Archive for January 2013

French letters

Posted by on January 31st 2013 in In the News, LMAO!, Video (YouTube, Vimeo etc.)

Recipe for Disaster



  • 3 x Science
  • 2 or 3 x Maths
  • 2 x English
  • 2 x Humanities
  • 1 x language
  • 1 x sprinkling of Computing



  • Take one meddling politician who won't listen to reason
  • Give that politician the authority to tinker and meddle with the ingredients
  • Ensure that the politician gets everything really mixed up
  • Half-bake the mix until it all goes tits-up
  • Give the creation a fancy French name that many kids won't be able to spell anyway
  • Feed it to many thousands of schoolkids
  • Wash your hands of all responsibility
  • Reassign the politician at the next Cabinet reshuffle
  • Let the next Government clear up the mess


Well done, you've just concocted the EBC, an inbred version of the EBacc.

It doesn't look very good, does it? I imagine it'll taste bitter with a hint of merde.


Where's the landlord when you need him? He wouldn't stand for all that foreign-sounding rubbish.

If he ever stood for election to Parliament, he'd get my vote  🙂 



Posted by on January 29th 2013 in A bit of a rant, Name and Shame

Chapter II

You'll recall the hassle I've had with the folks at Reader's Digest. Well, there's more...

Contrary to Brian's optimistic claim that I'd receive the item within a few days, it didn't arrive. What did arrive on 7th January was a letter, dated 4th January 2013, stating "We have despatched this item recently and it is possible that it has simply been delayed on its way to you. I would expect the goods to arrive within two weeks of you receiving this letter..."

Well, I gave them the two weeks, and then another week because of the bad weather, and then another day because I wasn't in the mood for listening to any bullshit excuses. Suffice to say that item still hadn't arrived by this morning so I called them yet again and ended up speaking to Fiona.

Fiona was very helpful. She said that they'd stopped selling books on or just after 4th January and that I wouldn't be getting my item. She avoided accounting for the fact that this meant that the statement in the letter was a bare-faced lie. I asked why they'd not contacted me after their sales-policy change to tell me of the online shop closure issue and to amend the status of my order, she didn't or wouldn't say why I'd heard nothing. She said that I'll get a refund through the post within seven days. Then she said that I could enter a prize-draw for a holiday. Choking back my incredulity I declined, telling her that if they couldn't correctly deliver something as simple as a book, I would hardly trust them to come good with a holiday if I was to win one.

Having put up with incompetence, delaying-tactics, utter rudeness and bare-faced lying from some of the other Customer Service personnel there, I'm hopeful that Fiona will be true to her words. I'm not holding my breath, though. They've got seven days, if I've not got the refund by then I'll get the Visa folk involved.

Meanwhile, one of my relatives is still waiting for a Christmas present.

Nope, never heard of it

Posted by on January 28th 2013 in A bit of a rant

This from the Beeb's news website this morning:

"HS2 phase two route details announced... The preferred route of phase two running northwards from Birmingham will have five stops at: Manchester; Manchester Airport; Toton in the East Midlands; Sheffield; and Leeds."

Toton? Where the fcuk is Toton? I've lived in the East Midlands for 46 years and I'd never heard of it.

With the aid of Google Maps I found it hiding near Long Eaton in that No-Man's Land that's not quite Nottingham and not quite Derby. 30 miles from here as the crow flies. Oh, and it's on the Trent floodplain, so that'll be nice if the country's tendency to suffer from regular deluges continues to increase.

We're looking at spending at least 32 billion quid (money that we don't actually have) to get a few posh nobs (the only ones that will be able to afford tickets) to work 45 minutes earlier. These are folk that are probably rich enough to be able to lose 45 minutes of salary a day anyway. If those 45 minutes are really that important to them, why can't they get the hell out of bed a bit earlier and save us all a fortune? We could use some of that 32 billion quid to buy them all decent alarm-clocks and then spend the change on things that really matter, or better still just don't borrow it all in the first place.

There is a better solution anyway - the posh nobs could move closer to where they work, and leave the rest of the country to those who know how to look after it. Maybe then the Chilterns won't need to be trashed and the new Curzon Gate student digs in Brum won't need to be ripped down before or just after completion (link).

And then there's the bigger question... do we really need a rail network? Most of the time the one we already have isn't effectively integrated into the transport network anyway, the integration nodes being made from sticky-back plastic, bits of string and the elastic from a pair of Val's old knickers. Rail is a restricted and archaic transport system - it only takes you where the tracks go. That's why travelling by road/path/cycle-path, and to a certain degree by air, is so much more flexible - it permits options. Iceland has never had a rail system and it's hardly a third-world country.

They say that HS2 will create jobs. Maybe. For the predicted annual influx of 50,000 Bulgarians and Romanians, perhaps.

Interestingly, there's nothing in the plans regarding the construction of a bridge over the North-South Divide. This implies that said divide must be somewhere to the north of Leeds  🙄  

Oh well, if we're all going to Hell in a handcart at least the rich will get there first. Us minions may yet have a little respite from them before we get to the End of the Line. Maybe the toffs will put the kettle on and have tea and cucumber sandwiches waiting for us.

HS2. Highly Suspect too.

Where's my Valium?

… overground, Wombling free,

Posted by on January 26th 2013 in A bit of a rant

The refuse recycling cycle has restarted after the local freeze.

No, not the fortnightly collection cycle, the collateral-damage repair cycle.

If these sub-contracted wannabe-rally-drivers could keep their truck on the road then the council wouldn't have to send out one team to repair the grass and the kerb-stones and another team to clean the crap off the road, all at the Council-Tax-payers' expense.

FFS, the road's more than wide enough for their truck to make the turn, but almost every two weeks they manage to avoid the tarmac despite all their rear-view worker-safety tech. If they do manage to miss the grass you can bet that a week later the driver of the non-recyclable waste collection truck will take his turn to plough a furrow.

It's piss-poor driving. There's no excuse for it. And us fools are paying for it!


A weekend based in Keswick – Jan 2013 – Part 3

Posted by on January 24th 2013 in Great Escapes, YHA

Yet again I was up before sunrise and yet again Ella was reluctant to relinquish her duvet. After a quick breakfast we checked the MWIS forecast which confirmed that conditions would be pretty much the same as they were on Saturday. We decided that our half-day walk should be up something a tad tamer because my butt was playing up again so we chose Binsey for a simple up-and-down stroll.

After we'd filled the flasks we packed the gear in the car, said our goodbyes at the hostel and headed off for the short drive around the Back o'Skidda. We parked up in a small lay-by near Binsey Cottage, from there the track was straight up and obvious, no crampons required. If there had been a good covering of snow it would have been an excellent sledging hill with no problems going from top to bottom in one go.

Binsey's an odd fell, set apart from the others. It lacks altitude and technical appeal but it affords great views:


Snowclouds breaking over Skiddaw


On the way up we spotted from a distance what we thought was an injured sheep lying in the grass:




We should have gone to Specsavers  😎 ... on closer inspection it turned out to be a boulder with a peculiar covering of moss and lichen:




As usual, Ella couldn't resist playing with the ice:




A few hundred yards further on we were nearing the obvious summit where the wind was tearing up from behind us and whistling over the top:


Ella makes for the top


Surveying the scene


Snug in the shelter


We got comfy in the shelter, it was time for cuppas and snacks. The view from the top is well-worth the minimal effort of getting there, it's a great place for appreciating the layout of the Northern Fells. I managed to take a few pics when the wind wasn't flinging ice at the lens:


The Uldale Fells


Pano from Binsey


The stroll back down to the car took around twenty minutes and soon we were back in Keswick - Ella wanted some retail therapy. While shopping we ran into the two folk that we'd met up on Satura Crag the day before... what were the chances of that happening?

I was determined to keep my hands off my wallet but couldn't resist using my YHA-membership discount in the Cotswold shop when I saw the snow-scooters. Yeah, I might well be fifty but there's nowt in the rules that says that I have to act like it! We'll try to remember to take the thing up Binsey in the snow next year.



The drive home was fairly easy with hardly any bad roads until we got within 100 yards of home. Four hours of simple driving and then an hour to get the car on the drive. While we'd been away our village had been more-or-less snowed-in and iced-up.

Here's the tale of the tape:

Saturday: 3.04 miles of walking, 1341ft of up/down, 1 new Wainwright for Ella, none for me;
Sunday: 1.48 miles of walking, 592ft of up/down, 1 new Wainwright for each of us;
Wainwright totals so far: Ella 14/214, me 209/214

A weekend based in Keswick – Jan 2013 – Part 2

Posted by on January 23rd 2013 in Great Escapes, YHA

Saturday morning and I was up way before sunrise. Predictably, Ella was reluctant to relinquish her duvet until I reminded her that she might miss breakfast. As we sat in the restaurant munching our fry-ups we watched the skies lighten and the light snow falling. A quick check of the MWIS forecast confirmed that we'd get high winds and some snow on the tops, with temperatures dipping to -5C and a significant wind-chill factor. The plan was to bag The Nab, a peat-hag-infested fell best attempted when the ground's either fully-frozen or dessicated due to drought.

After we'd filled the flasks we packed the gear in the car and headed off for Hartsop. The drive was a doddle (apart from the diversions set up in Keswick) as the roads were fairly snow-free without much frost. We parked up in the small car-park at the far end of Hartsop and stuffed some cash into the honesty-box  - none of yer National Trust Fund Cash-Extractor shenanigans in this neck of the woods. We kitted-up and headed for the path that rises across the breast of Brock Crags. While we'd stopped above the intake-wall to allow Ella to faff with hats and gloves I nabbed a few pics:


Ella in Blue Mode


Hartsop Dodd et al


We soon reached the open fellside and made for the gap in the wall where we had a tea-break and donned crampons - the snow wasn't deep but the grassy track was full of frozen run-off which made spikes a sensible option. A bit further on we got the first of our many sightings of deer, and Ella took a shine to some trees:




Looking towards Hayeswater


Tree in icy ground


Before long we'd reached another gap in another wall, this time at the col between Brock Crags and Satura Crag. By then the wind was picking up and the temperature had dropped to -7C. Time for a cuppa and some more pics:


Hayeswater from the col


Ella, in Yellow Mode, heading for the gateposts on Satura Crag


When we got to Satura Crag we got our first look at the route to The Nab. It wasn't far but didn't look very appealing:


The route to The Nab


We took stock of the situation... three miles there and back, three ups and three downs, temperature down to -8C, winds 25mph gusting 35mph throwing around plenty of ice, lowering cloud, conditions deteriorating. I knew that I wasn't fit enough after a year of having to take it easy, so I decided that carrying on wasn't worth the risk. We took a few pics while waiting to see if conditions improved:


Ella in Technicolor


Muggins looking down Bannerdale


Field-testing the beard


While waiting we met a couple of folk coming down from Rest Dodd way. Pleasantries were exchanged before they headed off, they said that they were bound for Angle Tarn. Conditions didn't improve so we decided that we too would have a look at the view over to the tarn. We stood for a while watching the wind whip up Whirling Dervishes of spindrift which raced each other across the fellsides:


Angle Tarn


From there we took the track towards Brock Crags. The two folk that we'd chatted to were already on the skyline as we started off, it seems that they'd either gone the wrong way or had changed their plan.


Brock Crags (true summit on the right)


Angle Tarn again


At the true top of Brock Crags the views were surprisingly good:


Looking back to Buck Crag, Satura Crag and Rest Dodd


Looking forwards to the Brock Crags cairn


On the way to the Brock Crags cairn Ella couldn't resist the lure of the frozen tarns:


Island Girl


Water Margin




At the cairn we sheltered from spindrift while having a cuppa and a snack. The view from there was impressive, the Eastern Fells looking particularly moody under snow-laden cloud:


Panorama from Brock Crags cairn


From the cairn we made a bee-line for the grassy track that we'd started up a few hours before. On the way Ella snagged a crampon while crossing a collapsed section of a wall, turning an ankle which made walking painful for a while. All the fuss attracted the attention of a herd of deer which we managed to get quite close to before they took flight:


More deer


We found the track without difficulty and trudged back to the car without further incident. It hadn't been a long walk but we'd enjoyed it. Ella was happy to have bagged another Wainwright, taking her total to 13, and was chuffed with her first walk in crampons. We didn't find enough snow for self-arrest practice but that's a good excuse for another weekend away.

