Archive for June, 2004

Full of Hot Air

Wednesday, June 9th, 2004

I mentioned on Monday that I’ve been bought an air jack for the Gruntmobile.

Sensibly – for once – I decided that I didn’t want to be using it for the first time when I really needed it, when it might be pissistently raining, so I dragged it out of its box and read the instructions. Seems simple enough, I thought, so I took the component parts – and the instructions – out to the driveway.

You start the process by connecting the long hose to the airbag, and then slide the airbag under the car’s jacking point. So far so good. The other end of the hose has a rubber cone-shaped thing on it, which you plug onto the end of the exhaust pipe. Then you start the engine.

BANG!!!

That was the sound of the rubber cone being blasted off the exhaust. Oh dear, disconnect and try again.

BANG!!!

Ah. Oh, I see…where the hose is new, the sides are stuck together. Soon fix that: Rubber cone against face in the manner of a WW II bomber pilot, and blow hard. That seems to have cleared it!

Neighbour falls over laughing. Oh, I see, I now have a black ring around my face. Anyway, position bag under car, re-connect, and start engine.

By gum it works. When jacking the car up for real, the jacking point is under the differential, but I didn’t fancy working that far under the car to let the jack back down, when I didn’t have to.

And now I’m going for a shower, and to scrub my face with a pumice stone.

Diversion

Tuesday, June 8th, 2004

Another gloriously hot day, putting me in a bit of a quandary.

Normally on a nice evening, I go geocaching after work, but tonight I have a meeting in Totton at 7:30, and my nearest “Not done” caches are all in the other direction. I’d be unlikely to get there, find a cache, have something to eat and get back to Totton in time, so an alternative plan is needed.

I know, I’ll go trigpointing.

Lots of geocachers also trigpoint: A trigpoint is usually a big concrete pillar which the Ordnance Survey have put somewhere with a good view of the surrounding countryside, to use as a base for map-making. Trigpointing means visiting a trigpoint, making a note of the condition it’s in, the number on the plate etc, then when you get home, logging it online in the same way you would with a geocache. I’ve logged half a dozen or so trigpoints already, mainly ones I’ve passed on my way to or from a geocache, but there are loads fairly local to me that I’ve not yet bothered with.

So this evening I did two – here’s one of them.

Then I went to Lisa’s for the Bible Study group meeting, which was really good, then I went home.

Give Us A Lift, Mate

Monday, June 7th, 2004

I really wish I’d carried my digital camera with me today. It’s one of those small ones that lives in a pouch on my belt, so not having it is actually more hassle than having it, because it involves the conscious action of taking it off my belt. And having it with me at work is often useful anyway. Anyway, this morning being the first of the working week, I was putting on a clean pair of trousers, and didn’t transfer the camera to my other belt.

I was showing the Gruntmobile off to my Mum yesterday, and pointing out all the really clever ways Mitsubishi use space which might not be so well used in other cars. The tool set is concealed behind a flap in the back door, which means that no matter how full the luggage space is, the tools are always readily available*. There’s loads of hidden spaces for bits ‘n bobs in the car itself, and theres a purpose-made space for the jack, in one of the rear wheel arches: Not quite so convenient as the tools, but you’d hardly have to move anything from a full boot load to get at it.

This was when we started talking about jacks, starting with the fact that the jack was one of the things that my car came without**. The standard Mitsubishi jack – the one for which the space is designed – is a bottle jack, but Halfords only sell a 1½ ton bottle jack, and the Gruntmobile is 2 tons. They DO, however, sell a lovely device called an airbag jack. It’s a kind of super-toughened balloon, which you slide under the car’s jacking point. You then attach a hose from the balloon to the exhaust, run the engine for fifty seconds, and voila*** – one jacked-up car. It’s rated to lift three tons, and rather excitingly, according to the blurb “can be used to right overturned cars”. That sounds like the kind of gadget a serious off-road Gruntmobile owner should have! Its also considerably lighter than the trolley jack which I inherited off my Dad, although that’s so easy to use I was planning to stick with it until I could afford the mega-jack.

When I mentioned that I havent got one yet, because they’re rather expensive bits of kit, my dear old Mum asked if I’d like my birthday present early – since my birthday is in October you’ll realise we’re really stretching the “early” concept a bit here – and gave me the money to go and get one. So at lunchtime today I tootled round to Halfords and bought a big balloon.

And so we come to the camera: You see, I went straight from work to Hospital Radio tonight, so I could have tried out the jack in the studio car park, and taken some pics to show you how fab it is. But I hadn’t got my camera with me, and by the time I got home it was dark.

