James Miller


Thursday, January 24, 2008

Council Tax


Not particular happy with the levels of Council Tax, but at least St. Edmundsbury tries to help.

My wife died recently and they automatically sent me a letter asking if I now lived alone without any prompting from me. I just added two dates to a piece of paper and signed it. Nothing more. Try claiming Bereavement Allowance. Other examples lately show that at least Suffolk and St. Edmundsbury are getting more efficient and that must help.

The real problem with Council Tax is that here in the Greater South East we subsidise the North and Scotland. In the latter the Council Tax is NOT rising. Devolution obviously means greater subsidy.


Because Gordon Brown’s cabinet contains no-one who represents a constituency south of Birmingham.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Runcorn-Widnes Bridge


For nearly fifty years, Runcorn and Widnes have been linked by the iconic arch bridge, which was built next to the Britannia Bridge, that carries the trains to Liverpool from Crewe and the South.

I took these two pictures in the rain from the Catalyst Museum at Widnes.

Runcorn-Widnes Bridge

Runcorn-Widnes Bridge

Note that in the second picture, you can see the towers of the Britannia Bridge to the right of the arch.

I heard an interesting story whilst I worked at ICI in 1970. Whether it is true or not, I have no idea.

People ask why the bridge is not a suspension bridge, which was the type typically built at the time. In fact bridges like the Runcorn-Widnes Bridge are quite rare, with the most notable example being the Sydney Harbour Bridge, which is a lot wider and fifty percent greater in span.

The story says that the Runcorn-Widnes Bridge was originally designed as a suspension bridge and the engineers presented their design to the ICI (Merseyside) Scientific Society. On asking for questions, ICI's vibration expert rose to his feet and said that he had done a few calculations and that because of the proximity of the Britannia Bridge and length of the span, the natural frequencies were such, that at the right windspeed the bridge would shake itself to pieces.

So the design was changed, after wind tunnel tests of the two bridges, showed he was right.

Another story concerning the bridge and involving me is that before we were married Celia and I went to a party near Northwich, where the punch was courtesy of ICI's P & P Laboratory. I got exceeding drunk and she had to stop the car halfway across the bridge so I could puke my guts out into the Mersey.

She nearly ditched me after that, but we survived together for another forty years.

Castner-Kellner Works at Runcorn


I worked at ICI Runcorn for a year around 1970 and used to visit Castner-Kellner works to work on the cells that produced chlorine from salt.

These are three pictures of the works today.

Castner-Kellner Works at Runcorn

Castner-Kellner Works at Runcorn

Castner-Kellner Works at Runcorn

Visit to Liverpool and Blackpool


A funny place for my first trip away, after Celia's death, but we met in Liverpool in the 1960s and I went to see her cousins and then watch Ipswich at Blackpool.

The next few posts describe the trip.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Disgrace in Blackpool


The picture shows the Away side at Blackpool's half-built stadium at Bloomfield Road.

Bloomfield Road Away Side

Note how there is no roof and they seemed to have developed a special floor that puts white goo all over your boots.

It's a disgrace and all of Blackpool's fans, police and stewards tell you so. It's no wonder that one group of fans decided to dismantle the decrepit stand. I almost have sympathy.

There must be congratulations to the 1800 or so, Ipswich fans who came up all the way from Suffolk.



How’s this for a coincidence?

I went to the cathedral to look around and remember the times I’d been round it with Celia, as we met at Liverpool University in the 60s. Incidentally her tutor was one Robert Kilroy Silk and I won’t tell you what she thought of him! So I get chatting to this guide and said that I’d met my wife at the University. He then asked if I was about his age and what had I read at University. It then turned out he’d been best man to one of my class mates, who I’d later worked with at ICI at Runcorn.

Small world!

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Dimmable Energy Saving Light Bulbs


This video shows a Varilight dimmable fluorescent light being cycled from off to fully on to off. The light consumes 20 watts and gives as much light as a typical 100 watt tungsten bulb. The manufacturers also claim that it will last up to 16,000 hours.

Note that the camera adjusts the light it sees, so you'll see the background change as the bulb is cycled. I should say that I've had one in parallel with a normal tungsten bulb and the only difference is that the traditional bulb can go slightly lower in light levels.

I've just ordered a lot more of these from The Light Bulb Company.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008



My dentist used to be NHS and has now gone private. I go a couple of times a year and get very good service at a very affordable price. In fact I pay only a few pounds more than I did when he was NHS. My dentist has told me that he has made considerable cost savings by going private and he has passed much on to his clients.

I would think that a much better system, would be to go to the one used by opticians. Effectively, this is now outside of the NHS and everybody gets a better service with lots of choice. Competition holds down prices. Obviously, for the elderly, the young and those on benefits a system would still need to be created, but this could be paid for by streamlining the dental service and removing levels of unnecessary admin staff.

Monday, January 14, 2008



The trouble with banks is that they have not really embraced modern technology and their business methods and charges are still stuck in the past.

I was told by the Business Banking Director of one of the High Street banks, about fifteen years ago, that a third of their profits came from interest on uncleared cheques and payments. I doubt it’s much different today. So as with unfair bank charges they are being squeezed at both ends.

On the other hand they are not using the information that they have to increase services to customers. As an example, it is possible to create small business accounts that would satisfy the Inland Revenue, directly from an annotated bank statement, that could be created using an on-line banking system.

Friday, January 11, 2008



My wife died of a squamous cell carcinoma of the heart exactly a month ago today.

She knew that for the last four of five weeks of her life, that there would be no respite and she would die sooner rather than later as the cancer filled the heart and gradually choked off her circulation.

But she bore her fate stoically without tears, constantly planning the lives of those who would be left behind and properly closing all of her cases as a family barrister. In the end she died peacefully at home in her own bed.

That is true bravery and it is in us all.

It certainly has helped me to face the future.

Thursday, January 10, 2008



How many Chairmen of English Companies could come on a French radio station and be interviewed by Pierre Aland (Peter Allen of Radio 5), just like the Chairman of EDF did in reverse?

Wednesday, January 02, 2008



About two hundred years ago, my great-great-great-grandfather emigrated from Germany to work in appalling conditions in the fur trade in East London as did many poor Jews. A few years before that my mother’s family were driven out of France for being Huguenots.

Immigration has always put the Great into Great Britain by adding an edge that other more restrictive and dare I say racist countries have lacked.

Andrew Green may think he talks for the majority but in a few years times, we will all be wondering what the fuss is about. Just like by late Victorian times, no-one bothered about my family as they made their way in London.