Thursday, 16 December 2010

Lay Some Down

Just heard the weather forecast on the wireless, and apparently we're in for a cold snap. Time to lay down some reserves - the Diplo Winter Omelet is just the job, best taken before dawn with a big mug of tea. MORE RESERVES !

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

"This Is The Life"

Initial road tests have gone very well and the shedavan is back at Diplo HQ for full road legal fit-out. We need to comply with DFT regs on lighting and the favoured choice will be very cheap Series Land Rover fitments readily available from the great Paddock Spares.
We managed to salvage the original jack-legs from the donor caravan which will get fitted as soon as we have a minute, enabling us to level the beast on dodgy ground. The off side of the unit has yet to be painted because originally the "shed" was parked up against a hedge and it never got the treatment. Steps will be needed as the floor is now 24" off the ground !
We are currently dealing with an enquiry for a similar unit but it will be narrower - ours, at 8ft, is road legal (they just changed the rules this year upping max width from 2300mm to 2550mm) but this may cause concern to the average caravan enthusiast so we're opting for 7' by 14'. MORE DIVERSIFICATION !

Monday, 13 December 2010

The Still Of The Night

A very gentle gurgle over a background murmur accompanied by a drip, drip, drip, drip as the catch vessel fills. Still-watching is a very soporific experience. That's absolutely all I have to say about that right now. MORE POORLY LIT SHEDS !

Saturday, 11 December 2010

Plan Ahead ........ avoid a grim Christmas. ".....get this right Santa - Culpin & Son, 32 High Street East, Uppingham, ENGLAND - you can't miss the place, they have a bright red awning in front."
Mr Culpin's Christmas hand-raised Pork Pie has appeared on these pages before and I've just got my order for a couple of two and a half pounders in. What a relief - that's a stress-free, excitement-packed Christmas guaranteed for everybody from just the one 'phone call. KEEP IT SIMPLE !

Friday, 10 December 2010

New Boots and Panties...

... so to speak. Test run in the middle of the night at -5 C recently was interesting ! New tyres are a delight and I thought I'd treat the old girl to some gaiters ( helps hide any fork seal problems 'till it's too late !) MORE RUBBER !

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Anti Freeze

06.00 hrs, 07.12.10 - staff kitchen, East Wing, Diplo Hall. MORE WINTER !

Monday, 6 December 2010

Town & Country........

........Planning Act 1990. Eight by twelve garden shed sited in contravention of the above has vexed the neighbours and the local authority. In the absence of a clear ruling that the timber beauty is not, in fact, a fixed or permanent structure and with the neighbours still whinging like people with nothing better to do - we at Diplo HQ have decided to press on with plan B. Unfortunately for those that like to whinge they will now be getting the same structure but 18" taller than it was before. Having learned all about heuristic algorithms this time last year when the shed arrived, I have set the "missing tile" in place in the form of a rather fetching horse box borrowed from my sister. Simply: empty contents of 8 x 12 shed and jam into 6 x 9 horse box. Lift 8 x 12 shed 24 inches into the air and make safe.
Strip old caravan chassis of wooden floor and bolt down six timber bearers. Pop the the chassis under the dangling shed and lower into position. Fix light board and other DFT requirements to render the new shedavan road legal. We now have a garden shed where we wanted it that can be hauled off to Hunstanton or Biaritz at the drop of a hat. MORE PLANNING !

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

The Grip Of Winter

Winter grip arrives in the form of a pair of Heidenau K41 tyres for the CB Special. Current tyres are very old, hard, slick, cracked and decidedly traction free.
This snow is creating havoc and we are reminded of how completely brain-dead is the average motorist. For my own part I will be absolutely fine and dandy in the most treacherous of conditions with my new tyres fitted. I shall of course hide my delight as I weave through the jack-knifed semis and crunched up cars, casting a sympathetic glance to a stranded motorist still struggling to work out why his Volvo is on its roof in the ditch. Smug, moi ? MORE TRACTION !

Saturday, 20 November 2010

Still Waters....

20 gallons of cider which has been fermenting furiously for 16 days is about ready for the next stage in the apple-ethanol production test run. Today's frantic 'shop activity at Diplo HQ has been concentrated on getting the still built. The condenser is complete and ready for action. We made a decision to sacrifice one of the vast collection of assorted brand petroleum spirit cans. Scrap copper pipe is crudely bent to fit and soldered at both ends - we figured around six feet of cooling coil would do the trick. Garden hose tap connectors will allow simple flow of chilled water when required. The Aeroshell 5 gallon can is the mash container which is going to receive the fabricated copper reflux tube in the next 'shop session. We're also contemplating adding a reinforced heating plate to the base to prevent burn-through. The whole contraption will sit atop a gas burner and bubble away merrily. Keep you posted. MORE MOONSHINE !

Sunday, 14 November 2010

The Final Straw ?

My typical pub visit is an "early doors" couple of pints - maybe on the way home or by way of wrapping up the days business with a celebratory/consolatory freshener. Under these circumstances it is by no means compulsory to visit the bog. My ideal pub bog is detached or possibly annexed, certainly doesn't have access from within the building and is pretty basic. Obscure-glazed Crittal windows with a smattering of cracked panes always help and, of course, condensation should be evident. If any wash basin is provided at all, it obviously shouldn't supply hot water. You may have noticed in last month's "Death of A Queen" that we've got a problem with our local. Well it's got worse as can be seen by the picture captured by our intrepid under-cover reporter, Unmitigated Ashley. Having failed to get the seriousness of the problem across via e-mail and 'phone I dragged him down there for a pint so he could witness the horror for himself. The picture says it all really. MORE CONDENSATION !

Thursday, 11 November 2010

Words Fail Me

And that's all I have to say about that - again. MORE BREAKFAST !

Friday, 5 November 2010

F..k Me That Hurt !

Please excuse the implied expletive. I was once out wild-fowling in a very remote swamp in The Northern Territories, we were a good two hours walk from the vehicle and a further two hours drive to the nearest homestead. The peace and quiet was shattered by a very loud bang from six feet behind me followed by the little outburst that appears in the title. The guy I was with, out hunting bare-foot in about 12 inches of swamp water, had un-wittingly put a magnum 12 gauge No4 shot goose round straight through his foot from very close range. There was a lot more swearing and howling but we did manage to save his life and he still has a neat hole you can poke your finger through in the middle of his right foot. I was wondering if the great Heinz empire made a similar fuss when they realised that they'd shot themselves in the foot with the crazy re-design of the Beanz can. If they hadn't buggered about with that I may well not have been tempted to investigate, and the much denied recipe change might have gone un-noticed. I wrote to Heinz a while ago looking for an explanation for the watering down of the sauce and the evident change in bean/sauce ratio. They hotly denied any funny business but we at Diplo HQ weren't to be fobbed off that easily and the bribery vouchers were returned to sender. Tests carried out over a period of six months against some old stock revealed the shocking extent of the cynical cooperate tampering. I am pleased to report that the last can of Heinz has been launched from the pantry at Diplo Hall and after much blind tasting in a range of conditions we have re-stocked the shelves with the fine Branston Beans (spelt correctly). I feel such a fool for being so loyal to the Heinz brand for all these years, the power of marketing is a sinister force indeed and we need to break free every now and then. MORE CONSUMER AWARENESS !

Sunday, 31 October 2010

The Good LIfe

Prompted by the glut of fruit this autumn the Diplo 'shop has turned to biofuel production - time to dust off the apple press. October 1/2 term is the perfect time for family involvement and Diplo Jnr has been producing apple juice - 20 gallons of the stuff. My friend Rupert Paul, holder of the world land speed record in the home-made fuel class, advised we need a juice of around 10% sugar content to be sure of a reasonably alcoholic cider as a start. He also advises much patience in the distilation process. We are proposing to build our own still and if we can produce a litre or two of 85% apple-ethanol we just need to re-jet the XT and we're away.In keeping with the environmentally conscious approach to motorcycling the Diplo 'shop has always been a responsible recycler. It was decided that once the muntjac had finished with their skins they should be be put to good use. As a winter riding seat cover these are unsurpassed for comfort and durability - available to order. MORE ENVIRONMENTAL CONCERN !

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Field Trials

Following the XT's encounter with a five series BMW station waggon it was deemed wise to strip out the front end for a thorough check and re-alignment, the bars had shifted over an inch in the clamps and the forks twisted considerably in the yoke. Plenty of work with straight edge, laser, plumb line and measuring stick has confirmed that we have the machine back pretty good. Much of the work was around checking cable runs and ensuring nothing was pinched, trapped or compromised. Sunday saw the XT loaded in the hauler for a trip to my brother's place for some shake-down tests and handling checks following the rebuild. Diplo Jnr was keen to get his leg over the machine to see if Dad had fixed it up well. Half an hour of ripping up and down the field, practicing his drifting skills and generally scaring the wildlife met with a thumbs up. All's well that's done properly. MORE HAULING !

Monday, 11 October 2010

Death of a Queen

Shocking news indeed, I'm so grief stricken and incensed that these few lines may well appear rambling and distracted - I make no apology for this. My local, and possibly one of the finest public houses in the country, has bitten the dust. What makes me so angry is that this disaster was avoidable (and yet inevitable - somewhat like a train crash viewed in slow motion). Unfortunately the sentiments expressed here are coming from the same "less is more" mantra that my regular readers will recognise. I have reviewed the pub in question many times on these pages - a slightly grumpy landlord who was passionate about beer, he provided his own game for the table, butchered his own meat - as evidenced by the sprinkling of sawdust often found to be soaking up blood outside the kitchen door. All this was going on in an atmosphere of dimly lit, relaxed gastronomic indulgence. Look - I could go on about how good the pub was for ages but poor Geoff was exhausted after seven or eight years and ended up having to pass the baton to a new runner - what an effing disaster. I am siting the pub in question (some of you will know where I mean) as the most spectacular example of how to completely ruin a good thing. My gut feeling is the new leaseholder has seen an opportunity and thought he could do with a bit of the action. Instead of leaving well alone he's tried something new !!! I was taken for dinner a few weeks ago by some friends from The States - breathtakingly embarrassing experience - it actually makes me want to cry to think of it - the bloody fire wasn't even lit and we had to take the "energy saving" light bulbs out of their fittings to reduce the glare. I'll tell you just how bad this is - on Saturday some blind, stupid and uncaring car driver pulled out in front of me whilst out on the XT, I hit him pretty hard and took a trip over the roof, smacking the tarmac on all fours on the other side. Removing my helmet, calmly clutching a fast swelling wrist whilst dripping blood all over the place I told him how it really is: " that's nothing - you should see what they've done to my bloody local !". Actually I'm incapable of writing any more just now and will continue in a calmer frame of mind another day. Sorry. MORE DISASTER !

Sunday, 10 October 2010

Cold Shoulder

Bottle of cheap Californian Shiraz, left-over Saddleback shoulder from Friday night, loaf of sour dough bread, home-made butter and a sprinkling of Maldon salt from Essex. That's pretty much all I have to say about that. MORE SUNDAYS !

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Meat and Two Veg

Eating alone may seem anti-social and often, without the chit-chat and social interaction, can lead to a quick meal taken on the run without much appreciation. This doesn't have to be the case and the opportunity to lavish attention on the healthy home-grown ingredients is a welcome one. Pork chops are from this year's saddlebacks, just left to sit at room temperature for an hour or so covered in rosemary, garlic, salt and pepper and some good oil. The cooking is all usual wood-burning practice and the massive handful of fresh spinach is just tossed into the spuds at the last minute before eating.
To save on washing up, delicately place the chops on top of the veg and get stuck in. A bottle or two of your favourite straight Tempranillo does the business. From start to finish this whole experience lasts about four hours and is sometimes only concluded as the night air turns chill, the fire dwindles and a little drizzle forces retreat from the garden to the warmth of the kitchen - flicking the last inch of the Izmir cig into the flower bed as you pass. MORE HOME-GROWN !

