Thursday, 30 December 2010

Nut screws washers and bolts...



I'm taking a few days R and R to indulge my passion for making things, and you'll never believe what's going to be next. As usual, a story goes with it...

Several years ago, I worked for a Scottish industrial building company. They were a hard bunch of guys - and gals as well, and it would have been easy to be intimidated by the business environment they all worked in. Scottish engineers are still alive and kicking, and the chaps I worked with were a great bunch of innovative, design-proud, commercial characters, and we all got on pretty well, despite the fact that I came from near Tunbridge Wells, which is a bit of a downer in certain company...

We concentrated on packages of work for prisons, universities, hospitals, and, best of all, retail sheds. It was during the big boom in out-of-town shopping, and huge stores were cropping up everywhere. They all looked very much as they do today, but the building obstructorenti were nervous of the Italian materials we used, (until UK Inc's dead-handed regulators eventually let us make them here), and each scheme was always a slow starter.

On one particular job, which I cannot of course identify, (Homebase in Hendon), we were having a hard time; a very hard time. In fact it was rapidly becoming a Ken Disaster! Writs were forming by the minute and lawyers were dribbling at the prospect of a dishevelled Scrobs, crawling stark naked through the trenches...

The conversation between Glasgow and London went something like this: -

Scots Business Director (God):- "Scrooobs; yiew down there? Can ye hear me? Wha's happening a' Haindon eh? Tell me wha's goin' on!"

Scrobs:- "Er, morning Dairek, er - the subbies didn't turn up today; or yesterday... in fact they weren't here last week either..."

Scots Business Director (God):- "Aye. Aye! (long agonising pause) Well; wha' you goin' ta do aboot it then Scrooobs?"

Scrobs:- "Er, well, (gulps), we're chasing them hourly, but the fax machine is broken, so all the new details are somewhere between here and the Isle of Dogs; ha ha ha; (gulp)..."?

Scots Business Director (God):- (softly, in the most terrifying voice imaginable) "Scrooobs, will ya listen to me! I wan' you thaire every waking hour, to supervise an' make sure our money is safe. D'ya unnerstand...?"

Scrobs:- "Er, yes of course, Dairek!" (lapsing into the accent was a secret weapon, and occasionally defused any further commercial banter/libel/violence)

Scots Business Director (God):- "Good man Scrooobs! Aye; ya'll be reporting to us early each day, eh?"

Scrobs:- "Er, fine, er I'll, er, do that..."(wondering how on earth he'll swing all this...)

Scots Business Director (God):- "Aye Scrooobs, you will!"

Sound of telephone handset being gently replaced on Bakelite receiver somewhere near Paisley...

So Scrobs was set a target of completing the job in two weeks, which meant leaving home in the dark, and also getting home way after bedtime. The subbies did return, slowly, rather like that scene in 'The charge of the Light Brigade' when they all trudge back with limbs hanging off, and we began to see daylight, or, rather the reverse, as we were in fact fitting the roof then...

On one occasion, I had my usual daily arse-wrenching meeting with the Main Contractor, explaining how much over the contract time we might be. Luckily he was a kindly man, and always stopped at physical abuse, (although the mental scars are still prevalent in the occasional nightmare), and we got on pretty well under the circumstances.

My Uncle Jack (the Builder), had told me once that he personally used to sweep up his building sites every evening. It may have been just a house, or maybe a factory, but he did it himself, as he was on a salary, and the men were paid hourly. When a Director from the firm visited the site once, he asked Uncle Jack, "Why spend your time cleaning up now - you're in charge"!

Uncle Jack replied "Well, it's so the men have a clean place to start work tomorrow, and they'll do much more if they don't have to work with muck everywhere'" There's no argument to that, and his site was always spotless at the end of the day, and the job was much better organised.

So, Scrobs, on the long drive to Hendon, decided to take a leaf from all this, and one evening, swept the whole site, which was after all, a DIY superstore and not exactly miniscule! There was an urban myth around about that time, where the MD of a roofing firm had gone round the site one evening, and collected all the bolts, screws, etc, which had been dropped during construction and had not been used. He piled them all on a table, costed them, and deducted the value of all these fittings from everyone's wages. That really stopped the waste!

I finished up with a huge cardboard box full of hundreds of these fixings! They were all unsorted, and I could just imagine the problem of getting them back in their boxes, as I really did want to get home some time that night...

So they went into the boot of the Scrobmobile.

This was back in 1982, and after all these years, I still have a hundred or so of these expensive bits of kit, which cost a fortune at B and Q, (perhaps Homebase as well...), and I've used them on almost every job I've ever done since that fateful day!

And if anyone recognises the kid's lunch box which keeps them safe, it's because there are also some other things I can never throw away...

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

A Christmas carol...


Back in the early 1990s, computers were still hit-and-miss affairs, and words like '286', and 'floppy disk' were still spoken with some embarrassment, because they were almost a foreign language. I remember someone pointing at a '386' and drawing gasps of envy from a geek who dribbled for ages at the new machine lurking in the corner of one of the offices!

YD was in her last year at school, and I used to pick her up from the music rooms, where she would always stay late for prep and extra piano practice. One evening, I found her at an electronic keyboard, with a computer screen in front of her, and several wires leading off to a new computer. She sat me down next to her and told me to make a chord, which I did. Then she pointed to the screen and there were the notes displayed on the staves! Then we played a few more notes and the harmony was created and also showed up on the screen. It also played back exactly as we'd played it!

I was utterly hooked, and totally blown away by the possibilities of all this expensive equipment. After a few more forays on the keys, we went home and for the rest of the evening, I badgered Mrs S about getting something similar, and because times were good back then, we started the research. We were within a whisker of buying a Yamaha 1200 series Synthesiser, because it nearly did the same things as all that kit at the school, but after several visits to the shops, it became clear that what we really needed was a proper PC, because the music bolt-ons could come along later.

And it was ever thus. We bought the best PC we could afford and tentatively joined the human race! Because it was near Christmas, I was in party mode, and in London for various business tinctures. On one of these occasions, I was early for a function, and spent a happy hour wandering around Regent Street looking in shop windows. Chappells had their shop down there back then, and peering in the window, I spotted the advert at the top, which shone out from a box of equipment which was exactly what we (I) wanted! It really was a magic moment!

After long discussions with the guys in the shop, a lot of money changed hands, and I nursed the box all the way home to 'The Turrets', (having of course, partaken of the various afore-said tinctures - no need to spoil a good evening)!

It worked like a dream, and once connected to a keyboard, was the epitome of composition, and for years, I was hooked into all sorts of masterpieces where I could overlay sounds and rhythms, and listen to these through earphones to my heart's content. The software was all contained on just two floppy disks, which seems amazing these days, when now you need about eight CDs just to get a letter printed!

Of course, it's all been superceded now, and the Cubase has been replaced by Cakewalk, which is too old even for Vista, and so there are new apps like Tuxguitar, and Wavosaur, which do more or less the same thing, and for free!

So, this time of year, I can always relate to hearing some good sounds, remembering some good days, enjoying the company of good friends and family, and listening to this, by the bloke who started it all for me!



Have a happy Christmas one and all; next year will be a cracker!

Update...

Wellington's Mum has reminded me of a classic piece of Mike Oldfield, and linked me to the piece below!



Many's the time I heard that theme, and there is one part of the piece which I will always remember. Simon Groom asked him why he played the theme at half speed, and Mike Oldfield quite candidly said it was because he couldn't play that fast! (Been there and bought the twelve string...)

The comments also show several people who liked that bit too...

Sunday, 19 December 2010

Real estate of play...


I'm sure that the occasional reader in the building business - and other work of course - will recognise these symptoms.

It requires an awful lot of good will and 'spec' time to get a development started; a sketch scheme, a few costs applied, a realistic view of planning, a nod from the investors,and all this happens after me and my two BPs have undertaken a seriously hard look at the Excel figures on an ageing computer, and applied forty years of knowledge...

But we refuse to waste anybody's time if the chances are anything less than 'pretty-damn-sure'.

(This could be a post all by itself, and may be one for the New Year, because things will pick up in next spring, and somehow, all those firms which haven't taken risk recently, will lose out immeasurably. We have a lot of markers to repay, and also a few scores to settle - you know who you are)! Did I say banks?

But this blog post and others on his links, had me rolling in the aisles! It was sent to me by a kindred spirit and really sums up the issue!

Friday, 10 December 2010

Christmas competition - all prizes gratefully received...


As was kindly pointed out by Nick Drew, the 'Scrobs' site is going through a 'low anticipation sitemeter non-spike situation' (i.e., not getting to the people), so as is often the case, I can only regrope, (or perhaps regroup) and while I'm doing that, how about a competition?

As BT (until I got rid of them), and others were continually sending me new mobile phones to use at my expense, the issue of ringtones became more pressing. I once mentioned to Lils that I had the opening bars of 'Dirt Farmer' on my phone for several months, and it usually turned a few heads on the train. She offered a few other suggestions which are great of course (well, she and Elbers have enough tracks by 'The Grateful Dead' to last until Easter Sunday, 2067, so she does have some serious knowledge in that department), but yet another new phone demanded a further change.

