Oh dear

If you’ve been out and about on the tube during rush hour recently, you’ll likely have heard the dulcet tones of Boris Johnson. It’s unnerving hearing a voice doing anything other than give station and service updates, even more when it tries to be enthusiastic. Like this:

Yes, Bozza, we know, the entire system is going to be gridlock. Yes, it’s going to be unpleasant. Yes, it’s worth researching GAOTG and their station disruption maps. But stop trying to pretend that it’s going to be fun to live through this disruption.

Of course, it could easily be worse. Imagine, if you will, that the voice making these announcements was significantly more adenoid-y. “Comrades! It’s the General Secretary Mayor Livingstone here, instructing you to all find some other way to get to work, because I need these trains to get people to and from my vanity project the Glorious Olympiad!”

*shudder*

Bloody weather

It would appear that Thames Water and the authorities in general have caught onto the simple fact that this year does not count as drought. A little chart from Diamond Geezer illustrates the problem quite succinctly.

  • March: lifted from diamondgeezer.blogspot.com
  • April: lifted from diamondgeezer.blogspot.com
  • May: lifted from diamondgeezer.blogspot.com
  • June:lifted from diamondgeezer.blogspot.com
  • July: lifted from diamondgeezer.blogspot.com

If I could be arsed, I’d also overlay those calendars with another set – ones that show weekends that I was here and able to do anything. If I had such an overlay, I’d be able to show a nice, simple fact: I’ve not had a day at home where it was dry all day since the middle of May. Meaning that the lawn didn’t get cut between May and last weekend.

Funnily enough, the mixture of heat and water did our lawn no end of good, if by good you mean “encouraging uncontrolled growth”. By the time I got time and weather to do it, it was eighteen inches tall. Too tall for our piddling electric lawnmower, and too thick for our piddling electric strimmer.

So I ended up doing something bloody annoying: cutting the damn lawn with shears. On a boiling hot day. And constantly finding little surprises that Roxy had left in the tufts of grass, which were particularly foul smelling.

I think that it may be time to invest in either a concrete back yard, or a decent lawnmower. Or invisible option (c) – a flamethrower…

Err, I don’t think that’s me

According to this professional looking personality test, I’m not quite cool.

Lukewarm
You have your cool moments (you tend to look pretty cool, for starters) but you’re not someone others look up to as confident, individualistic and at times brilliant. But don’t worry too much about it. You have other traits that more than make up for it, from your love of friends and family to having a great team spirit and being trustworthy and dependable. You’re also quite modest and self-effacing, which might not be cool but is certainly appealing.

Well, that’s clearly not the case at all. I mean, I’m still slightly tangerine, and I can’t think of anything less cool than that…

Holiday time!

Last weekend, as we’ve done several times before,TLW & I went on a jaunt to Jersey. Lots of lounging about was done, and quite a lot of eating, and a fair bit of drinking. I read The Long Earth, and found it to be good. I spent a lot of time playing with our host’s bullmastiff, and found it to be a most excellent dog; it makes our dog look (a) tiny and (b) insane in comparison.

I also found that the curse of Jersey has struck again: I went, I walked on the beach for no more than an hour or two, and I became a tomato; bright red and squidgy. My ability to burn in the sun is pretty impressive, although I’d rather that it wasn’t. As has happened (in Jersey) in the past, I was supplied with after-sun cream, and proceeded to slather it with reckless abandon. Without reading the instructions. Which was a shame – if I’d read the instructions I’d have noticed that this particular after-sun offered to enhance one’s natural tan while minimising the effects of sunburn. I.e., it was basically a moisturising lotion with fake tanning effects.

In short: I look bloody ridiculous. I’m currently hoping that my skin gets on with it and peels soon. So that this stupid red / orange face goes away.

Happiness is sometimes a difficult decision

Things that make me happy:

  • A quiet evening in with TLW
  • A half decent football match on t’telly
  • Cake
  • The prospect of a long weekend
  • A difficult decision

That decision is one that’s intriguing me. See, PTerry has not one but two new books out this week. So, should I start with The Long Earth, an entirely new thing for His Terryness that looks to be quite an intelligent read? Or should I go for something else entirely: the second book of his that has just been released:

So: is it to be the exciting and intriguing new book, or the very thoughfully titled World of Poo?

I’m torn…

He’s a stupid, stupid man…

That Jimmy Carr fella, ain’t he a prize chump? When faced with the public finding out that he was doing something perfectly legal to keep his hands on his money, he did something silly.

