Pollution full circle

One of my favourite books, which I think says a lot about me, is called ‘Plague, Pox and pestilence’. It describes concisely, with evidence, each of the ‘lost’ illnesses that in the modern era the western world has forgotten. Sadly it proves a timely reminder when people appear with random symptoms and have to be reminded of what scurvy is and that simply having access to vitamin C isn’t enough – you have to eat it too.

Same goes for pollution. City and town centres are no-smoke zones due to the pollution that burning solid fuels causes. This is at odds with keeping grade II listed places warm and dry, but never mind. The point being that despite the cars, if very few people are burning coal or wood there should be a lot less pollution and no repeat of the deadly smog issues of the 1950s. Sherlock’s Victorian ‘fug’ should be banished forever.

But now that there has been 50+ years of clean air, it’s been forgotten how it’s caused. So the ‘in thing’ is wood burners, as the environmental alternative which apparently don’t cause air pollution. Houses built with central heating are now having it complemented or replaced with wood burners and agas. Walk past my in-laws house and the coughing starts as the roads are filled with invisible fumes. Apparently there was surprise when it was announced that burning wood causes smoke after all and that the Mayor of London is looking to ban them. (I would link to the news, but there’s too much).

Round here the problem has gone further back in time. When I was at University first time round, someone had had their central heating disabled and a real fire put into the living room as he knew and trusted that. We learned this after he’d gone to sleep upstairs by his oxygen cylinder (emphysema) and the balanced arrangement of drying clothes downstairs had tipped into the fire. Given the open lofts, it spread beautifully to the houses alongside. Our dog was frantic when we got her out. Walking around here recently, after the weather became colder was a reminder: not only could I smell wood burning, but there was the acidic hint of coal. The ages of the buildings locally mean that it’s from the original build, not someone trying to impose a modern idea on a building that doesn’t have the space or ventilation, but it would explain why over the summer I woke up with clear nose and eyes, whereas now they’re streaming a new colour.


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Let there be light

“The walls once white were now thrice grey. From a peeling ceiling hung a forty watt bulb that when lit made the room darker.”

So says Spike Milligan when joining the army in ‘Adolf Hitler: My part in his downfall’.

The bulbs were appreciated so much, that it appears that after the war, when building new housing stock, the bulbs were rehomed along with the people. Then, at the advent of energy saving bulbs, they were replaced by bulbs that were even dimmer.

In case this did not cause enough excitement, light fittings and switches were placed at random through the houses, so that it is impossible to find either without falling over something. In all fairness, it was probably sensible when first done, but since then despite moving the walls about no one’s thought to move the switches with them.

Same with plug points. Right now this computer is plugged into one that is correctly and securely wired to a free-range plank leant against the desk/wall. This is an improvement on the ones too high in the kitchen for any cables to reach and the ones left dangling elsewhere after the wall they were in has disintegrated.

But on the plus side we now live in a county with glorious skies. Tonight’s sunset was particularly pretty. I remember driving through years ago and the sky was a rolling wash of gold-edged clouds in midnight blue. What causes it I don’t know, I guess it’s the right sort of undulation with an unusual mix of pollution. Either way, it works.


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Lost in progress

I knew this day would happen when I started to use Satnav…

Dragon doesn’t have satnav. It’s too old. Frankie does. So I didn’t use satnav before I drove Frankie which is only three years ago. So for years, when driving long distances across the country, or when doing a job door-to-door somewhere in the unknown, I printed maps the night before or used an ‘A-Z’, then set off in advance to allow for getting lost or needing to stop and read a map. Colleagues laughed at this approach, up until the point their satellites lost signal or their batteries went flat, somewhere in an unnamed field. Older drivers also saw that while they couldn’t work out how roads fitted together, and had to approach each one for a different end as satnav dictated, as I saw them connected in overview I could work out where extra ones fitted.

Then when I started to use a satnav I thought, “I hope I never get to the point where I stop using the map or don’t want to travel without it.”

And this weekend, as I set of to my Godson’s birthday celebration, complete with fluffy green dinosaur in a fluffy green egg, I realised that despite having been shown the way, I had no idea which way I was going. When I discussed this with his Mum we noted how lazy satnav makes everyone these days. In the household we noted how much less organised we have to be to get anywhere now – we can get up and go, anywhere in this country or mainland Europe simply by plotting in a town or postcode. But what I think is most telling is the loss in confidence of drivers, who think that they can’t go somewhere following road signs or without a voice spoonfeeding them every step of the way. I think that’s sadder and also more dangerous overall – another skill in self-care lost, the ability to go and find instead of expecting an answer to come and find you.

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World architecture

I enjoyed this:


The comment from Exeter to Norwich about dinosaurs is because Norwich will be hosting Dippy the Dinosaur of the Natural History Museum when it tours.

The only thing missing is that York Minster has an astronaut, carved as a ceiling boss after the fire in 1986.


The household decided last year to visit every Cathedral in England… and possibly Wales… and possibly some things that aren’t cathedrals… and possibly…

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Yes, yes I am.

I’m eating a fig bought from a local supermarket and yes I am thinking of the time I stood in Milan eating them fresh from a market stall.

As I was told at the time, “Every time you eat one you’ll think of this.”

Well, it’s better than thinking of the rat sitting above my head…

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And they’re in

Turns out it was a good thing we got the scarer – we’ve discovered a pile of rats droppings in the main bedroom showing they were in, we just hadn’t seen them yet.

Since getting the scarer we’ve heard and seen nothing, so it looks to be working.

Traps and Plan C are still being considered. Plan C we’ve been looking at for over a year, but couldn’t do anything about until we had a house to put it in.

What puzzles us is that we don’t have the food or warmth that would normally be needed for an infestation. The flat was in an older building than this one, which had been built relying on free-flowing draughts with associated holes. As it had been converted by someone who never had to live there, it was also difficult to keep clean and had food everywhere as there was nowhere to put it. Yet we’d never had a problem.

When we moved here, everything was bleached and scrubbed with unperfumed cleaning fluids and all food was contained and kept high up. When the rats came in August they were in the kitchen, which made sense – there were open pipes through the walls and food smells. But this time they’ve kept away from there.

The sound and movement suggests they’re living in the cavity walls. One major problem with this idea is that this house doesn’t have cavity walls. That means they’re between the mystery plasterboard and the walls, or they’re following the channels cut into the walls for the wiring, which would explain why this new scarer is so effective.

My theory is still that they’re living with us but eating nextdoor’s dog food.

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New beginnings

The flat, which I never owned, has finally completed, so I don’t own it any more.

The last thing I did, before my little fingers were prised off it, was take photos and video of several historic features. I forgot to do a walk-through, but there are enough photos to put it all together and the height meant a walk-through probably wouldn’t work.

So now we have a house and a nagging doubt that we should be packing up to return home to a different town each day. We’ve moved county – there was nothing we could afford in the county we were from – so it’s a new beginning for everyone.

The rats are back. They’re in the walls, ceilings and floors. We’ve bought an electro-magnetic and sonic scarer. If we still hear them, the traps will be going down soon. I don’t object to free-range pets per se, but I draw the line at ones that eat through walls.

And the bathroom continues to amaze. When we switched the shower on yesterday all the lights dimmed. Given that they’re supposed to be separate circuits, this opens up a whole new world of possibilities of what the last owner could have done with it.

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