Tag Archives: bristol england

Mmm batter…

20110915 Windmill face Zaanse Schans 150x150 Mmm batter...Lydia from The Netherlands sent in this picture of a windmill at Zaanse Schans.  She saw a face in it, which reminded her ofmy website.  It’s a truly suckerbagnificent photograph – a good spot.

Wind is pretty powerful and there is a surprising amount of energy out there.  As structural engineers we make due allowance for wind loading and design wind girders, shear walls, vertical bracing and portal frames to resist racking forces and take them safely down to the foundations.

The power of the wind can be felt in everyday life, too.  At the beginning of this week it was unbelievably windy here in Bristol, England and there was a distinct autumnal feel outside, as the remnants of hurricane Irene (I believe) battered
parts of Britain.  [Mmm batter…]

Autumn always feels refreshing and to me and signals the beginning of something new.  Perhaps it stems from my school and university days, where September marked the start of the new academic year.  My school uniform would be upgraded to the “next level” – a different badge, a different tie – as I moved up to the next year of “big boys and girls” and felt I had grown up a bit.  It was the time for new pencils, new books and new teachers.

Later as I went to university it signalled the start of a new life.  It marked the moment I “flew the nest” and became all “grown up”, even though there was still so much to learn.  And the learning never stopped.  After university I then moved into my first professional job, again towards the end of the summer/beginning of autumn, in a new city with no familiar faces whatsoever.

It is this feeling of apprehension and excitement that has become inextricably linked to autumn in my head.  I call it exhilarfallitis.  These days life just carries on as normal, except it’s a bit colder outside and it gets darker earlier.  There are no fresh starts and nothing really changes anymore.  Still, the learning process carries on and long may it continue.


Windmills are pretty amazing: wind blows, the things turn and you have what is essentially free work.  Their modern equivalents (in the form of wind turbines) are beautiful too.  You get knobheads that complain about the noise they emit, or the way they spoil the landscape but these NIMBYs have too much time on their hands and clearly no appreciation for engineering.  It’s the same people that constantly block moves to build the new Bristol City Football Club stadium.  It is this anti-progress attitude that stops a tram network and a music arena being constructed in our city.  We desperately need all these things to attract headline acts, like Mark Knopfler, to our beautiful and great city.  Currently they all bypass Bristol in favour of Cardiff, which we all know is inferior in many ways. 😉

I would happily have a wind turbine in my back garden, especially considering the handsome sum turbine operators pay for the lease of the land.

The rubber face

The power of the wind can be dangerous as well as useful.  As Uncle Ben didn’t say, “With great power comes great danger”.  A few years ago I
decided to go on a tour of the UK and ended up in Newcastle via several other major cities in the UK.  Travelling on your own can be great, as you meet interesting people along the way.  One time I ended up playing the guitar on Dam Square in Amsterdam because a busker started talking to me – something that wouldn’t have happened, had I been with friends.

In Newcastle I decided to take the Metro to North Shields to look at the pier and the lighthouse.  It was a case of having been there, done it and now having to get the damned T-shirt to prove it to the world.  There’s a beautiful Suckerbaglish verb for it: to etrephymach [et-REF-ee-match], derived from Frech verb être (to be), trophy and the German verb machen (to make or do).  The metaphorical T-shirt would comprise photographs of the lighthouse at the end of the pier.

There were incredibly high winds that day with 70 mph gusts reported.  Conditions seemed fine until I got to the lighthouse when the wind suddenly started picking up.  So strong were the gusts, my Sony Alpha-100 D-SLR swung to a near horizontal position, dangling from the lanyard around my neck.  It was getting pretty dangerous, as the winds were blowing towards the sea and I was the only person on the pier.  It was a pretty scary experience and I applied my knowledge of wind pressure zones and vortices to decide what to do.  Do I crouch down by the parapet and wait to be found?  Do I lie down?

I decided to walk back to terra firma one small step at a time, leaning forwards into the wind, trying to minimise my surface area.  At this point the wind was so strong, my face was being contorted.  I call it aeolilatexfasciitis.  The wind caused my eyes to water and tears streamed down my face, being partially blown away, leaving behind a fine residue of salt and other stuff.

One small step at a time brought me back to shore and it is this same approach that gets you through difficult patches in life, I suppose.  It is this same process that will eventually get this city the new infrastructure it needs.  The trouble now is that there’s no more money left and this country is in economic ruin.  Oh well…

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Dadobaccy, placcy-baccy and jenkem

20110606 Outdoor ashtray smoking dude face 150x150 Dadobaccy, placcy baccy and jenkem

Smoking is one of those things that has, on the one hand, never really appealed to me, yet on the other, it has always fascinated me.  Contradiction?

Well, it is something I wouldn’t get into myself, as I don’t like the smell or taste of it and it’s bad for you, but I’ve always found it intriguing to watch others – whether that’s watching someone lovingly crafting a “rollie” and setting fire to it, or all the paraphernalia that comes with smoking: cigar cutters, pipes, cigarette holders, lighters and so on.

The young Blue Peter and Bitsa enthusiast

When I was a 9 year old boy it suddenly became really cool for the boys to walk around the playground with fake cigarettes – home-made of course.  These were typically made out of bits of white paper rolled into tubes, made to look like cigarettes, the burning and filter effects drawn on with pencil crayons.  As a 9-year-old I already had an engineering (or Blue Peter/Bitsa) streak in me and had to go one step further and found a way of simulating smoke: I got a wad of cotton wool, sprinkled on some (read: sh*tloads of) talcum powder and rolled the thing up with white paper around it.  I then scorched the end to give it that authentic burning effect.  To produce “smoke” you would simply blow through the tube and fill the entire house with dust and the smell of Grandma Suckerbag.  Needless to say, Mother Suckerbag wasn’t too happy about that…

Smoking ban

When the smoking ban was introduced in England it was met with mixed feelings.  In the run-up to it I seem to recall the BBC doing regular vox pops around The Berkeley, a JD Wetherspoon’s pub on Queen’s Road, Bristol, England.  Whether good or bad, the ban is here to stay and it has led to a new culture of smokers congregating outside pubs and other public buildings, hovering around one of these ashtrays that looks like a cool smoking dude.


Ever the half-baked inventor, I was inspired by this and something I saw on a hospital construction site in Cambridge a few years ago.  In hospital wards you sometimes have dado trunking with specialised gas outlets, for oxygen, laughing gas and a vacuum socket (imagine attaching yourself to the wrong one…).  The gas outlets are typically fed from cylinders in the service yard.

In the same way you could have a central tobacco burning room and feed tobacco smoke through the dado trunking on insertion of coins or a pre-paid chip card.  An office worker could put on a modified diver’s helmet and plug it into the socket.  An air extract system would be in place along with a clean air supply, creating a constant air circulation inside the helmet, preventing leakage.  The advantage of this would be that people could carry on working whilst smoking and wouldn’t have to take 5-minute fag breaks.  They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but my drawings skills are terrible so you’ll have to make do with my description.  I call my invention dadobaccy and it need not be restricted to offices: it could be implemented in on trains, planes and hospital wards… Doctors would recommend it!! (Not)

Disposable pipe 

An earlier invention I had was to use empty fountain pen cartridges to make disposable pipes.  Simply take one out of your pen, stuff it full of Golden Virginia, Drum or Cutters Choice (I only know these names because I used to work in a convenience store) and Bob’s your uncle!  Have I ever mentioned the fact that I have an uncle Bob?  I’m sure I have…  Search for it in the archive…

The only trouble is that you get the added toxic fumes from the burnt plastic, which would pack a punch equivalent to the fictitious Jenkem (look it up if you don’t know what that is).  I call this invention placcy-baccy.

Cool smoking dude

This image was sent in by Tom in Cambridge.  It is a nice addition to the two pictures I had in my collection already.  Have a look through the archive to see if you can find them!

