Thursday, 31 March 2011


A nasty business, this.....

Know what 'lamping' is?

It's when a group of people armed with rifles or shot-guns go out at night with powerful torches to reduce the wild creature numbers in their locale by as much as time and ammunition will allow.....

Of course, most of these "marksmen" couldn't wing a barn-door on a good day, so most of the creatures concerned only get badly hurt, and not killed outright: they crawl off into the undergrowth to die a slow and agonising death.

They do so to supply men with tiny brains and even smaller manhoods with what passes for "sport".

And these morons no doubt occasionally, either by accident or design, kill cats and stray dogs too.

It sickens me to the pit of my stomach.

Last night, I got in from a hard day at The Hole Making Shop at about 21:10.

I was walking across the field toward Pippin when I heard the unmistakeable sharp whiplash-crack of a high powered air-rifle.

And again.

And once more.....

I climbed to the top of the flood bank and could see in the distance the lights of a vehicle crawling down the lane toward the turn for the Drove that heads toward Ely.

A red-filtered searchlight was being deployed.

It was a still night, and I knew my actor's voice would carry across the fen for some distance. What to shout, to a car full of an unknown number of armed men in an unknown state of sobriety?

I called out the name of our cat, loudly enough to be heard, but without aggression. The haunting repetition of his name seemed to have an effect: The vehicle stopped. The searchlight went out. I heard no more shots.

Good job too: I saw a bike light coming down the lane. It could only be Jackie, on her way back from the station. I watched the bike pass the stationary car in safety.

I rang Jackie as soon as I was sure she was in our compound and she soon joined me on the flood bank. The car hadn't moved. There had been no more shots fired since the last of the three I had first heard......

We boarded Pippin, to be met by a healthy and un-shot cat.

Thank God.

I considered calling the police, but decided not to.

I regret this, but I had no idea of the make or registration number of the vehicle and certainly wasn't prepared to wander off in it's general direction to find out. Approaching motor vehicles full of armed men is not on my immediate 'to do' list.......

However, if it happens again, then I most surely will.

There are children here.......

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Happy Birthday Dad!!

My Dad is 83 today!

Well done, you old..... ......old...... er..... old person, you!

Hee hee!

Nice one, Dad!

Please continue to give the company pension fund some stick for many years to come!

God only knows, you've earned it.


Sunday, 27 March 2011

In which The Pippins do a lot.......

Friday night was party night in Fenland!

Normally, we are both so banjaxed from the preceding week that Friday evening involves a quick supper and an early night.

Not so on Friday!

Our lovely chum Tom Poole had organised a charity event at his place. He had hired the Rod Mason Hot Five jazz band to play at The Old Rectory. Could we turn up and help with the serving of the sausages, wine, beer, and do a spot of washing up?

No problem!!

We enjoyed the music from the kitchen, while helping to see to the domestic side of things. The band were excellent and the assembled company very appreciative.

A cracking night!

Saturday a.m. saw us heading towards Cambridge with our chum Rhoda for the Great Cam Clean-Up.
We rode our bikes in. The girls said I should go first as Albert, my ebay-purchase police-bike from the 1950's was clearly going to be no match for their modern light-weight jobs.


They didn't even get close to Albert's dust cloud as I bowled him along the towpath in fine style.

28" wheels!

Sturmey Archer 4-speed hub!

A truly excellent bike!

Shame he had no brakes by the time I got there, but a small amount of fettling is to be expected......

Anyway, we joined the group of volunteers who were going to litter pick the Cam and its environs in good time. The Lucky Ducks were there: James was overalled and impressive as Team Leader of the grapplers, Amy looked demure and stylish as ever, while quietly making sure that James had remembered to tie the ropes onto the grappling hooks properly.......

We and Rhoda were assigned a stretch of the river bank from opposite The Plough pub downstream towards the A14 road bridge. We got cracking without delay, and soon had amassed a huge pile of rubbish bags and other much larger detritus that must have taken so much effort to deposit on the river bank that one can only wonder if taking it to the tip at Milton would not actually have been the far easier option....

