Archives for category: Bank Holiday

A look out the window at 8am and it was immediately obvious that unless there was going to be some major change in the weather, we wouldn’t be trudging up Cooper’s Hill to witness the Cheee Rolling.

Some of you will be aware that it wasn’t actually supposed to be happening anyway. Officially it had been cancelled for various admistrative reasons most of which are clouded and confused by rumour and conjecture to such a point that no-one really knows what’s going on at all. In all honesty, that’s probably for the best. (I mean that no-one knows what’s going on, not that it’s cancelled – that’s a travesty)

It’s an example of an event that is a victim of it’s own success and it’s own geography. 8 or 9 years ago it might have attracted 2000 visitors to the hill and all was well with that. A local tradition for local people. The year before last there were an estimated 15,000 that invaded the place and it was utter chaos as well as downright dangerous. The space that is Cooper’s Hill just simply isn’t large enough to cope with those numbers.  Worse still are the numbers of people that show up in cars looking for a car park, which there simply is not.

All in all, given the weather conditions and the hoo-ha, we decided to give it a miss. It was that nasty out there that you’d have to be really hardcore to stick with it…  more of a Parmesan roll, than a Double Gloucester. No doubt, when we have a really warm year, it’ll be a Brie. However, in the mean time here’s a few photos from recent years of the chaos which might help you understand some of the problem.

And just to round things off nicely – a couple of video’s so you can see the pain inflicted on others that you’ve missed.

Cheese_Rolling_2008_02.AVI Watch on Posterous

Cheese_Rolling_2009.AVI Watch on Posterous

It saddens me greatly, not to have been there, as I am a real fan of the event and the traditionalism of it, but I guess this will make it all the more enjoyable next year.  There is a report and some decent photos of the 2011 version which you can read here:  Congratulations again to the living legend that is Chris Anderson. Incidentally, his sister works in the same office as Mrs G. Small world.

This post originally appeared here: Posterous

Part of the reason for my lack of engagement in the political process isn’t down to apathy, but the difficulties that are put in our pathway towards getting involved. There was a TED talk last year that, while its US based, goes some way to explain some of that issue. Dave Meslin puts it very well in “The antidote to apathy”. Well worth a watch..

It’s a hefty few weeks coming up. This week we have a four dayer, with good Friday stopping us being productive at the end of the week. Next week it gets better still with a three day week. Monday being Easter Monday and Friday being the Royal Wedding for which we’ve all been given a day off. And yet more bank holidays with the following Monday being May Day and so another 4 day week. And after all that lazing around doing nothing we have to decide as a country what to do about the way we vote.

I may be at risk of explaining to my father’s mother the correct method for reverse blowing an egg, but for the benefit of the uneducated, I need to cover off the problem in simplistic terms first. Bear with.

Currently we have the “first past the post” system. This consists of a ballot paper with a candidate for each party on it and as a voter you have a single vote for your local candidate. Local candidates are competing for a seat. Government is decided on the number of seats each party acquires.  The most seats determine the governing party. Note how this is not the most votes, but the most seats. What becomes absolutely crucial in this system is where the constituency borders are drawn because that effects the numbers of voters, and available number of seats. This system means it’s entirely possible, and actually a regular occurrence, for 51% (or more) of the population to vote for a party that doesn’t run the country.

In an effort to make the voting system fairer, we’re now being offered “AV” – The Alternative Vote. But is it fairer? How does it work?

“AV” consists of a ballot paper with a candidate for each party on it and as a voter you get to rank the in order of preference. If none of the candidates earn more than 50% of the vote, then the ranking can be used to allocate. Put simply, if a candidate earns 51% of the first choice votes they are elected. If not then the candidate with the fewest first choice votes is eliminated and their voters second choice is then counted instead. This is repeated until a candidate has over 50% of the vote. If the second choice has already been eliminated, then the vote passes to choice 3.

OK, so it’s complex, but probably more representative of the will of the people. But… That doesn’t mean it’s right.

What do our current leaders say about it?  Well the current PM (Diddy Dave C – Conservative) is all for keeping it as it is. I suppose, after all, it got him to where he is today. However, his bezzie mate (Nick middle of the road Clegg) who got Dave the job of PM, is all for changing it in the name of fairness. I’m not 100% clear on either of their reasons. According to some research from the BBC, the overall outcome of the contests in recent years would not have changed, but the Liberal Democrats would have gained the most seats and the scale of the Conservative defeat in 1997 would have been much greater. Perhaps it’s this that explains their leanings.

I have a basic problem with the local candidate / seat system in the first place. Surely to be truly representative, we should have one vote for a governing party? Let’s face it, the candidates are usually crooks, so who has any faith in them?  Moreover I’m not convinced that the borders and community sizes for each constituency are the fairest or the most balanced numbers either.

I think when we talk about electoral reform, we need to consider more far reaching and radical reform. If we’re going to bugger about with it, lets do it properly. I think the system needs simplifying to get maximum engagement from the voting population and we need to be voting for a government rather than a local representative who typically doesn’t represent. Even after last years shenanigans with expenses, and for example, my own (now ex) MP watching “the match” instead of showing his face in the house to vote on the digital economy bill, there still isn’t much evidence of “them” working for “us”. In fact I see them taking slopey shouldered options to palm off the rough jobs to local councils (closing libraries, reducing spending on policing etc) while trying to take credit for anything that might be construed as positive.

I’m happy to have a locally elected council still (although I’m sure there is plenty of reform needed here to – the ability to vote on all your local councils major decisions for a start) and I think we need departmental ministers, but do I want my representative to be responsible for a department as well? Simply, no. One job only. And as they’ve been so poor at representation, let it not be that. In fact remove local MPs altogether. They are the equivalent of a layer of middle management, happy to spend our taxes, and no real measurement of delivery.

OK, so now you’re thinking where do we get these departmental heads from if we’re to have no local MPs?  It’s a job, like any other, that you or anyone else can apply for, but essentially it’s a civil service post. There would be departmental posts for all three major parties, with two in opposition to the elected party. While this seems like an increase in costs, it’s actually a reduction because we loose all the constituency MPs in favour of departmental MPs.

I’m aware that these suggestions are pretty radical, and of course I haven’t fully explored them, crossed any the T’s or dotted associated I’s, but I do think this is the level of reform that we actually need. A damn good shake up to get rid of the cash black holes and give the electoral power back to the people. However, these suggestions are just the tip of the iceberg.

As for how I’ll be voting in May. I’m still reading, but maybe a change regardless will put the “thought of change” back on the agenda and perhaps people will see an opportunity to claim their power back….  Of course, being Brits, were just as likely not to bother getting involved with the process anyway and turnout at the poles, given the recent number of bank holidays, could actually be infinitesimally small.

Interesting, if not power changing times.

If you’re looking for some more far more biased info from both sides of the argument, take a look at these:




This post originally appeared here: Posterous

So bank holiday Monday came and went and included Cheese Rolling by the rebellion. First one we’ve missed in 5 years I think, but we’ll be there next year I’m sure. For most, today means back to work. Ha ha! Not me though – no-sir-ee. I very sensibly booked two days holiday. I have a little trip on Wednesday to collect daughter from the airport on her return from Egypt unless her friends have sold her for a camel (customs will be a nightmare if that’s the case) and it seemed daft to go back to the ship just for one day. So here I sit on the holodeck.

Monday morning did indeed include mowing and netting installation so the garden’s looking pretty good. Next job is the hot tub. Details coming up.

But first – Door Stops & Triffids. Mrs G and I have been looking for a doorstop for the master bedroom door for some time. It’s not that it’s difficult, but that there are so many to choose from. On Sunday when we failed yet again to find a suitable one I came to my senses an explained to Mrs G that we didn’t need a door stop. What we actually needed was something of weight to prop the door open with. This means it could be any heavy object and all of a sudden our options are wide open.

Gloucester has a couple of great antiques centers and this, dear reader, is where we stumbled upon the perfect objet d’art for the purpose. An old stone hot water bottle (now half filled with sand) is just perfect for the job and works a treat. Bingo.

An afternoon of movie watching led to Triffids. The Day of the Triffids is a 1951 story written by John Wyndham. Its been the subject of many Radio Plays & TV Movies, and Sci-Fi enthusiasts the world over, know the story well. For those of you unfamiliar with the plot, it says here:

“The protagonist is Bill Masen, an Englishman who has made his living working with “Triffids”, plants capable of aggressive and seemingly intelligent behaviour: they are able to move about on their three “legs”, appear to communicate with each other and possess a deadly whip-like poisonous sting that enables them to kill and feed on the rotting carcasses of their victims. The book implies they were bioengineered in the Soviet Union and then accidentally released into the wild when a plane carrying their seeds was shot down. Triffids begin sprouting all over the world, and their extracts prove to be superior to existing vegetable oils. The result is worldwide cultivation of Triffids.”

Last Christmas the BBC made yet another dramatisation of it and it’s a cracking job. Sort of Doctor Who/Torchwood on steroids. A proper movie (almost). I recorded it on Sky plus and it’s languished there, taking up valuable disk space and waiting for the moment when I had an appropriate slot in my schedule to watch it.

Eddie Izzard plays bad guy ‘Torrence’, Dougray Scott plays the role of Bill Masen and Brian Cox plays Bill’s father. Eddie has become a great all rounder and one of those people you can’t help but admire for his drive, ambition and monumental sense of humour. I’ve long been a fan of his stand-up, so I wasn’t convinced about his acting future – but he’s more than pulled it off. In fact he is officially a Hollywood Heavyweight. Good for him. He doesn’t let the side down here either.

Mr Cox has had a long run of bad guy roles (what with him being the original Hannibal Lecter) but here he plays a good guy reminding us just what a great character actor he is as well. There’s also appearances from Vanessa Redgrave & Jason Priestly.

My only real critisism of the piece would be the triffids themsleves. I’m afraid I failed to be convinced that a plant could catch someone – which us a real problem for a story about killer plants especially when the plant looks a bit like rubber on a stick (which it probably was). Regardless, it’s a good looking, well made enjoyable romp.

Follow that with the second part of “Terry Pratchett’s Going Postal” (8 out of 10 which is exceptionally high scoring, bearing in mind I’ve only ever given one 10) and a take away curry with Mrs G and my weekend was made…..

So to the tub. We haven’t used it for about a month and it’s been switched off, so it needs a full drain, scrub down, refill, new chemicals and ph balance and a warm up again. That’s going to be a large part of the day and the weather doesn’t appear to be on my side. But then at least I’m not at work….

PS: I cocked up my coffee selection by running for the bus on Saturday (to enjoy the abusive public) instead of wandering around Whittards – had to pick up some Lavazza in Tesco. However, if the weather continues to be blughehhggh (technical term) today, then a trip to Chelter’s could resolve the situation and Italian Expresso, Monsoon Malabar or Cafe Francais will be the selection.

Well here we are then. It’s the morning after the night before.

Having physically recovered from yesterdays abusive bus passenger, if not mentally, we regrouped back at the ranch in preparation for our journey back to the shire. I’m sure I’ve pointed out before how the county signs that border eachother are worded. “Wiltshire Welcomes You” while you’re “Welcome to Gloucestershire” and very true that is. Wiltshire does Welcome you (especially if your a prodigal son like what I is) but don’t expect to be staying. ‘Get orf moy laand’ is the correct expresion. You are Welcome to Gloucestershire, in fact, please, keep it, take it away with you… Not entirely fair, but entertaining none the less.

So by 5pm we were to the manor born and all set to party the night away. The roadster did a great job of getting us here and all is well with the world.

The marquee was all decked out with balloons, banners and DJ gear and the Hog Roast arrived on the back of a trailer. Beer and wine were plentiful including a barrel of Waddy’s IPA and a barrel of the evil that is Black Rat. What could possibly go wrong?? Well for one thing, the weather. 5.15 glorious sunshine, 5.45 a spit of rain, 6.15 a light shower, 6.45 no rain just some bracing breeze. Party started at 7 so predictably enough 7.15 the heavens opened and it gushed down for about 20 minutes. This did have a positive effect though as with all 60 guests gathered in the marquee, everyone got to know everyone without having any loners wanering about some lost corner of the grounds.

From here on in everything went swimingly. The breeze persisted making it all a bit chilly but patio heaters and the marquee provided sufficient shelter and the tunes were loud and proud.

By 3am it all flowed to a comfortable halt, which Mrs G and I only found out about this morning over coffee and bacon, as we were sparko by a piddling 1am. Unlimited amounts of IPA & Vino Collapso will have that effect.

Next mission is the journey home. I’m struggling to believe it’s Sunday already, but at least there’s a bank holiday (sadly without Cheese Rolling) and for some of us a couple more days without the grindstone. More sunshine please!!!

Now the weekend is done the best feeling in the world (ok 2nd or 3rd or possibly 4th best feeling in the world) has occured this morning. That is to say, it’s a Monday, but a Monday that you can stay in bed for. You gotta love not having to get up and get to it for ‘the man’ and instead do whatever the hell you like depending on how your mood takes you. No idea for certain what that’s going to be yet, but I know I’m going to enjoy it.

And on the subject of enjoyment, I’m thoroughly enjoying Mark Kermode’s book “It’s only a movie” which so far is exactly like listening to or watching the man himself. Feels like a direct stream of his conciousnes that he’s commited to paper with no commas, semi colons or full stops for breathing. Naturally I’m exagerating, but it does feel a bit like stepping onto an escalator that’s actually running sideways not up and down. Takes time to adjust but wow, what a ride.

I should point out that I am everso slightly biased having been an avid listener of his (and Dr Mayo’s) Friday afternoon radio 5 live movie review show (shorthand for which is wittertainment) for about as long as it’s been running. And of course movies are a passion of mine so this just makes it unmissable but more so. Ever since my first proper movie “Journey to the Center of the Earth” in 197? at the Old Town cinema in Swindon I just can’t take my eyes off the silver screen. So much so that I’ve even flirted with the idea of screenwriting and to be honest that idea and I still have unfinished business.

In fact, now I mention it, let me share with you my “pitch” for a TV/comedy/drama one off in two parts of an hour each to be aired over a Sunday and Monday night at 9pm on ITV or thereabouts. It’s particularly timely because it’s about the World Cup which as you’ll know (unless you’ve been hiding under a rock somewhere) is due to kick off again this summer.

“They Think It’s All Over”


“The day we won the world cup…outright”

Voice-over: The FIFA World Cup Trophy, was first presented at the 1974 World Cup to Germany’s captain Franz Beckenbauer. Designed by Silvio Gazzaniga and produced by Bertoni, Milano, it stands 36.5 centimetres (14.4 inches in old money) tall. Its base is 13 centimetres [or 5.1 in] in diameter containing two layers of malachite. The trophy, which weighs 6.175 kilogram’s in total, is made of 5 kilogram’s (yes, that’s 11 lbs) of 18 carat (75%) solid gold!! Oh, and it depicts two human figures holding up the Earth.

FIFA’s regulations now state that the trophy, unlike its predecessor (which incidentally – is still gleaming), cannot be won outright. Instead, the winners of the tournament receive it on loan for four years and are given a replica to keep. Today, there are nine winners names engraved upon its base.

