Monthly Archives: December 2017

  • 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.

  • Introducing the Stockholm

    In the world of metrology there are standardised and internationally-recognised units of measurement such as the metre for linear distance, gram for weight and litre for liquid measurement.

    In everyday life there are also informal units of measurement used by people to give or gain an idea of the magnitude of a particular phenomenon.

    In terms of surface area, for instance, there’s the football pitch. Imperial Tobacco, my employers many years ago, used to like to boast that the cigarette production hall at W.D. & H.O. Wills’ factory in Hartcliffe, Bristol, (once the largest cigarette factory in Europe. Ed.) had an unobstructed floor area, i.e. free of the pillars supporting the roof structure, equivalent to three football pitches. Another common measurement for surface area is the Wales, particularly for larger items than football pitches.

    Also in common use for informal metrics are the double-decker bus and cricket pitch, both for linear distance.

    This plethora of informal measurements has now been joined by a newcomer, the Stockholm, courtesy of the Bristol Post, the city’s newspaper of warped record.

    Stockholm city views
    Stockholm: once just the capital city of Sweden, now a unit of measurement. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

    Reporting yesterday on the shameful fact that Bristol, in spite of its huge housing crisis, now has 5,785 empty homes in the city, the Post then goes on to introduce Sweden’s capital as a new unit of measurement specifically for vacant homes, stating:

    Nationally, there are now just short of a million (980,565) properties deemed uninhabited – about the same amount as the entire housing stock of Stockholm.

    There you have it.

    Finally, a word of caution, under no circumstances should the Stockholm as a measurement of empty homes ever be compared with so-called Stockholm syndrome, a psychological condition in which hostages develop a psychological alliance with their captors as a survival strategy during captivity.

    If readers do happen to come across any further undocumented units of measurement, please alert your ‘umble scribe via the comments below.

  • Littered with innuendo

    Yesterday’s Bristol Post reported on the first month of operation of what it’s dubbed the “litter police”, the private contractors brought in by Bristol City Council to take enforcement action on such environmental crimes as dropping cigarette ends, littering, failing to clear up the mess of one’s dog, tagging and spitting.

    They’ve had a busy first month, issuing 1,368 fixed penalty notices with a total value of nearly £70,000.

    Whilst this long overdue enhanced enforcement against the untidy is welcome (as a founder of Tidy BS5 I wholeheartedly support their engagement by BCC. Ed.), it’s not the numbers that interest me, but the Post’s choice of language, particularly at the top of the article, which is reproduced below.

    sub-heading under headline reads the civil enforcement officers had a busy first few weeks on the job

    Look between the headline and the byline and you’ll see the following sentence: “The civil enforcement officers had a busy first few weeks on the job“.

    All you Brits can stop sniggering.


    On the job” in the sense of something related to work is, to the best of my knowledge, an import from American English that has in recent decades started appearing increasingly in British corporate jargon. During my youth over 4 decades ago, the phrase had only one meaning and that had salacious connotations.

    Collins Dictionary gives the following definitions for the phrase in British English:

    • actively engaged in one’s employment;
    • (taboo) engaged in sexual intercourse.

    As regards the first definition, this could cover tuition given during employment (e.g. on the job training): no further explanation is required for the second.