Author Archives: quercuscommunity

Sportswashing, Bribery and Beer

I’ve just been reading about the decision by the Qatari government to ban the sale of alcohol in and around football stadia during the World Cup. I’m not really sure what the fuss is about. If you are going for the sport, you can enjoy football without beer. If you were going with the for the drinking, Qatar probably isn’t the best place for you anyway.

As I understand it from attending rugby matches at football grounds, the sale of alcohol is restricted in the UK, and you aren’t even allowed to have the tops of soft drinks bottles. You have to allow the bar staff to take them off and retain them in case you should throw it at the players. It doesn’t seem a big deal.

Anyway, unless I’m missing the point, their attitude to alcohol isn’t the worst thing about the Qatari government. If you really want to be picky you could make a list of other points that raise concerns, like slavery, migrant workers, women’s rights and LGBT rights.

FIFA, the players and the world in general, has muttered a bit but not really done anything much about anything. In that it follows general sporting practice. After all, several host countries of recent sporting events have questionable records on human rights. Of course, the biggest ethical question hanging over the current World Cup is whether it should ever have gone ahead, as the allegations of self-enrichment (so much nicer as a word than “bribery” isn’t it?) seem to indicate that greed, rather than the good of the game, was the guiding principle in awarding the World Cup.

If you have a few minutes, read this, it’s a statement on human rights and the various pronouncements of sporting bodies, many of whom seem to ignore their own guidelines in awarding their events to the highest bidders. If not, and I wouldn’t blame you for not reading it, take it from me, money talks louder than ethics.

At this point, I suppose I should mention golf, but this article covers it better than I could, so have a look (it’s a quick read). I hadn’t heard the term “sportswashing” before.

That’s about it for the sporting part of the discussion. I will go on to Part 2 tomorrow and discuss a few other issues.

For now, I will leave you with a thought. Andy Murray. Works hard, wins things, does this. Perhaps we should show pictures of him to our football team so they can see what a proper sporting hero looks like.

I don’t have any pictures that relate to sport or ethics, so you’ll have to make do with some swans

Mute Swan


Sunday Slipping Past

It  was Saturday again, and then it was Sunday. Sunday took the form of porridge followed up with bacon sandwiches, a few replies to comments, and a few blogs read. Then it slipped away from me.

Saturday was quite good in the shop. Several customers, several people selling, some eBay parcels and a general feeling of balance. We even saw another pre-Covid customer, as they gradually return to visiting shops. The customer who returned works in a supermarket and avoided Covid until 6 months ago. Then he had it again. This is bad luck, and a sign of what happens when you let your guard down.

Sunday has been OK too. You can’t have a bad day when you have porridge followed by bacon sandwiches. I’ve just had to do a small edit there. I had been writing “porridge and bacon sandwiches”, which is not at all the same thing as “porridge followed by bacon sandwiches”.

That was six hours ago and I’m feeling peckish again, but Julia is defrosting the freezer so we can start the Christmas stockpiling in earnest. This involves kettles, hairdryers, swearing, much poking with wooden implements, soggy newspaper and a multitude of loose peas (in former times I would have done the “escapee” joke, after thirty years it has worn a bit thin). It also involves me being told to stay out of the kitchen.

We have both been surprised by then number of part bags of prawns she found, and have had a conversation about stock control. I believe she hides things. She believes that I never look. There is some justice in this conclusion, though I still say she hides stuff too.

The menu for the next week is going to feature salmon, tuna, prawns and peas. Prawns and pasta tonight, tuna tomorrow, salmon on Tuesday and fish pie on Wednesday at a guess. My brains are going to be well-nourished this week.

Fish Pie

It’s Saturday Again . . .

Another evening of TV and sleep, with a very small portion of writing thrown in. This cannot be good physically or mentally. Ah, no, I did do a few replies to comments and reserved three shopping slots – one for tomorrow, one for next week and one for 21st December. Other people are obviously more organised than I am and all the ASDA Christmas slots are booked up – 21st is the closest I can get.

