Tuesday 30 June 2015

cackling hags club

file under: Embarrassing social situations

I like women and I dislike sweeping generalisations about large segments of the population, but even so I find that groups of women have a tendency to cackle and to be loud and shrill.

The place where I work has many internal fire doors that are closed automatically by strong springs. We're not allowed to wedge them open, but the doors being closed is so annoying that some of the doors have been fitted with a device that defeats the closer. The door-close-defeat fails safe so the door is allowed to close if it runs out of batteries, or it hasn't got a good grip on the floor. They also let the door close if they hear the sound of a fire alarm.

Last week I was in the kitchen at work talking to a couple of the women (my nemesis and one of her minions), we got into a conversation about whether it is ever possible to look stylish while smoking in the bath. Their laughter was so loud and piercing that the fire door mistook it for the fire alarm and quietly swung closed. I couldn't have said it better myself.

Richard "shhh" B

Tuesday 23 June 2015


file under: Engineering boasting

My dad was a very practical man. When he ran a boatyard he was often called upon to provide very high quality paint and varnish finishes. His touchstone was that you should be able to read your wristwatch in fresh paintwork. This week I painted a panelled door (repeat after me: "edges, mouldings, panels, short rails, muntins, log rails"). I'm pretty pleased with the finish that I achieved. Rather less proud that there are now painty fingerprints on my laptop because I had to look up the technique half way through the job. I'm really embarrassed that the next day when I looked at my work again I had missed an entire panel. I had gone round it very neatly, painted the mouldings nicely and just forgotten to paint the big flat bit in the middle.

This week I was also deeply emasculated by a Citroen C1, a young woman with a flat tyre, and the mechanic who lives across the road. The woman asked me to help her change a wheel, and I had no difficulty loosening the bolts, jacking the car, or removing the bolts. The wheel was so tight and rusted to the hub that I couldn't pull it off. I even tried putting a pad of wood behind the rim and hitting it with a heavy hammer. I eventually gave up and asked the professional to help us. He used the same hammer, the same piece of wood, and a very similar technique and removed it without difficulty. While this was going on the owner of the car was (good naturedly) taunting me about not being strong enough. She did buy me some beer the next day to say thankyou.

Richard "The watch I wear when I paint is 4 inches across and has 1000 candlepower markers" B

Tuesday 16 June 2015


file under: Embarrassing social situations

One of my regular readers told me that every single article I've written for this blog falls into one of four categories: "Embarrassing courtship situations", "Embarrassing social situations", "Engineering boasting", and "Musical boasting". He only wants to read the first two.

Last week I met three experts.

When one of my friend's cars wouldn't start the man who lives opposite came out of his house to help. He started the conversation with the words "Crank sensor". He had correctly diagnosed the fault without even leaving his kitchen, and I appreciate how helpful and direct he was. However I hope that stating the root cause of the problem I'm having doesn't catch on as a way of starting conversations. I'd much prefer things like "Hello" and "Are you looking for anything in particular?" to "Socially awkward" and "No sense of style".

The second "expert" owns a house on my street. It is identical to mine and has had a For Sale sign outside it for the last few weeks. When I saw him I asked him if he'd sold it, and how much for. He gave me a wildly inflated estimate of its value and then explained that it was the fault of the estate agent and nothing to do with the asking price that meant he didn't get a single enquiry in six weeks. His understanding of the housing market is different to mine.

The third expert has a god given gift, and years of practice, in making fun of me. I have been decorating one of my bedrooms and when he came to my house on Saturday evening I said "Let me show you what I've spent all day doing." As quick as a flash he said "I don’t want to watch you doing that."

Richard "unplug it and plug it in again" B

Tuesday 9 June 2015


Like everybody else who has curated my late father's lawnmower, the time came for me to build it a new exhaust pipe. Tradition plays as much part in the process as good engineering. Since the late 70s the exhaust pipes have been made from paint tins and wire wool wadding. You cut a hole in the bottom of the tin to match the manifold and bolt it in place. You drill holes in the lid for the gas to escape and push it into place after the tin has been fitted.

The "silencer" is poorly supported and the standard failure mode is work hardening and tearing of the paint tin near to the manifold. My father made the last "silencer" in the early 2000s and supported it by screwing it to the first stage baffle inside the tin. It has lasted more than a decade, but when this one gave up the ghost it also destroyed the first stage baffle.

Before making the new "silencer" I silver soldered the baffle back together. It's now something akin to precious-metal-crochet and the mower is probably worth stealing because of the large silver content in the exhaust system. I also added the oak block supporting the tin and the big jubilee clip.

Richard "power band" B

Tuesday 2 June 2015

£500 per tonne

This weekend I did a tiny bit of life-laundry and got rid of a load of old clothes. I took them to the place that buys unwanted clothes for 50p per kilo. At that price I assumed that they would take any old junk, in fact as they buy by weight I assumed that they were going to sort and shred the fabric and sell the fibre to spinning mills, and so I put in an old bedsheet too.

The proprietor was a Polish gent operating from the back of a shipping container. Firstly he questioned me aggressively about whether they were my clothes to sell, and whether I knew what was in the bag. He then emptied the bag and rejected every single item. "Torn. Worn out. Dirty. No good. Torn. No good, Not clothes. No good. Dirty..."

I'd like to say that I've never been so insulted in my life, but sadly that would be a lie. It was definitely the most embarrassing attempt (and failure) to earn £3 that I've ever made.

Richard "Most stylish person at the table" B