So, this eventing lark…

Ho hum.

The commentary starts before we even left the yard because Tom, evidently, was having one those days.

Tom, who normally marches up the ramp in to the lorry, decided he didn’t want to load.

He went up on his hind legs and waved his front hooves around my ears. And again. And again and this time he pulled back as well as going up. And then he did it again.

On the last flying rear-up he pulled the lead-rein out of my hands (I will have rope burn for a week), turned, cantered at a five-bar gate and then flew over it.

He spent the next ten minutes evading capture (despite still having his head-collar on and trailing his lead-rein) galloping round and winding up the horse he’d jumped in with.


I fetched a bowl of feed and he turned, mid-gallop, and headed straight for it.

This time he loaded OK and we drove up to the venue.

Our dressage netted us 39.5 penalties which, frankly, felt that we had been harshly-marked.

Prior to show-jumping, we worked-in over the practice fences brilliantly. But as soon as we cantered in to the show-jumping arena Tom changed gear and wanted to do everything quicker than I did. He had two fences down and gave me a nasty run-out at fence 3, so that netted us 12 penalties.

The cross-country started off brilliantly. We attacked the first six fences with style and assertiveness; they felt excellent.

Unfortunately at fence 7 (the first part of three parts at the water), Tom decided he didn’t want to get his feet wet and no amount of riding could convince him otherwise.

So we bit the bullet and retired.

I’m not scrabbling around for the positives, they’re actually there for everyone to see.

Our show-jumping was more focussed, better controlled and despite Tom’s carelessness over the SJ fences, was far more fun at a competition than we’ve ever had.

The first six of the cross-country fences were also brilliant. I know that last time out we finished the track, but this felt *better*.

Hey ho.

Onwards and upwards.

Surveying the horizon

From time to time I get surveys from YouGov. The surveys can be on anything, politics, economics, environment – you name it.

I’m currently working with a survey on ‘ethical and environmental issues’, which, I thought, could be thought-provoking and interesting.

Unfortunately, this particular survey is so shockingly-worded, the only thought-provoking going on in my head is just how rubbish the analyst who prepared the questions is at his/her job.

Many of the questions have no ‘opt out’ or ‘does not apply’ option which is stupid. That means that I have to choose the least incorrect answer, instead of saying ‘Well actually, this question does not apply to me’.

A large number of the questions contain no qualifying data – such as the one: ‘I’m trying to cut down on unnecessary car journeys’ where I have to score an answer in the range Strongly Disagree to Strongly Agree. My only opt-out is ‘Don’t Know’.

Where’s the button that says ‘Who the fuck makes unnecessary car journeys in the first place?’, that’s what I want to know?

Here’s another one: ‘I drive an eco-friendly car’, which I have to score in the same range: Strongly Disagree to Strongly Agree or Don’t Know.

You might know that I drive a 1.9TDCI-engined saloon which, some might say, is not an eco-friendly car.

But you might also know that I regularly – REGULARLY – get a return of 40-45mpg from it and last week (and again this week) easily achieved trips of over 54mpg.

Now to me that really *is* an eco-friendly car. Those figures are tremendously more ‘eco-friendly’ than the Pious.

Sorry, Prius.

And yet, if I tick the box for having an eco-friendly car I will be giving false information – and there’s enough false information coming out of Westminster alone, without me adding to the ever-increasing mountain of bullshit.

Here’s another example of laziness, the question is: ‘Please tell us which of the following you either do or have at home?’, which is scored against the answers: Already do/have; Will do in the next 12 months; Don’t do; Definitely will not do; Don’t know/Not applicable.

That last response troubles me before I’ve even started looking at the questions, but I battle on.

Q. Use a water butt for the garden. I want to put ‘Not applicable’ but if I tick that box the person analysing the response might think I’m saying ‘Don’t know’. Hmm.

Q. Install cavity wall insulation. I want to put ‘Already got it’ but do I tick the ‘Not Applicable’ box and have my answer potentially counted as a ‘Don’t know’?

Q. Install double glazing. I want to put ‘Already got it throughout the house’, but again I’m faced with only being able to tick a box which opens the answer up to misinterpretation.

Here’s another: ‘Which of the following are you already doing or would/would not consider doing?’

Bearing in mind the context of the survey, the question ‘Taking fewer baths’ leaps out at me because, in this house, we probably draw one bath a month. But, to go back to context again, the reason we take so few baths is because we shower every day – we prefer showers though, it’s nothing to do with environmental concerns. I have two (occasionally three) showers a day, and not because of any of the focusses of this survey.

So again, I’m forced to giving the least incorrect answer. More laziness from the analyst who set the questions.

The question ‘Keeping a compost heap’ similarly allows me only to give an incorrect answer; ‘Does not apply’ isn’t there for me to put as my answer. I can say ‘Don’t know’ which, frankly, is utter nonsense.

Lazy, lazy, lazy, lazy.

It’s a simple fact that a survey has to engage with its audience. If it doesn’t engage, the respondent will lose the connection and will either give up, or will just tick boxes at random.

And that’s where my head has gone.

I’m now reduced to selecting the least wrong answer in almost every section, and all because someone behind the scenes at YouGov lacked the ability to think straight.

Blah blah blah blah

Whenever I see this kind of footer in an email:

P Please consider the environment before printing this e-mail

I usually think ‘Yeah, I’ve considered the environment but I need to print it so burn baby burn!‘ And then I cackle madly as I jog to the full-colour laser printer.

