Friday, 30 April 2010

Avast There Ye Voters!

Like most of ye popperlation I opted not to witness ye third leadership debate twixt Brown, Clegg and Cameron. Landlubbers everyone of 'em, not fit to hoist their own trousers, never mind split a mainbrace. I watched the Europa League footy instead. However, if Mad Cap'n Tom had been taking part it might have been a different story. He'd have given the mangy curs a run fer their money, ahaarrr. His remedy for fixing 'Broken Britain'? A roll of duct tape to be sent to all homes.

συνεχίστε την οικοδόμηση : It'll Be Nice When It's Finished

We've got a meeting this afternoon with Sid James (the builder) and Kenneth Williams (the architect) to discuss 'next steps' on completing our little building project and agree exactly who is going to extract their digit and how fast before I take a shotgun to one or both of them. It's not clear whether or not Charles Hawtrey is coming (a composite character in this performance, representing the various inept clods engaged by Sid James). Who knows? Maybe Frankie Howerd will turn up instead - we certainly need someone to exclaim "OO ERR MRS!"
Here's a few of the items for discussion:
  • The Drains (ibid.)
  • The bedroom wall is one metre short of where it should be. Bigger veranda but no room for a dressing table.
  • Contrary to instructions the old water pipes were not removed. Concrete was poured over them and one pipe was left connected to the supply. So when the water was turned on, the floor was flooded. Duh! It's fortunate El Presidente told the builder not to put the tiles down yet.
  • Stairwell windows the wrong size - completely different from the plans!
  • Ceiling height 15 cm lower than it should be.
  • and many more.

The Weakness Inherent In The System

I am beginning to suspect there may be something fundamentally faulty with the globalised neo-liberal capitalist economic system. The Greek government has failed, for one reason or another, to manage its economy successfully and it now finds that if it wants to borrow money to fund its expenditure it has to offer interest rates on its bonds that it cannot possibly afford to pay.  Consequently, a 'credit rating agency' has categorised Greek government bonds as junk, thereby reinforcing Greece's economic plight so that Greece can't borrow from the usual financial markets and needs help from the European Union and the International Monetary Fund. Stringent austerity measures must obviously follow.
But these financial markets now see the need for EU and IMF support as putting pressure on the Euro currency so that the value of the Euro has consequently fallen, and stocks and shares have likewise taken a serious dip. The financial markets reaction has thus made the situation worse not just for Greece but for everyone. The value of your shares hasn't fallen because the company is badly run or losing money, but because the markets have got the willies! This raises the question of who is actually running the show. It's not the elected Governments within the EU, or the IMF (an international governmental agency). It's the 'credit rating agencies' and the whizz kids operating between extremes of greed and panic in the financial markets! Who voted for them?
Let us not forget that it was the extremes of greed in the globalised financial markets that led to the 'credit crunch' and the need for governmental bail-outs of the financial markets (i.e. the 'banks'). Consequently, the UK and other countries have debts that will be difficult to repay which will no doubt cause the credit rating agencies to downgrade their assessment of government bonds, leading to further uncertainty and making it more difficult to clear the debt.
Confused? I know I am!

Thursday, 29 April 2010

Brave New Drains

The Sewerage Authority did their thing and provided the connection so now the drains men are engaged in re-routing the drains out to the main sewer. These guys seem to know their business apart from not bringing a torch, which you need when you're poking about in the dark one metre below the surface of the earth. So they are using mine. So far so good, but they've now stopped work because they've got another job booked in and they won't be back till Monday. So we are left with holes in the ground and the passageway, covered with bits of chipboard, and temporary pipes here and there. Ho hum.
Re-routing the downstairs flat's drains will involve digging up the whole floor which will inevitably wreck the bathroom furniture and the tiling etc. So there will be further expenditure there...I doubt if Cypriot workers will bother to try and salvage much of the existing stuff. But of course, the drains men don't do the removing of the bathroom stuff, so we have to get the builder's men in on Sunday to do that beforehand. And meanwhile, we have to get the plumber to coordinate with both of them so that he connects up the water supply correctly. Monday should be a laugh!

Mosquitos 6 v. Xorg 1

Furshugginer. We're off to a bad start in the battle against the mozzies. A lamentable case of complacency, I am sorry to say. Left the window open, forgot about plugging in the electric doodad thingummyjig. So they got me, pardner. However, I did claim one victim yesterday with the swatter - quite satisfying actually as the little blighter was totallly ensquasherated in the swatter in one swift blow.
A full Strategic Defense Initiative is now in place comprising electrified devices, chemical sprays and regular monitoring procedures. And the swatter remains close at hand. We shall fight them on the veranda, we shall fight them in the bedroom, we shall never surrender and so forth...

