March 29, 2009

Booksellers and my latest ....

I've been doing an online search to see if there are any other outlets selling my books and I have found a number. They are:

Blackwell's Books

Waterstones Online

W H Smith (Order at counter or online) Intriguingly Smith's have a different ISBN for the book to the one under which it is published ..... I have in front of me ISBN 978-1-906459-39-0 their version ends in a 77 which doesn't stack up .... - Although irritatingly again listed as "out of stock", though inviting you to "sign up to be notified when it becomes available.

Naturally Hallmark Press International continue to supply through their online bookstore, and I intend to keep looking for other outlets so watch this space. Not unnaturally I'd be delighted to hear that Smith's or Waterstones had sold copies over the counter so if anyone does order through them please let me know!

Posted by The Gray Monk at 04:17 PM

January 05, 2009

Home again ....

Just got home again after an interesting afternoon and evening sat in Frankfurt Airport. Lufthansa are normally very efficient - but they apparently managed to 'lose' the flight crew for the Birmingham flight this evening with the result it was two hours late taking off.....

More tomorrow.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 10:57 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

December 21, 2008

Christmas rush ....

Yesterday sort of vanished I think. I had a lot to do, like get in some last minute Christmas presents, wrap those I already had ready and then get to Redditch to meet my son so the family ones could get to London. In between there have been things to do at the Abbey and those last minute things to fix and in between phone calls and things to arrange for when I get back from Germany.

The next few days are going to be a little fraught, probably not helped a lot by my being short of sleep at present. Certainly I can blame last night's sleep shortage on two cups of good coffee and then a long-ish drive home. Here's a puzzle though - all along the M5 South I was getting warning of the fact that the M4 was closed Eastbound between Junctions 14 and 13. No indication of why, nothing on the news and nothing on the radio. So what did it? As I left the M5 at Junction 9, I guess I'll never know either.

Tonight is the Abbey Nine Lessons and Carols and we expect it will be well attended. As usual the Choir and the music will be superb - so now all I have to do is stay awake!

Posted by The Gray Monk at 01:58 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

December 12, 2008

Book sales gathering pace - I think!

It seems that though Amazon in the US is still claiming my latest book is "Out of print" and offering me the option to "get back into print through our in house POD services Book Surge" - which would really upset my publisher - the Amazon UK , Germany and France are selling it and, what's more, at a discount price! Looks like a touch of "Left hand/Right hand" going on, but I won't complain - as long as the UK and EU sellers keep selling! For my US based friends and those who use, I'm working on setting up a way round the Amazon monopoly so watch this space.

For a bit of fun you can also go to my personal website on Hallmark's site and see the interview with Cool Scifi Forum which was fun and rather nice. And, of course, you can also buy the book from Hallmark as well.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 11:35 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

December 08, 2008

When you're up to your waist in crocodiles ....

It's difficult to remember that your objective was to drain the swamp. Yeah, I know, everyone knows that one. But at present I'm armpit deep in a Court Report and investigating a truck that caught fire while towing rather a lot of petrol, so time for the Blog has got a little restricted.

Normal service will, I hope, resume soon!

Posted by The Gray Monk at 10:06 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

November 29, 2008

Playing catch up

Today has been a busy one, playing catch up. The last few weeks have kept me busy and away from home so that has meant a number of jobs didn't get done when I would normally have tackled them. So today was "catch up" day. I'm happy to say that I am now almost caught up. And I've made a start on the Christmas cards ....

Trouble is, there is still a couple of bigger tasks to be dealt with, ones I couldn't deal with today because they need a lot more concentration and attention to detail - so they will have to be tackled from Monday onwards. But I'm getting there.

Anyhow, that, I'm afraid, is it for today, one of those days when there ain't much to say!

Posted by The Gray Monk at 08:43 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

November 28, 2008

Back to normality - almost

Depends I suppose on what you call normality. At least I'm back home and trying to catch up with everything that has been waiting for me here at home. There is certainly plenty needing attention.

The contrast between Almaty and here is a lot more than simply the difference in location and climate, and believe me it's cold there. You notice it as soon as you step out of the direct sun, the temperature in the shade is a lot lower than the sunny areas. Partly I guess this is due to the altitude, after all Almaty is roughly 900 metres above sea level, but the other part is that it is right on the back edge of the Himalayas - and they have a neat blanket of snow. There it is cold a dry - the Gobi Desert is a bare couple of hundred miles to the East - but it is also exposed to the North and, as I discovered yesterday during the flight home, Astana, the new Capital City (and it is new - barely 10 years old, all of it!) is a good two hours flight from Almaty. And where Almaty had some snow in shaded spots, Astana had snow. All of it. And a wind that didn't even make the attempt to go round you, it just drove straight through without even nodding. But then, Astana is on the Southern edge of Siberia.....

It was an incredibly long day. There is a six hour time difference between Almaty and here, plus six hours flying between Astana and FRankfurt an hour and half waiting at Frankfurt and another hour flying to Heathrow, plus two hours from Almaty to Astana and the waiting around at both airports for flights ..... In short, I was up at roughly 0230 GMT and got home at 2330 GMT last night. Then the Jetlag kicked in - and I didn't manage to get to sleep until around 0200 this morning - only to wake again at 0630 because Madam insisted!

Ah well, at least I have managed to get the laundry done, to sort out the mail and a couple of other things, cleaned and tidyied a bit and tried to make a few calls to sort out next week. At least the news on my brother's hip is good, he's back on his feet again and feeling a lot more content with life, the universe and everything.

OK, back to the grindstone - the last of the laundry needs hanging and the temperature is falling fast round here.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 03:03 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

October 08, 2008

Off to Tehran .... again.

Just a quick and probably very brief note to anyone interested. I am on my way to the airport and a flight to Tehran. The reason? I'm due to give a seminar on Fire Investigation and I am told there are over six hundred delegates booked. This could be interesting, it is a one day seminar and an audience that size is going to take some reaching. Fortunately, although I am scheduled to be the principle speaker, there are two other chaps assisting me so it won't be all my own effort.

We are booked to fly in First/Business (Tickets say First - booking form says Business!), we have our visas (another story!) and now its just a case of getting to Heathrow and catching the flight.

