Sunday 25 July 2010

You Know How...?

You know how you're driving along and you notice, on the mileometer that it's about to hit a load of noughts?
Well, a while ago, active-meter  said this blog was heading that way.... just as with the car, you look away, get distracted, and the moment's gone. Yep. the blog rolled over the hundred thousand mark a few days ago, and I failed to notice.

Now, I know some bloggers get that in a fraction of the time, but I'm just bewildered that a hundred thousand visitors have been by, when I've still got no idea what this blog is about or why.
Thanks for visiting, whoever you are. Most of you have just googled "Youtube not working in firefox", or "tractor porn".
Hey, whatever floats your boat, that's fine. I'm sorry about the disappointment for you tractor-porn searchers, maybe I should post an image that almost lives up to the title.

There, that's a nice, innocent, image.
From the North Devon Young Farmers Club calendar, via The Daily Mail. Whilst looking for a pic to post..... ohhhh I saw things that seared my eyeballs. Don't. Just don't image-search tractor porn. Or if you do, don't blame me. That girl on the bulldozer? what's that about?

Tuesday 20 July 2010

Reminiscence Of the 1980s

Like Sartre and his piece of cake, a few chords can throw open the memory banks.

"The Voice of the Beehive" did it to me this afternoon, heard  them on the radio, remembered a whole load of inconsequential stuff, going to Newcastle (the Tyneside one) to buy a load of stuff including a gas kiln, from a closing-down pottery, in a fifteen-year-old seven and a half ton truck called "Frankenstein", which was an unmitigated pig to drive, no power-steering, in fact, not a lot of steering, other than random lurches across the carriageway, sixty miles an hour top speed, if you could cope with the noise and random changes of direction, crash gearbox, 45 mph if you wanted to sustain the illusion of being in control...
The back was filled with tons of firebricks, kiln shelves, clay, a pugmill. After we finished loading, it was late evening. Heading back southwards, the drive was worse, as the lights were as weak as tired glow-worms, and the motorway was blocked by an accident, traffic crawling, so we diverted to the narrow roads over the hills, and I was soon exhausted. Plan B came into action... 
We found a nice flat gravelled clearing in the woods, set up camp for the night, cooked a meal, broke out the beers, chilled out... all was well until almost midnight when rumblings, roarings, and clatterings filled the night, drowning out the owl-hoots... oh yes. explosions, automatic weapon fire, purple haze.... helicopters, fast jets streaking across the sky.

We'd camped in the midst of an army training area. Our clearing was a battlegroup headquarters. Stuck my head out of the tent, to see tanks and mobile command trailers, we (my little brother and I) would have re-animated Frankenstein and moved out, but there were tank-transporters unloading all over the exit-road. And we'd had a few beers. More than a few beers... And "Voice of the Beehive" was playing in the cab, as WWIII erupted around us... helicopter gunships over the trees.... not much sleep was had at all.
But at least the army was extremely generous in the morning, as we crawled out, bleary-eyed and totally unrested...  a voice said... "My officer said I was to tell you the army owes you a breakfast".
Noisy neighbours, but they cook a mean breakfast. And an hour later, the clearing was deserted  again, as if they'd never been there. Seven a.m., a new day.

The man in the moon is my man
He never says nothing so I know he understands
He's the brother I never had-
The husband I'd never
want he's everything to everyone - he's famous
He's the man in the moon
he's the man in the moon
The man in the moon is my man
The man in the moon is my love caravan
He'll never break my heart I know he's here to stay
Tell all the other boys to go away
I'll take the man in the moon
I'll take the man in the moon
he's always dressed properly
he's always where I can see him
he's always there when I need him
The man in the moon's got the stylin' flat
his dinner guests include the sun and saturn
The cow who jumps over - he knows all the astronauts
I would be a space case if it were not for the man in
the moon.
Oh the man in the moon
he's always dressed properly
he's always where I can see him
he's always there when I need him
The man in the moon's my cosmic high
The man in the moon's a pearl of a guy
I trust him on venus
he's not the cheatin' type
He don't talk so we don't fight
I'll take the man in the moon.

Tuesday 13 July 2010

Stupid Journalist Quote of the Week.

"In one potentially serious incident, an attempt was made in Lurgan, Co Armagh, to hijack and burn the Enterprise train which runs between Belfast and Dublin. The driver managed to steer his train out of trouble and there were no injuries." (The Independent)

The last I heard, trains were things that ran on rails, and went wherever the rails did. Unlike bus-drivers, train drivers have no steering wheel.

