Saturday, 25 May 2013

Cambridge is visited.

If you follow the link to Les and Jaq Biggs' "nb Valerie" blog, you will read Jaq's account of their recent visit to Cambridge and wb Pippin and the day they spent larking, lunching and lolling about with us, James and Amy, and quite a few other chums who happened by.

I haven't blogged about it because I had a feeling that Jaq would do something rather special, blog-wise, of her own.

I wasn't wrong.

Follow the link to nb Valerie via the 'blogs I follow' bar and have a read..........

It is difficult to know how to reply to such a paen of praise.

I will say only this: Jaq, if you enjoyed meeting us half as much as we did meeting you both, then you truly did have a lovely day!

Oh, and I don't know which John Witts's blog you've been reading, but it certainly wasn't the random collection of outpoured drivel that constitutes this one!


(You definitely got James, Amy and Jackie to a tee, though!) 

Your kind words about this blog flatter me in the extreme, but, truth to tell, I'm not that good.

I just like to write rubbish about whatever I like, perhaps with an eye to making people smile..........

When your travels aboard nb Valerie bring you and Les up this way again, we shall reconvene........

As Captain Jerry Jackson was wont to say "Till our next merry meeting!"

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Today, the sparks fly. Not.

Well, not anywhere near the battery bank, it would seem.....

Yes, while Jackie enjoys a well-earned rest in Egypt, Pippin has decided to test me with some new Elecktrickery Nonsense.

This morning, I was on early turn at work, so the alarm went off at 06:00.

As I ran a sink-full of water for the mandatory morning shave, I noticed the pump sounded a tad sluggish. The Whale Gulper pump was sounding even less energetic.


A quick check of the battery monitor showed the voltage at 12.2 and well in the red.

How did that happen?

I'd had the 5.9kva generator on last night, both to charge the batteries and to heat some water for the following morning's ablutions.

(The genny feeds any spare power direct to a 240 volt immersion heater in the tank, necessary as our Alde gas boiler has thrown all it's toys out of the pram, and is currently refusing to do any meaningful water heating while making vile and expensive-sounding whirring and gurgling noises.......

A matter not helped by the fact that our wonderful Alde boiler engineer, Graham, is on holiday.

Until August.....

But I digress......)

So hot water there was aplenty, but whither amperage?

I fired up the Pramac, then flipped the inverter switch to 'charge only'.

This normally opens a floodgate of amps which soon has the batteries topped up to 100%.

Today? Zilch. Nada. Sweet Fanny Adams.

I then had to dash off to work, so was only able to empty the freezer compartment of the fridge then turn off the fridge at the DCU.

Power from Pippin's redoubtable solar bank then started to flow into the batteries, augmented by Windy, our Rutland 913 turbine, who had doubtless noticed the absence of erg and awoken from his usual slumbers to do a bit of generating.

This combined effort turned a 5 amp discharge into a 2 amp charge (early morning, 8 oktas cloud cover, winds light to variable....)

So I left the boat knowing that while I might have to do some Speed-Pizza-Eating this evening, the battery bank was not in danger of Death by Discharge......

At lunchtime, I rang our favourite Boaty Sparky Person. He is up to his Tessler in work at the moment and can't come out until Friday at the very earliest, and possibly not then.......

This meant that tonight, I decided to initiate Phase Two of Pippin's triple-redundant heat and light systems and started the good old Beta 50.

So, now, I'm getting hot water from the engine calorifier and amps into the batteries from the alternaters.

The latter was a bit of a worry at first: the engine amps go straight into the batteries from the engine, so don't register on the battery monitor. (This only measures what is going out /in through the inverter.)

Suffice to say, the monitor has been showing a 6.2 amp discharge (fridge back on plus computer and wifi) while the Volts and Percentage Available have stayed at 14.0 and 100%.

So we are charging, even if the monitor says we ain't.

Boating, eh.....

Don'tcha just love it?



Sunday, 19 May 2013

No Lyin', a Glitch with a Wardrobe.........

Poor old C.S. Lewis.

He must be spinning in his grave........ and at an unseemly high RPM to boot.


I'd better start at the beginning.

Saturday began really well: Jackie and I partook of a leisurely breakfast before I trotted up to Emmaus to do a bit of fettling while Jackie packed for her trip to Egypt. (An interesting yoga/scuba-diving combo awaits her - the comedy potential here is obvious, and I await her texts and emails with a keen interest..... :-)

When I arrived at Emmaus, it became immediately apparent that it was one of their famous 50% Off Everything Sale days.

A quick call to Engineer Mark ensued. ( He and Sheena have recently moved aboard their recently purchased wide-beam 'Norweigan Blue'...... - no, really -..... and I knew they were looking for furniture. )

Mark had no transport as Sheena had their car that day, so I scooted round to his mooring quick-smart in The Hairdresser's Car, picked him up and returned to Emmaus.

Wardrobe purchase was on the agenda!

It didn't take Mark long to find one he quite liked, measure it up, and enter the data into his phone with a photograph of it.

We mooched about a bit more, then did a couple of hours in the scrap shed restoring old tools.

(I'm not sure Mark was aware this was going to happen when I picked him up, but he donned the PPE and wielded the angle grinder with no complaints, so top bloke for being a sport...)

After we'd given a fair few old spanners, pliers, wrenches and saws a new lease of life, I suggested we pop back to The Ex-Parrot to see if the wardrobe he liked was going to fit.

We did so, measured (twice), drank tea, then returned to Emmaus via the supermarket where good sandwiches were bought and consumed.

So none of what follows occurred because we didn't measure properly, were dehydrated or hypoglycaemic......

Back at Emmaus, a mere £15 flashed briefly in the sunlight, and Mark was the proud owner of a new (to him) wardrobe.


"Proper Job" we thought. "Lets get it in the back of the Suzuki and spirit it away to Ex-Parrot Land"


Easier said than done, though we did manage to do it.


By moving the front seats forward to the very limit of travel.........

However, I cannot recommend the 'Forward Control' position if you are driving a Suzuki Vitara.

At six feet tall, bending my knees up under my chin like that is no fun, especially as I no longer possess the elasticity of youth.

Thank goodness the old heap's an automatic, that's all I can say.......

And the sooner that young James off Severner Willow learns to drive, the better!

But I digress.

We got back to where Mark moors his boat, and after a decent interval (which I spent walking about  the field trying to get rid of the cramp and pins and needles), unloaded the wardrobe with a view to installing it in the boat.

( For the second time that day)..............    Ah............

Yes, technically, the wardrobe was narrow enough to fit through the front doors of "Norweigan Blue".

But the devil is, as ever with these things, in the detail........

The small detail.......

Which we'd overlooked.........

Mark's boat has a cratch cover.

Nothing wrong with that. Jolly useful bit of extra foredeck-storage-space.

Except the steel cratch boards weren't bolted down in a furniture-remover-friendly de-mountable sort of way.

They were welded.

Would the wardrobe fit under the cratch frame and go through the door?

Well, of course, we tried.....

Then we took the base off the wardrobe and tried again.

Then we took the doors off the boat and had another go.

Tea was then drunk and heads were scratched.

I started having nasty flashbacks to an irritating novelty song by Bernard Cribbins.

Mark was about to take his screwdriver to the wardrobe and dismantle it completely (thus risking rendering it down to a pile of wardrobe-coloured matchwood), when I called a halt.

Mark's boat has two large side windows. They have been glazed with Perspex which has cracked and needs replacing. Why not load up the wardrobe, take it round to my shed in (more or less) one piece, then return with it on re-glazing day?

Thus, with the problem, if not exactly solved, then at least, on the continuum, we squeezed the wardrobe and ourselves back into the long-suffering Suzuki and made for the parish.

Ah well, at least no-one fell in............


Thursday, 16 May 2013


"I will arise".......

For a while now, in fact since this blog started, my Alvis TA14 drophead coupe has sat, figuratively, in the 'About me' byline, and actually, in my Mum and Dad's garage in Bournemouth.

I bought the Alvis on ebay in April 2006.

It was immediately christened 'Car'.

(Well, you are dealing with a couple who named their cat 'Thomas'.....).

It's purchase was the end of a long story and, very probably, the beginning of an even longer one.

I'd wanted a TA14 dhc since I saw the story of the restoration of one in 'Practical Classics' magazine in the mid eighties, but I will spare you the long story of the search.

(Perhaps another day...... When it's winter...... Just think how those long evenings will simply fly by...... :-)

Despite looking like it had just been pulled out of a barn (not surprising really, when you consider that it had.....), Car had passed an MOT. When I acquired it, there were about three months of this still left.

I actually drove it from the previous owner's place in Cheltenham to Bournemouth. (Remember that when you see the pictures later.....).

And I got it through another MOT too! So Jackie and I got to enjoy some runs in it.

I got very good at roadside repairs. My best time from breakdown to motion was just under 20 minutes: not bad for stripping the carb, de-silting it, stripping the fuel pump for the same job, reassembling and blowing through the fuel line (with naught but an actor's lung-power) to dislodge rust particle blockages......

Oh, the fun we had!

(Well, I thought it was, anyway........)

Around the time we got married, I had to move Car from the garage I had been renting into Mum and Dad's. This meant 'farewell' to my dear old 1962 Wolseley 1500, which was sold via ebay to a nice chap from Hampton Court.

After we had settled down to life on Pippin and I'd found work locally, there wasn't much time to spare to make the trip from Cambridge to the South Coast to continue the restoration.

Thus, the project stalled.

This year, however, three factors conspired to get things moving again.

Firstly, I inherited some money from my godmother's estate: money in place, i.e. the 'how'.......

Secondly, Dad had been politely enquiring for some time if there was any likelihood of him getting his garage back anytime in 2013:.........motivation in place, i.e. the 'why'.......

Thirdly, I was introduced to a restoration outfit in Wisbech who have done truly excellent work on cars belonging to other Alvis Owner Club members:  Skilled labour in place, i.e. the 'wherewithal'.......

Car was picked up from Bournemouth and loaded onto the back of a breakdown truck on 4th May.
This is how it looked when it arrived at The Body Shop in Wisbech.

Since then, it has been stripped right down and assessed, the deposit has been paid and work is going to start in earnest at the end of next week.

And, er, his is how it looks now.........


Rainbow's End.........

We get treated to some truly lovely skies up here on the edge of the fen.

It's all a bit much for some, though.............

Saturday, 11 May 2013

He's off his trolley!


It has been said.

Many a time and oft.........

Particularly when I have just dragged some seemingly irredeemable piece of scrap off the tip at Milton.

Engineer Mark once, rather kindly I thought, ascribed this sort of behaviour to my innate ability to see 'the glass half full', by which I presume he meant a boundlessly optimistic view of what others see, quite rightly, as a load of useless old grot.

I feel it is a definite gift, though, this being able to see beyond the dirt, corrosion and neglect, to the thing possessed of both beauty and utility beneath......

So here's what I've been tinkering with in the odd unsequestered hour up at Emmaus over the last few weeks:

Yes, the titular trolley, which, no doubt, The Engineer would have described me as being 'off' for parting with £10 for it.

The tyres were all flat, the turning plate was rusted up and the tyres looked knackered.

Anyone else (anyone sensible?) would have left it at the tip......

But bear with me on this one.......

Once it was safely hidden up at Emmaus, (well, I wasn't going to bring it home to risk all sorts of satirical banter from The Engineer and The Dreaded Eye-roll of Death from Jackie, now was I?), I got to work.

First, I pumped up the tyres. Not in any expectation that they might actually hold air, but, astonishingly, all but one of them did. This was soon fixed with a new valve core and a puncture repair to the inner tube.

Then out came The Angle Grinder of Salvation. (Perhaps, then, that should actually be Angel Grinder....?)

Sparks flew, rust and dirt were removed, parts were stripped down, cleaned, un-seized, greased and reassembled.

I then used up some of that primer I so carefully salvaged a while back.

This had the job looking like this:

It was then treated to two coats of Satin Black, by which time, it was starting to look jolly smart.

I then had a think about how to build the load bed. There is always plenty of timber going spare up at Emmaus. I had a rootle through the scrap wood and found a dismantled futon and a bunk bed frame. The planks that were the bunk bed sides were clamped to the trolley chassis. The futon mattress supports were then cut to width and screwed to these side timbers. I am rather proud of the fact that the futon base's original screws were used for this.... (well, waste not, want not!)

So that was the load bed sorted.

I then decided that if the trolley was going to be used in the Emmaus garden, then it had better have some sides to it.

Some tubing was donated by our landlord, Martin, and more bed frames were procured from the woodpile at Emmaus.

A couple of trips to Mackays in Cambridge later, I had all the fixings I needed to bolt it all together.

Much sawing and drilling, the occasional bit of hammering (oh, for sound effects!) and some swearing (then again, perhaps not) later, and it looked like this:

This is Steve, who works in the garden at Emmaus, taking delivery of his new trolley. He was so pleased with it, he gave me some fresh eggs from his hens, which was very kind of him.

So, there you go, another item, as James from Severner Willow would say, 'Thoroughly "Johnned" '.

Not for the first time, I can only thank my sainted parents for not christening me "Roger"..........


Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Turning the Tables

A while ago, we had a lovely game of musical chairs aboard Pippin.

Our very comfy but cat-shredded tub chair was replaced by a wooden office-style chair. This was itself then superseded by the Captain's chair upon which I am now sitting.

So, to tables.......

We had a very nice Ercol dining table which had been in the extended family since new (circa 1958).

(As a family, we're not terribly good at throwing things away.......)

We used it extensively during my twelve year Soho sojourn. Many an excellent repaste was eaten off it and much conviviality enjoyed around it.

However, by this Spring, it was beginning to look decidedly battered. The years had taken their toll. Not only was it needing more than just a good polish, a long strip of oak veneer had peeled away right in the middle of the table top.

We have been looking for a replacement for a little while.

Jackie was in John Lewis the other day and saw a table in their 'Pendleton' range. (She mentioned it to me as an example of what she liked, not as a request: the £799 asking price was a bit rich for our blood, even if it is endorsed by an Olympic cyclist.........).

Now, yesterday was the last day of a spot of annual leave. I had been whizzing about Cambridgeshire doing all sorts of stuff (more of which at a later date) when I happened, as you do, to call in at Emmaus on my way home.

There it was: the perfect table!

Mine for a bargain £40!

I shot back to the parish, fetched The Hairdresser's Car, (the little Volks is not a furniture-moving kind of car...), belted back to Emmaus and picked up the table a scant five minutes before they shut.


Anyway, here are some pictures. From them, you will easily deduce why this new table is so pin-point-perfect!

The old one is on the left.......

Here's the new one, in situ, after a thorough dust and polish

I'm going to take the old one to Emmaus on Saturday, as it may do someone a turn.

Mind you, the best bit about the whole thing is the fact that Jackie hasn't noticed yet!

I am allowing myself a series of very "Beano Comic" chortles and tee-hees.......