If the freedom of speech is taken away then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.

- George Washington

Sunday, 29 May 2011


I'm working nights at the moment, and trying to post and respond to comments from my work computer. It's proving difficult. If you can read this, then I am able to write new posts, but I can't log in to comment. For those with Blogger accounts, if I click on 'Sign In' at the top of the page I am taken to the dashboard. I can click 'New Post' and write a new post, but if I click 'View Blog' I am taken back to the 'Sign In' page.

I think it must be the way the work PC is set up. It's always been awkward managing the blog from here. For one thing, it won't allow copy/paste unless I am working in html, which makes handling images a bit of a carry-on, and switching between html and 'compose' modes plays havoc with the formatting, with line breaks breeding like flies. I don't get the problem at home, so I assume it is a feature of the workplace machine (there are plenty of others).

So please bear with me. There are a few comments I would like to reply to, but am unable. Thank you for your responses, anyway - I can read 'em even if I can't reply. I will be back on days before long, and what I laughingly call 'normal' service will be resumed.

Thank you for your patience. Your call is important to us ...

Saturday, 28 May 2011

IAM poll - Eco Driving

Coming thick and fast, here is yet another opportunity to tell the IAM what you think.

IAM Poll - Eco Driving

I had fun with this one.
  • I haven't changed my behaviour to save fuel. Turning hydrocarbons into motion and noise is one of the few pleasures left.
  • I haven't considered giving up my car (or bike, don't forget the bike). Cold, dead hands, etc.
  • I do the usual things to reduce fuel consumption, like check my tyre pressures, but if I want to brake hard or accelerate unnecessarily, I will bloody well do so.
  • Toll roads and parking rates should not reflect the fuel efficiency of the vehicle: that is the start of a very slippery slope.
  • Diesel and petrol should be taxed the same, and as low as possible, if at all.
  • My next car will be a diesel, because of the way they make the power, not for any eco-loony reason. Grunt is good.
  • I would not consider going on an eco-driving course. My life is sad enough as it is.
Some of those responses were hard to fit in, as you might imagine.

You don't have to be a member, etc., etc.


On Thursday, I wrote a post about some meathead parking in the only motorcycle-only bay in my local Tesco's car park.

On Friday, this appeared in the Daily Star:

(Click to embiggen.)

And then this article appeared in the Daily Mail:
It is a driving habit guaranteed to enrage even the most docile motorist, but these supercar owners show such bad bay parking they have been exposed on an internet gallery of shame.

Whether it's parking across multiple spaces,double yellow lines or disabled bays, mega-rich motorists have had their appalling parking revealed.
They have a lot of pictures of gross offences against parking decorum (all Rollers, Porsches, Ferraris and the like), but I liked this one the best:

It's hard being a global trend-setter, but rewarding. Call it a gift.

Microdave (to whom many thanks for the links to the above items - he reads much more widely than I do) seems to have the solution:

Friday, 27 May 2011

Cheater Chaytor Free to Go

Quietly on the BBC news, and buried deep in the Politics section of the BBC website, comes the news that thieving ex-MP David Chaytor has been released from his open prison. He was imprisoned for 18 months in January. He served just twenty weeks. That's less than one-third of his sentence.

I wrote at the time that:
... David Chaytor has been found guilty and sentenced to 18 months. So that's 9 months, less time spent on remand, less a bit because he is a decent chap of previously good character (heh, obviously not) and he pleaded guilty, so that will be about 10 minutes, then. In, no doubt, an 'open' prison. Hardly the twenty years banged up with Big Tony and the pot of Vaseline that we would have hoped for, but pleasing, nonetheless.
Folks, when I said 10 minutes, I was joking.

Remember that Chaytor
  • Deliberately and with premeditation defrauded the taxpayer of £20,000
  • Tried to argue that he and his kind were above the laws of ordinary people
  • Appealed his sentence on the grounds of his 'previous good character'
  • Made me choke on my coffee at the chutzpah of the above.

I thought 18 months was about right.

Four-and-a-half months is a complete joke.

Seriously, folks, this can't continue.

Thursday, 26 May 2011


Our local Tesco has a motorcycles-only parking bay. It's only the size of about one-and-a-half cars, and it's in the furthest corner of the car park, but the gesture is a welcome one. I turned up there today to get some provisions, and what do I see?

There were plenty of empty car spaces, some much closer to the store entrance. From the placing of the car, and the number of parking bruises on all four corners of the bodywork, I think we are dealing with a Special Needs Driver. Perhaps one should not mock the afflicted. But I am keeping this picture in the phone for the next time someone tells me off for 'wasting' a whole car space with a single motorbike.

So, owner of Chevrolet Kalos, registration CT55RPZ, I am watching you. Next time you park there, you may well be surrounded, on your exit from the store, by half a dozen bikes and some big hairy riders.

Who will politely offer to help you load the shopping into the boot. You won't want to refuse.

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Kettle on Huhne: where to start?