It never ceases to amaze me that journalists, who we foolishly imagine to be trained in reportage, are so poor at reporting. People who make their living by the written word...........

Saturday 10 July 2010

A Found Fragment

I was footling around looking for something else and found this recorded talk, by an airman who'd learned to fly before the first-world war, only ten or so years after Orvill and Wilbur flew their first flier at Kitty-Hawk.
He flew and fought with the Royal Flying Corps in the WWI, and then,  25 years later, too old  for active service, signed up again, during the second world war, maintaining and ferry-piloting aircraft. We meet him as the allied forces are being pushed back toward Dunkirk, the Nazi "blitzkrieg" throwing all its might into this sector........

"As we passed over the wooded country towards St. Omer, popping noises began to interrupt our conversation. At first we thought we were passing over French practice rifle and machine-gun ranges. But soon tracer bullets began shrieking up at us, and the pops became very sharp and nasty cracks. It was only then that we noticed about a dozen German tanks on the roadway under some trees outside a village. We could see quite plainly the Nazi swastika marked in black on a white circle covering the tops of the dull brown-and-green tanks. As we swooped over them, just over the tree-tops, the crews hurriedly drew some camouflaged netting over their markings. Then we caught sight of motor vehicles and troops who suddenly began diving into the ditches and firing at us. We flew lower still and hurried on.

When we got to Merville, the fleet of civil air transport quickly unloaded their food and ammunition and left again for England for more. The rest of us settled down to servicing the Hurricanes we'd come to rescue and soon the first was away in spite of it being badly riddled with bullet-holes.

The next one took longer, but by midday we were able to offer a fresh mount to a pilot who landed on us unexpectedly by parachute. He'd just had a desperate fight high overhead, thankfully accepted our offer and was soon off to rejoin his squadron on a strange mount—much to the astonishment of his flight sergeant.

It was soon lunchtime. We had a lovely chicken stew, with many vegetables, made for us by a sergeant of a Northern regiment who had become detached from his unit after a scrap with the Jerries, together with ten lads from somewhere round about Sunderland. The sergeant was in fine form. So far, he told me, this war had just been his cup of tea. Later in the afternoon I discovered why. For while refugees wandered up and down the road according to the direction from which the nearest gunfire and sniping seemed to be coming, there he was, joining in the Bren-gun carrier section and having a crack at the He.s and Me.s when they came too near to be healthy. It was a fine sight.

Just as we'd got the third Hurricane going, I was surprised to see one of our own aircraft leave a busy little dogfight, streak down towards us and drop the familiar little message-bag, telling me to bring the next serviceable Hurricane back home to England before nightfall. It was a strange sight in the sky—with a Tiger Moth and an Autogyro, bringing back sharp memories of peacetime flying, now floating around absolutely unconcerned on their message-carrying jobs. You might have thought they were helping the police to handle the traffic on Derby Day!

I was glad of this message to bring the Hurricane home for more reasons than one. The main reason, I think, was that—well, I wanted to test a theory. The theory is that having once been taught to fly by the R.A.F., it doesn't much matter what type of aircraft you're asked to handle—provided you remember to turn all the taps and push and pull all the knobs of a modern aircraft in the proper sequence, and have the good sense to enquire about the aircraft's peculiar habits from someone who knows her ways. Simple enough—if you have time. The unfortunate part about it was that I just didn't have time.

To cut a long story, the Merlin engine of my Hurricane took me off in grand style. Soon it throbbed gently into top gear. The boost came back, and the wheels came up and soon we were all set for Home, Sweet Home. I was above, in the air, without a care in the world—except that I was flying a machine I'd never handled before.

Soon I was to be disillusioned. Not long after the take off, the nasty "noises off" started. Then tracer-bullets began coming down at me from the hillsides. Foolishly I shot up to about 8,000 feet to sail straight into a perfect pattern of horribly noisy black A.A. bursts. An entirely unorthodox manoeuvre got me sideways and down out of this, but not before the keen eye of the Messerschmitt flight commander had registered and dived to the attack simultaneously. The strip he tore off shook me more than the A.A. gentleman had done a few seconds previously, and I slipped inwards towards the nasty noise and steeper down, changing the direction to meet the second strip from Number Two, from the other side, and wondering what the other four lads were up to above and behind.

