Don’t Despair

(11 February 2022). Despair at having a government who do everything wrong has frozen my fingers and brain from this site. Nevertheless, slightly enlivened, by a little sunshine and Google telling me that this site had 13 visitors in January I will be trying to post more frequently.

I have talked about energy before and feasible solutions that make energy costs fairer (apologies for unsophisticated link, don’t know how to make fancy ones)

Search Results for “energy” – Keith’s Thoughts (keithfraser.uk)

Today I am puzzled by the scheme to give a council tax “bonus” to those in Bands A to D. Not everyone in an ordinary house is poor- and many poor live in rented accommodation.

It is not too late for Mr Sunak to consider the following alternative.

Every household that has an online account with an energy supplier (and is eligible according to benefits and household income) simply goes to their supplier and claims the money off their bills. They also promise that they are eligible and will go to prison for a month if they cheat. They will also allow all claimants to be on a list for journalists or others to check if well-known people are cheating.

For those without an online account they can go to the post office and fill in the form -sent to their supplier.

What could be simpler?

To cheer you up here is a shadow selfie with dog.

Dogma n

Second (and third) jobs

(10 November 2021) I apologise to all my readers, a combination of technical issues and despair at the world have kept me away from the keyboard. However, there is so much to talk about my thoughts are near exploding.

So, today I pondered on MPs and other jobs.

Many MPs had a real life before being elected (I exclude the caterpillars whose entire working life is as advisor, lobbyist etc as they attempt to turn into butterflies on election).

Many MPs might not last very long so it is entirely reasonable if they want to keep in touch with their previous working life.

For example, a plumber might want to keep on a few long-term customers, a lawyer might have some ongoing cases and a medical person might want to keep up their skills (as well as doing something useful rather than sitting around). Their interest is known to the public and seems entirely reasonable.

However, Jacob Rees-Mogg for example, who was a highly paid director of a private equity firm (parasites for short), still continues to work for them but does not get paid. This is legal.

But one does wonder how it works.

At the end of the week when he pops his timesheet into the tray in HR do they simply put them in a drawer and wait until he ceases to be an MP?

Or does he not fill in a timesheet and simply work out of the goodness of his heart. I am sure this is the case.

The jobs that I fail to understand are those that they get just because they are MPs.  

Companies are not stupid, given the sums they are paying one has to wonder (despite declarations of interest and all that) what they do discretely and behind the scenes to help their paymaster (“I deleted the old messages on my phone to free up space” though given the sums involved they could buy a new gold-plated phone every month).

Thus, I propose that MPs should not be allowed to take second jobs unless it relates to their profession. Rather than setting up a commission or body to do this any method would be open to criticism.

The simple method to make it fair would be as follows.

 MPs fill out a form on the .gov website giving the reasons why they want to do the job, what they will earn and how it benefits their constituents and the population by doing it.

The public would then have a monthly vote on whether they should be allowed to take the job. Simple, transparent and reflecting the public’s view.

But they won’t listen.

One still has to hope so a picture reflecting this.

Boat leaving Islington tunnel
Light beyond the darkness


Hell and Handcarts

(31 July 2021) A couple of weeks of extreme weather and much gloom. I remain puzzled about the competence of our “Leaders”.  They recently announced that they were selling more shares in RBS.

When the financial “crash” came the government, bought the shares in RBS at a fiver each (502 pence to be precise). This gave lots of people money (£45 billion) which was our money from taxes.

They have been slowly selling them off at a loss- the current price is about two pounds.

I fail to see how “the party of business” think this makes sense; selling an asset at a loss for short term expenditure. It puzzles me why this is not a major scandal.

Mr Branson and Bezos both went briefly into space recently. I thought it was pointless- they pollute the planet with various things, pump out a vast quantity of CO2 – for a 90-minute trip costing roughly £175,000.

It is not that I am a miserable curmudgeon about those who are super wealthy; it is the fact that they distort the allocation of resources away from much more needed things.

Finally, the Olympics is on. I like the Olympics especially the obscure sports. Sadly, the European Broadcasting union were outbid by Discovery+. So now much of this sport is behind a paywall; I will no longer have a chance to get genuinely gripped by something unexpected.

Furthermore I remain irritated when there are three races to decide the participants in a Final and they call them “semi-finals”. Surely they should be Tri-finals.

To cheer me up I am using one of my diminishing supply of kittens.

The world is a confusing place if you are small and vulnerable

Shattered Hopes and Dreams

(14 July 2021) There is something that resonates deeply when a match is lost (or won) in a penalty shootout. It is the utter finality of it. Even when one’s team make a dreadful error or have a moment of genius, the match usually continues for a while. With a penalty that is it. They remain moments embedded in my memory.

For example, when we got a penalty near the end of the game, against our rival to top the second tier, our penalty taker, a craggy old pro playing at the back, slowly walked the length of the pitch, the stadium silent and certain of a goal. The opponent’s goalkeeper unfurled his white flag. The ball went to its destiny in the upper corner.

On another occasion, in a penalty shootout against a continental team, we needed to score the fifth to stay in the contest. Our diminutive striker approached the spot with all the slow trepidation of a naughty schoolboy trudging towards the headmaster’s study. The goalkeeper lit a cigar and leaned against a post; only moving to onehandedly pick up the ball which dribbled towards the goal- not even worthy of the description “shot”.

I woke up on Monday missed penalties flying past my weary eyes with a kind thought that I hope the players go on to have reasonable careers though never scoring against Chelsea.

I took the picture below on Monday to represent my feelings.

All those lives..


Freedom? (or just lives to lose)

(7th July 2021) The government have finally given up governing and are prepared for and aware of increasing the level of Covid infections (to get them out of the way before winter flu returns).

For those of a conspiratorial bent this PROVES either:

  • It was all made up anyway and they have given in to common sense, or
  • This man-made virus is not “culling” enough people so needs to be stepped up, or
  • “Big Pharma” (not to be confused with six-foot seven John a smallholder in Devon) have not made suitable profits from Covid vaccines and want to recoup from all required for hospital treatments, or
  • The National Undertakers Society have a sinister influence behind the scenes.

I don’t agree with these, I just think the government do not know what they are doing.

Personally, I shall continue to wear a mask on Public Transport.

Also, if I go into a shop they expect me to wear trousers. This is quite reasonable and I am sure they are within their rights to refuse my trouserless entry. So, they could still insist on masks to protect their staff.

A picture to show what I think

Statue on RFH 2007
Do not jump

Site fixed! Email and Propriety

(1 July 2021) Apologies to my readers but I now seem to have fixed the site (PHP 7.4 did the trick whatever that is).

Today I was thinking about email and the absurdity of ministers using their private email addresses for Government business.

Anyone, at any level, who joins an organisation and is given an email address is, quite rightly expected to use that for their business as an employee. Most organisations have strict rules about not using the official address for personal matters.

Yet, somehow an MP can become a Secretary of State, carrying out an important job and yet they appear to be using their personal email for all sorts of contractual matters. This is not very transparent and could lead the cynics into thinking there was something dodgy going on.

[NOTE: I am not suggesting, in any way, that the hard working and competent former Secretary of State for Health did anything untoward in his time in office].

The rules appear to say that if a private address is used on departmental business the department should be copied in for the record.

However, to my simple mind, why not have a simple rule – “Everything to do with the departmental role has to be through the official email system”

The same should apply to the use of mobile phones.

This is the only transparent way.

Rant over and to celebrate the return of this site here is a delightful kitten.

Kitten and Carpet

WFH? & February

(14 March 2021) A lot of fuss about the royals this week. I have no particular comments to make- many have been made by people cleverer than I (and probably even more by those who are not). All I can say is that have great respect and love for them (as much as they do for me).

As we blink slowly into the light of a post lockdown world the papers are full of articles about WFH being the new norm. This is fine for journalists who have always been flexible but is it actually going to make sense?

I delved into the statistics.  The UK workforce is around 32.21 million. It is obvious that many jobs cannot be done at home. Obvious examples are agriculture, arts and recreation, construction, health and social care, manufacturing, retailing, transport, etc. My crude sums give me just under 21 million working in these industry sectors, or nearly 65% of the working population. Of all the rest I simply assumed that 25% of jobs in all other sectors could not be done as WFH. I therefore conclude that WFH could only work for around 8 million people or just over a quarter (26.7%) of the workforce.

Does this matter? I think it does.  It has proved useful in lockdown for keeping people employed but as a lifestyle?

 Some established workers could benefit from some more flexibility it is true.

However, the eagerness of large employers to embrace this as a model for the future is a concern as I am not sure whose interests it serves (I know that really it is for them, not you)


  • You lose proper benefits of face-to-face contact, reading body language and chance conversations over the water machine of other communal places.
  • You lose some of those bonding elements such as birthday cakes and occasional socialising over lunch or after work
  • It is not so easy to test out casual “Lightbulb” moments or check a difficulty if colleagues are remote.
  • Monitoring is likely to become more intrusive
  • It is fine if you live in a place that is large enough for an “office”; but we have the smallest properties in Europe and continue to build to such standards. Living and working in a room in a shared property could become quite tedious.
  • I think that when an employer talks about a “flexible workforce” it is shorthand for “cruelly exploited”.

