Thursday, 27 February 2014

A crisis in Space

Lately, backstage at the Erudite Space has turned into something of an obstacle course. Our crates of donations perch even higher and more precariously than usual, with bags more sitting in corners, under desks and even lurking in the dumb waiter. And still donated wares come. I start recalling the pictures in Dr Seuss books. No matter how rapidly we sort them, label them, sneak a quick peak at some of them (yes we've all been tempted...well, mostly me, actually), and then put them out on display...and indeed, no matter how enthusiastically our punters buy them, the piles still grow and the room for manoevre becomes ever more thin, divided and frankly triangular.

And then the lad who brings donations from the city's various drop-off points turns up with an entire carload of books. As I help unload, I notice what interesting tomes they are, and in what excellent condition compared with the usual fare from that quarter. It transpires they come, not from the drop-off points, but from a Canadian family, who are quitting Blighty and returning to the Great White Space.

"I can't blame them, with the weather we've been having..." and therein lies, apparently, the cause of the Erudite Space's predicament. Our sister shop on the coast, who usually take our surplus if we think it'll appeal to the Holiday Reader, are presently flooded out. There is no alternative route for excess donations that will still sell, and so here they all sit with us, patiently waiting 'til the coast is clear.


Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Instant Political Slogan Generator

We thought we'd get this one in first, here at Space, because it's best to get the campaign launched in good time. All that's needed to use it is a Birthday and a Surname, then simply look up the words in the table below.



Friday, 17 January 2014

Street corner gang


This may (or may not) be the World's Smallest Forest Garden. It measures about 2 metres by 2 metres and, to cap it all, the high wall to the left is shielding most of it from the sun, most of the time. So it is effectively North-facing.

The cast of characters, in order of altitude, includes:

1 Bramley apple tree (producer of prizewinning apples)
3 Redcurrant bushes (producers, with the help of some local strawbs, of prizewinning wine)
1 Blackcurrant bush
1 Gooseberry bush
Lemon-balm
Lavender
Sorrel
Alpine strawberry ground-cover
1 Bramble (rather drastically cut-back, so not really visible)
3 Garlics (subterranean, ditto)

In five years I think I have had to pull up a total of 1 (one) weed.

The wall behind it protects it from the road and its many users. Including a Tesco van which recently (and very audibly) reversed into it.


Tuesday, 17 December 2013

WickedLeaks

Transcripts from several encounters in the Prime Minister's office have emerged. Nobody knows how the listening devices were smuggled in, but let's just say that there are now such things that can be concealed behind the label of a bottle of mineral water.

February 2003, Tony Blair’s office
- Energy Strategy, Prime Minister
- (reading) "Our Energy Future", Oh I see you've used my idea for a title after all
- Yes, we felt it conveyed a suitably positive feeling, Prime Minister. It emphasises the Legacy aspect. And of course, Green Jobs. The public are going to love it. That’s why we thought we’d turn it into a Consultation.
- Nice touch
- We've written Nuclear right out. We thought it would make for a cleaner look. Also stop people from saying you're too much like Thatcher. Clean break.
- Oh well done.

March 2003, Tony Blair’s office
- Delegation from Sheffield, Prime Minister
- Show them in
- Prime Minister, we’re here representing the workers from Forgemasters. It’s the finest forge in Europe. There’s only us and a Japanese lot that can make safe Pressure Vessels for nuclear power stations. We can make ordinary stuff as well but there’s buggers all over the world who can do that. We’re specialists. We’re the best. And if Britain doesn’t have a nuclear power industry, we’ll all be out of a job.
- I hear you. But, don’t you have a full book of orders from Europe too?
- Aye. But what are the Continental people going to think if we can’t sell stuff in our own country? They’re going to buy Japanese aren’t they, because their stuff can be seen working there.
 - I see.

May 2003, Tony Blair’s office
- Delegation from the GMBU, Prime Minister
- Oh. Show them in.
- Prime Minister, we’re the biggest union in the country. We make boilers. We like boilers. We know you’ve gone off coal because of all this Global Warming lark but... the heart of a power station is a good boiler. Made by us. If you don’t have nuclear power, and go for this solar power and windmills instead, there’s no boilers, and we’ll all be out of a job. We won’t be able to pay our union dues then either...
- Oh I see. Well, hand me that report and I’ll see what I can do.

Late 2006, Tony Blair’s office
- Energy Review, Prime Minister
- Oh, thanks. How did you manage to get Nuclear in without making it all look...
- Er, we didn’t really I’m afraid. We handed the job to our best PR team but even they couldn’t make it look consistent. Just shoved it in as “an option”. Of course, it’s a Consultation, so we could argue in a few months that the Public don’t like it, but don’t hold your breath. The public seem to have become all cynical for some reason.
There are rumours that Greenpeace are going to go for a judicial review on it.
- Oh, good for Greenpeace. Erm, don’t quote me on that.

2010, David Cameron’s office
- so it looks like Operation Ugly Baby, Prime Minister
- Ugly Baby?
- Yes. At first, you publically support the idea. But you make sure that the particular instance of it that happens in practice is repulsive enough to create a wave of public outrage, which you are then seen to acknowledge by...
- Oh I see. What a jolly good plan!
- We’ve identified a site. West-country. Upwind from the entire of the rest of the nation. We’ve lined up the tender. German. Our statisticians have found that most of the people who actually vote are old enough to bear the Germans a grudge. We’ve tipped the Germans the wink that they can hire lots of foreign chaps on easy visas. Put them up in nissan-huts, that sort of thing. Tear down all the hedges without planning permission. If the Great British Public can’t get up-in-arms about all that, I’m a Dutchman.

March 2011, David Cameron’s office
- Latest from Japan, Prime Minister.
- Oh jolly good. You know, I’m beginning to feel a bit guilty for hoping that something like this would happen. Can we offer to send over some chaps from Sellafield to give them a hand?
- Oh and the Germans have decided to ditch nuclear and are expected to pull out at Hinkley. We’re trying to identify a country that is even less popular...
- That’s easy. Iran.
- Prime minister, all the really unpopular countries are already the subject of trade sanctions. We can’t be seen to be dealing with them.
- The French deal with them...
- Prime Minister, you’re a genius! France, of course. Oh, and China. Everybody’s jealous of their employment figures. We’ll bring them in without putting it to proper tender on OJEU, so the legal lot can tear it up. Let them carry on doing their digging without planning permission, so the locals can slow it down. Sponsor research into that Tsunami that happened in the Bristol Channel so the boffins’ll hate it. The Forces aren’t going to be happy about covering the extra security either, especially if we get them to cost it up so they know, and then ask the MoD to cut their budget.
- And if we offer a ludicrous price for the power, I think we can get the Treasury to stop it
- Oh that’s a good one Prime Minister. We’re already offering favourable loans and free insurance. The City won't touch it and the ABI hate it.

October 2013, David Cameron’s office
- Prime Minister, the Hinkley contract. 
- Ninety-two pounds? Index-linked?? Don’t you think that’s a bit too, obvious?
-We’re doing what we can, Prime Minister. We’ve got the Waste people to publish their costings and all their past mistakes. We’ve got them to admit, in public, that they haven’t a clue what to do with future waste. Our IT people have dug up a list of all the French accidents, I’ve no idea how. It’s odd, but no-one seems to care.
-What about Greenpeace?
-All their best people are stuck in Russia
-Friends of the Earth, then?
- They’re all busy with Bees.
- Why aren’t people listening? We’ve done our level best to show how dangerous, expensive, just how bloody lunatic the whole idea of nuclear power is, with the best reductio ad absurdem that I’ve ever seen in my life. Hinkley is a masterpiece of sheer awfulness. The only thing standing between us and this crap* now is the State Aid hearing. What if that fails?
-Prime Minister, I think we’ve identified the problem. It’s jobs. People are desperate for them, and they have a gut feeling that the more dangerous, expensive and irrational an enterprise may be, the more damage it does, then the more jobs it creates. Terrorists and wars create jobs for soldiers and security consultants, and in the same vein nuclear power stations create jobs for everybody from builders at the start to cancer care experts at the end. Renewable energy is of course far preferable: cheaper, cleaner. And there are green jobs, at the start. But when you’ve built your wind farms and pumped storage, and put up your solar panels and insulation, and your energy is rolling in, what then? No more work. People get scared. It doesn't help that they're all up to their eyeballs in debt. We’re in a bind.



*it can now be revealed that the original “crap” was nuclear, not green

Monday, 9 December 2013

Spring and Autumn Annals

The trouble with Spring is, it's becoming too unreliable.

It has always been the case that it will lure you out under false pretences, whether you're a tree that blossoms in early sunshine only to have your finest artwork destroyed by late frost, or a Lunchista who steps out into the bright new day in a teeshirt only to have her limbs bitten by a cold wind.

But now there's a new dimension to the unreliable-ness of spring: will it be drought or flood? Or, like last year in these parts, both?

And that is why I have taken to planting seeds in the autumn instead. Put it this way: most seeds appear in the autumn. Where, then, does Mother Nature in her wisdom suppose that they should spend the winter? Should they nip over to the Southern hemisphere and reproduce twice as fast? Dematerialise altogether for six months? Lay up in a friendly kitchen drawer somehow, in the billions of years before kitchen drawers were invented?

There's a Kale plant in our front garden that's been there for so many years it has practically turned into a tree. Including the winter two years back when the front garden got down to 8 below zero. Just this year it decided it had had enough of producing lots of lovely green leaves, and went to seed: perhaps because some Celebrity has declared Kale to be a Superfood, and got it running scared.

And so the seeds find themselves planted on the Plot, next to the bed where the broad beans have just come up, and just down from the purple sprouting broccoli (which has also just come up), because it was a ludicrously lukewarm 11 degrees today and I could dig the bed in my shirtsleeves.

The one concession I have made to the fact that winter can be tough (and birds can get hungry), is to cover them with black netting.

Sunday, 17 November 2013

Economic Growth

Apparently some Economic Growth has been spotted. But since it was the Chancellor of the Exchequer who allegedly spotted it, and his job depends on producing it, I think we can discount that as pure fabrication.

Unless, of course, they have been looking into the kitchen of Chateau Lunchista, wherein stand cases of newly-bottled Rosé wine from the kit I bought all those months ago. 


They can't tax it, but the quid pro quo is, I'm not allowed to sell it. Welcome to the Gift Economy.

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Unsportsmanlike behaviour

Here is a model of an ideal, competitive market in, for example, the banking sector. The "winners" are those who make lots of money from sensible business decisions, and whose assets are deemed, by a referee, to be sound.

Note that the field is level, and that all players are starting from the same position, are unarmed, and none is attempting to bribe the referee. Like I said: "ideal".

Shortly after this picture was taken, however, things started to go awry. The three pigs on the right obtained an AK-47 and used it to extort extra money to compensate for terrible business decisions they had made in the past. There is also a distinct possibility that one or more of them passed the referee a backhander with a polite request to declare a rival's assets unsound (the brown envelope is just outside the picture).

Bacon buttie, anyone?