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|Monday, April 24th, 2017|
title="">Bas and I went out to for a run in the MG. It went very well other than a rather notchy accele
rator pedal. He is looking for a lighter return spring. Lots of bikers were out but when we stopped at Ravensdale for lunch at the Fat Lamb the pub car park was overflowing with classic cars A rally from a Durham club were celebrating St George's day.. A really nice bunch of people and some fairly exotic cars. Bas had bream and I had a risotto (These were meals not foreign cars) both very good. Now your starter for 10 can you identify the grey/blue car?
|The 'laws' of probability
What are the chances of this? The village I live in has 705 inhabitants.
One of them is Czech.
That seems basically improbable. Well let's look at it. The population of Europe is 330 million (UN 2016) which is rather more than I thought. The population of the Czech Republic is about 10.5 million but the population of Prague is about 1.25 million people again rather more than I thought. This means that if everyone was randomly distributed which we know they aren't that the chance of meeting Czech from Prague are about 1.25/330. Say about 0.004; However the Czechs are a rather attractive looking people and and if we assume that 50% of them are good looking and also that
if half of that 50% are female what are the chances of meeting an attractive Czech girl from Prague in this dreary northern seaside village?
Well OK say 705 X 0.5^2 *1.25 / 330
Say a probability of 0.66
Which isn't that improbable :-)
But although this happens I think that doing a probability calculation after drinking a bottle of South African Rose (Co-op £4.99) is not sensible
It was big and it was blue
The mighty Leyland two-seven-two
It was a tractor meant for men not built for boys
It vibrated and inflated
It gyrated and created
While the exhaust made a
a thunderous noise
You could enjoy the chill winds blast
Because the windows had no glass
Nor heater. And it gave some vicious shakes
But most of all I wish it had some bloody brakes.
I know today is Monday but this entry is for Saturday.
Saturday started badly and then rapidly got worse. Tony had a shopping list of bits and pieces to fix the tractor. We were at Transpares shortly after opening time at nine o' clock but it wasn't open. There was a queue of would be customers waiting and it turns out the duty assistant had overslept. They phoned him and got him out of bed. Rather than wait we went around to the pharmacy to collect his prescription. They didn't have it. So we had to go back to the heath centre to get an emergency prescription written and filled. By now transpares was open and we collected oil, brake and clutch fluid but no fan belt so another trip to Whitelund where we got a fan belt which was of similar size to the worn out one - similar but not quite identical. Then off to the field to meet Adam and Andrea to repair more of the fencing. The snag is horses are powerful animals and want to go where you don't want them to go and if the fence is at all suspect they will push it over.
To drive the stakes into the ground we were using a top hat, a large steel tube with a closed end that you swing down the stake. A little bit easier than swinging the sledge hammer and less likely to split the stake but still hard enough for me to allow Adam to do the heavier part! It was quite cold when we started working but soon were shedding jerseys as we warmed up.
Anton and Richard came along and we started work on the tractor. Long years of experience have taught me to identify the easiest job and make sure that is the job I do :-) So I sat in the cab just pumping the foot pedals to get rid of the old hydraulic fluid from the clutch while Anton lay flat on his back under the tractor bleeding the cylinder and getting sprayed with first of all the clutch fluid and later with the three different lots of brake fluid. Surprise surprise we now had working brakes!
Actually most of the clutch and brake fluid was flushed off Anton by the diesel and mineral oil leaks when we started the engine. Who would have thought a disconnected oil pressure gauge would cause an oil leak?
Of course the new fan belt wouldn't fit; It nearly did but it didn't. This was a little annoying to Tony
His language was awful; you should hear how that man swears
Andrea took little Amelia and covered up her ears
He damned fan belt makers for eternity
Even casting doubts on their paternity
He cursed the makers and suppliers of all tractor spares.
All in all a successful day and I had a ride around on Wullie again. Not a trot exactly but a slightly faster walk.
|Monday, April 17th, 2017|
|home on the range
Another diverting day on the Field of Dreams with Tony D and James C. Tony bought an old tractor so I took him around to the farm house to collect it. It started well but wouldn't stop. Literally, it wouldn't stop. The brakes were totally shot. This made for an interesting drive down the very steep hill on the way back when the tractor attained a speed never before attempted by a tractor and I had to rapidly get my Citreon out of the way before two tons of tractor joined me inside the car. Even Tony seemed a little chastened by the experience. We hitched up the harrier on the back abd started flattening out some of the great clods of earth and mud that the horses had turned up. James turned up riding his 'deathbird' but refused the chance to drive the tractor. The day improved when Andrea turned up bringing a picnic and Tony's granddaughters. We saw a new facet of Tony from hard driving tough nut to doting grand dad.
After the ninety horsepower BMW flying brick , the seventy horse power tractor I tried the one horse power Wullie. We ambled around the field and I really enjoyed it. Maybe there is something to riding horses.
It was big and it was blue
The mighty Leyland two-seven-two
It was a tractor meant for men not built for boys
It vibrated and inflated and made a thunder noise
You could enjoy the chill winds blast
Because the windows had no glass
Nor heater. And it gave some vicious shakes
But most of all I wish it had some bloody brakes.
I met a traveller from the future and
He said There is a statue in copper cast
Lying half in a river and half on land.
A wrecked testament from a hopeful past
The face was noble; she wore a starry crown.
Nearby a plinth where she had stood
Greed and men had brought it crashing down.
Wrecked and ruined she lay in mud.
And on the pedestal these words appear
Carved there in granite for all to see
It said ‘Give me your tired and your poor
Your huddled masses yearning to be free’.
Oh damn I've just realised it needs another two line to be a sonnet. Oh well no one will notice and for comparison Percy Byshe Shelley's version which isn't bad but I prefer mine.
I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things.
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed.
And on the pedestal these words appear:
“My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!”
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.
Percy Byshe Shelley
|Sunday, April 16th, 2017|
She was lying in a shack
Hidden at the back
Covered with straw and mired with chicken s***
Since she’d been taxed last
Fifty long years had rolled past
And time had took its terrible toll on it
The headlamp wouldn’t shine
But I knew it should be mine
The price he asked filled my heart with fear
It stood in a pool of oil
With a duff ignition coil
And both tyres were as flat as southern beer.
The guy that sold it said
It’s painted black, or maybe red
Time and rust had toned the colours down
When you get it home
Just polish up the chrome
That's the parts where it’s a lighter shade of brown.
These were built to last
And they’re still quite fast
All you need it just to get her running right
Though she’s dripping fuel
And she kicks back like a mule
She’d fetch a fortune at an auction. Well she might.
|Saturday, April 1st, 2017|
|man and machine in perfect harmony
I used the roadroller with the compacter to pound and roll the building rubble to make a firm road surface. It has a special power compacter which makes the rollers (and the seat) vibrate quite violently. It has a similar physical effect on the body that sitting in the back seat upstairs on one of the old diesel doubledecker buses had. This could make viagra obsolete and no side effects!
The roller has a diesel engine and is very powerful and is very skittish and difficult to drive only someone with the total concentration and well honed reflexes could control it. However it is well within my skill package so I thundered up and down the lane. My demonstration of construction engineer expertise was a little disturbed by me having to shout "Hey Tony! Remind me again how I start up this thing."
THE FIELD OF DREAMS - - - - -The fair Andrea looked upon the field and saw that it was good. She had a vision. A vision of three horses galloping across the meadow, rolling in the grass, living free and happy. She sa the waist deep mud in the gateway, the swampy track running to the field but she knew there could be a road. She looked at Tony and said 'Make it so. Build it. Build it and the people will come."
Long and hard we laboured. We hired diggers, we dug out mud, we spread building rubble, we sank gate posts and hung two five bar gates so there was access for large lorries to deliver stone and the immense quantities of hay that the three horses eat. We moved field shelters,we repaired fences, we waded through mud, we toiled through the heat of the sun (well OK there wasn't much of that) and we braved the cold and rain. There of was plenty of that. We planted willow trees to remove some of the water.
Today the people came. By car, by motorcycle, by vans and on horseback the multitude marvelled at the wonders wrought by us. The traffic from admiring onlookers built up and jammed all the way back down through the lanes and into the city of Lancaster. (Admittedly this was partly caused by a serious accident and road closure in the town. Well OK most of it was caused by the police diverting traffic through the lanes to avoid the accident.)
Andrea the fair was pleased and rewarded us with chocolate cookies. Chris H gazed in admiration, Craig J. in open mouthed amazement. How could two men have achieved so much? Even James C after being bribed with one of my sandwiches (smoked mackerel) abandoned his motorcycle and joined in the finishing touches although I had to wrestle the last chocolate cookie out of his hands.
What had been a swampy almost impassible track I looked upon the road and I said 'You know what Tony? This road will be still here long after you and I have gone."
I was right. We went home at 6:30pm and it's still there now.
|Tuesday, March 28th, 2017|
|Article 50 meets Sonnet 18
Shall I despair of thee Theresa May?
Thou art more lively and more desperate
EC winds do shake the cunning plans of May
And two years notice is too short a date
Sometimes too hot the eye of Sturgeon shines
And often is her gold complexion dimmed;
And every vote for Brexit sometime declines,
By polls or bye election’s course untrimmed
But thee, eternal tory, shall not fade,
Nor lose possession of Scotland thou ow’st,
Nor shall Brussels brag thou wand’rest in his shade,
When in eternal lines to Time thou grow’st.
So long as men can breathe, or eyes can see,
So long lives this, we’ll miss the EEC.
|Tuesday, February 14th, 2017|
|cholesterol - yes please
Of the many gifts that England has given to the rest of the world perhaps the greatest is the full English breakfast. Foreigners may be happy with poridge, cheerios, croissants, käse und brötchen, grits or worst of all muesli and yoghurt washed down with coffee. These will not do for Englishmen. Tony D has the amazing ability to detect the aroma of a cooked breakfast while driving at 30 mph. He will home in on some little cafe or truck stop serving toast, tea, egg, bacon, beans, tomato, sausages and black pudding formed into a delicious plateful of artery clogging, life shortening, BP raising, culinary masterpiece.
On a freezing cold day in faraway Manchester there are few better ways to improve your day.
|Sunday, January 15th, 2017|
|A late posting Sienna
Sienna or Siena
A few days ago in Sienna I was in café sampling a little Tuscan wine with Emma. Her mother was off topping up on renaissance art galleries. Emma, of course was drinking a cappuccino. In came what looked like a group of middleaged football supporters. Very drunk and rather noisy. I don't know why but odd and eccentric people seem to gravitate to me. Obviously it must be opposites attract each other. So just as if I am on a tram or a bus and a loony gets on they will make straight for me and start a conversation with me in whatever language they think is most convenient. True to form the biggest one of them wearing a black and white scarf makes straight for me. I knew enough Italian to realise he was talking about buying a drink. I panicked at the thought of paying for it so in my politest English I said to him "Go away using short jerky movements." while making sure I smiled at the same time. He went away and came back with a tumblerful of red wine for me. It seemed wise to accept.
To Emma's delight the group was getting noisier and noisier and singing songs in the Tuscan dialect. (Tuscan dialect = Italian but I couldn't understand a word of it). More glasses of red wine kept being brought to me, I now knew that Mike ( I know this is not a very Italian name but think of Mike Angelo) , Nico, Ferdico were my new best friends. Much to my relief they did not seem to expect any drinks back. They demanded I sang them an English song but Emma saved me from that saying she was off if I started singing. Two of them fell over and had some problem in getting up again. Emma was as pleased as any thirteen year old could be watching how adults actually behave in the world while we waited for her mother.
Through the bunch of guys at the bar an Italian woman with three dogs pushed her way past, quite smart in that stylish without any effort Italian way. She greeted them by name and got the three continental cheek kisses from each one so I tagged onto the group so I wasn't left out.
She spoke reasonable English and her dogs were for entering into a sheep dog competition. Emma wants to be a dog psychologist. How do the psychologists get the dogs to lie on their couch while everyone else is trying to stop them doing it?
Anyway she insisted on me trying some special wine while Emma and her conferred on dog behaviour modification. More people joined the table, more wine, including an Irish sheep dog judge. I mean he was Irish not that he just judged Irish dogs. I introduced Emma to him and she chatted away in English. Once she is talking about dogs she becomes fluent in English.
Ol and Jo now full of culture came back and we had dinner. What prompted me to write this was Tony's FB about tripe the other day. We ordered four different meals so we could taste some of everything. Ol's seemed to have large chewy pasta in a tomato sauce which was rather nice. Tasting it I could see that the noodles were not pasta but something firmer but squidy like squid. It turned out it was tripe cut into small pieces and served in a spicy sauce. I hate tripe but this was good.
I have to break off here because I am supposed to be teaching English to the lovely Alicia at Ol's firm.
|Monday, January 9th, 2017|
|Leave Mrs May alone of course she has a plan for BREXIT
After stuffing my head with far too much European renaissance culture I am back in Prague 6 degrees below zero and snow everywhere. This is good because my brain functions better in a cold climate so I have thought and I think I know what is going on with BREXIT
Of course there is a Brexit plan. Do you think that primeminister Cameron would be arrogant enough to call a referendum and think people woulhd vote the way he said? After all the man did go to Eton.
The Brexit plan is now that Theresa May has realised that all economists and politicians are incompetent she will turn BREXIT over to the people that should have been running it from the beginning. BREXIT will actually be controlled by Quantum Physicists.
This quantum plan will depend on the Heisenberg uncertainty principle. If we have a BREXIT plan but keep it secret no one will be certain if it is a good plan. If we reveal it everyone will be certain it is a useless plan. So it will not only be necessary for us to keep this plan secret now during the negotiations but preferably for forty years afterwards as well. This will give the opportunity for the current crop of politicians to safely retire.
The quantum part depends rather on Schrodinger. Under this part of the BREXIT plan we will not only be still in the EC but will also have exited. Conversely even though we will have exited it we will still be in the EC. This need not be resolved unless someone actually looks at the plan and the quantum wave front will then collapse and Europe will get an empty box while Britain gets a dead cat that will be skinned and made into new shoes.
The vital part of this is that the BREXIT plan must not be revealed at all and people should stop going on at Mrs May who has far more important problems to deal with like grammar schools and party unity.
|Wednesday, January 4th, 2017|
This year promises to be far less divisive than last year because 2017 is a prime number.
Yesterday San Giminario. A wonderful hilltop town with an excessive number of towers. Apparantly the families living there saw tall towers as a status symbol and entered into competition who could build the tallest only about 14 remain from an estimated 72.
So forget about outdoing your neighbours with twinkling LED Santas and reindeer and build a 70 foot stone tower on your front lawn. Just don't ask me to climb it I've done enough tower climbing to last me right through this year.
|Monday, January 2nd, 2017|
It has rained and rained the whole day. Lucca is not much different from any wet rainy city. It looks grey and a little miserable. Or do I mean myself!
|Florence lay out on the mountainside
Florence. So of course I have to see Michaelangelo's David. Well it isn't;it's a replica set in 1904 at piazza del signora when the original was moved inside so they could charge visitors to see it. Well it's Carrera marble and is 14 feet high but . . . . Not everything is in proportion. A quick look at it shows that us guys have nothing to worry about by being compared. Of course his is made of marble so he may be harder but would certainly be colder.
|pythagorus on the move
Yesterday evening we drove from Lucca to Milan to put Hanka on the coach back to Prague and school on Tuesday. This drive along the Italian autostrada is about 180 miles say 290 kilometres (whatever they are). Like all teenage girls the delightful Hanka had not done her homework due in on Tuesday. It was Maths and Physics. She declared that Physics was stupid. Having made a good living out of Physics for years I suppose I should defend it. Unfortunately, ever since I first was baffled by quantum mechanics and the very strange quantum world it opens up I think it's stupid as well. Anyway since she is only fifteen the Maths and Physics should be within my limited knowledge but since the question part was written in Czech it was a bit tricky. Ol was driving at 110 mph and helping to translate these questions while Hanka sat bored at this speed while I found doing Maths at this speed rather bowel loosening.
