Thursday 26 July 2012

getting a bit hot

Folk who drive around in old old cars will be familiar with the occasional need to do something a bit proactive for the car's welfare. My parents recalled the traditional ritual of radiators boiling over on Shap Fell, before the M6 tamed that bit of Cumbria; for my part, no summer would be complete without our having chugged up Telegraph Hill on the A38 west of Exeter, at about 15 MPH, with a queue of frustrated motorists behind, all the windows open and the heater going full blast to try to keep the water temperature down.

I've been watching the temperature gauge closely for ages; I replaced the radiator four years ago, after some serious overheating resulted in a cracked cylinder head; everything was running fine until a few months back, and then I started to see the operational temperature creeping slowly upward. And this hot weather pushed it up beyond 90C the other day; and it's a real bind driving around with the heater on in a heatwave.

So I took the radiator out and backflushed it, and shook all the loose bits of matrix out, and hoovered the whole damn thing, and stuck it back. 

Situation improved, but I may install a summer thermostat; a 74C one arrived in the post yesterday....

Tuesday 17 July 2012

bring back Bristol's Zil lane!

 There have been some changes on the local roads here in Bristol. Just around the corner from me, the Westbury Road (see picture)  has had one of its three lanes re-designated as a bus lane. In the screenshot above, you can see the former configuration. Between the White Tree roundabout and the Henleaze Rd junction (top left), the centre lane was divided between a right filter for the northbound traffic, and a right filter for the southbound traffic.

In this picture, typical of an off-peak traffic flow, we see

  • 14 cars in the southbound/left filter lane
  • 5 cars in the northbound lane
  • 2 cars in the northbound right filter lane
  • 0 cars in the southbound right filter lane

The southbound right filter lane did, though, prove to be very useful for people in a hurry. Never a journey would go by without my seeing someone charge down the right filter lane, then go straight across the roundabout, forcing their way into the southbound stream, a manoeuvre that involved a hard acceleration into the roundabout and close scrapes with both the cars using the correct lane procedure, and pedestrians using the zebra crossing that's just out of shot in the lower right corner.

It was quite a fun game, actually, guessing which car in the right hand lane would do it. White vans, taxis, Range Rovers, and anything black and shiny were, of course, top of the list of candidates; and, on the rare occasions that they actually did turn right, I would reflect that I should work harder at overcoming my prejudices. So it could be morally improving as well as entertaining.

Now, the entire middle lane is dedicated to southbound and right-turning traffic The southbound left hand lane is now the bus lane, with a left filter for non-bus lane traffic in the section close to the roundabout.  

 Driving south the other week, I was surprised to see a couple of people on the adjacent pavement, waving placards objecting to the bus lane and handing out leaflets inviting drivers to sign a petition. I was surprised, because the new road configuration seems to be a much better use of resources than the previous one.

And then I got an e-mail, also inviting me to sign the petition, with the explanation that

I had this link passed to me by a Henleaze Parent. If you have a strong view about the new bus lane, the petition needs signing soon, as it closes on 19 July.
I'm a parent, though only a lower-case one. I imagine that to qualify as a Henleaze Parent With A Capital P, you need to actually use a large car to take your children to school and to all their social engagements. This supposition was further reinforced when I looked at their Facebook page, where one commenter complains about the journey time to a Bristol school, from the motorway.Though obviously they're not a Henleaze Parent, other than in spirit.

I do have strong views, but the course of action that those views lead me to is not the signing of a petition. Unless it's a counter petition to say how good the bus lane is. Hence my writing this.

I replied to the e-mail, explaining my position. I was heartened to see another dissenting opinion expressed by S*****, who has found cycling along that section of road much better and safer than it had been (it's not on my normal cycling route, but on the one occasion I did go that way, I was favourably impressed too).


People advantaged by the bus lane:

  • bus passengers
  • cyclists
  • taxi drivers

People disadvantaged by the bus lane

  • the chancers who used the old southbound right filter lane to queue jump
  • drivers turning right at the roundabout (a demonstrably low proportion of total traffic)

Gosh, that's a tough one!

postscript: The This bus lane is madness Facebook page doesn't seem to like dissenting voices; my friend Liz had her observations deleted. Mine lasted a little longer, but disappeared after an anti-bus lane driver (and evidently queue-jumper) apparently condoned illegal driving and put the blame for it at the door of the Council. Since it's so interesting, I reproduce it here.

SC: Once you were perfectly entitled to use the right-hand lane for the top of Black Boy (sic), before they changed the priority.

DM: ...looking at the historical imagery on Google Earth, the right-hand lane appears to have been consistently a right-filter since 1999, the earliest historical layer on GE.

