Tuesday 26 April 2016


I have spent the past three and a half months building a Caterham Seven kit car. Today I took it to the DVSA (vehicles inspectorate). The inspector has worked there for the last fifteen years and has never passed an amateur built car the first time. I passed the external projections tests, the build quality tests, brake effort, brake pedal effort, speedo accuracy, noise, seat belt anchorages, he approved the suspension geometry, and liked the way it drove (He’s keen on hill climbs, I gave him permission to put his foot down and we went round the test centre a couple of time at about 40 mph, mostly sideways, and filled the car with gravel)

In the end today was no different from the last 15 years. The car failed its emissions tests, and its very frustrating because whatever the fault is it will be with something that Caterham supplied to me. The next retest appointment is a month away and I’m looking down the barrel of £800 in transport fees to get Caterham to look at a vehicle that we can’t legally drive on the roads.

Richard “Stoichiometry” B

Tuesday 19 April 2016

Batman vs IRS

file under:amateurish economics

The news is still filled with stories of people avoiding their taxes. What almost everybody seems to have forgotten is that tax avoidance is good and proper, unlike evasion.

Tax evasion is where you lie to the authorities and don't pay the taxes that you legally owe. Think about Batman and Wayne Industries. The Research and Development division produces armoured vehicles, body armour, wing suits, surveillance systems and so forth and then Bruce takes them home and uses them for his personal (crime fighting) life. In reality he should be a paying customer, there would be tax on the sales, and the materials and labour wouldn't be tax-deductible because they're not really prototypes.

Our tax code is based on avoidance. Tax breaks to invest in new equipment for your business, disincentives to waste energy and pollute. Tax on tobacco and alcohol, no tax on children's clothes or individual savings, no tax on most food but tax on chocolate biscuits and (soon) fizzy drinks. When you hear the press, politicians and idiots bemoaning tax avoidance remember that they are arguing for you to buy clothes for yourself before your children, to forgo fruit for biscuits, and to start smoking and drink away your savings.

They've set up the tax rules badly and now they don't like the way that we're playing the game. It's like complaining that putting your bishop on the same diagonal line as the opposing king isn't in the spirit of chess.

Richard "Lord Clyde's Shovel" B

Tuesday 12 April 2016


A couple of weekends ago I found a distressed hedgehog on my lawn and ended up taking it to hospital. I had no idea how much interest its fate would generate and I was rather regretting not naming it Gordon so that I could triumphantly tell my readers that "Gordon's alive!". Just like all the jobs/gigs/women that I've wanted over the years the protocol with the hedgehog hospital was "don't call us, we'll call you – no news is bad news".

At the weekend my curiosity got the better of my patience and I rang the hospital for an update. I'm sad to say that Spike died the night after he was admitted. There was blood around his mouth so it seems probably that he had eaten something poisonous, which is consistent with staggering around in daylight.

Despite Spike's demise I strongly recommend Prickly Ball Farm. They offer free hedgehog advice and care. You can go on a tour of the hospital and there is also a petting zoo (with kleptomaniac orphan lambs) and a good café.

Richard "About to be overrun with slugs" B

Tuesday 5 April 2016


I'm sorry I was late, but I had to drive a hedgehog to Newton Abbot.

You know how it is: You find a distressed hedgehog staggering and shaking on your lawn during daylight and your ex-girlfriend, a keen conservationalist, persuades you that you have to try to rescue it rather than let it peacefully expire. Then you have to go and capture it and sit it on a hot-water bottle. Then you get to talk to a hedgehog expert on the phone who assesses its behaviour and tells you that it's near death and requires expert treatment. Before you know it you've got a hedgehog wrapped in a towel, on a hot-water bottle, in a box, strapped into the passenger seat, and you're driving to the nearest hedgehog hospital.

Richard "Let's call it Spike" B