Latest excuse

Dear Uncle Bogler is suffering from Election Fever and has been ordered to rest his thought process.

He is smiling and cheery and gives you all the thumbs-up, dear Spammers, Lookers and Pursuers, but the tears coursing down his cheeks would suggest a certain Weltschmertz has overcome the poor old soul.

He promises to try to resume writing his usual interesting and informative and above all highly readable items once the outcome of May 7th’s polling has largely been forgotten in the welter of blame for the failings of the previous administration.

– Herr Doktor Professor Ernst von-und-zu Bogl, Proprietor-at-large (by Appointment).

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Men wearing cardigans

“Police have been training to spot tattoos, books and even clothing that could indicate someone is a paedophile. About 400 Durham officers were taught specialist skills developed by Texas police and Dr Joe Sullivan, an expert who has worked on the Madeleine McCann case.

“Dr Sullivan said he did not want to give more details to the public but that his knowledge had come from interviewing thousands of paedophiles.”

– Yahoo! News story.

It’s obviously a cause of great concern to most normal, sane folks that it’s virtually impossible to tell who is, and who is not, a dirty paedophiliac.

That elderly male, or female with an obvious moustache and facial warts, bearing a tattoo on their arm reading “Lend me your child!”, lurking evasively next to you in the bus queue or hanging from a strap in the crowded train carriage, sitting at the next table in the nursery or leering crookedly at your daughters outside the pharmacy, could be a paedo, or a Jesuit. You never knew. There was no sure way of telling. Until now.

The problem is, paedos don’t float on water, and neither do humans. So ducking them in ponds doesn’t help. Unlike vampires, for instance, paedos can be seen reflected in mirrors, even in daylight, and are able to cross running brooks with ease without melting. Many of them even use garlic in their cooking (cooking is, of course, one way to spot a paedo. Very few plain folks cook.) Hanging garlic around their little necks isn’t going to save the children either, my brethren. It certainly hasn’t saved the country. Any person having truck with garlic ought to be sent home, for the sake of our once great nation.

As for the Sign of the Cross… Well, how’re you going to tell the difference between a paedo and your local vicar? (No, don’t let’s go there. Ed.) The worst kind of paedo surely is your atheist, or apostate, paedo: some vile apology for a Godless human being, maybe even a Muslim, who has renounced The Way, to whom the symbol of the suffering of Our Lord means absolutely nothing, the brute. “Suffer little children to come unto me…”, indeed.

Thanks to the selfless work of Dr Joe, however, in exposing himself to the raw horror of interrogating, literally, like thousands of wit… sorry, paedo scumbags, we now have several surefire ways of telling who is, or is not, a paedo, before we burn the bastards at the stake.

Sure, we might make a few mistakes along the way. A few innocent people might suffer the pangs of eternity, for a short while. But with the law of averages on our side, muh brethren, the Lord’s Mercy can be brought to bear on ridding our fair land from the scourge of men wearing cardigans.

“PCSO Adam Grundy, 28, put his new skills to use just two weeks after the training, protecting a five-year-old girl. He became concerned when he spotted a condom and a Viagra pill at the property of a man in his 80s during a routine call.

Mr Grundy said: “This guy was very stand-offish and wanted me to leave. His personality had completely changed and that was something I referred back to in my training.”

– Yahoo! News story.

Hell, yes. Way to go, Adam. And only 28 years of Our Lord old. It takes a sharp-eyed, well-muscled young PCSO to spot something as deadly as a Viagra pill, as purely evil as a condom, as telling as a complete change of personality, from outside someone’s house. But if you know where an 80-something-year-old man lives, you know his personality and you’ve got the guts to go in and confront him with his evil old ways, well, that’s the place to start looking for a deviant, when you’ve had the Special Training from Dr Joe and his Texas Rangers.

I’d guess it was the sandals with socks that gave the game away. Adam must’ve spotted the old pervert coming out of the Oxfam shop and trailed him home. Maybe the elderly female shop volunteer person became suspicious and did her doody as a member of the normal heterosexual community and reported seeing the old man’s rippling tats in the changing booth, the sickening images of flowery hearts and the secret codeword ‘Mom’ stippled on his old pecs, as he tried on the suspicious garment and handed over a few telltale grimy coins. (One good way of catching paedos might be to place incriminating clothing on the racks in charity shops. Note to Dr Joe?)

