Monday, 11 January 2021

Port Tongs

 My port tongs are finished.

I agree that I could have done a better job on the profile of the handles, but I have no suitable power tools. It was done with a hacksaw and a bastard file. Any further improvements would require hours of filing.

The welding was done quickly and inexpensively by the wonderful Chris Millar and sons Ltd. They said that if I were happy with their work I should recommend them. I do. To help you remember the name I'll leave this here: "Chris Millar - No! - We will not let you go (let him go). Chris Millar - will not let you go (let him go)".

It's hard to test the tongs and practice because each attempt involves a bottle of port that's good enough to have a thick walled neck and a driven cork.

These two videos show my partially successful first test

Richard "Colin Furzehatt" B

Monday, 4 January 2021

Brave New World (TV series review)

 This weekend I re-read "Brave New World" for the second or third time. I had recently watched the TV adaptation and I wanted to see how they compared. I first read the book as a schoolchild and saw it as a science fictions story full off incredible inventions and a different way of life. I read it later as a kind of companion to "1984" - here's one dystopian vision of the future, here's another. This time I think the book is about society, firstly how to control or engineer it, and more importantly about being excluded from it.

I seldom complain that an author expects too much of his reader, but in this case I felt a bit out of my depth. John the savage was taught to read, but the only things he had to read were what his mother could write, her employee handbook, and the complete works of Shakespear. His dialogue borrows heavily from Shakespear quotations, but as I don't know most of them I felt I was missing out. The four words "told by an idiot" did tip me off that he was quoting, but it also made me realise how few of the quotations I was probably spotting.

The TV adaptation did a fantastic job of bringing the world to life. Lenina, the fertilizing room, New London, ubiquitous helicopter travel, everything was better visualised than in my own mind. They made some changes to the world, but I didn’t mind them. The savages were white-trash Americans rather than American Indians. The world controller was a woman. A load of racial stuff had been removed.

Unfortunately the story had been butchered. They had added a load of unnecessary action and adventure to rescuing John the savage from the reservation. They had overcomplicated the riot. Instead of the rather dry discussion about keeping society in order, failed self rule, and sending free-thinkers to islands, they have added a load of pointless and confusing artificial intelligence and simulation theory elements.

My view is that the series was ruined, but that if it was about half as long and had just followed the source material it would have been a masterpiece.

Richard "The anime got ahead of the manga" B

Tuesday, 29 December 2020


I'd like to think of myself as the gentleman's Colin Furze.

Over Christmas I opened an old bottle of port. The procedure is complicated enough in that you have to stand it upright a week before you open it to let the sediment settle to the bottom of the bottle. There's a lead foil, a paper seal, a wax plug and then the cork. I did manage to draw the cork but it was degraded and quite a lot of it crumbled into the wine.

The way to open a bottle like this is with port tongs. You grab the neck of the bottle with red hot tongs and then shock it with a cloth soaked in ice cold water. The neck of the bottle should snap off with the cork intact.

I'm too tight to spend a hundred pounds on a tool for opening wine very occasionally, so I have started making my own. Working the jaws and cutting and bending the tongs is nearly done, but I need someone to help with the welding. I normally use silver solder for joining metal, but as these need to withstand red heat that's not going to work.

Richard "I see you have constructed a new tongs. Your skills are complete" B

Tuesday, 22 December 2020


 Lots of areas of knowledge have their own special vocabularies, and you don't know how ignorant of them you are until you need to talk to somebody. My mum is elderly and getting unstable on her feet so I have been putting up bannisters at her house. WRONG. It turns out that bannisters are complicated pieces of wood that sit on top of a line of spindles. I've been putting up handrails, screwed to the wall with right angle brackets. I needed to buy a length of suitable wood, round with a small flat on the bottom to screw the brackets on. I didn't do well at the timber merchant because I tried "bannister" and "handrail" and then a description of its purpose. I now know that that moulding is called "mopstick" and that it's cheap and easy to obtain in softwood. And that you are expected to know the name of what you're trying to buy.

Richard "Newel Post" B

Monday, 14 December 2020

Visor Down

A few events from the past lead inexorably to me looking like a bit of a fool at the weekend.

We'll take the introduction of domesticated horses to Europe as read.

Horses allowed us to develop heavier armour and weapons, so we got plate armour and lances for knights on horseback.

In the 50s one of the specifications for the Honda Cub (scooter) was that it could be operated one handed so that the noodle shop delivery driver could carry food while he rode it. It ended up with an automatic clutch and the rear brake under the right foot.

In the 80s you have my brother's cautionary story about carrying a long object crosswise on a motorbike (Ford Capri halfshaft, Kawasaki Z1000) and nearly being dashed into the road with a broken pelvis.

At the start of this year I bought a modern Honda Supercub.

A few weeks ago my sister helped me with some housework. My not owning a feather duster on a long stick lead to some criticism and an abortive attempt to hoover the ceiling.

I'm sure you can all see where this is going: On Saturday I became the crappiest parody of a steampunk knight as I brought my new duster back from the shops. I was on my scooter, one end of a long duster was tucked into my armpit, the other sticking out forwards over the handlebars. No I didn’t manage to stick any discarded cans or litter, but I was sorely tempted to try.

Richard "Black Knight" B

Monday, 7 December 2020


 My character is such that I will often rashly develop a lifelong habit. For example I always put glasses away upside down. This is because I once had a glass of wine ruined when I pulled out a wineglass which had accumulated a layer of dust in the bowl. I also always keep the petrol receipt so I can make doubly sure that I put the right fuel in the vehicle.

From now on beer bottles have to go into the fridge top first. It's quite amazing but the crown cork on a horizontal beer bottle can make a ratchet. The fridge door has shelves and each shelf has a little fence to stop things from falling off. I don't know how many times it happened, but the fence on the top shelf of the door (The "cheese and envelopes" shelf if you've seen the symbols on my friend's fridge) engaged with the rim of the crown cork on a beer bottle and pulled the bottle outwards a little way when I opened the door. On Sunday I opened the fridge and a bottle of beer leapt out at me - seemingly of its own volition.

I caught the bottle and took it as a sign that the universe wanted me to have beer rather than tea.

I think the envelope is supposed to be a wrapped block of butter.

Richard "pawl" B