I saw this story on the BBC website. Everything about it is pathetic, but… well, wait and see.
It starts off with the title. This is the kind of classy headline you’d get in The Sun, not the BBC: Rat in Trowbridge pub ‘ran up man’s leg and stole chip’. Of course, just in case this doesn’t paint the picture clearly enough, the Beeb has provided a helpful picture, depicting:
- a pub
- a rat
- some chips
Reece Coombs, the hapless victim in all this, claims the rat was “sewer sized” – so large, in fact, that when it made the alleged contact, poor Mr Coombs reckoned it felt like he’d been “kicked”. He doesn’t mention anything about being left unconscious or requiring emergency surgery or anything, so we must assume that the rat confined itself just to delivering a good kicking.
Wetherspoon, the pub’s operators, evacuated the place immediately and called in pest control. They refunded Mr Coombs (and all the other guests, I would imagine). Naturally, they apologised explaining that fly-tipping in an alley next to the pub may have been responsible. Certainly, I do not live under the impression that Wetherpoon either encourages or subsequently ignores rats on its premises. But this isn’t enough for Reece Coombs. Oh dear me no. He hasn’t had his full 15 minutes of fame yet (evidenced by the standard selfie-style photo of him in the article), and is apparently “still not happy”. He plans to take the matter further.
I wonder where else there is to go with it. The European Court of Human Rights? Amnesty International? Rentokil?
If it was me, it would be over and done with by now. I wouldn’t be craving attention over it, and I probably just wouldn’t go back to the pub involved for a while. I mean, there are other pubs.
It’s been in the media the last week or so that the power cords supplied with Surface Pro 2 and some Pro 3 machines before July 2015 have been identified as having a fault which can lead to overheating or even fires. Microsoft is replacing the cords free of charge.
You can order a replacement cord here. It’s a painless process which takes literally a couple of minutes.
Note that the issue is with the power cord only – that’s the bit that goes into the wall socket. There are no issues with the power supply “brick” the cord connects to.
This one’s a once in a lifetime opportunity – and I’ve got my ticket sorted out. I’m right near the front, too! It cost me, but it was worth it.
He’s expected to play all the old Deep Purple and Rainbow classics. I can’t wait.
ZZ Top have announced a gig in Birmingham at the O2 Academy in June 2016. I’m definitely going – I saw them a couple of years ago in Manchester and it was a great show.
Tickets go on sale Friday, 15 January. I’ve got mine.
The story below is from 2009. A more recent one (January 2016), which has generated renewed interest in the subject, suggests that scientists have found a way to make the old-style bulb more energy efficient (better than LEDs). I should point out – since the Daily Mail skims over it – that it is only “proof of concept”. Such bulbs are not being manufactured yet, and I would suggest that they are years away – and they may not even make it to market. For one thing, they will still “burn out”, whereas LED bulbs don’t.
The Daily Mail has outdone itself – and that’s really saying something where this middle-class rag is concerned. The humble incandescent light bulb has been around for nearly 200 years (or 130 years if you believe that Thomas Edison invented them first). It’s a long time by any standard.
The typical filament-based light bulb is extremely inefficient – most of the energy used to power it is wasted as heat, and they don’t last very long. The 40 watt bulb my desk lamp used to take typically lasts a couple of months before I hear the familiar ‘plink’ when I try to turn it on. However, the fluorescent energy-saving bulb I switched to had been in for almost a year and no problems at all. Of course, fluorescent bulbs only use around a fifth of the energy that an incandescent one needs to get the same light output.
The EU has determined that incandescent bulbs will be phased out by 2012, and the UK has targeted 2011 – by which time retailers will only be offering energy-saving versions to customers. The move would save something like $12bn (£8bn) a year throughout the EU , and cut down massively on greenhouse gas emissions.
The problem here is the term ‘ EU ‘. You see, any time the letters ‘e’ and ‘u’ appear next to each other in that order is guaranteed to turn the Mail’s hacks apoplectic with rage. This is then quickly followed by a Zimmer frame frenzy as the Mail’s Tory-voting readers jump on the bandwagon. This light bulb situation is a prime example. I mean, how dare those damned Johnny Foreigners try and tell we True Brits what to do? This is the Mail’s approach to just about everything: oppose Europe, and blame Europe. For everything (after you’ve blamed Tony Blair (yes, even after all this time), the Labour party, and anyone or anything else you don’t like) . It’s one reason why we’re still bloody well stuck with an antiquated weights and measures fiasco, when the Metric System is sitting there just begging to be used. It’s also why we’re not in the Euro (€) like we should be.
