Thursday, 17 January 2019


Quotation marks (and quotation fingers) have a few different meanings. They demarcate the part of the speech which is attributed to someone else, they add emphasis and they sometimes show that the quoted section is wrong, euphemistic, imaginative, almost like a sarcasm mark. Like saying my blog is "popular".

In the run up to Christmas I got a card from my cleaner. The inside of the card was printed with the message With Best Wishes. When she signed it she also added double quotes around With Best Wishes so it looked rather like she didn't really wish me the best. My friends and I laughed about it and added lots of sarcastic quotation marks to our own Christmas cards.

The thing is that my cleaner quit last week. Maybe she hates me and she meant exactly what she wrote in my Christmas card.

Richard "Labour Relations" B

Saturday, 5 January 2019

Flat Floor

I once visited the Boeing factory in Washington and there were a couple of things that I would have liked to see, but didn't. Instead of a giant pitched roof, the factory has a flat roof and a snowplough lives up there. They've also, apparently, got a bit of floor large enough to build a jumbo jet on that is flat and level to a few thousandths of an inch.

I used to be confused about measuring the suspension geometry of my car. When I do it at my mum's house I get good results and the numbers make sense. When I do it at home nothing adds up. One of my brothers once had to take an airliner apart and put it back together and have it come out exactly the same shape. He explained to me that it can't be done unless you are taking measurements from a floor which is flat and level. He didn't have a flat floor to work from but rather brilliantly made bits of one using dozens of scissor jacks, steel plates, and a laser level. I believe his crew were encouraged not to move them or kick them over while the job was in progress. I've got the same problem - my garage floor isn't flat.

If I were working for a racing team there would be an area of floor in the workshop that was known to be flat and level. In fact "flat floor" has now become a verb, you can have your car flat-floored, it doesn't mean that the floor is made flat, like "chiselled" it means that the tool is applied to the car - before the corner weights and geometry is adjusted. Cheapskates can't be choosers, and the car only touches the floor in four spots, so I have shimmed it up with cheep vinyl flooring tiles.

 In the racing team they would also have turntables or slip-plates to put the car on so that you can steer and adjust the wheels without putting any force on anything, my slip plates are made with more of the vinyl tiles - good side to good side with grease in between.

 They work better than I could have hoped.

Richard "Whitworth Three Plates Method" B

Wednesday, 2 January 2019


The Saturday before Christmas I was running sound for my friend’s Oasis tribute band on their very last show.

It was well attended, drunken and exceptionally rough. The first fight broke out six bars into the first song and spilled onto the stage. The rhythm guitarist, who is normally very placid, was so annoyed at having to catch a falling speaker cabinet and having a drunken stranger lying all over his pedals that he kicked him off the stage with enough force to also tear the feet from one of my wedge monitors. Later the singer got a mic pushed into his teeth and I got beer spilled into my (valuable) mixing desk. I spent the whole time shoving the crowd and their drinks away from my station to the point that I ended the night with bloody knuckles.

Richard "As a practical matter - are we playing 'Stone Henge' tonight?" B

Monday, 31 December 2018

Rosetta Stone

This weekend I had dinner with my Emmy-Award-Winning schoolfriend and his American wife. As usually happens we got caught up talking about accents and translations between British English and American English .

If you say "beer can" in your normal English accent you sound like a Jamaican saying "bacon". Similarly, if you can get an American to say "The Space Ghettos" in their natural accent it sounds like a scotsman saying "The Spice Girls". Try it – it's not perfect but it's surprisingly good.

I've got a brother in Texas, various American friends and I used to go out with (date) a girl in Seattle. I thought I had got (gotten) pretty good at translating between the two languages but it's not true. A couple of months ago I tried to help a couple of people in Gatwick who had flown in from America. They were lost and bewildered in the train (rail) station clutching the instructions for their central (downtown) London Air B&B. While I could explain the instructions and tell them that "The Tube" was the name of the London subway system I couldn't pronounce it in a way that they could associate with the letters T. U. B. E.

My Emmy-Award-Winning schoolfriend however is absolutely virtuoso at translating. One of the stories told over dinner involved custard cream biscuits. He conveyed the meaning to his wife perfectly in three words (and didn't get bogged down in the whole biscuit/salty-scone/cookie problem) He said "Square vanilla Oreo".

Richard "TOOOB" B

Wednesday, 19 December 2018

Dressed to Impress

Have you every walked into a different room to do something and then either forgotten what you were supposed to do, or walked back without having done it? So have I.

On Saturday I had a grave but tolerable hangover. I knew it was coming so I organised my calendar so that I had literally no commitments. I got up late and had a light meal somewhere between breakfast and lunch - if only someone could invent a name for such a meal!

I spent the afternoon working very gently on my car and by about 5.00pm I was tired and hungry and the sun was down. For laziness and luxury I decided to treat myself to a one-man Chinese takeaway. Even by the low standard that I try to maintain the dirty clothes that I had on were too nasty to walk to the shops in. I stood in my lounge and decided to put on clean clothes and then buy my food. I walked upstairs to my bedroom and somewhere along the way put my brain into autopilot. I found myself back in the lounge wearing my pyjamas and slippers wondering what I had been just about to do. It took me two attempts to put on a set of clean clothes.

Richard "sweet and sour chicken" B

Tuesday, 11 December 2018

The Last Bus Home of Doom

There's an iconic moment from cinema when Indiana Jones just slides underneath a descending door and then, while the door is still coming down, he reaches back and grabs the hat that he had dropped.

On Friday night I didn't cut such a dashing figure.

I was waiting in the wind and the rain for the last bus home. The driver didn't see me and didn't stop because he was following so closely behind one of the very many buses to the picturesque village of "Sorry Not In Service". I sprinted after the bus waving crazily and caught up with it when it got to a queue of traffic at the roundabout – I was now soaked, red in the face and completely out of breath. There was, of course, a waist high fence to stop pedestrians from straying onto the road so even though the bus opened its doors I couldn't step on board. As a younger man I think I could have vaulted the barrier like a pommel horse, if I was even drunker than I was I might have tried. Instead I made an ungainly clamber, one leg at a time, over the barrier and dropped my hat in the gutter. I picked the sodden hat up and got on the bus which was crowded with people who had watched my hopeless escapade.

Richard "inaction hero" B