Black Spyder

I don’t get the excitement about the Prince of Wales’ black spyder letters and opinions.

Apparently it is OK for the chemical industry or the weapon manufacturers, for the general public or Amnesty International, for you and me, for Rupert Murdoch, the Archbishop of Canterbury or Bill Gates to express their opinion and try to sway politicians and other people of influence, but not for a member of the Royal Family?

Apparently it is OK for our politicians and other decision-making to be spine-less weasels, so easily swayed in their opinion?

I wished we lived in a country where everyone enjoys the freedom of speech, and where our leaders can be trusted to listen to that speech but then form their own independent and informed opinion, reach their decision intelligently.

Ha! Now you wonder which planet I live on. Planet Dreamland it is.

Whistl Out Of Wits

ThDSC_0052e government complains about our very own public Royal Mail being too slow, too expensive, not profitable. Then, they allow competition onto the market in the form of Whistl (formerly TNT Post), based on the ludicrous first law of conservative government logic: A commercial enterprise can replace a public service, give better service to the public and be profitable.

They even helped supporting Whistl and dug Royal Mail’s grave deeper by sending government and (Ealing) council letters through the new private service. That’s the second ludicrous all-parties government law: if your public services fail to please you, do your best to ruin them even further.

Now Whistl reached the end of their wits, suspended mail delivery, and sets 2000 workers free to pursue other interests. (BBC)

I suppose the good news is that some revenue in the relatively lucrative areas (cities of London, Liverpool and Manchester) will bounce back to Royal Mail. That’s a start, if only the fools in Whitehall now went on and understood the principle of a public service: It is not a business, it is not required to be profitable, only as cost-effective and efficient as possible. It is a service which we, as the society, afford ourselves with our tax money.

There. Now you know. No more excuses!


Public Service Logic

DSC_0692Here’s a question which bothers us as often as once a day. Like, for example, when we read news of Sodexo Justice Services, a private company running a good portion of the UK’s privatised probation service, announcing 30% job cuts (at least 700 posts).

How on earth would anyone in his or her full mental capacity examine a public service such as the probation service, and conclude that a profit-oriented private business can provide that service at lower cost and higher quality than a not-for-profit government organization?

I have no doubt that government organizations, much like large companies, suffer from inefficiencies, incompetence and similar maladies. Surely, these need addressing, as much as the mental health of those who make those ludicrous privatization decisions.

Boris’ Waterworks

DSC_0075Boris and his friends are snapping up an opportunity to purchase three second-hand water canons from the German police, beating their chest and priding themselves of £2.3 million saved in comparison to the purchase of new equipment. (

According to the BBC, a Home Office spokesman said: “We are keen to ensure that the police have the tools and powers they need to maintain order on our streets.”

This is exactly the problem, can’t they see? Why not, for a change, work on the reasons which make people protest, on the causes of unrest? Fighting back never works, oppression always backfires.

I do not endorse any form of violence, least of all violence by the state. I somehow hope this backfires, though. At least it shows what government thinks of the people it governs: riff-raff, needs to be disciplined, beaten down, locked away.


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The Great Ouse

DSC_0512This river is cursed, I think. We tried to paddle a stretch of the Great Ouse and couldn’t find a suitable launch place (but went for a lovely swim in the Great Ouse instead). Technical difficulties such as a puncture prevented successful paddling on the next attempt. This time, we actually made it onto the water near Huntington, and enjoyed approximately 40 minutes of post-lunch upstream paddling until the weather very decidedly turned against us.

Gosh, what a lovely river, meandering through lush countryside, with villages which are groomed to perfection – probably with an insane amount of money.

Very lovely though. We shall come back, maybe for a short weekend in spring next year.

(The “river” depicted here shows the mouth of the Salcombe Estuary, another very pretty place well worth returning to.)


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Banana Republic

DSC_0359It’s official! The United Kingdom of Great Britain is on its way to becoming a genuine Banana Republic.

Not that I ever had any doubt, but we are now growing our own, which I would have never thought possible.

We are proud owners of a Banana in bloom.

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Great Expectations

DSC_0274Yoel replied and explained that there was “an unprecedented level of correspondence […] [expressing] concerns over this particular location.” He goes on explaining that we “face a serious issue with street drinking and the inevitable anti social behaviour that it causes in and around the [..] area …”

What’s the f* point, I wonder?

If nobody expects persons treated at the drug and alcohol rehabilitation site to be ex-drug users or ex-alcoholics, what’s the point?

I am also forever curious about the great expectations some people apparently have, and would have loved to find out if a group of former alcohol and drug abusers can live up to these. Are those people expected to roll around in the street, stark-naked? Shout obscenities? Lure the local primary school children into a life of sex, drugs and rock’n’roll?

I think I might have wanted to join in, at least in the rolling-around naked whilst shouting obscenities part.

