Here in The Shed, we have been discussing a subject of some local importance – stove management.

What is the best way to balance the draught?

One professional tip, The Shed has discovered, is never to shut off the secondary airflow, through the holes at the top of the face. In the chamber between the fuel and the flue, you always want enough air for the gases given off by the fire to burn brightly, rather than turn into sticky deposits on the glass. To save fuel, build low rather than burning too slow.

Once your stack is lit, you can slow down the rate of burn by balancing the draught from the bottom vents and the pull from the flue. Seems to us it’s a matter of using your judgement – nudging things down a bit when all is going well and everybody is warm enough and opening up when you lose sight of the glow. But further wisdom on the matter would be gratefully received, via


* Sometimes, The Shed just takes a little time to read the papers, so you don’t have to.

Around here, there will have some interest in Christina Lamb’s report for Sunday Times, 27.12.15, on the diaries of Jack Howard, a 3 Para soldier who lived through several years of intensive engagement with the Taliban before being killed by an American airstrike.

Most of the story is currently behind the Times firewall but you can find the official link to it at

When he first arrived, in 2008, the soldier noted down some of the tales of Camp Bastion folklore – including the one about the media ops team which “showed a town a video about keeping families together, using whales as an example”.

The locals fled the cinema in terror of the sea and its monsters is the punchline of the story.

The Shed could not help a groan at the whole idea of a media ops team, trying to win the war by showing the Afghanis self-improvement videos.


* Also of interest to MoD interests, in the same edition of the Sunday Times, was a report on a Poppy Day trial for anti-drone technology. The paper had photographs of a radar installation at New Scotland Yard which it said supported a leaked report that systems designed to take out any small drones over London airspace were tested during the Remembrance Sunday parade in the capital this year. According to the newspaper’s source, the system was tested and performed well and is likely to become an essential component of event security quite quickly.


* Who got the new Adele album for Christmas?

The Shed has yet to hear it, but on overhearings so far, was inclined to think veteran Aussie critic Clive James nailed it when he wrote on December 12 2015:

“She needs a song to match her voice. I have listened several times to her smash hit, Hello. I was hoping that the shapely beauty of her opening phrase would hook me for what remains of my forever. But the opening phrase never really arrives. The whole number is one of those big ballads in which the singer whispers her way through a verse section that hasn’t got a melody and then goes soaring and bellowing into a chorus section that hasn’t got a melody either. The virtuosity leaves you yawning with admiration.”

Here in The Shed we call it X Factor Blight.


* Guardian of 2.1.2016 had an interesting report by Sukhdev Sandhu on an interview with the social historian Luc Sante, an expert on the low life of cities and a consultant to Martin Scorsese on Gangs Of New York.

His latest book is The Other Paris.

The Belgian-born author says most Americans nowadays think of Paris in terms of fashion mag images of “gracious living, style, belle-epoque curlicues, fine dining, shabby chic … topiary-clipped poodles”. But the start of the love affair was very different.

Speaking in New York, he summed up: “When there was prohibition here, poor people went to Mexico, but for anybody with money, Paris was where you could drink yourself into a stupor and not risk breaking the law. Paris was licentious. It was the capital of ass. America still has this Puritan backbone, still this Calvinist restraint: Paris is the inverse of that.”

The Guardian report says: “Sante’s Paris, already on its way out by the 1950s, teems with balladeers and immigrants, pickpockets and political exiles, prostitutes and clochards, squatters and Situationists … washerwomen wringing their laundry on the banks of the Canal Saint-Martin, 19th-century gangs who, excited by James Fenimore Cooper’s depictions of Native Americans, named themselves ‘Apaches’.”

Read more and find a link to the Guardian bookshop offer on The Other Paris at


* The Shed also enjoyed another Guardian writer, Sarah Vitum, defining what she wants in a gothic novel …

“A novel that smells of blood and old Bibles and sex, ripe as a walled-up corpse.”


* Also noted, in the Observer around New Year, Ruby Wax recommending I Am A Pilgrim by Terry Hayes …

A thriller of the sort where if you start reading it on the loo, you will never get off again.”


* Somewhere along the line, The Shed noted a recommendation for Kacey Musgraves and her album Same Trailer, Different Park.

Found her performing a spoofy country number (Roll your own biscuits and life will be gravy) at

and enjoyed it.
* Also liked Elle King at
* And we recommend Rocket To Stardom, a rockabilly band specialising in Kris Kristofferson songs and currently backing him on tour …



allfornow …





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