Well, that's when I started it, somehow I seem to have gotten a bit behind. Part of the problem was trying out this new lay-out which should be easier for people with mobile phone and tablet devices without upsetting the traditional Desk-top and Laptop It is a bit more vulnerable to overlapping elements. Please tell me if it does.
The first part of this may not work for friends outside the UK, bear with me, there will probably be equivalent ethical suppliers in other areas.
Thought 1. I have all sorts of political and social values and beliefs but don't do much. Should I apply pressure to others in an attempt to change their mind? Knock on doors, hand out leaflets? Frankly I doubt that would sway anyone who already has an opinion, and anyone without an opinion is unlikely to start thinking about it just because I do. And anyway who's to say I'm right? So I tend to just lead by example.
Thought 2. I think, and I think a lot of others also think that Fracking is a horrible idea and that it shouldn't be supported by people who don't want it. How do I discourage it?
These two thoughts meet in the middle of my head, (and the middle of the night occasionally) so, rather than telling you what to do, I thought I'd make a small suggestion. Here's a web page. You can decide if it is interesting enough to think about.
I use Ecotricity. It isn't the highest rated, but has always been reliable and good to me, and has been around for a while, which I find reassuring.
Obviously I haven't used it myself because I am already with ecotricity and have a contract with them for the solar panel income.so do your own thinking.
Just a thought.
Incidentally, Ecotricity is trying to develop a gas producing plant (no pun intended) that runs on silage. I have no idea if it will work, but I guess some quite intelligent people have thought about it and around the various questions, and think it is worth a shot. If you go to this page then you should get the picture.
I was recently offered a marvellous sounding device with a dubious price tag, its function is to remove the spikes in electricity that can knock out your solar panel inverters for up to 20% of the time as they reset themselves, or so the story goes. It has something to do with the voltage output they are supposed not to exceed, but it might be just flim-flam.
The device is called PVPlus or PV+, and I think it might well work, although I suspect the suggested 20% increase in efficiency may be unlikely. I intend to try one out soon. However I should point out that some sales pitches come in at well over £2000. Far too expensive for a voltage regulator. I have seen advertisements of the same product for £750 and think it may be possible to reduce that significantly, especially if you get your own electrician to fit it ( about 20 minutes work ) More on that later if I get around to it.
Other recent activities include building a kitchen in the Village Hall for the WATIF staff.A lengthy process as it had to be agreed by committee and the room is 1.82 metres square. Only it isn't actually square, which made fitting the work-surface tricky. The rhomboid floor and squint walls meant a 1.80 metre cupboard wouldn't fit in a 1.83 metre gap. Fun, but I had got used to the modern buildings being square.. Mostly done now, just a kick-board and a Microwave shelf to do. One thing that I noticed, a dirty tea-spoon in the sink within about 5 minutes of declaring it functionally complete. Probably a natural phenomenon, I remember it from the X-Ray staffroom.
Between and around the other jobs I've been building a website for John C who designed the Midge. He also sells plans for children's toy cars which are driven by a battery powered hand drill and for a road going Midge Mk2. (For those who haven't grown up yet)
If you get the urge I might be able to help. If you are into DIY it would certainly get you Dad, Grandad, Uncle (or whatever) of the year award from most 5 year-old children.
Mum, through no fault of her own, managed an 88th birthday on the 13th of March, so we trundled south to celebrate it. A visit to Rick Stein's restaurant in Winchester High Street seemed in order so we popped in there. We had booked in advance and got a phone call back saying there had been a power-cut, and suggested a delay of 15 or 30 minutes, which was certainly no problem for us. When we got there the electricians hadn't finished so we has the bonus of a pre meal chat and a beer or two. Curiously the staff suggested we have a free bottle of wine. Very reasonable especially as it wasn't their fault, so we thought the Merlot was suitable as most of us lean to the red side. The waiter suggested that a rather more expensive wine was a better choice. I think they should have asked Bill as I'm sure he knows more about wine, but I have more white hair. Anyway the suggested bottle was agreed, produced and declared very acceptable. I think the food was excellent and the delays produced few problems so I would recommend the establishment. The bill came to £45 each which would have been about £37.50 had we not paid for Mum and would probably been about the same had we bought the wine. I think Winchester City Council hits businesses fairly heavily for rates, and one would expect a large(ish) bill from a restaurant with a celebrity name on it, so overall we were happy with the result, and the food was well up to scratch.
