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