I have read things in The Guardian that I have disagreed with. I have read things that have made my blood boil. I have read things that have made me shake my head with disbelief. But I have never read such a pile of freshly-delivered, aromatic, steaming horse-shit as Martin Kettle writes today.
Investigating Chris Huhne is disproportionate

Sorry, but I am afraid that I just don't get it about the current hue and cry over Chris Huhne and his alleged transfer of speeding points. Yes, of course, I know he shouldn't have driven too fast on the M11 in 2003. And, if true, I also know he shouldn't have persuaded his wife to accept the penalty on her licence rather than his own – though for the record he denies it. In a perfect world, Huhne would have accepted his punishment if he was guilty, as most of us do in such circumstances.
So far, so good. You can hear a 'but' coming, though.
But let's get real.
*grinds teeth*
And let's start with the nature of the offence. Speeding on a motorway is technically a crime. But, except in the most egregious and genuinely dangerous of cases, it is not a very serious one.
First of all, he's wrong. Speeding is not a crime, it is a traffic offence and - absent any aggravating circumstances - will not get you a criminal record. But other than that I would agree. Speeding is something that most motorists and riders do almost daily to a greater or lesser extent, and it's hardly a hanging offence. But then Kettle and I start to part company.
And let's also get real about the fact that lots of people do what Huhne is accused of doing [asking his wife to say she was driving and take the penalty points on his behalf]. I think I read somewhere that one in six speeding fines that would take an offender to the point of losing their licence are transferred to consenting spouses, partners or buddies. Maybe that's false information, but – again – I suspect most of us know people who have done what Huhne and his wife are accused of doing.
In this, Kettle is completely wrong. I don't know anyone who has done this. I have read about it happening in the papers, but I don't know anyone personally who has admitted it to me. To be honest, it would affect my opinion of them very considerably, and very much for the worse. It goes without saying that I could not countenance doing this myself. Martin Kettle must mix with some dishonest people.

Speeding is one thing. Lying to a court (which is what you do if you enter false driver details on the form) in order to escape a legitimate punishment is very different matter. I'm not sure if it is perjury - I think that may refer to lying in court under oath - but it is certainly perverting the course of justice. And that is rightly regarded as a very serious offence in this country: so serious that it is punishable by imprisonment for a first offence and carries a maximum of a life term.
The current investigation is utterly disproportionate to the nature of the offence. Police time and resources – we are constantly being told – are under huge strain as 20% cuts begin to bite. Is it a worthwhile use of those resources to have Essex police tracking back and interviewing Huhne over a speeding offence eight years ago? I think not. The only reason it's happening is because the press and the Labour party want to embarrass Huhne. In my book, though, that's not a good enough reason. I think the Essex investigation is a waste of resources and it should be called off.
A Member of Parliament, a Cabinet Minister, is accused of an offence which strikes at the very nature and practice of justice, and you want us to let it pass? I don't think so. Those who expect the rest of us to obey the laws that they introduce must be scrupulous in obeying them themselves, and if they fall short they must be treated exactly as anyone else would be. Democracy demands it.

But don't just listen to me. Here are the words of Judge Michael Heath, sentencing a 77-year-old man who had taken the blame for his son's speeding offence to spare him a driving ban:
That is a serious offence. It strikes at the fabric of justice. The message must go out that people who do this, and who say they don’t think they are doing anything seriously wrong, will not get away with it. I have considered your health and domestic circumstances, but I am not persuaded any sentence should be suspended.
He jailed the 77-year-old and his son for three months. Should Huhne be treated any differently if he is charged and found guilty? I don't think so.

Huhne has not been charged and deserves to be presumed innocent until proven guilty, but to say that this case should not be investigated because it was 8 years ago, it's a trivial matter anyway, and it's something we all do, is despicable.

Things are not looking good for Huhne. When asked by Channel 4 News for a comment yesterday, he repeated the words that he has used ever since this all started: the allegations are "incorrect". I wonder why he didn't use a simpler English word: wrong? The irony is that if he had just accepted the fine, points and a short ban, people would have shrugged and forgotten it in a week. Now, his career is in serious jeopardy and he is possibly - if guilty - looking at a stretch in prison.

Martin Kettle has just shot himself in the foot as a serious journalist, for me and, if the comments below the line are anything to go by, most of The Guardian's readership too. I have never seen such unanimity amongst the CiF chatterati. They rip him apart.

Thought experiment: replace 'Chris Huhne' with 'Nick Griffin' and imagine the same article appearing in The Guardian.

Snakes and Ladders were never like this

French snowmobile pilot finds that what goes up ...

(Video wouldn't embed properly, so here's the link:



Monday, 23 May 2011

Great Design

I work in a building which could not have been worse designed for its purpose. People approach the site down a road and are halted at a barrier. One of our jobs is to check who they are and what they want, and then let them in or redirect them as appropriate. From the office, a window looks up the access road, but there is an electronic sign built right in the line of sight. If a car arrives at the barrier, there is no sign it is there apart from the noise of the engine. To see whether there is a car there, it is necessary either to climb on a chair and look out of a tiny high window, or leave the office and walk the length of the building to get a view out of the main window. There is a CCTV camera, but it looks down (not up) the road so that we can see the cars we have let through, but not those that are arriving. The design of the building probably doubles the work of simply managing and controlling access to the site.

But the jewel in the crown of stupidity is the design of the windows themselves. They are meant to open inwards, but pillars holding up the roof are so close to the opening lights that you can only open them an inch.

Closed ...

... and open.

This one blocks two windows, quite an achievement.

Ah, some fresh air.

This building was purpose-built and designed by specialists employed by one of the biggest construction companies in the UK. Remember that when anyone tells you they are an expert.

Strangely silent ...

Harold Camping's Family Radio website, which heretofore had been full of his predictions that the world would end yesterday, has nothing to say on the subject.

I've been there, had a good look, but I can't find any reference to what was billed as the most important event for the last 7000 years.


Ride To Work Day, 20 June 2011, update

Remember that 20 June 2011 is Ride To Work Day. If you have a rusty old C15 in your shed, or a GS1000 under an old sheet that you never seem to get the time to ride these days, or a Speed Triple that you only ever ride on sunny weekends - then

Ride it on 20 June!

Show everyone you are a rider. Tell them how great it is. Tell them it costs less then commuting in a car, it's far quicker than a car - especially in towns and cities - and it's way more fun. Tell them you can park six bikes in the space required for one car and that if only one person in three changed to riding a bike to work, congestion would be a thing of the past. Tell them that it rains far less than you might think* and that the minimal amount of time changing into and out of your gear is more than compensated by much shorter journey times.

An anonymous commenter has placed a few links into the original post, and I repeat them here:

National Ride To Work Day website
RTW Facebook page
@RideToWorkDayUK on Twitter

Spread the word!

* slight bending of the truth permissible here, I feel.

Sunday, 22 May 2011


My most recent post reminded me of a little incident from my past as a teacher of English.

I taught two lovely girls in one class in a decent, small-town comprehensive. Both were 16, both were bright and hard-working, and both had put in enough work to get a solid A grade in their English GCSE coursework. All they needed to do was to sit a simple two-hour exam to complete the award. They would have walked it. But a week before the exam, they disappeared from school, never to return. The exam was never taken, and they never got the qualification that might have helped to lead them into an interesting and fulfilling career.

I later learned that, as Jehovah's Witnesses, they had been taken out of school by their families to devote more time to their real 'work', that of travelling the area and preaching the Word to the unbelievers.

Somehow, after that, I could never see JWs as anything other than selfish obsessives with a massively-distorted view of human potential.

So there was a Plan B after all ...

Harold Camping, not seen recently

According to the BBC:
Followers of an evangelical broadcaster who declared that Saturday would be Judgement Day are trying to make sense of the failed prediction.

Some believers expressed bewilderment or said it was a test from God of their faith, after the day passed without event.
That's the problem with religious faith. When the evidence stacks up that your beliefs are wrong, always blame your understanding of the beliefs, not the beliefs themselves. I am reminded of those socialists who, when reminded of all the states where socialism has been tried and failed (and brought untold misery and deprivation to millions), argue that "this is because those states weren't socialist enough", rather than admit that the fault might be with socialism itself.

Here's a radical idea. Believe what you know to be true, or what the evidence of your own eyes tells you is likely to be true. I know that I exist (Descartes got the cogito bit right, at least), and I am certain that the sun will rise tomorrow because my experience of the past 21,000 days is that it always does, and I have no reason to believe that the 21,001st will be any different.

Everything else, treat with caution. Especially stuff told to you by people who claim to know more than you do. (Those 21,000 days have taught me that my instinct is as good as anyone else's, and that the more certain a person sounds the less likely they are to be right.)

And these beliefs aren't without real-world consequences:
"It was probably one of the saddest things that I'd ever read, the idea that there's kids out there whose parents spent their college savings funds, who sold their homes," one woman told the BBC.
Believe what you know to be right in your own heart. And if you find yourself sharing those beliefs with a number of other people, be suspicious.

Especially where there is money involved.

Still here ...

Tum-ti-tum-ti-tum ...

Saturday, 21 May 2011


This may be the last post on this blog. By tomorrow, it may all be over. True believers 'raptured' straight to heaven, and the rest of us toasting gently on one of Old Nick's long forks.

There's one consolation. If we wake up tomorrow, and we are all still here, there's a golden comedy opportunity.

Find one of Harold Camping's followers, probably weeping in a corner and wondering what went wrong, and say:

"It's OK, never mind, it's not the end of the world..."

This Week's Lucky Winner

... of the Guess The Level Of Corruptibility And Spinelessness In Politicians And The Judiciary contest (otherwise known as 'Pin The Tough But Fair Community Sentence On The Donkey') is ...

... drumroll ...

... another drumroll ...

... annoying lengthy pause like wot they do on the telly ...

... Brian!

Well done that blogperson.

(It's the biggest and blackest I could manage.)

Friday, 20 May 2011

IAM Poll - Government Strategy

Another day, another IAM poll - this time on the Government strategy and proposals for dealing with motoring offences. Verbal warnings or fixed penalties? Compulsory re-training or having your vehicle crushed?

Go and have your say, and you don't have to be an IAM member.

16 months? What?

Out in time for the New Year Sales

I see that mortgage cheat Elliot Morley has been handed down a less-than-draconian sentence of a mere 16 months for conveniently forgetting that his mortgage had been paid off, and continuing to claim money from me (and you) to fund his non-existent payments.

This is from a man who, in the words of Mr Justice Saunders, made "excessive" and "deliberate" claims which "were not explicable even in part by oversight". In other words, deliberate and calculated fraud, to the tune of £32,000.

On the basis of the extent of the fraud, and the level of deliberateness in the deceit, in comparison with the (curiously identical) 16 months handed down to 'Everybody Does Virement' Jim Devine, I guesstimated a little over 4 years. Brian was a little more cautious and plumped for a minimalist 18 months. Maverick reckoned three years. Other guesses were anonymous, and still nowhere near.

As it turned out, none of us had taken into account how much the Establishment looks after its own, and even Brian was a generous two months too high. With the normal sentence reduction for breathing, he will be out in eight months. £4,000 a month. Not many people earn that, even by honest work.

So, as the maker of the closest guess, Brian is the lucky (or astute) winner. Brian, let me know the colour of your choice and I will devote a whole post to your awesomeness. Or cynicism.

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Rejoice, I Say, Rejoice!

I took the XT for its 14th MoT test yesterday. Passed with two advisories - play in steering head and shagged chain. So it's beers all round at Nowhere Towers.

But what I want to know is - how come a brand new chain is buggered after only 4000 miles?

Tuesday, 17 May 2011


Thanks to commenter Brian, I hear that sentencing of Elliot Morley will take place on Friday 20 May, according to the CPS.

On the basis of Jim Devine's 18 months, I guesstimated that Morley would get longer, perhaps four years or more. I think that's not going to happen, for all the usuial reasons. Yet who would have thought that the head of the IMF would be refused bail on a sex assault charge in New York? Brought by a mere woman, and of the servant class as well? There's hope yet.

Brian nails his colours to the mast with a prediction of 18 months.

Any advance on that? There is a superb prize on offer for the one who gets closest, but you'll have to read the original post to see what it is.

Monday, 16 May 2011

Night Shift

On the morning of my last night shift, we were getting ready to hand over to the day team when one of my colleagues called me outside. It was about 5.20 am. The site we are on is on a hill, and there was a low-level mist surrounding us on all sides. It was like being on an island in the middle of a grey ocean. I took a drive up to the highest point and was met by one of the most beautiful sunrises I have ever seen. Sorry for the phone camera quality, but I thought it deserved a wider audience than three sleepy security men.

Sunday, 15 May 2011

3rd International XT Meet - Suzuki 1, Jack Russell 0

I was supposed to be working this weekend, but I had booked two days' holiday so that I could attend the 3rd International Meeting of the XT500 Club and the Yamaha Thumpers Club, organised by my friend Alun. I missed the first one in 2009, but I went last year (pics here, report here) and had a great time.

Reading over last year's post, the experience was remarkably similar. It was held at the same place, Baskerville Hall Hotel near Hay-on-Wye, the house where Conan Doyle wrote the famous dog story.

Great ride up, great company with visiting Belgians and Germans, enjoyable Saturday ride-out, good barbecue on the Saturday night ...

lots of late-night drinking round the fire-pit ...

some inspired lunacy from the Belgians ...

Someone tell them the Vikings were Danish ...

and a great ride home. I was cold, just like last year, and I got cramp in my sleeping bag, just like last year. In fact, for a truthful report on this weekend's activity, you might as well read last year's post and change the dates. So what was different?

It was the first time I had properly used the tent I got last August, a Vango Beta 350 (eBay bargain), and the expense was fully justified. Although it took longer to set up than the small one I took last time, the room inside, and the way you can stand half-upright to put trousers and boots on, was well worth the effort. Old gits need room.

It poured down on the Friday evening and the Saturday evening too, but the tent stayed dry inside. It was bloody cold like last year, too. The new sleeping bag, a Vango Nitestar, is supposed to be a three-season bag, but it was only on the second night, when I had managed to close up all the little ventilation panels in the tent, that it came close to getting me warm. But both bag and tent were a country mile better than last year's choices.

