I think I’ve mentioned before that Wednesday night is pizza night. I come home to an empty house on Wednesday evening because the boys are all at karate, and go straight out to the local pizzeria. By the time I return, freshly cooked pizzas in hand, the boys are changed, hungry and ready for the evening meal.

So, to yesterday and, as I was walking up the main street I was struck by the lack of a welcoming neon glow ahead of me. It wasn’t long before my worst fears were realised: They were closed!

After an emergency phone call to my partner and a quick detour past a supermarket (handily open until 7:30pm) we had a stack of frozen pizzas and the immediate crisis was averted.

It’s not unusual for restaurants locally to take a couple of weeks off during quieter times. I was a little surprised, though, that they didn’t have a notice up to let customers know when they would be back. So I looked up their website when I got home and it was here that the next bombshell fell.

They have changed their opening days.

They are no longer open on Wednesdays.

Not ever.

We are going to have go somewhere else for our Wednesday pizzas.


Claudette has a couple of posts detailing a recent run-in with an email scammer. I’m reminded of the time, earlier this year, that we were blitzed by phone scammers.

Several people in the area were complaining about the calls, so I imagine someone had managed to get hold of a list of phone numbers and was working their way down it. Repeatedly. Three or four times a day, according to some people.

Inevitably enough, one of these people called us while I happened to be at home and my partner thrust the phone into my hand and asked me to make him go away. She has a touching faith in my social skills.

What follows is from memory and, therefore, not entirely accurate, but it’s close enough.

Having been passed from one person to another, our scammer felt the need to start his script again from the beginning. And it was painfully obvious that he was following a script — so much so that it felt like I was listening to a recording. (As a side note, if you are going to call random people in Flanders, it’s worth knowing a little bit of Dutch.)

Off he went:

I’m from Microsoft and we at Microsoft have detected a problem with your computer…

Okay. I get that you really want me to believe that you are calling me from Microsoft, but what is the problem?

Click. Rewind.

I’m from Microsoft and we at Microsoft have detected a problem with your computer. At Microsoft we have detected that your computer has been hacked over the internet…

Three “Microsofts” and two “detecteds”. You are never going to win at Just a Minute, but what do I need to do about this?

Click. Rewind. I’m sure you get the picture.

So I put the phone on speaker and let him run through his script until he had to stop to take a breath. At this point, I expressed suitable concern and a willingness to let him and all his pretend friends at Microsoft help me solve this devastating but previously unnoticed problem.

Now that he thought I was convinced he passed me over to his Super Leet Haxor, or Supervisor, who informed me that I would first need to open Internet Explorer.

I could see where this is going. Open a browser, visit some frighteningly dodgy URL and download a bucketload of malware. So I said, “OK, give me a moment while I turn my computer on.”

And while he waited, I carefully placed the phone handset on top of the coffee grinder.

And turned it on.

Five Things #8

Skinner Box is a short story by Carole Johnstone in which a seemingly routine scientific mission to Jupiter is threatened by the interpersonal relationships of its crew.

Over at London Reconnections, John Bull looks at the many ways in which the Harrow & Wealdstone train disaster helped shape modern Britain.

“When adults are challenged to behave like adults, by a child, they can go in one of two directions.” A psychotherapist explains why some adults are reacting badly to young climate strikers.

“If you can visualise the map of Great Britain as a wild-haired angry monster shouting at Ireland, then Essex rests above its rectum.” Tim Burrows explores the invention of Essex and how a county became a caricature.

The Register runs a regular column in which readers confess their darkest professional failings. This week we have the tale of a bug that led to management by random numbers.

Five Things #7: Better late than never

This post has taken quite a bit longer to complete than I expected, so apologies in advance if a couple of the below links feel a bit stale. They’re still worth reading, though.

“Hence gradually the onion skins have been peeled away until the fetid heart of [Brexit] is exposed: not a policy but an undeliverable fantasy composed of lies and articulated in the language of spite, contempt and hate.” — Chris Grey on the Supreme Court judgment and its aftermath.

On a related note, Nick Barlow points out that democracy is a process, not an event.

I loved Spitting Image back in the day and was delighted to hear that the satirical puppet show is making a a comeback. Adam J Smith and Jo Waugh take this opportunity to point out that there has been a problem inherent in British caricature for 300 years.

Ben Orlin explains why 1 isn’t a prime number.

And Wumo explains the stock market:



Whenever Belgium has an election, much time is spent on forming coalitions and these happen at all levels. The last set of elections were on May 26th and, while the federal government negotiations are still ongoing, the separatist, centre-right and liberal parties in the Flemish parliament have managed to agree a coalition which means that Flanders now has a government.

It’s not been the best of starts for the leader of this coalition, Jan Jambon, who was caught playing a game on his smartphone while a parliamentary session was in progress. He does, however, have an explanation:

… he was playing ‘Toy Blast’ and not ‘Angry Birds’ as had been widely reported.

So that’s alright then.

English people speaking Dutch

This is what I asked for.

This is what the nice young man behind the bar handed to me.

I’m not sure how I managed to mispronounce Chimay Blauw quite that badly but, given that I did, I should probably stick to coffee for the rest of today.

For the record, I don’t normally drink bottled water. In fact, I never drink bottled water because the very idea of putting water into bottles and then charging people for the inconvenience strikes me as being fundamentally stupid. But it’s popular in Belgium.

And sparkling bottled water tastes disgusting.

Five Things Four

How to walk a human being. A guide for dogs from The Oatmeal.

Staying with dogs for a moment, Wes Siler has some thoughts on how to pick the right dog for you. This is a subject that we keep returning to.

Hotter European summers and more frequent and recurrent heat waves have spawned a proliferation of wildfires around Europe. Portugal has a simple, low-cost and environmentally sustainable solution: goats. Now they just need more goatherds.

Allison Kinney remembers working at a roadside produce stand, selling “local” food to arrogantly ignorant foodies from nearby cities.

And finally, Oliver Franklin-Wallis looks into what really happens to all that plastic you carefully sort into separate bins.