Wednesday, February 14, 2007

The store that was not, perhaps, to be; plus a journey to Oz?

On the way back from Fareham, yesterday afternoon, I called in at Tesco, Havant, for a little shopping and to buy some coal.

When I was at the checkout, in the store, I asked the Checkout Assistant if she knew what was happening with the new store that had been proposed. She said that, as far as she knew it was not going to happen, not be built.

She said that Tesco had sold off land at each end of the site. That I, more or less, knew, as they had been denied planning permission to go beyond the present store site; hence the proposal to build a store “in the air”, in effect above the existing car park and existing store ground area.

The Assistant said that the Council had refused planning permission, due; it seemed to the large number of objections to the new store that it had received. I was surprised, taken aback; that meant that Havant Council had actually said no to Tesco.

On the basis of events over the last several years I had developed a general “rule of thumb” that Havant Council would cave in to anyone who had financial muscle of a few hundred thousand Pounds, to a million Pounds, or more, even when planning permissions were breached; anything less than that and you did not stand a chance with the Council.

The idea of Havant Council denying an organisation of Tesco proportions what it wanted was phenomenal. I began to wonder where the Council had gained its courage, short of a trip down the Yellow Brick Road to see the Wizard of Oz. So that is a fantasy, though no more than Havant Council standing up to someone bigger than itself seemed.

The Assistant said that Tesco could re-apply in March but seemed to think that it would not happen. Part of her reason for that was the new checkouts that were due. The staff had, apparently, been complaining about the old ones and asking for new ones for some time. They had new ones due to be installed in June or July, some six months, or so, hence. So, to the best of her knowledge, the new store was not going to be built.

Strange things happen in Havant, at times.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Education and Standards – Personal Experiences

The Saturday 10 February entry on the Blog of my hypnotist and muse friend Barbara Ford-Hammond ( reminded me of my own experiences three years or so ago at educational establishments in southern England.

As well as lecturing in engineering materials and design at a further education college I was involved in providing support for students who were finding their studies difficult. That covered a range of students though included those studying engineering.

One such student, on an Engineering Diploma Course, had difficulties with a number of the problems he had been set.

Of the problems with which I helped him there was always one which particularly came to mind. It involved a weight suspended by two cords, each at a different angle to the horizontal; a simple statics problem. I showed him how to solve it by resolving forces horizontally and vertically; the sum of the horizontal forces in the cords being, of course, zero, and the vertical forces in the cords being equal to the weight supported. The horizontal forces were the tensions in the cords multiplied by the Cosine of the angle to the horizontal and the vertical forces were the tensions in the cords multiplied by the Sine of the angle and the weight.

The student looked at what I had drawn and written for a few seconds, then asked,

“What’s Sine?”

Bearing in mind that I was talking to a student who was eighteen or nineteen years old, well into his Engineering Diploma Course, and I had mastered such levels of trigonometry by the age of fourteen, I was somewhere between amused and bemused.

More was to follow. After setting out a problem in my usual way; read the question careful, draw, lay it out on paper, set up the basic equations and solve, the student again looked at what I had done, listened to my explanation, and asked a question; on that occasion it was,
”What’s Pythagoras?”

Another student was studying electrical engineering, something I had not been involved with in earnest since my first year at Brunel University ( in 1967. He was stuck on some problems involving alternating current in electrical circuits with the usual resistance, capacitance and impedance elements. When such knowledge is long gone, or, at least, ahs not been used for some time, the obvious starting point is the College Library and appropriate library research skills; find an appropriate book, look up the basics, find similar problems in worked example form, follow them through and regain forgotten knowledge. A little over an hour later I had done electrical calculations of a type last worked through some thirty-five years previously and a student was a little happier and more confident with his work.

At a higher level, I lectured final year Engineering Degree Students on engineering materials at a University for a several weeks. Of the forty-plus students many (most?) were foreign. There were only about half a dozen of those who could have lived with my 1967-1971 Brunel University Engineering Degree Course.

Barbara’s 10th February anecdote of a conversation that illustrated the woeful standards of knowledge was very much in line with my experiences in the education system. To say that education standards have been dumbed down would be a rather gentle way of putting it.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Back Online and Visible Again

For the last couple of years I have been concentrating on my Web Sites and have neglected blogging as such; though the Blog of a relatively recently acquired and very good friend, Barbara Ford-Hammond ( has encouraged me to try to do more with this one. We have similar interests in the non-physical field and, it would seem, a not dissimilar sense of humour.

Besides, having been off the Internet for the best part of two months, thanks to some malware and not particularly brilliant computer repairers (eventually sorted out by someone else) it is good to be back on the Internet and visible again. This is as good a way to start as any, particularly while I play catch up with my Web Sites.

As you will gather from my Web Sites such as, as well as the archives of this Blog, an Internet presence is about the only way of being heard in the town where I live, or the County for that matter; Havant, Hampshire, England.

However, despite all of that, there have been positive developments. My autobiographical book, “Remembering Lorelei” ( should, at long last, be out in the next few weeks, will be reviewed in national publications and I should be appearing in such publications before that.

Developments can be followed through the above Journal Web Site (, at least when I finish catching up with the word processing.