Mrs Bump and I visited a place called Gunwharf Quays in Portsmouth yesterday. The word “quay” gives away the former use, for Portsmouth was (and is) a major port on the south coast of England. The word “gun” also tells you something, because Portsmouth had a big naval presence, although their footprint is much smaller now. Charles Dickens was born here in the early 19th century.

As the ports declined, so too the quays fell into disuse. Until some bright spart decided that there was money in it, and turned the place into a swanky shopping outlet village. You might know them as something different – designer stores which kid you that they are selling you the goods you’d find in their regular, High Street outlets, but a lot cheaper.

That’s where we went today. But I really don’t like shopping so I left that to Mrs Bump, and opted to take a bunch of photos instead.

The big tower you see in the photos is the Spinnaker Tower. I’ve featured it before on my “Life Through the Lens” series. It was a millenium project (opened in 2005, go figure!) which, as far as I know, is purely ornamental. There is an elevator to ascend to a viewing platform, which affords panoramic views. We went up there once – the viewing platform’s floor is partially made of glass, so you can take the opportunity to look vertically down. It’s only about 400 feet (120m) – anyone fancy that?

Anyway I really enjoyed my day out in the sunshine, although I was tired at the end. I probably took too many photos, but what glorious weather!

Settling In

The last few days I posted about our new neighbours. All good so far, I’m pleased to report. There’s a lot they don’t know, but we’re getting there. They don’t recognise regular pelletted chicken food, so we are having to dissolve it in water, otherwise they will starve.

Our other chickens have all wished to be out of the coop in the morning. First thing, soon as we open it, they are queuing to get outside. These aren’t, yet.

In a similar vein, a chicken’s natural behaviour is to roost at night. In practise, this means that they will find their own ways into the coop when they are ready, and all we need to do is to shut the door for the night. 2/3 do this, but the third, we have to put into the coop manually.

Still, teething problems, we’ll get there.

One of the other tasks was replacing all the little things that have either disappeared, or perished, from our last batch of chickens. We needed a new skelter. Do you know what that is? I didn’t, until we kept chickens! And all those years, I knew exactly what a helter-skelter was!

One of the other things we needed to replace was a sun-screen for the coop. The old one had simply rotted. It’s just a regular piece of material, to shield the birds from the sun, when they are in the “run” part of the coop. Because we have a specific brand of coop, we went back to them to get a specific sun-screen, with the correct dimensions to cover the coop..

Now, we think of keeping chickens as a very “back to nature” thing. Instead of going to the nasty old supermarket, where we don’t know where anything comes from, we opt to go straight back to source. We start with just pellets, we rear the chickens ourselves, and we enjoy lovely, fresh eggs as a result. Just look at all those steps in the chain we circumvented. That’s a nice eco-friendly step, surely?

Here’s what I found.

Yesterday, the new sun screen arrived. It came in plastic packaging. I got the bag out of the packaging, which went into the trash.

I got inside the packet. There was the sun screen. It was wrapped in a plastic sleeve, which went into the trash.

I got my hands on the sun screen, which was made of … something synthetic. Came from a fossil, anyhow. Maybe they feel that the material is more durable than something natural? That our old one had disintegrated shows that these things have a finite lifetime, whatever they are made of.

At each corner of the sunscreen, there was a hole. Deliberate, to thread lengths of elastic through, which secure the screen to the coop.

In the main packet, also, were four of these pieces of elastic, They, too, were in their own plastic bag, which was discarded.

I’m not sure about the bits of elastic. They certainly felt synthetic. They certainly had little plastic grappling hooks at the end, to fix to the coop. But presumably, you need elastic just to provide the tension? String, and a knot, are simply not up to scratch? And, you need plastic hooks because there is no natural material available? Because no wood is durable enough? Maybe I should give them the benefit of the doubt here?

But the whole thing makes me wonder. At the end of this, there are a bunch of people who are trying to do the right thing. And I’m wondering whether the manufacturer, too, is trying to do the right thing. Do they seriously think “we need to use all this plastic to maintain the quality of our products”, or is the CEO, right now, sitting at their desk thinking “let’s shaft these gullible fuckers for every penny we can”, before they drive their gas-guzzling tank home this evening for a pleasant weekend?

Oh, lastly, two of the chickens now have names. The feisty one was immediately Boudica. There is another one, who stands absolutely still and looks very pensive. She is called Marguerite. Marguerite Porete was a medieval French thinker and writer, she wrote a theological work and, for her troubles, was burned at the stake for heresy.


I’m sorry, but can I just take a minute out to remind readers?

I welcome debate on this site, but I want high-quality debate. If somebody doesn’t agree with a particular point of view, they can say why they don’t agree, they can maybe put forward their own view. These pages are all permanent, all publicly searchable, so by doing that, anyone who happens along later can see the debate and can decide for themselves who (if anyone) they agree with. Good debate.

Continue reading “Respect”

More Wasted Potential

I posted a piece of flash yesterday, a suicide, and it sparked a thought. Hadn’t I written about this before? So last night’s post prompted a hunt. It was called Wasted Potential. It sat in Drafts for months, because it was on such a sensitive subject, I wanted the wording just so. When I finally published, it was immediately misinterpreted. I was incredulous but I saw the lack of clarity when I reread it this morning.

The subject I had wanted to discuss was suicide, but I was a noob, I wanted to explain my back-story, a big part of which is my daughter. I conflated the two. The original post was so bad, I thought I should rewrite it. So, here goes:

Continue reading “More Wasted Potential”

A Scare

I’ve spent a lot of the day in shock, trying to blamk out what happened at breakfast time.

I even put a couple of posts live this morning, then went through to the kitchen as normal. I put the kettle on, as normal. I mixed some oats up into porridge, as normal. I can’t help thinking I was lucky to be in the room for what happened next.

The kettle, almost boiled, stuttered. Then it started again – its LED shows on/off. So I am staring at the kettle, wondering what’s going on, when all of a sudden, I see a puff of black, acrid smoke, accompanied by a flash, coming from the kettle’s switch into the wall socket.

Fortunately I grabbed the (plastic, insulated) plug and pulled it out of the wall, removing power to the kettle. I was just left with this smoke and an awful smell.

Now, the kettle wasn’t actually connected directly to the wall socket. I had a wi-fi switch in there. The type of switch which allows me to remotely turn the kettle on from my bed. Ironically, I don’t use it any more, but it was still in the loop between wall socket and kettle.

This switch had all the right logos on it – there is a safety standard within the EU, and since we only left a year ago… But, on inspection, this wi-fi switch was the culprit – indeed, part of it had melted away. After it cooled I could see quite clear damage.

So I can’t help thinking how lucky I was to be in the room when this happened, so I was able to nip it all in the bud. And I can’t help thinking that we need to get an electrician in just to make sure the socket is safe (although I’m pretty sure it was this switch rather than the socket, we’ve left the socketoff just in case, so there is no circuit there). And, I tested the kettle – literally watched water boil – at lunchtime, in a different socket. But I can’t help thinking that every unidentified little noise in the house is the start of a fire somewhere, and I can still smell that bloody smell!

Going Places

I met my friend again for a coffee yesterday. The weather, as you can see, was cloudier and far more humid.

I can’t help being quite proud of myself, given that all those years ago, I left hospital in a chair, and my journey to the coffee shop and back is a 2½ mile (about 4km) walk. My legs feel like jelly today.

But the coffee cake made it all worthwhile.

That pathway on the left is the pathway across the meadows to the next village. It came about in 2000, after neglect of the waterways caused the village to flood every winter. So we eventually got flood defences, costing millions.

Mister Bump

I went out for my first post-lockdown coffee yesterday. We went to the coffee shop, a friend and I, in a nearby village. I had not seen the friend since pre-lockdown.

Outdoors. Apart from having 10 or 15 people within 10 or 15 yards of me (nobody too close, not even my buddy), I figured that the risk was no greater than having friends come sit in the garden. It was even better for me, because I didn’t have to go into the shop to order – my friend did so. Although I suppose if he picked something up in there, he’d likely have breathed it in my general direction afterwards. We didn’t wear masks – we are only mandated to wear them here when we go into a shop.

So we followed the UK’s rules. I’m not too sure, how closely the UK’s rules match the science, so I…

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I went out for my first post-lockdown coffee yesterday. We went to the coffee shop, a friend and I, in a nearby village. I had not seen the friend since pre-lockdown.

Outdoors. Apart from having 10 or 15 people within 10 or 15 yards of me (nobody too close, not even my buddy), I figured that the risk was no greater than having friends come sit in the garden. It was even better for me, because I didn’t have to go into the shop to order – my friend did so. Although I suppose if he picked something up in there, he’d likely have breathed it in my general direction afterwards. We didn’t wear masks – we are only mandated to wear them here when we go into a shop.

So we followed the UK’s rules. I’m not too sure, how closely the UK’s rules match the science, so I wanted to be happy for myself. Before I agreed to meet him, I satisfied myself about the state of the virus locally. In the last available figures, week ending mid-July-ish, there were 11 deaths in our region. The week before that, there were 7. The week before that, 17. All in the same ballpark. Our region is the south west of the UK – probably 10-20,000 square miles? a big number. If you imagine dividing the UK into about 8, that’s us. And me and my space is, what, a square yard?

My friend… Well, my friend is an old cycling buddy. Up until corona, he was a director for a well-known, UK charity. In charge of all new development, nationally. At the very start of this, he figured that for the next few years, new development would be a thing of the past, so figured he was living on borrowed time. He’s roughly retirement age anyhow.

But they kept him on through lockdown, even though he was at home, and they only made him redundant last week.

We had a weird conversation, about my own mobility. As we both love cycling, he suggested an electric bike, or trike. I said that they were good ideas (I’ve thought about this a lot) but that the holy grail would be a new car, an automatic (uncommon in the UK). And with anything, I would not be prepared to spend any cash until I was bringing money in.

