Archive for August, 2013

Summer draws gently to a close

Saturday, August 31st, 2013

Today I had the first sense that summer is coming to an end. This morning there was a slight edge to the air when I went swimming at around 6.45am. This evening I put a fleece on to go out and do the barbecue.

It’s been a great summer. Probably one of the best. Great weather-wise and great family-wise. Hannah and I had a few days in Barcelona early on in the summer. Then the whole clan had a few days in North Wales followed by a week in the Isle of Man.

Everything seems to have gone right this summer. The weather, the sport – our Andy won Wimbledon and we beat the Aussies at cricket. Now as summer winds slowly down I have bought tickets to see Wales v South Africa in November. It is going to be a good autumn.

The house has been particularly noisy tonight. The three remaining kids were loud at dinner but then moved to the conservatory to play music – Hannah on flute, Joe on piano and John on sax. I sat on the settee listening, smiling.

Now all is quiet. Two of the kids are sat on the pew in the kitchen, reading quietly. Anne is watching TV. John has just wandered in with the iPad watching some instructional video! Sounds like he is learning how to build a bar! Okay, fine J

Not sure he totally appreciates the scope of the job though. I quite like the idea of having a bar in the house but you need to have lots of space. The bar should either be out near the pool or in the snooker room. We have neither. We have a pool table on the landing! I also like the idea of having a hot tub. We have space for one – provided we got rid of the play house which nowadays is only used to store garden furniture.

The problem is that we wouldn’t really use a hot tub. The idea is great but in practice it would become a very expensive pond with a cover over it that no one actually uses. Of course we could have Jacuzzi parties but we only have parties once or twice a year and not everyone could fit in.

It’s totally dark out now. Twenty to nine. The nights are drawing in. I don’t mind. Like I said it’s been a good summer and nature is quite kind to us in easing us into winter. Autumn is a rather gentle side.

I’m going to pour myself another brandy…

Hops hops everywhere…

Friday, August 23rd, 2013

The eagle eyed will spot these as some of America’s best hopvarietals, though there is an obvious contender missing from this splendid lineup.  I’ll save you the googling, it’s “Cascade”.

Hops, those luscious vines of alpha and beta acids and sticky resins, are much line grape vines.  We can’t grow what we like, where we like – it’s soil, weather, conditions and husbandry… our hop growers need to learn to grow world class hops (again?), or to quote Stinger from Top Gun

You need to be doing it better, and cleaner than the other guy.

The National Hop Association is waving the flag, I’ve met some great hop farmers, and things are looking good.

But please, don’t just try to plant what’s selling to the hop-heads right now, grown what grows, and grow it well.

But is it art?

Friday, August 23rd, 2013

Giles was keen to know, and the rest of us certainly were interested…

Do we know what’s going on here?

Someone else had spotted it, but kindly remarked

I know, I saw that. I think that was the pressure jet, but pollution will sort it out.

Turns out

He thought he was being helpful by jetting away the debris that  had accumulated.

All is well now, but we still wonder…

But is it art?

The jolly man in the red bow tie

Tuesday, August 20th, 2013







Letter from the Pope on the occasion of Tref & Anne’s Silver Wedding Anniversary

Monday, August 19th, 2013

My Dear Mrs Davies Anne,

Word has made it through the ecclesiastical grapevine that you are celebrating 25 years of being married to your husband Tref. I realise that you are not of the Catholic persuasion but I felt compelled to write to you on this, your very special occasion, to share with you some important news.

Familiar as we all are with Tref the realisation that you have stuck with him for so long took us all by surprise. To say that we were astonished is to greatly understate the reaction of everyone here at the Vatican City.

The purpose of this communication is not to ask why you have performed this amazing feat of endurance. It is a well known fact that love empowers and motivates people to perform feats beyond the ken of ordinary men and women.

We, and when I say we I include all the staff here in Rome (not a single dissenting Cardinal voice) wanted to let you know of our admiration for what you have achieved. You should know that most of us lock ourselves away in solitude and inner contemplation for many years in an attempt to attain the state of spiritual serenity that you have managed despite spending 25 years with the bloke and bringing up four intensely demanding children.

Not a generally publicised fact is that over the two millennia of development of the Catholic regime we now have well established methods of quantifying achievements such as yours.

Before I go further you need to understand the basic tenets of our achievement system. In our game growing levels of serenity are achieved by the chanting of a Hail Mary. One million Hail Marys gets you a Cardinalship. To be a Pope needs at least five million. Anyone hitting the 10 million mark is considered to have done enough to achieve sainthood. It’s pretty impossible for ordinary people to attain this level.

I don’t need to tell you that even the Cardinalship is a bit of an ask. Some people spend a lifetime saying Hail Marys and never get there. For most it is simply beyond their reach.

Where is all this going I hear you ask and well you might. The fact is that the physical act of putting up with Tref for so long has been assessed as being the equivalent of having to say a penance of 1,000 Hail Marys for every day you have been together.

A quick back of a bible calculation suggests that 25 years, which is 9,125 days give or take a leap year at 1,000 Hair Marys a day comes up well over 9 million Hail Marys. Ordinarily that would immediately fast track you through a Cardinalcy to an instant Papacy.

Now there are two problems here. One is that there is already somebody in the job, ie me. If this were the only obstacle it would be remiss of me if I weren’t to tell you that this is not an insurmountable problem. There are ways around it as was shown with my own appointment.

However the fact that you are a woman is the killer. I’m afraid that the Papacy, for a complex web of reasons which I don’t propose to discuss, is very much a case of jobs for the boys.

This isn’t to say that we don’t think we shouldn’t do something. We, my dear Anne, have been sufficiently impressed with you that we wanted to make a positive show of support.

We have revisited your case and are able to increase your tally of Hail Marys based on a number of fiddle factors. Firstly our initial estimate of 9 million one hundred and twenty five thousand Hail Marys can be raised by the use of alternative Papal calendars that need no clear definition or clarification for the purposes of these calculations. Then we are able to add an escalation factor based on the fact that you had four kids (are you sure you aren’t a catholic?).

One disingenuous individual did suggest that strictly speaking all this should be offset by the fact that you lived with Tref before getting married which comes with negative Hail Marys. This person has now been posted to a Parish on a desert island somewhere off the coast of South Georgia (I will not go back on this – it’s a tough job being a Pope – you make a decision, you stick with it).

Anyway to cut a long story short, and recognising that I am going on a bit here, we have come up with a revised Hail Mary count that takes us well North of the 10 million mark and Mrs Davies bach Anne we all know what that means don’t we?

Anne, I have been authorised by the Vatican boys to make you an offer that I think you won’t be able to refuse. Anne we would like you to accept a sainthood.

If you would like to take us up on this offer please complete the enclosed form and return in the envelope supplied. You will need to put a stamp on it (times are hard).

This offer comes with an associated package of benefits. You will receive your own saints day together with a shrine, location to be confirmed but the suggestion has been made that it will be at the location of your ironing board. You will also need to decide on an activity that will be performed on your saint’s day. Initial opinion is that this should involve mothers and wives everywhere spending the day being pampered at a spa.

So that’s it. I hope that you will take us up on our offer. It will involve conversion to the Catholic church but I assume that this will not be a problem – it certainly won’t be from our end (wink wink).

All the best and have a great celebration.

Yours in expectation

The Pope.

3rd Law Part 62 – the sun sets another time

Wednesday, August 14th, 2013

Classified ads.

Berth wanted

Aspiring world traveller would like berth in boat headed for exotic shores. Adventure welcome. Prefers to avoid pirates.

A few clarifications will be useful here. Skegness does not count as an exotic shore. Neither does Clacton on Sea or other UK coastal resorts. We are after excitement and romance. Palm trees, marlin, golden white beaches. A schooner gradually edges over the horizon.

As land approaches music comes from the brightly lit bars lining the harbour. The smell of barbecued fish carries on the warm evening breeze. The boat ties up outside Joe’s Bar and Barbecue Grill. The sign is painted on a piece of driftwood plank nailed to the outside of the bar. It is still early so we manage to get a table looking out on the water. A candle in a glass jar flicks light across our faces. Inside, saxophone and piano snare.

Joe’s is a regular stop off for seaborne journeymen. Where wandering people meet. Every island has one.

His daughter Maisie welcomes us back with her wide smile and without asking brings us four cold ones. The beer revives. A week at sea builds up a thirst.

We eat chicken and crab with our fingers. Our bellies extend. Lean back, eyes closed, sounding satisfaction. I can feel it.

With a bang, Joe slaps four glasses of rum on the table. “C’mon boys, you can’t go to sleep yet. It’s early and we have a party.” We move to the bar and empty the rum. Plenty of ice. The evening is still warm. The ice is needed. Our faces glow and eventually, as the evening dies down, we fall back onto the boat and our bunks. Sleep of the just.

You have to dream. Have ambition. There is no other point.

Normally on the boat we wake up with the light. Not this day. After the exertions of the week at sea, last night finished us off. We wake around lunchtime. It’s getting hot again. Jump over the side of the boat into the harbour and climb back up the iron ladder onto the quay.

Dripping faces lifted to the sun. Smile. Maisie shouts. “Breakfast boys?” Maisie knows her customers. We settle in to our usual table. Hot strong coffee and bacon rolls. Revive. Talk about nothing. Nothing goes on here. The best way. Healthy tanned bodies. Sun bleach hair. Ropes groan in the swell. Barefeet.

At the local market we buy an old treasure map. There is an X. The journey continues. White sails take us back out to sea and the compass is set for Half Moon Island. Anchored outside the reef our tender takes us towards the beach. Angelfish fill the lagoon. Deserted white sands. We drag the boat up to the treeline.

From the hill you can see for ever. Once through the vegetation. There is no treasure but it is all about the adventure. The tender is still there and we are not chased by natives. Outside the reef we catch a tuna. Big fish. We shall not go hungry on this trip. There is no rush. No compelling reason to be anywhere. Slow pulse.

The sun sets another time.

3rd Law Part 61 here

3rd Law Part 61 – ritin n stuff

Wednesday, August 14th, 2013

I was going to do a section of writing using just speech to text. I once did this on twitter and it came up with a wonderfully creative random set of words that bore scant relation to the original spoken version. This would be a nice imaginative bit of pseudo creative writing I thought. Unfortunately Android’s voice recognition is getting so good that everything I just spoke as a test sentence came out perfectly.

So now you, the reader, have no idea whether I’ve dictated these words or merely typed them in in the old fashioned way. I am happy to come clean and admit to having used both hands and several fingers. None of this one finger prod stuff. Lightning across the keyboard, I’ll have you know although I am prone to spelling the as hte and their as hteir. Means I keep having to go back and correct it. You won’t be able to see all this backroom spelling correction because it happens before publication. I’m a pro.

The absence of a voice to text engine in Microsoft Word does mean however that anything you read that might make you think to yourself, “wow that was an imaginative bit of prose” or “gosh how did he manage to think of that” is all 100% genuine Tref. Aw shucks. Course your response might be more along the lines of “how does he come up with this drivel” which I can completely understand. I don’t know where I get it from meself.

When I was a kid I used to read all the Enid Blyton books. Famous Five, Secret Seven etc. I foolishly gave them all away and so when I had kids of my own I began to buy them second hand. Unfortunately what was an exciting read in the late 1960s for a nine year old with a thirst for books and adventure proved to be a load of dated twaddle for a thirty something parent looking to relive his childhood through his own kids. So drivel written in pursuit of the proof of the 3rd Law of the Internet may well have originated in children’s novels of the 1950s and 60s.

