Saturday, 18 May 2019

Catching Up

We've been slowly making our way back to Sale, Manchester stopping for the night at the Travelodge on the M6 just north of Wolverhampton. This is a very familiar Travelodge for me as it's where I stayed whilst recovering Waiouru from Ben Harp.  I paid for two nights but spent one of them in the hedgerow overlooking Ben Harp's premises as part of our plan to ensure the boat didn't get moved without our knowledge.

After a good nights sleep we drove to Rode Heath for a lunch appointment with a well known continuously cruising couple.




Yes, Pip & Mick on OleannaWe ate canalside at the Broughton Arms and whilst the company was great the same could not be said for the food. After four hours of conversation we realised we'd overlooked the most important subject spending several minutes talking about their composting toilet!

I also have to mention the "Moored like a Twat" who arrived in front of Oleanna to moor in the Winding Hole.  There was plenty of available mooring space but they managed to get the bow of the boat on the first mooring ring and drive a pin in at the stern.


Plenty of mooring space


Red arrow pointing to the "No Mooring- Winding Hole" sign.

Happy cruising Pip & Mick

We had two lunch days in succession with us meeting Peter & Margaret (nb Kelly-Louise).  If you've read about our experience in 2011 may recall Peter & Margaret very kindly allowed us to use their boat (Kelly Louise) as accommodation whilst we attempted to sort out our boat building issue.  Little did we know at the time they would experience their own boating problem when Kelly Louise was sunk whilst in the care of Swanley Bridge Marina.  These days Peter & Margaret do their cruising on something much larger!

They know this part of England very well and took us to a lovely venue where we had a delicious lunch spending several hours catching up on news.


Toilets were not discussed!

The Owls at Standish is a restaurant in the former rectory of the church of St Wilfrid's, Standish.  And so we are back in Sale to spend the weekend with the family. 


 

Friday, 17 May 2019

Ironbridge

Jan has always wanted to visit Ironbridge any or trip back north provided the opportunity.  We set the gps for the 'direct route' hoping to avoid the motorways and see more of the countryside. Obviously this would make the journey longer,but more interesting. It certainly proved to be the latter when we drove down a small lane only to find a "Road Closed Ahead" sign.  There was no'detour' sign so we opted for pot luck which may not have been the best choice as the lane became progressively narrower whilst the bitumen also started to disappear.  All this eventually resulted in us travelling down a very steep and narrow tunnel of trees.  However we did have one piece of luck managing to miss the  farm tractor which was about to turn onto the lane when we reached the junction.

The next issue was lunch. Or rather, where we might find somewhere to have lunch.  There didn't appear to be anything available.  We just drove on for miles before I noticed a potential pub.  Result.  They were serving a carvery.


Of course afterwards we passed numerous pubs~

Ironbridge is a small town on the River Serven in Shropshire.  It's upstream of Stourport on the unnavigable section of the river which is why we never passed it whilst on Waiouru.  

The town takes its name from the 30 metres cast iron bridge that spans the river.    It was the first bridge to be constructed of cast iron and is now on of the few remaining bridges manufactured from this material.  Today the town's major industry is tourism.






We parked in the large car park on the far bank which is when I noticed The Station.  


Could there be a railway station at Ironbridge?  The building appeared to be at the base of a steep hill.  Then I noticed what appeared to be a tunnel to the right of the building.  It appears there was a rail line to Ironbridge.



Thursday, 16 May 2019

Sad News

Jennie you are being naive thinking you have escaped us.  You're travelling at 4mph whilst we have a car!

Marilyn I'm a SNAG (Sensitive New Age Guy).   If Economy Class is good enough for me then it's good enough for Jan....... Unlike someone I have read about who travels Business Class and sends their spouse Economy!  Actually Jan has never recovered from travelling First Class in 2011.  I'm trying to get her into remission.

For the past 35 years I've maintained contact with close friends of Jan's grandparents.  Jan has known them even longer.  Peter passed away more than a decade ago leaving Hilda on her own.  They had no children, however Hilda has a number of friends.  Each time we've visited the UK we fit in a visit to Hilda and whilst we were on Waiouru we were able to make regular trips.  Upon returning to Perth we maintained contact using Skype.  For the past couple of months we hadn't been able to make contact with Hilda and one of the first things we've done since arriving this month is to hire a car in order to visit her.

Sadly we found Hilda in a local care home.  She had a couple of falls in March and had been directed into the home for a rest.  The three of us were very pleased to see each other, however Hilda's physical condition was a concern. She is very frail and gaunt.

Hilda was concerned about her house and it's contents, worrying about what might happen to them prior to her return.  Unfortunately we suspect she will never leave the home.  Our initial impression of the care home was that it appeared quite modern and clean.  The staff appeared friendly but as Hilda pointed out they were all either Asian, African or from the Middle East and she couldn't understand what they were saying. We arrived at the conclusion of lunch and when I looked at the meal trays I decided I'd prefer not to eat there.  We're making arrangements in order to maintain contact with Hilda.

