Category Archives: Writings

The Masterson Inheritance

Here is something unique. A long form improvised comedy series.
Described as “an improvised historical saga of a family at war with itself.”

It’s notable for its well known improvisors:
Josie Lawrence
Paul Merton
Caroline Quentin

Also along for the ride is
Phelim McDermott,
Lee Simpson
Jim Sweeney

Get it if you can, half the fun is in the missteps and stuff-ups.

Cabin Pressure

Cabin Pressure is another excellent BBC Comedy series.

Written by and starring John Finnemore it follows the exploits of the oddball crew of the single aeroplane owned by “MJN Air” as they are chartered to take all manner of items, people or animals across the world.

Also starring
Stephanie Cole
Roger Allam
Benedict Cumberbatch

There are four series and it’s consistently well written and funny.

Get it from Audible.


James Preston

This is a brief biography of a distant ancestor.



James Preston

Born 1720/21
Died March 1807

We know nothing of James early life. He did serve in the merchant service.

On 22nd August 1749 he married Mary Selkeld at St Benett Church Paul’s Wharf London. On 14th August 1750 he was aboard RMS Royal Ann and wrote on 25th September to the Lords of the Admiralty seeking Preferment (he was probably an ordinary seaman at this time). he was discharged from HMS Antelope 23rd December 1757. In 1758 James was applying for his commission in the Royal Navy. In support he produced a certificate from, the master of the merchant ship wherein he served. Also journals left by himself whilst midshipman on Swan, Colchester and Antelope with Certificates from Captains Gregory, Russell, Gardiner and Savmarez as to his diligence. He passed the examinations on 9th August 1758 and was commissioned Lieutenant on 25th October.

Early 1759 he was aboard the Trident, one of the Blue Squadron under Rear Admiral Chas Holmes, sailing from Spithead on 14th of February on the way to wrest Canada from the French. In the Bay of Biscay they encountered a great storm and the Trident suffered severe damage having to put into Lisbon for repairs. These took from 10th March to 10th April and while there the crew suffered badly from fever.

Meanwhile Saunders, the commanding Admiral of the expedition was unable to land at Louisberg because of the ice and went South to Halifax (NovaScotia). 19th May the fleet and transports were entering the St Lawrence estuary. By 8th June an advance party of four ships and three transports were at the Traverse just below the Ile d’Orleans. The fleet finally passed the T’raverse and were anchored in Quebec basin by 27th June. Batteries were erected on Point Levi to bombard Quebec. Wolfe setup camps and landed troops on the North bank, East of well defended french positions. These proved impregnable from that direction. Soon the 31st July an attack from the river was prepared. James was in charge of four flat bottomed boats for troop transport and two similar with canon mounted as floating batteries. The plan did not work. There was an undetected boulder bank out from the shore which initially grounded the boats, These were freed and a channel was found the first to land were grenadiers who, instead of waiting for the full force to land and against orders rushed the enemy with great loss of men and officers. The whole force then withdrew, the boats that were stuck fast were stripped and burnt. Wolfe was depressed! Meanwhile Quebec town was being pounded to rubble. The lower town was totally destroyed and the upper suffered much damage.

Wolfe was getting desperate it was September and before winter came the fleet had to be away. He decided the final attack would be made West of Quebec and to this end he marched most of the troops West past Point Levi after dark on 12th September. James was in charge of flat bottomed boats landing the troops about one mile up stream from Quebec. After midnight the boats came silently downstream passing several French pickets and successfully landed the first troops who had to scramble up the cliff hanging onto bushes and stumps. The boats then went back and across the over to ferry the other soldiers over – in all 3,600 were landed. Once the troops were ashore James was in command of landing the cannon and the sailors had to man handle this armament up to the level ground. The action was successful and won Quebec, but both General Wolfe and General Montcalm, the Fench commander were killed along with 1,200 French and 58 British soldiers.