He pretended that he’d done something wrong.

What he should have said is this: what kind of an idiot pays more tax than they need to? Seriously, why would you? Why would you not minimise the amount of your money that is taken by force by the state?

We all do it to some extent; we put money in pensions rather than in bank accounts because it’s tax deductible. We buy stuff at duty free when we can. We take advantage of VAT changes where possible. ISAs exist because the state realises that many people won’t save unless the state lets them off paying tax to do so. We put in claims for tax deductions on uniforms and the like.

We all do what little we can to stop our money being taken from us. Are we so hypocritical that it’s suddenly different when someone only pays tax on £100,000; i.e., he only contributes dozens of thousands of pounds?

The answer is, of course, that we are hypocritical. We are holding double standards; these people aren’t doing anything more than we would do if we could, it’s just that they have the money to do it better.

Obviously, hypocrisy is another reason that Carr is in trouble, what with him professing to be a standard big-state lefty. But I’ve known that about him for a while…

Life in the zoo of London

Roxy has always been possessive of the back garden, to the point of chasing everything out of it.

Next door have made this more interesting for her, by bringing a new variable: a cat that Roxy can see, but not reach. And this cat is clearly finding allies among the animals that our lovable pooch has chased out.

image

Cat and fox, united in their desire to annoy our dog. Bastards that they are.

Admissions of defeat

While I thoroughly enjoy the company of Roxy in the house, it has to be said, there are disadvantages to having her about. Chief amongst them is this: she likes to get a bit muddy, and run about indoors. This isn’t too big a problem downstairs where there are no carpets; that’s why the good Lord invented mops. But upstairs we have carpets and beds which don’t react too well to muddy paw-prints and dogs shaking off moisture.

Also, I’ve discovered that there are better ways to end a lie-in than having 50lb of mongrel hitting you at the end of a flying leap.

So we’ve tried a great many things to stop her going upstairs. We’ve done discipline, and it worked for a while until she was allowed up to stay in our room when she was sick. We’ve tried blocking by jamming the door at the top of the stairs, and it worked until she figured out how to open the door with her damn nose. We’ve tried rewarding her to stay downstairs, but she prefers to find out what’s going on upstairs to the treats we offer.

So, we admit defeat. We headed to Argos and made a special purchase:

Yes; we’ve admitted that the hound is going to force us to change the way that we use the house. And so, I put myself at risk of death attacking me on the staircase just so that I don’t get a muddy carpet.

If that isn’t a sign of middle-age hitting me on the back of the head, I don’t know what is.

How disappointing

You wait actual decades for Ireland to appear in the European championships again; nearly a decade since any decent level of International competition; and what happens? They get royally mullered.

Two games thus far, and beaten comprehensively in both. Granted, it was definitely a group of death but I’d hoped for more, given the strength of the qualifying campaign.

Bad luck, lads. Now here’s hoping that (a) we get to the next competition and (b) we do better in it…

I don’t think that No 48 applies to me

By some metrics, the Daily Mail website is the most read newspaper website on t’internet. This is a surprise to many. including me; it’s a very strange place to navigate and, if I’m honest, it’s not exactly in possession of the sanest editorial policy in the world. But then I often find myself reading things on it that have been linked to by others. Such as this article, sent by TLW.

If you wash up straight after a meal, know how to bleed a radiator and your mother has started asking for your advice, then you can truly claim to have grown up.

Other key signs of adulthood are more obvious, such as having a mortgage, being married?.?.?.? and wearing sensible shoes.

They are all listed among 50 benchmarks that researchers say mark someone out as a grown-up.

The list is hardly comprehensive, and a lot of them aren’t exactly grown up in their priorities. Budgeting every month is a pretty sensible one, yes, but Being sensible enough to remove make up before bedtime is (a) not relevant to a huge number of people and (b) a sign more of mitigating juvenile behaviour (such as being too tipsy to take off warpaint before sleep) than of being outright adult. But some are quite sensible and the like: keeping track of interest rates, having a joint bank account, owning a lawn mower, all are quite grown up.

Incidentally, apparently I’m 43/50 “grown up”. Any guesses as to which ones I missed?

Right Royal pains in the commute

I’m sure that people noticed the Jubilee shenanigans last weekend, and how people just got on with things despite the worst the weather could throw at them. It was quite nice to watch from the safety and comfort of ones own sofa.

Less so when you’re out in similar weather. I’m used to being able to drive to work, and avoiding being bothered by rain. No more; the twenty minutes in the morning to get to the station is now done on foot, and another twenty minutes to get home is impending. And the rain issue the train window is bad looking.

On the plus side, at least I wasn’t involved in this little problem

I keep doing this

Looking back, it would appear that I’ve managed to go another entire month without posting anything here. In my defence, it’s been a bloody busy month.

In April, I was working in Greenwich, and was able to drive to work in fifteen minutes, or walk in about an hour. This meant that I was able to do silly little luxury things, like go home in the middle of the day and have a nice lunch while looking after the dog.

And who wouldn't want to go and have a quiet meal with this little creature begging to steal from the plate?

It was a nice arrangement.

However, come the start of May two things happened. One, I had a birthday and therefore became old and grouchy. And two, I started working in a dreaded place known as North Of The River. Meaning that getting to work is now over an hour door to door, involving multiple changes of transport and requiring actually planning. I’m loving the new job; the only downside is the commute and that poor Roxy gets to spend more time on her own. Probably sleeping and dreaming of overthrowing her biped overlords, and that can’t be good.

Other observations from the last month:

  • Avengers Assemble is an excellent movie.
  • The Kindle, which I’ve always liked, has become a thing of excellence over the last few weeks. It’s exactly what you need if you’re travelling on the trains/tubes because there’s no fiddling with papers in confined spaces.
  • New phones are aces, especially the One X. Me like.
  • Of all the London travel websites and apps that I’ve tried, London Travel is by far the best. I like how each of my options for travel is but a single click away.
  • New PCs are also aces, especially when the PC they’re replacing fell off the ark. I get to play all my old games again! Hurrah!
  • When researching of prices and a surplus of vouchers lead you to try and buy said new PC from PC World, avoid. I forgot this advice, and ended up getting mighty annoyed by a salesdroid insisting that I needed Office (I do not, OpenOffice has been downloaded), that I needed to buy a cloud backup solution (I do not, I have local backups and Dropbox for the rest), that I needed an extended warranty (I don’t; that’s what the manufacturer is for) and that I needed to buy Norton (I do not, because it’s shitty bloatware and the free alternatives are better). End result: I bought the damn thing from John Lewis instead for a little bit more but less hassle.
  • Out of all the droughts I’ve ever seen, this is the only one where I’ve almost drowned about a dozen times due to rain.

Random overhearings

A good many years ago, through a fairly random set of circumstances, I was in the strange position of being able to overhear the Pope conversing with a group of Cardinals. Not in a private way or anything, but in a forum where they got to share their thoughts and he got to nod knowingly. Most of the speakers were in foreign, of course, and my understanding was poor. However one spoke in English; and in my opinion he spoke out of his ass. The world must be set to rights, the rich are blighters, the sentiment was straight out of the rampant SWP playbook. It was not, to my mind, the area of focus that a leading churchman should have been concerned about at that time, nor did it strike me as being particularly wise.

In entirely unrelated news, some NIrish dude who lives in Scotland has come out with similar nonsense.

In a BBC Scotland interview, he [Cardinal Keith O’Brien] said: “My message to David Cameron, as the head of our government, is to seriously think again about this Robin Hood tax, the tax to help the poor by taking a little bit from the rich.

“The poor have suffered tremendously from the financial disasters of recent years and nothing, really, has been done by the very rich people to help them.

He is, of course, absolutely right. Honest. He’s not talking out of his ass; he’s not talking about class warfare and outright theft; he’s not ignoring the simple facts about the sheer amount of money that the rich pay in tax; he’s not parroting the standard line about the rich not pulling their weight while ignoring the Robin Hood taxes which already exist (high stamp duty – paid exclusively by the rich; death duties which only the rich pay; the 45% tax rate which is added to by NI to take real tax rates over 56%).

Oh wait, he is doing all those things. Which, I suppose, means he must be wrong…

A good event, all round

If you’ve not been reading the papers, or watching the news, or listening to any radio that features news, you may have missed the small kerfuffle about unrest in Bahrain. About the state there brutally suppressing said unrest. And about a number of very highly paid people driving very expensive cars around a track there.

First off, the race was very entertaining. Well, the bits of it that I saw on BBC were; under the new broadcast setup I didn’t get to watch it live but did catch the 2/3s of it that Auntie got. There was lots of decent racing, a few very good overtaking moves and a hard fought win by a boring driver from a very exciting (and slightly insane) driver. All good, and a race worth having.

