Monday, 15 April 2019

Album Cover

At the weekend I went for drinks with a chap whom, as a boy I would bully - I had full authority to do so as a friend of his older brother. He vowed revenge on the both of us for spoiling the end of The Secret of Monkey Island and, after 25 years his brother received his retaliation while I'm still waiting.

We were bemoaning his brother's bewildering success: Moved to America, made a fortune at Microsoft, ran his own business, won an Emmy, beautiful house, married, started a family, etc. None of his employment however was as impressive to us as when, as a teenager, he would fold cardboard boxes for a tomato farm. With the single-minded zeal that only a teenage boy without a girlfriend can muster he turned box folding into a type of martial art (he got paid by the box) and spent every spare hour earning. He was saving up for a new stereo with a CD player and a graphic equalizer, and very nice it was too.

His brother and I then spent a happy few minutes criticising his early CD collection. Too much Madonna, too much U2, the motion picture soundtrack from that weird camp Michael Keaton Batman film for god's sake, seemingly everything that REM committed to perforated aluminium.

There was one album that he owned, that I wanted to make fun of, but I couldn't remember who recorded it. It was self-indulgent adult-orientated-shite, it was for old people when we were still young and energetic, it had a picture of a car on the front, it had something to do with hotels... Google eventually jogged my memory and it was Chris Rea's Auberge. To my shame it has a picture of MY car on the front. Exactly the same car that I have today, same make and model, same colour, same colour grille, same headlamps, same headlamp stanchions, same rollover bar, same stoneguards. Dammit!

Richard "He can pretty much play the guitar" B

Wednesday, 10 April 2019


Last week I went to Castle Combe for my first track-day of the year. The car, my guest and I all came home in one piece and we had a great time. We both had a "moment" on the track. With one exception my car has benign and well balanced handling characteristics – unless you push it too far and then it will make a concerted effort to kill you. It's foible is lift-off oversteer. You're going fast around a corner and wish to reduce your speed slightly, you instinctively take your foot off the throttle and that loads the rear tyres more heavily, they lose traction and the car drift sideways (or spins if you don’t make a correction).


I was in the car while my guest was driving around Tower corner. It became apparent that we were going too fast and were heading off the track rather than around the corner. He lifted off and the car started to drift dangerously sideways. It felt like an age (probably less than half a second) before he remembered what to do, put his foot back on the gas and made a slow and untidy exit from the corner.

My moment simply involved entering Bobbies chicane too fast. Instead of running into the tyre wall on the second apex I pressed the middle pedal (too) firmly and slowed to a crawl in a straight line amid a cloud of tyre smoke and noise.

One of the joys of the track day is looking around the paddock at all the different vehicles, like bird watching or train spotting. You normally see a shower of MX5's, Lotus Elises and Renault Sport hatchbacks, Monday was no different. You also normally see an obscure single seater that spends the whole day in the paddock up on ramps with a laptop hanging out of the engine cover - Sadly I didn't see one of those but there were two really interesting vehicles:

An unrestored 1976 Porsche 911 racecar. It was beautiful, tiny, and showing its age. The owner said it was worth about £250,000 and would be worth a significant sum once it was road-legal and tidied up. I admired his nerve in taking it on a track with inexperienced drivers like me to give it a shakedown.

An old articulated lorry. I've seen those before, but this one had an amazing system of gantries and contained six race prepared MX5's, an enormous amount of spare parts and tools, and a small workshop.

Richard "It's normally a Radical" B

Wednesday, 3 April 2019

It Wasn't Me

There are two forms of excuse which seem ubiquitous: "We didn't expect that to happen" and "It was somebody else's fault". My favourite examples are "There were complex socio-economic factors at work and nobody could have predicted every outcome" and "Some older boys made us do it." It turns out that there's one more universal excuse.

When I was in Texas we went to see a Led Zeppelin tribute band called Von Hindenburg in a little venue. They were the support band and we only had to make a little donation to see them. They were great. After they finished we carried on drinking and didn't leave. We expected to be thrown out, or to be asked to pay the full admission price to see the headline act (An 80's themed covers band called Molly and the Ringwalds). When we were discussing whether we had been grandfathered in, and what was going to happed both my brother and his daughter told me that all we had to say was "We're in the mellophone section."

My niece studied at LSU in Baton Rouge and would regularly watch the college football team. On game days the campus buildings are closed to the public (thousands of drunk football fans) but my brother and my niece were able to get past the security and into the music department (where they had no right to be) with those five words. "We're in the mellophone section"

Richard "Go Tigers" B

Monday, 25 March 2019


My father often used to say "There's nothing like the right tool for the job, and this is nothing like the right tool for the job."

One of my projects over the weekend was to make a bit of hardware for a drum kit. The top upright on the cymbal stands is a 12mm round bar. The rack-mount tambourine is designed to fit on a hexagonal bar. I had to manufacture the adapter.

What I wanted was a hex collet block, and a small milling machine with a vice dead square on the table. What I actually had has a vice, some files, and a ruler.

If you take a vernier gauge to what I produced it's embarrassingly inaccurate, but it looks good enough, and it works.

Richard "tool" B


I've just come back from a week visiting family in Texas. I was struck by (amongst many other things) how fragile human memory is.

My brother picked me up from the airport in a car identical in every way to the one he had last time, except for the colour of the paint. It was of course the same car and it's never been resprayed except in my flawed recollection.

After drinks, for our entertainment, my brother and his wife would sometimes two-step lovingly around the kitchen or demonstrate self-defence scenarios. My sister-in-law has recently taken a self defence class, and while I believe the class was taught sober, the techniques were demonstrated drunk. One morning she complained that she had bent her finger in her sleep. "Do you think" I asked "maybe it was when you hit him in the face?" Both of their faces lit up with the recollection of an event that had slipped their minds. During a self defence demo a downwards angled blow landed not on his chest and shoulder, but across his ear, cheek and jaw.

I played the part of the mugger while my sister-in-law was using the oven as an imaginary ATM. I thought that I had control of my victim for several seconds, I had hold of both of her wrists and had an arm tightly about her waist. She escaped my grip so effectively and lunged for me so fiercely that I couldn't help but swear and flinch away.

Richard "assailant" B

Tuesday, 5 March 2019

Played:2 Won:1 Lost:1

An update in the story of me disagreeing with the man form Caterham about my cooling system fault: He was right. I was wrong. My home made pressure tester wasn't man enough to show the fault and the critical tool turned out to be a mirror on a stick. I'm now having a replacement radiator built at considerable expense.

I have a history of disagreeing with or disregarding conventional wisdom. On one occasion I was at a barbeque ("grill" for my American readers (for my English readers "barbeque" means the anaerobic smoking/baking over geological timescales of cuts of meat that are too heavy to lift)) and somehow found myself doing all the cooking. There were various chunks of meat and vegetables that were supposed to be laced onto skewers and cooked. It struck me as self-evident that the different things needed different cooking times so I put all the mushrooms (for example) onto mushroom-only skewers and all the chicken onto chicken-only skewers, etc. I de-skewered the various (correctly cooked) chunks before they were served.

There was a lot of chat about whether what I had done was stupid or genius, weird or very very weird indeed. My oldest friend was also there and I remember him saying something along the lines of "This is no surprise. Literally everyone in the world knows how to make kebabs on a barbeque. Of course Richard would turn up and think 'I know a better way'."

Richard "new radiator" B