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Posts Tagged ‘risk’

So, you’re out taking pictures of trees, and an elderly lady comes running up to you saying someone’s in the river, they can’t get out, and can you help? You take a look and there’s a woman up to her middle in the freezing water, down a steep bank. She’d gone to help her dog get out, and slipped in. The dog gets out on its own and is now yapping and careening about like it’s demented, and not making me feel particularly welcome. She can’t scramble up, and she can’t move to where the bank is less steep either, because the river runs very deep on either side of her. She’s basically trapped. So, I lower myself as close as I can, and offer my hand, thinking I can perhaps haul her out. She takes a firm grip, but I’m not strong enough, and I can’t gain enough of a purchase on the bank, so there’s a risk she’ll have me slithering in as well. She’s already been in the water a while, is cold and getting tired.

What I’m thinking I should have done at this point was call the fire-brigade, and just keep her company until they arrived, but I reckoned that would have been another half an hour at least, and she’s been in the water long enough. The other side of me says there’s a farm a few minutes away. We just need some big lads, a rope and a sling, so I leg it to the farm. The farm duly spills out to the rescue, big lads, quad bike and all. They drop the woman a sling which she gets around her body, and they have her out in a jiffy. She’s embarrassed, refuses offers from the farm ladies of a lift home, says she’ll walk, that she lives not far away. Drama over, the farm goes back to work, and I go on my way.

It’s only then I realize I’ve seriously broken the social distancing rules and, in the heat of the moment, actually touched another human being. If I’ve caught Covid from the woman, it’ll show up in a couple of days and that’s me in isolation for a fortnight, or worse. On the balance of probabilities, I know it’s unlikely, but it is just possible. And it’s not only myself I put at risk, either. It’s everyone at the farm, and everyone I live with and half of me is kicking myself over that. Maybe I should have just called the fire brigade, and sat there like a lump until they came, with their PPE and their proper procedures for dealing with rescues in the time of Covid. I don’t know. What would you have done?

We all need to get outdoors, to walk, get some air. Stay local, yes, but there are still risks, like falling into the river after your dog, and needing help to get out. It could happen to any of us. I could have been out in the field with my camera, turned my ankle and had to beg help off a passing walker. So it’s not just ourselves we’ve to think of, but those who might have to turn out and help us.

Anyway, I got my tree photograph, a decent walk and even a bit of a jog – which surprised me. As for the Covid, I’ll just have to keep my fingers crossed.

Good night all.

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sunsetWintering in the same old cold and grey,
waiting for that chance-thing to arise
and say: here, this is how,
revealed in unambiguous guise,
you might now see and act
and leave behind at last
the lies you tell yourself
in order to maintain
this never ending waiting game!

But there is nothing new today.
No novelties arise, just the same
old cold and grey in which
you wear the usual disguise,
revealing this uncomfortable truth,
that for all your life you’ve hid,
dissolved in indecision.
And of all the things, of your own volition,
you might heartily have risked, and done,
you never risked, or did,
a single one.

 

 

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aysgarth upper fallsThe climate is changing. It’s becoming wetter, the rains harder, longer and more frequent. They saturate the ground, the rivers rise, then spill, bringing mud and ruin. Such events were rare, they were a once in a generation thing, but now they happen so frequently, even a year without a flood is counted as a blessing.

I live in a bungalow in a village suddenly prone to annual flooding. Everything I own is at ground level. If the floods come through my letter box, I lose it all. Fortunately my abode rests on a modest high spot, an understated quirk of geography, one that has never flooded in living memory. But weather “events” are so spectacular now it renders the unthinkable thinkable and the phrase “living memory” less of a comfort.

And as I write, my home is under threat from rising water. Three overburdened rivers have burst creating lakes which pool over the escape roads, rendering them impassable to all but the army in their big trucks. And the army have gone home after attending record breaking floods on Boxing Day. We’re cut off from the world, at least for now.

I’m thinking we’ll probably be all right, except I’ve just had a recorded telephone warning from the Environment Agency – flood threat, severe, my area, risk to life, cooperate with the emergency services. These warnings are a one size fits all kind of thing and, though undoubtedly necessary in some circumstances, I feel they are unnecessarily alarmist in others. I suspect the latter is the case now, but one can never be certain. It is in my nature to hope for the best, until the worst is staring me in the face.

I have been to check the spread of water around us, though it’s pitch dark and much of the power to the village is still to be restored. This makes it hard to see anything at all. The encroaching waters are discernible as patches of paleness in the black, seemingly huge spectres laid across the usual pitch void of meadow and moss. I see distant lights reflected in them. It’s hard to tell how they are moving, or if they are moving. Darkness and imagination – still ringing from the Environment Agency’s warning – adds to the possibly inappropriate sense of threat.

