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Blog for August

Posted on 1 September, 2021 at 7:00 Comments comments (1)

Well then chums, that’s another month gone by as our orbit takes us in the UK a tad further from the sun than during the summer months. This generally means it get colder here and rains more than it rains during the summer, only difference is during a British summer when it does stop raining long enough it becomes blisteringly hot as there is no breeze unless you live by the coast.


So where has Ted been this month? My adventures started off with Greenwich followed by Tilbury, Solihull and Watford.


Got the motorbike MOT’d and had a drool round some new bikes in the process.


Now here’s a surprising confession from an Electrical Engineer: I have no interest whatsoever in electric powered cars (shock horror!). I’m sorry but I just can’t get into it. I think the root of this disinterest is because it takes away freedom. I mean how am I supposed to cross Spain in an EV? I would have to plan my route very carefully, stop and recharge twice. I don’t see having to plan your route around recharge points as any kind of freedom.


Now I can appreciate that for folks that don’t do much driving, perhaps travel 10-15 miles to work and back or do the shopping, an EV would be fine. If push came to shove a bloody forklift truck would do them.


Now here’s the funny part, I wouldn’t mind an electric motorbike (well again, shock horror!) For the motorcycling purists, I’ll pause here and let that sink in…


You see, for my part I am just a fair-weather biker. Much to the disgust of my alter ego who does not approve of my exploring Cotswold Villages on my motorbike. You see, the thing is I don’t need to cover hundreds of miles in a day. But won’t you miss that motorcycle roar? Well, I’m deaf as a post so can’t hear a bloody thing anyway. Additionally, as I understand it EVs are automatic so I could just have a motorbike that was like a big moped – twist and go, and for me, that would be just peachy.


I probably will have to get an EV in the end, but in the boot you’ll find a can full of petrol and a generator.


Thinking about freedom, I grew up on Osney Island in Oxford. We were completely surrounded by streams and rivers (in fact an inhabitant of Osney is said to have webbed feet) so as a small child and well into my teenage years I spent a lot of time wading through streams with a net and a jam jar. I only wish I could just go down there and do it again.


 

             

  


In line with that last item, there are some very nasty people about nowadays, a few years ago I attempted some casual fishing off the riverbank at Osney only to be accosted by Hooray Henries/Henriettas calling me a murderer. Truth be known, I don’t really like catching the fish, I just appreciate sitting by the Thames watching the world go by with no bait on my hook (a bit like the rest of my life really).


In Germany the Hippy/Loonies have had great success. You can only fish for food. So if you go fishing there no fish gets put back in the water after been caught. They must be taken home and consumed, or more likely dumped in the nearest bin. What a triumph for the fish and common sense.


Got a lot of training going on at the moment and the order book looks very full as customers are coming back with a vengeance. Inspect & Test courses along with 18th Edition are looking more popular than ever. Also seeing a lot of demand for equipment maintenance and fault-finding courses coming in.


If I had to choose my favourite course to deliver I would go for fault-finding. It can be a bit of a dark art, but it is very rewarding.


Here’s just a small sample of a lesson in the art of electrical fault-finding:


Me - Pick a card.


Student OK – (Has picked 4 of Clubs)


Me - Is your card Red?


Student - No


NOTE: Therefore, it must be a Spade or Club (I have now eliminated half the pack).


Me - Is it a Spade?


Student - No


NOTE: I have eliminated half the remainder


Me - Is it less than 7 (if Ace is low)?


Student – Yes


NOTE: I have now eliminated half the remainder.


I could go on but you can see that I am I now within 3 cards either way of the 4 of Clubs by asking 3 questions, and this is what we should do in fault-finding. By using a logical approach and eliminating the unnecessary we can start to zero in on the problem very quickly.


Now as you know, I do quite a bit of travelling around the UK in my line of work. In the course of my travels (both work and private) I have found that some places feel “good”. Do you ever find some places just feel “Bad”? I find that mostly locations feel “alright”.


I have noticed though that some places make me feel at ease and comfortable, even if I have never been there before, why should that be? On the other hand, some places make me want to move on as quickly as possible.


There may be several reasons for a place feeling bad or good, such as the weather, the welcome you receive on arrival, your own mood or state of mind. It might even be ley-lines, I’ve got an open mind, I certainly think people in ancient times knew more than we give credit for.


I also believe that a place that has evil committed in it will retain that particular resonance. Perhaps a place that has been the site of some beautiful act or moment will retain some sort of “imprint”.


Alternatively, maybe these feelings are triggered by some past life experience.


For instance, there is a certain street in Santa Susanna, Spain, that always make my blood run cold when I walk past it, and for some reason or other makes me think of one of my old mates who is no longer with us.


It’s all the more peculiar as the last time I saw him he completely blanked myself and my wife.


Whatever, I can’t explain it unless his spirit is stuck there for some bizarre reason or other. But I’ll say this, its giving me chills just thinking about it.


Anyway, moving swiftly onwards (before my alter-ego calls me a big jessie) its time to saddle up and ride off into the sunset for this month.


Happy trails folks,


Adios, por ahora.

 

Blog for July

Posted on 1 August, 2021 at 6:50 Comments comments (2)

Greetings pop-pickers, welcome to another action-packed report filled to the seams of my moans, groans and nutty opinions. Talking of moans and groans, when I was a young man the buzzword was “the great smell of Brut”. If you get a few of my chums together today, you’re more likely talking about the great smell of Voltarol.


So where has Ted been in July? Well, it was return to Witney for another Inspect & Test course, then on to Alton in Hampshire and Barnstaple in Devon for more training.


