Trinity Mirror local “news” – readers respond


Ever since the takeover of the Local World newspaper titles by Trinity Mirror in October 2015, several Local World titles seem to or actually have given up on reporting serious local news preferring to give preference to what are essentially advertorials (e.g. restaurant reviews) and trivia instead of the hard work of investigating corruption and wrongdoing in the local corridors of power and/or amongst the
city’s so-called great and good.

This certainly seems to ring true if one examines the Bristol Post, the city’s newspaper of warped record.

Today’s most spectacular piece of trivia from the Temple Way Ministry of Truth concerns an encounter with an unpleasant object in the men’s toilets of McDonalds, not a caterer likely to feature in the aforementioned restaurant reviews (McDonald’s restaurants is a well-known modern oxymoron. Ed.).

When allowed to comment, Post readers are not shy in expressing their views, as shown by the exchange below on the offending article.

comments read 1 This is not news and 2 The Post isn't a newspaper

As alluded to above, most of the Post’s alleged online news content can accurately be described as “clickbait“, which is defined by Wikipedia as “web content whose main goal is to entice users to click on a link to go to a certain webpage or video. Clickbait headlines typically aim to exploit the “curiosity gap,” providing just enough information to make readers curious, but not enough to satisfy their curiosity without clicking through to the linked content“.

It’s Pi Day


Listening to Radio 3 this morning, presenter Petroc Trelawny announced that today is Pi Day, an annual celebration of the mathematical constant π (pi). Following the US date format style (MMDDYY), Pi Day is celebrated 14th March, since 3, 1, and 4 are the first three significant digits of π. Pi has to date been calculated to over one trillion digits beyond its decimal point.

A Pi pie. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

A Pi pie. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

The earliest known official or large-scale celebration of Pi Day was organised by by physicist Larry Shaw in 1988 at the San Francisco Exploratorium, where he worked, at which fruit pies were consumed.

Besides maths and the sciences, Pi also turns up in the arts. In literature for example, in Terry Pratchett’s fictional Discworld city of Ankh-Morpork, Unseen University is a school of wizardry staffed by a faculty mostly composed of indolent and inept old wizards whose main function is not teaching, but eating big dinners. The University’s unofficial motto is “η β π”, or “Eta Beta Pi” (Eat A Better Pie).

Still in world of literature, Life of Pi is a fantasy novel by Yann Martel, which was adapted into a 2012 film of the same name directed directed by Ang Lee.

Finally, Kate Bush’s 2005 album Aerial features the track Pi.

Happy Pi Day! I shall be celebrating by eating a pastry product. 😀

Driverless vehicles – a nationwide danger?


Every day in the UK people are being seriously injured or even killed by vehicles which apparently have minds of their own or are not under the control of a human being.

If you need confirmation of this fact, just open any local newspaper or visit any local news website.

Police Accident road sign

Yesterday’s Bristol Post carries such a story of a fatal collision in Burnham-on-Sea in Somerset.

Bearing the headline “Pensioner driving a mobility scooter dies after being hit by truck in Burnham-on-Sea“, this is a tragic tale, whose first sentence reads:

An 80-year-old man has died after being hit by a pickup truck while driving his mobility scooter in Burnham-on-Sea.

Further details are then provided by a police officer who confirms the absence of human intervention the other party involved in the incident. The officer is quoted as saying the following:

At about 11.50am, a Nissan Navara was travelling along Oxford Street and, having turned into Adam Street, was in collision with the man who was on his mobility scooter.

Nowhere in the article – short though it is – is there any mention of the Nissan Navara having a driver.

This phenomenon of vehicles without drivers but with a mind of their own is not confined to the West Country either.

A quick glance at the Express and Star website reveals that yesterday in the Bewdley and Stourbridge area, another crash occurred in which at least one of the vehicles was driverless.

The crash involved a black Ford Ka and a black Ford Fiesta.

The driver of the Ford Ka, an 18-year-old woman, sustained serious head injuries.

Why is such a peculiar style of wording used for press reports of road traffic collisions? Are the highways and byways of the country really full of driverless, out of control vehicles with a sadistic or psychopathic streak?

Probably not.

The likely explanation for this curious style of reporting is that the majority of road traffic incidents ending in collision and injury will involve either insurance liability or criminal liability or both. The wording used carefully avoids attributing any blame.

Furthermore, these collisions are often referred to as “accidents“. The last thing the majority of road traffic incidents are is accidental since the majority of them involve either driver error, as shown by the graph below.

So, are the country’s roads full of metal boxes intent on causing harm to humans? Unlikely, but they are full of frail, fallible humans in charge of potential killers.

This year’s first celandines

Spotted on Stapleton Road this morning.

celandines spotted on Stapleton Road on 5th March 2018

Actually, the plant’s full name is the lesser celandine (Ficaria verna).

According to the Woodland Trust, lesser celandines may be found along damp woodland paths and tracks, as well as stream banks and in ditches. They also grow well in the shade of hedgerows, in meadows and in gardens: they usually start to flower between January and April each year.

As one of the first flowers to appear after winter, they provide an important nectar source for early pollinating insects, including some bee species.

In earlier times, the plant had medicinal and nutritional uses: lesser celandine was once believed to be a remedy for haemorrhoids and was known as ‘pilewort’. It is also high in vitamin C and was used to prevent scurvy.

Furthermore, the lesser celandine has its place in literature too. William Wordsworth (1770-1850) composed three poems to the plant between 1802 and 1807, of which one – To the Small Celandine – is reproduced below.

PANSIES, lilies, kingcups, daisies,
Let them live upon their praises;
Long as there’s a sun that sets,
Primroses will have their glory;
Long as there are violets,
They will have a place in story:
There’s a flower that shall be mine,
‘Tis the little Celandine.

Eyes of some men travel far
For the finding of a star;
Up and down the heavens they go,
Men that keep a mighty rout!
I’m as great as they, I trow,
Since the day I found thee out,
Little Flower!–I’ll make a stir,
Like a sage astronomer.

Modest, yet withal an Elf
Bold, and lavish of thyself;
Since we needs must first have met
I have seen thee, high and low,
Thirty years or more, and yet
‘Twas a face I did not know;
Thou hast now, go where I may,
Fifty greetings in a day.

Ere a leaf is on a bush,
In the time before the thrush
Has a thought about her nest,
Thou wilt come with half a call,
Spreading out thy glossy breast
Like a careless Prodigal;
Telling tales about the sun,
When we’ve little warmth, or none.

Poets, vain men in their mood!
Travel with the multitude:
Never heed them; I aver
That they all are wanton wooers;
But the thrifty cottager,
Who stirs little out of doors,
Joys to spy thee near her home;
Spring is coming, Thou art come!

Comfort have thou of thy merit,
Kindly, unassuming Spirit!
Careless of thy neighbourhood,
Thou dost show thy pleasant face
On the moor, and in the wood,
In the lane;–there’s not a place,
Howsoever mean it be,
But ’tis good enough for thee.

Ill befall the yellow flowers,
Children of the flaring hours!
Buttercups, that will be seen,
Whether we will see or no;
Others, too, of lofty mien;
They have done as worldlings do,
Taken praise that should be thine,
Little, humble Celandine!

Prophet of delight and mirth,
Ill-requited upon earth;
Herald of a mighty band,
Of a joyous train ensuing,
Serving at my heart’s command,
Tasks that are no tasks renewing,
I will sing, as doth behove,
Hymns in praise of what I love!

Incidentally, back in 2011, the Daily Mirror christened Stapleton Road “Britain’s worst street” where “murder, rape, shootings, drug-pushing, prostitution, knifings and violent robbery are commonplace“.

As a local resident for over 40 years, I didn’t agree then and nowadays still don’t agree with or recognise the Mirror’s sensationalist description. Surely somewhere that dangerous wouldn’t be home to such gentle and uplifting life-forms as the lesser celandine, which have inspired such souls as one of the great English Romantic poets?

Post exclusive: UK’s Met Office now part of Walmart, Inc.

In amongst the blizzard of snow-related news coverage, one significant item of information has been overlooked by almost all of the media: the Met Office, formerly an executive agency and trading fund of the UK government’s Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, is now part of major British supermarket chain Asda Stores Ltd., which is itself owned by US retail giant Walmart, Inc.

Indeed, the only part of the mainstream media to pick up this news yesterday was the Bristol Post, the city’s newspaper of (warped) record, as shown by the screenshot below of that mighty organ’s home page.

screenshot bearing the wording Asda - Met Office extends yellow weather warning for ice to cover Bristol and South West

Unless the above headline and tagging are yesterday’s deliberate mistake by the Temple Way Ministry of Truth, it is most baffling why such a momentous government asset disposal has not been mentioned elsewhere.

Finally, Walmart is rumoured to be such a hands-on company that the heating in all its stores is controlled from corporate headquarters. This blog trusts that Met Office employees are prepared for such control-freakery.

Earliest snowdrops ever

One of the first signs of spring is snowdrops (Galanthus).

They make your ‘umble scribes spirits lift knowing that winter will be banished in the not too distant future and spring is waiting in the wings.

snowdrops photographed this morning on All Hallows Road in Easton

Above is a picture of snowdrops taken this morning on All Hallows Road in Easton.

The last time this blog had a specific post on snowdrops, it was dated late January, so these are the earliest flowering snowdrops your correspondent has ever encountered in Bristol.

Given this early appearance of snowdrops, how long will it be before the next signs of spring – such as hazel catkins opening or flowering croci – occur?

The D’ohval Office

There have been many occupants of the Oval Office in the White House that have possessed of brilliant minds and some not so brilliant.

When it comes to the latter, think of both Presidents Bush as prime examples.

Bush Senior, i.e. George H.W. Bush, even gave rise to a neologism for gaffes – Bushisms. Below is an example.

It’s no exaggeration to say the undecideds could go one way or another.

(We’ll draw a discreet veil over Bush Senior’s Vice-President Dan Quayle and his “Potatoe” gaffe. Ed.)

The lack of intellectual firepower must be hereditary. “Dubya”, as the 43rd president was affectionately known, seems to have inherited his father’s legendary language skills, as per the following example, uttered in Bentonville, Arkansas, on 6th November 2000.

They misunderestimated me.

For masochists, there’s plenty of Dubya gaffes out there.

Coming right up to date, many would concede the 45th President of the United States of America was not at the front of the queue (or line for Transatlantic readers) when brains were being handed out. His mental stability has even been called into question.

The Donald is well known for his irrational outbursts and prolific use of social media, sometimes combining both, as in this tweet from a few days ago.

Trump tweet saying In the East, it could be the COLDEST New Year’s Eve on record. Perhaps we could use a little bit of that good old Global Warming that our Country, but not other countries, was going to pay TRILLIONS OF DOLLARS to protect against. Bundle up!

Let’s just analyse that tweet a bit and before we begin, it’s worth remembering insisting that global warming is a “hoax” invented by the Chinese, not to mention his appointment of climate change sceptics/deniers to both his cabinet and the Environmental Protection Agency.

Firstly, there’s the term Global Warming. The generally accepted term for what is happening to the earth is now climate change. NASA helpfully points out the following:

“Climate change” and “global warming” are often used interchangeably but have distinct meanings. Similarly, the terms “weather” and “climate” are sometimes confused, though they refer to events with broadly different spatial- and timescales.

This is exactly what Trump has done, not only confused climate change and global warming but weather and climate too.

To quote NASA on all these matters:

Weather refers to atmospheric conditions that occur locally over short periods of time—from minutes to hours or days. Familiar examples include rain, snow, clouds, winds, floods or thunderstorms. Remember, weather is local and short-term.

Climate, on the other hand, refers to the long-term regional or even global average of temperature, humidity and rainfall patterns over seasons, years or decades. Remember, climate is global and long-term.

Global warming

Global warming refers to the upward temperature trend across the entire Earth since the early 20th century, and most notably since the late 1970s, due to the increase in fossil fuel emissions since the industrial revolution. Worldwide since 1880, the average surface temperature has gone up by about 0.8 °C (1.4 °F), relative to the mid-20th-century baseline (of 1951-1980).

Climate change

Climate change refers to a broad range of global phenomena created predominantly by burning fossil fuels, which add heat-trapping gases to Earth’s atmosphere. These phenomena include the increased temperature trends described by global warming, but also encompass changes such as sea level rise; ice mass loss in Greenland, Antarctica, the Arctic and mountain glaciers worldwide; shifts in flower/plant blooming; and extreme weather events.

Referring to “good old Global Warming“, this is POTUS getting down with his supporters denoting someone something – in this case global warming – that will do what is wanted or expected of them or it respectively.

As for shouting about “trillions of dollars”, remember that climate change denier Trump has pulled the USA out of the Paris Agreement.

Donald has received plenty of criticism from many quarters for the above tweet. One of the most interesting implies that Trump is being hypocritical. The Hill reports that celebrity chef José Andrés has more or less accused Trump of hypocrisy.

On the same day as the infamous Trump tweet, José Andrés tweeted the following response:

Why are you trying to build a wall in Ireland to protect your Golf club from raising seas?…..Mr. Trump just we had one of the bigger seasons of hurricanes in a century! People in USA are without homes, food and electricity because of Global warming!!! Really?

Andrés was originally going to be opening a restaurant in a Trump establishment in Washington, D.C., but pulled out after Trump made racist remarks about Mexicans during his presidential campaign.

Trump sued then Andrés for breach of contract; the chef countersued.

Although a settlement was reached earlier this year, Andrés has continued to criticise Trump, particularly in respect of the response to Hurricane Maria’s devastation of Puerto Rico and Trump’s attitude to Moslems.

Even given some stiff competition from the Bush family, Trump’s global warming tweet is in my mind the dumbest thing to come out of the Oval Office since the days of Ronald Reagan, who, incidentally, was out-acted by a chimpanzee in Bedtime for Bonzo in 1951.

On 11th August 1984 Reagan famously gave the following sound check for his weekly Saturday address on National Public Radio:

My fellow Americans, I’m pleased to tell you today that I’ve signed legislation that will outlaw Russia forever. We begin bombing in five minutes.

