A Driving Instructor's Blog


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Reverse inequality where you least need itI saw a news item this week where a female teacher, Alice Mc Brearty, had had a sexual relationship with a 15-year old male pupil. The judge – another female, Sheelagh Canavan – said:

…[she had committed the] grossest breach of trust…

I accept he was consenting – what 15-year-old schoolboy would turn down such an attractive offer?

I accept you truly believed this was a great romance, you were in love with him and vice versa, and that age didn’t matter. But it did.

McBrearty was jailed for 16 months.

Now, cast your mind back. Not very far – just a few years. A male teacher, Jeremy Forrest, ran away to France with a 15-year old female pupil. The link I’ve given here deals with some of the aftermath, specifically that the girl he ran away with still has feelings for him and is likely to enter a relationship with him when he comes out of prison. Although Forrest was accused of “grooming”, the girl has said:

If anything, I groomed him.

Forrest is in the middle of a five and a half year sentence for his crime, and will have to spend the rest of his life on the sex offenders’ register (no mention is made of that in McBrearty’s case).

I am not questioning the crime. Both committed them. Nor am I questioning the moral issues around consent.

What I am questioning is the “equality” on display. McBrearty should have been dealt with in accordance with the precedent set for Forrest and locked up for the same period. Or Forrest should be released, having already served more time than McBrearty will have to. And who decides whether judges like Canavan should be allowed to get away with overtly discriminatory and sexist comments about schoolboys.

Remind me again who gets discriminated against where it matters?


Tom Petty - Don't Come Around Here No MoreIf it’s true, it is yet another sad loss to music. Reports say that Tom Petty suffered a major cardiac arrest on Sunday and was left brain dead. As a result, life support has been removed. However, in spite of reports stating that he was dead, at the time of writing (23.30 on 2 October 2017) those reports have been withdrawn and his official death is not confirmed. If he is brain dead, though, it is much the same thing.

I’m sorry I never got to see him in concert. He didn’t do the UK much until the last two years, and those appearances were at festivals, which I won’t go anywhere near, because I can get wet standing in the rain and up to the ankles in shit right here at home without having to travel to do it. But when something like this happens, you wonder if maybe you should have.

All the legends are disappearing.

Update: No longer a surprise, but I woke up to discover the official announcement that Tom has died. RIP, Tom. Thanks for the music.


Raw Chicken BreastsThe raw (and probably some of the in-store cooked) chicken sold at stores like Marks & Spencer, Aldi, Lidl, The Co-op, Tesco, and Sainsbury’s is supplied by a company called 2 Sisters Food Group, based in Birmingham. It was founded in 1993 and has an annual revenue of over £3 billion. It has numerous subsidiaries, including Fox’s Biscuits.

Following an undercover operation involving ITV and The Guardian, it was revealed this week that workers at the West Bromwich plant had been changing the slaughter dates of chicken processed there. The company was also taking food back from supermarkets and repackaging and redistributing it. They are currently being investigated by the Food Standards Agency (FSA) as a result.

Back in 2013, 2 Sisters was fined £100,000 by FSA for shelf life date offences. In 2014, chicken which had been dropped on the factory floor at the Scunthorpe site was seen to be put back on the production line during an investigation into high levels of campylobacter in the UK food chain. 2 Sisters admitted to breaches of the rules, but was not fined.

In an update to the current issue, 2 Sisters has “suspended operations”. It isn’t explicitly stated that this suspension applies to just the West Bromwich plant, but I assume that’s what it means. But this is the part that sends shivers up my spine:

The 2 Sisters Food Group said staff at its site in the West Midlands will need to be “appropriately retrained” before it starts resupplying customers…

…the company said an internal investigation had shown “some isolated instances of non-compliance” at its plant in West Bromwich.

“We have therefore decided to temporarily suspend operations at the site to allow us the time to retrain all colleagues, including management, in all food safety and quality management systems.”

All staff will remain on full pay and take part in training on site, it added.

The thing that is clear is that someone somewhere was openly committing a crime – quite probably documented on film, one would assume, if ITV was involved. Even if those people were acting independently, they were still guilty, but it is more realistic to suppose that they were following orders, which widens the net both outwards and upwards.

So it makes you wonder how “retraining” of “colleagues” addresses this fairly obvious conclusion, and how being paid a full salary in the meantime goes anywhere near dealing with it appropriately.


Quite simply: you tell the truth. Or, rather, you correct falsehoods.

