Archive for March, 2011
I have received a mail from purecontent.com. They apparently are not impressed with the quality of the content on this site and have made me the following offer:
We would like to offer you some free of charge, unique content in the
form of a guest post written specifically for your site. This is a
genuine offer that could help both our sites, so if you are
interested, please read on . . .
We have a team of experienced copywriters with a breadth of specialist
knowledge on a diverse range of subjects, ensuring we are well
informed to cover any topic.
The article can be on a subject of your choice. Once you have chosen a
topic, we commission our team of writers to write a bespoke post
directly related to your site/ blog that will be back to you within
two weeks, free of charge and guaranteed to be unique and not
published anywhere else on the internet.
You will have complete editorial control with no requirement to
publish the content on your site unless you are entirely happy with
All we ask is that you allow us to include a text link to one of our
websites in or under the body of the text. This is how we would
This is too good an offer to miss; and all I have to do is provide them with a topic. This is where you come in. Let’s have some ideas for suitably ridiculous topics; one of which I will send back to them as a subject for the guest blog post. Some examples to get you going:
The recreational opportunities for colostomy bags
The impact of the Boer war on current Arab/Israeli relations.
There is apparently more than one way to skin a cat. Discuss the options (illustrations encouraged).
Genuinej; man or myth?
I believe it was Oscar Wilde that said “a gentleman should have a story about a gearbox, a lady should be unaware of the existence of such things”. Being a gentleman, I have such a story; but I have already told it; so my offer to clear the air after the previous rather unsettling post, with a rambling tale about cogs will have to be rescinded. But the gearbox story reminded me of my car building days; so that will have to do in an attempt to clear the air of any whiff of femininity.
My performance car owning enterprises have followed the well-known cycle: death of a relative- fast road car- racing car – financial ruin. The first cycle started in my late teens. While other boys were sticking photos of suspiciously buxom women into suspiciously sticky scrapbooks; my scrapbook contained nothing but glue and press cuttings about the Lotus 7. It was the car of my dreams and would always remain a dream because the price of ownership was five times my annual salary, and I expected that nobody would be prepared to give me a mortgage. Then my great aunt died.
Her name was Helen and was, according to the rest of the family, a total bitch. I rarely met her because my parents refused to visit. The feelings of hatred were obviously mutual because when Helen died she excluded her immediate family and left all her cash to the children of the families she hated so much. This was an excellent plan because I was one of the beneficiaries. Unfortunately I would not be allowed to benefit until I was twenty one; which gave me time to think about what to do with the money. “Save up for when you meet a nice girl and want to buy a house” was my mother’s advice. “Enjoy yourself while you are young” was my father’s offering; while both of them silently wished they had been nicer to aunt Helen. I never normally listened to my father; but as I was rather hoping to meet a girl who wasn’t nice, I decided to follow his direction. Which is why, two weeks after my twenty first birthday, a van from the Team Lotus factory emptied a Lotus 7 in component form onto the driveway.
The component form status was just a ruse to avoid purchase tax. To ensure no tax would be paid, Lotus were not allowed to provide construction instructions. So instead they provided a smartly bound manual containing details on how to disassemble the car. “Just read it from the back”, said the delivery driver with a wink; so I did and the Lotus was on the road after a weekend of relaxed building.
There then followed a couple of years of motoring bliss, punctuated by a period where the car was stripped back to the frame by a friend and rebuilt with new suspension in preparation for competition. But I found the car hard to drive at the limit, and then Helen’s cash pile ran out (insuring a Lotus 7 as a first car when aged 21 was much more expensive than I had anticipated). So I sold the Lotus, went shares in a racing car, crashed that, and retired. My fast car days were over until another relative saw fit to die and leave me a little something.
Fast-forward ten years and my granny did just that. She seemed to get on with everyone so my share of the pile was not that impressive; but it was enough to purchase a kit car called a Dutton Phaeton which was a cheap knockoff of the Lotus 7. “Any competent enthusiast can build one in a weekend” screamed the publicity brochure. I may not have been entirely competent; but I was enthusiastic; so let’s spin it out over two weekends. I ordered one, little realising it would be more six months before it was complete.
I hired a van and picked it up from a factory (a shack on an industrial estate in a town that time forgot). The inventory for the van load was depressingly small. There was a chassis made of what looked like heavy scaffolding, a rear body panel and a bonnet, both made of fibreglass, a Dutton badge to stick on the bonnet, and a nut and bolt, the purpose of which I never discovered. The instructions left much to the imagination. “Fit Triumph front suspension, fit Ford read suspension”. It was going to be a long weekend.
Unlike the Lotus, which was a complete car in component form, the Dutton was a chassis onto which you attached anything that looked like it might fit. And if it didn’t fit, you wielded a hammer until it did. But first you had to source the parts.
My Sunday mornings took on a familiar ritual. A trip to to scrapyard outside Aberdeen to find parts of dead cars that might be utilised in the build; then returning home covered in dirt and oil, bearing assorted junk which was similarly covered. The week was then spent cleaning the junk to discover whether useable parts lay inside. Sometimes it was cheaper and easier to buy an entire scrap car so as to dissect it at leisure at home; so the yard in front of the house soon resembled a scene from Max Max.
