Still Under House Arrest

Well here we are at the end of May 2020 and still under ‘house arrest’ here in our home in Wales because of a virus that has an infection fatality rate similar to flu.

Admittedly it’s not a bad place to be ‘holed up’ as you can see from the photo I took yesterday when we got up at 4.30 to walk up the otherside of the valley to watch the sunrise at 5.08 a.m. I’m sure many reading this will look at the photo and say ‘what is he complaining about?‘.

We live in the house at the bottom right

I can’t really imagine what it must be like to be trapped in a small flat or an H.M.O. with an abusive partner or to be struggling with mental health issues or a million and one other things whilst being unable to leave home.

The freedom to leave your house when you wish to and go where you will is not a civil liberty or a political liberty. It is part of being a free man or woman. Those who do not have it, who fear being scolded like a child, fined and disgraced for being out on the street without government approval, are like serfs tied to the land they work. So sorry, officer. I won’t do it again. Only it is worse. Those who willingly accepted this subjection were previously free, thanks not to themselves but to forebears who first won and then repeatedly preserved their liberty from threats within and without.

Then this generation of morons came, and undid the work of a thousand years in a few weeks. Worse, in a way—they gave away something they had a duty to pass on undamaged to their children. They did not even raise a word of protest. And they did not trade in their birthrights because soldiers cut them down in the fields, or foreign soldiers lounged in the streets with machine pistols, or secret police threatened them with death or labour camps. They did it because they could not be bothered to think or argue or object. They did it because ignorance is the new normal.

Here in Wales the Welsh government are particularly barking mad wanting to be seen as ‘stronger and better than England’ in the crisis. I’ve tried writing to engage my Welsh Assembly Member or as they now call themselves – Member of the Senedd. So far my democratic representative Plaid Cymru leader Adam Price has ignored one letter and two emails from me since March. Quite how I’m meant to engage with our ‘democracy’ is a mystery to me when the bloke whose wages I’m partly paying won’t talk to me I don’t know.

Again I did try writing to my MP, again Plaid Cymru, Mr Jonathan Edwards. I sent him a detailed email with a number of links to scientific papers. He wrote back to tell me that he didn’t believe in ‘herd immunity’ and that Consultants had told him that 600,000 people in Wales were at risk of becoming seriously ill. As I write this several weeks later a grand total of 13,913 people have tested positive for Covid-19 in Wales (not seriously ill by the way) and 1,331 have died (mostly elderly with comorbidities) – seems your consultants were way off the mark there Jonathan (just as I told you)

Anyway it’s great to know that he knows way more than the Nobel prize winning scientist Professor Michael Levitt

I really should start taking my MP Jonathan Edwards more seriously since he managed to get arrested last week as well. What a busy boy.

Jonathan Edwards MP, Plaid Cymru, arrested for assault

England has started to ease restrictions but here in Wales that has changed very slightly. The latest measures here in Wales which tells us that we’re allowed to leave our homes to meet friends outside, but have to stay local and within five miles. Yes you are seriously at risk of transmitting a magical (and fairly normal) virus whilst driving around in your car.

However the scary part when this was announced was that Mark Drakeford, the First Minister of Wales and Leader of the Welsh Labour Party, said “we are offering people permission…” Sorry? I thought this was a free country? I understand we have emergency powers in place, but shouldn’t the politicians be talking about “we are returning some of the civil liberties we have withdrawn” instead?

I should of course write to my democratic representatives to point this out. But the one won’t reply to me at all and the other might be too busy involved in discussions with his solicitor.

Meanwhile to cheer myself up here is a great video that is both funny and very scary when you observe how compliant people are.

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A Question

I am struggling very hard to understand how the whole world became ‘taken in’ by Covid-19. How a simple Coronavirus, that causes a disease with a fatality rate similar to severe flu, managed to change our world for ever. How the whole world scarpered headlong, without thinking, in one direction like a herd of Wildebeest. There are a number of theories for this but I won’t dwell on those here. However, because of a new virus, for reasons of safety, security or health, the State of Emergency has been instigated, and continues to be used, to build a form of totalitarianism that, under new and renewed crisis events, has become the norm.

The so-called ‘War on Terror’ that followed the attack on the World Trade Centre in 2001 ushered in what the US calls the ‘Security State’ in which we have all lived for the past two decades. In France, the State of Emergency declared in November 2015 in response to terrorist attacks in Paris didn’t expire, after five extensions, until November 2017, two years later, when it was replaced by a raft of repressive measures embedded into ordinary law. And as we are seeing now in the response of the UK Government to the so-called threat of COVID-19, this surveillance state, which is transnational and therefore transcends the nation state of our parliamentary politics, is built around the total surveillance and control of the population through the use of tracking, location and monitoring devices in our phones and other communication technologies, and implemented with new police powers to enforce so-called health and safety regulations that have had neither parliamentary scrutiny nor legislative approval.

So I wish to ask a question as asked by the Italian philosopher, Giorgio Agamben and I have translated and rephrased his question (as best I can) for a British audience – as I don’t speak Italian I’m sure the original is much better; but I hope that you get the gist of it.

A QUESTION

‘The plague marked the beginning of corruption for the city. No one was willing to persevere any longer in what he had previously considered to be good, because he believed that he would perhaps die before achieving it.’