We worked from 10.00 till 12:15, when we were recalled by the marshalls to head back to The Fort St George pub by the river in Cambridge for a free barbecue. I drank two pints while in the queue for food, which was a bit embarassing, but hey, this Wombling lark is thirsty work!

My barbecue sausage in a bun was very nice, but sadly only served to whet an already sharp appetite.

Suffice to say, I demolished a rump steak, chips and onion rings and a further pint and a half of ale before wobbling back to Waterbeach with no brakes......

We then slept for a couple of hours, (the sort of disco nap that kept us both going during our time living in Soho), then I was driven back to Cambridge by my beloved so I could meet up with my chums from The Hole Making Shop for a meal at Bella Italia.

A thoroughly good time was had by all. I drank a bottle of wine and floated back to Pippin on a cloud. Actually, Jackie came and picked me up, but I was definitely floating by then, for sure.....

This morning we slept in, emerging in the last half hour of the morning, the clocks having gone forward last night.

Just for a change, I thought I'd head over to the woodpile to split some logs.

Jackie, meanwhile, dried the bilge in the engine room, did the washing, filled up the generator with diesel, and serviced Pippin's Beta 50 main engine.

Look, some of those logs were really big, okay?

And I've always been crap at multi-tasking.........

But I did cook supper. (John's special-recipe garlic mushrooms fried in butter and olive oil served on slices of toast liberally slathered with Brussels Pate, and accompanied by a good bottle of Rioja).

I hear snoring from somewhere on board, and for once, it isn't me!

'Night, all....!

Wednesday, 23 March 2011


Sorry, sorry, sorry, couldn't resist.....

Yes, today's day-off from hole making began in the famous woodpile.

Much wielding of huge hammers striking big wedges has reduced a lot of unfeasably large logs into stove-size portions.

This behaviour started at 09:30 and finished at 14:00. (With a quick break for a cheese and tomato sandwich and a cup of tea).

I then loaded up the Suzuki with the re-cycling and headed towards Tesco.

There are recycling facilities there, but the reason for the visit to the eponymous supermarket was to get some cash out to pay our landlord the rent for my shed. I took out a bit extra as Jackie got up at sparrow-cough today to take our little VW for it's MOT. £50 so I wanted to give her some dosh too.

(Tesco are also Purveyors of Fine Ale to the Gentry.......Tanglefoot may have been purchased..)

So then I swung by the tip at Milton, there to drop off the re-cycling and check out the 'bikes for restoration' situation....



Rien de bicyclette ici, mush...

Oh well, never mind.

I climbed back into the car and made to drive home.

I got as far as the gates. Coming the other way was an estate car with a very old rod-braked bike in it.

Ever seen a Suzuki Vitara execute a perfect Immelmann turn?


Well you would have done today!

I parked up at the dump again, watched the bike being deposited by the front bucket of The JCB of Death, then I was off, out and grabbed it.

Rat up a drain pipe? Greased weasel-poo off a chromium-plated shovel?

Hopelessly slow in comparison!

And so I have landed another bike project. He's called Eric, is hugely original, has all the bits for Jackie's Superbe that the Thoroughly Undeserving Git did me out of a couple of weeks ago, and is sadly far, far too good to break...........

Eventually, I will finish Jackie's Superbe. The only problem is, the way things are going,
I may own most of the rod-braked bikes in East Anglia by then.....

But a man's got to have a hobby.

Speaking of which, on the way back from the dump, I dropped by my pal Roger's place to see what he was up to:

"Fettling the number-plates of a thirties Riley" was the answer.

I shared a couple of bottles of Tanglefoot with Roger, and while he was on the back foot, managed to persuade him him to weld up the holes in the Alvis's inner wing.


Jackie has just wafted in on a fluffy pink cloud of massage oil and beauty products having spent the afternoon at The Sanctuary Spa in Cambridge, cashing the three hour 'gift of time' voucher I got her for Christmas.

So the score presently is:

Husband 1, Everyone Else nil.

Better get off the interweb so she can watch a film, thereby quitting while I'm ahead.........

Monday, 21 March 2011

A new (to me) bike!

Sorry Kev, no pictures of woodpiles or voiture ancien in this post. (See comments to last post 'Tweakage').

No photos of the titular bike, for that matter, but then I haven't picked it up yet, having won it in an Ebay auction yesterday. It's a 1950's gents roadster with 28" wheels and a 24" frame. It's the sort of thing that Dixon of Dock Green would have ridden when the Wolseley 6/80 was being serviced.

I'm very excited about it as I've wanted a 'proper' bike for ages, mainly to replace the modern thing I mistakenly bought when we moved up to Cambridge. This excuse for two wheeled transport has, so far, had the rear wheel rebuilt three times. I am convinced that modern spokes are made of the same stuff as the cheaper variety of wire coat-hanger......

Or perhaps I'm just getting a bit too lardy......

Anyway, another day has passed since I started this post. Jackie has picked up the bike. I have seen it. (In the dark.)

It looks FANTASTIC!!!!!!!!!!!!!

If in need of a good paint-job, but hey, if it isn't a project, then why the heck did I get involved?

Pictures soon, promise..........

(But not of bits of knackered Alvis, or the wood pile.

Unless you ask very, very nicely, in which case, I'll consider it, as I then have someone else to blame.)

Saturday, 19 March 2011


Dawn broke over Bournemouth frosty and cold.

I know this because Thomas Cat came into our room as the sun rose and launched a very serious ginger-ninja toe-assassin assault on me.


By the time breakfast was over, the sun was beaming down in a very spring-like way. Time, then, to don once more The Old Clothes of Tinkerage and head out into the garage to fettle the Alvis.

But I was against the clock.....

Jackie wanted to be back aboard Pippin this evening, so I had a scant few hours to remove the other wing, the inner wing , and the pylon strut that supports the wing from underneath.

(If you are new to this nonsense and are getting confused, the Alvis is a car, not an aircraft. But then you tuned in to read about boats, didn't you......?



Anyway, back to the Alvis: I could give you a blow by blow account of the removal of various bits of time-expired motor car by the judicious application of blow-lamps, breaker-bars, Plus-Gas, Whitworth sockets, help from my friend Andrew and quite a bit of heaving and straining.

But I'm not going to, so relax.

Suffice to say, after a good few hours work, one wing resided in the Alvis and the inner-wing and pylon strut sat in the back of our car ready to be taken to Cambridge for further attention.

Jackie then drove me and Thomas from Bournemouth to Cambridge in what I would consider record time. Indeed, herself was thinking of the chances of getting The Blue Riband for the fastest crossing. I was more concerned that she should instead acquire three points on her licence, but felt that dwelling on this would be at once uncharitable and probably rather unwise......

So, we're home, back on The Parish.

My friend Jane from work has just been in touch re: more wood available at hers from 10.00 tomorrow, so I'll bet you can't guess what we have planned for The Last Day of the

I hope beer may feature too.........

Friday, 18 March 2011


Jackie and I have been down in Bournemouth for the last few days. It has been absolutely lovely.

Thomas came with us and was very well behaved on the trip down and is loving the carpet in his Grandparent's place. (Note to new readers: Tom is a cat....)

I have been tinkering with the Alvis while Jackie has been visiting tutors from her old school near Blandford Forum.

The first day of tinkering resulted in the removal of two, (count them...) bolts.

Now, this may not sound like a lot to you, but actually, it did take all day......

They were exceptionally difficult seized up awkward to get at and otherwise troublesome wing mounting bolts, okay?

Eventually, after resorting to plan 'C', (a pad saw with a broken hacksaw blade on one and a combination of AF and Whitworth spanners on the other) victory was mine!!

The off-side front wing then fell off the car nicely.

The second day saw more of the same slow-but-sure action on the nearside front wing.

So what caused all this wing removal? Well, in order to get a TA14 onto a transporter, you must first to remove the front wings: they are so big, the car won't fit otherwise.

And why do I need a transporter? All I can say at the moment is "watch this space".....

The first rule of car restoration is "Patience".......

Other tinkerings have involved a couple of mods to the blog.

We've updated the blog list with Les Biggs "nb Valerie" blog, Jaqueline Almdale's "So this is Love" blog, and Chris and Simone's blog. Have a look: they're all really good.

