Saturday, 21 July 2012

Hail and farewell.

The service for Rik at Mortlake Crematorium was beautiful.

The place was jammed to the roof with his friends.

Now we have laid you to rest, my dear, dear brother, (for brother to me you most surely were), rest in peace.

And yet what part of me thinks there shall be more laughter in Heaven now you are there?

And a significant increase in the amount of vodka, Polish sausage, and fine wine consumed......

And angels being taught card games............

Love you, boy.

Sleep tight.


Thursday, 19 July 2012

The night before we say goodbye....

We are both safe aboard Pippin tonight.

The flood waters have receded, and, much to everyone's relief, I am not singing 'Louisiana 1927' by Randy Newman so much......

The Hole-Making Shop was okay today.

My lovely neighbours are all more or less well. . . . .(one has a little girl who has a bit of a chest infection: they are keeping the antibiotic meds in 'The Mighty Pippin's' fridge as their boat doesn't have one.....)

Tomorrow, we journey to London.

Tomorrow, we say goodbye to Rik.

Annie has asked me to say a few words.....

Please hold us all in your thoughts.

This is going to be tough.

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Hexamine rush.....


Does sound a lot like something that any sensible person would 'just say no' to doesn't it....?

Or perhaps a product of a quiet corner of the sort of kitchen/laboratory favoured by zealots......?

Fear not, 'tis neither.

It is a chemical composite cooking block, used by NATO troops to heat water for a brew or cook up field rations on a special little stove.

I have just acquired a few boxes of surplus Hexamine to experiment with. I want to see if it will light smokeless coal quickly and thoroughly from cold, in the way that garden variety firelighters struggle with, lacking the essential, shall we say, OOOMPH......

Don't worry, I'm going to start small amd build it up until it works.

I don't subscribe to the 'more is better' school of thought, unless, of course, I am seasoning roast lamb.

But that is a story for another post......

I will let you know how I get on.


Monday, 16 July 2012

Happy Birthday James!!!

Today is young James Duck's birthday.

It does him no favours, in my book, that he is of an age that makes me, quite realistically, old enough to be his father......

(Little git............)

I am, of course, not....

But if I were, I should be proud to call him 'son'......

Have a lovely evening, James.

Relish every moment of this sweet youthful fullness of being, for it is fleet of foot, and one day, (like me), you will wake to find it gone.

But for now......



Be free from care!!!

"Fill ev'ry glass!

Let wine inspire us and fire us with courage, love and joy!"


A somewhat damp weekend.....

The drought is officially over, and to celebrate this, the weather decided to organise a Torrential Rain Party on Friday night.

The thunderous sound of the rain on the roof was enough to keep me awake, despite the elephant dose of 'feeling sorry for myself' beer that I had consumed.

I had to work the next day, as The Hole Making Shop is rising to meet the continual increase in demand for hole-making products by opening on alternate Saturdays.

I left the boat to see the river higher than I had ever seen it down here. The Conservancy were clearly dumping as much of the water as possible through Baits Bite and onward to us to protect Cambridge city from serious flooding. (Have a look at Lucky Duck's blog for pictures and accounts of nocturnal heroics from James and Amy as the river rose fast and hard there..... the post is called Keep Calm and Carry On.)

I warned Jackie of the need for flood poles, but then had to scurry off to our workshop to clock-on for 07:00.

It was a worrying morning. I'm not allowed to make or receive calls while hole-making, but both Julie, the day's Duty Foreman Hole-maker, and Kerry, The Workshop Lead Grandmaster Hole-maker agreed to let me sneak round the back of No.6 R&D shed to get updates on progress at the mooring.

Jackie told me the situation was in hand: she'd roused our neighbour Rhoda from her slumbers with an 'all hands to action stations', and the two of them spent the morning securing the mooring's flotilla with scaffold poles borrowed from the E.A.'s work at the lock sluice, our Big Mullahring Mallet and no small degree of courage from Rhoda as Jackie swung same with gusto, biffing the flood poles in while Rhoda held them steady.

By lunchtime, when the part-time hole-makers left us full-timers to finish the day off, all was sorted. There was no need for me to ask one of them to stay on so I could nick off early to help.

