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Blog for September

Posted on 5 October, 2020 at 5:12 Comments comments (31)
Greetings folks, it’s the end of September so time to see where Ted has been and what he’s got to say about this month. In fact it’s a belter, so put the kettle on and make a cup of tea, put your feet up and slip away into my world for a short while.

And I know I’ve said it before but any old friends, please, please don’t be afraid to get in touch, I would love to hear from you (and I really don’t care what your spelling or grammar is like, I’m not that hot myself).

This month, I have been to Lymington, Lyndhurst, Twickenham and Witney delivering training courses.

And now, for something completely different. When thinking about skills in the workplace, I believe it is really important to back up our core skills with transferable skills. A good example of an easily transferable skill is Project Management. If you can break down a task into a series of safe, efficient and achievable operations you can apply that to other disciplines. For example, a Building Services Project Engineer can usually take on any non-building related operation and put it into a realistic schedule. To do this he or she is aware that they will need to take advice from installers/suppliers and perhaps specialist contractors. Above all other traits they will realise that they need to talk to personnel, study existing processes and learn from past failures where possible.

So, if you are a school-leaver or if you are in the early stages of your working life try to remember about the transferable skills. You may have landed that dream job of surf board polisher, but will it offer regular employment and a great wage for the next few decades?

Even if you are lucky enough to become an electrician, we occasionally do come to periods where employment becomes more scarce. So it makes sense to check your employability from a prospective employer’s point of view. Make sure your core qualifications are up to date, and if your existing employer offers training, any training, go for it. It might be PASMA, First Aid, Asbestos, Health & Safety, anything, take it with open arms (and mind). BUT, make sure you keep a record of it, without that it means nothing. AND don’t wait until you need a job, put your CV and training record together NOW, so you know where to find it in a hurry.

So, talking of project management, here’s a corker. Let me take you back in time to the Ashmoleum Museum, Oxford, New Year’s Eve 1999.

If you are going to steal a painting this is the perfect time.

In fact, lets get specific. Lets go for a Cezanne. Now I’m no art expert but that’s a name even I recognise.

So we’ll zoom right in now. The painting we have set our sights on is Cezanne’s Auvers-sur-Oise, valued in the region of £3 million.

So, back to New Year’s Eve 1999, just after midnight. We would be on the roof of the museum as there are building works taking place that involved the use of a ground to roof scaffolding, this was adjacent to a quiet side entrance to the museum and easily facilitated your ascent. Some of the key equipment about your person is a small jemmy, scalpel, smoke bomb, small rope-ladder and hand-held battery-operated fan.

It’s now gone midnight and fireworks are going off everywhere. Remember, it’s the Millennium.

There are two security guards on duty. You don’t know if they are patrolling or sat watching a bank of video monitors. As it’s New Years Eve and the next one like this will be in a thousand years’ time, the guards may have decided to meet up for a quick snifter, who knows?

Time has moved on as you patiently waited, it’s now 01:25 and time to move. You jemmy the open the skylight almost directly above your target. You secure the rope-ladder and toss in the smoke bomb. As you descend the ladder you activate the hand-held fan to waft the smoke around even more.

If the vibration sensor on the skylight hasn’t activated the intruder alarm, the passive infra-red sensor in the gallery should have picked up your heat signature, so the alarm should now be sounding.

So let’s stop and consider: Its New Year’s Eve, Who’s going to break into a museum on New Year’s Eve? It’s dark, there are fireworks and its noisy. But let’s not forget Y2K, this was where it was predicted that all sorts of systems would crash and planes would fall out of the sky.

So if you were watching on a video monitor and clouds of smoke suddenly appeared along with the intruder alarm sounding you could have easily assumed that the air conditioning plant and Building Management System (BMS) had crashed.

So now, all the elements of perfect planning have come together.                     
What the planner has achieved is confusion.