I think we will see a growth in shared workspaces where facilities are used by many different people but even so this is a slightly dystopian model of a near future world where a quarter of the population float around in cyberspace supported by all the people who have to make the physical world work.

Below a link to my pictures of February


And my picture of the month


Space and January

(26 February 2021) Having struggled to get my January photos to post (503 error anyone?) I did at least get excited at the landing on Mars. Amazing technology and also a very good example of global co-operation. It cost roughly £2 billion to land a piece of machinery the size of a large car on the surface.

Which I think is fine as the cost of a “Bunker Buster”- very large American bombs the size of a large car devastating an area and making a big hole in the ground (GBU-57A/B Massive Ordnance Penetrator (MOP) as they are known), is around $3 million. So, less than 40 of them would cover the costs of the Mars mission (the price of the bombs excludes the cost of the planes, fuel and all the other stuff).

Putting it into context, our (the UK’s) new aircraft carrier cost £3.1 billion- just to build and equip though one of these MOPS could take it out. I am sure that people much cleverer than me have worked this out.

As a further point it is estimated that the entire “Green Wall of Africa” project- to plant trees coast to coast across North Africa to help reduce the spread of the Sahara Desert and create productive areas for people to live sustainably, is estimated to cost $8 billion. I leave you to draw your own conclusions.

Space I then got to thinking about space-specifically planets, stars and suchlike rather than an overcrammed wardrobe. I read, watch and enjoy science fiction but wonder, if actually, it is no more a trope than vampire or zombie movies rather than a realistic imagining of the future.

Initially there is a problem with distance. Space is quite big. It takes 6 months (on a good alignment) to get to Mars. It took Voyager One 36 years to leave the solar system. To get to the nearest star system (where there might be habitable planets) would take at least 81,000 years. Which is rather a long time. Sci fi gets round this with

  • a “wormhole” a natural phenomenon, (perhaps), which the internet tells me sits near Saturn (no me neither, I fear it leads to an internet wormhole from which escape is difficult) or
  • a “portal” (usually left by a long vanished galactic alien race of immense technology and wisdom) or
  • the “Hyperdrive” has been invented (assuming the laws of physics have been abolished) and intergalactic travel is a bit like popping over to Spain.

These are not necessarily likely.

Further space is not very safe. Solar radiation is dangerous and even I can see the difficulties of a spaceship covered in lead (though I am told that water and sewage can be in the outer shell-insert crude joke here) to act as shielding.

Secondly the movies show us massive ships with empty corridors and high ceilings whereas the International Space Station (ISS) is claustrophobia inducing to see as they seem to be living in a series of large freezers stuck together. Returning to the cost, that of such a large spaceship would probably be prohibitive.

Finally, there is gravity. Without it our bones dissolve and we turn into jelly fish. Those from the ISS returning can’t walk and are wheeled away; this despite them all being fit and doing all sorts of exercises.

Sci invents either the “anti-gravity drive” or shows ships with spinning things that magically make gravity.

But, why does this matter? It would be pointless to criticise the zombie trope despite 14% of Americans thinking they are real (14% of Americans have a zombie apocalypse plan | YouGov)

It matters because we are not doing enough to save the planet. Many people are still in the mindset of early “explorers” or “colonialists” who would exploit and trash a place and move on to uncharted areas. This is now not possible, as we should be aware. Space exploration and colonising is simply a diversion from the issues we face; it is an unrealistic future fantasy not a road map.Household tip.  I have sometimes pondered on whether a battery charger draws power when it is not charging. It actually does; just a very small amount of 5 volts but it is still a waste of power so turn them off at the mains when they are not in use. (What If Charger Is Plugged to Supply But Not Connected To A Device? (scienceabc.com)

January 2021

Having failed to get my 31 chronological pictures of January to post here I have put them on another site should you be interested.


Two sweet kittens to cheer you up


February already?

(12 February 2021). Thirteen million first doses of vaccination is positive. I also succeeded, for January, in taking at least one photo a day. However technical problems have prevented me putting them on the site; I shall pursue.

Two items in the news have twitched my thoughts.

Firstly Education. I am sure Mr Williamson is providing firm leadership and direction to the schools sector; it is my ignorance on the side-lines that hints at the opposite. I therefore have a helpful suggestion for him.

It is unclear what will happen about exams in the summer and how assessment will be done. Inevitably this will cause problems and is likely to have particularly negative effects on publics from less advantaged circumstances (however defined).

Therefore, I suggest that there should be no exams this summer and that in September, as we have emerged into the jab light, all school years are repeated- no one moves up a class and the oldest pupils have to stay.

Teachers could use the rest of this school year to help and assist their charges as they see fit

At the lower ages some expansion of nursery provision could be targeted. I also note that we do start school at an earlier age than many other countries and this would be a wonderful opportunity to reset the system.

At the other end- Further and Higher Education it is probable that there are plenty of people who would welcome the opportunity, particularly those who did not get such good results but will have matured.

Second Borrowing Shares. The recent flurry of news about Gamestop and hedge funds “shorting” shares shed light on a bizarre practice (legal). It works like this this.

I go to you and say “Can I borrow your shares in company X please? I’ll give you some cash and you can have then back in six weeks.

You say “OK”

I then sell the shares intending to drive down the price. My mates are doing this as well.

When the prices are low I buy back the shares, give them back to you and trouser the profit.

Your shares could be worth less than before but you’ve had a few quid from me.

This is legal, but does it benefit the economy in any way?

I shall make enquiries.

The Basics of Shorting Stock (thebalance.com)


A Year of Joy

(30 January 2021) For me the last weeks of January I always feel a little gloomy. Christmas is over, all the decorations have gone, I have had my birthday and the weather is usually rubbish.

This year is even worse with death stalking the streets, unable to socialise and Brexit biting.

There is hope with the vaccine but it is worrying that there is uncertainty on the best time period for the booster and whether or not the vaccinated can still be infectious. I fear the appearance of the Chicken Theory so that people feel happy with one (though it is not perfect) rather than having the rapid booster.

Also, some joy at the USA electing an ordinary mainstream, slightly kind gentleman rather than the alternative.

My current thought was formed from a recent newspaper headline quoting the Prime Minister that the new Covid variant was “30% more deadly”. Frightening news.

I read the article. It stated that the death rate for old Covid as 10 in 1,000. That is 1%.

The new variant had an estimated death rate of 13 in 1,000. That is 1.3%. Therefore, the death rate has only gone up by 0.3% – concerning but not a cause for panic. Always do the sums.

A resolution for this year is to take at least one photograph every day and I will publish a gallery for each month (if I manage to get galleries working). Below a picture summing up the end of festivities.

The colour changing mug has its last cup of tea before hibernation.

The First Game of the New Abnormal

(8th December 2020) Finally I awoke on a Saturday with football anticipation; though joy was tempered with anxiety because the club, quite rightly, made me complete an online questionnaire to ensure I was Covid free. However, I had to print out the confirmation that they had decreed I was safe. Submitted at 11.00- it did not come through until 15.03, thus eventually relieving tension.

The match kicked off at 8.00 pm, not a time I had experienced before; I was setting out in the dark for the first time since lockdown. The journey to the match (healthy backstreet walk, short tube journey) did not feel like a journey to the match; it was more akin to the semi-dystopian post-apocalyptic anxiety dreams we all (or I do anyway) experience from time to time.

The pubs were empty and not inviting to me (I’d had my dinner). No away fans in their northern trousers congregating outside a particular pub. Almost no one on the tube and no indication of any spectators just masked passengers maintaining an even greater distance from me than usual.

At the ground entrance was secure. I produced my printed ticket, printed “from what you said you have not got Covid” email (which somewhat excludes people who are not online and or don’t have a printer) as well as producing my passport to prove I was me (also excluding those who do not have a driving licence or a passport). They scanned these and photographed them (useful for track and trace I guess).

Then my temperature was taken where they detected that I was a vampire with a forehead temperature of 5 degrees Centigrade. They tried a different machine, then a third (which I assume worked).

Next the bag check (I had none) and I had to open my substantial coat- presumably to demonstrate that I was not smuggling in a person of restricted growth.

I was obviously (and sensibly) wearing a mask. My glasses had steamed up giving that authentic London fog experience.

This blurry picture below shows the above.

Secure entrance
I was in!

Flashing my ticket at a machine I was let in.

Normally the concourse is full of people; beer, noise and colours. It was sparsely populated with masked and sensibly wrapped up fans; the lack of a buzz of gleeful anticipation was marked, it felt like the survivors of a disaster waiting for rescue.

A palpable lack of excitement

Everywhere the messaging was highly prescriptive.

