Quick, Quick, Slow

In days of yore, when Blu-Ray was first invented. Actually, was it around in ‘days of yore’? Anyway, it was a long time ago, because I still had use of my legs. You’ve distracted me now, oh yes, Blu-Ray was newly invented, they took forever to start-up. I would turn it on, wait, not started yet, so I went upstairs to get something. Still not started, so I’d hoover around; I know, I was amazing. Then check the Blu-Ray, no, still not started, so I’d do a bit of washing up. I’m really a one off you know. Then back into the front room; cup of tea in hand. I’d made that after washing up; is my halo glowing? At last, the Blu-Ray symbol was coming onto the TV.

All this took my mind back to those early days of television; that I heard about from my great grandparents. Switching it on and waiting, the hum of valves warming up; so, I’m told. That exciting moment when we… they saw a dot of light appear in the centre of the screen and wavy lines formed on the screen. Then slowly, very slowly, oh so very slowly, a picture appeared. Black and white of course. Ah, those were the days; not days you would want back of course.

It all gets me wondering about the way things work. I will not fall into the trap of suggesting that elves have anything to do with the internal workings of televisions or Blu-Rays. I got myself in enough trouble suggesting that elves were messing around in Amazon Alexa devices. Once bitten and all that. Besides, I know that elves don’t like televisions or Blu-ray devices. Now if we were talking about fairies…

The real reason that things have become faster is technology of course. Faster processors, better operators, I mean operating systems. There are no little creatures inside pressing buttons. That’s all very last century. Now it’s all voice activated, biometric etc. You can’t have just any creature running your high-tech equipment; they would mess things up unless they were highly trained.

Why do you think Apple called their company after an apple? Steve Wozniak noticed every time he left an apple on his work bench overnight, in the morning a bite was missing. He mentioned that to Steve Jobs and the rest is history. I don’t need to explain why Raspberry Pi named their computers that. I do, oh, well they found that their OS’s would only work when fed Raspberry Pies. So, they came up with name. What are OS’s? Well, they are obviously not Operater Sprites, that would be silly.

You really are running off on a tangent. I wanted to talk about the rapid development in the Blu-Ray. What’s Blu-Ray old man, did you say? Are you suggesting that all disk technology, except maybe UHD is defunct? Well, I won’t admit to having a VCR in that case. If you think discs are old, you will not think much of tape. I have it for historical research and because I am waiting for the re-emergence of video tape. Just like vinyl records; it will come back. Purists will one day say: “You cannot experience video, unless you see it in poor definition, complete with lines and dots. It’s the fuzziness that makes it real.” My VCR will be worth a fortune and all those old video tapes you threw away will be like gold dust. Won’t you be kicking yourself then?

Look you’ve got me off on a tangent again. Rapid technological development. It’s all so fast I can hardly see it. One minute you have time to make a cup of tea while your TV starts, next minute your TV makes you a cup of tea; whatever next? A TV that you speak to? Oh, we already have that.

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The Wrong 50%

Have you noticed that percentages are broken? Today it was noted by the BBC weather app that there was a 43% chance of rain. I am looking out at the rain hammering down; I know the garden needs it. But my point is what happened to that 57% chance of no rain?

You see whenever I see a percentage about rain I think: “The BBC weather app is going to be right.” I believe it more than my own eyes. If I look at the app and it says 4% chance of rain, then I look out and there are a few drops of rain, I think: “I’m safe from rain, no coat needed.” After all, percentages are there for our protection and safety, I absolutely believe in them. If there is 94% chance it is going to be dry that is a certainty as far as I’m concerned. So when they are wrong; there is a big problem.

In fact, and here is my reason for the blog, even 50% is half/half. We should be able to go out safely with a 50% chance of rain. You are in doubt? Let me lay out the proof for you: If I had 100 chocolate treats and I gave 50 to you, then I put 50 around the room, you have half of my chocolate treats. Are you still with me, or have you started to salivate and head off to buy chocolates? Concentrate, this is important. I don’t just make things up you know. If I then said: “What are the chances of you finding those other 50 chocolate treats?” what would your answer be? Pretty good, eh? I think you’ll all agree with me that if you have half already, finding the other half, hidden around my room would be a cinch. I wouldn’t hide them in difficult places. Don’t you just marvel at my mathematical genius? I bet you wish I had been your maths teacher? Yes, I would have given out sweet treats and healthy treats too. OK, so the BBC weather app says 50% chance of rain, I have just convincingly demonstrated, I think, that this means there is little chance of rain. How come then, that on a day when there is only 43% chance of rain, I am looking out at rain? Percentages are broken.

I don’t wish to continue blinding you all with my mathematical genius. As an aside, I failed maths at school. They were unable to see my natural abilities. The way I see it I was too advanced for them. Back to the sweet’s theory, I think.

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Call Thames Valley

Watching ‘Call the Midwife’, yes I look away a lot. Not sure why I watch it really. I have realised that the writers were very clever. If they had called it ‘Nurse Jennifer’, then it would have ceased to make sense very quickly. By being broad they have enabled lots of changing characters. I noticed that they are even calling the voice over, which is Jennifer in her old age, or was, the voice of wisdom. The credits still say it’s Nurse Jennifer, it’s the reviewers who say its the voice of wisdom.

 

It got me thinking, if they had named ‘Morse’, ‘Call Thames Valley’, they need not have started a new series named ‘Lewis’. Just think how convenient that would have been. None of this explaining how Morse’s slow side-kick became a detective genius. Plus, they could have just carried on with detective Hathaway or any other likely person the public took a shine to. They really missed a trick there.

 

Of course, Agatha Christie understood, she called her ‘Poirot’ mysteries things like ‘The mysterious affair at Styles’. But ITV tripped up by calling their TV series ‘Poirot’, they left themselves no wiggle room to carry on after Poirot’s death. Just think, we could have had Hastings suddenly becoming a detective genius or Miss Lemon getting out from behind her desk and showing her sleuthing skills. Instead after Poirot’s death; the series ended. Not even a chance for Chief Inspector Japp to prove he wasn’t a hapless idiot and take over where Poirot left off.

 

What about Miss Marple? Her nephew was just waiting in the wings. That’s not even counting her various maids. She must have imparted so much knowledge to them; they can’t have just done the cleaning, surely. If only they had called it, ‘The St Mary Mead Mysteries’, who knows what delights we could have had. ‘Midsomer Murders’ knew what they were about, although strangely they still stuck with the Barnaby family; even though they had complete freedom. Poor old Troy, he could have shown his true colours.

 

I know what I shall do when I write a murder mystery. Actually, I have no plans to write one. I don’t know that I would even write a drama. I’m not sure why I watch them. Part way through, when I am holding back the tears; big boys don’t cry of course, I think: “why am I watching this?” That’s a good point, why do we put ourselves through dramas? I guess it’s cathartic; gets all those feelings of angst out. Plus, I suppose there is that feeling of relief we get that our life is not that bad. Is there also a bit of nosiness, people watching? Drama is always so popular though. Perhaps I need to re-think. My mind is fertile with ideas; no doubt one with come to full term soon. I am really watching far too much ‘Call the Midwife.’ Push!

 

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Laugh and the World Cries with You

Some of you may get the impression that I watch a lot of films; wrong, I watch a lot of everything. I have just watched the series, ‘Genius’. No, it’s not about me, but that’s very kind of you to say. Remember Albert Einstein, relatives, I mean relatively, I mean relativity, well actually ‘the general theory of relativity’. Now you’re asking; it has something to do with the sun, gravity, time and a big white mesh that the sun sat in. There was lots of writing on blackboards, lectures, imaginary flashes of brilliance. It was all so wonderful. E=MC2, there you go, it’s all explained now. Energy equals mass times the speed of light squared; it’s all clear as day to me. If I understood correctly; can you doubt it? Mass and energy are the same thing and can be changed into each other. That makes perfect sense. Let me explain it all by the use of thought experiments, Einstein used these all the time. You just imagine things and I will explain really complicated physics to you; honest.

Picture the scene, a large flabby man sitting on the sofa watching TV. The doorbell rings; it’s the Pizza delivery. Suddenly the whole of his physical mass is converted into energy; the man springs from the sofa and dashes to the door. Before you can say, ‘deep pan with extra cheese’ he has paid, grabbed a beer and is back on his seat by the TV, almost at the speed of light; E=MC2. There has even been an increase in his mass; perhaps he picked up some extra energy on his trip around the house. Not convinced? Here’s another thought experiment. Imagine the scene, you’re probably getting good at this by now. It’s a beautiful sunny day, a family are enjoying a picnic. The children have finished eating and are running around. Mum and dad are lying on the picnic rug checking their social media on their phones; this is a typical family. A wasp lands on mum’s arm; she doesn’t notice. You thought she’d scream. It moves on, upset at the lack of response; just like you. Trying its luck on dads’ nose; there it finds success. The seeming inertia of his immobile mass, is instantly converted into screaming energy, as he leaps to his feet. We need to pause here for a moment. Because there is another of Einstein’s theories to look at; nuclear chain reactions. Don’t worry, all will become clear; you can put your exercise book away. Back to the family at the picnic. Not understanding why her husband leapt up in shock; mum joins the affray. Seeing their parents running around excitedly, the children don’t want to miss out on the fun. Soon all four are leaping and running around, screaming and batting their arms wildly. I don’t know what nuclear fission looks like close up; maybe like a family fighting off a wasp. But then again perhaps not, who can say? Will all the physicists among you please calm down; I am joking.

Is it time we looked at Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle? No, I don’t want you to rush off and get lost in my explanation and me not be able to find you.

You are all wondering why I called this blog, ‘Laugh and the world cries with you?’ So, am I, whatever came over me? I must have been having a bad day; or was there an idea floating around that just floated off? It does happen you know. Of course, there’s always the possibility that it started out as one thing and then changed into another at the speed of light squared. Or that laughter and tears are also the same thing just waiting to have the potential to turn into the other. I give up; why did I call it that? Anyway, I will be back with more lectures on physics and chemistry in the future; or the past, or present.

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It’s A Dog’s Life

Mary and I have been thinking about dogs’ names. No, we don’t have a dog. It’s an idea we had; more on that in a later blog. What’s in a name I hear you say. A dog by any other name would still smell like a dog. Ah! But would it?

We have been exercising our brains on this complex problem. I don’t want to be grandiose; but this blog may very well become The Kennel Clubs definitive guide to naming dogs.

Where do you start? I think we can immediately discount those stalwart standby’s Rover, Fido, Mutt, Dog, Hey You, Get Down. Now I know a lot of people like descriptive names: Scruffy, Patch, Fluffy, Ginger, Mopsie, Pepper, Rusty, Shadow etc. But I think we can go beyond that. There are of course character descriptions: Lucky, Chewy, Rascal, Messy, Poopy, hang on these are becoming a bit negative.

How about something that describes what we feel about our dog? Bestdogonthebeach, is that a bit of a mouthful? Do you think every dog will come running? Will the other owners get cross? While we are on the subject, we’d better not call it, Coffee, or you’ll get everyone placing orders with you. Mind you it’s always a thought to simplify things and just call the dog, Walkies; is that confusing? I bow to the dog training experts; what do you think? No? Perhaps I’d better avoid, Dindins for the same reason.

I do like the idea of a fancy name. If it’s a female dog, what about: Delilah; why, why, why? Or Dorothea? No? What about Clementine; I am going to avoid mentioning mountains or oranges. If its male what about good solid butch names like: Cornelius, Cedric, Lawrence, Percival or Tristan. Not masculine enough? There’s always, Pondus, that’s a weighty name. You could just shout: Butch. So long as no one takes offence.

If it’s a cute and fluffy little dog, you might want a cute and fluffy little name. For a girl: Betsy, Koko, Lily, Lopsi, Mimi, Moxie, Muffin, Mya, Peaches, Pixie, Pingy, Suki, Qwinki or Twinki. For a boy: Alfie, Beau, Benji, Bubba, Bubzy, Chico, Milo, Yogi, Yiggzy. I can almost hear all the ahh’s, or was that No’s? Don’t blame me, I don’t just make these names up you know; well not all of them. I’m trying to give you a good range to choose from. You know me; or do you? I am nothing if I’m not thorough. Oh, perhaps I’m nothing after all.

There are those who make up names for their children. I’ve always thought that is very inventive and original. So why not do the same for dogs. After all, a name can be anything, a football team, a place, a thing. We were trying this out the other night while watching Masterchef on TV. Spaggi, Saucy, Roux, Crabby (that’s for the irritable dogs), Pumpkin, Truffle, Leek (no, they might get the wrong idea), Choccie, actually best keep off these names or it won’t just be the dog whose drooling.

Then you could always use initials: AK, BB, JJ, B, HB, this is becoming like a list of pencils. Or if you are a linguist, how about foreign names? I love it when in subtitled films they speak for ten minutes then the subtitle says one word like: ‘no.’ Have you noticed that most names have whole sentences as meaning? Which was around was it? Did the name summarise a meaning or did the word come first then someone thought, that’s far too short; let’s lengthen it. The point is that most names have meanings. So, you can have a simple name for your dog and it means a whole sentence. Maybe there is a name that means: ‘Best dog on the beach.’

Anyway, I digress. If you want you can use names from any language; I’ve included quite a few already; here are more: Adonis and Aphrodite, well I could stop there, job done; a couple of Greek gods. You want more? You’re hard to please. Bhasanta; it means shining one, good if your dog has a shining coat, or nose. Cherika; it means the moon, that’s a good one; everyone is always sending cards about loving to the moon and back. Now you can do it with your dog. How about Deun? Are there many saints among your dogs? Kuasa; that means strength and power. Have you got a bit of a rascal as a dog? How about: Qiyana; it means clever, crafty.

I’m sure that this journey in dog naming has caused any dog owners to wish they had waited; now you want to change your dog’s name. All future owners are set up and ready. The non-dog loving readers stopped at the beginning anyway; you didn’t? Well, now you know what all those shouted names mean. I have one last profound thought to leave you with. Whatever you call your dog, they don’t understand anyway. It’s the number of syllables, emphasis and gestures that count. Oops, sorry, you thought your dog understood English. I know because I pass so many people chatting away to their dogs:

“Be nice to the man, he doesn’t want you jumping at his wheelchair.”

After the dog returns to his owner, he looks up at her, probably thinking:

“I don’t know what she’s saying, but if I wag my tale, maybe I’ll get a treat. After all, I’ve been a good boy.”

We’ll all leave Rover to his thoughts as the sun sets in a glorious flaming red hue.

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Fancy Names

Those who keep up with my blogs will remember that I wrote to the BBC to ask about becoming a MasterChef judge. Obviously, given my wide experience in eating they chose to take me up and we have been filming next year’s MasterChef during lockdown. I know, you won’t believe me, so you’ll just have to wait till the 2022 MasterChef: Nevin Goes Large. Then you will all know whether it’s true. You’ll see that they introduce me as, “Mike Nevin, blogger and food eating expert. He has travelled and eats daily.” I was quite proud of my preamble, “I’m looking for someone who can cook. I don’t mean out of a packet or tin.” Judging by Greg and John’s expressions, they liked it too.

 

Anyway, the reason I am writing this blog is that being on the panel of judges, gave me ideas. You see, if it wasn’t true where would these ideas come from? You can’t possibly imagine that I sit around at home making this stuff up?

 

I got to thinking about all those things in cooking that have fancy names but are really everyday items. In fact, I was speaking to the winner, who of course I cannot tell you anything about; I am sworn to secrecy. I am not allowed to tell you anything at all about the show, prior to broadcast; and I won’t. I’m not like Prue Leith.

 

Anyway, I was chatting to the winner and she was saying to me… wait, when I say she, I could of course mean he. Names like Alex are after all unisex. But as I have said she, I will continue with that, but remember I have not told you if Alex was male or female. Where was I? Alex, said she’s a teacher of English, and to her words are vital. I agree entirely and we had a very interesting chat about it between takes. I think the reason we got on is that Alex and I are both in our late 50’s, so we have similar childhood memories.

 

One of the words that Alex and I agreed was far too fancy was roux sauce. I was surprised at her comment on this as we had all been particularly impressed with her roux sauce in the quarter finals. It had been her duck with roux sauce and fondant potatoes that won it for her. But I suppose given her general skills, especially with sauces, she has a right to be critical though.

 

When the contestants were at CERN, feeding the scientists at the Hadron Accelerator, I got a few moments chatting with Alex between takes about other words. On the way back Jen was quite upset at being eliminated. I never really rated Jen’s chances anyway. I had been torn between her and Mark when we were deciding who to send home in the quarter finals anyway. Still, having Alex, Greg, Mark and Sarah in the semi-finals seemed the best outcome to me.

 

On the way back from filming the semi-finals in the restaurant in the Eifel Tower Alex and I agreed that cars should be re-named auto-voituriers. During the next days filming at Pinewood Studios on the set of the latest Bond movie, we discussed re-naming cameras. We came up with pellicoliamera.

 

Cooking for the US President on Air Force One at a social distance for the finals was a lot of fun to be part of. I was surprised how easily my wheelchair fitted on board. The President was very understanding when turbulence caused Mark to drop a salad in his lap. We had to eliminate him of course. Chatting to Alex later I was saying that the crème anglaise she made was an excellent custard. Greg and John had raved about it. All of which brought us around to thinking of more names for everyday items that are fancier. We did think of a few others, but I’m worried that if I tell you, I might let slip details about the show.

 

I’m so glad I got through this blog without giving anything away about MasterChef 2022. Greg and John seemed to think I couldn’t keep a secret; I showed them and the guest judges, Jamie Oliver and Thomas Keller.

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Fiction or Fact

Being long term ill gives me a lot of time to watch films. Mainly because there are hours on end when I lack the energy to move. Sometimes I just stare into space and think, my blogs are often the result of that thinking. I know, you wouldn’t believe any thought went into them, but there is, really. After my last blog which seems to have caused a little controversy, I must be careful. Maybe I should start all my blogs with, “this is the authors opinion and does not have to be taken seriously.” or something like that.

 

I get quite bored watching films and its only boredom that leads me to watch so many. They all have similar patterns and I never really enjoyed doing nothing anyway. Thinking is at least doing something. Unfortunately, exhaustion often prevents even that. So, film watching it is. I do realise many of you must be extremely jealous of me having hours to watch films. I am jealous of you having hours to actually ‘do’ real stuff.

 

I am not writing this as a poor me blog. I have plenty to be thankful about and I do not spend my days feeling miserable. On the contrary, I am very positive and upbeat about life. You only have to read my blogs to see that.

 

In my latest musings I realised something. Well actually it reminded me of my Open University teaching in creative writing. There are many different genres of films. Earth shattering, eh? Hang on in there, there is a bit more to come. I want to simplify all the genres down. There are only really two types of fiction, ones where you get a happy ending and ones where you don’t. Think about that for a moment. All those gritty dramas you have watched where they end with uncertainty or sadness. All those rom coms, action adventures, detective stories etc. where things end with some kind of resolution. Of course, these days that resolution may come after a 3- or 4-part film or miniseries; but it still comes. You notice I said ‘resolution’ not ‘happy ending’. Because that is today’s currency for films. Happy endings are so yesterday, aren’t they?

 

Even in a rom com you rarely get a ‘happy ever after’ ending, unless it’s tongue in cheek. But you do get ‘resolution’. The two main characters come together and agree to ‘ignore each other’s faults’ or ‘not get married’ and yet in some way stay together and love each other. Presumably until they get bored, rather than until death do they part. In part 2 of such films, we see the reality of this played out. Some films don’t even bother with the two ‘love birds’ getting together as a ‘resolution’ instead the two of them end up, loving from afar, or married but forever apart. It’s still seen as a ‘good’ resolution. Everyone feels satisfied at the end of the film; well, most people.

 

But why do film makers feel the need to put any hope at all into films? Surely our experience of life has taught us that life is hard and full of disappointment? Is it just so that we can escape into a fictional world where the evil guys are foiled and the good guys win? Are films just a cathartic expression of our inner need to see good triumph? Is it just a way to sell more tissues?

 

When we watch a film, it isn’t about whether we agree or disagree with the main characters. We don’t have to go along with their life choices. We can actually see them as criminal, disreputable, wrong, unpleasant, unlovable. But clever scripting leads us to identify with them. It’s about how we as viewers feel watching them. The writers and director create situations in which we start to see good in the characters or at least understand why they act as they do. As we identify with them, we care what happens to them; pass the tissues. They become important to us in some way. It is really crazy, but any character good, bad or ugly can become one we root for. The days of white hatted heroes are long gone. The days of hero and heroine are gone. Now we have a real mix up. I don’t know who the main characters are going to be. In fact, often the writers mix it up part way through just to confuse me.

 

Has anyone seen Frozen? Of course, you have. That is so brilliantly written. They mess around with viewers expectation of ‘happily ever after’ so cleverly. First the princess meets an obvious prince, but he is a villain, then we all think Sven must be the love of her life. Then just as she is running to him at the end, we see that sisterly love is the main theme. What a great twist. Well, if you haven’t watched Frozen, there is no need now. Of course, there is, for all the great songs and the humour.

 

On the subject of songs; one of the most powerful things used in films is music. Themes for particular characters or events can stir our emotions. If that theme is given words and those words are put into the mouths of several of the characters the effect can be very powerful indeed. I don’t just mean in musicals like Frozen.

 

Music gets in under our defences. It connects to a part of our emotions that seems unrelated to logic. Which means that you can feel moved over something which, if described, sounds simple. A group of people running (Chariots of Fire, Vangelis), a boxer (Rocky, Gonna Fly Now), a young man walking through an airport (The Graduate, The Sound of Silence), a woman sat on a beach (Beaches, Wind Beneath My Wings) etc. Obviously the background story leading up to the point builds emotional response. But as the music plays with or without singing our innards almost move and we fight back tears. Those of us men brought up when, ‘men don’t cry’ certainly don’t cry at movies. If you believe that…

 

The reason I am highlighting this is that we want life to have a resolution. Somewhere inside, we believe in justice and ‘happy endings.’ Our emotional and mental makeup seems to point us towards a desire for right, truth, justice, no I am not going to say The American Way; I am British. You see where I am coming from though? I tend to share what I am thinking and leave you to process it. I don’t see myself as a teacher. I’m just a thinker who shares his thoughts. Take it or leave it.

 

Is it that we like neatness? I know that when I watch a film it winds me up if they walk out of a house without closing the front door; so maybe that’s just me. Perhaps there is a mathematical part of our make up? Now I can’t be talking about me; I failed maths. The point I am trying to make is this: do we just want things to add up? Is it that resolution or a neat and tidy outcome feels right? Life isn’t like that; it’s messy and unfinished. So, films and books give us an outlet for a more perfect outcome. That’s my theory anyway and you are welcome to disagree.

 

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Who’s The Bald Guy In Front Of Me?

