Cardboard Box 

Labour Weekend, so my wife thought a good plan would be an expedition with some Danes to the top of Mount Arthur in the snow and promptly set off for the hut. Therefore I made a cardboard box and Mr McLeod, who isn't Danish, wasn't consulted and had organised a recumbent ride instead, made a tailfairing and Mr Schroder made a fork jig. To each of us our accomplishments: some climb mountains, some make tailfairings, some make fork jigs. And I make a cardboard box. - As a matter of fact I've been meaning to make the box for a while because the old one was getting worn out - it's on the back of the shopping trike and needed to be a whisker bigger because of the statutory size of New Zealand juice bottles, which prevent crisps and milk and grapes being bought at the same time. So I pinched a bike box from the shop because they're double-thickness corrugated cardboard, and set to with knife and PVA and little reinforcing sticks of willow and when it was all done, I carefully covered it inside and out with cut-up cotton shirts ostensibly to reinforce it but actually cos I fancied the idea and wanted to see if it would work.

Messrs McLeod and Schroder appeared and we went for a ride, Mr McLeod with his new tail fairing which was thin and flimsy and lightweight and insubstantial and rubbish all of which compelled me to assure him it wouldn't work, but in the event I was wrong. It worked exceedingly well. A roll-down at Ngatimoti said 38.8 kph without the fairing and 40.6 with, and whenever I followed him I found that I wasn't picking up a tow but was riding into immense turbulence which entirely validated his roll-down data. The tailbox was a single fold of corriboard, neatly sealed at the front with foam, and held in place with tiny light-weight rubberised cotton bands weighing nothing. Admittedly his drive chain was creating a series of hiccups, but nobody's interested in drive trains. They're only the means of testing the aerodynamics of single folds of corriboard. (And on the topic of hiccups the children who have decided I am to be knighted, presumably for services as yet unrendered, observed that the worst time to get hiccups is when the Queen is about to knight you. It is a prospect that doesn't fill me with alarm because I'm neither a rugby player nor a film producer and Her Majesty is not yet in the habit of knighting cardboard box makers.)

Mr Schroder had his fork jig with him which I shall probably have to nick sometime, and he tried to persuade me to ride from Rotoiti to Renwick with him but I declined because I'm pathetic and a wimp and it's a long way and he's too fast. Mr McLeod will have to go instead.
In the morning I nipped up Mount Arthur to see how they were all getting on and was much cheered to find that Dr Dane-Mollerup is another person who shaves his own head, doubtless to save having to discuss whatever in Denmark constitutes Leicester City with whoever in Denmark cuts hair. - By way of instigating stimulating conversation the barber in Barrow used to ask of each client:
'Y'suppor' Leicester City, er wha?'
Naturally I did not support Leicester City nor indeed any other team but I did not disclose this to the man because he had sharp implements and my throat to hand. Instead I bought a BaByliss and proceeded to shave my head with a Number 4, deeming that however ragged a mess I made in the mirror it would be preferable to a bimonthly discourse on association football. If you see a man with hair exactly half an inch long you'll know he has a BaByliss, and if there's a diagonal intrusive pathway mown out of the back of his neck only an eighth of an inch long, you'll know his wife declines to shave the last few bits for him with a Number 1.

Up the mountain was a Troll. He had appeared long after dark outside the hut, hopping about with a torch on his forehead and waking everyone up shuffling through his pack, and in the morning he set about advising people what not to do. Not to wear cotton shirts, not to wear cotton jeans, to choose different boots from the ones they had and to go on routes other than those they proposed. In short, to do what he was doing. Everyone ignored the Troll so he had to accompany them all day to give further advice, suddenly rushing ahead with his mountain sticks, randomly announcing which of the range is named Gordon's Pyramid and which Billy's Knob, and surprising people who hadn't ever seen him in their lives before by gratuitously pointing out the route to Salisbury Hut. He was most odd. He was covered in tattoos, very probably inflicted by mountaineers who had tired of his advice. I have a feeling he lives on the mountain, so when I next go up there I'm taking my cardboard box and I'm going to spend quality time advising him how to make one using inappropriate materials like cotton and we'll see who can be the most annoying and I bet it'll be me.


Yet more news from Christchurch, where the aftershocks continue, sometimes as many as four in a quarter of an hour, their magnitude varying from around 3.6 to 5.2. We're beginning to learn that a big earthquake is only the first bit; until the planet settles down again there's a lot of jostling for room among its components. If you're an obsessive like me you subscribe to and get an email for every decent-sized earthquake in the country, though at 178 since Saturday you have to be a True Nerd to maintain interest. Obv. Mr Knight is the office Nerd:

Sent: Monday, September 06, 2010 3:26 PM
Subject: earthquake
We're sitting here at work betting on the magnitude of the aftershocks. Where we are, we get to hear a very loud, low, "wump" and then you get the motion. 15 minutes later I get the email and inform everybody of the results. However it is now getting confusing because we've had 2 quakes inside the last 15 minutes, the last one of which was a real whopper. We seem to be getting a lot of them.
There is definitely a feeling of the Dunkirk spirit here although of course I wasn't there, I only imagine that's what it was like.
The old Waimakariri bridge is now shut until further notice, so it's the motorway bridge for me now unless that is going to be shut as well. That will mean a 150km detour through Oxford.

And Martin van den NeiwaalbotherIstillcan'tspellit is reporting hoarding and general shopemptiness. (Shopemptiness is a new word. One has to develop a lexicon to keep up with current events.)

Sent: Wednesday, September 08, 2010 3:14 PM
Subject: Hamstereinkauf
Today I took a stroll and visited the local shops and supermarkets. I stood and watched someone at Pack N Save fill their empty trolley with the entire supply of bottled water on the shelf, leaving... well, none. As Hanna said, unless they are gathering supplies for their entire water-less neighbourhood (possible) .. ooh shakke!!! ooh.. OK, it's over.. Um, unless they are gathering supplies for their entire water-less neighbourhood there's no need to take all the water leaving others with none whatsoever. The supermarkets are doing very well - $$$. They were only down for one day (Saturday), but since then it's been flat out buy buy buy. I went to Countdown supermarket as well and they have signs up; 4 bottles of water per person, 2 packs of juice max .per person. The shelves are still largely empty for 'essentials' such as water, juice, tomatoes in cans, toilet paper, bread (though not as bad), and strangely potato chips.
In some ways I see this whole experience as a precursor to the effects of Peak Oil. I find it interesting to think about the things we rely on day to day, and how, when there is an interruption, a sudden discontinuity, how we can survive and maintain 'normality'. It's easy to survive a 'temporary interruption to broadcasting' by being prepared and stocking up on things. Bottled water, food etc. One thing that has been very useful here where the tap water is not yet safe for drinking, has been a bottle of no-water hand cleaner. It actually goes a long way. The small bottle we (two people) have is only 100mL or so and is still largely full after four days. Some kind of water jerry can with a piddly little tap would also be good (we don't have one), filled with boiled water/rain water. Of course, stockpiling is only good for so long. In a prolonged decline, Peak Oil scenario, the no-water hand cleaner will be used up after a couple of weeks, the store of rice will eventually be eaten, and the meths for boiling the questionable water will eventually run out. That will become the new normal and a real test of our survival skills.
Even with rationing, the Countdown supermarket stocks are slightly depleted (Pic: Martin van den Nieuwelaar)

Mr Knigght (another bad spelling day here) reports everyone is now getting a bit fed up. Apparently there's only so much fun to be had out of losing your water supply electricity job and sewerage system and having your house knocked down.

Sent: Wednesday, September 08, 2010 10:19 AM
Subject: earthquake
I'm getting a little tired of these aftershocks now. We only tend to comment on the bigger (5+) ones. We are still getting these larger aftershocks regularly; I experienced a 5.1 this morning riding to work. I was stopped at traffic lights when I heard a very loud bang and then all the lights started swaying in unison, closely followed by the sound of falling masonry. Usually I'm sat at work and my monitor does a little dance across the desk so it made a nice change. The aftershocks are doing much damage to already weakened structures. The Lyttleton tunnel is now closed due to damage from one of the 5.4 yesterday.
My ride in this morning was cack - mild drizzle - but as the ECan website said the bridge was open I thought I'd ride anyway. Well ECan are a bunch of hairy fat liars and I got to the closed bridge with no signs of any shuttle "service" to take cyclists around so I had to ride down the motorway again. Fortunately going south only requires a short 2km hop. I'm not too sure what I'm going to do tonight coming home since all the roads that lead up to the bridge from the south are now all closed northbound due to damage. I'll have to ride on the motorway again, but this will be a much longer trip.

Anyway I know he did get home because he was very kind and posted all his photos, full-size, here: And we know they're going to be alright because the government have sent in 35 counsellors at the perky price of $2,500,000. I thought I might nip down and have a look myself, but John swiftly countermanded this decision:'Well it's a waste of fuel, and to be honest, we might as well wait till we get one here.'
Wednesday, September 8, 2010 10:22:45 PM Categories: Earthquake New Zealand

Earthquake report 2 

The diligent reader will recall that I keep a German female violin-maker in Christchurch, for the twin purposes of recording earthquake damage and supplying me with A-strings. In fact Mrs Violinmaker only supplies the A-strings; it falls upon the shoulders of Mr Violinmaker to keep me abreast of earthquake damage in his partic'lar zone of Christchurch. The real spelling of Mr Violinmaker is of course Mr van den Nieuwelaar, according to that standard practice in English spelling by which a place called Hazebrur is actually spelt Happisburgh. Anyway I know of no keyboard in the history of computing that doesn't end up spelling Martin's surname as van der Neieiuweellieaarlaieu. So I don't even try. I expect he calls me Minndelont by way of vengeance. He rides recumbents and tandems, and so does Hanna. (Hanna is the violin-maker. See
Howsoever, here's his experience of this merry affair:
Sent: Monday, September 06, 2010 10:19 AM
Subject: Earthquake experience...
Saturday evening, Papanui 6km north-west of Christchurch centre.It has been a long day.  4:35am earthquake.  Strongest I've been in.  No power, no water.  Luckily a fine warm day today.All shops closed.  No fuel, no ATMs.  Many (1 out of 3) chimneys down.  Some local Papanui shops with big cracks that will probably be demolished.  Heard it's worse in the city but we're told to stay out.Had BBQ lunch with the neighbours at 90B.  Then power came back on.  Water is back on, but needs to be boiled.  Still getting significant aftershocks. One now!!!! eek...  doors going, house shaking.  OK, it has stopped.  Minor damage here at home, cars rolled forwards and backwards in garage, broken reversing light, lounge furniture suffering gouges but everyone is OK which is the main thing.  Not sure when the shops will sell food again, but we have supplies for a while.Monday morning.There is flooding in the Avonside/Bexley area (east side of city) I believe but haven't heard specific details on that.  They have liquefaction problems there with people reporting geysers spouting from the ground in their back yards.  Lots of silt and goop through houses, and combined with broken sewer and water mains (water is now back in 80% of houses in Christchurch)...  Large cracks in roads (un-passable by cars), bent bridges, downed power lines.The water storage tank behind the supermarket here in Papanui burst sending a torrent through the car par area and into the streams.  Kaiapoi township 15km north of city centre is very badly hit.  In one street all the houses are condemned.  Aftershocks are still going.  5:20 this morning a fairly big one, that's 48 hours later, almost to the hour!  Most people have been ordered to stay home till Wednesday. There is 7pm-7am curfew in the central business district and the army is coming in to help.  The local supermarket was open yesterday, and was very busy.  After reading about the Chilean earthquake we were personally very well prepared.  Others were not of course and I'm sure were surprised to find no ATMs working, nor petrol stations pumping.Our house is OK but one door doesn't close properly any more.  86 Proctor St lost a chimney.  Harolds fabric shop in the Papanui  shops has partially collapsed as has the Egyptian souvlaki shop.  Edex toys opposite also has big cracks.  Alvorados restaurant in town next to where I work is a write-off; you can see tables and chairs on the second level because the walls are gone!  My building, Radio Network House (I hear) is habitable despite bits of concrete falling in the stair well.  It's a hub for communications so is quite important.
Martin van den Nieuwelaar
Bicycle sizing and gearing software -
Internet backbone traffic visualisation -
For myself, of course, I'm thankful that I live in Motueka because we've suffered none of the above, though I don't know that being deprived of an Egyptian souvlaki shop would be too much of a hardship. The last time I needed to buy an Egyptian souvlaki - well of course I've not the faintest idea what one is, and don't look at me like that because you haven't either.
Wednesday, September 8, 2010 11:31:27 AM Categories: Earthquake New Zealand

