Tuesday 29 November 2011

Acting the goat.

New Years eve approaches, political comment comes via Zottel the Shergar like Swiss Goat. Zottel was used as a mascot by a far-right party in Switzerland and was recently kidnapped by left-wing rivals just a few days before the elections. Keep an eye out over the festive season as Zottel just like Shergar could be making a personal appearance in a restaurant near you.

Zottel said before disappearing all this "nanny state" stuff got me to thinking about your British political parties and what sort of Mascot  the "identikit inspired" politicians in Westminster could adopt.

Boris the Monkey
The Conservative party could says Zottel, adopt Boris the Monkey as their official mascot. He could take over the role of Nick Clegg when the coalition government comes to an end.

Identikit Politician

Another possible candidate says Zottel, would be Eric the Pickles Conservative MP for looking back in Ongar and Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government cock-ups. The man with a face for radio. Because each time he opens his mouth another big fat "pie in the sky" idea disappears down the gullet of doom.

Eric the Pickles says Cameron through his Big Society wants people to help themselves. True to form it seems certain elements in the London riots were doing just that. According to Eric the Pickles, the people involved in the riots are a bunch of mindless idiots who would use anything as an excuse to create mayhem and to steal. Much like our house flipping politians!

Edward and David
Dum and Dee
But what of the Labour Party says Zottel, what mascots could they adopt. We all know that the brothers Grimm vied for party supremacy and were known at the time of the contest as Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee.

Cameron - Cable - Clegg
But what of the Teflon trousered Nick Clegg says Zottel. "He is the about turn and about turn again leader of the tall story club." Not a man to win a popularity contest with students or their parents. He has been busy giving a handout to Forgemasters one of the few manufacturing industries left in Sheffield. By coincidence, Sheffield is where Clegg has his constituency. It's also the home of thousands of students who can't wait for the "about turn" elections to come around so that they can go out and "about turn" their vote. Nick Clegg OBN was the leader who famously double whammied when he said to conference "Make no mistake about it, we are punching above our weight." Yep a right load of political lightweights.

LibDem Mascot
Margaret Cameron.
That leaves us with LibDem Mascot Margaret Cameron the woman who brought to parliament The Big Society as a justification for Guido Fawkes and the gunpowder plot.

I think it was George Orwell in 1984 who warned us against big societies. You can always guarantee that when Conservatives are in power, recessions and riots aren't far behind.

Margaret Cameron and her LibDem Cabinet partners were in a restaurant. When, Margaret Cameron loudly proclaimed "I'll have the steak." The waitress asked "And what about the vegetables?", Margaret replied: "Oh, they'll have the same as me."


Now is the winter of our discontent.

Richard the third, is a play by Bill Shakeshaft, that contains the famous line “Now is the winter of our discontent”. However, when taken out of context, it is a prophetic passage for the season of the year. No doubt over the next few months until spring arrives, winter will cause us all some discontent. We will all become a little “SAD”  with Seasonal Affective Disorder caused by the reduction in natural sunlight.
Wiki saysSymptoms of SAD may consist of difficulty waking up in the morning, tendency to oversleep and over eat” Other symptoms include “A lack of energy, difficulty concentrating on or completing tasks.
Yes, I think I’m a SAD old curmudgeon. The Memsahib agrees that I am displaying all six of the above symptoms as well.
Wiki saysPeople who experience SAD show symptoms including irritability, social withdrawal, decreased appetite and weight loss.
Yes, I have to agree I am an irritable anti-social old git. The Memsahib concurs that I am displaying the first two of these symptoms as well. So thats eight out of the ten symptoms then.
Wiki saysPeople who experience SAD show an increased sex drive.”
Eight out of the eleven symptoms can’t be bad. I put down my lack of performance in not reaching nine to the anaphrodisiac (Bromide) that they gave us in our tea in the mercantile marine. I'm convinced that its just started working.

So what does sunlight do for us.

While we do need to protect ourselves and manage the amount of exposure to the sun, especially for long periods of time. Our bodies also need exposure to full-spectrum natural light daily. Our bodies need the sunlight regularly to produce vitamin D, which helps our bones to absorb calcium.

So its official then, I am a proper SAD old Victor Meldrew after all.

But then you all knew that anyway!

Its not been a good day today, I'm still feeling under the weather and last nights meal has come back for a second viewing.  Might help with ticking the boxes for the decreased appetite and weight loss symptoms. But I do have a  sore neck and shoulders and a lump of lead where my stomach used to be. So I am on the flavoured water treatment, at least until I begin to feel a bit better.


Monday 28 November 2011

Freedom of Information

I think most of my readers know that my views about BW puts me somewhere to the left of Genghis Khan in the BW supporters club. In political terms I believe the the rich and powerful within BW have traditionally been able to enjoy much to much control at the expense of everyone else.

Political parties are always seeking "donations" to the cause.  So whilst the grass roots membership of a party feel that they are the representative majority. The reality is most political parties would prostitute themselves in an instant for a good "donation". Big business also knows this and gives their financial support to whichever party is prepared - by sleight of hand, or a nod and a wink, even a nudge nudge say no more - to do their bidding.

We all give donations - we see the picture of a child starving in Africa and our hands go to our pockets. We are motivated through the basic instinct to help. Big business sees no "profit" in giving support to such issues. Business sees a return on bank rolling giving political donations to political parties that dance to their tune.

The media is in a similar position they have a political bias in one direction or another. They also court the political parties. However this time its not a donation they offer. Its spin, the age old craft of bending, twisting and manipulating the truth into a lie to sell tomorrows chip paper.

The politicians run scared of the media. Their political status and their private lives can be ruined by the content of a hacked phone. Politicians are watched and monitored, until the time is right. Then like a puppet they can be jiggled to dance to a different tune.

For what purpose exactly did we grant freedom of the press. The freedom to self regulate for instance has been a big joke for years. It's a disingenuous freedom because news operations are influenced every day by their advertisers and by their owners' predilections. The freedom of the press was never granted so that they can enquire into the private lives of anyone.

Public interest is a very different thing to what the voyeur might find interesting. The name "News of the Screws" was the media selling newspapers on celebrity nonsense and paid to-kiss-and-tell tarts who screwed for the money. None of that can ever be construed as Public Interest.

Why do the media publish with impunity whatever they wish. It is because they are being protected by the knowledge that recourse to the law is a privilege of the wealthy. In other words most people can do nothing about setting right a wrong or stifling publication of any untruth.  Unless they have a large pile of dosh waiting in the litigation coffers.

For a £10,000 donation to the Conservatives you can have regular meetings with the minister of any department of your choice. For a paltry £25,000 you can join the prime ministers "Luncheon Club".  

The formation of CaRT is a political expediency to save money, its not a change being brought about by necessity.  Expediency does not lend itself to an improved and better future. The smokescreen of Big Society covers up the casting adrift of a national treasure.

Is there any likelihood of British Waterways or Canal and River Trust becoming embroiled in  the murk by being manipulated on the strength of a corporate donation!  How will we know who in the CaRT management structure is meeting who for lunch. I believe that this can happen if transparency of the new charity is clouded by refusing to accept the Freedom of Information Act. As with street cameras - if you are doing nothing wrong what do you have to fear - other than being caught out!

We are all going to become quite soon paying "customers" of a charity organisation. Not paying "members" of a charity organisation. This has some serious implications because we will have no say as members. I have some concerns about this. So I have written a couple of times to the Charity Commissioners outlining my fears for the future of  the Inland Waterways.

As a customer of say a power company I can change my provider if I am not happy with the service and charges. As a customer of CaRT I have no alternative choice. As a member of a charitable organisation I have some say if only at an AGM. Not being a member of CaRT means I have no say at all. The only option is to go cap in hand, a position that I would not be happy to be in.

I don't have trust in the BW management and it certainly will not be there for the change over to CaRT as there will be no one in the system that I feel I can put my faith into.


Sunday 27 November 2011

Happy Second Blog Day!

It was on the 27th of November 2009 that I started to write this blog. In the main it has been about boating, but I have drifted off the main course from time to time with the odd side trip.  The thing is, that when I look back through the various postings, I can see things that got under my skin then which now, I wonder why I bothered.

There have been about 358 postings in that time, plus a few informational pages. So some 730 days after my first posting the average is about one posting every two days. Some of my postings are a bit long winded and some of them take about three or four days to write. I did at one time start to tidy up my posts. You know, fix the odd errors. Then I noticed that I would spend as much time re-writing the posts as I did creating them. So I stopped doing fixes. What you get now, is as it trips off my fingers. If it reads odd - then read it again, this time starting at the back and reading towards the front.

First Year Blog and Boat Statistics.  
Miles 123                                                      
Locks 79                                                       
Swing bridges 9                                           
Tunnels 0
Blog postings made. 157                             
Total number of visitors 3,597               

Second Year Blog and Boat Statistics.
Miles  307
Locks  284
Swing Bridges  64
Tunnels  6

Blog Postings Made. 201
Total Number of Visitors. 27,403

Blog and Boat Statistics Running Totals.
Miles  430
Locks  363
Swing Bridges  73
Tunnels  6

Blog Postings Made. 358
Total Number of Visitors. 31,000
My fingers are slower than my mind and sometimes my fingers never catch-up with my train of thought. Like a newspaper edition, postings on a blog are only current until the next posting. Well almost, there are about twenty postings that seem to get a steady stream of regular viewing. The puzzle is why, because some of them are not notable in any way. Well I don't think so.

So what will the next year hold in store?

Next year will be more about our time spent afloat. More of my brickbats launched in the direction of BW or CaRT. I enjoy blogging and sharing my grumpy jaundiced view on life with anyone who cares to read.

The blog will continue to highlight what I feel are issues of note. The change from BW to CaRT is giving me a great deal of ammo to vent my spleen at. The Caption Competition and Blog of the Month seem to be popular so I will continue to run with them.

The one-liner motto added to each posting also seem to have become popular as well.

I do enjoy getting occasional feedback from my reader. Often that feedback is the seed for other postings. I do have opinions and the medium of the blogosphere lets me share my opinion with other long suffering readers, whether they want to share in my opinion or not.

As well as this blog. I contribute content to a couple of other blogs which are aimed at a whole different sphere of interest. So I don't put as much effort into this one as I could.


Saturday 26 November 2011

Boaters Manifesto

I have been reading Peter Underwoods proposal for a Boaters Manifesto (draft form) which you can find on his blogspot.

Peter describes himself as "Journalist for the past 44 years. Worked on daily newspapers, in TV news and on radio. Won awards for investigative journalism and been a political specialist, interviewing every PM between Wilson and Major. Run two PR companies. Now freelancing a drifting around the UK canal system."

The idea of a Boater Manifesto provides an interesting perspective on the changes to British Waterways during the transition to Canals and Rivers Trust and into to Charitable Status.  There is a great deal of additional information in the cut and thrust in the comments to the manifesto posting which should also be read.

A manifesto is a public declaration of principles and intentions, often political in nature. Manifestos may also be life stance-related. I think that the Boaters Manifesto brings in this context a worthwhile challenge to would otherwise be a rubber-stamp changeover from BW to CART.

John Dodwell who is one of the eight Canal and River Trust trustees has also joined in with comments and observations on the draft manifesto and with clarification on some of the issues raised.

John provided a synopsis of his boating background. "I volunteered at my first protest rally in 1962 at Woking ; did a lot of voluntary work on the 60’s Stourbridge Canal restoration; canoed in protest along the derelict K&A and Ashton and lower Peak Forest and Basingstoke Canals; volunteered at “Opash” and Ashtac”; volunteered on the Upper Avon rebuilding; hired boats for protest cruises (including at Christmas); was IWA General Secretary 1971-4; lobbied Parliament over the 68 Transport Act and was successful in 1973 in stopping BW being carved up under the regional water authorities; I’ve hired boats with my family and so know what it’s like to have to cope with small children on a boat; I’ve travelled over most the system and the Broads; on becoming a CRT trustee, I had to stop being chair of the CBOA and I had to leave IWAC and BWAF. I have my own 3 ft deep 51 ft long old BCN tug and sometimes cruise single-handedly; I know what it’s like when the bottom is too near the top. Maybe all that had some influence on my becoming a trustee, apart from my general wide business experience."

  • The final version of the manifesto can be found here.

  • If you agree with the terms of the manifesto, you can also append your name to a manifesto petition here.

Now there is another phase, with a call for boaters to stand for election to the Canal and Rivers Trust Council. The elected boaters are being asked to get involved in shaping the future of Britain’s waterways. The nominations for boaters’ positions on the Council open on 12 December 2011.

It will be interesting to see who actually stands for election to the CaRT Council and I look forward to reading their biography and their reasons why we should vote for them. But we need to keep a wary eye to ensure that there are no "jobs for the boys or girls" or the building of dynasties.
I remember many years ago when the local shop keepers where I lived were so scornful of the council that they put up their own candidate as a protest. One Mr Gee. Ernest "Jockey" Gee as he was known was a colourful local character - an entrepreneur of a different kind. Possibly the last person that anyone would expect to go down the route of public service and be one of the people looking to be elected.

Yet this was a protest vote, against a council that was failing.  The election also caught the public imagination. Needless to say Jockey was elected and the fun then began.

There were many stories of his exploits the truth of which were doubtful but quite funny. One that I will relate, allegedly took place during a debate on street lighting. When the then Councillor Gee made an impassioned plea for brand new electric gas lamps to be installed.
The moral of this story is - There is a great deal of opposition to the formulation of CaRT but it is essential for boaters to elect a good candidate and not necessarily someone standing in protest.



Friday 25 November 2011

Autumn Leaves

I think this is the last of the autumn, which has eased its way into winter at a gentle pace this year. Do you remember this time last November. There was snow and ice everywhere, I wrote a bit about it here. I notice that this November, the wind has not even stripped all of the autumnal leaves from the branches yet. It still feels good to shuffle your feet through the piled up leaves while walking the dogs. Well, as long as they are dry and not that sort of wet sticky brown mulch that comes with the rain, sleet and snow.

Do you dread the BSS exam, for your boat. Do you really know whats involved in the examination. There is a comprehensive guide to the BSS that you can download. If you go to the BSS site you will find that some of the links to the documentation do not work. I have emailed them about the broken links - However you can download the documentation in a single zip file from Here. The document is in PDF format and contains colour and black and white versions.

I have the dreaded lurgy - sometimes referred to witheringly by the Memsahib as man flu. When you are a finely honed specimen at the peak of your game. Even the tiniest of change in your health can have a significant effect on your Olympian level of day to day performance. She just does not appreciate the difficulty of maintaining my peak fitness levels. Where others only have a paltry six pack - I have a party seven.

Ignoring the fact they were almost impossible to open - no party would have been complete without one. But the Party Seven beer can - a tin holding seven pints of ale - disappeared in the 1980s. Now the hunt is on - for an unopened Party Seven can to mark its 50th anniversary. The Royal Society of Chemistry not only wants a can to celebrate this milestone - it wants to chronicle the scientific advances that led mankind from beer bottle to beer can.

Talking about getting it off your chest. I have been writing to the Charities Commission about my concerns over the future of the Inland Waterways on a charitable basis. I will publish the letters and any replies that are forth coming.

I went to the boat yesterday, she seems a bit forlorn with all the items that could become damp being removed to be kept aired at home. It seems that is is almost impossible to remove all the water from the plumbing - so I have started to insulate the windows and to get the electrical heaters ready for deployment.

I also got a parking ticket yesterday I was so thrilled.  

However one item of news has made my day feel a little better. It seems that in Lewes someone is blowing up parking meters. The town - is famous for its explosive annual Guy Fawkes night display - However, the council parking meter mandarins have been targeted by people systematically blowing up meters in the past. It first started in 2004 after the local council introduced on-street parking charges. In the two years that followed, the culprits caused £300,000 damage by destroying more than 200 meters.

It seems that it has started again all over again with fifteen attacks carried out on 14 parking meters in the past three months with the most recent attack on Monday. Each of the meters are worth about £3,000. Five were in car parks run by Lewes District Council. The council have offered the paying public users of the parking meters a £1,250 reward for information leading to the arrest of the perpetrators. The parking meter users and the general public in Lewes so far are saying zilch.


That's the sound of the cash register working overtime down at the local nick.

In a new move to massage reduce the crime statistics the police have come up with a wonderful wheeze. It works simply by discouraging witnesses and victims from coming forward. Victims of crimes will now have to pay to telephone police on a new non-emergency number. Every call to the 101 number, which has been set up for the reporting of incidents such as car thefts, criminal damage, and minor road accidents, will cost the caller 15p.

The Association of Chief Police Officers, which is behind the scheme, said the 101 number should be used  when providing tip-offs to the police about criminal activity. 101 was first introduced by Labour in 2006 but was abandoned after costing £41million when it had failed to reduce the number of 999 calls. Now that you have to pay 15p to make the call to the police. The police believe it is bound to reduce the number of 999 calls made. So next time you spot your local gangs of tea leafs rioting on the streets, burning cars and looting the shops. Ring 101 - have your 15p ready,  or reverse the call charge - you know it makes sense!

However, calls made to the 999 operators, will remain free.
Roy Rudham, chairman of the UK Neighbourhood Watch Trust, said: ‘I can see the downside of a set charge of 15p, in that it doesn’t motivate people to call. It could discourage people from actually phoning in to report a crime.

Two-thirds of calls to 101 in pilot areas were marked as "not appropriate" – callers were reported to have asked for details like the ‘next bus to Southampton’ and tourist destinations. Its the new version of the old maxim "If you want to know the time ask a policeman." After all people will feel that as its a non emergency number, its good to talk.

A Home Office spokesman added: ‘101 gives the public a memorable number that makes crime easier to report.  101 is more memorable than 999?  

Ask any child or adult the number for the police, fire or ambulance service - I bet they don't come up with 101. So in about 4 years when it has failed to reduce the number of 999 calls again. This time at a cost of £100 million plus we will abandon it all again.


Thursday 24 November 2011

Not the 9 o'clock news again.

It ASDA be beyond belief.

Marisa Zoccolan a chef was surprised to find she was not allowed to buy two limes from a local ASDA supermarket. - wait for it - . She was refused the purchase because the limes could be classed as a weapon. Marissa was told purchasing more than one lime was deemed a weapon - because the citric acid could be squirted in someones eye.

Obviously, ASDA management believe if you only buy a single lime - then you could not possibly squirt it in someones eye. I wonder if its the same limit for ASDA custard pies. I feel that I want to do a drive by pie-in-the-eye for whoever dreamt up this rule.

Where there is a large pile of evil smelling muck
there is always the lure of filthy lucre.

Three Asian peers who were given lengthy bans from Parliament after wrongly claiming almost £200,000 in expenses are at the centre of an extraordinary legal battle over whether they were targeted because of their race. The sanctions were made against Lady Uddin, Lord Paul, and Lord Bhatia. But now another peer Lord Ali has hired lawyer Imran Khan to review the damning judgment on the peers by the Lords Privileges and Conduct Committee.

Lady Uddin claimed more than £100,000 by stating that she lived in Maidstone, Kent, rather than in East London. Lord Bhatia claimed £27,446 on the basis that he lived in Reigate rather than South-West London. Lord Paul, has repaid £41,982 however he designated a one-bedroom flat in an Oxfordshire hotel that he owned as his main home. The collective "amnesia three" also claimed significant travel expenses. They even forgot that they did not have to travel outside of London.

Multi-millionaire Lord Ali said: "I felt I had no choice but to ask Imran Khan to conduct an independent review."

OK, let me see if I have gotten this right. Three Asian peers caught with their snouts in the trough to the tune of 200,000 have managed to avoid the courts, avoid a custodial sentence, and to keep their jobs. They believe that they have been hard done to, because their Asian.
I can offer Lord Ali an instant review - The Conduct committee included Lord Dholakia who for 25 years was head of the Commission for Racial Equality. With the best will in the world its hard to be so forgetful year after year to the point that it slips your memory where you live and where you travel home to everyday. Now, if you break the rules you can expect to pay the penalty. In this case £200,000 in expenses is not a trivial matter. In another house some of the miscreants have been sent to prison. In this case, I personally hope that the three get a good spell inside rather than just being locked outside of parliament for a while.

Several none Asian MPs have had custodial sentences and have lost their jobs.  I wonder if Lord Ali will be wanting a judicial opinion on their cases. After all were they discriminated against because they were not Asians. As that famous Asian - Ali G - would have said "Is it cos thems no Asian man"

As its time for the pantomime season I wonder
whats been happening on the waterways.

Ruth Ruderham the charismatic new head of Fundraising at CART (salary £70,000) is not wasting any time in coming up with ways to fill the CART coffers with funds. Ruth wants waterways staff to undertake a 300 mile sponsored bike ride from London to Brussels via Amsterdam, crossing three countries in five days. In a revolutionary change to the normal way of doing such things, the staff are expected to take three days annual leave and to include their normal days off as well. Not resting on her laurels - Ruth wants the staff to pay the £145 entry fee and then to commit to raise at least £1,300 in sponsorship. Oh! and provide their own bike!

On yer bike Ruth!

The All Party Parliamentary Waterways Group is to meet with the Waterways Minister, Richard Benyon on Thursday 8th December. This is to clarify the position as given by British Waterways to the All Party Parliamentary Waterways Group.

You might have expected that the British Waterways' chief executive would have been asked to explain the discrepancies. Between what he told All Party Parliamentary Waterways Group regarding the funding gap and what the chief executive said at a recent British Waterways'  meeting.

It is a widely held opinion that government is turning the British Waterways quango into a charity, without an adequate level of funding. However, it now seems that the All Party Parliamentary Waterways Group  intends to hold the minister to account on this matter. Maybe there is a credibility issue about the BW CEO!

I have chosen to write to the charity commission and my MP about my serious concerns for the future of the inland waterways under charitable status.

 In another Pantomime story about the back end of a horse.

A Miami transgender woman is facing charges of practicing medicine without a license. Police say she injected a patients rear in an illegal cosmetic surgery procedure. Oneal "Ron" Morris, was arrested after an investigation by the Police and the Department of Health.

According to police, the victim saw Morris in May and was injected in her buttocks with a substance consisting of cement, Fix a Flat, mineral oil and super glue. The amateur incision was then sealed with super glue. The victim was later hospitalized with a serious medical condition as a result of the injections.

Morris, who police say is a man - but appears to look like a woman - sports an apparently enhanced rear herself in her arrest photos. Police believe there may be other victims of Morris who may be afraid to come forward. I'm sure they will eventually get to the bottom of this.