 

A few years ago, before I was in a wheelchair, I was queueing in a Post Office. As I stood in the queue, patiently waiting, I looked up at the CCTV monitor. There before me was a queue of bored looking people; well, the backs of their heads. I wasn’t quite in shot though, as all I could see was the man at the counter, taking an absolute age and holding us all up. A mother and her child waiting behind him, the child getting impatient. The child was not alone there. Then an old bald guy behind them. The strange thing was when I looked down, the mother and child were in front of me, but no old bald guy. He must have left the queue. I looked back up; he returned as if by magic. I looked down; he’d gone. Now call me very quick witted, I realised that ‘he’ was ‘me.’ But that didn’t make any sense. I look in the mirror every morning and I always saw a good head of hair. The CCTV monitor was lying, it showed a huge bald area on top. I nonchalantly put my hand on my head. Sure, enough I felt the reassuring touch of hair. It was only sometime later I realised that the hair I could feel was too fine and thin to actually be seen. Angles of view can alter your understanding. What felt like a good head of hair to me was virtually invisible on camera and made me look bald from above. How we look at things changes our perception of them.

 

More than once I have looked at something from a distance and been convinced that what I was seeing was one thing only to realise it was something else once it was closer. Once as a young man I was convinced that I was seeing the end of a beach, with a rock promontory. On reaching it, I found it was just a rock formation sticking out onto the beach part way down with another half mile of beach beyond. What seemed like an ending was only a part way point.  I find that many situations can be like this. Limited or distorted information leads us to conclude one thing when a closer, different angled or a more detailed view changes our understanding. The point is that accurate and full information can prevent us from jumping to wrong conclusions. We live in an age of misinformation, half-truths and outright lies. This is more apt now than it has ever been.

 

They say that history is written by the victors. Not surprising therefore that our view of the history of our own countries is biased. I was watching ‘The Last Kingdom’ and I was struck by one theme in it. That Alfred wrote down the ‘history’ or at least his interpretation of it, for his times. We form our opinion of him and his times based on things largely written at his command. There are other sources, but a lot came from him.

 

If the ‘history’ of the times we live in now were mainly recorded by our government and those in power (I deliberately separate those) how would they differ from the masses of opposing views recorded in the press, the media and online? How does your opinion and the governments vary? The less ‘viewpoints’ there are, the narrower the focus, the more one sided the interpretation.

 

With all the false information on social media how do we find truth? Surely, we have to look at many sources and weigh them? Common sense would say that the more different and widespread sources agree the more likely that is truth. If something is widely reported but ‘does not ring true’ we probably are wise to treat it with scepticism. We seem to have an inbuilt sense of truth. That may sound like nonsense, but think about it. When you hear news items some things just don’t sound right. Others seem to chime within you. It’s that I am talking about. The reason we throw out conspiracy theories isn’t because we think the pedlars of them are unhinged, or because we hold to the ‘incompetence theory of history’ but because they just don’t chime with us, they don’t feel right. But if we hear about corruption of people in power, that rings true. If we hear about hidden torture or people being imprisoned for their beliefs, that rings true. We just seem to know when we are hearing truth.

 

Obviously, I just knew I wasn’t bald; hang on that disproves my own theory. There are always a few glitches in any idea; but you see where I am coming from? The main point I am really making is to be wise in your processing of news and information. Remember that perspective effects our understanding. Look for different sources. If it doesn’t sound true, maybe it isn’t. Check and cross check. Look at things from wider and different angles. In an age of misinformation, we can still find the truth.

 

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Word Games

Someone pointed out that with the word “Queue”, the letter ‘Q’ does all the work and the rest of the letters silently “queue” behind it. This got me thinking, are there other words where some of the letters are similarly work shy? “Tea” for instance, the ‘e’ and ‘a’ could be off having a cuppa or a quick bite they certainly are not working, ‘T’ is doing all the heavy lifting. The same goes for the other “Tee”, the two ee’s are probably off playing golf, they most certainly cannot be heard; not a peep. As for “Oh!” Do you think the shock of the word itself has caused the ‘h’ to hide? Where is it? I can’t hear it. “Bee” is another one, the two ee’s must be suffering anaphylactic shock after a sting; are they in hospital? Or have they some other excuse for keeping quiet. It really is not an acceptable excuse for doing nothing.

But there are many other letters in the English language that don’t pull their weight. Letters that are working part time or not at all. Let’s face it, English is full of them. We hear a lot about ‘people’ who are workshy, but what about all these lazy letters? Isn’t it time we had a clamp down, a purge, a clean up of the English language? It’s just not good enough. ‘Enough’, hold on a second, what’s the ‘o’ up to in keeping quiet? Then what about that gh, pretending to be an ‘f’?! I told you English is very messed up.

I say remove all these lazy letters. Since when do we need two letters to do the job of one. That is just making jobs for the boys. If we did that in a factory there would be a public outcry; but I hear no fuss when it happens in words; look what is that second ‘p’ up to in ‘happens’? In fact while we are at it let’s clean up the English language and only use letters and letter combinations that make sense. Who told an “s” it sounded like a “z”? What an imposter. While we are at it since when did an “e” sound like an “i” or a “ph” sound like an “f”? I already mentioned ‘gh’ sometimes pretending it’s an ‘f’. What’s wrong with this language?

Enuf is enuf, no mor slakers, no mor rubish. From this point on I wil not tolerat it any mor. If it haz no sownd, it can go. Ware wud we b if we let it continu? Just think of al the paper we wil sav. Haz it got 2 l’s? No, nothing haz any mor. Haz it got 2 of any leter, no! Huray, we al cry. Kidz can at larst spel. Az for grama we wil simplify that 2. No mor plu perfect, past participuls, definit anythings. Inglish languag wil b ez to lurn. Lak grama not make hard understand, ez now, me tel u how clever, lurning much simpl now. Ez now very gud. U agre?

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Reverse Tardis

Why is it that packing into cardboard boxes is like using a reverse Tardis? I am sure you all remember Dr Who? His Tardis was bigger on the inside than the outside. Well cardboard packing boxes must be smaller on the inside than the outside, because they hold almost nothing. You must have experienced it? You are packing up a shelf or a cupboard. It doesn’t have much on it, so you get a large box and start packing. In a few minutes the box is overflowing and you have only emptied half the shelf. What is going on? Is there a rift in the space-time continuum within every cardboard box? Does the very process of packing, cause a rip in the fabric of space? Do objects grow in size when they come into contact with cardboard? Do our eyes get fooled by squares and oblongs? Do cardboard boxes shrink when they come into contact with any contents?

I am thinking that there needs to be a solution. It is not acceptable. We cannot go on trying to pack into ever shrinking boxes. The very fabric of space and time is at threat. Our sanity, indeed our ability to make sensible judgements is at stake. I don’t think it would be too great a statement to say that the universe itself is in peril.

There must be a way forward. After all Dr Who overcame it with his Tardis. Surely if he, with an old Police Box, could solve the problem of time and space, can’t we do the same. I used to watch Dr Who when it was still black and white. If he could overcome such a huge problem on such a tiny budget, so can we.

Just think, if we do not overcome this problem, we will be left trying to pack up our houses into an unreasonably large number of boxes. How can one bookshelf take 2 or 3 boxes! That is ludicrous, we must be able to reduce that number. As for a kitchen, well all I can say is that if the contents can fit in a few drawers and cupboards then it does not need 10 to 15 boxes to pack it. Are you with me on this? I can almost hear the moving firms cheering me on. Or is that the very fabric of space-time splitting.

But I hear you ask, where do we start? That is a good question. I always think the best place is at the beginning. How did Dr Who do it? He chose an ordinary object that looked small on the outside, but was actually big on the inside. Obviously cardboard boxes do not work. I think we have established that. It’s also best if we don’t copy Dr Who. Besides I am not sure where I would buy an old Police Box.

I think we are progressing, don’t you? We have ruled out what will not work and now we can concentrate on the best way forward. It can’t be that difficult to come up with the right thing. Any ideas? OK, I am thinking hard. Not a cardboard box. Not a Police Box. I’ve got it… No that won’t work. Quantum physics isn’t as easy as I was hoping.

Perhaps we’ll stick with boxes for now and come back to this later. It’s a definite problem that needs fixing though. There’s a Nobel Prize in this for someone.

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Reply from BBC MasterChef

Dear Mr Nevin,

It was good to catch up with you by telephone the other day and I certainly enjoyed our conversation; even though some parts puzzled me. Although I am the show’s executive producer, we do need to get Greg and John onside, so don’t start planning too far ahead.

As I pointed out Greg Wallace and John Torode have been in heated discussions regarding your suggestions with myself and the production team. You can probably imagine decisions of this magnitude are not taken lightly. I’m not sure that Greg and John would agree with the idea of you becoming a permanent additional judge; maybe we can table that for now. They were definite that we cannot re-brand the series MaterChef: A taste of Nevin. It’s also a little early for you to plan your introductory segment; although I do agree that: “We’re looking for the chef who has the best designed apron and enjoys singing.” Is certainly novel, I’m not sure what it will demonstrate about their cooking ability.

I have summarized the main points which you raised in your letter and we chatted about, along with our response below:

1/ “I don’t really like fishy things. So let the prawns, crabs, lobsters, muscles, scallops, oysters and other sea life, live out their lives in the ocean, in peace. That includes all fish unless it’s battered and deep fried with a plate of chips.”

John felt that the exclusion of fish, other than battered and fried from the MasterChef menu may cause problems. Whilst this in itself may not be insurmountable, he was not happy. An unhappy John Torode is not a good start. It’s not as bad as an unhappy Greg, but it is an issue that needs addressing at some point before we include you on the team.

2/ “Deer can stay in the forest; I don’t really want Bambi on my plate. You don’t fool me by calling it venison.”

John and Greg both felt that the emotive reference to “Bambi” was unhelpful. Greg loves Disney films and would not like you to think he encourages any attacks on Disney characters. John felt that you had missed the point; but he didn’t really expand on that.

3/ “Partridges look great but not next to a potato. Leave them in a pear tree ready for Christmas.”

Whilst agreeing in principle about Christmas; everyone at MasterChef loves Christmas. There is a need to have partridges on the menu. (This was an emphatic point made by them both)

4/ “Pidgeon’s are a nuisance in Trafalgar square it’s true; but is eating them the best solution? Couldn’t you just put-up anti-Pidgeon devices?

John and Greg spent a while looking blankly at each other after reading this point. I did explain what you were trying to say. They would not be swayed. Perhaps you could just smell the pigeons? Clever cuts on film could avoid you eating them. I know that you said on the phone this could be a ‘deal breaker.’ However, I don’t think you should dig your heels in over this. After all you did say that you were keen on joining the MasterChef team and from what I gathered you have already started printing T shirts with “I’m a MasterChef judge” on them. I did explain that was a little premature.

5/ “Quails and their eggs; They sound a bit fancy for me. Stick with chicken.”

You may be in luck on this point. With the current economy drive at the BBC, we may have to cut back on such expensive ingredients.

6/ “Sweet meats; when I looked this up my decision was a definite no to eating it. I really couldn’t believe anyone would want to.”

I have never been a great fan of this either, but John and Greg tutted at both my and your disapproval. This needs further discussion; I have made a note for a future meeting.

7/ “Caviar and Champagne; just the later please. I like my eggs from a chicken, not a fish.”

I’m afraid given my earlier answer to point 5, both may have to go. Although I agree with the point you made on the phone, yes far too much goes on.

8/ “Foie Gras, never had it, don’t want it.”

The cruelty of its production has led to a widespread ban.

9/ “Puddings; I try to avoid processed sugar. I will watch others eat them though.”

Greg went into shock and didn’t recover for quite some time. You know what a sweet tooth he has. I pointed out that he could still eat them. This placated him. I did point out to you on the phone that we could try Avocado Ice Cream; I wasn’t sure if we got cut off at that point? The phone seemed to go silent.

10/ “Cooking times; can you please make sure my meat is cooked before serving it. Granny said, if it’s red that means it’s not cooked. Granny knows best.”

 I’m sorry to tell you and your granny that she’s wrong. It was a bit unnecessary to be quite so rude about this on the phone. Granny’s can be wrong. I realise that was news to you, but you will have to monitor what you say on live TV.

11/ “There are many things that come from inside an animal; please dispose of them somewhere other than my plate. I know many people enjoy kidneys, liver etc. I’m not in that happy bunch.”

You are unlikely to convince Greg or John on this. Perhaps you could just taste the gravy and push the offal to one side? It does make delicious gravy.

12/ “I do love a good gravy or sauce, while we are on that subject, please call it gravy or sauce not ‘jus’ or ‘roux’. If you do put any on my plate, can you pour a good portion over my meat, not decorate the plate with little dots, draw lines or smear it everywhere.”

I have to be careful here. As a producer of a current food show, I wanted to cheer you on. But, I did it quietly. I’m sure Greg and John nodded slightly. But that could be my imagination. I know we both shared a laugh about this on the phone.

13/ “I would like a nice meat and two veg please. None of this tiny slice of meat balanced on top of a small pile of veg. I want to eat the food not admire its balancing skills. In fact, I prefer my food ladled onto my plate, not delicately placed with tweezers.”

A similar reaction to point 12 here. I sometimes feel like shouting, ‘The King is in his altogether.’ Food has become a fashion statement rather than something to eat. I was particularly shocked at what looked like a tyre skid, or something worse on a plate in this year’s show.

14/ “I love ducks; swimming on a pond. Not swimming in gravy on my plate.”

Let’s not get carried away. Everyone likes a nice bit of duck. Even if it’s just crispy Chinese Duck. You need to put up with this.

“Other than the above minor limitations, I will eat absolutely anything. I am really looking forward to the chefs cooking up a treat for us.”

Don’t jump the gun here. We have a lot of things to discuss and plan first. It’s not a definite yes or no.We are still coming to an agreement. Although it is looking positive; so you have reason to be positive.

“On a practical note, our house is not very large. The kitchen isn’t huge. You may want to budget in buying us a bigger house. I’m sure that won’t break your budget, which I assume is large. Perhaps you should include a large garden and swimming pool. That way it will have plenty of room for the outside broadcast trucks and your staff can have a swim while relaxing. Perhaps you should include a double garage and very wide driveway. I don’t want to put ideas in your head, but a stately home might work well?”

I did mention budgetary constraints. We may hire a village hall or setup in a studio. Is there anywhere near you that’s suitable? If we were to look at a stately home it would only be a short-term lease; perhaps 6 months, maybe 12 to 18. If the series is a success, we could look at extending it.

The only other things to discuss are:

Screen tests, do you film and photograph well? You mentioned that you are in a wheelchair; can I ask is the wheelchair a fancy one? Will it film well? Do you have an agent to negotiate your fee? We will need to look into a photo shoot for the cover of the Radio Times. Then there’s newspaper coverage, interviews with the national newspapers, TV and radio. The possibility of tie in book deals, recipe books, autobiographies etc.

One last thing, a gullibility test would seem in order. Do you believe everything you’re told?

Yours Sincerely

Arthur Harrington-Smythe BA, HB, MA, JL, HH

Executive Producer – BBC Food Programmes

BBC Television Centre

London

Letter to MasterChef Producer

We have been watching old and new series of BBC’s MasterChef. We noticed that in the later parts they tend to have the finalists cook for various people in interesting settings. This prompted my extremely serious letter to the BBC:

Dear MasterChef Producer,

We are big fans of your show and wanted to be a help with the 2022 series. It must be hard finding new and interesting venues and people to cook for in the finals. We have a solution: Come to our house and cook for us. There are many reasons this is a good idea. We like food and yet we can’t afford to eat the kind of luxury food that is featured on your show. The idea of trying it is wonderful. It would be novel and different. I am disabled; that must tick a few boxes for you. Just imagine how much joy you would bring to me and my wife. We are licence fee payers, so you’d be giving something back. We enjoy food and are very vocal about it, so would make great judges.

