Wednesday, 30 June 2010

Solar Electric Dreams......

Our friend Andy Rankin came to lunch on Sunday.

He is proprietor of Midsummer Energy, a firm specialising in solar and wind-powered renewable energy installations for houses and boats.

(I'm not saying this because he is a mate, but if you are interested in getting or increasing your renewable energy systems, look no further. Andy is totally honest and a great bloke: really helpful. In business to make a living, not a killing. We've recommended him to lots of fellow boaters and they all say the same...)

Enough of the ringing endorsements: Google Midsummer Energy for the website.

Anyway, Jackie cooked a lovely lunch of chicken breasts in herbs with hot whole tomatoes and asparagus, boiled baby spuds and hot flatbread.

It was utterly Yummy!

(If you are new to Pippin ramblings, by the way, then apologies for being a bit 'foodie'. However, Jackie does work in television production as an edit producer. She's just started a new job on a Famous Celebrity Chef's latest programme, so it seemed sensible to try out one of his recipes.....!)

So, over lunch and more than two (after two, we aboard Pippin consider it rude to continue counting.....) bottles of very agreeable white, Andy and I had a chat about increasing Pippin's solar bank. It's already pretty big, but I personally think you can never have too much electricity, especially if it's produced without involving oil companies, the tax man, or destroying the planet etc etc.

What I had in mind would have greatly improved our renewable output in winter, when times is hard for solar, but would also result in a considerable over-production in summer. Even Pippin's silly big 1340 amps of battery bank gets fully charged on a good sunny day by the current set-up.

What we need then is some means of what electrical engineers call call 'Load Dumping'.

The meaning of this somewhat inelegant phrase is fairly simple: It is the getting rid of the excess power in such a way as to get some use out of it.

The quickest and easiest way I know of disposing of electricity is through a heating element, so I suggested putting an extra element in our hot water tank. This would then heat our hot water and help to further reduce (if not almost eliminate) our gas consumption during the summer months.

A highly desirable outcome!.

However, Andy reckoned that a 12 volt element would be too weedy to do much heating, and running a meatier one through the inverter would result in a net loss of power overall, even in strong sunshine.

'Hmmm.' I thought. 'Pity'....

But the story doesn't, quite, end there.

Now I'm well known as a Drama School graduate, not as an engineer, but I didn't spend all the time in science classes looking out of the window and waiting for the bell......

After Andy had left for Cambridge, I had the following thought:

If you reduce the air pressure in or around a vessel containing liquid, it can be made to boil at a lower would it be possible to construct a solar-electric vacuum-pump? This would be attached to a pressure vessel/water tank. Phase one of load dumping lowers the pressure to a level where, in phase two, a twelve volt heating element is used to heat the water to a useful temperature.

If you are clever and possessed of lots of ologies, please leave a comment, even if it's to say it won't work.

I'm just intrigued, but don't know the science or have the maths to take the idea further.

Of course, one could also use the extra power to do some welcome cooling......

Twelve-volt air-conditioning unit , anyone?.....

Tuesday, 22 June 2010

Wedding weekends, the hangover thereof, and the Alvis Breathes again..

Blimey, almost more in the title than in the blog itself!

Suffice to say we went down to Hampshire at the weekend to see my god-daughter Sarah married to her lovely partner, Nick. The reception was a picnic in the New Forest at Minstead. Words cannot do justice to this idyll..


On Sunday, however, I was not feeling in the best of shape. Indeed, it was a good thing we were staying with my Mum and Dad in Bournemouth, as a restorative soak in the bath was needed to re-establish 'Condition Beige'.......

Jackie took the train back to Cambridge on Sunday as she has a new job edit-producing a tv show.

I stayed in Bournemouth and spent Monday tinkering with the Alvis. I got it to run!!!!!I will not bore you all with the details, but the beast stirs in its lair..

Today, I worked hard at the Hole-Making Shop, then rode my bike into Cambridge to meet Amy Duck and deliver a present for a friend of theirs. It was a beautiful evening's ride: the Cam rarely looks better than in the midsummer evening dusk.

The Cambridge News today devoted half a page to the fact that a rower had 'made a rude sign' at Battleship Bob Middleton as they rowed past the other day. This was deemed 'provocation'.

What part of swinging a seventy foot barge sideways across the river to prevent lawful navigation by rowers is not provocation?


The lovely and rather heart warming thing about this silly, childish and rather dull little story is that Cambridge News devoted half a page to it with a colour photograph.

