Tuesday 27 December 2016

Do You Believe in the Clean-Arse Fairy?

I don't have children so I have never played the tooth-fairy and I have very rarely been Father Christmas. This year I went to a rented farmhouse for Christmas, it was preposterously over-full of knick-knacks, clutter, and my family. As Father Christmas I put money into stocking for my nieces and pseudo-nieces while they slept.

The only other time I have been Father Christmas was when I bought my mother a bicycle. I hid it in a friends of mine's garage so that it would be a surprise. On Christmas Eve I got absolutely wankered and then tried to quietly hide it under the tree. In fact I fell through the front door with the bike on my shoulder and we both clattered into the radiator.

This Christmas the farmhouse wasn't particularly well stocked with loo-roll. By the end of Christmas day we were already trading and consolidating our stocks. On Boxing day morning I went to the supermarket for supplies. As well as bread, milk and loo-roll I bought knickers and a top for my oldest niece who had been wearing the same clothes for 72 hours after she was separated from her luggage.

She appreciated the gift that I left by her bed while she slept, but as it contained loo-roll and knickers it did seem disturbingly arse-centric.

Richard "lace trim, fully lined gusset" B

Tuesday 20 December 2016


The Sebag-Montefiore's are a wealthy and powerful family full of bankers, priests and authors. Although we don't know any of them, my family feels a certain kinship with them for a couple of reasons. Like us they have an unlikely, long and hard-to-spell surname, and my father once accidentally wore a coat home from a party that belonged to Charles Sebag-Montefiore. The coat was apparently almost identical to his own but of higher quality and it had a name tape sewn in it!

I went to a very generous company Christmas party on Friday and accidentally wore someone else's coat home. Sadly the surname associated with it is the much more down-to-earth "Smith". They are both black full length wool overcoats with four buttons. They both have a little chain instead of a hanging loop. I didn't realise my mistake until I was at home and started going through the pockets. The coat's real owner thinks they're so different that he didn't even bother to pick mine up.

Richard "blind or drunk – you decide" B

Tuesday 13 December 2016


At the beginning of the 90s a phrase was coined: "If the next song's crap I'm going home". In context it made perfect sense. Satellite television was rare and expensive and only one of our friends had access. We would go to his house and watch "The Simpsons" and MTV (which at the time showed music videos). When it started to get late somebody would announce that "If the next song's crap I'm going home".

The phrase is still in common currency. Last night we were binging on Amazon's "Grand Tour" when one of my friends announced "If the next episode's crap I'm going home".

It reminds me fondly of the very first disagreement I had with one of my girlfriends. On a Saturday morning I used to listen to "Sounds of the 60s" on Radio 2. My girlfriend had stayed over on Friday night and we were still in bed. I said "If the next song’s crap I'll go downstairs and make you breakfast". During the intro to Roy Orbison's "Pretty Woman" - which I think is a good song - she said "Good. I'll have two pieces of toast and a cup of coffee please".

Richard "if the next blog's crap I'm unsubscribing" B

Tuesday 6 December 2016

Rose Tinted Spectacles

This weekend I spent several hours in the pub talking nonsense with my friends. One of the things we found that we missed was a better class of thief that existed in the 70s and 80s. When I used to do paper-rounds my bicycle was invaluable to me and at one time my brother gave me a pair of high quality light-alloy pedals. The pedals got stolen - not the bike, just the pedals. The thief must have taken a fancy to them, gone home and got the right sized spanner, and then stolen them while leaving the rest of the bike intact.

Better yet one of my brothers had the fuel tank stolen from his motorbike (a highly desirable Yamaha FS1E). We can't believe that the tank was drained and removed while the bike was outside our house, so the thieves must have taken it away, drained the tank, stolen it, and then pushed the rest of the bike back to where they took it from.

And another thing

When I contract ringworm or lice, or my house is infested with moths or weevils I get nothing but piss taking about living in the wrong century (or a bleak Victorian novel). Now one of my friends has taken to her bed with whooping cough she gets nothing but dignified sympathy. It's discrimination.

Richard "reminiscing isn't what it used to be" B

Tuesday 29 November 2016

Re-living the dream

This weekend I was overcome by petty jealousy. When I was younger I used to play electric guitar well, and I used to perform in a band at pubs, weddings and parties. When we were good it was fantastic fun and I still miss it. It sounds implausible when you look at me, but I swear I also used to go out with the sexiest woman on the entire South West peninsular.

On Friday I was in a pub and there was a covers band playing all the songs that we used to play and having the time of their lives. Moreover the chap who fronted the band is the one that my old girlfriend went out with as soon as she'd finished with me. And he's younger than me. And better looking. And he still has a full head of hair. Damn him!

I would like to say that the band was terrible but they weren't, they were moderately good. As is traditional in pub covers bands they were too loud and had pathetic dynamics. They also had atrocious tempo. I practice with a metronome every morning and I know just how shonky my timekeeping is but theirs was embarrassing. At one point I made a vicious, technical and silent heckle. I caught the drummer's eye, picked up an imaginary conductors baton and beat out a steady 4:4 while he wandered miles above and below it.

Richard "calm down, it's all in the past" B

Sunday 20 November 2016

How to File

There are loads of things to read on the internet, but how to use a file doesn't seem to be one of them. Everybody who can really file has been shown how to do it and has had plenty of practice. Like all hand skills it's really done in the brain. It's a surprisingly meditative experience.

The first thing to know is how to hold a file. Both your thumbs are on top and your fingers are curled around underneath. You press down with your thumbs and pull up with your fingers as though you are trying to bend the file. Of course you don't really bend the file but you have to pretend that you are. As best as I can understand it you are putting pre-load on your muscles and tendons so that you don't snatch or jerk them as you move the file.
Stand with your front foot underneath the vice.

  • Press the front of the file onto the job and wiggle it around until you are certain that it is flat against the workpiece.
  • Clear you mind, for the next couple of seconds there has to be no thought in your head other than pushing the file forwards smoothly and keeping it flat. Try to imagine a point at exactly the same height as the job and push the file smoothly towards it.
  • Lift the file up, bring it back and put it down again with the front of the file touching the job. Don't draw the file backwards, the teeth are only strong in the push direction.
  • Repeat.

Every few stroke you need to check your work. Have you removed enough material? Have you taken more off at one edge?

Every few dozen strokes you might need to clear swarf (called pins) from the file with a card (a very fine wire brush). If you are filing something soft like aluminium you can discourage the pins from sticking to the file by filling it with ordinary blackboard chalk.

It's impossibly easy to remove material from the edges and much harder to get it from the middle. Only try to file the middle of the job and the edges will happen naturally by accident.

This is what I made, its a 1/2" square drive extension to reach onto the nut on the ball joint between the upper wishbone and the upright on the front suspension of my car.

It's impossible to file something perfectly flat. When I started I was putting a crown on every surface with a radius about like a grapefruit.  Since my brother -who's like a milling machine- gave me this lesson it's somewhere between space-hopper and igloo.