Adam would’ve routinely called in without any stupid old warrant, as Community Policing officers are empowered to do, tricked his way in, ignoring the witch’s suspiciously standoffish manner and over-polite request to leave; ripped open the goat-horn buttons of its threadbare cardi – goat paraphernalia present is another sure way of telling a damned paedo Devil-worshipper from us folks with Godly fasteners – revealed the incriminating tats on the old man’s scrawny paedo chest, spotted the banned copy of Enid Blyton’s ‘Five go to Cornwall with Uncle Dick’ on his well-stocked bookshelf of evil, and protected that kid, right there and then.

God, when I think of her, cowering in the corner, that evil, priapic old goat, cooking-up garlic in his steaming cauldron, those socks, why, it makes you sick to your stomach.

This on-the-ball young PCSO surely deserves a medal for applying the Special Training in a clear situation. Dr Joe deserves – heck, I don’t know, making a saint or somesuch. I’d buy him a beer, but I’m wheat-allergic.

(Okay, Bogler, that’s enough satire. It isn’t funny. Ed.)

Comment of the Day:

“The girls were sold like meat to filthy perverts all over the north. Not all of them would have been Labour voters.”

– ‘Byron’, Yahoo! Homepage

They’re spying on you

As seen on TV blueberries

Blueberry Giant – Grow Up To 16,0000 Berries Per Plant

No need to trek out to the grocery store just to buy old blueberries.
With the Blueberry Giant you can grow your very own fresh,
juicy blueberries in your own home.

 

Now, aside from the image of my living room playing host to sixteen thousand freshly grown, juicy blueberries – maybe they’d look better in the bathroom?, and the subsidiary image of myself in snowshoes and a cagoule, beating my way northwards into a howling blizzard, fighting off wolves and injuns as I trek to the grocery store, only to find that the blueberries they have for sale were disappointingly grown months ago, so that the visiting TV crew must have wondered why they had been sent to video a pile of wizened fruit, long past its sell-by, I’m wondering why this refreshingly naive message has appeared in my Spam folder today, of all days?

Could there be a secret link between the world of commerce and this, my anonymous bogl, that has no connection whatever with the As Seen on TV Blueberries Co. to the best of my knowledge?

How exactly has a link seemingly been created to my IP address at Yahoo!, via WordPress, enabling Blueberry Giant to track me down out of the blue with a can of Blueberry Spam all the way from the good ol’ USA?

Could it be something to do with a Page I posted just this morning on this very website, in which the word ‘blueberry’ appears? Not, I have to say, something that happens every day of the year.

I hope not. No, it can’t be.

Outstanding recruitment ad of the year (or any other year)

Hi-de-hi, campers

From time to time your Uncle Bogler has been known to make disparaging remarks about obscure or badly written recruitment ads, as I continue to plough my lonely furrow through life as an unemployable man.

The following example, that arrived on the wings of one of my many daily employment opportunity bulletin alerts, however, is notable for its astonishing component of complete and utter, bureaucratic bullshit.

So much so, that I cannot resist sharing just a brief extract with you.

I’me debating whether to leave you to guess what the job actually is, but I can’t resist a spoiler. It’s for a 15-hours a week shop assistant in the ‘visitor centre’ at the entrance to a country park near Ponterwyd. I mention that, because you might otherwise think Natural Resources Wales is hoping to resurrect the great national hero, Owain Glyn Dwr; or perhaps even King Arthur of the Britons himself.

Why it is absolutely necessary to be able to speak Welsh (Fluency Grade 4) to work in a tourist attraction where 99% of the visitors won’t actually be Welsh and the other 1% understand English perfectly well is always something that bothers me, living where I do.

Read it and despair. (There is more. There is always more.)

These shared outcomes recognise the need for close working with stakeholders (including customers, communities, staff and representative groups). Multi-partner delivery will be central in addressing the key challenges associated with sustainable development and working in partnership with Welsh Government and other delivery partners, Natural Resources Wales Leadership Group will contribute collectively to deliver the shared outcomes [1] :

1. The people of Wales are safe

2. Natural resources are healthy and resilient

3. There are more and better jobs for now and for the future

4. The people of Wales are healthy

5. People live in viable and vibrant places

6. There are increased opportunities for people to achieve a better quality of life, and people are wealthier with greater equality

7. People have the knowledge and ability to make the best choices for future wellbeing

Delivery against these outcomes will require new ‘ways of working’ and Natural Resources Wales is committed to being a learning organisation adopting an ecosystems approach to deliver the NRW’s overall mission.

As a new organisation, Natural Resources Wales will face challenges in establishing itself as an exemplar in terms of how it delivers these innovative and far reaching concepts in Wales. There will also be challenges in ensuring that the organisation provides value for money for Wales and maximises the impact of sustainability for our people, communities, environment and economy.

Got that? We’ve sacked the National Assembly, the kid is in charge, so can we have two vanilla ice-creams and a tea-towel, please?

Muffing the muffins

Does it help, knowing we are all in the same hopeless boat, adrift on a sea of uncertainty and disarray?

Possibly.

I mentioned in the Post next to this one, that my muffins refuse to rise. By which I mean, they don’t develop those big overflowingly generous-looking tops.

Muffin-tops!

I started with a recipe from Delia Smith, doyenne of homely cooking and centrefield mastermind of Norwich United FC. Go, the Canaries.  It was a miserable failure. Could it have been that she specifies plain flour with a teaspoon of baking soda? But all I had was Allinson’s self-raising wholemeal, with the bran sifted out? Would that have made the difference?

All the ingredients were fresh off the supermarket shelf. The egg was Free Range. I first macerated the expensive fruit, as recommended. I measured carefully, everything except the oven temperature. I have no idea how to set the oven temperature on my cooker. I need a new cooker, with a temperature setting thing, not a random digital counter. So I just got it pretty hot, about halfway up. Heat is heat, right?

I used crinkly paper cups, in a muffin pan. I made sure not to under-blend the wet-n-dry ingredients. I made sure not to over-blend them (it’s Be Kind to Gluten Week). My batter was deliciously partly-mixed and chunky. Raw, it tasted wonderful. I spooned it with sticky difficulty into the cups, right to the top as directed. Finally I followed Delia’s advice to put the tray in the top of the oven.

What I got 40 minutes later were six small cakes. They tasted fine, I’m still eating them, but no way could you call them muffins. The bits of expensive fruit had burned around the edges. And the cakes had to be scraped off the paper cups, leaving most of the outside behind. My cakes were overdone on top, and soggy in the middle.

Something was wrong.

Next, I turned to Claire Ptak, she of the Velvet Bakery in London. I had had a bit of a torrid time with her Plum Victoria Sponge last week, as the quantities in the recipe were so clearly off-kilter. 700 ml of whipped cream, for one 18 cm sponge? There was a bucketful left over even after I’d splodged a half-inch or so layer for the filling. You don’t measure liquid milk, surely, in dry grammes? And it was still runny after the recommended max. 40 mins cooking time. That turned into an hour and a half.

The ladies at choir that night were a-flutter with praise for my Plum Sponge, but I knew Claire’s over-heavy sponge didn’t deserve it.

Claire’s muffins were even worse than Delia’s, and more expensive, blackberries being hors du saison in March. Just for the hell of it, I folded some of the spare cream into the mix, which made them taste fluffy and delicious for one evening, but rubbery and sour the next day, as if I had forgotten the sugar. They still didn’t rise. Was one egg enough? And a teaspoon of baking powder added to the self-raising flour? Was that too much? Was I using the right blend of baking powder?

Yet again, cakes. Burned on top, and fluffy, going-on rubbery in the middle.

Today I changed the flour. I bought bog-standard McDougall’s Plain. I suppose I should have sieved, but I’ve never found a single lump in a McDougall’s bag. I tossed instead, and doubled the quantity of baking soda and – on Yotam Ottolenghi’s advice – added a pinch of bicarb, which I am now unhappily farting. I filled the cases right to the top. The mix was suspiciously runny.

Confidence was low, as I was conscious of the fact that, on the next page of Ottolenghi – the pages have all stuck together after my wild success with his Apple Cake with Olive Oil the previous week, where it came out looking exactly like in the photograph and grown women wept at my feet – he was going to ask me to put in FIVE teaspoons of baking powder. One tastes bad enough (do these culinary celebrities read their own stuff, one wonders, idly?).

Forty minutes later, the muffins haven’t risen again. They don’t look at all like Yotam’s riotous explosions. They look flat, with hard tops and soggy middles. The expensive blueberries are again burned. The cakes are again decimated by firm, irremovable adherence to the crinkly paper. I think I’ll drop the crinkly paper idea, especially if the muffins are not going to form perfect domes above it, like in Costa Coffee.

What can one do, but turn to the Interweb Thing? Keying plaintively: ‘Muffins won’t rise’ produces literally hundreds of Help fora on the subject. Gratifyingly, it seems that no-one in the entire world’s muffins will rise. And no-one really knows why not, to judge by the shot-in-the-dark answers from self-styled experts.

There are only six key ingredients in a muffin, and it is even a help that they should be inexpertly blended. Flour, sugar, egg (Yotam recommends using several), milk, melted butter, raising agent – plus your choice of flavouring. What’s to go wrong?

Well, there are only four base-pair combinations in the human genome, and we haven’t run out of strange faces yet.

But I’m not giving up, nossir. Someone recommends putting the tray in the bottom of the oven, after an initial blast of searing heat. Someone else says not to use too much raising agent. Someone else says it’s cheaper and easier and much, much less time-consuming to buy muffins from the cake shop… Oh, yes, that’s me!

Try that next. Saves washing-up.

Try anything.

Finance with strings: a moral and cultural dilemma, for which advice is required.

I imagine myself as a connoisseur of a certain category of items. I am not a collector of them, I am a specialiser. I should like to own forevermore just one of those items, rather than many. It therefore needs to be a special one. But not so special that it has no marginal utility for me, or overestimates my capability ever to beneficially maximise its usage.

(You see, it might be a Ferrari, or a McLaren, or a Lamborghini, but I’d be terrified to touch the gas pedal on any of them!)

For several weeks I have been seriously considering buying an item priced at £2500. It has all the aesthetic appeal, quality and utility I could ever wish for, but it comes from a US company that makes a lot of such items in a wide range of prices. This one is somewhere towards the lower end of the upper end of what they make. It is good, but not special.

Now, however, I have been offered another item, priced at £3500. This has the aesthetic appeal, quality and utility, perhaps to a superior degree, but also with some rarity value, as it comes from a small, specialist UK manufacturer. At present there is only one available anywhere. It is quite special and it might sell quickly and I would lose the opportunity to acquire it.

But I do not know how much of that additional £1000 is vested purely in its rarity value, or if it is genuinely buying me £1000 extra quality and utility. I cannot know, until it is in my hands.

Should I buy item A, then, I know I shall probably spend the rest of my life wishing I had had the courage to go for item B, to the point where if another comes along I would happily sell item A to acquire it. By then, it may prove difficult to afford it.

I do not currently have the cash to buy either item, however I am expecting within a few days to learn if I am able either to a) remortgage, or b) sell, my house (for reasons unconnected with my obsession), and I have taken care to build-in some extra to acquire at least item A and, at a pinch, item B.

I can ignore item B and wait a few weeks to buy item A for cash. Or, I can reserve either item for up to two weeks with 10% deposit, which I can afford – although in the case of item B it will take half exactly of my savings and there may be other priorities. Or, I can arrange a hire purchase contract, although if I can neither obtain the mortgage nor sell the house, I should not be able to afford the repayments without making a large deposit that I do not have the cash for.

Or, either item can be easily acquired on a ‘pay nothing for 12 months’ basis.

This latter course is tempting, but is a gamble. I should have the item in my hands in five days’ time. A bird in the hand, indeed!  But what if neither opportunity to raise finance were to eventuate? A forbidding tsunami-wall of debt would approach ever closer as time goes on. Should I fail to make payment in full by April 2016 I should have to commit to a repayment schedule that I could not afford on my income, at a very high rate of interest.

Tomorrow, I leave for London for a few days. Advise me, o perspicacious augur: should I settle this now with a 12-months’ payment holiday (and on which item, A or B?); pay a deposit in the hope of having more cash in good time – it might take several more weeks to come through – or postpone a decision until after the holidays, hoping not to have lost any opportunity in the meantime, perhaps by then having had confirmation of the offer of a mortgage, or with the keen interest of a buyer ringing around my little kitchen –  but still being faced with the same dilemmas as to which to try to buy, and what would be the best way?

And finally, why do I always get myself into these situations? Should I not just take up baking cakes? (My muffins keep turning out a disaster, despite using expensive cookery books and adding extra baking powder, they refuse to rise. More advice is needed on that…)

Pip pip!

UB (worried face)

Postscriptum

Apologies to my Spammers, Lookers and Pursuers for the lengthy hiatus beween Postings, the last one being three weeks ago. I couldn’t think of much to say in the meantime, that wasn’t too deeply personal. (Another time, maybe.)

Afterlude, April 9th

The matter has been settled for me. My credit application has been rejected. That’s a relief.