Sunday, 24 September 2017

The QE2 Story

A giant of the Clyde, the QE2 liner, turned 50 this week. There has been a fair amount of publicity on the radio and newspapers, and to commemorate the event, a faithful bunch of enthusiasts also gathered in Clydebank to commemorate the occasion !

I have family connections to the QE2 as my father worked as an engineer at John Brown Engineering, who famously constructed the QE2.  Almost 10 years ago my brother Robert Lightbody started a website after a conversation with some other enthusiasts on board the QE2.  He started a forum "The QE2 Story" - "Keeping the Legend Alive" and through this medium many have posted their memories, of the construction, of working on board and of sailing in this fantastic liner.

The main administrators of the QE2Story website decided to organise a 50th Anniversary celebration of her launch. We gathered on Friday at Clydebank Town Hall which is positioned right behind where John Browns Engineering used to be.

The event organisers had done a fabulous job and had organised the day down to the last detail.
We were piped into the hall and then received our welcome packs. And we began to swap stories of what had brought us from near and far to gather at this commemoration event.

We moved through to the main hall which had been laid out as though we were indeed on a cruise, with us all sitting at round tables. First speaker up was Ian Johnstone from Glasgow School of Art and he covered the finances of John Browns and how they came to be the shipyard which built what was originally known as Q4 ! But on launch day came to be known as QE2 !
She had been reluctant to leave and had had to have an extra push to launch her on her illustrious career. But what a career. It has not yet been bettered.

Our day was launched by a commemorative cake being cut by none other than the daughter of the famous John Rannie, the Managing Director of John Brown shipyard and a naval architect, who oversaw construction of QE2.



Next speaker up was also from Glasgow School of Art, Prof Bruce Peters, who set in context the design ideas behind the interiors of QE2. She was not going to emulate the Victorian designs of so many of her predecessors but would instead have her interiors designed to the last detail in a more modernist approach. She was the original 60s girl ! Many top London and UK interior designers were involved, with some with full responsibility for particular rooms.
And Bruce Peters pointed out how the room we were sitting in was very appropriate as it had been designed by the person who designed the interiors of the Lusitania.

Next up Ronnie Keir who spoke about the construction, having worked since the age of 15 at John Browns. He told how every aspect was done "on site", from a 15 ton steel block arriving, to the melting, casting into gears, blades, plates etc. So the turbines, gears etc were all built on site. Nowadays for such a construction, different parts would be purchased from specialists.  He recalled a moment when arriving in the ship to see some of the platers dancing a tiller girl routine on the stage of the theatre. That would have been worth seeing. It was obviously very hard work - "character building" work as he described it but with lots of camaraderie too.

From then on we heard tales of her time on the high seas. She sailed once again in our memories. We heard of the time she sailed with brave soldiers and brave QE2 volunteer crew to the South Atlantic during the Falkland conflict. She set off with soldiers perched on every available point including sitting in the lifeboats. She was waved away and set sail, avoiding icebergs en route and stopping to offload the men in South Georgia.

One of her captains Captain Bates entertained us with his stories of his time on board. His teacher hadn't expected him to make much of himself, saying he "spent his time looking out of windows". But his eventual job required him to do exactly that ! He was a very entertaining speaker and now uses his skills to help others experience being on a canal boat with the Seagull Trust.

Other sessions were chaired by another QE2 Captain and by the designer of the QM2, Stephen Payne.
We heard from someone who had worked as a head of on-board entertainment. And we also heard about what the future might hold as she sits in Dubai awaiting development.

Here are the speakers and organisers from the day:

The next day there was a boat trip organised to go down the Clyde to see what was left of the John Browns yard and the place where QE2 had been launched and then sat while being fitted out. We also were to go up the Titan Crane.
But before all that we were to witness a re-union of two Clyde greats - the MV Balmoral (most widely travelled UK passenger ship) who was sailing a weekend of Clyde excursions and the newly rescued SS Queen Mary.
We witnessed the handing over of a painting between the captains. There is much work to be done but the plan is to get Queen Mary sailing again in two years time.


Meanwhile on the Clyde, a Clydebuilt rowing festival was taking place with over 100 rowing boats having rowed all the way from Dumbarton Rock right to the centre of Glasgow. Here are two of the teams:

It was then on board the Clyde Clipper for our trip down the Clyde ! Flying a QE2 flag !


