Tuesday 22 January 2013

My Great-Great Grandfather's Forge

I can't name any of them. I think my sister can...
The boxes of tools on the floor, modern-day shoeing smiths still use the same pattern.

 Great-Uncle Percy.
In this picture, he's forge-welding a wheel-rim. By hammering the red-hot overlapping joint, he'll cause the steel to flow together, to weld with no visible seam. I liked Percy, only met him a few times. There was a family feud, following my great-great grandfather's death, Percy and his brother and two sisters disagreed about the meaning of the wording of the will. It went to the local court, to the county court, then the high court, and eventually to parliament.
So Percy was estranged from his family, he moved away, to the far side of the country, but my father always kept in touch, and, when the protagonists were all in their eighties, my father decided enough was enough. He persuaded Percy to come and stay with us. Then, one day, they went out for a ride in the car, and my father steered toward Hobberley Cottage, Percy's childhood home.
Dad  knocked on the front door. My great-aunt Sybil came to the door, wiping her hands on her apron, the house full of the scents of baking.
She stood, I am told, mouth open, looking at the tall, grey-haired  old man in her doorway, then "Come in, our Percy".

My dad left them.
Great Uncle Walter was in the orchard. "Walter," my dad said "You'd best go in, you have a visitor."
The feud was over.
Regrets over lost years, tears, and a lot of catching up. The following day, Percy was helping Walter repair the shed, Sybil was cooking her mother's fruit-cake recipe, and they were a family at peace once more.
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Wednesday 16 January 2013

House-Clearing and Old Photographs.

My mother's house, after a year and a half on the market, now has a buyer, there's been a significant drop in price from the original valuation, but the sale's going through. Which means I've been immersed again in minutiae, sorting through all the stuff which escaped the earlier culls, the trips to the dump, the apportioning among siblings. 
With  the aid of my sister, I've been delving deep into boxes of papers, and I keep finding photographs. All too often, there's nothing written on the back, no clue. I recognise a few faces from other pictures in annotated albums, but some? Some are recognisably family faces, but I'm not sure just who. 

These two, above, who are they? I love the picture, it looks like a posed scene from a movie, mother and daughter, an old dog who'd rather be somewhere else, I think I know the house, I think I used to go there as a child, my sister thought so too, we both remember clambering on hay-bales in a dusty barn, but we think we were just toddlers? Sharlston?

"Dorothy, Sybil, Mary, Fanny.
I remember great aunt Fanny. An aunt by marriage.  Long gone.


I think I drive past these houses every night, but who? No idea.
Blanche, holding my father, in 1918.
Blanche worked on my grandfather's farm, was still living in the village in the sixties.
The boy with the cap is my dad, in 1931, the man is Dick Snowden (who? no idea)... outside my grandparents' farm, Old Hall.

 On the bottom left, 'Betty'. She and her parents and younger brother are visiting my grandparents (on the right). They're in the orchard at Old Hall.  Betty is my dad's girlfriend, but it's 1943, and he's gone off to the war, he's missing, in Singapore, they don't know if he's dead or alive. It will be a year or so before they learn that he's survived, and is a prisoner of the Imperial Japanese Army.

My cousin Barbara, aged twelve.

My dad, on return from the war,  shortly to be a civilian again.
 Betty sent him a 'Dear John' letter, to Changi (P.O.W. jail in Singapore)  but he didn't receive it until after his release, by which time she'd married someone else!

P.O.W. wages scrip.
As he said 'The  little bastards' promises aren't worth the paper they're printed on'.

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Thursday 10 January 2013

Awesome!... Or, as they say, whence I am bound, "Ossum!"

Oh Shenandoah,
I love your daughter,
Away, you rolling river.
For her I'd cross,
The raging waters,
Away, I'm bound away,
'Cross the wide Missouri.
For ten long years, 
I courted Sally,  
A-way, you rolling river
She broke my heart, 
Here in this valley,
A-way, we're bound away, 
'Cross the wide Missouri.
 Tom Waits, with Keith Richards, and an un-named male-voice choir, recorded "Shenandoah", for a new muliti-artist album, titled 'Son of Rogues Gallery'.

I'd love to post it here, but the album is not out until 19th february. So the best I can do, is include a link to the player on NPR.

I know some, many, most, perhaps, of my readers just can't see any beauty in Tom's gravelly voice, but I urge you to give it a chance. 
Click on the link.

No, I know it's not a patch on your 'Best of Abba' album.... 
Or your 'Easy Listening Elevator Music' album.

I hear you all spluttering in denial "But I don't have an Abba album!'.


Sunday 6 January 2013

Can We Fix It?


The sad truth is that, despite my legendary optimism, even I know this has gone 'beyond'.
However, I'm wondering if any of my readers can identify the vehicle, here are a few clues. Rolls-Royce engine. 4WD. Transfer box on rear axle, Torsion-bar suspension.
In Texas, I saw vehicles much older than this in retrievable condition. But what we see here is a result of fifty or so years on a headland, on the fierce Cape Wrath, the most north-westerly point of mainland Scotland, beautiful, but bleak. Salty air and sea-fogs, enemies of metal vehicles.

Update, Monday 7th January:  The Winner is......................... THE PIRATE!!!  
100% spot-on accurate identification. 
However, the Champ was only made from 1952-1956, it was discontinued long before BLMC took over the Rover car company in 1968. There was a civilian variant, but only about 500 vehicles were sold, the military, both U.K and Australian, bought almost all the champs ever built. 
The 'sealed unit' engine is a bit of a misnomer, the axles and gearboxes were sealed, as were the instruments, and you could drive the early ones in 2'6" of water without further modification. Later ones, only 1'3", if I recall. But, with a bit of effort, you could fit 'wading plugs' and a few other bits, including a snorkel, and the champ would drive along, fully submerged. For a while. Then you'd have a heap of maintenance before continuing. Why such a short life? Well, apart from offering a comfortable ride, the champ did little that a Land-Rover couldn't do, at half the price. The army found Land Rovers to be more versatile, so the Champ contract was cut short. When the army wanted no more, the champ production line stopped forever. 
Commended: This award goes to Relax-Max, for identifying the manufacturer. 
Lee: Hobbits? Ach, they're machine-phobic luddites! 

Saturday 5 January 2013

On the Road Again

Out on the road,engine shakedown, one little oil-leak fixed, over to a friend's house to collect a few more of my stored spare parts, fit a new alternator, eat toasted cheese sandwiches, drink tea, plan the woodburning stove fitment in the garage, and generally be social.


Detroit thrived on the concept of the 'model-year', where car styling changed rapidly, year upon year, and customers were mortified if their car was last year's model, but that concept never really caught on in Solihull. There's a fifty-year gap between the production years of these vehicles.

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Thursday 3 January 2013


One of those things that blogs which tell you how to blog will tell you, is 'never apologise for not posting, just pick up and carry on'.

So, I'm apologising for my lack of blogposting over the last whenever. I'm a contrary cuss, and, given that blogging is a self-defined anarchic activity, I reject outright any numpty who presumes to tell me how to do something I'm trying to figure out for myself.
What are the rules in blogging? Whatever rules each blogger chooses to invent and adopt, but none of us has the right to prescribe or proscribe another's posts.

I've been here, I've even commented here and there, but whatever spark I might have had for a post fizzled or sputzed out.
I've variously worked, loafed, and vegetated. I attended no parties and drank very little beer.

The engine works are ongoing. It's all back together, but a rummage in my pal's garage rooted out several boxes of vital stuff. So, a distributor swap, the Ducellier replaced by an old Lucas 25D, but with hall-effect contactless points, the overdrive's fitted back on the rear end of the gearbox, um, what else. Alternator diode pack replaced, so the charge-warning light's no longer glowing at speed.
But the 'new' as in, dodgy indian-made replica Zenith 36IV carburettor has to go. With all the other variables set to default, the carb is throwing fuel in in an erratic and uncontrolled manner.
I have an SU carb, but I'd have to invent a whole new throttle linkage, as it's all the opposite way round.  Will go search ebay for a genuine 36IV.....

 Head off, pushrod holes stuffed with tissue to keep scraped gasket debris out.

 shiny new, performance-tweaked cylinder-head.

 Zzzzip! Back together, and running!

 Pause to do a spot of welding on a new engine-cross-member on Ken's series one, 1956 project...

Back to work yesterday, and deep in the sh*t. Literally. Macerator toilet.
I could post a picture, but I'll spare you that. A tenant called the office to say the toilet was blocked. A macerator toilet is one that pumps its flush away, uphill, often through smallbore pipes, not the usual 110mm/4". In this case, it was an inch and a quarter pipe, and it runs 72 feet, in a ceiling void, until it can drop into a normal soil pipe, and thence to the sewer. Well, what exactly IS a macerator unit? It's usually a small white box that sits behind the toilet. You can, using one of these, site a bathroom or kitchen, or both in a basement, or other place below, or too far from a main drain for the usual gravity system to work.
How does it do it ?

Well, water's no problem, there's a pump in there, water from sink/basin/ washing machine/ shower etc, enters via a normal inch and a quarter or inch and a half pipe, via non-return valves, and a float-switch, sensing the rising level, switches on a pump. Out it all goes, via another non-return valve, pumped up, then along, until it reaches the main drain.
What about, um, 'not' water?
'Not' water? you mean... um....'solids'?
Well. Yes.

Those of a delicate disposition might leave the room now.
As the flushed contents of the toilet bowl enter the little white box, they go into a 'basket', with mesh sides, of quarter-inch holes. Toilet paper and. um, brown stuff won't pass through those holes. In their unmodified state, they'd block the pump. But in the bottom of the basket, there's a spinning, bladed contraption, just like in your kitchen blender. And it blends and chops very well, provided that it's only fed what it's designed for. Chops and dices and slices and blends. and once that's done, the flush can pass through the mesh, and is of sufficiently fluid nature that the pump can pump it up, up, and away.
But the unit I was called to look at, had obviously had some sort of unhappy day. Chocolate mousse? overflowing from under the seat.... across the floor...
And a very nasty smell.


But hey. Into each new year's first day back at work, a little rain must fall. I'd been planning an altogether gentler re-entry to the life of work.
But, out with the wet-vac, empty it as far as possible. rinse with disinfectant, repeat. repeat. Dismantle connections, run a rotating drain-snake through the clogged 72 ft of inch and a half discharge pipe, and use vac to check it's clear.
Dismantle macerator, wash all parts in disinfectant, clear cause of failure.
No1 cause of macerator failures? People who flush things that should not be flushed. Especially cotton fibre items.
There's a notice on the inside of the door, and by the flush handle.
Ladies, please.
I'll say no more.


Reassemble, test.
Clean, bleach, de-spatter, and disinfect entire room. Clean out basin trap too.
Lift cast iron sewer manhole in car-park and tip contents of stinky vac into it. Wash out and disinfect wet vac.

Wash self.
Go home early for long shower. Wash wash wash and extra rinse rinse rinse all clothes.


Welcome to 2013.

Today was fractionally better.
Soon, with my savings, I shall buy my freedom, the village blacksmith will strike off my chains.
And I will set sail, to a different life, in a new-found land.

Here. Lighten the mood..... From my favourite Dylan Album, Live at Budokan: