Archive for May, 2017

112000 miles – BACKBLOG from 2014

May 7, 2017

14th November 2014 7.30 pm; M25 between Junction 29 and Dartford Crossing

My most expensive purchase ever was a new Renault Megane in May 1999. (House prices were a lot lower when we bought our house!) It replaced a 10 year old Renault 19 which had been my wife’s company car for 4 years when we bought it. It’s now the oldest car we’ve ever owned. Apart from my wife’s very first car, which we sold at 13 and half years old, all its predecessors had been sold or scrapped between 9 and 12 years old. Compared to the cars we had made in 1950s, 60s and 70s, it’s very durable and economical. THEY used much more petrol and burnt oil; they needed replacement water pumps and clutches every 30,000 miles; they rusted more and several had manufacturing or design faults. The Renault 4 my wife bought in 1976 was a revelation; it still rusted, and its roof had to be repainted, paid for by Renault, but its parts lasted much better. It was very unconventional, but that wasn’t a problem. Two examples: the headlights could be changed from RHD to LHD very easily without extra parts and I replaced the entire exhaust system without going under the car. The back wheels had a wider track than the front wheels and the two back wheels weren’t exactly opposite each other; but it worked.
Back to the Megane: Every summer for the last 15 years we’ve driven it from Harold Wood to Brno in the Czech Republic, where our granddaughter lives. The outward journey involves a couple of nights stop in Metz, eastern France, where my sister lives. That is less than a days drive from Harold Wood. Metz to Brno is just under 1000km and can also be driven in a day, with 2 drivers taking turns. One arrives in Brno in the mid-evening. It’s easier to do it on a Sunday, when long-distance lorry traffic is banned from the German autobahns. Lots of foreign lorries are parked up in service stations for Sunday. Sometimes we make extra stops and try to see more towns when we do so. We’ve stopped as Ansbach, Ulm and Amberg in Germany. Stops in France have included St. Avold, Rheims, St Quentin, Cambrai, Laon and Bethune. I reckon the car has done about 30% of its mileage on the right hand side of the road. We’ve got pretty used to driving on the ‘wrong’ side of the road.
I also got pretty good at finding my way around Brno and Metz. For a couple of years in Metz this was a particular challenge. Added to the usual problems of two motorways, railways and multiple branches of the Moselle, they were building a BRT system, where very long tram-like busses run on reserved tracks. One evening we found that we had to make a very long detour round several suburbs where the main roads were closed for construction work.
http://www.systra.com/en/news-31/press-releases-34/article/systra-marks-the-inauguration-of-the-new-metz-bus-rapid-transit-system
In 2009-10 Alastair Darling introduced the scrappage scheme to encourage purchase of new cars. My Megane would have qualified but it had plenty of life left in it, so I really didn’t want to lose it. Also having to put down more than £10k of my own money to benefit from a £2k grant didn’t seem to make much sense.
Conventional wisdom is that you keep a new car for three years. It doesn’t go wrong and you benefit from other sweeteners that were given to a new car owner. I think there is another way. You keep it for much longer; you will have to pay for some repairs but the depreciation is less that £1k per year – down to the same level as annual tax + insurance.

http://www.thetransportpolitic.com/2012/06/24/commitment-to-tramways-makes-france-a-world-model-for-new-urban-rail/
http://www.climatetechwiki.org/technology/brt

http://www.systra.com/en/news-31/press-releases-34/article/systra-marks-the-inauguration-of-the-new-metz-bus-rapid-transit-system

Printed (distributed) by Automattic Inc. 132 Hawthorne St. San Francisco, CA 94107. Published and promoted by G.R.Potter on behalf of I.V.Sanderson (Liberal Democrats),both at 11 Cedric Avenue,ROMFORD, RM1 4JL.

Henning Mankell’s ‘Firewall’

May 7, 2017

Henning Mankell’s ‘Firewall’

From time to time I re-read detective novels that I enjoyed in the past. This is quite distinct from a second read just after the first. In the first read, we are carried along by the momentum of the story and miss subtleties in the way the story is told. A second read allows many of the details and the craftsmanship of the author to be appreciated.

Ystad Railway Station building

Only a small part of building is now used by the Railways. Much of the rest is now a bed and breakfast. It was one of three buildings used on TV to represent the Police Station.

‘Firewall’ was the last of 8 original Kurt Wallandar novels, based in Ystad, written by Mankell in the 1990s. There were films of them made in Swedish starring Rolf Lassgård, starting in the mid-1990s. These films were mostly shot around Stockholm. A later development was the Swedish TV films starring Krister Henriksson and the English language ones starring Kenneth Branagh. The shooting of all these were based in Ystad Studios and used Ystad locations extensively. The Henriksson ones go far beyond the original books, though Mankell was involved and suggested original story lines. Mankell did write several more books which either extended Wallandar’s story or included characters from it. He died in 2015.

‘Firewall’ was written about 20 years ago, and is revealed to be about a global computer cracking conspiracy, and by implication, how much we depend upon computers for our daily lives. The remarkable thing is how little it shows its age. The references to backing up or moving data using diskettes is archaic; nowadays this would be done copying data to thumb drive or an external hard disk drive or sending it to a server, either on a local network or by the internet – using The Cloud. The other slightly false note it strikes is descriptions of blocks of characters scrolling rapidly up the screen, which is a visual convention in films and TV programmes about computer cracking. I doubt if it happens much nowadays, or even did all that much in the past. Mankell, after all, was a man of the theatre.

This time I also followed much of the geography of the story, using Google Maps to follow up street names. I spent a day in Ystad in August 2015, helped by location maps provided by the tourist office; so much of the layout of the town was familiar to me. The maps show not only the locations mentioned in the books, but also other locations using in filming the stories. For instance three different buildings were used to represent the police station – none of them the actual police station! So even when a location in the book was not findable in Google Maps, I still had a rough idea of where it was.

The ideas in the book remain up to date. We are very aware that we have a globally interdependent finance and banking system, and this was brought home to us in 2008. The idea of cyber warfare and interference with other countries electoral systems emerged again in 2016, and was in the news on Friday in France. The driving idea of the villains that international finance and politics were so corrupt that the whole system had to be rebooted is almost exactly what Al Qaeda would say.

Televised interviews with Mankell shows him speaking very thoughtfully in perfect English, with perhaps the mildest hint of what might be a Dublin accent. I can almost hear him, when some new cyber outrage occurs, saying ‘I told you so.’

Printed (distributed) by Automattic Inc. 132 Hawthorne St. San Francisco, CA 94107. Published and promoted by G.R.Potter on behalf of I.V.Sanderson (Liberal Democrats),both at 11 Cedric Avenue,ROMFORD, RM1 4JL.