— Thucydides, History of the Peloponnesian War

I would like to share with whoever would like to hear it a question on which, for over a month now, I have not stopped reflecting. How could it happen that an entire country, without realising it, has collapsed politically and ethically in the face of an illness? The words I have used to formulate this question have been carefully weighed one by one. The measure of abdication of our own ethical and political principles is, in fact, very simple: it is a question of asking ourselves what is the limit beyond which we are not willing to renounce them. I believe that the reader who takes the trouble to consider the following points cannot fail to agree that — without realising it, or by pretending not to notice it — the threshold that separates humanity from barbarism has been crossed.

1) The first point, perhaps the most serious, concerns older citizens and the bodies of the dead. How could we have accepted, solely in the name of a risk that could not be specified, that individuals dear to us and human beings in general should not only be discarded from hospitals to nursing homes to die alone, but — something that had never happened before in history, from Antigone to today — that their corpses should be buried without friends at their funeral?

2) We then accepted, without too many reservations, solely in the name of a risk that could not be specified, limiting, to an extent that had never happened before in the history of the country, not even during the Second World War, our freedom of movement. We consequently accepted, solely in the name of a risk that could not be specified, de facto suspension of our relationships of friendship and love, because proximity to our neighbour had become a possible source of contagion.

3) This was only possible — and here we touch on the root of the phenomenon — because we have split the unity of our lived experience, which is always inseparably made up of body and spirit, into a purely biological entity on the one hand, and an affective and cultural life on the other. Ivan Illich has shown us, and David Cayley has written about the responsibility of modern medicine in this regard, which is taken for granted but is, in reality, the greatest of abstractions. We know very well that this abstraction was created by modern science through resuscitation devices, which can keep a body ‘alive’ in a vegetative state. But if this situation is extended beyond the spatial and temporal confines that are proper to it, as we are trying to do today, and becomes a sort of principle of social behaviour, we fall into contradictions from which there is no way out

I know that someone will rush to respond that we are dealing with a situation that is limited in time, after which everything will return to how it was. It is truly strange that we could repeat such a statement other than in bad faith, since the same authorities that proclaimed the emergency do not cease reminding us that, when the emergency has been overcome, we will have to continue to observe the same directives, and that ‘social distancing’ — as it has been called with a significant euphemism — will be the new organising principle of society. And, in every case, what we have accepted submitting to, whether in good faith or in bad, cannot be reversed.

At this point, since I have declared the responsibility of each of us, I cannot fail to mention the even more serious responsibilities of those who would have had the duty of keeping watch over human dignity. First of all, the Church, which in making itself the handmaiden of science, which has now become the true religion of our time, has radically repudiated its most essential principles. The Church, under a Pope who calls himself Francis, has forgotten that Francis embraced lepers. It has forgotten that one of the works of mercy is to visit the sick. It has forgotten that the martyrs teach that we must be prepared to sacrifice our life rather than our faith, and that renouncing our neighbour means renouncing our faith.

Another category or persons that has failed in their duties is that of lawyers. For some time now we have been accustomed to the reckless use of emergency decrees through which executive power is effectively substituted for that of the legislature, abolishing that principle of the separation of powers that defines democracy. But in this case, every limit has been exceeded, and one gets the impression that the words of the Prime Minister, as was once said of those of the Führer, have the immediate force of law. And it is not clear how, once the temporal validity of the emergency decrees have been exhausted, the limitations on our freedoms could, as is asserted, be maintained. With what legal arrangements? With a permanent State of Exception? It is the duty of lawyers to ensure that our freedoms are maintained; but the lawyers are silent. 

I know that there will inevitably be someone who will answer that the sacrifice, which is serious, has been made in the name of moral principles. To them I would like to recall that Adolf Eichmann, apparently in good faith, never tired of repeating that he had done what he had done according to his conscience, to obey what he believed to be the precepts of Kantian morality. A rule which states that good must be renounced in order to save the good is just as false and contradictory as that which, in order to protect freedom, orders us to renounce freedom.

Much of the above has been compiled from this excellent Blog Giorgio Agamben and the Bio-Politics of COVID-19

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The Great Lockup

Following on from yesterday’s post about Covid-19 ‘The Illogical Nonsense of Fear‘ I was so impressed by this recent Facebook post (below) allegedly from a doctor at Broadgreen Hospital, Liverpool that I have reposted most of it below. As it neatly answers the question “Why is the lockdown continuing as we were told it was to ‘flatten the curve’ meanwhile the NHS is currently running on empty.

“What was the aim of lock down? What did every single health “expert” say was the reason to justify a lockdown? And why do we have a Flu season at all? And why have we continued to have a steady incidence rate despite being in lockdown? And why are thousands of elderly people dying in nursing homes?

The reason we had lockdown was to “flatten the curve” or buy time to increase ITU/critical care beds. Well with 4 nightingale hospitals mothballed and 50% of hospital beds lying empty, I think we have achieved that.

Not one “expert” worth his salt will tell you that we can stop a respiratory virus, and if they did they would be lying or I am deluded and we have no common cold or Flu cases every winter. So with a fifth of the country likely to have already had the virus and a health service with a massive amount of level 2 and level 3 beds, we are more than ready for a second spike, as it stands. Remember we cannot lock down forever and we need to come out, which brings me on to the Flu season.