I used to enjoy these trips, but over the years the efforts to tighten security have introduced so many ridiculous "rules" most of which are purely to satisfy the politicians desire to be seen to "be doing something" and which serve no purpose other than to make life miserable for anyone attempting to travel anywhere, that any visit to an airport is likely to raise the blood pressure to unacceptable limits and give rise to the risk of me actually telling some dim twerp of a security operative exactly what they can do with their electronic wand.

Still, the prize has to go to the Amercian airline check in clerk in Frankfurt recently. Mausi and I had to travel together to a conference in the US. This lady decided that someone with my passport living in England and flying out of Frankfurt had to be a potential terrorist. It didn't help that I can, after a fashion, speak German, though definietly not to conversation standard. I had answered almost all her simple questions in German without actually thinking about what I was doing. Then she asked "Do you speak German?"

I'd have thought that by that stage my accent and the monosyllabic answers where a clue, but I answered, stupidly - "Nein!"

Her face was a study, as she launched into a torrent of German, demanded additional Photo ID and rushed off to call a supervisor.

I think I still owe Mausi for her laughter!

Ce la vie! The road the Heathrow and the usual chaos beckons. I'd better go.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 10:51 AM | TrackBack

September 30, 2008

Change of Seasons

Lots of people seem to want summer to last all year long. Not so Mausi - summer even at this latitude is much too hot for her. Mausi likes all seasons but late summer/early autumn is a favourite with her. Suddenly all the smells are back which were lost in summer. Morning mists bring them up from freshly ploughed soil, the last flowers of the year give off their scent in the still warm sunshine. And the colours around are just beautiful.

Last Sunday was such a perfect day. Mausi took a walk in the morning and came across this striking maple tree.

A symphony in red and gold

On days like this Mausi really pities all the people who have to live near the equator and never see the change of seasons at all.

Posted by Mausi at 06:14 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

September 24, 2008

Return to Tehran

Well, after a frustrating two and some hours queueing to be let into the Visa section of the Iranian Consulate in London to apply for a Visa to go and deliver a seminar in October, my colleague and I returned at the appointed time and spent another two hours waiting for the said visa to be actually attached to our passports. Mine is OK, I only need a single entry and thirty days - I'll be in and out again in four - but my colleague now faces a double battle. He is there for three months - and the visa they have issued is for - you guessed it - thirty days......

Well, they'll have to sort that out at the other end. As for me, it was a long, frustrating and irritating day in which I got almost nothing done. So today has been catch up day. Equally irritating but far, far more productive.

Now, if I can just get the Abbey sound system to talk to the Ringing Room in the Tower and the Abbot's Parlour in Abbey House, I'll be over the moon!

Posted by The Gray Monk at 05:05 PM | TrackBack

September 22, 2008

Problem at Mill?

I seem to have a problem, the usual front page of MT doesn't load correctly and I get a very basic looking screen which takes a long time loading. Its possible this is a problem at MuNu's end, and its been a long day, I'm tired, and not in the mood to wrestle with this. So, provided this actually loads, this is it for today folks.

Oh, and tomorrow I have to go to London and waste a day queueing for a visa .....

Good night.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 09:20 PM | TrackBack

August 29, 2008

Return from Liverpool ....

I got back from the Conference in Liverpool late this afternoon and have had a number of problems getting online. Nothing wanted to work and the computer seemed to be struggling to open some programmes. Three re-boots and a lot of angry swearing at it seem, finally, to have paid off. It has logged on and I managed to get to my e-mail.

Now I'm too tired to do much more, though the problems seem to have been on the BT end of the Broadband - the helpline is swamped which is a pointer! - and now I have aneighbour whose bonfire of garden refuse includes plastic waste. One day I shall discover who it is and send the fire and rescue service round to deal with it.

To make matters worse I was hit from behind by another motorist in congestion on the M5 going to Liverpool. The damage seemed to be just a scratch and a chip on the paintwork - so I didn't bother with any details and we parted. Now I discover that the crumple bar fitted behind the plastic bumper is buckled. Not a lot, but enough to warrant repair. And I don't have the insurance details or registration of the b*st*rd who hit me. My own fault I admit - and that makes me even angrier.

And so, dear reader, Good night!

Posted by The Gray Monk at 09:22 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 22, 2008

Phantom switches and phantom power ....

Today I should have been able to put aside all thoughts of sound systems and focus on report writing. No, that isn't how it works in this Monk's life anyway. The Abbey sound system decided it wasn't going to work - again.

I went down to check what was wrong and found that the two microphones which are connected by wire to the system refused to do anything. So did the Ambient Sound system and the Loop installed for those with hearing aids. Inexplicable since, before packing up yesterday everything was tested and everything worked. What could possibly have decided it wasn't going to overnight?

The Sound Engineer was contacted and after several phone calls and yours truly delving into the back of the system we solved the riddle. It took several hours, but we finally found the problem. The microphones, the loop and the ambient sound are all supplied by something called a Phantom Power Supply. Essentially it converts the signals and provides power to certain parts of the system which need a different voltage to everything else. Havingchecked its cables, its inputs and its oiutputs, the fuses and everything else we could think of - we discovered why it wasn't working. There is a switch. It was off.

Now here is the mystery. The switch is almost inaccessible, and when we packed up last night everything had been tested and was working - in other words that damned switch was "ON". Yet, this morning, it was mysteriously "OFF". This is not the first time this has happened either and its not the kind of switch that can be turned off without some form of actual contact with it and the application of a little force.

The mystery remains - but at least I now know exactly where to look first!

Posted by The Gray Monk at 10:52 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 21, 2008

Sound at last ....

The Abbey sound system is now working - it has taken all day to get it to a satisfactory state. Yesterday was washed out by a breakdown in the motor of a key technician, but the team assembled today on time and ready to go. It has been touch and go with a funeral and other services, but we got there.

We now have a sound system which does as it should. The Loop system for the hard of hearing works, though we discovered that it was set at a level of volume so high I'm surprised any of the users have a hearing aid left! It has been an education, but, Praise the Lord! It now works.

Wine, bed and sleep are the order of business for the moment!

Posted by The Gray Monk at 07:41 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 19, 2008

Motoring manners ....

