Thursday, 30 April 2009

Inscrutable Irony?

I heard this on Radio 4 News this evening, and pass it on without comment.

China has opened a Museum of Espionage, in some small provincial town. Entry is, however, barred to foreigners, for reasons of national security.


Someone was blogging about these the other day - oh yes, the brother. Well, I reckon I've got one in my garden, thrusting up through the sage bush. Look:

Is that a bluebell, or what?

They're protected, aren't they? So does that mean I'm not allowed to dig or weed my garden any more, the government will have to come and do it for me?

No, thought not.

Wednesday, 29 April 2009

It's rant time!

I've been storing up several rant zones for some weeks, mostly to do with Gordon's mouth (my older readers may remember a post about this wierd organ, its behaviour and emissions - I may have to post separately about this). But the levee has burst, and it's burst all over, guess what, SWINE FLU!

First, some facts, as reported by media up to and including the BBC. We're all going to die. (Well, that's true!) Don't come back from Mexico, if you can help it. If you must, wear a blue gag, just like the reporters (That's the ones wearing the accessory, not the ones telling us they're useless, if not worse - and don't under any circs share masks). As of now, confirmed cases in the UK have increased from two to three: that's a 30% increase isn't it? Or is it 50%? Depends how you measure it. And, worst, one of them is in South Devon! That's not on! Mothers are terrified. Schools are closed. The WHO is poised to escalate from level 4 to level 5, because (I have to go into caps here) - A BABY DIED AFTER CROSSING THE MEX-TEX BORDER!!! National boundaries just don't mean nothing anymore.

So. Some real facts. Around 25,000 people died in England and Wales last year from secondary flu-related complications (bronchitis, pneumonia etc.) The Office of National Statistics is quiet about what proportion of flu cases this represents, probably because the numbers are too big to crunch, and it's pretty normal and boring. But let's guess that it's 5%. (That'd give us half a million flu cases, which doesn't sound unbelievable.)

In Mexico, so far, there are somewhere between two and ten thousand suspected cases, and about 160 deaths attributed to the disease. There hasn't been much information about proven causal links or secondary complications - in fact there's been no information whatsoever. But let's be cautious. On the worst case, we are looking at ten per cent fatalities. So this scary new thing is about twice as lethal in Mexico (or, to be precise, a few small ringfenced bits of Mexico) as normal flu is in the UK. Well, I can live with that. And I didn't even get my jab this year.

This media balloon will burst, or more likely deflate slowly, sadly, to the 'other news' columns on page 7, just like CJD, foot'n'mouth, SARS, avian flu ... If I'm wrong, sorry - I don't think I was the one who sneezed over you.

Meanwhile, just don't snog no wetback hogs.

Acknowledgment to Simon Jenkins of the Guardian for a serious article which triggered these facetious thoughts.

Sunday, 26 April 2009

London Marathon

Several family members partook in this today, here are their results:

  • Alex (nephew): finished in under 3 1/2 hours. An athlete, excels at all his usual sports (football, golf etc) but first time he's done a marathon, so good result!
  • Chris (niece's fiance): finished in under 5 1/2 hours. Wouldn't claim to be an athlete, first significant sporting effort of any kind, I think he'd agree ... So he must be over the moon, think that's the technical term, at making it all the way round.
  • Alan (brother-in-law): finished in under 6 hours. Alan has run quite a few marathons around the world over the years. He was worried this time, as a muscle in his right leg had been playing up a lot during training. On the day, that muscle was fine; but he tripped over a plastic bottle and did in the same muscle in his left leg ... The Law of Sod strikes!
  • Linda and Georgie (sister-in-law and niece): got severely sunburnt as on-the-spot spectators.
  • Tim (me): managed a good hour of watching the TV coverage this morning.

So, all have done well and all should have prizes.

Wednesday, 22 April 2009

Spotify experiment ...

Carla Bley – The Lord Is Listenin to Ya Halleluja!

