Picture of the Day: Benchmark, Northampton Guildhall, Northampton [2017]

Benchmark – the latest ARG.

Many years ago, perhaps even around the 1980s, I noticed a curious little symbol on a gatepost near my school. As the internet hadn’t been invented, I had no option but to draw it and ask older people what it might be.

Of course old people are not Google and the various responses I had included — Aliens, graffiti, markings showing where World War 2 bombs fell, natural formations and markings to show were treasure/secret passageways/underground bases (complete with monorails) are located. Which, I suspect, is as about accurate to Google results these days anyway.

Much poking around, the passing of time and asking actually qualified people who work at universities later revealed that the symbol is what is know as a benchmark. Then came Wikipedia and that cemented it for me — https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Benchmark_(surveying) Another childhood thought bubble popped.

Sometimes, when I see them, I will go “Oooh! Look a benchmark” and people around me look at me as if I had just escaped from the loonie bin (or psychiatric rehabilitation centre in the modern parlance). This usually then results in the conversation continuing without me, patronising “listening” as I explain or me having to put that nice jacket with the buckles on.

In 2017, while exploring the local-to-me administrative county town of Northampton I saw a benchmark on the Guildhall and took a photo, with the intent on starting an internet based map showing where all the benchmarks are in the UK. Of course, I don’t have the wherewithal, patience or technological knowhow to even set up such an endevour, instead I present it to you here — to gawp at and tell people, with confidence, when you see one yourself in the wild, that the weird symbol shows that nearby there is a secret underground base run by Bill Gates nanobots is and protected by Jewish space lasers…..

Picture of the Day: Tunnel Vision, Catesby, Northamptonshire [2009]

The darkness beckons your soul

Back in 2009, I got seriously into geocaching in a big way. It was niche, nerdy and didn’t really have much of a cost other than the travelling around. Perfect for a geek with no money and a car.

Geocaching (see www.geocaching.com), if you didn’t know, is a worldwide game where containers or caches are hidden around the world for people to find, sign or move on. It got very popular in the UK during the noughties and early teenies after The Guardian did an article about how much fun it was to do with kids and spoiled it for everyone.

Geocaches were scored on their difficulty, with 1 being easy peasy and 5 being you need specialist equipment or balls of steel to find it — usually because the cache was hidden on the side of a cliff or on the space station or at the top of a Chilean plateau. You could also get an award for finding one geocache in each category.

At the time I was short of 2, the 4 and the 5. Level 5 geocaches in the UK are not abundant. Health and Safety laws and lack of difficult places to get to see to that, but as luck would have it, one was in the sleepy county of Northamptonshire which  seemed to be fairly easily accessible with a bit of bravery — if not with a teaspoon of trespassing. So it made sense to jump in the car and head to Catesby to try and nab it. 

The cache was hidden in the old Catesby Tunnel. A Victorian marvel of engineering and once the longest brick lined tunnel in the UK. Northampton was not a great receiver of the railways. Indeed the Tory royalist hotbed was well versed in resisting progress over the centurys and so it is not really surprising to find a great deal of the former railway network in Northamptonshire was ripped up by good old Tory whipping boy Dr Beeching leaving it with as much public transport connectivity as a SCART plug.  As a result the line was removed and the tunnel and the viaduct at the other end were left to nature and to return to the landowner.

No way in. No way out.

After scurrying down an old railway embankment, dodging farmers and getting wet from the sodden grass, eventually the portal for the tunnel was reached. The dark insides seemingly swallowing the light less than 5 feet away. It was creepy. It was also disappointingly sealed off by a metal fence. 

This meant no getting a level 5 geocache and mega disappointment all round. However it seemed that a previous visitor to the location had some fun though….

Knickers!

A few years after this adventure I moved to Daventry which is about 5 miles away from the tunnel. I often drive past the area on my way into Banbury. But now, the cache is no more. Geocaching got expensive and inaccessible and the tunnel is now part of the Catesby Tunnel Vehicle Testing Facility — https://catesbytunnel.com/

Yay! 

Picture of the Day: Fortune Cookie – Long Buckby, Northamptonshire [2016]

On this day in 2016, Mrs Gnomepants V2.0 and I went for a succulent Chinese meal at the Dynasty in Long Buckby, Northamptonshire. At the end of the meal, they bring your bill with some fortune cookies. Which is nice. However, as Mrs Gnomepants v2.0 is allergic to dairy and fortune cookies contain milk I ended up with two. 

These are the messages within.

