Tuesday, 13 October 2015


Corbyn is older than you think.

Monday, 12 October 2015

Something misunderstood

I woke up before dawn this morning and started listening to the radio. Exacerbated through lack of sleep, my worries about what is happening in the Middle East which is creeping ever closer to Europe are getting very troubling, especially as Russia becomes more involved and more isolated.

So I turned to your posts for solace, but even Cro's biscuit recipe couldn't sooth me. Yael's grandson's attempt at beating the Chinese at their own game - actually, someone else's game - didn't help, and by the time I got to Rachel's post I was ready for the verbal beating which she handed out to all of us before she went to work.

Years ago when I first started writing this shit, I had worked out that the blogosphere is - in the main - populated by the over 50s who use it in a vain attempt to temporarily escape the horrors of the world, and so we all come away with the impression that everyone else's lives are peaceful, creative and fulfilling compared to our own.

The ups and downs in the blogosphere usually involve factors such as whether or not your cake has risen, but occasionally someone will snap and gabble out worries and vitriol as if talking to their imaginary therapist, and the rest of us huddle together and coo gently to the troubled soul until they shut the fuck up and get on with the baking.

Being a Sunday, last night's radio had a distinctly religious feel to it, but being multi-cultural Britain, the gods in question are rarely mentioned by name.

An Anglican priest said the last prayers of the day, and he said something which actually made me wake up and think a little before going to bed.

"Fear is perverted Love".

I think that notion has some milage in it, especially if you believe that aggression is the direct result of fear.

Sunday, 11 October 2015

Lifestyle home improvements post

I have been waiting for about 10 years for them to make a replacement LED unit for our tungsten spots (IKEA) in the kitchen and bathroom, and I finally found some (LIDL) which seemed to fit the requirements nicely, so I bought a whole batch and rigged them up yesterday.

Our 2 systems are 12 volt and 20 watts each, and things go badly wrong with the transformer if you put anymore than three per line on it. I melted one by replacing a 20 watt tungsten with a 35 watt one, putting a total load of 75 watts on the feeble thing which is - I found out - only rated up to 60 watts max.

The LED replacements are 3 watts each - that is a huge power saving: 9 as opposed to 60 (I'm tempted to say 'do the maths', but they tell me it represents a 85% saving on the box).

These lights are designated as 'warm white', but there is no standard about warmth as yet, so all you can do is fit them and find out. Last night, ours proved too white, so today I am taking them all down and tinting the fronts with acrylic ink. This is a real bind, but since each unit is supposed to last for 25,000 hours, I will hopefully be dead before I have to repeat the procedure.

The other complication is that the frequency of LED light is totally different to tungsten, and this has nothing to do with brightness. The light from an LED is very sharp and clear - it makes glasses glister and sparkle, but if it is in the blue side of the spectrum, it appears very harsh and unforgiving. You know how candlelight is so conducive to a romantic dinner for two, whereas the lights in a mortuary are not? That's the difference in an extreme example.

Lighting is incredibly difficult to get right, especially if you live with H.I. The biggest compromise she has had to make in order to accept my change to LEDs is the fact that we will no longer have the little pink lines over the ceiling where some light escapes from above and gets filtered through the silvered backing of the glass units. That is what she likes more than almost anything else, and she is - I know - deeply gutted that it will no longer be like that.

When I told her that these pink lines will be a thing of the past, and that she must just get used to the idea for the sake of the 85% power saving, she said, "Typical man's way of looking at it". I suppose she is right - I love the idea of dramatic savings, but I also actually like LED frequency light.

I am not the type of person who switches their engines off at traffic lights though, and I have never been tempted to cruise downhill in neutral just to save about 3 pence worth of petrol. Did your father complain of finding the lights 'blazing away' in an unoccupied room of your family home?

I always buy cars with large engines (by British standards) and I tend to thrash them to the limit regardless of MPG. At the same time, I religiously put every scrap of waste paper in the recycling, even if it is only the little leaf which warns you that you only have six cigarette papers left.

I suppose that I could be described as enigmatically hypocritical.

Saturday, 10 October 2015

My first fridge-magnet

We've come back from London with a proper souvenir - this Egyptian mummy fridge-magnet, bought from the British Museum and which now has been 'affixed' to - yes, you guessed it - our fridge.

Back in Bath, the first thing I noticed was a printed warning on some railings asking people not to 'affix' their bicycles against them on pain of having them forcibly removed. I didn't know bicycles could be 'affixed', but I suppose they thought it sounded legal, as in 'affix stamp here'. Twats.

