Sunday, 31 March 2013

Never work with children or animals - W.C.Fields

Who would believe this was not posed?

I had tried to get grandson Dominic to play ball, so to speak, but he was not in a co-operative mood.  So I took a photo anyway and just as I did so, he dropped Charlie Bear and this was the result.
With the delay on my digital camera I could not have caught this intentionally!

Saturday, 30 March 2013

Aylesbury Arm Closed

This time last year we were sitting in Aylesbury Basin waiting for the canal to be opened for the weekend so we could start cruising.  Yes, there was a shortage of water and the arm was closed for several months. 
Photo by roving photographer - Annie Brown
Yesterday I spoke to Malcolm & Annie on Xilion Rose to see how their first day of cruising went only to find that they were stuck in the basin.
This time due to a lock collapsing.  Lock 12 (one up from Red House) not far from the Arla milk factory has suffered a wall collapse.  The canal is thus closed from lock 11 to 13.  The collapse is on the towpath side so that too is closed.  As yet there is no indication of when repairs will be effected.
This picture was taken on Saturday and apparently the ground is still moving.
By the time this is published it will probably have collapsed.
Less that a week ago the Huddersfield Narrow Canal was closed due to a lock gate coming adrift. No re-opening date for that yet.
Last summer the Trent & Mersey canal was closed by two breaches - one massive - the most recent estimate for re-opening is sometime in May
Not a good start for the Canal and Rivers Trust, but they have not shown much interest in the boaters so far.

Tuesday, 26 March 2013


We had to go to Leeds today and after completing our  business we took the scenic route back to the station.  I had not realised that there are so many arcades in the city, each with its own character.
Thornton's Arcade
Thornton's Arcade

Queens Arcade

Queens Arcade

County Arcade
 And this is not all of them by any means

Sunday, 24 March 2013

Bullying Cyprus

Today is Palm Sunday and whilst the EU is playing  
let's bash Cyprus cuz they're only little 
I thought you would like to see this photo I took in Limasol last year.

Happy Easter

Saturday, 16 March 2013


Alvin Lee, the legendary guitarinst with Ten Years After died on March 6 in Spain.
A few years ago I wrote a piece about him - 
I have nothing more to add

Rock  IPeace  Alvin

The Digital Fallacy

Labelling anything today as digital bestows an aura of enhanced quality which is quite unjustified. If we exclude my hobbyhorse - the declining quality of photography - and consider DAB (Digital Audio Broadcast) radio.
The government plans to phase out all national FM radio broadcasts and replace them with DAB services.  This is being sold to the public as an improvement and the arguments being used to support it are often fallacious.

Take this one:  reported in   the Daily Telegraph: July 2010
New research to be published later today claims to show broadcasting digitally is more energy efficient than analogue. It suggests that transmitting Classic FM nationally via DAB uses less than 7% of the electricity needed to transmit it via FM.
(Evidence from Sweden and Switzerland which takes into account the extra transmitters required indicate that the figure is more like 15%)

Now consider this submission to the OFCOM consultation 

"The consultation fails to consider another unfortunate characteristic DAB radios,their power consumption. My FM only radios work for around 100 hours on a set ofbatteries, but my DAB radios only work for about 6 hours.The environmental impact of additional battery usage must be considered as part of
the switch over plans.Additionally, the short battery life makes ‘portable’ DAB radios impractical without access to mains power. So in a rural area (eg. North Norfolk), where both DAB and FM coverage is poor, I can locate my FM radio on window ledges, tops of cupboards etc. which is not practical for DAB radios that need mains power most of the time"

The author is an ordinary radio listener with no interests in the broadcast industry.
He is a telecommunications professional, but not active in the radio industry.He is a Chartered Engineer and Fellow of the Institution of Engineering Technology(formally IEE). He holds a full UK amateur radio licence and specialises in using amateur radio’s digital modes.He lives in London but has a second home in North Norfolk so is familiar with broadcast radio reception issues in city and rural environments and while driving.

According to RAJAR (the body which measures radio audiences) the hours of radio listening per year is currently 1,040,000,000 hours.  
That's a lot of batteries.

Moving national radio stations to DAB will utilise the waveband spectrum more efficiently: more stations can be squeezed into a given waveband (12.7 times as many).As we have seen above, whilst this saves money for the broadcaster it will increase costs considerably the consumer.  With a DAB radio it will scan available stations and save them as presets. This would be a boon to us as each time we moor up we may be in a different catchment area for radio.  So I bought a portable radio but it was using a set of batteries every day: rechargeable were even worse - it was impossible to recharge them quickly enough. I calculated that my DAB machine was consuming batteries 17 times as fast as the FM portable (in which rechargeables last weeks)  The other problem I encountered is that the DAB signal is more susceptible to physical obstruction by hills and buildings. We know boaters who select their mooring spot by the TV signal strength available: we use other criteria and could not accept DAB to determine where we moor.

So what are the benefits to the consumer of DAB?
- More radio channels.  When DAB was introduced in 2006, residents in southern Norway experienced an increase from 6 channels to 21.
- Reduced interference from adjacent channels - crosstalk. 
-Enhanced features. DAB radios search for available stations and carry information such as song names etc.
- No hiss when the signal is weak (it just breaks up and disappears)
And the disadvantages?
 -No hiss when the signal is weak - it breaks up and disappears 
- DAB is meant to improve fidelity but that has not been the case to date.
A BBC R&D White paper in June 2003 states: 
A value of 256 kbit/s has been judged to provide a high quality stereo broadcast signal. However, a small reduction, to 224 kbit/s is often adequate, and in some cases it may be possible to accept a further reduction to 192 kbit/s, ..... At 192 kbit/s, it is relatively easy to hear imperfections in critical audio material.
In July 2006 when BBC reduced Radio 3 broadcasts from 192 to 160kbts the ensuing complaints by listeners forced them to return to the former level.  Radio 4, however, fares less well.  During the day, programmes are broadcast at 128kbts and in stereo, but in the evenings they are reduced to 80kbts and mono, whilst the same programmes on FM are still broadcast in stereo.
- Digital delay.  Because of the decoding and de-interlacing required within the receiver DAB programmes are heard 2-4 seconds later than FM ones.  This is confusing when you have an FM radio in one room and DAB in another as they are always out of step.  It can be even more annoying when listening to a live event.

So do we feel that programmes with a discernably poorer definition  and perhaps in mono with a digital delay and costing us 17 times as much to listen to is an improvement?

Friday, 15 March 2013

Duplicitous BBC

An exract from the BBC website-

About Neverwhere

Beneath the streets of London there is another London. A subterranean labyrinth of sewers and abandoned tube stations. A somewhere that is Neverwhere.
An act of kindness sees Richard Mayhew catapulted from his ordinary life into a subterranean world under the streets of London. Stopping to help an injured girl on a London street, Richard is thrust from his workaday existence into the strange world of London Below.
So begins a curious and mysterious adventure deep beneath the streets of London, a London of shadows where the tube cry of 'Mind the Gap' takes on new meaning; for the inhabitants of this murky domain are those who have fallen through the gaps in society, the dispossessed, the homeless. Here Richard meets the Earl of Earl’s Court, Old Bailey and Hammersmith, faces a life-threatening ordeal at the hands of the Black Friars, comes face to face with Great Beast of London, and encounters an Angel. Called Islington.
Joining the mysterious girl named Door and her companions, the Marquis de Carabas and the bodyguard, Hunter, Richard embarks on an extraordinary quest to escape from the clutches of the fiendish assassins Croup and Vandemar and to discover who ordered them to murder her family. All the while trying to work out how to get back to his old life in London Above.
A six part adaption of Neil Gaiman’s novel adapted by Dirk Maggs for Radio 4 and Radio 4 Extra, sees James McAvoy as Richard lead a stellar cast which includes Natalie Dormer, David Harewood, Sophie Okonedo, Benedict Cumberbatch, Christopher Lee, Anthony Head, David Schofield, Bernard Cribbens, Romola Garai, George Harris, Andrew Sachs, Lucy Cohu, Johnny Vegas, Paul Chequer, Don Gilet and Abdul Salis.

What this very inviting preview does not say:

After the first episode on Radio 4 (FM) the next five episodes will be broadcast only on Radio 4 Extra (DAB)

I can think of only one reason for this and it is illustrated graphically by the following bar graph from OFCOM.  The public are not buying DAB radios fast enough for BBC.  The government has confirmed repeatedly that national FM radio will not be switched off until 50% of radio listening is digital and national coverage is equal to that of FM and also covers 90% of all roads.

By the way - the OFCOM site explains that the fall from 28% to 22% is  within the scope of error of this survey and should not be considered significant. If a 21% drop is not significant what figure would be significant?

A Piece of Halifax

Make haste while the the sun shines is not a well-known adage as I only coined it ten minutes ago but I fully expect it to enter popular culture as the weather changes become ever more rapid. Following this soon-to-be-popular adage, last week we took our bus passes for some exercise every time the sun came out. Although the quickest public transport route to Halifax from Burnley is by train, it costs money. So we decided to try the bus services.  This proved to be a more enjoyable journey through the Lancashire and Yorkshire countryside. than trying to catch the sights as they speed past the train.
In Todmorden where we changed buses, we demonstrated our bravery by buying a "beef" pie for lunch. (Come on!!! Keep up with the news)
If you have, or can acquire, some children aged between 5 and 12 years old then Eureka! The National Children's Museumin Halifax is the place for them to take you.
On this occasion we decided to forgo this pleasure in order to see the town from an adults perspective..
We found three architectural gems and a Chinese buffet.

The most difficult to see is the Market Hall because it is full of market stalls!

Catching glimpses of the elegant structure and of the clock between the stall as I walked around soon caused She Who Must Be Obeyed to disown me as I was colliding with the genuine shoppers.

The Town Hall was designed by Sir Charles Barry who was also responsible for the Palace of Westminster (although he relied heavily on Pugin for the execution of that project, particularly the interior)
Barry died before either building was complete and both projects  were finished by his son Edward.

But it was not the exterior which left the greatest impression on us.

Enter the hall at the bottom of the tower and look up at the elegant cupola set off  by the delicate chandelier.

Then take a left turn into the Victoria Hall.  Ascend to the balcony for an enhanced perspective on the space and a closer study of the Mansard roof panels. The light and space which the roof design bestows on the hall were not presaged by heavy exterior.

If the council chamber (former court room) is unoccupied then  take the opportunity to look up at another roof. With its heavy wood panelling and bench seating this room is more sombre than Victoria Hall but the classwork is even more impressive.

We were unable to enter the mayor's Parlour but I found this glass panels in the door intriguing.

The inscription  - Halez Fax - sounds as though it could be the origin of the name Halifax but I have not found a convincing translation or explanation yet.

Despite all this wonderful decor Halifax's Pièce de Résistance has to be  The Piece Hall.

In the days before the Industrial Revolution woollen  cloth production was carried out in private homes - a true cottage industry. Often one family would spin yarn whilst another would weave cloth from it.  It was generally sold in  Pieces ie: lengths of 30 yards.  The width was determined by the size of the loom. In the eighteenth century so many families were producing woollen cloth in and around Halifax that it was decided that purpose-built market place was needed where the trade could be organised.  Two sites were considered and in true Yorkshire character the site which was offered free of charge was chosen for the Piece Hall. despite it being on sloping ground. It opened on 1st January 1779 with 315 sale rooms around a courtyard 100 yards on each side providing 10,000 square yards of open space.
Each room was 12ft x 8ft with one door and one window. Some of the original blown glass remains and records show that some tenants came from as far afield as Skipton, Burnley and Keighley. Trading took place between 10am and noon each Saturday. Tenants had access from 8am to 3pm and were fined for breaches of the rules such as selling outside the allotted hours or sweeping rubbish through the railings.  The porter who administered the rules was very strict as his only remuneration came from the fines he imposed.
Inevitably, as mechanisation was introduced to the woollen industry, production  was concentrated in factories and 35 years after its inauguration the Piece Hall was struggling to fill 200  of the rooms each week. By 1868 it ceased to operate and was handed over to the corporation who adapted it for use as a fruit and vegetable market. 
It was around this time that the gateway on Horton Street was enlarged to accommodate vehicles and these lovely cast iron gates erected.