Why do we have a flu season? The main reason we have a Flu season is because as it gets cooler people coop up and spend more time in close proximity, the population becomes denser and therefor it’s easier for a virus to travel, also people tend to eat less fruit and veg and see less sunlight and our natural defences are slightly depleted, sound familiar?

The longer we stay locked down, the closer we will be to the next Flu season, so essentially you will be hitting a second spike as people begin to mix, late summer early Autumn which will be just as the next Flu seasons hits, so a second spike will lead nicely into a third and if you want to overwhelm the NHS then this is the exact way to do it.

Lastly why are so many elderly people dying of COVID, well it’s largely down to the paranoia that people are displaying on platforms like facebook. GP’s are not assessing elderly patients face to face, they are not being taken to hospital or they are terrified to go to hospital incase they get COVID, so they stay at home until it’s too late.

Strokes are down up to 70%, where have these patient gone? MI’s down 50%, Hospital attendances down 90%, where are all the falls?? But why do they all have COVID signs?

Well anyone who has worked with elderly patients, and I suspect lots of you have, will know there are multiple reasons an elderly person can develop a pneumonia (COVID symptoms). They might fall and be in pain therefore not fully expand their lungs and develop atelectasis and then pneumonia.

They may have reduced mobility, due to quarantine, and become constipated and this may push up on the diaphragm and cause atelectasis or cause them to vomit and aspirate leading to pneumonia.They may develop urinary retention and UTI, secondary to constipation, and become bed bound, causing more time in a prone position and develop a basal collapse of the lungs and again atelectasis and pneumonia. The fact that they have reduced mobility may even mean they spend more time in bed or just sitting, which again is enough to cause chest infection/pneumonia.

Strokes may not present (they aren’t) and develop swallow issues and aspirate leading to pneumonia, MIs may present late and develop pulmonary oedema with a secondary infection again leading to pneumonia, and many may have a cold or a Flu (which is down 95%) and go on to develop a pneumonia.

All of the above reasons would cause a patient to have COVID symptoms and will kill elderly patients if not treated, and all of them are enough to be classed as a COVID death currently. And this is why so many nursing homes are being decimated, it’s as much through fear as it is through COVID.

Before you campaign and sign petitions to lock yourselves and your family away, remember also that lock down has consequences.

The first 2 reasons are clear above, the elderly will become frail, not be treated and die in their thousands, and thousands of people will not attend A&E at all, or until it’s too late and again will die. This is before you factor in the 60 thousand cancer patients that will lose their lives because of missed screening or delayed operations. And then there is the burden on mental health services and the deaths caused by domestic abuse or suicide. And that’s before the biggest killer by far which will be austerity.

We are heading for the biggest recession in 300 years, the last one has cost an estimated 500000 lives, why will this one be any different? And even with the lock down measures prolonged, will we have saved any lives any way, as our frail residents face a second and third spike in quick succession.

I understand that you my be scared and its overwhelming being constantly bombarded with negativity and fear, but before you completely isolate yourselves and fall out with loved ones and friends, ask yourself is lockdown still working, and what are the potential benefits of staying locked down versus, carrying on with some semblance of a normal life?”

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Covid-19 The illogical Nonsense of Fear

So here we are mid way through May still under house arrest because of a pathogen that is now proven to be about as deadly as severe flu. This fact has been clear for a long time and I wrote about that at the end of March. Thousands are dying now because of the collateral damage not the disease. It is simply complete and utter madness.

I just cannot believe how society has fallen for it. I’m particularly depressed at how the ‘Left’ in the UK have fallen for it ‘hook, line and sinker’. I had associated those on the left as being capable of more critical thought but in the main it has been left to the likes of Peter Hitchins in the Daily Mail to be pointing out how flawed the whole thing is. Never in my life did I think I’d be linking to a Daily Mail article.

The ONS also released data yesterday about registered deaths in England and Wales in Week 18 (April 25th – May 1st). All deaths are down, including those involving COVID-19. You can see the year-to-date trend lines in the ONS graph below:

The total number of deaths in Week 18 – 17,953 – is lower that the previous week but still 8,012 more than the five-year average. 6,035 of the deaths mentioned “novel coronavirus”, meaning 1,977 excess deaths in that week weren’t from COVID-19, at least not according to the doctors who signed the death certificates – and, remember, they don’t even need a positive test result to write down “novel coronavirus” as the cause of death.

So why did these people die? When he appeared on Marr on May 3rd, Sir Bob Diamond, the head of the ONS, said the ONS had looked into the cause of non-Covid excess deaths since the beginning of the year and would publish its findings “in the next few days”. Evidently, he was nobbled because that piece of work has yet to see the light of day. Here’s a transcript of what he said on Marr:

The last week we had records for the excess was approaching 12,000 deaths of which, I would suggest, between eight and 9,000 were Covid and the rest were what we call indirect deaths. Those could be for example people who would normally have gone into hospital for some reason but the beds were not available. Just give you an example: in my late mother’s last couple of years of her life she went into hospital and back out again a few times. Had she not been able to go in one of those times she may well have died a little earlier than she did. So I think it’s important to recognise there are indirect deaths as well as the Covid-related deaths. We have a piece from the Office of National Statistics that we’ve done jointly with the Government Actuaries Department, the Home Office and Department of Health coming out in the next few days which will show also a third group which will come out over the next few years where changes in the prioritisation of the Health Service, for example, reductions in cancer screening, will lead to deaths over the next few years.

