Sunday, 23 December 2012

What's the Engine Out Of?

I was asked, on the previous post, what's the engine out of? 
It's out of the geriatric land-rover, which I've owned since 1992.  Back a few years ago, after a few too many abuses, the poor old dear failed its test on a multiple of faults, and at the time I had no money to spare, so she went away into storage, for a while.  Which turned out to be several years.


In 2007, I hauled it out, and set to work on a ground-up rebuild. The biggest change was putting later style wings on, with outboard headlights.


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Saturday, 22 December 2012

Holiday Project..

Old cylinder head off, (worn valve-seats and guides), new one awaits.

Gas-flowed, ported, a bit more torque low-down, more flexible mid-range.
To some of my readers, I know this is all meaningless gobbledegook, but to others, it's rich, greasy poetry. Marvel if you will, at the retro concept of crude engineering, cast iron, holes not drilled or milled by CNC, and, even wilder, only two valves per cylinder!

Argleblart! The swine! The recon head had some helicoiled inserts. Now I've nothing against helicoils, if they're done right they're tougher than the original thread, but dammit, one exhaust stud was out of alignment.  Much filing ensued.
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Friday, 21 December 2012

Ring Out

Ring Out Solstice Bells, Jethro Tull

Ring Out, Solstice Bells

Now is the solstice of the year, winter is the glad song that you hear. Seven maids move in seven time. Have the lads up ready in a line. Ring out these bells. Ring out, ring solstice bells. Ring solstice bells. Join together beneath the mistletoe. by the holy oak whereon it grows. Seven druids dance in seven time. Sing the song the bells call, loudly chiming. Ring out these bells. Ring out, ring solstice bells. Ring solstice bells. Praise be to the distant sister sun, joyful as the silver planets run. Seven maids move in seven time. Sing the song the bells call, loudly chiming. Ring out those bells. Ring out, ring solstice bells. Ring solstice bells. Ring on, ring out. Ring on, ring out.

Thursday, 20 December 2012

The Last Post

Well, maybe not.

I mean, I've got under two hours until the end of the world, so a lot of people are saying.
Not that anybody's quite sure as to the exact time. It might be the start of friday here... Or where the Mayans once carved a calendar.


But I have a calendar at work. And it goes as far as the 31st of january, next year. And it's from an insurance company. Those guys are number crunchers, surely they'd know at least as much as an ancient Mayan?

 Let's go see if that REALLY was the LAST post...

 Lotsa posts!
Boobies Ahead!

 Post with feet.

 Post-Hole Diggaz.
Oh. Sorry. 
Pot-Hole Fillaz.

There are plenty more posts to be found.

And if the Mayan apocalypse theorists should turn out to be right.... Well, it's unlikely you'll be criticising me afterwards.

Update: 07:00. Day the world ended.

Surrounded by broken pixels.
Outside looks strangely dark, but is slowly coalescing into something resembling the world.
My personal demons called in to say goodbye, just before the clock struck thirteen, they shook my hand and said it had been nice knowing me, during their deployment here, but they'd all had a sudden recall order. Hades, it appears, is moving to Mars.
My guardian angel?
Well, I got a garbled phone call. I think the angels were in a pub. Very drunk.

Should be a bit more peaceful here without them all.
Though the demons warned me that angels with hangovers are nasty. 

Sunday, 9 December 2012

The Lady of Shalott

 The Lady of Shalott
Alfred Lord Tennyson

Part I
On either side the river lie
Long fields of barley and of rye,
That clothe the wold and meet the sky;
And thro' the field the road runs by
To many-tower'd Camelot;
And up and down the people go,
Gazing where the lilies blow
Round an island there below,
The island of Shalott.

Willows whiten, aspens quiver,
Little breezes dusk and shiver
Thro' the wave that runs for ever
By the island in the river
Flowing down to Camelot.
Four grey walls, and four grey towers,
Overlook a space of flowers,
And the silent isle imbowers
The Lady of Shalott.

By the margin, willow veil'd
Slide the heavy barges trail'd
By slow horses; and unhail'd
The shallop flitteth silken-sail'd
Skimming down to Camelot:
But who hath seen her wave her hand?
Or at the casement seen her stand?
Or is she known in all the land,
The Lady of Shalott?

Only reapers, reaping early
In among the bearded barley,
Hear a song that echoes cheerly
From the river winding clearly,
Down to tower'd Camelot:
And by the moon the reaper weary,
Piling sheaves in uplands airy,
Listening, whispers "'Tis the fairy
Lady of Shalott."
Part II
There she weaves by night and day
A magic web with colours gay.
She has heard a whisper say,
A curse is on her if she stay
To look down to Camelot.
She knows not what the curse may be,
And so she weaveth steadily,
And little other care hath she,
The Lady of Shalott.

And moving thro' a mirror clear
That hangs before her all the year,
Shadows of the world appear.
There she sees the highway near
Winding down to Camelot:
There the river eddy whirls,
And there the surly village-churls,
And the red cloaks of market girls,
Pass onward from Shalott.

Sometimes a troop of damsels glad,
An abbot on an ambling pad,
Sometimes a curly shepherd-lad,
Or long-hair'd page in crimson clad,
Goes by to tower'd Camelot;
And sometimes thro' the mirror blue
The knights come riding two and two:
She hath no loyal knight and true,
The Lady of Shalott.

But in her web she still delights
To weave the mirror's magic sights,
For often thro' the silent nights
A funeral, with plumes and lights,
And music, went to Camelot:
Or when the moon was overhead,
Came two young lovers lately wed;
"I am half sick of shadows," said
The Lady of Shalott.

Part III

A bow-shot from her bower-eaves,
He rode between the barley-sheaves,
The sun came dazzling thro' the leaves,
And flamed upon the brazen greaves
Of bold Sir Lancelot.
A red-cross knight for ever kneel'd
To a lady in his shield,
That sparkled on the yellow field,
Beside remote Shalott.

The gemmy bridle glitter'd free,
Like to some branch of stars we see
Hung in the golden Galaxy.
The bridle bells rang merrily
As he rode down to Camelot:
And from his blazon'd baldric slung
A mighty silver bugle hung,
And as he rode his armour rung,
Beside remote Shalott.

All in the blue unclouded weather
Thick-jewell'd shone the saddle-leather,
The helmet and the helmet-feather
Burn'd like one burning flame together,
As he rode down to Camelot.
As often thro' the purple night,
Below the starry clusters bright,
Some bearded meteor, trailing light,
Moves over still Shalott.

His broad clear brow in sunlight glow'd;
On burnish'd hooves his war-horse trode;
From underneath his helmet flow'd
His coal-black curls as on he rode,
As he rode down to Camelot.
From the bank and from the river
He flash'd into the crystal mirror,
"Tirra lirra," by the river
Sang Sir Lancelot.

She left the web, she left the loom,
She made three paces thro' the room,
She saw the water-lily bloom,
She saw the helmet and the plume,
She look'd down to Camelot.
Out flew the web and floated wide;
The mirror crack'd from side to side;
"The curse is come upon me," cried
The Lady of Shalott.

Part IV
In the stormy east-wind straining,
The pale yellow woods were waning,
The broad stream in his banks complaining,
Heavily the low sky raining
Over tower'd Camelot;
Down she came and found a boat
Beneath a willow left afloat,
And round about the prow she wrote
The Lady of Shalott.

And down the river's dim expanse -
Like some bold seer in a trance,
Seeing all his own mischance -
With a glassy countenance
Did she look to Camelot.
And at the closing of the day
She loosed the chain, and down she lay;
The broad stream bore her far away,
The Lady of Shalott.

Lying, robed in snowy white
That loosely flew to left and right -
The leaves upon her falling light -
Thro' the noises of the night
She floated down to Camelot:
And as the boat-head wound along
The willowy hills and fields among,
They heard her singing her last song.
The Lady of Shalott.

Heard a carol, mournful, holy,
Chanted loudly, chanted lowly,
Till her blood was frozen slowly,
And her eyes were darken'd wholly,
Turn'd to tower'd Camelot.
For ere she reach'd upon the tide
The first house by the water-side,
Singing in her song she died
The Lady of Shalott.

Under tower and balcony,
By garden-wall and gallery,
A gleaming shape she floated by,
Dead-pale between the houses high,
Silent into Camelot.
Out upon the wharfs they came,
Knight and burgher, lord and dame.
And round the prow they read her name,
The Lady of Shalott.

Who is this? and what is here?
And in the lighted palace near
Died the sound of royal cheer;
And they cross'd themselves for fear,
All the knights at Camelot:
But Lancelot mused a little space;
He said, "She has a lovely face;
God in his mercy lend her grace.
The Lady of Shalott."

Perhaps This is Why ....

...I became a potter.

Back in the 1950s, the BBC had a load of short film-clips they used, titled "Interlude", when for some reason or other there was a gap in programming, technical failures, and so forth.
And I know, as a child, I was endlessly fascinated by this. I so wanted to try it, I made things out of mud all the time, but never had access to a potters wheel until I was at college, aged 19, on another course altogether, but at night, less than a hundred yards from my room, the pottery studio was unlocked!

The potter whose hands we see was George Henry Aubertin, who ran the Compton Pottery in Compton, Surrey.
He's buried at the Watts Chapel, in Compton, which is a beautiful building full of arts and crafts ceramics. Any potters visiting the U.K. might enjoy a visit there, it's near Guildford, just south of London.


Friday, 7 December 2012

I Don't Own Any i-things

But this phone case, made by BookBook, alas, for i-phones and i-things only, is almost enough to sway me toward the ranks of the ineffably smug.


Being, as I am, a devoutly bookloving person, a little leather volume, like this  in my pocket, would feel just right, in worn soft brown leather.

Mmmmmm. I wonder if my current phone would....
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Remember This Image?

BoingBoing's David Pescovitz reminds me that it was forty years ago today that this photograph was taken by Apollo 17's crew, on the last manned mission to the moon,

Five hours and six minutes travel time from Cape Canaveral, 28,000 miles from home.  The camera was a seventy millimetre Hasselblad, with an 80 mm lens.

Thursday, 6 December 2012

Hardly Davidson

A slight explanation, found via a reverse image-search:  A comment by 'Michael'-
"This was initially built as "The Nine Wheel Harley Rig". It was built in the late 80′s by Kenneth Kilpatrick of Huntsville Alabama. I see from this photo It has since been modified to incorporate a second front wheel making it now ” The Ten Wheel Harley Rig “. The tractor is a modified Harley Davidson FLT. The interior of the trailer is nicely finished. Kenneth did receive license from HD to utilize their paint scheme and logo. I am told, at Harley Davidson’s expense, Kenneth has been able to show his rig in several countries around the world "

This thing beats me completely. It's a masterpiece of semiotic confusion, I admire, absolutely, the craftsmanship, the effort, the vision, that the maker put into it. But my poor brain bashes against the 'why?', like a moth crashing repeatedly against a lighted window.

I mean, if the guy's a bike freak, he's built something that's not a bike.
If he's a trike freak, well, he's built something that's not a trike.
If he's a semi-trailer freak, he's built something that's not a semi,
If he's a big rig freak, ditto, ditto, ditto.

It's like a Thai tuk-tuk on steroids.
Or a toy truck on pink sparkles.
Or the sort of inexplicable artifact that haunts my more problematic dreams. Hold on... is this real? Am I about to wake?
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Monday, 3 December 2012

Monday's Muzik

Unless you live under a rock, I'll warrant you can not have avoided the rocket-like rise to global celebrity of South Korean pop star Psy.

But I'll bet few of you have heard of Berkeley, California-based Korean band Ra-On?

By the magic of the interblogs, I can remedy that.  They play Psy's hit song. But differently.

Friday, 30 November 2012

Friday's Poem.

 Eve Speaks:

Once I was in Eden and walked, blithely,
out of it.
How was I to know?
There seemed another Eden,
just next door. It looked familiar,
and I was tired of the new.
All day he strolled around with his name tags.
Glitter turned specific, but I craved
the blobbiness of things,
the inexact borders,
the possibility that this could also be

that. Of course I was an idiot. I'd run back
now, if I could, bear his painless
children, even call the girl If Only,
the boy, I Told You So.
Instead of living in this okay crowded world,
I'd make all my mistakes in Paradise.
Is that possible?
Is it?
I didn't even see the gate.
Then the gate closed.

Jan Heller Levi

Thursday, 29 November 2012

Poem. Today's selection.

Let me tell you about my marvelous god, how he hides in the hexagons
of the bees, how the drought that wrings its leather hands
above the world is of his making, as well as the rain in the quiet minutes
that leave only thoughts of rain.
An atom is working and working, an atom is working in deepest
night, then bursting like the farthest star; it is far
smaller than a pinprick, far smaller than a zero and it has no
will, no will toward us.
This is why the heart has paced and paced,
will pace and pace across the field where yarrow
was and now is dust. A leaf catches
in a bone. The burrow’s shut by a tumbled clod
and the roots, upturned, are hot to the touch.
How my god is a feathered and whirling thing; you will singe your arm
when you pluck him from the air,
when you pluck him from that sky
where grieving swirls, and you will burn again
throwing him back.

Susan Stewart:- "Let me tell you about my marvelous god"

via Three Quarks Daily, where Jim Culleny posts a regular thursday poem.
Three Quarks makes interesting reading.

Sunday, 25 November 2012


In my dreams, I skate and glide, I perform effortless curves, banking around corners, my feet just a couple of inches above the ground, I'm graceful, I could fly, and I never fall.

Which bemuses me, because I never was great at that sort of thing. Roller skates. Elizabeth Simpson had roller skates when I was about 7. And a key. And I was so impressed as she skated up the concrete driveway. Skates seemed like the ultimate liberator. As good as, no, better even than having a real bicycle. And Elizabeth, bless her generous little heart, offered to teach me, so I sat on the kitchen doorstep, and we did the skate key and straps thing, over my 'Start-Rite' sandals, and the bees of summer zigzagged by on their quest for pollen, and I stood, and my left foot went one way, and my right foot shot out, and I sat back with a crash, and banged my head on the glossy deep-red painted door. And I bit my lip and tried not to cry.

On the next try, Elizabeth clung to me carefully as I unfolded my unreliable limbs, and I gripped her in a fearsome clinch.

Now, bear in mind we were seven. Damn. If we were fifteen, that clinch would have seen steam coming out of my ears. But at seven? Nah.  So, I let go and tried a tentative step, one hand on the house wall. Yes! it works!
"You're doing it!" she cried, all excited, " just let go!"
At the end of the house, the driveway sloped.

And gravity sucked my legs.
And I accelerated, flailing arms, trying desperately to..
And I'm not sure what happened next. Maybe the skates crossed. Maybe my legs shot out, forward, backward, sideways.  Either way, the next I remember is lying in a bloody heap of pain.
Took a while to get those skates off. Sniffling but trying not to cry in front of a girl. Humiliated.  She could move on those skates as if born to them, and me? I can barely stand.
My knees were a swelling mess of blood and gravel, as were my hands, elbows and forehead.
I stoically told her I was okay, but it was time for me to go home for tea, and she accepted my excuse. "You can come back tomorrow for another go!" she yelled as I limped off up the road, to sanctuary.

But I didn't. The next day, I went to play with Barbara Wallace. She had a pedal-car.

Saturday, 24 November 2012

I'm De-Cluttering.


My radio has to go. The problem is that this one doesn't receive any programmes from after about 1945. It's all big bands and flamboyant orchestra leaders. Any time now, I'm expecting to hear that allied forces have established a beach-head in northern france, and are advancing under heavy fire.

It's a british military PCR No. 1.  
From PYE radio's website: "War-time employees of Pye Ltd are quite certain that the equipment was intended as an "Invasion Receiver", that is, a general purpose, portable communications receiver (hence the type designation PCR) , for use in Europe by the British 2nd Army after the D-Day Normandy landings, to receive military progress and information broadcasts as part of Operation Overlord, as the various divisions moved across Europe. The term "Broadcast" has a different meaning in the Military, compared to domestic radio communications, and this may have given rise to the popular myth that the design was originally intended for the reception of domestic broadcast signals. Recent information from British Armed Service personnel indicates that the set was also supplied by the RAF to Resistance Groups in Norway, Holland and France. This is confirmed by the Dutch Royal Corps of Signals Verbindingsdienst web site. It was also later used by the British Army during the Korean war.

Dutch Military Radio Museum says :
"Radio receiver PCR - 1.
used during World War II by resistance groups to receive messages about the dropping of weapons, agents etc."

I'll probably bung it on ebay and hope for the best. 
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Friday, 23 November 2012

In Which a Package Arrives!

A big red van stopped outside. 
A man came to the door. He had  a parcel for me!
Luckily it did not contain porcelain, or delicate instruments, because it looked like someone had been practicing their throwing skills.

 (but not the catching ones)
Now, I'd been awaiting a package, because the Red Dirt Girl, far away in  Texas,had told me she'd sent me a present. I had no idea what was inside... Until I looked at the sender's label. Ohhhhh!  Zhena's Gypsy Tea!

 And I do so love the Gypsies....

Now, just as described in Proust's  À la recherche du temps perdu, a scent, an aroma, can evoke so much. If it was a movie, there'd be a fuzzy-fade at this point, and The Red Dirt Girl and I would be strolling through the little town of Bastrop, Texas, and into a gallery, a place where artists ply their trades, and there's a store with natural remedies, and teas. And I'm slowly recovering from a very very bad throat infection, my throat feels like its been scoured with broken glass, I can barely eat solids. I'm hoping I might find a natural soothing remedy, and, for sure, some peppermint tea.
In this little store, scented with all manner of herbs and spices, I find Zhena's Gypsy Tea. 
Coconut Chai, Ceylon and Assam black teas, blended with cinnamon, ginger, cardamom, and coconut, orange peel, nutmeg, black pepper and cloves. It's just what I need.
Soothing, a sybaritic luxury. I love it.
Back at the Pecan Street Inn, I open my can of teabags and am immediately surrounded by a sense of calm. O zen tea! And so, until I returned home, that scent, that flavour, was the scent of a happy holiday with The Red Dirt Girl, roaming around Texas, having a good time, the best times...

And look what was in the pack!
Quick, get the kettle!

Keep Calm!
Oh my. She's the best, just the best person in the world. I should have known this woman forever. Where has she been all these years? My soulmate!

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