Richard "or just buy one" B

Tuesday 15 November 2016


Friends of mine are celebrating their ten year wedding anniversary. That means that it's ten years since my most pointless and impotent act of rebellion.

Their wedding was in Florida, and as I was the best man I had little choice but to buy an airfare, accommodation, a present and (after the dry cleaners destroyed mine) a new summer suit. What really annoyed me was that I had to find a way to get my effects and my suit, uncrumpled, to another continent. I used to recognise my luggage on the carousel by having such an ugly bag that no one else would pick it up, or by tying something garish around it. When I owned my own combination suit-carrier-and-grip I realised that I had forever lost my youth. To distinguish it from the other characterless luggage I bought a load of patches from a leather jacket place and spent two nights with needle and thread sewing on cannabis leaves, confederate flags and rock band logos. It didn't make me feel any younger.

Richard "Club International Club, International" B

Tuesday 8 November 2016

Three Short Articles

I'm not normally one to be interested in a "quarrel in a far away country between people of whom we know nothing" but I really hope that Hilary Clinton wins the US presidential election. My reasoning is simple. On the same day that I read a Scott Adams blog suggesting that Trump would win by a handsome margin I walked past a bookmakers offering him at 11/4 and I had £40 in my pocket. I didn't quite dare place the bet. I'll regret it sorely if he wins.


A friend of mine lives right on the other side of Plymouth (in an area that I don't know well), but there is a bus service that takes me virtually to her door. After an evening of drinking and smoking she asked me where I catch the bus to get home.
"Down on the main road."
"Which way? Which side?"
"So you know where the wedding dress shop is. Turn right there and it’s just a little bit further."
"Past the wedding dress shop?"
"Past the kebab shop?"
"Past the social club?"
"Yeah it's just along there."
"Past the bus stop?"
"No. What? Wait. You think my set of directions for how to walk to where I'm going to catch the bus involves walking past a bus stop?"
Ten minutes of good natured cackling followed.


On Sunday I tried to follow a recipe to make a lemon tart. I made an excellent job of the pastry case, but forgot half of the ingredients for the filling (including half a pint of cream). I made what can only be described as a lemon quiche.

Richard "second worst dessert ever" B

Tuesday 1 November 2016

Road Safety

Homer Simpson has a theory that the human brain can only hold so many facts and that each new one pushes out an old one. He gives the example of taking a home wine-making class and forgetting how to drive. Something very similar happened to me when I learned how to make tiramisu.

Years ago I went to a cookery class on an adult education scheme. It turned out to be nearly impossible to take all the ingredients, utensils, containers, apron, etc. to and from the class by motorcycle so I used to borrow my mum's car. One of the ingredients of the tiramisu was a mixture of cold black coffee and brandy (it should have been marsala wine but I couldn't find any). I didn't get the quantities right and had about ½ a pint of this mixture left over when I was clearing up. It seemed a waste to put it down the sink so, without thinking, I put it down my throat instead.

By the time I finished washing up I must have been half cut, but I didn't realise it. On the way home I ran my mum's car into the kerb so hard that I destroyed the tyre and had to get the tracking fixed.

Richard "think before you wash-up before you drive" B

Wednesday 26 October 2016

Get Back Together

I have known my best friends since our school days. This weekend I went to a 25 year school re-union but he didn’t. He asked me to report back to him. This is the report that I will send.

Xxxx Xxxxxx        Pretentious and self-assured
Xxxx Xxxxxx        ?
Xxxx Xxxxxx        Looks considerably less like a weasel. Similar professional life to mine. I intend to stay in touch.
Xxxx Xxxxxx        Scrawney and fashionable. Funny, friendly, still rides motorbikes. Making childish jokes and drawing cocks on name badges.
Xxxx Xxxxxx        And like all self-styled colourful characters he is in fact impotent.
Xxxx Xxxxxx        ?
Xxxx Xxxxxx        Has Aged.
Xxxx Xxxxxx        Friendly and talkative. Is something to do with Army bases. Remembers me fondly. Sounds much more Scottish than I ever remember
Xxxx Xxxxxx        Is heavier. Friendly and funny.
Xxxx Xxxxxx        ?
Xxxx Xxxxxx        ?
Xxxx Xxxxxx        Who was very plain, and absolutely must be in her early 40s like the rest of us. Improbably sexy.
Xxxx Xxxxxx        Much the same.
Xxxx Xxxxxx        Unchanged.
Xxxx Xxxxxx        ?
Xxxx Xxxxxx        Charming, as shapely as ever, wearing her age honestly.
Xxxx Xxxxxx        Annoying.
Xxxx Xxxxxx        Unchanged.
Xxxx Xxxxxx         ?
Xxxx Xxxxxx         Not as moley
Xxxx Xxxxxx         ?
Xxxx Xxxxxx         ?
Xxxx Xxxxxx         ?
Xxxx Xxxxxx         Slightly different haircut. Otherwise unchanged
Xxxx Xxxxxx         Looks like Walter White now. I didn't have a lot to talk to him about.
Xxxx Xxxxxx         Unchanged.
Xxxx Xxxxxx         ?
Xxxx Xxxxxx         Tall thin and ginger. Unsurprisingly
Xxxx Xxxxxx         ?
Xxxx Xxxxxx         ?
Xxxx Xxxxxx         ?
Xxxx Xxxxxx         Is now a woman. Looks a bit like Linda Belcher's sister
Xxxx Xxxxxx         ?
Xxxx Xxxxxx         As you would expect - Enormous and enormously camp
Xxxx Xxxxxx         ?
Xxxx Xxxxxx         ?
Xxxx Xxxxxx         Looks like an old lady. Does something in the legal profession.
Xxxx Xxxxxx         I'm basically as hopelessly infatuated with her as I was in the 5th year.
Xxxx Xxxxxx         ?
Xxxx Xxxxxx         Remembered me and my struggles with the English language staff. I have no recollection of her
Xxxx Xxxxxx         ?
Xxxx Xxxxxx         ?
Xxxx Xxxxxx         Still resents the reverend Sneary.
Xxxx Xxxxxx         Not rocking back and forth. Seemed perfectly pleasant.
Xxxx Xxxxxx         ?
Xxxx Xxxxxx         Almost unchanged.
Xxxx Xxxxxx         ?
Xxxx Xxxxxx         Fat
Xxxx Xxxxxx         ?

Richard "Boley" B

Wednesday 19 October 2016

Good Advice

In the last week I've heard two different bits of dating advice for women. They weren't what I would have expected.

A (flat chested) female friend of mine told me about some advice that she received in the 90's. When she started going out with a man her best friend (who's also not particularly booby) told her not to wear her Wonderbra. "What? Why?". "He'll only be disappointed in the future."

At the weekend I overheard a male friend of mine (the man-slut drummer) giving advice to a woman. It also had gestures. "Cup the balls, work the shaft".