Does anyone else remember the Rod Stewart "Do You Think I'm Sexy" send up by the late great Kenney Everett


Wednesday 23 November 2011

Welcome to Winter

Its started - the weather predictions are hitting the headlines again.

This week I learned that one long term weather forecast predicts a long cold spell. Another one said it would be a wetter but warmer winter. Another one said it would be a normal winter season. The nice thing about weather forecasts is there are so many different ones to choose from, If you look for long enough you're bound to find one that suits.

The nights are certainly getting longer, the sun does not climb very high in the sky. The wind has started to have quite a nip. Mornings are dull and grey with patches of freezing fog. Nature has almost gone into hibernation. Everyone is wrapped up against the cold and on some mornings our breath freezes in an instant.

Late in December it will be the Winter Solstice. Our ancestors celebrated this the longest night and the shortest day. Interpretation of this event is different from one culture to another. Most cultures recognised the solstice as a time of rebirth or a time for festivities and rituals. Often referred to as midwinter's day.

In the summer months, the temperatures have often been above the seasonal average in the UK this year. The last three winters have all been colder than the seasonal average. Cold winters do tend to come in clusters, but even during these periods a mild winter can and often do occur.

In the poem "In the Bleak Midwinter" by Christina Rossetti and set to music by Gustav Holst the first verse sets the scene.

In the bleak midwinter, frost wind made moan,
earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone;
snow had fallen, snow on snow, snow on snow,
in the bleak midwinter, long ago.

But winter is not such a bad time of the year. Think of those clear fresh cold mornings as rime covers the hedgerow and highlights the spiders web. The crunch of frozen puddles underfoot, a day when you can have a ramble in the countryside and know that there will be no mud on your boots at the end of your walk. The air is so clear you can see for miles and miles.

Think of coming back to a wood burning stove with the toasty warmth spreading around the boat. Bright flames licking around the logs and a curl of smoke from the chimney. Mooring ropes frozen hard as iron and a layer of frost on the roof. Next time someone says "is it cold on your boat in the winter" you can answer "It depends on where I set the thermostat".

Soon it will be Christmas, a time spent with family and friends. A time to make plans for next years cruise. We all want Christmas eve and Christmas day to have a few feet of snow and for it all to be gone by boxing day! So what are the chances of a white Christmas this year.

White Christmas Forecast TWO (The Weather Outlook) web site predicts. "The weather patterns so far during November have remained blocked, with a mild southerly flow. The mild weather looks set to continue for a while at least, and there are currently few signs of an early winter developing. The current Christmas forecast is for mostly mild to average temperatures with winds coming from the west or south west."                   

The RoA six month weather forecast is - It will be cold in December, January and February. March will be more windy and slightly warmer. I predict that April will be a wet month, May into June being a significantly warmer period. I am so good a predicting the weather, I should have been an astrologer!

In a few short weeks the spring flowers will be with us as the days start to grow longer. I will be aching to get underway to watch as winter departs once more and to enjoy the weak warmth of the spring sunshine once again. There are few snowdrops starting to show in the garden. A flowering cherry has a sprinkling of flowers already, it seems that the late warm spell fooled the cherry. However, it usually looks like its covered in snow when it is in full bloom.

The nice thing about winter is, the spring and summer are not all that far away!


Tuesday 22 November 2011

Us and Bees

Some 25 years ago I had a go at keeping bees. I did it on a shoe string and I was encouraged and nurtured by a fellow amateur radio colleague. I enjoyed learning a bit about these little work-a-holic pollinators that are so vital to our agricultural systems. I wrote a bit about it here.

I had a very second hand but functional veil, a home made smoker and four donated hives. I used a pair of heavy overalls as a bee smock, with taped up cuffs and turnups. I was a picture of bee keeping elegance in a sartorial sort of way.  I was fascinated by the way that a hive would be guarded against intruders and the bees own air conditioning system. But most of all, I enjoyed sharing the fruits of their labour. To this day, look in our kitchen cupboard and there are three different pots of honey in there. I have toast and honey almost everyday, I can't remember the last time I did not have toast and honey for breakfast.

For some reason bee keeping went into serious decline in my area around that time. Whats more when my neighbours realised that I had the hives hidden away between the greenhouse and the hedgerow. The complains started to roll in. I used to first of all ask the complainant how they knew that the problematic bees were my bees. I used to make up stories about having a strain of electric blue bees which had been bred without stings and if the bees were not blue they were not my bees. I made up a load of other such nonsense, but I did eventually give up keeping them.

I have been stung into action again. I have enrolled on a bee keeping course and joined my local bee keeping society. I now have a semi-rural location available where I will be able to keep few hives again. Not only that I have a friend who will keep an eye on my hives when I am away. My friend will also be keeping one or two hives for themselves in the same spot.

Beekeeping has suddenly become popular again, having been in gradual decline for more than half a century. Honeybees have been in the news for all the wrong reasons. Collapsing colonies, pesticide poisoning and parasitic mites. All this bad news seems to have triggered an almost primitive desire in people to want to help and nurture this vitally-important insect that, despite all our scientific advances, we still do not fully understand.

There are apparently similarities between us humans and bees according to the Memsahib - Most of the bees in a colony are worker bees, which are female and apparently they do all the work. The male bee (drone), does no work other than mate with the queen bee.

I know that the female bees and the queen possess stings. Bees are able to communicate to other bees where rich sources of nectar can be found. They do this by performing a “waggle dance”. The dance appears to demonstrate the direction in relation to the sun and the distance from the hive. The Memsahib can waggle a good dance! So the Memsahib could be right!

