Sunday, 18 March 2018

I strive for mediocrity

The view from the compact but adorable city apartment this morning.

We in the South West are going through a repeat experience of the weather from a week or two ago. This afternoon, there is a freezing strong wind on its way. A friend of mine was supposed to catch a plane to Argentina (via Madrid) this morning. I think she will have missed it. 

I was talking to an airline pilot last night, and he explained that the usual reason for flight cancellations in this weather is that they cannot de-ice the planes properly. The runways can be sprayed with uric acid (presumably from a bowser rather than the entire airport going out and pissing on the runways), but a clear runway is no use to a plane landing at high speed with its flaps stuck up in the cruise position.

I spoke to the pilot in the pub. He asked if I was out all night, or if I was just having a beer or two before going home. I told him that I had a system of discipline to control my drinking which involves being at home with slippers on in time to listen to The Archers at 7.03 pm. Yesterday was a Saturday, and Saturdays are the one day in the week when there is no Archers, so I deploy a super-human power of will to be out of the pub by 6.30. If you are the type of person to combine drinking with hard drugs, this system falls apart immediately and you often find yourself going home at 7.00 - in the morning.

After dinner with wine, I have another system (which doesn't always work) to stop me drinking wine until I fall over and sleep on the kitchen floor - or worse - stay awake and begin communicating with sleeping friends who I have not seen for years.

The routine is as follows: H.I. will begin yawning, then eventually go upstairs to bed, leaving me with the wine. I find myself thinking about things in general, usually about work. If I realise that I am  drifting toward believing that I am either the best sculptor since Michelangelo or the worst since Damian Hirst, I use the same super-human power of will to turn out the lights and take myself to bed.

Like I say, it doesn't always work.

Saturday, 17 March 2018

Gas - buy now while stocks last

Brexit has been replaced by another divisive issue here right now - the question of whether or not Putin was aware of the Salisbury poisoning, or if it is just a case of the Russian Mafia getting hold of military-grade nerve agent to bump-off adversaries.

The latter theory has been dismissed as virtually impossible by some, on the grounds that the Russians could never be so lax as to be unaware of stuff disappearing from their stocks, but I well remember what happened immediately after the collapse of the USSR, when you could actually buy tanks and missiles on the black market which had somehow been smuggled out of military compounds to make a few quid for private individuals. I bought a sub-mariner's watch.

Then again, Putin has murdered many adversaries in other countries by using bizarre and complex poisons which have the all the hall-marks of state-sponsorship. You would think that ordinary hit-men would use tried and tested methods to kill people which do not involve serious logistical and safety problems in handling, as they did by strangling the Russian anti-Putin oligarch the other day, making a half-hearted attempt for it to look like suicide. In any event, the Russian Mafia and Putin are inextricably entangled.

As Boris Johnson pointed out last night, Russian State media is proudly gloating over how anyone who behaves treacherously will be dealt with, no matter how far away from their mother country, at the same time as the Kremlin denies all knowledge. He actually used the phrase 'having their cake and eating it'. It must have been nice to use the insult that Europe has been directing towards him every day for a year.

The British media have been keen to stress that this particular nerve-agent was 'developed' in Russia, not 'manufactured'. Some people are saying that - unlike the radio-active stuff - the nerve agent could be made in someone's kitchen using fairly easy-to-obtain ingredients, but are wisely not publishing the recipe. Anyway, I would not want that stuff in my kitchen. It was bad enough cleaning-up after my Crystal-Meth cookery lessons last year.

The beans in the above photo were from a site called, '8 poisonous foods which we eat every day'. They are what Ricin is made from. They are the beans from a Castor Oil plant. You may have one in your garden.

The reason why they kill people using such exotic methods is pretty obvious. They want to send a message. Like the Canadian Mounties, they always get their man.. and his daughter... and any innocent bystanders.

Given the amount of CCTV cameras we have in this country, I am surprised that we have not seen any images of the murderer or murderers between the pub, restaurant and street in Salisbury. Having said that, I know that the police in Bath often ask to view the security camera footage of shops close to the scenes of crimes, because the quality of the Council camera footage is usually too poor to get a conviction in most cases.

Someone came up with a good quote yesterday: If you allow ruthless and nasty foreign criminals to take over your city for the sake of their money, you must expect this sort of thing'.

I had better buy some more gas before the tap is turned off in Russia.

Friday, 16 March 2018

For a start

I always drive automatic transmission cars. This means that if your battery fails in the middle of nowhere, you are in trouble - even if you carry standard jump-leads with you. I have just bought one of these.

About a year ago, a friend of mine bought one of the above. It is smaller than a mobile phone and will start largish engines - on its own - about 3 or 4 times on one charge. It does not even get warm, whereas I have actually set fire to poor quality standard jump leads before now. It will also charge phones and laptops in the middle of nowhere.

My friend is the Chief Engineer on board a very large ship. I asked him how on earth these things work. He said, "I don't know, but they do."

Time for an old joke:

A man goes into a pub with jump-leads round his neck, and orders a beer.

The landlord says, "I'm not serving you. You look like you are about to start something."

Thursday, 15 March 2018

A walk in the woods

I am undergoing a little experiment right now. I have stopped smoking tobacco and taken up vaping for the last year or so. It was never my plan to give up nicotine altogether, so I have no immediate plans to give up vaping.

I have been hearing lots of anecdotal reports about the beneficial effects of CBD products so I bought some CBD fluid for the vape yesterday, and mix it with the nicotine fluid.

CBD is a cannabis extract and is completely legal because all the stuff which gets you stoned (THC) is taken out of it, leaving everything else behind. You can smoke it all day and not get at all high, except from the lack of oxygen.

Cannabis - or the CBD in it - has long been used to treat the symptoms of all sorts of maladies including dementia and arthritis. The blend of CBD I bought also contains 'terpenes'. I had to look it up. Terpenes are a defence against insects that plants produce, and many of the volatile plants like mint and pine trees produce the most. Mine is infused with the pine version. Terpenes are also supposed to have a beneficial effect, but exactly what it is I have yet to discover. I think it may be a calming influence.

What I really like about this stuff is that it takes the harshness of the nicotine away and replaces it with the evocative scent of pine forests, but without the harmful resins. The only trouble is that it is about 10 times more expensive than the straight nicotine stuff.

It looks as though there are a lot of people vaping in that pine forest...

Tuesday, 13 March 2018

Easter is coming

Ok, that's enough bunnies. The next sculpture is a mother and child - human.

Monday, 12 March 2018


Ken Dodd died.

(This ancient and silly build-up to a poor joke will mean nothing to anyone outside of Britain, and not much to many on the inside).

Sunday, 11 March 2018


There was an amusing piece about 'mansplaining' on the radio today. In case you don't know, 'mansplaining' is when a man condescendingly explains something to a woman who probably knows more about the subject than he does. This last sentence is a very good example of 'mansplaining' in itself.

I know that men are getting it in the neck from women a lot right now, but we can take it. We are men, after all.

Of course, women can give lectures to experienced initiates as well, but it is true that men do it more than them.

I know that when I am given a lecture on how to do the job I have been doing for 50 years by someone who has only just heard of the process, I pisses me right off. Someone the same age as me who is never wrong, once talked me through the process of bronze-casting.

"What they do," he confidently asserted, "is make the thing out of wax, put it in the mould, then pour the molten bronze over it which melts the wax and the bronze takes the shape."

I suggested he tried doing it himself if he was so sure about it, then come back to me with the finished article if he survives the inevitable explosion. A little knowledge really is a dangerous thing in many cases.

What makes me even more furious than 'mansplaining' are the people who suddenly turn into qualified doctors at the merest mention of some ailment you might be suffering from, having answered the formal greeting of 'how are you?' honestly for once.

Usually, after the in-depth diagnosis and prescribed course of treatment offered within about 30 seconds of the initial assessment, the guerrilla medic will go on to explain that he has had just such a malady himself, only his case was 10 times worse than yours.

This happened to me in the pub a few weeks ago, when a boring drunk noticed my twisted fingers and didn't bother to wait to be told the real reason for my malformed hands. He actually reached over and tried to manipulate my fingers with his own clumsy, untrained hands, but I withdrew them out of reach before he had the chance of causing any more pain and damage. He is a stone mason by day.

Eventually I told him to fuck off and leave me alone. Realising I was pretty serious about this request - or order - he fucked off and left me alone.