The Saturday ride-out was, a little disappointingly, scheduled to cover the same ground, and visit the same locations, as last year. However, a small bit of drama put a stop to that. We were riding along a narrow single-track road north of Abergavenny, passing some farms between high hedges, and we were doing a sensible speed - no more than 20 or 30 mph. Suddenly, a rider's arm went up in the air - a sign for everyone to stop - and then I saw, five or six bikes ahead of me, a bike on its side in the ditch. It seems that a small dog (a Jack Russell) had run out of a farm gate and run alongside the bike for a few yards and then turned under the bike's front wheel and had been run over. The bike had gone down and slid along the road and into a ditch, and the rider with it.

By the time I got there he was standing up, but didn't look good and was complaining of chest pain. Alun the organiser and I are First Aiders and we checked him over and decided that a visit to A&E would be a good idea, so one of the ride marshalls was sent to get a van to transport the bike back to the camp and the rider to hospital. The dog, meanwhile, was being taken at high speed to the vet by a very anxious lady, the owner of the farm. Easier than explaining to forty motorcyclists why her dog wasn't under proper control, I suppose.

(We learned, later on, that the rider had a broken foot and bad bruising of the chest. The dog didn't make it, sadly, although its end was quicker than that of the original Hound of the Baskervilles. The rider was on a nice, unrestored Suzuki GT750, and had only joined us for the day. He had told his wife he was going off to price up a job, but came with us instead. I bet that took some explaining. Damage to the Kettle was fairly superficial.)

"It'll polish out ..."

Lunch was partaken in the Skirrid Inn ...

... and ice cream was had at Llanthony Priory, just like last year.

On return, we lined all the XTs up together (lesser bikes were excluded for the purposes of a photo for the archive). 28 bikes, and strict size order was enforced, so from the left we had:
  • XT225 Serow (as ridden by Lois Pryce on her American north to south adventure)
  • XT350 in well-used but fair condition
  • XT500, all versions, and a couple of heavily modified supermotos
  • XT600, three - mine, and two much newer ones
  • XT660 Ténéré, only one and highly desirable in a lovely milk-chocolate colour

That's mine, third from the right.

Pics of some of the more interesting machines will be the subject of a separate post.

Although the true XT500 owners rather sneer at the 600 (electric start, four-valve head, monoshock and modern *cough* styling), I have received a formal invitation to the Belgian equivalent XT meeting in September. I am seriously considering doing this one. It's a long way for a little'un, but I am confident that the bike is up to the task - the rider less so. It would be a lot of fun. I think I need to think about this, and perhaps do some more garden visits to build up my Brownie Points with my accountant and leisure services manager.

The XT didn't miss a beat, and managed an average of 63 mpg. Over the last few weeks, it's just going better and better. It stomps along at 60-70 mph, and feels like it could go on for ever. I love this bike.


After throwing a hissy fit for Thursday and Friday, Blogger seems to have returned to the land of the living. I didn't post anything during the relevant time, but I know some comments got swallowed up. It seems as though all recent comments have been removed, but will be back shortly. From Blogger:
Update (5/14 5:37 PM PST): We're making progress restoring comments, some blogs with a lot of content are taking a little more time. Thanks for bearing with us.

Update (5/13 7:46PM PST): Nearly all posts since Wednesday are restored, now bringing back comments from last couple days. We expect the comments to be back this weekend or sooner.

What a frustrating day. We’re very sorry that you’ve been unable to publish to Blogger for the past 20.5 hours. We’re nearly back to normal — you can publish again, and in the coming hours posts and comments that were temporarily removed should be restored. Thank you for your patience while we fix this situation. We use Blogger for our own blogs, so we’ve also felt your pain.
Sorry, folks, but bear with me. I've been away for the weekend on a rally, so apart from being a bit puzzled as to why comments weren't appearing I didn't 'feel the pain' at all. I see a lot of comments have been removed, but I hope they will all be restored soon. Thank you for your patience.

Thursday, 12 May 2011

Ride To Work Day, 20 June 2011

OK, it's an American idea, but I like it.

The idea is that everyone who owns a bike or scooter rides it to work that day, to demonstrate:
  • The number of motorcyclists to the general public and to politicians.

  • That motorcyclists are from all occupations and all walks of life.

  • That motorcyclists can reduce traffic and parking congestion in large cities.

  • That motorcycles are for transportation as well as recreation.

  • That motorcycling is a social good.

I wonder if it will get any support over here? I'm on the day shift that day, so I will certainly be riding to work. Anyone else?

Tuesday, 10 May 2011


Back in February, I posted about taking Anna to the National Botanical Garden of Wales. I said there that we were planning a further trip to Aberglasney when Spring arrived (and I needed to be in Anna's good books again). I am going off for the weekend to the International XT Meet, so I reckoned a quid pro quo would be a day going round some gardens. Yesterday, the forecast was for showers only (i.e. at the dry end of Welsh weather arrangements) and I had the day off work, so off we went. Good choice, it was.

Aberglasney is the site of a house which was owned by the descendants of Elystan Glorydd and the grand-daughter of Hywel Dda in mediaeval times and passed to the Rudd family around 1600. Bishop Rudd reconstructed the house in 1603 and laid out some formal Elizabethan gardens. The house was then bought by Robert Dyer, a successful Carmarthen lawyer, and substantially rebuilt in the Queen Anne style. Dyer's descendants got into debt, and the house was bought and sold several times until it was abandoned in 1908. It was commandeered during the second World War as a holding station for US troops in the run-up to D-Day, and was inhabited briefly, but in the 1950s the estate was sold and broken up. The house was neglected and vandalised, but in 1995 was taken over by the Aberglasney Restoration Trust, and work began to restore the gardens and house. The work in the gardens was a combination of horticulture and archaeology, but painstaking efforts led to the uncovering of Elizabethan and Jacobean goundworks which are now revealed and restored to their former glory.

We first visited Aberglasney around ten years ago, when restoration work had only just started, and the gardens were still being excavated and the house only a shell. The gardens now are beautiful, and work on the house is progressing. Most of the house is inaccessible to the public and I don't know to what extent there are plans to restore the whole structure, but one superb innovation is the construction of a 'ninfarium' in the ruined courtyard in the centre. The area has been roofed in with glass and a variety of large and small sub-tropical plants have been installed. It's very impressive. A few photos and comments follow.

The house at Aberglasney - the Queen Anne facade

The Cloister Garden with arcaded stone surround, supporting a parapet walkway, and original Elizabethan chequerboard cobbles

Detail of Elizabethan floor surface - amazing to walk on this and reflect how long ago the cobbles were laid and who has walked there since

View through the arcade to the Pond

Raindrops on a hosta leaf

Upper Walled Garden, laid out according to the archaeology

Delicious lunch in the Tea Rooms

Interior of the Ninfarium

Plaque to commemmorate the Cabots, American benefactors whose generosity allowed the restoration to happen

Preserving the house interior

I reckon it's an Iris, but I am told it isn't. By those what know. It's beautiful anyway.

The visit was enhanced by an art exhibition in the two habitable rooms on the ground floor of the house. Two local artists, Glenn Ibbitson and Carole King (no, not that Carole King) had their work on show and it was fabulous. I got chatting to Glenn and it turns out he is a Leeds lad (like me) and spent a lot of time in Hull (like I have). He's about my age, but the years didn't match, so there were no "ah, that must have been you!" moments. He's another 'ex-biker' - got as far as a Honda Superdream and then moved to London and never looked back. His work ranged from superbly-drawn landscapes to semi-impressionist interiors, and I liked it all. That's from someone who is very wary of 'modern art' - the man can paint, and paint extremely well. His partner's work was more small-scale and delicate, using fragments of maps and collages, and was delightful. I went back in when we had finished the tour of the garden, as it is our Wedding Anniversary coming up soon, and I know Anna would have loved a lavender-coloured interior piece that we had both admired. At £750, it was not even in mad impulse purchase territory, but we took his business card and phone number and we will see if we can find something more affordable at a later time. His work can be seen here.

Aberglasney, highly recommended.

Monday, 9 May 2011

A Day of Opposites

Woman On A Raft points out that today is Liberation Day in Jersey, when they celebrate the end of the German Occupation in 1945.

Today is also Europe Day, when we celebrate the Schuman Declaration of 9 May 1950.

Scores of public buildings are being ordered to fly the European Union flag to mark the occasion.

Officials will be expected to ensure it remains hoisted for a week from Monday. And those that disobey could be fined.

Incredibly, they are even expected to take a photo of the flag and email it to the European Commission to ensure the rules are being observed.

Schools are also being sent instructions from the European Parliament on how to celebrate Europe Day. Recommendations include holding special assemblies with an EU theme.
Funny old world.

Europe Day, 9 May




Forgot to attribute the image :( Thanks to Sue.

Saturday, 7 May 2011

Rollerblader vs Gatso

Seen in the Torygraph:
Sam Tuffnell, 28, believes he was rolling close to 40mph when he caused a speed camera to flash on a road in Hastings, East Sussex.

Wearing a high visibility vest to ensure the camera would pick him out as he whizzed by, Mr Tuffnell used the momemtum of a hill descent to trigger the camera reaction.
If you watch the video clip on the website, he really was travelling. To be honest, it all looked like great fun. An element of risk, sure, but that's what life is all about. You can bet your bottom dollar that someone's going to object.
"This sort of activity should always take place off the road under supervised conditions and ideally with protective clothing being used", Neil Hopkins of the Sussex Safer Roads Partnership said.
Through pursed lips, no doubt. They really are the most miserable bastards, aren't they?

He was wearing a high-viz vest, after all. What more do they want?

Cruelty to Animals

Real cruelty. Psychological cruelty. If you love animals, look away now.

Tip of the lid to Spit, over at the Triumph Rats forum.

Ski Boots for Hedgehogs

Living with Anna never fails to amuse and entertain. Her take on my pile of ring-pulls next to the laptop:

"Ski boots for hedgehogs."


