Wednesday, 18 January 2023


 A Business Opportunity?

I notice Beckham the younger recently got himself married, I wish him well. But I also notice that Mum and Dad gifted the happy couple with a rather expensive classic Jaguar car, expensively converted to all electric.

Personally, as someone who appreciates old vehicles for their elegance of design and technical simplicity I don't really approve of such conversions. To me it's rather like remodelling the Elgin Marbles to show Simpson's cartoon characters. But as I won't ever be in the market for a half million quid's worth of classic Jaguar and they have kept it looking original I suppose I have no grounds to complain too much,

More to the point I don't think electric cars will prove to be particularly useful in the near future because so-called Net Zero is fast heading to be a failure. If we want the country and our society to continue to run and allow security and prosperity then significant new, and as yet unknown, sources of reliable and cheap energy and battery technologies are needed first.

There is plenty of official information about how much power, oil, gas, electricity etc, it takes to run the country and there simply isn't enough electricity being generated for everything they want to convert to run on electricity. The pie-in-the-sky political solutions of more windfarms, solar panels, economies, insulation etc, simply do not fit. 

Essentially windfarms and solar are not 'free' energy. The government threw billions of pounds of subsidies, and promises of huge feed in prices, to get them built. And while the wind is indeed 'free' when it blows the cost of building the infrastructure, in cash and CO2 terms, then harvesting that energy has steadily increased our energy costs for the last decade. Not forgetting that some days have no wind when they produce nothing, so we have to pay for a complete parallel, mostly gas fired provision. They save some CO2 but in no sense do they remove our need for oil and gas. What they have done is make everything expensive. Every single item you and I need in our daily lives: Food growing, food processing, heating, lighting, transport, shops, manufacturing, right down to rubbish disposal has at its root fuel cost. When fuel goes up everything goes up, and thanks to the total lack of consideration by our politicians of fuel security, reducing drilling licences and a reliance on Russian gas to 'fill the gap', we are now in serious trouble where many can't even afford basic heating and lighting, Firms are closing because they can't afford the overheads, international manufacturers are pulling out of Europe because prices make them uncompetitive. As long as places like China and India can offer cheap energy we are on a downward spiral into 3rd world poverty. We shouldn't be needing or considering 10% and 20% pay rises for some, that just makes things worse. We should be lowering living costs by at least 20% instead. We could do that if energy were cheap and plentiful!

So back to the electric cars. They take twice the energy input of a small petrol car to build. It takes about 5 years and 50k miles of running on green electricity before they save any CO2 compared to a small efficient petrol car at the same mileage. They are not saving significant CO2, just moving the production of it from the exhaust pipe to the mining and manufacturer. At the same time creating huge environmental damage mining and refining lithium. They are unafordable to many ordinary people, have range problems and charging difficulties, lose efficiency in cold weather, are almost useless for towing, and millions of people have no private driveways or home charging point. We could think this is nothing to do with climate, simply a deliberate plan to reduce car ownership, that makes more sense.

But, ignoring the side issues, the main issue is a battery problem again. There is nothing wrong with electric cars as such, just their expensive and environmentally damaging batteries, which like all rechargeable batteries lose efficiency after a few years. At which time the car becomes an expensive liability. After about 7 -10 years the battery needs replacing, typically £20k. Half the vehicle cost or indeed the price of a new small petrol car. 

What do you do with a nice car, in structurally good condition, that needs a £20K battery? Which is where my business opportunity comes in. One obvious solution would be to take the battery out and retrofit the running gear with a conventional high efficiency petrol or diesel engine. Or a small battery and petrol generator to create a hybrid. There are plenty of small autoengineering companies capable of such work and 'reuse and repurpose' is far more 'green' than scraping a part used car.

Tuesday, 3 January 2023

 NIMBY is what NIMBY does

The Not In My Back Yard ephitet has been banded around for years. Usually in a negative context as established inhabitants with their undeserved housing wealth and gold plated pensions blocking the youngsters from much needed housing or commercial development.