My alter-ego, the more adventurous version of me, has been very quiet lately and that worries me. He often does this when he’s found some old map or painting with a hidden message that leads to him being chased across Europe until he has to fake his demise. In the past he’s restored old cars and motorbikes so perhaps he’s about to start one of those. I don’t mind but he makes such a bloody mess in my garage while he doing it. He’s lost no end of my 10mm spanners, I only wish I had a pound for every drill bit he’s broken or lost.


Lightnings’ great though isn’t it. Well I suppose it is unless you get struck by it. It’s inevitable that the summer months with rising columns of heat cause of lot of electrostatic charge to build up in the cloud layers and when that happens at some point that charge is going to want to return to earth.


When I was an apprentice I worked on the lightning conductor on the tower of Lincoln College, Oxford and have always retained an interest in the subject. If you do research this field you will discover that much early work was put in by the Church. Only natural I suppose if you are the owner of buildings that are tall enough to attract a strike.


And there is quite a science to lightning. The charged cloud layer is searching for an attractive target connected to planet earth and at the same time the planet’s surface is trying to cooperate by sending up little streamers to facilitate the process. If you are out and about during a thunderstorm and you feel your hair start to rise (assuming you are lucky enough to have some) then hit the deck quickly as you must be very near a rising streamer.


But can you imagine how a few centuries ago they must have considered this to be work of the devil, particularly by attacking church buildings. But as the Church discovered over time, to avoid your spire been blasted to bits the art was to conduct that lighting strike harmlessly down to earth. They also discovered that lightning is attracted to pointy things so that is how we ended up with lightning conductors being run all the way from the top of tall building to earth with a lighting conductor right at the very top known as a “Air terminal”.

 



Manufacturers of air terminals will sometimes make claims that theirs are the most efficient at attracting lightning and therefore reduce building damage. They sometimes claim the inclusion of a radioactive component that makes it a “super-attractor”. I think they are banned in most countries nowadays anyway.

 

There is no evidence whatsoever that radioactivity increases the “attractiveness” of an air terminal, but it does call for a specialist disposal if replacing.




And who said “Lightning never strikes twice”? a good target will continually attract a strike, the Empire State Building is struck about 150 times a year.


What fascinates me more than anything is ball lightning. Many scientists refuse to believe it exists, yet on the other hand, many have spent a long time looking for it or trying to recreate it.


Reports of this phenomena do seem to follow the same MO; always during a thunder storm, being a bright white/blue colour, dimension never exceeding 1 metre but commonly around 200/300mm, floating across the ground, seeking out a metal surface before finally disappearing with a “Pop” and leaving a very strong smell of ozone.


I have a first-hand account concerning ball lightning from a couple I know coming in for a landing at Malaga airport during a severe thunderstorm. Imagine the scene: A Boeing 727 full to capacity. Its late afternoon and although as they say, the rain in Spain falls mostly on the plain, when is does rain, it does so with a passion – day turns to night and you get a tropical storm. The pilot was low on fuel and did not have the option of diverting to another airport. The aircraft was really taking a buffeting and people were crying and praying, the pilot had already made two abortive passes and was coming in a third time. Suddenly, and without any great drama a brilliant white orb about the size of a football materialises on the floor of the passenger compartment. Without any noise it slowly rolls down the metal channel for passenger seats embedded in the floor on the right side of aisle and then rolls back along the track on the left hand side before sinking through the floor and disappearing. Those that did see it all agreed on its appearance and noted a strong smell of ozone.


You could easily see this episode as some kind of divine intervention but following a successful touch-down most passengers copied the pope and kissed the ground before going their separate ways. Now, you won’t get that reported on Sky News or the BBC, its not depressing enough.


My personal view is that it is that ball lightning is a plasma created on rare occasions by the right mix of temperature, humidity, atmospheric pressure and a super-high energy input.


Thinking of Sky and the media etc, how’s about this for an idea?


Scene 1: Lets say I run a newspaper or TV station and I fancy making a few bob. Oh, I know, I’ll buy a shedload of shares in Andrex and let all my media mates know this month’s scam. Soon after that get the newsroom to run a story highlighting toilet roll shortages and how twats are queuing for miles to get toilets rolls. What do you think happens to the share price?


Scene 2: Media people sell their shares before they slump again and buy a villa in Provence with the proceeds.


Scene 3: Media people continue to berate working class people for not giving enough to third-world countries.


Nah, that’s much too far-fetched isn’t it?


May the bird of paradise fly up yours nose (and an elephant caress you with his toes)


Happy trails folks, until we meet again.


Adios mi Amigos y Amigas.

 

Blog for June

Posted on 3 July, 2021 at 11:45 Comments comments (1)

Ok Folks, we are now into July so here is my report for the last month.


If you read my last item about the raid on the Antwerp Diamond Exchange, the detective responsible for the diamond business was very quick on the scene. Imagine all those safe deposit boxes ripped open, cash and diamonds crunching underfoot. So he calls the alarm monitoring station and asks what the status of the vault is? “All secure” comes back the reply!


Anyway, where has Ted been in June? Well, I did a 1-day course in Reading at the beginning of the month followed by a week-long Inspect & Test course in Witney. After that the remainder of the month was taken up with Jury Service which was very interesting, but you definitely need to take a book to deal with all the waiting around.


Thinking about crime and punishment, I’ve always been interested in requests for a last meal before execution. I suppose a lot of people would like to say something fancy to impress, like “barbecued oysters and lemongrass”. However, as I understand it Steak and Chips is a popular choice (and would probably be mine) although some people have opted for a McDonalds and I can understand that, although I don’t suppose it would be much of a bloody “Happy Meal” though.


I think you can easily detect a bullshitter or airhead from just a few “what are your Favourite” questions, like “What’s your favourite flower or drink?


The bullshitter is likely to say “Rose” followed by “Champagne” because they want you to think they have class and style, whereas the vacuous will also say those things because they can’t think of anything else.