So ask yourself why has this data has been delayed ? – may be because the Government doesn’t want to face the enquiry that might be needed?

All this hysteria and panic is made even more alarming by Joe Public’s inability to assess risk. Even if you accept that at the time of writing there have been around 33,000 deaths associated with Covid 19 (there have probably been less as anecdotal evidence is that Covid 19 is being put on death certificates without supporting evidence) this is not serious. At this stage the frightened rabbits will poke their heads out of their burrows and tell you how ‘every life is precious’. Well if it is so fecking precious love why the feck have you been driving your car everywhere and contributing to the culling of at least 40,000 (more recent studies say 64,000) people every year from air pollution? The Royal College of Physicians’ report ‘Every Breath We Take‘ points out that ‘Each year in the UK, around 40,000 deaths are attributable to exposure to outdoor air pollution which plays a role in many of the major health challenges of our day’.

If your life is really so precious (and we know that Covid19 particularly affects those with conditions like obesity and diabetes etc.) why the feck have you been stuffing yourself with junk food and clearing the supermarket shelves of booze for your incarceration rather than taking the opportunity to lose weight and get super fit to fight this ‘scary killer’? In reality no one will bother to take the opportunity to reduce their risk factors; the ‘fat feckers’ will still be stuffing their faces with high fat foods whilst ‘snitching’ on their neighbours (who take more than the permitted exercise) whilst waiting for the government to protect them.

If anyone can explain the logic of an ‘off licence’ in Wales being essential and a walk in the Brecon Beacons being illegal please do so.

As for this whole phenomenon of ‘snitching on your neighbours’ I have been thinking how this behaviour is very familiar elsewhere.

It’s a basic and dirty part of human nature, that when we are scared and hurting, we look for someone to blame. And it is far, far easier to turn our attention towards people who are as weak as us for answers. Then the problem is right there in front of us, it’s tangible, it’s far easier to solve. You see it time and time again throughout history, in all kinds of people, in all kinds of situations. It’s posting about Belinda three doors down who had a barbecue with too many people. It’s narrowing your eyes at a disabled person getting out of their wheelchair and walking at a pace you deem too fast. It’s keeping your community safe from ‘People Who Don’t Belong’.

It’s much nicer to feel a sense of pride and accomplishment when you put a stop to those people, those people who you think are causing all your problems.

It’s much more enjoyable to have a real tangible person to take out all that pent up rage on, someone you think deserves it, someone you think is making your world unsafe. You’ve been oppressed for too long, and you’re scared and lost and angry, and it’s so, so nice to take all that frustration and put it to good use, to take all that righteous fury and focus it on ‘The Enemy’, the solid and tangible creature who is the source of your problems. That’s a fight you can win.

But it’s not a fight, not really. All it really is is a power trip at the expense of vulnerable people. Vulnerable people just like you. And you’re doing exactly what those in power want you to do. You’re not a hero. You’re a victim of brainwashing and the sense of power you feel is just an illusion.

The reality is that Covid 19, almost exclusively, is a disease that affects the elderly – especially those with other health conditions. In many cases these are the elderly in nursing homes who are cycled in and out of hospital for stabilisation before being returned to their nursing homes. Back in early April, to free up as much hospital space as possible, the care home beds were being filled up with elderly COVID positive patients. Because of the crisis they were not sent back to hospital when they then deteriorated. We have just been harvesting the elderly who are normally kept alive by this merry go round. Don’t believe me? Well here is a doctor in the UK telling it like it is and saying just this. Two members of my family work in the NHS and tell me that the general wards are very quite indeed.

Edit June 2020- The National Audit Office have produced a report showing the numbers of elderly who were sent from hospital to nursing homes without being tested and confirming that “not all patients were tested for COVID-19 before discharge”.

Another consultant at a London hospital wrote in an email:

“Our policy was to let the virus rip and then ‘cocoon the elderly’,” he wrote. “You don’t know whether to laugh or cry when you contrast that with what we actually did. We discharged known, suspected, and unknown cases into care homes which were unprepared, with no formal warning that the patients were infected, no testing available, and no PPE to prevent transmission. We actively seeded this into the very population that was most vulnerable.

“We let these people die without palliation. The official policy was not to visit care homes – and they didn’t (and still don’t). So, after infecting them with a disease that causes an unpleasant ending, we denied our elders access to a doctor – denied GP visits – and denied admission to hospital. Simple things like fluids, withheld. Effective palliation like syringe drivers, withheld.”

I am fairly confident that the excess death curve you see above will fall eventually to below the five year average and that the overall deaths for 2020 will not be very far away from the previous five year average.

When you ask people why they are running around hysterically panicking, or why they are posting on Facebook about how they don’t want their children to go back to school yet (despite the fact that as of yesterday only 10 people under 19 had ‘possibly’ died of Covid-19) they look at you as if you are mad. It’s mass hysteria, like when Princess Diana died and mountains of flowers and teddy bears were being piled up because some vacuous, rich clothes horse had died.

The economy has been trashed, driven over a cliff. You and your children and their children will be paying for the biggest economic disaster ever. Remember that without an economy there is no health care, education or infrastructure.

There are numerous other things going on that I won’t bore you with but if you’d like to find out more about these I’d suggest that you read these two articles
Who controls the British Government response to Covid–19?
COVID–19: The Big Pharma players behind UK Government lockdown

I would also highly recommend that you start watching UK Column news for an alternative view of what is going on and balance it with the state propaganda from the BBC.

It is NONSENSE.

Update 16.05.20
I just came across this amazing blog that has put a huge amount of work into documenting the situation. Kudos to the writer.

The State of Emergency as Paradigm of Government: Coronavirus Legislation, Implementation and Enforcement

Manufacturing Consensus: The Registering of COVID-19 Deaths in the UK

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How to install 4G Broadband if you don’t have fibre.

Ok so if, like us, you live down a remote valley in Wales you may not have access to a decent broadband connection. In fact it is highly likely that you don’t as the whole roll out of fibre broadband in Wales has been a complete and utter fiasco, a cockup of monumental proportions and a financial scandal that no one seems to be investigating. We have promises in writing from a Welsh minister that we would be connected to fibre by 2016. Three years later there is still no sign of it!

Extract of letter from government minister promising fibre broadband by 2016

We’ve done our bit in trying to improve things including contacting our local AM and MP, the Welsh Government, the BBC and setting up a Facebook Group to try to bring fellow ‘sufferers’ in Wales together. My neighbours and I even featured in a BBC ‘news’ article; in true BBC style they investigated none of the issues and posted some dumbed down nonsense masquerading as news.

A much better read about some of the issues can be found here.

Accordingly it was time for some practical action to see if we could improve things for ourselves. We did and here’s how you can if you are lucky enough to live where you can get a 4G phone signal outside your property. Most of my neighbours are not as fortunate as me in this respect.

I will stress that I’m no expert and am just giving you the benefit of what worked for me. If it doesn’t work for you or you fall off a ladder that’s not my problem (because you should not rely on this as being from someone with expert knowledge). So big disclaimer: do this at your own risk, if it doesn’t work, dont blame me, you are advised to seek professional assistance from someone who knows what they are talking about.

Firstly establish if you can get 4G. We can’t get a signal in our house but a 4G phone can just get a signal outside the front of the house. You need to check if you can. First check the various mobile companies coverage maps online to see which provider might cover your area.

The coverage map for Three is shown below for example. In our case it says we can’t get a signal.

Coverage map for our postcode

In fact the postcade location isn’t quite accurate and we are just on the edge of the shaded area up and to the left of the location pin. So our theoretical reception is marginal.

Then get/borrow/ask a friend with mobile phone on that network to check if you can get a 4G signal at your location. If you can check at each (open) upstairs window around the house or even put a ladder up and try (without falling off). If you can get some sort of signal outside the building you are probably in luck.

Once you have established that you are in with a chance you’ll need; a 4G router, a phone SIM card (with data), and external 4G aerial and an aerial mast.

Just for the sake of completion I’ll mention that EE offer an ‘all in one’ 4G install service and ongoing contract – but it’s expensive.

You need an unlocked 4G router that will accept a phone Sim phone/data card. I bought a secondhand Huawei E5186s off Ebay for around £55. This is an old model and I believe that they were ‘badged’ for European Telecom companies and were being sold off as surplus.

Front of router

Your router should have 2 aerial sockets on the back where you can either screw two (supplied) indoor aerials or the two leads from an external aerial.

Back of router

You need to securely fix a mast and a 4G aerial on the outside of your house. Location is important; it generally wants to be at the highest point on your house you can get it and be orientated towards the phone mast transmitting your signal. If you are in a rural area like me it is likely that there is only one phone mast serving your property. Ours is 8 miles away. However, the lead to the aerial should not, ideally, be longer than 5m because of signal loss; so you will need to think carefully about location of the aerial and router into which you plug the aerial leads. The router also needs a power supply (so you’ll need a power outlet nearby) and you will need to distribute it around your house via wi-fi or ethernet cable (a solution for the latter might be to use Powerline adapters).

You can find the location of local telecoms masts using the Mastdata website (sign up is free for 30 days).

Our aerial is a Poynting Xpol-2 this is a directional aerial as we know there is only one phone mast serving our property. I lined the aerial up by plotting our house and the phone mast on Google Maps and drawing a line between the two. I then tweaked it by watching the signal strength bars. The Poynting website has some good information on installing an aerial. There are also some good videos at the bottom of the page explaining things like cable loss.

An onmi directional aerial may be more appropriate where there are several masts in range. In extreme range situations a twin Yagi aerial may be better; so you may need to seek out more information on this from a specialist supplier (told you I’m no expert). There is some good background on aerials here.

Poynting Xpol – 2

The Xpol – 2 has fixed 5m leads that terminate with standard connectors that screw straight into the aerial sockets on the router. So now all you have to do is fix your aerial mast to your house, secure the aerial to the mast (I got my mast and fittings from Toolstation), secure the twin cables and run them into the house, probably by drilling through the wall, or through a window frame or via some other means and connect the leads into the back of the router. You can then plug your computer in via ethernet or use the wifi facility.

Our aerial on a cranked pole just above eaves level on the side of the house facing the phone mast 8 miles away near the Carmel telecoms tower.
Here’s our aerial on a cranked pole just above eaves level on the side of the house facing the phone mast 8 miles away near the Carmel telecoms tower.

You will of course need a phone card/data sim for your chosen provider. I initially bought a 2Gb PAYG data card just to check all was working. This is just inserted into a spring loaded slot on the side of the router. In my case it is Micro sim (so be aware of Sim sizes if you are thinking of switching for a phone Sim as many phone Sims are smaller nano size).

Mobile phone companies sell both data Sims and phone Sims. The former are just for tablets etc. and just for data. They tend to be more expensive and until recently you could only use a data card in a wi-fi router. Since an Ofcom decision (I think) in 2018 it has been possible to use an ordinary phone Sim with a data allowance (often unlimited) in a data only device. These tend to be cheaper and my Three Network phone card on a 24 month contract with unlimited data is £20 a month (these deals can fluctate). I’ve had no issues using a phone card with unlimited data. Perhaps just buy a cheap PAYG one with a small amount of data for testing first before you sign up to a contract? Don’t forget that once you ditch your landline broadband you are entitled to a saving on the line rental charges as well. I shall wait until I’m out of contract before giving BT the ‘two fingered salute’. I still intend to keep a landline for now just in case fibre does come along in the future but I may well experiment with Voice Over Internet (VOIP) calls in due course.

Basically that’s it. Turn your router on and hope that the signal bars light up, we get between two and three bars eight miles from the transmitter. If they do light up you are ‘in business’. Tweak the aerial orientation if necessary. It normally takes a while (15 minutes?) until your new Sim card is registered on the network.

If you need to access the router settings for the Huawei just type 192.168.8. into the browser bar; the default username and password is usually ‘admin’ for both.

So before this I had internet speeds of around 1.4Mbps down and 0.3Mbps up (for urban readers, shaking their heads in disbelief, that is better than many others in rural areas). Now the speed varies depending on load on the phone mast etc but this is what I just measured (It can be less it can be more) as I wrote this. 50 Mbps is an excellent result.

As I say, if you’re in the same situation, and know that there is some sort of 4G signal available to you this may be worth trying (but as I keep repeating don’t blame me if it doesn’t!). Good luck.

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Building a Pole Barn Part 5

Welcome the last and final part about how I built a 12m x 5m barn for storing logs and implements on our small holding. It could also be used for sheep housing in winter. The project became more of a timber framed building than a pole barn; but you could easily adapt it and just put telegraph pole uprights straight into the ground (or concrete them in) if the land was suitable. The previous parts are here.
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4

I must reiterate my disclaimer; I am not a structural engineer or a builder so the whole project is more ‘belt and braces’ than calculations and you should not rely on my design or construction for your own building!

After finishing the frame in Part 4 I then spread some of the shale around that we had dug up when building the house extension to provide a firm floor. I would have liked concrete but it was just too expensive for this project.

transport_box
Spreading the shale with my hydraulic transport box on my Alpine Tractor

The next thing I did was build a single brick pier around the base of each column. This is to ensure that the columns cannot move laterally in any direction even if hit with a tractor and to provide a support to keep the bottom rail for the cladding off the ground. It also means that I can pour preservative or perhaps waste oil down between the brick and the wood every year or two to stop the base rotting! The columns are also on a piece of damp proof membrane for this reason as well. The photo below shows this.

Bricks around foot of Column
Bricks around foot of  each column to help stop lateral movement of column and support the cross rails for attaching vertical boarding.

Horizontal rails were fixed across between the columns and the vertical boarding nailed to these with approximately 20mm air gaps. The photo below shows the cross rails and the boarding nailed on the back. All the timber was supplied treated so no need for any preservative other than on the cut ends and joints.

rails
Note the cross rails to nail the boards to. The bottom one supported on a brick and the centre one by a vertical timber off the bottom rail.

All that was left to do was cut all the side boards to the correct height and fix them before fixing the end cover strip which is fixed over (and through the roofing sheets) and covers the top of the side timbers to give a nice clean finish.

Barn
The finished barn with one closed bay and two open bays.

We’ve always been keen that it would be hidden in the landscape as much as possible so deliberately set in the lowest spot and formed a soil bank in front of it. This will be planted to screen it from view..

Barn Landscaped
The barn is landscaped into the surroundings so that once we have planted the soil bank in front of it it will be almost completely hidden.

So there you have it our barn that we built entirely ourselves. Some people have asked about costings and this is of course a lot more than if we had used telegraph poles and second hand roofing sheets. But I estimate.

Clearing the site/digging footings      £100
Timber Frame                                    £700
Roofing Sheets                                  £700
Timer Boarding and support rails      £500
Nails/Screws/Sand/Cement etc        £150
Total                                                   £2150

That’s it; I may put some light field gates on the openings to keep the sheep out (or in if I put them inside) and I may build a sheep handling area next to it.

So that could be another project!

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Building a Pole Barn Part 4

The fine spell of hot weather in July 2013 has meant that we can ‘crack on’ with getting the barn erected. Previous posts are here

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

At the end of part 3 John and Jonathan were leaning smugly against the frame having assembled it. After Jonathan went back home to Spain, I (John) carried on fixing the 75mm x 50mm purlins across the rafters. These are necessary to support and fix the roofing sheets. I decided to use simple corrugated steel sheets for the roof. These are not too expensive or too heavy and are easily fixed. As the shed is partly open condensation should not be too much of a problem in winter. The sheets can be bought as plain galvanised or painted or plastic coated with the price and durability increasing accordingly. I went for the latter (most expensive and most durable) in a slate grey colour.

John and Purlin
Here you can see the purlins that John is resting the ladder on. They are nailed to the rafters and also have galvanised straps at places for ‘a belt and braces’ approach to gusting wind!

