Well emerging from a long silence, here I am again. I don’t actually know how many readers I have, or (since it’s been a while) how many have fallen off their perches so I’ll be hopeful and pass on my apologies to both of you. The more obvious activities have been centred around the house as I’ve been keeping to the regulations and generally trying to not spread any disease. Incidentally, and I'll mention it here for want of a better place, does anyone know who this is? >>> She turned up on my garret shelf. Identified as Marie, November 3rd 1905. I presume 'Forde, 15 Waterloo place Sunderland' refers to the photographer.
Seems pleasant enough, but a bit of a puzzle.
Another slightly odd experience, I became a local example of all things green and had a photo-shoot. Sadly this was the best they could do. There's a link in the picture.
While avoiding the virus many of our standard activities like the Scottish Wildlife Trust, the village pop-up cafe and general wanderings have been replaced with Zoom meetings, House-party and other ‘virtual’ meetings. We did manage, once released inside the bounds of Scotland, to visit Shetland for a week. This was a year after booking accommodation, but eventually successful with excellent weather, old friends and several walks from the very comfortable Lerwick town house. (Seen right and down a bit)
Scotland was scraped clean in the ice age so there's plenty of rock and the sheep, since the clearances, have kept the trees down. Shetland is the same but more so, and between the two historic phases the inhabitants built brochs. We visited the one on the island of Moussa and there's a photo a bit further down. There's a link in the photo too.
The small cars (two Midges and an MX5) have been parked up, occasionally started and rolled back and forth, but essentially unmoved for a year. In the mid year lull when we were allowed I sold the Green Midge with the help of Shipley, a car transportation company, and that is currently being transformed by another member of the club. It is good for Midges to be sold now and then as the new owners generally spend lots of money and time on them. Electrification is possible, but horribly expensive, so I may just have to sell the other two. I can use petrol of course, but I'd rather not. No doubt conversion kits will come down in price, but I need £10k off. Bit of a quandary there.
My last newsletter effort in February 2021 was before I had any covid vaccination jags (Jabs in England) and since then we have both had two Astra-Zenicas. My first appointment must to have fallen down the back of the NHS sofa so when Fiona who is in the contingent younger than me, received an appointment I knew something had gone wrong. I simply followed her in and tried my luck. As it was near the end of the session there was a short discussion between her injector nurse and the supervisor resulting in my blagging a spare dose. Having dispensed isotope doses for a few years I had a pretty good idea that while the vial should provide for perhaps six patients, there would inevitably be enough for an extra and the venue was an hour from home. Neither of us had more than the basic level reaction, a day slightly below par and a bit of an ache for a few hours. Certainly better than the reaction expected from anyone catching the virus. There is an element of luck, or chance, but I know of several youngish vaccine deniers who have died with apparently healthy immune system. We had both been adding some vitamin D to our intake for a some months before. It appears at this latitude the population that doesn’t spend all day outside in short sleeves is going to be Vitamin D deficient for most of the year anyway. England is slightly better in high summer, but if you work in an office then a bit extra would be a good idea. Well, quite a lot extra really.
As I write (this started in June so there are chronological updates and maybe anachronisms) I note the advance of the latest ‘variant of interest’ from India which is the cause of 90% of the new cases in the UK and 10% in the US. I just hope the countries that can manufacture the various treatments will provide them at minimum cost to the rest of the world as soon as possible, otherwise sooner or later a variant will bypass all the vaccines, and perhaps be more lethal, communicable, and slower acting. If it does all that then we could be looking at something more like ebola or a medieval plague which would certainly solve the housing shortage, over-population and overcrowded roads at a stroke.
Sorry to bring in a bit of a downer, but I don’t think the world really understands just how dramatic a change a single mutation in a single virus in a single person could bring about. Mutations happen all the time, fortunately most are harmless.
So, apart from the potential end-of-civilisation-as-we-know-it, how is it going in Sunny Tarbrax?
A slightly unnecessary extra factor was added to our lives by an unusually stupid driver who failed to negotiate a bend and a bridge and moved the right front wheel of our (almost) new EV backward four inches, damaging various panels, a door and the suspension. Fiona was returning from the weekly shop when the afore-mentioned clown drove round a blind bend in a new Audi, just not quite far enough around, and drove into Fiona who was unable to dodge, being on a bridge.
I’ve used car insurance broker Direct Line for some years now, and had no problems. To be fair this has been exclusively me sending them money and them sending me the occasional piece of electronic paper. This time I was making a claim, so on hearing about the shunt from Fiona I told them, Direct Line, about it. I had asked the Nissan dealer where to send it for a proper repair and they told me about their repair-shop in Broxburn a few miles away, so I sent the AA to collect the car and told them where to take it.
That’s where things went rather odd.
