Sunday, 16 June 2019

I'm Better Than You

While we're a pair-bonded social species we still compete and organise ourselves into social hierarchies. We play competitive sports, watch televised singing contests and secretly judge our friends. I once got involved in a drunken "who's more upper class" competition and just recently one of my friends wanted a rematch on exactly that topic as he now has gout.

While I've never topped a squash ladder, lived in conspicuous opulence or stacked the skulls of my vanquished enemies there are two aspects of life where I'm pretty sure that I'm top of the tree. My vomit bucket is better than yours and my 6mm allen key is longer.

My vomit bucket is Dartington crystal and stylus engraved with my initials. It's heavy and stable, easy to wash up, has a wide mouth and is deep enough that there is virtually no splatter. It might have been sold as an ice-bucket for Champagne, but they clearly don't know what or how I drink.

My car recently got filled with water (in truth it wasn't even ankle deep) and I had to service the seat runners. It's impossible to get to both ends of the bolts that holds the seat in so I made this allen key extension.

notice the paunch in the bottom left of this photo - I need to eat less.

I've seen Ed China tackle the same problem by tack-welding the bolts to the seat runners but I can't weld and I don't want to give them any more excuse to rust. I've also heard rumours about a technique that involves having a friend inside the car while you're underneath with the spanner - but that doesn't sound practical.

Richard "call it a draw?" B

Tuesday, 11 June 2019

Party Weirdo

What do you call a scouser in a suit? - The accused.
In Leicester what do you call a smartly dressed woman from Nottingham? - The accused.

I've just come back from a lovely long weekend in Leicester, although it did include a hangover commensurate with coming home from a night of heavy drinking and being left unattended with three barrels of delicious beer.

When we were drinking in a nice little place (clean modern decor, modern cloudy craft beer with too much hops, organic carbon neutral ethically sourced scotch eggs etc.) we were approached by a smartly dressed woman who asked if she could sit and talk to us, she said that she'd had a hell of a day in court and wanted to have a drink. I assumed that she was a lawyer or a judge and that she would regale us with stories about the inner workings of the legal system and so I invited her to join us.

It very quickly became clear that she was very drunk and quite unhinged. What we learned was that Leicester's shit, it's all shit, court is shit and that it's all shit. She said that I looked overly gay, that one of my friends looked like a fucking copper and that the other looked like a tudor - and he wasn't even wearing his frock-coat and ruff collar! It turns out that she was only in there because she'd been thrown out of Wetherspoons!

We're a very democratic group and the two of us that wanted to leave got our way, while the one of us that wanted to buy tequila and see just how bizarre the evening could get was outvoted.

We had to go back to the same place later and retrieve a coat that we'd forgotten. Carol QC was still there but she was now asleep and we got the coat very carefully without waking her.

Richard "Steve Naive" B

Monday, 3 June 2019

Pet Wraith

A few months ago my sister rescued a mistreated black and white cat from a junkie with mental problems. This isn't the first time she's done exactly this (same junkie – different black and white cat). She left the cat in our mum's care at our mum's house. Mum forgot that she was looking after a cat, left the back door open and the cat promptly escaped ( the Los Angeles underground. Today, still wanted by the government she survives as...)

However, after about a fortnight of putting up posters, searching gardens and garages, leaving food outside and general searching something strange started to happen. My mum would hear movement in the middle of the night things would get moved about in the kitchen - a chicken bone was stripped and left on the floor. My sister, the cleaner and I all searched the house scrupulously for a cat (or as I suspected rats) and found nothing. I didn't know anyone who could lend me a trap camera, but we started leaving out cat food and a litter tray. The signs were that a completely invisible cat was living with my mum and that it only materialised late at night when the house was dark and quiet.

Over the months the cat has become less scared and there have been fleeting sightings of it. It will even sometimes approach my mum in the night, but it can vanish into thin air at will.

At the weekend we made a breakthrough. The cat likes to hide in cupboards, and the airing cupboard ceiling has a whole in it where there used to be water pipes. The cat can clamber into the loft from the airing cupboard and it lives up there undisturbed and undetectable.

Richard "Ghost Dreamies" B

Tuesday, 28 May 2019

A Bitter Heart that Bides it's Time and Bites

Contains Spoilers. Stop reading now if you haven't finished playing "The Secret of Monkey Island" or you haven't finished watching "Game of Thrones".

In 1990 or 1991 my friend and I deliberately spoiled the end of a computer game for his (annoying) younger brother. The Secret of Monkey Island was a funny and compelling adventure game. The main twist is that it's not actually set in the piracy era Caribbean but in a theme park. We told him that and I think we might also have told him how to solve the final couple of puzzles. He swore revenge on us and promised that he'd ruin something dear to us.

During some football tournament that my friend was watching a day behind real-time in Seattle he got a spoiler email from his younger brother with the final scoreline and a description of the critical goal. The match was ruined.

Last week the final episode of Game of Thrones was broadcast late Sunday night. I tend to watch it on a Wednesday. On the Tuesday morning there was an email waiting for me from the younger brother. The subject line was about the lottery syndicate and I opened the email to read these seven brilliantly chosen words.

John Snow kills Daenerys, Bran becomes king.

It's concise enough that you read the whole thing before you can flinch away. It's almost every important plot point from the conclusion of around 70 hours of television.

Richard "Revenge is a dish best served very cold indeed" B

Sunday, 19 May 2019

Lawnmower Preservation

The elderly lawnmower at my mum's house is getting harder and harder to use. Every aspect of the carburettor is worn out and it is always either too lean or too rich. My brother correctly suggested that I should replace it. After a bit of searching I found a cheap Chinese carb that would fit and that was for a 2-stroke engine. 3 weeks and £18 later it had been shipped from Shenzhen and I started fitting it. Other than being smaller and less well made it is virtually identical to the old British made one from the 50's. The layout and operating principle is identical and all the controls are the same. It has to be a direct copy. It's now 2019 and this new carb has a tickler for God's sake. I can't believe that anyone who isn't me, an OAP or a vintage motorcycle enthusiast knows what that is, let alone how or when to use it.


And new.

Surprise surprise! The throttle cable doesn't fit and I had to make a new nipple.

It works after a fashion but it is running very rich. I often have to clean and dry the plug to start it.

It's sooty and oily after I cut the grass.

This is what the main jet looks like and I now have a selection of sizes on order from the scooter racing people.

Now I just need to find out where the local garden machinery dynamometer is...

Richard "trial and error stoichiometry" B

Tuesday, 14 May 2019

Track Day Review: Bedford Autodrome

This week I had my first visit to Bedford Autodrome with Javeline Trackdays and we used the "GT" circuit.

In some ways it's the best circuit I've been to, but it also has serious drawbacks.

It advertises itself as the safest circuit in the UK and I bet it is. It's on a huge flat plane of grassland and there is literally nothing to hit. The track is smooth and wide and has many concrete runoffs. If you do leave the track you just slide safely to a halt on the miles and miles of grass. This means that there's also nothing to see. There are no undulations and no landmarks so it is very easy to become disorientated. It's a long circuit with a lot of corners and I found it difficult to learn. It was probably lunchtime before I was confident about what gear I wanted for each corner before I got there.

You get to do a lot of driving. The circuit is over 4 miles long so they let 40 cars out at a time. Moreover there are so many crossways and access roads that they can often recover a car under yellow flags. (They call this a live-snatch). We didn't have a single red flag the whole time I was there.

Overtaking is easy. There are lots of wide straights so it's easy to let faster cars past.

These last two points mean that you burn a lot of fuel. I've got a frugal naturally aspirated 1600cc engine, I didn't spend that much time on track and I burned about 45l. Fuel is available on site but it's quite pricey.

The cafe is excellent and large - but nowhere near the pit lane.

The problem with Bedford - in my view - is parking. There simply isn't a paddock. There's one car park for trailers and towing vehicles. Another which counts as the assembly area but which is a long way from the track and only just has enough room for all the track cars. There are a few garages on the pitlane and if you have one of those you're laughing. There is barely enough room on the pitlane to park all the track cars so you're not allowed to stake out a spot and leave your tools and spares there. By the end of the day it looked like a refugee camp where everyone had piled bags and toolboxes outside the pit lane cafe or against someone else's garage.

Richard "travel guide" B