So, top one Jackie and Rhoda! I felt a bit useless really, as the girls have the advantage of me in all other departments except physical strength, but had done perfectly well without me.

(Not that I'm insecure or anything, you understand, just aware that big ol' Dorset ploughboys like me are kept on not for our lightnin' wit, but because we is froightninly strong......)

I was shocked when I got back to see what they had contended with and prevailed against:

Our cats, China and Thomas, were far from amused by the situation.

The heron was, quite literally, having a field day, though!

Rhoda had to help Oscar, the feline Black Hole in the space time continuum, to shore and dry land so he could carry on his own hunt for The Higgs Boson. (Rhoda says he brought one in the other night. They are messy as well as massy apparently.....)

Sunday, however, was mercifully dry. The combination of that and the tides at Denver Sluice meant the waters receded very quickly. It's still squelchy underfoot, but we are no longer wading. The flood poles will stay in as a precaution, though.

I've a feeling we'll be needing them again, e'er long.....


I love living here II. (Jackie finds the lead.... :-)

Thursday was a joyful day of fine weather and a good stiff breeze which bought this beautiful classic yacht out onto the Cam to play.

Expertly, handled, she was a site for sore and rain-washed eyes!

The calm evening then rewarded us with this lovely double moon reflected in the water.

A feel-good day in an otherwise unremittingly feel-bad week......

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

I love living here!

And just as soon as I can find the blasted cable that connects the camera to The Ship's Computer, I'll show you why!!!!!

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

The bridge between the light and the dark

"There is no 'fair'. There is no 'right'.

There is no 'unfair'. There is no 'wrong'.

There is life


There is death.

And if, twixt the hither and the yon,

you have found love,

then you do most exceeding well."

Monday, 9 July 2012

Rest, and some thoughts on Sinyavsky....

Today has been a day of rest, which, after the weekend's turmoil, was badly needed.

Today's only achievement was giving blood. It doesn't hurt much, it doesn't cost you anything, and it does a lot of good, so please do it if you can.

Today, I rested, and thought......

When I was a confused and rather pretentious teenager, I got into Russian authors.

One book I bought (remaindered) was 'A Voice from the Chorus' by the Soviet dissident writer, Andrei Sinyavsky.

I lost that copy many many years ago in one of my many moves.

I still remember the crystal clarity of his prose, though: the way a few seemingly disjointed sentences could wrap up a complex idea into a strong and lasting piece of imagery.

His description of a tree as a lung turned inside out, or how important it was not to swear at something as it was being made, (lest it should be offended and fall apart), the pet cat in his prison hut, and how the other prisoners treated it so gently and so well, apart from one, who was reviled for calling the cat 'a little whore'.....

The sheer humanity that existed in an environment designed specifically to erase every trace of it...........

'A Voice from the Chorus' has no narrative, and little in the way of accepted structure. It is a series of the most piercing vignettes, gentler than Soldyenitsen's 'One day in the life of Ivan Denisovich', yet none the less telling, or less angry.

It's fragmented structure is much like that of reading a blog........

If only I could write even half so tellingly, or so well.....


Sunday, 8 July 2012

Sunday Lunch.

I am alone aboard Pippin now.

Jackie has gone with Rhoda to see Rhoda's Nanna in her nursing home. Mark has jumped aboard his bike and cycled off on a weaving course back to barracks. Julius has gone back next door to nb Nooksak to finish off some DIY.

We have had a fine Sunday lunch.

My friend Rik was all about sharing and food and friends. He would have loved this, from the 'French' starter of rillette de lapin and tartare de langoustine to the 'waiting for the roast chicken to be ready' part, (Our boat oven is slow, the chicken was large.... go figure...), to the cheese and pear and Muscat Beaume de Venise for afters.....

The toast was 'Absent Friends'.

You stood amongst us, and yet we missed you.

Who the hell said it was okay to raise a glass to you and say 'absent friends'..............

But it was said.

Go in peace, my brother.

For you were loved.

Saturday, 7 July 2012


Today has not been a good day.

It started badly: the post bought a notification from the police and the DVLA that I had exceeded the speed limit in Cambridge and been caught on GATSO Candid Camera. Those of you that know me and my driving style will agree that this was a complete aberration. However, they have me bang to rights, so I'll come quietly.....

Mark turned up at 08:30. We tuned up some banjos then headed off to Alan's boat to meet James and do more toward fitting the BMC 1.5 and giving the 'Irene' some movement back.

We started. We did some stuff. It poured with rain.......

Lunchtime-ish, I went to the local Tresco Scilly Isle's supermarket to purchase some comestibles for 'me boys'.

On the way back the phone rang.

And the world turned upside down.......

It was my friend Annie.

Her husband Rik died this morning.

They were married a scant few months ago.

It was a Soho Wedding. We all got outrageously drunk and had a hooter of a time. I had an awful hangover afterwards..........

And now Rik is dead.

He died as a result of complications from a biopsy. The cancer was so advanced he was riddled with it.

He was younger than me by a few months......

What to do?

What to say?

I have no words that will assuage the grief of my beautiful Annie.

I often used to joke with Rik during their Olympic Gold Medal Endurance Courtship, that if he didn't hurry up and marry her, then I bloody well would.....

They were friends, partners, lovers, call it what you will from some time in the early nineties.

They were Annie and Rik.

A word about them.

I first met them in about 1998 when I lived in Dean Street in Soho.

There was a disturbance in the stairwell to our flats: a girl had taken some drugs and was absolutely out of her mind and screaming, hallucinating God alone knows what. I went out, stayed with her and tried to calm her until the ambulance arrived. Rik came down. I had not met him before. He said he'd heard the noise and wondered what it was all about. I told Him. 'You heard screaming?' he said, 'And you walked towards it?..... You'd better come and have a drink....'

We became fast friends, he, Annie and I.

I could tell you about the fine nights of foolery, the drinking, the talking, the making of food for friends, the life, the love and the sheer joie de vivre that simply poured out of my friend Rik......

I could tell you about the piece of chalk and the water-washable pen that he always carried with him in case he was inspired to some brilliant graffito in a pub loo.....

I could tell you of his kindness when another friend, utterly broken by a relationship, wept on him for hours in the cellar of The French House pub.

I could tell you of his discretion, for the friend told me of this, not Rik.

I could tell you of his gladness, his generosity, his big, big heart.

And I could tell you of his love for Annie Wolohan.

I could tell you so many things.

I could tell you, and you might well believe me, but still I would fail.

I could never, as I live, do his great heart justice......

I loved him as a brother, and now he is gone.

My tears are for myself.

They are selfish tears.

If you pray, please pray for my friend Rik. Pray for the repose of his soul.

Pray for Annie, beautiful Annie, that somehow she will get through this.

Pray for all of us, who were richer for knowing him, and now feel bereft.

I cannot believe you are gone, my friend.

We needed you to stay.

I wish wish wish you had..............


There are no more words tonight.

The Highgate flat is now advertised on Gumtree. So if you're looking to rent a lovely, large studio flat in a great area of London, or know someone who is looking for one or maybe looking for somewhere to stay over the Olympics.... here's the link.

Thursday, 5 July 2012


Now it's all finished and the carpet is down, some pictures......

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Cyber Bullying

A legend has appeared at the top of my Blogger page.

This is what it says:

"Your browser is no longer supported by Blogger. Some parts of Blogger will not work and you may experience problems.
If you are having problems, try Google Chrome. | Dismiss"

My browser is Mozilla Firefox.

So Blogger 'no longer supports it', and wants me to use Google Chrome instead.

Well, I'm terribly sorry, Blogger, but I'm very happy with Firefox.

You can threaten me all you like with 'some parts of blogger will not work' and, (far more perniciously), 'problems'.........

I will not be bullied!

Blogger Off!


Monday, 2 July 2012

In which Mark, John and James discover The Missing Link

And no, it isn't me, despite what many have thought in the past.

(I never wear flip flops or sandals, even in 40 Degrees C.......

Hairy toes.....)

No folks, this is the missing link

This is the bit of the new engine for our friend's boat that we thought had not been supplied, lost, stolen or thrown away.