Real people usually have more depth and aren’t afraid to reveal their favourites. They would more likely say “Peonies” and “Guinness”. For myself, I would probably respond with “Carnation” and “Bacardi & Coke”.


I seem to make comments about bullshitters quite often don’t I.


Oh and liars, and did I mention smart-arses, and piss-takers? If not, I do apologise and assure you that where I can, I have changed their fortunes for them.


Anyway, here’s a few more responses to the “Favourites” questions, see if you can work out what the question was for each response:

Rolex

Chanel No 5

Harley Davidson

Beethoven

Now you get my drift. My response to one of those above would be “Suzuki T20 Supersix” (in flaming red).




For all you sparkies out there remember that when Insulation Resistance testing RCBO circuits you need to disconnect the load side from the RCBO unless they are Crabtree (later types). Many RCBOs are labelled “Disconnect before testing” but many aren’t.


For devices that don’t fully isolate the load from the sensing circuitry the IR test could damage them and you will start to pick up all sorts of odd readings when testing L – L anyway.


To top it off though, Guidance Note 3 does say “RCDs shall be disconnected during IR testing” or words to that effect.


Oh, and lets not forget about those bloody USB sockets cocking up your readings either.


Not been able to get out much on the old two-wheeled steed of late, I’m just hoping the weather will pick up a bit over the next couple of months.


I suppose we would have seen more of “Extinction Rebellion” by now but its been too wet of late for laying down in the road or gluing yourself to McDonalds.

 

 

Happy trails folks, until we meet again.



Adios mi Amigos y Amigas.

 

Blog for May

Posted on 18 June, 2021 at 0:20 Comments comments (0)

I used to like Tin-Tin, and still do. I think the latest animation is fantastic. Tin-Tin’s mate, Captain Haddock, had a fantastic array of sayings and curses, so let’s kick off this report with a “Blistering Barnacles!”

I would also add that this month’s report is a cracker. Take my advice, make a cup of tea, help yourself to a chocolate hob-nob and put your feet up for a good old yarn.

I think that Captain Haddock’s opening is completely appropriate for the course of my travels in May as I spent a week training on the coast at Worthing. Well, what can I say, except to be honest and brutal, What a dump.

In contrast to the town, the company I spent time with training was top notch and had obviously invested profits back into the business to create a vibrant and successful organisation along with buildings that were a joy to work in.

Worthing though remains a dump. And it’s not just the local council that’s at fault, you can see all around the result of lack of investment, lack of care and in general lack of brain cells. There is very little incentive for tourists to visit the town as the whole area looks like 1950’s bombed-out Britain. Even the big wheel on the front needs a coat of paint. And then to add insult to injury they can’t resist ripping you off wherever possible. Reminds me why we stopped having holidays in this country a long time ago – holiday in the UK? I’d rather put up a tent in the garden.

So let’s see where Ted has been in May; I had three days in Horsham, a week in sodding Worthing and four days in Essex. And those sort of hours suit me down to the ground. I am supposed to be semi-retired but I do enjoy my consultancy and training operations. I’m not quite ready to just spend my days gardening.

What I would like to do is spend more time in Spain, and not just drinking myself to death. We have already explored quite a lot of Espania and intend to explore a lot more yet.

For the month of June I am back in my own backyard running an Inspection and Testing course at Witney and a few other missions scattered throughout the month.

I always find it interesting how we find a “niche” in our working life. For instance one of my colleagues works with Theatre Electricians, another within the railway industry and so on.

Now, although I run courses for the electrical installation industry with Inspect & Test and 18th Edition etc, my particular niche these days seems to have fallen into industrial maintenance and fault-finding.

However, as my regular readers will know, a large part of my working life was in the intruder alarm business, until my wife became ill and I needed to take a job nearer to home and hospitals. So this is a subject that is still close to my heart. I’m not allowed to tell you the names of the groups that were trying to extract cash from UK plc in my time but for a large part of the 1970’s and 80’s I spent fighting the efforts of such groups and it really was a continual battle.

For example, we discovered certain people were injecting expanding foam into external alarm sounders to silence them so we designed a “Paddle” switch to operate if somebody tried this trick that would set off the alarm instantly. We filled alarm systems with all sorts of sensors; thermal, motion, magnetic microwave, sonic, capacitance and many more. And I’m pleased to say that we beat the bad guys, mostly. But the moral of the story is that every system will have a weakness. And if you are prepared to invest in time and resources to study a system you may well discover a weakness you can exploit.

So whilst we are on the subject of alarm systems, lets go to Antwerp in Belgium 2003 and explore what could possibly have been the biggest heist in European history.

Now here’s the thing, if you are going to knock over a bank, not that I would recommend it of course, go for the safe deposit boxes. Safe deposit boxes are where people keep their secrets - gold bars, jewellery of all sorts, bearer bonds, blackmail material, anything. Nobody checks.

Well it just so happens that there is a pretty big safe deposit box vault underneath the Diamond Centre in Antwerp. It also happens that the worlds biggest gateway for diamonds is in Antwerp. This is where deals are done and fortunes are made. So that vault must be pretty handy for popping a few diamonds into occasionally.

Next enter an Italian gang known as “The School of Turin” who had a reputation for ingenious robberies, they also had a principle that nobody should be seriously injured in the course of their activities (so a bit Robin Hood like). To cut to the chase I am going to have to summarise like this: what looks like the ringleader (a Mr Notarbartolo) moves into an office over the Diamond Centre and spends the best part of two years conducting a fake diamond business from there.

In the course of that time he purchased a deposit box in the vault and was subsequently allowed access to the vault where he was able to observe the security measures in place. He also befriended staff and fellow customers alike. This was definitely a long-play job.

Eventually the gang struck and like all good operations they chose diversion as their friend.