In 1972 the Piece Hall had fallen into such a state of disrepair that Halifax Corporation decided to demolish it but when the Council vote was taken, it was saved by one vote!

 We also liked:

1930s Cinema

Burton the Tailors
Shop on the ground floor:
Dance hall on the first floor

Monday, 11 March 2013

Reedley Marina Expansion

When we were here in 2009 the marina had only been open for about a year and there were already plans to extend it from the 100 or so berths.  Then came the credit crunch: a rash of boat-builders going bust and suddenly there are more marina berths than boats looking for them.
Barden Mill with its extensive water frontage
However renewed optimism has emerged with a full marina and the decision to merge the mill business of Barden Mill, (the owners of Reedley Marina) with that of Junction 12  which is further along the canal beyond  Brierfield The plan is to demolish the mill buildings and to build 19 high quality town houses.

Plans courtesy of Barden Mill Ltd

 At present the mill occupies the lower third of this map (left):  Reedley Marina is in the centre; and the proposed expansion is at the top of the plan. where the water appears blue.

The new  extension will differ from the current marina in two particulars.  Firstly, at its southern end, there will be purpose-designed berths for wide-beam boats to moor in pairs,.
Secondly, it will be a lay-by design which is cheaper to construct and more convenient for access by the wide-beamed boats which are popular on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal..


The view of Pendle Hill , however, will remain  - just shared by more boaters.

Tuesday, 5 March 2013

More Water

Back in the 1970s I was discussing the viability of selling bottled water in Britain with the MD af a major soft drinks company. He was considering launching a brand of bottled water imported from France. Despite my pointing out that the packaging and transport costs would exceed the cost of the water he still went ahead.  I guess that is why I never made MD. Over roughly the same period that the London Marathon has been run - 1993-2011 - the UK bottled water market (including water coolers), grew from 580 million litres to almost 2.1 billion litres and in 2011 was worth £1.5 billion.  Sales in this country of locally-produced waters continue to account for more than 75% of bottled water drunk here. As a nation we now drink more bottled water than fruit juices/nectars, wine or spirits. (But not beer!)
According to  the British Bottled Water Producers  this  "is testament, perhaps, to the now ubiquitous acceptance of the advice to drink eight glasses of water a day for optimum health". See  my post Drinking Water  for comments on statements of that nature .
UK bottled water consumption per person in the  last decade has increased from 26.9 litres in 2001 to 34 litres in 2011.  Italy, however, is still top of the charts with an average per capita consumption of  155 litres.
Sales of still water out-strip sparkling water at an increasing rate, In 1998 sparkling water accounted for 30% of the bottled water market: twenty years later that share had fallen to 15%
More pub quiz facts for you:

  • In the UK we drink five times as much tea as bottled water and almost three times as much beer as bottled water: but the gap is narrowing  on both these beverages.
  • UK bottled water exports amounted to 64 million litres in 2011 – a slight increase compared with the previous year.

  • The Univesity of Nottingham Environmental Technology Centre has compiled a long list of reasons for not drinking bottled water. Here are a few of them:
    -Typically bottled water retails at up to 500 times more than the price of tap water
    - The majority of bottled water is sold in PET (polyethylene terephthalate) bottles. All PET bottles can be recycled. However in 2007 it is estimated that  of the 13bn plastic bottles of water that were sold in the UK, only 3bn were recycled.
    - Most plastic bottles for bottled water are produced using a virgin petroleum feedstock. It takes 162g of oil and seven litres of water to manufacture a single one litre volume disposable PET bottle.

