Wednesday, 1 April 2020

Way down in the (engine) hole

Well, what better way to spend a day off from the Hole Making Shop than low down and dirty in the engine room of WB Pippin.....

It meant I avoided other people like the, er,....., plague........

It was a bit wet, though not worryingly so......

What was worrying was the oil feed pipe hanging off the bottom of the engine floating in half an inch of oily scunge in the bilge.......

It turned out all right though, with very little in the way of profanity, too.

It was the feed to the manual pump that extracts oil from the sump when the engine is serviced.

At first, I thought it must have vibrated off over the years......

Then I remembered the boorish, loud-mouthed twat, (who was sent to us by a firm of national renown........), that last serviced the engine .........

Could he have neglected to re-fasten this properly? (It would have needed loosening to get at the 'on/off' tap which is hard up against the gearbox....).

Well, we'll never know..........

Anyway, having baled, sponged, and towelled the engine room to a suitable state of cleanth and dryness, I re-attached said pipe. It didn't take long to figure out how, (though it wasn't immediately obvious)... I then checked the engine oil level, which was a bit down, but far from catastrophically so. I topped it up, checked the anti-freeze/water level in the skin tank (absolutely fine having not wept a drop...), then fired up the engine which burst into glorious Beta 50 style song at once.

I then used a Tesco turkey baster to pipette the oily scunge out from under the engine itself (nothing else will fit between the engine and the bearers). It took a while, but was oddly satisfying. I then finished up with a large piece of cotton waste to dry it out as well as I could.

So job done.

But I think we will be servicing the engine ourselves from here-on in..........

And here's the soundtrack:

More soon.

Wednesday, 25 March 2020

Trains, no planes, and automobiles...... Wacky Races Pt.1

Well, that all went very well, I thought.......

I got up with the alarm at 05:30 this fine a.m.

The sun was just about peaking over the horizon. A mist hung over the mirror-like waters of the River Cam.




So, showered, shaved, breakfasted and dressed in Full Dress NHSBT uniform, I made my way over to the garage to wake the Alvis up.

Ignition on. Full choke. Wait for it.... ('It' being the fuel pump: when it stops rattling you know fuel is at the carb and it's time.....) ....Hit the Gun Button (the starter button next to the ignition switch).....

Chara-chara-chara-cough-cough Brrrrmmmmm..........! :-)

Houston, we have main engine start.

Cue big grin.......

Which lasted until I got to the railway and the level crossing on the fen road to The Parish.......

The gates were down, and there was a suspiciously long tailback (Okay, five cars, but at 06:30 on a cold and frosty self-isolating morning? They'd clearly been there a while......)

Then I saw a London-bound train approaching.

Well, it was stopped, actually.......

Either that or it was moving with the speed of vegetable growth.

'Drat, double drat, and triple drat!' I thought.......'The old "Treble Zero" will never get me to work at this rate: looks like the crossing is playing up, and the trains are running at 'Extreme Caution 'as a result.'

What to do?

Well, of course , I did the Dick Dastardly thing of seeking a short cut.

Reverse back down the Fen Road for 30 yards, then hang a left down the old, unmade, poorly maintained, tractor rutted and deeply unsuitable for elderly classics track for 3/4's of a mile to the next road which leads to a manually operated rail crossing nearer the village.

The "Treble Zero" did all that was asked of it, slithering and wobbling on it's tired springs and superannuated shock absorbers, all the way to the lowered gates of the manually operated crossing.

Only to see another sodding train, heading from Kings Cross, parked firmly in the way and blocking the crossing completely.

Nothing for it, then, but to turn around and slither, wobble, bump and grind one's way back to the other crossing where it all started.

We got there............. (And with a full complement of hubcaps too!)

Just as I got off the phone to my manager to explain why I was going to be late that morning, I saw salvation, in the form of a Network Rail Rapid Response Vehicle, approaching the crossing.

As the train from London slowly, so slowly, cleared the crossing, the occupant of the aforesaid  (who did bear an uncanny resemblance to Muttley), leapt out, did a thing, and the gates opened.


I arrived at work in fine Alvis style: engine rhythmic, and what I believe is currently known as the ICE (or In Car Entertainment) belting out Elgar's 'Pomp and Circumstance No.1'

ICE, in TA14 terms, means a wind-up gramaphone, fitted with an extra-hard needle for maximum volume.........

And the bastard didn't half skip when going down that ploughed field of a track, too......but at that time I was playing this:

Have a listen!

More soon.

Tuesday, 24 March 2020

Alvis, work, and Elgar's Pomp and Circumstance No.1

I am driving to work tomorrow.

I have to.

I'm what is engagingly called a 'key worker'.

This doesn't mean I work for that very nice chap Mr Timpson, and neither am I a safe-cracker......

I work for the National Blood Service.

I look after blood and platelet donors at The Cambridge Blood Donor Centre.

I have been coy about this in the past, as going on-line and talking about it was reckoned to possibly bring The Firm into disrepute. (Well, if you'd actually had a really shitty day, you can see how that could prove unwise - and as Twitface is so indelible, how it could hurt both a great organisation,  and also the person posting.....  (who may have, momentarily, reached the end of their tether......)

But I take blood for a living.

Okay, spare me the Vampire jokes.

It's really boring.....

(And I'm actually a werewolf, anyway, so go figure that one.....).

But the time has come to be plain.

Here's the thing: we must ensure that the supply of blood to hospitals throughout the UK does not fail.

Covid-19 notwithstanding, if we fail, people are going to die.

So I am now back up to full time working. (I have been part-time for years, but that doesn't sit well with me right now...).

And while the weather is fine, I'm going to drive to work in the Alvis.

It gives me joy, and joy is in short supply.

Also, we won't get any PPE. We are dealing with the well people: if they aren't well, we'll send them home.

So no PPE for us.

There simply isn't enough to go round.

It has to go to the heroes and heroines at the sharp end of this, actually treating the poor sods who've contracted this bastard virus.

I suppose I could go on about why these shortages have occurred, and the way they have occurred on the watch of the party of our current Poundland Churchill of a PM, but you'll need a much more political blog than this one for that.

I'm going into work anyway.

In an Alvis.

Play the music.

It belongs to us just as much as it belongs to the people who are sending us in without so much as a mask.

More soon.

Monday, 23 March 2020

Let us return........

In view of the current goings on, I thought I ought to return to the barn where I parked the WB Pippin blog back in August 2018 to see if I could get the old thing going again.

It hasn't been easy........

The tyres were flat, as was the battery, and I had to drain the joke tank of about seven and a half gallons (Imperial mind you!) of very stale humour....... (which will be very much not a surprise to any of you who've read this nonsense before.)

But with a few day's worth of fettling, it has stuttered back to life.

Anyway, what's been occurring down in Groovetown since last I blogged?

Quite a lot actually, yet much remains reassuringly the same: Jackie and I are still aboard the eponymous widebeam, still moored at The Parish, near Cambridge, and we're still doing the same jobs.

The Alvis is 'nearly finished', but as I've been saying that since 2013, it doesn't mean much...... Though in all honesty, it's a lot more finished than it was.

It's got a hood now, and a new/restored interior.

(There may even be pictures....... once I've worked out how to post them again.)

This may take some time.......

In the meantime, if you are looking to me to get any news or views re: the current unpleasantness, then I'm going to be a sad disappointment to you. Go and have a look at TwitFace, or whatever they call it, if you want any of that......

It's worth pointing out that I don't own a Smartphone.

My phone has about the same processing power as the computer on the Apollo 11 lander..... (i.e. virtually bugger-all).....and is used to make and receive mobile telephone calls and to send Short Message Service messages. ( I believe these are now known as 'Texts', if you are sufficiently 'down with the kids'....).

I have no wish to avail myself of the latrine trench of public opinion that is TwitFace. The ordure therein is deeply unedifying. (Jackie has an account and I sneak peaks occasionally so's I can reinforce my feelings of innate superiority.)

It never takes terribly long.

So what to talk about, in this first blogpost in many a long moon?

Ah, I know: the weather!

(That good old British stand-by for when we're stuck for something to say to someone we may not know too well.)

Hasn't it been rather lovely the past few days? Just as well really: a drop of sunshine definitely perks one up. And I think it's fair to say we are all in dire need of a jolly good perking at the 'mo....

(Put that on Twitface and watch the trolls come running out, comments blazing.......)

In fact, I got a mention on Radio Three this morning, for suggesting just such a thing...... though perhaps not in quite so many words......

Every morning at 10:30, whoever is presenting 'Essential Classics' (either Ian Skelly or Suzy Klein, normally), will play a follow-on piece suggested by the listeners. It follows on from a piece they've chosen which is played at 09:30, so you've got about an hour to think of something suitable. It's great fun, and John Witts from Waterbeach has had a few mentions, and even had suggestions played!

