Fire! A hot reflection

Sometime back I “reported” on a fire we witnessed at Rome. Again, on the subject of fire, the 1 July 2015 was the hottest July day on record in the UK -so far- with a maximum temperature of 36.7°C![1] We happened to be in Edinburgh at the time, departing to Newcastle by train. Why Newcastle? you would rightly ask. Because of the beauty of buying cheap plane tickets on line! There was a substantial diference flying from Newcastle to Paris than from Edinburgh. Paris was our stopover on our way to Johannesburg and eventually Harare.

Most people were feeling hot and bothered that day. We were quite comfortable with the first summer day we had encountered since our arrival in Scotland a few days earlier. I even managed to remove my thin polartec jumper and go about in a shirt for a couple of hours, until the sun got weaker and I needed it back again!

We arrived at Edinburgh Waverley Train station in mid morning, clearly too early for our 13:10 train to Newcastle. As we travel loaded with suitcases, we prefer to wait than to rush! Surrounded by lots of red-faced and sweaty people we found a quiet corner and prepared for the longish wait. I walked the station up and down to familiarize myself with its platforms, particularly ours. After that we talked -mostly about our son’s graduation, the suitability of our plane seats and our eagerness to arrive to Harare as soon as possible- until the time come to walk to platform 11, the right place according to the information board. Despite carrying large suitcases and hand luggage for our flight, our progress was good and we got there in good time.

The train arrived on time and people disembarked so we waited politely until the intructions to board came. We did not take two steps towards our coach before we got stunned rather than heard a really overwhelmingly loud siren followed by the announcement that there was an emergency and that the station needed to be immediately evacuated. I suddenly understood the sinking heart feeling! I had a last longing look at our train, the vanishing link with Harare, and started walking with our luggage uphill towards the exit. We were part of a multitude moving in a very orderly fashion with no apparent panic.

While walking my brain tried to come to grips with the situation. Missing the train meant missing all the flights for reasons not related to any of the airlines involved so they were under no obligation of putting us on a other flight! Even if they agreed to do this, would the right flights be available? I recalled the difficulties I have had earlier to get better seats for our long journeys, even at a cost and I new then that it was going to be expensive and difficult and asking for a refund did not event come to mind at the time!

While pondering on the vulnerability of present day plane travel, with every step towards the exit my desperation augmented as I could see no easy way out of it! Then, luckily and as fast as the crisis started, it ended! Railway employees came running to inform us that those passengers leaving within the next 30 minutes were allowed to turn back and board their respective trains as soon as possible as the alert had been cancelled!

Probably the intense heat triggered some fire alarm that brought about the evacuation order that, on further checking, was lifted. This was the fastest turn around I remember doing with heavy suitcases and I am sure that we went down towards the train at record speed although, unlike the temperature, no one recorded our movement! Luckily our train was still there and we did a boarding worth of a good pirate!

This post would have ended here except that four days later, on the 5 July there was another scare of a fire at Edinburgh Waverley that mobilized three fire engines to control it. This time the scare was caused by the passing of the Tornado steam locomotive[2] through the station![3] It seems that Edinburgh Waverley is rather jittery when it comes to fires so I made a mental note to avoid it in future.


[1] See: http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-33324881

[2] See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/LNER_Peppercorn_Class_A1_60163_Tornado

[3] See: http://www.edinburghnews.scotsman.com/news/transport/fire-at-waverley-turns-out-to-be-steam-train-1-3822129

The growing problem of obesity

While in Edinburgh, one of the first things that we observed was that there seemed to be more overweight people now than when we lived here in the late 70s! While this is perhaps not a strictly valid comparison, further Internet search indicated that our observation was true[1]. But, we also noted that obesity is also affecting other creatures…

Although I never quite believed her, a good British friend had warned me about this problem before. Her mother and friends fed the birds in their gardens, particularly in winter as, apparently, natural bird food was short at that time. The result of this -she mantioned laughing- was that most birds in her mother’s garden were very fat! This condition affected the pigeons in particular but, according to her, even the little robins looked like meatballs! Until the visit to Edinburgh I thought she was exaggerating, but now I have seen the situation with my own eyes!

A heavy Wood pigeon searching.

A heavy Wood pigeon searching.

The pigeons in Edinburgh are unquestionably fat! I refer here to the Wood pigeons (Columba palumbus) reported by the BBC in 2015 as the most common bird in the UK.[2] Although the young of the species are expected to be fat on account of the crop milk they are fed by their parents, I was not prepared to find the adults fat as well to the point that some had difficulties on taking off, resembling well-fed vultures after spending a good night at a carcass![3]





What are you looking at?

What are you looking at?

The confirmation that the problem exists mad me ponder about possible solutions as the situation seems to be unfair on the birds. As usual, increasing public awareness came to mind first, perhaps because of my United Nations experience. This could be tried and people could be explained that birds could be fed but with moderations. The chances of success of such an initiative when they themselves are gaining weight did not seem too good. We are all aware of the apparent slow success of the anti-smoking drive! I decided that it should be tried as a long-term measure that would reduce obesity in future wood pigeon generations.

For the current portly population the problem is more difficult to solve. To expect people to stop feeding them overnight is out of the question. Attempts at them losing weight through natural pigeon methods such as flying would be difficult and it would probably result in their extinction!

I thought and looked harder and although I saw a lot of new developments in Edinburgh such as a pub that promised to look after the husband while the wife works and a teahouse where you can -for a fee- stroke cats while having your cappa tea, I did not come across any breakthroughs that could be used. Pigeon gyms or sliming bird food were not there!

A non suitable revolutionary offer...

A non suitable revolutionary offer…

Maybe a combined routine of feeding them low cholesterol food combined with Pilates to build upper body strength and jogging to reinforce their landing gear may work until they re-gain their ability to take off and land rather than hop about around people looking for food morsels.

However, judging by the predicted situation in humans, I do not expect these measures to be very successful and fear for the future of the wood pigeon that is why I post a few pictures so that they can be remember, even at their present plump condition!


[1] http://www.theguardian.com/society/2015/may/05/obesity-crisis-projections-uk-2030-men-women and http://www.nhs.uk/livewell/loseweight/pages/statistics-and-causes-of-the-obesity-epidemic-in-the-uk.aspx

[2] http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk/4646685.stm

[3] The issue is -of course- well known and documented, mainly in a humorous fashion. See: http://www.londonpigeons.co.uk/ and http://www.thestudentroom.co.uk/showthread.php?t=2669897 and http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-339636/A-pig-pigeon.html