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Over to you!

What’s on your mind today?


I find that it is impossible to contact the DVLA on line by e.mail. They lead you on a goose chase of options and choices, but get a simple message to them? No way!

One for wavechange…

We have discussed sticky rubber before. Just wondering your thoughts on this:

I wish I could remember where we discussed this before, Alfa. I have tried using various solvents on sticky rubber and had little success, but since the composition of rubbers varies it may be worth trying. The photo of a camera in your link shows that the rubber has been completely removed. That will cure the stickiness problem but from my experience the cosmetic appearance will be poor.

I am still the owner of a sticky John Lewis radio that is fine on the base which is not exposed to light.

Vynor and I have sticky John Lewis radios and if I recall correctly, you have sticky speaker stands.

Em says:
9 April 2021

I normally dust with talcum powder, if the stickiness cannot be removed with solvents.

A tip for removing sticky paper labels from plastic food containers, without scratching:

– Peel off any plastic coating on the label.

– Smear with cooking oil and leave overnight.

– Gently remove the label and wash as normal.

I did use talcum powder on the sticky handles of a couple of screwdrivers after the previous discussion but I’ve not tried it on the radio, in case it affected the appearance.

One way of removing sticky residue after labels have been removed is to gently rub with Brasso, but bear in mind that it is a mild abrasive.

I had my doubts wavechange, but hubby needs to solve sticky rubber on his car door handles.

I also normally use talcum powder Em, but it can leave things looking unsightly.

Thanks for the oil tip. I use Sticky Stuff Remover bought from Lakeland years ago and it has left marks on stubborn labels. Food jars I keep for a second use such as chutney, usually get a bulk soak overnight starting in a bowl of hot soapy water.

A tip for writing on plastic:
I cook food in bulk and freeze it in glass food containers with clip-on plastic lids. I write the contents and date on the lid with a freezer pen. Smear the writing with Fairy washing up liquid and leave overnight, and the writing rinses off.

Now that I am well aware of the problem of plastics becoming sticky and that this is due to an irreversible chemical change, I know to look out for these plastic coatings when shopping. It’s just another reason for using shops that have goods on display rather than using online suppliers. Next time I buy a car I will be on the lookout to avoid rubberised plastics, Alfa.

I bought binoculars, as a gift, from RSPB online and was disappointed to learn that they had a non-slip rubber coating. They are less likely to be dropped but in a few years they could become sticky, especially if exposed to daylight.

The way that rubbers deteriorate depends on their chemical composition and that is not something that the consumer will get to know. Some rubbers don’t become sticky. For example, elastic bands lose elasticity, become brittle and weak.

The introduction of synthetic rubbers has allowed the manufacture of O-ring seals and other engineering materials that have a much longer useful life than products derived from natural rubbers. The rubber coatings on household plastic items are presumably chosen because they bond well to plastics and have good non-slip properties. I am optimistic about the possibility of overcoming the stickiness problem by using different materials, but is it in the interests of manufacturers to provide us with products we want to keep for many years?

In my experience most plastics – it is not just “rubber” – do not deteriorate in this way. Many “rubber” products are not; polychloroprene is commonly used ( neoprene). So I do not think a manufacturers conspiracy is a valid suggestion.

We bought a box of mixed size elastic bands some years ago, and they are mostly useless now.

We also have sticky binoculars.

Thankfully most of my tools with comfortable handles have survived well but I did have to use the talc treatment on a couple of screwdrivers. I must ask the owner of the rubberised binoculars how they are doing. I have discarded half of my elastic bands. The coloured ones seem to survive longer.

Malcolm – That’s my point about the benefits of synthetic rubbers, and neoprene is one of the best known examples. Most plastics are synthetic too, though there are interesting ones made by microorganisms.

This seems a rather curious comparison to make. At one level, in the private sector, if you rent a home someone else is having to buy it, so it stands to reason you may pay more than if you were to own it. And renting gives you nothing else in return, whereas buying is a form of saving; you are building an asset that eventually gives you a capital return.