Soon we were back at the hostel. After we'd got cleaned up and after checking that Ella's ankle was OK we headed into town for our evening meal. Our chosen pub was The Bank Tavern where the food and service were excellent:




Ella's steak pie , my game casserole


Back at the hostel we prepped for Sunday and then chilled out before another relatively early night.


To be continued... 

A weekend based in Keswick – Jan 2013 – Part 1

Posted by on January 22nd 2013 in Great Escapes, YHA

The drive up was interesting - we started with occasional light snow on icy minor roads which led to salted major roads that were a 15mph slush-fest. We drove out of the falling snow at A5 Cannock and all was clear up the M6 to J36. There was no snow whatsoever on the ground between Preston J27 and J34. Leaving the M6 at J36 we found the A591 to be clear all the way to Keswick although the fells were suitably snow-clad, overcast and broody. In all we'd spent about six hours on the road. Keswick itself was practically snow-free despite Thursday's forecast of a heavy dump during the afternoon.

We were soon getting comfy in the hostel. YHA Keswick has changed a fair bit since I last stayed there but it's still a great place. We'd booked a two-bed room but were given a three-bed up on the third floor, it was spacious and had a great view over Fitz Park to the Skiddaw group. Everything in the room was good, everything worked and it was nice and warm.

We stayed in the hostel for a fine evening meal in the restaurant before having a mooch around the town window-shopping and deciding on a pub for Saturday's evening meal. Back at the hostel we planned and packed for Saturday's walk and then turned in early.

I suppose you'll want to see some pictures of the fells...






This pair was hanging in the hostel's reading room. Yes, two more works by Delmar Banner, the same artist whose work hangs above the fireplace at YHA Eskdale. I must admit that I'm developing a liking for his works, and the more I look the more of them I find. The top one is dated 1948, the other 1947. There are no visible indications of the subjects (I was reluctant to look on the backs to see if they were labelled) but I reckon that they're views of the High Stile ridge. If you know or think different, feel free to speak up.

A few Delmar Banner links:


Anyway, that's enough for now. Saturday's events will be posted soon, along with some proper outdoors pics.


To be continued... 

Slip slidin’ away

Posted by on January 17th 2013 in Great Escapes

With plenty of snow forecast for tomorrow me and Ella are confident that our impending weekend of fell-walking will be sufficiently challenging to make the effort worthwhile. We're both a tad rusty with the winter gear so we're looking forward to practising our self-arrests and other such life-saving stuff. The only downside is the possibility of me falling on my own downside - it's still not properly fixed, so I'll be toting an appropriate amount of impact-protection.

The drive up the M6 could be fun too. The Met. Office site says "Band of snow moves in from the west during the day, with snow falling to all levels and occasionally becoming heavy. This is accompanied by stormforce southeasterly winds to bring blizzard conditions."

Hmm... that bit could be interesting.

Sticker’s for door’s

Posted by on January 15th 2013 in LMAO!


Observing Report 13th January 2013 (Big sunspot group)

Posted by on January 13th 2013 in Astrostuff, Observing Reports, Pics

This was the first observing session of the year, primarily because it's been the first time we've had clear skies. Prominent in the image is Active Region 1654. This is a huge group of sunspots, currently about 180,000 km from end to end - that's about 14 Earth-diameters, or, in proper units, about 657 x the length of Wales.

Mouseover the image to see how tiny the Earth would look next to these things, and click the image to see it thrice bigger:


Active Region 1654 (13/01/2013)

3000 stacked frames, DMK mono CCD camera at prime focus on the C80ED-R, Baader Planetarium AstroSolar™ Safety Film (ND 3.8) with #58 Green and IR-cut filters

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