The best way to relieve the immediate effects of a sting is to apply some ice simply to reduce the pain and swelling. Urban Myth warning  putting honey or bi-carbonate of soda on to the site of a bee sting will not do anything to reduce the pain or swelling.


Monday 21 November 2011

Dementia test

Following on from the time shift posting where I rambled and mumbled on about how our awarness of time had changed since retirement. I decided that exercise of the brain is as important as exercise of the muscles. As we grow older, it's important to keep mentally alert. If you don't use it, you lose it! 

Below is a  way to gauge how good your memory is. Some people may think it is too easy but the ones with memory problems may have difficulty. Take the test to determine if you're losing it or not. The small highlighted text below the questions are so you don't see the answers until you've decided on your answer.

OK, relax, clear your mind and begin.

1. What do you put in a toaster?

Answer: Bread, if you said toast, start taking the pills now!

2. Quickly say 'silk' five times. Now spell 'silk.' What do cows drink?

Answer: Cows drink water, if you said milk, take and extra pill.

3. If a red house is made from red bricks and a blue house is made from blue bricks and a pink house is made from pink bricks and a black house is made from black bricks, what is a green house made from?

Answer: Greenhouses are made of glass.

4. Without using a calculator - You are driving a bus from London to Milford Haven in Wales ..

In London, 17 people get on the bus.
In Reading, 6 people get off the bus and 9 people get on.
In Swindon, 2 people get off and 4 get on.
In Cardiff, 11 people get off and 16 people get on.
In Swansea, 3 people get off and 5 people get on.
In Carmathen, 6 people get off and 3 get on.
You then arrive at Milford Haven.
How old is the bus driver?

Answer: You were driving the bus, and you don't remember your age?

Now what did I do with my memory pills?


Sunday 20 November 2011

Hunt Ball

Hunt Ball, is not a dog game that we play with our pair. Its much much more of a human game that we play twice a year. Its a time for getting off the wellies and putting on the posh frocks and bow ties. Like all the previous balls, this followed a predictable pattern with everyone arriving and then migrating straight into to the bar. After a few drinks the hunting horn is blown to invite everyone to take their place, in the dining room. There is the last moment flurry with the girls checking each other out and making sure that everything is tucked in snug.

Now, the usual riding clothes worn when mucking out - wellies, woolly hats, jumpers and old jackets are not flattering. But like a flurry of butterfly's emerging from a chrysalis the ladies all looked stunning. Gone was the frumpy no nonsense horse rider. Here was the Elle MacPherson and Roger Moore look-a-likes as well as a good smattering of Anne Widdicombe and Russel Grant versions. We come in the Compo and Norah section. I'm always amazed that for some reason people seem to think we have come in fancy dress!

Our table had the usual well thought out arrangement. Pairs of couples who are good friends were placed together. So that was me and the Memsahib and our good friends Eric and Janet, But the clever bit is that  on the other side of the table, other pairs of couples who are also good friends were allocated. We all do the formal introductions and then we all chatter away and enjoy a damn good meal. Several beers had been consumed in the bar, now several bottles of wine were consumed over dinner.

We normally have an after dinner speaker last year it was Olympian Geoff Billington.  But the ball was timed this year to coincide with the BBC's "Children in Need" appeal. So with "virtuoso karaoke performances" by people who thought they could sing and a few of them who knew that they couldn't. The bucket was soon passing round the tables. Donations were made for "request songs" and even bigger donations were soon made for them to stop singing.

Then the real dancing started, this is the time that the gentlemen (I use the term loosely) can divest themselves of jackets and ties. Its also the time that the girls (suitably lubricated in the bar) divest themselves of  any remaining inhibitions. The usual refined dancing was soon replaced by people "getting on down" and boogie-ing their own thing. As the evening wore on it became a bit like "Celebrity come dancing" for rubber people. It was a very good enjoyable evening. It was sometime well after midnight that it was time for us to retire. The younger crowd were just getting their second wind. We had a steady walk in the cold night air as we waited for our friend John to come and pick us up to whisk us off home.

One of the highlights of the hunt ball are the photographs. At each ball we have a couple of photographs done as a memento of the evening. Its the same couple who come along to do the photos. They set up a small booth with lights and backgrounds. Somehow they always manage to catch the real spirit of the ball. As individuals and groups of friends have a whale of a time. You get to choose the photo(s) on screen and a print(s) are done and framed in a few moments while you wait. 

I'm not given to doing unashamed advertisements but if you are organising an event you could do a lot worse than get Jason Goodlad to come along. A captured memory at such an event as a hunt ball is well worth having. You simply can't go back later to capture that lost moment.


Saturday 19 November 2011

Our First Christmas Card

I was amazed to find our first Christmas card had arrived in the post. Well over a month before the Yule time begins. It was even more of a surprise to find the card was from the England Coach Fabio Capello.

I was given to understand that this card was also sent to Sebb Blatter head of FIFA by David Bernstein head of the Football Association. Its comforting to know that at this time of the year there is this small exchange of pleasantries and good will.

The FA have yet to announce the senior player who is to sit on the panel to look into the question of racism in football. I understand that England Captain John Terry is in the frame.


Fur and feather

It may have slipped by you, but I like dogs. What I don't like is dog owners! Well let me qualify that a bit. I don't like dog owners who diligently take care of what goes in at the pointed end. Then with the same diligence choose to ignore what comes out of the blunt end. 

Early in the year our local dog warden and poo patrol paid a visit to the local dog walking area. A few fines and some advice were administered to the errant owners. What was noticeable was that the guilty owners were not visiting the field anymore.

Yesterday, I came across a council groundsman walking on the local school playing field. He was busy removing the poo from a football pitch that was to be used in the afternoon. It seems that the old dog walking crew now congregate in a school bus turning area under the shelter. So that they can let their dogs go onto the pitch to do their business.  The bus turning area is on the public highway and so the poo mongers can congregate there on a morning and evening when the school is closed. I have had a word with the council and suggested that they might want to pay a visit to the school playing field area with special emphasis on the bus shelter area.

