Solar Allotment Shed

Not A Solar Bird House
Not A Solar Bird House


I had a kit for a solar powered shed light. The receipt was still in the box, and it was over 4 years old, so I wasn’t sure that it would work, but I thought it would be worth a try.

It was a fairly simple build, just required a couple of screws and no wiring; so I installed it on my allotment shed. The back of the shed faces south, and is also where my bird house is, so I installed the panel on top of the bird house, as it has a good angle to catch the sun, and I placed the light inside.

I wasn’t surprised when I connected it up, that it didn’t work. I figured that the two rechargeable AA batteries that come with the kit would probably be completely discharged, and I wasn’t convinced that they would take a charge, but I left it switched off, and in theory charging for the next week. Then I tried it…

I’m really chuffed. I was prepared to get some replacement batteries if I’d needed to, but it doesn’t look like I will.

I’m rarely down on the plot after dark, but it is good that I can have a little artificial light in the shed on the more gloomy days.


I’ve asked readers before about whether they’d read a newsletter if I produced one, although essentially Quick Links is becoming a weekly newsletter in the form of a blogpost anyway or seems to be evolving that way in my view. I’ve made no plans to change the current arrangement, although a week of blogging every day has taught me a few things and given me some ideas, but for now I thought I’d share some of the newsletters that I read and might interest you. Most require you to sign up, (the links are to the sign up pages) but all contain an unsubscribe link if you don’t like them as much as me or change you mind, I’ve also included a quick note about the normal day and frequency with which they’re published.

So in no particular order…

Christian Payne (@documentally) Backchannel (weekly, Fridays)

Warren Ellis Orbital Operations (weekly, Sundays)

Joe Hill Escape Hatch (monthly)

Giuseppe Sollazzo In Other News (weekly, Tuesdays)

Kieron Gillen Word Mail (weekly, Tuesdays)

Ganzeer Restricted Frequency (weekly, Saturdays)

Ed Yong The Ed’s Up (Friday / Saturday)

Do you subscribe to any good newsletters that you think I might be interested in? If so drop me a comment below.

Star Wars

There’s a new Star Wars film out today.

The original films were a staple of my childhood, before video and DVD the only way to see them was in the cinema. My Dad took me to see all of them when they first came out. When the three prequel films came out, I took him to see them. When The Force Awakens came out he was too ill to make a trip to the cinema, so I bought him a copy on DVD. I don’t think he ever got a chance to watched it before he passed away though.
I’ve heard great things about the new film Rogue One, from people who’s opinion I trust, so I think I’m going to go catch this one in the cinema in honour of my Dad. Probably some time in the New Year, after the kids are back in school and I can go to a hopefully quieter day time showing.

My Books of 2016

According to GoodReads, I’ve read 52 books this year, I might get another one or two in before the end of the year, and I’d argue that some are a bit short to really be books in their own right. There were a couple of audiobooks in there and Warren Ellis’s “Normal” was really a book in four parts, but they’ve been listed individually. It was though one of my favourites of the year as a whole.

The counter gets reset to zero on January first, and my TBR pile will probably be larger than ever but there are a couple of books I’m looking forward to reading. David Quammen’s “Yellowstone“, “Pathlands” by Peter Owen-Jones and “Spaceman” by Mike Massimino.

Are there any books you’re looking forward to reading in the near future?

A Ban On Petrol And Diesel Cars

A short piece that I wrote for LinkedIn yesterday:


On Friday (9th December 2016), The Independent published a story that Jeremy Corbyn is considering a ban on petrol and diesel car sales as a future policy of a Labour Government, amongst other things.
Could It Actually Happen

Now obviously this is a long way from being the policy of any government but let’s just say that in 2020 a new government comes into power and this is a keystone policy of their manifesto; a ban on all new fossil fuel car sales within 10 years and let’s also assume that the legislation achieves Royal Assent within a year; so some time around May 2031 you won’t be able to buy a new car that is powered by petrol, diesel and probably LPG as well.

A big ask? Yes. Impossible? No.

It’s obviously not a simple issue but leadership from government is likely the only way it would happen. It would need a considerable amount of discussions with many groups – car makers, petroleum industry, fuel sales and local authorities to name a few – and that had better start now, otherwise there’ll be issues at the ballot box, so don’t forget the car owners either.


Assuming it happens, what about infrastructure. For electric vehicles it’s going to need far more that the current minimal level of charging points, and possibly a shift towards inductive charging in many places because plugging that many vehicles in just isn’t going to be possible. Think for example of all those “on-street” vehicles that are parked each night, and not necessarily outside of their owner’s home, but if the street had an inductive charging plate underneath the tarmac and with compatible vehicles – not a problem. Although what about the underlying infrastructure – the power that is required to feed those charging points? The local grid operators will most certainly be looking to upgrade to meet demand, and spikes in demand (when everyone comes home from work and parks their car) will require some balancing. Smarter grids, and delivery of associated technological advances are also going to be needed. This isn’t just a simple policy centred in one area i.e. cars, it has massive implications for many sectors.

Hydrogen fuel cell vehicles and gas from biodigesitble waste (as mentioned in the article) would be less of an issue to refuel and could be achieved through adaptation of existing forecourts, but would still require a massive infrastructure shift in order to generate the fuel in the first place, but diversification by current providers could provide solutions if they were willing or a massive opportunity in the market for others.

Car Sales

So what about car sales. There are currently about 90,000 electric vehicles on the road in the UK, just under 30,000 of these were sold in 2015 (these figures include hybrids and plug-in hybrids and also includes some light vans), compared to a total of 2.6 million new vehicles sold in 2015 i.e. just over 1% of new vehicles were electric. So how do you go about moving this trend totally in the other direction, and what impact is it likely to have on the second-hand car market, particularly the newly new and under three years old vehicles, particularly around 2031? Also what exactly is going to constitute a car – anything with 8 seats or less or will it include small commercial vehicles as well?

What Next

Well I could go on, but I have been and would continue to be speculating, and this piece is already long enough. This is one report in one newspaper and political scandals have been made of less. So let’s wait and see for now.

Personally if it’s true I think it is the sort of bold policy that is required in this country but it needs some proper research and discussion before anyone should actually include it in their manifesto.

The contents of this post are the views of the author alone, and do not represent those of any employer or client that the author is working for, either now or historically.

A Post A Day

I was going to start this next weekend, but I feel like starting now, so here goes…

I’m going to try and post something here everyday between now and the end of the year. After that I’ll see what happens. It might be something simple, like a photo I’ve taken that day or perhaps an old one; or it might be something else.

So to kick off, here’s a photo from nearly a year ago, in a garden centre car park, in Warwickshire – I was waiting in the car with the dogs, listening to a radio programme on the music from Star Wars movies.

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