Saturday, June 24, 2023

Edjicatin' youse

I kind of new this but not in any detail. Read on to find out how modern rocket boosters had to be no wider than the behinds of two horses in Roman times.

By Thilakasiri Mahaarachchi.

The US standard railroad gauge (distance between the rails) is 4 feet, 8.5 inches. That's an exceedingly odd number. Why was that gauge used? Well, because that's the way they built them in England, and English engineers designed the first US railroads. Why did the English build them like that? Because the first rail lines were built by the same people who built the wagon tramways, and that's the gauge they used. So, why did 'they' use that gauge then? Because the people who built the tramways used the same jigs and tools that they had used for building wagons, which used that same wheel spacing. Why did the wagons have that particular odd wheel spacing? Well, if they tried to use any other spacing, the wagon wheels would break more often on some of the old, long distance roads in England . You see, that's the spacing of the wheel ruts. So who built those old rutted roads? Imperial Rome built the first long distance roads in Europe (including England ) for their legions. Those roads have been used ever since. And what about the ruts in the roads? Roman war chariots formed the initial ruts, which everyone else had to match or run the risk of destroying their wagon wheels. Since the chariots were made for Imperial Rome , they were all alike in the matter of wheel spacing. Therefore the United States standard railroad gauge of 4 feet, 8.5 inches is derived from the original specifications for an Imperial Roman war chariot. Bureaucracies live forever. So the next time you are handed a specification/procedure/process and wonder 'What horse's as came up with this?', you may be exactly right. Imperial Roman army chariots were made just wide enough to accommodate the rear ends of two war horses. (Two horses' ases.)  Now, the twist to the story: When you see a Space Shuttle sitting on its launch pad, there are two big booster rockets attached to the sides of the main fuel tank. These are solid rocket boosters, or SRBs. The SRBs are made by Thiokol at their factory in Utah . The engineers who designed the SRBs would have preferred to make them a bit fatter, but the SRBs had to be shipped by train from the factory to the launch site. The railroad line from the factory happens to run through a tunnel in the mountains, and the SRBs had to fit through that tunnel. The tunnel is slightly wider than the railroad track, and the railroad track, as you now know, is about as wide as two horses' behinds. So, a major Space Shuttle design feature, of what is arguably the world's most advanced transportation system, was determined over two thousand years ago by the width of a horse's as. And you thought being a horse's as wasn't important? Ancient horse's as*es control almost everything.

Friday, June 23, 2023

England 06/05

It was Coronation Day today for Kingie Charlie and his missus. R's Sister 1 had strung some bunting, including on her neighbour's fence but there was barely any bunting or flags anywhere to be seen. 

A huge coronation street party in 1953 is R's first memory of his childhood. There were white table clothes covering trestle tables out on the court, laden down with more food than R had ever seen. He remembers it as been a wonderful fine day and a great time for children. He hoped to see a repeat of this either today or on the public (bank) holiday on the Monday. I warned him in advance that I didn't think there would be much in the way of celebrations, but I did think there would be something. There was nothing. They are not particularly royalist in the north of England. As Sister 1 succinctly once said to me, 'They have nothing to do with us', and I think that feeling is widespread 'up north'. 

We returned our hire car and Sister 1's partner picked us up and took us home. We were slightly under the fuel level from we picked the car up but management said that as we looked after the car so well, he would overlook that.  I saw one house with a flag displayed and one woman dressed like she might be going to Coronation Party.

We were within the greater city boundaries as we returned so it was a bit strange to see cows next to what I think was a school, but why not.

Sister 1's bunting.

I'm afraid these two places are out of order of when we visited. We were watching the Coronation on the box but we were getting restless and bored. Sister 1 proclaimed, 'How about fish and chips for lunch?' 

After lunch we drove on to the lighthouse on St Mary's Island. It is not shown as an island on Google Maps I guess because there is walking causeway linking it to the mainland. But for mine, it is an island and the causeway can only be crossed at low tides, and many were doing just that. 

My first photo of the leaning tower of St Mary's Lighthouse was bad enough, but R excelled with this lean. 

This is more like it.

Earlier was terrific fish and chips at Cullercoats Beach. We were warned one serve would be enough for two and it was. 

WWII remnants, with Dad's Army ready to repel the enemy. 

It was all very nice but just a wee bit cold so close to the shoreline to hang around for too long. 

When R was a child, his parents would take their children to Cullercoats Beach for the day. A bus to Central Station, a train to Cullercoats and a short walk to the beach. R's mother liked the beach because it was a small contained bay and she could keep an eye on all of her children. R's father would disappear to the local pub. The railway station is now part of the Newcastle Metro line.

Then we visited the afore mentioned St Mary's Lighthouse. 

I think we stopped off at the shops on the way home and no sooner had the shopping bag been emptied than Sister 1's cat decided it was a cozy place.

Thursday, June 22, 2023

England 04/05 - 05/05

R's 77 year old cousin came to our Chesterfield hotel to farewell us after our hotel breakfast. I checked at the desk and of course he was welcome to join us for coffee in the breakfast area. It was a longish chat about relatives I did not know and my mind wandered and then a few things were mentioned by him about Trump and Johnston. I was not liking what I was hearing. I am saying nothing.  After he departed home, we set off back to Newcastle on the M1. Many signs indicated to us directions to 'The North' and to 'The South'.  We're losers. We are heading north.

That was kind of how the signs felt to me. Civilised and comfortable people, go south. You poor lot with strange ways and funny accents, go north.  I am sure I am reading too much into this, but it is just how I felt when seeing all the signs, and I might add the signs are simple and useful. Edinburgh or Newcastle could be substituted for north and London for the south. 

R's oldest niece had flown off to the metaphorical Costa del Sol for some sambucas and sunburn so for a couple of nights we stayed at her house. We still had our rental car. She has two sons, I think 19 and 21. They are good lads. They would come home and after a quick chat to us, would head for their rooms.

We had been warned about the niece's cat. You can stroke her but don't do it too hard or she will lash out. R was busy talking and absently minded must have done what he was told not to do. There was blood but no medical assistance was required. 

The next morning Sister 1 and her partner picked us up and we drove to the suburb of Gosford where her partner had bought an apartment in a building for over 60s. The property had not been settled so he could not access his apartment but it had a really nice garden to wander around. One couple were outside tending to some plants and they said hello to him. I thought, gosh, she has a posh voice. Once they realised they were speaking to a Geordie, her posh accent disappeared. They seemed friendly. Before he moves in, the kitchen and bathroom have to renovated so it we be a while before he moves from Sister 1's one bedroom house. 

We had lunch at the local pub, quite nice and then headed home. I am not sure what we did for dinner that night. Local traffic in Gosforth is quite congested with a high rate of car ownership and it being quite a posh area. There were some super looking houses. 

I should have taken some photos but I didn't. 

Wednesday, June 21, 2023

New phone

It is over four years since I have bought a new phone. The older me is coming to the fore now and not replacing devices every two years. 

I've always bought the model before the latest as it will be much cheaper. I was doing the same this time but it was looking expensive. I found a local site selling demo phones carefully checked and made to act as brand new. I told R. But I also mentioned the best phone camera made that comes with the Samsung S23 Ultra. To buy one would be over half as much again as what I was looking at. R must have thought about it overnight and next morning told me a was a stupid penny pinching old man. You can afford to buy the best and forget about a used phone. 

But I cried, as people with no help from government in their retirement do, I am a self funded retiree on a a fixed income..."So aside from me who deserves your inheritance, who are you going to leave all you money to? For goodness sake, spend some money on yourself."

He is right. Aside from having a newish desktop and tablet, I don't spend much on myself personally. Most of my clothes are old, but not shabby. I haven't bought bedding for years. Aside from daily living, I spend so little directly on myself. 

R convinced me and over the next couple of days I researched the new phone and of course prices. The price varied very little wherever I looked but one retailer including an internet connected watch, worth around $350. R thought he might like that. I haven't worn a watch since the 1990s.

To the shop we went. The sales attendant learnt about the new phone deal on the fly. Firstly there was $100 gift voucher, then he discovered that deal had ended.  He came up with another, a $400 discount as long as you join our internet provider, the once government owned Telstra. There are no exit fees and no contract so you can cancel the plan tomorrow and after the first month's payment of $49 you will save $351. The watch and this deal convinced me.  

Once home, the complete wireless transfer worked well, though it took some time. But then the hard work started. I had been logged out of many apps and I had to know my login in and password for each for them to work. That really took time. Most were listed on our password list but a few more personal apps weren't. That task has not been completed but close to the end. My new phone is much like my old phone, but with a larger screen, making it easier reading. I have yet to try the best phone camera in the world and I hope to see good results. It seems to have five lenses at the back. It is the front lens I worry about, when I accidently turn it on and see my myself on the screen. 

Tuesday, June 20, 2023

England 03.05 Pt 2

We entered the rock garden and paused. As you would expect of a rock garden there are rocks, small rocks big rocks and even bigger rocks. The thought of of a rock garden doesn't appeal to me but I was impressed.