Poppy our three year old dog has been asking a few questions and like all three year old bipeds this quadruped wants to know "why do humans smell the flowers, but seldom, if ever, smell one another?" In a more serious moment she asked "If a Dog barks in the forest and no human hears her, is she still a bad Dog?" Abbey our twelve year old is much more practical, she only ever asks the one question. "Where is my dinner?"

Tonight its the "hunt ball" I know what you are thinking, if he loves the wildlife and countryside so much why is he going to the local hunt ball. A few years before the change in the law to regulate hunting with hounds. Our local hunt unilaterally decided that they would much prefer to do drag hunts than to chase after the foxes. They are a great bunch of riders who actually prefer showjumping to hunting anyway. They also know how to party!

So I shall be dusting off the dinner suit and doing my bit. The theme is "fur and feather" the Memsahib would like me to go dressed as a Turkey. However I am well aware of what happens to turkeys when they are "dressed" at this time of the year. So its Paxo to her as well!


Friday 18 November 2011

Weired awareness of time.

A curious change has taken place in our lives. It started when we eventually retired and started to spend more and more time on the boat. We seem to have entered into a time zone where everything slows down. Things that happened just last week, now seem to us to have taken place a month before. I have to really think about events to get them into the right place in my time awareness. I'm not alone, the Memsahib is experiencing the same feelings. Everything has slowed down and our time awareness is all awry, its weired.

In our previous work time lifestyle, or our pre-retirement existence. We were very focused on time in minute detail. Everything was regimented, ordered and done to an exacting schedule, almost by the tick of the clock. Now, all that has gone away. There are no time constraints anymore. We have gone from being controlled by a clock and the day of the week. we now march to the beat of a calendar and the seasons of the year.

The biggest change for us is, there are no weekends. Our recreation time was once based around weekends now its based around nothing. That's the key because one of the things we used in the past as a measure our time awareness has gone forever. Most of the time we are not sure what day of the week it is and what's more we don't care. Our working life now seems to be so long ago but in reality is only a few short weeks.

Now I know what your thinking, "Mick made a few gallons of blackberry wine last year" But I assure you its not that. Now your thinking "Oh ho, they have been foraging for the magic mushrooms again." I admit we did a bit of bank side foraging on our last trip out. Well to be honest it was more apple scrumping than real foraging. But we did not do the mushroom foraging bit either.

Talking about foraging, there is a good site for those who would like to know a bit more of the self sufficiency lifestyle you will find it here. Its a bit like "The Good Life" meets "Gardeners World." You will have to "dig" around a bit to find the more interesting stuff for those of us with a waterways lifestyle.

Then to put it all in perspective, I came across this little item from those people living in the "Land of the free". You know the ones who like to go and bomb their neighbours country for thinking and living differently to them. A bit like us, but I digress.  It seems that breaking with convention, thinking differently and cultivating a garden - you're a bit of a subversive. In the land of the free, growing some of your own food can land you in jail.


Thursday 17 November 2011

Passport Application

In view of the Border Agency "Fiasco" that is currently doing the rounds of Westminster. Which came about when Home Secretary Theresa May agreed to relax passport checking which led to a huge number of passengers entering the country unchallenged. Potentially over ten million people entered without being checked in August alone!

This is the tale of an alleged letter that was included with a passport application. Yet at the same time it has that ironic ring of truth about it! I think its apocryphal but it made me chuckle anyway so I decided that I had to share it with you.

Dear Sir.
I'm in the process of renewing my passport but I am a total loss to understand or believe the hoops I am being asked to jump through. I have had three previous passports issued. But your Passport Office have no knowledge of my previous passports? How is it that the local library has a list of every book I borrowed sing 1984 and has my date of birth, address and telephone number. Yet, the Government Passport Office is still asking me where I was born and on what date?

How come that nice fellow who comes round every Thursday night with his DVD rentals van can tell me every film or video I have had out since he started his business up eleven years ago, yet your Passport Office still want me to remind you of my last three jobs, two of which were working for the government?

How come the T.V. detector van can tell if my T.V. is on, what channel I am watching and whether I have paid my licence or not. Yet if I win the government run lottery they have no idea that I have won or where I am and will keep the money if I fail to claim in good time.

You have my birth date on numerous files you hold on me, including the one with all the income tax forms I've ever filled in for the past 50-odd years. It's on my national health card, my driver's licence, on the last three passports I've had. As well as all those insufferable census forms that are done every ten years and the electoral registration forms I have to complete, by law, every time our lords and masters are up for re-election.

Would it be so complicated to have all the services in the same spot to assist in the issuance of a new passport the same day. Or would you rather have us running all over the place like chickens with our heads cut off, then find some tosser to confirm that it's really me on the bloody picture - you know... the one where we're not allowed to smile in in case we look as if we are enjoying the process! I have to get someone 'important' to verify who I am -- you know, someone like my doctor...who, before he got his medical degree was from another country altogether.
I can't believe that the Passport Office sent me the passport application document to my house by mail, then ask me for my address. Well, I have to go now, because I have to go and get another copy of my birth certificate because you lost the last one!
PS We have managed to put a man on the moon in 1969 by apparently using all the computing power of a simple electronic calculator. The government have spent  our money on a new NHS computer system that does not work a £7bn project that is in MP speak "unworkable". I don't suppose that someone could do something about the piss poor passport service and buy them a box of paper clips or a stapler.

Yours sincerely, an Irate British Citizen.

