King Charles

Oliver Cromwell was a dick. A Righteous, pompous, ‘I am right’ Puritan arsehole. He banned the eating of mince pies on Christmas day to curb gluttony. Nearly four hundred years ago, the fat police were active. They are still evil bastards. Cromwell was convicted of dickery two years after he died. The English dug him up and hung him anyway. You Arabs think you are badasses? Oh you have no idea.

But… Cromwell was up against the first king Charles, son of James I and VI who was also a pompous arsehole. A bigger one. I think kings are allowed to be pompous arseholes but even so. This was one so bad the people supported the puritan arse. At first.

King Charles, the first one, taxed so hard and spent so wastefully that he caused the only civil war in English history so far. His grandson, Charles II, was no better. He didn’t cause a war but his son fucked up royally. The next one, James II of England lost to William of Orange because, well, England hated him and were happy to be taken over by someone who wasn’t quite so much of a dick. Parliament took control of the country at that point and they did a decent job up until now.

This is why Mrs. Queen is so old. She cannot die or we get Charles III and we get all the same shit again. Except this time it’s windmills and solar panels that will put us all in the workhouse. The effect is the same and the end result will be the same. We’ll have pitchforks and not much else because real weapons have all been banned. Hey, it worked last time.

You can make a gun. It might not take many shots, it might be like the Napoleonic brass cannons which were melted down and made into new cannons after a lot of use, but it will do enough. Lack of weapons is an easily remedied situation.The government does not understand this because they listen to arms sellers who tell them it’s really hard and expensive to make weapons.

There are moves afoot to replace the next King Charles with the next King William.

King Charles is synonymous with unrest. King William is synonymous with salvation from dickhead rulers (in England at least). That’s history.

The future is not history but often depends on it. So what’s it gonna be, droogies? A quiet night on the moloka, or a bit of the old ultraviolence?

The way the government is boosting taxes, I think we are heading for another King Charles.

And all that that entails.

I must shop for a pitchfork…


Mixed bag

Deforestation. A terrible thing for many reasons. I have a little bit of forest here and I plan to keep it. I like trees. Especially trees that grow things I can eat. I don’t hug them, it makes them self conscious and embarrassed and the brambles laugh at them. Gooseberry bushes don’t like to be hugged. Try it and you’ll soon get the idea.

But… the ones who wail about deforestation are the same ones who want to reduce CO2 levels in the atmosphere. It’s already a fraction of one percent of the atmosphere. Bill ‘I see the world through Windows’ Gates once claimed he wanted to reduce atmospheric CO2 to zero. Which would make current deforestation about as damaging as mowing your lawn.

Okay, cutting down trees is bad but the UK was once all forest. All the way, top to bottom and side to side. It would have been pretty but where do you put, say, Manchester? We have to clear a bit of space to live in. There’s a lot of world for the trees. There are bits we haven’t explored yet.

Also, if you really want the whole world to be vegetarian you need a lot of fields for crops, so goodbye forests. All of them. Goodbye all the wildlife in those forests. Exterminate the cows and sheep and pigs and rabbits and foxes and anything that might interfere with the Pure Veggie World.  Is global vegetarianism green or a mad ideology? Oh, I’ll let you decide. Meanwhile I’ll set out my plan for a vegan restaurant. We keep them out the back, choose the one you want and we’ll spit-roast him for you.

Plants use CO2 and sunlight to make sugars and in the process they throw out oxygen as a waste product. Yes, the stuff we depend on for breathing is actually plant shit. That should really give us our place in the scheme of life. We might think we are the top of the food chain but as far as the trees are concerned, we are shit eaters. Which is why they get so embarrassed if we hug them.

The other side of it is the sugars. Our brains especially, as well as our entire metabolism, runs on sugar. Specifically, glucose. There are many other sugars, but glucose is the one that we mainly use. Plants make it. Ruminants like cows and sheep get none from their diet, the bacteria and protozoa in the rumen make fatty acids that their liver then turns into glucose. Humans and other non-ruminants get the sugar direct from their diet.

No CO2, no plants. No plants, no oxygen and no sugar, Killing the food chain at its source. They really want to do that, you know.

We have two hormones regulating our blood sugar. Insulin and glucagon. When we’ve had enough to eat, the balance of those hormones tells us ‘enough’.

If you replace sugar with something that tastes sweet but isn’t sugar, those hormones ignore it. Stuff yourself with calories sweetened with artificial sweetener and your hormone system is ignoring the fake. It’s waiting for the real sugar. As far as it’s concerned you’re still hungry.

It’s not sugar that’s causing obesity. It’s the replacements. The fake sweetness. It makes us eat more than we would if the food had real sugar in it. Government response? Obviously we have to reduce sugar and use more fake sweeteners because the sweetener companies are paying the politicians to say it. Then shout at fat people. That keeps the anti-sugar mob in easy money for all time.

Just like the anti-smoking mob. They are currently trying to claim that steam is deadly so we don’t all switch to vaping. If we did, all at once, the tax take would go through the floor. Then they’d have to get a real job in which they actually do something. That’s way beyond their abilities.

In the UK, a few months ago I could get a pack of cheap and legal cigarettes for £5.99. Now there is no pack priced below £7.24. However, I have ordered tubing baccy which will make me cigs at a rate of about £3.50 for 20. The tubes are in the pound shops at £1 for 200 and the cig loading machines (Bull Brand) are likewise £1 each. And I have Electrofags too.

If you like the fancy smokes, they have those too.

Well, it could all change soon. Our departure from the EU is set to happen on March 29th. Coincidentally, the date my parents arrive for a week long visit. I will be in enforced sociability for the most significant event in my lifetime. Typical!

Maybe, one day, our government will be real again. Maybe, one day, British common sense will return.

I hope I live to see it.

Underdog Streetview

My house is not on Google Streetview, which is fair since there is no street. All you see on Google is a gate and a little placard with the name of the house. No sign of any house.

Earlier this week, the landlord sent in two heavy duty gardeners with chainsaws and large machines. The garden had been pretty much untended for over a year (as had the greenhouse, which I why I have two large compost bins full of grapevine trimmings). The farm had cut the lawns but that was pretty much it. I was expecting to spend most of the summer cutting back plants.

The gardeners cut back far more fiercely than I would have. It was two days of botanical Armageddon out there, but they did more in two days than I would have done in two months. The garden is in manageable condition now.

Also I don’t have a chainsaw nor any of the enormously vicious tools they brought with them. This is probably, on balance, a good thing.

Since it’s nearly spring, as evidenced by the rising tide of daffodils and the dying snowdrops, I thought I’d go where even Google dare not go. Up this driveway…

Yes, that leads to Underdog Towers which doesn’t have an actual tower but which has some rooms that feel like it. This is far from any kind of streetlight so it’s a real adventure at night.

I usually drive up here a tiny bit faster than I probably should. At walking pace there’s time to look around at what’s growing among the banks waiting to be tidied.

Once I move a few truckloads of fallen branches, leaves and weeds, the driveway should look pretty good. When you get past the bend in the track, you see this –

Go up to the house and look back and it looks like this –

The wall was covered in ivy until last week. I’d have left it, personally, but I just rent the place so can’t overrule the landlord. Still, the base of the plant is still there. It’ll grow back. Those are not my car’s tyre tracks. They had a tractor. I did say they were heavy duty gardeners.

The opening in the wall leads to one of the gardens. That garden has flower beds that were seriously overgrown. I had made some attempts at cutting back but the wooded bit at the end of the garden needed someone who isn’t afraid to climb a ladder with a chainsaw. Not me. Me, ladder, chainsaw… I know where that would end up!

The other side of the wall looks like this –

They did a sterling job of weeding that part. It would have taken me at least a week just to clear that one bed! The trees at the end are inside the garden. It’s the smaller wooded area.

Panning around…

…to the side of the house…

That’s a grain store behind the garage. Yes, the farm is that close! Every day, usually around 5 pm, the local pheasant walks past the kitchen window on his way home from the grain store. One day he was running – he might have been caught in the act.

Down among those trees is Snowdrop Corner –

So, back to the house. There is no actual end to the driveway, it goes right around and down the farm road. I never have to turn the car, I just go up one drive and down the other.

Standing in the second garden, you get a better view of the house.

The greenhouse is now triffid-free, the vines are still there but heavily trimmed. It leaks, and I think the only way to fix it is to take out all the glass and refit it after cleaning it all. That will have to wait for good weather. The scruffy bit on the right is log storage for the wood burning stove and also a mini garden, as if there wasn’t enough garden already.

The bit I’m standing on is another garden. Mostly grass, leading to another wooded area.

That’s not the wooded area. It’s behind the camera in that shot and looks like this –

Well that’s a bit of it. There are apple trees in that lot and enough fallen wood to fuel the stove all next winter.

Following the drive around, just in time to see the snowdrops outside the kitchen before they die back –

The kitchen window is out of shot to the left. That’s the office/guest room window, and you can just see the extra tiny window at the back of the kitchen.

Well, that’s some of the outside of the house. I’ll get better garden pics as the year progresses and things start to actually grow. The grass has started already but I won’t mow it until the snowdrops die back.

This garden doesn’t have a crocus pentacle… yet. Oh, the possibilities!

Time to light the writing candle

Enough decorating for the day. I don’t like painting. I don’t like ladders. I have to paint a room with 10-foot high walls. It’s the decorating apocalypse. It would be a bigger room on its side. This is the room I designated ‘office’ because it has a north facing window so will only get the sun’s glare in midsummer. It was in need of serious decorating. It looked like it last saw a paintbrush before I was born.

It also looked like someone had kept the ‘family secret’ in it judging by it having three locks on the outside and all the scratch marks in the wall. Ideal for writing my kind of stories.

Anyway, it’s three-quarters done and I can’t do any more until I move the sofa bed into the corner it’s destined to stay in. It’s a heavy beast. I only intend moving it once. The paint in that corner is currently drying. Tomorrow, or the next day, it will move. I still have to seal the base of the skirting board where the floor has sunk a little in the corner but that’s a short job.

The office will double as a guest room. There are spare rooms upstairs but there’s a very low rail along the landing and it’s a ten-foot drop if you fall over it. Scares the crap out of me. Also the upstairs rooms don’t have heating. Aaand… I am not carrying a bed up a long, steep curved staircase! You want to sleep upstairs, I’ll get you an inflatable mattress.

My parents are visiting in three weeks. Another deadline. This room must be complete and not stinking of paint by then. I still have to do a little bit of wall, varnish the door (someone previously stripped off the paint and I intend to keep it that way) and paint the floor-length architrave around the window.

Then put the pelmet back up, properly this time.

There is some fixing to do around the window. Whoever put the pelmet up attached the bracket to the outer moulding of the architrave with short screws. So that moulding has started to pull away from the main frame. I don’t know how long that pelmet was in place but since they went out of fashion in the 60’s, it has to have been there for at least 60 years – and that’s if it was one of the last to be installed. Given the age of this house that seems unlikely.

It will go back with brackets fixed to the wall, not the wood. It won’t have a curtain rail installed because I put up a more modern pole. It’s really only going back up to hold a large model truck – and to be an interesting feature point in this old place.

I had hoped to get away with delaying the paint on the window woodwork. It looked reasonably white – until I painted the skirting board. Sigh.

I have three weeks to complete this and to complete the ‘Tales the Hollow Bunnies Tell’ anthology. I need that book in its final stages before the parental visit as well as getting this place into a shape worth visiting. Pah. Hardly a challenge at all.

At least, no challenge if I get organised. That’s the real challenge – setting a routine for work for the first time in 56 years.

So the writing candle is lit. I have my back to the latest paint so I’m not tempted to watch it dry instead of writing. Writers know what I mean.

To work, then. I have a glass of Writing Lubricant to hand (Auchentoshan tonight, it was at reduced price in Tesco today) and I have put the ladder safely out of temptation’s way. Whisky and ladders – never a good ending.

I also have a pack of Henri Winterman’s half coronas, since it was national no smoking day. An annual treat. It was also Gobblement Money Stealing Day and to top it all, National Wimmin Day. That’s three days in one so I hope you managed to eat fifteen portions of vegetables. If you did, warn me before I get into a lift or any enclosed space with you.

I still don’t know what a ‘wimmin’ is and since the day has now passed, I don’t have to care about that for another year.

Procrastination has peaked. I have to Do Something now.

Spider Solitaire, tempt me not…


The Pelmet War

Longrider’s novel is now at the stage where editing the text is complete, the cover image just needs to be assembled and then the picky bits like ‘about the author’ and we’re up. My time has been taken up with that, with writing my own story for the Easter anthology and with decorating the office/guest room.

The room designated as office/guest room was in a pretty bad state. It’s a spacious room on the ground floor and that’s important. It’s important for guests because the bathroom is on the ground floor, important for the office because the kitchen is on the ground floor, and important for both because none of the upstairs rooms have heating.There’s a fantastic view from upstairs but it’s best enjoyed in warm weather.

The room had suffered damp, probably because of a hastily covered-over fireplace. The vent was just a hole in the wall (it now has a proper vent). It’s improving now the house is actually occupied by someone who turns the heating on at least once a day. The room was painted magnolia, it’s gradually turning light blue but there were already a few blue features. I’ll keep most of them.

The walls are thick here. They didn’t piddle about with breeze blocks and red bricks in those days. The walls are made of random lumps of rock cemented together. It means there are deep alcoves in to the windows. It also means mobile phones only work near the windows.

Most of the place has more-or-less tried to keep up with the times but this room stopped in about 1960, perhaps earlier. It still has a pelmet. I remember those from my childhood but they faded away with the advent of curtain rails that held the curtain in front of the rail, not under it. Pelmets were the things that hid the unsightly way the curtains hung from the curtain rails.

This is the one in my office –

pelmetYes, that’s the top of a stepladder at the bottom of the picture. The room is 10 feet high. I am not painting the ceiling. No point, nobody can see it anyway.

The plan was simple. Take the pelmet down, fit a more modern curtain rail in the window, put the pelmet (without its rail) back up as a fun feature and a shelf to store models on. Since there were only three screws holding it up, it sounded easy.

I’ve been battling with it all day. There are still two screws holding it up.

This is not like the pelmets I recall as a child. They were made of hardboard and when it came time to ditch them, you could snap them in two with your hands. This thing is made of a dark hardwood. A posh pelmet. It’s well made and was securely fixed by someone who never imagined pelmets would be a thing of the past.

Judging by the brass fittings and the fact that it’s a goddamn pelmet, it must have been there well over 50 years and it’s in no hurry to leave.

I have tried to Dremel the screw heads off, drill them through, crowbar the damn brackets off and have come very close to the ‘Huulk… Smaaash’ style of redecoration. That, experience tells me, only leads to a longer decorating job while I fix something that didn’t need fixing before. There’s already a lot of filling, sanding and painting to do. I don’t need rebuilding jobs on top.

The brackets are near the corners. The screws are the old flat-blade screwdriver screws and they didn’t go in straight originally. Clearly whoever put it up didn’t pre-drill screw holes. They are well sealed into the wood.

I have considered just pulling but if I do, I’ll likely pull the whole frame off. I have also considered reinstating the window shutters but the modern windows overlap the hinges so they can’t possibly be opened now.

Tomorrow I will take the ends off so I can access the brackets more easily. I had hoped to get it down intact but it’s just not possible. I can fix it, but tomorrow I will be at the top of a stepladder wielding an electric jigsaw.

If it goes quiet here for a while, don’t worry.

It all grows back.

Online silence

I have been uncharacteristically silent online tonight.

Tomorrow is the day of the funeral, at the civilised time of 12:30, and I have assembled two desks tonight. One new and one second hand. The new one at least came with instructions. Sort of…

The second hand one, well I was there when my son took it apart so it wasn’t too hard. It’s a glass desk and it’s now in one of the upstairs rooms that previously had no furniture at all.

So is most of the still unpacked clutter from my office. I was expecting a sofa bed delivery next week. It’s coming tomorrow. The room was nowhere near ready to accept it – there is at least room to put it inside now.

The office/guest room will need rearranging to accommodate the guest bed but that will probably happen the day before the first guest arrives. Earlier if I stop procrastinating.

Today was a busy one, my plans were once again thwarted by a change of delivery. I’m really hoping for a very quiet weekend.

Well, at least I don’t have to spend the weekend rearranging the office. That was the original plan but it’s all done.

Silver lining, and all that…