21 March 2021

A mixed bag this week – good day, bad day, good day, bad day. Wind, rain, hail, sunshine, repeat. The wind and rain kept us largely confined to quarters; the sunshine tempted Penelope out into the garden and me out on my bike.

Ms Playchute’s efforts this week have largely resulted in a new garden path which weaves itself alongside and underneath the yew tree just at the back of the cottage.

Very nice, and all her own work!

And, while she’s been busy overhauling that part of the garden, the few days of relative warmth and sunshine have brought out the daffodils. This is but a small selection of the myriad of daffodil clumps we have all over the garden – bright, welcome colour at this time of year.

Meanwhile, Monday and Wednesday afternoons were decent enough that I was persuaded to have a couple of short, quick cycles round the neighbourhood. Well, perhaps not so much of the “quick.” A couple of short, leisurely cycles round the neighbourhood, perhaps.

Is this the right way?

On the stationary bike I have mainly this week been cycling around the Lake Tahoe region in northern California & Nevada. Absolutely stunning scenery as one scurries along the shore and then even better views along the various mountain bike trails which are scattered all around the area.

One trail in particular, the Incline Flume Trail, (a) was a great ride and (b) has a fascinating (to me, at any rate) history. With apologies for the lengthy extract:

Alongside the Incline Flume Trail, there are many pieces of decayed lumber planks, stark evidence of the trail’s raison d’etre. In the late 1800s, Incline and Glenbrook, Nev., were the two epicenters for milling and transportation of processed Tahoe timber to the Comstock mines. To support this massive logging enterprise, an extensive network of water flumes, mechanical lifts, short-line railroad operations and timber rafting were utilized.

The system of water flumes was extensive in the Tahoe region. The V flume was first developed by Nevadan James W. Haines. Shaped like the letter V, this innovative design moved cut lumber efficiently down from the Carson Range on the eastern margin of the Tahoe Basin to the valley floor where it could be hauled to the bustling silver mines. Haines patented the V flume in 1870, but a U.S. District Court later decreed that so many lumber companies had constructed them in the years following, that Haines had lost his right to financially benefit as the original inventor.

A relatively inexpensive alternative to the traditional method of constructing roads for slow, horse-drawn log haulers, water flumes revolutionized the transportation of lumber throughout the mountains of western Nevada and the Sierra.

The flume’s V-shape had an important purpose. If sliding boards lodged against an obstruction, the flowing water backed up, raising the wood along the slanting sides and freeing it. The same result was not accomplished in the traditional U-shaped flume with its box-like perpendicular sides.

The V flume proved so effective at delivering lumber that by 1879 there were 10 of them operating in the Tahoe Sierra. They totalled more than 80 miles in length. The longest snaked through the mountains for nearly 25 miles. In 1879 alone, loggers flumed more than 33 million board feet of lumber and milled timber out of the mountains.

At Incline, cord wood and cut lumber were loaded into tram cars and hauled 1,400 feet up to Incline Summit by a double-track tramline. Built in 1880, this steam-powered cable railway was 4,000 feet long and became known as “The Great Tramline of Tahoe.” Steamship captains circling Big Blue made it a point to bring their ships into Crystal Bay, Nev., so passengers could get a good look at the impressive undertaking. Powered by two massive 12-foot-diameter iron bullwheels, the innovative logging operation inspired the moniker “Incline.” By 1897, however, nothing remained except for stripped forestland, logging roads and crumbling flumes. Today, the legacy of the Incline Flume has become a gift for us all.

And while we’re (still) on the subject of cycling, I am making good progress on my virtual Pacific Coast cycle ride. This week (on Tuesday) I passed the 735 mile/1184 km checkpoint which has me crossing from Oregon into California, at long last. There’s still a fair trek to go (something in the region of 1100 miles) but it does feel like a significant milestone has been crossed.

Last week I shared with you the “awakening” of my great-grandmother, Eleanor Joy Toll through the artificial intelligence of the deep-nostalgia tools on My Heritage (and perhaps elsewhere as well). During the week I ran across another site which provides even more amusing (and disturbing) animations of photographs.

I told you it was disturbing!

My brothers and sisters in the States entered the Daylight Savings Time portal last weekend. I normally have a rant about the absurdity of DST but this year, for some reason, I’m not sure I can be bothered. In any event, this from my New Yorker desk calendar sums this year up pretty well, I thought.

We don’t “leap forward” until next Sunday so I’ll presumably be even more bad-tempered than normal next weekend.

And so, on to this week’s You Couldn’t Make It Up selection.

Firstly, an article in the Guardian confirming what we’ve been saying for months – the delay in introducing lockdown last December and the bizarre suggestion that we could all mix with our family over Christmas led directly to something in the region of 27,000 additional Covid deaths. And that doesn’t factor in opening schools for one day in January! If your inactions directly caused the deaths of 27,000 people shouldn’t you be prosecuted for criminal negligence at the very least?

Or, how about the news that the EU is taking the UK to court for unilaterally breaking the Brexit agreement signed by the Prime Minister and approved by Parliament just before Christmas? The UK’s unlawful position was further aggravated by the idiot Foreign Secretary who accused the EU of seeking to erect a border between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK. In fact, of course, it’s Boris Johnson’s border enshrined in the agreement which he negotiated and signed and which he now says is so bad that the UK is obliged to break the law. But heck, let’s not let the truth get in the way of idiocy and dogma. If the EU is involved in any way they must be the bad guys.

And while we are on the continually marvellous topic of Brexit, we learned this week that the collapse of trade with the EU will last at least until the summer.

Quelle surprise! You’ve divorced your largest and most important trading partner and yet there is (apparently) genuine surprise that our relationship with the EU has fallen off a cliff. The irony is that, while the EU enforces the new regulations that were agreed with the UK (and British exporters are going to the wall as a consequence), the British government is busy extending the “grace” period on imports from the EU otherwise we would be running out of food and medicines in particular. So much for “taking back control.”

And finally, while on the subject of our idiotic government and the imbeciles who serve in it, we must just mention the absurdity of the latest Crime and Police bill making its way through Parliament. This threatens, essentially, to make it virtually impossible for anyone or any group of people to carry out almost any sort of protest against government policy or decisions. One of the classier elements of the bill is the proposal to make a criminal offence of any protest or demonstration, whether peaceful or otherwise, which someone might find “annoying.” Yep, you read that correctly – “annoying.”

Undoubtedly, many folks would find Greta Thunberg’s protests to be exceedingly annoying!

Sadly, this has the look of Global Britain adopting the strategies of failed third-world dictatorships. It’s also ironic in that the current Home Secretary, Priti Patel, the former Prime Minister (Theresa May) and our own Member of Parliament, Andrea Leadsom, would not being enjoying the rights secured by the years of protest, both peaceful and not so peaceful, of the brave women who campaigned for equal suffrage. Still, that’s what the UK has become, it seems, a discredited wannabe dictatorship with a penchant for breaking international law.

Finally, finally, I ran across this footage on Facebook originally.


Meanwhile, keep happy, keep smiling, keep isolating as much as you can, wear a facemask when you go out and keep your distance. And keep safe.

Lots of love to you all,


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