) about wanting to impress our (albeit retired) wine-importer friend and having a silver wedding coming up, but.

And today, at a craft market, another person who has become a friend, an English lady, a couple of years younger than me (who has lived out here since 1991), a potter, making and selling brightly painted pottery (of which we have a growing collection) confided that she was having botox to control her wrinkles.

I taught her 8 year old (adopted as an unwanted/unaffordable baby from a township) daughter the easy 'finger' way to calculate the 9x table, and lent my purse-safety safety pin to her (also English) husband to dig a thorn out of the child's foot. I insisted on spraying it, the girl's foot, and dad's hands with anti-viral hand sanitiser, and marvelled that most people clearly don't worry about such things. They couldn't decide whether I was a nurse, or a teacher. I didn't enlighten them.

We went to our second favourite vineyard and were given 4 free bottles of rosé, for a reason we couldn't quite determine. Probably because an 'Entitled' was requiring an 8% discount off 60 bottles and the staff couldn't find a manager who would answer their phone to authorise it, it being a Sunday afternoon. We got much more than 10% equivalent, just by being us. Ah well.

You do have to wonder why some people go to vineyards for wine tastings. These two seemed to prefer their phones to the experience. I guess that is why more and more vineyards are now charging for tastings. We're only here for the free wi-fi.

Tonight we are having rubber band stew. Made with a whole kilogram of fresh tomatoes (cheaper than one can of tinned) and a whole bottle of red wine, all reduced down. Just £2 from a supermarket (the sort of South African red you get on the £5.99 offers in supermarkets at home, that in reality is made from premium vineyards' over-production of grapes, sold on to a co-op to get some sort of monetary return, but where the production is hastened and not overseen by a 'named' winemaker).

We are 25 this year, and so is the end of Apartheid. To us, on our seventh visit, things are beginning to visibly change now, and the townships (shanty towns, with side-by-side corrugated tin shacks, no running water, and toilets shared between many familes) are being replaced by cement-block built houses with indoor facilities. But this has only begun to happen in the past couple of years, and only outside of cities. We've noticed that the township in this area (across the road and above the pictured beach - photo taken from moving car) still continues to grow. And 7% of the population still own 70% of the land.

There is an election in a few months, and people had to register to vote this weekend. Interesting times here.


Wednesday, January 23, 2019


Is this enough clothes for a month?

Now on our 7th trip (how did that happen?!) and we think we've finally cracked the numbers. Few places have washing machines, and I don't do hand washing. We'll see.

Also wondering, is it better to take lightweight cloth bags (for shopping) with us, or to buy plastic bags there (they started charging for bags years before we did, but it's not stopped thoughtless usage as it has over here), or to take (re-used) plastic bags with us, knowing that they won't eventually be recycled?

Air miles v plastic pollution. Hmmm.

In other news, provided it is mostly sunny, we are now self-sufficient in solar-generated power during daylight hours, and often for several hours after dusk, given the 6.5kWh battery storage.

We're going to play a game of 'guess the weather at home' (-4°C expected here tonight, and nothing above 0°C at night, 5°C by day, for the next week) and see how frugal the house sitter is being with electricity, by regularly looking at the solar inverter generation website. My favourite website. It takes so little to please me.


Monday, January 21, 2019

Super Blood Wolf Moon

12.45am - beautifully clear, cold and frosty, bright white full moon, casting clear shadows.

3.15am - still clear, going cloudy, moonlight still white, but less bright.

4.45am - cloud cover. Moon not visible. Bugger. Grey not red.

5.45am - even cloudier. Moon not visible. Light still grey.

Non-event of the year here. Roll on 2029...


Thursday, January 17, 2019

If it's the third week in January...

...then it must be marmalade time.

This year brightened up by a Seville with a punk harstyle:

I'm getting rather frustrated with Twinlock A4 plastic file pockets. They are the only ones that are disintegrating like this:

All the 'cheap' ones (Woolworth's *sobs*, pound shop etc etc) are all fine, it's just these ones. It's only the white plastic strip inside the spine, but it is very annoying and is going everywhere. Some of them are maybe 20 years old, but they have all been in ring binders, on shelves or in filing cabinets, at normal room temperatures, so there is absolutely no reason for it. Has anyone else experienced this phenomenon?

Yesterday while buying 18lbs of oranges in the local market, I went into the nearby library to sort out something I couldn't do myself online, and to collect and instantly return a book I had ordered but read from elsewhere in the time it had taken to come in.

The librarian stared at her screen, looked surprised, picked up a slip of paper, an elastic band and a marker pen, ready to address the book to the next place it had to go, and said, "Is Mrs D. Witch a relative of yours, Mrs B. Witch?" "No, I said, I don't know her - is she a friend of yours?" "No, but it's very strange - she's next on the reservation list for this book, and in this library too! Perhaps it's an omen, perhaps you should buy a lottery ticket?" "I understand statistics, so maybe I'll put the money saved in a savings account instead and see whether I'm ahead in 20 years time!" I joked.

Maybe she was right though... when I opened up the posting screen just now, it was 17:17 on 17th.

It's all rather too spooky.


Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Origin unknown

I woke up this moring thinking, "Yikes on bikes!"

Not because of last night's vote (exactly as predicted) but because it was later than I needed it to be.

I hadn't used, heard, or read this expression for several decades. No idea why it popped into my head.

The internet doesn't seem to know its origin - although, as ever, it's now being used in a different way than we used it as kids, and by different sub-groups.

Mr BW suspects it may have an Enid Blyton style origin, and it was certainly around in the 60s and 70s.

Any ideas?


Monday, January 14, 2019


Awake in the night I got to thinking about how many of the world's problems begin with 'P'.

- Population
- Pollution
- Pesticides
- Plastics
- Pounds and pence
- Populism
- Politicians

There were a whole lot more at 3am, but I can't recall them now.

Edited the next morning - after some more pain-fuelled sleeplessness - to add:

- Power (provision)
- Power (people)
- Presidents
- Pornography
- Prejudice
- Planes
- Polling
- Plagiarism
- Processing
- Profiteering
- Planning
- Predictions
- Priorities

In other news, it's clear from the answers to The Friday Question that there is no longer any agreed 'etiquette' in this country.

I once had a book on the subject, and I'd quote from it now, if only someone hadn't borrowed and failed to return it.

But, I seem to be in the minority: I was brought up never to take the last piece of anything provided for me on a plate without being specifically invited to, and never taking anything home, again without specifically (and genuinely) being invited to. On the other hand, I always had to finish everything I'd put on my plate, under threat of it being served again for the next meal until I did eat it.

Plus, when I was on the Local Nice Ladies' Committee, we used to have an extra unwritten 'column' on the sheet we had to submit to County every month reporting back about the speaker we'd had (in order to maintain 'standards', we were told). It was called, "Speaker's manners relating to refreshments." It made us laugh, at the time, and provided light relief while we were trying to come up with yet another polite way of saying, 'Bloody boring, needs to be put out to pasture,' or, 'No idea what he was on about, and neither had he.' I can't remember now whether or not I was the one who first came up with the idea of that 'column'. I don't think I was, as I was not one of the ones who'd had nannies or been brought up in various parts of the Empire with a full set of servants, but, who knows?


Friday, January 11, 2019

The Friday Question

As a Witchy hat tip to the past, in celebration of BW's 16th blogday (which was a week ago, but it's becoming more and more obvious that I no longer know which day is which), and as we enter our 17th year, I am resurrecting 'The Friday Question'. As I no longer have 400 visitors on a Friday, I can no longer expect 50 answers, but, please do your best.

Suppose you were a speaker at a Nice Ladies' meeting, and, after your talk, you were presented with a cup of tea and a plate like this:

Actually, the plate originally had two fairy cakes, the other was in a pink case with rather more butter icing.

Assuming that you are not diabetic and don't have allergies or dislikes to anything on the plate,

(a) What would you do?

and, if the answer differs,

(b) What would be the 'polite' thing to do?

Posted at 10:07 AM | Comments (10)

Wednesday, January 9, 2019


Nothing to say, except that it's one of those dates I love; the only thing that is less of a mess in the world is now The Studio, where I have spent every day since 20th December bar 2 (last Wednesday and Thursday) sorting, tidying, filing, reorganising and rethinking. It's a completely different place now, and I'm hoping that its new, better organised, more open, and much less cluttered, ambience will lead to a resurgence in creativity. Hoping.

I managed 13 days without leaving The Coven; Mr BW managed 20.

There seems to be a world shortage of ibuprofen. Well, a shortage in shops local to here. This is a pain. Apparently 90% of the world's supply comes from 6 manufacturers, and there have been problems with the main manufacturing plant in the US. That's always the danger of such set-ups, of course. Too large to fail?

If we do leave the EU, there is going to be a slump in non-perishable food sales (and so large supermarkets' profits) in the months immediately afterwards. These will naturally be attributed to problems caused by the interruption to the supply chain, but will, in reality, due to the stupid amount of panic buying/stockpiling that is currently going on.

