July 29, 2018

Trying out a new ICE

ICE, ICE, baby!


So I thought I'd see what it's like living with one of those new Internal Combustion Engines for a couple of days. 

This isn't a post about the actual car itself (a nice Honda Civic) but more about the actual day to day issues/benefits of living with an ICE car if you're used to an EV.

My intention was to go from my house in Basingstoke to my sister's house in Huddersfield. With an EV this would be no problem - straight up the M3, round the M25 and up the M1 with a couple of charging stops at the services (unless I'm in the Tesla) - and done. 

My first problem was range anxiety. I didn't know how far I would be able to travel with the fuel in the Civic. When the car arrived the 'tank' was only half full. According to the manufacturers I could get about 38 MPG on a mixed cycle. The problem is I didn't know howmany gallons I had left.Yup, there's no GOM on majority of the ICE car so it's a bit hit and miss when it comes to working out how far you can go.

My next  problem was when I got in the car to drive off. With our EV's, of course, we start the day fully charged. But with the ICE car I had to head off and find a petrol station to fill up first. 

Finding a petrol station wasn't a big problem as there are around 8000 of them dotted all over the country. But be warned, most of them close at night so if you run out after about 11pm you could find yourself stranded.

However, when I got to the petrol station I hit my first snag: a plethora of fuelling options. Apparently there are different types of fuel you can put into an ICE car and you have to make sure you get the right one. There's diesel, unleaded, premium unleaded and - for certain legacy vehicles there is also something called '4-star'. All very confusing for those of use who like to just grab plug and start charging. Under no circumstances must you put the wrong fuel in your vehicle or the world will end.

Also different station operators have different names for their fuel. Shell have one name for their top of the range unleaded and Esso have another. There's no indication if these are the same or different and my Civic owners manual was no help. 

My next surprise was the actual fuelling itself. Rather then locking the fuelling connector into the vehicle and walking awayI had to stand there and hold the lever to allow the fuel to flow. Very strange. Only when it was finished could I go and find a latté and sandwich. Oh and by the way while some refuelling stations allow payment at the pump, most of them require you to actually go into a little office at the edge of the forecourt to pay after you have filled up. This can take several minutes if there's a queue. 

The biggest surprise by far was the cost. Putting enough unleaded into my Civic to fill up cost me around £28. At home this would have been free on my solar panels. But for comparison: for that amount of money I could have run my EV for almost 600 miles off grid electricity. But the £28 was only enough to fill half my tank (approximately 150 miles). Incidentally I checked all 8 pumps in the refuelling station and not a single one was on free vend! This was common across all the refuelling locations I visited. 

Driving the car itself was interesting. Obviously there's the noise factor. ICE cars make a lot of it - more so if you're using diesel. But more disappointing was the performance. I put my foot down at the lights and the car engine engaged and started to pull forward as the engine decided to power up. There is a thing called a torque curve with all ICE engines which basically means that the power doesn't come all at once but is fed in gradually. Hardly useful if you're heading into a roundabout in the face of incoming traffic, right?

And don't even think about 1-pedal motoring. It doesn't exist in an ICE car. You have to keep your foot hovering over the brake or you will run into the car in front. I almost rear ended several vehicles at the traffic lights as I kept forgetting the car needs to be told when to stop. 

Having sorted out these driving quirks I headed up the M3 and seemed to be making good progress. The charge meter - I mean 'fuel gauge' -  stayed pretty much where it was for the first 40 or so miles, which was quite confusing. But then something weird happened. The fuel gauge needle dropped. It went from completely full to just over 3/4 full in about 35 miles. All my range calculations went out the window and I started to get worried. This was compounded by the fact that there was no regenerative braking to feed power back into the engine. It didn't matter how much I stood on the brake I couldn't seem to get the fuel gauge  to stop moving down. 

Then I hit some traffic on the M25. Found myself stationary for about 15 minutes. In my EV that's not an issue - no battery use,  no loss of range. But with this ICE car I could see the fuel gauge moving even though I wasn't. It was almost as if the engine was draining the fuel without actually moving the car forward. 

