June 30, 2015
by Paul
0 comments

How to put a lovely, lovely picture at the top of your gorgeous WordPress blog post

Written with an intermittent and terrible attempt at a Welsh accent.

Oh yes. You’ve seen people like Mark Pack with bloody lovely pictures at the top of their blog posts. And you want some of that yourself, don’t you?

Well, here’s a very very simple guide on how to do it.

STEP 1. ONCE YOU HAVE WRITTEN YOUR GORGEOUS POST, MAKE SURE YOU ARE IN TEXT MODE BY HITTING THE “TEXT” TAB AT THE TOP RIGHT HAND SIDE OF THE WRITING SPACE. THEN PUT YOUR LOVELY CURSOR RIGHT AT THE TOP LEFT OF THE TEXT. YES, RIGHT HERE WHERE THE ARROW IS. GO ON, YOU KNOW YOU WANT TO.

pic1

STEP 2. IN A DIFFERENT WINDOW IN YOUR BROWSER, GO TO WWW.GETTYIMAGES.CO.UK

HERE WE ARE. THE BACKGROUND PICTURE CHANGES A LOT, SO I CANNOT GUARANTEE THAT YOU WILL SEE THESE TWO MEN SNOGGING.

pic2

YOU MIGHT GET THE DALAI LAMA SMILING AND POINTING AT SOMETHING THAT HAS GREATLY AMUSED HIM:

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OR YOU MIGHT GET BALLS:

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STEP 3. BUT WHATEVER YOU GET, TYPE IN THE MAIN SUBJECT OF YOUR POST IN THE DIALOGUE BOX SLAP BANG IN THE CENTRE OF THE PAGE, WHERE THIS VERY HELPFUL ARROW IS:

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IN THIS EXAMPLE, MY SUBJECT IS “KIRSTY WILLIAMS”

STEP 4. PRESS ENTER AND YOU WILL SOON SEE A VAST PANOPLY OF DELIGHTS OPENING UP BEFORE YOUR VERY EYES. ALL ON YOUR CHOSEN SUBJECT (OR NOT). JUST LOOK!!!!

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STEP 5. IN THIS EXAMPLE, IGNORE THE PHOTOS OF DAVID CAMERON VISITING WILLIAMS F1 AND DOUBLE CLICK ON THE ONE OF KIRSTY WILLIAMS (THE SUBECT OF MY SAMPLE POST) WHICH IS REALLY REALLY LOVELY – YOU SEE THE ONE WITH THE ARROW ABOVE IT? I RECOMMEND THAT YOU PICK A LANDSCAPE ORIENTED PIC.

STEP 6. A BRAND SPANKING NEW BOX WILL OPEN WITH THAT LOVELY LOVELY PICTURE OF KIRSTY IN IT!!!! ALL YOU HAVE TO DO IS TO CLICK ON THE LITTLE </> ICON IN A LITTLE CIRCLE JUST BY KIRSTY’S RIGHT EAR:

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STEP 7: AN EXCITING NEW BOX APPEARS SAYING “EMBED THIS IMAGE”. JUST CHECK THAT THE LITTLE CIRCLE FOR THE BIGGEST SIZE IS FILLED IN. THAT SHOULD BE SOMETHING LIKE 594×438, WHICH WILL FIT NICELY ACROSS THE TOP OF YOUR LOVELY LOVELY POST:

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STEP 8: SELECT ALL THE EMBED TEXT IN THE BOX AND RIGHT CLICK AND PRESS “COPY”:

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STEP 9. GO BACK TO YOUR LOVELY LOVELY POST AND RIGHT CLICK AND CHOOSE “PASTE”:

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LO AND BEHOLD! YOU WILL SEE THAT ALL THE LOVELY EMBED TEXT IS NOW AT THE TOP OF YOUR POST. BUT, BY GOD, YOU NEED TO BRACE YOURSELF FOR THE NEXT EXCITEMENT. “YOU AIN’T SEEN NOTHIN’ YET”, AS SMASHY SAYS.

STEP 10. PRESS “PREVIEW”. AND LOOK!!!! IF I MAY SAY SO MYSELF, A BLOODY BLOODY LOVELY PICTURE OF KIRSTY AT THE TOP OF MY BLOODY GORGEOUS POST!!!!!!!!!

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OPTIONAL STEP 11 FOR THE PICKIEST OF ANORAKS: TYPE “ALIGNCENTER” JUST BEFORE THE FIRST CLOSING ” IN THE EMBED TEXT. THIS WILL CENTRE UP THE PHOTO IN THE POST COLUMN.

