Tag Archives: UK

Blame everyone

Well, we’re off.  As you read this we’ll have already passed through customs and be well on our way across the water into the US of A.  This is a timed post, written on Wednesday night. and I’ll report any misadventures and observations later, after a very large drink.

What I’d like to say is this; having seen the UK news over the last few days I just want to say I truly feel sorry for the poor buggers trying to earn a crust at Port Talbot Steel Plant, only to find their livelihoods are being snatched away.  The trouble is, when somewhere as big as Port Talbot goes tits up, everywhere else in the area suffers.  In fact, every trader involved in the supply area finds their cashflow developing a nasty stutter.  For some it will mean the breakup of everything they gave their lives to building.  Homes.  Families.  Social networks.  Through no fault of their own.

However, even if you’re unaffected, just remember this; if you are a UK voter and supported the Conservatives, Labour, Liberal Democrats, especially the Greens or any of the pro-EU political parties in any of the last four general elections, you voted for the very carbon taxes that just cost all those Welsh steelworkers and quite a few service employees their jobs.  As they say in the valleys; Proud of it are you?

Part of my genetic heritage comes from those parts, so I do feel a little sympathy for the people who will probably have to cancel their 2017 Christmases .  All because of a lie.  A veritable crime of the century.  The one perpetrated from the highest levels of the United Nations, whose name is carbon taxation and whose stated cause is ‘Wealth redistribution’.  That old fraudster ‘Man Made Global Warming’.  Whose wealth do these corrupt bastards want to redistribute?  Yours.  Mine.  Everyone’s.  Right into the pockets of the politicians and their financial sponsors.

Now repeat after me; “Carbon taxation is economic suicide.”  Got that?  Now don’t forget it.  Don’t vote for anyone who will support it.  Your job may depend upon it.

/rant

Gun crime

If you open a newspaper or read an online news aggregator about guns and shootings south of the 49th Parallel you might be forgiven for thinking its Ker-razy down there with people being gunned down on every street corner. Well, pardon me for being a bit sceptical, but I’ve been to the States a few times, and the only guns I saw were on the hips of Police officers and the odd sporting goods store.

We keep on getting told that gun deaths are this and gun crime is that, so I thought I’d have a look at some fairly reliable up to date (2013 / 2014) sources instead of the panties-in-a-bunch hysteria that passes for news nowadays. For the USA, the stats have been culled from the FBI’s resource pages. Never mind about posturing by bought and paid for politicians, let’s see what the cold hard data tells us, as well as taking a gander at 20th century violent crime stats. Like in the UK, the murder rate peaked in 2001 / 02 (9/11 and all that) and has been on the decrease ever since.

The USA for example, is now almost twice as safe per 100,000 from murder as in 1960, for example; 1960 saw 9,110 homicides out of a quoted population of 179,323,175. Now if we do the same exercise for 2014, there were 14,249 homicides (All causes) out of a much higher population of 318,857,056. If you care to examine the data tables, homicide in the USA has become an even more rare event in 2014. That’s despite all the scawy stories that we’re even more dooooomed than last week. Ooo, and it’s so ‘unprecedented’. As for being shot by a Law enforcement official, that’s a gnats bollock more likely, but not much. At least in terms of deaths measured against population. The same seems to be true across the Westernised world. The figures do not lie.

Gun crime? I think the answer is right there in the statistics. Most of the gun murders in the US at least, appear to be in the Southern states. At a first glance, California and Texas look well dodgy, with urbane gun controlled California outdoing those gun-totin concealed carry Texans by a country mile. Yeehaw pardner! I think. What is more telling are the stats referring to homicides by age, sex, and ethnicity.

Handguns do, at least superficially, seem to be the major problem. But the stats make no distinction between legal and non-legal ownership. Which is something I can’t seem to find any information on. Although a cursory reading of the FBI’s 2013 homicide statistics indicate that the majority of gun killings are down to African-American and Hispanic males between 16 and 30 years of age. Which for most people should not come as a massive surprise. So is the answer a blanket ban on anyone from that social grouping under 30 owning a handgun? Which would only take the guns out of the hands of the law-abiding, because, you know those criminals, well they don’t obey things like laws….. Ooo, and wouldn’t that be ‘racial profiling’? So much better that people get killed than a few get racially profiled, eh?

As for ‘gun-free zones’ well they’ve been a great success, haven’t they, accounting for ‘only 13%’ of all ‘mass shootings’? Please note; the FBI defines a mass shooting where ‘four or more people are killed’ and the ‘Everytown’ published research on this topic has been described as ‘highly misleading‘. So if only three got cut down in their prime, or there wasn’t an obvious sign up, sorry chums but it just doesn’t count. Except to all those poor bloody bereaved family members who thought their precious ones were in a ‘safe’ place. Be it an Army base (Contrary to popular opinion, soldiers do not generally go around armed on base), school, temple, public office or even a coffee shop with a home made ‘gun free zone’ poster taped to the door. ‘Gun-Free’ zones are no use at all unless it is impossible for anyone with a firearm (legally held or not) to get in.

Right, so what’s the answer? The Freakonomics team came up with the notion that abortion on demand reduced the number of single parent households and reduced crime overall (With an 18 year lag). Which certainly appears to be the case. Fewer unwanted children with low social expectations and lower self esteem is obviously a good idea. A stable home life with strong role models has always been a key factor in preventing kids from going off the rails. Teaching that violence is not the best first idea when attempting to resolve disputes also has merit, but that’s only going to work if those testosterone charged and frustrated young men who seem to do most of the killing find a better way of burning off all their untapped aggression. Which won’t happen by giving them Macramé and poetry classes, or simply taking the guns off everyone. The killers will only use illegal guns, or resort to knives, and when the knives are taken away, golf clubs, baseball bats, rocks and eventually their bare hands. Okay, so no real answer there……

On the other hand, speaking as someone who, as a young (and sometimes very foolish) man who used to run with the rougher crowd, I feel the answer to gun crime, and homicide in general may be found outside the simple knee-jerk ‘ban it’ mindset. Martial arts clubs (Especially boxing; see this UK parliamentary all party report on it here and this US based example), serious competitive sport, or somewhere a strong physical role model can make an impact or mentor otherwise aimless and rebellious youth. Because young men in particular need robust peer group based self esteem and somewhere to burn off their natural aggression. Which whilst not the complete answer, will help divert their natural violent impulses from manifesting in more destructive ways. Like the intoxicant fuelled gang lifestyles that only add to the violence. Or social isolation, where those lacking the communication skills needed to negotiate their way in the world occasionally boil over or ‘go postal’.

Here in Canada, we generally have lower crime rates because the culture is different and most kids seem to be trained to seek non-violent means of ‘conflict resolution’ from an early age. Here we have an overall homicide rate of 1.45 per 100,000 for 2014, although you can easily double that for Toronto and Montreal. In BC, you’re more likely to get snacked on by a Bear or Cougar than shot, even in the gang enclaves of Abbotsford and around East Hastings in Downtown Vancouver.

It’s rather ironic, but perhaps controlled gladiatorial punch-ups might prove the best short term available answer to violent (and therefore gun) crime? As well as good, intelligence-led policing like that which seems to be working in Manchester, UK. At least until the demographics and culture have time to readjust to a less violent ‘normal’? For example; first time juvenile offenders sent to ‘sweep the gym’ for a year, just to knock the corners off them, rather than do expensive jail time in what have been termed ‘Universities of Crime’ (A.K.A. Prisons)? Maybe some form of legalised ‘fight club’ where the violent can learn that getting hit hurts, so maybe it’s not such a good idea to hit others. Hmm. Co-opt ethnic (or non-ethnic) peer groups into competing rather than killing via subsidised sports facilities. Ex-Military (Preferably combat veterans) would be the ideal recruits for such a long term program. Someone with a few rough edges who can earn and hold the respect of otherwise feral youth. Give them a decent raison d’etre.

You know, it’s such a crazy idea it might just work…….. And no US President would ever have to cry in public, ever again……..