Unfortunately, I’m pretty sure it isn’t going to fit in the space reserved for the jack, so you can bet that when I need it, it will be buried under loads of stuff.

*Assuming the car came with a full tool set, which mine (like most second-hand cars) didn’t.
**I know, I know. But this is a blog for goodness sake, not high literachoor.
***Or other stringed instrument of your choice

Sunday’s Blog: On Time and Timely

Sunday, June 6th, 2004

Today is, of course, the anniversary of D-Day.

This morning I was doing the minibus run for church, and one of the elderly lady passengers told me that her fiancé had been killed on the Normandy beaches sixty years ago today. It wasn’t only those who fought on the beaches who made sacrifices.

Near my home, on Southampton Common, you can still see the concrete bases of the huts where some of the troops lived while they trained, and waited for D-Day. I remember going to see them on a school trip – our school was within walking distance, back in the days when schoolchildren were fit enough to walk a mile or so – and thinking how remote it all was, how long ago it seemed. That was thirty years after D-Day, so it was really no more remote then, than that school trip is now.

I think that, in spite of the films, books and articles, no-one of my generation – and I include in that anyone too young to have actually lived through it – can really appreciate what those days were like. Britain had been bombed and starved to within an inch of its existence, and had already suffered a huge defeat in Europe, leading to the horror of Dunkirk. This was the Allies only chance, and but for a miracle of the weather, they’d have lost it.

Hopefully you’ll have noticed that this blog is serious, for once: It’s my salute to those who fought, those who died, those who suffered deprivation, those who came home with horrific injuries and disabilities. As a consequence of their sacrifices, my generation lives in a world that, for all its faults, is better than it would have been. God bless them all.

Saturday’s Blog, A Day Late

Sunday, June 6th, 2004

I was fairly busy today, hence why this blog isn’t appearing until tomorrow (eh?).

Raynet were covering the South Downs Way Relay Race: Teams started at Beachy Head at 5:30 this morning, and had to reach the outskirts of Winchester by 20:30 tonight. My task was to man a message relay station on Cheesefoot Head, just outside Winchester, so I had time to go geocaching first.

Cheriton isn’t far from where I was going to be located, so I went and did The Battle of Cheriton first. This is a magnificent multicache starting in the village, and exploring the area of the civil war battle. The pic was taken on the village green near the start.

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After an ice cream I moved back to a car park near where I was going to be located, and after a nibble of lunch, went and found Resurrection of a Big Toe. This is a subscriber-only cache, so I suspect that non-geocachers may not be able to follow the link. Anyway, that was a nice one too. Then I moved to the highest part of Cheesefoot Head and set up my aerials.

Then when it was all over, I went for a pub meal with my friends Jan and Bob (who had been the co-ordinators of the Raynet effort on the day), and then went home to bed.

What a Fuel I Feel

Friday, June 4th, 2004

After I blogged last night, I went off to Hospital Radio – as I think I may have mentioned, our studios are next to a huge Tescos, where I usually do my shopping. I had my 5 gallon can in the Gruntmobile, intending to fill up with diesel ahead of this weekend’s fuel crisis, but whe I got there, tescos were advertising all fuels at 5 pees per litre off, so there was a queue all round the car park. “Ostrich that”, I thought, “I’ll fill up after I’ve finished at Hospital Radio”. Instead I went to pick up a few essentials in the main store.

Forget the fuel crisis, this is far worse: Tesco were out of Orange and Passion Fruit J2O! Just my luck that I’d let the stocks at home get a bit low, in the interest of stock rotation; let’s hope they get some more in soon, I’ve only got nine bottles left.

Anyway, when I finished at the studio (and Rob had provided me with nearly enough material for another “Great mistakes on the wireless” blog), I tried again, and this time the garage – which never closes – was closed, with big signs up saying “Sold out of everything”.

You can imagine my relief when on the way to work this morning, the first garage I passed:
a) was open
b) had diesel
c) let me fill my can.
Things I learnt today: 1) There isn’t going to be a fuel protest after all, 2) my 5 gallon can leaks.

Then after work I went geocaching, and did three more stages in the mighty multicache Little Toe’s Trilogy Part 2 (the link is down below somewhere). Then I came home and enjoyed the dressing up game in the chatroom, and now I’m going to have a shower.

There probably won’t be a blog tomorrow, look out for bonus bloggage on Sunday.