Past the Transport Museum and the Tall Ship then on past the various Clyde dock yards, with an accompanying commentary and then we arrived at the Titan Crane. The staff there are very enthusiastic and a font of information. We could see clearly why John Browns had moved downriver to Clydebank to take advantage of the fact they could launch large ships outwards, making use of the fact the River Cart joined the Clyde at that point to give a larger width for launching.


Another classic shipbuilding name from the past - Barclay Curle - and another of four remaining Titan Cranes on the Clyde - this one built by the famous Sir William Arrol's company who are famous for building the Forth Railway Bridge.


The Titan Crane in Clydebank and the red QE2 flag flying again on the Clyde:


On the way back it was three cheers to the QE2 and then we disembarked. Some headed back for a relaxing drink at the Crown Plaza while others headed back across the world, back to the normal everyday lifes without the QE2 !
Will the days come back when we see such sights again as the QE2, Concorde and the Red Arrows flying in formation ? Who knows - but we certainly did a good job of remembering them this weekend !
Happy 50th QE2 !

Have a look at some memories - this month's photo competition on The QE2 Story Forum: https://www.theqe2story.com/forum/index.php/topic,7439.0.html

Monday, 26 December 2016

You Look Good ! Thank You ... but ditch the Selfie Stick !

This is an excerpt of numerous exchanges I have seen in Facebook chats and the like from the under 20 age group.

The "selfie generation" ...

First step - pose, pout and take the photo !
Second step - post your favourite for everyone to see !
Third step - acclamation floods in ...
Step 4 ... the subject of the photo then "thanks" those flooding them with praise ...

Now maybe its just me ... but in my day, at the same age ... this just did not happen.
And I do think its not that healthy.

We are born with our looks. We need to live with them. And in fact there really is nothing so attractive as a happy, smiling face and someone who is full of energy and life.

We were really pretty much taught in my day I would say that we had to have a career. Women were not making a big thing about their looks. But even more than just a career, find hobbies etc that interest you. Educate yourself, have fun, take part in sport, help others, give your time to others, whatever takes your fancy. But get the focus away from yourself.

If its all about looks and you happen not to have great looks then where are we then ... And in fact sometimes its not all that great to have good looks either, as from my experience it can attract all the wrong types of attention. Yes sure you get asked out a whole lot more. But you are often being asked out by people purely attracted to your looks. Not to your actual character.

So come on folks, get a life. And ditch that Selfie Stick !

Monday, 12 September 2016

Bearsway Design

Twitter does not provide enough space to explain why many residents, even those who are pro cycling, are annoyed about Bearsway.

I will outline the design flaws that have personally affected my travel on this route.

I have yet to cycle it, but I have a couple of good friends who commute on it.
I have walked it, driven on it and travelled by bus on it.

It could have been so much better !

It appeared to be driven through with little consultation of the public and from what I have heard any suggestions which were made were ignored.

OK, starting at the Milngavie end ...

Cyclists are expected to take the following route around a roundabout to enter the Bearsway path. Now, this roundabout is usually very very busy, often with dumper trucks and it is hair raising enough in a car let along a bicycle. If you came from where I live in Milngavie, you would have to take the route I have marked in red to enter the bearsway,., across 3/4 lanes of waiting traffic.

The obvious solution for the cyclists would have been to have had a single track cycle way on both sides here, with the Glasgow bound one then joining up with the Kelvin Timber stretch.

Now the next bit is a more minor complaint but if you are driving from the Burnbrae Roundabout and driving towards Glasgow, as you come on to the road from the roundabout you are faced with three lanes - now it could confuse someone as how are you to know that its two lanes coming towards you and not two on your side of the road ?!?  And you are so close to that oncoming and heavy traffic -often with lorries etc. Remember this is an A Road - its the main road from Glasgow to Stirlingshire - it has heavy traffic and no central gap or barrier. And possible confusion over lanes...
OK so a few metres further on and the lane coming towards you is now one lane and there is some parking for the houses which you see high on the right - this is their main parking - across a cycle lane - but its also possibly used by the leisure club who now cant park on the main road - however its not obvious in this photo but if people come out the drivers door of the parked car they are basically going to be standing in the course of the traffic - there is no leeway or extra space.

