I see today that the UK has decided to stop any new “Smart Motorway” projects, insisting that they need extra safety precautions. This is primarily the aftermath of coroner’s reports into certain fatal accidents on these Smart Motorways.
From the article…
- In 2019, 15 people were killed on “all lane running” and “dynamic hard shoulder” motorways. This is four more deaths than in 2018.
- The number of people being killed on motorways without hard shoulders increased each year from 2015 to 2019, and totalled 39 deaths.
- By contrast, on so-called “controlled motorways” – a type of smart motorway which have variable speed limits and a hard shoulder – there were 24 deaths in that period.
- On conventional motorways, which cover more of the UK than smart motorways, there were 368 fatalities from 2015 to 2019.
The M1 around where I live was one of the first Smart Motorways, and I’ve written a lot about how stupid people can be on those motorways – particularly about the availability of lanes, and a lack of general driving standards (Middle-lane cunts and the like)
From my experience, a lot of drivers seem to be incapable of reading road signs saying whether a lane is open or closed (although also even whether the approaching junction is the one they want or not, until the absolute last minute) This also seems to be borne out by the latest rash of road-safety adverts telling people that they should ‘go left’ in case of problems on motorways (and fucking hell, in my opinion anyone who needs to be told this shouldn’t be in possession of a driving licence!)
As an example of this, one of the cases the coroners were looking at was one local to me where the person’s vehicle had a problem, showed the ‘engine problem’ warning light, and they pulled in to one of the emergency refuge areas. Now, when that happened to me, I got out of the car (in a snowy January) and called recovery to get me off the road safely. But not this twerd, oh no. They gave it a few minutes, started the car, no light came on, so they pulled out to continue their journey. (The ‘engine problem’ light doesn’t necessarily immediately light up on starting – for example, if the issue is to do with the turbo, the EGR valve, air filter etc., it’ll only come on when you accelerate over a certain rpm limit, at which point you’re shafted) And that’s what happened to Twonktacular – the light came back on, the engine performance disappeared, and they got hit by another vehicle. Yet somehow that’s the fault of the smart motorway, not the dumbass driver.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a huge fan of motorways without hard-shoulders. And I’m sure there are considerations and gambles that have been taken about how people get to emergency refuge areas, how the road monitoring is managed/staffed and so on. But I also understand how impractical it is, with current traffic levels and so on, to have a quarter of each road surface only available to vehicles in emergencies.
All told, I don’t believe that Smart Motorways are inherently dangerous. I think drivers (and their decisions, or lack thereof) are far more dangerous than roads. You just can’t blame an inanimate road for human stupidity.
Over the last year, a number of businesses have (unsurprisingly) moved out of the building where I have my office. The move to primarily working from home and so on has made them more aware of the costs of the offices, and in general I can see that it makes sense for them to downsize and so on.
What’s been more of a surprise is that other ones have moved in. Again, I get it for situations like mine, where it’s better to have the office, and where working from home isn’t practicable.
There are some of those new businesses though, that despite paying the office rental/lease for a year, haven’t actually been using the offices at all, and I really don’t understand that at all.
I suppose it’s a good write-off for tax purposes or whatever, but to me it’s still odd to be basically burning that cash for no benefit at all.
Obviously it’s not my problem, and nothing to do with me. It’s other people’s business decisions and so on. I just find it interesting, and slightly baffling.
I’ve been a fan of raspberry jam for a long time, and it’s usually part of my breakfast. I’ve tried most of the different brands and types over the year, although over the last few years I’ve settled more on Tesco’s “Finest” offering, which is pretty well priced and tasty. (Before that it was the Bonne Maman version, which was almost twice the price, and even now is £1 more expensive per jar)
On that 2015 visit though, I saw they had some interesting jams – in particular, a golden raspberry one, and a purple one. I couldn’t get them at the time (because I was doing a ton of walking and theatre stuff, so wasn’t going to be carrying other stuff as well!) but on and off they’ve been on my mind since.
They are also ridiculously expensive – six-ish times the cost of my Tesco one, for a jar half the size! – so it’s a bit of a jump to be able to justify that kind of cost.
Anyway, back in October, I’d been to one of my favourite restaurants for my birthday meal (a saga in itself of rescheduling, lockdowns etc.) which is also effectively just round the corner from Fortnum and Mason. So, having done an epic lunch, and needing to walk, I went in. And having just spent a silly amount on Lunch (as well as a couple of drinks) it was probably the only time I could rationalise the price of those jams. So I did. (Although I’m still gobsmacked at the price of them)
They’ve sat around since then, waiting to be tried, and it’s only been in the last couple of weeks they’ve been opened.
All told, they’ve been good, but definitely not worth the price. The golden one is noticeably sweeter and soft-of softer than standard raspberry jam, and the purple one is slightly different in taste (and very much so in colour) but certainly neither one is anywhere close to being something I’d eant to have on a regular basis – even if they were the same cost as the usual ones.
I’m really glad I got round to buying them and trying them, and to now know what they’re like. But I can’t see me getting them again.
Over the last couple of months, I’ve slowly been upgrading some things around the house. Nothing major, but a few things had started breaking or failing, so it’s made sense to replace them with better versions.
Among other things, a lot of my cookware was on the way out – my main frying pad had buckled (my own fault for thermal-shocking it too many times), my baking trays were grim and no longer non-sticking, and my wok had gone horrible with rust. So I’ve replaced them all with better things – and in fairness, none of those bits was less than a decade old anyway, so it’s not like I’ve not had my money’s worth out of them.