SC: I think this is one of the unreported side effects of continual council interference - driver frustration that can then lead to people having contempt for the rules of the road. Its most obvious form is people jumping red lights (after the green period has been markedly reduced) which is getting more and more common. BCC is at fault here. They are a joke and a growing number of people are clearly ignoring their diktats. I've even seen people cutting corners by driving over the Downs.

DM: The belief that one is above the law is nothing new - do you remember that Cabinet Minister under Thatcher, who got nobbled for a flagrant disregard of the traffic regs, and gave his opinion that 'rules are for little people'? Who the heck was that? Refreshingly honest, anyway; and nice to hear similar frankness from you!

Monday 16 July 2012

MacArthur Parkin

The perfect recipe for the weather we've been having lately: the cake you can leave out in the rain*

Ideal for round-the-world yachtspeople; goes lovely with a mug of tea.


 4 oz butter
4 oz Muscovado sugar
2 eggs
10 oz molasses
8 oz flour
1 tsp ginger
4 oz preserved ginger
2 tbsp milk
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
Beat the sugar with the butter, mix in the eggs and treacle, sift in the flour and ginger and add the preserved ginger; warm the milk, add the bicarb to it and stir into the mixture.

Pour the mix into a lined, greased 7" cake tin, and bake at mark 3, 160° for 1½ hours. Remove from the oven, and leave it out in the rain for 24 hours, or as long as you feel like.

Print this, and present it to anyone who expresses doubt as to their ability to get the recipe.

*especially if you put it in a Tupperware box.

what happened on the Sally in the Woods Wild Swim

What with all the recent rain lately, I'd been anxiously watching the Avon's water level on the Environment Agency's website. It'd been in the blue (flooding possible) zone for days, and was still up there but descending slowly. 
Sunday morning level is right in the middle of this graph
 Sunday morning was cool and cloudy, but with great cracks in the sky where the dawn was breaking through. As I got the Moggy's roof bars ready for the canoe, a young fox scampered past. The sun suddenly found a gap in the houses at the end of the road, and lit up the tops of all the plane trees; all the local woodpigeons began cooing at the same moment.

The day was trying hard to be summery, and I appreciated it.

With the canoe and passengers on board, we headed to Warleigh, and were early enough to wander round the pumping station, after gaving warily at the weir. 

a photo from a previous time at Warleigh with the river in spate
(I foolishly failed to take a pic yesterday, but this is pretty much the same as it was, level-wise)
 The water was high, and brown with sediment; the drop in level below the weir was far less than usual, maybe two feet or so, rather than the usual seven or eight, and the flow over the weir itself was too great to allow for walking over it. "I don't think it would be a good idea to do the swim in that," I said; "it would be fine until something went wrong, but it would be too dangerous to arrive at the weir from upstream and rely on getting ashore. Still, let's see what the others reckon."

They reckoned the same. So we walked and paddled up the canal to Dundas, to see if the river there was safe for a swim off the pontoon.

It wasn't. "How fast do you think the current is?" asked Sarah. I watched the water, inagined a bicycle travelling at the speed of the water. 
"Eight miles an hour," I said. 
"Holly thought five. I thought it was more like ten," said Sarah. She was probably the closest. I was erring on the low side, to counteract any natural tendency for overstatement that I may have...

So we did some synchronised rocking instead, to the tune of "Row, row, row the boat gently down the stream."

Back at Warleigh for our picnic, we met some cheerful young folk who'd come along for the swim and had joined in a group also there who'd jumped in below the weir and been swept down to the ferry steps, where they scrambled out. It sounded great fun- and indeed, looked like it too, when they did it again a short while later!

Sunday 8 July 2012

Hell in Herefordshire

Hell in Herefordshire

The wild white rose is cankered
Along the vale of Lugg;
There is poison in the tankard; 
There is murder in the mug.
Through all the pleasant valley
Where stand the pale-faced kine,
Men raise the Devil's chalice
And drink this bitter wine.

Unspeakable carouses
That shame the summer sky
Take place in little houses
That look towards the Wye.
And near the Radnor border
And the dark hills of Wales,
Beelzebub is warder,
And sorcery prevails.

For, spite of Church and chapel,
Ungodly folk there be
Who pluck the cider apple
From the cider apple tree,
And squeeze it in their presses
Until the juice runs out,
At various addresses
That no-one knows about.

And, maddened by the orgies
Of that ungodly brew,
They slit each others' gorges
From one a.m. till two,
Till Ledbury is in shambles,
And in the dirt and mud
Where Leominster sits and gambles,
The dice are stained with blood.

But still, if strength suffices,
Before the day is done,
I'll go and share the vices
Of Clungunford and Clun
But watch the red sun sinking
Across the March again,
And join the secret drinking
Of outlaws at Presteigne.