Coming back environmental matters, Reagan also matches Trump in idiocy. Your ‘umble scribe can never forget the following, as quoted by Martin Schram in ‘Nation’s Longest Campaign Comes to an End’ in the Washington Post of 4th November 1980:

Trees cause more pollution than automobiles do.

Going, going,…

Last week’s post on east Bristol’s Wain Brook (posts passim) attracted considerable interest on social media amongst local residents with a love of local history and maps.

These interested parties included a member of the original team that put together the online Know Your Place mapping project, who commented further that he’s currently working on a flood mapping project that will include a number of Bristol’s hidden watercourses.

Yesterday another peek over the bridge parapet at Lawrence Hill revealed that there’s now less of the Wain Brook to be seen as the works progress: it can still be seen flowing left to right in the masonry inspection chamber.

However, this hidden watercourse will soon disappear once more beneath the trackbed: and who knows how long will pass before it once more sees the light of day.

Metal plates cover the top of the Wain Brook culvert

Metal plates cover the top of the Wain Brook culvert

Only in the USA?

What is the hapless US customs officer featured below going to do when he finds out there’s a Paris in France as well as Texas, an Athens in Greece as well as Georgia and Boston is named after a market town in Lincolnshire in the UK?

tweet detailing conversation with US customs officer who confuses Bayreuth Germany with Beirut Lebanon

No further comment needed. 😀

A rare sight

Works – the so-called “FourTracking – have been underway for some time on the railway line through east Bristol up Filton Bank between Bristol Temple Meads and Filton Abbey Wood stations.

The “FourTracking” entails increasing the capacity up Filton Bank by replacing the two sets of tracks that were removed between some 35 and 40 years ago. The route up Filton Bank is used by mainline services to both South Wales and the Midlands, as well as by local rail services.

On the section of Filton Bank between Dr Day’s Junction and Stapleton Road station, the majority of the current work entails clearing away 3 decades of detritus and refurbishing the infrastructure, including the original drains in the cutting. At Lawrence Hill station, this has included refurbishing a culvert, as I found out looking over the railway bridge the other day.

culvert works at Lawrence Hill railway station

A small culvert being refurbished right next to Lawrence Hill railway bridge. What hidden waters does it contain?

I was intrigued by the slight curvature of the culvert as drains are normally straight. What could this be?

To find the answer your ‘umble scribe had to search maps dating back to the late 19th century. These are available through Bristol City Council’s Know Your Place website.

No clues were forthcoming from the 20th century maps and other resources available. However, the 1880 Ordnance Survey mapping for Lawrence Hill revealed what the culvert actually was. It carries the Wain Brook – one of Bristol’s hidden watercourses – under the railway.

If you examine the image below, it will be noted that Lawrence Hill railway bridge lies between the two sections of the Wain Brook then running above ground – one to the right of the bridge past the “Wainbrook Works” and the other section to the left past open ground (now a park).

1880 Ordnance Survey map of Lawrence Hill showing the Wain Brook

Very little information is available online about the Wain Brook itself. Judging from the map evidence its source seems to be in the region of Plummers Hill in St George and in times gone by it flowed across the fields that were to become St George Park. After the park’s creation, the Wain Brook was used to feed its ornamental lake.

From can be surmised from the sparse clues available, from Lawrence Hill the Wain Brook – still in culvert – flows down Lincoln Street (site of the Wain Brook Elderly Persons Home. Ed.), past Gaunt’s Ham Park and through St Philips and the Dings (where some 200 years ago it flowed through withy beds) to empty into the River Avon at a point near Bristol Temple Meads station.

The Church Crawler web page for St Luke’s Church in Barton Hill contains the following reference to the Wain Brook.

In the early 1800s Barton Hill was described as a small rural hamlet comprising mainly of wheat fields and orchards with a stream, The Wain Brook, running through and dominated by two large houses namely, Tilley’s Court and Royal Table House.

The earliest historical reference to the Wain Brook that my research has turned up dates back to the 13th century, when in the manor of Barton Regis (present-day Barton Hill) there was a meadow belonging to St Mark’s Hospital called ‘Wainbroke’ (after the Wain Brook) that extended between the ‘meadow of the hospital of St Lawrence of Bristol and the meadow formerly of Richard de Pisa’.

The hospital of St Lawrence of Bristol was Bristol’s medieval leper colony (St Lawrence was the patron saint of lepers and leper colonies were always established beyond the built-up areas of medieval towns and cities. Ed.), which was founded by King John in 1208 when he was Earl of Mortain. The hospital’s establishment gave its name to the whole area. Lawrence Hill roundabout now occupies the vicinity of the site where the hospital is thought to have stood.

If readers have further information to add about the Wain Brook, please feel free to comment below.

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