Actually, now I come to think of it, I did do a few other things, but nothing of any significance. There was no actual physical effort involved, unless you count liquidising the stew to make soup and making a cup of tea. Neither activity really gets the heart beating in the approved manner.

And so here I am again, writing last nights post in the morning. It’s a better use for Saturday morning than watching TV. It’s always a problem on Saturday. Because I don’t have to take Julia to work I’m stuck with extra time before I set off for work myself. It’s only about half an hour so there’s no time for major effort, but it does need filling.

My plan is to do a few more words, to make it past my 250 word target then have another cup of tea and pop down to work. It’s Saturday, so there are bound to be cars in our parking spots, which is always annoying, but I suppose things would be worse.  At least I have a job and a car. We laughed last week, when watching a member of one of our “underpaid” professions whining on about life on the poverty line. I’ve seen their pay scales and I assure you that a lot of this “poverty” is relative.

What made us laugh was that while she was complaining of poverty she had a box of Waitrose corn flakes on display. This probably doesn’t translate for my overseas readers, but we have a continuum of shops in UK – they start with Iceland, then Aldi and Lidl, move on to ASDA (Walmart) and TESCO, up to Sainsbury’s and then on to Waitrose and Marks & Spencer. If you buy your groceries from Waitrose or M&S, you have a long way to go before you can even see the poverty line.

And with that thought leaving an ironic smile on my face, I will go to work and see you all later.


Long Tailed Tit - Rufford Abbey

Curses, Cars and Cameras

I’ve been seriously thinking of having a camera fitted in the car.

A friend of mine, a few years ago, was lectured by the police after he was reported for making threats, with accompanying foul-mouthed abuse, to a woman driver who was badly parked in his street (it was part of an on-going neighbour dispute, which divided the street – an ex-policeman on one side and everyone else on the other). He was told to make himself available at the station with a view to being charged or cautioned, and advised that he may need legal advice. So he asked the police if they wanted to view his camera footage of the incident or if he should just give it to his solicitor ready for the court appearance, as he hadn’t sworn or made any threats, merely asked if she could park a little further along where the street was wider. She was the one who was aggressive.

The police muttered, and said they would be back in touch. When they rang back they said the complainant had decided to withdraw her complaint and no further action would be taken. Sadly, no action was taken against her for lying or wasting police time.

A couple of days ago I was reminded of this when a friend showed me a film of his wife being side-swiped by a car that overtook her and pulled across before completing the manoeuvre. He got out of his car complaining it was her fault and is maintaining that story to the insurance company. The film shows it is completely his fault. She was even decelerating at the time, so he should have had more room, not less, to pass. They spent £300 on the camera system and it seems to be worthwhile.

They had it fitted after a freak accident when two pallets fell off a passing trailer and smashed into the car, one wedging itself in the windscreen and missing his wife by inches. As they couldn’t trace the other vehicle it resulted in a long and time-consuming insurance wrangle.

This is beginning to look like one pieces of modern technology that might be useful. It will also improve my language, as the audio is distressingly clear. My friend’s wife demonstrated this with impeccable diction on the clip I saw. It’s undoubtedly an accurate description of the other driver, but not the sort of language you would normally use in front of a judge.

Header picture is a long-tailed tit at Rufford Abbey. I mentioned them a short while ago.

Marsh Tit at Rufford Abbey

Blue Tits being acrobatic

Broken Britain or Political Parasite?

This morning I watched a bit of TV, where one of the new-style social media personalities  was pursuing her career as political commentator, writer and some other smoke and mirrors words which all add up to parasite. Her mantra is “this country is broken”. She hasn’t really got a solution but she does have dual nationality. My advice would be to use this and live in the other country, which is Italy. Seems a nice country, warm, full of good food, Roman ruins and generally friendly people.

Strangely, she hasn’t done this. Of course, Italy, apart from its other advantages, has just elected a woman as Prime Minister so is clearly a forward-looking nation. It’s just a shame that the woman in question has, amongst other things, said on TV “I think Mussolini was a good politician. Everything he did, he did for Italy.” Could it be that Italy might be a little broken too?

