The Blog of Zakspade
May 2016 Archive


Tuesday 31 May, 2016

Ooo, I’m so excited!


Some might think of an impending trip. To others it might be a large forthcoming amount of money. There are so many reasons - but mine isn’t one of them.

I am due to take delivery of a double capacity battery for my laptop in the next few days! The current battery is not going to last the time it takes to write this Blog entry and Post it up online. [And indeed, it didn’t...]

Being able to relax knowing that I will almost certainly manage over two hours from my laptop when away from a power source! Oh the joy; the delight; the ongoing nonchalance.

If you are one of those with a laptop that manages eight to ten hours on a single charge, then your having that hardware doesn’t do anything for me. Unless you wanna swap?

Would I prefer to be running a Macbook? Tricky. I’ve owned Macs before. Nice bits of kit. A bit pricey, and a devil to maintain if one likes to remain in charge of one’s data.

One of the things I want to do is write without wondering; will the battery last for the session; should I have taken the power adapter with me; was it a bad idea to sit here and start writing, or should I put it off until I get home?

Sure, there are some decent non-Apple laptops out there for a fraction of the price, but they come loaded with Windows 10 nowadays - and that is a step too far for me.

Of course, a tech-head like me ought to be looking at the possibility of running a Linux laptop. Buy something with a decent battery life and trash the OEM operating system.

Except then I have to find substitute applications for my other work about the house. The PC/Mac transition at least means common applications between them. Photoshop, Lightroom, Word, Excel - they exist across both platforms.

There is nothing wrong with learning to use new equivalent applications, but I really do not want to be fighting with my archives in order to access what is mine in the first place.

So I’m still excited!


Darwin and Snow
Sunday 29 May, 2016

Four weeks back, I was preparing for a rest between shifts and I checked my email at 1:35pm. It turned out that an editor of a local publication had a need for copy from another contributor by 4pm.

So I got ‘my dog’ to write a piece - which I emailed off around 2:40pm. To no avail, as it happened, because things had moved on due to the late appearance of copy...

However, I really don’t want to waste the words. Note that as I looked up from the email, through the window into the room in which I was sat, I could see snow falling. An idea was born. Here is the result:

I really do not understand what is happening with my garden. It seems to have gone mad.

Sunbathing is something I adore. I have a special corner set aside for me to stretch out on the ground and soak up the sun. It is a very carefully chosen spot as I can see the kitchen window from it. If anyone moves in the area of the kitchen, I can be back in the house quickly enough to rescue them from any food that might end up on the ground.

Also I can see through to the front door. If there is a caller, I am able to see their entry and then rush to greet them and accept any food they intend to give me.

Laid out in the sun, on my side, is a really good thing.

Of course, if it is raining then there is no sun. No sun means no sitting in my garden in my favourite corner. I can deal with that. If not outside then I can be inside and hunting for treats. Or asleep. Sleep is nearly as good.

However, lately I have been having some problems with my garden. It has been playing horrible tricks on me.

The garden waits until I am relaxed and enjoying the warmth of the sunshine. Then, in what seems a very short time, it is allowing snow to fall on me!

What’s that all about?

Rain I can deal with. It falls from the sky and I gradually get wet. Normally I wake up and head towards the house before dampness makes it through my weather-resistant fur. When the sun goes and hides, I find my enjoyment taken away. So hunting for food is advised.

Snow, on the other paw, is really irk, irky, irksing, annoying. Snowflakes tickle my nose. When my corner in the garden switches from sunny to snowy in a blink of an eye, it always catches me out and I find myself behaving in a very undignified way - I sneeze.

Not little sneezes. No, these are head-shaking, ear-flapping, body-wracking events that undermine my pedigree and standing in the area of Leighton Buzzard and surrounding areas.

Why oh why do I have to contend with sun then snow, then sun then snow? Has my corner of the garden gone crazy?

- Darwin Beagle


Friday 27 May, 2016

Secrets are what make the Earth continue to spin in the manner it does.

Tossing and turning in bed at night - instead of sleeping peacefully - would become the norm. Employees would arrive exhausted to their place of work. As the days pass, the problem would become worse as the workforce would be unable to function due to sleep deprivation.