Anyhow while I thinking about this and whether to write something - I had the phrase 'like a wart on the Mona Lisa's nose' ready to go - when a different matter emerged on a FB music group I'm on. 

This concerned the permission given for a coal mine in Cumbria. Given that social media and the folk music world is infested with 'people of wokeness' you can imagine the comments against it. Ranging from coal is dirty and polluting, via leave it in the ground or it's not needed to the classic Tory Scum. It was quite interesting and hopeful to see some serious pushback in places.

Coal is not used significantly in the UK nowadays as a fuel, maybe a few heritage railways and folks living outside smokeless areas, so the question of climate effects is irrelevent. But coal is needed for current steel manufacturing processes and as a raw material for hundreds of products ranging from asprin, soaps, glues, nylon and rayon materials and more recently carbon fibre. Even the 'leave it in the grounders' had to acknowledge some of those things were useful.

So I imagined a conversation between a 'leave it in the grounder' and a'realist'.

(LITG)The country needs more houses -- (Realist)The country needs coal.

(LITG)We can get coal imported, even the steel firms say they don't need it -- (Realist) Of course they would rather buy it cheap from foreign places with lower safety and employment standards and then advertise their (fake) environmental virtue by not mining it here. 

(LITG) The mines already exist abroad why can't we use those? -- (Realist) There are depopulated villages in Italy desperate for people, can we send young families there and reduce building here?

(LITG) People need reliable access to their jobs and travel to family -- (Realist) Manufacturers need reliable secure supplies of raw materials.

(LITG)Communities need houses for new people to keep them vibrant -- (Realist) Indeed, just as Cumbria needs new jobs and opportunities.

(LITG) Cumbria is an environmentally important area for its landscape and biodiversity -- (Realist) So are the fields and woodlands that they want to build houses on.

I came to the conclusion that most of the objectors to a Cumbrian mine were simply NIMBYs. Not the traditional old, white, overwealthy, prime property hoarding, Brexit voting NIMBYs as maligned in the left wing press but a whole new generation of brainwashed, shallow minded, tribal, sloganising, new age NIMBYs.



 



Saturday, 10 December 2022

 An Idea For Our Time

I have been reading that an astonishing number of younger people actually firmly believe that during their lifetimes the world will descend into a hell of spontaneous combustion, sea level rise and catastrophe heralding the end of society as we know it. Over 20% are apparently avoiding having children to save them suffering.

Clearly this generation have never been taught critical thinking and are absolutely brainwashed by the alarmist climate nonsense of the past couple of decades and believe every word of the most extreme and idiotic pronouncements of the climate modellers and scammers who make money out of the pointless and expensive schemes to 'mitigate' this cataclysmic end to the planet.

The clue to a solution may lie in the way they think of Covid. For sure a nasty illness for many elderly and folks with existing health problems but these youngsters firmly believe that Covid was vastly worse than the reality, that it could be controlled by a bit of paper over the face, and even now can be prevented by repeated doses of an essentially untested and now well known to be both ineffective and dangerous magic injection.

So my idea of today is that some sensible non-woke company should develop a (harmless) injection to prevent global warming and climate change. This should be heavily marketed to the affected generation of non critical thinkers. Slogans like 'Protect your kids and your friends, get your anti heat jab' or 'Build back Cooler' could be used. These along with summary dismissal from jobs and social benefit entitlements plus cooling passports to control travel for the non jabbed should see a decent takeup. Then when a reasonable percentage are jabbed the warming scam can be declared over.

It may seem a crazy solution but this is a post-truth age and we are dealing with some crazy people.


Thursday, 3 November 2022

 I Have Not been Procrastinating, Honest.

About 3 weeks ago we were sitting around lamenting that we hadn't seen friends in France for 3 years so hatched a last minute plan to go visiting. We had crossings via the tunnel, bought pre Covid but not used, and Eurotunnel have been very nice and kept extending their validity so that bit was easy. (Score good service points for Eurotunnel!)

The rest of the preparation was anything but easy. Having not considered foreign parts for 2 years we had to sort European insurance, breakdown cover and various new rules like UK stickers instead of GB ones, Crit'air sticker to drive through Rouen plus having some bits and bobs fixed on the camper van. Elderly enough now that the AA and RAC don't want to know and even specialist insurance companies roll their eyes and demand service history before they will provide breakdown cover.

Anyhow, we made it and had a week's trundle about catching up with people and places around Normandie. One wet day and a week of warm sunny days and blue skies. No serious problems with the much publicised petrol shortage, no traffic jams, and no parking charges in the small Normandie towns. France has its problems but the rural areas simply reminded me what a total mess the UK is nowadays. Underlined by getting back to a blocked M20 in Kent, gridlock on the M25, and an horrendous pitch black section of M6 in torrential rain, unbelievably heavy traffic and of course no hard shoulder.

But the wine stocks are replenished, I recommend Lidl for the best selection of perfectly pleasant, drinkable basic table wines, many between 2 and 3 euro a bottle, equivalent to £6 or £7 here. And best of all my friend had bought a second hand electric log splitter then found it couldn't cope with the huge logs he uses in his enormous french fireplace, so I am now the owner of said splitter which is ideal for the smaller log burner we have. I was trying to decide if I could justify one at new UK price, now the problem is solved. Had a funny look from the customs when they checked the van for stowaways but I suppose they don't have a rule for such stuff.


 

So back to the UK winter, although with the rain the lawn, which was burned brown for weeks is growing like crazy now so that looks like the next job if the stupid mower will start.

Thursday, 29 September 2022

 Nostalgia and Memories around  a Jowett Bradford Van

This is a dual purpose post, someone on the car group asked for any stories of Jowetts, and I decided to expand the idea a bit - but it's all true, I promise. Just edited because I have actually found some photos. I don't know who took them. I'm sure the cat was helpful.

My grandfather spent WWII as an engine driver based at Stratford, so he Granny and their daughter lived in the area during the blitz. Their daughter met and married my father, and the end of the war found the whole family living in a largish terraced house near Stratford. My parents had the downstairs and my grandparents lived upstairs, quite a luxurious amount of space for the post war housing shortage in the area. It's probably 4 or more flats nowadays.

Soon after the war I came along, followed by my younger sibling. While space became an issue my grandfather retired, close family friends emigrated to Canada under the £10 scheme, my father got a job outside London and so moving house became a possibility. The chosen area was Colchester, between the grandparent's family and my parent's friends in and around East London.

I was about 6 so wasn't consulted, but one day my father arrived home with a rather battered and scruffy grey Jowett Bradford, this was to be the transport to go house hunting! The van had a rear seat and side windows, described by Jowett as a Utility Van - she got the nickname Tilly.

Wow! Money was scarce and material goods were expensive, we had no phone or TV, but we had a car! There was only one other car in the whole street. Admittedly that was a pristine brand new Jaguar roadster which I walked past with almost religious reverence and awe on my way to infant school but now we had a car too! Even though it was rather a jaded, folorn and less sleek design than my childish dreams might have wished.

In those days there was none of this needing a licenced driver or lessons while you learned. My father got a provisional licence and a pair of L plates then spent every spare moment driving round the local streets practicing 3 point turns, reversing round corners, changing gear (no synchro on it) etc. I was often allowed to go with him, perched and bouncing around on the front passenger seat. Health and safety would have a fit nowadays with a new driver driving round London with a unrestrained 6 year old in the front seat, but I was mesmerised by the exitement and that was back then. You have to go somewhere like Alton Towers to get that feeling nowadays. Dad passed his test, threw away the L plates and we were set.