For the uninitiated the heroes of Enid Blyton’s novels all went to boarding school and came home for terrific adventures during the holidays. Cook used to make picnics of jam tarts and ginger beer which were jolly yummy. This was far removed from my own experiences growing up in wales but my imagination was fired by secret passages, smugglers and spies.

Kids these days need the constant high tech stimulation of MMORPG. If you don’t know what it means Google it. To kill or be killed. Far more realistic than the prospect of One Eyed Jake tying up the pesky kids with rope before making a getaway with the loot. Fortunately Timmy the dog knows how to untie knots using his teeth. Good old Timmy. Get him a bowl of Pedigree Chum.

Whilst I like the idea of having a dog I am not attracted by the thought of actually having to look after the thing or the fact that your house will be constantly covered in dog hairs. Good for scaring off the burglars though unless you happened to have taken him out on a picnic. You have a burglar alarm don’t you? Then why not use it and let the dog have a bit of a run out. It’ll do him good after being cooped up all day whilst you do extra cramming with your tutor. Bummer when it’s the holidays I know but hey. You should have or more effort in during term time or not gone down with the measles and had to be sent home to quarantine or some similar plot. You will have to read the books to find out more. I wouldn’t though if I were you. As I said, drivel.

The funny thing is that whilst I no longer view an Enid Blyton novel as realistic I totally buy into Harry Potter as credible. Of course Harry Potter must be real. It’s obvious isn’t it. Doh. I wonder where I can get hold of a wand? Does Olivander have a branch around here?

You may have noticed on a number of occasions during your saunter through the third law that it is assumed that you are a supremely knowledgeable individual. No attempt is made to explain obscure references. I assume, for example that you are totally au fait with all things Harry Potter. In the quite likely event that the third law is translated into multiple foreign languages one will also have to assume that this is will be similarly true of HP. Culturally specific references may cause problems but no doubt there will be fan clubs, fora and Facebook pages dedicated to the exploration of the third law. Esoteric passages will be discussed to the Nth degree.

Don’t ask me why they chose N. Could just have well have been H or Q. Mind you Hth degree doesn’t sound quite right and Qth makes you sound as if you have a speech defect. Maybe someone went through all the letters and decided that Nth sounded best. Try it for yourselves: Ath Bth Cth Dth Eth Fth Gth Hth Ith Jth Kth Lth Mth Nth Oth Pth Qth Rth Sth Tth Uth Vth Wth Xth Yth Zth.  See what I mean?

I would have been different had they chose the alphabet of a different language. Welsh for example has 32 letters in it including some double ones: LL, CH, DD, FF, NG, PH, RH and TH. Imagine using LLth or FFth. Would be quite funny mind you.

We all like a good laugh don’t we? Let off a bit of steam every now and again. Choo choo.

3rd Law Part 60 here

3rd law Part 62 here

3rd Law Part 60 – the cabin

Sunday, August 11th, 2013

There are four walls and a forward facing window. It’s a premium cabin on board the Ben My Chree. Out of Douglas for Heysham. Sounds like a racehorse but it isn’t. It’s a boat. Not a ship, a boat. It’s the passenger ferry from the Isle of Man. We are on it. In fact we are ensconced in our luxury cabin relaxing. All is quiet. The World Athletic Championships are on the TV and each family member is either quietly watching, reading the paper or buried in their laptops. Or both buried in laptop and watching the athletics. It’s easy enough to do. There are lots of gaps between races and lots of repeats of races, analysis, interviews and a look forward to the next round, heat or episode.

It isn’t particularly accurate to use the word episode. It isn’t as if track and field is like a soap opera or documentary, although the material may be there. “Shock off field antics of top runner”. “Athlete in for the high jump” etc. Athletes should not have the time to mess about off field. They need to stay focussed. Keep off the booze. And the fags. Live a healthy lifestyle.

That isn’t to say they shouldn’t enjoy themselves. A bit of relaxation does you a bit of good. Helps the performance on the track. The occasional trip to the cinema on a Wednesday night. Visits to the seaside and a nice walk along the promenade. No ice creams though. Yueuch. No good. Think of the calories. Bad calories. Have fruit instead.

My personal preference is for peaches, when in season, and bananas. I also like strawberries and cream though I am not an athlete and therefore don’t need to stay clear of the cream. Unless you talk to my wife. Mrs Davies.

This boat is comfy enough. The sea is calm. The sky is cloudy. We are just passing some sort of oil rig. Gas maybe. I don’t know. This luxury cabin is in marked contrast to a day trip to Liverpool many years ago. “The lads” were off on a day out. On the way there everyone spent the time in the bar, except me. I was seasick. When we arrived in Liverpool the outgoing boat had a bomb scare and had to return to the quay. In consequence there was no room for our boat and we had to stay mid river for two hours whilst they checked out the other one for bombs.

That was the last thing I needed having spent the whole crossing being ill. We got to Liverpool and set off for the shops. The we hit the fair at New Brighton where everyone except me indulged in more beer and ice cream. Finally before getting back on board the boat we had a meal at a restaurant near Pier Head. Steak.

Most of the afternoon I had spent recovering from the outward journey. I was now just starting to feel good again as we boarded for the return trip. I spent the trip home in the bar whilst the boys were ill over the side! It was an experience!

When we travelled on the boat as a family we always booked a cabin. It’s a lot easier to survive bad weather if you are lying down. When I left home and used to travel across to University at the beginning and end of each term a cabin wasn’t an economic prospect. Instead all the students used to get on early and head for the bowels of the boat where there were benches you could stretch out on. The first few trips were extensions of the parties we used to have after the school exams. Term for most people started and finished at the same time so there was always a quorum of people you knew on the boat. We would head for the bar and while away the trip with a few beers.