I crawled along to Toddington services. The fuel gauge was showing I had used a little less than a quarter of a tank of fuel. I calculated that I could get as far as Newport Pagnell and top up there. But given the erratic fuel gauge, the lack of regen and the drain while stationary I decided to fill up at Todd. No chance in getting range anxiety and worrying about being stranded on the side of the road, right?

I also needed a pee. So I parked, peed, paused for a second to check out the range of overpriced foods at the M&S, and grabbed a coffee. It was when I got back to my car that I had another realisation about this ICE car. I still had to go around to the fuel station and repeat the process of finding the right nozzle, standing holding the lever as the connector transferred the liquid, then queuing behind the other people waiting to pay before I could be in my way. No plugging in and leaving it while you do other things. There doesn't appear to be the ability to let the car refill itself while you do other things. Seems a bit of a waste of time if you ask me.

As I was putting the nozzle back on the 'pump' I accidentally spilled some unleaded. It went down the side of the Civic, on to the floor and over my hand. What awful smelling stuff it was. I spent a few minutes cleaning up before continuing. Someone from the office had to come out and put sand down on the floor to soak it up.  I was disgusted at this but not as disgusted as I was when I found out the price. Apparently the people at the service stations have added a premium to the fuel there because you're a bit of a captive audience. I put in about £12 of fuel but my calculations indicate that at the place I topped up near my house the same volume would have cost me about £10.50. That £1.50 difference would have bought me about 10 KWh of electricity on an Ecotricity charger. Enough for a couple of days regular commuting! Shocking. 

I got to Newport Pagnell and the fuel gauge had - again- been erratic and non linear. I had to decide whether to top up or take a chance that I could go further. A rudimentary calculation indicated that I should be able to do at least 300 miles on the current fuel level. This would be more than enough to get me to my final destination. But I had no app to locate fuel stations en route. Was it worth risking it?

Seizing my courage with both hands I decided to risk it. I mean range anxiety is a serious matter and not having a GOM was a bit of a handicap. But I would grasp that nettle and plough on. 

But then we hit another snag. At the next service station my wife decided she needed to pee. I pulled in and stopped out front. With my EV I would have plugged in and topped up while she used the facilities. But this wasn't possible. There is a minimum amount of fuel by law that a petrol pump can dispense. As I didn't think I had used the minimum amount between the two service stations I couldn't use the pumps. I had to sit there with fuel pumps in sight and not use them while she peed. Very frustrating!

But then we were on the way. Almost 70 miles of trouble free ICE motoring.

Then..

Ahhh! - More jams. Some sort of accident outside Nottingham. We were in stop/start traffic and the temperature inside the car was climbing. I flicked the air con on and lowered the temperature of the interior. But this had an adverse affect on the fuel consumption. The little meter in the car showed that air con was sapping the fuel and the range. This was exactly what happened with my EV but - because the car lacked a GOM -  I had no idea of the range impact. Speaking to other ICE car drivers it appears that this is totally normal and the cold winter weather can sap your range by up to 20%, too. I spent a nervous few minutes monitoring the gauge and doing mental calculations. I figured we should be all right.

Leaving the motorway at Jct 35a I headed over the Pennines to drop into the back of Huddersfield. The climb up the hill would - apparently - drain the fuel and sap the range but unlike an EV the drop down the other side wouldn't recharge it even if I freewheeled.  Very disappointing and a real design flaw in these ICE vehicles, I think. 

I'm pleased to say that I made it to Huddersfield without further mishap. The fuel gauge appeared to be at about 2/3's empty. A quick calculation showed I had about 100 miles left meaning a useful range of 300 miles from a full tank. Apparently various diesel versions of this vehicle can seriously extend this to 500 and 600 miles from a tank. But diesel is even more expensive then 'unleaded' and kicks out some very nasty things at the back end. 

Also a reminder that the Civic had to pay a specific fee to the government every year for kicking out noxious exhaust gases ('Road tax'), is not eligible for congestion charge relief and will cost you more every year to service as the complex internal combustion engine has many moving parts that need monitoring, servicing and lubricating. 