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Down Your Way

Reasonably fine weather prospects on Saturday prompted a day out from the asylum. Diplo Jnr and I loaded the CB Special and the XT into the Series hauler for a trip out and some off road practice. We sort of lost the CB on the way but managed to limit the damage and re-loaded in good time. Our destination promised some challenging hilly bits for some "trials" practice and plenty of open dry grass to hone the oval racing and drifting techniques. The road bike on road tyres and very little power was great fun and much controlled drifting was enjoyed. The technique of backing the machine in on the rear brake followed by a very gentle transfer to power on needs much practice at, initially, low speeds.
Needless to say riders and machines spent a fair bit of time on the floor. What fun though. This was all followed by a thrilling day at Kings Lynn's Norfolk Arena on Sunday to watch some flat track racing - check out the Sideburn blog link. MORE MAYHEM !

Friday, 20 August 2010

Make Do And Mend #2

Heartily fed up with consumer kit that doesn't deliver the goods, the Diplo 'shop has always been resourceful in creating solutions to practical problems. I have mentioned before, on these pages, that I suffer from an irrational need to fix failed kit and I'm pleased to report that the make-do-and-mend approach is alive and kicking at Diplo HQ. A planned cycling trip to the Peak District has inspired Diplo Jnr to fettle himself a machine out of the selection of skip-find two wheeled orphans that forms his cycle collection. His chosen steed is this 23" British racer of unknown make running on 27" rims fitted with tyres that are reckoned to be 20 years old. The wheels have been stripped down, the tyres checked over and freed from the rims, new tubes have been fitted in a cloud of talcum powder as a non-stick dodge. The front derailleur is missing the selector fork so he's fettling one out of scrap from the 'shop. This 220 mile unsupported expedition, plus a climb of Kinder Scout, will require the hauling of a few items of kit (tent, stove etc) - hence the rather fine pannier rack illustrated above. The stores at Diplo HQ came up trumps and yielded a supply of skip-find galvanised wall plate straps - practically designed for the job and lending a thoroughly appropriate Meccano flavour to the design. I'm pleased to witness this all going on in a spirit of defiance amid the onslaught of glossy-techno-titanium-carbon fibre products being thrust at us in magazines, TV adverts and the like. I don't think Diplo Jnr's missing out on anything in having to scrape the metaphorical scrap bin to mount his expedition - far from it - he's saving his well earned cash for a Mars and some Dandelion and Burdock en-route and making do with what he's got. If you were planning on buying a new fandango bike for such a trip - just hold up a minute and think of the disappointment you could be building up for yourself. The bloody thing'll most likely break down and you just know that, being hi-tech and new, it will suffer from a degree of built in obsolescence that renders it "un-repairable". Build it yourself, keep it simple, stay in control and don't have your trip ruined by technology. The "less-is-more" sentiment comes to mind - but I don't want to roll that one out too often ! Come to think of it - much as I'm a fan of Beemer's GS 1150, and having had many trouble free miles on my own, I was shocked at how easily the Long Way Round team were thrown by a faulty ABS brake controller. This kind of tech can ruin a good thing. MORE MECCANO !

Friday, 23 July 2010

Haystacks & Saddlebacks

The saddlebacks enjoyed a trip to The Lakes last weekend in the shape of sausages and chops. Camping without having to carry all your kit allows for a bigger tent and a few more luxuries - canned veg. I remember the Lockwoods brand (which may still be around) but these canned new potatoes have that same stale, musty-sweet taste that reassures the traveller. The chops were fantastic and the regular fat porker that we have settled on never fails to work. The more attentive of you will have noticed the lack of precipitation evident in the scene - let me assure you that this fine spell broke very soon after supper on day one ! The Diplo expedition was camped on the East shore of Buttermere and upon arrival we were greeted by fine views of High Cragg and Haystacks to tempt us into our boots and breeches. Within two hours these views had become memories as the heavens opened and rain set in for the next 72. Now - I've seen rain (James Taylor) but this was something else, visibility was reduced to yards and the noise of rushing water was soon deafening. Not to be deterred we did mount a sortie to Haystacks and beyond the next morning. Fully loaded with rations and emergency supplies to cover any eventuality the troop was soon wet through. Enjoying a brief rest in the tricky blind scramble approaching the summit at Haystacks I really did feel as though I was standing in a swimming pool. I'm told the views from Haystacks are stunning but as we were fumbling around, establishing the summit cairn by feel, we were unable to enjoy them and the camera was in no fit state to record the event. Not to be put off, the Diplo team is determined to re-visit "The North" in the hope of finding some better weather. Bar-side instructions on the removal of the sparkler for pouring a decent pint were not always well received or understood. MORE DRYING OUT !

Thursday, 8 July 2010

No Room At The Inn

'Shop clearance - got to make room for the next project ! How about treating yourself to an environmentally friendly commuter vehicle.
This was a '72 CB175 which now has a CB200 motor. Comfy cruise 55-60 and pretty cool gas-mileage. Of course, being '72, it attracts no RFL charges which is great - very satisfying getting the disc in the post reading "Duty - NIL". Any how, the little beauty, complete with period patina and that lovingly home-built style, is up for grabs - treat yourself. New chain&sprockets, wheel bearings, electrics, MOT test etc. MORE PROJECTS !

Saturday, 3 July 2010

Miracle Cure

Those little Saddlebacks done good. As you can see we butchered the latest batch at considerably less weight than the GOS/Tamworths we did last year. The belly fat here is much thinner. To be honest, I prefer a bit more "white meat" but am still very pleased with the result of this dry cure product. The miracle cure I refer to is my knee - my self-prescription of animal fat and Fool's Nook has been doing the job and I am now getting used to walking without a stick again and have lost the Douglas Barder motion that was required to get along without bending the knees. I would like to think that the bacon shown here has contributed to the heeling process. A fresh batch of weaners is due next week ! Gloucester Old Spot X Tamworths again, as last year. MORE MIRACLES !

Thursday, 1 July 2010

Flaming June

Blimey - two months off - sorry 'bout that. Actually been very busy but not a huge amount of blog-worthy stuff. The "season" is well and truly upon us and this shot from a school open day back in early June celebrates the arrival of some decent weather. I'm not a big charcoal fan, preferring to make my own as I go by burning huge quantities of seasoned, split oak and ash. The tailgate arrangement does cause concern and it is not unusual for neighbouring pic-nickers to move their precious 4x4 or Bentley GT to the other end of the field. The N/S gas tank leaks quite badly on the Series so wind direction needs to be considered. A spread of hogget chops and chipolatas c/w a pan of garlic-fried new potatoes goes down well on these occasions - on a very warm day you can't beat a cup of Yorkshire Gold to wash it all down. More recently I joined Diplo Junior in an heroic 40 mile sponsored walk in the Brecon Beacons - absolute madness, and carrying a 50lb pack up and down vertiginous terrain has completely ruined my knees. I'm on a strict diet of animal fat and Digfield Brewery's "Fool's Nook" in an attempt to sort them out. On the fettling front - both the XT225 and the CB Special have sailed through the MOT test process.The Series is in for the same as I write ! Having got back on the keyboard I'll try not to leave it so long. MORE REGULARITY !!!
Oh by the way - pigs in freezer and bacon curing under way, yum yum. New weaners coming in a couple of weeks.

Thursday, 22 April 2010

More Sausages Part 1

Been off air for a while for which many apologies. Loads has been happening but on the fettling front it has mainly involved the little Honda CB Special. This is a subject which I think has been well flogged. On a more positive note we welcomed a new batch of weaners to Diplo Hall a couple of weeks ago. This year we are going to try and run two batches so we've started a little earlier. These little chaps are pure Saddlebacks, a very interesting breed, more about that later. We are aiming to run these for about 12 weeks having got them at about 7 or 8. This is amazing,they will get to around 65 or 70 kilos in 20 weeks from birth and in very short order will be stretching the seams on the Diplo HQ freezers. Transport for weaners is provided by the trusty Series. The box in the back is an old engine crate and serves for collecting the critters and becomes their home for a week or two until they move into their luxury (bigger) quarters. MORE MEAT PRODUCTION !

Thursday, 25 February 2010

Munt Jacket

A brace of Muntjacs made their way to Diplo HQ a couple of weeks ago - much needed protein top up for the freezer and Diplo Junior has plans to make himself a jacket. The Fallow deer here-abouts are pretty easy to skin but I'd forgotten just how tenacious these little critters are. There's very little fat on a Muntjac and in places (around the flanks & shoulders particularly) the flesh and the skin are almost inseparable. Much swearing and delicate knife-work later we had them both stripped and ready for a few days hanging before making their way into the freezer.
The hides have moved on to Shed 2 for curing and tanning. A salt petre cure, after removal of any stray bits of flesh and the tricky membrane that remains attached, takes 4 to 5 days. This is followed by a week's drying - when dry the last few bits of membrane and sinew can be scraped and rubbed away. Next is a good wash in Sodium Carbonate solution and a few rinses through with fresh water.
Meanwhile the tanning solution of Ammonium Alum Sulphate, Sodium Carbonate and Salt is prepared and the hides dunked in for a 4 to 5 day soak. This is where we're at right now. Next stage is a good wash in a Borax solution, much rinsing, drying and oiling. Let you know how we get on. MORE PELTS !

Sunday, 14 February 2010

Here We Go Again

The obvious course of action when handicapped by not enough workshop space is to jam another motorcycle in there. The charming little XT225 was rescued from the back of a 20ft container on Saturday morning and offered a new home at Diplo HQ. Missing a battery and suffering from a couple of punctures, the bike seems otherwise pretty sound. It's had the usual minor bumps associated with "field" bike life, nothing too serious and a surge of optimism is pointing us in the direction of applying for a V5 and getting an MOT test done - this little orphan may yet return to the streets.
Knowing the bike to have stood for at least three years with a half tank of av-gas it seemed prudent to whip the carb off and subject it to a thorough de-lousing. The air box is a bugger to get out but I'm very glad we persevered - it is in a shocking state, the filter is long gone, leaving a residue of decomposed crumbly element foam stuck all over the inlet tract. The carb is actually seized solid inside with fuel goo. I don't know whether av-gas deteriorates in a different way to regular un-leaded but I've never seen anything as bad as this before - the dark molasses coloured residue has the consistency of chewing gum and is equally reluctant to let go. The Diplo chemical cupboard has been opened and we've tried cellulose thinners, meths, paraffin, de-greaser, acetone and many more products which will have to remain unidentified. We've made a start on the tank - not so much a rust issue as a goo problem, well goo and rust combo.Let you know how we get on. MORE ETHER !

Friday, 22 January 2010

Room to Move

Having moved the Diplo workshop (or contents) to Diplo Hall it became apparent that you can't fit a firkin into a pint glass. I'm not sure that I ever thought you could but when the contents of a 300 m3 'shop are spread out on the driveway it becomes very obvious that there's no way it's all going inside a 24 m3 garage. One of the work benches alone is 16x6x3 feet and has had to be installed elsewhere on "loan". Interestingly the biggest headache comes when all the available space in the three extant storage zones is already in use, albeit very inefficiently and with no reference to a system of priorities. Moving stuff around was going to be the order of the day, it was envisaged that as part of this process, strict trash filtration would reduce the volume somewhat. In trying to plan the operation my heuristic algorithms were failing, permutation parities were way out until it was pointed out to me that we didn't have "the missing tile" or void block. This is the essential room for manoeuvre that we all recognise from the sliding tile picture puzzles. What's needed is an additional empty shed to play the part of the all important void or space. Re-calculating, allowing for the 4th dimension, produced all the answers. Given the fact that this entire process was to take place during the early C21 ice age, complete with much snow, the extra covered space proved to be essential and allowed for a smooth, stress free move. Needless to say, having completed the operation, the empty space, or void, can then be filled with some of the "marginal" skip victims. This means that to repeat the process we shall need yet another(5th) shed. One conclusion is that there'll always be demand for sheds. Here thanks have to go to Mrs Diplo who is obviously a tile puzzle expert, she spotted the problem and bought me a shed for Christmas. MORE LOVE !