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Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Happy New Year

May I wish every blog reader a very happy new year.  None of us knows what the future holds - as far as we are able, the future is ours to determine unless health issues scupper these.  Whatever your circumstances, I wish you best wishes for a happy, healthy and fulfilling 2015.

FTSE 100 share index

After a moderate start, the index has been drifting lower during the morning. Although just higher than it started the day, I fancy it will be in negative territory by the close. 

Most forecasters are expecting a new all time FTSE 100 high (7000 +) by the end of next year, barring any shocks.

Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Early spring?

We have just been to Anglesey Abbey and there were just a few daffodils in flower already, which is very early for up here. There were some snowdrops and hellebores coming out too. Spring early?
Early daffodils (Dec 30th 2014) today at Anglesey Abbey

Slipping FTSE 100 index

At lunchtime the FTSE 100 had fallen about 1% and it look like it could go lower still this afternoon. In the whole of 2014, the FTSE 100 has fallen about 4-5%.

UPDATE 1615z:  The FTSE 100 index has fallen about 1.42% so far today.

Ebola - case in the UK

So, a case of Ebola has been confirmed in a health worker returning from Sierra Leone. She is now in isolation. Let us hope she recovers and few others have been infected.

Monday, 29 December 2014

Greece to Italy ferry fire

This was a stupid incident,which smacks of incompetence or poor training.

Why were the crew so poorly trained that the fire was still burning away after 24 hours? Why did people have to be 24 hours or more in some cases waiting on the upper deck to be rescued? Why did anyone have to die? Apparently, 10 people died.  All survivors are now reported to be off the ferry.

I know the seas were bad, but one gets rough weather and crews should be able to deal with this. Sorry, but someone needs to be held accountable.

Broadchurch - series 2

Not sure how we came to miss the first series on TV - we saw it on DVD instead. There is a follow-up series (series 2) on ITV starting on Jan 5th. We will be watching this as the first series was very good dr

See .

FTSE 100 index

This morning, the main UK share index started up a little bit but seems to be drifting lower as the day progresses.  It looks likely to end little changed on the day, unless there are late surprises.

UPDATE 1712z:  The FTSE 100 ended the day marginally higher.

Sunday, 28 December 2014

Another plane goes missing in S.E.Asia

Although the indications so far are that this is a tragic bad weather accident, the mind inevitably goes back to the loss of MH370 earlier in the year, of which no trace of wreckage has ever been found. AirAsia flight QZ8501 flying to Singapore with 162 passengers has not been heard of since requesting a change direction due to bad weather.

UPDATE 29.12.14 1237z:  Indications suggest it crashed into the Java Sea. Tragic. There is a search and rescue mission  in progress although hopes of finding any survivors are slim.

See .

Simple pleasures

Over the Christmas period we have seen all our family and all our grandchildren. This is a picture of our "London" grandchildren walking up the lane to the windmill that is next to our house. I am ahead of them.  Our house is to the right, just out of the shot. You can just see the hedge bordering the front garden  on the right hand of the picture. The windmill has recently been restored. It is nearly 200 years old.

Saturday, 27 December 2014

Service of 9 lessons and carols from Kings

We have just watched and listened to this service. We recorded this earlier over Christmas. Since the end of WW1 in 1918, this service has been held in Kings College Chapel. It is now broadcast worldwide.

Kings College Chapel is one of the world's most famous buildings. We
have a free pass to get in. Being local, it is all too easy to take all the splendid buildings in Cambridge for granted. Since retiring, I have taken them for granted far less than when I worked in Cambridge.   My wife and I often say what a wonderful city it is. If we were on holiday here we'd enjoy it!  We really are very lucky living so close.

See,_Cambridge  .

See .

Christmas time

Whether you celebrate Christmas as a Christian or simply as a time in mid-winter when you can enjoy some good food and family company, I hope Dec 25th was a very happy time for you.

What happened in the Middle East over 2000 years ago this Christmas may never be properly known, but just perhaps something extraordinary did happen back then. The stories about it have passed down over the centuries. They may be inaccurate, mixed up, partly myth, or totally wrong. Somehow though I have a deep sense that in this muddled, often contradictory, set of accounts there is something timeless and important we need to respond to.

And here is the famous poem by John Betjeman that senses this. In the midst of the humdrum activities of Christmas - the presents and the food and the decorations - there is that mystery. What really happened? What is the message?


The bells of waiting Advent ring,
The Tortoise stove is lit again
And lamp-oil light across the night
Has caught the streaks of winter rain.
In many a stained-glass window sheen
From Crimson Lake to Hooker’s Green.

The holly in the windy hedge
And round the Manor House the yew
Will soon be stripped to deck the ledge,
The altar, font and arch and pew,
So that villagers can say
‘The Church looks nice’ on Christmas Day.

Provincial public houses blaze
And Corporation tramcars clang,
On lighted tenements I gaze
Where paper decorations hang,
And bunting in the red Town Hall
Says ‘Merry Christmas to you all’

And London shops on Christmas Eve
Are strung with silver bells and flowers
As hurrying clerks the City leave
To pigeon-haunted classic towers,
And marbled clouds go scudding by
The many-steepled London sky.

And girls in slacks remember Dad,
And oafish louts remember Mum,
And sleepless children’s hearts are glad,
And Christmas morning bells say ‘Come!’
Even to shining ones who dwell
Safe in the Dorchester Hotel.

And is it true? and is it true?
The most tremendous tale of all,
Seen in a stained-glass window’s hue,
A Baby in an ox’s stall?
The Maker of the stars and sea
Become a Child on earth for me?

And is it true? For if it is,
No loving fingers tying strings
Around those tissued fripperies,
The sweet and silly Christmas things,
Bath salts and inexpensive scent
And hideous tie so kindly meant.

No love that in a family dwells,
No carolling in frosty air,
Nor all the steeple-shaking bells
Can with this single Truth compare -
That God was Man in Palestine
And lives to-day in Bread and Wine.

— John Betjeman (1906 - 1984)

Template for blog?

I am experimenting with a more cheerful template. Please let me have any feedback on this e.g. is it clearer? Is it worse? etc. The basic content should still be as before.

British Rail

Yet again,  British Rail is in trouble. Over running engineering work has closed Kings Cross station in London and poor passengers are badly lacking information. This is not excusable. British Rail need to try harder to ease the problems for passengers.

See .

Friday, 26 December 2014

City Link administration

Some 12 years ago I witnessed first hand the entering into administration of Simoco. Happily I survived and entered the new company Sepura that came out of the ashes. Grown men who had worked for years left with virtually nothing. Some were in tears. It was a very sad day.

So, when I heard about the administration at City Link, announced on Christmas day, my heart sank. Apparently the company had been in trouble for some while, but an announcement on Christmas Day is the ultimate in bad timing. I wish those who will lose jobs every hope they soon find new work.

Family gone home

After a couple of hectic, but enjoyable weeks, during which we have seen all our family including both our sons, their wives and all our grandchildren, the house is again very quiet. It was lovely to see them all, but I was very tired.

Wednesday, 24 December 2014


We have family here from Dec 24th until Dec 26th so blog updates will be infrequent during this period. May I wish all readers a very happy Christmas whether with family or alone. For some this can be a difficult time. It is the season of love and kindness. My hope is you find love and kindness whatever your situation. 

Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Birthday today

Today is my 66th birthday. There were times in the last year or so when I thought I would never see this day or this Christmas, but slowly my body is recovering, thank goodness.

This last year has been very tough for my wife and I, so I sincerely hope that 2015 will be a better year for us.  Lis has been my carer as well as my wife and I am so grateful for her love, patience and kindness.

Monday, 22 December 2014

Stroke update

Of late, I have become frustrated that I am not making improvements at the rate earlier in my recovery. I still get giddy, still get tired too easily and still have issues drinking thin liquids. I expected to be back to full health by now. Maybe in 2015?

Hope Cove webcam, Devon

See .

