Saturday, 15 June 2019

Hitch-hiking robots

As this column gets penned a few weeks before it goes to print, when it should be read in summer, it is still mid-winter here in France. Now this might make me sound like Mr Moanalot but, apart from one brief sunny spell a few weeks ago, the weather seems to have deteriorated so much that we are seriously planning on permanently moving to Spain. In fact, we are shortly due to head North for a month on the road, leaving our cats and sheep to shiver, while we seek some warmth in Scotland. Firstly we are expected at a wedding in St Andrews, one with French connections and hence have our seaside holiday houses will be full of ex-pats for a week. I am sure much frivolity will ensue as we attempt to play golf and drink the town dry. From there we head the compass across the country, donning our sou-westers as we settle in for a week's exploring on Scotland rugged but beautiful west coast, along with a few million midges. Yes I am aware it is probably the worst time to be there, along with all the other English touring numpties, but we have our reasons.
From there we continue following the setting sun, hopping over the sea to the Emerald Isle in time for a spot of golf. Last year was the first time we had been at the British Open but we enjoyed Carnoustie so much that we have opted for another go, this time in the scenic village of Portrush on Ireland's most northern tip. A few days here watching the world's best professionals and catching up with friends before we continue on over the border to Ireland's west coast. A slow trek down through Donegal, stopping in Co Mayo, a place where I holidayed in my childhood, will eventually find us further south in time for one of Europe's biggest events, the Galway races. We have made a number of friends in this district over the years, many of whom have partied at our house in France, so this is payback time. I am not a big gambler but I will put the first tenner on the fact that it will be pouring down all week and the second on the odds of me not winning anything else. But one thing I will bet on, to quote the Blarney, 'we will have some mighty craic!'
This is of course assuming our auld campervan will make the distance, or else it will be Wendy and I and two bedraggled dogs thumbing it for a few thousand miles. The thought of this does fill me with some dread as, and I know this may be old hat to some, but it will soon be the 4th anniversary of the death of Hitchbot. For those of you who are unenlightened to this cheery chap, 'he' was a peaceful robot that was designed and built to hitch-hike its way around the world. All started quite well in 2014 when it managed to make the trip from Nova Scotia to British Columbia, almost the entire width of Canada, in just 26 days with the help of friendly strangers who found-out his whereabouts from social media and gave him a lift. Not content with this, Hitchbot then made it across Germany and the Netherlands, armed only with a limited vocabulary and a 'bucket list' of places he wished to go. And so it was, on his next adventure across USA that on the fateful day of August 1st, just 14 days into his trip, the poor fellow was beaten up and decapitated on the streets of Philadelphia. Since then, there have been any number of conspiracy theories as to the instigators of his demise including aliens, Donald Trump and suicide, despite his attackers - a couple of local teenagers - being caught red-handed on security camera!  
I also don’t relish the thought of hitching or even walking at all just now as I have, once again, broken a toe. Not sure quite when the clumsy gene reared its sore head in my life but that will be three Junes out of the last four that I have been laid up resting my feet on high for a week or two. At least in previous years I have had the chance to sit in the sun with my tootsies in the swimming pool. Ooo, there I go again, complaining about the weather. I will admit that sitting around and resting isn’t great for my advancing physique, something that was endorsed when I cleared out the mezzanine last week and found my cross-trainer all seized with rust. But then I never really did see the sense in all this exercise for the sake of it. When I want to get fit I go and build a shed, or lay some concrete, not sit around whiling away the miles going absolutely nowhere. Did you know that the treadmill was originally designed as a form of torture in Brixton prison in 1818? Quoting from the internet, one prisoner said about the machine, "I have worked for months on the wheel. I was quite well on coming in. I have now a great pain in the back part of my legs, my loins, and my left side. I get weaker every day. I can hardly stand upright!"
I rest my case. Bottoms up!

Rounding up

     Who would of thought it, June already? Wendy and I are still in France just now and I have to say it is bl@@dy freezing! Yes, I hear Sir David and all his sycophants crying into their soya milk about global warming, but it is not happening...well not here anyway. Apparently, once the ice caps all melt due to farting cows, the polar bears are all relocating to Lot-et-Garonne to stay cool and possibly wallowing in my swimming pool. Meanwhile, our Coypu have vanished back to from whenst they came, somewhere near the equator where lemon trees don’t all die from hypothermic frosts, in mid May!
     In actual fact we should be in Newcastle-on-Tyne this weekend, where I'm told the sun often shines, but for the loss of a good friend to cancer earlier in the week. An avid follower of this column and regular visitor to France, my Edinburgh pal will be sorely missed for his gentle ways and sharp wit. Another one of the good guys, taken far too soon. Anyway, onwards and upwards.   
     Meanwhile life goes on here at Chauffour, with the usual springtime chores taking up most of my time. And this year has just got a little bit harder since the French powers-that-be have confiscated my favourite gardening tool, ROUND-UP. Apparently its active ingredient, Glyphosate, is about to kill me and therefore, once more, I am being saved by people who care far more for my welfare than I do. Well, actually I am not, because now I have such backache from pulling up weeds for 6 hours per day instead of my once-a-month 20 minute 'rounding-up', that I am bed-ridden, unable to sleep and grumpy as hell. I would, of course, buy it in UK where it is freely available and will be even more so when Britain is no longer in Europe. Except I can't, as I am not allowed to take it on an aircraft in case it explodes! I can't buy it online either as, although the smiley British postie can deliver it to the Channel while whistling a merry tune, Monsieur LaPoste refuses to so much be in the same vehicle with it, such is its supposed danger to everyone.  Apparently I can buy it in Germany, Italy, Spain or just about everywhere else in the world which makes a complete and utter mockery of the French bureaucratic system. Oh well, I probably need a holiday, so will have to drive a few hundred miles in my gas-guzzling diesel climate-destroying machine to get a fifteen quid bottleful!
I would let our few remaining sheep into the garden to eat the weeds except that, led by Daisy, all the flowers and vegetables would be gone in minutes and the offending weeds would remain untouched! Maybe I could attempt to educate them into selective eating and do the world a favour? Because - you heard it here first - sheep in France are actually allowed to go to school. Yes, in a small parish in the Alps, 15 ewes have been registered as pupils in a primary school, so it can keep its numbers up and its doors open.  Somewhere in a European by-law, the ability to discriminate the ovine from the human species has been overruled in yet another spite at President Macron who had suggested that school with diminishing numbers be closed. This has inevitably escalated the rights of animals over humans and played into the hands of those who believe BBC's  Chris Packham speaks any truth whatsoever, despite the fact that his propaganda is about as reliable as a Boeing 737 Max 8!
    The fact that the French love their rules almost as much as they do finding ways around them is no surprise. From banning ketchup, redbull and mobile phones in schools to burkas (but allowing peeing) in public and flip-flops in cars, France has always led the way when it comes to absurdity. Hence hundreds of men sitting around a bbq in yellow vests and annoying motorists on every major traffic island becomes instantly acceptable behaviour, despite its illegality. Well, thanks to the 'Gilets Jaune's' disappointment in the governments rule to drop our national speed limit form 90 to 80 kilometre per hour, I might save a few quid. You see, in April this year I got a speeding fine through my Scottish letterbox from a flash I had from the camera at the bottom of our road in France, in September 2018. Yes, it took six months to find me, but find me it did. Thankfully now the local protesters are not content with wearing yellow jackets but have added a few tins of jaunes spray-paint to their armoury and then proceeded to blast it repeatedly over the face of said speed camera. In spite of my hesitance to support their socialist ideals, I will certainly not be the one down there with my Jif and J-cloth any time soon. 

Daisy on the wall

     I had every intention of writing to you in French this month, once the final day of 'outing' had arrived, and this headache of uncertainty was put behind us. But now, surprise surprise, we get yet another extension to this brexiting madness and it is starting affect me personally, in a number of ways. Actually I have no issue with the deals or the future of this mess but it seems everyone else has and hence are sitting on their own sweaty hands instead of getting on with their lives. The holiday rental market here in France is taking a hit, with many folks really believing that if they leave the UK for a couple of weeks they won't be allowed back in! Maybe they will have to pass an IQ test first, that would surely whittle a few of them down? Then there is the property market in Scotland, with the Sturgeon's SNP vultures hovering around another post-brexit vote for independence and thus holding house prices to ransom, and my pension with it. Inevitably all this will end - although possibly not resolved - by a General Election installing yet more loonies into the asylum that is our governing body, who can then squabble their way through the next 5 years.
     However, if we think our autonomous voting system is somewhat complicated, spare a thought for Indonesia who are also just re-electing their government, with somewhere in the region of quarter of a million candidates to choose from! Within just 5 hours, a monumental 25,000 MPs will be appointed into power. Imagine them all debating the price of Marmite? And think of their expenses as they travel 3000 miles across the country from their constituency, partly by canoe! But the thing is, if the hot favourite known as 'Joko', (no joke) a former furniture salesman, gets elected as president, the people will actually listen to him and believe him because it was them who put him there. He will make decisions on behalf of his 200 million voters, backed-up by his large cabinet, so they can carry on with their day tilling the fields or catching fish, safe in the knowledge that someone is actually in charge who knows what they are doing. That, my friends, is the definition of democracy in its infancy, before it got polluted by idiots!
     Right, enough of politics, let's get on to the more serious subject of why Americans all have such stupid names! Yes, I am sure I have raised this issue many times before but, usually around the time of the US golf major tournaments, it still gets my goat. Let's start with that happy-chappy who just won a major tournament, after a 10 year absence, Tiger. No wonder he's miserable, his mother named him after a wild animal, for god's sake! Then we have Brooks Keopka, Xander Souffle and Bryson DeChambeau. What is going on here? It's not like actors who make up names so they can be instantly recognised - these people are for real, i.e. that is a name given to them at birth. What sort of a parent would look at their one hour-old baby and say, 'ah yes, he looks just like a Bryson'? Well here's the latest new kid on the block: a 23 year old from Sacramento named 'Cameron Champ'! Surely, if your surname is Champ, there is only one Christian name you could possibly consider for your first born? 'World!'
     Meanwhile back on planet Earth, spring is rapidly turning to summer here in South West France and we really really could do with a drop of rain, as I have 7 acres of newly planted grass seeds that need watering before they shrivel up like a beetle's scrotum! I don’t have a rain gauge but I would suggest that this part has seen barely a few millimetres of it since February and it is getting mighty dusty. Now, before all you eco-warriors start pointing the finger of suspicion at global-warming, this time last year we had so much of the stuff that we could only visit the sheep fields in thigh-length rubber waders. And anyway, it's not even that warm as last night we had a frost, in mid April, which did wonders for our geraniums, not! Well, just to check that annual opposites are not the basis for an argument on climate change, I did a quick check on Google and am now much wiser on the subject as I found this definition: 'effects warming of the ocean surface, leading to increased temperature stratification.'  Thanks guys. Using big words invariably makes you sound reverberant!
    Finally, this week saw the return of that bissum that is Daisy Death-wish, now in her eighth year. Being the sole survivor of the sale of the adult portion of our flock last autumn, she has been residing at someone else's place through the winter adding the bonus of a lamb sometime around mid February. I have to admit, for such an ugly old brute, the lamb is quite an acceptable specimen. Well, due to a chance contact with an old girlfriend who used to live in Far Forest but is now in Holland, Daisy has now taken one step nearer to the bovine Hall-of-fame and been painted in watercolour. I believe Daryl has captured the creature's spirit quite remarkably.

Saturday, 16 March 2019

The price of envelopes

       Every day is a school day? Many a time we have heard that. Well, today I have been handed a lesson in photography - something I never knew I needed. In fact, as a youngster I did do a course in the subject but sometimes, as they say, it is hard to see the wood for the trees or, in my case, the plasterboard for the furniture. I have always been a man of self belief so it was with reluctance that I hired a professional photographer to 'shoot' our new house and boy, am I glad I did. With proper gear and an experienced eye, rather than a cheap phone standing on a chair, he has created a masterpiece. A palace by the sea, if you will. When I look back at the snaps I took when we got the keys to this place, just 15 months ago, and compare them to now, I have to say it makes me rather proud.
    Something else I am also getting lessons on is fly fishing. My father was an avid fisherman, chasing salmon from the Tenbury Teme to the Tay and I never quite saw the attraction. But here I am, a good few years later with a new rod, reel, line and box of brightly coloured fluffy things. Admittedly, as yet, I haven’t much idea what to do with it all but a pal has promised to take me to a local lake where the goal is to catch a trout for my tea. I may go hungry for a while!
    It is quite rare in this column that I don’t mention the eco-mental fraternity getting on my goat and this month I really have to rant about the treatment of that good old house-wive's choice, James Bond. No longer can he tear up the France Riviera in his beautiful Aston DB5, but instead, in the next film episode due out soon he is issued with a save-the-planet electric car! OK, it is still an Aston Martin, possibly British made, but is this really necessary to degrade this hero to that level, so that when he races after villains, he will need to stop and plug-in every 100 miles? What if there are no handy 240v sockets when he is hurtling around rural Russia after baddies? Will he just park up and walk? Or get the bus? Maybe Q can give him a fold-up bike to stick in the boot for such emergencies? It is nothing less than an outrage, I say. Might as well arm the poor chap with a spud-gun as well?
    On the tenuous subject of goats, they seem to have made the news this month. Firstly a herd of 120 wild Kashmiri goats wondered down from the snowy mountains of North Wales and invaded the town of Llandudno, presumably to watch the rugby. After a lot of complaints about the smell, one spokes-goat said, 'we put up with it for a while but it was a bit rough! We just had a few pints and a pie and chips in the Kings Head, but after that things got a bit out of hand when the locals started chanting anti-goatish songs and talking about curry. A few of the kids ended up in the cells but we are happily back on our mountain again now!' Then, just a few days later we hear about Belle the Pigmy goat who was stolen in Shropshire and presumed cooked. Then, a few days later she turned up wandering around a train station in Manchester, surely not the safest towns for such creatures. Just how she released herself from the clutches of such evil scoundrels in unclear but at least it gave the press chance to divert their Brexit headlines with 'Escape Goat!'
    While trying my hardest to steer away from government discussions at present, for obvious reasons, I would like to raise the subject of inflation and, more poignantly, how it is calculated. Somewhere out there amongst the corridors of power, somebody with a clipboard makes decisions about what is and isn’t in the 'basket' of consumer goods that are measured annually to see if they have gone up in price. My simple question is 'why would you leave things out?' Apparently envelopes and armchairs are now excluded, but Alexa speakers are recently on the list and I am not quite sure how they arrive at that decision. For example, according to one statistic, more households in UK have a voice-activated speaker than a pet rabbit! From which I ascertain that a lot of people must own pet rabbits - which are excluded from the calculations? A 3-piece suite may double in price next year but that won't matter a fig as it isn’t in the basket? Isn't that called manipulating the figures? Here is a more significant example: if the current level of inflation is really only at 2%, then why have my gas, phone, electric, train-fare and council tax bills all gone up by ten?  
    And so, after our 4 month long stint, in a few weeks we will packing up our small change and heading south to France for some summer again. Each year this gets a little harder as I find myself more attached to this Fife coast, with its quirky streets, friendly pubs and stunning views. I will be back for a couple of weeks in May to progress with building our extension, and again in July for a wedding, both of which I am already looking forward to. Maybe the time has come in our life to make some decisions about where we really call home these days.