Friday the 14th of February 2003 (Valentines Day, is a big thing in Belgium) falling on a Friday followed by a boozy weekend.

By defeating numerous systems, procuring keys and somehow cracking the million-digit combination of the vault door along with what seems like a generous dollop of good luck they pull it off.

To this day nobody knows quite how much they got away with but it has been estimated a minimum of $M150, of which very little has been recovered. The gang managed to escape across several borders and made their getaway.

Now comes the odd bit. The following day a park ranger on the French/Belgium border discovers the remains of dumped litter and a small fire. Amongst this debris are a few diamonds and a receipt linking back to our guy who rented the office above the diamond centre. Furthermore, one of the few safe deposit boxes not broken into belonged to guess who? Mr Notarbartolo!

Mr Notarbartolo is pretty quickly picked up back in Italy along with a couple of other gang members. A few thousand dollars’ worth of goods are recovered, but yet again, not many depositors are willing to actually reveal their losses. Mr Notarbartolo eventually serves ten in jail and Antwerp begins to forget about this adventure.

But, there are a few riddles left to be solved. Firstly, is the combination to the vault door. Unlike the rest of the alarm system This could NOT be bypassed, somebody had to give this up, whoever this was has not been determined.

Secondly, and sticking out like a sore thumb, would you think an operation so carefully planned would leave the key player exposed to take the fall? This guy spent two years scoping the job out, I would have thought that in that time he would have also planned a perfect escape.

Although if you think about it he got ten years and probably got away with at least ten million dollars. I’ll declare right now, if anybody wants a patsy for a heist, I will take a few years in clink at that rate (although I would have to insist on cast-iron underpants for the showers).

I’m inclined to think somebody else was bankrolling the operation (its called “seed money”) and came out of it completely untainted, or Notarbartolo decided to sacrifice himself from the start to avoid being on the run forever. I also think whoever gave away the combination of the vault has a nice villa in Montenegro or somewhere similar tucked away for their retirement.

Now then, although this may all be very entertaining, there is also a principle in electrical engineering and a lesson to be learnt from all this: No system is perfect. The world and life is not perfect. Systems do have flaws and systems do break down, the right approach is not to be too cocky from the outset. Like saying “this ship is unsinkable”.

Rather start your design, no matter what system, saying “what if?”

So that brings us to the end of Edward’s report (sounds posh) for May, hopefully we may finally get to see those long summer days sitting in the garden with a few glasses of Vino Blanco and reflecting on life in general.

I’ll drink to that.

Happy trails folks, until we meet again.

Adios mi Amigos y Amigas.

 

 

Blog for April

Posted on 15 May, 2021 at 6:05 Comments comments (3)

Many apologies to my avid readers for missing my posting for March. The company that hosts this website changed the way you update your blog and coupled with an influx of work I didn’t have a chance to do anything about it.


So within the past few weeks I have had my final Covid jab and been tested a few times, so all looking good so far.


I did a few days training in St Edmunds Hall College (known as “Teddy Hall”, Oxford in March and totalled up the other Oxford Colleges I have trained staff in: Christchurch, St Catherine’s and Jesus. At this rate I shall end up a suspect in “Lewis”, but as I am the soul of discretion I shall never reveal who dunnit.


So throughout the course of March and April I have been to Oxford, Barnstaple, Stratford on Avon (twice), Chelmsford, Bristol (twice) and Glastonbury.


The world, well at least the UK, seems to be taking off again let’s hope we don’t lurch off into another disaster.


And I know I may have mentioned it briefly before but when is this global warming going to start? I’m fed up with all this bloody rain and cold.


Now I’m not afraid to say where I went wrong or admit my failings (and I have made the odd error I will bashfully admit) but on an electrical issue I didn’t know that those new-fangled push-fit joint boxes appear to be more highly rated that the traditional screw terminal type. If you had an inspection by a very picky inspector he could pull you up on not having “readily available access” to a screw-type joint box under a floor. However, a push-fit type is fine as it is classed as “maintenance-free”. What I would add to this though, is just make sure you have the right current rating connector for the job and it does form a complete enclosure.


With regard to motorcycling, I will readily admit to being a fair-weather biker only. When it warms up a bit more I shall take my two-wheeled, petrol driven steed for a bit of a canter. I particularly like to cruise around the villages of Oxfordshire, on a sunny day there is nothing finer.


If you’ve been following my blog for some time now you’ll be aware that my alter-ego (otherwise known as Ted Voice 2) is a more adventurous version of myself and would probably find a motorbike ride around the villages of Oxfordshire rather tedious.


Ted Voice 2: “Tedious! My God, I’ve seen more action in a knitting circle.”


Ted Voice 1: “So you’re back then”.


Ted Voice 2: “Yeah, can’t stop though. Gotta pick up my gear and shoot down to Troyes in France where one of my mates has found a manuscript with a clue to the mystery of Rennes le Chateau”.


Ted Voice 1: “We stayed in Troyes a couple of years ago while driving down to Spain”.


Ted Voice 2: “Oh very interesting. Lend us twenty quid will yuh”.


Ted Voice 1: “Here’s thirty, now bugger off to Rennes le wotsit”.


Right, he’s gone now thank the lord. He’s a likable chap but he’s always bouncing from one adventure to another. He’ll never make anything of himself, I just wish he’d find a nice girl and settle down. On the other hand, that would probably cost me a bloody fortune.


I’m very pleased to see the fashion for saying “Be kind” has disappeared from Facebook. I think if you have to tell an adult to “be kind” it’s a bit late. I bet the majority of those who posted it would step over somebody collapsed in the street. “Be kind”, bullshit, they’re just saying it so they can appear to be kind.


All that remains now is to say goodbye from me and goodbye from him (Ted Voice 2 says “Ciao Baby”).