Jan has visited numerous care homes in Adelaide when she was a member of a local choir and has a good understanding of the types of homes you might expect.  They're not for me.  So I'm going to have to drop off my perch quite quickly when the time comes!

After two years in Perth we've been spoilt by the lack of traffic.  UK motorways are busy and there are so many trucks (lorries).  What will happen when petroleum becomes scarce and expensive?  Beeching may have seriously disadvantaged the nation. 

We spent the night at a Travelodge on the M4 slightly south of Reading.  It's the same Travelodge we spent two nights at whilst the interior of Waiouru was varnished.  Consequentially this morning I suggested to Jan that as we were very close to Aldermaston perhaps we should see what changes had occurred in the last five years.

The CRT car park has been reduced in size and replaced with modern canal side housing.

 

  
 

The historic tearoom building owned by the Kennet and Avon Canal Trust is still there; albeit in smaller grounds.


And Aldermaston Whaft was looking much tidier.  All but one of the staff who were there during Waiouru's fit out have now gone.


There was a steam powered boat moored on the water point.


We've got to stop visiting canals!


Monday, 13 May 2019

Like rats from a sinking ship

Yes we are in Sale within walking distance of the Bridgewater Canal and I have re-discovered the spacebar on the laptop keyboard frequently doesn't work.  You may find many of my words are combined:-(

Jan has quite badly swollen feet from the flight.It's probably a combination of the duration of the journey and the very uncomfortable seat. She is hobbling around whilst I'm doing better.

Yesterday we caught the light rail into Manchester to celebrate Jan's birthday with a Chinese banquet. Obviously in Chinatown!   I forgot to take photos of all the delicious food.  Afterwards we walked to the Arndale Centre where the grandchildren had fun in the Lego store. 


Kevin was extremely interested in the Millennium Falcon model.   But at £450 he will need to save more money.  


Jan and I slipped into Sports Direct for some cheap socks and fleeces.

The plan was to take the light trail back to Sale however there had been an incident on the track which meant we had to take the bus. 



This wasn't much of an issue until we reached a stop named Old Trafford.  Suddenly there were zillions of people wandering around both on the footpath and in the streets.  Traffic slowed to a crawl and then stopped.  The lights changed six times and yet the bus never moved.  At slower than snails pace we crawled a mile passing a number of packed bus stops.  Obviously the light rail problem had caused mayhem with the transport system.  What should have been a 20 minute trip took more than an hour.

So what are our initial observations.  Well everything is so green and it's cool.  But there are just so many people and the roads are very narrow. We've forgotten so much since leaving in 2017.

Hi Pip & Mick, do you have a phone number and we will try and arrange a meeting.
Judith we over this side for a month.  No plans to go boating because we're concerned we might once again become addicted.
Jenny I hope your procedure goes well.
Mervyn I have ILR status and Jan has her UK passport, but when I last attempted to join her in the UK queue at Heathrow I was scolded and sent to the aliens queue.  Your wife is obviously better looking than me! :-)




Sunday, 12 May 2019

It has been very uncomfortable

About 10 days ago I started to starve.  On the first day Jan allowed me one meal consisting of a small portion of plain boiled rice with a small portion of boiled chicken breast.  For the second day it was nothing but water.  By midnight my stomach was starting to seriously question whether my throat had been cut!  Consequentially I was awake from 1AM onwards.  At 4AM I drank the sachet of pipe cleaner and two hours later all my pipes were clean.

By the time my brother in law collected me the stomach was in open revolt whilst the brain just wanted to sleep. On arriving at the hospital I was thinking I'd be the first in the queue.Imagine my surprise when I discovered the waiting room was already full of hungry pensioners.  Of course the sensible hospital staff hadn't even arrived.
 
Well it turned out I was second in the queue. The lovely young nurse collected me before asking me to strip down and don some fashionable gown in an attractive green with a split all the way up the rear. It was so annoying when the staff kept waking me up from my lovely sleep to ask the same questions.  Were they confused or disorganised? Eventually I was wheeled into another area where a rather sad looking young female technician was donning a plastic gown and a face mask.   The gastroenterologist then arrived and started to ask me the same set of questions when I interrupted her to ask if she had a cold.  "No... and Why?"  I explained I didn't want her to sneeze during the procedure and feel a lump in the back of my throat. The long black hose the technician was holding looked rather thick and it was about to enter virgin territory. 

I'd been warned a mild sedative would be used and I would be conscious and able to answer questions.  Well I went out like a light and had to be woken from a lovely sleep by the staff 90 minutes later.  Actually I didn't want to be woken and was only agreeable when they offered me the most divine hospital sandwiches.  OK, the bread might have been stiff, stale and curled at the corners.  But the stomach insisted I eat every morsel and then lick the plate for crumbs.

The nurse then insisted I get dressed and leave as they wanted the bed for the next hungry victim.  Actually I rather slipped out of bed as I quickly discovered my rear end had been greased.  At reception I was given a letter advising there was no sign of rust in my main pipe and that they would be checking me again in 5 years.Something for me to look forward to!

So  what's happened since then?

<HINT>

Within a week we were on our way to Perth Airport.Of course my passport wasn't recognised by the fancy new electronic border security machine which delayed us.  Then I was randomly selected to pass through the newish body scanning machine.  Unfortunately I wasn't tele-ported by it to our destination.  We then experienced our first flight in an A380.  I'd been told by former colleagues the aircraft is rather quiet.  However we didn't notice much difference.  I'd booked a window seat for Jan as she likes to rest against the fuselage and sleep.  No chance of that in the A380 as there is a considerable gap between the seat and the window.  The base of the seat slides slightly forward as the back is reclined.  It seemed a good feature although I did miss the lack of a footrest.  What proved to be considerably painful was the thinness of the cushioning on the base of the seat.  Neither of us managed much sleep on the flight to Doha.  I suspect it's the design of the seat as the young males in the row behind were also complaining.

There was a 3 hour layover in Doha, Qatar as we waited for our onward connection.  Last time I was here construction on the airport terminal hadn't been completed.  This time there was more to see.



There now appears to be two terminals connected by an overhead train.  I hadn't realised we were in the newer terminal until I noticed the large timber figure.


Terminals are just places where passengers are trapped and surrounded by expensive shops


Our onward connection was in the other terminal which meant we needed to take the train.


Initially I struggled to understand why the sign waswishing us a "Happy Festive Season".  It wasn't Christmas.  Of course we are in the Middle East and it is Ramadan.


I recognised the Teddy Bear from my 2016 stop over



The second flight was on an almost new A350. On looking at our fellow passengers in the departure lounge my immediate thought was "We're in the wrong lounge.  This must be the flight to Karachi".  No..... we're all going to Manchester!  

This is a new terminal and yet we had to walk down three flights of stairs to a bus where we were taken to the aircraft on the apron.  Another flight of stairs to board the aircraft.  Unfortunately we experienced a similar problem with the seats on this aircraft finally resorting to folding the supplied blanket and sitting on it in an effort to have more padding.  Both aircraft were clean and the cabin crew were attentive and friendly.  The only problem was the very uncomfortable seats.   We've already decided we will by a foam rubber swab each for the return flights.

Immigration at Manchester Airport was interesting. Jan was the only person in the UK Citizens queue and flew through before heading to collect our bag.  Meanwhile I joined the end of the long queue of aliens;many of whom did't speak english and hadn't correctly completed their arrival cards.  It was a slow process!   

Eventually I joined Jan in the baggage area and we headed for the Green Lane.   Customs & Excise and Agricultural control appeared to be non existent.  God knows what some people had in their bags!

So here we are in Sale.  I walked to the Bridgewater Canal and up to Waters Meet in the afternoon in an effort to stretch the leg muscles and start the process of resetting the body clock.




Tuesday, 7 May 2019

The Marshall Plan

Two posts ago I mentioned the Marshall Plan and despite the UK borrowing from the plan it still became the 'Sick Man' of Western Europe.

Blog reader Mike left a comment suggesting a major factor in the decline of the UK and the rapid resurgence of West Germany was that whilst both countries were devastated, the West Germans received more funding for reconstruction that the UK.

I will confess that up until several years ago I also believed this to be the case.  Now I know it's not true.  The UK actually received the greatest share at 26% of total funds allocated to the Marshall Plan.  France received 18% and West Germany only received 11%. 

So what happened?

I'm going to paste below a BBC article from 2011.

Hard luck story
We all know the easy British explanation for our cumulative export defeat in world markets from the 1950s onwards, especially at the hands of the Germans. This story tells us that lucky West Germany had all her industries and infrastructure bombed flat or removed as reparations, and then was able to re-equip herself from scratch with Marshall Aid dollars. Meanwhile, so this hard-luck story goes on, poor old Britain had to struggle on with worn-out and old-fashioned kit.
This is utter myth. Britain actually received more than a third more Marshall Aid than West Germany - $2.7 billion as against $1.7 billion. She in fact pocketed the largest share of any European nation. The truth is that the post-war Labour Government, advised by its resident economic pundits, freely chose not to make industrial modernization the central theme in her use of Marshall Aid.
'Financial Dunkirk'
The root cause of this self-destructive British choice lies back in 1945, when Great Britain, as one of the 'Big Three' along with the United States and the Soviet Union, emerged from World War Two with the psychology of a victor but with her economic circumstances more resembling those of a defeated country. Despite the victory over Hitler, Britain was literally bankrupt, and faced the prospect of unbridgeable balance-of-payments deficits for years to come.
It was this victor's psychology that deluded both Labour and Conservative politicians into believing that Britain - at the centre of the Commonwealth and the Sterling area - could have a future that was similar to her past. British politicians saw the United Kingdom as a first-class power in the same league as the United States. And certainly Britain looked in many ways like a global power, with more than two million men in fleets, garrisons and air squadrons sprawled across the world, from their bases at home to those in Japan.
Nonetheless, John Maynard Keynes, the chief economic advisor to the new Labour Government, warned ministers in August 1945 that Britain's world role was a burden which '... there is no reasonable expectation of our being able to carry ...'
As he pointed out, the entire British war effort, including all her overseas military commitments, had only been made possible by American subsidies under the Lend-Lease program. If the Americans stopped Lend-Lease, Britain would face a 'financial Dunkirk' - his words - unless Washington could be touched for a loan of $5 billion. Keynes wrote that such a 'Dunkirk' would have to be met by:
'... a sudden and humiliating withdrawal from our onerous responsibilities with great loss of prestige and the acceptance for the time being of the position of second-class Power, rather like the present position of France.'
Dream of world power
Secretary of State George Marshall (right) faces the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, 8 January 1945, to argue for aid to Europe  ©Well, a week after VJ-Day (Victory over Japan Day), the US Congress duly did stop Lend-Lease. What now? For the new Labour Cabinet, Keynes's 'Dunkirk' solution of packing up all our 'onerous responsibilities' and becoming a second-class power was unthinkable, certainly unthought.
So instead, the Labour Government successfully cadged a loan of nearly $4 billion from the Americans. Thanks solely to this American tick, Britain could continue to entertain the dream of being a world power at the centre of the Commonwealth. Even so, the war-bankrupted country was still desperately hard up. The Labour Cabinet therefore sought in the first place to reconcile the dream with economic reality by means of salami-slicing the armed forces. The result was worrying - as Herbert Morrison shrewdly judged in November 1949:
'We are in danger of paying more than we can afford for defences that are nevertheless inadequate, or even illusory'
Just as true today, of course.
In the second place, the Labour Cabinet attempted to accommodate the costs of the world role and the expensive new welfare state by severely restricting capital investment at home. This of course served to handicap the much-needed modernisation of Britain's obsolete industrial system, and the country's clapped-out roads, railways and telecommunications.
Marshall Aid
The dream of Britain as a global power also included the 'invisible empire' of the Sterling Area, to which Britain chose to play the banker. This was despite the fact that her reserves of gold and dollars were well known in Whitehall to be far too scanty for this role. By the end of 1947, the American dollar loan had already been largely spent, but the gulf still remained between the cost of Britain's self-inflicted global commitments and her inadequate earnings from exports. Without another huge dollar handout, Britain would have to give up all her global strategic commitments, as well as her role as the banker to the Sterling Area, and accept that she was now only a second-class power.
In that same year, the American Secretary of State, George Marshall, proposed his European Recovery Program to rebuild a war-shattered Europe. For Britain herself, the offer of the Marshall Aid dollars presented a last chance to modernize herself as an industrial power before her old trade rivals could recover from defeat and occupation. Instead, all the illusions and follies of post-war British policy now reached their climax in the wasting of Britain's Marshall Aid.
The French and German tenders for Marshall Aid resemble today's four-year business plans, being detailed technocratic strategies which give clear priority to investment in reconstructing industry and infrastructure. However, the British tender, originally drafted by a senior Treasury civil servant, resembled an Oxbridge economist's prolix prize-essay - with a tour of the world's economic horizon and Britain's place within it.
In the words of Sir Stafford Cripps, Labour Chancellor of the Exchequer, it was a 'general statement' rather than a set of 'detailed proposals'. Certainly it amounted to nothing like an action-plan with a clearly stated strategic objective.
Overriding needs
According to Whitehall documentation of the time, Britain's 'overriding need' in regard to the Marshall Aid was to keep up the Bank of England's reserves of gold and dollars, so that Britain could go on acting as banker to the Sterling Area. But then again, it was also stated in the documentation that the 'primary purpose' must be to keep up imports, especially of food and tobacco, to say nothing of timber for the Labour Government's ambitious program of council-house building. As for capital investment in industrial modernization, that was relegated in the British tender to the mere category of 'clearly of great importance'.
The plain truth is that the Labour Government in the late 1940s sought to use Marshall Aid much as the Conservatives used the rake-off from North Sea oil in the 1980s - as a general subsidy for whatever they wished to do, like clinging on to the dream of a world power role.
And so we find - surprise, surprise - that during the four-year period of Marshall Aid, Britain planned to devote to net fixed investment in industry and infrastructure a proportion of GNP that was a third less than West Germany's proportion.
Waste
In fact, far from Marshall Aid boosting British investment, planned programs were heavily cut after the debacle of a Sterling devaluation in 1949, caused by a balance-of-payments crisis. In what had been intended as the 'decisive' Marshall Aid years of 1949 and 1950, investment was only a little higher than in 1948 - barely ahead of inflation.
In 1950, Britain's investment in industry and infrastructure came to only 9 per cent of GNP, as opposed to Germany's 19 per cent. Thus the actual total of the investment was a fifth less than the German total.
It followed that during the 1950s German industry would enter export markets with new plant and new machines. For instance, the Volkswagen factory at Wolfsburg was no longer the bombed-out wreck of 1945-6, but was poised to achieve sensational global success in coming decades. Then again, more autobahns had been constructed in Germany, whilst the German rail network - and the French and Italian - had been totally re-engineered, with all the main lines electrified.
In Britain, steam haulage, semaphore signaling and clapped-out track still prevailed, and were to do so until the 1960s. Moreover, the road and telecommunications network in Britain remained equally inadequate, ill-maintained and out-of-date.
The sad irony is that it had been in vain that the Labour Government had sacrificed the modernization of Britain as an industrial country for the sake of using Marshall Aid to support a world power role - strategic and financial.
Britain's estimated defence expenditure for 1950-1 - the final year of Marshall Aid - amounted to 7.7 per cent of GNP - at a time when Germany and Japan were not spending a pfennig or a yen on defence. And in spring 1950, Hugh Gaitskell, Chancellor of the Exchequer, reported that the Sterling Area's dollar reserves were 'still at a lower level than when Marshall Aid began'.
What a monumental waste of a great and unrepeatable opportunity.
http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/british/modern/marshall_01.shtml   

