Bring back the magic lantern!

I had a really great time at the Stop HS2 Convention. I even managed to persuade Mrs D to come along, which was quite an achievement. It is not that Mrs D is any less anti-HS2 than I am, it’s just that she resents the way that it has taken over my, and by consequence our, lives.

It was a real treat to chinwag with many of my co-conspirators on Phase 1, but even more rewarding to meet many of the newcomers from Phase 2 and put some faces to e-mail addresses.

The facilities at Stafford were really excellent, except perhaps for the pervasive smell of Jeyes Fluid in the Staffordshire Pavilion, which hinted perhaps that the previous occupants had four legs rather than two. The only disappointment was that the venue could have comfortably accommodated probably twice as many people as turned up on the day, which means that people who will be affected by HS2 missed out on some extremely informative workshops. The general feeling was that the event may have been pitched too soon after the announcement of the proposed route of Phase 2 and before many people have got to grips with what HS2 may mean to them.

One of things that I mentioned that I had got out of the 2011 convention in my preview blog A meeting of minds (posted 21 Jun 2013) was a feeling of solidarity with others opposed to HS2. I said in that blog that, “It felt good to be part of such a large gathering of like-minded souls, all wanting to see the demise of the ‘HS2 white elephant’”. I was pleased to learn that a number of the people that I chatted to at Stafford felt the same way about the experience.

I mentioned in A meeting of minds that one of the workshop sessions on offer was to be HS2 and the environment LIVE in which yours truly would be taking a session on HS2 airborne train noise. Unfortunately it turned out to be more The Comedy of Errors, but without the jokes about twins.

When I used to give presentations as a part of my employment responsibilities it was all so simple. You just turned up with your slides in a Kodak Carousel and popped them onto a waiting projector. Apart from the projector bulb blowing, nothing could really go wrong, and the wise always carried a spare bulb with them just in case. However, in this technologically-advanced age all this stuff that works has been cast aside in favour of PowerPoint, laptops and video projectors. Now I am of course a Luddite – my views on HS2 surely prove that to be the case – but my experience with this modern technology at the Convention did little to persuade me that we have not gone backwards, in terms of reliability and user-friendliness, since the days of the magic lantern.

So it was that I spent an hour running around in the morning to make sure that a video projector and screen would be waiting for me in the President’s Suite when I was due to run my workshop and making sure that my laptop would talk to the projector. I turned up in plenty of time before my session and, to my great relief, the projector was waiting for me with a friendly-looking umbilical attached with a plug that fitted into a socket on my laptop. However, after the big switch on of the relevant apparatus, all that was displayed on the screen was a blue rectangle. Panic mode ensued as various digits pressed various buttons; all of this made no difference.

With about ten minutes to go to the scheduled start of my presentation I shot off on a rapid tour of the Showground to try and find someone who knew more about computers than I did. This was not really a difficult task as I estimate that about 99% of the people milling about were in this category. I managed to find Joe Rukin and he kindly came to the President’s Suite and started pushing buttons and keys in a determined way that gave the assurance that he knew what he was doing and, lo and behold, the first of my “slides” appeared on the screen – I wonder is it still correct to call these digitally-created images slides?

It was only after I had got to about slide 2 or 3 that I noticed that only about two-thirds of the area of my originals was being displayed on the screen. So I had to describe the missing parts to my audience, who I must say were very tolerant and understanding.

Then things went from bad to worse. The image disappeared completely. A kind lady from the audience came to my aid and found that the wall power socket feeding my laptop was switched off, so the laptop had run down its battery. As supposedly a qualified electrical engineer I was, to be frank, feeling a bit of a fool by this stage.

Anyway, the laptop came back on and I completed the presentation. The audience were really great and we had a very stimulating questions and discussion session. I really owe them all a big thank you for bearing with me.

One promise that I did make to those present was to post a copy of the slides on this site so that anyone who wanted to could see the one-third of the images that they had missed on the day. So this blog is really an excuse to deliver on that promise.  However, the technical gremlins are still sitting on my shoulder and the conversion to portable document format (pdf) has corrupted the layout on the slide Noise contours – night plus introducing one or two other minor glitches. If that’s a problem you can view the original PowerPoint file here.

As a bonus to those understanding and patient individuals who came to the President’s Suite on Saturday, and the rest of you by default, a paper that I wrote from the HS2 Action Alliance, that covers much of the ground that I went over in my workshop, is available here.

The next time that I agree to give a presentation I will insist on a magic lantern being provided.


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