Sunday, June 29, 2008

I know that I'm a prisoner

I got a bit more of Mother's pre-move house-sorting done this weekend. The most awkward loft is now completely empty (I lost count of the number of times I whacked my elbow on the hatch-frame) as is one wardrobe and my Dad's chest of drawers which I'd hoped to fit into the car to bring back for The Boy, but the wheel-arches thwarted that plan and I had to limit myself to a lawnmower, logs, coal, kindling, a small rug and a picture.

Because it was possibly the last time I'll be going down there I went to visit my Dad's grave to keep him up to speed with proceedings. It's 21 years since he died and you'd have thought I'd have got used to the idea, but no. Every time I go there I only have to say hello before I have to sit on his grass and sob like a baby. Quite pathetic.

Oh, and you remember I told you about the mulberry tree that I grew from seed in 1981 that has flourished but never fruited? Guess what it's done? Yep, the first fruits are developing. The alternative reasons are a) that it hated us and is rejoicing or b) it needed a dead dog buried at its foot.

Friday, June 27, 2008

I want to break free

'Free' is one of the many words that's used in different ways to give very different meanings. For example, as well as meaning 'unoccupied' ("I'm free, Captain Peacock") or 'vacant' (the bathroom's free now) it can also mean 'for no money at all'. All of which can make translation into a foreign language fraught with danger and has to be approached with caution in case it's used in the wrong sense.

While we had the bananana machine out of mothballs I siezed seized (why do I always spell that word wrong first time?) the opportunity to print myself (and make an extra couple on spare red shirts) a political protest teeshirt on a topic very dear to my heart, ever since I first read Tintin in Tibet at the age of 6.

I'm assured, by a well-trusted native speaker and writer of a Chinese language, that the script on this shirt

reads "Liberate Tibet".

I do hope so, and that my chest isn't actually recommending the chef's special menu for two.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily

It's been all go here at Genie Towers. Somebody at Ned's Jelly factory thought it would be a jolly fine idea to enter the annual charity Raft Race ("Think of the advertising potential, Adam!") and in a brief rush of enthusiasm a volunteer crew was duly signed up. The rules are that everything has to be homemade from the rafts themselves to the method of propulsion - no manufactured paddles. The various tasks were delegated to those most likely to be able to achieve them; the welding of the barrels was assigned to someone who knows how to weld, etc (which was a top move, when you saw some of the other rafts!). Ned & I dusted off the bananana machine and produced the crew's teeshirts proudly emblazoned with (the company's name. They nearly didn't happen. Two weekends before the race we decided to clean off old screens to reuse them, then coat the clean ones, expose them and wash them off which would mean we could empty the garage to print them at our leisure. The best-laid plans, and all that ...

First of all the old coating decided that it loved the screens so much that it wasn't going to come off, and despite double-strength solvent, hot water and a lot of scrubbing, after two days it was still determinedly clinging to several parts of the screens. Bugger. When we eventually managed to get a large enough clean area for what we needed we coated them and left them to dry in a warm dark place for a couple of days. On a free evening the design was duly exposed onto them and they were taken for rinsing ... whereupon all the coating (all right, so it's been a long time since it had been used and chemicals deteriorate) promptly flowed away, leaving us back at square 1. Bugger again. Despite the attempts of a garage mouse to thwart us by eating through a bottle of essential chemical there was just enough left to make some fresh emulsion, and the screens were coated again and left to dry. On the day before the race the design was once more exposed onto them and with bated breath we rinsed them off ... hurrah! It only washed off where we wanted it to! Victory was in sight!

Until Ned started setting up the machine to actually start the printing, when he realised that we'd exposed them back to front and the advertising would only work if everyone held a mirror! Aaarrrggghhh! Rinse off the coating again, recoat, and judicious use of a hairdryer speeded up the drying time. This time it all worked, but it was after ten at night by the time we finally got all the printing done, and we had to meet up at the starting point at 8.30 the next morning.

The rafts were launched one after the other, with the starting line some 100 yards downstream - as each boat passed they'd call out their number and their starting time noted. From then on it was a simple matter of getting downstream (with a couple of weirs thrown in for good measure) as fast as you could.

The launch

Setting off

Gaining ground

On windy open water

Approaching the finish - at last!

Yes, they did all change places, several times!

Unfortunately nobody had a camera handy when young James had a contretemps with a tree whilst using the punting pole, and ended up dangling by his neck in a fork in a branch - luckily for him it snapped (the branch, not his neck) and he realised the wisdom of wearing a lifejacket under his teeshirt.

Usually it takes crews about 3 hours to complete the 7½ mile course, but this year although it was warm and sunny there were very strong winds, and the moment people eased off paddling the rafts were being blown back upstream. It was just under 5 hours before Ned and the rest finally crossed the finishing line (coming in a respectable 38th out of 56 finishers); the last boat to complete the course took just over 7 hours.

Surprisingly everybody could move reasonably freely the next day at work, but during the Monday night Ned and another chap were struck down by a nasty lurgy, resulting in explosive ejection of as many bodily contents as possible. Having discounted Weil's Disease (incubation period 7 to 14 days; maybe we have that to look forward to as well) my money's now on cryptosporidium, which can last between 1 and 3 weeks. What fun!

Monday, June 16, 2008

Gin a body meet a body ...

...well, not comin' through the rye, really; more like runnin' through the wheat. Harry and Piglet love running through it and springbokking over it (they don't break it down or damage it so I don't feel bad about letting them), hunting for all the creatures that are hiding in it, like rabbits and pheasants and partridges and, on one very exciting occasion, a roe deer. As the wheat's grown taller the stalks become tougher and have a very rough, sandpapery texture. And as a dog forges his path with his head, a certain amount of grazing happens.

It doesn't seem to bother him at all though; but it's very unsightly.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Be careful with that axe, Eugene

X, Y and Z axes? WTF is the Z axis?

*stares sadly at all the cut out numbers on the floor and waits for the hoover-repair man*

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Got to keep on plodding onwards

Don't worry, I'm not cheating (much - with some of the horrider ones the temptation's very powerful), nor have I suddenly become amazingly brainy. It's just that, having seen most of the PuzzleDonkey puzzles already I can remember how most of them were done, and even a lot of the answers; I open a puzzle and think "Oh yes, that's the one where there was all the hoohah on the forum about the pronunciation". However I have noticed that some of the answers have changed from the original; I notice that some of my loathed puzzles are also there, and I bet I'll be tempted to bung in the old answer and scream when it's rejected. That sausage machine one was a nightmare ... (and having succumbed to temptation and cheated, I see that's one of the one's that's changed. Curses!) Anyway, because you can abandon a puzzle and move onto another, the rate of completion is dramatically speeded up. And it's lovely to work through some of my old favourites again! Thanks Si and Rich!

*looks at some of the new puzzles* ... I think ...