Tag Archives: UK

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.

Londinium

Well, here we are in jolly old Londinium, the first time I’ve spent non-working days in the crapital for decades. Seriously. Our booked accommodation fell over. We’d booked through AirBnB online, and found ourselves booked into some serious low rent digs. Not quite a slum, but by our Canadian standards, seriously dodgy. I’m amazed AirBnB let it be listed. We fled and found a budget hotel south of Marylebone. The experience has cost me three hundred bucks, but I’m not unhappy. There are times when you’ve just got to chalk it up to experience and move on.

Which is where we are now, sightseeing, breakfasting at Marks & Spencers because the budget hotel breakfast is so tightly budgeted that Church mice would consider it meagre fare. I’d really rather forgotten the horror of instant coffee. Or flavoured shite, as it is more popularly known. Coffee it ain’t.

Reacclimatising to the rain and humidity of soggy old England. Moving right along to Francophone fleshpots on Saturday.

Recommendation 1: Thames Clipper. Big fast river catamarans that ply the big T from Waterloo to the millennium carbuncle. Get a river rover ticket and use it instead of the Tube or buses. Worth the money.
Recommendation 2: The Beehive, Crawford place, Westminster. Beer choice a little limited, but we’ve adopted it as a ‘local’ for the next 36 hours. A busy, cheerful little place with shelter outside for those whose drug choice includes nicotine. Not a bad menu either.
Recommendation 3: Royal Naval Hospital site where we lucked onto, of all things, a musical masterclass in the Chapel. Missed the famous painted hall as we were so busy enjoying the performances that the closing time of 0five o’clock drifted on by without a murmur.

Apparently some of the locals were indulging in a form of Democracy. I think they chose the muppets with the blue rosette, but what do I care, I’m just a tourist nowadays.

Okay. That’s it for now.

TTFN

Choices, choices

On my way to the UK shortly, going through the usual last minute fussing with securing valuable documentation and making sure that if anything untoward happens to our cosy little apartment while we’re away, nothing critical will be lost. Packing, checking tickets, booking the taxi to the airport. Ensuring our hosts know when we’re arriving. Off we’re going, into the noisy bustle of jolly old Londinium where the population are faced with a life critical choice.

No, not the forthcoming General Election, which seems to be a straight race between which pro-EU muppet gets in. Not whether to vote for the Tory or Labour Muppet, the Limp Dem, Green or SNP muppet, or the party whose muppetdom is actually in doubt, a.k.a. Big Nige and the Purple Gang, who are currently riding low in the polls, so they’re clearly not worth voting for don’cha know peasants. Don’t let those nasty Tories / Labour / Limp Dems in by voting your conscience. Although if you vote for the traditional rosette, of course they will. Don’t waste those votes, give them to the lamestream parties (Meh). I reckon the result is a given; as usual the British electorate will choose; in the words of Hillaire Belloc to “always keep ahold of nurse / For fear of finding something worse.”

No, I’m talking about the really important stuff, the critical life or death choice that the UK now faces. The burning question of the day. The one crucial decision that will shape the nation for decades to come. What’s going to be the name of the new royal baby? Here are the odds.

Hope this helps.

Update: Well, that’s that then. Bill and Kate have gone for a generational motif on the babies name. Charlotte, (3-1 Grandfather Charles) Elizabeth (6-1 Great Grandma), Diana (8-1 Grandmother). Or in the words of her Great Grandfather; “What about bloody Phillipa then?”

I really must fly

Another year, another transatlantic flight. This time we’re going to ride in bigger comfier seats, which, when you realise that the airlines bean counters are having aircraft refitted to cram ever more steaming humanity on board, is no bad thing. Fly economyFrankly, I’ve done the whole air cattle truck experience, and while it’s okay if you’re five feet five and under a hundred and thirty pounds, if you’re like me, over six feet with broad shoulders, well, the muscle cramps after ten hours in an alloy tube are really unpleasant.

So we end up paying more (Half as much again – yikes!) for the extra legroom and seat width. Which pays off as you don’t suffer from post flight muscle cramps for the next forty eight hours as well as the jet lag. Which really pisses me off. Economy seats are like paying to be put in Skeffington’s Gyves. Thoroughly unpleasant. Unless you’re one who gets their jollies that way. If you have to travel, the choice is increasingly boiling down to get yourself surgically reduced or prepare to suffer. Me, I’ll take the comfy chairs.

Unusually for me, I’m already packed to Mrs S’s satisfaction. Which is a surprise, not least of all to me. Hold the phone. She thinks I’ve packed properly? There’s a first. Also this trip I have brand new luggage, a decent suitcase instead of the falling to bits piece of crap I inherited from somewhere, new Targus bag for all my retro but still serviceable electronics. A brace of Nokia 6310i’s for local calls to dodge the horrendous overseas roaming charges our regular Canadian cell phone companies impose. I’ve also set up a secondary non google webmail address, onto which all my email will be forwarded. Which means Google won’t get all shirty and lock me out when I try to access my email from La Belle France instead of BC. Like my last transatlantic trip. Or the last one. Or the one before that. It’s not as though my passwords are something easy to crack like name123, date of birth variants, or heaven forfend; ‘password’. I like obscure, multi character and case sensitive which only means something to me. It seems to have worked so far. So far so…..bugger. Or not.

In the meantime, I must fly. Comfortably. Until someone invents a viable means of teleportation or Worm Hole travel.

Any old road up, while I’m passing through the UK I’ll be keeping a weather eye on the election; I may be scathing, I may be sardonic. Watch this space, and for your edification a little Tom Scott video of 7 illegal things to do in a UK election.

TTFN

Life before the Interweb

I love gadgets. I own several. One of which, a Samsung ten inch screen tablet S4 is proving its worth with every single advancing day because it has built in GPS, and I don’t have to bother with logging on to every single dodgy Wi-Fi connection every time I use most of the non-Interweb maps. Do I care that ‘the authorities’ can track my every move when I bother to take said item with me? No. I don’t feel the need to cart it around, so whoever wants to figuratively read over my shoulder will know what city I’m in, but that’s it. If I’ve locked it in the Hotel safe they won’t be able to find it at all, as a quarter inch of pressed steel makes a reasonable RF shield. That and the RF shielded carrying bag I keep it in when travelling. Switch it on when I need it, the rest of the time it’s pretty much invisible.

Anyway, that’s beside the point. Yesterday had me thinking. Over the weekend I’ve found myself remembering times past, and how we young ‘uns (as I was then) got by without the instant in-your-face immediacy of modern mobile communications. We had no Windows, Android, Tweets, blogs, Skype, Whatsap, Texting, Sexting, aps, iPhones, mobile phones, or Tablets. Computers and Telephones were far too unwieldy to be mobile, but we did have access to a form of Radio Telephony. If Dad was a high level service or Civil Engineer. Which one of my boyhood friend’s Dad’s was. No-one else we knew was, so it was no use to us. Yet we got by without much fuss. No zombie cannibal gangs dropped by to eat our brains. None of the nightmares conjured up by Hollywood came to play. The Apocalypse was for other people.

Yet we had the three day week. Scheduled power cuts for eight hours at a time in Winter. Strikes that seemed to shut everything down for days. The phone worked, but we kids weren’t allowed to use it. Later on I had my own place, and the joy of getting a phone (or trying to get) put in by British Telecom. BT’s advertising slogan ‘It’s for You-who‘ carried particular irony.

Indeed, the pace of life was slower. Much slower. Treacleishly so. People raised in today’s society would have trouble coping because their brains would be set up wrongly. Their memories are not so well developed. I also remember doing a hell of a lot of walking to see far flung friends. A brisk twenty five minute hike down unlit English B class roads with a national (60mph) speed limit which was more of a guideline than an absolute, to the nearest form of public transport. Which was usually late. Closest shop in the next village. One black and white TV in the house. My Dad liked watching snooker, which is a slightly surreal experience when you have to guess the colours. No remote control (That was me). And only, horror of horrors, three erratic channels! Remember signal ‘ghosting’?

So we kids spent a lot of our time outside. Tramping across ploughed fields. Dawn to dusk. Hunting water rats, pigeons and rabbits with catapults (slingshots) or air rifles. Or just walking, simply because you had bugger all else you could afford to do. Under age sneaking into local pubs and clubs, the closest of which were a fifteen minute shank up and down some quite steep hills and dales. Learning about building our own cars and motorcycles in our mid to late teens, if our parents allowed us the garage space, and the guy with a car was king. Or at least someone to sponge lifts off with up to eight of us crammed into an ageing Ford Corsair with suspect brakes and limited power on a Saturday night. Using side roads which we knew the local coppers rarely patrolled. Come to think of it, the Police didn’t figure much in our lives. And we were invariably unsupervised. Walking and talking. Face to face.

You had hobbies, part time jobs. You experimented. Especially with something dangerous (Particularly the local girls – especially those who rode horses). Travelling for two hours just to go ten pin bowling or to see a movie. Hunting through poorly indexed racks of twelve inch vinyl for your favourite bands latest album. Then the luxury of hours spent reading, standing rapt, almost statue like in front of the paperbacks in W H Smith.

Some would call it ‘idyllic’, even a ‘golden age’, but I disagree. There were long, dare I say interminable periods of boredom, staring listlessly out at traditional English weather (rain, sleet, hail). Rarely getting out to play under heavily cloud punctuated blue or more often totally grey skies. Come to think of it, that’s what the Internet is; like constant sunshine with occasional light refreshing showers. Information to bathe, soak, indolently loll and roll recklessly around in the long grass. A world of knowledge and opportunity at your very fingertips. Book a rail ticket on the other side of the world. Book a restaurant or day trip. Learn a language. Watch a movie. Watch endless ‘banned’ content. Compared to the pre internet days, when all information was closely guarded, hard to find, and only sporadically available via the nearest library (two hours away on foot and by public transport) today is the golden age.

Yes, I’m evil, so sue me….

Firstly a small declaration of interest; I am a landlord. An owner of property in the UK which is rented out to others. A ‘parasite’ in the words of those whose grasp of economics is considerably lower than that of a heavily sedated slug. A ‘blood sucking vampire’ whose untimely passing shall be rejoiced at by all the lefties doing X-talentless dance challenges on his grave. If they can drag themselves from in front of their taxpayer-subsidised video games to be bothered. Please be advised; dancing on my grave may prove difficult, as my will stipulates that my ashes be scattered outside territorial waters. But chaps, don’t let that stop you trying.

Okay, that’s that out of the way. I’m out of the closet. Yes I’m an evil landlord, so sue me (Good luck with that). Now to the meat of the subject. In the run up to the UK general election there’s a lot of talk about ‘Mansion’ taxes on wicked and predatory ‘buy to let’ landlords. As prophesied many times in this blog and elsewhere across various forums and comment threads of the jolly old Interweb, this is a mark of the mainstream politicians desperation. They’ve spent all your money, and your grandchildren’s money buying votes, now they’re coming for private property. The public cupboard is bare and the pollies* are desperate, and anyone with any assets at all (unless they can afford really good tax accountants) is in their short sighted target area.

The reason behind this post is me getting into a minor comment thread spat in the Tellytubbygraph with one of the ‘Entitled’**. In a mildly robust exchange of views I posed the question; Does anyone remember the late 1970’s and early 80’s before people could buy their council houses so readily?

I do. I have clear and vivid memories of vandalised and derelict council housing throughout the industrially declining UK West Midlands. Whole streets of them. Whole council estates even. A little like a genteel version of modern day Detroit. Post WW2 semi-detached properties (for a North American equivalent – think ‘Duplex’) boarded up like wall eyed ghost towns. Broken side doors where unruly kids, copper thieves and the down and outs had broken in to leave devastation, illiterate graffiti, human faeces, decay and piles of syringes in their passing. In short, places where no one cared now made uninhabitable through lack of maintenance. There are still instances of houses, especially in Liverpool and similar, where whole streets are in this condition. And the equation is simple; Economic stagnation = few or no jobs = fewer people with less money = Lots of unwanted housing.

Throw left-wing, ideologically stifled bureaucracies into the mix and there you have it. ‘Managed decline’. The default position of big government. Empty houses in economically stagnant districts with no-one who can afford to live in or maintain the existing properties. Which might as well be bulldozed and the whole site left to turn into unproductive scrubland and swamp, thence woodland, followed in a century or two by the Greens favourite; ‘Ancient Forest’ full of Bambi and friends, but very few humans. Hooray! Or rather not. As a side note; putative Bambi’s should take note that ‘Ancient Forests’ are not full of pixies, elves, gnomes and pretty ickle flutterbies like in those cute animated Hollywood movies but rather home to Mr B B Wolf and friends, whose name for Bambi translates loosely as ‘Lunch’.

So what’s the answer? Government subsidies and plane loads of immigrants to provide a future tax base and spend their money on improving the housing stock? Which won’t do much good if said migrants don’t have the skills or motivation to build a better or economically active society. Or whose imported culture means they spend their disposable income on new religious buildings. Ending up dependent upon handouts from an ever more cash strapped country where the cupboard has been bare for quite some time. Because no-one is actually innovating, trading or making things. So more migrants will be needed. Who will bring their own baggage. And not much money. So the slow spiral of decline will continue. Until some far sighted politician (Unlikely to be elected, never happen) decides to take the wheels off said cycle, or the whole lot burns to the ground. BTW: The riot and burning strategy was tried in UK city centre riots of the early 1980’s (Which didn’t work – see the economic ‘broken window’ fallacy).

In these blighted areas, where councils can’t or won’t maintain and rent out the properties in question, the buy to let landlord becomes a tool of regeneration. They will put money into vital property maintenance and indulge in the necessary day to day negotiations and arguments with tenants. Where there is a market. It’s how we Evil Landlords make a living off our investment. If there are people with jobs and money, they need places to live. That is what we provide. A ready base of operations, especially for a highly mobile workforce.

To call someone who actually spends money on a building to make it fit for habitation a ‘parasite’ is rather ungracious to say the least. The tenants did not wish to invest time, effort, and twenty (possibly thirty!) years or so in their own bricks and mortar, but are happy for others to risk doing so, no problem. For property investment is a risk, one of the largest anyone will ever make. A hint about renting; treat it as a business arrangement, and all will be well. Mess things up then bleat like an entitled sheep about how ‘unfair’ it is that you have to actually pay for the roof over your head, then the Gods of decay and desolation will never be far from both your and your landlords door. I’ve heard it said that houses are not built as slums, they are made slums by the very people who live in and own them.

At this point I would like to introduce my reader to some useful Evil Landlord rules.

Rule 1: Never rent to male students, people on benefits or those with extensive skin art.
Rule 2: Insist on direct debit for rent. Avoid anyone who wants to pay by cheque or cash.
Rule 3: Never get involved in anything longer than a 6 month ‘Shorthold Assured‘ tenancy.
Rule 4: Keep in touch with your tenant on a monthly basis and make any non tenant incurred repairs promptly. Agree regular maintenance schedules in the tenancy agreement and stick to them.
Rule 5: Avoid entanglement with Social Services or any Local Authority body as much as possible.
Rule 6: Trust nobody and use lawyers.

Of all the above, please note that Rule 6 is the most important. Keep it brisk and businesslike. Anything else invites disaster.

*Pollies; Lamestream politician. So called because of their characteristic repetitive parrot like squawking.
** Entitled; someone who thinks they should be given a free ride off the backs of others, in short, a parasite.

Workarounds and sidesteps

Have managed to get around WordPress defaulting to their silly ‘bingledy beep boop’ whatever post editor by ducking out to the main WP admin page and launching the post editor from the sidebar. Bit of a pain, but at least I’m now back in the driving seat.

Unlike the presenters of Top Gear. May has quit. He, Clarkson, Hammond and the shows old producer who also quit, Andy Wilman, have been meeting up, possibly to discuss creating a whole new car show. They won’t be able to call their new show Top Gear of course, but there are a bunch of digital channels that will happily fork out part of their budget, and sponsorship can fund the rest. It’s as good a workaround as any. As for marketing and distribution; globally there’s a host of avid ex-Top Gear fans who will gobble up the content as soon as it’s uploaded, sidestepping any attempts at restriction. The advertisers and sponsors who get on board with any new show hosted by the three goofs will make a mint, while any BBC relaunched Top Gear will sink slowly into the self imposed mire of BBC politically correct green lunacy, rarely to be seen again as they try to impose Hybrid solar self driven cars with backup wind turbines on the market. Unless the Beeb by some miracle rediscovers the personality magic that made Clarkson, Hammond and May work so well. Breath will not be held waiting for that to happen.

Eco Friendly Stig NotSo the blokey car show is not dead, It will come back under another name simply because the audience is there. Despite the wishes of the politically active but personally inept. Life’s like that.

As a side note; the law of unintended consequences was last seen gleefully prancing in through the back door of the BBC TV centre, up the back stairs and out through an emergency exit with a whole tranche of future BBC revenue.