Monday, 6 May 2019

Why does the EU have so many regulations?



I suspect EU officials would explain the regulations are a necessary part of the plan to amalgamate the member nations into one large state.  When a country joins the EU it agrees to abide by the EU regulations (current and future).  However I suspect this isn't the full story.  If harmonizing regulations (laws) across all members was essential why hasn't the EU done the same with fiscal union? 

Fiscal union is defined as "decisions about the collection and expenditure of taxes are taken by common institutions, shared by the participating governments".   The EU hasn't adopted fiscal union, however many of the members have adopted monetary union using the Euro as a common currency.  Adopting monetary union without fiscal union is somewhat like being partially pregnant.  Nations share the same currency but the value of that currency is then dependent upon the finances of individual members.  The EU attempts to resolve this issue by requiring members to limit their national debt as a set maximum percentage of the GDP.  However members have frequently ignore this (eg, Greece).  It's difficult to obtain an accurate picture of the EU's finances as even the EU's own auditors have been unable to give the EU accounts a clean bill of health.  But then my belief is financial accountability is secondary to political union and control.  Which brings me back to regulations.

Regulations are a means of control.   Control what the people can do.  Control industry, commerce and the environment.  Big business loves the EU and spends considerable funds lobbying Brussels to enact legislation (regulations) which protects them.  A large business has the necessary funds to comply with a volume of EU regulations whilst the smaller competitor is simply incapable of competing.  In effect, the EU is killing competition when it's competition which encourages innovation and drives down costs.  The EU also uses regulations to protect its own producers.  Let's assume you are a small EU producer of widgets.  You churn out the same old widgets you've always produced.  One day you are horrified to discover a Chinese widget makers is exporting widgets to the EU.  Not only are they cheaper, but they are better quality.  You head to Brussels where you successfully  lobby for widget regulations, tariffs and quotas to be introduced.  This has the effect of limiting competition.  

Another example who be the effect on the NZ dairy industry when the UK joined the EEC.  The EU gave the NZ dairy industry five years to adapt to the UK's membership with decreasing dairy quotas each year.  Moreover the EU implemented very strict hygiene regulations for non EU dairy producers.  So high that if the dairy farmer met the EU regulations you could almost eat off the milking shed floor.  Of course the EU didn't impose the same regulatory standards on its own dairy producers (which is why I wouldn't recommend eating off a French milking shed floor).  This was a simple case of using regulations to protect inefficient industry.   Interestingly, by achieving these high EU regulatory standards NZ's dairy industry was able to produce a high quality product at an internationally competitive price.  The NZ dairy output has grown significantly with high quality competitively priced NZ dairy products being exported to new markets all over the world.  But not much of it goes to the EU where inefficient producers are protected.

So in my opinion too many regulations are a bad thing stifling innovation and competitiveness.  Standards drop and prices increase.

My main criticism of the EU would be the deliberate lack of effective democratic accountability to the electorate is leading to yet more autocratic rule by the EU political elite and an unaccountable bureaucracy running wild drafting reams of regulations which are rubber stamped by a pampered EU parliament.  I don't believe this is sustainable.    

Regulations


At the end of WW2 much of Europe lay in ruins.  The Germans implemented a 'free market' philosophy which encouraged innovation and efficiency.  This resulted in a rapid economic recovery.  Meanwhile the UK adopted a strategy of centralized planning taking major industries into state ownership and control. 

Germany eventually combined with France, Belgium, Holland, Italy and Luxemburg to form the European Economic Community (EEC).  This economic integration resulted in a further increase in collective wealth through the removal of trade barriers and other economic restrictions. 

Meanwhile; despite borrowing more from the USA than Germany under the post WW2 Marshall Plan; the UK was the 'sick man' of Western Europe.  Centralized planning, state control, tariffs and quotas had proven to be an economic disaster. 

The UK was eventually able to join the EEC and start a rapid economic recovery.

Meanwhile the EEC was transforming itself into the European Union, expanding to take on new members.  The overwhelming objective was now political union ahead of economic prosperity. 
One of the key rules of the 'club' is that individual members have a veto over external free trade agreements.  Effectively this requires 28 members to collectively agree to the negotiated arrangements.  Reaching this type of agreement is like herding cats.  EU Free Trade Agreements can take years, ask Canada who waited through 16 years of negotiations as the EU both negotiated with them and within their 28 members. 

Since its inception the EU has adopted a protectionist attitude towards its internal market.  External trade is frequently subject to tariffs and quotas in an effort to protect its own producers and manufacturers.  To support this philosophy the EU has created a huge bureaucracy that develops reams of regulations.  It appears to me that the EU has been moving towards a similar path adopted by a post WW2 UK.  That is; the EU seems intent on economic protectionism whilst simultaneously  regulating (ie, creating laws) every aspect of European citizens lives.    

Let me give you an example.

Your average European citizen is woken by their digital alarm clock (11 Regulations) with their head resting on their pillowslip (5 Regulations).  Of course the pillowslip covers their pillow (109 Regulations).  They are kept warm by their sheets and duvet (50 Regulations).  Rising from bed they head to the bathroom (65 Regulations) where they have a shower (91 Regulations) and shampoo their hair (118 Regulations) before drying themselves with a towel (454 Regulations -   obviously towels terrify EU bureaucrats) and comb their hair in the mirror (172 Regulations - mirrors can be dangerous).  A quick brush of the teeth (toothbrush 31 Regulations and toothpaste 47 Regulations).   It's then off to the kitchen for breakfast.  Out comes the toaster (52 Regulations) and the bread (1246 Regulations).  Opening the fridge (84 Regulations) they remove the milk (this stuff is highly toxic at 12,653 Regulations) before taking a bowl (99 Regulations) from the cupboard and a spoon (210 Regulations) from the cutlery drawer.  Oops... forgot the orange juice (202 Regulations).  There's just enough time for a coffee (625 Regulations) and to pat the dog (556 Regulations.  Dog obviously aren't quite as lethal as coffee) before heading off to work.

So why have all these regulations?

Saturday, 4 May 2019

Where to find a great job


Between 1 July 2014 and 4 May 2019 the EU Parliament voted on 2330 Resolutions.  Of these, 198 (8%) resolutions were defeated.  However this doesn't provide an accurate account of the voting because 12% of the defeated resolutions related to a NO vote on changing the daily parliamentary agenda.  Moreover a number of the NO votes were in relation to a proposal to reject the EU Commission Proposal.  Which effectively means they were a YES vote.  I then started researching the number of NO votes that had subsequently been reversed, eventually giving up when I couldn't find an original NO vote that had NOT been overturned.  One assumes there are some, but there don't appear to be many on any issue of substance.

So why is the EU Parliament so passive?  My view is it has been deliberately designed that way.  Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) have no power to initiate legislation.  That power is held by the unelected European Commission.  Nor can MEP's initiate the repeal of legislation.  Their sole reason for existence is to vote YES or NO to the legislation put before them by the bureaucracy.

During my research I discovered a little known fact about MEP voting.  A MEP is able to change their vote after the count.  In fact a number of MEPs have done this on hundreds of occasions.  The MEP just quietly asks for the minutes to subsequently be amended.  The official reason for allowing this is deficiencies within the parliamentary electronic voting system (ie, "I pushed button A but the vote was recorded for button B").  The cynic in me suggest two more likely scenarios.

  1. The MEP votes one way in public to appease their electorate or their colleagues and then subsequently (and quietly) reverses their vote.
  2. After the vote the MEP gets "nobbled", pressured or "bought off" into reversing their vote.

