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April 30, 2008

The view from the motorway ....

Tehran is a sprawling city, covering much the same sort of area as Greater London in surface area. The population is roughly 15 million by day falling to 8 million at night. It sits in a bowl formed by the Alborz Mountains, the highest peaks of which are perpetually snow clad. The peaks in this photo are some 3,600 metres in height, but behind them is another towering up to 5,000 metres. Just to the North East is another, magnificent cone shaped mountain which is a dormant volcano. The whole area lies on a large tectonic fault line and is earthquake prone, a factor which must be considered when building anything here.

The mountains are spectacular and the snow line changes on a daily basis.

Seen from the Expressway, the mountains north of Tehran tower over the city which sprawls between the ancient city of Ray to the South East and Darakeh in the North. The oldest part of Tehran is in the foothills of the mountains and the streets are narrow and overshadowed by tall buildings and lots of trees.

To the South East of Tehran is a vast area of marshes and lakes, lying in a depression known as Dasht-e-Kavir. Though it is a "depression", it is still some 3,000 feet above sea level according to my atlas, yet it is completely ringed by mountains and does not drain to the sea. Certainly the area immediately south of Tehran is extremely fertile and the crops produced by the timeless and intensive methods of manual labour are very rich indeed. Fascinating to watch people using these ancient systems to irrigate small areas in which grow wheat, tomatoes, strawberries and many other crops.

In winter the whole area can be covered by snow several feet thick - probably another reason for the fertility of it all.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 07:07 AM | TrackBack

Interesting .....

Found this quiz browsing One Happy Dog Speaks ....

Your Dominant Intelligence is Linguistic Intelligence
You are excellent with words and language. You explain yourself well.
An elegant speaker, you can converse well with anyone on the fly.
You are also good at remembering information and convincing someone of your point of view.
A master of creative phrasing and unique words, you enjoy expanding your vocabulary.

You would make a fantastic poet, journalist, writer, teacher, lawyer, politician, or translator.
What Kind of Intelligence Do You Have?

Interestingly it does tie in with my personality profiling ....

Posted by The Gray Monk at 07:00 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

April 29, 2008

Sharia Justice

While I was in Tehran a friend sent me some horrifying pictures of a boy of 8 having his arm crushed by a car as a punishment for stealing bread. After considering this very carefully - and waiting until almost the end of my stay - I broached this with my host. He made no attempt to deny it happens, but the look of pain and distaste on his face as he acknowledged it said a great deal. I should add that he is a practicing and devout Muslim, but, as he explained, the application and interpretation of the Sharia Law is left entirely to the courts and the judges are appointed locally. Many are, apparently, not terribly well versed in the actual content of the Quran or the Sharia.

Sharia Law falls into two parts - Civil and Criminal - and the interpretation and determination of any sentence depends upon the court's evaluatioin of the degree of "injury" caused by the offence against the plaintiff in a civil case or the degree of "offence" caused against the tenets of the faith in a criminal case. As he explained, some judges do make some very - to western eyes - barbaric decisions, but this child could have suffered the total amputation of his hand. By the lights of the community in which this happened, the sentence was a light one. Even so, I was left with the distinct impression that my host - and by extrapolation - many of his fellow countrymen, are distinctly uneasy about many of these sentences.

As originally conceived the Sharia is a legalistic interpretation of the precepts laid down in the Quran for the ordering of society. It is the work of 18th Century (12th Century in the Islamic calendar) Ottoman Turkish Jurists. It makes provision for sentences to be commuted by the "injured party" in the case of theft or murder and a range of other "offences". Very few of the "sentences" it contains are found in the Quran, these being the body of "common" law that has built up around the Code since its inception.

I would not personally choose to live under such a law, but I can look back at some of the "legal" practices of my own country and supposedly founded on "Christian" principles which match the equivalent period of our development - and find space to shudder at some of the things done in the name of our faith. That said, I still feel slightly sickened by the thought of a small boy being held down so that a car can be driven over his blanket wrapped arm.

Is this application of a "religious" legal system a true reflection of the faith it springs from? I don't think so, any more than I think the burning of "witches" and "heretics" in the name of Christ is or ever was a true reflection of Christianity. I suspect this is something that will need a lot of prayer and a whole lot more careful discussion to support those within Islam who genuinely want to see an end to such barbarism in the name of the faith.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 07:36 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

April 28, 2008

Power blackout hits Power Outage protest meeting ....

Only in Africa could this happen. Or could it? It's not that many years ago that Britain underwent a period of power outages daily due to an ongoing power struggle between the Unions and the Government. This though is different, this is about resources not meeting demand.

The South African power supplier ESKOM is saddled with an infrastructure and generating plant designed to supply a population around half of what the current population level of the Republic is. There has been no development of these resources or investment in them since the ANC came to power and scrapped immigration laws for African migrants. Result? Cities bursting at the seams, power demand soaring and an infrastructure that will require probably ten years to extend, replace and increase to meet demand. Even then I doubt it can be done.

After all, even if they built a million houses a year for the next ten years it would still not meet demand ......

So, could this happen in BRitain? Guess what, it most certainly could. Green policies have severely restricted the development of our own power generating infrastructure. The ONLY sensible solution is to go for nuclear - but don't mention that in the presence of any of the green lobby or the Grenham Common fraternity. They'd rather see the Severn estuary destroyed by a barrage which will silt up the Bristol channel and damage the ecology of this extremely sensitive area and the country covered in windmills. I give it about ten years at present rate of growth and we'll be sitting in the dark for at least part of every day.

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - A South African union was holding a public conference protesting against the country's power crisis on Thursday when the lights went out.

"It was symbolic," Solidarity union spokesman Jaco Kleynhans said.

The Solidarity trade union was hosting a briefing on its possible class action suit against troubled state utility Eskom over job cuts when it was reminded of South Africa's power woes.

Delegates were left in the dark when Eskom implemented its daily blackouts that have caused traffic chaos and darkened homes.

South Africans are seething over a power crisis the government has warned could take years to resolve.

Eskom produces about 95 percent of South Africa's electricity and is spending billions of dollars to expand its generating capacity as it struggles to cope with rising demand from the country's growing economy.

(Reporting by Michael Georgy; Editing by Janet Lawrence)

Posted by The Gray Monk at 07:10 AM | TrackBack

April 27, 2008

Decorated mosque

Iranian mosques are a riot of colour and decoration unlike those generally seen in other Middle and Near Eastern countries. The Iranians belong to the Shia branch of Islam as opposed to the Sunni sector. Sunni Islam has a more austere (though one could be forgiven for wondering sometimes which is which!) approach to the following of certain precepts of their faith. While I do not pretend to understand these divisions, they do strike me as a bit like the argument between those of the Roman branch of Christianity and the Orthodox branch - except that the Sunnis seem more "Protestant" and the Shia more "Catholic". It all centres on the number of "Imams" since the Prophet and here the Farsee word "Imam" means "Leader" and again they mean by that the descendents of the Prophet himself.

Entrance and unfinished minarets Saleh Abad.jpg
The Mosque at Saleh Abad, a village on the south western ouskirts of Tehran.

Entrance Saleh Abad cropped.jpg
The ornate decorations are created using hand painted and glazed tiles - an expensive and time consuming task.

I was welcomed to the Mosque in a most friendly fashion and shown some of it's glories. I don't like to give offence so refrained from taking photographs, but my hosts promptly borrowed my camera and began "happy snapping" with it! The results can be seen in the following pics.

Narthax Saleh Abad.JPG
In a Christian Church this would be the Narthax, or entrance vestibule, though in an Orthodox church (Which many Mosques here strongly resemble!) it would be the Nave with the Screen separating the inner sanctuary from the secular. The green glass and silver chased case holds the Holy Quran which is ceremoniously removed to be read on Fridays.

War Memorial Saleh Abad.JPG
In the Narthax I noticed this small War Memorial which commemorates the many who died in the Iran/Iraq War - an event remembered here with some bitterness - Sadam was then being funded and equipped by the West! And yes, I did wonder about the cross motif!

Interior Dome Decoration Saleh Abad.JPG
The decorated interior of the cupola over the main prayer room of the mosque - a very peaceful place.

This little mosque is fairly typical of those found in Iran. It was a sharp contrast to the starkness of those I have seen in the rest of this region and I could not help but be struck by the resemblance between these mosques and some of the Orthodox churches I have seen in parts of Eastern Europe, both in the layout and the style of decoration - except, of course, no human images here save those on the graves and the war memorials.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 07:01 AM | TrackBack

One Happy Dog Speaks

One of my regular reads - and she's been and gone and changed the URL!


Posted by The Gray Monk at 06:57 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

April 26, 2008

Sorting out some pics ....

Having taken quite a few pictures in Tehran I now have to downsize them so that I can post some. I also have to download them from my laptop and upload on the desktop ......

Sigh, this could take a while.

Patience please dear readers, it will get done, once I have sorted the junkmail from the important stuff, sorted out my presentation for Bucharest on the seventh of May and a few more pressing tasks. Three weeks away from home plays havoc with normal business ....

Posted by The Gray Monk at 06:58 AM | TrackBack

April 25, 2008

Auspicious dates?

Just noticed that yesterday's post was Number 1916 and todays is Number 1917. Both are auspicious dates in European history, 1916 saw the start of the Somme offensive, intended to relieve pressure on the French front further East. It saw some of the bloodiest fighting, fighting which saw the destruction of the Irish 36th Division alongside the Welsh and Scottish Divisions and failed to gain the ground it had been intended to take. Interestingly one Bernard Law Montgomery fought here and his troops having been trained rigorously to advance over the ground by his insistence on practicing by making them "advance" over the ground behind their own lines again and again against their own reserves paid off handsomely - but failed to be followed up by his fellow commanders. A failure he did not permit twenty five years later.

It also saw the Battle of Jutland, the first and only clash of two huge fleets in the entire conflict. Technically, the British lost in terms of material and men, but strategically they won as the High Seas Fleet withdrew to its ports and never again confronted the Grand Fleet in battle. From here on the German Fleet focussed its attention on the U-boat campaign, a bloody and sometimes bitter battle with no quarter asked or given by either side. Earlier this week another date slipped by unnoticed I suspect by the likes of Gordon Brown and the rest of his anti-military shower of muppets - St Georges Day marks the anniversary of the Zeebrugge Raid. Led by Admiral Sir Roger Keyes, three elderly and redundant light cruisers were sunk in the entrance to the canal giving access to Bruge from the sea in an attempt to deny the U-boat flotilla based there escape to the sea. Though it was only partly successful it did reduce the ports usefulness. The Raid is of note for the simple reason that in all of the bloody conflict of WW1 Zeebrugge was the single event which saw the greatest number of Victoria Crosses ever awarded in a single day.

As Sir Roger famously signalled to start the Raid "St George for England" and his final signal was "Congratulations to all - the dragon's tail has been well and truly tweaked." It should be noted that he was himself present on the raid, leading from the front.

1917, for its part, saw the arrival of the American forces in France, their logistical support and their fresh troops enabling the Allies to take advantage of the arrival of the British invention of the 'tank' - so named because they were moved on railway trucks and covered by tarpaulins marked "Water Tank". From here onwards the tide turned steadily against the Central Powers, culminating in the surrender, not without several desperate and bloody attempts to reverse the position by the Central Powers, in November 1918. Which, co-incidently, is the number of this post.

What is perhaps more surprising is just how many of the present divisions and conflicts in our era are directly related to the dispositions and settlements made at Versailles in 1918/19. Yes, even the dramas in the Middle East, Persia, Iraq and Afghanistan are linked to it ......

Posted by The Gray Monk at 06:13 AM | TrackBack

April 24, 2008

Return from Tehran

Seven hours in an aircraft preceded by getting up at the ungodly hour of 04.00 so that you can get to an airport miles from the city is not conducive to a restful or refreshing journey. Add to that chaotic security processing (VERY strict despite what many Western airport security people tell you!) which has you queueing for almost three quarters of an hour in order to get your main baggage x-rayed, your hand luggage searched and everything else you are carrying examined. Then you check in ...... OK, that bit isn't bad, nor was the Business Class Lounge. BUt now you have to get to the gate.

Advice to anyone flying out of the Imam Khomanei International Airport. It isn't far to any gate, but you have another security check to pass..........

Arrived in London safely after a boring flight during which I dozed (The guy in the seat next to me snored from start to finish) read a book I have been trying to finish and caught two movies. "The Golden Compass" was one, an interesting premise, but I can't help feeling sorry for the author of these stories. It seems to me that the more he tries to deny the self sacrificing love of God, the deeper he finds himself celebrating it. Even the attempt to centre all spirituality on humanity and animals fails since it simply points up the centrality and contiguity of all things spiritual - which, as an atheist, the author is desperately trying to deny. Spectacular CGI, some real tension in the movie and some baddies who are really rather too bad (Again pointing up the opposite of what atheist humanists want to portray about "Human Goodness") make an interesting movie. Possibly the books do the author more justice though in his premise.

The other is hilarious, "The Underdog" had me stifling laughter for almost the whole of it. Especially the scene where the flying beagle enters a high-rise office tower on one side and punches through all the little cubicles to exit on the other ...... Definitely worth the watching. Pure spoof with a surprising underlying message, albeit a predictable one, it certainly beguiled away the hours.

It's good to be home, to have the usual irritations on the Motorway rather than a bunch of maniacal ramraiders trying to ram thier way through the traffic - just the usual bunch of inattentive crawlers blocking lanes and masses of heavy transport blocking the rest. Good to be home.

I think my patron Saint has been on overtime for most of the trip though - I'll have to go and say thanks with some quiet time between us soon.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 05:55 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 22, 2008

Going North

Mausi is going north to Hamburg on a business trip today. She'll be away until Friday and most likely will not have Internet access at all. So there will be no post tomorrow. But the Monk will return home at last on Thursday and will resume blogging then. So keep watching this place.

Posted by Mausi at 06:26 PM | TrackBack

April 21, 2008

The Monk is still in Teheran...

Mausi had one of those days in the office which are filled with countless small things that need looking into, keep one busy effectively all the time but by the end of the day one can't help feeling one doesn't have achieved much. In short, one of those days that are best forgotten as soon as possible.

The bright spot of today, however, was a brief conversation with the Monk. He still finds Teheran a fascinating place but is very much looking forward to returning home on Thursday. The traffic is still scaring the life out of him and he is utterly convinced that an army of guardian angels is working overtime for him and the driver that takes him to the training grounds and back again in the evening. Today he finally managed to have a closer look at the magnificent mosque which is near his flat. He says the architecture is magnificent, even more so when seen from inside. He was able to take some good photographs which will hopefully start appearing on the blog by the end of this week.

The Monk is very much taken with the Iranian people. He says they are very polite, overwhelmingly hospitable and completely different from the impression that is given of them in the western media. It'll be interesting what he'll have to tell about his personal impressions when he's back.

Posted by Mausi at 06:32 PM | TrackBack

April 20, 2008

Smoke free?

German restaurants and pubs went smoke free recently. Smoke free in theory, that is. Mausi cannot understand why it is apparently such a problem in Germany when Ireland, England, Scotland and even Italy went smoke free without a problem. The Irish even invented a new form of social intercourse - smirting, a combination of smoking and flirting or what else would you do if you have to go outside for a smoke?

In Germany there have been endless discussions in all the different Federal States. Each state wanted have some sort of exemptions or at least modifications to the law. Rhineland-Palatinate started the ban on smoking later than the others because they were afraid inn keepers were going to loose too much money during the carnival season because people would stay away from pubs if they weren't allowed to smoke there. Bavaria wanted the strictest of all laws in the first place and were even going to ban smoking in the big tents at the famous Munich Oktoberfest. But after the last elections in Bavaria a few months ago where the dominating party lost a lot of votes they are going to lift the ban on smoking a bit and allow smoking in tents again.

Bavarian inn keepers are also very inventive on circumnavigating the law. Some of them founded smoking societies whose members meet in the former pubs. They are all issued a member card which they show when they are inspected by law enforcing agencies. The only draw back is that societies are not meant to make a profit. Mausi has no idea how they are going to get around that. Another proposal is to define smoke free and non smoke free restaurants and pubs. That seems a bit unfair, as the non smoke free ones would retain their old customers and the smoke free would have to look for new ones.

The inn keepers keep complaining that they will loose all their customers if smoking is forbidden. Nobody seems to give all the non smokers a thought who have stayed out of pubs for years because they couldn't bear all the smoke and stink which settled in their clothes. Mausi hadn't been to a pub for the last 25 years if she could avoid it. And she was really looking forward to being able to have a beer inside a pub again. Now it seems that the law that bans smoking will be so full of holes that it is not worth the paper it is written on.

Germans seem particularly good at making things as difficult as possible....

Posted by Mausi at 07:18 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

April 19, 2008

Tehran traffic

As I have previously commented Tehran traffic works - but I'm unsure how. So far I have been involved in a brush with a motor cycle (It came through a gap in the armco on the "expressway" - fortunately just as we started forward again.) and rear end shunt - again no damage - and this morning a race with a juggernaut.

One of the problems is that there seems to be no concept of "lane keeping". People turn right from the inner lane, swinging across moving traffic by dint of simply turning across someones bow and hoping they will stop and give way. The same applies to turning left - simply cut across from whatever lane you are in. Three lanes? Forget it, theres room for five abreast. Traffic circles are a case of Formula One - whoever gets into the intersection first just keeps going, accelerating if necessary to cut across any traffic approaching from the left. The other problem is the concept of giving way to anyone or anything. Intersections are nightmare country as you simply aim for any gap in the cross traffic and force your way across. Pedestrians have a strong Kamikaze streak and simply wade out into the traffic stream weaving and dodging their way between cars, buses, trucks and juggernauts.

Watching the flow I am strongly reminded of a column in the Saturday Evening Post of the 1950's entitled "Mein Grossvater's Fabletellen". It contained a couple of "definitions" in Pidgin German which exactly fit the traffic here. One you have seen here already - but it remains appropriate!

Motorist: Ein Honkentootenscreechenraumfer

Pedestrian: Ein Honkentootenscreechenraumferleapendodger.

So far I have managed to modify the passenger footwell only slightly. The impression of my Right foot in the metal of the floor pan will, I think, remain until the car is scrapped.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 05:43 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

April 18, 2008

It's been a long, long day ...

Mausi had the opportunity to talk to the Gray Monk briefly this morning. He's alright and things are going according to plan - more or less - in Teheran. After having had to work non-stop for two weeks he was finally allowed to take a day off today. No sightseeing in store for him, though, he had to do preparations for next week. Mausi was granted half a day off today and left the office at noon. She went to see her mother this afternoon and has just returned home full of good food from a superb Italian restaurant near her mother's place. Now all she wants is her bed and a nice, long sleep.....