Gradually as people became established at their places of higher education the number of familiar faces on the boat gradually dwindled to zero and the focus grew on surviving the often rough Irish Sea weather.

I recall one end of term when I turned up at Pier Head on a Friday night for the midnight boat. The midnight boat was a good one to catch. It went a lot more slowly and you could kip overnight. I had my usual sausage and chips in the caff at the bus station at the Pier and then wandered down to the boat.

Problem. There was no midnight boat. The boat was there but it wasn’t sailing until the next morning. These were the days before the internet. You couldn’t simply go online and check the schedule. The problem was exacerbated by the fact that Pier Head in those days was pretty rough place to be of an evening. I could hear sounds of violence.

I chatted with the bloke at the top of the gangplank who, recognising my dilemma, took an executive decision and let me on board. This was “highly against regulations” but needs must. I spent the night in my sleeping bag in one of the passenger lounges. The cleaning ladies who turned up the next morning had a bit of a shock when I lifted my head above the seat to see what the noise was. Hey. A student’s gotta do what a student’s gotta do.

Travelling in those days was far more adventurous than it is now. I often used to hitch hike places, including to see my grandmother who lived about 200 miles away in South Wales. My longest hitch was from Greece to London but that’s story in itself.

Considering that the internet wasn’t around for much of my adult life and therefore the Third Law cannot have applied it has all gone quickly enough.

3rd Law Part 59 here

3rd Law Part 61 here

3rd Law Part 59 – the right path

Friday, August 9th, 2013

You have to walk the path. Keep off the grass. If requested. There will be a sign. Usually a small metal rectangle embedded in the grass itself. Green. Both sign and grass, though the lettering on the sign will be in a different colour to allow it to be read. White is practical.

Keeping to the path may often be counter intuitive. It would probably be easier to take the short cut across the grass using the hypotenuse as opposed to the other two sides of the triangle. Often when there is no sign requesting you to keep off the grass one will see a muddy brown train across the green to the exit point at the other side of the lawn. A door into the clubhouse perhaps. Or the entrance to a museum.

The grass is more likely to be pristine at the museum. Visitors to museums are the more respectable type. Conformists. They understand the value that rules bring to society. They will queue up in an orderly manner to buy their entrance tickets exhibiting signs of great patience at busy times when the single ticket sales person is over worked and constantly flustered. They should have put more staff on if they knew it was going to be busy. It happens every year.

A nice green lawn looks good. It also feels good to walk on in bare feet. Unfortunately (more…)

3rd Law Part 58 – the writer of the script

Thursday, August 8th, 2013

The TV is on in the other room. I have moved. I am getting used to it in moderation but there is very definitely a limit and my boredom threshold is low. Ya gotta do stuff. I’ve noticed that my language has been evolving. I can write good grammar perfectly well, ish but nowadays I tend to write as I talk. I’m not sure there is anything wrong with that. Some media will demand appropriate application of the language but I think as long as you are getting your message across, how you do it is up to you.

If everyone understands what you are saying then surely that is fine. Of course if I am writing in English and you can only understand Swahili then that is a different issue. Chances are you are not reading this if you only understand Swahili.

I’ve just googled “Swahili” and the first page comes up with “useful Swahili words”. No mention of a website in Swahili. Then I changed the search term to “Swahili language websites”. The only one on the front page was Voice of America which presumably is the good ole US of A’s contribution to world knowledge. The other sites are all offshoots of the BBC and miscellaneous educational institutes.

There seems to me to be a fair chance that if Swahili is indeed your language you are not using the wild wild web at all. You are probably more concerned with real life wild creatures such ones to be found in the African bush. For example an enraged hippopotamus is a very dangerous animal and is to be avoided at all costs. Other dangerous animals are available but I particularly like the concept of enraged hippopotami. Note the slick change from singular to plural. Both are good words and deserved to be used.

A hippo is often portrayed as a fun creature, in children’s cartoons for example. However this really annoys wild hippos who consider themselves to be hard as nails. You wouldn’t want a hippo to roll over and sit on top of you I’m telling you. Might be interesting to try sticking a saddle on top of one and seeing if there were any takers for a rodeo ride. Ride em hippopotamus boy. Unlikely. Interesting how the imagination wanders though innit?

When you think of hippos you usually, in your mind’s eye, also have the vision of the intrepid African explorer heading up river in a canoe powered by some hefty natives wearing only loincloths, thank goodness. Either that or a small steamboat captained by Humphrey Bogart who is constantly mopping his sweaty brow with a red handkerchief whilst the missionary he is taking up river gazes out at the wildlife wondering whether he has made a mistake in accepting the job. The missionary’s daughter is of course gorgeous. Her mother died of some ague the moment they set foot on this vast continent and the father had to bring her up on his own. He was very strict but well meaning. You know the plot.

I think I should be a film script writer. I’d spend much of my time in villas surrounded by palm beaches with the noise of the waves constantly in the background. Waking up early every day I’d rattle off a scene or two before running down to the beach and plunging into the sea for an invigorating swim. Lunch would be followed by a snooze in the hammock. In the shade of course. The heat of the day can be unbearable. Later I’d mosey into the village to chat to the local store owners and maybe catch a cold drink on the veranda of Joe’s Bar looking out over the bay. As the lights came on it would be time to wander home and change for dinner. There are plenty of dinner options. I quite like the fish restaurant in the harbour. Only uses stuff caught that morning. Good that.

It’s the same story day in day out with the occasional visit from the producer anxious to see how the script is coming along. It’s ok. I’m a pro. The script is always finished on time. Every now and again I fill in with a book. There is never a time when I am not being productive. It’s easy when all you need to do is fit in two or three hours in the day to capture what goes on in your brain.

