On my way home from Oxford, I am often delayed. Traffic crawls and sometimes stops and I wonder what it is that’s up ahead, somewhere – who knows how far away – which has brought the bunched-up traffic worm to a complete halt. The traffic news is still, despite helicopters and instant communication, always an hour or so behind the event and anyway, during the half hour I spend on the 4 miles between Mrs Middle’s house and the A34, it’s rare that a traffic update happens. One evening last Summer though, I found myself right up to date! I was the very first person the fire brigade stopped when a caravan dropped it’s gas bottle which was then trapped under the caravan and leaking. Everything had almost come to a halt and there was the obvious cause, listing slightly and half on the verge and I was just putting my foot down, gently to roll past it all when I realised that they were waving their hands at me!
Anyway, it was a nice hot evening and I sat there next to the two fire engines with my windows down and watched the blokes climbing into their fireproof armour and listened to their chief ♠ holding a little seminar while they waited for whatever would happen next.
Ah! I thought. A broken gas bottle. Yes, good cause to stop everyone. Actually, did they stop us soon enough – I’m really not very far away from the caravan and if it went up, surely so would all these fire engines – I wonder how much fuel they have in their tanks? Lots probably.
Are they trainees I wondered? Even I know that gas is heavier than air ♠♠ – mostly- unless it’s helium or one of those other gasses of which I can’t immediately remember the names. And surely it’s obvious that the heavy gas will roll (such a suggestive word all of a sudden) down the hill. Towards me! So I spent a useful few moments assessing distances and imagining invisible, rolling gas and thinking maybe we shouldn’t all have our engines running but on the other hand I bet you get more … inflaming … sparks when you start an engine, so as long as it all keeps quietly ticking over it’s probably the best option out of what began to seem like some not very good ones – I really wasn’t so very far away from the caravan.
After a while, one of them came over to tell me that we were all waiting while the traffic was turned round and sent away down the wrong side of the dual carriageway and unfortunately I would be the last to
escape leave. I didn’t mind being last – there was obviously no alternative as the lanes were mostly blocked by fire engines. And since the fireman seemed to have time in hand, I asked about all those engines running and he explained that the fire engines were diesel so had no sparks. As it happens so is our car (but I didn’t know about all the cars behind me of course) so I learned something new. (Brought up on petrol, me ♠♠♠)
Then I wondered if I should have texted Barney to tell him I might not be back until very late if at all but decided not to worry about the risk of igniting gas fumes with the spark from a mobile phone since it seems the general consensus is that the explosions in petrol stations, which resulted in those little notices telling you not to use your phone while filling up, were actually caused by static from people’s clothes which sparked when they getting back into their cars.
The whole thing reminded me of the time my Stepfather, a well-respected scientist, decided to fix a leaking petrol tank. Barney and I were somewhat shocked to encounter him blithely wielding a blowtorch in one hand and a naked, recently emptied petrol tank in the other. Isn’t that a bit? Um? We said anxiously. Oh no he said. Petrol evaporates very quickly. Most of it’s gone by now. It’s only the vapour which is really volatile. You can douse a match in a can of petrol quite safely. (Very rational man, my Stepfather but I sort of feel that it’s not a good idea to try the match thing at home. I might have missed an important detail. [Ed. I did. He said cigarette not match – see Blue Witch’s comment below])
Well the fixing of the tank went ok.
All of which tells me that before you can assess the dangers of a situation, you really need a sound, basic grounding in science. Or access to google, since you can look stuff up on google and find out that liquid petrol doesn’t burn as easily as it looks when you’re using it to light a bonfire and that diesel engines don’t spark and that mobile phones probably don’t really cause petrol station explosions. ♠♠♠♠ So it’s probably quite safe to sit in your car fifty yards away from a leaking gas bottle. Unless you happen to be smoking of course which fortunately I wasn’t. And as I was looking all these things up, out of interest and to find links I found this and enjoyed it quite a lot. I particularly loved being told that “I spoke to a fire officer about that at work and he said that a mobile can set off a psark which could ignite the petrol causing a fire“. Yes I know it’s just a typo but I like it. I shall henceforward refer to the sparks that mobile phones don’t make as psarks. They also serve who give me typos to play with.
I had intended to go into further boring details about the Yorkshire trip but I came across this forgotten draft which seemed like more fun. Here’s a couple of photos though
♠That’s what you call him isn’t it? The chap who directs the others even when they all know exactly what to do.
♠♠Evidence of a misspent youth reading Dick Francis novels and other sources of useful information about explosions and fires and such like.
♠♠♠No not literally.
♠♠♠♠However, I may decide to stop filling the car with fuel in Spring as I always know when Spring has arrived because I start getting static shocks when I touch the car door.
Barney has one or two rather difficult habits. One is coming back late from the pub on Sunday afternoon/evening and the other (as you may have heard) is collecting stamps.
