Mar 1st

We were allowed to make mistakes

By mike

Information only - happy days.


. ‘we were allowed to make mistakes’  (John Cleese)


Richard mentioned the Goons.   It is quite possible this one radio show - in effect  -influenced three generations of writers .  I don’t want to do a spoiler and the information is on a DVD. You clever IT folks can download  it from utube - or other

    Pythonesque entered the  English language and John Cleese tells us why.

    Some months ago, I bought a small television set and soon tired of  endless repeats of Midsummer Murders, so I watch  DVDs instead.  These are bought pre-used, and are chosen at random.  A few days ago, I watched ‘John Cleese Live - The Alimony Tour 2011’ 

   The DVD is a recording of a theatrical performance. 

    John Cleese tells us how had been forced into retirement to raise money for a huge divorce bill. 

   Sadly, my £1 went into the coffers of a local hospice and not towards John Cleese’s relief fund.


(off to Silver Screen show - £3.50  Freedom passes are useful)

Feb 28th

Movies I've recently watched - warning, a few spoilers included.

By stephenterry

Today I read that the UK was going to be colder than Russia this week, with snow and ice right down the country. Here in Chiang Mai it's been another warm day, with cloudless skies - just the weather for sun-bathing by the pool, or sitting on the balcony imbibing a cold beer.

So Tip decided it was a good day to see a movie. John Wick 2 was showing, and it had received great reviews - more body count than its predecessor, which meant a lot of bad-men being killed. The movie has a great soundtrack and is best seen on a large cinema screen, not a TV to appreciate the full effect.

There are many plus points for an action thriller:-

- the storyline was cleverly constructed (within its limitations)

- good acting throughout - even the dog

- black humour - some really laughable

- met the expectations of being fast and furious, with hardly a dull scene

- modern, without the need for futuristic weaponry - JW killed a couple using a pencil.

- exemplary fight stunts, absolutely first-rate. 

All in all, streets ahead of Bond movies, and well deserved. My reflections - escapism, entertaining, and an ending that opens up for a JW 3. Tip's reflections, apart from finger shooting everyone in the cinema - if I was John Wick's wife I'd be sitting by the phone waiting for someone to call me to say he's dead. And Keanu Reeves got a stunt double or three? - don't like him anymore.


And moving on to an evening movie watching on large-screen Smart TV. This one, Hacksaw Ridge, based on a true story. A few embellishments regarding the hero, Desmond Doss, a conscientious objector who was drafted into the US army in 1942. His words - "I felt like it was an honor to serve God and country," Desmond said. "We were fightin' for our religious liberty and freedom." 


The movie relates to the allied invasion of Okinawa (an island off Japan)  which was the third tour DD undertook. As a preamble, the movie begins slowly (for those seeking bloodthirsty action) of DD growing up to be the man he was, and some dramatic liberty was taken to depict his character/behaviour - and even his wife to be. Not all true, but hey, good movie entertainment.

The battle scenes are horrific, not for those with sensitivities at seeing heads and limbs blown off throughout. Blood, guts and rats. There was no give and take in this invasion - the Japanese were ready to die to the last man, and the US did just that.

DD was a medic, unwilling to carry a gun, and not to work on a Sabbath but caring for victims was his Christian rationale for his deployment (saving lives). After a lull in the battle, DD lowered down from the top of the ridge between 50 (his estimate) and one hundred (US army estimate) of injured soldiers to the medi-vacs below before he got injured and had to end his tour. Later, President Truman awarded him America's highest award, the medal of honour for his bravery.

My reflections, despite some fiction mixed with true facts even with invasion embellishments, were a whole lot different than mine of JW2, as were Tip's, who said he was a good man. I had to agree, he was a very brave man who deserves his place in history.

And today, I'm looking out of the window at the beautiful blue cloudless sky and writing this blog...




Feb 27th

Norton Fitzwarren: the Human Element

By RichardB

The official report on the 1913 Ais Gill accident, in which a driver ran past a series of adverse signals, raised the desirability of some kind of system that would warn a driver if he passed a signal at danger. The Great Western Railway already had such a system and it was mentioned in the report, but it was still experimental, and the reporting officer expressed some reservations about its suitability for main line operations. But as the years went by and the GWR perfected its system and installed it throughout its network, those reservations vanished, and the need for an in-cab warning of adverse signals became as recurrent a theme in accident reports as better brakes and block signalling had been in the nineteenth century. And with as little effect.

