A nice cup of tea and a chat about maps

The EU exit diary has replaced the Referendum facts page

It need not have happened
May knew that if she stayed the course, and had an election in 2020, that new electoral boundary changes resulting from a decrease from 650 to 600 MPS would have come in, under which Labour are guaranteed to lose 30 seats. Indeed, one estimate says Labout could have a 10% lead and still not have a majority of MPs.

But she is being forced along by the Brexit fanatics, and has brought back Gove to support her. These days, the word fanatic is used to mean wicked and unbalanced people. This small group of Tory old men are fanatics. On the radio this morning David Davies admitted that had the next election been in 2020, it would be just after the negotiations would have finished and they would not have had time to finalise the exit. So, the election would have been on whether to accept the terms or not. And he knows that the electorate would have rejected the deal, and we would stay in the EU.

I still believe that we will not leave. This election is the first step to reversing the referendum vote. Young people do not want to leave, and it is their future we are playing with. The old men and women have decided to bring back the Board of Trade. The papers this morning still talk of when we won the World Cup in 1966, our highest achievement since 1945. So out of touch and backward looking.

Oh, what a lovely election
Poster seen in south London : Make June the end of May.

Tee hee.

NHS cyber attack
The attack last week did not affect computers in Wales and elsewhere around the world because they had installed updates.

Why was the NHS hit? Because the Tory health minister Jeremy Hunt cancelled the subscription to the updates to save money, the New Scientist reports in this week's issue.

Did you see that as headlines in the Tory leaning papers last week?

No, no, no. And there will be more of this if they get in again. More bad decisions and more lack of reporting them.

How can she or anybody be in favour of hunting?
May, the head girl, is in favour of fox hunting. How low will they go?

The priviledged, with nothing better to do than live off the investments of their ancestors, like to ride expensive horses and chase foxes until they are exhausted and unable to fight off a pack of hounds. And this is called sport.

All considered very British I assume, and just a taste of what they are hoping for in a post-EU world. Silk top hats will return, and men will be expected to wear collars with the ends bent and sticking in the air. In fact, we will all be told to dress like Prince Charles, with those funny suits with the stitching showing at the edges, hankies in the top pocket, ever so wide lapels and so on.

Do you remember those badges in the eighties of the last century with pictures of the royals, especially the Queen Mum : "Eighty years a scrounger". Same for Philip and the rest of them.

Not even writing this has cheered me up. I have just finished reading some short stories my Mark Tully, who used to be the BBC India correspondent : 'The heart of India'. Worth getting from the library, if they still exist in your part of the Empire, as we will be expected to refer to our wonderful country if the gang of about ten continue to get their way in controlling the Tory party. Yes, read between the lines with this Brexit thing, and you will soon realise that there is just a small group of Tory extremists pushing the whole thing through. Fanatics as much as any in the Middle East, wanting to bring back the Gold Standard and bowler hats.

Oh, no, there I go again, and I thought I was over the worst for today. Ah, a beautiful red sunset after that horrid blue sky all day. Must go, my friends in the white coats have arrived.

Fancy an interest free £2.3 billion loan?
The £20.3bn spent bailing out Lloyds Banking Group during the financial crash has been re-paid in full, UK chancellor Philip Hammond has said.

Actually the amount repaid is £2.4 billion, which is a piddling amount of interest on so vast a sum.

Can you imagine what a bank would have charged for so vast a loan?

Mr Hammond, speaking in Washington on Friday, said: "Recovering all of the money taxpayers injected into Lloyds marks a significant milestone in our plan to build an economy that works for everyone".

An economy that works for the bankers. Not for everyone. Everyone has had to pay for this loan with hardship for the less well off, and cuts to welfare and the NHS.

Boris speaks and the world jumps. Or does it?
A piece by Mark Mardell is worth reading in full.

A few quotes :
1. The cancelled trip to Russia :
The Kremlin : It "doubts in the presence of added value in speaking to the UK, which does not have its own position on the majority of present-day issues, nor does it have real influence on the course of international affairs, as it remains 'in the shadow' of its strategic partners. We do not feel that we need dialogue with London any more than it does."

It also Tweeted : It is deplorable that Boris Johnson found himself unfit to stand Western ground on Syria in bilateral talks with Sergey Lavrov.

2. British might :
We do, in military, intelligence and diplomatic terms, in that old cliche, punch above our weight. We matter more, in those terms, than Sweden or Brazil, Spain or Italy. But the weight of our history makes many of us think we matter more than we do.

We have lost an empire and don't particularly like finding ourselves in a subordinate role, perhaps not always as important as France and Germany. Absurdly, our media and politicians sometimes like to pretend we are almost on a par with the United States, nearly equal partners rather than occasionally useful allies.

The Russians are deeply aware of how much power they have lost. We in Britain simply pretend it's not the case.

I have no idea whether US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson asked tentatively and politely that Boris should call off his visit, virtually ordered it, or whether the proposal came from the Foreign Office. But there's no doubt we are doing what the Americans want, and waiting for them to explain what they want to happen next.

Yet more of our money to go to London
1. London is to charge owners of diesel cars for going into the city.

2. These owners have had it good for many years with lower fuel costs and generous provisions from governments.

3. Now, the head girl is saying that the government might compensate them for the new charges.

4. The end result will be that diesel owners have had it good, will be compensated, London will keep all the new revenue and those in the rest of the country will pay for the compensation.

5. This payment for the compensation by the rest of us will probably mean less for the NHS.

Workaholic or incompetent money grabber?
Paid £650,000 a month for four days work for a large corporation, plus an MP's salary and expenses, plus his new job as Editor of the London Evening Standard. I defy anyone to say he can perform all of these tasks properly.

And wonderman has just confirmed what I have been saying for years in the scribblings below : He told the newspaper's journalists "I've got to learn from you because I may have run the country but I haven't actually run a newspaper. I know there's a lot for me to learn."

'I may have run the country'. As most will know, it was he who directed and told Cameron what to do. The only decision Cameron made by himself was to call the EU referendum. And look what happened.

Scotland R2 blocked by the Head Girl
My reader will know that I like to support anyone up against the wicked Tories, but I am very hesitant in doing so with a second Scottish referendum.

If the lady in pink does not want to leave the EU, why is she not pressing for another EU referendum?

And it is wrong to say that the Scottish people should have the right to decide this, that and everything. Those living south of the border should also have a say in matters as the outcome will affect all of us, not only Scotland.

Actually, when you think about it, the lady in pink is saying 'we want to leave, you (the rest of the UK) cannot have a say in the matter'. The Head Girl is saying 'we want to leave, you (the British people) cannot have a say in the matter'. Not forgetting that some EU countries will let their people have a say on whether to accept the final deal. But we cannot.

Second referendum
If Scotland can have a referendum should they do not like the outcome of the Brexit talks, why cannot we have one as well?

It is worth repeating, that everyone who wanted to leave the EU made sure they voted to leave. But there were many decent people who felt they did not have enough information on which to decide, and stayed away from the vote. And now wish they had gone as they would have voted to remain.

Which is what the leave people know : that only have 37.4% of the elecorate voted to leave.

Another vote would certainly be to remain, with a thumping majority.

Death tax
I have just finished applying for probate after my Mother died. It cost £215 plus £1.50 for three extra forms.

In the Budget last week, the wicked Tories (to use the correct terminology) announced that the £215 cap would be increased to £20,000.

OK, they did say that the fee would be linked to the size of an estate, and so hit the wealthy. Not their words.

But if it quickly rises to £20,000, it will still hit the less well off. Only if the £20,000 kicks in at say £5 million will it hit the rich, and would you worry about £20,000 if you inherited £5 million?

That Tramp, again
"You know what uranium is is right? This thing called nuclear weapons and other things, like lots of things are done with uranium, including bad things." Quote from Trimp.

Low interest rates are still causing all our problems
In case you need reminding, the bankers caused the financial crisis of 2008, and we are all still paying for it. (Whilst the banks we bailed out at such cost, are being sold back to the bankers, without having to repay anything).

Anyway, the government seems to believe that low interest rates are the solve all answer, and bugger the pensioners relying on the interest from savers. No, low mortgages will solve everything. Thus, they are making money available to building societies and banks, and they in turn do not need to borrow from the likes of us, and pay nothing for our savings left with them.

Another twist surfaced today, in that any lump sum awarded as part of an insurance claim is to be increased at the public expense, because interest rates are so low. Thus we have the NHS paying more because interest rates are so low, and the government says, says, they will see the NHS is not out of pocket.

I cannot bear to continue, it is all so depressing. Increase interest rates I say, and a lot of things will be far better, for far more people.

Please help and support a good cause
Near us is an old oak tree that was in the path of the Newtown by-pass. After a protest, the new road was moved about fifty yards and the oak has survived.

What is more, it now represents Wales in the ‘Tree of the year’ competition, and I would like as many people as possible to vote for it.

Click here. and the Brimmon Oak, Wales is the last picture in the group. You have to vote for two trees, and I suggest the other be Ireland or England, both hopefully will not surge in the next week.

Then click on 'Vote and donate/vote', and finally click on 'Vote'.

They will then send an email with a link to click, and only when you click
that, will your vote count.

Thank you. And please tell your friends. We are second at present.

Rates warning to England
Even if it is of no interest, you will probably be aware that there is uproar over the increase in business rates following a revaluation of business properties in England.

Essentially, property prices have risen, with the new prices taking a business into a higher grade, and therefore they have to pay more.

A few years ago, it was decided that all domestic properties would be re-graded, starting with Wales. We were told that on average, there would not be any increase overall in the amount of money paid as domestic rates.

It turned out that there was in fact an increase in money paid of 70%. A 70% increase.

So, the re-grading for England was quietly dropped.

We live in a smallish house in rural Mid-Wales, yet our rates are higher than a £500,000 house in West Dulwich.

And I bet that when a government feels they can withstand the backlash after announcing a new re-grading, Wales will be included, and have a second re-grading.

Alas, not an April Fool story
Page 25 of last week's New Scientist has a piece on the Digital Economy Bill now going through Parliament, under the heading 'Age verification for porn sites won't work'.

1. And this is true : the bill contains the requirement that all adult sites in the world be vetted by the British Board of Film Classification. To say that I just do not believe this is putting it too mildly.

2. The bill also says that just ticking a box to say you are over 18 is not enough. You will have to prove it, by giving your passport number or driving license. All the sort of things that you are told not to give on-line. So, a fake porn site is set up, gets a lot of passport details and the criminals are away. All thanks to the British government.

Read it for yourself if you do not believe me. Issue 3112, 11th February 2017.

If you thought Donald Trimp was unbelievable :
Read this.

Negotiations? Forget it.
With Trump being what he is, an offer of two or three days dinner, bed and breakfast with the Queen, plus a ceremonial ride in a golden coach, would be at the top of his wish list. Oh, he would do anything for that.

So, keep it in reserve, to wiggle in front of him when things look slow or even bad, as they will do, during any trade negotiations. Most certainly a state visit would be a rock solid strong card to hold, as any inexperienced negotiator will tell you.

What did the Head Girl do when she saw Trimp last week? Offer him a state visit at once. With nothing received in return. On the radio this morning, it was said that US presidents are usually invited for a state visit after about two to three years in office. Not one week.

This all promises well for the Brexit and trade negotiations, which the Head Girl seems to think she will direct personally.

May's visit to surrender to Tramp
US Congressman Kevin Cramer, who was in the audience for Mrs May's speech told the BBC: "As I was watching her, and listening to her, I thought, 'Is this Donald Trump's long lost sister?'

Is Trimp a liar?
Should journalists use the word “lie” to describe President Trimp’s most manifest falsehoods?

The New York Times has used the word “lie” in a front page headline, which many will agree with, but there’s a counterargument that lying requires an intention to deceive — and that Trump may actually believe his absurd falsehoods.

So in 2017 Americans must decide whether their 45th president is a liar or a crackpot.

Brexit = acceptance of torture
Last night Trimp gave the all clear for the US nasty brigade to use whatever they want to get information. Including torture.

Our Head Girl is on her way to lick his boots, try to be his best friend, and to get a good trade deal. Anything for a trade deal, no matter how bad it will be for the UK. And if it means accepting torture, so be it.

She is going to make a speech this evening in which she will say the UK and US can be world leaders in everything. The arrogance of her assuming the US will fall in with her is astounding. And is the age old Tory belief that we should run the world, and that only we have anything worth saying on world matters. To this end, we spend a lot of money on nuclear defence systems, bought from the Americans yet called ours, which might or might not work.

And in the same news bulletin, it is estimated that a fifth of all our children suffer from poor health due to poverty. Surely this is deserving of far more attention than being top girl in the world? And as I have noted below, it is a fact that whenever a politician gets to the top position in the UK, they at once start to ignore domestic problems and focus on world affairs.

Are you proud to be British?
As the Head Girl goes off to grovel before bully Trump and asks him to buy our rafia mats and woodwork stools, I ask you, are you proud to be British?

Proud that we do not have a single unified, outstanding education system? Proud that the education budget is split between local authorities, dame schools, religious schools, crank schools and private schools? Like the health service, if all the money spent on education was under the control of a single unified and efficient system, things would be far, far, better. If the money spent on private health were put into the NHS, things would improve at once. At the very basic level, if you split things, you need several people to keep track of them rather than one person. And so money is spent on several salaries, and is taken away from the front line providers.

Are you proud of our politicians? Or do you think they are only in it for themselves? Feathering their own nests? Cameron quite as soon as possible, and now gets £25,000 for each hour long speech. As does Osborne, who got £500,000 in the second half of 2016 for talks. And he has just signed a deal with a large international insurance and pension company to be an advisor. And will be an MP in the evenings. Farage has been hired by American pro-Trump Fox News. He, we assume will do his EU constituency work in the evenings as well. No wonder people have lost the little faith they had in these people.

Post-industrial society
I have recently read a piece which says that Britain, America and so on, are now in a post-industrial society stage of 'development'. Essentially, industry has got as far as it can and is now declining in importance as far as the economy is concerned. In Britain, industry accounts for only 20% of our total wealth output.

How does this look in reality? It means that there are far, far fewer jobs in industry, and to keep people in a job, some form of trivial work is needed. Hence the massive growth of nail bars on the high street, of gyms, men's hairdressers, coffee shops. All needed to some extent, but not in the large numbers we now see them.

In the same way, there is now a very large market for pods. Sheds of some sort, often quite fancy, for sitting in your garden, camping out and so on. Adult wendy houses, for those who have everything, can no longer take foreign holidays and want to spend.

And the implications for the EU exit? The often urged arguement is that all sectors of the economy should be fought for with equal strenth. But if manufacturing is only 20%, and banking and finance is almost all of the rest, it is obvious that they will try to get a better deal for banking than the rest. And the power lies with the bankers, as ever. So watch out for special deals for London and the bankers. Alas, the industrial north should just forget it.

I am still digesting this one
Christmas reading and thoughts for the new year.

They cannot see me
I have a small piece of paper sellotaped to the top of this laptop. Over the small hole that I understand is a camera. Nobody can see me typing.

Why? Because if my firewall fails, someone might be able to take control of my comupter and see me. Which I do not want.

It appears that I am not alone in doing this. The guy who started Facebook and the current head of the CIA, have both done the same.

Must be something in it.

Put money into grammar schools and forget the rest
The UK is still lagging behind leading countries at education and has made little progress in international rankings since results three years ago.

The influential Pisa rankings, run by the OECD, are based on tests taken by 540,000 15-year-olds in 72 countries.

The UK is behind top performers such as Singapore and Finland, but also trails Vietnam, Poland and Estonia.

The OECD's education director, Andreas Schleicher, describes the UK's results as "flat in a changing world".

Russell Hobby, leader of the National Association of Head Teachers, warned that the results showed "a lost decade" in which the government had pursued an "obsession" with structural change which had "little impact on either standards or equity".

Complacent Nick Gibb, England's School Standards Minister, described the results as a "useful insight".

He said they showed the need to "make more good school places available" in grammar schools and announced £12m to support professional training for science teaching.

More money for grammar schools, but nothing for the rest of the young people needing a good education. My understanding is that those sitting these tests are not only the top few in each country. They are across the board, but the UK as determined only to help the few get a better education.

Them and us
A report out today says that segregation and social exclusion are at "worrying levels" and are fuelling inequality in some areas of Britain.

I can remember an incident over fifty years ago, when I overheard someone say they did not like black men. Or it might have been Irish men. Another person then asked whether they had ever spoken to a black/Irish person and was told "no".

In a nutshell, if you do not mix with people that are in some way 'different' to you, how will you find out that they are not 'different'?

So, it is a good idea not to put anything in the way of people mixing.

Yet we have this massive increase, government sponsored, of faith schools. Nothing is more divisive than religion. Most of the conflict in the world today is between one religous group against another. And nine times out of ten, they say they worship the same god.

Faith schools can only increase isolation and prevent understanding. Added to which, they cash in on the 'get them trained young' philosophy.

Medal imposters
Our wonderful MPs are debating a Tory bill which would make it illegal to wear military medals that have not been earned.

So wicked is this practice, that the fine will be £5,000 or six-months in our over-full prisons.

However, if you use your mobile phone whilst driving, and are liable to kill someone, you will get 3 penalty points on your licence and a fine of just £100.
In some cases the case could also go to court and you could be disqualified from driving or riding and get a maximum fine of £1,000.

Or if you are caught in charge of a vehicle while above the legal limit or unfit through drink, you may get 3 months’ imprisonment, a fine of up to £2,500, and possibly a driving ban.

Yes, wrongly wearing medals is certainly seen as a major crime. Far worse than possibly killing people.

1. Do they really need to waste time on such bills?
2. Are their priorities correct?
3. And we pay them to do this.

The real silent majority
The thing I find most surprising about the referendum vote, is not the result, but that the remain side just accepted it and has kept quiet.

Even during the campaign, the leave people stated that a 52% remain and 48% leave vote would be considered too close to count. Yes, they used the same percentages as the outcome. Had the decision been to remain, the leave people would be in full flood against the vote.

But today, the remain people are silent. Except for Major, Blair and the Liberals. Of course, a lot is down to the British belief in first past the post takes all. We won and can do whatever we wish. Even if they win by a single vote they can ignore the opposition.

I ask everyone who wishes to remain in the EU, and there are many who have now changed their minds, to keep on banging on for the right of the 65% of the electorate who did not vote to leave, to have a final say on the terms of the exit.

Same old Tories, same old excuses
On the Today programme this morning, the Chancellor, Hammond, was asked why is the total deficit, the National Debt rocketing, and why is it all falling apart economically, not that it was ever together under the Tories. And true to Tory form, he churned out the old saying "We inherited a mess from labour".

1. As Chancellor, Gordon Brown managed to reduce the National Debt, the nation's VISA card debt quite a lot. He worked at it year after year as no Chancellor had done before him. But in the couple of years before 2008, it did rise slightly, but was still well down on anything the Tories had done.

2. And then the international financial crisis hit. All governments were knocked for six, no matter how strong their economies were. Two years later, in 2010, the Tories got in with help from the Liberals by saying Labour had not resolved the financial problems. And now, six years later, the Tories cannot not resolve them either.

So, Labour had two years to sort things out, and the Tories have had six. And things are still getting worse. Yet they blame it on Labour.

3. On top of which, Cameron decided on a referendum on the EU, and with a mere 35% of the electorate voting for it, it is now government policy to leave the EU. At a tremendous financial cost.

Vote leave = Vote Trump
I wonder what left tending thinkers who voted to leave the EU are thinking after the election of Trump?

It seems as if the Tory party is now calling itself the leave party, and everyone who voted leave is in agreement with all that they do. Leave voters are now considered Tories.

This means that they fully support the Tories in bending backwards to be friendly with Trump. Well, not exactly bending backwards, more on their hands and knees in front of him. "Yes, Mr Trump. No, Mr Trump. Whatever you say Mr Trump we will sign Mr Trump."

From such a cowering position, who expects a strongly negotiated trade deal with the US? And anyway, even if we do agree a deal of some sort, there is no guarantee that within a year Trump will not decide it is not good enough for the US and will walk away from it, as he intends doing with the Pacific agreement. Do you remember the cowboy films of the 1960s where the Indians always believed the white man talked with a forked tongue? Lied, and could not be trusted. Seems it is still true in real life,

Leading leave campaigners with funny names
My latest idea is that people with Monty Python style funny names are prominent in those leading the Brexit disaster, thereby leading to the ruin of Britain.

Sue-Ellen Cassiana Fernandes (Suella Fernandes MP),
Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson (Born in New York City, with US and UK passports),
Gisela Gschaider Stuart, MP (Born and raised in West Germany)

Another Tory broken promise
Theresa May has backed away from a pledge to require companies to put worker representatives on boards.

Speaking to the CBI's annual conference, Mrs May said firms would not be forced to adopt the controversial proposal.

Mrs May promised to shake-up corporate governance as part of her Conservative Party leadership campaign in July, and repeated the promise at last month's party conference when she said she planned to have "not just consumers represented on company boards, but workers as well".

Young people are now more likely to get a degree than they were to get five good O-levels in the early 1980s.

With solid 'O' levels and a couple of good 'A' levels, they would go on to a good career in business or local government. Today, they get a degree and find there is no graduate job for them, and many are working in coffee shops or jobs requiring far less than a degree. And many employers report that those taken on with degrees just do not have the education needed for the jobs. They find that the young people are good at passing exams and little else.

A sad situation for all, especially those just starting out on life.

I was brought up in London, but have not lived here for 34 years. And do not want to.

We have just had three days there and that is enough. Some observations.
1. Like any large city, a vast number of people walk the streets with either a telephone glued to one ear, or they are carrying a plastic beaker of coffee. Where are they all going with cups of coffee?

2. Nearly every street has four or five properties being renovated, by which, I mean having major work done to them. To me this says that those who buy properties seem to gut them and then rebuild, meaning they have a tremendous amount of money with which to do this. Or they have a tremendous debt.

3. With so many properties empty and being worked on, it is no wonder that we hear of housing shortages. I would say that at any one time, about 15% of the housing stock is not fit to live in due to work being done.

4. With the low interest rates that abound these days, and the ever upward rise of house prices, it appears that the British housing stock is a prime target for foreign nationals to invest in. Foreigners (to use a word that sounds more unfriendly than I mean it to be), foreigners are not only buying houses of all sorts in our cities, but they appear to be leaving them empty and not even renting them out. So, another drain on the available housing stock. In Belgium, unless you live in a property for a long time, you are heavily taxed when you sell it. So people buy to live in.

5. Two London signs :
a. Outside a pub : Customers wanted, apply within.
b. Outside a restaurant : All Americans must be accompanied by an adult.

Two things we should not forget
1. Boris has dual American and British citizenship.

2. When Boris and Trump say that Trump won, and all should pull together, it ignores all the wicked things Trump has said. It also asks that those against Trump should fall in with him, without his having to do anything to fall in with them.

I will scream
If I read once more that Teresa May has used the 'C' word. Since becoming Prime Minister, it has been C this and C that, endlessly. Leaving the EU could be great for Britain. Sucking up to Trump could be good for Britain. Could this, and could that.

Not, you note, will, merely could.

It could be worse

Trump over there, with Farage or Boris over here.

Chambers dictionary : showy and worthless stuff; rubbish; ritual foolery.

Open wider
If I see one more picture of Andy Murray with his mouth wide open, his upper teeth six inches above his lower teeth, I will scream. His is a very unattrative person in the best photos, but why do the media insist on showing pictures with the facial expression of someone being castrated?

When setting the fire in the morning, screwing up old newspapers, I cannot help but see pictures of footballers, and they also seem to think it attractive to show their tonsils. At the same time, open any publication and everyone is showing their teeth. Not smiling. Just clenching their teeth and pulling their lips back towards their ears. Is everything so false these days?

US election headline
From a popular magazine : This is an election in which neither candidate deserves to win, but one deserves to lose.

Summer time and the EU
If we leave the EU, and I still feel that we will not, will we still keep to the European agreement on when we change the clocks, rather than revert to the age old greeting ‘Do we change the clocks this Sunday?’

For years now, since 1995,it has been simple, the last Sunday in October they go back and the last Sunday in March they go forward, starting at 01.00 GMT. Easy. Good old EU.

Before that it was 02.00 GMT on the third Sunday in March (or second Sunday when Easter fell on the third) and fourth Sunday in October. And before that it was anybody’s guess.

British Summer Time was first established by the Summer Time Act 1916, after a campaign by builder William Willett. His original proposal was to move the clocks forward by 80 minutes, in 20-minute weekly steps on Sundays in April and by the reverse procedure in September. In 1916 BST began on 21 May and ended on 1 October.

Father figures
I have always found it slightly creepy when a grown man seems to almost worship his father. A situation that often seems to arise when a boy has been sent away to school and only sees his father in the holidays.

I was never brought up to 'look up to my parents'. Rather, after a certain age, I was told that my opinions and judgement were as good as theirs. We were equals. They were never little gods. 'Why?' 'Because I am your mother/father' never came into it.

The UK government is just not geared up to deal with the EU
And again, the less well off and those suffering pay the price.

April, and months after the Christmas floods, the European Commission has yet to assess a UK bid for aid to help repair the damage to homes and businesses.

A Commission spokesman told the BBC it was still waiting for information from the British government.

It cannot begin its assessment as it has yet to receive a final estimate of the flood damage.

The news means any EU payout to help repair damage is likely to be many months away.

Football players or fashion models
Pictures of football players with their mouths wider open than nature intended now seem to be more frequent than fashion models showing all their teeth in an attempt to make it look as if they are smiling.

And the strange thing is that footballers show no teeth, just a big black hole in the middle of their face. Study the pictures.

The truth about Boris
The real idiot. A short snappy and very readable piece. You will like it.

The banks were bailed out because they had friends in high places. The steel industry workers do not send their children to the right schools, so do not make the right contacts, so do not get bailed out.

UK strategic industries at the mercy of foreign owners
The news today is all about the Port Talbot steelworks. Not a comment has been made by Cameron or Osborne. Yet it is being put out that the Tories believe steel making is a strategic industry : British made warships are made of 97% British steel and the Network Rail buys 98% of its steel from within the UK.

If it is so important why did Thatcher sell it off?

Also in the news is the proposed new nuclear power plant at Hinkley Point. Will it or will it not be built? The government hopes so and calls it essential. But the decision will be made buy the French company that has bid to build it. And this company is essentially the French nationalised power company.

If nationalisation is fine for France, why not us? Because Thatcher was against the concept and sold off everything that even hinted of state ownership.

So, two strategic industries, steel and electricity, in trouble and we have no control over what happens. And if the The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) is signed, American companies will take over the NHS and again we will have no control. And on this, I am most certainly very serious indeed. See below.

Serious errors on maps in this day and age
An RAF fighter pilot left "little margin for error" in a near-miss with a landing microlight, a report said.

The Tornado was flying at about 483mph near Headon airfield in Nottinghamshire when it passed 300ft beneath the microlight, a UK Airprox report said.

It emerged that the civilian airfield was marked in the wrong spot on military maps by half a mile.

The Airprox board was "heartened to hear from the military low-flying representative that the military charts were being amended to place Headon in the correct position".

Who killed Davey Moore
Written by: Bob Dylan

“Not I,” says the referee
“Don’t point your finger at me
I could’ve stopped it in the eighth
An’ maybe kept him from his fate
But the crowd would’ve booed, I’m sure
At not gettin’ their money’s worth
It’s too bad he had to go
But there was a pressure on me too, you know
It wasn’t me that made him fall
No, you can’t blame me at all”

Who killed Davey Moore
Why an’ what’s the reason for?

“Not us,” says the angry crowd
Whose screams filled the arena loud
“It’s too bad he died that night
But we just like to see a fight
We didn’t mean for him t’ meet his death
We just meant to see some sweat
There ain’t nothing wrong in that
It wasn’t us that made him fall
No, you can’t blame us at all”

Who killed Davey Moore
Why an’ what’s the reason for?

“Not me,” says his manager
Puffing on a big cigar
“It’s hard to say, it’s hard to tell
I always thought that he was well
It’s too bad for his wife an’ kids he’s dead
But if he was sick, he should’ve said
It wasn’t me that made him fall
No, you can’t blame me at all”

Who killed Davey Moore
Why an’ what’s the reason for?

“Not me,” says the gambling man
With his ticket stub still in his hand
“It wasn’t me that knocked him down
My hands never touched him none
I didn’t commit no ugly sin
Anyway, I put money on him to win
It wasn’t me that made him fall
No, you can’t blame me at all”

Who killed Davey Moore
Why an’ what’s the reason for?

“Not me,” says the boxing writer
Pounding print on his old typewriter
Sayin’, “Boxing ain’t to blame
There’s just as much danger in a football game”
Sayin’, “Fistfighting is here to stay
It’s just the old American way
It wasn’t me that made him fall
No, you can’t blame me at all”

Who killed Davey Moore
Why an’ what’s the reason for?

“Not me,” says the man whose fists
Laid him low in a cloud of mist
Who came here from Cuba’s door
Where boxing ain’t allowed no more
“I hit him, yes, it’s true
But that’s what I am paid to do
Don’t say ‘murder,’ don’t say ‘kill’
It was destiny, it was God’s will”

Who killed Davey Moore
Why an’ what’s the reason for?

Thatcher strikes again, (tee-hee, she would have liked that middle word)
With all this fuss, and quite rightly so, about the transition from the Disability Living Allowance to Personal Independence Payment (PIP), let us not forget why so many people were put on to disability benefits all those years ago : because Thatcher wanted to get the unemployment figures down. If you have to give people money, call them disabled rather than unemployed. As often these days, if not always, it all goes back to her and her gang of thugs.

Clobber the pensioners
One thing Iain Duncan Smith mentioned as a hindrance to his work was that Osborne has guaranteed that pensions would could not be cut. IDS believes that they should be hit as hard as the less well off.

Nobody so far has noted that many pensioners do not have big fat private pensions, usually provided by their companies, and that most pensioners rely on the state pension and a little income from interest on savings. They have no other means of increasing what they get.

And pensioners have paid for their pensions. Something that is sledom mentioned.

The trouble has always been that all governments have spent the money paid in to the state pension fund at once. This leaves later generations to pay. And these days, those working have to support more pensioners, and some Tories are trying to take away what people have worked for.

And with interest rates so low, the interest received by pensioners is minimal. Why? Because the treasury/Osborne is providing banks and building societies with vast amounts of money on low interest rates. Hence, they do not need money from savers and do not need to pay attractive rates of interest to get the savings.

Only when the government stops lending this money will interest rates rise. It has nothing to do with the Bank of England setting rates.

Values and standards
I saw something recently that asked what do you value most in life? Given that I am never sure what such things mean, I thought about it and decided on honesty. And then changed it to fairness. Yes, if everyone acted fairly, there would be far more tolerance and peace in the world. Even if people were slightly dishonest but acted in a fair way, things would be fine. Discuss.

Note : Funny enough, I wrote this before the March 2016 budget and the subsequent uproar and scrutiny of whether the budget was fair or not. You read it here first.

Osborne never spells out what he means by productivity, and to most people it seems it brings up an image of someone at a machine having to knock out 350 items a day or better. But if the supply of blanks is stopped, production stops and productivity falls. Not because of any fault of the machinist, but due to poor organisation. And I suggest this is a major cause of low productivity.

Four examples.

Yesterday, we went on a very rural railway journey and had tickets. When the guard/ticket man came to the lady behind us, he said that there had been so many people at the start of the journey, that some had to be turned away as it was only a one carriage train. Tomorrow, they would add an extra carriage. Poor organisation.

He then said that because of so many people, he had run out of ticket blanks, so would she pay at the end of her journey. Poor organisation and loss of revenue, as most of the stations on this line were only a platform and shelter, with no staff. So it was not possible for the passengers to pay. Again, loss of revenue and poor productivity.

The second example is of poor government organisation.

Smoking in cars with children is now banned. Yet nobody has arranged for any tickets to exist for those caught. The police have authority to stop cars, but cannot issue tickets, and local authorities can issue tickets but cannot stop cars. And anyway, no tickets exist which can be issued.

The third example sounds so common.

Fifteen of the Army's most experienced helicopter pilots quit in a dispute over a demand they repay wages given to them in error, documents have revealed.

A freedom of information request showed £829,000 in overpayments had been made to 210 pilots between 2007 and 2013, because of the administrative mistake.

Some aircrew had queried their rates but been assured they were correct.

The overpayments were said to have been linked to differences in rates paid to pilots, based on their length of service and job positions.

The rules governing how pilots' pay was calculated were described as "complicated and contradictory" in a series of documents published on the Ministry of Defence website.

Administrators were reported to have "inconsistently interpreted" the policy over a period of "many years", with some confusion over the system arising as far back as 2002.

A June 2014 letter to MoD officials also said the Army was "firmly of the view" the debts should be written off due to "compelling" operational reasons.

The Army said a decision to recover the pay must be considered against the "significant risks" that losing experienced air crew and senior instructors "would cause to air safety and the longer term costs of training replacements".

It took four years to train an attack helicopter pilot at a cost of £3.5m, with the cost of training an instructor put at £8.5m.

So, rather than writing off £829,000 overpayments, at least 15 replacement pilots will be needed at a cost of 15 x £3.5m = £52.5 million. All because of low productivity by those who draw up the pay calculations and those who interpret them.

Fourth example.
This morning I received a form addressed to Mr David Archer, The Pentre, Kery, Newton, Montgomeryshire.
It should have read : Mr David Archer, The Pentre, Kerry, Newtown, Montgomeryshire SY16 4PD.

The form was from HM Revenue and Customs. Low productivity?

Ideology, ideology, ideology. Forget about the consequences for the children
The Tory ideology says that academies are better than local authority controlled education. We say it is just another business, with those at the top paid far too much with no attention paid to performance, as long as they get a good whack out of it.

Exaggerated? A recent report has found :

Top executives at some of England's biggest academy chains are paid huge salaries while pupils are left to get poor results, Ofsted says.

The trusts were sitting on millions of pounds that should be used to raise standards.

David Cameron has said he wants to move fully to an academy system, which would mean no schools in England would be run through local authorities, as many still are now.

The average pay of the chief executives in these seven trusts is higher than the prime minister's salary, with one chief executive's salary reaching £225,000.

This poor use of public money is compounded by some trusts holding very large cash reserves that are not being spent on raising standards.

For example, at the end of August 2015, these seven trusts had total cash in the bank of £111m.

Some of these trusts are spending money on expensive consultants or advisers to compensate for deficits in leadership. Put together, these seven trusts spent at least £8.5m on education consultancy in 2014-15 alone.

Across the seven multi-academy trusts, inspectors found:
-- Poor progress and attainment
-- Not enough being done to improve behaviour or attendance
-- Insufficient scrutiny of teaching quality and its impact on pupils' progress
-- Trusts not overseeing all their academies well
-- A lack of urgency to tackle weak leadership
-- Insufficient challenge from governors.

Power companies
A major report has just been published which again misses a significant point, which affects lots of other things as well. The report pays not attention to non-monetary issues. Hence it rattles on and on about people saving so much a year if they change companies and so on, yet ignores the fact that so many people have tried and have returned to the original supplier or they prefer to pay more for a better service. I am sorry to say, that I am wealthy enough to think that a £60 saving is just not worth the hassle.

We did change once. We were with Scottish Power/Manweb and they power kept failing, so we changed to British Gas. It took reams and reams of forms and weeks to finalise. And when the power continued to fail, they jst did not answer the phone. When I finally got through, they would say take it up with the power supply company, Scottish Power.

So, we changed back. Even though Scottish Power costs more. Look at the tables for the cost of electricity and we pay more than many areas. But we have not intention of changing back. Last week the power again failed and after twenty minutes I rang and got a recorded message saying that there was a fault in out post code areas which would be seen to within the hour. And it was.

Scottish Power are very good at this. And if you ring about a bill or something, you usually do not have to wait. And having pressed a button to say that you want to speak about the property you are calling from, they greet me with 'Hello, Mr Archer'.

Now, if the technology is available to do this, why can't I ring, give a meter reading and ask to be changed to another supplier in five days time? A computer could then inform the two companies concerned, send my details to the new company, send out a form to be signed and a change could be done as simple as that.

All this talk about a vigorous market is rubbish. A vigorous market is where you want to buy something, go into Tescos and see it is double what you paid last time, so you go next door to Lidl and see it slightly cheaper, and go next door to the Spare and see it even cheaper and buy it.

Think about petrol prices. I always have a feel for prices as I drive around. If I am driving to London, I know that it is cheaper to fill up here in Newtown than on the way in the Gloucester or Oxford area, and that even in London, one has to shop around. But the point is that one can shop around. Quickly and with little effort.

When you have to fill in a twelve page form and it will take weeks, that is not easy switching.

Good old government website
This morning's post brought a letter to renew the car tax.

As it has low emmissions the fee is NIL.

I typed in www.gov.uk/vehicletax and then the sixteen digit number on the letter. A new screen appeared with the car registration number and a note saying the tax had been renewed for one year.

Just so simple.

American big business (like Trump) will rule Britain
Please read this piece. It really is important, and the chances are that you have never even heard of it. Thank you

The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) is a series of trade negotiations being carried out mostly in secret between the EU and US. TTIP is about reducing the regulatory barriers to trade for big business, things like food safety law, environmental legislation, banking regulations and the sovereign powers of individual nations.

1. 1 The NHS
Public services, especially the NHS, are in the firing line. One of the main aims of TTIP is to open up Europe’s public health, education and water services to US companies. This could essentially mean the privatisation of the NHS.

2. 2 Food and environmental safety
TTIP’s ‘regulatory convergence’ agenda will seek to bring EU standards on food safety and the environment closer to those of the US.

US regulations are much less strict, with 70 per cent of all processed foods sold in US supermarkets now containing genetically modified ingredients. By contrast, the EU allows virtually no GM foods.

The US also has far laxer restrictions on the use of pesticides.

It also uses growth hormones in its beef which are restricted in Europe due to links to cancer.

US farmers have tried to have these restrictions lifted repeatedly in the past through the World Trade Organisation and it is likely that they will use TTIP to do so again.

3. 4 Privacy
Remember ACTA (the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement)? This was thrown out by a massive majority in the European Parliament in 2012 after a huge public backlash against what was rightly seen as an attack on individual privacy where internet service providers would be required to monitor people’s online activity.

Well, it’s feared that TTIP could be bringing back ACTA’s central elements. An easing of data privacy laws and a restriction of public access to pharmaceutical companies’ clinical trials are also thought to be on the cards.

4. 5 Jobs
The EU has admitted that TTIP will probably cause unemployment as jobs switch to the US, where labour standards and trade union rights are lower. It has even advised EU members to draw on European support funds to compensate for the expected unemployment.

5. Democracy
TTIP’s biggest threat to society is its inherent assault on democracy. One of the main aims of TTIP is the introduction of Investor-State Dispute Settlements (ISDS), which allow companies to sue governments if those governments’ policies cause a loss of profits. In effect it means unelected transnational corporations can dictate the policies of democratically elected governments.

This is already happening. In Germany, Swedish energy company Vattenfall is suing the German government for billions of dollars over its decision to phase out nuclear power plants in the wake of the Fukushima disaster in Japan.

Tories again go out of their way to hit the elderly and disabled
Older and disabled people could be disproportionately affected by plans to force councils in England to sell high-value social housing, campaigners say

The Joseph Rowntree Foundation said the policy was likely to lead to a widespread sell-off of bungalows, which are often popular among the elderly.

It said 15,300 council-owned bungalows in England could be sold off by 2021.

The Housing and Planning Bill, which the government says will help more people become home owners - goes before the House of Lords later.
Question : What is so important about owning your own home? If where you live is suitable and affordable, why worry if you are 85 years old.
If the bill is passed, local authorities will be compelled to sell expensive properties as they become vacant, to "ensure that the money locked up in high value vacant housing stock will be reinvested in building new homes".

Comment : Spot the spin? .... high value vacant housing stock .... A property that has only been vacant for one day will fall into this category. This is a bit like saying someone who is asleep at two in the morning is not working and so will have their pay docked.

In the foundation's report, researchers from Cambridge University said they found high demand for bungalows meant they were almost three times more likely to be sold off and would be harder to replace because of the amount of land needed.

It also estimated that while bungalows make up 9% of council-owned housing, they were likely to make up 25% of high-value property sales because of their higher cost and more frequent vacancies - a result of people moving into residential care or tenants moving later in life.
One in five older people currently lives in a bungalow, a proportion that increases steadily from 55-75, according to the report. This figure rises to one in four when there is someone sick or disabled in an older person's household.

Brian Robson, from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, said the housing Bill would reduce the number of affordable homes at a time of an "acute housing crisis".

"We risk holding a great British bungalow sell-off that will make things worse for older and disabled tenants who are trying to find suitable, affordable accommodation," he said.

Of course it is. But that is not what you meant
The Ordnance Survey have just issued a new map of part of the surface of Mars. And have tried to add excitement by promoting it as a limited edition.

But all the maps they issue are limited editions. Limited by the total number they print.

Nothing free comes without strings
On this computer, we have Zone Alarm to protect against hackers and AVG Free to protect against viruses. And have used them since we went on-line, and are free. A few years ago, I had a quick look at Which? to see what they suggested and when it came to virus protection they did not undertake any comparisons, saying AVG Free is so good and is free, why look elsewhere?

This morning, AVG offered a trial of their Tune-up to sort out any problems you might have. So, as this machine is a bit slow, why not? And it found hundreds of things to sort out, as such programmes do.

But as with such freebies, there is always a down side, and on this occasion, there were two. When one looks at the file tree, all the files within files and so on, Windows 7 has a nice little arrow to show there is a sub file. AVG replaced this with a crude cross in a circle, harking back to years ago. Added to which, when I minimise something to the taskbar, if you hover over it with the cursor, a small image of the document you are working on appears, which is very useful is you are working between three documents. Well, these small previews (to get technical) had vanished as well.

And it took me all afternoon to fix it. But I did it.

The computer seems to be a little faster.

Nothing comes without a cost.

Bumper signs
We must have all seen notices on the back of a builder's van : No tools are kept in this van overnight.

We saw a similar notice on the back of a van belonging to a cleaning firm : No toilet rolls are kept in this van overnight.

NHS shortages
I came across this just now. You should be able to follow the argument without an introduction from me.
The government view – that we should only allow people to work here temporarily, to fill certain narrowly defined areas of “skills shortages”, and then only until we can “train our own people” – is completely at odds with the market-oriented approach espoused by UK governments in other economic policy areas for the past three decades. It assumes that bureaucrats in Whitehall can, with the help of “expert economic advice”, determine what skilled workers the country needs, in what sectors, now and in the future; and exactly who, at what salaries, companies should be able to employ.

I have nothing against either Whitehall bureaucrats or economists. But we don’t ask them to decide now how many cars the UK should produce in five years’ time, or how many insurance companies we will need in 10 years and what products they should offer. Any attempt to do so would rightly be ridiculed as a throwback to the worst excesses of central planning. So why are we trying to do the same for people, whether they are nurses in our hospitals, or scientists in our universities?

Why do we let it continue?
The Chief Dental Officer for NHS England, Sara Hurley, has said children in England drank more sugary drinks than anywhere in Europe.

"Even though people understand the impact of a sugary diet so many children have advanced tooth decay - a highly preventable disease," said Ms Hurley.

"We are also creating a legacy of obesity and significant health problems.

Fact : If you put a child's milk tooth in a glass of Pepsi or Coke, overnight, it will have vanished by the morning. And it will not have been stolen by the tooth fairies.

PPI claims, have you ever heard of anyone claiming?
So, Lloyds is setting aside another £4 billion for payment protection insurance (PPI) compensation, making £16 billion in total.

Year after year, bank after bank sets aside more for compensation. Yet I have never heard of anyone I know who has been affected by this, and wonder why more claims appear to be being made, years after the scandal broke. With the amount other banks have set aside, the total is vast.

All that money must be going to someone. Who? Bankers probably.

New Ordnance Survey maps with a massive discount
A friend has told me of Dash4it.co.uk which usually offers 35-40% off OS maps, with free delivery, usually next day.

The easiest way to make cuts is to hit those who are weakest
Wales will lose more than a quarter of its MPs under a review of boundaries.

The number will fall from 40 to 29 at the next general election as the UK total is cut from 650 to 600.

Labour's Shadow Welsh Secretary Nia Griffith said "If the Conservatives were serious about cutting the cost of politics they would cut the number of unelected peers in the House of Lords, which has ballooned in size with 236 new peers appointed since David Cameron became prime minister," she said.

Two hundred and thirty six.

If you think George Osborne is unwholesome read this to the end
A psychiatrist has been struck off the medical register after having a two-year affair with a vulnerable patient.
The 39-year-old, who was married at the time, had been treating the woman at his private clinic in London between 2011 and 2014.
He ended the affair by email in February last year but after the patient reported him to the General Medical Council he sent her a "number of inappropriate emails", the tone of which grew more threatening.
Representing the GMC, Bernadette Baxter said the emails were "highly manipulative" in preying on the woman's vulnerabilities.
In 2010, he was suspended from practising medicine for six months after writing fraudulent prescriptions for a girlfriend, a family member and an escort, while a trainee at Wythenshawe Hospital in Manchester.
The GMC found he had "behaved dishonestly" after attempting to obtain anti-psychotic medication for a cocaine addict he had been seeing while his partner was away.
The psychiatrist, Adam Osborne is the brother of Chancellor George Osborne.

Why bother having EU summits?
The EU meeting to decide on Cameron's feeble tinkering with Europe is still ten days in the future as I type. Yet the BBC website has the following:

Draft conclusions of the summit, issued in advance, state any deal would be "fully compatible with EU treaties".

Why go to the expense of all the heads of governments and their XX strong parties going along, if it can all be almost decided this far in advance? With a few more phone calls it could be agreed and thereby save everyone a lot of money.

Calais jungle in Kent
I cannot work out how Cameron thinks a Calais style jungle camp of hopeful immigrants will arise in Kent.

1. The jungle in Calais is 'home' to those who cannot get to Britain. Supposedly because the French police stop them.

2. Any who do get across the channel either vanish or are picked up by the police and sent to detention centres.

3. This will not change if we leave the EU and the French stop their policing activities. If people get across the channel, they will still either vanish or get picked up by the police.

4. So, who will live in the make shift camps? Not those who vanish. Not those who the police send to detention centres.

As ever, I am asking what on earth Cameron is talking about?

Poor kids
The biggest academy chain in England has been accused by Ofsted of "failing too many pupils".

Inspectors say that almost half of pupils at secondary schools run by the Academies Enterprise Trust (AET) are in schools that are "less than good".

Ofsted warns that poorer pupils do "particularly badly" in AET schools.

The Department for Education is threatening that unless standards are raised there will be "further action".

AET runs 67 academies across England.

Inspectors say that 40% of pupils in primary schools run by AET are in "academies that do not provide a good standard of education".

"It is even worse in secondary, where 47% of pupils attend academies that are less than good," says Ofsted.

The performance of AET's secondary schools is described as "mediocre" and there has been a lack of progress since Ofsted highlighted weaknesses in the chain's schools two years ago.

The report says there is a particular weakness in the progress of disadvantaged pupils.

Are economics degrees fit for purpose?
This follows on from what I have mentioned several times below.

They have a degree and no ability in arithmetic
Young people in England are the most illiterate in the developed world with many students graduating with only a basic grasp of English and maths, an in-depth analysis by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development has found.

The OECD report rated English teenagers aged 16 to 19 the worst of 23 developed nations in literacy and 22nd of 23 in numeracy. In contrast, pensioners or those close to retirement were among the highest-ranked of their age group.

England had nine million people of working age with low literacy or numeracy skills, it said.

The number of low-skilled people aged 16 to 19 was three times higher than in top-performing countries such as Finland, Japan, Korea and the Netherlands. South Korea came top of the list for literacy — assessed by the ability to read and answer questions on a text — and numeracy.

The report, based on 2012 data, said although half a million students had started degrees last autumn, money would be better spent cutting the number of undergraduates and investing in basic education.

About one in five young university graduates could manage basic tasks, but struggled with more complex problems. The report concluded: "University teaching gives limited attention to low levels of literacy and numeracy. Graduates with low basic skills gain modest returns from their qualifications and will often not be able to repay their student debts. England has a large university system relative to a poorly skilled pool of potential entrants."

The study concluded that 7% of 20 to 34-year-old graduates in England have numeracy skills below level two, while 3.4% have literacy skills below this level. This means that they struggle to estimate how much petrol is left in a tank from looking at the gauge, or have difficulty understanding instructions on an aspirin bottle.

The 'R' word yet again : Referendum
On the radio yesterday someone was being interviewed and just churned out statistic after statistic. Once the so-called negotiations have finished, this is all we will hear, and most people will just close their ears to what is being said. When it comes down to it, the best chance of winning will be the side that just has two slogans, repeats them endlessly and stays away from statistics.

I think the man yesterday was from the 'stay in' side, and he did say there were just two main points to consider. Firstly that our trade with the EU is vital to the economy, and secondly that yes, it will be possible to continue trading, but that we will have to negotiate seperatley with each individual country for each group of products we wish to export. And surely such negotiations will take at least three years to achieve. So what do we do in the meantime?

A couple of days ago we were told that last year was the best in a decade for car manufacturing, I will leave out the statistics. Good news, except that 57.5% of car exports were destined for the continent. And car manufacturing is quite a large part of our total manufacturing, which only accounts for about 20% of GDP. So, if we cannot send the cars abroad, we will have to rely even more on the opening of more coffee shop chains and corrupt financial services to stay afloat.

Why worship?
A simple question was put to me recently : there is nothing wrong in people believing in a god, but why do they then have to worship the god?

What is the purpose of all the dressing up, candles, celibacy, cutting off hands and so on? It only leads to fighting amongst the various groups who all claim to worship the same god, yet maintain theirs is the only way to worship the god. If there was no worship, just an acknowledgement that a god exists, then there would be nothing to fight over. And most of the conflict in the world today is by worshippers killing other worshippers.

Some sense at last
So, Penguin Books have joined others in accepting that having a degree does not necessarily make you a good employee. Whether one has been to university or not, everyone knows that a lot of people are excellent at passing exams, but totally useless in everyday life.

Big savings
When I used to keep bees, I sold jars of honey for £1.50 each. A friend used to take them to work and offer them at a special price of three for £5.

On a lesser scale, the postman has just delivered a leaflet for 'Subway' the fast food chain, where food is calibrated in inches rather than weight or size. They offer a 'Footlong meal deal' for £4.99 and 'Two footlong meals' for £9.99. To some people, the penny makes a difference.

We were once told that charity shops price things at £4.99 rather than £5, so that the till has to be opened to give change, otherwise dishonest staff might just pocket a £5 note once the customer turns away.

Europe out people are very limited in intelligence
So, Chris Grayling believes we should be out of Europe, and thereby regain control over our own affaris. Without agreeing that we have lost control of our own affairs, a couple of observations might be of interest to a few readers.

1. When he was elected, in a democracy, those who elected him gave away their right to have a say in things important to them. They lost control of their own affairs by giving them away in the election. So, Chris Grayling MP can vote however he personally wishes and can ignore anyone who differs.

2. In Europe, all members can have a say, and, as in a democracy, which Grayling approves of, the question is put to a vote. He believes in votes to elect him, but not within Europe, where if he is outvoted, he moans and wants to withdraw.

3. Britain is happy to belong to NATO, where all sorts of control are given away, and we have to do whatever America says. No problem here for Grayling.

4. Those against being a member of the EU always refer to our relationship with Europe, never our relationship within Europe. They always, including the pro-European Tories, see us a standing on the side lines and watching the rest ofthem get on with it. If we were in the thick of it, we would have far more of a say and influenece, and get far more out of membership.

I never have the computer sound switched on
So do not hear all the noises of Windows starting up and closing and having all the strange whoooses when you click certain things, but this looks fun. Even if I don't know what is being said.

Tesco and the English language
We passed a Tesco van this morning, and on the side it stated they were open until certain times weeknights, which we do not consider a proper word. Perhaps they meant Wee Knights?

Which reminds me of the local paper reporting that someone was arrested, suspected of mans laughter.

And on a similar tack :
Time flies like an arrow.
Fruit flies like a banana.

What drives the British Treasury?
Today, Osborne has again stated the obvious, that interest rates will rise at some time in the future. After nine years. At the same time, the Treasury, his department, are fearful that this will be hard on those with mortgages, especially those with large mortgages.
Yet they never consider what effect the low interest rates have had on older people who have planned to live off the interest generated by their savings. Nine years ago, these people saw a massive reduction in their income and for many, their living standards. And it has continued. No tears have been shed for them in the Treasury, whose only concern is for anyone with a mortgage.

As I have mentioned before, in December 1980 and 1981, our annual mortgage statement for the year showed that we had been charged a rate of 15.25% from what became the Nationwide Building Society. We were in our first jobs and this was for a one bedroom flat. Today, it seems we would be paying about 4%. And the Treasury is saying it will hurt to increase rates.

A crime is to be committed
Recently, the local papers announced where Boxing Day hunts were to be held, and the following week had pictures of them. I don't care what the hunt people say, their intention was to break the law, even though in the towns they acted as if this was not the case. So why do the police do nothing about it?
If I told them I was going to town next week and would rip a dog to pieces, having exhausted it by chasing it for a couple of hours, they would be there to arrest me.

The worst thing that could happen in 2016?
In the late 1950s/early 1960s, I can remember going to sleep at nights worrying about what had been on the news, and fearful in case there was another war. The Cold War was a very real thing for children.

Such feelings of helplessness have never been with me since, until about four months ago, when Donald Trump suddenly appeared in the media. And all over again, I am fearful of what might happen if he were to become President of that place full of the obese and overweight.

For those who have not really taken much notice, he is like a Boris Johnson with all the money of the Treasury behind him. An ignorant loudmouth, used to getting his own way in everything due to wealth. Not that Boris merits that description, but they look similar and are only interested in themselves.

Take this as a marker. Watch Trump, and do all you can to stop him. Before he stops the world. And on this, I am not joking.

Another of those little things from down under
Yes, I am a bit soft, but I like little things from down under.

Things most people would never do number 24
The House of Lords Speaker ran up a £230 bill for keeping a chauffeur-driven car waiting while she watched an opera a mile from Parliament.

Baroness D'Souza also spent £270 holding a car for four and a half hours while she had lunch with the Japanese ambassador in central London.

The details were released after an FOI request by the Press Association.

The newly released figures also show the peer spent tens of thousands of pounds on travel, flying business class, staying in hotels costing up to £300 a night, and ordering £123 of room service for a "breakfast meeting".

Highly paid law people cannot spot mistakes
An urgent investigation has been launched after a software error was discovered in an online form used by divorcing couples in England and Wales.

The issue with the form, which records couples' financial details, could mean thousands of financial settlements are based on incorrect calculations.

The mistake could mean some of those who have settled divorces in the past 20 months could have to re-open negotiations.

Paragraph 2.20 of Form E, which is supposed to produce totals by adding assets and subtracting liabilities, has failed to take account of the liabilities entered earlier on, resulting in an error which inflates the party's wealth by ignoring their debts.
If the error is not spotted and corrected the false figures will lead to incorrect and unfair settlements.
That means that judges may have approved thousands of financial settlements and payment orders based on false figures.

The Guardian reported that Nicola Matheson-Durrant, of the Family Law Clinic in Berkshire, had spotted the error. She is a McKenzie Friend, a lay expert who assists litigants.

She told the newspaper: "Having discovered the fault and advised the MoJ, it became apparent that not a single solicitor, barrister or judge in the whole of the UK had noticed this error. It is such a critical fault."

Read that last sentence again.

As I have said elsewhere, whenever we have used a solicitor, we have always had to keep a close eye on them and point out various small errors. They most certainly are no good at figures.

Do they never seek advice from anyone?
1. Last June, Georgie Osbone gave another enthusiastic plea in favour of fracking, ".... but I think for this country to turn its back on one of these great natural resources, which other countries are using, would be to basically condemn our country to higher energy bills ....". Ever since he took up the subject, he has pointed to the lower energy bills attained in the US from fracking. And has ignored all other arguments.

Today, the fracking industry has issued a report that says energy bills will not drop as a result of fracking, because our prices are determined within Europe (not necessarily the European Union), whereas the US market is self-contained. Does the Chancellor not have advisers to point this out to him?

2. Dave Cameron's so called renegotiations with Europe include making migrants wait four years in order to claim benefits. He say that if this was so, then we would see a great decrease in people coming to Britain. Again, does he not take advice on this? Everything one reads says that over 96% of migrants are here to work, and are not attracted by benefits. They just see Britain as a wonderful place to live. Cutting benefits will change nothing.

Green Britain
The government has all but pulled the plug on helping wind and solar energy industries in Britain, when only a short time ago, they claimed that such industries were the future, and Britain was to be a world leader if we supported them. So there would be a double gain, new strong industries, plus green energy for home consumption.

So, why the cuts? Because they claim that the industries have been helped enough and are now able to look after themselves. And secondly, that the green targets have been met. Stop after the absolute minimum has been done and minimum targets met.

To which one can only ask, what about the nuclear energy industry? Far, far more money is being given to this industry, and in the future, we the taxpayers, will have the bill for de-commissioning and so on. Are they saying that the nuclear industry is still in its infancy and needs billions pumped into it? Or do we have so much money to throw away that we can only find foreign companies large enough to take it all?

The most upsetting thing ever to appear on this website
Rural councils will suffer most as the Welsh government announces cuts of up to 4% in each authority's funding.

Powys (down 4.1%), Ceredigion (down 3.4%) and Monmouthshire (down 3.1%) face the biggest cuts in 2016, while Cardiff will lose just 0.1%.

We live in Powys, which accounts for about a third of the land area of Wales, and is a very poor county (Montgomeryshire, Radnorshire and Breconshire merged together).

As I have written elsewhere, in England all the money goes to London, whilst in Wales it all goes to Cardiff. Do you need further proof?

UK couple own over 1,000 homes
A couple are selling their portfolio of over 1,000 homes/houses, which they have bought in order to rent out. Selling to a foreign consortium, which means almost certainly that these properties will never come on to the market again. One thousand more which are not available to those wishing to own their own homes.

Renting is more costly than buying. And stops couples/singles building up a deposit for a property. Yet the government is both encouraging rent to buy, and they are giving cheap mortgages for those doing so, and at the same time they are deploring the lack of properties to buy.

The government is keeping interest rates low for savers, so a lot of people with £200,000 in savings are buying a property and paying an estate agent to manage it. Despite the cost, they are still receiving a far greater return than if they leave it in the building society.

Why should people be allowed to own more than one home?

Why should it be the government that dictates interest rates. Oh, yes it does.

Oh, yes they are
These are cuts. Oh, no they're not. Oh, yes they are.

What do you think?

Yesterday, I went to donate some 1940s photographs of a county town to the county archives, and whilst doing so, had a chat with one of the staff.

It appears that within the last year, eight members of staff have been made redundant. Now, to me, redundant means no longer needed. Something that can be done without, and would not be missed.

But, it is no surprise that the person went on to say that the archives are far busier than they have ever been, and that the staff are missed, as are those that went before them. This is not trimming the back room services that Osborne suggests. It is front line stuff.

I was told that only a skeleton staff now exists, and they can just manage to keep the reading room open, whilst most of their time is spent answering emails, with which they are about five weeks behind. Even an acknowledgement for my donation would take about six weeks to get seen to.

Somewhere below, I have mentioned that emails are a real pain. It is so easy to dash one off 'Have you got any old maps of Lincoln?'. Now, we have started just saying 'No', if we think the person is not really serious, or we ask for more details as to what they want. But a public service cannot do this, and has to take every request seriously and give it the full treatment.

As a consequence, I was told that no cataloguing was being done, and that donations had to wait. Only a couple of important local documents had been purchased in the last year, as there was no money to buy anything. No indexing of the collections was taking place, no talks given, no schools shown around due to a lack of staff to do so, and so on. Is this situation the result of cuts? Yes, yes and yes again.

Our local library now closes on a Wednesday. The staff do not have to go in. And all have had money cut as they do not work the hours. Twenty per cent cut in pay.

One of the little things that make life worth living
I must admit that I like this sort of thing. How do you start the training for such a thing?

Dyson vacuum cleaners
A few years ago, we bought a Dyson cylinder cleaner. It was very good at sucking up the fluff and so on, but when one had to empty the container with the dust in, it was an absolute pain to replace the container. A fiddle beyond belief. No design whatsoever. The pits. You will have the idea by now.

So, when we had to replace it, I spoke to the sales people and they said it was now easy to replace the container. I should have gone to a shop and tried it, because it is even worse. A nightmare.

So, if you consider a Dyson, which we now feel is very over priced, try it out first. The handle or pole that you hold is also worse. Far too chunky and just too short. Oh, to go back to the days of a smooth aluminium pole that came in sections with nothing on it.

I once had a De Walt radial arm saw, which really was very nice to use. But try to change the blade, and again, it was a nightmare. Whilst I owned it, I was at a woodworking exhibition, where the De Walt was being demonstrated. I edged my way to the front, and asked the man how easy it was to change the blade, thinking I might have missed something. He gave me all the talk, but I eventually persuaded him to change the blade. Well, to attempt to change the blade. After ten minutes, I left him still trying to get the first one off.

One should always try things out. Something I failed to do twice with the Dyson. I once sold a VW Beetle and the guy who came to see it, said that he used to sell them and repair them. He told me that you could always tell if anything was wrong by trying to lift it, when hold ing the rear chrome bumper. Which he then did, pulling with all his (large) weight at he bumper. And it was fine. But what would he position have been if it had been rusty and he had pulled my bumper off?

Yet again
Maybe I will stop going on about Cameron and the others, so as not to put too many people off this site. But one last comment (for the moment).

Today, Cameron claimed 40% of recent European Economic Area migrants received an average of around £6,000 a year of in-work benefits - although others have questioned those figures.

1. If they received benefits, that means the tax people know about them and they pay tax. It also means they are working in order to get in-work benefit. They are working, not scrounging.

2. A lot of the posts these people fill, our own citizens will not apply for. In care homes, hospitals, agriculture. So, if they are prevented from entering the UK, who will do this work?

3. The fact that they qualify for in-work benefit, or rather, that their posts qualify, shows that such groups are under-paid, whoever occupies these posts.

4. The employers are under-paying and pocketing the money. The UK taxpayer is paying the benefits and thus subsidising the bad employers. We pay so that the employers can pocket money.

As Katya Adler says : The European Union realises the British prime minister needs a fight and a bloody nose to drown out criticisms back home that this EU reform process is a sham; that Mr Cameron's demands are wishy-washy and worthless.

Look at it another way
I know that it is getting boring, my going on about Ossyborn calling cuts savings, but it is important. Because they are so savage and will be so bad 'for our country' as the Tories mimic the Americans.

Try it another way. Instead of the cuts being felt by government departments, let them be felt by you, the reader.

Since about 1979, you have been urged each year to trim your expenditure. To find economies, like shopping at Lidl rather than John Lewis, and walking the children to school rather than the two minute journey in the car. You did this in year one and have continued to do so, but in year two, you started to cut your own grass and wash your own windows. This sort of thing has been going on for thirty odd years, and last year you had to stop playing golf, and not buy any new clothes.

And now, you have been told to save another 7% for each of the next four years. Nearly 30%.

I defy anyone to say that on top of the past thirty years, that this can be done by becoming more efficient and making savings. It has to be cuts. Doing without. No more music lessons, no second car, no meals out, no fun, no life.

2nd century map of the British Isles
One of the earliest surviving copies of Ptolemy's 2nd century map of the British Isles has been made available on-line by the National library of Wales. Originally published in Ptolemy's Geographia. This is the second issue of the 1482 map, also printed at Ulm, which was the first woodcut map of the British Isles and the first to be printed outside Italy.

Obviously Britain, and so long ago. As I have suggested before, the ancients were not stupid. Could you even set about making such a survey? Even with any modern gadgets you wish to use?

Things are getting interesting
Unless you have been living outside of Britain, you will know that those who know say that since Cameron was elected leader of the Tories, it has always been George Obscorne who pulls the strings, who has his hand controlling Cameron. And who intends to replace Cameron in a short while.

So, if you were in such a strong position, what would you do? I suggest that you would take over Cameron's position now, so that the Tories think you are already the leader when they have to vote on it.

And Georgie is indeed doing that. He gave himself a big fat media opportunity to China a couple of weeks ago. Georgie made all the announcements, got the headlines and so on, when it so easily could have been Cameron. Should have been Cameron as these things go.

Today, it is Georgie in Germany, not Cameron, telling them what Britain wants from the EU negotiations. And the headlines this lunchtime are of Georgie giving the government's position on Syria. He has obviously told Cameron "Look, I will act as leader from now on. Just you try and stop me. You can't, because I have always had you as my puppet frontman, and now it stops."

Just watch the news with this in mind from now on.

Beyond our control
I have been using MyHermes rather than the Post Office for sending map tubes, and any parcel over 2kg.

The service is excellent. One goes to their website, fills in the details and can pay on-line by a card. Simple.

The only snag is that they do not use capitals in the sections on the address label for a reference, and notes to the delivery person.

Hence the label says : joe bloggs. leave next door, if no answer.
I had written : Joe Bloggs. Leave next door, if no answer.

i hope my customers do not think it is me.

Just to remind you, yet again
The coalition government (forever remember that it was the Lib-Dems who put the Tories into Downing Street) said that they wanted to rebalance the British economy, so that we had more industry and less reliance on services : banking and high streets full of coffee shops.

Well, there has been zero rebalancing towards industry since the crash of 2008, in spite of government pledges to the contrary.

Our service sector is now 11% bigger than its pre-recession peak, whereas manufacturing is more than 6% smaller.

Still, it is what Thatcher wanted, get rid of industry and get rid of unions and the Labour Party.

This site does have some fun things on it
Try a cuddly wombat. Best with the sound turned off.

Or if you have five minutes to waste before lunch time.
Try this, and zoom in on the English Channel.

The Lords have it
So, the Lords have had their say in the tax credit debate. But why did the papers not report the situation as it should have been reported? Because of vested interest. If they reported properly, they would not get interviews and passes to press briefings and so on. Blackmail.

What they should have laid out in clear language is this :
1. Obscorne proposed that tax credits should be cut drastically for the poor, especially the working poor.

2. He argued that in a few years time, most people affected will be no worse off on average.

3. He did not say that in the meantime, these people would be a lot worse off. Meaning that it will be them who are paying to cut the deficit, their loss of income, not the bankers who caused the financial crisis.

4. And at the end of the catch-up period, there will be a lot of people who are still worse off, as given the nature of averages, some will be above and some below the figures given. And it is those below that get forgotten.

Thank goodness for the House of Lords, even if it does need reform. At least we have a chance of someone stopping the dictatorial Prime Minister. Imagine what would happen if the Lords were abolished, or should I say, if we did not have a second chamber?

This week, there was a report saying a sugar tax would benefit the country, overweight people and the NHS.

Without having read the report, Cameron said that he would not have a sugar tax. Full stop. Do we have a democracy, where decisions are taken by a group of people, or a dictatorship?

Consider the opposite if there were no second chamber. Cameron says all Labour voters will have their left leg cut off. Tory MPs support the party line and it goes through. Goes through because there is nobody to oppose it, no second chamber.

As I have said before "Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr".

At the heart of Europe?
No way is Britain at the heart of Europe as the Tories said they would be.

For example. Just now I saw a picture of a high ranking French official giving a news conference. Like everyone else these days, he was standing in front of his national flag. Just as Cameron likes to stand in front of the Union Jack. But behind the French tricolor was another flag, that of the European Union. Proud to be European.

Never, have I seen a British politician standing front of a European Union flag on British soil.

Question : Where in Britain can you be certain of seeing a European Union flag flying? Don't ask me, as I do not know.

Obscorne's folly. Well, the most dangerous of them.
A highlight of George Obscorne's visit to China was the announcement of £2bn of Chinese investment for a nuclear power station at Hinkley Point.

But critics point to progress at other EDF projects, and doubt the Somerset scheme can be built on time and on budget.

The chairman of environmental think tank E3G Tom Burke claims it would be "a very bad deal for Britain" - for both the environment and taxpayers - describing it as an "expensive folly".

When it was first mentioned that the Chinese were to be asked to design and build a power station elsewhere, possibly a series of them, I mentioned my serious doubts about our being in full control of them once they were built. This fear was expressed almost at once by various MPs, of all parties.

These palnts will obviously be controlled by computers and we all know that software can be built with secret abilities that are hard to find. Witness Volkswagen. So, I very much doubt that China would just build and hand over these nuclear, nuclear remember, power stations.

I can easily see the day when, unkown to the British public, the Chinese say to our government, agree or we will take control of the power stations, and who knowswhat might happen?

And in North Wales, farmers are still feeling the effects of the Chernobyl disaster in far away Ukraine in 1986. What would the effect be of a similar 'disaster' in Britain?

No, this must not go ahead. Nuclear is bad enough, but nuclear that we have no control over is unthinkable.

The poor old Ordnance Survey had it wrong again
I was looking at the local map, Explorer 216, A2 2005 and noticed that the Shrewsbury to Newtown railway just west of Caerhowel is shown as going under the road, when in fact it crosses the road on a pretty large bridge. See SO 201 978.

Type in Caerhowel on Google maps and you will see what I mean from street view. Not that Google is much better. It has the B4385 running from the north west, under the bridge, and then heading off both left and right.

I have just checked the bridge on the OS website and it has been corrected. But why did it happen? It was fine on the one-inch Seventh Series.

Lots to moan about today
Well, I don't consider it moaning, just pointing out certain things that are going on around us.

1. The Treasury wants another 40% cut in spending by local authorities. A lot of councils say they cannot do it and will go under, to which a lot of Tories say that in previous rounds of cuts, but money was saved and the bins were still collected.

Money was not saved. To have been saved, the same services (remember that old fashioned word?) would have to have been done for less money. But this has never been the case. Less money means less things provided. In the 1980s, when Thatcher started the cuts, which have never left us, there might have been a few savings, but after more than 30 years, how can savings continue to be made?

Drive along any British motorway, and you will see vegetation growing in the gaps on the concrete bridges and highway edges. Why? Because money is being saved by not sending out men to spray weedkiller on the plants. How can anyone spend a few million pounds building new roads and not maintain them? The British can. And when the weeds grow, they damage the concrete, needing expensive repairs. Far more costly than maintenance.

Our local council now only cuts the verges once a year instead of twice, and we notice it. In summer, the traffic is slower as bends are dangerous, which economists will tell you means people are spending more time getting to appointments, meaning more costly journeys. And the road drains are being left completely. Many round here are blocked and have weeds growing out of them. So water on the roads and more accidents.

A vast number of toilets have been closed in Powys, meaning motorists have to travel very long distances with something other than driving on their minds. Between Llanidloes and Aberystwyth, both toilets have been closed, meaning a 45 minute drive plus parking time.

2. So, number two royal is following the tradition of males in his family in telling the world what to do.
Edward is telling the Chinese not to kill animals that are endangered and so on just to use them for medicines.
No, be like him, kill things for recreation. Kill for the pure joy and fun of it.

3. Cameron has been going on again about an inclusive society. Remember the jolly we are all in it together routine?
Well, in that case, why open a new Grammar school? Or new faith schools?

If you lock children in special schools, they will learn nothing about anyone outside their school. And if you do not know about another faith, then you will be suspicious and bad feelings will follow.

All faith schools should be abolished. Better still, all faiths should be abolished. Northern Ireland, faith against faith. The Middle East, faith against faith. Israel and Palestine and so on.

One cannot listen to the news and hear of conflicts anywhere in the world without the faiths involved being mentioned.

William Smith's geological maps, again
I have just seen mention of an exhibition in Cardiff, running until the 28th February 2016 and free.

Website blurb says : Amgueddfa Cymru - National Museum of Wales holds more original versions of these huge, spectacular maps than any other public institution in the world. Three different editions are fully displayed in this exhibition along with unique documents and smaller maps, all depicting the story of Smith’s life and work.

A list of other William Smith exhibitions can be found here.

UK pulls out of £5.9m Saudi jail deal
Why? Because Michael Gove, who was a bad thing when handling education, appears to be a good bloke in this instance. The Times says the justice secretary wanted to pull out of the deal, saying the government should not be assisting a regime that uses beheadings, stoning, crucifixions and lashings to punish its citizens.

But he had to fight to get the deal stopped. Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond warned that cancelling the deal would not be in the national interest as it would make Britain appear an untrustworthy ally - and No. 10 had sided with him, the paper reports.

Nowhere are we told how Gove got it thrown out. But it could only be that Cameron changed his mind.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, used his recent conference speech to call for the prisons deal to be scrapped.

"We should be sending a strong message to repressive regimes that the UK is a beacon for human rights and that this contract bid is unacceptable in the 21st Century, and would damage Britain's standing in the world," he said.

Kate Higham, from human rights organisation Reprieve, said cancelling the bid had "sent a clear message that the UK does not support Saudi Arabia's gross violations of human rights".

Philip Hammond has reportedly accused Mr Gove of naivety over the affair but in the Independent, columnist Jane Merrick mocks this view.

"It is naive apparently, to dare question the government of Saudi Arabia, even though it is responsible for carrying out the same atrocities that the British government rightly condemns Isis for, including beheadings and public floggings," she writes.

The Daily Mirror's editorial says: "But Britain shouldn't be involved in a barbaric judicial network."

The Daily Tory Express's political commentator Chris Roycroft-Davis argues that Britain should cut trade ties with the Saudis.
"If we had real principles we'd tell them to stick their arms deals and oil," he writes.

The Daily Tory Telegraph's editorial says the current position threatens to leave Britain's policy towards Riyadh "falling between two stools" by being neither ethically led or pragmatic.