There are one or two minor issues to bear in mind when you do arrange to come here:

1/ I don’t really like fishy things. So let the prawns, crabs, lobsters, muscles, scallops, oysters and other sea life, live out their lives in the ocean, in peace. That includes all fish unless it’s battered and deep fried with a plate of chips.

2/ Deer can stay in the forest; I don’t really want Bambi on my plate. You don’t fool me by calling it venison.

3/ Partridges look great but not next to a potato. Leave them in a pear tree ready for Christmas.

4/ Pidgeon’s are a nuisance in Trafalgar square it’s true; but is eating them the best solution? Couldn’t you just put-up anti-Pidgeon devices?

5/ Quails and their eggs; They sound a bit fancy for me. Stick with chicken.

6/ Sweet meats; when I looked this up my decision was a definite no to eating it. I really couldn’t believe anyone would want to.

7/ Caviar and Champagne; just the later please. I like my eggs from a chicken, not a fish.

8/ Foie Gras, never had it, don’t want it.

9/ Puddings; I try to avoid processed sugar. I will watch others eat them though.

10/ Cooking times; can you please make sure my meat is cooked before serving it. Granny said, if it’s red that means it’s not cooked. Granny knows best.

11/ There are many things that come from inside an animal; please dispose of them somewhere other than my plate. I know many people enjoy kidneys, liver etc. I’m not in that happy bunch.

12/ I do love a good gravy or sauce, while we are on that subject, please call it gravy or sauce not ‘jus’ or ‘roux’. If you do put any on my plate can you pour a good portion over my meat, not decorate the plate with little dots, draw lines or smear it everywhere.

13/ I would like a nice meat and two veg please. None of this tiny slice of meat balanced on top of a small pile of veg. I want to eat the food not admire it’s balancing skills. In fact I prefer my food ladled onto my plate, not delicately placed with tweezers.

14/ I love ducks; swimming on a pond. Not swimming in gravy on my plate.

Other than the above minor limitations, I will eat absolutely anything. I am really looking forward to the chefs cooking up a treat for us.

On a practical note, our house is not very large. The kitchen isn’t huge. You may want to budget in buying us a bigger house. I’m sure that won’t break your budget, which I assume is large. Perhaps you should include a large garden and swimming pool. That way it will have plenty of room for the outside broadcast trucks and your staff can have a swim while relaxing. Perhaps you should include a double garage and very wide driveway. I don’t want to put ideas in your head, but a stately home might work well?

As you can see from the above, I have covered all the major issues and I am sure you will soon be in touch. I am sure that the 2022 MasterChef is going to be the best ever. Perhaps you could even rename it, MasterChef: The Nevin special.

Yours sincerely

Mike Nevin

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They’re Getting Dressed

At the end of Covid, when we are all back to normal, whatever that is. We will all look back at the absurdities of this time. Yes, we will mourn the losses of loved ones and rightly so. But this blog is not about that it is about the silly things we have come to accept as normal.

I was at the dentist today. The receptionist said, ‘They won’t be long, they’re getting dressed.’ Now, I had assumed dentists spent their time between patients fully dressed; obviously not. They must practice naturism in the surgery between patients; who knew? Don’t shout at your smart phone or tablet or PC; I know they were putting on protective gear. At least I hope so. Talking of which, on my arrival in the examination room; having checked they were decent first of course, I was met by two space suited staff. Well, they looked like space suits to me, I’m sure they could survive in space, at least for a few minutes.

Queueing, that is something we have always done well in the UK. So, the extra queueing systems introduced for Covid, we have taken in our stride. In fact, we have probably secretly enjoyed the extra space. No more problems with people invading our personal space. Add to that we have people at the doors keeping order; it’s like an English dream. But how have other countries coped?

In the early 1980’s we went to Israel. They have not heard of queues. We went into a supermarket, picked up our goods and found a till. A lady was paying and one was waiting, so we stood patiently behind the waiting lady. Along came a man with his trolley and pushed in front of us. Well obviously, we apologised for being in his way. Then we looked very hard at the back of his head; showing our displeasure. Then we coughed and hummed a bit. Eventually we realised that he wasn’t taking any of our messages of displeasure seriously and we were forced to speak to him. I know, unheard of, right? Speaking to a stranger and not just speaking, but complaining. I took all of my courage and spoke:

‘Sorry, excuse me, I think you have just jumped the queue.’

He looked around, glanced up and down at my muscular stature. Obviously realised that he was no match for my manly physique and for some unexplained reason ignored me anyway. It is beyond me how Israel is coping with any new queueing system. There are many countries that don’t understand queuing like us Brits.

Masks, I have got so used to wearing a mask, I feel naked without it. Perhaps that’s why the receptionist said the dentist and assistant were getting dressed; she feels naked without her mask? In winter masks are a positive benefit, keeping me warm and cosy. Just think of all those bank robbers who will have to go back to wearing tights over their heads.

Then there are the plastic screens which have sprung up everywhere. Buses, taxis, shops, dentists etc. We were used to talking to banking staff through a plastic screen, now we have that same experience with all staff. It’s like watching TV in real life, everyone is on screen, or at least behind one. Will they all go post-Covid or are they now permanent?

Don’t even mention touch. When I see someone touch someone else on a movie or TV programme, I have a panic attack. I don’t know how I resist phoning 999 or at least 111. I don’t think people have ever had more alcohol on their hands than in their stomach in the history of mankind. I find myself reaching for the alcohol gel when I touch anything in our house. I am going to have to invent a constant drench mechanism for when we go out. A bit like those auto wheel gritters you get on train wheels for icy days. My system will be a bottle up each arm that runs gel constantly over my hands. Am I being over cautious? However, will we get used to not washing our hands every 5 minutes or touching a stranger at the end of all this? I don’t know about you but this is our first winter without a cold. It certainly stops the spread of germs.

We are also in for a huge shock when normality returns and all the people who moved from cities out to the countryside wake up to what they’ve done. Will there be a stampede back to the cities? Will people wake one morning, look out their window at a field of cows and say, ‘I miss the London traffic.’? Or will it just be the returning theatres, cinemas, restaurants, shops and other facilities that draw people back to towns and cities? Meat is a little too fresh when it’s still walking around. Sorry, that was uncalled for.

What will be the surprises for you? We had a survey to fill in recently. It asked about what we had changed due to Covid and whether those things would stay post-Covid. To most of them, I said no. I am a realist and I know that most things we have changed because we had to.

I know many companies have had to change to home working. But I wonder if they will stick at that long term? I guess productivity will decide. Even the ones who have closed offices, may well re-open them.

A month or so and we will start to find out what changes.

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Did You See A Bear?

I have noticed that people tend to fall into one of two main categories when disaster strikes:

1/ Action/panic, they run around doing stuff. It’s as if they feel the louder, they are, the more active, the better things will become. This group can get lots done quickly and if the disaster is fast moving, they are ideally suited to save the situation. They certainly move ahead of things.

2/ Calm/non reaction, and here I have to admit I fit. We take stock, think and then act more slowly. It might look cool and collected, but it must annoy group 1 like crazy. Plus, it has the disadvantage of being such a slow reaction that events can overtake you.

I am being deliberately extreme in my categories. I am sure that not only is there overlap, but there are other groups too. But the reason I have set out my stall in this way is to examine a fundamental human response to danger and disaster. The fight and flight response.

I am not a psychologist and therefore no expert. Don’t use my words as the basis for a new way to live. Although there are many people, equally unqualified, who have spouted half-truths and created swathes of followers to their ideology. I am not suggesting that path. In fact, if you are following one of these self-declared gurus of life, I would suggest you stop!

Where was I? Oh yes, I am no expert, instead I have a fair amount of that useful commodity: common sense. It’s something that seems to have gone out of fashion recently. Common sense teaches me that a fight and flight reflex is a useful response to danger. After all, if a bear runs at me, I am going to think, ‘what on earth is a bear doing on Wellington High Street?’ after I have thought that, I will want to get away from it. Unfortunately, my wheelchair is limited to about 4mph, so the bear is going to outrun me. Fortunately, my first thought about bears and Wellington will be accurate and such an occurrence is unlikely. Although, who knows, what with global warming and the re-introduction of extinct species to the UK….

Back to common sense, which I seem to remember claiming an excess of. Fight and flight is a useful thing and running, in my case wheeling, from danger, is another valuable thing. In this modern world we don’t meet many dangers that need us to run away. There are spiders of course. I wouldn’t want to underestimate their capacity to incapacitate people with fear. Mice, rats, clowns, actually when did clowns become an object of fear. I blame all the 1970’s, 80’s and 90’s horror movies. All the young people who snuck down to watch them, or watched them secretly. Or are clowns just scary anyway? Must be the red nose. I always find Comic Relief scary.

Back to running away. Actually, in my case and anyone else in group 2, looking and thinking about it first. The adrenaline is pumping, you can probably feel it with all that mention of clowns… terrifying.

What was my point? Because I was bound to have one when I started this. We have gone through an extended time of worldwide difficulty. There has been stress, disaster, death, panic, fear, anxiety etc. We have reacted in many different ways, disbelief, supportive, brave, courageous, fearfully, encouraging, helpful, generous, in laughter and tears. There has been no right or wrong way to react, we are all different. I guess that is my point, if I have one. At the end of all this, when we can finally take off our masks and actually touch each other again. Not in a weird way. We will have all forgotten what each other look like. Just think what a shock we are in for. Our last memory of how friends and extended family looked was months ago. The only updates are social media images and we all know how accurate those are. Who knows, we might get a fight and flight reflex when we see our friends again. As we run of down the road we might well meet a bear; then what? Pick it up and cuddle it? Return it to the child in a pushchair?

Now let’s be serious for a minute. Will we look back at our reactions in surprise or satisfaction? As I said there is no right or wrong in our reactions, we don’t choose our emotional reactions. There will, I think, be a time to reflect on things. Our rose-tinted glasses will come out and we will remember how well we did, how calm, collected and cool we were. At least group two will. Our memories will probably emphasise the generous and obliterate the selfish. We are human, we are imperfect, we tried, OK maybe we sometimes failed. But in the end, it is best to be realistic in our expectations from ourselves. That’s about a minute, we can be silly again.

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Dr Livingstone, I Presume?

You’ve all heard the famous line, “Dr Livingstone, I presume?” I’m probably quoting it wrong. I could check on Google, but who’s to say that’s right. I presume it would be; but I don’t know with certainty. On balance it probably is.

I have had reason to contemplate presumption a lot the last few months. We all do it, we presume things and we also assume things. They have similar but subtly different meanings.

Presume means: “Suppose something is the case on the basis of probability.”

Assume means: “Suppose something to be the case without proof.”

There is some reason behind our presumptions, we are basing it on probability; of course, we can still be wrong. Whereas assumptions have absolutely no evidence to back them up. That’s why it has the easy to remember mnemonic “Assumption makes an ass of you and me.”

This blog is about presumption. Because even though there is often reason to come to the conclusion we do; we are so often wrong. Think of all the detective stories you’ve ever read or seen as a film. All those ‘red herrings’, things are not always as they seem. We can have a lot of facts and evidence and still draw the wrong conclusion. Our presumption can still be wrong.

I used to be a professional photographer, many years ago. Not quite when there were glass plates and exploding powder for flashes, but not long after. I am still keen on photography; I just can’t easily do it. I understand the principles. One of which is the compression of distance that happens with a long lens. In other words, if you use a lens that is designed to make a distant object appear closer it also squashes together all the different distances, things that are close, middle and far off. The effect is as if an object near you is closer to a far-off object than it really is. This effect can be deliberately used in movies for a thriller effect. In a car chase the car behind can seem to be closer than it really is. It can also be used in portrait photos. If you have ever wondered why, you don’t look your best on a phone camera, it’s because they have wide angle lenses. The longer the lens (a lens designed to take far off images) the better you will look. That’s because it softens facial features. Flattens out the angles of our faces. Some new phone cameras have long lenses as an alternative, try using it. You may find that you no longer have to use Fairy Ears, an overlay of stars or the beatify setting. You could even have a photo of you as your profile pic rather than an avatar. Of course I’m presuming you’d prefer that, or am I assuming?

I have gone right off topic, no surprise there. The point I wanted to make was that presumption can get us into trouble. We have some facts, weigh them up and come up with a conclusion. But it can be wrong. It’s not until we are talking to someone who knows the truth that our presumption is shown to be wrong. Now this might only be me, but I find it hard to let go of a pet theory. Which means if I have come up with an idea based on the facts I knew, I am not ready to let go of it. It’s probably why a lot of arguments start. After all who wants to back down? We are often more ready to believe the conclusions we have drawn; even if based on our faulty presumptions, rather than change them.

You don’t have to think very far to come up with examples of what I am talking about. Covid, Brexit, vaccination, race, employment, disability, politics, media, etc.

My conclusion is this. Sometimes it is better to look silly and admit you have got it wrong rather than continue with a faulty presumption. After all for a presumption to be truth, it needs to be more than a series of probabilities. It needs factual evidence and testing.

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The Face that Lunched a Thousand chips

I am watching Troy: Fall of a city on Netflix. I know it’s a tragedy, a Greek one, not the fact I’m watching it. You all know the story. Actually, I bet most people don’t anymore. What most of us know are snippets. Achilles’ heel, he was the super strong hero whose only weak point was his heel. Paris, he who gave his name to the city in France steals a beautiful bride. Helen is the bride, but she is already married. This is sounding more and more like a soap. Nothing new under the sun. Homer, not the guy in The Simpsons, but the writer of many Greek tragedies, got there first.

Helen had a face that launched a thousand ships. By that I don’t mean it looked like a champagne bottle. She was so beautiful that Paris fell in love with her at first sight. He seemed to ignore the fact she was married. Let’s be fair to him; so, did she. They both ignored the fact she had a daughter whom he was supposed to be courting. Listen to me, ‘whom’ and ‘courting’, it must be all these Greek stories making me posh. Getting back to Helen’s ship launching face. The reason that quotes about Helen’s face is so well known is this. After Helen ran away to Troy with Paris (Alexander as he was really called; don’t ask) her husband was not happy. Well, he wouldn’t be would he? This was the days before family courts, arbitration, amicable divorce. It was the days before modern civilisation. Anyone who thinks these ancient times were a golden age at the dawn of civilisation has never read any history.

What did Helen’s husband, Menelaus, do? He gathered his brothers, under the leadership of Agamemnon and went to war against Troy. This is where you are probably getting other vague memories. Troy, who lived there, the Trojans? Hang on, wasn’t there a horse? Something about Greeks bearing gifts? Wait a minute! Were Menelaus and his brothers Greeks? Absolutely, it’s all coming back now isn’t it.

The Greeks attacked Troy. This is a fictional story and Homer is keen to include all of the Greek God’s. Zeus, Aphrodite, Hera, Dionysus, Hermes (no parcels involved) etc. They have a rare old time messing around with the lives of the characters in the story. Paris doesn’t know whether he is coming or going. Although he does a lot of both. He does meet up with a tribe of Amazonian women. Something that has always puzzled me is how a tribe of only women has children? Answers on a postcard to…

While Helen does have a beautiful face. One you might believe could have launched a thousand ships against Troy. Due to spite, jealousy and anger, rather than love, the way Netflix tell it. The majority of the onlookers (Greeks and Trojans) have faces that look like they have lunched on a thousand chips. Much like mine.

What can we learn from all this? Don’t watch Netflix? Don’t take stories too seriously? Don’t take my blogs too seriously? Eat less chips? If you are beautiful don’t run off to Paris… I mean with Paris, it will only end badly. Whatever we learn, be gentle on yourself, smile, don’t take life too seriously.

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Gravity

Have you ever thought about gravity? Of course, you haven’t, you’re far too busy, That’s why I’m here. I don’t mean the Sandra Bullock & George Clooney movie as good or bad as that was.

Gravity is a very odd and amazing thing. It seems to have a cumulative effect. As you get older, it makes you shorter. I used to be 5’ 10” now I’m 4’ 8”, no wait, that’s because I’m sat in a wheelchair. It does make you shorter though.

Then there’s the effect on your hair, especially for men. Women seem immune. It pulls the hair of the top of our hair onto the sides. I know that doesn’t happen for all men. Maybe it has something to do with the extra testosterone some of us have interacting with gravity. I much prefer the idea of it meaning I am more macho rather than more decrepit. It doesn’t stop there though, hair is pulled, by gravity, out of every orifice; well nearly. Our ears and noses become hairy.

Why is it that when you are a teenage boy you are desperate for one or two hairs on your chin. Then as a man you are fighting a losing battle against a forest of hair. I know that many men give up and decide to join Santa Claus. An aside, I’m sure that the reason Santa wears a hat is that he only has hair on the side of his head. Gravity is also to blame for the paunch that gives us men a Santa Claus tummy. It’s not beer or over eating. Not sure why it’s called a beer belly; should be renamed a gravity belly.

We buy such a range of trimmers; the Ear and Nose Strimmer 3000, the Wonder Trim 2040, the Hairbegone 1020, the Trimme Ace, the AH1JE000 (it’s a Chinese import), yet we are still struggling to keep up.

Now I know women have a hard time too, but you have lots of articles and magazines about that. This is about men (I feel like ‘men’ should have been said really deeply). Yes, let’s hear a big ahhhh!

Gravity also has an increasing effect on agility as you age. That’s why younger people, here I will include men and women, get slower as they age. You see it’s not your fault that you can no longer run as fast, jump as high, kick a ball as far, win at tennis, play chess, oh that’s not gravity. Although maybe gravity affects our brains too. All the water in our bodies gets pulled to our feet. Our brains get starved of water and we become less intelligent.

You see before long I am going to blame everything about old age on gravity. There will be ant-gravity marches. I wonder if the sight of so many people floating down Pall Mall in space suits will get the governments attention.

I’d better stop now before I say anything silly.

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All of Me

I was listening to a love song, “All of me love all of you.” I know, what an old softie. Anyway, I got to thinking of all those families in lockdown who probably had that song as ‘Their song.’ Maybe as their wedding song. It got my imagination going of a typical morning in such a household:

6am on a weekday in lockdown

‘Oi sleepy head, Maisie’s awake; your turn.’

‘No! I’m knackered.’

‘It’s your turn mister, move yerself.’

‘She’s your daughter.’

‘She’s our daughter and it’s your turn.’

‘I do my bit.’

‘Do your bit! Don’t get me started. Anyway, need I remind you of your promise?’

‘What promise?’

‘When we met you said, all of you loved all of me. It’s even our song. You said nothing would ever be too much. You promised undying devotion to me.’

‘Yeah well. There wasn’t a song that said, part of me loves part of you.’

‘What!?’

‘Just kidding. Anyway, I was talking about fighting dragons.’

‘Dragons? What planet are you on?’

‘Metaphorical dragons.’

‘Well, our metaphorical dragon is Maisie’s nappy.’

‘That doesn’t happen in the movies. When I was growing up and becoming a man…’

‘I’m still waiting for that to happen?’

‘Eh, what do you mean?’

‘You to grow up.’

‘Well, no one said anything about nappies. It was all meant to be fighting the bad guys and defending right from wrong. I thought I’d be riding a white stallion wearing a suit of armour. Or in a space suit firing lasers. At the very least I expected a light sabre.’

‘Get your armour on, hop on your stallion and go through to Maisie. If you leave it much longer, she’ll have a sore bottom. Then we will have no peace.’

Getting reluctantly out of bed, ‘well it’s not what I expected.’

‘Tell me about it.’

He reluctantly heads into Maisie’s room.

Isn’t that the way it really is? Oh listen, ‘Wise men say, only fools rush in, but I can’t help falling in love with you,’ is just starting to play.

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House Selling With A Disability

It’s never easy to sell a house and Covid is not making things any simpler. But add into the mix a disability and then things start to get difficult.

I have written this blog to open the eyes of agents and buyers to the extra complexity disabled sellers and their families face.

You phone up most sellers and say, ‘I have a potential buyer, they’d like to view your property.’ The scene on the other end of the phone is much like a swan in the water. Calm on top and manic paddling underneath. ‘Yes that’s fine, says the home owner.’ The moment they hang up all hell breaks lose. Families are sent into a blind panic. Mums and dads start throwing toys back into boxes, hopefully not still attached to the child. People run up and down stairs presuming that the shear movement and speed will tidy the house by sheer momentum. Vacuum cleaners are rediscovered and put to use.

‘I thought Dyson’s were meant to be easy to empty, love?’

‘They are. Just press that button.’

‘This one?’

‘Over the bin!…. I hope your going to clean it up?’

Newspapers, pots, pans, half finished meals, school work, clothes (clean and dirty), phones, toys and everything else you can imagine or not, is thrown, stuffed or crammed into every possible empty space. Many things never to be re-discovered until years later.

‘Was that work project important dear? I just found it in granny’s old trunk in the attic.’

‘I never liked working for that company anyway.’

We have probably all experienced scenes like these, if we have ever sold a house. These situations are nothing compared to the extra delights that come with disability.

Does a potential buyer want to see urine pots and commodes, conveens and creams? These things are really best hidden.

What about the person happily sitting in a hospital type bed? The fact that 95% of their time is spent there is no excuse. I know that four people topping and tailing in a bed looks very funny in ‘Charlie and The Chocolate Factory,’ But it’s less amusing to see one person in a hospital type bed when you are trying to view a room.

‘Don’t mind me. Pretend I’m not here. Sorry about the smell by the way.’

Besides in these times of Social Distancing, only 2 or 3 people are allowed in a house at a time. Out, out you go, into the cold and wet. Get dressed and ready then, hoist, slide, heave, whatever your method get into that wheelchair, wrap up warm and out you go. Then wheel around the block, around the park, hopefully not around the bend.

You see being disabled adds a complication. You cannot just pop out when a viewing is due. These things need planning. Everything to do with being disabled is slower, more complex, more involved. For many of us we need help doing it. For a lot of us that help comes from our partners. The same partners who have to get tidied up for a viewing. The same partners already rushing around.

I say these things not to guilt trip people but to help in understanding. If you have disabled clients or if you are viewing a home owned by someone disabled. Or a home with a disabled person in it. Give some leeway, understand things are more complex and harder work. Be understanding and allow more time. We still need to buy and sell our homes, but we need help and understanding in that process.

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Diet Zero

The amazing new, zero fat, zero sugar, zero carb, zero minerals, zero protein, zero fibre diet. It’s the one you have been looking for. No difficult chewing. No problems digesting. No more flatulence. It takes up zero space in your cupboard. For the environmentally conscious it has a zero-carbon footprint. No more cooking or meal preparation. Delivered anywhere in the world.

Our book ‘Diet Zero’ is available for just $39.99 plus P&P at all good online and High St retailers. Then you just subscribe to our daily two meals a day for just $450 per month plus P&P. Note we only recommend replacing two meals each day with diet zero. Just eat your usual breakfast. You will see the pounds drop off.

Anyone who notices a young lad shouting ‘your plates empty’ please ignore him. He is becoming quite a nuisance. We have had a few feedback comments from people who seem unable to ‘see’ our range of products. They are of course only visible to those people of intelligence, fashion and insight.

Diet Zero, it’s the ultimate diet for the person who has tried all the rest.

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