The GWR gave its system the grand name of Automatic Train Control, but it was rather less than that. It was applied only to the distant signals (the yellow ones that tell you to slow down because the next signal is at danger). About a quarter of a mile before each distant signal there was a ramp between the rails which pushed up a plunger beneath the engine as the train passed over it. If the signal was at caution, the movement of the plunger sounded a hooter in the cab and automatically applied the brakes if the driver failed to react. But if the signal was at clear, the ramp was electrified, and the current cancelled the hooter and the brake application and rang a bell in the cab instead. It was therefore fail-safe: no current, no bell. No possibility of a false clear signal.

The system was primitive by modern standards, but it helped to give the GWR a safety record second to none on any British railway in the inter-war years. Since the 1890 accident at Norton Fitzwarren in Somerset there had been no major accident to a Great Western train. Between 1916 and 1928 not a single passenger was killed on the GWR.

That proud record was finally broken on a stormy night in November 1940, and by a macabre coincidence this accident also happened at Norton Fitzwarren, only a couple of hundred yards from the site of the crash of fifty years earlier. The ATC was in full working order and gave the driver the correct alerts, yet the train ran through signals at danger and was derailed. How did this happen?

Let us join Driver Percy Stacey in the cab of No 6028 King George VI at Taunton station.

It has not been a good night for Driver Stacey. The Blitz is at its height, and only last night he was bombed out of his house. It is a foul night, with heavy rain and strong winds. Heavy wartime traffic has caused delays and disruptions that have resulted in his train, the 9.50pm sleeper from Paddington to Penzance, arriving at Taunton over an hour late, at 3.30am.

The main line here is quadruple-tracked, with the same layout as a four-lane dual carriageway: the slow lines are on the outside, the fast lines in the middle. The train stops at the slow line platform.  It is usual for it to do this, and on departure to take the crossover just west of the station to continue its journey on the fast line. As the train stands at the platform Driver Stacey has a clear view of all the signals at the west end of the station – for the slow line, the crossover, and the fast line – from his position on the right-hand side of the cab. 

The Great Western is now the only British railway to drive from the right of the cab. In the early days of railways there was no consensus on which side of the cab the driver should be on. Right up until the Grouping of 1923, when all the independent railways were combined into four large groups, some railways put the driver on the right and some on the left, but since then three of the four groups have standardised on the left-hand position. On a railway with left-side running this makes a lot of sense. Station platforms, and more importantly signals, are usually to the left of the track.

Apart from its traditional fondness for doing things its own way, there is actually some logic in the GWR's retention of right-hand drive. Most of its main line mileage was originally built to Brunel's broad gauge, and so its tracks are spaced more widely apart than on other railways. This leaves room to put the signals between the tracks, where they are more easily seen from the right-hand side of the cab.

Both these factors – the positioning of the driver, and the placing of the signals – will play a part in what is about to happen.

At 3.44am Stacey gets the right-away, and the train pulls out of Taunton station. There are thirteen coaches behind Stacey's engine, and they are all packed, but the 'Kings' are the most powerful locomotives on the GWR, and it is not long before the train is gaining speed. The rain has eased off, but the storm clouds and the war-time blackout combine to make the night pitch dark, and Stacey can see hardly anything but the lamps of the signals, which are, as usual on the GWR, in the middle of the tracks, between the westbound and eastbound lines, to his right. One after the other, they are all showing green.

About three minutes after leaving Taunton the train is approaching Norton Fitzwarren station at about 40mph, when Stacey hears a noise to his right. He looks round and is astounded to see another 'King' class engine overtaking him at about 60 mph. This can't be possible. He's on the fast line, and any train to his right would be going the other way.

As the trains race side by side through Norton Fitzwarren station he realises the awful truth. He's not on the fast line at all: he has been rerouted, and is running on the slow line. And just after the station the four tracks become two. There is a set of points to protect the fast line, and after that only a very short stretch of track before the slow line ends.

Stacey closes the regulator and slams on the brakes, but it's too late. His engine runs over the points and off the end of the line onto the soft earth beyond, slewing round and falling onto its left side. The coaches pile up against it, and 27 people are killed, including Stacey's fireman.

On the other train the guard has heard something hitting the side of his van, and the train stops at the next signal box for investigation. The side of the last coach, the guard's van, has been scored by stones from the track ballast, thrown up by the crashing train. Later on a piece of metal will be found behind a broken window in the second-to-last coach. It turns out to be a rivet-head from the frame of the engine of the Penzance sleeper. The back of the train must have been right alongside King George VI as it derailed, and can have been no more than a very few feet clear before the crash spread wreckage over all the lines. It must have been about the narrowest escape from disaster in British railway history.

But the Penzance sleeper wasn't so lucky. Why was it routed onto the slow line, how did Driver Stacey not realise what had happened until the other train overtook him, and how did the ATC fail to prevent the accident?

While the Penzance train was standing in Taunton station the signalman at Taunton West box decided to give priority to a newspaper train that was coming up fast behind, and indeed gaining on its schedule. The Penzance train would have held it up, and was already so late that a further short delay at the signals at Norton Fitzwarren would have made little difference. He accordingly set his points and signals for the newspaper train to proceed along the fast line and the Penzance sleeper along the slow.

Driver Stacey was convinced he'd been signalled onto the fast line, and maintained as much at the enquiry, but the signalman was quite clear about what he'd done, and the fact that Stacey's train did indeed depart along the slow line bore him out. The interlocking between points and signals made the signal display Stacey thought he'd seen impossible. Expecting to be routed onto the fast line as usual, and perhaps distracted by worries about his bombed house, he must have misread the signals.

The train would have been going at little more than walking speed when it reached the crossover, and at such a slow speed in the darkness Stacey didn't notice that he was going straight on instead of crossing to the fast line. Once on the slow line, and with no reference points in the intense darkness, he was unaware that he was sighting the fast line signals across an intervening track. He was expecting to see signals to his right, and that was where he saw them. No problem, except that they were the wrong signals.

But what of the signals he should have been looking for, those for the slow line? He never saw them at all, because they were sited to the left of the tracks, and he had no reason, as he thought, to look to the left. For the first couple of signals after Taunton, that made no difference, for they were also showing green, but the last signal before Norton Fitzwarren was at red, and the distant signal before it was showing yellow for caution. If Stacey had seen those signals he would have been able to stop in time.

He didn't see them, but the train should still have stopped. This was exactly the sort of situation the Great Western's ATC system was designed for. Even if Stacey hadn't put his brakes on, the ATC at that distant signal should have put them on for him. Why didn't it?

It was not a failure as such, but a combination of human error and a feature designed into the system.

While the ATC system was designed to eliminate the possibility of a false clear indication, a false caution was quite possible if there was an electrical breakdown, so that the ramp remained dead even when the signal was at clear. Furthermore, it was considered that the driver should always have full control of the train. For both of these reasons an override feature was provided, a cancelling lever by which the driver could forestall the brake application and brake in his own time, or not brake at all if he was certain that a false caution indication was being received in the cab.

Great Western drivers got so used to using that lever that it became almost second nature to do so every time the hooter sounded. Ninety-nine times out of a hundred, this was perfectly safe, as the GWR's safety record proved. Driver Stacey was badly shaken by the accident, and he told the enquiry that he didn't remember hearing the hooter as he approached Norton Fitzwarren, but he must have heard it and, seeing nothing but green signals, assumed that there was a fault in the ATC electrics and used the cancelling lever. Very possibly he wasn't even consciously aware that he was doing it. And so his train ran past the red signal and off the track.

The enquiry could find nothing wrong with the signals or the ATC. The actions of the signalman at Taunton West had been perfectly correct. The entire blame for the accident had to be laid on Driver Stacey, in misreading the signals at Taunton and then proceeding under a false assumption.

Percy Stacey received a lot of sympathy both at the enquiry and from the public, for his personal life had been disrupted, the circumstances were stressful and difficult, and the accident was caused by a lapse of concentration rather than the sort of cavalier attitude displayed by Driver Caudle at Ais Gill. But possibly the saddest part of this story is that he never forgave himself. In his own mind he was a murderer, and he referred to himself as such. A year after the accident he died, from no apparent cause.

Feb 27th

Which Line Is It Anyway?

By Woolleybeans

Just a quick blog.

As a teacher, especially of the newest run of Literature papers, I am spending a lot of time telling students they will find their own favourite quotations from each text we study, and that they will find they are using them again and again and again and againg and...well. You get the idea.

I can make 'fire and blood and anguish' from An Inspector Calls fit a LOT of questions. The sharply ringing doorbell is also very useful. And as for Romeo and Juliet, 'fire-eyes fury be my conduct now' has a lot of mileage in it.

But more than the ones used in essays, it also makes me aware of when a quotation has stuck itself, barnacle like, to the inside of my brain and made it into general use.

I use 'so it goes' from Slaughterhouse Five on an almost daily basis. It is so very useful. 'Milk and apples, comrades' from Animal Farm may seem less so, but that doesn't stop me. An ex-colleague was contantly quoting 'Heigh-Ho for a Husband', which was always fun when he randomly shouted it down corridors at school.

So, any you find yourselves using? Do you use them in context that makes sense, or have they become some kind of verbal tic that insists on insinuating itself into discussions that have nothing to do with it?

