Tuesday, 17 May 2022

Apple of My Eye

 I never had a Tamagochi, I'm not living in an Asimov story, and I never played The Last of Us, so I don't know what it's like to care for the wellbeing of a bit of software, but I do now feel like I'm bringing up a software child, and trying to shape it into my own image. I want to be able to listen to music in my car, but at the same time I'm a cheapskate. There is an FM radio on my phone but the reception turns out to be terrible. I'm not prepared to buy a subscription to a music streaming service, but I already have Amazon Prime, so I'm trying to enjoy their music service. Without paying for the "Unlimited" version there are two problems: It's full of adverts, and you can't pick what you want to listen to. What you can do is play a "station" and tell it which songs you like (we'll play more like this) and which you dislike (we'll never play this again).

Using just the thumbs up and thumbs down I've been trying to train it to find songs that I like and I now feel invested in the app, and the time and effort I've spent with it. I have no idea what "more like this" actually means from an algorithmic point of view. If I had said I liked "Stairway to Heaven" would it have thought I like Led Zeppelin, 70s rock, and people that can really play the guitar, or would it have signed me up for long, pretentious songs and lyrics with overtones of Tolkein and mysticism. I hope it's building up a database from other people who are playing the same game as me. Having only thumbs up and thumbs down is very constraining. I told it that I don't like Aerosmith "Don't want to miss a thing" but my hand hesitated over the icon. Would it take that to mean I don't like Aerosmith at all? I'd be happy if it played pretty much anything off any of their albums up to and including "Pump".

Richard "AI training" B

Monday, 9 May 2022

Listen Up

 In a couple of weeks I'm going to take my silly little sportscar to Aberdeenshire. One of the things that I've been trying to improve in preparation is the acoustic environment, You get a lot of wind and road noise so it's rather tiring to drive. I usually wear ear plugs, but I would rather be able to listen to music. My headphones are Beyerdynamic DT770M (yes, they're related to the legendary DT100). They're designed for monitoring in live sound situations so they're part ear-defenders and part high-fidelity headphones. They should be perfect and when I drove with them it was much less tiring and much less boring.

I have had those headphones for about a decade and never had a problem with them. Rock shows are a harsh physical environment (just look how sturdy all the flight cases are and how heavy all the hardware is). Those headphones have survived scores of shows with me (and the associated loading, unloading and van rides). They failed after less than 500 miles of motorway driving in an open-top car. I broke them open and effected a temporary repair at the motorway services, but I think I'm going to have to buy something more focussed towards driving (or flying).

Richard "Dave Clark" B

Tuesday, 3 May 2022

Fine Art

 As a younger man I went out with a fine artist. One of the things I learned from her was that some graphic art wasn't about beauty, but about the story it told or the message it sent.

This isn't a spectacular photograph, and I don't think the story is entirely clear just from looking at it. It's the story of a man who has bought some cheap pithy limes and tried to juice them for making cocktails. He's broken the hinge of his lime press, he doesn't have any 1/8" round bar in stock, but he does fancy another daquiri.

Richard "David Bailey" B

Monday, 25 April 2022

Slow Samaritan

 A few weeks ago I was stuck in a very slow traffic jam. A caravan had lost a wheel in a junction controlled by temporary traffic lights. I stopped to offer support, but the man's jack wouldn't fit under the heavily listing caravan. I have a large, low profile jack at home, but I couldn't really bring it back in a car because the entire east side of Plymouth was gridlocked.

This is what "I'm trying to help" looked like:

I went home, took the top-box off my scooter, strapped my trolley jack in its place and set off back to the caravan.

I got there just before the recovery vehicle, but to both our surprises one of the vehicles who had been stuck in the extremely long queue was a mobile mechanic's van. He had jacked the caravan, replaced the wheel, and was sending it on its way just to get it out of his way.

Richard "shouldn't have bothered" B

Thursday, 21 April 2022

Back Row

 In an aeroplane it's important how the weight is distributed. If the centre of gravity is in the wrong place the plane will be inefficient, unstable, or dangerous. On small commercial planes it is actually important who sits where. I believe that the airlines prefer not to put their passengers through the indignity of stepping on a scales before they get allocated a seat, but somebody does carefully look them up and down and tries to guess who weighs how much. We now have these wonderful euphemisms for fat and thin: "Allocated a seat below the main spar" and "sitting in the back row".

Richard "She's got a nice empennage" B

Wednesday, 6 April 2022

The Alpha and the Omega

 Last week was a time of low-value revelations for me.

I was last week years old when I found out you can put bacon into a cold dry pan and then turn the heat on. The finest and most luxurious portion of the fat melts out (renders) and you cook the bacon in that. Who knew? Apparently everybody but me.

I have known for years that the most dangerous and totalitarian nation states try to take over the place of the family. During the second world war the nazis were fighting for "The Fatherland". After the revolution Russians were expected to think that they were born to "Mother Russia" more than their own parents. Orwell nicely pointed this out in 1984 by calling the surveillance service "Big Brother".

I have hated the BBC for many years. It was in the late 80's or early 90's when my mother and I noticed that the "news" has started to present an opinion instead of just the events. By 2010 they were talking down to me as though I were an idiot, and it was shortly after that that it was plain to see which side of every issue they stood. I haven't paid a TV licence for many years and so I'm not allowed to watch the dross that they produce, or anything which was broadcast live. Call it sticking by my principles, or call it cutting my nose off to spite my face, but I haven't watched British Superbikes or the Touring Cars in many years and I still miss it.

I was last week years old when I realised how sinister it is that its proponents would have British Government's propaganda wing take the roll of "Auntie".

Richard "Always the last to know" B

Location Location Location

 My brother and his workmates were very amused with this message that I sent. It does rather reveal what I think is important.

"I've put an offer in on a workshop in Hooe. 18' x 25', pitch roof, cavity walls, inspection pit, power. It comes with a free, ugly, 3 bed house."

Since then my offer has been accepted, I've got agreement on a mortgage and I've instructed solicitors so it looks like I'll probably be moving house. I now have to go on an economy drive and return to the monthly indignity of paying a mortgage. What do I do? Shop at Aldi instead of Lidl? Clean my shoes with Dom Perignon instead of Cristal? Share the bath water? Buy own-brand car wax? I feel lost.

Richard "Property Magnate" B

Monday, 21 March 2022


 Here at the bolingblog we love a scale of gradations like the Beaufort scale. I present our scale for how much tobacco you put into a hand-rolled cigarette.

  • Prison Fag.
  • Remand Prison Fag.
  • Student Fag.
  • International Student Fag.
  • Workman's Fag.
  • Foreman's Fag.
  • Smuggler's Fag.
  • Filipino Smuggler's Fag.
  • Lottery Winner's Fag.
  • Jamie the Socialist Borrowed Someone Else's Tobacco Fag.

 Richard "don't smoke" B

Tuesday, 15 March 2022


Tribute to Jeannine Bolingbroke, written by Mary E. Bolingbroke, Read at the Funeral Service on 10 March 2022

Because we tend to view bloodlines as something passed from father to son, grandmothers don't always get the credit they deserve as heads of the family but, to me, my granny was the ultimate Bolingbroke matriarch. She embodied all of the qualities that all of us who she gave life to are praised for: individuality, creativity, practical minds, eccentricity. And she has always expressed so much pride in us.

She wasn't the type of grandmother to declare her love with words in a typical sense, but her expressions of love and gratitude were just as powerful. She made it clear in the photos she chose to hang around the house, the stories she'd tell, the way her eyes smiled into yours, how lucky she always said she was. Her propensity to be brusque was evidence of a sparky, independent soul who wouldn't be tread on. She was soft and tender in her own, Bolingbroke way. 

I'm going to miss my yearly traditions from granny - the first daffodils of the year for my birthday and a card informing me of my age, and whether that age was prime and, if not, which factors it had — but I feel comforted by how unforgettable she is.

Tribute to Jeannine Bolingbroke, written by Douglas Bolingbroke, Read at the Funeral Service on 10 March 2022

"During the civil war" <pause for laughter> "During the civil war" is a phrase that has become immortalized in our family as code for "get to the point!" It came to life during one of my mum's more hilarious and meandering stories that involved 350 years of world history before she finally came to the conclusion. And in many  ways, this highlights some of her most appealing characteristics.

In addition to her intelligence and vast knowledge of a bewildering range of subjects my mum was also one of the most enthusiastic, entertaining and fun-loving people, she had a unique view of things and the ability not to take herself too seriously.

My mum was one of a kind, some would say eccentric but that is a category that misses the point. She was many different things to different people but most of all she was an individual that was full of life and did things her own way.  

• A music lover - playing the piano and singing at any opportunity 

• A care giver most of her life – looking after children, relatives and cats

• An avid reader and book lover - visiting the Plymstock library nearly every week for 50  years 

• A Mathematician – demanding everyone should know their "times tables" and cutting cake in radians 

• An Ecologist 30 years ahead of her time – instrumental in the Plant a tree in ’73 campaign 

• And a feminist who always insisted women should be treated equally – and rode a  motorbike to prove it 

I would like to recount a few more stories about my mum, which I hope go some way to show  what an amazing individual she was and how fondly we remember her 

The Dory 

She would never let anyone put her off from having fun or enjoying herself. When we were small children (guessing late 60's) she planned a trip to Wigan to visit our Aunt and Uncle  who lived in a restored tow path inn. She decided that while we were there it would be great fun to row up and down the canal. Undeterred by any practical restraints or the deafening shouts of naysayers, she had a 12-foot dory shipped in a furniture removal van the 300 miles to Lancashire. Then, ignoring the legal restrictions and risks of drowning small children succeeded in boating on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal. I cannot imagine the logistical  nightmares of trying to do that today, let alone 50 years ago 


She was very proud of her achievements and demonstrating her hard-won status as a Bachelor of Science (one of very few women in the 1950's). When I graduated from  university my Mum battled one of the worst winter storms the UK had ever seen so she could attend the ceremony. To my delight she made it in time, but to my absolute horror and embarrassment, she insisted on wearing a cap and gown because she too was a graduate of London University and was going to make sure everyone knew she had a degree. 

Accidental Horticulturist 

To keep herself amused in later years, she took on many different hobbies and attended various classes. She signed up for a horticulture course at a local garden centre. Probably more as a social activity than to improve her excellent gardening skills. It turned out to be a  vocational qualification and every other student either ran or worked at a commercial garden or nursery. She didn't like to admit that she was on the wrong course, so she knuckled  down, studied hard and was awarded a professional horticulture qualification. 

When a tree surgeon came to trim her trees, she laughed at his certification from the Royal Horticulture Society. And dismissed it jauntily "We've all got one of those. I got one by accident!"

Train Seat 

I would like to finish by reading part of a letter my Mum wrote in 1991, which I think really shows what a determined, caring, unusual and wonderful person she was and gives a little insight into her unique way of living in a world that due to her good grace, always helpfully realigned itself for her. 

"I took a chair up to London with me yesterday. John had recovered the seat. John helped me on the train with it. I sat where a disabled person with a wheelchair would have sat, if he had been travelling, and very luckily Mr Bassett was in the same carriage with his wife, on their way to the Albert Hall for their daughters' graduation ceremony, so he helped me off the train. It was platform 1, there was a trolley waiting, and I pushed it up to left luggage and  £1.80 looked after it until midnight tonight. Not bad eh!" 

What of course is missing is why she is taking a chair to London, who the chair was for and what Mr Bassett and the other passengers thought about a lady who had apparently brought  her own seat for the train ride. She was certainly doing something kind and generous for someone, had some fun doing it and didn’t care what anyone else thought.