Yesterday's trip down to Yeovil (Work, not pleasure!) proved interesting but also provided me with some opportunity to consider the behaviours of some of my fellow travellers. There were the usual lane dodgers, weaving, ducking and diving from one lane to another - and I have to say that the Highway Code is a bit out of date in my view on this - coupled with those who obey the HC and pull over to the "slow" lane when the road is clear ahead, even when they can see a huge lumbering truck barely a few hundred yards ahead and which they must pull out again to overtake. But its what the Highway Code demands! So we have enforced "lane dodging" as well as the cowboy version. And then you have the caravaners who travel so slowly even the trucks are forced to overtake them ....

Going down was fine until around Weston super Mare, then the rain started. Why do so many people in Britain drive nromally in the dry - and become idiots as soon as it rains? I drive like a fire fighter - I acknowledge that, but some people panic as soon as they get alongside a large vehicle throwing up spray. Instead of pushing through it steadily with the wipers on fast mode - they brake.

Coming home I had three close encounters as I overtook people and one of the drivers started hooting and waving his fists - after he put his indicators on AFTER I had started to draw ahead of him (I do watch my wing mirrors as I overtake!) and simply pulled out, causing me to swerve to avoid. If there had been anything on my right it would have been interesting. I took his number and reported it to the police who didn''t seem that concerned anyway, so hey ho on we go. I've noticed lately that this is a problem with a number of motorists on our motorways. You are right along side them when suddenly on goes the indicator and they immediately start to change lanes - expecting you to give them room.

Yes, I know I'm getting older and starting to be more cautious than I was in my misspent youff, but still, I drive with my eyes on what's happening around me - and even when I'm really in a hurry - try to consider the motorist overtaking me as well as my own convenience.

It must be my age!

Posted by The Gray Monk at 10:17 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

August 06, 2008

All good things must come to an end...

Sadly, yes, and so Mausi's blissful time at the Monk's has ended and she returned to Germany yesterday evening. During the flight the weather cleared up over the continent and temperatures in Frankfurt were around 26 Centigrades. A real improvement to the 16 in Birmingham!

Today was even better with a crystal clear blue sky, sunshine and temperatures around 30 Centigrade. A quick inspection tour through the garden this morning told her that it had run away from again - must be the umpteenth time this year! Sigh! Especially the gazebo needed a clear-up. It was invaded by creepers and thorny berry bushes.

080608_gazebo-01.jpg   080608_gazebo-02.jpg
The gazebo - taken over by vegetation

Mausi, the cat, gave a helping paw as best she could. Every now and then, however, she had to find a cool place. Nothing like hiding under a wet towel on a day like this.

It might look stupid - but it is COOL...

Now the gazebo is ready to be used again and the berries made a very good dessert tonight.

Posted by Mausi at 08:24 PM | TrackBack

August 05, 2008

Tight schedules

I'm up to my ears in a big legal job for a large firm of legal beagles at present which is taking up all my time. Its boring and demands meticulous attention as I plough through the nine volumes of documents. And then I have to write a report on what I have found ....

And Mausi left this evening for her home so I no longer have her supplying me with coffee to keep me going. The drivce to the airport was interesting with pelting rain and heavy spray on the motorway. Thankfully we got to Birmingham in one piece, she caught her flight even though we were a little later than planned, and is now home in Germany.

And now its late, I've already managed to wipe out this post once, so to anyone out there reading this, Good night!

Posted by The Gray Monk at 09:32 PM | TrackBack

August 04, 2008

Sunday's Post

Yesterday passed in a blur. It was a feast of music - more than a feast, it was a banquet. But it was a long and demanding day as I did my Church Warden thing and tried to make sure it all ran smoothly. All of which left no time for a proper post.

Mausi will make an attempt at posting something more descriptive later - I am currently up to my armpits in crocodiles with a looming deadline for an important piece of work - not of the enjoyable kind.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 01:43 PM | TrackBack

July 31, 2008

A busy day

Today I have been busy building up business for a group that I work with. It involved a lengthy drive starting out early this morning to Swindon and the Andover. The result is that when I got home I had a lot to catch up on and some work that needed attention.

Hopefully some more interesting posting will start up again soon!

Posted by The Gray Monk at 09:49 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 23, 2008

Yesterday today .....

The week is being demanding, there is an awful lot demanding my attention and next week will be even busier with guests in the house. One at least will be easy - Mausi isn't a guest, she's 'family'!

My apologies for a lack of posting!

Posted by The Gray Monk at 07:32 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 22, 2008

A long and tiring day ....

I had lot's of ideas for a post - in fact I have one that I simply must get to writing soon. But I have had a very long day, one which started early and ended late. As I write this I have another early start tomorrow and then a meeting in the evening which will likely go on late ....

So please excuse my lack of sensible posting today. Its been a long day and I have several more to come. And I will get the big idea posted soon. I promise. And yes, I do know that the road to the other place is paved with them ....

Posted by The Gray Monk at 10:53 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

July 15, 2008

Madam Paddy's visit ....

Madam had to visit the vet yesterday. It transpires that she has picked up a bug which is causing a little problem but it is, apparently, one which is easily cured so she got a shot of long depot antibiotic and a lot of fussing and sent home. Apparently her new vet thinks she's gorgeous, to quote, "Quite the prettiest cat we have on our books."

Well we got home, I got scolded, and then she demanded her treat for behaving well throughout. What could I say, she had behaved well and she didn't growl, snarl, claw or bite anyone even though she probably had provocation.

Madam got her treat.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 07:23 PM | TrackBack

July 14, 2008

Deliveries, vets and housekeeping....

This morning I had to wait in for a delivery - a new easy chair to replace one that is not good for my back. In the process I tackled the usual Monday chores - laundry, vacuuming, sorting out the previous weeks detritus, and discovered that Madam Paddy Cat has a tummy problem. She regularly has hairballs, and being old, suffers from a Potassium deficiency, but now she has blood showing where it shouldn't. So, a call to the vet. I will not be popular later when I pour her, protesting, into her transport basket. I will be even less popular when I pour her out of it onto the vets examination table.

In the meantime I will have to hope that it isn't something requiring a drastic solution.