Each sheet of corrugated steel is 1m wide when lapped with its neighbour and they can be bought in any length to cover the exact span (remembering to leave enough overhang for the gutter). In my case I am overlapping them a tad more to save cutting the last sheet. It is of course essential that the first sheet is positioned correctly or they will all start ‘running out’ of alignment.

shed2
John marks where to fix the sheets by hooking a line over the last fixing and along the centre of the purlin.

The position of the fixings can then be marked. The Tek screw fixing are self cutting but I found it easier to either drill a pilot hole or just bang a small nail through.

John marks where to fix the sheets
The sheets are fixed through the top of the corrugation, not the valley, to prevent leaks. The screws are self tapping but I found it easier to make a starter hole with a nail.

If you don’t carefully mark the line of the purlin you risk having a hole in your roof and nothing underneath to screw into!

The Tek screw has a rubber collar
The Tek screw has a rubber collar to prevent water ingress.

The screws should be tightened down until they are holding firmly but not crushing the corrugation. They can be capped of with plastic caps (a dab of silicone under the cap before putting them on is not a bad idea to stop them coming loose).

It is screwed into the purlin with an 8mm nut driver on an electric drill
It is screwed into the purlin with an 8mm nut driver on an electric drill

Here you can see the fixed roof with another sheet waiting to be fixed.
Here you can see the fixed roof with another sheet waiting to be fixed as I work my way across the roof.

So the roof will soon be finished and then I only have to fix the side cladding boards and do a bit of tidying up etc which I hope to show in the last part.

Go to Part 5 (the finished barn!)

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Building a Pole Barn Part 3

If you missed Parts 1 and 2 you can find them here
Part 1
Part 2

The foundations  were finished around July 2012. Each pier has a galvanised anchor strap set in it an the columns will be secured to these.The foundations are finished

The foundations were finished in around July 2012

Unfortunately everything then went on hold due to a combination of the wet weather and us starting the building work on the house. I found a local sawmill here in Carmarthenshire and Rocco at Talley sawmills sourced some larch and cut it to my specifications. Rocco is definitely a ‘character’ and not necessarily the fastest but he found, cut and treated all the timber for me for a very reasonable price. So I’d definitely suggest that you ‘sound out’ your local saw mill for a project like this.

In essence I am using 200mm x 200mm upright columns each with a cut in one end to accept 200mm x 100mm cross beams; these will be bolted together. Then rafters will span across the barn and these are  200mm x 100mm above each column with (2) 200mm x 50mm rafters in each bay.The latter will be secured by upside down joist hangers. Each column will rest on the concrete pads with a d.p.m. and be secured to the galvanised straps in the concrete base.

Sounds complicated but should become obvious from the photos.

It was several weeks before the timber was delivered and things gradually ‘slipped’ so it was not until June 2013 when Jonathan, our son, came home again and he was press ganged into helping with some of the heavy lifting that we started the build. When we first erected the columns we decided that the barn was just going to be too tall. It would be fine on a working farm; but would be too visible in the landscape. So with the help of a chainsaw I reduced the columns to a height that gave sufficient access for a tractor but that was not too high so as to be visible from the house and from the other side of the valley.

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After Erecting the 200mm x 200mm Columns the 200mm x 100mm cross beams are drilled and bolted in place.

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Then the Rafters are Placed Across the Span

Getting the first cross pieces into place was a tad tricky as nothing was really secured and it was all a bit wobbly! But after we started to drill and bolt the joints the frame started to become more rigid. We then had to constantly check that columns were plumb and that distances were the same between openings etc. But after around two days work we had the basic frame in place. It still needs horizontal rails to board the external boarding to and needs some purlins/battens across the rafters to fix the roofing sheets to.

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The 200mm x 50mm Rafters are Put in Place First and Secured with Joist Hangers

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The barn frame takes shape; just the 4 thicker (100mm) and heavier rafters to be put in place; one above each column. Luckily a friend dropped by at just the right moment to help with the lifting!

We also found that it needed some triangular braces between horizontal beams and columns to increase its stability.So these were duly added and treated with preservative.

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Cross bracing and detail showing bolts and joist hangers

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The Finished frame for the barn; now you can see why we didn’t want it to stand out in the landscape. The excess soil heaps will be landscaped and planted to form a screen. It is really important to us that it is not visually intrusive.

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John and Jonathan prove that it will not fall down by leaning on the finished frame!

But at least it is starting to look like a shed. The next post will show the roof and boarding, just as soon as I’ve sourced these! Whilst I don’t have prices for these yet I’m expecting the whole barn to cost around £1500 – £2000 which I don’t think is too bad for a 12m x 5m barn. It could be built for half of this by careful sourcing of things like second hand roofing sheets etc.

Disclaimer; I am not a structural engineer or a builder so the whole project is more ‘belt and braces’ than calculations and you should not rely on my design for your own building!

Go to part 4

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Making Marmalade in a Slow Cooker Part 2

We spent today making marmalade again (You can read about our first attempt last year here.) If you are wondering how we did that now that Seville oranges are no longer in season; well we put some in the freezer in January (because we hadn’t moved back into the house during the building work).

This post is just an addendum to the original one as we tried a few changes to the original recipe (which is repeated below). The main changes are that we added 2 limes and a grapefruit  (skin and fruit), only used 1.7kg of sugar and that we put everything into the slow cooker the night before and left it on low over night. Which makes it a pretty simple way of making marmalade.

