Sunday, 1 March 2015

March hare

Uffington hare in autumn

...this particular March hare was started in autumn, hence the seasonal fruits. But I finished it today after it had been sitting around for months. And it's the first day of March. So happy St David's Day!

Sunday, 15 February 2015

We cannot allow censorship and silencing of individuals- working men's clubs have a particular responsibility to resist this kind of bullying



There is a worrying pattern of failure to respect some of the older and greater comedians on the working men's club circuit. When Bluey Drongo ("an eff, a blind, a merry quip") appeared at the Cambridge Bittern Stuffers' club recently, a rival event took place for those folk who object to Bluey's often-stated belief that people who've retrained during their careers can never be true working men; you're born a working man, he says, and that is that; these newcomers don't know what it smells like when you've lined the pockets of the rich with the sweat of your brow, and it ain't roses, he says, let me tell ya. Strewth. Obviously, the fate of this minority isn't important or relevant to the rest of us true working men, so it is ungrateful of them to make a fuss when they could be enjoying Bluey's off-colour anecdotes instead.

It's also troubling that Bernard Waning has not been getting any bookings lately. Bernard's been touring with his one joke ("hear the one about the Englishman, the Irishman and the transsexual Scot?") for over ten years now, but what the heck, it's an important joke, and it is shameful that he should be denied the platform to tell it. Yet again. Some jokes just improve with the retelling, after all. If things carry on like this he won't even get a chance to publish his joke in the Guardian one more time, and then where will we be?

a piece on censorship in the Guardian

...and a response from Sarah Brown




Friday, 13 February 2015

fettling a Strida


After my nice Strida bike was stolen from the back of my car in December, I got a replacement on Ebay. Sometimes you can strike it lucky with Stridas and get an old one very cheaply; this one cost me £80, with another £20 to get it delivered. Still, it's a Strida. And a v manky one when it arrived, having evidently been lying around for a long long time....

All the bearings were gunked up, so a complete strip down was needed.

out you come, you little bearings
a quick wash in penetrating oil and a scrub with a toothbrush. Shiny shiny

that's better


this is the clip that holds the wheels together when you fold the bike up.
You've got to take it off to remove the wheel

yeeeurk

the hub brake is then revealed


free up the brake pads, sandpaper the braking surfaces...
a bearing cup

back together again

and ready to go!

Wednesday, 4 February 2015

making tracks, following them, staying put

Mink prints


A dusting of snow the other morning meant that I was up and out as soon as it was light, looking for footprints. There was some mink spraint under the bridge where I found some a couple of weeks ago; this was so fresh it was practically steaming...

Untitled

...and a trail leading away to the nearby winding hole, where the undergrowth is thick and tangled. The trail ended there.

I was telling Mark, my neighbour, about it, and he found it odd that I should go around photographing poo. Each to their own, Mark. Think of King Pellinore, with his horn full of fewmets! 

The ice has limited my boat movements; it doesn't take much ice to make manoeuvring a narrowboat difficult. But it has allowed for some good photograph opportunities. Last night's sunset

Sunset at Semington

was very quickly followed by the rising of the full moon. There is less than an hour between these two pictures

Full moon rising over Semington

Saturday, 31 January 2015

Bristol's greener arena

bristol arena

Some folk in Bristol have expressed their dismay that there is no arena in the city huge enough to persuade U2 to play here. Ignoring the nay-sayers who reckon that they like Bristol precisely because of that, they gaze wistfully at the sleeve notes of Joshua Tree while sitting in their rather-too-tight jeans, in the drawing rooms of tastefully-renovated victorian semis from St Andrews to Sneyd Park, and remember their fairly-wild student days when they had a leather jacket too.

Happily for these folk, the move towards construction of such an arena continues apace, with the shortlisting of five designs, all suitably anodyne.

As Chief Architect of Gert Macky Enterprises (publishers, bicycles fettled, a song a dance a merry quip, oh and arena designers to royalty), I drew up some plans of my own, as you see from the picture. Sadly, despite the optimism of The Bristolian, it doesn't appear to have made the shortlist, even though it would add to Bristol's green credentials ("it's an elephant! GREEN! We'll paint it green if you like, to make it even greener!") in this year of Bristol, Green Capital.

Here, by the way, is the elephantine colossus of Rhode Island. Thanks, Lauren! 


Friday, 30 January 2015

mink on the canal

Frozen dawn at Semington lock

"It must be cold on your boat" people say. "On the contrary; it's far warmer than any of my old homes" I reply, smugly and snugly. The wood burner keeps the inside toasty warm, even when the canal freezes over, as it did last week.

Frosty start at Semington

Untitled

Frosty start at Semington

It was cold wandering around taking pictures of the frost, of course, but back on board, I was warming up and pointing my iPhone at a bullock on the other bank ("Isn't it cold living in a frozen paddock?" we asked a local bullock) ...when a small black creature bounded into shot. It sat there on the ice gawping up at the bullock; then noticed me and turned tail, describing a lively sine wave along the ice back the way it had come.

As you see, mink avoid getting cold paws by running several inches above the ice.



This spotting explained the spraint I found under the bridge a few days previously...

Poo under the canal bridge

...which was smaller, messier and less glistering with fish scales than this otter poo we saw on the Thames last year 

spraint praise

Thursday, 22 January 2015

blazing the path

Testing Little Willy, the new bike headlight (all the neat names like Blinder and Predator were already taken)

Here at Gert Macky (publishers, bicycles fettled, a song a dance a merry quip), we always have our eye on what's going down on Teh Street. And this winter, what's been going down a lot on both the street and on the towpaths and roads near us has been intrepid cyclists striving for ever brighter headlights. Now, auntie Vera was in the ATS during the war, operating a searchlight on a hill near Bristol, and she happened to mention a disused hangar Somewhere In The West Of England that was stuffed with the things at the end of the war. 

Reasoning that a light intended to pick out a Heinkel 111 flying at 15,000 feet would be perfect for sticking on your bicycle when riding on the Bristol to Bath cycle path, we hot-footed it down there and blew away the cobwebs. Result! They are quite bulky, but with a bit of tweaking we got them to fit on the handlebars of some test bikes, and sent out our researchers to road test them.

Results have been extremely positive. Of course, there have been objections from some antisocial fuddy-duddies, suggesting that things were already bad enough when cyclists used lights more suitable for blazing a trail through the uncharted wastes of the Rockies or Carpathians, than for a gentle commute on a well-defined path through suburbia. As our testers pointed out:

You can always look away
Of course we can't dip the lights, that's how they're set up
I'd fall off my bike laughing if some self-appointed warden told me to dip my light
It's just light envy
F***ing wanker
There's always someone complaining*


*all these points were made by cyclists on a couple of Facebook posts discussing this very topic