Monday, 31 December 2012


Gosh, I'm tired. I've just spent the last couple of hours wading through a pile of paperwork, and I'm not impressed at having to red-line foggy and obtuse use of statistics to promote a cause.

That 'one in five' or 'one in three' may have been disadvantaged by whatever, looks good in tabloid headlines but it's factual rubbish.

How? In the first instance 80% of those who respond to the survey who expressed an opinion didn't feel that   they were disadvantaged, and in the in the second instance 66%. Both ignore the percentage of those who said "don't bother me" or "I don't care" or "the butler did it"

Just look at the contrast. It isn't that I don't care about about the other 20% or 33% . It's just that if peeps are going to use stats or percentages, just find another way of expressing it. The honest way is just to state the number of people, and why they're in the lower percentage?

It's all a matter of focus.

Meanwhile, I'm going to continue to red line and write in the margin "If it's the lower percentage cause you support, find another way to emphasise it and send it back".

Edit. 2nd January 2013

......and just to prove my point, the tabloids - The Daily Mail in particular - try to play the percentage game. Effectively, their saying that those on benefits have had an average increase of 20% in their income over the last five years while workers have only seen an increase of 14%.

The implication is that benefit claimants are getting a better deal that those who work.

However, let me put that in context, without blowing my top about the stupid use of 'means' and averages. It means that in practise, those who have had an increase in pay over the last 5 years have seen their pay increase by about £49 a week.

Those who have been on benefits for 5 years would have seen their income increase by £12.

But as always the real picture is much different. If someone has been using state benefits for five years they are severely disabled. I talk to a lot of people who use benefits, and if they are claiming (un)employment benefits, if they don't follow job centre rules, they get their benefits stopped. No if's. No buts. End of. So they aren't included in any stats.

For those in work, if they are on a low income they get their income topped up by various benefits, such as housing benefit. Then there are those who change jobs, who work in temporary work, and those who have been subject to caps on wage increase. So there's a cross over.

Forgive me for not posting referrals and links. I'd be writing this for months otherwise. 

Saturday, 22 December 2012

Lemon curd

I Just went for, what's known on twitter as a #deathwalk with Bear to a the local mini Co-op.

It was raining and actually quite nice, though a little cold. Lovely to see a tree on the roundabout, and through peoples windows are lots and lots of Christmas lights. It took us a long time, but it was nice.

We're on the side of a hill, and we can see way across a valley for miles, and predominantly the homes we can see have chosen blue Christmas lights. Pretty.

I've used this recipe for years. The thing is to play with it. Take a little out, and add something that makes it distinctive for you.

Lemon Curd

Makes three 1 lb jars


 Grated zest and juice 4 large juicy lemons
 4 large eggs
 12 oz (350 g) golden caster sugar
 8 oz (225 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into small lumps
 1 level teaspoon of flour

Begin by lightly whisking the eggs in a medium-sized saucepan, then add the rest of the ingredients and place the saucepan over a medium heat. Whisk continuously using a balloon whisk until the mixture thickens – about 7-8 minutes.

Lower the heat to low, and let it simmer for a  minute, continuing to whisk. After that, remove it from the heat. Now pour the lemon curd into the hot, sterilised jars, filling them as full as possible, cover straight away seal while it is still hot and label when it is cold. It will keep for several weeks, but it must be stored in a cool place.


This year, I'm breaking a bit with family tradition by having a bake-a-thon on Christmas eve, since my lot are going to be in and out like a yo-yo on Christmas day.

Of course I've been doing my (un)usual Jams, pickles and chutneys. But in a much reduced quantity. I don't eat jam myself. Oddly, it isn't the T2 diabetes that's the problem. It's me. I just don't like it. I like my home made sweet chilli sauce, chutney and lemon curd.

I love cooking it though, if only for the skills I've picked up learning how to make it. I wondered where The Bear seemed to be getting a seemingly inexhaustible supply of a rather nice Piccalilli from, and was surprised to discover it was a batch I'd made two years ago from a 18th Century recipe. Two years?!

"Meh" she explained. "I'm not dead yet, am I, and besides, they had to make them to last then didn't they?"

Good point. "Besides" she said "You'd be surprised how long that supermarket stuff is stored to mature before it goes on sale". I'll let you Goggle that :)

I won't pretend that making your own version of classic jams and curds is cost effective. It isn't. Taking lemon curd as an example, it's easy, but by the time you've finished buying the sugar, eggs, lemons/lemon juice and butter, it's about three times the cost.

By contrast, any veg can be pickled. It isn't just veg and vinegar. it's the blanching, the vinegars, herbs and spices used and how long you want them to last, the arrangement,  presentation and colours.

