Wednesday 27 December 2017


My brothers are both engineers and after a fashion so am I. We will often discuss faultfinding and repairs that we have done, unlikely failure modes, heroic diagnoses, rough temporary fixes and the like.

One of my friends told me about a problem and I think finding the root cause might even have challenged my brothers. He was driving in his classic mini when his heavily pregnant wife said "Oh shit! I think my waters have broken". I don't know how he worked out what had actually happened, but one of the cabin heater hoses was punctured and was spraying warm coolant into the passenger's lap.

Richard "Does amniotic fluid smell like ethylene glycol?" B

Sunday 24 December 2017

Cracker Jokes

If you have just pulled a Christmas Cracker, you can hold the little slip of paper in front of your face and then tell any joke. It's best if they conform to one of the traditional standards for childish jokes, and if they're deeply offensive or inappropriate. These are my favourites:

I say I say I say, what key can open any lock?
(I don't know what key can open any lock)
A pikey.

Knock Knock.
(who's there)
The big Ish.
(The big Ish who?)
No, fuck off and get a job you parasite.

Does anybody have any others?

Richard "Happy Christmas" B

Tuesday 19 December 2017


Some of my friends and I now play a game where we try to start sentences with the phrase "I'm not a retard". It's quite easy in some social settings, but none of us has managed to do it in a professional context.

It started a few weeks ago with my pseudo-niece. I was in Houston (Tx) with my brother, his wife, her daughter and a couple of other people. They were discussing a fancy vacation that they'd had in Santa Barbara and the Hotel California. I think we all started thinking of The Eagles song, except possibly my pseudo-niece who's 16 and there's no reason for her to have an encyclopedic knowledge of overblown 70's rock music. One of the guys said "How do you check out?" but my brother who remembered the lyrics better said "No, you can check out any time you like, but you can never leave". We all laughed. When the laughing subsided Persephone supportively said to her daughter "Do you understand why we're laughing?" With enormous and misplaced confidence her daughter said "I'm not a retard, I know who the Red Hot Chilli Peppers are!"

Richard "Hotel California. Californication. Got to have a system" B

Tuesday 12 December 2017

Book Review "Nineteen Eighty Four"

I've just read George Orwell's "Nineteen Eighty Four" and while it's brilliant, it isn't an unalloyed masterpiece. I was surprised to find that the book is short, exciting and easy to read. It's about the adventure and destruction of Winston in a dystopian future of total authority and ubiquitous surveillance. Orwell has invented and developed the setting painstakingly, but the exposition and the storytelling are frankly clumsy. He has created, in enormous detail, a world and a language. The language is explained in a long appendix but is also forced into the narrative in the mouth of a convenient lexicographer character that Winson just happens to work with. The lexicographer is removed from the story as soon as he's made his useful speeches about Newspeak.

A lot of the history of the world is read directly from a counter-revolutionary textbook thousands upon thousands of plotless words at a time.

Some of the story telling is no better: Within a couple of dozen pages of introducing a pretty female co-worker we get a moth-eaten mahogany double bed in a room without surveillance. It's like having Chekov's rifle trained on us until they inevitably end up in the bed together.

This is personal preference, but I wish my fiction authors wouldn't keep having a swing at Language-Shapes-Thought vs. Thought-Shapes-Language. It's an interesting subject, but it's obviously one for scientific investigation, not speculative propaganda nestling inside novels.

My favourite parts of the book were a love affair as an adventure story, and sex as an act of political rebellion. The book is unrelentingly bleak. I found it both depressing and strangely refreshing that Winston is wholly defeated, there is no last-minute rescue, no shred of hope, and if I read the ending correctly, not even one last defiant thought.

I really enjoyed the book, but it is in reality a political essay disguised as a story. It's very very good but it could have been _much_ better

Richard "Ignorance is Strength" B

Wednesday 6 December 2017

Turning Pro

I used to play in a function band. We were good enough to get paid and for people to dance, but not good enough to be anything other than hobbyists.

For a year during that time I had the honour to play with a genuinely world-class drummer. He played with us for pocket money while he was finishing his music degree. It was great fun, humbling, and faintly embarrassing to play with him. He has since turned pro and I spent this weekend with him. While the quality of the musicianship in his bands is now is vastly superior, everything else is as bad or worse as when he played with us. The work is harder, the hours longer, there's more travel, less sleep, the pressure is higher, the money isn't good, and they still get asked to put up with the same stupid shit that we did.

A venue asked my friend's band leader to do a show for free before making a regular booking: they said they'd see how many people came, what the night was like and then take it from there. The band leader said "I've got a big group of friends, we're going out drinking and I think this might be the right bar for us. Why don't you come round to my house with a couple of barrels of beer and pour us drinks all night, and then we'll take it from there?".

My friend's gig was in Soho, but I couldn't be bothered staying for all of the three shows he had to play. Instead I walked to Chinatown and ate in the cheapest restaurant I could find. It was the sort of place that has the menu taped to the inside of the front window next to a rack of inside-out chickens. In fact the restaurant was so ramshackle that it didn't have a sign with its name. I think the place was called the "Come in we are open". I texted one of my friends about it and he rather brilliantly said that he thought he knew it, and that it used to be called the "Sorry we are closed".

Richard "Your hands and work aren't steady" B

Tuesday 28 November 2017

Key Cutting, Shoe Repairs, Engraving.

I'd like to tell you about all the funny or exciting things I did over the weekend, but there aren't any. It was all ironing and filing.

Yet again the key to the back gate at my mum's house has broken. The blanks for the key are no longer manufactured. There isn't a replacement lock available that would fit in the existing gate. The gate is bespoke because of the odd hinge position and it would cost several hundred pounds to have a new one built.

The light in my garage is terrible so I ended up with the work-enemy in the kitchen (where I've got a new LED batten) for the whole weekend. I made the third tooth on the top flag of this key:

All the cutting and forming was done by hand with worn out needle files. Thankfully I do have a very good soldering station and a small personal stock of (now outlawed) tin-lead-silver solder.

Richard "Weller TCP, Screwdriver bit, temperature range 9" B

Tuesday 21 November 2017

The hardest word

There's been a lot of chit-chat in the newspapers and interwebs about apologies. I read a full page editorial by a wittering harpy about our foreign secretary having three different goes at apologising for something. The interesting bit was the idea that a good apology is almost magical and does as much for the giver as the recipient.

It's true. I have been the recipient of an apology that made everything better again. Some years ago a couple of my band mates played a trick on me that I thought was too cruel and too dangerous. I was really hurt, upset, and seriously thinking about leaving the band.

I made my displeasure known (firmly) to the perpetrators and I got two different reactions. The first did a sort of weasel-words half apology where nothing was his fault and it was somehow my problem for being upset. The second apologised. There was nothing magical about the form of words, just that she was sorry, she hadn't intended to upset me, didn't dislike me and did take responsibility.

A full and real apology is completely disarming. You can't carry on arguing with somebody when they've just said they were wrong, and the ball is straight back in your court. You either have to start forgiving them, or you carry on being a dick about it.

Afterwards I never felt as comfortable around the guy who didn't apologise. He was an unreliable attention-whore anyway, and now I have nothing to do with him. Within 48 hours I was at the party with the woman that did apologise. No hard feelings, no awkwardness, and in truth I think my opinion of her went up. I might even have over-reacted about the whole thing anyway.

Richard "I'm Sorry" B

Tuesday 14 November 2017


What's this?

It's an out of focus picture of a toggle from a drawstring bag and a piece of foam rubber glued to a section of expired credit card. The real question is "what's it for?"

It's a removable indicator buzzer mute for the Caterham Seven sports car. The Caterham has a piercing and annoying audible warning on the indicators and it's very common for owners to silence it by sticking tape over the sounder. The problem is that the Caterham doesn't have self-cancelling indicators and that at motorway speeds (and above) the buzzer is only just loud enough to remind you that the indicators are on.

The sounder is a black 12mm cylinder nestling amongst a loom of wires under the scuttle. To find it by feel you'd need the sensitivity of a braille speed reader. To be able to see it you need the flexibility of a circus contortionist – you have to feed yourself headfirst on your back into the footwell. The first time I did this I had my mobile phone in my mouth to be sure I could reach it to call for help.

I have lasso'd the buzzer with a cable tie which hangs down above the driver's knees. You can feed the mute up the cable tie with relative ease and silence the indicators at will.

It's impossible the photograph the mute in situ, but this shows the principle of operation. The end of the pen represents the buzzer.

I'm proud of the design – which used only things that I had around the house, I'm proud of the fact that it works, and I'm unduly proud of the fact that I managed to bond a polythene ball to a credit card. I used 2-part methacrylate adhesive which melts most plastics and then sets rock hard. Of course it doesn't even stick to polythene, but I filed a flat on the ball and then sawed a series of very small dovetails which are full of adhesive.

Richard "McGuyvor" B

Tuesday 7 November 2017

Rocket Park is FREE!

Nasa used to build rockets on the west coast and launch them from Florida, but they put mission control in Houston as a money making exercise for the state of Texas. They’ve done something very similar with the visitors' centre.

When I went to Houston I thought I wanted to go and see Nasa.

The visitors centre is expensive and not that good. They do have some really cool things there (used lunar capsules, space suits, a spare skylab, an elderly jumbo jet that was modified to give piggy-back-rides to space shuttles, JFK's lectern, the ruggedest suitcase the world has known…) but it’s organised to make things difficult to see - possibly on purpose.

The lighting is so terrible that you're either blinded by the glare off the display cases or you're stumbling around in gloom. The signs are misleading. Neither of these for example welcomes you in to the spare skylab.

But one of them is the way in!

Some of the best exhibits are strung up from the ceiling so that you can’t look in them.  A lot of the floor space is given over to soft play, childish demonstrations, dioramas, audio-visual presentations and games.

Nowhere but nowhere does it tell you that you need to book a ticket for the tram to be able to see the best exhibits (until you’ve queued up for the tram). The cynic in me thinks that they want you to spend time and money in their gift shops and restaurants.

The tram tour opens up the best bit of the day. You get shepherded around like so many animals and you get to see the original mission control room, an astronaut training facility, and then eventually the main event.

The best exhibit is the rocket motors, a Mercury rocket, and a Saturn V rocket. They save it until last, but confusingly they are hidden away in a large public park with a free car-park.

My brother and I spent a full day and a fair bit of money going to Nasa-Houston visitors centre, but what we actually wanted to go to was “Rocket Park” next door. It is made deliberately difficult to find, it’s not advertised anywhere and there’s a sentry with a gun, but it is actually public and free! It’s owned and operated by The Smithsonian and once you get there it’s quite brilliant.

If you go to Nasa-Houston my advice is to take a torch, and find the tram tickets first. If you want to see the rockets, find “Rocket Park” and go there instead. Tell the man with the gun that that’s where you’re going and he will cheerfully direct you to the car park.

Richard “Houston we have a problem” B

Tuesday 31 October 2017

The Urban Goose

I've been visiting my family in Louisiana and Texas and I noticed that my family have a propensity to give things multiple names.

My niece has a dog named Sausages but because of his amazing ability to silently follow you around and then go to sleep at your feet he gets called "Trip Hazard". I also heard her lovingly call the dog "The Sausage Man" and assumed she was quoting from a nonsense song I keep hearing on the radio, she wasn't, and thought I was crazy when I called him "The Shadow Licker".

She keeps a horse named Beignet (a type of New Orleans breakfast doughnut) but when she enters competitions she calls him Topless so that the man with the mic will have to announce her like "Next into the arena we have H----- B---------- who will be riding topless."

I have long suspected that parents deliberately make situations more awkward and embarrassing when they're meeting their children's boyfriends/girlfriends. I was honoured to be present when my niece brought her boyfriend to meet her father and stepmother for the first time. To try to confuse and embarrass the young man we adopted unlikely and inappropriate nicknames and practiced using them for 24 hours: Babycakes, Cuddles, Snookums and Fuckstick.

The man took it in his stride, but my family also unwittingly adopted the character of borderline-alcoholic sports enthusiasts. We were drinking strong beer to pass the time and then taking shots of whiskey whenever the Houston Astros got a run or the LSU Tigers scored a touchdown. The new boyfriend doesn't have a well-honed alcohol tolerance and had to go to bed at 9:30 – he missed Drunken Over-Appreciation of Music Club.

I wasn't present later in the week when my niece met her beau's parents for the first time, but his father asked the waitress for "An Old Fashioned". To people who grew up in Aberdeen that’s slang for a hand job.

Richard "I only drink socially, and to keep the shakes under control" B

Thursday 19 October 2017

But a Bitch Ain't One

I'm on holiday in the Southern united States.

First World Problems:
  • All my 50's are stuck together
  • My diamond shoes are really high and we've got to walk more than two blocks
  • I left my car keys in the plane I just landed.

South Louisiana Problems:
  • The grocery store had free samples of whisky and shopping and driving home became a bewildering ordeal
  • They only had a half gallon tub of Guidry's
  • There's no alligator sausage
  • "Here's some Brèfiolle" What the fuck is brèfiolle? "Here is some bread for you all"

Richard "Crawfish Pot Pie" B

Wednesday 18 October 2017


My trip to New Orleans has been characterised by mis-translations and sexually suggestive cocktails.

In the states "cricket jumper" is meaningless, it would suggest a piece of equipment for making an electrical connection between insects, in the UK it's white knitwear.

My niece, who has gone native over here, honestly thought that the last line from the chorus from the famous Credence Clearwater Revival song was "There's a bathroom on the right".

Don't ask "Where are the lavvies?". You're wasting your time.

"Central reservation" isn't understood and has to be translated as "median strip".

When my niece was growing up (in Scotland) and Old Fashioned meant a hand job. I think all over the UK a "posh wank" is where one masturbates while wearing a condom.

We had dinner in a very fancy restaurant that is famed for its cocktails. We started off with "French 75s" which is a deluxe version of the standard Champagne cocktail, then her boyfriend ordered an "Old Fashioned". They actually served their own signature "creole" version of the drink. Our waiter was almost mute, although you could pick out a few words amongst the croaking and gasping noises he made. We never managed to find out what makes a Posh Old Fashioned, but it was clear to my niece that it would have to involve giving someone a hand-job while he's wearing a condom.