Is there anyone else slightly unhinged in the same way?

Paradise lost?

Lord Dholakia has put a well-written piece over on Lords of the Blog about The Maldives.

Stand by for a memory…

I was briefly stationed in The Maldives – at RAF Gan, Addu Atoll.

When I was there the unit had 600 staff on the establishment.

That wasn’t the unusual feature.

Incoming flights had to adjust their altimeters to a ground level of sea level plus six feet.

That wasn’t the unusual feature.

The island had 12 bars – four of which were open 24 hours a day (the best was The Cricket Club!).

That wasn’t the unusual feature.

A married man could survive on his Local Overseas Allowance and send his entire salary back home to his wife and family.

That wasn’t the unusual feature.

The length of a posting at RAF Gan was nine months.

That wasn’t the unusual feature.

Women were not allowed on the island.

Bingo! That was the unusual feature of the posting.

So you’d think that there wouldn’t be a waiting list for a posting there, would you?

Well you’d be surprised my friends, you’d be very surprised!

There was a – wait for it, wait for it – two year waiting list for a posting at RAF Gan.

And almost all of the RAF personnel on the list were – you’ve guessed it – married men.

Go figure.

A two year waiting list of married men for a nine month, unaccompanied posting?

What does that say about the married serviceman?

Anyway the place.

Heaven on earth, no bull.

The prettiest place on this planet.

The water that laps against the golden sand (really!) is crystal clear yet brightly azure (really!).

The tall, rich, plentiful palm trees sway gently in a cooling yet warm breeze that almost swarms off the coral reef that surrounds the island.

The reef protects the island from the choppier seas that the wind whips up, but occasionally an unwelcome guest manages to sweep over the coral on the crest of a breaker.

Pufferfish (also known as Blowfish) – the second most poisonous life-form on the planet – sometimes found their way over the reef in to the shallower waters; so too did the occasional squid but they were less lethal.

While I was at RAF Gan one poor chap trod on a Pufferfish; the poison spines were extracted and he received medical treatment on the station, but he was put on the next through-flight where he received surgery and hospital treatment in Hong Kong.

While I was stationed at RAF Gan I learned to dive.

And learned to sail.

And learned to drink.

Because these were the major pastimes at RAF Gan.

It was, though, a fantastic posting.

The shame is that The Maldives are now at significant risk of water-related disaster.

And, with a height above sea level of a mere six feet, these beautiful places are at the sharp edge of climate change.

Which is ironic really, because The Maldives has no manufacturing industry.

We do.


Damn it’s hot

The heat, the flies, the drums, the heat, the flies, the drums.

Don’t the natives ever stop beating those drums Daphne?

Oh. That’s a chav driving past in his Nova with the window down and the stereo full on?

Well what about the flies?

Oh! They’re around because of all the dog walkers who force their animals to crap outside and don’t clean up after them?

And the heat?


It’s not winter any more?


Better start hoarding water then old girl, the drought measures and hose-pipe ban will soon be upon us.


Festive stuff an’ that


You know the world’s like facing this global energy crisis, yeah?

An’ you know we’re all runnin’ out of, well, oil an’ stuff an’ that?

An’ you know how there’s adverts on the tee-vee tellin’ us to switch light bulbs off an’ how we don’t have to flush the toilet (gross!) all the time?

Well why is it OK for people to dress their houses up in kilowatts of energy-sappin’ electricity bulbs an’ leave them on all the time an’ that?

An’, right, why is it for these bulbs to be soooo gross an’ bad taste, like?

‘Cos I don’ know why it’s OK for this to be alright now but, like, it wasn’t OK last month and it won’t be OK next month.

Or the rest of the year?

See what I mean?


And just in case anyone thinks I’m suffering from a bad case of ‘humbug’, click on this link – I offer you a post modern Christmas carol (warning to dial-up users: large sound file).



Zero carbon? Zero bull?

This is a tough one, the subject is open to as many opinions as there are bands appearing at this weekend’s V Festival (where the fcuk did that come from?).

The story in bullets:
* Wiltshire student (Tom Tapper)
* Aiming to cycle John O’Groats to Land’s End
* On-board solar panel will recharge their gadgets
* Aiming to make the journey zero-carbon

But this isn’t right, is it?

By discounting the carbon footprint that the build/manufacture of everything he wears, rides, uses and cycles upon, isn’t Tom Tapper distorting the true picture?

Otherwise it’s like the situation of an astronaut standing on the International Space Station throwing a small metal box at the sun and making a declaration that the journey of the box (from ISS to the sun) is a zero-carbon journey.

Whereas if we consider the process by which the box and the astronaut came to be on the ISS in the first place, the journey is far from zero-carbon.

Tom Tapper (and his team) are using modern bicycles made in an intensive industrial process. The ingredients include carbon fibre. The tyres are made from various manufactured materials and will include rubber – tapped in and transported from trees in far-away, exotic forests before being transported thousands of miles and put through an industrial process. His clothes will also have been manufactured in industrial processes (and probably manufactured in and transported from foreign countries).

And – oh boy – let’s not even think about the carbon footprint that the manufacture of solar panels produces!


So not a very zero-carbon journey at all.


My point here is nothing to do with the carbon/zero-carbon argument.

I’m just having a little poke at the misrepresentation of a story and the obscuring of some fundamental facts.