Richard "I know which date I would rather have been on" B

Tuesday 11 October 2016


Dear Guernsey Woollens Ltd.

I must complain to you about the quality of your sweaters. I have been using one of your traditional guernseys for motorcycling, and while the fit and warmth are good, I am sorely disappointed with the quality and longevity of the garment. It has frayed at the neck and cuffs, torn at the hem and the knitting has worn thin at the chest. When it started to show signs of wear I turned it around and wore it back-to-front to extend its life. Even so I only got ten years of daily use before it was completely worn out. I took it back to the shop but was unable to get a refund or a replacement, in fact they charged me full price for a new one!

Richard "yarmo" B

Tuesday 4 October 2016


Some of my friends portray me as some kind of Rain Man/Beautiful Mind/Sheldon Cooper weirdo. It's not true, but there are hints of accuracy in it. I certainly struggle with things like knowing whether people are taking the piss, and when I shouldn't tell people the unvarnished truth. I also like understanding systems and finding patterns.

When I went on Holiday to Porto, as well as the food, drink, history and sights I particularly enjoyed the (Portuguese-only) ticket machine at the metro station. By the end of the holiday I knew how to use most of the transport system and managed to add all-day-metro-travel and a one way trip on the funicular to an existing ticket. My friend said it was like going on holiday to Bletchley Park with Alan Turing.

At the weekend I found myself in a very busy KFC waiting for order number 2203. I had heard about half a dozen previous numbers and when order 8380 was called my friend asked "Do you think the order numbers are random?". To me they seemed anything but random. "No, they are a two digit operator code followed by a two digit sequence id. The bloke is operator 83, she's 40 and the girl with the glasses is 22. We're her third order since she came on shift. That couple will have just got order number 2204. The next one they call will be 2202, 8381, or 40-something.

Richard "I didn't even know Kentucky had its own football club" B

Tuesday 27 September 2016

Walk Fat Boy Walk

One of my very good friends has Chronic Myeloid Leukemia. After his diagnosis he was helped by, and was very impressed by the charity Bloodwise. On Saturday I walked from Exeter to Dawlish to raise money for them. While he sponsored me, one of my colleagues said that it didn't sound like much of a challenge, and that I should at least do it barefoot, or with a hat made out of a pineapple, or something. It was a long walk, and I now have blistered feet and a bloody bruise under a toenail. My sponsor will be pleased to know that I did have to do battle with two of nature's most fearsome foes: The sea, and a wittering old lady.

The last section of the walk was along the seawall at Dawlish. It was blowing about force 6 onshore and the waves were breaking over the wall. I didn't get swept to my death, but I finished the walk drenched head to foot with seawater.

Most of the people on the walk were lovely but going too slowly for me. (They were generally walking with some combination of children, dogs, and bloodbourne cancers). I ended up at the front and absolutely unable to avoid talking to a boring old woman. She went on and on about herself, how the walk should have been advertised, standards in journalism, standards in teaching and the decline of Exeter. I found her so irritating that whatever subject she started banging on about I would take the most opposite and offensive viewpoint that I could. Sadly she was absolutely un-wind-up-able and despite an hour's concerted effort I failed to provoke an argument.

Thank you very much to everybody who sponsored me. It really is a worthy cause.

Richard "nobody said I had to be polite or magnanimous" B

Sunday 11 September 2016

TMax Fever

The Yamaha T-MAX is susceptible to a disease where it won't restart in hot weather. Mine developed the disease and I thought that it was a battery problem. I was wrong. This is everything that I know for sure about T-MAX Fever: In essence it is "The bike will start after a few hours. Go and buy an endoscope"

(This relates to the XP500, I don't know if any of it holds true for the newer XP530)

  • If you turn the ignition on while the stop/run switch is set to run, then the fuel pump should run for 2 seconds. You can hear the relay click behind the headlamp, and you can hear the fuel pump run under the front of the saddle.
  • During a bout of T-MAX fever the relay clicks but the fuel pump doesn't run.
  • Whatever the problem is, it exists within the fuel tank. I managed to disconnect the fuel line and check that the pump was getting power - it still didn't run until the bike had cooled down for several hours.
  • The fuel pump runs all the time that the engine is running. A fuel pressure regulator valve inside the tank directs most of this fuel back into the tank, the fuel line to the injectors should be pressurised to 2.5bar.
  • The fuel tank contains a single complicated unit comprising the filter, pump, pressure regulator, fuel level sender, wiring, and connectors.
The motor is on the left next to the filter. The F.P.R is just visible on the right below the main column.
  • Yamaha calls this whole unit the "fuel pump" and they don't sell the individual components. They charge about £400 for the unit. The thieving bastards.
  • It is easy to get a replacement pump to fit into this unit.
  • It is nearly impossible to get a replacement F.P.R for this unit. Polini sells one (part number 1730001) that runs at 3.5 bar rather than 2.5 bar. It seems to have the same dimensions as a F.P.R. from an old Toyota MR2 but that has an even higher fuel pressure pressure.
  • During correct operation petrol pisses out of the F.P.R and runs back into the tank.
  • If I owned an endoscope I could have checked that this was happening by simply stuffing it into the tank through the filler - I don't.
  • On my bike the F.P.R had seized - unfortunately my attempt to "free" the valve destroyed it.
This is what I believe happened:
  1. Innumerate environmentalists persuaded everyone that petrol should be laced with ethanol.
  2. Galvanic corrosion between the different metals seized the F.P.R.
  3. The pump has been working against a solid column of fluid, labouring and cavitating and eventually overheating.
  4. The hot pump just about carries on spinning, but won't restart once it's stopped.
I have fitted a new (second hand) unit to my bike, judging by what I've read it's still from the susceptible batch. I might fit a fuel pressure take-off to the fuel line and buy a gauge but that is looking rather difficult. If the pump gets noisy, or if I have fever problems again I will rush out and buy an endoscope and observe the F.P.R. I'll keep my readers informed.

Richard "Everybody's got the Fever" B

Tuesday 6 September 2016


My favourite motorbike was a Kawasaki GT550. They fitted and suited me and their reliability was legendary. They were blessed with lazy and benign handling characteristics, they had a multi-function display that would have looked futuristic in the 80's and self-cancelling indicators with tactile feedback.

I called mine "The Old Faithful" and I rode nearly a quarter of a million miles on it. The only times that it didn't take me to where I wanted to go were when it was stolen and when it had a flat tyre. It had a shaft drive running in an oil bath so it never once asked me for a new chain and sprocket. It broke a couple of clutch cables, but I was able to start it in gear and carry on riding it with clutchless changes. About half way through its life I took the frame out and had it powder coated. It had a twin-coil lost-spark ignition system so when one of the coils went wrong I could ride it home on two cylinders. I think the worst fault was when the steering head bearings went rusty and stiff. It was almost impossible to balance but I carried on taking it to work while the bearings were on order.

Compare that to my Yamaha T-MAX which is less than 4 years old and has 22,500 miles on the clock. It has developed a serious and expensive fuel injection fault and every time it gets hot it strands me at my destination for a few hours while the (submerged) fuel pump cools down.

Richard "It's like that one girlfriend that you never really get over." B

Wednesday 31 August 2016

All's Fair

My barber is a very beautiful woman. I can truthfully say that the last time I saw her I got her soaking wet and made her scream. Sadly the experience involved a trip in an open top car, it rained and I nearly crashed.

A few days later she texted to thank me for a lovely surprise, and to tell me how sweet I am. Her message ended with numerous lower case x's

My compulsive honesty got the better of me and I admitted that I had no idea what surprise she was talking about. It turns out that another of her customers, who shares my Christian name, had sent her flowers. At least for a few minutes she thought they were from me.

Richard "bollocks is honesty the best policy" B

Wednesday 24 August 2016

Castle Combe

This weekend I did a track day at Castle Combe in the car that I built. It behaved impeccably, the car, my passenger and I came back unscathed (although the soft-top doesn't look too clever at 115mph and the brakes got nearly red hot).

The track marshals communicate with the drivers by flag signals which we had to learn. Track days are strictly non-competitive so there are subtle differences to the signals used in racing.

Yellow – incident ahead. Slow down. No overtaking.
Red – Serious incident. Slow down. No overtaking. Exit to the pit lane.
Red and Yellow – Slippery or contaminated surface ahead.
Black – You or your car are misbehaving. Exit to the pit lane. Report to the marshals.
Black and White chequered – lunchtime.

Richard "I never knew racing drivers were so keen on getting their lunch" B

Wednesday 17 August 2016

Wake Up

About 20 years ago I went out to a pub lunch to meet my friend's new girlfriend's, to celebrate her birthday, and to meet her, her family, and her friends. I accidentally drank far far too much with lunch and my next memory is waking in her parents' kitchen with my head on the table. Tea, cakes and sandwiches were being served around my unconscious form. Unbelievably I made quite a good impression on her parents.

I have a friend who used to play guitar for a living, and he used to really drink. He has a couple of even better stories about waking up in unlikely situations:
He woke up to the sound of braking glass and spilled liquid and found himself in the middle of a road accident involving a milk float. As he came closer to wakefulness he remembered that he was supposed to be working as a milkman.

Another time he was woken by very loud music. He found himself with a guitar, on stage, in front of 15,000 people. He had dozed off while playing it.

Richard "Alarm Clock" B

Tuesday 9 August 2016


Imagine having to sit down and tell your wife that you've been having an affair, and at exactly the same time she tells you (for completely unrelated reasons) she wants a divorce. It has all worked out for the best. As long as "the best" includes no longer being with one of your favourite people, someone with whom you have built up decades of shared experiences, trust, communication and respect.

That's pretty much what happened to me this weekend, except I'm not married, it was my band's drummer.

Richard "We'll get him back, we always do" B

Tuesday 2 August 2016


There's a phenomenon called an "earworm". When you get a particularly catchy tune stuck in your head, and then you pass it on to other people by singing it involuntarily.

In the mid 20'th century there was a surprisingly common treatment for mental illness called a transorbital-lobotomy (colloquially an ice-pick lobotomy). You hammer a probe up through the eye socket into the front of the brain and stir it around. I have no idea why anyone ever thought that was a good idea. By Sunday morning I was just about ready to try it on myself to get the annoying tune out of my mind. I picked my sister up from the station on Friday night, about the second thing I said to her was "Put your bag in the back." She ruined our entire weekend by replying "...said 'everyone attack' and it turned into a ballroom blitz". From then on every second though either of us had had was a hazily remembered version of "Ballroom Blitz"

We also had a fantastically surreal misunderstanding. I'd like to say that she misheard me, but as the two words are homophones it's more complicated than that. She was drinking coffee after dinner and I asked if she wanted a Digestive (meaning biscuit). She thought I'd said "digestif" and was thinking of port, cognac, armagnac, ouzo, pastis, grappa, limoncello, schnapps, etc.

"Any one in particular?"
"Well I was thinking of the top one, but we can skip that one if it's stale"

Richard "something something lightening something something fighting" B

Tuesday 26 July 2016

The Great Vowel Shift

A couple of weeks ago I had to do a day of work in the far-east (of London). I'm from the South-West (of the country), trying to talk to the Mockneys gave rise to some fantastic misunderstandings. I said to the woman I was staying with that I had to wear a "whistle". I meant "suit" but she thought I meant "referee's whistle" and as a primary school teacher she offered to lend me one.

The meeting was in a building with a name like "Sewcraft House". Unfortunately the address had been transcribed by somebody at my company too used to talking to people with farmers' accents. They'd recognised long rounded second vowel as an 'o' and written it down as "Sewcroft".

My favourite was a waitress in a pub who really seemed to be telling me that there was a "Steak and Owl" pie – which I would have tried.

Richard "steak and ale" B

Thursday 21 July 2016

TMax Fever

This article is about hot weather starting on the Yamaha XP500. You can ignore it if you're here to read about the stupid and embarrassing things happen to me.

There is a much discussed phenomenon where the TMax will run poorly or not start in very hot weather, or will not start in direct strong sunlight after it has been parked for a few tens of minutes. The received wisdom is that the fuel pump doesn't work at high temperatures and starves the engine.

I have a different idea, and a little evidence to back it up.


TMax fever is simply a symptom of a weak battery. When the coolant gets over temperature the bike runs a large electric cooling fan. The current that the fan draws pulls the battery voltage down and the bike either refuses to run the fuel pump, or the fuel pump runs ineffectively. 

Supporting evidence

My Tmax has failed to start in hot weather on three occassions. The engine turns over but it never fires.

I know for sure that the battery was on the way out, but I was too cheap and lazy to buy a new one.

When the cooling fan cuts in it's loud, on the most recent occasion I could hear the fan labouring and its pitch changed with engine revs - it was getting more power when the engine was turning the alternator.

I'm unconvinced that the fuel pump itself can develop a temperature sensitive fault and recover when the temperature drops, but we know that there is an accurate thermostat in the electrical system - the one that turns the cooling fan on.

But if the battery is borderline-fucked how do you keep starting and riding the bike?

As soon as the bike is running, battery capacity is almost irrelevant, all the power comes from the alternator. TMax's are remarkably easy to start. They only have two cylinders and those have a low friction ceramic lining, there's a heavy contra-piston storing up energy like a flywheel, it's got semi dry-sump lubrication, and the ecu is brilliant. I bet it waits until the engine is up to speed and richens and retards like crazy to get the first spark to spin the engine.

I've been riding to work for months a bike with such a knackered battery that it can't keep the luggage locker light on for more than a couple of hours.

Further experiments

I've now got a TMAX that is susceptible to the fever, but that has a brand new high-quality battery. If the temperature ever gets up to 30 I'll ride it until its hot, park it in the sun, and then see if it starts half an hour later. I'll update this article with any results, but sadly I live in the ancestral home of grey tepid weather.