None of which say England…

Part 1

1. In the pub – 2006 WC – England go home

2. Lads walking home pissed formulate a kernel of an idea.

X: “Oh, bollocks!! – You know what we should do??, We should just go and take the damn thing off ‘em. It’s our game anyway!!”

3. Hungover in the morning

Y: “I’ve had a word with me uncle Z and he’s going help us win the world cup”
X: “Haha, I’ve seen you’re uncle Z and he couldn’t help us win crufts”
Y: Indignant: “No! Serious! He said he’s right up for it”
X: “What?? You mean?” beat “Us, actually going over there and nicking the world cup??”
Y: “Well that’s what you said – and by all rights it’s ours anyway”

4. X is Worrying about doing the job when he’s got a girlfriend who wants to be a wife (love interest) and that’s going to cost a mint anyway. Hmmm… so sod it! – We could nick the cup, melt it down in our barn, sell the gold on and be richer than a lottery winner. On top of which, we’ll have won the bastard World Cup!!

5. Let’s make a plan

Who is in ?? X, Y, Uncle Z, Dave and Duncan
Uncle Z meets, X & Y
X & Y introduce Uncle Z to Dave and Duncan
(Plan not revealed: go to france, nick the replica, on to Italy, swap them round, come home with the real one)

6. Off we go to the continent…
Oh no you don’t X – not without love interest!!
X: “Oh, bollocks!”
LI: “But you promised we’d go to Ibiza”
X: “OK – We’re going to Italy”

7. More planning

8. Y has to explain to his Mum where he’s going

9. On the ferry – seasick – Dave & Duncan never been abroad before

10. In Paris – Dave & Duncan want to go sight seeing, Uncle Z finally gets stroppy with the pair of them and puts them straight. L.I. (as if she was a WAG) goes shopping while the lads try and do the business.

11. The Job – which involves a perfect ZZ Headbutt on a security guard – goes well-ish

12. Our boys are off again through the Mont Blanc tunnel to Italy.

Part 2

1. In-Rome – Lot’s of bad driving

2. Casing the joint it appears the security is a bit more serious for the real cup than the dopey guard in Paris.

3. In the hotel, L.I. about to go shopping discovers the replica WC in a bag and rumbles what the boys are really up to. Confronts X who tells all, and how he didn’t really want to do it, but Y had called his Uncle X and she wanted a holiday etc, etc. However, L.I. wants England to have the WC so decides to join in.

4. L.I. has to schmooze the security in Rome while the boys nip in the back and do the business

5. Leg-it!! Quick!! Run like bloody feck!!

6. It’s coming home – The journey

7. How we going to get it through customs ?? Easy, Duncan & Dave have bought 5 replica (plastic World Cups while sight seeing, much to Uncle Z’s annoyance in Rome – so everyone, including L.I. has one each carrying openly.

8. We did it – we did it! Let’s go down the pub!!

9. In the pub with the world cup and the plastic one, so no-one really believes them. Fred (landlord) says you’ve just filled one of them plastic one’s with lead.

10. Fred says “Who’s for pickles??” while reaching for the pickled onions – at which point sky news comes on and shows the Replica WC was stolen in France!!

11. PC Plod says – you really did nick it?

12. Nah – we went to Italy – They think it’s all over

13. TV news update – Actual WC stolen in Italy!!! – It is now! Plod gets his man.

Now, before you say anything I’m completely aware that it’s nuts and bolts simple and that any fool can see how tab a fits slot b so it’s not overtly intelligent. But then again, it’s Sunday night escapism about England and Football! Seriously, How intelligent could it actually be!!! One other point, if anything like it ever shows up on our tellyboxes without my name on it, I will regretablly, have to sue because clearly I thought of it. The best outcome would be for me to sell it to them tellymakers before it all starts kicking off and getting ugly.

And with that I’m away to the Kitchen to make coffee and go back to bed. Goooooooaaaaalllllllll!