Mr McLeod's idler hanger 

26 June 2011

It's cold. It's very cold. It's so cold that I'm as cold as a person in the shade in the middle of winter and not as hot as a person is in the sun in the middle of summer. English viewers of this blog must needs recall when winter is in the southern hemisphere.

Yesterday I went to Richmond to collect my wife from her hockey game. She was cold. She has been inveigled to play goalkeeper, and these days the goalkeeper in hockey dresses up in a series of mattresses and stands about idly as a sort of human obstacle, but even when attired in clothing several feet thick, she tells me you get cold standing around for thirty-five minutes each half in the middle of winter with nothing to do. (Her team are currently top in the region. She is Dead Proud. But at least three of the team are, or have been, in the national squad so it doesn't count.)

Watching hockey involves standing about and since you do this without mattresses on and since Mr McLeod lives next to the Saxton playing fields, I popped in on him for five minutes and he revealed his new machine.

I hate Mr McLeod intensely. I hate him because a) his machines are masterpieces of design b) his machines are masterpieces of craftsmanship c) he thinks up completely new ideas d) and they *loody well work, too.

The thing about this new one is this. It's a front wheel drive and of course that limits and restricts things that you can do with the front wheel, such as steer. This tends to dismay many designers, incl. me, but Mr McLeod, who doesn't know you can't get a FWD machine to steer, has cunningly put the idler wheel on a universal joint. It's the sneakiest thing I've seen in ages. Dead simple, like all really clever things. It holds the idler wheel, and hence the chain, in tension, but allows enough movement for the wheel to be turned virtually to full lock. I was amazed. Clearances, as ever, are remarkably tight with barely a millimetre anywhere between chain and front brake, but it all seems to work.

Unf. the poor chap has slipped a lumbar disc, so testing has yet to commence, but he has already planned a series of modifications - disc brake etc. - to while away any idle hours that come his way.

Mrs McLeod mentioned that this is his last machine but she caught my eye as she said it and there was a wicked twinkle in her eye. I did not say anything. Master McLeod is four, and a Big Boy Now (he told me so himself) and I have a feeling he will come to express firm views on whether Mr McLeod should forever more desist from building recumbents.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011 8:39:00 AM Categories: James McLeod Nigel Schroder


19 June 2011

Have you ever in your life invented anything useful? I have invented three things, all of them vices. Their usefulness is, unfortunately, inversely proportional to their originality.

First, I invented the strip of rubber cut from an inner-tube. Man I'm clever. Actually I nicked this from a bow laminating technique, and how it got there I do not know. Your fourteenth-century Turkish bow laminator did not have rubber inner tubes. Laminating fibreglass to make a leaf-spring - which is what a bow is - is difficult. While the epoxy sets the leaves must be held firmly together with more clamps than anyone possesses. So the bowmakers lash everything to a form with innertube strips and the pressure increases with every lashing. I took to lashing roof racks onto cars with inner-tube, and the lashing is stronger than the steel clamps made for the purpose. Now I lash anything I can think of with inner-tube strips. You get the inner-tubes from your bike shop. Ask and you shall receive, esp. if you have a pair of scissors with you and cut straight through each tube as they watch, because they always suspect you of taking the tubes home and patching them. Bike shops make their profits from inner tubes and cables, and if you deprive them of this income they would have to charge a fortune for their bikes, which they very kindly don't.

Second I invented the horizontal vice. How many times has that been invented elsewhere? - I don't know. - But it suddenly occurred to me that, not having six hands, it would make it easier to grip several things together if gravity wasn't trying to disassemble them while I was doing up the vice. And it jolly works, too.

Third, I invented the free-standing vice so angle-grinder dust wouldn't go all over my lathe bed. This was pre-invented by Ron Hickman who eventually called it the Black and Decker Workmate. Hickman's first was a free-standing bench with a vice on it, and he - and subsequently I - found this tremendously useful. Hickman tried to sell it to Black and Decker but their Board of Directors, all wearing smart grey business suits, dismissed him contemptuously, and a few years later they gratifyingly had to crawl to him on hands and knees, salivating all over the carpet, for permission to produce it.


I did once invent sumpthingk else, sort of another vice I have, a vice with a different sort of meaning, sort of thing, like. It's gloriously illustrated on pages 135 to 138 of a certain book that we never mention. You could use it to remove warts from your middle finger, if you live in Doncaster.
Wednesday, September 28, 2011 8:36:00 AM Categories: workshop

Earthquake 1331 

13 June 2011

Now I've discovered how to work the Stats button I see there is only ever one pageview, and since I haven't found out how to disable the wretched blog's monitoring of my own vanity viewing, this means it's going to be quite easy to write entries cos I'm the only reader. One's ego is suitably deflated.

Anyway we have bought a car, a 660cc tardis, minute on the outside and like a cathedral inside.

After listening to her valiantly trying to describe it to him, I emailed my wife's brother-in-law, Dr Morrison.

Suzuki Wagon R is what my wife was groping about in her rather limited grasp of the English tongue to tell you. It is a Kei Car, pronounced, presumably by the Japanese, Kay, though given that you as a splendid Australian would pronounce that Kye, this information can only be of limited linguistical assistance. They are a Japanese tax dodge, limited to 660cc motors, 11 feet long, and 1.6 metres wide. - Feet? Metres? - Must have been an American giving the details. - We filled it with petrol to the very, very top, drove 44.8 kilometres, refilled it, and just managed to squeeze 2.03 litres in, so that's 62 and a third miles per gallon. Imperial gallon, not the curious measures used by American gentlemen. The man in the petrol station was disgusted with me for buying so little. (Luckily I had my rifle with me so I shot him.) It looks exactly like a box. Absolutely hideous. When we next c'llect you from the airport, bring a brown paper bag for Maggie to wear because she will be so ashamed. You will enjoy it though because the headroom is vast, sufficient for a short person like me to wear a busby in comfort. If we painted it red we could probably install a mezzanine, paint '186 Harrow and Wealdstone' on the front, and drive round London gathering passengers. Me, I can't *wait* for Peak Oil so that while I sit in misery I can chuckle at all the other people sitting in even greater misery in their Pajero or Land Cruiser.

Dr Morrison failed to respond so I mentioned the purchase to Mr Knight, who did reply:

Hurrah, you have a Suzuki Vagina.
At my last job I worked with an Indian bloke who drove one of these 'toasters'. Somebody asked him one day what it was called and in a thick Indian accent he replied a Suzuki 'Vagin Uh'. Excuse me, every body swore he said Vagina. He has been in NZ for a long time and is a lovely bloke but still has trouble with W's and R's. -
That's pretty good fuel consumption btw. - In other news we had an exciting 5.5 yesterday morning; we had at least 5 seconds warning as we both heard it coming. We had time to look at each other and ask "Is that a truck or an earthquake" then listen some more before it hit. We had shite weather this weekend, I hardly rode at all. That is all.

It looks, as Mr Knight has mentioned, like an electric toaster but:

Yea! we shall all (esp the children) call it a Vagin Uh henceforth. - I spotted your 5.5. I thought, 'That'll liven up their morning.' - You didn't have shite weather this weekend, because we had it all and there wouldn't have been enough left for you. We are still having it, too. They specially arranged it for the bank holiday. We did, however, manage a little tandem ride but I am finding all upright bikes give me sores on my sit-bones, so the long-talked-of recumbent tandem has to conjure itself into being. I also *need* to build a wet-weather-recumbent to cope with the trauma of exercise for when my wife chooses not to accompany me.

What neither of us knew was that my possession of a new microcar was not going to dominate our immediate conversations, because at lunchtime today I had a perky note to the effect that Christchurch had just had another 5.5:

I see you're having an eventful lunchtime according to eqnews.

Mr Knight was almost at once at his keyboard -

Yes, I was very scared. I may have to go and change my troosers. We had a mild foreshock and then a big *ucking 5.5 that *everybody* is saying was closer to a 6.0 and then lots of aftershocks of the aftershock that Geonet aren't bothering to report.
I was in an electronics store on Colombo street near the centre of town and *everything* ended up on the floor. It was like in one of those videos of an earthquake in a shop.
- Oh *uck, I've just come back into the office after another massive aftershock that seemed to go on forever. Sirens everywhere, dust etc. I saw a concrete building opposite flex and move relative to its neighbour. The traffic is now horrendous and I chose today to take the motorbike in rather than cycle. I'll have a look to see what it was. Geonet haven't posted it yet but the quake drum trace is much bigger than the previous 5.5 Still having big aftershocks, here's another one...