It is a while, because of my illness, since I have been to Devon, so I enjoy looking at the various webcams from there. The one above is at Hope Cove, where our family used to live centuries ago. The weather looks cold and windy down there today.  It is windy here today as well.

Sunday, 21 December 2014

Spring on its way?

Our visit to Anglesey Abbey this week was cheered up by the sight of blossom and budding daffodils. I reckon 2 weeks and these daffodils will be in flower. Considering the weather, this will be early.
Blossom at Anglesey Abbey - Dec 19th 2014

Conditions in Chinese factories and their supply chains

Last week, BBC's Panorama programme did a frightening documentary on factories used by Apple in China and on their tin supply chain in Indonesia. If such poor conditions are used by Apple, many other products will be produced in even worse conditions. As a user of Apple products I am appalled.

See Panorama, Apple's Broken Promises .

Of course, we in the West milk the low costs that such poor working procedures/conditions permit. With time, conditions will improve and the West will look to other low cost manufacturing areas for our low cost products. Sadly, our greed feeds this process.

Frighteningly, other products we buy are probably made in places that are far worse. By buying these products - most consumer goods in the West are now made in China - we are complicit. Slowly things will get better in China. Then we'll seek out other low cost areas of the world to do our dirty work.

In the past we have blamed China for pollution but at the same time we expect it to make goods we want at ridiculous prices. It s our wish for more and more consumer goods at stupid prices that encourages the Chinese to slash wage costs and make workers work like slaves. In the West we would not allow it.

Friday, 19 December 2014

Sony film hack - how will the USA strike back?


USA President Obama has vowed to strike back at North Korea for its alleged hack of the Sony Film Studios. I wonder what action he has in mind?

The USA allegedly does far worse with regard to cyber-crime. It would not surprise me if, as we talk, the USA is busy trying to tap into Russian, Chinese and North Korean systems, amongst others.  The difference is the North Koreans were caught in the act, allegedly.

In the dirty game of cyber-crime the golden rule seems to be, "don't get caught in the act".

Lighter evenings again

It seems no time at all since the summer when it was light until well past 9pm here. Well, the good news is that from yesterday here in Burwell, Cambs, the evenings are now once again getting lighter, although the mornings get darker until early January. At first, the evenings get lighter by about just 1 minute a day, but this speeds up as the winter progresses. By the end of February, the evenings will be very noticeably better.

See .

Thursday, 18 December 2014

FTSE 100 index - up again.

Following a jump of 2% in the main USA markets yesterday following hints by the Fed that rates will be pegged for some time to come, the FTSE 100  share index  here in the UK is around 1.8% higher, although it has some way to go to make up for earlier losses.  I don't think it will end the year higher than at the start of the year.

UPDATE 1716z:  The FTSE 100 ended 2.04% up on the day.

Being fat a disability?

The highest court in Europe has made some strange rulings. It is no wonder the UK is seeking to be excused from its rulings. See .

The latest nonsense from the European Count of Justice seems to be a ruling that, in some circumstances, being obese counts as a disability. Sorry, twaddle.

Collapsing North Sea Oil?

See .

If the continuing fall in oil prices results in a shift to carbon-neutral fuels, then this may be a blessing in disguise: for far too long we have subsidised fossil fuels whereas our focus needs to be on renewables.  I hope any who lose jobs in oil in the North Sea oil industry find alternative jobs fast in the renewables sector instead.

Boko Haram

See . Yet again, the news is of senseless killings and captures by Boko Haram in Nigeria. Violence is not the way to win support for any cause: all it does is alienate innocent people. This is true everywhere: in Nigeria, Syria, USA, everywhere. All societies need to be fair to all.

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

FTSE 100 and Sepura shares

After losing ground over the last few days, the FTSE 100 share index has staged  something of a recovery during the day.  Sepura (SEPU) share also have edged upwards too. No way the FTSE 100 will end the year at 7000 mind you.

USA and Cuba

See .

After far too many years, it looks like Cuba and the USA are set to resume "normal relations". It has amazed me that this has taken so long. Like a pair of children squabbling. Both countries should benefit.