E.V. Knox

(I heard this on Poetry Please, and couldn't find it on line, so here it is transcribed from the broadcast...)

Saturday 7 July 2012

getting a bit biblical

A three hundred year old mystery has been solved, thanks to the intervention of an Anglican bishop*. The Right Reverend Richard Dow, former Bishop of Carlisle, has identified pro-gay legislation  as the cause of recent floods in the North of England.

This got me thinking. Everyone knows that Teh Gay is a recent invention, a lifestyle choice brought on by excess of liberalism, a rich diet, and compulsory universal education. But... what if....?

I'd been bothered by the mystery of Richard Kidder, ever since seeing his monument in Wells Cathedral. He was the Bishop of Bath and Wells, and he and Elizabeth, his wife, were killed when a chimney fell on them during the Great Storm of 1703. Hundreds of people were drowned in floods across the Somerset Levels, of course; but obviously they were just being punished for their everyday immorality. Somerset, eh?

But why the Bish? What dark and terrible secret did he harbour, that God's wrath should have been visited upon him? -fired by the guttering light of evangelical dogma, I dangled my Scrying Onion over a dusty copy of Pevsner, and traced its gyrations. Slowly it swung. It circled.  And suddenly it came to me! I can at last reveal the awful truth.

It was all Susanna's fault.

Here she is, 'rather daringly dressed' (Pevsner), gazing up at the funerary urns of her parents, on the monument which she erected to their memory. Susanna never married; she spurned the advances of Dr Claver Morris, despite his income, his town house and carriage, and the liberally-waxed moustachios which he was wont to twirl suggestively during Richard's sermons. She died childless, in East Grinstead.

The inference is clear. Susanna was evidently a lesbian.

And there she is, flaunting herself in a cathedral! I think the time has come to drag this monument to lasciviousness and vice out into the cathedral close, and destroy it with big hammers and fire and vinegar. Perhaps we can invite the Right Reverend Richard Dow to lead the way on this one? Come the hour, come the man. Pitchforks! Fiery brands! Aux armes, citoyens!

*It was five years ago, but a flood's a flood in my opinion. Thanks, Liz, for pointing that out!

Friday 6 July 2012

something in the air

Some days, things happen in threes. Mid morning yesterday, I heard an aircraft engine that sounded a bit old-fashioned, and leaned out of the window just in time to see a Chipmunk fly over.

That's Chipmunk as in De Havilland, as opposed to Alvin and the... the ones I used to go up in in my Air Cadet days, long ago when you put on parachutes that doubled as seat cushions, and waddled over to the aircraft and hopped in and pretended it was a Spitfire.

A little later I was down in Stokes Croft, picking up some prints from Niche, who had just scanned a painting for me (it's always a bit daunting looking around in Niche- there are so many talented artists in Bristol, and they all seem to have their paintings imaged and printed there...)

...and then we stepped out of the shop and saw a blimp flying over. "Quick, hold that!" I said to House Teenager, dumping painting, prints and discs into her hands as I reached for the camera.

I Tweeted about it, and almost immediately got a reply from the crew of the blimp!

(The Guardian thing refers to the Guardian Money's recent feature "Let's move to Stokes Croft" which suggests that you can be a member of the property-owning classes and still be, you know, a bit edgy, a bit of a revolutionary. This is the magic of Stokes Croft, gentle reader. Skinny latte, please, and one of those amusing Portuguese custard pies. Expensive, but artisan made. Yum.)

Later, I saw that Carol Mapley had posted a Youtube link on Facebook, of ATC gliding in the 70s. Goodness. It brought it all back. The smell of the grass, the gliders, the drogue chutes, the Land Rovers, the battledress serge overheating in the summer sun.... the rush of the "All out!" and the ground falling away at speed and then looking down from a thousand feet and thinking "Crikey! Did I just do that?"

I did, you know...

Thursday 5 July 2012

Flying Fish


Sometimes, it's nice to do something a bit different, and paint a picture from your imagination. I did this picture last week; I saw flying fish and phosphorescence in the Indian Ocean ten years ago, and I used to have a little boat rather like this one, and still have the storm lantern. But that's as far as actual events go. That's the House Teenager there at the tiller....

There's a print of it over on Etsy.

Here's the first flying fish I ever saw; it had landed on deck during the night. It wasn't long after that I saw groups of them, flying out of the way of the boat as we zoomed along; their wings stretched out tight and shiny in the sunlight.

..and this is a drawing of plankton flashing as we zoomed by; I think this is called bioluminescence, and I don't know enough about it to know if it's a different thing from phosphorescence.... it was like silent fireworks, exploding underwater. And, like so much else far out in the ocean, it was something rich and strange.