Friday, 12 October 2018

Driverless drivers


OK, that's it, summer's over. Or is it? It certainly has been a season of extremes: wettest winter, longest summer, warmest autumn. My guess is that all of these will add up to a record of some description, and that the French wine of 2018 will be extraordinary - either good or bad. Of course the local producers will tell us the former but then, they are not going to say 'monsieur, this year's wine is merde!' are they?
Currently we are back in France after our 3-week Spanish trip, and the grass still hasn’t started growing. Thankfully, as indicated a few months ago, we have sold our entire flock of ewes, who all went off on a lorry to pastures new a few weeks ago, to start a new breeding life in the South West.  This was with the exception of Daisy Death-wish who is now nearly 7 years old, and having a few months holiday staying with a friend. That just leaves us with 5 ewe lambs and a fat pet 6 year-old, Skippy, who will also be off to spend the wet months somewhere else. Then, for the first time in a couple of decades, the whole farm will be ploughed up in the next few weeks and planted with wheat for the winter. No, we are not going into arable farming, just that the land needs a rest for a year. Next autumn it will get replanted with new grass and we should be back in the sheep business the year after, with all the renewed headaches that it brings.
Meanwhile it will soon be time for our winter exodus back to the East of Scotland. With one project completed and another nearly done we are sitting back a little and relying on a house sale or two this year. My plan is to play a bit more golf, watch some international rugby or even put my feet up now and again on the rainy days. Of course, there is still a bathroom and kitchen to tile, electricity mains to install, a holiday flat to decorate, a house to furnish, extension to build, that sort of thing, but I won't be rushing quite so fast this term, as I try and get a bit more balance in my hectic lifestyle. There's something I don’t write very often!
  Of course, before we get to that, there's the 2000-mile journey by road, something that starts out nice and easy on French motorways and gradually decays in the tarmac chaos that is Britain's road network. Around the world there is currently a debate raging about the introduction of driverless cars. Many of you will have seen that Google, Uber, Tesla and a few other conglomerates are piling the money into researching these things and every week we hear of their breakthroughs, rather than breakdowns.  So how far are we really from me being able to sit in the back of my vehicle, with my family, and let it drive me from Bordeaux to Edinburgh whilst I have a nap? On looking closer at this development I come across a bloke called Stan, from Manchester who, with only a handful of employees believes he is leading the race toward the empty driver's seat finish line. 'British brains are better than American and Chinese cash,' he quotes on BBC news, continuing with: 'yes, it's a gamble and a number of bets have to come off for it to work..!'   With his project called Five AI, whilst the others are still testing their machines on salt flats or minor roads, his prototypes are already careering around the streets of London masquerading as taxis, and that is something, on the face of it, I find quite disturbing.  I mean, Mr Boland may be an entrepreneur and all that, but does he really have authority to do this? And if he does, who else is out there having a go? Will we see Alan Sugar, for instance, sending his numpty apprentices down Clapham high street with remote control double-deckers? Is James Dyson working on a cordless motorbike whilst I speak? Or perhaps I could have a go, getting my dog to drive me home from the pub. Let's face it, she is probably a tad more intelligent than half of the idiots that I have encountered on the M6. You see, all she has to do is drive at the same speed as everyone else, stay in one lane, keep her distance, and motorways become a very simple thing to negotiate. So why is it that every f++king imbecile in an Audi insists on overtaking every other imbecile and then standing on the breaks so we all have coronaries! Well, here is my solution. If you want to make the roads safer, forget making cars more intelligent and start with the drivers?
A consistent problem I seem to meet with this time of year is that of prolonged sneezing fits, some of which can last 30 minutes or more. Normally I put it down to a common cold or change of weather but, realistically something must be attributed to the fact that we decant indoors, spend evenings on the sofa in front of the TV instead of out on the terrace with the sunset, and sleep under a duvet rather than just a cotton sheet. So, this year, prompted by advice from others, I have succumbed to the fact that I may just be allergic to something. Reluctantly I turn to the internet for guidance. Thank you the good old NHS for the following nugget: "The best way to prevent an allergic reaction is to avoid the substance that you're allergic to...!" Is it any wonder the whole system is more bankrupt than a Greek builder?
After some sleuthing of my own, my deduction is that it may be feathers. So as well as burning the sofa, I might have to keep away from the birds for a while!

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