If anybody gets a TMAX turning over but not starting in really hot weather, please try to get some jump leads on it and let me know what happens (in the comments). You need a phillips #2 screwdriver, a 10mm spanner, and about 20 minutes.

Richard "Fever isn't such a new thing, fever started long ago" B

Updated summer 2017

TMAX Fever is a symptom of a faulty fuel pump. I have seen the ECU put 12v onto the pump when I turn the key, but the pump didn't run and the bike didn't start. Ordinarily when you turn the ignition on you can hear the fuel pump running under the saddle for 2 seconds. If it has overheated then it doesn't run and the bike won't start. You can buy a pump on amazon or ebay. getting the pump assembly out of the bike is time consuming. Prising apart the assembly and changing the motor is challenging.
look here and here for more information about my struggles with TMAX fever.

Wednesday 20 July 2016


About twenty years ago I had to move a broken down motorbike from Marsh Mills to Furzehatt Road. I took two friends with me and managed to push it home easily. In all the time since we've barely stopped taking the piss out of the weaker friend because even though he didn't take a turn pushing the bike, the walk was too far for him. I ended up letting him sit on the bike while I pushed both home.

I'm not as fit and strong as I was back then, and my motorbike is much larger and heavier. Yesterday was the hottest and sunniest day I've ever seen in Plymouth, my bike broke down – again near Marsh Mills. I had the whole afternoon to myself and thought that I would be able push it home. I was wrong, when I started the steep climb to my house I got faint and unstable on my feet, nearly dropped the bike on myself, and had to ring up friends for help. I'm now sunburned, blistered on hand and foot, the bike doesn't start, and I'm not walking around with a massive sense of physical achievement.

Richard "how much does motorcycle recovery cost?" B


This weekend I either made a new friend or annoyed a stranger for a couple of hours. I certainly revealed myself to be a hypocrite.

I'm very keen on the Renault 4 (I'll explain why in a future instalment) and I bumped into a man who is working on a very rusty one. After all my complaints about weirdos wandering into my garage and talking at me about cars I did virtually the same to this poor gent. In my defence I did lend him the workshop manual, and I put on dirty clothes and spent a couple of hours under the car with him compressing and removing the rear shocks and starting to get the trailing arms off.

Richard "cable ties and ratchet straps" B

Tuesday 5 July 2016

Restaurant Review

This Saturday was the third meeting of 2016 restaurant club and we ate at Maratimo on Plymouth Hoe. I thought it was fantastic, but I don't know if that was the restaurant, or the fact that I've never really eaten at a tapas place before. It's hard to find the restaurant, and once you have its hard to find the door. The entrance is unwelcoming and the dining room wasn't quite as nice as I was hoping. The view is fantastic – or would have been if the weather was good, and the food and drink were even better. We ordered dozens of dishes from a ridiculously cheerful Spaniard and they arrived in a steady and delicious stream until we were full. My favourites were the sardines and the squid... until we started ordering desserts... Freshly fried churros and crema-catalan were wonderful. Crema-catalan is basically a crème-brulee, but with a less rich custard. Mine was flavoured with orange and served with candied peel.

I ordered a paella, but the experience wasn't what I expected. As it was a Spanish restaurant I had expected to be warned sternly that it would take at least half an hour, and then a scalding charred paella pan would be balanced before me on a makeshift refractory trivet. In fact it was in a china dish, and it came too quickly to have been cooked specially for me.

Richard "the first rule of restaurant club" B

Tuesday 28 June 2016


Apparently it's called "bee keeping" rather than "bee farming" or "bee husbandry" because the little buggers are as slippery as eels and are always threatening to fuck off and set up home in a nice gorse bush. Or go back to where their hive used to be. Or wander off and look for a new queen. The challenge is keeping them.

Many years ago I found out that Mondays were unavailable for band-practices because my drummer went to bee-keeping classes that day. It made a very favourable impression on all of us, and we liked to picture him in white overalls with a net-curtain-hat and a watering can full of smoke. I don't understand how it happened, but it was a number of years before I found out that I'd misheard him, he was trying to get an accountancy qualification, and he couldn't make it on Monday nights because of his BOOK-KEEPING class.

For a similar reason, my shopping list at the weekend included "Kitten Roy". More than a decade ago one of my friends was shopping with a list that his girlfriend had written. It was a neat, feminine and loopy script, but ultimately slightly illegible. "Who the fuck is Kitten Roy?" "Kitchen roll. It says kitchen roll".

Richard "Brexit pursued by a bear" B

Tuesday 21 June 2016

Musicians' Joke

How many bass players does it take to change a light bulb?
Forget it, the keyboard player can do it with his left hand.

Richard "I won £110 on the lottery" B

Tuesday 14 June 2016


When I first saw the Henry Rollins "Listen to the stage manager" quote in the wings of a stage I was insulted. Now it makes perfect sense and I'll probably print it out and pin it up everywhere I work.

At the weekend I ran sound for a monstrous cross between a village fete and a music festival. The bands ranged between dire and impossibly talented. Most of the musicians were charming and helpful, some were inexperienced overwrought children, some were disorganised, entitled teenage cocks who overran their timeslot, then took a fucking encore and then cleared down slowly despite the four bands waiting for them.

"Listen to the stage manager and get on stage when they tell you to. No one has time for your rock star bullshit. None of the techs backstage care if you’re David Bowie or the milkman. When you act like a jerk, they are completely unimpressed with the infantile display that you might think comes with your dubious status. They were there hours before you building the stage, and they will be there hours after you leave tearing it down. They should get your salary, and you should get theirs. –Henry Rollins"

The stage was about 4 feet high, and there was only one step to help you get up to it. My PA weighs about 250kg, I carried it up and down there twice and I probably moved the same amount of band equipment too. I'm not used to high-stepping exercises with heavy weights. I'm now so stiff and sore that my ability to climb stairs is severely compromised, and my ability to descend them (forwards) is lost.

Richard "Jake Leg Blues" B

Wednesday 8 June 2016

Eye of the Wind

This is what Brother-John has been doing:

It looks cold and wet, and apparently in German.

Doug (I'd rather be in the Gulf of Mexico) B

Tuesday 7 June 2016

Crystal Maze

I got involved in the most fascinating puzzle game this weekend. A friend of mine visited on Saturday night and on Sunday she texted me to tell me that she'd stolen one object from my house, and that my challenge was to work out what it was.

Before I even went home and checked, I guessed that it was Kelly Deal (the cuddly polar bear that I accidentally won when I was trying to flirt with a girl selling raffle tickets). I got the ominous reply "Strike 1". I don't know much about baseball, but I guessed that 3 strikes would mean I lost the game, object, or my house.

It's a fascinating and compelling game. I spent hours wandering around the house thinking "did something else used to be here?". Can you confidently list every framed picture and ornament in your lounge? How many orphan toothbrushes are by the bathroom sink? By Sunday afternoon I was confident that it wasn't a piece of furniture, all the picture hooks still had something on them, and I still had all my musical instruments.

