Wednesday, 27 May 2020

Moorhens and more

Hey, chickie, you hungry?

OK, I'm off to the takeaway

Do you want it with sauce or without?

If it's OK for geese to make contrails in the water, why is it wrong for humans to make contrails in the air?

A Swann, mute, seeking his Flanders

God's house has three bedrooms

Friday, 22 May 2020

The Barber of Owosso: The Darn-Poor Rhymer Responds

(To be sung to the tune of "Amarillo"):

Is there a barber shop in Owosso?
Every night, my beard feels more grosso,
But I’m told that Karl in Owosso
Is able and willing to barber me.
Show me the way to old Owosso;
I don’t need bad laws from some bosso,
I need a trim! And Karl in Owosso
Is able and willing to barber me.

UPDATE: “Court rules Owosso barbershop can stay open for now.”

Wednesday, 20 May 2020

The White Goose

...I caught it on photo committing an unjust aggression against one of its fellow creatures a few days ago. But first, smaller (and newer) things:

Eight ducklings. Spot them all!

Three pigeons

A family of Canada geese

And the white goose... again, attacking an innocent

I'm the king - or queen? - of this lake

Anything you can eat, I can eat quicker

Stand and deliver!

Tuesday, 19 May 2020

The Barber of Owosso

In Owosso, Michigan, USA, a 77-year-old barber named Karl Manke has taken on the might of the state of Michigan, by opening his barber shop in defiance of “laws” made by the state government. He’s been suppressed. But he’s gathering support:

I confess that I have an interest in this case. I’ve had a beard for 47 years now, and I like to keep it neatly trimmed. Luckily, I happened to go to my barber just a couple of days before the UK “lockdown” in the middle of March. But now, my beard is trending out of control. (A bit like the hysteria about “climate change.”) And under current UK plans it’s “illegal” for his (or anyone else’s) barber shop to open until July 4th at least! By that time, everyone who meets me will think I’ve gone Muslim. A claim which I can’t falsify until the pubs re-open.

Now let’s look at how US politicians have behaved on this issue, shall we?

Kansas Democrat governor Laura Kelly took a haircut in early May, which she claimed was done by her husband. Republicans congratulated him – a lung doctor, would you believe! – on his barbering skills. Can we believe either side? No. But that same governor sought to forcibly close down a barber shop in Wichita:

As to Chicago mayor Lori Lightfoot:

Look, Lori, in your part of the world (and I lived in Chicago for a year, 30 years ago) you’re supposed to have something called “the rule of law.” That means that what is wrong for one person to do in a given situation, is wrong for another. No exceptions.

This suggests to me that honest people should focus, hard, on the dishonesty, hypocrisy and double standards that are rife among our enemies. Don’t let any of them get away with anything.

Sunday, 17 May 2020

The Year of the Bat

...despite the virus, humo(u)r is still alive and well in my part of the world. In this case, on the wall of a former pub which closed 2 or 3 years ago. And has been a political football ever since, mainly because almost any change of use would adversely affect what is already by far the worst traffic bottleneck in the area.

And for Opher Goodwin, who likes to take photos looking down from high rise buildings in places like New York, here's my 2016 shot from Cabo Girao in Madeira:

Not scary at all, eh? Only 580 metres down to the sea... But if you look 90 degrees left?

Saturday, 9 May 2020

Still, still locked down

My birthday today. A prime number. Warm weather again, itchy camera again.


Hey, all you little people, line up along the side of the field!

Now that's countryside

George Orwell's "Animal Farm" - without the animals

Look, officer, as you see, Nobody is driving on the road. And Nobody drives faster than I do. So you should be going after him, not me

Formerly the most expensive pub in the area. Now, perhaps, the most expensive take-away food outlet in the world

And by the way, for those who thought the pill-box from my last missive was impregnable...'s the front door

Thursday, 7 May 2020

Still locked down...

...pretty damn boring, to be honest. But at least the weather was good, so the camera took a walk around the district.

This pub closed before the epidemic, to be fair... but it's unlikely it will ever open again.

The parks are open. Just as well, as this park is for many people a short cut to the supermarkets

How many people who worked in these shops have lost their livelihoods? For good? And yet, the "bonking boffin" Ferguson, that caused all this, still has a job and a pension

The "queue ceremony" at Waitrose's

Narrow boats at the terminus of the navigable River Wey

Last year, this tree's seeds were six inches deep! Isn't global warming great?

You schoot ze lockdown violator on ze right, Klaus, I schoot ze vun on ze left

There will be beef for dinner... eventually

Flowers enjoy global warming, too

That white goose is actually a tax bureaucrat, trying to steal the food the Canada goose earned

Tuesday, 5 May 2020

An Open Letter to Digidentity Support

Background: I recently applied for the state pension, for which I have been paying for so many decades. Ideally, I don't want to have any contact with the state at all. But how else can I get back even a tiny sliver of what it has stolen from me? I was encouraged to apply on-line, but had a problem with "identity checking." I was recommended to a company called "Digidentity," based in the Netherlands. It didn't go well. Here's the correspondence so far.