As might be deduced from my comment above about the number of days we managed without going out over the FOTCR™, we do keep high stocks of everything (a habit that dates back to the early 80s when I lived 24 miles from the nearest supermarket), so I'm not contributing.


Friday, January 4, 2019

Day 4


Thursday, January 3, 2019

Day 3

It's all go in space.

New Horizons found a space snowman (MU69), and the Chinese landed on the dark side of the Moon, ready to colonise, out of sight.

Meanwhile, on Earth, my little old-fashioned and much-loved netbook seems to be running on a much slower time than human time. I may adopt its convention.


Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Day 2

Why are people 20 years older than me getting drones as presents, and Alexa spy-in-the-corner gadgets ("It's great, they'll turn your lights on and off whenever you ask, and play any music you want!")?

Is there any evidence that fireworks are getting noisier? Or is it an age thing?

I'd love to ban drones and fireworks for personal use. Give it a few years and the 'authorities' will also be thinking this.

Oh, and, so many (well, 3) Patchy Ladies' tales of newly-vegan offspring suddenly finding they liked pigs in blankets for FOTCR™ Lunch. It's good to have principles.


Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Day 1

Mi1dred was naughty.

Mr BW put on her antlers, and was about to add her fairy lights, ready for the New Year's Day run with her friends and their Guardians, then she refused to start.

She seemed to have lost her spark.

Meanwhile, in Reorganisation News, every recent day, including FOTCR™ Day, has been devoted to reorganisation of The Studio. 12 years of less-than-perfect organisation and gradual accumulation of others' donated cast-offs, and my own unfinished projects, and planned-for-the-future projects, is definitely taking time to re-think and re-jig. And lots of bottles of wine.

Replacing plastic storage with wooden storage, cursing degradable plastic bags and disintegrating rubber bands, is definitely trying.

Mr BW has spent the day fiddling with Mi1dred's innards and I have spent the day refinding and rehoming drawer innards.

But, we're getting there...


Monday, December 31, 2018

Year ending

NORAD say Santa delivered 7,281,439,471 gifts. That's not quite one per person on the planet, and amusing given that only one third of the world's population is Christian.

It's also almost half as much again (in dollars) as Donald Duck plans to spend building his divisive wall.

And one fifth of the amount the UK has to pay the EU for the pleasure of leaving its ever closening alliance.

Has anyone seen any credible detailed figures to justify any of these numbers?

In fact, has anyone seen any credible figures to explain where all the money in the UK is currently going?

No, nor have I.

The FTSE 100 is worth 12% less now than it was a year ago. The worst performance since 2008. Blame China, blame the US, just don't blame our collective politicians' inability to run a bath let alone a country.

And yet many people continue to clamour to come here, by any means possible. Why?

In a year that has seen an awful lot of coverage of the centenary of the end of the First World War, it seems very strange that many people are surprised by the attitude of the other 27 members of the EU to the UK wanting to break away from the ever-tightening single-entity Europe (after all, the wriitng has been on the wall for years - Eurovision), and by the use of small boats to cross the 22 miles of brine between us and France.

My money is on the UK not leaving the EU on March 29th. If it were France, there would be riots at this point, but, it being the UK, the news will likely be met with total indifference and acceptance.

My hope is that the UK's foreign aid budget (0.7% of gross national income (GNI)) will be used to pay for the cost of policing the Channel, and dealing with the influx of economic migrants, but, it won't be. Some interesting figures on this subject here. As a nation, with current huge social care, elderly care, health care, and homelessness/housing problems, we are far too generous to those beyond our shores. Would any of the countries we currently 'aid' help us in the same way, were the roles reversed? Hmmm.

In addition to lots of attention to marking the UK's successful bid to retain its own identity in 1918, 2018 has also been the year of the transgender, vegan, minimalist, pop-up, lived live on social media via small screens lifestyle. No, I don't buy/buy into any of that, and my life is the richer for it.

I'm saddened, but unsurprised, that comparatively little attention has been given to the centenary of the securing of the right to vote for (some) women. At the end of the year I suspect that probably only 1 person in 10 (or perhaps even 100) knows the difference between a suffragette and a suffragist, and fewer than that number know why it is important.

And nowhere have I seen the centenary of Fox's Glacier Mints mentioned, let alone celebrated.

So, it just remains for me to wish you a Happy New Year.

Currently, it does seem likely that 2019 will only be 'Happy' for those able to see beyond the large to the small. In the words of TS Eliot, "Go in peace. And work out your salvation with diligence."