rashbre central: June 2023

Wednesday 28 June 2023


I can try to do my bit for the environment. We have (some) solar panels and an electric car. The solar panels only generate a small amount of electricity, which I then get paid for at a derisory amount. It's about 1/10th or 1/15th the amount we get charged for using electricity.

Adding more panels is an option but t the moment, including the necessary batteries for storage still makes it an expensive route. Our modern house already has the second highest environmental certificate and the recommendations to improve were minimal.

Walk around the local Tesco car park and observe. There are plenty of new and late model cars there. Many are SUVs and nearly all are still ICE (Internal Combustion Engine). Multiple exhaust pipes and hardly a green tagged number plate to be seen. They say it is too expensive for most people, but a new BMW diesel SUV isn't exactly a cheap option either.

I guess there is still another whole company car renewal cycle before the 2030 targets loom large, so people don't care. 'Topgear said this was the fastest/biggest/plushest' so that is the one to get.

No surprise then that the UK has made ‘no progress’ on climate plan, say government’s own advisers. They go on to sayUK has lost leadership in climate action and almost all targets are being missed. Fewer homes were insulated last year under the government-backed scheme than the year before, despite soaring energy bills and a cost of living crisis. There is little progress on transport emissions, no coherent programme for behaviour change, and still no decision on hydrogen for home heating.

The installation of new wind and solar farms and the upgrading of the electricity grid are still too slow to meet net zero, according to the Climate Change Committee, which says that the lack of urgency of government and a failure of political leadership means progress has stalled.

I guess we'll need alligators in the Thames before anyone takes notice. And my friends with older vehicles are all up in arms about the ULEZ being extended to in London.

I now get 100% ULEZ discount and 100% congestion charge discount, but the CC charge discount is being phased out from end of 2025. A contra indication compared with urging more people to use EVs?

I expect the free road tax type exemptions will be whittled away over the next few years too as governments scrabble around for extra income.

Charging at home is fine with a 'full tank' costing about a fiver, lasting up to 330 miles (300 in reality) and charged overnight on Octopus EV tariffs. When out and about the electric charges are often expensive at maybe up to 40%-50% of gasoline charges.  

They could reduce EV charging by 15% by imposing the same VAT as home charging. 5% instead of 15%...As if.

Sometimes I'm lucky and find a no cost destination charger in a shopping mall or at a hotel. Only once have I been inconvenienced with charging. I travelled to a hotel which said it had 6 chargers. It did but all 6 were out of service. The next nearest was also out of action. I'd tried 8 chargers by that point. Then I found 4 that worked. About half a mile from where the six broken ones were situated. I still had about 100 miles at that time. I'd cheerfully say that 'range anxiety' is a non-issue.

Emissions from transport have remained stubbornly high as the government has “made a political choice” to allow an increase in road traffic, instead of encouraging people on to public transport.

There is no coherent programme to encourage people to change their high-carbon lifestyles.

There is no clear policy to decarbonise steel production, or emissions from other heavy industries.

Sunday 25 June 2023

Hot dogs of war

Yevgeny Prigozhin, leader of the Wagner Group and ex hotdog seller declared an all-out war on the Russian state. 

He claimed Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu had driven to the city of Rostov in southern Russia to personally take command of the fight, The Russian MoD publicly rejected his claims, calling them an 'informational provocation'. Doublespeak rules. Yet see the lame ducks : Chief of the Russian general staff Valery Gerasimov, left, and defence minister Sergei Shoigu. Their clocks must surely be ticking.
Putin compounded his error by contracting out part of the war to Wagner, a private army led by ex-convict Yevgeny Prigozhin. Once tensions exploded between Wagner’s thuggish warlord and the state military and its hapless leadership, this rebounded on Putin personally.

Presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov says Putin has been appraised and will menacingly take all “relevant steps”. Putin recently placed a stack of tactical nukes in Belarus, and this could be the provocation to take them for a spin. 

Prigozhin (above, left) — a former convict turned caterer "Putin's chef" turned oligarch — acknowledges that the relationship between him and Putin was a particular one. In Russia (as I write about in some of my novels) they call it krysha, which literally means “roof”. 

In the late Eighties, as gangsterism grew in direct proportion to the failure of communism, and with it the implosion of the Russian state, it expanded to mean a different kind of protection; not from the elements, but from organised crime. 

From the early days of his presidency, Putin presented himself as a normal bloke (muzhik) facing down the oligarchs. He threatened to whack terrorists in the outhouse, and made geopolitical observations using bawdy jokes. Wholesale gangsterism had taken over the Russian state. Putin, having practised in St Petersburg and before that in Dresden became the top mobster in a mobster state, and, among many other things, he became Prigozhin’s krysha. 