So, put all of the above factors into the mix and it takes you just a few moment to get to the painting, use the scalpel to cut it from the frame, roll it down your trouser leg and climb back up the rope-ladder.

You clamber carefully back down the scaffold, take a deep breath and walk slowly down St John’s street towards Wellington Square and fade into the night. You now have (in theory) 3 Million quid in your pocket.

With regard to details, in researching this incident I found the “Oxford Mail” next to useless. I think they have decided their future lies with appeasing academics and eco-nerks. The most exciting story you’ll find in there will be about the new cycle lane installed outside the “pop-up multi-ethnic shop”. You won’t find any investigative journalism in this paper.

So where did I find a good source of information for this crime? The New York Times! What a sad state we are in. 

Nevertheless, I can’t close this account without a few personal comments:

1)      Whoever planned this operation was a smart person. It certainly reveals an excellent Project Planner.

2)      All great inventions are simple, as was this plan.

3)      But, (and as they say, it is a big but) Why? Where can you sell this painting? You can’t go to Sotheby’s or Christies for a public auction. It’s been estimated that it’s black market value would be about £20K. Still a good profit for one night’s work, but not enough for me to risk a few years at Her Majesty’s pleasure.

4)      Its not even a particularly attractive painting (perhaps that’s just me though).

5)      It wasn’t me. I was at a Millenium party at West Oxford where I have plenty of witnesses to confirm I was there the whole time. Well at least most of it.

6)      It can’t have been a dry-run for a similar operation because this plan relied heavily on the Y2K aspect.

7)      The idea of a “Raffles” type “Gentleman-thief” has endured through the years but is not very often accurate. Most crooks who engage in this type of activity are violent opportunistic characters who rely on blackmail, bribery and kidnapping to gain access to vaults and strong-rooms etc. And the image of the painting changing hands on a yacht in Monte Carlo for a suitcase full of diamonds is very appealing but not very realistic.

8)      I get the feeling there is more drama than reality about this incident. I did from the first moment I heard about it and I remain with the same feeling. The police have said they believe it was stolen to order and was probably out of the country within 24 hours. That’s a nice idea from the police point of view – it shifts the problem off their patch. I’m not so sure.

For my money, I reckon the painting is still in Oxford. It could well be stashed inside the frame of another painting in the Junior Common Room of some much respected College. Stolen by students to prove a point or win a dare.

I hope I’ve given you something to think about, particularly with regard to transferable skills.

And now, like all good cowboys, its time to saddle up and ride off into the sunset until next month. Hasta la proxima!
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Blog for August

Posted on 4 September, 2020 at 12:14 Comments comments (26)
Well spank my rear and call me Charlie, that’s August done and dusted. Now only 15 Saturdays to Christmas!
And at the risk of repeating myself, wasn’t it bloody hot for a week or so! I am so glad we have an AC unit in the bedroom. And related to that is an important tip if you are booking your holidays online (we got such a good deal on the internet blah blah blah). Make sure that bargain room you booked in Italy has got air con otherwise you will melt.
Training jobs are coming in slowly with some being cancelled, I reckon this area will be very touch and go for a while until confidence is restored. I must say I’m not too worried as I’m semi-retired anyway and I’ve enjoyed been at home and catching up on projects generally.
Talking of confidence been restored, if you travel regularly to Spain, Brittany Ferries have just opened up bookings for next year and some cabins are already sold out, so don’t leave it too late.
If you are a regular reader of my blog you will know that I have been threatening to get a new motorbike for some time now. I’m not going to mention any names but salesmen at three different dealerships in Oxfordshire and Wiltshire have so far proved to be next to useless. If they get commission on sales, I’d be surprised if they got a pair of socks at Christmas. A typical exchange would go like this:
Ted: I like this one, can I have test ride?
Salesman: No. We haven’t got a demonstrator for that one.
Ted: Look, I’m a cash buyer and I’m pretty sure I’m going to buy this bike but I’m not going to do that unless I can have a test drive.
Salesman: No, people don’t usually buy that bike so we don’t have a demonstrator.
Ted (No dialogue) Pulls out Glock and double-taps salesman in chest.
Ted (To CO): Come on sweetie, lets go to Wickes and get some white spirit.
I’m afraid I don’t suffer fools gladly.
Anyway, I’ve been watching these riots in America with a mixture of revulsion and fascination. I hate bullies and that what we are seeing there in spades. This “Antifa” business, which I assume is Anti-Fascist is a great laugh because these people are the closest thing to Nazis I can imagine. Their ignorant rendering of history is abysmal. And I think that people of all colours should simply comply with any reasonable request from a police officer such as “can I see your licence please”. If you are placed under arrest, behave like a civilised person and do not thrash around as if a possessed savage. If you do that the conclusion is that you are jacked up on PCBs or other shit and need serious restraint. You are also in danger of injuring yourself in the process. Not only that, what could have been a simple warning back at the station will turn into at least 6 months wearing a stupid orange suit and sharing a cell with Gorgeous George. Nobody wants to be arrested, so remember, if you can’t do the time…
I’m also  amazed how many cars stopped for these zombies, there’s no way I would have stopped for a blood thirsty mob. What’s more the script was nearly always the same – Woman or woman-looking thing stops car by standing in road. Woman-thing then jumps up and down while screeching abuse at occupants (I think this is some kind of tribal thing like a Haka). As occupants have by now locked the doors, savages can not get into vehicle. Woman-thing then jumps up and down on bonnet, windscreen and/or sunroof trying to get at evil occupants of car. Mostly, occupants come to senses at this point and drive off. Car is then hotly pursued by morons with their little back-packs on.
And I bet most of these have got the nerve to put “Be kind” on Facebook.
Talking of idiots, the most polished I saw recently was a white dickhead screaming at a coloured lady “I’m more black than you are”.
I feel that the problem in the states is very similar to that in the UK, in that too many anarchist and left-wing teachers/tutors/lecturers are allowed to contaminate young minds. In the UK many people get taken in by the ideology of the Junior Common Room at college and never get out of it. These are mostly the types we refer to as “Champagne Socialists”.
Unfortunately, most media people have come through this route and this is why the media is always interested in issues that working people couldn’t give a fig about.
I firmly believe that places of education and communication  (particularly TV stations) should be completely neutral. I think an Ombudsman should be appointed to regularly sample these areas and ensure that tutors views are not imposed on students.
Well, that was a good old rant wasn’t it?  
My electrical tip for this month is in a not dissimilar vein, in that if you are doing electrical inspections (EICRs) your job is to simply report on the condition of the installation. I have seen some sparkies taking on the mantle of electrician/safety officer/small god etc etc. It is not our job to say “a child might get a knitting needle up the back of the service cut-out” or “you could get an extension lead up to those first floor sockets”. You Observe, Test and Record from an unbiased stance, you use your training and skill to identify dangers if they exist, you also need to apply good old common sense.
With regard to motorbikes, in the end I bought this one.

Well, I’m just about to saddle up and ride off into the sunset, so until next month, Adiós, amigos y amigas.
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Blog for July

Posted on 1 August, 2020 at 9:52 Comments comments (39)
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”.   
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Blog for June

Posted on 2 July, 2020 at 12:13 Comments comments (79)

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. 

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Blog for May

Posted on 6 June, 2020 at 11:03 Comments comments (36)

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.


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Blog for April

Posted on 15 May, 2020 at 6:09 Comments comments (26)
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.

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Blog for March

Posted on 8 April, 2020 at 11:24 Comments comments (47)
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.



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Blog for February

Posted on 4 March, 2020 at 13:13 Comments comments (41)
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.

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Blog for December

Posted on 27 December, 2019 at 11:25 Comments comments (46)

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.
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Blog for November

Posted on 1 December, 2019 at 6:19 Comments comments (53)

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.

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