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.

the lockdown log 62


It has been another week that has just flown by and it hardly seems possible that it is Thursday again, but the date at the top of the newspaper is about the only thing left in the media that I believe at face value so it must be true.

Life with my fox family continues and every time that I think that I have built a decent defence they find a way around it. We seem to have lost one of the quartet, but I still see the other three youngsters on a regular basis and mum occasionally. The latter’s continuing presence comes more in the regular stashes of dead pigeon that she leaves for the kids and now that I have so many of the old locations covered up she just leaves them on the lawn.

My daily regime with these visitors is to go around with a black bag and my picker-upper and clear food debris and rubbish that they have left around (they love toys and steal dog’s balls, squeaky toys and such from other gardens) and the go around and hose off the mess that comes from the other end of the animals. They have no sense of potty training and barely break stride to leave ley another deposit, often right outside the back door. This takes me about 30 minutes and is getting boring.

All of my neighbours have turned their front and back gardens over to patios, astroturf, gravel or similar and ours is the only one with flower beds and tubs so the foxes, whilst living under sheds in neighbouring gardens, get to dig in ours.

aAnt over and on to other topics. My garden labours have slowed a little because I am waiting for one of my neighbour to replace the shared fence. He said that this would be done by the end of May, but as yet there is no sign of action and I can’t do some of the things that I want to do until he sorts it out. I have managed to cut away the rotten sections of my old deck and replace them so that is another job crossed off the list.

I have, to some degree, lost my motivation for getting the garden done and I think that the fox problem may be at the heart of that, but I’ll not go back to them right now. I do need to find something that will get me going again though.

Tomorrow might be a good point in that we are going out to lunch for the first time since way before lockdown. In fact the last time that we ate out was probably in Florida in October 2018, so hopefully it will be a treat. We are going to a restaurant in the hinterland north of Reading which we have been to a few times before, The Berkshire Belle is doing her usual “I don’t want to go” thing, but that is just her and I am used to it now.

It will not be a lunch that is in any way slimming and I have been trying to cut down this week to allow a bit of a blow out. My greenhouse activities have provided various lettuce and cress to bulk out my wraps and sandwiches and I have, this week, had my first salad for lunch. The end of June will be one year since I started my diet and whilst I have slipped somewhat over the last 6 months I am going to have a weigh in at the end of the month just to see what the damage is and maybe that will help to re-focus me.

Stay safe out there wherever you are.

the lockdown log 61


I have had a week off and, most days, have been working on various projects. Some of that seems to have told on me physically as I have a lot of muscular pain around the right side of my rib cage that may be due to lots of sawing amongst other things.

The weather has still not been too kind and that has curtailed things a little, but I have invested in a cordless circular saw and so that means that I do not have to run a power cable around from the garage to the back garden for many of the jobs I have on the list. On days with random showers it is a nightmare having to keep reeling it in.

The foxes are starting to roam and seem to spend the odd night on the loose, but were back the other nights and had their most destructive session yet. It is heartbreaking to see so much laid to waste. This morning I found a dead fox, probably from last year, when lifting a couple of rotting deck boards so had to dispose of that and one, or more, of the current crop is a bit loose in the bowel regions and I also had a lot of hosing down to do. All good fun (not).

It has seemed strange not going into work, but I am still getting up at 5 am as normal and have been out in the garden working on the quiet jobs most days by 7. Two door down are having an extension built and so as soon as their crew start work I get my power tools out and join in with the cacophony. I am into some of the more complex jobs at the moment and so there is the mental challenge of working out how best to do things and, sometimes, getting it right first go. There is the usual problem of nothing being the same level, length or square, but it all keeps me amused.

I have finally taken the plunge and planted out my hanging baskets, That has given me some space in the greenhouse which is welcome and I am trying to pot up some of the seedling that I first put in there a couple of months ago. I have been a bit lax in keeping notes on what I have done and when so I may have to rely on memory if I do it again next year.

For over a week now I have avoided the scales. Naughty, but mentally I have not been too good and have not wanted to know in case the news is not good. As I have said here throughout these scribblings I like the ostrich principle and work on the basis that what I don’t know will not bother me. I apply this to much of the news too, but the Berkshire Belle is an avid reader and only has me to share with so I get it all pored over me on a daily basis. I act like a sponge and soak it up because she needs to vent her feelings, but often knowing things that I have been avoiding drags my mental state down. One day this week I just had to tell her that I didn’t want to talk about a certain subject and I left the room; I could not take it.

Today we were going to go to a craft fair and have a rare day out, but we bottled it and stayed at home. It is odd, but our reasons were slightly different; she loathes all of the Covid regulation, even though she knows that it is sensible. Things like one way systems, mask wearing, having your temperature taken and so on take all of her pleasure away whereas I accept all of that stoically. My reason for backing out of today was that there had been more overnight rain locally and the thought of trekking through wet grass plus the risk of getting stuck where other idiots who cannot drive on such surfaces without chewing them up would make life difficult for us all.

Little things tend to become big things and this week I ended up with so many things that required a trip into town that I finally took the plunge and did it. It took up an afternoon, but, despite my fears, all of my errands were completed. I find that there are so many things that, these days, I tend to put off whereas a few years back I took on all comers with little bother. I have flown into countries like Columbia, Libya and China to work without batting an eyelid and let a trip into town to run some errands took more out of me. It must be age creeping up on me. Perhaps it is just that I am out of practice.

I made lamb burgers for lunch today, but elected not to fire up the BBQ and cooked them in the pan on the hob as the sky was looking very black. When I have finished this I am off to do a few outside jobs and then back into the kitchen to make a chicken and leek pie for dinner tonight. Anything to keep busy and stop my mind wandering off into areas that I don’t want it going off to.

If you have plans for this weekend, a Bank Holiday here in the UK and Memorial Day weekend in the US then I hope all goes well for you. I shall be looking out for the Indy 500 on whatever medium I can find to follow it from afar, but I hope that things hold up for you and you have a great time.

Stay safe wherever you are.

on discrimination


Discrimination is a word appearing a lot at the moment, not least in reference to the, for some, dreaded Vaccination Passport. Much has been done in the last thirty or forty years to try and eliminate discrimination, but I will argue here that it is another example of trying to suppress a basic human emotion.

We all discriminate: If there is something that you choose not to like you are discriminating about it. It could be a food (hands up all who hate Marmite), a sporting team, a TV programme, a band or singer, anything at all. Discrimination is simply a choice and to be discriminating is, still, a compliment for it implies a level off sophistication.

The argument against discrimination is about how we apply it and I have no argument with the principle of equality here. However, there are inconsistencies. For example my doctor’s surgery will offer ladies the opportunity to see a lady doctor or, if seeing a male doctor, to have a chaperone. The Berkshire Belle takes the latter option and takes me with her. Not because of any caution, she is an ex-nurse, but because she knows that I will listen carefully and be a better sounding board on what was actually said.The option is there though and I have no problem with it, but when I make an appointment I have, son far, not been offered the choice to see a make doctor. A clear case of discrimination, but not one that I am making a fuss about, simply making the observation.

The safety of females is another issue that has been high lately and it seems ironic to me that, in the general sweeping away of things to level the male:female playing field, one thing that we have lost is the Ladies Waiting Room at stations and Ladies Only compartments on trains. Whilst we still have separate changing rooms and toilets the distinction there is becoming a little blurred though. I have become used to having females coming into the male toilet at venues where there are queues for there own facilities and their need is too great for them to wait in line. It does not especially bother me, but the Berkshire Belle is very unhappy about the prospects of males coming into the female facilities whilst she is using them; it makes her feel unsafe.

Protecting minorities is all very well, but what about majorities? Democracy is about the will of the latter and as a society we have to have a sense of proportion. There is so much noise being made around the edges where, by definition things are extreme, that the moderate voice cannot be heard. Indeed, the minority tactic is to shout down any voice of reason.

I do not see any reason why a group of like minded people cannot decide who they want in their number. If I go to a bar and there is a large group in one corner enjoying their mutual company can I just gate crash and join in? In all probability I will unwelcome. Try looking in on social media at any of the echo chambers that exist for a particular point of view. When you find one try chucking in something of a contrary viewpoint and see what happens. Inclusive? I don’t think so. I can remember the days when football crowds were not segregated and it was possible to mingle with opposition fans and not go home via the local ER facility, but I would not try it now. In any case I would not be allowed to; dissemination? Yes, but there is no outcry.

There is a lot of hypocrisy around discrimination. It is something that is as much a part of human existence as is breathing and we need to accept that, even embrace it. What we do not want is unreasonable discrimination. There is a difference.