Hednodz

Here is my latest video offering. It is a sequence of films and stills shot around Norton, where I live, supported with a soundtrack from an unknown source. The song featured appears on a 90 minute mixtape which was given to Mrs Gnomepants V1.0 by a university friend in the nineties. I have no idea what the song is called and I have no idea who it is by. Googlefu has failed me.

I hope you enjoy!

HedNodz from Stegzy Gnomepants on Vimeo.

Barbecues

Barbecue
Looks civilised

It’s barbecue weather. Or so it seems.

During the winter, the air in Norton smells richly of burning coal, wood and melting plastic.
During the summer months, this is replaced with a heady miasma of charcoal, burnt meat and slurry, although recently this has been added to by the arrival of a fish and chip shop in the village and its associated pongs. The neighbours gather with their families and friends and burn meat to add a crunchy flavoursome crust. Then dine on said items accompanied by trendy salads and fine wines.

Meanwhile, in Gnomepants Cottage, the food remains cooked on the stove or in the oven as the once faithful barbecue was consigned to the council tip some time during the last great move.

Barbecue Barbies
This never happens

Hosting garden parties and barbecues became a thing of the past once the realisation that standing over burning coals while sausages singed was no longer fun but a chore. The realisation that watching guests get tipsy and sated on cremated burgers and battling wasps while the chefs food got even more scorched and grew colder was no fun for the chef.

I was often the chef.

More often than not, the food would be cold, the guests would be leaving and I’d be left with a mountain of soggy salad even though I’d resolved not to make so much in the first place.

Not fun.

Resolution was that no further barbecues would be hosted and that they would solely be attended upon invitation.

This Sunday in Norton was a glorious day. Neighbours fired up their barbecues and began their annual ritual of eating calcined meat goods. The air became thick with smog but few invitations arrived. But no matter.

Fire!
This is what usually happens

It was then that I realised, trend setter that I am, I had set an example amongst my friends. A fashion that no more would they hold barbecues and invite people while the hosts cooked and slaved over burning cinders only to dine themselves later on cold undercooked foodstuffs. This explains why we didn’t get any invites to barbecues from friends. That, and living out in the sticks, miles from friends and family.
So next time you’re enjoying the British summer, sitting in the garden inhaling burnt meat pollution, and have the urge to fire up the old barbecue, invite some chums and have a crap dinner while your friends enjoy the fruits of your labours, remember they didn’t invite you to theirs. Why? Because no fool wants to eat cold sausages and mountains of salad. They want their food cooked, hot and served to them by gracious hosts. They don’t have barbecues. Instead, they are sensible and have their dinner parties indoors.

Curiously I don’t get invites to them either….

UK General Elections: 2015

daventry-mb21-01_thumb.jpgIt’s getting to that time again. That time where I extend my hand towards the local political persons hoping for my vote and offer them a gauntlet. That gauntlet being: Meet me in my local pub and tell me why I should vote for you.

Nothing more. Nothing less. A chat and a pint or two. Low key. No press. No song or dance. Just you, me, your minders if appropriate and whoever else is in the pub at the time. We chat politics. I ask you questions. You answer them. Honestly. Without the fear of your employers tutting at you.

So far I have made this offer for the past ten years at local, general and police and crime commissioner elections. So far nobody has accepted my challenge. It’s almost as if no politician wants to ask for my vote.

Continue reading UK General Elections: 2015

Facebook: Real Names Policy – Intro

FacistbookRecently Facebook began enforcing their so-called “Real Names Policy”. You might remember this making the news back in September when Facebook began closing or suspending the accounts of transgendered people and drag artists who were not using their “real names” on their profiles.

After the wails of protests became too loud for the Facebook PR machine to quash, an agreement was made and some of the users affected were permitted to keep their chosen Facebook names. (http://bit.ly/14YEmTy) However, even after the apology, the Facistbook Facebook name policy police continued to crawl the site looking for suspicious names. No doubt using some hair brained algorithm which looks for commonly suspicious names.

Cat Woman isn't allowed a Facebook accountOften on Facebook, people create accounts for their pets and one of the more common Facebook profiles of yesteryear was Facebook profiles for cats. Profiles with names like Kitty Whiskers, Charlie Puss and other  feline similes would be common place. Similarly Doggy Woofwoof, Rover Dog and other animals were common too.  Facebook started to prevent such accounts being made but recently, two members of the Facebook community I know of who both have names with cat themes had their accounts suspended. So it seems likely that Facebook’s algorithm is working through its cat thesaurus.

