braindribbles

Posts Tagged ‘UK

What, another post about moving house?  Give us a break, Sacha!

Actually, this is more about being a nosy neighbour.

You see, for every house we’ve viewed over the last week or so, we’ve also looked them up on UpMyStreet.com.  It’s inundated with advertising, but if you can get past all that, it’s an incredibly useful resource for finding out what your neighbourhood is like.  They tell you about schools, crime, council tax rates, transportation, photographs of the area, and – most important of all – what kind of people live in your postcode.

Have you heard of ACORN classification?  Well, somewhere along the line, some marketeers came up with a plan to segment every element of UK society into 56 categories, ranging from type 1, the wealthy mature professionals in large houses, to  type 56, multi-ethnic communities in crowded flats.  Here’s a nugget of trivia for you: ACORN stands for ‘A Classification Of Residential Neighbourhoods’.

Bet you always wanted to know that.

Every postcode in the country has been categorised this way. (Scotland has a separate ACORN system, and aside from having a category for excessive familiarity with sheep, I can’t see why.  Yes, I am joking.)

We wondered what type we were really likely to be. Loved one thinks we’re a 9 or a 10 (well-off working families with mortgages), but I wonder if we’re more like a 28 (working families with mortgages) or maybe we’re somewhere in between.  Our current postcode has us as a 4 (well-off managers, larger houses), which took us by surprise…our house is one of the smallest in the postcode, though admittedly we are blessed with four cosy bedrooms.  But then we don’t really know our neighbours; they’re too busy working to socialise most of the time. Maybe it is correct and we are 4 people.

Dearie me, I’m spouting numbers at you without giving you the background data.  Well, if you can handle a large download, here’s the most comprehensive thing I’ve seen about it, in PDF format, thanks to www.businessballs.com.  If you haven’t got the luxury of space or fast download time, look at this quick-reference table instead.

Do you have a feel for what category you might fall into?  Do you really want to know..?

We’ve been taking it with a pinch of salt.  At least, we did to start with.  There have been times when we’ve seen a house online, pooh-poohed the low classification and gone and viewed the house.  Every single time, the classification was correct, almost spookily so.

It is a frighteningly accurate system, last updated in 2010.  I wonder if they gathered the data from the latest census, or whether they had alternative sources, but it has hit the nail on the head with every house we have viewed, and surprised us more than once.

Of course, even though it’s a very useful tool for house-hunting, it can also tune you into your inner snob. All of a sudden we find ourselves choosing not to view properties if their classification falls far outside ‘people like us’.  Which is not very nice, really, even it it does save a lot of time paying lip service to a perfectly nice house in a horrible road.

What do you think? Will it lead to a more ‘us and them’ culture?  Or is it just a handy house-hunting tool?

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So it’s snowing, and this country is behaving like it’s the end of the world.  Again.

This is the UK’s third cold winter in a row, and seemingly it’s getting colder…  It’s certainly getting colder sooner.

Some say it’s due to climate change that the warm gulf stream no longer reaches us like it used to.  I haven’t a clue.  But with cold winters being a trend that seems likely to stay, I reckon it’s about time we got used to it.

A few years back I visited New York in the winter.  They experience conditions like this every winter.  When it’s particularly bad, the airports close during a blizzard.  But everything else is still running.  They stick snowploughs on the front of their dustbin lorries, get them out on the roads immediately, and life goes on as normal.  Trains, cars, all doing their normal thing.  So I see no good reason why we Brits should be caught with our pants down every time we have any snow.

What then, do we as a nation need to get our heads around to stop the country from grinding to a halt?

First of all we have a government responsibility to keep all the roads running well.  So that means an adequate collection of vehicles that can actually plough the roads.  Gritting isn’t enough, though it certainly helps, especially in non-snowy conditions.  We should avoid salt when it gets really cold, as it tends to make driving conditions worse.  And we really shouldn’t run out of grit – I understand that in the Netherlands (on the same latitude as us no less), not only is it illegal to drive without snow tyres, but they also scoop up all the grit they have used every spring time.

Government responsibility also means keeping the trains running as normal.  Trains are cancelled in cold weather for various reasons.  One of the most ridiculous reasons was because part of our electric track runs on a third rail system where the electricity supply picked up by the trains is on the top of the rail, whereas in other countries they sensibly keep it underneath, thus preventing snow or ice building up  and affecting the electricity supply.  Also other countries have heavier rolling stock, that could handle sticking a snowplough on the front.  Also the overhead cables aren’t particularly strong, and this means that heavy snow brings them down.

Clearly this is a major infrastructure issue that needs serious attention.  Investment needs to happen now, and even then we won’t see the results for years to come.

Secondly, all of us drivers need to take responsibility for ourselves.  That means actually fitting winter tyres.  Winter tyres will make us more confident on the roads, and help us to maintain a reasonable speed without compromising our safety.  Shovelling snow from our driveways and cul-de-sacs, keeping a snow shovel in the car in case we do get stuck.  Being well prepared with appropriate clothing, and blankets in the car if we get severely stuck.We shouldn’t allow ourselves to use the snow as an excuse to stay home; if everyone did that the entire economy would grind to a halt – not what we need right now!

So all in all, I reckon we could do a lot better.  And build snowmen.  Lots of snowmen.