Tuesday 14 May 2024


 At the weekend I made several chainsaw mistakes. Not the types of mistakes that put your limbs in danger, but that type that spoil your day and hit you in the wallet. As well as a sweet little baby chainsaw I own a big hedge trimmer and I had agreed to help trim a hedge for a friend of mine's parents. Mistake number 1: I didn't go and look at the job before agreeing to do it. It sounded like I was just going to have to give an ornamental box hedge a haircut, but it turned out to be much more than that. Mistake number 2: I put my chainsaw in the back of the car, thinking that I might have to cut one or two bigger stems with it, but I didn’t bring the tools that go with it. I wore chainsaw trousers, sturdy boots, long sleeves, ear protection and eye protection. Mistake number 3: I didn't take a sunhat.

Giving the box hedge a haircut was simplicity itself. However there was an overgrown hedge on the other side of the garden made of leylandii, bamboo, and bramble. It was all too sturdy for the trimmer and the whole job had to be done with the chainsaw. Somewhere in the middle of the hedge was an iron post that I ran my chainsaw into and blunted it. Mistake number 4: It seemed to still be cutting, so instead of driving home and getting the sharpening kit I carried on. I overheated the bar and the chain jammed up. Mistake number 5: Even after seeing the householder's tools I still didn't drive home and get proper tools. I stripped the bar and the chain off it with inferior spanners that didn't quite fit.

When we had "finished" we discovered that the householders were in fact responsible for both sides of the leylandii hedge, and we had to go on a long steep walk to find the overgrown footpath at the side of their house, and start the whole job again.

They did give me £20 for the petrol, bar oil and my tea, and a VERY nice bottle of gin.

Richard "HS-45" B

Wednesday 8 May 2024

Heavy Metals

 Over the weekend I did the first trackday of the year in my Caterham. It was quite a big deal for me because it's the first time the car has been used hard since my friends and I had then engine out to change the clutch. We've also rebuilt the cooling system and some of the rear suspension. It all worked like a charm.

Unfortunately during the day a badly maintained Radical sprayed my car with oil. It didn't seem to cause any problems and we wiped the worst of it off. The next day I washed the paintwork, but when I checked over the car the front brakes seem to have been badly contaminated. There was a greasy, rusty residue on the inside of the disks and the pads seemed oddly "crumbly" when I tried to clean them. All of which is to say that I needed to buy a new set of front brake pads.

Environmentalists and bureaucrats can spoil all kinds of thinks that I like. We can't have proper solder any more, so all our appliances go wrong and get thrown away. We can't have low temperature silver-solder any more, we can't have real creosote, naptha, absinthe, and codeine is always cut with something.

Over the years I have discovered my favourite brake friction material. It's made by Mintex, it offers excellent braking and thermal performance on a car as light as mine, it doesn't produce a huge amount of dust or chew up the disks too badly, and it offers a good balance of cost and longevity. Although it is a bit squeaky. Back in the day it used to meet the basic European standards. For the last couple of years it's been marked "Not for Road Use". Now it's no longer available and has been replaced by a less poisonous, less polluting compound. I can only image it'll be inferior.

Richard "Farewell Mintex M1144" B

Outdated Cultural References

 My new favourite thing to spot is outdated cultural references. I introduced one of my friends to the pastime when she was visiting Plymouth. While I explained it we were driving past a carpet cleaning business called Captain Rugwash. Within a few seconds she'd also mentioned how much she liked a restaurant called Veggie Perrins.

Captain Pugwash was made from 1982 to 1984

The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin was made from 1976 to 1982

Richard "Sunshine Desserts" B

Tuesday 23 April 2024

People in Glass Houses

I live in a bungalow with a lot of windows and a conservatory. I'm also a cheapskate so I'm set on cleaning my own windows, rather than paying someone to do it. The caretaker at work has 30 years of window cleaning experience and he graciously agreed to give me a squeegee lesson. I'm starting to pick it up. There's a skill to it, and a sense of achievement when you start getting it right.

The two most valuable insights he gave me were: 1) Don't make too good a job of your own windows – your neighbours will ask you to do theirs. 2) Don't step backwards to admire your work – if you're up a ladder.

Richard "Ettore Steccone" B

Bush Bush Bush

 At the weekend I helped a friend of mine with some gardening. He had dug up a bush that he wanted to move, but it was too awkward and heavy to carry. Neither of us owns a wheelbarrow, but I am reasonably strong, and I was wearing dirty clothes. I thought that if we could get it up on to one of my shoulders I could walk round to the back garden with it. I was right about being just able to move it, I was wrong about the clothes that I was wearing. My dirty gardening jumper is quite loose at the neck and a lot of soil from the root ball went down my collar. I had forgotten that I was also wearing a fine lambswool vest which is now heavily soiled. Worse the vest funnelled quite a lot of earth into my trousers and pants. I had to shower and change all my clothes as soon as I got home. There was mud all over me, and I left a trail of mud wherever I took off a garment.

Richard "Beast of Burden" B

Wednesday 10 April 2024

Cocktail Club

 My favourite cocktail is the French 75. It's gin, syrup and lemon juice shaken hard and then double strained into a glass and topped up with Champagne.

The most luxurious gin I've ever drunk is called Roku and it's Japanese - not to my eyes a nation famed for their gin making heritage.

A friend of mine recently turned 50 and I bought her a luxurious bottle of Bollinger Champagne. I chose it not because I know anything about high end Champagne, but for brand recognition - basically because that's what they used to drink in Absolutely Fabulous.

I engraved "50" in the bottle with a cheap diamond burr and a high speed drill. Sadly it was an awkward process and I don't have a steady hand so it looks rather childish.

I was very nervous putting a bottle of Champagne that I couldn't afford to smash into the big vice to engrave it.

I'm very glad to say that I was invited to drink the highest specification French 75s that the world has probably every known.

They were delicious.

Richard "don't think about the price" B