Health, Safety and Exhilaration

There exists a certain gulf, or maybe a canyon, between the two lands of health and safety on the one side and exhilaration on the other. Between lies a certain mystery at how the two might be joined. Surely it is not necessary for these two concepts to live in total isolation. Yet attempts to weave any commonality of experience or objective (and never methodology) seems futile.

I have recently spent many hours working at height in a 51′ cherry picker. An experience well outside my comfort zone. With the added ingredients of a chainsaw, Silky saw, and several tonnes of timber there was plenty which could go seriously wrong. The nature of the work means if you operate correctly the job gets done but if you make a mistake or miscalculate a risk someone gets injured or something gets badly broken.

Faced with these ingredients and potential outcomes the reality is we want to push through the fear while managing the risk. Yet it sometimes feels as if modern health and safety actually wants us to avoid any fear by removing all risk.

The problem is that bit of us that wants to experience the other side of that fear. In my case to see the job done and done well.

I have always struggled to articulate how the person facing the fear and taking the risk can actually be rewarded by taking responsibility for both. I think the resentment comes when we are told we are not allowed to take the responsibility ourselves and that instead we have to submit to someone else’s responsibility and processes to manage our own (and others’) safety.

I have just read John Muir’s description of wanting to get to a viewpoint where he can see over the edge of a waterfall – from within the rushing water as it approaches the edge!

A copy of this at the start of every Health & Safety Manual under the title of HSE (where HSE stands for Health Safety and Exhilaration instead of Health & Safety Executive) would ensure the whole subject is put in appropriate perspective.

I took off my shoes and stockings and worked my way cautiously down alongside the rushing flood keeping my feet and hands pressed firmly on the polished rock. The booming, roaring water, rushing past close to my head, was very exciting….

At length, after careful scrutiny of the surface, I found an irregular edge of a flake of the rock some distance back from the margin of the torrent. If I was to get down to the brink at all that rough edge, which might offer slight finger-holds, was the only way. But the slope beside it look dangerously smooth and steep, and the swift roaring flood beneath, overhead, and beside me was very nerve-trying. I therefore concluded not to venture father, but did nevertheless…

I crept down safely to the little ledge, got my heels well planted on it, then shuffled in a horizontal direction 20 or 30 feet until close to the out plunging current, which, by the time it had descended this far, was already white. Here I obtained a perfectly free view down into the heart of the snowy, chanting throng of comet-like streamers, into which the body of the fall soon separates.

While perched on that narrow niche I was not distinctly conscious of danger. The tremendous grandeur of the fall in form and sound and motion, acting at close range, smothered the sense of fear, and in such places one’s body takes keen care for safety on its own account.

My First Summer in the Sierra, John Muir 1911

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John Muir quote

“Life seems neither long nor short, and we take no more heed to save time or make haste than do the trees and stars. This is true freedom, a good practical sort of immortality.”

13th June 1869, My First Summer in the Sierra, John Muir

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Your past doesn’t need to define your future

Stolen cash tin becomes new life’s sanctuary.

Typical of nature to redeem the jettisoned spoils of human brokenness.

A cash tin, still with key, is thrown from a passing car but has now been turned into a safe-haven for new life.

Our relationship with nature looks very one-way sometimes.

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A27 Chichester. Highways England Scheme

Chichester has a problem: it’s highways network is not designed for the 2016 patterns and volumes of traffic and certainly not designed for the 2019 patterns and volumes of traffic once thousands of new homes are added to the City in the coming years.

In 2004 the Highways Agency saw this problem coming and proposed upgrading the A27. Their public exhibition saw 9234 responses. 6304 people (68%) agreed with the Highways Agency strategy. Then in July 2005 WSCC Councillor M submitted a petition with 2053 signatures asking the Highways Agency to consider a Northern Bypass instead of upgrading the A27.

The Highways Agency considered this option and in their report concluded building a new road to the North of Chichester would not stop the existing A27 needing to be upgraded and therefore the cost alone made this option an uneconomic method of solving Chichester’s traffic problem.

In the end the exercise proved academic as there was currently no money to spend on the A27 at Chichester. However in the meantime Councillor M was promoted to become WSCC Cabinet Member for Highways.

Over the following decade plans emerged for Roads Investment Scheme (RIS) funding. WSCC, in partnership with others, applied for funding to improve the existing A27. Funds were allocated to a project known as the ‘A27 Chichester Bypass Scheme’ by the Highways Agency who had by now had been turned into a company called ‘Highways England’.

Highways England began to look at options to solve this problem and considered 1) upgrading the existing A27, 2) building a new bypass to the South, and 3) building a new bypass to the North. When word spread in early 2016 a northern option was being considered, but before any proposals were officially presented, 4,412 concerned residents and businesses responded to the rumour by signing a petition to express their opposition to a new northern bypass being built around the North of Chichester.

By the time options for the A27 Chichester Bypass Scheme were officially presented in 2017 the northern bypass and southern bypass (new road building) options had been removed. As in 2004, the options presented to the public were for ‘on-line’ bypass improvements.

Once again Councillor M (who had stood down from his post as Cabinet Member for Highways only months before Highways England were due to present their options) and others, began to campaign for a northern bypass to be included in the consultation.

As had proved popular in national campaigns for Brexit and the US Presidential elections, the campaign in favour of a northern bypass focussed on false allegations of ‘the establishment vs majority’. Claiming the establishment was colluding for the benefit of itself and the detriment of the people an aggressive campaign put significant pressure on local politicians to oppose the proposed solutions or else they would be siding with the elite.

No evidence was ever produced to substantiate these claims but that didn’t stop members of the public who had no interest in the A27 wading in with copycat slurs against all and any in authority. Pro-northern bypass campaigners set-up facebook pages (32 followers), twitter accounts (99 followers) and  a petition (3979 signatures). Ultimately the local politicians who hadn’t signed up to this level of pressure and certainly not this level of correspondance decided the easiest solution was to vote for no improvement at all.

The result was a very divided Chichester community and a Secretary of State for Transport who didn’t want to be dragged into Chichester’s local politics. The Chichester A27 roads investment was cancelled. The District lost £250m of inwards investment.

Clearly the Highways professionals know which option their calculations indicate give best value for money and deliver the solution needed. The question remains whether that solution will ever be realised? It’s not a problem the current round of local politicians will have to face. On their watch they have voted to kick the problem down the road. The average age of our current crop of County & District politicians means statistically they won’t be serving when Highways England next bring their proposal to the public for a solution to the A27 at Chichester.

The below video shows countryside to the NW of Chichester. A northern bypass for Chichester should never be built through this historic and productive countryside unless it brings significant and substantial economic benefit to Chichester. The professionals have been trying to tell us for over a decade a northern bypass does not bring those benefits and is not the solution.

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Granny says

I know we should never stop learning but there are some things, once learnt, we genuinely feel there can’t be much more to it than what we already know.

Take putting logs on the fire for example. Once the fire is going and needs an additional log presumably we all know the routine: take one log from the log basket, preferably well seasoned unless a suitable green burning wood like Ash, carefully (using a fireproof mit if required) lay log on top of existing flames and ensure resulting burning pile of wood is prevented from rolling apart. Job done.

So imagine my surprise when one day in my late thirties I was adding a couple of logs to the roaring fire to keep Granny warm, only to be challenged on how I was approaching this simple task.

Is there a correct way to load logs into the grate?
Is there a correct way to load logs into the grate?

“Jamie!” (only Granny calls me ‘Jamie’), “not like that, they need to go in upright.”

“Sorry Granny?”, thinking to myself she can’t mean that.

But sure enough, “You should put the logs in the grate vertically, my father always said the logs should be upright in the fire grate. He always did it that way”.

Slightly taken aback, a couple of thoughts flashed through my mind. ‘Quite touching that Granny, some ninety years on, still held so fondly the instructions and example of her father.’ But also, ‘I wonder what he must have been like to live with if he was giving instructions about these sort of details? Especially when opinions on the exact angle a log sat in the fire at were simply a matter of personal preference.’

I’m not sure what you would do in this situation? but I seem to remember I managed, “Oh really.”

I stopped, looked at the fire, thought some more, and looked at Granny. Somewhere in there, I thought a combination of ‘it can’t do too much harm to show willing’, ‘I like the idea of honouring Granny, even if I can’t attach any great reason to why she might be right’ and perhaps there was also a little bit of ‘Great Grandpa was supposed to be quite clever’ and ‘it might be worth a go in case we have possibly lost an ancient skill set with the advent of on tap central heating’.

I’ll save you from any more detail. In case I reveal too much about how my brain works!

But you have probably worked it out already: these days I always load and restock the logs vertically in the fire grate!

Do I understand why? Am I sure this is the better technique? To be honest yes and no.

From observation alone I think, it looks, it feels as if the logs burn cleaner, they burn slower and they give off more heat. In essence it appears the logs loaded into the grate vertically burn noticeably more efficiently.

Can I explain why? Not really. Longer flame possibly? Longer flame = more complete combustion. Maybe?

Will I be telling my grand children that the correct way to load the logs into the grate is vertically? Because my Grandmother had taught me this and her father had taught her? I’m afraid there is a very real risk this fate may not only fall upon my grandchildren!

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