Every time a new curator is appointed to the British Museum, they feel they have to leave their mark on it by rearranging exhibits and hiding the ones that many people have been travelling miles to see since childhood. We could not find the amazing baboon which has been squatting in the same place near the entrance to the Egyptian section since the 19th century. Why archive that?!

The place was packed with hundreds of screaming school children, which was definitely a good thing. When I used to go there as a kid (special journeys made on the train since I was old enough to travel on my own), the place was virtually empty, and all the small exhibits were housed in dusty cabinets which hadn't been opened for 50 years. I loved it.

There was always a small morbid crowd around the exposed mummy , with children like me peering down at the soiled wrappings, trying to imagine what the corpse inside looked like. That has been removed as well, probably as a health hazard.

These days, they sometimes organise sleep-overs for small parties of children, who can actually spend the night surrounded by dead kings in huge, marble halls. I would have loved that.

I once made a special journey there to look at the Aztec rock-crystal skull before it was moved to the Museum of Mankind, only to find that it had been locked away out of sight. I found one of the museum officials and asked if I could see it. They took me down to a room in the basement and locked me inside with it! I had to knock on the door to be let out, and I was thrilled at being the only person in the world to be in a room with it at the time. I have since found out that it is a 19th century fake, which is a shame - circular abrasion marks give it away, evidently, and I became friends with the old expert who exposed it.

About thirty years ago, I had a German friend who used to travel the world in his beaten-up, tiny Renault 4 car, conducting tours for German tourists. He would send them on by plane, but drive himself to the destination to meet them. He hated flying, you see.

He drove to Egypt once, and when there, was offered a genuine Egyptian mummy by some rogue dealers - there are plenty of those in Egypt.

He bought it (wrap it up, I'll take it) and managed to stuff it in the back of his Renault. He was surprised at how light it was, but in the hot weather on the journey home, it began to give off a very strong aroma - not unpleasant, apparently, just very strong.

After a while, he started to wonder - for the first time - how he would get it through the border customs post. There were - and still are - very heavy penalties for smuggling out ancient artefacts, and there was no way the thing could be disguised as anything other than what it was - no point in further wrapping.

So he stopped at a large bridge over the Nile and, when nobody was looking, threw it in the river. I often wonder what happened to it - maybe it was chewed-on by crocodiles further down past Aswan?

To me, the British Museum sums up everything romantic about mid-nineteenth century London - the London that is gone forever, and perhaps never existed at all outside my own (and other's) childish heads.

I have sat with a drink in the Museum Tavern over the road, dreaming of Sherlock Holmes. This is the only real pub ever to have featured in a Holmes story - the one where a giant diamond is hidden in a Christmas goose.

Every time you start to think that the dream is fading, shortly to go forever, someone like Benedict Cumberbatch turns up and refreshes it for another 50 years or so.

I saw a large American tourist with a very elaborate moustache, strolling through town with a Sherlock 'fore-and-aft' hat on his head and a beatific smile on his face. He was living his dream in the heart of Old London, and I really felt happy for him.

Thursday, 8 October 2015

Pax Romana

Today, so the BBC tells me, is National Poetry Day here in the UK. I'm also on a little holiday to London.

I have learned something this morning over coffee because of it, and I am amazed that I did not know this before, although I think I have always suspected it: There are no such people as the 'Welsh'.

Apparently, 'Welsh' is an Anglo-Saxon term meaning something like, 'those strange people over there'.

The earliest poem ever to be written in the English language was read out beside the very subject of it, and it was another Anglo-Saxon poem about the ruins of the Roman Baths, when they were ruins even then, in the 9th century AD.

The good old Anglo-Saxons had such a way with words, and Rachel's blog would be lost without the choicest four-letter ones which she uses on a daily basis.

It seems that up until the Norman invasion and right through the Dark Ages, we were a series of island tribes united by a common dislike for each other.

Then as soon as we became the Untied Kingdom, we started treating each other as foreigners.

The first King of all England was crowned at Bath Abbey in the 9th century. That must have been when the Welsh were born as the Welsh. Divide and rule.

Tuesday, 6 October 2015

Yet more Art - Banksy interview in Spain

More Art

A French friend of ours who attends the Beaux Arts Academy in Paris, was moved into here when their studio became too warm during the Summer heat. When I first saw this image, I thought it was a painting in itself, but it's just a snap from her phone camera.

And I thought I had it good at Art School...