For a while it worked. Wagner sent its psychopathic and criminal soldiers in 'meat waves' at the enemy. It was Wagner troops who  fought in Bakhmut, dying in their thousands so Putin could claim some sort of victory over the ruins that the city is today. 

But as Wagner acted, so did the Russian state. The Russian Ministry of Defence sent a message to the 'mercenaries of Wagner': 'You have been tricked into Prigozhin’s criminal adventure and into participating in an armed rebellion… Many of your comrades from several units have already realised their mistake and are seeking help.'

Then Putin, rattled, went on Russian TV. 'Russia’s future is at stake,' he said, describing Wagner’s actions as a 'stab in the back'. He then warned of 'inevitable punishment' for those dividing Russian society and said a counter-terrorism regime was now in place in the capital Moscow and several other regions. 

It caused Prigozhin to withdraw allegedly on the basis that Putin says 'All necessary orders have been given' to deal with the crisis. Putin was clear in his speech: he has ordered Russian forces to destroy Wagner.  I suspect the truth is even darker.

Prigozhin had originally seized Rostov. Heavy fighting was reported in the Voronezh Oblast between Wagner forces and the Russian Military and National Guard. Overhead, the Russian Air Force targeted Wagner positions with Guided-Bombs and rockets. 

Yet Putin's speech headed off a civil war of Russians killing Russians inside their own territory. 

But I wonder how many days Prigozhin and his family will survice when he has withdrawn to Belarus?

Prigozhin’s mutiny broke a taboo against challenging Russia’s mafia-style leader, and pierced the veil of his invulnerability. Rather than relying on fear and the destruction of all potential opponents within Moscow’s elites, Putin has presided as the ultimate arbiter between factions — the one who can hold things together while keeping the support of the Russian people. 

Putin has prior form. Salisbury. Or journaliist Anna Politkovskaya. Or TV Rain. or Litvenenko. Or  Pavil Antov or Ravil Maganov or Natalia Estimirova or Denis Voronenkov. Or Boris Nemtsov. Or Boris Berezovsky found dead inside a locked bathroom at his home in the United Kingdom, a noose around his neck, in what was at first deemed a suicide. Or Stanislav Markelov and Anastasia Baburova both gunned down by masked assassins near the Kremlin, Or lawyer Sergei Magnitsky who died in Russian police custody after allegedly being brutally beaten, then denied medical care. Or Yuri Shchekochikhin who contracted a mysterious illness. He died suddenly, a few days before he was supposed to depart for the United States. His medical documents were deemed classified by Russian authorities. 

And don't get me started on the business men pushed out of high rise windows.

Wednesday 21 June 2023


I'm still writing novels, although I've been on the AI book for some time now. 

There are various distractions which have slowed me down, plus the thought that I've been interacting with a real AI whilst I've been writing it. An AI that I created and which has adopted some of my personality traits.

How weird is that?

Well this year, at the event on the South Bank, there was a greater emphasis on the business of being a novelist. How to market etc. Many of the presenters had 'millions' of books or turnover or profits and they had usually achieved this with maybe more than a dozen books. 

As I chatted with other attendees, it became apparent that many had written 1, 2 or 5 novels only. They were surprised that I've around 30 books in my own catalogue. Although about 5-6 of them are compendiums/collections.

And then, I've ideas for another 3-4 books right now. I think I should halt though and do some marketing. I'll write here how I get on !


Tuesday 20 June 2023

Asteroid City

While staying in a hotel on the South Bank, I noticed they had a preview of Asteroid City, the Wes Anderson sci-fi movie. I know I should like Wes Anderson, but I do find movies like Grand Budapest Hotel and The French Dispatch covering style and maybe less substance. 

He's considered a fine movie maker, with symmetry, colour palettes and soundscapes that are exceptional. I find some 'the business' in his movies to be frantic for no obvious reason although it is probably why people like his style of movie-making.

Asteroid City is a play set inside a documentary. The documentary is 4:3 Academy Format monochrome and the 'play' is set in 16:9 widescreen adaptive colour. Fortunately, I was in a Curzon and in the front row, which was entirely suitable for this movie. 

It riffed along with many stars and cameos, including Brian Cranston as the monochrome show presenter and then Margot Robbie as a ghost and Tilda Swinton as a bright scientist. Then add in  Jason Schwartzman, Tom Hanks, Jeffrey Wright, Edward Norton, Adrien Brody, Liev Schreiber, Hope Davis, Steve Park, Rupert Friend, Maya Hawke, Steve Carell, Matt Dillon, Hong Chau, Willem Dafoe, Margot Robbie, Tony Revolori, Jake Ryan, and Jeff Goldblum. Anderson has the best address book and following.

You can tell that with such a cast list, there's a customary frantic activity and there are frequent hat tips to other movies. I won't spoil this one by saying too much about the plot, which is fundamentally pretty simple in any case.

I did enjoy it. It was a couple of hours which I'd found myself free to do as I pleased and this movie seemed like a good way to spend the time. Seeing it at the Curzon helped, and being in the front row of a tiny cinema seemed very appropriate. Considering it was on pre-release when I saw it, I was surprised that there were only two seats left when I got my ticket. Here's Tom Hanks as the Grandpa, in the trailer.

Sunday 18 June 2023

Isle of Wight Festivals 1969-1970 somewhere in between and 2023

I was back on the Isle of Wight recently, including a visit to Dimbola in Freshwater. It is the ex-house of Margaret Cameron, the photographer, but it also has an exhibition of the Isle of Wight Festival through the ages. 

I've been on the island for several of the festivals, including ones I've attended, but this time I was able to see right back to the beginnings. 

A trio of brothers (the Foulks) started the Isle of Wight Festival and used money raised as part of the Isle of Wight Indoor Swimming Pool Association (IWSPA) to assist build the funds. Improbably they were able to secure an act to perform in the small sleepy village of Godshill, which was mainly famous for its cream teas, coach parties and a model village.

The band they acquired? Jefferson Airplane. 'One pill makes you taller and one pill makes you small' etc.


 They acquired The Crazy World of Arthur Brown and Tyrannosaurus Rex (pre T-Rex) later. They managed to get 10,000 along to that fledgeling event.  The Solent River meant many would need to travel by ferry, which was restrictive unless they had sure-fire headliners.

Fast forward another year and I visited the island at the time of a festival. I still remember the sticker. 'Help Bob Dylan sink the Isle of Wight' was the surprisingly modern slogan. They were everywhere.

Dylan had been in a motorcycle accident three years earlier and was yet to reappear on the concert circuit, and by the luck of the three brothers and a deal they agreed in the Drake Hotel in New York,  through their Feiry Creations company, they managed to secure him for the Isle of Wight, with the promise of a holiday included in their hospitality package. Dylan and family were due to sail across on the QE2, but Dylan's son was hit by a ship door and suffered mild concussion. They flew over a week later to Heathrow, and then onward to the Festival.

At the time (1969), radio stations were playing Lay, Lady, Lay and the concert was slated for a venue near to Ryde. Another pop tune of the time was 'Everyone's Gone to the Moon' by Jonathan King.

Then take a look at the poster for that concert, Dylan, The Who, Joe Cocker, Tom Paxton, Julie Felix, The Moody Blues, The Pretty Things, The Nice, The Bonzo Dog Band...the list goes on.

From 50,000 to this time 150,000. and still nowhere near the number at the 1970 concert.

I was around the island for the 1970 concert as well. This was at Afton Downs near Freshwater and I was staying in Totland Bay, which co-incidentally was where the Fiery Creations were based.  

This time, there was no mistaking that the circus was in town. It is estimated that 600,000-700,000 attended. according to the Guinness book- about double the size of Woodstock. Everywhere were hippies, and festival go-ers similarly attired. 

The main draw. The man with the guitar. Jimi Hendrix. It's all been recorded and the set is even available on Polydor, including his references to his new Danish girlfriend Kirsten Nefer. Dave Gilmour of Pink Floyd ran the mixer desk during the set. Hendrix plays what must be one of his last recorded live sets. So many blindingly good numbers, with a ragged edge. 

Yes, I am a great fan.

True to the coastal venue, a fire at the end of the set was started by a marine flare.

Now, 2023, like several before it, is staged in the centre of the island in Newport, well and truly embedded in the Island's culture, with shops closing so that staff can see the acts.

Saturday 10 June 2023



It's been a long time coming, but he has finally quit. 

Grudgingly, and hinting that he may return. no moral fibre and the qualities of a hustler to the end. It reminds me that I've always used comic book pictures when I've depicted him in my blog. 

I hope his ex-party has the good sense to shun him. Still, he did alright out of it. Honours for all his mates, loadsa dosh for him, a fancy new mansionette. He can still delude himself and anyone who will listen that he did a good job. 

We all know he was terrible from the first moment until the last.

Thursday 8 June 2023

Bike - behind the curve

The cycling year started so well. I was up against my target until a period of protracted downtime.  I'ev started again, but I've had to make a short-term decision to target my 'behind pace' number and try to reduce it to zero before I worry about anything else.

When I first looked at it, I was over 500 miles behind pace, year to date. Now, with significant exertions, I have managed to get it reduced to around 320 miles. There is still a way to go, and the next few weeks I'll be 'non-biking' whilst I'm on the Isle of Wight or planning a trip to Switzerland. In between those items, I've a trip to London to an author conference and then a 'do' with a bunch of friends.

I predict it will be around August before I can get 'back in the saddle'.