Saturday 18 June 2011

The price of fish on a spreadsheet...

Electric Halibut covers an interesting point on his site, and it started me off one of my big moans about the supermarkets.

He points out the changes in sizes of wine boxes, which is a new one on me, well, until very recently.

When I walk into either Tesco or Sainsbury, I become an arithmetical lorry crash, and all my mental capacity for working out prices and best value just disappears at the drop of a 'BOGOF' leaflet! I actually don't mind these shops; you're in the warm, the car costs nothing to park, the people who work there appear to be from the same planet, and you can buy a television and a pair of underpants moments before you enquire about the price of sliced ham per portion.

Mr. Halibut describes how some wine boxes have shrunk in size, but not in value, and he's dead right! But that simple calculation of three bottles not four is a relatively easy one, because you can dash back to the bottles on the shelves, do a quick sum, and swish back before the fat idiot with a dumper trolley load of Uncle Bastard's greasy chips and nourishing pot-noodles, cottons on that there's possibly a bargain, and pinches the lot. However, we've only just noticed this three-not-four trick and it causes much more dashing, which at my time of life is inadvisable.

But the biggest moan for me, is the way they price their items to confuse the customer. How on earth can anyone be able to convert an item priced in kilograms (or 100 grams - worse), to price per pound in the few seconds before Waynetta prods you in the back with a garlic baguette? Or how does one work out the cost per item when a similar one next to it (from Bulgaria), is priced per pack of seven, but you get extra points and a free sandwich on Thursday! And in your head?

Of course, I blame 'MS Excel' for all this. Ever since Bill Gates said that apart from earning squillions, he'd invent the most irritating programme on the planet, the futile aspirations of anyone fiddling about with a spreadsheet, and discovering what will happen in the future, have meant that there's an awful lot of people nowadays, wondering what went wrong.

Except the supermarkets.

I'd just love to see their spreadsheets for the whole store. It's not just wine boxes is it? Surely it's the cheap bread on one day, the own brands, the Cola (I actually prefer the Tesco 17p one), the tiny packets of crisps, and the choc-ices which are the best value I've seen in years! That final line of figures on an enormous Excel page with an area approximately the size of East Anglia, would show that Scrobs paid just a few pennies more than he thought he was, and that's the icing on the cake (four for the price of three...)!

So I'm probably the same gullible old shopper, thinking I've spotted a bargain, (and sometimes I really have), but as that Monty Python character with all his limbs chopped off shouted once, 'I'll get you on the way back';

...and they do!

Tuesday 14 June 2011


Goodbye John Mackenzie, who 'talked' Bob Hoskins through the most chilling and memorable ending to any film I think I've ever seen...

Saturday 11 June 2011

And the bricks lie down on Crystal Palace...

A serious tincture-intake event caused Scrobs to stay over in the smoke yesterday, as there would be pandemonium on all the various forms of transport which would have to be deployed to enable such a late return home (pogo stick, hands and knees, horsedrawn landau etc), so ED generously said 'come and stay with us'...

The next morning, of course, they both sped off to work as is their wont, and after a great chat and putting the world to rights with his delightful Daught, Scrobs was left to his own devices for an hour or so before business restarted for the day.

As ED and EDP live near Crystal Palace, it is not difficult to vault over the fence, and survey the park at a leisurly pace. I've done this on a couple of occasions before, under similar circumstances, and find the place just totally beautiful and inspiring.

To think that I used to live just down the road, and that I'd drive past the place thousands of times without ever venturing inside, makes me somewhat ashamed that one of the much loved buildings (or ruins) of this dear country never got a peek from Scrobs (except for a visit one evening to watch a chum do the high jump in 1969).

Just wandering around the ruins of that great building is a humbling experience. The demise in 1936 is of course well documented, but to me, with the Brownie Box camera slung over a spare limb, it still seems as though the firefighters have just stamped on the remaining glowing embers, loaded up the buckets and hoses, told the people watching to buzz off, switched off the lights and gone home.

I hope the plans to refurbish the place come to fruition one day; I won't hold my breath, as there are more pressing requirements around, like mending the country, but I'm so glad that the army of gardeners keeps it in pretty good shape. It will look even better when they can get rid of the wire netting everywhere, but I just love the place.

As an aside, on the way home, I'd noticed in a road nearby, a stunningly beautiful example of intricate brickwork, which is a whole story in itself, so I'll post that soon.

Meanwhile, the Crystal Palace's foundations settle a little lower, move a few bricks around, and slumber on for another few years.

Lovely to see you both M and M, you recognise the theme of the title no doubt...

Saturday 4 June 2011

The plot thickens...

October 2010...

Last month...

Back in 1988, just after the big storm the year before, I built a sizeable barn replacement for a local farmer.

His old barn had blown over, and of course, he needed a replacement pretty quick, as his cows were beginning to low a bit louder, and generally become unionised over the wet hay issues, as well as having nowhere to sleep when it was cold.

So Scrobs was called in to build a new one, and it was ever thus.

Apart from the frame collapsing spectacularly, while I was chatting with the old boy and watching from the side, we got it going pretty quickly, and had to decide what to put on the roof.

The natural farmer's choice is corrugated asbestos, because it looks the part. I originally wanted metal, but the noise would have been too great during the one thunderstorm we were due to get before this summer we're in now, so the farmer won the argument, and asbestos it was. The roofing weights were recalculated, and it all went up like a dream.

Just this week, at the allotments, a very generous soul has given our group down the end, a large plastic and steel container for rainwater collection. He gets these for free from a place which would have to 'recycle' them in the Meltdown Chamber at Dungeness Power Station, or somewhere similarly bureaucratic, because it once contained wood preservative, but they are magnificent for the job of collecting the faint dribble of mist which we might get before July is out.

The agreement is that I fix it up next to our shed, and divert the downpipe which normally goes into the bath I use for water, into this big tank. That's fine, but in doing so the roof needs recovering because it wasn't built by Scrobs, and there are various deficiencies in design, which need rubbing out.

Our generous soul also came up with the idea of supplying some corrugated metal sheets to put on the roof, but I can't get them home to cut them, and have already mucked up my hacksaw trying to do it without power. So I was b******d.

Until GS suggested that I might like some spare Onduline sheets he has lying about. Now, this stuff is peculiar, corrugated bitumen stuff, and I knew very little about it, until in a jiffy, I'd picked them up, snipped them to shape and fitted them all last evening!

Great result! We have a red roof at the front, and a cream roof at the back, and I'll pop on the ridge sometime today!

This is the stuff he gave me, and it's exactly what was needed for the job.

But why the connection to a barn built in 1988 you ask? Come on, I can hear the whisperings, the sideways glances and rolling eyes! You're all (both of you) muttering 'That silly old fart Scrobs is losing the few marbles he has left, and is killing time before his next tincture...'!

Well the answer is this. The farmer at some stage, suggested that all his agricultural chums were rooting around for sheets like this, because they were perfect for the oddities of uneven roof joists, leaning structures etc., and could be cut with a clasp knife, and why don't I use them on his barn?

He looked decidedly crestfallen when I'd said they would be useless...

Wish I hadn't now...