Today, he struck again, with Holst's "Jupiter, Bringer of Jollity," from The Planets Suite, which was played, I suppose, simply because we need all the jollity we can lay our hands on right now.......

You can check it out on BBC Radio 3 'Listen Again', for Monday 23/03/20 if you doubt I speak sooth. It'll be there for a couple of weeks at least......

Oh, and a couple of days ago, when I was enjoying a particularly lovely sunset over the fens from the back deck (large gin and tonic in hand, you know the deal....),  I saw a contrail in the sky, heading west, straight as an arrow. It was dyed a deep peach colour against the almost saffron of the low, westering sky, just where it began to turn the purest cerulean.

Where the fuckin' 'ell's 'e goin'? I thought.

Which sadly, rather robbed the moment of any poetry.

More soon.

Saturday, 18 August 2018

The world............. full.

The world is mostly full of forking idiots.

And the world is full of idiots forking.............

Tonight, Jackie challenged a man at the lock who was allowing his daughters to run across the vee-gate lock beams.....

(Danger of death by drowning: HIGH............)

He accused her of being 'aggressive' and 'a lefty'.

Personally, I think we should have left the twat to drown his children.

Then he would have had to explain it to his no doubt ex-wife.

But Jackie intervened.

Was abused.

But was absolutely right.

People, if you are going to let your children stand into danger, willingly, because you are a 'businessman' and 'this is the school of life', and you think my wife is somehow wrong for calling you out on your arrant foolishness and stupidity, then you are in no shape or form a fit parent.

End of.

Good luck with your continued attempts to drown your daughters.

Is this some attempt to get back at your wife?

We don't know.

But accusing Jackie of being 'abusive' says a lot.

You have been reported to the E.A and Cam Con.

We don't know if it will do any good, but we can only hope you will not be putting your children into danger any further.

Friday, 27 July 2018

Stormy weather.......

The mooring was hit by a mini tornado at tea-time today.

I was still at work but have surveyed the aftermath.

Bottisham Lock is out of action for the weekend at least: One or more of the poplars that grow nearby have fallen across th lock pen and blocked it.

From the red cross on the lock itself, it looks like a power outage would prevent it's use anyway.

The big willows at either end of The Parish have suffered badly. It all looks very unstable. I hope they won't have to come down as they are venerable and picturesque.

On board Pippin, everything is a bit damp : one of our side hatches blew open which led to considerable ingress of rain.

All the hopper windows were open too....... water droplets formed some very pretty patterns on the recently painted ceiling.

Our wooden table, the chairs, and my lovely Captains chair are heavily watermarked.

But old towels have been deployed, the worst of it is mopped up, and we shall probably be reasonably dry again by Tuesday.... (The sofa, the cushions, the curtains etc are all very damp.)

It's going to be a humid night on board, as the thunder continues to roll and the rain falls, denying me the chance to let some fresh air in......

But no-one came adrift and no-one is hurt.

And our newly re-conditioned Rutland 913 Wind Turbine hasn't been struck by lightning.....


Touch wood.......

Or rubber.....

Or anything non-conductive, really..........

Hope you are all okay out there in the greater blog-o-sphere.......

Keep safe, all.

Monday, 26 February 2018

Emma Chambers

It is with the greatest sadness that I write this.

Emma Chambers, film and television actress, has died at the age of 53.

I was at The Webber Douglas Academy of Dramatic Art from 1983 to 1986. Emma was there at the same time, though we were in different classes.

I remember her as one of the good people: kind, warm-hearted, never nasty, and so, so funny, both on and off stage.

Webber was a hard, nasty, bitchy school. Such attributes were in short supply. So Emma stood out, not only because of this, but also because, even then, it was clear she was possessed of a truly stellar talent.

As my own career popped and banged before fizzling out like some defective firework, it gave me true joy to see her doing so well, first, as Charity Pecksniff in the TV adaptation of 'Martin Chuzzlewit', then later, running rings around both Hugh Grant and Julia Roberts in 'Notting Hill'.

She will be best remembered for her superb comedy timing and wonderful characterisation in the role of Alice Tinker in 'The Vicar of Dibley'. I remember watching the episode of Alice's wedding. My mum had tears of laughter rolling down her cheeks as Alice made her way down the aisle accompanied by Telly-tubby 'bridesmaids'.

Although I knew her, I can make no claim to having been a friend of Emma's, either at college, or afterwards.

But I feel truly stricken that she has died so young, and at the height of her powers.

She was one of the best of us, and definitely one of the nicest.

God bless you, sweet one, and may you rest in peace.