Schroder's Cat 

Here, for no very good reason that I can think of, is a picture of the Maruia Falls. I had to steal this from because the one I took got lost somewhere in the dusty innards of my computer. The Maruia Falls are très pretty but that isn't why we send all our visitors there. It's because in 1928 they weren't. In 1928 they were just a plain common-or-garden scenic river. Still Glides the Stream and Shall Forever Glide (1), until the 17th June 1929 that is, when, after a few days of the locals hearing what they thought were aberrant deer stalkers in the hills, there was a mighty cataclysm and the Mairua River suddenly broke in half and dropped  nine feet ten-and-a-ninth inches. (That would be three metres, Mr Hague, though frankly I feel your espousal of these narsty - ew - French measurements borders on the philistine.) This is an altogether more satisfying earthquake than the ones where a picture goes slightly askew in a housing estate on the outskirts of Peterborough, even if a clutch of people have to get buried in landslides for it to happen. We haven't had an earthquake for a while and therefore I suppose we ought to expect one. Pleasingly the estate agents have all bought houses for themselves on the Richmond Hills which command a view over Nelson bay, not thinking about the fact that the Richmond Hills only exist because occasionally they shoot upwards three metres at a time.
Below the Richmond Hills are the Saxton Playing Fields crammed of a Saturday morning with all the Nelson schools' sports clubs, and it falling to my duty to endure a van-load of the truly mindless conversation of my daughter's hockey team, I thought I would skip spectating for an hour and drop in unannounced on James or Nigel or Sam, who all live conveniently nearby waiting, no doubt, for a hearty terrestrial shaking to land a selection of startled estate agents in their midst.
To James McLeod's. James's neighbour was washing his car and had mistakenly thought the entire neighbourhood wanted to hear his choice of what purports to be Music but in fact James, unable to bear the din, had gone out. James is of Scottish descent and, I hope, about to take up the bagpipes by way of retribution.
To Sam McEachern's. There stood his blue recumbent on the verandah with its new seat upholstery but there was no sign of Sam nor indeed of any of his neighbours, so perhaps he had spent the morning giving James some preparatory bagpipe lessons.
To Nigel Schroder's. No neighbour, no Music, but no Nigel either. And there stood Nigel's new low racer, gleaming in his shed, so obv. they weren't all off secretly riding up the Richmond Hills together.
Nigel's new machine is a front wheel drive with a swinging bottom bracket. I knew he'd finished it because he sent me film of him riding it and he seems to be more in control of it that I ever was of the one I made, which after it whacked me in the side of the head got punished with a hacksaw.
However in the evening I had a doleful email:
Well the roll down - at Marsden Valley, the same place we did the last test - didn't quite go as well as planned. The old bike had topped out at 55kph and on the first run the new bike was faster at 58kph but I had to use the brakes a little to regain control as it started to wobble .
On the second run things went a little wrong. I crashed at about 50-55kph.
Fell from the bike and slid down the road a little then into a creek hitting some very large rocks on the way. My helmet was completely destroyed. James drove me home, then we went to the hospital where I spent the next 7 hours being checked. X-rays and a CT scan. Luckily nothing was broken. Feeling very sorry for myself today. As for the bike it's ok but it's the last time I'll ride it as a moving bottom bracket, so I think it'll get a rebuild and I'll go back to having a boom and a twist chain FWD. The moving bottom bracket was just too unpredictable. The speedo had a 55kph max after the crash and I hadn't got to the fastest section of the run.
My daughter Susan gaily said 'If he keeps the broken bits he can call it Schroder's Cat, cos it can be a crashed and an uncrashed bike at the same time,' which stunningly obscure joke can only be understood by quantum physicists one of whom I am not.
Anyway as - surprisingly - there was no gravel rash we can't twin him with Bob Knight, and as there were no broken bones we can't twin him with Geoff Bird. But there were bruises everywhere and he's very sore so we can twin him with oh, just about everybody else in the recumbent-building fraternity, I should imagine.
1. Wordsworth who is famous, or Arthur Streeton who ought to be famouser.
Monday, July 26, 2010 9:27:17 AM Categories: injury Moving Bottom Bracket bikes New Zealand Nigel Schroder Roll-down tests