Also, with help from Amy Duck, Jackie has added a (hopefully) spambot-proof link to my email address in case any of you want to send a private email. So, Kev and Andrew, if you want to get the latest on mooring-up at the Parish, drop me a line.......

Finally, I have, at the last moment, repented of blogging further about the woodpile, so you are all spared the photos of large piles of cut and split wood and titles such as "Reservoir Logs: 'Lets go to work'" or, possibly worse, "The Axe Factor".......

Lucky old you!

Sunday, 13 March 2011

To Ely......

I gave you fair warning there might be a post about boating in the offing, and true to my word, here it is.

Today we cast off at about 09:30 for a chug into Ely to pump out.

Those who read this rubbish regularly will remember that the last time we did this was around Christmas, when, with help from The Lucky Ducks, (James kindly did some ice-breaking so we could actually get out of the basin we moor in), we went into Cambridge.

Why, you may well ask, and indeed, how, have we been able to leave it so long before going again?

"Why" first:

The pump-out at Ely has been struck by thieves not once, but twice. The hose head was removed again less than twenty-four hours after it was replaced following the original theft. (Jackie checked all was present and correct yesterday when she running other errands in that direction.)

Also, quite apart from the fact that they are rubbish, the Cambridge facilities are, to all intents and purposes, out of bounds to boats not already moored close to it by the de facto closure of the river by scores of rowing eights practising like mad for the Lent Bumps. It simply is not safe to navigate a powered craft in such congested waters. Apparently, they get in each others way quite frequently too, which is some consolation I suppose.....

So there was no pump-out to be had!

Which brings me to the "How"....

Easy, really: Jackie had replaced the old macerator loo with the spiffy new Vacuflush 5000 before Christmas. It uses so much less water that the interval between visits has increased considerably. But not by two and a half months!!! No, in anticipation of severe winter weather that would lead us to being frozen in, we invested in a Thetford cassette loo as a back-up. That is what we have been using for the last few weeks, as there are facilities for disposal here at the Parish.

The trip itself was lovely. It has been such along time since we've been out we were both a bit worried we might have lost the knack, but it all came flooding back before we lost any paint or dented East Anglia too badly, so that was okay.

We made good time, arriving at about 12.30, wind and current having been with us all the way.

A narrowboat was on the pump-out mooring and very kindly let us come alongside. A fisherman was taking up the Pippin-length space on the mooring aft of them (all sixty-one feet of it) and refused to budge, despite the politest of imprecations.

I had almost forgotten what an obstreperous bunch of thick-witted losers most maggot-danglers are. I remarked on this to Jackie, who reminded me that they sit on cold river banks holding a stick, staring vacantly into space for hours on end simply because of the tragic want of any semblance of happiness in their loveless marriages and empty, miserable lives.

I have, as a result, resolved to pity them......

Pump-out complete, we chugged upstream to The Cutter Inn for some lunch. On the way, we said hello to Andrew from wb Cinnamon Girl as we motored by. It's the first time we've actually met, despite quite a bit of blog traffic between us. Andrew, if you are ever up this way, let us know and we'll meet up at the 48's at Clayhithe and have a drink at The Bridge. I'll ask The Ducks along too.....

Jackie helmed Pippin back to Waterbeach as I needed a snooze after some very good fish and chips and a couple of lunch-time pints.....

Truly, the woman is a saint......

I woke up before Bottisham lock and made tea. We then moored briefly on the lock approach (a bit naughty, I know, but had there been any traffic in either direction, we would have worked the lock for them. As it turned out, there was none).

We moored up to load a lot of newly felled timber from from some recent thinning/pollarding of the trees at the lock. Jackie had asked the chaps doing the work if it would be okay, and they had said certainly, their instuctions had been to leave it piled up, presumably for a bonfire at some point.

So we have nobbled yet more fuel for the woodburner!

That's Monday taken care of then: more radical bow-saw action.

I may renege on my promise not to post photos of the wood pile.

Once again, you have been warned......!

Friday, 11 March 2011

Annual Leave Day One: Assault on the woodpile.

I am presently in a blissful state of tiredness: the kind that comes from having worked hard all day at an enjoyable task from which one can see clear results.

