Politics and Assassinations
Political Discussion Group 1 met on 9 December to discuss the US Mid-term elections; and when we were bored of that, we turned to Political Assassination.
The success of the Democrats in the House of Representatives was balanced by Republican success in the Senate. We considered the trend towards more and more sophisticated gerrymandering of the electorate, so that the actual number of votes cast did not match the success of candidates. We felt that Mr Trump is a very cunning gentleman, and he will be able to blame the Democrats successfully for any failures of his policies to achieve their aims. His power to appoint senior officials and judges remains, so he will be able to resist Democrat attempts to hold him to account. For their part, Democrats will have to suck it up and smile.
Political Assassination takes place as a semi-deniable form of military aggression when double agents seek asylum abroad, or when leaders of opposition militant groups are targeted, such as in Palestine. The former is to discourage traitors, and the latter to prevent popular leaders from fronting peace negotiation attempts.
Deniable political assassinations focus on domestic targets, like Jamal Khashoggi (a journalist), Anna Politkovskaya (a Russian journalist), Benigno Aquino (a Philippine politician) or Maria Caruana (a Maltese journalist). These aim to quieten protest, protect corruption and preserve strongman rule. We agreed that they sometimes form flashpoints that lead to the opposite conclusion: the more foreign interest they inspire, the more exposed the instigator of the assassination becomes. We did not discuss the prominent role of the CIA in ensuring stable government in Latin America through assassination, nor indeed the operation codes of the UK secret services.
However, we thought Tracey Crouch, by her resignation, had shamed her colleagues to backtrack on their agreement with the gaming industry to delay introducing a ban on big-stakes gaming machines.
Living like the other half?
On 22 October, members of the Isn’t That Interesting! group visited furniture-maker Jeremy Norton in North Mills. He moved his one man business to Bridport from north London about 6-7 years ago once his children had left home. He is happy to make anything from a small shelving unit to a fully-fitted kitchen, with bespoke staircases and one-off tables in between.
Everything is made from solid timber or veneered plywood as appropriate. MDF has its place in the world but not in Jeremy’s, partly because it’s not enjoyable to work with, partly because the dust is unpleasant. He selects the solid timber from the timber yard rather than having a batch delivered, to ensure that each piece is suitable for the project in hand. In addition he has a stock of timber that he’s chosen because it has particularly decorative grain and may well be useful one day – some has followed him around over the years.
Many of his customers are still in London but with others in the South West. He showed the group his current project, a large suite of kitchen units that are destined for an extension to a house in the north west of London. The extension is somewhat larger than many Bridport houses and the units featured walnut veneered backs plus copper sinks that may well have been hand beaten. When finished, the suite will be hand painted then broken down into blocks that are suitable to be transported. A trusted team will install everything, and then the final coat of paint will be applied in situ. The price, several tens of thousands of pounds, reflected the care and quality of the work. (Jeremy confessed that his own fitted kitchen came from IKEA).
All of the dozen machine tools that cut, prepare and shape the timber are connected to a central extraction system that collects the sawdust and shavings. This is then compressed into blocks that can be burnt in a log-burner, thus avoiding waste going to landfill. In his previous workshops he has been able to burn them for winter heating. However, North Mills is listed and can’t have a log-burner installed, resulting in an embarrassing excess of blocks. After the group had enjoyed another visit to an unexpected Bridport business, several members went home with a bonus sack of blocks for their own wood burners. They had strict instructions to return the empty sacks that were more costly than their contents. . .
Death and taxes?
When the Isn’t That Interesting! Group visited AG Down Funeral Directors in June, Karen Hussey suggested that they should also visit a local Crematorium. Thus on 2 October, a dozen slightly nervous members found themselves over at Weymouth Crematorium. After a brief introduction by manager Richard, they were shown the system that controls the many thousands of pieces of music that can be played. It’s mainly a mixture of non-religious and Christian music but the Crematorium can cater for any other religion. There are no restrictions on choice provided it’s lawful but the staff would advise against anything particularly offensive.
The group moved into the main hall of the building where they were shown how it was adapted with lights, flowers, candles and religious symbols to suit the occasion and requirements. They heard about the procedural aspects, ranging from how to deal with a crowd of several hundred mourners to times when the funeral ceremony has taken place in, say, a local church and the committal has been carried out by just the funeral director and the Crematorium staff. All are treated with the greatest respect. It’s never a case of just dropping off the coffin round the back.
Next, the group were shown the two cremators by technician Ian. The width of one cremator had been chosen to suit the ever-increasing size, weight and girth of Dorset’s population. The exhaust gasses pass through a filtration system that is designed to trap dust and mercury vapour (from tooth fillings). It seems that ‘back in the bad old days’, mercury vapour was blowing over towards Scandinavia, being washed out by rain into the North Sea and absorbed by fish that we then ate.
At the end of the end of the process, the ashes of each individual are processed separately and stored until collection. In most cases, any surgical implants such as replacement hips are kept back and sent for recycling (although they are occasionally returned to the family). Since these are made of titanium, they have considerable scrap value and, very pleasingly, the payment that comes to the Crematorium is passed on to local hospices and similar charities.
While it wasn’t the most fun visit the group has ever made, it was pleasing to meet such sympathetic, professional staff and it was, of course, most Interesting.
Down the drain in Lyme?
In previous trips the Isn’t that interesting! group had visited the water supply works at Sutton Poyntz and the sewage works at Dorchester. They completed the story on 13 September by visiting the Sewage Pumping Station in Lyme Regis.
With its entrance on the promenade, the pumping station is buried under the Gun Cliff sea defences near the Museum and Marine theatre at the bottom of the town. The lowest part of the system is about 8 metres below sea level so the whole plant is vast, extending along the promenade. It’s a combined sewage and rain water system with both of these inputs flowing under gravity into the plant.
When sufficient is accumulated, powerful pumps switch on to send it about 200 metres across the town at about 50 metres below the ground level, then up to the sewage works near Uplyme (that wasn’t part of this visit. Here it’s settled and filtered more or less as at Dorchester but with additional UV treatment). The water outflow from the sewage works meets the requirements of EU bathing water regulations and flows under gravity through a pipe back to the pumping station and then 1.4km out to sea where it discharges.
At times of very heavy rainfall, the pumping and treatment system cannot keep up with the incoming volume of water. Thus the sea wall incorporates a huge 2000 cubic metre storm water storage tank that holds the excess, ready to be pumped and treated later.
At the end of the visit, the members were shown photographs of other parts of the disposal system and instructed that only the three Ps (pee, poo and paper) should be put into the system, nothing else, especially fat and the dreaded wet-wipes that cause massive, expensive problems.
As always, a most interesting visit (and virtually odour-free!)
How big? How many?
Then, just like London buses, another visit came along straight afterwards.
On the following day, they visited ‘CNC sliding head turning specialists’ Finetec Precision Engineering on the Dreadnought Estate in Bridport.
A small company, they take round metal (or sometimes plastic) bars and machine them to produce a wide variety of components. Some parts are vaguely recognisable but others are known only to the final customer.
Look carefully in the bottom right of the ‘components’ picture and you will see the smallest part they produce – about as big as an ant’s body – in batches of about 5000. It's inside the 'O'. The machines are essentially complex and fully automatic lathes that also incorporate milling and other similar cutting functions.
The company is owned by husband and wife team Justin and Becky Jennings. Becky runs the office while Justin runs the workshop. He completed a machining apprenticeship and gained experience in the industry, went travelling with Becky, returned home and looked unsuccessfully (because of the recession) for a job. His last attempt was at Finetec. He was turned down because the then owner had put the company up for sale, so Justin and Becky bought it. Since then they have moved to their present unit, invested in more plant and taken on three more staff members.
Justin explained that he programmed the machines manually rather than using standard sequences because the resulting production was more efficient. He then demonstrated how the bars feed into the machines. A number of sequenced cutting processes take place and finished components emerge. Once the program has been proved, repeat production is very straight forward. The machines themselves were made by Citizen (of watch fame). They weigh more than a tonne and the precision is impressive. Parts can be machined to an accuracy of 0.01 mm (or 1/10 of a human hair diameter!).
The group were delighted to find yet another enterprising business in Bridport.
Expedition food from Pymore!
On August 20, the Isn’t That Interesting! group made a visit to yet another extraordinary business that you wouldn’t expect to find around here. Firepot produces dehydrated meals for expeditions,
using fresh ingredients from local suppliers. As founder John Fisher says ‘As adventurists trekking through Greenland, we wanted our hikes to be punctuated by slow-cooked, natural food that tasted delicious. And we couldn’t find it anywhere. So (about three years ago) we made our own in Dorset’
Without any background in catering he experimented at home with a domestic food dryer, developed recipes and techniques, set up a business in a barn in North Chideock, outgrew it within a few months and moved to the present site in Pymore.
He explained to the group that his customers are typically ‘characters’ who run ultra-marathons, cross Antarctica by bicycle, circumnavigate the UK on paddle-surfboards, and of course row the Atlantic and climb mountains. All of these adventurers must be self-sufficient and avoid carrying excess weight. They need to consume quantities of calories so dehydrated food is the answer. Just add hot water to the pouch, wait 15 minutes and tuck in..
The group were shown around the kitchens. Some of Firepot’s competitors simply blend pre-cooked and dried ingredients but here fresh ingredients are cooked, (often to customers’ specific requirements –‘No celery!’),
then dried and packed into pouches as individual portions. Not only does John run the company, he’s also developing and manufacturing his own drying oven, his present American ones being not up to the requirements of the expanding business.
The group then sampled the products, including beef stew, pasta Bolognese and porcini risotto. They all tasted and had the texture of ‘proper food’ and in no way resembled the Vesta curries of our youth!
Woodwork (but not as you know it)
The Isn’t That Interesting! group visited yet another unexpected Bridport business on 9 August. Crafty & Co design and manufacture an extraordinary range of products, using CNC (computer numerical controlled) equipment to cut and shape sheet wood, plastic and composite materials. When assembled, the finished products range from table lamps and storage units to custom car door linings and prefabricated building units. Aaron Leedham, whose business it is, started out with an Art degree but somehow drifted into machining. However, he has followed one of his student interests and makes a range of Hi-Fi speaker cabinets and turntable assemblies. Not surprisingly, his business is the only one like it in the area.
Coffee morning Friday 13th July 2018
Sybil Godden reports:-
This morning’s bi-monthly event was well attended with tea or coffee & biscuits much enjoyed (by most). There were several prospective members who seemed quite keen to join us. I managed to get one interested in the Travel Group which I have just taken over.
I described the Book Group 4 activities, which seemed to please; not as formal as perhaps they thought. It is very well run by Helen and we do not read newly published books. I learned that the Gardening Group has the same format in that they meet in each other’s houses and help each other in managing their gardens. We also talked about some of the Isn’t That Interesting group activities such as Dorchester Print and Weymouth’s Turbine House. The Lunch Club was discussed very enthusiastically.
Naturally we gossiped too, covering the Arts Centre’s recent makeover and its effect on the café, its staff and ambiance. None favourable; However the Art Gallery was considered very interesting with a member of the museum liking their exhibition. Bus Pass problems and buses cut-backs were moaned over, particularly the withdrawn routes to outlying villages and the affect the older non-drivers. The ‘Dial-a-Ride’ is not a good substitute, but adequate.
As we were clearing the hall of one of the helpers said how nice it is to sit and chat with agreeable people over coffee and biscuits. I thought so too; see you on September 14th in the WI Hall in North Street.
Architectural Fun Group
On a fantastic July afternoon 7 members of the Architectural Fun Group drove down to Fairmile, west of Ottery St Mary to visit the Elizabethan Manor House of Cadhay. The beautiful house dating from 1550 with connections to the present owner through the Poulett family from 1587, is set in formal gardens , walled kitchen garden, medieval fish ponds, cottage garden herbaceous borders and , across a ha-ha, extensive parkland.We spent an hour exploring and admiring the gardens and exterior of the house before having a guided tour of the interior.
The present owner lives nearby but the Manor House is an holiday let and wedding venue so has been beautifully restored and furnished as a comfortable home sleeping 22people. The rooms still displayed Elizabethan features in their fireplaces, plaster work ceilings, original windows and fragments of stone carvings. Upstairs was a long gallery which was unaltered and a dining room with an unusual 'Exeter style' beamed ceiling . Externally were Tudor chimneys and window frames and a sense of symmetry. The internal courtyard had walls of flint and stone making a chequered design and the door frames were of soft sand coloured Somerset stone. After our tour we indulged ourselves in a Devon cream tea in the sunshine on the terrace, a habit we might continue. A thoroughly lovely visit which can be recommended. However as it is a letting property, it is only open to the public on Friday afternoons .
Diana, Valerie, Margaret, Wendy, Tim, Liz , Philip
The Isn’t That Interesting! group visited A.G. Down undertakers in June to see what was in store for them and they came out very well-informed. Director Karen Hussey explained some of the history of the half a dozen local undertakers that make the group, Down being Bridport‘s. She spoke about the various options available including the choice of coffin – veneered chipboard, wicker, wool, cardboard . . .religious and non-religious ceremonies, ‘processing’ including burial, cremation, freeze-drying, solution in caustic soda . . . what you can do with ashes, how to donate your body to science . . . local rules about headstones . . . She emphasised the desirability of making one’s wishes known to the family – just a note behind the clock is sufficient.
Gardens & Gardening 1 hard at work at Dawn Armstrong's garden, enjoying the sunshine at their meeting on 14th May.
There was some discussion on the uses of vinegar in the garden (more than you might think!). They also enjoyed a walk around the garden and seeing the brilliant colours of the rhododendrons and azaleas, plus admiring the burgeoning vegetable plot. There was a look at the proposed development of a new area and some design ideas were put forward. The cake was good too!'
Members of Gardens and Gardening 2 in action!
Following an operation, Christina Walker is in need of some help in her garden, so Myrtle Pacey, Joan Sinnott and Pat Grafton got stuck into a bit of weeding! With a welcome tea break, of course!
A Walk on the Wild(ish) Side … of Wales, by Penny Deacon
Marilyn’s cottage, deep in forestry lands, has metre thick walls, a barn (complete with owl, and possibly owls) and everything necessary for comfort: enormous log fire with plenty of logs, indoor plumbing and a wonderful shower with endless hot water. We brought our own hot water bottles.
On from there to the lake and back down on slippery slate chippings (Di 2, who had a painful ricked knee was impressively stalwart). Looking back from what Diana calls The Dipper Bridge (no dippers to be seen) I was amazed to realise just how far and high we’d climbed. I think this one was our longest at around 11 miles.
Next day was ‘a short walk’ up one side and down the other of the Llyfnant Valley. An interesting additional detour required a retreat and recalibration but we found a very pretty glade overlooking the river, with convenient felled trees for seats, just in time for lunch.
And got back to the cars as the drizzle started. This didn’t deter us from visiting the Osprey Centre, complete with water buffaloes as well as ospreys, which is highly recommended. There was also at least one cuckoo.
Wednesday was Barmouth for most of us – the sun came out soon after we arrived (and had enjoyed some excellent coffee). This was more of a stroll than a walk: we crossed the railway bridge and watched the tide rush out, revealing the sands where birds scurried for goodies. Sat on beachside benches for lunch like a posse of trippers.
And on Thursday Diana, Steve, Robert and I climbed Cader Idris. I thought it would be hard at the end – but it’s the start that’s a shock to the system although the steep clamber up along the waterfall is worth it when you get to the lake two thirds of the way to the top. And we didn’t quite make the summit.
We were probably less than half an hour off when the mist and cloud came down and discretion (plus the thought of the descent over slippery wet stones) became the better part of valour.
And Friday was clean house and head home. Brilliant!
Remember: if you go down to the woods (Welsh) and hills you will need …
1. Someone who understands glacial geology and can explain river capture.
2. Someone who can dissect owl pellets
3. Someone willing to make porridge every morning – and is good at it
4. The same someone who brings sweets (Werthers Originals, but other brands are available) and produces them just before you realise you are longing for something sweet
5. A hot water bottle unless you have chosen to stay in a hotel
6. The ability to eat nachos followed by fish and chips and still go walking next day
7. And a group of people who enjoy walking and who will encourage each other, identify birds by their calls, know exactly where we are on the map, and make excellent company.
No smoke, no fire
In April, a dozen members of the Isn’t That Interesting group were shown round Bridport Fire Station by Station Officer Nick Courtice and Watch Manager Steve Pask. They explained that most fire stations in Dorset, including Bridport, operate with retained firefighters who all have full time ‘normal’ jobs but respond instantly when paged to attend. They have to be able to get to the fire station within four minutes of a call out. The first person to arrive checks the incident sheet that is sent to the station, and starts up the appropriate appliance. As soon as sufficient crew have arrived, it’s all aboard and off to the incident, typically within five minutes of the initial call. It seems that Bridport attend a wider range of incidents that most others in the area. There are a few major fires, Parnham being a good example but generally it’s traffic accidents, fire alarms, chimney and thatch fires, flood and mud rescues and helping the ambulance service to break into buildings to reach unconscious patients.
One of their more unusual jobs occurred recently, following police around Salisbury, decontaminating where necessary during the ‘Russian Spy’ incident.
The U3A visitors were then shown over the appliances. There was a ‘standard’ fire engine, equipped with hoses and ladders, but also medical equipment including a defibrillator, hydraulic cutters and spreaders to prise crashed cars open, flood lights . . . even spare warm clothing for incident victims. The second ‘fire engine’ is a 4-wheel-drive version that can go anywhere that’s wide enough and the third is a special unit that can be fitted with either a decontamination station (in case of chemical and similar incidents) or a large water tank to support the other appliances at major fires, especially useful as the standard appliances can empty their own on-board water tanks in about 40 seconds.