Well of course it turned out to be a 6, so all the news channels switched onto overdrive and the earthquake minister flew down to hold everybody's hand. On the phone, Mr Knight told me that the aftershocks were more-or-less continuous, and all the interested nerds - which is me, given that I'm now the sole reader - can rush to the website to watch the seismic drum recorder. As before there's been lots of liquifaction, and the drains, all newly repaired, have bubbled up to the surface once more. Until someone mentions it, you don't realise that an air-filled drain underground, during an earthquake, is like a balloon in water, and as soon as the soil behaves like a liquid, the drains all float to the top.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011 8:33:00 AM Categories: comparative energy use, cars Earthquake

Popular Mechanics 

4 June 2011

It was raining hard 'smorning so we took ourselves to Nelson where they celebrate Queen's Birthday Weekend with a second-hand book fair at Founders' Park.

Hurray! I bought an entire set of Popular Mechanics do-it-yourself Encyclopedia for ten dollars.

However often I looked the second-hand bookshops only ever had volumes 1, 2 and 3. Any number of times I've come across A-B. Luckily this contained the useful Rolling Patio Bar, which I've always wanted to make. 'Sure to lend a touch of elegance to your next patio party, this handsome beverage center is made almost entirely of ¾-in. plywood.' I had lusted over the throwaway bar for a one-night stand to 'add a touch of color to your next party and provide you with an inexpensive, practical way to serve guests.' Unf. I should have needed seven cartons and a large piece of checkered oilcloth, and lacking checkered oilcloth I was stumped. The instructions told me that the 'morning after the party, you can carry the entire construction into a storage area until your next party. Or, if you prefer, you can simply burn it or throw it away.' (I love being given these options. They certainly address the difficult problem of whether or not to leave the *ucking ghastly thing right in the middle of the room for the next three months.)

Volume 3 gave seven variations on a basic cart - 'You won't have to wear a lampshade to be the hit of your next party. All you have to do is wait for the right moment and then roll out your host cart. And the whistles are your cue to remark in an offhand fashion, "oh, I made it last week." ' - Very easily pleased, Americans of 1968. - The men would have wanted 'to know how you did it, and the ladies will be trying to find a way of motivating their husbands into performing the same miracle.'

But in this find I've solved the mystery of why nothing beyond Volume 3 ever appears in the junk shops. Tucked into one of the volumes was a letter from K Horspool, General Manager at Grolier Enterprises (NZ) Ltd. The very next month, I read, I'd have been sent the remaining 13 volumes in one shipment, for which I would have had the privilege of continuing to pay monthly while having use of the complete set. I suspect your New Zealand amateur handyman balked at the prospect of paying for another thirteen volumes on how to impress his dinner-party guests with home-made mobile kitchen appliances, and suspended his subscription accordingly.

Anyway, I now have the complete set, and if she's lucky, I shall 'give your wife a break. Here are two work centers to make her housework easier.' Imagine the delight on her face as she kneels down in front of her End cabinet and finds 'a handy place to store detergents and bleach'.

I'll let you know if we're divorced by next week.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011 8:28:00 AM

Penny giraffe 

I have been busy. Mr Schroder's cranks are 110mm long, and my pocket calculator tells me that if I use one of the 29er tyres which my wife doesn't know I retained from her perfectly good gentleman's mountain bicycle when fitting it with tubeless tyres, then these tiddly short cranks will give me the same pedal speed as a 44 inch gear. It's going to have a 406 back wheel so we're not going to call it a penny farthing. We're going to call it a one-and-six. - D'you remember pre-decimal coins? I have the last letter from the chap who designed the thruppenny bit. He signed it. The coin. - Though he signed the letter too, obv.. - He signed the twenty pence coin too. You'll need a magnifying glass but they all say WG on them. He designed all the Falkland Island coins too but I've never been there so I can't say if they have WG on them. He was called William Gardner and he died on almost the last day of the century and wrote to me a fortnight before. I shall not say why he was writing specifically to me though it happens to be true and there happens to be a reason. I like to intersperse my blog with a bit of mystery. -

The front wheel has a Campagnolo Lambda Strada aero rim and the thirty-six stainless spokes that came with it, nine of them slightly munted from an escaped chain, but now unmunted with a pair of pliers. - I said I was Mr Mean-Pants. - This is because

a) it was given to me
b) aero rims are stiff
c) the air flow will be better and I will be able to go at 8 mph instead of 7
d) the edge of the rim is gouged but this machine won't need rim brakes
e) it will annoy Mr Knight.


