Welcome to the Duck House

Quack!Welcome to the website of Chip the Duck. No part of this site has been the subject of an expense claim from the taxpayer, unlike this duck house.
On these pages you’ll find information and links relating to my favourite interests and activities. In no particular order these are Sir Peter Viggers’ Duck House purchased with UK taxpayers’ money, EU Corruption and Dictatorship centred on Brussels, Geocaching & Munzees, Portsmouth FC, Setting & Solving Puzzles, Sea Fishing, Photography, Ducks in general, all things Portuguese (I split my time between England and Portugal) plus some other stuff.

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Honeymoon in Sri Lanka – Not us!

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I will shortly be attending the wedding of my niece, with a reception in a swanky hotel and country club, from which they will fly to Sri Lanka and on to the Maldives. Or possibly the Seychelles, or Mauritius, or somewhere similar with palm trees and sand.

My daughter took her honeymoon in the Dominican Republic in preference to Antigua.

Not us. Our honeymoon was taken at Smilie’s where we were dropped off following a reception at Rayners Lane Scout Hall at which my new brother-in-law repeatedly played “House of the Rising Sun” by the Animals on a Dansette record player. You can guess which decade.

Not that I am bitter that I missed out. Much. But Smilie’s was not an acceptable substitute for Sri Lanka.

Smilie owned the terraced dwelling where we rented our first “home”. Two dark rooms in a suburban street called The Gardens in West Harrow. Gardens which had been paved over as hard standing for dustbins in a London borough which hadn’t seen a harrow for at least a century.

Mr and Mrs Smilie were retired and operated a shift system. He was around during the day and slept at night. She was up all night and slept during the day. They hated each other and did not communicate except occasionally for practical reasons as they passed on the stairs at 9.00am and 9.00pm.

We shared the bathroom and kitchen and were allocated a small space in the fridge alongside the old man’s burnt sausages. Every weekend he would cook sausages until they were shrivelled and black then eat one each day for breakfast. He kept a Velocette motorbike in the hallway but I never saw him use it. He rarely went out.

To this day I have not met anyone quite as mean. In the few brief months of winter when we shared his roof he would huddle by day in his parlour refusing to light a fire – he proudly announced that blankets were cheaper than coal. I kid you not.

We were allowed one bath per week and could switch on the immersion heater for no more than one hour to heat the water. When he discovered that I was taking liberties by bathing on a Wednesday and a Saturday he built a wooden box around the immersion switch with a hinged door and a small padlock. We would have to ask him to unlock the “bath box” for exactly one hour, allowing 7 days between each request.

Of course he suffered from his own meanness. The padlock was so cheap and flimsy that I could open it with a tiny key from a toy money box. So I would open the bath box, switch on and relock it. Twice he cursed himself for being forgetful. The third time he rumbled and our relationship deteriorated from there.

It reached its nadir due to an unplanned incident when I noticed that the front door of the house had been left open. I closed it and went upstairs to our room. After a few minutes there was load knocking on the front door from both the knocker and then from fists thumping on the woodwork. I returned and opened the door to find a florid faced Smilie accusing me of deliberately locking him out.

Perhaps my laughter as I walked away didn’t help repair the situation as he came careering down the hallway towards me, howling with rage, and took a swing at my chin with his right fist. Now, he was slow, old and fat. I was quick, young and nimble. Sidestepping his blow did not require great agility and he skidded on the worn linoleum straight into the kitchen, colliding with the refrigerator which fell forward, spilling burnt sausages across the floor.

Apoplectic, amid my howls of laughter, he went back out through the front door and returned a few minutes later with a uniformed policeman. The sympathetic copper listened to his rant and calmed him down and I told him that I thought he had left the door open accidentally which he endeavoured to explain to Smilie. I did point out the motorbike standing alongside us in the hall and asked whether a vehicle full of highly inflammable fuel could legally be stored in a dwelling house, then I rapidly retired for an early bath. We moved out a couple of weeks later.

To be fair we did have a proper honeymoon a few months later, staying for a weekend in a B&B in Bournemouth. We were drenched on Saturday night having been caught in a thunderstorm trying to find a pub. Any pub. Not an easy job in central Bournemouth which seems to have been built by Quakers. However, we did take time to send a postcard to Smilie saying “Wish you were here”.

5 Slightly Tetchy

 

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Cuban Street Art

Followers of this blog will know that I am a fan of street art (not scrawled graffiti) so when I spent a couple of weeks in Cuba earlier this year, I had to get out my camera.