So why would anyone want to be an impotent MEP?  Look at the benefits:
  • ·         Salary - £6537 per month
  • ·         Daily attendance allowance - £250
  • ·         Phone & office expenses allowance £41,000 per year
  • ·         Staff (some employ family) £225,000 per year
  • ·         Low tax rate of 8-24%
  • ·         Pension 3.5% of gross salary after 1 year as an MEP.  On leaving parliament transitional allowance up to 206,664
  • ·         Access to shopping malls for the exclusive use of politicians and EU bureaucrats (no public allowed).

I found the last point particularly interesting.  It was reminiscent of the GUM departmental shop on the side of Red Square established for the exclusive use of the Soviet political hierarchy.

So how many people working for the EU in Brussels earn more than the UK Prime Minister?  Three... Ten.... Fifty.  The actually figure exceeds 10,000   It's little wonder former national politicians want a job in Brussels.

I'm now starting to explore the breadth and effects of EU laws.   

Friday, 3 May 2019

I may just have fixed it

This post is going to be about how I solved the problem with the mobile phone not connecting to the network.  you may want to skip the post if that doesn't interest you.

Background
Whilst in Saudi Arabia back in 2013 I purchased two Samsung S4 mobile phones.  The phones were much cheaper in Saudi Arabia as Samsung has a region pricing policy.  Unfortunately one of the phones never worked properly and after 'tinkering' with it for several months I just put it to one side.  Obviously I'm not going to take it back to Saudi Arabia and see if I can get it repaired.  Repairing the phone in the UK or Oz was just too expensive to contemplate.

This wasn't a problem as Jan had a small, inexpensive mobile phone that she liked.  However she recently discovered making call on the phone was very expensive.  She was on a Vodafone plan and the call cost per minute was $1.  I'm on an Aldi PAYG plan which is excellent value for money.  So Jan decided to purchase an Aldi SIM to replace he Vodafone plan.  Then we discovered her cheap little phone was locked to the Vodafone network.  A new phone was required.  It was time to revisit the problem with the Samsung S4.

The specific problem was the S4 not recognising any network.  It didn't matter which SIM card was inserted, the phone simply wouldn't work.



You can see in the above photo there is No Service and no strength bars.  I guessed the problem was a hardware fault with the phone antenna.  If the back is taken off the phone there are two antenna external sockets.  I cut a 150mm length of wire from the left over trailer wiring and stripped one end before inserting the bare wire into the top socket.




This didn't resolve the problem so I moved the wire to the second socket.



Success.  The phone found the Aldi network and was showing maximum signal strength.

But the red wire was too thick to fit between the chassis of the phone and the back plate.  I stripped back the insulation and then removed all but one of the copper strands before using sellotape (sticky tape) to hold the copper strand in a loop to make an antenna.


The old antenna socket can be seen a 'A' above with the copper wire coming out of the second socket.  The backplate of the phone fitted snugly holding the new antenna in place.

We now have a working second phone.
 

Sunday, 28 April 2019

Murphy's Law

What to name this post.  I started with "Joneses Luck" then moved to "Wasted Time" before settling on "Murphy's Law". 

Most of yesterday was spent on the laptop doing some initial planning for a future outback trip.  By now you will have realised I don't like paying for information if I can find a free source and that's what I've been doing with the maps.  My technique is to use five sources.  Initially I look at websites where I collect gps reference points (latitude and longitude) to key points (where tracks meet, water, fuel, points of interest. etc)  Then I trace the track I want to use in the Open Street Map.  This isn't particularly accurate when it comes to outback tracks so I then convert the trace to a Google Earth format using a free program (GPS Babel).  The converted trace is then loaded into Google Earth.  Next I insert the reference points from Step 1.  finally I closely examine Google Earth looking at the satellite photos and correcting the trace.  Finally the corrected trace and reference points are converted to Garmin GPS format using GPS Babel and uploaded onto the GPS.  This process takes a long time. 

Whilst working on this yesterday I realised I hadn't checked the electric brakes on the camper trailer.  Had the Chinese manufacturer done a good job?  This morning the trailer was jacked up and placed on stands.  I then spun the right wheel and depressed the brake pedal in the 4x4.  No brakes! 

Well I fitted the electric brake controller and cabling into the 4x4 so it was down to me to find the problem and rectify it.  All the wiring was traced, checked and then double checked.  Logic told me there was power to the brake controller as the LED's were illuminating.  So I started checking everything back from the brake controller to the plug beside the towbar.  Everything was pulled apart and rechecked.  There appeared to be nothing wrong with my installation.   It must be those dastardly Chinese!

The next step was to remove the right trailer wheel.  That's when I noticed the loose wire.


The wire was reinserted into the plug but still the brakes didn't work.  The next step was to dismantle the hub to check the brake solenoid and internal wiring.  If you're going to do that you might as well check the wheel bearing and re-grease them.  There didn't appear to be any obvious issues.  That's when I decided to call on the assistance of the family chief financial controller.  With Jan at the wheel of the 4x4 I spun the opposite trailer wheel and had her apply the brakes.  The trailer brake on the wheel stopped it.  OK, I have a fault with the electric brake on the right trailer wheel.  \

Of course I could have established that five hours earlier and before pulling the 4x4 apart if only I'd used my head!  

