In Halfax Quality of Life Survey, Hart drops to 26, while Surrey Heath nowhere

I’ve followed the annual Halifax Quality of Life Surveys – Best Places to Live – since 2007. I’ve remarked on the inconsistent methodology for compiling the survey, HERE last year, and HERE about statistics.

daily-mail-graphicI’ve not found the Halifax press release on their 2016 Quality of Life Survey on their website, or anywhere on the Lloyds Banking Group website – most annoying. I did find the Bank of Scotland press release on the Orkney Islands being second on the list. The Daily Mail’s article Do you live in one of the 50 best places to live?  has extensive coverage of the survey. Here’s the table of the top 20 places. For the table of the top 50, go to the Daily Mail article. [Hatip to Daily Mail for graphic – click to expand].

  1. Winchester, South East
  2. Orkney Islands, Scotland
  3. Wychavon, West Midlands
  4. Derbyshire Dales, East Midlands
  5. Hambleton, Yorkshire and the Humber
  6. South Cambridgeshire, East of England
  7. Purbeck, South West
  8. St Albans, East of England
  9. Wokingham, South East
  10. Chiltern, South East
  11. West Oxfordshire, South East
  12. South Hams, South West
  13. South Oxfordshire, South East
  14. Tonbridge and Malling, South East
  15. West Dorset, South West
  16. South Northamptonshire, East Midlands
  17. Waverley, South East
  18. Shetland Islands, Scotland
  19. Horsham, South East
  20. City of London, London

Essentially, the survey is a Halifax marketing exercise. There’s nothing wrong with that. However, I reckon they rejigged the components specifically to ensure that Hart didn’t retain it’s position as number 1. The whole survey is suspect when one considers that Hart, the ‘best place to live’ in the Britain over the last five years fell to number 26 in this year’s survey. Surrey Heath, well placed in previous years, even becoming third one year doesn’t make it into the top 50. Decidedly odd.

Halifax said one reason was the inclusion of two new categories in its research – the number of pubs and the availability of leisure centres.

Serendipity involved in discovery of brilliant new blue pigment

Me, I’m a blue person. I just prefer blue to other colours. I do, though, have a hankering for purple of Roman Emperors. Just a hankering mark you, nothing in my wardrobe of this colour. I do have weeks when it’s no blue – as happened on our recently holiday.

New blue pigmentEnough about me. What about this new blue pigment. Discovered accidentally by researchers at Oregon State University [OSU] in the USA. Here’s what the University say about the discovery,

OSU chemist Mas Subramanian and his team were experimenting with new materials that could be used in electronics applications and they mixed manganese oxide – which is black in color – with other chemicals and heated them in a furnace to nearly 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit. One of their samples turned out to be a vivid blue. Oregon State graduate student Andrew Smith initially made these samples to study their electrical properties.

It turns out this new blue pigment is,

… formed by a unique crystal structure that allows the manganese ions to absorb red and green wavelengths of light, while only reflecting blue. The vibrant blue is so durable, and its compounds are so stable – even in oil and water – that the color does not fade.

These characteristics make the new pigment versatile for a variety of commercial products. Used in paints, for example, they can help keep buildings cool by reflecting infrared light. Better yet, Subramanian said, none of the pigment’s ingredients are toxic.

The new blue pigment is called ‘YInMn blue’. Methinks they need a better name than that. Can’t see me going into a shop and saying I’m looking for a shirt in YInMn blue. The Daily Mail article on the discovery goes into some of the science involved.

Competition hotting up to provide our broadband service

Writer states the blindingly obvious – competition is a good thing. That competition is for our broadband provision.

Regulator Ofcom has an interactive map letting customers check their broadband speed and mobile phone coverage. While the Daily Mail also has an interactive map. It uses the latest Ofcom data showing our part of the UK already has good broadband access. Click on map to visit the Daily Mail broadband speed map.

Recently I reported that Virgin Media had written to Lightwater households seeking the level of interest in receiving ultrafast internet access – up to 200Mb. Delivery being based on laying fibre optic cable to the home. I’ve not yet heard from Virgin Media, as they promised, whether Lightwater is among the early locations for this service.

Meanwhile, BT [our current broadband provider] has written saying that our broadband package and landline service is being upgraded. From 3rd July our BT Infinity broadband will increase from a maximum of 38Mb to 52mb, and our data allowance increases to 45Gb/month. Sadly, this doesn’t come free. There’s an associated price increase. Choices, choices.

Broadband map of UK 2016

Find the social category of your local area in this interactive map

A fascinating interactive map of social category was featured in yesterday’s Daily Mail.

You can interact with the map at CDRC Maps, or by clicking on the map below. Based on the 2011 census data, it uses a myriad of social category classifications. Moving the your pointer over the map reveals the social category of your area, and neighbouring area. Have fun.

Surrey Heath Social Categories

With every best wish, is a good email sign-off. What does your sign-off say about you?

There’s been a sudden spate of articles about the good practice, and even etiquette on how you sign-off emails.

Salutations and their use have been a topic of etiquette for decades. More recently, their use in emails has been reviewed in – You’re ending your emails wrong – in Bloomberg Business, which was quickly taken up in i100 with – You have been signing off your emails the wrong way, and in the Daily Telegraph with – Your email sign-off is ‘vulgar and lazy’. Here’s how to do it properly.

Having been a borough councillor I always considered my sign-off to be almost as important as the content of the email. Showing courtesy and respect is obviously necessary, but as is exhibiting empathy, which can come in the warmth of the sign-off.

All the articles bemoan the use of ‘best’, which I have on occasion used, though felt uncomfortable doing so. Perhaps it’s the brevity, and maybe it also lacks the empathy that I feel is important.

We’re all taught from a young age to use please and thank you, so signing off thank you is traditional and courteous. Inter-office email sign-off’s can be brief or might be non-existent, which’ll depend to some extent on office practice.

As you might imagine, I like the more carefully thought about sign-off’s, and consider, ‘regards’, ‘kind regards’, ‘best wishes’, and so on to be dull. Forbes quotes 89 ways to Sign Off an Email. All a bit US-slanted for my taste. Net Manners offers more variety.

I’ve come to use a combination of these words, warmest, kind, regards, good, wish, and wishes. My current favourites are, ‘With every good wish’, and ‘With warmest kind regards’.

I’m thinking about using ‘pip-pip’ or ‘toodle-oo’. To friends, of course.

It’s the history of the execution of justice and cases that matter rather than the courtrooms

This week a party from Camberley & District Probus Club visited the Central Criminal Courts in London – otherwise known as the Old Bailey.

As I mentioned earlier photography was prohibited, being in contempt of court to so. So I didn’t take any.

Our tour of the courts, which took place after the end of court business for the day, was hosted by the courts Secondary – Charles Henty. He’s the manger of the 18 courts and the 320 staff needed to run them. He’s at work not long after 6.0am and has a bunk in the Court buildings, going home to his family at the weekend. A brief run through of justice from Magna Carta through to today, Charles enlivened with some of the famous and gruesome cases and gruesome outcomes for the convicted. He said the OldBaileyOnline website is a splendid resource of the court processing over the past centuries, and suggested entering a surname, for most names will return a past criminal or worse. Indeed he’s correct plenty of people named Dodds were witnesses, defendants, or victims.

I looked for copyright free images of the interior of the buildings – especially the grand marbled and frescoed Grand Hall. All to no avail. However Behind locked doors at the Old Bailey in the Daily Mail, has extensive descriptions and pictures, of the Grand Hall, cells, Dead Man’s Walk, and more. The BBC also have pictures and conversations with Charles Henty in The secret world of the Old Bailey.

MP’s being in touch with voters, it’s all a matter of balance

How some politicians exhibit being in touch with the lives of their electors, while others do not, is all a matter of balance between being in or out of touch. Perception is all here particularly by the electorate.

I don’t believe that, generally, electors expect politicians to be completely in touch with every aspect of their lives. It’s more a matter of being in touch with the values of the common man. Being ‘in touch’ is a phrase heavily used by Ed Miliband against David Cameron. Probably not for much longer, methinks.

Out of touchness is perfectly exemplified by the Emily Thornberry views of the ordinary elector, as revealed by her ill considered tweet, and expressed view about seeing a house with numerous St George flags, ‘I’ve never seen anything like it before’.

I’ve seen Emily Thornberry on TV political programmes, like Question Time, and not known anything more about her. Trust the press to investigate. Properly known as Lady Nugee, wife of barrister Sir Christopher Nugee, she lives in £3million mansion in Islington. You can read more about her HERE.

As Hazel Blears has said, “People right across the spectrum do feel that politicians who have never done a different job [other than as a career politician] somehow cannot be in touch with their lives.” She is further reported in the Daily Telegraph saying,

Mrs Blears said the public wanted MPs to live in their constituencies, and be seen to use the same shops and buses to show they are in touch with reality and not locked in the Westminster “bubble”.

While this isn’t entirely practical for every constituency, I agree that an MP should have a residence in their constituency. An example of an in touch politician would be Simon Danczuk, he of the councillor wife given to amusing ‘selfies’, who said in the MailOnline:

“Everyone will know exactly what she meant by that comment. I think she was being derogatory and dismissive of the people. We all know what she was trying to imply.

I’ve talked about this previously. It’s like the Labour party has been hijacked by the north London liberal elite and it’s comments like that which reinforce that view. I want to see more people flying the British flag.”

As I say, it’s all a matter of balance. Get it wrong and damnation follows.

Andy Robertshaw’s startlingly real replica WW1 trench system

We’ve been to Andy Robertshaw’s replica World War 1 trench system in Charlwood, Surrey. It’s the subject of a major feature in the Daily Mail. The many photographs in the feature show Andy, dressed in WW1 uniform, in different parts of the trench system.

In the photos it shows Andy with nicely polished boots. Now, I’ll let you into a little secret. It looks lovely, if that’s an acceptable word to use to describe a war trench, in the Daily Mail’s photographs. We visited the trench on one of its open days. The little secret is that when it rains, it’s not lovely. The mud is truly clingy and not easy to avoid in the narrow trenches. So, if you do visit the trench system make sure that you wear suitable clothing and boots. Oh, and have a plastic bag in which to put your muddy shoes, and a spare shoes in your car.

Don’t let this put you off. We thoroughly recommend you visit for its life-like representation. As Andy says in the Daily Mail article, what comes to mind when you’re in the trench is the many ways you’d try to make it more comfortable, and to keep your boots dry. Here are a couple of photos of the mud in trench at the end of March 2013 – see earlier blog for more photos.

Encountering a resting soldier in under a shelter. Note the muddy boots and putteesMoving along the trench system, over muddy and slippery duck boards

Here’s hoping our BP Filing Station canopy is better constructed

In yesterday’s Daily Mail there’s this story,

Two lucky motorists cheated serious injury today after a petrol station canopy collapsed on their cars. The roof of the BP garage in Coalville, Leicestershire, was unable to withstand the torrential rainfall yesterday and gave way hitting two cars, a white Vauxhall Corsa and a black Ford. Fortunately, both owners were paying for fuel when the collapse happened.

Canopy under construction at Lightwater BP Filing StationWhen the Lightwater BP Filing Station’s canopy was being erected, funnily, how I noticed that the drain pipe for the roof was smaller than I’d expected for such a large non-sloping roof [see my photo of the canopy under construction, which doesn’t really show much].

Surrey Heath in top 10 areas for life expectancy in England

This month the Office for National Statistics [ONS] released data on life expectancy rates at birth for England.

Derived from the 2011 Census Data, the ONS data reveals that of the 211 Clinical Commissioning Groups in England, Surrey Heath CCG is in the top for life expectancy at birth for both men and women. The ONS report says about the data,

“ONS analysis looks at variation by Clinical Commissioning Groups in 2010-12

Healthy Life Expectancy (HLE) is based on subjective self-assessed health and adds value to life expectancy by estimating average lifetime spent in a favourable state of health. These measures are being used more in health and social care resource planning and policy, to gauge things like pension provisions, fitness for work, pension ages, and population health needs assessment.”

The key points from the ONS release are,

  • NHS Guildford and Waverley had the highest healthy life expectancy [HLE] at birth and at age 65 for males and females (70.3 years and 71.3 years at birth, 12.4 years and 13.1years at age 65, respectively).
  • The lowest HLE at birth was in NHS Bradford City for males and females; at 52.5 years and 51.6 years respectively.
  • The top ten Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) with the highest HLE were clustered in an area to the south and west of London.

Helpfully, the Daily Mail has extracted the data in a number of easy to understand charts and tables. Meanwhile here’s the table for men, then for women:


  1. NHS Guildford and Waverley                       70.3
  2. NHS Wokingham                                            69.9
  3. NHS Surrey Downs                                         69.8
  4. NHS Horsham and Mid Sussex                    69.2
  5. NHS Richmond                                                69.2
  6. NHS Chiltern                                                    69.0
  7. NHS Windsor, Ascot and Maidenhead       68.9
  8. NHS Surrey Heath                                          68.8
  9. NHS North East Hampshire & Farnham   68.7
  10. NHS West Hampshire                                    68.3


  1. NHS Guildford and Waverley                       71.3
  2. NHS Surrey Downs                                         71.2
  3. NHS Richmond                                                71.0
  4. NHS Wokingham                                            70.8
  5. NHS Windsor, Ascot and Maidenhead        70.3
  6. NHS Horsham and Mid Sussex                     70.2
  7. NHS Chiltern                                                     70.0
  8. NHS Surrey Heath                                            70.0
  9. NHS West Hampshire                                     69.7
  10. NHS North East Hampshire & Farnham    69.6