However, it is very enjoyable to make, has a taste uniquely yours, and when someone asks "Mmm, that's nice? Where did you get it?"  you can say with pride - I made that! Another skill to add to your cooking CV.


A couple of health warnings should you have guests that are on anticoagulants.Go easy on the sprouts and green veg. Green veg is high in vitamin K, which is a coagulant. That is, in people whose blood has a tendency to clot, for instance they've had heart or stroke problems, it's dangerous because it counteracts the medication.

Grapefruit, Pineapple and Seville orange marmalade can, amongst other things, either inhibit the absorbance of many medications including statins, or worse,  make slow absorbing statins (most of them) release in one go, effectively an overdose.


I've got to go and do my infamous sweet chilly sauce (needs to rest for a couple of days) I'll pop up some quick and easy recipes laters, and I may even put some piccys up. Catchya!

Sunday, 16 December 2012

Ice Ice....

My son reports the recent freezing weather led to an 'interesting accident' at the end of his road.

It'd been -6 C the other night, which led to ice-rink roads and freezing rain. Freezing rain is where water rises and falls within clouds, forming hail stones. Eventually, they become heavy and fall as hail. However, if they pass through a warm layer of air on the way down, they melt, and begin to cool as they fall further.

Often they become super cooled. That is, they remain liquid, but cool below freezing point. That's where they come a problem. Falling on an already frozen surface, in this case -6 C, they instantly turn to super-cooled ice.

Super cooled ice doesn't respond to salt or gritting. Makes things worse, because below -2 C the salt and grit form a layer of slippery material on top of roads and pavements already covered in a slick, glossy layer of ice as hard as steel.

Thar y'go! :)

So. A car slid into a tree at the end of my lads road. A Fire Engine from a station a couple of hundred yards/a minute away slid on the ice, hit the car already embedded in the tree and turned it into an accordion.

An emergency response medical vehicle arrived quickly afterwards, and while sliding on the ice, managed to avoid hitting the car and the fire engine, but hit a lamp post. Two other cars swerved to avoid the paramedics, went waltzing across the road, hit each other and a wall.

The lamp post was left at a precarious angle, but the tree had to be felled.

No injuries reported, but blimey, try explaining that to your insurance company.

Saturday, 8 December 2012

Kitty and sharing

Running battle with the kitten and the Christmas tree.

Didn't get much sleep last night with all the crashing and banging and having to get up to disentangle kitten from tree and decorations. I deeply regret being a skinflint (as always) and not investing in a real, spiky tree rather than the rather aged artificial silver tree we've had for years.

(picture later)

With a real tree, it would have taken up much more room, but it wouldn't have come crashing down, and the kitty could stop up there. I could even had joined. it. I wonder if there's still time?


My mob are very protective. So it was no surprise when someone suggested that since I have quite a good webcam, it was a pity they couldn't log on to their laptops or phones and check I was ok.

I have no problems with that. It's not like I'm going to get up up to anything. Besides, if I did, I should imagine it would be rather entertaining? It occurred to me that it would be a cool way to keep an eye on the house if I was out.  So I looked for a way to set up a simple web page with a video feed.

I came across a free program called Yawcam for windows. Yawcam has lots of facilities, one of which is a simple editable webpage template with a video feed to that webpage, and will even, if you need, email alerts with pictures if motion is detected in a home that's supposed to be empty.

I can also kick, ban or otherwise get rid of anyone who tries to take a peek I don't want to. The page can also be password protected :)

I won't go into all it can do, for that, you should read the help on it's page. It doesn't do audio, but it's regularly updated.

Programs like Yawcam need their webpage to be published to what's called a fixed ip address. Most home internet accounts have an ip address that varies from time to time. I used a free site called No-Ip (that has extra, paid for features available) that offers a fixed ip associated with a name, for example,

I pointed Yawcam at that and bingo. A simple little web page with a video feed that can watched in a web browser (Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer) on any computer or on a modern phone. I use an App for Android called 'IP Cam Viewer Lite'.

The problem was that I have the one webcam, and I'm logged into Skype too.

I came across a little program called Manycam. Manycam has it's problems on my system - the only one that gives some nasty audio feedback, but since Yawcam doesn't do audio, that's fine.

Manycam allows you to share the output of one camera to different places. Again, its free to use, with many more options in a paid for version. Free was fine for me. In a nutshell, in the setup you set Manycam to the name your system provides for your camera. In the other programs, in my case Yawcam and Skype, I set the camera as Manycam Virtual webcam. The video feed is shared.

Friday, 7 December 2012

Daft Dog

What a roller coaster of a couple of days.

First, my nieces fella took his beloved Husky/Alsatian cross to visit a mate in a strange area, took her for a walk there and she 'spooked' and ran off.  They've been together for years, and they're inseparable.  Despite her wolf like appearance, she's an old girl and very timid.

After hours of searching she couldn't be found, so in tears and dispirited they came back across the city to see us where they made a lot of phone calls, and again the following morning after a night of minus 3 C temperatures.

A few hours later there was lots of joy when a kennels phoned to say a couple of their worried staff took it upon themselves to call her around a park a mile and a half from where she ran off, and she came running to them. They theorise she ran until she could run no more, smelled water in a pond in the park, and headed there. She'd been there all night.

She has sore paws, very subdued and has spent the last 12 hours fitfully sleeping, but she's otherwise ok.

By the way, they charged £40 to release her. That might sound a bit steep for a few hours, but they gave her a full medical, fed her and 'chipped' her. In contrast, Council dog wardens charge £100 per day, any extras chargeable.


Managed to have another 'hello floor' moment. Visiting a local shop with Bear, some inconsiderate had parked their car across the steps across a steep grass verge. Naturally, if had been raining, so when I walked  - I swear, carefully - down the verge, slipped sideways, hitting the floor side on and pulling Bear on top of me.

Just a humdinger of a bruise on my arm and my leg, the one on my leg being from my wallet in my pocket. Go figure. Bear says I should have 'uffin chuffin' landed on something soft. Like me 'ead. Bear's ok. She landed on something soft. Me.

Golly, she sounds like her Dad sometimes......


Sunday, 2 December 2012

My Lad

Some good news. My lad begins his temporary new job tomorrow at - not sure whether its Parcel Force or Royal Mail. Anyways, it's working indoors at a sorting office, and starts at 3 pm.

I'm really impressed with him. Unlike some people I know, he's taking any work he can get, and he's willing to work unsociable hours. There's a possibility he may be taken on permanently.

Meanwhile, he's a Minecraft software coder (unpaid) and he's been noticed by the Dutch company that produces it. They've asked him to do a few tasks, and they seem pleased with his work.

A neighbour who works in public service managed to get his CV on her managers desk, and he's been short listed for interview, and a web developer company has noticed his coding technique and indicated they may want him to do some work for them.

For all the reports in newspapers about the 'won't work' (and I come across at lot of those) it's cool that he's getting out there doing  his thing and getting noticed.

I'm  well proud of him. That's my lad, that is :)

If you want to follow him on twitter, he's @Cloudhunter.

Saturday, 1 December 2012

Food Parcels

I've been out of the house six times this year. I know that doesn't sound much, but it is for me.

Out of those six times, Once I went out alone, and was grabbed and carried by laughing local hoodies (or teens, as we call them around here). That was good fun, but earned me a severe ear-bending from the family. Of the other five, I was accompanied by the Bear, and managed to fall down three times out of the five, the last time the day-before-yesterday.

I am so pleased. Sure, it was annoying, and yup, I got my ear bent by a Bear who yelled at me as though I was a three year old who'd run into traffic. Wives do that. No serious damage, just annoying dinner plate sized bruises that are more a result of 'blood thinners' I'm on.

My lot would prefer me not to go out at all. But that's no way to live is it? I'm not sure that's even living.

If you know someone who finds things a bit difficult because bits don't work well, it's wonderful that people care and worry, but it's worth stopping and thinking how you would feel if you were in their position.


I've referred a lot of people to food banks the last couple of weeks. Bear and I used to do it with the odd three or four a week ourselves, before it became too much. As I'm typing, I'm watching on the BBC news how one food bank here in the UK has had an increase of up to 1000 people a week who are are in food poverty.

Most supermarkets have a 'bin' where you can buy a few cans or non perishable items extra and drop them in, or tokens you can pop in for your preferred charity I'm told.

It's not easy to get food bank food here in the uk. They are interviewed either personally or by phone, and they don't make any judgement that anyone uses a mobile ;) Either way, you don't have to be on benefits. You have to explain why you need help. 

For the record, we've not used a food bank ourselves.

They get three days worth


So what would you get in the UK?

Tinned food. 3 tins of tinned meat and /or fish

Tinned Veg, 2 Tinned soup - various.

Tinned fruit, such as pear, peaches.

Fruit juices

Tomatoes, tinned

Rice pudding

Instant mashed potato

A box of breakfast cereal .

UHT Milk.

Rice, Noodles, pasta, tinned potatoes.

Tea bags, sugar, coffee.

Jam, Marmalade, Marg.

Loo rolls, washing up liquid.