(It helps that Jackie has popped up to the village to get us a big Chinese takeaway and some bottles of San Miguel lager which are rumoured to be 'on offer' in the village shop.)

For today, having gone with Jackie to take Suzuki to the garage, I spent all day sawing wood into woodburner-size lengths, reducing the larger logs still further with my splitting maul, then stacking it all neatly in The Stealth Woodpile.

I reckon it's about 2-3 week's worth with the stove going at full belt, so a useful addition to next year's supply. It can now season nicely over the coming months.

(I thought about treating you all to some photos of this, but then decided that, actually, that was really, really, sad......After all, one pile of cut wood looks very much like another, and I'm sure you've seen a few before.)

That said, I am very happy with today's progress. I really enjoy this sort of hard work. It's a lovely change from the heavy responsibilities and concentrated, clinical precision of The Hole Making Shop where I work.

An added bonus was that Amato, our friendly local ace mechanic, has not only serviced the Suzuki, but cured it of its high-tickover and naughty self-revving behaviour which it acquired when Jackie replaced the head gasket. Apparently, there is a water-valve in the top of the engine that controls the fuel/air mixture in the carb. All the water in the cooling system had to be drained down to allow the work on the cylinder head, so it has been dry since. No harm done, though, Amato simply bled the valve and cooling system and the Suzuki is now purring like Tom Kitten after a pouch of his favourite wet-food treat!

So, all in all, a jolly good day.

Thursday, 10 March 2011

At last!! Thursday evening!!!......


I feel like I've limped and staggered my way through this working week as would an explorer, lost in the desert.....

Well, I've made it!

The oasis of a week's worth of annual leave!!

At last!!


And "Phew.....".

So what restful holiday-type things are in store?

Up at silly o'clock in the morning tomorrow to take the Suzuki for a massage and pedicure at the local garage.......

Two car-loads of wood to reduce to log-burner dimensions.....

A Raleigh Superbe to re-build...


The council tip.....

Mum and Dad's to tinker with the Alvis.....

OOOOOH! Such fun!!

I may even do something boat-orientated!

Hmmmm..... Steady-on......

Anyway, for now, all this lies in the exquisite immediate future.

Right at this moment, I have a glass or two of really nice ale to hand, the log burner is blazing, and Jackie is on her way home from London.

Cheers everybody!!

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

99 songs? 9 million bicycles in Beijing? ..200 posts..!

Yes, folks, this is post number 200.

Blimey. A bi-centenary...

Well, what to tell you all today..

We had a lovely weekend: very restful in an active kind of way. ( I can slob-out completely and do nothing, but tend to get a bit twitchy after a while (ten to fifteen minutes...)

I spent Saturday afternoon at Emmaus where I polished up an old brace-and-bit and half a dozen or so bits and a very nice Stanley No.4 1/2 wood-working plane.

Look, it keeps me out of the pub, okay?...

After supper, Jackie and I watched "In Which We Serve", Noel Coward's fine wartime drama about the fictitious HMS Torrin which is based largely on the story of the real HMS Kelly, commanded by Lord Louis Mountbatten.

It will surprise no-one to learn that I loved it.

Jackie was a real sport for watching it with me.

On Sunday, we went out foraging for more firewood.

I have blogged before about Pippin's woodpile, but a man's got to have a hobby.......

We took the old Vitara down to Baits Bight lock, parked up then spent a merry morning making-off with two car-loads of felled lumber. Our consciences were untroubled, by the way, as numerous large patches of burnt ash and log remains suggested the Cam Conservancy's sub-contractors were just incinerating the stuff on site. Might as well be burnt in Pippin's stove as on the bank.....

James and Amy rocked up in the evening and stayed for supper and dvds. Great fun!

I'm working my socks off til Thursday evening, so felt I should post this now, even if, for a bi-centennial post, it's more than a little mundane.

Finished at 08:45 this evening, in at 07:00 tomorrow, so time to catch some zzzzzz.

'Night all..

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

The collective noun for true chums is 'a kindness'...


Thanks so much, Amy, for getting me Jaqueline's address. (Hold fire on the whisk, though, as Pippin has at least two, and more are available from Emmaus if ours don't suit!)