A good bartender will use a muddler to mix and break down and fruits and herbs when he's making a cocktail, it's just a long booze-pestle. We were drinking in a fancy-ish bar and watched the bar tender make a mojito. He put fresh mint and lime into a tall glass and put his hand over the glass. He then made a hole between his thumb and first finger and made sweet tender love to it with a length of dowling. To watch this procedure was somewhere between hilarious, pornographic and unappetizing.

Richard "I might just have a beer" B

Tuesday 17 October 2017

Thanks but no thanks

Bolingblog is on holiday in the Southern United States so updates will be sporadic.

To answer all your questions about my blind date: It was easy to find her - I knew what car she would be driving. She was beautiful and charming.

It would be ungallant to talk too much about what happened, but I shall leave you with some of the comments my friends made:

"Too old. Yes. Too old to begin the training" - Yoda.
"Did you driver her back to the care home afterwards?"
"Are you going to help her with her winter fuel bill"
"You could get her tennis balls to put on the feet of her walking frame"

Richard "Age Concern" B

Tuesday 10 October 2017


I'm almost relieved that my life is back to bewildering social situations and only I have to navigate.

On Saturday night I asked a woman if I could have her phone number and she said yes. The problem is that I had been drinking heavily and I had a bus to catch so I completely neglected to spend any time talking to her.

This is what I know about her for sure:
She has at least one friend,
Her name,
Her mobile telephone number,
That she's single – she actually said "very single" whatever that means,
That we're meeting for a quick drink on Wednesday.
That she finishes work at 1900 on Wednesday.

In her texts she uses the 24 hour clock without punctuation which implies a pleasing precision in her thinking and makes me wonder if she's (ex) military.
One of her texts contained a space before a question mark which either implies either sloppy typing, or that she had carefully reworded the text to tailor the impression it would make.
She's prepared to meet me 90 minutes after she finishes work so she's either: very keen to meet me, very keen to give me the brush off, without a long getting-ready routine, or brutally efficient.

The weirdest thing is that I don't know what she looks like. I don't have a good memory for faces at the best of times. I was on my seventh pint when I talked to her and everything about her has slipped my memory. I know for sure that I found her very attractive. I'm fairly confident of her hair colour. I've got a vague recollection that she's the sort of shape I find most appealing, and that's all I know. I don't know how I'm going to actually meet her.

Richard "wish me luck" B

Tuesday 3 October 2017


I've had a few complaints that there are too many automotive articles in this blog, so I'm going to take an ill-advised swing at politics.

The modern Labour party chose as its leader an unelectable Marxist and then underwent a surge of popularity. I'm furious with these new supporters.

At the last election we were offered more bank holidays, more money, better healthcare and a pony. Nobody asked what the price would be, but that wasn't what annoyed me.

The shadow chancellor now talks openly about overt monetary financing of government spending, of re-nationalising industry and of expropriation of private investments. Nobody has put their hand up and asked "what about hyperinflation, capital flight, the rule of law?" Again I'm happy to let them enjoy their speeches and their conferences even if it looks crazy to me.

What has got my goat is the fucking chanting. Since the summer I have seen news articles mention crowds chanting "Oh Jeremy Corbyn" but nobody bothered to write down what the tune was. This weekend I found out, and to a man these newly politically engaged youngsters has a tin ear. The tune is supposed to be the first two bars of the bass part of The White Stripes "Seven Nation Army". But there's a note missing. The tune has seven notes, the lyric six syllables. It is truly painful to hear. Melisma lets you spread a syllable over multiple notes, but they have to be different tones, otherwise you've just forgotten to sing one of the notes. They have slurred the first two notes (a dotted crotchet and a quaver both on A) over the word "Oh". It's horrible.

I'd like to think that an undercover team of elite Tory musicologists engineered the chant, so that everybody with any sense of rhythm has to sing "Uh-Oh! Jeremy Corbyn" which puts a completely different complexion on it.

Richard "And I-eee-eye will always love you" B

Tuesday 26 September 2017


I'm very inexperienced at dealing with small children, and I find them difficult to spot. They're low down, they creep up behind you, and unlike cats and dogs, they don't seem to instinctively scuttle away from your feet. I was at a primary school summer fair once and took a few steps across the hall. In doing so I knocked about half a dozen children over like so many fleshy bowling pins.

I'd like to think that my actions are purposeful, but my friends would tell you that I'm heavy handed. Apparently I knock on the door like a debt collector, I use the light pull in the bathroom like I'm trying to climb it, and I put the iron onto the garment like I'm stamping a passport.

I was leaving a café where the door had been shut tight against the wind, the door opens inward. I opened the door briskly and to my surprise there was a small child attached to the outside handle. He'd reached above his head to grab it just as I opened the door and was whisked off his feet and thrown into the café. He flew gracefully at first, like an immature super-hero but he landed in a crying crumpled heap.

Richard "I'd make an excellent father" B

Tuesday 19 September 2017


A while ago I lived for a couple of years with my then girlfriend. It's a period I look back on very fondly, but I also describe it as a reign of terror:

  • No smoking inside the house.
  • Front door to be kept locked at all times.
  • All laundry to be placed immediately into the designated basket.
  • No coming home too drunk to keep your dinner down.
  • All washing up to be done on the day that it is generated.
  • Clean bed linen every single week.
  • All carpets and surfaces to be kept clean at all times.
  • "Strictly Come Dancing" to be watched attentively and in its entirety on the day of first broadcast.
  • Differentiation between soup spoons and dessert spoons to be carefully observed.
  • No snoring.

One day during the reign of terror I came home, unlocked the front door (even though it was my own house and somebody else was at home) and had to ask "What the fuck are you doing?". She said later that given the situation it was a fair question and eloquently phrased.

She was on her hands and knees in the kitchen, mopping the floor, wearing only her bra and knickers. This wasn't some sexy roll-play acting, this was earnest housework in a state of undress.

In my absence she had made a large jelly, balanced it on the top of the fridge freezer, and then before it was set, knocked it down – drenching herself and most of the kitchen in sticky liquid and mandarin orange segments. She put her wet clothes straight into the washing machine and wiped it all up before stepping into the shower. I came home in the middle of that process.

I used to car-share with my boss. My girlfriend says she's very glad that he didn't come in for a cup of tea that day.

Richard "No animals behind the sofa, no gnawing on the skirting boards, no urine on the carpet" B

Tuesday 12 September 2017


I often complain that in the days before mobile phones people were more careful to meet their appointments. If you said that you'd be somewhere at a certain time you had to be there, otherwise you'd be keeping somebody waiting or miss them. What I forget is all the times that I got delayed or detained.

"Where have you been? I've been waiting here for three quarters of an hour."
"I'm really sorry, we got lost in a maze"

In the early 90's I was living in Crystal Palace with my sister and we walked down to Penge to meet our friend for a drink. We walked through Crystal Palace Park, which, as well as the ruins of the crystal palace, a football club, formal gardens and dinosaur sculptures contains a hedge maze.

