I have invaded the southern state of England with a wallet full of Scottish money. Really, I should know by now. Use the cashpoint when you arrive, not before you leave. The matter is not insurmountable. Few matters are. I will fix it in the morning.

It’s a very nice place but the bar is expensive. There won’t be much whisky going down. Which is likely to be a good thing anyway. I am not here to drink. The barmaid is too smart to fall for ‘Scottish money is worth double when buying whisky because of the Solemn Covenant of 1601′.

I didn’t just make that up, you know. I made it up years ago. It rarely worked but when it did…

One bugbear only. The WiFi is free but doesn’t work outside. So no smoking and tweeting or smoking and blogging. At these prices there’ll be precious little whisky involved either.

You may note a certain placid nature in this underdog, at least for a few days. Limited smoking, very limited drinking… and also because of a reason.

My reason arrives tomorrow.


Little chairs – part 2

A bit late home from work tonight. Called in Tesco to see if they had any kosher bacon. They didn’t know, so I said I’d risk it and bought some anyway. That’s for breakfast tomorrow – I have to sit on a train for absolutely ages, and I’m not eating the crap they sell in the buffet.

I have no idea how much internet access I’ll get while away, but I will have the little Acer just in case, and maybe a backup toy machine too. Might not get much time to post here, I’ll have to wait and see.

Anyway,  an uncharacteristically early night beckons so just time for some more of the chair photos. No time to process them all tonight. I’ll finish the chair story when I get back.

Here is the start of assembly. Took time, I had to leave them alone for the glue to set. Patience… I’ve heard of it but…

7_chairsAnyway, after a few goes, I managed to leave them alone long enough to set and finally got to this stage… 9_chairsThat’s a sneak peek of the upholstery. You didn’t think I’d leave those little rats to sit on a hole, did you? I’m not making a commode! Although… no, too late to change it now.

Some of the corners look rough. I have a Thing to round them off.

10_chairsYes, it’s a tiny circular saw blade attached to a motorised shaft. Very fast and very sharp. Now I know what you’re thinking – ‘Who the hell thought it a good idea to let him have one of those?’ Nobody here to stop me though, so full power and away we go…

11_chairsCorners rounded and all fingers still in place and working! Not one drop of blood shed! I am smug now. Possibly getting a little overconfident though…

Next was the 0.5 mm drill and the gold-plated pins. The glued joints are pretty strong but I’m reinforcing them anyway. Don’t want them falling apart after the upholstery is on. The drill is to make the pilot holes for the pins – if I just bang them in the wood might split.

They are gold-plated pins only because I happened to have a bag of them handy. They are ideal for making tiny contacts for little trains.

That’s the manual drill. It takes time. I’ll wedge the bit into the end of the Dremel and use it that way to finish the pinning.

More upon my return. Turns out I have until the 31st to finish these so no need to panic-rush tonight. Once the frames are secure I’ll have to decide between rosewood or mahogany for the visible wood Since the upholstery is brown, I think a dark mahogany is probably best.

Okay. There might or might not be any activity here for the next few days. I have no idea because as usual, I have absolutely no plan beyond getting there. I have tonight looked at the matter of getting back and realise I risk being stuck on Edinburgh Waverley station for five hours in the middle of the night. Well it wouldn’t be the first time. It’s not as bad as Preston, it gets seriously cold on that one. Being forewarned, I should be able to avoid that problem.

I might or might not tell you where I’ve been when I get back. Depends how devilish I’m feeling.

But then, it’s possible you might already know by then…




Adult Swim

If you haven’t heard of it, YouTube it. What you’ll find has nothing to do with this post. I just nicked the title.

It seems that around 20% of adults in the UK cannot swim. Well that’s no big deal, really. If we want to cross a river, we have things called ‘bridges’ that facilitate a non-soaked passage to the other side. If we want to cross much bigger lumps of water, like the sea, we have boats and planes. So no need to swim to France, getting unreasonably wet on the way and finding it almost impossible to keep your Rizla dry.

They tried to teach me to swim in school. They failed. I managed to learn pretty much everything else including metalwork (oh, the injuries were often spectacular in that one! I still have the notched shin) in which I made – surprise surprise, a model cannon. We weren’t supposed to make it fire. But it did. I think my mother still has it.

Yes, I do have an O level in metalwork. The ‘O’ probably derives from the shape of the teacher’s mouth when I leaned a little too close to the shaper machine while cleaning up a casting. I can’t be sure. I was unconscious as soon as it hit.

There wasn’t so much health and safety in those days. It was much more fun.

The only subject I failed in totally was swimming. Just could not do it. Hated being in the water.

Some years later I took up fishing. It’s not going where you think it’s going ;)

I was forced – yes forced – to take swimming lessons when I was about mid-twenties. I’d developed the hobby into fishing on lochs while sitting in boats full of fishing tackle and whisky. There was a woman involved.

Of course there was. Me, being forced into doing something sensible? There had to be a woman involved. It’s the only possible answer. Hey, we are talking about more than 30 years ago now. I haven’t always been a drunken monk.

Learning to swim in those circumstances seemed pointless. I was strapped into so much fishing gear that even if I could swim to Olympic standards, one wrong move and I’d go straight to the bottom. Not a hope in hell of getting to the bank or the boat.

Anyway, I came home to ‘I booked you swimming lessons’ to which I responded ‘You did what?’ in the same tone of voice I’d have used to say ‘You shagged a badger?’

I’ve never had to say that. Given the life I’ve led, that’s actually quite surprising.

So, okay, I bought swimming trunks and went along. Not Speedos. I have never worn those and in case there are any raised eyebrows out there, forget it. Not gonna happen. I boiught saggy ones with a good taught string to hold them up. Just as well as it turned out.

I was in the men’s changing room alone. Didn’t think anything of it at the time. Mind too occupied with water-terror to even notice. Then I went to the wet place.

Well. First properly serious swimming lesson. Eight barely-dressed woman pupils, a female instructor, and me.

So I went home after my first lesson, which consisted largely of getting into water without going into a blind panic, to be greeted with ‘So, are you going again next week?’

‘Yes, I think I can put up with it.’ A tturning point which might or might not have had a bearing on later events. Well later events didn’t turn out so good so we’ll leave those alone for now

As for learning to swim, the basics aren’t that hard. Even I managed it. With no government interference at all and even though still today, I don’t really have any need for swimming in my daily life.

So there are 2 million people who want to learn to swim. Well go and do it then. It’s not expensive and it could turn out to be a bit of fun. You get to hang around with scantily-clad members of the opposite sex (or even the same sex if that floats your boat) and with a valid and well-played sympathy card you can have a pretty enjoyable time.

You do not need government interference in this. You do not need a swimming law. Only the fake-charity lobby groups need those things.

As for me, I learned enough swimming to be able to get out of the water without drowning. Tht’s as much as I think I’l need.

Don’t go in there!

Ah, the shout at every horror film ever made. One by one they enter the death house and one by one they don’t come back out again.

You know, if I watched a lot of people go into a place and none of them came back out. I wouldn’t go in. I’d stay outside. Smoking.

The radio at work has been bleating about ‘the days of smoking outside NHS hospitals coming to an end’ as if it was some kind of privilege, not a bloody punishment! We’ll have to go right out of the grounds, away from the diesel engines and diseases that infest those places. Well, sounds okay to me.

The NHS has just announced its kill score for HIV and hepatitis – which the unknowing horror-film actors didn’t have when they went in. If they don’t kill you in hospital, they give you something to kill you later.

7500 people were given these diseases on the NHS. Communicable diseases. Which they didn’t know they had, so have since spread. That’s the ones they have confirmed. There could be another 27000 infected people out there, who don’t know about it. Spreading these diseases.

I’m really glad I’ve never needed a blood transfusion.

This is the same NHS who are so concerned about people smoking outdoors that they insist we leave the grounds completely? I’d have to be in unrelenting agony before you’d get me on the premises in the first place and I’ll be leaving the first chance I get. Which was what happened last time. I’ll stick with the smoking, thanks. It’s much safer than the NHS.

We keep hearing about how much ‘smoking costs the NHS’ but nobody seems to mention that most of the ‘cost of smoking’ results from the endless propaganda, fake science and outright lies the NHS and its associated parasites pump out every day. Your tax money is not being used to treat smokers. It’s being used to bully and harass them.

It’s also being used to spread actual deadly diseases to the general population. Then more of it was spent ciovering this up. Then even more spent uncovering it again. Now they’ll spend more testing everyone who ever had a blood transfusion for the nasty little pets they might have gained along with that blood.

The NHS costs the NHS much more than smoking ever could. It’s much more dangerous too.

