Category Archives: Uncategorized

Whoops!

Regular followers may have noticed a few issues with this blog recently. My hosting provider has been having a few server problems, leading to things going offline for periods of between an hour and a day or more, for a month or so.

As my hosting arrangements for this blog are very generous, I don’t feel it’s fair to complain about it too loudly. The hosting provider is, no doubt, trying to get to the bottom of the issues. I am currently content to leave them to it.

I am considering options, of course. I’d be foolish not to. However, as I don’t make any form of income from this blog, it’s not a critical thing if it disappeared entirely. I have backups, so content could be restored reasonably quickly on another platform if the need arises.

You may well have wondered where I’ve been of late. Life, as you know, tends to rear its ugly head on occasions. The whole Brexit debacle, US politics, health and all sorts aside, I am pretty busy working to make ends meet. I’ve switched bank account to a new bank, had to deal with various domestic crises, and generally been way too busy to make any posts here. I feel I can’t add anything sensible to overall noise out there, so I’m keeping my own counsel.

Normal service may be resumed at some point.

A new family member

It’s been just over a week since Sophie-puss left us. As is our way we went straight over to our nearest Cats Protection centre to be chosen all over again.

Losing a pet is always hard, it never gets easier, but is made easier for us at least by finding a new friend as soon as possible. On the first day, we met a few likely cats, but it was our second visit where Billy-puss made his feelings known.

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Here he is. Another black cat, so that was one box ticked. The second box was a fluffy tail. Oh boy! That was a definite tick. Billy came to the front of his pen as soon as we went in the main door, and spoke to us. Another box ticked. We were formally introduced, and we pretty much made up our minds Billy would like to come home with us as soon as we’d met properly.

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We collected Billy from the centre this morning, and got him home just after eleven o’clock. It took a little while for him to find his bearings in his new home, but by the time two hours had passed it was obvious he felt very happy with the way things were turning out. He has even met our neighbour, and wasn’t freaked out, which was a relief.

Billy, is four years old. He came into the rescue centre a few months ago, and was originally in the pen with his brother. Billy was very timid and nervous, while his brother was boisterous and a little aggressive. Separating the pair let Billy blossom into the friendly boy he is now. 

Now he is home, he seems to be very, very happy. He just joined me at my desk and tried to help type this post. What he really wanted, of course, was a big fuss. He likes his ears rubbed. He likes a head-butt. He likes to be groomed. He doesn’t sit on a lap—yet. 

We generally like to home house-trained cats. As we know Billy is already domestic, we find it best to let him explore, find where everything is. We didn’t follow him around so he wouldn’t feel intimidated. We know there are various places Billy can go where we would like him to feel safe. We are giving him space to feel at home.
Barring unfortunate illness, Billy should be with us for some years to come. We might consider another cat in time, but for now, Billy is Top Cat.

Some milestones yet to pass are using the litter tray and eating something. Billy knows where they are. 

Sport & GTs au Mans Classic – Sale N° 2138 – Lot N° 217 | Artcurial | Briest – Poulain – F. Tajan

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Oh my. A prototype version of my favourite car of all time up for sale! I’ve had to screengrab because the embedded plugin won’t translate to the blog.

I recommend a visit to the actual site for more fabulous photos and a short video of this machine, the Citroën SM Espace prototype—one of two prototypes built in 1971. The auction site requires Flash, sadly.

I’ve been in love with the SM since childhood. The shape, the futuristic design, and the colour in this particular case… j’adore. I wish I could own one.

A “standard” model came up for sale in the UK recently. It was the same electric metallic blue, and was available for a cool £29,000. Truly a classic collector’s car, and out of my price bracket.

More information about the Citroën SM on Wikipedia.

Original link via Things Magazine.

My Summer Pet Peeve—Car Insurance

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It’s that time of year when my car insurance is up for renewal. Once again I wonder why I play this game every year.

I probably don’t need to add any more here for you to begin vigorously nodding your head in agreement, but bear with me. I want to get this rant out of my system.

Car insurance, unlike home insurance, is a legal requirement in order to tax your car in the UK. You can’t avoid insurance if you wish to own and run a car. There is no get-out clause—unless you are a criminal and have no conscience. 

Now, having held a clean full UK driving licence since 1982, I have had to endure the annual chase-the-best-quote game for three decades. Frankly, I have had enough of it.

I don’t have issue with legally requiring someone to be insured. The idea is sound. What I do have an issue with is the fact that my premiums keep going up every year, even though I haven’t made a claim for nearly 15 years. I’ve even got a bit of paper to prove it.

(I know there’ll be comments from younger drivers who are penalised these days purely on their age and lack of experience behind the wheel. I certainly wouldn’t be driving today if I was 18 and needed to find a four-figure sum from somewhere just so I could be legal in my pimped 206. That’s not my beef, or my problem, frankly, so while I sympathise you must forgive my moment to rant.)

Surely, if I don’t make a claim, I should see flat or lower premiums every year. Why does it go up? Even allowing for inflation, a rise of over £50 on last year’s premium is extortion!

So, having got my latest renewal papers in, I girded my loins, hefted my bootstraps, tightened my belt and headed for the interwebz to do battle with the many-headed monster that is the UK Car Insurance Market. 

