Micheldever fuel reserve/depot

Retro post from : Autumn 2013

The railway goes under a tunnel; the A303 goes over the top of the hill.

Micheldever fuel reserve was built just prior to the start of WWII to store fuel for the RAF, most likely for Farnborough which is about 15 mins up the railway from it. Basically a set of 30 large tanks built in a former chalk pit and covered with a huge sloping concrete outward face. The fuel was moved by rail to/from the reserve which has its own siding, and the mainline to London runs straight past it. Thus as a kid I always used to look out and wonder what the huge military looking concrete hill/bunker was. At some point it started being used commercially and the depot was in more recently times labelled as being operated by Elf. Crack on *cough* a couple of decades from those childhood years, and I’ve travelled past the fuel depot innumerable times to/from town for work and always kept a keen eye on it. Over the years it was apparent it wasn’t active anymore with the largest building ultimately being breeze blocked up, and things increasingly looking derelict.

Waiting to have the tracking done, with the fuel depot in the distance.

I had to go and get new tyres on the Vee, and so that meant a trip to the “world’s busiest tyre site” … Micheldever Tyres. Hence, I decided it was time to finally go and take a peak at a site that I’ve literally looked at with interest all my life from the train. A quick search showed others had been there, and with summer undergrowth giving more cover and making scrambling down the chalk face where the concrete meets the hill feasible, I dusted off my exploring bag.

The resulting pictures are far from my finest work. My used and abused 18-55mm kit lens I’ve always used for exploring started playing up a few months prior to this visit whilst on holiday. It focussed when it felt like it, and even then wasn’t particularly accurate. Cue on-and-off manual focusing and fuzzy pictures.

One of the longer tunnels into the hill.

The site had been stripped of much of its wiring by metal thieves and smashed up a bit by local kids, but it was great to final have a look around after so many years of wondering about it. Disappointingly not many of the entrances go any distance into the hill. There are a few work rooms, a cross cutting tunnel between a couple of the entrances, along with a couple of longer tunnels. The tanks are marked as having been cleaned out in 1995, so it seems like it really was a couple of decades since it was last used. It hasn’t been noticeable as long as that – strange how some things fall into dereliction quickly, but others appear to be in use for longer than they are, taking years until their desertion becomes totally apparent!

As a present day update, it seems that National Rail are in the process of disposing of part the site. That surplus land appears to consist of the large flat area atop the tanks/hill, which had already been cleared of the few remaining concrete structures when I visited, which will be used for a bio-energy power facility with recyclable waste being brought via the railway. Also it appears that the freight yard/sidings, that have been similarly unused for some years, will be improved for use as a new freight interchange. There’ve been some heavily graffitied car transporter wagons “parked” in the sidings since 21st August 2009, a date clearly documented since seemingly it was an arrival of some excitement for local train enthusiasts as per this thrilling video.

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Batch creating Google Calendar events

I have a shared Google calendar called “® Andy’s Whereabouts” that shows my location on every weekday as an event between 8:00 and 8:30. By default I create each day as TBD, and then once I know I have to be somewhere specifically eg. for a meeting or a perhaps day I need to be at home, I update it. Acts as a quick aide-memoire for me, and is something that lets Mrs ® Andy know my whereabouts since naturally she can’t see my work calendar. Whilst I have it every day, it isn’t a repeating event, since if I created it that way when I went to edit any single day it’d give me the “do you want alter all past/future events” spiel. Hence historically every month or so I’ve gone and clicked on each day in the month ahead, created a default hour event, dragged it down to 30 minutes, and typed in TBD! Ugly, manual and I knew there must be a better way but I’d not bothered to find it! With me beginning to schedule into the new year, I thought I’d see if I could find a neater solution.

The solution came by way of an excellent blog post here. Whilst I regularly import .ics files into Google Calendar for train details exported from the National Rail website, I’d never noticed you could import .csv files too. The capability is more formally described here. Thus a quick Excel spreadsheet knocked up with a formula that moves the date in each row on by one workday (=IF(WEEKDAY(B2)=6,B2+3,B2+1)), replicated across a year’s worth of rows, exported as a .csv and imported into Google Calendar via the Other Calendars menu, and that’s a year’s entries created in a single batch import. Sorted!

Lollipop on Nexus 4 – strange problem and even more surprising fix

I installed Android 5.0 Lollipop the day it became available for my Nexus 4. No waiting for OTA updates (which seldom work for me since I’m invariably running a non-stock kernel), so I simply took the factory image and then flashed the radio, bootloader, and each partition (bar recovery) one by one. One long boot later, and we were up and running.

I’ve been loving Lollipop ever since! It’s the slickest and most natural phone OS I’ve experienced yet, and shows iOS up as having the seriously restricted last gen UI it does. Two killer enhancements for me are the new model for notifications on the lock screen, since where my phone has work email/network access it’s necessarily always locked behind a long password (and I’m forbidden to root it anymore), and the idea of trusted devices (which I know the Moto G already had) which means that when I’m in my car and paired to my trusted BT handsfree said long password is disabled. Anyhow, I did have one annoying strange problem …

Whenever I tried to side load an APK, I couldn’t click on the install button. Literally you’d touch the screen and it’d show no response at all to the button. This was a real pain since many work specific applications are distributed via MaaS360 MDM which installs them locally and hence I couldn’t install any updates at all! When I first noticed the problem after running Lollipop for a day or two I tried Googling but found nothing useful, and put it down to something unique to me that I would have to try and fix one day via something radical like my first ever fresh install on this phone. Then the other day I was frustrated by it yet again and tried searching again, and found my saviour on reddit.

The reality is that this is actually a new security feature on Lollipop! I run Lux to give me more control over screen brightness, and when active Lux runs a “filter” over the screen to allow it to do things like night colour changes (not that I use night mode). Lollipop now disables the install button when it detects a screen filter being run, lest you are tricked into thinking you’re performing one action by an overlaid filter whilst actually installing some malware as a side loaded APK. Makes sense, apart from when you’ve not the foggiest there’s a totally transparent filter applied by one of the applications you run and you can’t work out why you can’t install things!

Quickly tapping the pause button on Lux removes the filter, and huzzah the install button is clickable again!

Upcoming albums wot I iz rather excited about!

I listen to all sorts of music, and indeed listen to music as much of the time as I possibly can, but I do think it’s fair to say that majority of my listening in recent years has been to music that has the word progressive tagged on it somewhere. Said progressive tag spans a wide range of heaviness though.

The first couple of months of 2015 are already shaping up to provide some killer new albums from some of my favourite progressive bands, and the plan is that I keep this post up-to-date with impending releases that I’m looking forward too hereon.

Beardfish – +4626-COMFORTZONE – 12th January 2015

Beardfish still hold the crown as my most scrobbled band. They’re my favourite modern “traditional” prog rock, with a sound definitely anchored in the prog rock of the 1970s, but with more than enough contemporariness to make them sound like their own band. Their sound is anchored on twin guitars but also awesome Hammond organ as multi-instrumental lead singer Rikard Sjöblom switches readily between guitar and keyboards (which is why I’ve hankered after a Nord Electro 3 keyboard for a while). Their last album, The Void,  was released in 2012 and marked their heaviest sound to date, bordering on progressive metal at times.

Apparently the new album is all about addressing the inner self.

Sylosis – Dormant Heart – 12th January 2015

Two great albums on the same day … what am I going to do!? I’ve posted about my love of Sylosis before. Definitely at the other extreme of the progressive spectrum, Sylosis are progressive thrash metal, and I’m totally open about my fanboi adoration of Josh Middleton’s guitar playing. Their last album Monolith was released back in 2012. Apparently this new one is their “most pissed off album” lyrically, and so definitely something to scare the neighbours with when I’m out washing the cars! It’s also the first album with their new drummer, Ali Richardson, who’s sharing his time between Sylosis and his other awesome deathcore/metalcore band Bleed from Within.

Steven Wilson – Hand. Cannot. Erase. – 2nd March 2015

I absolutely adored Steven Wilson’s previous album The Raven That Refused to Sing (And Other Stories) from 2013 and, if you need a very special endorsement of something I listen to, Mrs ® Andy liked it too! Steven Wilson has his hands in lots of things across the progressive spectrum, including his solo albums, various collaborations, and also production including most of Opeth’s recent albums. Also of course there is/was his band Porcupine Tree, currently on hiatus. I’d characterise his solo albums as the best of contemporary prog rock though, whilst he composes all the music, practically his well established band make a clear creative stamp through their performances too. Just like The Raven That Refused to Sing, this new album is firmly anchored on a particular concept – in this instance the idea/reality that some people can disappear but be literally missed by no one!


Frank Tayell – Work. Rest. Repeat.

Finished this just the other night, and went to tweet its completion from my Kindle, only to discover that an ultra-rare Kindle crash a few days previously had irrevocably borked its settings and wifi wouldn’t work any more all. I don’t blame this book however! I read it in about a week which is pretty good going for me as a at-bedtime-and-occasional-snatched-five-mins-during-the-day-to-chill sort of reader and such pace is a strong indication of something I enjoyed! Oh and in case a similar Kindle problem ever happens to you, a factory reset sorted everything out.

I read all the books in Frank Tayell‘s Surviving The Evacation series a few months back (and will post about them too sometime), and so picked this one simply by association even though it’s not related to that series. Helps that it falls squarely into one of my preferred genres of possible post-apocalyptic dystopian futures. On the basis that I’m recommending that people read it, I’m not going to write some long spoiler review, but here’s a bit about why I liked it …

Work. Rest. Repeat. is set in a post-apocalyptic future following some undescribed “Great Disaster”. If you’ve read Hugh Howey’s Wool Trilogy there’s a certain inverted similarity … in Wool humanity lives in deep many-levelled silos, and in Work. Rest. Repeat. they live in less than a handful of tall many-floored towers. The overriding focus of the remaining population is the completion of colony ships so that they can leave Earth for Mars and establish a fresh civilisation there. Whilst a few are sent out of the tower to the launch sites, often as punishment, most work in one of the three production shifts a day producing the parts required for the colony ships. When they’re not working, or sleeping in their daily assigned pods, they’re in the recreation room exercising to create the electricity needed in lieu of the solar energy now denied by the stormy world outside. Thus they live in a continuous cycle of servitude to the shared goal under the mantra that production must always come first. They’re watched by CCTV and monitored by their instrumented wristboards to ensure their compliance and efficiency, though there’s increasingly less “overhead” in terms of people in infrastructure roles and governance. Hence the protagonist, Ely, is the now only remaining Constable in one of the towers. There’s an upcoming election for the key role of councillor, with the victor expected to lead the workers on to Mars soon. Then two bodies are found, and Ely gets his first experience of what can only be murder. The only imaginable motive is sabotage with its measurable impact on production …

The book progresses nicely, being tightly written and striking the balance well between description versus over description (thus why I gave up after only one Harry Potter book since I hate over literal over long writing that leaves too little room for imagination). Ely begins to progress the case and discover the truth about the “world” he lives in. Everything is shaping up nicely. And then my only moan – we’re suddenly at a conclusion, and it’s slightly predictable and rather rushed. In most ways there’s a finality, but it is also slightly hanging perhaps ready for a “what happened next” sequel. That there is a clear principal conclusion does bring atomic satisfaction to the book though, so overall you don’t feel too cheated!


The Urbex preface …

For as long as I can remember I’ve been fascinated by old and derelict buildings! Indeed one of my earliest memories was being intrigued by a fire damaged derelict vicarage when visiting my best friend Alan when he lived near Bolton … I was four at the time! Similarly throughout my childhood on our annual holidays to the Lake District I spent many a happy hour exploring old mines and the like. Thus since long before the Daily Fail seemed to run an article every other day with some HDRed pictures of some spooky building from somebody after their few minutes of fame, I’ve been sneaking around interesting places exploring them and taking pictures.

Over time I’m going to move all my old pictures on to this new version of veehicular.net, so please bear with me.

You should never forget that urban exploration can be dangerous with many hazards, and that appropriate safety precautions should always be taken. Sites are frequently not open to the public! I do not accept any responsibility for anyone who decides to visit the locations that I have and anyone doing so does so at their own risk. I do not condone any criminal activities!

Ysma – Fourth Wall

After several weeks of listening non-stop to Spires’ awesome The Whisperer, I thought I’d better get back to my usual pursuit of finding interesting new music to listen to (though I am still on repeat on The Whisperer when I’m in the gym). My most frequent approach to finding new music these days is shockingly simply – I read the reviews on the excellent Prog Metal Zone. That Jeff Stevens, who principally runs the site, and I have similar tastes in music really helps!

As a small aside, last week I installed a really useful Chrome plugin called scroblr that scrobbles tracks played on Bandcamp and many other web sites. Often the smaller bands that Prog Metal Zone reviews publish their albums via Bandcamp, and so now I can directly listen to them on there and make sure my listens are correctly scrobbled through to last.fm. Probably daft but I like to think that my listening to somebody’s track is correctly accounted for in terms of listener numbers etc.

Anyhow, amongst the stuff I’ve listened to over the last few days, the new album from Ysma stands out. I’m going to be lazy since there’s a full review on Prog Metal Zone, but my summary would be glorious chilled late night dark room prog! The band reference numerous influences including Porcupine Tree through to Steven Wilson’s heavier buddies Opeth, but also classic prog including probably the first ever real prog band I was into – King Crimson. In a subtle way you can hear some of those influences across the album, though often it’s just in the tone/voicing of the instruments, and this album is in no way a derivative piece. Overall it’s a well balanced album with its own highly dynamic sound, with gentle acoustic guitar and piano via soulful melancholic solos through to crunching guitars, but never really straying truly into the world of progressive metal.