Happy trails until we meet again.


Adios mi amigos e amagas.

 

Blog for February

Posted on 1 March, 2021 at 11:43 Comments comments (277)
Well howdy-doody folks, its that time again. Don’t the time go quick when you’re enjoying yourself.


I had my first Covid jab a few weeks back and can’t say I suffered any adverse reaction to it.


Don't know what all the fuss is about.


Anyway, that’s us into March now then. They’ve had Easter eggs in the shops since Halloween so they must be pretty dried out by now.

I hope to get back out on the garden before too long, if it ever dries out.

I was thinking about when I was an apprentice the other day and what an absolute shitbag of a bloke I had to work with. When we were working in Oxford he liked to go home for his lunch, so what he would do was drop me off in an empty garage/lockup the company owned about half a mile from his house for me to eat my sandwiches in. No heat, no light, nothing to sit on, no toilet or handwashing facilities, Nada. He would come back and pick me up about an hour and a half later. Sometimes I was so cold I could hardly speak. I was 15 years old. I wouldn’t treat an animal like that, how could he sit in his warm house at his dining table knowing I was sat on the floor in that freezing cold garage? Funny thing was I never queried it, I didn’t like it but just accepted it as I thought it was normal, I didn’t even complain to my mum and dad about it.

If you know me, you will know I have an intense hatred for liars and bullshitters. You will also know that I have no time for selfish people. I am also a big believer in karma, I just hope this guy had some sort of payback.

Thank God apprentices aren’t treated like that anymore. If you are, or know somebody who is, let me know, I will sort it out.

Talking of apprenticeships, we were on the 14th Edition regulations when I started out. Green sleeving was a new thing and we were just changing over from imperial wire sizes like 3/029 (which means 3 strands of wire with a diameter of 0.029 of an inch) to metric 1.5² and 7/029 became 2.5 mm². 

The funny thing is, this was a change in metrication that led to wire sizes being rounded down so the customer got slightly less copper. I bet the price of wire never went down to reflect that.

We are now on the 18th Edition and the constitution for the regulations states that there can only be three amendments per edition. We have already had one amendment and Amendment 2 is now open for consultation! I reckon we will change over to the 19th in around 2029.

I think it was Shakespeare who said “The future is an undiscovered country” or something like that. He wasn’t wrong there.

I see that ELECSA is withdrawing from the field of certification and passing contractors over to the NICEIC. I’m not really sure what the driver behind this is but I’m sure there will be a few disenchanted contractors out there who are not keen on NICEIC. I know that cost is a major factor in guys taking this point of view, so I hope NICEIC will be sensible about pricing and not cause a stampede to NAPIT.

For the uninitiated, the above organisations are responsible for maintaining standards in the electrical installation industry. If as a customer you are thinking about any electrical work (Domestic, Commercial or Industrial) you need to make sure your contractor is registered with one of those bodies. If your contractor is NICEIC approved and they became ill or bankrupt during the course of any job, NICEIC will appoint another contractor to finish the job for you at minimal cost or none at all if you have paid upfront. You can easily check on the NICEIC website to see if your contractor is registered with them. 

Having NICEIC approval is so important to contractors they will often claim to be a member even if they have been suspended so please check on the website before you get caught out.

The world of training and consultancy is starting to warm up again, enquiries are starting to ramp up and I’m back on the road again this month. Bloody good job I got all that decorating and DIY done.

I made contact with one of my old biker chums from years ago through Facebook last year only to find that he passed away this month due to Covid. Rest in peace Jammy, I’m still struggling to take it in.

Sometimes we can’t always have happy trails.

Adios por ahora.






Blog for January 21

Posted on 1 February, 2021 at 10:23 Comments comments (4)

Greetings pop-pickers. My last report was to mark the sunset of 2020, as we are now at the sunrise of 2021 let’s see what Ted currently has on his mind.

Now, as you know, I’m not one to gossip. But you might remember me telling you about a relation of my wife’s that was carrying on with “tatty old bit”. 

Well I am now going to reveal his name – on Botley Notice Board and several others in the area. I do like a bit of drama and a chase, so I was tempted to put a clue under the shelf in a phone box, but then remembered that we don’t have phone boxes anymore. Never mind, just have a look on the notice board in our local library, co-op, church, chemists etc etc. You’ll soon find his name revealed in full.   

Can’t seem to see any effects of that “Climate Emergency” that we’re been told about. It looks like it was still cold over December and January with frost and snow. I actually think we could do with raising the temperature in the UK a bit. God knows what the Romans wanted to conquer this bloody cold wet hole for. I can just imagine them coming ashore at the Isle of Dogs:

Claudius > “Ere’ Tonius”

Tonius > “Yes Claudius”

Claudius > “Have you noticed what a bleeding cold and wet hole this is!”

Tonius > “Yesius. And have you seen the women? Bloody scary great big things with tits down to their bellies and covered in blue gunge”

Claudius > “And my bleeding feetius are freezing in these sandals that I had made in Milan. Not only that but some weaselly looking prat just tried to sell me a barbecued rat for 2500 Dinarios! ”

Tonius > “Twisting git! Talk about a nation of shop-keepers. At times like this do you ever miss your villa on the Italian coast. Laying back in the old current bun, knocking back a glass of vino and your hot-blooded beautiful wife peeling olives for you?”

Claudius > “Quick, back in the boat”

I think I would have filed a report saying “We looked but didn’t find anything useful”.

With this latest lockdown we have taken to having a daily stroll around our local area, I hope we will continue to keep this up even after the world returns to some sort of reality (just so long as it doesn’t rain).

And it goes without saying that I hope we can get back to Spain asap. Although this bloody Covid business is going on so long now it could still bugger us up this year. I’m beginning to think that we might have to have the entire year of 2022 on holiday to make up for it.