Only junior doctors would be able to continue as they are used to working with no sleep.

Bosses would be too tired to admonish their minions. Society would break down and the world, as we know and love it, would become a place inhabited by animals devoid of any social structure whatsoever - save ants and suchlike.

Thank goodness for the Official Secrets Act!

Well, not so secret that it cannot be mentioned, for it is enshrined in UK legislation through a statutory tool. The current version is the Official Secrets Act 1989 (with amendments all the way through to 2007), having started life as the Official Secrets Act 1889. However, due to the very nature of secrecy, it might have been superseded by something else.

Interestingly, if someone should say they have signed the Official Secrets Act, then they are guilty of a couple of things. The first is making an erroneous claim. The bit of paper they signed is NOT the Official Secrets Act. No, the act is a statute that had the effect of criminal law and is not a contract. If one is in a position to be asked to sign a form to the effect stated, then they are already subject to the Official Secrets Act.

Indeed, if one looks into the act, it can be seen that all UK citizens are subject to the act, whether we sign away our first-born or not.

Much is commonsense and ought not scare anyone. One provision requires government contractors and employees to not hold sensitive information beyond the time required to carry out whatever they have been engaged for - and take care of it.

The other point is this: Anyone who discloses that they have signed anything confirming their adherence to the Official Secrets Act has actually breached it by revealing the fact.



Wednesday 25 May, 2016

I write a few columns about the place, along with this simple Blog. The aim of the Blog is to keep my mind working in between the copy submission deadlines of my other work.

Okay, so there is a book being written as well. However, as anyone who has undertaken such a project will tell you - it isn’t something that many can do during any old short moment.

Well, I fibbed a bit. When I wrote ‘book,’ I perhaps meant ‘books.’ I have about 5 thousand words off being evaluated and if they like it and take it, it would mean an additional 70 to 90 thousand words before the autumn.

With the workload primed and ready, I am doing what any good schoolboy might do; I am finding other stuff to do.

The volume of shorter work has gone up in recent years. A couple of month back, I found myself wishing to use a title for a piece only to discover that I had used the exact same title for a vastly different article for the same publication a few years previously.


So now, that ‘other stuff’ is the creation of a searchable database of written works foisted by me upon editors and the general public. Along with word lengths, by-lines, dates and the publication in which it appears, is the all important title given by me, along with that used in print if it is different.

Scarily some very similar-looking titles have been employed in the past. Had I access to my database at the time, then they would have been tweaked before setting foot into the outside world. However, the thing that really took me by surprise was the number of nom de plumes I have employed.

I once wrote a review of a play staged at Milton Keynes theatre as Nancy Rooke. I don’t recall why I felt the need to change from being male to female, but it must have made sense at the time. Most of the time I have used variations of my name - both pre and post marriage (I’m one of those blokes who took his wife’s surname upon marriage).

But my favourite name rather dates the piece written. It was during the time when a big name author courted controversy which turned real bad and had serious calls for his death. That name? Simon Rusty.


Monday 23 May, 2016

My walk into work every day, takes me down one of the main roads in and out of the town centre.

Said road has a traffic sign barring vehicles over 7.5 tonnes at one end, and the other has signs leading to the road doing the same.

So, imagine my chagrin at seeing HGVs thundering down the road each and every day I walk along it. It is enough to make a saint think naughty thoughts.

Wait, it gets better.

During my time walking along that stretch of the weight restricted road, I only get to see the odd HGV. However, what intrigues me is that almost all of them are for an HGV driving school.

Now, I can easily imagine that an HGV learner driver is going to make mistakes. That is what learners do. The big red ‘L’ serves to warn other road users that the person driving might do the unexpected. I can see how a learner driver of a huge HGV turning down a narrow road is not going to be stopped by the instructor. I mean, what is he going to do? Ask the learner to back up and take a different route?

So the odd HGV learner elbowing normal-sized vehicles out of the way might be acceptable, except it happens every day.

What sort of instructors are the school employing if they either direct, or allow their charges to flout the rules of the road?

I’ve taken to photographing said HGVs. The next step is to contact the training school and ask them if they are aware that their instructors appear to be either ignorant or incompetent, and are they aware that it doesn’t show their school in a good light.

Whether there is an element of naming and shaming online - with photographs - will depend on their reaction to my contact.

Or I might just supply the police with the pictures and see what they make of the road being hogged by law-breaking HGVs.


Crazy Woman
Saturday 21 May, 2016

Two crazy women, actually. Or should that be one crazy woman and one ignorant and abusive woman?

I was walking to work yesterday when I spotted a MINI parked on the red cross hatching painted on the road surface at the fire station at Lake Street, Leighton Buzzard. She was parked there all the time I walked up from Morrisons.

Out came my mobile phone and I snapped a photo of her parked there. I also took a photo of the signs that clearly stated no parking or entry was allowed. Obviously such signs are for ‘others’ and not the likes of her.

The picture I took of her through the side window made her look like a bulldog having just chewed a wasp. However, it didn’t look like the face of a crazy woman - just someone too ignorant to take notice of a sign designed to stop people like her parking across the exit to the fire station.

I was wrong. As I walked past the front of her car, she revved the engine and tried to run into me.

Definitely the actions of a crazy woman - especially after seeing her target take photographs of her car and her face. A bit stupid - just like her parking, I suppose.

As I walked on, I took a parting photograph of her in her illegally parked car. Her passenger demonstrated her own failings as a human being by giving me ‘the finger’ as I walked away.

Now, I am willing to admit that maybe the driver was right to think that rules are for those with lesser intellects than she clearly assigns to herself. But I cannot help fearing a fire engine crew might fail to save the life of a child for the want of arriving 30 seconds too late all because of a moron who tried to run me down.

So, blonde-haired lady in her 60s, driving a green MINI, *** 09 LUB, with a face of a walnut atop a whip - you win my award of the day for being both a crazy woman AND a moron at the same time.


Thursday 19 May, 2016

A busy day, yesterday. Took the car for its MoT; tidied up the house; nursed my bleeding feet; and helped prepare for a photo session that evening.


Car passed its MoT with barely a murmur; nothing tripped me up as I attacked the carpet with the vacuum cleaner; I barely bled into my socks during the day; and some very good photographs came out of the studio session at Pink Pig Photography.

Additional comment?

The front offside tread is low and not expected to make it to the next MoT; I tore a finger while wielding the vacuum cleaner; my sock didn’t stick too badly to my foot as I took it off (the sock, not the foot), and our clients in the studio were extremely buoyant and greatly helped us to take some fantastic pictures.

And the ‘dreaded’ aspect?

I’ve been very careful in the past when taking a vehicle for an MoT, only for it to fail on something stupid (or expensive). Despite the vacuum cleaner being extremely lightweight, I was sure, long before I picked it up, that a finger was going to suffer. My 1.2 mile walk to work gave me plenty of time to consider what might have happened inside my shoe. Lastly, I didn’t want to cap the day with a painful portrait shoot.

Dread in various forms but all realised, ultimately, to be groundless.

Roll on the next bust day!


Tuesday 17 May, 2016

I lived for over 25 years in the house I bought in nearby Milton Keynes. I spent around 20 years growing up in Bletchley before that.

The last five-and-a-bit years has been spent living in Leighton Buzzard.

What is it about the place that attracts so many spiders? They are everywhere!

I always had a spider-catcher at the ready in my old house. Trap the thing, then release it out the back. Not sure how often I would do it as it wasn’t something I kept tabs on. However, now I’m living here, I’m in need of an automatic spider-catcher, it seems.

Gone are the days when a wolf-spider would run out from under the sofa every once and a while. Now spiders turn up everywhere. Last night one was at home within the toilet roll. One of his friends was down the side of the toilet bowl. A third was up in the corner of the en-suite above the shower cubicle. None were there that morning.

This morning I reached for the electric toaster in the kitchen and a whopper ran out and across the worktop. I managed to trap him and as I tried to release him into the garden, I was attacked by the web of another spider that had decided to make his home across the back door.

As I sit here typing this, I see another crawling over my headphones dangling under the shelf in the corner of the living room upon which sits my hi-fi.

Still, they do good, I often hear. They keep the flies down.

They don’t. Or at least, not where my house is situated.

It might be more to do with where I’m located. The house was built on the outskirts of Leighton Buzzard. Fields stretch far into the distance - or at least as far as the next village.

When I lived in Poland, it was in a city. When I say ‘city’ I don’t mean like the pseudo-city of Milton Keynes. I mean a proper city as Manchester and suchlike. I don’t think I ever saw a spider when I was living there - although I learnt the word - pająk (pronounced pie-yonk).

Maybe those living in the centre of town fare better?


Parties, eh?
Sunday 15 May, 2016

It makes a change from portraits: a photo party.

Professional photographs to start, then on to silly props and finishing off with placing a fully featured Nikon SLR in the hands of each of the kids to have them play at Photographer.

The whole session was rounded off with nosh while having a preview of the photographs taken at the start, in the middle, and by each of the kids toward the end.

The Nikon previously spent its life taking pictures in Namibia before ‘retiring’ to a relatively easy life in the UK - with the odd trip to Poland and Holland. In its day it was right at the top of the chain. Today, a camera with the same rating in the battle for the best would cost in the region of £5-£6k...

Frankly it would have been quicker and simpler to give the kids a £40 point-and-shoot digital camera for them to have fun with, but we at Pink Pig Photography wanted them to handle and use a proper, professional SLR camera.

Okay, we set up the lights and the camera itself, but they aimed it and pressed the shutter button.

It was fun. All I had to do was alter the height of the studio lights accordingly as the photographer of the moment instructed their model(s) to sit, stand or lie down. The kids used a big, solid bit of kit that required two hands. It was fitted with an 18-70 telephoto lens so as to give them the experience of zooming into and out from their subject.

No one dropped the camera. No one had a supermodel tantrum. Everyone had a great time.

Parties, eh?


Friday 13 May, 2016

A friend contacted me yesterday to comment on my ‘Genes’ Blog entry. Apparently she had also fallen victim to a loud and foul-mouthed 4x4 driver at the exact same spot.

After swapping accounts, it seems that the driver that I suggested had the brain of a cabbage is a repeat offender. Unfortunately neither of us recorded his registration number. However, both of us will make every effort to do so in the future should he drive like the imbecilic idiot he strongly appears.

However, that wasn’t the reason for today’s Blog. Or rather it is, but not quite. That is to say, the reason gave rise to the 4x4 mention - or was it the other way around?


No, what was mentioned was the fact that I have no communications link from this Blog. I will address the matter as soon as I get a moment. It will probably consist of a Contact Me link somewhere about the page.

Why not just drop my email address into today’s Blog? Well, I could, but having spent a while working in IT I am very aware of what happens to email addresses casually stuck up on the Internet. I am proud that I do not employ a spam filter and that I only receive about five or six spam emails a year to my main email address.

What I do with those spam emails is another story - and too involved for this Blog, but everyone has to have a hobby, and communicating with scammers is mine (I don’t do so from my main email address - don’t worry).

Yes, I will add a communications link up here, but it isn’t a straightforward as typing, ‘Contact me at:’ - another page will be required.

So watch for a means to appear shortly. Then you will have a way to tell me just how annoying you find my words...


Wednesday 11 May, 2016

I lived in Milton Keynes for more years than I care to remember. No, for more years than I can remember...

Having moved out to Leighton Buzzard, I thought that I had left the oddities of driving and navigation back there - but. I was wrong.

I was crossing the road at a three-way roundabout and I saw a 4x4 approaching and indicating to come my way. Given its speed and distance from the roundabout, I figured I had more than adequate time to make my way safely across the road - but I was wrong.

The fact that it was a 4x4 ought to have made me realise that the clown driving it wasn’t going to go around the roundabout. No, he cut across it and luxuriated in the almost flawless ride his off-road suspension gave him.

His cavalier approach to driving resulted in his bearing down upon me while I was only halfway across the road.