So I went for the start of a record which has always been a favourite, and lately, I still feel that it is an iconic reminder of earlier days in the sixties, when the world was one's oyster (see Scrobs passim). I just love these few bars!

If anyone hears this on a train, then by all means come over and say something like "You are Scrobs, and I claim my five splonders"! (It might not be me of course, in which case any embarrassment must be borne by the perpetrator, but if it is, then expect a huge hug, especially if you are a lady, when you might get two or more)!

So, back to the competition. It has several categories, and a complicated scoring procedure will ensure that only one person will win, rather like FIFA run their competitions for the Whirl Carp. Take your time, write on both sides of the reply box, and make sure you bring a pencil sharpener and a rubber (or even just a 'sharpener' if after the witching hour).

1) Most memorable opening bars of any piece of music. (my ringtone is my best example for the time being).

2) The earliest moment in any performance either live, or studio, in a piece of music, when the congregation realise what they're going to get. (Echoes - David Gilmour in Gdansk for me; it takes a nanosecond after Rick Wright's 'plink').

3) The biggest cheer at the end of a live performance, when everyone is ecstatic ('Fool's Overture'; Supertramp, 'Live in Paris', or 'Cinema show'; Genesis on 'Second's out').


(Editor's note - Sorry Nick, this is all I can do for the moment. I will try harder next time, but what with the snow, and the economic depression and bastard troughing politicians getting uppity, and students chucking bricks at everyone, the world is in some turmoil, so, best to just quieten things down a bit, and ask the other two readers what they think...)

pps - What do you think of the economy poster at the top; rather dapper don't you think?

Saturday, 4 December 2010

Nick Drew's challenge - glove accepted, the 'spike' rears it's head...

A few years ago, The Grafas Fruning Graplecard (for it may have been he), awoke early one morning alone in the bedroom of his stately home.

Things were different, and a pleasurable warmth permeated the bedchamber.

He had surprised himself...!

The Grafas rang for his butler immediately, "Lickbottom", he called excitedly, "I find I have an erection"!

"Oh congratulations Your Grafasness, shall I fetch the Lady Grafess"?

"Good God no - dammit man, fetch a blanket and bring round the Rolls immediately, this is a London job"!

(With sincere apologies to all family and friends, and any other ladies (maybe chaps of a groaning disposition) who may have heard this before. It was told to me by one of my oldest friends, on several occasions back in the 'sixties... many times in fact, on most Fridays, Saturdays, occasionally Sundays and the odd week when we were water skiing in Spain or Italy, or playing rugby in Bexhill. Ron, you were a star then, and this yarn is dedicated to you, wherever you are...)

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Bollock naked in snowdrift...

Sorry about that, no pictures, no script!

I'm just figuring out how 'Sitemeter' works, and see if there's a 'spike' today!

(whistles...)

Saturday, 27 November 2010

Stone the crows, an' starve the lizards...



Our favourite walking place is having a face lift, mainly thanks to the stroppy Tunbridge Wells BC.

The Forestry Commission guys and gals have to rearrange all their parking for visitors, because they are actually too popular, and any overflow parking is now frowned upon by the burghers of this man's town for some obscure reason.

We don't mind too much, because we always get there pretty early and give JRT the run off the place, or as far as her long lead will allow her, as if we ever let her off, she'd vanish in the direction of the nearest rabbit, and never be seen again. But she's a good walker, and we usually stay mates all the way round the place.

Recently, the Forestry bods had to fence in some areas of the car park, because of the proposed works there. They put up plastic fencing around several areas, and we found out that it was there to retain all the lizards for relocation, which is rather sweet! They saved 69, and presumably, the reptile population will flourish to be eaten by other reptiles or whatever. But a couple of weeks ago, the powers-that-be had some sort of night time experience, where they lit up the trees and charged everyone about £16.00 to walk round and admire the scenery in the dark. Somehow we couldn't see the point of all this, but the offshoot is that when they did all their cabling and preparation, the wild life seemed to hide and shrink away.

As you know, there are several large fish in Marshal's Lake (nuclear scientists etc), and they've vanished. The ducks all fiddled and farted around for days afterwards, and seemed fed up with the whole blasted issue, the two resident shags (ha ha ha), don't know whether they want a shit or a haircut, and we're making friends with several crows which seems somewhat odd!

We're gradually getting the ducks back, the fish are taking much longer, but the crows are becoming proper characters. Mrs S carries a few crusts for various wildlife, and one morning, left some pieces for three crows, which were lurking in the trees nearby. We've become rather attached to Charlie, Chris and Crusty, because they immediately squawk, and dip down to feed as soon as we're away, and seem to be very happy birds.

But, this morning, Mrs S forgot to bring the comestibles, and we were followed round, spied upon from the trees, 'cawed' at, and on several occasions swooped on with a 'whoahhhgh whoahhhgh whoahhhgh' straight out of Hitchcock's movie! They're gorgeous, and they seem to telegraph their mates on the next reservation, that one old fart and his wife are back, flinging cheer and Hovis in all directions.

Saturday, 20 November 2010

Sharp intake of tinctures...


This year's business network/company bash/generous hospitality season has started early.

So early, that Scrobs has been caught unawares, and has already attended two massive events which have resulted in an incredibly short memory for names, and a very long pain in the forehead, parts of the neck, most of the body and all of the psyche...

The previous week was bad enough, with Private Eye's favourite company providing the comestibles. The guys I work with there are all very professional, and have spent numerous hours working for nothing on our potential schemes, because someone has to these days. The banks and the politicians still get fees and expenses for getting out of bed, while working companies continually get the crap thrown at them from all angles, but hey, it's the best depression they've had to 'handle', so stop whinging...!

But last Thursday's evening was a real killer! It was fabulous!

We were kindly invited to a grand evening by a firm of Lawyers who always let me know when something's happening, and who always do it right. Their hospitality is second to none, and one of these days, when the depression created by the 'Three Bs' (Blair, Brown and Balls) is finally kicked into touch, and their legacy is buried in painful concrete far below the surface of the biggest dump in the world, I'll have the greatest pleasure in calling this firm's property partner and asking him 'How much to do this and when can you start...'!

But until then, we do the circuit seeking business leads, tweaking yields, machining Excel calcs, and this last event finished in an alcoholic haze sometime after 9.00pm, somewhere in Wardour Street.

By God, it was fantastic! Your correspondent, together with Business Partner and also accompanied by highly esteemed and serious property man from major co, arrived at 6.45 pm, slightly damp from a long hike across St. James' Park, and from there on in, the stunningly beautiful ladies who were proffering sustenance in the form of Frozen Margaritas were at every turn. The property dinosauriad were out in force, released temporarily from the depths of Jurassic Park, the hosts were as ever charming, friendly, and the stock of business cards which Scrobs hands out to interested parties was diminishing fast.

I've never spent such an evening in such salubrious company, and even now, 72 hours later, the scars on the headache are still lingering. I put it all down to drinking out of a wet glass, and having to negotiate those crackly white chips round the edge, near the salady bits!

There was an incredibly attractive dark eyed lady offering shots from a holster and cartridge case belt strung about three centimetres above stunning legs; the Margaritas were installed in an overhead liquid carriageway which tipped gallons of the stuff down a throat at the touch of a guest list, at last a proper Chardonnay was on offer, (sorry BP, had to say it...) I nearly lost my laptop case (and possibly my lap if I could have found it...) to a lady from Viet Nam, there were unassailable stairs nearly three miles long to encounter on the way out, I had to stand on a box to speak with two of the tallest people I've ever met, and one of them didn't mind (at all as it happens) my nose being within three inches of a fabulous cleavage, my liver's risk assessment now includes the terms 'Paaaah, disaster impending, consider not buying green bananas, and forget putting long playing records on the gramophone', and somehow I've got to mend a small tear in my trousers.

I stayed with my long suffering ED, who kindly guided me home via mobile phone and coaxing sat-nav from somewhere near Dulwich (I think), and she had the hot water bottle, cocoa and understanding nods ready when I eventually poured myself though their keyhole between - oooh, say 9.00pm and midnight!

And the next morning? Wow, toast, coffee, friendly banter, promises not to tell Mrs S, and a trip home in style!

Who could wish for such a grand time, and the collection of cards and notes from the evening (it was work after all), already seems to have started to create some real business prospects for next year, so it was all worthwhile!

Of course, I cannot mention the firm who provided such a grand evening for legal reasons, but they really do know how to get business marching on despite all the efforts of politicians, banks, quangos, civil servants etc., to stifle ways to make money.

I've got one more to do in three weeks, after which I'll revert to tea and comfort until we open our Christmas half-bottle of Wincarnis and really live it up...

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Henryk Gorecki R.I.P...




I've only just learned that Henryk Gorecki died last week.

His 'Symphony of Sorrowful Songs' (which floors me each time I hear it) is already pencilled in for a serious blog post one day, because a story goes with it. But now's not the time.

In his obituary in The Daily Telegraph, there was mention of Arvo Part. Now, although I reckon myself reasonably well tuned in to composers, I've just missed all this music, and have never knowingly heard any of it.

Just try listening to this, and I hope you'll be as dumbstruck as I was!

Sunday, 14 November 2010

Hymn to remember...



In the church behind the Turrets, they always sing this at about 11.20 am, just after reading the names of the fallen. I always try to stand in the garden and hear the brass band belt it all out, and today was no exception.

I've always found it an incredibly moving hymn, and today, after getting absolutely soaking wet trying to do some work in the garden in all the mud and rain, it was even more humbling to remember just what the words are all about, while the cornets, trumpets and bandsmen gave it their all.

Monday, 8 November 2010

Rupert Bear - 90 years old today...

I was delighted to hear that my first hero was 90 years old today! His creator, Mary Tourtel has a delightful sign up in Canterbury, and this is fondly recognised locally.

I used to have nearly all the Rupert Bear annuals, and still have three or four, all lovingly decrepit from being read constantly in the days when animals could talk, and I'd always agree with them!

Only last week, we were strolling through the woods, and I saw what reminded me vividly of a story I'd read (and been frightened by on a few ocasions). It was this picture below: -

...and I have to confess that it immediately reminded me of this story below: -



Who says men never grow up...

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Don Partridge R.I.P...


Don Partridge made a huge difference to the pop scene in the 1960s.

'Rosie' was - and still is, a great song, and was sung by anyone who had a guitar as well as many who didn't!

This song was always in the Scrobs repertoire, and the only reason why I didn't do the kazoo bit at the end, was because a) I didn't have a kazoo, and b) If I had got one, it was impossible to keep it steady on my wire coat hanger harmonica holder...

'Bye Don, and many, many thanks...

Sunday, 31 October 2010

Automatic reciprocating saw (in white); for Thud...




As the icy winds from northern climes prepare for their surge to the south, to cleave the intertesticular extremities and create howls of pain of protest from people who reckon they know why a brass monkey has two reasons not to like low temperatures, O'Blene Industrial Kinetics (OINK), continues its journey on the yellow brick road which leads to equality with Dyson and Baylis.

A few years ago, Mrs S Senior gave the company an electric reciprocating saw, because there are logs and branches on the 'Turrets' estate which need a few clops every now and then, to remind them who actually is boss round here! (A chain saw was not an option at the time, as the safety trousers were the wrong colour...)

Now this implement is a powerful machine, and while it is not in the industrial category, it takes quite a lot of muscle to keep it going longer than a few minutes, because an unusual condition creeps into the system, i.e., it begins to hurt.

This pain is a version of 'white finger', which was a pesky condition experienced by miners and other handlers of machinery which create high levels of vibration. In fact, after a few minutes of operation on some hard logs, like rhododendron, the 'white finger' quickly merges with a variation called 'very pale elbow', and then transgresses into 'sod me shoulder', and finally ends up (via 'bugger that hurts trembling back-bone'), in a state of 'white clenched arse, loose teeth and red vision'!

It had to change, as after each session at the bench, the journey from the shed to the house took longer with each faltering step, and even with a recreational tincture as a prize, those few minutes were agony...

I mentioned to Thud, whom as far as I can see has the best job in the world, and has superb results to prove it, that I'd altered the design of the saw to help me over the crisis, and here are the pics I promised him. In the world of sharp objects, 'elfun saftie' is always written large on the box, but weighing up the pros and cons of the design and also the operation, I'm taking a bet that this is probably a safer way to use the saw than by swinging it around like a dervish at every twig or bough which gets in the way. If I'm proved wrong, and that is the prerogative of Santa Barbara, and also Mr Gilbert Fiddler, of the local 'Sharp Objects Inspectorate and Licensing (SOIL) office, than I'll have to retract the statement...

All I've done, is to activate the switch permanently, and attach the whole machine to a frame which allows a downward swinging arm motion, That way, I can secure the beast in the jaws of the 1966 vintage Workmate (one of the best inventions ever), and connect to the juice as normal. As the machine is technically on because the handle is depressed, the master switch cuts off the power when necessary. The logs fit securely into the 'V' joint and stay firm, and the saw cuts only downwards with slight pressure on the handle near the blade.

Although this is a prototype, it's done a full morning's work, but is also showing signs of 'white screw loosening' which is exactly what used to vibrate the operator's body to some interesting levels, and I'm already working on version two, which creates a monocoque structure and the vibration reduces as it becomes integral to the operation and which hopefully will allow me to finish the pile of logs which is threatening to topple over and crush 'white Fiat-Ferrari-Punto-Turbo', the 'white branch Acer Palmatum Atropurpureum', which is a pride and joy, and also the various visitors we have calling to ask me why I'm up and about so early, and didn't I realise that the clocks went back today...

Saturday, 23 October 2010

Sergeant Wilson's motorbike (conclusion)...

Scene 3

(Walmington-on-sea High Street. Capt. Mainwaring is walking to work, and Jones is putting up the awning on his shop)

Cpl. Jones: “Morning Captain Mainwaring, lovely day again”!

Capt. Mainwaring: “Good morning Jones, it is indeed a beautiful day! (looks up at sky) Bit noisy up there last night, I suppose The Hun has retreated with his tail between his legs as usual”!

Cpl. Jones: “Yes Sir, there’s also a couple of official looking lorries out in the forest. They seem to be searching for something”.

Capt. Mainwaring: “Well as long as they don’t interfere with our training, they can stay there as far as I’m concerned. Good to see the ordnance around though, it gives everyone comfort to see their island being defended”!

(Capt. Mainwaring walks on and disappears into the bank. Walker is approaching)

Pte. Walker: “Here, Jonesy, did you see that lorry parked up by the crossroads? I heard it was on the lookout for stolen army kit! Watch out for your van, they’ll take it if they see it”!

Cpl. Jones: (blowing his cheeks out)“They’ll not take my van, it’s a reserved vehicle that is”! (goes back into shop muttering to himself).

(Walker continues on down the street, and sees Sgt. Wilson approaching)

Sgt. Wilson: “Morning Joe, lovely day”!

Pte. Walker: “Morning – hey, (takes Wilson’s arm) if you’re in a spot of bother, I can get you a new motorbike, but it won’t be the same as your old one”!

Sgt. Wilson: “Well that’s very kind of you Joe; it really is a bit of a bind, having to walk everywhere”.

Pte. Walker: “Just leave it to me; I’ve got a few feelers out for you”!
(Walker and Wilson go their separate ways)

Scene 4

(An office in the Home Guard Command building in Eastbourne. The senior officers are all assembled)

Colonel Peat: “Now Chaps, we need to get to business! Any news from last night”?

Major Elbers: “Well, they certainly made a racket overhead, but as far as we can see, there was no real damage – apart from a couple of greenhouses on the estate being shattered”.

Colonel Peat: “Oh well, that’s what we have to expect, but at least we have a few tricks up our sleeve, eh Major”!

Major Elbers: (warily) “Ooooh – er - yes, definitely...”.

Colonel Peat: “Any news on the requisitioning programme, have we found any unattended vehicles”?

Major Elbers: “We’ve ended up with three Austin cars, a Riley bread van, several bicycles and a GPO motorbike”.

Colonel Peat: “A GPO motorbike! Damn Post Office loses everything these days”!

Major Elbers:”Well, they’re all impounded now, and going to Brighton tomorrow”!

Colonel Peat: “Good, well done Chaps, now, what’s next...”?

(scene fades).

Scene 5

(Private Walker is passing a shop at the bottom of the High Street. He does a double-take on realising that it has only just opened for business)

Pte. Walker: (enters shop with door bell clanking) “Morning! Anybody home”?

Shopkeeper (Mr. O’Blene): “Good morning Sir, and how can I help you”?

Pte. Walker: “This is all new isn’t it? Funny time to start a new business these days, there’s a war on y’ know”!

Mr. O’Blene: “Oh yes, and that’s why I’m opening here! I’ve got a shop in Eastbourne, and a workshop in Pevensey. I repair and sell bicycles”!

Pte. Walker: (holds out his hand to shake and introduces himself) “Joe Walker; I can get you most things you need round here, cycle lamp wicks, real leather saddles; got a nice line in rubber inner tubes; cost you a tanner each...”!

Mr. O’Blene: “ Always looking out for a bargain Joe, (shakes Joe’s hand) Friends call me Stan, I get most of my stuff from a bloke in Eastgate, but he’s finished up in Lewes Prison recently”!

Pte. Walker: “Pleased to meetcha Stan. Blimey, what did he do”?

Mr. O’Blene: “Oh, he came round the corner from the High Street too fast, and buried his car in the gates on the crossroads! He’s still sorting that one out I can tell you”!

Pte. Walker: “Ha ha! Do you – er - sell motorbikes as well”?

Stan O’Blene: “Oh yes, any make you like; Matchless, James, Velocette, you name it, I can get one”!

Pte. Walker: “Can you do a deal on a GPO BSA? I may need one”!

Stan O’Blene: “Ooooh, I’m afraid you’ve got me there Joe, they’re protected vehicles you know, most of them were snapped up by the requisition boys recently! The GPO’s going back to pedal cycles again! (rubs hands) I can do you a Brough Superior, got one out the back, but it’ll cost you”!

Pte. Walker: “Blimey, I’m not made of money, haven’t you got anything smaller for about five quid”?

Stan O’Blene: (sharp intake of breath) “Not a lot, but I’ll keep my eye out for you. Call by tomorrow and I may be able to help”!

Pte. Walker: “Certainly will! Can I interest you in some copies of ‘Tit Bits’? Unused”?

Stan O’Blene: (quickly) “I’ll take a dozen; leave them round the back...”! (looks out of window with glazed expression on face)

Scene 6

(The Drill Hall. The Platoon is standing at attention).

Sgt Wilson: “Platoon! Er, At – er - ease don’t you know, just relax a bit”!

Capt. Mainwaring: (fuming aside to Wilson)“Wilson, you’re giving orders, not just lining up a ‘rugger team’ before ‘prep’! (to platoon) Now listen men, I have to report to Area Command about Sergeant Wilson’s missing motorbike. Has anyone got any news"?

Cpl. Jones: “Permission to speak Sir”!

Capt. Mainwaring: “Yes Jones, what is it”?

Cpl. Jones: “I’d like to be the first to report Sir”!

Capt. Mainwaring: “Right Corporal, what have you got”?

Cpl. Jones: “I’ve heard absolutely no news at all Sir”!

Capt. Mainwaring: (exasperated) “Well why are you making a report then”?

Cpl. Jones: (smugly) “Walls have ears Sir! Careless talk costs lives”!

Capt. Mainwaring: (even more exasperated) “Yes I know all that Jones, but I’m asking you in confidence man! We’re a fighting force; welded to duty; united in defence! What can you report”!

Cpl. Jones: “Well Sir, nobody’s seen hide nor hair of Sergeant Wilson’s motorbike”!

Capt. Mainwaring: “Is that it”! (turns to Wilson with despair written all over his face)

Cpl. Jones: “I have to report the truth Sir, if I said anything else, I’d be in trouble”!

Pte. Pike: “Mum says you’ve caused her an awful lot of bother, Uncle Arthur! She said you’re having your tea in the kitchen tomorrow”!

Pte Frazer: “Aye, that’s punishment enough these days”!

Pte Godfrey: “My sister Dolly likes to take tea in the summer house, it reminds her of her childhood! She met many a suitor there, and so did our ‘uncles’; most of them in fact”!

Capt. Mainwaring: “Oh, this isn’t getting us anywhere! Wilson, have you heard anything at all”?

Sgt Wilson: “Not a dicky bird Sir, I really don’t know what to do next”!

Capt. Mainwaring: “Not a ‘dicky bird’ Not a ‘dicky bird’! This is a serious matter of national importance Sergeant! We may all be arrested if we’re not careful”!

Pte. Walker: “I think I can help Captain Mainwaring”!

Capt. Mainwaring: “You Walker? What have you found out”?

Pte. Walker: “Well you know that new bicycle shop which has opened at the other end of the High Street; well, I met the new owner, Stan O’Blene, and he’s got something which may well suit Sergeant Wilson”!

Capt. Mainwaring: “Oh, I’ve seen him; bit of a shady character that one; seems to be coughing all the time. Elizabeth went there to purchase a small nut and bolt for something, and he ended up selling her a new handlebar basket, three gallons of oil for a front lamp, and a footpump”!

Pte. Walker: “Sounds reasonable to me Sir”!

Capt. Mainwaring: “Nooo, not really, she hasn’t got a bicycle”!

Pte Frazer: “Well I think I know what’s happened to the wretched thing”!

Capt. Mainwaring: “You Frazer! Well what have you heard”?

Pte Frazer: “Well..., the requisitioning brigade has been lurking around this week! The hearse had to be hidden round the back away from prying eyes! There was a casket on the rollers”!

Cpl. Jones: “You’re right Frazer! They eyed up my van on Tuesday, and it still had a load of sausages in the back"!

Capt. Mainwaring: “Well, what did you do Corporal”?

Cpl. Jones: “I sold them a pound each sir, and also got rid of a lot of chit’lings which don’t sell well Sir”!

Pte Godfrey: “My sister Dolly cooks chitterlings on a slow stove; they’re delicious with a little French mustard and some of her home-baked bread”!

Capt. Mainwaring: (exasperated) “Godfrey; Jones, that’s enough! Now Wilson, it seems to me that your motorbike has been requisitioned, and you’ll probably not see it again! I can’t say I blame them, you should have kept it out of sight..."!

Pte Pike: (interrupts)“...like Mum said you should Uncle Arthur...”

Capt. Mainwaring: “...Quiet Pike! So, that’s probably the end of all this”!

Pte. Walker: (returning to his earlier statement) “I think I can get you another one though Sergeant. Stan O’Blene is making ordinary bikes work with alternative engines”!

Capt. Mainwaring: “What on earth are you talking about Walker! How does he do it”?

Pte. Walker: “Oh it’s quite simple Sir, he takes an ordinary bicycle, and fits a motor to the wheels”!

Capt. Mainwaring: “That’s a French idea isn’t it? Not sure I like the idea of their designs being used in England. They use them in places like Paris! Ooooh no, that sounds shady to me”!

Pte. Walker: “Well apparently, he’s invented a rechargeable motor which fits over the wheel, and drives the bike along”!

Capt. Mainwaring: “Oh, this is preposterous! What do you mean by ‘rechargeable’ ? It’s a banking term! This man O’Blene isn’t the sort of person we want in Walmington, making – er - French things”!

Pte Pike: (giggling) “heugh heugh...”!

Capt. Mainwaring: (hopelessly) “Stupid boy”!

Pte. Walker: (continuing his piece) “Well anyway, you plug the connecting wire into the 15amp socket, and it makes the battery last for longer. You can then use it for a while, ride home, connect it to the mains and after a few hours, it’ll go for another few miles”!

Sgt Wilson: “Oh, you mean an electric device like the cars we used to have in Belgravia”!

Capt. Mainwaring: (mimicking Wilson) “’Belgravia’ – that snooty place! All money and no work! Doh, this is ridiculous! It sounds like something out of Jules Verne! I can’t see something like that ever working”!

Pte. Walker: “Well, he’s made several, and there’s an even bigger one with two motors! I can get it for you for five quid! No petrol coupons, dead easy to drive”!

Capt. Mainwaring: “Look Wilson, you’ll have to find out more about this in your own time, speak to Walker afterwards, we’ve got a war to run”!

Sgt Wilson: “Yes of course Sir, we’ll chat later Joe”.

(scene fades)

Scene 7

(In the High Street, outside Stan O’Blene’s shop. Walker and Wilson arrive at the same time)

Sgt Wilson: “So what is all this Joe? I’ve never met the man before”!

Pte. Walker: “Well he may look a bit funny, and have some mad ideas, but he’s only doing the best he can under the circumstances! I’m selling him some talc for punctures – pongs a bit, but it was old stock from Timothy Whites before the war”!

Sgt Wilson: “Well, we’d better see what he’s got then”!

(they enter shop and a bell clanks)

Stan O’Blene: “Morning Joe! Morning Sir, how can I help”?

Pte. Walker: “Morning Stan; I want you to meet the gentleman who wants a motorbike”! (aside and behind his hand – usual commission – 10%! Stan nods)

Sgt Wilson: “Good Lord, you’ve got some of the Sturmey-Archer gears from before the war! We all had bikes with those on the estate”!

Stan O’Blene: “The very items Sir! Brand new and wanting a good home”!

Pte. Walker: “Well, Sergeant Wilson wants something with an engine actually Stan, one of your electric bicycles should do the trick”!

Stan O’Blene: “Oh, you mean the O’Blene Flyer! Well I definitely can help you there! Come out the back”! (shuffles off wearing carpet slippers, coughing all the time, towards the back of the shop)

Scene 8

(the yard at the back of Stan O’Blene’s shop)

Pte. Walker: “Blimey, you’ve got enough stuff here Stan”!

Stan O’Blene: “Oh, this is only some of it, the main shop is in Eastbourne”! (pokes around in a box of bicycle pieces, finds an electric cable, coughs, peers at it closely and wanders across to an odd looking bicycle, leaning up against a wheelbarrow)

Sgt Wilson: “Good Lord! What on earth’s that”!

Stan O’Blene: (proudly, and puffing up his chest) “That Sir, is the prototype ‘O’Blene Flyer – Mark 1’! It has two engines, one for each wheel”!

Pte. Walker: “Blimey, it is something from outer space”!

Stan O’Blene: (slightly hurt) “Well I wouldn’t put it like that Joe, (hastily) it really does go well, and costs nothing to run”!

Sgt Wilson: “Well I think it’s a splendid machine Stan! Er, how much do you want for it”?

Pte. Walker: (hastily) “Stan said you could have it for five quid Sergeant”! (winks at Stan)

Stan O’Blene: “That’s about it Sir! And I’ll throw in a spare wire for the electricity charger”!

Sgt Wilson: “Can I have a go first”?

Stan O’Blene: “Well of course! Just pedal as normal, then pull that switch there, (points) and you’ll start the engine! Goes like a dream! Not up to your Vincent speeds, but at least it costs nothing to run”!

(Wilson pedals off, flicks the switch, and the bicycle starts up. He vanishes into the High Street in a cloud of dust)

Pte. Walker: “Another satisfied customer Stan! We could sell a lot of these, you and me! Now, what about an engine on a bath chair for Dolly Godfrey”?





Sunday, 17 October 2010

Apodeictic dittography...


It's no use!

'Sergeant Wilson's motorbike' is taking much longer to write than I ever imagined!

I've had to scrub round the ecene in 'The Bells', where Captain Mainwaring has one over the eight, and sings 'Eskimo Nell' at the top of his voice, and upsets the Vicar.

Gone also is the bit where Private Pike experiences - er - feelings with the young blonde cashier at the bank, and has to go home early.

Scrapped - yes, SCRAPPED, is the hilarious scene where Hodges has to return to the hall to find his trousers!

It beggars belief that us case-hardened comedy writers (with a whole freshly edited blockbuster novel in the can; oven-ready for publication at the drop of a hat)*, can have so much on their plates that even the metaphors dry up!

I promise that it will be ready soon, and that's as good as a definite maybe isn't it?

*Morning Mr. Penguin! Any - er - news?

Saturday, 9 October 2010

Interjacent essay...


The intention was to write 'Sergeant Wilson's motorbike' (previous post), in two, or even more episodes, and run them consecutively. They would then culminate in the funniest, most ingenious ending you could ever read, which of course is a result that Scrobs always strives to do for his four readers!

Well, it hasn't been finished yet, because at the moment, Scrobs is bogged down with a few other things which seem to be taking up far too much time...

1) Ebay are offering a free weekend, and Mrs S has instructed me to get rid of (quite rightly as it happens) all my old Private Eye collection, because they smell, and also seem to be selling at around a quid each, and it takes ages getting the sale docs together...

2) I still have to work a full day, and some, to keep Scrobs Inc. striving for a payout in the middle future; we can't stop now, and we have got to recoup all the money squandered away by the ruinous nulabyrinthine 'Three Bs', (Blair, Brown and Balls)...

3) I still haven't cut the hedge...

4) We need to take out all the runner beans, tomatoes, cucumbers and courgettes, because they're almost finished...

5) I'm on tenterhooks, because (chuckles to self), I've just emailed a synopsis to Penguin Books, and, like about ten thousand other people who've written the one novel they all have in them, I'm expecting an email saying I'm going to have my name in lights and would I like as much money as J.K.Rowling...

6) There's a load of gardening to do at Mother-in-law's place...

7) We've just taken on an allotment and it already has a fine crop of three foot high couch grass, which seems to be getting sustenenance from the compost heaps of outer Sydney...

8) I've also got to write a post about Australia again, as there's been a fantastic development...

9) There's another post in the folder about 'Leicester story', which also threw up (not literally you understand), an interesting result...

10) I've almost finished automating my electric reciprocating saw, which is attached to a 'Workmate', (not Mrs S you understand) and is capable of cutting logs up to 5" thick...

11) We are spending ages picking the mushrooms at the Pinetum, because they are rife at the moment, and Mrs S has sprung a leak on her wellies which now need a patch...

So...

I'll be working on 'Sergeant Wilson's motorbike' during the early hours of each morning to ensure that the four readers can spend many hours in good humour, when it's eventually finished!

I just wanted to let you know this...

Sunday, 3 October 2010

Sgt. Wilson's motorbike (part one)...



Dad’s Army – Sergeant Wilson’s motorbike

Scene 1

(Walmington Home Guard (Vicar’s) Office. Captain Mainwaring is writing at his desk. He looks up at Sgt. Wilson.)

Capt. Mainwaring: “You feeling alright Wilson? You look distinctly pale! Anything wrong”?

Sgt. Wilson (mopping brow): “Yes I’m fine Sir, I really am - just a little - er - fraught at the moment”.

Capt. Mainwaring: (leaning back in his chair and fiddling with a pencil): “Oh? Really? Fraught? You can –er - tell me you know, I’m your friend and confidante as well as your commanding officer”!

Sgt. Wilson: “Yes I know Sir, that’s very good of you to enquire, but I assure you, I’ll be alright very soon”.

Capt. Mainwaring: (pausing, then leaning forward): “Wilson, I need you to help me run this Platoon. If you’re wandering around in a daze, it does nothing for the morale of the men, and I can’t have that”!

Sgt. Wilson: “Yes I know Sir - well - , there is something actually - er - don’t you know".

Capt. Mainwaring: (triumphantly) “I thought as much! I’m not an Officer and a bank manager for nothing you know! I earned these positions! (points to his right epaulette) Now come on, out with it; tell me what this is all about”!

Sgt. Wilson (resignedly and running fingers through his hair): “Well you see Sir, it’s like this - er - I’ve - er - lost my motorbike”!

Capt. Mainwaring: “Lost your motorbike? What on earth happened? There’s a war on, you can’t just lose a motorbike”!

Sgt. Wilson: (waving his arm) “Well it’s gone, and I don’t know where it is at all. It’s all very distressing”.

Capt. Mainwaring: “Well where did you lose it then? Outside the bank? In Eastbourne? Where man”!

Sgt. Wilson: “Well it’s all a little embarrassing Sir, because it was parked outside Frank Pike’s house”.

Capt. Mainwaring: (leaning back in his chair and looking slightly bemused): “Pike’s house? But why, he’s been away hasn’t he? I gave ‘C’ Section 48 hours leave! When did you lose it then”?

Sgt. Wilson: “Last Sunday, you gave us the weekend off, yes, and Private Sponge took over the watch at Beachy Head”.

Capt. Mainwaring: “But how long were you there; half an hour, an hour? Not long enough for a thief to call by is it”?

Sgt. Wilson: “Well it was a little longer than that Sir”!

Capt. Mainwaring: (pompously and losing his patience) “Wilson, as your Commanding Officer, I have to know! This is serious, and I don’t want the police coming round here asking questions! It might impinge on the bank, and there’d be hell to pay! How long were you there”?

Sgt. Wilson: “Well, it was actually all weekend Sir”! (looks away in embarrassment)

Capt. Mainwaring: “What; all Saturday and Sunday? For God’s sake man, what did you get up to for all that time?

Sgt. Wilson: “Well Mavis – Mrs Pike, needed some work done around the house. She needed an extra pair of hands, taking a few things down, and putting things – er - up, you know - and I – er - said I’d help out”.

Capt. Mainwaring: “Why couldn’t Pike do it then; he’s mended a few things at the bank, and knows a little about carpentry, well, what he learned at school that is – probably better at that than financial matters”.

Sgt. Wilson: “Well Sir, he wasn’t there was he; he was away at camp with the Scouts".

Capt. Mainwaring: (beginning to understand at last) “Oooooooh I see! Hmmm. Look Wilson, er - I’m a man of the world, but this has got to stop you know! We’re a finely honed fighting force, ready to take on Hitler’s hordes, and we can’t carry out our duties if half the platoon is – er - carrying on this way”!

Sgt. Wilson: “I know Sir, but Mrs Pike was desperate for someone to see to her curtain rails. The blackout curtains were only nailed up by Pike, and were letting in the light! Warden Hodges had been very rude and threatened her with arrest! He’s an awful man I know, but he was always looking for lights showing through. He spent a long time peering though the gaps with that awful grin of his! So, anyway, she asked me round to help”!

Capt. Mainwaring: “Well, it doesn’t take that long to fit a few curtains, let alone what else you got up to! And, oh my God, I’ve just realised; there’s another problem! Was your motorbike disabled while you were – er –er – putting things up inside her house”?

Sgt. Wilson: “No, I lost the ignition key years ago, so I use a paperclip”!

Capt. Mainwaring: (fuming) “A paperclip! This is disastrous Wilson! It could have been a Nazi spy poking around! HQ will ask questions and I won’t have any answers! You’ve done it this time man”!

Sgt Wilson: (fiddling with a piece of paper on the desk) “Yes Sir, I know, I’m terribly sorry Sir, it’s all very worrying”.

(there’s a knock on the door which opens and Cpl. Jones marches into the room and salutes into various directions, eventually facing Capt. Mainwaring. He salutes him twice, and then salutes Sgt. Wilson, does a complete turn, looks bewildered, starts for the door again, realises he’s facing the wrong way and returns to face Capt. Mainwaring).

Cpl. Jones “The men are fell in Sir and awaiting your countenance with expectancy”!

Capt. Mainwaring: “Yes thank you Corporal, return to the ranks and we’ll be out shortly”!

Cpl. Jones “Right Sir, thank you Sir”! (starts saluting everywhere again and eventually reaches the door, and goes out to the hall)

Capt. Mainwaring: (thoughtfully, after a long pause) “Listen Wilson, I’m going to stick my neck out for you”.

Sgt. Wilson: “Oh, that’s awfully kind of you Sir; what do you have in mind”?

Capt. Mainwaring: “I’m going to get the platoon out on patrol and look for it! Simple as that! What sort of motorbike is it”?

Sgt. Wilson: “It’s a BSA Sir. A lovely 500cc machine, I bought it from the Post Office Garage for £4.7s.6d before the war! It’s very fast. We drove at nearly fifty miles an hour on the Old Downs road near Eastbourne last summer”!

Capt. Mainwaring: (smugly) “Oh yes? Fancy yourself as a latter day Lawrence of Arabia don’t you? Tearing round the country at high speed, with hair blowing in the wind! You public school people are always trying to get one over us chaps who had it hard”!

Sgt. Wilson: “Oh come, come Sir, it’s only a motorbike, not a Rolls Royce; (regretfully) although my governess used to take me out in the family Rolls saloon on picnics when I was very small”!

Capt. Mainwaring: (wistfully and not listening, and fiddling with a pencil) “Elizabeth didn’t ever like riding on a motorbike you know. She was a skilled horsewoman when she was a young girl you see. She said that it was unnatural sitting astride something that throbbed like that”! (stares at nothing out of the window)

Sgt. Wilson: “Well I don’t want to cause any trouble you know Sir, but if anyone’s seen it, I’d like it back at some stage”.

Capt. Mainwaring: “Trust me Wilson, I’ll get to the bottom of this! Fall the men in”!

Scene 2

(The Drill Hall. The Platoon is standing at ease)

Sgt. Wilson: “Platoon! Platoon ‘shun! Bit quicker Jonesy, if you can”.

Capt. Mainwaring: “Now listen men, I have to report a very serious matter, which will need all our skills and local knowledge”!

Cpl. Jones: “Permission to speak Sir”!

Capt. Mainwaring: “Yes Jones, what is it”?

Cpl. Jones: “I would like to volunteer my skills, and local knowledge, for your serious matter Sir”!

Capt. Mainwaring: “But you don’t know what I want to ask yet Jones! This involves National Security! We may have to be asked to explain ourselves at High Command”!

Cpl. Jones: “Then I’d like to volunteer to not know what you need local skills and knowledge for Sir”!

Capt. Mainwaring: “Jones – er - just wait a moment will you, (aside) Wilson, I have to tell them a little more you know, just be prepared to answer – er – any questions as you see fit”!

Pte. Frazer “Permission to speak Sir, if it’s anything to do with the hearse being parked on the crossroads; that was my fault! It ran out of petrol and I’ve run out of coupons”!

Pte. Walker “I can let you have some Taffy! Cost you five bob, no questions asked".

Capt. Mainwaring: “Walker! Frazer! That’s enough! No, it’s not about that, although – er - parking has got something to do with it”! (Looks haughtily at Wilson, and sniffs) There you see Wilson, I knew I’d get the men round to the subject in hand pretty quickly, its leadership you know! (To all) Now listen men, I have a delicate matter to discuss with you, and it has to stay within these four walls. (everyone cranes to listen to the announcement) One of our essential pieces of fighting equipment has gone missing”.

Cpl. Jones: “Permission to speak Sir”!

Capt. Mainwaring: “Yes Jones, What is it”?

Cpl. Jones: “I’d like to volunteer to search for our missing vital, important and essential equipment Sir”!

Capt. Mainwaring: “Yes thank you Jones, we may need your van at some stage, but everyone must take this information very seriously. Now gather round please, we don’t want Hodges or any of the Vicar’s staff listening in”.

(everyone crowds round Capt. Mainwaring and he emerges with glasses askew and in general disarray).

Cpl. Jones: (from the bottom of the scrum) “The men are gathered round in secret Sir”!

Capt. Mainwaring: “Yes I’d noticed Jones! Now men, (quietly) Sergeant Wilson has had his motorbike stolen”!

(There is an embarrassed hush, followed by a few of the platoon muttering and looking at each other with questioning faces).

Pte. Frazer “Well Sir, so what”?

Capt. Mainwaring: “So What Frazer? This is a huge problem for us all! These vehicles are a major part of our armoury, and we are responsible for everything within our control, which can be used in the event of invasion”!

Pte. Pike “Is that the motorbike that you and Mum ride about on Uncle Arthur”?

Sgt. Wilson: “Yes it is Frank, have you seen it”?

Pte. Pike “No, but when you come round for your tea, Mum always asks me to put it round the back, so it won’t get seen”!

Sgt. Wilson: (hastily) “Yes Frank but this time it was out on the road”!

Pte. Pike “But I didn’t see it, did you see it Mr Godfrey”?

Capt. Mainwaring: “Er – Pike, just be told that it was near your house when it went missing”!

Pte. Godfrey “My sister Dolly used to have a motorbike with a sidecar. It was Rudge Sports. She called it Boadicea, and we used to keep a posy of wild flowers in a little metal cup attached to the sidecar’s windscreen”.

Cpl. Jones “When we were in the Sudan, we used to have despatch riders on Royal Enfields. And one day, one appeared on the horizon in a cloud of dust, and we could see him from about three miles away! And we saw him getting closer and closer, and all the time, the dust cloud was getting bigger and bigger, until just a few yards away from us, he vanished from sight”!

Pte. Walker “What happened then Jonesy”?

Cpl. Jones “He drove straight into our trench and killed himself”!

...to be continued.

Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Red Ed - a chemical analysis...


Red Ediesel fuel is only slightly different chemically from regular automotive diesel fuel, but there can be a significant difference in cost. The cheaper Red Ediesel fuel could conceivably work in place of the more expensive automotive diesel fuel, but that would defeat the purpose of a fuel tax. In order to ensure that home heating oil, which is minimally taxed, is not used as diesel fuel, which can be heavily taxed, revenue agents require home heating oil to receive a special red dye. This liquid red dye can be detected in even the smallest samples taken for examination.

Using Red Ediesel for reasons other than home heating is generally considered a criminal act, since the buyer did not pay the proper tax for regular diesel fuel. If there is reasonable cause to inspect a vehicle's fuel tank or storage tank, inspectors can quickly and conclusively identify the presence of red diesel and take appropriate action against the offender. Without the creation of red diesel, it would take a trained chemist to differentiate between home heating oil and automotive diesel fuel.

Different countries use different solvent dyes to create their Red E-diesel, but the purpose is generally the same. The dye has no negative effects on the fuel itself, but it does allow revenue agents to determine at a glance if a violation has occurred.

Hat tip: http://www.wisegeek.com/what-is-red-diesel.htm

Saturday, 25 September 2010

Leicester story...


There have only been a few times in my short life when Leicester has been a place I really thought about. This is definitely not knocking the place, quite the opposite actually, but when you've spent your formative years in the South, and a few in South Wales, it seems that anywhere further North will crop up one day, but it's not actually pencilled in the diary yet...

1) My flatmate went there in 1969 for an appointment to sell plywood cases to a funeral business.
2) I met Peter Wheeler at a rugby club dinner in 1988.
3) I also have a good business chum who was a stalwart of the 'Tigers'.
4) I was at school with a chum named Taylor, and he came from Leicester.

Er... that's about it - until last week.

As the three people who read this know, I'm an inveterate recaller of useless things, rather like all the characters in 'Last of the summer wine' but not actually finishing up in the river with shrieks and hoots of laughter as the music squeaks and bangs onto the next programme.

Since the nineteen sixties, I've had a song in my ol' grey head which I've never been able to find again. The bass line - even now, was repetitive, and bound to stick in the mind, as it has done for all those years. I still find my self humming it!

I was convinced Youtube would come up trumps, but nooooo. Even Itunes - your kidding aren't you... (you couldn't even get 'The Wall', by Pink Floyd until only recently), said 'no cigar'. And Google failed me for ages, until that is, I spelt the name of the band differently. You see, the song was a 'Fab Forty' hit on Radio London, and Tony Blackburn, Dave Cash, John Peel et al, were knocking these songs out with a lot of fun. 'Big L' really was required listening back then, unless you wanted to listen to David Jacobs and Pete Murray...

'And I cry', by 'The Four Sights', (I was searching for 'The Forsytes') as I've just been finding out, was actually up there with the rest of the big names back then, and the song was very popular on the pirate stations, as well as, presumably, in the clubs and pubs of Leicester! The band members were obviously well-established accomplished musicians and it was a good sound, and, although one member seems to have departed this mortal coil, the others should well be hale and hearty, although, like me, in their sixth decade and feeling the aches and pains more than somewhat.

The big search found this man - Lyn Nuttall, from Queensland, Australia, who has a website which seems to cover just about every piece of music ever performed! All I did was vaguely mention to him that I'd found a picture of a demo disc of the song, and he came back immediately with so much information, that it took me an hour to figure it all out! Thank you so much 'Young Man', your archive is incredible!

I won't steal Lyn's thunder from his side of the story, (he knows an awful lot more detail), but in the link here, you'll see so much about the band members, and a lot more besides!

What is so good, is that if you click on the MP3 link, you'll understand why Scrobs is wandering about with a huge smile on his face...

Hat Tip - Mr Nuttall, Australian Extraordinaire! and also, if he has a few minutes to flick back a couple of posts to the Rock Robin post, I hope he'll see how much this all means to a greyish guy in Kent, wondering what to search for next...

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Sounds about right to me...


Let's put the Seniors in jail (if they want to go that is), and the criminals in a nursing home, (whether they want to go or not).

This way the Seniors would have access to showers, hobbies and walks, they'd receive unlimited free prescriptions, dental and medical treatment, wheel chairs, etc. They would have constant video monitoring, so they could be helped instantly if they fell over or needed assistance.

Bedding would be washed twice a week and all clothing would be ironed and returned to them, and a guard/orderly would check on them every half hour or so and bring their meals and snacks to their cell/room.

They would have family visits in a suite built for that purpose. They would have access to a library, excercise room, spiritual help if they want it, a swimming pool and enlightening education. They'd be given free simple, comfortable clothes, and legal aid would be free, on request. Private, secure rooms would be designed for all, with an exercise outdoor yard and gardens - including a kitchen garden for those who still yearn for the good life...

Each senior could have a computer, TV, Radio, and daily phone calls. There would be a board of directors, to hear complaints, and the guards/nurses would have a code of conduct, that would be strictly adhered to.

The criminals on the other hand, would get cold food, be left all alone and unsupervised, and unwanted. They'd have their lights turned off at 8pm, and a bath once a week. They'd live in a tiny room for the rest of their lives, and have no hope of ever getting out.

And they'd have to pay £5,000.00 per month for the privilege.

Saturday, 18 September 2010

Finland...

While casually strolling around the verdant shores of our favourite place last week, we followed the gravel path across the end on Marshal’s Lake, close to where the old oak tree came down in the recent high winds, and crossed the bridge.

The footbridge is a fairly modern timber structure, and we usually spot various fish cavorting around in the lake, so much so that the three largest subjects all have names now - Finley, Finwe, and Fingle.



The first photo shows just Finwe and Fingle, with all their resplendent colours, reaching up to take the morsel of bread from Mrs. S, who had prepared a whole bag for the very purpose. They often grunt with delight and slurp a fair bit, especially if there is a bit of garlic butter around!



The second picture is of Finley, who is a right show-off, and can do circles at the drop of a hat! He continually splashes the water with his huge tail, reputedly the biggest thrasher in the locality, and the apple of every angler’s eye! He is about three feet long, and has huge metallic spines arrayed along his back, culminating in a glittering razor sharp dorsal fin about ten inches high. He has a Doctorate in applied ballistics.



This third shot shows Fingle escaping the clutches of Finwe, and if you look closely, you can make out the irridescent green and purple colours on his back! He really is a splendid fish, about 72” long, and with barbs the size of industrial files! He can swim the length of the lake in about seven seconds, which equates to a measured mile at about 77 mph, and the bow wave he creates has been known to sink a small craft containing several Norwegian children with their interpreter. He has also caused an old lady to have a fainting fit right where we were standing! There is a plaque to commemorate the bravery of her colleague, a certain Gilbert Mollusc, who administered first aid in the form of a back-hander and a short-arm kidney punch, which soon stopped the bloody racket when she’d woken up…



The next shot is a wanton display of arrogant fish sexuality. Fingle has always had designs on Finwe, who, at seven feet long, can handle most advances with aplomb. Fingle, weighing in at seventeen stone, once appeared as a centerfold in ‘Male Scale’, a local anglers’ fantasy compendium, as the ugliest and dirtiest fighter in Kent! Finwe has a cousin who works in the aquarium in Ann Summers, and knows a thing or two about pestering fish! She’s just about to give him both barrels of a 12-Bore Over & Under Purdey Game Gun, concealed under her scrackle fin, (itself a formidable addition to her armoury, especially when she’s been on the Glenbastard 25 year old)! She has loaded the gun and is just about to aim at his grundular orifice!



This shot is of Finley again, in the process of donning the uniform of a German Naval Commander after a hard night in the fillet pots of Tunbridge Wells, and plucking up a pair of Minox HG 8x56 BR binoculars from his cabin trunk to scan the lake. He is the senior officer at the atomic submarine pens at the northern end of the lake, and has a reputation in the eyes of the stronger females in the district, namely ‘Titanic’ Turbotess, and ‘Great Eastern’ Skatess. Both of these – er – ladies are of easy virtue, and well known to anyone blessed with a torpedo that big! He also drives an early Mercedes, once owned by the German Chancellor! If you look closely, you can just see the duelling scars near his bulbulent nolstrellides!



The final picture shows the three fish, devouring the remains of a Friesian cow, (Mildred), which fell in yesterday, after an altercation with the local hooligan ‘Carp’ gang! They actually crossed three main roads and a cornfield (by tractor of course), to reach the unfortunate animal, but Finwe is a dab hand at the skillet, and serves up most bovine dishes with a rich gravy and three sorts of vegetables in season! She often shops at Sainsbury’s for delicacies to help Fingle in his aspirations to own a BMW 7 series and have an Iphone for each barb! He also wants to appear on the X Factor, but needs more practice some say! Finley has just opened an account at Coutts, and has three Isas.

You can tell from this that we don't stay long on the bridge, it tends to wobble when the last of the crumbs are eaten, and we continue on our stroll with JRT running in circles, happily yapping at anyone who will listen.

Life can be perfect in its own way can't it!

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Soldier's shillings...

A chum sent me this today, and having just heard that if you signed up for active service in the TA, and went over there and got killed, your family's pension entitlement would be peanuts compared to that allowed to a regular, I think this displays a similar blind uncaring organisation which needs to be taken down a few pegs.

Imagine the outcry if MPs started their non-jobs on the same basis; they'd be squealing all the way to Brussels, whimpering 'sorry...'.

The link's at the bottom.

Early Day Motion [EDM 1053]
Rank and Pension of Soldiers Killed on Active Service


‘That this House, convinced that the courage and devotion to duty of members of the British Armed Forces who are killed while on active service for their country should be recognised and rewarded in every possible way, particularly by the pensions and help given to the families they leave behind , recommends that the Ministry of Defence’s rule providing that pensions on promotion are payable only after the role for the new rank has been held for a year should be revoked for those killed in the service of their country so that their families are paid the rate appropriate to the rank held at the time of death; and considers that the family of Sergeant Matthew Telford of Grimsby, promoted to the rank in June 2009 but killed by an assassin in Afghanistan in November of that year, along with Guardsman Jimmy Major of Cleethorpes and three other soldiers, should be paid the full pension appropriate to the rank he was proud to honour at the time of his death’.

http://soldiers-pensions.co.uk/?q=petition

Thursday, 9 September 2010

Grot...tal...stops...


Declan Kelly was the worst when he did the business slot on the Beeb at breakfast time. Now Sinome has started doing it!

Why on earth do announcers, journalists, presenters and commentators have to deliver their reports like a machine gun?

Good announcers can nearly get away with it, by putting in some inflection to each 'glot', but the worst offenders are almost unintelligible, with long periods between each syllable, some so long that I forget what they were saying half-way through the word they're stuttering! On one occasion, I went out, poured a G and T, savaged a packet of crisps and watched 'Ben Hur', (including the longer version of the chariot race) in the time it took some squeaking little sports boy to grottal a word which had nearly six syllables!

And while we're at it, 'The Turrets' now operates the 'Three yoblings and you're switched off' rule, to any one who says 'You know'. So that kicks any football-related television, (reporters, and definitely players and 'managers'). That way, we also manage to keep pretty well clear of most pop music and film presenters, so life isn't all bad is it!

'Nah meen'...?

UPDATE...

My business partner has pointed out the true description of 'Glottal stops', and over a lengthy call (Skype thank goodness), he explained the way they work. I have to confess that I thought that the delivery of rapid fire syllables, with equal time spaces between each one were the main example, but now hold my hand up and surrender to more knowledgeable beings!

He also pointed out a hilarious example of this recent trend towards upward inflection at the end of a sentence, which also drives me mad. He called it the 'Moronic Interrogative', and from now on, our meanderings over Skype will never be quite the same...

Saturday, 28 August 2010

Rock Robin...



I've only ever driven a Reliant Robin once. It was round about 1966, and the little car was owned by a chum who's dad owned a garage near Hastings. Generous (and actually a great chap to boot), dad had bought him one when he'd just turned seventeen. You could apparently drive one on a provisional licence, with passengers, back in those heady days.

It was bright blue, had a straight through exhaust, (very rorty that...), and had a clutch which required you to start off in third gear, otherwise it leap-frogged for about 100 yards and seriously hurt various passengers who were trying to light a Gold Leaf in the back. Meccano Sagtrouser would have been mortified, but there again, Old Elias always said he was a bit of a dreamer...

Reading this article, reminded me of a time a few years later, when I lived on the extreme west boundary of Chelsea, (opposite 'Nick's Diner' in Ifield Road, for anyone who knows the area well, and is as old as me), and one of the Aussies, who stayed for more than 24 hours, was in advertising.

Roger G. worked for one of the most prestigious firms around then, Bloxhams, and ran the Reliant account. Rog was the other party in Scrobs passim accounts of friendly Aussies coming over and using our flat as a stop-over and also a place where they could re-light their connections with most of the girls who also arrived about the same time. There were regular trips to Tamworth, and he could do these in about the same time as the average sports car back then.

We often cruised down Kings Road, parking near 'The Essoldo', or outside 'The Great American Disaster', and looking around for all the admiring gazes. Three wheelers of this ilk were definitely OK back then! You got in the car by lifting the whole roof up and forward, and the seats had no adjustment, so that was that as far as comfort was concerned. Acceleration was pretty brisk, and the local Mini Cooper S brigade had some soul-searching to do when 'Sod' sailed into view...

The square back of the car had a logo which I'll never forget: -
'Bloxhams' Executive Jet'!

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Gilead, Gilead, oh, oh, oh...


Many years ago, in the clubhouse of an unidentified rugby club, (Hastings and Bexhill RFC), Scrobs was enjoying a very special Easter evening with his chums and also the touring side from South Wales.

It was Easter, 1976, and Mrs S. was inhabiting the local maternity hospital, to produce Younger Daught, and Elder Daught was safe in the arms of her Grandparents, and none of them wanted to be disturbed.

So I headed for the club, where I had played many a game with good friends, good company, and awful beer. It was nearly about the time for me to retire from the game, but the original teams with many friends were still playing, and this Easter Tour was one to remember, or try to remember after so much fun, sport, shenanigans and laughter.

The vistors were from Caerleon College, Newport, and as I had spent many formative years near the valleys, there was some mutual interest, and much cameraderie, not to say some racial banter and a few clops on the field, but, off the field, we all formed one of the friendliest, jolliest, and heart-warming gatherings ever imagined, as was usually the case with club rugby back then.

We all went through our repertoire, (we had a concert pianist as Captain and he was ace at everything we needed to sing), and the Caerleon boys performed their list of songs which was incredibly well sung, sometimes very funny, and on one particular aria, downright moving. Some of the Max Boyce songs still echo as well...

There was one particular song I can still recall them singing in perfect harmony, it was beautiful, and serious as well, but all I can remember of this song is five words: -

"Gilead, Gilead, oh, oh, oh..."

I've tried all sorts of searching on the net, and the closest is this lovely piece. The Morriston Choir do it full justice.

But nowhere is the 'Oh oh oh' bit, and either my ears deceived me several times (which they often could do on about eight pints of the Club's PBA beer, costing 11p per pint; in fact the eyes also went a bit awry, as did most other parts of this man's body for that matter), or the great guys of Caerleon made up their own version, which is an explanation I'd rather like to believe...

Thursday, 19 August 2010

Cool...


Some time ago, I posted a lament on how I was being attacked by MS Outlook on my PC. It was really getting up my nose, and was taking ages to respond to anything except a clenched fist, after which the whole machine went into a terminal sulk, and I had to reinstall Windows.

I also mentioned how electricity has an unusual effect on me with the few words: - "Oh and also I'm buggered if I can work out why the bottom of our frost-free freezer accumulates ice quicker that the Great Scandinavian Glacier. In fact, it may not be long before the whole of the Turrets will be encased in a bloody great blue ice cube, eventually sliding downhill and probably reaching Bodiam Castle by 2015!"

Well, it damn well nearly happened a few days ago. Our freezer is supposed to be frost free, which means that it defrosts itself and drains any water out the back.

Well it doesn't. The warranty had long run out, and we were left with a piece of kit which feebly cooled the coldest of frozen food, ice cream etc, and used to make sudden cracking noises exactly like an iceberg would do just before it breaks away from the mainland and obscures shipping, seals and penguins etc., from the telescopes of the Globule Worming brigade.

So, out with the special socket spanner attachment (actually used to lock the windows to keep marauders out), and after several 'buggers' and a large 'sod it', away we went into the ice cavern.

We were in there some cosiderable time.

Inside was the biggest piece of ice I've ever seen out of a television programme about The Arctic! No wonder Norway groans (Nil Points), because this stuff is evil! It was at least three inches thick, and wound round every crevice, wire, bracket and panel, and the drawers were struggling to stay on track! It took me three hours with Mrs S's industrial hairdryer to melt it all, and there was water all over the place.

And why? Because the manufacturers had left out the tiny plastic insert which leads the melting water out to the back of the thing! It only took about a minute to make a new one.

But at last we can now sit back, knowing that we won't get scared out of our skin at the rifle shots of cracking ice, that the icecream actually needs an icepick, and that all the broad beans Mrs S is collecting will be nice and hard for when winter makes one yearn for the balmy days of Summer!

And the paradox is that I'm saving carbon miles by freezing our own stuff, spending them by using a hairdryer for three hours, saving them by negating food miles because we keep all manner of small creations there, and spending them again by telling everyone that frost-free freezers don't always do what they say on the label...

Thursday, 12 August 2010

Marmite - an enquiry into the delicacy...


As the Speaker's wife has decided that she's a Marmite person, I assume she means that she's an acquired taste - loved by some, loathed by the rest. (Isn't a 'Bercow' some sort of statuesque ladies foundation garment or something...?)

What I want to know though, is why has Marmite become so runny?

When I was a Scroblet in the years after WW2, I could generally cope with Marmite, it could burn the top of your mouth and probably was fed it because somehow it was nearly a staple then, and acceptable at any table. However, I can easily remember that when I stuck my knife into the pot, to scoop out a dollop to spread it on the bread, it would leave a sharp indentation on the surface, which would last until the next teatime, and also leave my slice of bread (sometimes cut by my dear Aunt Con, who always liked it 'stale', and would hold the loaf under her arm to slice same), in tatters with crumbs all over the table and shrieks of indignation from yours truly!

Marmite wasn't runny then!

ED was a Marmite Baby, but YD took the title with Oak Leaves, and could put a couple of points on Unilever's share price most afternoons, just before Blue Peter! Mrs S still lives on Marmite, and, after a ten year dalliance with Vegemite, I'm back on the British brown stuff with a vengeance. I even saw a limited edition 'aged' version in Tesco recently!

But, why is today's Marmite so runny?

I think Bill Bryson referred to it as 'a brown substance or paste much loved by the British', or similar. And I suppose it is really. For that matter, I never understood the appeal of corn syrup, or bagels back then, but when we were in the US last, their breakfasts in dedicated restaurants beat anything stewed up by Little Chef into a cocked crash helmet! So at least Bill B. didn't lose the attention of half the poulation, and get bashed up by the rest of us!

So the runny Marmite question still needs to be resolved!

We've tried the squeezy plastic pots, and they gum up pretty damn quick, so we're back on the jars. We've yet to try the Marmite Oat Biccies as well. But we're totally addicted to Marmite on Multi-grain Ryvita! Mrs S would kill for the same every day, and would commit a huge felony if it was ever unavailable. She is unable to shed any light on the subject, and what's worse, I'm also in a quandary, because I immediately think that it has been diluted in some way...

And that's not British is it!

Friday, 6 August 2010

Pills for all ills...



When 'Victorian Farm' was on the box, Mrs S and I immediately became addicts! We were glued to the screen at every calf born, pint brewed, field mown, and were as sad and miserable as the cast when it all folded up. Mrs S actually had to manhandle me away from watching the series for the third time, (which was actually an interesting, and enlightening experience - the manhandling that is, not missing the programme you understand...)!

So when 'Victorian Pharmacy', with the lovely Ruth Goodman in charge, was starting, we stopped the clocks, turned out the lights and silenced JRT with a juicy bone.

That was until it got into full swing. We keep going to sleep! The last one was a record as I'd started snoring by 10 past 9, and Mrs S followed soon afterwards!

It is so boring, and as John Crace says in The Grauniad, "So what we got was Victorian Pharmacy With 21st Century Health and Safety Regulations, which rather undermined the whole point of the programme."!

Not far from here, about 100 years ago, there was a Chemist just like the one they use at Blists Hill, and I have an advert which shows that he sold the following potentially dubious potions: -

Pridgeon's Moelline for the hair, Superior Old Lavender Water, Anti-tic Pills, drops for Deafness, Gout Pills, Chilblain lotion, and also a stock of other lozenges including Ipecacuanha, Tolu, Paregoric, Glycerine Jujubes, Pulmonic Wafers, etc etc...

He presumably died a happy man, and his shop is now a couple of private houses, and, judging by the average age of the inhabitants of the boneyard close by, he did a pretty good job back then!

But now we have NICE, and Elfun Saferty Brigade, Brussels rules and the Common Market (What? Ed.), and the remnants of a struggling NHS, totally mishandled by the last Labour bunch of misfits, (latterly run by an ex-work study gap year student, now after the leader's job for God's sake), and loads of foreign companies making squillions from people being ill.

Whether any of the above worry about their 'customers' getting better, presumably is not their problem. The NHS frontline staff do, but that's because they know what they're doing.

We've come a long way since chemists sold 'Woolley's Pectoral Candy', and 'Dr. Stolberg's Voice Lozenges', but don't hold your breath, as you may well need a course of 'Brown's Bronchial Trooches'.

Oh bugger; not that bloody man again...