Kitten eating melon

(and not a kitten-eating melon)

Energy performance

The Energy Savings Trust website has a questionnaire thingy that lets you work out how energy efficient your home is.  At the end of the questionnaire it comes out with one of those tables that are starting to crop up on everything.

I went through the questionnaire twice, once for the house when we moved in, and once taking into account the changes we have made.


Quite bizarrely, the best I could hope for changed from B to C in the second run through.  I shall have to have another play with it later and work out what I changed.

Now, the one remaining thing to do, as far as the EST is concerned, is to insulate my solid walls.

One of these labels has just appeared on a noticeboard in the Council House.  That building was built about 10 years before my house, and somehow manages to have greater energy efficiency.

Solar panel progress – in pictures

So, work has begun on the solar panel.

This is Tuesday:

Roof access

The company turned up, and spent an hour looking at the roof. Access is really tricky. There’s a car-port preventing them putting a ladder straight up to the south-facing roof. Eventually, they decide the easiest way, short of entirely removing the car port then replacing it, is to go up into the attic, out through the sky-light and clamber over the roof to the panel.

Solar panel - incomplete

By the end of the second day, they have fitted the top part and some of the tubes. Because they only have access to the top of the panel, and not the bottom from a ladder of platform, it’s slow progress.

Evacuated solar tubes

Here’s what the tubes look like close up.

Evacuated solar tubes

They’re longer than I am tall – but once they’re up on the roof, they don’t look nearly so big.

Solar panel

The panel was completed by the end of Thursday – but so far it’s not connected to anything inside! Work continues next week – replacing the hot water tank, moving the header tank, plumbing in a new shower, connecting the controls, lagging the pipes.

Here’s a picture of the new tank – with a wheelie bin in the background for size comparison pictures.

hot water tank

And here’s a picture taken through the hole in the top where the immersion heater goes. I love this picture. You can clearly see both coils – a larger one around the middle which will be connected to the ordinary boiler, and a smaller one with fins around the bottom, which will be connected to the solar panel.

inside hot water tank

How rumours start

This week has been pretty chocka with meetings, what with panels, full council and area committees already happened, and member-officer steering groups and member development still to come. As well as giving councillors a formal way of debating policy, they also bring us together informally, and that’s when corridor gossip begins.

After tea at Full Council (pan-fried salmon, chocolate roulade, cheese) Labour Cllr C asked me a throwaway question en passant:  “Have officers talked to you about the proposed changes to the Development Control Ctte?”

My hackles were instantly raised.  Changes?  What changes? Does this impact on me?  Is my party being removed still further from the locus of control?  Are the officers trying to get rid of DC’s awkward squad?

When I put all these into words, making it clear that the subject was totally new to me, the councillor backed off sharpish and told me not worry.  Nothing would come of any such proposals, and it shouldn’t be a problem to me.

Which, of course, just left me even more worried.  Not only were these changes clearly about to happen, but also I wouldn’t get to have a say in the outcomes!

So, I asked Tory Cllr C what he had heard.  Had he had private meetings with officers to discuss changes to Development Control?  His reaction was almost a mirror of mine.  Not only had he had no such meetings, he was deeply concerned that any such meetings were happening without him, and would surely eventually be presented as a fait accompli with no room for manoeuvre.

And, being a councillor with many more years of experience of local government than me, he was able to fill me in on the ramifications of what it meant last time there was a reorganisation of development control, with a small pliable subcommittee where all the important decisions were taken away from the glare of full on scrutiny.

Then I went home and thought nothing further about it.

Until this afternoon, two days later, when, at the rise of my area committee, Cllr W came over and said he’d heard I knew all about the plans to reorganise development control.

This is getting a little out of hand, and I’m probably not going to hear the last of it, because when DC does finally meet, I’m going to have to send my apologies – I will be in Brighton.

By which point the committee will probably be discussing “Cllr Foster’s plans to reform DC”…

Underage drinkers in Liberal England

Jonathan Calder reports that Tim Martin, the successful Wetherspoons entrepreneur has been talking about the crackdown on underage drinking.

As Jonathan quotes,

Martin said that the crackdown on underage drinking had in many ways proved counterproductive. Earlier generations of teenagers had learned about alcohol through drinking beer in pubs from the age of about 16. Though their presence there was technically illegal, no one worried about it too much as long as they behaved themselves.

Previous generations, including mine, learned to drink beer in pubs under the watchful eyes of other generations of drinkers. We did it before we were technically old enough, but certainly after we looked old enough.  The restraint was built in, because if we pushed it too far, and drank too much, we would call too much attention to ourselves and lose the privilege of being allowed to drink.

An argument can be made for allowing teenagers a little under 18 to do their drinking in pubs.  Firstly it takes them away from street corners and neighbourhood parks where they disturb communities.

Secondly it brings them into a more formal culture of drinking where there is some oversight from the more responsible.  In a park or on a street corner there is no-one to tell you when you’ve had enough.  You’re more likely to be drinking cheap spirits than beer, and the physical damage you can do to yourself is considerable, in relatively little time.  In a pub, there are restraints, both the informal watchful eyes of more responsible drinkers, and also the formal constraints on bar staff who are not supposed to serve intoxicated patrons.  And both the choice of drink, and how much you consume, are reigned in by cost considerations.

Unfortunately where this breaks down is another trend in licensed premises that I think has happened in the relatively few years since I have been drinking, and that’s the rise in the monoculture.

It’s all very well to see pubs in the nostalgic glow of the village pub where wildly different people come together of an afternoon for a slow, comfortable pint around the fire, with the dog sleeping on the hearthrug and the barman polishing pint mugs on his apron.  I suspect that much of the drinking both I and Jonathan Calder do is in pubs that fit this sort of description.

However your average yoof is more likely to be drawn to a huge pub warehouse affair with loud music and far too many patrons making too much noise. Conversation is impossible, and the bar staff have no hope of carrying out their responsibility of not serving intoxicated patrons or keeping a vague mental list of what people have had already.  There is no oversight from older generations to keep behaviour in check because older generations feel excluded by the noise and music.  Drinks promotions bring the costs of spirits in line with the costs of beer, and any advantage there may have been in drinking in licensed premises is eroded.

The licensing laws are a blunt instrument for influencing this.  Could we ever have different rules for the “right” sort of pub introducing leeway for younger drinkers in places where they can ease gently into responsible drinking culture?  Perhaps Jonathan’s conclusion that yesteryear’s drinking cultures are swept away and are not easy to return.

How much water?

Someone on Cix was surprised by a water bill which he calculated meant he was using 200 pints of water a day.

Picturing a pint is not difficult – we can see it in terms of beer or milk.  But tell someone they have a 210 litre hot water tank or that a washing machine uses 60 litres of water per wash, and they flounder a bit.

Here are some handy comparisons:

1 litre = 2 pints

10 litres = a toilet flush = bucket of water

A power shower is using the equivalent of having a bucket of water thrown over you every thirty seconds.  So if you wallow under the hot water every morning, and you have a powerful shower, you may actually be using far more water than if you had a bath.
60 litres = a washing machine cycle = a water butt

240 litres = a wheelie bin = (roughly) a modern hot water tank

Any more?  UMRA will be particularly interested in sightings of unorthodox units like “swimming-pools per minute” and so on.