Good old Gove.

What are Cameron and Osborne trying to change in the EU?
I find it amazing that Cameron will not tell us what he is negotiating to change in our dealings with the European Union. But that is probably not surprising as once anyone enters government, they decide that one of the best things about doing so is that one can have secrets. Politicians thrive on secrets.

So, when he finally announces, as he will, that the EU has knuckled under to all his demands, there will be all the usual press speculation about what exactly he was asking for and just how much it was watered down. But then I am of another opinion, in that I do not think that he actually has a list of demands, and is so wish-washy in his thinking, that the poor old EU people will not have a clue what he is going on about.

So, he will announce that all is well, that we will be the favoured best friend of the EU, and that we should stay in, except that we will have opted out of anything useful. Meaning that we will continue to pay our dues, but get nothing in return as we have opted out of all benefits.

Don't get me wrong. I believe that we should be in the EU, but that we should be a full and active member, not just a sideline whinger. There is so much to be had from the EU that Britain ignores or chooses not to follow up, grants and subsidies are not applied for, for example.

A ddylai’r Deyrnas Unedig aros yn aelod o’r Undeb Ewropeaidd neu adael yr Undeb Ewropeaidd?
To which, I hope most people will vote : Aros yn aelod o’r Undeb Ewropeaidd.

I wanted to know exactly what we were going to be asked in the EU referendum question, having got rid of the Yes/No option. Before reading further, can you tell me what you will see on the ballot paper?

In English, it will be :
Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union?

Remain a member of the European Union
Leave the European Union

The last two lines, I hope, will have a box one end of the sentence, and a full stop.

Books to download for free
A couple of weeks ago, I read a short story and wanted to read more. After a little research, I found that the item was a chapter from a book by Kathleen Fitzpatrick, The weans at Rowallan, published in Ireland in 1905.

I wanted to buy a copy, but nothing appeared on Amazon or any of the secondhand book websites at a reasonable price. I continued searching and came across the Project Gutenberg site which 'offers over 50,000 free ebooks: choose among free epub books, free kindle books, download them or read them online'.

There is a Kindle in the house, and it was easy to download the file and drag it across into the Kindle.

A flyer for remaindered books is offering : The pop-up Kama Sutra.

What pops up I wondered?

'There are six pop-up sections, providing a selection of the most interesting and risqué positions in three-dimensions.'

Pension changes
The Tories are all for a fairer society. So they say.

Next year, the amount paid in State pensions will increase to about £155 a month for new receivers. For anyone already getting a pension it will remain at about £116. Unfairness one.

And when this comes into effect, those receiving the higher figure will have paid exactly the same into their State pension fund as those receiving the lower figure. Unfairness two.

Things you can find on the Internet 34 : Free money off vouchers
Yesterday, I decided to buy a book that I have had from the library.
1. Check the price on Amazon. Cheapest new copy was £9.99 plus £2.80 postage.

2. Next item was £10.00 plus £2.80 postage from 'The Works' which has outlets everywhere. I wondered whether they operate the collect in store thing and yes, I could collect a copy from Shrewsbury, so no postage.

3. I then remembered that they often have promotions, and that one can frequently find the codes on-line.

4. So I did a search for 'The works, vouchers', and up came http://www.hotukdeals.com/vouchers/theworks.co.uk .

5. This gave a code PREF20 for a 20% discount.

6. So, when I went to The Works website and ordered the book, I gave the code and received a discount, making the book £8 in all, rather than £12.80.

Try it when you next book a hotel or buy something from a large store and so on.

This government assumes everyone can pay
So, the posh boys now say that anyone who does not pay the fine for their children missing school, will have benefits cut. And if they do not receive benefits (which surprise, surprise, many people do not), then the local council will have to take them through the courts.

And where are local councils to find the money to do this? The government will certainly not give them extra for the purpose. It is just so easy to to tell someone else to do something, if you do not have to foot the bill.

In exactly the same way, financial institutions such as building societies and banks have been obliged to spend a good few million pounds sending out notices explaining the changes to the Financial Services Compensation Scheme. This, you will be aware is set at £85,000, so if a bank collapses, the government will see that the first £85,000 you hold with it will be returned to you. In January 2016, this will drop to £75,000 and the institutions have been sending out letters telling of this. Not their decision to lower the amount, the governments, who will not have to pay for sending the letters out.

And whilst we are about it, in case you have forgotten, interest rates will not rise again for savers until the government stops making cheap loans available to building societies. The near official line from the societies is that they do not have to offer competitive rates (higher rates) as they can get all the money they need from the government.

Ditch the elderly, it's cheaper
Did you see that bit from the Tory Taxpayers' Alliance boss, who said ministers should waste no time to make unpopular cuts to pensioner benefits, as many of those hit by a cut to the winter fuel allowance might "not be around" at the next election, and others would forget which party had done it, he added.

Let us not forget that people who get a pension have paid for it all their working lives. They have paid into it and deserve to get what they thought out of it. Older people are not scroungers.

Plastic bags, in England this time
So, charges are now in force for plastic bags in England, following in the footsteps of the Welsh, Scots and Northern Ireland. But as with most things these days, things are not in line with those already charging. That would be too easy and enable people to know exactly where they stand when they cross the border (which is why the UK government does not want the Euro, it would be too easy).

In Wales, ask in a shop for a plastic bag and they will charge you 5p, unless what is going into it really does need a free bag, such as wet fish or unwrapped bread. Pretty easy to understand. But go across the bridge into England and you will not be charged in a small shop, nor in any shop with less than 250 employees.

If you stand at the checkout in Sainsburys, you will see millions of bags given out. And it is these that the legislation is aimed at. Thin, often used once bags. But we maintain that other, more substantial bags, much thicker bags, which are often kept and used again, should not be charged for. We also believe that bags given out in clothes shops, for instance, should not attract a fee. Even if you carry a plastic bag for the groceries, you do not want to put a nice new shirt or dress into it. And the bags from fashion shops are far more robust than the flimsy throwaways from the food supermarkets.

Ordnance Survey helpline
Yet again someone has come to us seeking maps after trying to find what they want via the OS telephone help service. And yet again, they have said that the people at the OS call centre know very little about maps, and when the going gets difficult refer people to the OS website.

Forget Amazon, an excellent discount found locally.
This morning I went to the electrical unit on the local industrial estate to buy a 47" flourescent bulb and a new starter for it. The bulb was listed at £73.08 and the starter at £4.20. Far more than I had expected, until I was told there was a 92% discount on the bulb and a 75% discount on the starter, making a total of £8.28 including VAT.

Why the fantastic prices? In case they sold to the NHS? Very similar pricing to office furniture, where they know that employees just order and usually do not shop around. And anyway, they have a office furniture allowance each year, so just spend it.

Not the spirit I believe in.

In the early 1970s, a friend got a pretty high powered job buying and selling London office blocks for a pension fund. On the first day, he was shown his office, a dream office he told me. On the desk was a catalogue for very up-market office furniture and he was told to order what he wanted. When he protested that what he had was excellent, he was told that his employers wanted him to make money and he could not do that properly if he was complaining about his office furniture, so it might as well be sorted out at the start. A few thousand pounds for new furniture was far less than he might be down if he missed a good property deal by moaning about his working environment.

New London Underground map in an old style

A new London Underground map has been made available in the style of the Stingemore maps that were replaced by the 1933 Beck diagram, and later versions.

The full story can be seen here, with American spelling.

Do only sportsmen come up with this sort of thing?
American baseball legend Yogi Berra has died aged 90, leaving us with :
"It's like deja-vu all over again."

“Half the lies they tell about me aren't true.”

"Always go to other people's funerals, otherwise they won't go to yours."

“The future ain't what it used to be.”

“When you come to a fork in the road, take it.”

“Never answer an anonymous letter.”

“Baseball is 90% mental, the other half is physical.”

British efficiency
Our local shop has just had a nice bright re-fit with three new tall cold cabinets; two with double doors and the other a single.

The single was delivered by two men from Shrewsbury, and off they went.

The two doubles came from Manchester with one man, and no lifting gear or mechanical aids. It would have been impossible for him to handle them by himself, so lucky that the shopkeeper was on hand.

One cabinet was too tall to pass through the shop door. The person who came to take the order and measure everything, only measured the actual cabinet body, not allowing for the four inch feet it stands on. Yet he does this sort of thing every day. And gets paid for it.

So, being too tall, it had to go in sideways, and the shop door had to be taken off.

It really does make you wonder. And scream.

Could you ever trust the Liberal Democrats again? (Assuming that anyone ever did)
1. Note the term Liberal Democrats. The Liberals had a lot going for them until they sided with the Social Democrats; they who split the Labour Party thus letting Thatcher into government with such disasterous consequences. I will never forgive them.

2. And now they are saying (indeed have been saying for years) that they held back the worst of the Tory policies when in the coalition. What they forget is that it was they who enabled the Tories to form a government and do all they damage they did. 'I tried to stop him beating the child with a stick'. 'Yes, I gave him the stick, knowing what he would attempt'.

3. And they still cannot see why they did so poorly in the last election. Because they went back on major manifesto policies that had tempted Labour supporters to vote Liberal, so the Labour people dumped them this time. But they cannot see it. Labour supporters did not vote Liberal in order for them to put the Tories into government, so they deserted them.

The Liberals will forever be known as the party that brakes promises and put the Tories into power.

Company jargon talk
I have only just noticed it, so am working on it and have little to say, but have you noticed that a lot of companies, including the Ordnance Survey have lots of partners? 'We are working with our partners to solve the problem' is a typical statement.

Partners seem to be both suppliers and customers.

On the other hand, when things go wrong, it seems that 'We have asked the agency involved to explain what the problem is'. It would not look too good if a partner messed something up.

Charities and the vulnerable
Far more worrying than charities selling mailing lists are those that have people cold calling on the elderly and asking for donations.

When I took over my mother's banking for her, I noticed two monthly standing orders for under £5. These turned out to be for two charities, one national and one local. I found the copy of the form she had signed, and it was obvious that someone had knocked on the door, been invited in as she was lonely, and got her to make the donation.

I have no idea who the caller was, nor whether they were paid on commission.

I hope this practice will be looked into in any proposed investigation.

Payback time never comes?
Two things in the papers this morning seem very related, and show the Tories as totally naive public school boys.

In the late 1990s, a man called Ashcroft decided to bail out the financially bankrupt Tories and gave around £8 million over the next few years, expecting a nice top job when the party returned to office. Cameron failed to offer more than a very low post. No payback.

Today, Osborne is in China and is offering money galore to an economy that is starting to slide. The thinking goes that in the future, China will remember Britain as a friend in troubled days and will place orders with British industry. But the Chinese might well fail to deliver. No payback. So naive.

And if they did want to place orders, industry only contributes about 20% to the British GDP, so that massive orders will do little for our total GDP.

Nuclear foolishness and future danger
So, Osborne wants the Chinese to build our nuclear power stations of the furure. We are putting up the money so that the French and Chinese will go ahead with Hinkley Point. Both companies, French and Chinese are state owned, so why not have a British state owned energy company? Because Thatcher sold everyhting to her friends at a massive discount.

Energy Secretary Amber Rudd told the Financial Times she wanted Beijing to take the lead in developing new nuclear plants in Britain.

Imagine the situation many years down the line if this happens.

Supposedly, China builds the things and hands them over to the UK. Job done. Really? Do you honestly believe that the Chinese will not still be able to take control of the plants in some way, and be able to hold the UK to ransom by threatening to let the things blow up?

Enter James Bond at the last minute.

And, amongst other facts, the price the government is agreeing to for future electricity is £89.5 per MW/hr, whilst the current price is £44 per MW/hr of wholesale electricity in UK. Meaning, the government is agreeing that we will pay double for buying electricity in future.

All too depressing to continue.

Seen at Banksy's Dismaland
Being British is about driving a German car to an Irish pub for a belgian beer, then travelling home, grabbing an Indian curry or Turkish kebab on the way, to sit on Swedish furniture and watch American shows on a Japanese TV.

Haven, haven, haven
My memory is that it was dumbo John Major who started it, but the term 'safe haven' is nonsense. Look in most dictionaries and you will see that a haven is a place of safety, so a 'safe place of safety' is nonsense. Would you ask in a pub for 'an alcoholic pint of Guinness' or 'a glass of wet water'?

Prices on Amazon
The latest catalogue from 'Postscript' (www.psbooks.co.uk) includes Maps in those days : cartographic methods before 1850 by John Andrews, published at £55.00, reduced to £16.99. Anything by John is worth reading and I will order a copy after writing this.

As usual when I see a book that might be of interest, I check Amazon to see whether there are any reviews. OK, I know that one should be very careful with any review on the Internet, but they can be helpful.

Anyway, I typed in JH Andrews and when ploughing through the list, came across one of our publications : History in the Ordnance Map: An Introduction for Irish Readers, by J.H. Andrews, 1993 Edition, (Facsimile of 1974 ed) Publisher: David Archer.

Four copies are listed, two used copies at £453.32 and £484.39 plus £2.80 postage; and two new copies at £1,198.38 and £1,283.15 plus £2.80 postage. Both sets of new and used were offered by the same sellers, in the land of the free over the water.

And if you want a new copy from us, it is a massive £7.50. Post free for anyone reading this piece.

Some things never change, just get done in a different way
You don't see quite as many as a couple of years ago, but red rubber bands were on every pavement from Plymouth to Aberdeen. Now there are cream coloured ones as well. All dropped by the postmen and postwomen of this land.

Quote from Here be dragons by Stella Gibbons, 1956.
'He looked with satisfaction at the two shabby cases, fastened with that thick string which the postal authorities tie round bundles of letters and which postmen drop in the streets as they make their rounds'.
Page 306, Vintage, 2011.

A book you should all read
If first read it in 1982, and have started to read bits again. English culture and the decline of the industrial spirit, 1850-1980 by Martin Wiener.

Essentially, he shows how the elite/ruling class/senior civil servants/professions/politicians, are not interested in industry or business, and that this lack of interest has acted against Britain's economic well being. Public schools have always been anti-industry and still are. Science was very late being taught in them because it smacked of industry. The second and third generations of the founding fathers of the industrial revolution were very well off and wanted to become part of the establishment, so bought country estates and cultivated a life of leisure, rather than devoting their lives to their business concerns as their fathers had done. This turning away from commerce towards high society did not occur in our competitors, who saw business as a worthy following, giving status equal to the professions.

And it continues today. What occupations do those leaving university after attending private schools want to follow? Banking and law. Far more challenging would be to run a successful company, and I do not mean sit on the Board. But no, they turn away from it, and as a result, manufacturing is such a small part of our GDP. But then Thatcher wanted to be rid of the unions and trade and to concentrate our manpower in the financial services sector. And look what has happened.

Yet another fun thing
I do not belong to Facebook, and always have the sound turned off when the computer is on, so cannot tell you much about this, except that you will like it. Found by Bill Batchelor.

Geology in London
Have a look at the London Pavement Geology
Click on a location and you will be told what rock you are looking at and where it comes from, cafe cladding, pavements, kerb stones and so on.
Good fun.

Bad old smoky days
Do you remember when you dreaded going into a pub or restaurant for a meal in case someone sat nearby and started smoking? We just accept that we no longer come into contact with cigarette smoke except on the doorsteps of office blocks and some pubs.
So, it was a real shock this morning when I went into a charity shop that had a very large book room at the rear, and the place stank of cigarette smoke. A stench from the past.

Totally unacceptable, as Dave Cameron would say
On the Today programme this morning, John Humphrys was interviewing the government minister for immigration or similar. He asked about the new law/rules just announced, and got nowhere in receiving an honest answer.

Basically, if someone is has had their asylum application rejected, the Home Office (note the joke word Home) will send the person's landlord documents allowing them to turn the person out at once.

So, Humphrys asked, what will the government then do to see that the person leaves the country, once they walk onto the street? Nothing at all. The person can just get on a train and go elsewhere. No attempt will be made to track or monitor the person.

They are supposed to play by the rules and leave the country. All good public school chaps these.

And why are the Chuck You And Your Family Out Of Your Home Office documents not issued to immigration officers or police who could see to the deportation? Because there is no money to pay for it. Well, there almost certainly is money, but the Tories prefer to give this to their friends.

Please do not take this note as anti-immigrant or anti-asylum seeker, it is just pointing out the failings in the logic of the government. I had originally written failings in thought, but that was too strong a word to use for this lot. Logic is wrong as well. So just say the failings of this government and keep the language simple as Cameron does : things are either good or bad, as in "It is good that we ....", or they are totally unacceptable. That is the sum total of his descriptions of things and always has been.

Row and row
Two people were in a boat having a row on the river whilst at the same time having a row.
In fact they were rowing whilst rowing. Or maybe the other way round.

Have I gone bonkers? Row = to paddle a boat. Row = an argument.

He was in the education department and was the Professor of Reading at Reading University.

And on a similar thing, the Americans are so politically correct yet they use the word 'dumb' to mean stupid, with no regard for those who cannot speak.

Bank of England confirms what I have been saying
Under the heading 'Budget or fudge it' below, I comment on Osborne's belief that wages are going to rise because he has cut business taxes, and the good old business men will hand this windfall over to the workers as increased wages. (Unbelievable, except by him.)

No, I say, any cut in business taxes will be passed on to the highest paid and in dividends. Sod the workers.

Well, talking to the BBC last Friday, the chief economist at the Bank of England, says the same thing. An increase in profits (due to Osborne's tax cuts) will result in higher amounts paid as dividends. No way will wages increase.

Quote from the BBC website :
The Bank of England's chief economist has expressed concern that shareholder power is leading to slower growth.

Andy Haldane told BBC Newsnight that business investment had been lower than was "desirable" for years.

One reason was that a high proportion of corporate profits were being paid out to shareholders rather than reinvested in the company.

He said that in 1970, £10 out of each £100 of profits were typically paid to shareholders through dividends.

Today, however, that figure was between £60 and £70. Mr Haldane argued that left far less cash available for growth-boosting investment and that firms risked "eating themselves".

Corporate short-termism - a focus on immediate gains rather than long-term prospects - was a rising problem for companies and pre-dated the financial crisis, he said.

Mr Haldane believes that one possible major cause of this short-termism is the nature of UK company law, which gives most decision making power to shareholders.

LSE also confirms what I have been saying for years
Less able, richer children were 35% more likely to become high earners than brighter, poorer peers.

Just look at the picture with this BBC piece, which really says everything.

A breathtakingly clean white family doing homework. Easy to get on in the world. Now imagine an extremely talented black kid from a moderately poor home. What chance do they have even if fully supported by their parents? Poor shabby overcrowded home, music and television programmes blasting away from neighbours, no bedroom of their own in which to do homework, let alone study, which is even more demanding. I need not continue.

The LSE report said wealthier families helped their children accumulate skills valued by the labour market and they also used social networks to secure internships and employment.

That meant poorer, but more able children were often blocked from the finite number of top jobs, it added. [My italics.]

Another silly heard on the BBC
People who take part in this project will be able to surface their skills.

Post Office and Royal Mail : RIP
For thirty years, we have run a business using Royal Mail and the Post Office. It until recently, it was excellent. No longer.

1. The rot set in when they did away with the standard letter and parcel sizes. Confusion reigns and a lot of people are caught out, so that they then stop sending anything other than a small letter.

2. Giving the staff shares has gone to the heads of a lot of them. Around here, a lot of post boxes are emptied at 9.00 in the morning only. I recently had to post a letter and went in the rain to the nearest box that had a 17.00 collection. Only to find that the envelope was too wide for the old Victorian letter box opening. And I did not want to fold the envelope.

I wrote a letter and took it in to the local sorting office. I told the head person what the problem was and asked whether another box could be collected from at 17.00, as the van passed it every day at that time. "It is not going to happen" he said. "This business is losing money and we are cutting collections". "But the maximum size for a letter will not fit in the box" I told him. "Tough. It is not going to happen." One cannot argue with brick walls.

So, I am now sending all I can by MyHermes, and have no feeling of loyalty for Royal Mail. I have been increasing my usage of MyHermes as the Post Office prices for map tubes is plain silly. A 45cm tube costs £2.80, but anything over that goes up to £4.89, with MyHermes being cheaper.

Keep left
If, like me, you find it hard to distinguish any real difference between American political parties, then you will be upset that many in Britain seem to want to go down the same road. I mean down, not along. Follow that road and the only way is down. Lower standards of politics, lower standards in life and lower standards all round for all of us. All of us? Yes, even the well off will have to live in a world of poor people on the streets, reading about their problems in the press (maybe) and so on.

I really am amazed that some of the so called leaders in the Labour party are saying that they must support the wicked Tory cuts, or else the public will not think them responsible. Rubbish.

Cameron has a slim majority, meaning fewer people voted for him than wanted him as Prime Minister. More people are against his policies than for them, yet the Labour leadership say they should support them because the voters support them.

Labour should put up an alternative plan for dealing with things and then convince the public that it is right. The public are not ignorant (well, non-Tory voters are not ignorant). Only when Labour get organised again, will they then get back into government.

American cars
For years I have been fascinated by certain aspects of the American novel and short story. When describing something, a brand name is always given. Nobody eats a biscuit, it is always a Jameson waffer, a Nabisco light finger or a Ma Sweitzer's shoo-fly pie. Shoes are all given a brand name as are jackets and trousers. Everything.

But what really gets me are cars. It seems that all Americans can name and date a car at a glance, or at the very least know the dates.

For example, Jack Kerouac's Big trip to Europe : 'An old 1929 Ford suddenly rattled by toward the water front ....' Written about a trip in 1957, when Kerouac was 37 years old. So, he could date a car that came out when he was 7 years old.

Or, on page 20 of John Updike's Rabbit, run : 'He crosses around in front of the car, the '55 Ford that ....', and '.... who had nothing but a '36 Buick ....' Or, on page 83 'He gets out of his car, a '58 olive Buick four-door, and offers his hand.'

Or, on page 37 of Tom Wolfe's The kandy-kolored tangerine-flake streamline baby 'At last, after four heats, there were only two cars moving through the junk, a 1953 Chrysler and a 1958 Cadillac.' Whilst on page 75 we have 'After a few years, he got a car of his own, a 1925 Buick, then a 1932 Ford.'

See what I mean? These are just the three examples that I have read recently, and made a note of for my doctorate on the subject. But it happens all the time. And the cars always sound sooooo old.


The British find it hard to remember their registration number, let alone the date their car was made. So, dating another car would be impossible.

Test 1 : Look out the window and tell me the date of ANY car you see.

I was tempted to add 'without looking at the number plate', but I cannot work out dates from these, and will assume most others cannot.

Test 2 : Look out the window and tell me the MAKE of any car you see from the side.

Comment from my friend JH who I thought was Canadian.
Why do 'Americans' know the years of cars? For a certain period, certainly
of the 1940s to 1970s every manufacturer brought out a new model annually.
At least the body work was different enough to recognise the year; looking
back, I guess it was to create a market for a recognisably new car. I left
in 1972 and don't recognise cars since.

Who thought of that?
Some things seem so clever. Well, I think so.

1. I quite like corned beef, and it always comes in a slanting tin with a 'key' with which to open it. So simple, just catch the flap on the side with the key, turn and wind the strip onto the key, so that the tin splits into two pieces.

2. Barbed wire.

3. Knitting.

More will be added when I remember them.

So, a fudge has been agreed. Economic castration for the Greeks in return for more loans. To help re-build their economy? Don't be so naive. More money for bankers. As ever.

It appears that less than 10% of the money given in the last two bail-outs/loans, went to the Greek people. Ninety per cent went to bankers and financiers. And so will the new money.

Budget or fudge it?
So, posh boy Osborne, who almost certainly has never queued in a chip shop or had to use a launderette has delivered another budget and made another massive cock-up.

In future, wages are going to rise speedily. Fact.
But before they do, the lower paid who are in work, will have benefits cut, leaving them struggling at best. Fact.

Why are wages going to rise? Because Osborne has cut some business taxes, and the good old business men will hand this windfall over to the workers as increased wages. The man must be stark raving bonkers if he believes this.

Any cut in business taxes will be passed on to the highest paid and in dividends. Sod the workers.

There is to be a National Living Wage of £9 an hour in five years time. This is considered the lowest of low pay levels, and just enough to live on. For a 40 hour week, this would be £360. Just enough to live on? Tell that to the pensioners who get the maximum state pension of £115.95 per week, less than a third of the new National Living Wage. And pensioners are in all day, having to heat their homes and so on.

Buy-to-let landlords
No, this really is double sickening and should have a health warning. So, do not read this if you care for the poor and vulnerable in society.

People who buy houses in order to let them, and do so by taking out a mortgage, at present get tax relief on the interest payments on the mortgage. Currently property investors can claim tax relief on their monthly interest repayments at the top level of tax they pay, meaning the wealthiest can claim as much as 45%.

So, consider it : not only do these people get rich by charging exceedingly high rents, they also benefit from the value of the houses rising rapidly, and the tax-payer (me and you) pay 45% of their monthly interest payments.

Student grants
University maintenance grants for lower income students in England and Wales are to be scrapped from September 2016.

Sir Peter Lampl, chairman of the Sutton Trust and of the Education Endowment Foundation, warned the move will put off many low and middle income students from going to university.

"Since grants were reintroduced, there have been significant improvements in participation from full time less advantaged students, and this will be put at risk by today's Budget plans," he said. "The reality is that the government has miscalculated the levels of repayments it will get from its student loans under the new fees system. Rather than penalising poorer students, it should have a fundamental review of the repayments system."

Electricity prices
Was it a shock to hear that the electricity industry is not a competitive market? No, most customers have known this since privatisation.

We live in Mid-Wales and have electricity from Scottish Power. If you look at a list of prices from each supplier, you will see that our charges are amongst the highest, and far higher than prices in London. Changing supplier would not help, even if it were easy, and not take weeks and lengthy forms to fill in.

A truely competitive market is where one can see a price, feel unhappy with it, check another price and then decide. All in a very short space of time. Take petrol. Most motorists keep an eye on pump prices as they drive past garages and know that the cheapest seen is £115.99 and the highest is £119.99 a litre. When petrol is needed, they have the figures at their fingertips.

Now, if petrol was sold in the same way as electricity, when driving past a garage, there would be a massive hoarding giving at least six prices for a litre of petrol : 1. Petrol plus an MOT, 2. Petrol plus an annual service, 3. Petrol if you buy six times within two weeks, 4. If you open an account for a year, and so on. You would not have a clue which is a best buy, and this is how it is with electricity.

The ideal would be for every house to have a switch beside the fuse box on which there was a list of all the power companies, and how much they charged for a unit of electricity. Each morning, one could then select the company with the lowest price as the supplier for the day. And guess what? Prices would be virtually the same in all cases. And far, far lower than at present.

On the radio this morning it was announced that the man in charge of Barclays had been sacked, after increasing profits and turnover by a vast amount. Why was he sacked, because the Board wanted more profits and a bigger dividend.

The bankers are at it again. Well, they have never really stopped, have they?

Defence spending
£32 billion pounds a year spent on defence. Money desperatley needed by the health service. As Tony Benn said, if we can find money to kill people, surely we can find money to look after the sick and weak?

I would argue that one can only use the word defence in this context if you believe that the best line of defence is to attack. Meaning : kill people.

No, we are only spending this money so that Cameron and those before him, can tell the rest of the world what to do, and look as if they have something to back it up. Does anyone listen to what Britain says? If the answer is 'no', then why spend on the military? If the answer is 'yes', then surely a good arguement will win whether we have the military or not? In both cases therefore, we do not need the military.

If we can send large numbers of troops to all corners of the world, what were they doing before they went? Nothing much, just sitting around soaking up our money, our taxes.

Why should I keep quiet about the wicked wicked Tories?

Look at this proof of wickedness and scroll down to the graph.

The first block of skyscrapers is Major's period of mis-management. Then
Gordon Brown made tremendous efforts to pay off the national Debt when Labour came into government, 1997 to 2001.

The second massive rise was due to the financial crisis, not Labour.

The end?
I have decided not to continue hosting this tea party any more.


Well, firstly because I do not have much to say about maps that I think will be of interest to others. No, to put it another way, I just cannot be bothered to jot it all down. And I am not finding odds and ends on the Internet as in the past.

Which means that in the rare occasions that I have been putting something up recently, it has been about the bad old Tories. The wicked Tories, and the buffoons Cameron and Osborne. I am obviously in two minds about stopping the recording of my objections two these two, as I have always believed that if one does not speak out about an injustice or something seen to be wrong, then one might be said to condone it. And it would make me turn in my grave to have anyone think I have nothing bad to say about the bad Tories.

But in various things that follow and were written a good while ago, you will get my drift on this. Shallow will be a word associated with this lot (Tories, not my words). Ruthless against the less advantaged and poor. Aiming to follow America in constantly referring to 'our country', yet unable to bring themselves to go all the way and say 'this great country of ours' at least three times in any clip. But they are using the flag, the Union Jack (not the Union flag) at every possible opportunity. This really makes me sick when I see the American flag in almost any picture of that country. In people's gardens, in every school room, on public buildings, in public buildings. Brainwashing I call it. And yet they see only the Russians as practising this art. Say it or show it often enough and people will believe it.

Anyway. That is it for now. Goodbye. Maybe.

Pensioners have been protected
Prime Minister Dave says the pensioners have done well from his lot and their puppets.
Have they suffered with a poorer health service? Yes.
Has their winter fuel allowance been cut? Yes.
Have the rates of interest for their savings been cut? Yes.
Have the newly retired received terrible private pensions? Yes.
Have bus services been slashed? Yes. Unless you live in London.
Has the amount they pay in inheritance tax increased? Yes.

And when someone says "Oh, no they are worse off", he says that they started from a higher base than the real poor so can take some cuts. But the mega rich start from an even higher base and have not had any real cuts. Must not upset them or they will take their money elsewhere. Fat chance. London house prices at the top end are spiralling. They all want to live here, and will not depart soon. No matter what happens. If you think London is a fun place to live and had an income (one cannot say one earns it) of £6,000,000 a year and were taxed an extra £300,000, would your really miss it and change from Harrods to Tesco for your shopping?

Of couse the poor suffer more
The latest report from the Institute of Fiscal Studies, which is well to the right in British politics, says that the poor have suffered more than the rich since this government came to power. Which we do not need telling.

The poorest households are about £1,200 worse off, and all the wicked Tories can say is that the rich have lost the most in terms of cash.

So, if you have a household income of £20,000 and £1,200 is stolen by the Tories, the Tories tell us that this is not as bad as a rich household with an income of £300,000 that has lost £2,000, say.

Interest rates
I still cannot work out why it is deemed necessary to keep interest rates so low. Yes, I can see that industry will benefit and have knock on effects, but for the ordinary person it is not good.

1. Savers suffer. The building societies are keeping their rates to savers low. Usually, one would expect them to compete for business and that rates might rise in order to get money deposited. But no, they say that because the government is making available vast amounts at low rates, they are getting as much as they want. Meaning that they do not want anything from their depositors, and hence do not need to offer more than the minimum rates.

Which means that savers suffer.

2. A lot of such suffering savers have quite a tidy sum saved, and increasingly, they are using it to buy houses under £250,000 in order to get a monthly return and a hoped increase in the future sale value.

This means that more and more of our housing stock is being owned by fewer people. Not only that, but it means that investors are in competition with the young for the lower end of the market properties. The older people have cash up front, and with the increase in prices, those wanting to be a first time buyer find the bottom of the ladder moving upwards all the time.

I can see a situation in twenty or thirty years time, where some families own seven or eight houses, and rents are sky high.

3. And if I hear anyone mention yet again, that an interest rate rise will hit home owners, I will scream. I have just looked at some old papers, and see that when we were in our first jobs, in December 1976 we paid the Provincial Building Society an interest rate of 12.50%, which had risen to 15.25% by December 1980 and remained at this rate, certainly until December 1981.

A and E problems
Writing from Wales, last week I rang for a doctor's appointment and was told that I could see the doctor I prefer in four weeks time, or another doctor in just over three weeks time. Far easier to sit in a hospital for four hours and see a doctor now. Which is why people do it.

95% A and E targets
Go to http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-30711445 and scroll down to the graph. Between 2005 and 2009, the target was 98% for patients to be seen within four hours at A and E departments, and most results were around 98% (above and below). In 2010, the taget was dropped to 95%, and most results dropped below 98% at once. Such a dramatic fall as a result of the Tory cuts.

Pre-election build up
We have just walked back from posting a couple of things in the village Post Office, and saw one of those aweful American signs in a garden that say : Santa please stop here. December the 1st.

So, if it is acceptable to start early for anything, having had shopping Black Friday three days ago to kick start the Christmas shopping, then why not start early for the election next year? Oh, joy, months of laying into tubby Cameron, Osborne and and their porky friends. No, that is unfair to our four legged friends, but they cannot be said to tell porkies, as do the other lot. And if you say they don't then you are either stupid or .... ? .... or .... stupid. In passing, do you think Osborne cuts his own fringe? It looks just like that of a lad I went to school with, and he used to cut his own fringe. If I were him, I would grow it about twelve inches to hide that funny shaped nose. SO large and ugly. Oh, we are getting personal. Why not? They will start slagging off Miliband pretty soon. Once the thing gets really going, they will forget the words policy and manifesto and go for the personal. Just watch.

Peregrine falcons
The following links were of course put up in the summer. It is now early December. Time and the birds have flown.

Peregrine falcons
Chicks this morning or yesterday. Three fluffy white snowballs.

Peregrine falcons
Don't forget the falcons this year. I like to have a look at dusk, when you can see the lights of the town on camera 1.

Or Ospreys just down the road, a bit :

Ordnance Survey map sizes
I have just bought a new outdoor coat (rather than an indoor coat), an notice that it has an 'OS map pocket. Holds full-sized OS map'.

What is a less than full size OS map?

Clock changing
The clocks went forward at the weekend (Spring forward, Fall backwards) and so one goes around the house changing each timepiece. Well, not me, someone more capable.

Anyway, some are easily seen to. Those on the boiler control and computer see to themselves. (Have you noticed that computers no longer tell you they have done it?) Wind-up and battery clocks are easy as well. But the most difficult are those older clocks where you have to press at least two buttons at the same time, and cannot understand the instructions.

The easiest was on the car. Two black buttons, one above the other, beside the clock. Press the top button once, and the time shown moves forward an hour. And I assume the lower one see to the minutes. Why cannot they all be this simple?

Ordnance Survey
The OS have just issued a press release that begins :
You may have read articles in the media this weekend, including The Telegraph article on 30 March 2014 titled ‘End of the road for paper maps?’, which reported that Ordnance Survey is to end its policy of routinely producing maps that cover the whole country. This is simply not true.

We would like to stress that this statement is wholly inaccurate and that we are committed to maintaining a national series of paper maps for both OS Explorer and OS Landranger maps. .....

Two paper map series. Gone are the golden days when there was a choice of paper maps on the one-inch, half-inch, quarter-inch, and ten-mile scales, plus tourist and district maps, and a host of other more specialist items. And large scale maps.

A sad decline or a mirror of a changed world?

London Estate Agent
Years ago a friend nudged me, nodded to an estate agent's board for Gascoigne-Pees, and said “Of course he does”.

Potatoes and logs
I am amazed, no, not really, I am constantly surprised, no not really, I cannot understand why, that's better. Get to the point boy. Right, start it with a new paragraph.

Why do people go to the trouble of putting useless signs by the side of the road? My pet one being the sort that say 'Potatoes, £5.25'. Any nothing else. Do they really think this will tempt anyone travelling at 50mph to chuck out the anchor, grind to a halt and reverse back into a muddy farmyard?

All they are saying is that one can have some potatoes for £5.25. Most people would never be tempted by this and would never say "Blimey, £5.25, that's cheap, apply the anchor Ethel". £5.25 for what weight of potatoes? The weight never being mentioned, yet the prime inducement. Sometimes the variety is given, but as most people are ignorant of potatoes varieties, this is not needed.

The same locally goes for logs, with single word signs and a telephone number.

Whilst on the subject, what about all those signs that say 'Hot and cold food in next layby', with no such thing to be seen? If I had the time, I would stop, go back and pull them all up. I bet that the advertising standards people would not be interested. Surely these are adverts and there is some sort of standard involved, if only accuracy?

My friend Pete writes : The signs that amuse me are the ones that say something like TRACEY IS 18 TODAY scrawled untidily in paint on an old sheet. Who is Tracey ?
No idea.

HM Revenue and Customs
This morning, late March 2014, I received a letter from HMRC. On the back of the envelope was a printed note that started : HMRC changed banks in April 2009. The old accounts will be closing in 2010.

My first reaction was to congratulate them for using up old stationery.

My second reaction was to wonder why they were still doing so, three years after the event advertised. To be able to do so, means that the original order for envelopes with the message must have been way, way far too many.

Or do they know that the message is still needed, as so many people are only in contact with HMRC every three years or so?

Council tax
We were in London recently, and were not surprised to find that a house valued at about three times the value of our property, paid less Council Tax.

Why, because a few years ago everybody was to be re-rated, but such was the outcry, that only Wales was done.

And what do we get for the extra? Less, in most cases.

Consider those who have a free travel pass. I have one and can use it only on buses within Wales. In Kerry, we have a couple of buses into Newtown each day, and then connect to buses elsewhere. But the services are not very frequent. And that is the total of it.

In London, where the Council tax is lower, a Freedom Pass (as the thing is called) allows travel at Standard Class on most local rail services in London, provided travel is at particular times, on all Transport for London (TfL) buses (in the Greater London area) at any time of day or night, plus local bus services run by other bus companies which are outside the TfL bus network.

Good eh? But there is more. The pass is also valid on many other bus services in England meaning it can be used on most local services around the country.

And for good measure, it is accepted all day, every day on the whole of the London Underground (the 'tube'), Overground (which replaced the old Silverlink service) and Docklands Light Railway (DLR) network. And is accepted all day, every day on London's trams.

Many people say that they save more with free travel than they pay in Council Tax.

Many will know Sustrans as the people who build cycle paths and so on. They have recently been working along the Montgomeryshire canal, and have put out a map of the route. They have been issuing maps for years, and must have a large cartographic department, with a lot of experience.

Yet, they still make the silliest of basic mistakes. The map shows a small wire basket, meaning shop? No such symbol in the legend. A cup and saucer is shown in Abermule, meaning cafe, but none exists.

And whilst on the subject, why, after all these years, are labels on jars not stuck on using water-based glue? In my experience, the more 'green' the product, the more difficult it is to get the label off.

1. The President fled after a popular uprising by the people (well, those in the capital city, not those in the east).

2. The people have expressed the feelings, say the Americans and our Little William Hague. We should respect their feelings.

3. Yesterday, the people of the Crimean peninsula voted to go back to Russia. So, again, the people have expressed their feelings, by the ballot box, unlike those in the capital. We do not accept this, say the Americans and Little William Hague. Outrageous.

Putin rules
Western governments are spluttering with indignation following Russia's invasion of Ukraine's Crimean peninsula – but in an economically interconnected world, spluttering may be their only response. “There's nothing we can do," Keir Giles of Chatham House, an international affairs think-tank based in London.

1. Russia has 1300 nuclear warheads ready to launch, and any confrontation would derail US-Russian collaboration on key matters such as Iran's nuclear programme, Syria's chemical weapons, even the route for US withdrawal from Afghanistan.

2. The chief stumbling block to any Western action is the interconnectedness of the global economy. Sevastopol, the Crimean town which is the only port for Russia's Black Sea fleet, is also vital for grain shipments. Ukraine is the world's sixth-largest exporter of wheat and fourth largest of maize, accounting for 18 per cent of the world's maize exports. Disrupting that with military action or a blockade would destabilise grain prices, causing political unrest worldwide. Wheat and corn prices have already jumped over the current confrontation.

3. Economic responses, such as sanctions, also stand little chance. The EU, especially Germany, needs Russia for 30 per cent of its natural gas, says Anders Aslund of the Peterson Institute for International Economics in Washington DC, and Russia controls the pipelines. Russia, in turn, needs the $100 billion Europe pays annually for its gas. Who would blink first? With no sanctions on the EU agenda, there seems little appetite to find out.

Rich nations could try to block Putin's wealthy supporters from accessing the world's financial markets. "That would hurt us more than it hurts them," says Giles. The UK's trade surplus with Russia brings in much-needed income. Some banks, especially in London, rely on the $56 billion that flows out of Russia yearly, and are part of a fragile, tightly coupled system on which most of the world's economy depends.

If we are all interconnected, don't Russia's actions hurt it as much as everyone else? Giles sees no downside for Russia, or any obvious way to enforce rules against this kind of aggression within our networked system that doesn't do too much collateral damage elsewhere in the network.

Taken from the New Scientist 2959.

Absolutely completely unacceptable
If I hear David Cameron use any of the above words one more time, I will scream.
---David Cameron: Ed Balls has learnt 'absolutely nothing' from economic crisis.
---Prime Minister David Cameron says he is "absolutely delighted" for Zara Phillips and Mike Tindall, following the birth of their baby daughter.
---The second time, he even pledged to be “absolutely clear”.
---"I've been very clear that we must handle this in absolutely the correct way...

---Russia’s actions were, David Cameron said, “completely unacceptable”.
---Prince Harry's 'Paki' comments 'completely unacceptable', says David Cameron.
---David Cameron has described revelations that the Tory party co-treasurer Peter Cruddas offered access to the prime minister and chancellor for up to £250,000 as "completely unacceptable".
---David Cameron: horse meat scandal 'completely unacceptable'.
---David Cameron said it was "completely unacceptable" for a police officer to falsify their account of an incident...

Scottish devolution
From their actions and words, one can only assume that the Conservatives want Scotland to vote 'Yes' and break away. And they are trying hard to see that this happens.

For example :
1. All the Labour voters will vote against Cameron, by voting 'Yes'. Would you side with him? Even if they did not vote, it would help the 'Yes' people tremendously.

2. Cameron holds a Cabinet meeting in Scotland to rub it in that he rules the country.

3. Cameron tells, yes tells, the Scots that he does not want them to break away. And if you are 'told' something by someone you do not like, you try to spoil things, by voting 'Yes'.

4. And today, it is announced that the government (in Westminster) is considering moving the UK's clocks forward by an hour for a three-year trial period.

This would see the UK adopt Central European Time, with BST plus one hour in summer and GMT plus one in winter.

If adopted, the change would mean that for one autumn, the clocks would not go back, synchronising the UK with much of Europe (closer integration with Europe being an important Conservative policy), and meaning that British Summer Time (BST) would effectively continue throughout the winter.

The following spring the clocks would go forward to BST plus one hour, or two hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) - something which has been called "double summertime".

But for years the case in favour of change has struggled because of opposition in Scotland where it would leave some northern-most areas without daylight until 10am during the winter months.

A spokeswoman for the Scottish government said its "established position" was that there was "no case for a change to existing arrangements".

I well remember the last trial, which seemed like 24 hour darkness. Terrible.

So the big question is : Why do they want Scotland to go? Simple. Because without Scotland, there would be far fewer Labour MPs, and the Tories would rule forever.

Quote : As I noted earlier this week, the Scottish independence referendum is win-win for the Conservatives. If Scotland votes No, the Union is saved, if Scotland votes Yes, the Tories win a huge advantage over Labour. While Ed Miliband's party would be stripped of 41 MPs, David Cameron's would lose just one. This has prompted some to suggest that an independent Scotland would leave the Tories with an inbuilt "permanent majority".

And do not forget the coalition's little mentioned boundary changes (which will deprive Labour of 28 seats, the Tories of 7 and the Lib Dems of 11).

Money buys everything
The right to settle in Britain should be auctioned off to wealthy foreign investors, government advisers say.

At present migrants can gain entry by investing £1m or more in the UK.

Auction winners would benefit from relaxed residency requirements, effectively halving to 90 days the amount of time an individual has to remain resident in the UK a year.

At the moment, migrants who invest £1m, £5m or £10m get permission to apply for permanent residence in the UK after living there for five, three or two years respectively. They do not need to speak English and can bring their spouses and dependents.

It is said that the British public gain little from this, as the investors buy gilts, which effectively is lending money to the government. But the migrant investors and their families, on the other hand, benefit from Britain's property rights, schools, capital markets and legal system.

The UK has operated a migration route for investors and their families since 1994 - but the amount they have had to invest has not changed in that time.

Last year (2013), 560 investor visas were issued, with a further 1,030 issued to the applicants' dependents. The figure has gone up from 140 applicants in 2009, with 264 dependents.
Nearly half of the investor visas issued since 2008 have gone to Russian or Chinese nationals - 433 and 419 respectively, out of a total of 1,647.

Yesterday's news
Have you ever tried to buy a copy of yesterday's newspaper? Impossible to find.

Similarly, even on the Internet, it is impossible to find what the current situation is with the areas that were flooded last week. Today is the 24th of February, and I can find nothing later than the 14th of February for the Thames Valley or the Somerset Levels.

There is a piece about Caterham, and on the BBC News site, something about a level crossing and a theatre in Somerset. Pathetic.

Stop trying to rule the world
The British just cannot stop sticking their noses into other people's business. Blair and Iraq : I know what is best. The Tories and Ukraine : Osborne encourages them to forge closer links with the EU, whilst his own people are fighting to distance themselves from the EU, and now Hague is going to Washington to speak to the American Secretary of State and the IMF about Ukraine.

All this, only a day or so after the Ukrainian President fled, and nobody has asked for any British help.

Bandwagon, jump, on.

Health care is a postcode lottery
We hear of so many things having different outcomes, depending on where you live. So often, postcodes are mentioned. Even more startling is the divide between urban and rural.

We live in Powys, formed from combining Montgomeryshire, Breconshire and Radnorshire (these geographical counties still exist, so please use them).

Powys occupies a quarter of the land area of Wales, yet does not have a single general hospital. No A&E hospital. How close is your nearest hospital? How long would you have to wait for an ambulance in an emergency?

Living in Kerry, it takes 45 minutes to drive to the nearest hospital in Shrewsbury. Thus, in an emergency, it would take an hour and a half to get an ambulance to us and back to the hospital, assuming one left when the call arrived. How does this compare with London or Cheltenham?

And there is talk of doing away with Shrewsbury hospital, taking everything to Telford, another 15, minutes away.

The local paper is forever running stories of Powys patients being denied health care, or having to wait longer than English patients, because we have to reply on Shropshire for health services, and their residents come first. Even though our health people have to pay.

Aberystwyth floods, floods and forest fires, well nearly.
Borth is just over the hill from Aberystwyth, so has been hit by the three storms this week, after nearly four weeks of heavy rain.

Behind the sea front, a low area of bog exists, and today, caught fire. At the same time as a weather warning for heavy rain, and more flooding in the Thames Valley and in Somerset.

Fracking will not cut gas bills : official
Large-scale fracking in the UK is not likely to lead to big reductions in household gas bills, Chancellor George Osborne has said.

Extracting shale gas would boost tax receipts and aid the UK economy, but he played down expectations that consumers would see big reductions in prices in evidence to a Lords committee.

Last August, David Cameron believed that fracking had "real potential" to drive energy bills down at a time when many families were struggling with rising prices. "Where we can relieve the pressure, we must," he said. "It's simple - gas and electric bills can go down when our home-grown energy supply goes up."

Environmental campaigners argue that fracking will do lasting damage to the landscape of the UK and will not deliver the economic benefits promised.

As I have mentioned before, we live on a small group of islands, with a vast chunk of the land area being hilly or mountainous. So most of the population are crowded on the low land. Shoulder to shoulder, towns, villages and people. There is just no room for extra motorways or more urban expansion. Fracking would have to be undertaken below your sitting room, unlike the vast open expanses of the USA, which Osborne idolises.

And even though there is no room for expansion in the London area, it sucks in money regardless. A new cross London railway, the proposed new HS2 railway and so on. With the communications advantages of the Internet, it would be far more realistic and sensible to promote growth in the Midlands and the North.

Even Wales. Mid-Wales has been arguing for an hourly train service from Shrewsbury to Aberystwyth for years. Most seem to agree that it is a good idea, much needed and will be a real benefit to the economy. So why has it not happened? No extra rolling stock is available. As simple as that.

Drop in real wages longest for 50 years, says Office for National Statistics
Real wages have been dropping consistently since 2010 - the longest period of falls since at least 1964, official figures show.

Real wages calculate earnings when the rising cost of living, or inflation, is taken into account.

The Office for National Statistics said real wages had fallen by 2.2% annually since the first three months of 2010.

Shorter working hours and reduced output were factors behind falling wages, it added.

Equal pay for men and women?
The new chief executive of HS2 Simon Kirby is to receive £750,000. No mention of whether this is a salary, with or without bonuses or for what period.

This figure is six times higher than that of current boss Alison Munro, who, I assume the government thinking goes, as a woman obviously does not need more.

Bathroom towels, car hub caps and tyre patterns
It must be so frustrating to be a person who designs car hub caps, or the tread on car tyres, let alone the band across the ends of towels. Everyone takes them for granted, and they exist and pass on without recognition.

Next time you are having a splash in the bathroom, glance at the bands across the ends of your towels. They are all different, which means that someone has taken the trouble to design them. There does not appear to be one design per towel manufacturer, and they change constantly.

The same with hub caps. Well, the ones one sees abandoned at the side of the road are never the same as on our car. Not that I can tell you what our hub caps look like, and neither can anyone reading this tell me what their hub caps look like.

Car tyres all have different patterns on the treads. And they again, change constantly. Some time ago, I read an article about this. The author wanted to know whether the road holding ability was forever being improved by the new designs. Better and better road holding. No, was the answer, the treads come from the desk of designers, not road scientists. They are designed to look tough and macho, thus giving the impression of good road holding performance.

I suppose this is the same as when we buy new tyres for a car. They sit there, with the little coloured lines and sparkle. One feels safe having bought them. But a few weeks later, after a couple of hours in the rain and a few hundred miles, they are dull and one assumes have lost a lot of their holding power.

£1.5m research work on flood-hit Talybont and Borth
This sounds wonderful. Money to help prevent more flooding? No. The money, £1.5 million is for this :
"The main aim of this work is to share and collaborate expertise in this field in order to better understand and communicate issues around water with communities so that people are more informed of the water issues affecting their area."

Got that? Clear as fresh water?

So, who is running this? Severn Trent? The Environment Agency?

No. Sara Penrhyn Jones, lecturer at the department of theatre, film and television studies will oversee Aberystwyth University's work.

Talk, talk, and more talk. Why not mime instead?
“The Hydrocitizenship project aims to help communities, individuals and policy-makers better understand water issues such as flood risk, drought risk, access to water, supply and waste system security in a creative way.”

Creative way. Perhaps they will stop mopping up the water to put on a play about flooding.

I am sure that the residents of Borth and Talybont will consider this money well spent.

Pet hates : Number six (in a series of 854)
This time it is seeing shirts with the top button done up and no tie. Even more upsetting than baseball caps, which, thankfully, only the odd person (pun intended) over eighty seems to own these days.

I think the first person I saw with a top button done up and no tie was Dylan in the sixties of the last century. Lots of pictures exist, but the worst one is on the back cover of Blonde on Blonde, where not only is the shirt as above, but it also has a button through the two collar tips. The collar tips are buttoned together.

The recent pictures of Charles Saatchi were even worse (not being able to look anywhere without seeing his image). A white shirt, fully buttoned, no tie and a dark jacket to emphasise the shirt. Does he wear anything else?

All of this was brought back to me just now, when I came across the Guardian showing a female fashion expert wearing the dreaded style. Sorry, if you have just returned from a click.

Just to make it clear, I am not against wearing a tie. I just do not like to see a shirt with the top button done up and no tie. If you have no tie, please keep the shirt open at the top. Although even that now looks so scruffy. Endless reporters and senior museum staff appear with a nice white shirt, always white, no tie and look as if they have just got out of bed. Even school kids with no tie seem to be able to carry it off better.

A while later : the new Doctor Who is up to it as well.

The meaning of Christmas
The following is a letter to our local paper in 2003, from Anthony Jones of Welshpool.

Alan Johnson is wrong to complain about the 'true meaning of Christmas'. Saturnalia, or the winter solstice, was a drinking and partying mid-winter festival designed to celebrate the lengthening days.

It was hijacked and (bogusly) converted to Christ's birthday because Christians are terrible at inventing their own celebrations.

Easter was likewise nicked from the 'Oh good, at last it's Spring' festival, which is why eggs (representing new life) and bunnies (fertility) aren't found in the Bible.

The best the Christians have managed in the last 2,000 years is the miserable Lent (giving up things - what a hoot).

Whatever ridiculous superstitious beliefs these people want to hold is fine by me, but if they want a pious religious holiday then they should invent their own and stop trying to ruin ours.

Town centres
We can all see that town centres are full of charity shops and estate agents and lacking customers. Why? Ask those people who no longer go to town centres what they want, why they have stopped going. This seems the sensible thing to do. So, the headline news that a new report on town centres has been published looked promising. Was it?

No. As ever these days, it is those who stand to make a lot of money who get in first and lead any discussion. The report comes from The Distressed Town Centre Property Taskforce, composed of senior retailers, property investors, landlords and bankers.

And what do they suggest? That the government should designate town and city centres as key national infrastructure in order to open up new funding opportunities. And who would benefit from the funding? Retailers, property investors, landlords and bankers.

Surprise, surprise.

Nothing from the shoppers, those who live in town centres, or those shops struggling against Tesco.

Has the World Wide Web passed its usefulness date?
The Internet works for most of us, and goes from strength to strength, even though one is aware of all the problems of snooping and foreign agency activity. But the World Wide Web, that part of the Internet, the interlinked hypertext documents, accessed via the Internet, where one can view web pages, well parts of that are most certainly now of little use.

Hi-jacked in many cases. So much of the web can easily be manipulated, with the manipulators unseen and in most cases, unknown and unsuspected.

So, what is the bee today? Getting advice on-line. In the good old days, the early days, six years ago even, one could type in 'Washing machine review' or 'Cement mixer review' and a list of sites offering reviews would appear, with the reviews being quite useful, offering good advice, what to avoid and best buys. No longer. Look at any such site and there are so many 'reviews' that the whole is useless. Swamped. A great number are just pointless. About a quarter are from people who have only just bought the item, delivered that day, and 'it looks nice', which a picture can show. Or they have bought it as a present and have not actually used the item. The majority of so called 'reviews' are concerned with the appearance, not the quality or ability to do what it was bought for.

I am not sure why, but the best sites for reviews are those for accommodation, hotels, bed and breakfast and so on. Twenty or thirty saying the place has a fantastic breakfast, and a mixed reaction to the rooms is useful. Twenty or thirty saying the place has a fantastic breakfast and the rooms are poor and dirty, is even better. Why do people have such strong feelings about a place in which they spend most of the time there sleeping? To be continued, off to have a bath. At home.

Later. My feeling is that most people see staying somewhere overnight as just that, somewhere to sleep. And whilst asleep, surroundings are of no importance. So why pay a lot? OK, it all depends on what one considers 'a lot', and there are a host of other things included with the room, ambience, refreshment tray, bath, shower, TV, tourist advice from the owners/staff.

For a lot of people writing reviews, the breakfast is important. A good breakfast is a treat when one is away, until it appears on the fourth morning, and then it is a struggle. But as I only have a light breakfast at home, a good full Welsh or even English breakfast will easily keep me going until mid-afternoon, when a cake will see me until an evening meal.

Now, suppose the basic price for two people for one night, including breakfast is £60. The price of a good breakfast is often £6 on the high street, so the use of the bed and facilities costs £54. Fifty four pounds just for hoovering round and changing the linen, some say. Forgetting the cost of buying the property, the days of no bookings, tax and so on.

But breakfasts and all meal fascinate me. I keep meaning to visit our local college and speak to the people running the catering classes. Why? Well, we were once visiting a friend who is the manager of a very large hotel. He invited us to a bar lunch of pie, peas and chips, or similar. We offered to pay but he said that the ingredients cost about 40p, on a menu price of £4. Ten per cent. And ever since, I have looked at menus and tried to cost the ingredients. For most bar snacks, it does seem to hold up. An even mark up is made on drinks, where a pot of tea with two one-penny tea bags costs £1.50.

I am very found of liver. One can buy a greater quantity of pigs liver, more than I am happy to eat for about 80p, yet in any establishment, it will cost about £7-£8.50 for liver and mashed potatoes (they never seem to offer veg as well). And the quantity is only adequate. Why be mean on something so inexpensive? Or consider a nice trout, on the menu at £8-9, when one double the size can be bought in a large supermarket (fresh, not frozen) for £2. Half the size for 80-90p trade price, ten per cent?

As I hint above, overheads are built into the prices mentioned. If the pickings were so good, far more people would be giving up a safe job (if any such exist), taking on a large loan (if any such were obtainable) and opening a new restaurant (if premises were not being snapped up by charity shops and small coffee shops). Coffee shops and tea, as I said, the mark up on drinks is formidable. I understand that a large coffee shop chain is opening 800 new outlets in 2014.

Bon appétit.

Alas, this page is now being added to again
Silence has been golden for sixteen months, some have said, but now normal service has been started again.

So, what has changed out there in that time? Nothing much. The wicked Tories have gone back to their old ways of having no policies, but plenty of personal insults to divert the press away from their failings. A good number more foreigners have been appointed to run large British companies and financial institutions. Bits and pieces are being sold off cheap in order to get a lump sum now, rather than a good return in the future. And this, from a government and their friends the financial bods who tell us that investments are for the long term. Which means, the wealthy do invest for the long term, not being able to do anything else, having far too much money to spend, but when playing at their day jobs, and being able to sell off our property, they do so to their friends at a knock down price. As did the wicked witch with the utilities.

Osborne. Full name George Gideon Oliver Osborne, ggoo 'a nasty sticky unwholesome substance' OED. Have you ever noticed that his face looks really pasty, and his shirts are the sort of off white that soap powder adverts use for the 'not washed by Persil' shirt?

Anyway, on the radio this morning, when talking about controlling pay-day loan companies, he said "Anybody, like myself, who believes in the free market, wants that market to be regulated". But did not go on to say that such regulation will be by his sort, and for the benefit of his sort. Selling used Ordnance Survey maps is a perfectly free market (whatever that means), anyone can do it, anywhere, at any time. Competition rules. But what about the utilities, the railways, the banks? Competition is good, we are told. It drives prices down. So, you get about six or ten large companies in a sector, say electricity and they will fight it out and drive prices down. Correct? Wrong? They all know that the customers who leave them, will be replaced by those leaving their rivals, and the costs are far too high for anyone else to enter the sector. Walk down the high street and go into the supermarket for baked beans. If you do not like the price, you walk out, and into the next one and buy at a lower price. Such competition works. If you do not like the prices charged by your electricity company or bank, it takes a degree in form filling to change and takes several months. So you do nothing. Is this competition?

Those running the large concerns have no stake in it. They make a complete mess, leaving shareholders (pension funds, our money) to bear the loss, and walk into a new job in days.

Watch this space
The long silence is almost over.

We know it well
Today's geology lesson : The Elvis rock.

Do you know?
What is the difference between the Border Force and the UK Border Agency?

Another useful map tool
A quick way to get the 1:2500 County Series sheet number is provided by The National Archives (UK not US) :Valuation Office map finder.

It appears to work with place or post code.

As I have mentioned before
The Tories never change. They are still the party of the wealthy and privileged. Recently we have had tax cuts for those with the highest remuneration (I cannot call them earners), the poor and pensioners have been clobbered, and now they want to keep the House of Lords free from further reform. Most peers receive a flat rate of £300 for each day they attend Parliament. Look after your own.

I am not shocked
"We don't pay taxes. Only the little people pay taxes..."

So said Leona Helmsley, American businesswoman.

And the Chancellor is 'shocked' at tax avoidance over here? What a sheltered life he must have led, especially amongst the wealthy.

British drought?
It really is obscene to suggest there is a drought anywhere in Britain.

It devalues the word. If we have a drought, what should we call the situation in parts of Africa, where water is really in short supply?

Has the grass on Clapham Common turned brown as in 1976? Have the Spring flowers failed to appear? Has the Thames turned to a muddy channel? No.

If people stopped having a shower once or twice a day, and thought about how they use water, there would be no talk of drought. The reservoirs are not full because too much is being used needlessly. Cut demand and all will be well.

And talking of wells, our water comes from a well two fields away. Montgomeryshire has more wells than any other county. If there is to be a drought, we will feel the effects sooner and harder than town dwellers.

Never mind the quality, the statistics look good 1
Huge amounts of public money have been handed to private companies to train apprentices with little scrutiny over how it is being spent.

BBC Panorama found that nearly £250m worth of contracts went to large subcontractors in 2011 which have not been inspected by Ofsted.

This is because of a loophole in the government's £1.4bn training scheme.

Some of the companies involved did not even have jobs to offer young people who signed on as apprentices.

The programme also found evidence of a training firm forging paperwork to try to gain accreditations.

In 2011, the government in England spent £1.4bn to create more than 450,000 apprenticeships, a 63% rise on the previous year.

In order to meet demand for apprenticeships, further education colleges are increasingly subcontracting work to private training firms.

Unlike colleges, these firms are not subjected to regular inspection.

In the case of one subcontractor, Forward Thinking Training Solutions, a painting and decorating apprenticeship for an NVQ was to be delivered in 16 weeks, rather than the year that industry experts say it should take to properly train an apprentice.

The company went into administration last month.

Scott Upton, vice principal of Sandwell College in Birmingham, said a formal apprenticeship is the "gold standard of vocational training" and rushing candidates through an apprenticeship programme will devalue the entire system.

"When you get new entrants into the market wanting to put people through as quickly as possible without providing the highest quality, that's got to be a cause for concern."

Never mind the quality 2
The head of a mental health charity has left a government panel implementing changes to the welfare system, describing them as "deeply flawed".

Chief executive of Mind, Paul Farmer says he quit because ministers refused to listen to his criticism of the current fitness-to-work test.
"The test itself is not fit for purpose. It's extremely crude," he said.
Some 50% of people deemed fit to work have appealed against the decision and 50% of those have been successful, Mr Farmer said.

"So this is costing huge amounts of money to the country, but more importantly it's causing huge amounts of distress to people with mental health problems."

Some nice news for a change
Nice news

A green government?
The government has advised motorists to refill tanks when half-empty.

Yet every piece of advice says do not carry excess weight around and hence waste petrol and money. And notice for a strike has not even been given. People can fill up, if necessary, once they know a strike is called.

So much for a green government.

Unbelievable : I agree with the Daily Telegraph (Damian Reece)
It's not just pasties that are causing George Osborne's Budget to prove problematic.

As we reveal today, its NewBuy scheme is in trouble, too. Planned for months, it is designed to help first-time buyers own a new home. But it's already unravelling.

Like VAT on pasties, it's an example of a Budget measure that's ill thought through with unintended consequences and of dubious benefit.

Increasing the supply of new homes on the market through an artificial scheme underwritten by the state is not obviously in the interest of house builders trying to regain profitability and protect margins.

Similarly, it's not obvious why it's in the wider economy's interests for the Government to increase the number of young people with 95pc mortgages - condemning many of them to instant negative equity. Both lenders and house builders have good reasons for steering clear to protect their commercial interests.

Add in the complexity of the scheme and it has all the hallmarks of a disaster in waiting.

The Coalition is impatient for economic recovery and wants to fund a building boom through subsidised mortgages - the sort of madcap scheme that got us into the credit crisis in the first place.

Recovery from recession induced by banking crises is notoriously slow. But risky, highly leveraged quick fixes such as NewBuy are no solution. Consumers will spend to turn the engine of recovery only when they feel more confident. That largely comes from job security and job prospects. Granting house builders, and all other employers, a holiday on the National Insurance job tax would have been a more meaningful and less risky Budget measure than trying to rig the housing market short term.

Front page article. Well worth reading.

So, others are not too impressed by the Olumpics
10 reasons some people will dread the Olumpics

Stamp prices
So, the Post Office has been ordered to increase the price of stamps. Yes, ordered. By putting prices up, the business will look more attractive when it is privatised, and the buyer will keep prices at the same level for a while, thus allowing the Tories to say that privatisation has not resulted in higher prices.

Which is exactly the same as happened when Thatcher got rid of the utilities.

More Tory help for bankers, with our money
The UK government is in talks to sell a significant stake in the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) to Abu Dhabi, the BBC reports.
It could sell up to a third of its stake, our stake, which is likely to to be a loss-making sale, as RBS shares trade at much less than the UK government paid in 2008.
The deal could see at least 10% and up to one-third of our stake sold. At current prices, it would mean that taxpayers could potentially suffer losses of £1bn for every £1bn paid by the government.


An advantage of a deal for the government is that it could deflect political pressure in the run-up to the next contentious bonus season.

Therefore, the Tories want to sell part of RBS in order to help the bankers keep next year's high bonuses away from public view. Sell it at a loss, a loss to the taxpayer, all who read this, just to help their friends. In exactly the same way Thatcher squandered North Sea oil and sold off the utilities, in order to enrich her friends. Same old Tories.

£300 a day and no qualifications needed
The government's chief whip has told the House of Lords that peers' expenses total nearly £500,000 a week.

Unlike MPs, most peers are not paid a salary but receive a flat rate of £300 for each day they attend Parliament.

They also get some travel costs paid.

The Lords rarely sits on a Friday, which would make the cost from Monday to Thursday approximately £124,000 per day.

And the mansion tax is nonsense as well
Accountants warn it won't be easy to introduce the tax : the government dare not introduce a 7% stamp duty charge on purchases of shares in all companies; and if the higher stamp rate is restricted to companies whose only asset is a house, proving that's the case won't be easy for companies registered in secretive tax havens such as the Cayman Islands.

Full piece

How stupid can a Chancellor be?
Robert Peston writes :
Business leaders also love the cut in the top rate of income tax from 50% to 45%.

And who can be surprised, given that HMRC estimates that it hands over £3bn a year to those earning more than £150,000 a year.

But HMRC also believes that those on highest incomes will change their tax avoiding ways as a consequence of the tax cut - and will therefore voluntarily or semi-voluntarily hand back most of that to the Exchequer.

And here is the risk for the government in these important tax changes - they are designed to spur changes in behaviour that may not materialise.

Some will wonder whether those with big incomes who have found devices to reduce their tax burden will abandon those devices simply because their tax rate has dropped by five percentage points.

In the meantime, the government expects to lose £2.4bn of precious revenue in the current year, as the 250,000 highest earners defer dividends and bonuses to take advantage of the deferred lower tax rate and load up with tax reliefs before a ceiling is put on them.

And from Saga on the grannytax:
"Because in this economy many younger people borrowed far too much and the banks got into trouble, the government seems to believe it is right and fair to take money away from those who did do something to look after themselves, and use it bail out younger borrowers and banks," said Ros Altmann, Director General of Saga.

A Treasury minister has just been on the radio and said that pensioners as a group, have been well protected from the cuts.

1. Well protected from the VAT rise, which hits those on fixed incomes and the poor the most?

2. Well protected from the NHS cuts, which the elderly use a lot?

3. Well protected from the very low interest rates, cutting pensioners income considerably?

And now the grannytax.

Yet more wind farm madness
For those who have no idea what wind farms involve, here is a typical example of an application.

Neuadd Goch Wind Farm application has been submitted by RWE for 9 Turbines, 126m high ( 413 feet ) on part of Dolfor Moor Common land and close to the Kerry Ridgeway.

This is a most opportunist and potentially devastating windfarm that will completely destroy the uniqueness of the moor, its remoteness and stunning views. The turbines will be seen for miles around.

In the plans they state that there will be about 8,000 HGV movements for just 9 turbines! Yes, 8,000 lorry movements for erecting 9 turbines. It is estimated that 13,725 sq metres will be covered in concrete removing huge areas of peat wet heath. Each concrete base is roughly the size of an Olympic swimming pool. The whole ecology of the area will be badly affected.

The projected output is 27MW but as wind farms only work at 25% of capacity this equals 6.75MW, or some 0.38% of the output of the new 2GW Pembroke gas fired power station.

The only reason RWE are bothering is that they will reap huge subsidies just for constructing the turbines. The income from operating them is of no interest. They have no interest in the people living close by and in the surrounding villages, or Powys residents.

A useful website
In this morning's post, we received a form saying that we had to register our septic tank. A full Grid reference is needed (they do not call it the National Grid), the two letters and ten digits. To help, one is directed to www.gridreferencefinder.com, where you enter the post code and somewhere near your property is shown. Right click and the reference for your property is given. Neat.

An added bonus for us is that one can click on a property and get the Post Code. We so often get requests for somewhere and need to know the post code as well.

They want it all ways
So, 500 business leaders have written asking for the 50p tax rate to be abolished. At the same time the Liberals want the starting rate for paying tax to be raised to £10,000, to help the poor.

What is never mentioned, is that raising this lower figure benefits everyone who pays tax, rich and poor. So, the wealthy want their tax bill cut at the top, whilst aware that it might also be cut at the bottom.

Why not have a sliding scale and really help the poor? For anyone earning under £25,000 a year, the first £10,000 is tax free. For anyone earning £25,001 to £35,000 the first £9,000 is tax free, and so on. In this way, the rich will only try to avoid paying tax on their great excesses, and will not get the first £10,000 tax free in exactly the same way as the very poor do.

And none of your lower income earners, if people are poor, call them poor. After all, it is the year of Charles Dickens.

I am the Queen, I am rich, give me a Jubilee party
A good customer who now lives in France has emailed and said that 'French friends cannot understand why one of the world's richest women will not pay for her own parties'.

Work experience
It has been put to me that work is going out, doing something and being paid for it. A nice experience. The government's idea of work experience is going out, doing something and coming home again. Hardly an experience to motivate anyone.

Perhaps they can boost the retail sector by introducing shopping experiences. People can go to shops, choose what they want and take them home. Same idea.

French help
So, we have asked the French if they would kindly build some nuclear power stations for us.

Why? Because we do not have the ability to do so.

Why? Because Thatcher got rid of most engineering sectors.

Why? Because she believed Britain should specialise in Financial Services.

Why? Because they were not unionised, and no engineering and no industry meant no unions.

Why do people tend to stick small blue airmail stickers on at an angle?

Good old Robert Peston
When a south London secondary school asked for an inspiring guest speaker to talk to their pupils, they didn't expect Bill Gates to turn up. But youngsters at Deptford Green School, gathered in their school hall on Wednesday morning, found themselves being addressed by one of the great philanthropists of the modern age. Mr Gates, on the classic Seattle-Deptford-Davos route, received a rapturous welcome from a packed hall full of south London teenagers.

Getting Mr Gates to a community school in south London was also an impressive feather in the cap for the Speakers for Schools project, set up by the BBC's Robert Peston - which seeks to get high-profile figures to talk to pupils in state schools.

Nick Chambers, director of the Education and Employers Taskforce which administers the scheme, told the school assembly that this unexpected visit from Bill Gates all came from a Friday night in November when English teacher Keely Wilson decided to apply for someone interesting to visit.

What the government saves, we pay for
We will soon start seeing the new 5p and 10p coins which use steel instead of copper and are 11% thicker. The Treasury said the new coins were cheaper to make and the move would save taxpayers £7.5m each year. Which could then be given away in bribes at the next election, methinks.

However, the vending machine industry may have to spend as much as £80m to adapt, as the thicker coins may not fit into parking meters, drink and snack machines and payphones. Consultation with all concerned? No. Consultation is a sign of weakness and usually results in a U-turn sooner than no consultation.

The Local Government Association called for an urgent decision on whether changes will be made to the £1 coin, to ensure councils do not face the expensive changes to parking meters a second time. A fine example of government non-forward thinking.

All change sides?
I am still trying to work it out.

In the old days, things were nice and simple. On the one side we had Tory capitalists who believed competition was best. They saw the opposition as trade unions, the public sector and co-operatives (who were socialists).

David now says co-operatives are really good, and wants competition to be the norm in the public sector. So, is the future to be Tory co-operative business and industry, with the opposition being the competitive public sector?

Olumpic questions numbers 28 and 29
There will be an Olumpic Route Network (ORN) and Games Lanes for officials, international media, VIPs, emergency vehicles and all hanger ons.

The Games Lanes are expected to be full of official cars for VIPs.

Question 28 : Why are the official cars to be BMWs, and why 4,000 of them? Why not a range of cars, including, dare I say it, less expensive cars?

Needless to say the special route and games only lanes have 'sparked anger with businesses and residents concerned about increased congestion and traffic restrictions, particularly in London'.

What are they moaning about? The Olumpics are to cheer us up, in preparation for the jubilee.

Question 29
If the one-day Royal wedding last year caused the monthly industrial figures to be so bad, what will be the effect of the combined 27 day Olumpics and Paralumpics?

10 mile Planning maps
Chris Fleet of the National Library of Scotland, has not been idle. His team have added another good chunk of Ordnance Survey material to their website. This time, the Planning Maps Series.

These thematic maps of Great Britain in the 1940s and 1950s can be browsed as a set of georeferenced overlays.

The main themes shown on the maps illustrate a broad range of natural and man-made subjects. These include Administrative Areas, Coal and Iron, Farming, Geology, Land Classification and Land Utilisation, Limestone, Local Accessibility, Population Density and Population Change, Railways, Rainfall, and Roads. The original plans for the series included over 40 titles, but not all of these were published. In addition, the NLS holdings are incomplete, and some maps were not published until the 1960s, so are therefore still in copyright. The website here presents an inital set of 22 thematic maps each covering Great Britain on two sheets.

Through georeferencing, the maps can now be easily compared to modern maps, including Google maps and satellite images, through a transparency slider (currently working in most browsers!). Searching is also possible by a gazetteer and Grid Reference. The different thematic maps can then be viewed successively for any particular place.

Quotes for 2012
In his latest book Real Powys, Mike Parker says that when Charles and Lady Di were married, they had only met thirteen times before.

Whilst trying to check this, I came across a terrific porky from Stupid David :
British prime minister David Cameron recalled sleeping along the processional route for Charles and Diana's wedding in 1981. (Do you believe that? Or was he in a cardboard box with Osborne?) "I suppose like many people my age (I) have watched Prince William grow up and all the challenges he's had -- obviously losing his mother, but now finding love and wanting to get married," he told Sky News. "Like anyone who's lived in Britain, you feel quite an attachment to this event and that's why I think the whole country's getting so excited about it."

Did you get so excited by the wedding? Just as he thinks we will all get so excited about the Olumpics and the Queen's Jubilee. Silly man. I will have to get out my old badge that says 'Stop the cuts. Stuff the jubilee'. Same old things when the Tories are about.

The shareholders rule. OK?
So, Stupid David has had another idea that will not work. Let shareholders have the final say on executive pay. At the AGM, item thirty six is executive remuneration (pay plus bonuses, plus expenses, plus pensions, plus share options and so on). A five hundred per cent increase is proposed. Stupid David stands up and calls on the other shareholders to vote against this, and is seconded by Colonel Witherington. When put to the vote, twenty five people (shareholders) vote for the motion not to increase remuneration, and fifty five million votes are cast for remuneration increases, these votes being cast by five people representing large finance companies and banks. (And the Tories think the union block vote bad?)

It works like this.

Sir A, is Chairman of Allied Limited, who hold 65% of the shares in Company B. As Allied hold so many shares, Sir A is of course a Board member of Company B. Got that?

Lord B, is Chairman of the said Company B, who hold 65% of the shares in Allied Limited. As Company B hold so many shares, Lord B is of course a Board member of Allied Limited. Got that?

During the past financial year, Lord B forced through the subsequently disastrous purchase of another concern, resulting in a 50% fall in profits for Company B.

At the AGM, a massive remuneration increase is proposed for Lord B, who did so badly during the year. So, it is up to Sir A to use his 65% shareholding to stamp on this once and for all. Will he? Nooooooooooooooooo.

If he did, Lord B would vote down the large increase proposed for Sir A at the Allied Limited AGM.

So, the shareholders have the final say. What will Stupid David think of next?

We have just returned from visiting parents in London and have to admit that the Olumpic flame does not appear to have hit the place yet. In fact, nobody mentioned it. And when I mentioned it, the event seems to be seen as a slightly larger Wimbledon : something that most people know is going on, are sick of on the telly and are just waiting for it to finish.

Here in lovely Wales, it most certainly is seen as a London event. Well, they even call it 'The London Olumpics'. All that money going to London, and then, and then? Nothing. Full stop.

Enthusiasm here is zero. Five big linked zeros in different colours.

It appears that London only got the chance to waste so much money by promising that these games would encourage the young to take up sport. So what happened when it was announced that London would host the games? The Lottery stopped all funding for sport in Wales and gave it to the Olumpics. Kerry football club had money in the pipeline for a badly needed changing room. Cut. At once. As has been all extra money for youngsters wanting to take part in sport.
This morning, it was announced that money would be put into creating community sports centres in every secondary school in England, to be a legacy from the Olumpics.
'Culture secretary Mr Hunt said despite huge investment of public funds since winning the Games, less young people were playing sport.' Which reads as : despite huge investment of public funds in the Olumpics, and nothing spent anywhere else, less young people were playing sport. Surprising?

In Wales, the legacy will be that anyone currently in the sixth form or below, has passed through a secondary education with no extra funding for sport. Encouraging?

I have not heard the Lottery mentioned recently. Perhaps all the money has gone to the London bash and they are keeping quiet.

Happy New Year
I would like to wish everyone a better 2012 than they had during 2011, but obviously there are sections of society that are to be excluded. If these few did better, then millions of others would suffer. Suffer even more than they are doing now.

It did cross my mind to make a resolution for 2012, not to go on about the wicked bankers and politicians. But then I also believe that if one does not point out things that are wrong or try to change them, then it is the same as accepting and going along with them. So, I will just have to see what happens.

Poor pussy
A friend of the family who has several cats, thought that a large kitten had a blockage. A visit to the vets showed that it had swallowed a clockwork mouse.

OS Converter
A couple lost in the dark on the Brecon Beacons have been rescued with help from a smart phone app. Brecon Mountain Rescue Team helped the man and woman download a specialist application over the phone to pinpoint exactly where they were.

The couple did not have a map, compass or torch and became lost, and as darkness fell they raised the alarm.

Mark Jones, deputy team leader of Brecon Mountain Rescue, said: "We were able to help them download OS Converter, an app that gives you your grid reference. That told us exactly where they were so we could find them on the mountain and escort them to safety".

Mr Jones said that thanks to the app, the rescue took three-and-a-half hours rather than taking all night, as the couple were more than a mile away from where they thought they might be. "Technology saved us all a night on the mountain, but it can never take the place of a traditional map and compass and being properly prepared," Mr Jones added.

Spotty dog
Count the number of spots on these.

Car headlights
We have always had a small car, and are now on our third (?) Renault Clio, having had several Renault 5s previously. A car is just to get from A to B. Full stop. Thus, it is not surprising that I take little interest in things such as headlights. Except that in the last couple of years, I have noticed a new type of headlight, usually on big expensive cars, that I am set against. They constantly change colour when behind you, sometimes blue, sometimes orange and are really distracting, especially on winding country roads. A major danger on the road.

My assumption has been that they are intended to give more light, and it appears they are called Xenon headlights, but I might be wrong. The European Commission believes they will save lives. In addition, it believes that using lights during the day will also save lives.

Critics insist such moves are initiated by a greedy industry eager to sell more lights and light bulbs. They say modern lights risk blinding other motorists and might draw attention away from pedestrians and those on two wheels, thus making it more dangerous for them.
The UK in particular was opposed, as "motorcyclists in Britain have a habit of using headlights during the day", observes Peter Rodger, chief examiner and head of driving standards at the Institute of Advanced Motorists.
Having come back from Devon in poor light and then darkness, I am more convinced than ever that these new lights are dangerous.
a. Nearly all of the 'older' cars that seem to have had them fitted appear to have problems with them. Usually, the light on the driver's side appears to be on full beam constantly.
b. The vast number of colours possible from such lights is just so distracting. One cannot help but keep looking at them in the rear view mirror to try and work out what is wrong with them. I started tipping my mirror up so that a ghost image is seen and does not distract me.

But in spite of vocal opposition, just under a year ago, on 7 February 2011, the Commission made it compulsory for all new cars to be equipped with daytime running lights that switch on automatically when the engine is started. The same will be the case for new trucks from August 2012.

As yet, only a tiny proportion of the cars on the road have daytime driving lights fitted, and currently only 17% of new cars are fitted with Xenon headlights.

Read more .

Welsh Journals Online
I just cannot keep up with what is available on-line, nor, for many things, do I think to look on-line. On Tuesday, I requested two articles in journals not taken by Powys Libraries from our local library. This morning, someone telephoned and said that one item was available on-line from Welsh Journals Online. I had a quick look at the site, found the article and have just printed it out. Brilliant.

Welsh Journals Online provides free access to scholarship from Wales. Back-numbers of up to 50 titles are available here, ranging from academic and scientific publications to literary and popular magazines. The presentation of the journals on the web has been undertaken by the National Library of Wales with support from JISC and the Welsh Assembly Government, and the cooperation of publishers and authors.

Complete runs of each title have been included; the most recent issue available depends on the publisher, and will vary from title to title. Occasional papers, Index volumes and Monographs are sometimes included.
Newspapers, and publications from outside the UK, have not been included in the resource at present, and nor have the 70 publications whose publishers have not yet given permission. Electronic publications are not included.

Some pages have been blanked out for copyright reasons on the website.

Lost treasures
I have always been fascinated by things that are 'lost' and then found again, after having vanished from living memory. And it happens in all walks of life. Things are put to one side and forgotten, or fall into disuse, or are used for another purpose and so on.

Music scores are found bound with other material or used as part of the binding for a volume, earlier paintings are found to have been painted over. Lost gardens were popular a few years ago and old cars are found in excellent condition sitting in farm buildings.

It is so easily done, by all of us. I am not one to file everything away in perfect order. I have files for 'Bank', 'Electricity', 'Car' and so on, and just put anything received into the front of the file. I see no need to keep such things in any other order as they will almost certainly never be wanted, so why waste time on them. If they are needed, looking through a file will need less time than constant filing within files. When a file is full, it is sorted and any blank A4 sides are used for the computer printer. In this way, things are kept for another few years. And might be of interest when looked at again.

Similarly, I am a great one for tucking things into books or pamphlets. And of course can never remember where they are. Lost until stumbled on. But isn't it nice to find such things. Ah, nostalgia.

Two recent examples : Gwen John and David Bowie .

Word of the moment
During the last week or so, everybody seems to be using the word iconic. Any reason why?

What do we mean by the word 'free'?
A private profit-making Swedish company has won a £21m contract to manage a proposed free school in Suffolk. Free schools cannot be run for profit - but their trusts can buy in services from private firms.

£21 million just to manage a school. I assume this money is surplus to the needs of the local authority education budget, and will not be missed.

Another fun site
Have a look at this and then scroll down beneath the clip for more in the BBC 'Close Up' series.

Is the City worse off after David Cameron's EU veto?
The European single market is the largest such market in the world with almost 500 million residents. It guarantees four fundamental freedoms for all countries and companies within the EU: the free movement of goods, labour, services and capital.

Few other countries or industries have benefited as much as Britain's financial services sector from these four freedoms.

Any European who wants to work in the City can do so, any UK banks can sell their financial services without restriction elsewhere within the Union and capital or money can move unfettered across EU borders.

Nothing that happened last Friday in Brussels will change the above. Britain and especially the City of London will still be a full member of the single market and continue to derive benefits (or profits) from that. Many in the British government and Parliament had feared that the City would have been unfairly disadvantaged, had they signed up to some of the ideas proposed by eurozone countries such as France and Germany, such as an EU-wide Financial Transaction Tax (FTT).

That's mainly the reason given for the Cameron veto in Brussels.

The FTT is a tax on every purchase or sale of stocks or bonds or whatever financial product by a bank. Because there are millions every day, it could force banks to be more careful in their purchases or sales.
But since 75% of all financial transactions occur in the UK, British-based banks would have paid the vast majority of this proposed tax.

It's very unclear at this early stage, and before any new EU Treaty has been even written, whether the City will lose out in the long run.
But if it were to, it could only result from banks being affected by any future deals - as yet not negotiated nor agreed.

The problem for Britain is that it may in future arrive at the negotiating table in Brussels and be handed a done deal from the remaining 26 EU member states which cannot be blocked, as unanimity is no longer required except in the case of taxation.

Let's take another example. Germany's Deutsche Bank is the largest single banking employer in the City of London. French, Spanish and Italian banks also have a significant presence here.

Will they stay in the same numbers if their governments make it politically and/or fiscally disadvantageous to do so? Former Labour City Minister and investment banker Lord Myners told the BBC that by "isolating" itself, Britain had forced London-based banks to face a dilemma. "Do they continue to put all their resources behind supporting their activities in the City of London or do they begin to build up other centres of excellence elsewhere in Europe?" he asked. "I think the balance has tilted quite strongly as a consequence of the petulance of the prime minister."

(Taken from a piece by BBC Business correspondent Joe Lynam.)

So, in a nutshell,
1. There was nothing in what was proposed that we really objected to.

2. Cameron wanted an opt-out or whatever, from something that has not even been proposed.

3. He was told no, and Britain was sent packing.

4. There is a very good chance that a European alternative to the City of London will now be built up.

Under the table you must go
An interesting piece from Nick Robinson, the BBC's Political Editor about the summit of the veto, (edited by me with additions from elsewhere).

David Cameron could do worse than follow the example of his predecessor John Major. The prime minister will be on his own in a room with 26 other leaders who he knows do not want the same outcome as him. He will be able to text or email his advisers outside. He can summon one or two of them into the room for brief urgent consultations. They, though, cannot hear what the leaders have been saying and are reliant on their boss's messages or occasional read-outs from an EU official inside the room. The danger is that by the time their advice comes the vital negotiating moment will have passed.

Back in 1991 in the Dutch city of Maastricht John Major faced fellow European leaders determined to forge ahead with what was called then EMU - economic and monetary union or the single currency to you and me. When technical negotiations were exhausted, advisers and foreign secretaries left the room while the heads of government made political decisions.

Major was determined to keep Britain out but without being consigned to the slow lane of a two speed Europe. He did what any man facing such a problem might do. He hid one of Britain's finest diplomats under the summit table. Sir John Kerr, the UK's Ambassador to the EU at the time, was able to listen to the summit discussions and pass notes from under the table cloth to the prime minister. Now, in a practice pioneered by the Finns, leaders stay in touch with their diplomats by sending text messages on their mobile phones.

Play the game? Level playing field? An honourable man? Cheat?

The veto
Have you noticed that the Tories always talk of Britain's relationship with the EU? Never of Britain's relationship within the EU. So, Cameron's veto last night came as no surprise.

One of those in his party who are against Europe, urged the Bulldog spirit. This says a lot, harking back to a Britain seventy years ago, as if the image of one of the most ugly dogs in the world can urge us on. We stood alone then, and can do it again, the argument goes. No argument actually, as nothing is put forward to say how we will do anything.

The veto was used because agreement would damage the City of London. Follow this through :
a. The City of London = financial institutions and banks.
b. Financial institutions and banks caused all the problems.
c. So, we are using the veto purely to help these same institutions and banks.
d. The markets might well decline, interest rates go up and bankers do even better.

If the City of London is such an important part of our economy, then there is a tremendous imbalance in the economy. Too many eggs in one basket.
a. But this is what Thatcher aimed for. She believed that we should concentrate on the service industries like banking and finance. Nice clean industries. Non-union industries.
b. Hence, she got rid of the nasty dirty manufacturing industries, and hoped the unions would vanish as well.
c. Manufacturing industry now accounts for 15% of our economy. Cameron says that we must expand this sector. Yet all the time, the attention and money goes to the banking sector.

Last week, Cameron said that the problems of the eurozone could only be sorted out by having more competition. Full stop. More competition and all will be well. Just as his lot privatised the electricity supply industry, more competition has really made a difference here, I think you will agree. Lower prices, easy to switch if you want? Tremendous competition in the high street banks, more competition has really made a difference here, I think you will agree. Lower prices, easy to switch if you want? Schools and the NHS have really changed with competition. As I have said before "Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr".

Robert Peston says : As for the UK, well - depending on whether you are a European Union fan or foe - you will either agonise that the prime minister has removed us to the EU's remote periphery where our ability to influence decisions affecting our vital commercial interests will be minimal, or you will moan that the prime minister has failed to repatriate vital powers back to Parliament and people.

Atheist Christmas cards
Not having seen any in the shops, I now see that they are all on Google. Most look American, and are not very good. What do you expect from a country that wishes you a "Happy holiday" to avoid offending anyone?

Maps on the Internet
I am not sure why I have never done so before, but I have just spent a while trying to see what sort of thing is available by way of old maps on the Internet. And I have found some wonderful sites, with amazing high quality images.

Have a look at Cary 1790. Left click to zoom in, and keep pressed down to drag it around Shropshire.

And of course the wonderful, brilliant National Library of Scotland site.

I was going to have a dig at the British Library, but see that they have started to get some material on-line. For example, the Ordnance Surveyors' Drawings, the original drawings made for the one-inch maps between the 1780s and 1840. They are there, but the zoom facility is rather primitive. And finding what you want is so time consuming without an index diagram. Each drawing is given a name, so that you have to guess the name given to an area of interest and enter it in a search box, or scroll through a list of 351 sheets one at a time. One can use the numbers in the 1989 guide to the drawings, but you need to know to search for 'OSD 120', or whatever, and have a copy of the guide. The beginning of the sequence is a total mess. Surely someone should have checked this. One out of ten for presentation.
Kerry is towards the bottom of this sheet. As they say around here "Well done, you", for intention.

I now see that the Ordnance Surveyors' Drawings are called an on-line exhibition. A real hangover from the maps being part of the British Museum. Look at the National Library of Scotland site and the difference is vast. The NLS have put up thousands of Ordnance Survey maps at all scales. A real service to the public. The British Library have put up one category, and have not done that very well, as far as finding what you want within the exhibition is concerned. Five out of a hundred for value for money.

The Bodleian Library has an Ordnance Survey translators download section (bottom of page). Totally meaningless to me, but someone might want it : NTF2MIF translates Ordnance Survey NTF files into MapInfo Interchange Format (MIF). It is the only free NTF to MapInfo translator available which supports all data sets available through Digimap. Version 3.5 now available Updated April 2007. NTF2MIF now translates CODE-POINT NTF.

Now my head hurts, so am off to bed.

Good old Royal Mail
Royal Mail really does provide a fine service.
Pinned above my desk are two envelopes, both delivered to us by the postman. No trouble. The addresses are as follows :

To the seller of old O.S. maps,

David Archer,
The Pentre,

Beat that.
Note : there must be thousands of houses called 'The Pentre' in Wales.

Old roads of Scotland
One of the nicest things about the Internet, is that it allows enthusiasts to share information with the whole world. And that someone anywhere in the world can get a vast amount of information on a very specific subject from one website. If they come across it.

Try this if you are interested in the old roads of Scotland.

My website
Yes, Mr Thompson, I am fully aware that unsuspecting people come across my website, and that there is no way to prevent this. If you found the content so offensive, why did you spend three hours reading to the very end? It is my website, I pay to have it hosted on a server, and as long as I do not break the law, I can put whatever I want on it. You could consider starting your own site, but before doing so, I suggest that you find the keys which allow you to type capital letters and full stops. I am sorry that your F key is not working. Must be worn out. Well, lower case f.

More figures
The independent Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) says George Osborne's economic plans will mean a sharp drop in household income. The think tank said real household income would fall by an average of 7.4% between 2009-10 and 2012-13.
The IFS said that following yesterday's Autumn Statement by Chancellor George Osborne, the median average income was set to stagnate.
It expected it to be no higher in real terms in 2015-16 than in 2002-03.
Stagnation for those on the highest incomes? Never.

More from the National Library of Scotland
Chris Fleet, Senior Map Curator writes :

Those interested in historical Ordnance Survey mapping of Scotland may like to know that we have just made available an additional set of 7,486 maps as zoomable images. These are the six-inch to the mile (1:10,560) scale 2nd and later edition maps of Scotland, dating between 1892 and 1960. The maps were revised for the whole of Scotland between 1892-1907, and then updated regularly for urban or rapidly changing areas from 1914 to the 1940s.

You can view the relevant sheets covering any place using our new interactive index map, and search by county, by parish, by National Grid reference, or by a gazetteer of place names.

We have also compiled some brief pages of further information about the series.

The new OS six-inch 2nd and later edition website homepage is here.

We hope to make available the related OS 25 inch to the mile mapping of Scotland from 1892-1960 in early 2012.

The cost of aircraft carriers
Britain may be without a fully operational aircraft carrier until 2030, according to a report published by the Commons spending watchdog. The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) says two carriers being built will cost more, offer less military capability and be ready much later than planned. Got that? Cost more, offer less, ready much later.

It says the Royal Navy will be without a carrier until 2020, which may not be fully operational until 2030. The PAC also says the cost of scaling back the carriers is not fully known.

"Rather than two carriers, available from 2016 and 2018, at a cost of £3.65bn, we will now spend more than £6bn, get one operational carrier and have no aircraft carrier capability until 2020” said Margaret Hodge Committee chair. She continued "While the department believes the decision will save £3.4bn, only £600m of this constitutes cash savings, with the other 80% simply deferred costs [ until after 2021]."

A new tip for an old feature
When one is looking for something in a document on a computer, EDIT/FIND is the place to go. Type in the word sought and it comes up.

Not many people know that a similar feature exists for websites. To get it, the easiest thing is to press two keys at once : Control and F (Ctrl + F, upper or lower case). Do it now.

A blue bar appears across the bottom of the screen and you can type in what you are looking for. Type the letter w and the first w in the piece above is highlighted. Type o and wo six lines above this is highlighted.

Read all of what follows before typing more.

Type mb and another word is highlighted.

Click the w word. Better if the computer sound is turned off first.

Lots of news today
1. An extra £600 million is being added to the sum set aside for 'free schools'. Many of these will be schools based on religion (now called faith schools to hid the religious bit). Church of England in one school, Muslims in another and Catholics elsewhere.

But what is this? Peter Robinson, leader of the DUP in Northern Ireland has just made a speech saying faith schools are damaging and should be replaced. Divisive beyond belief. How often have you formed a negative view towards someone you did not know, only to think they were really great once a friend introduced you? Schools should be mixed in every sense.

2. The Tories are at their old tricks of fiddling the figures again. Do you remember when Thatcher caused unemployment? To get these figures down, they moved a vast number of people onto other benefits, mainly incapacity benefit (sounds familiar?). 'Unemployment down' was the new headline.

Well Osborne is at it again. He has just announced a multi-billion pound investment programme aimed at getting Britain's economy moving. But as Nick Robinson notes, he is just moving money from current spending to capital spending, 'since it makes it easier for him to meet his target for reducing the deficit, or so-called "fiscal mandate", which, happily for him, focuses on current not capital spending'.

Where will this new money come from? If it appears? They hope that most will come from big British pension funds, as well as Chinese investment. Hope is the same word they used before the election about jobs. They hoped the private sector would expand to offer jobs to public sector employees they sacked.

They really are as desperate as Thatcher, to get their hands on the pots of money pension funds hold. Again, do you remember the well run pension funds the miners had? And the Post Office? Members paid into the fund, the money was well invested and the pot of gold got bigger. Thatcher had most of that money.

Follow this argument:
1. The same goes for local government pension funds, which are very well run and pay members a good pension.
2. We took out a 'private pension' when we started our business. Let us say that we were told we would get £10,000 a year if we paid in £XXX -XXXX a year. Which we, and many others, managed to do.
Anyone of us wanting to take our pension eighteen months ago was told that we would get £1,800 a year. It has gone down since.
3. And the Tories compare local government pensions to private pensions, saying local government pensions are too high and should come down. Note that they do not say private pensions should be higher. Why should these people have their pensions cut? They have paid into them, the money is there, so let them have it. Pull the private pensions up.

On-line banking : is pretty good
Readers of this learned journal will know that I am slow to take up things like television, satnavs, Facebook and so on. I would never be seen in the street with wires hanging out of my ears, just as our mothers would never want to be seen in the street in curlers. Not that my mother ever used them.

But, and it is early days yet, I must say that I have quite taken to Internet banking.

Over the last few years, a few overseas customers, usually European have wanted to send us money by electronic bank transfer (or whatever it is called). And the money arrived without much fuss. In the last year, a good couple of handfuls of British customers have wanted to pay the same way. (Note that we always lag behind our European partners, except when we are at the head of the one country queue to tell them what to do.)

And it is wonderful. Internet banking, that is.

Consider how we operate from Mid-Wales. We receive a cheque on Monday and send it to the bank in the post. It does not become cleared funds until the following Wednesday, 10 days after we have received it.

Last night, a customer sat at his computer and paid a bill on-line. This morning, it was in our account as cleared funds. Ready to use.

I have only ever used this facility once, last month, and asked the person receiving the money to let me know how long it took. He emailed to say that the money I sent at ten in the morning was in his account within two hours.

Early days, as I say, but promising. My feeling is that younger people have taken to this in a big way. After all, they can do everything with their computer, communicate with each other, listen to music, watch films (the old English term for movies), manage their finances and much more.

Is it possible?
A short quotation from a 1952 detective story has been pointed out to me : Colonel Albury on the ground floor had all the maps in the world. In the days when he had a car he had driven it at high speed over most of the roads which were marked upon them. Now that he couldn't drive any more he spent a good many hours a day going over his maps, calculating things like mileage, and just where you could save petrol by coasting down a slope.

Ignoring the fact that he could save petrol by driving at a slower speed, and that it would not be safe (well, these days) to coast down a main road, I wonder how many slopes are shown on a one-inch or quarter-inch map that are long enough to enable such a calculation.

A simple question : why do we still spend £250 million a year on keeping troops and their families in Germany?

Not much happening on the map front at the moment. No news or gossip to report. Business is ticking over nicely and thankfully, the grass appears to have almost stopped growing, alas giving way to leaves as the prime troublemakers.
Did I ever mention that we bought one of those green compost bins with a lid about five years ago? Sat it in the corner of the garden and just keep putting food waste, leaves and grass cuttings into it. And whenever I take the lid off, it has gone down enough to put in whatever I have taken to it. Only in the last couple of months I have removed anything via the hatch at the front, about three small buckets of nice compost, and it has never overflowed nor refused any offerings. A wonderful way to get rid of organic matter. For bankers, I would use the septic tank. Much more their sort of thing.

I know that the editors of daily newspapers often re-write stories submitted by journalists, but I have never looked into what other editors do. Sometimes quite drastic stuff, it appears.

Consider The waste land, by T.S. Eliot, 1922.

.... in January 1921. Eliot met Ezra Pound in Paris and showed him the draft of a long poem he had written.... Pound, given the job of editor, did not feel at all intimidated. He laid about him with gusto, slashing through page after page, reducing the poem in size almost by half. .... he cut 27 lines on the further adventures of the typist and the young man carbuncular; a further 160 lines dealing with the doings of Fresca and Phlebas; and junked 84 lines of part IV, making it the shortest of the five parts. He also made around 200 suggestions and emendations. By the time he had finished, the poem was radically different.

The poem appears then to have been published.

From : Why not Catch-21? : the stories behind the titles. Gary Dexter, 2007.

Just to remind us
1. The financial sector caused the problems of 2008.

2. We paid (we being those unable or unwilling to pursue tax avoidance measures). We paid, and will be paying for years to come, to save the financial sector from the 2008 collapse.

3. The financial sector has now decided to go after Italy.

4. If Italy fails, the financial sector will again fail.

5. We will be asked to save the financial sector again, because it is 'too important to fail'.

6. The saved financial sector will then go after Spain.

7. Go to point 4 and substitute Spain for Italy.

8. Go to point 6 and substitute ......

I know that I should not, but ....
I look for CDs on eBay, and every six months or so, I have a quick look at OS maps, just to see if people still put stupid comments on exceedingly common maps that are for sale. 'Vintage', 'Highly collectable', 'Rare'. Who are such comments aimed at?

I still stand by my belief that a lot of eBay consists of the ignorant selling to the gullible.

Well worth reading in full
The following letter is spot on. If you do not care for the argument, and are in favour of wind farms and pylons across mid-Wales this letter is still worth reading.

Head of Research and Innovation Centre for Alternative Technology.

Dear Peter Harper,
At the TAN8 debate last week you opened the proceedings with a touching attempt to command the moral high ground by invoking the putative judgement that your great, great grand-daughter might pass on us all if we were to condemn future generations like hers to a catastrophically
altered world by failing to deal now with the carbonisation of our planet's atmosphere.

In a room full of people mostly opposed to the industrialisation of the mid-Wales landscape it was a homily intended to make us all feel bad about our opposition to the schemes envisaged in TAN8 and no doubt it succeeded with some of the ethically sensitive members of your audience. But I contend that your argument was not only specious but also ethically dubious. Towards the end of the evening, when time was running out, I managed to ask the question: what is so ethical about our pursuing the cheapest and softest option now available to us? And you chose, I hope not deliberately, to misunderstand the question.

During the course of the evening, your fellow panellist, George Monbiot, made much of the fact that off-shore windfarms were twice as costly as the on-shore projects you so enthusiastically espouse. He also dismissed large scale wave and tidal power projects on the same grounds – of cost. Other speakers made the point that the replacement of fossil-fuelled energy generating equipment was an issue that should have been tackled ten years ago. It should have been tackled 40 years ago and indeed it is over thirty years ago that I visited the Centre for Alternative Technology, long before your tenure, to research my ITV drama series, THE BRACK REPORT, which challenged the primacy of nuclear and fossil fuelled generation and called for urgent focus on renewables like wind, wave, tidal, hydro, solar and, yes, nuclear fusion.

It also called for regulations to require all new building to be thermally efficient and for the retrofitting of all existing housing and commercial premises so that our requirement for energy generation capacity should be reduced. At the time, the Thatcher government raced headlong in the opposite direction by plundering the North Sea oilfields and by handing 'responsibility' for the oversight of research into wind and wave power to the Atomic Energy Authority. Under the leadership of Walter Marshall that organisation scandalously cooked the books to show that neither was economically viable and the government promptly withdrew support, thus handing our world leadership in such fields to Japan whose people now reap the benefits of a viable renewables industry which we so recklessly threw away.

It was then that the great shipyards of the Clyde and the Tyne were crying out for work and their skills were ideally suited to the task of building large scale offshore wind and wave generating capacity. But the government ignored that opportunity and cast those skills irrevocably onto the scrap heap of mass unemployment.

At the same time, when the British aerospace industry was capable of making the blades for off-shore turbines, our government was more interested in fostering dubious relations with the rich tyrants of the developing world by encouraging the aerospace industry instead to make and
sell the weapons with which they have subsequently waged endless wars. It was also at the same time that a proposal for a Severn barrage which would have generated sufficient electricity to power the entire rail network of the United Kingdom was turned down on grounds of cost.

These are just some examples of the catastrophic opportunism and short-termism that have afflicted UK energy policy for generations — decisions about which your great, great grand-daughter might well have something to say in years to come. But the results of these decisions, of course, have been lucrative and highly palatable to us all. We have all benefited from living off the fat of North Sea oil but the good times of the past two decades have been bought at the expense of the national family silver. The oil has all but run out... and it is only now that we are beginning to cast around, in desperation, for alternatives. We are the fathers who have eaten sour grapes but it is our children (and your great, great grand-daughter) whose teeth are set on edge.

So that is the context in which I asked the question: what is so ethical about our pursuing the cheapest and softest option now available to us? What right have we, your great, great grand-daughter might well ask, to devastate and permanently disfigure the uplands of mid-Wales with windfarms and attendant grid infrastructures just because they happen to be a bit cheaper than a handful of other options? Just how ethical is it for us to wreck your great, great grand-daughter's inheritance and birthright for what, as is becoming increasingly apparent, is a mere mess of cheap pottage?

Why should we not now demand that we pay the real price for our own past folly? Most of the houses in which we live and the commercial premises in which we work are machines for wasting energy. What is so wrong about passing legislation to make it compulsory for owners and landlords to stop that waste now? George Monbiot scoffed at the notion of us all having to pay a higher price for the energy we use, but why shouldn't we pay when we have all been collectively responsible for turning a blind eye to the emerging problem? Of course, the poor will need protection but they were not responsible for the disgraceful governmental decisions from which they now suffer. It is perfectly possible to adjust energy bills according to the ability of consumers to pay. Those of us who use more should pay more. So perhaps, when she is faced with an appreciation of what upland mid-Wales looked like when her great, great grandfather was privileged to walk in its wide open spaces, it might be an altogether different ethical question that she might pose to you. Like: why on earth did you sanction this appalling devastation of your priceless inheritance just because it was a little bit cheaper than building windfarms off-shore?

You may have sought to command the moral high ground, Peter, but my contention is that you walk like a cheapskate upon it.

Yours sincerely,
Christopher Penfold,
Powys SY16 4JT

Our money in their pockets
Former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher has claimed £535,000 of taxpayers' money over the last five years, government records have shown.

Baroness Thatcher, 86, who makes rare public appearances and suffers poor health, was paid from the public duties cost allowance available to ex-PMs.

Others to benefit have been her successor John Major, paid £490,000 in the last five years, and Tony Blair. In 2008-9, Mr Blair claimed £169,076 - more than his Downing Street salary. Since leaving office, Mr Blair, who ran the country for a decade from 1997, has claimed just under £273,000.

The system was set up by John Major in 1991, after one year in office, to reward former prime ministers for work including answering letters and attending public events.

In the past five years, the three former number 10 incumbents have cost the taxpayer in total more than £1.7m in public duty allowances.

Full text is on the BBC website. Health warning : there is a picture of the old bat at the top of this article, so be prepared.

Much better to see a nice clip of a cuddly wombat. Best with the sound turned off.

Stop the clock
Do you remember when they used to stop the clock during EU meetings in order to meet deadlines? Well now, there seems to be a trend to spreading time.

We all know about Christmas cards being in the shops in August, and the Christmas period extending over four months, well in the last couple of years, and especially this year, it seems to have hit pubs and hotels. Look at any advertisement and you will see that such places now offer their Christmas menu during the whole of December.

'All day breakfast' signs littler road verges, and I am putting money on the popularity of Sunday lunch to see the first 'All week Sunday Lunch' sign within the next year.

And about time too
Certainly for all of last week, and a little before that, I kept saying that someone in Europe should tell George Osborne and his boss to shut up and stop telling others what to do. And now Sarkozy has told them. Good.

Not that they will listen. Britain only joined the EEC (as it was) to sit and complain, moan and generally stop things happening. Rather than looking on membership as an opportunity, we have always had the attitude that we are missing out. Why? Because we never join in. Moan, moan, moan.

As I have mentioned before, we had a world economic crisis in 2008, which the Tories now blame on Labour policies; we have a debt, they say, because of internal policies, nothing to do with the outside world. With another crisis looming, and Tory internal policies not working, indeed, making things far worse, they now say that Europe and the world might upset their plans (to punish the worse off and reward the bankers). Nothing to do with them. World monetary problems only hit Britain when the Tories are in charge, not Labour.

Brooklyn Botanic Garden
I have just received a copy of the map leaflet for the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, which is an excellent production. Nice and clear, free from clutter.
It does have the usual politically correct things, such as '....some areas may present difficulties to those with ambulatory challenges'. Why do Americans go to such lengths not to offend, yet still call a stupid person 'dumb'? Does this not offend those who cannot speak?

Banks again, not maps
Crunch time. Having sold lots of maps, my piggy bank is full and I must put the contents somewhere. So, what does the current situation look like with regard to financial matters?

1. Since the last election, the government, which subscribes to the blame society, has been describing all of our economic problems as caused by the previous government. Now that there is no sign of any improvement under the Tories this is wearing thin, so they are now falling back on the classic Tory line, that it is now all the fault of foreigners, well, the global financial markets, which is the same thing in their eyes.

Yet, we cannot have a tax on financial transactions as it would hit the City of London, which is the major player in financial matters. Thus, our problems are caused by the City of London, not foreigners. No, no, we cannot have that. Start again.

2. The country and individuals must pay back anything outstanding on credit cards and not be in debt. Being in debt is a bad thing. Banks make most of their income by lending money, and thus the borrowers are then in debt. So, it follows, that if we do not borrow, the banks cannot lend money and will not make any money, and go bust. Which is what the government intends? No.
Yes. The banks are considered too essential to fail, so if they looked like failing, the government would help them out with taxpayer's money. Your money. And who would benefit from handling these gifts, and receiving them? Bankers. Most bankers vote Tory and many Tory MPs are ex-bankers.
As more money will be needed to bail out the banks, some sort of increased taxation will appear, and because everyone is not paying off credit cards, they will have the extra cash to pay in taxes, which will go to the bankers. No, no, we cannot say that. Start again.

3. Pay back your credit cards because debt is bad. All university students must accept a compulsory loan, must go into debt to enter university. No, no, we cannot say that. Start again.

4. The financial problems of 2008 arose from American financial institutions packaging rubbish products and selling them in vast quantities to the markets. Bankers, being stupid, bought them in vast amounts. Governments around the world pumped trillions of taxpayer's money into the financial markets to save the markets. Things stabilised somewhat.
And now, the American credit rating agencies are downgrading certain countries and causing problems again. Problems mean more money being needed from taxpayers worldwide. Again, an economic disaster caused by the financial world for the rest to pay for.
I read a quote the other day, from 'a financial dealer', who said that it was his job to make money out of the financial disasters. And there is no doubt that more money can be made from a disaster than from ordinary trading. So, if they want more money, they create another financial disaster.

Pay off your debts
Only in December 2006, did Britain pay the final instalment of its 2WW debts to the US and Canada. Thank Ed Balls for this, just as Gordon Brown dramatically cut the country's national debt, whilst Chancellor. Something the present lot do not mention.

Google maps
I really do find Google maps one of the most useful features of the Internet. My first memory of using it was a good few years ago when we wanted somewhere to stay in Portsmouth in order to catch an early ferry to France. I found a nice looking pub B and B near the ferry terminal and decided to look at it on Google maps. When I did so, it stood all alone with ghastly shopping centres and multi-storey car parks all around. Just as last week I found somewhere else to stay, but the picture looks a bit iffy. Click on Google maps and one can see the rear of the building and car park, which were fine.

Again, a few weeks ago I had to collect something from the centre of Carlisle, so I looked at the street map version and planned my route from where I entered the town. I then changed to street view and drove along the intended route twice. When I went, it felt as if I had driven there before. Excellent.