 It is Winter. (Have I mentioned this?) It is cold. The moth that fluttered round the kettle this morning seemed out of sorts as if he'd prefer to have stayed in bed for a few more months like a teenager. He resented being captured in cupped hands and when I chucked him out of the kitchen door and he was instantly plucked from the air by a fantail, I saw he had a point. New Zealand possesses these tiny birds just like blue-tits who flutter a yard away wherever you walk, on the lookout for disturbed insects. As soon as they take to flight you just know in your bones that they are called fantails; and so it proves. Fantails are not very clever and whenever they come into the workshop they spend hours attacking themselves in the mirror and perching, slightly baffled, on the badminton racquet below for a rest. The Maoris tell me it's bad luck to have them indoors and that's true, because a month later you find they've been dropping corrosive white chemical onto your supply of silver steel. Chickens are not the only bird that don't just lay eggs.
My workshop is full of anomalies like badminton racquets but the mirror isn't an anomaly. It's used for checking one's riding position while building useless fairings, and it makes the workshop twice as roomy, except now it doesn't because I cover it with a garish pink tablecloth to stop the fantail despoiling all my reamers. Why does anyone go to the trouble of making pink tablecloths? My life is full of mystery, including where the pink tablecloth came from. Another mystery is why my cycling tee-shirt has to have a large plastic tab sewn onto it bearing the legend Eden Project. I thought the Eden Project was about recycling and sustainability and whatnot. Large red plastic tabs cannot be recycled, add weight, serve no purpose, and itch. It is as if clothes designer executives have a group session every Monday morning to decide what brainless irrelevancy they can perpetrate upon an insentient and gormless public that week. What they need to do is take lessons from bicycle manufacturer executives, who, as we all know, have group sessions every Monday morning to decide how to make components that work flawlessly and are compatible with all other components. That is how Shimano Index Systems work so well, and why I fitted one to my new perfectly good gentleman's mountain bicycle.
Unfortunately it didn't work.
Unfortunately the inner chainring needs a whisker of clearance against the frame so that you can turn the pedals round, and unfortunatelyer Shimano's executives didn't think of this on their Monday morning group session so when I tried to fit a front mech I found that the parallelogram frame is actually too short to lift the chain onto the big chainring. And to rummage for alternatives in the box of spare front mechs I had to move the bandsaw and the table promptly broke off, examination proving the attachment lugs to be made of some flimsy brittle substance approximating to metal but possessed of No Strength Whatever.
 Shards of bandsaw
And two minutes later a temporary German damsel (1) came round the corner wheeling a bicycle with a broken chain-link.


Shards of chain

But at least she had the great good sense to keep the chain. The last time I heard of a chain-link breaking was in a phone call from a friend in the village where we lived in England and he had thrown the chain away, being unacquainted with the phrase 'weakest link'. The curious thing was that he was a certain Professor H********, head of department at the largest university engineering faculty in the country. I now start to wonder if his special field of research incorporated bandsaw table lugs, tee-shirt technology and the corrosive metallurgy of bird-lime. I don't think he was a consultant at the Shimano Front Mech Factory.
1. She goes back to Germany in ten day's time, slightly chilled and probably exhausted from skiing


Saturday, July 10, 2010 10:33:32 AM Categories: engineering problems mountain bike New Zealand


Mid-winter, so time for the blue insulated bootees to come out, now reinforced with an additional layer of black foam that I found in a ditch on the Motueka Valley Highway, and I am pleased to say that these now excite admiration rather than scorn among the children's peers.
'What are those?'
'Workshop boots.'
'Cool! You could enter them in the World of Wearable Art competition.'
At least, I think it's admiration.
What happens in winter is this: you install central heating. Central heating is not applied to the house in New Zealand but to the person, by means of hot water bottles installed inside your coat. Then only your fingers fall off.
The picture demonstrates the principle.  

