The one-time derelict caravan has metamorphosed into a pretty snazzy looking car transporter trailer:
click pic to enlarge
It awaits its mudguards (on order)
Its first big trip will be to Newcastle to collect the Geest truck. I bet you cannot wait.
Meantime it has done two round road-test trips to Ribblehead and back on a mission to repair the viaduct web camera (done). The very long ladders fit on the trailer with length to spare. The anchorage points for the tie down straps are directly onto the metal chassis so that when tightened the load becomes part of the trailer. It tows superbly well and will be a really useful piece of kit.
I came across this image online at http://fantasystock.deviantart.com/art/Black-Polluted-Snow-116374211 :
click to enlarge
It is reminiscent of my childhood in Leeds. Falling snow was then, as now, magical. The dirty old city of Leeds, overnight usually, was blanketed in pure white. These days the magic remains, visually at least. There may be traffic chaos, especially in and around London but the stuff stays white for days and possibly weeks, topped up and refreshed from time to time.
Not so in my childhood. I am talking the 1950s. Coal was king. Fog was smog. Blowing your nose into a white handkerchief was an experience.
Something was seriously wrong with the air we were all breathing. The Yorkshire Evening Post frequently carried letters from an enigmatic correspondent 'Fresh Air - Shadwell' who turned out to be a chest physician. The constant message of those letters was that the very air we all breathed was killing us. What nonsense we thought. Air was air and reality was reality. We had to be warm in winter. The very fabric of the city was black - the buildings long term and the snow very soon after falling.
Leeds was not special. It was typical - of towns and cities throughout the land and throughout the industrialised world.
It was not the age for people to be concerned about the environment. Fresh Air - Shadwell was to the 1950s in Leeds what Mrs Mary Whitehouse was to later decades. Google her if you must.
My faltering career aspirations took me into the mortuary of St James' Hospital in Leeds during holiday jobs as a hospital porter. Porters were not over keen on 'carry-outs' as they were called. Not me. I was curious and fascinated by the situation. On the North side of 'Jimmy's' there were wards upon wards of patients in what were then called Nightingale wards asleep, agape, awaiting their ends.
There had to be more to life, and death, than that.
On day shifts I would hang around in the mortuary, declare my interest in medicine, and be allowed to witness post mortems. Many of them. They were pretty routine and mainly involved slicing up vital organs to observe abnormalities. Two of the organs stick in my mind - the brain and the lungs. The brain often yielded an immediate and obvious cause of death. The lungs less so. What was blindingly obvious about the lungs was their colour. What should have been pink was black. Very black. Oozing black ink or so it seemed. 'Leeds lung' I remember a pathologist calling it. Of course, smoking, then routine, was a factor but for everybody - simply everybody - was the inescapable reality that the very air we breathed contributed to 'Leeds lung'. Nobody, but nobody, was immune.
Clean air legislation, regarded by many at the time as cranky, was enacted. Smokeless zones came about and, eventually the coal industry itself shut down, amidst political upheaval and social unrest which rumbles on to this day.
The fact is that nowadays, when it snows it eventually goes. Without the seemingly weeks of miserable and increasing depressing blackness of my childhood.
I have mentioned smog. That, for us, is a thing of the past but not so the world over. Smoke amalgamated with the water droplets in the air which weathermen nowadays call fog. The result was a yellowish dense ground level cloud of an intensity nowadays unimaginable. There used to be an expression 'You could not see you hand in front of your face'. Well, not quite; but nearly. In daylight hours life went on but when darkness fell the expression became true. Movement was impossible without lights - street lights, torches or vehicle headlights. In Leeds the only reliable vehicles were the trams. They ran on rails and did not need steering. Their drivers could navigate as if by instinct. The dips in the line and the points were their clues to location.
My school was near the centre of Leeds and my usual way home was on the bus. In the most severe smog I can remember the buses were abandoned. I contacted my father, whose job was in the middle of Leeds. We met at the car park where his car was parked, more by feel than sight. He drove and I walked ahead, my torch pointing backwards towards the car. I followed the tram tracks all along York and Selby Roads to home in Halton, my school scarf wrapped around my mouth and nose. At major junctions there were policemen, lit by flares, wearing white coats, directing what little traffic that was moving.
When we got home, hours late, we settled down in front of a hugely welcome coal fire . . . .
Back in August a Google Earth camera car, bristling with cameras and whatnot, visited Settle Station drive. I spoke with the driver and told him I wished that I too had my camera with me. Ever since I have been checking to see if we are on. Well, we are now.