Naturally, someone in possession of such a fine approach to roadcraft isn’t likely to take kindly to pedestrians foolish enough to find themselves in their chosen path. The man behind the wheel demonstrated that he had the brain of a cabbage as he sounded his horn and shouted expletives in my direction that suggested that I might be better off not out on my own, and questioning my parentage.

I would contend that my immediate genetic antecedents were the pair who brought me up. He thought otherwise, and I’ll leave him to continue to think that as I quietly ponder the question: with what species does he share his genes.


Liberation Day
Monday 9 May, 2016

According to my calendar, today is Liberation Day.

I am confused because the country I live in was never invaded during WW2. Or at least, not the bit where I live. Guernsey and Jersey celebrate the day. This is because they were occupied during the war. However, Leighton Buzzard is a fair bit inland and justifiably might consider itself on the mainland...

But I still find it interesting that 9 May is remembered. The end of the war in Europe came 8 May, 1945. Due to a technicality observed by the British, it was the next day before the ships HMS Bulldog and HMS Beagle arrived at Guernsey and Jersey respectively.

That comes as no surprise, but if you visit Poland, you can find streets named 9 Maja - celebrating the end of WW2. Of course, you know it was actually 8 May, 1945.

So how come?

Well, news of the surrender was delayed due to the sensibilities of the USSR. The actual military surrender was signed in France 7 May, 1945 but signed a second time, and more symbolically in Berlin the following day, at the insistence of Moscow. The result was that arrangements came relatively late in the day and - according to Moscow Time - it was May 9th.

This meant that all countries under the influence of the USSR observed 9th as opposed to the 8th. This led to east and west Germany, before unification, celebrating different days. Indeed, Poland only changed to May 8th in 2015, having celebrated the 9th all the way to 2014.

Tut-tut! A fellow EU country daring to differ from its neighbours. Tsk!

It gets better. Many Commonwealth countries mark May 7th as VE Day.

While I can understand the discrepancies, I still cannot fathom why my US-created calendar tells me that today is Liberation Day for me at my current location. Perhaps the makers have confused the over 94,000 square mile mainland with the combined 75 square miles of Guernsey and Jersey?


The Danger of Sunburn or Drowning
Saturday 7 May, 2016

A walk into town this morning to post a parcel and pay some money into the bank.

Nice. Very pleasant with the cooling breeze that offset the strong sunshine.

Unfortunately, that gentle wind masked the fact that the sun was cooking whoever stood below it. I wore no hat so I was aware that my nose was at risk of becoming red by the end of the day. At this point in the year, my biggest fear is being laughed at by my daughter rather than suffering sunburn.

Although I was sans hat, I wore long, loose sleeves to protect my arms. Judging from the number of kids without any cover whatsoever; either they were wearing pretty effective sun block, or parents were oblivious to the brilliant sunshine. Probably the latter.

I got home and set about my tasks.

Then I was required to pop down to the local park. Just as I was about to leave the house, the Heavens opened and I was forced back inside to change my footwear and throw on a storm jacket. What came down required more than waterproof clothing - it demanded some pretty serious swimming certificates.

My intention was to use some T-Cut on my car as there is some damage to the paintwork. However, the rain bouncing off the bodywork and the ground about it suggested a need for scuba diving equipment.

Despite the rain hammering down, it was quite warm. If I had chosen to lie down outside the front of my house, perhaps I would have drowned before my nose turned red.

At least there was no snow like last week. No chance of being buried and needing a search party to come dig me out of my icy tomb. The choice seemed to be between sunburn or drowning.


Thursday 5 May, 2016

Life has been a bit busy lately. It seems like all my writing deadlines have come along at once.

A deadline is a necessary ‘evil’ in the writing world. If tasked with turning in copy, there is no point in writing it if it is to be supplied to an editor after their publication has gone off to the printer.

So entereth the deadline.

The problem comes with writing for a variety of publications. The world of monthly periodicals compresses a series of deadlines into the same week each month. With a bank holiday weekend, deadlines tend to move back and forth a little to accommodate it. The shuffling sometimes causes a week of deadlines to become a day of deadlines as they come together.

If writing for a weekly publication as well, it is possible to watch your social life vanish in a deadline-created puff of smoke. And when one opts to write a Blog so as to ensure a steady flow of words during quieter times, then that concentration tends towards trying to break something.