I collect fridge magnets from foreign holidays, and while both Space Needle magnets were still there with the Osbourne Bull and the Legendary Cock of Barcelos I convinced myself that one of the lesser magnets was missing. "Strike 2".

I'm delighted to say that I did laundry and ironing on Sunday evening and the duvet cover from the bed in the spare room was missing!

Richard "Joy in Mudville" B

Tuesday 31 May 2016

Time and Money

This is what I've spent all my time and money doing:


Richard "measure twice; drive to the house where you left your bench, vice and pillar drill once" B

Monday 23 May 2016

Name this shape. Lets call him Harold

I've built a car, and I'm glad to say that as of 9:40 this morning, the vehicle inspectorate agree that it is safe, clean and roadworthy.

People keep asking me what I'm going to call it. I'm not much one for naming inanimate objects but I think I'll call it "Molly". It's pretty, tiny and more expensive and inconvenient than I was hoping... And it's a palaver getting in it... And I wouldn't be at all surprised if the headlight alignment deteriorated over time.

Richard "a seven by any other name" B

Tuesday 17 May 2016

Wrong Shoes

Time marches inexorably onwards: The martins are back, some of my bees have left their cocoons, Mrs wood pigeon has finished sitting on her nest, I de-winterized and started my late father's motor mower (4th pull motherfucker!), my mother is getting deafer and my friends' bladders are getting weaker.

Nothing however has made me feel as old as a shop assistant questioning whether my favourite shoes are still age appropriate. I know her well enough to speak to (and to buy groceries from) but no better than that. At the weekend she pointed out my Star Wars Vans and asked me if I thought I was still a teenager.

Star Wars was on general release before I was five. Vans shoes became popular during the skate boarding boom of the 70s. If anything I'm too young for the shoes. Bitch!

Richard "over the hill" B

Wednesday 11 May 2016


There's a common human reflex that seems usually to be counterproductive. When you drop something you sometimes automatically stick your foot out to stop it from hitting the floor. I know someone who involuntarily put his foot under a heavy dropped television and damaged his foot. Not long ago I was washing up and I dropped a china bowl. Without thinking I put my foot out to stop it from breaking on the kitchen floor. My football skills aren't really what they should be, and while my foot did make contact with the bowl what actually happened was that I drop the bowl then swung my leg forwards towards it. I Drop kicked the bowl, full force, into the oven door where it smashed convincingly.

Richard "Patella Hammer" B

Tuesday 3 May 2016

Fortress of Solitude

I think I might be getting an idea of what it would be like to be a beautiful woman, in that odd boring men keep coming and talking at me.

Building a kit car should have been a perfect hobby for an OCD misanthrope, it being mainly solitary and concerned with tools, components, following instructions and meeting formal standards. Unfortunately the car is interesting and handsome and generates a lot of interest from the public. People keep inviting themselves into the garage to talk about cars.

Last week I got a ginger stalker. He's sent me notes, visited the car, invited me to go to an automotive lecture, and is now pestering me for my email address. As he's got a car trailer and a towing vehicle he might have to be the most interesting and charming person I've met – until my car is roadworthy.

Richard "Pub bore" B

Tuesday 26 April 2016


I have spent the past three and a half months building a Caterham Seven kit car. Today I took it to the DVSA (vehicles inspectorate). The inspector has worked there for the last fifteen years and has never passed an amateur built car the first time. I passed the external projections tests, the build quality tests, brake effort, brake pedal effort, speedo accuracy, noise, seat belt anchorages, he approved the suspension geometry, and liked the way it drove (He’s keen on hill climbs, I gave him permission to put his foot down and we went round the test centre a couple of time at about 40 mph, mostly sideways, and filled the car with gravel)

In the end today was no different from the last 15 years. The car failed its emissions tests, and its very frustrating because whatever the fault is it will be with something that Caterham supplied to me. The next retest appointment is a month away and I’m looking down the barrel of £800 in transport fees to get Caterham to look at a vehicle that we can’t legally drive on the roads.

Richard “Stoichiometry” B

Tuesday 19 April 2016

Batman vs IRS

file under:amateurish economics

The news is still filled with stories of people avoiding their taxes. What almost everybody seems to have forgotten is that tax avoidance is good and proper, unlike evasion.

Tax evasion is where you lie to the authorities and don't pay the taxes that you legally owe. Think about Batman and Wayne Industries. The Research and Development division produces armoured vehicles, body armour, wing suits, surveillance systems and so forth and then Bruce takes them home and uses them for his personal (crime fighting) life. In reality he should be a paying customer, there would be tax on the sales, and the materials and labour wouldn't be tax-deductible because they're not really prototypes.

Our tax code is based on avoidance. Tax breaks to invest in new equipment for your business, disincentives to waste energy and pollute. Tax on tobacco and alcohol, no tax on children's clothes or individual savings, no tax on most food but tax on chocolate biscuits and (soon) fizzy drinks. When you hear the press, politicians and idiots bemoaning tax avoidance remember that they are arguing for you to buy clothes for yourself before your children, to forgo fruit for biscuits, and to start smoking and drink away your savings.

They've set up the tax rules badly and now they don't like the way that we're playing the game. It's like complaining that putting your bishop on the same diagonal line as the opposing king isn't in the spirit of chess.

Richard "Lord Clyde's Shovel" B

Tuesday 12 April 2016


A couple of weekends ago I found a distressed hedgehog on my lawn and ended up taking it to hospital. I had no idea how much interest its fate would generate and I was rather regretting not naming it Gordon so that I could triumphantly tell my readers that "Gordon's alive!". Just like all the jobs/gigs/women that I've wanted over the years the protocol with the hedgehog hospital was "don't call us, we'll call you – no news is bad news".

At the weekend my curiosity got the better of my patience and I rang the hospital for an update. I'm sad to say that Spike died the night after he was admitted. There was blood around his mouth so it seems probably that he had eaten something poisonous, which is consistent with staggering around in daylight.

Despite Spike's demise I strongly recommend Prickly Ball Farm. They offer free hedgehog advice and care. You can go on a tour of the hospital and there is also a petting zoo (with kleptomaniac orphan lambs) and a good café.

Richard "About to be overrun with slugs" B

Tuesday 5 April 2016


I'm sorry I was late, but I had to drive a hedgehog to Newton Abbot.

You know how it is: You find a distressed hedgehog staggering and shaking on your lawn during daylight and your ex-girlfriend, a keen conservationalist, persuades you that you have to try to rescue it rather than let it peacefully expire. Then you have to go and capture it and sit it on a hot-water bottle. Then you get to talk to a hedgehog expert on the phone who assesses its behaviour and tells you that it's near death and requires expert treatment. Before you know it you've got a hedgehog wrapped in a towel, on a hot-water bottle, in a box, strapped into the passenger seat, and you're driving to the nearest hedgehog hospital.

Richard "Let's call it Spike" B

Tuesday 29 March 2016

R.R.S. Feed

The British public can be relied upon to take the mickey – it runs in our blood like queueing and drizzle. When the Environmental Research Council asked us to name its new ship the top suggestion was "RRS. Boaty McBoatface". I hope they stick with it. If I'd put a name forwards it would have had to have been something you'd see written on a skip.

Boats are expensive so it can be lucrative as well as rewarding to build your own. In the 90's My father and I built a replica of a Grand Banks dory. I was using it on the Plym when I went to rescue a man who had been set adrift in a rubbish skip. When I got close enough to talk to him I realised that he wasn't actually in a skip, it was wooden, it had thwarts and rowlocks, it didn't quite have a skip's distinctive sheerline, and the "castaway" was sitting happily fishing. I complimented him on his handsome vessel and confirmed my suspicion that he'd designed and built it himself.

When I told the story one of my brothers was very taken with the idea of setting out to sea in a hired skip. He picked up an imaginary VHF and transmitted "Brixham Coastguard Brixham Coastguard this is the pleasure vessel 'Light No Fires' departing Plymouth harbour for St. Peter Port."

Richard "RRS. P. E. C. T." B

Tuesday 22 March 2016

Where did you last see it?

I'm not as bad as Fast Eddie, but I can be quite absent minded. This weekend, as well as nearly setting the house on fire by putting an empty steamer on the stove, I accidentally left my vacuum cleaner at someone else's house.

Neither of those is as bad as the time that I misplaced my car. I went to my garage one day and it wasn't there. It didn't seem likely that it had been stolen because the garage was still closed and locked. I have learned that when you lose something, rather than going round in circles looking for it, the best course of action is to sit down and think carefully about where you last saw it. It turned out that a week or so previously I had driven my car to the supermarket, left it in the car park and walked home with my shopping. The car was still there waiting for me when I walked back.

Richard "not paying attention" B

Tuesday 15 March 2016


The human auditory cortex is mysterious and complicated. What you think you hear has already been analysed for spatial information and enhanced and modified to conform to expectations of the listening context. The only practical application of this is that when you're ordering drinks you can say "salted penis" and the barman will invariably hear it as "salted peanuts".

There are another two standard bar jokes: At the weekend I ordered a round of drinks comprised of three different pints, three different soft drinks, and a bottle. When I finished reciting the order, the barmaid should have asked "in the same glass?". She poured all the drinks and asked me if I wanted a tray. The correct answer is always "Don't you think I've got enough to carry?".

Richard "McGurk Effect" B

Tuesday 8 March 2016

The End is Nigh

One of my friends is an absolutely world class drummer and at the weekend I will be hearing him play his band's album launch at The Borderline in Soho. I don't know if it still is, but playing at that venue used to be kind of a big deal. As a teenager he was in a band that was very popular locally. His mum, with wonderful bathos, said they were like the One Direction of Carshalton. He told me how he knew when their fame had waned. At the end of a show he would throw his sticks out into the dark auditorium where they would be caught and treasured by screaming juvenile fans. One time, instead of excited screams, he heard the sticks hit the hard empty floor. He went and picked them up and used them at the next show. It wasn't much longer until the band split up.

In a very similar way, my friend and co-author "Chunky Ginger" knew that my relationship with the bouncy trampolinist was doomed before I did. It was when I said of her "She's waging a one-woman war against silence – I guarantee you that wherever she is right now she's either talking or snoring – loudly"

Richard "shhh" B

Tuesday 1 March 2016


This weekend I have been visiting friends and I heard a fantastic drinking story.

My friend was drinking at home and drunkenly decided to open another bottle of wine. He couldn't open it because the corkscrew wouldn't bite into the cork. He decided to remove the foil to try to make life easier for the corkscrew. He eventually found a foil cutter and took the circle of foil off the top of the bottle. The cork was completely missing and he had no choice but to drink the whole bottle.

In the cold, hard, hungover light of day he discovered that what had actually happened was that he had opened a screw-top wine bottle with a foil cutter.

Richard "Someone's taken the cork out of my lunch" B

Tuesday 23 February 2016

Using Irony To Mock

The lottery syndicate that I run is quite old-school. Payments are made in cash. The money is kept in a cigar box in a locked draw and there are signed paper records. The spreadsheet is just to help me keep up to date.  Some of the lazier and less social members would rather pay by bank transfer. I think they'd like to make transfers into my personal bank account and then expect me to pore over my online statements every week to figure out who's paid what.

(no I'm not going to build an encoder and decoder so that I can programmatically feed my pin into the keypad circuitry of the pin machine and read the login-key out of the seven segment display - and then write software to scrape payment details from my online banking pages. Neither am I going to build a machine to physically type the pin number in and OCR the login-key but that does sound like more fun.)

I was brought up in a household almost completely without sarcasm. I've almost learned to use it in later life, but not always with great success. Last week I tried to use sarcasm to explain that the syndicate would never accept bank transfers, but the target out-sarcasm'd me by a wide and artful margin. In fact I initially wondered whether his reply was serious.

*****email from organiser to member*****
Indeed, so when you transfer money in to this new account the back end systems recognise your account number or your payment reference and credit the Xxxx Xxxxxxx client account within the lottery account? Good idea!

You find a bank that will host that type of account for free, and get authorisation from the FSA for me to keep other people’s money in trust, and I’ll link it up to my accounting system.
Awesome Rich, that would be amazing, and effectively more secure potentially than dashing across the office with a fistful of notes potentially risking a mugging.

Once setup if you could let me know the valid numbers for such an account I shall set you up with my trusted banking organisation.
***** *****

Richard "There’s no shame in being beaten by the best" B

Tuesday 16 February 2016

Mellon Farming Barstewards

I'm not religious but I often try to give up something for Lent. This year I'm trying to give up swearing. At 50p a swear there is already £3.50 in my swear jar. It might not sound like I've done very well, but I'm doing nowhere near as badly as my friend who tried to give up biscuits one year. On Ash Wednesday he had to go to an early meeting and the meeting room had coffee and biscuits. He was half way through his third Custard Cream when he realised that he'd been awake for about an hour on the first day of Lent and had already failed spectacularly.

Richard "contains strong language" B

Tuesday 9 February 2016

Wake Up

I seldom remember my dreams but last week I found myself locked into a cavernous dark office with a Dutchman. I knew that there was nobody anywhere near us  (except a herd of deer outside) and that we were supposed to be doing some very urgent computer work. There was foreboding organ music including (I think) a gothic arrangement of the Teddybear's Picknick and we ate liquorice flavoured with ammonium chloride.

No hold on, that was real life, my dreams a much more mundane.

I came in to work one night to help one of the network engineers (originally from the Netherlands) do some out-of-hours software upgrades. The office is huge and used to be a warehouse. It's on an industrial estate that's deserted at night. The digital radio wasn't available and Radio2 had a half hour special about the pipe organ.

Richard "Is that the alarm clock?" B

Tuesday 2 February 2016


File under: impotent whining

I have heard that the English are the best queuers in the world. It might be true, we have all learned from a young age how to form a completely virtual queue while sitting in random seats at the barber's and we know how to form an orderly queue of one when we are the first person at the bus stop. It all goes to hell though at the petrol station. Is this one queue for the whole forecourt? Are these separate queues for each aisle of pumps? Each side of each aisle? Where does it diverge?

At the weekend I found myself doing an Austin Powers style 97 point turn to get out of one queue and use one of several empty pumps. Horror of horrors – it almost looked like I was jumping the queue! I think perhaps the problem was the number of people who refuse to do a reach-around at the petrol station and sit and wait until they can put their starboard side to a pump.

"I bet you're the kind of guy who would fill a person's car and not even have the goddam common courtesy to give it a reach-around. I'll be watching you."

Richard "Full Metal Jacket" B

Tuesday 26 January 2016

Book Review

"Ancillary Justice" by Anne Leckie is an absolutely excellent science fiction book spoiled slightly by three things: A boring and straightforward main theme, a smug self satisfaction with its handling of sexual politics and the sequels.

It's an engrossing and entertaining read, full of interesting ideas and characters. It's her first book and it won both a Nebula and a Hugo! It's about invasion forces, hive minds, split personalities, revenge and adventure. I read a lot of sci-fi and I'm quite happy that authors use their stories to indulge their own interests – poetry, classics, bad puns, band names, etc. Anne Leckie's hobby horse in this book is about gendered pronouns. She does a brilliant job of telling a whole story without telling us the sex of the protagonist or antagonist and trains us to read "he" and "she" as interchangeable. Unfortunately she keeps pointing out exactly what she's doing either in dialog or in internal monolog and it gets quite irritating. I imagine that she's won a bet with a literature professor and spoiled her book in the process.

The main theme is a childishly straightforward "oppression bad / individuality good" and although it's not challenging or nuanced, the treatment of individuality is so interesting and inventive that you don't miss a more nourishing discussion.

When I lived with a woman she would spend Wednesday nights with a group of other women playing cards, drinking tea and gossiping. Their boyfriends uncharitably called these get-togethers "Cackling Hags Club". Reading the followup "Ancillary Sword" felt like I'd been trapped in an extended C-H-C. Leckie takes a handful of previously entertaining characters and sends them on what is essentially a long spa-weekend to gossip about who said what to whom, who is a bit of a bitch, and who fancies whom. "Ancillary Mercy" is so boring that although I only read it about six weeks ago I can't even remember what happened.

Read "Ancillary Justice", skim over the sections about pronouns and pretend that there are no sequels.

Richard "not a literary critic" B

Monday 25 January 2016

Restaurant Club

This weekend saw the reformation of "Restaurant Club" in my group of friends. The first rule of restaurant club is that we'll probably lose interest and give up by March. The second rule of restaurant club is that we take it in turns to pick a restaurant and we all go there to eat.

This weekend we ate at Salumi. I didn't like the over-elaborate moustache on the barman, and I didn't like the menu. It was full of pretentious and foreign words (that's the menu, not the moustach), it was hard to guess what you were going to get, it wasn't clear whether dishes were appetisers, starters or main courses, and how many people they were for. I also thought it was a little expensive.

On the other hand the waitress was exceptionally friendly and helpful and knew everything, and every morsel of food and drink that they brought to the table was exquisite.

Richard "not a food critic" B

Tuesday 12 January 2016

Black Dog

Following my brother's excellent article about The Language Barrier I’m going to try to explain the meanings of two similar but very different days. Americans have "Black Friday", the British have "Black Eye Friday". They're not on the same date, they don't symbolise the same things, and the participants do (mostly) different things.

Black Friday's name has nothing to do with darkness, depression, ruthlessness, skin colour, the black death, black holes, black pudding, sharps and flats on a piano, the second player in chess, or anything else you might have guessed. It's to do with the colour of ink on the retailer's bank statements – no honestly it is. If red ink means debt or loss, then black means credit or profit. Black Friday is a big shopping day, and the retailers run promotions and discounts to attract business and get their accounts "in the black". It takes place on the Friday after -- um --  I don't know -- some colonial celebration and everybody has the day off work. My English readers should try to think of it as though the first day of the January sales took place on a special consumerist bank holiday in the run up to Christmas.

Black Eye Friday is the Friday before Christmas and is the traditional day to get into a drunken fight with a stranger. The vagaries of UK public holidays mean that most businesses close down for a full  week no matter what day Christmas falls on. The builders and tradesmen tend to knock off at lunchtime on the Friday go to the pub -- often with all of their December wages in their pockets. The office workers and amateur drinkers join them at 5:00 and everybody drinks more than they really know how to. My American readers should try to visualise it like St. Patrick's Day in a town where every bar is Irish, and everybody likes to drink to excess – but without the preponderance of green liquids.

Richard "No I'm not going to write a David Bowie obituary" B

Tuesday 5 January 2016

You Can Find Your Way Home - On The 303

File under: impotent whining

Christmas and new year are filled with tired and stressed people making unfamiliar journeys and visits, desperately chasing a good time and being disappointed. As such it's the traditional time of year for bitter family arguments. On New Year's day I visited my sister and when I was driving home I fell out very badly with the irritating, supercilious, passive-aggressive bitch that is my sat-nav.

If you disobey her she gets in a silent huff for several seconds and then disapprovingly says "recalculating". There are two ways home from my sister's house, the long way on the motorways and a much shorter cross country route on a succession of twisty B-roads all the same. The sat-nav set her heart on the cross country route and begged me at every single junction to turn back.

"in 200 yards turn left"
"no, we're going on the motorway"
"... recalculating ... at the roundabout take the third exit"
"... recalculating ... recalculating ... recalculating"
After about the hundredth "recalculating" I was begging her, before I lost my temper.
"Every other journey we've ever taken together I have done everything you wanted. Even that time we went from Wallington to Guildford via fucking Kingston. Just this once, PLEASE, can't we go my way? Why don't you ever support me?"
"... recalculating"
"That's your answer to everything isn't it? Why don't you actually recalculate it from our current location, rather than relying on your cached route plan, we're nearly on the fucking M4 you dim-witted bint."
"... recalculating".
By the time we were on the motorway heading towards Bristol I'd got personal and offensive.
"Listen to me you fucking harridan. I'd rather be directed home by the Microsoft office assistant from the late 90s. 'It looks like you're writing a letter, would you like me to fuck up every aspect of the format and punctuation while simultaneously slowing your computer to a grinding crawl?' At least by now it would have said 'it looks like you're driving home via Bristol'".
"... recalculating"
It wasn't until we were on the M5 heading towards Exeter that she quietly got the idea, revised her ETA downwards by an hour, and stopped pestering me.

Richard "she can't be reasoned with, she can't be bargained with, and she absolutely will not apologise" B