This weekend, I’ve also replaced the main lamp in my living room. I’ve had a (revoltingly cheap) uplighter for six years, that I bought while bankrupt, when the previous one’s halogen bulb died. I think it cost me £20, and it was ridiculously wobbly, but did the job – and has done the job for that six years without fail, and without any replacement bulbs.
However, during the week it started buzzing – not just from the bulb, but also from the switch, and to me, that’s not a thing where it’s wise to keep it going. So I had a look round for something new, and ended up with an interesting LED light that offers a range of white-balance colours, as well as being able to move lighting to my requirements and so on. It wasn’t the cheapest, and the lamps aren’t replaceable in the same way as a ‘normal’ bulb would be, but there’s also very little that can break, so we’ll see. Regardless though, I’m really pleased with it at the moment.
All told, I’m happy with how things are going – I’m not paying out stupid amounts for things, but I’m also not staying at the cheapest levels, because I simply don’t need to. Hopefully all these new bits will last me another eight to ten years minimum, and god only knows where we’ll all be by then…
This time last year, I didn’t really have any ‘slobbing out’ stuff at all. The
closet closest I really came were some tracksuit bottoms that I used for workouts and the like, but there wasn’t really much else.
Since then, with the Lockdowns and so on, I’ve expanded my collection a bit – after all, there’s not really any point getting “properly” dressed on the days you’re not even venturing out. So over the summer I had/have some thinner cotton trousers which are really comfortable, and for colder times, I’ve got some warmer ones that aren’t quite tracksuit bottoms, but also aren’t really fit for anything other than staying indoors.
My real concession though, and I’m not at all proud of them, are some slippers. I’d found that my feet were getting achingly cold, so it made sense to get *something*, and these horrors came up at just the right time. They’re unbelievably ugly, and I’d happily burn them if I ever got a partner, but for now they’re warm and comfortable, and that’ll do me.
But I can be sure that, no matter how warm and comfortable they are, they won’t be seen outside the house…
Way back when the first Lockdown was announced, I bought a set of hair-clippers, and it turns out it was probably one of the best things I did.
It’s already more than paid for itself – I think that since then I’ve only had two haircuts at my usual barbers, and all the rest have been done myself.
Of course, it’s also been a learning experience, but once I’d (sort of) figured out the hair length thing, it’s been useful.
I’m not perfect at using them – each use has ended up with a couple of return visits as I’ve discovered bits I’ve missed (or at least that feel like I’ve missed them) – but the results are at least passable, and I’m not worried about being seen out in public once I’ve done it.
Once sanity returns, I’ll still be happy to go back to having a barber do the job properly. For now, though, I’m just happy to be not looking like Cousin It.
Following on from the post about the car’s heating system having packed up, I finally got it sorted just before Christmas.
As usual my dealership was a clusterfuck from start to finish – although there appears to be some light at the end of the tunnel on that one.
Initially, I asked them to have a look at what was wrong when I took it to get the brakes fixed. They ‘checked everything they could’ and couldn’t find a problem, but the heater pack is behind the centre console, and they hadn’t allocated the time to do that, so it had to come in again.
That happened on the 21st, at which point they told me it was “only a diagnostic visit – we’re just finding out what’s going wrong“, which was what I’d suspected might be the case, but regardless, my sense of humour started to fail. Because obviously that would mean a third visit for the same problem, which is just fucking ridiculous.
As it turned out, the problem wasn’t with the heating system itself, but with a cracked/fucked radiator that was leaking at a good pace. (The mechanic actually brought me through to the garage to show me) Apparently it was only doing so once the system became pressurised (about 10-15 mins into a drive), but still, fairly serious. And because the leak meant it was losing pressure, the heating system wasn’t working. So we needed to get that sorted.
Then they told me it couldn’t be done ’til December 31st, and my sense of humour utterly failed. I wasn’t nasty, but I was quite obviously pissed off that they were happy to send me home (a not insignificant distance) with a close-to-broken car, and leave it that way for ten days.
Fortunately, at that point the light at the tunnel switched on, and one of their people (a sales manager) suggested to the reception that they move some stuff around, so that they could deal with my car the next day. Not ideal, but far better than waiting ten days. Even better, he’d come and collect it from my house, get the work done, and bring it back. (Which also meant it would be their problem if it went pop on the way there)
And that’s what happened. I filled the rad with water before he arrived, to make sure it was as good as possible. The car got collected, fixed, and returned. (They fucked up the costs too, but that’s another story) And since then, it’s all been OK, so it does appear that the problem’s been fixed.
Once he brought it back, we had a chat about how the service department had really let down the sales side on this – when it went in for a pre-MoT service, they noted that it was virtually empty of coolant, but never looked at why; they missed the leaking rad in the MoT itself; when the brakes were being replaced and they were ‘looking at everything’, they didn’t notice the rad pissing water everywhere; and the ‘diagnostic visit and then return to get it fixed’ was bullshit.
As it turned out, they’ve listened to my previous complaints about these practices, and that sales manager is now in charge of the service department, and has been tasked with making it run better, with a more customer-focused attitude. It’ll be a challenge, but it was good for him to have been able to see exactly why he was needed, and what the problems are with the current set up.
I hope it works – they’re at least aware of the problem, and trying to fix it – but only time will tell.