Thursday, April 28, 2011

In Line to the Throne

In view of who is marrying whom today, and what their prospects are, I have been usefully checking Wikipedia to see if I am in line to the throne.

I am not.

It is, as may be imagined, a huge disappointment.

It appears that to be in line to the throne you have to be descended from the Electress Sophia of Hanover which distinction Princess Anne's grand-daughter has just achieved and, as Elizabeth still reigns in her Dominions, we are now just twelve heart-beats away from having a little Canadian as Queen of New Zealand.

This new baby bumps all the other putative Kings and Queens of England down a notch, so Alexandra, Hereditary Countess of Erbach-Erbach now has to settle for number 1074. The eager boys at Wikipedia haven't caught up yet: some homework to do, methinks.

I do like the British constitution. What other country would have the great good sense to command a family of foreigners to be head of state? It certainly beats the nonsense of having to impose upon an innocent electorate the choice between our more conceited politicians, and at least everyone knows in advance which of their taxes are going to clean out whose moat.

On inspection, there's something to be said for every country choosing its leaders from among foreign citizens. It lends a dispassionate view to proceedings, and, further, New Zealand wouldn't have had to suffer a woodwork teacher as Energy Minister, nor Australia a funeral director as prime minister. David Attenborough could be invited to take over Brazil and put a gasping throaty stop to logging the Amazon out of existence, and Andrew Ritchie could take on China and stop them throwing away all their bicycles.

Mind, were it ever necessary to replace Her Majesty (one treads with caution. One can be locked in the Tower for predicting the death of the Queen) I'm not rooting for Prince Wilhelm (number 1176 until a few weeks ago) because of Hesse-Philippsthal-Barchfeld is even worse a surname than Mrs Saxe-Coburg-Gotha's. The House of Phillips does sound Englisher, though one hesitates over the prospect of a Queen Savannah the First.

Me? I'm supporting the former number 1451, one Sandra Morrison. If a sudden bout of Ebola virus were to wipe out a thousand or so members of the surprisingly extensive Royal Family then I would cheerfully submit on bended knee to a Queen Sandra Morrison, though I'm afraid I can't find anything out about her. She might be an estate agent in America or something. They often are. One of the world's abundant Richard Middletons is, I'm disturbed to Google.

Sunday, April 17, 2011


No int'resting bicycling matters have cropped up recently because we're doing the bathroom. And we're doing the bathroom of necessity. Because? Because one day there was no hot water.

A frantic phone call to Eugen, who crawled underneath the house and found a catastrophically sheared off brass fitting and a very hot puddle. Our bore-water comes with its own dissolved carbon dioxide and this gradually eats the zinc out of the brass. I know this because we had it tested.

So how come we burn a tiny bit of coal to make a feeble 200 years' worth of railway track and Krupps six-inch mountain guns and my wife's toasted sandwich maker, and suddenly there's so much carbon dioxide in the air that the taps pour out carbonic acid? As-a-matter-of-fact I've had this conversation quite recently with several well-informed people and it turns out, on examination, that there isn't actually all that much air.

Roughly speaking, you can still breathe on top of Mount Everest, an altitude of five miles. A jumbo jet's wings run out of air above seven miles. Fifty miles high and you're in Space.

Nobody incl. me ever gets a grasp on how little air this means, so I'm told I have to picture the Earth not as a twelve-thousand mile planet, but as a four-foot diameter ball. And if the Earth is a four-foot globe, there's only half a millimetre of breathable air above it. That isn't a great deal of air to pollute. You can just about slide a piece of cardboard under a jumbo jet. And you're an Astronaut once you're a pathetic 5mm away from the surface.

Here's a photograph I took last time I popped out on the Space Shuttle. The total atmosphere is that skinny blue line. Don't go beyond the white line or you won't be able to breathe.

Of course the tap water is probably more to do with the limestone substrate than climate change, but the bath was chipped and the sink was cracked and the toilet seat was pink plastic, and my wife's taste is at variance with pink plastic toilet seats.

My wife wanted tiling until I said she could do it. Then she went off the idea. I had very kindly allowed her to do the tiling in her kitchen. Visitors pointedly don't comment about it. She had thought tiling was easy.

'When you see other people's tiling you think "I'll do a better job that THAT" but when you actually do it, you think, "Oh *uck it".'

So I was very brave. I had made Crazy Paving remarks to her about the kitchen tiling but I came to regret those remarks. *uuuuuck! I hate tiling. I *ucking hate tiling. I would rather have my prostate examined. I emailed Tia, who is an emergency department physician in our colony of Canada with four houses (four!) and thereby versed in both tiling and prostate examinations. Tia did not let me down:

My condolences.

I saw a man who claimed to have a paintbrush up his bum. His general comportment and gait led me to believe this was not the truth. He did not walk like a man with a paintbrush up his bum.


First you mix a slurry of silica and the bag warns you not to breathe the dust and there is no way of avoiding it, and then you smear it on your elbows wrists back of the neck thigh knee hand foot other hand forehead cheek and chin and then you drop the slurry in the new bath. You find the room is not square nor the walls flat, and you find the tiling salesman was lying when he told you to put the capping strip in afterwards - 'Just slip it in, don't try to plaster up to it' because the top line of tiles falls off. Basic physics - really basic, just the wedge principle - tells you it won't work. And it doesn't. *uuuuuck! and it's back to smearing the slurry everywhere again, dodging lumps that have fallen on the floor and aren't dried paint from yesterday's endeavours at the ceiling.

Then you're cutting the odd shaped tiles with Eugen's spare angle grinder, the one with no guard and no handle either. How come Eugen's still got all his hands? So it's off with his diamond blade and onto your own angle grinder, the safe one, and then all you have to do is not breathe in the glass dust from the front of the tiles.

And don't think those plastic cross spacer things will work. Not unless you can persuade gravity to go into abeyance. Which would mean lifting the bathroom fifty miles up and a 17,700 mph velocity.

I'll spare you the photo of my tiling, but the way Jimmy did the floor pattern was brilliant. The way it works is like this. He spreads paper on the floor with a generous gap, and then butts a ruler up to the skirting board and rules lines on the paper. Transfers the pattern to the hardboard, puts the ruler on the line and rules the other side. Why did I never think of that? - Because I'm stupid, that's why.

Jimmy, making the pattern for the lino

Finally, the battle with the carpenter over the louvered door, when you ask him to get some cedar for the surround.

'Oh, I don't know where you'd get that. Marine supplier only, cedar.'

He gets arsenic-treated radiata pine instead. He cuts this outside with the kitchen door open. He then sets about boxing in the airing cupboard so the door will fit.

Presently you go in to have a look. It is no longer possible to remove the cover of the solar panel sensor.

'D'you think we can make an allowance for that?'

'Oh. I didn't want to touch the wires so I went round it. I'll just gouge a bit out with a chisel.'

'Perhaps if we also drilled some holes for a screwdriver to get access to the corner screws.'

While he's doing this you go and inspect the boxing. One tap has been neatly boxed, so neatly that it won't undo. Or even turn in fact. You then get a mirror and a torch and peer behind his framing and find he's boxed in all the taps and pipework for the hot water cylinder and nobody will ever be able to touch any of it ever again.

'How easy is it to take that bit of wood off?'

'Oh. Er. It's just nailed. No adhesive.'

'I think if we cut this bit out - '

etc etc etc all day.