So on Sunday, he spent some hours with the secretary of the local stamp club, sorting through errors in the auction lot lists and then suddenly the sec received a phone call and had to rush off. There was some urgency – his wife was ill and the auction lots needed to be checked immediately so Barney asked me to help finish them off. I am so obliging – even though I’d got up early to catch misty sunny woods, I sat down with a list of incomprehensible stuff and checked it all off with him. Then I went out and Barney went to another auction. Later, he called me to say he was going straight to the pub as the auction went on for a long time. And that he wouldn’t be long as the sec was coming back to collect the corrected sheets on his way home from evening visiting at the hospital.
I was a bit cross when nine o’clock came and Barney hadn’t appeared – fortunately it was a pot roast, so didn’t take any harm. By the time Barney and the sec arrived, I had quite forgotten about being hungry and had almost caught up with Barney’s pub drinking. And it turned out that the Sec’s wife had a heart attack and he was looking a bit despairing about getting the alterations made on the lists, because, like Barney, he’s no typist. Well neither am I but there’s an enormous difference between their kind of not typing and mine so I offered to type the list of amendments out. We all drank some more wine and got into a lengthy conversation about home made wines and stamps and life the etc. Later, he went home and we ate. (It was very nice).
Later still I did most of the typing which was really easy except that Word thought nearly all the words needed spellchecking which was to be expected (perf, umm and wmk don’t even mean much to me) but a little irritating to a slightly befuddled person. Now I’m checking my amendments and they all seem to be ok – though it’s difficult to be sure as I’m still a little fuddled this morning and now have an enormous cold. Then the table unformatted bits of itself which was infuriating and took up most of the next several hours. I’m getting to know the members of the stamp club one by one as they turn up to discuss important stuff with Barney and I have an uneasy feeling that I may end up feeling moved by their collective helplessness in the face of keyboards more often than I would like.*
So, more from the North.
On Mrs Middle’s birthday we went to Bolton Abbey. It’s a fairly impressive ruin and has car parks, with cafes, at useful points around it’s huge park which runs along both sides of the River Wharfe for several miles. So we walked one way, along a steeply wooded hillside looking down on the river occasionally and passing several very well designed play structures for children
And Mrs Middle.
and one of those tree trunks studded with coins, one assumes , by passers by but I have no idea why they do it. One for the boys.
Then we got to the ‘famous’ stepping stones. I looked after Little Middle while everyone else crossed over them, then us sensible people, crossed over the perfectly good bridge beside the stones. To be honest, I no longer have the sense of balance nor the ability to leap accurately that is required other wise I’d have done it too. Mrs Middle has both.
I think Mr Middle was glad to see her safely at the other end
We wanted to go to the Strid which was at a further end of the park so Dan and I bought Little Middle an icecream and Mr and Mrs walked back to the car park to fetch the car. It only took them half an hour so we just about had time to head for the car park near the Strid and set off once again into wild sloping woodlands and the Strid was worth the trek. A marvellous bit of natural engineering. Or something
It was very green.
Oh and the abbey of course. Very grey.
Then we rushed back to the original car park to have a luscious cream tea, ten minutes before they closed for the afternoon.
I think the birthday girl and the littlest girl were happy.
*They’re not all technically incompetent but the ones who can use a computer confidently are not the ones who want to do the donkey work.
Malham Cove was once (I am told) a glacial waterfall. It makes a strange swirly shape on google maps and has a very good and easy path up to it from Malham (where I had the nicest pepper soup I remember). It’s probably a twenty minute walk but it took me at least two hours what with different views and waiting for school trips to get out of the way – not to mention the day-glo pink walker who took forever to vanish into the mists.
From the road, about a mile and a half away. Those stone walls cover the whole of the Pennines. Wonderful.
a first glimpse
round the next bend
school trips, climbers and dog walkers, all dwarfed.
a last look back
I should think you could wander up and down this valley for months and see it different every day. I wouldn’t have minded some bright weather but even verging on drizzle, it was fairly amazing.
On my recent trip, I took a lot of photos. Naturally. And I took a few with the iphone and while I was away, I had a look at some of the camera photos on the ipad and then loaded a dozen or so to keep on it for a while.
When I got back, I updated to IOS 7 (which I don’t like much but it’s probably just a bit of elderly dislike of new stuff) and was surprised that it had arranged all the photos on the iphone in folders labelled with the place taken and date. Quite understandable with the iphone pics but how on earth did it know where the camera photos were taken? I’m sure I don’t have my camera’s gps turned on . Baffling.
So here’s a photo of the view from the cottage.
And a couple from Buckden where I followed an unofficial path – I’d seen some photos of a waterfall on google maps and clearly they weren’t on the well trod way. This was the first time I forgot to take my walking stick.
A view of Wharfedale
I think I’d like to go back to Wharfedale.