River Wissey Lovell Fuller


October 2010

Rone gets on his soapbox to examine a number of subjects of interest to us all.

Winter of Discontent

A recent newspaper headline asked are we facing a winter of discontent? Of course we are! The country's economy is in a mess, we have to put it right and "we are all in it together", would that that were true. But it seems that the very rich continue to avoid the taxes that they really should pay, and those most responsible for allowing things to get in a mess, the bankers, the politicians and the overpaid ineffective company chief executives, are continuing to enjoy the very high incomes that they have been paying themselves, whilst the rest can suffer the consequences of the spending cuts. Such a situation is sure to breed discontent.

High Speed Train

I hesitate to say very much on this topic. I rarely use trains these days and when I do I am very unlikely to be concerned about the possibility of getting to Birmingham half an hour quicker than I might on present day trains. Nevertheless it does seem that £17bn to be spent on one high speed link could be better used elsewhere in the railway system to benefit a much greater number of railway users. Improvements in the length of trains and platforms to reduce problems of overcrowding, for example. I understand also that there are a number of lines in Eastern England where the old semaphore signals are still in use operated by cables just as they were in Victorian times, one would have thought that these lines should have been modernised before worrying about a high speed train which, incidentally will result in a considerable increase in CO2 emissions compared with the existing trains. Of course the aim is ultimately to extend the link to Scotland at goodness knows what cost, this will clip an hour or so off the London to Glasgow time, but it is claimed that it will need 145,000 passengers to use the train daily in order to make the train financially viable. I wonder if it ever will be a viable business proposition and if the motivation for driving the project is just one of prestige.

Whilst on the subject of trains I have never been convinced that the switch to electric trains for main line routes was necessarily the right thing to do. There is some question as to their green credentials, the electricity is generated by fossil fuelled power stations and, whilst the trains are fairly efficient there is a problem with transmission losses. Furthermore breakdowns in the supply of power for any reason result in not just one train stopped but a long section of the line coming to a halt. A further disadvantage is that the sight of the overhead wires is visually intrusive especially in the areas close to a main line terminal. The possibility must exist that, had the decision been made to continue the development of diesel electric locomotives, we could have had a more reliable rail service which was equally green and avoided the high cost of installing and maintaining overhead wires.

Vacuum Cleaners

I have never quite understood the esteem in which the Dyson vacuum cleaner is held. Admittedly applying the cyclone to a domestic vacuum cleaner was an original idea, but the idea of a cyclone separator is not new by any means. It looks good, of course, to see the larger particles and the carpet fluff swirling around, but the cyclone is quite incapable of separating out the finer dust and it is necessary to have a second stage of filtering. Because this second filter is a permanent fitting it is necessary to clean it regularly and it is unlikely to provide a very high degree of filtration because very fine filters are inclined to clog and are very difficult to clean. It seems unlikely to me that they could use a filter that filtered particles much smaller than 5 micron, barely small enough to trap dust mites.

The emptying and cleaning process itself is somewhat messy, emptying the cyclone container into a bin can lead to some dust flying about but cleaning the filter, which generally requires the use of a brush, is very messy indeed and has to be undertaken outdoors, failure to clean the filter adequately will result in a fall off in the suction power.

The older type of vacuum cleaner with a paper bag filter seem to be disappearing from the market as most manufacturers are responding to the public demand and copying the Dyson. To my mind, however, these old cleaners are a preferable design. Because the bag filter is discarded they can afford a high degree of filtration, Hoover claim that their paper bags will filter down to 0.5 micron, small enough to capture, not only dust mites but possibly their faeces also. Emptying this type is such a simple and clean job, just a matter of sealing the bag and putting it in the bin. I would expect the paper bag filter to make a come-back.

Later versions of the Dyson appear to use multiple cyclones of smaller diameters which should greatly improve the performance of the cyclones but will continue to require the back-up filter so that the basic concerns remain. Perhaps a cyclone followed by a disposable filter would be the optimum.

We have also seen the introduction of the ball which is claimed to facilitate manoeuvring, I have tried one briefly and found very little advantage over a normal four wheeled machine. Maybe people have been attracted to something that appeared to be new and rather clever but, in truth, something that has little or no advantage over the old style machine.

Suicide Doors

Before the second world war the doors on cars were usually hinged at the back edge. Presumably because of the perceived greater risks associated with an opened door being struck by a passing vehicle or the wind forcing the door back if it should be opened for any reason whilst the car was moving, this type of door was given the name of 'suicide doors'. Since the war practically all cars have had doors hinged at the front edge. The suicide doors greatly facilitated entering and exiting, also making it much easier for women wearing dresses or skirts to get in or out more elegantly. Personally I always regarded the risks as over stated and regretted the change. I was pleased when the Toyota Previa (now discontinued) appeared with rear doors hinged at the back edge, and I hoped they would start a trend, perhaps there will be others. London taxis have always had the passenger doors hinged at the back edge but I do think that I might have seen one recently with front hinged passenger doors, I hope I was mistaken.

Ron Watts

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