For those who have not looked at Google maps, a quick introduction :
1. Search for 'Google' if you do not use it as a search engine.
2. Click on 'Maps' (fifth item in black bar towards the top of the screen).
3. Type in your post code and click return.
4. The result will appear either as a map, or satellite image. If as a map, click 'Satellite' top right of map.
5. You now see a satellite image of where you live.
6. The white circle, top left can be used to move around the area.
7. The slider bar below the yellow man zooms in or out.
8. Move the cursor/arrow to the yellow man and he bends forward.
9. Click on the man and drag him onto the map without letting go. Some roads now appear blue.
10. Drag the man towards your house and drop the green blob below him onto the road outside your house.
11. You will now see your house, and can use the white circle to move through 360 degrees.
12. Move the cursor up the road and a white disc appears. Click on the disc further up the road, and the view changes. Use the disc and white circle features to drive around your area.

Maps on eBay
Search for item 370544761506, which ends at 12.13 on the 26th of September 2011. For a while after this date, click Advanced Search and tick Completed Listings. Spotted by Roly Hann and forwarded by Chris Bull.

When will they understand?
Again, ignorance is shown by politicians. Vince Cable is to allow shareholders more of a say in what company directors receive. Fat chance. Rubbish. Waste of time.

As I have mentioned before:
1. Most shares in the really large companies are owned by other really large concerns such as banks, building societies and pension funds.

2. How the votes are caste are decided by the boards of the holding concerns.

3. Any individual that sits on a board, usually sits on several other boards.

4. So the chances are that they will be casting the votes for a pay rise for themselves, or for people that they know. It is a very small world at the top of such concerns.

What does this mean?
I have just come across a 1998 book on Value Engineering, which : Shows Value Engineering (VE) applicability to the corporate environment and other aspects of community and personal life. This work covers: VE to a full management discipline for planning and controlling operations, the range of knowledge required for successful application, and VE as an essential adjunct to Quality Engineering and TOC techniques.

Table of contents : THE WORLD AROUND US BACKGROUND: Fire to Fight MANAGEMENT SYSTEMS: Tools for the Toolbox THE TOOLBOX: The Application Benefit Matrix THE ECONOMICS OF PROFIT COST AND ITS ELEMENTS: The Driving Force Goals and Objectives Components of Cost and Price Cost Analysis-Methods and Applications Benchmarking, Pareto and Comparative Analysis Cost as a Measurement Tool, Models and Criterial Analysis Cost Estimates and Time Cost Reduction-Risks and Benefits FUNCTION, The Foundation of Clarity Function is the Key The Link-Function and Creativity Define the Function VALUE, A Matter of Opinion History and Meaning of Value Economic and Social Value Measuring Economic Value Defining and Measuring Social Value Determining and Setting Values Motivation and Value Value, an Opinion QUALITY, A Major Component of Value Definition Measuring Quality Quality and Profit Quality and Value THE HUMAN ELEMENT COMMUNICATIONS, a Two-Way Street Information Collection Listening-Restrictive Habits and How to Improve Body Language and Facial Expressions Meetings and Productivity MOTIVATION, Different Things Move Different People Why We Act-Pleasure and Pain Awareness to Our Environment Wants and Needs: Conflicts With Management Goals Motivation-Action and Reaction Maslow, and Graves Stress, Action and Reaction TEAMS AND TEAMWORK, A Synthesized Knowledge Group Why a Team?-The Specialist Society Team Composition and Structure to Compensate for The Specialist Society Team Building and Development Outlook and Goals Ideas and Action Group Problem-Solving and its Benefits CREATIVITY......

Got that?

Windfarms and turbines, yet again
Those who have been reading my comments recently, will know that Mid-Wales is threatened with unsightly power lines in order to get electricity from turbines to the National Grid. I am not going into it all again, except to say that you can help fight these developments by signing an e-petition. If you do, the people of Mid-Wales will be forever grateful.
Please sign the e-petition.
Thank you.

I only wish I could help more
I have just come off the phone from a very annoyed man. He wants a 1971 1:2500 sheet for somewhere in Kent, and has been around the houses, with no luck at all. Everything I mentioned, he had done already. I suggested the County Record Office and he said they were next to useless. He had spoken to the Ordnance Survey and had been advised to contact Landmark. Landmark, you will remember, spent months scanning everything at the OS, and my understanding is that this was used as an excuse for the OS to get rid of all their 'historic' maps. Landmark advised my caller that anything they supplied was not valid in a court of law, which is a new one on me. He went back to the OS and the person he spoke to went off to look into this.

He had been in contact with the British Library, who said they did not have this sheet.

I will leave you to ponder the above sentence.

This is so typical of many requests we receive. Nobody appears to have taken responsibility for ensuring one copy of every map is available for the public (taxpayers) to consult. In theory, the copyright collections should have things, but there are always gaps.

Hindsight is the only perfect science
Bill McQuaker of Henderson Global Investors said the Bank of England's record of forecasting inflation has been "poor", when he explained his thoughts to BBC Radio 4's Money Box programme.

Analysis of the Bank's quarterly Inflation Reports back to the start of 2009 show the Bank regularly predicting inflation will fall within one or two quarters.

Instead inflation has continued to rise.

And in its report published in May 2010 the Bank forecast that inflation would have fallen to 1.4% within a year. In fact the inflation rate in May this year was 4.5%, more than three times the Bank's forecast of just a year ago.

Let someone else sort it out
These days, if you have a load of unwanted junk, you take it to the re-cycling centre. In the past, there were other ways to be rid of stuff, as detailed on a 1958 label spotted on an old cardboard box.

International Parcel Post : March 1958.
Instructions given by sender. If undeliverable as addressed :
1. Return to sender, who will pay the return postage.
2. Forward to ....
3. Abandon.

Help for small rural businesses?
Foreign language signs advising migrant workers of a road diversion in Worcestershire have been removed for "health and safety" reasons. Network Rail is carrying out work on a level crossing in Blackminster, and was asked by Worcestershire County Council to provide diversion signs in Spanish, Polish and English. However, they were removed by the Highways Agency which said they did "not meet the prescribed standards for such signs".
Evesham Vale is famous for its soft fruit production and attracts many migrant seasonal workers as fruit pickers, the county council said. It added: "Local councils at district and parish level as well as businesses in the area requested the signs be put up due to a high number of Polish people living in the area and a number of Spanish businesses.
"From what we've been told there's a number of lorries and HGVs that travel from Spain to the area and they wanted to ensure the diversion was clear to cut disruption and the potential for vehicles getting lost resulting in queues or delays for motorists in the area."
A spokesman for the Highways Agency said only road signs near ports were displayed in foreign languages in England and Wales. It said these signs were restricted to speed limit information and drive on the left reminders. The agency said it had removed the Blackminster diversion signs on Monday. It said: "Unfortunately the [Blackminster diversion] signs did not meet the prescribed standards for such signs, as set out in the Traffic Signs Regulations and General Directions 2002.
(From the BBC News website.)

Shop early for Christmas
When such things were considered important, people used to write to The Times saying when they heard the first cuckoo each Spring. Well, it is the 17th of August, and I have just seen the first shop display of 2011 Christmas cards.

Five minutes to waste before lunch time?
Try this.

Community fightback
In a restaurant, well into the evening, are we now encouraged to tell groups of roaming seven year old children, to go and sit down and shut up?

Insurance and riots
An interesting note in connection with the riots:
Such damage is covered by most insurance policies. It is important however that with this special category of damage that the Insurers be notified within SEVEN days of the actual event. The reason for this is that if the Police issue a notice declaring that the scenario was in fact a riot, the Insurers may recover part of their outlay from the police. It is worth noting that even if one is not insured and the event is declared a riot - the Police will pay a measure of compensation provided they are notified within FOURTEEN days of the event. One must not confuse the disturbances with Terrorism, which is a separate issue entirely.

While electronics and sports retailers were badly affected by violence in London, Birmingham and Manchester, among other cities, bookshops remained unaffected. As one Waterstones employee from Manchester drily noted: "We'll stay open. If they steal some books they might learn something."

Printer cartridges
I know that this is a risky thing to say, but our printer was bought in 2000 and is still going. It is fine for printing out whatever we want on a daily basis. The colour prints have always been useless. So what?

I have just had to order more ink cartridges and again, am amazed at the difference in price between Epsom, the manufacturer, and compatible cartridges. A black Epsom costs £45.23 whilst a compatible costs £4.45 (buy two and get one free, so three for £8.90, post free). Who pays this sum for manufacturer's products? One can buy a new printer for less.

I have a piece of paper where I store the new cartridges, and have noted when I replace them. Since 2000, we appear to change the black one every six months and the coloured cartridge once a year. Maybe modern printers are better and the cartridges last longer, but I will stick to what I have for the moment. I hate taking something that works to the re-cycling place.

Who wants to be big?
When we started in business, our aim was, and always has been, to earn enough to keep ourselves, and to put something away for our old age. We have never wanted to employ anyone, to have a shop or to become really big. This holds true for so many small concerns, and is essentially the same as a small family run shop, small manufacturing business with six employees and so on.

So why does the present government assume that all businesses want to become nationwide concerns and to expand? Once you get beyond a certain size, the person running a business becomes concerned only with staff management and finance. Hands-on work is a thing of the past, and it is this that drove them to set up in the first place, they love what they do, no being a manager.

And why is it assumed that profits will increase each year? OK, one needs to keep ahead of inflation, but why the constant cry that standing still is bad? So many small businesses are seen as failing, just because they take enough money to keep the owners and no more. Do we really want all businesses to go the same way as supermarkets? Even very small towns have about six large supermarkets, which are killing the small shops. If every sort of business expanded as the government would like, we would have half a dozen bookshops, video games shops, map shops, butchers, bakers and so on in every small town. But they would all be national concerns, chains, with no small family run butchers or bakers in sight. No thanks.

Between four and four thirty yesterday afternoon, we sat on the promenade overlooking the South Beach in Aberystwyth. The sky was a glorious blue, the sun was lovely and the sea was like a sheet of glass, so flat and smooth, silver in colour. Playing in the sea was a pod of about fifteen dolphins. So relaxing to watch.

Had a paddle to cool our feet before the drive home.

Just thought you might like to know.

A Google PhD
Yesterday, a woman rang wanting a map showing a road in outer London in the 1890s. She was finishing a PhD thesis, and wanted a map to indicate where the road was. She was so vague that I told her I did not think it worth my looking.

I had the distinct feeling that I was being used, well would have been used, had I done any work for her. If she was so near the end of a thesis that seemed to be geographical in some way and needed a map, why had she not sought one before? And if needed, how good was the thesis without having used a map? Before the Internet, she would have had to learn how to search for maps, but now she just telephones or emails for the information and it goes into the thesis, which is meant to be original research. All my own work? All the work of others, that I have combined, is more like it.

The joys of selling maps
As I have said before, one can spend/waste a lot of time just looking at things on maps which catch the eye.

This morning, we took out two six-inch maps for Armthorpe, to the north east of Doncaster. One for 1907 and the other for 1931. In 1907, a sleepy English village is shown, which by 1931, boasted Markham Main colliery, a new railway line : South Yorkshire Joint Railway, major railway sidings, two big housing estates, schools, a Methodist Chapel and much more.

What are the perks in your job?

In praise of Argos (even though they do not have a map)
Living away from a large town, Argos are very useful when one needs something fairly basic, an electric kettle for example. Have a look at their website and you will see that they have things down to a fine art when it comes to ordering and so on. A nice feature is that you can reserve items for a day, which is very useful in a rural area and you need to make a lengthy journey. But none of this is what I wanted to mention.

We have decided to get a new wood burning stove, have seen one model in the range, but not the one we fancy. If you go to the maker's website and click on stockists, you are asked for a town and if there is not a stockist in that town, it just says 'No'. Which is less than helpful and makes you wonder whether you really want their stove. On the Argos site, if you type in Welshpool, which does not have an Argos, you are given a choice of ten stores within a 32 miles radius of the town. Helpful.

But what I really wanted from the stove site, was a map of where the stockists were. I have to go to London, onto Devon and back home through Wales, and if I could see where stockists were, I could plan my journey so as to call in and the desired stove. Far too many websites think that they have it all sorted out by using a database rather than a map. And it does not work. British Home Stores are in the same position, no map, so no sales to me.

My own map shop
I have never seen it mentioned, but have always felt that it must make a dramatic difference when a political party is swept from office. The next day, those who previously were ministers will wake up and if they want some information, they will not have the Civil Service to call on to provide it. In opposition, they will have to fall back on academics, political commentators and so on to help them argue against the government. Such things happen in all walks of life, even map selling.

We are thinking of a short break in a few weeks time, and for any area, I would usually go and pull out the relevant 1:50,000 and Explorer maps in order to get a feel for the place. Nice having your own map shop.

But things are no longer that easy. Last week, we sold our complete stock of post-1945 one-inch maps (New Populars and Seventh Series), together with all our 1:50,000 maps, Explorers, quarter-inch and post-war tourist maps. I feel very exposed in some way. A large part of my life has gone.

OK, I still have a good few thousand 1:25,000 Pathfinder maps, which I would always take on a journey anyway, but if we have one, I like to peek at an Explorer to see if anything major has changed. I suppose that Google Maps will be used more often in the future. But I cannot carry this in my pocket (am not prepared to carry this in my pocket on a gadget).

I did consider keeping a set of the Seventh Series, but for most sheets, there is a tremendous difference between the first and last states of each sheet, and I was not prepared to keep one of each. Why, before long I am sure that I would want to fill in the gaps between these states and hey presto, I would be back to my old habits of buying maps again. Collecting even. So, next July, ask me how I am getting along.

Not that things look very different hereabouts. Frequent visitors will notice a few boxes missing, but the overall feel of the place remains the same; maps everywhere. But nearly all pre-1945. The only post-1945 maps are the 1:25,000 First Series and Second Series (Pathfinders). And Bartholomews.

The banking industry will not scrap the use of cheques, it has been announced.

The Payments Council, a banking industry body, had been planning to replace them by 2018, and has admitted it had been forced to change its mind by the weight of public opinion.

The decision was described by the Nationwide building society as a victory for the consumer and a common sense approach. "Scrapping cheques would have had serious ramifications, not only for the elderly and most vulnerable in society, but also for small businesses and charities that rely on this payment method," the society said.

Had cheques ended, it would have hit our small postal business hard. Taking cards is not an option as they are far too expensive. When we have a stall anywhere, most payments over £20 are by cheque. Cheques are no longer guaranteed by a plastic card, but talking to a lot of small businesses, they seem willing to continue taking cheques based on their impression of a customer. As the owner of a small and very rural pub said to me last week "Nobody is going to come out all this way just to write a bad cheque".

The word Afford
And another thing. I am tired of hearing that the country cannot afford this or that. What the Big Con means is that the Tories are not prepared to find the money for this or that. If I wanted a shirt costing £100, I could go out and buy it. I have the money. I can afford it. But I would never dream of spending this amount on a shirt and choose not to. It would be a vast amount to spend on a shirt, but I do not say I cannot afford it. I say I choose not to buy it. Do you remember Sisterly feelings by Alan Ayckbourn? A newspaper advertises a bathroom suite for £3,000 (in 1979). Patrick, a wealthy executive sees it and thinks it not a bad price, whilst Stafford, a drop out and poet hits the roof at the thought of paying all that money for a bathroom suite.

The Big Con's government can afford to have two wars going at the same time, but cannot afford to have a decent health service. Meaning, they choose to have two wars going at the same time, whilst choosing not to have a decent health service. Their much quoted word 'choice'. When they decide on something that is unpopular, they use say it cannot be afforded, but when they think a measure is popular, they are increasing choice.

Recent press comments from around the world
For a long time, Rupert Murdoch has been widely viewed by journalists as a giant squid sitting on the face of the media, starving it of oxygen... in a world where the rich and the powerful get away with everything, including bringing down the banking system, it is deeply satisfying to see one of the mighty fall, or at least stumble.

The best theatre is unfolding on the television news channels. At its heart is the humbling of one of Britain's most powerful, and most detested men: the media magnate Rupert Murdoch... With Murdoch and some of his executives being close to British Prime Minister David Cameron, this scandal will have a long shelf life.

With near complete control over news in many countries, Murdoch's publications destroyed articulation of diverse opinions ...

Murdoch has many enemies and the pack now senses his vulnerability and is turning on him. Expect a feeding frenzy of unprecedented fury.

Time wasting rankings
Since putting up my link in the third piece below this one, people have been telling me how long it took them to complete a given time waster. All very interesting, but sorry Pete, I am not going to publish rankings (it might go to your head).

A gripping real life drama
Well, things are getting quite exciting in politics, which as my reader will know, I like to follow. I can only think of two previous occasions when I have been so keen to know what was happening in the outside world. The first was when the Beatles went to America for the first time. One just had to know what was happening as soon as possible. Hence, we took the tube from Southfields to Putney Bridge, so that we could get the 85 bus and go past all the newspaper stands up Putney High, reading the headline boards as we went. And then we had to wait until the evening news for moving pictures. Day after day it went on. Brilliant.

Then there was Watergate. Drip, drip, drip, and it all came out. For this, the morning news was listened to whilst getting ready to go to work in my first job. These days, the only equivalent are stories and features on computer hacking in The New Scientist.

But maybe all is about to change. We will see.

Not having a television, I like to keep up to date with the BBC News website, and have just seen a most disturbing picture. The Big Con himself, at the press conference this morning, standing between two Union Jacks, just as American Presidents always have a big American flag in sight when they speak, and stand at a similar lectern. Are we really going downhill so fast? Very upsetting. The words toadie, licker and poodle come to mind at once.

And in case anyone asks, yes, like the News of the World, I have kept all of my emails since the year dot. Over 22,000 have been sent. A wonderful database mentioning payments, meetings, people and events. And I intend to keep them.

The Big Con
In an interesting news item about Americans taking up the use of roundabouts, someone is quoted as saying "This is a culture predicated on freedom and individualism, where spontaneous co-operation is difficult and regimentation is resisted".

One could so easily have added the word 'competition' to freedom and individualism and have arrived at the Tory view of how things should be. But this, according to the person quoted, does not fit in with 'co-operation', which is what David Cameron's Big Society is all about. The Big Society, you will remember is all about local groups and charities volunteering to do what would have been been done by public employees, had they not been sacked: cutting the grass, collecting litter, looking after the elderly and sick.

No, to me co-operation is, and always has been, far better than competition. Has competition kept gas prices, electricity prices, bank charges, university fees or mobile phone prices down? No, a few concerns operate in each sector and know exactly what the other will do in any situation.

And it is just so difficult to change from one to another, even if you could work out what the true charges were. But try to buy a ream of photocopy paper and a thousand concerns will compete for your £4. Why, because it is so easy to walk into one shop, decide the price is too high and move on to the next. If you could change energy companies within five minutes on-line, prices would come down at once.

New London tube map
Not living in London any longer, one has to rely on Francis Herbert in order to keep up to date with things of interest. Francis reports that Mark Noad has produced a 'more geographically-accurate version of the London Underground map'.

I quite like it, but apart from the river and the changed directions some lines head off in, what else is geographical about it? It certainly does not help me to visualise an underground railway in a geographical context. For this, one has to see the lines running beneath the road system. An excellent site can be found here. Click on 1902 and 1913 and scroll down to see what I mean.

Whilst writing this piece, I came across a magnificent time waster. In line for the best ever award. Please, please, please do not look at this whilst at work, otherwise I am positive that a million lawyers will be after me for all that I have in my piggy bank. So, when you get home, and not until, click here.

Flavour of the week
Yesterday an estate agent wanted three, and today a land agent wants one. As I have mentioned before, things often go in runs and this week the requests are for the highly coloured one-inch Agricultural Land Classification maps. A very little known series, similar to the Land Utilisation Survey maps.

Going up a mountain? Take a postcode with you
Walkers' lives are being put at risk because 999 call operators cannot handle grid references, and are too reliant on satellite navigation systems, the Rambler's Association has claimed. Walkers who find themselves in difficulties are asked for a postcode, which in a rural area can encompass a 2-mile radius. Walker Ivan Smith broke his hip on the West Highland Way. His friends called 999 and gave a grid reference, but the operator insisted on a postcode. Someone had to run down to a farm to get a postcode.

A book for 1p
Last week I bought a copy of The bridges of medieval England by David Harrison. This was listed on Amazon as a new copy with a crease across the corner of the front cover, £8.84 including postage. The cheapest secondhand copy was (and still is) £17.08 including postage. I have bought such warehouse damaged books before and they are fine.

Looking through the bibliography, I saw a book that I had not heard of and again checked on Amazon to see what it would cost. The cheapest was 1p plus £2.80 postage, £2.81 in total. Described as a nice bright copy with a very good dustwrapper. I have seen 1p books listed before and decided to try this one. It has just arrived and is an excellent copy. It came through the post with a TNT postage label, but even if sent at bulk mail prices, how do they do it? Bulk sales at £1.30 can bring in a lot of money I suppose.

These days, if I want to check a book, I tend to look on Amazon before any of the specialist secondhand book sites. The Amazon database is composed of a lot of standard bibliographic databases, stretching back decades, so a lot of the items will be out of print. But anyone can attach details of a copy for sale to an Amazon record. Thus an Amazon record will list new copies and used copies. Alas, if you read down the copies on offer, you will also see the upsetting aspect of this, in that after the £12-17 copies, there will be the £265 copy. This is also an aspect with CDs. So be careful.

More on windfarms, alas
In a new report, the National Grid said it could not cope with the surge of power from wind farms and will have to switch off turbines to avoid overloading the power transmission networks.

The National Grid fears that warm and breezy summer nights could cause a surge in the electricity, combined with a lack of consumer demand. The electricity cannot be stored, so one solution – known as the “balancing mechanism” – is to switch off or reduce the power supplied.

Wind farm operators are given “constraint” payments to keep their turbines idle and some experts believe this will cost almost £300 million a year by 2020, with the cost passed on to consumers.

A majority of Britons in both town and country oppose killing badgers to curb cattle tuberculosis, an opinion poll for the BBC suggests.
Across the UK, about two-thirds oppose the measure, with majorities against culling in every age group, every region and across both genders.

What is never mentioned, is that cattle pass TB onto badgers. It is always reported that badgers pass it onto cattle. Essentially, badgers and cattle must be seen as a single group of animals. A cull forces badgers that are not killed to travel outside their area, and spread the disease over a wider area. As long as there is TB, it will continue to affect both groups.

Please help Mid-Wales.
The movement against unsightly power pylons in the countryside is gaining strength. There is to be a rally in Cardiff this week. If you agree with the need to preserve the countryside, please sign the e-petition (about the fifth one down the list):

Say No to Tan 8 - Windfarms & High Voltage Power Lines Spoiling our Community.

http://www.assemblywales.org/gethome/e-petitions/sign-petition.htm (English)

http://www.cynulliadcymru.org/gethome/e-petitions/sign-petition.htm (Cymraeg)

Thank you.

A wonderful new book.
Old Series to Explorer : a field guide to the Ordnance map by Chris Higley. vi, 154 pages, illus. bibliog. Charles Close Society. 2011.

At last, a good, well written, well illustrated guide to Ordnance Survey maps for the new enthusiast and general reader. For twenty six years, I have been telling people that such a book does not exist, and now I am more than pleased to say that it has just been published.

Twelve chapters cover the history of the Ordnance Survey, how the maps were made, one-inch, half-inch, 1:50,000, six-inch maps and more. All subjects are all dealt with clearly and concisely. England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland are all covered, plus the Crown Dependencies. A thoroughly readable text has numerous index diagrams, coloured map extracts and cover illustrations. Final chapters deal with map makers at war, trench maps and so on, with Chapter 12 devoted to collecting OS maps.

For anyone who collects OS maps, no matter how long you have been at it, and for anyone who uses them for research, this book is a highly recommended. I am sure that you will consider it money well spent.
Price £12.00 from the Charles Close Society.

Wind turbines for a change
From an article by Frieda Hughes in the Sunday Times, 15th May 2011.

Vast subsidies (a mind-numbing £1 billion a year for the past five years), without which wind farms wouldn’t exist, have encouraged cash-strapped local authorities to allow them to be built, even though the ecological and setup costs of turbines far outweigh the benefits.

A friend who farms here tells me that two years ago he and his neighbours (in Mid-Wales) were offered an annual payment of £3,500 for each turbine on their land. Rather alarmingly, according to his accountant, the farmer’s untimely death could possibly allow the turbine operators to claim this land under a sort of squatter’s rights arrangement.

For the new-generation turbines, some landowners can receive an annual income of between £15,000 and £20,000 a turbine — it’s more profitable than breeding sheep.

The advocates of this technology gloss over the fact that it is unreliable. Last year Welsh wind farms produced only 19% of the theoretical maximum energy they could generate. In calm weather, wind turbines across the British Isles can remain stationary for weeks, and up to three months of the year they will produce almost no power at all. If they were a car, or a fridge, or a computer, you would never buy one.

When the wind does blow it can endanger the national grid — in April, six wind farms in Scotland were paid up to 20 times the lost revenue to turn their turbines off because the grid could not absorb the glut of electricity they were generating.

The painter who has been decorating every room in my house tells me that he recently worked on a wind farm of 39 turbines, each 328ft high, at Cefn Croes, on the way to Aberystwyth from Newtown. Being an inquisitive sort, he asked one of the energy company executives responsible for the development how useful the turbines were. The man told him that if the power in Aberystwyth went down — and it is not a very large town — then the entire wind farm would power only one light bulb in each house.

Under the plans, existing turbines will be replaced and new turbines measuring between 361ft and 479ft high will be erected, although a recent application proposes building turbines 606ft high (the Post Office Tower is 620ft). The turbines will stand in blocks of reinforced concrete the size of Olympic swimming pools and will be audible more than a mile away. Mid Wales alone is destined for more than 840 turbines in total.

Full article.

Map and milestones
Yesterday, we went to the Milestone Society's Spring Conference (well, Spring Meeting really), and a most enjoyable day it was. It was noticeable that the two main speakers (on milestones in Shropshire and old roads in Herefordshire) both acknowledged the use they had made of Ordnance Survey maps. Especially, for old roads, the one-inch Old Series and 1:2500 (twenty five inches to one mile) from the nineteenth century, and for milestones, the 1:25,000 First Series from the late 1940s. Serious railway enthusiasts are usually also very knowledgeable as to what OS maps can contribute to their researches.

A quick count showed there to be about six members of the Charles Close Society present yesterday, just over ten per cent of those present. With well over 600 members, The Charles Close Society is now the leading map society in the UK and well worth investigating.

Lost words
Did you hear the bit on the radio this morning about the UK Border Agency? Intelligence this and intelligence that. They were given intelligence (thank goodness), but did not keep a record of it. Only once did someone mention the word information, which is what they were talking about. So, the word information has now been replaced by intelligence.

Similarly, last week I heard primary school tots being called students. Pupils no more, not even scholar. No longer does "John is a student" paint a picture of someone old enough to vote and out of school uniform. "John is a student" can mean that he has his tea at five o'clock and is put to bed at seven.

Keep saying it, and they might believe it
When we first moved to Kerry, in conversation, a local man would always mention that he was considered "the best builder in Mid-Wales". He was forever going on about how good he was. So, being a neighbour, when we needed work done, we asked him. Eventually, we found that he was in fact average. Being new to the area, his capabilities had not come up in chats with other neighbours, so we just took in the often repeated phrase that he was "the best builder in Mid-Wales". That is what advertising is all about.

A similar phrase is being repeated all the time on the radio "the mess that the last government left us". The Con-Men of the coalition say it all the time, and the sad thing is that it might stick. When, in five years time their policies are seen to have been so wrong, their excuse will be "the mess that the last government left us". It was notable that when Blair got in, they appeared to have an agreement amongst themselves that they would not comment on the situation they inherited. They just got on with it. Gordon Brown paid off the National Debt like nobody's business, and as I might have mentioned before, had to borrow it all back to pay for the mess the bankers made. So, the correct phrase should be "the mess that the bankers left us".

Modern technology, sledgehammer style
Yesterday, we were driving westwards on the M40 from London and noticed a sign that said : 50 Debris on carriageway 8a-9. Nobody dropped their speed to 50, and we passed junction 8, expecting to see 8a next, but the next junction was numbered 10, and the notices were repeated every mile for goodness knows how far.
1. Where is junction 8a? Google maps shows a spur heading north-west towards Marlow from junction 8, with two junctions, 9a and 9b. No 8a anywhere.
2. Why, with modern technology, did the signs continue after junction 10? Are they controlled in blocks?

Why give to charity if they waste it?
This morning we received a package from the British Red Cross address to 'The Occupier' at our address. Four nice little note-cards with envelopes, a strip of personal address labels and a letter asking for a donation. I have no objection to this, which is quite enterprising. If done properly. But who is going to use a personal label addressed to 'The Occupier'? Not anyone in our house, and thus as waste of money. My assumption is that they bought the mailing list, which is far cheaper if only an address, rather than one with names as well. Did they send out millions of labels to 'The Occupier'? Not well thought out.

And whilst we are at it, last week The Salvation Army again left a plastic bag for clothes and failed to call and collect anything. Their shop in town says that the company given the contract to collect was to blame. Twice this has happened.

My assumption is that people totally mis-judge rural areas when taking on delivery or collection work of this sort. Areas with scattered housing, needing a lot of expensive fuel to get around. It is the same with people who deliver the telephone directories. A local person thinks it sounds good money, does it once, and is out of pocket. We have never had a directory delivered by the same person twice. In towns, companies take on the work and pay peanuts for individuals to do it. Far more rewarding. No company will touch rural areas, just as the private mail delivery services will not consider the 'end game' of delivering to doorsteps, even in towns.

ERTMS - European Rail Traffic Management System
Facts :
1. ERTMS is currently being trialled on the Cambrian Line in Wales.

2. Yesterday, I went to Newtown Station to met a friend coming by train from Welshpool, and today went with him to catch a train to London.

3. Both trains were 55 minutes late.

4. The Arriva Trains website states : All lines are running a good service.

It appears that ERTMS is a new computer based signalling system, 'which will replace conventional track side signals with high-tech beacons which communicate with in-cab equipment'. Yesterday, (and today?) the system lost the signal, so the train just stopped.

'The technology would allow trains to safely travel more closely together and potentially at higher speeds'. Or, it might spread them out further and then just stop them.

A manual backup system cannot not be operated because they have removed all the signal lights from the track side.

I assume you will see all the implications of what I write. Instead of apologies for leaves on the line, are we now to receive apologies for clouds blotting out the signal? We do have rather a lot of cloud at certain times of the year.

Just like buses, none and then three at once
I am positive that hundreds of books have been written discussing whether life is random or not. Well, with maps, things certainly go in bursts. Random bursts maybe, but bursts all the same.

This week it has been requests for Irish half-inch maps from the 1970s. Three requests so far, the first since last summer. And as ever when I get a burst of requests, I ask myself "Why?" Are they related? Has there been an article written about them, or something on the television? Probably not.

When we issued catalogues, there would be maps that we could predict would be popular and that a dozen people would ask for. But now and again, we would have six or eight people asking for something that we had not noticed. To us, a perfectly normal map. So, after the third call, we would take it out and look at it, the cover, the map, every angle was studied, and never did we find anything unusual. I took to asking people why they wanted it, and always received a varied batch of reasons. Never did anyone tell me that it was unusual for some reason. Whenever this happened, you could bet that the same item had been in a previous catalogue and had not sold. And that the dozen people wanting it, had not asked for it from the previous listing. This time around, they just fancied a copy, or last time, they had spent their money by the time they got to it, and so on.

On a similar line of thought, I like to show things to people who visit, especially if they have never seen an example of a particular map. Why? Because it so often happens that they then go out and find a copy. A sort of burst, for them. Never seen, and then two at once.

Bartholomew combined sheets
Someone emailed last week, asking for a Bartholomew map, sheets 14/15. I replied that I had never seen any Bartholomew joint sheets. I then remembered the series that has two sheet numbers on the front cover, which I think of as a 'change-over' series and which I have never really studied. Checking them today, I see that we do have one numbered 14/15 : M.1. Initially, there were two series of the half-inch maps, one for Scotland, and another for England and Wales. About the mid-1930s, they decided to go for a single 62 sheet series, and changed some sheet lines, combining 14 with most of sheet 15, and eventually giving it the number 50.

So, yes, I can still say that I have never seen a Bartholomew's combined sheet, meaning all the detail from more than one sheet on one piece of paper, but that I now know there were major changes to the sheet lines, that I have never really taken in. As they say,"You learn something every day".

Brainwashing might be a term that is little used these days, but years ago, the bad old Russians (as they were called) were accused of it all the time. Chambers dictionary : to subject a person to systematic indoctrination or mental pressure to make them change their views.

Well, it has always struck me that America is the same, but the victim is the whole population. Whenever you see a picture of a US government official making an announcement, there is at least one big American flag beside them in the picture. This same flag appears on everything from space ships to lapel badges. (I nearly said toilet paper.) My understanding is that all classrooms have the flag at the front, and they pledge allegiance to the flag at the start of school every morning, whatever this means.

Add to this the constant use of phrases such as "in our great country", "God bless America", "freedom", "our free country" and so on, by anyone addressing an audience, and one cannot argue against the American population being constantly brainwashed into thinking their country is wonderful.

The nearest to this that I can remember, is people being expected to stand for the National Anthem at the end of cinema programmes. We no longer have that in our great country, or is it countries?

Birmingham City Water : Bottled water, £1 a bottle
Yes, that is what is on sale in our local supermarket, produced by Birmingham City Football Club.
The whole question of bottled water fascinates me. It is a bit like Private Eye offering a cassette tape of the two minute silence a few years ago. When we eat out, I always ask for a jug of water to go with the meal, especially if alcohol is on the table. Tap water is fine. In Britain, France or Spain. None of this fussy stuff that either has a smell, or a taste, or is fizzy or most usually is flat and totally lifeless.

Here, at home, our water comes from a well two fields away. A nice big hole in the ground, about the size of a small car, and lined with bricks. No mortar, just gaps between the bricks, through which crystal clear water seeps and fills the well. A pipe hangs almost to the bottom and goes to three houses, with the water getting there by gravity. Just like emptying a fish tank for cleaning. Nothing fancy, and wonderful water.

When we go anywhere, we always take a few bottles with us.

When we go to France, the first thing we do is to go into the supermarket and buy a pack of six 1.5 Litre bottles of the cheapest water, which is fine, and usually costs less than £1.25 for the lot. In the supermarket yesterday, the cheapest prices seem to be about 40p for a 1.5 Litre bottle. Why is it so costly over here? And as you would expect, town water costs even more.

Have I got this right?
1. Under AV, there is far more chance of coalition governments.
2. As with the existing coalition government, anything promised by lesser parties in a manifesto is torn up, as this only holds if the party gets to form a government by itself.

Catchy sayings
Number 12 : Absence of evidence is not necessarily evidence of absence.
Number 35 : Expect the unexpected, then it is expected.
Number 48 : Buy some maps today, and make me happy.

Census night
So, how many of you had an all night party, and how many people were there to go on the form?
I can remember an email on this subject to ordnancemaps in 2001. 'I am catching up on ordnancemaps, having just visited my great grand daughter (SZ 07) for a family Census party on Sunday evening (four generations and fifty six people to account for).'

National database of addresses
A couple of years ago, there was a very good article in the New Scientist about the problems, nay, the impossibility of creating a national database of addresses. Parliament were discussing it and I sent a copy to our MP, but did not keep a note of the article and cannot now refer to it, so please do not ask for the reference.

Essentially, it said that even if we can identify every building, shed and caravan as individual items and give each a unique address, people will not use these addresses. So the database will not work.

How often do you see The Poplars, 3 Church Road, or such? Mr Jones wants the status of the house name in his address. Similarly, we use Montgomeryshire and not Powys in our address, even though the Post Office prefers neither a house name nor county to be used. When it comes to individualising (is that a word? well it is now), houses, names are just as important to some people as fake Cotswold stone cladding.

At one time, I was annoyed at receiving junk mail from people who had obviously bought mailing lists from charities and such like. I therefore started using two different or wrong letters on the end of our post code, and kept a note of who I sent this particular code to. When I received unsolicited mail with that address, I could challenge the initial recipient. Well, as you might expect, that did not last long. I just could not be bothered. But I continue to use wrong endings to our post code when filling in forms from people I do not like. It might just upset their systems, but has no effect on the postal delivery which is all geared up to SY16 alone.

And we all know that a computer check will reject something if one digit or letter is different. It will not link two entries together, unless identical in every way. I am now up to P as a second initial for my name with government departments, and nobody has twigged yet.

How long will it go on?
I really am getting tired of the Con-dems saying they are clearing up the mess left by the last government. I do not recall any talk of a financial crisis until the banks took a nose dive. And then the government bailed them out, and the Con-dems agreed with what was done. This is where the deficit came from. Of course the Con-dems agreed, it was their banker friends that were having to be bailed out by the taxpayer. And now the taxpayer, pensioners and public sector employees are being whacked left, right and centre in order to reduce the deficit, to try and reduce it. And what happens if the deficit is reduced within four years. Why, the banks might then pay back the money, which will give a surplus, and guess where this will go? In tax cuts for the wealthy (AKA bankers).

Bartholomew maps
This morning, somebody wanted two Bartholomew 1:100,000 National Series maps in the red and black covers. Unusually, we only had one, but could offer the missing sheet in the 1966 half-inch series. When the scale and design of map was changed, they thankfully decided to retain the existing sheet lines, making it easy to put together a 'set' of maps with differing scales. For most cycling holidays, especially in the remote parts of Scotland, the older non-metric maps will be fine.

An email also arrived asking how to date Bartholomew maps. Basically, until about 1911, one has to go on internal evidence and the address of the Bartholomew premises. They then introduced a code which usually appears in the top left corner of the map, A or B for the first or second half of the year plus the last two digits of the year, thus B 27 is July to December 1927. After about 1945, a date appears in the lower margin.

A good introduction can be found in A brief guide to dating Bartholomew maps by Ken Winch.

Tour maps
Usually, 1:250,000 (the old quarter-inch) maps sell slowly, but since the beginning of the year, we have had endless people come to us from the Ordnance Survey, looking for the recently dis-continued Tour maps. We did have a set in excellent condition, but now only have one sheet. Particularly sought after has been Northern Scotland.

Those wicked bankers again
I frequently return to thinking about the global banking crisis, trying to get it clear in my mind.

The banks poured so much money into bad and risky decisions that they needed help on a big scale, or they would fail and take many economies with them.

Only national governments could give help on the scale needed, as only they could borrow the amount of money required.

The borrowed money was lent by banks, who charged a very high rate of interest.

The high returns from this interest, and the fact that bank employees 'handled' the loan transactions resulted in very high bonuses.

The Irish economy has been hit exceedingly hard and is being punished by exceedingly high interest rates, charged by the banks, who caused the trouble in the first place.

If the banks have the money to lend to other troubled banks via national governments, why did they not help their fellow bankers in the first place? Why were national governments needed as middlemen? For national governments read taxpayers.

Maps and the art of car maintenance
Those old enough to remember the 1960s and 70s will probably agree that on a Sunday morning, one could not drive more than two streets without seeing at least two cars, each with a pair of legs sticking out from under them. Car maintenance and repair was a thing one had to do. Now, a thing of the past. Today, all one can do is put liquids into a modern car, otherwise it has to go to the garage.

Similarly, in the past, one used maps to get about. One read a map or atlas. These days, Satvav is the word, and a lot of people complain. Although a lot of people are very pleased with it, or is it them? Not having looked into the question, I confess ignorance. But the skill of map reading is on the decline, and reliance on the gizmo on the up.

It is all part of a growing trend. We are very much heading for a 'hands-off' existence. Don't do it yourself, get something or someone to do it for you. Which obviously will hit the poor hardest, if they cannot afford to pay someone.

I understand that a vast number of households are without anyone who can cook a 'hot meal', meat, potatoes and two veg (or the equivalent for Mexican, Indian and Chinese households). Buy something and heat it up. Our council issued a leaflet last year saying "Call yourself a gardener and yet do not make your own compost?" My brother notes that in Surrey, people take garden waste to the re-cycling centre (in four by fours), and the next year go and buy it back as bags of compost. When all they had to do was put it in the corner of the garden for that time, and nature would do the rest, saving them money and putting less pressure on the environment. Yet going to the re-cycling centre is part of weekend life, everyone has to be seen to do it. It makes you feel good to dispose of rubbish in a responsible manner. Just as one has to be seen running around the streets with wires hanging out of both ears and carrying a bottle of water in case of de-hydration on a fifteen minute jog.

Oh, what a bitter, twisted person I am. Let them have their fun.

A map is essential
In town this morning, I picked up a copy of Food & drink : Cardiff 2011. A very glossy booklet with lots of nice pictures of eating places, the odd glimpse of food and a write up. Had I been visiting Cardiff and picked this up, it would have been useless without either an Internet connection or a Cardiff A-Z. There is no map, so someone visiting has no idea of where any place is situated. "That looks nice. Where is it? How near to where we are staying?"
If one does not know an area and has a list of addresses, a map is essential. Estate Agents know this, but not this particular eating guide.

Winter fuel allowance
As a result of the budget this week, the annual tax-free payment to help people pay for their heating over the winter months will fall from £250 to £200 for the over 60s, and from £400 to £300 for the over 80s in 2011-12.

Mr Clegg was asked about the issue on a radio phone-in by a man who said he had read about the change in a newspaper.

The deputy prime minister and Liberal Democrat leader replied: "Firstly, I wouldn't believe everything you read in the papers, I certainly don't these days. Secondly, we have increased winter fuel payments."

The National Pensioners' Convention also said it was "shabby" that Mr Osborne did not announce the move in his Budget statement and people had been left to read the smallprint of the Budget document.

Maybe not green
So, my personal tax allowance has been increased. I think that I will spend all of the annual benefit on half a tank of petrol. Especially as a penny off and another penny not going on to 130p per litre makes so much difference. As a result, petrol is now so cheap that nobody needs shop around.

The Ordnance Survey were not everywhere all the time.
In our reprint of the Indexes to the 1/2500 and 6-inch scale maps of England and Wales (and the Scottish version), there is a table showing when each county was visited by the OS surveyors. Thus, for Anglesey, the initial survey took place between 1886-7, and was revised in 1899, and again between 1913-23, and finally between 1969-76.
If you want to see the landscape in 1905, you are out of luck. I frequently have to explain this to members of the general public, who usually just cannot understand why the OS did not map their street just as building started on a green field site, half-way through building and on completion of the street.

A body blow to the poor working person
The Chancellor George Osborne will announce in the Budget a tax on private jet flights as part of a crackdown on tax loopholes. Travellers using corporate jets do not currently have to pay any duty.

"That will hit almost everyone I know."

Who said this?
a. Me.
b. You.
c. David Cameron.

Do you remember the 1960s comedy sketch that opened with a view of a pond, and the back of a notice board standing in the middle of the pond? On the far side of the pond, a group of lads were lobbing stones at the board. The second shot was from behind the lads, and one read on the board "Please do not throw stones at this notice".

When driving in the wide open spaces of the Cotswolds, usually on very fast roads, where to slow down would be dangerous, I know of at least two isolated houses, on the front gates of which appear a notice "No turning". These have always fascinated me, as nobody in their right mind would stop and turn in theses properties, as it is dangerous, and there are plenty of minor roads and other facilities for turning.

In Newtown, high up on a shop corner, a yellow and black hazard sign reads : Beware protruding sign. Just that sign. Nothing else.

I have heard that many people attending cricket matches like to have a transistor radio with them in order to hear the commentary, and those coming away from Saturday football matches like them to hear the results of other matches. So that on Saturday evening, when I happened to have the computer turned on and followed a link to the rugby match, I was not totally surprised to see a host of laptops being used. Only a glimpse of the crowd, but it appeared that some seats had little shelves in front and these were full of laptops showing the match. Brilliant, I would assume. You could see in detail, what was happening at the other end; you could get a replay of an incident whilst the man with the magic sponge came out, and so on. Similar to the advice to take a small mirror with you to the Sistene Chapel in Rome, to save getting a sore neck from constant looking up.

Copyright and Irish maps
The Ordnance Survey of Ireland website is not at all helpful when one wants to know the copyright position for Irish maps. So I emailed, and received an reply which has some interesting points.

1. The senior person wrote : 'My understanding is that it is 75 years under Irish law.' Sorry, but I cannot take this as a definitive statement, as in 'Copyright exists for 75 years'. To me, there is some doubt, only one person's opinion, rather than a statement from the organisation. Surely it could be more positive?

2. 'OSI does incorporate errors which can be identified such as caravan sites placed at the wrong side of a feature...' Most helpful to the emergency services.

3. If you are in any doubt about Irish copyright law you would be best to obtain your own legal advice about copyright law in Ireland as we will generally only tell you if you have infringed copyright and do not give legal advice regarding this matter.

I am sure that they would do more than just tell you that an infringement has taken place. In my experience, if asked, the Ordnance Survey in Southampton will state whether they believe a particular map is still within copyright (not that you need to ask, as they state things in clear language in copyright documents). For Ireland, from the email I received, it appears that they will not venture an opinion, and will wait to pounce if you get it wrong.

To delete or not to delete?
As the saying goes "Sometimes, you just cannot win". If I sell something from the website and leave it there, with the price deleted, someone will frequently be upset at having missed it. If I take it away, the information might just have been of use to someone (who would not have bought it anyway).
For me, the website serves several purposes. It is primarily to promote our business. It also lists a few of the items we have in stock, and they might sell from the site. I also see the information contained, and structure of the site as being helpful to anyone trying to sort out what Ordnance Survey maps they have. The structure of the main page is based on the excellent book by Roger Hellyer, Ordnance Survey small-scale maps : indexes 1801-1998, which not only has all the small scale index diagrams for OS maps, but full details of all the different series that used each diagram, which sheets were issued in each series, dates of issue, military issues, experimental sheets and much more. What about black and white maps with just the main roads coloured? Can you name the 53 maps published between 1899-1904, or the 22 published between 1907-1912? Do you know of the two versions of the Cotswold Hunt Map, or the four versions of the London Passenger Transport Map, published on 12 sheets?

Probably, the single most useful reference book on Ordnance Survey maps.

I still maintain that this is the book I wanted when I first became interested in OS maps. As it did not exist, we had to get Roger to write it. A lot of people use it as a catalogue of their collections, marking each map held on the diagrams for quick and easy reference, and making a wants list of maps needed. Some people even have a second copy.
If you do not have a copy, shame on you. How can you collect OS maps without one?
Mother's Day is approaching fast, so we have set ten copies aside, to be sold at £25 including UK postage (rather than £35 plus postage). Go on, she deserves it.

Japan : Tsunami
I cannot decide whether modern technology is useful or not in times of disasters. The more horrific images one sees, the less impact they have. Cumulatively, yes, they have an impact, but each new image has less than the previous. Click here to see before and after images. Move the blue slider in the middle of the picture left or right.

Friday afternoon things
As I have mentioned before, working from home really does suit us, but is not quite as we thought it would be. When we started, I said that we could work weekends if we fancied, and take days off in the week instead. But no, people expect a business to be open Monday to Friday, and it is more hassle not to be here.
For example, you miss telephone calls.
Not that this is a problem, as we have the BT account where you pay something like £12 a month and can make as many local and national calls as you wish. So ringing someone back is no problem and looks good if you chat away.
But whilst we were out this morning, I received one of what I consider the rudest and most inconsiderate type of call. From a mobile phone (calls to which are not part of our BT package), and not giving any indication of what is wanted. So I am unable to undertake any preliminary work before calling back.
When I rang back, after a while a message told me that the person could not take my call, and would I try again later or send a text message. No option for me to leave a message.
STFAL, as the doctors might say.

More on tin codes
The following appeared in an email today, so things are hotting up.
After reading your thoughts about the codes used on tins of tomatoes, I have been checking the codes on tins of kidney beans and think I have saved myself 50p per can. My wife is yet to share my enthusiasm for the subject!

Yet another fun map
Click here when you have time to waste.

The River E
I have a small collection, maps and notes, of errors on Ordnance Survey maps. This afternoon, I was checking something for a customer on Seventh Series sheet 37, Kingussie and in the top left margin was 'River E' in blue. Ah, ah, who forgot to complete the river name? Looking on the sheet to the left, alongside the said waterway was 'River E' heading into the southern end of Loch Mhor. Two road atlases have entries for 'River E'. So, I have leant something today, and hope that my ignorance is not seen as being too great.

Wind farms
For those who have been following the debate on wind farms in Wales (seven massive areas), the following is of interest : 'By 2010, under Wales’ massive wind-energy policy, the amount of CO2 saved per year will be no greater than if just four jumbo jets were to cease operating over the same period. This puts the whole scenario into perspective.
Wind turbines are heavily subsidised through a complicated system of Renewable Obligation Certificates. Even Ofgem is now calling for an end to this subsidy system, stating it is ‘the most costly and inefficient form of lowering CO2 emissions yet devised’. A near £1 billion hidden subsidy today across the UK is eventually expected to rise to a cumulative £32 billion by 2020.

This staggering figure of subsidy, along with a twenty year government guarantee, has attracted large-scale investment but it is going almost exclusively into financially risk-free wind turbine developments. This is preventing investment in better, but currently less developed, forms of renewable energy technology.'

Are things starting to hurt already?
Over the past two weeks, we must have had about a dozen people contact us about maps they wish to sell. Most have been sad little lots, but one was quite nice. Nearly every one of the contacts was sorting out the effects of someone who had died, and conscientiously made a quick telephone call to reassure themselves that what they had really were of little value. This said, it must be noted that for us, a dozen such calls within two weeks is a lot. I am sure that behind some of the calls, there was the need for money that had been absent this time last year.

Spring is on the way. I promise
I have no wish to rub it in, but working from home really is nice. When I look up from my desk, I have a window in front of me and can see fields, trees, a small hill and lots of sky. There are track marks in the grass on the field opposite, which means that lambs are being taken there, after having spent their first day or so indoors. Those in the field just out of sight are about a week older and have learnt to run around in groups. First one runs down the side of the hedge and the bunch follows, and then they all run back again, giving the odd jump in the air as they go.

And the daffodils look as if they will be plentiful for St.David's day.

Lambs and daffodils, no journey to work and no boss. Worth considering.

For your attention.
I suppose it is what advertising is all about, highlighting something in order to promote it. Whenever we went to the local Friday auction of old pots and pans, rusty saws and similar, we would have a look at everything (well, a glance usually, 'look' is far too grand a word) and might stay on for something we fancied. All lots were brought out and put on a little table, and so often, once an object was on the table, we would agree that we had not noticed it, or more often, thought that it looked quite nice. In isolation, all by itself.

The same goes for maps. Last week, we went to the Byd bach : Small world exhibition in the National Library of Wales in Aberystwyth. Sub-titled 'travel in Wales and beyond', it has some very nice maps on display. The most striking was an Ordnance Survey 1:2500 (twenty-five inches to one mile) First Edition map of Aberystwyth, with the beautiful pink hand-coloured buildings. Striking, beyond belief. I spent ages looking at it, not studying the buildings, nor the colouring, just the map. A big pink blob on the wall. And this, despite having two drawers full of the things, which I seldom look at.

Similarly, in the past few years we have had several people ring saying they had seen a modern one-inch map of the Lake District on a wall in a pub or tourist office and would like one for their own wall. I would bet that had they seen the same map, folded in Ordnance Survey covers and amongst others in a bookseller's box of maps, they would not have been as appreciative.

When we used to take maps out and have a stall somewhere, it sometimes happened that a person would work their way through the boxes and seem to find nothing. Someone else would then take out and open a map, and the first person would start studying it, glancing sideways. To make a sale, one only had to ask the person holding the map, very gently, whether they wanted it or not. Usually, they would be aware of the other person looking at it, and would say "Yes". On the basis that if 'he' was interested in it, it must be worth having, and they would be one up on 'him', whoever he was. And if they said "No", then the other person would always have it, having passed over it 'in a crowd of maps' but most interested if displayed by itself.

Reading books on-line.
I have never really looked into e-books and so on, but the following link to a map related book is quite impressive, and very promising (in its way) if this is where things are heading. The second icon after Zoom shows two pages side by side, and the arrows on the right move around the book. A few pages are missing but are to be added. Good first attempt, shall we say.

Glen McLaughlin : California as an island.

If you have a pension, read this.
On Friday (February 11th), when the attention of a few of us was on some interesting events in Egypt, the Department of Work and Pensions published a new so-called impact assessment of the costs for members of defined benefit pension schemes of the government's decision that many of these schemes should up-rate their benefits in line with lower CPI (Consumer price index) inflation, as opposed to RPI (Retail price index) inflation.

I am not sure why they published a new assessment, since it was only in December that the last such evaluation was put out.

But the calculation may upset the millions of people affected by the changes, since it says that the effect of the move from RPI to CPI for protecting the value of future pensions is to reduce the value of their benefits over the next 15 years by £83bn - which is 8.4 per cent more than the £76.6bn December estimate of the erosion of their wealth.

And for 2 million relevant active members of pension schemes, they will be up to £2,500 a year worse off right now, on average.

But they won't feel it till they retire - when their pensions will be up to 12 per cent lower than would otherwise have been the case (in real terms) in 2027 and 20 per cent lower in 2050.

The corollary of course of the pain for those saving for a pension in a defined benefit scheme is an £83bn windfall for the companies and other institutions which sponsor these schemes.

John Ralfe, the pensions expert, puts it like this: "this is a reduction in the value of pensions to pension scheme members and is a transfer from them to shareholders".

Robert Peston : Your pension the full text.

Note on business website February 14th : DWP 'technical error' adds £10bn cost to CPI switch.

Yet again, someone has just telephoned seeking large scale maps. Nothing unusual about that, nor that they mentioned having been in contact with Landmark and found them not very helpful. Nor was the quality up to much.

My understanding is that when Landmark scanned the maps in the Ordnance Survey Record Map Library, this was used as part of the justification for the OS getting rid of these maps.

So, instead of someone contacting the OS for a copy, they are supposed to make do with a poor substitute from Landmark costing £40 or more. Not good enough, I say.

So, I suggest people try good libraries, who can produce very good copies at reasonable rates.

The wonders of Google
Increasingly, I am amazed at what can be found on the Internet, and am even more amazed at how the search engines find things. As our website has more added to it, I sometimes find it hard to remember whether I have put something onto the site, and if so, where it is. So, I use Google to search our site for me. Fast and easy, with no need for me to keep detailed records.

Ask Mr Google for : GSGS 2364, and we appear at the bottom of page one.

If one wants to search for a specific phrase, put it in inverted commas. Thus :
"GSGS 2364 : France and Belgium : 1:100,000" will bring up just two hits, both on our site. Neat.

Worrying news
Three-quarters of a million more people are set to become higher rate taxpayers in April, says the Institute for Fiscal Studies. Which must affect our business and others who rely on customers having a bit extra to spend on hobbies and interests. Thus, we join the ever increasing list of people, communities and projects to have been condemned to a lower standard of living.(Con-Demed if you like, Chambers Dictionary : Condemn ... to be wrong, immoral, reprehensible, etc...).

Of course, the simple and more effective answer would be to have another, higher 60 pence rate of income tax for the really well off, such as bankers. I cannot think of a highly paid banker on our customer list.

Smell of maps
Why is it, that if I receive a batch of Ordnance Survey maps which have a slight odour, it is either a musty smell from having been in damp conditions or having been near TCP?

Maps and tomatoes
In the early , I used to travel to school on the Underground from Putney Bridge to Southfields. I started to pick up copies of the Beck London Underground diagram from the ticket office, as I had noticed they had different print codes, so were worth collecting. Having been alerted to print codes, it was quite natural to look for, and find them on Ordnance Survey and other maps. Codes, designed for the producer are of interest to others, it seems, and can be quite useful at times.

These days, as ever, I use a lot of chopped tomatoes in cooking, but they have risen steeply in price in recent years. The best, with the thickest juice, rather than a weak red coloured water, are those tinned by Napolina. But they are a fantastic price compared to most others.

Now, if you remember your micro economics from 'O' level, you will recall that firms often try to split a market for various reasons, mainly for economies of scale. Thus, we were told in the late 1960s, that Frank Cooper's expensive Oxford Marmalade was the same as that found in jars with Sainsbury's own label on them. Produce a lot and sell at two different prices in different markets order to gain economies of scale. Just as when we bought a photocopier a few years ago, the salesman suggested we buy a much cheaper Olivetti, which is identical to a Cannon machine, except for the label. Same factory production line, but using Olivetti labels two days a week and Cannon labels for three days a week.

So, the big question was whether Napolina chopped tomatoes were available with another label on them, at a lower price? Could I use the codes stamped on the tin ends to advantage?

Yes. Consider the following codes. Napolina CO5 3 PC, L R247. Princes CO5 4 PC, L N247. Unlike any other tinned tomato codes. And what is more, both tins are white inside, whereas all other brands are without the white coating. And Princes are far cheaper (3 for £1 in Iceland, Napolina £1.09 each in the Co-op) leaving more spare cash for maps.

Update: I have just found the following about Princes : As well as owning brands like Princes, Napolina, Shippams, Aqua Pura and Jucee, the Princes Group also supplies own brand products to major UK and European retailers across all its categories.

It gets more interesting all the time.

So, the top paid people in business are to get 45-55% pay rises (on average), whilst the lowest paid will get less than 1%.

1. Question : If the top people are paid over the odds 'to get and keep the best people', why are the lowest paid not paid more to get the best people? Surely it is those at the sharp end, who face the public across a counter all day, who are the public image of a concern, who are the skilled craftsmen and women, who go out in all weathers and fix things, these are the people who deserve over the odds to keep them. And in total, the extra would be far less than the total paid to the highest paid. (I cannot bring myself to say highest earners, as nobody can do enough to 'earn' so much.)

2. Oh, say the commentators, but the share holders could vote things down if they thought it wrong. Rubbish.
Next time the voting papers arrive from the building society, look at the people standing for the board, and they will all be seen to sit on several other boards of financial institutions. Thus, when remuneration comes up, one will say "Oh yes, we agreed a similar increase last week on another board I sit on", "So did we", replies another member. And it goes through.
Look more closely at the financial institutions these people sit on, and you will see that these include pension funds and the other major banks and so on : the big share holders. The block vote in Annual General Meetings. No way are the share holders going to vote down pay increases that they themselves have proposed.
A small group, maybe no more than five thousand people essentially control the economy. They are so interconnected that government is powerless to stop them.

3. Question : Why do people want so much money? More money than they or their family could ever spend? Not for what it buys, but for status. I am better than him because I am paid more. And who pays for all of this? The person at the bottom who will get less than 1% pay increase this year.

County names
I have just checked a list of English and Welsh county names through a spell checker and all the Welsh ones were questioned. What does this show?

An email received today
dear sir/madam
I am doing a project on Oxfodshire and i was wondering if you could please email me a image of a map of Oxfordshire from the 1880's.

Map books
I have just ordered two items from the latest catalogue from Postscript (Quality books at reduced prices).

Bloody old Britain : O.G.S. Crawford and the archaeology of modern life by Kitty Hauser. Granta. 2008. £6.99 (Originally £16.99). Crawford was the first Archaeology Officer in the Ordnance Survey, but a prickly character by all accounts. (Item 69269)

County atlases of the British Isles published after 1703. Volume lll : Atlases published 1764 to 1789 and their subsequent editions. by Donald Hodson. British Library. 1997. £6.99 (Originally £12, but my memory is that it was more). I have the first two volumes and do find them useful at times, so would like the third. (Item 69187)

Postscript have the most wonderfully easy order form. A joy to use.

The great stink
So, the government asked for ideas to reduce inefficiency and waste, and has now set up a website where people can vote for ideas. I have just had a quick look at the site.
1. It claims to have listed 44,000 out of 100,000 ideas received.
2. These are grouped under headings, and I clicked on 'Defence'.
3. The text for ideas 10, 11 and 19 are identical, with each heading starting 'Scrap Trident and its replacement Nuclear weapons currently cos…'.
4. All appear to have received votes, and are given a 'Current rating' such as Average Score 4.2, based on 4 votes.
5. What does that mean? What is the 4.2? I can find nothing about the figures shown.
6. And of course, any idea that appears three times, with 'votes' split between three entries will obviously not get a high ranking.
7. A single entry for ' Scrap Trident and its replacement Nuclear weapons' would do far better. But that is not what the government wants.
The whole thing stinks.

Clever website
A fancy website, but moving the cursor can make you feel sick. Be warned.

Internet searches
A film company rang yesterday wanting to know if we held the copyright to the David and Charles reprints of the Ordnance Survey Old series maps. One had been caught on film and they wanted permission to use the clip.
It appears that they had typed 'David and Charles map' into a search engine, and we came up first, so they rang us. Had they typed 'David and Charles' the publishers would have been the first entry listed.

Financial circles
We sell maps to people who have money to pay for them. We therefore keep an eye on what money people have. A good source of information is Robert Peston. Especially if read daily. The piece for today, Monday 2nd of August 2010 is essential reading for everyone.
Read it all.
Scroll down if necessary until you find it. Ignore his first line until last (i.e. do not look at the mentioned document.)


And spend time reading the comments that follow the piece (click on 'Comments' to the right of the date below the header.)

Maps showing parishes
The only trouble (well one of them) with selling maps is that having taken one out, you start looking at it. Regardless of where it is, a good thirty minutes can pass if something were to catch your eye.

Someone just asked for a map of Lincolnshire showing parish boundaries with the parishes named. There was nothing in the large box of Admin. maps, but in the folder of index maps, we found what was needed. Combined index showing Civil Parishes and the Ordnance Survey maps of Lincolnshire. Essentially a 1954 quarter-inch brown outline map of the county, with parish boundaries and their names in black, plus the sheet lines for the 6-inch and 25-inch county series maps, also in black.

First, the really long parishes to the east of Spalding were spotted, then the straight line of Roman Ermine Street stood out, as it is used for many parish boundaries to the south and north of Lincoln. All needed investigating before parish names were studied. And so the time passes.

'Famous' names
Many years ago, when a student, I tried to find the shortest wording on an envelope that would arrive at the destination. Today, DA, SY16 4PD would almost certainly get to me, but in those days, postcodes were still fairly new, and little used. I think that the shortest that got through was Fred Bloggs, Lamphey, but not Fred, Lamphey.

Similarly, a few people can be identified just by their first name in many circles. When we see 'Delia' plastered across the tabloids, most of the British public will know who is meant, even if she has not been in the headlines for months or years. Last week a friend was talking maps and telling me about an event in London where 'Vanessa' was a speaker. No more was needed.

And for those living a life without Vanessa, a Google search for 'Vanessa map' will not work, but 'Vanessa os map' will. Not very short. A Google search for 'Delia' gives most of the first page entries to the one and only Delia (who is not very good at cakes).

I do not want them to go to Oxfam
I recently considered giving a vast number of maps to the Oxfam bookshop. Surely they have a major warehouse and could distribute them to their bookshops? I must admit that I still have terrible mis-givings about Oxfam, especially after reading the reports that only 20% of money received actually goes to 'good causes'. The other 80% goes on staff salaries, admin and so on.

Anyway, I though that I would investigate Oxfam. I agree that anyone donating items to the charity would expect them to get the best price for them, but I also think that if the staff are well paid, then they should act in 'a professional way', whatever that means. But you will follow my drift.

From experience, things vary greatly in Oxfam bookshops. I visit two towns quite often, and always pop into the Oxfam bookshop in each town, to have a quick look at the maps, which are usually modern and rather sad. In one shop, the maps are priced as I would expect, and as I think correct, a couple of pounds each. In the other, the prices are way up, vary greatly and are stupid. The person who prices maps in this shop has no feel for the subject. I would most certainly not want any maps that I donated to Oxfam to end up in here.

So what about Oxfam nationally? Where, one assumes, the maps and books will be handled by a paid specialist who knows the subject, or at least has a feel for it. A quick look at the Oxfam website and a search for Ordnance Survey maps has convinced me that I would rather send what I have to the tip than for the maps to enter the Oxfam system.

Items are listed by individual branches, not nationally. Maps are listed with a photograph. Good clean Landranger maps seem to be £2.99; we sell them for £3, so no problems. But there is a picture a Popular Edition sheet for Anglesey, which from the look of the front cover, I would put in a £1 box. The description is : 'The back cover is chipped, map itself is in Very Good condition'. And they price it at £17.50. From experience, I am positive that this is a very well used and sad map.

I would never give anything in this state to a charity shop, in the belief that it would just sit around and take up valuable space. So, if I gave anything to Oxfam it would be a nice clean map. Which they would appear to price at a ridiculous level, judging by the prices for tatty maps on the website today. Obviously, on the website, the same problems as occur in shops are perpetuated. Good and bad listing. And I have no wish to contribute to the bad listing, which I consider a rip-off. In the end, the customer will be unhappy, which is no good for the customer nor Oxfam.

Maybe I will investigate local charity bookshops. And if this does not work, the skip beckons. Worms like a nice bit of paper, card and cloth to work on.

What to do?
In the cartobibliographies published by The Charles Close Society, locations of maps examined are frequently given as PC (Private Collection), meaning that a copy has not been found in one of the copyright libraries. Such maps might, or might not be scarce, rare even. All we know is that they are not easily available to the public.

This is a great shame. I firmly belief that such maps should be in public collections for all to use and enjoy. But, as so often happens, for various reasons, public institutions have little money to spend on such items. Filling in gaps is a low priority. They are often reluctant to accept them as gifts, having little staff time to process them.

I have been sorting maps, and have been coming across examples not in public collections. What should I do? There are so many that even at a nominal price, they would amount to a lot of money, and I cannot afford to just donate them. If I leave them in the the sequence, they will in all probability never be recognised for what they are as I do not have the time to pencil a note on every map. I could put them all into one box and include them in my will to go to a library, but this would mean the same as donating them now: no income for us, which we cannot afford. An interested user of a cartobibliography might require one, ask for a copy and we will not find one in the main sequence of stock. (I certainly would not be checking a second boxed sequence all the time.)

So, they just sit in the main sequence. Safe for the moment, but vulnerable.

What is a state?
Someone recently asked about a nineteenth century Ordnance Survey map, and I told him of maps being engraved on copper plates, and different states of the maps existing. He was not familiar with the term 'states'. Briefly, a copper plate was engraved and maps were printed from it. These are the first state of the plate and map. Small alterations/additions might be made to the plate before more copies were printed, these being the second state,
and so on.

Later in the century, written indications identify a lot of states : Printed from an electrotype in 1881. Later still we get print codes of various sorts, 6.08, 2500/34, 25000/6/46 Wa, B/*, A2 and so on. All of which are fairly obvious as to what they mean, and can usually identify the chronological order in which states of maps were issued.

The problems begin when maps are issued in a new state without any acknowledgement. Or when the same print code is used, but is in a different position, or found with a different typeface or of a different size. Just moving the print code creates a different state.

In 1991, I was cataloguing maps and noticed three versions of the 1966 'A' printing of the New Forest one-inch map. (The small capital 'A' is found on the far left, in the lower margin.)
1. Bold 'A', with the New Forest boundary as green dashes.
2. Lighter 'A', with the boundary as a continuous green line.
3. Lighter 'A', with the boundary as a continuous green line, but with obvious 'fluff marks' on the brown plate in the lower border about 4" to the right of the 'A' code.

The 'fluff marks' do not affect the map content, and show it to be another printing of the previous item. But is it another state? Yes, I would say. It is different. Different enough to draw attention to itself.

The wonderful and not so wonderful Internet
A man telephoned yesterday looking for a copy of Maps and survey by Clough. Not a common book, but he is only the third person to have asked for a copy in twenty five years. I do not have one at present, and he mentioned having seen one on the internet at well over £500. I pointed out that there are a vast number of books listed for sale which do not exist or are print on demand books. All at silly prices, so beware.

Money from map problems
If someone interested in maps and problems sought advice on an interesting career (given that everything is a career these days), I would suggest getting into the 'rights of way' consultancy game. I get a lot of people wanting maps to sort out what appears to be a fairly simple problem, but will take a lot of money to find an answer to. And the money will go to solicitors, most of whom are pretty useless on such matters, and to consultants.

Anyone can set up as a consultant on this subject. I know of people who get paid for such work with backgrounds as Ordnance Survey staff, map scholars and people who have been through a dispute and gained valuable knowledge in fighting a case. The best part is that there is plenty of work for all.

I have just had someone telephone wanting maps showing a footpath around a house. She says it goes around the property, and a neighbour says it goes across the property. Of course, the solicitors did not pick it up during a house conveyance a couple of years ago, so the lady is having to start from scratch.

Before doing anything else, I always advise a visit to the council rights of way people. Most people who come back, say that the council had been more than helpful. Very helpful, yet we are to cut back on council services and council employees, in order to pay for the absolute mess caused by having to prop up the banks. The greedy bankers get away with all the money, leaving the poor and council staff to pay for it. As will map buyers if VAT were put to be put on maps. Let us not forget that the first thing Thatcher did was to double VAT to 15%, and then they increased it to 17.5% and now 20%.
"The leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats in Westminster has said he would not support an increase in VAT in Tuesday's Budget. Roger Williams, MP for Brecon and Radnorshire, said it was a "very regressive tax that falls most heavily on the poorest in society"."

Help wanted
A friend is trying to find all lists of Ordnance Survey and Geological Survey maps issued before 1900. Many are well known and are listed in the catalogues of large libraries. A lot were issued by booksellers and OS agents. Others were issued by publishers and are often found bound in books, at the end, after the main work.

For example, Important, valuable, and cheap maps, and miscellaneous works, published, and in preparation, by Grattan and Gilbert, 51, Paternoster Row, London, Map agents (by appointment) to Her Majesty's Board of Ordnance. Contents : Ordnance County maps and survey of England and Wales....8,9,10. I have a copy of this list, probably from the 1840s, which has been dis-bound from a book of the period. It is this sort of thing that is sought.

So, please, please look inside the back of any volumes that date from before 1900 and let me know if any such lists appear.

And if anyone has a spare copy of a weeny little booklet How and where to obtain Ordnance Survey maps of the United Kingdom. Published under the direction of Colonel R.H. Stotherd, R.E.,.... again, please let me know.

Good hunting.

Things have changed
Since the election, two things have changed. Business has slackened noticeably, and far more people are offering maps than for the last year or so. Things often slow down at this time of the year as people go on holiday and cut the grass, but it is rather quiet at the moment. We all know a new Government announces that things are worse than they thought, but it appears this lot have decided to continue doing so and to actually talk the economy down, which is very different from blaming the other lot for a couple of weeks and then getting on with it. Maybe this has hit the powerhouse of the economy here in Kerry.

If things are slow it allows us to have a rest and to get down to work which otherwise keeps getting put off. Like offering maps to people and putting things on the website.

No, we are happy for the moment, but come the wet and rainy days of winter, we will appreciate a few orders. If you would.

Nothing to do with maps
Sometimes one reads something that just sticks in the mind and will not go away. A few weeks ago, the New Scientist published a statistic that I just keep wondering about, and am finding it impossible to even start to give an explanation for. It appears that on average, an American male uses 57 sheets of toilet paper a day. A day. Fifty seven. On average, meaning some use more than this.
Please email me if you know why this is so. Not why you think it might be so. I am not interested in theories, I want facts. I need to think about something else and must have the answer soon. Fifty seven.

Later : No Mr Thompson, I am not surprised at how little they use.

A fine time waster
Why is it that I always seem to mention time wasting things just before lunch on a Friday? And I work for myself, so no work, no money. Anyway, I have recently been told of Google Street View.
It is brilliant, wonderful, addictive and a complete time waster.
Do not read further whilst at work

Google street view
1. Go to Google.
2. Click on 'Maps' (top left).
3. Type your UK post code in the address box, and click search.
4. When the map appears (I prefer to click Satellite, top right), a little yellow figure can be seen under the navigation symbol in the top left of the view.
5. Drag the figure onto the map.
6. Some roads will appear outlined in blue.
7. Drag the green blob beneath the figure over one of these roads, and a scene will appear in the box above the figure.
8. Release the mouse button and the scene will replace the map.
9. Use the navigation symbol top left to move through 360 degrees.
10. Click on the minus sign to return to the larger map.

Saved by Christmas
My devoted reader will be pleased or otherwise, to know that I was building myself up for a good rant (his word, not mine) about spending so much public money on banks and tanks in 2009. But December has slipped by and I have been distracted by the annual analysis of cards. You will remember that last year the fascination was with robins, where far more faced left than right and not a postbox in sight.

Well, this year, the overwhelming fact is that most cards are either blue or fawn. We have had one postbox and noticeably, there are far more with snow than last year. Who remembers when most cards had a Dickensian theme, snow waist high, warm yellow lights in every window, six horses pulling coaches and the odd chestnut seller smiling in minus twenty degrees? Double glazing has stopped children having little triangles of fake snow in the corner of small window panes, because they would not know what it meant. Cold?

No. I must stop as I feel a good rant brewing.

I hope that everyone has the Xmas they deserve and thoroughly enjoys it, or otherwise; as they wish.

Happy Christmas to all our customers.

There have always been maps that I have been offered and not wanted, for whatever reason. Until recently, if they were modern or low value, I would suggest that a charity shop might appreciate them, often mentioning Oxfam bookshops. But not any more.

A while ago, I read that something like 78% of the money Oxfam receives does not go to the 'good causes' but is spent on administration costs. This horrified me but was backed up last weekend when a lady telephoned seeking advice on an atlas. She had supported Oxfam since her student days and had worked in their shops for over forty years, mostly sorting and pricing books. She knew the turnover figure for the last shop she worked in, which was run by volunteers. It was decided from above that there would be a full time, paid manager. This particular shop opened seven days a week, given its position, and did well on a Sunday. Alas, the manager could not work seven days a week, so a paid deputy manager was appointed and within a short time 'needed' two paid assistants.