But that’s been an aside to the main story, which has been HOW DARE THEY RUN A RACE THERE DON’T THEY KNOW PEOPLE ARE DYING OH MY GOD THE HORROR.

And it is horrible; yes, there are many nasty things going on in that small country. Yes, the F1 race is a large advert not for the country but for the ruling elite. Yes, the people behind F1 are quite easily painted as mercenary friends of the oppressive rulers of such countries. But, the same things were true last year when the race was cancelled, and the nasty things have continued since, despite the race being cancelled. It’s just that we didn’t hear about it because the news moved on after the decision was taken not to race.

This time round, there has been a fortnight where Bahrain hasn’t been out of the news, and not for reasons that any ruling clique would like. There have been images of the unrest; the news of the man dying over the weekend has been broadcast worldwide; there have been debates carried out publicly about security; the leaders of the parts of the free world that watch Formula 1 have been speaking about events.

In short, the decision to run the race has brought the attention of the world to what’s going on. Maybe that’ll help more than last years strategy (the same people taking their ball and going home, allowing all of us to forget about it).

That’s not a calculator

Every year when the Budget comes along, the web is taken over with high quality calculators, which are fun and let you know exactly how badly you’re going to get screwed come the new tax year. It’s not a pleasant thing to know, but it is useful.

So I was intrigued to see that your mate and mine, Ken Livingstone, had brought out a calculator of his own. Being a curious sort, I went and had a little look. And what I found was not a calculator but a slogan generator. Admit to travelling by train and you get told Every fare payer can save an average £250 every year for four years through Ken’s 7% fares reduction pledge. Admit that your household pays energy bills and you are reassured You can save an average of £120 every year for four years through the all-London bulk energy purchase scheme.

Here’s the thing: I don’t believe that first slogan – the idea that an ambitious politician like Boris Johnson is sitting on a billion pound pot going into an election and has increased fares instead is ludicrous. And I don’t credit that second one either; I’m too much of a free-marketer to think that a state sponsored buying group is anything other than a bad idea. In short, it’s not a calculator. And I don’t believe it’s just a slogan generator – it’s a bullshit generator.

That said, I don’t think that any of the candidates are much use. Just that each and every one of them are more use than Ken.

Drat. It happened again.

I keep meaning to update this thing. I really do. But things keep getting in the way.

Since my last update, TLW & I have taken Roxy for her first trip outside London; we stayed in a farm in the Lake District for a few days and she loved it. Although she did seem a bit vexed that we didn’t let her get some of that moving food with wool on the outside… We then had her over in Norn Iron for a few days as well, and BOY did she like that. Running on the beach, getting to meet loads of new people, all good. Perhaps it was less good having to sit in a car for hours to get there and back, but I think we all enjoyed the time there.

Aside from that, work has been bonkers; the dog has managed to ruin our fence so isn’t allowed into the garden unattended until we get it repaired; our boiler died on a freezing day and needed replaced; and cars have been developing new faults with depressing regularity.

As I say, life got in the way. But I’ll try to be better.

Where did the time go?

It was this day last year that TLW and I met Roxy, our lovable little mongrel dog.

It’s been an interesting year.

We’ve had her attending puppy classes, and be the star pupil. But then she’ll forget how to behave because she’s so easily distracted.

She means that I leave the house every morning before 6.30am, and that I have to head home most lunchtimes. She’s eaten furniture and has made the garden into a minefield of surprises. She’s made me speak to my neighbours (yes, apologising is speaking). She’s eating us out of house and home.

But just look at her… Could you stay mad?

I’m surprised that we lasted a year, sometimes. But now that we have, I can’t imagine not lasting another few yet.

A quiet revolution

While the papers are distracted by Scots nationalists and politicians going up against their wives in court, something very interesting has occurred back in Norn Iron.

Sinn Fein members on Belfast City Council are set to support plans to celebrate the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee in the city.

This has amazed me; I generally have a pretty low opinion of politicians, especially Norn Iron ones, but it is a sign of (a) growing maturity and (b) stunning real-politic that the most staunchly republican party to get an MP elected is happily funding a celebration of the monarch’s long reign.

Is this a good thing, or a bad thing? I honestly don’t know any more…

Such a shame

If last week’s game between Ireland and Wales was a heartbreaker (seriously: I’m sure that the stress of it took weeks off my life expectancy), then this weekend’s was a heartbreaker for thousands who were there, and a shame for all those planning and watching it at home.

Still, not as heartbreaking as it was for Scotland. That was an impressive collapse in the second half…