Not lacking in confidence

Today saw Parliament debate the pros and cons of continuing with the present government. The government managed to remain in place by a mere 19 votes. Which, as many people tried to point out, means there were only 10 votes in it. Mind you, there were a lot of people I heard that couldn’t work that out but given the distrust of experts, I guess it’s how the world is going to be from now on.

Actually, talking of experts, on the news today (yes, there was something other than Brexit) it was reported that the Large Hadron Collider isn’t big enough so Cern is going to build another, bigger Large Hadron Collider (the Even Larger Hadron Collider, perhaps) in order to see things we can only guess at now. (This sounds delightfully like Douglas Adams.)

The new collider will not be in operation until 2050 which means a lot of the scientists who have proposed and worked on it will not be here to see it work…unless it opens a rift in time and they all come flooding through to great fanfare and hullabaloo.

Maybe that’s the plan. Perhaps we’ll have to wait until 2050 for a return to a time when experts were listened to rather than ignored or heckled. Mind you, they might return to a world of savages and great apes. And Charlton Heston.

Gun loving Hollywood actors aside, some people have suggested that the world changed forever when the Large Hadron Collider was turned on back in September 2008. Had it been left off, perhaps we wouldn’t be in the mess we are in now given it may have turned our universe into a sort of Bizarro version of itself.

Of course it’s no secret that the LHC was shut down in April 2016 after a weasel chewed through a cable. I’m not one for conspiracy theories but the Brexit referendum occurred only two months later. A coincidence? More to the point, why did it have to be a weasel?

So, the House of Commons has confidence in Theresa May’s government so things will continue pretty much the way they have for the last two and a half years. She did suggest that all leaders of other parties should meet with her, one-to-one for a chat on how to go forward. This, some people have suggested, should have happened at the beginning of the process.

Jeremy Corbyn, of course, refused to meet with her until she took the ‘No Deal’ scenario off the table. She won’t so he won’t. Silly children playing with the future of the country like that.

Let’s hope that his inexplicable popularity goes down and the Labour party replaces him with a proper grown up. Yvette Cooper would be my choice. Though Tom Watson gave an excellent speech during the debate today. Actually there are quite a few to choose from. Almost no-one could be as bad as the incumbent leader of the opposition.

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Employing a lack of wisdom

There’s a problem when you ask people something that they know nothing about and yet have an opinion. I do it myself. I hear things about a movie, say, and I have an opinion. It might be that I heard something bad about a movie and so I just go along with that and don’t see the movie.

I know it’s a bad fault but I can live with it. (I maintain that Dan Brown is a shit author without having to read more than the couple of pages I have already read.) What is really, really annoying is when an entire population is bamboozled by a government when ministers are at odds over something momentous and the masses simply agree with it.

Tonight I watched BBC Parliament. I don’t normally watch it but tonight was pretty big. There have been a few days of debate culminating in a vote. The vote being for the Prime Minister’s (Theresa May) Brexit deal. There were quite a few divided opinions and arguments, some reasonable some just plain bad others a bit pie in the sky.

Apparently the reason we are in such a mess, politically, is because of something that the Prime Minister insists is ‘the will of the people.’ This is inviolate, it seems. Once decided, the ‘people’ she refers to, are not allowed to change their minds, regardless of how long it’s been since they spoke. This is in direct contrast to what happens in the Commons whenever something is voted on then amended then voted on again then sent to the Lords then voted on again.

The system of re-voting is there because something that requires careful consideration can bring up all sorts of difficulties unrealised at first. Discussion and debate can highlight these issues and therefore be amended. Then the process needs to begin again. That is how our democracy is supposed to work.

Here’s an example: Let’s say that the government proposes a tax hike for everyone in the country. This comes up in the Commons and it gets debated. Someone gets up and says that’s hardly fair given the people on the lowest wages are already taxed too much. So, the government goes back to the drawing board and proposes an amendment.

This amendment states that people with wages below a certain threshold do not have to pay more tax but people who are above that threshold will. Someone then gets up and suggests the tax should increase for businesses. Obviously, because it’s a Tory government, this gets voted down and the new tax rates come into force.

Okay, that’s very simple but that’s essentially how it works. When it works. Not so this time because of ‘the will of the people’ which never changes.

Unfortunately when a referendum is held and the people vote (regardless of how many out of the entire voting population) this doesn’t hold true. With Brexit, lots of promises were made (by both sides) and some were lies. Now we know a little more about the matter and what we’re facing, we might have changed our mind. But no, says the government (and the opposition) you cannot change your mind because it’s ‘the will of the people’.