If you would have asked me, when I were a lad (go on, say it in a northern accent), what we would be doing in 2021, I would have replied “wearing silver suits and whizzing around in flying cars”. Whoever thought we would be fighting a plague.

Talking of cars, I bought a new one a few months back. It is very nice but I have had to turn off a few features. I don’t use cruise control very much anyway as I don’t like that feeling that I’m not in control. But I have now turned off the feature that corrects your steering and wants to fight you for control of the steering wheel. I have also turned off that bloody annoying auto-stop doo-dah. And just for fun, I’m still trying to work out the communications centre and voice control to play Herb Alpert instead of phoning Halfords.

I shall have to get some new headlight deflectors for European driving and I suppose I’ll have to get a “GB” sticker for the ferry as the new number plates no longer have the EU flag and marked “GB EU”.

I am glad we are out of the EU, I voted to go into the EU in 1975 when it was presented to us as simply a trade agreement, in no way were we told it would completely control our country.

The BBC tried to manipulate us to vote against Brexit and squealed with horror when we didn’t. If they loved the EU so much, in all the years we were in the Common Market why didn’t they transmit language classes and in-depth studies of France, Italy and Spain etc? I suppose that reveals how much they think of their audience, we are obviously too stupid to take any of that in. Even if they had have done, they would have put their usual multi-ethnic, multi–multi babble, upper class guilt trip spin on it.

As I understand it the brief of the BBC is to “Educate and Entertain”. I do not see imposing a political viewpoint on the masses as part of that brief.

Now following on from that, and as far as I am aware, our separation from the EU will not affect wiring colours or our electrical regulations. You must remember that our regulations became a full British Standard (BS7671) in 1992 and even though we changed over to continental colours in 2006 (due to pressure from the EU), we will not be changing back for the foreseeable future.

So we are now 1/12 into 2021, I’d like to say we’ll all be vaccinated before too long and we can get back to normal fairly soon,but I don’t think its going to be quite that easy. However, I’m not going to let that get me down, I’ve nearly always been able to turn a situation round so here’s a few keywords to think about if you are furloughed or laid off: Retrain, Refurbish, Repair and Relax. You might want to add get Ready, for the Rush when the world comes back (talk about rolling your Rs).

There are a handful of people I wish I had never met or had to deal with. On the other hand, there are more people who I have good memories of and would really love to hear from, so if you are among that number, don’t be shy, please drop me a line or friend me on Facebook.

In closing, here is a question that I have been pondering for some time now; If Antipasti and a Cornish Pasty make contact would it create a bigger bang than the one at the beginning of time, a small black hole, or could it be safely contained in a Schrodinger Containment Field? 

While your considering that, I’m going to send another Bacardi and coke down the hatch to see what the last one I sent down there is buggering about at.

Anyway, adios until next month mi Amigos y Amigas.

Happy Trails until we meet again. 


Blog for December

Posted on 31 December, 2020 at 9:15 Comments comments (5)
Hello to all my multi-wotsit, multi-doodah chums.

First off, let’s have a rant, so put the kettle on and have a cuppa and chocolate hob-nob while you let me splutter away like colonel blimp.

I don’t know when the TV advertisers became the guardians of our morals and how we should fit into society or if its just a sign of them doing too much acid back in the 70’s coupled with upper-class guilt.

Lets face it’ these TV land advert families look nothing like the majority of families in the UK and that is all of the same type, whether they be Asian, Caucasian or what. It seems that most adverts nowadays look like the cast of the Disney channel, we’ve even had adverts with blokes kissing each other.  

I would also say change over the term “Virtue-Signalling” to “Arse-Creeping” for a better description. I also think its demeaning for the actors who are parachuted in for these “token” roles.

And talking about TV, what a pile of crap. Lack of imagination or what? “Let’s make another remake of the Three Musketeers” or “Whisky Galore”. It seems suspiciously like we get programmes that would appeal to the old queens – Cooking, Dancing, Gardening and Antiques. Alternatively, “let’s do another Dickensian period piece and put a Venusian in it” that should make all the art teachers and social workers squeal with delight.

And another thing, there must be hundreds if not thousands of people go into the acting profession each year. Are they all so piss-poor that we only ever see the same old faces on TV? You would have thought that production companies would have realised that overexposure makes an audience lose interest.

Another thing that niggles me is TV advertising on a paid-for platform! Why should I pay for a channel and then have to watch adverts that are supposed to pay for the channel? That means you are paying to watch adverts! What a con that is.

And then we have the begging adverts; “Can you give £20 a month to support a cuckoo/whale/aardvark” talk about charity-fatigue. My fear is that if they keep it up we will all become hardened to good causes and not give anything at all.   

Until smaller groups start to produce TV over the internet it will remain crap for some time now. I would love to see amateur dramatic groups switch over to delivering content on Youtube. We might also get advertising that simply sells a product and not tells us what our family should look like.

Ah, that’s better, does you good to vent your spleen. If you don’t you’ll get spots.

Anyway, I did have rather a nice Christmas with all the traditional stuff apart from not being able to get to church and bloody annoyed that we couldn’t have the usual family gathering.

I do think though that Christmas is a time of mixed emotions and can be quite poignant anyway when we think of all those we have lost along the way and think of empty chairs around our tables, but we gain hope from seeing our children and grandchildren growing and making us proud.

With regard to electrical engineering I am about to get into electric vehicle charging points as a qualification. I have been involved in this field for some time now and have worked with companies developing smart charging points so this is something I have been involved with for a few years and can see a considerable demand for training, so watch this space.

Getting back to Christmas Day, I must confess I am not a Royalist. I support our Queen and think she has done a fantastic job but I never watch “The Queens Speech”. However, when they make me a knight of the realm, I will probably adjust my view a little.