OK drive on about 40metres past Kelvin Timber entrance and you find the next design flaw. This is to do with the cycle path - I have photographed it looking back towards Milngavie to show you what the problem is. Now at the pedestrian/cycle crossing here, the path actually crosses across the main road. The following photograph shows what you will encounter if happily cycling out from Glasgow on the track : 
If you are cycling to Milngavie the fact that you now need to cross at the pedestrian crossing is indicated by the tiny wee arrow pointing to the left - can you see it ?!?  now imagine you assume you are on a nice cycle path ... or you are in a group eg with young kids cycling up front - do you think they will notice this ? ... because if they fail to notice it the next thing is you could be cycling right off the pavement and into the path of that oncoming traffic ... There is a bit of a bollard that has latterly been put in - but again a black bollard with a white circle - what does that mean to you ? Hopefully it makes you think STOP!! 

The next issue is a few metres further on. Because of the cycle track and the extra pavement in the middle plus the chevrons protecting a right turn into some houses, the well used pavement on the right hand side now has heavy traffic right close next to it. This is a pavement that is well used between Bearsden and Milngavie and by people using the Sports Centre. There is also a bus stop there on the right that you cant see in this photo. But I find this is now quite a hair raising pavement to walk along. Yet the wide pavement all the way along Kilmardinny, that you can see on the left of the photograph, has not been incorporated in any way into the design. This pavement is rarely used and perhaps only by a few people coming from the Sports centre, the bulk of whom are eventually going to cross the road anyway, so it could easily have been halfed in size. I presume it was a matter of budgeting that it would have added to the cost to do this ! But surely the best and safest design should have been used ?

You may have noticed in some of the pictures that there is a large CALA development on the left. Another concern of people is that we are not sure where the exit road from this development is going to be. If they are going to join the people trying to get out of the Allander Sports Centre car park road then good luck to them ! Its bad enough doing this once a week for my exercise class ! But people have been held up here for up to 15 mins regularly. And the Bearsway appears to have made it worse. In my opinion, and maybe its also a good thing ... but because the traffic has been slowed slightly to deal with all the twists and turns, it is now more of a constant heavy stream rather than shorter bursts of traffic with gaps. But it does make it extra tricky to come out of the sports centre road. We will now examine that junction as there are other issues too ! The junction is just coming up on the left in the photo above or to look more closely have a look at the photo below :
So if you are coming from Milngavie (to the left of the pic) and turning left into the Allander, you may or may not have to sit behind a car who may be giving way to people on the cycle track. If you have waited a while then the people on the cycle track may be entirely different to what you viewed while driving along. However to now see who is on the track you would need to look over both your right and left shoulders as the track is behind you while you wait at that give way sign. Now its not impossible - but it not ideal and if you have cyclists who fully assume they have right of way and some of whom could be travelling at 30 mph then again it could be a little bit of a recipe for disaster. Also on a minor point the crossing here is marked as a give way for cyclists but not indicated for pedestrians ...

OK so that is me maybe 200 to 300 metres along the Bearsway - I will highlight the issue with the Reid Avenue turning later and also a particularly tricky bit to drive on where oncoming headlights are facing right into you. Also the fact the pavement is so high there is literally nowhere to go to get out of the way on oncoming lorries etc on your side of the road. Also the fact that if a bus stops everything has to stop. This did not used to happen as it was previously a nice wide road.

I will do all that later as I need to go out now !

And the Hillfoot end is still a mystery as it moves into Bearsway 2 in theory at that stage, even though £300,000 was recently spent upgrading the pavement at the shops there over a 3 month period with great disruption to shops businesses and traffic ! The current entrance to Bearsway at the Hillfoot end is highly dangerous and you do see some young teenage cyclists etc trying this - and I hate to say but they tend to wear black as do a number of commuters on this route - with inadequate lighting of their bikes ....
_________________________________________________

And further design problems exist in my opinion with the sequencing or lack of sequencing of the lights on the not-very staggered new pedestrian crossing at the bottom of Nethermains Road.  This is not part of Bearsway 1 but part of the whole redevelopment of the Burnbrae / Waitrose roundabout at entrance to Bearsway 1.
Confusion could easily arise if people exit-ing Nethermains Road assume that if they see red lights on the far side and were to assume this meant the lights on their side of the road were also sitting at red when they can in fact be green, as the lights operate separately.

Now this crossing, although separate, is not obviously staggered, so its not obvious. And considering that one street along at the foot of Keystone Quadrant you have a complete pedestrian crossing then you can maybe see where the confusion could arise. Now even myself last night I noticed I had assumed the lights on one side would be the same as the other ... I then quickly realised it wouldn't be ... but it only would take one person in even 1000 or 10,000 to get this wrong with awful consequences. Confusion could also arise in the same way for people turning right into Nethermains Road.
Does anyone know more about how these should have been designed ? .gov.uk link ?

Sunday, 14 August 2016

Today I was reading (actually skimming as it was not all that interesting !) through an article about the guy who created Tinder. In fact he may be part of a team of four as there was also a team photo. Apparently he invented the App as he had gone into a pub or somewhere, and seen a table of girls but when the guys went up to them to ask them out, the girls were not interested. So he invented this App so that it was possible to find out who was interested in you in advance of meeting them. Therefore more success in the dating game - apparently ! And less rejection !  Now the problem with this is that often the most successful relationships previously were when people met through others. There was a chance to vaguely know some background about the person, but also there was a little more hope that the relationship would be successful as both people already had the same friends and maybe liked the same things or had the same sense of humour or attitudes.  Now what I wonder is, is this as likely at all now to happen. Previously, it was also fairly common as a young person, to have groups of male and female friends. But maybe nowadays that is less likely and people are meeting up online.

My next thought though was that what is this haste for having a relationship ?  I personally can't think of anything worse thanbeing in a relationship for the whole of your twenties with no times as a singleton!

But on a plus side. Now Tinder does sound to me like a pretty shallow App. I don't see how you can possibly choose someone based just on looks. Apparently it shows you images of people and you swipe Yes or No as to whether they interest you. No way of knowing if the person is compatible, or is a laugh or a considerate lovely person.  However maybe I under-estimate Tinder. I have no intention of finding out if it is more cerebral than I have heard. My mobile phone is already full up before I even got a chance to upload Apps ... !! (Thanks Motorola E !)

However, back to the plus side of new technology ... I have met someone who did in fact meet their partner through online dating. Now this was through the type of site where you can match up based on your opinions and interests etc. And apparently it has worked really well. So maybe that will be the future after all.  And who knows, maybe its been sussed for romantic encounters, it could maybe then be extended to help all the rest of us get along too ! As the world sure needs more love at the moment.  Now how do I do one of those little heart icons in my text .... ♥♥ !

Thursday, 4 August 2016

Driving - Mobile Phones etc - It feels more Dangerous out there

I write after completing another journey across Glasgow and back where I again had to put up with crazy driving incidents from other drivers who are either too impatient or just plain unsafe in their driving or dont know the highway code.

Let me tell you of the incidents just in one journey of a total of around an hour and a half today.

OK so I set off and driving out of my town of Milngavie into the country on a road called Auchenhowie Road. I was following three cars ahead of me. In fact I had noticed someone was driving too close behind me two traffic lights back - you end up having to check this driver is not going to slam into the back of you instead of paying full attention to the road. Anyway we leave the 30mph zone and are travelling at the prevailing traffic speed which was roughly 40 to 50 mph and perfectly typical speed for that road when suddenly the driver from behind in his souped up car overtakes at a ridiculous speed and making a ridiculous noise. I put my radio off and lost track of what I had been listening to on what had up til then been quite a relaxed journey. He then overtakes the next person and then overtakes two cars in a row and this is on a bend. No way was he able to see if there definitely wasnt someone coming his way especially on the last of the two cars when he was very close to the bend. This is also past the exit to Rangers football training ground Murray Park and there were people gathered there at the exit. There is also at least one or two side roads to consider that come out onto that road. He appeared not to need to consider these things. I have his number and I will possibly contact the police tomorrow to report it and see if anyone else has reported the driver on this occasion.

Anyway onwards ... the number of people who appear to be driving without paying full attention has in the last two weeks become frighteningly high. I hate to say so as a woman but it does appear that almost every woman who stops behind my car appears to be on a mobile phone texting .... please its so dangerous. This included on my return journey a silver VW Beetle driver who was paying little attention  ... Now if you have ever given yourself a huge fright when you have maybe just had a fleeting moment of inattention then think again - why on earth would you do anything that is going to distract you ?