(Something else that makes me mad is that the referendum wasn’t mandatory. Something so important to the country should have been compulsory. Apart from a lot more votes, the fines dished out could have paid for a lot of the nonsense that’s gone on over the last 2.5 years.)

So, two and a half years after the part-of-the-population referendum we find ourselves with the deal that our Prime Minister has made, on our behalf, for our withdrawal from the EU. And people have been debating it in the house. (Incidentally, this vote was supposed to originally have been in December but, the Prime Minister changed her mind and pushed it to tonight. How come she can change her mind but ‘the people’ can’t? Interesting isn’t it.)

The whole thing culminated in the big vote.

Everyone has been predicting the vote would go against the government. All those predictions proved correct. Those for the adoption of the Withdrawal Agreement numbered 202 and those against, 432. In case it’s not clear, that was a resounding fail for the government.

What completed the picture was the Opposition Leader (Jeremy Corbyn) getting up and declaring a no confidence vote against the Prime Minister. He wants a General Election even though the majority of his party want a second referendum on the deal. If he declared for a second referendum then he’d win the next General Election because the country seems to have had enough of the Tories.

He insists he can change Europe’s mind on the deal and make a better one. This is even though the EU has said there will be no more negotiations. I’m not sure what the Opposition Leader’s constituents actually want but I’d have thought something that protected their jobs might be high on the list.

If something isn’t done soon, we will crash out of the EU and the country will be poorer, jobs will be fewer and the only people to benefit will be the rich. That’s an odd aim for a Labour party to be striving for.

Anyway, the debate and subsequent vote was all very tense and exciting and, to be fair, I rather enjoyed it. Who knows what tomorrow may bring. Probably even more uncertainty.

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Squirrel with a big brain

Yesterday Mirinda bought a squirrel proof bird feeder. She has bought them before but, so far, they pretty much fail after a while. It’s as if the squirrel just keeps trying different strategies until it hits on a successful one. We know as soon as it does because the feeder is generally on the terrace, in bits with seed all over the tiles.

Ah,” Said Mirinda in the garden centre,”This one looks good!

As soon as we got it home, she filled it up and hung it in the tree. All good. And I should explain. We don’t mind the squirrels visiting the garden. In fact Freya would lose a major source of cardio exercise if they stopped coming. Our problem with the squirrels is that they eat all the bird food and the birds go hungry.

Anyway, it all looked good.

Fort Knox

I never underestimate superior squirrel skills. They are extraordinarily adept at many, many things. It’s not just the running on a thin fence top or leaping miles or holding nuts and berries in their little paws. Though it has to be said, they are very good at all of those. Possibly one of their most amazing skills is how they seem to be able to lift bird feeders off hooks and drop them on the terrace.

And I’m not joking because this was the sight that greeted me upon my return from the gym and the shops this morning:


The little bastards, I sighed under my breath. I asked Freya how come she hadn’t been guarding it but she just wagged her tail at me. There was no point in asking Emma as she doesn’t appear to notice the squirrels at all. And, of course, we all know that whatever Emma doesn’t notice just isn’t worth noticing.

I sent the above photo to Mirinda with the message ‘Squirrel proof my arse!’ and set about remedying the situation.

The fall to the terrace had given the edges quite a battering so first I had apply some judicious plier action before I could put it back together. I then fashioned a simple yet (hopefully) highly effective safety wire. So now, while the feeder is hanging from the hook which itself is hanging from a branch, there is a secondary attachment in anticipation of another Hardly Unexpected Gravitational Event.

Of course it will only take a squirrel with the strength of a titan to prize apart the wire but I’m hoping that one is somewhere else fighting little white cockerpoos and ignoring bird feeders.

It managed to survive the day at any rate.

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Chicken and cheese

It was pretty much just a normal Sunday today. Well, apart from Mirinda asking to be woken up early so she could get some DBA work done before her weekly Skype session.

It made little difference to my normal Sunday routine: make coffee, lie on lounge, listen to Radio 4 until the church service begins then switch over to Radio 5, get dressed and go shopping. Which is pretty much how it turned out.

On my way in, turning into Castle Street, I thought the almshouses looked a bit photogenic.

I’m amazed that the telephone box is not only still there but it also still works. I’ve even seen people use it. When across the country they are being turned into book borrowing repositories, craft display units and so much firewood, one that can be used to make a phone call is a bit of a novelty.

Back at home I slipped into the remains of the day quite easily. Mirinda finished up Skyping, we had lunch then I retired to my office to work on our library.

We went up to the garden centre at one point for Mirinda to buy some firewood and for me to try and remember what I wanted to buy at the garden centre but, otherwise it was all busy, busy bees.

Pre-spring Spring bulbs

At one stage I thought I should go and make sure that Mirinda was taking a break (she can be a bit naughty sometimes, particularly when she gets really focused) only to find that the house was empty. No Mirinda, no dogs, nothing.

I went around switching on the hygge lights then went back to my office.

About an hour later I had a Skype call from Mirinda. This was very unexpected and I thought maybe she was calling me in order to get a cup of tea. I was very, very wrong.

OPEN THE DOOR!” She yelled.

It transpired that she had forgotten to take her front door key. She had tried texting me but I’d muted my phone (she hates it making a noise during lunch). She also emailed me but, of course, I’d muted my phone. Her last resort was Skype. A good last resort as it turned out.

Of course she was very cross until I pointed out that she was the one who had left without a key. Besides, she had her book and was sitting in the car so it wasn’t all bad. Eventually she conceded it wasn’t really my fault.

We celebrated with a delicious dinner of mozarella and mustard stuffed chicken wrapped in bacon accompanied by veg under a cheesy sauce. All very yum.

Oh, and I never did remember what I wanted at the garden centre.

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Pork belly bonanza

In Starbucks this morning Elinor asked me if I was doing anything exciting today. I said I was cooking dinner. She said that didn’t sound very exciting. I told her it would take six hours. She maintained it was still not exciting however, she was shocked.

I was in Starbucks having first visited the butcher for pork belly, chicken, bacon and lots of pork bones. The bones were for bone broth and the pork belly for tonight. I also picked up some loose veg as they are selling them for someone who doesn’t wrap anything in plastic.

Possibly more exciting than six hours of pork roasting was the arrival of our new hub and disc. BT have been urging us to upgrade to faster Broadband so I finally bit the bullet and agreed. The equipment turned up just as I returned from the shops.

I should explain that I have had a hate hate relationship with BT for a while now. Their only response to any query is to ask when they can ring and discuss my issue. Unfortunately the phone is in Mirinda’s name and they’ll only talk to her. Naturally she’s not always here and never wants to talk to them anyway. So I can never get anything sorted.

In fact, I’ve been on the verge of changing provider but have just been a bit slack doing anything concrete other than comparing tariffs.

Given we’re still with BT, it seemed silly not to take a free upgrade and so I’ve persevered and, finally, the order process worked and here we were. Two shiny new bits of kit…well, black actually but still new.

Obviously I waited for Mirinda to take the dogs for a walk before setting it up. Something that should have been quite easy and straightforward actually took quite a while. This was not BT’s fault…completely. Some blame must go to the wooden wine crates used to house the cabling and power distribution network in the library. And Mirinda’s hill of receipts and odd bits of paper piled up on them.

Given the new equipment had its own, non-compatible cables, I had to pull the entire thing apart before threading the new ones through holes and levels in order to reach both ends of connection. Eventually it was complete. I switched the hub on and it worked beautifully.

Then came the linking of various computers, phones and books throughout the house.

Which reminds me…the other day I took a cold call from someone claiming to be from Microsoft Security. He told me there was a problem with my PC. I asked him which one. He then asked what I meant. I said I had ten (I just randomly chose the number). He misheard me, thinking I’d said twelve. I repeated that I had ten and he then thought I’d said seven. When I insisted I had ten for the third time he got quite stroppy with me and hung up.

After the phone call Mirinda asked me if I’d been irritating some poor cold caller and I told her the story. Then we worked out that we actually do have about ten computers in the house. Okay, not all of them work but still…

Anyway, having connected everything that needed it, I set to with the snazzy new BT Disc. This is a round, unobtrusive thing that boosts the signal from the library to the extension. And, while there was some irritation with pairing it to the hub eventually it was working perfectly.

I managed to get it all finished about 15 minutes before Mirinda’s return. I then connected her Little Friend and her Kindle and everything was good to go. All the time I’d been working, the house was gradually filling with delicious porky scents.

Then, finally, as 7:30 rolled into view, I dished up the pork belly. And it was DELICIOUS!