Mr Knight, in passing, likes all things Campagnolo and would eat his dinner off their plates if Campagnolo made plates. He owns a complete Campagnolo tool set. It is better than this tool set for making bikes but not as good for making pianos. I digress.

The back wheel has 48 spokes for no good reason other than that I found it somewhere. Can't remember where.

The penny trike had split bearing housings but when I clamped them up tight they turned the bearings into very slight ovals, so this machine has bits of tube welded to plates which screw onto welded extensions of the forks. These extensions were welded in after the wheel was built and mounted, lest the wheel ended up at a curious and vexing angle. Vexing angles often happen, I find, when I'm the welder.

Finally, the frame welded itself into existence, an exercise principally in using up odd bits of sawn-up bike frames that otherwise belitter the workshop. And then it got left outside the kitchen door where it was found, on his return from school, by someone who promptly took to riding it round and round the house, somewhat inexplicably singing there'd be blue skies over, the white cliffs of Dover.

Saturday, September 24, 2011 9:25:00 AM Categories: Nigel Schroder penny farthing

Rain Bike 

We return to our topick of front-driver cycles this week, though I don't know why I trouble myself to say "this week" since my blog entries are stunningly irregular and undisciplined, rather like their author.

I had to go to Richmond recently to a citizenship ceremony to watch some people pledge allegiance to Queen Elizabeth the Second (sic.) of New Zealand. I have been unable to find out who Queen Elizabeth the First of New Zealand was. 'A high standard of dress' was required. National costume of country of origin was encouraged. All the participants turned out to be English chavs and dressed accordingly, with a high standard of gelled spiked hair. They looked like they'd all escaped from the Shelthorpe Road housing estate in Loughborough where bus drivers are shot at with airguns.

However my wife then went off to the shops and I called on Jim Matthews at Village cycles and he let me have a go on his 36er penny farthing.

It was brill.


It has 36 very thick spokes, a cheap chromed steel hub and steel rim, poxy welding, a thin backbone (guess: 38mm OD) and longish cranks, perhaps 165s. The fork was a bit feeble, methought, but obviously adequate for a plaything. Plain straight chromed steel cheap handlebar. It has a partic'ly narsty sprung foam-cushioned plastic saddle and a back brake on a 12 inch wheel. The front tyre is industrial strength and looks like it'll never, ever need replacing. Think Honda 90 robustness.


While I was there I bought John a unicycle for his birthday. I thought in due course he can convert it. It too has 36 spokes. (As a matter of fact he's forever riding up and down the drive on it. It took him 2 days to learn, we having rigged a horizontal pole at waist height to hang onto. I decline to state whether I can ride it or not.)


Which brings us back to our topick of front-driver cycles because we've been having a lot of weather in April but then so has everybody, what with wildfires in the parish of Scotland and tornadoes in the parish of Auckland. In Motueka's case it meant a month of solid rain, if you can have solid rain. In fact it's all been a bit exciting. I used to keep a climate scientist (Cambridge, PhD, did sums in his office for me all day) at the Met Office and when grilled annually, he gen'rally reported that their best prediction as the planet warmed was of random wild weather events. So it's all most pleasing that the predictions are now coming true. Unfortunately, though, it means we're forced to think about bicycles that you can ride with impunity in the wet. My wife has been nicking the Official Rain Bike which is a Dutch roadster with enclosed chaincase 3 gears and hub brakes and reminds me of Heinz Stueke, so I have been devoting thought to No Chains or Brakes, which rust after a rainstorm. Unf. to make a 36er penny farthing I should need spokes and a rim and a tyre and an inner-tube, which would cost $305, and I am Mr Mean-Pants when it comes to $305.

So I had recourse to Mr Schroder's short cranks that he kindly drilled & tapped for me, and Mr English's 5/8 bearings that he kindly brought from the parish of America for me, and I was dismayed to find the bearings would not slip over a knackered old BB axle that I hauled out of a tin where I had been keeping it along with a lot of other junk. Now BB axles are case-hardened, and my lathe doesn't like case-hardening, so I took it to the bench grinder and with frequent checks with a Vernier, allowed it to spin against the grinding wheel and to my vast delight brought it to a tolerable sliding fit. And thence to a sawn-up hub for the flanges, and behold! with the help of a couple of spacers because the cones on t'axle weren't quite big enough to fit inside the flanges, and a little weldery, a penny farthing hub.


Meanwhile my attention has been drawn to this though it's probably best reserved for one of those chaps who insists on stopping for a small snack of something nutritious every five miles. Don't be silly, of course you've met one. There's one in every group. They ride with the contents of a hamper somehow distributed about their person and every twenty minutes they stop and erect a small roadside laboratory, test their blood sugar to keep it within a percentage point of the desired level, and consume a small and delicately formed sandwich and drink from an unexpected flask of coffee. Very methodical. You have to be careful talking to them or they launch into mortgage protection insurance discussions and the ride disintegrates as everyone keels over and actually dies of actual boredom. - That's why I'm still alive. I never do group rides. -

Saturday, September 24, 2011 8:39:00 AM Categories: Nigel Schroder penny farthing Rob English

In line to the Throne 

April 28, 2011

In view of who is marrying whom today, and what their prospects are, I have been usefully checking Wikipedia to see if I am in line to the throne.

I am not.

It is, as may be imagined, a huge disappointment.

It appears that to be in line to the throne you have to be descended from the Electress Sophia of Hanover which distinction Princess Anne's grand-daughter has just achieved and, as Elizabeth still reigns in her Dominions, we are now just twelve heart-beats away from having a little Canadian as Queen of New Zealand.

This new baby bumps all the other putative Kings and Queens of England down a notch, so Alexandra, Hereditary Countess of Erbach-Erbach now has to settle for number 1074. The eager boys at Wikipedia haven't caught up yet: some homework to do, methinks.

I do like the British constitution. What other country would have the great good sense to command a family of foreigners to be head of state? It certainly beats the nonsense of having to impose upon an innocent electorate the choice between our more conceited politicians, and at least everyone knows in advance which of their taxes are going to clean out whose moat.

On inspection, there's something to be said for every country choosing its leaders from among foreign citizens. It lends a dispassionate view to proceedings, and, further, New Zealand wouldn't have had to suffer a woodwork teacher as Energy Minister, nor Australia a funeral director as prime minister. David Attenborough could be invited to take over Brazil and put a gasping throaty stop to logging the Amazon out of existence, and Andrew Ritchie could take on China and stop them throwing away all their bicycles.

Mind, were it ever necessary to replace Her Majesty (one treads with caution. One can be locked in the Tower for predicting the death of the Queen) I'm not rooting for Prince Wilhelm (number 1176 until a few weeks ago) because of Hesse-Philippsthal-Barchfeld is even worse a surname than Mrs Saxe-Coburg-Gotha's. The House of Phillips does sound Englisher, though one hesitates over the prospect of a Queen Savannah the First.

Me? I'm supporting the former number 1451, one Sandra Morrison. If a sudden bout of Ebola virus were to wipe out a thousand or so members of the surprisingly extensive Royal Family then I would cheerfully submit on bended knee to a Queen Sandra Morrison, though I'm afraid I can't find anything out about her. She might be an estate agent in America or something. They often are. One of the world's abundant Richard Middletons is, I'm disturbed to Google.

Saturday, September 24, 2011 8:37:00 AM Categories: Royal Wedding


No int'resting bicycling matters have cropped up recently because we're doing the bathroom. And we're doing the bathroom of necessity. Because? Because one day there was no hot water.


A frantic phone call to Eugen, who crawled underneath the house and found a catastrophically sheared off brass fitting and a very hot puddle. Our bore-water comes with its own dissolved carbon dioxide and this gradually eats the zinc out of the brass. I know this because we had it tested.


So how come we burn a tiny bit of coal to make a feeble 200 years' worth of railway track and Krupps six-inch mountain guns and my wife's toasted sandwich maker, and suddenly there's so much carbon dioxide in the air that the taps pour out carbonic acid? As-a-matter-of-fact I've had this conversation quite recently with several well-informed people and it turns out, on examination, that there isn't actually all that much air.