There are other people about, roused by the same warnings, gathered mostly into small groups. The mood is generally calm but quietly anxious. There is a murmur of voices, faces occasionally lit by the flash of a mobile phone. Some wave their torches, loosely focused shafts of light, beaming uselessly into the darkness. They seek perhaps to probe the incoming water – measure its depth, its speed, its intent. Now and then you see someone in a hi-vis jacket running, shouting unhelpfully, breaking the quiet as if with a pointed stick. They are not officials, but easily mistaken as such – their skittishness betrays their imposture.

The flood warden passes sedately on his bicycle. I recognise him. He bears an uncanny resemblance to John Le Mesurier’s Sergeant Wilson – same looks, same voice, same gentle manners. He tells me all the sandbags were taken in the preceding days of flood – these were days that saw hundreds of properties in other parts of the village washed out with silt and sewerage. He tells me there’s nothing we can do, is apologetic. I admire his stoicism, am inspired by it.

His walkie talkie scratches to life, a garbled voice speaks to him of something incoherent, he cycles off. I note homes nearer to the front line have improvised their own defences from polythene sheet, which they hold up around their door frames with bricks and planks. They might as well have saved themselves the effort, but at times of crisis it is easier to be busy, harder to be still.

By 2:00 a.m. I am alone by the silty water’s edge, the village having given up its vigil and gone to bed. Here, the tarmac of the little road disappears under an alien plane of rippling murk that spills from a meadow, and may as far as I know stretch all the way to the sea, some five miles away. I poke at it with my toe, make ripples, suspect the level might be falling. Can’t be certain. It’s been three hours now since the recorded warning of imminent threat to life and property. What are we expecting here? I imagine a tsunami bearing down on me in the still of night. It does not come.

The emergency services arrive, but International Rescue this is not. It’s just the one night-duty policeman in a minibus. He cruises down to the waterline beside me, stops suddenly when he sees it, looks surprised, gets out, shines his torch. He says nothing to me, as if a gulf of language separates us, yet we are two men alone at dead of night, on the edge of the unknown. I thought he might at least have nodded his fellowship. I leave him to it, return home to my desk.

So, here I sit and ponder what, among my belongings, I should rescue.

In a house, one can move valuables upstairs, but the best I can do is put things on the table-tops. Beyond that, the accumulated paraphernalia of my half century of life must take its chances with the goddess of destruction. I must face the possibility that this ephemera might not be here in the morning. What I can keep of it must go into my pockets. So, what shall I take?

What would you take?

Wallet and phone; these are the obvious, ubiquitous items, but I shall take also the little black codebook in which I keep passwords for my various online accounts. Computers are replaceable. Insurance documents are online now, but I have them copied for convenience to an SD card which I keep in a folder in my wallet.  I am portable, capable of letting go of what I cannot carry.

But evacuation is slow in coming, and I’m losing interest in staying up all night. I strip to teeshirt and trunks, lay my clothes at the bottom of the bed in case I must get into them quickly. Wellies and a torch are by the door. The village is quiet now, at last. I snuggle under the duvet and drift eventually to sleep and dream of mermaids.

Dawn comes, and there is no sound of lapping water around the bed. My ‘Droid assures me the imminent risk to life and property is still pending. I lie in ’till mid-morning, then walk down to the water’s edge once more. It has not receded much since the small hours, but looks less threatening in daylight. It is not the wide inundation I had imagined. There are corners to it, patches of dry.

A helicopter flies low, buzzing officiously. It loiters over breaches in the flood defences. Far away there are the flashing blue lights of a fire engine, pumping furiously. Water is still pouring in where it is not wanted, but seems to be finding a level that brings it no closer to my doorstep. For now at least.

One of the inroads to the village has cleared. We are accessible to the outside world again. The milkman delivers to those houses he can get to, the bins are emptied. The press will be here soon with their clownish satellite vans, po-faces pressing for their sound-bites. Nothing like pictures of flood and tears on the teatime news, is there?

 

 

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BullOkay, so it sounds like a potentially dull subject for non petrol heads, but I assure you what follows is only peripherally concerned with car batteries. Here goes,…

I find public opinion is only of use when taken as an average. If one man is asked to tell the weight of a bull, he will likely be wrong by a wide margin, but if you take ten thousand men and ask each what they think, then add up their thoughts and divide by the number of men, you’ll get an answer that comes very close to the true weight of the bull. It’s called the wisdom of crowds. There’s nothing spooky in this. It’s a question of probability.

But the wisdom of crowds is harder to detect in the online forums which these days form a global network of talking shops that mull over the multifarious issues that vex mankind. If you have a problem and you search online, I guarantee someone else not only has that exact same problem, they have already asked the question of an online forum, and thereby unleashed a tsunami of uniformed opinion in response.

It’s rather like asking a question in a large public house when everyone is volubly chatty from a few pints, and bursting with the urge to press their wisdom on anyone who will listen. The opinions fly, the volume is raised as the evening progresses. Then certain comments are misinterpreted by the more prickly pundits as insults to their intelligence and they fire back with less veiled insults, and much pettiness. Indeed, to read them it seems the wisdom of online forums, as opposed to crowds, approximates not to the truth of any matter at all, but to zero.

