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Blog for July

Posted on 1 August, 2020 at 9:52 Comments comments ()
Greetings pop-pickers, well that was another super-charged month wasn’t it! Had my big fat birthday and numerous friends’ as well. No weddings but a funeral on the last day of the month.

I think by now a lot of us have recognised that 2020 was the year to write off. Whoever would have thought that as we dreamt about the future where we were all wearing silver suits and in flying cars that the frigging Chinese would bring the world to its knees with an escaped bio-weapon?

However, it is in my character not to look on the bleak side but try to find the silk purse out of the wotsit…

Ted voice No 2: “Not to look on the bleak side” You’re kidding right?

Ted voice No 1: Sorry about that folks but voice number 2 is my alter-ego who has an annoying habit of popping up when I don’t want him.

Ted voice 2: You only want to supress my point of view, you’ve never liked me.

Ted voice 1: For those of you that are not regular readers of my blog Ted voice 1 is my normal, practical, good-natured self. Ted voice 2 is my, lets say, more adventurous side. He is the version of me that is the genie in the bottle. He is the free-spirited romantic who wants to go searching for lost gold in the Yukon and find the fabled lost city of Eldorado.

Ted voice 2: Ha, did you say “good-natured”! Every time I have bright idea you shoot me down.

Ted voice 1: I suppose that’s true to some extent. Lets see what your last bright idea was, Oh yes I remember, was that when you wanted to salvage propellers from the Nazi fleet that was sunken in Scapa Flow? Or was it that time you were going to drag a metal detector through every Cornish lake in search of Excalibur?

Ted voice 2: There’s good money in brass propellers.

Ted voice 1: Look just bugger off for a while and let me get on with this blog, some of us have work to do.

Ted voice 2: Bossy. I’m not staying where I’m not wanted. Anyway, I’ve got an old parchment with a secret message that I need to decode.

Ted voice 1: Thank God for that. We might get a bit of peace and quiet for a while now. To be fair, I secretly admire the guy cos he’s never boring. Last year he persuaded me and my CO to visit the Three-Sided Lodge in Northamptonshire, where there are many messages in the stonework that have never been deciphered. Well it really was fascinating, the whole building is about the number three and linked into the Holy Trinity when Catholicism was forbidden in this country.

But guess what? We couldn’t decipher any messages either.

Check it out for yourself here:

Anyway, onward and upward.

For those of you in the electrical trade, you might not be aware of it but a new Code of Practice for PAT will be issued in September (launch date variable due to Covid). From what I can make of it so far the emphasis seems to be removal of terms such as “Portable” and “Stationary” etc and the recognition of ALL appliances for testing, including those items of “Fixed” equipment that can be a grey area between PAT and EICR. Anyway, I’ll have my two penn'orth when my copy of the code arrives.

On another note, I took a test ride on a new motorbike the other day. I think the time has come to trade in the old bike and move on. Now my current bike has got front disc brakes but the one I took out for a test ride has 2 discs. My current bike has brake shoes on the rear and the test bike has a disc brake to the rear so all in all I was pretty impressed, a lot of power (650cc) but a lot of stopping power as well. I will keep you posted if I buy it.

On the work front I am starting to get bookings coming back in. My only fear is that we may face a surge in training due to the backlog now in place. I don’t like to disappoint clients and will try to help wherever possible.

So farewell until next month and to quote Bill & Ted – “be excellent to each other”.   

Blog for June

Posted on 2 July, 2020 at 12:13 Comments comments ()

Well that’s June done and dusted then.

I resisted the urge to run “Skyclad” round Stonehenge at sunrise on the summer solstice for the longest day, nevertheless the days will gradually reduce now until the shortest day on December the 21st. 

It seems that we are beginning to come out of isolation now but its not over yet, I’m sure that random infections or waves of infections will bounce around for a while yet. Lets keep everything crossed.

As discussed in previous blogs, I’m fed up with so-called protesters and with a media system that feels it has a duty to whip up civil unrest. I’d like to see all those who want the BBC to be shut down come out and clap every Tuesday evening. I bet that wouldn’t get reported.

At this point I shall share with you my view that all “recreational” drugs should be decriminalised. I have several reasons for this:

1)      Prohibition of alcohol in 1930’s America did not work. It simply created an extremely profitable black market and the same applies today. If you make drugs illegal you create a certain cachet and desirability for that product.

2)      If you are a greedy prick that is not satisfied with beer, wine, spirits, tobacco, or life itself and you overdose then you are no loss to society. In fact, good riddance, so help yourself to as much as you fancy.

3)      Why generate so much cash for Colombian cartels for Afghan terrorists? let’s keep the revenue for ourselves and put it into the NHS.

4)      The image of drugs, cars and women that look like prostitutes seems to be a factor in certain music videos. Its going to be increasingly difficult to stop and search those who aspire to this lifestyle so let’s take one part out of that.

5)      The product available to junkies would be quality controlled and not cut with bleach and rat powder.

