Saturday 21 November 2015


I'm so rock and roll that my only two playlists on Youtube are called "Land Registration" and "Maintenance". Don't ask about the former but the latter is a collection of videos, mostly by Matt of eSpares showing me how to do things like ...

Reason I'm mentioning this is that, last year, we bought two venetian blinds from a British firm called for our new holiday rental (see here). They're made to measure by entering the required dimensions into their website and they post them out to you. 185,00€ including delivery (and a 20,00€ option so that, if when you when you receive them, you find you got your measurements wrong, you can get them to send a new set of the correct size gratis) seemed quite reasonable and we were very happy with the blinds we got (which did fit first time).

The degree of satisfaction evaporated somewhat a couple of weeks ago when the string that raises and lowers the blind (not the one which alters the angle of attack of the slats - if you're not sure what the difference is, think of the alpha floor protection algorithm on the horizontal stabilisers of an Airbus A320) snapped.

This was literally a matter of days after the one year warranty expired but I imagined that a reputable company like Web-Blinds would probably have a string replacement kit they would send out gratis. But when I wrote to them, the answer I got was:-

Dear Mr King

Thank you for your email

I do apologise but we are unable to send replacement cord to you.

This is because replacing the cord without perishing the blind is an extremely difficult task and often lead [sic] the blind falling apart.

With this being the case we do not advise this and have no instructions to assist.

Kind Regards

Ashley Richardson

Well FU2 Ashley, I was thinking, until it occurred that Matt at eSpares might have a more can-do attitude. I was half right because about 30 seconds googling brought me to a YouTube called "How to Restring a Horizontal Woodblind" by which did very much as it says on the tin:-

Next stop Ebay to order some venetian blind cord (£8.59/11,50€ inc. postage: here) and, this having duly arrived, yesterday I went up to the house to attempt the job. OK, it took about 45 times as long as the vid implies due to the fiddlyness of threading the cord through the roller mechanism but, despite the dire prognostications of Ashley at Web-Blinds, the job was ultimately entirely successful after remarkably little DIY Tourettes:-

The point here is that, if it weren't for YouTube (and by extension the fibre optic cable laid out to this island two years ago before which it wasn't possible to watch YTs), it would never have occurred to me that this was a repair I could have done myself and I'd have ended up paying 10 times as much as I did for a new blind.

Now I'm off to pen a carefully crafted reply to Ashley. It will involve telling her to:-

Saturday 31 October 2015

Rugby World Cup Lookalike

Has anyone else noticed the uncanny resemblance between Australian flanker Michael Hooper and the punk in Dirty Harry?

Hooper                                                           Punk
Even if not related, they share the same fate of not having been lucky.

Thursday 22 October 2015

Nazi lookalike (update)

As reported on the BBC today - here - but the record will show I trailed this unfolding scandal more than a year ago - here.

Surely it ought to be Hauptmann Ullmann suing to protect his image rights - the doll doesn't look anything like him.

Sunday 20 September 2015

Raptor lookalike

A friend (you know who you are and you're right!) has drawn to my attention that few appear to have noticed the uncanny resemblance between Eastender's star Samantha Womack and a bird of prey:-

Janus                                                    Steppe Eagle
As they almost certainly are related, Phil needs to be told so he can get la belle Ron stuffed and mounted in a glass case on the parcel shelf of a used Golf down the Arches to keep Kaff company:-

Wednesday 1 July 2015

FAQs: diesel

I regularly receive questions from people contemplating coming to live on Flores. Prominent amongst these are property prices (low-ish), Portuguese taxes (average) and internet speed (I've no complaints but judge for youself).

But I was surprised recently to be asked if you could buy diesel on the island. Particularly as the questioner had pre-supposed that he could get his SUV to a place where it might not be possible to refuel it on arrival.

For the avoidance of doubt (as we lawyers are fond of saying when in fact we're adding to it massively), you can buy diesel here. At petrol (gas) stations in accordance with the usual practice, in fact - you don't have to buy it in leaky jerry cans from a bloke who smuggled it off a passing ship, or anything.

Library picture - this particular petrol station is now closed

Don't ask me about the price of diesel, though, as my car is petrol (gasoline). 1,38€ per litre as you ask, which, with the Euro trading so low due to the Greek crisis (how is that anti-austerity thing working out, by the way?), is about £1.00. Thus, petrol in this outlying island is considerably cheaper than in Britain where it currently averages around £1.17 a litre. That's no doubt because Portugal taxes petrol more lightly than the UK but the BBC's fuel price calculator also suggests that the price of petrol on Flores is about 9% below the Portuguese average.