If you aren't already here, doesn't it sort of make you want to live in Cambridge?

Sunday, 13 June 2010

A break in the cloud......

Well, it has been a very pleasant weekend break, and it has been cloudy, so I suppose that counts......

Actually, I am feeling a lot happier: it is easy to lose perspective sometimes. This leads one to concentrate on the newsworthy negatives and ignore the non-stories of life just ambling amiably along.

I spent a fair amount of this weekend tinkering up a present for a friend of James and Amy's. It's a tiller pin and I'm very pleased with how it's turned out.

Also, I saw our chum John III from nb Monteyzoomer. He regaled me with a horror story of his visit to Cambridge in Montey last week. Apparently, one of the resident boaters came and told him, in no uncertain terms, to move off the visitor mooring between the pump-out and the restricted area downstream of the lock gates as 'This mooring is reserved for mooring licence holders who want to go shopping'.

I've emailed Pip Noon at The Cam conservancy asking for some signs to be put up to this effect. I'd no idea we'd all been being so inconsiderate..........

Thursday, 10 June 2010

Reasons to be not cheerful, part three......

Apologies to Chas Jankel and the late great Ian Dury, but there really isn't much to be cheerful about on The Cam at present......

Reasons to be not cheerful:

1). I got a haircut on Tuesday. This has revealed my bald spot in all its ever-increasing glory. Ah, sweet bird of youth, how swift is thy flight.....

2). The dismal weather is enough to give anyone the black dog. Wind, rain, overcast, thunder, lightning, more rain, oh, and it's raining. Tonight Jackie lit the fire.....

It's June for crying out loud!

3). The relationship between rowers and boaters has sunk (really, no pun intended, seriously....) to a new low with a boater known locally as Battleship Bob blocking the river with his 70-odd foot barge in protest at the rowers alleged mistreatment of the famously belligerent local swan, Mr Asbo.

And this with the University Bumps this weekend.....

Read all about it on Cambridge Evening News' website if you want the details.

However, the position of The Mighty Pippin is this:

Yes, the rowing lobby have an element among their number who exceed the ability of my store of superlatives to adequately describe their arrogance, rudeness, and complete and utter want of consideration for other river users.

But using the whole Mr Asbo thing as an excuse to seek confontation with rowers in general is totally wrong-headed.

The Bumps are a fact. They will, and should, go ahead. They are part of the rich heritage of life on the river.(But they are not the only part, and the rowing lobby would do well to remember this..........)

The problem with confrontation is that you will have a winner and a loser.

The winner, for all his macho posturing, both in word and deed, will not be Battleship Bob Middleton.

He will not be the only loser though.

The whole Cambridge boating community will suffer. The "Camboaters" will, at the very least, lose some of the hard-won respect and amity afforded them through such undertakings as the annual Great Cam Clean-up. It's a long way off, but they may face eventual eviction from the town moorings as the rowers lobby the City Council ever more strongly to have them removed once and for all. Middleton's actions serve only to strengthen the case for this. If I was Bill Key, the rowing lobby's titular head, I would be rubbing my hands with glee......

Any one out there have any reasons to be cheerful?

I'm afraid I don't.

Monday, 7 June 2010

And another thing...

John forgot to mention the world's most ridiculous chocolate cake which I made in honour of my birthday...

It was very tasty and I ignored several comments about WWI sea-mines...

Also we had a visit from a low-flying balloon which eventually landed across the river.

Normal Service will be resumed.........


It's been an unconscionably long time since we last blogged.

Sorry all. I've just been too busy/knackered/on the receiving end of 'that look' to do anything sensible.

So, anyway, what have we been up too?

Well, they say a picture paints a thousand words:

We have removed the foldy-uppy foldy-downy double in the guest room as I was fed up with the amount of space it wasted. Here, Tom Kitten tests the new athwartships bunk.

Tom's best friend Jonah is also around:

We have also had a brief visit from a member of a neighbouring dairy herd who fell in the river, swam across and ended up marooned and mooing plaintively until she was rescued the following morning by eight burly stockmen and a cattle truck:

The black blur and the ginger blur are two cats, nearly, but not quite, failing to resolve on film as they spool up to Warp Factor 5........

A confused Daisy considers "Pippin".....

Also, our swans have produced their annual brood, but please don't count them.....

Yes, by the following morning we were down to one only solitary cygnet.... Lord help us if Social Services get involved.....

Finally, the mooring's sheep are now much cooler: