Friday, 24 December 2010

Peter, you've lost the news!

Babytime has kept me away from blogger (and vermouth) for some time. And in the interim there have been sad happenings.

Captain Beefheart is dead. He'd suffered from MS for some time, yet had still been producing (art, rather than music). I know that many people consider Trout Mask Replica to be basically bonkers, and unlistenable, but I think it's a work of utter genius, and, more importantly, extremely enjoyable.

and the man who inspired this and this and this is dead, too.

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

Another great idea!

"The plans could see addicts lose benefits if they do not co-operate. "

I can see absolutely no drawbacks with inflicting further poverty on people addicted to expensive, illegal drugs. I am a Tory Minister.

Sunday, 21 November 2010

Well, he did ask

Colin wondered (by text message).

My response to his wondering is as follows :

There are a number of things one could do to impact on the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere.

One is to couple carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology with biomass. This enables you to remove CO2 from the air (using a plant) and capture CO2 (by burning the plant in a CCS ... er ... plant). This has been discussed. It requires you to be able to produce, in a sustainable manner, a lot of biomass.

Cquestrate have a rather novel method, which doesn't act on the atmosphere directly, but rather on the ocean. You can contribute to the development of this idea, since it is open source.

Cquestrate and AFS both require one to be able to generate a very large amount of energy in a way that does not emit large amounts of CO2.

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

What makes a man?

I am a rational being. I have 9 GCSEs, 3 A Levels (4 if you count 'General Studies'), 2 degrees and a wealth of experience, both theoretical and practical. I can tile a roof, cut a slate, align a laser, help to draft vague, non-committal statements on climate change[1], and patronise policy officials who don't understand the difference between kiloWatts and kiloWatt Hours.

So why, when I extract my headphones from my pocket, pannier or rucksack, and they are all twisted up, do I randomly pull, jerk and twist the cables, desperately trying to free the trapped ends? I noticed that, after about 2 minutes of doing this, if I patiently sat down and examined the problem at hand, it was trivial to calmly track the knot back to its source and undo it. A pigeon could have done it in 30 seconds.

Why am I irrational? Is everyone irrational?

[1] I didn't write para 23, but it's exactly the sort of thing I spent 2 years doing, and I doubtless commented on it at some point - and yes, it's meaningless

Thursday, 11 November 2010

Thursday, 4 November 2010

More photos

Some more photos of Fergus are available. He's the smallest one.

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Inferiority complex

In an attempt to keep up with what other people are actually doing, seeing as I will never go out for a beer again (see posts from 24th Sept and thereafter), I've been reading Infinitarian, and Small Bed and Large Bears, and other blogs. And it strikes me that I've got some work to do.

I've never really seen the point of Twitter. You really don't need to know my thoughts as they come into my head, nor the contents of my sandwich (humus and salad, if you really want to know). A blog on the other hand is a useful medium (perhaps) through which one could communicate something about one's life to the interested, assuming they exist. And if they don't, it at least gives electrons something to do. They'd just be sitting there claiming housing benefit, otherwise.

But yeah. People with blogs, or at least people I know with blogs, can write. This is a bit worrying, as I have nothing to say. Well, there's poo, obviously, but as any Guardian reader will tell you, there's only one thing worse that someone who writes about their babies and expects others to read about it, and that's people who post comments under the baby article complaining about the columnist writing about babies. [As an aside, the Internet really doesn't work, does it? I've yet to see a single person post a comment on any webpage that could be summed up as "That's an interesting point of view and it's really changed the way I look at the world". Someone pointed out that the Internet was simply a place where mad and stupid people, with mad, stupid and extreme views, can hang out together and in some way convince themselves that they are, in fact, rationale and normal. Hence the more extreme elements of the Tea Party, I guess. But I digress...]

