Saturday, 31 May 2008

Tick box target world.

Perhaps it is just me becoming old and cantankerous or even developing wisdom but it has seemed to me that for these last few years we have become tick box targeted out.

In any area of public life there will be targets to be met and ticks to be placed in boxes that indicate we are doing all right or far too often that we are not.

For looked after children whole rafts of targets have been set for things to be attained.

Children will no more be removed but parents helped to parent, on the face of it not such a bad idea.

Children taken into care likewise, will not be helicoptered miles from their community but will be brought up in the places they know amongst the people who know them. This is where the wheels start to fall off the cart.

No problem with the above assertion and indeed there is evidence to support the proposal, trouble is it does not generate an easy box within which to place a tick. Enter the concept of "not placed out of county", this is an easy tick in the box but one which can severely limit the scope of good practice. In practice you could move a child a hell of a distance in Yorkshire or Powys and still be in county. Move them across the street cross the county border and you can have the same community but the different county makes the move "bad" in a blind tick box target led service.

In our case, we traditionally took children who were out of control or in danger in their own communities or who were positively a menace within it. Children who had a second chance and a fresh start away from the things that threatened to drag them down. For the vast majority of children this has been an enormous positive and most have returned over the years. Except of course where the dreaded social workers have forbidden that they do.

But it will happen no more. No more daycastle children will be placed in the west.

What is missing in all this is joined up thinking.

There is an increasing and uncritical acceptance that taking children into care is bad but framed in a discourse that is driven by negative policing rather than of positive mentoring and support which seeks to do more of what is good rather than stamp on that which is less so.

We have come full circle, no longer remove children from adversity, rather leave them there, no mentoring good behaviour but orders that control the bad. When society only notices the times that children are out of control small wonder they get more of what they look for.

This week we have seen potential re runs of the Climbie scenario, two separate cases where children have been removed from adversity, in body bags.

IN it's very sad way this is a positive. There will doubtless be panic, blame will be avoided at all costs, parents will be vilified and demonised, junior staff may be disciplined but no mention will be made of fiscal constraint.

At the end of it all the wheel may well start to turn the other way.

For us, all it will take is for the media to notice neglectful and poor service in daycastle, as soon as the press are again following a child as the council stand by and watch her move into prostitution, they trail the young boy going to visit a known paedophile, then in the depths of the West, in that farm a mile from the nearest right of way, the phone will ring.

The thinking will not be joined up, but avoidance of blame and liability seldom generate clear thought.

It might though merit a tick in the box and a target met....


Friday, 30 May 2008

A grand day out....

Hot on the trails of thought about journeys being necessary came yesterday and a trip out up the motorway.

The purpose being contact for the looked after kids with their real parents.

Fostering is an interesting job always about the children and rarely helped by the Social Work dimension.

That said the childrens SW are a pleasure to work with it's the fostering service that has ideas above it's station.

Annual review on Monday and they are coming to explain our inadequacies to us.

Of course we might have our own take on this and a few points to raise..

But I digress, yesterday we took one of ours to meet his mum and had a nice suprise. His sister has moved home, she is one of the lovliest we ever fostered. Of course her life, just like most looked after children has been a mess. She has just dumped her latest boyfriend a lad calculated to make your heart sink at the best of times.

But, she ran out of the house and threw her arms around management, saying:

"Thank you for looking after my brother, I know he's safe while he's with you."

In the scheme of thing it does not count for much. But, when they come down on monday with their sour faces and boxes to tick I know what will help me get through it.


Thursday, 29 May 2008

Flexible friends.....

Now there was a time when they used to call, credit cards flexible friends.

In reality they are an invitation to spend today what you might earn tomorrow and gamble on the possibility that you do.

The world economy is in a mess, a mess created by believing that tomorrow would never arrive. That house prices allways go up and that resources can be used without a thought. Like driving a car without checking the fuel gauge and working out what you will do when it hits empty and how you will pay for it.