Anyway, after that I blogged (catching up on yesterday) and went to the doctor where I had a blood test. It didn’t go well and the inside of my elbows were left looking like they’d been attacked by a vampire with a knitting needle.  I spent some time in a waiting room where a mother allowed her maskless child to run round and cough without putting its hand over its mouth. She was too busy to exert parental control as her telephone conversation was taking all her time.

Then I decided I really ought to do something about my flu vaccination. Doctors don’t seem to do much of that these days, so I asked at the pharmacist. They fitted me in and twenty minutes later (ten of which were spent sitting to ensure I was OK after the vaccination) I was back out and able to go for lunch with Julia.

The UK might be creaking under the strain, but it didn’t seem broken this morning.  This view, I suppose, may be why I don’t have a TV career as a political commentator.

The header picture is a reminder that I’m back to work tomorrow after my short break. I have enjoyed it. I may enjoy returning to work too. You never know.

Spam, Spam, Spam . . .

Sorry, I seem to have become an unreliable WordPresser recently – not much reading and some very erratic writing. I won’t promise to try harder because, believe it or not, I am trying harder. I’m just not very good at it.

It’s partly the fault of the Russians. They invaded Ukraine, gas supplies went up in price and we all decided to economise. That means I spend more time in the living room and less in the dining room. That is where I do my writing, on a junk covered table that has been used as a desk far longer than it was ever used as a dining table (and was actually a second-hand office table I was given about forty years ago). Conjure with that mental picture for a while, it’s hard to imagine why I’ve never been featured in a glossy magazine spread on elegant living, isn’t it?

We have, so far, only had the heating on for one day. It’s a mild autumn, which is lucky. The living room is a slightly warmer room than the dining room, which opens onto the kitchen and faces north. The living room has thicker carpets and is smaller and less draughty. We sit there with blankets on our knees talking about the good old days and saving money on gas so we can spend it on cake and my collection.

I could write in the living room, but I don’t write well when I balance a laptop on my knee, and it seems anti-social. I could use a pad and pen, but these days it’s harder to write when TV is on – I no longer have that youthful capacity to work and listen to TV. Sometimes I even find it hard to converse while TV is on.

So there you go – Russians, cold, WP and my mental decline, all in one post.

So, why the title? It’s because I was researching some South African medals on a family history website. Ancestry, my normal site, doesn’t cover South Africa, so I tried some others. One of them seems to have triggered an avalanche of spam. First of all I got adverts for anti-virus software and then threats about harmful viruses on my computer. I’ve had them before, but have ignored them and they have faded away.This time, though they came to nothing, they did leave me with an annoying number of pop-ups. I’ve downloaded a free pop-up blocker. So far this morning it has blocked 62 pop-ups – that’s about one every twenty seconds. It’s hard work using a computer when a third of the screen is constantly choked with spam. I am, to say the least, frustrated and annoyed, and wishing I’d not bothered with the South African family research.

The picture? Fund-raising flags for Serbia, from around 1914. We bought them in with some junk a few weeks ago. The problem with the Balkans are still with us, as are our problems with the Russian Bear and jingoism.

The Second Part of the Story

Here, as promised, is the second part of my shopping story.

I ordered groceries from Whoosh, the instant delivery service from TESCO. It costs £5 and promises delivery within the hour. A normal home delivery from TESCO is around £3.50 so £5 isn’t too bad. Prices always seem a little higher than normal, and you can’t get a great range, but it’s adequate for what it is – a service for affluent young people and older people who can’t plan properly (like me).. It’s a bit like shopping against the clock, because they give you a time limit and the website isn’t the quickest thing to use – you can’t always find what you want and they keep interrupting with automated filling in of search terms, which is a nuisance and a time waster. All in all, I don’t like the system, but sometimes, like when you want to buy chocolates and cake to stop your wife passing judgement on your housekeeping skills, it’s useful.

Well, it would be if they delivered the right thing.

I knew there was a  problem when I opened the bag and found a lettuce on the top. Still, a random lettuce isn’t the end of the world. Then there was a bag of salad, organic bananas and free range eggs. And cat food and toothpaste for kids. And cheap jam tarts. As you know, I have got rid of the kids, don’t have a cat, distrust salad and think free range/organic is, in the main, a rip-off. That leaves me with cheap jam tarts. Why waste the money? They are all crumbs and thin layers of cheap jam. If I’m going to kill myself with fat and sugar (and I am, have no doubt about it) I’m going to do it in style. At least the milk was full fat and the strawberry jam was a good brand.

Anyway, I rang the helpline. They couldn’t help. What they could do was issue a refund (though it will take several days to show up) and tell me to keep the groceries. So I have £30 of free groceries. Fortunately I can use most of them, though I my have to buy a cat.

The header picture is just a stock cake picture in a story that does not actually involve Battenberg. Sorry about my low standards of journalism.

Carrot & Ginger Soup

Parsnip Soup

The shortage is over, and we now have more parsnips than we need. That’s not a hard problem to balance, as I have just made parsnip and lentil soup. It’s possible that I didn’t need the lentils but, at the back of my mind, I always have the idea that a varied diet is a healthy one.

I am now wondering whether to make a hash or a vegetable stew for my next dish of the day. I’m favouring hash at the moment because we are out of flour and stew without dumplings is just a bowl of boiled vegetables. That is OK in summer but not so good in winter.

Really, I should get a new menu as I seem to recall writing similar blog posts before.  I was going to try pilaff after one of the neighbours brought one round for us, but I never quite get round to it. I’ve made it before, but suspect it was so long ago I wasn’t married.

Tidying my desk has gone unevenly. There’s definitely a difference, but I’m not sure it’s an improvement, being more of an exercise in relocation than in decluttering. It’s going to be an 9nteresting conversation with Julia when she gets back. That’s why I’ve just been messing around on Whoosh, the TESCO short-notice delivery service. I meant to order flour, but the system defeated me. I did remember chocolate cake, so there’s a chance I may be able to buy her off. I will, of course tell her it’s a birthday treat, rather than draw attention to the carnage around my table.

I’m trying to cut down on portion sizes. It hasn’t really worked with the soup, so I’m going to try again with the hash. The only trouble is in cutting down the corned beef. What do you do with half a tin of corned beef that has been extracted from the tin with more force than skill? It might slice in this weather but in summer it can end badly, at which point I just shovel it all in.

I just had my Whoosh delivery. That is going to be a whole new post. Drop by later for that. It will be worth it. For now, imagine my surprise at opening it up and finding I had a lettuce in my shopping. A lettuce🙹 (That’s an interrobang, by the way, it really is proper punctuation.) Not sure if it looks better than ?!, which is one of the alternatives.


Poetry in Translation – The Trouble with Tits

At one time I was fascinated by foreign languages, but frustrated by my lack of talent in learning them. What I should have done, while I still had the intellect, was to have learned them in a more structured way. I had a friend who wanted to do languages at University and he used to give himself a target to memorise a list of words each week. If only I had learnt then what it took me another forty years to realise – talent isn’t necessary, and hard work  will always beat it.

At the back of my mind, since looking at haiku in translation, I have become convinced that writing haiku in foreign languages isn’t difficult. It can’t be, because there aren’t many worlds and there are no complicated ideas. This is strange, as I make hard work of them in English, so really can’t imagine they are less difficult in a foreign language. Such thoughts are often born from a position of ignorance, so I’m probably going to alter my position on that subject.

Also at the back of my mind, in that portion where the world is a strange place and reality has little to do with my thoughts, is a vague thought that even if you are a native English speaker, that isn’t enough to enable you to write haiku for Americans.

For one thing, the guidelines generally given fro writing haiku are often ignored by American editors so I don’t have a clue what they really want.