PP Home Secretary Theresa May

Wednesday 16 November 2011

Other Poppy's

I wrote a few days ago about the Red Poppy that people choose to wear on Armistice Day and Remembrance Sunday. I also remarked about people who chose to mark the occasion by wearing a White Poppy because they were pacifists. I was surprised to learn that there are other coloured poppies that are also worn.

The first one I was to learn about was the Purple Poppy.  Inspired by the comments about the care given to a critically wounded animal. One of my readers wrote to me about the Purple Poppy. This was completely new to me. I was aware of the Dickin Medal (The animal VC)  that can be awarded to animals in time of conflict. I knew nothing about the Purple Poppy.

The Dickin Medal was instituted in 1943 by Maria Dickin (Founder of the PDSA) to honour the work of animals in war. It is a bronze medallion, bearing the words "For Gallantry" and "We Also Serve" within a laurel wreath, carried on a ribbon of striped green, dark brown and pale blue.

It is awarded to animals that have displayed "conspicuous gallantry or devotion to duty while serving or associated with any branch of the Armed Forces or Civil Defence Units". The award is commonly referred to as "the animals' Victoria Cross".

Throughout the history of human conflicts, animals have often been victims in war. During World War I, dogs and pigeons were used to deliver messages between front line trenches and further afield. Horses, donkeys and even elephants have been routinely used as beasts of burden. While an array of animals have been kept as pets even in the midst of battle.

Today, animals continue to be used in the battlefield often to detect explosives and as perimeter guards. To commemorate all the animal victims, a Purple Poppy, can be worn alongside the traditional red one, or white one as a reminder that both humans and animals have been and continue to be victims of war.

The second one I was to learn about is the Green Poppy. The green poppy is worn as a sign of remembrance for civilian who lost their lives as a result of war. The phrase often used is collateral damage, collateral casualties, civilian casualties or sometimes friendly fire. Collateral damage is unintended or incidental casualties to the intended outcome. The phrase is prevalently used as an euphemism for civilian casualties during a military action. The phrase has frequently been used in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq and more recently in the Libyan conflict to conceal the killings of thousands of unarmed civilians, in the so called War on Terror.

I must admit that I was a bit dischuffed at FIFA's stand on a ban on the wearing of the red poppy. Their claim was that wearing the red poppy was a political statement and one that had no place in sport. Whilst I don't agree with their view, I am beginning to wonder if the real ethos behind the wearing of a red poppy is being diluted. Being brought about by the change from the poppy being worn out of choice. Now there seems to be an expectation that almost like the requirement to wear a tie in public, a poppy should also be worn.

Do you remember the lady who was dismissed from her airline job for wearing a crucifix. Or the driver who was suspended for having a crucifix in his cab. Yet, if I was a Sikh and I wanted to wear a turban, then that would be OK!

Is it me, or has the world has gone Topsy Turvey!

Rainbow Poppy
Then I had this thought - why not have a rainbow poppy so that we can express ourselves without taking sides or being thought of as being pseudo political.


Tuesday 15 November 2011

Even more changes made to the blog.

I have made a few more changes to the blog to make it load quicker and to reduce the amount of material on the opening page. I have moved the Popular Posings link from the front page and made a link to the postings instead.

On the link are about 70 (and growing) of the more popular postings that have been made onto the blog over the last few years. There are many other postings that could be in this list, but it might be fun just to search through the blog and see what you can find.

Some of the bad things are items that are well known on the canal. Others are me venting my spleen at the total disinterest and an appalling level of customer service by some companies who should know better.

Humour, can be both true and factual with the names and minor details changed to protect the irritating. Alternatively it could be me just being a bit of a sartorial observer. I don't know what it is, but sometimes things seem so incongruous that I can't help poke a stick at them. I have an over developed sense of humour and I see things to laugh at all around me.
There are memories of my childhood and at this distance some of the facts my have been blurred by my memory. I was lucky to have been brought up by a very modern and progressive mother. With enough years between me and my siblings that I got all of her undivided attention.

There are things that relate to my interest in any gadget or new technology that comes along.  There are a few items that I have writen about, because I needed to understand pieces of boating technology for myself.

There are bits of observational stuff about our trips out onto the canals and rivers. The people we have met and the places we passed through. Knowledge of nature has been a passion for all of my life. You will see from my musings, that I still have a lot to learn and a long way to go.



Blog Changes

I have been taken to task about how much time my blog takes to load. It seems that the first page is much to busy. So rather than a Boaters Blog it seems that I have a Bloated Blog instead.

The first change:

I had two lists of boater blogs, the "regular contributors" and the second list of "infrequent contributors". So, I have moved the list of blogs with infrequent updates to a page of their own. See under Ships Blog / Infrequent Updates. Some of the blogs in this list are dead or at  best ready for their last rights to be performed.  Every now and then one will burst back into life for a while before slumbering off once more. However the information in the blogs can make for some very interesting reading.

You will now see a list of canal boat blogs with only the latest 25 blogs to post a message in the list. However there are almost four times as many blogs in the list as you will see at any one moment in time. Some blogs post only once or twice a month. So for most of the time they never appear in the Top 25 Blogs listings. You can now click the "show all" link to see the whole list.

The Ships Blog / also contains a link to Historic Boats which is a listing of blogs about older boats and their histories. There is also a section called Miscellaneous Sites, which has a listing of other blogs and websites associated with the inland waterways. There is also a link for Forums, Magazines and eBooks. This contains a list of  some other related sites. Previous Blogs of the Month as well as the usual Blog Ethos Disclaimer and Copyrite notice. thee is even a link to Why I Write what I write about.

Little Devil
There is also a link to the World Champion Pessimist Award which you might want to award to someone you know. So if you are feeling a bit like a Little Devil, just point them to the link. There are other links in the Ships Blog area and some new ones that will be available in the next few days. Hopefully its an improved look and feel to the blog.