Obviously it hasn’t broken me. If it had, then you wouldn’t be reading this!

It gets better. The non-appearance of copy from someone else for a publication gave me 45 minutes to write something around the length of this Blog. That 45 minutes included proofreading, editing, re-proofreading, then emailing it to the editor.

That ignores my novel. I can leave it for only so long before I end up wasting even more time needing to read through it before I can pick up where I left off. Naturally, my novel is going to be a bestseller.

Unfortunately, even my optimism is offset by the fact that I need to eat TODAY as opposed to when some enlightened soul spots it for what it is and offers me a huge amount of money for it and the film rights. I’ll be rolling in it is the technical writing term, I think. But money then is not money now - so the deadlines take precedence.

When I’m rich and famous, perhaps I’ll be setting the deadlines...


Jolly British
Tuesday 3 May, 2016

Today is a Public Holiday.

Sorry, wasn’t that yesterday? I hear you all ask. Well, it depends on where you are.

Today is Constitution Day in Poland. It cerebrates the signing and adoption of the Polish constitution, 3 May, 1791. That makes it the oldest in Europe and the second in the world only to that of the United States.

Ah, but what about the English constitution of 1215? First, the Magna Carta wasn’t a constitution - it was a charter. Secondly - and I mention this only to be pedantic - it wasn’t enshrined in English law (through statute) until around 1297.

The Polish and US constitutions are both written as opposed to verbal, and they are not collections of laws generalised into the form of a constitution.

For Poland, that makes this time of year quite nice - if you are a fan of time off work. As per many European countries, May Day is a public holiday. In Poland, so is Constitution Day. That means a long weekend for the Poles this year.

Add to the mix the date of the liberation. For us here in Blighty, it is May 8. However, it was signed late in the day and was actually 9 May Moscow Time. Consequently, all the Eastern Bloc countries celebrated 9 May as opposed to the 8 May that we know as VE Day.

Poland celebrated 9 May until 2014. In 2015 they swapped to 8 May in recognition of the fact that they don’t operate to Moscow Time, I suppose.

Here, we don’t even adhere to Armistice Day. We say it happens but shift it to the next convenient Sunday and call it Remembrance Day or Remembrance Sunday. In Poland, they know it as Independence day, for the Armistice marked the end of the Partition between the three ‘super powers’ on the mainland of Europe at that time. Guess what? It is a Public Holiday out there.

Obviously the words spoken over the terrible losses and mutilations of WW1, and the sufferings of those in the armed forces subsequently, mean an awful lot to those say them on primetime TV, but not enough for them to actually want to cause any inconvenience. How jolly British. 


May Day
Sunday 1 May, 2016

The weather is nice. The sun is shining, there is a slight breeze, and the birds are singing.

A good day to chill.

Some vintage jewellery has come the way of Bijour Bears Jewellery, and jolly splendid it is, too. However, as is the lot of older items, sometimes repairs are required.

A bracelet with a captive chain made me think. I questioned why it was not attached at the end. It looked to be a simple case of rethreading the last link and closing and sealing it. And indeed that was the case - or so it appeared.

The fact was that the link join had to be behind the pin that formed part of the bracelet. In order to place it where is should be, the mount had to be removed and the last link attached and closed on the chain before reattaching to the pin on its mount.

Once I had determined that the originally simple-looking repair was anything but, out came my tiny pointed pliers and finest tweezers, along with my magnifying glass on its stand, with its clamps for small objects. The repair was underway.

During the time it took to fix the chain back to the bracelet, I thought about how the original owner may have looked at the damaged item and fruitlessly tried to repair it, or sought out someone who could mend their possibly cherished possession.

By the time I had finished affixing the chain end to its rightful place, thirty minutes had passed. That time included original assessment of how best to affect the repair and setting up the required equipment once I realised it was definitely not the straightforward issue I had originally thought.

It crossed my mind that the cost of taking the piece to a jeweller would probably be the reason it came our way with the matter unresolved.

Given that today was supposed to be an opportunity for me to relax, is it any wonder that I ended up thinking, mayday, mayday, mayday!