Changing civilisation

The Roman and Greek writers complained that civilisation wasn’t as civil any more so there’s nothing new there, but there’s a couple of things that happened yesterday that made me wonder.

As I was travelling home by train there was a poster on the platform. A child had died on the tracks two days earlier. The poster apologised for the inconvenience. It wasn’t tongue-in-cheek, it also praised (in small letters underneath) the work of the rescue team, but the purpose of the poster was to staunch the flow of complaints the railways had been getting as despite the death being the top news headline and clear announcements throughout the day since it happened, there was still greater concern over the reaction of self-centred members of the public affecting complaints levels and revenue. I’m not sure whose reaction is worse.

I sat an interview yesterday. Went well! But I discovered beforehand that I had grown out of my adult-tailored clothes and could only fit into my child-size ones. There is now such an obesity problem in children that the clothes for young teens dwarf me no matter what size I now am.

There’s a meme: “I don’t want to live on this planet anymore”. I can see their point.

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For the benefits of customers, sometimes companies ‘improve’ things.

Apologies to anyone I’d normally be talking to on msn/hotmail/skype – my hotmail has suddenly ‘updated’ to skype only for instant messaging, without my asking it to, and presents with only a randomly selected and out of date handful of addresses with no means of retrieving the others. The ‘real’ skype provokes meltdown on this computer.

Likewise I’d have simply updated the blog post I put this week (we went to St Austell’s brewery – they do ice cream), but I can’t find the dashboard anywhere. I can select to follow any one of a number of strangers I’ve never heard of, but it’s a matter of pure luck (which technically it can’t be) as to what pages load when I sign in.

As usual hotmail also can’t reply to anything either, but that’s more to do with it being this time of day. Not so long ago there was a nice man who came from the phone company and found someone had stripped out the copper from the external cables.

So on the few occasions I’m near a computer long enough to type something, the technology “updated for your convenience” won’t let me. Don’t think I’m being rude in not chatting – I’m just missing the good old days when international stamps were sold in places that weren’t only open while everyone was at work.

Incidently, I’ve not used Amazon since Christmas after the mess made of a present that tooks weeks and cost more than twice as much to sort out. HMV and Waterstones are expensive, but work out to about the same cost overall with a lot less stress, especially now they’ve realised what they were doing wrong and have stopped demanding payment upfront for a product you’ve not seen. (It used to be that they demanded payment then refused to refund or return if the item arrived damaged, hence I moved to Amazon).

And they wonder why so many people fear computers and dismiss technology.

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Home stretch

Lots has been happening in the background and my upcoming choices appear to have changed. We’ll see how that all works out.

In the meantime, Dragon is back from the vet’s after havingĀ  a part replaced that should have been done nearly 70,000 miles or over 15 years ago. Given that Frankie is still off-road awaiting a new engine (last one took six months) we thought that having Dragon still active was a good idea.

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“Back again!” said Norah with a monumental crash

Back from a sunny whistlestop tour around Cornwall. Photos on request – loading some would probably crash it. We saw:

A performance at Minack theatre (what happens if you let someone with an idea lose with concrete)

Eden Project (ditto, with a greenhouse and a quarry)

Barrowall Barrow (“The antiquarian lined the site with stones, it is now difficult to discern the original” or thereabouts)

Nine maidens (standing stones in a line)

Merry maidens (standing stones in a ring)

Tregiffian burial chamber (next to above)

The Hurlers (standing stones in circles)

Minions (It’s a real place!)

Carn Euny [prehistoric] village (including Fogou)

Chysauster [prehistoric] Village (with Fogou)

Halliggye Fogou (which makes up for all other fogous being short)

Small quoit by the road

Trethevy quoit

Lanyon quoit

Chun Castle – including quoit

Man an Tol (famous rock with hole in it)

Celtic church and wishing well

Carnglaze caverns

Pendennis Castle

St Mawes Castle

Restormel Castle (where a window has been walled up leaving the walling and no window)

King Donient’s stone

Dupath Chapel (where “water not fit for drinking” is a cough cure)

Breock Downs Monolith with views

Mullion Cove


National Lobster Hatchery (complete with colour morphs)



Prideaux Place

Wheal Martyn clay mines

We even had a new member of English Heritage as it worked out that there was two months membership for less than the cost of entering a castle once. Now we plan to go to Stonehenge and other complicated sites quick before it runs out!