Speaking of one such vexatious issue, and returning now briefly to the titular matter, I noticed my car battery was rather an ill fitting one, suggesting it was not the original, but a later replacement, and not a very expensive one either – just your regular sealed lead acid job. Further, there were some pipes dangling in the vicinity which appeared related to the function of the battery, while not being actually connected to it if you know what I mean.

mazda slaidburn 2014

The battery of a Mk 2.5 MX5, like the one I drive and love, sits in the boot (trunk), tucked away in its own little well, hidden under the carpet. The problem with this is that when charging, batteries release oxygen and hydrogen gases, and these can accumulate in the boot (trunk), or worse, leak through into the cabin as you go along.

Hydrogen is not poisonous, but it is impressively explosive especially when mixed with just the right amount of oxygen. Normally, with a battery mounted up front under the bonnet (hood) of a car, these gases vent harmlessly away to the atmosphere. Mounted in the boot (trunk) however, this is not so, as boots (trunks) tend to be sealed tight to keep the weather out and your stuff dry. I presumed those little pipes of mine were supposed to be connected to the battery to allow these gases to vent outside of the bodywork. That they weren’t was an oversight, or just sloppy maintenance, and was soon remedied by the procurement of some small, plastic elbow joints from my local aquatic centre. These fit snugly in the little vent holes which most batteries have, and allowed the vent pipes to be neatly coupled up again. Whatever the risk from outgassing was, it was now taken care of.

For so simple a matter, the subject of the MX5 battery is one on which whole volumes have been written, on the various online forums, and scary reading they make too. This is all the more puzzling since the world as far as I know is not assailed by exploding MX5’s. Still, it makes one pause before accepting a ride, let alone owning one since, thanks to the incompetence and penny pinching of your average owner, according to said forums, one is likely to blow the back end off by merely starting her up. Nor would one ever store anything precious in the boot (trunk) as it would likely be dissolved by the “corrosive gases” emitted by that most fiendish of all gremlins, the incorrect, and worse, “cheap” battery, again according to the opinions expressed on said forums.

And opinions vary wildly, fingers jabbing in all directions, certain pundits opting only for ultra expensive space age batteries, as nothing else will do for their treasured vehicle. Other pundits are more reassuring, telling tales of running with a regular, inexpensive battery for decades, and no problems. One can almost hear the sucking of teeth, see the raising of eyes at the foolishness of others, the tutting, the shaking of sage heads,… in short the forums were no help whatsoever.

mazda engine

Instead, I talked to my friendly local (independent) mechanic.

Of course batteries do not emit corrosive vapours. Tales of MX5 boots (trunks) partially dissolved by the “incorrect” battery suggest to me more a problem with a battery actually leaking electrolyte (acid) because it’s been damaged. This is a risk with all lead acid batteries – even the supposedly sealed ones, since a crack is a crack and yes, even dilute sulphuric acid (nasty, nasty, stuff) will make light work of anything in its path, be it human, animal, mineral or vegetable. So, if you want to eliminate all possibility of such a disaster you should by all means plump for the more expensive batteries which use an electrolyte in gel form to stop the acid from dribbling all over the place in the event of an accident or a spillage. But a properly fitting, and securely clamped battery should not crack, so, if the budget will not allow a high falutin’ space age technology battery, don’t worry about it. Sure, your regular, inexpensive battery may be dead in a couple of years, but it won’t cause your car to burst into flames, so long as it is properly vented, and it won’t melt the floor of your boot (trunk) either, so long as it’s properly fastened down.

So, yes, it’s sensible to connect those vent pipes up to get rid of any hydrogen gasses accumulating in the boot(trunk) and leaking through into the cab, but again the risk involved in this is unknown, and you’ll find nothing to quantify it on the forums – only a lot of diametrically opposed opinion from the lackadaisical to the apocalyptic. I ran mine for about a year before picking up on it, and came to no harm. And in the end we have only our own experience to go on.

All told then, we should enjoy our MX5s, and avoid at all costs the risk of becoming self diagnosing hypochondriacs with the online forums as our only reference. When seriously in doubt go talk to your friendly local (independent) mechanic. He’s been to college to learn about these things in those long gone days when colleges still taught useful vocational stuff, and he’s seen a lot more cars than you ever will.

Of course if you have any opinions on the correct battery to use in a Mk2.5 Mazda MX 5, feel free to share them. I’m full of opinions myself of course, but I’d never vent them on a discussion forum.

I keep a blog for that.

That way I always get the last word.

So, mine came with an AC Delco from goodness knows where. It fitted the original battery tray perfectly but sat too high, so I couldn’t get the boot (trunk) carpet down properly. The battery clamp also sat too high, and it was taking up valuable luggage room.

I replaced it with a Yuasa HSB063 from Halfords. This sat low enough to get the carpet back down properly but wouldn’t fit the battery tray so I made a new tray from impermeable packing foam, I also had to modify the clamp a bit. With some tweaking in the vice and few odds and ends from the garage, the clamp worked perfectly. Connected up the vent pipes, and the job’s a good ‘un.

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