The Anonymous Widower

Twenty Years On!

On the eleventh of September in 2001, I had three jobs to do in London.

  • I had to visit my press cuttings client near Borough tube station to talk about something, which I have long forgotten.
  • I had to deliver a thousand Al Stewart CDs to his manager, as the singer was going on tour. The handover was to be performed in Waterloo station.
  • I was then going on to Soho to see a Chinese bookmaker, for whom I offered computer advice.

I parked my car on a meter and went to visit the first client at about two.

When I returned to the car, I needed to phone my wife; C about something. My phone was installed in my Discovery and it didn’t have any calling list, as I remembered numbers and just typed them in.

But for some reason I couldn’t remember her mobile phone number or the Office number at home, so I didn’t make the call.

This was very unlike me, as I’ve always had an excellent memory. Especially for numbers.

I did remember to deliver the parcel to Al Stewart’s manager and made my way to Soho, where I parked in an underground car park.

It was only when I got to the bookmakers did I realise what was going on in New York, as they had the televisions on and were watching the drama continuously.

I have a feeling, that I made my excuses and returned quickly to Suffolk.

By this time, my memory had returned and I was able to phone C.

But the worst terrorist attacks of recent memory were probably over.

Did my brain pick up the bad news or was it due to being close to the City of London, where there would have been a large amount of electronic communication to New York?

I have no idea.

But there is another incident, where I may have picked up tragic news through the ether.

On Sunday, the 31st August 1997, I woke up about five as I generally do and remarkably said to C. “Something tragic has happend! I think Tony Blair has been assassinated!”

She told me to stop being silly and I went downstairs to make a cup of tea and do some programming. It was then that I turned on the radio and heard that Princess Diana had died in the traffic accident in Paris.

September 11, 2021 Posted by | Business, Computing, News, World | , , , , | 3 Comments

Memories Of Althorpe

On The way to Cleethorpes, I passed through Althorpe station.

This Google Map shows the area.


  1. The River Trent flowing South to North.
  2. Keadby power station at the top of the map.
  3. Althorpe station close to the bridge over the river.
  4. The village of Althorpe is at the South of the map by the river.

C and myself had friends, who farmed much of the land in the curve of river, South of the railway.

These are a few tales, some might enjoy.

Althorpe And Princess Diana’s Grave

I was once told, that regularly tourists would appear looking for the last resting place of Princess Diana.

Sat-navs may be a wonderful gadget for some, but they do lead those with a certain lack of common sense on wild goose chases.

C And The Tug-Boats

C once spent a night in their farmhouse, which was by the River Trent.

She didn’t sleep well, as tug-boats pulling barges were constantly going past and sounding their sirens. The river was actually above the house, due to the embankments to stop flooding.

Princess Anne And The Centrefold

Our friends’ daughter was a very good rider in eventing and used to supplement her variable income in the sport with modelling. At one point, I used her for some promotional shots for one of my companies.

Some years ago, she was competing at an event in Yorkshire. Coincidentally, this was just after she had appeared as the centrefold in a well-known men’s magazine.

The event was a bit of a nightmare for her, as paparazzi were following her with open copies of the magazine.

At one point, it all got a bit much, so she decided to sneak back to the calm of her horsebox, by a circuitous route.

As she walked back, she encountered Princess Anne, who was also competing and using the same route to avoid the paparazzi.

They talked about the pressures of the paparazzi, who were being a nuisance, with the Princess saying, she approved of my friends’ daughter’s modelling and hoped it continued, as it had taken the pressure off herself.


My friends’ farm was not far from Flixborough, which is infamous for the Flixborough Disaster in 1974, when a chemical plant exploded and killed 28 people and seriously injured a further 36.

My friends also lost several thousand pigs because of the explosion.

Wikipedia says this about the cause of the explosion.

The disaster involved (and may well have been caused by) a hasty modification. There was no on-site senior manager with mechanical engineering expertise (virtually all the plant management had chemical engineering qualifications); mechanical engineering issues with the modification were overlooked by the managers who approved it, nor was the severity of the potential consequences of its failure appreciated.

At the time, I had just left ICI and I was still in contact with my former colleagues.

One told me, that he had met a Senior ICI Engineer, who had been involved with the enquiry into the disaster.

The plant had been a copy of a Dutch plant, that had been built to metric units, which were converted to Imperial to build the Flixborough plant.

As ICI had used metric units since the mid-1950s, there was considerable alarm in the mind of the Senior Engineer, that when the hasty modification was made, someone got mixed up.

Would the Flixborough disaster have happened, if the plant had been built as a copy of the Dutch plant using metric units?


September 26, 2020 Posted by | Design, Sport, Transport/Travel, World | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Diana Busometer Seems To Be Right

Judging by the dreadful reviews I’ve seen, the prediction made by the large number of bus adverts for the Diana film, seem to be right.

I shall not be going to see it. Wikipedia says this about the reception the film received.

So far the film has received overwhelmingly negative reviews from the British press with an approval rating of just 4% on Rotten Tomatoes. Writing for The Mirror, David Edwards said it was a “cheap and cheerless effort that looks like a Channel 5 mid-week matinee” and awarded the film one star out of five. Peter Bradshaw of The Guardian also awarded it one star out of five and called the film “car crash cinema”.

I read the review in The Times, where it was also given one star.

September 23, 2013 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , , , | Leave a comment

The Fracking Story Is Now Dead

We won’t get much on fracking for a few days, weeks and even months, as the papers have decided to dig up that old chesnut of a story designed to sell newspapers; who actually killed princess Diana. Even that royalist rag, the Independent has the story.

Still as her death didn’t happen in Sussex, the police of that county must be very relieved.

August 17, 2013 Posted by | News, World | , , | 6 Comments

A Place In Times Of Stress

Today, I was going to have lunch with an old business partner in Surrey and getting to Waterloo station took me past Southwark Cathedral.

Southwark Cathedral

Southwark Cathedral

So I dropped by to have a quiet contemplation. As I’ve said in another post this place is special to me and as the sister of one of my friends, has a child near to death, I wanted to add my point fourpennyworth. Also being the day of Margaret Thatcher’s funeral I wanted to show respect privately in the way I do. I remember years ago, when Princess Diana’s funeral took place, I was on holiday in Northumberland with C. She watched it with a friend on the television and I just sat on the coast of Holy Island. I never watch this type of State pageantry on the television.

April 17, 2013 Posted by | News, World | , , , , | Leave a comment

A Royal Wedding! Is that what we need?

I only met Prince William’s mother, Princess Diana, once and that was in Buckingham Palace at a reception for Queen’s Award winners in 1991. I should have met Mrs. Thatcher that day, but one of her ministers had died so she had more important things to do than meeting me!

Some things stand out from that party.  Obviously, the setting was magnificent and the service was up to the highest standards.  But afterwards as you thought about it, nothing that was served was extravagant, and anybody could make a party run as smoothly, by just being good and watching the small details.  The drink flowed well and a couple of souls, were a bit merry as they left.

But what really stood out was the treatment of Diana by the guests.  To say she was hounded would not be out of hand.  But then she was going to marry Prince Charles in the summer and everybody wanted to talk to her.  We didn’t, but we had quite a very long conversation with the Duke of Kent.

Diana really wasn’t up to coping with this type of do and it was good to see that Katherine Middleton is a much stronger personality, who can probably hold her own in the sort of receptions and dinners, that she will be expected to attend.

Also too, she’s marrying one of her generation and peer group from University, so they’ve probably done a lot of the things that might be difficult in future. Diana didn’t have that luxury.  But marrying someone you’d met at university certainly helped give us nearly forty years of reasonably happy marriage.

So here’s hoping for them!

But I won’t be watching or listening!

I did notice that they’re using Diana’s ring for an engagement ring.  Let’s hope that this theme passes through the plans for the wedding.  Make it a happy and fun affair, but do make it in keeping with today’s austerity.

That way it might help to lift the gloom and bring in lots of tourists, who’ll spent money.  It wll be a good test for the Olympics in 2012.

November 16, 2010 Posted by | News | , | 1 Comment

Thorne, Althorpe and Flixborough

One of the places the train stopped was Thorne.

I can remember driving through it on a dark and wet night sometime in about 1970, when it was one of the poorest areas in the UK.  C, myself and our eldest son, who was just a baby at the time had been to visit C’s friend from Liverpool University, Sandra Briton and her husband Keith at Gliberdyke.

It still looked pretty bleak from the train, as the wind blew across the flat lands of North Lincolnshire.

It’s not a place I should have ever wanted to live.

Althorpe was another place passed by the train and we used to have friends who lived near there under the shadow of the River Trent. C could remember being woken up by a boat on the river virtually passing by the room where she was sleeping.

Our friends used to tell a story how tourists used to turn up looking for the last resting place of Princess Diana.  But of course they had got the spelling wrong.  I hope it’s improved with Sat-Navs or do they send those Dianaphiles to the wilds of North Lincolnshire?

But I couldn’t go to this part of the country, without thinking about the Flixborough disaster.  I’ve worked on lots of chemical plants and know how dangerous they can be.  And the disaster at Flixborough, proved my fears, when 28 people died and many were injured in June 1974.

According to Wikipedia, the cause of the explosion my well have been a badly-designed bypass pipe that wasn’t properly tested.  I also heard a contributing factor from an engineer at ICI, was that the design of the plant had been metric as it was a Dutch design and it had been converted to Imperial when it was built in the UK.  This had meant that the pipe that broke was the wrong size to withstand the pressure.  Wikipedia says this.

The official inquiry into the accident determined that the bypass pipe had failed because of unforeseen lateral stresses in the pipe during a pressure surge. The bypass had been designed by engineers who were not experienced in high-pressure pipework, no plans or calculations had been produced, the pipe was not pressure-tested, and was mounted on temporary scaffolding poles that allowed the pipe to twist under pressure. The by-pass pipe was a smaller diameter (20″) than the reactor flanges (24″) and in order to align the flanges, short sections of steel bellows were added at each end of the by-pass – under pressure such bellows tend to squirm or twist.

I don’t know what the truth was and probably we’ll never find out, but in my view to mix measurement systems in anything as dangerous as a chemical plant is asking for trouble.  It should be noted that ICI went fully metric in chemical plant design sometime in the 1950s. I seem to remember hearing somewhere that safety was one of the reasons.

The fact that we still commonly use Imperial measures is an absolute disgrace.

September 29, 2010 Posted by | Transport/Travel | , , , | Leave a comment