6)      Making “drugs” illegal is just plain stupid. If people want to do stupid things how can we protect them. I could walk into my garage right now and swallow or inject no end of toxic substances if I had a mind to.

7)      I think it was Orson Welles who foretold of television as an “Opiate of the masses” and this to a large extent is of course true. Similarly, if recreational drugs were freely available, a high percentage of those jerks who were recently protesting about nothing would have been too blitzed on good quality shit to move out of their squat.

To back this up, I’m simply saying decriminalise usage and make these drugs cheaply available at Chemists. We would still need to prosecute and punish driving offences and lock up those using in public and causing public order offences.

Now going off at a tangent for a while and as you know, I’m not one to gossip, but we know someone who carried on with a well-known old tart a while back. What made us crease up with laughter was the fact it was called his “affair” which I suppose is intended to give an air of elegance and mystique. As an established groper of whatever he can get his hands on this made us laugh even more. To give you a little background there used to be a cartoon strip in a British newspaper called “The Perishers”. Now, in this strip was a character (a dog) called “Tatty-oldbit” and that pretty much describes his bed-buddy. All will be revealed in a future episode. I think that’s enough information for the moment but we are still chuckling.

So moving on. It doesn’t matter what trade you are, be it Sparky, Plumber or whatever, we can all be guilty of not practicing what we preach. With this in mind, I have found these past few months extremely useful in catching up with all those jobs that I kept putting off. Apart from all the other DIY and gardening projects from an electrical point of view, this is what I have finally achieved:

·         Shed and Greenhouse now on split RCD board with independent earth electrode.

·         New DB (All RCBO) installed in Garage with circuits from main DB migrated into.

·         New Main DB (All RCBO) installed in house.

And for the purists, I have untwisted all the ring circuit CPCs at the DBs as well!

Talk about “Physician heal thyself”.

Looking forward to holidays next year, some places remain old favourites that we will certainly visit again but there are also some other locations that have caught our eye.

We like Cruises, Lodges and Hotels. We don’t really like staying with friends as we enjoy our freedom too much. The great thing nowadays is that with google earth you can drive around a venue and check it out in advance.

We also need to catch up on a few venues in this country when the world comes back again.

In closing, there is an old cowboy saying that goes something like “May your sunsets be long and your trails be happy”. I like that, what more could anyone ask for.

Adios until next month mi amigos y amigas. 

Blog for May

Posted on 6 June, 2020 at 11:03 Comments comments ()

Well howdy doody folks,

I hope you are all well, these are dangerous times we live through.

So that’s May done and dusted and completes about ten weeks of self-isolation now. Consequentially, our house and garden are now in tip-top condition. The bloody Chinese have made sure that I have caught up with all the jobs I have been putting off for a long time. I have even finished patching up our drive. All that remains is for me to send my invoice to the Bio-Weapons Research Establishment , Wuhan. PS: Put some proper Control Measures in place next time guys.

Talking about the month of May, there seem to have been some really nice people born in this month. For starters my beautiful daughter, Emma-Louise. Along with my cousin Debbie, several chums of mine and others spring to mind. 

So, why should May be such a popular birth month? September/October must be an inspirational time!

Codes are good fun aren’t they! Some are easy and others are quite fiendish or concealed in microdots. How about this for hidden in plain sight:

This is a message hidden in Wingdings, simply change the font to normal to see the message. This could be concealed in a document in many ways, such as being used as a decorative edge on an invitation. I shall probably weave this into the plot of my next novel (Ernie Wise style).

Thinking of codes and suchlike, the humble electrician does very often get caught up in covert activities. For a large part of my working life I was involved in the installation and maintenance of security systems and have seen some pretty eye-opening stuff. However, I am still bound by the Official Secrets Acts, so that’s about as much as I can tell you. 

One thing I can tell you is that I detest corruption, I’ve seen plenty of this going on in Facilities and Maintenance departments and was always revolted by it. Corruption means that prices for work are overpriced and accompanied by shoddy workmanship. If you start work at an organisation and there are people there who take an instant, uncalled for, dislike to you it’s a good indication that a corrupt network is in place.

For anybody stepping up from on the tools to a management position I strongly advise you not to succumb to the temptation of corruption from contractors. Once you have committed you will be forever in their pocket. I never fell into this trap, and at times made myself unpopular for not being “one of the lads”. At least my conscience is clear in that respect.

I’m not particularly bound by any advertising protocols and I do like to be fair, but I must confess to a high regard for TLC electrical supplies. I like their website that is easy to use and quite informative. What I probably like most of all though is the price in the book/website is the price you pay. I hate wholesalers that never charge the same price and changing the prices each time you go in. In my experience this is usually a sign of fiddling by the counter staff, a touch of corruption again. So TLC, I take my hat off to you for being straight. I also saw some interesting stuff on their website like a Tails/Incomer isolating switch with built in SPD! Now that could really be a problem solver for a few contractors. I also spotted an external 13A SSO with a built in Wi-Fi booster that I suspect will end up replacing one of my existing outside sockets.