Now, it has to be said, at least some of the rise in commodities is down to speculation and money being moved out of property into commodities when a world is suddenly less certain. In the same way as the credit card, buying today in anticipation that everything will be dearer by the time you come to pay for it.

Truckers here in the UK are protesting and French fishermen are laying siege to the channel ports. This is like protesting that it goes dark. Complaining about the inevitable.

But the reality is that a tank of diesel has gone up about one percent this week. We have allready started to rein in our expenditure and go back to world war two thinking;

"Is your journey really necessary"

I drove up to Nottingham this week, on a tidal wave of joie de vie and with scant regard for cameras, enjoying the Xantias urge and ability to easily consume nearly 100 miles every hour. My next trip might be an exploration of it's ability to cover distance without using masses of fuel.


Tuesday, 27 May 2008

Fosse forks sakes....

So off I went today on one of our epics.

Covered a lot of the UK in one go.

West Wales to Melton Mowbray north to Newark and on some more.

The GPS was taken for company and the atlas for use....

I am now totally convinced of the uselessness of that technology. Autoroute too, very handy to be able to get a map at a click of a button but the route finder should only be used to work out where there will be congestion as the lemmings blindly converge.

I am not sure how much of a part that played in the time being a mere 13 hours, including stops and meals and all down time.

I also dumped the motorway in favour of the A46, I went back to roads the Romans made.

Distance covered in the region of 600 miles on one tank of diesel too.

It has to be said that the Xantia rocks....

It is also absolutely full of parts I bought and Green Goddess related literature recovered from a skip.


Monday, 26 May 2008

Bank holiday blues...

Just as I was anticipating a day of no note.

Eve, the elder matriarch of the cats here.

Has suddenly died.

Very puzzling really, she had not been ill and even in death her coat was it's usual clean fine white with the black patch over one eye that almost gave her the appearance of a pirate.

A cat of great cunning who would often let herself into the house by launching herself upwards and grabbing the door handle. Who could get past a tackle better than Shane Williams if there was a warm house with tasty scraps on the other side. Who could be relied to be first in the cue for food.

Nothing to hint how or why today.

Kids quite upset, eldest daughter officiated with a wooden wine box making a coffin.

Tallie and her dug a hole.

Poor old Eve and only about 7 too, not that old for a cat.

I had just lit the fire too, she would have liked that.

I would have had greater confidence in her ability to get to it than in mine to stop her.


bank holiday blues

It's a strange UK truism that you only have to make a day a national holiday in the UK and the weather is immediately jinxed.

I am sat on our mountain here, management has escaped to IKEA causing waves of distress when I logged on to internet banking.....

The wind is howling, the rain has been battering the windows, I am contemplating lighting the fire to generate some warmth in this house.

A complete contrast to yesterday when the day was almost bearable and children played in the garden.

Today the cats have all been laying siege to the house. Diving through doors and running to hide under beds and in cupboard to avoid being thrown back out into the sort of weather you can only get in late May.

With our sole car away I have been sort of stuck, didn't really fancy a trip into town int the fire engine today. Parking might be an issue, not for me, just for all the other vehicles around me!!

Tomorrow I am off on wild manouveres: west wales to leicestershire then nottinghamshire and home.

Sunday, 25 May 2008

Log chopin, water pumpin, duck racing, the all action day...

Photos copyright Branwen aka Sir Bruce

So yesterday was the day of our invasion of the Gwaun Valley. The annual log chop and duck race with a pumpathon thrown in for good measure. Here is the Gwauns infamous pub - Bessie's

Of course to keep up our recent theme the first thing that happened was a locker door hitting me on the head. Out of mercy for those of delicate sensibility I have left out the photos which feature torn flesh and claret. But the first bit of Goddess kit deployed was the first aid kit!!!
Still we soon had the branches set up. At one stage the water was landing on the roof of that cottage!
Nice backdrop for water.
The yellow NI issue goddess sends a subtle message to the detractors in government who said they were old and of no further use....
Speaks for itself really.....
Two ground monitors with nozzles over an inch wide.
NYV795 with a body coach built by weymanns

Instant flood....
We are very lucky to live where we do. Branwen ace photographer wandered off .
Bethan sat down before she got knocked over.
Brother and sister work as a team.
Here comes the "duck race" gis a tenner and I fire your duck over the finish line....