Of course all of this is going on in my brain because it isn’t going on in real life. That’s ok. We all have our dreams. Some scripts would be written from a cottage overlooking some craggy Atlantic coastline. The pattern of life would adjust to the locale but largely be the same. It’s a wonderful life innit?

The kids are all home for a visit. They gradually come downstairs in the morning and the writing comes to an end. It takes until around 10.30 for them all to be up and compos mentis. No point planning anything before then. The TV is switched on again and I immediately switch it off. There is no need.

We assemble between 10.30 and 11 before setting off to a beach somewhere. The ultimate objective is the café at the end of the prom. It’s under the white painted lighthouse and near to where all the boats are pulled up. The seagulls are always a problem but we keep going there because we like the place. Days are filled with gentle strolls, stops for ice creams and teas and followed by cold beers sat at the tables outside the pub looking out onto the harbour. We get fat.

This is not perceived to be a problem because of the austerity of our lives once we return to normality. Early morning exercise routine, healthy breakfast etc.

I am usually happy for the summer to fade into autumn. That particular change in the seasons is gentle. Also I wouldn’t want to live somewhere that was hot all the time. Us Brits aren’t built for it. Well I’m not anyway. I do like being able to swan around in shorts all day though. Innit?

3rd Law Part 57 here

3rd Law Part 59 here

3rd Law Part 57 – early morning in Peel

Wednesday, August 7th, 2013

The sea is calm. Occasional waves run feebly up the beach. A fishing boat ambles across my field of view and I can see the mountains of Mourne, shadowy forms in the far distance. The herring gulls congregate loudly and there is a slight chill on the early morning breeze. Peel Castle remains a solid defence against the neerdowell.

6.30 am and the world is at peace. I wish I could paint. The rocks change colour as they rise out of the sea. Seaweed studded pastel brown crowned with a darker blacker band that fades upwards with streaks of mineral white that is gradually obscured by a topping of greenery. The real crown is the castle that sits around the top of the island.

The sun bursts through behind me as I look out to the west. The boat has moved out of my field of view though I can still see its wake and I now notice the buoys that mark the lobster pots on the sea bed.

Yesterday I saw a boat offload a big haul of crabs. Five half ton bags and fifteen crates. Good money at the market though the fisherman declined to enlighten me as to how much. He must have known.

I come here year after year. The early morning is the best time. The family still sleeps. The place isn’t totally deserted. Dog walkers and resolute joggers move on by. How many sailors are asleep in the yachts that fill the marina?

This year the “Dreamcatcher of Menai” is nowhere to be seen. Maybe it’s gone off on a cruise. That’s what you do with yachts. There is no point keeping them in the harbour all year round. Their whole purpose is world travel. How big the world is up to you. If I had such a boat I think I’d want at least to make some medium sized journeys. I don’t feel driven to brave the transatlantic run but certainly a jaunt to the Mediterranean calling in at suitably picturesque fishing ports en route.

Harbourside restaurants are a must. Maybe even the occasional industrial dock with a characterful bar known only to the locals and the visitors that arrive from the sea.

A shiver of relaxation runs down my back. This is a very peaceful scene. A dog barks but at first I can’t see it. Now it appears with its owner on the broken shell beach and trots up the slipway. An engine fires up out of sight behind me and fades away.

Behind the beach and beyond the castle is the breakwater with its white lighthouse. Nearer, on the right, the harbourmaster’s office guards the entrance to the harbour. There is no movement there now as the tide is out. A fisherman casts his line at the very end of the breakwater. That must be his yellow van. The scene on the breakwater is very different to the beach. There is evidence of humanity. The side door of the kiosk is open and the shutter slightly raised. It is about to open up for business.

A pickup truck joins me. In the bay four boats are tied up to buys. Waiting for the tide so that they can enter the harbour. I’ve noticed the environment here is different to the mainland. Outboard motors are left affixed to boats and fishing rods are in full view. Nobody is going to steal them.

The bay is full of ducks accompanied by the snouts of the two or three seals that live here. I don’t know what it is about this summer that brings so many ducks. This is not normal. Usually it’s herring gulls.

From the top of the breakwater I look for basking sharks. There are none. In all my years of coming I’ve only ever seen one but I look every time. Ever the optimist. They are out there somewhere. The volume of the gulls has increased. Maybe it’s time to get up and get looking for food. Maybe a threat has appeared. I can’t see but they are moving this way. The breakwater can be a risky place to be with so many gulls in the air. There is a fair percentage chance of being hit by droppings.

A small red car with a sit on top canoe turns up. Bloke clad in a short wetsuit gets out. Disappears around the back of the kiosk and then leaves again.

The gulls settle on the roof of the lifeboat station, a sturdy red stone building in the lee of the castle. It’s great fun to watch the lifeboat being launched. Adds to the mix of the summer holiday. I’ve never seen one being launched in anger, as it were.

The whole scene is getting lighter. I’ve been here for fifty minutes now. Nearly time to get back and make the tea. I think I’ve sussed the increased gull presence. A fishing boat arrived ten minutes or so ago. They think there may be pickings. I don’t think so. I think it’s just getting ready to go out. The RLNI flag flutters in the breeze. There is more activity now.

Life on board the yachts must be fairly calm. They are bound by the tides. At the moment there is nothing for them to do but just wait. Stick the kettle on and brew up.

A walker arrives. Time for me to go.

3rd Law Part 56 here

3rd Law Part 58 here

3rd Law Part 56 – cricket

Monday, August 5th, 2013

We need 34 runs to avoid the follow on. To the uninitiated this may seem a strange state of affairs. How can a game in which we appear to be suffering a real hammering at the hands of the opposition, be so riveting. No attempt is made here to explain the rules of cricket. Nor to explain the finess of the game. It is assumed that the reader is at once educated and sophisticated. Test match cricket is the ultimate combination of cerebral and physical sport. At once a team game and an individual contest.