But anyway, the Mail published the story back in 2009 and said it had bought something like 50,000 of these bulbs to give away to punters. It has changed its tune a bit the next day due to being overwhelmed by middle-class morons anxious for a freebie and has had to limit its offer.
But never one to give up on an anti-Europe crusade, the Mail then embarked on a crusade against energy-saving bulbs (a further push was made in the print version of the paper).
To be honest, fluorescent bulbs are not the future. LED is the way to go.
Maplin Electronics (or loads of sellers on eBay) sell a range of flexible, high-brightness LED strips . I’m using one right now to light my computer desk – they operate off 12V and have a power consumption of about 2.5W (that’s less than a quarter of what a fluorescent bulb needs). And they have a lifetime of 100,000+ hours ( over 11 years ) continuous operation.
You can also buy LED bulbs with a standard screw or bayonet fitting to run from a standard light socket. When I wrote this article back in 2009 they were still quite expensive – something like £25 each – but I predicted that the price would fall. As of January 2016 you can pick them up for little more than £3 and considering that each will last for perhaps 50 years if run for 6 hours a day I don’t think that this is a bad price.
As I mentioned at the start of this updated article, scientists in America have produced incandescent bulbs in the lab which are more efficient than LED ones. It strikes me as an odd thing to do – it’s like trying to make a steam engine fly in spite of all the drawbacks associated with steam engines!
Incandescent bulbs have more issues than just being inefficient. They’re fragile, and the filament gets very hot so it inevitably burns out. From what I have read, I would expect the modified bulbs to burn out even quicker.
As many instructors will be aware, there used to be a newsstand magazine called ADI News (for a time, a column relating to this blog was published in it). It was a very good read, and it was a shame that it went into an online-only format.
Anyway, last month I was notified that a new and independent magazine was launching called Intelligent Instructor. I subscribed and received my first copy today (issue no. 2). I can wholeheartedly recommend it to all instructors out there – although Paul (the Editor) might disagree, from my point of view it picks up the old ADI News style and packs a surprisingly large amount of information for an A5 publication across almost 70 pages. In my opinion, an ADI magazine simply has to be available in hard copy format.
If you subscribe now, they are offering the first three issues free, and 25% off the usual magazine stand price.
One thing I did learn – and Intelligent Instructor appears to be more timely with its information than the old ADI News used to be – is that Mercedes Benz has shut down its driving academy in the UK as of 31 December 2015. The 28 franchisees have been told they can return their cars, or continue to lease them – presumably as solo ADIs, which means they’ve got to build up their businesses from scratch again.
Note that I do not write for the magazine, and my views above are based solely on having read it. Oh, and Paul has indicated that it will be in test centre waiting rooms at some point (like ADI News used to be).
An email from DVSA points out that from 14 January 2016, when renewing your badge (or starting the qualification process) online you will need your CRB/DBS* certificate number.
The certificate must be less than 6 months old, have been generated by GB Group, and be specifically for the purposes of DVSA registration. You cannot use a CRB/DBS* check generated by anyone else, or one that has been generated for a different purpose.
DVSA advises that you get your CRB/DBS* sorted as soon as you get the letter (which is 6 months before your badge runs out) as it can take up to 4 months for the police to finish their checks.
I’m sure that the usual crowd will find fault with this. But for the record, when I renewed about a year ago the process was easy and quick (with a minor photo glitch that DVSA bent over backwards to sort out for me). All I am interested in is renewing my badge – not trying to build some sort of early 20th century political career against DVSA. Quite simply, if you do what you’re supposed to do, WHEN your supposed to, everything is fine. But if you’re an idiot who insists on delaying, then whining about time scales… it serves you bloody well right!
* The Criminal Record Bureau (CRB) is now the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS). I tend to use the term CRB when I’m talking to people, but it’s strictly a DBS check these days.
I get quite a few hits from people asking about the Show Me/Tell Me questions that are asked at the start of the driving test. It didn’t occur to me until now that I’ve never written about them before!
When you turn up for your test, the examiner will come out of the office, usually precisely on time, and call your name. He’ll ask to see your driver’s licence (that’s just the photo card – the paper part is now obsolete and you should destroy it). He will ask if you’re still living at the address on the licence (if you aren’t, and/or you want your full licence sending to a different address you must tell him), then he’ll ask you to sign the test form.
When you get outside, the examiner will ask you to read a car number plate from the required distance (20 metres for a new-style plate). He won’t measure the distance accurately unless you have a problem, in which case they will usually go back inside to fetch a tape measure and do it properly. If you cannot read the plate then the test is immediately abandoned. If you normally have to wear glasses, then you must do so.
Now they will ask you two questions which relate to vehicle safety – these are what everyone refers to as the Show Me/Tell Me questions. DVSA lists the questions in full. I will go through each here with a bit of extra explanation.
Show me how you would check that the direction indicators are working.
Applying the indicators or hazard warning switch and check functioning of all indicators. (may need to switch ignition on, prompt not to start engine).
Make sure you know where the Hazard Warning Light button is. It is usually red, with a double triangle symbol on it, and will be in a very obvious position (often, smack in the middle of the dashboard between the driver and passenger seats. Remember that you are checking the bulbs, so point out that you would get out and walk round the car to have a look.
Show me how you would check the brake lights are working on this car, (if you need to switch the ignition on, please don’t start the engine).
Operate brake pedal, make use of reflections in windows, garage doors, etc, or ask someone to help, (may need to switch ignition on, prompt not to start engine).
The brake lights only come on when you press the brake pedal, so you cannot get out and have a look for yourself. That’s why you can either get someone to look for you, or use reflections. Don’t say anything like “put a brick on the pedal” (trust me: people DO say that when they don’t know). Remember that the brakes (and brake lights) only work when the ignition is turned on.
The ignition switch has four positions: off, radio (auxiliary) circuits, ignition, and start. The start position is spring loaded, and it is where you turn the key to fire up the engine. Then, it falls back to the ignition position. If you just turn the key to the ignition position, apart from the power steering and the engine, everything operates as if you were driving – including the brake lights. That’s what the examiner means when he says not to start the engine. If you have a keyless car, find out what corresponds to the ignition position (it’s usually a push of the start button, but don’t put the clutch down).
Show me, or explain how you would check that the power assisted steering is working before starting a journey.
If the steering becomes heavy the system may not be working properly. Before starting a journey two simple checks can be made. Gentle pressure on the steering wheel, maintained while the engine is started, should result in a slight but noticeable movement as the system begins to operate. Alternatively turning the steering wheel just after moving off will give an immediate indication that the power assistance is functioning.
It IS possible, though unlikely these days, for you to turn up for your test in a car which doesn’t have power steering. In that case, explain how you would do it if you DID have power steering, but point out that the car you are in doesn’t have it.
Power steering is like an amplifier, which translates small movements of the steering wheel into much larger movements of the car’s wheels. Vehicles which don’t have power steering typically require more force to steer, and more movement of the steering wheel to get the amount of wheel movement required. If the power steering is faulty, the steering wheel becomes harder to turn. Since it is powered by the engine, you can feel the steering wheel become loose when you start the car – and that’s what you are checking for in this question.
If you ever notice the steering become stiff, or if the power steering doesn’t kick in when you start the car you must not drive it and get it fixed as soon as possible. It is extremely dangerous to drive with faulty power steering.
Show me how you would check the parking brake (handbrake) for excessive wear; make sure you keep safe control of the vehicle.
Apply footbrake firmly. Demonstrate by applying parking brake (handbrake) so that when it is fully applied it secures itself, and is not at the end of the working travel.
The handbrake is operated via a cable when you pull the lever up. The cable can stretch or snap. You need to make sure the lever doesn’t go all the way to the end of its travel, and you must apply the footbrake to ensure that the car doesn’t roll while you’re testing it.
Show me how you would check that the horn is working.
Check is carried out by using control (turn on ignition if necessary).
You just push the centre of the steering wheel. Remember that you mustn’t sound the horn while you are stationary on a public road (unless another vehicle poses a threat). This question is usually asked in the test centre car park, which isn’t a public road, so you’re OK to do it. However, if you are parked outside then you could earn brownie points by telling the examiner this – if he still asks you to do it, then just do it.
Show me how you would clean the windscreen using the windscreen washer and wipers.
Operate control to wash and wipe windscreen (turn ignition on if necessary).
Make sure that you know where the washer and wiper controls are. They’re usually on one of the stalks at the side of the steering wheel, and you pull the stalk towards you to squirt water (the wipers will come on automatically). Also make sure you know how the rest of the wiper control works, since you may need to get rid of dribbles after you’ve done this – and it may rain on your test, where you have perhaps never driven in rain before.
Show me how you would switch on the rear fog light(s) and explain when you would use it/them, (no need to exit vehicle).
Operate switch (turn on dipped headlights and ignition if necessary). Check warning light is on. Explain use.
This one isn’t about the bulbs – just how to turn on the rear fog lights, and when to use them. It’s another one where you need to turn on the ignition first, and you will need to have at least your dipped headlights on for the fog lights to work. Make sure you know where the switches are for your fog lights – it varies from car to car. You should only use your fog lights when visibility is seriously reduced (i.e. to less than 100m). Don’t just say “when it’s foggy”, because you might also use them in heavy rain or snow, in smoke or dust, and so on.
Show me how you switch your headlight from dipped to main beam and explain how you would know the main beam is on.
Operate switch (with ignition or engine on if necessary), check with main beam warning light.
You usually turn on your main beams using one of the stalks either side of the steering wheel. Hopefully, you’ve already driven at night and know how to do it anyway, having used your main beams to light up dark roads. The precise mode of operation varies between cars, but it usually involves pulling the lever forwards or pushing it backwards (on some cars, it is two separate positions in one direction). One way flashes the lights, the other way latches them on. Your dipped beams need to be on for the latched position to hold the main beams. A blue light shows on the dashboard when they are on.
Show me how you would set the demister controls to clear all the windows effectively.
Set all relevant controls including fan, temperature air direction / source and heated screen to clear windscreen and windows. Engine does not have to be started for this demonstration.
How you do this varies from car to car. To demist the front, you need to turn the heating up, turn the fan to high, and then make sure the air is blowing upwards on to the windscreen. To demist the back you need to turn on the heated rear windscreen using the appropriate button. This answers the question sufficiently for your test. However, I would advise you to know how to operate the air-conditioning (which keeps all windows mist free), and the heated front windscreen (if the car has one). You might need to use them on your test.
Open the bonnet, identify where you would check the engine oil level and tell me how you would check that the engine has sufficient oil.
Identify dipstick / oil level indicator, describe check of oil level against the minimum / maximum markers.
As its name suggests, the dipstick dips into the engine oil sump (reservoir), and by looking at how far up the dipstick shaft the oil level comes you can tell if the car has enough oil in it. What you do is take the dipstick out, wipe it clean on a rag, dip it back in, then take it out again and look at the oil line. It should be between the maximum and minimum markers.
Make sure you know where the dipstick is on any car you drive. The dipstick has its own receptacle, and don’t try poking it anywhere else (and definitely not in the oil filler hole on top of the engine – yes, pupils sometimes try that). You will not need to actually do it on your test, just explain the out-wipe-in-out-read procedure.
Open the bonnet, identify where you would check the engine coolant level and tell me how you would check that the engine has the correct level.
Identify high/low level markings on header tank where fitted or radiator filler cap, and describe how to top up to correct level.
Make sure you know where the coolant tank is on any car you drive. Modern vehicles usually have a separate reservoir (header tank), filled with pink (antifreeze) solution somewhere under the bonnet. It will have maximum and minimum markers on it.
Older cars had a radiator cap, and you placed coolant directly into the radiator – making sure it was filled to just above the cooling vanes inside. It IS possible that someone might go to test in such an older vehicle.
Open the bonnet, identify where the brake fluid reservoir is and tell me how you would check that you have a safe level of hydraulic brake fluid.
Identify reservoir, check level against high/low markings.
Somewhere under the bonnet will be another reservoir for the brake fluid. Make sure you know where it is. It will also have maximum and minimum markers on it.
Note that some cars will have yet another reservoir for the power steering fluid. All the reservoirs/header tanks have symbols on them telling you what they are for, and the power steering one is a bit of a giveaway (it usually has a steering wheel symbol on it). Don’t guess which is which – make sure you know.
Tell me how you would check that the brakes are working before starting a journey.
Brakes should not feel spongy or slack. Brakes should be tested as you set off. Vehicle should not pull to one side.
The brake fluid is non-compressible, so when you push the pedal it should feel firm. If the hydraulic system has got air or water in it then this IS compressible, and the pedal will have more give and feel “spongy”. If one side of the system has air or water in it, that side will not work as efficiently as the other, and the car will pull to the more efficient side when you brake. Believe me, when it pulls it really pulls.
Identify where the windscreen washer reservoir is and tell me how you would check the windscreen washer level.
Identify reservoir and explain how to check level.
Yes, there’s yet another reservoir under the bonnet – this one usually has a picture of a windscreen with what looks like a fountain on it. I have never seen a car in which the level of liquid in the screen wash reservoir was visible except when it was full to the top. And unlike the other reservoirs, this one ALWAYS goes down. I advise my own pupils to explain that they’d top it up regularly, and that it gets used up quicker in wet weather because of the muddy road spray.
Tell me where you would find the information for the recommended tyre pressures for this car and how tyre pressures should be checked.
Manufacturer’s guide, use a reliable pressure gauge, check and adjust pressures when tyres are cold, don’t forget spare tyre, remember to refit valve caps.
The “manufacturers guide” is the vehicle handbook, which is located in the glove compartment in my car (some cars have it in fold-down flap under the dashboard which conceals the fuse box). Find out where it is in your own car, because it tells you what your tyre pressures should be. There is sometimes also a label on the door frame or under the petrol cap which gives tyre pressures. You should measure tyre pressure before you go anywhere (when the tyres are cold) and you use a reliable pressure gauge (don’t say “at the garage”, because their gauges are notoriously UNreliable). You don’t have to use the word “gauge”, either, if you don’t understand it – say something like “a pressure measurer” or a “tyre pressure tool” and you’ll get the message across. And remember that the car has four tyres PLUS the spare (or five tyres INCLUDING the spare) – assuming it has a spare tyre at all. Some manufacturers are cutting costs by supplying puncture repair kits instead of spare wheels.
Tell me how you make sure your head restraint is correctly adjusted so it provides the best protection in the event of a crash.
The head restraint should be adjusted so the rigid part of the head restraint is at least as high as the eye or top of the ears, and as close to the back of the head as is comfortable. Note: Some restraints might not be adjustable.
The head restraint is there to protect your neck, so it needs to be adjusted so your head can’t whip back in the case of an accident.
Tell me how you would check the tyres to ensure that they have sufficient tread depth and that their general condition is safe to use on the road.
No cuts and bulges, 1.6mm of tread depth across the central 3/4 of the breadth of the tyre and around the entire outer circumference.
This one catches everyone out – even though it is in the theory test! The legal minimum tread depth is 1.6mm, and this applies around the middle ¾ of the whole circumference of the tyre. Remember that: minimum 1.6mm, all around the tyre, in the middle ¾ (i.e. the bit that is most in contact with the road). Plus, there should be no damage to the side walls (i.e. no cuts or bulges, which show weak points that could blow out at any time). You measure tread depth using a “tread depth gauge” – but, just like with the pressure gauge you can make up your own phrase, like “tyre tool” or “tread depth measurer”. Don’t say “with a ruler” (most people do if they don’t know), because no ruler anywhere in the world is capable of reliably measuring 1.6mm.
Tell me how you would check that the headlights and tail lights are working (no need to exit vehicle).
Operate switch (turn on ignition if necessary), then walk round vehicle. As this is a ‘tell me’ question, there is no need to physically check the lights.
Make sure you know where the headlight switch is. On some cars, it is a rotary control or toggle switch somewhere on the dashboard. On others, it is a rotary control or switch on one of the stalks either side of the steering wheel.
Tell me how you would know if there was a problem with your anti lock braking system.
Warning light should illuminate if there is a fault with the anti lock braking system.
The anti lock braking system (or ABS) is a feature on all modern cars which prevents the wheels locking when you brake sharply. A computer under the bonnet detects when the wheels lock, then releases the brakes for a fraction of a second. It does this about 15 times a second, and you can feel the brake pedal vibrate when it kicks in. It is common for the ABS to kick in slightly when you are doing the emergency stop exercise. It MUST be working if it is fitted (and all cars manufactured since 2004 MUST have it) – if the ABS warning light was on the car would fail its MOT, so if you were pulled over by the police and it was on then, it follows that you would be driving an unroadworthy vehicle. Make sure you know where the warning light is. It comes on for a few seconds when you turn on the ignition, then it should go out.
You cannot directly fail your test even if you get both questions wrong – but let’s be honest about it, it looks bad if you do. You can only pick up a single driver fault for getting both wrong.
People come up with all sorts of reasons why they won’t be doing these things when they pass. A female pupil (a trainee beautician, always with a brand new set of nails) once said haughtily “I don’t know why you’re making me do this, I’m always going to get someone to do it for me”. At the time, as she tried to lift the bonnet with the tips of two fingers, I replied “look, just do as you’re told and open the bonnet. You’ve got to be able to do it for your test”. Nowadays, I’d probably throw in a few comments about reinforcing stereotypes.
It isn’t difficult, and it isn’t messy.
Manchester is hardly a recognised seat of culture, and barely a week goes by without someone who lives their (or very close by) being involved with something nasty. Manchester has (or certainly had until recently) the highest drug death rate in the UK. As a result, it has areas which are virtually no-go, according to the UN, and it is compared to Mexico and Brazil in this respect. Manchester’s annual bill for dealing with alcohol abuse is more than £1.2 billion.
This normalisation of drug and alcohol use perhaps explains why so many people are wetting themselves over this photograph, which went viral in the last few days.
Some are claiming it is art, having gone so far as you explain that it conforms to the so-called golden ratio – a mathematical condition which, when applied to art and design, results in aesthetically pleasing products. Some guy at the BBC – who was apparently responsible for it going viral – sees it as an opportunity to write another article about it, filled with as many social networking clichés he can muster.
I’m sure many people will remember the story about the Emperor’s new clothes. I do.
So, let us put this pretentious crap to one side and regain sight of what the photograph REALLY shows: a group of Mancunians in various poses of drunkenness and lawlessness. Like this guy, who simultaneously manages to break the law (by having a glass bottle of beer in the street), and demonstrate why the law is there in the first place (by being pissed out of his idiot skull).
And this one, whose peanut-sized brain appears to prefer violence rather than laying down in traffic when it is soaked in alcohol.
Then there are the bit players – the woman who appears to be offering the standard “advice” to police as they arrest what is quite possibly her boyfriend. And another woman behind her, who is probably doing much the same to another officer.
Finally, let’s just remember that this photo represents the tiniest fraction of innumerable similar events across Manchester and most other cities on New Year’s Eve – and on pretty much any other night of the year, come to that.
The BBC guy is full of himself, and boasts that his original tweet has been picked up by French, Australian, and New Zealand commentators. But no one is commenting on how bad it makes the UK look.
They’ve been naming hurricanes (all right, cyclones) for years. They all used to have female names, but someone somewhere decided that this was sexist and now they alternate between male and female. Apparently, they have six lists for the North Atlantic, each list comprising names beginning with the letters A-W, but excluding Q and U. Usually, they only have to use about half of the names each year.
Britain has decided to get in on the act and has begun naming our storms, but in true British style they opened it up to the public – no doubt with prizes being awarded to the best papier mâché models, covered in glitter and dried spaghetti. As a result, possible names include: Clodagh, Frank, Gertrude, Desmond, Henry, Imogen, Jake, Katie, Eva, Lawrence, Mary, Nigel, Orla, Phil, Rhonda, Steve, Tegan, Vernon and Wendy. We’ve already had Barney, Eva, and Abigail, while Frank recently strutted his stuff. You just KNOW that the names relate to relatives and children of typical Daily Mail readers.
Laughably, virtually every storm cloud that comes across bringing rain or wind is getting named at the moment. At this rate we’re going to need another twenty names before the end of the winter.
(Obviously, this does not detract from the problems those whose homes were flooded are having to cope with).