Sunday, September 07, 2008

[body clock] perceptions and priorities

Have you ever thought how vital the little things are in life, such as priorities, preferences and even body clocks?

If we were to go out for supper and had pizzas, it wouldn't matter in the least if you had chicken and mushrooms and I had salami and peppers but if it was a case of sleeping in the same room later, then you might want the window closed and I might want it opened.

Then we really do have a problem because a compromise here is going to leave both irritable.

If I'm the type who shuts up shop around 11.30 p.m. and wants to go to bed and read but you're the type who sees 11.30 p.m. as the signal to wheel out all the makings of a sumptuous feast each and every night which takes two and a half hours to prepare and a half hour to clean up after that and if you expect scintillating conversation from a non-night owl and you don't get it, then there's going to be trouble somewhere down the line.

And when you're fast asleep till midday and I've been up and about since 5 a.m., that's seven hours of non-communication time. So, 17 hours later with each respectively, when we wish to shut down our systems - me at 9 p.m. and you at 4 a.m., we're not going to be in accord.

And if you need two or three hour snatches of sleep and I need a good solid 8 hours anyway, otherwise I can't face the next day, again we're heading for a fall.

And if we're in the car and you say we need to go to Naff Naff [true story, this] and I want to eat because it's 2 p.m. and you say well can't you wait just a while [which is code for let's shop for four hours] and I say you'll get much better results from me if you let me eat now and you throw the hands in the air because I'm the one actually at the wheel and I put up with the scowls for the twenty minutes I take to have the soup and caesar salad whilst you pick at a salad and if we then go shopping for four hours as promised, then this is going to become quite wearing for both parties.

And when you waste money on shoes, the most expensive cosmetics you can find and a new dress when we are at an economically difficult time but you say I wasted money on a Macintosh when a little PC would have done just as well, the makings of rebellion are in the air.

And when you say that for someone so supposedly energetic, I'm so passive and pedestrian at times and I say I just want the quiet life when you want action and really exciting things, and when you want to fight because you feel better afterwards but I detest fighting over nothing, we really can't stay under the same roof unless something seriously alters.

However ...

When we find that we basically have the same ideas on sleep, priorities, economizing, romance, movies, basic directions and are able to compromise, then the result is tranquillity and that is what I have found. The energy surges back, things become possible again and hope springs anew.

[debate] do we finally have some on ths blog

There is actually some debate going on at this time, on a post which has been lost in the flurry of posts in the past two days. You might like to go back and look at the comments section again.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

[headlines] need to be careful

Had to smile at:

Paulson Plans to Take Control of Fannie

Well, you can't blame him. Other good ones include:

* Eye Drops off Shelf

* Safety Experts say Kids should be Belted

* Something went wrong in Jet Crash, Experts say

Do you know some good ones?

[writing on the wall] should bp have known


The NYT put it this way:

With British Prime Minister Tony Blair and President Vladimir V. Putin looking on, BP and Russia's TNK formed a 50-50 joint venture in 2003. The ceremony may have been the company's high water mark. The only oil company with partial foreign control, TNK-BP may be excluded from developing new fields under national security rules.

Asia Times adds:

BP [had] 23% of its global oil reserves located there, 25% of its current oil production, and a comparable amount of its market capitalization. … Robert Dudley, chief executive of TNK-BP - the 50/50 joint venture BP … operated for five years with Fridman, Len Blavatnik and Victor Vekselberg … [but] was found out, having tried to negotiate secretly with Russia's Gazprom the sale and purchase of the 50% stake in TNK-BP owned by the Russian trio - collectively known as AAR, reflecting the names of their holdings, Alfa, Access and Renova.

Dudley, BP chairman Peter Sutherland and chief executive Tony Hayward may have thought their proposed deal had the blessing of Gazprom's chairman at the time, Dmitry Medvedev, and Gazprom's chief lawyer, Konstantin Chuichenko.

But these two have recently moved into the Kremlin and the game has changed.

According to the Financial Times, Russian media reports and public statements by BP and AAR, the agreement between Hayward and Fridman - if it sticks - requires Dudley to be ousted by December 1.

This in itself is not a disaster but the new restrictions on the joint venture are. And this is not the only time that foreign ventures into Russia, particularly from Britain, have come to grief.

You may recall the partial ousting of the British Council in January and the following throwing out of all foreign academics and other workers of long standing in the RF in May, a move in which I was caught up and summarily thrown out, with all the others.

