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Monthly Archives: October 2016

Chilbolton Observatory – Hampshire’s Finest Abandoned Airfield

Chilbolton Observatory is one of Hampshire’s finest abandoned airfields. During World War II it was once home to squadrons of Spitfires, Hurricanes, Mustangs, Typhoons, and Vampires.

Opened in 1940 as a satellite airfield for RAF Middle Wallop it was used by the RAF and USAAF.

After the war it was used for flight tests before being closed in 1961. Today it is the site of Chilbolton Observatory, a facility that carries out atmospheric and radio research.

The footage in the video below was taken using a DJI Phantom Vision+ quadcopter drone in June 2014.  You can clearly see that the car park of today was once part of the main runway.

Chilbolton Observatory

Chilbolton Observatory, abandoned airfields, Hampshire

By assumed USAAF [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The airfield was an operational base for a squadron of Hurricanes during the Battle of Britain.  The image to the right shows the airfield in 1944 when CG-4As gliders and C-47s transports gathered there in preparation for operation Market Garden.

Today, crop marks in the fields reveal the locations of two of its three runways while in this image the runways, dispersal points, and perimeter track can clearly be seen.

In 1941, with the Battle of Britain won the previous year, the airfield was designated a Care and Maintenance facility.

1944 saw the arrival of the USAAF in the form of Spitfires and Mustangs from the Tactical Reconnaissance Squadrons of the 67th Reconnaissance Wing.

Hawker Tempest, RAF Fritzlar, Germany, 1945

Hawker Tempest, RAF Fritzlar, Germany, 1945. © B Lovegrove

Between 1945 and 1946 it was back in the hands of the RAF.  The airfield saw the arrival of several more squadrons of Hawker Tempests (a derivative of the Hawker Typhoon), Spitfires, and Mustangs.

(Note: In October 2016 at Goodwood Airfield the Hawker Typhoon RB396 Restoration was launched.)

For example, 247 Squadron’s Tempests F2 andTyphoon Ibs arrived on 20th August 1945, and departed on 7th January 1946.  A few month’s later the squadron’s first de Havilland Vampire jets arrived.

When the RAF vacated in 1946 it was taken over by the Vickers Supermarine company and became the location for tests of their new aircraft which included the Supermarine Attacker, Supermarine Swift and Supermarine Scimitar.

The Folland aviation company also used it as a test area for the Folland Gnat and Folland Midge aircraft.

The airfield was also used for location shots for the 1952 David Lean film The Sound Barrier.

By 1961 all major flying operations had ceased and the site was transformed into the location for atmospheric and radio research.  Civilian flying continues at the Chilbolton Flying Club grass strip.

The Chilbolton Observatory radio telescope is a prominent local landmark and it is still used as such by passing aircraft.  It is on the edge of the Middle Wallop MATZ (Military Air Traffic Zone).

Folland Midge during test flights at Chilbolton in 1954

Crop Circles at Chilbolton. Elaborate hoax or a reply from distant planet?

October 26, 2016

The NHS Wasted Billions – Where Does All Our Money Go?

The NHS Wasted Billions - Where Does All Our Money Go?Hardly a day goes by without one politician or another banging the NHS drum.  The political ping-pong often revolves around the NHS wasted billions.

In July of this year the Jeremy Vine show on BBC Radio 2 covered the anniversary of the death of Aneurin Bevan, the founder of the National Health Service.  I wonder what Mr Bevan would make of today’s NHS.

During the program Jeremy Vine interviewed an Aneira Thomas, the first baby born in an NHS hospital.  She was born on the 5th July 1948 at Amman Valley Hospital, Carmarthenshire.

She, her three sisters, and her daughter have all spent years working in the NHS in a variety of roles. As you can imagine she is a champion for the Health Service and is very proud of her connection to it.

However, when Jeremy Vine asked her what was the single biggest cause of waste in the NHS here answer was surprising.  As I recall (and you can correct me if I’m wrong) she didn’t use the opportunity to knock the Tories or blame Conservative policies.  Instead, she seemed to draw attention to the waste within middle management.

During the preceding weeks I had seen numerous stories in the press about the amount of waste in the NHS.  It began to look as if the NHS is a huge bucket with so many holes in it that every time the budget is increased a lot of it escapes through the holes.

The NHS Wasted Billions

For 2015/16, the overall NHS budget was around £116.4 billion.  It’s the second biggest slice of the tax payers’ pie after pensions.  Defence spending for example is a third of health care.

If you work in the NHS you will probably have your own opinion so feel free to add your comments below this post.  I’d be interested to know what truth there is for each of these examples of the holes in the bucket.

  1. Consultants paid thousands for weekend work (NHS paying locums up to £4,000 for a day’s work, The Times, February 2017)
  2. Agency nurses paid excessive daily rates
  3. The protectionism of middle managers who take a salary but contribute nothing
  4. Paying fortunes for drugs that should cost a fraction of the cost
  5. Outright and deliberate fraud
  6. Health tourism (accounts for £1.8 billion alone)
  7. Failed IT projects
  8. Over-treatment and over-diagnosis
  9. Contracting management consultants who give no value for money
  10. Perks, expenses, and bonuses paid to staff well in excess of their productivity
  11. Theft from hospitals and other medical centres
  12. Self-inflicted conditions and associated illnesses e.g. obesity and diabetes. (No excuse for eating junk food because healthy meals are cheaper, report finds)
  13. Six figure ‘golden handshakes’ for departing executives and consultants
  14. 1990 Courts And Legal Services Act (Section 58) which creates an annual legal bill of £1.5 billion
  15. Bills for private finance NHS hospitals under the Private Finance Initiative (PFI).  All but one of these deals was signed for under the Labour government between 1997 and 2010.
  16. Loss of equipment lent to patients that is not collected or returned
  17. Money sent abroad to fund anti-smoking projects in other countries

Are these all valid?  Can you think of any others?

Hospital Parking Charges

Hospital parking charges are a contentious issue.  Over £120,000,000 was collected in 2015/16 according to a report published by the Press Association.

On the one hand there are the hospitals justifying parking charges as an important revenue source that offset the budget cuts.  While on the other the patients, their families, and their visitors are angry about paying for every visit.

If just some of the waste in the list above was addressed perhaps many hospitals could waive or at least reduce the parking charges.

Further Reading

Why can’t we admit to ourselves that the NHS is one of the most overrated, inefficient systems in the world? – The Independent, April 14th 2017

 

October 26, 2016

How To Sell CDs, DVDs, Books And Turn Your Clutter into Cash

How To Sell CDs, DVDs, Books And Turn Your Clutter into Cash

During one of the recent fits of de-cluttering I found a new way to sell CDs, DVDs, books, and other items that would otherwise sit in the car boot or eBay pile.

Sometimes it seems like the world is just too full of stuff.  Our garages and our lofts are filled to overflowing with unused items that we hang on to ‘just in case’.

The surplus has spawned a new storage industry.  Every town now has a selection of storage facilities and many of those lock ups are for the accumulated belongings of people how have run out of space at home.

We are obese with belongings.  It’s time to shed some of the fat and turn it into cash.

I’ve tried car booting.  It’s a very early start, usually on a Sunday, and a drive to a field or a school.  You stand there for hours while people sniff at your £1 price tag and walk on seemingly unwilling or unable to haggle.

I’ve had an eBay account since 2003 (!) and sold plenty on there but it’s becoming harder to do so. The fees are high and the buyers can be pain with endless questions and frequent returns.

I don’t think eBay likes the small buyers and sellers any more.  They seem to be more accommodating to the shops and other businesses.

What is needed is somewhere I can ship in bulk for a quick cash return.  A sort of send and forget model.

How To Sell CDs, DVDs, Books etc For Cash

One option is Ziffit.com.  They provide a free app with which you can scan the barcode on your CDs, DVDs, and books.  The app then gives you an instant valuation and adds the item to a virtual basket.

Once you’ve completed your scanning you’ll have a total valuation and you’re ready to pack and ship the goods.  You can drop the box off at the nearest Collect+ point (usually a nearby newsagent).

