WEATHER WOES

May 30, 2010

 

Wow – what a scorcher. West Lothian has had some beautiful sunny days recently with thermometers threatening to pop their tops.

Of course, weather forecasters didn’t see it coming. They never do.

Recently, I was watching the weather channel at 8am in the morning – don’t ask, I just was, right? – and the weather girl informed me that there was heavy showers and overcast skies at that moment across central Scotland. Except, that wasn’t the case. The sun was splitting the trees.

The question that sprung to mind was, if they can’t report the weather correctly as it is at the moment, what hope do they have for forecasting what it’s going to be? And another thing; why didn’t they phone me, ask me to pop my head out the window, and report back with the present conditions?

I recall that a few years ago some students managed to forecast the weather over a long period of time with greater accuracy than the professionals. Asked how they were so precise in their forecast they revealed that they had merely predicted that the next day’s conditions would be exactly the same as they were that day.

A tad embarrassing, that!

However, if you want to forecast the weather even more accurately for the West Lothian area, I suggest we follow the advice of one local farmer who told me to simply look towards the Bathgate Hills.

If you can see them clearly, it’s going to rain. If you CAN’T see them clearly… it’s already raining.

Using that system we can safely disband the Met Office and save the country millions.

Drew McAdam

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MAKING SENSE OF THE SENSORS

May 17, 2010

Have you ever noticed the little grey boxes that are perched on top of traffic lights? They look like cameras, though they are actually sensors.

My understanding – though I could be completely wrong – is that they work on the same principle as security lighting. It detects your vehicle and changes the traffic light to green. The fancy name is demand-actuated traffic signals.

Great idea. Keeps the traffic moving, saves on fuel, let’s everybody get on their way. Because, let’s face it, there are few things more frustrating than being parked in a line of vehicles with every traffic light at red and nothing coming the other way. Anybody who has sat in a queue for twenty minutes at the Kirknewton junction of the main-route A71 with every light on red at that ridiculous forest of traffic signals knows what I mean.

As far as I can see, almost every set of traffic lights in rural West Lothian has a sensor, yet only a tiny percentage of them actually work. The sensors at the nasty junction on the Blackburn Road from West Calder is one of very few that function perfectly. When you approach the lights they turn green. Great!

Unfortunately, that is the exception rather than the rule.

Now, while making the journey for motorists easier is a good thing, it’s not the main reason for complaint.

I wonder what the cost of each of these hundreds of sensors might be? And how many are there throughout West Lothian? It all adds up to a pretty penny, I’ll wager. And if they are not actually working – if they are faulty – then what a mammoth waste of money THAT is.

And another thing: if they are faulty, then surely the company that installed them is responsible for repairing them. I mean, if I bought a dozen security lights and found that 11 of them gave up the ghost I would at the very least be demanding a refund.

It’s just one more thing Oor Cooncil needs to sort out. It may not be much, but it is indicative of Oor Cooncil’s attitude towards just about everything: If it ain’t working, just ignore it. Of course, fixing all these niggling little problems would mean actually organising a repair programme, which in turn would require decisions and meetings and committees and so on.

Too much like hard work.

So I have an idea. We could drill a coin-sized hole in the metal casing of each sensor. They’re the perfect size to make into bird boxes! At least then they would be of some use.

Drew McAdam


SPEEDWAY SPILLS

May 9, 2010

 

By the time you read this, the news will be released about the West Lothian speedway track and the plans for a new home. It promises to be a mega-battle, with squabbling among residents, the Monarchs, a major supermarket chain, developers, and Oor Cooncil Planning Department. All interesting stuff.

But I hope it doesn’t overshadow the sport itself. Now, I’ve never been one for sport of any sort. And in my mind, speedway motorcycle racing was all about oily, hairy lunks going round and round a dirt track on noisy motorcycles till the riders fell off or the crowd got bored and went home.

Well, how wrong I was. This week I was invited along to the hospitality room – a portacabin, actually – at the Monarchs home track in Armadale. And from the very first race, I was hooked.

I was carried along by the packed, enthusiastic crowd – whole families – who cheer every rider, whether they are from their own Monarchs, or the opposing team. Bravery and skill is recognised and applauded. All exciting stuff.

But I was lucky enough to be taken out to the centre of the track to have the men and machines thunder round me. Only there did I really appreciate that they reached impossible speeds that would rip your face off, while each bike is within a fraction of the other as they jostle, slide and wheelie to get past. One tiny error of judgement and all four riders are liable to be airborne. (Hence the waiting ambulance and nervous trackside paramedics, I suppose.) Thrills and spills guaranteed.

And when one of the young 16-year old juvenile riders came in ahead of the opposing London Team number one, I was screaming like a little girl.

So, may I suggest that if you would like to try something really different, you take yourself along to the speedway track and just soak it all up. You’ll be hooked.

This is liable to be The Monarchs last season at the existing ground – depending on who thumps who at the planning meetings – so just make sure you do it before the bureaucrats and men in sharp suits get involved.

Drew McAdam


PARTY POLITICAL PIXIES

May 3, 2010

 

Have you noticed how colourful this month is? First there were the little buds of colour; the orange and red hues were the first. Then, seemingly overnight, the blues and yellows seemed to blossom forth. It’s a miracle.

I am talking, of course, not about spring flowers, but of the election posters – these pieces of card emblazoned with imaginative phrases like: “Vote blah blah” and “Vote yadayada”. Inspiring stuff.

One night you go to bed and there’s nothing to be seen. You awaken the following morning, and the whole county is festooned with these things. Every lamppost and railing has some piece of Day-Glo card hanging on it. It really is amazing. 

I’ve never actually seen these posters being put up. Is it done by an army of little pixies – like oompah loompahs, but dressed in the colours of their selected political party, I wonder? Hundreds of them, all chattering in high pitched voices and climbing on each others shoulders to reach halfway up the lamppost where they secure the poster before moving on to the next one.

Is that how such a rash of party posters appear so quickly and in such a short space of time? I’d like to think so.

But (you knew there was a “but” coming, didn’t you?) what about when the election is over? What happens when the winning candidate is off to Westminster to work out some new way to fiddle their expenses? What happens once the losing candidates have gone home and closed their doors on a world that didn’t understand how their policies would be so different from every other party’s policies?

The rosettes lie abandoned on the floor. The ballot slips are sent off for recycling. The news teams head to the nearest pub. What happens then?

I’ll tell you. Nothing, that’s what.

The little party political pixies are not so fast at returning to take down the posters. Instead, hundreds of cardboard signs hang there for days – sometimes weeks – often until the rain and the wind has left them limp, ripped and jaded before they come loose and lie sodden in puddles.

And I think that’s very revealing about how much a particular political party actually cares about the area. If they really cared, then the party activists (or pixies) would be heading out the minute the votes were counted and they would remove the posters – a blight on our county.

But, no. So often they are left there for ages, sometimes until they work themselves loose. And in my mind, the political party that leaves its posters up the longest is the one that cares the least. If they can’t be bothered going back to take their stuff away, and just leave it there for weeks, then I think that says a lot about them.

And whichever party’s poster is still hanging there in the middle of June is the party who WON’T be getting my vote next time.

So, let’s just watch and see who it is, shall we?

Drew McAdam