Gradually, the beast began to take shape. Front suspension from a Triumph Herald, rear suspension from a Ford Cortina, brand new tuned rally engine from a firm in Bolton. There were complications. The wiring took a month, the exhaust system took for ever, and making up a pedal box needed some engineering skills I did not possess. Enter Wonder Engineer.
Barry lived in the basement of our office block. From his hideaway he would direct the movements of a fleet of ships that supported our offshore operations. He was overweight, had round glasses, sported a pipe for effect, and pronounced himself to be a marine engineer. The last word did it for me and he was invited round to inspect my workmanship.
As people kick tyres in car showrooms, Barry kicked my car; but not just the tyres, all of it. As vital parts broke off and ricocheted around the garage; he sneered at my lack of workmanship and moved on to the next area to abuse. As the remains of the Dutton lay scattered around him and I considered weeping, he announced “I am Wonder Engineer and I will help you”.
And he did, and as the weeks and months rolled on, progress on the Dutton accelerated; although the progress was slightly hampered by Barry’s love of drink, a passion I felt obliged to share. Most construction sessions were aided by alcohol, and some alcohol sessions were followed by construction which was not always a good idea. Then sometimes there were sessions which obliterated any options to make progress for several days. Worst of these was the night of the crate of vintage port.
We had been to a wine tasting evening, which in Barry’s case was a “how many free half-full glasses of wine can I throw down before I feel guilty and have to buy something” evening. Was had worked through the reds and the whites, arrived at the port and decided to buy a case between us. It was duly delivered and we agreed we should open a bottle just to check it was OK. It was more than OK, it was excellent; so we had another glass. After a few glasses it was agreed that both of us had read somewhere that port can change taste near the bottom of the bottle so we better finish it off. Having declared the sample bottle to be both perfect, and empty, it was agreed that we should just check a second bottle, provided one of us still possessed the necessary hand/eye coordination to open it. I don’t recall much after that, other than we finished the second bottle and were considering a third just before we passed out. What followed was the most spectacular hangover of my life which lasted more than a week and put me off vintage port for ever.
Anyway, back to the Dutton. Almost six months to the day since I collected the bits from the factory, I drove it out onto the road. It went (0-60mph in 5 seconds), it stopped, it steered round corners, not very much fell off (“I didn’t fit those bits” observed Wonder Engineer). We drove it to the pub. We drove it home a little faster. It was bloody brilliant.
So, an excellent machine for driving to work (except when it snowed because the snow came inside the cockpit), and fine for taking to the pub; but the car demanded competition, so we entered the Scottish Hillclimb Championship.
Hillclimb courses are narrow tarmac tracks which snake up hills (hence the name). You start at the bottom, break a timing beam at the start and then drive to the top to break another timing beam, whilst hoping not to break yourself or your car on the way up the course. Fastest time wins and the winner usually had a bored-out Formula 1 engine in the back of a specialist and very expensive single seater. Below is a run up Doune, the most shit-scary track to drive because there was no run-off and a mistake meant a visit to meet a stone wall or a tree; followed most likely by a visit to a doctor, or the morgue.
So off we went to the first event. a high-speed meander round the roads of Strathclyde Park in Glasgow. We were in the over 1300cc Road Going Sports Cars class, which meant the opposition were Lotus cars of various types, E-Type Jaguars and TVRs with huge engines. I didn’t fancy our chances.
Wonder Engineer’s job was to suck on his pipe, look pessimistic and give bits of the car an occasional kick to check the structural integrity. My job was to go to the toilet frequently due to nerves and drive the bloody thing. Waiting at the start I wished I had taken up competitive chess, passing the finish I was a shaking mass of adrenaline who couldn’t wait for another go. Most amazing of all, we won. By “we” I mean that I thought it was down to the driving and Wonder Engineer believed it was because nothing had dropped off. Whatever, we deserved a beer or six.
More class wins followed and we even picked up some sponsorship. This added additional pressure when our sponsor brought all his staff for a day out at a local event. Wonder Engineer enjoyed himself by conducting tours of the car, pointing out all the bits he had engineered, while I sat in the rudimentary toilets in a state of panic. But a win by 2/100ths of a second in the final run to beat a fourteen other cars was most satisfying.
By the end of the season we had won our class in the Scottish hillclimb championship, won our class in the Esso Scottish Speed Championship, were runner-up by one point in the overall road car championship and been awarded the best newcomers trophy by Grampian Television. It would have been stupid not to keep the car and continue for another season. So I sold it and bought a proper racing car; and that’s another story, but be assured that financial ruin was the end result; thus completing the cycle.
Not content to just provide spurious titles for posts, I feel a need to offer content that interests more than the gadget-loving males who currently frequent these pages (and if you are not a gadget-loving male, what the hell are you doing here?).
I am afforded an opportunity by my attendance at the infamous Kai Yang polo trophy match. The trophy itself is a construct of rare beauty. A rubber chicken was acquired, a pole was stuck up its backside, and a local chrome shop was told to “chrome this”. And they did:
The winner of this magnificent trophy is the team that loses the tournament; so there is considerable incentive not to come last.
A lighthearted event then, and the ladies who own the club decided to lighten things up even further, if only for themselves, by deciding that a team of Argentinian gauchos should play without shirts. The pathetic excuse was that the official shirts had not arrived, although the real reason is that ladies apparently like looking at shirtless gauchos on horseback. How shallow, you wouldn’t catch us men enjoying watching women with minimal clothing, not if our wives were around anyway.
So, for all the ladies out there, and any gentlemen that might be so inclined, here you go:
Interestingly, this gentleman has a torso very similar to mine; we must use the same training methods.
OK, that’s enough of that sort of thing; tomorrow a post about how to rebuild a gearbox.
She who must be obeyed was setting up a stool for an afternoon of photographing her sister. The cats, being cats, could not resist checking out the stool, and she who must be obeyed could not resist snapping them.
And I can take some satisfaction from knowing that a bunch of people will have arrived at this post via a Google search expecting something entirely different.
You may not have noticed, but yesterday marked the third anniversary of this illustrious organ. 1,230 posts, 4,391 comments; and a massive rise in readership from two to slightly more than two. It’s been a heady rush of a ride (not really).
Should have marked it with an article of stunning insight and wit; but was too busy processing bloody photos of horses; and owners of said horses have just booked me for another event starting today; so there will be horse photo processing for a while; which is a shame because I have a potentially interesting new project which I want to get started on.
Anyway, it seemed appropriate that Pattaya Days should receive a birthday present. Especially appropriate because my latest photo job needed a smart printed disk, and my printer was failing to deliver. I bought my printer in a past life and it always failed to print photos in anything other than garish colours. But it did a fair job of printing disks, and that is what I have used it for over the years and it has printed hundreds. But banging the print heads against a solid disk has obviously taken a toll and for months it has failed to print colours properly, so everyone received black and white printed disks. But then it even failed to print black and white correctly, so it had to go.
Coincidentally, the laser printer that we use for general printing has also given up after several years of abuse and will only print a single page without jamming, and only then if you stand over it and stroke it while it prints.
So, two new printers as a birthday present, and off to the top floor of Tuk Com where assorted spotty youths attempted to sell us stuff they knew nothing about.
I want something that print disks
How about this one mister
It doesn’t print disks
Err, maybe you just put them in the paper feed
Maybe you don’t
Eventually I settled on an upgraded version of my previous model, and I am pleased to report that the disks that it prints look fantastic; and you don’t have to put them in the paper feed.
She who must be obeyed was in charge of the general purpose printer and had decided it also had to copy and scan. I can’t recall the last time we needed to make a copy, and we already have a scanner for the three scans we need to make every year; but that is attached to my computer and therefore deemed inconvenient. She found something that was not expensive, and best of all ran on very cheap ink cartridges.
So, two new printers which I hope, but doubt, will last until Pattaya Days is a teenager.
The good – The Promise, six hours of television in four parts. A story which switches between modern day Israel and Israel at the time of the second world war when the Brits were in charge. Based on historical events, it is a tale of British incompetence, Jewish aggression and Palestinian suicide bombers. Nobody wins, although you do end up with a better understanding of the events that underpin the current mess. The Israelis have condemned it, which is sufficient recommendation.
The bad – Jackass 3D, in 2D if you download it, not that it make much difference. Two hours of grown men kicking each other in the balls and performing stupid stunts, many of which feature shit, urine or vomit, or sometimes all three, Hilarious, if you like puerile humour. Fortunately, I do.
The ugly – Inside Job – By far the best explanation of financial crash, in as much as it is the only one I have really understood. The major players are interviewed, the major culprits decline to be interviewed and are still occupying positions of responsibility. Enlightening, angering, frightening.
All available from a torrent near you.
A couple of days since my last post, mainly because I have been busy with
the latest Angry Birds Rio, up to seventh place in the world rankings for a while one of my personal charity projects which I don’t like to talk about; I just like helping other people with no benefit to myself. But how the hell do you get three stars on that last puzzle?
Back to the real world and I boot my computer into my newly installed Windows 7 where it helpfully tells me that it cannot start Windows and will now try to repair. This is much better than the blue screen of death offered by Windows XP; but the end result looks like it could be similar (i.e. a new install) when I am told that it is unable to repair whatever is broken. Then it tells me that it will try and restore to an earlier version, and it manages that, although I am then left with several hours of work reinstalling all the updates, virus scans and Total War: Shogun which I had laboured over only the previous day.
It has now been stable for more than 24 hours, but I remain cautiously pessimistic. Snow Leopard and previous incarnations of the Mac OS have never, ever failed on me; why can’t Windows be the same?
One of the first things I did after installing Windows, was open the tragic Internet Explorer and download Firefox 3; then close Internet Explorer and may it never darken my door again. Firefox (or Chrome, or Safari on a Mac) are way better than IE; and now Firefox just became even more wonderful with the release of version 4. Really like the new App Tabs feature. Have it running on the Mac, wondering if I dare try and install it on Windows; or will the act invoke the “sorry your install is screwed, please go back to square one and start again” message?