Log in

My tweets

Read more...Collapse )

Dingle of the Husseys, Part 16

A short one today.
The twenty-eighth we camped by the edge of Muskerry, in Sir Cormac Mac Teige's countrie.
Sir Cormac McTeig McCarthy, as Lord of Blarney, engaged in such flattering discourse with Queen Elizabeth that he gave his title to the word "blarney".

My tweets

Read more...Collapse )

Dingle of the Husseys, Part 15

This is one of the main tourist traps of Ireland now; who knows what it was like in 1580?
The twenty-seventh, we marched by the famous Lough Leyn, out of which the ryver of Lowgen doth spring, and falleth into the sea beside Magne. The Logh is fulle of salmon, and hath in it eleven islands, in one of which (Innisfallen), there is an abbey in another a parish church, and in another (Rosse) a castel, out of which there came to us a fair lady the rejected wife of Lord Fitz-Maurice, daughter to the late McCartie-More (elder brother to the Erle). It is a circuit of twelve miles, having a faire plaine on one side, faire woodes and high mountaynes on the other side, thence we passed bv the entrie of Glanflesk, that "famous Spelunck," whereof the traytours make their chief fastnesse, and, finding neither people nor cattel there, we held on and camped that night in O'Kallaghan's countrie, by the river of Brode water which passeth by Youghal.
Not surprised that the expedition cane around the eastern side of the lake in the end.

The rejected wife of Lord FitzMaurice is Katherine, daughter of the Earl's brother Teige (who most sources give as younger rather than older). Her estranged husband isn't James Fitzmaurice but Thomas Fitzmaurice, Baron Kerry. She was his second wife; she died of smallpox in 1582 and he married again.

I can't find any recent mention of the traitors' cave in Glenflesk, which is a shame as it sounds rather fun. It was being shown to tourists in 1846, anyway.

My tweets

Read more...Collapse )</lj-cu

Dingle of the Husseys, Part 14

In case you were wondering, there is no diary entry for 25 June 1580.
The twenty-sixth, after storing of Castle-Magne with victuals, we marched thence towards Corke, through part of Desmond, the Erle of Clancartie's contrie, and camped that night by the fayre river of Lawyn (Laune), tween "The Palace," one of Clancartie's chiefe houses and Downelow (Dunlogh) a house of O'Sullivan-More's rased by the Erle of Ormond in the last warre of James Fitz-Maurice. The river hath in it many big muscles, where in are found many fayre perles.
The two castles took me some effort to identify. "The Palace" is Pallis Castle, Aghadoe; it's not clear to me if this is the same building now known as Parkavonear Castle. "Downelow" (which Mary Agnes Hickson thinks is "Dunlogh") is surely Dunloe, the start of the famous Gap of Dunloe.

I find it a little odd that the expedition camped on the north-west side of Lough Leane rather than the easier east side.

My tweets


Two Professor Bell comics by Joann Sfar

Second frame of third page of De Mexicaan met Twee Hoofden:

The Mexican: "You cannot leave me to my fate. This head is driving me crazy. It
keeps pulling faces and wakes me in the middle of the night by grinding its teeth."
Professor Bell: "Ask a dentist to pull them out."

Second frame of third page of De Poppen van Jerusalem:

Eliphas the Ghost: "Do you think it is wise to flee from reality?"
Professor Bell: "Yes."

At a book fair a couple of years ago, I spotted these going for less than a euro, and snapped them up, having hugely enjoyed the first and second Rabbi's Cat collections. I wasn't so sure about these two, which open a series of five albums about a heavily fictional version of Professor Joseph Bell, who in real life inspired his student Arthur Conan Doyle's most famous creation. In the first, Bell is approached by a character based (anachronistically) on Pasqual Pinon, and must explore zombies and ghosts while avoiding the police; in the second, he rescues a rabbi and a priest from Jerusalem who have been shrunk to doll-size and transported to Scotland, and then in turn heads off to Jeruslaem to prevent an infernal summoning. It somehow lacks the quirkiness and humanity of the Rabbi's Cat, and the genre teeters uneasily between horror and fantasy. So, not really recommended. (I read the Dutch translation, and won't bother to find the French original.)

This was at the top of my pile of unread comics in languages other than English; next is the second volume of Antarès, by Leo.

My tweets


Sunday reading

Watchmen, by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons (a chapter a month)
1688: A Global History, by John E. Wills
Robinson Crusoe, by Daniel Defoe
Lives of Girls and Women, by Alice Munro

Last books finished
In Xanadu, by William Dalrymple
Marzi: A memoir, by Marzena Sowa
HWJN by Ibraheem Abbas
A Woman of the Iron People, by Eleanor Arnason

Next books
New Europe, by Michael Palin
The Angel Maker, by Stefan Brijs
Short Trips: The Quality of Leadership, ed. Keith R.A. DeCandido

Dingle of the Husseys, Part 13

The armies reunite:
The twenty-fourth the Erle of Ormond came to us to Castel-Magne, in his route into Korke, bringing with him the Erle of Clancartie, O'Sullivan-Beare, O'Sullivan-More, O'Donoghuc-More, McFynin of the Kerrie, McDonogh, O'Keefe, O'Kallaghan, McAwley, and alle the rest of the L L [Lords] of Desmond, except O'Donoghue of Glantlesk, which was with the traytours. Manie of them do not obeye the Erle of Clancarty, and yet they came with the Erle of Ormonde, without pardon or protection, whose credit is great among them; and by whose example of loyaltie and faithfulnesse to her Majestie, they are greatlie drawne to theyr dutie, contrarie to the pernicious persuasions that hath been used to them. They humbly submitted themselves, humbly acknowledging their dedes, and swearing fealtie and allegiance to her Majestie, with profession from thence forth devotedlie to serve her, after a dutiful fashion, by the Erle of Ormonde these brought a prey of iooo kyne, and slewe fower principal gentlemen of the Mac Fyneens and O'Sullivans.
White was a protege of Ormond as well as of Cecil, and uses the opportunity to get a good word in for one patron with the other. Ormond was a cousin of the Queen and his loyalty was never in question.

My tweets


Dingle of the Husseys, Part 12

Off the peninsula:
The twenty-third, we came to Castel-Magne where we found the pynance of the victuals at the Castel syde, and the master which guided her thyther, told my Lord Justice that he had sounded the channel, and durst undertake to bring a ship of c tons within a stone's cast of the castel; and, truly, it is built on a notable place to rule both the counties of Kerry and Desmond, on both sydes of the River of Magne.
Indeed, Castlemaine was to become the main royal fortress in the area for the next few centuries.

My tweets

Read more...Collapse )

Dingle of the Husseys, Part 11

Start of the return journey:
The twenty-second, having well refreshed our soldiers, and agreed on the plan of fortifications, with other matters for answering the service both by sea and lande. we returned back to Castel-Mayne, camping that night at The Inch, beside the Baye of Dingell. I have forgotten to lett your Lordship understand, that the ships hath made themselves a sort of castel upon the shore, and hath their cattel passing about it, which they take from the natives by marching farre into the countrie.
Interesting and entirely un-ironic reference to "natives". (Of course, White was an Irish native himself.)

No more cockle-picking.

My tweets

Dingle of the Husseys, Part 10

The next daie being the twenty-first we went to see the Forte of Smerwicke, five myles from the Dingell to the westward, accompanied by Sir William Wynter, Captain Bingham, and Mr. Greville. The thing itself is but the end of a rocke shooting out into the Baye of Smenvicke, under a long cape, whereupon a merchant of the Dingell, called Piers Rice, about a year before James Fitz-Maurice's landing, built a perty castel under pretence of gayning by the resort of strangers thythir a fishinge, whereas, in very truth, it was to receive James at his landinge, and because at that very instant tyme, a ship laden with Mr. Furbisher's newe found riches happened to presse upon the sandes near to the place, whose carcase and stones I saw lie there, carrying also in his mynde a golden imaginacion of the cominge of the Spaniards, called his bylding Down-enoyr, which is as much as to say, "The Golden Downe."

The ancient name of the Baye, in the Irish tongue, is the Haven of Ardcanny, compounded of these words Ard and Canny, and signifieth "Height," and "Canny," as derived from a certain devout man named Canutius, which upon the height of the cliffs, as appears at this day, built a little hermitage for himself to live a contemplative there, and so is it as much as to say "Canutius's Height;" and afterwards by the Spaniards it was called Smerwicke, by what reason I know not.

James Desmond did cut a necke of the rocke from the mainland, to make it the stronger, it lyeth equal with the maynlande, having a hole, with grete labour, digged into it, and to my measurement, it conteyneth but 40 foote in length, and 20 for brode, at the brodest place, now all passed and judged by menne of skyll a place of noe strength. The whole ground whereof it is parcel, is a peninsula, within which the Knight of Kerry's house standeth, and is called "The Island of Ardcanny."

We went then aborde the Queen's shippes, with some merrie scruple, whether the realme should be without a governor, whereas the Lord Justice was uponne the sea; but hunger moved us to make a favourable construction of the lawe. We had grete entertainment on boarde, and the Admiral and the reste of the Captains lente us of their stores to refresh our camp withall, both byer (beer) and byskett for two dais, which we stretched to fower, and sent theyr pinnace to Castel-Mayne.

After our coming from aborde, the Admiral shott off an ayre (discharge) of ordnance whereoff one demi-culverin in the stemme did flame, and therewith the master-gunners cabin brake out the side one grete piece of tymber, and like to have made fowle worke, but God be thanked, no manne hurte, nor the ship brought out of plight to serve. All this while the Erle of Ormonde was over agaynst us in this journey through the mountayn of Desmond, towards Valentia, whose fyres we might discern from us by the baye, about ten miles over.
This is almost a year after the Desmond rebellion had been sparked by James FitzMaurice landing a small force at Smerwick, and five months later a besieged Spanish force were to be massacred by Walter Raleigh and his men.

There is a theory that the local name for Smerwick, "Dún an Óir", "fort of gold" (as White says), is a mistake for "Dún an Áir", "fort of the massacre", but since White reports the "gold" derivation five months before the massacre that seems unlikely. The fort itself was based on an Iron Age construction.

"Ard na Caithne" is still the official Irish name for Smerwick. However it seems more likely to be from "caithne", the arbutus or strawberry tree. The name associated with the ancient hermitage, which still stands, is Gallarus, not Canutius.

The question of whether the Lord Deputy could leave Ireland without royal permission was to have fatal consequences for the Earl of Essex two decades later.

Good to hear of the Earl of Ormonde again - I was wondering what had happend to him.

My tweets

Read more...Collapse )


Dingle of the Husseys, Part 9

The expedition reaches Dingle.
The twentyeth we came to the Dingell, where Sir William Wynter, Captain Bingham, and Mr. Fowlke Greville came to us from aborde the Queen's shippes, which laye in the Bay of Dingel, a mile to the west of the Haven of Dingell.

A part of that daie we passed in reviewing both havens and the towne, and also in considering what place were fittest to fortify for defence of both, which, after a long debating between the Lord Justice and the Admiral, was agreed to be in the Haven of Ventrie ; they are both notable havens, and such as into which the greatest ships of charge may at all times enter.

In the Irish Ventrie is called Coon Fyntra, which is almost as to saie "White Sand Haven," because the strand is white sand, full of white shells ; and Dingle Haven is called in the Irish Coon e daf deryck, which is almost to say " Red-ox-Haven," and took that name of the drowning of an ox in that haven, at the first coming over of the Englishmenne from Cornwall, which brought some cattel with them.

We find the chiefest merchantes of the towne's houses rased, which were very strong before and built castel-wyse, — done by Sir John of Desmond, and the Knight of Kerrie, as they say, cursing him and Doctor Saunders as the root of all their calamities. The Burgesses were taken into protection by Sir William Winter before our coming, to helpe buildinge the towne againe, whose names are those following,
Bonvilles. Baileys. Skurlocke.
Kleos als Knolls. Rices. Sleynes.
Horgetts. Teraunts. Angells and Goldings.
One of the eldest of them told me that soone uppon the conquest of Englishmen in Ireland, a gentleman named "De La Cousa" was lord of that town and builded it, whose issue in manie years after finding the towne escheated to the House of Desmond, and by that reason it is called to this daye "Dingell de Couse."
This is now a major military force, with the army arriving from the east and the naval component from the west. NB the appearance of 26-year-old Fulke Greville, at the start nof a long political career.

The official Irish name of Venrty these days is just Ceann Trá rather than Cuan Fionn Trá, but the latter obviously is the source of the English name (and I wonder why "Ceann", "Head" is the official irish rather than "Cuan", "Bay").

"Coon e daf deryck" is presumably "Cuan damh dearg", which is indeed an old name for Dingle (the official Irish these days is "An Daingean", "The Fort").

I have tended to assume that White could understand and speak Irish; he obviously was not acquainted with the written language. (Though he is writing here for Cecil, who spoke Welsh but would perhaps have been unable to manage written Irish.)

Sir John of Desmond and the Knight of Kerry were both also called John FitzGerald, just for confusion.

Dingle's population today is about 2,000. Impressive that there were as many as ten families of English settlers who could call themselves "burgesses". Trade with France and Spain mst have been good.

My tweets

Read more...Collapse )

Dingle of the Husseys, Part 8

The nineteenth, in our journey from Castel-Magne to the Dingell, which is xx miles off, we camped at a place which is near the Bay of Dingle, called "The Inch," where my Lord Justice and I did practyse our best skyll to gather cockles for our supper.
Inch Strand remains one of the spectacular places of Dingle. It is rather disarming to think of the viceroy and his senior Irish adviser paddling in the shallows for shellfish to augment their supplies. I suspect that they did not gather enough to feed the whole army.

My tweets

Read more...Collapse )</lj-cu

Sunday reading

Watchmen, by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons (a chapter a month)
A Woman of the Iron People, by Eleanor Arnason

Last books finished
Authority, by Jeff VanderMeer
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by J. K. Rowling
Acceptance, by Jeff VenderMeer
De Mexicaan met twee hoofden by Joann Sfar
What She Does Next Will Astound You, by James Goss
De Poppen van Jerusalem by Joann Sfar
Dune, by Frank Herbert
De piraten van de Zilveren Kattenklauw by Geronimo Stilton
Sapiens: A Brief History of Humanity, by Yuval Noah Harari

Next books
Marzi: A memoir, by Marzena Sowa
HWJN by Ibraheem Abbas
Lives of Girls and Women, by Alice Munro

Dingle of the Husseys, Part 7

From castle to castle:
The eighteenth we went to view the Island, which is a high monstrous castel, of many roomes, but very filthye and full of cow-dung. Thence to Castel-Magne, where we camped that night, to the great comfort of the Ward, who was kept in close by the traytours, and a certain Sept of the Erle's followers, dwelling on the Reyver Mange, called the O'Moreartaghes (O'Moriarties). Thyther came there to us the Lord Fitz-Morrice, and his eldest son Patrick, with xvi horsemenne and gallowglasses, and xvi shott, well appointed and victualled, and attendeth the Lord Justice to the Dingell and back agayn.
The expedition into the far west is gathering force.

My tweets

Read more...Collapse )

Dingle of the Husseys, Part 6

A near miss, with compensation in loot:
The seventeenth we marched towards the foot of the mountayn of Sleavloghra, which beginneth at Bally-McAuley, and is fourteen myles over to the playnes of Kerry, in which passadge our carrages and horses stucke in, by the continual rayne which we have had, and that evening we descended from the mountayn into Kerry, we looked for and pitched our campe at a place within three myles of the Island of Kerry called Kilcushny.

The horsemenne, which were in the northward, discovered a prey dryving from the pleyn betwixt the Island and Traly to Slceavelogher wood, and when word was brought to the Lord Justice, he, taking his horse, leaving the campe settled, accompanied only with myself, Mr. Spresor, and viii horsemenne, followed on the spur, commanding two bands of footmenne to march after, and a vi miles from our campe towards the heighte of the mountayns we overtooke xvee cowes of the Erle's proper dery (dairy) of the Island, besides a number of small cattel which were stayed by Mr. John Zouch and his horsemenne.

We took one of the drivers prisoner, who told us that they were the Erle's cattel, confessing also that if we had hanged in the mountayns but one hour longer, from coming down so soon upon the pleyns, we had taken the Erle, the Countesse, and Saunders lodged there where we were encamped, saying that he was so suddenly taken that he had no leysor (leisure) to take his horse, but was lifted up betwixt the gallowglasses of the Mac Swynies, and conveyed away by them into the woodes of Desmond ; and, for confermacion thereof, we took from them certayn 'cleeves' (wicker baskets) wherein we found the Erle's provision of aqua vitæ, women's kerches (kerchiefs), Saunders' rych Spanish Preste's cloak, and for my porcion his "Sanctus Belle" and another toy after the manner of a crosse, supporting a booke, which I have sent your Lordship, with the remainder of them when you have done to Mistress Blanche. The soldiers found certain vestments and covers of calicoe, so near was the bad Erle, and his "Legate a latere" bested in his own Privie Chamber and Countye Palenteyne of Kerry!

Without this goode happe we had nothinge to feed us last night, and by this preye we had plentye of fleshe and milke, but neither brede, wine, nor bere, the space of foure dayes. The soldiers felle a killinge of the calves, and the cowes felle in such a roaring for them, as they were like to have broken into our campe that night, and over run all our cabins.
The 14 miles over the mountains would have been a very tough and hungry march, with the added frustration at the end of having been within striking distance of the Earl of Desmond. The slaughter of the calves is a vivid coda.

I do wonder what ultimately happened to Sanders' bell and lectern. It's ambiguous as to whether White sent both to Cecil. I think it's implied that Cecil was to have a good look at them and then pass them to Blanche Parry, who was the keeper of the Queen's jewels and presumably added them to the collection.

Dingle of the Husseys, Part 5

The allegiance offered by local chieftains yesterday proves fragile, and the Dublin army diviedes again:
The sixteenth we geave streight commandment to the Viscount Barry’s sonne, the Viscount Roche, Sir Cormac Mac Teige Mac Donough, O’Keeffe, O’Kallaghan, and Mac Auley, that they should have alle their force and keriages to the est of the contrie to interrupt the passage of the traytours, to and fro the mountayns till our retorne, which they observed not, to the gret hindrance of the service, and their own trouble as your Lordship shall hereafter perceive.

We then parted companie, my Lord of Ormonde taking his course, with his force, over the mountayn of Slievelogher, one waie into the wylde mountainous contrie of Desmond, leving most of the keriagcs in the care of Mac Donough, as well to limit the traytours and their goodes, which now fled thyther, as also to bring with him the Erle of Clancartie, and the rest of the Lds of Desmond, of whom we stode much in doubt: and my Lord Justice, on whom I waited, marched towards Kerrye, through Mac Donough’s contrie by his Castel of Kanturk, where the Lord Justice was met by Mac Donough’s wife, a perty (pretty) comelye woman, sister to the now Countesse of Desmond, by another, who spake good English and entertayned the Lord Justice the best waye she could, and camped that night at a place called Glanossyran (qn. Glaushcroon) adjoining to a faire river and grete wood.
Once again the Grey party goes west and the Ormond party south. The Countess of Desmond was a fascinating character in her own right, born a Butler but from a different branch to the Earls of Ormond, who lived to 95. Anne Chambers' biography unfortunately doesn't identify which sister was married to Owen McDonagh McCarthy of Duhallow.

It is interesting that White notes that "Mac Donough’s wife" spoke English well, which implies that the expedition has so far been successfully carried out using Irish, which presumably everyone except the Lord Justice spoke. She is the first woman to appear in this account, but not the last.

Dingle of the Husseys, Part 4

The expedition continues south:
The fifteenth, the Viscount Roche, David Barry, sone and heire to the Viscount Barry (his father being sicke) Mc Donough, O’Keeffe, and O’Kallaghan came to us with certain horsemenne and footmenne to whom we gave order that all the keriaghes (carriages) of the country should draw near our campe, as we wished to refresh us with vittaile (victuals) for our journey, promising that they should not be otherwise touched, and yet they durst not trust us, but fledde afar off. We removed and camped altogether that night in Mac Donough’s countrey called Dowally (Duhallow) by a river called the Brodewater, which falleth into the sea by Youghal. The contrie from east to west is xxiii miles longe, and xii miles brode, consisting of goodlie woodes faire rivers, and good arable land and pasture. In it there are of pety lords, under McDonough, O’Keefe, O’Kallaghan, and McAwlev, with whose powers and his own, he is able to make 400 footmen, xii horse, and 100 gallowglasse, and although that his country standeth on the hyther syde of the mountain of Slievelougher, yet the Earl of Clancarthy doth challenge (i.e. claim dominion over) him and his underlings, because they were originally some of the Mac Carthies.
The expedition is now halfway from Limerick to Cork overland, and various local chieftains have decided to profess support for the Dublin forces.

NB that although the Earl's title is generally reported today as "Earl of Clancare", White has him as "Earl of Clancarthy" or "Clancarty" which was the title later taken by the Trench family.
From today's Telegraph.

If regulations were followed, the Grenfell Tower inferno should have been impossible


I am a building inspector and fire engineer with 30 years’ experience. I’ve overseen numerous projects across London, including new builds and refurbishments, making sure buildings comply with the proper regulations, and post-occupation fire risk assessments. Given my experience, I was shocked by the blaze which engulfed Grenfell Tower in the early hours of Wednesday morning.

At this point in time it’s very hard to tell precisely what went wrong. We don’t know where the fire started and we don’t know how it spread. What we can say for sure is how the building should have performed – and that it definitely did not perform that way. If regulations were followed, what happened at Grenfell Tower should never have been possible, and there are very big question which need to be answered. There are already suggestions that proper planning procedures were not followed.

Normally, British fire regulations assume that fires will start in one location only – and normally, this is completely reasonable. In a big tower block like Grenfell, each individual flat is a fire-tight box from which flames should not be able to escape, and a fire which starts in one tends to stay in it. That is why residents are usually advised to stay within their own rooms and wait for rescue. The fire service should arrive within ten minutes, ascend the building, and tackle the fire where it burns, while other residents sit quite happily in place.

This is also why we shouldn't be disturbed by reports from Grenfell that there was no common alarm system installed. Most residential blocks don’t have common alarms, because they could trigger a mass panic in which everyone tries to evacuate via the same stairwell which the fire service are using to reach the fire. Unlike in a hotel, there are no fire trained fire wardens to safely direct such an evacuation. In the event that a fire grows too large, firefighters might sometimes decide to evacuate the floor immediately above. Otherwise, it’s better everyone stays where they are. That policy has worked several hundred times over the past few years without a problem.

What happened at Grenfell was something else entirely. Firefighters were on site six minutes after being called, which is within expectations. But it is extremely unusual for the fire to spread this far and with this speed and ferocity. Within half an hour or so it had travelled way beyond the first flat, making it very difficult for the fire services to control it. Even more worryingly, survivors have reported that stairwells and lobbies were choked with smoke, which should never happen: there are supposed to be means of clearing smoke from such areas. In those circumstances, “stay and hide” becomes obsolete.

And yet to me the fire spread still had a horrifying familiarity. This has happened before, and – if we are not careful – it may happen again.

In Knowsley Heights in Manchester in 1991, fire spread in a way no one had predicted via the decorative cladding on the outside of the building. These plastic or metal panels are installed to protect a building from weather or improve its appearance, but between them and the wall there is a cavity where rain can run down. In the event of a fire this acts like a chimney, drawing the hot air up through itself and making the flames burn brighter. In this way fire travelled all the way up from the base of the building to the very top.