Worth the six hour wait
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Another one down

Today I completed Panel Five of the Gostrey Meadow Memorial. I’m now filling in the gaps for the Hale and Wrecclesham monuments. These are not so easy. Late today I spent a lot of time searching in vain for various men armed with only a surname and an initial. It wasn’t very successful.

At close of play I wasn’t too sure how to proceed. Perhaps Kirsty has some ideas. I’ll wait for her to get back to me. Still, finishing my allocated Farnham panels was extremely satisfying.

More satisfying was the arrival of our wine order.

Christmas at home has meant a rather sizeable hole in our ‘cellar’ or walnut cabinet as most people call it. So when Mike the Wine Guy rang to ask if we needed anything I was more than ready to snap up as many bargains in fine wine that he had. Today it turned up.

I stopped working for half an hour as I unpacked and restocked with some gorgeous bottles. There was even a wooden box for one half dozen bottles of red. We’ve never had one of those. Mirinda was very pleased though when I asked her what we’d use it for she said “We can keep the corks in it.” which is rather odd given wood isn’t see through.

My new E-Reader also turned up but that wasn’t so much exciting as necessary. I plugged it in, logged on and it did everything itself. I now have a book again that fits in my pocket.

I almost forgot. It actually rained in the night. First time for yonks. The continuing cloud cover has been keeping the weather mild. The rain was needed but I’m glad it stopped before sunrise.

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Who owns who?

Being a Househusband gives me plenty of time to observe lots of different people. Given I walk everywhere also means I tend to see many things that other people miss. Being a nosy busybody helps as well.

I see lots of things I don’t understand but the one thing that always surprises me is phone usage. I’m not talking about the people that seem to always be listening to something other than the real world – I’ve talked about that before and, frankly, it’s boring. No, I mean the people who regard the phone as more important than their kids. Or dogs.

I see it all the time. That is no exaggeration. The pet owners who stop watching their dogs because something more interesting has pinged on their phone. The people who push their kids through the park happily chatting to their phone while the child in the stroller natters away to the air. I assume that prior to the invention of the mobile phone, these parents would have talked to the child instead.

I wonder what sort of developmental issue this will create in these children. Will they be unable to have a conversation? I guess the example they’ll have will be that of their parents so I imagine they’ll just ring people and talk that way. Exclusively.

I’ve started listening to TED talks while I do the housework (not with earplugs or headphones, I hasten to add) and the other day listened to a chap who was talking about the bad side of our reliance on smartphones. He gave an example of the anti-social implications of a society when, in a meeting, rather than discuss things vocally, people would rather text each other ABOUT THE MEETING!

He went on to discuss the dominance of social media advertising in determining our lives. His cry of “If only we had to pay for these things, they would not have such power over our opinions!” resonated deeply with me. Each time I see someone click on an image or make a comment on some random ‘page’ I wonder why they regard their personal information as so cheap.

For instance: Every time a user ‘likes’ a page that contains a list of names with a heading that says something like Ten Women Who Are Likely to Get Drunk at Parties, this information is collated and added to a digital file on the user. Firstly it signals that the user is a woman, secondly it implies that the user drinks alcohol. Thirdly it suggests she goes to parties. Finally it says that the user is easily led to click on things. Even more insidious is the fact that people are encouraged to tag their friends as well.

I’m not saying that people shouldn’t have fun and enjoy their social media. I’m suggesting that people should consider who they are giving their lives to.

Value, I guess, is what it’s all about. People value their personal information below that of their children which they value below that of their phones. Every time I see people ignoring their dog or their child in favour of their phone, I wonder about their priorities.

It was gloomy again today
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That’s Amore

Today Mirinda sent off the first drafts of a couple of chapters of her thesis to her supervisor for comment and input. This is the first steps onto the road to completion. Of course it’s still a bit of an uphill slug but at least the final journey has begun.

As for me, I tried a new recipe for a lo-carb pizza base tonight. It is also nut free which doesn’t really matter for us but makes it easier. It has quite a variety of cheeses, which is always a pleasure.

I topped it with my own tomato sauce, some beef mince, mushrooms, spinach, red onion…lots of stuff. Mirinda declared it good enough to enter the official Chez Gaz menu board. High praise indeed.

The irregular shape is on purpose. The camera angle is to allow for the lighting in the kitchen.

I love pizza and this one was pretty close to the real thing. That worked well.

Something else that worked well was what the gardeners did on Monday. They were all excited about how well the compost had broken down and went mad laying it everywhere on some of the beds Beyond the Final Arch. I was so pleased (I basically made the compost after all) I took a short video.

It looks particularly good in the sunshine

That augers very well for the summer.

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Emma’s Revenge

Sometimes Mirinda just makes me laugh out loud without even being around. Some days, after she’s left for work and I’m pottering around, I’ll find something she’s absentmindedly done that just cracks me up. Today, for instance.

She went off to work for the first time since mid December while I was at the gym. Back at home, I Skyped with mum then put some washing on and, generally started cleaning up. Very soon it was lunchtime and I fed the girls then started making my own.

After preparing my salad, I decided to have a mug of bone broth and took the Pyrex out of the fridge. Then I burst into laughter.

After the bone broth has slow cooked itself into a delicious liquid, I pour it into a Pyrex and put it in the fridge. The next day there is a thick layer of fat on top, sort of like an ice sheet over a river above the Arctic circle.

If I’m the first one to use it, I’ll just slide it off but, if one is in a hurry, it’s also easy to make a hole in the fat and pour through it. Kind of like ice fishing in a river above the Arctic circle.

Mirinda has worked this out and so, yesterday, while I was at the flat, she made a hole and poured out a mug of broth then replaced the Pyrex in the fridge. The thing is, while she’s worked out how to make a hole in the fat she has yet to work out how a spout works.

When I told her how much this made me laughed she rather sheepishly said she’d wondered why she’d done it at the time because she’d had to pour the broth out from the side of the jug.

Anyway, it did not detract from the deliciousness of the broth and I sat down to lunch and hot broth before heading up to the park with the girls.

Because Mirinda has been home for so long, it’s been ages since I’ve taken them to the park. And I picked a glorious day to go.

Of course there was a lot of ball throwing, chasing and returning on Emma’s part. This always means she has to have a few rests on the way.

Puffed out puppy

She managed to drag herself to a bench where the three of us collapsed for a proper rest. Actually it was only Emma who collapsed. Freya just jumped up on the seat and surveyed the area, checking for any squirrel incursions or dogs she could befriend in her odd way.

All safe here!

Then I discovered that Emma has a new dimension to her chasing the ball game. Normally Freya doesn’t bother chasing the ball because she has other, more important things to do but, occasionally she will chase it just to annoy Emma. Today, however, Emma proved her superior intellect.

Given she was a bit tired, she let Freya go and retrieve the ball then hop down off the bench to collect it for me to throw again. It was unusual enough to film them.

Who knew that Emma could be so cleverly devious. Poor Freya has no idea, particularly because she used to chase Emma chasing the ball in order to grab her ears on the way back. This must be Emma’s Revenge.

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Plastic problems

I went up to the flat today in order to finish what I started the other day, namely installing new runners for the curtains. It didn’t take long.

(The photos in this post are from a couple of new building works.)

Opposite the tube entrance

On the way I had to buy a book to read (after my E-Reader died yesterday) which was a bit odd. I bought the smallest one so it would fit in my back pocket. I also made sure it was just short pieces that I could read easily. There was little point in buying something that I’d be stuck in for weeks when my new one should turn up before I finish.

So I popped into Froyles and bought a book called F**k plastic – 101 ways to free yourself from plastic and save the world. Interestingly, there’s no author.

Among the 101 facts is the one that because we have polluted the oceans so much, 30% of the fish we eat has ingested plastic. That means we are eating plastic. I’m sure a lot of people would not care about that. Nothing wrong with a bit of plastic, they’d say. Except there is. There is a link between cancer and the ingestion of seafood delivered plastic because the plastic absorbs chemicals in the seawater that we really do not want to swallow.

Besides, I’m really not sure that people want to eat plastic fish. Though, obviously they do.

Of course, the majority of people wouldn’t taste the plastic because their fish is battered or rendered pretty tasteless by the cooking method but that doesn’t mean it’s not there.

Anyway, there are lots (101) handy hints on how to reduce our overwhelming reliance on plastic. One of the worst is cling wrap. It doesn’t break down at all so it’ll probably be the last thing on the planet when the sun dies. Even after the cockroaches. Actually, I guess that’s why you can use cling wrap in the microwave.

I’ve started using bees wax wrap. It’s amazing. It does the same job but it lasts for about a year. You just use it then rinse it then use it again. And, once it’s worn out, it will just break down naturally in a compost heap.

Then, walking back from the flat towards Canary Wharf tube, I was amazed at the amount of plastic everywhere. The streets are paved with it, seemingly. Poor Dick Wittington would be shocked.

Once this was a rather grotty international hotel
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