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Tuesday, 29 November 2016

That Trailer

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.

Sunday, 27 November 2016

Polluted Snow

I came across this image online at :

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 . . . .

Saturday, 26 November 2016

We're on Google Earth

So are you, probably....

click to enlarge

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:

Quite distinctive eh?

A Seriously Big Ball Cock

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.

And here is the assembled ball cock:
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.

Friday, 25 November 2016

Achilles Heel Better Now - and a Delivery on a Pallet

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!"

It did.

Small world again, with splendid people in it.   And Donald Trump.

Tuesday, 22 November 2016

A CT Scan Today

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.

Sunday, 20 November 2016

Rainwater Harvesting dies. Caveat Emptor - especially with Kingspan Envireau

Ages ago on this Blog I posted about rainwater harvesting problems.   The trouble then was the failure of the main water pump, located in the 1,000 gallon underground tank in front of the tower.   We were teetering on the brink of being outside the warranty period for the Kingspan Envireau system but with goodwill all round a new pump was supplied and all was well - for a while.

Some months later the system failed again.   Sorry, said Kingspan Envireau, you're on you own now and it's £300 for an engineer to attend.

That sort of call out change makes rainwater harvesting uneconomic when compared with mains water.

I approached the rainwater harvesting industry's trade body who put me in touch with one of their members, Edward Daykin from  Ecoserve in Newark who called when he was next in our area.   He got us going again for a fraction of Kingspan Envireau's price.   What was the problem?   Edward could not tell - he had simply dismantled the system at the tank end and it had started to work on re-assembly.   A dodgy connection presumably.

This summer the system failed again, the fault screen announcing that the remote sensor in the tank or its connection was faulty.   The connection is some 40 metres of underground wire - even though Kingspan Envireau's own recommendation is that the wire should not exceed 15 m.

But hey, hang on - our system had been fitted by Kingspan Envireau themselves for two reasons
- our plumber had never fitted one himself and
- we were being televised so failure could be public and embarrassing for Kingspan Envireau.

So Kingspan Envireau KNEW from the start that our system had a connecting wire nearly three times their own recommendation and this connection was what had failed.   It's all to do with capacitance.  A call to the once helpful Kingspan Envireau helpline proved futile.  Out of warranty - now down to you mate, as it were.

I decided to abandon the system that had cost a great deal of money and to revert to mains water, putting the Kingspan Envireau decision down to one of life's bad ones.

But hang on another mo..  Did I really need a complicated box of tricks in our utility room to tell us how deep the water was in the outside tank?   The system had never accepted the full depth measurement anyway.   When after a dry spell it was showing empty,  physical inspection of the tank showed it was a least half full.

Does everybody with a rainwater harvesting system have this many problems?    I Googled - as you do these days.   I soon discovered that these systems can be as simple as a tank, a pump and a pressure switch to shut down the pump should it run dry.   The Kingspan Envireau system was grossly over complicated and any one of 101 possible problems resulted in the system shutting down and undue expense every time.   An alternative might be an annual 'service' at even greater expense.

So I called my good friend Edward Daykin and explained.   What did HE think about my plan to abandon the Kingspan Envireau system entirely, rip it out and replace it with a pressure switch?   "Sounds like an excellent plan" was his astonishing reply.   "Just one thing - install a float switch as well to make quite sure the pump doesn't keep going and burn out if it every gets dry".

So that, dear reader, is what I have done.

Here is the Kingspan Envireau gubbins that I have removed:

click to enlarge

Kingspan Evireau control panel - £339.07 + VAT


Kingspan Envireau sensor display - £82.89 + VAT

and here is what replaces them both:


Oh yes, and a float switch:

£8 - E-Bay

Thursday, 17 November 2016

Now an Autotruck

I simply have to have a project on the go.   The Yanmar Tractor is nearly finished and so too is the car transporter trailer so what next?

I have always had a soft spot for those three wheeled tractors you used to see on railway platforms towing sometimes trains of wagons full of mailbags.    They were such commonplace and utility vehicles that few of them have survived.   Rare among the survivors were those made in the UK by Geest.

These things steered by means of the entire front end, engine, powered wheel, the lot,  turning so they could in fact turn in their own length - sometimes actually less.   The Geest auto truck was particularly useful as its body tips.

Well, I now have one - or soon shall have when the trailer is ready to go to near Newcastle to collect it - maybe a week, that's all.   The three pictures are not of my actual auto truck but they are almost identical.   My new (well, 1940s) truck lived at Hexham station and is a part finished project which has been dry stored for some decades since its former owner died.

click pics to enlarge

This third picture is nearest in terms of condition and colours.   It could just end up in LMS maroon.

Monday, 14 November 2016

Too Much of a Good Thing

We have five TV sets around the tower - all monster size HD things and one is even 4K super HD.   Yes, yes, I know how sad that is but there it is.   We have three floors and a man-cave dammit.

For ages now the picture on four of these five sets has varied between perfect, through breaking up or freezing to nothing at all.   Especially on HD channels and in high winds.

When the system was installed there were huge trees between our aerial array and the transmitter, Winter Hill Nr Bolton in Lancashire.    This weakened the signal a great deal, especially in summer when tree leaves aggravated things.   This, meanwhile is Winter Hill:

click to make it even taller

Since then, two things have happened - the trees were felled to make way for the apartment block on The Sidings, the roof top of which is considerably lower than were the trees.   Secondly, the UK's analogue transmissions were switched off and we went digital.   At the same time Winter Hill's output increased greatly in power.   These factors each combined to give us a very good signal indeed.  TOO good in fact.

Nowadays, signal strength can be displayed among the menu options on screen on the TVs.   Each was showing 100%.

The fix?   Attenuate (turn down) the signal leaving our mast to 70 or 80% - a simple turn of a screw at the masthead box-of-tricks.   Remove two signal-strength-amplifiers which had been installed to enhance our one time too weak signals and Bingo.   Perfect HD / 4K TV pictures all round the house.

So, I have discovered that when it comes to TV signals you CAN have too much of a good thing.   I have also discovered that Winter Hill is the UK's third highest mast at 1015 feet tall.   Impressive:

If that ever pops up in a pub quiz you will thank me for that.

Thursday, 10 November 2016

November Snow at Ribblehead

FoSCL's web camera that overlooks the Ribblehead Viaduct is immensely popular on the website - and not just for the trains either.   There are few enough of those anyway just now.   Yesterday we had unseasonably early snow, nowhere better pictured than at Ribblehead:

click to enlarge

The almost black-and-white colour still image is fine but the live image at 0800 yesterday captured falling snow - for all the world to see

The Tower in 1887

This picture of Settle from the Castlebergh has been posted online.   Dated 1887 it clearly shows the station and water tower on the far left, just above centre.   The tank colours are a matter of guesswork but each panel has a light centre and a dark outer frame.

click to enlarge

The railway had only been open for ten years and this view shows it to be well clear of the then built up parts of Settle.   Rather, the chosen line took advantage of the extensive gardens of the grand houses to the west.   Giggleswick, mid / upper right is well apart from Settle then.

Tuesday, 8 November 2016

Where The Sun Don't Shine Again

It is the first anniversary of my operation for the removal of my cygmoid colon which was found to be cancerous.   Since then I have had chemotherapy for six months and Fragmin injections for another two.   In between times my left Achilles tendon broke.   So I have had a bit of a year really.

Today was the day when I was summoned back to Airedale Hospital for the undignified procedure of another colonoscopy.   Something of a moment of truth.

RESULT - no signs of further cancer at all.   I still have to have a chest and abdomen CT scan for belt-and-braces but this is exceedingly good news which I needed to share with Blog followers, some of whom have been kind enough to communicate their concern for me.

During the first colonoscopy when my cancer was discovered I had opted for no anaesthetic - and regretted it.   It hurt like hell, especially when they took biopsies.   This time I asked for pain killing and sedation and boy what a difference.   Furthermore I asked for the HD colour monitor to be turned my way so that, for the first time, I could see where the sun don't shine - as it were.   It was quite a journey too I can tell you.   I was introduced to the site of my last year's operation, evidenced by metal clips which will trigger future airport scanners no doubt.   That seemed fine.   We carried on up the Circle Line right up to its junction with the District.

After an hour in the recovery room I had two slices of toast and jam - hugely welcome after a couple of days of nil-by-mouth and a total clear-out.  Then Pat drove me home.   I was warned not to drive, drink or do anything important for two days, including not signing legal documents.

Nothing was said about Blog postings though.