Tribute to Jeannine Bolingbroke, written by Mary L. Bolingbroke, Read at the Funeral Service on 10 March 2022

My Mum, Jeannine Bolingbroke was born in London on Jan 4th 1936 - and in that moment were pretty much the only two things that she didn't really like about her life - her name Jeannine and her birthday which was so near Christmas that people invariably forgot it. Also her birthday cakes which were invariably a cut priced and re-iced Christmas cake. As Stella just said, she and Mum stayed in London during the war. Many children were being evacuated but Granny decided she didn't want to be separated and anyway they would all be safe in the Anderson shelter in the back garden, except that after a while the children didn't like the damp wormy dark shelter especially at night so instead they all stayed in the old kitchen pantry which was apparently safe because it was below the bathroom and its colossal cast iron bath.

The logic was extraordinary but the family were safe. They grew food in the back garden, had a chicken called trousers and all was as well as it could be. I have often wondered how much those early years influenced Mum's character and zest for life. She was always positive, enthusiastic, vibrant, apparently bomb proof, always assumed that everything would work out for the best which invariably it did and however crazy her logic - like sheltering in a cupboard below a ton of cast iron bath - for Mum there was an internal logic that unfailingly saved the day. Mum went to school where it turned out that she was very good at numbers. She also loved music and music and maths became two of her life long passions. She went to dances in Hammersmith, to concerts at the Royal Albert hall, joined the Sea Rangers went scouting and camping and made friends with people who would become her lifelong companions.

She bought a BSA motorbike went to University and was taught by a young, brilliant Jewish German refugee called Hilda. Even Mum and her teacher stayed in touch right up until 2017 and Hilda's death aged 95. I am awed by the longevity and loyalty of these enduring friendships a testament to Mum's infectious enthusiasm for travelling, visiting and writing cards and letters. All of which brings me to Mum getting a job in Sheen where I believe she had something to do with the preparatory work of laying the transatlantic telephone cable - and of course this is one of the most difficult things about losing Mum. There is only one person I could ask for all these details, and it's her but she is the one person I can't ask. Over the years she has told me everything I need to know to write this piece but I didn't really take it in because I never really imagined that there would be a time when I'd need to know and she wouldn't be there to tell me.

But, what I do know for sure is that she met a man at work called John, older than her, brilliantly clever, funny, loved jazz music and had a boat on the Thames. He invited her sailing, she went, it was a bit too much like the Anderson shelter in that it was cramped and damp but with the added drawback of being unstable and mobile which made her seasick. Again, I am in awe of a woman who resolutely made the best of a bad situation. John and Jeannine married and all his life, as much as Mum found sailing and the sea a discomfort, it was his passion. I think their Honeymoon perhaps became a template for their marriage and illustrates how against the odds, they came to a workable solution to most of their problems. The plan was to sail to the Channel Islands. However there was a huge storm which meant they had to shelter in Poole harbour before crossing the Channel. It turned out the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra were playing that night, Mum wanted to go, Dad sat through it with gritted teeth.

The next day they sailed through the tail end of the storm, this time with Mum's teeth gritted. They were greeted in Jersey by the press. No one could believe that Honeymooners would sail across the Channel in such terrible weather. Their picture was on the front page of the paper the next morning.

A few years later Dad decided that he would like to follow his dreams, leave work, move to the coast and buy a boat yard. Again, I have no idea what Mum thought of this plan. By now she had 2 small children. It was 1962, the coldest Winter on record and John had only just been born. Mum's Mother in Law came to visit the new baby but got snowed into their home for 4 months until Feb. Meanwhile the pipes froze and Mum had to get water from a stand pipe to wash nappies. Perhaps in the light of all that she was happy to move to the warmer climes of Devon. They moved to Plymouth, buying the boat yard in Turnchapel where in 1964 Douglas was born in the upstairs bed room.