Facebook’s terms of service state that people must use the same name “as it would be listed on your credit card, driver’s license or student ID.” Which is great. Except I know plenty of Mikes whose name on their driving licence says “Michael”, Jims whose passports say their name is James. Indeed, I know lots of people who don’t actually use their full name on social media because of safety, privacy and historical reasons.

stegzy_1398497700_140For as long as I have been on the internet, I have used the internet name “Stegzy Gnomepants”. Why? Because my real name is, quite rightly, none-of-your-fucking-business. I have been on the internet since 1998 using that very same name. Look for me on google, you’ll find my accounts everywhere. Stegzy Gnomepants. Occasionally Stegzonopolis Gnomicpantalon. Rarely some other variation.  It is my distinct expression of my personality. My expression of creativity. How I wish to be known on the internet.

This is what Edward Snowden has been trying to tell you for agesI also use the name because I realised long ago, the only reason people need your name is so they can compile data about you. Attribute demographic and personal information to form a picture about your personality and psyche. Your political beliefs. Your sexual preferences. Your needs. Not just for marketing purposes. But for sinister reasons. As dear old Edward Snowden pointed out.

There is no need to create a state like the DDR in former East Germany. Not when people freely give every aspect of their waking life to those who want it but don’t ask for it. That is the world now. There is no need to worry about people communicating anonymously when they are forced to use their real name on services they have tied to one identity. We’re being shepherded back into a society that thousands died to prevent 100 years ago. Technology designed to promote democracy is being used to control us. Prevent uprisings. Quash political unrest and difference of opinion. Exactly how Egypt and parts of the Middle East failed to do.

Where we are headingAnonymity causes people to misbehave. Anonymity allows people to do bad things. Anonymity allows people to abuse children. This is what those whipping up the pre-constructed moral panic are saying.

However, it’s the opposite. It’s anonymity that protects us from surveillance. Anonymity prevents abuse. Anonymity saves lives. Anonymity is a right. A way of life.

So, the axe is about to fall. The sword of Damocles may drop at any moment and over ten years of Facebook usage is about to come to an end. I will lose contact with friends I have made long before Facebook because that is how they communicate. I will lose memories. Fond and painful. Over the next few days I am intending to write about this situation. Discuss alternatives. Express distaste and moot alternatives.

Going forward. You can always find me elsewhere. Follow my comings and goings on WordPress (stegzy.wordpress.com). Tweet me on Twitter (@stegzy). Analyse my mind on LiveJournal (stegzy.livejournal.com). Say “Hello” on Ello (@stegzy). Flick me on Flickr (stegzy). Hell, if I’m on it, I’m on it as Stegzy. But as for Facebook. How long I am there is dependent on how quickly their police come for me. Enjoy my last days there. Because when they say stop. I will. By taking myself elsewhere.

 

Daventry Local Elections Results– – 2014

Here are the results for the Daventry Local Elections Weedon Ward.

Weedon (1 seat)

 Name of candidate   Description (if any)   Votes  Status  

COLLINS

Emma Clare

The Labour Party      

      265          

          

GALE

John Clifford

UK Independence Party (UKIP)

559

 

PRICE

Tom

Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition

32

 

SALAMAN

Christopher Robin

Liberal Democrat

144

 
SMITH
David
The Conservative Party

1093

Elected

Electors: 5048

Ballot papers: 2103

Turnout: 41.66%

Rejected papers: 9

 

I found this very interesting. 1093 people out of 2103 voted for David “No Chairs” Smith. I guess there’s a lot of people wanting to see him standing up and fighting navvies in fields. Good for you Mr Smith. I expect to be at your first fight please. I’ll bring my chair. You can stand.

 

I’m really looking forward to that. I don’t particularly go in for boxing but I’m all for making sure people stick to their promises. David Smith promised me fighting in the fields with navvies, I’m going to make sure that he sticks to his promises. He also promised he would stand up throughout his campaign. If I see him sitting, I’ll make sure the world knows.

 

What the results also show is that out of 5048 people 2945 either forgot to vote or stayed at home. That is terrible.

 

However it does offer some hope.  I hope Emma “I don’t really want to win” Collins pays attention here. Just by being proactive and going out, meeting the electorate, telling them how you can help them, you can easily get into local government. 2945 people obviously needed persuasion.

 

So here is my plan for the next local election.

 

– Enter the election

– Make sure I visit every house in the ward and speak to every voter

– I’ll listen to all the concerns and ensure that my promises aren’t empty.

– For the properties where people are not available to talk, I’ll ensure there is informative literature to leave including contact details and links to social media accounts and web pages.

– Sit back

– Watch the votes come in.

– Win

– Be accountable

 

The general election might be a bit trickier to win but I’ll start small, work my way up and generate respect from the electorate.

 

In the meantime, I’m going to get my wellies out of the garage in preparation for watching Mr Smith fight navvies.

 

He’s going to get a pasting…..