26 now required, to avoid the follow on. Runs are coming off the bat together with the occasional bye. Every ball is an event. We are playing the old enemy. Australia. We won the first two tests and only need to draw this one to retain the Ashes. The draw is the thing. Although Australia won the toss and put on a big score in the first innings and we have struggled to match their score if we avoid the follow on the Australians will have to bat again. You will of course know that this means that the clock will tick down and when the clock ticks down time will be against the Australians. We will still need to put in a good performance in the second innings but the first objective will have been achieved.

As I write I can report that the follow on has indeed been avoided. A knowledgeable crowd shows its appreciation and our thoughts move on to how much we can narrow the gap.

In the early stage of our first innings the target score of 527 might have sounded a tall order but it’s all about the psychology of the game. With a positive approach we could have a score of a thousand runs in mind. That would have totally destroyed the Australians making what was their very good first innings score seem pathetic. It didn’t happen but the game is still alive. With two days left the fat lady isn’t even warming up yet. She may not even be in the country.

Fat ladies get around you know. Wherever their services are required. They work on a per event rate plus expenses. They also do charity gigs on a pro bono basis though as you might imagine their appearance at these events don’t come with nearly the same levels of excitement as in big events such as Ashes cricket matches.

I refer to fat ladies in the plural though I am not 100% confident that there is more than one of them. Circumstantial evidence supports the existence of more than one. When you think about it if there are two big sporting events taking place simultaneously how could she be there at the finish of them both? It would be too risky. I guess a pre-recorded video could work and would allow a single fat lady to earn royalties over and above her performance fees.

Fat ladies don’t just sing at the end of sporting events. Charity gala fundraisers spring to mind. Operas maybe. Probably. Not that I am trying to stereotype female opera singers. Oh no. The cricket continues. A couple more wickets have gone but we are still hanging on in there. 173 runs behind. A win for England is unlikely but a draw would be highly satisfactory considering the poor start to our first innings. A draw would ensure that we maintain the psychological advantage. The high ground.

As I write this section of the Third Law it does occur to me that what I am doing is counter to the principles of the Law. The cricket, happening as it does over five days, enforces a leisurely approach. I don’t know how many words I could put down in five days. I’m not going to find out because family life does not allow for five days sat in front of the TV or wireless just taking in the cricket and occasionally concocting the occasional sentence or two. In between balls, or overs, or during the adverts.

Some adverts are actually quite funny and worth watching. Others make me thing “I’ll make a specific point of not buying that product”. Shows how important it is to get yer advertising right. I can’t vouch for the smoothness of flow of writing done under test match cricket conditions. There’s not as much focus as when you’re sat in a room with no distractions.

Our first innings is now over. We trail by 159. The game is on. The pace is reassuringly slow. There is a scenario whereby I will have fallen asleep for a number of overs and woken up to find that very little has happened other than a few runs may have been scored, added to the Australian total.

Lunch is about to be served. This is good because we are coinciding our own lunch with the cricket. I am happy that lunch is just about due. Lunch is a very civilised meal if taken seriously. Family lunch around the table is especially good. The only slight problem when sitting a family around at table for lunch is that people keep asking for items to be passed down the table. The butter is a particular problem but not exclusively so. I don’t believe it is practicable to have more than one butter out. Two bowls of crisps are acceptable. Maybe even two salt and peppers though I must say I don’t use the salt and pepper much these days.

Two water jugs are definitely very useful if you have them. One should always make sure there are enough glasses out on the table for everyone before sitting down. There is nothing more annoying than having to get up to go to the kitchen again after you thought you had settled into position at the trough. I’m sure that Mrs Beeton would have something to say about this. Probably even have a checklist which is a bit over the top in my view. She may well also have had a maid in attendance to sort it all out.

Lunch over, the assembled masses drift off. Those at the ground, back to their seats. Those relying on the TV for their coverage, back to the lounge. If you are using the wireless for your coverage then you may move out into the garden where a deckchair may await, under an umbrella perhaps.

As it happens it isn’t umbrella weather today. Actually that’s not true. Practically everyone at the ground will have one with them because rain is forecast. One is unlikely to sit out in one’s garden under an umbrella if it is raining. More likely to move onto the settee and drift off listening to some dulcet coverage.

You may not have gathered from any of my particular commentary that this particular bit of the Third Law began on one day, the fourth day of the test match, and is now continuing on the fifth or final day. The Australians declared overnight having had the end of their innings curtailed by bad light and rain stop play.

The wickets have been falling. Cook and Trott, for what it’s worth and for historical accuracy. Before play began this morning I moseyed into town to get a haircut. Unfortunately the barbers was shut so I continued down the street and found myself in a second hand book shop whereupon I purchased “The Authorised History of MI5” and “Peel Two”, a short history of Peel. This is one of three volumes and I am pretty sure that I already have one of the books from a previous visit. Unfortunately I can’t remember which one but I’m thinking the third so I should be ok. Fingers crossed eh?

The cricket continues. They never mention pigeons on the television commentary. Nor double decker busses. I guess they think you assume that it being an audio-visual medium you can see said items for yourself. I don’t think it does any harm to mention them. Adds to the atmosphere. Enriches it. I’m not sure that chocolate cakes get mentioned either. Pigeons, busses and chocolate cakes are particularly popular items on the radio.

The chocolate cakes in particular are occupational hazards of being a radio cricket commentator, or should that be cricket commentator for radio? It matters not. Many cakes are sent in to the commentary box, largely I’m sure in the hope of getting a mention. However one shouldn’t overlook the possibility that the bakers of the cake, or at least the senders, are eager to continue the tradition. It isn’t just the cakes. There is lunch, tea and the dinners that they all seem to have in the evenings. Curries and Italian meals seem to be popular choices amongst the commentating classes.

