Monday, 24 December 2012

Christmas Carols

I worked a full day today at the Hole-Making Shop.

We were very, very busy, which was good.

Staffing levels, however, were not at their optimum this morning, so there was a degree of grump going on.........

So, first thing, I bought my colleagues a bacon sandwich each from the canteen. ( Fortunately, Our Sylvia, the lovely lady who looks after us, food-wise, didn't get carried away and garnish them with holly..... Could have been nasty).

Things were a lot less snippy after that........

(It is amazing really, the effect that something as simple as the receipt of an unexpected bacon banjo can have.......)

It was a very busy and very fruitful day, with lots of holes made and good stuff extracted.

Mark The Engineer (see blogposts passim), came in late this afternoon to have a hole made, and very kindly gave me a lift home. (The Hairdresser's car is hors de combat, and Jackie needed the Volkswagen today so had given me a lift to work).

I would like to point out that Mark and I didn't stop off at "The Sun" in Waterbeach on our way home, which showed great strength of character, I feel....

(Mind you, we did on Friday, with Jane. This turned into a bit of an epic Gargle-Fest......


We pulled up at The Parish behind Jackie and Rhoda who were in the Volks. They had been shopping and were all fired up to go to the carol service at Ely Cathedral.

In twenty minutes time.

Sad to relate, my heart died within me.

I was simply too knackered.

Once aboard Pippin, I opened a beer, sat down on the sofa, took a sip, and promptly fell asleep.

Jackie and Rhoda tip-toed out to sing while I snored.

I awoke to the sound of heavenly choirs.

This always worries me................

I immediately think the old bod has finally given up the ghost and the sound of celestial song is the precursor to a heated argument with Saint Peter about whether or not I am, in fact, on the guest-list........

No need to worry this evening.

The sound of old and familiar carols was wafting across the fen from Waterbeach village.

Methinks t'was the choir and congregation of the C of E Church of St John the Evangelist giving it some seasonal welly.

Absolutely lovely!

I am about to open a rather decent bottle of red which will have got its breath nicely by the time J and R get back from Ely, just in time for canapes and a pizza or two.

I'd better sample it first, just to make sure it's drinkable...........

Wherever you are, I raise my glass to you.

May your Christmas be a happy one, and the New Year bring you peace.


John and Jackie Pippin.


Saturday, 15 December 2012


In the spirit of moving on, away from letting other people's boats suck-up all my free time like blotting paper, Jackie and I have been getting some more work done on Pippin.

Our bow doors were replaced this Easter by Martin Kedian of Kedian Engineering.

Today, he, Jason and Trevor came back to fit the two new side hatches and the stern doors.

Mortimer Bones recommended them to us, and we are very happy to add our own endorsement.

In short, and in my favourite vernacular, (rural Dorset), 'Proper Job!'

Here's some pictures:

Enter man, stage left, carrying a hammer......

Interior shielding...........

Removing hinges on the old side hatches using hammer, cold chisel, and main force.

The new hatches arrive in their own purpose-built clip which is then attached to the boat. A water-tight fit is guaranteed.

The man on the right, Martin himself, is not running away..... He is shielding the window from sparks.


More grinding.........

Some cutting........

Some tweaking................                                                                                                                                       
Offering up............

Securing with tres butch self-tappers......

Et viola, with coat of grey primer ready for a coat of International 'Pippin Blue'.

More photos of the finished job in top-coat with pictures of the varnished oak interior lining to follow.............



Thursday, 13 December 2012

"The time of endings........

has itself now ended.

The age of new beginnings has at last begun....."

Such are the opening lines of a poem written for a broken-hearted lady.

It was a poem written by me, many, many years ago, for my friend Lynn Wills.

Last time I spoke to her, about ten or twelve years ago, the only copy was in her loft.

It's probably just as well.......

I'm a crap poet.


'The time of endings..............'.

We none of us mourn our lost loved ones less, but time is time, and it moves on.

Thank you, Jaq, for your words of such great kindness.

We've never met, but that don't signify.

You are a friend.

Thank you.

Thank you, Bones, for your blessing.

And to be called 'brother'..............

You honour me.

Thank you.

I'll mention Johnny again for sure, and with love, but the awful loss is just going to bore you all.

And I'd die myself before admitting to having a boring bone in my body!!!

So I'm going to keep that stuff to myself now, and with you lot, move on.......


What's been happening down in Groove Town........?

Well, Mark and I went round to our Gentleman's boat on Sunday and did a diesel compression test.

The results were as follows:

No.1 cylinder: 10 bar

No.2 cylinder: 15 bar

No.3 cylinder: 15 bar

No.4 cylinder: 12 bar

Bearing in mind the working compression ratio of a BMC 1.5 is about 25:1 and that 1 bar equals atmospheric pressure, it is quite clear that this engine is dead, it has ceased to be, it has shuffled off this mortal coil, and is, in every respect, bleedin' dead. It wouldn't "voom" if you put 40,000 volts through it.

It is totally and utterly and irredemably forked.

So what to do?

Bearing in mind our Gentleman is a rum old cove, and not blessed with a superfluity of social skills or graces, having been, in turn, rude, patronising, ungrateful, and, at times, just plain nasty to those who were trying to help him, what, dear readers, do you think we should do?

Steady now...............

Some of those thoughts just aren't nice.......

(And I have a newly repaired Auntie Mary Filter (TM) to consider..... I mean, for heaven's sake, there was nearly a major nuclear accident last time we over-loaded it!)

Cut me some slack, here, people, please....

Well, I wrote our Gentleman a letter this morning.

This is what it said:

Dear Gentleman,

Mark and I came round to your boat on Sunday and carried out a diesel compression test.

The results were as follows:

No. 1 cylinder: 10bar

No.2 cylinder: 15 bar

No.3 cylinder : 15 bar

No.4 cylinder: 12 bar:

This is a huge difference between cylinders.

It means that, internally, the engine is heavily worn.

In its current state, it will simply not be possible to get it to start or run.

Remedying the problem would involve removing the engine again, completely dismantling it, having the worn engine block re-machined and the fitting of new over-size pistons and piston rings, new seals and gaskets. The crankshaft would need to be checked too, and given the heavy wear to the rest of the engine, it is highly likely that it too would need re-grinding, balancing and re-fitting with new over-size bearing shells, gaskets and seals.

In short, the only “reconditioning” this engine has ever had is a very thick coat of green paint.

Our original brief was to get you out of trouble by fitting what you had been told was a reconditioned engine.

That we have done, for free, in our own spare time.

Neither James, Mark, nor I can carry out the remedial work the engine requires: we simply do not have the time or the facilities.

Neither do we have the time to help you locate a viable engine and then fit it for you.

However, all is not complete doom and gloom:

1)      We have successfully constructed  new metal engine mounts suitable for a BMC 1.5 engine.
2)       We have lined-up and bolted new flexible mounts to them.
3)      We have fitted a new “Centaflex” coupling to the propshaft.

This means another BMC 1.5 ( or possibly 1.8 as I believe the engine mounts are the same for both) will bolt straight in.

If you buy another engine, have it checked first by an indepedent engineer.

If it is advertised as ‘reconditioned’, then there should be receipts for machining and new parts to support this.

Your existing engine still has a residual value.

Most reconditioners only supply the engine, not the marinisation parts that make it able to be used in a boat. Your engine has all of these, which include things like the Bowman heat exchanger, inlet and exhaust manifold, starter motor, alternator and flywheel.

Do not dispose of these as you may need them if you buy a reconditioned engine.

The engine itself also has a value: someone will want it for spare parts or to recondition it, so don’t allow anyone to ‘take it away for you’…….. Remember, you got nearly £400 for the engine sold on ebay………..

The gearbox supplied with the engine currently fitted in your boat is an unknown quantity. It is a Paragon gearbox and is very likely of 1:1 ratio, meaning it has no reduction and is probably not suitable for your propeller. If it is in the same condition as the engine it came with (highly likely), then it, too, will need expensive remedial work anyway.

It is best replaced and sold-on for what you can get for it.

So if you get another engine, get another gearbox too.

Newage PRM is a good reliable make. You will probably need a gearbox with a reduction ratio of 2:1, though this depends on the size of the propeller fitted to your boat. This will need to be checked before you get another gearbox.

To get you started, I have enclosed some adverts for engines I found on the ebay and Apollo Duck websites.

I suggest you show this letter to The Nice Man at the boatyard in Ely. He may be able to help you find and fit a working engine and work out which gearbox is best for that engine and your existing propeller.

I hope you are up and running soon!

Kind regards,


Writing that gave me no pleasure.

I almost felt as if I had failed.

Then I remembered the enormous amount of effort that Mark and James have put in.....

For bugger-all in the way of thanks, never mind renumeration............

I know he will say 'They let me down....'

I do not care what he says.

We did no such thing.

'The time of endings has itself, now ended,

The age of new beginnings has at last begun.............'

We move on.

Monday, 10 December 2012


My Uncle John's funeral was a beautiful affair.

The morning clouds that threatened rain parted to glorious sunshine.

The little church in Bucklebury was absolutely packed.

My cousin Vicky read a children's story that had Her dad in the title role of the friendly, generous giant. (For as she said, though he wasn't physically big, he was a giant of a man.....)

My cousin Sarah spoke movingly of John, and all he meant to them and to us all.

My Uncle David, John's older brother, stood tall and read without quaver, courage and sadness combined in an indomitable strength.......

We carried him in, Geoff, Nick, Jim and I.

And we carried him out too, for as Geoff said, Johnny would never have left us anywhere, so we certainly weren't going to leave him.

I haven't mentioned this before, but John loved machines, steam trains especially.

At the end of the service, before we pall-bearers bore him away, the sound of a steam train entered the church.

It sounded to me like an LNER compound..... (Johnny would have known....) but it had a Western whistle, long, low, mournful.......... fading into the distance.

I'd been doing sort of okay up to then, but that did it.

I wept.

The train was departing, bearing our departed away.

Next stop, Heaven.

I've missed out so much that was good on that day: so many people, such kindness in sad eyes and weary faces.

Sorry if I've missed you out.

I can't write any more now.