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Bert’s Dilemma

 “Mine’s a pint Bert”.

 “OK Fred, but only because I’m looking to you for some advice”.

 “Thanks mate. Fire away!” he said taking a sip of foam. Another short measure.

 “Well Fred, you know I keep a few chickens and sell my eggs down the market”, said Bert. Fred nodded.

 Bert continued. “I was in here last night and, a while after you left, a bloke came over and asked me if I was the one who sold the eggs. Said he could put a good deal my way”.

 “What sort of deal?”

 “He said that if I joined his club I would be able to increase my sales of eggs because I could sell to his other members. Sounded fine at first, but there are conditions”.

 “I guess there has to be something in it for him. Go on!”

 “Well, first there’s the membership fee and it’s not small. I’d have to stop coming down here in the evening, so that’s the last pint I’ll be buying you!”

 “That’s a serious disadvantage which I will have to consider Bert” said Fred with a twinkle in his eye”.

 “That’s not all. For every £60 that his club members spend on my eggs I have to buy £100 of stuff from them”.

 “I trust you sent him on his way”.

 “There’s more. They will also tell me how to look after my chickens and they will pass laws on chicken management. I will be fined or go to jail if I don’t comply. And if I buy new chicken runs I have to go to him before I can buy them from Joe the Joiner next door”.

 “And some of the members are suffering overcrowding because non-members have moved in to live on their farms. I have to take two every year as lodgers and support them indefinitely – I will also have to send money to their families back home.”

 “Don’t you have any say in how this club is run?”

 “He said I have a vote but there are 24 others so I don’t have any influence.”

 “Have you done any research into this club Bert?”

 “Well yes. They don’t look very kosher. They’ve been around for a long time but their accounts have failed audit every year for the last 20 years.”

 “Bert, my old pal, take my advice and steer well clear. Only a raving idiot would want to belong to a club like that!”

 

 

 

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David Cameron’s Virtual Renegotiation

cameron pleadingHave you seen Dave’s EU “renegotiation” demands?

Why didn’t someone tell him that good negotiators start high and concede little? Not start low and go virtual.

Let’s look at the four main demands he has sent by letter to the European Union:

Protection of the single market for Britain and other non-euro countries

Does he really think it makes sense to be in a club where the other members discriminate against us. Of course they’ll agree to this or be accused of discrimination. Or is he saying they are discriminating now? Smoke and mirrors.

Boosting competitiveness by setting a target for the reduction of the “burden” of red tape

They’ve already committed to this very vague aspiration so there is no need for renegotiation. In fact it’s rather dishonest of Cameron to pretend he has won a negotiating point when Brussels had already decided to blitz red tape. “Move along, nothing to see here”.

Exempting Britain from “ever-closer union” and bolstering national parliaments

Except that the government can still opt in to regulations piecemeal. Which means that we will continue to vehemently implement every regulation that fits their agenda whether or not it is good for the British people (remember us Dave?).

Restricting EU migrants’ access to in-work benefits such as tax credits

But continuing to pay out of work benefits. So immigrants are incentivised to stay at home watching Sky TV rather than get a job. And this is what he wants to negotiate? No thanks!

We really do need to vote OUT, if and when we get a referendum.
(Big IF, I’ll believe it when I see it).

 

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What’s a Munzee?

munzee symbolmunzee via googleFollowers of this strange blog will know that I am into geocaching in my spare time. Just recently I came across the tech version, Munzees.

Geocaching involves finding a container (cache) containing a log book and maybe other goodies, using GPS on a dedicated gadget or a smartphone app. Munzees are actually QR codes, normally on stickers but also on tags similar to geocaching travel bugs. They are also found with GPS using a dedicated smartphone app that you can download from your usual app store and use for free, or from www.munzee.com.

Munzees will never replace geocaches – it’s a bit like comparing pitch and putt to golf – but they have advantages. They are very cheap at £0.25 per QR sticker (less than €0.35) and they are unlikely to get broken, stolen or suffer from wet log books. So no maintenance! They can be captured quickly and easily once found, so are great if you have a few minutes to spare when visiting a town.

The downsides are that the app is a little flaky and not well documented but there is a forum which you can find using Google. Also some have been placed in the most unimaginative places; the first few I found were on lamp posts in a London Underground car park – exciting eh?

In Lagos (Algarve) they are catching on and several have been placed (by me) to provide a tour of the town’s street art. Other munzee-ers have deployed them to show you interesting statues and unusual roundabouts and to lead you to some of the best bars and restaurants in town. We are also placing them where there are great views, historic buildings and, if things go to plan, inside a geocache.

If you have any problems with the munzee app I may be able to help if you send me a message or  email me. However, I’m very new to this too, so I’m not the oracle.

 

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Madeleine McCann – Freedom of Information Request

searchThis week I received from the UK Home Office a response to a Freedom of Information Request regarding the ongoing cost to the British taxpayer of the search for Madeleine McCann, the child who went missing from Praia da Luz in the Algarve 8 years ago.

The full response is as follows:

Thank you for your letter of 18 September 2015 in which you ask a number of questions about the Metropolitan Police Service’s (MPS) investigation into the disappearance of Madeleine McCann (Operation Grange). I will answer each of your six questions in turn:

1) How much UK taxpayers’ money has been spent on the failed search for Madeleine McCann?

The total cost of Operation Grange, up until end of June 2015, is £10.1m.

2) How many arrests have been made?

The Home Office does not hold this information as, whilst this department funds the investigation, the MPS is an independent organisation and so has operational responsibility for the management of the investigation.

3) What firm leads are being followed up?

As per answer 2.

4) How many police officers are still working on the case, and their ranks?

The MPS has informed me that there are currently 18 Police Officers working on the case comprising one Detective Chief Inspector, two Detective Inspectors, three Detective Sergeants and twelve Detective Constables.

5) Why is so much time and money is being spent on this one, very old, case when a child goes missing in the UK every 3 minutes.

The Government takes very seriously all cases of missing children. Although most of these cases may not be in the public eye, unresolved missing children cases are never closed and they remain the responsibility of individual police forces until the child is found. The circumstances of each case will vary and it is for individual forces to make an operational assessment on how they pursue it.

The Government believes it is right that it does all it can to support the search for Madeleine McCann. That is why the Home Secretary asked the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police Service to undertake a review of the case in May 2011. The Commissioner considered the request and made a decision to bring the Metropolitan Police’s particular operational expertise to the case.

The Home Office agreed to fund this work from the Special Grant budget, subject to the Home Office and the Metropolitan Police reviewing together the value and cost of the work at each stage. The level of funding provided to the Metropolitan Police will continue to be monitored to ensure expenditure from the Special Grant budget is appropriate and proportionate.

6) When is the investigation likely to be closed?

The MPS will continue to work on the case whilst there are lines of enquiry to follow.

So there you have it – 18 detectives, more than £10 million spent and, if there are any leads or have been any arrests (pigs fly) then they’re not telling us.

I think it is now time to stop focusing all this effort on one old case that Mr Cameron wanted to support. Time to get those detectives on to the crimes that are happening now.

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I know that there are varying opinions about the McCanns’ behaviour at the time of the disappearance and subsequently.

I declare that I find much of their conduct after the event to be totally inappropriate – it’s not surprising that a sign next to the main junction in Luz was defaced.

It is difficult to reconcile grieving parents with legal actions against a policeman for €1 million damages, a visit to the Pope, appearance on an American TV chat show…

That’s my opinion, but what do you think? Should we draw the line under this investigation now? Am I just a grumpy old man or do you share my view?

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Street Art

My (very occasional) blog has previously touched upon Street Art as a topic. I featured the skeleton on a building in Lagos (Algarve) and couldn’t resist showing it again below.

But in the last year or two many fine examples have been popping up all around Lagos, supported by a local arts organisation which arranges visits by artists from all over Europe.

Some examples:

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The above is one of many by ALIAS to be found on the streets of Lagos.

man and bird

The above looks as good close up as from afar.

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girl on the corner

snails in the garden

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the moving finger

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The last one above is more gruesome viewed close up, but it was the fact that it was in a ruin that struck me. Poignant!

There is a Munzee walk round Lagos which will take you to the above and a few more, and supply you with the names of the artists. (www.munzee.com).

Finally the one that started it all for me. On the side of a huge building on the main Avenida that runs by the river, this masterpiece is by ARYZ:

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How come these people get so little acclaim?

 

 

PS   A good geocaching friend mine told me that this blog was getting grumpy! The TV programme “Grumpy Old Men” was mentioned (can you believe it?). The above post was the most jolly I could assemble but, watch out Tessa, I’m working on something really horrible…

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