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A Right Merry Dance

DSC_0373Daniel Sibley of Blaby, Leicestershire, went for a spot of fishing at Bluebell Lakes in Northamptonshire a few days ago. Can you imagine his surprise when something actually bit?

Not a car tire, not a shopping trolley or a discarded bicycle, no, a real carp! The exceptionally large carp “took me for a right merry dance,” said Daniel afterwards, after being almost dragged under at times, and struggling to reel the 49kg fish in over two hours. [video]

Carp and catcher would quite possibly have been of similar age.

The carp’s been mighty fine until Daniel came along, didn’t bother anyone. Daniel returned the fish to the water after weighing and posing, but I wonder nevertheless where’s the f*ing sport in that?

Maybe the carp should have dragged Daniel under, close to the point of suffocation, then spat him out again with a laugh?


Some people…


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Scientific Discoveries

DSC_0572Scientific results published in the Lancet medical journey suggest that after receiving extensive training in government-sanctioned violence and murder, and after being deployed to do so, after getting accustomed to problem-solving with violence and after getting used to an exceptionally high emotional threshold for shock and horror, retired armed forces are more likely than the rest of the population to commit violent offences.

You don’t say.

I’d think it naive to expect any different, and almost have sympathy with those committing violent offences as a result of alcoholism. At least they might be trying to forget.

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Culinary Evolution

DSCF3825I remember it very well. Back many years ago, even before we moved to the UK, we spent our summer holidays in Ireland. Apart from this being an exceptionally cold and rainy Irish summer, I remember this one incident in particular: Great, we thought, we’d fix ourselves a delicious yet inexpensive meal! We had discovered Black Pudding in the local butchers. Brilliant, we thought at first, that’ll be a spicy, possibly wind-dried sausage made from pigs’ blood and fat – yummy!

We grew up to hearty fare like that, but I recall our astonishment when we sampled it. We truly and honestly thought it utterly inedible. We truly and honestly thought we might have purchased a produce designed to feed dogs. We truly and honestly thought this might not be fit for human consumption.

Nowadays, black pudding is on the food fashion rise again in the great upsurge of Modern British Cuisine (for want of a better label), and I enjoy myself with the occasional slice of baked British Black Pudding. Served alongside a seared breast of duck, together with a poached pear, makes for a delicious meal, or simply fry it up with an egg and a slice of bread.

It’s different from the produce I grew up with, and that’s good. It’s a different country after all. Most importantly, it’s a lot different from what we bought back in ‘em days in Ireland.


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Petition Day

DSC_1454Ding-dong, the door bell goes, so I go and answer. Whether I’d sign her petition, the lady wonders. It’s against an application for change of use of the Studio office block nearby, which is to be converted into an alcohol and drugs centre – her words, not mine! No, she sais, she doesn’t know what that means either, but she thinks it could describe a place for rehabilitation and treatment, and fears that even ex-offenders might frequent it. Again, her words, not mine.

You hypocritical little weasel, I think to myself, and explain that I shall not sign her petition. Converting a run-down office block with dubious tenants into a place of rehabilitation and treatment is a fine thing, I explain, and petitioning against something while not even knowing what it means is hugely disagreeable. I suspect, I continue telling her, that in reality she is protesting against anything which might happen because it might happen on her doorstep.

I deny politely and close the door, and wish I hadn’t been quite so polite. What a hypocritical weasel, really! I can’t comprehend what kind of society people want, if it doesn’t include rehabilitation and treatment for those in need of such things. I find this mindset objectionable and highly antisocial.

Shame, shame, and shame again on all those not on my doorstep people.

I almost wish she comes again.


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Amazon POST

DSC_0875I confess. I am an Amazon kind-of-a-guy. I find their prices often competitive, and their range of goods almost always satisfactory. I regret that my own shopping habits will only let specialist book shops survive, those that specialize in a particular niche or quality (such as Stanfords) or into quality (e.g. Quodlibet).

But, I wonder what the overall environmental impact of Amazon is going to be.

I don’t walk or drive to the nearest store. Instead, I click. The CO2 balance is, while not zero, small compared to driving into town, but server farms to power Google, Amazon, my Internet service provider and many other serves en route aren’t powered by good will alone. Plus, the delivery guy drives around. He serves many customers on one journey, so the overall environmental cost of delivering something to me is lower than the cost of all those customers going out to buy. But on the other hand again, not all those purchases would have been made, had it not been for the convenience of the double-click from the comfort of my home.

Also, I find myself with a regular collection of packaging materials. I put the plastic into the plastic and the paper and cardboard into the paper and cardboard recyclables, but again, a lot less of this would be necessary, had I taken my re-usable cotton carrier bag down to the nearest Borders store. Oh, Borders is closed down already.

Did anyone bother to make a scientific analysis of all this? And, did anyone bother to summarize it nicely? P.O.S.T. where are you when we need you?

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