Consulting engineer’s 41 #Grenfell questions demand answers

Consulting engineer’s 41 #Grenfell questions demand answers

Yes this list is worth saving for the days of the inquiry
Every question on it is relevant and its vital we get ALL the answers


grenfell after

Paul Follows is a hugely experienced Consulting Structural Engineer, Forensic Specialist and Residential Refurbishment Designer who has taken a keen professional and personal interest in the terrible tragedy at Grenfell Tower and its aftermath. He has used his expertise to put together a comprehensive list of questions that demand answers if the victims and survivors of Grenfell are to have anything approaching justice.

And for the security of every person living in a high rise in this country and beyond.

Explaining why he put together the list and sent it to the SKWAWKBOX, Mr Follows said:

Anything less than complete thoroughness could cause problems again and potentially mean other towers are still at some risk if the emphasis is narrow rather than as complete as possible. ie a full investigation of all parts.

I want to ensure ‘no stone is unturned – a full, thorough and complete” assessment. The danger with forensics…

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Excl: fire-safety expert ‘tests/inspections a sham’. Millions at risk #Grenfell #mustread

Excl: fire-safety expert ‘tests/inspections a sham’. Millions at risk #Grenfell #mustread

Some serious food for thought here, even as an ex Snr HSE person


tarling2.pngArnold Tarling

Fire-safety expert Arnold Tarling is a man who has found sudden and unlooked-for fame after a deeply-moving and equally worrying TV interview in which he broke down as he spoke of warning three years ago of the threat posed by the type of cladding used on Grenfell Tower and of bursting into tears at four in the morning last week when he saw the news of the terrible fire:

Tarling is clearly a man completely committed to keeping people safe – and something of an action man, who has been known to abseil down the sides of buildings to carry out safety checks, although all he says on the matter is, “I’m not your typical surveyor”.

Mr Tarling very kindly spoke at some length to the SKWAWKBOX about his fears for the safety of residents, the warnings he gave – and the vast, barely-scratched fire threat facing hundreds…

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Some Issues In Our Party Need Addressing.

Excellent look at the Labour party post election date

Checking Reality

Vindicated is how I’m told I should feel, but I don’t. Vindication implies that I was proven right, I already knew I was right – others now telling me I am doesn’t change how I feel because I never needed affirmation. I, like thousands of others are secure enough to be comfortable with our own belief without approval from others and that was tested time and time again over the past 24 months.

Twitter is now littered with people saying “I’m glad Jeremy proved me wrong”, like seeking to prove something to these people was his objective. Like they were silent observers who gave him a fair ride. Like he has achieved something by meeting their approval.

Words are important, and one word very few of them are using is ‘sorry’.

It has been two years of constant attacks and abuse, which caused distressed, distraction and damage to our members…

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We mustn’t talk about Jeremy

An excellent piece, resonates with me too, as does The Candidate

It could be you

Although I despair of politics, you and I just cannot avoid or escape it in everyday life, much as many of us would like to. I don’t claim to fully understand it, or even understand it to a novice level, but I do get gut feelings about what is wrong and what is right. My earliest memories of politics, around the 11-16 age range are how I was influenced in my leanings by the media. I remember being confused as to who stood for what and even which MP was a member of which party. It was all such a jumbled mess. However, I could sense what the parties stood for in general terms. Who represented who in terms of social class. It didn’t help that my parents were on either side of the political divide, with my Mum being a Labour voter, my Grandfather on her side, Walter Jenkins…

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Bill Poster, The Bengali Tiger.


Personal observations from a memorable 7 months spent in Bangladesh, between August 1999 and April 2000. One of the poorest countries on the planet, but where the human spirit seems to be at its strongest.

I was busy working on a project in the Bay of Bengal and was based in Chittagong, Bangladesh. Part of my daily duties included ferrying personnel by small boat between the various elements of our Seismic crew, working offshore, either on a secondary base on Sandwip (Pron. Shawn-dipp) Island or a barge installation, assuming we could remember where we had last parked it.           

Our boat was based on the Kharnaphuli River, and to get there from the Staff house in the Khulshi Hills we had to drive right past the main gates of the Bangladesh Naval Academy, a very smart establishment a little bit like the famous UK Dartmouth Naval academy, but a lot more like something from “It aint ‘arf hot mum”.

During this daily commute by car, I had noticed that close to the main gate of the college a solitary old man had pitched a tent on the wide grass verge. Alongside this tent was a mountain of paint tins, mostly second hand, of all sorts, shapes and sizes, and my curiosity was aroused.

As the days went by my morning and evening commute saw a large bamboo scaffolding appear, looking pretty precarious but gradually taking shape as the frame to a giant billboard.

The Billboard was 4 -5 metres high and about 12 metres long, standing on legs so that the bottom of the frame was a couple of metres from the ground. The entire structure was held together with rope lashings and what looked like baling twine.

Traffic was usually heavy at this point and I often nodded or waved to the old man as we crawled past, and he always responded with a cheery and rather toothless smile.Once the frame of the billboard was complete the boarding itself was built up from dozens of bits of board, all shapes and sizes that he’d scavenged. They filled the rectangle like a deranged jigsaw puzzle.

With all the holes filled in, the surface was treated to a few miles of Gaffer-tape to cover all the cracks and imperfections, and then a few coats of white paint mixed with glue. Every day saw progress, but it took 5/6 weeks to complete. But suddenly one day there was a blindingly white Billboard, with a neat frame, and a totally professional finish…. just so long as you didn’t go round to the back and see how it was all held together.

“Job done!” I thought, “now we will see someone rock up with a few rolls of poster and a big pot of glue, wonder what ad it will be?”

Never make assumptions, and certainly not in places like Chittagong, what you see is not always what you get.

The old man was only occasionally seen for the following week or so, pushing a hand cart loaded with more paint, and the pile of mostly part-used pots alongside his tent grew to an impressive size. And then, one day he appeared back on the scaffold again, armed with a pocketful of pencils, and busy at work, sketching outlines.

At first it was hard to see what it was he was drawing from the distance we usually passed, so one morning, while stuck in heavy traffic, I jumped out of the car for a closer look. I was gobsmacked.

It was the Julie Andrews scene from the Sound of Music, “The Hills are alive” bit, with J.A. and the kids skipping up the hillside holding hands and the most awesome mountain scenery backdrop behind. The old man saw me and was clearly very proud of his work but laughing his head off at the dopy Englishman standing gawping with an astonished look on his face.

The old man fired off a string of what sounded like questions to me and all I could do was shrug and grin at him, making “Bugger me that’s good” type noises and gestures. Luckily my driver heard this and saw me struggling stepped in to translate for us. We had a great chat, agreed to meet up often, and he asked me to stop and tell him what I thought from time to time. All I really found out was that he was a trained artist, and this was a commission for him that was going to pay him handsomely

So I had met the artist, and even shook hands with him, and he had let me in on the secret, and day by day, over a total period of 3 months, all I had to do was watch, as a glorious technicolour scene from the Sound of music took place before my very eyes. It was superb, magnificent, and flawless too. It WAS Julie Andrews and the Von Trapp kids, life sized and recognisable, in the mountains and singing that bloody awful song (It’s even got back in my head just now writing this FFS).

In the bottom right hand corner, perfectly executed, was the Fuji Film logo and a statement in Bengali that if YOU “wanted the hills to come alive in living colour you had better buy their film stock”.

Abruptly one day, the tent, along with the old man disappeared. He had cleared up and cleared off. I had an empty feeling, a part of my daily life had come to a sudden end, and I was so deeply caught up in it all, that I never even saw “The End” arriving.


Our work was now taking on a whole new twist, with operations in the Bay of Bengal being the most challenging I have ever worked in, and I confess, the old man went out of my mind temporarily.

To make things interesting, we had heard that a Typhoon was in the Bay, and tracking aimlessly about with no particular direction.

The JTWC (Joint Typhoon Warning Centre) in Canberra, Australia were providing daily updates on its strength and position, and after nearly a week of uncertainty we got all complacent, and went to the Monday evening “Pub Night” to get lubricated, celebrating the demise of Typhoon “Rupert”.

And lo, did it not come to pass that the following morning, (over a light breakfast of Paracetamol and copious puffs of Oxygen from the mechanic’s workshop), we did come to receive the news that “Rupert” had had a change of heart, and the bastard was strengthening, and now tracking in a dead straight line for Chittagong. Deep Joy.

We were organised for once, and had put a traffic light zone alert system in place, so by the time the storm had entered our Green Zone, we were getting things ready to evacuate.

When it reached the Yellow Zone we put the evacuation plan into practice and got the boats out of the Bay and deep inland, way up-river, sending our 1000 strong workforce home, and battening down everything we could.

Imagine my surprise when at this critical stage I got called into the office by the Crew Chief, to be told that as I had already completed twice as many days as my shift rotation permitted, I could now go home for a “couple of weeks”.

In actual fact our rotations meant that I had earned 6 weeks at home at least, so the thought of going home for a “Couple of weeks” was somewhat underwhelming.

Anyway, I got the hell out of Dodge. Typhoons are not to be taken lightly, especially when you are owed 6 weeks leave and there is still time to make the airport.***

I confess that I did feel slightly bad about leaving my mates behind to deal with Big Bad “Rupert”, my guilt lasted all of a Nanosecond.

Then I got on the plane and went home to see the wife and lovely new Daughter, who, at a year old had just managed to say “Dads working in Banladess”, in Dutch.

All hell did break loose in Chittagong, but not nearly as much as it did 100m west of Chittagong where the storm first touched land, with over 2000 dead and whole villages washed away. Typhoons and storm surges are a very big thing in Bangladesh. One that hit them in 1991 killed several hundred thousand people.

Once over, the storm damage was repaired and the crew reformed. I had had about 10 days leave out of the promised 42 days but we got going again. On my first trip back to the harbour I was sickened by the site of the famous (in my head at least) Billboard, which had been reduced to a few sticks poking out of the grass.

Weeks and weeks of work blown to bits, scattered to the 4 winds.

The following morning however, the tent was back, with a huge pile of debris arranged neatly alongside of it. I didn’t see the old man for more than a week, but when I did, he was already up on the beginning of his makeshift scaffolding, piecing together the bits he had gathered up from all over the neighbourhood. We had found a few biggish bits of the billboard in the river one day and gave them to a friendly lorry driver to dump by the old man’s tent.

A couple of days later the old man rushed up to our car as we passed in the morning, and banged on the window with a Pineapple, it was his gift to us for finding his stuff.

3 weeks later, the whole thing was reassembled, good as new, and a week after that I left Bangladesh for the last time.

I took something with me though. An undying respect for the power of little men, with no money, and little education, yet seeming to have all the strength of a Bengal Tiger


There is a bit of a sub story here.

To avoid the Typhoon, I had flown from Chittagong to Dhaka, for my international flight to Paris, but when I checked in they had “mysteriously” managed to sell my seat. Several times I believe.

Of course it didn’t take long to figure out why, with a Typhoon coming, those folk that could afford it were also getting out of the country PDQ, and had been waving blocks of currency about that would choke a donkey.

Very tired and after nearly 3 months away working, I aimed myself at the highest ranking Air France official I could find and ripped into him. I was not about to take Non! for an answer. I had a ticket and a seat number and I was putting my backside on that seat come what may.

I wore him down, and he buggered off to have a conversation.

He returned half an hour later and took me to one side. In one hand he had an envelope, and in the other he had my laptop bag with me still attached, heading off across the lounge. We arrived at the Lufthansa desk, words were spoken, my passport was requested and all was in order.

If I would care to accept the envelope, containing $1250, the nice people at Lufthansa would take me to Frankfurt, 1st Class, on a flight leaving Dhaka only 1 hour later than my original Paris flight.

I don’t know about you but I have never earned $1250 in a single hour before (Or since), especially as it was spent having a Champagne Breakfast in the Lufthansa VIP suite.

Five things taught to me by Tony Benn

The World Turned Upside Down

Benn 2It’s been three years since Tony Benn left us. For many of the left, both inside and outside the Labour Party, his departure still leaves a huge hole, despite everything that has happened since his death in March 2014. I think about Tony a lot, imagining what his reactions would be – to Brexit; to Trump’s election; to the shifts on the British left, and the schisms that have opened up.

Benn’s formal political career stretched from 1950 to 2001, but he continued as a huge presence after that decision to ‘leave Parliament to spend more time on politics’, especially in the Anti-War movement. In that huge span of 50 plus years, he transformed from the ‘bright young thing of the party’ (with few socialist credentials) to the ‘kindly, harmless, grandfather’ figure that used to annoy him so much. In between, his politics and his career made somersaults and contradictory…

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Can Corbyn’s Labour Party win the next general election?

Satyagraha Media

Myths and false narrative

To answer the question posed, we must first tackle the myths and false narrative perpetuated on MSM. These relate to polls, Corbyn’s unpopularity, Tory popularity, assertion that there is a need to win Tory voters and inability of Labour to deal effectively either in Parliament as an Opposition or in articulating its message to the public. Furthermore, another assertion is that Labour needs to win 96 seats to get back into power and this can only be done by positioning Labour to the ‘illusory’ Centre or just Right of  Centre. This shift of the party leftwards from Blair & Brown to Miliband & now Corbyn is considered a self-inflicting disaster by those on the Labour Right. They believe that to win power Labour must emulate Tony Blair’s success and that means electing as leader anyone from the Left traditions of the party is clearly political suicide.

Blair legacy


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Happy Families? Sorry – but let’s talk about New Labour

Good analysis and conducted in way I like very much, balanced and honest, there can be little wrong with that approach.
Truth and Honesty is always good despite what the Neocons would have you believe

The World Turned Upside Down


‘Why do you denigrate New Labour?’; ‘Isn’t that divisive?’; ‘Why aren’t you honest enough to celebrate Blair’s successes and achievements?’; ‘What happened to the new politics?’. These are all questions that will have become familiar to those of us on the left of the Labour Party over the last 18 months. Strangely enough, they weren’t asked so much when we were out of power, when we were having our sideshow conferences in the margins of the party, but that is because back then, we could be ignored. Now we are seen to be running the party (not really accurate, but I’ll come to that lately), so the question is asked in an ever more accusatory manner. But it’s a fair set of questions which deserve a serious answer, so I’m going to try to do just that, as succinctly as I can.

The first thing to say is that I’m…

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A couple of days ago I couldn’t even spell Precariat, now I are one

I learned a new word yesterday, … Precariat, which Wiki defines as

“In sociology and economics, the precariat is a social class formed by people suffering from precarity, which is a condition of existence without predictability or security, affecting material or psychological welfare.”

This class has been tagged as “The New Dangerous Class”, in the blog Working Class perspectives, which appeared in October 2014, just as the book entitled A Precariat Charter was published, both penned by Guy Standing, Professor of Economics, SOAS, University of London.

I came across the blog by chance while following a line of enquiry in my own low level flights through the blogosphere. I have a very large hornet buzzing round my bonnet about the current political theatre we are enjoying in the US and the UK, the first two acts of which have been Brexshit, and Trumpshit respectively.

Together they form the most irrational human behaviour I have ever come across on my three score years and ten, matched only by various outbreaks of hideous behaviour in the middle ages caused by Ergot poisoning, known as St Anthony’s Fire.

I know the political system in both countries is twisted and effectively corrupt, but honestly, two supposedly sane nations acting upon the words of Trump, Farage, Johnson, Gove & Co? Somebody must have slipped something in the water surely?

My personal opinion was that we are all being softened up for the “Big Shove”, by the Corporate Bulldozer, over the edge and into the landfill labelled Hunger Games, and all the pieces of the puzzle fit together.

Recipe for disaster,

Blend together equal parts: –

Think Tank, Lobby system, Farage, Media control. TTIP, Propaganda levels, Post Truth era, Privatisation Steroids, Trump, Gove, UKIP, CETA, Russian election hacking, Murdoch, Frunobulax (A giant Poodle dog from a F. Zappa track), Bojo Johnson.

Switch off the blender and think carefully about what you have done, as you hold the equivalent of the Primordial Soup of The Day, ( You know, the one that all life forms are supposed to have evolved from, but this time in reverse.)

It is the soup we are all stewing ourselves in right now as our once stable societies just fall apart like meat off a well stewed bone.


I came across the expression Precariat, while I was Searching the Bilderberg Group website, to see if there had been any developments within this shy beast, that might help me understand the recent lunacy, and came across this Press Release.

The agenda is always interesting, but what caught my eye was Item 9 “Precariat and middle class”. I confess that while I was able to have a stab at what the Precariat was, it would probably pay me to look a little deeper.

That took me to the Working Class perspectives, blog, which in turn led me to the author Guy Standing. Now I don’t know about you but the blog resonated with me, to the point that I discovered pretty quickly that I am a member of the Precariat myself, the blog states …

The precariat has distinctive relations of distribution. It relies on money wages, without pensions, paid holidays, retrenchment benefits or medical coverage. It has been losing those benefits, which is why conventional statistics understate growing inequality.

Which describes to a Tee how my life has been for the last 20 years, before I retired (With a negligible pension) last year.

It also fits with the nutty things like Brexshit going on. The UK politicians are headless chickens even 9 months after the referendum, and still can’t get their tiny minds round the fact that leaving the EU isn’t anything to do with a particular political party at all.

It is just a bad joke based on a pack of lies, and doesn’t fit any political model in the known universe.

I wanted to remain in the EU, I live in the EU, it is great to be a foreigner, it’s good to talk in a different language, it exercises the mind, you actually have to think what you are saying, it’s called communication, and I like it.

With our faces almost permanently fixed on an IPhone screen, we are losing the very human art of having a face to face conversation, with all of the face reading and body language that goes with it. These are important, they are the signs that tell us of honesty and truth and openness which doesn’t get sent as an attachment along with a Tweet or an Email.

So having established that there is a group in which I fit, I went back to the Bilderberg Site to finish off what I started, downloading the list of attendees for the meeting 9th – 12th June 2016. I wanted to see who was present in terms of the makeup of the group, not the individual names, but the number of Bankers or Industrialists etc.

And then I saw that Guy Standing was there at that early June meeting, and he is the man who described the likes of me as the “Dangerous Class” a group with no representation, wandering about just waiting for a movement to happen.

And the penny dropped, Trumpshit and Brexshit are what happen when a large number of people just don’t agree with the “Ruling” part of society.

For my part, I don’t agree with the Inequality, the fact that a handful of mega rich families have more money than half the world’s population.

I don’t agree with Nigel Farage whipping up racism and hatred against a minority group.

I don’t agree with 95% of UK politics 95% of the time.

I dont agree with people being bankrupted to pay for medical treatment

Its frustrating as hell, and it makes me very angry.  Angry enough to vote for nothing, or vote for something just to wake people up, or to look at an opinion poll and vote against its stupid assumptions just because I feel bloody minded. I would vote for Frunobulax if I could sneak the name onto a ballot paper

The politicians we are presented with are 95% died in the wool, Nose in the Trough Self-interested Oxygen Bandits, who have taken the work of 200 years in civilising and developing the United Kingdom and sold it off to the highest bidder while rewarding themselves with Knighthoods, Money, Fame and portfolios of shares of all the Public services they have stolen and sold these past 40 years.

Professor Standing is right, the Precariat aren’t even organised yet and they are very dangerous, imagine what is going to happen when we all put our heads together and formulate a world where it’s going to be done our way…or it’s not going to be done at all.

I have in my mind’s eye a General election in the UK where the turnout is Zero, and then again, we might come up with something completely different, and even more dangerous

In the meantime, I must finish reading “A Precariat Charter”

By the way, the Blog, as of this morning, had only 8 “Likes” which is pretty shabby for a work of this calibre, and especially as it was posted 30 months ago.

If ever an idea needed to go Viral this is it



Feb 2017