Vengeance is mine, sayeth the Lord 

Our oil drum. And some roses. And our home-made solar drier. [Idea nicked from]

Actually it turns out there is a God, and He's German, and He happens to read this blog, and He's fat.

This morning I was wondering, as one does, how to occupy the valuable half hour immediately after breakfast and went and pondered John's current solar drier experiments and realised that with the summer sun more directly overhead modifications are required to capture the strong rays and dry out his thinly-sliced pieces of apple. We built a solar drier as our contribution to saving the world. It is not a particularly big contribution, but this region has more hours of sunshine than anywhere else in New Zealand and we have to make up somehow for our excess consumption of sunblock. - There's no ozone at all here. Well, four or five molecules, not many more.

Neglecting eye protection just this once, as one sometimes does, I cut some blocks of wood and buzzed them on the sander prior to gluing. God was very kind and didn't lash a twelve-inch adjustable spanner to the second block, but in retribution for yesterday's post, He did allow it to shoot up and whack me in the face. Eyeball, specifically. I reared back in shock and immediately danced round the shed. I really did. I hopped about as if trying to backpedal time and since I was hopping at the speed of light this wasn't entirely unfeasible. If there'd been an audience they would have passed round a cap and put coins in it. In fact if I'd known in advance what was about to happen I would have strapped bells to my shins and turned it into a Morris dance. Anyway it bled inside itself, a haemsomethingorother, and got several doctors all alarmed and now I have to waste the day going to see an ophthalmologist in Nelson.

I felt the best thing would be to ride over there but all the doctors disagreed, saying an eyeball jiggled on top of a bicycle isn't what you want if it's full of blood. Which is a pity, because I always feel energy-consumption guilt driving (in this case, being driven) to Nelson. It costs us ten litres of diesel oil getting to Nelson, which doesn't sound like much until you figure out that it's ten litres of high-grade energy and then you recall from your physics lessons that the energy concerned is the same amount of energy you'd have to use if the engine broke down and you were to have to get out and push it to Nelson. All of which puts transport into true context and makes bicycling rather sensible, because pushing a bicycle to Nelson is conceivable whereas pushing a car isn't.

What I didn't know till the other day was that New Zealand is an oil producer. On the 19th November (one makes a note of these things) I was amazed to learn from Gerry Brownlee, the New Zealand government minister in charge of energy, that oil is New Zealand's third biggest export commodity.

Our consumption of oil is 183,000 barrels a day, which means that 22 of us, combined, use up a barrel of oil daily. This is quite an interesting figure because it too takes oil consumption out of the abstract. You can imagine 22 people - about five households - having a barrel of oil delivered to their doorsteps each morning like the milkman used to do. (Well okay, milk, and pints, but you get the drift.) And using it all up. And expecting another barrel tomorrow. It's a collective thing, not just the business of what we put in our cars, so when you enter New World, our local supermarket, you shiver even in the heat of early summer because just inside the electrically operated sliding doors are huge fridges with no front whatever to them so all the cooled air cascades into the shopping area. I don't suppose this electricity comes from oil, but it certainly comes from somewhere and one does have to ponder the fact that our ancestors managed without electric sliding doors and chilled beer, and it looks like our descendants might just have to too. And do we really need wide-screen plasma TVs? They use five times as much electricity as or'nery ones, I read.

Anyway, God is obviously German because He took exception to my Wandervögel post and punished me accordingly. And He's fat because equally obviously He doesn't take exception to Germans saying Fat God to one other instead of Hello. (They do. Honestly. Everyone in Bavaria does. There are all these old German ladies hanging up their washing calling 'Grüss Gott' all the time. And He doesn't, to my knowledge, whack 'em in the eye.)
Gerry Brownlee is pretty fat too, come to think of it. He's a sort of human planet. Maybe having a fat energy minister is a good plan because when Peak Oil finally arrives, we can boil him down to two or three hundred kilograms of useful lard.

Somewhere here you might just be able to see Gerry Brownlee among the crowd.
[Pinched from]

And Peak Oil's likely to come to New Zealand sooner rather than later because Gerry Brownlee has decided to open up all the oilfields and gas fields that can be found off the New Zealand coast to commercial exploration. After all, why bother preserving a scarce resource? - Anyway I'd better discontinue this line of discussion. Comparing Gerry Brownlee with God could easily get me imaginatively punished again, and by a raft of disparate opinion.
Tuesday, December 8, 2009 4:17:51 AM Categories: New Zealand solar drier stupidity


Gerhardt is his name, a chuckling smiling happy German mountain biker who my wife inadvertently gave our address to at Auckland airport. (Okay, to whom. Shut up. Pedant.) This was a Mistake: we live in the remotest corner of the world where the only visitors now are slightly bemused iceberg-stranded Emperor Penguins on their way to the Copenhagen summit. The Antarctic ice shelves are breaking up, to which the local businessmen remain wilfully indifferent. There are 120 floating towards us at present. - Icebergs that is, not businessmen. -
But anyway when you're this far from civilization everyone hands your address out to all their friends -  'Oh, New Zealand? I know somebody in New Zealand!' and presently two smoking German students pole up in a battered camper van, annoying you by playing ping-pong late into the night in the sheds. Amazing how penetrating a noise is a ping when you're trying to sleep. (The second day we defeated them by stealing the balls.)
So what with my wife and these two and now Gerhardt the place has been heaving with Germans. It's as if we lost the war. The students were furniture restorers or welders or something and came to our notice by inverse invitation from a wife's cousin (sic.) who was at school with Kirsten. They telephoned in that questioning manner the young have:
'Helo, here iss Kirsten from Berlin? Iss Heidi there?'
which always makes me want to ask
'Here iss Richard?'
but I never think of it in time.
They used our address as a mail forwarding address so we can look forward to future visits, and maybe Kirsten will restore some of our furniture or Jens will weld a few recumbents for me in gratitude, which is as far-fetched an idea as their obtaining antique restoration work as paid employment. I fear they will discover ere long that the New Zealand farmer does not want his furniture restoring by young German students. He wants his apples picking. However that should still allow time for plenty of sex, which is the only thing I can think of that draws them together since it doesn't seem to be conversation or cycling, Jens being a keen Rennrad and Kirsten a keen and gasping smoker. I liked the idea that Jens was a Rennrad. The German does not separate the two concepts racing bicycle and racing bicyclist. He had a go on the penny farthing, and very soon separated the two concepts penny farthing and uninjured survivor because he didn't want another go. When they come back I shall be interested to see if his brain has calculated why I am a gunbag-owner, because he looked with alarm at the gunbag that he saw me carry out, and asked what it was, and looked even more alarmed when I said it was a gunbag, and mopped his brow with exaggerated relief when I showed him that it was empty. Later he didn't get to see me load the gunbag into the van, more's the pity, because by then it had a deceptively terrifying-looking Olympic target air rifle inside it which I was taking up to the range to test. Perhaps he thinks I just aberrantly collect gunbags. He borrowed two of my books which I doubt he will voluntarily return, and then maybe it will be time to reveal why I do keep a gunbag.
Now they've gone there's only Gerhardt the smiling happy mountain biker who laughed all the way to the kitchen table ('Oh I shall sit here! Ha ha ha ha ha!') and spent the afternoon distracting Susie from her revision. He smiles a great deal and laughs happily whenever he says anything regardless of whether he deems it witty ('Will you pass me a small spoon! Ha ha ha ha ha!') and he smiles and laughs so prettily and so much that I actually want to whack him in the face with a short piece of wood to which I've lashed a 12" adjustable spanner with a strip of innertube, just as an experiment, just to see if he can do anything other than laugh. I think I actively hate him, he's so agreeable. Like the students he doesn't get up till noon. Maybe it's endemic. You remember those Simon King documentaries that always began 'Dawn start' and there he is fiddling with a camera the size of Mons Meg while mist rises up over the Winchester countryside? Your German student has one that goes 'Noon start'.
I am going to be very kind and give him Mr Knight's address. I can't think of a valid reason for Mr & Mrs Knight being exempt from the pleasure of his company. He's so cheerful that after a while you want to whack him in the face with the adjustable and never mind the experiment. I'm hiding from him right now. Even Jens and Kirsten hid from him, he was so cheerful. Yesterday I had to go to the bog to hide from him because Jens and Kirsten were hiding from him in the kitchen, and now I've come out here and he's gone off to his room, I think, because the light's on and the door's open and anyway if it wasn't I'd make sure it was just so some mosquitoes will go in and bite him all night. I'll go and put my Jean-Paul Sartre novel by his bedside in the hope that it will stop him being so pleased with himself. I only have one Jean-Paul Sartre novel. Nobody ever has more than one Jean-Paul Sartre novel because when they finish reading it they're so depressed they commit suicide. Heidi saved my life in 1991 by putting it back on the shelf when I'd got to chapter 4, and (obv.) I haven't touched it since.
Tomorrow I shall harden a reamer I'm making out of a file that warped when I annealed it, so we will see if it warps again when I harden it in the drill press. You besmear it with liquid hand-soap to prevent scaling, pop it in the chuck, switch on, heat to orange-red, and raise a pot of water up round it while it's rotating and then it's supposed to harden dead straight. Even if it fails I'll do it just for the opportunity to give Gerhardt a sudden unexpected blast of propane to see if it makes him stop laughing so happily.
Monday, December 7, 2009 2:29:17 AM Categories: New Zealand

A week of woe 

She's rubbish at corners is my wife. She practises being rubbish at corners and is now quite good at it. It has taken her a little while but now she has a special skill and whenever we're coming up to a corner and I command her to stop pedalling she ignores me with a bewildering comprehensiveness and the synch chain comes flying off. Yesterday the chain came off four times in 18 miles.

Being rubbish at corners is a heritable condition. Last week Jane found herself outside a blackberry bush wondering why she couldn't push her bike and why she was holding a broken Mirrycle in her hand. A Park ranger drove up and together they established that her last memory was that of riding gaily along, no hands, towards a corner. She was knocked out. The hospital did the usual head injury stuff and her bike suffered a crinkled downtube and may now be regarded as a useful ensemble of spare parts. What makes repair difficult is the intervening 12,000 miles because Jane happens to be living in England and her faithful bike mechanic, viz., moi, doesn't.

Which raises another heritable condition. In the process of mapping the humane genome they've discovered that my wife and daughter have a special gene that forces them to prop their bikes up somewhere inappropriate so that any small gust of sideways gravity will tug the bike over and smash its Mirrycle on the pavement below. I like Mirrycles enormously and fit them to every bike I can which is harder than it sounds because nobody in New Zealand imports Mirrycles and you can't get them here at all. (I shall scour this entry later in the hope that a) a New Zealand bike shop owner is reading this, or indeed anyone at all for that matter, and b) they will add a Comment telling me where to get them.) I fit a Mirrycle, and immediately a wife-or-daughter breaks it. Then they sneak off and buy one of those flimsy Cateye mirrors which, however you try to position it, you can't see because light only travels in straight lines and elbows, such as connect shoulders to handlebars, are generally opaque. I have a bag of Cateye mirrors with which my female relatives have tried to assuage their Mirrycle guilt, and I no longer even bother trying to fit them.

Turning to other matters one of the doctors popped in, he erroneously thinking that I might be able to give him recumbent-buying advice, and over dinner he told me that pip fruit workers are 9 times as likely to get one sort of cancer and 4 times as likely to get another sort of cancer, though which sorts of cancer I'm not sure because I wasn't paying attention. Anyway this slightly worried me because a) the chap who lived here for the last 22 years recently had a kidney removed and b) the chap next door who has lived here for even longer had a neck tumour removed and c) yesterday the tractor driver in the commercial orchard immediately behind us cleared out the sprayer fans right next to the gate, and the shed, garden and house were engulfed in a cloud of swirling mist. The orchard owners aren't supposed to do this. I had an interesting talk with Tony Frost a little while ago and he told me that when he founded the national Horticultural Research Station, of which he was Director, they used any number of sprays, being sequentially assured by the makers that all were safe. Over the years, and following some alarming deaths, the sprays were equally sequentially removed from distribution. It all bespeaks what we happen to know about the agrochemicals industry, which is that it doesn't get terribly flustered about spraying people until they start dying. Mapua is ten miles down the coast.

To add to the week's woe I have a cold. Because I happen to know that Mrs Bob Knight is outstandingly sympathetic to men with colds I have emailed her thus:

I have a Cold, and it is a Man Cold, and I am Very Ill, Close Unto Death, and to show how deeply you treasure my existence I graciously permit you to cut off one of your fingers (without anaesthetics) and send it to me in the post like the Triads do.

Mrs Bob Knight omitted to send me the required finger, and referred me elsewhere:

In which case you must view this video at once. Have the sound up so you can hear the instructions.

Luckily my Man Cold failed to prevent my brazing a single short lateral tube onto a very old, very battered but very light-weight (3 lbs) Peugeot frame someone had given me, which had been less than useful because it had no seat-post clamp, Mr Bob Knight having told me (he knows everything. Everything.) that it was designed for a quill seat post and that they weren't very successful.

This is such a rubbish picture I only include it to leaven the dullness of my text. Mrs Bob Knight who saw the original usefully commented that I might need to cut a slot in it. She will be dealt with next time I see her.
Saturday, October 17, 2009 11:37:54 PM Categories: bike crash New Zealand seats and saddles


My wife is this thing: a horrible barstard; and she is a horrible barstard because she just told me off for opening the cheese in the wrong way. How many ways can you open cheese? - No. You're wrong. There is only one way to open cheese and it is my wife's way and therefore my cheese-opening skills are faulty and require training.

We have just been for a ride to Ngatimoti where we had a long chat with a roadie whose wife fancies a tandem, and we like our tandem hugely because although she is a horrible barstard is my wife, it's fun whizzing along in a Bolt Upright position at the sorts of speed I used to manage on Herbert's bike. - Herbert gave me his old racing bike a few years ago, and it is a fine racing bike because Walter Haenni gave it to him after Walter Haenni won the Austrian road championship on it. Herbert was Herbert Franz and he was Walter's coach, and he was also Karen Holliday's coach when she became New Zealand's first cycling world champion. I expect you can Google all this if it excites you, but I don't suppose it will and anyway I only include it because I like name-dropping. It is my vice. Along with incorrect cheese opening.

It was a lovely sunny morning and we got to Ngatimoti and waved at an oncoming cyclist and stopped because it was Celia, and while my wife and Celia wagged their jaws at one another I fixed Celia's front brake which she had disconnected 'because it rubbed'. I shall not give my views on Celia's bicycle maintenance other perhaps than to say cheese opening is uncontroversial by comparison.

While we were variously wagging jaws & repairing Celia's brake two tandemists came hurtling past in a racing crouch. Well, four tandemists, in four racing crouches on two - anyway you know what I mean. And then a third tandem, and soon we discovered we were in the middle of Tandem Rush-hour. One after another came past, occasionally two or three together, occasionally shouting 'Hi Richard' which left me wondering who they all were. So we left Celia and headed back to Motueka and half an hour later found that Mike Gane, who is a famous cycling event organiser, had for our convenience organised an entire tandem race, and we joined him at the finish line and commanded him to build us some tandem wheels because mine, as everyone had assured me they would, are going all agly. Spoke tension is astray, rims are beginning to nudge brake blocks, and since I know for a fact that Mike Gane has a tandem triplet - actually it might be a tandem fourtlet so I don't know it for a fact at all - and a bike shop in Stoke, I was happy to take his advice which is that 40 spokes on a 559 wheel will be fine for a tandem.

Back in town a boring old bloke with shaggy black hair whom, unfortunately, I happen to know came over and started telling me how I should have braced the frame of my tandem. From past conversations I have established that he has made this many tandem frames:
and he has this much experience of making recumbent-or-trike-or-any-other-cycle frames:
and the advice that he gave me today was misremembered from something that I had observed to him a while ago and what he told me was this:
and I started to wonder what it is about me that turns me into an Advice Victim. Wherever I go I find myself on the receiving end of large amounts of advice about what I have already done from people who have never done it themselves.

Since the children, who are up on bullying, have told me this is against my Yuman Rights, I shall now take a leaf out of their book and start to dish out advice in a similar manner.

I shall start by advising a former cabinet minister not to read his text messages while he's driving his car. I have never myself done this on account of not having a mobile phone, but on an occasion when I was passenger in a motorcar driven by a cabinet minister, he did read his text messages and turned me into a Very Frightened Passenger. I have chosen this advice carefully because it's about to become illegal anyway, and ex-cabinet ministers always obey the law.
(Well, some of them do. Some exercise their constructive spin skills on their having deliberately run over and killed a cyclist )(I wish I could read Dutch. It would be interesting, given their attitudes towards cycling, to see what the Netherlands media make of the story.)

I'd quite like to advise our present cabinet ministers that $25 a tonne (about ten quid, the current NZ proposal) as a cap-and-trade price for carbon dioxide is not going to make folk more thoughtful about cars since it'll only cost each of us a hundred quid a year. But, when he's set his heart on it, advising a cabinet minister not to do something completely pointless is like advising a teenager not to smash his bourbon-and-coke bottle on the BMX track.
Hmm. Maybe I'm a wuss. Maybe I need to be more assertive. Maybe I need to get in training. Maybe I'll go and advise my wife how to open cheese.
Sunday, September 20, 2009 6:33:51 AM Categories: New Zealand tandem


I have been showing off my tandem, as one does, to all who come my way, among whom was Biffer. For reasons that may become apparent Biffer may not wish to be identified. Biffer admired my tandem in a perfunctory way because he is actually not in the slightest bit interested in tandems or indeed anything else with pedals attached - and then - I can't remember how - got onto the subject of the local council, of whom he had recently made enquiries regarding his replacement shower. Biffer had been into the Council offices.
'Do I need a building permit for replacing my shower?'
'Okay. How much?'
'WHAT! For replacing an existing shower?!'
'Can you tell me what I'm getting for that?'
'We have to accept and inspect the correct documentation.'
'Which is?'
The Council officer gave him a long list, concluding with an Original Certificate of Title for the Home.
'What d'you need that for?'
'To prove that you own the house.'
'Hang on. Last week I paid you $700 Rates. You didn't need me to prove that I owned the house then. What's happened in the last seven days? You forgot or something?'
'And another thing. Look at me. Do I look like the sort of bloke who goes about surreptitiously breaking into people's houses and installing a shower when they're not there?'
'And now I expect you want me to provide an architect's drawings of the shower.'
'We will need to see plans.'
'What for? What are you worried about? I'm just replacing a shower!'
'We need to see plans for the drainage pan, to check it doesn't leak.'
'So what will that be? A square with a little circle in the middle of it?'
'Well, yes, that would do.'
'Tell you what. Gimme a bit of paper and a pencil and I'll draw it now for you.'
Needless to say Biffer went away with a pocket full of documents none of which will ever be returned, and should the council officers busy themselves poking into his basement, he will assure them that you can do wonders in making an old shower look like new with a little floor soap. A similar problem arose a while ago when the council took it into their heads to charge a $400 Resource Consent for a solar panel, which a number of people declined to pay, taking their chances on the local council's ability to withdraw access to the sunshine.
Meantime I swept up another smashed beer bottle today, because although the council officers assure me that all I need do is submit the appropriate form to draw the roading engineers' attention to the matter, I'm the one that fixes punctures in this household.
Thursday, September 17, 2009 11:03:13 AM Categories: New Zealand stupidity


A sedate tandem, yesterday

My tandem is now finished and I have ridden it and that is all you ever do with a tandem. Ride it once and hang it up to dry.

Since Bob Knight has a tandem and someone I happen to know was going to a medical course near Rangiora at the weekend, I hitched a ride and took with me various items of mutual interest - a Peugeot frame with no visible means of fixing a seat post in it, a micro steam turbine car, some handlebars with an OD of 24mm - that sort of thing. Why does a reputable handlebar manufacturer suddenly take to churning out 24mm handlebars? Ever tried getting a brake lever onto a 24mm tube? Maybe the designer was having an off day.
'Excuse me sir, but Mr Smith has telephoned to say he has a cold and can't come to work today.'
'What does Mr Smith do?'
'He designs the outside diameter of our handlebars.'
'Right. Okay. Um. Yes. Er. We mustn't panic. - Tell you what - telephone the Breville Kettle Company and see if they can design the outside diameter until Mr Smith gets better.'

The person who happened to be visiting the Knights went tootling off to Amberley to study what to do when someone falls off the roof of a car while mooning and this left me at liberty. Mrs Bob Knight had a prior engagement with her girlie friends and their birthdays and this left Mr Knight at liberty.
Mr Knight knew of three adjacent shops in Christchurch which he felt could be of interest. Mr Knight's views and mine are at variance in a number of matters - his bicycles have to be perfect concours specimens whereas I'm content if the chain doesn't fall off - but we are as one in the matter of shopping. So we abandoned Mrs Knight in a small dinghy with a compass and a map of the Pacific and headed for Pak'n'Save, an emporium where, should you desire genetically modified peanuts, you can probably get a couple of tons for sixpence. Pak'n'Save is a vast hideous yellow box supermarket-like thingy next to the bike shop but we were under no need of the facilities other than gracing their forecourt with Bob's car. I shall not discuss Pak'n'Save any further lest I receive a Cease and Desist letter from their lawyers, and I shall not mention that New Zealand also has a vast hideous red box store called The Warehouse where, as the schoolchildren sing to the tune of their advert, 'everything's open and broken'. Don't want The Warehouse's lawyers sending me a Cease and Desist letter either. (I have been reading a book called Tescopoly by Andrew Simms.)(And another book called The Walmart Effect by Charles Fishman.) The Warehouse is New Zealand's largest retailer, and if you buy a heater there you keep the receipt because it will, actually, break as the guarantee runs out and they won't have any truck whatsoever with you when it does. This happened to us. Unluckily for The Warehouse it was two weeks before the guarantee was up, and unluckilyer for them, I managed to find the receipt. It broke again a month later though. We never go near The Warehouse now and I strongly recommend you don't either. The workers there hate it. I've actually seen one playing football with the goods he was supposed to be stacking, kicking them to his mate up a ladder.

The bike shop was magnificent but it was cheaper to buy new handlebars than to buy special brake levers. 24mm. Huh! The model shop next door was superb too and had the brass tubing that one requires if one is the father of a fourteen-year-old bent on steam engine manufacture, but the tool shop next to that switched off its lights because it was 12.30 and the assistants wanted to spend Saturday afternoon pulling one another's trousers down. (I understand this is the aim of the game of rugby football.) But I managed to get five Eclipse hacksaw blades for ten dollars, which is four quid in civilized money. - Well it is at the moment, though I gather what Gordon's done means it isn't likely to be civilized money for too much longer.

An-y-way, in the afternoon - which is what we were building up to - we got the Knight tandem down from its hook. Mr & Mrs Knight possess an Ibis made in California and my legs-and-arms approximate to the lengths of Mrs Knight's legs-and-arms so I could sit on the back and enjoy myself.
A 22 mph tandem which I did not build

I haven't ridden tandems before but now I've built one I needed to find out how they're supposed to go. One has to have total trust in the chap up front, and sit clipped in while he stands at junctions, and one has to pedal like absolute stink when setting off because the pilot is busy trying to balance and steer and locate his cleat, and this pedalling is done from a standstill at the command of the pilot, and one has to stop pedalling on command too, and one has to refrain from steering. All of these things don't come naturally. However my bad neck which has prevented me riding drop handlebars for a while was now no obstacle because I didn't have to see where I was going but could peer straight down throughout the ride and admire the chainset, and because I do not wish to offend Mr Knight on a public forum such as this web log, I shall not disclose that his left rear crank had fourteen specks of road dust on it.

Approx halfway along the ride someone shot an airgun at my helmet. I heard the pellet whizz past in the air. I said the usual word, then:
' - what the (usual word) was that?'
And then I received a direct hit on my helmet. I said the usual word again, and nearly bringing the tandem down, twisted round to see who was shooting at me. A large bird was flying away with a vicious grin on its beak.
'Hah!' said Mr Knight, delighted. 'Magpie attack!'

It seems that the Australian magpie, which is a handsome crow with a white back and the most magical musical song, has for the two nesting months of September and October a habit of attacking cyclists' heads from behind. These aerial attacks are so startling - I now vouch for it - that people have fallen off, and indeed one wealthy cyclist paid for hunters to shoot every magpie they could find in a certain mountain pass where he fell off and broke his bones.

On the Sunday we did another ride sans magpies managing 22 miles in one hour which is as good as I can manage on a closed oval racetrack on a racing recumbent. I was reminded of the first BHPV event I ever went to which was in, oh, about 1986, where the Crane cousins thrashed everyone including the Vectors, riding a caged tandem.

A 44 mph tandem, 1986. Dick and Nick Crane, Milton Keynes. The shoulder in the yellow jersey attached to the chap who doesn't know which way to arrange his hat is that of one Richard Ballantine Esq.

Home, and I took my recumbent on my daily ride, and slowing on the cyclepath to spy out all its broken beer bottles (I swept up four) I was overtaken by a roadie who cleared first his left nostril in front of me and then his right, which I considered really quite impolite because the spray went all over my face.

So I paid for hunters to shoot him.

However they have to get the right roadie.
Because I had to send a note through to the Police asking them to contact a local truck driver and ask him if he'd very kindly stop driving deliberately close to me, and the Police replied and said three of their officers have had the same problem with the same truck driver. You see, half the local roadies are also Police officers, a fact which isn't as widely known as you might have thought, though when one particular pair of exuberant youths repeatedly carved up a training peloton, they found out on the Monday morning when a uniformed senior officer pulled up outside their house and discovered a bag of cannabis in the offending car.
Wednesday, September 16, 2009 11:45:34 AM Categories: New Zealand stupidity tandem


I have decided to enter politics. The chief requirement appears to be an inverse relationship between a need to sound important and an ability to do anything useful. Accordingly breakfast is now dedicated to studying the morning radio where just before the last election a comparatively new MP told the nation that over some policy or other

'I think it is almost certain that we probably will.'

Hurrah! Three caveats in just ten words. I thought he'd go far. And in the event he became Prime Minister.

I can't tell you what he thought he was almost certain probably to do because I was rushing to the fridge to write it down on an old envelope before the words slipped from my memory. We have a large pile of old envelopes on the fridge. They are my lecture notes. The common theme appears to be pointless repetition:

'I recognise that there are a lot of unsung heroes that don't get recognition' (Chris Hipkins MP)
'to apply punitive punishment' (Clayton Cosgrove MP)
'there's always constant pressure' (John Key MP)

and if you need to cover yourself, you repeat words you've just made up for the purpose:
'either expressedly or impliedly' (David Cunliffe MP)

Sometimes we only get to the fridge in time to jot down an important-sounding word -
perhaps in context -
'keep the optionality'
or in its original sentence -
'I wouldn't use the word incompetent - there was a management-skill gap'
- without managing to note who said it or why.

But with everyone becoming interested in economics and what politicians can't do about it, the most self-important phrases, used by bank economists as well as portentous politicians -
'Uncertainty is certain to grip the market'
- concern finances. And I do assure you I'm trying to learn how to use 'leverage' though unfortunately whenever I hear it my mind blanks over and I don't take in anything else in the sentence.

Which, of course, is the whole point of it. Economists who say 'leverage' wear dark suits and a blue tie, and they say 'leverage' because they know it will make me feel insignificant and ignorant and I won't hear what the suit is about to do with my money. He himself doesn't know what he means by 'leverage', and this is how he knows that he'll humiliate my understanding. Sometimes he says 'leverage' to mean that his bank owes another bank two hundred billion dollars, and sometimes he says 'leverage' when he would like to sell a lot of dried milk product (sic.) to China.

Prior to my usefully entering politics I only ever thought of saying 'leverage' when trying to lift the corner of the wardrobe up with a garden spade so my wife can peer underneath with a torch to see if a dead mouse has crept there and is stinking the room out. There is a dead mouse - it might be a rat or a fish or a possum - we haven't found it yet - and it started off over by the door but is now somewhere near my computer. It's unusually mobile among dead mice. If it turns out to be a dead bank economist I expect it will tell the radio that it was leveraging its position geographically-wise.

I can't actually lever the wardrobe up with just a spade: I need a block of wood as a fulcrum. But I'm wary of saying 'fulcrum' lest the minds of people in sharp business suits blank off at the untoward appearance of a word from a junior school physics book. Politicians and businessmen and economists and important bank officials don't like to hear basic physics. Try them on the rather worrying fact that even the conservative International Energy Agency is now saying that world oil production will start to decline within the next ten years. They prefer to dismiss physicists or geologists as fanciful fools who don't have an MBA and are thereby out of touch with reality.

I myself am a fanciful fool, fondly believing that recumbents are the silver bullet to the world's - well, everything, actually. I am just about to go for a ride up the valley; and:
Fact: it will take me 55 minutes because I am going on my recumbent.
Fact: if I were on my Würthrich racing bike, on which Walter Hänni won the Austrian championships a few years ago (forgive the name-dropping. I'm appealing to the sportive fraternity) it would take me an hour.
Fact: if I were on a perfectly good gentleman's mountain bicycle it would take me an hour and twenty minutes. ("A perfectly good gentleman's mountain bicycle" is how the policeman described it when, abandoned for several days at the side of the road, I took one into Quorn police station. As a matter of fact it wasn't perfectly good, it was crap, and I later cut it up with a hacksaw and used the BB on recumbent number 17.)
Fanciful conclusion: Recumbents are faultless.

Mr Knight is a fanciful fool too, fondly imagining that council staff down in Canterbury might responsibly view their employment. This email just in:

Rode in on Wednesday with a Nor'Wester on my back in record time. The ride home was also in record time but the not the good kind of record. The bridge was shut again. The council runs a [not very good (Ed.)] cycle shuttle that carries you and your bicycle around the 300m bridge by way of a 5km detour. It is only suitable for [not very good (Ed.)] bicycles and is manned by council [not very kindly or intelligent employees (Ed.)] who earn $12.50 an hour (he told me) and take delight in deliberately damaging $20K bicycles carried in his rack (he told me). My Coppi now has a small dent in the 0.4mm top tube. I repeatedly beat the council employee with his own [not very good (Ed.)] rack and then dumped his body under the dangling pile of the closed bridge so that his life would serve at least a minor purpose. [In my view he is a not highly respected person (Ed.).] I intend to cycle in tomorrow and if the bridge is shut, I'll [expressed with some emphasis (Ed.)] well ride down the motorway again.

Truth is that speed depends on infrastructure, not on my skills as a recumbent builder, and infrastructure depends on the oil not running out. Infrastructure of course is the politician's word for tarmac, but inflation has extended its use to anything else we fancy. - Before there was infrastructure there were roadmen who lived in little huts and, on foot and equipped with a shovel, looked after a stretch of about eight miles of unsealed dirt road, filling potholes with stones and swearing at the early motorists if they went above 20 miles an hour and shot the stones out of the repaired potholes with their tyres. (Been reading. This was from page 150 'High Noon for Coaches', a much better book than its title implies. It describes the early days of colonial transport in New Zealand.) If Rangiora is no better served with infrastructure over the rivers to Christchurch, Mr Knight would be wiser riding a crap perfectly good gentleman's mountain bicycle which would handle council employees' malevolence with more aplomb than his hitherto pristine hand-built Italian light-weight Coppi does.

If there wasn't tarmac from here to Rocky River and back on the other side I too would be quicker on a perfectly good gentleman's mountain bicycle which manages unsealed roads rather better than my recumbent does. A road is defined by a piece of paper held in the Tasman District Council Offices, the road having been drawn in by an early surveyor often with nothing more than optimism, and I have actually walked quite legally through someone's garden on a 'paper road' as they are called. Owing to rising sea levels, there is one paper road here that goes a mile out to sea and then turns right. Accustomed to their wild, dense and deceptively dangerous native bush New Zealanders will quite commonly expect me to use the word 'road' to mean a place where trees aren't, except if I were on the radio when they'd expect me to say it's a commoditized optionality expressedly or impliedly utilized on an invitational basis as a transportation facility.

(However when I become the Prime Minister I shall cover my tracks by adding that this is what I think it is almost certain it probably constantly always is.)
Sunday, August 30, 2009 1:57:07 AM Categories: New Zealand


No work on Sam's trike for a week because we have been on hols in a town called Wanaka; 1,000 kms to get there and 1,000 kms to get home which added 400 kilograms of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere and which I'm 'fraid is one of the reasons why every climate scientist on the planet (other than those half-dozen retained by Exxon) is in a tizz with the world's politicians. The latter seem mesmerised by the world's economists who despite the year's revelations earnestly continue to tell us that you can have Economic Growth forever. Or that the economy is a perpetual motion machine. Or something.
Everything you need to know about Wanaka is contained in the two words 'no bookshop'. There are four ski shops and five tourist shops and a million holiday homes and a supermarket that is empty until the ski fields close whereafter it is jammed with approximately equal numbers of young adults and security staff.
We have been skiing. My wife, that is, and the children. I have yet to grasp the attraction of standing on two planks of wood at the top of a slippery mountain and accelerating downwards at +/- 16.08 feet per second per second (depending on slope) with no brakes whatever. The latest fashion is snow-boarding, Sam the Scotchman assures me, which is to stand on a single plank about the size of a wardrobe door, which must even further limit one's prospect of a controlled stop. One cannot apply excess toe-in balanced on a door.
I did not ski, but rather cycled and on Monday a Spitfire pilot put on an aerial display for me and on Wednesday there was a rather agreeable earthquake which for a minute made the cottage sway as if it were a small dinghy splashing around in the surf, and on Friday I found a Historic Site on the Cardrona road. There are brown road signs in New Zealand that say Historic Site on them and when you're on a bike you stop and have a look, and on this occasion I found that Robert Studholme tended a tree nursery opposite here. It was established in 1879 and the last trees were felled about 1960. (I like history. I was so excited I copied it down.)

Now because you happen to know that I am a persistent liar you are going to say that I am fibbing on all three counts but the first two are on Ye Olde Internette so they must be true
and the last one isn't so you'll just have to cycle up the Cardrona road yourself and see.

The kettle in the cottage, if this is of interest, was a Breville Model SK60B and it leaked so badly that the base stood on a folded towel. The base bore the printed message Please note that some condensed moisture may gather on the base after the kettle has boiled. This is part of the normal workings of the kettle and does not indicate a fault with the product. (I copied it carefully, you may depend.) As the children, weeping with laughter said, 'Yeah, right.'
On the way there we stayed with Mr Knight and he took us to a secret place he has researched where 14 steam engines were tipped into a river bank to stop the water undermining the railway and I'm not going to tell you where it is because I'm cruel, and on the way back we also stopped with Mr Knight where my children asked his children to say 'Ni' whereupon they told them that they were the Knights who say Ni which caused much delight among the cognoscenti and total bafflement to everyone else.
Old steam engines, somewhere in New Zealand
Mr Knight guided us through the mysteries of the Tour because he has a television and knows what's going on and we don't, and I admired his latest Italian racer, a fully-Campag equipped Coppi, and I am forbidden to broadcast how many bicycles he now owns for fear of alerting his wife. All his bicycles are pristine concours specimens and all of them are red, so he occasionally smuggles new ones in when she isn't paying attention. Mrs Knight told us of the struggles she has learning Maori, where one Maori teacher instructs exact pronunciation and a Maori teacher from another iwi (iwi = 'tribe') disputes the pronunciation telling her there's no point learning it if you get the pronunciation wrong which I fear had us all saying 'Yeah, right' again. One might start by inviting the two Maori teachers to travel to England and ask natives of, say, Newcastle-on-Tyne, Huddersfield, King's Lynn and Brixton to pronounce - well, anything at all actually - and then discuss which is 'correct' English. Funnily enough I have found several copies of Simeon Potter's Our Language in New Zealand bookshops whereas I never found a single copy in England.

Right, must try to get back on topic to keep the BHPV Editorial Police at bay.

Sunday, July 19, 2009 9:12:16 AM Categories: New Zealand
Page 2 of 2 << < 1 2
Copyright 2006 Blog Author