Monday 27 February 2012

Eulogy - rjb

My Dad was clever.
    He invented things so novel and useful that they got patented. He helped me with my studies all the way through school and university, and I still used to ring him up and ask for help when I started going to work. He built his first radio transmitters when he was a child.

My Dad was good with words.
    When I asked him how digital frequency counters worked, he said "very well" rather than explaining their principle of operation. He described catheterization as "a monstrous indignity". He was quicker and easier to ask than Google when you couldn't think of a word. When he noticed that "text" had become a verb he naturally included "Thou texteth" in the conjugation. I once heard him call somebody "a baboon" and "sir" in the same sentence. Without fail he was clear and precise in speech, he once left an answering machine message for me at a friend's house. It started "This is John Redacted with a message for Richard Redacted his son message follows:"

My Dad was practical and resourceful.
    There was almost nothing that he couldn't make or mend, from bicycles, lawn-mowers, and out-board motors, to amplifiers and oscilloscopes, from childrens' toys to furniture and boats. After my brothers had destroyed a small petrol lawn mower (which had already been scrapped) to make a powered go-kart, he turned it back into a lawn-mower, and it's still cutting the grass more than 30 years later. He made sailing and rowing dinghies in his garage. When you worked with him, you never went out to buy specialist tools or parts, everything was repaired, adapted, re-purposed, or fabricated.

My Dad understood risk.
    He once left my 10 year old brother in charge of a small lead smelter, but he never let me cycle at night without lights. He crossed the channel to France several times in an 18 foot open boat. He encouraged his children to ride motorbikes. He once sent me to the top of his house on an aluminium ladder which had a home-made 3 metre extension G-clamped to the legs. We did all kinds of exciting and adventurous things and nobody was killed or injured, there were only a handful of broken bones. Looking back I think that he understood our capabilities and trusted us. He would never put us in harm's way, but neither was he paralysed by fear for us.

My Dad was wise.
    In my life I have only had to make a handful of heart-wrenchingly, future-splittingly difficult decisions, but the ones I did with his help were easier and better. His advice was straightforward and mainly boiled down to: Don't do anything rash, weigh up the pros and cons, sleep on it, don't be dishonest.

My Dad is dead and gone forever.
    And the world is a sadder and a duller place because of it, but his values are alive. My brothers and sister are like me, and we behave as he taught us. Between us we're clever, eloquent, practical, adventurous and wise. For example I make and mend all kinds of things for all kinds of people. I'm never wasteful and will always try to mend or re-use something broken before I buy a new one - just like my dad.

Richard "will" B

Wednesday 15 February 2012

Rock Stars

I've spent a lot of time on the roads in the last couple of days, and it seems that a disproportionate number of road haulage companies are run by old rock stars. I guess that after Fleetwood Mac and after the bad trip in Berlin, Peter Green moved away from guitar playing and into temperature controlled distribution.

I always think of Peter Frampton as a guitarist, but maybe he runs a road transport business too.

I couldn't tell you who was in Sparks but seemingly they've stayed together through the move from music into road transport.

Nigel Tuffnel of Spinal Tap didn't start working on the T-Shirt stall or in a hat shop, there's now a huge fleet of vans branded "Big Green Parcel Machine" run by Tuffnels.

I wouldn't be at all surprised if I found out that Eddie Stobart used to play bass with Black Sabbath, or Norbert Dentressangle was the front man for Golden Earring.

Richard "Paul Simon makes curtains and blinds now" B

Wednesday 8 February 2012


If a group of men are talking, and any proportion of them are around my own age, then when somebody mentions the actress Jenny Agutter, the conversation is guaranteed to follow a pre-defined route. As sure as eggs is eggs, as sure as night follows day, as sure as black follows pink, follows blue, the next 3 topics will be: "The Railway Children", "An American Werewolf in London" (which frightened us), and "Walkabout" in which she briefly appeared completely naked.

My favourite example of this was about ten years ago when I was first meeting a new girlfriend's parents. My girlfriend and her mum were at the bar gossiping and I had to try to make conversation with Disco Mike [note 1,2]. We got onto the subject of films, directors, John Landis, American Werewolf, Jenny Agutter, Railway Children, American Werewolf's sex scene, and we were just discussing seeing her naked in Walkabout when his wife and my girlfriend came back to the table. I never really got on with her mum, but her dad became my greatest ally, and a great proponent of the fated reconciliation.

I was on a men only drinking expedition on Friday when somebody mentioned Jenny Agutter, but another one of the drinkers had met her, and he took the conversation on a wholly unexpected detour through bicycle clips, wicker baskets, autographs and the nature of fame, before eventually getting back onto familiar ground with the American Werewolf sex scene and undressing in Walkabout.

[Note 1

He was married in the 70's and in his wedding photos he looks exactly like the Simpson's Disco Stu.]
[Note 2
No he didn't have glass platform shoes containing live goldfish.]

Richard "OMD is not an expression of disbelief" B

Wednesday 1 February 2012

Starter Motor

My apologies to my readers who aren't interested in motorcycle maintenance, but that is what I spent the majority of the weekend doing.

Starting my bike has been intermittent, the solenoid goes, but about half the time the starter motor doesn't turn. At the end of last week I convinced myself that the problem was with the battery. On every other Japanese bike I've worked on the battery is under the front of the saddle and the back of the fuel tank. I took the saddle and tank off and couldn't find the battery, it was hiding behind one of the side fairings. I bought and fitted a brand new battery, and the starting was just as bad as before. Plymouth Battery Centre were fantastic, they weren't expensive, they put the acid in it for me (I don't like doing that) and then took the battery back and gave me a full refund when it turned out that I didn't need it.

Over the weekend I took the starter motor out. Usually as you stand of the nearside of the bike, you're looking at the back of the starter motor, and it pulls out towards you. Not on this bike, it's nose is towards you, and you have to push it away to disengage it. There's a cover over the nose of the starter that looks like it will house the mounting bolts. It doesn't, it simply pours about a teacup of engine oil into your lap when you remove it.

Anyway, the terminals on the starter were rusty, and the innards were gummed up with dust, and having cleaned and lubricated everything, the bike seems to be starting reliably.

What have I learned?

  • Plymouth Battery Centre are fantastic
  • There's nothing wrong with my battery
  • You have to take the carburettor off before you can with withdraw the starter motor.
  • It's a 3 hour job to refit the starter motor
  • The starter motor drive runs in oil, and there's an oil seal inside the starter.
  • My bikes been off the road twice in a month, and both faults were caused by corrosion.
Richard "Polish My Commutator" B