Tough love needed

Every week it seems that some entitled University student or other gets their panties in a bunch about something, whether it’s the racist ‘Rhodesmustfall’ campaign or some sensitive little petal getting all het up about ‘safe spaces’ where they are not able to see or hear anything that might possibly upset them, including people of another gender or ethnicity.   Not that there’s any such thing as a ‘safe space’. I was rather under the impression that Universities are places you go to learn things rather than just kick over apple carts, or is that just me being hopelessly naive?  Maybe the University authorities need to exercise a little tough love and ‘send down’ the odd less than diligent protestalot student once in a while. Rhodes scholar or no. I think ‘no tolerance’ for abuse of any sort (Including against University institutions, employees and faculty members) should be the policy, but that’s just me.

As for safety, should we not be teaching these ‘Childults‘ that there is no such thing as a ‘safe space’ because all risk is relative?  If these people truly want to be safe they’d never consider even crossing a deserted street because who knows what might come along.  They shouldn’t even think about applying for a driving licence or getting into a car because have you seen the UK road death figures lately?

Deaths for 2013
Pedestrians; 398
Cyclists; 109
Motorcyclist / Pillion; 331
Car occupant / driver; 785
Other; 90
Total road deaths; 1,713

Overall UK deaths data sheet here.
The Guardian’s accidental death comparison for 2007 and 2011.

That’s without examining the ROSPA reported approximate UK death toll of 6,000 every year(2002 figures), of people in their own homes. Hold hard a minute! Six thousand people a year, in the UK alone dying in home accidents? Most of which happen in the ironically titled ‘living’ room? That old grim reaper must have a hell of a job keeping his scythe sharp. If you can’t find safety in your own living room, where can you be ‘safe’? You’re ‘safer’ on the pillion of a drunk biker riding at 100mph plus? Who knew? Which isn’t strictly speaking true by the way, but statistically it might seem so. In the comparative period for 2010-2011 there were 636 homicides, 60 of whom were shot. That’s including one mass shooting incident where 12 people were killed. Of the total homicides 232 died from wounds given by a ‘sharp instrument’. Official UK report here.

For comparison, with official sources where available:
2011 US Death Stats Domestic (Unintentional deaths 96,753), Road (32,479), Homicide
2011 Canadian Death Domestic (No comparable figures), Road, Homicide
Now compare those with the rest of the world (Mapped data by worldlifeexpectancy.com)

So much for ‘safe spaces’, eh? By the way, around eight (8) people in the UK die by accident in their own bed every year. That’s twice the death rate of bee, wasp or hornet stings. Blood and sand.

Personally I’m not averse to a modicum of risk taking because you have to die of something. It’s part of the human condition. I will die, as will everyone else currently breathing. Mortality is built into our very DNA. We all have a ‘sell by’ date whether we like it or not. Death is a capricious beast and all we can do is manage our risks because if the statistics teach us anything, they show that there cannot be any such thing as a ‘safe space’. Life isn’t ‘fair’, never has been or will be. All you can do is keep your eyes open, grab a little ‘fairness’ for yourself and have some fun in the meantime. If it’s your time, then that’s that. Who wants to live forever?

Meanwhile…

Over in the UK, Sky Broadband have enabled ‘porn’ filters by default to all new customers from the New Year until 9pm(?) for the ‘sake of the children’ as promoted by the UK’s current Prime Minister. Forgive me for sounding cynical, but all this sounds like fiddling while Rome burns. Shouldn’t the UK government be focusing on more pressing problems like the migrant crisis, the economy being in the tank and fuel poverty to mention but three? Compared to those, porn is a very minor issue, and this decision may just blow up in Sky’s face as they find their market share shrinking. Why? Because human nature.

Some Internet filters block specific web sites and traffic to and from specific IP addresses. For example readers coming to this blog from a certain set of anonymous proxy servers may find themselves unable to comment because, due to a previous troll infestation, I pasted in a tranche of ‘anonymous’ proxy IP addresses into WordPress’ handy dandy little spam filter feature. However, arrival from a ‘non-anonymous’ source means you can contribute or not as much as you please. Just Cave Canem and be aware that the blog authors have a robust attitude which some might not be comfortable with. This is not a ‘safe space’.

Other filters work on web addresses and URL’s and yet more on text strings. Which means that intellectual works such as Somerset Maughams classic work ‘On human bondage‘ might be unavailable along with references to the Wessex novels of Thomas Hardy. So, bang goes the English Literature homework. Or won’t you be able to write ‘bang’ any more? Especially when this piece of onomatopoeia is used as a verb to describe the sex act? Oh, and any Junior School PHSE homework may go out of the window too for those brave new UK Sky customers. Whoosh! There go your kids grades.

Then there’s the assertion than anyone discussing the prohibition and control freakery surrounding drugs, tobacco, vaping, alcohol and sweet stuff will get caught up in the ‘mission creep’ of said filters. To the point where anything not strictly allowed will be Verboten. Unless of course the Sky customer in question has invested in a low cost VPN connection to bypass all the filtering. Lots of people need VPN’s, like a ‘road warrior’ sales rep who doesn’t work in a regular office but needs a secure ordering connection to their companies network. People working from home or those needing secure remote server control. Like it or not, VPN’s are a growing market sector.

Better still, don’t use Sky. Especially if you may need to change address, ever. The tales of Sky subscribers who have difficulties cancelling their subscription are legion. If legend is to be believed, they’re worse than BT used to be. And that takes some doing, believe me (Had to do it once – never again). There are plenty of other, much better, UK ISP’s out there. I used to like Zen up to 2007, but have no idea what they’re like nowadays.

As for trying to impose a ‘top down’ morality? What may be moral to some people may be completely immoral to others. Which may lead to prohibitions on just about every human activity. That said, I tend to fall back on Heinlein’s maxim; “The principle [of censorship] is wrong. It’s like demanding that grown men live on skim milk because the baby can’t have steak.”

Which leads to the thought that the young children this filtering is supposed to protect are generally not interested in sex at all, in fact there’s a massive “Euw” factor for pre pubescent children as far as matters of the flesh are concerned. Conversations generally go like this;
Child one (Giggling); “I heard Mum and Dad having sex last night.”
Child two (Hides face); “That is soooo gross.”
As for children being ‘damaged’ by porn. Maybe not. Incest has been a crime for centuries, and as far as I’ve been able to ascertain, is no more widespread than previously. Besides, sexually violating children, the activity which this measure is presumably supposed to suppress, is Internet independent. Those who have such urges will indulge their baser impulses (so my lawyer stepdaughter informs me) whether there’s any such material available or not. Even if it isn’t in ‘Fifty shades of Grey’. Which I wouldn’t be surprised to find in Mr & Mrs Camerons bookcase.

Regarding bans, it’s worth noting that such blanket prohibitions always make any given problem far worse than it was in the first place. See effects of Prohibition and the ‘War on Drugs‘ to name but two.

But no, you can’t get that through Cameron’s (Or many other modern politicians) thick head because ‘morality’ is such an easy soundbite. He’s saying “Hah! Look at me, I’m fixing something which isn’t that big a problem…” when there are so many more pressing issues. Heavy sigh….

Old jokes, a disambiguation

Following a little transnational cultural mistranslation in the comments of yesterdays post, I would like to offer a little clarification. Here at the Bill Sticker Institute for the preservation of old jokes, japes and facetiousness, our single becobwebbed researcher has been moved to lift his weary Jesters cap off the pages of the ‘Bumper Compendium of Auncient Fooleries‘ by Geoffrey Chaucer (1st edition). A venerable vellum tome which we alone own the copyright to, and have the last extant copy of. So there. It’s even got the one about the ‘Last goose in the shambles’. For any connoisseur of English humour, this should be a clue to it’s comprehensiveness.

One of our helpful customer service IgorsHowever, the jest in question is more recent than that, I merely mentioned that we have a copy of such a rare volume to demonstrate how seriously old jokes are taken around here. Notwithstanding, our researcher has been despatched, capering into our catacomb like archives with a jingle, a hey nonny-nonny and a blow ’bout the cheeks with his inflated pigs bladder (Which we hope is not a permanent condition). Not to find anything out, we just want him out of the way so our trusty crew of Igors can do the real work.

What they have come back with are the references to late Victorian music hall routines, where a comic actor or actress would make the statement “And my case comes up next Tuesday.” as a throwaway punchline. The focus for this line is a mockery of the various obscenity laws then being enacted, where any heretofore innocent act would reputedly result in the perpetrator being arrested and subject to trial in the various Police or Magistrates courts. Having one’s ‘Case come up’ means that one had been summonsed to appear before the magistrates on some unspecified charge of obscene conduct. The date of the appearance to be set by the teller of the joke. To wit; “My case comes up on Tuesday” is a statement that one has been accused, and a court appearance has been set for the following Tuesday. The ‘Tuesday’ is a random variable, and has no effect on the jests efficaciousness.

Therefore; “Embrace your inner Englishman.” Made as an exhortation to behave in a given fashion, would be met by;
“I did, and my case comes up on Tuesday.” To imply that embracing one’s inner Englishman, presumably in public, was a public decency offence and having a degree of obscenity sufficient for the forces of law and order to become involved. The subtext being that the exhorted would not be complying with the requested standard of behaviour.

This particular joke has largely fallen into disuse since the 1960’s and 70’s, when its last recorded use on UK nationwide Television was on the Morcambe and Wise show. Other notable users of this specific joke are Tony Hancock and the entire ‘Carry on‘ team. Researchers have also recounted how it was also a favourite of Benny Hill.

There are those of course, who will become outraged and scream like demented toddlers that such a statement is ‘anti (Insert cause here)’ because the use of said phrase implies that their chosen cause is an offence against public mores and morals, which in retrospect is probable. But these are people who take themselves and their opinions far too seriously. Therefore we should be cautious, and approach such topics only when heavily armed. Just in case.

For those of you who don’t give a fig for trendy causes, we are pleased to announce that our playlist of young ladies getting their kit off in an artistic fashion is an ongoing project, with videos being added at least once every day or two. We are happy to add that most are definitely not safe for work.

We hope the aforementioned has been of assistance.

As an appendix we would like to introduce, at least to lovers of satirical Country music; Miss Shirley Gnome.

Points of evidence

Still hanging around at Mrs S’s conference. Tucked into a corner, watching, listening, observing. Picking my place so I don’t get eaten alive by the mosquitoes in this neck of the woods. Putting up with the low-everything catering. Although salt and pepper is available now. No aircon in our room so Mrs S isn’t sleeping well, which means I don’t either. Lots of being nudged awake “Are you asleep, Bill?” to which the answer always is; “I was.” Such are the delights of married life.

I’m a member of the awkward squad, but you knew that didn’t you? You charming little darlings. Both of you. One of those who tries to take a second look at whatever scare story is blared at them by the lamestream. When that evidence is available to me.Spot the blogger Most of the time I’m like the pictured gentleman, who may or may not be August Landmesser. Arms folded, not saying a lot, but pitching in when he thinks he’s got something to say. Not one of the herd.

On this topic I’ve been following the last couple of years revelations regarding the Savile case. Especially the issues highlighted over at Anna Raccoons. While he was alive, Jimmy Savile was an entertainment public figure and charity worker who had been questioned by police regarding certain accusations. There’s even a whole #ibelieveher lynch mob on twatter who automatically believe any allegations of abuse by celebrities without burden of proof.

Now having done a little bit of enforcement work, I’m a great fan of evidence. Did you know that even issuing a parking ticket (at least when I was doing it) requires seven distinct elements of proof before it can be validated? Not an uncorroborated statement repeated as though it were fact, but time and date, vehicle registration, make and model, colour, location, offence code restriction. Which have to be backed up with a photograph, before and after issue. Anything that doesn’t fit, if the issuing officer gets either the colour, registration number or location wrong that ticket can be successfully challenged and binned. So why is no such burden of proof being applied to the Savile case? Why weren’t these accusations corroborated when he was alive, or in the previous forty years since the alleged offence? Why are uncorroborated assertions being accepted as proof? Why are people so fucking gullible?

If inclined toward conspiracy theories, I’d say this was a put up job, a smokescreen to divert public opinion. News management. But I have no evidence, just suspicions. So when urged to convict or condemn by show of hands purely on the basis of one persons assertion, my arms, like the man in the picture, will remain firmly folded.

Bill Sticker remembers……

……The industrial 1970’s, back when I was but a callow youth. Not a mere stripling, but a fairly average working stiff.

I come from North of Watford gap, amongst other places. And having read the little narrative over at Anna Raccoons about the Miners vs Police fixture back in 1984 being too far back to prosecute wrongdoers, thought I’d put down in a blog post what I can recall from those times.

Here’s some I-was-really-there information. I began my working life on the factory floor as an Engineering apprentice in the mid / late 70’s. We weren’t cheering the miners on. Far from it. Our attitude was more “Oh fkucing hell. Not another bloody strike.” We saw the pointless battles between Management ‘them’ and Union ‘us’, the petty industrial sabotages that along with near continuous industrial action eventually killed whole factories and the communities that depended upon them. We didn’t much care for the notoriously less-than-competent British Management and their cheese-paring old-school-tie ways, but people like Scargill and Red Robbo were even worse.

One of my uncles, a mining explosives specialist by trade and Mine Union rep turned in his union badge and went Tory back in ’79 / 80. He’d seen the writing on the wall and ended up serving as a Conservative District Councillor after years of being a lifelong Socialist. My Uncle Jack thought Scargill and his fellow travellers were idiots for repeatedly calling political strikes. So he got out ahead of the game.

Many of us at the time were pissed off with nothing working. I recall working all through the ‘Winter of discontent‘ helping wire a power station, waiting days for strike delayed supplies, major strikes every week, 90 days to get a phone installed (If you were lucky) by the notoriously semi-retired GPO ‘Engineers’, the threat of fuel rationing, rolling power cuts throughout two very cold winters, having to be in a Union before you were allowed through the gates at most industrial sites. For that job I had to join EEPTU. I was an AUEW member at the time, but apparently that wasn’t good enough, so I had to get nominated for membership by a workmate at the once weekly Union meeting that evening. Had they turned me down I’d have lost the very job I’d just been hired to do the Monday before. As for people I’d never met calling me ‘Brother’ or ‘Comrade’ – that stuck in my craw. Then there was the “Not in the (Insert Union name here) Brother? Sorry, this is a closed shop.” Sometimes even when you were a member of an affiliated Union. Of course if the Union rep and his deputy had bunked off for the day fishing (As was often the case – especially at one of the big sites), you often didn’t get challenged. Other times you did and it was “Sorry comrades.” And out we’d go.

Then there were the times we were sent to a site to begin a job, only to find ourselves facing a ‘secondary picket’. Not necessarily at the factory we had been sent to, but the Union militants didn’t seem to care. Then having to schlep back to base (Having first phoned the boss from a public phone box that had been used as a toilet) via the pub, having lost a days wages. Some months actually went by without a major strike and for once we got some work done. Others didn’t.

I remember the ‘closed shop’ and all the abuses like ‘ghosting’ (Getting a mate to clock you in and out). Blokes who seemed to spend their entire working day in the toilet with the Daily Mirror and a stack of porn magazines. Whole shifts who came in to do night work, then settled down for a nights kip. We’re talking factory workers here, not Firemen waiting for a ‘shout’. Then the Union rep calling everyone out in a wildcat strike when Management finally found out and tried to fire the offenders. For us the Strawbs ironic little number “You don’t get me I’m part of the Union” wasn’t so much a song title as a pain in the arse fact of life. Especially when you were pig sick of doing someone else’s job for them.

Many of us felt nothing but relief when the power of the Unions was finally broken in the mid 1980’s. We’d had it up to our eyebrows, but by then British Industry was too far gone. The 60’s and 70’s had seen to that. So no, we weren’t cheering the miners – we were cursing them. We weren’t cheering on the Coppers either, but that’s another matter.

Old 1970’s / early 80’s joke.
First worker; I see the Daffodils are out.
Second worker; Yeah, Scargill’s just brought the Miners out in sympathy.

Bullet and carrot

I read this in The Register this morning. An ‘operation’ in Northumbria taking twenty Policemen, a helicopter and no doubt several marksmen to take down one cow. Not a Steer or Bull, but a cow FFS! A milker at that.

Now I appreciate that cattle can be a risk to traffic on the highway, but shooting the poor bloody animal? Which was no doubt terrified with all these loud, whirly things and shouty black clad two legs chasing it. Now if the upper echelons of the Northumbrian constabulary ever drop by this humble blog, I have an alternative which may save their budgets. Instead of all those dramatic helicopter chases, shouting, urgent operational messages flashing through control, tracking the errant bovine via its cellphone signal and CCTV before a single crack! And down goes another enemy of the people, comrades. May I propose a solution known to all expert livestock handlers and rural Veternarians: a red bucket.

It’s a bit old school I know but when livestock escape, any old fashioned country copper would know where to find; A) A red bucket and a little dry cattle feed. B) A big, juicy bunch of grass. C) A properly trained Stockman who can be called upon to lure said errant bovine back into its enclosure who would understand the use of both. Back in the old fashioned 20th century, before whizzy Hollywood inspired Helichopper chases and brave, dedicated marksmen capable of dropping a Taliban Terrorist at a thousand metres, dealing with loose livestock was part of a country coppers daily round. At least in my neighbourhood. Livestock regularly got out because they broke down fences, were let out by ‘Animal rights’ activists, or simply wandered through a carelessly left open gateway. Sheep, cattle, pigs, Horses, chickens, Geese and even turkeys could regularly be found out of their proper enclosures. The solution was always the same. Red plastic bucket. Or a galvanised feed pail. Or call the nearest livestock farmer. Who would keep one as a matter of course.

The benefit of the proposed low tech solution is that first; it’s cheap, secondly the cow gets to live, thirdly, being a milker, it gets to dole out more of that lovely white stuff that with a little skill can be turned into smooth butters, excellent cheeses and yoghurts, or even drunk neat, if you’re not concerned about the low fat garbage some dietitians insist upon (A.K.A. The ‘cardboard’ diet).

Anyone who has ever had to deal with livestock knows the use of this high tech piece of rural technology. Red bucket, handful of gravel if no dry feed is available. Shake, rattle, let animal follow to nearest gated enclosure or pen. A bunch of grass or carrots and reassuring low pitched “Tch, tch” noises can be used, but these tools are only truly effective in expert hands, like a farm raised child of eleven. Pigs require a little more care as they do have a nasty bite, but that’s what a pig board is for.

Which is the downside of the red bucket and its ilk. It’s not dramatic. Teams of dedicated anti-terrorist units do not have to be deployed and the cost is minimal. Which, thinking about it, is probably why the Northumbrian Police didn’t look for one. What would all those highly trained marksmen and helichopper pilots do for target practice otherwise?

Slow news day

It’s May, the UK elections are over, political blood is being mopped up and the ‘silly season’ stories have begun to take over the headlines. Like giant killer asteroids and the Loch Ness Monster. BTW: a kilometre (Not a mile) wide asteroid pootling by at 26.5 lunar distances (6 million miles, not 3, FFS! That’s over 10 million Kilometres) is hardly cause for the mass panic some think it should be. Although the tabloid media would be dead in the water without sexing up scary stories to fwighten all the poor ickle bunnies out there. Personally, the only use I have for tabloid newspapers is for lighting fires or as an emergency substitute for toilet paper.

Although I am deriving some quiet pleasure at watching all the UK based control freak lefties beating themselves senseless with wet Che Guevara T-shirts over the Tories getting a majority. Oh, vraiment? As I’m learning to say over here. Les pauvres (Avec un rire sarcastique). You’d have to have a heart of stone not to laugh.