So in summary I would say the ICE experience is somewhat different to the EV one. Obviously it's still pretty new and it will develop, but it's not there yet. Stick with your EV until they've ironed out the glitches. And start saving for your petrol!

Pros: Quick refuelling turnaround; took about 7 minutes overall

Cons: Expensive. Smelly. Noisy. No ability to refill at home. Slow acceleration curve.  Expensive. No regen. Multiple fuel 'types' cause confusion. No GOM makes range calculation difficult. Did I mention the expense?


(Just in case there's any doubt about this it is, of course, a parody article meant to show that a biased review of a new type of vehicle can very easily be made by selective inclusion and exclusion of facts. Articles of this type about EV's are rife in the traditional media and can be seized upon by anti-EV advocates to show how the technology isn't ready or won't work for some reason. But just by changing the point of view it's very easy to make the same case for ICE vehicles)

Photo Credit: wbaiv Flickr via Compfight cc

February 08, 2016

Are you listening to these podcasts?


I discovered podcasts a number of years ago but never really got into them until quite recently. With the iPhone (or Android equivalent) there are podcasting apps that will allow you to curate the best podcasts for your interests

Being a writer and actor I like to deal with things related to scriptwriting. This manifests itself as listening to two main podcasts and a number of smaller ones.

Scriptnotes:
A podcast about screenwriting and things that are interesting to screenwriters. Hosted by John August and Craig Mazin. This always has interesting topics which are well handled. Craig takes a bit of time getting used to. He is most certainly of the ‘I am absolutely write and you are absolutely wrong’ brigade. If you don’t like that (or umbrage) don’t listen.

Nerdists writers panel:
Hosted by Ben Blacker (a TV writer himself). He interviews writers in the TV industry. Usually people who have been staffed on, or are show runners for, current TV shows. Born froma  desire to know more about how people got started, how they work and what advice they can give writers. nothing like this existed so he created it.

 


Children of Tendu:
Infrequently updated but always informative. Hosted by two very experienced TV writers: Javier Grillo-Marxuach and Jose Molina who have over 40 years of industry experience between them.




 Wittertainment:
Film review podcast hosted by Simon Mayo and Mark Kermode. The podcast is from the BBC Radio 5 Live show which goes out every Friday (usually) for 2 hours. Prior to the show being broadcast the 2 hosts tend to record some podcast content which is then continued after the show has finished. The best bits of the show are usually at this point.

Wittertainment has its own Witterpedia where you can follow along with a lot of the  in-jokes and references (Mr Flappy Hands, for example).

Film critique and banter that work well together. The podcast is the radio show from BBC Radio 5 live coupled with additional bits recorded before and after the show.

I also listen to certain esoteric items such as the Freakonomics podcast (The podcast that expires the hidden side of everything). This is a really interesting podcast which takes everyday items and looks at them from an economics point of view. For example did you know that Sweden is the largest purchaser of Tesla vehicles outside the US? Want to know any? Listen to the podcast.

Kevin Pollak has a chat show he records (and live streams) from the West Side comedy theatre in LA. He invites guests from the comedy scene (both stand up and film/tv) and they chat for an hour or two about their careers. Variable audio quality on the feed but very, very interesting and amusing. Hearing Dana Carvey do his Lennon/McCartney discussing Kanye West skit is priceless by itself.



In my life podcasts are brilliant for listening two under two circumstances:
1 When I’m trying to clean the house or do chores. A bit of Wittertainment will wile away an hour or two of vacuuming and dusting,
2 When I'm doing an early morning drive to work. Kevin Pollak is very useful for listening to in the car when I’m travelling on an early call (say, 4.30am) from the rural place where I live back into civilisation. I recently did a five day shoot on a production based on an old Len Deighton novel and this involved a 2 hour commute each way. I got through quite a lot of podcasts on that shoot, as you can imagine!

What podcasts do you tend to listen to? Any ones you would advise me to try?




