the lockdown log 68


I will start with the good news; the scales gave me 107 kg this week, so 4 kg down from last week and that makes it look even more like the 111kg was a spurious reading. What went wrong? Atmospheric pressure? Sun spots? I don’t know, but I am reassured that I am back on track.

The jolt that I got from the dodgy numbers last week did give me some motivation to try and focus. I have not gone into starvation mode, but have tried to cut back on intake and to be a little more thoughtful about what I am eating. The latter can be hard, especially when a certain voice calls through from the kitchen asking if I knew that such and such needs eating by today. Obviously not or I would have had that rather than what I have on my plate, but such circumstances tend to see me eating my share of the about to run out of date food in addition to what I had portioned out for myself. The difference is that a couple of weeks back I would probably have buttered some bread and made a sandwich whereas now I just eat whatever it is and cut out the extra carbs.

Out in the garden the foxes are still passing through and we get the odd signs of the passing, but the damage has largely stopped. Other pests have made an appearance though; blackfly, greenfly, caterpillars, slugs and snails to the fore and the constant battle has moved on. The wet, but warm, weather had seen growth rocket and with it the amount of time needed for basic maintenance is eating into getting projects done. The big Silver Birch in my neighbour’s garden is now shedding its seeds and, even with no real breeze, standing on the deck is like being in a minor blizzard which means that finishing the deck repaint is on hold for a week or two.

I am hoping to be able to get on with building a table for the barbeque in the coming week as that will mean that I have the table available and can get the barbeque off the floor and can also, perhaps, use the damn thing although I have never understood the attraction of standing out in the heat cooking on something that is even hotter. We are planning lots of things salad based for the coming week.

With the 19th approaching we have no plans to ditch our masks. Down in these parts we are also seeing a surge in C-19 cases and we will be staying safe to reduce the risk of being sorry. We are plotting going out for lunch one day soon though and one of the local pubs will be seeing us all being well.

Stay safe wherever you are.

on market research and advertising


Over my years of working I have worked in sales several times and, in my own businesses, I have had to rely on my own abilities in that area. Knowing what will sell and how to get it in front of those who will buy varies according to what it is you are selling, but the basic principles are the same whether you are standing at your stall in the market or pitching a multi-million pound deal in the boardroom. If you don’t grasp them you will not last long.

This is not about the mechanics of selling though, it’s about some of the stuff that goes on around it. Specifically understanding who will buy what, why and how to get their attention.

Starting with the back end of that, advertising, it has struck me how things have changed. Visual advertising, mainly in the form of TV commercials, but also including billboards and the like, used to have an element of wit and style, but these days they seem to have dumbed down to a point where many are just puerile. If they are intended to make me want to buy the product, they don’t, but worse, they put me off using the company altogether. I vote with my wallet and there are some places where I will no longer take my cash based on their advertising.

Perhaps these companies have researched and tested these adverts; they almost certainly have because the Berkshire Belle amuses herself by taking part in market research and will often warn me that her tablet is about to “make a noise”. Some of the questions that she will then be asked are so off the wall as to be worrying, for example she will often be asked to say what sort of person the advertiser is, and various other oblique questions that are almost impossible to answer with any credibility.

Not only is someone paying shed loads of money for this research, but they will also go on to spend much more on commissioning the commercial and getting it out there. But if the questions are ones that it is not possible to answer with any genuine accuracy then the results will be flawed so what is the point?

As stupid as it sounds people are using this stuff. Perhaps it is because they have paid a lot for it that they choose to believe it; I don’t know for sure, but I have certainly been on the inside of teams who have been using data from this sort of market research and cannot ever recall it being challenged by those making the decision.

I am not saying that all market research is wasted. You do need to know, but be careful with what you get back because people lie in at least some of their answers. Use such data as a guide rather than an absolute and do look carefully at the results that you get when you go to market.

Maybe my criticism of advertising is, in part, due to flaws in the research. I don’t know the answer to that either, but I suspect that, whilst it contributes, the biggest problem is a general dumbing down of society. Our expectations have been lowered so much that we get what we deserve. For me it means that, just as I will not buy from a cold call, I will buy very little that I see advertised on TV.

the lockdown log 67


Isn’t it odd how a week can change in a moment? I thought that it had been a decent week; I had got a few things done despite the weather, the foxes are causing less damage although they are still living next door, our tomatoes and cucumbers are flowering, I had been fairly good on my food intake, had had salads for lunch on a couple of days and was looking forward to some good news from the scales. I should have known better.

The first attempt came up with 110.5 kg, so 2.5 up from last week. What?! I tried not to make loud noises (it was just before 5 am) got dressed and went to work. Back home before lunch I tried again as I got changed out of my working gear: 111 kg. I tried swaying about a bit and was rewarded with 111.5 before the scales settled back to Nelson (as all the ones are known in cricket and darts).

Those of you who have been on diets will probably be familiar with the days when you feel either fat or thin. It was the former that pushed me to start getting weighed regularly again and when that first re-visit gave me 109 I was relieved. I was not good about my food intake, but was much better than bad, felt thinner and got the 108 next time around so was feeling comfortable that I was on the right track. My belt was back on the second new hole that I had punched in it and I could see my toes if I looked down. So where the heck did another 3 kg (almost half a stone) come from?

So, what to do now? Well, firstly have a rant as I have done here. It has a marginal effect, but I need to avoid despair because that will lead to eating for comfort and that is the wrong path. I have talked here before about a parallel with addiction and, like an addict, I am trying to take it a day at a time and hope that I can get through the next week knowing that there have been times when I have denied myself things to eat that I really do not need. I will also try to keep a tight reign on portion control as well as on content because one of my failings is often finishing off the odd slice left on the loaf, the odd bit of cheese or whatever rather than leave it for tomorrow when I already have what I need on the plate. I shall try to be positive and, who knows, this might be the kick up the arse that I needed to get my motivation back.

We have pretty much abandoned thoughts of a holiday this year, but will wait until the end of August to make a decision. If we are giving up on going away then I will change my holiday plans at work and take three separate weeks with the aim of putting in some serious garden and home maintenance as well as having a few days out. We are fortunate in living not too far from places to go and be back in time to look after the cats.

It’s been a bit a weight dominated blog this week, but that digital read-out on the scales did shake me to the core. I am still here though, and still healthy so I will be grateful for that. Stay safe wherever you are.

on fake news


I am not one for conspiracy theories and am fully aware that news media are not, in this day and age, unbiased so I treat anything that I read or hear from them with as open a mind as I can. If something interests me enough then I try to triangulate and get bearing from other directions and try to form my opinions accordingly. I was, at least, taught at school to try and think critically and that side of my education was refreshed as I worked my way up the greasy pole of management through three decades.

An example of something that is puzzling me at the moment, and it is an area in which I have a professional interest, is a claim that I saw recently that we have lost over 100,000 lorry drivers from the UK job market.

Now I know that some drivers from EU countries have left due to the UK leaving the EU, but 100,000? This just does not gel with what I see and hear around me. There are not loads of trucks parked up with no drivers and when I talk to immigrant drivers they will admit that some of their compatriots have gone home, but not in any great numbers.

There are issues in terms of recruiting and retaining drivers within the industry; poor pay, nowhere to park for statutory breaks, poor facilities and, for those not directly employed, the costs of retaining their licence. Even getting a licence now is a problem because of a ridiculous EU regulation that we have not struck from the statute that prevents someone going directing to an articulated truck licence (you have to take a rigid truck test first and then move up to an artic) effectively pretty much doubling the cost of a licence.

But the media channels are reporting a shortage of drivers as a problem of us having left the EU and so that is what the person in the street believes when they see an empty shelf at their local store.

I will refrain from banging on too much about these things; there are plenty of other examples and you may well have favourites of your own. It seems that the media are either trying to make a political point or are just looking for ways to sex up a story and think that we are all too stupid to challenge them, or maybe it is also just the echo chamber effect; to give their readers news biased to the way that they want to hear it.

Sad really, but the truth has become what you want it to be and that is dangerous. Orwell’s 1984 might have come late, but I think that it has, perhaps, caught up with us.

the lockdown log 66


Let’s get straight down to that appointment with the scales. I can’t remember offhand what the last weight that I mentioned here was, but my fears of being into the teens were unfounded as I got as solid 109kg. OK, that is 6kg up on my best from around November 2020, but not a disaster and four days later a subsequent check gave me 108kg. I am still lacking my mojo, but going back to regular weight checks might help a little with some focus.

I suppose that my daily exercise is helping and I think that I have managed over 10km per day walking every day this year. After this morning’s effort I have 2150km (over 1300 miles) in the book so far for 2021 and am looking good for over 4000km for the year.

We are venturing out and getting a little more confident about it. The news that mask wearing may become optional soon leaves me wondering whether or not I will keep wearing one whilst around the shops. I do have the condensation problem with my glasses, especially around the colder parts of supermarkets, or sometimes when I walk under an air-con vent, so tend to leave the glasses off whilst map wearing and peer myopically at the shelves and products. Not having to wear a mask would, in those circumstances, be a blessing. A decision to be made.

In the garden there are signs of flowers on the cucumbers and tomatoes so I am hopeful of some greenhouse grown crops in a while. We have had a few strawberries so far and the tayberry and raspberry fruits are forming. Hardly The Good Life, but it is nice to go and pick something to eat. On the herbs front things are mixed again. The parsley has been difficult this year; normally I don’t have a problem with it. We have carpets of chives after a slow start, but the tarragon has done almost nothing and the basil is struggling despite being in the greenhouse.

With all of my various projects I have been neglecting my hobbies and so many of the plans that I had last year have not come to fruition. As with the weight loss many of these things do require some focus and, again, I am lacking that extra little bit of desire to make things happen. In the garden I have been doing a lot of general maintenance rather than getting on with the big jobs, but that is mainly down to Mother Nature: Stuff grows and has to be kept under control. Grass cutting is close to becoming a weekly job at the moment with the alternating wet and warm days for example.

With the way that the weather has behaved lately the Berkshire Belle has had no inclination to go and sit in the garden and has had no interest in me firing up the BBQ either and so there has been no pressure on me to try and get some of the garden projects finished. Instead I fiddle around the edges so to speak and can happily spend a couple of hours pottering around outside just doing anything that I see that needs doing; a bit of pruning here, some weeding there and so on. I can just get lost in the moment with no plans or aims, just the basic “See it – Sort it” principle. Maybe it helps to keep me sane.

Stay safe out there, wherever you are.

the lockdown log 65


Life goes on for us and whilst I am calm about lockdown it is bothering the Berkshire Belle considerably. I am content wearing my mask; she is not, yet if we fail to spot the sanitation station at the store entrance (or are too preoccupied to notice), she can get quite stressed when she realises that we have not added that layer of protection. The oddities in the changing regulations bother her too; why can large crowds attend sporting events when you can’t have a concert and so on. None of this interests me in the slightest and I cannot give her any answers as to why these things are as they are. I just accept them as facts and get on with my day.

I suppose that it is my innate habit of ignoring anything that I cannot influence. It works for me and I do my best to let all of this just wash over me. Yes it is affecting my life, but I have adapted and just live a different life. I used to do this to some degree when we spent as much time as we could in the USA and I would tell people that we were not on holiday, just living there instead of here. And that is largely true because from the second trip onwards we did little that was touristy, rather we settled into trying to live as much like locals as we could. It was a different life to here and one that we liked better. Covid life is not like the one that we knew and it is not so good, but it is the one that we have and I do my best with it.

One this that I have noticed recently is the way that fuel prices have risen. I am notorious for not looking at what I have paid for fuel, but I do remember a point during lockdown about 12 months ago when I paid less than £1 per litre for unleaded. This week I spotted at the Esso station that I pass on the way to and from work that the litre price was up to £1.319. Pre-lockdown it was about 122.9 to 124.9 per litre, so it makes a bit of a difference, but I do not use too much these days and I am glad about that.

We have been out a bit this week and the Berkshire Belle has had two trips; one over to Cheltenham to the bigger Waitrose supermarket there and then a three shop trip locally the next day when we did a garden centre, Marks and Spencer and Lidl in a mini orgy of retail. It is important that I keep getting her out, even if these trips are hardly full of excitement. We talked a lot this week about going out to lunch one day, but did not come to any conclusions beyond the uncertainty of whether we would enjoy ourselves. Given the lady’s dislike of lockdown protocols as mentioned above it does, for her, take away much of the pleasure and if she is not having a good time, then nor am I. We stayed in for all of our meals and, in all probability, actually ate more healthily that had we dined out. Certainly it was cheaper.

There is no rush for us to book any holiday yet. Our preferred destination is America, but things are so bad over there that we are concerned about going. We have talked about a shorter trip to, say, Dubai, but that, as a major hub, is firmly red-zoned for now. It will probably be another year for us with no holiday now. We have no interest in going to Europe at the moment, even if they would have us, nor in a UK tour, so it will be making plans for 2022 by the look of it.

This coming weekend I have an appointment with the scales. It is a year since I had the diabetic diagnosis that spurred me into a concerted effort to lose weight and I need to see where I am and, perhaps, try and kick start another drive towards getting under 100kg. The Berkshire Belle has had a splendid result from her own diet. Her numbers are her affair and not to be shared here, but she has done very well and I am proud of her efforts. It is causing her some issues in that she has few clothes that fit and her normal sources, various US chains, are not readily available to her. We are working on that from a mail order perspective though.

In the garden we are still having fox problems although we seem to be down to two now. Mrs Reynard has not been seen for a few days and the dark red coloured youngster has also been AWOL lately. The remaining pair have possibly picked up on Mummy’s talent for killing pigeons though judging by the evidence and neither looks to be going hungry. Whilst the are still living in neighbouring gardens ours is still the preferred place for burying food as we have the well turned flower beds and planters that our neighbours lack. July is around the time that the cubs usually push off and find new homes so maybe only another.couple of weeks…

My efforts to build a new base for our mini-Kamodo BBQ have probably caused this latest downturn in the weather. Honest Mother Nature, I didn’t want to use it, just to get it up off the deck so that I could finish painting said deck. I am getting very tempted again to buy a pop-up gazebo to work under: It would protect me form both sun and rain after all.

Anyway, that is it for me for this week. Stay safe wherever you are.

the lockdown log 64


There are days when I am very low and this is one of them. I hurt in all sorts of places and, for one of them, in ways that I am not familiar with and am therefore slightly bothered by the unusual sensations. It is easy to joke about; “If I had known that I was going to live this long I would have taken better care of myself” sort of thing, but feeling physically crap does tend to drag the mind down with it.

It is probably no more than that I overdid things on the previous two days when it was hot and I was trying to get as much done before the promised severe weather arrived. As it happens our bit of the UK did not get any severe weather at all, just a light breeze and a bit of rain so I need not have pushed so hard. I forget sometime that I am in the fag end of my sixties and, although I do take more precautions and care than I did even ten years ago things do tend to take their toll.

My malaise is therefore self-inflicted and I shall just have to let it pass. I am being bloody minded about it and have not reached for the paracetamol. I will see how I feel come bedtime and maybe take a couple then if I think that they might help me sleep, but I think that I am likely to be so tired that I will not even want to lie in bed and read for an hour as I usually do.

I have got a lot done in the garden as referred to above and there is some satisfaction in that even if it has come at a price. Progress is very visible now and the vison that I had eighteen months ago is starting to become a reality. There is still a lot to do, but it will keep me amused for months to come.

Stay safe wherever you are.

on freedom of speech part two


I dashed off a rant the other day on this topic. Naughty because I try not to do that sort of thing, but I was incensed and that is an especially bad time to launch into print. I will try to be a bit more considered here.

The issue with Piers Morgan worries me considerably in terms of our society because it seems that there is a view that one person can give a TV interview and say what they like, but another person commenting on that issue gets shouted down. Why is one allowed to speak freely and another not? That has to be wrong.

Over the last few days there has been a move by the Left to persuade advertisers to shun the new UK TV news channel because it styles itself as right of centre. Personally I had not intended to watch it of a regular basis, but I am temped to watch it daily now and to shun any company that pulls its advertising. Censorship is not acceptable to me.

I have moved around to political spectrum over the years. I leaned a bit left in my younger days before drifting into the centre. Yes, I have some views that will seem extreme and used to joke about being turned down by a South American Junta for being too right wing, but, for example, I did not support the abolition of capital punishment back in the 1960s and am still opposed to those that support its exclusion from the options available to our courts. If that makes me a right wing extremist in your eyes then so be it. I am entitled to a view.

One of the things that we did not have in my youth was social media and so to express a view you needed an audience in person. One of my delights was Speaker’s Corner in Hyde Park where there were all sorts that you could listen to. Not all were good orators, but some, like Donald Soper, were very good and, even if I did not agree with the views that they were expressing, there was a joy in listening and an opportunity to consider what they said. To think critically about what was said, weigh up the various points and form my own opinion was a big part of my teenage education.

Heckling was part of public speaking and a good heckler versus a good speaker was another part of the free entertainment as was the ability of a good speaker to deal with a moronic heckler. Indeed many of the crowds would turn on the latter, something that you rarely see in the social media echo chambers of today. In any case heckling is a dead art now as political events and conferences eject anyone not espousing the common view. Another loss of the freedom to speak.

We are in danger of becoming intellectually sterile and that is not good for society. There should be open debate and an acceptance that, through constructive argument, alternative views can be weighed. Freedom of speech is also about the freedom to think, but it is also about freedom itself. Let us not lose it.

the lockdown log 63


The lunch outing was a success, despite driving for over an hour to get there, but after some good food we had a slow meander back via Waitrose and Abingdon and Aldi at Farringdon. Around Reading and the village where we ate it was wet and horrible, but within about ten miles coming home we were into sunshine and a very pleasant drive.

I am slowly getting some focus back into the garden projects and because that progress is visible it is generating some motivation. Much of what I am doing are things that I dislike such as painting (and the preparation for painting), but I am moving again and that is good.

There have been a lot of distractions; silly things going wrong prominent amongst them and new jobs coming into the schedule that I had no expectations of having to do. Life is like that though and you just have to get on with it.

Paid work plods on regardless and I seem to have no issues with that. I can turn up, do my stuff and come home and I am grateful for that. I have no recollection of a time where I had a problem with a job and although there have been times when I have not especially enjoyed a piece of work or a time at work, I have not lacked motivation to do it. The fact that I am still working getting on for aged 70 perhaps bears that out.

Technology has been one of the distractions for me and I am still using an old desktop for these blogs as my laptop will not display the blog properly at the moment and I am too reluctant to invest time working out why. This is a Windows 10 machine and works slightly differently to the MacBook. It is also an American device and I realised the other day that it was using American English not UK English. I have changed the settings, but it is still trying to Americanise my spelling, so apologies if you have found some strange words recently. This PC uses a grey fond on a white background and, in certain lights, I can’t be relied on to spot when it has corrected me.

That’s it for this week. Sorry it is a short one, but time is pressing and I need to go and cook a couple of Brill fillets, along with some veg, for dinner.

Stay safe wherever you are.

on taking a knee


I do not care whether the England football team take a knee before their games or not and nor do I care whether people applaud them or boo. I understood that I grew up in a country in which freedom of speech was a given and so my feeling is that if they want to do it then it is up to them.

Having read the logic behind their action and heard their manager explain it I think that they are being incredibly naïve to say that it has nothing to do with the BLM movement. The swastika is a symbol of good fortune in many parts of Asia, but it was appropriated by the Nazis and is still vilified in most of the countries that fought that regime and so if I were to plaster my car with that symbol how far do you think that I would get with the argument that I was not promoting Nazism?

Perhaps their stand (no pun intended) will at least keep some debate going on the subject of racism, but I fear that all it will do is to create further polarisation. Sadly that is a cause and consequence of the Woke generation. The whole concept is to polarise; you are with us or against us with no middle ground, no attempt at informed debate, just “We’re right and if you don’t agree, you’re wrong.”

For professional footballers I think that they are missing a very fundamental point. Football, like most sport, is about tribalism. You support your tribe (team) and hurl abuse at the other lot. It wasn’t always like that; there was a time when it was all a lot more relaxed, but money has swept through the game and there are fortunes to be made from tribalism; selling apparel, kit and memorabilia well to the fore. Hurling insults at the opposition is part and parcel of the game and if you can get under the skin of a player on the opposing side and put them off then so much the better.

We are talking about human nature here, even if it is a side that we would rather suppress. I remember my first encounters with professional wrestling back in the 1960s when middle aged women, including my mother, a God-fearing Christian, would be whipped into partisan frenzy. Civilisation is a thin veneer at times and yes, latching on to a physical characteristic; heigh, weight, hair or skin colour included, is a way of targeting your abuse. Yes, that is bullying, or one form of it, but it is encouraged in sports because there are some who are making shedloads of cash from it and that includes the players.

I don’t doubt that the players are sincere, but if racial abuse is a form of bullying so is the premise that everyone else should back them. It is very unlikely that I will be at any of the England games in the foreseeable future, but if I was I would neither boo nor applaud them taking a knee. I don’t agree with them, but it is their choice and they are entitled to make it. I will make mine too and I hope that they are man enough to respect that too.

Just because I don’t support their way of going about it does not mean that I do not agree with their aim, so do not alienate my support simply because I choose a different path to the same end.