Had the piss taken out of me royally first thing when my pronunciation slipped and I asked for ‘Doux’ not ‘deux’ pain au chocolat at the closest Boulangerie / patisserie. The proprietor corrected me and when I’d acknowledged my goof, was all smiles and ‘abientot’. I’ll be back. Demain.

Not found in the guide book

We’re all settled in now at our little Paris apartment. Stumbling over our rusty (In my case almost seized solid from disuse) French. But we’re making an effort. Which is probably why the waiting staff, and everyone generally, have been so nice to us so far. So any rudeness, intransigence or sarcasm will have to be overheard. Drat. How am I to learn?

Never mind. Last night Mrs S and I dropped by a Fondue house. Specifically this one. Which was an education. Now in all the guide books and Rick Steves / Anthony Bourdin YouTubes we’ve watched, the art of Fondue is rarely covered. And it is an art. From the well known Fondue pot (Not those prissy little stainless steel things, but the big, fcuk off cast iron variety) to the oddity of ‘Raclette‘ where a third of a 6kg (13-14lbs for those of an imperial bent) wheel of semi soft Swiss cheese is fixed in a weird looking rig and subjected to a heating element so it melts, to be scraped off onto bread, or meats, pickles or anything. At the time we didn’t know what these strange objects were, so like the cowards we sometimes are, or in this case still too jet lagged to really enjoy things, opted for a salad and a half bottle of decent red while we peoplewatched.

For my smoking friends on my sidebar, as for the ‘smoking ban’ so rigorously prosecuted back at home, lets just say the French have perfected the art of the shrug. That gentle juggling of shoulders which means “So what?” Which is the attitude applied to the smoking ban, now enshrined in law throughout much of Europe and the Anglophone West. None of this ‘No smoking by anyone near anything anywhere or even looking at a cigarette at all- ever’ rules. M’sieur wishes to smoke? Just outside the door, under that nice snug little awning out of the immediate draught. Okay? As Mrs S and I had elected to eat at an outside table, the waitress, determined to practice her English on us, seemed surprised that we didn’t smoke, and there were children under five at the next table! Mon dieu! Call Les Pompiers! (Fire brigade) Whose van was round the corner while the lads were bunking off for a quiet Gauloise at the next Bar Tabac.

Paris isn’t a clean place. It’s busy and inexplicably dusty at present. Which if you’re overly houseproud or germ phobic might lead to a touch of the vapours. Off the main boulevards, down the side streets it’s all narrow sidewalks and busy people. Motorcycles and scooters parked on every space unoccupied by cafe tables. It’s hard to take your time unless you do so assertively. Give people room to get by and you’ll do fine. You will get bumped and barged if you’re in the way. Get used to it. You’re a touriste and therefore fair game. The locals walk briskly and with purpose. They have places to be, there’s not much room, and if you’re in the way; move it, sucker. Pavement (Sidewalk) dawdling and window shopping is best reserved for those days when the locals are still in bed or at work.

As we headed from Gare Du Nord via taxi, at Place De La Republic there was a noisy demonstration of sorts going on. More like a concert than a demo. According to our driver it was a strike. When asked who by or what it was about, our man said he didn’t know or care. “There’s one every day.” He explained as he squeezed our cab through gaps with barely a cards breadth between them. Man, I am glad we didn’t hire a car. Paris driving is no place for the faint of heart.

BTW; today’s post was written while wearing my PJ trouser’s and brand new blue paisley dressing gown. I may go out wearing a bow tie this evening. I have brought two, one formal black and the other a genteel metallic paisley pattern picked up before we left London. Just in case Mrs S steers me into an establishment where ties are required. At which juncture I will defiantly tie it in sight of the Maitre ‘D (None of these cheap ready mades for me – no style whatsoever).

Hey, I’m on holiday. Meanwhile, back over the Channel, some sore losers have been kicking off because the voters didn’t see things their way. Ah, les pauvre petits. Wnakers. Bless.