The AA took about a week to get the car from the accident site to the repair-shop, it went through some kind of hyperspace where nobody could say where it was or when it would re-emerge. Kind of quantum. I knew where it was going and where it started from but not where it was.
A company called AX phoned me a few hours after the accident as the car phased in and out of reality and said they would deal with everything and would send me a replacement EV the next day, which they did, and all seemed well, I assumed AX worked for Direct Line, since I hadn’t heard of them before, and hadn’t contacted anyone else. The interim payment extracted from the idiot party's insurance company by AX was £5,817.77 although for a long time it wasn't possible to determine if spanner had been wielded, Portuguese parts being a bit difficult to get over the channel in these glorious sunlit uplands of mid Brexit.
Don’t start me.
The latest communication was a third note to the effect ‘still waiting for parts’. An axle-beam apparently, not something I'd seen since the 1948 TA14 Alvis. Computer generated messages arrive regularly without human intervention and rarely actually mean anything, rather like the 'call that is important to us'.
The replacement EV, a BMWi3 had been delivered very quickly. Big on the outside, rather small on the inside, it was ok for light duties but I explained I’d need a bigger one for the forthcoming Shetland trip. At that time we were planning for four people and their luggage. A KIA e-Niro duly arrived and performed well. As a bonus I found the electricity ‘pumps’ on Shetland were free and generally available, and surprisingly we got a full refund on the ferry tickets and cabins. Well done NorthLink Ferries.
Going back a bit, three days after the accident I had a phone call from Direct Line saying ‘So you’ve had an accident, tell us about it’. By this time I had a replacement car and was waiting for the ‘interim’ money to land in my account. I then realised AX were not working for Direct Line.
It appears the AA, entirely off their own bat, told AX about the shunt. AX, an entirely separate company, had the details of the event, the witness’s details, and the idiot’s phone number and sprang into action. They contacted the insurers of the idiot and arranged an ‘interim’ payment of £5.8k in accordance with the repair estimate. They sent it to me by bank draft and asked me to send it on the repair shop.
Convoluted, and no doubt necessary for some legal device.
The repair-shop said thank-you and started ordering parts.
In the meantime Direct Line woke up and said “Ok, if AX are going to deal with it that’s fine by us” and went back to sleep. They do periodically send me computer generated letters to the effect of ‘So you’ve had an accident, tell us about it.’ I renewed my policy with the AA since they seemed to be awake, but I did notice that all the quotes were about double the previous and will be watching.
The last mechanical part should have arrived on the 25th June and in optimistic mode I hoped the car would be back a week later. Still waiting nearly two months later. I will have to claim back the £300 that the AA charged me to shift the car 20 miles. Odd, if Fiona had driven into the bridge, or just had the wheel fall off, that would have been recovered as usual, but an accident is different to a breakdown. I could have moved it faster myself just pushing it, but there were some hills in the way.
You don’t really need all those details but it helps to get the sequence tidied up in my head and I'll be able to read it again later.
At home we have amused ourselves by building a road using the only known Scottish brick mine, conveniently in our woodland. The road building is progressing well, after a few months of reasonable weekend weather. I should explain that because the village was built for and by the shale mining industry and by the industry's own planners, most of the roads are now un-adopted. They were built to allow pedestrian traffic and local traders like bakers, butchers and the like to access the miner’s cottages, so they aren't up to Roman, let alone modern standards. The miners didn’t have cars in 1890 and it would have been some decades later that the doctor and the other ‘important’ villagers got theirs. The few who ever left the village walked to the nearest railway station and only a few had traps or carriages. I doubt any miners left the village for any reason other than the first world war or going to a new job. The A70 or ‘Lang Whang’ to Edinburgh is still 23 miles of hills, valleys, streams and bridges where once there were fords, so if you went you went by rail.
The road between my neighbour and myself, like most in the village are just cart-tracks that have evolved. Last winter’s frosts, snow, rain and heavy vehicles were too much for it. Telecom brought a fibre cable for the internet but sadly didn’t fill the power supply trench in properly afterwards, so after 130 years the track slowly broke up, access problems further exacerbated by the Telecom digger driver having left the clay from the excavations on top. A characteristic effect of digger drivers everywhere, as we had found with the heat-pump pipe and the reason for the monoblocking. If you have any trenching done it is worth getting the clay put back in the hole first, or it turns into the Somme after a barrage and a rainstorm.
Unadopted roads don’t get council attention and none of the potential local government sources (like the renewable energy fund) would consider repairs to what was either a road or not a road depending on the easiest logic for not handing over money. Anyway, after 130 years some kind of work was needed, we hadn't got a spare £3k to £9k, so 'If it needs doing, you'd better do it yourself'.
The village, being built on rather boggy ground, has foundations of stacked brick rather than the now usual concrete filled trenches or concrete raft. This means our woodland, previously occupied by 38 of the 40 miner’s cottages, has all the foundation bricks from the demolished buildings. They are, or were, held together with lime mortar which immersed in slightly acidic peaty water, dissolves (if my chemical understanding holds up) into sand, carbon dioxide and salt. One of the horizontal or 'drift' mines are shown on the right.
The bricks are reasonably easy to separate and dig out from trenches as seen, clean off, and lay as road bricks on a bed of gravel and sand. They won’t last forever, but the few that had been put down intermittently over the years to fill pot-holes were largely undamaged after twenty years, so they should be good for a while, I’d guess at least thirty to fifty years, by which time we’ll all have flying cars.
So Sandy from next door and I, with some help from Fiona (the brick fairy) and another neighbour James have relaid the road which is now much admired by all. I have found an SDS drill (Slotted Drive Shaft or Slotted Drive System) with a bolster chisel works well breaking up the hardcore to level the road and for chipping the remaining mortar and harling (pebble-dash) off the bricks. I eventually got a cordless Makita one, although it’s a bit late in the day as we have put down 2,370 bricks and only have another 250 or 500 to go. I hope to leave the trenches open for a while to see if the weather loosens them further.
The midges only woke up recently and we had most of the work done before that, but they did make it a bit more difficult. I may have recommended ‘Smidge’ before. Get some if you want to visit Scotland in what we call Spring or Summer, you’ll thank me later.
Between civil engineering duties, insurance negotiations and holidays I’ve been known to surf the web, an expression which must now be out of date. I saw July that the Pentagon, an organisation so secret that it is visible from space, has issued suggestions that ‘UFO’s are in some way real. Their image (grey) in less convincing than the old TV picture.
If their pictures are genuine then they obviously carry the same equipment as the crew of Thunderbirds had and can render photographs unusable. However I think they are very bad but genuine photographs of mundane events.
It makes me wonder what the American government is doing.
I'd give the story odds of
60% known human origin, (By US or other state)
30% simply faked.
9% unknown but human origin from earth
1% time travellers, aliens or time travelling aliens, angels, devils, deities or something that might be confused with same, or wants to be.
Angels etc are really just 'Magic' and since magic, or miracles (if not outright fraud) are simply a science you don't understand, so they go back to the human error or secret categories.
Mostly it makes me wonder what the Americans are up to. Of course fake, mistake or whatever, it could be a measured drip-feed presaging an admission of hard evidence be it a ‘visitor’, a crashed spaceship or a signal from elsewhere and this is all a gradual acclimatisation to avoid a mass panic. But I doubt it, for one thing it would show a degree of forethought and subtlety previously unknown in governmental agencies. It's probably a waste of time anyway, bearing in mind the human tendency to panic, dig bunkers and store toilet paper. As long as any actual visiting alien wasn’t too dangerous looking (or buying up all the toilet rolls) he’d probably be ignored, especially in Wall-Mart. My money’s on mis-direction and I’m going to ignore these stories, after mocking them for a while, until there are some more believable pictures of a damn great spaceship hovering near the ISS or on the White House lawn, and I still won’t believe it until the extraordinary story is backed up with extraordinary proof.
What I do find worrying is this use of the most obvious flannel, flim-flam and drivel in the media presumably put about to distract us and sell advertising. In the gutter-press and red tops I guess it’s no different to the tales of devils and witches, with us since the dawn of time. But how about the 'quality' press if there is any? Over the years it was dragons and curses, then smoke and mirrors, eventually 'commies'. Now it's UFOs, other conspiracies, and fantastical bridges, although some societies are still content with the advice of great leaders.
Different sections of society are fed different distractions, but what is it distracting us from, or is it just us amusing ourselves? If it is a trick, one of the disadvantages of excessive showmanship and general prestidigitation is that it will eventually trigger careful study, as for the trick to continue it has to get ever bigger and more amazing, and careful study is not what the magician or con artist wants.
Generally football and other tribal competitions do it better, and in serious cases, such as when a politician feels he lacks popularity, a fabricated war can be used to distracts whole nations. The Falklands were a good example, and Pearl Harbour where the attack was genuine, but manipulated.
Humans, myself included, are easily distracted by the strange, the unexpected and the potentially dangerous. We wouldn’t have survived without curiosity and fear, and there’s a type of human who will use that and do anything to gain power, even at the risk of undermining his own future with stories that will inevitably be exposed. The chances are that the 'éminence grise' is not among the obvious subjects, but concealed. It would be very depressing to find the master-minds really were Johnston and Trump. The depressing fact is that most of us sitting around the camp fire will then swallow the next even bigger lie for just long enough and when we wake the story tellers will be safe for another day, or long gone, in which case we should check our purses.
Addendum. The eNV is returned and seems sound.