Tuesday, May 25, 2010


You think your family is gifted. Huh. We are much better than you will ever be. We have just won the world sock-washing championship.

It rained and rained last week and the valleys filled and emptied into their rivulets and streams and eventually the Wangapeka overflowed its banks and the citizens of the Baton, where they say gold is still to be panned, were helicoptered to the Tapawera School and popped into sleeping bags for the deluge, and the Motueka River swelled and rose and by watching the downswept logs steadily overtake me as I cycled alongside I could tell how fast the water was flowing and by joining the sightseers clogging the cyclepath that abuts it I could see how close the water was to the undersurface of the bridge. (Very close.)

And delightfully it's now been raining again, with the start of some morning sunshine to amuse me with the curious observation, wot I have never before noticed, that the lower of a double rainbow has the blue on the inside and the red on the outside, while the faint upper rainbow has the red inside and the blue out. So the reds, with a gap between them, are adjacent. I never knew that before. I was never a student of double rainbows.

Anyway the scullery steadily filled with washing but now with blue skies peeping in the east I have first thing this morning pegged up ninety million socks to dry.

The mystery is this.

There were no laundry baskets.

If you own a teenage daughter then one of the things you do each week is buy a new laundry basket because however frequently you assure her that such are not part of her bedroom furniture, a teenage daughter's bedroom door is a laundry basket valve. They only go one way. In. And this morning looking for something to carry a great mountain of damp socks outside I peeped into a certain bedroom and was mystified and stumped, because though the floor besported piles of clothes tumbling out of open cupboards, there were no laundry baskets. That certain bedroom floor, with some effort, held up the following:

1 camera
1 computer
Approx 200 miles of wires and cables attached to approx 2 million electronic gadgets that I didn't even know she had

The last is a sort of dustbin category and includes more stuff than I care or have time to list but it's an essential taxonomic box (just wait - if you don't believe me - until you own a teenage daughter. Then you'll see. Then you'll jolly see) but the salient point is that there were no laundry baskets whatever. None.

It was as if there'd been a sudden laundry basket famine, as if a laundry-basket-vacuum passed over the house in the night and sucked all of them up and they all disappeared into the ether. I was completely mystified and stumped and am even more mystified and stumped now because somehow all those socks got pegged up, yet I have no idea how they managed the semicircular, rainbow-shaped trip round the outside of the house from scullery to clothesline. My brain is defective. It has a gap the shape of a rainbow in it, and somewhere within that gap lurks the fascinating information as to where I found all the laundry baskets.

The Human Power bit of this post being a bit thin, and my notebook (an envelope) revealing only the enigmatic information '3 lbs 2 ΒΌ oz' with nothing to tell me what possessed that weight and why I needed to know it, I shall justify my web existence by stating that a black tandem tyre lasts just 2,735.4 kilometres and then has to be replaced. The tyre was black and the mudguard was black but on inspection identical adjacent colours was all they had in common with a double rainbow. Unlike my morning rainbows, there was no gap whatever between them. They had, in fact, been rubbing all the while. As I say, my brain is defective. (The mudguard is now zip-tied to the rear rack for a bit of clearance.)

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Dung cart

The building of a perfectly good gentleman's mountain bicycle being of No Interest Whatever to members of the BHPC who are only int'rested in recumbents, I shall generously dispense with further details. What is of vast int'rest is of course what happened to the sacrificial trailer after the wagon got finished, and what happened was this: it got turned into a dung cart. Now do not wince, oh denizen of Surrey. Dung carts have a long and respectable history. And I think they will have a long and respectable future as well, because sooner or later trekking up and down to Dr Brewer's paddock without using 38 mpg to gather fertiliser could have more merit than my wife imagines, she deriding my utterly brilliant and highly informed world economic environmental collapsnik diagnosis with the remark that I am an obsessive nut job.
'You wouldn't have me any other way' is what I plead, complacently.
'Except with a bit more hair.' Cruel she is, and heartless.

Your standard dung cart is pulled by a horse but I do not like horses. The only horse I ever rode regularly had a habit of walking as close as it could to the house knowing it would thereby grind my leg off from the knee down, and it did so deliberately on every occasion I clambered unwillingly into the saddle, and I knew for a fact that it knew for a fact that I knew it was doing it on purpose. Moreover there is something worrying about a vehicle that actually does have a mind of its own. And lest you imagine these concerns are misplaced, the British Medical Journal once published the statistic that horse riding is a staggering 20 times more dangerous, statistically, than motorbike riding. I once didn't meet Prince Charles when he was having his arm set in the university hospital in Nottingham after tumbling off his horse while a-hunting. I twenty times didn't meet him falling off his motorbike. So that proves it. - In any case, if I owned a horse the logical thing would be to bring horse to garden and dispense with both paddock and dung cart. I do not own a horse; Dr Brewer does, or at least his daughter does, and I am invited to partake of its ploppings and given that the stuff sells for two dollars a bag and I am a cheapskate beyond compare, a dung cart had to be adventured.

So, hacksaw and welder out, quick spray with blue paint so that Bob Knight thinks I've turned over a new leaf, and 406 wheels fitted to the old trailer which had been reduced to a stem. Plywood sheet from junk in the shed, scraps of willow from the wagon remnants, screws, glue, and a wooden boxy thing to fit two plastic dustbins. Leg to stop it falling forward, and small jockey wheel for no good reason that I can now think of. And came to regret. Because I kept thinking it would snag on road bumps. And therefore I fixed the hitch as high as I could to maximise ground clearance.

The trailer hitch is a bit of hydraulic tube. It was dreamt up and patented by K-k-k Wossname who built the first Bluebell but I blithely nick patented trailer hitches certain that he will never find out on the other side of the world. (Derek Henden. Bike Hod. I knew it began with K. http://www.freepatentsonline.com/4371184.html and it's a dashed fine hitch too, the best I've ever nicked except for a bit we'll come to in a minute.)

So, off to the paddock and when 150kg of substance was gathered, a slightly self-conscious 7 miles an hour home past all the workmen who are needed to wreck a state highway. At one point the cycle path dips down for the convenience of a house driveway, and when I popped up on the slope opposite, I found the back of the bike lurching all over the place and peeping over my shoulder found the workmen chuckling as, with weight on, the trailer hopped from side to side, lifting each wheel in turn. And this is the deficiency of the high hitch. Any slight swaying of the bike gives vertical nudges to the trailer. When I got home I found the draw bar had been rubbing against the back tyre too, so I adjusted it lower and ignoring the possible grounding of the jockey wheel surprised my wife by going out again without unloading; it behaved a good deal better this time.

So we now possess a dung cart, two wagons, a perfectly good gentleman's mountain bicycle and a large heap of horse manure. It escapes me why anyone might wish to know these things and so I shall spare you how many grapefruit fell off the tree last night in the rainstorm. (Twenty-six.)

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Installing handlebar grips

As is well known - because I keep telling everyone - there being no other evidence - I am a Genius. And therefore I am going to grace this Blog with a Fantastic Tip.

The hardest things in bicycle maintenance are always the smallest. There are no exceptions to this rule. And the hardest thing of all is to install foam handlebar grips, which we elderly folk like because we are not interested in impressing eager young athletes but are interested in not having tingling fingers.

The Instructions on foam handlebar grips are these:

Velo Grips are made to the highest standards and feature a wide assortment of quality, race-proven materials.

(This is bollocks of course, and we both know it.)

Due to the importance of proper installation and setting, and for your safety, Velo recommends having the product installed by a professional bicycle dealer.

Not all that helpful, but passing the buck to a professional bicycle dealer is I suppose a step forward because in the Olden Days we were told to apply soap or meths as a lubricant, and the grip rotated thereafter or fell apart. A professional bicycle dealer - Jim or Lenny - is no doubt expected to have an airline these days, and will blast compressed air under the foam while sliding it in place, but neither you nor I have access to airlines so we have to Make Do. And since I have an Evil History and invented a great many very naughty things to do with compressed air, my natural instinct is to apply Evilness to foam grips. You attach a length of inner tube to the handlebar with a binding of rubber cut from the remainder of the inner tube. You seal the other end of the inner tube with two blocks of wood and a clamp. You attach pump to valve, daughter to pump, and get her to gently pump air into the handlebar while you apply the other foam grip. Air seeping past allows everything to go on smoothly. The plug-bar-end of the grip is removed, and half an inch of handlebar under the foam exposed; inner-tube re-applied to t'other end; and the second grip goes on smoothly too.

There! Now I'm going to write to Blue Peter to see if they'll give me a job as a Presenter, which they might well do unless they happen to google to find out what else I get up to with compressed air.