Now forgotten and well before my blogging days, hence my inability to attribute, was the British crystal manufacturer in Vladimir, one of the Zolotoye Koltso towns near Moscow. Once the plant had been in production 18 months, I seem to recall, the local authority said there was something wrong with the paperwork on the site the plant was on.

It was closed down, pending resolution of the matter and the owners barred from entry. Once they were eventually allowed in, most of the equipment had been removed and that which was left had been painted over another colour and the serial numbers erased.

No one is suggesting that the current situation is anything like that and the Minister I used to work with was one of the key people bringing corporate practice into line with Europe in the past few years.

Nevertheless, there was a message from 1998 and I marvel that BP did not know the lie of the land which was perfectly obvious to irrelevant individuals like myself well ahead of time. There seems to be a blockage in the understanding of the Russian psyche outside of Russia.

[air rage] media hype or reality

It's pretty obvious to some that I've been doing a fair bit of flying this year, not by choice.

I didn't see that much fractiousness in Russia, Italy nor even at Gatwick, which makes me wonder about this article:

One respondent noted: "I worked in Australian airports for Qantas in both domestic and international terminals. Recently, I have relocated to London ... I think the [worst] ground rage I ever encountered was at Qantas domestic Brisbane Airport. Hopefully, by the time I am ready to return to Oz the travelling public [will] have calmed down."

The thing is, most of these reports came out of Australia one from China and one from Argentina. What of the UK? Well, we have this and this but in terms of total numbers, I'm not so sure.

Perhaps it's more common in countries where the public expects levels of service of a high order but in somewhere like Italy, used to bureaucratic delays and failures, they seem better able to handle it psychologically.

Don't quote me - it's just a thought. Whilst speaking with a friend on this, he pointed out that the problem seems to be today that public officials and workers seem to go out of their way to be provocative, slack, inefficient and so on and then when a member of the public reacts angrily, he/she is immediately targetted as a troublemaker.

My friend also maintains that the British public will put up with this for a while longer and then someone is seriously going to be assassinated and a very un-British revolt is on the cards.

Worth thinking about.

[black is white] when warming is called cooling

Just been reading Stephen Murgatroyd's flawed piece on global cooling, courtesy of the redoubtable Aileni, a wonderful chap but with a block on this issue.

In the article, Murgatroyd says that "it has also been warmer than it is now or is likely to be in the future. There have in fact been six global warming periods over the last half million years. " He mentions, further on, "Lord John Maynard Keynes observation that “When the facts change, I change my mind”. It is time for us to do the same."

So let's look at the facts changing. First, from About:

One part scientists agree on is that the earth is warming. Data sets show the increases in temperatures over years. Temperatures will always fluctuate, but the general trend in data is a warming.

Carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere have also increased. Scientists agree that data from multiple sources indicates that CO2 levels have risen steadily since the start of the Industrial Revolution.

This by Live Science:

As for Abdussamatov’s claim that solar fluctuations are causing Earth’s current global warming, Charles Long, a climate physicist at Pacific Northwest National Laboratories in Washington, says the idea is nonsense.

“That’s nuts,” Long said in a telephone interview. “It doesn’t make physical sense that that’s the case.”

... and:

“The small measured changes in solar output and variations from one decade to the next are only on the order of a fraction of a percent, and if you do the calculations not even large enough to really provide a detectable signal in the surface temperature record,” said Penn State meteorologist Michael Mann.

On the Maunder Minimum, which cooling advocates link to the current lack of sunspots:

“The situation is pretty ambiguous,” said David Rind, a senior climate researcher at NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, who has modeled the Maunder Minimum.

Based on current estimates, even if another Maunder Minimum were to occur, it might result in an average temperature decrease of about 2 degrees Fahrenheit, Rind said.

This would still not be enough to counteract warming of between 2 to 12 degrees Fahrenheit from greenhouse gases by 2100...

So one variable leads to cooling but the overwhelming trend to warming swamps it.

One more:

The warming around Earth's tropical belt is a signal suggesting that the "climate system has exceeded a critical threshold," which has sent tropical-zone glaciers in full retreat and will melt them completely "in the near future," said Lonnie G. Thompson, a scientist who for 23 years has been taking core samples from the ancient ice of glaciers.

Of course it's warming and the breaking off of chunks at the poles is not due to cooling. Gee - this thing just needs a little common sense. All right - Russia, where I was for 12 years.

