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

- George Washington

Tuesday, 10 March 2015

Sod's Law

I had the day off yesterday.  I was up early, and it was a beautiful morning, so I got a plan together.  Breakfast done, all washed up and put away, fire raked out and reloaded, wood fetched, shopping list assembled, shopping bags rounded up, coat on, all by 9.00 am.  Excellent!  And then it started to rain.  When I got to Tesco is was a biblical downpour, I was home by ten, and the rain eased off to a steady drizzle, which lasted all day.  So all the plans for outside jobs that I had lined up had to be shelved.  It was a bit of a dismal day, really, sitting around waiting for a break in the weather.

Today, by contrast, is beautiful - bright sunshine, a light hoar frost on everything, and the prospect (according to the lovely Behnaz on BBC Wales) of a dry and sunny day.  And, of course, I am working tonight, so I will need to spend part of the afternoon having a nap.  That's going to be difficult.

Today's question: with a dribbling weirdo leading Labour, a weak charlatan heading the Lib Dems, a pub bore heading UKIP, and an incompetent hippy heading the Greens, why aren't the Conservatives a million points ahead in the polls?  David Cameron looks the part, speaks well, and doesn't make many unforced errors, and superficially he should be streets ahead of the rest.  And yet, apparently, it's neck-and-neck.

To put it a slightly different way - if Cameron can't pull out a 20-point lead over the disaster that is Miliband, what use is he?

For those ignorant of the BBC Wales news team, here is Behnaz.  Just so you know.


Sunday, 8 March 2015

Have I missed anything?

Fourteen months since my last post, and twelve months before that for the previous one.  Anyone would think I had given up!  I almost did, to be honest.  I got into blogging just as the last Labour government was entering meltdown, when there was rage to be had in every day's news.  The election of the Coalition meant that politics became genuinely boring.  It's not that everything was OK, far from it, but that it became increasingly hard to write about.  With Blair and then Brown as PM, every day gave some reason to choke on your cornflakes.  Cameron and Clegg, not so much.  I wished the Coalition well at the start, and sincerely hoped that a combination of financial competence and a soupçon of good old Liberal social conscience might make a workable mix.  I'm old enough to know better, I suppose, but now I am disappointed rather than angry, and disappointment is hard to work up into anything people might wish to read.

There are a number of other reasons for my lack of attention to the old blog.  The main one was getting an iPad.  Handy little device, and very useful and portable.  Perhaps too useful.  It's great for surfing the net and doing emails, but not so good for blogging.  Of course, I ended up taking the easy option and started using the iPad almost full time.  The fact I can use the iPad in the living room where there is a nice woodburner, rather than the cold study where the lapdog lives, was another reason to put off blogging just a little longer.

The demise of the excellent Google Reader was another factor.  I had all my favourite blogs in there, and it was a simple matter to read the latest updates and go to visit the blogs to add comments and observations.  The best substitute I could find for the iPad was a thing called Feedly, but the whole setup mitigated against participation.  The blogging truism (interact with other people and they will interact with you) worked against me there.  And of course, as they say about many things, the less you do something, the less you feel like doing it.  So I semi-bowed out, more by laziness than actual intention.

So, here I am again.  First thing to say is a massive thank you to the blogs on my bloglist.  I have been through most of them to check, and I am still there on many people's blogrolls.  Very kind and loyal, and I am not sure I deserve it.  But thank you anyway.  I have been reading you all, through Feedly, every single post, but when replying meant opening a browser and logging in and all that kerfuffle, I just moved on the the next one.  Sorry.

A quick update on the last 12 months might be in order.  After changing bikes like most people change their socks, I ended up with two excellent machines - a Honda Hornet 900 and a Yamaha XT660R.  Supposedly, one was for long-distance stuff and one was a daily driver.  But it was never that simple, as both were great and capable machines, and many days featured a lengthy shall-I-shan't-I conversation until my head spun.  Meanwhile, the old XT600E was SORNed, under a cheap Lidl tarpaulin behind the shed, and getting rustier by the week.  Back in October I had a good long think.  I had been riding bikes for 42 years, and had never had a serious accident.  One or two clumsy tumbles at low speed, but nothing life-threatening.  I started to wonder if it was time to cash in my chips while I was ahead.  I had noticed my reactions getting slower, and I was finding oncoming headlights were affecting my vision more.  It's quite possible to adapt your riding to take account of these things, and I did, but it was another question mark,  And I will be quite honest here - winter was approaching, and the thought of fighting my way into waterproofs and cold-weather gear twice a day was not giving me any pleasure.  In summary, biking was not as much fun as it used to be, and when something is no longer fun, you should stop.  So I did.