Feb 25th

Public Dealing APATHY n Lackadaisical ATTITUDE

By Babli

Friday 24th February, Two Thousand Seventeen, 12:12 hrs IST

Cordial Invite to COME, One n ALL: An OPEN Debate [8]

Public Dealing APATHY n Lackadaisical ATTITUDE


There is no gainsaying the fact that in India, public dealing is largely apathetic, lackadaisical and devoid of any human values whatsoever! It is just ‘going thru the motions’ with no real intent of helping the public at large, who on their part, also try to gain, at times, undue advantage of any vantage feelings shown to them.


But, largely, it’s our bankrupt bureaucracy and official machinery at fault. They almost behave as if they are not carrying on with their “bounden duty” but doing a ‘huge favour’ to the general public. May be, the tradition has carried on from the British times. But, it’s now time to change it for the better!



It must be made accountable for its actions with some penalty imposed on the erring official along with speedy justice being meted out to the concerned person related to whom the action was carried out. Else, this buck will run amok eating everything n everyone with such instances beginning to find their way even into the private sector, albeit, not to that extent, as of now. But, if unchecked, this menace will outgrow each n every one!!         

Feb 25th

An Enemy of the people.

By mike

      I am a bit housebound and stay  physically immobile. I wrote a short piece this morning to keep my brain occupied.  It is a problem of the Cretan Paradox staying in my mind.  I am off to see ‘’La Boheme this evening and I hope the paradox will disappear.  Trump is mentioned - so beware,  If you not like the use of the word,  read no  further

 I have no objection to words that people might write or say;  I support the freedom of speech. 

     David Irving instituted a libel case and lost.  I am not sure, but there might be similarities similarities between this trial and that of Oscar Wilde.   But I am no lawyer.  

    If Irving had not lost his case, he might well have more  support.  But if he contravenes English  law, he will be liable to prosecution.  

     But recent events have shown that suppression of speech is more to be feared from the far right than the left - if one assumes a left/right political spectrum.

    The press secretary of Trump  has said  that the press is ‘The Enemy of the People‘      

    He must know that this is the title of a play by Ibsen and the play promotes the opposite point of view. I do not understand this?.  Why was the play mentioned?   Trump used the phrase himself in a meeting of the multitude.. Surely the play’s theme is the opposite of what he said too?  Even to the extent of an environmental issue,  His disciples roared with enthusiasm.  But they roared in a similar fashion when he mentioned the word ‘Sweden’  I will not go into this, but it was explained in some detail by a BBC correspondent.

    To come back to the Cretan Paradox which, in my opinion, would be a theme for a play.  Not by me, alas.  It is far do difficult.

       ‘Today’ is now edited by a woman and is unfortunate that she has begun her patch  with an intractable problem  She is faced with the Cretan Paradox - or something very close.

   All Cretans are liars, But suppose a Cretan tells the truth?  But all Cretans are liars! Isn’t this, in computer terms, a  continuous loop?  I do not know?  The BBC is banned from a press conference because the BBC  tell lies and spreads false news.  All the BBC  did was to report what  Trump said.   When his  press secretary is confronted by the press - on an issue in which Trump has not old the truth - they are informed that it is they - the press -  not Trump, who are the liars. ‘We have alternative facts”

    History is re-written by the victor,  Trump tells the truth.

     But considering other facts, the problem might be otherwise.  Trump had said that the press  did not consider him a nice man.  Whereas the facts are completely different,  Trump informs us that is an absolute sweetie, and everybody who has met him will confirm this.  Of course, he is telling the truth.  If anybody wished to say he was not a sweetie, and had alternative facts,  they should say so to his face. (His words)  Hence the ban of certain members of the press corps.  Not the BBC of course, who are neutral in this affair.

    I am in the Ibsen camp.  I wonder why nothing has been made of Trump’s use of the lwords ‘Enemy of the People?  Could the enemy be Trump?


    There is an American film of the “Enemy of the People’  It is available at a cost  of £20.  It stars Steve Mcqueen. Perhaps there is no car chase, so it will not be restored?  The script is by Arthur Miller from his own play translation.  It is all so sad -   how quickly America has become a pariah state. 

Feb 25th

Saturday Laugh


We're back.... but a day late.

For those of you who don't know how this works, PM me with your paypal details... 

For those of you who do.... same old rules.  vote and/or add one.


1. I've invented a new word... : ' Plagiarism... '

2. How do you think the unthinkable?

.... with an ithberg, thtupid! 

3.  I just found out that the guy who stole my journal has died.

.....My thoughts are with his family. 

4.  overheard in the Duck & Dive .... 

"None of those women have what I'm really looking for"

"Oh yeah? What's that?"

"Low Standards"


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