Tuesday, 22 May 2018

Bandwidth

Apparently I am sometimes an entertaining storyteller, but usually I'm precise and concise in my speech. A couple of weeks ago I was at a wedding in Spain, but the bride and groom and most of the guests were from Seattle. I knew some of them from the many times that I've visited Seattle (there was a girl involved). One of the guests had been primed to ask me about all my previous visits and had been told to expect "a wonderful romantic story full of tension and texture and local colour". He was disappointed when he got talking to me, asked me about it, and I told him "Yeah, so I used to date a shop assistant from Fremont".

When I got home my mum asked me all about the wedding and apparently "a white dress" wasn't a detailed enough answer to the question "what did the bride wear?"

Richard "quite the raconteur" B

Thursday, 10 May 2018

Wedding

At the weekend I have to give a short speech at a wedding so I have been talking about speeches at weddings. One of my friends was embarrassed by her cousin's lesbian wedding because there were readings with childish and poorly disguised sexual overtones. One of my friends got married on Star Wars Day (May the 4th be with you) to make it easier to remember his wedding anniversary. His best man's speech was brilliant - funny, personal, mildly insulting, and all tied together with a really positive message. I'm still not sure if it contained the best camouflaged dirty joke I've ever heard or if I've just got a dirty mind. The best man talked about how much time the groom spent playing "Football Manager" on his computer, he'd played so many seasons that his computer was simulating the premier league in the year 2083. The best man said, therefor, he was very pleased when the groom met his bride because he could spend less time alone, locked in his bedroom with his laptop.

My "invitation" to speak included the exact length of the speech, a whole range of topics that I'm not allowed to cover, what the general message should be, and how the speech should end. I believe I can give a speech that they'll like, but I was sorely tempted to write a more traditional speech and then bleep out (or mumble) the vast majority of it.

Richard "This time I won't wrestle the bride to the floor" B

Tuesday, 1 May 2018

Man from Delmonte

I'm going to a wedding in Spain in a couple of weeks, so one of the little jobs I did this weekend was to try on my summer suit. Men of my age who don't wear suits in their job generally have a handful of them in their wardrobe ready for occasions like this. We often don't wear them for years at a time. I've been caught out by a suit that no longer fits me – I'm sure the suit got thinner rather than I got fatter. My friend was completely let down by his beautiful, all wool, designer suit in the infamous "Moth Balls" incident. When it came out of storage the suit had been severely eaten by moths, but only in the trousers, and only around the plums – we don't know what attracted them to that area.

A few people actually tried to work out all my eponymous nouns from a few weeks ago. Here are the answers:

Abigail's Party - An old Mike Leigh play on the BBC that everybody in the country saw but me.
Archimedes' Principle - Physical law about buoyancy
Avogadro's Number – The number of atoms in 12g of Carbon12.
Buffon's Needle - A difficult bit of maths about the probability of a dropped needle across a gap in a planked floor.
Chesterton's Fence - A principle in policy-making about not tearing things down until you understand why they were put up.
Sword of Damocles - Imminent and ever-present peril
Dekker's Algorithm - First proven solution to the mutual exclusion problem.
Drake's Equation - Seems to show that the galaxy should be overrun with intelligent life
Duff's Device - A truly devious hack in C used in loop-unrolling. From back when we didn't have optimising compilers.
Sieve of Eratosthenes - Ancient way of finding prime numbers
Euler's Line - Complicated bit of geometry to do with the centres(!) of a triangle.
Faraday's Constant - Something to do with how much charge an electron has.
Fermi's Paradox - Just about the same thing as Drake's Equation.
Frankenstein's Monster - Famous fictional monster.
Grey Friar's Bobby - Famously faithful dog.
Halley's Comet - Comet identified by Edmund Halley.
Pillars of Hercules - Mountains either side of the entrance to the Mediterranean.
Hobson’s Choice - No choice at all.
Hubbert's Peak - Something about the productivity of oil fields and us all being doomed. Doomed I tell you!
John Brown’s Body - Song. https://www.reddit.com/r/funny/comments/fzhbe/could_someone_please_explain_the_funny_in_this/
Kundt's Dust Tube - Funny sounding physics experiment about standing waves in air.
Lord Clyde's Shovel - The freedom to keep some of your money away from the taxman.
Lord Kelvin's Thunderstorm - Baffling demonstration of static electricity.
Lou Gehrig's Disease - motor neurone disease.
Marley's Ghost - The first visitation in A Christmas Carol
Maxwell's Demon - Thought experiment to make the second law of thermodynamics even more confusing.
Michelangelo's David - An old sculpture.
Murphy's Law - Adage that anything that can go wrong will go wrong.
Newton's Cradle - 80s executive desk toy that demonstrates conservation of momentum.
Occam's Razor - Lazy philosophical heuristic.
Orion's Belt - Three stars
Pascal's Wager - "Proof" that it's worth believing in God.
Pavlov's Dog - The original discoverer of classical conditioning.
Pythagoras' Theorem - To do with the length of sides of right angle triangles.
Russell's Teapot - Thought experiment to make arguing about god even more tiresome. https://xkcd.com/1866/
Schrodinger's Cat - Thought experiment to make quantum theory even more baffling.
Shanks' Pony - Walking
Simpson's Rule - Approximation of the area under a curve.
Epitaph of Stevinus - To do with forces on inclined planes.
Ship of Theseus - Trigger's Broom for the upper classes.
Trigger's Broom - A 20 year-old broom that's had 17 new heads and 14 new handles.

Richard "I forgot Death's Door" B

Tuesday, 24 April 2018

Padded and Underwired

Back in the old days of mobile phones with T9 predictive text dictionaries I had a Sony-Ericsson that would let you read the list of word that had been automatically added to the dictionary (from your text messages). It was a terrifying and illuminating insight into my character. Other than place names every single entry was a swear word or the model number of a microphone.

Since then I have developed a disproportionate interest in driving, and bought both a fast car and a smartphone. It might be rather passé to laugh at autocorrect these days, but the predictive text on my phone has a bewildering and inappropriate quirk. The keyboard seems to know all about my interest in cars. It knows words like Snetterton and Caterham. When I say "Castle" it says "Combe", when I say "Mallory" it says "Park", when I say "brake" it says "calliper" when I say "gear" it says "box" (and when the crowd say Bo Selecta!) yet it resolutely refuses to believe that the word "car" might follow "sports". Worse it always guesses "bra" so I have offered to pick my sister up in my sports bra and asked my neighbour to wait a few minutes while I get my sports bra out of my garage.

Richard "D112" B

Wednesday, 18 April 2018

Gordon is a Moron

This weekend I have been driving to and From Newton Abbot on an unnecessary mission of mercy. On Saturday (not for the first time) I found a distressed hedgehog in my garden. It was out in daylight, unresponsive, and not curled into a ball. After talking to the hedgehog hospital in Newton Abbot I agreed to drive it up there and I decided that its name was Gordon.



My innuendo-meter went off the scale when I arrived at the hedgehog hospital. The receptionist said "Let's have a look at it then… My God it's enormous!" Gordon is a 1.2kg monster and there was some concern that I had actually disturbed a pregnant female.

On Sunday I got the news that I was waiting for (but sadly not delivered in a Brian Blessed voice). GORDON'S ALIVE! He is male, and is uninjured. He'd been fighting and his genitals were swollen so he'd also been fucking - excessively. When I discovered him he was simply exhausted. He'd shagged himself half to death, he treated the hospital as a trip to a rejuvenating day-spa and was furious about being put back into a box and driven back to Plymouth. I re-released him in my garden around dusk and didn't get a single word of thanks.

Richard "Even the vermin had a better Friday night than I did" B

Monday, 16 April 2018

Old Friend

For a brief period as a schoolchild I had a desirable and high-status friend from another school. He had a Nintendo Entertainment System and an attractive older sister but crucially he also had a full size high quality pool table in his bedroom. His parents were strict and taciturn. We barely saw them and never spoke to them although we often heard his mother shouting – generally the same four words.

If we were too noisy, or if his younger brother went downstairs complaining of ill-treatment then his mother would shout "CHRIS. FRIENDS GO HOME." We would immediately be ushered silently from the house - not allowed to return until the next day. If our infraction was particularly grave – maybe his brother was in tears or we had ignored our expulsion – then his mother would shout "CHRIS. FRIENDS GO HOME FOR A WEEK."

The last time I met him we had been particularly noisy and troublesome and his mother shouted "CHRIS. FRIENDS GO HOME FOR GOOD"

Richard "A=Jump, B=Rush" B

Tuesday, 3 April 2018

Quiz

A surprising number of nouns have had their ownership taken by a proper name. For example there are apples, and then there is Adam's Apple. These are the ones that I could think of. Can you match them up?


NamesNouns
AbigailAlgorithm
ArchimedesBelt
AvogadroBobby
Buffon/CleopatraBody
ChestertonBroom
DamoclesCat
DekkerChoice
DrakeComet
DuffConstant
EratosthenesCradle
EulerDavid
FaradayDemon
FermiDevice
FrankensteinDisease
Grey FriarDog
HalleyEpitaph (of)
HerculesEquation
HobsonFence
HubbertGhost
John BrownLaw
KundtLine
Lord ClydeMonster
Lord KelvinNeedle
Lou GehrigNumber
MarleyParadox
MaxwellParty
MichelangeloPeak
MurphyPillars (of)
NewtonPony
OccamPrinciple
OrionRazor
PascalRule
PavlovShip (of)
PythagorasShovel
RussellSieve (of)
SchrodingerSword (of)
ShanksTeapot
SimpsonTheorem
StevinusThunderstorm
Theseus(Dust) Tube
TriggerWager

Interestingly the broom and the ship refer to exactly the same idea.

Richard "I was never invited to Maxwell's Party" B

Monday, 26 March 2018

Roadie

Last weekend I drove one of my friends to and from a gig and I carried and set up all his gear. He can barely walk and can't drive or carry anything since he had an operation to cure a nasty case of housemaid's knee (presumably caused by the sheer amount of time he's spent kneeling down sucking cocks and nothing to do with the time that I ran the corner of a heavy flightcase into his knee).

I was returning the favour that I was done in the 90s when I was discharged from hospital following an even more painful and personal operation. However on that occasion my friends chose to drive me home over nearly every speedbump in Plymouth and they negotiated them violently to make me squirm. Yes I still hold a grudge these more than 20 years later.

Richard "a gentleman puts down a pillow" B

Wednesday, 21 March 2018

Dangerous Dog

My window cleaner likes my beard. He called round at the weekend to get paid and it's the first time I've seen him since I haven't been able to shave. The conversation quickly moved from my beard to my finger injury and it turns out that he is also nursing a nasty injury to his middle finger. His was even more cruel and unlikely than mine. He was bitten by a dog which was locked inside one of his customer's houses while he himself was outside the house. The window cleaner pushed a bill through the letterbox and was bitten (on the tiny portion of finger that protruded inside the letterbox) by a bad tempered terrier that was lying in wait.

Richard "jaws and letterboxes of outragous fortune" B

Tuesday, 13 March 2018

Colloquial Metaphor

You learn words and phrases, forget where you learned them from, and then sometimes when you use them they turn out to be wrong. My mum deliberately taught me a nursery rhyme wrongly because her version is funnier: "See a penny, pick it up, then all day you'll have a penny". I used to know a woman whos (hippyish) parents had used an inappropriately adult word for her private parts and she got into trouble at school for swearing when she was trying to discuss something intimate.

The English language contains loads of idioms that we all blindly use as though they still make sense: "Flash in the pan", "Keep your powder dry", "Go off half-cocked", "Hoist by your own petard"... I discovered last week, to my surprise, that the phrase "Beaten like a red-headed stepchild" is neither in common use nor suitable for work.

Richard "it's OK they’ve got no soul" B

Tuesday, 6 March 2018

Your Mother Cooks Socks in Hell

My friend's hoover has been possessed by the spirit of an angry goose.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z9f7wodJj04

Richard "Sauce for the goose is sauce for the hoover" B

Tuesday, 27 February 2018

Garage Door Opener

The garage door at my mum's house is a couple of years older than I am and I don't know which of us is in better shape. It's huge and enormously sturdy, it was made by Westland Engineers Ltd (that's right, military helicopters and garage doors) and it seems to be designed to withstand an armed siege. I don't know what it weighs but it's all two men can do to lift it and move it a few paces. I drilled a pair of 8mm holes through one of the stringers and it took 10 minutes and left me with a large bruise on my shoulder from where I was pushing the drill. The swarf comes off in tiny hard sharp hot flakes and the drill bit is now blunt.

In the late 70s and early 80s the door was much taller than me so the procedure to open it was to unlock it and pull the handle and the bottom edge while a friend stood on the bathroom stool and thumped the top left hand corner – where it would usually bind.

The first golden age of garage door opening was from about '85 to '95 when I was tall and strong enough to operate it by myself and the mechanism was in a reasonable state of repair.

In the late 90s my father and I hired a yacht-rigging supplier who manufactured replacements for the wire ropes, thimbles and pulleys that joined the heavy door to the 8 springs that support its weight. It was an excellent refurbishment, but the original springs were irreplaceable and starting to weaken.

By 2012 more than one of the original springs was rusted through and the door was inoperable. With the help of a carpenter I re-hung the door on more traditional support gear with horizontal rails, lever arms and a pair of enormously stiff springs.

My mother is now in her 80s and the door has got too heavy for her so this weekend I fitted a large electrical opener to it. The procedure for opening the door is now to find the car-keys and push the button on the fob. So begins the second golden age of garage door opening.

Richard "433MHz" B

Tuesday, 20 February 2018

See It. Say It. Sort It.

There's a ginger and grey creature living on my face. Since I injured my finger I haven't been able to shave so I have grown an unimpressive and patchy beard. Until this weekend I haven't been too self-conscious about it. On Saturday I spent nearly four hours on public transport travelling from Farnham to The ExCeL and back. Every ten minutes there was an announcement saying "If something doesn't look right tell a member of staff or text the British Transport Police and we will sort it – See it. Say it. Sort it." Every ten minutes the guy I was travelling with would make a joke about my beard not looking right, threaten to tell the driver about my beard, make a joke about the elite B.T.P razor squad, or at least look quizzically at my face.

Richard "whiskers" B

Tuesday, 13 February 2018

Gypsy jazz guitar bridge repair

This weekend I did some moderately accurate woodwork while wearing a thick glove (to protect my finger injury)

This is what I was brought. One bridge is worn and damaged and made of inferior timber. The other is of good quality, the right length, width and radius, but far too low.

Cutting a plank of stock from the damaged bridge:

Stock: I love this picture, the newspaper, the marking gauge, the plane and the curly wood shavings make it look like my bench is clean, I know what I'm doing, and that I can sharpen and set up a plane really accurately. None of those is quite true.

Gluing:

This is what I made: Notice also the salt and pepper mills and the wine glass and bottle - it was extremely sociable woodwork.

This is where you can stick it:

Richard "Luthier" B

Monday, 5 February 2018

Broken Down Ninja

I'm paranoid about privacy on the internet and I'm not that interested in using computers in my free time so my only presence in social media is this blog. I'm not on Twitter, Facebook (except perhaps a parody account my friends used to run to annoy me), Instagram, Whatsapp, or whatever people use to communicate these days.

It was a surprise therefor to receive a Facebook friend request at the weekend. I don't know how friend requests work if you're signed up to Facebook, but mine was a polite phonecall - from a chap I've met once in my entire life and whose surname I don't even know.

Earlier that day I had stopped to help a stricken motorcyclist. He was both lost and having engine trouble. He was an ex RAF gunner who was friendly and in surprisingly good spirits considering the day he was having. He had just bought the bike and was on his way from Plymouth to Oxford! It was a well-worn Kawasaki Ninja, it would start and run and rev freely, but it was absolutely gutless and wouldn't go above about 40mph. I've owned two motorcycles in the Kawasaki "Z" series so I thought I might be able to fix any obvious faults. I took him and the bike home, fiddled about with it and sent them out for a test run. An hour later I got a text that said that he had just stopped on his journey and the bike was running well. A few hours after that I got a very grateful phone call from the chap. Apparently the weather was "Fucking Baltic" once he had left Devon but he had got some safely.

So what was wrong with the bike? I still don't really know. There seemed to be something fishy about the fuel tap when I took the tank off, but perhaps that was my lack of familiarity with it (I was expecting it to be a vacuum operated auto, but it didn't seem to be.) There was a breather hose missing between the carbs and the airbox, but I can't believe that that had such a dramatic effect on performance. The fuel filter was absolutely filthy (I rinsed it out and put it back). After all my fiddling about the tickover had changed considerably and we had to wind up the idle speed.

I actually forgot that bikes of that age had a manual choke and my best theory is that the choke was getting stuck on and that I accidentally freed it off when I was looking at the airbox.

Richard "AA" B

Tuesday, 30 January 2018

One, Two, a One Two Three Four

I've recently been educated about three numbering systems that make more sense than I ever knew.

Lots of Ferraris have a number as part of their name and it does actually mean something. It's the capacity of each cylinder in cc's. So a 250-GTO is a car where each cylinder is 250cc. It's a 12 cylinder car (you're just expected to know that) so it's got a 3 litre engine.

In America the exit (junction) numbers on the interstates are monotonic but they are large and non-contiguous. It turns out that they're the number of miles from the start of the road. It's a brilliant system, they never put up distance signs, but every time you go past an exit you know how far it is until your exit. You can estimate distances quite accurately by just glancing at a road map. (Pass me my driving dividers).

The numbers of "A" and "B" roads in the UK also make more sense than I ever imagined. The country is divided into 6 sectors by 6 one-digit "A" roads which all go to London. They are the A1, A2, A3, A4, A5 and A6. Less important roads have 2 digits and then 3 digits. The first digit is the sector number. The roads are numbered by going round the whole country clockwise. You might be tempted to ask which end of the road gets the number. Does the A38 go from Cornwall to Nottinghamshire or Nottinghamshire to Cornwall. Clearly it's the former because all roads run clockwise around London and you leave London on your starboard side if you drive North on the A38.

I'm delighted to note that near where I live the A379 is south of the A38 and the A386 is generally north of it.

Richard "In and out of Wandsworth with the numbers on their names" B

Tuesday, 23 January 2018

Infirm

Two weeks ago I smashed up one of the fingers of my left hand. It's all bandaged up and I have to keep it clean dry and protected. It makes everything I want do impossible or wildly inconvenient. I think the technical term might be "a ball ache".

I ask you dear reader what have you achieved with your life? Created a multi-million pound company? Produced beautiful children? Healed the sick? Served your country? Higher degrees? Fame? Musical prowess? Happiness? Survived a hurricane on a tall ship? Drilled a hole deeper than Everest?

I say that's nothing. At the end of last week I UNBUTTONED A CARDIGAN USING BOTH HANDS!

I can't shave so I'm growing an unimpressive beard. I can't tie shoelaces so I've bought slip-ons. I can't start a zip so everything has buttons or goes on over my head. I can't ride a motorbike so my commute is twice-daily psychological torture. I can't wash-up, hang out laundry or eat anything that needs to be cut up. I can wash myself but I have to tape my hand into a waterproof bag, elbow my way into the bath and then use a brush on a long handle. I sleep cuddling a pillow (to keep the hand elevated, not for emotional support) and its months until I'll play the guitar again.

The most upsetting part is quite unexpected. The beautiful bossy woman in my band has been mickey taking and teasing me almost non-stop for many years. Since I injured myself she has been kind and supportive and it turns out that I hate it. It makes me feel more crippled and useless than any of the things I can't do for myself.

Richard "no infection, no bleeding" B

Tuesday, 16 January 2018

Contact!

Welcome to the early noughties:

At the beginning of this year I bought my very first smartphone. Until now I have been relying on a waterproof ruggedized candybar phone with actual buttons and a battery that lasts a fortnight. The old phone was so dated that my friends call it "Edison's prototype" – Before you say that Edison didn't invent the telephone, he was instrumental in developing the exchanges and the microphones that made them practical.

The old and the new phone were so different in age and technology that I had to spend a morning manually transferring all my contacts. My friends and aquaintances seem to fall into four groups. The largest group was "People I don't remember, or have no expectation of ever speaking to again" followed by "People I often deal with". There was a smaller group of "People I might accidentally lose contact with" I found myself checking, double checking and triple checking those phone numbers. The top of the pile was "people who's numbers I know by heart - like a nursey rhyme".

Other than that there was one person with an awkward to type name – how do you type an "o" with a tilde above it? And a friend, long since dead, whose number I had never deleted as a mark of respect.

Richard "Android" B

Tuesday, 9 January 2018

Shear

I like to think that I'm eloquent and not clumsy, but this weekend made me doubt myself. I smashed up one of my fingers and I couldn't accurately explain the nature of the injury to any of the nurses, doctors, or the surgeon that I saw.

The forces that you can put on a solid object are Tension, Compression, Bending, Torsion, and Shear. Our word for the day is shear.

I was working on a car, it was up on stands and the wheel was spinning (it wasn't in gear). It's a high performance car with large brakes and the gap between the wheel and the caliper is 3mm or less. I fed one finger through the spokes of the wheel which wound it round until the finger hit the brake caliper. The fixed caliper and the moving wheel nearly sheared off the last half of the last joint of my finger. In fact I'll be keeping the whole thing.

"Was it a crushing injury?"
"Not really it was in shear"
...
"So it bent backwards, I'll put 'hyperextension'"
"Not really, that bit went backwards, that bit went forwards, it didn't bend very much"

"Do you know how scissors work?"
"Is that a type of jack?"

The bit of the story that I'm most proud of is that we unjacked the car, torqued up the wheelnuts and tested the new brakes on the way to the Minor Injury Unit.

Sadly it wasn't a minor injury and I had to have surgery the next day. In 6 weeks the bone should be knit back together, in 12 I should have some semblance of a nail and be able to start learning the guitar all over again.

Richard "Ouch" B

Thursday, 4 January 2018

Star Wars

Spoiler Alert - If you don't want to know about how stupid The Last Jedi is, stop reading

Having been brought up on Star-trek and other make believe space adventure TV shows and films, it's easy for me to understand and accept the simple rules that overcome the complexities of physics:

1. There is gravity when you are in the ship
2. Shields will deflect any weapon
3. The energy source for propulsion is essentially infinite
4. Travel at light speed is possible

In fact Stanley Kubrick was even bold enough to try and explain how gravity could be possible with a large rotating space ship that flung it's occupants to the outside wall. So when I was introduced to the world of the original Star Wars I was glad to see all these rules applied, and my understanding of movie physics was intact.

Anyone can throw rocks at technical faults in movies but that misses the point. We all know that when the star ship Enterprise take a direct hit from a Klingon photon torpedo and the crew are thrown around the bridge, it's just William Shatner and his fellow actors staggering around a sound stage in Hollywood, but we are happy to join in the illusion and enjoy the drama.

So, I was very disappointed to find that large parts of the latest Star Wars film "The Last Jedi" not only have ignored the real laws of physics but they have thrown out 40 years of movie physics too. We are expected to believe that an attempt to destroy a First Order dreadnought must be conducted by bombers that literally look like lumbering WWII era B17's with the wings cut off (complete with glass canopies and belly turrets) and as they inch into position they are systematically cut down by enemy fighters. Then in the most absurd piece of nonsense the bomb bay doors open and rows of what appear to be conventional explosives "drop" onto the target below. There is no up or down in space, there is no gravity once the object has left the ship. Even using movie physics, it's just ridiculous, where are the phased array pulsed energy projectile weapons? what about a Tetryon cannon? Why can this attack not be conducted remotely? Even North Korea can assembly an intercontinental ballistic missile.

I could easily moan on about the fact that everything explodes like its full of old fashioned aviation gasoline in an oxygen atmosphere, or that this the first time ever that an intergalactic space ship has run out of fuel, or that there is no reason to spend 2 days assembling a mini-death star to punch a tiny hole in a 2ft thick concrete wall but obviously I would be missing the point. Clearly this is all just a lame plot device to try and create a tense nail bitter.

As a movie it fails miserably - if you want the real thing just watch 633 Squadron or The Dam Busters

Doug "Y'cannae change the laws of physics Jim" B.

Tuesday, 2 January 2018

Taskmaster

There's a tv programme I like called Taskmaster where celebrities (of varying levels of practicality) try to perform odd little challenges as quickly as possible using things that can be found around the house. For example: consume an egg; carry a lit candle from the bedroom to the shed past a fan and a sprinkler; empty a bath without pulling the plug.

On new year's eve I didn't go out celebrating, instead I went to be early with a sore throat, but before that I got to play a challenge that might have appeared on the tv programme. I live in a terraced house with badly designed gutters. We had a lot of rain and one my gutters blocked and started to overflow. I don't have a window that overlooks the gutter, and the objects that I can find around the house don't include a three section ladder, but they do include an IP68 certified endoscope.

I made reasonable progress in clearing the gutter by leaning out of the bedroom window holding above my head alternately a trowel on the end of a broom handle and a shaving mirror. I somehow attracted my neighbours attention while I was doing this (I think it was the barrage of swearing and clanging) when I dropped the trowel out of the window.

The correct solution turned out to be to fix her hose to the broom handle and operate it from my window while she observed from her dorma window and shouted Chuckle Brothers type instructions to me. To you. To me. Hold it there.

The funniest bit was getting her hose from her patio to my bedroom window. It's done in 4 stages: Throw it over the fence; throw it over the shed; throw it over the washing line; hook it inside with the broom.

Richard "Happy New Year" B