The bikes went on eBay and were sold for a modest loss in both cases.  And then one of those curious coincidences that makes you wonder if there is some force working around our lives that we are not aware of: every time I went to Tesco I had to pass a car dealership, and there was a little sports car on the forecourt at a ridiculously low price.  Convertibles are even harder to sell in the autumn and winter than bikes are, and after a test drive I offered the dealer a stupidly low amount and he accepted.  It's a Mazda MX-5, a 10th Anniversary model from 1999, and it is a cute as a very cute thing with added cuteness:


Superficially it's in VGC, but it's not been without its problems.  However, I went into it with my eyes open, and I think I have got to the bottom of any issues, after the suitable expenditure of a number of beer tokens.  I've spent as much as the car cost in getting it put right, but even so it has only cost me what I got for the bikes together, so I think I am winning so far.  I was a bit apprehensive about Anna's reaction when I had sold the bikes and asked her what she thought about sports cars.  She was delighted, which made it all a bit easier.  Long ago, she had been the proud owner of an MG Midget, but had to sell it when she became pregnant and couldn't fit behind the wheel.  She thinks the 5 is great - so much so that we are planning a holiday in it.  It's a complete hoot to drive.  Not a fast car by any means, but as nimble as a rollerskate.  Every time I get in it, I smile, and that's what the bikes did, so it's all good.

The XT, of which I am absurdly fond, is now in the garage space vacated by the 'proper' bikes, and will be given a massive amount of TLC and brought back to a good standard when I get the time.  How long have I been saying that?

In other news, I mentioned the possibility of a better job in my last, distant posting.  I got it, and I am no longer a Security Man, but a Night Auditor.  I do all the financial operations that have to be done when the tills are closed, and all the reporting for the following business day.  I still work nights, but now it is 4 x 10-hour shifts a week, which is easier on the social life than the 4-on-4-off x 12 hours I was working before.  My body clock is still scrambled, but in a kinder way.  There was a small pay increase, but the great thing is that the job has a bit of challenge about it, and plays to my analytical and problem-solving strengths, such as they are.  I quite enjoy it, so things could be worse.

So that's me back in the blogger's chair, and if you are reading this it is because you stayed with me, for which I am absurdly grateful.  I doubt if I will be posting every day, but I hope it will be more frequent than annually.  Oh, and I have joined Twitter, more as an observer than a participant.  It's mad.

Sorry for the long post, but a catch-up was necessary.  More to follow.

Wednesday, 25 December 2013

Merry Christmas all

To all my loyal readers, if I have any left after such a period of inactivity, I wish a very happy Christmas. May you get everything you want or, failing that, everything you deserve.

More apologies for the lack of posting recently. Things have been busy. There have been bike-related shenanigans, some car issues to sort out (including a mysterious tale of a brake caliper and a wheel bearing) and there may be a new job on the horizon for the new year. Also, I have had a big birthday (ending in a zero) which took a bit of coming to terms with.

I won't be posting over the next few days, but as soon as the Christmas nonsense is out of the way I will be back.

Take care and have fun.

Sunday, 3 November 2013

Aye, Laddie!

I can't remember ever learning to read.  It was just one of those things that came to you, like walking or eating.  I think I was fairly surreptitious about it too, as I surprised my mother with my facility for textual decoding (can you tell I used to be a teacher?) one day when I was about three years old.

We were out for a walk somewhere (at a guess, Stanhope Park, in Darlington) and I needed a wee.  I told Mum and she said I'd have to wait.  But no, I said, there is a toilet here.  No, that's not for you, she said. You can't go in there.   But, but, I said, I can.  Look, the sign says "Laddies"!

OK, not perfect decoding of the double-consonant rule, but nearly there.  I made her laugh, and she got her revenge by telling friends of the story when I was in my mid-twenties.  And thirties.

Imagine my surprise, therefore, when I was browsing Facebook recently, and came across this advert in the sidebar.

Do they think I was born yesterday?  Those are gurls.  I know.  I'm nearly four.



Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Comment policy

Regular readers, both of you, may remember that a while ago I turned on word verification for comments to this blog.  I was getting so much spam it was 'doin my ed in like', and turning WV on stopped it instantly.  However, I know from my own experience that the Blogger WV thing is very irritating and clumsy.  More than once I have written a fairly thoughtful and considered response on another blog, only to give up after six attempts to decipher some random squiggles in a box.  My time has been wasted, the world will miss that particular pearl of wisdom, and the whole thing is unsatisfactory.  I was very reluctant to turn on WV for my own blog, as I know how big a pain it is, and I have had some feedback from readers that it was putting them off commenting.

But when you are writing and managing a blog in your spare time, spam is a real hassle and takes a lot of your attention away from where it should be, so I don't apologise for turning on WV until the tsunami of rubbish abated.  I'm a bit of an innocent when it comes to these things, but the spam was increasing over time, and my guess was that the blog was getting on more and more spam lists as the spam comments were visible for a while until I got round to deleting them, and therefore appeared in some Greatest Hits in a database somewhere.  My hope is that, now the blog has been silent for a few months, whoever does these things will have assumed the blog is no more and will have moved onto more fertile soil.

So, WV is OFF for the time being.  Comment all you like, magnifying glasses not necessary.  If the spam returns, I will have another think.  It has been suggested that I allow comments from registered users only, which would solve the problem, but might bring others in its wake.  We shall see.

If anyone has any bright ideas, let me know - in the comments :)

Here's a poster to make you laugh.



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