I’m getting sick and tired of the constant attempts to rewrite history and make it sound like women invented everything. It’s bad enough that the BBC has already declared that it wasn’t Charles Babbage, but Ada Lovelace, who invented the first programmable computer, but this latest article, titled “BBC 100 Women: Nine things you didn’t know were invented by women” takes the biscuit.

Let’s take a look at each of the nine entries.

Grace Hopper invented Computer Software

No she didn’t. She created a compiler-like application in 1952. It was not a true compiler – the first serious one was created in Manchester by Alick Glennie, also in 1952. The first fully-fledged compiler came from a team led by John Backus at IBM in 1957. The world has currently convinced itself that Ada Lovelace wrote the first computer program, even though this was precisely what Babbage was trying to do with his work using punched cards, and which never came to fruition – so Lovelace’s “program” never ran anyway.

The first “stored-program” computer was built in Manchester and ran its first program – software – in 1948.

There’s no doubt that Grace Hopper holds an important position in the history of computer programming, but it isn’t anywhere near as far up the ladder as some would have you believe, and it’s definitely not right at the top.

Dr Shirley Ann Jackson invented Caller ID and Call Waiting

No she didn’t. Theodore Paraskevakos developed a caller ID system in 1968 in Greece. He took out 20 patents between 1969 and 1975, and they predate all others.

Famous Black Inventors (Jackson is African-American) says:

Dr. Jackson conducted breakthrough basic scientific research that enabled others to invent the portable fax, touch tone telephone, solar cells, fiber optic cables, and the technology behind caller ID and call waiting.

In other words, she was involved in the theoretical side of what eventually led to the modern system we use. Along with many other people.

Mary Anderson invented the Windscreen Wiper

No she didn’t. The first ideas seem to have come from Jozef Hofmann and Mills Munitions of Birmingham. At least three people patented wiping systems at the same time – Mary Anderson, Robert Douglass, and John Apjohn. Douglass filed his patent three months before Anderson, Apjohn three months after. Anderson’s might have been better, using an arm instead of a moving brush-bar, but she wasn’t the first to come up with the idea of a wiper.

Olga D Gonzalez-Sanabria  invented Space Station Batteries

No she didn’t. Wikipedia says:

González-Sanabria played an instrumental role in the power systems area with the development of the “Long Cycle-Life Nickel-Hydrogen Batteries”. Her technical contributions helped to enable the International Space Station power system.

Contributions and involvement are obviously not be sneezed at, but it’s wrong to overstate them.

Josephine Cochrane invented the Dishwasher

No she didn’t. The first dishwasher was patented by Joel Houghton in 1850. A later patent was awarded to L. A. Alexander in 1865. Cochrane’s patent was awarded in 1887, and she was “assisted” by George Butters. The first dishwasher that was anything like today’s modern devices was patented by William Livens in 1924.

Marie Van Brittan Brown invented the Home Security System

No she didn’t. Not on her own, anyway. Wikipedia says:

…the originator of the home security system (patent number 3,482,037) in 1966, along with her husband Albert Brown…

Ann Tsukamoto isolated Stem Cells

No she didn’t. She was a “co-patentee” (out of four) of a process to isolate human stem cells.

Stephanie Kwolek invented Kevlar

That one’s correct, though the BBC neglects to mention that is was an accidental discovery and she had little or no involvement in the subsequent development of Kevlar and its uses, and doesn’t seem to have realised its potential.

Elizabeth Magie invented Monopoly

No she didn’t. Magie invented The Landlord’s Game – a game designed to spread the teachings of the 19th Century American economist, Henry George – specifically, his “single tax” theory. She was awarded a patent in 1904. Various similar games came and went between 1903 and the 1930s, and all dealt with the sale and development of land.

Monopoly was sold for the first time in 1935. Parker Brothers purchased the rights from Charles Darrow, but when they realised Darrow was not the sole inventor, and had borrowed ideas from Magie’s game, they also bought rights to Magie’s patent – bearing in mind Monopoly was being sold by Parkers four years before Magie marketed the third version of The Landlord’s Game, in 1939. Monopoly was not the same game.

There is no doubt that these women were major contributors to the fields they were involved in, but it is wrong to talk their involvement up.

Women should have equal opportunities. They should have equal pay for doing the same work as a man. But we have to face the fact that women and men are different, and just as there are things a woman can do better than most men, equally there are things men can do better than most women.

Re-writing history won’t change that.