Without it, the only way forward was to spend an awful lot of money on a system like Aquadrive, which, while the best going, was stretching our chums purse to the absolute max.

Now this mechanical Sasquatch has shambled aboard and taken up residence on the gearbox output shaft, we will, with careful alignment and judicious application of shims, be able to get away with a Centaflex or R & D coupling at about half the price, and that's including new engine mountings!


But I'm getting ahead of myself again, aren't I?

Saturday was down as BMC 1.5 installation day. As previously blogged, Mark met me early aboard Pippin to tune-up a couple of egg and bacon banjos before we loaded the Suzuki Vitara 4x4 workshop/shed and headed off.

(Actually, a friend was given a lift in it to a car spares place a while back, and, on getting into it, said 'this is a hairdressers car, isn't it?' I responded to their candour by turning the Johnny Mathis CD up really loud....)

We arrived to find our friend had helpfully chopped up the large baulks of timber which had been an integral part of The Heath Robinson School of Engineering's Mk1 Improvised Engine Hoist.

(He must have been cold. It is midsummer after all......)

Nothing daunted, we poked around in the long grass and found two very heavy compressed rubber blocks that form the bases for Harris fencing. We then built this:

We then decided to have a go at lining up the engine as best we could with what we had.

At this point, the missing link hadn't materialised, so all thoughts were still with Aquadrive. Fitting one was going to mean cutting away a crossmember on the engine room floor that would otherwise foul the sump. We also needed nuts and washers for the old engine mounts as the nylocs fitted were (technical term) shagged.

We nipped up to Mackay's in Cambridge and purchased all we needed in one go, including some engineer's blue and a proper angle grinder tightening tool to replace the weedy and rubbish one that I, er, couldn't find......

When we got back, James from Lucky Duck rocked up, and we soon all set to with a will.

I'll let the pictures tell the next bit of the story.

The engine was raised, the old mounts fitted, and nipped up tight. The engine was lowered again, gently, and the bearers to which the mounts were now attached were then thugged into place using the Coarse Adjuster.

It's worth reminding you that the banderlog who ripped the old engine out did so by grinding the bearers off the beams to which they were welded. There was no need for this, as the new engine would have fitted on to the mounts in their original location.

However, it proved a blessing in disguise, as the new engine sat so high that there was no way the gearbox output was going to line up with the propshaft, not by a Dutch mile.....

Mark and James then did some careful measuring, some tricky sums amd came up with the required amount we had to cut from the bearers to get the vertical alignment right. We celebrated by having a mug of tea, then afterwards realised no-one could remember what that figure was...... so we did it again, and this time I made them write it down......

I then popped back to Pippin to pick up a long list of kit essential for the next stage. (This included, among other things, a Honda generator, a bucket, sponges, bilge pump, and a very large crowbar.......)

On my return, there was an atmosphere of much jollification and general high spirits.

It turned out that while I had been away, the boat's owner had popped his head through the hatch and said he'd just found a bit that came with the engine, didn't know if it was important, but thought we might need it anyway......

It was The Missing Link!

I knew they weren't just pleased to see me.....

This completely changed the whole operation. Remember, this job is being done on a very tight budget, so not having to shell out on an Aquadrive was a massive bonus. It also meant that a trip to Jones's Boatyard in St. Ives might yield a lot of the stuff we needed to get the engine up and running.

Mark and I hot-footed it over there straight away, leaving James behind to guard the gear and clean the old engine up for an ebay photoshoot. (Yes, I know he always gets the shitty jobs, but he's the smallest and the youngest.... In fact, he's jolly lucky we didn't make him paint the bilge while he was at it.....)

Jones's were their usual incredibly helpful selves, even lending us a vernier caliper (I'd left mine bankside) to size the cooling hoses for the raw water system and also size a step-down piece for the outlet on the Bowman heat-exchanger to the wet exhaust hose. They also supplied us with catalogues and numbers of firms who might do suitable flexible couplings.

This is what I call Proper-Job Chandlery!

We were so pleased with our purchases we turned the hairdresser's car back toward Cambridge with Johnny Mathis playing at close to the level of pain.