The problem was that same wire in the plug behind the hub.  It had popped back out when I'd reconnected the two halves of the plug.  This time I ensured the terminal remained inside the plug when I connected the two halves.  Next I wrapped duct tape around the wire and plug to hold them together.  Finally I used a couple of cable ties to secure the cable to the hub.  I've done this last step in an effort to minimize the potential for stones and other debris on the tracks pulling the connection apart.


So "Murphy's Law".  If I had checked the opposite trailer wheel first I would have discovered the trailer brakes were working and would probably not have bothered tested the wheel with the defective wiring.   Also, I should have more faith in my own wiring!


     

Wednesday, 24 April 2019

And then I had an idea

There's been a "missing link" in the man cave dust extraction system.  Flexible vacuum hose is required for two of the outlets.  One for the bench saw and more for the portable power tools like the sander.  The problem has been the cost with the timber tool sellers wanting an astronomical price per metre.  Then I had an idea..... swimming pool hose!

A quick trip down to the local hardware where I'm now on first name basis with most of the staff.  The place was packed.  Apparently there was a party under way in Isle 15.


I'm too old to party and headed for the pool section.   Success; eight metres of the right size hose at less than 20% of the tool shop price.


Now I have permanent solution for my flexible hose problem


I probably have three metres of surplus hose.


The hose to the bench saw appears to be too long but my plan is to mount the saw inside the bench which will lower its height.  In the background you can see the cut down wardrobe doors from the master bedroom which will become shelving the the garage.

Monday, 22 April 2019

Those little jobs

Fountains doesn't do a 'veg pledge' for us which means reluctantly I've been drawn into the fortnightly lawnmower and strimmer routine.  We purchased a new 4 stroke lawnmower and strimmer shortly after our return from the UK and since then I've been thinking we need desire a lawn edge trimmer.  However at a price of approximately $300-500 the decision keeps beling delayed.

Last week I noticed an old edge trimmer in my brother’s garage and commented on it.  He said “You can have it if you want it.  I don’t need it!”  So of course I accepted his offer.  Then he mentioned “It has a petrol leak somewhere and might need a new carburettor!”  Obviously we are related.  The engine is a Briggs & Stratton 4 stroke with a horizontal shaft.  It shouldn't be too hard to do some fault finding.


The edger looks as if it's been hiding in the corner of the garage collecting dust and cobwebs.  Based on the comment about the fuel leak I removed the fuel tank, air filter and carburettor.

  
Everything looks faded and rusty.


The carburettor was stripped down and cleaned with a carburettor spray before being reassembled


Now you might be thinking I took the above photos for this post.  WRONG!  I took them to ensure I knew how to reassemble the engine :-)  Whilst reassembling everything I removed all rust and gave it a clean before repainting parts where necessary.   Oh, the cutting blade was also sharpened.


Then I did what I should have done right at the start.  Added some petrol to the fuel tank.  It promptly started pouring out the front of the air filter.   Some exploring on my part revealed the fuel was coming from the carburettor.  It appears to be missing a needle valve.  Now I could search for a replacement part but the entire carburettor can be purchased from eBay for approximately $16 (£7) so I'll probably take that option.

The second job has been to rip the shelving off the garage wall.  It's going to be in the way when the hole is cut through the wall for the master bedroom air conditioning unit.  I'm going to replace the old shelving with material salvaged from the original bedroom wardrobe doors.

It's also seven months since the oil catch can on the 4x4 engine was drained.  I fitted the catch can because I don't like the oil fumes being recycled back through the engine.  This process is part of the vehicles environmental emissions control system.  Twenty years ago the fumes would have been vented to the atmosphere but today we need to save the planet.  So the fumes go back through the engine intake to be re burned.  That wouldn't be a problem but they are combined with some of the hot exhaust gases before being returned to the engine.  The hot gases are an emission control process.  The problem is the hot gases contain carbon.  The carbon and the oil fumes combine leaving a porridge like sludge to build up in the engine which can eventually choke the engine.  Of course by then the vehicle is out of warranty meaning the owners wears the cost of an engine clean and potential rebuild.  The oil catch can is supposed to catch most of the oil from the fumes before it is fed into the engine.  My method of removing the oil is to use a thin hose attached to a large syringe.  I poke the hose down the hole where the catch can dipstick goes and suck out the oil.


Photo is slightly out of focus in the background.


The syringe was advertised for hydroponic use but it's ideal for my purpose.  The engine has only done 3500km since I last drained the can.


About 25mls of oil that won't go back through the engine.