Before I go, I must put forward an old mate of mine, Mr Mark Pipkin for this month’s “Person of Merit” award. I first came into contact with Mark when we were both working in maintenance for a local company. Mark had been in the building and plumbing field for quite some time but never had any formal qualifications, so he set about acquiring them and after several years got the qualifications to further help him on his way. I always admire people who have the guts to set a goal and achieve it so that puts him well up in my book. He also as straight as the day is long and a very easy going character. We worked together again at Queens College and once more made a great team. He is the original family man and one of his favourite pursuits is driving down to the south of France every year. We meet up occasionally to compare notes on driving down to France/Spain and I am very pleased to count him as a friend. I hope we can get back together for another chinwag before too long.

Talking of which, another one of my favourite things is eating under my pergola with my family on a summer evening. Lets hope we can return to normal service sooner rather than later.


Blog for April

Posted on 15 May, 2020 at 6:09 Comments comments ()
These are strange days aren’t they? it seems like we are living through some sort of science fiction film like “The Andromeda Strain”. And when you add in the whole world (or pretty much) being locked down as well it gets even more weird. I think most people can now see why we have been so concerned about biological warfare.

So far, I have lost two uncles and a cousin to this wretched disease. It gets scary when it gets close to home like that.

I’d like to know if “Extinction Rebellion” will be flying out to China to stage demonstrations and demand that the Chinese keep their disgusting diseases to themselves?

I also think the Chinese should pay reparations to the rest of the world for the havoc they have caused, and it’s not as if they didn’t have enough warnings with SARs etc.

I have been more than busy with gardening, home maintenance and office work, the funny thing is I’ve still got loads to do!

I do have a weakness for the odd glass of vino (red is my poison) and usually manage to contain it until the sun is over the yardarm. On these sunny days though an al fresco lunch with a glass of lager in the garden is very enjoyable.

It amuses me to see how some people are struggling to stay in close company with their partners. That is the price to pay for being desperate to settle down too quickly, my advice is take your time and make sure you actually know and like that person (and that is reciprocal) before tying the knot.

The furthest I’ve been this month is to the bottom of the garden. Which by bloody good planning (and good luck) we sectioned off the bottom part last year and turned into our own “Allotment”. This has given us plenty to keep us occupied and will soon be giving us food as well.

My “person of merit” this month must go to our Prime Minister. What a start to a new job! As if taking us through Brexit wasn’t enough. I’ve seen some pretty nasty comments about him being hospitalised and it always seems the nastiest remarks come from those who are supposedly liberal/socialist. Says it all really.

Those that have cheesed me off more than ever recently have been the media. I am becoming more and more revolted by their biased views and desire to wallow in negativity. How often do we good news in the media? And how about this, at the start of this epidemic a few people starting getting stupid and panic-buying. So what do the media do? Give maximum coverage to this and create a mad rush to the shops!

I would really like to see a return to the days when we just got the news.

During the wet days of our confinement I have been making an in-depth study of the changes brought in to the 18 Edition by Amendment 1. That in turn, has made me make more of a study of electric vehicles, which doesn’t really appeal to me that much. However, I am now pretty well versed in this area and feel quite confident to pass this knowledge on. What I will say though, is that in my opinion, the contents of Part 722 are far too detailed for the average sparky and should be incorporated into the requirements for equipment, not the requirements for installation. I think we are in danger of the regulations becoming a tome that will be impossible to lift up let alone comprehend.

For example, lets just take a moment to reflect and find our way through the woods. In the Annexe to Part 722 in the 18 Edition the following formula is recommended for finding current in the neutral for a three-phase system. This formula appeared in the 17 Edition as well. 

So if we take a 3-phase system with the following loads – 75A, 52A & 43A, using this formula I came up with 28.5A (Im). Not being much of a mathematician though it took me a bloody long time to work it out. So, not trusting myself it did the old tried and trusted vector diagram and measured it to be about 26A, so I know I’m in the ballpark.

However, there is a much easier method of figuring out current in a 3-phase system un-balanced system (where all have the same phase angle) and that is to quite simply subtract the lowest figure from the highest. In the above example 75 – 43 = 32A Simples!  Now I know its not as exact as by calculation but its close enough for a quick assessment and as a method to check your calculation.

Current in the neutral is always a difficult quantity to be precise with anyway due to harmonics and load variations. All we can say with any confidence is that for a resistive system, current in the neutral will not exceed the highest loaded phase conductor.

I don’t think I’ll be undertaking any training again until the beginning of July at the earliest. From a personal point of view, I don’t know if I would feel confident then or not. I suppose all we can do is wait and see.

But I do think that when the world comes back to life it will be mayhem with people catching up with everything – work, training, holidays, new kitchen, new car etc etc. I should know, I’m going to be up the front with the rest of them!

Adios chums, until next month.

Blog for March

Posted on 8 April, 2020 at 11:24 Comments comments ()
Well, what a month that has been!

I was busy in Witney training for a couple of weeks and then had three days in Banbury for a company that is developing electric vehicles for Royal Mail, UPS and Police etc. Also did a bit of AM2 prep for a client.

