Thursday, 5 March 2015

America Offline

Does anyone here use (perforce) AOL Mail? Have you noticed that if you click on any of the news snippets which their advertisers pay to have put up on the homepage (in particular, Huffington Post), your whole computer slowly grinds to a halt?

If so, do you think there is any connection between that and the constant adverts from AOL offering free computer check-ups which will speed your silly old machine up and stop you from tearing your hair out like the photographic models which advertise it? I wonder what AOL wants so badly from inside your computers, after you have signed an agreement giving them unlimited access to them? Could it be advertising?

Of course, this sort of practice would be illegal were it not for the fact that nothing works until you have lied about reading the terms and conditions and clicked the 'agree' button.

The world of the internet is the only place I can think of where everything comes down to black and white, and the only environment - unlike most wars - where people really can be divided into goodies and baddies.

At the moment, I have a strong feeling that the goodies really do outnumber the baddies in this world, but corporate psychopaths are very clever, so you have to watch out for them without becoming as paranoid as they are.

Criminals - as always - make our lives so difficult, and the ordinary rules of law seldom apply to the internet. Nobody wants a controlled and legislated internet, but it's bound to happen, thanks to the criminals. The trouble is that it might end up with the criminals doing all the controlling and legislating - nice people are not as clever as them.

Oh well, thanks to AOL, Huffington Post have lost me as an advertising target.

Wednesday, 4 March 2015


Ok, panic over.

This is my latest message from the Google Blogger team:

'The change to Blogger's Adult Content policy announced previously is not being implemented.'

So be warned, that picture of me in my Speedos is going up after all.

Tuesday, 3 March 2015


Forgive me for crowing, but after well over 300 years, the three dogs on this wall - together with the wall they sit on - have finally got Grade 2 Listed status with English Heritage and the Secretary of State - all because of little me! I was informed that my application was successful today.

I might have bored you with this before, but I have been looking after these 17th century dogs in Winsley, Wiltshire for over 25 years now, and have saved them from vandals, thieves, antique dealers and plain apathy during that time.  I asked English Heritage to list them, and - bless them - they have!

Having been peacefully ignored for about 290 years and received unwanted attention for the next 25, they are now safer than they have ever been in all their long lives.

Tony Blair talked a lot about 'legacy', but this will do me, thanks.

Monday, 2 March 2015

Death without tears

I love stories like these - stories in which death impinges on our daily lives in a harmless, almost benign sort of way.

A big Paris department store has discovered over 200 bodies in their basement which have been there for centuries.

Of course, everyone knows that thousands  - possibly millions - of bodies lie just beneath the streets there, in the catacombs which were closed over a century ago because they ran out of space. Most other civilisations buried their dead without the city walls, but not the unhygienic French!

There was an even better story a few years ago, and that was when a fancy restaurant in Paris was entertaining a houseful of gastronomes when a side-wall collapsed, covering the diner's tables with dozens of crumbling skeletons and earthy detritus. How I wish I had been there to see that.

Here in Bath, there is only one section of medieval city wall left intact, and directly behind it there is a plaque saying that the dead of that parish were interred there, 'for the sake of the health of the living'.

About a quarter of a mile outside the Northgate (our house is built on the foundations of the wall which flanked it), there is a large, modern block which is the sheltered accommodation for quite a few elderly residents, some of whom are friends of ours. This home is built on top of the massive medieval plague-pit where thousands of dead Bathonians were interred in the late middle-ages.

Nearby that place is a Victorian mortuary chapel which is now used for art exhibitions, etc, and when the development of the adjacent site was underway, specialist contractors were brought in for the licensed disinterment of many graves there. I think the fee for the contractor for this was about £500 per grave.

They set up discreet hoardings - I thought to show a bit of respect for the dead which they would take out carefully one by one, but in fact it was to hide the sight of a massive digger which pulled them all out by the bucket-load for indiscriminate and jumbled burial elsewhere. You could hear the big diesel engine roaring away behind it for days.

Every night for weeks, the workers would come into the local pubs, offering human skulls for sale, along with the painted, photographic, zinc-plate portraits of the deceased which used to be fixed on the inside of the coffin lids. I was offered one of these and it had a great ridge in it, from when the worker had folded it in two to hide in his coat pocket, then unfolded it again in the pub, tearing off the over-painting at the same time.


Sunday, 1 March 2015

A short children's bedtime story

LORD SCRUMPTIOUS:  "This is the best thing I have seen since the last thing you made for me! Please accept this cheque for £1000!"

ME:  "Thank you, Lord Scrumptious."

LORD SCRUMPTIOUS:  "Tell me, young fella-me-lad, what are you going to spend all that money on?"

ME:  "Maintaining my Volvo Estate, Lord Scrumptious."

Good night.

Saturday, 28 February 2015

A little light escapism

John's going to love this post - it will take his mind off the wedding (ha ha!).

I bought these candlesticks at a friend's antique shop the other day, thinking they had something about them, as well as being quite elegant.

He asked me what sort of age I thought they were, and I underestimated by about 100 years, saying I thought them to be late 18th century. I eventually (yesterday) looked them up in my Christie's bible of English candlesticks, and discovered that they were specifically made for the coffee-house/tavern market and date from about 1700.

All these sticks have the same characteristics - they are all solid to make them uncrushable, all tall so that the light is high even when the candle burns down, all have simple sconces and round bases and all have slightly tapering stems - for some reason.

When you think of how many of these must have been made for all the coffee-houses and taverns, it is a wonder that so few survive - especially as they were built to last.

The answer - I guess - is that they fell out of fashion in a world where fashion ruled, so having been designed on the same pattern as they were in the mid 17th century, they suddenly looked old-hat around 1710 when fashionability started to reach ludicrous heights, so were melted-down in large numbers to produce fancier, baublier sticks for the establishments which wanted to be the premier places to visit for urban/urbane gentlemen.

Metal was as precious in those days as it is now, and subject to the same fluctuations in price. Same with glass - any expensive, fancy, lead drinking glasses which were dropped - and many were - immediately became 'cullet'.

'Cullet' was glass scrap, and thrown back into the furnace to make new glasses from. These days, it id difficult to get any recycling company to take it away. Silica is the most common mineral in the world.

Friday, 27 February 2015

A little light music... my mates, DLM.