  • Monday, 4 March 2013

    Lies, damn lies and Statistics

    The first published occurrence of the remark, often attributed to Mark Twain, was in 1891  in The National Observer -  
    There are three kinds of falsehood . The first is the fib, the second is the downright lie, and the third and most aggravated is statistics. - Anon
    Although the much punchier version was popularised by Mark Twain, he himself attributed it to Disraeli: however it does not appear in any of his speeches so I am inclined towards the National Observer's anonymous contributor.
    So why am I considering this phrase?  In my recent post - Drinking Water -I used some statistics relating to deaths occurring in the London Marathon to illustrate the point I was making regarding the relative risk from drinking too much or too little water. I could have chosen other statistics but the ones I used were selected because:
    1)  They supported my point quite dramatically (!)
    2)  They related to a situation where I expected the opposite result, i.e. that dehydration was more of a danger when running a marathon.
    Research into illness, injury and death in the London Marathon has been extensive and if you want to read more try Peak Performance webiste. For those who would just  like some reassurance, here are a couple of facts to consider.
    - Only those deaths, or collapses leading to deaths , that occur during the marathon or within the finish area are considred marathon deaths.
    - The overal mortality rate from the 20 years  is one in 67,414 or roughly one death in every 2 million miles run.

    Saturday, 2 March 2013

    Breaking Ice

    Clear skies have brought us bright sunny days and frosty nights for the past four days.  On Thursday we walked along the canal into Burnley to catch the bus to Halifax. As we approached the railway bridge we heard what sounded like a very sick train crashing along. But no train came.
    Instead the hire boat Tawny was crashing through the ice on her return from having the hull blacked at Botany Bay !

    Friday, 1 March 2013

    St. David's Day

    Dydd gwyl Dewi Sant hapus
    Baner cenedlaethol Cymru 
    Best Wishes for St David's Day 
    Welsh Leek

    St David's Day is celebrated in Wales on 1 March, in honour of Dewi Sant or St David, the patron saint of Wales. Little is known about him for certain. What little information we have is based on an account of his life written by Rhigyfarch towards the end of the 11th century.

    From the 12th century onwards, Dewi's fame spread throughout South Wales and as far as Ireland and Brittany. St David's Cathedral became a popular centre of pilgrimage, particularly after Dewi was officially recognised as a Catholic saint in 1120. From this period on, he was frequently referred to in the work of medieval Welsh poets such as Iolo Goch and Lewys Glyn Cothi. In 1398, it was ordained that his feast-day was to be kept by every church in the Province of Canterbury. Though the feast of Dewi as a religious festival came to an end with the Protestant Reformation in the 16th century, the day of his birth became a national festival during the18th century.

    According to this Latin manuscript, Dewi died in the year 589. His mother was called Non, and his father, Sant, was the son of Ceredig, King of Ceredigion. After being educated in Cardiganshire, he went on pilgrimage through south Wales and the west of England, where it is said that he founded religious centres such as Glastonbury and Croyland. He even went on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, where he was made archbishop.

    St. David's Cathedral
    He eventually settled at Glyn Rhosyn (St David's), in south-west Wales, where he established a very strict ascetic religious community. Many miracles have been attributed to him, the most incredible of which was performed when he was preaching at the Synod of Llanddewibrefi - he caused the ground to rise underneath him so that he could be seen and heard by all. How much truth is in this account of his life by Rhigyfarch is hard to tell. It must be considered that Rhigyfarch was the son of the Bishop of St David's, and that the Life was written as propaganda to establish Dewi's superiority and defend the bishopric from being taken over by Canterbury and the Normans.

    Watercolour sketch of Welsh woman knitting, showing footless stockings, mid-19th century The image of the 'Welsh Lady', in a tall black hat, red shawl and flannel skirt is very well known. It has become the national costume of Wales. But how does it compare with what was really worn in the past?
    Perhaps this illustration from the National Museum of Wales more accurately depicts the origin of the national dress we see today.


    The harpist at Llanover Court, 19th century

    So - do the Welsh have a kilt?
    Although Lady Llanover created 'a weird and wonderful' costume made for her court harpist (left), she was not particularly concerned with a national costume for men. As a result, Welsh men do not have a national dress, although attempts have been made in recent decades to 'revive' a Welsh kilt which never in fact existed! Even in Scotland, there is evidence to show that the kilt as we know it today is a comparatively modern development from the belted plaid, which was a more substantial garment worn across the shoulder.