Yes, you've guessed it. The next set of annual figures showed that the takings were little more than the cost of the four paid employees.

Having just typed this, I did a quick web search and found the following:


Free maps
One good thing about the Internet, is that it does allow people to be generous, and to co-operate for the benefit of others. I do not like to be under the stranglehold of Microsoft, and do not use anything they produce except their operating system Windows XP. For all other purposes I use freeware, which one can download free of charge (donations are welcomed) and is just as good, if not better.

Thus, I use OpenOffice instead of Word and Excel, and see no difference in use; AVG Free for virus protection and Zone Alarm as a firewall. For web browsing, rather than Microsoft Internet Explorer, you might consider Firefox (and Colorful Tabs as an add-on). Pegasus Mail is used for email rather than Outlook Express (and has an added advantage for virus protection, in that most attacks are aimed at Outlook Express and will not work with Pegasus.)

Such things exist in all other areas, even maps. Have a look at the free outline maps available from Daniel Dalet : http://d-maps.com/
And http://www.openstreetmap.org/

Map cover photographs
Sometimes one picks up interesting little snippets about maps and the workings of the Ordnance Survey. A short while ago, someone emailed asking for a copy of the Outdoor Leisure map number 18 - Snowdonia : Harlech and Bala. He wanted the mid-1980s cover with the photograph of three people and a dog, as he was one of the people.

"I'm the one looking like I'm having a rather earnest conversation with my Mum. My brother is holding the dog, which belonged to the photographer. As far as I remember, the photographer was commissioned to take some shots of the castle, and we happened to wander into view. He thought a family group might add interest, and asked if we wouldn't mind posing (!). I think my brother was rather pleased at being asked to hold the dog. I'm not sure exactly when the photo was taken, but would put it at 1962-63. I was surprised it was used so much later, with our clothes clearly out of date."

Irish maps
"Some of the maps are by Richard Bartlett, on whom John Andrews has recently written in his book 'The Queen's last map-maker', obviously drawn before Bartlett was beheaded by inhabitants of Donegal."


Mapping Manchester exhibition
In case you have not seen this mentioned elsewhere, you might like to look at the e-catalogue for this exhibition, which has a lot of images of the maps and plans displayed. Alas, no printed catalogue has been produced. The exhibition is in the Rylands Library, Manchester and will end on the 17th of January 2010.

Pages 26-28 are very nice and well worth looking at.

Download from

(A version with higher resolution graphics is also available but its 30
meg, http://www.mappingmanchester.org/e-catalogue_high_res.pdf )

Conference maps
I see that there has been a lot of debate on various Internet forums as to why I have been silent for a while. Well, we had a week in New Quay (NOT Newquay, please) and since then, it has been political party conference time. This time of year upsets me so much that it is better for all that I do not write, as revolution would certainly follow.

Having said that, does anyone know whether these gatherings put out anything in the way of decent maps that one might add to a small collection of pre-war Conference maps? I ask, not for myself but for my friend Chris.

Where has the river gone?
When someone in 'high office', nationally or locally, does something wrong, we hear of their having privileges and responsibilities. These two words also apply to anyone who has access to a website, and can just churn out any old opinion for the world to see. Assuming they have an audience. The words ego and rant also come into it

Thus it is with me. Every day there are a few things that really annoy or upset me, causing me to have a good verbal rant. So good are my arguments, that they really should be known worldwide. But I desist. I have a self-imposed responsibility to try to keep to the subject of maps, and avoid words such as Thatcherism, privatisation or bankers. Oh the joys of a website, whether anyone reads it or not.

What has this got to do with maps, you ask? Nothing much. But then most people will read this whilst at work, it being Friday afternoon, so what has this to do with your work? Nothing much.

Which reminds me to tell you of the new London Underground map which came out last week, and was seen by Boris the Buffoon who hit the roof. Why? Because they thought not to put the River Thames on it ( http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/london/8260943.stm ). (Click on the 'The revised Tube map' below the map extract)

If you think that you know London well, or the Beck diagram well, have a look at it and draw in the river. Fun, eh?

No, it really should be shown, because the river is the great divide in London. As someone who was brought up south of the river, I have to say, nay have to stress, that one needs to know when one is planning a journey, whether it involves going north of the river. The north is so different, a hostile country, populated by savages and full of taxi cabs, main line railway stations and football hooligans. South of the river, there are nice quiet streets with trees, children playing and all round happiness. Thus, one never feels safe until back across the water. I have to admit it, but Boris the Buffoon is quite right, despite him holding the map up side down in the picture I saw.

Last night, I decided to ask Mr Google to have a quick look for a few maps that interest me. A search brought up one map, an Ordnance Survey map, produced in the 1920s, not rare, less common certainly, but of little interest to the vast majority of OS map collectors. In very good condition, I might price it at £50 or just under.

What did Mr Google find? What looks like a good clean copy, on offer from a well known South of England mapseller (I am playing safe here, but would stress that it was not Jonathan Potter) at a mere £495.

None of your silly eBay prices, a genuine request for ten times what I would ask. I have been thinking about it ever since and have no hope of sleep tonight.

Please, please, please can someone tell me how anybody can arrive at such a price? A pin? Roll a dice three times? Unbelievable. £495 point nought nought (the point was definitely there, and followed by two noughts).

What is an island?
Someone emailed over the weekend asking for a map of the Isle of Lewis. No problem, just check it on index sheets for a couple of one-inch maps to get the sheet numbers. 'Isle of Lewis' appears with the words 'Isle of Harris' almost merging with the former. Strange. Looking at the atlas, the words 'Isle of Harris' appear to be the southern part of the 'Isle of Lewis'. No clear water between them.

So, the next step, as anyone knows, is to see what Mr Google has to offer. 'The Isle of Harris is actually joined to the Isle of Lewis, and has a short border, shown by a ‘dashed’ line on the Harris map. I then remember the Isle of Dogs in London, which is also not a child's version of an island.

So, the next step, as only the knowledgeable know, is to see what Brian Adams has to offer in his Projections and origins, 'basically any detached piece of natural land, however small, which is above the level of mean high water spring tides.' Detached, he says detached. So, children are correct, and maybe authorities in Harris, Lewis and London might like to reconsider matters.

IMCOS Journal
I have always been aware of the International Map Collectors' Society and their Journal but have never joined. Mainly because the subscription fee was high when I first knew of them, and it still is. Added to which, I am not very interested in what I call decorative maps, and a lot of others call antique maps. Maps on which hills are shown as pimples or small triangles.

Anyway, I am not getting at the society nor members, but must say that I have seen the latest issue of their journal and it really is nice. So much changed from a copy dated 2001. A larger format, excellent coloured illustrations, and a wide ranging selection of articles.

Is it a large or small scale map?
Some things come naturally to most people, but tell some people to turn left and they turn right, or they have to spend ages thinking about it, and then act. With maps, large scale and small scale are the difficult ones, and I must admit that it took me years to be at ease with these two concepts and for them to just trip off the tip of my tongue.

Small scale, I tell people, is when things on a map appear very small, houses are just black dots, and large scale is when they appear very big and are shown in detail.

I used to follow this up by saying that small scale maps had a large area on a given sheet of paper, and large scale maps had a small area on the same sized piece of paper. But mixing the words large and small for the same scale just did not work.

If one more person says that they need to source a map, I will scream. They need to buy a map. And whilst I am at it, I am also sick to the teeth of hearing that the police or army have received intelligence of this or that. The word is information. They have received some information. If they have received intelligence they would be more intelligent. Which means they were lacking intelligence before.

And why do we now have a National Archive and Supreme Court, as in America? Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr.

Laminated white card map covers
It is about 8.30pm and I am sitting at the computer with a bright lamp beside me. A few minutes ago, I was checking some details on an Ordnance Survey one-inch Third Edition map in the white waxy covers. The bright lamp reminded me that if such a cover is held to the light, one can often see that it is made of several pieces of paper and cloth. The inner piece of the sandwich is usually part of a map, frequently large scale, but not exclusively. Sometimes two pieces of map are used.

Try it on a few white covers. Any series. Hinged covers are best, especially back covers with no text on the inside. The light must be bright, holding the map so as to almost touch the light bulb. Great fun.

Great fun it might be, but what are the implications of all this?
1. Did the Ordnance Survey make the covers?
2. Did the Ordnance Survey provide the waste maps to a manufacturer as part of the contract in order to lessen the cost of covers?
3. What was the state of the 'card' industry in the early twentieth century?
4. Why was an OS production cheaper than buying in card, if indeed it was?
5. What technology was used to produce such excellent covers?
6. How large was the concern?

Good news about sticky labels
I received a very nice telephone call this afternoon, during which a mapseller placed an order, and then mentioned that after reading my thoughts on sticky labels, a soft pencil had been purchased for use on Ordnance Survey maps, and sticky labels were a thing of the past in one shop at least. Great rejoicing amongst OS map collectors.

Oh, I do like to be beside the seaside
Can somebody explain why anyone travelling by train from London to Glasgow is said to use the West Coast Main Line? Any passenger hoping to spend hours looking out of the window at the sea would be most disappointed, as the route is basically inland. Perhaps, if it went to the west of the Lake District, via Whitehaven and Workington, it might be considered coastal. But not via Kendal and Penrith.

The East Coast Main Line probably has a better claim to be beside the seaside.

The Great Sort Out
In the early days of my map collecting, a mapseller said that he had a boxful of a particular map series, but could not find the box. Hence, when I became a mapseller, I vowed that this would never happen to me. I would know exactly what I had, and where it was. Well, we have spent a good part of the summer sorting out boxes, looking in drawers and generally discovering things we had no idea we possessed, and if we did, had no idea where they were.

Some really nice individual items have been found amongst a box of ordinary post-war maps, but nothing as spectacular as when we once opened a box and found about 120 Popular Edition maps in wonderful condition, and had absolutely no recollection of ever having seen them before. Neither of us.

The opposite sort of thing has happened once or twice over the years, as we found 'lost' maps which we remembered as being wonderful, only to see that they were in fact slightly sad. Which is why they were shunted aside in the first place.

Probably the nicest maps to have re-surfaced have been a variety of unusual flat sheets tucked away in plan chests, of which I think we have eighteen. But I cannot get into most of the drawers in four of them, as there is so much weight on top that upper surface has dropped, making the drawers stick solid.

Last week I spent a day sorting outline and contour sheets, contour and water and Fifth Relief, Physical Features alone versions. The first group, for those who have not seen any, have had just the black outline and the brown contour plate printed. The second group have only the brown contours and blue water plates showing, whilst the Fifth Relief, Physical Features versions have only the wonderful relief features printed ( blue water, grey hill shading, brown contours and hachures), and are absolutely impossible to find your way around. Even if you have lived in the area all your life. Stunning indeed. And quite scarce, frequently with print runs of only 100 and 200 copies.

And I came across five identical sheets which had a white margin all round, but were all blue with a blue print code in the lower left corner. Just to confirm it, a solid blue rectangle, about 38" wide by 26" high, with a blue print code beneath it. Any ideas? If they had a bold black cross on them, they could have been Popeye's map showing where the treasure was buried, X marks the spot. If you remember, following his map, he sailed out to sea, water all around, and found a bold black cross floating on the water, just as his map showed.

Rare Ordnance Survey maps
This is probably the first time 'in print', that I have used the word rare when describing old Ordnance Survey maps. I usually say that something is unusual or not common, and just cannot bring myself to use the word rare. Rare sounds so final, so certain, and with Ordnance Survey maps there are just so many things that we do not know.

I have just been sorting some 1908 Scottish half-inch sheets, and have come across a printing that we have never had before. The sheet is not particularly unusual, yet we have not had a copy of this printing in twenty four years. We keep a note of all such things, and can tell.

So, should it be termed rare or not? Ask me to find a second copy and I could not, but ask me to find copies of far older and far more expensive maps by Speed or Blaeu and after a couple of telephone calls, I would probably have located what was sought. I would put money on my Scottish half-inch map existing in fewer copies than many Speed maps. Yet the later are thought of as rare in the public mind, hence the prices they command.

Thematic maps
Wikipedia starts with "A thematic map is designed to serve some special purpose or to illustrate a particular subject."

I have three or four Ordnance Survey 1:2500 (twenty-five inches to one mile) plans, on which are marked all the pubs and off-licences within a certain radius of one address. Such maps were (and still are?) required as part of an application for a licence to sell alcohol, and presumably if the licensing authorities thought there were too many, or that they were too concentrated, then the application would be refused.

In such a way, maps are wonderful ways of displaying complex information very clearly. Just as Bartholomew's 1:100,000 maps are excellent for showing cyclists the hills and flat land on a journey, so a thematic map can home in on one aspect and show the information without any other clutter.

It would be interesting, nay horrifying, to see a thematic map of small shops in 1960 and 2015 in rural areas. Why, because the large supermarkets are coming in and destroying the small shops.

An article by George Monbiot, published in the Guardian, 10th August 2009 sets out the case against the supermarkets with clarity, using Machynlleth as an example. And the same thing is happening in Newtown and elsewhere. A few extracts will sum up.

"In 1998, the government commissioned a study of the impact of big stores on market towns. It found that when a large supermarket is built on the edge of the centre, other food shops lose between 13 and 50% of their trade. The result is “the closure of some town centre food retailers; increases in vacancy levels; and a general decline in the quality of the environment of the centre.” Towns are hit especially hard where supermarkets “are disproportionately large compared with the size of the centre”. In these cases the superstore becomes the new town centre, leaving the high street to shrivel."

"But in seeking to oppose its application, we find ourselves fighting bound and gagged.
Tesco launched its campaign with an exhibition and “consultation”, which seemed to me to be wildly biased in favour of the development. I asked its PR man whether the consultation would be independently audited. The answer was no. Tesco announced that the great majority of residents were in favour of the store. A door-to-door survey by local people discovered the opposite, but I think you can guess which study made the headlines."

"To compound the unfairness, there is no legal requirement for the developer to ensure that the claims it makes are accurate."

"Tesco maintains that it will buy local produce “wherever possible”. But when its representatives were challenged on this point, they said that local suppliers would have to sell their produce to the company as a whole. It would be trucked to the nearest distribution centre - now 120 miles away in Avonmouth - and then trucked back across Wales to Machynlleth."

"But the real issue is this: if the county council turns it down, Tesco can appeal. The cost to the council would be astronomical. As John Sweeney, leader of North Norfolk District Council observed, Tesco “are too big and powerful for us. If we try and deny them they will appeal, and we cannot afford to fight a planning appeal and lose. If they got costs it would bankrupt us.” Hardly any local authority is prepared to take this risk."

"Once the store is built, we will quickly be deprived of choice. As the first wave of customers peels off and the income of the independent stores declines, the quality and range of their produce falls, driving more people into Tesco’s arms. From that point on, the collapse becomes unstoppable."

The full article can be read on-line.

The Charles Close Society for the study of Ordnance Survey maps
Last week, Issue 85 of Sheetlines the journal/newsletter of the Charles Close Society arrived. Spot on time, exceedingly well produced and full of information for anyone who is interested in Ordnance Survey maps. The society is very well run and the £10 annual subscription is money well spent. For it, as standard, one receives three issues of Sheetlines, the last three having 64 pages each, free access to society meetings and visits to map related concerns (not only OS map related concerns). Plus the Almanack and the friendship of approaching 600 other members.

For the past two years, a free coloured map has been produced for members in the new Map from the past series. Society publications are produced to a very high standard, and sold at a discount to members, as are back issues of Sheetlines. A new CCS website is being developed and although not an official society site, the ordnancemaps email discussion forum is essential reading.

If you know of the society and are not a member, then you are not really interested in OS maps as far as I am concerned.

Walking books
I was talking to a neighbour yesterday, and we got around to books of walks. Twenty family walks around your town. He had recently done one in a hilly area, and failed to find a small bridge. On taking out the Ordnance Survey map, he saw that he had missed a fork in the path and had continued on the wrong way.

If I ever come across a suggested walk of this sort, I always get out an OS map (well, we have so many), and check the walk. And like my friend, I always take the map with me, which surely means that I do not fully trust the instructions, and that I am confident that the OS map will sort out any problems. In fact, I usually leave the book and just take the map. In this way, if a variation looks interesting, one can follow it and have the map as a guide, which is not possible with just a limited sketch map in a book.

I must admit, that having decided to go to an area for a short break, I study the local map for possible walks, and when we get there, find that I have already spotted most of the suggestions in the local walks book.

Taking up far too much shelf space, we have a book of 1001 best UK walks, or something similar. Very nicely produced maps, held in a ring binder so that only a sheet has to be carried around and so on. The only problem is that the maps have been drawn with north being in any direction. Why, oh why? An OS map is essential to help sort things out with these, if only to know which way one is supposed to leave the car park (not very green, eh?).

One of the books of national walks has a route passing out gate, and frequently we hear the merry sound of a group of walkers chatting away to each other as they pass. A good few years ago, I met someone who ran walking holidays, where the walkers walked, and the luggage was taken from site to site for them. He told me that at one time, he was so annoyed that he made his 'paying guests' walk in total silence for the first hour on the first day. What annoyed him? The fact that they were walking through really beautiful countryside, and the walkers were chatting away, describing the wonders of the last walk they had been on. And appearing not to notice where they were now. Perhaps, he thought, if they walk in silence, they might appreciate their current surroundings. Doesn't this usually happen if we go out to a new restaurant? The initial conversation, as we ignore the first course being eaten, is always about the last wonderful meal we had out.

Rudeness, maps and the Internet
(This will be a bit of a rant, but does mention maps, so skip it if you want only to read about maps.)

So, the head of the Roman Catholic church in England thinks that social networking sites are bad for children and young people. Not that it will make the BBC News, but I think that the Internet is bad for many of their parents as well.

I can now see why older people have always used the phrase "in the old days", or even " in the good old days". In the old days, when someone wanted a map, they would have to write a letter (remember that?) or pick up the telephone, think about what they wanted and ask me for it. It took some effort to do these things, and if they rang, I could ask exactly what they wanted.

Not today.

Receiving letters and telephone calls are almost a thing of the past for us. Email rules. Except that any rules for politeness have vanished, as far as a great many people are concerned. I have this vision of everyone having access to the Internet on their desk at work, and in an idle moment (when nobody is looking) sending me an email of something they have just thought of. We, being silly, treat everything as a serious enquiry and put work into sorting something out and offering it in a reply. Increasingly, we get no response. Not even a refusal, or sorry but I have found something elsewhere. Rudeness rules, and these are the same people that are supposed to bring children up to say "please" and "thank you".

And while I am at it, I am also very aware that many of the requests that come through are just so vague. No time is spent thinking of just what they might want, no, they dash off an email with some vague request. "Do you have a map of Durham?", "I saw a really a large map a few years ago, lovely colours, but cannot remember anything else about it except that I would like one. Is there any possibility that you might know what it was?" I joke not.

Have you noticed that everything is being dished up, in smaller and smaller pieces? Look an any magazine or newspaper and there are snippets of information in boxes. Far, far more than there ever used to be (in the old days).Very soon the whole of a newspaper will look like the classified columns section, everything in little boxes and nobody with the ability to write a good decent article, even if there was anyone with the concentration to read it. I am sure that cutting everything down to small pieces, is the reason why people cannot ask for what they want in the way of mapping.

Little boxes containing one or two facts on a subject. Such, does not encourage the following of an argument, which is probably why some people cannot think through what they require in the way of maps. First it was the supermarkets, who provided more and more checkouts, so that we do not have to wait. Shoppers are impatient. With the Internet, if a website does not load at once, we quickly move on. Surfers are impatient. Now, with reading, if we cannot get the facts within seconds, we become impatient (having been trained in supermarkets and the Internet), so facts are highlighted in boxes, or a brief summary at the beginning.

Ah, that feels better. I have shared it with the world, something it would have been impossible to do in the old days.

Charity shops
Last week, somebody rang and offered me six Bartholomew's maps, and then a similar call offered twenty odd one-inch Seventh Series in average condition. I did not want the maps, and said that a charity shop would appreciate them. But, I said, in my experience, not all charity shops react in the same way to maps and books.

The 'high street chains' such as Cancer UK, Red Cross and Barnardos, generally seem only to have a bay of nice clean paperbacks and new hardback fiction. Take them some good, clean but used Ordnance Survey maps or 1960s Penguin books and they are never seen in the shop. They vanish. Unlike Oxfam, with specialised Oxfam bookshops, other major charities just do not display the sort of good used stock seen in second-hand bookshops.

So, what happens to them? "We have a man that buys our older books" said the lady in a local charity shop this morning when I offered some older books, but asked what they would do with them, given they were not the sort of things on their shelves. I have heard someone in the same shop say that any jewellery is shown to the local jeweller on receipt, and have always wondered why one never really finds good CDs in charity shops.

It appears that they 'have a man, (or woman)' for most interests. With books, it is almost certainly a local bookseller, yet if one reads the second-hand book trade press, it is constantly full of moans about charity shops getting all the good material. Rubbish. Good books enter these shops and quickly pass to the trade in most cases, usually the local trade. I know, as over the years booksellers have offered me maps that they have just got from a charity shop in this way. Indeed, charity shops themselves ring me and offer me maps rather than putting them in the shop. Any that I do not want, I am happy to suggest prices for.

No, when I suggest offering maps to a charity shop, I always say to find a local charity, a shop that looks more like a bric-a-brac shop than a fashion shop. Any donation stands more chance of being on the shelves within days, than it would with a 'chain charity'. But even shops such as these must have 'contacts', who get to see and pick over recent donations before anyone else.

Once the general public realise what is going on, I am sure that fewer people will go into charity shops hoping to find something nice for their collection. Which means the shops will have a reduced number of customers, less sales and so on. Less will be given to them as well. We have seen this with second-hand bookshops who put their stock on the internet. Many have their internet stock, the interesting material, in the back room and only the junk out front. Which means that I have virtually stopped going into bookshops. If I do, I always ask whether their internet stock is in the shop or not, and only stay if the answer is "yes". Unless you have the chance of finding something unexpected, you give up going to a particular shop, of any sort. And if you think our site is predictable, well, we are starting to add some very strange/interesting material, if you look for it.

Geological maps
Whilst preparing a website section for geological maps, both in covers and flat sheets, I have just had a quick look at the British Geological Survey site to see what they have been up to recently. Big changes in terminology it appears. But less confusing? Not from what appears on the website.

The BGS introductory page for 1:50,000 maps has a nice explanation of new terminology.

1:50 000 Geological Maps
Geological maps show the nature, extent and relative stratigraphical age of the different rocks within a district.
Maps are normally available in both flat and folded formats.

Map versions
In the past, our geological maps have been published in different editions, for example ‘Solid’, ‘Drift’, ‘Solid & Drift’ and ‘Solid with Drift’, although not all editions have been available for any one district. Since 2003, new maps and new editions of older maps have been be described as ‘Bedrock’ (replacing ‘Solid’), ‘Superficial Deposits’ (replacing ‘Drift’), and the combined map as ‘Bedrock & Superficial Deposits’ or, occasionally 'Superficial Deposits and Simplified Bedrock' (see below). Until this replacement is complete, all the existing maps will be available in their current editions.

New map versions
Bedrock maps (formerly ‘Solid’) show the bedrock (pre-Quaternary) geology, as it would appear if the superficial deposits were removed.
Bedrock and Superficial Deposits maps show the "underfoot geology". Equal emphasis is given to the bedrock and superficial geology: comprehensive information on concealed bedrock formations is also shown.
Superficial Deposits and Simplified Bedrock. For map sheets areas containing complex superficial deposits overlying complex bedrock, a map classification of 'Superficial Deposits and Simplified Bedrock ' may apply. On these maps, the bedrock is shown simplified to Group or sub-Group level (i.e. individual geological formations are not generally shown). This is to allow clarity, maximum understanding and interpretation of the Superficial Deposits. Maps in this classification thus show bedrock simplified to a greater degree than shown on 'Bedrock and Superficial Deposits' maps.
Superficial Deposits maps (formerly ‘Solid & Drift’) show the bedrock and superficial deposits with equal emphasis. These maps give the best picture of the ‘underfoot’ geology.

I note that they still do not explain the difference between 'Solid and Drift' and 'Solid with Drift' maps. Does anyone know the answer?

From the above, can anyone explain the difference between a 'Bedrock and Superficial Deposits' map and a 'Superficial Deposits' map?

Geological maps at one-inch and 1:50,000 scales

What do you mean?
Last week, a man rang wanting maps of the Lleyn peninsula for his wife, "she's going to Llaniestyn, west of the ferry". Well, we know Llaniestyn quite well, and are familiar with a lot of the peninsula, but could not place the ferry. Boat trips yes, but no ferry.

We found the maps and I telephoned. I told him the area covered, roughly Llanbedrog westwards, not as far east as Pwllheli. When I had finished, Alison had solved the problem, Pwllheli--the ferry. Simple.

London congestion charging zone
When we go to London, we usually stay in West Dulwich, south of the river, (like any sensible person, I could not sleep north of the river, but that is another story). My favourite route is leave the M40, drive straight on, up onto the West Way, and leave it at Paddington. Down the slope, straight on to the park, turn left to Marble Arch, down Park Lane, Victoria, over Vauxhall bridge, Stockwell, Brixton and end up at West Dulwich. A nice easy route, with no hold ups apart from Brixton.

Simple. Except that the Charging Zone was plonked across central London, so I started coming in from the M4, and skirting the zone. Not as good, by any means. However, I was looking at a leaflet on the scheme and saw that there was a north-south route across the middle of the zone which was not part of it. The zone is in fact two zones divided by a thin north-south road.

On closer inspection, most of this road is my favoured route across London. The only difference is that on leaving the West Way, one turns left at the first set of traffic lights and then right at the next set of lights in order to go around Paddington station, along Praed Street and then turn right down Edgware Road to Marble Arch, where one re-joins my old route. Five minutes.

So, the last time we went to London, we went that way, and it was all rather tension making, a bit like walking along a foot wide ridge on the top of a mountain chain. I was terrified in case I went off the route, and as I drove, so every turning left and right had the big congestion zone symbols on the road. Financial disaster if you cross them? Not really, more a big dent in my pride, having studied the map, knew where I wanted to go and was perfectly happy driving in that area. Of course, I did it, no problem and went that way again last weekend. No trouble. Easy. Good old maps win again.

Have a look at :

Dissected maps
Some people just cannot get on with them, whilst others really like dissected maps. I like them, some more than others. 'Mounted in sections' and usually priced higher than a cloth backed map, dissected maps were the top of the range. Flat sheets were cut into sections and pasted onto a cloth backing, leaving a small gap between each section. Thus, the strips of cloth showing between the sections took and damage from folding and re-folding and the paper map sections did not lose any detail along the folds. One can easily follow a road or railway across the sections, but problems do occur when measuring anything from a dissected map.

However, it is not this aspect that attracts me to them. They are just nice to hold. A nice object, especially one-inch Thirds and half-inch maps in white covers, which are so satisfying to hold, regardless of the maps inside, or how grubby the cover is. Just close your eyes and hold the thing. New Populars are much larger but I have a soft spot for these as well. Popular Edition sheets are nothing special when dissected. No, the white covered maps win every time.

Trench maps
I thought that I had a basic idea of what trench maps involved, with the British trenches being coloured blue, and those of the Germans being red. But in 1918, the colours were swapped over. Simple, but probably confusing to users at the time.

I have just read that this was to bring the colours into line with French practice. Fair enough, but my source then goes on to say that the swap did not affect every map, and that German trenches remained red on some maps until the war ended. And in trying to verify this, I note that Wikipedia says that some trench maps had all the trenches the same colour. Got that? True or false?

Mid-Wales on the map
Have a look at a map of mid-Wales, and try to visualise the nice green hills, lots of new lambs and daffodils. We like it. We live here. But there are some who want to install a new breed of larger wind turbines, which will be of use for only a few years.

A major problem is getting the turbines and other material to the sites.

A recent report says of Powys (Montgomeryshire, Radnorshire and Brecknockshire):
.... the county's narrow country roads would have difficulty coping with the trucks needed for the structures, some standing at 400ft (122m).

Bespoke lorries measuring 180ft (55m) long, 16ft (5m) wide and weighing nearly 130 tonnes, would travel through the county five days a week for five years, making more than 3,000 journeys, the BBC reports.

What price?
I have a friend, who, when he decides to change his car, goes to WH Smith and buys a little book that gives the current values of thousands of cars, and which is used by all car salesmen. He then knows almost as much about prices as a second-hand car dealer. Cars, like old postage stamps, have a very organised and rigid price structure.

With Ordnance Survey maps things are less clear. Lots of different outlets sell them, with greatly varying degrees of knowledge about what they are selling. I was in Hay on Wye yesterday and most of the maps were the sort of things I put in the dustbin, but they were priced at £3-4 each. There were a handful of nice clean maps, but the shop had stuck large sticky price labels on them. On the internet, you can usually spot someone who knows nothing about what they are selling, by the frequent use of the word RARE. Yet even fairly seasoned map sellers have problems with pricing material.

How would you approach pricing a map that was published in 1900, a small sheet in excellent condition, mostly sea (i.e. white blank paper) with about two square inches of land in the top right corner? Two houses, a bit of road and the rest is cliff. Very few copies of this sheet would have been sold, so some would argue that it should be priced up for being a rare sheet. But it has very little, almost no information on it, so price it down, say others. Ah, but people wanting a set of these sheets will need it for completeness, and must have it, so price it up. But if you do this and they do not want it, it will be far too high for the average collector, so keep the price down, and if the completist buys a bargain, well good luck to them, and anyway, the chances are that they have spent a lot of money with you over the years.

Similar arguments hold for whether a set should have a bit extra added to the price, over and above the total of the individual maps. Should really common maps in a series be priced far lower than the others? If you have been pricing maps at £X, because that is what you think they are worth, and they make ten times that on eBay, should you up your prices, if you do not put things on eBay (which I do not)?

Ah, food for sleepless nights.
(And in case you are wondering, I usually ask a lower price for maps with virtually nothing on them, in the hope that they will indeed sell now. Otherwise, when I have sold nearly all of my stock, the only remaining maps will be those which have nothing on them. Not really a stock of maps, I would say.)

Sticky price labels can damage your maps
How often have you bought a really nice, non-laminated map with a white price label on it, tried to remove the label and the cover surface has been removed at the same time? Or have you refused to buy a map with obvious signs of a label having been removed?

Labels appear to fall into two groups. Old water-based ones and the really sticky chemical based versions. The water-based labels can be removed by dabbing cold water on them until they are fully soaked and just lift off. But do not apply too much water or it will damage the cover.

For the really sticky labels, I use lighter fuel, which is a solvent. A couple of drops will usually wet the whole label, and after a few seconds it will lift off. Some more fuel on a tissue will get rid of the remaining glue. Sometimes, after applying fuel, one has to lift a corner of the label with a knife and squirt fuel under the label, but it always works. The area will look dark and wet, but the fuel soon evaporates and all is well.

I am obviously only reporting my experience and cannot take any responsibility for any mishaps that anyone might have. Try the fuel on an old unwanted cover first, to see how much is needed and so on. Do not rush it, and if in doubt, apply more fuel. All the usual warnings of risk of fire, use in a well ventilated room and so on, also apply. Keep the fuel away from children and pets. I find it very sad to have to write all this on a website catering for intelligent adults.

Put your money into maps
Every economic downturn has a positive effect, somewhere, and we seem to feel it. In the downturn in the early 90s of the last century, when Mr Major, the ex-banker was at the helm, we had some really good customers come to us from the 'antiquarian map market'. Such people were/had been collectors of quite pricey county maps, but had decided that OS maps were greatly under-priced, very attractive and very collectable. Some are still with us as customers and have never resumed their bad habits.

In the present, banker led downturn, we seem to be benefiting from the weak pound against the dollar. After a long break, American universities have resumed placing orders for our publication by Roger Hellyer : Ordnance Survey small-scale maps : indexes 1801-1998. Not only does it contain over 100 index diagrams for all OS small scale maps, but with each diagram are listed all the map series using that diagram, and which sheets were issued in each series. The text details thousands of civil and military map series plus experimental maps, and much more. I refer to it at least three times a week. It is the book that I wanted when I first became interested in OS maps, and is now considered the standard reference work for small-scale maps.

Another fun website
As usual, I am probably the last person to have found the geograph website, which 'aims to collect geographically representative photographs and information for every square kilometre of Great Britain and Ireland'.

Go to http://www.geograph.org.uk/ and search for where you live. The pages do not appear always to have the same structure, but somewhere there will be a section of an OS map and a guide NW, N, NE... with the word GO in the middle. Use this to move to the adjacent square and a picture of something in that square will appear. Quite easy. I have yet to go deeper into it, but have seen familiar names having added photographs to the site. Sponsored by the Ordnance Survey.

American logic
Copied from an email group.
Republican California Assemblyman Joel Anderson has introduced a bill to censor online satellite imagery of public buildings. "His bill would restrict the images such Web sites could post online. Clear, detailed images of schools, hospitals, churches and all government buildings -what he calls soft terrorism targets - would not be allowed. His bill would make it illegal in California to post close-up images of such buildings. Instead, the images would have to be blurred." Note to terrorists: Everything blurred is worth bombing. And, since transportation infrastructure is also clearly a soft terrorist target, all imagery of roads should be blurred too.

Survey Review
Until the internet arrived, if one wanted an article from an old journal, the local library would usually get a copy from the British Library in Boston Spa. These days, several sites have been scanning back runs of journals and charging for a download of articles.

Tinho Da Cruz recently posted a note on ordnancemaps leading to free downloads which might be of interest to some readers. Click on the link, and Volume 1 is at the bottom of the screen.

Articles include:
O.G.S. Crawford : Primitive English Land-Marks and Maps,
A.J. Potter : The Earliest Geodetic Triangulation,
M.N. MacLeod : Survey in the Great War,
Charles Close : A Fifty-Years Retrospect,

They can be found at http://www.ingentaconnect.com/content/maney/sre

1 : 25,000 Index diagrams
A lot of people, even map collectors, say that they do not have an index diagram to the 1:25,000 First Series (in blue covers of some sort), or Second Series (Pathfinders in green covers). We use a 1980s road atlas as a useful and detailed index to these series.

Look in the front of any road atlas, and if it mentions using the National Grid, then one small square on the page is one 1:25,000 First Series map.The maps are numbered using two letters, followed by two digits. Consider Haywards Heath, just north of Brighton. Somewhere on the page will be two large letters TQ.

Haywards Heath is in the centre of a square, and the map is TQ 32. The 3 is the digit for the vertical line forming the left edge of the square, and can be seen at the top and bottom of the line, on the edge of the page. The 2 is the digit for the horizontal line forming the bottom edge of the map, and can be seen on the left and right of the atlas pages.
If you already own a map from this series, compare it to a road atlas and things usually become clear.

When requesting maps, please give the sheet number and place shown on the map. If this is not possible, just be as specific as possible with regard to the area sought, and we will look things up for you.

Royal Mail
Ours is essentially a postal business, and Royal Mail have been excellent over the past 23 years or so. In recent years, since the new size related prices were introduced, our postal bill has gone down, which is excellent for our customers. The Royal Mail is said to be making a profit of £1,000,000 a day, despite having a lot of the cream given to other companies, and being limited in the financial arrangements it can undertake. So, why not let it raise the money it needs for modernisation, and give the taxpayers and users a good deal?

Why is it necessary to sell part of Royal Mail to a foreign company in order to modernise it? Why not hire people with the ability to do so, or have them as consultants, if one must? If Royal Mail can make a profit despite being shackled, just think what it could do given full freedom. Not that a service needs to make a profit. The figures involved with the pension fund are small in comparison to those used to support the wicked banks and bankers.

When David Rhind was appointed Director General of the Ordnance Survey, he undertook a major reorganisation using the existing staff. Good leadership and good management. Why is it assumed with Royal Mail that the existing staff are incapable, or that others cannot be found from within Britain?

If you want small postal businesses to continue, then support those who are against the sell off of Royal Mail. Please.

The Jumble Sale
Those who look at this site on a regular basis will see that it has yet another small change. 'The Jumble Sale' has replaced 'Special Offers' in yet another attempt to get some specific maps and books listed.

The structure of the site is finished, but we find it impossible to find time to catalogue and price maps to put beneath each heading. When something sells, it has to be taken off, whilst new stock needs adding. And all the while the actual maps need to be kept distinct from non-website stock. The sort of fiddly thing that I hate. So, I have conveniently not found time to do it.

The theory behind 'The Jumble Sale' is that I can just add the odd map or book as I see fit. An interesting map that I find in a box, some new stock or something at a bargain price. I will just keep them on shelves as listed, without having to fit them into any sequence. Nice and relaxed. Hmmmmm. Perhaps. Maybe. We will see.

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