Thursday, 14 February 2019

Bjorn to Brexit

    This month is the first time I have spent not-lambing for close on fifty years. Our one and only remaining ewe, one Daisy Death-wish, has today dropped yet another mutant into the world, aided by some friends who are housing her for the winter. So instead of late night vigils, all I get are a few photos to say the job is done, successfully, from a few thousand miles away. Great result everyone.
I did threaten that during this 'lambing-holiday' we might instead head off to South America to visit my son who is working out there but, as it happens, he is back in Blighty this month, so we will just make an 800 mile road-trip to see him in the Midlands instead, visiting a few other family members in the process.  Not that I have been lazy these last few weeks, as I have been constantly kept busy shuffling furniture around from one place to another, then occasionally back again, generally on my own. That's the one beauty of using Swedish furniture, it does all come apart and reassemble, even without a set of diagrams designed for idiots.
    In between times, I have found myself at my writing desk, the first time for nearly two years. A couple of ideas were kicking around in my head, occasionally shouting to be heard above the constant whirr of an overcrowded bureau full of un-completed admin. A framework has been drafted and a few chapters already scribbled towards a new novel based in the early sixties around a true set of events. I am not sure when I will get chance to finish it, nor re-visit the list of half-written projects lurking on my PC, but it is nice to get back to my preferred occupation, rather than the one I have forced myself into out of financial necessity. Out of total co-incidence I noticed a poster for a local writing group here in East Neuk and decided to attend one of their meetings. I have to admit it is the first time I have ever been to such a thing, but I am now card carrying member of, and already supplying contributions to their website.
      Obviously I can only make it to the winter events of writers workshops, pool matches, quiz nights etc, as we will be back in France from Spring through to Autumn. It was suggested that I could attend, via Skype, an innovation that allows people to pretend to be somewhere they are not. But then I happened to read in the weekend's paper about how Abba are going on tour this year, by hologram! Yes, instead of their tired 70-year old bodies being shoehorned back into lycra and high-heels, the crowds can enjoy Agnetha, as she was back in 1978, cavorting around in that oh-so-tight silver cat suit! Apparently, says the article, you wouldn’t know it wasn’t really them, so life-like is the stage act. So much so that, at a hundred quid a ticket, folks are queuing up to get a front row seat. Now that I have to say is a win-win for everyone, especially Bjorn's dignity and bank account. This is, of course, the thin end of a very long and fat wedge. How long before the Beatles get back together and take a world tour or, heaven forbid, The Bay City Rollers restart the fashion statement of tartan flares and tank-tops? The concept is limitless. Donald Trump could send himself out on stage, safe in the knowledge that when someone assassinates him, the bullet would go right through and into any world leader standing behind him. Once the Chinese get hold of the technology it won't be long before we can all get a hologram of ourselves for Christmas? My wife could send herself to business meetings in Aberdeen in her best suit, whilst simultaneously sipping gin by our pool with her rollers in. I could be at home writing a book, at work with a pointing trowel and in France mowing the lawn, all at the same time. Oh hang on a minute, I do that already!
   I couldn’t let this month's column go by without some reference to the 'B' word and the impending deadline of doom. Has anybody a clue what is going on? I mean, really? It is nearly a couple of years ago since the press filled up our ears with Article 50, back-stops, soft-borders and a whole load of other foggy jargon and propaganda. Now we get threatened with withdrawals, extensions and no-trade-deals, and it appears blatantly obvious that nobody has a Scooby-do about what will happen come April 2019. Should I be back in France by that date? Will they charge me to return to my own home? Or let me in at all? Will I still be able to buy wine and cheese on a British passport? Does our habitation tax double next year, unless we can prove our residency by singing both verses of the Marseillaise? Will my hologram be French, or British? In fact, does a hologram have to pay tax at all? Or need a passport for that matter? There's a question I bet Teresa May hadn’t considered? Oh dear, back to the drawing board we go...

Tuesday, 15 January 2019

Smart toilet seat

    Skiing season, 6 Nations season, possibly snowy season, wow, welcome to 2019 before it roars into the next decade. This should also be the golf season for me, as I enjoy playing the sport in winter in Scotland because the courses are a bit easier. Admittedly, you do have the howling wind sending the wee ball offline, as well as rain, fog and other inclement climate variants but, for a bad golfer like myself, it is all about the 'rough', as that is frequently where my ball ends up. However, what is normally 3 foot high goose-grass in summer which will swallow more balls than a Polish hooker, in winter is cut back, so that it can re-grow and thus, with a sharp pair of eyes I manage to get round without losing a box-full of the things. Now, if only they would put a net over the sea or, better still, make golf balls that float!
    I mentioned last month we are now in our new home and are still very much enjoying life by the ocean, not least because the weather has mainly been beautiful here in East Neuk. Beach walks with the dogs have been frequent, despite Louis's obsession with rotting seagulls which seem to adorn the shoreline this time of year. On numerous occasions he has either had to have one confiscated on his return to the house, or take an involuntary full bath after he has rolled in the damn things.  Our new kitchen has been put to extensive use and, on the whole, seems to function reasonably well. I have designed and built half a dozen kitchens over the last few years but when it comes to putting one in that I want to work in myself, some serious thought needs to apply, regarding proximity of appliances, sinks etc. My only complaint is the issue of the soft-close hinge. Yes, maybe this modern invention does have the advantage of doors not banging shut or drawers being left slightly open but it has really been taken too far, with the introduction of the slow-drop toilet seat.  Now we all know the eternal age-old gender debate about 'seat up or down' which has probably instigated more sexual harassment law suits than Peter Green, but now we have this in-between state where it is neither one thing nor the other. And sometimes, you don’t have time to wait the full 5 minutes for the thing to descend, if you get my drift? Hopping up and down and gritting your teeth surely can't be produce healthy outcome - can it? Well, from now on, ours is glued down permanently, so there Mrs F!
    This month I have to go to war, with the Chinese. No, not quite the whole nation - in fact, the take-away at the end of our street actually sent us a Christmas card this year, such is our working relationship. No, my truck with them involves mobile phones or, in my case, lack of them. Just 2 months have passed since my new Umidigi handset arrived from China, only a few weeks late. And, for a while it all worked fine until, for some strange coincidence, it packed up on Christmas morning. Since then, after vain attempts at fixing it, I have emailed, written, phoned and screamed at the supplier to replace or repair it, only to be bluntly ignored. So now, I have taken to naming and shaming them on social media, each posting slightly more vitriolic than the former. Despite still getting zero response, I do wholly realise that somewhere amongst this vendetta, I may be breaching some libel laws but I care not. I have even taken to swearing at them in Chinese! However, thanks to Bing Translate, for all I know I could be ordering a chow-mein! Not until the Emperor himself sends me a full pardon, or at least a refund, will I cease with my endeavours of justice. Keep your eyes on the press for a solitary figure sitting in Tiananmen square sometime soon!
   I am not quite sure where I have been hiding my head lately, but I have only recently discovered a new phenomenon that it about to spark the 4th industrial revolution (no, I never knew we had 3 previous ones either!). I am talking about the 'Internet-of-things'. I don’t know who came up with the name, possibly a small child, but basically this is a generic term for devices that are connected to the internet, allowing them to not only communicate with each other but also gather data to improve their productivity. Sounds complicated? Well it may be but it is surprising how many of these IoT gadgets we already use in our daily life and the list is growing at an alarming rate. Let's take one of the original ones, that gadget you can use at the supermarket to pay for your shopping. It knows when you shop, what you eat, what the weather is like, how fast you walk, how much you drink, etc. And you don’t suppose for one minute that it keeps all that information to itself, do you? Of course, you don’t have to use it, and many of us choose not to for that very reason. Basically anything preceded with the word Smart belongs to this category and it is stealing all your stuff and sharing it with strangers. As well as TV, phones and cars, you can get smart hairbrushes, toothbrushes, toasters and dog collars, the list is as endless as it is, in my mind, useless. However, the reason I uncovered all this uncomfortable information is that we have just installed a new heating system and it too is Smart - well, smarter than me anyway. Now, apparently, I can control the heating in the house, even when I am not there which, er, seems pretty unnecessary. But more than that, it knows what the weather is like because the internet told it, so can control itself accordingly. And, as it knows we are in Scotland, it possibly assumes it snows all winter and asks the bank for a loan to pay the gas bill? Apparently I can even set it to switch off the radiators every time I leave the room to go to the toilet. Adding on an extra 5 minutes for the slo-coach seat to go down, obviously. Ah, here's a thought, why can't someone invent the smart toilet seat, that I can control from my phone 5 minutes before I need to go for a pony-and-trap? Come on IoT, get it sorted.

Monday, 17 December 2018

As stable as a bipolar polar bear

    What ho, everyone. Happy Festivities etc. Well, by the time this goes to print they will probably be over but hopefully you enjoyed and still are enjoying yourselves and staying optimistic about the year ahead, despite the fact that the economy is about as stable as a bipolar polar bear!
    Also, by the time this gets to hard copy, we will have moved into yet another new house, in time for Christmas. It seems to be becoming something of a habit, as that will be five Scottish houses - in five years - that we have renovated and then lived in, if only temporarily. However, this is the one we have been working towards, the one right on the beach in Cellardyke, with just seagulls and waves for company. The plan was always to be in by December but a few curve balls have held up proceedings, not least Scottish Power, a company about as useful as a chocolate colander. Finally, after digging up most of the surrounding roads and pathways, we do have mains electric into the house, but no supply yet, and are still relying on a highly dodgy extension cable from next door - our previous abode. But we do now have heating, and nice views, although as yet a little bit sparse on furniture, as all of ours is now being rented out. Of course, this house is not quite finished, as we start on a quite technical extension in the January, adding a further bedroom and south facing terrace out to the sea wall, but it is homely and air tight. Meanwhile, our two dogs are as confused as a Brexit deal, as we let them out through one door and they then sit outside the wrong house waiting to get back in. For the ‘dog of little brain’ this involves much barking to boot. At least we don’t currently have a house polluted by herds of cats, as they are all back in France, being spoilt rotten by our house sitters, who keep posting photos of them on social media sitting by the fire or enjoying a 3-course meal.
    I have spent much of the last month clearing up what was a building site, which involves trips to that place of despair, the local tip. For reasons better known to themselves, the council have changed it from an open-all-hours base to one with a strict timetable which seems to revolve every week, and hence I have to make every journey at least three times. For example, today their website says they are open but when I arrive? Nope. A sign on the gate informs me that not only is it closed, but will remain so for the next two days. On investigation, a knowledgeable man in the pub informs me that this is due to the fact that we had a frost this morning so it may be a bit icy underfoot and the power-crazed fat lazy ba*stard who works there might slip while waddling from his warm office to berate punters who put their plastic in with the cardboard. Couldn’t he put down some salt, maybe? Nope. Cut backs on salt. Cut backs on hours. Cut backs on everything. Except my council tax bill. You see, last decade’s eco-mentalist ideals have simply just imploded as the cost of recycling every ounce of household waste has spiralled so high it is no longer sustainable without a hand-out from Europe? Wasn’t it Descartes who said, ‘you cant sweep it under the carpet forever’? Well, I believe there is a simple answer? Bring back brazziers and bonfires. Or is that brasiers? I get confused.
    Carrying on with the subject of cutting back, a visit to the opticians raises yet another of my eyebrows as I am no longer allowed an eye test until I have gone completely blind. Even then, if I arrive with a white stick and Labrador I will be sent packing unless a full 2 years has gone by since my last check-up… if I haven’t walked out in front of a bus by then!
    On the good news front, we have managed to be successful in a ballot to get tickets to see Scotland playing Russia at rugby, in Japan, next October. Now I know this might sound a bit odd, especially as few folks will know that the old USSR actually play the game at national level but, you see, this is a World Cup, so anyone can join in. However, their qualification was, as is often the case with the Ruskies, surrounded with controversy as their rivals, namely Spain, Romania and Belgium, all accidentally got reported for cheating. The accusation was that a few of their players were not actually residents in their said country, thus breaking a rule which is, at best, open to interpretation, and one that has been continually ignored by home nations for a generation. Is there no stunt Putin wont pull? One has to question how he manages to sleep at night? Rumours that all the referees and linesmen are all named Karchopsky are, as yet, unfounded!
    Finally, I would like to offer some seasonal advice to Santa to bring him into the next decade. Get yourself a 3D printer, pal. They are brilliant! It can make toys, furniture, motorbikes, even houses, just at the flick of the keyboard while you sit with your size tens on the coffee table with a pint of stout. Or better still, give everybody one as a present, so we can all churn out our own stuff at will. Win win. Please, can mine be big enough knock out a small private jet so I never have to suffer the indignity of Ryanair ever again?