What this interesting article does emphasise is the huge difference in house prices across the UK, reflected not only in the monthly cost but, crucially, in the mortgage deposit required to get on the housing ladder. If you are, as many are, unable to save the huge deposit needed in, say, the south east, the option is to look elsewhere; a wrench maybe but if you are an aspiring home owner, and it is by far the best option for most, the way forward.

Just another piece of sensationalist journalism. We can all make eye-watering comparaisons by looking at costs over a sufficiently long period. £800 a year more for renting, ehh?

That’s £2 per day, the price of a cup of take-away coffee, a newspaper, or turning the heat up a few degrees. Maybe not a great premium if you want to remain mobile and not risk a property slump.

If you believe house prices will continue to rise, as I hope they do being fully invested in my property, then we don’t need to consider the loss of income on the equity invested, something the Halifax analysis seems to overlook. On the other hand, I know several people who ended up with negative equity in the 1980s and had to walk away from their homes bearing a large loss.

One other point to consider is that UK houseprices have been artifically inflated for decades by planning controls and secret agreements operated between estate agents and commercial builders. Ask yourself why prime building plots are never available on the open market, if you don’t believe this.

If I was starting over, I would still aim to buy my own house and encourage others to do so as well. But it is an investment like any other and should carry the same warning: “Past performance is not a guide to the future”.

There are more things to consider than looking at these costs. Although I only had two jobs in my working life, many want the flexibility to move home at short notice and if their job is not secure then having a house and mortgage might limit their opportunities to pursue attractive job offers that could appeal, particularly to younger people with few ties.

If you are settled and have a secure job or have retired then ownership becomes more attractive and thanks to the combined effects of Brexit and the pandemic, having your money in property has become a good investment.

Apart from the cost of housing there might be a few advantages of living outside London and the south-east.

Phil says:
10 April 2021

Overtime the value of mortgage repayments decrease due to inflation whilst rent will just keep going up. With a mortgage it is still possible to look forward to a time when the loan is paid off, the property is yours and you pay nothing. How renters get on after they retire and their income substantially reduced I don’t know.

The article and the Halifax data overlooks the opportunity value of renters being able to up-sticks and move up and down the country or up and down the property ladder to suit changes in personal circumstances. Home-owners have sometimes been trapped because of national economic circumstances or local price downturns [for example, when a large new estate is released all other property in the locality suffers a drop in value].

The piece does not say whether holiday rentals or social housing form part of the averaging process for illustrating typical values. To some extent the present time period is extraordinary and I would expect the market to stabilise once Covid-19 been brought under control.

I think it is too crude to look at whole regions: the second homes market distorts values in a county like Norfolk with a large extent of coastline and places of outstanding natural beauty where values are exceptionally high relative to the rest of the county. For example, it is possible to buy a decent 3-bed terraced house within walking distance of the centre of Norwich for £160-240k. A large 2-bed flat would be around £150-200k. Rentals in both cases would be around £700-800 pcm depending on location and condition. Former local authority property is even lower in price and rental for some reason yet the accommodation is sometimes superior. The price of an equivalent 3-bed terraced house in the coastal fringe would vary between £210k and £300k depending on location.

Other factors bearing on the rental levels are the cost of repairs and maintenance which tend to have to be carried out on demand or in a periodic programme whereas home-owners can, if they choose, postpone or economise on such expenditure. Buildings insurance is much higher for rented properties and that feeds into the rent, as do higher interest rates for buy-to-let mortgages, void periods, and contingent risks. I don’t usually hold a candle for residential landlords but the recent past has put a lot more financial pressures on them and while there has been stamp duty relief on purchases during the coronavirus epidemic, the 3% surcharge has remained for landlords buying additional properties. Ultimately, property values for sales or rentals will react to supply and demand, but with the supply chain for any form of additional housing being so extended, largely for planning reasons, it is never a perfect market.

Looking ahead, it is possible that new working patterns could change the balance of advantage and enable people able to buy to consider cheaper towns where property investment would become worth while again. Even so, for the reasons that others have outlined, monthly rental costs are likely to continue to exceed mortgage repayments.

A macabre consequence of Covid-19 is that there will inevitably be a short-term surge in property coming onto the market because of the excess mortality rate [although that will initially manifest itself in a higher vacancy rate in care homes].

Phil wonders how renters get on after they retire and their income is substantially reduced.

They will have to rely on the state for sustenance through housing benefit and rental subsidies if their overall income is inadequate, which is likely to be the case if they do not have a good occupational pension; the state retirement pension alone will not be enough to pay the rent.

As Phil makes clear, mortgages are designed to be paid off before the age of retirement. Although new mortgage loans are available for older applicants, they will not be approved unless they have an income that will amply cover the repayments and the property has a good equity ratio.

There are a few childless couples who buy their own homes and can afford a large mortgage which never gets paid off due to frequent remortgaging. On reaching retirement age, they can downsize to a smaller dwelling with the remaining equity left on the property or, if their parents own their own home, they can afford to remain in their current home with any inheritance coming their way.

With 2 salaries coming in, they are able to enjoy a reasonable standard of living, as long ax they are able to keep working until retirement age, with no offsprings to worry about when they die,

Yes, Beryl – I think owner-occupiers can take care of the options that are open when they stop working, but Phil was asking about people who rent. They are not usually able to keep their favoured roof over their head so easily without becoming dependent on the state in some way or other and might be less likely to benefit from an inheritance.

Given the greater longevity of existing tenants and other pressures, the availability of social housing is unlikely to be sufficient to make adequate provision for the rising number of permanent renters, and the private rented sector might not be the best place to be either. I feel there is a social problem in the making here.

Thought for today

Q. How many particles does it take to change a light bulb.
A it depends on how excited they are about the job.

How many light bulbs does it take to change a man? Ask Edison.
How many light bulb moments does it take to change the world? None. The world doesn’t change, it’s just our perception of it that alters.
How many light bulbs does it take to change a light bulb? A few trillion tungsten, a few billion hallogen
and no one knows how many LED’s yet.

At one time it was easy to replace a light bulb because bayonet caps were most common. Now we are screwed.

I don’t know why light bulbs attract so much attention. However, 10 years ago they did https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2077784/Labours-botched-PFI-deals-sent-NHS-costs-soaring.html and here https://www.channel4.com/news/factcheck/factcheck-does-pfi-offer-the-taxpayer-value-for-money when it was reported “ the Private Finance Initiative ends up costing one hospital more than £300 to change a light bulb, clearly something’s not right.

I found this light bulb joke, which is relevant to recent discussions:

Q: How many biologists does it take to change a light bulb?
A: Four. One to change it and three to write the environmental-impact statement.

DerekP says:
11 April 2021

Nice one – thanks wavechange 🙂

Thanks. Here is another one:

Q: How many nuclear engineers does it take to change a light bulb?
A: Seven. One to install the bulb and six to figure out what to do with the old bulb for the next ten thousand years.

If you light a lamp for someone else it will also enlighten your own path.

Take a peek at this: youtube.com – Glow worms in motion – A Time lapse of NZ Glow worm caves.

Than you, Beryl. Most illuminating.

Here is some more green energy https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=
From what I read each one emits 0.0006 lumens. If so then you would need 1 million to replace a 60w old fashioned light bulb.
I wonder if that is true?

Very interesting Malcolm, although I couldn’t download the first link. The second has to the best answer yet to the question …………it takes 1million glow worms to change a light bulb, Undeniably enlightening indeed!

Beryl, sorry, my fault. This hopefully works. https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=0BOjTMkyfIA

I hope we don’t have premature failure of glow worms. Beryl has told us about her durable Glow-worm boiler, but that is for heating rather than lighting.

Thanks Malcolm, it’s fascinating to watch. I wonder why glow-worms are so named when they are in fact beetles?

My Glow-worm boiler has served me very well Wavechange, except the only mate it has ever attracted is an engineer once a year for its annual service, but as you rightly say, it’s for heating rather than lighting 🙂

”Travellers face eye-watering costs for Covid tests which will price many people out of seeing loved ones or taking a holiday when international travel resumes, so it’s important the government quickly considers steps it can take to reduce costs while ensuring safety.”

Which? is very fond of using the term “eye-watering”. It seems quite insensitive to what most of us have gone through over the last 12 months – not seeing loved ones, not socialising, not going far let alone on holiday.

The last people I am going to sympathise with are those who cannot live without holidaying abroad despite the risks of bringing back more infective variants of the virus, adding to the eye-watering number of people who have suffered Covid and are living with its after effects, and the eye-watering number of people who have died from Covid, many caused by our holidaymakers going abroad.

This mockery of compassion for distressed relatives takes no account of the fact that people and their loved ones have never been in closer communication than they can be today. The only thing they can’t do remotely is touch them. How do they think people managed during the war years when you couldn’t even have a day at the seaside because it was a restricted area? I’m fed up with this whingeing generation which seems to have full time representatives in the Which? press office. These “eye-watering” costs are entirely avoidable.

As can be seen elsewhere, the Lake District is currently in focus here and this is because I came across a book in my case, printed in 1908, which gives a guided tour of the British Isles. At that time Ireland was also included, the Orkney Islands were not joined up, the Titanic had not been built and war was not anticipated. How things changed in so short a time. Pictures of London showed chaotic streets full of horse drawn charabancs and drays. The London views contained many photographs of substantial buildings along the streets, just waiting to be demolished in the blitz later in the century. The countryside was empty and serene. In the Lake District there were many “coaches” travelling to the lowland towns and lakes. One picture showed five or more of these coming down the Kirkstone Pass into Ambleside. Each carried eight people and was pulled by a single horse. All these conveyances were coming down the hill, but it would surely be impossible for one horse to pull this load up the other side. The conundrum is how they got to the top. If they arrived at the summit empty how did the passengers get there? The only solution I can think of is that on each side of the pass there were pack horses to pull the carriages up and these came down unattached except for one on each downward carriage. The railways were already there and steamers plied the lakes. The writer complained of the wet Lakeland weather, so there are constants in this new world of ours.
Just over a century ago and the book was trying to make a virtue of the smoky and sooty industrial landscape as being part of our heritage. It’s taken this long to work out that it was not just the humans being poisoned in these towns. I kept reading with the knowledge of hindsight and feeling sad and sorry for the writers of these halcyon pages whose lives would be turned upside down so soon afterwards. It occurred to me that it is probably a good thing that history is always over the shoulder and we don’t know what is yet to come, even if we might anticipate the immediate future by logical intelligence . When it arrives it is never quite as we predicted.

I don’t know if this helps, Vynor :-). https://animalhow.com/horse-pull-capacity/
A horse could pull a very heavy load on a railed car over relatively good terrain such as this double deck tram. I appreciate the Lakes are rather different. https://www.ltmuseum.co.uk/collections/collections-online/vehicles/item/1981-533-part-0

I am interested in industrial archaeology, and many authors seem oblivious to the hardship that many of the workers were exposed to. The sooty atmosphere that Vynor mentions resulted in premature loss of life. I do not know much about horses but the ones that were used on fly boats on the narrow canals were changed regularly and well looked after. The fly boats were used for (relatively) high speed transport of goods did not stop at night.

My grandfather and his brother had a (horse-drawn) coach building/repair company in the Scottish Borders. He died aged 70, ten years before I was born but his brother lived until he was 95. Sadly I never learned about their involvement with horse-drawn transport.

Leading a laden wagon or coach downhill was just as perilous and as much hard work as going up hill. I often think of the horses when going along roads that cross escarpments. Sometimes the roads were deliberately constructed on curved alignments to ease the gradients. For really heavy loads there would be a team of draught horses and an extra man or two to chock the wheels, apply the brakes or use restraining ropes at the rear.

From the late nineteenth century steam powered traction engines [road locomotives] became available; unlike in railway engines the boiler and water tank had to cope with operating at quite severe angles.

I agree with your comments on the authors of industrial archaeology books. They are generally only concerned with the technical aspects of the subject. One of my books has a chapter on arsenic mining in Cornwall and does at least comment on the high mortality rate in return for very low wages. There was no personal protective equipment as we would understand it and over time workers in the industry developed yellow skin. Many didn’t live longer than 30 years.