We were a few minutes early so we walked a little way into the maze, not really expecting to find the middle, not expecting to get lost. Which we promptly did, resolutely. It was quite a surprise when we retraced our steps and found a dead end rather than the entrance. The hedges were so carefully planted that you couldn't force your way through them – I tried earnestly. All the junctions look so similar that you can confidently say "we've already been here" even when you haven't. It was dark, cold, and there was nobody else in the park. The only thing that gave us hope, as we wandered deeper and deeper, more and more hysterically and started seriously considering how we should sleep and wait for daylight – was that (to the best of our knowledge) there wasn't a minotaur trying to kill us.

Richard "Caught in a trap" B

Tuesday 5 September 2017

Will you marry me?

On the bank holiday I was invited to witness a proposal. I thought these were private intimate events, but one of my old school friends wanted me to watch him propose to his American girlfriend at the Mayflower steps while they were visiting the UK. I really like of the symbolism of using the Mayflower Steps for an Englishman proposing to an American, it’s spoiled slightly by the knowledge that the entire foreshore has been rebuilt since the Pilgrim Fathers left and the most likely spot that their ship last touched the UK is now the toilets in The Admiral MacBride*

He invited several of his friends and family and a photographer and he booked a venue for celebratory drinks. He was so cocksure of her answer that I really rather hoped she would say "No" – she didn't.

It wasn't clear from the invitation whether we should have been present when he popped the question so I ended up in a large group of people hiding half-heartedly behind "Prawn on a Stick"*

The most bizarre part of the event was that there's an odd bloke who hangs around on the Barbican dressed as Sir Francis Drake. He carries a sword and a pistol and accosts the tourists. He molested the happy couple and "knighted" them with his sword – all while wearing the most enormous codpiece.

The bride to be is charming and beautiful and – unusually for a septic – has a keen and sarcastic sense of humour. We were talking about names for things and she said "yes that's an excellent name for it. Did you think of that at a tea party with your dollies?"

*The Admiral MacBride is one of the few really rough pubs left in Plymouth.

*"Prawn on a Stick" is a well known sculpture and landmark in Plymouth. I believe that the sculptor gave it a much more pretentious name but that it was soundly ignored by the Janners.

Richard "Damn Yankees" B

Wednesday 23 August 2017


Bolingblog is on holiday for a couple of weeks.

Back in early September.

Richard "Open Road" B

Tuesday 15 August 2017


This weekend I have mainly been washing a very small car. I'm not car-proud, but I am quite tight and I want to maintain as much of its value as I can. I’ve got a driving holiday coming up so I wanted to put a new layer of wax on the paintwork to protect it. The standard procedure for washing a car is:
1) cold water rinse
2) Shampoo
3) rinse
4) dry
That much was done in about an hour. Then the black marks from melted pieces of tyre and the desiccated insects become quite obvious. I do have both the right solvents in stock...
5) tar remover
6) insect remover
Both leave a residue that needs to be removed...
7) shampoo
8) rinse
9) dry
The car is now pretty clean but there are still little sticky bits of dirt that I don't want to trap under the wax. I have recently bought a massive lump of automotive blu-tack and its associated lubricant which you wipe over the entire surface of the paintwork to pick up little bits...
10) clay-bar
The lubricant leaves a residue that needs to be removed but thankfully it's water based…
11) rinse
12) dry
I was then able to do what I had originally intended...
13) wax
14) buff

It took me seven hours to wash my car.

Richard "at the clay bar, clay bar, clay bar" B

Tuesday 8 August 2017


My mother is very bright and pleasantly crackers.

In the 90s there was a tv. quiz show called "15 to 1". She applied to appear on it because she saw an advert that offered free travel and accommodation (near some of her friends). She was accepted, appeared on the programme, and answered almost all of the questions correctly. She didn't win because she had never bothered to watch the programme and see how the game was played.

Later, because she has a big garden and was in need of a hobby, she signed up for a horticulture course at a garden centre. She was expecting elderly ladies drinking tea and learning how to grow their favourite flowers. Unfortunately it was a professional qualification and every other student ran or worked at a commercial garden or nursery. She didn't like to admit she was on the wrong course so she knuckled down, studied, read, revised and was awarded a professional horticulture qualification that she has never used.

She recently hired a tree surgeon and was laughing at his business card – coming round here, showing off your certification from the Royal Horticulture Society. You don't impress me. We've all got one of those. I got one by accident .

Richard "Apple that didn't fall that far from the tree" B

Tuesday 1 August 2017

The Impossible Dream

I'm a computer programmer and last week I had my performance review at work. My boss said that he was "impressed with my misguided tenacity". I'm taking that as a compliment despite the fourth word. I do have a history of doggedly finishing projects that might have been better left for dead.

"To find the unfindable fault
To cure the incurable leak
To tune the untunable loop
To make the unmakable tweek"

"To code the uncodable app
To write when your keyboard unplugs
To read when your screen is too blurry
To fix the unfixable bug"

"This is my quest
To pore through that heap
No matter the threadcount
No matter how deep"

"To fight for fault-free
Without thanks or applause
To replace bloat SQL
With an elegant clause"

"And I know if I'll only be true
To this mind numbing quest
My OCD will be modestly eased
When I'm laid to my rest"

"And the source will be better for this
That one man, pale and awkward and odd
Still strove in his last K of disk space
To fix the unfixable bug"

Richard "The Geek From La Mancha" B

Tuesday 25 July 2017

Effete worse than death

There's a full-body gesticulation that you sometimes see when someone is talking about sliding or drifting a car. Take hold of a small imaginary steering wheel. Twist your hips to the right (as though your arse is trying to overtake you on the left), drop your left shoulder and turn the imaginary steering wheel quickly to the left (into the skid).

At the weekend I was asked about my track day at Mallory Park and I involuntarily made this gesture. Unfortunately I'm one of those grotesque individuals with a shy little finger. If I pick up a pint of beer, cup of tea, dart, clarinet (or anything you hold that way round), and I don't think about what I'm doing, then the object will be between my thumb and three fingers and my little finger will be extended away from whatever I'm holding.

The gesticulation in my story about Mallory Park had my little fingers held daintily away from the wheel, so it looked more like I was black-flagged at a tea party at Buckingham Palace. The mickey-taking and laughing-at was so thorough that I don't think I ever finished the story.

Richard "Chinese Pen Grip" B

Tuesday 18 July 2017

Thank You, We'll Let You Know

This weekend I was running sound for an Oasis tribute band and I witnessed the most impossibly thorough and harsh audition process.

Bass players are notoriously unreliable and the band are looking for a new one. They rehearsed with a young lad three times and then had him play fourteen songs at a large free public show. The show was on the green of the Exmouth Pavillion, there were at least 200 people on the grass listening (including his mother who was beaming with pride) plus every tourist who walked along the seafront. To really add to the pressure, this was the first time he has played in front of anybody except once –at school- for a music lesson. He's an accomplished bass-player and he played well. He did make a couple of mistakes, but he didn't freak out and rescued himself each time. If it were up to me I would have marked him down severely for going home before we'd packed all the drums, pa and heavy stuff back into the cars.

The sad thing is that he neither got, nor failed to get the gig. He's still in the running. I think it would be like asking somebody to go on a date and them saying "Well lets move in together, have a couple of children, see how it goes for a decade and then I'll let you know..."