Roughly speaking, you can still breathe on top of Mount Everest, an altitude of five miles. A jumbo jet's wings run out of air above seven miles. Fifty miles high and you're in Space.


Nobody incl. me ever gets a grasp on how little air this means, so I'm told I have to picture the Earth not as a twelve-thousand mile planet, but as a four-foot diameter ball. And if the Earth is a four-foot globe, there's only half a millimetre of breathable air above it. That isn't a great deal of air to pollute. You can just about slide a piece of cardboard under a jumbo jet. And you're an Astronaut once you're a pathetic 5mm away from the surface.


Here's a photograph I took last time I popped out on the Space Shuttle. The total atmosphere is that skinny blue line. Don't go beyond the white line or you won't be able to breathe.

The thin white line is all the air there is

Of course the tap water is probably more to do with the limestone substrate than climate change, but the bath was chipped and the sink was cracked and the toilet seat was pink plastic, and my wife's taste is at variance with pink plastic toilet seats.


My wife wanted tiling until I said she could do it. Then she went off the idea. I had very kindly allowed her to do the tiling in her kitchen. Visitors pointedly don't comment about it. She had thought tiling was easy.

'When you see other people's tiling you think "I'll do a better job that THAT" but when you actually do it, you think, "Oh *uck it".'


So I was very brave. I had made Crazy Paving remarks to her about the kitchen tiling but I came to regret those remarks. *uuuuuck! I hate tiling. I *ucking hate tiling. I would rather have my prostate examined. I emailed Tia, who is an emergency department physician in our colony of Canada with four houses (four!) and thereby versed in both tiling and prostate examinations. Tia did not let me down:


My condolences.

I saw a man who claimed to have a paintbrush up his bum. His general comportment and gait led me to believe this was not the truth. He did not walk like a man with a paintbrush up his bum.



First you mix a slurry of silica and the bag warns you not to breathe the dust and there is no way of avoiding it, and then you smear it on your elbows wrists back of the neck thigh knee hand foot other hand forehead cheek and chin and then you drop the slurry in the new bath. You find the room is not square nor the walls flat, and you find the tiling salesman was lying when he told you to put the capping strip in afterwards - 'Just slip it in, don't try to plaster up to it' because the top line of tiles falls off. Basic physics - really basic, just the wedge principle - tells you it won't work. And it doesn't. *uuuuuck! and it's back to smearing the slurry everywhere again, dodging lumps that have fallen on the floor and aren't dried paint from yesterday's endeavours at the ceiling.


Then you're cutting the odd shaped tiles with Eugen's spare angle grinder, the one with no guard and no handle either. How come Eugen's still got all his hands? So it's off with his diamond blade and onto your own angle grinder, the safe one, and then all you have to do is not breathe in the glass dust from the front of the tiles.


And don't think those plastic cross spacer things will work. Not unless you can persuade gravity to go into abeyance. Which would mean lifting the bathroom fifty miles up and a 17,700 mph velocity.


I'll spare you the photo of my tiling, but the way Jimmy did the floor pattern was brilliant. The way it works is like this. He spreads paper on the floor with a generous gap, and then butts a ruler up to the skirting board and rules lines on the paper. Transfers the pattern to the hardboard, puts the ruler on the line and rules the other side. Why did I never think of that? - Because I'm stupid, that's why.

Jimmy, making the pattern for the lino

Finally, the battle with the carpenter over the louvered door, when you ask him to get some cedar for the surround.

'Oh, I don't know where you'd get that. Marine supplier only, cedar.'

He gets arsenic-treated radiata pine instead. He cuts this outside with the kitchen door open. He then sets about boxing in the airing cupboard so the door will fit.


Presently you go in to have a look. It is no longer possible to remove the cover of the solar panel sensor.

'D'you think we can make an allowance for that?'

'Oh. I didn't want to touch the wires so I went round it. I'll just gouge a bit out with a chisel.'

'Perhaps if we also drilled some holes for a screwdriver to get access to the corner screws.'

While he's doing this you go and inspect the boxing. One tap has been neatly boxed, so neatly that it won't undo. Or even turn in fact. You then get a mirror and a torch and peer behind his framing and find he's boxed in all the taps and pipework for the hot water cylinder and nobody will ever be able to touch any of it ever again.

'How easy is it to take that bit of wood off?'