After Quebec, Admiral Saunders sailed to England before the winter, leaving troops in Quebec to winter over-unenviable duty. We do not know if the Trident with James retuned with the fleet – I would suspect it did.

In 1760 The Trident was once more on the St Lawrence and James was in charge of taking troops ashore for the assault on Montreal which capitulated on 8th September 1760 (we have a
testimonial from Lieutenant General I ‘ Murray certifying as to James distinguished service in the Navy during these campaigns, signed and dated 10th July 1776).

After the French surrender James escorted the transports evacuating the French troops and saw them safe to Eastward of point Champlain. He was then ordered to go and rescue the Governor of Canada whose ship was aground in mid river above Montreal. He managed to get the ship off and delivered the Governor to Commodore Swanton who commanded at Quebec.

On 25th October Trident was anchored off the Ile d’Orleans, probably on her way down river. Evidence of what James did after the Canadian campaign is sketchy. On 10th January 1761 he was appointed 2nd Lieutenant of the Trident and on 10th July 1776 2nd Lieutenant of the Hector. In 1780 he submitted to the Admiralty details of a method of using warships as fire-ships. Their Lordships did not consider this either proper or usable. In 1781 he was once again promoting an improved (he hoped!) weapon. This was a new style of gun carriage. After exhaustive tests by the Naval Board of ordinance this was rejected (1781).

James was residing in London; on 3rd October 1782 he was living at 30 East Street, Red Lion Square.

On the 4th March 1790, 10 articles, including chairs, a table, trunks, a carpet, window curtains and a sea chest were brought to London from Portsmouth on James account – is this the end of his Naval voyaging?

On 1st July he sailed from a wharf at Billingsgate in the Friendship master John Stephenson, destination Huddersfield.

10th July 1790 he sailed from Hull and came to anchor in the Ouse – no other information. Mary Preston died, childless, on 5th July 1792 aged 71 years. She was buried in the church at Doncaster.

In 1793 and 1794 he begat two sons George Augustus and James. Their mother was Ann Robinson of Wooldale.

James in 1796 wrote from Wooldale to the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty, petitioning for retirement and a pension. He stated he was suffering from a bilious disorder, fever, diabetes and dimness of eyesight such that he could only distinguish one man from another by voice.

On 22nd of July 1799 George Augustus and James junior were baptized at Wooldale Church before divers witnesses as the sons of Ann Robinson by James Preston.

On 1st of August 1801 James at last was granted retirement from the Navy. The Naval Board allowed only thirty officers at a time to draw a Naval Pension. James had had to wait till one died! At retirement he was granted the rank of Commander and allowed Six Shillings a day during his natural life.

He had his will drawn up and signed it on 4th September 1805 and on 8th October 1805 the two sons of James Preston were registered in the Register of Holmfirth Chapel.
James died on 2 March 1807 aged 86 years.
He is buried in the Holmfirth Chapel.

Americans !!!

Top 10 Things everyone finds annoying about Americans

  1. Too much violence, not enough nudity on television.
  2. A Kiwi is a New Zealander, not a fruit.
    The ‘Kiwi Fruit’ is called a Zespri.
  3. Threw out the British over 100 years ago, but kept
    their system of weights and measurements.
  4. Herbs is pronounced without an ‘H’.
  5. Even the vice president doesn’t understand the
    political system.
  6. Since arriving late for the last world war, too keen
    to start the next one.
  7. Elections take a year.
  8. The ‘World Series’ doesn’t include the rest of the
    world, it should be called the ‘Americas Cup’
  9. You haven’t won the ‘Americas Cup’ since 1995,
    it should be called the ‘Rich Dude’s Sailing Cup’
  10. They drive on the wrong side of the road.

Calman On

Susan Calman is a Scottish comedian, I have heard her mainly on the weekly ‘The New Quiz‘ from the BBC.

It turns out she also did a comedy series titled “Keep Calman Carry On for the BBC. In it she ‘interviews’ fellow comedians about various subjects…

Episode 1
She goes walking with Muriel Gray (who I have never heard of) up a ‘hill’ in Scotland. I’m sure it is just a hill, not a mountain as she describes it.

Episode 2
Andy Zaltzman takes her to cricket. Andy is best known as half of the Bugle team with John Oliver. The only problem Susan has is getting Andy to shut up.

Episode 3
John Finnemore takes Susan on a spontaneous holiday. This is the best episode as John is a very talkative and cheerful person, who leads Susan on a fun day out.

Episode 4
Susan visits an art gallery with Phil Jupitus (who I know from Stephen Fry’s IQ program). Phil doesn’t say much, he appears to be a shy fellow when not in front of the camera.



Tech News

From 2006

Mr Brian Harcourt of Mayfield, South Canterbury has just
invented a remarkable new computer product. This as yet unnamed
device consists of two small directional microphones and a
microchip. The microphones are attached to each side of the
monitor, and the chip is mounted inside the computer.

The microphones pick up any noises made by the computer operator and relay these to the microprocessor. After processing, a suitable
response is computed and played through the computer’s speaker.
Results were interesting to say the least, try whistling and the
computer will respond with a counter-melody. Shout obscenities
and it replies with “You could be arrested for saying that in
public. The software knows 600,000 words if the English language
(including the naughty ones). Some responses include “Shouldn’t
you read the instructions first ?”, “How would I know that, I’m
just a dumb machine” and “If you did that to your child they
would lock you up for eternity (which is a sod of a long time).
In fact it is possible to have a limited conversation with your
computer (but you probably know that already). Experiments at a
local secondary school have been generally successful. “This is
great” a teacher claims, “with this device I don’t have to answer
a lot of stupid questions all the time, the computer does it for
me. The problem is that some students will believe the computers
more than the teachers”. after some thought she added “I suppose
that we always talked to the computers, it’s just that they now
answer back”.

After several weeks of trials the project has been
abandoned because of complaints from the teachers union. They
think it could put them out of a job. Mr Harcourt has refused to
give up. He has taken his invention to England where he plans to
put his idea to Clive Sinclair.

(c) 28/2/2006


At 60

Written for a relative who was having a 60th birthday in 2006.

10 Things good about turning 60

  1. Making the ‘6’ look like a ‘5″
  2. Getting more respect from your children
  3. Still being the youngest of your siblings
  4. Still NOT a grandfather
  5. Any slowing down can be attributed to ‘getting ready for retirement’
  6. Getting less respect from your children
  7. Friends now show you to the softer seats
  8. You now have an excuse for bad behavior
  9. A greater proportion of the ladies now look younger and sexier

After the Election

Sometime after the 12 October 1996 NZ Election
(c) Nigel Baker  11/10/1996

Cabinet meeting room, parliament buildings.

In walks Jim Bolger, grinning like a Cheshire cat. He’s still the prime
minister. He takes a seat at the head of the table. Next comes Helen Clark. She is also smiling, after some quick negotiating with Jim she is now deputy PM. Ready and able to take shuffling steps forward in to the past.

Bolger waves his pudgy hands around, indicating the ten cabinet seats and who should fill them. There is some fighting over the finance seat between Birch and Cullen. Bolger wasn’t all that specific when he allocated the portfolios.

The remainder of the cabinet shuffle in like a flock of sheep.

Some appear to be missing.

Jim Anderson is absent. Despite gaining 18 seats in parliament, the
coalition between national & labour has relegated him permanently to the opposition.

Winstone Peters is the same way. He has disbanded his party. His retired helpers have gone back to their potting sheds.

You won’t find Alliance, christian or even McGillicudy Serious MPs.
All have been rendered useless by the solid block of MPs that were in the correct position to kiss leader butt.

10 minutes later :

Some MPs are beginning to pass out on the floor. Not from the heat, or lack of ventilation but from the affects of alcohol.

