Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Ah haar

Sitting in sixonorth a Belgian Beer bar in central Aberdeen. Not as incongruous as it sounds, as bar is part of a small chain established by a Belgian beer enthusiast from Stonehaven, which is just down the road. I’m actually drinking his white, which is a sort of German-Belgian-Scottish mash up.

Interesting to see that he’s categorised what the hipsters would call ‘Craft’ beer as ‘Urban’. Slightly odd to see beers from East London up here in Aberdeen. I suppose no odder than Brewdog taking over the beer bar on Bethnal Green Road.

Blimey. Aberdeen eh? There are some buildings here that just have to be seen to be believed. Chap on sleeper this morning described it as ‘The Silver City’ which seems more apt than ‘Granite City’ in the sunshine. Haar has rolled in now though. Foggy.

Brewdog Aberdeen, the home of Brewdog, is just around the corner. Things could get messy.

Thursday, 17 July 2014

A short history of cottaging

So, the furthest back I can remember is Tintagel. This was, for me, a first ever foray into Cornwall, I think. The seascapes of the north coast are truly remarkable, and it's sad that so far as I know no pictures of this trip remain. This was before digital things, you know.

Cars had been invented. Ours was a gold Ford Mondeo. An enduring memory was picking the thing up from an Exeter car hire company on the outskirts of the city, and getting lost on the way back to my house. I ended up in a cul-de-sac with no idea how to find reverse. (Answer - the was a locking-ring located under the knob, which I located after rustling around in the glove-box, searching for instructions). Another enduring memory was adjusting the seat at 60mph on the A38 and nearly killing everyone in the car. Won't do that again.

So, in the car were Brighty, Smith, Levvers and Colin. And me, obviously. And it wasn't even cottaging, as we stayed in a B&B in Tintagel (and did we spend the second night somewhere else, Padstow perhaps?)

Doom Bar, and pasties were the culinary highlights.


Cornwall was judged a success, so Brighty found a cottage in Herefordshire the following Autumn. This must have been 2000 I reckon. In Autumn 2001 I was writing up and heading to PA. So yes, 2000. 14 years ago. Blimey. We weren't even young. But younger, almost certainly.

Herefordshire was wet. Really really wet. It's also Levick country, which meant I got to visit the old farm for the first time. And Hay. Turns out it's full of books. Who knew? Brighty was insistent that we went for a walk, so we trooped up Hergest Ridge in the rain, look Wales square in the eye then trooped down again. And that was that.


I went to Philadelphia. Kate and I had an absolutely excellent weekend in a former coaching Inn in Lancaster County that I can now find no sign of. I was a peculiar, ramshackle place run by an extremely friendly and perhaps somewhat lonely oddball who had, it seemed, run the place with his father until the later had died. Archaeologists from the local university used to come by and dig around - they found a lot of historic interest, including Elizabethan coins which pre-dated the Inn but not the importance of Lancaster as a trading centre at the time.

We didn't kill any Amish, even though it was the first time I'd driven an automatic and the first time I'd driven on the right-hand side of the road. Or was it left?

And we saw some excellent stand-up in a very unpromising strip-Mall in Lancaster. No one does strip-Malls like North Americans..


Return to England, and a move to Yorkshire, offered excellent promise and God's own county didn't let us down. A trip to Haworth included a ride on a steam train (tea in gold-leaf service was taken on board) and an epic walk over, I think, Wadsworth Moor. (Henry will be able to confirm. Henry was the master of this one). At the end, Paul and I had to dash for the last bus back to Haworth to rescue our cars and the rescue the others from the lesbians and take them back to the Brontes. They didn't seem to phased, mind you.
So far as I know, this was the only cottaging trip to feature a Russian citizen, though one can never be quite sure.

Oh, and we also got to see Henry's unique take on the Yorkshire art of map-origami. He's a black-belt, you know.


So that was, quite remarkably, a decade ago. Shortly afterwards I decided to become a Civil Servant (I wasn't exactly doing anything else with my time, and besides, the country needs Civil Servants.) An outing in the Broads was attempted, successfully, and we followed that with a somewhat (totally) insane trip to Lulworth Cove, involving 22 people in 3 cottages in 3 distinct villages (one of which was called Chaldon Herring). It was at this point that I realized that a) Kate has excellent, excellent organisation skills and b) these are really useful. So far as I know, this was the only cottaging trip to feature a citizen of the USA (several, in fact), though one can never be quite sure.

And the Walmer. A bloody loved Walmer. I loved the puns. I loved the house. I loved the harmonium, even though it didn't work. I loved the bloody huge garden and I loved playing croquet in the rain (I'd never played croquet in any kind of weather before). 

 I loved the Kent coastline. I read up on the Cinque Ports. Most of all, I loved the walk to Dover that Nick put on, despite the fact that Sock and I tried to sabotage it by diving into the first pub we found.


Tuesday, 15 July 2014


Still haven't got the bloody electrician sorted. Hopefully Patrick and Tomic will get a quote for the work to me within a day or so. When the took the front off the fuse box the hidden damage behind looked a bit like Luke's X-Wing after it got shot-up at the end of Star Wars*.

Shelves aren't sorted either though man is coming Thursday. But have planted some flowers and herbs in the garden, and they aren't dead yet. Next stop is a shed. Well, a shed base. Get the base down, nice and flat, then get the shed. This is the shed I want. I never imagined that shed buying would be so tricky. 16mm deep cladding is what you want, for maximum life, I'm told. Most DIY store sheds are only 12mm. Hopefully Eric Pickles will do something about this.

So yes, assuming the electrics don't burn out and take us with them we should be proud owners of a new shed sometime between now and Easter. Hurrah!

* I avoided the tempation to say "Episode 4** - A New Hope"
** "IV"?

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Not even pretending

So, without even trying to give even the slightest impression that I'm actually blogging, here is my to-do list (this way I can access it anywhere)


Packing list
Sunday night
ICC beer
Monty Pyhton
Oven hood + hob
Shelves in study              
Shelving man (Daryl?)
Chase Balls Pond
Birthdays in phone
Anton brunch
B, P, R P-H

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Sports desk

The dust had barely settled from England's Ashes defeat to Bradman's all-conquering Australians when the news came in the coach Andy Flower has left his position, to "spend more time running the United Nations". But the latest from the England camp is even more alarming - Captain Len Hutton announcing that Kevin Pietersen has been banished from the side, along with everyone else.

"The decision to cast KP into the abyss, along with Hobbs, Hammond, Barrington, Botham, Knott, Underwood, Larwood, Barnes and Trueman took a lot of guts. It was obviously a very big and important decision. Yes, we beat Bradman's lot in the summer and overcame Gavaskar's bunch in India the previous winter, but now it's time to move on. Moving forward so that we don't move backward. We all know how important team culture and unity are, and frankly, the bunch of chaps we have now are brilliant cricketers with huge egos who cause huge disruption in the dressing room. What we need to go forward is a quiet bunch of mediocre cricketers who'll do what I tell them and shut up"

It's well known that the dressing room has been a fractious place since last Tuesday, the day after Hutton had assured the world media that the dressing room was totally behind him. Botham, sources we can't possible reveal tell us, drinks too much and disrespected Hutton by playing "Jerusalem" on his armpit after the captain was dismissed for his 9th consequtive duck on the tour. Larwood refused to accept blame for the Ashes loss despite him being the top wicket-taker. Barnes wouldn't field a long-stop when Cook told him too, and was once seen smoking a pipe at 3rd man. Underwood's brilliant bowling can't make up for his shortcomings with the bat, and Hammond was shagging Cook's sister. And wife. And mother-in-law. Hobbs didn't talk to anyone else in the dressing room, and KP talked too much, in that annoying accent of his. He's also believed to have sent Aubery Faulkner a telegram in which he claimed Hutton couldn't pick Faulkner's googly, and described the Yorkshireman as a 'stinker'.

In an off-the-record meeting Trueman told Hutton that he couldn't stand Flower's coaching methods and David Saker's attempt to get him to bowl left-handed, and sadly, since the secret video of the entire meeting somehow got posted on Graham Gooch's YouTube account, his position is untenable. Despite Flower's resignation. And the fact that Trueman is England's greatest bowler, ever.

There's no actual dirt on Barrington or Knott, but in due course we'll make something up as to why the have been ditched.

Late news - New coach David Lloyd's 2nd best ever England side got off to a bad start when Clive Lloyd's West Indies dismissed them for 8. Broadly top-scored with 4 (chinese cut through 3rd man) but Cooky, Maddy, Trotty, Mogsy, Holly, Matty, Jimmy, Harmi and Ashley all made ducks. Malcolm Marshall took 7-0, but was then hospitalised with a fit of giggles, and Curtly Ambrose is now refusing to speak to his captain as he didn't even get a chance to bowl. New England cricket-supremo-for-life Andy Flower (no relation) blamed the defeat on 'the forces of darkness' and Jack Hobbs in particular.

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Dry dry wet

Meant to be a dry month. For various reasons (all lack of willpower) this has not happened.

St Peter's Honey Porter is bloody marvellous. (I knew this, but had somehow forgotten. Won't make that mistake again. Unless I drink too much.)

Sunday, 23 March 2014

A lack of quality and quantity

I'm tired.

There is, occasionally, time to blog or email or tweet (whatever that is) but to commit the blunt and mundane thoughts of my tired brain to the internet does not appeal. I don't want to inflict that on anyone. Except tonight. I'll inflict it on you tonight.

So, yeah, there are a load of people I need to write to. Well, not need. There are a load of people I should write to. People I would like to communicate with. Many of whom are overseas (where not-overseas is London, England). So yes, I should record some of the fun things we've been doing (and there have been some fun things - Sensing Spaces at the RA was particularly good) and ask those people what they are up to, and tie the whole things up with some kind of salutation (or does it open with a salutation?). Did I mention that I was tired.

It's bloody impossible to buy trousers in Shoreditch. Unless you are willing to shell out over a hundred quid per pair, anyway, and even if you are stunningly flush with cash there isn't much out there. I mean, dull, dull, dull. If I want bloody chinos I'll go to The bloody Gap. I've crawled all over Shoreditch and Spitalfields today, while Kate resolutely wrangled the children (this was the quid pro quo for me doing the same last weekend while she shopped). It was a successful trip. I was a great trip (I got two complements on the jacket I was wearing). Shoppingwise it was a success too. Two jackets, three waistcoats, 2 cravats, one shirt, a belt and a t-shirt featuring Clint Eastwood, Lee Van Cleef and Eli Wallach. I couldn't resist.

But no trousers. I counted 106,754 pairs of jeans, 6,679 pairs of cargo pants, and there was a few suits around and trousers that had clearly once been part of a suit. But virtually nothing in the 'stand-alone' trouser category and absolutely nothing in a small waist size than 44". I've had this (middle class) problem in the past and have usually resorted to buying former suit trousers that I then don't like and don't wear, and resort to jeans instead. (But don't worry, good people, I'm far too cheap to spend much on clothes, so these discarded trousers haven't caused an overdraft). I have one pair of good woollen slacks, which require dry cleaning which is just another chore, and one pair of actual not-jeans-not-part-of-a-suit trousers which I wear all the time and are now falling to bits.

So yeah, no trousers today. If you do have the cash, then Mendoza on Brick Lane is the place to go. Nothing dull there. I am going to interrogate the bank balance to work out if I can afford to shell out for some trousers for Mendoza, which aren't that expensive. But it still might have to wait until after both children are in full-time education.

When both children are in full-time education we are going to be rich baby.

and hopefully a bit less tired.

(Sorry if I haven't emailed you in the last 3 years)

Friday, 14 February 2014

Climate change: What they said, and what happened

Some people may have the misconcieved notion that scientists saw some global warming and started looking for something to blame. 

In fact, as these graphs show (taken from the excellent webtool produced by Dr Kevin Cowtan, which can be found at http://www.ysbl.york.ac.uk/~cowtan/applets/trend/trend.html), while there certainly had been warming in the 20th century when the IPCC was formed in 1988, warming over the preceding 30 years was actually pretty slow, and uncertain.

So while looking at this picture might alarm you (you in 1988, that is)

HADCRUT4 data series, 1900 to 1987

your 1988 self might be a lot more sanguine when you saw this

"No warming over the last 30 years", you might say.  "Nothing to worry about here."

So, if a bunch of climate scientists at the IPCC then said "We are certain of the following: there is a natural greenhouse effect...; emissions resulting from human activities are substantially increasing the atmospheric concentrations of the greenhouse gases: CO2, methane, CFCs and nitrous oxide. These increases will enhance the greenhouse effect, resulting on average in an additional warming of the Earth's surface. The main greenhouse gas, water vapour, will increase in response to global warming and further enhance it." would you be worried, or not?

I'd suggest that if, following that statement, you saw temperatures do this

you might come to the conclusion that the climate scientists knew something afterall.

OK, there are major limitations with this post.  You ideally like more than 24 years to extract a meaningful trend, and the trend over the last 24 years has been lower that the trend the IPCC estimated (though it's clearly within the error bars - the said 0.2 deg to 0.5 deg per decade) but I think the message is pretty clear.

If scientists tell you something bad is going to happen if you don't change your behaviour, and you ignore them, and then what they said happens, continuing to ignore them is not rational.

This is also good.

And, finally, has global temperature rise slowed since 1998?  You might be surprised to see the answer.

Tuesday, 4 February 2014

Shooting oneself in both feet

I was going to blog about the young poor in the UK, and the hopelessness of their situation.

Instead I'm blogging about a millionaire cricketer.  Such is life.

So, the man who gave us this, this and this has been sacked by the shirts who gave us this.

Can't really think of anything to say.  Hopefully England will rebuild under a new coach, as they did under Duncan Fletcher.  I fear, however, that it may be more like when we sacked (prematurely) this man - England proceded to lose 42 of the following 100 tests, winning only 27.  I don't need to tell you how poor their Ashes record was in that time.

So, a new coach starts sometime(?) and he'll not be allowed to select his best batsman. Ho hum.