Five hidden details in Stoke-on-Trent

(Tue 29-Jul-2014)

This post is inspired by the Gizmondo post – 10 Hidden Details in Your City and What They Mean, which was rather America-centric. Here is a more British version – all photos taken by me, in Stoke-on-Trent.

  1. Boot Scraper
    Boot scrapers were mentioned in the Gizmondo post, but they look a little different here to the one they pictured – lots of terraced houses have these built into the wall by the front door, though many are now broken.
  2. Duckfoot
    This is a site for moveable street furniture, mainly deployable CCTV cameras. Part comes up (with a special key) and provides a place for the pole to sit and access to power for the cable that runs up the inside of the pole.
  3. Induction loop
    Induction loop
    These black lines in the road cover induction loops, which detect traffic. They are used to control the timing of traffic lights, whether or not the filter lights come on at some junctions, and to count cars on car parks, for the signs displaying how many spaces are left.
  4. Spinning cone on pedestrian crossing
    Spinning cone on a pedestrian crossing
    The cone sticking out of the bottom of the control box for a pedestrian crossing spins when the light is green for pedestrians. This is to help visually impaired people when the crossing doesn’t beep (if there’s two or more close by, they usually won’t, because it won’t be clear which one is safe), or with a hearing impairment as well.
  5. Renamed Street
    renamed street
    This is particular to Stoke-on-Trent. Streets being re-named probably has happened in other places, but not, as far as I know, on the scale that it has in Stoke-on-Trent. In the early 1950s there was a wide-scale re-naming of streets, because of the way the city grew up out of six towns (and several villages), so there were a lot of duplicates — including 14 different roads called “High Street”. There’s a full list on The example above is Standard Street, Fenton, formerly Wellington Street.




Four things that give Health & Safety a bad name (and how to fix them)

(Mon 26-May-2014)
Sign reading 'caution this sign has sharp edges'
  1. The phrase “Health & Safety”
    Don’t say “for health & safety reasons”, say “because of the risk of…”. Is it a heath risk or a safety risk? What is the danger?
  2. “Health & Safety” being blamed for things that aren’t health or safety related at all.
    Again, don’t say “for health & safety reasons”, give the real reason. If you can’t say what the risk is, why are you calling it a health and safety problem? Many of the cases given in the HSE‘s Mythbuster’s Challenge fall into this category
  3. Being over-cautious
    Most Daily Mail stories fall into this category, as do many of the early cases from the HSE‘s Mythbuster’s Challenge
  4. The Daily Mail.
    Don’t read it. If you read by accident, don’t believe it. If it really happened, remember it probably didn’t happen the way they said it did.




What have the Conservatives done for me?

(Fri 24-Jan-2014)
screen capture of for hardworking people website

The Conservative’s “FOR HARDWORKING PEOPLE” website will, for the low low price of some personal details (salary, post code, if you have a mortgage, young children, “how often you fill up your car with petrol”, if you have state pension) and your email address, give you a list of things they claim to have done for you.

I could write a scathing article on the questions alone, but lets start on just the answers it gave me:

Here’s what we have done to help you and hardworking people in your area:

Saved you £700 a year by cutting income tax. We are cutting income tax for 25 million people, and have taken 2.4 million of the lowest paid workers out of income tax altogether – helping hardworking people be more financially secure.

The tax cuts left me with £480 more per year, so I don’t know how they got that figure, plus, as a public-sector worker, I’ve had no pay rises until my 1% (so, below inflation) raise last year – effectively, a pay cut every year. It’s overstating the benefits for the low paid as well, as those who benefit most from the tax changes are those paid just under the amount for the high rate income tax. They’ve also put VAT up, to take that “extra” money back.

Saved you £182 a year on petrol by freezing Fuel Duty and cancelling Labour’s planned rises – giving you more money to spend on the things that matter.

I’d like to see a retailer try this trick “save 10% *(saving based on what prices could have been)”. It’s another over-generous figure, based on the assumption that I buy about twice as much fuel as I actually do, and as the cost of public transport has gone up, I’ve used the car more.

Helped people provide for their families by getting 79,000 more people into work in the West Midlands since 2010. We’ve helped create jobs by backing businesses with better infrastructure and lower jobs taxes – and there are now a million more people in work across the UK than in 2010.

I was in work in 2010, so no direct help there. Looking at jobs available, I see a lot less worth applying for than I did last time I was job-hunting in 2008.

Reduced crime by 20% in Staffordshire – making your community safer.

Police have admitted crime figures are manipulated.

Cut the cost of childcare for parents of 3 and 4 year olds by £400 a year

But I still can’t afford it, and other services my wife used to take the children to have been cut.

Protected children online by forcing internet providers to install automatic Family Friendly Filters blocking inappropriate material

I was already capable of setting up filters. And that “inappropriate material” net is cast much too wide.

Capped benefits so no out-of-work household can claim more than the average family earns by working – so we reward those who want to work hard and get on in life

This hasn’t helped me at all. It’s only affected a small number of households, with large numbers of children (leaving them vulnerable), and as far as I know, none in my area.

Reduced the national deficit by a third – so we deal with our debts and safeguard our economy for the long term

I haven’t seen any positive outcome of that. I’ve seen pain caused by the way they’ve done it.

Reduced immigration by nearly a third – so our economy delivers for hardworking people who play by the rules

Something that’s made life more difficult for my family, and it’s bad for the economy, as immigrants are net contributors to the economy.

Pledged an in-out referendum on Europe by the end of 2017

Hasn’t helped me at all. It may have reduced investment and job opportunities, as business who sell to Europe are seeing an uncertain future.

We’re delivering the best schools and skills for young people – with 1.5 million new apprenticeships giving people the chance to get on in life

Like al-Madinah free school? The improvements in schools in my area is mostly due to Labour’s “Building Schools for the Future” programme. My brother is just finishing an apprenticeship, and missed out on some training previous apprentices had benefited from because this government cut it.

And we’re forcing energy companies to put customers on the lowest tariff

Is this why my energy company recently stopped their lowest tariff and moved me to a more expensive one?




UKIP: not just anti-gay, but anti-Christian, too.

(Mon 20-Jan-2014)

A former Conservative councillor has been suspended from UKIP after continental remarks linking flooding and gay marriage (BBC News) and what he seems to see as the UK turning away from being a “Christian nation”.

I don’t believe the UK is or has been (at least in recent times, but probably not ever) a true Christian nation, but if Cllr Silvester wants the UK to become a Christian nation, neither the Conservatives nor UKIP seem like a good fit.

Deuteronomy 10:17-19 says:

“For the Lord your God is the God of gods and Lord of lords. He is the great God, the mighty and awesome God, who shows no partiality and cannot be bribed. He ensures that orphans and widows receive justice. He shows love to the foreigners living among you and gives them food and clothing. So you, too, must show love to foreigners, for you yourselves were once foreigners in the land of Egypt.” (NLT)

It doesn’t really fit with the anti-immigration stance of UKIP, or the Conservatives’ pledge to cap immigration and recent announcement that immigrants will no longer be eligible for housing benefit.

Proverbs 14:31 reads:

Those who oppress the poor insult their Maker, but helping the poor honours him. (NLT)

“Oppressing the poor” seems to me a good description of the benefits changes this government has brought in, and some of UKIP’s policies, such as:

  • Make real and rigorous cuts in foreign aid (despite us already not meeting internationally agreed targets, and the aid budget being tiny)
  • Ensure that benefits are only available for those who have lived here for over 5 years. (because how could things possibly go wrong less than five years after arriving in a new country unless you deliberately planned for then to?)
  • Local councils are to enroll unemployed welfare claimants onto community schemes or retraining workfare programmes. (So that they don’t waste time looking for jobs or relevant training)





(Wed 17-Apr-2013)

Yes, I know this is a bit late.

I don’t like Valentine’s day. I don’t like the commercialisation, the cultural expectation of pairing off and the implication that there’s something wrong with being single.

My wife really wishes I would do something for Valentine’s day.

I refuse to buy Valentine’s day products, so what can do? I made something. Not a card, though, because that’s just a bit too obvious.

Months ago, while browsing in a stationery shop, Lauren had seen some mini luggage tags, and commented on how much she liked them. So, a few days before Valentine’s day, I bought a pack:

I wrote on them:

and hid them around the house.

One was attached to a DVD I also bough, of a film I knew Lauren liked, with a suggestion we watch it on our next “date night”. Some were praise, encouragement or general “I love you” messages, others were bad puns, like “You’re hot” on the thermostat, “no-one can hold a candle to you” in a candle holder.




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