Thursday, 22 May 2008

In shock.....

I am in shock and really cannot believe this.

Today I spent much of the day sorting out number one sons bike.

Basically it had been upended and there was oil every where.

So having spent for ever sorting out the various dings and what have you, so this afternoon I had a "good dad" moment as he came through the door to see his bike all assembled and waiting for him .

Pinching his mums lawn mower petrol, filling the bike with best semi synthetic and away we went.

It started straight away, I took it for a quit blat round the fields then handed it over to the man in question.

He had a good half hour driving round the fields was looking really good, displaying his natural skill on anything that goes brum brum then, completely out of the blue he fell off the bike.

Nothing bad there, but in a complete fluke one in a million, the bike landed awkwardly and smashed the crankcase. For the non technical thats serious in a rebuild the whole thing sort of way.

This run of luck is starting to get to me!!


Wednesday, 21 May 2008

OK I give up....

There comes a point in life where you accept the almighty has you in her sights.

After the catalogue of failing transport and domestic appliances, hopes built and then dashed, canceled trips and consequent misery, I thought, naively it must all finish.

But no we trolled on and managed to rebuild a bedroom and realise that the window really is errrr tired, ok the technical phrase is rotten.

Then, the field bike that Tallie had been saving for ages to buy, arrived for me to see that at some stage the carrier had used it as a football and there was serious and significant damage.

He is dismayed as you might well expect.

Management has a new bank card, yes, how disastrous is that?

Then tonight, the corkscrew broke. Yes, the bloody corkscrew gave out.

Now this is not a problem, I have a green goddess outside and there has to be something on there that will meet the challenge.

No says she, one of her augers from the woodland will do it.

I think she might be missing the point.

Someone really has it in for us......

I cannot believe it, as Victor Meldrew would say....

Ha ha you yanks won't have got that one!!!


Counting numbers.......

Oh dear,

I have developed a healthy lead in the stat counting stakes.

Management is begining to sulk

For goodness sakes click on her blog everyone.


Seee I said it could get worse....

And now the washing machine has decided it is time it departed for that great resting place in the sky that is the home of all worn out domestic appliances.

The vaccum cleaner is debating whether to join it.


The best laid plans

We continue to stagger on here.

Management is rebuilding a bedroom. Last week a review for one of the young people and his mum was "too busy" to attend. I suppose thats an improvement on all the times she has said she is coming and then not turned up. But it was enough to push YP over the edge and his room got trashed. Think positive, boy, we got a load of free firewood.....

Our best laid plans were to venture out into Brittany next week taking our little RIB which we struggled to assemble last week

Of course our run of good luck has continued and it turns out the problem on the IVECO is another really serious fault with parts on back order for good measure so unlikely to be back on the run anytime soon.

So instead of driving us to Brittany it is sitting with it's front axle off in the garage. Think I am going to invest in a "for sale" sign for the windscreen

Trying to be positive, this means our summer trip is now paid for and I was lucky enough to be able to get space on the outgoing ferry for the summer for our boat.

I was really looking forward to a week in Brittany, still that's life, shit happens.

Our life seems to have diarrhoea at the moment

Still not all bad, I can get down to the Gwaun on the weekend and try out the new kit we had for the fire engines.

Get to drive a green goddess this weekend, I am cheering up already, hmmm what could possibly go wrong....


Monday, 19 May 2008

We can still manage mechanical mayhem....

It strikes me as odd.

Now, I have always run larger than average trucks.

For diverse reasons whilst my mates had things like Austin 1100's and allegros not to mention Cortinas my fleet had a Bedford type J Ambulance with a Lomas body

Today I run an IVECO 43-12 minibus which is about as old as the J was then but is carrying nothing like the mileage.

Comparison is an interesting thing since you might expect there to be progress aplenty.

First things lets get the cab out of the way. Driving position the bedford wins hands down. IVECO actually has ergonomics and it has power steering and ABS. Bedford was armstrong steering and JESUS CHRIST both feet brakes. NVH was also a thing bedford might have learnt about.

Then things unravel a bit, ride and handling are pretty much on a par, could not choose between them. I think maybe the Iveco is easier to handle in the sideways situation.

But, and here's the big but, the IVECO is rated at 4300 KG, get anywhere close to that and you really know.

The Bedford 3300Kg and the more you went over, the happier it got.

Really, when it was in total overload it was really happy.

I have just broken the IVECO - completly inconceivable for a Bedford.

But on paper too, the last bedford J (officially CDD) was built in 1975 with a 3300 cc petrol, and delivered about what the IVECO 2500 blown diesel does on paper.

In practice though the Bedford was a far more pleasant vehicle to live with, 4 speed and thats all it needed, once in top you were sorted, from about 15 to 80 it was there.

The IVECO requires a constant eye on the rev counter.

This would be OK if the IVECO could squeeze more out of a gallon than the Bedford.

But it can't.

So running the petrol bedford would cost a shed load less than the diesel IVECO today


Counting numbers

This stat counter thing should be listed as an addiction.....

Of course, whilst she was ahead she was really hard to live with. The smug little smiles, the little glances.

When I passed her she became insufferable......


Sunday, 18 May 2008


Now, I freely admit to being lucky.

I am lucky to be alive.

I am lucky in my children.

And most of all I am lucky in Enrat, well OK maybe that bit pushes the bounds of credibility a bit, balancing act required, too little and the domestic wind will switch to artic blast, too much and I will end up fitting a new bathroom

It strikes me though that these blogs are littered with the tales of those who have travelled half way across the world to find places of wonder.

Me I just look out of the window.

I respect totally the right of those who live 50 miles away to spend a fortune looking for wonder.

But I wonder if wonder is often there under our nose.

We need to learn to look close to home.


Counting numbers

One of the things not to add to a blog is statcounter.

Statcounter secretly watches you all, even now it's noting who you are where you came from where you will leave to and how long you have stayed.

I know that somone in Tampa Florida who has quite an old computer was reading my blog this morning.

A hapless new yorker researching food by the look of it found my history of green goddesses.

2 people from Australia were researching bustitis...

The posibilities are endless.

The worst aspect though if that it allows competative number crunching.

Management, who is nothing if not competative, she who is linked off my page checks several tmes daily to make sure more people are reading her blog than mine.


But I console myself that more people come to my blog for a second visit....

Gluttons for punishment all....


Saturday, 17 May 2008

Tesco rules the world.

With a household of nine doing the weekly shoping is less of a chore than a military operation.

One that has been complicated by the great Tesco decision to upgrade our local store whilst it was still open, desperate not to hand a penny to the opposition.

This in turn has severly impeded her normal routine run up the aisles in a certain order.

The cost of everything had also really started to intrude.

Today we started our expedition in Bookers the local wholesaler. Bread milk beans and fruit juice are substantially cheaper here. Today there was loads of short dated bread which we hoovered up to put in the freezer. Similarly large packs of beef and chicken to be broken into smaller packs and frozen.

Whoever says UK inflation is set at 3% really needs to get out more. Our shopping bill is about 30% up in the last 6 months alone. This has severely impacted our lives, add to that diesel having sailed past £1.20 and closing in rapidly on £1.30 a litre the belt is being severly tightened. I really do not know how those on fixed low incomes stay alive.

So anyway into tesco we went and blundered round the new layout with her getting more and more agitated.

Finally we arrived at one of their new fast self service auto checkouts. This is clearly a windows driven piece of software. With a seres of annoying beeps lurches and regular stubborn refusals to do anythings this is the sort of check out operator who would normally be rewarded by a quick bop on the nose!

Still there is a limit to the fun to be had and we are now home. Our resident footie addict is waiting for the cup final to start. Me , I am going to do something more interesting , like watch paint dry.....


Friday, 16 May 2008

I am scared,

Why do these diesel engine companies want to advertise on my blog.....


Tonight has been cool.

We went out for the first time in while.

Went for a windy bum then home.

The Xantia is a lovely car , glad to have it back.

Would be glad to have a wheelbarrow really.


be even more ware of the management....

One has to say I am really scanning my brane to think of a week that has been as bad as this one.

If it could conceivably go wrong it has.

To put the crowning glory on it all we discovered that someone in the reviewing team has sent our address to a violent predatory paedophile.

It would be fair to say that management felt she wanted to "explain" what she thought about that to someone very senior. When we found out the name of the manager involved, well that was the icing on the cake, I have had several run ins with her in the past.

Unfortunately the whole team were at a training day today and not therefore available to hear the managements views. It will all have to wait till monday by which time management "views" will have formed very nicely indeed.

At least we should have our car back today, then the rush is on to do the IVECO in time for us to go to France the week after next.


Adsense in non sense.

Somewhere out there is obviously a trick bit of software.

One that dilegently reads my blog and then decides what to advertise on it.

Have a look, what a bizarre set of links, based on what I wrote yesterday would you really want to buy a mirlees blackstone diesel engine?

Based on my woes of last week, might you be tempted to make yourself bust?

I cannot see why.

Still I have earned nearly 50 US cents from advertising on this blog so who am I to question....

What will this post be linked to??


Thursday, 15 May 2008


I was sitting by the computer recently when the phone tintinabulated, it was my dear most beloved step daughter Serenity in a situation of great urgence. She was stuck in town with no diesel and unless I proceeded immediately to her aid she would remain there until payday.

So being benevolent of a mood I diverted to town pressed 2 crisp brown notes into her sweaty little palm and departed with her promise to return it the very next day ringing in my years.

Several weeks have past without visitations, phone calls, or indeed any form of communication at all.

Peace has reigned.

Best 20 quid I have spent in a long time


Wednesday, 14 May 2008

Da man - an update

There is a big thing in the UK at the moment about identifying delinquents from a very young age. Not sure if you should be able to do the same for cats.

Da Man might well be a few months old 3 legged kitten and Deimund might well be four time his size but it he scared?

Bring it on....
Is that a psycho gleam in those eyes.....

Of course he has grown a bit since then.

Now he's up the tree after birds.
Still the same gleam.

I wonder if a big part of some disabilities is in the mind set.

Tuesday, 13 May 2008

Here is a test

Lets see if this complete puternerd has managed to install stat counter properly on the nth attempt.

Beware of the management......

Now, I am trully lucky to live with someone as calm and serene as management. I would never suggest that she is in any way anything other than a model person.

However, occasionally, just occasionally her guard drops and she is moved to action.

Now, to appreciate this tale in it's context we must go back some little while, (one thing I will admit is that management has elephantine recollection of grievance).

Anyway it came to pass in the normal run of things that the management had been having a run in with one of the looked after kids.

Not long after this she decided to go in the bath and well cutting a long story short when the bath was ran, she found that it wasn't only water in there. A "Richard" had mysteriously arrived as well.

Well OK not much mystery about how the richard got there....

This in turn was enough to set management off emailing a hapless social worker to share the glad tidings.

Management is a BIG believer in accurate recording and so there could be no question of not calling a turd a turd or, more problematically shit is best described as.....

This in turn was imediatly picked up by the daycastle computer thought police who lifted the messages, sat on it for three days then forwarded it with a note attached and replied in the terms censorious to the management saying that she would be investigated and hinting there might even be "proceedings".