Whether that's because the Azores suffer a lower rate of fuel duty than in continental Portugal, I don't know (we have 5% lower Value Added Tax (sales tax) here and lower Income Tax rates as well) but cheaper petrol in the islands is the complete reverse of the situation in Scotland where higher fuel prices in the islands is a constant gripe due to the transportation costs (even though the Scottish islands are much closer to the mainland than the Azores).

I've digressed away from things intending residents of Flores wonder about whether you can buy here. When we arrived in 2006 we were mindful of the fact our house's electricity supply had been disconnected (because there's a standing charge of 0,31€ a day - do we have that in Britain?) and it might take a while for it to be reconnected. So we brought a shed load of candles with us. We've still got most of them:-

If we'd known then what we know now, though, we'd have brought a suitcase full of this:-

Thursday 9 April 2015


Dipping in to the UK election debate last night, they were discussing the abolition of tax breaks for Non-Doms (Russian oligarchs who live in Britain and own football clubs there but are not legally resident). However, I was struck less by the policy differences as by the sartorial similarities between incumbent prime minister, David Cameron, and the leader of the opposition, Ed Miliband:-

Blue single breasted suit, cream shirt and plum tie.

Dress says a lot about politicians: much has been made of the open necked look affected by the new Greek government:-

Is that a pint of Guiness Varoufakis is holding?

Having got over the cheap nylon shirts and squint ties they were prone to in previous decades, ex-Soviet bloc leaders continue to embarrass themselves with over-sized hats and even bigger tits:-

Not that the leader of the free world should be feeling too smug: I always feel American presidents look particularly cringeworthy in their Air Force One bomber jackets:-

But all of this is a paling into insignificance introduction to what the FUCK is President of Venzuela, Nicolas Maduro's anorak all about?

More chav than chavista?

Wednesday 8 April 2015

Proper bread

Set in a fictitious working class suburb of Manchester, England, "Coronation Street" is the world's longest running TV soap opera.

Ken Barlow appeared in the very first episode in 1960 and the actor who plays him, Bill Roache, remains perennially youthful at the age of 82 despite having been caught up in the dragnet of British 60s/70s celebrities accused of sex crimes and acquitted.

The fourth of Ken's wives, Deirdre, has been in the Street since the early 70s and still is despite the fact the actress who plays her is dead. This is because Deirdre remains "away" sine die. You know, in that way soap characters go "away" at short notice to impossibly remote places like Scotland or sometimes even (shivers!) countries in continental Europe like Spain where, apparently, there are no telecommunications, low-cost airlines or even postal services allowing them to communicate with back home as if they were jihadis who'd gone to join IS.

Anyway, in what proved to be one of her latter appearances in the Street last year, Deirdre and Ken were on a caravanning holiday. Deirdre (but not Ken) is a townie uncomfortable in the country and is on the phone to her daughter, Tracy, back home in Weatherfield when she delivers one of the best comic lines in the history of soap:

Your dad's gone to the farm to get fresh milk. I don't know why he bothered - I told him they've got proper milk at the petrol station down the road!

That's all by way of a very long introduction to the fact that we've now got proper bread on Flores. You know, the sort that's already sliced and in a plastic bag and you buy in a supermarket instead of that awful rubbish you have to buy in a baker's and cut yourself.

I don't know if there's an equivalent expression in Portuguese (a melhor coisa desde pao laminado?) but in British English we talk about "the greatest thing since sliced bread" (as in "my mother thinks my brother's new girlfriend is the greatest thing since ..."). Well, we're currently living that moment on Flores - experiencing the arrival of something eponymously that good!

Anyway, the bread in question is imported from a Spanish company called BIMBO. Now I'm not some kind of namby pamby, hoity toity, la-di-dah, raggety arsed faggot of a lefty liberal tree hugger by a long shot but even I feel a tad queasy about the food miles involved in having beans (did I mention they've also got "proper beans" made by Heinz here as well now?) on toast baked in Barcelona of all the bloody places! Delicious though they may be.

The outermost ripples of globalisation are well and truly lapping on the shores of Flores but I'm often asked by tourists why you can't buy fresh locally grown vegetables in the shops here. The answer is, I think, that plenty of stuff is grown here: it just doesn't get into the shops because it's used at home by the people who planted it. The food economy has sort of skipped a generation (or two) and is presently sitting at an uneasy cross-roads between grow your own and import it from Barcelona.

Ken Barlow would understand. Deirdre wouldn't. Not sure I do. But I think these guys know the answer:-