An amazing, laugh-out-loud trombone solo which Rick and I found last night around the start of bottle #2, spotisurfing via his vague memory and my undoubted expertise, ha ha... He had to phone his daughter at about 11.30 to slurredly rave about it, to Ellie's slight bewilderment I think.
This link should work, if you've installed Spotify. (If you can but haven't, you really should; if you can't yet, commiserations, hopefully it'll be along soon.) Let me know.

Monday, 13 April 2009

Caravan (Pt 2)

Well, there weren't any flies. But there were two burst pipes, and the gas didn't work. Oh, and the outside of the van was covered in green algae slime. Oh yes, and it took nearly five hours to get there, due to inexplicable sudden tailbacks on the M4 which run for three miles and then just evaporate, leaving you wondering: why? (In one case, near Bridgend, it turned out to be the remains of a small cardboard box in the slow lane.)

Of course, the caravan problems, or challenges, duly got sorted through the application of a bit of elbow grease, with help on the plumbing front from Chris, a salt-of-the-earth site neighbour who laboured for several hours with his head underneath the van to fix the leaks, while I passed him things when he asked. After it was fixed, I went up to his caravan, a solemn expression on my face. 'Oh no, it's not leaking again?' 'No', I said. 'You've actually fixed the gas boiler as well.'

Sunday was perfect. I drove up to Porthgain to visit my friends for lunch. We had a picnic on Traith Lyffn beach in glorious sunshine. To get to Traith Lyffn, you climb up the steps behind the old granite chutes by the harbour, then walk a mile across the cliffs, past the disused quarries and mysterious red brick industrial ruins, through flowering gorse and dizzying views down to the churning sea, and then down about 170 steps of an iron staircase to this splendid low tide beach. Then you drink champagne, eat prawn rolls and throw frisbees. Then you climb back up the 170 steps. Then you glue your legs back on.

Thursday, 9 April 2009


I'm off to Pembrokeshire tomorrow morning, for the grand seasonal opening. Strange how complicated the process of returning to a stripped-down simple environment can be. Can I remember what I need to take? (I have notes, obviously, but are they complete and accurate?) Is the car fed and watered? (yes) What will the ground conditions be like? (I have to drive across 100 yards of sometimes soggy ground to reach my parking spot beside the van - once had to call Joseph out with his tractor to tow me out from a quagmire - then I have to lie flat on my back to reinstall the plumbing, not nice in a bog or rain) ... and then, will there be flies inside the van, and will the fridge have broken down again, making me spend the afternoon bleach sponging lethal mould spores off everything ...

And then I'll get there, and it'll be stripped-down simple, beautiful and challenging, and I'll think 'I could live like this'. Except that there's no mains water supply, sewerage or internet access. But the view and the walks are pretty good.

Friday, 3 April 2009

New song

'Teaching the Blues' now available on, artist timbobig.

I'm not entirely happy with the performance, esp the vocal - needs to be in a lower key, but I could only play it in C. Maybe I should detune the guitar and remake it? No. But I'm pleased with the song.

Thursday, 2 April 2009

The G20 Show - some reflections

Well, it was the G2 really, wasn't it? The Gord'n'Barry show. One of the smartest bits of media manipulation I've seen. Even Gordon came across as charming. And the Franco-Prussian axis got totalled. The few clips Sarkozy got made him look like a petulant marginalised cheese-eating foreigner.

There's a splendid photo in today's Guardian, a smiling star line-up, captioned 'David Miliband, Hillary Clinton, Gordon Brown, Barack Obama, Tim Geithner and Alistair Darling' - but there are only five people in the picture. Guess who's missing? (Hint: it's not the Chancellor of the World Exchequer ...)

And of course Michelle. How did she find the time, energy, charm and composure to fit all those gigs so brilliantly in between her dress-changing commitments? What a woman!

I heard Nick Robinson explain on the radio that the trick was going to be to bundle together a load of disparate and, in themselves, not wholly viable measures into a single, convincing, saleable package that everyone could safely buy ... Hang on, does this ring a bell?

Anyway, at last I know how many zeroes there are in a trillion (twelve). (Couldn't read those Zimbabwean banknotes.)

Finally, I wonder how it played in Ethiopia? They were there too, you know.

PS Strange vehicle update: white van present, bike absent. All conspiracy theories null and void.