The coach station at Milan was yet another authentic Italian experience. It was due to leave at 9:30pm and arrive in Prague 12 hours later. There were crowds milling about, buses starting and stopping, non stop shouting and no one boarding any coach. The only possible coach we found had no destination on the front although all the others did. The luggage was being loaded by a fairly surly Italian but by using Ol's size and my British pushiness we got her luggage on early. This was important because Prague was the last stop. He would only load luggage if shown a valid ticket so there were arguments galore, mobile phones being passed back and forth trying to prove they had tickets and lots of screaming and shouting. We got Hanka onto the coach before most of the crowd so she settled herself down in an upstairs window seat where we could watch her as we waited, and waited, and waited.
By quarter past ten there was still no sign of the loading of luggage being completed. The level of screaming at the loading point was louder, the loader was having problems authorising tickets that he was scanning with his phone. Ol went to see what was happening while I was around the other side of the bus stood on the pavement where I could keep an eye on Hanka and make sure no undesirables would take the place next to her. At this point something that could only happen in Italy took place. Something you might expect in Naples but not in Milan. A very short blonde women rand down the middle of the parking place and gestured at the coach. She then turned to face me and literally screamed in Italian at the top of her voice.
No I hadn't groped her in the melee around the loading point. Who do you think I am Donald Trump? She had not even been there. She gave up screaming at me and started screaming at two Italian guys also waiting who also wore this look of complete incomprehension but when she turned around and sprinted back from where she had come burst out laughing.
The next development was about five minutes later a small white car screeched to a halt in the bus parking position forbidden even in Italy. Three women jumped out and the driver started unloading their luggage into the middle of road. Lots more screaming and shouting at each other, at the driver, at the coach and at the world in general. Remembering the bad time I had in getting to my flight on time I was tempted to go down and help them with their luggage. They were ferrying this around the coach to reach the loading point and leaving bags abandined in the roadway until they collected them. Somehow I knew helping might not be a good idea.
Ol returned and kept an eye on Hanka while I went around the other side to watch this luggage loading pantomime. The loader now was being shouted at by all the three ladies. Two Italian policemen turned up and it quietened down a little but not by much. The loader was talking down his mobile phone and so far he hadn't loaded their luggage which was now in a pile just inside the bus. Finally he did start taking their luggage back on and luggage loading and passengers were all on the bus but still no sign of it leaving. It had been a fine sunny day but bus stations are cold places and the temperature was close to freezing.
I went back to Oliver's side of the bus. A blonde woman was now sitting next to Hanka but Hanka used her mobile phone to text us to complain that the woman was a smoker and although smoking was forbidden on the coach she did not like the smell of smoke from the woman's clothes. Well not much we could do about that. A dramatic moment was the arrival of the driver into the cab with a wrapped baguette and a bottle of water - well I hope it was water. This must mean departure was imminent and only one and a half hours late.
A tortured scream of a two stroke moped with a big box on the back announced the arrival of a small Italian wearing a huge helmet who got off his bike and started shouting 'agua, agua agua'. He also had small pizzas inside the box. OL bought the water and a paizza gestured to Hanka to come downstairs and meet him at the doorway and rushed around to give them to her. The coach started up but the loader/spare driver allowed the water and pizza in. The coach left leaving a melancholy silence from the roaring mass that had been there before and we returned to the car. With no homework tot hink about Ol pushed the car up to 220 kms per hour. I had done enough calculations on the way and had the sense not to try and work it out into mph.
The freezing indicator was on as we climbed into the mountains and mist thickened into a fog. Ol slowed down to about 140 kph until we dropped back down into clearer air.
WE got back to the apartment at about one-thirty Em was still up and took the chance to argue why she must have a dog, Jol was fast asleep so I went to bed.
|Tuesday, December 27th, 2016|
How can a simple train journey of less than 100 miles involve four changes, a panic run through an airport, hearing last call for my Prague flight before I even reach security. The security queue is endless looping back and forth in serpentine coils of taped pathway. Fortunatly some security officer with more intelligence than the others asks for Prague passengers to move to the head of this endless queue to be met by two other security officers with less intelligence than the others insisting on going through my luggage, removing my shoes and belt and then giving me a good fondling. I was last on the plane, of course, with no room for my rucksack in the overhead lockers. Still I was so surprised, not to mention relieved to have caught the plane I just enjoyed the flight. I only had carry on luggage so no need to watch the magic roundabout at reclaim. I went straight to the meeting point and was picked up by OLiver. It was so good to see them all after four years.
With only carry on luggage there had been no room for Christmas presents so the day was spent with Em looking for presents. She is good company although a little reluctant to practice her English so we got a few done then off to Starbucks. She turned a starbucks coffee down so we went to a fruitjuice bar instead. Later all of us went to her 'Austrian School'. These foreign schools seem to be common in Prague there is also an American and a German school. We sang a few carols admired some of the performances then back to the apartment. A bottle of Russian champagne was opened but since everyone else thought it too sweet I drank the whole bottle which meant I slept well.
O gave me the tour of his gasification works. This treats wood chippings to produce a gaseous fuel with an efficiency of over 41%. This efficiency would be good on a large nuclear plant let alone a plant of this size. I was impressed by the cleanliness and tidyness of the plant. Jol handed over some of her English lessons to me on some delightful Czech female staff. I enjoyed that and I hope they did.
This time I finished my shopping with Ol. Much easier with a man - he just told me what they would like and left me to it. Apparantly you can return anything within two weeks of buying but I got them to extend that to cover the time we would be in Italy and Moravia.
|Tuesday, November 29th, 2016|
Tony and I drove down to the marina at Fleetwood. We have a secret and rather cunning plan to use Steve's boat to take us and a couple of motorcycles over to the Isle of Man for the classic TT race. Since this would involve getting two large, oily bikes into the stateroom (is that what you call the large cabin with furniture and beds in it?) we daren't let Steve know this yet. The boat has not been used for some time and it seems there has been some microbial decomposition in the diesel tank. I never realised this but there are some microbes that can live in diesel fuel and make a nourishing meal of it. Unfortunately, when they finally die they can clog the fuel filters or worse still the injectors and stop the engine. This is no problem parked in a marina but could be a major problem out in the Irish sea.
There was no inspection hatch on the fuel tank so no easy way of cleaning the inside of it and anyway there was over 100 gallons of diesel fuel in it. So this beautifully sunny but very cold Saturday was spent with a very noisy compressor running on the landing stage by the side of the boat with a pipe feeding compressed air into the tank to agitate the contents and to move any microbial growth clinging to the bottom or the sides. Another pump was kept running pumping the 100 gallons of fuel through a fine (only 5 microns) filter and returning it to the tank. Wouldn't it have been more sensible to pump the tank through the filter and into some 50 gallon drums on the landing stage? Yes I thought that too.
The muck from inside the tank showed like dark sooty snowflakes in the swirling fuel around the filter plus since there was some biodiesel fuel - yes that rancid oil second hand from fish and chippies - included in the 1oo gallons so there were also lumps of what looked like solidified fat in it too. Anyway the expensive and very fine filters were removing that as well.
We spent about five hours pumping which we think meant the entire contents of the tank would have been recirculated at least five times and the fuel now did look rather clean. Does this guarantee that the inside of the tank is clean? I doubt that very much. Still there are two filters in series that should remove anymore debris before it reaches the injectors but of course if they do block out on the briny it means an engine stoppage and while the filter is cleaned the risk of air getting into the system. Fixing this with a heavy swell running might be chancy. It's fiddly enough working on this big six and a half litre engine in a flat calm moored to the marina. I've suggested having the two filters in parallel. This would mean if one was getting blocked you could use the valve to put the flow through the other and could clean the original one without any drama of an engine stop.
Compressor, Tony and boat