I raised a support call with Digidentity on 15th April. I don't have a copy of the text (sigh - why didn't the reply include a copy of my original report?). But I pointed out that I had tried to verify my identity using their service, and it failed due to needing a Microsoft account to download their app.

This is a perfect example of the kind of crap that political governments - and their supposedly "private" partners - like to unload on us, the people they are supposed to be serving.

From: Support <>
Sent: 18 April 2020 14:08
To: Neil Lock
Subject: Your Digidentity GOV.UK Verify Registration

##- Please type your reply above this line -##
Hello and thank you for contacting Digidentity GOV.UK Verify.

Currently our verification service is in extremely high demand. We are working hard to make sure that the process runs as quickly and smoothly as possible.

For this reason, sadly we have not been able to get back to you with a personal response to your query.

We understand that there are many people in need of governmental assistance at this time and therefore would like to apologise for any inconvenience this may have caused you.

Should you need help with your online verification, you can find detailed steps and information on our frequently asked questions page that may be of assistance. You can find our FAQ's here:

If you are still in need of personal assistance however, we ask that you reply to this email. We will then do our best to get back to you as soon as possible.

This email is a service from Digidentity UK. Delivered by Zendesk | Privacy Policy

Sat 18/04/2020 17:46
From: Neil Lock
RE: Your Digidentity GOV.UK Verify Registration

I have managed to do what I was trying to do (apply for state pension) by post.

But you have a serious problem, that you do not seem to be able to verify the identity of those who don’t have mobile phones. Moreover, downloading your app requires a third party (Microsoft). That in itself compromises the integrity of your system, does it not?

More than two weeks later, I received out of the blue the following:

Graham (Digidentity UK)
May 5, 15:31 CEST
Dear Neil

Thanks for your email.

The way verification works is such that we attempt to verify the highest number of people possible in the most efficient manner. As the vast majority of our customers have either a mobile phone, or a smart device they can download apps onto, that is the system we choose.

For those who don't, there is always an alternative process to access the service they need. Happily, you have found yours.

Digidentity Customer Support

Well, a chatty support e-mail like that deserves a chatty reply, so this is what I sent back:

Tue 05/05/2020 18:25
From: Neil Lock
RE: Digidentity: Verification Requirements

Dear Graham,

Thanks for your e-mail, and thanks for your concern. But you don’t seem to have understood the problem I had (and still have).

A couple of years ago, if I understand right, the EU mandated two-stage authentication for all on-line financial transactions within the EU. The banks started to implement it, and found it wasn’t easy. They had to pull back. The main reason being that it would disqualify those of us without mobile phones, and those who have no mobile phone reception at home, from all Internet commerce. 17% of the UK population, so I heard. There are alternative technical solutions, like sending codes to landlines (which the UK government already does for VAT, and it’s a real pain). But they don’t seem to fit into the EU’s scheme of things. That’s exactly the kind of crap that helped to push a lot of people like me into supporting Brexit.

Now, you mentioned downloading your app, and that’s exactly what I tried to do. But downloading your app requires a Microsoft account, and I don’t have a Microsoft account. Nor can I get one without… yes, you’ve guessed it… verifying my identity first.

Please don’t think that I’m not computer savvy. In fact, I started my career in software development very nearly 50 years ago. I explicitly chose not to take a mobile phone around 25 years ago, on the grounds that I didn’t want to be interrupted. Only a very few times have I been adversely impacted by that decision. And now, I’m extra glad that I don’t have a device that can be used to track me even when I’m on foot.

So, in this particular case, I (sort of) managed to find a way round the immediate problem, by sending my state pension application by post. Unfortunately, after 3 weeks I haven’t yet received any reply or even acknowledgement, so I will soon need to chase it up. And now I find myself in a quandary. I can’t chase them by phone until the COVID virus is gone and their lines are back open. I can’t chase them on-line because I can’t get through the identity labyrinth, and that’s your fault. (Digidentity’s fault I mean, not yours personally). And sending a follow-up letter seems unlikely to have any effect. I suppose I could try writing to my MP, but he’s a useless prat, for whom I have only contempt; and I suspect his view of me is comparable.

I didn’t mean to write this much, but it’s probably all for the best. For everyone like me who is in a situation like this and who is articulate enough to express themselves, there are probably a hundred or more people in similar situations, who don’t have the knowledge or the confidence to put their case.

I do hope you will take the trouble to understand what I say, and put my case to your superiors. BTW, I plan to re-publish this e-mail on my small blog as “An Open Letter to Digidentity Support.”

Best regards,
Neil Lock