Tresco 2016

My parents have been visiting the Isles of Scilly for over a decade. Over half term we finally got to see what the fuss is about, spending a week with them on Tresco. The tl;dr is easy: Tresco is amazing. Even if you have seen pictures of the azure waters of the Scilly archipelago, the 28 mile flight on the Skybus from Land’s End still offers a great reveal. It may have been October but it was mild and often sunny; one can only imagine what it is like here in warmer weather.

St Martin’s

From the main island of St. Mary’s, a boat took us to Tresco, a private holiday island managed by the Dorrien-Smith family as a timeshare business. Our week was spent in the Sea Garden Complex in Old Grimsby.

Sea Garden
Sea Garden

I was entranced all week by the view to the east to the islets of Northwethel and Teän and other evocatively named rocks. The archipelago may have been formed as little as 1500 years ago due to post-glacial rebound in the north of Britain which would have pushed Scilly down (which was once known by the Tolkienesque name of Ennor). I also discovered that I am a pharologist — a fan of lighthouses — and gazed over at Round Island lighthouse as often as I could (as well as the remarkable Bishop Rock far in the distance).

Looking east
Looking east
Round Island lighthouse

Tresco island is divided into three: a wild north coast, all heather and wind; a woodland interior, home to the sub-tropical botanical marvel of Abbey Garden; and glorious white beaches on three of the four sides.

The King(s) in the North!
The King(s) in the North!
Pentle Bay

I travel quite a bit and see some wonderful things but was really taken by Scilly (and Tresco in particular). Next time I shall aim for warmer seas so I can get out in a kayak.

M leaves her mark

(Sound track to Scilly.)


Interim thoughts on Brexit

EU-flag-with-Union-JackI am still furious. Some would have the 48% shut up and go away now, as if democracy were a one-time event. That is not going to happen. The “will of the people,” especially if it is perfidiously won, does not necessarily hand down some moral absolute from the gods. There must be time now to allow the people to reflect on what they have chosen and for the government to hear their voice. Those of us who are deeply dismayed at the direction our beloved country finds itself stumbling in must shout loud and clear until the very moment A50 is triggered, if it is triggered. And even then, if we have truly lost, we must still fight for maximal relationships with our European neighbours while also never letting those who did this to us forget what they have done. We do not want some technical little trade contract alone. The EU was always about more than that: we were participants in the whole project and not just consumers of it.

I am annoyed with myself. I let mild Euroscepticism initially temper my enthusiasm for the vote. And then I was naive, not really believing the Leavers could win. Oh how I wish I had found my voice earlier. I think many of us are in this position. Let us learn our lesson.

I feel a white hot rage that we have fallen victim to the game of thrones in the Conservative Party, a party I have previously supported. I believed in the One Nation project but the scales have now fallen from my eyes. The ashen faces of Boris and Gove on our joyous Independence Day said it all: this was all about their careers, now horribly complicated by the fact they would have to be held to their vacuous promises.

I am terribly sorry for our young people, whose opportunities in Europe have now been diminished. They did not want this and no-one listened to them. Europe held more for them than just the opportunity to lie on an Ibizan beach, it was a place where they could study, and work, and travel without limits, as members and not just as visitors. Europe is now made truly foreign. What a shame (unless you are lucky enough to have an Irish grandparent and thus remain a EU citizen, yet one more divisive consequence of this mucky little game).

I am worried about the union. Constitutional problems in Northern Ireland and Scotland were brushed aside by a campaign that replaced reason and facts with populism and demagoguery. Freedland is right to note the bitter irony that those who believed in the dream of an unalloyed British sovereignty may well have duped the masses into destroying Britain. Fools.

I am worried about the economy. You should be too. We *are* in for a rough ride and it will effect all of us, the poor most of all.

I am amazed at the Double Speak and shameless use of the Memory Hole: campaign promises ditched within minutes and a belief that if you keep saying contradictory things long enough, people will believe them — “You can have all of the benefits of the single market and none of the costs! It’s magic!” I suppose this is a sad consequence of the tabloid media, a failure to educate people to think critically, and the attention deficient consumers of social media who believe everything that they read. We voted for a phantom with no clue and no plan.

And then, finally, is the scab of nationalism that has been ripped away with such abandon. We do live in a country where people have been left behind and who feel threatened by globalisation, but it was the crime, first of UKIP, and then the mainstream Brexiteers, to create an environment where foreigners would be blamed. A pox on all those in power who have opened this Pandora’s Box and allowed it to be used as a weapon against immigrants. Neither they nor the EU are to blame for deprivation in Britain.

What am I doing next? I am holding on to my Conservative membership long enough to vote for Mrs May, whose Brexoscepticism looks to be useful. I am encouraging my Labour friends to do what they can to sack the utterly useless Jeremy Corbyn. I shall be allying myself with the LibDems’ Europhilia. And I shall be writing, tweeting, demonstrating and campaigning. I urge the 48 (and rising) to do the same.

How to make money at university and kill that student loan #2: survey sites that don’t suck

As my son approaches university, I decided I would try to teach him how he can make, save, and spend money on a student budget. I have written about user testing, now it’s the turn of online surveys.

Paid survey sites pay money to get your opinion about things. Bear in mind the following:

  1. Doing surveys online is really boring. To stay sane, you won’t want to spend hours doing it.
  2. Some survey sites pay little or require you to take a million surveys before you earn enough money to cash out. Avoid.
  3. Be prepared to start lots of surveys only to be told you don’t qualify.

With that in mind, let me recommend just five sites.

Non-crap survey sites in order of preference


The best is SurveyBods. One month: £13.50. Nice to look at and has interesting surveys. Well, not dreadfully uninteresting anyway.


Next is Panelbase. One month: £10.70.

Third is iPoll. One month: £10.81. American and slightly clunky, but payout is decent.

Prolific. These are surveys for academic research purposes. One month: £5.10.

Pinecone. Not many surveys but well-paid (c.£3 each). Invitation only.

Total per month: ~£40. 

Next: micro jobs.