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Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Tightening the nuts

I've always seen engineering as reversing entropy. Putting some order to chaos. Over the years as a draughtsman, I've brought chilled air to giant overheating mainframe computers; storage tanks to prevent all Belgium being flooded inch deep in pig shyte; elevating booms for hanging the tangle of Blackpool illuminations; tankers for shipping thirty thousand litres of lard, Marmite, molten chocolate or boiling sulphur around the country without spilling a drop.

Thankless task. 100,000 lines in the right place count for nothing against that one misplaced hole that someone has to drill.

Instruction and service manuals to help the nervous operator, and confused engineer, make sense of their new machine; install it, use it, adjust, service and repair it. Pick the right part from exploded views, find the fault via spidery electrical drawings.

Thankless task. A million words correct, one dyslexic number and Canada gets a fuse instead of a relay.

Can't help myself, this fighting chaos spills over. To help straighten things up and oil the wheels for friends. And yet all the while skirting around my own need to fix it now problems until they become unavoidable.

Ran out of petrol rushing to Alice's school concert yesterday. Idiot. You meet the nicest people though, thumbing with a petrol can. Arrived in time to catch her singing and playing guitar. Lovely. Sat with a prim old lady from the village at the back of the church. Friend of Kate's from WI, and various local committees. Suddenly she turned to me and said "Are you finding this Christmas harder than last year?". I'd forgotten she lost her husband last year too. Guess she's right - last years numb, frantic autopilot replaced by confidence crushing self doubt. Losing time hand over fist. Getting nowhere fast.

Where's the effin' manual for Christmas?

Last year I lost the one who checked my work. De-cluttered my mind, straightened things out and ordered our world. I feel lucky to have found that certain someone again to hold spanner to bolt whilst I tighten the loose nuts of life. Some would say I'm still unhinged though...


Ho, ho, bloody ho.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Each day nearer

Weekend of getting closer. Closer to the ones I love. Good thing. Closer to Christmas - oooh! Really bad!

Engine in, out and in again this time with a flywheel attached on the Model T special. Languishing in the garage since it disgraced itself by slip, slip, slipping it's clutch and throwing all it's fluids out in a hissy fit. Helped by Mark, Andy, and Miranda - all hell to pay if I'd chipped those nails!

Last minute dash to Bury - meal out with my sister and friends. Jen and I sandwiched between Mad Janice and her date for the evening. A huge scruffy light blue stuffed rabbit that once haunted my sister's bedroom. Harvey no doubt.

Food was, well. OK.
Company was better...
Constant room wide birthday greetings were - teeth gratingly annoying!

Sunday morning collecting my Brownie from her sleepover. Went home to put up the decorations and tidy the house but somehow ended up back in the garage. Still no tree. Helpful dad felled a sparse spruce monster which wouldn't fit the Sedan in any way. Half a dozen branches and ten feet tall.

And off in the bracing mid-afternoon to play a gig at the Banham Barrel. Quite a number of folks swapped whatever their plans should have been, to come see us play. Or sit in the comfy sofas and drink real ales in the warm. My whole extended family grown by one. A long tall Alex, that Char sucked a bit of face with, whilst the boys played chess and Alice stacked draughts in dangerously close piles to their game. No doubt looking for a "wasn't me" fight...

Didn't want to leave. Enjoyed the band playing, although minus part-time Dan, and didn't want it to end. Always leave yourself wanting more? From that kind of a high; back to the reality of a freezing, no-fire, un-christmas-decoration-y, no tea cooked, house. Bump. Really felt like I was letting the kids - and Kate - down. Woosh. Where did that come from? Fire lit, cheese and potato pie, beans and some boiled veggies, no secret ingredients, and the Archer's Omnibus on Listen Again breaks me back to life. Hmmm - made some more mince pies. That's better!

Enjoying it y'all. Merriment still t'come!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Minus four, chug-a-boom, chug-a-boom

Due entirely to being hopeless, the ol' Fordor Cee-dan remains my sole means of transport. It's making her weary and I feel for her.

Hey ho. Temperatures have sunk and the faded golden browns I'd been loving - all crispy white. Minus four - glad I brought the geraniums in. Puddled road outside the house, treacherous ice built on ice. Scrape the frost from the windows, one through eight. And again on the inside. Four kid school run, and they breathe a fresh layer of ice on the inside. Even the mirror...

Once again windows scraped, I gingerly set off with the low sun making a half-hearted attempt at keeping the view clear. Diffusing through the glass in a blinding glow. Chug-a-boom, chug-a-boom. No rush, taking my time on the crunchy roads and watching out for ice rinks formed by splashed through puddles. Plenty of them too, from all the recent rains.

Homeward bound on still slippery roads. Chug-a-boom, chug-a-boom. Low diamond white mists beginning to smother the fields where the feeble winter sun failed to win against the day long frost.

Fires lit, tea cooked (hidden ingredient - organic cider - in a peanut chilli), out to see serious Alice at her school play. Back home in a festive mood to a warm house. Kids hanging decorations with a quarrel whilst I make some roly poly mince pies. Hidden ingredient? Thick cut orange marmalade. Lovely. And like the weather, I don't think they'll last long...

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Lights to ON!

Rush rush, run around. Here and there.
Late night shopping sans smalls. Lovely evening just Jen and I, having a giggle, heavy bag laden down. Weary, smiling, last bus and a takeaway to home is where the heart is...

An evening of beers and ciders with some old friends, breakfast and a haircut with another. A day tinkering in the garage whilst the rain fell. What could be better?

Well - more shopping obviously. Hitting all the cheapie shops for silly fun stuff. Me and Jen, still giggling. This time with Alice and Char along to pick out the glittery and furry bargains. Showered with confetti from broken cannons. In a shop called "99p or Less" what more can you wish for?! Spent plenty till we could carry no more.

And once again to home, picked out with the flashing bulbs I hastily hung this morning. Feels like Christmas is rushing up on me again. Happy to let it...

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Flathead Fever

The car that mobilized the U.S of A was the Model T. Fact. At one time, every other vehicle on the road was a Ford. By the end of the twenties that lead had slipped and Henry's Lady - the Model A - did little to halt the slide to Chevrolet with their Stovebolt Six.

So in 1932 Henry tried to shake the world from it's depression with the Flathead V8. The cheapest V8 ever produced. Two more cylinders than Chevy's six.

It boiled. It cracked. But it went, and went well. Smooth running, beautiful sound. Bonnie and Clyde's favourite car to steal.
From 1932 to 1953, Ford churned out this cast iron monobloc sidevalve and threw it into everything. Cars, vans, trucks. They sold it as an industrial engine where it ended up in generators, water pumps, forklifts. The flathead went to war where it sat sizzling in the belly of bren gun carriers.

Hot rodders grew to love it when they didn't hate it for it's idiosyncratic ways. Modified it till it burst at the seams. Fixed the seams and went at it some more. Fitted superchargers, multiple carbs, high compression heads, and filled it full of exotic alcohols in search of a bigger bang.

And then, almost overnight the Flathead became obsolete. Overhead valves by Cadillac, Oldsmobile, Chevrolet - even Ford themselves.

Except. In some strange twist of fate, the Flathead lived on. Ford sold their French factory to Simca who carried on producing it. And supplying it. NATO bought Marmon trucks fitted with a new improved version of this ancient 8. Which guaranteed it's prodution until the early 1990's.

A little history of a quarter ton of cast iron. Nestled in the confines of my garage there's a few of 'em including a couple of French ones. After draining three pints of water from the sump on the old 21 stud in my T Modified, it's time to wrestle another in it's place...