Jaqueline, thank you for trusting us, strange band of Muppet/Hobbit/River Gypsies that we are......

Chris and Simone, how lovely to hear from you again!! As soon as my computer blogging expert (one James Duck....) shows me how, I shall add your blog to the list that I follow. This will add at least two readers to your audience......... Hope all is well with you both down in Bristol and that the winter hasn't been too much of a trial by absence of fire.......

(Okay, for those of you who are new to the wacky world of Pippin, allow me to explain: all the above are replies to recent blogs or comments on blogs made by 'The Chums of Pippin'. This group has no membership rules other than reading this rubbish and engaging with it. You are welcome to join in provided you aren't rude.....)

Anyway, that bit over, what have we been up to?

Yesterday was a blessed day-off from the ever increasing pressure of work at The Hole Making Shop.

I trooped up to Emmaus at about 10.00 to scout out any likely tools to reserve for restoration. I didn't find any, but a snoop around the barn did turn up a rather unprepossessing box with a little handle poking out of the side. I opened it to discover, oh joy of joys, a fully working, if rather damp and mildew smelling, hand-cranked phonograph!

Excited, I took it into the main building where I saw my friends Alex and John. What did they think??!

Well, actually, not much, until I popped into the records section, got a 78, put it on, wound up the phonograph, put the needle on the record and........

Flooded the room with Frank Sinatra singing 'September Song'......!!!!!!!!!!!


They immediately put £50-00 on it!


Now, some of you may consider me a bit of a mug for not offering them a fiver for the 'old box' and laughing all the way to the bank having flogged it on ebay for a fat profit. Yeah, well, I suppose I could have done that, but actually, I enjoy the idea of the charity benefiting from it's discovery much more.

If this writes me off in your book as a sanctimonious git, then I'm sorry. All I have to say in my defence is that Margaret Thatcher didn't do for us all.......

Next stop was the tip at Milton to drop off the re-cycling.....

Jackie was with me as we were en-route to Cambridge on a rare mutual week-day-off spree.

She knows, only too well, that 'a quick trip to the tip at Milton to "drop off the re-cycling"'..... is little more than a thinly veiled excuse for me to go foraging for more tat to restore.

You may remember from a couple of posts back how some mis-begotten snot-gobbler did me out of my rightful ownership of a wrecked Raleigh Superbe bike which had all the bits and then some that I need to restore the one in the shed?

Well, as it happens, there was the ruin of another rod-braked bike there, about to be shoved into the death grip of the JCB.

Precis of long story: saved it with seconds to spare! It has period dynamo lights, a front mudguard I can repair, and possibly the parts to replace the front brakes on the Raleigh project.

For a fiver!!!!!


All I now have to say to my bike-project-thieving-nemesis is an echo of the immortal words of Monty Python's 'Knights of Ni':

"I fart in your general direction! Your mother was a 'amster and your father smelt of elderberries!"


Oh, come on....little victories.....little minds..... give me a break here.

Anyway, my long-suffering wife helped me load the stricken remains of a very dead Pashley bike into the car before driving round the corner to park up at the Park and Ride.

If ever a woman deserved a medal, it is Jackie.......

We got the bus into town, did various bank related tasks, bought me some new shoes then went for lunch at Cambridge's branch of 'Cote' restaurant. A proper-job place, this, we had steak frites and a couple of glasses of red wine. Service was impeccable, ambience very pleasant and bill not extortionate. One could not ask for more if looking for a treat.....

We then walked from Cambridge centre to the cineplex near the railway station ( a fair old peg, but justified by the lunch....), there to see "The King's Speech".

Colin, you absolute bastard. I had nearly forgiven you for shooting Mr D'Arcy from under me. Now we are middle-aged, you have to compound the felony by usurping the role of King George VI, the role I was clearly born to play!!

You sod!

This is unsupportable!

In an alternative universe, it is me who's doing the red-carpet Oscar-ceremony stuff, and you who is in Cambridge, working your arse off for no thanks and a paltry recompense making holes in things.......

Oooh, Hang on....that would mean I'm not married to Jackie and YOU are!

Keep your bloody Oscar, matey, and your fame and riches.

I know when I'm truly well off......