Now the next things I had to encounter were aggressive and fast driving that was quite pointless as there were just lanes and lanes of queued traffic on the M8 or M77 ... what is the point ? In fact yesterday I felt a guy in a large Volvo seriously nearly crashed his car into the one in front just due to aggressive driving.

Now my final driving fault I see all the time is that of people who signal AS they are doing the thing- and not BEFORE !  I got an awful fright when someone changed lanes right in front of me and only signalled really after the maneouvre had been made - that is not the point of a signal - its a signal of intention !  Mind you some people dont signal at all - but really the only useful one is a signal before the maneouvre.

Now then I encountered a Glasgow Taxi - a Skoda I think - he was driving a bit crazy through the Clyde Tunnel - he came out of the give way in front of me into the traffic through the tunnel - then moved into outside lane, then half way through the tunnel he crossed back over the double white lines (Highway Code = do not cross !!) and ended up in front of me again !  He then veered left up the exit road to Clydebank/Victoria Park South as he came out of the Tunnel - again no signal !! Now this is someone who is driving around with their taxi license plate number fully on display - he is a "professional driver" ! yet doesnt think rules apply to him.  I dont take taxis any more since I felt we had an extremely unsafe journey locally from a taxi driver who had never even driven the car he was in before - is that even legal ? I suspect not !! That wasnt a Glasgow Taxi though but an East Dunbartonshire one I think !

OK so that's my main quibbles - please folk - relax and stay safe when driving - no distractions - use your signals - and think of other road users.

Tuesday, 23 February 2016

3G pitches - summarising safety worries

3G Pitches - Are they Safe ?

I suppose we assume extensive health & safety testing is done prior to a product/material entering the open market...
but - these research articles indicate to me that there are serious questions :

https://www.pitchcare.com/magazine/is-artificial-turf-hiding-an-800-pound-gorilla.html

the following site http://www.technicalsurfaces.co.uk/3G_pitch_safety_in_the_UK lists the following research which would take an age to go through - although I see the first article is about groundwater runoff so nothing about human health
http://www.technicalsurfaces.co.uk/sites/default/files/agp_-_listing_of_independent_research_and_reports_1998-2014_-_artificial_grass.pdf

Pregnant with Twins ? Put your Feet up !

If you are pregnant with twins - or more ! then I say stop try and stop working as early as possible - I think 29 weeks is when you can start maternity leave, and take lots of rest.  Or if you are still feeling physically comfortable at work and are not being overworked then maybe you will be OK. But please read on and consider what happened to me.

I had twins quite a number of years ago now. (I finally have time to take a rest and write a blog post !!)  I stopped at 29 weeks, for a number of reasons. Firstly, I was working on a temporary project so I didn't really have a job to go back to, so there was not much point in working right up to the date I was due etc.  It was also becoming increasingly uncomfortable to do the 30 mile car journey every day. And it was high summer so the heat was also getting hard to take.

So I stopped work. And another thing that happened towards the end of my pregnancy was that I got a very painful trapped nerve or sciatica type thing in my leg. And the only way to relieve it was to rest or lie on the couch for a large part of the day. I could usually manage to stand up for an hour or so to go out for lunch or shopping or whatever but I had to rest for the bulk of the day.

The other thing was that I worked in a hospital and had ready access to books about "having twins" from the medical library. I discovered that in America, the mums were very much recommended to take a lot of rest. But I didn't hear this at all from the doctors I saw here in the UK.

And I don't know if the extra rest helped, but of the six mums in my town who were all (by sheer chance) expecting twins in the same week, I was the only one who made it to "term", which for twins is 38 weeks.  I had to be induced at that point as the babies were no longer growing etc and the placenta was no longer helping them.

Some of the other families ended up in hospital for a month etc in the special care baby unit.  I ended up there for a week, but really we were very lucky that they weren't early, with all the health problems etc that that can involve.  I did find out that as I had one who was lying breach, the new recommendations are that I should have had a caesarian and I sort of think that might have been good as you always wonder if the second twin out maybe loses out on oxygen etc...

However I am being sidetracked !
  • This blog post is firstly a plea to mums and dads and everyone connected with pregnant mums to make sure the pregnant mum takes it easy and can get some rest. Especially if expecting twins or more.

  • And secondly, we really do need to have longer maternity leave and pay for twin/triplet mums as its harder work beforehand when you are pregnant and then it gets even harder as you have to care for two tiny tots and make sure they are fed etc.