This I can understand. I like em meself. A good mixed balti or a lasagne does the job after a day watching cricket. Lager with the curry or red wine with the pasta. Yup.

The score is slowly starting to tick over. However Pietersen has just been given out. The review showed no evidence that he had hit it. Except perhaps a slight noise on the snickometer. Hmm. That’s cricket Jim.

Our lunch is over and we are waiting for the cricket to restart, recommence, rebegin. Yaknowworramean. There is too much going on around here. Hoover, kids, TV, others talking. I’m outahere.

3rd Law Part 55 here

3rd Law Part 57 here


3rd Law Part 55 – the boat

Sunday, August 4th, 2013

The boat. The first class lounge. The whispered conversation. Much rustling of biscuit packets, complimentary. We haven’t left the quayside yet. The lounge is almost full. That isn’t meant to happen. First class is supposed to be prohibitively expensive. The domain of the international jet set elite. Though one does have to ask oneself why someone who probably has their own private jet would want to cross to the Isle of Man on the boat. There is a good airport on the island and they welcome private jets. It’s a good source of income. The landing fees. I don’t know how much the landing fees are. I have never asked. If you can afford your own jet you don’t bother with such trivia.

I’ve never flown in a private jet meself though I did once go up in the jump seat of an RAF Jetstream. It was being flown by my next door neighbour at the time. He was leaving to go back to his unit at RAF Brize Norton having spent a couple of years leading the multi-engine training unit at RAF Cranwell. It wasn’t normal to take a civilian up but he got permission off the base commander (or whatever the top guy’s title was) on the strength of my being a VIP member of the Executive of the Parliamentary Space Committee. Not sure I’ve ever mentioned that to you before.

It was a terrific committee to be part of. It is very important for Members of Parliament to maintain their knowledge of specialist subjects such as the space race and the Parliamentary Space Committee was there to ensure that this knowledge was kept totally up to date. It did this by arranging educational visits to events such as the Farnborough Air Show. On one occasion, together with the French parliamentary equivalent we were guests of the Duke of Kent in his pavilion looking out at the air display. It was position A. Where the Harrier jump jets used to perform a bow. The lunch was most enjoyable and we spent the afternoon sat outside on the terrace drinking champagne. When the time came to go a fleet of Jaguar cars swept us to the luxury coach that would take us back to Westminster. All except me because having squeezed the last MP into the last car there was no more room.

No problemo said a flunky. The royal flag was promptly whipped off the front of the Duke of Kent’s Bentley and I was chauffeured back to the coach in regal style. It was knocking on a bit, the old Bentley but I didn’t mind at all J

I also did the Paris Air Show in the equivalent style but the best trip of all was the European Grand Tour we did one summer. We gathered at Heathrow Airport early one morning and flew to Toulouse to meet the Board of Directors of Matra Espace, the French satellite manufacturer. The high bay tour was very interesting and it was followed by an extremely enjoyable lunch (fillet steak) in the Executive restaurant.

In the afternoon we met the Board of Directors of CNES, the French National Space Agency who treated us to a tour of their mission control centre. All very interesting though it was hard to stay awake after the lunch. That evening we were joined for dinner (lobster) by both boards of directors in yet another champagne blow out. All good stuff.

The next day was equally hard going. We flew to Paris to meet with the Board of Eutelsat. The board room was like something out of a movie set with lots of comfortable leather chairs and, being on or near to the top floor of Tour Montparnasse. Tour Montparnasse is famous for being a building totally out of place in Paris. It is nearly as tall as the Eiffel Tower and stands out like a sore thumb being the only building of its type in the area. This is because the French realised that it was a mistake to spoil the view with such skyscrapers and after it was finished promptly banned any others from being built.

For us it was a treat to sit there looking across at the top of the Eiffel Tower. This we did both in the meeting and afterwards at lunch in a private dining room at the top of the building. Yes there was the usual champagne etc.

Later in a departure from our habit of flying everywhere we caught the Eurostar train to Brussels. I remember that the air conditioning had broken down in our carriage and the only means of keeping cool was to buy up the entire stock of lager from the drinks trolley, which I did.

The evening in Brussels was a belter, both from it being a great night out and the temperature. Being a practical lad I wore shorts, a Hawaiian shirt and sandals. The MPs, who wanted to avoid giving anyone the notion that they were having a good time all wore suits and ties and sweated buckets. We had moules frites and Belgian beer and a good time was had by all.

The next morning it all started again with a meeting with the European Commission DG13 followed by lunch (champagne/steak/lobster/totally lost track by now) before flying back to Heathrow to attend a reception with Astronaut Buzz Aldrin to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the moon landings.

This may all sound like the high life but it is very difficult for MPs to avoid the entertainment in the course of these essential educational trips. We should regard their lifestyle with compassion. I recall meeting the chairman of the committee Sir Michael Marshall around a year or so after he had retired. He was a shadow of his former self. The parliamentary lifestyle involved so much eating and drinking that it piled the weight on. Returning to the normal life of the retiree, gardening and sitting in wind shelters on the promenade at Eastbourne brought his girth and collar size down to a more acceptable level.

It’s quite a handy by product of losing weight. Finding that you fit into clothes long since consigned to the back of the wardrobe. That’s assuming you haven’t chucked them. One holds on to these things in the eternally optimistic hope that yes, one day the waistline will start to shrink.