At first you might be disappointed by the amount paid for each item but consider the alternatives:

  1. Drive to a car boot sale and sell some of your CDs at a higher price. You pay for the pitch and you may not sell all the CDs.  Add to that all the hassle of packing and travel.
  2. List them on eBay and pay the fees: listing, transaction and any optional extras.  There’s no guarantee you’ll sell all or any of them.
  3. Sell them in bulk using Ziffit.com.  One parcel, one shipment, one payment for all of them.  The price per items is less but the net result is cash in your bank without the time and the hassle of the first two options.

Of course Ziffit isn’t the only company that offer this service but I tried others first with the same collection of CDs.  Ziffit came out on top because they offered 20% more for the goods and the app worked better than others I tried.

It might be hard to part with a copy of Led Zeppelin II bought at HMV in 2008 for £9.99 but with iTunes and Amazon Prime it’s become a backup copy only.  Besides, with the cash from the sale of old CDs I might just complete the circle and buy some vinyl.

October 25, 2016

How To Prevent Identity Theft And What To Do If It Occurs

How To Prevent Identity Theft and what to do if it occurs

Identity theft is a relatively recent phenomenon but it’s on the increase.  Here are a few tips on how to prevent identity theft and what to do if it occurs.

Last winter I was the victim of identity theft.  Someone used my name and address to take out contracts with several mobile phone companies.

I started to receive letters in the post from these companies.  I have only ever had dealings with one mobile phone company so it was obvious that something had gone wrong.

One by one I contacted them and had the contracts cancelled. I spent a lot of time on the phone and it was a pain in the neck but at least I didn’t lose any money.

However, it did affect my credit rating for several months but I have now had that restored to its former healthy status.  Below I explain how to do it if it happens to you.

How To Prevent Identity Theft

  1. Be aware.  It may seem obvious but are you familiar with the risks of having your identity stolen?  Read up on the facts using this guide on the Action Fraud website.
  2. Use a shredder.  Don’t throw away anything that has your name and address printed on it.  Use a household shredder when disposing of old utility bills etc.  Be particularly careful with bank statements, credit card statements, receipt, and invoices. Once you get into the habit it becomes reassuring that nothing is going into the bin that could reveal details about your identity.
  3. Be vigilant online.  It seems every website you visit wants you to register your details.  This is only to be expected if you intend to buy a physical product that needs to be delivered. Over time your name and address will be stored in more and more databases.  How secure are they? It’s only when the larger companies experience a security breach that headlines are made.  Don’t provide more information than is needed.  Just because the form is there it doesn’t mean you have to fill it in.  Just provide the minimum await of information for each site at which you register and close accounts you no longer use.  Remember to request that all your details are removed and ask for confirmation that this has been done.
  4. Use a password manager.  It’s all too tempting to use simple and easy to guess passwords.  Identity theft is never going to happen to you is it?  So why bother with cryptic passwords?  If you want to run the risk that’s up to you but if you’ve got any sense you’ll use cryptic passwords that are a combination of letters, numbers, and special characters.  I started using Roboform Password Manager years ago and it’s now an indispensable tool that I use every day.
    Use a password manager
  5. Monitor your credit rating.  For a small monthly fee you can keep a check on your credit rating.  Companies like Experian compile the details of all the mortgages, loans, credit cards, and other financial agreements that you’ve taken out.  If you apply for any new agreements then the companies to which your submit your application will check your score to measure the risk of accepting you as a client.  It may seem like an unnecessary expense but like all good insurance it’s a relief to know you have it when something does happen.  It’s also very useful for keeping abreast of all your financial commitments.  In fact, there are all kinds of benefits of maintaining an account and monitoring your credit rating.

What To Do If Identity Theft Occurs

  1. Don’t panic.  A calm and methodical approach will sort things out but it’s going to take a little effort.  It happens to all sorts of people and help is at hand. There are processes and procedures already in place to deal with it.
  2. Keep all the evidence.  Put all the letters, statements etc together in one place were you can find them easily.  You might want to use a folder as you’ll have to store the paperwork for several months.
  3. Inform the companies.  Contact the companies in question and ask to speak to their Fraud or Security department.  Explain what has happened and ask them to cease the fradulent accounts.  Keep a record of the dates and times you called, who you spoke to, and any reference numbers they provide.  Ask for written confirmation that the account taken out in your name has been closed.
  4. Wait.  Some companies will close the account while you’re on the phone.  For others there may be some delay.  It will take several days if not weeks for confirmation to come through that all is well and that you do not owe them anything. As each confirmation arrives add it to your folder and one by one you’ll see that all the fraudulent accounts are closed.
  5. Report it to Action Fraud.  By reporting identity theft and other types of fraud you’ll be helping in the fight against it.  Your information may also help to bring offenders to justice.
  6. Check your credit rating.  If you’ve got an account with Experian or a similar company (as I suggested above) you’ll be able to keep a check for any adverse effects on your credit rating.  If all the companies have done their job properly then there should be no outstanding amounts on your account.  However, I found one company had not removed the details of a debt in my name and a follow up letter to their head office was required.  Eventually it was removed but I would not have been aware of it had I not kept a check on my credit rating.

Conclusion

As with everything in life there is a risk involved.  We can mitigate those risks by taken sensible precautions.  Those actions become habits once repeated a few times.

No one wants to answer the door to a bailiff demanding payment for a debt you know nothing about due to another incident of identity theft. Keep your personal information private and monitor your credit rating.

You’ll feel more in control and better prepared if anything does occur.

More Information – UK

More Information – USA

October 17, 2016

Twitter Hashtag Hours – Meeting Points in Cyberspace

Twitter hashtag hours

Twitter hashtag hours are an example of simple idea that is both useful and free to use.  Simply send your tweet in a sixty minute window each week to reach businesses and individuals in a given area.  It’s a great way to network and make new contacts.

As the idea has caught on it has spawned hundreds of new hashtags.  Each one seeks to act as a focal point for a particular geographic area or a niche interest.

Some accounts have been duplicated while others have fallen into disuse.  As with all things in cyberspace it’s a good idea to check the data for integrity every now and then.

The list below is for the weekly area or county hashtag hours in the UK.  I compiled this list from another I found online but it quickly became apparent that the list I was about to use was out of date. It contained duplicate entries and other errors so I have checked each hashtag against the Twitter account the manages it.

Times are UK local time.  If you spot any errors or find any other regional hashtags please let me know in the comments below and I’ll update the list.

Twitter Hashtag Hours

Monday

19:00-20:00hrs #CumbriaHour
19:30-20:30hrs #DorsetHour
20:00-21:00hrs #CheshireHour
20:00-21:00hrs #HertsHour
20:00-21:00hrs #LincsHour
20:00-21:00hrs #NorthEastHour
20:30-21:30hrs #NorfolkHour
20:00-21:00hrs #TorbayHour
20:00-21:00hrs #WorcestershireHour

Tuesday

14:00-15:00hrs #NorthEastHour
19:30-20:30hrs #SurreyHour
16:00-17:00hrs #EssexHour
19:00-20:00hrs #veganhour
20:00-21:00hrs #HampshireHour
20:30-21:30hrs #BerksHour
20:30-21:30hrs #KentHour
20:00-21:00hrs #Merseybiz
20:30-21:30hrs #SoutheastHour
20:30-21:30hrs #WiltshireHour

Wednesday

20:00-21:00hrs #CambsHour
19:30-20:30hrs #CornwallHour
20:00-21:00hrs #DevonHour
21:00-22:00hrs #LondonBizHour
20:00-21:00hrs #MidlandsHour
20:00-21:00hrs #NorthWestHour
20:00-21:00hrs #ShropshireHour
20:00-21:00hrs #StaffordshireHour
20:00-21:00hrs #YorkshireHour

Thursday

20:00-21:00hrs #EastAngliaHour
20:00-21:00hrs #LancashireHour
20:00-21:00hrs #NorthantsHour
20:00-21:00hrs #SomersetHour
20:30-21:30hrs #SussexHour
20:00-21:00hrs #ManchesterHour
20:00-21:00hrs #WirralHour
20:00-21:00hrs #SouthWestHour

Other Hashtag Hours

There are hashtag hours for all kinds of interests.  For example, if horses are your thing there is #EquineHour every Sunday 8-9pm,   every Monday at 8-9pm,  to connect with horse lovers & equestrian businesses worldwide every Wednesday 8-9pm, and  every Thursday 8-9pm

If your topic of interest is covered then there’s nothing to stop you from opening a Twitter account and starting a new hour of your own.