There was one more job to do before we packed up for the day, and that was to reduce the height of the engine bearers.

Mark gets tooled up for grinding the butchered welds on the engine bed smooth.

It was then decided we should really pump out the bilge before getting too electrical in it. James was sent down to do the ankle-deep bit, Mark pumped, and I offered encouragement. Oh, and the big sponges to soak up the last of it.....
You can only just see bilge monkey James in this one: he is deep in the engine room, making sure the hose is at the right angle for maximum suction.... Good lad.

The snotty remains of old weld were then ground off the engine bed leaving a nice, clean, smooth surface to which to attach the bearers by welding.

Now it was the turn of the bearers themselves, as we had to adjust their height by removing a strip of metal before getting the two bits welded back together.

But first I built a Heath Robinson Engineering Ltd 'Field Workbench Mk1' to mount the vice I had been restoring for Emmaus and had borrowed for the day:

The bearers were then cleaned, marked up with engineers blue, scribed and cut, using 1mm cutting discs for accuracy and to minimise loss along the cut-line.

Mark then set to work. James and I stood well back. (The camera has a zoom!)

Let no-one be in any doubt: Mark is good! The two pieces of each bearer which will be butt-welded back together fitted flush as a flush thing! All four bearers will also be reinforced with a fish-plate welded on the side.

With that, we packed our bongos and drifted back to Pippin.

I went to Tesco for food and most importantly, beer, returning to find that Mark had been dragged off by the hair by his wife, Sheena.

OOPS! Sorry for keeping him from hearth and home for so long, Sheena! Please let him out to play with us again next Saturday! :-)

Jackie was in London doing the flat, so I was in the clear......


Amy Duck joined me and James and our neighbour Rhoda for a scrumptious pasta supper which Amy and Rhoda cooked while James and I got all manly and talked drive couplings......


I did do all the washing up though!

In short, a splendid day spent with great chums to good effect.


Sunday, 1 July 2012

Finito, Benito!

At long, long last, the saga of the Highgate flat is at an end.

It is actually finished.





Only the carpets to go in on Wednesday, and Tony Snr to come round and use up the last of the really expensive mosaic tiles in the kitchen and bathroom in a clever way that Jackie has thought of.......

Other than that, it's done.

Six months and about £20,000 later, the 're-wire and making good' that morphed into the rebuild from hell, is actually done.

The only bits of it original to December 2011 are the lavatory bowl and cistern, the pedestal and sink in the bathroom, and the floorboards.

Everything else is new.

Anyone seen 'The Money Pit' with Tom Hanks and Shelley Long? An eighties remake of an earlier film, but good nonetheless.

Been there, done that, got the tee-shirt...........

Anyone wanting to rent a lovely studio flat in Highgate, please get in touch via my email! (See the address on the sidebar!)

I am now going to sleep.

For a week.

Egg and bacon banjos: A brief explanation.......

Amy and James came round for supper last night after James had joined Mark and me for a fun day of engine fitting (MUCH more of which later....)

Amy was a little unclear as to how musical instruments figure in the eating of a breakfast sandwich, and if someone that clever is bemused, then others might be too....

So here, here's how it works:

You have just made a lovely bacon and egg sandwich: freshly grilled bacon, with some of the fat melting into the lashings of butter on the slices of new loaf, fried egg, whitey brown round the edge with a sunny, runny yolk in the middle. You have dressed it with a little salt and pepper and condiment of choice, HP sauce, tomato ketchup, whatever.....

You bite hungrily into this Sandwich of Heaven, and chew most satisfyingly.

Then you look down and see that the first bite has deposited egg yolk, crumbs, bacon grease, melted butter and sauce all down the front of your favourite shirt or jumper.

You immediately transfer the sandwich to your left hand and start to vigourously brush away the deposited detritus with rapid up and down strokes of your right hand.

You are now playing the egg and bacon banjo.......


Right, enough of this blogging. I'm off to London in the car with a sofa for the flat, a jigsaw borrowed from Rhoda and some plywood.

Back soon, I hope, with more news of the engine fitting, this time with photos of, amongst other things, That Engine Hoist.....

Oh, and we have discovered The Missing Link.

It was quite a day.