In 1998 we had temperatures on seven occasions under minus 30 but by 2004, these had reduced to the extent that the snow season had contracted by two weeks and continued to do this until I departed. In the winter of 2007/8, there were NO minus 30 temperatures. The snow had contracted and the average winter temperature had progressively risen. I know this because I bothered to record these things.

Any Russian can tell you it is warmer now than earlier so where do people get off suggesting we are cooling? They are looking at studies, each with its counter-study negating it, when all they have to do is look out of the door and observe.

Sorry if I'm a little blunt here.

UPDATE on Sunday: Whiplash article, courtesy Wolfie.

Friday, September 05, 2008

[stowaway] snake on flight

From West Australian today:

Crew on an Air India passenger jet discovered a snake coiled up under a seat and were unable to catch it as it slithered around the plane, the airline said today.

The incident, which occurred on Monday, echoed the plot of 2006 hit film Snakes on a Plane starring Samuel L Jackson and Julianna Margulies.

Question - if you're flying and you know there's a snake under the seats somewhere, do you:

1. Scream and start a mass panic;

2. Put your feet up on the headrest ahead and whimper to yourself;

3. Find the b--g-r and exterminate it;

4. Make friends and name him/her?

[good navigation] the key to readers returning

Every one of us gets about other blogs - my primary method is to go first to my comments, read through and then click on the links there.

This produces some surprising results.

In the case of ScotsToryB, it produces a page which presumably is there to provide him with a link and to register who came. That's fine, as at least it does go somewhere.

Sometimes when you click on such links, it gives you a notice that it is open to invited readers only and again that's fine.

In other cases though, it either goes nowhere or else it links to an old blog. Now I can understand a blogger wishing to route his/her readers through some other blog, a little like Madame Toussaud's taking visitors through the shop and cafe before they can leave but we now get into the question of coercion.

If I try to link back to a blog, I would like to go straight to that person's list of linked blogs, with a nice little summary, top left, under the heading "Contact", of email and web page. You might say it is unnecessary to put "My Web Page", when that page is already listed in the blogger's blogs, below right but that involves scrolling down in many cases and ... well ... you know how rapidly we go from blog to blog, don't you?

And often we can't know which is your primary blog, among all the others. True, it is often the one with the most team members but still - wouldn't it be easier for all just to put the main blog under "Contact"?

These little annoyances can add up after time.

Seems to me we should try to get the navigation working well first but as we can't visit our own blogs, as others do, we often don't know how easy or how difficult that is.

A rapid journey to your blog, which then does not take two years to come up on screen, plus the nice listing of email and web page top left, is a real boon as far as I'm concerned.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

[chrome] shape of things to come... perhaps

Wiki ran this summation of the new Google browser/platform Chrome:

Microsoft reportedly "played down the threat from Chrome" and "predicted that most people will embrace Internet Explorer 8." Opera Software said that "Chrome will strengthen the Web as the biggest application platform in the world."

Mozilla said that Chrome's introduction into the web browser market comes as "no real surprise" and that "Chrome is not aimed at competing with Firefox" — and furthermore should not affect Google's financing of Firefox.

The FT ran this summation of Chrome:

At the time, Microsoft’s claim that its web browser was part of its operating system was self-serving baloney. With the arrival of Chrome, however, it has migrated from being false to being true.

Chrome is not going to replace Windows. A computer requires an operating system such as Windows, Apple’s OS X or Linux to make the machine work. It does, however, have the potential to do what Mr Gates feared: make the choice of operating system less important.

Why use it? Some reviewers say:

1. The first release of Google Chrome does not pass the Acid3 test; however, it scores 78/100, which is higher than both Internet Explorer 7 and Firefox 3.

2. At the end of the day, I'm making the decision to switch to Google Chrome for the same reason that I originally switched to Firefox. The underlying technology and architecture of Chrome is so different from its competition. Chrome has raised the bar and I want to support the team for doing so.

3. Google itself - What we really needed was not just a browser, but also a modern platform for web pages and applications, and that's what we set out to build.
Why not to use it:

Sackerson has just run this, for example.

I have just downloaded Firefox 3 and quite like it. Chrome is not available for Mac as yet so it is a moot issue for me at this time.

I'd be interested to know if you like it after you've tried it.

UPDATE via Wolfie - read here.