Instructions to obey

My seat was clearly marked- only green blob seats were in use, the blob next to me was vacant as my bubble was not with me.

A green blob marked my spot

The most disorientating element was my not sitting on my usual side of the pitch as well as being much lower down (and the tv feed on the screen showing the view from the other side). Further my glasses were still steamed up.

But, then The Liquidator” boomed out and we all stood, our gloved hands clapping only slightly off beat in a reggae/industrial mash up.

Once the game started, I dispensed with my glasses as the slight lack of focus was better than fog.

I enjoyed the game- the full drama of them scoring first, clawing one back then getting two more in the second half to make a nice victory. They even played “One Step Beyond” (only played after special games) and I jiggled along with the rest in my non syncopated way.

Did I enjoy it? Yes, though I missed S who sits on my left and the three manly excited hugs when we scored. I also missed J who sits on my right, not just for his calming and sensible influence when I get too tense but also his warm and comforting bulk keeping out draughts.

And what I missed most was the pub afterwards with my football chums. 

Taken in warmer weather my beer is brown

Here is the music. (If it works; I have had a few technical problems)




Paying for Vaccination

(4th December 2020) As the weather worsens the coming vaccine is good news. The priority order seems reasonable.

However, what does a 40-year-old rich person do? They will be down the list. Nevertheless, I am sure that there will be clinics in Switzerland who will oblige, for a fee.

So here is an idea based on three known facts.

  1. There are wide levels of income inequality in this country.
  2. The vaccination programme will cost a lot of money-eventually paid for by the taxpayers (us).
  3. The rich are in the best position to minimise their tax payments (see Lady Green who owned Arcadia taking a £1.2 billion dividend) a few years ago and paid no tax on it.

Thus, a logical idea- given that people drafted in to give the injections are paid the curious figure of £ 11.32 per jab (call it £15.00 to allow for admin and NI), we could set aside 5% of the jabs for people to pay to jump the queue. I suggest £5,000 which is probably cheaper than going to Switzerland twice. This would pay for 332 ordinary people to have injections.

Assuming 100,000 rich people took up this offer it would pay for over 33 million jabs. Given that the top one percent of the adult population would number over 400,000 people this is a modest proposed take up. (If Lady Green had paid tax of 30% this would have covered nearly another two and a half million jabs).

Suggest this to anyone you know with power and influence; I wonder what the Daily Mail would think?

For the Manga not the few

Chilly Times

26 November 2020) The weather gets chillier, the new tiers cause tears and I continue, slowly, to build up food stocks; mitigating the shortages we will experience in January.

The government have fudged Xmas so that they cannot be accused of abolishing it (leading to all the train companies stopping their cheap tickets for the period). They will then blame us for hugging and snogging when the virus surges in January (though we won’t worry as we will all be in long queues outside the food shops brightly mumbling that “At least we’ve taken back control”

On a positive note I have discovered that you can recycle properly the annoying plastic holders they put around 4 packs of canned beer (and presumably other drinks as well). There is this nice company who will send you a label; you fill an envelope with the items and hand it in to a UPS agent (my local newsagent is one). Simple, only expense, if reusing a large envelope, is a bit of sticky tape. It also is better than mixed recycling because a firm who have a quantity of identical material can do something with it. Here is a link.

UK Shipping Label | Ring Recycle Me

I see that Mr Trump is slowly realising that he has to go away-however I do fear that his constant denigration, of what appears to be a slightly strange democratic system anyway is seeding the ground for an authoritarian uprising/downtreading.

Fortunately, he has not bombed Iran. Yet.

Let’s not forget that in 830 AD the Persians had invented algebra and how to solve quadratic equations. We were in the Dark ages.

So when someone said “Ull you’re late” this was chastisement of a tardy peasant.

In Persia when this was requested  the recipient would utter a loud, usually protracted, high-pitched, rhythmical sound especially as an expression of sorrow, joy, celebration, or reverence.

Here is an example

And there is always hope (this is a rare picture capturing the secret sun)

Are there two suns?
The sun always rises

Msvcp140.dll (me neither) and more praise for Microsoft.

(13th November 2020). Somehow Mr Trump remains President of the USA. I do not understand their system. I imagine it also means he can still launch a nuclear war-on Friday 13th should I be worried?

At least Mr Biden seems an ordinary “proper” politician which is encouraging.

Today I, again, praise Microsoft. A week ago, an update caused all sorts of errors. I found much of my software was not working and was plagued with incomprehensible error messages. Then I discovered there is a nice option in settings “Reset this PC”. I set it off; it kept all my data and my bookmarks . I just had to spend a while reinstalling software, updating “drivers” (whatever they are) etc. But it worked; a handy tip (but backup all important documents just to be on the safe side).

So, thank you Microsoft. It is used by over 90% of all the computers in the world and only hated by a hard core of Apple users and the 5% of users who care about operating systems. The rest of us don’t, we just want to use our device.

Lockdown continues to imprison us; the government is trying to spin a way of not going down in history as the one that abolished Christmas and Brexit looms dangerously. Plus Cummings and goings in No 10. Though no expert I am not sure this is the way to govern a country.

I am steadily building up my stocks of non-perishable food for January’s Lockdown 3 along with a 90% decrease in imports.

A self portrait below.

On a rare sunny day I posed for the swans


Why I miss (going to live) football

(29 October 2020) I have not been thinking much recently as dank autumn merges with Covid tedium. Then, on Saturday, while taking the dog for a trudge round the rec, I bumped into someone I had not seen for quite a while. He asked me how I was. I happened to glance at my watch and noticed the time. It was exactly when I would have left the pub to go to the match that afternoon. A gust of sadness (or a chill wind) washed over me and I realised how much I miss football.

I know they are playing in empty stadia but I don’t subscribe to sports channels (as I would only want to watch my team) and watching in pubs is never totally satisfactory at the best of times. At the moment to leave the pub having seen my team lose while amongst a crowd of crowing opposing fans is never nice and along with that, I might well have become infected.

Having had a season ticket for over thirty years it is a gap in my life, Or rather two gaps.

First, there is still that childish expectation of waking up on a matchday, anticipating joy and pleasure though tinged with a shadow in the corner that hints that it could all go wrong (a lesson for hope in general), It is that taint of disaster that distinguishes football from other activities,

If I am going to a concert in the evening, I still tingle with anticipation but I know the outcome will, at least, be “good” and hopefully “excellent”- not the case with football.

Whereas at the match the world becomes a simpler place; no ambiguities, grey areas, “listen to the alternative view”. Everything that happens is “good” or “bad” and clearly so; it is quite refreshing.

I also care unreservedly, without fear and with an intensity not often experienced in the rest of life. I can also shout with joy and anguish (in a non-discriminatory or offensive fashion of course) and let my emotions loose.

After the match finishes an emotional bubble remains. After a good or significant victory, a bubble of happiness filters my perception of the world- the fellow fans in the pub seem like demi-gods and for a day or so everything is positively enhanced. I feel warmer towards my fellow humans and tolerate the irritating ones more (I would still not kiss Donald Trump though).

 But for every Yang there is a Yin. The inept performance, the biased referee, the dreadful error, the broken shoelace all create a dark and gloomy bubble that lurks in my psyche despite my best attempts to push it away. The bitter tastes bitter, the weather colder, people uglier.

The bubbles do not last and I check my diary for my next fix.

However, as they say at JML, there is more..

The second reason I miss football is the associated chumship.

Over the many years a large informal community of individuals, mainly with monosyllabic names (Bev, Dev, Kev, Mev, Trev), (some names changed to protect individuals) have clustered around the team (and real ale). As well experiencing the joys and pain of supporting the team we have lightly supported each other through births, deaths and diseases (amongst other things).

A day at football is greatly enhanced through walking into a bar ( rubbing your head)) then seeing friendly faces and having a chat.

After the game there is always a requirement for beer, to celebrate or commiserate, in likeminded company.

It is this social aspect that is lost. However, I do not claim to have unique feelings on this.

In the 2018/2019 season the top four tiers, just for league matches, the total attendance was 41.800 million. Ignoring corporates and tourists that is thirty-five million people having pleasurable chumship (or possibly thirty million excluding solipsists).

Add on a nine million watching top level club rugby union, another couple of million for Rugby league, games in Scotland and NI and all those other sports that I assume have regular spectators,we are talking about a lot of people all of whom have an absence of social contact in their lives.

Perhaps we should all shoot grouse.

Here’s a smiling kitten.

Smiling kitten

The Tester Calls

(29 September 2020) Autumn arrives and the government state that all hospitality venues must chuck everybody out at 10.00pm, thus ensuring streets, buses etc are full of people. I am not sure how this assists “social distancing”; my uncertainty demonstrates my ignorance and the cleverness of the government and its advisors.

It is noticeable that there are issues around “Track’n Trace” (who sound like a 60’s light comedy act), which is needed to identify who requires testing. While it made sense (to the government at least) to build new testing capacity, rather than using all the labs around the country I reflected on the future.

Assuming we have not all succumbed to the disease and hoping those who refused the vaccine are regretting their decision there will be great over-capacity in testing facilities.

With this in mind and noting that early identification of a potential medical problem is often the best way to prevent it developing through early interventions there is an opportunity to use this capacity for a large cohort to have regular blood testing.

The simple point is that measuring blood over years not only trends in an individual’s health would be monitored but the large data set would be incredibly useful for research. I will write to Mr Hancock and share his reply.

Here is a picture of the police dealing with a curfew breaker.

Old Slide
Lucerna Magic Lantern Web Resource, lucerna.exeter.ac.uk, item 5145521. Accessed 29 September 2020.

Puzzled about Exams

(8 September 2020). I have been thinking about exams a lot recently-hard to avoid really. The fundamental problem is that the government appeared to have an obsession with “Grade inflation” i.e. if results are “better” they seem to assume it is because exams are getting easier rather than pupils learning more.  (This seems odd as in other areas of life improvements such as the population improving in health, or less children in poverty are seen as positive). They also consciously discriminated against clever pupils in deprived areas.

I reflect that this is because they (and previous governments) have never made clear what they expect from the exam system.

In any widely taken exam a decision has to be taken on how to set the grades. There are two choices.

  1. Norm referenced tests – For these a simple decision is made that, for example only 20% of candidates get an A grade (and so on throughout the divisions). This is honest and straightforward particularly as results are used for entry to further education and employment. It does, of course, mean that an individual’s grades are related to the quality of their cohort.
  2. Criterion referenced tests-For these a standard is set and the number who achieve a given grade is entirely based on their abilities. Thus, the numbers getting an A grade will vary but will reflect individual’s abilities and the input of teachers.

 I prefer the latter system though it should be clear which is used. Write to your MP about it

In the UK, typically, “A levels are currently neither fully norm-referenced nor fully criterion-referenced”. As parliament was told some years ago.


As a footnote I am also puzzled why there are five different commercial organisations offering GCSE exams (with a further two just offering A levels). To me it would make sense to have only one organisation setting exams as is common in most civilised countries. This is how I feel.


Unnecessary Plastic (2){update}

(8 September 2020) Following on from last week’s thought I got a rapid reply from the supermarket. Unfortunately, it missed the point. However, to be fair I wrote back and further explained the issue and I then got a rapid and helpful reply- see below

(Dear Mr Fraser,

Thank you for your response.

Yes, this makes sense and is a good idea in my opinion so I appreciate you bringing this to our attention.

I can certainly pass this on to our pricing team so that it can be considered for implementation should there be a review of process in the future.

I apologise that I did not grasp the concept initially and would like to thank you once again for your feedback regarding this).

We will see what happens.

(4 September 2020) Apologies for the silence recently- not only have I been dumbstruck by the news (all of it) I have also been away from my PC.

Undecided what to focus my thoughts on I happened to buy some baked beans.

On the shelves were single cans and six packs which were much cheaper per tin. ((Without panicking my readers, I am slowly stocking up for the Brexit chaos in January). The tins were    wrapped in (unnecessary) plastic. See below the discard.

Unnecessary wrapping

In the same supermarket there are many “special offers” for example on beer where buying four specified individual bottles gives a cheaper overall price. They often offer a “discount” if you buy six bottles of wine etc.

At the till the machines recognises these offers and applies the saving. So why do they wrap baked beans in plastic? I have written to the supermarket and will share my answer.

While we wait here’s a picture of me on my holidays.

Golf and knitwear make a perfect combination

Why vegetarians (and vegans) should NOT eat capers.

(14 July 2020) This week I am pleased to announce that I have uncovered a worldwide secret- one which will shame the acting profession. It has been hidden for centuries; only now will it be revealed.

I refer to the caper, a pointless pickled lump found in jars with no apparent purpose other than being another pizza topping.

It all started in the early half of the 18th Century with a jobbing gardener -Lancelot Brown.

He did bits and pieces for the wealthy in their gardens but his great love was the theatre and all his spare time was spent hanging around the theatrical scene in London. He was a well-known “face”, known as “Billy” to his friends.

One fine summer day he made the discovery that changed his life. Tidying up a scruffy corner in the grounds of a large country house he noticed something stirring in the undergrowth. Fortunately, he had a large magnifying class in his apron; peering through it he saw some tiny creatures scurrying about. He picked one up, inadvertently crushing it to death in his strong fingers. Immediately he was overwhelmed with extreme sadness and tears poured down his rugged features. Using his coarse woven smock to wipe away the tears he picked up another one and crushed it. He experienced the same feeling and marking the spot he collected some of the creatures for his return to London.

That evening he met Madelaine (an actor who in later life found fame when she moved to France and invented a small almond based cake). She was known for her comic abilities but had just gained a lead role in a serious drama requiring real tears on stage. She was worried about her ability to do this. Billy reached into his pocket and crushed a creature under her nose. She dissolved in floods of tears. Eureka!  “What is that?  she asked tearfully.

Hurriedly Billy thought of the way the creatures capered around their nest and blurted “capers”

He kept her supplied with a steady stock; she was a huge success bursting into tears when required, (and unsettling some of the audience in the front rows).

Billy started growing small caper colonies in all the gardens he worked on to maintain and increase his stock. His fame spread and suddenly he was in great demand by all those in the profession who required instant tears. His nickname became “Caper Billy Brown.”

He did not take money, just asked his clients to recommend his gardening skills, which they did gladly, thus providing him with such a steady income that he employed a small team of gardeners to do most of the work. He focussed on growing small caper colonies in hidden corners. Even today, should you be the kind of person who enjoys visiting 18th century gardens, go to a far south facing corner and there will be a slightly unkempt patch where the capers live.

As time moved inexorably on his name became corrupted to Capability Brown as Billy was seen as a proletarian name amongst the upper echelons.

Some actors were squeamish at crushing a live creature between their fingers; undaunted Billy experimented and found that by putting the creatures into a strong brine solution not only did their little legs drop off but that their lachrymose powers were retained. (They normally strain off the legs but if you inspect the bottom of a jar closely there are often one or two remaining).

Billy then went into serious production. Cleverly, once everyone was using “Billy’s Bottled Tears”, he created a rumour that these were exotic flower buds, grown overseas- a falsehood that still exists to this very day.

The use of capers remains a guilty secret in the acting profession. Actors like to show they can act; when asked how they manage to appear sad they talk earnestly of remembering their dead grandmother or dying children in a far-off continent. They never say they crush a small creature to get the required emotion.

How can you spot usage? It is concealed until you know how to look for it. When someone bursts into tears there is a close up of their face.

What you can’t see is the “Caper boy” (the person on set who guards the capers) kneeling down out of shot and crushing a caper. When the camera pans back the proffered handkerchief or sleeve is also caper infused to keep up the grief. In a particularly tragic scene, the stage directions will often state “a three-caper cry”.

Caper boy is a secret profession; I often watch every line of the credits in a movie (to see if the name of my son’s friend who I have met a couple of times appears under Lighting) and you never see “Caper Boy” This proves my point!!!

Ask anyone you know in the acting profession about this and examine their eyes closely as they reply. Note the tightening of the eyes and the over vehement denial, the scorn they express as they desperately try to change the subject. Then you will know this is true.!!

As further evidence, note the link below to a band who show an artist’s impression of capers with all their legs and a link to a song of theirs. The band have been around a while but the system has conspired to prevent them ever releasing a full LP. (I don’t like the song though I would not hold that against them). Observe also the unnaturally high voices, a tell-tale sign of over use of capers in the studio.




Boo hoo and Butter

(9 July 2020) With all the (justified) fuss about clothing factories in Leicester (demonstrating why we need a proper factory inspectorate to ensure minimum acceptable standards) I am proud to announce that this website will no longer be attempting to influence you to buy Boohoo clothing and have removed all their adverts.

Continuing with the “B” theme and in response to my Albanian readers (është “hi atje!!!) who have told me they love the site but that it could do with more recipes, I reflect on butter  ( a slightly sickly yellow glow to be honest).

Butter is pretty straightforward stuff- milk a cow, pour off the cream and whizz it up. It is easy to do inadvertently- whip cream too vigorously past the point it becomes stiff, carry on and suddenly it goes yellow and becomes butter. The liquid that comes off is “butter milk”. Trendy restaurants do this and call it “cultured butter” for some reason.

Butter does not spread easily when cold. It is therefore quite easy to use more than you really need. You can always get a bit out of the fridge where it will soften up in a short while but this does not suit the age of immediate gratification. Thus, the clever food manufacturers invented all the various spreads containing many things you will not have in your cupboard.

Then consumers reacted to this semi-chemical paste so the ingenious manufacturers came up with “spreadable butter”- they do contain butter, and rapeseed oil as well as water (clever) and various other stuff.