There are some things which can be viewed as serious mistakes and I think the IT guy who foolishly decided to sign the email he sent the management came, quite quickly to the conclusion that some emails are better anonymous.

With smoke wisping gently from her ears management got on the phone to county hall and offered the young lad what I think is best described as a comprehensive account of what had happened and a full explanation of how she felt about the situation and exactly what she thought various peoples actions.

As these things go it was not the shi.... errr jobyyest phone call I have heard her make, but it was certainly in the top ten.. I wonder sometimes if I could fit our phone with one of those filter things they have at call centres that tells you how much of a valued customer they are and that you may well be recorded for training purposes.

"Warning to those of a nervous disposition, you have annoyed the management and she is about to explain how. If you have medication, take it now....."

This in turn resulted in even more communication and communications. Some people really need to learn when it might be a good time to shut up.

Eventually, things sort of calmed down and a sembelence of normality returned.

Then of course it started, the festering team started taking back handers from other organisations and departments and a steady stream of emails for things we did not want and concerts we would not go to started pouring in.

Now the management likes email but becomes positively rabid when confronted with spam.

Meantimes we changed our email address so these mails stopped, well, they had. Today we had a phone call from the advertising person who wanted confirmation of my new email address which had been given her by someone else. Not sure that is legal I mused, I know you cannot dish out peoples email addresses willy nilly and said as much.

Management went a step further, she checked up the legal position and yes indeed a breach of the data protection act had probably occurred. So on the phone she went, she wanted these emails nipped at the bud she was fed up of spam and unsolicited mails.

The SW was sympathetic.

So she would delete me off her mail list?

No, she could not possibly do that in fact, really she needed managements new email address too, but she agreed spam was a terrible problem.

Well why did she keep sending it then.

Not really an answer to that one so one we went management is now looking into the data commisioners website and retrieving documents.

I think this years annual review could be one of the more interesting ones. Have not seen management like this in ages.

I wonder if I could sell tickets....

Monday, 12 May 2008

Capacity for chaos.....

I do sometimes wonder about my life.

There are all these people out there who just go and get on with it and everything sort of cruises on. Not me, oh no, now if you have not been driven to sleep by my rantings you will know that on the breaking things front it has been a bit brisk here of late. But there's more....

Last Friday I went all the way across the UK to view a tender sale. The Xantia was like driving an armchair and whisked us there wiping a full 30 minutes off the normal journey time .

Chilled and chilling in the aircon we drove home. There was a funny noise as we left the M5; turns out this was the "wrong oil in the gearbox and it's lunching itself" warning noise.

So home we came on the recovery truck with me convinced that really it had just blown a seal somewhere and dumped the transmision oil.

This morning, out I went and drove slowly over to Greasy Garage where amidst much tutting and whistling through teeth doom was announced.

So, leaving the car there off home I went on eBay bent. But woe was me, the front suspension on the van promptly collapsed . Jesus H christ!!!!!!!!!

This was of course, interesting, since no one daughter is sitting her GCSE's and needed to be in school reasonably nowish.

This in turn meant a consideration of transport, I was cool with taking her there in the fire engine but management was less so. So the van was limped over to school and she was duly delivered.

But eBay has been torn apart and I can't find a spare gearbox and I really don't have a clue about whats wrong with the van, well except that the wheel is very unlikely to fall off.

Oh dear, how could I write that.

Talk about the kiss of death......


Sunday, 11 May 2008

More photos of RSOLES day

The cast of players.....
Bleedin eavy these pipes
But the tank is now full.

Pull it all apart

4 rigid suction lift
Tom finds it all boring

Just as eavy this way too

Back it up
It's stopped....

Does Branwen care??

It was quite a lift
Stuff it
Lets go to the pub
We got home in the end!
Very hot and very bothered.
Nitromoors away!!

Ready to paint!