The buggy driver stopped a number of times along the way to get out and speak to us directly. He was terrific. There were quite a number of facts and figures but this one stuck in my head, the number of gardeners at Chatsworth. Online figues don't agree with what the guide told us, but he said it is forty full time paid gardeners and sixty volunteer gardeners. There is a waiting list if you want to be a volunteer gardener at Chatsworth. But forty full full time paid gardeners gives you an idea of the running costs of the estate. 

Beauty just abounded. 

Margaret guessed why you should keep the name family name Cavendish in mind. In the western world if you just want a banana from a supermarket, a green grocer or a market it is almost certain you will buy a Cavendish banana. There other kinds of bananas to buy at times, sugar bananas, Lady Finger bananas. But your average basic banana is a Cavendish, originally bred right here in the Chatsworth greenhouses. All Cavendish bananas can be traced back to Chatsworth. I've only ever half noticed the name Cavendish on bananas and now I am seeing it everywhere. I had no idea and I was amazed to hear this.

The greenhouse wasn't open to the public when we were there.

This aircraft turbine was made by apprentices at the nearby Rolls Royce factory and presented to the Chatsworth estate.

Outside the the estate walls are the stables and another cafe.

So there you go, Chatsworth House and it surrounding parkland. I was super impressed. I haven't delved deeply but its website looks quite slick and functional and there are some lush photos.

Dinner that night was at a pub in the old village. Quite ok.

Monday, June 19, 2023

Monday Mural

I'm joining with Sami and others for Monday Mural. 

In a lane off Gertrude Street, Fitzroy.

Oh, that is a little unkind. If you can't read it try right clicking and opening in a new window. 

Sunday, June 18, 2023

England 03/05 Pt 1

EC's guess at what we did today was a good try, but wrong. Unbeknownst to me, we were not far away from Crich Tramway Museum

We drove for less than half an hour and pulled into the monster carpark at Chatsworth House. Ever since I saw the tv programme Love in a Cold Climate, I've found the Mitford sisters fascinating and I've read a couple of biographies, as well as the original books and much trivia along the way.

Jessica was my favourite sister, especially after her book exposing the fraudulent American funeral business. Alas in subsequent years, not much has changed in the funeral industry.

Deborah Mitford was the last sister to pass die, in 2014, and lived at Chatsworth House by way of her husband Andrew Cavendish (keep the name Cavendish in mind for later) who went on to acquire the title Duke of Devonshire with Deborah gaining the title Duchess of Devonshire. Why not Duke of Derbyshire, the location of estate? The title was already in use.

No doubt the house is amazing inside but we've seen plenty of old and grand house interiors in our time. We just visited to see the garden.

We parked and walked towards where everyone else was walking. We paid a good bit for parking and then had to pay again to visit the garden. 

Armed with a garden map, we headed off to see the garden.Wow, this is all so impressive. We walked up a gentle slope to see this cascading fountain. We were exhausted already. "We can't do this can we hon?" "No." "One hundred acres of garden is too much for us."

But I had a cunning plan. As we entered the garden I had seen a four seater plus driver open scooter type vehicle. We returned to the gate, investigated the ride and booked. I think it was £5 each. We had a while to wait, so it was time for brunch and coffee at the adjacent cafe.

The access road was  moved, the bridge moved and rebuilt and the course of the river was changed just so that visitors to Chatsworth could pause and admire its splendour. 

By Rob Bendall(For more information, see my userpage...), Attribution,

The photos are a bit out of order. It has been a messy post that should have been properly planned. 

The house has been rebuilt, extended and altered a number of times over the centuries. The current Duke and Duchess of Devonshire still live there. Peregrine, the present Duke is the son of Andrew and Deborah (Mitford) Cavendish. I believe it was Deborah who set up the charitable trust responsible for running the estate.

The fountain is pressure fed by a lake above and so subject to drought. At the moment there is so much water leakage along the way, the fountain is only half the height it used to be. It will cost hundreds of thousands of pounds to repair.


The views of natural rolling hills really stunned me. Natural? Apparently not.

The hills were landscaped by Lancelot (Capability) Brown. Most of the garden design was the responsibility of Sir Joseph Paxton in the 1800s. Hels mentions him and Chatsworth in this post back in 2011

Ducks at our feet as we sat under umbrellas and ate our brunch.

A little enclave of modern sculptures.

See the glass panel built into the wall. 

This was once a beautiful and very tall greenhouse but by 1930's it badly needed renovation and restoration. Coal to burn for the heating was hard to come by during WWII and so it was decided to demolish the greenhouse, aside from the stone footings.

We were fortunate to visit in Spring with much blooming in the garden.

This path leads up to the water storage above.

We walked to this point. 

Then up this path...

to see this cascading fountain. This is where most of the water leakage occurs, and for us walking stamina ended too. 

More in the next post.

Bumping another car

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