If we turned every NHS hospital into a cigarette factory, overall this country would be a much healthier place.

Stick that in your pipe and smoke it, antismokers.


Little chairs – part one.

Some time ago, the baker at work asked me to make litle chairs for knitted rats from Thailand. Yes, I know, so far so ordinary. It’s the sort of thing people ask all the time.

This is one of the rats in question –

knittedmouseNot easily stable so a stool wouldn’t work. It had to be a chair, with arms, and a means to lead the tail out of the back. I only have to make two. I didn’t promise a table with cards and ashtray and whisky bottle but I’ll make a table anyway. It just doesn’t need to be ready in time.

Time is less flexible than I thought it would be. I have to be away for a few days next week because of a reason so I have to finish these to hand over on Monday. That should not be a problem.

It does mean, however, that I won’t have the model for Lesia ready in time. So I’ll just tell you now. It’s a monster truck made by combining a Mercedes Actros chassis with… a Trabant. It will have smokers inside. Who wants to donate to Lesia and get it when it’s done? Biggest donation gets it, every donation gets a signed book. Random books, sorry, unless you have a wonky table and want a particular book thickness. Just let me know by email (contact page) how much you donated and an address for the book/model.

Note that I might not be able to post until the week after next.

Okay, back to the little chairs. Photos come variously from the garage or the indoor workshop depending on how cold it was. Here is the starting material, cut to manageable lengths.

1_chairsThe top is plum tree wood, two years aged. The lower bundle is red dogwood, similarly aged. I’ll put that aside for now. I have a plan for it later.

The plum wood has lots of little side shoots that need to be cut off I could have just planed them into little planks but that’s too easy. Besides, rat chairs wouldn’t look like they came from IKEA. I needed to work on ‘rustic’ as a theme.

Taking off the side shoots would probably best be done with some delicate tiny tool from my toolbox. A Dremel with a saw blade, perhaps. I used this:

2_chairsInjuries were surprisingly minor and soon healed. I also learned not to get too close to the top of the stick. There is more wood than I need for this job.

I didn’t want to take the bark off completely, just enough to be sure there’d be no flaking later on. So coarse sandpaper was good enough to get to where I wanted. And, apart from slightly shortening one finger, no injuries to report.

3_chairsI needed about 30 inches in total. all of similar diameter. Here they are, with extra because I knew I’d break some…

4_chairsWhen it came to cutting parts to length I almost magically had enough sense to not use the circular saw. I used a little hacksaw with a wood blade.

5_chairsThis is where things started to go wrong. And a tad painful. I had planned proper mortice and tenon joints but plum wood wasn’t playing. It holds and holds and then just lets go. Injuries were minor but too frequent.

Then Sensible Brain Cell spoke up. ‘They only have to hold up knitted rats. You don’t have to make them to support any tonnage’.Why that brain cell waited so long I’ll never know. Possibly because I don’t usually listen.

Now the joins will be simple. Filed curves in the ends of the pieces with gold-plated pins drilled and glued through.

So here are all the bits, filed and ready to start putting together.

6_chairsYes, the file is broken. I broke it trying to open a tin of paint. Files aren’t very good at that. It stiull works though.

So ends part one. Part two will see the bits being assembled into something that looks a bit like a chair.






O Captain, My Captain

A guest post by The Broken Girl, who lost her best friend this week.

Captain Ranty was a dear friend. He was my best friend. I would tell him that we should have friendship bracelets and enjoy a night of braiding each others hair, paint nails and watch The Notebook. (He may haunt me for telling).

A long time ago I curiously asked him what he looked like. He told me green eyes, dark hair and dashingly handsome – so like Colin Farrell. For the rest of our friendship I’d always tell him when I’d seen one of his latest films and praise his acting.

I made him laugh and in return he always listened to my problems. All from my nervousness about my dog going to the vet to crushes on boys that never became more. He always had the patience to listen. Like the time we went to the zoo and I chattered on for hours in childish excitement at the chance of seeing Penguins. There weren’t any. He just smiled and let me drag him back to the meerkat enclosure to see if it really was true that there wasn’t any meerkats either. The zoo was a bust but being there with him made it one of the best days I remember.

If there was anything you can say about Captain Ranty it was that he was a Father. Capital F. I’ve never seen anyone be so proud of his children as the Captain. I still remember the time his boy made it onto tv and he was shouting it from the rooftops. He would have bent over backwards for those lads and you could always hear his love for them when he talked about them.

He was an amazing person who touched every one of his friends in a special way. He would tell me “chin up Kiddo. You’ll be okay.” And when he said it I believed it. But he also had his demons. We shared some. Another friend once told me of a Phrase and it fits in some ways on the Captain as well. ‘He had a bad marriage with life’.

He was my best friend and I’d give anything to hear him call me Kiddo one more time.

The Broken Girl


There is to be a solar eclipse visible in the northern UK on Friday, apparently. You’re not allowed to look at it.

Daniel Hardiman-McCartney, clinical adviser at the Royal College of Optometrists, said taking a selfie could see you ‘accidentally looking directly at the sun while aligning yourself and your phone’.

Accidentally looking at the sun. For a second. Who hasn’t ever looked at the sun for a second or two? Any longer and it hurts. So you look away.

He told The Daily Telegraph: ‘There is no safe system to directly view an eclipse. However viewing a video or photo of the eclipse on your phone screen would not be harmful.’

Is that… ‘no safe level of sunlight’? I’ve watched partial eclipses through a friend’s welding mask. No harm befell me. I was neither blinded nor incinerated. My eyes did not pop out on long strings and my elbows didn’t explode. So it was all good.

At least the real story belies the Mail’s atempted obfuscation –

But optometrists have warned that taking a selfie during the near-total solar eclipse on Friday could lead to eye damage – and even be as dangerous as looking directly at the sun.

Er… no. If you are standing with your back to the eclipse and looking at an image of it on your phone,  there is no direct sunlight entering your eyes. Only reflected and phone screen light. Which is what the clinical adviser actually said. A photo of a thing is not the thing itself. You can stare at a photo of the sun all day long and suffer no ill effects beyond soul-crushing boredom. Stare at the sun for an hour and you’ll never see again.

When I was at school (mine has long been demolished, as have most other places I studied and worked at. It wasn’t me!) the viewing implement of choice was a piece of smoked glass. We made these in chemistry class by holding a sheet of glass over a candle or a bunsen turned to a yellow flame. The smoke built up on the glass until it was impossible to see anything through it unless you held it up to the sun. I recall only one eclipse at school, and then only vaguely. It was *harrumph* years ago and I was just a hairy and spotty adolescent at the time.

So we viewed the eclipse through our bit of smoked glass and all was well. Nobody fell to the floor screaming ‘My eyes! My eyes!’. Nobody spontaneously combusted. Not a single child ignited that day. There were a few I still wish had.

Now… now they aren’t even allowed to view the eclipse through professionally made glasses designed specifically for the purpose. Because of something a head teacher read online.

Wait a minute. Solar eclipse glasses? Surely that’s a slow-moving business?

It’s true that staring into the sun for extended periods will damage your eyes. That’s why your eyes immediately send a message to your brain saying ‘That hurts. Stop doing it!’ And then you look away, blink until you can see properly and learn not to do it again.

It’s not difficult to make smoked glass for an eclipse. Then you can wash the glass and use it for something else, such as seeing through or making that breaking-glass sound. Now, even with professionally-made things, you risk spontaneous combustion and exploding elbows.

What? It is an established and well fabricated fact that these things are linked to solar eclipses. Incidences of elbow explosion are very closely linked indeed. In fact, they happen at no other time. In the eclipse of August 11, 1999, the outbreak of elbow explosion in the UK nearly broke the NHS but you won’t hear about that because they blamed it all on smoking.

I think, for me, the only bad thing about this eclipse is the scheduling. 9:30 am on a Friday? Nobody sensible is even awake then. Why not 9:30 pm? It’ll be dark then so no danger of sun-blindness. Also, I could watch it on the way home. I’ll suggest it to the idiots in charge. I’m sure they’ll listen. They listen to a lot weirder crap than that.

Anyhow, it’s overcast here because there is a good chance of an aurora tonight. It’ll be overcast here at 9:30 am on Friday but blue sky by 11 am. I still won’t be up, most likely.

Friday is my day off and I have a couple of days of double shifts this week. So I’ll be catching up on sleep. Not much sleep last night, a bit more tonight, more again tomorrow because there’s only a 3 pm start on Thursday, and all the rest on Friday morning.

So I’m pretty certain I’ll miss the eclipse. Probably for the best. I need my elbows.