Sunday, 25 April 2010

Gig of The Century

Members of The Xorg Collective played a special one-off gig at The Bramfield Village Hall yesterday evening in front of an invited audience.  A total smasheroo, this one should run and run! Music industry executives are queuing round the block for our signatures!
We were part of a nine-piece ensemble, assembled by our pal Kevin. Me and our Phil on guitars, Louis on drums, Jeff on lead vocals, Vicky on keyboards, Lisa, Jackie and our Mary on backing vocals and Kevin on t'bass. We played two sets, separated by individual sets from Martin on vocals and acoustic guitar and his son Ben, also on acoustic and vocals, who did his own stuff. I have to admit that Martin was the more polished of the artistes on the evening but we were easily the loudest by a long chalk and several country miles. Our cover of 'Cochise' by Audioslave pinned a few ears back, I can tell you. A special mention goes to the backing vocalists who made a big difference.
The set list comprised some old fogey material as well as some more 'modern' stuff. The up-beat songs went much better than the gloomy slow songs. Old fart favourites such as 'Rikki Don't Lose That Number', 'Southern Man' and 'I Shot The Sheriff' never let you down!

Friday, 23 April 2010

Drains: Fingers Crossed for a Quiet Volcano

Phew! That's a relief. Madame President and I are due to fly to Cyprus on Monday and for a few days there we were thinking we might have to cancel. But not only has the CAA re-opened UK airspace but, it seems, the wind has changed direction and the ash is now being blown back over Iceland so their air travel has been suspended. Incidentally, the BBC has an explanation of the technical side to all this blather; apparently a concentration of 0.0002g per cubic metre or less is now considered to be the threshold whereas hitherto it was zero.
So we should be able to get over there and get all this business with the drains sorted out. The builder seems to have made a right old stew of it, having started digging too early, before the Sewerage Board got their act together. Consequently, the floor in the flat downstairs is a mess and everywhere smells, causing the tenant Anna to be somewhat less than gruntled and having to impose on her relatives for ablutions facilities. Meanwhile, it is uncertain when the Sewerage Board will connect everything up - I suspect it's a case of the old-fashioned Cypriot approach of 'avrio, avrio' (tomorrow, tomorrow, or maybe next week. Ah, don't worry...)
All those involved have been warned of El Presidente's immininent arrival so we'll see what we shall see.

Thursday, 22 April 2010


Willie Walsh of British Airways, and other airlines, are demanding compensation from the Government for the losses they have suffered as a result of the closure of European airspace. By 'the Government' they mean, of course, the taxpayer. Sorry chums but we haven't got the money, or hadn't you noticed the three hundred gazillion budget deficit? Besides, don't the airlines have insurance? Whatever - I find it ironic when the 'Captains of Industry' seek a socialist solution to a capitalist problem so here's my proposal:
Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley have reported massive profits for the first quarter of 2010 of $3.46 billion and $1.41 billion respectively. What the rest of us call pay and bonuses, these organisations choose to call 'compensation packages' - 43% and 49% of revenue respectively. A tidy sum - $5.5 billion for Goldman Sachs and $4.1 billion for Morgan Stanley. So what I reckoned was, these bastards get all this money by screwing the rest of us via their weird and wonderful finincial derivatives, mortgages and currency speculation so why not divert some of their 'compensation' to the airlines? Cut out the middleman; neat redistribution of wealth in a nutshell.

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

The Big Society

The Civil Aviation Authority, of course, is a quasi-autonomous non-governmental organisation sponsored by the Department for Transport, and is accountable to Parliament through the Secretary of State for Transport. It is financed from the charges it makes to airlines and airports etc. Under the Tories' manifesto plans for 'The Big Society' it would presumably be one of the bodies that 'the public' could to run for itself. Or perhaps its staff could organise themselves into a co-operative and take it over. I am not sure how this would work exactly, and why this would be better than the current situation. No doubt David Cameron and his spotty herberts have got it all figured out. But I can't really see many punters wanting to rush forward and be responsible for air traffic and determining whether or not it is safe to fly.
Likewise, the Ministry of Defence could be run by a self-selected co-operative group, I suppose.  Actually, I wouldn't mind leading such an initiative. As Todd Rundgren said in his song Heavy Metal Kids  - " I know I could make this world so peaceful and calm if I could only get my hands on a hydrogen bomb."

What Ho, Algy! Skies are out for cabbage crates over the briny!

So after much deliberation, hand-wringing and despair the airlines are back in business and 21st century humanity can resume its fragile existence. I disagree with all the complainers though - despite the inconvenience to tourists and disruption to economic activity I would rather The Powers That Be were cautious and undertook some test flights and research with manufacturers about flying through volcanic ash. As Dr Colin Brown of the The Institution of Mechanical Engineers said yesterday "If the engines on an aircraft were to fail, then it's going to crash..." (I suspect the thesis for his Doctorate was The Bleedin' Obvious.)
Meanwhile, here's a spiffing picture of the volcano Eyjafjallajokull erupting whilst lightning is striking, via our chums at NASA. (Click on the picture to embiggificate.) Not even Biggles himself would fly through that!

Monday, 19 April 2010

Schedenfreude vol 6: Arsenal Woops!

As I am a Spurs  fan it will come as no surprise to you that I laughed heartily yesterday evening after Arsenal capitulated to Wigan, squandering a two-goal lead in the last ten minutes to lose three-two. But what made it most satisfying is that Wigan drew level with a goal from Titus Bramble of all people. The most inept  blundering player in the Premier League. The Arsenal goalkeeper flapped at the ball and bounced it onto Bramble's forehead and thence into the goal. Ho Ho Ho. Thus Arsenal's chances of the title are scuppered (barring Acts of God and so forth). And if they continue to mess it up like this, it's just about feasible that Spurs could finish above Arsenal in third place.
Well, there's no harm in being optimistic...

Saturday, 17 April 2010

Panikos Photography

The brother-in-law, who is possibly the best photographer in Winchmore Hill, has started a photoblog. He's quite good actually, and he's even won prizes! Have a look. The one on the left is a picture he took of some waves in South Africa, but his main business is baby and wedding photos. There's a link to his business website over on the right and down a bit; contact him now for photos of your loved ones!

Schadenfreude vol.5: Aaaagh.

Life, and football in particular,  throws up some peculiar quandaries from time to time. I find myself wanting Manchester City to win today, with Carlos Tevez scoring a hat trick, thereby scuppering Man Utd. But on the other hand it would be better for Spurs if Man City lost by umpteen goals (or more). However, that would help Man Utd's hopes of winning the title. Of course, we want Spurs to beat Chelsea but that too would enhance Manchester United's chances of winning the league. And if Man Utd and Chelsea both lose then Arsenal benefit, assuming they beat Wigan tomorrow. 
It seems I'm the victim of my own schadenfraude.

Thursday, 15 April 2010

Yer Blues: Lennon, Clapton, Mitchell, Richards

This was part of The Rolling Stones' Rock N Roll Circus, their 1968 extravaganza intended as a TV special but which was never broadcast. Apparently Mick Jagger wasn't happy with The Stones' own performance which had been delayed by the cameras breaking down and problems with the scene shifters and roadies setting things up. Plus they were a bit rusty and Brian Jones was off his bonce as a result of substance abuse. But there's nowt wrong with this performance by The Dirty Mac. This took place about two weeks after Cream's farewell concert and three weeks after the release of The Beatles' White Album. And about six weeks after the release of Electric Ladyland.

Me on a horse

And I didn't fall off.

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

Flying Pig

The spotty herberts in charge of the Conservatives' election campaign showed their naivety by choosing the former Battersea Power Station as the location for their manifesto launch. Many of the  'baby boomer' voters they are hoping to seduce will remember Battersea Power Station from the cover of Pink Floyd's album Animals which featured a giant inflatable flying pig floating between two of the chimneys. Legend has it that the inflatable pig broke loose from its moorings during the photoshoot and drifted over Kent where it eventually landed in a farm and scared the cows. 'Animals' is a concept album sort of inspired by George Orwell's Animal Farm but is more a critique of capitalism rather than communism. I find the album quite depressing but then not a lot of Pink Floyd's stuff is what you might call upbeat.
Not a good image to associate yourself with if you're an aspiring Tory Prime Minister.

The Vote Now Show

One good thing about the UK General Election campaign is that the BBC are broadcasting a nightly series The Vote Now Show hosted by those wacky wackateers Steve Punt and Hugh Dennis, in which the whole process and the politicians generally get the mickey well and truly taken out of them. It's slightly different from the usual Now Show format as it features additional guests such as 'serious' political journalists, but it almost makes the campaign worth enduring just so you can have a few laughs at the end of the day. I hope the politicians are listening - maybe they'll realise how silly they can be, and how utterly meaningless so much of what they do and say is.

Sunday, 11 April 2010

Thursday, 8 April 2010

While My Guitar Gently Weeps

Eric Clapton, Billy Preston, Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr and many more at the Concert for George. If this doesn't bring a lump to your throat, I don't know what will.

Tribute to George - While My Guitar Gently Weeps
Uploaded by k_rhcp. - See the latest featured music videos.

A Tax on Jobs

I guess a lot of things are going to get up my nose over the next four weeks while the General Election campaign is played out. But these so-called business leaders who have been complaining about the proposed increase in National Insurance contributions next year are starting to get on my nerves. They and their stooges in the Conservative Party keep referring to this as a 'tax on jobs'. No it isn't. It's a tax like any other, which is part of your business costs and you can pay for it in a number of ways. No one needs to lose their job because of it. Here's a few ideas:
Pass it on to your customers via increased prices;
Take account of it in next year's pay negotiations;
Renegotiate your supply contracts to get a better price;
Increase your sales, develop new products, break into new markets;
Or, you could pay it out of your profits. Perish the thought.


Suzanne, protege of pop svengali and music mogul Timothy Devereaux has a new EP available now on iTunes.
Laid back reflective love songs sung in Suzanne's inimitable breathless fashion. Give it a whirl.

Schadenfreude vol.4: Bye Bye Man Utd

I don't often have much sympathy for Manchester United but, notwithstanding Robben's fantastic strike, I think they wuz robbed of a fighting chance by the referee. There were a lot worse fouls than Rafael's pull-back on Ribery committed that didn't get a booking, but the referee allowed himself to be bullied by the Krauts into giving him a second yellow card and sending him off.
Nonetheless, I expect even Ferguson would now have to admit that he made a mistake in letting Carlos Tevez go last summer and relying solely on Rooney and, otherwise, own goals from the opposition.

Wednesday, 7 April 2010


Dweezil Zappa is taking his Zappa Plays Zappa extravaganza on the road in June and July and including a week's worth of gigs in the UK. I'll be going to the one at Cambridge on 21 July. They are also playing in Brighton, London, Liverpool, Glagow, Wolverhampton, and Gateshead. See
Dweezil and family have come in for some criticism for trying, unsuccessfully, to force other 'non-official' tribute bands out of business by deploying lawyers and so forth. So there's nothing for it but to get out there on the road and play yer socks off, Dweez!

Defence Expenditure

A fascinating graphical presentation of various countries' military expenditure over at The Guardian. The figures show that  USA spent $607 billion in 2008 on 'defence'; more than the other nine top-spending countries put together. Loadsamoney in comparison to President Obama's Healthcare plan which will only cost £940 billion over ten years. But the USA is rich so, taken as a proportion of GDP, that's only 4% whereas Myanmar (formerly Burma), a military dictatorship, spent 26% of its GDP on defence. And the USA is 'high-tech' so they only have 829 military personnel per 100,000 population whereas North Korea has 24,728. That means a quarter of North Korea's population is in the military; no wonder they are starving. It seems to me that it's not just the American war-mongers who need to re-examine their spending priorities.

Big Thought For Today

Just supposing there is a place/state of being called Heaven or Nirvana or whatever you want to call it. An afterlife in which the unhappy people of this world will be made happy and the evil bastards will be made to pay (presumably with some kind of unhappiness, like death for instance). OK. So far so good. But if I believe that in the afterlife my unhappiness will be replaced with happiness then that would make me happy now wouldn't it? So I would no longer be unhappy. What does that leave for the proposed afterlife? I guess all I have to do is believe I'm going to be happy, then I will be happy.
Just a bit of blue-sky thinking I thought I'd float past you and see if anyone saluted it or tore down the flagpole. Not that I'd want to die in a ditch over it, clear blue water or not.