I am also trying to sort out how to get rid of an old armchair. There is nothing wrong with it that a good clean wouldn't fix. The cushions are still firm and the frame is good - its just too low a seat for my current back problem which the doctor tells me will worsen with age. Thank you doctor. You would probably not believe how difficult it is to get rid of a comfortable piece of furniture with years of life left in it. This was an expensive piece of furniture when new - but no one, not even the furniture recycling charities and other charities who help homeless people to find furniture for their 'new' homes - seems to want it.

Perhaps sticking it on the pavement with a sign - £50 and its yours - round here it would probably vanish within the hour.....

Maybe not. I've just found a man who does house clearances. He'll take it for £25 - me pay him - and no doubt clean it and sell it on at a profit.

So now to the vet ........

Posted by The Gray Monk at 10:52 AM | TrackBack

July 09, 2008

Bonekickers ....

This evening I caught a part of the new series, much hyped by the BBC, entitled Bonekickers. I was looking forward to this as I enjoy archaeology and was hoping for something a bit more balanced. I have to admit, that after a short while in which I managed to get the drift that the Crusaders were evil sadists and the Muslims were innocent victims living in peace (Pity about the Christians living in poverty and starving in the streets, but there, why let inconvenient facts get in the way of the ideology of the moment?), I turned it off. As usual the Templars were the guardians of some mystical secret which would destroy Christianity if it were revealed ....

And all the rest of the usual Anti-Christian drivel the BBC seems to love pumping out these days. Disappointing really in one sense, purely because it is so blatantly pro-Islam and so anti-Christian. For this sort of insulting drivel I am required to pay a large "License Fee", much of which vanishes into the Black Hole called Whitehall.

No doubt all Labour's anti-Christian Secularist and Humanist sycophants will enjoy it. I fail to see why I should pay for it. Its badly written, badly researched, badly filmed and is probably going to get rave reviews in the Press.

One does get tired of being portrayed as a blood-thirsty lunatic whose faith is entirely responsible for all the problems in the world. I guess it says it all when Andrew from Dodgeblogium - who isn't (So I'm told) a member of any particular faith takes offence at the manner of its portrayal.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 08:41 PM | 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 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.

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March 31, 2008

Job lists ....

Today is one of those days when the job list seems to be a lot longer than the day. It is the last "free" day before I go to Iran later this week for a three week job and there just seems to be a far more to get cleared away than I really have time to do. Several of the jobs require time at the computer, and having done my back in on Saturday (Yes, I know, getting into a bath isn't exactly strenuous!) sitting isn't the best thing I can do for it. Nor is putting on my socks and shoes!

So, I plan to tackle all the things I can do standing up first. Which means that this post will be it for today.

Mutter, mutter, mumble, mumble, mumble .....

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March 26, 2008

An interesting day ....

The Monk had a job scheduled for today, so he and Mausi were on the road early and arrived timeously - only to find that no arrangements had been made for the job to be done. It was a small teaching job, supposed to take all day, but it seems the student hadn't been told either ....

Just as the Monk had decided he and Mausi could make the most of the day and depart for a small visit to a site nearby, the student arrived. A flurry of activity, and the Monk had a day of teaching a single student. Now this may seem crazy, but teaching one person is almost as hard as teaching thirty. At least with a larger group you get some feedback and the interactions allow you to expand and explore the subject. With one that is a little more difficult which means that you have to concentrate on ensuring you not only cover the basics but explore the peripherals as well.

All in all, it went reasonably well, the student is pleased with his day, and the Monk's bank account is suitably topped up. Our exploratory visit will now take place tomorrow or Friday ....

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March 04, 2008

One of those days ...

Everyone has them. You set out to do one thing and something doesn't go to plan. Well I shouldn't complain, the morning went well. Its the afternoon that didn't.

I started an interesting post. Then got distracted. When I tried to save it I got "Invalid date" and .... The post has vanished into the ether. So this is it for today, I promise to try again tomorrow. Now I have a cat demanding her supper and a meeting to prepare for. Not my favourite occupation attending meetings.......

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January 31, 2008

The things one discovers....

Last night I chanced on something about MovableType that I had not realised before. I had just finished clearing out the latest bunch of spam comments (Thankfully I have not had many since I started closing down comments on posts as soon as they were hit by spam) and noticed a tab (to be honest I have seen it many times, but never tried it) labelled "Junk" next to the "Comments" tab.

I clicked it, not expecting to find anything in it. I spent the next half hour clearing out 54,845 spam comments. I will now monitor that tab a little more closely. It seems that MT is diverting things into the "Junk" box, evidently following certain criteria. I like it, but now I know its there, I will have to ensure that it never builds up that kind of pressure again!

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January 29, 2008

Workload ....

Sorry folks, its been one of those days when work has demanded more time than I actually have. At least I have managed to get some of it done and can cross them off the lists. If only they were all paying for the time they consume. This is the problem of working for oneself and doing voluntary stuff - if you aren't careful the voluntary things expand to fill the day - and they don't pay the bills. Its a nice balance I guess, but it should start to ease up soon

Maybe ....

Posted by The Gray Monk at 06:32 PM | TrackBack

January 08, 2008

Late night - long day

Just back from Edinburgh. An interesting flight - supposed to leave at 0830, but finally airborne at 0945 ....

Edinburgh surrounded by snow and rather wet. At least the meeting went well, once it got started - and the client is super happy because my report of my investigation of the fire which destroyed a rather expensive vehicle has resulted in the recovery of his loss ...

No admission of liability says the manufacturers rep ....

The flight home again was a rough ride - one disadvantage of travelling in the smaller form of commercial aircraft - this one Dash 8-400 with 42 of us crammed inside. The approach and landing at Birmingham was exciting to say the least. No wonder pilots say "any landing you can walk away from is a good landing." I think some of my fellow passengers will take the train next time.

And so to bed!

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October 20, 2007

Time to go South

At least if you are a crane. For about two weeks now cranes have been flying south in their distinct V-pattern formation over Watzhahn, the place where Mausi lives. It is always fascinating to watch them. Last weekend they had even chosen this place as a meeting point and were circling criss-cross high up in the sky for almost an hour before finally getting into formation and taking off for good. Mausi always finds watching them fascinating. They are never silent. All the time they are chatting to each other and you can hear their soft and melodious "brrrrt, brrrrt" long before you actually spot them high up. Last weekend Mausi almost thought she could understand what they were saying:

"Has someone seen the family of X?"
"Who are you? Have we met before?" "I don't think so. We were invited to join this group by Y."
"A, B, and C will take the lead for the first leg of this year's journey." "Why us again? We did so last year."
"Mum. I am tired of circling! When will we start out?"
"We are not going before Z and his family has arrived."

Mausi wonders what they are really talking about. Whatever, have a safe journey all of you cranes who have passed over here and come back next spring!

Posted by Mausi at 07:24 PM | TrackBack

October 18, 2007

Packing ...

Yesterday was spent chasing up to London again, in order to retrieve the passport and hopefully find a visa in it to go and do the work I have been commissioned to do in Libya. Pasport recovered, visa approved and issued, the Monk joined his eldest daughter for a bite of lunch at Hays Galleria. A pleasant spot, but I am sorry to say that the food, when we got it, was disappointing. At least we had a good chat and catch up, which I suppose made it worthwhile. Then it was time to find the way back to Paddington and return to the wilds of Gloucestershire.

Trouble is, that all this up and back to London has seriously disrupted another project so it was 02.00 before the Monk turned in this morning.

Now he is packing, something he always manages to leave something vital out of, and doesn't particularly enjoy. Oh joy, oh rupture - and its a 04.00 start tomorrow ....

If the usual service on this blog is a little patchy over the next two weeks it will be because I have not been able to get online from Libya. Mausi will do her best to fill the gaps, but she is in the process of moving offices and a full laboratory - and all the delicate and sometimes bulky equipment. We'll do our best to keep you all entertained ...

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October 16, 2007

Todays post ....

The Monk's visitation upon London went reasonably well - apart from having to start out for the Railway at an ungodly hour. Even the usually rather chaotic visa desk wasn't too bad, once one actually got there. But now I have to return to the Big Smoke again tomorrow to collect the said passport and hopefully the visa ...

Meantime the currently paying work also needed some urgent attention which has meant working until now. Normal service may be restored sometime soon.

I hope.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 11:31 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

September 30, 2007

Normal service

As you can see normal service is restored. It has been quite an interesting experience, the blog has become a daily dairy for me, as I guess it is for almost everyone who has one. When you are deprived of it for any reason there is a sort of gap in the day. Anyway, thanks to Pixymisa, the creator and guru of Munuvia, we are back online and able to get back to normal routine.

My little jaunt to Surrey proved interesting, didn't get anywhere near the Foot and Mouth and finished late on Wednesday. I didn't get a chance to explore or to take photographs - Reigate Hill and the centre of Reigate isn't the most photogenic place I can think of. So, I will have to find another occassion to take myself down there and take some pictures properly. After all, there is a great deal that I would like to explore there, and plenty of excuses for doing so.

And just while I'm thinking on these things - it's Michaelmas, yesterday having been the feast of St Michael and all the angels, one of the major festivals in the Christian Calendar and it is kept with an Octave. IN other words, eight days of feasting ....

Not sure I can manage that anymore. Still, it makes one consider the Angels and their presence in our lives.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 04:52 PM | TrackBack

September 28, 2007

Problems at t' Mill

There is a problem at MuNu - normal service will, I hope, be resumed soon.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 03:56 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

August 22, 2007

Off to the M25

Today the Monk must mount his trusty steed and tackle the journey to the edges of that territory enclosed by the dreaded M25. He is actually going to visit a place just outside it, but it is a prospect he seldom relishes. Travel times vary wildly, one trip may run smoothly and be accomplished with relative ease, another may get bogged down in endless tailbacks ....

Let us hope the the appropriate Guardian Angels are on duty and will smooth this trip to the edges of Surrey. Reigate or bust?

Posted by The Gray Monk at 07:34 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

May 25, 2007

Spamming along ....

The spammers are busy. In fact it is getting to a point where I might have to consider closing all comment and trackback facilities for my blog. I do get tired of sorting out the garbage that floods in daily, and have several times accidentally delted genuine comments along with the garbage.

Coupled with the TTLB Blogosphere rating system, I reckon that my blog should be one of the most highly rated if he counted in the spam I get.

Death to all Spambots as another blogger put it.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 11:16 AM | TrackBack

March 19, 2007


The Monk has spent the last couple of days working on a project for a client. This has involved looking at a series of Regulations drafted in the last six years by our Wonders of Whitehall and trying to extract enough information to make sense of them. Now in the ordinary course of events that should be straight forward, but the client wanted some specific information, and that is a lot more complicated!

To begin with the client wanted to verify the contents of a certain section of one particular set of regulations. Guess what, he had the right section. He even had the right regulations, but our Whitehall W*****s have helpfully posted a "Consolidated Text" on their website - which omits the specific regulation! It appears that it was omitted in error when the regulations were re-written six years ago replacing an earlier set, which included this specific requirement, and it has taken them this long to realise it. So, Whitehall solution number one; draft a new Statutory Instrument with that regulation on it. Solution number 2 omit it from your consolidation, finally stick a date in the future on it for it to come into force! The fact that this leaves several enforcing agencies high and dry and liable for all kinds of accusations if it should go wrong in the meantime - which it has - doesn't seem to worry them. After all, its not going to be their problem is it? Not likely, the Minister will make the usual non-answers in the House, the poor b*gger on the sharp end will be hung out to dry and the rest will collect their big fat pensions and their knighthoods and go merrily on their way rejoicing.

Obviously the Monk is far to professional - he always took the can when he got it wrong. Must be why he didn't get the big pension and the gongs.

He did mention that his client is a Barrister about to defend someone over an alleged failure covered by the missing regulation didn't he ........

Posted by The Gray Monk at 06:00 PM | TrackBack

March 05, 2007

Yesterday's Blog

Yesterday MuNu seems to have had a problem with its servers. I could not access the Blog at all to put up a post. Apologies to anyone who missed my usual ramblings!

Posted by The Gray Monk at 07:12 AM | TrackBack

February 10, 2007


The storm Kyrill that swept over Europe a few weeks ago has brought a great deal of destruction to the woods around Mausi's village. Luckily the village itself was spared, nothing more serious than a few roof tiles lost here and
there. But the woods are quite another matter.

The trees snapped like match sticks.

Hessen, the Federal State where Mausi lives, is known for its abundance of woods. Quite beautiful really but in the area around here it's mostly conifers. And those are always the first to go in a storm.

The annual rings tell you this specimen must have been about 60 years old.

Mausi very much prefers mixed woods with intermingling conifers and deciduous trees. Now that nature has weeded out many of these asparagus like conifers maybe the decidous fraction will have a chance to catch up and fill the gaps. Mausi will watch out.

Posted by Mausi at 09:23 AM | TrackBack

November 19, 2006


I expect al lot of people would associate November in the Northern Hermisphere with cold and inclement weather and Grey as the predominant colour of the season. Until this year I've done the same myself. But yesterday morning I was quite astonished to see my roses in full bloom again for the umpteenth time this year.

061119_rose01.jpg   061119_rose02.jpg
The left one is called 'Winchester Cathedral', an English Rose which gives off the most beautiful scent even in November.

That was bit of a surprise as we are at about 50° 10' northern latitude. Hard to believe it is November. But then a glance at the woods around soon assured me everything is as it should be.

Autumn colouring in full swing

I like the woods around here. It is mostly a mixture of deciduous and evergreen trees and the colours at this time of the year are spectacular especially when the sun ventures out now and then. There are quite a number of larches around which add interesting yellow spots to the dark green of the firs.

This year we still have temperatures well in the teens at the moment and hardly any frost during the nights. According to the weatherforecast temperatures will start decreasing next week. I wonder if they will decrease rapidly enough to give us a proper winter. I like winters with low temperatures and lots of snow. Looking at the rate Mausi's winter fur is growing I need not worry. We'll see.

Posted by Mausi at 09:55 PM | TrackBack

September 15, 2006

Need a breeze?

I don't know about the places where you live but around here summer has been a bit of a roller coaster. Periods of high temperatures alternated with colder and very wet periods. A succession of droughts and floods you could say. In my childhood we had the occasional showers of rain and thunderstorms in summer as well but they did not last for weeks as they seem to do nowadays.

At the moment we go through another period of temperatures near 30 degrees Centrigrade whhile Spain is obviously flooded. I don't mind 30 deg outside in the garden but I do object strongly to having them in my office at noon and for the rest of the afternoon. If you, like me, are in need of a breeze have a look at this picture and see it gently rippling the pattern.


I am glad, though, I am not a polar bear. They are really in trouble. American scientists have observed that the permanent ice around the North Pole was suddenly reduced by 14% between 2004 and 2005. In winter however the overall amount seasonal and permanent ice was the same as the year before. The distribution of the ice has changed however. If the seasonal ice melts again in summer this could create vast ice free areas and change live around the North Pole dramatically.

The melting of the ice would contribute to the green house effect because solar radiation would not be reflected from the dark surface of the sea as effectively as it is reflected from the ice surface. Neighbouring oceans could warm up. A good thing is, however, that the water levels would not rise as floating ice displaces exactly the volume it will take as water. Phew! At least the Dutch can relax but Polar bears will have to give survival strategies in summer some serious thought.

Posted by Mausi at 06:12 PM | TrackBack

August 23, 2006

Spam comments

On Sunday I suffered a concerted spam attack on my comments entries, defeated thanks to the fact that MuNu has a holding tank for unregistered comments. The annoying thing was that it took me over half an hour to clear out a hundred and forty seven "comments" from a variety of spoof addresses, ironically most of them in German! With Mausi being away for a few days, I had to resort to the dictionary a couple of times, but sadly, everything from the address "Furniture" was just spam - and not even interesting spam.

It seems to come and go in waves, and I am now used to clearing out at least three a day from "online pharmacy" or some other equally unoriginal title, although lately those have tailed off as well. The one which used to really irritate me was one which regularly popped up and said something like ... "I haven't been interested in much lately, just sitting around at ..." and was signed by someone called Kaka. It became enough to just see the name and the delete went into operation.

Spam is a nuisance, but more than that it is, as I have said before, a form of terrorism as its purpose is to disrupt the internet. A huge amount of it originates from University networks and seems to be the result of students trying to "prove" their abilities or as a "joke", while other bits of it are obviously commercially driven. Perhaps it is time government's took a much more serious view of those originating it - even as a joke!

Posted by The Gray Monk at 10:47 AM | TrackBack

June 19, 2006

Days without end

Mausi is back from the conference she was attending last week in Helsinki, the beautiful capital of Finland. Now that we are approaching Midsummer Night the days never seemed to end in Helsinki. Not easy to get enough sleep during the night if you are not used to sunbeams tickling your nose at 3 in the morning and it never gets really dark ouside anyway. Though why the workmen in the backyard of the hotel had to start construction work at 4.30 a.m. will forever remain a mystery - they probably had to make the most of the daylight.

The market place close to the harbour

Helsinki is a fascinating city. Mausi had already spend couple of days there on two occasions during holidays but she had forgotten just how nice and friendly the town is. Although it is a big city it is neither hectic nor unbearably noisy and the Finns are really friendly people. For one thing you very seldom hear a car driver sounding his horn despite the heavy traffic in the town. And we never heard people shouting at or getting angry with each other. What we noticed, though, were quite a number of tortoise sculptures throughout the town and we wondered if these were supposed to reflect the Finnish character: never rushing at things but doing everything deliberately.

In summer and the absence of ice and snow Helsinki seems to acquire a somewhat Southern European outfit. Even at midnight the streets and places are incredibly busy with people. Every backyard or other suitable bit of space is turned into a cafe or pub or restaurant.

As you see places are packed with people

And there is music all over the town. Several stages were erected in the town center and there were performances of all kinds of music throughout afternoons and evenings. And of course, summer is the time of street musicians.

One of the many street musicians in Helsinki during the summer

They also had a wide repertoire with regard to music that ranged from pop to classic and instruments. It really felt more like being in Italy than Finland with the advantage of course, that there was always a light breeze blowing from the sea which made temperatures in excess of 20 centigrades bearable for Mausi who prefers a slightly cooler climate.

Posted by Mausi at 12:53 PM | TrackBack

June 05, 2006

Bears in Europe

One of the stories that has made it quite frequently to the headlines in German Newspapers during the last few weeks is the one about a bear who has crossed the border from Austria into Germany. Genetic analysis of hair samples has revealed that he is "JJ1" alias "Bruno" a bear that was born in the mountains of northern Italy. Bruno has a younger twin brother (JJ2) and the brothers have obviously learnt a trick or two from their mother.

Bruno knows food is easy to come by where people live but that one must not come back to one's kill lest people are waiting there for you with traps and guns. Up to now he has obeyed this advice to the dot. He has killed quite some sheep and cattle but never came back to the site of his kill. He vanished into Austria for a few days but has come back again to Bavaria in southern Germany two days ago.

This time the politicians mean business. Bruno will be tracked down with the help of a pack of Karelian bear hounds under the command of a Finnish specialist. Marksmen will be on standby should something go wrong. The plan is to catch Bruno alive if possible and then put him into an enclosed territory and keep him under observation. If that is not possible he will have to be shot as he is too much of a danger to the public.

I haven't been aware of it before but there seems to be quite a number of bears around in Europe nowadays. Although the last brown bear was shot in Austria more than 160 years ago today about 20 bears have found a new home there. The first bear crossed the border into Austria from Slovenia or Croatia in the beginning of the 1970's. He was given a wife in 1989 with whom he had cubs. They became the first of a project to bring the bears back to the Austrian mountain regions.

The bear population in Slovenia and Croatia is estimated to be more than a thousand animals. Poland also has quite a few bears in various mountain regions and National Parks. The bear population in Sweden and other parts of northern Scandinavia amounts to 1600 to 2800 bears. Bears in Slovakia threaten the existence of beekeepers. About a dozen of the 300 to 600 thought to live in Slovakia have destroyed large numbers of beehives looking for dessert, no doub. Two bear populations consisting of 40-50 and 20 animals respectively live in the Italian mountains. In France bears are still found in the Pyrenees but their number is dwindling and people strongly oppose trying to increase it again.

Apparently the only place where bears can live in peace and freedom are the Kantabrian mountains in Spain. About 90 bears live here in an unaccessible area and their number is increasing.

This seems to me to be the main problem. Parts of Europe are very densely populated and bears need large territories. They are bound to come in contact with humans sooner or later. Once the bear has lost his fear of humans and starts raiding pens and dustbins he's doomed. And also most people in Europe have lost the ability to live with wild animals and treat them with respect. We only know them from zoos with a big safe barrier between us and the animal. Much as I agree that a bear makes an interesting sight on Alpian mountain side, especially for tourists, I have doubts that all these bear-settling-projects are such a good idea after all, at least not in densely populated areas like Central Europe.

Posted by Mausi at 07:34 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

May 20, 2006

Colours of the North

One of the things I like most about the North is the light and the colours up there. The air always seems so much clearer in the isles. Of course, with such a sparse population and almost no heavy industry air pollution is not really an item in that area. The colours of the sky and the sea are forever changing and even after a shower everything looks fresh and clear again.

As is quite common in Scandinavia we also found brightly painted houses in Tobermory on the Isle of Mull.

Main street of Tobermory

Compared to many cities on the Scottish mainland this little town looks exceptionally cheerful in her bright colours. We decided to have an impromptu picnic there with the town to our left and a view of Tobermory Bay to our right.

Tobermory Bay

Pity, it's always others that win the lottery and would be able to afford living in the isles and glens and having a boat to sail around the islands. I cannot imagine why people would want to live at the Mediterranean Sea in Nice or Cannes - I'd prefer the North any time. A fresh, invigorating breez suits me a lot more than the sizzling heat of the South.

Leaving Tobermory we decided to take a "scenic drive" along the B 8073 around the north eastern part of Mull and then back to the south coast. The views were breathtaking but the road turned out to be quite demanding on the driving skills with lots of hairpin turns, blind summits, adventurous sheep etc. Good fun, really!

Mull is famous for the birds that can be observed and spotted there. We were lucky enough to catch at least a glimpse or two of the most famous ones that day: the sea eagle.

Sea eagles on Mull

If you ever get a chance to visit Mull do it by all means. It is well worth the effort.

Posted by Mausi at 10:07 AM | TrackBack

May 09, 2006

Late entry!

Today has been rather busy and very disjointed so neither Mausi nor the Monk could get time out to do anything about posting any sort of meaningful ramble. So, in a desperate and no doubt crude attempt to keep a daily posting going the Monk offers this picture taken en route to Loch Ness.

Another of Scotland's iconic Castles - Eileen Donan on Loch Alsh.

Good night.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 10:23 PM | TrackBack

November 23, 2005

A Church without Parish

On October 30, 2005 the reconstructed Frauenkirche, the most famous church of Dresden, was consecrated. Built in the 18th century the church has always been a prominent part or the Dresden "skyline". It's impressive Italian style architecture contributed to Dresden being also known as "Elbflorenz" (Florence on the river Elbe).

During the heavy bombardment of Dresden in the last days of WWII the church was totally devastated and reduced to a pile of rubble, 13 m high. After the war the SED regime of the German Democratic Republic wanted to remove the remains no doubt to erect an architectural monstrosity there. But people became very inventive about protecting the ruins, planting a hedge of roses around it to make it less noticeable. In 1966 the ruins were even proclaimed an antifascistic memorial against the war.

From 1982 onwards people would congregate at the ruins each Februar 13, the day commemmorating the devastation of Dresden. The ruins became a place and a symbol for the peace and civic rights movements in the German Democratic Republic. At last reunification between East and West Germany took place in 1990. And a plan was born to reconstruct the Frauenkirche.

Under the motto "Brücken bauen - Versöhnung leben" (Building bridges - living reconciliation) the impossible was achieved. More than a 100 million Euros were collected from all over the world. The former enemies from Britain and the United States generously contributed to this sum. British people also paid for the golden cross on the roof. One of the goldsmiths involved in making the cross is a son of one of the pilots who bombed Dresden 60 years ago - a true sign of reconciliation to me.

One of the many interesting things about the reconstruction ist that the remaining stones from the old building were carefully catalogued and fitted into the new church in their appropriate places. Experts from the University of Dresden developed a new kind of mortar which made it possible to connect new stones with old stones. The result is a stunning sight.
It took eleven years to reconstruct the building. Over the years the project gathered a lot of momentum. Each Christmas a special service was held outside in front of the growing building and over the years more and more people were attending. In the end thousands were coming.

Now that it is finished the Frauenkirche is a magnificent sight - from outside as well as from inside. A Baroque Riot, as the Monk would say, with soaring heights. Curiously enough, the famous church is now a church without a parish. It will doubtlessly be used for the occasional service and also for concerts, lectures etc. But now that all the excitement and the involvement of the media is slowly dying down it remains to be seen whether the Frauenkirche will find its proper and permanent place in future Dresden.

Posted by Mausi at 06:21 AM | TrackBack

November 16, 2005

Musical treats

Recently the Abbey resounded to the sound of the Silurian Consort, a group of professional and amateur musicians who perform some interesting and unusual works for choir, organ and other instruments and combinations of instruments and voices. Their programme on this occassion included the Saint-Saens Mass for Double Organ and the Vierne Mass for the same instrumentation. These works are scored for choir and two organs, in this case the Consort used a top of the range electronic instrument as the "nave" organ with the Milton as the "Grand" Organ accompaniment.

As many of us suspected, the Mighty Milton easily outclassed the electronic versioin, although, it must be said, the electronic instrument was not bad. It simply did not have the power of the Milton.

The Choir did a magnificent job of the vocal parts, with the Nave organ doing a fair job of accompanying them - but it was the Milton that made it's presence felt in no uncertain terms. Under the hands of a very competent organist it spoke with authority whenever it was required to do so - and the music requires the "Grand" organ to speak in counterpoint to the choir in many of the passages. The range of sounds this instrument can produce, from muted flute and brass to thundering crescendo never fails to amaze us.

The programme was varied and well balanced with pieces for flute and piano, choir only and choir accompanied by either organ. Among my favourites was the "Cantique de Jean Racine" by Gabriel Faure.

Now I would like to hear the Vierne and the Saint-Saens Masses performed in worship. I suspect they will be magnificently uplifting in their real context.

We live in hope!

Posted by The Gray Monk at 10:43 PM | TrackBack

October 11, 2005

Wallace and Gromit's big disaster

The popular Wallace and Gromit films have suffered a major loss - the warehouse in which Aardman Productions housed all it's archives, has been destroyed in a fire. According to the spokesman for Aardman, it is nothing compared to Pakistan and will not affect their future productions or the one's already in circulation, but it has destroyed all the awards they had acumulated and many of the original models and drawings.

As a Wallace and Gromit fan - there can be no doubt at all that the real genius is Gromit - I look forward to their future productions, and hope that they will continue to provide the zany view of the eccentric "English" inventor at his most amusing. The loss of the warehouse though, does serve as a sharp reminder that the fire protection of assets and of our heritage depends on more than simply having a few "risk assessments" and "fire prevention" strategies. Fires can and do happen frequently, particularly in vulnerable structures like warehouses. If these are not provided with sprinklers, it is extremely unlikely that the fire and rescue services will be able to save it.

In the meantime, I suppose we can live in hope that Wallace and Gromit's memorabilia has miraculously survived - or that the intrepid inventor can come up with a solution to the problems of fighting fires in unprotected buildings!

Posted by The Gray Monk at 03:12 PM | TrackBack

September 27, 2005

The Monk is away

The Monk is travelling in North Eastern Europe - Poland to be exact - for his "day-job". He is giving a paper at a conference and will be out of communication until his return.

Until recently, he would have left a stock of entries for Church Mouse to put up as she saw fit, but sadly Church Mouse is not well, in fact, she is having a very difficult time at the moment and will not be able to attend to the blog as she did before. On which note, I ask you all to pray for her as she battles cancer which is now quite advanced and not responding to treatment. She has been a stalwart Mouse and a brave one, your prayers will be much appreciated at this time and for the forseeable future.

As the Monk cannot keep in touch with Church Mouse for the next seven days, he would appreciate it if you keep her in your thoughts and prayers.

Posted by The Gray Monk at 03:27 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

August 25, 2005

Interruption of service?

Munuvia suffered a bit of a blackout as some astute observers and readers may have noticed yesterday - but Pixy Misa seems to have fixed the problem and got us back on the map this morning! Well done Pixy, long may the new server remain functional!

The full explanation can be found on Pixy's own page. Collective sighs of relief all round and compliments to Pixy for the salvation of our blogs!

Posted by The Gray Monk at 11:17 AM

July 30, 2005

I blame Ozguru

He knows I can't resist these quizzes, and he's gone and linked to three of them! Anyway, it seems for all the fact that I am born in one of the former Dominion States of the British Empire, and now live in the "Old Country", with all my European antecedents I am .....

You Are 70% American
Most times you are proud to be an American. Though sometimes the good ole US of A makes you cringe Still, you know there's no place better suited to be your home. You love your freedom and no one's going to take it away from you!
How American Are You?

Hmmm, perhaps I better have another look at my passport? Nope, it still says British! And then again ......

Your Hidden Talent
Your natural talent is interpersonal relations and dealing with people. You communicate well and are able to bring disparate groups together. Your calming presence helps everything go more smoothly. People crave your praise and complements.
What's Your Hidden Talent?

Amazing what just picking a picture can tell you about yourself. I'm not sure my staff would agree about the compliments though! Or about things going smoothly - they tend to drop things in my lap when they aren't!

And just to add insult to injury ...

Your IQ Is 135
Your Logical Intelligence is Genius Your Verbal Intelligence is Genius Your Mathematical Intelligence is Genius Your General Knowledge is Exceptional
A Quick and Dirty IQ Test

Some gaps in my general knowledge obviously - the real surprise is the Maths! Alright, I'm done .....

It's all Oz's fault anyway ......

Posted by The Gray Monk at 08:22 AM

July 26, 2005

The move now accomplished ....

As those who stumble on this new addition to Munuvia will have realised, the Monk has been moved from his former domus at Guru-International, to the Blogland of Munuvia and is now settling in nicely. Even his Blogroll is being rebuilt (Memo to self - Find parchment with original links on it!).

At present the old link will still work and visitors will be transferred to the new site in the manner of Star Trek and the transporter device, but that will come to an end when Guru closes down permanently in the next few weeks. If you are a frequent visitor and intend to stay in touch, please update your blogroll and your bookmarks to the new web address.

Thanks, I'll look forward to seeing you all in my new place!

Posted by The Gray Monk at 10:15 AM