"Ski boots for hedgehogs."


"They just look like that."

She meant 'snow-shoes'. I don't know if that helps at all.

Faux chumminess

There's so much wrong with this sign (above the fruit and veg section in my local Tesco).

For one thing, it reinforces the 'five a day' message in the minds of shoppers. While eating a decent amount of fruit 'n' veg may be good for you (and I certainly feel better when I do), it's yet another nanny state intervention in my life, which I can well do without. It reminds me of the daily alcohol limits which were comprehensively debunked in 2007 when a member of the RCP working party that produced it admitted that the figures were plucked from thin air because they felt they "had to say something". Oh, and the 'red wine is good for you bad for you good for you bad for you good for you bad for you good for you" debate. I've got to the point where I don't trust anything like that any more. And if it comes from an establishment 'doctor', so much more so. After all, 'scientists' gave us Global Warming Climate Change Disruption, didn't they?

For another, it's a blatant attempt to get you to buy more stuff. After all, an apple could be reasonably judged to he a 'handful', but what about peas? Could you imagine eating a whole handful of peas (look at the amount of grapes in the picture)? Or sweetcorn? You wouldn't be seen for a week. It's an upsell, pure and simple.

But the thing that really grips my spleen is that one word ...

"Well ..."

Supermarkets can't just sell you stuff you need any more; they have to be your best mate, too. They think a conversational tone is more likely to break down your suspicion that you are in a temple to capitalism whose only purpose is to part you from ever more substantial amounts of your cash. That's what supermarkets are, and nothing wrong with that, so why try to mask it in fawning chumminess? (Even worse are those 'hip' internet sites that don't display error messages, but give you things like 'Oops, we goofed! Hey, no-one's perfect, right?')

Actually, it's more than that, because the tone isn't matey at all. It's the voice of a primary teacher explaining something to a dim six-year-old.

"Why do I have to wear my wellies to go out and play?"

"Well ..."

I got heartily sick of that tone of voice when I was about ten. I do not want to hear it again, now that both my parents are dead and I have grown-up children, thank you very much.

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

The Irish SAS ...

... have followed the example of the US Navy Seals and have just stormed Debenham's.

They had heard that Summer Bed Linen was located on the third floor.

AV or not?

I can see some genuine advantages to AV. For one thing, after 'Cast Iron' Dave's refusal to hold the referendum that people really want - on our continued membership of the corrupt EU - there is an overwhelming need to elect a government that will reflect what people want to happen, not what the elite think ought to happen. And yet the FPTP system makes that almost impossible. In my constituency at the last election, there were candidates for Labour, Conservative, Lib Dem, UKIP and a few others. I voted Conservative, not from any real enthusiasm for their policies, but because to vote for any of the others would have risked letting the Labour candidate win, and that was an outcome I could not tolerate under any circumstances. If we had had AV, I could have voted for UKIP (the party closest to my own views), and put the Conservatives as second choice. If the UKIP candidate had bombed, my vote would not have been wasted. I would imagine that, in that event, almost all those votes would have lined up behind the Tory, and a Labour disaster would have been averted. But of course if people had felt free to vote with their real inclination in the first place, UKIP may well have won outright. Without AV, I will always have to vote tactically - against the party I detest (whoever they may be), and for whoever has the best chance of defeating them, no matter how much I have to hold my nose. Under FPTP, it will need a revolution to break the present 2.5 party system, and the British are not good at revolutions. AV perhaps represents a chance for a break.

On the other hand, I like the clarity and simplicity of FPTP, and it has served us reasonably well for many years - in the classic phrase, if it ain't broke, why fix it?

I am genuinely undecided on the issue of AV vs FPTP. And yet the whole issue is utterly irrelevant. No-one has been clamouring for a change to the way we elect our representatives. I have never heard a debate in the pub about PR or preferential voting. No-one, except a few Liberals, is in the slightest bit interested. On the other hand, I have heard many people complain about the EU and the massive waste of money and loss of sovreignty that it has meant for us. And so, for only the second time in 36 years, the nation is being consulted in a nationwide and binding survey of opinion:

On whether we put a cross or a number on the voting slip.

It's an insult. We were promised a vote on our continued membership of the EU, by Labour, and the Lib Dems. David Cameron promised that, if Lisbon were ratified before he came to power, "the matter would not rest there". And what do we get? An utterly irrelevant vote on AV. It's like begging Santa for a racing bike, and getting a bag of fucking chocolate money.

The brakes are shot, the body is rusted away, the engine leaks oil and the battery is dead. And we are being asked whether we prefer the green or the yellow seat covers.

An insult always mandates a response, and mine will be unconventional. My 'vote' won't count, but since they are spending all this money on consulting me, they will get an answer, of sorts.

Tuesday, 3 May 2011

Entente Cordiale, my contribution

There was a brilliant bit of teamwork going on at Nowhere Towers this evening.

I was riding home from work when I spotted a car with foreign plates parked in a small lane off the road I was on. He seemed to be nudging forward, so I slowed right down and was prepared to stop if necessary. And then I saw that it was a left-hand drive car, and that the driver had a map folded over the steering wheel and was reading it. Doh! I thought, and rode past him slowly - and then out of the corner of my eye I saw the driver get out and start waving at me.

I pulled over and he walked up to me, waving a handful of A4 papers. It was then I realised that he was lost. And French. He had (surprisingly) very little English, but pointed at the name of a guest house on the paper and asked me if I knew where it was. I had never heard of it. All I could get out of him was that the postal town was Haverfordwest. Now Pembrokeshire is a large and widely-spread county, and the area covered by the generic term 'near Haverfordwest' is huge, and includes a million scattered farmsteads. I took the papers off him and read them through. No address, no directions, nothing. Just an acknowledgement from Brittany Ferries that he was booked for tonight into a guest house with a very Welsh name. The poor guy didn't have a hope of pronouncing it, never mind finding it.

We had worked out by this time that we would do much better if we communicated in French, which shows you how limited his English was - my rough campsite French is utilitarian and inelegant, but would have to suffice. I couldn't leave them (he had his wife and teenage son in the car), so I pulled out the mobile phone. Brilliant! A signal! (Round here, that counts as a stroke of luck comparable to a modest lottery win.) So I phoned Anna, who - having lived here all her life - would surely know the place.

Nope, never heard of it.

But Anna's computer was on, so while I nodded into the phone and smiled at the French chap she Googled the name of the guest house and came up with an address about eight miles away, up in the very Welsh-speaking hills to the North. She read out the website directions (written in a jokey "if you can't find us we will send out the butler to look for you" style), which I mentally simplified and then cast into the French words I knew, and then tried to memorise for relaying to the lost motorist. I then gave him the directions as best as I could (feeling like a contestant on a cross between Krypton Factor and The Generation Game), combining O-level remnants - remembering arrêt d'autobus was a flash of genius - with arrows and pictograms scrawled on a scrap of Brittany Ferries receipt. I got him to repeat them back to me, to check we were roughly on the same page, and then I waved them goodbye. I was torn between leaving it there and shouting "suivez-moi!" and tearing off up the road to lead the way. But the thought of my dinner overcame a fifteen-mile detour to foster better Anglo-French relations, and I scooted off home.

I've just Googled the details and given the guest house a ring. They made it.

I love it when things like this happen.

Monday, 2 May 2011

Bank Holiday Chuckle

A bit of light relief for the Bank Holiday. Posted by Davehutch on Hutch's Motorbike Forum. Try to watch it to the end without bursting out laughing.


I am not a conspiracy theorist, or a 'truther'. I do not possess a tinfoil hat. But there is something very odd about the announcement of the death of Osama Bin Laden.

Old Holborn has the picture (I don't know where it came from, by the way) of an apparently-dead man who looks like Bin Laden, with a stock picture of an alive Bin Laden alongside, and the 'dead' photo certainly does look like an amateurish attempt to Photoshop the 'live' one. It doesn't convince me, and I have no experience of Photoshop. If this is the US's 'evidence' that he is dead, it's pretty thin.

And then we hear that Bin Laden's body was buried at sea. Why would they do that? It precludes any possibility of verification in the future. Is that the whole point?

In the Middle Ages, you cut off your defeated opponent's head and displayed it at the city gates until it rotted. That way, there was no question that you had accomplished what you set out to do.

With this 'evidence', we are no further forward at all. Why not a series of good, clear photographs? Surely the US military is capable of doing that? They could do it with Saddam, after all. Or producing a body for verification by independent witnesses, or the Press?

What is going on?

No doubt more will emerge over the next few days, but for now - well, who knows?


Via Obnoxio, it looks like the 'photo' on Old Holborn's blog is an old one that has been round the block a few times. Link to the background here, with a nice triptych (below) of the two photos that have been combined into one. The US media appear to have swallowed it, but we are still no further forward. Perhaps best to wait until the 'facts' emerge for further scrutiny. I'm still puzzled as to why they got rid of the body so quickly and with such finality.

Religion - two snapshots

First, we had the pomp and ceremony of the beatification of John Paul II. An old man in a gold chair, speaking solemn words in an ancient language, before massed hierarchical ranks of men in costly and elegant array, with gold objects, and fine books, and artefacts beyond value.

And you wonder what that young man in Palestine, who was mainly concerned with being humble and kind, would have thought of it all.


Then we have this: a 14-year-old girl is raped by her uncle, and then condemned by her village imam for adultery. She is sentenced under Sharia law to 101 lashes as a punishment. She holds out for 70 before collapsing and dies a week later in hospital. Now her family, having spoken out, are under police protection for fear of reprisals from the village elders.

And you wonder what kind of person could do that in the name of religion.
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