Saturday 28 February 2015

Peace, potatoes and cocoa


This is another chapter from my aunt's memoirs where she describes how family and neighbours celebrated peace in the back streets of Derby in 1919 when she was eleven years old.

June 1919

Although hostilities ceased in November 1918, peace celebrations weren’t held until the following June.

Our street being a cul-de-sac, the family next door living in the very last house, we were able to build our bonfire actually on the road. The neighbours living opposite were all delighted and we rummaged around for anything burnable to help the conflagration. Everyone rallied round as they had done during the war. One old lady every time the maroon sounded, had run up and down the street knocking on every front door, calling through the black letter box,

‘Are you up? Isn’t it awful?’

With that kind of spirit we did pretty well and when the enormous bonfire had been built, children and adults sat and stood round until my dad put a match to one side and another fellow lit the other side. Soon there were Catherine wheels spinning on walls and rockets soaring into the air. The boys loved (and I hated) crackers and jumping jacks which darted and exploded.

On the other side of the big brick wall at the end of the street was the railway line. Now and again a train went chuffing by but we were so used to them we hardly noticed. I’ve wondered since if any passengers saw our bonfire, or at least the sparks flying into the air as the men pushed the glowing embers together.

When the bonfire sagged into a heap of red-hot ash, potatoes were dropped in and mothers went into their houses, reappearing with jugs of cocoa for their families. Jugs of beer had been fetched for the men from the outdoor beer licence.

There was much talk and merriment. My dad picked the cooked potatoes out of the embers with a pair of long fire tongs. No potato tastes as good as one roasted in a bonfire. We children were all dropping to sleep as the fire sank and were taken off to bed, leaving the men still talking.

What a night to remember. Little did we think that in twenty years time the peace we were celebrating would once more be shattered by the dogs of war. But that’s another story.

Friday 27 February 2015

A little thought game


This isn't new, but I was reminded of it via a Bishop Hill post

Below is a section of the transcript for a BBC Radio 4 current affairs show Are Environmentalists Bad For The Planet? First broadcast 25.01.10.

TOWNSEND*: I was making a speech to nearly 200 
really hard core, deep environmentalists and I played
a little thought game on them. I said imagine I am the 
carbon fairy and I wave a magic wand. We can get rid 
of all the carbon in the atmosphere, take it down to two 
hundred fifty parts per million and I will ensure with my 
little magic wand that we do not go above two degrees 
of global warming. However, by waving my magic wand 
I will be interfering with the laws of physics not with people 
– they will be as selfish, they will be as desiring of status. 
The cars will get bigger, the houses will get bigger, the 
planes will fly all over the place but there will be no climate 
change. And I asked them, would you ask the fairy to wave 
its magic wand? And about 2 people of the 200 raised their hands. 

ROWLATT: That is quite shocking. I bet you were shocked, weren’t you? 

TOWNSEND: I was angry. I wasn’t shocked. I was angry 
because it really showed that they wanted more. They didn’t 
just want to prevent climate change. They wanted to somehow 
change people, or at very least for people to know that they had to change.

* Solitaire Townsend Co-founder and Chief Executive of Futerra Sustainability Communications.

Thursday 26 February 2015

The War that Ended Peace


I recently finished Margaret MacMillan's World War I history book The War that Ended Peace as recommended by David over at duffandnonsense. It covers the people and events leading up to the war rather than the war itself. 

I bought the Kindle version so the maps aren't as useful as they would be in a traditional book, but unless your geography is even worse than mine it should not cause too many problems.

I'm not a great history buff but the book is an excellent read. Very well written, it takes the reader through the myriad causes of the Great War. No doubt people from my generation all have some familiarity with the main events, but MacMillan's book brings them together in an extremely readable way.

I'll finish with this quote from the blurb which neatly sums it up, although if you read the book you may have some reservations about the word intelligent.

The story of how intelligent, well-meaning leaders guided their nations into catastrophe. Immersed in intrigue, enlivened by fascinating stories, and made compelling by the author's own insights, this is one of the finest books I have read on the causes of World War I (Madeleine Albright, former Secretary of State)

Wednesday 25 February 2015

Gardening in a changed climate - update

A little over two years ago I wrote a post on our visit to Severn Trent's Carsington Water visitor centre and its drought-resistant garden. As you know, global warming means we should prepare for droughts and plant accordingly. We revisited the place recently so I took another photo to keep tabs on progress.



Tales to drive you mad


The indefatigable Daily Mail explains.

A solar eclipse is set to block out nearly 90 per cent of sunlight across parts of Europe next month - and it will be the biggest event of its kind in 16 years.

On 20 March, the moon's orbit will see it travel in front of the sun, casting a shadow over Earth.

The eclipse will see up to 84 per cent of the sun covered in London - and around 94 per cent in Glasgow, Aberdeen and Edinburgh.

Meanwhile, electricity system operators have warned the eclipse poses a serious risk of blackouts all over Europe as the continent increasingly relies on solar power.

Quite why this is a bigger threat than nightfall I'm not sure. The last time I checked, the sun disappeared quite regularly and predictably every day. Without fail. What about cloudy days which are rather less predictable so presumably more scary?

Okay it's mostly the Daily Mail having fun, but to my mind there is a touch of madness too, a hint that all is not well in the collective thinking department. 

Monday 23 February 2015

The cold economy


From Click Green we have some exhilarating news on The Emerging Cold Economy.

The Carbon Trust has launched ‘The Emerging Cold Economy’, a new report focusing on the increasing global demand for cooling and the opportunity for Britain to be a world leader in innovative low carbon cooling technologies...

This insight has stimulated new thinking aimed at creating business and environmental value from the efficient integration of cold into the wider energy system, the “Cold Economy”.

Some folk do things and other folk make up stories about it. It's the modern way, or 'The Emerging Story Economy' as I call it in my new report.

Sunday 22 February 2015

Le Blob Vert


I see Lord Prescott is off to the the Paris climate jolly in December. From the BBC we hear -

John Prescott is returning to front-line politics as an unpaid adviser to Ed Miliband with responsibility for climate change.

The former deputy PM will focus on trying to help a future Labour government seek agreement at climate change talks due to take place in Paris in December, Labour sources say.

Mr Miliband said in a tweet that Lord Prescott "knows how to knock heads together".

Surely an odd choice - sending a known buffoon on a mission to save the planet. Maybe he barged his way to the front of a long queue using his well-developed political elbows to snatch the plum before anyone else spotted it.

Or maybe not. 

Saturday 21 February 2015


Rewards are more predictable than punishment when it comes to controlling behaviour. Almost the whole world knows it these days, because the whole world is addicted to rewards in one way or another. We have evolved into consumers.

It was no great surprise either. Consumer society is self-rewarding and nobody is about to get in its way, not with tens of trillions of dollars per annum of consumer spending at stake. From central heating to holidays in the sun, from the next iCrap gadget to a two thousand calories pizza and a gallon of beer every Friday night, there is no going back.

Back to where? Maybe a certain puritanical yearning might stem the tide, but even that seems more likely to result in the consumption of goods and services with puritanical branding. Solar panels, electric cars, curly light bulbs, recycling and Greenpeace memberships are merely grist to the consumer mill.

Not only that, but we can add righteousness to the rewards list too. Environmental goody-goodies can’t be wrong. Has to be rewarding.

Politically correct prigs who can’t be wrong either. Oh it’s all so rewarding isn’t it? We’re addicted to it as deeply and as irrevocably as any crackhead.

Oh and blanket caring as in Children in Need type caring – mustn’t forget that. We’ll add that to the list because it’s another form of consumption - caring can be something we buy.

It’s not merely a matter of gargantuan consumer spending. This is far and away the most humongous force affecting human behaviour ever seen. Nobody is running it either. That’s the entertaining part because Guardian readers and BBC types hate that.

So what about the future? Where is this gargantuan deluge of addictive rewards likely to take us?

Well the addicted consumer has already seen off Christianity, common sense and rational politics so in a broad sense there isn’t much territory left to conquer. Islam will succumb within a generation and beyond that is anyone’s guess and...

...and that’s enough of that...

...clicks over to Amazon.

Thursday 19 February 2015


Every life is a series of coincidences. Nothing happens that is not rooted in coincidence. All great changes find their cause in coincidence.
Arnold Bennett - The Card (1911)

There are obvious issues with the complexities of daily life. On all scales too. From cooking a meal to international politics, the unexpected always seems to be looking over our shoulders. Saw a near miss on the road today for example. One guy didn't expect the other guy to cross his path while he was doing fifty.

I don’t think we have a good handle on complexity, especially our ability to make collective decisions on complex issues. There are too many cases where vested interests grab the narrative and common sense is elbowed into  a lonely ditch.

So back to Bennett. Imagine life as a vastly complex bundle of threads where each thread is a series of connected events. Sometimes two threads come into contact and their interacting events spin off a series of new threads. Sometimes they don’t come into contact at all even though it may have seemed likely that they would. Like cars on a busy road.

It is usually impossible to predict if events will touch or not. When they do it seems like chance, misfortune, good luck or the inevitable outcome of favoured forces. The latter occurs when partial hindsight casts its eye over what happened.

To a large extent Bennett was right. New and unforeseen situations dump on us from clear blue skies when we least expect them. Yet politics is based on the unspoken notion that enormously complex events can be predicted by superior people.

Elect me and we’ll put things right.

Strewth. Or even strewth with exclamation marks!! It’s a mind-bogglingly naive message isn’t it? Goes against all we know of them and all we know of complexity yet we waste millions of votes on the lying creeps. We could vote for folk who try to think things through from a position of humility, but on the whole we don't.

So some things are predictable. Voting behaviour for one.

Wednesday 18 February 2015

The enigma of Pilsbury Castle

Illustration of Pilsbury Castle as it may have been.
Taken from the nearby signboard

We were out walking the hills above the Dove valley near Hartington yesterday. Pilsbury Castle lies in the valley, mid way between Hartington and the tiny village of Crowdecote

The castle is an odd place. Stuck in a remote spot at the bottom of the valley, nothing is left but the earthworks because it never had any stonework.

There are some obvious conjectures of course, but nobody seems to know for sure why the castle was built, why it was never rebuilt in stone or why it was built in such an out of the way place overlooked by hills. After all, it is in a valley and it doesn’t take a military genius to see the potential problems.

Wikipedia says:-

Pilsbury Castle occupied an area of high ground approximately 175 by 150 yards (160 by 137 m) overlooking the River Dove, near the village of Pilsbury.

It is high ground, but only relative to the valley floor, not the hills looming over it. See my photo below. The Dove is not navigable either and the valley floor tends to be boggy so how much traffic it controlled is unknown. Possibly none at all.

Pilsbury Castle
In the distance is the conical shape of Chrome Hill

Pilsbury Castle well illustrates how fragmented history can be, how easy it is to add supposition to known facts in pursuit of a coherent story. One might surmise that the Dove was navigable in those days. Or maybe the whole project was a mistake. In some respects it clearly was a mistake because it was never rebuilt in stone even though there was obviously plenty of limestone to hand.

Here’s what the signboard says. Oh by the way - the valley is a beautiful sight from nearby hills under a blue sky.

In front of you is the earthworks of Pilsbury Castle.

It is a motte and bailey castle and never had any stone buildings or walls. The motte or mound was the defensive core of the castle, probably with a wooden watch-tower on top. The two baileys or enclosures (see plan) contained timber buildings such as kitchens, stables, store-rooms and accommodation for the garrison. The baileys are protected by ditches and banks which would have had a wooden palisade on top of them.

There is evidence of a hollow-way (a sunken track) which would have been the access route from the south to an entrance in the southern bailey. Entry to the castle would have been across a bridge and through a gatehouse.

The castle was built partly on a reef limestone knoll which is incorporated into its defences and extends onto a shale promontory overlooking the River Dove. It also overlooks a long rectangular hollow on the low ground north of the castle. This was probably a fishpond for supplying occupants of the castle.

We do not know precisely when the castle was built. It was certainly built after the Norman Conquest of 1066 and may have been after the unsuccessful rebellion in the north against William the Conqueror in 1068-9 as a reminder of the power of the king. Certainly the castle would have controlled the Dove valley, the local population and all traffic along the valley route. The castle may only have continued in use for a few decades into the 12th century.

Sunday 15 February 2015

Postdialectic socialism


I was playing with the Postmodernism Generator earlier. These things have been around for a while, but if you haven't seen it before, it's much like Chomskybot, a nonsense generator which is amusingly close to genuine academic output. Here's an example.

Postdialectic socialism in the works of Tarantino

“Sexual identity is a legal fiction,” says Sontag. In a sense, Derrida uses the term ‘cultural narrative’ to denote the role of the artist as poet.

Baudrillard suggests the use of capitalism to challenge sexism. But the subject is contextualised into a subcapitalist feminism that includes truth as a reality.

Abian implies that we have to choose between capitalism and neoconceptualist libertarianism. Therefore, Sartre uses the term ‘capitalist theory’ to denote the genre, and subsequent paradigm, of precultural narrativity.

The message is obvious and quite unsettling. For example, if we build artificial intelligence which spouts such verbiage, then some poor souls will see it as proof of genuinely superior intelligence instead of a software goof.

Human language has the capacity to slide from common sense to abstruse argument to nonsense with not a single dividing line to tell us which is which. Many thrive on it.

Saturday 14 February 2015

Matlock cable car stunt

When science is politics

“The prospect of domination of the nation’s scholars by Federal employment, project allocations, and the power of money is ever present – and is gravely to be regarded.” President Dwight D. Eisenhower - farewell address, 1961.

The majority of scientists are well-intentioned middle class folk who would love to do good science because that’s what they thought they were signing up for while jumping through all those qualification hoops.

Unfortunately there is a problem when those scientists come into contact with government money as I and no doubt thousands of others have found during our careers. Over the years I gradually became embalmed in the government way, signed witness statements and went to court on its behalf. On my behalf too because it paid the mortgage.

Professionally it isn’t particularly fulfilling, but as a friend and former colleague recently agreed, the weaknesses and inadequacies are not so easily seen from the inside. Those on the inside are enfolded by the system, by its security and endless exigencies.

The problem is not unconnected with post-normal science.

Post-Normal Science is a concept developed by Silvio Funtowicz and Jerome Ravetz, attempting to characterise a methodology of inquiry that is appropriate for cases where "facts are uncertain, values in dispute, stakes high and decisions urgent" (Funtowicz and Ravetz, 1991). It is primarily applied in the context of long-term issues where there is less available information than is desired by stakeholders.

Traditional scientists don't like the idea but post-normal science is real, especially in complex areas where political decisions are made and pressure groups are prominent. The so-called precautionary principle is part of the same problem.

In government science -

Politics and the legal and regulatory framework come joint first. The bureaucracy, finance, PR, health and safety, IT systems, diversity and fashionable fads all fight it out for third place.

Science trails in about tenth.

Science has social status, but in the political world that is merely something to be used. An angle. The time will come when science loses its social status, but at the moment it has some value as a means to political ends.

It is naive to build castles in the air based on a notion of science as a detached and incorruptible knowledge culture. Government science doesn’t come close to the ideal. It is not detached from anything – it is a government job embedded in government security and government exigencies.

We may as well get used to it.

Friday 13 February 2015

Rusty nails

Aunt Phasie, who since the morning had not taken her eyes from the pot where the soupe-aux-choux was simmering, accepted a plateful. But her husband having risen to give her the iron-water forgotten by Flore, a decanter in which a few nails were rusting, she did not touch it.

Émile Zola - La Bête Humaine (1890)

Did people really put a few nails in a decanter of water and drink it as some kind of tonic to ward off anaemia? 

Maybe some still do. Maybe it works. Maybe I'll stick to red wine.

Thursday 12 February 2015

Now wails the Banshee

I am in the blues, boy, unfathomable. All is wrong: that I am old and full of wear, that Life, the sorceress, is wearying of me; soon she will play the jilt. And here I sit, cudgelling my jaded brains for to evade the one event. But even the Count is mortal, and his palace of youth evanished in a golden mist of memories. Now the worms’ banqueting hour is at hand, now wails the Banshee.

Walter de la Mare - The Moon's Miracle (1897)

What a gift eh? To draw the reader's mood out of a comfortable chair into the subtle shadows of mortality and uneasy ennui. Passages such as this lead me to stop reading, to stare into the fire and listen to the tick of the clock for a while.


North Korean electorate

The Guardian reports on a new list of 310 North Korean slogans. I'm not sure how well Google translates some of them.

Law enforcement officials are scary tiger impure hostile to those who are the people loyal and true, Be a hasher!

Unpack the new scheme and the ever-stiffening!

All out attack to accelerate the shed(*) before the final victory of the revolutionary spirit of the Baekdu after party!

The revolution and the whole community of Kim Il Sung - Kim attention let's mad!

Great Kim Jong-un comrades let shooter that is accompanied by the Central Committee of the party to life!

Get out per cable and policy firmly grasping a stick to play with arranging business party!

* Presumably a new type of North Korean tank.

It's all a little obscure, but maybe the last one has something to do with the Lib Dems.

Wednesday 11 February 2015

The Byzantine Omelette

Who is Sophie? what is she...

Sophie had very advanced and decided views as to the distribution of money: it was a pleasing and fortunate circumstance that she also had the money. 

When she inveighed eloquently against the evils of capitalism at drawing-room meetings and Fabian conferences she was conscious of a comfortable feeling that the system, with all its inequalities and iniquities, would probably last her time. It is one of the consolations of middle-aged reformers that the good they inculcate must live after them if it is to live at all.
H.H. Munro (Saki) - The Byzantine Omelette

Tuesday 10 February 2015

The disillusioned foetus

A society which thrives on spinning illusions is bound to spin off lots of disillusion too. One would expect an illusion-addicted world to generate copious amounts of disillusion as a kind of waste product. Spin sewage perhaps.

This particular waste product is generated whenever an illusion goes crashing into reality. The impact spews out a fragmented mass of disillusion seeds which fall to a ground already well fertilized with bullshit.

Oh dear - for any gardener the outcome is all too obvious. Those little seeds of disillusion settle on the ground and take root. Like green shoots after a forest fire they soon begin to grow like crazy. True to form, the spinners of illusion merely respond by piling on more and more of that nourishing bullshit.

So perhaps our much-aired problem of declining political engagement should be painted on a larger canvas. Maybe it is all bound up with a general increase in disillusion, linked not so much to politics per se as our addiction to illusions plus their crash and burn habit whenever reality gets in the way. As it so often does.

A complete absence of political quality must be an issue too. Bombastic serial liars must be another, but these problems merely bring forward that inevitable crash and burn when reality rears its inconvenient head.

Addiction to political spin is the key problem. It creates expectations which are far too high for the meagre abilities of its sponsors. Crash and burn goes with the territory.

One might expect older people to be disillusioned as a matter of course, but as the illusions multiply they are recycled into disillusion at a greater and greater rate and the bullshit fertiliser is piled on faster and faster. So the disillusioned become younger and younger... and younger.

The age of the disillusioned foetus is nigh.

Sunday 8 February 2015

Spooky tech

I wonder why they make these humanoid gadgets? Maybe it is mainly intended to promote Toshiba tech, but I don't think it works particularly well. Too weird, too spooky and not as impressive as the technology probably warrants.

Saturday 7 February 2015

Testing Artificial Teeth

Testing Artificial Teeth - William Heath Robinson

My wife and I visited Derby museum the other day. The Derby china collection was first on the list because we know one of the chaps who reclassified it last year. A fine collection but little in the way of interest somehow.

No great attempt has been made to fit the exhibits into a social and commercial setting, particularly with respect to the industrial revolution and the middle class passion for the status conferred by fine china.

The Derby china is very pretty, but I think the gilding is all superficial ; and the finer pieces are so dear, that perhaps silver vessels of the same capacity may be sometimes bought at the same price
Samuel Johnson - letter to Mrs Thrale 1777

After the china it was on to the Joseph Wright exhibition which L finds a little spooky, partly because of the size of the paintings - many are virtually life size. She says the effect is like being surrounded by long dead people from another and now somewhat mysterious age. After a while I begin to know what she means.

The Heath Robinson exhibition was entertaining though. A fine reminder of his delightfully inventive humour. Worth a visit if you are in the area. Another more sombre reminder lurks behind the exhibition though, because we’ll never see Heath-Robinson and his world again.

After Heath Robinson it was on to the ancient bits and pieces from Derby’s long history, from Roman and medieval pots to flint arrow heads. While browsing the exhibits we were both struck with the same idea: wouldn’t it have been wonderful to have made a career finding and studying these ancient relics? If only we’d followed another direction.

Or maybe not. As habitual cynics we know the grass among the artifacts may not be as green as it seems to the casual museum visitor. To pinch a phrase from Saki, we are too familiar with the long reach of elaborate futilities. Heath Robinson without the humour

Thursday 5 February 2015

Free speech

I see free speech bounced around the news not so long ago. Didn’t last long as a hot topic though did it? Important people and major sections of society, don’t believe in it, but did they ever? It's often ridicule they don't like.

Pope Francis has defended freedom of expression following last week's attack on French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo - but also stressed its limits.

The pontiff said religions had to be treated with respect, so that people's faiths were not insulted or ridiculed


Free speech is an ideal, not something attainable, something we implement by passing enlightened laws. Enlightened laws eh? There’s a phrase to conjure with...

...ah well. Moving on.

We use free speech as a yardstick, a standard by which we finger those who try to suppress it either directly or with too many furtive caveats. It is one of the few issues where absolute freedom is the only possible ideal even though we know we can’t achieve it. Otherwise we lose too much to those who believe we should be prevented from saying what we think. As has already happened in the UK.

However, an important issue is that there is no such thing as genuinely free speech anyway. What we write and say is contingent on our past history, our habits and allegiances. We can’t escape into some imaginary fairyland of complete freedom.

These social restrictions are probably enough to regulate what we say and write with little or no interference from the state. We already use the web to distinguish sources we trust from those we don’t and in our ideal world that would be enough because information is power while dud information isn’t.

Yet this is politically too naive because powerful people, institutions and businesses with something to lose can’t afford to let go to that extent. They can’t afford free speech because their flaky reputations rest on it.

So suppose we add one caveat to the ideal. Suppose any damaging reference to a living person may be challenged within the same medium using the same number of words.

If I say “Nick Clegg is a shit”, he has the right to challenge that statement in this blog using five words. 

Nick Clegg is no shit. There I’ve done it. You decide.

However I’ve no idea how this might work or if it is sufficient because these issues tend to dissolve into a miasma of real and invented anecdotal arguments.

Yet somehow we have to retain our grasp on the free speech ideal and we’ll only achieve that via a certain robustness which currently seems to be lacking. Yes there is collateral damage to free speech, but I think it’s a price worth paying.

We could begin by scrapping the right to be offended.

Wednesday 4 February 2015

Newspeak lives


I see shadow Ingsoc education secretary Tristam Hunt wishes to introduce children to Newspeak. It seems a little early as they are bound to find out soon enough, but maybe the guy is progressive. If he gets his way then no doubt the kiddies will learn about totalitarian government too.

Children should be kicked out of school if they call each other “gay” in the playground, Labour says, as it is “damaging the life chances” of Britain's youth.

The shadow education secretary Tristram Hunt announced that Labour would enforce “zero tolerance” of homophobic bullying in “every classroom, dinner hall and playground”.

So much meat on this bone it isn't easy to know where to start. I think I'll begin with George Orwell's 1984 - it's usually a good place to start. Presumably Mr Hunt read the book once upon a time, but maybe some of the nuances of Newspeak escaped his attention.

Orwell had it about right. The point about Newspeak isn't so much the language itself but the fact that it automatically creates a domain of unsafe language - and therefore unsafe thinking. Use it and you are comparatively safe from the thought police. Stray beyond it and you are not.

Not only that, but there is a continually updated Newspeak dictionary too. Don't have the latest version? Oh dear, it's off to room 101 with you.

So the word 'gay' now seems to mean whatever the thought police want it to mean. What it means to a child in the playground is anyone's guess, but that's not the point. Safe and unsafe language is the point.

Have a gay day.

Tuesday 3 February 2015

Unemployed to sign on twice as often


From the Independent

All unemployed people might have to “sign on” at the Jobcentre twice as often if they want to continue receiving benefits, under cost-cutting plans being considered by the Government.

Monday 2 February 2015


This is a photo of Coniston Water taken from a lakeside position below Brantwood, formerly John Ruskin's house. 

As you see, there is nothing much to it apart from some water and a jetty with hills in the distance. Yet somehow the light on the water made it worth a photo. If I'd turned my camera away from the light, the water would have been a dark mass, cold and uninteresting. 

Yet what does one say about a common enough sight? And if we do say something, do the words mould the picture or does the picture mould the words? Both presumably, but for me there is also a stillness which needs no words. Too easy to say too much. 

One of those contemplative scenes, easy to gaze on while thinking of nothing in particular.

Sunday 1 February 2015

Ikea madness

We were travelling through Eastwood today. Not a pretty place, no wonder D H Lawrence was grumpy about ugliness. On the way home we happened to pass a large IKEA shed next to the A610 with a number of other unmemorable sheds on the same site. The picture gives some idea of its retail beauties.

As you may know, IKEA is a large purveyor of cheap tat with strange Scandinavian names such as KRAPSTÜHL which might be an item of bathroom furniture - or not. We’ve visited the place once or twice, when cheap tat was on the shopping list, but the attractions are pretty minimal.

Yet the vast car park seemed full to bursting, with cars queuing from all the way from the A610, Not only that, but when we arrived at the traffic island we found it choked with IKEA-bound traffic too, including the slip road

We weaved our way through the madness and sped off home with a sigh of relief. Wherever one goes these days there is sure to be lunacy around the next corner.