The second X

Thursday, June 3rd, 2004

We’re now just one week from election day…not that that matters to me, I’ve already studied my postal voting forms, my Mum and I have witnessed each other’s proof of identity forms, and my vote has been posted. Of course, based on normal performance the envelope will now disappear into some secret Post Office vault and reappear when it’s all too late for the votes to be counted, but I’ve done my best.

Last time I blogged about the elections I mentioned that I always voted with one exception: The exception is European elections. Since I don’t believe there should be a European Parliament (or at least, that Britain should be no part of one), I’ve always thought it would be hypocritical to vote for someone to represent me in it. I wonder how many of the other non-Euro-voters (counted by the government as too apathetic to vote) are actually witholding their vote for a similar reason?

And while I’m on matters controversial, this weekend it is rumoured there will be fuel blockades and protests. The last time we had one, I was lucky in that, without knowing it was going to happen, I’d filled up the day before the garages started to run out of fuel. I was also luckier than many in that, as an employee of the food industry, I count as an essential worker, and once a small amount of fuel started to get through I was able to fill up. I said at the time that if the problems caused contributed to bringing down Blair, it would have been worth it, but it seems that all that was proved was that Blair will soldier on down his own sweet little path without caring what anyone thinks.

So, this weekend, the few HGV operators that can afford to stay in business in this tax-mad country, will be bringing the country to a standstill: Blair meanwhile forges ahead, his eyes firmly set on the Presidency of the first European Superstate, where he can implement the wishes of his Lord and Master Boosh.

For God’s sake, vote next Thursday, or before if you do it by post. If everyone who doesn’t normally vote were to do so, they’d outnumber those who do normally vote. I don’t care who you vote for, that’s your business, but vote. At least we have the power to ensure that the politicians who rule in our name, were chosen by the majority of us.

And yes, I did break the rule of a lifetime and send in a Euro-vote.

It’s not a race

Wednesday, June 2nd, 2004

Geocaching isn’t really a competitive sport. It’s more contemplative than that, the idea is to have fun solving the puzzles, a nice walk in the countryside, take some fresh air and maybe enjoy some good convivial company.

Yeah, right.

Geocaching IS all of those things – some of the nicest people I know are those I’ve met through caching. But announce that a new cache has been planted and just watch all the little pixies rushing to be first finders. There’s a new cache been planted, not far from me, to commemorate the anniversary of D-Day this weekend. It’s called D-Day Troll, and it first appeared on the listings last night. All day I was watching it, and no-one logged it, so I left work bang on the stroke of time, and hurried off down to Southwick.

Having found the car park with no problems I was really confident of being the first to find…until as I was putting my boots on, those prolific cachers Ann and Brian (553 finds to date) came into the car park and started taking their boots off. And apparently they weren’t first either. Still, it was a nice evening and I found the cache with no problems.

Oh yes, and I went to work today before going caching, and went home afterwards.

A Tip of the Slongue

Tuesday, June 1st, 2004

I blogged last week about showing visitors around my workplace: Sometimes I have the pleasure of showing people around where I do my principal hobby, the Hospital Radio studios. Many of the guests ask me “What’s the most embarrassing mistake you’ve ever made on the radio?”.

I don’t usually tell them about the time I asked the person sitting next to me, “Where the f*** is that noise coming from?”, not realising that the microphone was switched on, although especially honoured guests do get that story. I do tell them about the time my friend Mark, announcing a request for a new Mum and her newborn, Emma, announced “…and this one’s expecially for Baby Enema”. Obviously had other things on his mind at the time. He also once announced Elton John’s “Sacrifice” as “Scarface”.

I’m not sure what I was thinking about last night when I announced a record by Perry Comatose, but I obviously wasn’t enjoying it. The most common mistake for most of us, I guess, is to get halfway through a sentence and either forget how the sentence was going to end, or, even worse, realise that it was going to end with something you don’t want to say – we have particular rules in Hospital Radio, about the circumstances under which you can talk about death or illness, or talk about nasty things happening to people in hospital.

Then there are the technical hitches: Each of our studios has two record decks and two CD players, so it is possible to be playing a record and have the next three tracks lined up. It’s a sensible precaution because if the track you intended next doesn’t work, you can move on to the next one, giving yourself a bit of breathing space while you sort it out, but it’s fraught with danger of the “pressing the wrong button” type. My co-presenter Rob (who occasionally comments on these blogs using the name “Rob (TV)”) once played a “seventies, sixties, nineties, eighties” feature, which maybe would have sounded better in the right order.

I’m sure it was simpler in the “old days”.

Oh, and to end on a cute note: Inspired by Omally’s gushing about his new God-daughter, here’s a pic of my Godson Daniel which his Mum recently sent me. Thanks Bel!