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AND THAT IS IT!!!!! JUST PRESS “PUBLISH” AND YOUR GORGEOUS POST WITH A LOVELY LOVELY PHOTO WILL BE SENT UNTO THE GREAT MASSES AND USUAL SUSPECTS OF THIS LOVELY LOVELY PLACE WE CALL PLANET EARTH!!!!!

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June 25, 2015
by Paul
0 comments

Priceless comment by Ed Davey on the 2015 Lib Dem election catastrophe

From today’s Guardian:

We were the centre party and, on one level, that sounds really attractive. But the old adage of if you’re in the middle of the road you might get run over operated in spades. We were in the middle of the road without any distinction, so we had no visibility jacket on, no one could see us, so we really did get run over.

June 19, 2015
by Paul
0 comments

Parents – never ask “Shouldn’t you be revising?” again

It’s a tricky period. One’s youngster is going through all that teenage stuff and also working towards some of the most important “make or break” exams of their life. What do parents do?

Well, first of all, disabuse yourself of the idea that GCSEs or A’ levels are “make or break”. Every child has a place in life. Trying to force them into some sort of slot will not work. Some people take three gap years and still go on to achieve success at university. Many, many happy people never went to university or dropped out of university. Praise your teenager, encourage them to do their best and be themselves. Support them. Be a shoulder to cry on. Make nice food for them and provide a comfortable home for them. Take an interest in their studies. And that’s that. You can’t do the exams for them.

One method which we used for GCSEs and A levels was this. Our teenager nominated a target for revision hours a few months before the exams. Then every week, and then everyday as the exams grew closer, we marked up on a sheet on the wall in our living room, how much revision hours they had done for each subject. Then I produced, on an Excel spreadsheet, a status of hours done/hours to go/percentage complete/days to go until the exams/hours of revision to do per day, per week.

It worked really well. Most particularly it shifted discussion from the negative (“Shouldn’t you be revising?”) to the positive (Well done dear, you’re doing really well.)

June 19, 2015
by Paul
0 comments

Two of my guilty secrets (the rest might follow if I have ever get round to my memoirs)


This is the first time for a long time that I have had the time, inclination, inspiration and sufficient alcohol/blood content to blog a bit. It’s like old times.

Mrs Brown’s Boys. I like it. There. I’ve said it. I love how it is so polished and shiny. It is funny, even though it relies on “fecking” a lot. Brendan O’Carroll is a very funny man, and I love it when he thanks everyone and takes a bow at the end.

The other one. Barry White songs. I love them. But particularly, “You’re the first, the last my everything”. It appears to come via tannoy from a public lavatory, but it is bloody great.

June 17, 2015
by Paul
1 Comment

Chris Evans to be main presenter AND producer of Top Gear AND Radio Two breakfast show host….really?

It doesn’t seem to have been mentioned much, but, as he said this morning, Chris Evans will not only be the main presenter of Top Gear, he will also be its producer.

I find this a little puzzling. Chris Evans works best when there is a producer keeping a calm eye on him, reminding him to breathe.

And if he is to continue to be the regular five-days-a-week Radio Two breakfast show host as well as main presenter of Top Gear AND producer of the show….well, I think that, in about a year, something is going to blow.

I don’t think for a minute that Chris Evans will have another meltdown, the like of which provided excellent material for two superb books from him. But something would have to give. He would actually be excellent as producer and presenter of Top Gear.

But think about it. He’s going to be presenting and producing the world’s most popular TV programme.

And presenting the main peak show on Europe’s most listened-to (or up there) radio station.

I don’t see it working long term myself.

It’s clear from all the stories that Top Gear is an extremely time consuming programme to produce.

I am wondering if whoever in the BBC decided to make Evans the producer knew that he was going to continue as Radio Two’s breakfast show presenter.

If they did know, they must be mad.

June 14, 2015
by Paul
0 comments

The smile and the pain

I recall the smile
“I’m on your side”
– It said

A smile used oft
On the posh boys
– It seems

Boys far from home
Far from mum and dad
– In need of a friend

He was that friend
With that smile
– On their side

At the cricket match
In the loos
That smile was there

Then the fiddling
Then the shame
– The guilt

“I am the only one”
“It must be me”
The pain – for years

Here’s the carpet
There’s the brush
Go quietly

Distinguished career
A service of thanksgiving
Well done

Then five brave voices
Five brave men
Stop the lies

The truth comes out
Justice is done
The smile is gone

But the pain remains

The people in the photograph above are completely unrelated to the subject of this poem.

June 11, 2015
by Paul
0 comments

Infographic: A glimpse of farming in the UK

Occasionally, it does us townies good to have a little exposure to farming in the UK. Here’s a great infographic with a novel twist. When you go onto the web page it starts a couple of dozen counters going, telling you how much farming activity there has been since you came on to the web page.

So, I’ve been on the page about ten minutes and it tells me that 358,000 eggs have been laid. 27,000 chickens have been consumed. And 68,000 kilograms of manure have been produced – in that ten minutes.

It’s worth a go here.

June 7, 2015
by Paul
2 Comments

Great BBC4 series on the history of London streets

Caledonian Road circa 1905

“The secret history of our streets” on BBC4 is a great TV series. They take a street in London, look at Charles Booth’s 1886 survey of the street, based on the poverty/prosperity of the residents, then roll forward to the present day. Portland Road, Notting Hill, had a particularly fascinating history. I particularly like when they interview current and past residents.

But the real beaut which I really enjoyed was the one about the Caledonian Road. A really fantastic TV programme.

You can see the past programmes currently on BBC iPlayer:

Caledonian Road
Portland road
Reverdy road
Arnold Circus

May 30, 2015
by Paul
1 Comment

Norman Lamb takes issue with Malcolm Bruce over Carmichael affair

Norman lamb farborough
My two girls were out tonight so I took the opportunity to go to Farnborough with Judith Bunting and another Newbury Lib Dem. We attended a Norman Lamb evening at Farnborough Air Sciences Trust hosted by Rushmoor local party. And a very nice evening it was too.

Norman was very impressive. He started by outlining his passionate beliefs about mental health. He then talked about a campaign for freedom of information he pursued early in his parliamentary career. This was to obtain, ultimately successfully, details of who Tony Blair, as PM, was meeting at Chequers.

Norman then told us about another successful campaign he waged to bring culprits to justice over the BAe Tanzania scandal.

Norman then rounded up his speech with a summary of why he is standing for the leadership, based on liberal values.

As the first question, I asked him whether we should be preparing to book flights to Lerwick to help in an Orkney and Shetland by-election.

Norman was very clear that what Alistair Carmichael did was wrong, and he condemned it. He said that we need to have a fresh start where we put breaches of trust behind us and never repeat them. I was pleasantly surprised that Norman said he disagreed with Malcolm Bruce when he (Bruce) defended Camichael saying that all politicians lie. Norman said that is wrong and that all politicians do not lie and shouldn’t lie. Some lie, but shouldn’t, he said.

May 26, 2015
by Paul
0 comments

Hurst spit and castle

image

Yachts moored behind Hurst beach and spit

We had a great day out yesterday at Hurst spit and castle, which is in Hampshire on the watersedge of the Solent. We parked at Keyhaven and walked out to Hurst castle on the spit, having lunch halfway along.

It was very windy and the shingle spit certainly absorbs ones’ energy, but it was a great walk. We thoroughly explored the many nooks and cranies of the enormous castle and battlements. What an extraordinary place! And what great views of the Isle of Wight, the Needles and sailing boats jostling inbetween!

We finished by getting the little ferry back to Keyhaven.

A really great day out!

May 23, 2015
by Paul
2 Comments

I have changed my comments policy

After nine years of blogging I have changed my comments policy. I used to say that I allow any comments as long as they are not potentially defamatory. For most of the time that will continue to be the case, but I reserve the right to reject comments if I just don’t feel like publishing them.

The knee-jerk reaction is to call rejection of comments “illiberal” and indeed I used to be of that view (although I never used to buy the moronic line that comment rejection is “censorship”). However, it is part of a liberal society that there are owned units of publication. Book publishers. Newspaper publishers. It is a liberal right of each of those owners to publish what they like in their publications. It is just the same with bloggers. This is my blog and I will publish what I feel like on it. If your comment is not published here there are, of course, millions of places elsewhere where you can publish it. Notwithstanding that, I am very grateful for you for reading this blog and thank you for your comments, most of which will be published.

So this is my new comments policy:

I regard this blog as my personal space. I will therefore publish your comments if I feel like it.

If you want to make contrary smart-arse remarks, go and do it somewhere else.

This is where I get to be the smart-arse.

May 23, 2015
by Paul
0 comments

Our great democratic system….not

In the general election ending on May 7th:

  • 37% of the votes cast were for the Tories and they received 51% of the seats in the House of Commons.
  • 24% of the votes cast were for the Lib Dems, the Greens and UKIP, and they received 1.5% of the seats.
  • The SNP received 3% of the votes but 9% of the seats.

All totally logical. Not.

