The Anonymous Widower

I’m thinking of going to the States around the 19th to 21st of August to see the most amazing solar eclipse of the Century. It goes through major cities like St. Louis, Kansas City and Charlestown. The latter looks the best and I can manage it without driving. Anybody fancy tagging along?

June 22, 2017 Posted by | World | | Leave a comment

A Week North Of Seville

This holiday is proving to be a disaster. Only one reason; the heat. It is 30 now and it’s seven on the morning. Yesterday, it was 44 in the day. We’re only about twenty miles from the fires in Portugal and the fire fighting helocopters are going overhead. I think prudence says make a run for it! I’ll see after today! Everything else like food, room, people and puppies is fine. Yes puppies! Three Portuguese water dogs.

June 19, 2017 Posted by | World | 1 Comment

Gas Should Be Banned In All Buildings With Multiple Occupation

I am now remembering more and more of the conversations I had in the 1960s, with fellow engineers, whilst I was working at ICI Plastics Division at Welwyn Garden City.

I arrived just after the explosion in Polythene Plant No 6 at Wilton had killed two plant operators. That and the dark shadow  of the Flixborough disaster changed the way the company looked at process design. My role was to do the dynamic calculations to make sure that the mathematics of the plant were safe and correct. In the design of one new plant, we looked at all possible combinations of vessels to make sure we were designing the best plant.

If this work led me to any personal conclusions, it was how dangerous gases like hydrogen and methane can be. I remember that it was found by investigators that the Six Plant explosion was caused by perhaps a couple of kilograms of ethylene gas that ignited and did a large amount of damage.

The Section I worked in, had actually installed an IBM 1800 process control computer on this plant and I heard rumours it went up in the air and when it came down, it continued to work.

Since then, I have only lived in one flat that relied on gas for cooking and that was a flat that was converted when we lived there from town gas to natural gas.

We nearly had a serious fire there, when one of the children got the matches from the gas stove and set fire to a duvet. Luckily, I smelt burning and put out the fire.

Our first real place to live was in Cromwell Tower in the Barbican. This is my thoughts as I expressed them in an e-mail to the BBC. They intended to put me on air, but the previous more important interview overran.

My late wife and myself brought our three children up in a high-rise 1960s block in the Barbican.

For safety there were escape passages everywhere, as I suspect there were in Grenfell Tower.

These passages would be ideal places for gas to seep and propagate the fire.

In my view, no tower block is safe with a gas supply, as a leak compromises safety.

According to The Times, the new gas supply was an unprotected  steel pipe up the stairwell installed by National Grid! Talking to an engineer with lots of experience of pipework on oil rigs, could it just have buckled and fractured in the heat? If so, that is criminal!

Sprinklers wouldn’t have contained the resulting gas fire and the intense heat got the cladding to burn.

Note that. I joined ICI in the 1960s and worked on process design, just after a series of serious gas-related explosions in UK chemical plants. All those stories about Flixborough and other disasters told over pints of beer have come back to me.

I’ve never trusted gas in a house, and my next dwelling will probably be an all-electric flat.

Gas should never be allowed in any multiple-occupation dwelling.

This will never be made law, as so many people swear by their gas cookers and the Big Six Gas companies would lobby against it.

 

June 16, 2017 Posted by | World | , , | 3 Comments

Thoughts On The Tragedy At Grenfell Tower

As a family, C, myself and our three boys used to live in a tower block. Admittedly, Cromwell Tower was an upmarket tower in the Barbican. I wrote about the tower in Cromwell Tower.

Cromwell Tower was designed around a concrete core in a brutalist style in the 1960s, just like Grenfell Tower.

Cromwell Tower had a network of passages that allowed escape to the floors underneath. I suspect that Grenfell Tower had similar passages.

But there were differences.

  • Cromwell Tower had a higher standard of interior finish.
  • Every flat in Cromwell Tower has a wide airy balcony.
  • Cromwell Tower has no gas.
  • Cromwell Tower was designed for high net worth tenants, whereas Grenfell Tower was a Council block.

As both blocks were designed around the same time, I suspect that they were designed to the same set of regulations.

So why did Grenfell Tower catch fire?

These are possible reasons.

Gas

I don’t like gas, as one thing I remember from working at ICI in the 1960s, is that how powerful a gas explosion can be.

Naked gas flames also are a major cause of asthma, as they create oxides of nitrogen.

But if wee had had gas in Cromwell Tower and there had been a leak, the escape passages would have been an ideal way for the gas to spread through the tower.

For these and other reasons, I believe strongly, that all multiple occupancy housing should not be connected to a gas supply.

I’ve also heard that view from a Chief Fire Officer in Suffolk.

The Design And Execution Of The Upgrade

Was it done to high enough standards.

The Cladding

\Suspicion is falling on the cladding of the building.

Smoking

How friendly was the building to smokers?

Have we really learned the lessons of the past?

The Summerland Disaster

In 1971, over fifty people were killed in a fire on the Isle of Man in the Summerland Disaster. This is Wikipedia’s summary.

The Summerland disaster occurred when a fire spread through the Summerland leisure centre in Douglas on the Isle of Man on the night of 2 August 1973. Between fifty and fifty-three people were killed and eighty seriously injured

I know it wasn’t a tower block, but I think that there are common issues.

Under Background this is said.

Summerland was opened on 25 May 1971. It was a climate-controlled building covering 3.5 acres (1.4 ha) on Douglas’s waterfront, consisting of 50,000 sq ft (4,600 m2) of floor area at a cost of £2 million. The building’s hull and the interior were designed by two different architects—they did not match their planning to each other and thereby created a venue with significant fire risks that were only to become apparent later.

So did the architects of the upgrade do a proper job? Did they have any co-operation with the original architects.

The same Background section also says this.

Summerland was designed to accommodate up to 10,000 tourists and comprised a dance area, five floors of holiday games, restaurants and public bars. It was a 1960s concrete design incorporating advanced controlled internal climate, built with novel construction techniques using new plastic materials. The street frontage and part of the roof was clad in Oroglas, a transparent acrylic glass sheeting.

Note the use of Oroglas cladding, which is still made today.

At the time of the Summerland disaster, I was working at ICI Plastics, who made a similar acrylic sheet called Perspex. As I look around my kitchen, I see various applications of this or similar plastics.

In several places in one ICI chemical works, Perspex windows were used, as there was the occasional small explosion and you didn’t want to shower people in glass fragments.  But they were clearly marked Perspex Window – Fire Hazard.

So the problems of acrylic were clearly known at the time and yet, acrylic sheet was used to clad the building. One ICI Perspex expert told me, that Perspex shouldn’t be used to clad buildings.

So was the cladding itself a fire risk at Grenfell Tower because an inappropriate material was used, just as at Summerland?

Under Fire, this is said.

The fire started around 7:30 p.m. on 2 August 1973, and was caused by three boys who were smoking in a small, disused kiosk adjacent to the centre’s miniature golf course.

So was smoking, one of the causes of the fire, just as it was in the Summerland disaster?

We don’t seem to have learned much from the Summerland disaster.

Conclusion

I’m led back to gas being the cause of the original fire, as there is nothing energetic enough to cause such a fierce fire.

It is also stated in various media articles, that there were problems with the gas.

 

 

 

 

June 15, 2017 Posted by | World | , , | 1 Comment

Life Is Depressing – Isn’t It?

I was joking today with a friend and musing how depressing life is!

  • Brexit
  • A General Election With Two Grade-C Party Leaders with Grade-Z policies.
  • Too hot, no rain.
  • A Nose full of glue
  • No Girl-Friend
  • No Football
  • Donald Trump as US President
  • DUP
  • RMT
  • Tragedies

And to cap it all England are losing at cricket!

I was cheered much cheered up, by a delightful French assistant in Marks and Spencer.

A good reason to abandon Brexit!

June 14, 2017 Posted by | World | | 2 Comments

Brexit Is The Cancer Gnawing Away At The Conservative Party

Well said by Lord Hesseltine in a very interesting interview with John Pienaar on BBC Radio 5.

He also said Brexit might not happen!

He didn’t pull any punches!

June 11, 2017 Posted by | World | , | 3 Comments

Lots Of Process And No Substance!

The title of this post has just been used by Gus O’Donnell on BBC1 to describe how the Brexit negotiations will progress.

I think that the election has guaranteed we’ll get a Hard Brexit under World Trade Organisation rules.

June 9, 2017 Posted by | World | , , | Leave a comment

Dressing To Win!

I am not being sexist in this post, as I think it applies just as much to men as women.

My late wife, C was always immaculately dressed for her appearances as a barrister in Court. I know too, from a lunch I had with a retired judge, who she regularly appeared in front of, that she would dress appropriately for the case and those in Court.

The judge also said, she made sure she was the centre of attention and as the judge said, she dressed to win.

C was considered by her peers to be a very competent lawyer, but several times she expressed doubts about her skills to me, so I do wonder, if she used clothes to give herself confidence.

I think that both Theresa May and Hillary Clinton don’t dress to win and both of them have lost!

How many times in their campaigns were they seen in plain bog-standard clothes, that made them look ordinary?

I can hear the words of C, in my ears, as she criticises their dress sense.

Incidentally, she always made sure, I was well-turned out!

 

June 9, 2017 Posted by | World | , , , , | Leave a comment

Where Is The Next Tory Leader?

When Theresa May resigns, as she surely will, if not today, in the next few days, where is the safe pair of hands to sort out the mess that the Brexit Referendum has dumped the country?

  • Kenneth Clarke and others of his generation are too old and too pro-Remain.
  • Boris Johnson is too volatile.
  • Ruth Davidson is not in Parliament.

I suspect many others will pass on the poisoned chalice.

John Major was the surprise to follow Margaret Thatcher and went on to win an election. Is there another like him? I don’t think so!

June 9, 2017 Posted by | World | , , | 1 Comment

I Said It Was A Strange Election!

In A Strange Election, I said it was just that. But then, a political journalist friend said to me, that the posters told a different tale South of London, as they did in the capital, before the Brexit Referendum.

Theresa May made the same mistake as Harold Wilson in 1970 and Ted Heath in 1974, when they both called an early election and ended up covered in egg.

She fought a terrible election and certainly made major mistakes.

  • In a short campaign, you must get your manifesto right and this allowed the sound-bite of Dementia Tax to take hold.
  • The manifesto had little for the average Tory voter.
  • She ignored Newton’s Third Law!
  • Her circle of advisers was too small and close!
  • She ignored the lessons of Hillary Clinton’s campaign.
  • She came over as cold, with all the charisma of a dead fish.
  • There was no infrastructure policy except vague statements in the manifesto.
  • There wasn’t much to attract those who voted Brexit, except a stop to immigration.
  • Where was the pit-bull to take Corbyn’s fantasy tax and spend policies apart?
  • Only Boris Johnson delivered any passion!

But most importantly, where do the Tories stand on Brexit?

The Tories are pfaffing about, like a Personnel Manager, who has just been sent by the Chairman to close a factory they know nothing about, in a strange area of the country.

The Tories were all planning to Remain in the EU, even if they were against it and the surprise result in the Brexit Referendum left the Party up the creek without a paddle.

June 9, 2017 Posted by | World | , , , | Leave a comment