And for another, you have the “two nations divided by a common language” problem.Take birds, for instance. As I look out of my window, I see Blue Tits and Great Tits in reasonable numbers. This is not a family of birds familiar to the American reader. They have chickadees. In any case, I tend to steer clear of tits in poetry, as the ambiguity of the word tends to encourage smutty levity and the proliferation of limerick type verses.

Until the Great War they were known as titmice, if you look in older bird books. This is just one more area where the war encouraged the decline of society – the others being votes for women and the popularity of the wrist watch. Life was much easier when women let us think we were in charge and where watches were commonly worn in waistcoats. The decline in standards can, I am convinced, be blamed on the decline of the waistcoat. You don’t need a watch pocket if you have the infernal device strapped to your wrist, and without a waistcoat all you are left with is a gravy-stained shirt. No waistcoat, no gravitas.

Back at the poetry/ornithology interface, how do you get round the chickadee/tit problem? Tits have one syllable, chickadees have three. You can’t just slip in one word as a substitute for another. In haiku syllables are important. In a poem limited to 17 syllables, adding two is a difficult task. Three syllables are a sixth of the poem. Do that calculation for a sonnet and it’s over two lines. That is significant length. At least with the goldcrest/kinglet translation there is no syllable problem. You might be OK translating chickadee and long-tailed tit, but who in his right mind is going to try to get long-tailed tit into a haiku?

Anyway, Julia is 125 miles away, visiting Number One Son in his new Norwich home, and I am already thinking about a Chinese takeaway. Or possibly a curry. One thing I’m definitely not thinking about is salad. So, I’m going to leave it here, and start behaving like a bachelor. Loads of TV featuring archaeology and machinery and no diet. And definitely no washing up until it’s twenty minutes from Julia’s estimated return.

Photo by Pixabay on

Skit Notes

They are, according to the British Museum, ” objects resembling banknotes, with a political, satirical or fantasy theme (ie. they are not real money).” I couldn’t have put it better myself. So I used cut and paste, the plagiarist’s friend.

Unfortunately that’s about all the museum has to say on the subject, though they do have a few illustrations. The Cruikshank note is political (anti-hanging), others are Bank of Love and an advert. These are the broad categories you tend to get today.

Boris Johnson Political/Satirical skit note

Though skit notes have been about since at least the early 19th Century, I’m going to concentrate on a few of the more modern ones – one of Jacob Rees Mogg and one of Boris Johnson. They are both Old Etonians who went to Oxford and then set themselves up in politics to run the country. Rees Mogg is often known as the “honourable member for the 18th Century” due to his old-fashioned views, hence the top hat and denomination of “guineas” on the note and the slightly rude Latin mottoes on the note. Boris is best known as a liar, hence the sum mentioned on the note – infamous Brexit Bus lie.

I don’t totally dislike Rees Mogg as I do love an eccentric. I also believe that he is a man of conviction. It’s just a shame that I feel many of his convictions stink. According to Wikipedia (for those of you who didn’t read the link) “In February 2012, he used the word “floccinaucinihilipilification“—meaning “the habit of considering as worthless”—during a parliamentary debate; it was noted as the longest word then uttered on the floor of the House of Commons.” Of course, my view of him will be of no interest to him as I am of that sort he classifies as oafs.

Boris, on the other hand, being a repeat adulterer and serial liar, has no place in national politics and entertaining as he can be, should be removed from public life and, if there is any justice, be incarcerated in a small damp cell forever.

However, this isn’t a political blog so I will calm down. It’s strange to reflect, as I was saying to my sister earlier today, I am generally conservative by nature, but would be quite happy for these two to be consigned to the fires of Hell and prodded by demons on a regular basis.

The reverse of both the notes share a reverse, which is considerably less forthright than I am.

Reverse of Rees Mogg and Johnson Skit Notes

As a bit of light relief I will add another note, based on our old £5 from my youth.

Euro Skit Note


Euro Skit Note – Duke of Wellington