Wednesday, 14 November 2018


My motorbike is trying to kill me. The last set of rear brake pads lasted less than a year and the anti-rattle clips are now misshapen. I changed the pads, put the new ones in crooked and destroyed them when I put the brake on. I cut those ones out and put another set in more carefully. The brakes were wonderfully effective and the bike passed its MOT. Within a few days the brake felt awful again and I was horrified to discover that one of the (two) bolts that hold the calliper on was missing. I thought it was so dangerous that I actually came to work in a car one day last week.

Maybe I didn't torque it up correctly, but I don't think that's the explanation. I think something is out of shape and I was tightening it up pad to rotor, not calliper to swing arm. I've got a new bolt and while I'm frightened that the same thing is going to happen I can't be bothered to take a torque wrench to the back of my bike every time I leave the house. That's fine I thought. I've got a little tube of anti-sabotage lacquer, that'll make it obvious if the bolt is working loose. Of course it's so old that it's gone off. So old in fact that the company that makes it hasn't even existed for nearly three years, and all google tells you about it is what products it has been replaced by.

In other news: I was very disappointed that it wasn't international double-entendre day last week. A young buxom woman was getting out of my car while trying to carry two bags of hot food and four large soft drinks all jammed into one of those compressed-cardboard carries that fast-food places give you. "Do you want a hand?" "I might" she said "These are large and a bit wobbly."

Richard "I'll say" B

Tuesday, 6 November 2018

Say My Name

You can express a certain amount of sentiment with how you store somebody's name in your phone. Years ago I was hurt to discover that my girlfriend had me in her phone as "Bolingbroke, R" – as though she wasn't even on first name terms with me. There was so much mickey taking that all my friends changed my contact details to the same thing, and I think that some of them are like that to this day.

On another occasion we were out drinking and talking about middle names. One of our friends said that she only had one middle name which was "Just Jane" but that's two names, "no, JUST Jane" Oh is it hyphenated like Mary-Sue? Anyway we've called her "JJ" since then. One of my friends was so drunk that he forgot the conversation and forgot changing her contact details and woke the next morning to discover that she was "deleted" from his phone. He assumed that they'd had such a bad argument that he never wanted to talk to her again. He was rung later that day by someone he had no recollection of but that his phone knew as "JJ".

One of my old school friends (another computer nerd) recently won an Emmy award. While he hasn't become intolerable with his own sense of smug self-satisfaction we do rather fear that he isn't going to let us forget it. We've beaten him to the punch by changing his name in all our phones to "Emmy Award Winning A**m S******d" and we call him that in the third person.

Richard "Outstanding achievement in the field of excellence" B

Wednesday, 31 October 2018


To keep my crippling sciatica at bay I walk frequently and have regular massages. I think it might be different for women, but for me it was very difficult to find a good massage. You either end up ringing up a knocking shop, or talking to someone who thinks that you want a knocking shop, or you end up at a new-age hippy healery decorated with dolphins and crystals. In the end I did very well by ringing sports injury practitioners and then explaining that neither was I a sportsman nor was I injured.

The last time I had a massage I was talking (quite proudly) about the 16 mile sponsored walk that I had done. It turned out that my masseuse had also just done a sponsored walk. Over the course of two days she had covered 46 miles over rough terrain and up and down tors. Again this year my achievement seems quite trivial.

Richard "emasculated" B

Wednesday, 24 October 2018

Film Review "First Man"

(Contains minor spoilers)

At the weekend I saw the film "First Man" in the cinema and I didn't really like it. It's about Neil Armstrong and the first moon landing. I wasn't transported into the story, in fact I found it so uninvolving that I was able to be annoyed by things like the set dressing and the camera work. A huge amount of the film is shot on shaky "Blair Witch" handheld cameras and most of the frame is often obscured. We get, for example, a tiny view out of a window in a dark cockpit. Fine, perhaps that's to convey the feeling of claustrophobia, but they do the same trick to watch children playing in a swimming pool, most of the lens is obscured by the water and we can only see a ribbon at the top of the screen.

I think the domestic sets were brilliant, but to be fair I've never been in a 60s American living room. I'm a spaceflight enthusiast and this film definitely wasn't made for me. The space capsules and rockets were accurate, but for some strange reason they'd made them all look old, dirty and rusty. The 50 year old ones that I've seen in a museum were cleaner and nicer than the ones in the film that were supposed to have just been built. The flames coming out the back of the first stage of a Saturn V rocket were the wrong colour and the wrong shape at high altitude.

Lots of technical bits of the story that I'd have liked to see were omitted in favour of mawkish emo indulgence. It was made as an emotional story about the man and his family. I'm bad at picking up these things so it seemed boring and straightforward: He was upset when his daughter died, he was nervous and stoic about going to the moon, he was glad to see his wife again afterwards. The climactic scene was about him having to admit to his children that he might not come home from the moon mission. To me this didn't ring true. He was working as a test pilot and his colleagues were dying by the week. I think everyone involved must have come to terms long ago with the fact that me might well come home from work dead.

Richard "Barry Norman" B

Tuesday, 16 October 2018

Misery Line

I have a deeply disagreeable personality and an amazing habit of rubbing people up the wrong way. It's a massive social disadvantage but very occasionally it will work in my favour. A few weeks ago I was on a train in a bad mood. I had already driven five hours in a loud and uncomfortable car, there were no seats available, the ticket was expensive and only available at the end of a long queue and (because of industrial action) I had to go from Gatwick to Guildford via Clapham Fucking Junction.

If you've ever met me then this will sound like an unfair complaint, but there was a man on the train with a loud and annoying voice. He spoke as though he was addressing the entire carriage and he was telling a long and self-serving story about a job in a theatre that he didn't take. I very much wanted him to be quiet but I didn't have the nerve to ask him. Instead I did some surprisingly successful passive-aggressive social-engineering. I turned round to face him and started paying close attention to his story. I looked him in the eye, nodded along with his story and said a few mmm's and oh's at appropriate points.

It worked better than I could have hoped. I didn't get shouted at or punched. The annoying man got quieter and quieter and more and more embarrassed until he was whispering his story to his girlfriend and then it eventually petered out leaving me free to seethe in luxurious silence for the rest of my journey.

Richard "Pot, meet Kettle" B

Wednesday, 10 October 2018

How To Run a Country

Nothing funny happened to me over the weekend, so I'm going to have a little look at the politics on the left side of the Atlantic. Some of my readers are ex-pat Brits in the states and a couple of them are actual Americans - Hi guys.

They have a wildly divisive and (in places) un-popular president. I have heard the view that as a reality TV star, self publicist and questionable businessman he's not qualified to be president. This is clearly nonsense. The only qualification needed apart from date and place of birth is to win a no-holds-barred popularity contest in which everyone can vote (your vote only counts if the majority of people in your region agree with you, and the amount that your vote counts depends on the historical population of your region).

President Trump has now nominated a man called Brett Kavanaugh to be a supreme court judge at which point Kavanaugh has been accused of all kinds of unseemly behaviour from his student days. It's clear to me that Kavanaugh isn't qualified to be a supreme court judge because the qualifications include a kangaroo-court of public opinion in which there are no rules of admissibility of evidence and no statute of limitations.

From the right side of the Atlantic, the qualifications that you demand of your leaders look a bit odd.

Richard "just saying" B