Obama and Castro met at Nelson Mandela's funeral.

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Sunrise and sunset calculator

 See .

If you are like me, you want to know when the sun rises and sets locally. This calculator may be what you need. Here, near Cambridge, the nights start to get lighter from this coming Thursday (Dec 18th) although it is not until Jan 10th until the mornings start to get lighter.

Nearing the shortest day

As we approach the shortest day, we can soon look forward to lengthening days again. This morning, we awoke to a bright and spectacular sunrise.   The late mornings don't bother me, but I am looking forward to lighter evenings.

Monday, 15 December 2014

Ebola news

See .

Even the survivors of Ebola are facing new issues including blindness. Worrying. The ebola outbreak, mainly in West Africa, seems to have gone out of the headlines.

Australian cafe siege ended

Thankfully the siege is over although innocents lost their lives.

We do well to remember that the world is full of good and kind people with hearts filled with kindness and forgiveness.

Sadly, a very few people know only evil.

More Anglesey Abbey

Last night's visit to the lights at Anglesey Abbey was a great success.

This is another picture, this time of the illuminations near the mill. I think the light show has ended for 2014, but I can thoroughly recommend a trip to the lights next Christmas 2015.
Anglesey Abbey lights - near the water mill.
Of course Angelsey Abbey is good for a visit at most times of the year. Soon the winter garden will be open to see the newly emerged spring flowers. We usually visit in February.

Sunday, 14 December 2014

Football results - League Division 2

It was a good week for the Devon clubs in League 2.

Plymouth beat Northampton 3-2 away from home and Exeter won 2-0. Both teams are currently in the play-off zone. I do hope they manage to get to the automatic promotion places.

It is a pity that Torquay were relegated to the Conference last season. There is an outside chance they could be back in the league next year, but they need to keep winning every game.

Local team Cambridge United who were promoted from the Football Conference this year are doing pretty well too.

Anglesey Abbey lights

This evening, we visited Anglesey Abbey, our very local National Trust property, as they were illuminating some of the trees and shrubs, and the house. In fact the illuminations were excellent.  On the way around we stopped for some food and drink. Luckily the rain that was forecast held off.
Anglesey Abbey - the house illuminated this evening.

Saturday, 13 December 2014

Strictly Come Dancing BBC1 TV

See .

Like many men I suspect, I watch this with my wife.  Frankie very much reminds me of my wife Lis when we first met.  Frankie is also a very good dancer, so most weeks I go online and give her 3 votes. Voting online is totally free, whereas phone votes are charged.

Years ago, I used to ballroom dance with my then girlfriend Ann. These were special times, long ago now.  I still treasure those days, even though I have been happily married to my current wife since 1971. Somehow ballroom dancing was with Ann, and only Ann. I want that to remain so.

I have not really ballroom danced since the 1960s. These days I am still too ill to dance because of my cerebellum brain bleed in September 2013. This has been a strange year and I shall be glad when I am better again. Life is still hard.

Dutch marriage proposal

See .

In the Netherlands, a man proposed to his girlfriend from an unsecured crane which managed to topple over onto a neighbour's roof causing great damage.  By the way, I understand the girl accepted. Not sure if the roof damage would be covered by insurance.

Meteor shower peak

Meteors should be good overnight as we are at the peak of the Geminids shower. The weather here is overcast, so I probably won't see anything

Friday, 12 December 2014

Computer glitch we are told

See .

We are told that UK airspace has been restricted due to a "computer glitch". The cynic in me says there may be a far more sinister explanation: either terrorists have compromised the NATS computers or there was a terrorist threat to a plane or planes and the "powers that be" closed  (some of) the airspace.  Of course it could all be perfectly true and there really was a computer glitch.

Also we have still not seen a single piece of evidence that Malaysian Airlines flight MH370 crashed in an ocean. Surely, after all this time something of the wreckage would have been seen?

NS&I Pensioner's Bond

See .

