Sunday, 1 October 2017


It’s funny how people deal with their own failures, isn’t it?
About twelve years ago I went to Witrose in my shiny new car to buy some stuff, I forget what.  As I was driving into the car park I noticed someone about to back out of a space straight ahead of me, so I flashed my lights and waited.
The driver behind me couldn’t wait the twenty or so seconds this manoeuvre would have taken, so he hooted.  I ignored this, so he decided to overtake me.  He did that rather badly – he drove into the side of my car.
I said a few not very well-chosen words.
“No need to swear,” he said.
We went and found parking spaces (the driver who’d been the innocent cause of the situation having long departed) and inspected the damage – surface scratches to my shiny new car, none visible on his old banger.
He started telling me I should have been signalling.  (I was going straight ahead.)  He told me I was holding everyone up.  (I was holding him up.)
I said: “Excuse me, you’ve just driven into the side of my car, and it’s my fault?” and walked away.


Monday, 25 September 2017

Caravan shutdown

If it’s 1797 and you’re going to invade Great Britain from France, obviously north Pembrokeshire is the go-to place, isn’t it?  Good rail links Goodwick to London, regular Sealine ferries to Ireland, nice local beaches…  but you probably didn’t allow for Jemima.
The tapestry (more properly, as Z pointed out, an embroidery) commemorating this bizarre bit of forgotten history (about which you can read more here), immaculately displayed and curated in Fishguard library, allowed us to dispose of a wet, windy Friday.  We proceeded up the coast to Newport (how many Newports are there in the UK, I wonder?) and an acceptable lunch at the Golden Lion, after which we drove back over the misty, drizzly Presilli hills and caravan life took over.
The Presilli hills are locally referred to, in English, as the Presilli mountains.  This is a deliberate mistranslation of ‘mynneth’, which sounds a bit like ‘mountain’ but in Welsh means something rather less.  (I am making this up, but don’t let that stop you believing it.)  Welsh is an intriguing language, which we’ve resolved to learn more of.  (* look up the Welsh for ‘resolve’*)  Sometimes it just looks like bad English spelling (ambiwlans, parc busnes) but then veers off into French (eglwys). 
Back at the caravan, we hunkered down and enjoyed a decent-weathered Saturday, including a walk across the westward Wiseman’s Bridge beach where the geology is, once you notice it, quite fascinating.  I’d spent many early years not noticing that what was now rockpools and striations had once been a massive promontory – huge and high worn down to sea level cracks and sand over many millions of years.  We don’t leave that much of a trace, do we?
The caravan is shut down.  Draining the plumbing was much easier once Joseph had taught me how to do it properly.  Z has made it cleaner than it’s been for years.
I didn’t cut the grass. No rabbits did either.

Tuesday, 5 September 2017


William of Ockham (1287-1347) invented the safety razor, often wrongly attributed to King C. Gillette (1855-1932), who of course invented the waistcoat, but (Ed: shome mishtake shurely?)
Ah, yes.  William of Ockham (1287-1347) formulated the principle that became known as Occam’s Razor.  It’s called a razor because it shaves away extraneous matter.  (Why Ockham became Occam is anyone’s guess; did medieval keyboards lack a K and an H?)
Occam’s Razor can be expressed in many ways.  Here are two:
1.     The law of economy of hypothesis (which I might have just made up) states that, of a number of solutions to a given problem, the correct one is that which requires the least number of assumptions.
2.     Z, on having heard me dissert on this, offered the 21st century version acronymised in this post’s title.
Anyway, it sprang uninvited into my mind after an amusing Facebok conversation about the following conundrum:

1 + 4 = 5
2 + 5 = 12
3 + 6 = 21
5 + 8 = ? 

The answer, of course, is 34, but a lot of people opted for 45.  I challenged this, and it was suggested that, given that the = sign in this context obviously doesn’t mean what it usually means, then the operators are up for grabs and the + sign can therefore be fairly interpreted as a * (multiply) sign, in which case you do get 45.
That’s where William nudged me in the ribs.  Oy, he said, one mistake’s enough, why let another one in? 
I thought I’d scored a point, but now I wonder: if + doesn’t mean +, and = doesn’t mean =, who’s to say what 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and the rest mean?  Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent.

Saturday, 26 August 2017

Zebra crossing (April 85)

Not long ago, there was a notice at each end of the zebra crossing between London Bridge Walk and the station forecourt, improvised on blackboards, which said “DANGER – CROSSING OUT OF ORDER”.  A friend enlightened me as to how a zebra crossing could be out of order: one of the belisha beacons had been knocked over by an errant vehicle.  Apparently this means that the crossing is a legal nonentity.  Drivers can mow you down on it with at least some impunity.

Incidentally, did you know that the belisha beacon was named after the transport minister who introduced it in 1934?  His name was Leslie Hore-Belisha.  So it could equally have been called the Hore beacon, but I imagine this was rejected on the grounds of ambiguity.

Thursday, 24 August 2017

Rough woodland (April 1985)

“A Rothschild once remarked that no garden, however humble, should lack less than 2 ½ acres of rough woodland.”

This is the funniest thing in a stunningly ill-written review of some book or other about gardens.  Its major virtue is that of being the first sentence.

Taking the opposite of ‘no garden’ to be ‘every garden’, and of ‘lack’ to be ‘have’, the corollary of this statement is that every garden should have less than 2 ½ acres of rough woodland.  The reviewer is right in suggesting, later in the review, that some gardens fail this rigorous test; but mine, I am proud to say, is not one of them.  Its acreage of rough woodland is indeed considerably less than this stipulated maximum.

What would be interesting, and therefore not supplied by either A. Rothschild or the reviewer, would be the required ratio between rough woodland and other things, such as smooth woodland.  Imagine, for example, that this might be one unit of rough woodland to five of the other sorts of land, and that your tiny garden measures 10ʹ x 15ʹ.  You are thus allowed 30 square feet, or 6ʹ x 5ʹ, of rough woodland.  Clearly the trees would have to be bonsais; but what would make it rough?  I can only imagine an undergrowth of rather tatty aubrietia.  

Wednesday, 23 August 2017

Blogging? Been there, done that.

I have, of course, been blogging since 1963, so far as records show.  We didn't call it that, and the medium was marks on paper rather than binary digits on computers; but I've dug out and skimmed through a few old notebooks, and a few entries might merit transcription. 

You have been warned.

Monday, 14 August 2017


That’s a much better acronym than the worn-out Brexit acrostic, isn’t it?
I have read so much nonsense about ‘Britain Leaving the European Union’ that I thought it was time to put the world’s thoughts in order.  I will confine myself to the classic five-point system.
One.  Nobody knows anything.
Two.  Nothing has happened.
Three.  This is not democracy.
Four.  Loudness is not thought.
Five.  The devil is in the detail. 

To expand:
  1. Nobody knows anything about what is going to happen when, after a protracted process of definition, drafting and deliberation an Act of Parliament representing Britain’s departure from the EU is presented for the Royal Assent.  Not just because whoever turns out to be monarch by then might just say ‘no’, but because nobody has a clue what it will actually say.
  2. Following from that, so far nothing’s actually happened.  The debate, if that’s a word any more, is almost entirely about the story of the last 15-odd months of speculation, reaction and counter-reaction, not to mention global economic and political forces compared to which BLEU is a minor ripple.  All fur coat and no knickers. 
  3. Democracy means ‘rule by the people’.  Referenda are not a sensible means of achieving this where the population exceeds a few hundred.  In the present case, the canard that ‘the people have spoken' needs to be critically analysed and clinically destroyed by facts and logic.  For a start, only 37% of the electorate voted to leave.
  4. I often dip in to internet sites that support BLEU, and I’m dismayed not just by the lack of fact and focus, nor even by the outright blatant lies, but by the overwhelming volume of vitriol and personal abuse.  I counter this whenever it’s directed at me, of course (don’t ever enter into a slanging match with me, anyone, because I will win!).  But I am shocked by the amount of unnecessary sheer nastiness.  I thought this was a nice country.
  5. I’m getting a bit tired now, so I don’t want to go into the details of what this will do to everyone in this country’s personal day-to-day lives.  Two words cover most of it, actually – health, and safety.