This resulted in a ‘sharper’ taste which we prefer, we did find that we had to boil for a longer time to get it to set. This could be down to the fact that the fruit was frozen before use and may have lost some of its pectin. Anyway here’s the original recipe (below) and you can try it with the changes if you want.

Home Made marmalade

Here is our marmalade recipe. Makes 6-8 jars
1 kg Seville oranges
1.7 litres near-boiling water
Juice of 2 lemons
2 kg  sugar

Wash and scrub the oranges if you are obsessive; then cut them in half, squeeze the juice and keep it somewhere for later. Remove the membrane, pith and pips etc. with a spoon (you can slightly warm the cut oranges in a microwave if you want to make this easier) and tie all this up in a piece of muslin. Slice the orange peel into strips (removing as much pith as possible), chunks, or whatever you prefer.  The slices you cut at this point will determine the size of the shreds/chunks in the finished marmalade don’t feel you have to put it all in. We tend to put about two thirds of the rind in (this year I put all the rind in!).

Put the peel and the muslin bag full of pips and orange flesh in to the cooking pot of the slow cooker. Pour over the water and lemon juice. Cover and switch to high, leave for 6 hours. Alternatively we reckon that you could put it on low and leave it overnight – but we haven’t tried this yet.  The peel must be really soft before adding the sugar.

Remove the muslin bag and leave it until cool.  Squeeze the liquid from it into a large pan.  Add the rind and cooking liquid from the slow cooker and then add the sugar.  Finally pour over the orange juice you squeezed from the oranges earlier.  Heat gently until the sugar has dissolved. 

Put a plate in the freezer at this point to test the setting point later.

Bring to the boil and keep boiling rapidly for 15 minutes until the marmalade reaches 105°C on a sugar thermometer.  If you don’t have a sugar thermometer, you can put a few drops of the liquid onto your frozen plate out of the freezer, and leave it for about a minute.  Push it along a bit with a finger.  If it leaves a ‘wrinkly track’ then it has reached the setting point – if not, keep boiling.

The setting point was a learning curve for us (and we don’t have a thermometer) but get it boiling gently. You don’t want a big ‘frothy’ boil – more of a point just beyond a simmer. For the first 15 minutes or so it will look a bit watery, as it gradually thickens it will become more viscous and you should have what other recipes describe as a ‘rolling boil’ (this is sort of how you imagine an Icelandic mud hole bubbling away). Keep stirring to ensure it doesn’t burn. Ours actually took about 30 minutes in total before the it left a ‘tacky track’ on the plate test.

Once the setting point has been reached, turn off the heat and skim off any scummy nastiness from the top.  Leave it all to cool for about 15 minutes.

Put your clean jars into the oven, at about 120°C so that they are sterilised and warm when the hot marmalade goes in later; alternatively get them hot (and dry) out of the dishwasher when it has finished.

Stir the marmalade to distribute the peel evenly, then ladle into the heated jars. Seal with waxed paper, clean and leave to cool with a cloth over the top.  When they have completely cooled, top with jam pot covers and lids and label. 

Store somewhere cool and dry and use within a year.

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Not So Grand Designs Part 5

The story of our property refurbishment and building 2 extensions has been documented in a very haphazard manner in various posts.

Part 1 Here
Part 2 Here
Part 3 Here
Part 4 Here

sun_room_rear
Sun Room from the Rear  Showing the Accoya cladding

The photo above shows the new sun-room from the back; the wood cladding is Accoya, a preserved timber, that is meant to last for 60 years and is very stable in wet weather. The gutters will be replaced with something more sympathetic when we get round to painting the rest of the house! You can just see the new solar hot water panels on the far roof of the house. The windows were supplied by the Danish company Rationel Windows.

sun_room_front
The Sun Room from the Front showing the Solarlux Bifold Doors

In view of the extreme weather in Wales we sourced the aluminium bifold doors from Solarlux in Germany.

porch
The New Entrance Porch with the new utility room behind

The new entrance into the new porch provides a storage area for coats and shoes etc. To the rear is the new utility room housing the boiler for the underfloor heating etc. There is an external log store.

kitchen
The New Kitchen fitted by Wade Furniture

Barry Wade of Wade Furniture, a local cabinet maker, made and fitted the new kitchen for us.

living_room
The Living area with Mezzanine above

The living area had to have sufficient space for our Quad ELS63 loudspeakers made by Quad hifi in 1963! The office area above is accessed by the new spiral stairs.

stairs
Spiral Stairs with UFH Manifold

The Spiral Stairs were made by Woodside Joinery, Cwmbran. Their workmanship was first class. The underfloor heating manifold has yet to be ‘boxed in’ i.e. when John gets round to it!

sun_internal2
The view out of the Sun Room

The sun room with its views down the valley has proved to be John’s favourite room. It is a lovely light, airy room.

sun_internal
The Sunroom with bookcases and one of John’s Photos

The sunroom also provides plenty of storage for our books.

bathroom
The ensuite bathroom

The new ensuite shower room has John’s niches in the wall for shampoo etc as he hates those wire basket things!

So there you have it 7 months of building work, a lot of expense but we have a lovely warm environmentally friendly house that we love. Now John just needs to get on with the outside!

 

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