Anyway, above is a picture it took of our place and here is a picture of a Google Earth camera car:
The previous Blog entry spoke of a delivery on a pallet. It was a seriously big ball cock like this one in a reservoir on the Isle of Wight:
click to enlarge
A water tower, or a reservoir, needs to have some means or regulating the height of water in it. This can be done by equalising the inflow with the outflow, by the use of an overflow or by regulating the inflow.
Often this is achieved by means of a float operated valve - much like those in toilet cisterns. As the water rises so does the float which operates a shut-off valve. When the water level drops so does the float and the valve re-opens.
Mind you, these valves are enormous - not the sort of thing you get at B & Q.
Here is our ("how's your leg?") pallet complete with valve:
Pat is standing alongside it to give a sense of scale. She is already working out how it might fit in with the tower's decor. You can see the look of sheer delight on her face. Just.
Special thanks to Northumbrian Water Ltd for this - at whose suggestion we have made an appropriate donation to Water Aid.
Bess the dog has quite a collection of balls, to be found randomly all around the house. Right now the assembled ball cock resides under the bridge leading to the front door. Its big yellow ball is therefore visible from inside through the floor level windows. Bess has just caught sight of the ball for the first time. She did a double-take, leapt back and clearly thought all her Christmases had come at once.
Blog followers will know that I broke my left Achilles tendon back in August. Bang. I heard it go.
The Achilles tendon is the largest in the body and when it breaks you know all about it. Ask Achilles the Greek. Ultrasound revealed a 3.5 cm gap between the broken ends. Consultant Surgeon Chris Wray decided he could not operate on it yet as I was on anti-clotting Fragmin daily injections and he really did not want to kill me. He told me I must nurse it for two months and he would review it.
I did as told and yesterday was the review. Mr Wray examined me and was very pleased with me. I am walking almost normally and could extend my foot with considerable force - using my now healed Achilles tendon. During my two months of nursing my Achilles I kept hearing the voice of consultant onchologist Dr Shazza Rehman. "The body's ability to heal itself is absolutely remarkable". Here is Dr Rehman, the Trust's lead onchologist and a very lovely lady indeed:
So what's all this got to do with a delivery on a pallet? Well, a big lorry drew up by the water tower this morning - so big that it parked on Station Road rather than attempt the station drive. I was busy in the garage when the lorry's driver peered in. "Mister Rand?" he enquired. "How's your leg?" How could a delivery driver know about my leg? Conversation moved on to logistics about how he was going to offload a very heavy pallet. That is another story - see next Blog posting.
Pallet unloaded curiosity got the better of me and I asked how he knew about my leg. In one of life's coincidences it turned out his previous delivery had been a sheep pen to a Mr Wray in Gargrave. Mr Wray in Gargrave was orthopaedic and trauma surgeon Chris Wray. He had asked the driver about his next port of call and on hearing that it was a Mr Rand at Settle Water Tower he had said "Ask him how his leg is. That'll freak him out!"
Small world again, with splendid people in it. And Donald Trump.
I hope this is the final lap of my cancer journey - a second CT scan.
CT - computerised tomography - is the latest? thing in X Rays. It gives a 3 D image of whatever parts of your body need a coat of looking at. In my case it was the digestive tract so today I had a chest and abdomen CT scan at Airedale Hospital to see if there were still any nasties.
You starve before the scan then drink a whole load of contrast medium - orange flavoured and quite pleasant during the hour or so before the scan. That illuminates, as it were, the upper gut. Just before the scan they administer iodine into a vein to show blood vessels too. That gives you a very odd warming sensation.
Then the enormous doughnut machine moves along your body whilst every body else runs for cover.
As you slide into the jaws of hell a Yorkshire voice tells you to breathe in deeply and hold your breath. As you come out at the other side the same voice tells you to breathe normally - quite a relief I can tell you.
And that's it.
When dismounting the table I asked if they had ever forgotten to tell the patient to resume breathing. No, they said, the voice is automatic so that avoids any unpleasantness. Phew.
That, I hope, marks the end of my brush with the big C. Diagnosis, operation, chemotherapy and checking where the sun don't shine then checking the rest.
Not something that anybody wishes for but what will be will be.
The NHS in the UK comes in for some stick from time to time but I have to say that the whole thing has been very efficient, compassionate and reassuring. All along the way the people have been great. Well done Airedale Hospital.