Doug Meyers has been helping the celebrations with some of his product. There was still some left over from last Saturday night.

“Come on Jenny, pass some of those drugs around” bellows Bolger from one end of the table to the other. A medicine bottle slides along the table. Jim stretches to catch the bottle. He has been eating a bit too much. His suit is tighter than usual. He misses the bottle, and it
breaks on the floor.

“AWW SHIT”, exclaims Birch. He is still teetering on his chair, pressing his big red nose to the polished oak table.

Doug Graham is growing impatient. “Shouldn’t we be DOING SOMETHING” he ponders aloud. “Like what ?” asks Bolger, even merrier than before. “Well, were the government now, we should be governing”.

“Don’t worry”. Bill Birch rising from table level. “It’s all been taken
care of”.

“WHAT DO YOU MEAN ?” cries Doug.

“Well”, starts Birch, “Remember all those state assets we sold during the eighties and nineties. We told you that it was to get money to balance the budget. It’s all bullshit. We were doing it so we could let others run the country and we could enjoy ourselves. We sold them to some fine fellows – Gibbs, Fay, Richwhite, Fernyhough, Kerr, Deane, Jones”

“Great school mates” Mike Moore adds.

“Great mates” Birch continues. “Although some of them were tightwad sadistic bastards, but great school mates all the same. A toast to them”.

Those MPs still conscious raise their glasses.
“TO GREAT SCHOOL MATES” they boom throughout the beehive.

Netflix Tax

The NZ ‘Netflix Tax’ starts in October 2016.
Here is my submission from Sept 2015.

Submission on GST Cross-Border Services, Intangibles and Goods

I am not an accountant, economist or employed in the financial sector. The following is a result of dealing with purchasing eBooks online for the last 5-6 years.

The report omits to mention that the European version of digital tax exempts suppliers using manual processes. The rules apply to “automated digital services” – that’s anything downloadable or used online, unless it’s custom-made. This mechanism would exclude small, specialized services from the tax regime. Our system should be consistent with the European system.

That the proposal only applies to “automated digital services”.

The euro tax has no minimum exemption, tax is collected from the first dollar earned from digital services. Adoption of this by New Zealand is likely to have the unintended consequence of digital suppliers in other countries (especially the USA) using the geographical indicators to block services to New Zealand. Small operators may not have the expertise or inclination to offer services to NZ and simply block commerce to New Zealanders.

That a minimum threshold of at least 10,000 NZD be adopted to ensure small operators do not abandon services to NZ.

New Zealand could be moved to Europe, in the Atlantic just west of Portugal and Morocco. In the right place, Cooks Strait could act as a toll-gate on shipping from the Mediterranean. Wellington would be a popular stop-off for sailors and Aucklanders could holiday in Spain and France. Unfortunately it may prove too warm for people of Scottish heritage who could migrate to Antartica. But more importantly, we would be nowhere near Australia.

If Geo-forming the planet to move NZ is too difficult, we could join the Euro MOSS as a virtual partner. It their system is so great, then another country of 4.5 million shouldn’t be a problem.

Rate This

I like to categorize, index and rate things.
From books, movies and music to shows and experiences.
(It’s the collector gene)

For books I use a 5 star system:

1 –  Not Finished
2  – Finished, Not Very Good
3 – Average
4 – Best for the Author
5 – Best of the Genre

Music in jRiver (Media Center Software) has a similar system:

1  – Track is in wrong Genre
2  – I Don’t like this
3 – Good song for this Artist
4 – Best for the Artist
5 – Best in the Genre

But how to implement this on my WordPress site ?
There is not an obvious way to do this.
But Elitist Book Reviews (also using WordPress) has come to the rescue.
Their system uses the tags:
Books We Like
Booke We Hate
Books We Love

So I’m going back through the posts and adding the take
I  Like
I Hate it
I Love it

But I’m only going to apply it to things a reader of this site could purchase. So no tagging of the local (show and theatre) and time limited things.