Archive for February, 2007

Death penalty

When will we have politicians who have the guts to bring back the death penalty? And judges who will enforce it? And what about the gun law after Dunblane?

Our towns would be far safer if gangs of trouble-makers knew that the Death Penalty faced them if things went wrong and someone lost their life as a result of their behaviour. In fact bringing back the Death Penalty, backed by a judiciary that will enforce it, would probably result in it being very rarely used. But it must be there and firmly fixed in the country’s laws. It would also be a powerful deterrent to burglars who should be given no protection in law from householders who should be free to use whatever force they deemed was necessary to repel them.

And how absurd the present gun law is! It doesn’t stop trouble-makers and in any case knives are more effective.

If I were 30 years younger I would put myself up as a potential MP with views as above, but at 97 I think I am a bit old!

Stone Quarry solution

Just inside the front door of my house is a picture I took in the garden of The Goat, a good hotel in Snowdonia where we were on holiday. It shows Ann pushing a swing on which are James and Linden. I would estimate the date to be about 1957. We had driven there in our Phantom 1 Rolls-Royce and met Henry Bristowe with his wife and son Richard who was about my son William’s age. We became friends. The Bristowes had come in their Bentley, which was Henry’s joy. They had come from Christow, not far from Exeter. Henry managed a stone quarry near Christow. He had a problem there and asked me if I could suggest a solution. Like all stone quarries the stone crusher fed a revolving drum divided into sections each of which has different sized holes in it allowing stones of the same size through into a funnel which takes them – via a belt – into the main hopper. When a contractor phones for some – say – ¾” stones it is important to know if the quarry can supply. It is important to know how full the ¾” hopper is and the only way the quarry owner could determine this was to send someone up to the hopper top to have a look. I thought of a better method which consisted of a bob-weight controlled by a loose belt driven by a geared-down electric motor with an eccentrically fixed pulley-wheel. If the motor is geared to, say, 1rpm the belt will tighten once every ½ minute and leave it slack for the rest of the minute. Tested on a model with a bucket of sand it was amusing to watch it working once every minute the bob weight would appear at the top of the sand and remain there until some more sand was added when it would quickly rise to the top again. If most of the sand was removed (contractor removing some of the hopper contents) then bob-weight would drop to the new level. A firm in Slough said they would market it, but I never followed it up. I expect a modern solution would be electronic. So all I have got left of this adventure is the picture of Ann and two of my children in their early years. I hope you enjoyed another facet of my unusual life, which is still continuing – but no more inventions I assure you!

Solar Coil Solar Panel

I designed this about 1975 and it was just in time for the wonderful summer of 1976 when we used them to heat our recently built 30’ x 15’ swimming pool and found they raised the temperature to well over 80º F. Sales went well. They were made in two sizes, approx 1 sq metre and the smaller ‘solar kettle’ which was often used on the roof in houses to augment their hot-water tank. They were water filled and required a pump for operation and they were expensive to make. But they came out top when compared with other solar panels available at the time.

Only one of my other ‘inventions’ made me any money. This way my strawberry frame which made it possible to grow about 24 plants on a ground area of 3ft x 2ft and they were bird-proof, slug proof and could be watered from the top. I have four of them on my patio today – some 35 years old and still in good order. I believe there would still be a good market for them today – perhaps made in plastic rather than the galvanised steel of the originals. They would appeal to suburban householders with limited garden space.

The Verdik Petrol Economiser

I invented this during one of the many cross-country flights with pupils which were part of my duties as an EFTS instructor. With the pupil doing most (or all) of the actual flying my mind had plenty of time to wander. In those days all cars had carburettors metering the petrol/air supply to the engine and the petrol jet would start to wear and so let through more petrol than the ideal 14/1 air/petrol mixture. One could buy an extra air control for £1 or so. This was only a rubber tube from the engine inlet manifold between the carburettor and engine and a tap fixed to the dashboard. As soon as the engine had warmed up one opened this tap just enough to improve the engine performance. The trouble with this method was that the tap must be closed every time one came to rest (traffic lights etc) or the engine would stop running. How to achieve this automatically? The answer came to me on one of these flights during which I was asking myself “What happens at tick-over that is different when the engine is running at 10 mph or more/” The answer is “the battery is being charged”. So a solenoid can do the work of opening and closing the extra air tube. Thus the Verdik Economiser came into life. It was given a good report by “The Motor” whose chief engineer was Laurence Pomeroy with whom I became friendly, and it was sold by a number of garages, Boon and Porter amongst them. But I never made any money out of it. I have no flair whatsoever for marketing anything. In any case carburettors were soon becoming out of date and alternators were replacing dynamos.


On a journey to London, soon after the war, I saw a strange steam roller working on a strip of the Westway. It was a Robey Tri-Tandem with three rolls of the same width, one behind each other. I stopped and had a few words with the driver. “It’s worth its weight in gold” he said, and from that moment I decided to make a smaller version of it for use on my tennis-court-sized and very uneven lawn. I would drive it by a small petrol engine and with water-fillable rolls it would weigh up to half a ton. I had visions of supplying the roller to cricked clubs, bowling clubs, tennis clubs – perhaps even Wimbledon!

I had some luck almost at once. A firm in Wycombe made a twin-roll roller powered by a Tecomsi 3hp engine, so all I had to do was to add another roll to it to get what I wanted. Then I had to consider the matter of steering it. It would be perfect for straight runs. The Wycombe twin-roll roller was easily turned by bearing down on the long controlling arm which raised the front roll clear of the ground. With 3 rolls and being a ride-on machine one does not have this option. So the extra roll would have to do the steering and be able to change its height as well. Compensated by a spring this made its operation easy by a simple lever. It was time to get it made. The ever-co-operative blacksmith in Lane End, Meakes, made just what I wanted and my tri-tandem roller was born. It performed well and I lent it to many friends, but the engine was its weak spot. I ought to have scrapped the Tecomsi and fitted a Honda. Finally the water-filled rolls rusted and the roller was scrapped. But it had lasted many years and was fun to drive. Final improvements would be a canopy over the driver to encourage him to use it when it was raining – ie under the best conditions for rolling, and a self-starter.


We all dread turning into a cabbage as old age creeps on us. Losing our mind means we cannot be of any further use to anyone and it is time to move on to the next stage i.e. HOME where one can enjoy a pause before returning back to earth for another incarnation. While the moment is not ours to determine we can at least make it interesting by keeping our minds active. Crosswords is one option and the recently introduced Sudoku is another and is the one I use. I suggest the compilers of these puzzles could improve them by subjecting them to solutions by logic. It is somewhat annoying to find oneself up against a guess in order to proceed to a successful solution. I therefore recommend the set of 200 puzzles by Carol Vordeman all of which can be solved by logic alone. There is no such thing as a “logical guess” which is an oxymoron. Another mind trainer is the daily countdown on Channel 4 with the bonus of the exquisite Susie Dent in Dictionary Corner.

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