Kim Jong Un - Global TosserSome questions in life just don’t have a viable answer to them.

North Korea is a pariah state. Every other country on the face of the earth hates it. It has acquired big boys toys – nuclear weapons – primarily because it is run by a Big Boy. Well, a fat, retarded specimen with the mind of a very backward child, anyway, who has spent the better part of two years dividing his time between threatening to destroy America (and a few other people), and firing missiles. He’s also allegedly managed to kill a few dozen of his close associates, some of whom were family, and assassinated a defector (also family). He also allegedly has executions carried out using anti-aircraft guns. I’m sure he went and had one off the wrist after watching that.

He recently gave a date by which he planned to attack Guam, though he backed down (thus making himself look a bigger prat than ever). And in his latest spasm, he has fired a missile over Japan.

The thing is, if he did start any sort of war – nuclear or conventional – although there would obviously be a lot of damage, North Korea would quickly be blown off the face of the planet. Kim Jong Un appears to be too stupid to realise that, as well as being too stupid to understand that you don’t win friends and influence people the way he’s going about it. I’m sure he’s also too stupid to realise he’s gone so far down that path, he’ll NEVER have any friends. HIs people don’t like him. They hate him – but they’re afraid of him.

The man simply has to be insane not to realise what a complete tosser he actually is. No nation is ever inherently evil – only individual people are. Like Kim Jong Un.


I just saw this report from the Evening Standard. Imagine what would happen if a 37-year old man did this:

  • had a gambling addiction
  • was an accountant for a tech company
  • created over 400 fake invoices
  • stole £350,000 in one year
  • spent £250,000 of it playing online poker
  • concealed details to avoid being caught

Now imagine what would happen if the only altered detail was that it was a 37-year old black woman.

Unbelievably, Natalie Saul, the thief in question, was given a two-year suspended sentence, 250 hours unpaid work, and a fine of £360 (and I haven’t missed any 0s off that). She was defended by a woman, Lucie Daniels, whose pathetic mitigating plea included:

This offending is so out of character, she has worked hard and paid her taxes and been a responsible citizen…

The judge, Catherine Newman – yes, that’s right: a woman – said:

It has caused considerable harm to your employer which could ill afford to lose such a substantial sum, but thankfully survived. Your grandmother’s death rocked the stability of your hitherto good citizenship.

You had a steady partner who had no idea of your gambling addiction and stands by you. I’m prepared to take the wholly exceptional course of reducing your sentence and suspend it.

Saul was only caught when she went on maternity leave (sigh) and the new accountant uncovered the fraud. Incidentally, it isn’t made clear what happened to the other £100,000 she ripped off.

Newman also said:

I’m taking a considerable risk that the Crown will think it lenient and appeal, but it’s a risk I’m willing to take.

Let’s hope the Crown agrees, does appeal, and also kicks Newman out for gross incompetence (not to mention what appears to be overt discrimination). If Saul had been a man, they’d be arguing the upper sentencing limit wasn’t enough, but Newman seems to think that even the lower limit isn’t low enough for a woman. Thank God for equality, eh?


Broken BritainThe Brexit fiasco leaps from one incompetent episode to another. The latest being the reports that the UK was willing to pay a €40 billion divorce bill, quickly followed by a statement that it wasn’t.

It seems that Theresa May – who is no longer in charge of the government – was willing to pay this in order to move along with Brexit negotiations. But Downing Street has dismissed this because:

…leading supporters of leaving the EU said they would not accept handing over such a large sum.

Brexit supporters have caused enough damage already. Someone should just turn round and tell them to f*** off and grow up.

The sooner we get a 2nd referendum, the better.


Sad Hill Cemetery in the movieI just caught this story on the BBC website.

The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly (TGTBATU) is the best film of all time. I should say that that’s just my opinion, but I don’t want to water it down. It just is.

It has sentimental value to me as well. An uncle, who died many years ago, was going to take me to see it when it was on at the cinema. I had been captivated by the music, which was being played a lot on the radio, and he said he’d take me. It never came to pass, because about five minutes after he’d said it, my auntie pointed out that it had an ‘X’ rating and they wouldn’t let a 7-year old in.

I digress. A while back, I was playing around with Google Earth, and since TGTBATU was on one of the satellite channels again I looked up the location of Sad Hill cemetery – the setting for the iconic final scene in the movie. The scenery in the film had always impressed me, but the location in Northern Spain turned out to be overgrown. It was an unofficial off-the-beaten-track tourist target, but it was just an overgrown valley – albeit still with great scenery. I’d made a mental note to visit the place if I ever got the chance.

Anyway, it appears from this story that a group of volunteers has renovated the site and put it back to the condition it was in when the movie was shot.

Time to start planning the trip.


Following other vehiclesThis story has appeared in a few newspapers recently. It concerns the stopping distances in the Highway Code (HC), and “research” by Brake – which is usually involved when anything like this kicks off. The charge being levelled this time is that the HC is wrong, and stopping distances are actually much longer.

The first thing to point out, even though the forums are already running with it – is that only the typical driver’s reaction time is being questioned. It has nothing to do with the actual braking distance (remember that overall stopping distance is equal to the thinking distance + braking distance). The second thing to recognise is that it isn’t even a new issue. It had been ably discussed at least as long ago as June 2016 on Chalkdust Magazine. If I was being cynical I would suggest that Brake had been at a bit of a loose end since its last crusade, seen this article, and picked up the reins.

The HC’s standard figures for stopping distances date back to the 60s, and this has led many to argue that they must be out of date for that reason alone. Consequently, most arguments start with the premise that stopping distances are wrong because cars have improved, and then proceed to cherry-pick disparate data which appear to support that premise. Most arguments focus on the braking distance.

I’m not going to repeat Chalkdust’s excellent calculations here, but it is important to understand from the outset that the braking distance in real situations has nothing to do with the weight of the vehicle. Braking distance is all to do with friction, and since any vehicle on the road has brakes which can freeze the wheels instantaneously if they’re applied hard enough, and an amount of rubber in contact with the road surface which is proportional to the size and weight of the vehicle, it is the overall friction between the tyres and the road which matters most.

As an aside, tyres are better today than they were in the 60s, road surfaces are better, and brake systems are better. So, if anything, a car in the 21st Century would probably stop more efficiently than one in the 60s did. But as I say, the issue isn’t about braking distance.

Chalkdust pointed out in 2016 that the HC stopping distances allow for a thinking time of 0.68 seconds, and they suggest that this appears to have been chosen because it meant that the “thinking distance” in feet is the same as the speed in mph – which is one of the methods learners use to  memorise the stopping distances table in the HC. By comparison, the United States uses 1.5 seconds thinking time, and Canada assumes 2.5 seconds. Chalkdust suggests a new “thinking distance” in metres which is numerically equal to mph, and which equates to 2.24 seconds thinking time.

SpeedCurrent Thinking DistanceCurrent Stopping DistanceNew Thinking DistanceNew Stopping Distance

Brake has decided to argue something completely different, coincidentally adopting the American thinking time of 1.5 seconds (but allegedly following “research” into “average thinking times”). Consequently, its proposed stopping distances are somewhat shorter than Chalkdust’s – and horrendously un-rememberable!

SpeedCurrent Thinking DistanceCurrent Stopping DistanceNew Thinking DistanceNew Stopping Distance

Even without the decimal fractions, there is no pattern to aid remembering them. At least with Chalkdust’s figures, the “thinking distance” is memorable, thus more or less eliminating one of the variables involved. Let’s not forget that knowing or remembering the distances is one of the primary concerns here – it isn’t an exercise in having precise distances nailed down.

In my opinion – and I’ve said this before – knowing the actual stopping distance at any given speed is as useful as a chocolate fireguard. However, knowing that the current 70mph stopping distance is about as long as a football pitch is much more useful (compared with knowing it is 315 feet or 96m). Let’s face it, if you’re in a situation where this is suddenly important, and you’re trying to push the pedals through the floor to avoid something in front of you, you’re not going to be worrying about how far 96m is from where you are now.

The “two-second rule” (which would probably become the four or five second rule based on this), or some variation of it, is infinitely more useful.

Modern cars are lighter than they were in the 60s

No, they’re not. A Ford Anglia – the car allegedly used to set the current numbers – weighed about 740kg. A Ford Focus weighs around 1,400kg. Even a Citroen C1 weighs over 800kg. A BMW Mini weighs about 1,200kg, compared with about 650kg for an original Mini back in the 60s.

Tyres were different back then

Yes, and they are unlikely to have been as good as those we have today. Modern cars have better tyres and better brakes, and more of the tyre is in contact with the road. Modern roads have better grip. If anything, modern cars can stop much more quickly that their 60s counterparts could under the same conditions.

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