Rory Bremner, impersonating David Cameron was asked “Isn’t that unfair?” and Cameron (Bremner) replied:

Life is unfair and it is only fair that we reflect real life in the House of Commons

May 23, 2015
by Paul
3 Comments

Why I’m backing Tim Farron to be leader of the Liberal Democrats

A photo I took of Tim after having a cup of tea with him in Portcullis House, Westminster on March 24th this year

A photo I took of Tim after having a cup of tea with him in Portcullis House, Westminster on March 24th this year


We are very fortunate to have someone of Tim Farron’s skills available to us as a leader of the Liberal Democrats at this time. We need to rediscover and refocus our liberal values. Tim is a lode star of liberalism. He is a walking, talking embodiment of liberalism. I can trust 100% that in any given situation, if Tim is asked for his view on it, he will give a 100% liberal view – and do it with enormous passion and clarity.

Tim is a very honest and sincere person. As has been said, he shakes every hand, answers every tweet, email and direct message. I honestly believe he does so not out of ambition, but because he feels he ought to. That it is his duty to be polite and friendly.

So in this desperate situation for the party, we need Tim to re-establish our identity as liberals. That identity has been blurred by five years of compromise in government. We need Tim to electrify us – as only he can – in the party and non-party members up and down the country with passion for liberalism.

Tim reminds me of many of my heroines and heroes in the Liberal Democrats and Liberal party. John Pardoe. Shirley Williams. Jeremy Thorpe. He is precisely the sort of person we need at this time. A rabble rouser. A “march to the sound of gunfire”-type person.

Back in 2003, with my family, we were privileged to be invited to one of Gerald Vernon-Jackson’s legendary birthday jaunts. This one was a weekend in Prague. We were fortunate to spend quite a bit of time, during the festivities, with Norman Lamb and his wife. They were in the same hotel as us and we shared tables with them etc. So we were able to get to know Norman, who was two years into his time as MP for North Norfolk. My overall impression was, and is, that Norman is a very, very nice man. His spell in government, his very firm base in his constituency, his stand on mental health, and the dignified way he dealt with the publicity surrounding his family, all show that Norman is a very passionate and effective liberal. I have enormous respect for him.

But at this particular time in the Liberal Democrats we need a rabble rouser as leader. Whatever Norman’s huge talents, he is not a rabble rouser.

I should add that I know, from what he said as party President at a dinner at Hampstead Norreys locally a couple of years ago, that Tim has enormous respect for Norman and has based his whole behaviour as a local MP on the “Lamb plan” as operated for many years in North Norfolk. It is no accident that Tim and Norman are two of our remaining MPs – both in areas with Conservative-dominated histories.

Me and Tim stuffing envelopes at the Oldham East and Saddleworth by-election 3rd January 2011

Me and Tim stuffing envelopes at the Oldham East and Saddleworth by-election 3rd January 2011

May 16, 2015
by Paul
0 comments

Coalfields and curtains – two very surprising things about the general election on May 7th

Coalfields%20v%20labourIn all my reading about the general election, two things have particularly surprised me.

Firstly, the Labour winning vote situations are virtually identical to were there are coalfields in England and Wales.

Secondly, a major academic study says that the Lib Dems didn’t lose because of policy, but because of valance issues. You know, curtains. It was curtains for us. No, that should read valence issues. Valence issues? I had to look up the word “valence”.

Mark Pack explains:

Political scientists crunching the evidence over how people decide who to vote for (such as in Affluence, Austerity and Electoral Change in Britain) find that policy issues matter much less than ‘valence’ issues.

That is, people don’t decide who to vote for based on looking at policies and seeing how closely a party or candidate’s policies match up to their own preferences. Rather, they lean on decisions over perceived competence on issues where different parties all have the same shared objective. For example, voting Conservative because you think they’ll be best at creating new jobs is a valence choice. All parties want more jobs, so picking the Conservatives is about perceived competence, not ideology.

Although there certainly are ideological choices and they do have an influence, it’s valence that dominates in British elections. Hence the problem for the Liberal Democrats in the general election wasn’t about having controversial policies which people didn’t like. There wasn’t even a small echo of the problems with the immigration amnesty policy of 2010 for example (good policy but burdened with the fatal combination of being both controversial and not amenable to a one-sentence defence). Asked where they put the Lib Dems and themselves on the political spectrum, voters kept on putting the party near to themselves overall.

Rather the problems were valence ones – about competence and trust in particular. Overhauling the party’s perception on those is not going to be a minor matter.

To be done seriously, the work has to infuse every corner of the party’s operations, from its disciplinary procedures through to how well the party does (or doesn’t) respond to voters getting in touch for the first time. The new leader, if they wish to be successful, needs to ensure a thorough overhaul, both internally and externally.