Something similar happened in Irvine in 1999, after which new regulations were put out which limited the types of cladding which could be used. In particular, they mandated barriers at various points in the cavity, blocking off the “chimney” on all sides. And in 2014 Grenfell’s landlords decided to install exactly this kind of cladding in order to “improve its appearance” when viewed from the luxury flats nearby. The Guardian has reported that some panels used in modern cladding are only fire-proofed on the surface, behind which is up to 30cm of highly flammable polyurethane. If true, that is a major non-conformance with regulations. But even if not, were the proper firebreaks put in place behind the panels?

Once spread via cladding, the fire could have caught on curtains blowing through windows left open on a hot summer’s night. Again this is believed to have been a factor in the Lakanal House fire in 2009. That disaster occurred on a very similar night to this one.

Even if this proves to be correct, however, the building should still have been safe. For the fire to spread internally after that point it would still have to get through the fire door in the individual room, through another fire door at the front of the flat, and through yet more doors in the corridor outside. Clearly there has been a failure of multiple systems: for one to fail is perhaps understandable, but for so many to have failed all at once, in the modern era, is entirely unheard of.

The investigation will of course look into this. But another explanation may lie in reports, as yet unsubstantiated, that works were recently carried out to the gas main that runs vertically up the building. If the contractors carrying out those works did not replace the necessary fire protection after finishing, that would be an easy way for fire to spread. Anything that creates a path for fire can and will be used in that fashion. Even a drill-hole of four inches in diameter can be enough. And if there are combustible materials in ducts – plastic pipes, plastic wires – flames can creep rapidly through a building without the fire service even knowing.

The Lakanal House fire led to specific recommendations. All landlords were given clear, copious information on fire precautions and told to undertake regular risk assessments. People like me then go around the tower blocks checking for ducts that need to be blocked or cladding that needs to be fixed. The problem is that we never really know whether the works we recommend are actually carried out, or, if they were, how long they took. There is no easy way to check whether landlords have carried out their duty.

Worse, there is an ongoing issue around contractors who don’t understand what they need to do to ensure fire safety. Anyone who the landlord allows to alter or amend a building, in any way, shape or form, must be made aware of which walls are fire walls and which materials need to be replaced after they’re done. That, too, doesn’t always happen.

We shouldn’t overstate the danger. There are literally thousands of blocks like this across the UK and there are probably several hundred fires which start in them every year. These fires usually don’t spread and are dealt with in exactly the expected fashion; more people probably die in fires in two- or three-storey houses than in tower blocks.

Nevertheless, the standard of safety across London is highly variable. Some landlords are right on top of it, and act on issues that are reported within a matter of hours. Others don’t give fire safety the priority that it requires.

What’s frustrating is that we are all familiar with going into a toilet block and seeing a register on the wall to show that someone has gone round to check it is clean. There’s no such process for fire safety. Perhaps we need to make landlords post evidence of regular risk assessments in communal areas so residents can see exactly what has been checked and what hasn’t. Or perhaps we need to give fire brigades the resources to conduct building inspections themselves, as they did back in the 1970s. Nowadays, buildings are effectively self-certified.

Whether regulations and recommendations were followed in this case will come out in the wash. But indications on the council's website indicate the building was approved on a "building notice". This type of fast track planning application saves the need to submit detailed proposals and plans to the building inspector and relies on the experience of the inspector to recognise and approve the works by eye. This type of application is wholly inappropriate for large complex buildings and should only be used on small, simple domestic buildings.

Nobody can turn around after Knowsley, Irvine and Lakanal and say they didn’t know there were risks. The guidance was there, the instructions were clear, and we knew the problem. The question is now whether we will do anything about it.

[Geoff Wilkinson is the managing director of Wilkinson Construction Consultants]

Dingle of the Husseys, Part 3

A very short entry today.
The fourteenth my Lord Justice moved from Askettyn towards Aherlow, through the grete wood, where he founde some cattel, and camped that night within a mile, one of another.
"Aherlow" can't be right here, as it is south-east of Limerick and this half of the expedition had gone west. There is a place called Ahalin which is in the right direction for the two armies to rendezvous.

Latest Month



RSS Atom
Powered by LiveJournal.com
Designed by yoksel