on the way home

north lanes at night

on the way home

I went for dinner at a friend’s place on Saturday night. We ate a Spaghetti Carbonara and knocked back a couple of bottles of wine. Walking back through the North Lanes about 1am I thought that Brighton looked pretty good. All closed up but Christmas lights looking good. Gaggles of people weaving their way home.

On the corner by the The Wagon and Horses and The Mash Tun I stood and waited for a cab then realised I could do with a pint. Mrs Fitzherbert’s had stopped serving so I went to The Mash Tun. This is not a pub usually frequent. A bit young for the likes of me I’m afraid but needs must when the devil drives. The bar was clear and I obtained a plastic pint glass of Guinness.
As I stood supping, I looked around me and was pleased with what I saw. A lot of people in their 20s. Some dressed up but most not. Two people dancing on a table, another couple dancing by the bar. A pretty chilled out time of the evening. Not packed. I liked it. I have often liked the idea of a pub to stop off for a nightcap before going home and this was just right.

I finished my pint, flagged a cab and went home.

It crossed my mind that there are not many towns where you can get a drink at 1am. Not in England anyway.

Treating pedestrians like cattle in Brighton

Western Road and North Street

Western Road and North Street

They’ve been rejigging the road where Western Road meets North Street opposite Churchill Square in Brighton. They’ve opened up a bit of space for pedestrians as they round the corner and opened up the space for vehicle even more.

The trend in Brighton seems to be to fence in the pedestrians as much as possible and this is starting to bug me. It’s the same in the marina by the multi storey car park. The impetus seems to be to prevent pedestrians from crossing except on the crossings when the lights are green. I’m sure some self satisfied safety nerd is congratulating himself at the council but he should not be.

West Street and North Street

West Street and North Street

The effect is to crush everyone together so that we are forever queuing behind someone else. And if I want to cross from one corner to another I am forced to travel about four times the distance as I walk around the bloody railings. This would not be so bad if there were just one set of these railings but just 20 yards further down at the corner of West Street and North Street there are another set.

The attitude of Brighton council seems to be that vehicles come first and people second. We should check out some Scandi countries where they are starting to remove all “street furniture’ including traffic lights. This forces cars to travel slowly as pedestrians are free to wonder in front of them.

It’s better than being channeled around like cattle which seems to be what Brighton council have in mind for us.

The return of the Chipstead Wheelbarrow

Chipstead Wheelbarrow

Chipstead Wheelbarrow 2009

It’s Back! The wheelbarrow is back. Or, at least it was this morning. It’s gone again now.

I speak, of course, of the coloured wheelbarrow which mysteriously materialises on the green on Star Lane outside St. Margarets Church, Chipstead. I first reported this on the 28th of February 2008 but I’d seen it months before. When I first saw the wheelbarrow it had been painted all in pink. The whole thing, wheels and all. By February 2008 it has been painted completely in yellow, though there was evidence of the pink paint underneath. But now, now! Now it is black but with a tasteful bright pink interrior though the wheel still shows signs of the yellow from around 18 months ago!

When I drove home this evening at around 5:30pm it was gone.

The Chipstead wheelbarrow is one of the great unsolved mysteries of the 21st Century. Nobody knows who puts it there or how long it has been apearing. We don’t know why it is painted or what it is for. I had specualted that it may apear on the aniversary of something or other but having now seen it in February and November this seems not to be the case. Perhaps it’s a work of art?

I found one other reference to this wheelbarrow on the web but this has now disapeared so that my web site is THE ONLY RECORD of the greatest mystery of our time.

Chipstead Wheelbarrow 2008

Chipstead Wheelbarrow 2008

A look into the barrow revealed that it was made in France, apparently by a company named Haemmerlin. I’d say it was a 1051G or a 4051G; connoisseurs will know that there is very little difference apart from the colour.

If you have any theories or information please feel free to leave comments.


In the meantime, we await…..the fourth coming.








With the greatest love and respect, Mandelson is a shit

Bugger the message Peter, it's about delivery

Mandelson confuses PR with politics

During my drive to work this morning I listened to BBC Radio 4 and heard Evan Davies interview the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, Peter Mandelson. Of course Mr. Mandelson spent all his time evading and filibustering while Mr. Davies did his best to get a straight answer. Masochists may listen to the interview here

For an excerpt check out Sushiguru’s blog

At the end of the interview Mr. Mandelson said something along the lines of “A pleasure as ever”. This sounded to me very much like he considered that this had been a successful interview. Well, it depends on how you define success.

Mr. Mandelson’s definition  appears to be that it is not to answer any questions. If this is the definition, then this was a resounding success. If you think that the interview should have been an honest presentation of the governments record and plans for the future then it was a pathetic failure.

So why is it that Mr. Mandelson is completely incapable of being honest? Why is it that he appears to spend the whole time conniving to present an image rather than actually explaing the governments position?

The answer is that media manipulation is all he knows. Wikipedia gives us an interesting insight into Mr. Mandelson’s background.

Read Philosophy, Politics and Economics at St Catherine’s College, Oxford
Director of the British Youth Council
Three years on Lambeth Borough Council (1979 to 1982)
Worked as a television producer at London Weekend Television on Weekend World
Appointed Labour Party’s Director of Communications in 1985.
Ran Fulham by-election campaign 1986
Managed the Labour Party’s 1987 general election campaign

Do you see any evidence that Mr. Mandelson has ever built a road, for example? Has he ever turned around a failing company? Did he manage a budget? Did he raise funds? Has he ever worked on a factory floor? Has he ever managed a government department? Has he done anything in his entire life that could be deemed useful to the British people?

To my mind the answer is no.

Of course I understand that in the 21st century politicians will employ people to help them “get their message across” but New Labour have allowed these media wonks to take control of the party. When Mr. Mandelson finally pulled off an election victory, Labour supporters were so desperately grateful that they lost there sense of judgement along with their self respect. They allowed Mr. Mandelson to use his contacts to move from an advisor to become a main player in the government itself. Now that he is there it is obvious that he does not have a clue what to do. He merely continues to do what he has always done. Which is to try to convince everyone, by fair means or foul, that New Labour are doing a fantastic job. The activities of new Labour expend the energy of the political establishment while achieving nothing. Mr. Mandelson gives off heat but no light.

In the interview Mr. Evans attempts to get a point across. The point is that new Labour continually make promises and set targets which they fail to achieve but, by the time their failure is apparent, they have moved the agenda on to some new target. Mr. Mandelson ducked and weaved and eventually said:

“Evan, with the greatest love and respect, I think I’m going to have to take some time to answer your questions, would you mind?”

He then launches into a an enormous monologue which I reproduce here:

“Thank you very much indeed. I think it’s very important that the government, where appropriate enacts targets, benchmarks, by which it judges itself, but more importantly, by which the public judges its delivery. That’s why we are providing guarantees for educational entitlements that’s why we’re putting in place national health service guarantees for patients, including the right to see a cancer specialist within two weeks if their GP suspects that they have cancer, that’s why we’re going to lay the foundations for the national care service for the elderly, now, the point I’m trying to make to you is that politics is about spelling out your policies, it’s about spelling out policy differences: what they mean for the public, what they say about the party’s values and beliefs, now that may be all too detailed and too policy wonkish [sic] for the taste and appetite of the BBC, certainly Today, but this is what is important for the public, and whether it be fuel poverty and our ability and determination to drive on and meet our 2010 targets, how we want to enshrine clearer individual guarantees and entitlements, both in our schools and in the national health service, the debate, the very important provision that we have got to talk about in this country, about supporting families who are looking after elderly parents or relatives who need that care, all these things are about politics, they are about policies, they are about what the public is interested in , Even, and what in time they will judge us, and the other parties, by when the election comes.”

Of course Mr. Mandelson is Talking Bollocks. Most of this is just waffle to use up time and distance himself from the question but Mandelson reveals his deeply flawed understanding of politics. He thinks that  politics is about getting the message across and he thinks that this is what the public are interested in.

It isn’t and we aren’t.

He has confused public relations with politics and this has been the flaw in New Labour from the very beginning. Politics is not about getting the message across! That is a secondary objective. The job of politics is to set policy and deliver. Endlessly setting new policies and objectives is merely an indication of the failures of past policies.

It’s worth considering the words Mr. Mandelson used to gain some space to waffle:

“Evan, with the greatest love and respect, I think I’m going to have to take some time to answer your questions, would you mind?”

There are all sorts of people in this world with all sorts of opinions. The kind I find most objectionable are the kind who can smile in your face while they stab you in the back. The sort that can lie through their teeth.

Peter, with the greatest love and respect, you are a complete shit who should never have been allowed into British politics.

Is the Macbook all it’s cracked up to be?

macbook pro

macbook pro

I have just bought myself a Macbook Pro with 250gb hard disk and 4 gig of RAM!!! It cost me £ 1150 from Dixons. Yehhaaaa!.

I have complained about Microsoft Windows since Windows 3.1 but seen it improve gradually though to my mind not enough. So I took the plunge and bought a Mac. Was it worth it? Read on.

I’ve worked with computers since before the PC. My first machine was a Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC) System 10 when I was at school in 1974 and this ran an Operating System  called TOPS-20. My first job in IT was in 1978 working on a PDP11 running an Operating System called RSTS/E. Since then I’ve worked on, VMS, Pic, MPE, CICS, Unix of many flavours, Linux, Amiga OS, Windows blah blah and a variety of other obscure ones.

When Dos & Windows came along I was sort of annoyed that all the gains that had been made with mini computer OSs like VMS or Unix did not exist in Windows. I’m told that the mainframe guys thought the same when the mini computer came along. But OK, gradually Windows got a scheduler, Windows started multi tasking, Windows got a better interface.

But I was always annoyed that my Commodore Amiga with 512K of RAM could switch tasks in an instant at the touch of a key while Windows has to jerk me around and freeze the screen. Even now with vast amounts of processing power and RAM windows still seems to have problems prioritising tasks so that the user is not brought to a halt. I’m speaking of Windows up to XP. All I’ve heard about Vista is bad and I have no experience of Windows 7.

So I bought myself a Mac. A Unix variant under the bonnet and a slick interface. It sounds perfect.

Well to start with the packaging was great as it was simple and limited. The physical design of the silver macbook is of course beautiful. Again simplicity and utility. Apple have always been famous for this and they have excelled themselves this time.

Switching on and starting up must have been easy because I cannot remember much about it. It asked me a few questions and I think I set up a user and that was it. I’d played with one in a shop and, come on, it’s just another OS, so it was easy enough to find my way around. I found the touch pad a little odd to start with but I’m getting used to it and I think I will learn to prefer it though a mouse is still preferable for some work such as image manipulation. The magnetic power connector is fantastic and saves a lot of fiddling around.

I downloaded Open Office and found that software installation was much more straightforward and quicker than most Windows apps. I like the way I can download an app and run it without installing it. I like the way that when I upgraded to Snow Leopard it asked me a couple of questions and then said that it was going to do it and it would take some time. I was then free to leave it going without worrying that it was ask some dumb question. When I came back it was done.
I downloaded an app to synch my mac with my Nokia N95 and without much optimism I installed it and ran it. It installed extremely easily and was very simple to synch with the N95. Within minutes it was done.

I like the dock or task bar or whatever it’s called. You may, by now, have noticed that I am not an Apple techy. I am not sure of all the terminology but that is a very key point. Having worked with numerous systems for year and learned the technobabble of our industry I now what something that just works. When I switch my TV on I don’t want to have to learn a lot of twaddle to make it work. When I pick up my phone I don’t want to read the manual. And when I want to browse the web or write a letter I don’t want to have to take an MCSE. The mac achieves this objective. The top level is simplicity. To someone used to Windows, like myself, it may even seem a little limited but I am learning that all the functionality is still there, it is just packaged more slickly.
I have dropped down to the shell a couple of times for a look around but not stayed there long. This machine is for writing and Internet work. It’s like a pen in the hands of an author. I might get more into the technical side later but for now I just want to us it.

The Finder is the mac version of Windows explorer and, though initially sceptical, I think it is growing on me.

The battery life is excellent and Apple have done a very good job of the look and feel, both physical, visual and ergonomic. For example the SD card slots seems tightly bound to the case so that when inserting a card it fits firmly.

The screen is excellent. I opened an image I’d taken at night and on the mac it had enough light to look reasonable. I printed it on a good quality Epsom Stylus Pro 4000 and the image was pretty much as on the screen. I opened the same image on my PC and the image was much too dark. I increased the brightness of the image and printed it on the same printer and the result was too washed out. The conclusion is that the mac displays a more realistic impression of the image than the PC.

There are downsides.

Though the keyboard feels and looks beautiful it is has a slightly different layout. Like a US keyboard on a PC the @ and the “ are in different places. It has function keys but these perform different functions. I miss being able to hit F2 to edit a spreadsheet cell. On the Mac the F2 brings up a nifty Clock, calender, calculator, weather screen.

Minidisplay to VGA

Minidisplay to VGA

The mac has a mini display port for connecting an external screen. I had to purchase a mini display to VGA adapter for the extortionate price of £20 only to discover that, though this has a reasonably thin cable, it is only 3 inches long meaning that the slick, simplicity of the macbook is compromised by a bloody great VGA adapter sticking out of the side.

One thing I find strange is that there appears to be no ability to blow up a window to maximum size with a click of a widget. A widget exists but this only blows it up to the largest size it has been set at. To get it to take up the whole screen you have to move and drag it around with the mouse or touch pad. I find this very frustrating as it is something one often needs to do and I see no reason why this facility does not exist.

In summary, I am pleased that I bought the mac but sometimes find myself frustrated. I think this is because I have become so trained on the Windows platform. As I use a PC at work I wonder whether I will always find myself hitting the wrong function keys inadvertently as I switch back and forth but I don’t think so. I think I will gradually get used to two systems.

The trouble with Mr. Morley

The trouble with Paul Morley

Disheveled or Contrived?

I arrived home this evening and switched on the box to see the Newsnight cultural team twittering on about something or other. Some Germans in attendance plus Paul Morley in his usual unshaven state.

The trouble with Paul Morley and his unshaven face is that it is necessarily contrived. I have no objection to people appearing in any state of dishevelment, least of all unshaven but Mr. Morley connives to always appear with precisely the same state of beard growth. One has to conclude that, knowing that he will appear on television in a few days time, he shaves at precisely the right time to ensure the unshaven appearance on the night. One can only imagine that he thinks the public will consider him to be hip and cool. Were he a slim and young George Michael, one might even forgive him for his conceit, but the unshaven look does nothing for the ageing and portly Mr. Morley.

Suggestion: Grow a beard, don’t or stop worrying about it.

On The Edge with Coolhead Luke

Coolhead Luke - On the Edge

Coolhead Luke - On the Edge

A friend of mine is now an author. An author! She’s even been interviewed! Why is she an author? Why can’t I be an author? Why can’t I be interviewed? – Well, obviously, because she got off her arse and wrote something.

Her name is Jennifer White and she lives in Massachusetts. She has just published her second book of poems and drawings in collaboration with her son Colin.

Jen writes the poems and Colin does the drawings (or draws the drawings as artists say). Ostensibly, the books are for kids but I think they’d go down well with people of any age.

The first book was named Coolhead Luke and the newly released book is On the Edge with Coolhead Luke.

The poems and drawings are zany, funny and sometimes educational. I present one below for your delectation. The drawing is of either Jen or Colin; I never can tell as they’re both very ugly.

Love At First Site

Love at First Sight

I’ve never been in love before
Until I walked inside this door

I found a silver panel there
Approaching it I had to stare

Inside was someone beautiful
I’ve never felt so strong a pull

And now to my sincere delight
It’s  love for me — love at first sight.

Good idea for a present with Christmas coming up!

Tax and spin – The New Labour doctrine

This evening on the TV I saw an advert exhorting me to reduce my driving by 5 miles a day to cut carbon emissions. On the face of it this sounds like a good idea but they are, in fact, talking bollocks.

What shall I do? Drive to within 5 miles of work, park on the side of the road and then walk into the office? Maybe I should not go into the office one day a week? An excellent idea, I’ve blogged about the benefits of telecommuting before but this ad made no mention of encouraging that and, indeed, the government has recently announced a 50p tax on broadband connections so they can’t really claim to be making any meaningful moves in that direction.

This TV advertisement represents the New Labour response to everything: raise taxes but spin a story like you’re not.

Is Hastings an option?

Yesterday I drove over to Hastings stopping off at Bexhill on the way. The gossip in Brighton is often that Hastings is an option. A sort of cross between how Brighton is supposed to be and a fall back position. Brightonians argue through the ideas that Brighton has become too expensive, trendy, busy, full of tourists….(take your pick) and that Hastings may be an option.

War Cafe

War Cafe

Hastings has excellent architecture, lots of interesting passages and back streets and, indeed, it seems that the alternative set may be moving in if one judges alternative by cowboy hats, chopper trikes, idiosyncratic shops and sartorial inelegance – not that I decry such inelegance; on occasion I admire it.

We ate in a nice little restaurant which was perhaps a tad too expensive. (£18 for a steak – in Hastings?! With my reputation?!) though the fish was good value and the ambiance excellent. Later we had coffee in a quaint though ghastly little sea front cafe which appeared to have been decorated by some kind of second world was appreciation society. Churchill and Union Jacks everywhere.

approaching Ditchling Beacon

approaching Ditchling Beacon

As we drove back Ditchling Beacon looked very impressive on the horizon.

Any discussion regarding relocating to Hastings usually ends with the observation that there is no work there and the rail and road connections are not good. That, then, usually is the end of the matter. However, perhaps there is another reason. On arriving back in Brighton we drove down Grand Avenue and the city felt busy and switched on. It was dark and the lights beckoned us to the pubs. To be sure, Hastings, is a nice little town but it is just that. A little town. One gets the feeling that after frequenting the gaggle of little shops and pubs downtown for a year or so one might feel a little constricted. It lacks the anonymity of a city. As Brighton does to some extend compared to London. This is not necessarily a bad thing but it is, perhaps, difficult when one is not used to it.

Of course, this is not the end of the debate. With me, it is rather like my yen to emigrate to America or move back to London. A constant theme which will, most likely, rattle around my head until the day I die.

It is the curse of those who have travelled and lived in different places to always feel  dissatisfied as everywhere will lack something from somewhere else. A city will feel too big or a village too small. Africa will feel too foreign while England too mundane. Many years ago I attended The Isle of Man TT motorbike racing and we did some pubbing with the locals. They told us that The Island full of retired ex-pats who the locals term “When I’s” because they preface most statements by the words “When I” – As in “When I was in Bahrain” or “When I was in Aden”.

A friend is about to go to AntArctica to live for a few months. When he returns, will he yearn for the interminable bitter cold? Perhaps not but he’s bound to miss something.