If I was doing “The Ted’s Speech” it might go something like this:
“This year was one that was particularly unpleasant, I hope we can get this blasted virus behind us and get back to normality as soon as possible. Spare a thought for all the Sparkies on site in the freezing bleeding cold or those scrabbling about trying to line up the sprockets on a ten-ton motor. Bacon sandwiches and mugs of tea don’t come cheap so try to slide a few tenners into the pocket of the next electrician you see. Failing that, don’t send your family fortune to that nice man in Nigeria, but send a donation to Tedsvillainspain.com and I will send you a model of my villa (chalk model house from St Giles Fair rifle range) along with a T Shirt bearing an image of me in a deckchair and a monthly report bound to get lost in the post.”

Remember, this is my blog and I can be as nutty as I want.

Speaking of which I received another text from Ted voice 2 on his wind-up Motorola just a few days ago where he has informed me that unfortunately, he didn’t find that lost city of gold in the Amazon but has undergone some form of marriage ceremony with a member of a tribe of head-hunters. This was apparently under some duress after been caught in-flagrante with the chief’s daughter. I’m hoping I won’t see him for some time now, but he usually manages to reappear smelling of roses.

Oh well, time to ride off into the sunset of 2020 now.

Happy trails folks.

 

Blog for November

Posted on 2 December, 2020 at 9:39 Comments comments (2)
Ok Folks, so here we are at the end of November.

Well I didn’t go very far this month apart from more gardening, which mostly consisted of picking up leaves and fence fixing.

Never one to look a gift horse in the mouth though, I have now completely updated my training material for PAT 5 (COPISITEE) and am completely ready to go with this. I have already published a brief summary of the changes on my Ted Barrett Services Facebook page.

I must say I was surprised how quickly the examining body updated their exams so I couldn’t afford to hang about anyway. The upshot of this of course means that if you train for COPISITEE with me, you will get the very latest training.

Talking of training, I remember reading somewhere that there is a basic human body type and appearance that falls within about 187 sub-sets. Now you might think that sounds a bit of a rash statement but after a lifetime of meeting people both professionally and socially I am beginning to warm to this idea.

If you are in the teaching/training profession this goes some way to explain why we often see the same bloke in classes across the country. Unless he’s the bleeding Count St Germain who never ages, he keeps popping up in my class.

One particular type I’m thinking of is the weasel-like bod with a scrawny moustache, lank hair and incessantly smokes roll-ups – Ah, I see you recognise him now.

Now then, this guy is usually one of life’s great tragedies. He is actually quite smart but (for various reasons) was never really able to apply himself to study and develop that brain to a higher level. Couple this with the fact that he married far too early to somebody who was just looking for a husband and turned him into factory fodder. His function in life is therefore simply to be a means of bringing money in to provide for a housewife and children.

There are of course, other characters that keep popping up, and I often find myself asking “weren’t you in Somerset last week?” On the other hand, perhaps it’s just me going loopy.

When I was doing my teacher training we studied quite a few aspects of how the brain functions such as cognitive development along with Freud and Jung etc which I found absolutely fascinating in as much as it explained many things that I had often wondered about.

Thank god that bloody election is over, one day the media will realise that the everyday people of one country are not really interested in the politics of another country. But there again, that would strip away another cheap TV trick wouldn’t it. The next one they’ll try is to tell us we are all fascinated by Baseball and try to get us hooked on the “World Series” (it’s a funny “World” though cos its only in the states!).

I belong to a club that meets at Woodstock and I am most upset that for the first time in what must be at least twenty-five years we will not be having a Christmas get-together. What a bloody swine that is. The heart-breaking part is that many members are of senior years and will not be able to have that last Christmas with friends. My old friend Harold Taylor was a member of this same club, Joanne and I miss him daily.

Even more heart-breaking is that we won’t be able to have a family Christmas dinner at our house as the numbers will probably be too great, so we need to break up the festivities between households over a couple of days instead. All things considered though, I’ll just be grateful if we are all still alive by then. To be quite honest, I’m grateful to be alive every day.

On a different note but still concerning Christmas, I love a good ghost story on Christmas Eve. I’m not really that keen on “Scrooge” but to my mind “The Dead Sexton” by J. Sheridan Le Fanu is the ultimate Christmas ghost story.

Talking about stories, they generally tend to follow previously defined plots, such as boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy meets girl again. The books my wife read all seem to start off with a divorcee or widow starting life again in a seaside town and often involves a cake shop.

However, lets consider Scrooge again. See if you can identify where this plot has been used so many times since. Lets kick off with “Back to the Future” (this remains one of my favourite films). So what’s happening? Well, George McFly cocked up his life because he didn’t like “confrontation” and ended up living on a trailer park. When Marty goes back to good old 1955 (what a great year) he has the chance to change George’s future, and does. So again, like Scrooge, it is a morality tale and shows we have different paths available to us if we so choose or push ourselves. Interestingly, in BtF II, we again see the results of disastrous life choices and a rare chance to change those events.

So, if we had the chance to change those events in life would we? (beginning to sound like Barbara Streisand now) I know some things I would certainly like to change in my history, but I can’t help but feel there was a reason for all the stupid as well as the occasional smart things I did. I also agree with my old mate and fellow college lecturer Gerry, (an Afrikaner who’s surname name I could never pronounce) Gerry believed that everything we do and everyone we meet is for a reason. I couldn’t agree more.

Now because I publish my blog at the end of each month, that means this will be the last you’ll hear from me until 2021. So I’m going to take this opportunity to wish all my readers (even the secret ones) a Merry Christmas and a very Cool Yule.

Ted voice 2 reckons he found the diary of a Spanish priest from 1536 in the Biblioteca Maria Zambrano in Madrid, which had a hidden message revealing the location of a lost Inca city of gold (yeah, right) so he’s currently hacking through the Amazon with an hyper excited gold gland. However, he has texted in to wish all our readers a “Fair dinkum Crimbo”. I wouldn’t quite put it like that, but he means well. 
   

Blog for October

Posted on 2 November, 2020 at 9:05 Comments comments (30)
Ok Folks, so here we are at the end of October.

Halloween has been and gone, thank God. I hate to be a spoilsport, hold on a minute, no I don’t.

Anyway, I don’t really like this American import, but I wouldn’t want to take the fun away from the kids. I suppose its safer than Bonfire Night but a part of me will always miss the bonfire, fireworks, sparklers and potatoes in their jackets.

So where has Ted been this month? Well, I started off at Witney (Oxfordshire) and then went on to Lymington, Camberley, Exeter and Truro (and just in case you're wondering, I do go home between assignments as well!)

For my electrically-centred chums PAT Edition 5 is being rolled out and yes, I know we let out a yawn at the mention of PAT, and I know I’ve mentioned it before but it is an area that contractors and even trainers can underestimate if we are not careful. If a job’s worth doing etc. 

Nevertheless, it can be a thankless task. Professional testing companies are looking to test around 350 items per day. Well, Mr Slow here could help you out with about 35 a day. But can you imagine doing that every day of your working life? If you are, and you are doing it properly, I salute you.

With further regard to PAT Edition 5, I can give you a brief update: the changes are significant and not to be taken lightly. I will publish a summary before the year end but I am having to completely revise my training material. For example; The term “PAT” itself has gone, it should now be referred to as COPISITEE. It clearly defines ALL equipment, not just portable appliances and that’s just for starters.

I hope you enjoyed my investigation of the Ashmoleum art theft last month. I have plenty more. I could mention the extremely well-planned job in Antwerp that went off the rails due to a very simple mistake. Or did it? I might investigate it for your entertainment in a future blog.

In case you’re wondering, my interest in a well-executed heist is entirely professional and stems from my working background, that for many years of my life I was involved in security systems. If ever I publish my memoirs - I would probably get locked up in the tower.

Now then, thinking of being locked up, I didn’t think I would miss not going to Spain this year but we all have to make sacrifices…

Ted Voice Number 2: You greedy bleeding git. You went round the Caribbean for 5 weeks at the beginning of the year!

Ted Voice 1: Well, yes I know but that was educational.

Ted Voice 2: What, to see how many rums it took to render you insensible?

Ted Voice 1: No. Look, I’ll have you know I was undertaking a review of socio-economic development in relation to a result-oriented electrical engineering infrastructure approach

Ted Voice 2: So what was your conclusion?

Ted Voice 1: Umm, well, probably that most electrical contractors have extremely long liquid lunches and leave lots of wires on poles. Oh look, just bugger off and get on with your latest get rich quick scheme whatever that is.

Ted Voice 2: Huh, well I’m not staying where I’m not welcome. I was prepared to cut you in seeing as I’ve just come into possession of a map of a lost gold mine in Montana.

Ted Voice 1: Thank heavens for that. Bloody map! That bloke has had more maps of lost treasure than I don’t know what. Still, I suppose one day he might get lucky.

Anyway, now he’s gone we can crack on.

While teaching at Oxford, I once said that to a class whilst having a lesson observation. The “dyke on a bike” who was the observer said that was not an appropriate comment for a class. She obviously had cracks on her mind.

She then went on to downgrade me because I did not get any aspect of “multiculturalism” into the lesson. For background, this was a lesson on electro-magnetism. When I queried this, she said I could have mentioned the effects of pumping water into African villages. You might be surprised at this, but I really would have liked to have double-tapped her with the Glock but realised at that point all was lost. The hippies had won. I handed in my notice a few weeks later.

It was then I decided to go freelance, and it was one of the best decisions I ever made.

Now, I need to confess that I was always moderately good at Science and Technology so it was never that difficult for me to keep up with latest developments, but sometimes, and more out of cussedness, I have buried my head in the sand. For instance “Twitter”. I think David Cameron actually had it right when he was overheard talking about “Twittering Twats”.

Facebook has proved really useful to me in linking up with old friends, and in one very sad case I found an old friend from college only to lose him again. I still mourn his loss. Nonetheless, I was privileged to have made contact in that space of time rather than never having made contact again.

However I digress, with regard to all this new-fangled technical stuff I was determined not to cough up for I Tunes. No way. Not me.

But when they start making cars without CD players in them how am I supposed to play my Herb Alpert stuff? As it happens, I have found the whole I Tunes process quite straightforward and very easy to put a playlist of your favourites together. The only thing I would say is do it on your phone not your PC so you can play your stuff anywhere.

So without further ado here is a small sample of my varied Playlist: Rise (Herb Alpert!), Islands in the Stream, Agolo, Walking in Rhythm (just love the Brazilian flute sequence in this), Sweet home Alabama, Orinoco Flow Etc Etc.

Well, that’s my report for October just about complete, if we ignore the eco-nerks and the world doesn’t come to an end next Friday, I hope that November will be about the same as usual with lovely crisp, dry, freezing cold days.

From previous posts you may have guessed by now that I don’t like the rain very much. Here are the first few lines of “You make me feel” (and I like Aretha Franklin’s 1967 version best):

Looking out on the morning rain
I used to feel so uninspired
And when I knew I had to face another day
Lord, it made me feel so tired
 
Now perhaps you’ll get my drift. Come to think of it, add a pinch of Harry Nilsson’s “Everybody’s talking at me” and a twist of “Midnight Cowboy” and you’ve just about got me in a nutshell.

So until next month, happy trails folks.

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