We had been well treated on the catering front as Bill was doing the cooking at home. It is rather nice having a 5* (that's 5 star not 5 foot) chef in the family. I noticed that we both have the 'making things' bug, apparently inherited from our maternal grandfather, 'Crom' and from Dad of course. I have always had a running battle with cleaning up after I have made something, and seem to remember Dad's workshop was similar. Bill has to have a clean kitchen to start with, while I can just clear a big enough space on the bench. He has the advantage of course, of being able to suggest those that ate do some washing up. I can't really do that as only I know where everything goes and what to do with the leftovers. perhaps If I had specific places for the tools...but I can be using plumbing, woodworking, steel fabricating and electrical tools on the one job. Anyway that's my excuse for a messy bench. Maybe if I had a full sized factory....
While South we managed to visit some friends and relations and even managed a trip to Hillier's the nearby Garden centre to which Fiona and Mum both naturally gravitate, another excellent meal, a good walk and several expensive plants later we repaired to Athelstan Road to sort out the garden and finish the mending of the swing seat. I should have taken 'before and after' pictures, but I never remember in time. I did manage to get a picture of Mum and Fiona on Hillier's demonstration garden seat, the staff had assembled part of the roof upside down, but I thought it might make an interesting project later. I'll not stick to their design, especially the bit that funnels the rain onto your head, but the overall idea seems OK. It is really just an extended storage box / bench made to a height for sitting on.
Another visit (16th March) took us to Jane Austen's house in Chawton, and another meal just around the corner in the Greyfriar (very acceptable) The House, now a museum, has been nicely repaired and restored without removing all the oddities that such a house inevitably collects over the years. Not least the floorboards which can emit a startling array of rude noises. The House has been modified and adjusted many times as you'll see from the outside wall. The attic and cellar are not available at the moment. Hopefully later.
We took a risk and added a bit of sight-seeing in and around Stirling when we went to an energy meeting (Keeping warm in older properties) which provided useful information we can put into the village improvement effort. The weather waited until we went for a walk on Flanders Moss and then threw some horizontal sleet at us. So here's a picture of Fiona wondering if we are having fun yet.
The rest of the jaunt went well enough although the Wallace Monument was closing as we arrived, so that will need a return visit. Until now I hadn't been closer than a couple of miles, so I hadn't realised it had rooms in it and had assumed it was just a tall spindly thing. On the rather steep walk up to it we met an entertaining group of chaps from Glasgow, London and Edinburgh who had collectively if not simultaneously, been born in Pakistan. I'd say the majority of visitors to the Monument were of foreign extraction, though it was difficult to spot any distant accents, most spoke Scottish with the accents of their cities whether their families came from Pakistan, China or England. It was only when they reverted to their native language that you could spot the Poles, Russians, Chinese and Germans. I'm afraid my ear isn't sensitive enough to differentiate the more distant ones. Anything more than a couple of generations away from their origins merges into the local patois anyway.
They can usually spot my English accent though, 'BBC Received' I suppose. I don't think I have any Hampshire left, if I ever did. Bill, my brother, can pick up the local sound much more quickly, perhaps it has more to do with my rather un-musical ear.
Amongst other activities I've been putting Mum's stories on the web. You can find most of them in various formats at http://wardrobestories.homestead.com/ or there is a link at the bottom right of my home page http://www.jimhewlett.com/ Some are text and speech, others text and pictures. The next stage is to make an e-book, but I'm not up to speed on that yet.
One extra event was the Flying Scotsman Vintage car Rally. It came through Auchengray and Woolfords, two of the local cluster of villages. We saw the cars coming through Woolfords, about a mile or two from Tarbrax. It seemed to be mostly Bentleys, though the one in the picture is a 1938 SS100 Jaguar. About a hundred cars in a couple of hours. The occupants were starting to look a bit cold as they came through. I dug out a Midge to wave from, though the hand actually waving in the picture is part of a small child that sat, stood, clambered and fiddled in the Midge, after I had carefully hidden the more tempting artefacts and removed the ignition key.
In my endless search for more ecological and amusing gadgets, to compensate for the recycled but admittedly petrol driven cars, I found a new kind of house bulb, it has been on the market for a while and is still rather expensive, called an LED filament bulb it has a more traditional look when lit and runs on 8 watts. Gives off about what you'd expect from a 75 watt incandescent, I get them from Amazon at about £5 each, they should pay for themselves in about 100 days if you are replacing an incandescent. Out of the 15 I have bought so far, two have failed, but were promptly replaced by the company without my having to send the dud ones back. That might seem a high failure rate but I think it is the result of poor quality control, an inevitable effect of driving prices lower. I am happy enough with that as long as replacements are sent, which they have been. I am puzzled as to how they get the elements into the glass ball though. Something like the ship in a bottle trick perhaps.
On return to Scotland the weather seemed to have shifted Springward as we often find on returning after a week, but it reverted with a snowfall on the 22nd of March as seen above, although it melted smartly enough. Overall it's been a bit back and forth since then.