Sunday, November 15, 2015

The Pleasures of the Market

[Not another heavy piece about economics is it? It's years since you studied it, you know: Ed]
Actually, no. This is about a real market, the craft and foodie market that graces beautiful Ruislip once a month, held in the medieval surroundings of the Great Barn. Today will be one of the main events of the year with only one more fair before Xmas. It was held yesterday as well but the rain and murk kept us away. Sadly, the awful weather blighted another key event of the local calendar, the switching on of the Xmas lights as part of Ruislip Manor Fun Day (but given that this event was relegated to a rather tawdry set of stalls in a car park, compared to taking up the whole of the shopping area of Victoria Road in recent years, it was a bit of a damp squib anyway). Today the skies have cleared, the airs are mild and the breezes light so we will make the effort.

Despite the enormous range of goods in supermarkets, there are always things at the craft market that are different. A lot of stuff is made locally, by the people who turn up every month to sell it. If you want to know what's in the jar, you have only to ask. There's specialist olive oils, buffalo meat, real Arbroath smokies, fresh cakes, whole ciabattas and sourdoughs, tasty and well-filled meat pies, cheeses from nearby farms, any amount of chutneys and sauces and plenty besides [Enough, it's a long time till lunch: Ed]. 

We don't buy a huge amount but it's always nice to mill around, inhale the aromas from the paella stalls and hog roasts and nibble the odd freebie. There is no road traffic to disrupt the free flow of people and no music blaring at us. There are almost no branded goods on display. The greetings cards, the knitware, the pottery and the candles are all made by the stallholders. Ruislip ceased to be a village a century ago but on market days - and in some sense on Rembrance Sunday - it reverts to feeling a bit like one.

Tuesday, November 03, 2015

Before the Big One

This Saturday the football team for whom I hold a season ticket [Is this grammatically correct? Ed] will play a team three leagues above them in the first proper round (or first round proper as it is sometimes quaintly known) of the FA Cup. In other words Wealdstone of the National League South will host Colchester United from League One. There is therefore a huge sense of anticipation around these parts. Colchester should be the massive favourites and consequently are on a hiding to nothing - a win is no achievement but should they lose then there will be rejoicing and amazement indeed in West London and the inevitable dubbing of the winners as the 'Giant-killers'.

The game may be diabolical. Who knows? Based on our normal form we will have several players booked, concede one or more penalties and waste innumerable chances to shoot in the general direction of their goal (never mind shoot on target). I wouldn't be surprised if one of our players, or even the manager, gets sent off. It's happened before. We have form.

But then again Colchester may freeze, daunted by playing at an unfamiliar pace and style, and perhaps by whatever we can slip into their pre-match tea.

However it is the delicious expectations that make this fascinating.  As it stands right now we could go into the second round. The BBC are filming highlights and before the match are actually hosting the main preview show, Football Focus, from our ground. What on earth will they do if we survive?

It is amazing to note that in 1949 we also met Colchester in the first round of the Cup and it was only the second live match ever televised in this country. And we won. Can history repeat? Will Scott Davies repeat his much talked about wonder goal, scored in the third qualifying round against Brockenhurst? Will the Wealdstone Raider lead us in the mass chants of "Yerve got nah fans, Yerve got nah grouaaand"? Or will we trail sadly away at 4:45, musing on what might have been?

[A match report may be posted here, depending on the result: Ed]

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Just don't drop him, ok?

The BBC news site has informed me of this important development

and I am sympathetic. Young children are held over fonts whilst being Christened, young men are held over toilets by their mates after drinking too much and sometimes festive events are held over until a more suitable time. But they do things differently, and perhaps a little more violently, in the Indian Ocean.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

So sue me

It may be a hoax, of course. It reads like a spoof headline in an online journal of spoofery such as the Onion. But let us assume that it is real, that a well known national newspaper has recorded what has really occurred in a courtroom in New York.

New York woman sues 12-year-old nephew over hug that broke her wrist
The article explains that the lady, who is taking a child (her own nephew, no less) to court to claim that he used excessive force when hugging her, justifies her actions thus:
“I was at a party recently, and it was difficult to hold my hors d’oeuvre plate,” she reportedly said. 
It is notoriously difficult to hold hors d'oeuvre plates at the best of times (and bloody hard work spelling them as well, thanks cut-and-paste) as many an errant stain on my best party-going trousers can testify, never mind when you've got a glass of lukewarm white wine in the other hand and are trying to cut up a gherkin with a plastic knife whilst weaving around a crowd encircling the waitress with the canapes and avoiding the bloke with the story about the car that just wouldn't start, and his wife with the funny eye, but I digress.

Now this lady [The lady in the news story, not the one with the funny eye: Ed] may be clinically insane or she may be advised by a clinically insane lawyer. The judge hearing the case, who has failed to jail (or is that gaol?) them both for contempt of court and bringing the American justice system into disrepute, may also be barking mad. But again, let us not be hasty. Let us assume all parties in this affair have most of their marbles and are cogniscent, in a legally binding way, of the consequences of their actions.  In which case we must surely contemplate the following drama.

Scene: A New York courtroom. (As I don't know that much about USA legal procedures you must allow a little latitude, alright?)

Clerk: All rise for his honour Mr Justice D. Crockett.
Judge: Now then, I believe we are hearing Pumpernickel vs Pumpernickel, are we not?
Clerk: We are your honour.
Judge: Who is representing the plaintiff?
Hamilton Burger: I, your honour.
Judge: Proceed Mr. Burger.
Burger: Your honour, I intend to show the court that the defendant, Wilhemina Brooklyn Pumpernickel, did wilfully and with malice aforethought dribble on the back of the neck of my client, her mother Chelsea Pumpernickel causing her enormous distress and a cleaning bill of $2.95 plus tip. Damages of at least $2 million are sought.
Judge: Is the defendant represented here?
Perry Mason: Your honour I speak for the defendant, who in any case is not able to speak for herself.
Judge: Why not?
Mason: She is only 11 months old. On those grounds I request this case be struck out.
Judge: Humph. Connell vs Connell has shown that age is no impediment to bringing a lawsuit. Or indeed stupidity. Or naked greed. Proceed, Mr. Burger.
Burger: Your honour, when on that tragic Thursday morning Mrs. Pumpernickel went to pick up her daughter, little did she know the full extent of the tragic events that were to occur.
Mason: Objection. Counsel is lapsing into cheap tabloid journalese.
Judge: Sustained. A little less prolix, Counsel, if you please.
Burger: As the court wishes. My client picked up her daughter and she dribbled on her.
Mason: Objection. Nobody has corroborated this statement and it must be struck out as being hearsay.
Judge: Overruled. I believe there is a suprise witness.
Clerk: Call Cyrus Chandler Pumpernickel.
Voice at back: Call Cyrus Chandler Pumpernickel.
Fainter voice at back, behind the first voice: Call Cyrus Chandler Pumpernickel.
Very faint voice in distance: Call Cyrus Chandler Pumpernickel.
Clerk: Take the book in your right hand and read the oath.
Pumpernickel: Which one is my right?
Clerk: That one.
Judge: Erm, how old is this witness?
Pumpernickel: Nearly free. I'm nearly free and when I am free I shall have a big party with jelly and cake and everyone has to give me presents because I'll be really free, I will.
Mason: Objection. Witness is making predictions not reporting what happened.
Judge: Sustained. Please control your witness Mr Burger
Burger: I'll try but he's an awkward little sod... I mean, yes your honour. Now then, young man, tell the court what you saw.
Pumpernickel: Can't remember.
Burger: whispers What I told you to say when we were outside.
Pumpernickel: Oh yes, she dribbed on Mum.
Burger: No further questions.
Judge: Mr. Mason.
Mason: Thank you.When did this dribble happen?
Pumpernickel: Don't know.
Mason: No further questions.
Judge: Witness may stand down. Go on, shoo. Would counsel like to sum up?
Mason: I have a surprise witness, your honour
Judge: It's very irregular but then you always do this so go ahead.
Mason: I call Monica Rockefeller.
Clerk: Call Monica Rockefeller. (etc etc)
Judge: And who is this person?
Mason: Tell the court what do you do, Miss Rockefeller.
Rockefeller; I work in the dry cleaners in Hackensack. Mrs Pumpernickel always took her clothes to us.
Mason: Do you recognise this blouse?
Rockefeller: Yes, it was the one she said her daughter had dribbled on.
Mason: And what was on the blouse?
Rockefeller: A solution of soap, gelatine and custard powder mixed up and dried to make it look like a child had dribbled.
Sensation in court
Burger: Your honour, this is....I'm fed up, he always does this, I never win anything, I resign.
Judge: Case dismissed. Plaintiff to serve sixty days for wasting my time. See you boys down at the club later.
Clerk: All rise.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

VW's apology

I don't get this. I've already referred to the diesel emissions scandal engulfing one of the world's largest carmakers. You'd think they would be dimly aware of what they have done. But no. In a full page ad on the back of my daily paper (and no doubt in yours as well) VW proclaim how they sorry they are - to their customers. Yes, they're going to put it right to the people who have have been driving their poisonous contraptions, pumping out noxious gases in flagrant breach of regulations. But to the rest of us who have had to breathe them in? Those of us merely driving behind a VW van or walking in the street as a VW car chugs past? Oh no, we don't count, only the poor saps who fell for their advertising get a quick "Sorry mate, we'll make it up to you, honest, don't tell anyone else, all right?".

Not too long ago VW were running ads in which people buying other brands of car were reassured by slick salesmen that their chosen model was almost as good as a VW. Surprise, they don't seem to be on tele at the moment. What next? A couple looking at a car belching out thick oily smoke while the salesman says, proudly, "You know, it nearly emits as much nitrogen oxides and particulates as a Volkwagen"?

Tuesday, October 06, 2015

Tinker, Tailor, Rambler, Spy.

The BBC's Panorama programme broadcast an interview with Edward Snowden last night. Snowden, who revealed how agencies such as NSA and GCHQ were using modern technology to obtain data from electronic communications and devices, provided this fascinating nugget
Mr Snowden said GCHQ could gain access to a handset by sending it an encrypted text message and use it for such things as taking pictures and listening in.
I wonder what's in my file? There's bound to be one, I've said some pretty subversive things about London Transport in my time.  I think I have some idea

Secret File 26RRdd222. Subject: Ramblings (Ruislip, of) (Commuter, Ruislip, of)

28 March. Attempted to photograph subject. Turned on camera but nothing visible.
29 March. Tried again. Still nothing. Are sophisticated anti-hacking measures in place?
30 March.  Agent Snetterton suggested the phone might be inside a cover. Hadn't thought of that. Tried later and obtained short video of subject looking bemused whilst apparently typing on a keyboard. Sending secret message to foreign power?
31 March. Rear-facing camera shows unchanging view of a wall inside a house. Why has he left his phone propped up? Mystery. Sent pictures to Photographic Analysis, marked 'Urgent'.
1 April. Monitored phone call from unknown caller (number withheld). Transcript follows
...Caller    "Thousands of people are claiming PPI refunds...". The call was cut off by subject. Forwarded transcript to Decrypt Division for analysis. Front-facing camera showed subject looking exasperated. Clearly message is unwelcome. Sinister forces at work? Increased surveillance recommended.
2 April. Neither camera shows anything. Is he on to us? Agent Snetterton suggested phone might be inside a jacket pocket. Hadn't thought of that.
3 April. Subject calls wife to say he will meet her at the station. Camera confirms he is at the station. But is he really there? What does this mean? Is she part of the conspiracy? Recommend increased surveillance. Photo of station sent to Photographic Analysis, marked  'Very Urgent, kindly identify location'.
4 April. Monitored phone call from unknown caller (number withheld). Transcript follows.
...Caller  "Barclays, Lloyds, NatWest and HSBC have paid out millions...". The call was cut off by subject, who was seen to be visibly tut-tutting and shaking head. Recommend increased surveillance of the afore-mentioned persons.
5 April. Decrypt Division unable to decode transcript (see 1 April). Must be new and highly secret code. Need more resources. Must work harder.
6 April. Subject makes phone call to wife. Transcript follows
...subject; "Hello, where are you?"
...wife "I can't hear you"
...subject "Sorry, bad line, I'll call back".
Front facing camera shows close up of subject's ear and chin. Rear facing camera shows interior of house. But which house? Agent Snetterton suggests it may be subject's own house. Hadn't thought of that. Sent transcript to Decrypt Division and pictures to Photographic Analysis, marked 'Extremely urgent, where the hell is this?'
7 April. Decrypt Division unable to decode transcripts of calls. Photographic Analysis Division refuse to process any more pictures of subject's chin or interior of house. Agent Snetterton refuses to speak to me in canteen. File closed.

Friday, October 02, 2015

Fixing a hole

Everything's connected. A giant hole appears in a street in St. Albans. Carmaker VW is forced to recall thousands of new vehicles fitted with software designed to permit far higher emissions of noxious gases than is legal. Now they've got somewhere to put them.