'Oh. Er. It's just nailed. No adhesive.'

'I think if we cut this bit out - '

etc etc etc all day.


Saturday, September 24, 2011 8:33:00 AM


Actually, I had quite a nice time last weekend. I wasn't going to. But luckily the damsel on the radio, as she does, concluded her programme with
'Enjoy the rest of your weekend!'
and being so commanded I was obliged to feel perky and happy. I expect all Christchurch obediently did too, shovelling silt out of their drives -
'Why, alright, Radio! I'll have a delightful weekend! Pushing pink glassfibre batts back into place.'

Everyone's infected. Cyclists ask me how I am as we pass each other at a converging speed of forty miles per hour:
'How are y..?'
How am I? I lose the last word in the wind. Kind of him to enquire at speed - I turn and at 200 yards - 300 yards - 400 -

It has to have its origins in the world of advertising. The egocentric conceit of some pompous Harvard MBA who imagines he has some great insight to bestow on the marketing world. I bet he tells his salesmen to engage their Customer Base and enhance the paradigmatic shift in the structuring principle of society from production to consumption, or something. They honestly think it works? A perfectly satisfactory visit to the greengrocers until the boy with curly hair hands me my purchases -
For *uck's sake. I hate being said Enjoy to. It's a bag of carrots and a cucumber. Enjoy. It isn't even a sentence. I drive my knee briskly into Curly's gonads and as he collapses writhing with unsought agony, I smile with a mouth full of teeth and muted hatred,

That horrid little wizened man at the filling station did it too, the one who told me I couldn't have 4c-a-litre-off because the coupon was out of date, and so was the next one and the one after that. He looked like he was a bit-part from Lord of the Rings. He was short and skinny and white-haired and wrinkly and I hated him for all of these things, but actually I only hated him because he wanted to know how my Friday had been so far.
'D'you take these coupons?'
'We certainly do. But not that one. It's out of date. You have to use them within a month. No that's out of date too. And that one. How's your Friday been so far?'
'Well it was *ucking great until some ghastly little Hobbit told me all my coupons were invalid.'

And yesterday I was fixing a Brooks Saddle. Never fix Brooks saddles. It requires more patience than an impatient person has got and I haven't even got as much patience as that. I'd bought three B73s when they were about to go extinct, and it was a bad lot. The springs have successively snapped - obv. untempered - , rivets have sprung loose, lock nuts have come adrift scattering shards of saddlebag loop over the Motueka bridge never to be seen again. Yesterday a rear frame fractured at the bolt-hole and the leather needed unriveting and unbolting and all the paint scraping off and a reinforcing bit of steel beating to shape and Mig-welding in place and wire brushing and undercoating and overcoating and re-riveting and finally bolting back onto the springs to be ignored I daresay by my wife on whose bike it is. (Deep breath.) To fix a B73 you need five co-ordinated hands with specially curved pliers and helically curved spanners, and you need an eyeball on an extensible stalk to go to the other side of the saddle while you try to locate the nut using the pliers and apply a spanner to tighten it, while simultaneously holding a multitude of washers, spacers and springs with other hands and other pliers. No human can do this. And it is a task that requires a whole new vocabulary of swearwords. Can you imagine my mood?

In the middle of the job one of the medical students dropped in for some bedding. - Don't ask. - He said
'What sort of a day are you having?'
What? I thought it was only shop assistants. Are they training medical students in unwanted-conversation techniques? Bizarre thought. If you're having a good day you're not going to be needing to see a medical student. - Idiot. - I killed him.

At the greengrocers late this afternoon, Curly spots me. *uck. I'm here for a retail vegetable experience, not an existentialist discussion or a health enquiry. Hah! - attack, the best form of defence. I shall ask him what sort of a day he's had. I'll wrong-foot him. But Curly's a skilled player. Just as I pay he says brightly:

'Any plans for the rest of the evening?'

Saturday, September 24, 2011 8:32:00 AM Categories: advertising

Erathquake II 

Because I just do, I get emails every time an earthquake happens. In the last week Christchurch got 191 of them. Norm'lly there are two or three a day, scattered about all over the country (well all under the country of course) but this last week there have been none elsewhere, just zillions of them in Christchurch and Christchurch alone. But today there was a 4.2 under the sea 800km to the north. So I, amateur earthquakeologist that I am, divine that Christchurch relieved a lot of tectonic pressure or something.

My spies send me both good and bad news. Mr Dunlop's good news is that he got a ride in a police car. His bad news he's lost all his belongings. All of them. The whole lot. Everything.

Hello Richard
On Sunday I was given permission to enter the Christchurch Central Business District exclusion zone in order to check on the flat. The police and the army are maintaining a tight control around the cordoned-off area. CBD residents, like myself, are only being let in one person at a time, and only then with a police escort. Got my very first ride in a police car.
Over the last few days, I've had growing concerns about not getting an opportunity to retrieve items from the flat. Unfortunately these concerns have turned out to be valid, as when I'd checked on my home, I'd found that it had been "red-stickered" (ie scheduled for demolition). Access to the building is strictly forbidden. Most of the material things in the house I won't particularly miss, but there were a number of personal mementos which I do regret losing.

Mr Knight's good news is that his daughter was eight yesterday. Remember that sweet little baby that Mrs Knight lugged off to the Leicester Space Centre wot my good friend Her Majesty opened back in whenever it was? And when she came back from the Space Centre with her sweet little baby there lay Mr Knight covered in bandages in the rump department, fretfully examining his Ratracer to see if it had sustained more scratches than he did when it playfully flung him into the air at thirty miles an hour on that diabolically dull track in Abbey Park in Leicester that we swore we'd never ever use again and never ever did. - 'She' refers of course to Mrs Knight, not the Queen. Mr Knight's newly skinned and bloodied rump was of limited interest to the Queen, even back then. - Well anyway now she's 8. - Miss Knight, not Her Majesty. - My this is getting confusing, so we shall resort once more to quoting other people's emails:

I spent Saturday helping Rob and Viv clear up their place. Well half of the time anyway because we'd all run outside whenever there was an aftershock. Which was all day. It is interesting to watch the waves run down a street - you can actually see them and the effect on the buildings. We all puzzled over some deep scores on the wall of the building behind Rob's place. After some investigation we found the cause - it was the steel capping on the roof of the building next to Rob's making contact with the building behind - the building is approximately 8 meters high - and it's separated from the building behind by just under 1 meter. Hard to believe that a concrete structure could flex that much I know but I'll take some photos next time I'm there if it is still standing (the engineer said it was *ucked, mate). Only two bikes downstairs were severely munted. Unfortunately only one belonged to Rob. The others have none or only superficial damage. We managed to right the big lathe but the mill is just too heavy. We'll need to get a large hoist in to do that. Its fall was broken by an office chair, a c1910 childs bicycle and two large glass storage jars. The two jars are unbroken. A large rack of small bicycle spares fell over and scattered everywhere. These all needed picking up and sorting before we could get to the machine tools. Still no water or power. Rob and Viv have been staying with us since Tuesday night when we got back from our tour.
Sunday was Claudia's birthday; she is 8 going on 16. She was 2 when we emigrated, where did that go eh? She got a new bike... We had intended to organise a baby cheetah encounter at the local zoo which she would have *loved* but all the cheetahs are undergoing counselling and don't want to play at the moment. Buying a bike in Christchurch at short notice is difficult at present and I thank the staff at Papanui Cycles for helping out enormously. Keith's bike shop (that one I took you to) is no more I'm afraid. Sadly Keith also lost his house at Redcliffs. I hope he is OK. His mother who lives with him is also a survivor of the devastating 1931 Napier quake. Claudia rode 17km on her new bike and wanted to carry on, we rode on a favourite mtb track and spent most of the time dodging large cracks, she will be an expert before long.
A new difficulty for everybody in Christchurch is dust. When the liquefaction dries out it turns to dust. We have an estimated 180,000 tonnes of dust and strong winds forecast for this afternoon. I rode to work this morning wearing a dust mask. It was truly horrible. I got snot *everywhere*. We have had a series of large aftershocks this morning that had my sphincter all puckering up in a most unseemly manner. I'm going for a walk at lunchtime, in a field.

And because this blog lacks pictures I shall direct readers to here where they may see Mr Knight's boss's house with its new rock.
Saturday, September 24, 2011 8:31:00 AM Categories: Earthquake
Page 1 of 2 1 2 > >>
Copyright 2006 Blog Author