Posted by Mausi at 08:23 PM | TrackBack

April 17, 2008


Mausi's had one of those days today. Mausi works for the Civil Service and one of the things that really defeat her is filling in forms. It was bad enough when it had to be done by hand or typewriter but doing it by computer is even worse. Mausi has to go to Hamburg on business next week and she needed a one-way railway ticket for the trip because she will travel on to another destination by car. All she had to do was fill in a form in MS WORD on her computer. Once the form is filled in you can click a "SEND" button and the whole thing is submitted by email to the Travel Management People who will obtain an online-ticket for you.

Only, when Mausi clicked the "SEND" button WORD flashed a message saying that the form had not been filled in correctly. Of course, Mausi hadn't provided any information for her return back to Wiesbaden and that stupid form was taking exception to it. After a frantic search for a telephone number of the Travel Management people because you never find the really important numbers in the telephone directory easily Mausi had the following conversation:

Mausi: "Good morning. I want to go to Hamburg next week by train but I only need a one-way ticket to Hamburg."
TM: "Then simply order a one-way ticket."
Mausi: (Grrrr!) "I've tried to but the order form doesn't let me do that because I haven't filled in anything for the retun."
TM: "Try to fill in "none" for the return trip. If that doesn't work either you'll have to contact the respective preople in your own company because we didn't design this order form - they did."

Mausi felt ripe for murder. She knows exactly who designed that form, he's quite famous for consumer unfriendly designs. Needless to say that filling something like "none" into the empty spaces of the form didn't work either. In the end Mausi just saved the form and attached the file to an ordinary email to the TM people. That finally worked. But the time ones spends with these tools that are supposed to make things easier for you is just unbelievable.

The rest of the day went well but ended with Mausi having to pay a ransom for her car which had spend two days in the garage for a regular check-up. Sigh....

Posted by Mausi at 10:09 AM | TrackBack

April 16, 2008

A thought on Africa

Listening to the news on the difficulties of electing or changing a government in Africa today one could be excused for wondering why we bother. After all, democracy is an alien concept in sub Saharan Africa and Robert Mugabe is behaving exactly as a Tribal Paramount Chief would behave if someone challenged his authority. The veneer of civilisation (Western that is) is just that, a veneer.

Watch Kenya and you see the problem. For years it has been held up as the model of "Western" government in Africa, but beneath the veneer the ruling elite have carried on exactly as they would have done as tribal chieftains. Nepotism, bribery, and all the things westerners think don't happen at home are the norm. Naturally, the opposition to any government is really only seeking a place in the hierarchy. OK, I know, that sounds cynical, but it is the reality that our media and our bleeding heart Aid Agencies (Who, if you really look at them, are primarily concerned about the perpetuation of the nice little "feel good" industry) do not want to acknowledge. Perhaps because they cannot understand that Africa is not and probably never will be, a "Western" country. And there lies another problem - many people even now think of "Africa" as some sort of unified land, populated by poor downtrodden and oppressed black people. Just how insulting can we get?

Africa has more human genetic diversity than any other continent on the planet. Yet, south of the Sahara no major civilisations have emerged. Several have stuttered into the first faltering steps, but have then vanished without ever having got going, perhaps through being wiped out by a more powerful and envious neighbour. The ruins of Great Zimbabwe suggest one such failed attempt - no one even knows who built it.

What has all this to do with anything? Well, a friend forwarded the editorial in the extended post and frankly, as I posted before my excursio to Tehran, Robert Mugabe has reacted to his election defeat exactly as I said he would. Morgan Tsangari will probably have to remain in exile in Botswana unless he wishes to languish in Harare gaol on trumped up treason charges. And it will all, undoubtedly, stiull be the fault of those horrid white settlers .....

David Bullard's editorial says it all.

Article in the Sunday Times by David Bullard

Published:Apr 07, 2008


Imagine for a moment what life would be like in South Africa if the evil white man hadn’t come to disturb the rustic idyll of the early black settlers.

Ignored by the Portuguese and Dutch, except as a convenient resting point en route to India . Shunned by the British, who had decided that their empire was already large enough and didn’t need to include bits of Africa .

The vast mineral wealth lying undisturbed below the Highveld soil as simple tribesmen graze their cattle blissfully unaware that beneath them lies one of the richest gold seams in the world. But what would they want with gold?

There are no roads because no roads are needed because there are no cars. It’s 2008 and no one has taken the slightest interest in South Africa , apart from a handful of botanists and zoologists who reckon that the country’s flora and fauna rank as one of the largest unspoilt areas in a polluted world.

Because they have never been exposed to the sinful ways of the West, the various tribes of South Africa live healthy and peaceful lives, only occasionally indulging in a bit of ethnic cleansing.

Their children don’t watch television because there is no television to watch. Instead they listen to their grandparents telling stories around a fire. They live in single-storey huts arranged to catch most of the day’s sunshine and their animals are kept nearby.

Nobody has any more animals than his family needs and nobody grows more crops than he requires to feed his family and swap for other crops. Ostentation is unknown because what is the point of trying to impress your fellow citizens when they are not impressible?

The dreaded Internet doesn’t exist in South Africa and cellphone companies have laughed off any hope of interesting the inhabitants in talking expensively into a piece of black plastic. There are no unsightly shopping malls selling expensive goods made by Asian slave workers and consequently there are no newspapers or magazines carrying articles comparing the relative merits of ladies’ handbags.

Whisky, the curse of the white man, isn’t known in this undeveloped land and neither are cigars. The locals brew a sort of beer out of vegetables and drink it out of shallow wooden bowls. Five-litre paint cans have yet to arrive in South Africa .

Every so often a child goes missing from the village, eaten either by a hungry lion or a crocodile. The family mourn for a week or so and then have another child. Life is, on the whole, pretty good but there is something vital missing. Being unaware of the temptations of the outside world, nobody knows what it is. Fire has been discovered and the development of the wheel is coming on nicely but the tribal elders are still aware of some essential happiness ingredient they still need to discover. Praying to the ancestors is no help because they are just as clueless.

Then something happens that will change this undisturbed South Africa forever. Huge metal ships land on the coast and big metal flying birds are sent to explore the sparsely populated hinterland. They are full of men from a place called China and they are looking for coal, metal, oil, platinum, farmland, fresh water and cheap labour and lots of it. Suddenly the indigenous population realise what they have been missing all along: someone to blame. At last their prayers have been answered.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 08:02 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

April 15, 2008

Tehran ramblings....

Tehran is fascinating. Our Western Media don't tell half the story. For instance it doesn't present the image of a city like any other filled, not with fanatics, but with ordinary people all struggling to make a living. Our hosts here, fairly senior ogfficers of the fire service, all have second jobs to pay their way. The economy has the potential to be huge, but the Rial is currently worth IR9,900 = $1. A second currency unit, the Taman is worth 10 Rials, and most goods come in units of Thousands of either.

Property is expensive here in Tehran and most ordinary people struggle to find a place they can afford a small flat can cost several Billion Rials. But, by contrast, property in many of the other cities is much lower, but then, work is not that readily available.

After the overthrow of the Shah in 1979 several things happened, among them attempts to put the Shah back into power. But, when you learn how things ran under his regime, you do wonder at the Realpolitik that was going on behind it all. This, after all, is a country surrounded by potential enemies, not least the former USSR to the north and Iraq under the secularist Saddam to the west. Because the army had propped up the Shah and been led by his placemen - it was reduced to almost nothing while the constitutional arrangements were sorted out. And Saddam took advantage, perhaps hoping to gain more territory and attacked Iran in the now infamous Iran/Iraq war.

Now, its a funny thing, but I wonder how many of us have been consulted on what our constitutions say? Labour under Blair and now Brown have rewritten our constitution but refuse to honour their election pledge to allow a refendum on the EU Constitutional Treaty. The Iranian regime, while not one I would choose to live under, has at least been agreed to by the majority of the population. Like us, they have a problem with Al Qaeda, the Mujaheddin and the Taliban. And recently they have intervened on behalf of the Iraqi government with Moqtadr Al Sadr, apparently with more success than our efforts.

Perhaps it is time to silence those who insist on imposing Western "values" and standards on a people who don't share our cultural history and probably never will.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 06:12 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 14, 2008

Dog and Pigs

It is sometimes very interesting to see what animals will become friends. Take for example the Terrier mix called Kimba of Mausi's sister. She usually loves to hunt everything that's small and furry but somehow she has learnt that the family's guinea pigs are members of the pack and must be guarded instead of hunted.

The guinea pigs couldn't wish for a better guardian than Kimba, the dog

Kimba is very funny with the guinea pigs. She loves to mother them and groom them. Sometimes she gets carried away and a pig will squeal in protest, apparently afraid she will lick off all the fur. But on the whole she is excellent in looking after her little friends.

Three youngsters, only a few days old - the latest addition to the pack

Mausi's sister was given her first guinea pig when she was about ten years old. It was quite an old animal given to her by a former neighbour. Sadly, it soon died. Apparently the shock of being transferred to new surroundings and people was too much for it. Then Flocki came into our life. A young guinea pig, three coloured fur, one ear white the other brown and full of mischief. Guinea pigs are very communicative animals and love to live in groups. As Flocki was the only pig in the family he became very close to Mausi's sister and would talk to her for hours on end. It was astonishing how well he could express his feelings. Whenever he was in a miff with us for some reason he would pointedly turn his back to us, refuse to talk to us at all and would move about only in little jumps. On the other hand he would run to us when we whistled for him, like a little dogs.

But the happiest time for Flocki came when Mausi borrowed Friederike, another guinea pig, from a school mate and Flocki suddenly was a father of three. They were born in summer and used to go for a walk across the terrace in the evenings when it was a bit cooler. First came Friederike, almost twice Flocki's size, then the three kids and last Flocki, proudest of fathers. Pity, the kids grew up quickly, Friederike had to go home again and our parents wouldn't hear of starting breeding guinea pigs ourselves. Parents, you know, real spoilsports, sometimes...

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April 13, 2008

Cats and Laser Pointers

They go together well - did you know? Mausi, the Human, discovered this during her recent visit to England when she was invited to a place where the owners kept a small laser pointer in a little bag that was fastened to the armrest of a sofa. As soon as someone accidentally touched that bag the two black cats of the house appeared as quick as lightning apparently from nowhere and sat down expectantly in front of the sofa. And then the fun started - the cats untiringly chased the red dot through the whole room. It's addictive, and not just for the cats!

The funny thing is that every cat regardless of age and former experience will chase that red dot whereas dogs can only be trained to do that as young pups. Anyways, soon as she was back, Mausi the Human was determined to have a go at Mausi the Cat. And it worked like magic right from the start. Mausi the Cat loves chasing the red dot through the house. It's very funny to watch her. After two days she had figured out that the dot is connected to a small device that lives in the pocket of one of Mausi the Human's cardigans. When Mausi the Human comes home from work and changes into more comfy clothes Mausi the Cat already sits expectantly next to the cardigan patiently waiting for the device to be taken out and the dot to appear. Sometimes she also walks through the house checking all the places where she has seen it appear even looking underneath chairs and furniture. Very funny to watch the frown the on her forehead when she can't spot anything.

This morning Mausi the Cat chased the red dot onto the bed where she usually goes to sleeps off last night's adventures for the better part of the day. The red dot first vanished underneath her cushion. Mausi patiently turned the cushion over - no dot. There, suddenly it reappeared again and Mausi pounced on it and was sure she had squashed it this time. But when she very carefully lifted her paws and looked underneath it wasn't there. Mausi the Human had turned the laser pointer off again. A bit cheeky, yes, but both Mausis enjoy the laser pointer game twice a day.

Posted by Mausi at 11:58 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 12, 2008

Report from Tehran

Tehran is an interesting city. In effect it is in two parts, the North, nestling in the foothills of the Zagros Mountains, and the South, sprawling across the lowlands. The late Shah of Persia once decreed, and paid for it with his throne, that those in the south, in fact, anyone outside the city North of a certain part of Tehran, were peasants and not deserving of any "modern" amenity. Today, 29 years after the deposition of the Shah, the city is growing - it accommodates 12 million by day and drops back to 8 million at night - a little chaotic due to the absence, until recently, of any form of traffic planning and a largely absent public transport system.

That said, all of these issues are being addressed and development is being put into the Metro systems - currently only about 4 km in length - and into sorting out the roads. Traffic here is a nightmare for anyone used to the UK or European lane discipline, adherence to rules of driving and the "give way" courtesy. In Tehran it is everyman (or woman) for himself. Want to turn left but you're in the right hand lane? No problem, indicator on, swing into any gap and go for it. Leap and Dodge those who don't give way and then just force into the traffic on the other side until you can resume your journey. It results in remarkably few bumps we have noted ... So they must have a system - but its a mystery to us! I remember a phrase from my childhood that describes the pedestrians very accurately - "Honkentootenleapendodgers". There are only two types of pedestrian here - the quick and nimble - or the take a taxi and ride across!

The Iranians are nice people. We were welcomed and are being treated with the utmost courtesy. In fact this is something the Iranians are absolutely punctilious about, their tradition is that a guest is a sacred trust. They look after any guest and expect the guest to follow the rules of courtesy in return. It is a model of the Biblical treatment of guests, one found elsewhere in the Middle East, but probably nowhere as strictly observed as here.

Our Western idea of the Iranians rather suggests an unreasonable bunch of fanatics, in fact that is far from the truth. As with anywhere there are fanatics - I could easily find a number in the UK - and what we tend to forget is that they have borders with Kazakhstan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Armenia and Iraq. This is the home of the ancient Persian Empire, once part of Babylon and there are buildings and traditions here that link directly back to the time of Moses. They do have a culture different to ours, but you should expect that. Interestingly you do not see the men wandering about in the sort of "Islamic" dress so beloved of the migrant population in the UK, and the women are stunning. Some do wear the full burkha, but most don't unless they are visiting or working in a government establishment. And one thing I do notice in particular is the courtesy that young people and children show to their elders, to strangers and their parents. Nor do you see drunkenness in the streets - even though alcohol is obtainable.

They certainly do have some "old fashioned" laws, but these are not a barbaric people, they are a proud people and they have as little time for the Mujaheddin, Taliban and Al Qaeda as we do.

Perhaps what is needed is for us in the West to take another look at our "moral values" which cause such a problem between our regimes and theirs and see what, in our society, could be improved by adopting ideas from theirs before we try to impose some of our failures on them.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 08:33 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

April 11, 2008

Conference in Bucharest....

When I get back from Teheran I will have roughly a week at home before I must take off once more for a Conference in Bucharest at which I am scheduled to speak. It promises to be an interesting conference, the subject is Fire Safety in High Rise buildings and the speakers will be coming from all over Europe.

One of the things which has triggered this in Eastern Europe is the perception that, now they have thrown off the Communist yoke, they must regain national and international prestige by rebuilding their economic image and by offering attractive and competitive conditions for business. So there is a challenge to see who can build a higher building than anyone else. There were plans being discussed in Belgrade (Beograd) to build a 70 storey tower when I was there a couple of years ago. Nor are they alone, other newly freed states in that region have equally ambitious proposals.

High rise structures present a number of problems for fire protection, life safety and fire fighting. My paper identifies some of these and can be found in the extended post below.

High Rise fire protection.
A case for joined up solutions

A paper prepared for the Conference Fire Safety of High Rise Buildings
7th to 10th May 2008
Bucharest, Romania
Patrick G Cox


There is generally no accepted definition of a “High Rise” building. Some Countries such as the UK originally based their definition on the height of the longest ladder in use by fire and rescue services, but it has never been shown to be a truly practical determination since it is based on the assumption that, on any building below this height, it is possible to fight a fire in the building using ladders pitched from the street or the ground alongside it. An argument could be made for a reduction of this height to 18 metres since fire services no longer carry ladders of fifty feet (15 metres) length and cannot “extend” these by adding a single 10 feet (3 metre) ladder to the head. For firefighting purposes, a high rise building can be considered to be one containing floors at such a height, position or design that external firefighting and rescue operations may not be feasible or practicable.

The current trend to build taller and taller buildings presents many challenges for the designer, the developer and the safety engineer. There are many reasons why tall buildings are attractive to developers, not least that they offer a very good return on investment if the developer is able to maximise the land use in a prime location such as a city centre. However, modern construction systems, structural materials, internal arrangement and linings coupled with population loading and use of the building create many problems to be solved by the fire safety specialist. Not least is the problem of fire spread upwards through such a structure via the face of the building, service ducts, air-conditioning ducts and other shafts. Once the fire begins to spread above the storey of origin it rapidly becomes difficult, if not impossible, for the fire fighters to prevent it continuing all the way to the uppermost storey.

In 1908 the then Chief of the New York Fire Department declared that the race to build ever taller buildings in his city would soon result in a situation in which lives would be lost because his department could not reach the fire floor with effective water streams or ladders. Fortunately he was listened to by those in authority and the legislature began to look seriously at the problems and many of the solutions they determined are still valid – but not always followed. As the events of September the 11th showed in New York, some things simply cannot be designed for. However, it must be said that the structural fire protection and safety systems performed well enough in extraordinary circumstances there to significantly reduce the actual loss of life.

Several questions must be addressed in designing a modern high-rise structure for safe use, not least the consideration which must be given to access and facilities for fire fighters. A number of recent projects have shown that there are severe limits to what can be expected of fire fighters entering these structures to fight fires, yet, the majority of regulations framed for fire protection and life safety are based on data that is sixty or more years old and of questionable value in buildings where the materials used as linings, furnishings and fixtures may be synthetic or composites with a high proportion of synthetic materials added.

Fire fighters now wear protective clothing which provides far greater thermal protection than was possible a generation ago. While this affords better thermal insulation for the wearer it is balanced by retaining the wearer’s body heat as it is generated by exertion, thus raising the wearer’s core body temperature. At the same time, changes in design and in the materials involved in the fires the fire fighter must confront have resulted in fires that are faster in development and in thermal output. Better understanding of the effects of heat and dehydration on fire fighters has driven a re-evaluation of fire fighting tactics in many countries, yet the legislation regulating building standards still permits reduction in protection of a given structure in some circumstances where, if consideration had been given to the contents and use, it might not have been considered appropriate to do so.

High rise structures are the future built environment, however, what is needed is a careful reappraisal of the entire suite of building regulations governing such structures and the data which underpins them. Only by applying the most up to date information and addressing the issues this raises can we ensure a safe environment for the future.

Construction methods and problems

As one moves around the globe one discovers that structures, especially high rise structures, tend to be constructed in a number of different ways. Some are constructed in steel and glass, some in concrete and some in a mixture of both. Technically, reading the UK Building Regulations or the Scottish Technical Standards, it is possible to gain approval for an all timber structure of over ten storeys – a high rise structure. Fortunately perhaps, it would be prohibitively expensive to build one.

Inevitably the use of curtain wall structures results in a gap between floor slab and curtain. This is recognised and there are many different methods for protecting these gaps. Unfortunately it is often the case that other services may be overlaid on the gap and the closure and, in some cases, compromise it. Ventilation systems require the provision of ducts and plenums and these, in turn, present several challenges in addressing the fire protection of compartments and floors. The extensive use of electronic equipment in modern buildings requires the provision of far more cabling than was the case one or two generations ago, and the cable insulation introduces a fire load that is often overlooked as it is often concealed in voids or plastic ducts.

While a structure may, at first glance, appear to be a Class A (UK classification) or a Type I or II (NFPA 220 Classification) structure, essentially a “non-combustible” building, the internal fittings and furnishings will almost certainly change that to a lower rating in real terms. The use of dry linings and partitions introduces other hazards as well, including formaldehyde and several other toxic chemicals which are released in the event of a fire. This was the case in Sao Paulo in the 1960’s when the Joelma building, structurally concrete and steel, was almost entirely gutted by fire with a high loss of life – due almost entirely to the internal linings and furnishings. It is worth noting too that the fire severely damaged the concrete and steel structure and proved impossible to fight from the outside of the building or from street level.

Protected shafts and stairs are now recognised as a necessity in high rise buildings, but, again, there are different approaches to the provision of the protection. It has to be recognised that lobbied approaches to stairs and lifts take up valuable, to the developer, letable floor area. Typically, a lobbied 1 metre wide staircase occupies roughly 16m2 of floor area. Unsurprisingly therefore, there is always pressure to reduce the number of staircases required for means of escape. This, in turn raises another question for high rise designers – can the lifts be incorporated into the means of escape, and if so, how? Again, this means that the lifts have to become a part of a “protected” zone and measures have to be in place to ensure that this cannot be compromised or the power to the lifts fail. Then there is the question of lifts “sharing” shafts and using a “parking” system to allow loading and unloading while another lift car bypasses the “parked” unit. Some use is also made of “double-decker” cars in some very tall structures and these present further challenges for the fire protection engineer.

Modern services require the provision of ducts and service shafts which may form flues and provide channels for the spread of fire between floors and compartments. Again, these can be protected, but what is less well regulated is the maintenance of the protection during the life of the structure. The fact that it was provided on completion does not necessarily mean it will still be in place a few months or years later. In similar vein, modern high rise buildings almost invariably make use of suspended ceilings to permit the housing of services and the fitting of lighting systems. Raised floors, intended to provide a service area for computer cables and other services beneath a “working” floor provides yet another “hidden” space. These create large voids and care is required to ensure that these do not compromise the fire protection and other safety systems.

Every shaft, duct or staircase needs to be protected, and atria need special attention as all these features can rapidly become a flue in a fire, spreading the heat, smoke and ultimately flames upward.

Innovative construction

Sometimes it seems that each new high-rise project is setting out to “out innovate” the previous one. Each new mega project, such as the giant sail structure in Dubai, requires creative and innovative use of materials to achieve the strength and stability necessary. Necessarily this means that much of the structural framework will be “in tension” and any failure within a major element of the structure could trigger a catastrophic failure of the entire structure. An example is the 9/11 collapse, triggered by the failure of the external fastenings supporting the floor slabs above the fire and impact area.

Large atria connecting the ground floor to several – and in some cases all – storeys require very careful planning as they can very easily become the means by which a fire can overwhelm the buildings defences. Atria now feature in many very large buildings and in some extend the full height of the structure providing both light and ventilation to areas and floors which may well be difficult to service in other ways.

Nor should we overlook the “innovation” using fabric materials as internal ceilings, decorative blinds and screen and other “features” decorative or otherwise. The use of aluminium and light metal alloys in structures presents a number of problems for fire protection while solving several for the structural engineer. “All glass” curtain walling, while not “innovative” in today’s constructions, may well be coupled, as in the Lloyds Underwriters building in London, with an external load bearing frame and services such as ducting, lifts, stairways and heating.

The desire to go higher and to combine this with very large open public spaces presents a number of challenges for fire protection and requires a very thorough appraisal of the likely fire load and the most effective means to deal with it. In short, innovative designs frequently require a very flexible and innovative approach to fire protection. The advent of “super high rise” structures calls into question all the current thinking on evacuation systems. Compartmentation, active fire fighting systems and fire engineered systems for evacuation are no longer “nice to have” but vital components of a much more complex solution to occupant safety.

Modern materials

Modern construction materials embrace a number of “new” materials which were not in common use at the time the data on which the majority of current modern Building Regulations are based. In the UK, much reference is made to “Post War Building Studies, however, much of this data was collected and collated in the period 1920 – 1939 and is based on fires involving timber, natural fibres and limited plastics. Since the 1960’s the trend has been to make greater use of plastics and other materials including wood chip, compressed fibres and other “boards” in both furniture and structural elements. Aluminium curtain walling systems introduced for high rise structures are known to fail once flame impinges on them and can result in large sheets of glass being released to fall into the street below.

Steel provides a great deal of structural strength in construction on a weight/strength basis, but this is rapidly lost if the steel is exposed to fire and reaches temperatures above 6000C, a relatively low temperature in most fires. Concrete overcomes some of that problem, but relies on steel “rebars” embedded within the concrete to provide stability and strength in tension. Provided the steel is buried to a suitable depth (generally considered to be not less than 25mm) in the concrete, it will maintain its integrity and strength for longer than steel. However, once heated, it may spall explosively if subjected to a sudden thermal shock such as sudden rapid cooling due to fire fighting. Pre-stressed concrete “planks” also provide a lightweight alternative to poured floor slabs and more recently the use of lightweight “profiled” steel forms covered by several centimetres of concrete provide another light solution to the creation of tall buildings.

Many modern boards used in internal linings, partitions or finishing include resins and plasticizers. Typically “melamine” is a trade name for a type of “chipboard” finished with a plastic coating which is both durable and washable. While not easily ignited, it will burn fiercely and emit toxic fumes and products due to the fact that the board making process makes use of formaldehyde to prevent fungal and insect attack on the board. PVC based plastics produce toxic and corrosive products when burned and burn fiercely giving a very high thermal output weight for weight.

Passive fire protection

Passive fire protection is provided by the installation of fire rated doors, the closure of openings in walls required to provide compartmentation, enclosure of ducts, plenums and the subdivision of any voids. It seeks to confine any fire to the compartment or area of origin and to restrict spread either laterally or vertically through a building. A very wide range of methods are available and include coatings for steel structural members to prevent direct flame impingement on the member, intumescent materials in the form of collars to fit round pipes, closing devices for fitting inside ducts and “curtains” to prevent lateral spread of smoke and heat in voids.

The effectiveness of passive fire protection depends firstly upon how well it has been installed but is then very dependent upon being maintained correctly throughout its life. A typical example is that of the “fire resisting door” which, installed in the correctly rated frame and with the approved door furniture, is capable of withstanding a fire for a rated period. However, if the door is damaged, by the removal of the smoke seal, or through being wedged open against its closing device and warps, the integrity of the door will be compromised and may not prevent the passage of fire. Likewise, a wall constructed correctly to a fire resisting standard may be compromised by a plumber or electrician cutting a hole through which to pass a pipe or cable, and then failing to seal the opening with the appropriate fire rated sealant.

Regulation and Fire Protection Requirements

Most national jurisdictions have established Building Regulations, Standards for Construction and Codes of Practice for fire protection. These will incorporate requirements for the safety of occupants, the structural protection of the building, for stability of structures, for drainage and such matters as heating, lighting and ventilation. Most address a wide range of buildings and more and more commonly allow the use of standards or codes from a different jurisdiction if “equivalence” can be proved. What must never be forgotten in dealing with any Building Code is that it is NOT a maximum standard, but a MINIMUM.

High-rise structures present the designer and fire safety specialist with several challenges in this regard since most require the use of “fire engineering” to address all the requirements for life safety. The balance between building to minimum tolerances and strengths structurally can impose a need to design the fire protection systems to a higher standard in order to achieve the level of protection required.

Means of Escape requirements

The modern requirements for the provision of “means of escape” (Egress in American Codes) have their origins in studies done in a number of countries in the 19th Century. It was established that a travel distance of one hundred feet in an unprotected escape route was the maximum distance any person could expect to negotiate safely in the time between becoming aware of the fire and their attempting to escape. It was further found that this is affected by the persons training, or lack of, ambulatory ability and conditioned responses. The width of exits was also studied and it was found that a width equivalent to a width of a man’s shoulders was the absolute minimum and that a width roughly equal to four men abreast was the maximum.

Subsequent studies have shown that these figures can be translated into reality and further studies have focussed on the human behavioural aspects of escape from danger. In high-rise structures this means that a great deal of thought needs to be given to the position of the escape stairs or – if it is intended (as in the Petronas Towers and more recent structures in Taiwan) that the lifts be considered part of the means of escape – the position of and availability of lifts.

Thinking behind risers and water supplies

In general, most codes, regulations and standards require that any building over eighteen metres be provided with a “riser or fire main” (In the US Codes a “Standpipe”) internally installed in the staircases with outlets for fire fighting at each floor. In the UK in buildings up to sixty metres this may be “dry”, that is, not connected to a permanent water supply, and provided with an inlet allowing the fire appliance pump to supply water directly to the riser when needed. Over sixty metres fire mains are generally required to be “wet” and left permanently charged to speed extinguishing operations. The idea was that in smaller buildings a fire hose could be laid up the fire service ladder and the fire fought through the windows or from the exterior. In taller buildings mechanical turntable ladders could also provide an exterior attack to the fire from outside the building. Beyond the reach of this equipment and subject to the nature of the exterior envelope of the buildings fire fighters are dependent upon entering the building to fight the fire from the staircase.

The UK regulations, up until 2006, required a maximum pressure of 4- 5 bar at the outlet for wet risers installed in buildings in the UK. In the case of dry fire mains the pressure available at the outlet of the fire main is dependent upon the choice of firefighting branch, diameter of hose used and the charging pressure for the fire main. This was sufficient pressure for the equipment in use until 1960, however, since then, buildings and the materials in them have changed dramatically and so has fire fighting equipment and procedures. The regulations have not; however, BS 9990: 2006 has introduced new requirements which go some way to addressing these concerns.

Access for fire fighting

High-rise buildings in particular present a number of challenges with regard to access for fire fighting or rescue. Podium type buildings, with the lower storeys projecting some distance from the base of the “tower” section, generally preclude the use of any high-reach appliance such as an Hydraulic Platform, Turntable Ladder or the newer hybrids. UK building regulations require access to an entry point for a pump appliance within eighteen metres of the building, this to allow the connection of fire hose to any inlet connections for risers or for tanks supplying the risers. The requirement generally also requires a “line of sight” to enable the pump operator to see the entrance and the connection points so that they are aware at all times of the state of operations.

Where the buildings stands away from public thoroughfares there may also be a need to provide for “hard standing” on the access surfaces so that appliances of up to sixteen tons can be operated safely. Again, this requires a made-up surface to provide a safe operating environment for the fire appliances and their crews while the emergency is dealt with.

Sprinklers, ventilation and fire detection

Currently in the UK, any building over thirty metres in height must be fitted with a sprinkler system and this is reflected in many other national codes. This is again related to the early studies which found that the time consumed in reaching the fire floor, if it was above this height, and in laying out fire hose coupled with the effort required, meant that fire fighting was generally fairly restricted.

Ventilation, or “climate control”, systems fitted to provide occupant comfort may also be used to control the movement of smoke or to extract it from the fire floor. Consideration needs to be given to the interaction of these systems and the sprinklers and to the circulation of smoke to uninvolved floors and compartments by the system. The experience of the MGM Grand Hotel in Las Vegas highlighted the need to ensure that any such system does not ingest and circulate the smoke from one area into an otherwise protected area.

Fire detection systems have an important, if not vital, part in the protection of any high-rise structure. A properly designed fire detection system can give sufficiently early warning of a fire to allow the occupants to escape and to alert the fire services, allowing them to respond early. Such a system forms a vital part of any “fire engineered solution” and is the control device which actuates smoke curtains in malls or atria, switches HVAC systems to extraction mode and opens vents. It can also “pre-action” a sprinkler system and close fire doors or open doors locked for security purposes. As with every such system however, maintenance is essential to reliable operation.

Physiological constraints on fire fighters

Better protective clothing for fire fighters has led many to think that this means that the fire fighter is now able to penetrate further into a building and enter compartments where the temperatures were previously non-survivable. Nothing could be further from the truth, as has been demonstrated by a comprehensive study carried out in the United Kingdom by the Fire and Resilience Directorate’s Research and Statistics Division, under the broad title of Building Disaster Assessment Group. A team of scientists and fire officers carried out wide ranging research into a number of aspects of modern building fires, protective clothing and fire fighting equipment. Their findings may be accessed online through the Department of Communities and Local Government website.

Building Disaster Assessment Group (BDAG) Reports

The BDAG team looked at several actual incidents including Collection and Analysis of Emergency Services Data Relating to the Evacuation of the World Trade Centre Towers of 11 September 2001” (Galea E R and Dixon A J P University of Greenwich), “Physiological Assessment of Fire Fighting, Search and Rescue in the Built Environment” (Optimal Performance Ltd; Dec 2004 for the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister) and Effect of Reduced Pressures on performance of firefighting branches in tall buildings – Aspects of High Rise Firefighting (Hunt and Roberts, December 2004 Office of the Deputy Prime Minister). These reports highlighted a number of matters which have a serious impact on High Rise structures, not least being: -

• Evacuation and life safety of occupants,
• Access and penetration limits for fire fighting,
• Maintenance of systems and integrity of fire resisting elements,
• Management of fire risk and introduction of hazards,
• The dynamic nature of fire risk and fire and life safety in any built environment,
• Interdependence of “passive” and “active” fire protection,
• The speed of fire development and heat output for modern synthetic materials have changed fire behaviour in modern offices and other buildings, and
• The physiological demands on fire fighters impairs performance,

Among the most important findings highlighted in these reports is the physiological strain placed upon fire fighters during fire fighting and search and rescue activity in any structure. The better protection afforded by the latest personal protective clothing can create a sense of false security and lead to fire fighters penetrating further into a building under conditions that are beyond safe exposure limits. It was found that, when coupled with already raised heart rates and body temperature due to exertion in reaching the fire floor, performance and judgement may already be seriously impaired.

In addition it was found that water pressures stipulated in most Building Codes and regulations are no longer in line with the working pressures required for optimum performance of modern equipment. This has resulted in a change in operational procedures in use in the UK, where it was found that using a larger bore hose (51mm instead of 45mm) could offset, to a limited extent, the lower operating pressure in the riser. However, this is a matter which requires serious thought and should be the focus of a determined drive to amend the relevant sections of all codes and regulations.

Many, if not all, of the matters identified in these reports have been advised to the fire and rescue services through the medium of Integrated Risk Management Procedure (IRMP) Guidance Note No.4 and a Fire and Rescues Services Circular (FRSC) Number 55/2004.

Protection of fire fighters

An aspect of the BDAG study included an assessment of the protection afforded by a number of different materials and “systems” for assembling protective clothing for fire fighters. It was found that there was a “trade off” between the enhanced protection afforded and the retention of body heat by the wearer. This means, in short, that the body heat generated by the wearer during periods of exertion cannot, effectively, be dissipated. This gives rise to an elevation of the wearer’s core body temperature, which, once it rises above 390C, can result in impaired performance and loss of mental awareness. This is of particular concern where fire fighters are required to expend a considerable effort in order to reach the fire floor and are then expected to penetrate into the fire compartment with an already elevated core body temperature.

Penetration into a building

It is assumed in many codes and building regulations that fire fighters will be able to penetrate between 45 and 60 metres into a burning compartment and perform rescue and firefighting activities. The BDAG studies found that this is not the case and that the elevated core body temperatures coupled with exertion severely restrict the ability of the fire fighter to carry out rescue and penetrate further than between 18 and 30 metres even with the best possible level of personal protection afforded by the PPE.

Rescue and refuges

The need to provide access for the ambulatory impaired worker and visitors to these buildings requires that special provision must be made for their safety in the event of fire or other disaster. To this end “refuge” areas are generally provided where wheelchair users may be “parked” to await rescue. The outcomes of several trials in evacuation show that the physiological strain this places on the rescuers needs to be considered very carefully when planning these.

The case for active fire protection systems

There can be no doubt that, in the light of the trend towards higher buildings and the use of modern and innovative construction systems and design of buildings, the nature of the fire that may arise is very different to that which, even twenty years ago, was likely to be encountered. The BDAG research clearly shows that the physiological limits for the fire fighter are a matter for serious concern everywhere, never more so than in structures where the physical exertion required to reach the fire floor and the fire are likely to push the fire fighter to the limit of their endurance. We must also recognise that the World Trade Centre event was unusual and that there is almost no practical defence against such an attack on any building. That said, the measures provided for the evacuation and fire defences performed as intended, even though the fire was far beyond their designed capacity.

Building Codes and Regulations need to be updated to take account of the data now available. Regulators and regulating bodies need to take account of lessons learned in all too many fire disasters to ensure that not only are these structures given the passive and active protection they require, but that these are fully and properly maintained throughout the life of the building. It is completely unreasonable to expect that fire fighters can lay hoses up staircases to floors more than 20 metres above the ground and still effectively fight a fire. It is even less reasonable to suppose that the fire can be fought from aerial ladders or platforms pitched from the street or adjoining property. Reliance on any other form of access, such as helicopters to deposit fire crews on the roof of a high rise structure (sometimes encountered in the planning proposals in some developing countries) or to perform rescues is not a viable concept and should not be included in any code. As Sir Eyre Massey Shaw wrote a hundred and fifty years ago –

“To be effective a fire fighter must enter buildings …”

Patently, we cannot expect fire fighters to enter buildings if there is little or no chance of successfully reaching the fire area while it is possible to deal with it, nor can we expect them to enter a building on the point of failure. Having entered it they must be able to operate in relative safety as they approach the fire compartment and then enter it to deal with the fire. They can only do so if the structure has been designed to permit not only escape of the occupants, but the access for fire fighters to deal with the problem. In high rise structures this means that they must have a protected route to reach the fire floor, the fire itself should be controlled and prevented from spreading unchecked until they can reach it, and the structure should be able to stand up to the attack from the fire for long enough for the fire fighters to reach the building and launch their attack on the fire. That can only be achieved if the building is equipped with: -

• Adequate means of escape and access for fire fighting,
• Protected shafts to allow fire fighters access to the fire without exposure to smoke, heat or flames,
• A fire detection and alarm system capable of giving early warning of a fire,
• Active protection systems such as sprinklers capable of containing the fire in the compartment of origin, and
• Risers and landing valves capable of supplying sufficient water and water pressure for the operation of the fire fighting equipment.

Where a smoke control system is fitted this should be designed to complement the other systems and should not be a “replacement” for any other active fire protection system. All too often the provision of one or other “life safety” system is used as an excuse to “trade off” something which is essential for the safety of the fire fighters or for the containment and extinction of a fire once started. Particularly in High Rise structures such “trade offs” should be approached with a great deal of caution and should only form part of any “approval” if it can be proved that the systems provided give the same, or a greater, level of protection without the “trade off”.

Equally important is the need to recognise that a building’s fire risk changes almost daily as the fire load is changed by alterations, by refurbishment and by the introduction of new plant and equipment. The built environment is dynamic, the fire risk is never static and it is therefore essential that designers, regulators and enforcers recognise that there is an unbreakable link between life safety of the occupants, property protection and the safety of fire fighters committed to deal with fire, evacuation or any other emergency. The fire protection must be built into these structures; it is not a luxury or something that can be fitted and forgotten. It is vital to the safe operation of any high rise building.

Finally, the entire solution needs to be understood and effectively managed throughout the life of the building. All to often the safety of both the occupants and of fire fighters is seriously compromised by building owners failing to maintain systems or attempting to save money by replacing parts or carrying out alterations which compromise performance. Without this final check – there is no safety in a High Rise structure.


Physiological Assessment of Firefighting, Search and Rescue in the Built Environment; December 2004, Optimal Performance Limited for the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister

Hydraulic Calculation of Wet and Dry Risers, Hoses and Branches; December 2004, BRE for the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister

Effect of Reduced Pressures on performance of firefighting branches in tall buildings – Aspects of High Rise Firefighting: Hunt S and Roberts G, December 2004 Office of the Deputy Prime Minister.

Collection and Analysis of Emergency Services Data Relating to the Evacuation of the World Trade Centre Towers of 11 September 2001; December 2004, Prof E R Galea and Mr J P Dixon, University of Greenwich for the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister.

IRMP Guidance Note 4; March 2004, Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, HM Inspectorate of Fire Services

Fire and Rescue Services Circular No 55/2004 – The Building Disaster Assessment Group – Key Research Findings; 2004; Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, HM Fire Service Inspectorate

NFPA Reports

Joelma Building, Sao Paolo, Brazil

MGM Grand Hotel, Las Vegas, USA


BS/EN 12845 – Fixed firefighting systems, Automatic Sprinkler Systems
NFPA 13 and related Codes.
NFPA 101 – Life Safety Code
Approved Document B – Issued as an adjunct to the National Building Regulations (UK)


My thanks go to Simon Hunt B Eng, of the Fire and Rescue Service Development Division and to John Fay BA (Hons) of the Fire Research and Statistics Division for their help and advice in preparing this paper.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 09:27 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 10, 2008

Teheran Adventures

The Monk is certainly having an interesting time in Teheran. Today he was even welcomed by an Imam who assured him that Christians are welcome in Iran. The Monk, however hasn't seen many churches yet. On the other hand he didn't have the time to do much sightseeing either. The Monk and his colleague are staying in a flat in the north of Teheran and have to commute to the south of the city each day to work at the training grounds. The traffic is apparently appalling, lanes are for guidance only, the Monk says, although not as bad as Manila. Well, he's the expert. Living nearer to the training grounds is not an option as the accommodation offered them there is obviously less than basic.

The weather in Teheran is fine, around 30 Centigrades, clear and sunny, although the mountains north of Teheran wear snow caps. Must be quite a view. The Monk finds the Iranian people are friendly and helpful, proud but fun loving and with a certain sense of humour. And he likes the food. Although, he's not very partial to lamb normally, he likes the way it is cooked and served in Teheran.

And the course is going well so far. The students are happy at least. There are drawbacks, however. Today, for example, furniture was delivered which will be burnt in a practical exercise for the students. Only, the furniture turned out to be non-combustible... Mausi's sure the Monk will be able to think of a way around this problem ... Eventually ...

Posted by Mausi at 07:27 PM | TrackBack

April 09, 2008


In the Middle and Near East if a child is being naughty a parent will threaten the delinquent with the prospect of being taken away by Eskander the Great Demon. In the Islamic folklore, no doubt borrowed from the Persian peoples pre-Islam, Eskander is a demon who comes to slay those who misbehave and drags their souls off the Hell. Dig a bit deeper and you discover that their version of Alexander the Great is somewhat different to our own.

In our history Alexander defeated the Persian King Darius (NOT the Great!) and then swept through Babylon, Assyria and Persia into the lands north of the Himalayas and Afghanistan before descending into the Indus valley. His return march through the deserts of Southern Iran is the stuff of legend, nothing short of a miraculous survival by his army. The only city he completely destroyed was Persepolis, the capital, yet, in the Arabic version of this history, he laid waste to the entire land and slaughtered the inhabitants. No mention is ever made of the fact that, once a city or governor surrendered to him they were, unlike the usual tradition under their own Kings, restored to their estates and honours after swearing fealty. Only those who rebelled after being restored got the chop - and then, admittedly, Alexander was completely without mercy. It seems that his generosity in victory is forgotten while his intolerance of treachery is not.

Strange how history always takes a different perspective once the politicians get hold of it.

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April 08, 2008


For some time many of us have wondered just who is Jack Schitt? We find ourselves at a loss when someone says, 'You don't know Jack Schitt!' Well, thanks to my genealogy efforts, you can now respond in an intellectual way.

Jack Schitt is the only son of Awe Schitt.

Awe Schitt, the fertilizer magnate, married O. Schitt, the owner of Needeep N. Schitt, Inc. They had one son, Jack.

In turn, Jack Schitt married Noe Schitt. The deeply religious couple produced six children: Holie Schitt, Giva Schitt, Fulla Schitt, Bull Schitt, and the twins Deep Schitt and Dip Schitt.

Against her parents' objections, Deep Schitt married Dumb Schitt, a high school dropout.

After being married 15 years, Jack and Noe Schitt divorced. Noe Schitt later married Ted Sherlock, and because her kids were living with them, she wanted to keep her previous name. She was then known as Noe Schitt Sherlock.

Meanwhile, Dip Schitt married Lodza Schitt, and they produced a son with a rather nervous disposition named Chicken Schitt. Two of the other six children, Fulla Schitt and Giva Schitt, were inseparable throughout childhood and subsequently married the Happens brothers in a dual ceremony. The wedding announcement in the newspaper announced the Schitt-Happens nuptials. The Schitt-Happens children were Dawg, Byrd, and Horse.

Bull Schitt, the prodigal son, left home to tour the world. He recently returned from Italy with his new Italian bride, Pisa Schitt.

NOW when someone says, 'You don't know Jack Schitt,' you can correct them.

Crock O. Schitt

With thanks to my brother who forwarded this to me - I had often wondered.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 07:07 AM | TrackBack

April 07, 2008

Global warming - my paw!

The humans around me talk a lot about global warming these days. I don't know why. Take yesterday, for example. It was Sunday, April 6. I mean, one could expect a bit of sunshine in April. After all it wasn't too bad on Saturday. Not brilliant sunshine all the time, but sometimes at least.


During the last two days the forsythia had burst into blossom and that's always a sign spring is near. But this morning I was suddenly caught in a blizzard while outside for my morning prowl. When the sun was covered in snow and the forsythia didn't look very happy any more.


Just to humour my humans I let myself be talked into a game of chasing snowballs this afternoon. But not for long! I do hate cold paws and a wet belly - eeeke! Can't wait for spring taking over and myself taking long baths in the sunshine. And The Monk says it's warm and dry in Teheran. Sigh....


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April 06, 2008

How much accuracy is needed?

Mausi sometimes wonder how civilisations could survive prior to the invention of pocket calculators and computers. It is amazing how quickly people seem to loose the feeling for figures and numbers once they have enslaved themselves to electronic calculators. All of us are familiar with the blank stare we sometimes get from the cashier in the supermarket when the cash machine fails for some reason and he or she has to calculate the change in her head.

Mausi is a member of the generation who finished school before pocket calculators were for sale to ordinary people. She and her classmates had to use logarithm tables or slide rules instead. Quite a good exercise because when dealing with very large or very small numbers one usually did a rough calculation first to determine the magnitude of the result. When the exact number was finally calculated one would automatically do a plausibility check against the rough estimate. A few years later this approach had completely gone out of fashion. As a student Mausi used to coach pupils through their school exams in mathematics and noticed that they only knew the order in which to push certain buttons on their calculators. Any feeling for orders of magnitudes or the need to check the result for plausibility, as it is quite easy to get a comma in the wrong place on a pocket calculator, had completely vanished, at least among those who needed extra coaching.

Today there is rather too much emphasis put on numbers themselves. Very often integers would suffice instead of adding decimals to it. If I knew I had to drive 50 km to some destination that would be an accurate enough number to let one calculate my travel time, one would not have to know that the "exact" distance is 50.367 km. Mausi rather likes the approach the Aztecs took to for example calculate the area of their plots. That employed a few rules of thumb and some other very simple means.

The Acolhua tribe tried to keep their calculations as simple as possible. They had a basic unit which corresponds to 2.5 m, called "T" by modern scientists. These have also deciphered the signs for 1/2 T, 3/5 T and 1/5 T. Fractions of T had obviously been used when the length of a plot wasn't an exact multiple of T. Astonishingly, however, the plot areas in old documents are given only in integer multiples of T*T. How did the Acolhuas achieve this?

They started their calculations with integers in the first place. And they used some simple rules. A rectangular plot would be easy: Area = a*b, same as today. If the sides opposite each other weren't of the same length they would multiply mean values: Area = (a+c)/2 * (b+d)/2. Interestingsly, this last rule was also employed by European land surveyors. Plots were sometimes also divided into to triangles whose areas would then be added up: Area = a*b/2 + c*d/2.

In a geometrical sense the calculations performed by the Acolhuas were not as accurate as we like to do them nowadays. Still, they obviously served the purpose. Mausi wishes, we modern people would again develop our feeling for figures and numbers again and be able to do rought estimates instead of slavishly believing the results of our pocket calculators which can be rather wide off the mark. Mausi also thinks it would make maths at school a lot more fun than it is nowadays.

Posted by Mausi at 02:51 PM | TrackBack

April 05, 2008

Dear Mister Brown ....

Is the title of a song on the Tewkesbury Flood Relief Fund's CD and it pretty much sums up our town's response to his visit and crocodile tears over the floods last year. Listening to his response to the report from a very eminent committee of Cross-Party Peers, it struck me that, with a few minor modifications it could easily become the expression of the English Nation's feelings regarding him and his worthless collection of social engineers and ideologues.

It just goes to show how far removed from reality these idiots are. The Peers' report agrees that the unprecedented level of immigration into Britain brings in "around £6 billion" in revenue to our economy. It also agrees that there are roughly 600,000 jobs going begging at any one time in the UK. Where they part company on this is the government's view that we can continue to absorb indefinitely these levels of immigration and that this mythical £6 billion is of direct benefit to everyone. The Peers say that it is not, that the DIRECT benefit is measurable in pence per head of population. It also challenges the concept that the immigrants are closing a "skills gap" and asks why it is that the small number of employers who benefit from immigrant labour cannot train the million or more Britons who are currently drawing work seekers benefits or unemployment benefits.

Please do not misunderstand me, I happen to know a number of immigrants - in fact I am one myself - and almost all those I know have brought some new skills to this country, but that cannot be said for all those now pouring in. Whole cities and entire counties have changed irrevocably in the last ten years with long established British communities moved out, moved aside or simply subsumed. Parts of Birmingham more closely resemble parts of the Middle East or the Indian Sub-continent than they do an English city and there are parts of London where you could be forgiven for thinking you are in a different country. Yes, the Press do play up the numbers but they are high. Yes, this country has long had a tradition of absorbing immigrants, and rightly so, but never before have we had more than five percent of the total population as "immigrant" communities and never before have they so stubbornly refused to integrate.

Now 5% may not sound like a large number, but it is projected to grow dramatically, and it is further compounded by distribution. Most immigrants congregate in our cities and towns, driving up property values and driving lower paid working class folk out of them. That too is compounded by the various "Housing Authorities" operating sets of "rules" for dealing with applicants for scarce "social housing" which are biased against married couples where one or both are employed, in favour of single parents, people from "ethnically under-represented" groups and others perceived by Brown's closet communists as "disadvantaged". It gets worse when you realise that, under this government's open door policy on this issue (And you also have to take into account that almost everyone employed in the Department of Immigration in Croydon seems to be from an "immigrant" background and mostly from the Sub-continent and a particular faith.) it is expected that this number will continue to rise rather rapidly.

Rightly or wrongly, and a recent radio programme devoted to the subject of "Is Britain's White Working Class becoming invisible?" seems to suggest that it might be right, there is a perception that certain immigrant groups are simply exploiting the opportunity at the expense of native Britons. It is particularly noticeable that our taxes are rising at a rate that is almost enough to trigger a mass migration of those who can afford it to elsewhere in the world where their political leaders do not expect them to fork out almost half their earnings to fund their gerrymandering and social engineering. In one sense it is a form of "Gerrymandering", of manipulating the voting population to ensure this present government always have a majority in any given seat. It is equally noticeable that our unemployment figure remains high - and 600,000 vacancies or not, refuses to come down. Our shortage of housing remains high and more and more young people cannot get onto the property ladder at all, not even to rent because they cannot afford the huge deposit demanded on private letting plus the first months rent up front.

The expansion of the EU has brought with it a flood of young people from the former communist territories of Eastern Europe, and I, for one, welcome them. These youngsters have taken the trouble to learn to speak English and throw themselves into our culture and our way of life. Generally they also work harder than anyone else and have a far higher code of conduct than many of our own spoiled youth. But the key here is that they come here to learn, to gain experience and to send money home. One young Polish man who regularly serves me in my favourite watering hole earns just over £200 a week and sends half that home to his mother to support a brother and sister who are in university. When I asked about his own ambitions, he just grinned and said, "I like it here," then he shrugged and added, "I like to stay here, to get to be English maybe?" And he will probably succeed, because he is making every effort to "fit in".

In contrast, when my family and I migrated to these shores a little over twenty years ago our children were in a minority in the first school we could find and none of the notes they brought home were ever written in English. We always had to phone the school and ask to be told what they said. Twenty years on and nothing in that community has changed - in fact it has gone even further towards becoming completely detached from anything recogniseably "British". That is the problem created by Labour's "Open Door" and focus on "Multi-culturalism". It has dispossed the British and created ghettos by insisting that it is "OK" to refuse to integrate into our society.

Well, the Lords Committee has blown the whistle. Mr Brown and his coterie of socialist ideologues can object all they like. Facts remain facts and they cannot refute them. Their own statistics are now starting to give them the lie and no matter how much they massage the figures and move the goal posts the truth is starting to emerge. One important thing I notice that no one has addressed in this row is the cost to the taxpayer of the continuing employment of so many native Britons or the failure to invest in providing them with the skills our politicians say they lack. 680,000 vacancies the ministers trumpet, but they don't answer the important question. Why are we unable to fill these from our domestic labour pool?

I welcome the vast majority of those who have come here to make a better life - after all, I did and I would hope I have contributed more than I am getting back. I do not welcome the professional agitators, the parasites, the criminals and those who want to change this country into the third world, seventh century Theocracy they have come from. Nor do I welcome those who, for whatever reason, want to remain living in the manner of a distant country and force everyone else to live that way too.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 08:35 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

April 04, 2008

Good bye to a tyrant?

The prospect of Mugabe going quietly is one we can all hope for, but I have my doubts. As the Madam and Eve cartoon for April 2nd put it "The elections were definitely free - and one out of two isn't bad." Personally I will not be surprised if the delay in announcing the outcome of the Presidential election isn't caused by Mugabe's need to get his troops and police in place to arrest everyone who might even think he is about to give up his palace and his power just because the electorate say he must. Democracy doesn't work that way in Africa - or perhaps the West failed to take note of the Kenyan election debacle.

I will not be at all surprised if, no sooner is Morgan Tsvangira declared the winner, than Mugabe's General's will declare the election void and re-instate their "Glorious Leader" as President for Life.

I think its a case of "watch this space". But don't hold your breath - everything in that benighted country now depends on how loyal the army is to Mugabe.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 09:51 PM | TrackBack


For all of you who wonder - the Monk and his colleague have arrived safe and sound in Teheran. Together with their luggage, too! They have been given a flat to stay in the first couple of days. Attempts at falling asleep very early this morning were thwarted by demolition work going on in the house next to it. Let's hope this will change soon and they'll have a chance to catch up on their jet lag.

Posted by Mausi at 02:39 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

April 03, 2008

Journey to the East

Today the Monk sets off on a journey to the land of the Magi. The land conquered by Alexander the Great, but not by the waters of Babylon. That's right, I am heading further East, to Teheran, the capital of Iran, once known as Persia and ruled by the Shah an Shah, or King of Kings.

I am going there to teach fire investigation to the Teheran Fire Service, quite a task I should think, but one which I will share with a colleague. Our flight arrives in Teheran at 03.15 tomorrow morning and we start teaching on Sunday morning at 08.00 by which time I hope we will have caught up on some sleep. Hopefully too, we will find everything we need has been provided as promised - always a bonus, but, being old troopers at this sort of thing, we have a contingency plan if it hasn't.

While this would probably not be my number one holiday destination, I will confess that I am looking forward to some promised sightseeing. This is, after all, one of the cradles of civilisation and I can honestly say that some of the indigenous architecture is stunning. Teheran itself is a new/old city, but I am told that there is a great deal of interest to see. Watch this space, I shall do my best to avoid the Republican Guard and to return with some pictures to post!

Posted by The Gray Monk at 07:00 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

April 02, 2008

When enforcers differ ....

Mausi finds herself in a strange position today. She is appearing in court as an "expert" witness, a job she normally does for the prosecution. Today is different because this is an appeal and Mausi finds herself testifying in favour of the Defence case and in direct conflict with the local police. Already someone has "leaked" this to the Press and the local and national dailies in her part of the world are full of stories about her organisation "gunning" for the police side.

Nothing could be further from the truth. She has, as usual, done a meticulous job of sifting through all the evidence and found that the original prosecution was badly flawed. The original investigators were offered this information and have tried to defend the indefensible.

The court will, I think, be an interesting place to be today, but of one thing I am certain, there can only be one outcome and if it improves the quality of future investigations by the force involved, that will be an even better outcome. As it is, someone has spent two years in prison for something they did not do. It isn't just embarassing when that happens - its a travesty. At least Mausi's Institute is interested only in the truth and the facts, not the target for "success" in prosecutions.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 05:56 AM | TrackBack

April 01, 2008

April Fool

The tradition of All Fool's Day is an ancient one. The trick is to catch others before they catch you, but you must do it before Noon. It was once the day on which Jester's and "Fools", the medieval entertainers were allowed to take a few liberties with their Masters and his household, no doubt giving them the opportunity to repay any unkindnesses they had suffered, but equally, this would have to be subtle or it was likely to evince some punishment.

I am looking forward to the BBC Newsrooms usual spoof joke. It never fails to amaze me how many of the viewing/listening public are taken in year on year by them. As I have a day's work as well, I shall have to wait and see!

Posted by The Gray Monk at 08:21 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack