An Embarrassment

May 16, 2015

At the moment, I have more than once source of embarrassment – apart from my spelling that is. (I had to check the spelling of the title, and it was wrong for the usual reasons my spelling is wrong – a wrong vowel, and didn’t double one of the constenants. But I’ll discuss the current worse one.

I have an invitation to a 3 day symposium to honour my former supervisor’s 70th Birthday. It’s in the summer. I have seen the speaker list, and it is packed with people I knew well while I was studying. They are all now high-flyers in their field. I’ve not seen the list of attendees, but guess that’ll be packed with many more. Now there is more than one reason I strongly hesitate to even acknowledge the emails. What is worse, as I’m invited, I don’t need to pay the symposium fees (other than a Dinner). I cannot even plead poverty!

Firstly, I’d fall asleep in the lectures. I would do that when I was an undergraduate, so add thirty odd years, and I’ll be out like a light in seconds. And unlike my undergrad days, I probably won’t understand a word that was said, and thus trying to make notes (the only way I kept awake) more than pointless.

Secondly, I’m now just a dowdy manufacturer, who has supplied equipment to a few of them. If I showed up, they’d think I was there to try and flog tackle. I could not make any useful contrubution to the symposium.

Thirdly, a few of those who might attend are no longer friends of mine – that is to say some I’d like to throttle, some I’d just prefer we never met again.

What is worse is that I’ve kept in contact with said supervisor, helped him and his group out on various occasions, such as supplying goods at cost price (in the forelorn hope of future orders), and including a recent one involving a third party company, whom we would not supply as we doubted we’d ever be paid (that condition still exists). But by our friendship etc, a solution was arrived at, and they got their equipment that otherwise they would have lost their deposit over.

So I’ll be damned if I go, and damned if I don’t. Wonderful.

A garden shed…

January 16, 2015

The shed that my father designed and built himself is over 40 years old and ten years of neglect hasn’t helped. I believe it to be rescuable still, but would need alternative storage in the mean time. And I could do with a shed of different dimensions.

Any ready-to-assemble shed that I have ever seen for sale has one feature that I cannot understand. The door is about 5’6″ high at maximum. Anyone taller has to bow as they go in. I also gave away one such shed from my Aunt’s place, although there was a favour in return so I cannot really complain. A neighbour had a bespoke shed made, but it is off square, the door doesn’t close properly, and not a good advert.

I happened upon a website offering shed plans for thousands of designs, and so I signed up. Disappointed that some designs that were illustrated by photos on the intro page don’t appear, and that there are many duplications of the same plans under different file names, and most of the sheds are far larger than the entire garden I have to put it in. But there is a reasonable selection, and one may serve as the basis for what I need.

But to my surprise were included plans for the A frame building that I referred to in a post about loss of data in the digital age (at the end of the post) However, if I posted the plans here, I’d be breaking the copyright.

In the film ‘The Blues Brothers (1980)’, one of the many chase scenes involves the by now crippled ex-police car of the brothers being chased by Illinois Nazis. They run through road-works, and end up at at the end of a partially constructed roadway – they literally run out of road, and the car hangs over the edge.

(Screensave from DVD of ‘The Blues Brothers (1980)’. I know how they felt at this moment…

I know how they felt. I’ve been in that position of hovering over the edge. They had an easy way back (‘Movie magic’). The other really famous situation of this kind was the (almost literally) cliff-hanger ending to the original ‘The Italian Job (1969)’, with Michael Caine’s famous last words
“Hang on lads, I’ve got a great idea,”

Many years ago, in Germany on business, in a ‘company car’ (in fact one of the directors, loaned to me). I was not in my car, on the grounds that my then 20-year-old Volvo wasn’t up to the job (sic). Never had power steering, the servo for the brakes had failed (but still passed the MOT, the brakes worked). Anyhow, due to the Bayreuth festival, hotels in that town were sold out months in advance, so we found ourselves out, literally, in the middle of nowhere. My companion was a younger man of dubious sexuality – such that I slept on the floor on the first night out, in Heidelberg, he had the bed in the only room we could find that day.

This was despite his attempts earlier in the day – although he had had plenty of offers of a bed from [or more probably with] various women (sometimes plural) he approached in the attempt to find somewhere (only I was in tow…) He certainly was a ‘Buon Uomo’ (if I’ve got that right), and would top up his sun-tan at every possible moment. But these offers were further complcated by the fact that we needed secure parking for the car at that time, because of the goods we were carrying.

His navigational skills were notible by their absence. At one point, earlier in the day in question, we found ourselves in the then still existing East Germany. Since the car was travelling TIR, and we were now in a country not listed on the forms, we’d be in trouble if anything when wrong.

So late this night, with his at best iffy navigational skills, I found that I had to do a 3 point turn. Only I didn’t succeed – there was a ditch rather close to the road, and the car ended up askew nose down in the ditch, at 2 O’Clock in the morning.

It is not hard to imagine my feelings at this point. After a lot of swearing, I don’t recall that I used Michael Caine’s exact words, but certainly a precis of them…

As I looked at the situation, I thought I found a way out. By jacking the car up on one side, enough to put the spare wheel under the chassis, would equalise the problem (so long as it didn’t slide down further). That worked. So getting my colleague to stand on the rear bumper, and jump up and down, while I, in the driver’s seat, tried to reverse – it worked – the car pulled itself out, scraping along the spare wheel.

The alternative would have been walking to a farm, getting the farmer up, to get his tractor out and pull the car out of the ditch. Fortunately my colleague spoke good German, so there was not that hurdle to overcome, but I didn’t look forward to the prospect.

This ‘getting a car out of a ditch at two am with a spare wheel and physics’ is one of my my better stories, it is also one I cannot tell to friends and family – for getting the car in the ditch in the first place, to the owner of the car, or to my family who’d worry what I’d do next.

Comments about Blogs

October 14, 2012

Firstly, there has been some interest in my comments about Public Houses, so I have added a new category and edited all the previous entries so that they can all be located.

I know that I have not blogged much this year, it has been busy, but I have noticed that quite a number of blogs – on wordpress and others – have also had a long hiatus in entries. Even some of the most frequent bloggers have almost stopped – there was one with one entry in three months (recognising that they were taking a break), another with no entries in the past six months.

I know it is coincidence, but it is odd that so many blogs have not been updated for so long. My blog has often had a hiatus due to work or personal circumstances, I certainly cannot claim to be a regular blogger.

Doom and Gloom

August 29, 2010

I’ve not posted much lately, and here is the reason.

Mother has been moved into a home, for she was too frail to manage the stairs at home.

As I had previously said I was interested in taking over Mother’s home, I agreed to brother taking over mother’s finances (which I had been doing), to remove a “conflict of interest”.

Yet within 24 hours of this, he told me he’d be gutting Mother’s place with the view to selling asap. My chances of having a house with a garden relied upon inheriting this place, and, financally, that is at least 2 years down the line before it becomes necessary.

Since his house clearing makes the Nazi invasion of Russia look considerate, I’m full of doom; out-manoeuvered (yet if it were not for my manoeuvering in the first place, we’d not be having this row). He’s OK with wife, kids, well paid job, I’ve none of these, and inheriting half the estate (the bricks and mortar half; I’d let him have the cash) was my last hope. So carelessly tossed aside in his master plan.

I predit. He’ll get the gardeners around, and cut down every tree, including the 5 Apple and 1 pear, to the ground. Why don’t they demolish the the greenhouse, which is mine, and Father’s shed with all his tools while they are about it, for I have nowhere else to put them.

I’ll also argue that he wants me to sell off/give away/dump every last possession, momento other than one plate, a fork and a mattress, so when I die he or his kids don’t have a long job in clearlng this one bedroom flat, which his actions have left me with no option but to live here until I die.

Bitter, moi?

Catholic “9 Lessons”

December 24, 2009

At Brother’s for the by now traditional Christmas Eve get together of our half of
the family. It is thin these days – all three of us joining his family.

This year had an unusual twist. Apparently there had been the Roman Catholic equivalent of “Nine Lessons and Carols” at my nieces’ school, and volunteers were asked to deliver the lessons etc. My brother volunteered, or was volunteered by his wife. All well and good.

So when told the story that he had to give six of the lessons as no-one else
volunteered, I asked his wife what the Church would have thought if they knew he was confirmed into the Church of England (even I am not, but if I were, I would be far higher church than he) and was still an Anglican; the start and giggle she gave showed that this had not even been considered! And certain to remain a secret.

Firstly the cracked kilner jar – it has held a full 1l of water all day without a drip. But I suspect it was how it was stored, the weight of other jars stored on top of it that caused the crack to open just enough…

Today was a drive out to Reading to deliver and collect. The main part was to collect silkscreened panels. Most are for a product, but a few are just the company logo. Partly this is for a potential requirement, which we would not want the circa £60 set up charges etc just to have a silkscreen put on, so I had a few blanks with our logo put on for future one-off use.

But I am also planning the idea of marketing the case we now manufacture for others. May as well have our logo on the (blank) front panel in the photo shoot.

Postal strike.

My opinion is that the public – persons and companies – should hold its own strike, i.e. by not using the post for *anything*, the idea being to give Royal Fail and the quote Union unquote the idea that we’re prepared to go on without them… Let them know that I now email invoices for my company, and don’t bother to post a copy; and all payments are now BACS with emailed remittances. Why – due to PO closures and all the strikes.

I know it sounds odd, but in my youth, I just could not watch “Star Trek”; so bad was my phobia, I would retreat to parent’s bedroom, heated by an electric fire, and even have my evening meal there, rather than downstairs and be in the room with the TV.

Parent’s bedroom was above the living room, the chimney rose through it so it was in any case the warmest of the upstairs rooms, hence the easiest to heat up.

I never had the “behind the sofa” moments with Doctor Who. In fact, I cannot think why I could not watch “Star Trek”; for I have watched it, and the successor series since (albeit not from my home, I don’t have a TV set, so what I do see is the very occasional viewings at other people’s homes).

Tom Baker is my favourate Dr Who, to the extent that I wore an overlong GAP scalf for a couple of years before the moth found it last year. In Star Trek, I much prefer the Patrick Stewart captain.

This also reminds me of the puppet series “Thunderbirds”. My father used to take me for a walk in the local woods (late 1960s), on Saturdays, and we would get back in time for the ATV broadcast of “Thunderbirds”.

An age later, it was re-broadcast on the BBC, and I was at parents on the broadcast of the very first programme. What a flashback. And what a moment,. when Lady Penopole told Parker to “wait until we get to the motorway, [the M4], when there will be no-one around”. Oh, how I wish!

A paddle punt

September 25, 2009

Today I was walking by the Thames, as a break from work, when I noticed what I already knew to be an unusual boat was out.

It caught the attention of a number of people on the tow path, even though it was mid-stream.

Now I knew of this boat from earlier in the summer, in my early morning walks. One morning it was moored by Richmond riverside, and I was able to get some good pictures:

The moored paddle punt

This gives an idea of how it works. The paddles work like a duck’s legs/feet, with the mechanism operated by a bike pedal and chain mechanism. There is a rudder operated by something like bike handlebars beneath the seat.

If you have seen one of those bikes where the cyclist is horizontal, the pedals at the front, and the handlebars beneath the seat. that is approximately the operating position that the punter must adopt.

This boat appears to have been made by a Jamacian boatmaker based in the boat houses by Richmond Riverside. He was in the driving seat on the afternoon out on the Thames.

My father’s shed is in a poor way. The roof leaks, the tarps (plural) have now failed, and an internal tarp prevents a lot of damage. Father made the shed himself, so the minimum internal height is 6’6″, rising to 8′ by the door. Compare this to any shed you buy; I hit my head on every doorway, and I am not, quite, 6′ tall.

I was attracted by the “A-frame” of the NZ Antarctica service – in fact an ex-US shed from the 1950s, abandoned by the US, but rescued by the Kiwis. I discovered this evening that it burnt down earlier this year.

I am so taken by the idea of building a shed in the style of an A-frame. I also have details of some “super-insulation”, but not what I know as “superinsulation” from my job; I mean insulation that uses millimeters of material instead of inches for the same effect. I must get my hands on some of this soonest.

Talking of the Antarctic reminded me of a particular picture I downloaded years ago:

OK, I give up; how do they raise the flag every day?

OK, I give up; how do they raise the flag every day?