However, like most in the UK now we are locked-down and are self-isolating. My wife has only got one lung and I had pneumonia a few years ago so we are both high risk.

Our next door neighbours have been very good to us in picking up food etc and our kids and partners too. It is at times like these you know who your friends are.

Now amidst this isolation I can honestly say I am not bored. I have so many things to do I haven’t got time to be bored. Scared of what might happen and disappointed in not been able to do things, but not bored. I ration myself to a couple of hours in the garden, a couple of hours in my office and a couple of hours in siesta, so no problem. I haven’t even had time to whizz a couple of trains round my model train layout as yet.

One of my favourite things in the summer is to sit out in the garden under my pergola so I am spending a bit of time on maintaining that. When the summer gets here I hope to spend a little time under there with the odd Barcadi/Vino and a copy of Don Quixote.

Having a bit more time on my hands has meant I can get those devices that I had lost passwords for up and running again (and safely recorded said passwords again).

Been in the training profession means that nothing you prepare in the way of material is ever wasted and I do strongly feel that we should not stand still. At the end of every course I review what worked well and what didn’t and adapt as required. I now have time to create new material and thoroughly rework existing material.

This latest crisis though has convinced me more than ever that I need to get a generator. Can you imagine if we had a crisis like this again in the height of winter, and when everybody drives an electric vehicle. I’m not convinced the network could support the charging load along with our regular demand. I’m not planning on a system to take over the complete house but I’m thinking Central Heating (Pump and controls), Freezer, perhaps lights and a dedicated socket for the unforeseen (like charging that EV). So off the top of my head about 5kVA. I will keep you posted on this one.

In last month’s blog I mentioned the reversal of the sun’s magnetic field at every eleven years and thought I would update you on this. The last time this happened was around 2012-13 and surprisingly, it doesn’t just flip. It takes a little while. So we are looking at a next reversal at around 2024-25. If I had enough time and resources I would love to be able to see if there was any interaction between worldwide disasters along with Incan/Mayan calendars etc and this reversal.

As a further update, there is a part of the world that has been dubbed the “South Atlantic Anomaly” (SAA) where the local magnetic field is beginning to fluctuate. Some believe this may be the start of our planet’s total field reversal. But if I start perpetuating doom and gloom stories I’m no better than the ecos am I. 

There is no single “person of merit” for me to commend this month, but I will add my voice to those supporting our cherished NHS. I hope those in power don’t have short memories after this current crisis has passed and look to reward these personnel as they truly deserve. How about a “celebrity NHS Tax” for those that earn obscene sums like talking heads and footballers earning more than £1 million pounds a year to help fund this. The bloke repairing flood lights at a football stadium has more skill in his little finger than the ponce talking about football on the telly.

If the government can’t afford to pay NHS staff more, arrange for them to pay less tax, low rate loans and mortgages etc etc.

Also, with immediate effect no NHS member of staff, patient or visitor should have to pay to park at a hospital. Where I come from that is known as a dirty trick, so please stop it straight away because the public is pissed off with it.

Nobody has really cheesed me off this month but those still using the underground and travelling on buses are getting pretty close to it.

Stay safe folks, looks like its going to be a while before we get mobile again so we had just better make the best of it.

Adios for now mi amigos e amigas.



Blog for February

Posted on 4 March, 2020 at 13:13 Comments comments ()
Greetings pop-pickers, it’s the end February so its time to see where Ted has been and what he’s got to rant about this month.

Now I did mention in my December blog that I wouldn’t be posting for January, this was because my CO and I were cruising round South America and the Caribbean. Some people may say “Galivanting” but I’m never too sure about that word, it seems to imply being on horseback for some reason or other.

So, this month (and not including my holiday locations such as Barbados and St Vincent etc), I have had training gigs in Okehampton, Taunton, Norwich, Cambridge and Witney (on my doorstep).

I’m not going to spend a lot of time waffling on about my holiday but will say that at one point we were less than 400 miles from the equator and stone the crows; that was bleeding hot! The rest of the time we spent tooling round Colombia, Panama, Costa Rica and exploring most of the Caribbean islands. We also had to taste a lot of rocket fuel (otherwise known as Rum). Good job we had been in training for it.

So after a 35-day break it was a bit of a rude awakening on my return to work in having to drive 180 miles to Devon on the very day that storm Ciara hit the UK. Just my luck, if I fell in a barrel of tits etc.

Saw a great bit of bull recently about meters in Bristol, this time water meters. A certain company posted an advert that led with the headline “See where the water distribution network leaks” it then went on to ask readers to sign up for a water meter as it can “help to save leaks”. Well, my flabber was well and truly gasted. This logic therefore implies that installing a water meter that monitors your water usage can somehow detect leaks on the public network. Scary thing is that a lot of people will believe it.  

And while I’m on the subject of eco-bandwagon, I see that seriously warped girl is now up for a Nobel peace prize. I still can’t understand why people would think a planet should maintain environmental conditions indefinitely. Haven’t these people ever heard of ice ages or continental drift?

I think we have much more to be concerned about with Iran gearing up with nuclear weapons. This is country that can’t tell the difference between a UK/USA or Ukrainian aircraft to shoot down (and you’re worrying about a temperature rise in records that have only been kept for 150 years? Seriously??).

Ok if you don’t get that how about this: This planet, like many others has a magnetic field (like the lines of flux on a bar magnet from North to South). It is this magnetic field that interacts with the solar wind from the sun that creates the Aurora Borealis and Aurora Australis (in the southern hemisphere). Now this next bit should have the ecos running to hide underneath their beds – this magnetic field occasionally flips. Shit! Nobody knows why (I’m still working on it!) but it does happen. 

The sun’s magnetic field flips quite regularly at every eleven years. When this happens it often knocks out satellites and North American/Canadian power and comm lines.

Can you even begin to imagine what will happen when the Earth’s magnetic field flips again? Most military equipment will survive as this is made to survive the EMP from a nuclear blast. For everything else electronic, forget it.

Unfortunately, we can’t predict when this will happen as there is no established frequency for this event. The longest period without a reversal was in earth’s early history at around 40 million years ago, since then there have been periods of 100 thousand years and 50 thousand years between events. The current period has lasted for 780 thousand years so you could say an event is due. Also bearing in mind we have an ice age about every 11 thousand years (and guess how long since the last one – that’s right, 11 thousand years ago). So how will they spin this one then?

I can’t say anybody has particularly cheesed me off recently, but I’m sure someone will. In fact just watching sappy BBC is usually enough to raise the old blood pressure a few notches.

My vote for being a jolly good egg this month goes to not one person but a group of people, namely the captain and crew of P&O Lines Ventura who carried us a total of 12,500 miles in comfort and safety.

I am also going to use this blog to “come out of the cupboard”.

Now, I have not made a big thing of it in the past, but I feel it is time to reveal to the world that I am in fact, a completely normal heterosexual man. I cannot thank my family enough in supporting me through this difficult time.

Goodbye dear friends, until next month.

Blog for December

Posted on 27 December, 2019 at 11:25 Comments comments ()

Well Howdy-doody folks, I always think the blog for December is a bit of a let-down. We have had the fun of the build-up to Christmas, we have been through Christmas itself and New Year. We then enter the doldrums.

But not Mrs Barret’s boy! I won’t be posting a blog for January so you will have to read February’s blog to find out what I got up to (Ooh matron!) so stay tuned.

However this month, I rationed myself to just a couple of assignments, three days in Ebbw Vale and two days in Dawlish. Whilst in Dawlish I was staying in a “Hotel” where I was the only resident, not even any staff. I’ve had this before and can’t say I really enjoy the experience.

I don’t believe in that tosh about giving to charity instead of sending Christmas cards, I give to charity every month by standing order and I still send cards. I’m also very careful about the charities that I do donate to. There are too many “Executives” with £200k a year salaries living like parasites off many well-known household names. I also only give to organisations that deliver within the UK and keep their nose out of politics.

The other thing that gets my goat and is kind of linked to Christmas, is this stupid American idea of replacing BC and AD with BCE and ACE (Before Christian Era and After Christian Era). Why do they come up with brainless shit like this (I might need to take a blood pressure tablet in a minute). But really! Why? My own theory is that the US suffers the same fate as the UK – about half the population are normal, regular, hard-working people and the other half are gormless, loony, do-gooding left-over hippies that work in media.

If you are a berk who promotes this drivel, is the idea of the BCE/ACE to appease other religions as I suspect?  If so, let me give you a nickel’s worth of free advice – those other religions don’t give a flying [email protected]^k what you call it. They have their own calendar anyway.

Not only that, if Sharia Law comes in, all infidels will be put to the sword anyway. Hippies and gays will be top of the pile so all that fawning will have been for naught. I shall probably sit there with my djellaba on doing my knitting while watching the glorious sword of Islam doing its noble work.

And those stupid councils that have refused to put up Christmas lights for fear of offending other religions ought to get satellite TV (not sappy Sky/Disney either) so they can see all the Arab stations showing pictures and images of Santa and events in a stable. I have respect for all religions around the world. The Arab nations don’t shy away from it and in fact Jesus is mentioned as a prophet in the Quran. What is more, I certainly don’t expect to have to hide my religion in a Christian country.

Not only that, if you had half a frigging brain and a smattering of history you would realise that Christmas and the festival of Sol is both an ancient pagan and Egyptian rite that goes far beyond Christian roots anyway so you don’t have to censor these naughty, embarrassing “Christian” images. Ethnic groups are not as stupid as the hippies and do-gooders think. I reckon most of the flower children that put themselves forward for councils must have dropped some bad acid during the 1970’s that addled their brains. The other alternative was they were bleeding cracked anyway.

My “Person of Merit” this month is my Commanding Officer and partner, Joanne Barrett, who has always supported me, had faith in me, was prepared to wait for me and did not just want me because she had to have a husband, any husband. She wanted me. I was lucky to get you.

I’m getting near the end of this report now, so be excellent to each other. Don’t be a sap and if you don’t like it don’t be afraid to say “No, I don’t want to do that”. I certainly didn’t say it enough in the past. Stupidly, I didn’t say things because I didn’t want to upset people. It took me a while to realise that I probably hurt more people by avoiding the truth.

The other thing I didn’t say enough was “You’re a nice person, I admire you”. As Brits we have a certain reservation, which is a shame. It prevents us from paying odd/random compliments, and I do still owe quite a few of these.

With regard to “Tosspot” or “Prat” of the month – if you see me making a doll that looks similar to you then be concerned.

Anyway, I’m sure that over the next month or so I will have succeeded in blowing up or buggering up something, so I will report as appropriate at the end of February. But please remember this: a man (or woman) who has never made a mistake - has never done anything. Successful people make loads of errors, but they get up, start again and learn by their mistakes. Never surrender.

As we are now approaching January, I will take this opportunity to wish you all a Healthy and Happy New Year. 

Catch you on the flip side.

Blog for November

Posted on 1 December, 2019 at 6:19 Comments comments ()

Well, there you go.

Another month has rolled by and we are now within kicking distance of Christmas. As we get into the festive season the round of dinners and gatherings will lead us through the month. Our first Christmas dinner takes place on the 6th, so it won’t be long before we are spitting feathers.

So where have I been this month? well; Bath, Lydney, Verwood (New Forest), Oxford, Caerphilly and Bristol to mention a few.

When I look at the news these days I can’t help but feel a sense of revulsion when seeing a constant diet of bloody protesters. What are they protesting about – climate change, Brexit etc etc. But lets face it, its been non-stop for the past 40 or 50 years. “Ban the bomb”, Greenham Common, Save the Gay Whales. And the funny thing is, I seem to recognise the same people taking part in all of them.

So how does this work?

“Oh Tristram, I’m so fed up. We haven’t been on a march for at least a fortnight”.

“Same here sweetie, it’s been so long since I knocked a policeman’s helmet off I might have to hand my CND badge in”.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve always been too busy working to take part in such frivolity, I wish our politicians would wake up to this and realise the majority of people in this country are a silent majority (we are not fanatical about climate change, plastic bags, LGBTSOSDIY-wotsits, cycle lanes blah blah), but we still vote and we are the majority.

See, the thing is, I hate fanatics. They scare me. I was horrified as a kid when attending a football match to see Sunday League supporter’s faces contorted with rage and hatred. Prior to that I naively thought they went there to enjoy a game of football. For Christ’s sake it’s just a game, if it affects you like that you need to fecking grow up and get some control over your emotions. I never, ever, attended another game.

On the other hand, I was absolutely overjoyed to see the ordinary people of London drag that climate change tosser off the roof of an underground train and kick the shit out of him. Real People Power, not taking a day off from Uni for a coach trip to London organised by the JCR. Now that’s what I’m talking about.

Climate change, politics, sport, take the lot of it and stuff it. I’m not interested in anybody imposing their views on me. I prefer the company of well-balanced, relaxed people who are simply grateful to see another day.

Likewise I am not interested in what team you support or pay a colossal amount of money for a season ticket or wear the latest shirt of some unpronounceable player.

Funnily enough, I actually know people who have made themselves appear to like football so as not to appear to be a wimp. Take it from me, if you feel that’s necessary, you are a wimp.

My “Person of Merit” award this month goes to my old mate Gary Hogg. Gary is an old Osney boy like me and was always a good-natured guy I liked. Like most of us, he’s been through the mill a bit, but he remains head and shoulders amongst many I know.

I particularly admired him for his trick of dunking a lit cigarette into the petrol tank of his motorbike and demonstrating the science involved that didn’t lead to our destruction. I also admired his patience (and courage) in soldering on the lid of a catering size coffee tin containing a mix of weedkiller and sugar that he christened his “Starbomb” for a Guy Fawkes night of several decades ago. After lighting the “Jetex” fuse and retiring to a safe distance this device seems to have worked fairly well by blowing a massive crater in the footpath. Well done Gary, that was much appreciated. Nowadays, you’d probably be serving at least 10 years for constructing an IED. Happy days.

As November closes, the Christmas decs come out and the lurch towards the Birthday Boy’s (et al vicar of Dibley) celebration begins. I do try to send cards/messages to all my working colleagues and associates who I like and respect, so if I overlook you please forgive me, or you might even try sending one to me.

My award for “Dick-end of the month” this month goes to the bloke who attended one of my maintenance courses recently. I’m too much of a gentleman to name names but this guy was second in command of a Maintenance Department but had no interest in learning whatsoever. How can you be so disinterested in improving your chances in life? By self-improvement you gain all-round. You become a better engineer; you have a better understanding of engineering, so your job gains a deeper satisfaction. And of course, you become more confident and more employable. I also like to think the way I deliver training is fun.

However, you never know what is going on in people’s lives so they may find concentration difficult, but I have been around the block enough times now to tell that this guy was just a waste of space. When I see people down on their luck and willing to give anything for just a single chance to improve themselves I will go above and beyond what might be possible. But for this jerk, I just want to kick his backside.

Okay, so as they say, rant over. Keeping a log like this is a tip I learnt from my teacher-training days; keeping a diary of some sort gives you a chance to let off steam.

One very important, magical event happened on the first day of November and that was the birth of my second Grandson. I have three grandchildren already but this is the first male in the Barrett line of my particular branch. Please feel free to have a look on my “Barrett Family Page” for further details. Truth be told, no matter what loop or line he was in I am just as proud of him as all my other children and grandchildren (they are all equally good-looking and smart, but maybe I’m just a little bit biased).

Now, lets enjoy that trundle up to Christmas (not twattish PC “Holidays” but good old Christmas) and enjoy a little peace on earth.

I’m pretty sure I have mentioned it previously, but my favourite carol (and I do like many) is “In the Bleak Mid-Winter” – what’s yours?

As my next post will be at the end of December, Happy Christmas to you all and I sincerely hope you have a healthy, happy and prosperous New Year.

Merry Christmas one and all.

Blog for October

Posted on 3 November, 2019 at 4:37 Comments comments ()
Greetings party people, its the end of October so time to see where Ted has been and what he's got to pontificate about this month.

First off, any old friends, please, please don’t be afraid to get in touch. I don’t want to sound too pessimistic but really, time is running out.

This month, I have been to Tipton, Hemel Hempstead, Witney, Shoreditch (London) and Oxford.

I love to see the trees changing colour at this time of year, as I’m driving around the colours are really beautiful. Its just such a shame that it means we are heading towards winter.

Now here’s the thing, the onset of Winter: November/December, I quite like. Bright, crisp, icy days – lovely.

It’s the part after Christmas I detest – Wet, cold, miserable, dreary. In the UK, rain for 3 months (and don’t give me that bullshit about climate change its been like that in the UK for thousands of years) – but it’s the time of year to top yourself. I hate it. That’s why if at all possible I get down to Spain as soon as I can.

At the end of October we of course have Halloween, I think it’s a shame that this American import has overtaken Guy Fawkes Night, cos who really wouldn’t want to blow up the houses of parliament? I can think of at least 17 and a half million people. The thing is that Halloween is more marketable than Guy Fawkes. The people that really run the world recognized that and how best to make money from it.

Now, did you also see what I did there? I used the American version of recognize with a Z, the English form that I grew up with used to have an S, as in recognise. You know the sort of thing – we have trousers, they have pants. If I went out with just my pants on I’d get in trouble. This actually links in to an electrical point; have you ever considered our use of “Down” as “On” for electrical switches? In the US and most of the world at large “Up” is “On”. We see this in circuit breakers and “real” electrical equipment (next time you look in a fuseboard see which way a circuit breaker is “On”).

This was something I had often pondered, and recently had a bit of an “epiphany” and realised why “Up” should be “On”. I think our colonial colleagues have got it right and in the UK we are just been cussed and awkward in being the other way round (however, never let it be said that I am not receptive to new ideas. If you have any clue or theory why we are different please drop me a line).

Anyway, this is what I figured out (and it is quite simple if you consider early switch construction): In the days of knife switches the switch had to be arranged as “Up” for “On” otherwise if the switch fell down the circuit would turn on. No other option then. Simples, N'est-ce pas?

My tip for sparkies this month is be careful when removing DNO fuses to do a fuseboard change if supplied through a smart meter. It seems the meter can detect a loss of supply and dispatch an engineer to that location (quickly). Fines are then purportedly given out to offending contractors. I fail to see the legality of issuing a fine for this but I would most certainly get me a hot-shot lawyer and challenge this immediately; “can you prove it was me who disconnected it?”. Alternatively, you could say “I had no choice to disconnect, as the guy who installed the smart meter (ex-meter-reader trained on a 1-day course) left loose connections so I had to make a snap decision”.

So, install smart meters and save the world eh. Welcome to the new world order. You have been warned. Smart meters saving climate change? Yes, and putting it politely, part of my body is a fish. Cigars all round in the Board Room again.

I hate oppressive regimes and I despise unfairness; I am going to make an opener with this for the moment and explore it further at a later date. But let’s stop and think: Its fine for “Alternative” comedians to mock the establishment, Dad’s dancing, and most other aspects of normal life. But why doesn’t anybody rip the shit out of the Ecos and PC lovers? As they really, really deserve it.

I think the reason is that “Eco” has become a form of religion and it’s a spark that has been fanned by business to turn a profit in many areas. Also something for councils and governments to divert attention away from their lack of planning/performance. It’s a become a religion that lost souls can cling to, finds friends with a common belief and bring some sense of purpose to their lost lives. Did you see them looking up at that seriously disturbed little girl on her trip to the states? Her disciple’s eyes were shining with an inner glow and passion. If you were to raise a hand and dare to say “Erm, Excuse me, have you not considered that climate change might be a naturally occurring event – I mean what caused all the ice ages the Earth has been through?” the zealots would rip you apart limb from limb because you have committed blasphemy.

If the early Christians were anything like this lot no wonder they got thrown to the lions, I’d willingly chuck a few in myself.

My jerk of the month is still that tit on the Hammersmith roundabout (but you probably guessed that already).

Adios mi amigos e amigas, hasta la vista.

(Goodbye Guys and Gals, until I see you again) sounds a bit more exotic in Spanish don’t it.

Blog for September

Posted on 28 September, 2019 at 12:37 Comments comments ()
Okay Folks, here we are at the end of September. Bloody hell, how flime ties! (said Professor Spooner – I’m sure he often considered Friar Tuck as an interesting opener). But If you live in Oxford, as Professor Spooner did and like what I do, we have a special relationship with September – St Gile’s Fair. This is a street fair right in the heart of Oxford that actually paralyses the city for two whole days. Always a Monday and a Tuesday. This year (2019) it took place on the 8 and 9 of September. 

In Oxford it is generally agreed that St Gile’s fair marks the beginning of Autumn and therefore heralds the approach of Winter. It may be sunny when you set out, but by late evening you’ll wish you had taken a jumper or a jacket.

Bloody good job then that myself and good lady wife are usually in Spain when St Giles fair is on so we don’t have to deal with that then.

You like to see your kids grow and develop, so I am very pleased to see my children doing just that and as their own families expand they need to move house and build bigger nests. So it happens that my son and daughter have moved respective houses at the same time and both taken on properties that need a lot of work to bring them up to modern standards. How history repeats itself!

I can only say that if you are unlucky enough to be their new neighbours I apologise in advance for the noise. Just remember the upside is that the area is now on the way up and your house resale price will be a lot better now Barretts are in the area!

This month I have mostly been in Spain, but I have been busy since getting back and been to Winey,  Sidcup, Peterborough, Basingstoke, Royston and Sawtry.

l was a bit surprised recently to hear that SY cable is not an approved British cable. Furthermore, if used on a new installation this may need to be listed as a “Deviation” in the installation certificate as it lacks a BS number!

Personally, I would not hesitate to use this cable as it really is a very sound product and absolutely perfect for a tough environment and/or vibration. I would be quite prepared to stand up in a court of law and state my opinion on this (I could easily back this up with data from NEMA, NFPA and NEC which are highly respected bodies stateside).

I have also found SY cable to be very useful for wiring outdoor events, as in the course of my working life I have had to provide power supplies for rock bands and outdoor events of all sorts. Before SY cable I had to use SWA. If you have worked with SWA, you will know that it can be quite heavy to move around. So SY cable is a brilliant alternative, its tough, versatile, well protected and comes in a variety of sizes and core configurations.

Thinking about wiring for outdoor events has reminded me about wiring up events for the Oxford colleges. To further explain, the colleges of Oxford take it in turns to have an annual “Gaudi” or summer ball. If you are lucky enough to get invited to a Gaudi you must go. Tickets are usually about £500 per person. I have been (without cost) as head of maintenance at an Oxford College. Anyway, once you’re into the event, and of course security is extremely tight, you will want for nothing. Just help yourself to a bottle of ‘bolly or as many as you fancy. Sometimes an entire fun fair is set up within the college grounds. Help yourself to free food everywhere. Raymond Blanc has even set up a restaurant within a college – order what you want, its free. Top-level musicians and acts will appear, The Rolling Stones once did Magdalen College. The event will traditionally end at daybreak the following day and is often seen as a rite of passage: “I made it through the Gaudi”.

Suffice it to say, those events take a lot of power and we need to ensure a continuous supply. It simply wouldn’t do to lose power during a performance by George Benson, Governing Body would be most upset.

It gives me great pleasure to report that I went to the wedding of Mike and Louise Haywood this month and didn’t lose my trousers, I managed not to insult anybody (as far as I recall), I even met some old friends and had a fair dinkum time. I did manage to fall off my chair but that was due to structural failure rather than operator error. The wedding cake was a masterpiece, I have never seen a wedding cake with the Millennium Falcon crashed into the side of it before. Off the wall or what? It was a brilliant day. The bride and groom have certainly had their trials in life, they are also lovely people who I admire tremendously, and I wish them all the very best for the future.

Bouquets and Brickbats this month are as follows:

Bouquets for my son Tom Barrett and son-in-law Sam Paterson for taking on those refurbishment projects. Well done you two, it will drive you to the limits of your endurance and patience, particularly as you have to hold down a day-job as well. But you will come out the other end with a result that you can be truly proud of and be able to say in true Griswold style “I did it”.

With regard to brickbats, well I’m still ticking about that tit tooting me round the Hammersmith roundabout (did I ever tell you that us Barrett’s don’t hold a grudge?) apart from that I would only say help save the planet and eat an Eco (I think they may even be carbon-neutral).