Starting in January, pensioners over 65 years old can apply for a Pensioner Bond  up to £10k with a return of 4% before tax. This is a better rate than anything available currently. Interest will be paid at the end of the term. For 4% gross, this is in 3 years time.

Lighter evenings from next week!

Even though the mornings get darker for a while yet, the evenings start to get a little bit lighter here just before the winter solstice.  I think this will depend on your location.  By the end of next week the evenings here stay lighter by 1-2 minutes. By the end of January it is very noticeable. The change is slow at first but speeds up: by early March it is light until 6.30pm. I think the rate of change follows a sine wave with the fastest change around the equinoxes.

Although there is something nice about cosy evenings in, I prefer light nights.

Thursday, 11 December 2014

More on over-wintering swallows

Well, apparently it did happen in 2008 and again in 2009.

See . This details BTO observations of a single swallow in a Cornish village between December and the following February. As our climate warms more swallows may decide to give the 12000 mile round trip south a miss. It is a chancy thing, as a cold snap could see off all the insect food.

The image of the swallow is actually located on the RSPB page linked below. It will be deleted immediately if so linking infringes any copyright. I don't think it does as it still "resides" on the original site.

See also .

From a Yahoo group in 2009:
Records of birds hanging on (over winter) include single Swallows at Penzance and Marazion in Cornwall. The latter site was home to four birds until recently, with an earlier cold spell killing three, and the last bird is surviving on insects in a 20m by 4m patch of seaweed washed up against the sea wall. This is remarkably similar to the earlier winter occurrence of four Swallows at an oil refinery in Pembrokeshire, with a single bird surviving until at least 6 January.
N Ireland

Labour policies

See . I don't much care for many Labour politicians such as Ed Milliband and Yvette Cooper. I am totally skeptical that Labour would really cut the underlying deficit. On the other hand I quite like David Cameron (Conservative) but feel the coalition could do more to help those in genuine need and be harder on those with inherited wealth and privilege: the Tories still come over as a bunch of toffs.

At the moment I have no idea who I'll be voting for in the General Election next spring.

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Over-wintering swallows?

A swallow was seen in South Devon just a few days ago. I have seen swallows in the South Hams as late as Dec 7th.  It makes me wonder if a handful now stay for the winter, and survive, and do not migrate to Africa? Certainly in places like South Cornwall, South Devon and the Channel Islands this must be a possibility if the weather is mild and there are enough insects around.

I have seen no records for swallows in January in the UK. Such records would tend to suggest over-wintering. Those that remain late could be indicative of very late broods or those that somehow lost (if they ever had it) their ability to migrate and perished when the weather turned colder.

Here in East Anglia, I rarely see a swallow before April 7th. When they return from Africa it is an important day for me. Swifts are usually first seen here around the end of April. Hearing swifts scream in the spring air makes me glad to be alive: it reminds me that all is still well with the world.

At the moment, we are approaching the shortest day with long, dark nights. Long light evenings seem a way off. Mind you, in just a few weeks' time the nights start to shorten and the days start to get longer. We'll blink and it will be spring again.

We are very lucky to have our seasons as each has its special features to be enjoyed.

Earth's water may NOT have come from comets

See .

Rosetta's probes have indicated that water did not come to Earth from comets. Results were posted in the journal Science. This contradicts some earlier analysis of water on other comets.

Al Jazeera news


It is surprises me how often news items on this Middle Eastern news channel never appear on the BBC. Sometimes it is good to look at the news from different angles to be sure it is reasonably free from bias. The BBC is pretty good, but it sometimes misses important international news.

Sepura shares

My old company, Sepura PLC - I am very out of touch these days - makes TETRA radios which are widely used in public security. Today,at 1600z, the shares were up to 149.75p. I wonder  if its shares are seen as a safe haven when the world is uncertain?  Certainly, the company has always been profitable as far back as I remember. When first floated, shares were 140p.

Meanwhile, the FTSE 100 has been drifting lower on international worries over growth and EU issues.

Weather bomb

See .

Looks like a so called "weather bomb" is to hit the north of the UK today.  Even the south could be hit later.