February 02, 2016

I am writing ... a lot.

Photo Credit: hjconti via Compfight cc


I seem to be doing lot of writing these days.

I write for:
  • Two blogs,
  • Two Facebook pages,
  • A web site,
  • Four twitter accounts,
  • And a personal journal.
This is without looking at the screenplays, stage plays, novels and treatments I produce on a yearly basis. A lot of what I write comes from ideas I drop into my Spark File

With so much writing it becomes important to understand the process of writing.

I, basically, centralise all my writing in Scrivener. The is a brilliant tool which is a mix between a brainstorming tool and a word processor. It splits the writing process into a capture part and a formatting part. Each can be done separately. I don’t know how I would be so productive without it. I am writing this blog entry using the tool as we speak.

Using Scrivener

  • Scrivener is ideal for long form writing. Over the last couple of years I have written two novels in it. Between them they amount to over 200,000 words. But each one loads in a fraction of a second and is easily navigable thanks to Scrivener’s “binder” which makes creating, navigating and selecting items simple.
An example of a Scrivener binder
(Thanks to Become a Writer Today for the image)
  • Scrivener is also useful for Blog Posts. Other - more advanced writers than me have written about using Scrivener for blogging here, and here, and here[1].
  • But, by far the majority of the work I do on Scrivener is for script writing. I find that I can quite easily use the various pieces of functionality within Scrivener to assist me in the development of an idea, the creation of characters, the outlining of a story and - when all’s said and done - the actual creation of the script.
The thing I like about Scrivener (other than the ultimate flexibility it has) is the fact that I can do all my organising, formatting, research etc. in Scrivener, but at the end of the day I can write anywhere.

Let me explain:

Scrivener and Fountain

Scrivener is compatible with Fountain which is a markup language based in plain text. All this means is that by writing using a basic text editor (which comes with pretty much every computer tablet or phone), you can write anywhere. All you ned to know is a little bit of syntax relating to what you are trying to do. For example here’s a fountain text file extract:

INT./EXT. BLOOM HOUSE - (PRESENT) DAY  

The front door opens to reveal Will and Josephine on the porch with their bags.
REVERSE to Will’s mother Sandra (53), surprised and a little annoyed.

SANDRA
How did you get here? 

WILL
We swam. The Atlantic, it’s not that big really.
 
For those who know screenplay format you’ll see that there’s not a great deal of difference. What this does do, though, is allow you to just worry about the words on the page rather than the format of those pages. Fountain knows that when you put an ALL CAPS entry on its own line it is (usually) a character name. It knows that the next block of text must, therefore, be dialogue. By using these simple little markup tricks it is a very quick learning curve for Fountain.

But here’s the real icing on the cake. You can write in Fountain and have Scrivener automatically synch your data to a Scrivener file for continued working on your laptop or Mac.

Let me repeat that: You can start on your Mac in Scrivener, synch the screenplay you are working on down to, say, your iPad, then continue working on it in Fountain while you are enjoying your cup of joe at a Seattle-based coffee chain. When you’re fully caffeinated you can come back to your house and resynch the Fountain files back to Scrivener and continue working at home. All you need is something like Dropbox to act as the intermediary file location and you’re done. No further additional software needed.

Once you are happy with whatever you are writing it is then possible to tell Scrivener to export your writing in the appropriate format for the material you are producing.
  • For a blog it would be appropriate to export it in.html format so it can be dropped straight into your blogging software of choice.
  • For a novel it would be good to export it either as an ebook so it can be read using a Kindle or similar
  • For a script it would be good if it could be exported as a formatted PDF using the script settings recognised by the industry
  • For a novel it would also be good if it could be exported to Word for transfer to an editor.
Scrivener can deal with all of these. It can even take the lovely Garamond font you have been writing with and transfer it all to Courier or Times New Roman or Helvetica as you wish.

What is my writing process?

I’m like William Goldman (Screenwriter). I just write the damn thing! I sit down and I work my way through the first draft as quickly as I can. Sometimes I get something that is reasonably respectable. Sometimes I get something which is crap. But in each are I find it easier to do my best work when I have something in front of me that I can review. As an example, the posts on this blog (especially those dating from the beginning of this year ) have all been written in ‘vomit draft’ form to start with. This article, for example, was done in a bing session in January. After that I spent time refining them over the months and creating something with a higher quality. That’s how I work. Screenplays are similar. I write quickly - sometimes up to 30 pages per day. Sure, it’s not always good stuff, but it does allow me the pleasure of having something I can read and critique.

“Writing is re-writing” is a saying that I have heard (and you have probably read) on many occasions. Never has that been truer than with me. Once I have my vomit draft complete I like to let it sit for a short while. For a screenplay it could be a week or two. For a novel it could be month.

I come back and look at it with fresh eyes. These eyes can then see the piece for what it is. They can then review what’s written and see what works and what does. That’s the point when I realise the silly things I’ve done like named the character something different in the latter part of the script than the first part (I may have called him Colin at the start but moved to his last name Smith towards the end). That’s also when I can read through the script or novel with a critical eye checking for things like “Does it flow?” “Do the characters work?”, “Do they have a distinct voice?”.

None of these things can really be seen out when writing something. This has to happen via a suitable period of non-exposure to the material.

Summary

  • Get a software that support your process
  • Write as quickly as possible and get the vomit draft out there
  • Wait a while to let the initial knowledge of the piece die down
  • Go back and start the (re)writing
More on the process later in the year.

  1. For more on blogging and Scrivener I recommend the last of those links.  ↩

Do you have a Spark File? I do.

image
Photo Credit: EpicFireworks via Compfight cc

Do you have a Spark File? I do.

What is a spark file?

A spark file is a list of ideas or thoughts that are gathered together in one place. My spark file currently has almost 10,000 words and has been going for about two years. It, basically, contains everything that comes into my head that might be useful for an idea in future. A quick look at my Spark file brings up things such as “The transience of human endeavour”, and “Death is for other people. Not us. Of course death comes to everyone. But this quite is interesting” Also in and amongst there are a number of reasonably fully formed ideas about specific bits of writing. An example of this is the idea for A30 - a One Act play I wrote, directed and produced last year: ”A middle-aged couple decide to drive down the A30 to see Lands End which is where they had their honeymoon. On the way down there they find that their relationship isn’t as strong as they think it is when he admits to not being completely faithful to her.”

How do you use it?

The idea of Spark File has been around for ages. It has been mentioned on numerous writing forums that one of the best ways to get ideas it to always carry around a notebook and pencil with you. That way whenever something occurs to you it can be noted down and dealt with later. This is the ubiquitous capture method. Pencil and paper has been the standard for many years. In a recent documentary from Woody Allen he noted that eh does exactly the same thing. Only he doesn’t use a notepad he just has bits of paper. He jots down notes and gathers them together in a shoebox under his bed. Once he has completely a movie he pulls the shoebox out, consults the notes and find and idea for his next movie. My Spark File is pretty similar. I maintain it electronically (See below), but the concept is the same. If I am out walking - which I do quite a lot - I can be thinking about numerous things at once. Or I might see something that grabs my attention. Then I make a note of it in my Spark File and forget about it.

They key to creating a good Spark File is to make sure you input everything that comes into your mind. The beauty of gathering everything is that nothing gets missed. The problem of gathering everything is that nothing gets missed. There could be some shocking bits of thought captured in there (See my note above about ’The transience of human endeavour’).

So the second key thing to remember about a spark file is that you need to review it regularly. I already mentioned how Woody Allen reviews his once a year when he starts a new film. The thing that he does - and the thing I would recommend - is to take the ideas that you have in there and see if you can merge them together to create something that might be more useful as an idea for a script or a novel (or a comic book. Whatever).

As an example of this I had an idea once which involved dealing with lots of people in a confined space and what would happen if they were trapped together. A few months later I read an article about Full Saturation diving. This is where divers who spend a lot of time working at depth can live in a compression chamber during the work. They compress to the level they are going to work at (say 1000 feet), work there for two or three weeks breathing air that is fully saturated with gases other than oxygen (nitrogen is the big example). Then they take anything up to a week or 10 days to decompress back to surface level. For the whole of that time they are cooped up in a series of compression chambers on board a chip. These chambers are not in the least bit roomy. All it needs is one person to be in a bad mood and you have an issue. These two idea were mashed together to give me the basis for “Pressure’ - a screenplay about full sat divers who encounter a problem which stresses them to a point where they start to turn on each other.

How do I maintain my Spark File?

I mentioned earlier that spark files can be written in notebooks or on scraps of paper and dropped into a shoebox. Personally I want mine to be a little more high tech. I always have my phone with me - especially when I’m out on walks - so it would make sense that this is the thing I use to capture my Spark file idea. I use Drafts on the iPhone as my data capture tool of choice. With Drafts I open the app and I’m presented with a blank screen. I jot down the idea, thought, comment or saying that is running though my head. I simply click the button to send the entry to me Spark file. This is simply a plain text file on a Dropbox folder. Drafts integrates perfectly with Dropbox (along with many other apps). The entry is added to the top of my Spark file and a dividing line is added below it. That way I can separate it form other entries. I can add as many or as few of these as I like and they will all be waiting for me when I get back to my desk. I simply call up the Spark File and scan through it to see what jumps out at me. As part of my implementation of Scrivener I have also linked the Spark File into a Scrivener project so I can go straight from there to my writing.

Where do ideas come from?

I like to quote John Cleese when he talks about where do his ideas come from. He said something along he lines of  
“I get my ideas from a woman called Mavis who lives in Chipping Norton. She gets them from a man called Eric who lives in Brighton. Eric gets his ideas from a man who sits in an alleyway behind the Wimpy in Swindon High Street. Where he gets them from I have no idea” 
The short answer is that ideas come from anywhere and everywhere. I read a lot of on-line articles (I use Pocket to gather them all together and read them when I get a minute). I also read newspapers (mostly on-line) and long form articles which are sent to my Instapaper account. Between them they are many sources of inspiration for ideas.

As I mentioned earlier I also tend to go for walks every day. There are two reasons for this :

  1. I get to leave the house, get some exercise, and see the countryside near where I live .
  2. The act of taking exercise sparks the brain cells into working better then sitting (or standing) for long periods at a desk .

As I walk I can work through things in my head. Sometimes it’s how to solve a plotting issue in a script I am writing. Sometimes it’s how to get a couple of ideas to merge together to create an idea that isn’t totally pants.

Oftentimes I just go for a walk and ask myself ‘what if’ (“What if all the cars in the country were electric? What would happen to the people who work in petrol stations or oil refineries? What about the petrol tanker drivers? What if one of them saw what was coming and tried to sabotage it?”) With thoughts like this it isn’t difficult to come out with a list of possible ideas to drop into my Spark File. The other beauty of this process is that notes can range from an in-depth idea along with character thoughts and plot to a simple statement.

Nothing is out of bounds.

Does quality matter?

As I mentioned earlier on, there are a lot of entries in my Spark File that don’t make a great deal of sense in isolation. But they are gathered and captured regardless. The beauty comes when you can sit down with them and merge them together to create something that does work. This is certainly a case of the whole being more than the sum of the parts.

Do you have a Spark File (or similar?). How do you deal with it?

January 13, 2016

The New Look!

The more observant of you will have noticed that I have changed the theme and layout of this blog. The old style has served me well for several years, but with the number of posts I have written recently dropping down to zero I wanted to relaunch the blog with a new focus and a new look.

The theme I am using is ZenZero from Net Blogger Themes. It is simple, sparse and has a nice, clean layout suitable for reading. I am deliberately not putting ads on the site as I think you should be able to view the posts without being bombarded by pop-ups etc. all the time. It may look like there isn’t a lot happening with this layout but if you click the little icon in the bottom left hand corner: the one that looks like an equals sign with an extra horizontal line: Yes, that one. Down there. Can you see it? Click that and a whole magical world of other stuff will appear.

All right, maybe I’m exaggerating a little. But it will reveal the sidebar for the blog. There you will find whatever I decide to put there on any given day. As the muse strikes me (hence the name of the blog).

Keep an eye out for upcoming blogs related to my process, writing, and the odd musing her and there as we move forward through the year.

Welcome back to everyone!

It's water before milk - Making the perfect cup of tea.

Making the perfect cup of tea

Pouring tea [^cf1]
How many of you drink tea?
How many of you drink tea from teabags?
How many of you that drink tea from teabags, put the teabag in the cup, add milk, boil the water then add the water?
Well I am here to tell you you’re doing it all wrong. But first:

History

  • Back in the mists of time travellers used to bring back loose leaf tea from India and Ceylon. This was sold to households who would either put the tea bags in a teapot or they would use something which hung over the edge of the cup and allowed the water to wash over it. Milk was added to the cup either before or afterwards.
  • Somebody then decided that they would put these loose leaves into a bag. People could drop the bag directly into the cup and pour the water on it. Hey Presto! No more loose leaves in the tea disrupting peoples enjoyment of the beverage,

So what?

The problem with this is that the switch from loose leaves to teabags obscured the fundamental principle of making tea:
The flavour of the tea is caused by boiling water scalding the leaves.
If boiling (or almost boiling) water doesn’t come directly into contact with the leaves the flavour of the tea is not produced correctly.
Back in the day when teapots were used, hot water was dropped directly onto the leaves. They were allowed to percolate in the hot water (or ‘mash’) until strong enough. The resultant tea was poured into cups with (or without) milk in the bottom. The flavor of the tea was produced as it was intended
Back when china cups were more delicate than they are now, milk was used to ensure that the boiling water from the tea didn’t crack the delicate crockery.
Nowadays, if you are putting milk in your cup or mug and adding a tea bag you are not getting the full flavour of the tea and, therefore, you are doing it wrong. The milk is acting as a barrier between the leaves and tea. The water which is then playing over the leaves is no longer boiling and the tea cannot be produced in the correct manner.
There’s a reason the best tea companies in the world have their tea served with no milk and no sugar. Nothing should affect the flavour of the leaves.

The correct way

  • Whatever happens, the milk and the teabag should not come into contact. If you are using a teapot all is well. You can put your bag or your leaves into the teapot and add milk to the cup to your heart’s content
  • If you are using a mug or cup then always put the teabag in without the milk. Add the boiling water, stir, remove the bag then add the milk.
Remember this next time somebody asks you ‘milk first or tea first?”
[^cf1]: Photo Credit: Juavenita ♥ via Compfight cc

January 04, 2016

Winchfield Action Group

I am the webmaster and committee member for on organisation called WAG - The Winchfield Action Group. We are fighting against the mass development of 500 houses right on top of a small, rural village of 200 dwellings called Winchfield in Hampshire. I would encourage all my readers to take a glance at the WAG web page or Facebook page and add their comments and thoughts. I am reproducing below a recent post which details why this new settlement is a bad idea not just for Winchfield but for all the nearby towns that believe they will benefit from having development centralised in Winchfield:


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There are groups which would accuse WAG of NIMBYism (“Not In My Back Yard”) and at a superficial level this is understandable.

But WAG’s opinion is not that we don’t think Hart should concrete over Winchfield with 5000 new homes. We believe that Hart should not add 5000 new homes ANYWHERE in Hart as a new settlement. There are a number of reasons for this. Primary amongst these is the fact that the new settlement is not needed, but a key point to remember is that the new settlement will have an adverse impact on large areas of Hart district.

I live in Dogmersfield/Church Crookham. Will this affect me?

Absolutely. Apart from the influx of contractor vehicles for the development as they try to gain access to the land where the new settlement will be built, there are additional transport impacts. 5000 new houses will result in an average of 10,000 new journeys per day. A large majority of these will travel to destinations outside the immediate area and go via either Hartley Wintney, Fleet, Farnham or J5 of the M3. Any journey from Winchfield to, say, Guildford, will travel through Dogmersfield and on to Church Crookham. The additional traffic will affect both quality of life and house prices in the area.

I live in Hartley Wintney. Will this affect me?

Hartley Wintney will suffer from the same problems as Dogmersfield and Church Crookham. Additional traffic will cause problems at places such as the exit from the Odiham Road to eh A30 at Phoenix Green, the A30 junction with Dilly Lane, the A30 roundabout at the bottom of Bracknell Lane and the A30 junction with the Fleet Road. Furthermore the additional people in the area will make parking on the high street more problematic and rapidly fill up the pay-and-display parking behind the One Stop. Veterinary services will be affected as pets from 5000 new houses need to gain access to St Kitts for operations, checkups and vaccines. The dentist and hair salons in the area will become busier making it more difficult to get appointments. All this is on top of the fact that the projected development will, effectively, link Winchfield to Hartley Wintney through coalescence of the St. Mary’s estate and the new settlement.

Commuters to London from both Hartley Wintney and Dogmersfield. Church Crookham will find that parking spaces at the Winchfield Railway Station will be impossible to find. Should they be dropped off there by spouses (thereby increasing the number of daily car journeys) finding a seat or even a standing space in the morning rush will be impossible. There are no plans to increase capacity on the line at the moment.

I live in Hook. Will this affect me.

Hook will suffer from all the problems that Hartley Wintney will suffer from. In additional to that there will be traffic problems at the M3, J5 as more traffic tries to gain access to the motorway heading to either Basingstoke or eastbound towards London. Once again the new settlement will encroach on Hook with 1800+ houses of the new development officially falling in to the Hook Parish. Coalesence is another issue to be wary of as the western edge of the proposed development will connect with the eastern edges of Hook at Murrell Green.

I live in Yateley. Will this affect me?

Yateley is already afflicted with traffic issue as a result of development in the area. Hart’s own figures indicate that most commuters in the area head towards Surrey Heath or Rushmoor. This will increase commuting traffic up the A30 at Blackbushe, Cricket Hill and Frogmore, as well as the Meadows roundabout at Camberley. This will add to the misery of commuters. People working in Reading will also be affected by additional traffic heading up the A327 towards Eversley and further North, which is already a car park on most mornings and evenings.

I live in Fleet. Will this affect me?

Apart from the cut-through traffic from Winchfield which will seek to rat run through Elvetham Heath to the M3 and along Elvetham Road to Fleet Station, the new car park in Fleet will rapidly fill up as people use Fleet car park to let them leave their cars at the station when they commute to London. Obviously finding a seat on the train will be even harder than it is at present.
Car parking in Fleet will become more and more difficult as the population of the area increases. With parking at a premium Hart could, quite easily, increase parking charges as an incentive to not drive into town. The cost of being a Fleet resident will increase.

Doctors and dentists appointments will become harder to get as new settlement residents seek to establish health care facilities for them and their children.

Furthermore the children will need somewhere to go to school. Even though four schools are in the plans for a new development, these will not be built as part of the first wave of development. As a result existing schools will be pushed to capacity and beyond. Even when a new school is opened, it will focus on the children from the new settlement and will not, necessarily, solve any current overcrowding issues at Calthorpe Park.

I live in Hart. Is this good for me?

Apart from increased traffic, increased pollution, decreasing school places and the strain on facilities, a new town in Winchfield will cause significant funding issues in the short term for Hart. They already have a considerable funding shortfall and adding the new settlement will only increase that. One way the council can seek to fill that funding gap is to increase the council tax for everyone in the district.

Hart has been voted as the most desirable place to live in the country for four years running. If a large settlement is built right in the rural heart of Hart it is unlikely that this accolade will be bestowed on us for much longer.

The short answer to the question “Should I worry about a new town if I don’t live in Winchfield” is “Absolutely!” There will be a financial, economic and quality-of-life impact to everyone in the district if this development goes ahead.