So, herm. I was meant to be writing something. In fact, I was going to publish a Copenhagen dialogue, between Neils Bohr and Werner Heisenberg (no relations) about the outcome of the Copenhagen conference last December. But Kate persuaded not to do so, on the grounds that frankly expressing my ideas, even in a semi-anonymous blog like this one, might harm my career (such that it is) and might, indeed, break the Civil Service Code, which I am, as an honourable man, bound by. Which is a shame, given that Copenhagen was, I believe, one of the most critical moments in modern history (not because it delivered any world-changing outcomes - it didn't, but because it was an attempt at multilateralism on a scale that has never been tried before, the Bretton Wood conference doesn't even come close)

And I was there. In fact, I was there representing you (unless you aren't an EU citizen, in which case, I'm sorry). That's probably my moment of history (well that, and my 1/27,537th of a Nobel Peace Prize) I'll get to tell my grandchildren about it. And things like beaches, polar bears, and Bangladesh. But I'm getting maudlin. Let's leave it there.

Monday, 25 October 2010

Albums you don't own, Episode 13 - Can't Buy A Thrill

Steely Dan? The band that put the "middle" in MOR? I mean, seriously dude, this is Jazz-Rock for goodness sakes! You cannot be serious!

Can't Buy a Thrill, is the first, and in my humble, best Steely Dan album. Rolling Stone liked it so much they listed in as the #238th best of all time, though I'd place it even higher than that.

Despite featuring 13 different musicians, and a diverse range of instruments (including an electric sitar, and flugelhorn), I think it works best of all the Steely Dan albums because of its musical simplicity. Jazz influences are clearly present, but not overplayed. Add some great lyrics and great stories - Kings, Turn That Heartbeat Over Again, Brooklyn (Owes The Charmer Over Me) - and some fantastic perfomances, particularly on Reelin' In The Years, and you have one mighty fine album. Kate suggests that Dirty Work is the best song here, and I won't disagree with her. And of course, you need something anthemic to sing along to in the bath. Midnight Cruiser should suit your tastes perfectly sir.

I think it gets better and better the more you listen to it, and should grace absolutely any record collection.

Monday, 18 October 2010


Kate might look happy now, but she hasn't noticed the Dalek materialising behind her!

Saturday, 16 October 2010

The mother of invention

Due to a packing error (how embarrassing! I am usually the King of Packing!) I had to wear the same pair of boxers shorts for 4 days running.

And I discovered it is perfectly possible to do this with no ill effects whatsoever! Hurrah! Less washing for me!

Friday, 15 October 2010

The Drinks Cabinet

I should have pointed you at this earlier.

We are proud to announce the arrival of "The Drinks Cabinet", a blog aimed at exploring some of the more obscure optics. It can be found at

Saturday, 9 October 2010

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Friday, 24 September 2010

Friday, 17 September 2010

Last days of the Dales


On the Wednesday we headed to Richmond. As you can see, we saw some odd sights along the way.

We aren't sure what it changed into, but we are sure that the whole thing went off without an argument. Did you know Bill Bryson used to be a journalist in Yorkshire? I wonder if he ever came up with a headline as good as this one?

Richmond is a very beautiful market town in North Yorks, famous mainly for the Geography Field Trip I took there when I was 16. As I recall, I spend an afternoon asking locals if they would like a railway station. They said they would (the railway station having closed in 1969) but sadly, for them, British Rail (it's not called that any more, technically I mean "National Rail") have not seen fit to relay the tracks. So if you want to get to Richmond, you have to take the bus. Or cycle.

Richmond Market Square is a remarkable place. Aside from the Green Howards Regimental Museum I spotted no fewer than many pubs and hotel bars on the market square itself. I mean, I know it can get cold here in the winter, but you could go for a bracing walk or something. You don't have to go to the pub...

Dear old blogger won't let me add any more pictures to this post, so I shall move on.

Saturday, 14 August 2010


Perhaps the most beautiful of all. Up from Kirkby Stephen and across Birkdale Common, then down the most marvelous marvel, Swaledale. Keld, Thwaite, Muker (a drink at The Farmers Arms, which is a very fine pub), then the magnificently named Crackpot and back across the Swale at Low Row.

We lunched in Reeth, dumped out panniers at the Black Bull Inn and cycled up Arkengarthdale, via the somewhat alarming descent and ohshitohshitohshit cycle across the Mill Bottom Ford at 30mph faster than you anticipated.

A pint at the Charles Bathurst Inn (no idea) and then we went to Whaw. Oh Daddy, please don't go to Whaw. It's so pointless. And there's no pub in Booze, either. But the scenery is magnificent.

Back to Reeth for dinner.

Colin weighs up his options.

At this speed, light itself gets distorted.

Birkdale Beck


House prices in the North of England remain depressed.


Colin and I have been on holiday. Some people were aghast when I announced I was going cycling for 5 days and leaving my (very) pregnant wife at home, to which I responded "... er." But Kate was OK with it. Really. And I'll be off for a month after the baby arrives, which will be nice.

So, the holiday. I haven't got a picture of the minicab that took us to Kings Cross, but you can imagine it. Resplendent, glowing and powerful. I think it was a Ford Mondeo. Before we knew it the train has whisked us to Settle.

The Settle to Carlisle railway is one of the most impressive engineering feats of the Victorian age, cutting through some of England's most inhospitable and railwayable terrain. Colin and I opted to celebrate this marvel by getting off the train and travelling (the first part of the route) by bicycle, rather than train.

We can both recommend "Off the rails" cycle hire, at Settle station. If you are in Settle. And want to cycle, of course.

(Incidentally, you may find this a long and unexpectedly boring blog post. Still, unlike Kate you don't have to sit through the entire 3 hour slide show)

The railway runs up Ribblesdale, which turns from torrent to dribble. You will notice, throughout, that the weather in these pictures is ... variable. We had plenty of sun. And plenty of rain, too.

Eventually, you get to the Ribblehead, and you really, really need a beer. Fortunately such eventualities are provided for - The Station Inn is a very fine establishment and England were 71-1 chasing 118 to win (which they would do later that afternoon, by which point we would be in Dentdale)

The main advantage of cycling up Ribblesdale, rather than taking the train, is that you can't really see the viaducts from the train. Ribblehead viaduct is 104 feet high, spans 440 yards and my camera phone is a completely inappropriate device to attempt to capture it on.

The people in this part of the world are incurable optimists. Something to do with the weather, I think.

So Colin and I crossed into Dentdale, found ourselves in Cumbria, had lunch, then headed down to Sedb', up Garsdale and back into Yorkshire. The first site that greets you as you come into God's own county is the Moorcock Inn. A more welcoming sight I can't think of.

Finally, we crossed back into Cumbria and down into the Valley of Eden (not a Dale) and the town of Kirkby Stephen. We were not expecting to find Uther Pendragon's castle at the top if the Eden Valley, but there it was.

Tomorrow you get Swaledale, Arkengarthdale and a picture of Colin crossing a ford!!!

Friday, 13 August 2010

DougStock 2010 (and The Big Society)

DougStock met for the weekend in Oxford. Much fun was had. We are particularly grateful for the work of Tobias Ashmole, and in the spirit of David Cameron's Big Society Colin and The Yak spent the afternoon running the cloakroom.

Next week J-P and Juliet attempt open heart-surgery, with hilarious consequences. Remember! Public services are provided simply becuase good, honest, decent, hardworking people are too lazy to run their own schools, collect their own rubbish and open their own museums.
Posted by Picasa

Thursday, 29 July 2010

2050 pathway : How to decarbonise the UK

I've been playing with the DECC tool (I can do this at work because it's my job). I have decarbonised the UK. Can you?

2050 pathway

Wednesday, 28 July 2010

Brilliant article

One characterisation of the theory of man-made climate change is that scientists observed some warming, and decided to blame CO2 (probably because said scientists were Commies, or Nazis, or both or something)

This is balls.

What happened.
  • Long before any significant warming was observed, some scientists suggested that we would observe warming, and that this would be driven by CO2.
  • We saw warming, just like they predicted

I would suggest that if a scientist tells you you've got a problem, and then the data validates his claims, you should probably do something about it.

This excellent article sets out how warming was predicted back in 1975 (and 1965).

Monday, 26 July 2010


BPL has some very good articles on the science of Climate Change.

Saturday, 24 July 2010

Climate Change


I'm doing some thinking on how to present the outcome of last year's Copenhagen Conference. Particularly timely, given news.

If you are interested in this, let me know and I'll send you an email.

Fighting fit

CRB and I are off cycling in the Dales in a few weeks, and his calves are bigger than mine. This poses a bit of a problem for hills. In need to do some exercise.

Gym? No thanks. Running? Hurts my knees. Steroids? Too expensive.

We made our own amusement back in the 90s, and by golly we don't need no new fangled techniques to get fit. Just willpower (sadly lacking) and three good meals a day (a cheese and onion pasty counts as one of these).

So I've filled my panniers with 7.5 litres of paint (in a tin, bozo!) and am cycling (or wobbling) all over London, building up Tour de France style stamina.

If you see a crushed bicycle lying in a massive pool of pale blue paint, that will be me.

Friday, 16 July 2010


Off to Uncle Dick's Jazz Picnic on the Isle of Wight tomorrow. This is not a euphemism.

Tuesday, 13 July 2010


Rich Hall says that if you got into the music of Johnny Cash or Ray Charles because you enjoyed "Walk the line" or "Ray" you are ... well, let's just say it wasn't complimentary.

He also suggests that Jamie Foxx got an Oscar(TM) for his portrayal of Charles, and Joachim Phoenix only got nominated for an Oscar(TM) for his portrayal of Cash ... well, he wasn't entirely complimentary there, either.

Indeed, he suggests that Hollywood greatly simplifies the lives of individuals and reduces them to a series of snapshots that are completely unrealistic, and two dimensional.

I can't comment on that, since no one has written my biopic. However, I understand (based on a recent ante-natal class) that Hollywood, or indeed television, depictions of birth are utter bollocks. You do not give birth lying on your back, nor are you surrounded (usually) by medics in face masks, nor does the mother get handed a six month old looking baby nor does her make-up stay in place.

I'll be able to give you a more accurate description in a few months time, but it seems to involve a fair degree of squatting, or crawling on all fours, and (if all goes well) less medical intervention than you might imagine. And less make-up, too.

Sunday, 11 July 2010

It gets better

M requested photos. We cannot refused requests.

One the left, you can see our living room wall, repainted 'DH Red'. I think the blue painting (something I picked up in Ghana at the negotiations in 2008) works quite well.

Not much else to say really. It's a wall. We painted it red.

Below you can see a step, which is blue. We call it the 'blue step'. The white blobs need painting over, but other than that it's finished. Rebuilt from scratch. Solid as a solid-thing, rather than rotten to the core (the previous incarnation had passed its use-by date).

"So what", you say. "It's just a bloomin' step!". Well, yes, and no. On the one hand, a step it is. On the other hand, take the lid off and it's a storage space! Incredible.

Sunday, 4 July 2010

You need to know this


Short DIY update. Painted one wall of the living room "DH Red". So 2/3rds of the way there now.

Meanwhile, over in the spare room, we're pretty much done. Gloss applied, radiator painted, walls finished and the fiddly join between the ceiling/walls done to the best of our ability. So don't look up.

Outside, I've painted the veranda, blueish.

Next week, the plumber visits on Thursday and we replace the wooden steps at the weekend. Watch this space!

Sunday, 27 June 2010

The build-up to Brazil '14 starts here!

It's so unfair. If the linesman had awarded us a goal, and if we hadn't conceded another 2 and if we hadn't been comprehensively outplayed by a better side and if the manager had selected a squad of fit players and if he'd played them in their proper positions, we might have won the World Cup. (We probably wouldn't have, though)

Sunday, 20 June 2010


We have just got back from here. Beautiful, isn't it?
Posted by Picasa

Sunday, 6 June 2010

Her Majesty

A bit late, but what does that matter, eh?

Friday 28th May was The Queen's Birthday, and as a pampered and over-paid public servant, I, along with my colleagues across Whitehall, got the day off.

But the day was no holiday. Oh no. I am proud to announce that I achieved the following

  • Got paint mixed. Can now paint bedrooms and lounge. Didn't actually paint but it's a start
  • Got some wood delivered. Can now mend outside step. Didn't actually mend step but you get the picture
  • Had a plumber round to discuss replacing the boiler. He didn't actually replace the boiler
  • Took the dry-cleaning in. Hopefully the dry-cleaner is more focused on delivery than I am
  • Bought a Network Railcard. 33% of most journeys!
  • Went to Cambridge and got pissed at Beer festival. Now that is what I call achieving your objectives.

Friday, 28 May 2010



I don't usually get angry about stuff. You know me. But the World Cup is here and has the whole world gone mad?

Clearly, football sold its soul for millions of pounds years ago, but even so, the new Carlsberg advert is a horrible, horrible thing. It's bad enough seeing Botham participate in this nonsense, but to bring Bobby Robson into it is in really bad taste. Perhaps I should send a letter to the Daily Mail.

And the Coke advert is horrible too.

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

Trains, plans, omnibuses and boats

OK. So I haven't posted about Copenhagen yet. But I have a good excuse. Kate and I went to Venice instead, and it was awesome.

Took boat back to the airport today. Cruising back to the airport in your own private compartment in a speedboat is quite a good way to travel.

Sunday, 25 April 2010

Promises, promises

I did promise, back in Copenhagen, that I'd share my thoughts on what actually happened, once I'd moved job. It has taken longer than expected, but I have moved job.

I'll try to post something concise, novel and interesting later this week.

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

The mole

There are a few bits of literature out there that deserve to, nay need to, be preserved for the cockroach civilization that is bound to follow us, somewhere down the road to eternity. Hamlet, for example (though I have never seen what all the fuss was about - just kill the bleeder and be done with it). The Cherry Orchard. The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant. (Only joking). Sadly, I've not created any masterpieces. The Live Parrot sketch hardly ranks alongside leaping nuns or Del Boy falling over.

But this. It's not particularly new (I first read it ages ago), and it is, after all, only a restaurant review, but it is the English language stretched to its absolute limit. Incredible.

The eyes ... the eyes...

My trip to the opticians confirmed what I had always suspected. I am, in fact, superhuman. I am short-sighted in my left eye, and long-sighted in my right eye. In this way, like Ivor Cutler, I can use my left to see insects and bacterias, and with my right I can see the stars and the nebulas.

Sadly, the optician is an evil optician and, jealous of these incredible powers, she has prescribed me glasses.

Monday, 12 April 2010

Being is believing

It appears that I, too, am pregnant. Or at least, I'm undergoing hormonal changes that, in my case, appear to be making me gain weight, and have weird dreams.

How weird.

Sunday, 11 April 2010

Never seen Citizen Kane


Contains spoliers. And, indeed, spoilers.

Within a few weeks, I've seen The Godfather Part I, and The Shining. There was a woman on Radio 4 pooh-pooing Citizen Kane, but I don't believe her and I'm going to get the DVD out soon.

The Shining was somewhat disappointing. I wouldn't put it in a top 100 of anything, and it's no surprise to read that it wasn't critically acclaimed on release, but is now well thought of. The respective careers of Stanley and Jack probably have quite a lot to do with that. And I bloody hate Stephen bloody King and his tired "psychic child" meme (although possible this is my fault for watching The Langoliers, which was dreadful). Don't even get me started on "It". Grrr. Suffice to say King could teach Donaldson a thing or two about flaccid prose.

So, the bad stuff. Nicholson is bad. I don't care if "Heeeeere's Johnny!" is one of the all time great moments in cinema (and it probably is). He's bug eyed and crazy from scene one (just as Kubrick was worried he would be) and as a result you don't get any sense of the characters slow descent into madness. Just grab the axe already and start chopping! And the film doesn't actually make any sense, does it. I mean. It would be just lovely if there was total ambiguity here. Is this the supernatural, or merely some guy cracking up and a oversensitive child? Is Lloyd the barman the devil, or a figment of Jack's imagination? Indeed, does the entire thing happen because the hotel manager has sowed the idea in Jack's mind? But then the 'ghosts' break Jack out of his prison cell, and the pyschological thriller has been replaced by a not particularly clever horror flick.

And the character who dies is just ... well ... stupid. Couldn't they have found a more subtle way to get a working snow-mobile out there?

But there is some remarkably good stuff here. The two sisters. The kid himself, who despite my hatred of child actors is actually really good. The final scene in the maze, though heavily telegraphed earlier in the movie, is really impressive. Most of all, there's the fantastic way in which Kubrick has shot the hotel, particularly my favourite bits where the kid is cycling round and round the place on his tricycle.

OK, so I'm not a fan of horror movies, and I've already pointed out my antipathy towards Stephen King, but I felt here was a genuinely brilliant movie that just wasn't, because of Nicholson's overacting, and a screenplan that didn't match the brilliance of the cinematrography.

Still, it's a very good film. But "The Shinning" is better. Now that is one of the greatest things to ever have been recorded on celluloid.

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

That's embarrassing

I was listening to "Taxman" on my headphones, and just for a second I played air-guitar in the office. I hope no one noticed.

Monday, 5 April 2010

No Man Is An Archipelago


British Sea Power's next Album is a soundtrack to a documentary that was recorded 76 years ago. Odd.

The link, aside from the fact that I like British Sea Power, to this blog, is that Kate & I have just got back from a splendid weekend on the Isle of Wight. Usual suspects attended. 10 units of alcohol per drinker per night were successfully consumed.

"But hey!", you cry, "you haven't posted for a month and this is the best news you can offer?"

Well, no. There is news of a very significant nature. Indeed, the very significance of this news is more significant than any previous news, even news from May of last year. To whit, Kate & I are expecting a baby, in September. Which is considerably more of a hassle for Kate than it is for me. Mumsnet might give you an idea of the sort of hassle that can occur. I am glossing over the details.

I'm not sure I can top that, so I'll sign off here.

Saturday, 6 March 2010

Albums you don't own, Episode 2 : Super Furry Animals "Rings around the world"

Certain records are, to me, evocative of a certain time and place. I suspect they evoke feelings of a different time and place in you. I mean, if we all got the feeling of my slightly damp student room in Jericho when we listened to "Bosanova" by Pixies, it would be weird.

It turns out, as I stick on SFA's "Rings around the world" that it evokes the feeling of living in Philadelphia. After some consideration I have come to the conclusion that this is because I bought it while living in Philadelphia. And listened to it in Philadelphia. And saw SFA on tour, playing music from the album, in Philadelphia. That, as they say, would be it then.

It's a stonking album, the Furreez strongest, I think (though I haven't yet heard Mwng). Lacking the descriptive talents of music journalists, I can only state that while the album doesn't have (to me) any tracks that stand out individually, the construct is a marvelous, symphonic marvel. It's quite unlike anything else in my record collection, and I think it's interesting that while Indie and Britpop seemed to have reached a dead-end by 2001, SFA came out with something completely from leftfield that left everyone else looking confused. And the videos were great too.

If ya don't have it, buy it. Or at least borrow my copy.

Wednesday, 3 March 2010

Monday, 22 February 2010


I, James Brian Davey, being of sound mind and body, hereby annouce that, at the age of 34 years, I have watched "The Godfather Part I" and, while I did not entirely understand every word spoken by Mr Brando, I can appreciate why people think this film is one of the greatest ever.

Saturday, 13 February 2010

Albums I don't own : Episode one

Kate's records have turned up. There's some incredible stuff here which I'm going to try and extract into digital format using our new turntable. Highlights include
  • Flanders and Swann, "At the drop of a hat" and "At the drop of another hat"
  • Linda and Paul McCartney, "Ram"
  • Elvis Costello and the Attractions, "My Aim is true", "Armed Forces" & "Get Happy!" plus "Almost Blue", his C&W album
  • various Bob Dylan, Kate Bush and Steely Dan albums
  • plus "Lazarus" by the Boo Radleys on EP and a 45 of "The King of Rock 'n' Roll" by Prefab Sprout!
Much fun to be had.

Friday, 12 February 2010

Play of the day

[A Doctor's Surgery : The Waiting Room]

A sits still. He is uneasy, but there is nothing obviously wrong with him.

B, dressed in a dark coat, has a cold.

<long pause>


Monday, 8 February 2010

Friday 5th February 2010

Up, and to the office by train, where all morning doing business. Then dined out for luncheon with Mr Holmes, for it was his birthday, and Miss Theodouru. Then back to the office but little business was to be done and on to The Ship and Shovell and there did drink with some from the office. Then on to my club with Mr Learmonth. He sung well but I had an excess to drink and was engaged in some discourse about music, of which I know little, and then returned home, somewhat the worse for wear, by train. And to bed.

Friday, 5 February 2010

The lost symbol


I've been trying for ages to find a letter that describes the annoying new shape of the transport infrastructure formerly known as "The Circle Line", but I haven't found one yet. It's like a σ, but rotated 90 degrees clockwise, then reflected about the vertical axis.

So far as I can see, no alphabet has a letter that shape. Answers on a postcard please.

Thursday, 4 February 2010

Please note

"January was rather cold in the UK. But across the whole of the world, January was warmer than usual"

Wednesday, 3 February 2010

Zero room

For a moment, one quiet, eternal moment, perfection. Nothingness. Peace. But it couldn't last.

I managed to totally empty my INBOX. Totally.

It had eight messages in it by the time I left work. I fear I will never capture that perfect tranquility again.

Tuesday, 2 February 2010

Palmed off

We planted the palm tree. It isn't dead yet.

Sunday, 31 January 2010

Case study

More house stuff I'm afraid.

It's cold. This does not mean anthropogenic climate change isn't happening. It does mean that the poor insulation of our flat is quite apparent.

So, how does one go about improving energy efficiency? I work for the government department responsible, so theoretically it should be straightforward to get it sorted. Theoretically.

Kate found a green concierge service but they don't do it anymore. Tower Hamlets offers interest free loans for energy saving but we can't get on the Warm Front scheme or London Warm Zone scheme, because we aren't on benefits (no dig intended). Tower Hamlets also offers some bloody obvious advice, but no actual information on insulating your fucking home.

The Energy Saving Trust has information of the more useful kind. We have solid walls and they have suggestions. But it doesn't actually go into any detail, doesn't provide costings and while it recommends some products, doesn't offer guidance on which ones are appropriate for you. And they don't list any internal insulation products. Solid wall insulation doesn't even feature as one of the options on their grants and loans list.

The National Insulation Association suggest that the cost of insulating internally is £42 per sq metre, which is so fucking expensive that it's no wonder no one bothers. I mean, seriously, how much is your heating bill? How much of that goes through a single square metre of wall? The payback time is probably 8 centuries.

Does anybody know how to calculate a U value?