Saturday, 3 April 2010

Bootleg Jazz: You are What You Hear

If you are a fan of jazz music then nip over to You Are What You Hear. This is a blog containing lots of live jazz for downloading including stuff by Michael Brecker, Jack De Johnette, Billy Cobham and many more. I've no idea how 'legitimate' it is - a lot seems to have come from  radio broadcasts and what I've listened to so far is of a good recording quality (i.e. not from a single mic held in the air behind a pillar). Any road up, I doubt if the musicians themselves will mind much as it seems unlikely in todays music biz climate that this stuff would ever have had a commercial release. But it would be good if you actually went out and bought an album or two by the artists featured to help keep them and their families from starving to death.
See also  Smalls Live.

Acer Maple at The Jazz Cafe

Another works outing yesterday evening, to The Jazz Cafe to see a band called Acer Maple for whom our Phil was playing drums. You may or may not recall that Phil engineered their EP 'Early' (which is currently available at iTunes). Acer Maple is basically two guitarists, Danny Fisher and Dave Austin, who write songs and recruit various people on an ad hoc basis to play them live. I still don't know why they named themselves after a tree but there you go.
For this gig, they used a full band with backing vocals and Phil got the job of drummer as their first choice tub-thumper was otherwise engaged. Completing the line up was Olly somebody on double bass, with Danny Fisher doubling on piano, and three women singing whose names, I think, were Sharlene, Donna and Charlie. Sharlene was the lead vocalist - she appears on the EP. Any road up, an excellent gig of laid back folk/jazz/soul very expertly performed. The songs are all pretty good, and they sounded better live than on record. (But most bands do if they are actual musicians.) Moreover, they were clearly enjoying themselves. Only two criticisms: they need to include a couple of up-tempo songs in the set and they should break it up a bit more with some solos - Danny and Dave were a bit shy.
The venue itself is quite snazzy, although the toilets are a bit inaccessible way down in the basement, and basic. Full marks though for providing real coffee in a cafetiere at a reasonable price. Avoid the cocktails - £7.20 a throw.

What I Been Reading

Found amongst my Dad's old books, The African Queen by C S Forester. This is probably more well known as the 1951 John Houston film starring Humphrey Bogart and Katherine Hepburn but it was a book long before that, first published in 1935. The film is pretty good and Bogart won an Oscar for his part in it although, of course, Hollywood changed various parts of the plot to simplify matters and over-dramatise the ending, losing some of the subtleties in the process.
C S Forester subsequently wrote the Hornblower series of books, all of which I have read at some time and can highly recommend (see The C S Forester Society). Forester shows the same knack in The African Queen of combining an adventure story with a narrative describing how the characters change and develop as events act upon them. Very enjoyable, and there's no waffling. Note: in the book the woman is the stronger character and takes the lead but in the film the man is more heroic.

Thursday, 1 April 2010


There have been a few problems with the building project in Cyprus. This is just one of them.
When the house was first built Larnanca did not have a mains sewerage system so the drains were connected to a septic tank at the back of the house. But as time went by, the Municapality eventually got round to putting in mains sewers and the house was connected up - not to the sewer running at the front of the house but to the sewer in the road behind, via Uncle Hambis' property. I believe this was done for reasons of short-term economy, but it has meant that the sewerage junction is a tad overloaded. So we figured while we're getting the building on the roof done, let's put the drains right. We obtained the necessary permissions, paid the fees and gave the plans to the builder and the architect and thought that would be all there was to it.
But no. Despite having had the plans since February the builder just noticed that the drain from the house doesn't meet up with the inlet to the main sewer. And the authorities won't let you run a diagonal pipe under the pavement or road to compensate. Various solutions were put forward, including digging up the whole of the ground floor to lay a new drain, but we've now reached a compromise whereby they'll dig a diagonal channel under our property to meet the main sewer at a right angle. This was supposed to happen last weekend but for some reason or other, it didn't. And now the builder has gone to Libya seeking another job. Ho hum. Meanwhile, not a small amount of inconvenience has been caused to the ground floor tenants whose drains remain temporary.
What I find annoying is not that we have encountered a problem - such things are inevitable - but that both the architect, who is supposed to be supervising things, and the builder have failed to sort out a difficulty that was foreseeable.

April Fool

Quite a good crop of April Fools Jokes this year:
The Independent reports that the Circle Line on the London Underground is to be converted into a Large Hadron Collider;
The Guardian gives details of The Labour Party's new poster campaign;
The Daily Telegraph describes how Virginmedia are bringing broadband to rural areas; and
The AA have plans for jet-powered roadside assistance.
Meanwhile, the Today programme on BBC Radio 4 had a special report suggesting that Shakespeare was French. Just a little bit too far fetched, that one.