[arctic shelf] delving behind the statement

First the news:

Arctic ice shelf specialist Derek Mueller of the Trent University in Ontario, Canada said the 19-square-mile shelf is now drifting in the Arctic Ocean after breaking loose in early August. The chunk of ice sheet was part of the 4,500-year-old Markham Ice Shelf.

He adds the event underscores how rapid changes are taking place in the Arctic due to global warming.

So he supports the contention of global warming which bloggers assure us is not happening. First step is to play devil's advocate and find the dirt on him which would support the climate sceptic bloggers.

His CV says he completed two years of postdoctoral work at the Geophysical Institute at the University of Alaska Fairbanks (supervised by Martin Jeffries). He's the Roberta Bondar Fellow in Northern and Polar Studies at Trent University and is working with Luke Copland. He has an association with Wayne Pollard, of McGill.

The four of them have really only one strike against them - they are primarily geographers, then glaciologists and Trent University is a general Liberal Arts university, within which the department operates.

Each of the four appears to have had an outstanding career path and has been published many times in journals. A minor blip is that McGill rang a bell in the mind in another context and that raises another question - while geography is not psychiatry, still, how far is university research biased, given the issue of who funds it?

Returning to McGill, it is funded by SURF and government and other institutional funding is paramount. One such institution is the Canadian Foundation for Innovation, research of which leads to this site and a statement by Steven Harper, in another area:

... that allowing foundations to operate without scrutiny showed that the Federal Government “has learned nothing from the Sponsorship Scandal.” Harper further said “that scandal happened because the liberals stashed millions away from the watch of parliament. Even after repeated warnings, billions of dollars continue to be hidden away in these unaccountable research funding foundations. When will the government learn and put the foundations under the scrutiny of Parliament and the Auditor-General?”

No doubt the CFI itself is squeaky clean but the question does remain how far the universities, and by a logical process its research departments, are caught in the research dilemma, firstly in this way:

"Our concern is that, by primarily rewarding academic research that's divorced from its practical application, we risk having entrants to the profession taught by people who have never practised it themselves."

... and also in the pressure to produce certain findings, e.g. in the pharmaceutical trade:

Most clinical trials, however, are funded by pharmaceutical companies with enormous financial stakes in the products being evaluated. Furthermore, the scientists who design, conduct, analyze, and report clinical trials often receive monetary compensation from drug companies, in the form of either salaries or consulting fees.

... and:

The effect of competing interests is debated in medical research. It has been found that industry funding has been associated with higher quality than trials without external funding. On the other hand, financial interests may bias the interpretation of trial results.

The above looms as a convoluted strawman, in that by raising the spectre of bias at Trent in geophysics by scrutinizing McGill in medicine which, of course, is a non sequitur, it thereby plays into the climate proponents' hands. That is possible and yet, the nagging doubts about the sceptics persist:

Of all the accusations made by the vociferous community of climate sceptics, surely the most damaging is that science itself is biased against them ... "Most global warming sceptics have no productive alternatives; they say it is a hoax, or that it will cause severe social problems, or that we should allocate resources elsewhere." Andres Millan wrote. "Scientifically, they have not put forward a compelling, rich, and variegated theory."

So we are left with the people on the ground, such as Derek Mueller and colleagues, accepting climate change due to global warming.

The blogosphere, on the whole, begs to differ due to possibly sound, innate distrust of the Gore and IPCC agenda and point to the statements by such groups as the NIPCC, e.g. Professor Frederick Seitz, the past president of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, who told WND:

... he believes the issue has nothing to do with energy itself, but everything to do with power, control and money, which the United Nations is seeking. He accused the U.N. of violating human rights in its campaign to ban much energy research, exploration and development.

Diametrically opposed to that are the scientists, like Jay Lawrimore, a climatologist at the National Climatic Data Center in Asheville, N.C., who said:

... there was no way to account for the trends, be they the melting of Arctic sea ice or the warming of winters, without including an influence from heat-trapping gases.

The Federation of American Scientists states:

“There is no serious doubt that human activity is altering the earth's climate in potentially catastrophic ways. Even skeptics are forced to admit that the risk is real and that prudence demands action if only as an insurance policy, the only serious debate is about how best to respond."

... and here is a list of organizations supporting human agency in climate change.

Whom to believe?

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

[budding journos] or just caring for baby

Just went over to Grendel's and was pensive after what he'd written about the difficulties of running the blog:
Part of the problem is the hours which, as we all know, it takes to support these projects. For me it's pretty much impossible to get on the computer before 21.30hrs on any given day. So by the time the posts are researched / written / proof read and published and all the visits undertaken you're just not getting to bed before 01.00hrs.

And that's how things have been for much of the last year and I think it's got to the stage where that's just not a sustainable position anymore. I haven't been feeling too good lately and perhaps a period of getting proper nights rest will help to address that.

I have been thinking of getting out completely. But there is this little voice that reminds me of the time and effort expended on this project and a sadness at leaving the blog friends / associates made since I started.
Yes, that probably sums it up. If you run a consistent blog where you come up with new and interesting things every day, then you are a virtual journo, without being paid one penny. And yet fellow bloggers I've observed will scour the papers and other sources, answer emails, answer comments, plan the post, write and publish, as well as going around other blogs and for what?

Someone I know is not blogging at all - he's out making money. What am I doing? Blogging. Now is that productive? Seems to me one has either too much time on the hands or is not utilizing it to produce income.

Maybe though, just maybe, it is the camaraderie and the way the blog becomes part of us. We don't stop feeding the cat or dog because we tire of the dear. We don't have a hiatus on changing the baby.

Our blogs do seem a bit like babies.

[wednesday quiz] easy one to return with

1. What did Diana Duyser of Hollywood, Fla., discover in her rye bread when she sat down for breakfast one morning in 2004?

2. On the afternoon of April 14, 1865, the Whig Press in Middleton, New York, announced that Abraham Lincoln had been killed by an assassin. What was so strange about this?

3. A company called Technology Investment and Exploration Limited (TIEL) sought permission in 2002 to drill for oil at a site in rural Leicestershire. What was so weird about that?

4. Grandmother Eve Stuart-Kelso had a gnome, called Murphy, stolen from her Gloucestershire garden and then it was returned to her. So what?

5. Many crewmen on the the destroyer escort Eldridge later became ill or insane. What two things had happened to this ship?


The Virgin Mary staring back at her, he wasn't shot until the evening of that day, they were to use microleptons to detect the oil, there was a photo album showing he'd been to 10 countries, made invisible and teleported.

[dale list] right of centre bloggers

I just adore the way different bloggers on the list lightly play it down but I'm quite proud of 77, as it was a result of votes by fellow bloggers and that does mean something to me, especially in a not so good year, personally.

Quite delighted to see Andrew so high and Prodicus in there too but also delighted with 2, 4, 5, 7, 11, 13, 16, 19, 25, 26, 31, 32, 33, 39, 41, 43, 45, 47, 54, 59, 62, 65 [easily confused], 76, 86, 87, 89, 91, 92 and 94.

[bombardier] broadside, bacon butties and cottage pie


Andrew Allison, in pointing out the definition of a gentleman, need go no further than himself and it's only logical that his wife, Becky, is a perfect lady as well. Last Saturday, we wandered down to the Old Town of Hull and would have stayed there except for a raucous, amplified flamenco guitar in the square, masquerading as entertainment.

Well, naturally people can't enjoy their Guinesses that way [which choice, incidentally, marks the end of their recent trip to Ireland] plus it was chilly and so we retired down by the Humber, to the Minerva, which is soon to close down, sad to say.

For the connoisseurs, Broadside and Bombardier were the two brews sampled.

Cottage Pie and Shepherd's pie

Sunday evening, Andrew loaded about 20kg of cooked, spicy mince and mashed potato into a cottage pie which left no room for anything else whatsoever beyond wine and copious amounts of tea and coffee.

Wiki says:
While a variety of meats can be used, the dish is traditionally made from beef or lamb. The lamb version is often called shepherd's pie but neither term is exact.
I was always led to believe that the difference was not in the meat used but in the presence of cheese on top but you could set me straight that way.

Anyway, for those who don't wish to just bung in a bit of mince and taties and wish to do it properly, here is a recipe.

I think you'd be pushing it to touch Andrew's cottage pie and whilst we're there in Hull, you should check out Jailhouse Lawyer's scrumptious, crispy bacon butties.

[holy grail] and the search for sanity

Wonder if this:

Italian cryptographer Giancarlo Gianazza and a team of scientists and Holy Grail enthusiasts found nothing [though he] is confident that the Holy Grail is hidden in Iceland because of clues that he found in Italian artwork and literature.