Sunday, 24 January 2010

Boning up

It's all about what, at work, we call "learning by doing". A few weeks ago Kate and I learned how to paint a wall without getting paint on the skirting board, and a skirting board without getting paint on a wall, how to repair cracks in plasterwork, and the difference between primer and undercoat. We also learned, after some trial and error, which paints are soluble in white spirit, and which ones are soluble in meths. It's easier if you just read the side of the tin.

This week we learned that palms need to be planted in plenty of gravel, that olive trees like bonemeal and seaweed extract (which is odd, because I've never seen an olive tree on a beach), that it is possible to get the council to turn the water off but they aren't interested in talking to us, only the plumber (and the plumber isn't keen on talking to them because dealing with the council is ... difficult) and that Morrisey considers "For your pleasure" by Roxy Music the one great British Album. We've also learned how to take bamboo cuttings.

The main question now, is do we paint the spare room like this, this or this? The futon is sort of this colour which is informing our decision. I feel magnolia is a little too timid.

Monday, 18 January 2010

Slow time

We have painted a single wall. We now have a futon, as opposed to the bits of futon required to make a futon. In this way, entropy has been defied (not really). But there's still a crack in the wall, the plumbing still needs seeing to and the entire place really needs improved insulation, as this winter has proven.

Keeping a home in good condition is a lot more time consuming that I imagined it would be. What else don't they tell you at school?

Sunday, 10 January 2010

More notes




Wet - Lamb + Flag

(circled) Henry


Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese

Fleet St, London

Pokey, multi-roomed Sam Smiths Drinking Hole. Worth A Visit @ £.170 a Pint. HEFE-WEISSE Nice Too. Feels Old.

Hot, cold food, sandwiches, tourists and businessmen but not unpleasant. Lack of lighting adds to atmosphere.


Neutral ground


Greant Orth Road
(This one is definitely Colin)

Sawtry, Batry, Dry Doddington

Are all perhaps present in Long Beddington

I fell asleep in Long Framlington
I drooled in Darrington and Womersley
I came off at Alconbury
I woke up at Tyringhame

[They long for us in Longformans
They do nothing in Cockburnspath]


Florence, Urbino, Bologna?


Loo roll
Coat hangers


(the following my surely be my reaction to the opening session of COP 13 in Bali, 2007. The previous pages date back to 2005, so this is a big jump forward)

Mein Gott. Miming Indonesia pop stars and starletts. Whatever next? I can't imagine Hear'say introducing COP London.

Bali sand
(?) 20,000t CO2 this year. 9144 delegates + goodness knows how many press and hangers on have flown here.

I need to do the math to calculate the CO2 emissions from their flights alone.


(some notes about the UNFCCC Clean Development Mechanism here, the notes on mitigation policy. This is Oxford 2008 I think)


The floor in the lift of this hotel is tiled. The walls are carpeted.

@ dinner last night two white terrires, one with a pink bow, yapped at me while I the down half-heartedly shooed the[m] away.



Saturday, 9 January 2010

It's not just us

In other countries the transport system breaks down in cold weather.

Thursday, 7 January 2010

Brilliant white

Well, we have done some painting. It's hardly impressive, in that we have only painted one wall. Which was white. White.

But at least the damp patch is covered and there isn't flaking paint and plaster everywhere and hopefully we did it in such a way that the paint will actually stay on and not flake off. Primer.

And surely if it's that easy to paint a single wall it will be pretty easy to do the whole house, right? How hard can it be?

PS - Wash brushes in warm soapy water.

Wednesday, 6 January 2010


Wowie zowie Oliver Warbucks! A week off! And we haven't even had a week on yet.

Not quite the type of holiday we usually take. For a start, the place we are staying in is rather run down. And Shoreditch isn't my idea of a home away from home. It's more of a 'Working holiday', except without any dry stones walls. Or sheep. Or pubs. OK, we do have pubs. But we aren't drinking this month, respectfully commemorating our livers.

A lot has been achieved, but there is still much to do. To this end we are off to Leyland SDM tomorrow to buy paint and rollers.

Let it snow let it snow let it snow.