It is easy to make your own version (I’ve been doing it for years). It spreads beautifully straight from the fridge, so just the right thin amount can be applied. It will separate if left out for too long, so use it and put it back in the fridge.

You can make it with any oil. Rapeseed is best as it has no taste and is one of the highest in unsaturated fats and Omega 3.

Moreover you do not need to buy labelled bottles of rapeseed oil – the generic “vegetable oil is often 100% rapeseed and much cheaper. The nutritional value is identical to the labelled bottles (I have been followed by store detectives as I take bottles to different shelves to compare the nutritional information). This is how you do it.

The recipe for “Keith’s Mix”

  • Put 150 g butter in hand blender jug.
  • Add 150 g rapeseed oil
  • Leave for about an hour for butter to soften
  • Blend with electric hand blender until there are no lumps
  • Put into container that will go in fridge
  • Put in Fridge.

It hardens up within a couple of hours.


Do not put into too much oil, it works well with less than half but not with more.

If you wanted to be fancy you could add herbs or garlic or crushed anchovies and similar

This simple table below compares a national supermarket’s butter with its “spreadable” and with Keith’s mix

Cream (cow’s milk)98% 49%
Rapeseed oil NoYes50%
Reconstituted Buttermilk NoYes No
Coconut oil NoYes No
Water NoYes No
Colour: Carotenes; NoYes No
Energy KJ3,0622,255.3,227.50
Energy Kcal745548785.00
Content and nutrition (note that the “spreadable” did not state % of other ingredients.

So liberate yourself from chemical spreads and enjoy this kitten with your toast.

Admiring the new spread

Flagging Energy 3

(3 July 2020) As part of sorting out my mother’s “estate” (as it is grandly called) I have taken over her energy bills. This precipitated two thoughts.

The service is provided by EDF- the world’s largest electricity producer with over 60% of it coming from nuclear power. It is also a French state company. I, in my simple way, fail to understand why the government “privatised” the British State energy producers and then allow the French government to take over. I assume this will change after Brexit and we “take back control”.

However, what outraged me the most was the price my mother was paying.

Her standing charge for electricity was 29.02p and gas was 31.99.

EDF has a consistent standing charge for both of 24.05 and 27.35

So, over a year EDF were taking an extra £21.14, just because they could, from someone not familiar with “switching”.

If you look at this nationally there are 6.5 million households headed by someone over 65 and 3.8 million over 65s live alone.

Given that this group are most likely to be IT illiterate or deficient and assuming 3 million of this group have never switched then some big numbers appear.

On the electric standing charge this generates over £49 million a year and for gas it is less but still just under £14 million.

On standing charge alone this equates to £ 63,414,000 excess revenue.

On the kwh rate she was paying 19.27p for electricity and 3.786 for gas.

EDF’s most expensive tariffs are 17.83 and 3.504.

On their calculations of her usage they were taking an extra £25 for electricity and £21 for gas.  Over £80 a year, just like that.

Applying these calculations to the population as above and if it was EDF (and I suspect this is the same for all the older companies) then they are trousering an extra £241,743,840 a year or over £20 million a month.

I am not sure why this is allowed.

I changed the EDF tariffs through a reasonably straightforward online form.

My suggestion for my readers would be, if you know any digitally disadvantaged people, to help them change tariff, even staying with the same company if they are afraid of a switch.

Don’t go to the pub on Saturday as it will be chaotic. Just enjoy this kitten instead.


Universities and Brains

(28 June 2020) I have been too busy to update recently so apologies to my Chinese readers.

It was interesting this week to see that the government are consulting on a plan for school leavers and other applicants to only proceed with final university applications after their exam results, meaning they would have a clear understanding of the courses for which they qualify.

This is actually a good thing; the news this week has shown the issues with predicted grades ( not always accurate and often biased against the disadvantaged). Further, private schools appear to have been gaming the system (which I would expect if I was paying £38,000 a year to educate a child).

However, if we want to reduce the bias in the admission systems of universities (particularly the so called “top ones”) I propose the following (I will write and tell the government once the consultation is live). It would work like this:

  1. Applicants, knowing their results, would apply for courses, perhaps having a first choice, second choice and so on- maybe no more than ten in total.
  2. If a course is oversubscribed then 90% of the places are allocated entirely at random. This process, being class, race, gender and everything else blind would, at a stroke, ensure a diversity of intake.
  3. “Why?” you cry “90%?”.  We do live in an unequal society. I pass no judgement on this. Nonetheless we pretend to be a pure meritocracy and the wealthy game the system through private education and networks. I simply propose making this explicit.
  4. So, 10% of places on any course, at any university, would be for sale on an auction basis, open to all qualified applicants. They do not even need to set up a system- they could simply do a deal with E-Bay.
  5. The rich would still buy their way in but it would be clear and explicit.
  6. And there is more. Money used to buy a course (after admin fee) would be shared amongst the applicants who got in to the course through the ballot-thus giving them a small slice of privilege.

This scheme, which I am sure would be welcomed, would have an interesting effect on private schools who, while, I am sure, still providing a decent education, would lose the hidden advantages for entering higher education; we might see a decline in the sector.

On a different issue – constant despair at the government’s apparent incompetence, which I explained has at its heart the elite’s false perception of “reality”. I was heartened to watch a small talk greatly underpinning this view. It is called “Your brain hallucinates your conscious reality”.  Essentially it states that the brain predicts reality (thus optical illusions for example). To me this reinforces my view that governmental incompetence derives from their view of the world being different from us average folk.

So, no kitten this week- watch the clip – 17 minutes of fascination.


Cheers and Ham

(13 June 2020) Busy week for me as it was my mother’s funeral. It was a shame that the crematorium was bisected by massive power lines.

I am the executor so have to handle all the admin. I went to four banks to do the necessary paperwork and all the staff I dealt with were helpful, professional and kind. So, praise for Co-operative, Nationwide, Santander and Nat West banks. (If bank bots are crawling through this; all based in W5).

While in praising mood I do not normally endorse products. There is a firm who keep emailing me to get various cleaning products to blog about. I fill in the form, give the website details and they never choose me. I am not sure why.

However, I will praise the Mint Magnum which is by far the best of them all. (If Magnum HQ want to send me a crate it will be well received).

Our dog has to take tablets but her paws can not pop them out of the blister pack so I do it and conceal it within the cheapest, most obviously plastic, “ham”. The supermarket had run out and substituted what appeared to be posh air dried etc ham. But the small print said it was made of “Formed Ham”. I wondered what this was.

The internet tells me

First of all the individual meat cuts must stick together and when cooked, retain the shape of the mold without having any holes inside. This is accomplished by producing sticky exudate on the surface of meat pieces. Think of it as glue that binds the individual meat cuts together upon heating. The exudate is formed when the muscle’s cell structure is disrupted which releases protein called myosin. The disrupting of the muscle structure is accomplished by a physical action such as cutting or mechanically working meat pieces inside of the tumbler. For making formed meat products fine cutting or grinding is out of the question and massaging or tumbling is the preferred method. Using mechanical action by itself will tenderize meat but will not produce enough exudate. To release more proteins salt and phosphates are injected to meat prior to tumbling.

In other words, rather than cutting off a pig’s back legs, cooking them and slicing them, (you see these hanging up in delicatessens), they take all sorts of pork flesh lumps, smash them around in a machine (a tumbler) and chemicals so it all sticks together.

Full details available below.


I am sure that consuming such products is ok (if pork is included in your diet) however, once again, it is the Chicken Theory in action. The rich will always continue to eat proper slices of pig leg, we delude ourselves by eating the mechanically produced stuff (did you ever wonder what they do with the eyelids?).

Delving into this a little further I discovered that Gammon, also pig’s leg, is sold uncooked. I assumed that this would be ok. Sadly not. The expensive gammon is a whole lump, the cheaper lumps are formed. Thus, even though you cook it yourself it is still mechanically produced.

I will cheer myself up with a glass of kitten.

Kitten in a glass

Clarity, Despair and BBQs

(5 June 2020) Finally got my new glasses today. I have been without a lens for three months and had a couple of years of imperfect vision. Seeing the world with crystal clarity is a grim experience.

The global epidemic gives an interesting contrast in the way governments operate. Ours, who have been in control for the last ten years and twenty-seven of the last forty, do not seem to be very good.

All governments have to make decisions on structures, systems, taxation and regulation, amongst other things. Ours barely appear competent in doing these even adequately. At the heart of it is the way the elite live in their own bubble and see the world differently to us- leading to the wrong solutions. If this is the Anglo-Saxon model then I despair.

This week’s cause is to join the Ban Disposable Barbecues Campaign.

People rightly complain that fools take them into the countryside and set the area ablaze by accident. I question why people need to cook something if having a nice day out- they can just make their own sandwiches or prepare delicious tasty salads. Even with kwin-oh-hah if desired.

I even see people using them in the local park- where they are specifically proscribed

However, the EVEN MORE shocking thing is that they do not work well at cooking food- not enough heat is generated for long enough. So, you set fire to the wild and give yourself food poisoning.

Is that a good day out? Chicken Theory in action- people pretending to be cavewomen- “being in touch with nature etc”.

Finally, it is disposed of – more litter. Waste and resources thrown away.

This has to go onto my list of Things to Ban.

The nice people at change.org have a petition on this- do sign it.


Finally, a picture of the new tracing system overlooking us, taken recently while walking the dog.

Early prototype of Track ‘n Trace

We do not all share the Same Reality

(28 May 2020) I was pleased that the charge for foreign NHS workers to use the NHS was dropped. An (imaginary)   senior source said it was my posting that tipped the balance.

Overshadowing all the important news is the story of Mr Cummings and his behaviour. I have little to add immediately other than to ponder on how many people in this country have a relative with a spare house. I am also outraged that he altered a blog post from a year or so ago to provide evidence for his interesting garden speech in a borrowed white shirt.

I wondered why this occurs, how he, and others, can be so out of touch with reality.

I then reflected on “reality” and perception. I can reveal that it is, probably, like this.

  •  There is actual “reality” as would be seen by an extra planetary observer
  • Each individual perceives “reality as they think it is“- dependent on their development, upbringing, peer group and eye sight etc.
  • The latter leads them to seeing “reality as it should be

It is clear, in my mind, that all individuals have different grasps on “actual reality”.

Politicians are often the most disconnected as they are constantly “spinning” events- to the extent that most actually genuinely believe what they are saying. The Instagram phenomena is another example of people adjusting other people’s perception of their own reality; certainly, perceiving one’s self through self-referencing appears to be on the increase. I await the clever sociologists to explain all this.

Similarly, the Brexiteers pictured a reality of down trodden British people  under the thumb of wily foreigners. Sadly the Remain camp did not pitch the reality of sad Brits looking in at the party they could not join but tried to use logic and facts which, though objectively correct, did not chime with the perceived reality of the Leave voters.

How is this relevant to this week’s story?

Mr Cummings, Mr Johnson et al all originate from the narrow upper echelons of society. They both were privately educated (only 7% of the population are) and went to “Oxbridge”- (being part of the 1% who follow this path. To quote from the Social Mobility Commission

“The research finds that power rests with a narrow section of the population – the 7% who attend private schools and 1% who graduate from Oxford and Cambridge. The report reveals a ‘pipeline’ from fee-paying schools through to Oxbridge and into top jobs. 52% of leading figures in some professions, for example, senior judges, came through this pathway, with an average of 17% across all top jobs. 39% of cabinet ministers, at the time of the analysis in Spring 2019, were independently educated. This is in contrast with the shadow cabinet, of which just 9% attended a private school.

The full report is a salutary read (link)https://www.gov.uk/government/news/elitism-in-britain-2019

Therefore, while I feel no sympathy for their actions the frightening aspect is that they genuinely do not think they have done anything wrong; it does not just compute in their mindset.

It is obvious that reform is required.

Perceptions of reality is something I will return to-it is the Chicken Theory in action.

To cheer me up and thanks to Bridget Riley who created the picture below, showing the fluidity of perception.

We see what we see


Stealing from the Warehouse

(21 May 2020) The less polluted air at the moment is a blessing and has led to record solar power output though it does exacerbate the unusual heat. This week I should have been on holiday, my last one in Europe while we were still friends. Instead- today I fume at the papers (or rather their content).

My outrage commences at the government charging our key healthcare workers, who come from abroad (from October) £624 pa to use the NHS they prop up. They, also, do not pay them enough to be allowed to come here in the first place once we are cast adrift from Europe. This is just obviously wrong and is a manifestation of the severe cognitive dissonance exhibited by leading figures in the government (though I fear they do not suffer inner pain).

However today’s reflection is about warehousing.

We have all read about “The private firm contracted to run the government’s stockpile of personal protective equipment (PPE) was beset by “chaos” at its warehouse that may have resulted in delays in deploying vital supplies to healthcare workers…, The full story is here


What puzzles my simple mind is why a facility as vital as the nation’s (i.e. our) supply of vital equipment is looked after by a private company- a subsidiary of an American company.

The contact is reported to be worth £10.5 million a year. Assuming it is for five years that is a cost of £52.5 million. This was awarded to OM Moviantio, OM being Owens and Minor the American owner of the subsidiary.

OM’s annual report for 2019 stares that their gross margin on revenue is 12.25%

So, assuming nothing special they would expect to get   a gross margin (basically profit) of nearly six and a half million pounds over the contract (£6,431,250 to be precise) and in a year would expect £1,286,250.

There is nothing necessarily wrong with profit, I had a nice ice cream yesterday and don’t mind if the maker gets a few pennies from me- I need not eat ice cream. However, if I am in hospital the people treating me have to wear PPE, I need them to wear it and do have an issue with the warehouse company (Logistics to use posh name) making money- even more so if it goes overseas rather than being spent in this country.

The story of the warehouse failure seemed to indicate not employing enough staff (who cost money) and not organising the warehouse correctly- which is not competent.

It is here that the perils of letting private interests run national facilities becomes apparent.

In essence the workers do the work and are managed by the managers. Even if they are paid the “going rate” they have to operate with less resources (as money is taken out for profit). So even if “public” sector was slightly less efficient, for some reason, I fail to see that it could be over 12% worse. “An Efficient business” in the private sector essentially means paying workers the minimum they can get away with.

The most telling quote in the story, from the company was

 the company had “executed the agreed plan” to mobilise the stockpile without any delay and in accordance with its contractual obligations.

So, there is no suggestion that the company did anything wrong -demonstrating “The Rule for Private interests taking over Public Functions”

The best and most talented people who work for them are the sales team who are very good at their jobs.

The other team of talents are the contract lawyers and contact managers who tie up the public sector in knots when anything out of the ordinary occurs.

The workers are the ones paid as little as the company can get away with.

Logistics is not quantum computing; it is complex and needs structures and processes; however, there are plenty of people who can do it and there is a whole wealth of a profession behind it.

There is an institute of Supply Chain Management https://www.ioscm.com/about/why-ioscm/

One can do a masters in this https://london.ac.uk/courses/supply-chain-management

One can become a chartered member of a professional body https://ciltuk.org.uk/About-Us

And so on.

My actual point is that there must be plenty of trained and capable people in the UK who could run this service as part of the public sector without filching a million or so a year for shareholders to spend on guns and burgers.

I also note that this facility of ours is being sold to a private French company EHDH where they will doubtless spend the million (paid from our taxes) or so on organic free-range snails and fine wines.

I assume the company is run by a very nice man- you can read an interview with him here,

My sad conclusion is total despair that our rulers are so ideologically biased against so many things that are public sector that they put their trust in global companies rather than the British people- I am not even suggesting corruption (which at least would make sense) it is just dogged ideology.

To cheer me up here is a picture at an early attempt at weaponising kittens-note the early death ray on its back.

Weaponised kitten
Kitten as weapon

Haircuts in the New Age

(14 May 2020) Today, Nick Cave was meant to see me at the O2 tonight so he is probably feeling a little sad at the concert’s postponement.

The lockdown (sort of) continues, I think, though I remain reassured by the clear and decisive leadership shown by this government.

Undertaking social distancing while dog walking, the cold wind ruffling my unruly hair, I started thinking about haircuts. I would have had one around the start of lockdown and possibly am due another. (In half a mind to avoid the barber and grow a pony tail but I do not have a battered denim waistcoat.)

So, the missing haircut is “Lost Output” from the Gross National Product (GNP but it is not that important and leaves no lasting effect. Thus, what is the longer effect on the economy?

Roughly 250,000 people work in the industry in the UK so they will be suffering- particularly as around 54% are self-employed and have to apply for universal credit.

Further all the missing haircuts will not be replaced and it is possible that (some) people have learnt to do their own (properly).

Many Barbers and hairdressers are very small businesses. Over half of them in the industry turn over less than £99,000 a year – which is not a lot given the cost of premises, business rates and razor blades  etc. Two thirds of the businesses employ less than five people and with 94% having less than ten employees, the loss of work, at least a third of the year, is likely to be significant for many in the industry. Finally, around half of the people who work in the industry are aged between 16-34.

I thought I would try to quantify this loss. My own experience cannot be extrapolated as I only pay a tenner when I go to my basement barbers- where the Lebanese gentlemen genuflect slightly and say “The usual boss?”  I feel it is impolite to refuse.

I thus searched for some better figures. The industry turns over £8 billion a year (coincidentally the same figure as Apple borrowed from the US government to buy back their own shares which makes sense but is too dull to explain and does put this country in its global place.)

I assumed 45 million people pay for haircuts (excluding small children, the genetically bald and headshavers as well as those I see who appear to cut their own, outside on a dark and windy night with kitchen scissors)

This works out to a delightfully precise figure on of £178.78 per head.

I am not sure how many of my readers will want to spend this once we get the “New Normal”; I predict, sadly, the end of many small hairdressers (businesses not individuals of limited height) and jobs for younger people and a “business opportunity” for supermarkets and others who have prospered; leading to the reality of that schoolyard sneer

 “Where did you get that haircut?” (pause for dramatic effect”)

“At Tesco’s? (cue cruel laughter from the onlookers).

Here’s a few kittens and a song from Nick.

Four Kittens
A kitten chorus

Goodbye Florian (and hopefully not) election

(7 May 2020) I would have voted (wisely) today if the elections had not been cancelled. It is also worrying when any form of democracy is removed. Although the reasons on this occasion are reasonable, I hope no precedent is set.

On a personal level I was planning to launch C.A.B.B.I.E (Campaign Against Blatant Bias in Elections) but with no electoral context this awaits another day.

It was sad that Florian Schneider died; while I did not think about him much, I have always loved the music.

I bought the album pictured at the end in 1971.The music has lasted nearly 50 years so could probably now be called classical. This album can’t be found on Spotify.

Early Album from 1971
The inner cover

Finally, as VE day approaches (Victory in Europe not over Europe) here is a European song.


Testing & Key Workers (1)

(5 May 2020) There has been much in the media recently on testing for Covid. It does not seem to be going as well as it should though, in consolation, limited coverage of VE day in the press, which though important, would have been far too prevalent.

If the Germans had won it would probably have not been very nice but they would have sorted out this testing. I am uncertain why we have the most deaths in Europe

Continuing on testing I remain puzzled why the government do not carry out some random testing of a large sample of the population. This would provide more solid evidence for the next steps i.e. to understand:

  • What % of the population have it- even with limited or non-existent symptoms
  • What % have had it as shown by the presence of anti-bodies- and are thus immune for at least a while
  • What % could potentially get it.

This would help greatly in developing the next steps.

Key Workers. My internet service was down recently but yesterday two nice engineers came along and fixed it by working on a box in the next street- a blockage in the internet pipe or something. I was grateful that they were designated “Key Workers” (KW)

I ruminated on this having had milk delivered in the morning by a KW, my refuse taken away (not by the milkman)  another KW brought the post and then, while walking the dog, noticed that some others had cut the grass in the recreation ground and were emptying the bins, while the local shop was busy. Then a train rumbled by on the nearby railway line. With restored internet I then had an email from a social worker who was pleasant, helpful and also working hard

So, in a complex society every job seems important to keep the ever threatening chaos at bay. But then I wondered if every single job was actually needed in a sane society. Who are the Non-Key workers we could do without?

I have started a list with two suggestions- perhaps my readers could add some more

Jobs that Need Not Exist:

  • Hedge Fund Manager” – not privet related.  A Hedge Fund is an offshore investment fund, typically formed as a private limited partnership, that engages in speculation using credit or borrowed capital.

I.E. they make money for the rich, while being very well paid themselves through complicated, obscure financial transactions which benefit only themselves and their investors- not the population at large. If they get it wrong, they have limited liability so they are not responsible for the losses.

Jacob Rees-Mogg owns 15% of a Hedge Fund.

  • Tax Avoidance Expert” Everything they do is completely legal but uses a combination of loopholes in the complexity of the tax system along with the use of off shore companies and all that. The only serve to help the rich keep more of their money and deprive the government (i.e. us) of money for much needed public services.

I could rant on for ages- to cheer me up here are three nice kittens.

Three sweet kittens

Energy & Plastic Update

(29 April 2020) A spring in my step today as I share the nation’s joy at another child for the prime minister. I think it’s his sixth though I remain unsure.

Another bounce in my spring was that I wrote to Ofgem about the iniquity of the standing charge on energy bills. They sent back a clear and helpful response- see below (with key part underlined)

“Dear Keith,

Thank you for contacting Ofgem.

Standing charges are fixed amounts applied to your energy bills to cover fixed costs such as administration fees, provision of a meter and connection to the network, however it is not mandatory for suppliers to charge a standing charge.

Ofgem’s role does not extend to setting energy prices, including the standing charge; energy prices are determined by the suppliers themselves based on their assessment of the wholesale and retail markets. It is up to energy companies themselves to explain their prices changes and profits to their customers.”

Thus, the “Standing Charge” is basically a rip off which penalises the lightest/poorest users of energy (contrary to what is desirable) and makes it totally confusing for users to compare properly the rates from different suppliers. When public attention returns to the “new normal” it might be time to start a campaign.

The final spring bounce, which almost broke social distancing, was in a local supermarket (Morrisons). As I trudged around the shop noticing that everyone was socially distancing themselves from me to the point where minor paranoia crept in, I passed the baked beans-which last week had been unnecessarily plastic wrapped.

There is obviously someone from Morrisons amongst my tens of readers- the four packs of beans-still at the same remarkable value, were encased in flimsy cardboard. One small step etc.

To celebrate here is a link to a song (it will only work if you have Spotify on your device) https://open.spotify.com/track/1FtcntYuiBB4fGWgMM6dxb?si=–Zm_ZclQgiC7NiTWg9YRw

and a nice spring blossom picture.


Plastic ?

(21 April 2020) Stumbling out of isolation and blinking in the harsh sun as I went on a search for marrowfat peas I started thinking about Jacob Rees-Mogg which was perturbing and one I will return to on another day. (We haven’t heard from him in a while, I hope he is all right).

I succeeded in my task at a local supermarket; thus, emboldened I went in search of tinned goods. They had tomatoes and baked beans (in separate tins). I bought some.

This is not interesting but the rant is about Unnecessary Packaging particularly Plastic.

The tomatoes were 30p each or four for a quid. All loose tins.

The beans were the same price but wrapped in quite strong plastic which was not recyclable so will be off to landfill.

The till, once it counted four tins of tomatoes, knocked 20p off my bill.

It could have done the same with the beans so there was no justification at all. One piece of plastic but it would only require 3,000 of them to pointlessly cover the pitch at Wembley (a football stadium for my continental readers).

The supermarket has over 450 stores so assuming all these baked beans are snapped up (- it was an attractive price) then this unnecessary wrapping would more than cover the football pitches of all the professional pitches in the UK. This is probably not right.

This was a small thought so to eke out my precious and diminishing supply of kittens here is a plant.


Economics? Part 1

(16 April 2020) There has been much talk about economics this week along with the unknown rising death rate.

With no supermarket delivery slots available I am trudging to the shops and standing in Soviet style queues, reflecting on economics. These are some things that puzzle me.

Tesco are doing a good job, I am sure, of “feeding the nation” and are enjoying good sales.

The government have said that they won’t have to pay £538 million for business rates.  Fair enough. However, they are distributing £630 million to shareholders. I guess some clever people understand how this makes sense though I wonder what happened to “The value of your investment can go down”.

“Growth / Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is predicted to severely diminish.  This makes sense if you think of a company that make tangible things from lumps of metal.

However, consider someone who, when at work, every lunchtime, goes to a sandwich chain for a flesh/dairy/plant based alternative sandwich, As a creature of habit they do this every day- so £25 a week for 40 weeks a year -spending £1,000.  In a UK workforce of well over 30 million people it is not unreasonable to imagine one million people doing this- spending in total one thousand million pounds (or a billion as it is now known).

Nevertheless, at a guess, all these people probably are still eating lunch in these locked down times. Maybe they are making their own sandwiches say at an average cost of £2, thus spending 60% less or £600,000,000 off GDP. So, GDP falls, but everyone is still eating a sandwich. We are no worse off as unpaid work does not count in the statistics. I will return to this later.

Finally, the government are giving people forced out of work by the crisis some money to help them. This is admirable although a better organised society would have a Universal Basic Income system in place anyway. I have worked out my scheme for this but it is a bit complicated so I need to refine it until it becomes comprehensible.

The government are also helping companies. However, these are private companies so I would hope that if the government (who work for us) provide cash to help them out they should do so in exchange for shares in the company. Should better times return the dividends could be used, for example, to invest in worthwhile efforts such as those that help mitigate environmental ill effects, clean energy etc. (I am not sure if they will though).

Where does all this money come from? An interesting sleight of hand. The government say

Can anyone lend us £50 billion? – here are some bonds stating we will pay it back some time”.

The Bank of England then says

“We will” and the Governor sends someone down to the basement to print £50 billion. These are delivered to the government who give them to people who go out and buy necessities including sandwich ingredients. Magic really.

When things get better the Governor of the Bank of England could meet the Chancellor of the Exchequer- probably in some traditional club with gigantic armchairs and leather butlers. The Chancellor tells the Governor that it is a bit tricky to give the money back as they want to use the cash they have got for the NHS, Local Councils etc.

“That’s all right mate” says the Governor, “I’ll just chuck the bonds in this nice fire and we’ll say no more about it”.

And the world continues.

As do the kittens


Flagging Energy

(9 April 2020) I have just gone through the irritating process of switching energy suppliers, sparking off a number of thoughts.