– will the state not buy you a car?

– You’re joking, aren’t you?

I told him that instead of receiving the thousands (GBP, USD, EUR, any currency you care to choose) to pay for a car, immediately after the stroke I was awarded GBP 10 per week because I could hardly walk. When the state assessed me a couple years ago, they decided I must be walking better by now, so reduced that portion to zero. I still get additional benefit because I can’t use my hand, but we’re in the same ballpark.

My friend knows somebody, apparently, up in Yorkshire, a long way from here, who has terminal cancer, and needs to travel around 20 miles (presumably a few times a week) for treatment. They are probably pretty rural, they probably have no public transport – outside of London, it is not good in the UK. Anyway, he says that the state awarded them a car.

I mean, if this is true, there are probably discrepancies between this other case and mine. I never really got any treatment once I left hospital, so there is no ongoing relationship between me and the health service.

But I thought it was interesting that even my friend, who as a charity bigwig will have seen hardship cases, believes that when something happens, the state will come to the rescue.

Anyway, I took a few photos yesterday, it was a lovely day.

Could It Happen to You?

My friend Farida posted a quiz question yesterday, and my considered response was that the graphic in her question looked like a lottery ticket, and I suggested that she should one day ask, what are the chances?

I’m gonna pre-empt that question, by answering it myself, today. In the UK, we have a lottery where you need to choose 6 numbers, from a possible 59. That 6/59 format seems quite a common combination globally.

So, let’s assume you chose your six numbers (their name is a line).

On the night of the draw:

  • before you start, there are 59 balls in the pot, so you have one chance in 59 of a particular number coming out of the hat. But you have six numbers, don’t forget, so the chance of the drawn number matching any of the numbers in your line 59:6
  • Now, let’s assume you got a hit.
  • It preparation for the second number, there is one less ball to pick from the hat, there are only 58 balls. But equally, you have one less number in your line, because you already crossed one off. So the chance of a particular number coming out of the hat is 1 in 58. But remember, you have five available numbers, so the odds of matching one of them is 58:5.

Now, at that point, let’s take a timeout. What are the chances of both the first number coming out, and the second number coming out?

Well, we know that the chance of the first of these is 59:6, and the chance of the second is 58:5. In fact, to work out the chance of both these things happening, you need to multiply those two numbers, so the chance of both balls being hits is

(59 x 58):(6 x 5), which is 3,422:30. That’s about 115:1, that’s how much chance you have of matching two numbers. That’s for two hits, so let’s keep going.

  • Now, there are only 57 balls in the pot, so the chances that the next ball drawn will be a particular number is 57:1. But you still have four numbers to choose from.
  • So, the odds of matching all three balls so far? You got it, they are (59 x 58 x 57) : (6 x 5 x 4). I won’t bother working that out, because we’re not finished yet. And it’ll make my head explode. Let’s work it all out at the end. Let’s say you match this one too.
  • Let’s move on to the fourth ball. Now, there are only 56 balls in the pot, so the chances of the next draw matching one of your numbers is 56:1. But you have 3 numbers, so that makes the odds 56:3.
  • And, you’re gettin used to this, the chances of having matched all four balls to this point are (59 x 58 x 57 x 57 x 56) : (6 x 5 x 4 x 3). But let’s assume you keep matching the numbers.
  • Fifth ball. One chance in 55 for any given number. The number of balls is going down by 1 each time. But now, the draw has to be one of two numbers. So the chances of this ball matching one of yours is 55:2. And the chances are getting all five hits is (59 x 58 x 57 x 56 x 55) : (6 x 5 x 4 x 3 x 2). Nevertheless, assume a hit.
  • Sixth ball. One chance in 54 on a particular ball coming out. But you only have one ball, because the other five numbers were all hits, and are therefore out of the game You have Chances of getting all six numbers are (59 x 58 x 57 x 56 x 55 x 54): (6 x 5 x 4 x 3 x 2 x 1).

So, where are we at? We started off with 59 numbers in the pot, but you had 6 numbers in your line. Each time we draw a number, the pot gets smaller by one. /but at the same time, you cross another number off in your line, so it gets shorter by one. And it we end up crossing off all six numbers in our line, we just won the lottery! We’re millionaires! There are, of course, prizes for matching fewer numbers, But the chances of actually winning the thing are more than 1:22, 5oo, 000. Would you back a horse at those odds?

That’s not as impossible as it seems.People here do win the lottery, maybe every month or so. But more often, nobody wins. I presume it are pretty typical at the moment, and if I go to the lottery web site, they are adverticing the next draw as a triple rollover – so that is the last two draws, where nobody has won.

Now, people in the UK have gradually seemed to lose interest in the lottery, and I’d guess that ticket sales have fallen over time. The lottery company is aware of this, so they also have a rule of no more than five rollovers. After the fifth, they share the prize money out between the people with the most matches.

Did you get all that? Beware, I might be asking questions! But judge for yourself – could it happen to you? (Not to me – I don’t buy a ticket, which I figure is the most profitable move of all!)