Richard "our rider was chips and sandwiches" B

Tuesday 11 July 2017


Years ago my friend's nephew seemed to have called a pet rabbit "Hop-Steve". Sadly someone had misunderheard him and the rabbit was called "Hopsie". Last week I talked about a brewery hiring a hop-genealogist and wondered how many of them there are (I'd now guess that they make up about a quarter of the population). This week, completely randomly, my sister introduced me to "Hop-John" a retired hop farmer, breeder, and genealogist.

He's charmingly eccentric, bewilderingly upper-class and incredibly knowledgeable on beer and brewing. He dismissed the Hog's Back Brewery's re-introduction of the Farnham-Whitebine and "mainly a PR exercise". He works with one of my most local breweries and urged me to re-evaluate the slop that they produce saying it is "much improved of late".

In a couple of weeks I've got a man-date in North Dartmoor with a hop genealogist!

Richard "meet in a public place, tell a friend where you're going." B

Tuesday 4 July 2017

Glorious Goodwood

On Friday I was taken by a generous friend to the Goodwood festival of speed. Despite its name it's got nothing to do with horseracing or amphetamines, it's all about fast cars. We didn't have tickets to the grandstand and Lord March hadn't invited us to use his balcony so the racing was actually quite hard to see. I was most taken with all the things that were for sale and how badly they had estimated my disposable income. The first thing I saw was an aeroplane with room for 8 of my friends and my crew that has a cruising speed of 320mph. I was also sorely tempted by a pair of handmade Japanese driving shoes with such restrained styling that they would have suited Jeremy Corbin.

If you believe Adam Smith, then the reason we're all so well fed, leisured and rich compared with our ancestors is the division and specialisation of labour. My favourite economist was in raptures about the progress we've made when he found out that "Pasty Crimper" was a real full time job. I was on a brewery tour on Saturday and the story of the brewery involved ringing up a hop-genealogist and finding the most direct descendants of the extinct Farnham White Bine. A hop-genealogist note, not the hop-genealogist. How many of these people are there? Are there half a dozen in the back of every yellow pages?

Richard "let your finger do the walking" B

Tuesday 27 June 2017


I remember in the early days when I was happy and excited. We'd take long journeys just to spend more time together, and I wanted to show off to everybody. Over the years the excitement faded to co-operative indifference, but recently my motorbike does nothing but infuriate me.

We're like a couple who now hate each other but have too expensive a mortgage and too many children to be able to split up. This weekend I bought an endoscope and spent about 18 hours working on the bike. I changed the fuel pump, did a V-belt service, and rebuilt the clutch for the second time in as many months.

I know exactly what I'd like to chop it in for (a 750cc super-scooter with a 6 speed dual-clutch semi-automatic sequential gearbox) but it's expensive and my current bike is worthless. A load of the plastic fairings were broken when I pushed it off its stand, more were broken when I ran over a deer. The clutch bearings, the clutch springs and the plate separators are all worn out and that is glaringly obvious if you take it for a test ride.

This is how much work you have to do to get the fuel pump out of a TMAX.

The clutch is completely shot after 26,000m, it demands a V-belt that costs over £100 every 12,000m, engine oil every 4,000m and a complete top end engine rebuild every 24,000m. Would not buy again.

Richard "divorce" B

Tuesday 20 June 2017

Home of the trouser press

This weekend I drove my kit car to Guildford, picked up one of my old schoolfriends and we drove to Leicester to visit another schoolfriend whom we haven't seen for 20 years. We went to two different beer festivals, a curry house, a Turkish café and a track day at Mallory Park. It was a fantastic weekend.

My new hobby is driving my kit car to racing circuits, but luggage space is sorely limited. At the absolute most I can take: A friend, two crash helmets, two coats, a small "greatest hits" toolkit, footpump, pressure gauge, 2l of service fluids, drinks, biscuits and 18l of personal effects.

Almost everybody I meet at track days has a similar but more luxurious hobby. They tow a fast car to a circuit behind a larger and more comfortable vehicle. At Snetterton last year I thought I had seen the height of luxury when there was a man making cups of tea from his track-day-kettle. At Mallory Park one of the towing vehicles was a large builders' van and the occupant was sitting around on his own track-day-patio-furniture and listening to his own track-day-ruggedised-radio!

Just in case you're interested in the driving:
The hairpin is very difficult to find a good line around and very difficult to drive neatly. I was black flagged and had to temporarily leave the circuit because I was making too much tyre noise trying to accelerate away from it. "Gerrards" is a 180degree constant radius right hander. We found that as long as you were going fast enough for 4th gear (65mph or so) then my car is gutless enough that you can't spin or lock the rear wheels and it would flatter your driving by taking you all the way round almost as fast the racing machinery.

Richard "luggage space" B

Tuesday 13 June 2017


I thought that this blog was only read by my colleagues, family and close friends. This time last year I wrote about my experience running sound at a small festival. I was wildly disparaging and insulting about some of the musicians and the organisation. It was interesting to learn that the article was actually widely read and I upset a good number of people. Better yet I must be so competent or so cheap that they hired me again this year nonetheless. It was politely suggested to me that this year I be more circumspect in my review... It was great!

I normally write about boring little things that have happened to me, but I want to tell you about a boring little adventure that I'm about to have. I'm a great fan of the Renault 4.  Many months ago I saw somebody restoring one and barged into his garage, introduced myself and helped him a little, I also lent him the workshop manuals for it. Tonight he's bringing the fully restored car to my house so that we can go out for a drive. I can't wait.

Richard "How to win friends and influence people" B

Tuesday 6 June 2017


At the weekend my friends and I were glared at by an 8 year old. One of her favourite toys is a very cute cuddly cat. It was sitting on her father's lap when he got up in a hurry to answer the door. Something about the awkward way he balanced himself and the light weight of the toy meant that it was actually flung (accidentally) across the room and into a wall. The daughter was visibly upset and went to rescue/comfort the toy. Unfortunately it was so funny that all the adults laughed at her. We all received the frowning of a lifetime – which only made it funnier.

I regularly receive an even more harsh staring.

I rehearse every week in a band that never performs, so we just play for fun. Most of the songs don't have well defined endings, we just sort of carry on until they reach a natural conclusion. During one of these songs another guitarist and I enjoy improvising throwaway lead lines and playing silly call and response games.  The best musician amongst us is the de-facto musical director, she'll be playing bass while this is going on and will try to cut short the messing around. She used to slow down the bass line to bring the song to an end. It's easy to recognise and it's about the musical equivalent of your mum shouting "Time to come in now lads, your tea's getting cold". However we often ignore her and keep playing. In retaliation she has started playing a chromatic run up to the tonic that is an absolutely unmistakable "THIS IS THE LAST ONE". Although with practice you can still ignore her and keep playing. The song now ends when the bass is playing a rallentando chromatic cadence, and the bass player is giving you a harsh stare.

Richard "D.S. Al Fine" B

Tuesday 30 May 2017

Look at me!

This is some heavily compressed video of me driving my kit car around castle combe. It's interesting for me to watch, because at the time I thought I was making a pretty good job of it. The turn ins and clipping points are good, all the exits are wimpy and don't use anything like the whole track. The problem might be incorrect entry speed, putting the power back at the wrong time, or most likely a failure of courage.

If you look at how much the horizon rolls and pitches you can see that we're actually on luxuriously soft suspension.

If you're interested in the speed, we're doing almost 110mph around the bend after the start-line. You're not allowed to time your laps at a track day, but looking at the timestamps on the video I get an average speed of about 75mph.

Richard "grow a pair" B

Tuesday 23 May 2017


I can't even flirt with the idea of pretending I'm normal, but I'm sure that this isn't what normal people do with an afternoon off work:

That's an old oscilloscope, two speedometers and a multimeter on a workmate connected to a kit car which is on axle stands running at 120mph. Between the seat and the wheel arch you can just see the bamboo which operates the throttle.

This is the temporary connection onto the speed sensor.

My speedo had gone wrong in a very odd way and I found it hard to find the fault. My brother (when he's not drinking rum, stealing treasure and hitting people with belaying pins) is an aircraft engineer and he's much better at fault-finding than me. I told him about the ridiculous amount of time and effort I spent on the speedo fault. "There's an inductive sensor pointing at a toothed wheel on the driveshaft, there's the wiring up to the speedo, and there's the instrument itself. I've got a spare speedo and that showed the same fault. I tested the sensor and that's OK so there must be a fault with the loom"... My brother interjected "Or the driveshaft" and in a matter of moments had understood a fault that it took me a week to find. It seems that the magnetic reluctance is off-centre and the speed signal shifts phase with every turn of the wheel.

Richard "aconcentric reluctance" B

Wednesday 17 May 2017

Stop the Car!

This weekend I went to Castle Combe in my kit car with my brother. It was raining heavily, there was standing water on the track, and the car was wearing semi-slick tyres. The morning was like the most ludicrously extreme and dangerous trust-building exercise. On two occasions my brother seemed to be driving us earnestly and fast towards a bale of tyres (at Bobbies chicane).

I lost control of the Vehicle so severely (at Tower) that by brother was bracing himself for the crash. He hurriedly grabbed the sill and the dashboard and in the process he turned the indicators on and the wipers off. I just about rescued the car and didn't quite hit anything.

He was even more frightened when we went to the motorsport shop and bought a complete set of brake pads.


Richard "Mintex M1144" B

Tuesday 9 May 2017

Dirty Weekend

My weekend was dirty, I didn't get a lot of sleep, and I achieved almost nothing useful. Stop reading now if you don't want to hear about me taking the clutch out of my motorbike.

I ride a high-powered moped called a Yamaha TMax. It has chewed through its clutch in only 25000 miles and since I've had new friction material put in, there's a nasty clunk somewhere in the drive train. In some ways the TMax is like an old British bike, it's a parallel twin with a 360 degree crankshaft, the crankcase splits into left and right halves and you can't apply the brake with your right foot.

The bike has too many gearboxes. It's got a V-belt variomatic transmission, a centrifugal clutch, a vestigial single speed gearbox in the back of the crankcase and a wildly complicated final drive chain running in an oil-batch. As the nursery rhyme goes:
The crankshaft's connected to the variator.
The variator's connected to the V-belt.
The V-belt's connected to the main sheave.
The main sheave's connected to the clutch basket.
The clutch basket's connected to friction plates.
The friction plates're connected to the plain plates.
The plain plates're connected to the clutch boss.
The clutch boss's connected to the first motion shaft.
The first motion shaft's connected to the output shaft.
The output shaft's connected to the chain wheel.
The chain wheel's connected to the drive chain.
The drive chain's connected to the intermediate sprocket.
The sprocket's connected to the other chain.
The other chain's connected to the splined hub.
And that's what turns the wheel.

If the fault was in the vestigial gearbox or the final drive it would have to be engine out, cylinder block off and split the crankcase. I think the bike would be written off. It took me all weekend to take the clutch out and put it back in again, amongst hundreds of other ridiculous things you have to take the coolant out and the water pump off. Now that I've done it once, and I've built the tool to hold the clutch basket I think I could do it again in about 8 hours.

The good news is that I've found the fault and the bike isn't written off. The bad news is that I've no idea if or how it could possibly be fixed. The gear that takes power from the clutch boss to the first motion shaft is helical and it generates an axial thrust. The clutch boss slides up the shaft until it hits the basket. The end-float is highly critical, wrong, and seemingly can't be adjusted.

Richard "And my speedo's broken" B

Thursday 4 May 2017


I spilled a trail of chicken fat across my lounge carpet, so this weekend I hired a carpet cleaner. Cleaning the carpet meant moving most of the furniture upstairs and that meant tidying up the drinks cabinet.

One of my friends used to go out with a girl who drank Southern Comfort. I've had a half bottle of it left over since my housewarming party. As nobody has drunk it since and as he's been married to someone else for over a decade I decided it was time to throw the bottle away.

Even more out of date and surplus to requirements is the dregs of a bottle of Jamesons Irish Whisky. My longest serving friend and I shared a truly catastrophic hangover in 1992 and this bottle (amongst other drinks) is what did the damage. For me it was certainly in the top 3 all time worst hangovers, but not the winner – I can remember one when I genuinely prayed for the sweet embrace of death rather than endure it any longer. I think this particular hangover might be my friends all time number one. He has barely drunk a drop of spirit since and he wasn't himself for a week.

Neither of us wanted the bottle so I tried to throw it away. Grasping the bottle cap ready to pour it away and the idea that I was just about to smell the whisky made me so nauseous that I couldn't even open it. I've still got the bottle, and our best idea to get rid of it is to bury it in the garden and then move house.

Richard "Rug Doctor Who" B

Tuesday 25 April 2017

Listen to Me!

At Easter I spent a couple of days in a recording studio. This is what my band sounds like now:

If you're interested there's a load more here:

Richard "Dirge and Downbeat meets Smooth Jazz" B

Wednesday 19 April 2017


Journalists and politicians are living in a "post truth" world, but I'm doing my laundry "post irony"

I'm a bit like one of Pavlov's dogs in that I have been conditioned to perform certain behaviours. Finish a sound-check; go outside and smoke a cigarette. Finish Sunday lunch; do a crossword puzzle. Wake up in a hotel; eat a fried breakfast.

As a schoolchildren there were certain domestic routines that my family had to follow. On Sunday night you had to locate your P.E. kit and you were subject to a mandatory bath (need it or not, like it or not). Finding my P.E. kit has turned, over the years, into finishing my ironing, which I always do on a Sunday as well as having a bath.

When I was 40 I was given a clothes-folder like the character Dr. Sheldon Cooper uses. For some reason I remind my friends of a socially awkward professor. When next I did laundry I played with the clothes-folder, ironically imitating the good doctor. The problem is that it makes a really good job of folding T (and short sleeved) shirts and you can stack them in neat piles. This bastard contraption has imperceptibly become part of my laundry routine and I can't pretend that there is an ounce or irony left it using it.

Richard "post irony post ironing" B

Tuesday 11 April 2017


When I was in Seattle I visited the Centre for Rotting Boats. They might have called it the Centre for Wooden Boats, but as all the exhibits were 100 years old and they kept most of them afloat any of them could have been kicked a pile and called a bonfire.

One of the themes at the Centre for Rotting Boats was "The Great Compromise" of trying to design a boat that both sailed and rowed well. You can see that it's a fool's errand because you either have too much deadwood and drag under the surface, or you have gunwales too high for rowlocks.

Unfortunately I seem to have done exactly the same thing with my kit car. I spent the weekend in South Wales and went to a track day at Pembrey circuit. Perhaps the best £20 I've ever spent bought me a charming racing driver who took me for a spin in my own car and then critiqued it. It was fantastic fun and very impressive. It's not a slow car. The brakes and steering geometry are good. Initially he enjoyed the luxury of having a windscreen and padded seats but he said the suspension was far too soft. I explained that I also use the car and that I drove it from Plymouth to the circuit and he made some encouraging noises about compromises. Perhaps what I've done is to build a uniquely uncomfortable and impractical touring car that wallows slowly and lazily around a circuit.

Never one to be daunted when my hobby starts to involve simultaneous equations I'm now trying to understand his idea of increasing the roll stiffness while leaving the bump stiffness and damping rates unchanged.

Richard "oversteer gradient" B

Tuesday 4 April 2017

Perfumed Ponce

A request for readers' suggestions.

One of my go-to recipes is for a dessert called a Whim-Wham. I got it from a book of Victorian puddings and it's a low-effort emergency trifle. It's made quickly with simple ingredients (cream, white wine, lemon, sugar and ready-made sponges spread with redcurrant jelly.). The problem is that the Co-op at the end of my road has stopped selling jars of redcurrant jelly. "Oh that's OK, said my mum, here's a jar of Japonica jelly". Unless you're a very keen horticulturalist you're probably now asking "What the fuck is Japonica?" That's easy, it's an ornamental quince.

Anyway my question is: What main course could possibly be pretentious enough to be followed by a Japonica Whim-Wham? I imagine it'll involve a jus and I wouldn't be surprised if it were served with quinoa or romanesco.

Richard "traditional Cornish medley of steak and root vegetables served on croute" B

Tuesday 28 March 2017


I apologise to those of you that this won't interest, but it is spring and time to get my late father's motor-mower running. (3rd paragraph)

I could tell you that it started first pull and I wouldn't quite be lying. Admittedly I'm counting the "first pull" as the first pull with the ignition on. It came after a complex de-winterization process which included lubricating everything, cleaning the plug, mixing up fresh fuel, flooding the float chamber twice, and about a dozen priming pulls to get fuel and lubrication into the engine.

The motor is low on power, the blades aren't razor sharp and the grass was up round my ankles so I stalled it many times, but it did cut my mum's grass.

Richard "my late father's mower was too tall for the shelf so it stood 40 years on the floor" B

Tuesday 21 March 2017


It's easy to adopt jokes and slang even if you've never met the originator.

There's an elderly gent whom I've never met, but who was so charming when he tried to remember whether he had torn his rotator-cup or his rotator-cuff that my brother and his wife will now deliberately confuse "cup" and "cuff". I've picked it up without meaning to and will offer people a cuff of tea and fasten my formal shirts with cup-links.

Another friend of mine works in an engineering facility which disposes of large quantities of waste packing materials. One of his colleagues breeds pedigree cats and was liberating scrap cardboard to make nests for a pregnant queen. Now neither my friend nor I can call repurposed cardboard anything other than "cat-cardboard" and I even have a favourite piece of cat-cardboard on the pad of my trolley jack.

My sister is moving house and at the weekend I moved an enormous number of cockroach-bags out of her loft. I don't even know what cockroach-bags are really called or where they come from, they're large square bags with handles and a (usually broken) zip. They're made from a sturdy woven plastic sheet, often chequered in faded blue and white. You normally see them in proximity to dust, bedlinen or old ladies. They are named for the fact that, according to my sister, the only things that will survive the nuclear holocaust are cockroaches, those bags and Keith Richards.

Richard "cuff? cup? cup? cuff?" B

Friday 10 March 2017

Removable Caterham Luggage Rack

This is the luggage rack that I have built for my Caterham. It's made of aluminium and oak. Unlike the rack that you get from Caterham it can be removed from the car easily, and you don't have to drill through the bodywork to fit it.

I'm particularly proud of the retainer that holds the plug (to power the number plate illumination) because AMP connectors don't send people like me the specs and drawings so I worked out what was needed with feeler gauges and probes.

You can see the brackets and dowels that fit into the mounting bosses on the rear chassis tube. The brackets are bent up from steel angle, the dowel is the cut-down shank of an M8 bolt. You can also see that I had to use massive gussets and a capping piece on the main spar because I choose too light a gauge of box section.

The box section, angle and timber came from a local DIY shop. The rivets and gussets were from Screwfix. The only stuff I had to order was the number plate light, the connectors and cable, and the plate that supports the uprights.

If anybody wants the design or wants me to make another one, then leave a message in the comments.

Richard "Caterham Touring Parts Supply" B

Tuesday 7 March 2017

Fear is for others

I know I'm late to this party, but I'm absolutely loving "Archer" the animated comedy spy drama. Archer's four biggest fears are alligators, crocodiles, brain aneurysms (it's the silent killer) and brain embolisms (easily confused with number three).

By comparison my biggest fears are much more pedestrian and inconvenient: Spiders, door handles  and cheese graters.

Spiders is an irrational fear, it serves no purpose, makes me look like a wimp and sometimes renders large areas of my own house inaccessible. Cheese graters makes much more sense, it's so easy to cut the end of all the fingers on your right hand when you're using one.

I find it hard to believe that no one else is frightened of door handles, I would have thought that by now the health and safety oppressors would have removed and outlawed them. It's like every house and office is decorated with unsheathed navel-height harpoons. Am I really the only person who has tripped through an open door and got my wrist caught between the door and the handle? You can't put your hand out to save yourself so your weight and momentum are applied in equal measure towards breaking your wrist and dashing your body against whatever you fall on (in my case the sharp corner of a cast iron bedstead). I severely sprained my wrist, the bedstead hit me in the chest and broke a rib – I was actually lucky to live.

So you've got door knobs in your house? Well no, all the doors are drilled too close to the jamb to fit knobs and changing all the doors would cost real money.

Richard "Do something every day that scares you" B

Tuesday 28 February 2017

Notes and Queries

If my blog had a readership larger than my colleagues and friends, then this would all have happened in the comments, but it doesn't so it didn't:

After my story about turning the ignition off in my car at 80mph I found out that one of my readers knows somebody who did something similar with a much worse outcome. He was driving along and had an itchy earhole. He pulled the car key out to scratch with, the steering lock clicked on and drive him off the road and into a field.

After my story about getting stuck in my coat I heard a story from one of my good-looking female readers (so good looking in fact that my old band mates used to prefix her name with "hot-"). She was at home, alone, on a hot day, trying on a wetsuit and got stuck inside it. Apparently the trade-off between dying of heat exhaustion and the humiliation of going round to the neighbours' house and asking for help was on an absolute knife-edge.

It's one of these things that you hear about, but that always happen to other people (like winning the lottery or being murdered). I've literally never had a sexy woman arrive on my doorstep and demand to be wrestled out of constrictive clothing.

Richard "bottom half of the internet" B

Monday 20 February 2017

Miracle on the Parkway

Last week my car tried to kill me, but it didn't try very hard.

When we were at school one of the older boys died on a motorbike when the throttle stuck open. Toyota had widespread problems with un-demanded acceleration and some of the victims had enough time to telephone their loved ones before their high speed crashes.

I've never dared to say it out loud, but I've always wondered whether they had burned their brakes out and whether they had put it into neutral. I immodestly suspected that I would be able to cope with the same emergency.

On Wednesday I got the chance to find out in my kit car. I was on the A38 overtaking a tractor. I was in 4th gear with the throttle wide open. I probably started the maneuver at 60mph and realised that something was wrong at 80mph. I instinctively put my foot on the brakes and it did control the vehicle somewhat. The brakes could probably have overwhelmed the engine in 4th, but I had to press them hard and it sounded like it was going to be expensive. My next move was to put the clutch in. I was now in control of the vehicle but the engine was screaming and bouncing off the rev-limiter. Again I was worried about the financial implications so I carefully turned the key one position to the left. My car doesn't actually have a steering lock, but at the time I didn't remember that, and i was very keen not to engage one while driving at high speed.

I turned the hazard lights on and coasted to a halt in a junction.

The other 150 miles of the journey were very stressful because I didn't dare to open the throttle more than a crack and my hand was hovering next to the ignition key, but I got there safely.

Richard "All last night I sat on the lavvy alone" B

Tuesday 14 February 2017


My coat has buttons. My last coat had buttons and my coat before last had buttons. My coat before my coat before last had a zip – never again. It was slim fitting, black, lightly quilted, quite stylish. I wore it (among many other places) to Barnet where we watched a football match in the bleak midwinter. I was wrapped up in scarves, gloves, jumpers, shirt, probably a  vest. The zip on my coat failed when it was done up all the way to my throat and it was un-undoable. My good friends did help me out of my coat before we got in the car to come home but (because of the large number of clothes) it required a large amount of physical force. Nobody is tall enough to pull a coat up over your head so the procedure eventually involved my being dragged around the car park by my cuffs until the coat was free of me.

Richard "YKK" B

Wednesday 8 February 2017


I have never been tarred-and-feathered, but I did something remarkable similar to my own hands at the weekend.

I have decided to build a luggage rack for my Caterham and it involves several techniques in which I'm unskilled or unfamiliar: Measuring accurately, using tinsnips and keeping both halves, brazing mild steel, buying good quality taps and many more.

On Sunday I planed down some square plugs out of oak (I actually know how to do that and made a pretty accurate job of it). I then tried to laminate some aluminium parts using polyurethane mastic (it turned out to be messy, inaccurate and hard to clamp).

I've never been tarred-and-feathered but I have now been Sikaflex-and-woodshavings'ed.

Richard "Brush off the bench occasionally" B

Tuesday 31 January 2017


At the weekend I was eating with friends and there a discussion about what T.V. programmes they would like to see me on. There was a lot of laughter about putting me on "The Undateables" which turns out to be a dating program for people with mental and social disabilities.

It was nowhere near as clever, funny, insulting or meticulous as an insult that my oldest friend paid me over the course of a decade.

When we were young, to walk from his house to the fields you would pass a garage, a post-box, a hairdresser, a wool shop, a pet shop and the school for children with special needs. My friend moved away but I kept in close contact with him. I ended up going out with his girlfriend's best friend and she eventually moved to Plymouth to live with me. My girlfriend and I were walking in the area that I grew up. We walked past the garage (which no longer sells smurfs), the post-box, the hairdresser, the chemist (which used to be a wool shop) and the sandwich shop (which used to be a pet-shop). When we got to the building site that used to be the special school she asked, in all seriousness, how come I used to go to that school when M----- went to the one up the road.

A decade earlier my friend had told his girlfriend that that's where I went to school (which I hadn't) and deliberately omitted that it was for the special needs children (which I wasn't), hoping that she would ask me about it. In fact she mentioned it to her best friend and ten years later her friend unwittingly made a joke at my expense with seemingly perfect local knowledge of a town she'd just moved to.

Richard "Downham" B

Tuesday 24 January 2017

Four Symbols

I'm no good at impressions. I can do a passable "The little plastic diver from the last contraption in the Mousetrap boardgame", "The noise the Torpoint chain ferry used to make before they replaced the main sheaves", I look a lot like The Birdman and that's it. This weekend I accidentally added a new physical impression to my repertoire.

When I moved into my house I wanted a beech hedge, but I somehow ended up with a pair of Kentish Cob Nuts instead. These damned trees need pruning every winter and you end up with a massive pile of sticks to dispose of. In the past I have cut the sticks into length and taken them to the tip in bags. This year to save time I lined them all up and wrapped them into a bundle with bungee cords.

I just managed to carry the huge bundle of long straightish sticks to the car and I assume that while I did so I looked exactly like the bloke in the picture on the front of Led Zeppelin Four.

Richard "clang-clang-clang-clang-clang" B

Wednesday 18 January 2017


This weekend I ha' mainly been drinking and eating with my family. I can remember three jokes that were told. Stop after the first two if you are easily offended.

"I was thinking about buying a Labrador."
"You must be crazy – have you seen how many of their owners go blind!"

"What's the most common owl in the UK?"
"The teat owl"

"Knock Knock"
"Who's there?"
"Bigish who?"
"NO. Fuck off and get a job"

Richard "LOL" B

Wednesday 11 January 2017

Bit Rot

I've just finished one of my Christmas presents. It was a big hardback book called "Bit Rot" by Doug Coupland.  He's a visual artist writing about (mainly) the human experience while digital technology and connectedness advance. It's a collection of essays and short stories and it's this structure that made it so compelling.  The stories' settings range from the wildly fantastical to the everyday (with a preponderance of end-of-the-world and time travel scenarios). The essays are mainly about the digital world, how it has developed, how it is developing and how these changes affect people (usually from his personal experience).

The book is not without its problems but I thoroughly enjoyed it.  He strays into economics where he is clearly clueless. He writes about digital technology and information systems (where I work) and his understanding is - shall we say - superficial. He uses mathematical terms in an unfathomable alien way (perhaps it's artistic).

The stories are good, easy to read, fun and short. The essays are thought provoking and entertaining and again short. Reading the book felt like binging on box-sets on a wet Sunday. I got to the end of every chapter (generally only a few pages) and thought either "That was fantastic – I'll just read one more" or "That was stupid/wrong/not as good as the rest – I'll just read one more to make up".

Richard "TLS" B

Tuesday 3 January 2017

Happy New Year

I needn't have worried about my big family Christmas, it turned out to be great. Among my favourite gifts were an amazing seasonal suit, my new favourite cardigan, and an incredibly apposite T-shirt.

I met my pseudo-nieces (step-neices? Nieces-in-law?) and they were charming.

My oldest niece got absolutely lashed up on Christmas eve. In a large and well appointed kitchen the most suitable thing that she could find to drink water out of was the blender. She woke up with the blender (half full of water) beside her bed.

My sister's melancholy reminiscence about lost innocence: "I remember being that age and all you had to worry about was horses and homework. Then you discover cider and lipstick."

My oldest brother's transformation into a pirate continues. He ran away to sea a couple of years ago and he's now crew (and chief engineer) on a tall ship. The last time I saw him he had a big beard and a salty tan and he had taken (un-ironically) to drinking rum. This time he had got involved in a bar-fight in Rotterdam.

Richard "Bah! Humbug!" B