When a supplier phones or accosts me in the street they always claim to reduce my bill.

They want to know who my current supplier is and then they make up a figure to save me money. However, they (and I have had argument with the street people about this) refuse to tell me how much they are actually charging. It is quite simple- there is a per kilowatt hour cost and a daily standing charge. This is what one needs to know but they won’t tell me.

It is like someone telling me they can save on my supermarket bill by asking me who I shop with without telling me what they charge for apples.

You can find these out if you bother to delve into the depths of a company’s website.

I realised then that the energy market is one from the list of The Bad Things we are lumbered with from Thatcherism.

There are now over 60 companies who “supply” i.e. just bill you, for energy. This complication is bad enough but there are also over 75 companies who offer an energy broking service or switching service to help one through this unnecessary maze.

While I am sure all the individuals who work for these companies are decent human beings and are kind to their pets, a sane and organised society would not need all these- they are an example from the list of Totally Pointless and Unnecessary Occupations.

Energy Board -In practical terms there has to be an organisation that gets the gas and electricity to your home- all the others are pointless. We could, for example, as we live in a democracy (so the government works for us) have a body for each region. Thus, in London we could have the London Energy Board, open, transparent and with some elected representation. Instead London is controlled by EDF a French company for example and in Scotland, Scottish Power is obviously Spanish owned.

Unfair Pricing- We are all aware of climate change and the need to reduce energy consumption. Yet our current system, as well as being almost incomprehensible, discriminates against poorer households.

The best deals come from using direct debits, however, estimating conservatively, about a third of the population live in poor households with low and / or irregular income and cannot set up direct debits. So, they are charged extra for monthly billing or- even more if they have to have a pay meter.

Then there is the standing charge, quite wicked because it is fixed irrespective of usage so that those who use less pay a higher unit rate. It is a regressive charging system.

I did some sums- just for electricity though the same principle would apply to gas. I assume that the Kilowatt pe hour (KWH) rate is 15p. The daily standing charge is 30p (all the companies quote fractions of pennies as it makes it far more difficult to work out with mental arithmetic) and according to OFGEM (a regulator who probably do a good job but would not be needed under democratic control) a typical household uses 4,000 kwh a year.

So, for this household, adding on the standing charge and working out the unit rate, this average household pay 18p for each unit.

A poorer household, using half this amount pay 20p a unit.

A prosperous household – perhaps with an electric jacuzzi, use double the average and pay 16p a unit thus paying 20% less for what they buy.

The justification for the standing charge is that it covers fixed costs of providing the supply- meter, holes in road, pipes etc. Nevertheless, as users are also billed for what is used there is no actual justification in it being so high.

I took my sums and boosted the KWH rate to 17p and reduced the annual standing charge to a modest £12 pa.

This working out  keeps all at an actual rate of 17p per unit (the average paid by households using 8,000, 4,000,3,000 and 2,000 collectively) although the bottom group still average 18p, the rest 17p but, significantly only the household with the most consumption pays more (£62.50), the others pay increasingly less with the poorest saving £57.50 pa.

(I show the sums at the end of this piece).

So, the first part of my Practical Manifesto for a Slightly Better Future is Reduce the Standing Charge to a Minimal Figure.

But, as the TV shopping channels say, there is more.

If we want to be an inclusive society, we should recognise that all should have access to basic utilities.

I wondered therefore about Making a Certain Quantity of Energy Free.

I did a sum assuming that all households got 570 free units each year. (an odd figure but for the example this generates as much revenue as the current model -actually £4 more)

I put the unit rate up to 20p.

Calculating this way means that the average price of a unit increases along with consumption, a feature that can only encourage energy saving.

On this model, comparing it with the current example above, the average household get a tiny reduction, the poorest still save over £100 a year (which they would possibly spend on energy) and those who consume the most pay £188 more. Further those who consume the most pay an average unit price of 19p while those who use the least only average 15p.

Practical?  Easily – once details are worked out give this would apply both to gas and electricity so consideration would be given to allow for single fuel households and I do not think second homes should be eligible for example. There could also be some recognition of the number of people in a household.

Perhaps we should start a campaign.

The sums (spreadsheet available on request)

Unit Consumption per yearUnit costAnnual Unit costsAnnual Standing Charge (30p per day)Annual BillAverage unit cost
            8,000 £    0.15 £ 1,200.00 £            109.50 £ 1,309.50 £          0.16
            4,000 £    0.15 £    600.00 £            109.50 £    709.50 £          0.18
            3,000 £    0.15 £    450.00 £            109.50 £    559.50 £          0.19
            2,000 £    0.15 £    300.00 £            109.50 £    409.50 £          0.20
(total revenue) £ 2,988.00
Model based on current practice
Unit Consumption per yearUnit costAnnual Unit costsAnnual Standing Charge (30p per day)Annual BillAverage unit costDifference
            8,000 £    0.17 £ 1,360.00 £              12.00 £ 1,372.00 £          0.17 £       62.50
            4,000 £    0.17 £    680.00 £              12.00 £    692.00 £          0.17-£       17.50
            3,000 £    0.17 £    510.00 £              12.00 £    522.00 £          0.17-£       37.50
            2,000 £    0.17 £    340.00 £              12.00 £    352.00 £          0.18-£       57.50
(total revenue) £ 2,938.00
Small standing charge and unit rate of 17p
Unit Consumption per yearNo Cost UnitsPaid UnitsUnit costAnnual Unit costsAnnual Standing ChargeAnnual BillAverage unit costDiff from current model
            8,000        570         7,430 £                0.20 £ 1,486.00 £        12.00 £ 1,498.00 £            0.19 £ 188.50
            4,000        570         3,430 £                0.20 £    686.00 £        12.00 £     698.00 £            0.17-£   11.50
            3,000        570         2,430 £                0.20 £    486.00 £        12.00 £     498.00 £            0.17-£   61.50
            2,000        570         1,430 £                0.20 £    286.00 £        12.00 £     298.00 £            0.15-£ 111.50
(total revenue) £ 2,992.00
Assuming some no cost energy each year

Thanks for reading-here’s a couple of kittens


Thank You Microsoft

(6 April 2020) As lockdown continues the tedium increases; having to shuffle out to the shops as I can’t get my normal regular grocery delivery while trying to avoid a small chance of catching a disease that could prove fatal.

Over the last year I have not been using the usual basic software for writing etc but online and freeware.  It is all perfectly adequate for my modest needs but it is awkward, like being in a rented holiday home- you know the stuff is there but it is not in the place one is used to.

So, I recently (through an absurdly cheap legitimate online deal) acquired proper Word and Excel etc. It has been very comforting and using it has been like coming home.

Thus, thank you Microsoft, though people malign you your software does run over 90% of the world’s computers. (Twenty years ago, the United Nations could have created a universal freeware for this, sadly they did not seem to get my letter).

Here is a kitten

Kitten with teeth


(30 March 2020)it has been a couple of depressing weeks as the country locks down. As I take my prescribed compulsory healthy walk I see a jogger at a crossroads. The road is empty but I cannot avoid the impression that at any moment a stumbling horde of the infected will be chasing after him.

I comfort myself with a healthy but dull salad then make it perfect by piling mayonnaise all over it which somewhat reduces the healthy eating cachet.

So I got to thinking about mayonnaise, a delicious product and one where the brand leader is actually the best. However given that the suggested portion size is absurdly minuscule and a sensible one is quite a lot, regular consumption would be an easy route to obesity.

Thus eating the good stuff should be an occasional treat.

This is a problem for the manufacturers who would like the public to eat it more frequently but still be capable of getting off their sofas.

So they invent a “Lite” version (I suspect the universal refusal to spell it properly is indicative of their secret shame) and to make it low in fat churn up several unusual ingredients(defined as ones you won’t have in your food cupboard) See the difference below.

Proper Version Inferior Version
Rapeseed oil (78%) Water
Water Spirit vinegar
Pasteurised free range egg and egg yolk (7.9%) Modified corn starch
Spirit vinegar Sugar
Salt Pasteurised free range egg and egg yolk (4.0%)
Sugar Rapeseed oil
Lemon Juice concentrate Salt
Antioxidant -calcium disodium EDTA (Ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid) (as a medicine it is used to treat lead poisoning and is recognised as being very safe) Cream Powder
Flavourings Citrus Fibre
Paprika extract Colours (carotenes, titanium dioxide E171 sourced from ilmenite, rutile, and anatase

Thickener (xanthan gum E145 derived from the fermentation of a bacteria anthomonas campestris, which also causes black rot on leafy vegetables)

Flavourings (contain milk)

Preservative (potassium sorbate E202)

Lemon juice concentrate

Antioxidant -calcium disodium EDTA

So this is a perfect example of The Chicken Theory in action- rather than having a nice treat now and again it appears lovely to frequently guzzle on inferior substitutes (and sell a lot more jars).

Oh well here is a cute couple of kittens