Clean Air Day

It’s National Clean Air Day today, so I wrote the following letter to my MP.

Hi Ruth,

Congratulations on your re-election to represent the people of Chiswick again. I am extremely concerned about the air pollution situation in this country and the lack of will by the current Government to address this with a cohesive plan.

Therefore I am writing to you, to see if you can help to improve the air locally.

I work at the Barley Mow Centre in your constituency and to get to work each day I cycle through Ealing, Acton and Chiswick. I am dismayed that each day I see a number of drivers of lorries, van and cars sitting by the side of the road with their engines on. Although this may seem like a trivial issue it isn’t from an air quality point of view and it is harming all of us. It is particularly disturbing to see Mothers in the cars with the engine on unnecessarily outside schools adding to the air pollution there.

I think that it is a case of educating people of the dangers – often when I speak to people who are idling their cars they are unaware that it is harmful and unaware that we are in the middle of an air pollution crisis.

I think as a start, a simple education campaign (on social and print media) would be a simple and cost effective start to addressing this very serious problem. I would love to have the opportunity to speak to you about my concerns, or even take you for a little cycle ride around Chiswick so that you can understand the problem.

Thanks for your time,


There’s also a great flyer about idling here:

PC World Customer Service Problems

Update on the PCWorld DPD eCommerce problems.

25/04/2017 @ 9:30

Soon after I published my blog post about PCWorld’s terrible customer service I started receiving some strange comments on it.

At first, I thought they were a friend messing around with me. So I thought nothing of it but they kept on coming and they were getting more disturbing!

I thought this was quite strange and a little worrying. I ssh’d onto my server and started checking through the Varnish access log.

The following IP address was being used to post the comments.

I searched online to find the IP Address and it came up with the following results:

i.e. that it was owned by Dixons Stores Group, Stevenage. Which means somebody from PC World in the Stevenage store was defacing my blog to get at me!

I also tracked the comments down to articles from David Thorn’s blog

At first one of the PC World support agents, Matt Bagshaw, said that he’d sort the misdelivery out and called me to apologise for his company defacing my blog.

I said that I was willing to be patient but three weeks later I still don’t have my Mac Mini and there hasn’t been any compensation or decent apology from the PC World branch in Stevenage that defaced this blog.

When IT goes bad – a story of PCWorld and DPD system failures

Timeline of how PC World and DPD deliveries completely fail their customer.

27/03/2017 @ 10:49

I made an order for 3 items with my PC World business account.
The PC World website did not confirm which delivery address the order would be shipped to.

27/03/2017 @ 10:50

I received the confirmation email from PC World stating an incorrect delivery address.

27/03/2017 @ 10.51

I called PC World to amend the delivery address on the order. PC World said that the order had already been completed and I should contact DPD the following day to change the delivery address

28/03/2017 @ 8.00

I received a message from DPD saying the order would be delivered (to the wrong address) that day. I found that I couldn’t change the delivery address on the DPD App. I called DPD they said they couldn’t change the delivery address.

28/03/2017 @ 8.30

I called PC World and this time they said they could change the delivery address. They said it would be all sorted.

29/03/2017 @ 8.00

I received a notification from DPD that the order would be delivered today. I received a notification from DPD that PCWorld had updated the address of the order. All looked good.

29/03/2017 @ 12.00

I received a notification from DPD that my order would be delivered that day. I contacted DPD via their chat app and by telephone and told them not to deliver as it was the wrong address. DPD confirmed they had seen the notification for the change of address and verbally confirmed they wouldn’t deliver.

29/03/2017 @ 14.16

I receive a notification from DPD to say they have delivered the parcel to the wrong address that they said they wouldn’t deliver.

29/03/2017 @ 15.00

I contact DPD and tell them they need to redeliver. They say they will return and pick up the parcel and return it to PC World.

30/03/2017 @ 13.52

I receive a delivery at the correct address but it only contains two items of the order.


I contact PC World and DPD and both parties deny responsibility for the miss-delivery. PC World say they will investigate. DPD deny any knowledge of the re-route and re-collection.

31/03/2017 – 18/04/2017

Emails and calls to PC World and met by no response.


I start using Twitter to engage with PC World support and they start to respond, however, they don’t appear to have any CRM to keep records of the situation. I have to explain everything anew with every contact I make.

In the meantime the order is lost and my company is out of pocket, and my staff are waiting for their equipment that was ordered affecting productivity.

The Carbon Cost of Skiing

We love to ski almost as much as we love the environment but there is an obvious conflict between the two. The two factors that most concern us most are the CO2 emissions from the travel and the air pollution from vehicles in the vulnerable mountain regions.

Looking into travelling to Mt Blanc, we found the following:

Mode Flying Train Driving Hybrid Driving Electric
CO2 750kg 50kg 300kg 208kg
Cost £1047 £1400 £103 n/a
Local Emmissions hydrocarbons, CO, NOX, SOX and black carbon No NOx / No particulates reduced NOx / few particulates No NOx / No particulates

Taking the train is the clear winner, apart from when you consider the financial cost which is around £1400 for four people at peak time. The attractive solution would be to go by electric car which would be very cost effective and negate the tailpipe emissions that are causing the air quality issues in the Mt Blanc region.

In conclusion, the only way to significantly limit the impact of our ski holiday on the local environment is to take the train or hire an electric car.

Thoughts on Beyond The Flood

After watching Beyond The Flood we came to the conclusion that the world is in dire peril and how we approach this information comes down to the following metaphor: When the Titanic was sinking how did you choose to spend your last 15 minutes? Were you fighting for a place in the lifeboats, hiding in your cabin, jumping into the sea, tapping out the mayday in morse or in the ballroom dancing?

Well, DiCapprio during his discussion with Obama makes the point clear: it would be immoral to stand by and do nothing, or even to party on as if nothing is happening. With this in mind we’ve resolved to make 3 major changes to our lifestyle:

  1. Given that cattle are responsible for 18% of global emissions worldwide we will reduce out beef consumption to 10%.
  2. Our rainforests are being destroyed at the rate of 300 football fields each hour to make way for palm oil production we will attempt to remove unsustainable palm oil from our diet completely.
  3. This is the most important issue of our times and that of our children, we must continue to keep tapping the mayday on the morse code, and tell our friends, family and politicians to do all they can to avert this disaster.

What are you going to do?

Vintage bike frame to Fixie Project

1952 Rotrax Fixie


Given a clean and straight vintage bike frameset from the 50’s just add the following for a simple and great fixie:

  1. Flip flop rear track wheel (check rear dropout width)- Rayleigh £78
  2. Any old modern front wheel from Gumtree – Campagnolo Khamsin £20
  3. Modern Bottom Bracket English Thread (check axle width for a straight driveline and diameter and thread type) – Shimano £16
  4. Seat post 27.2mm (double check diameter!)- Campagnolo Aero £34.99
  5. Saddle- Brooks B17 Saddle £90 new (great secondhand)
  6. Crankset- Sturmey Archer FCS 44T x 170mm £23
  7. Track chain- Miche 1/8 inch £7.99
  8. Fixed Rear Sprocket- Miche 17T 1/8 inch £9.99
  9. Aero quill stem 22.2mm (check diameter)- Nitto £22.00
  10. Bull bars (watch compatiblity with the stem)- Pattern part £6.00
  11. Flat bar brakes (optional)- Tektro FL750 Silver – Pair £19.99
  12. Brake callipers check frameset drilled holes are present and in the right place – measure drop to make sure your frame works with 700C wheels. (optional)- Miche Silver – Pair £23.00
  13. Brake cableset- Jagwire set £4.06
  14. Faux leather bar tape- Deda £7.79
  15. Coloured Tyres- Lithium 2 Red £26

So that’s a unique to you Fixie with a vintage frame which will be great for thousands of miles all in for £380 (less if you use secondhand parts) + whatever you can get the vintage frame for.


Relative Carbon Dioxide Emissions

Given the earth’s level of atmospheric CO2 has recently breached the 400ppm barrier and it is proven that CO2 levels in the atmosphere affect our climate, I thought I’d have a look into measuring and reducing the carbon dioxide my family’s activities emit.


Using the excellent Carbon Calculator at Climate Care we can get some numbers.

Item CO2
Electricity 2.7
Gas (Heating) 2.94
Transport (Car) 1.54
Holiday 5.04
Total 12.22

For example, our electricity usage of 6000kWh per year, using a worst case scenario of UK power generation produces 2.7 tonnes of CO2. Our gas to heat the house at 14000kWh surprisingly works out about the same 2.94 tonnes of CO2.

I didn’t realise, that relatively, natural gas is a lot better from a CO2 point of view – I guess this is assuming that the UK power generation mix is not renewable powered. You can see the UK’s generation mix in real time here:

Considering our car, the Lexus hybrid over 10,000 miles a year at 65mpg emits 1.54 tonnes, which is almost half the 2.64 our previous diesel car emitted. We can also use this calculator to see how much my 2000 miles cycling a year would save (just under 1/2 a tonne of CO2)!

Looking at the figures for our last family holiday where we flew to Canada, the return flights to Halifax Nova Scotia for four of us were responsible for emitting 5.03 Tonnes in total. Which is the equivalent of driving for two years or heating and powering our house for an entire year.

I had previously thought that we were making good in-roads into our CO2 emissions, but how well have we done?

Being extra careful with our electricity usage and replacing the light bulbs and energy intensive appliances with A++ rating equivalents once they had failed our electricity usage has gone down 10% (from 6600kWh and it looks like this year will be even lower). We’re hoping to reduce our gas usage by 10% too by being more careful, using our Hive to give us a finer grained control over the thermostat and water heating times (you can turn it all off when you are away). However, the energy used to heat our leaky old Edwardian house is truly shocking, and a tough one to reduce – the house is very well insulated already, it is extemely well draughtproofed, we wear jumpers most of the time, use a wood burning stove, and the Hive helps us minimise our usage. We plan to add some double glazing where we don’t have any which hopefully will have a 10% impact.

Next year we won’t be flying to Canada so that will have a large impact on our CO2 emissions. We also hope the double-glazing will reduce the amount of energy required to heat our home. We have also found that solar panels can be fitted to our roof for a relatively small cost and we would assume that this would reduce our annual electricity emissions to zero.

Item CO2 Costs
Electricity 2.7 £924.78
Gas (Heating) 2.94 £713.24
Transport (Car) 1.54 £790.32
Holiday 5.04 n/a
Total 12.22 £2428.34

This costs us £91.65 at to offset. Hopefully next year we’ll manage to halve our emissions and therefore halve both our direct energy costs and also our offsetting costs.

There’s quite a few omissions in the emissions here, the CO2 for building a medium spec car is about 17 tonnes, therefore 1.7 tonnes per year. The food-chain emissions for the food we eat is around 2.7 tonnes for the family, and clothing could be another one tonne. Last year we travelled to Nottingham, Bristol & Settle by train which added a further 0.5 tonnes. We are also making the assumption that our wood-burning stove is carbon neutral as the wood has been harvested locally by council contractors and therefore would have been disposed of anyway.

So our grand family total is around 18 tonnes, which compares to the UK’s per capita average of about 8 tonnes per person or a family total of 33 tonnes.


Teaching the teachers Scatch

I enjoyed giving the following quick talk to the teachers at St Paul’s Brentford this week.

Most exciting though, was that I got them all coding, and they loved it!