Mum delivered the baby whilst Dad was detatching the midwife's car from the back of his crane into which she had driven in her haste to arrive. Unbelievably, given that Mum now had 3 small children living free range on a boat yard with the sea on two sides of the property as well as two sheds full of every kind of childhood hazard you could imagine, we all survived and thrived and I suppose, learnt the same kind of resilience that Mum, by now, had in spades. Because education had been so important to her, in 1965 we moved to Furzehatt Road which become the family home for the rest of her life and meant that we were all close enough to walk to the local schools. Mum worked as a teacher and things ticked along until out of the blue Mum found she was expecting another baby. It was a big gap but after the initial surprise Mum buoyantly rose to the occasion of pregnancy and in July 72 Richard was born taking Mum back to a life of nappies, rusks and nursery schools.

Douglas is going to say more about Mum in some of those later years but right now, it seems fitting to talk about Love - partly because it was the one thing that she never really did talk about and even if she were here for me to ask, she probably still wouldn't. I know this because when I was a child, I was out with her and we overheard a young woman calling "Love you" to her own Mum. "Why don't you ever say anything like that?" I asked Mum, "Because you shouldn't need to say it, love is much bigger than that, it’s not something you call out in the street". But I know she loved the Devon that became her home with its red earth, rolling hills and country lanes full of Spring flowers. I know she loved her long held friendships and I know she loved us because when we were small she said, mathematically "I love you all exactly equally". And I know for certain she loved the sublime internal beauty of numbers and music.

Perhaps, for Mum, love was the ultimate Prime Number, divisible only by perfect Oneness and its own true Self? I'll never know but I know for certain that without her irrepressible love and zest for life, none of us would be quite the people we have become.

Tribute to Jeannine Bolingbroke, written by Anne Reeves of Mortlake, Read at the Funeral Service on 10 March 2022

Whilst I am sorry not to be with you today, my warm thanks go to Mary Eleanor for kindly agreeing to read this.

I do hope that my knowing Jeannine for some 30 plus years in relation to her link with Girlguiding will give you a little flavour of her involvement with Guiding over some 75 plus years.

Jeannine joined Guides in Barnes, South West London, where she was brought up, and the Guide hall she met in is still there and continues to be enjoyed by Rainbows, Brownies, Guides and Rangers.

At the end of the 2nd World War Jeannine was old enough to move to a new unit in Mortlake, close to the end of the Boat Race course, called SRS (Sea Ranger Ship) Vivacious and was soon enjoying all things nautical – rowing, canoeing, and sailing on the Thames at Richmond.

The two Guiders who started it were also keen on camping and the out of doors and as a result the County purchased 25 acres of barren land in Cobham, Surrey, in 1948, which was called "Heyswood" and still called that today. All Guiding people were encouraged to go and help clear the site so it could be used for camping and learning many outdoor skills.

Jeannine was, needless to say, one of the first to volunteer with other Sea Rangers, along with one who in particular (Janet Cox – later Salter) who was to become a life long friend – sadly she died in 2018 – and this friendship resulted in Janet being godmother to Mary.

In 2019 when the campsite celebrated its 70th anniversary Jeannine was one of the first to accept the invitation to come and join some 600 others for the day all the way from Plymouth. How different Jeannine found it – now 2 residential buildings, a large Log Cabin, 2 small cabins and a swimming pool – she was so thrilled and was able to tell so many what it really was like when she first went there in 1949.

SRS Vivacious members over the many years have always met at Mortlake Guide Headquarters for tea on the 1st Sunday in March, the nearest Sunday to Guide Thinking Day on 22nd February, and over the years we always knew Jeannine would be there – until the pandemic when we could not meet. She would travel up from Plymouth the day before and stay at the Union Jack Club, at Waterloo, then have lunch with a Scouter friend – John Ellis – that she had known for some 70 plus years and join us for tea, and return to Plymouth or visit friends in Suffolk. Jeannine had boundless energy!

Wherever she was off to I ensured she left with a goodie bag of food for the journey on a china plate which I knew would be returned without fail the following year. In true Guide and Scout fashion – ensuring she was prepared for anything.

Guiding meant a great deal to Jeannine, along with her many other interests, and she meant so much to all of us that had the pleasure of knowing her over many years. She will be greatly missed by so many of us, but we are all so grateful we had the pleasure of knowing her. 

From all your Guiding friends Jeannine – rest in peace. 

Tribute to Jeannine Bolingbroke, written by David of the Plymouth Athenaeum, Read at the Funeral Service on 10 March 2022

Jeannine joined Plymouth Athenaeum at the beginning of May 2007. She was a keen reader and a fan of books in general, taking on the responsibility of managing the Athenaeum's book exchange and organising and manning the book stall whenever we held a bazaar or jumble sale. She also volunteered to act as the Society's librarian for a year, in its hour of need when the previous librarian retired. Taking her interest further, she became a member of the Pleasure of Books group and gave us her thoughts on and interpretation of The Warden by Anthony Trollope in February 2015.

Jeannine warmed easily to the task of informing her audience, because within two weeks, in March 2015, she gave us a lecture on The History of Geometry, mathematics being another of her loves. A year later, in February 2016, she fascinated us with a lecture entitled Electronic Interfaces from Cat's Whiskers to Chips reflecting on the vast changes in electronics and communications in our lifetimes, and perhaps evoking childhood memories for us of "tweaking the cat's whisker" of the basic radio we had built, in order to improve reception.

Just a couple of months later, in April, Jeannine teased us with her account of Barging around Britain by John Sargeant (yes, the John Sargeant of "Strictly" fame) for the Pleasure of Books. The title was not a reference to his dancing style, I hasten to add, but an account of his voyages along some of Britain's best canals for his ITV series. October 2017 saw Jeannine reviewing The Reich Device by Professor Richard Handy of Plymouth University, who delivered a lecture at the Athenaeum on his work on nanotechnology and his venture into fiction writing with The Reich Device. The enforced closure of the Athenaeum building for eighteen months during the Covid pandemic was a difficult time for its members, as for everybody. We could no longer share so easily our common interests, learning from each other and enjoying each other’s company in person, essential elements of the Society's purpose. Jeannine was very much missed during this time.

I looked up the name Jeannine on the internet and discovered that it is a French name, interpreted from an original Hebrew name meaning "God is gracious". Gracious is certainly appropriate when we think of Jeannine. All of us at the Athenaeum found her courteous, kind, and pleasant. But I think the image of Jeannine that will stay with us longest is her wonderful smile, which lit up the room when she shared with us those things that interested and stimulated her.

She must be smiling upon us now – because the sun has just come out!

Thank you Jeannine.

Letter sent to the surviving family in Tribute to Jeannine Bolingbroke, written by Helen T. 10 March 2022

Dear Mary John Douglas and family,

I was very sad to hear about your Mum. I am not around much in the day being tied into the shop and having to be present legally for a Pharmacy to open has its downsides but as I had been looking out for someone being in, for a few days, it was good to see John and Douglas again after all these years.

I remember your Mum fondly she had a very positive effect on my life, we had many conversations over the dishes and the cleaning, and she was always so interested in everything.

She had a completely different background to mine, and I could see different ways forward as we discussed things, which was an inspiration to me. I was saving to fund the kit I needed for County Netball and preparing to go to university, learning all the skills you do between 14 and 18. Like my Father she liked to ride her bicycle and I have continued to ride until this year. Finally, my knees have given up and I am awaiting some surgery now. I took the same bike I rode up to your home to clean, to London with me and it saved me so much money as well as keep me fit.

I remember your Mum found out that I was learning to drive and offered to help by letting me drive Mary to Dartmoor I think it was an archeological site that was being excavated. It must have been painstaking letting me drive all that way through narrow lanes without a dual control car! It contributed so much to my passing the exam and saved my parents a considerable amount of money, I am sure. I think once there was a little scrape which your Mum just glossed over but for which I have always felt much embarrassed, but also very grateful for.

I am sorry I was not able to attend the church on Thursday and hope that it all went well. It would nice to have a photo if you have one, to remember her, not sure if you have one you could send digitally?

I wish you all peace and comfort in being together and give thanks to God for your Mums life it was lived with an energy and thoughtfulness that spilled over into other people's lives I will miss her.

Best wishes

Helen T

Monday, 7 March 2022


 I once turned up to a works night out with indelible black stains on my hands. I had, that afternoon put the wings back on my Renault 4 and I had made a mess with the sealant. There was somebody there who used to work in garages and he leapt to my defence and said "to be fair I end up looking like that whenever I use Tigerseal".

Years later I made the same sort of mistake with polyurethane sealant, but there were wood shavings involved. It was a lot like being tarred-and-feathered. There was some chit-chat recently about public punishments and I heard it proposed that Canadians probably used syrup and leaves rather than tar and feathers.

This weekend I reversed my car into a gatepost and damaged one of the fibreglass wheel arches. I put a reinforcing patch on the inside to stop the crack from worsening. During this "repair" some of the rapidly setting polyester resin got away from me and I tried to wipe it up with blueroll. This was a mistake. Let me say that I am clean again now, but that it's a nightmarish combination of sticky, absorbent and messy. You contaminate everything you try to use, and you end up with all kinds of inconvenient objects glued to your hands.

Richard "wear gloves" B

Group Chat

 There's a new area of etiquette that is emerging about Whatsapp group chats. I'm in a group of people who were close to my mum and who wanted to follow her health, wellbeing and treatment. Since she died I started a smaller "ADMIN" group for dealing with the hard business of her house, her will, her funeral and her estate. It's just got her children in it and I'm the youngest by a wide margin. One of my friends pointed out at the weekend that there's probably another group that just has my older siblings in it and that I know nothing about. He might be right. Worse, he decided that the group would be called "Planned Children".

My sister is funny and frustrating in group chats in equal measure. She can't tell what's a direct message and what's in a group and she will reply in random places so she will gaslight everyone into thinking "I'm sure we JUST discussed this why are we going over it again" or "I've missed something, how is this the first I'm hearing about it?".

Richard "reply to all" B

Monday, 21 February 2022

Make a Merigue

 I'm one of those insufferable people who thinks they're good at tasting things so when one of my friends took to mixing and drinking cocktails I tagged along on his new hobby. At the weekend I did the most inefficient bit of "waste-not-want-not" that I can imagine. My recipe for cremes caramel uses more egg yolks than whites and I ended up with an egg white hanging around surplus to requirements. "That's easy to use up" I thought, I'll drink it in a couple of whiskey sours, I had ice, lemon and syrup in stock, all I had to buy was a bottle of whiskey and a bottle of bitters. It would have been much cheaper and easier to put the egg white down the sink.

Richard "speedrunning drunk at home any%" B

Sunday, 13 February 2022


 My mother died last week.

This picture illustrates her perfectly. You can see that she's entertaining people. You can see that she's enjoying herself. You can see that she's in such a carefree hurry that she didn't even tie her apron strings. You can see that in the whirlwind of activity she might be just about to knock over the chair or drop the trifle on the carpet. Look more closely and you can see that the trifle dish is badly chipped and that she didn't have enough cream left to cover the whole thing. She didn't care, and neither should we.

Richard "live life to the fullest, even if people think you're a mad-woman" B

Forced my Lute

 I've said before how much I love all the words and idioms in the English language. Consider this list, they all mean more or less the same thing.

Annoys me
Irritates me
Infuriates me
Gets on my wick
Gets on my nerves
Gets on my tits
Gets my goat
Gets my back up
Rubs me up the wrong way
Puts my nose out of joint
Makes me fed up
Jars me off
Pisses me off
Fucks me off
Boils my blood
Boils my piss

There are probably more.

The wonderful Youtube man called Technology Connections has added "Forces my lute" to this list. It comes from a letter that some amateur chemist wrote to Robert Boyle (yes the gas laws chap) about making coal gas. The chemist said that the process "forced my lute" and the Youtube man wondered aloud whether it meant the same as "Ground my gears" - which is American for anything in my list above. The good people of the internet have since worked out that "lute" was a colloquial term for a jointing compound used in glassware, and the expression meant "blew my gaskets" – literally not figuratively, but it2s such a wonderful phase that Technology Connections has started using it to mean "annoyed" and I suggest you do the same.

Richard "Susie Dent" B

Monday, 24 January 2022


 Sometimes the pre-requisites for a job include other jobs that have their own pre-requisites. Sometimes the stack of things to do before you can make a start gets DEEP. I remember years ago a friend of mine asking me why I was buying timber. I needed to level a small part of my garden so I could put up a plastic shed, so that I could store some stuff out of my garage, so that I could empty my garage, so that I could store some stuff out of my mum's garage, so that I could empty my mum's garage, so that I could paint the floor, so that I could work in there without getting concrete dust all over my car.

Last week one of my team reported that he'd been shaving yaks for the whole of the previous day. It wasn't  an expression I knew, but the idea is that the stack of things you need to do first only has to get a couple of items deeper than my shed project and you find you have to shave a yak before you can carry on.

Richard "Having first drained and removed the fuel tank" B

Thursday, 20 January 2022

He Had Ten Thousand Men

 This is probably an unpopular opinion, but I feel rather sorry for the Grand Old Ex-Duke of York - and not just because he came back from war unable to sweat. Prince Andrew is going to court in America accused of all manner of misdeeds and the Queen has stripped him of his royal titles and patronages. The thing is that at this stage he's only been accused, not found liable. "Innocent until proven guilty" is an important principle in civilised legal systems (and the American one) and I think we would be unwise to abandon it. However Andrew York (I assume that's his name now) has been cast out by the Queen already so that the indignity of defending himself in court doesn't reflect badly on the crown. I'm glad that my mum wasn't that cold with me. After all anybody can accuse you of anything at any time. Elon Musk once kicked my puppy over a hedge.

Richard "Freddy Star ate my hamster" B

Saturday, 8 January 2022

Bottle Opener

 At Christmas I opened a bottle of vintage port with red-hot tongs (and a shaving brush full of ice-cold water).

I haven't had a lot of free time recently, but when I did get some time to myself I decided to spend it  doing one of my favourite things - pissing about in the garage. What I wanted was a quicker way to get the tongs up to temperature, so I made a miniature forge.

Lid off

Front view

Lid on, just lit


Richard "hamster farrier"

Wednesday, 5 January 2022


 I remember a comedian talking about class. He said it wasn't so much being stabbed in South London that upset him, but the fact that the mugger was holding the knife like a pen. I had some similar thoughts at the weekend.

I was driving my hopelessly slow and gutless car on the A38 and I tried to overtake another car. I was pressing the pedal into the carpet but my car was going faster than the other one by much less than walking pace. During the torturously long time that I was overtaking, the other car was weaving around in its lane and nearly strayed into mine at one point. When I was level with it I turned to glare at the driver. What annoyed me wasn't that she was rolling a cigarette, but that she was doing it badly. The paper was almost flat (not folded), there was too much tobacco, and some of it was spilling out the end.

Richard "If we're going to die in a car crash for the sake of a cigarette, I want it to look like it came out of a machine" B


 When I was at Primary school we had to do a little presentation and I talked about Drake repelling the Spanish armada. I'd obviously been drilled in what to say, and so as a small awkward ginger child with a ludicrously posh I accent I got up and said something about "...superior knowledge of local wind and tide..." This was apparently funny and memorable. It's more than 40 years ago, but I still get reminded of it often enough.

At the weekend we had our work Christmas party, among other things it included a very good sit-down meal. I was talking about a meme whereby you form your super-hero name from the colour of your shirt followed by the last thing you ate. I was Blue-Scallop and Black-Camembert asked me what my superpower would be. It seemed to me that it would have to be something about sea water, and it eventually dawned on me that it would be "a superior knowledge of local wind and tide".

They say that not all heroes wear capes, but Black-Camembert actually does. I thought to start with it was a shrug or a cardigan worn off the shoulders, but it was a cape. I'd quite like to read the graphic novel about her, but they're bound to make it into a Hollywood film.

Richard "Paisley Muesli" B