The next summer became house hunting season. Back then estate agents published a list of houses for sale which was snail-mail posted out to prospective purchasers, then, each week my parents would check the options and every Saturday was looking at houses day.  It was a bit like a military operation as the estate agents all closed at midday, so viewing arrangements, or borrowing keys for empty houses (people were trusted then), had to be done before noon at the Colchester offices.

My mother made up picnics and drinks then early in the morning the whole family assembled outside and climbed abord the Bradford for the trip. Dad driving, Granny in the front with her favourite bonnet, Mother, Grandfather and me on the back seat and my newly arrived sibling in a carrycot on the floor. Even in my memory it makes me think of the Carl Giles cartoon family that was syndicated in the press.

The A12 had few by-passes back then, and the Bradford struggled to reach 40mph, so the trip, as we chugged along through Brentwood, Chelmsford, Hatfield Peverill, Witham, Kelvedon and Mark's Tey took well over 2 hours on a good day, then there was the race around Colchester town to visit all the estate agents of interest before the noon deadline and the afternoon's sight visits could start. My memory of that summer is of the A12, being lost in rural Essex and sitting in empty houses with sandwiches and orange juice. But we succeeded, a small house for my grandparents near some shops in Colchester and a family house in a village just outside the town, which became home for my next 12 years.

The old Bradford had done sterling service chugging steadily east and west along the A12 and all around North East Essex week after week with just one breakdown to its name. That was on the Colchester one way system at some traffic lights, (the St John's St/Head Street junction for any locals). The van refused to pull away but instead made a loud thump and rolled slowly backwards, being brought to a halt by the front bumper of a police car waiting behind us. Oops! Fortunately cars were solid then and the police car was undamaged, they were very considerate as we all exited from the vehicle and en masse pushed it round the corner out of the way. Tilly was left to the tender mercies of a local garage and we had a very late night getting home on the train. It turned out that a half shaft had snapped.

For the next year or two Tilly was the family transport, taking my father to work in the week and making regular trips to the grandparents on Sundays, sometimes a drive out to Suffolk and Constable country for a picnic. Tilly again was trouble free except for one occasion on the drive when a petrol leak caused a - fortunately small - fire under the bonnet.

The MOT was introduced in 1960 and the local garage warned it would fail, various bits needed attention including a badly rotted wooden floor. Not many cars fail for wood rot in the floor nowadays. As a result that summer holiday became the car rebuild year. My father bought a second Bradford, I suspect a later one with the more powerful engine, and proceeded to dismantle both on the front lawn. Mother, who tended to care what the neighbours would think, was less than amused! Then he built one good one from the two. I can remember Dad assembling a 'work gang' of  me, and assorted neighbours to lift off the rear bodies so that the floorboards could be removed and the best chassis painted, then replacement of the floor with new tongue and groove floorboards before a reassembled work gang lifted the best body back. My grandfather, who was interested in clocks, sat for hours with bits of rear axle and differential rebuilding the axle assembly. The final touch was managed by bribery of the sprayer at the local garage for a smart paint job. Dark blue below the waistline, light blue above and - if I remember correctly - black wings.


 The unused unwanted parts were disposed of by using a trench, conveniently dug through the garden as part of water board improvements to replace all the septic tanks in the road with mains sewerage. I wonder if the people living in the house now realise that under the path round their house is most of a Jowett Bradford?

A year or so on the Bradford was sold - I think to a local dairyman who already used Bradfords - and replaced by a fancy second hand Hillman Minx estate which distinguised itself very soon by breaking down comprehensively on a sodden wet day half way up the hill to Dover Castle just as we arrived there on holiday. It was swapped for a 1960 Morris Traveller, which I inherited and still own, now rebuilt.




Thursday, 15 September 2022

 Today's Project

After a few welcome days away in the campervan it was home again to the next job on my never ending list of 'stuff to do', the dratted tap in the toilet. I only renovated the toilet as my Covid project but the tap gave up after under 2 years.



Why on earth would a tap manufacturer make a nice solid chromed brass sink tap and equip it with a cheap nasty plastic support ring where it attaches through the sink? There are no children or anyone here who has strained it or misused it, it's simply rubbish! Without the ring the tap can't be fixed to the sink so just wobbles around and can't be turned on or off.

So Amazon to the rescue and a nice shiny new tap. 

The only problem being that I attached the original tap with the tails to the sink before fixing the sink in place, this time I had to remove it and refit the replacement with the sink in place or face having to dismantle the waste which runs through a boxing wedged in behind the toilet. 

Fortunately after an epic struggle and a lot of naughty words it's done. But a note to self: If you ever fit another handbasin position it slightly further from the wall so your hand can reach behind it!

Thursday, 1 September 2022

 Today's project


The outdoor log rack.

I shall convert it into a 4 foot unit with a shelf rather than a long 8 foot rack, some drilling required!

So that's the main frame. I'm done for the afternoon.



Update - almost done.


It's wierd how the brain works. Nagging me that the roof needed supports underneath. But of course it doesn't, it's simply a 'hanging'shelf rather than one supported from below. Some mesh on the shelves and it needs some angle to protect the lath ends then I think I have some cheap stick-on flashing to seal it to the wall (when the rain stops and the wall is dry).

So that's part 1, the easy to grab quickly ready to use log store near the house door. Now I need a larger store elsewhere in the garden for the longer term storage.


Saturday, 27 August 2022

Another week, Another Music Festival 

I was intending to write last week about the music festival we went to early in August but I'm afraid I have been practising my procrastination skills. It's very easy to practice procrastination, it takes very little effort and is a low cost activity. True it's a bit disheartening that nobody can be bothered to provide a certificate or reward for all the time spent but it's sometimes our fate in life to have our unique and special skills unrecognised.

My other excuse is that real life got a bit annoying. The ageing camper van needing tax and reinsuring for another year. Pre Covid we always took out EU driving cover then EU breakdown insurance combined with travel insurance as a separate policy so we could enjoy 2 or 3 trips to France. But the van is now too old to use that breakdown company, so hours waiting in telephone queues to get details of what's available and finding proof of regular maintenance, then discovering the costs to decide on a sensible alternative - if indeed there is any point to finding an alternative in today's world. I suspect we'll be lucky to pay for food and fuel and stay comfortable at home by next spring so it became more a case of the cheapest way to keep options open.

Anyhow our second festival of the summer: Still folk based music but more electric folk rock and with a twist of nostalgia acts this time, the Fairport Convention Annual Reunion which is held every August at Cropredy in Oxfordshire.

It's a very special and unique festival as it encompasses the entire village. The local WI serve meals in the village hall, the local Scouts act as marshals and litter wardens, there is a village charity car boot sale. The local pubs put on events, the cricket club rents its showers and opens its bar for drinks and snacks, there is a street market, while farmers clear their livestock to make camping space and the whole lot becomes a festival site for 3 days of music in a field at the edge of the village.

You might wonder why the villagers tolerate such an event? The festival has its roots in the village fete when the first reunion of the then disbanded band took place for charity back in the 1980s. So village events are fully coordinated with the festival, the shop and local pubs make money to stay in business, the village cricket club has some of the best amateur facilities in the country, the WI, scouts and other clubs are well financed for the year, the local economy, and local charities thrive on the income from the event and hopefully everyone has a good time.

There is still the puzzle of how to define folk music. Some is obviously traditional, Scottish airs, Irish jigs, Morris tunes, very old songs of unknown origin. Singer songwriters are generally accepted as folk music if the material is designed to tell a story, fits the style of traditional songs, and hasn't come from commercial 'Tin Pan Alley' writers. Other material is more borderline. For example the tune of Matty Groves is found with different words in the USA as Shady Grove, and as a song called Lady Margaret,. Origins lost in time, transmitted by sailors and settlers it's very obviously a folk song. But whether it counts as folk music or folk-rock when played by Tom Petty, or the 60s psychedelic band Quicksilver Messenger Service is an open question?

I'll finish by recommending some videos that to me explain a little about wht folk rock is. The first is a US singer songwriter Emmit Rhodes, who back in the 1960s wrote a song called Time Will Show the Wiser and recorded it with his band for the US market.

 Fairport Convention heard it and recorded a cover version for their first album.


Then in 2017, at the Fairport Annual Reunion, to celebrate 50 years since the band was formed, all the same original members of Fairport - excepting the drummer Martin Lamble who was sadly killed in a tragic road accident and was replaced here by Dave Mattacks - got together and played it live onstage.


So now back to procrastinating, This weekend is the Shrewsbury Folk Festival, I'm not there but they stream excellent quality live video from both their main stages. It's watchable via their festival website or via Youtube. Just google, there is some great music going on there this weekend.


Monday, 25 July 2022

 Holidays

A couple of weekends ago we took ourselves off to a music festival. Many people probably associate the idea of an open air music festival with events like Glastobury. But apart from being on a farm in a beautiful part of southern England this was as far from the crowds, mayhem and myriad horrors of Glastonbury as it's possible to get. A few thousand sensible, considerate people gatherered to listen to what was predominently english folk music. The photo showing the half empty post festival camping field as people left, devoid of any rubbish or abandoned tents and chairs with not even an errant piece of paper left behind shows the difference.


The other thing many people may not realise is that, although taking influences from all around the UK and elsewhere, there is such a thing as english folk music.Maybe it is that wider mix of influences that separates it from Scottish reels and airs or Irish jigs?

While the Beatles were revitalising pop music in Liverpool down in some London clubs there was increasing interest in folk music. American artists like Paul Simon and Dylan encouraged english singers and guitarists like Ralph McTell, Sandy Denny, Bert Jansch. Then bands like Fairport Convention, Pentangle and Steeleye Span added modern electric instrumentation and began to investigate old english songs and musical traditions. Morris dance tunes, field ballads, industrial work songs, nautical songs were reinvented for a new audience. 

Some of those artists and bands are still performing. Fairport Convention still play regularly, Steeleye Span occasionally get together, Ralph McTell played this year, great songs and he is still the best ragtime blues guitarist I have ever heard. Younger bands like Merry Hell from Wigan with energetic electric social commentary, Trad arrr, with a mix of electric morris tunes, traditional ballads and self-penned songs in a traditional mould are carrying on the traditions.

The other pleasures of these festivals is checking out the specialist food sellers, craft ales in the beer tent and small specialist traders and artisans around the site. I usually end up with a few CDs, a tee shirt or a bit of local artisan work. This year however was unexpected, a charity who collected refurbished then supplied tools to establish workshops and small businesses in developing countries, any unsuitable for shipping being sold to pay their costs, so I ended up with a lovely old, but excellent quality, refurbished electric mitre saw. Not something I expected to find at a music festival!


Sunday, 3 July 2022

 How Woke Is Your Cat?

A few days ago our grocery delivery arrived (Yes, I know I'm lazy, if the shop will deliver why bother to drive into town to the shop?). In the delivery was the usual bag of treats for the cat, called Dreamies, made by Mars Petcare, and well known to most cat owners.

And on the pack was a rainbow and the declaration of how proud Dreamies were to be sponsoring an LGBT charity. 

I can well understand how a company division making pet products could sensibly sponsor a pet related charity. There are various such charities who I am sure would love some commercial sponsorship and many pet owners would be happy to choose the product, approving of the charity.

However, to the best of my understanding our cats have never once asked about or required LGBT counselling services. LGBT issues have absolutely nothing to do with cats or any other pets and are unlikely to tempt the product purchaser. Especially if, like me, they are sick and tired of being bombarded with LBGT propaganda and news coverage.

Yet another blatant case of a company ignoring their primary job of producing products as efficiently and cheaply as possible for the customer and making money for their shareholders by wasting their time climbing on the woke virtue signalling bandwagon. Fortunately there are other cat treats avaiable.