The same thing is true of gym membership. I was a gold member of LA Fitness. Gold got me in to every LA Fit club in the country except for three posh ones in London, as I recall. It didn’t matter, I never used one of them except the one down the road from the office in Newark and that got to be only about once every three months. I held on to that membership for years in the belief that once I stopped that would be totally it. The abandonment of any hope of ever getting fit again. Common sense and the need to save sixty quid a month or whatever it was (the filthy rich never ask) eventually prevailed and my commercial relationship with the club was terminated.

Sounds terminal doesn’t it. It is meant to. If you listen carefully you can year the accompanying loud banging of fist on table for effect. Turn up the volume. Smell the coffee. Buy the tshirt. My friend went to the Isle of Man and all I got was a lousy tshirt. Ungrateful wretch. Some people would give their eye teeth for a tshirt from the Isle of Man. Mind you if that is the case they are probably already walking around with no eye teeth left because they will previously already have traded them for tshirts. There’s no telling some people what’s good for them. You can lead a horse to water…

A question springs to mind. If you lead the horse to water one assumes that you aren’t actually riding the horse but walking next to it, holding on to the halter. The question that sprang to mind is “when at the water do you need to be dismounted when the horse starts to drink”. You have to assume that the horse will actually have a drink. The point is whether the physical act of the horse bending down to lap up the water will result in you sliding off the back of the horse. For the purpose of this mental exercise one has to assume that you are unable to prevent the falling off by digging your heels into the stirrups or holding on to the pommel of the saddle.

By using the word pommel we are revealing that the horse actually belongs to a cowboy. Picture the scene. It’s been a hot and dusty day on the trail. A couple of cowpokes come into view. The river is a blessed relief against the backdrop of sandstone outcrops and lone cacti. The men dismount and rinse their tired faces in the cool waters. The horses bend down next to the men and take their fill.

Sitting on a rock above the river bank the men decide this is a good spot to camp for the night. The scene fades to a couple of hours later. The boys are sat around a fire drinking black cawfee and shooting the breeze. In the distance a coyote howls. It can be seen silhouetted against the moon.

There is a rustling in the bushes but it is only a deer coming to the water for a drink. Soon the men tire and turn in for the night. Tomorrow is another day on the trail. We never find out where they are headed because, dear reader, we have clicked on a link and move on from the wild west using the power of the wild wild web.

The boat is beginning to rock. The sea isn’t obviously swellier, if I can invent a suitable word, but the boat is rocking.

3rd Law Part 54 here

3rd Law Part 56 here

3rd Law 54 – The Woodpigeon

Sunday, August 4th, 2013

The woodpigeon is the heartbeat of the early morning in our back garden. We’d prefer it were something else as these big birds are noisy and unattractive. I guess they have just as much right to exist as any other and I’m not sure I know what I’d replace them with. We also have blackbirds and robins all the year round and the occasional summer visitor – chaffinches and blue birds spring to mind. Are they just migrants? I only seem to see them in the summer anyway.

There seems to be a natural continuity in our back garden. I can almost imagine a time lapse video over years which would show pretty much the same things happening year after year. The leaves on the sycamore trees emerge and then they fall off. They are swept off the lawn. Flowers come and go. Large items of garden “furniture” come and go. At present I’m talking about the trampoline which appeared as if by magic one Christmas morning, stayed for around ten years and then went.

There is also a wooden playhouse that I can envisage leaving after being there longer than ten years. It is no longer used as a playhouse. We keep the garden furniture in there but in my mind’s eye I can see a hot tub in that spot. Not yet because hot tubs are expensive and in our case it would also be quite high risk because of the battering that end of the garden takes from the kids playing football. Also whilst I quite like the idea of a hot tub I’m not sure how much use it would really get. It’s a bit like the idea of having a snooker table in your house. Great idea but when you get one you hardly ever use it.

Not that we have a snooker table in the house mind you. Well not a full size one anyway. We have a small one that I had as a kid and brought back from home on the roof rack one year. The trouble is the rubber side cushions have lost their bounce so whilst I used to have great matches with my dad it isn’t quite the same anymore. We do have a pool table, on the landing. That does get used. We also have a rowing machine in the converted garage down stairs (obv) which gets used but perhaps not as much as it should do.

Thinking about it we have a lot of sporting paraphernalia around. In the garden there is a basketball net and a football goal. All good quality stuff. The utility room is home to four sets of golf clubs, a softball bat, lots of cricket gear, tennis, badminton, kayaking/wetsuits/buoyancy aids/helmets etc, my rugby boots that I rescued from being sold on eBay by Anne and some of our camping kit.

The utility room also houses my stock of home-made marmalade and spicy plum chutney a la Delia Smith. That chutney is absolutely the best pickle you could ever taste. There is no shop bought chutney that compares. I will need to make a new batch this autumn. The marmalade is also  top drawer. The only problem with the marmalade is that I made a huge batch, stored it mostly in large kilner jars and then found out that we don’t really use that much marmalade. I like a bit on my toast but you don’t put that much on your toast and I don’t really have toast all that often. It’s not that I don’t like toast. I do. In fact I like it so much I can eat lots of it, which is where the problem lies.

Weetabix and a banana is apparently far better for the waistline. That and a bit of exercise which is supposedly where the rowing machine comes in. It does occasionally but I prefer a bit of a swim. Innit!

It would be quite interesting to do a time lapse sound recording of the back garden as well, looping back a little. The repeated sounds would largely be as similar as the time lapse video. Noise of the wind in the trees and hedges, traffic from the main road out the front, kids playing (and plant  pots smashing as the football hits them), accursed woodpigeons, and me playing the guitar.

Our garden is fairly private but there is nothing the neighbours can do to hide from the sound of me singing and playing the guitar. Because it is private this sometimes happens at top volume. It is an acoustic guitar and therefore has limited scope for environmental damage but my voice can get very loud. Hey…

We probably all think we can sing. Usually it’s ok when there is nobody else around.

3rd Law Part 53 here

3rd Law Part 55 here