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)

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Easter 6ee:

On apple blossom (well, it was on Friday afternoon, it's too cold today):

Easter 6eekeeper (spot the 6ee - clue: it's on the RHS):

Easter eggs (I knew the cheese wasn't enough for the Easter 6eekeeper):

Whoever decided on R4's programming today must have been in a strange mood: this morning, punk women (and how that time feels as if it is being re-run right now), at lunchtime, how members of the Church of England caused Brexit. Holy god, the timing, what were they thinking? I think Feedback is off the air for a while... pity, it would have made for interesting listening... or maybe the editor was hoping they were all in church...

We had a little rain on Friday night. The first since we got back from SA nearly 4 weeks ago. None today. It is so dry it is scary. And yet - the three district councils on whose borders we sit are beween them planning to build 22,000 new houses within a 5 mile radius of here in the next 17 years. Madness.


Friday, April 14, 2017

Easter worship

He has risen:

From Bodmin to The Coven via Exeter and Tamworth, in 17 hours.
Logistics at their best (although going to Tamworth seems a bit off-route, they are my favourite breed of pig).

My favourite cheese (and the garlic wrapped one is totally different to the nettle covered original).
Who needs chocolate?


Tuesday, April 11, 2017


So, March disappeared.

I've fallen out of love with the internet.

A lot of the email that people send to me is bouncing. While that is a great advantage for the hundreds of unwanted emails I get each month from companies that I've bought from before, it is a huge problem for people who only know only one e-address for me.

Because I hate Google (and everything connected to it, including gmail), I use a couple of domains, that I've owned for almost 20 years, for email forwarding to a catch-all mailbox from whatever ISP I am using at any time. It saves having to change emails each time I change ISPs.

But, apparently some Russian spammers have been sending emails using adddresses from both of these domains as an alias (so, not sending it from them, but putting them in the 'sender' field to make it look as if their emails come from me). This has led to recipients marking them as spam, and some ISPs and some individual's adaptive spam filters then blocking/bouncing my emails.

Some email programmes don't have a 'whitelist' facility. I use Thunderbird and its 'adaptive spam filter' is switched on by default, and turning it off (which involves a great deal of searching in its bowels) seems to be the nearest I can get to fixing it.

But, if I don't know someone is having bouncing email problems, as they aren't able to tell me, I can't tell them to add me to their whitelist in order for it not to happen. If anyone has sent me email recently that hasn't elicited a response, please add me to you whitelist (or whatever your email client calls it) then try to resend. The address in the sidebar (*nods right*) shouldn't be affected, as (to the best of my knowledge) that hasn't yet been abused by those with no morality or scruples who can't be bothered to get a proper job. Tempting fate there, of course...

It makes me feel like just giving up email... and the internet... and I've been using the internet since it was invented. It just feels like a horrible exploitative place now.

I've found a new way of making money by the way.

Given that banks and building societies recent interest rate cuts (particularly on regular savings and interest on current accounts) have cost us nearly £1,000 per year in lost bonuses, I have to find something, particularly given that the latest estimates are that inflation will hit 2.4% by the year's end..

In Small Local Town's out-of-town shopping park, there is an area that has a B&Q, a Halfords, a Pets at Home, and an M&S Simply Food. Parking is always very tight, so one can rarely park near to the shop one wants to visit.

I've discovered that people going to M&S to buy their overly priced, non-clean food (another current Term of Hate for me) ready-meals, or ready-peeled vegetables, are far too lazy to take their trolley back to the only M&S trolley park, so, they just leave them at whichever trolley return point is nearest to where their gas-guzzling-tank is parked. Clearly they are prepared to leave a pound in the trolley slot rather than walk 30 metres more to return it to the place where they could get a refund. I guess it's the 'what is the lowest value coin that you will bend down to pick up' test for the overly-monied of the area.

Quite by accident (I was spending the huge quantity of Pets at Home vouchers that I'd accumulated - their vouchers nest, so I got product worth over £70 for less than £30) I've made £4 in the past week just by noticing pounds in slots, plugging trolleys into each other and pushing them 30 metres. It isn't going to pay for the next trip to SA of course, but, every penny counts (if only I could get the coffee-slurping, eating-out, spend everything you earn and more, generation to understand that)...

I read with horror recently that only 10% of meals are now prepared from scratch in-home, that the average new garment is only worn five times, and that only half the adult population in England have more than £3,000 in savings. Always save at least 10% of your income I say, I've always said, and I still do. It gives you choices when you are older.

Here's a cat picture, from the kitchen window:

Or maybe that should be a 'spot the cat' picture. There are two of them actually.
Oh, OK, here's a closer view:

And we have eight new children. 2 white, 4 brown, and 2 brown, beige, and grey. That brings that total back to 18. We didn't get any new ones last year, and with most of the rest now 5 or 6, it was necessary if we wanted eggs after Easter.


Tuesday, February 28, 2017

South Africa 2017

Straight out of the camera:

Fire on the mountains, run boys run (despite rstrictions, there are only 120 days of water left in the Cape Area: the worst drought since records began in 1904):

Rescuing tortoises on gravel roads (the alternative crunch is unappealing):

Wondering what happens next:

Drinking stonkingly good wine:

Enjoying the colours and crafts of the local artisan markets:

The gardens of some of the large vineyards have painterly qualities:

And the sunsets are 'stunning' as they say in these parts:

That's what we've been up to for the last week, when the temperature hasn't fallen below 30 degrees by day.

We've had 7 nights in a house south of Cape Town, overlooking a long white sandy beach, with two German friends and a bicycle worth £8K, two nights in an historic homestead (used as a hospital for the wounded British in the Boer War) furnished with really old objets (I'm wondering what they'll miss...), on a cheese farm in the Southern Cape with a herd of Jerseys, and tomorrow we're sleeping with Ellies.

We've already done well over a thousand miles in our trusty steed, Elly Plates (so called because the car hire company had a batch of cars in relocated from the Eastern Cape, where they either do fewer or more miles) and they have cute pictures:

What have you been doing? What have we missed?


Sunday, February 26, 2017

Escape from no-man's land


Sunday, February 19, 2017


And so it came to pass that we pulled out of buying the house in Mathsland. Over 3 weeks ago actually, but I haven't really felt like talking about it before now.

It just all got too ridiculous and all the things that had bothered us slightly suddenly clearly became future problems of indefinable and worrying proportion.

As I hinted before, warning bells were sounding about how long they were messing around. We first saw the place on November 3rd. At the end of January, into week 13, with us as effectively cash buyers, with no onward chain, and ex- wanting her money, things were going from slow to slower.

Given that we have friends who were in a 7 property, 6 new mortgage, chain that recently completed in 5 weeks (including one church property which needed 12 signatures to release), they clearly didn't want to sell, despite what they told us. And they were trying to screw ex- out of her share by some very shady dealing.

Dishonesty is not our thing, and we knew we wouldn't be able to live alongside it. Oh and let's not mention the attitude to environmental pollution - septic tank, declared totally clogged up and a hazard by our surveyor, emptying before exchange of contracts made a contractural item by us, then emptied by a 'mate with a tanker so I can't provide a receipt' and the unprocessed sludge then spread on fields rather than taken to sewage treatment works ('ah, but that costs money, and we have other ways of doing things up here, you'll get used to it.').

Ah well, that's somewhere north of three grand gone forever *deep sigh* but at least it's better than the high tens (or low hundreds) of thousands that I suspect it would have come to losing, if we'd bought it, spent the renovation and extension money, found the same problems, and not been able to resell *relieved thoughts*.

Sometimes you just have to walk away, irrespective of the costs. Mr BW did a fantastic job of unpacking everything packed, fitting it all back in where it had come from, and taking all the new stuff we'd bought to renovate the new place back.

So, on what should have been completion date (the third agreed with the vendor one, all of which were missed by their pathetically lazy and grossly incompetent solicitor), we went to the beach, where it was grey, but where there was a sign:

Believing in signs, this one was clearly, "The Only Way is Up!"

Back in mid-December, I finished off a qui1t I started in the autumn of 2014. It's huge (108" x 89") and I hadn't finished it because it was too big for me to qui1t, even on my big machine. A new Patchy Lady to my group recommended somewhere to take it that did great work at an excellent price, and arranged a date for a couple of us to accompany her to take it over. So, Mr BW and I stayed up until 4am to get it finished (not intentionally, it just took a lot longer than expected).

One last iron:

Laid out on the floor:

Next time I saw it, hanging up in the long-arm qui1ter's studio:

Close up:

She did a great job, but the colours still weren't enough to brighten the darkness and the Coven- Nord-shaped hole in my heart.

The early snowdrops tried to cheer me up:

Mr BW finished Nelly (carved from a solid block of wood). I like ellies, but the song is now forever spoilt).

Mr BW made me some glass elly magnets, as well as some sheep ones:

But I was still sad.

The deer put in an appearance to try to brighten my day:

And still it didn't work.

A flock of unusual (for here) birds visted the field behind. At first I thought they were mistle thrushes, but then I realised they were too big. And the wrong colour. Consulting a bird book, I confirmed that they were fieldfares:

Normally I would have been delighted, but with all the avian flu around (and given that we are the only one of the six hen keepers around here who have made any effort to keep our birds segregated from wild birds, despite the Defra order) I just wanted them to fly away.

I looked at the thermometer in the polytunnel, that hadn't been reset since mid-September.

42.9°C. Better than the -6.2°C from last week I thought.

And so, in the absence of any planned projects, we decided to go to South Africa. As is normal for us at this time of year.

Ah, back to normality.

Posted at 12:00 PM | Comments (17)

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

And the questions from financial institution call centres get ever more stupid..

Him: Well Mrs BW, I need to look at some further security before I can tell you that...

Me: I've already entered my 16 digit card number, my date of birth, the 3 security numbers from the back of my card and my credit limit!

Him: Well, I just need to ask you about a recent transaction... you used your card recently at a Sainsbury's Petrol Filling Station...

Me: Yes, on Saturday...

Him: No, I need you to tell me the amount of the transaction.

Me: Forty-odd quid... that's the amount of fuel I can get in my car...

Him: No you must tell me exactly!

Me: You're joking! Come on! No-one who leads a normal life carries that sort of information in their head! Unless they're autistic of course, and I'm not...

Him: Now then Mrs BW, you can't be saying that sort of thing these days you know...

Me: But it's true! It's somewhere between forty and forty-five pounds, that's all that I can tell you. Any more and I would be guessing. A 1 in 500 guess is not likely to meet your 'computer says no' criteria now is it?

Afterwards, I recounted this to MrBW. "You should have told him that it wasn't the sort of -ist comment he was objecting to, it was an assertion that you're professionally qualified to make..." Bugger. Missed a trick there. But, I did at least sneak in the 'computer says no' line that came from Little Britain.


Monday, February 6, 2017

2017 is now a tenth gone

Chinese factory replaces 90% of human workers with robots. Production rises by 250%, defects drop by 80%.

I also heard on the BBC News yesterday that it's thought that robots can replace judges (although, as ever, when one seeks out and reads the backgound info it isn't 'replace' it's 'assist').

I'd say that robots are a bigger threat to our current way of life than Donald Duck.

Or, to add in what I said the other day, robots and social media are a bigger threat to our current way of life than Donald Duck in Trumpton.

Seems like I'm the only one around here thinking that, but, I'm quite used to being different...

Posted at 12:03 PM | Comments (2)

Friday, February 3, 2017

End Game

We went to a funeral yesterday. Since the middle of October, twelve people we know well, or partners of friends, have died. But, we do know a lot of people, and, because of our interests and creative hobbies, many of them are older, but still, twelve in fourteen weeks is not a situation I ever want repeated.

I've never been to a funeral with over 300 mourners before. Particularly not one in a tiny country church. But, at least the high attendance was expected, and just over 100 fitted in the church, and the rest were seated on plastic fold-up chairs in a barn a hundred yards away with gas heaters and a good quality audio-link from the church. It drizzled as the service ended, but we must have dodged the torrential rain everywhere in this area, as there were puddles across many roads and fields on our way home and evidence of a downpour when we got back to The Coven.

I've never been to a funeral where the service went on for an hour and a quarter, and the 20 minute sermon was utterly uncalled for, but the vicar was clearly absolutely unaware that he was efficiently alienating anyone who wasn't high church: you don't have to be religious to have high moral and ethical standards, and to be dedicated to making things better in your own community by freely sharing the experience, skills, and talents you have.

The post-funeral reception was held at a country house hotel a couple of miles away, where the usual price for an afternoon tea is £25 plus service. The deceased (always a highly organised and kindly and highly social individual) had left instructions, that were read out, that everyone was to enjoy a glass of good wine and a good buffet lunch. And yes, the red was exceptional for such an event.

I've never been to a funeral celebration (I hate the term 'wake') where there was absolutely nothing except crisps that I could eat. I do struggle at such 'dos' and usually have some wheat-free fare about my person, but I'd assumed that such a venue would routinely cater for a non-meat and non-wheat eating Witch. Or, at the very least, have salad garnishes, and crudites, and plates of cheese, or fruit, that would fill my gaps.

Now, I know there is currently a media-caused panic-buying of fresh vegetables and salads going on (thank goodness for our polytunnel), but one would have expected some sort of greenery on plates of flour-based items (sandwiches, cheese straws, quiche slices, vol-au-vents etc etc). But, no.

I had to have a plate of crisps (and, to be honest, the sprayed-on flavourings on some worried me as they often contain wheat).

Mr BW, seeing the quantity of the excellent red wine that I had decided to drink to drown my sorrows, and knowing that we had a long run home in Mi1dred, went to get me a second plate of crisps, and, seeing a young waiter refilling the carb-based items, explained my hungry predicament and asked whether they had a couple of tomatoes and a length of cucumber that I could have to nibble. The waiter returned 20 minutes later with some finger sandwiches made with dry and tasteless gluten-free bread, but, really, I'd sooner have had the requested tomatoes and cucumber. Of course I didn't express that ingratitude, and smiled and thanked him heartily in the hope that he might similarly help out a future guest with dietary needs.

It does amaze me how often 'finger buffets' in this country are comprised of wheat-based and meat-based highly processed food.

While I'm having a moan about what food available at public events is doing to our health, I'll join the condemnation of the number of blogs that are descending into marketing and advertising fests. What once nourished our souls is now polluting our consciousness and attempting to control us.

There was a brilliant programme about social media on Radio 4 a couple of weeks ago, "Bursting the Social Media Bubble" (or, as it was referred to, "Your highly addictive online echo chamber". If you didn't catch it, please do listen. There was also a R4 Woman's Hour programme a couple of weeks ago that asked, "Is digital and social media a benefit or a distraction at work?" Again, well worth a listen.

And, as I commented below the original post:

"The technology has changed too, mobile instead of reading on a laptop, older people know how things were - so can compare and contrast, but for anyone under twenty five - this is their normal."

So true.

The world is dumbing down (look at the BBC website now...).

The population are dumbing down and questionning less, particularly the younger segment who have no experience of a time before the internet, the always-on digital world, and social media.

The majority of people do not have an understanding of advertising, marketing and statistics, but are fed it, and believe it in a way that is just plain dangerous.

I am scared much more by this than by all the Donald Trumps in the world.

Although Twitter and Donald would seem to Trump all my concerns... particularly as the female president of Lithuania told Mrs May today that she didn't need Britian to broker a bridge between the EU and America as we have Twitter for that.


Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Repeat after me.

I'm going to post here something I've just said in a comment elsewhere (although I have added a couple of extra words into a couple of sentences, to be slightly clearer), because it sums up my current feelings about all the brouhaha about the current state visit plans:

Or the other way of looking at it is that the more he has contact with politically experienced and wordly wise people, outside his own country, the better informed he will become. You don't conquer ignorance and prejudice by actions that just fuel that person's warped and misguided view of the world.

I don't agree with what Trump is doing, but the world SO badly needs to change in how things have been going in recent years that one has to start somewhere.

He is a businessman: businessmen spend their time playing (and excuse me here but it's the only way of effectively saying it) 'my dick is bigger than your dick.' Several rounds of negotiations later, from their original ridiculous position they eventually produce something workable, and different to what was originally on the table. Which helps things move forwards.

It is interesting to me to look at how people around the world are being dragged into the melee rather than taking a step back and looking at the true processes in effect here. There could be a good outcome here that helps begin to sort out all the unrest that is so apparent everywhere.

I suspect it could be the beginning of the downfall of controlling religion and capitalism. If handled right.

The Queen won't be 'embarrassed' by a scruffy, overweight, overly-monied and underly-mannered American. She's a very bright and wise lady - probably the best diplomat in the world, or that the world has ever/will ever see. Let her look after herself and we'll see the magic she can weave.

For once, I think the situation is being handled well and that UK Ltd know exactly what game they are playing here.

Posted at 11:47 AM | Comments (3)

Sunday, January 22, 2017

We do like to co-ordinate our flowers with our cushions

Long-term readers may remember when I made these cushions to match some particularly vivid petunias in the old butler sink outside the summer house. If the archives worked, I could even post a link, but they don't, so I can't. Sorry.

When the hyacinth bulbs came out of the dark just before the FOTCR™ they looked like this:

And now they look like this. Fabulous:

The BBC Weather this morning said that the coldest place in the UK was a few miles from here and -8°C. Up north where we are hopefully going soon it was 11 degrees warmer. See, I can do temperature inversion spells. Donald Trump can try to deny climate change all he likes (he's apparently already taken all pages mentioning it off the official websites) but it's a reality.

I'm already planning the trees we will be planting up north. Despite my broom being very low emission, I need to make up for all the chugging we will be doing up and down the A1. And provide pollen for b33s. A row of these methinks:

We have one in the Coven Lawn here, but I want a row of 15. I saw such a row running down the edge of a field over near Ipswich the other day and it looked stunning. I just need to find somewhere reasonably priced to buy them.


Friday, January 20, 2017

Even the Feline Familars are at screaming point over the inaction of northern solicitors...

Anyone know if you can complain to the Law Society about someone else's solicitor?


Thursday, January 19, 2017

A dilemma

This month's official figures on the economy have been published. I always try to read my information first hand, so as soon as Radio 4 News informs me of "new government figures", I go straight to the relevant section of the ONS website. The headline figures bandied about by 'the media' often don't tell the whole story. I often find the debt charities websites a good source for headline figures without crass comment.

In the last week there have been 'media reports' that credit card debt is the worst it has ever been. Things are getting a tiddly bit out of control on that front again. Total credit card debt in November 2016 was £66.7bn. Online articles claim that, per household, this is £2,469, but I don't think those figures add up...

I'm afraid that we are contributing mightily to this total at the moment. Far far too many credit card companies are throwing 0% balance transfer and money transfer offers around again (some with no fee, as they did back in the good old days over a decade ago when we cleared our mortgage and made thousands of pounds by stoozing).

Rather than cash-in ISAs early to fund our new house purchase (and so lose up to a year's interest and also the future tax-free interest status of the money) I have said 'Yes please!' to all and any offers that have come our way. And there have been more than I've ever seen. Other retired people I know report a similar situation.

I have also taken advantage of all offers of new credit cards (with up to 40 months 0% interest on purchases) so we will be able to fund much of the renovation and extension work we need to do without crashing money we have in fixed-rate products. By the time we need to repay the money, we will have the money from the sale of our house here (or, worst case scenario, we then have to crash the savings products we have and pay the loss of interest cost).

If I added up all the unsecured debt we currently have available to us at the swipe of a plastic card, it would be somewhere over ten times our current total annual income.

All of which is wonderful.

And while we are living between two houses, as we have a house in the south-east, it is increasing in value hugely every day. In fact, probably more than we could ever spend each day on building work (particularly as we will be doing much of it ourselves).