Thereafter, as I had not had the time of means to get the Hurricane's guns serviceable, the chase went on up the village street and down a chateau drive and once almost through the chateau front door, until suddenly, twisting downstream in a wooded valley, I slipped out clear over some sand dunes and out to sea, where the fleet off Boulogne opened up on the pack at my heels. One salvo was enough for them, and I climbed up leisurely and thankfully and perhaps a little regretfully to look back at the smoke of battle round Calais and Boulogne, a weird picture in the misty red light of the setting sun, and on the other side of me at the quiet peaceful countryside of Thanet. Then, home to roost, as I had done so many times twenty-five years ago, thinking of my son and his regiment somewhere inland from Dunkirk, and wondering what kind of miracle could save them all, and if the people at home had any real picture in their mind's eye of the scene so close to them on the other side. The refugees, the burning villages, the noise and smoke of battle, and how they would stand up to the onslaught if and when it came and would they remember the defeat in Flanders with no less honour than the victories which will follow in the last rounds of their fight for freedom."

I don't know this man's name, but I thank him, and his son, and all the others he mentions. Without them, I'd be speaking german.

Saturday 3 July 2010

Not Grit in the Gears...

I am, I admit, a serious abuser of machinery. I have toys.
So, the green thing, as seen above, has been dormant since about a year and a half ago. I was using it, at work, to pull tree stumps out of the ground and drag them up the field. Seeing how successful that activity was proving (our general labourer had spent all the morning trying to dig out one stump), I decided to get involved and ripped six out of the ground in under an hour..., my boss suggested that I might try the same tactic on the steel barrier-posts in the car-park.  And I, being a fool, said... "Okay".
Now, of course, when you're on a field, on grass and earth, the amount of torque you can put through any one drive-line component is limited by the coefficient of friction between the tyres and the surface beneath them. On grass and earth, what happens is the wheel grips for so long, then spins, throwing out a divot, or a steady stream of muck. The force is dissipated by the slippage and displacement of earth.
When the object you're pulling at is a six inch square, five-foot high steel post, filled to the top with concrete, and embedded to a depth of two feet, in concrete, and the tyres are on very grippy tarmacadam  surfacing, then the wheel doesn't spin. Something else happens.
I thought I'd broken the transfer-box, because I could still drive in low-ratio four-wheel-drive mode, but transfer to high, and zip. Just a whirring sound. So I was convinced I'd have to do a gearbox/transfer box transplant, and as it's not too far back that I'd done a complete, from the ground-up rebuild, I was not looking forward to the prospect. today, I decided to go and get started on an investigatory process.  First thing was, the damn thing wouldn't start. No fuel... well, fuel in the tank, but none at the carburettor, so I proceeded to strip out the fuel pump, dismantle and check. The filter-gauze was blocked. It looked as though it had been varnished. There's some nasty stuff in unleaded fuel.  It doesn't take kindly to being left standing for a year and a half, so that job took a couple of hours. Once the fuel was getting to the engine again, I could drive to a more comfortable working place, and jack the wheels up. 
Now I could engage drive and see what was happening. In 4-wheel-drive mode, both the front and rear propshafts were spinning, but only the front wheels were obliging. 
Well, that's a relief, because it rules out the dead transfer-box hypothesis. Duh. If I'd thought about the time of failure and the nature of the fault, I should have already figured out the most likely culprit. If it was driving in low ratio but not high, what's the difference? High uses  2 wheel drive as default, 4 wheel drive is selected by thumping the top of a big yellow button on top of the transmission tunnel. Bang. It drives. So the front wheels are doing the biz, but not the back ones. Obvious. What a muppet I am. If the propshaft rotates but not the wheels, it's either the differential, or a halfshaft... So I take off a drive flange.......

Oh dear. The tooth-fairy's been playing about in there, chewing at what should be a nice flat-faced hex-nut....

This is where the toothy bits came from. Very hard, very tough  steel, twizzled apart, like play-doh.

Surely that's not supposed to happen? 
And of course, I've been trying to curb my hoarding tendencies, and sent the spare axles to the scrap-metal dealer a year, after the rebuild. I've still got a lot of spares, but.... not the bits I need to fix this. Tomorrow, I'll go see my pal Ken,  and see if we've got a spare set stashed in the pile of really important stuff that his wife keeps telling him to get rid of.

Revised Text: They're not hard to get at all, new, and, would you believe, cheaper than four gallons of unleaded!
That's ridiculous, but  heartwarming; forged, machined, heat-treated and not eye-wateringly expensive. Oooh! Shiny new parts! Might just put them together tomorrow!

Posted by Picasa

Friday 2 July 2010


Look! It's Ignatz Mouse from George Herriman's "Krazy Kat"!

Posted by Picasa