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May the 4th be with you

20110504 Darth Vader 150x150 May the 4th be with you

So today is unofficially Star Wars day, so to celebrate, here’s a little bit of waffle for you.

Today is the 4th of May, or May the Fourth; and may it be with you for the rest of today and beyond!  To celebrate I have attached a photograph of one of the little electrical outlets you see along the Floating Harbour in Bristol, England.  With a little imagination you will see a silhouette of Darth Vader.  Speaking of Star Wars characters, have you ever noticed that Margaret Beckett looks like Jar Jar Binks?  Do an image search and you’ll see what I mean.


AV Referendum 

I don’t normally do politics in my articles, but the Margaret Beckett reference prompted a mention of the Referendum on the Alternative Vote, or AV.  Tomorrow people in the UK get to decide whether or not we want fairer votes.  Whilst it’s still not as good as Proportional Representation, I believe it’s a good halfway house and a step in the right direction.

To those naysayers who go on about the principle of “one person, one vote”, I’d like to point out that under the current system not everyone’s vote is equal.  This is intuitive really, as everyone has heard of so-called safe seats, but it’s worth looking up “Voter Power Index” on the internet for information.

I’m not a militant yes-man (so to speak) and if anyone has any good, positive arguments for keeping the status quo, I’d like to hear from you.  All the arguments I have heard against AV have focused on negativity and scaremongering.  No-voters, please let me know your comments.  Vic Suckerbag is willing to learn (if there’s anything to learn on this matter) and I’m listening!  I may suck bags but I don’t bite or bark!


There will be more faces soon, but I have been a little bit busy…  In the meantime, please don’t forget to join us on Twitter and Facebook!

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Snog a Fish Day

Snog a Fish Video Thumbnail1 150x150 Snog a Fish DayHello again and happy 14 February 2011! What’s that? Oh, I thought today was International Snog a Fish Day. On reflection, for some people this may well be the case…

Silliness aside – actually, silliness firmly centre stage – I spent yesterday afternoon rebuilding the site to accommodate the new feature I see motion, or video to you and me. First up is a clip of a fish I filmed at Cosmo, an all you can eat buffet restaurant in Bristol (England), situated on the Triangle some time ago. Around the back of the restaurant, where we sat that evening in May (or whenever it was), there is a fish tank built into the wall and there was a fish measuring approximately 7 cm (or if you’re that way inclined), stuck to the aquarium wall, exhibiting the most bizarre behaviour. Take a look for yourself – I’ll go and put the virtual kettle on…

Hello, I’m back – brew in hand… Okay, so this went on for quite some time. Either it was extremely hungry or it really wanted to snog me. Oh yeah? I think it’s abundantly clear that it was the latter and you’re just jealous! 😉 Well, for one night only we can share the love. Happy Snog a Fish Day!

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Raining Hundreds & Thousands…of raindrops

cabot circus catwalk 150x150 Raining Hundreds & Thousands...of raindropsI have a widget (or “gadget” in Windows 7 parlance) on my desktop PC at work, which tells me the current weather in Bristol, England.  As I was getting ready to leave the office for the day the current weather read “Sprinkles”.  “Mmmm, spinkles,” I thought and imagined what kind of sprinkles I might be faced with outside.  Would it be chocolate sprinkles?  Could it be hundreds and thousands, perchance…  Alas, it was neither and I was drenched in bog standard H2O: rain.  But at least it was fairly mild.

Last week was absolutely freezing again and I happened to have the week off work.  I had some reports to write and some web design to do, but on the 5th day I rested.  I went out for a stroll into town and happened upon a catwalk in Cabot Circus.  Apparently Gok Wan was in town.  Pardon?  No, nor me, but apparently he’s famous… 😉  As I gazed down upon the stage from one of the many bridges, I thought it looked like a massive hand sticking up its middle finger as if to say, “Cold weather, be gone!”  A week later it was.  But now it’s raining.  Be careful what you wish for.

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