Which is also wonderful (especially as, in future, when we have only one house in the north-east, its increase in value isn't going to keep up with house price growth in other areas).

Wonderful, except that I am only too aware that the people who are funding our little venture are not the banks.

It is the people who are paying the exorbitant and extortionate rates of interest, and charges/fees to the banks, because, for whatever reason, they are unable to make the system work for them.

But - and here is the dilemma - if I didn't take advantage of this situation, will it affect how the people who are being screwed over by the banks are treated? No. Will it affect them as individuals? No.

So, I shall continue to help people individually with their money problems when I can (practical help not financial - the old 'teach a man to fish' thing), and I shall continue to review my sheaf of papers covered in my scrawlings, telling me exactly what to repay and when (or rather, what is coming from where, and when, as it's all set up on direct debit so happens magically), and Mr BW will continue to peruse his spreadsheet to keep an overview of everything.

This is a situation that I'm not comfortable with, but one in which whatever I do won't make a blind bit of difference to the bigger picture.

Capitalism. Learn the game, play the game, or lose out.

But also be ready for its collapse.

Posted at 11:34 AM | Comments (5)

Friday, January 13, 2017

Es schneit

And il did carry on neigeing, at least a little bit.

And then the skies cleared, and the full moon on the snow was perfect - shadows and everything - this was the parterre in the middle of the night:

I had to keep waking up to take photos, because this might just be our last snow here ever.

Then it did freezing, and now there are even more snow flurries. Not a great day for a trip out, but our lunch date has already been cancelled twice.

The view from the Inner Coven just after dawn:

I'll miss this view, but the next one is even better. Not least because there are hills. Lots of hills. And sheep.

10 weeks yesterday since we unexpectedly found it, and we are effectively cash buyers and there is no onward chain: indeed the vendor is currently in the house with just a bed and a TV (no carpets left) waiting for the solicitors to get their act together. Our agreed completion date sped by, the second is about to go the same way, and if the third doesn't happen, heads will be rolling.

We (happily) have the pickiest solicitor in the world (he's a friend from school days and saved our move here - nearly 22 years ago - when all was falling apart) and they have the laziest, who seem unable to draft contracts in an acceptable legal format (they weren't even acceptable to us and we are not lawyers!).

The reason for all this messing about? Our solicitor is being paid by the job, theirs are being paid by the hour (there are three sets due to a divorce and us buying extra land from the farm, which is currently unregistered title, from another member of their family). Theirs communicate by letter, despite two of the three occupying offices that are literally next door to each other in the same street (in fact, I think they sit about 6 feet away from each other with just a dividing wall between them). I had no idea that northern solicitors still do conveyancing work by the hour and use Royal Mail until we started on this project...

At least we're not trying to move out of here for a while. Frankly, I am amazed that anyone actually ever manages to move when there are multiple houses involved. It's bad enough with just one purchase. Why do solicitors make it so difficult? Is it greed - trying to work on too many jobs at once?

Anyone want to buy a Coven (in a year or so's time?).


Thursday, January 12, 2017

Il neige

Well, I was wrong. I thought that we wouldn't get snow as it was 7°C this morning, and it was raining rather heavily for much of the afternoon.

But, at 5pm it started to snow, and it has settled a bit. This view from the balcony - and it's dark outside, so blame the camera's low light setting.

It had better melt by tomorrow because we have Important Things To Do. People to see, light fittings to source. Mind you, it might be quite pretty by the light of the nearly-full moon later (give or take a few clouds).

The County Council have their emergency plan in force down by the coast, in preparation for flooding expected tomorrow lunchtime, and, according to Radio 4 news just now, are trying to get people to go and sleep in a school in readiness. Unsurprisingly, there is no-one there other than journalists.

Any sign of snow where you are?


Friday, January 6, 2017

The Ladybird Book of EduTwitter

Anyone who has ever worked in (or with) education in the UK might enjoy this.

(Background here - but read this after you've looked at the first link and tried to guess the origins.)

Posted at 12:23 PM | Comments (3)

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Thought for the year ahead

"Bullshit is something that is constructed absent of any concern for the truth.

This is quite different from lying, which implies a deep concern for the truth (namely, its subversion).

Bullshit is particularly pernicious since the bullshitter adopts an epistemic stance that allows for a great deal of agility.

For the bullshitter, it doesn’t really matter if he is right or wrong. What matters is that you’re paying attention....

Bullshit is much harder to detect when we want to agree with it.

The first and most important step is to recognise the limits of our own cognition. We must be humble about our ability to justify our own beliefs. These are the keys to adopting a critical mindset – which is our only hope in a world so full of bullshit."

- Gordon Pennycoat (it's worth reading the article, and the linked journal article, in full)


Sunday, January 1, 2017

A Happier New Year...

... to everyone reading.

I am constantly amazed by the number of readers from 'the good old days of blogging' who still pop in sometimes, and it's good to still be in touch with some of you (however infrequently), and to have seen some of you in person again during the last year.

If 2016 demonstrated anything, it is how easy it is for individals and groups to pose as competent when they aren't, and how easy it is to get people to believe whatever you say if it is prettily/radically packaged and marketed, and freely spun out and embellished/slanted by 'social media'.

'Group think' is a dangerous beast, and is frequently led by the best orators (or, these days, 'communicators') and not the best ideas or evidence. Morals and values are frequently hidden behind personal narcissim and/or blind/misdirected ambition.

May this next year protect us all, personally and collectively, from these people, groups, and products, and give us the wisdom to see through the untruths, fake claims and promises.

Simplify, and look to the past for the answers. It's called 'the wisdom of ages' for a reason.


Monday, December 26, 2016

25th December 2016

Queenie pulls a sickie and George Michael snuffs it.

All is not well with the world... (as if we didn't already know that).

Posted at 10:22 AM | Comments (3)

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Season's Greetings

Whatever your beliefs, and whatever you are celebrating.

My FOTCR™ message (it seems every politician thinks they are the Queen this year, so why should I miss out?) is one I have posted before:

Especially poignant in a week when I had one seven year old girl tell me that she didn't know, so couldn't count, coins below a pound because, "I only get pound coins, or more often notes. I'm great at counting twenty pound notes!" and another girl of six tell me that the tinsel extensions in her hair had cost £50, "But my mum and big sister had them so I whined a bit until mum gave in and let me have them too."

It seems that Bart Simpson was right when he said,
"Aren’t we forgetting the true meaning of this day - the birth of Santa?"

It's been a strange year: we lost six friends in the six weeks between mid October and the end of November, so are thinking of their loved ones too.

Enjoy your festivities.


Saturday, December 17, 2016


It's my WitchDay.

Considering that we have lately been hacking up and down the A1(M), and up, down, along, and across other roads of this country, at a rate not seen since I did my professional training in 1988/89 (when I did 28,000 miles between September and June), I have spent the day flopped out in bed, latterly with fizzy wine and cranberry juice 'cocktails' (utterly delicious, but could be improved by using fresh cranberry juice methinks - must liquidise and sieve/filter fresh berries, and try soon) and hot spiced raw cashews.

Which is just as well as it has been cold miserable and damp here today.

Grief I'm exhausted.

Now, would anyone like to hazard a guess about this (size - fits easily in my hand)? Mr BW tells me it's the latest part in my long-term project which has something to do with a very large old red project that didn't happen 10 years ago, but now (soon, if some northern solicitor ever gets his finger out of his ****) could.

Mr BW loves the 'Now' album series. I love the 70s. He got me this. But there is something badly wrong with it, that the 20 year old graphic artist who did the cover wouldn't understand. Can you spot it?

And, for goodness sake 'Now' people, if someone buys a 70s CD they are likely to be of a generation that expects a nice tactile paper booklet of track information, not an instruction to look it up online. So near and yet so far.

But the music's OK... and given that lots of our other CDs (the majority of a certain late 80s/early 90s vintage) appear to be suffering from SCDDS (Sudden CD Death Syndrome), a few new tracks for the ongoing for the foreseeable future long car journeys are extremely useful.