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Shared interests

The household here is made up of diverse characters, not counting the new cheeses scuttling around in the fridge or the layer of culture in the bathroom. It’s recognised that this is good, if irritating, as the whole is far greater than the sum of the parts. Having someone who is practical and someone who is not scared of academe gives a confidence and means to succeed in areas that would otherwise be flummoxing.

Then we saw this:

We weren’t overly impressed with the ‘minimalist on too cheap a budget’ look: it’s full of plastic-seamed soulless clutter that detracts from what would otherwise be a nice flat.

Then we saw the basement and said, “Want!” We showed friends who agreed. So, there are differences, but deep down there are similarities not shared with ‘normal’ people. Years ago a mate said, “Yeah, but you were never going to be happy with a newbuild semi, 2.4 children and a BMW on the drive.” Looks like they were right and I’m not the only one – debates on what playmate to get Dragon haven’t yet named anything made after 2000.

(We also agreed that the guy in the boredpanda piece needs a new girlfriend, urgently).

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The Law of Sod is a worthy adversary and not one I want to invoke, although there have been elements around here lately.

Dragon is a little ancient and so it would probably be unfair to expect it to do long commutes. So instead I was using Frankie, the much younger car of a different make, with dragon having the odd scamper when it felt like it. Then last week Frankie went ‘Bang’ and it wasn’t a blown out tyre.

Now Frankie is off-road, waiting for a new engine or the great car-park in the sky, and Dragon is back from the vet’s after an expensive service with a new radiator and other parts that if left would have eventually dropped on to the road.

So conversations are being had, that if Dragon goes through over-exertion in older age, what we should do next. Obviously Dragon is going to live forever, but now there is a level playing field discussion that with all things equal what would we like. Ideally public transport would be the answer, but work commitments mean that even if we don’t immediately need a car, eventually we will need access to one.

It’s an interesting trade off.

Frankie was larger than Dragon, although we found that a bicycle fits in either. Dragon was more economical, but Frankie has more safety features, something of note as new cars tend to demolish older ones on impact. The lack of fatalities in the Isle of Sheppey crash was put down to all cars involved being less than ten years old. I’ve also seen the blindness of drivers towards ‘unexpected’ classic cars on the motorway and have already decided that anything I drove would be above a certain size.

But “Old cars talk to you, they tell you what’s wrong, new cars only talk to a computer.” (McCall Smith). While round here everyone is forbidden to touch Dragon as it has a complicated enough history already, other vehicles are serviced entirely in-house, which is a great consideration. Not only would maintenance be easier (or even possible!), but if something was going to go there would be a bit more warning than an anonymous multi-function light and an ominous voice saying, “I’m sorry Dave, I can’t do that…”

So, watch this space… suggestions welcome!

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Old is best

Reliance on technology can come unstuck without warning.

Last weekend we travelled to London to meet friends at a National Trust Stately Home, quick, while it was still standing. Around the house we encountered road closures. There was no way to tell how far they extended or in which direction. The satnav we were relying on couldn’t understand closures and was running on rapidly lowering batteries as Dragon is so anti-smoking that it spits anything out of the cigarette lighter. As it zoomed in to show just the road we were on each time the car was in motion it wasn’t possible to plan or follow an alternative route. We hadn’t got a printed map as we didn’t have a working printer.

Then, down the side of the passenger door, I found an ancient Ordnance Survey map…

The day was saved as the satnav died and after reaching the destination we found a way back that took only 10 minutes to do 1.5 hours of the inbound journey.

Last night when attempting a long list of errands that had been delayed until a day off, we encountered the closure of the M4. This meant that every other road was solid with traffic. Satnav again could not find an alternative route. Feeling hopeful we found a train station for a reference point then dug under boxes in the boot, finding another ancient Ordnance Survey map with which we navigated an orange-road route parallel to the shut motorway.

Words have been had. All journeys will now include clear directions and where possible an Ordnance Survey map. Sometimes the old ways really are the best.

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