The Anonymous Widower

We Shouldn’t live Near Petrochemical Plants

In my three years at ICI in the late 1960s, I went over several chemical plants. I have heard so many stories about how supposedly safe plants have exploded killing numbers of people.

On one plant, I heard a tale of an instrument being installed to analyse the gases in a burner.  The instrument found that the gases were in such a composition that they might explode.  The plant manager immediately shut the plant down and they worked out a strategy to run the plant in a safe manner. They informed the European chemical company from whom they had licensed the design of the plant of what they had found and were politely told that it wasn’t possible to build an instrument that could measure the composition of the gases. A few months later, the European company’s plant buried itself in a hillside.

And then there was the Flixborough disaster in 1974.  I had left ICI by that date, but I was in contact with some of my former colleagues and also some other chemical engineers.  From somewhere I heard the rumour that one of the problems at Flixborough was that the plant had originally been designed in metric units and then to build it, these had been converted to Imperial. So when they bypassed a reactor, they got the calculations wrong.

Remember that ICI went fully metric in about 1955 for chemical plant design.  Safety was one of the reasons they stated!

Now these all go to show, that no matter how careful you are, mistakes will get made.  Mistakes you can’t afford to make, when dealing with dangerous chemicals.

Therefore every chemical or petrochemical plant should be assessed for danger and an appropriate exclusion zone declared around it, where no houses, offices or other dangerous plants are allowed.

It would appear that in the latest explosion in Texas, that there were houses too near to the plant that exploded.

April 18, 2013 Posted by | Business, News, World | , | 2 Comments

This Wasn’t News Just Good Airmanship

I found this article on the Daily Mail website. The headline is alarming.

Look away now if you don’t like flying: The terrifying moment a plane came in sideways as Britain is battered by 70mph gales

But the pilot just flew the plane, how it was designed to be handled in the circumstances.

I’ve only ever been a passenger once, when an airliner landed in a severe crosswind and that was coming back from India quite a few years ago on a Thai Airlines Boeing 747. The pilot made one approach at Heathrow and then asked for permission to land on the cross runway 23, which has now been removed. The landing was rough and a bit bumpy, but safe. There were a few screams.

The Boeing 737 in the picture is showing what happens in a text book crosswind landing.

I think people don’t realise how manoeuvrable most airliners are. Remember too on landing the weight is low, as a lot of fuel has been burned up and they still have full power to if necessary climb away safely and go to another airport, where conditions are better.

Perhaps the most famous crosswind landing was performed by Captain Eric Moody in the Jakarta Incident.  Although it technically wasn’t a genuine crosswind landing, it probably used similar flying techniques.  A British Airways Boeing 747 had lost all power because it flew through clouds of volcanic ash.  Three engines were restarted, but when it came to landing at Jakarta airport, Captain Moody found that some of the navigation aids on the ground had failed and he had no forward vision, as the volcanic ash had etched the windscreen so it was opaque. By effectively bringing the aircraft in to the runway slightly sideways he could get limited forward vision through the undamaged side window of the cockpit. At the last moment he straightened everything up and landed. Captain Moody described the approach like this.

a bit like negotiating one’s way up a badger’s arse

But it was a genuine case of all’s well that ends well.

One of the reason, I don’t fly with Air Neck End and their ilk, is you can’t be sure of their pilots. I’ve never had any problems with any British, Dutch, Scandinavian or Irish airlines in Europe, but there are some national carriers I just won’t fly.

In my own flying, I only ever had to perform, one extremely difficult landing and that was at Cardiff Airport, where the wind was gusting over fifty knots. but at least it was virtually straight down the runway. It was raining very heavily and the cloud base was about eight hundred feet. I was in my Cessna 340A twin and the aircraft in front was a Boeing 737, that because of the rain and strong wind, was having difficulty keeping the engines alight. I did a very good landing in the circumstances and seem to remember that I cheated by putting the plane down straight into the wind, rather than due straight down the runway. But then Cardiff is a big, wide runway!

April 18, 2013 Posted by | Transport | , , | Leave a comment

What DVD Would You Like With Your Operation?

I can’t remember the last time I was put under anaesthetic for an operation. I suspect it was when I had a tooth out at about ten!

Some years ago, I looked at a database of cases of horse anaesthesia and was surprised how many died. An anaesthetist that I used to know, once told me that you avoid it if you can. I’ve also had two friends die during hip-replacement operations.

Now though, there is a report on the BBC, where Peterborough City Hospital is using films instead of anaesthetic. at least the lady in the picture looks pleased.

I have had two endoscopies without anything at all and I would recommend this.  Admittedly, I was talked into it the first time at Addenbrooke’s by the smoothest surgeon anybody has ever met. He argued that I wouldn’t break teeth and I could help him with the procedure, by moving as he required. Not only was he smooth, but I felt no discomfort , except for a small release of wind.

The second one was in the same hospital and it was performed by a lady doctor, wearing a floral summer dress. Work out where my head would have been, as I lay down facing towards her.

I’ve also had a vasectomy, which was performed under a local. It was successful and nothing untoward happened.

If it’s possible, I will continue to avoid anaesthetic.

So I wonder what film I would choose!

I suppose Death In Venice would probably send me to sleep anyway.

April 18, 2013 Posted by | Health | , , | Leave a comment

Do Oxford And Regent Streets Need New Buses for London Now?

After breakfast, I walked down Regent Street and didn’t make too much progress, as the pavements were crowded.  I eventually got on a bus, but progress was even slower due to an accident in Trafalgar Square.

This double congestion often seems to happen.

Would New Buses for London, with their hop-on and hop-off capability be an asset in getting pedestrians along these streets faster?

I think they would! Remember too, that London’s fare system means that say doing six or seven small journeys on a bus is the same price as one, so you wouldn’t be costing yourself anything.

After shopping, I actually caught a New Bus for London back towards home. Progress was slow due to the same problems as earlier and people seemed to be hopping on and off the bus all over the place.

When these buses were mooted, the dismal Jimmies predicted all sorts of accidents and consequent lawsuits. But I’ve never seen any reports of even any minor incidents.

Perhaps, those that jump off and on are on the whole sensible people? Or as I believe, most people actually know their limitations well.  And that includes the ninety-year-old with a Zimmer frame!

Could London have reinvented the people mover? Only when most of the buses on somewhere like Oxford Street are New Buses for London, will we know!

April 18, 2013 Posted by | Transport | , , , | 1 Comment

A Leon Built Like A Tardis

This Leon in Carnaby Street looks very small.

A Leon Built Like A Tardis

A Leon Built Like A Tardis

But inside it is rather spacious, with seating for a hundred or so. So it’s a true tardis, which of course we know is larger on the inside than it looks from the outside. i had gone for breakfast before I did some shopping.

My Leon Breakfast

My Leon Breakfast

This restaurant is ideally placed for Oxford Circus, so like today is a good place to start your shopping.

Note the tea mug, that would satisfy the most fussy builder.

leon may do real food, but they also do real mugs in quite a few of their restaurants.

April 18, 2013 Posted by | Food | , , | 2 Comments

A Bad Case Of Oops On Regent Street

You occasionally see post boxes knocked over by an accident.

A Bad Case Of Oops On Regent Street

A Bad Case Of Oops On Regent Street

But this is the first time, I can remember seeing a double one on the skew.

April 18, 2013 Posted by | World | , , | Leave a comment

An Orphaned Bus Shelter

I took this picture at Piccadilly Circus.


The bus stop sign was mysteriously ten metres to the left.

I suspect that they moved the shelter and forgot to move the sign.

April 18, 2013 Posted by | Transport | | Leave a comment

Don’t Use Highbury And Islington Station

This post is to remind me not to, until they finish the current works!

I used it on Tuesday and found that the down escalator was under maintenance, so I had to walk down.

Highbury  And Islington Down Escalator Under Maintenance

Highbury And Islington Down Escalator Under Maintenance

That wasn’t too much of a pain, but I like to avoid it if I can.

This morning, when I wanted to get to Oxford Circus, I found that the whole entry was choked and so I decided to walk to Holloway Road instead.

The latter was suggested by one of station staff, who obviously thought I could walk it.

So that must have been some sort of back-handed compliment.

incidentally, Highbury and Islington station is one of those with three escalator positions and only two escalators. I wonder if in the next few months, they do the sensible thing and install the third escalator.

If they do, surely they should have done that before taking the down escalator out of action for several months.

April 18, 2013 Posted by | Transport | , , | 3 Comments

A Judge Holds Himself In Contempt

I like this story from the Wall Street Journal.

it’s about a judge, who held himself in contempt of court, when his mobile phone rang.

April 18, 2013 Posted by | News | , , | Leave a comment

Schadenfreude Sandwiches

After my experiences in Germany on finding gluten-free food, I can’t help having a small titter at this story from the Telegraph.

I’d have loved to find a nice sandwich, as I can all over the UK and The Netherlands, but Germans don’t seem to be able to produce any ready-to-eat gluten-free food.

April 18, 2013 Posted by | Food, News | , | Leave a comment