The burnt hole in the brand-new sweater is because
a) it was a polyester garment that melted because
b) a certain stupid person was angle-grinding without paying attention to where the sparks were going. (Once I set the workshop on fire, too, when they went into a huge wad of wire wool. Amazingly combustible, wire wool.)
The yellow belt is as you guessed a luggage strap that I found on a ride after Christchurch had gone home from its summer holiday in Kaiteriteri. In January the whole of Christchurch moves to Kaiteriteri and lives in caravans with a bit of plastic grass outside - I kid you not - and erects a gazebo to protect the centre part of its 4WD from the rain that doesn't fall - I still kid you not - and everyone sits on folding nylon chairs reading the Christchurch papers for a fortnight. And because the campground is rather petite for the population of a small city they do this in something of an intense huddle and all the people of Motueka go there to marvel at the sight, a hundred thousand people crammed into the five flat acres that Kaiteriteri boasts, their knees wedged under flimsy aluminium camp tables with ashtrays and beer cans and hair dryers - all the essentials - balanced precariously on top, bare shoulders bright red and freckly in the intense sunlight. (January = July in New Zealand, of course, just in case you forget that the world is upside down here.)
For the belt buckle I retained the black steel luggage hook, and though I do wear it to hold my 25-yr-old Point North coat closed and to secure the hot water bottle, it's also to toughen the children to embarrassment for when their friends call. Nor shall I tell you which of these three predominates.

With the winter rain the children have found a new walk for their exercise; it goes up past the sewage ponds to the coast where all the wildfowlers lurk and where if you turn over old logs and look lively you can catch small lizards which promptly bite your fingers and scurry off into the grass when you drop them. Beachcombing is only less hazardous if the wildfowlers don't see you carting off their mislaid decoys because, imbued with the indiscriminate wisdom of their father, the children return with any and all treasure as is to be found. My policy on bicycle rides is to go as fast as possible but to stop whenever I see an 8mm bolt or a penny washer on the road. My wife believes I am addicted to useless junk but she doesn't know how long it takes to machine an odd-sized penny washer when I come to need one, and actually it only costs twenty seconds of riding time to stop.
Unf. the 8mm bolts are always munted and anyway bolts aren't washed up on beaches, but now I never need to buy flip-flops, nor indeed Holey Soleys provided my feet shrink a bit and I'm content to wear a bright and a dark blue one, which of course I would if they fitted. The pink ones are too small and both left-footed so if anyone chances to see twin children rather distinctively hopping down the road on their right feet, send me an address and I'll post them their missing beach shoes.
And - um - you never know when you might need a plastic VW wheel hub.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010 1:15:39 AM Categories: junk collecting New Zealand

Wagon forecarriage 

My son has just called me a twat. He was practising Dvorak's Humoresque; I felt moved to accompany him as if it were funeral march. After five bars of this he looked scathingly at me for a silent moment and declared
'God you're a twat,'
and I felt very proud of how discerning he has become.

Because I am.

Anyone else would have designed the pivot of a wagon in an instant; it took me days and days to think of a head tube. Which, eventually, I did because it admits of a full lock, and your first wagon, which has a feeble half lock, soon teaches you that the front wheels need to be able to turn right round and point backwards if the thing's going to be used in the garden. And that leads to another design concern: maximum body height is 20 inches or the thing will topple over from time to time when a female person of the opposite sex treats it like a mobile compost heap, which I strongly suspect will happen since she bloody well never empties the cart, the hateful witch. - Not that I would ever criticise my wife, other than here in this obscure little corner of the Internet which I happen to know she doesn't visit - Given that this is a monocoque and that one axle needs suspension so that irregularities of the ground don't result in an occasional aerial wheel, this dictates 16 inch front wheels and in turn this necessitates nicking them off my bike trailer because those ones are already sprung.


I use car valve springs because they're free: your New Zealand Councillor has decided that recycling a car shall cost you fifty dollars, and the result, predictable to everyone bar politicians, is an endless supply of donor vehicles up the Old Coach Road. (Or was. Until they clear-felled it, when dumping became rather more risky.)

Car valve springs bounce up and down rather excitably so you have to tame them by lashing several under compression with big zip ties. We dignify this makeshift by calling it 'pre-load' so that wives-and-daughters think we know what we're talking about. In theory the bouncy bit needs a firm attachment to the not-bouncy-bit. In practice notched tubes work though I do weld tiny internal stubs to the dead axle, around which the bottom springs are jammed solid.

For this wagon the bike trailer's four springs were augmented with two more, making three for each wheel, piled on top of one another and tightened down with my zip ties.

Basic welding turns a head tube into a rotating tripod, the verticality (is there such a word?) being determined by using a kitchen cupboard door as a welding jig, bolting the supports to it before welding. Yes of course there's some distortion. That's what hammers were invented for. Anyway how accurate d'you want the steering to be for goodness' sake? It's only a hand wagon. And before my son affords me any more schoolyard commentary, the cupboard door was pre-chucked-out. My family are astonishingly stupid, admittedly, but not stupid enough not to note a sudden surfeit of drilled holes and welding scorch marks on the kitchen furniture.
Sunday, March 28, 2010 10:32:59 AM Categories: New Zealand wagon


When I grow up I'm going to be a Businessman because I've thought of a dead easy way to make money. When computers were made out of lots of tape recorders gathered together in a big room there was this innovation called the Space Invaders machine, a toughened box like all others in the Students' Union fitted with a slot for 10p coins and two electric buttons that you punched wildly until you got exterminated whereupon you abandoned the electric buttons and kicked the shit out of it. All the machines in the Students' Union were toughened. All of them had scuff-marks from frenzied kickings. And the kicking was the important bit. When broken people would still feed them coins, and then the kicking would commence with added vigour and deliver greater satisfaction.

At 20 to 7 each morning RadioNZ broadcasts a brief report entitled Business and the other morning I learnt that 42below, an Auckland company manufacturing vodka, is about to enhance its market share of fragrances and body butter. Fragrances! Body butter! I'm not sure I care to know what one does with body butter, but if people pay for the stuff, making money's going to be a doddle.

TOAD Hall (it stands for The Old Anglican Diocese Hall, sold off by the church due to lack of patronage) doesn't do body butter but they do a wicked line in ice creams. Actually it's the shop where we buy our vegetables. The owner used to be a North Island farmer, but:
'One day we saw our neighbour emptying a drum of old pesticide into the river. "Out of sight, out of mind" he said cheerfully. I asked him if his grandchildren didn't swim at the beach at the river-mouth. "That's their problem" he said, and that's when we decided to move.'

Toad stands at the outskirts of Motueka and draws tourists in but since tourists don't buy carrots and broccoli, Toad sells tourist-grade ice creams of such magnificence that they feature in American gourmets' travel blogs people really feel the Internet needs such reflections as
Wow! Lamb chops and venison sausages in several flavors, Thai rice mixes, flavored tuna (we get Thai chili and smoked) in the can, and interesting chip flavors (prosciutto and brie, chorizo and tomato).? Well yes they do as a matter of fact.)

Yesterday outside Toad I had my recumbent discussed at me by one of these ice cream tourists. Slurping cheerfully at a luminous pink confection with his great big flapping tongue he had watched me ride in, park the bike and go off to buy bananas, and on my return he graced me with a short but instructive talk on why he would not ride such a machine - too low, too uncomfortable, too inefficient and the triangle of forces would prevent my being able to balance properly. At the conclusion of his lecture (slurp, slurp) he asked me if recumbents are commercially available and what one would cost. I told him. He was horrified.
'But that's six times as much as my mountain bike cost!' (slurp).

So when I become a Businessman I won't sell useful things like bicycles or broccoli. No; I'm going for body butter and excess tourist nutriment. Except that to save paying wholesale for body butter - or at least finding out what it is - I'm reverting to student days for an even better idea.

I'm going to make a stout box with a slot in it and a sign that says 'Please give me your advice on something you've never seen before and don't know anything about.'

Tourists are so gloriously stupid that they'll immediately put money in the slot. There'll be a button to press but it will have no effect at all. After pressing the button a few times and finding that the box isn't receptive to advice, they'll kick the shit out of it. Honour will have been satisfied and a useful contribution will have been made to New Zealand's GDP. And once a year I'll don a dark suit and tie and report my profits on the RadioNZ Business programme.
Tuesday, March 9, 2010 1:58:33 AM Categories: New Zealand Shopping stupidity

Eddo Kloosterman 

Been on hols.
Been to Golden Bay.
But before we went I captured a recumbent cyclist who mistakenly imagined he would get through Motueka without my spies reporting him to me. His name was Eddo Kloosterman and you will immediately deduce that he was Dutch and from that further deduce that he was eight feet seven tall. Why are all Dutchmen oversize? Our children had a Dutch teacher: she was eight feet seven too. In fact you can show me any person on the planet and I will immediately be able to tell you whether they're Dutch or not.
Everything we don't know about recumbents is known to the Dutch, everything; and the reason that we don't know it is because they speak Foreign which has always struck me as a bit of a mistake when anyone, even small children, can learn English. Anyway Eddo Kloosterman's adventures can be found here:
and bless my soul, in perfect English too. Unfortunately this availed me nought because when any tourists arrive I turn into Mr Local Knowall, telling them where to go, what to see, and making up all the bits I don't know which is most of them.
Eddo was riding a high racer. It had 26/26 wheels but it had rear suspension, the pivot being roughly in the centre of the machine so that the front wheel imagines it's on a leading link and the rear wheel imagines it's on a swing arm and that way you remove half your suspension units. I tried to take a picture but could not bring myself to ask him to remove his camping kit so here it is with luggage. My wife has just pointed out how it appears that he has stashed half of a person under the seat, so if anyone spots the upper half of a Dutchman, or perhaps a fairly short hitchhiker, somewhere on the road from Picton, then maybe they could let me know.
Thursday, February 4, 2010 9:20:13 AM Categories: New Zealand


Hurrah! I have solved the mystery of what happened to Sir Frank Whittle's Hero steam engine, and I have been mowing my lawn.

I like mowing my lawn: it makes me feel like a grown-up. You have to mow lawns in New Zealand. It is a national obsession. (Once walking deep in the bush I found five neatly mown bits of lawn, each fenced with chicken wire and laced with slug pellets. I called my companion over and he told me what the large leafy plant growing in the middle of each enclosure was.) I mostly mow my lawn with electricity, only straying onto the ride-on when it gets too long. We inherited the ride-on. It came with the house. It is a White Outdoor Product and if the global financial crisis has any silver linings, it will be the extinction of White Outdoor Products because they're crap. South Bend lathe? Excellent bit of American engineering. White Outdoor Product? Absolute shite. When each week she hears me maintaining my White Outdoor Product with a two-pound claw hammer my wife suggests I buy a new ride-on, but what does a ride-on accomplish? Short grass. Which you can more profitably obtain with a sheep. All the male New Zealanders I know talk longingly of Peak Oil so they can have a sheep instead of a lawn, but all their wives demur.

A Wotan shaper, this afternoon

Anyway, today I showed my wife a photograph of my shaper. She was very surprised. She said '*uck me, you've not gone and bought that.'
I said proudly 'Yes!'
She said 'Where are you going to put it? I never want to see that. Ever. You can keep it in Maud's Back Passage.'
Maud Lodge is one of the sheds, and it has a roofed passage between it and one of the other sheds, and it has a second passage behind it which, for want of a better term, we call Maud's Back - well anyway you've gathered that.

My wife was aware that I was purchasing a shaper. She was aware that Nigel had saved it from being sold as scrap iron to China. She was not fully aware of what a shaper is, nor how big it is, but by means of the above photograph she has been introduced to these concepts and now I have to win her round by assuring her that I can use it to repair the White Outdoor Product, which will be a lie. It can't. *Nothing* can repair a White Outdoor Product.

The shaper is mine, technically, because I now own it, but it is displaced 25 miles to the right, there being a geographical discrepancy between my shed and Nigel's back yard. How I get it here is going to be the difficult bit. It is, as you see, balanced on a pallet and wedged with a piece of marble. I do not like to ask whence the marble. It looks like it was stolen from a cemetery.

And from among his junk on a shelf this afternoon, Nigel plucked a small Hero steam engine and handed it to me.
'Know what that is?' he asked.
Sir Frank Whittle's Hero steam engine

You will remember, of course, that Frank Whittle used to take a little model of a Hero steam engine that he'd built, to all his lectures by way of demonstrating the jet principle, and that it subsequently disappeared and has never been seen since. About forty years ago Nigel's retired neighbour leaned over the fence and said 'Care to have this, boy?'
The neighbour had been a friend of Whittle. You would have thought being given a jet engine hand-made by him was pretty exciting but the neighbour happened to be an Army major, unusual in achieving retirement age because he was a bomb disposal officer, and for him excitement was probably the fact that he got home for tea each day. Anyway he handed this to Nigel and so if you've been wondering where Sir Frank's demonstration Hero steam engine went, it's in a shed in the Nelson region of New Zealand.

And if, instead, you were looking for the Red Baron's flying boots, they're in Blenheim, just over the ranges. The air museum advertised that they possessed only the one boot, and that not properly provenanced, and presently got a parcel in the post from a lady in Australia who said her father had brought it back as a trophy after the first world war. It was an exact match to the one the museum already had.
Saturday, December 12, 2009 9:40:07 AM Categories: engineering problems New Zealand
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