In Botticelli’s “Primavera” a series of numeric symbols form the date March 14, 1319, which somehow supports Gianazza’s theory, and in da Vinci’s “Last Supper” Gianazza believes to have found outlines matching the landscape at Kjölur.

Further clues were found in Dante Alighieri’s “Divine Comedy” and an ancient Icelandic script states that poet and politician Snorri Sturluson was accompanied by “eighty armored Eastmen” at the Althingi parliament in 1217, who could have been the Knights Templars.

... has anything to do with this:

On June 10 this summer an elderly man of Dutch origin was arrested when 190 kilos of hashish and 1.5 kilos of cocaine were found inside his camper which also arrived in the country on Norraena. The man is still in custody with an Icelandic citizen who is believed to be his accomplice.

Don't know what they're going on about. Everyone knows it's at Glastonbury.

If you'd like some links to follow, there are probably more than enough here.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Stinker of a row over whiff or pong

Stinker of a row over whiff or pong

Boris to star in a remake of The Office?

Did the gaffe-prone buffoon get his story of the history of table tennis from Jonathan Ross?

It could be that what Jonathan Ross meant to say was riff raff played the game in public schools in Victorian England...

Blackberry picking is a dying art

Blackberry picking is a dying art

Wildlife experts say blackberry picking is a dying art, even when economic worries make it the perfect time to make use of what's on offer in our hedgerows

The quintessentially British pastime of blackberry picking is apparently on the wane

Elvis has left the building. You can't get the staff these days. My chief blackberry picker has gone off elsewhere. I hope you find what you are looking for James.

Monday, September 01, 2008

[the road to the library] a life story

His name is Tony, a bit over 60, like, wearing a baseball cap to hide his baldness, quite well dressed all considering, quite soft in manner and to tell the truth, looked a bit bewildered.

He asked me if I knew the way to the police station and I said straight down Beverley Road but he'd probably have to press the call button which connects to the main station. He said he needed to talk to them personal, like.

I said he'd need to go to the main station - did he know where it was? Yes. He started walking in the direction of the railway station towards which I was also heading and he wasn't moving any too steadily but definitely not drunk. He was mentally sharp.

As we walked, he told his tale.

He was in a nice place down one of the crescents, he'd made £25 yesterday so that was a windfall and then, on the way out of the chemists, four youths had started to follow him. As he entered the street next across from his home, they pulled balaclavas over their heads and sped up towards him.

He panicked and ran into a sidestreet which turned out to be a dead end, then ran up to a house with a light on inside but whoever was in there wasn't answering. [I said at this point it might have been better to show he was bald and a pensioner - he might have had the door answered that way.]

They set on him and beat him up, broke a bone in his arm and later he was found, taken to hospital and kept overnight. He was now carrying a carrier-bag of documents to show the police but of course there are no police. He talked of that and somehow we got onto the topic of rubbish bins and how they won't collect your rubbish and he said yeah, tell me about it.

He'd had a nervous breakdown in the late 70s, his wife had now gone, the family had moved out to Australia and basically he was alone. Not complaining, mind, he said. He had £25 at home he'd received yesterday and he had a nice place in XXXX Crescent and was quite happy.

You don't expect to get mugged, do you, he wondered. You read about it in the papers but you don't expect it to happen to you, do you?

He was in some pain so I asked and it was more the head that was the problem so I gave him a paracetamol and walked him as far as the library, telling him I'd most like be there when he got away from the police station and I now half hope he'll turn up and we'll go for a cuppa.

I feel a bit sheepish really because I don't think I did all I could. I should have gone to the police station and might do that now. I was given succour over the weekend myself and the lift was enormous.

As you know, there's been lots of action around here and John Hirst has been great the way he has put me up and up with me. Also on the weekend, I met Andrew Allison for real and his lovely wife Becky. When I say "met", I mean they killed the fatted calf and cottage pie was one of the results.

Another was a mobile phone which I'm now the proud owner of and I was and still am lost for words over that. We shifted a few pints the night before, down by the Humber and I'd like to think I paid my way there at least. I have a mental list now of what I can do to return this sort of kindness and I'm dying to find a base soon so I can start the road back.

JMB wrote of me being a modern day pilgrim. I can assure her that this was not my choice by any means and I'm seeking the day when I can look around four walls and say to myself that this is my place and all my friends are welcome to come and stay [not all at the same time please].

Some details on the state of the pensioner in Britain