I tried the usual suspects. You know who they are, so I won’t name them here. I tend to head for the same one, as experience tells me they all come back with the same figures anyway. That annoying opera singer and the fleabitten residents of the Kalahari don’t figure highly in my quest, which leaves the cartoon woman with the dodgy hair-do.

The best quote came back, and it was a good £60 lower than my renewal quote. It also included breakdown cover, which was a bonus as I’ve just given my usual and long-time provider the elbow because they too got greedy. (Sshh! It’s actually the same company, but don’t tell anyone!)

Armed with this information, I called my current insurer and tried haggling. I named my price. To give them their due, they did their best. They shaved a creditable £45 off my renewal. 

Not good enough, though. It was still £23 too high. I wanted it to be closer to the price I gave them. They couldn’t match it, but they’re sending new documents out with the changed premium on it, which is something I suppose.

Next, I tried a local broker, since they’ve been bombarding me with literature for weeks now. They are currently offering some sort of cash-back, so I went through the routine with them. By some chicanery that I don’t quite follow, the quote (which was £140 more than my renewal) actually ends up being £75 lower, because I would get something north of £200 back in cash. I still don’t understand the maths which, from what I see, would confuse Barclays’ finest.

Next, I tried the big names via their web sites. They claim, after all, to be able to provide competitive quotes because they don’t use the comparison sites. The Big Red Telephone one made me laugh out loud with their figure, which is at least more than their television adverts manage. The other one lived up to their name by again quoting More Than my renewal. Allegedly, this also included a 50 per cent discount for my No Claims Discount, so the original quote must have been over four hundred quid! I don’t believe they intentionally named the company because they quote consistently more than everyone else.

I tweeted my disgust, and to their credit the latter actually asked if they could help. I gave them information. I am still awaiting the results. I don’t hold out any hope.

I have a few days to play this game. My renewal is not for a couple of weeks. I will await various bits of paper with the workings out, and will probably end up going with the lowest quote on the comparison site. Or the next quote down, which didn’t include free breakdown cover. I can get breakdown cover elsewhere anyway.

Oh, and if you inhabit the Twitterverse, I’ve started using a hashtag: #ihatecarinsurance. Keep an eye out. It might start to trend.

There it is!

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Lurking amid the detritus of my workbench, and taking about as long to emerge from its cocoon as the real thing, is TSR-2 serial XR219. 

Did you know the real aircraft, if they had gone into production and squadron service with the RAF were to be called Eagle? TSR, incidentally, stands for Tactical Strike Reconnaisance, being the key roles for the aircraft in service.

Brightwell 2012.m4v – YouTube

 

Folk’ll get bored with me plugging this!

All the footage was shot in HD on the EOS 7D, but due to indifferent lighting conditions the ISO boost ended up leaving a ton of digital noise. This is why the video is not HD, and has been turned to black and white. It still sort of works.

If I plan to shoot further layout video, I think I will need to do it under stricter conditions, bring my own lighting and have a plain backdrop to avoid distractions. I will also need to shoot the same movement from several angles, so a proper story can be made. Live and learn.

On my workbench

This is a 7mm scale AEC Monarch, built from a Classic Commercials kit. I started building this a couple of years ago, but it got sidelined by other stuff, such as real life.

Having some time between other projects, I decided to get it finished. The model is pretty much built from the kit, with one or two additional touches. I’ve added pipe detailing around the fuel tank, modelled a prop shaft, and enhanced the kit’s steerable wheel feature. I had to replace the moulded sidelights as they were slightly crooked. Close inspection will show the radiator badge reads “Mammoth”. This is because the etched stainless steel parts were designed for a 6-wheeled lorry, which would have been correct for a Mammoth Major.

Still to be done is the glazing, and final details such as wipers and mirrors. and finishing touches to the paint. The headlamps appear opaque white, because the clear filler hasn’t cured properly yet to leave a transparent lens effect. Currently, I don’t feel confident enough to hand letter the cab, but I may have a go at the pinstripe lining that was common on such vehicles in their heyday in the late 1940s into the early 1960s.

From the workbench

British Rail Diesel Brake Tender.

A what?

In the late 1950s, as the 1955 Modernisation Plan began to take effect with new diesel traction coming into service, the new machines were found to be a little lacking in braking force. At the time, many freight trains did not have any form of automatic braking on the wagons, so the only way to control and stop a train was by the locomotive brakes and a handbrake in the brake van at the tail end.

Not surprisingly, there were a couple of incidents where a diesel was literally pushed along by its train, out of control simply because it hadn’t got braking force comparable with a steam loco. As a stop-gap measure, until continously braked freight trains were commonplace, withdrawn passenger coaches were converted into extra braking capacity for the diesels.

Dubbed Diesel Brake Tenders, the vehicles were made from cut-and-shut coach underframes of ex-LMS or LNER origins with something like 36 tons of scrap metal and concrete added. Attached to the diesel loco, either towed behind or propelled in front, and connected to the loco’s vacuum train brake, the extra four axles with braking helped control the heavy trains.

Brake tenders were generally unloved creatures. They began to arrive in traffic from about 1961, and were finally withdrawn from service and scrapped by the late 1980s. The example modelled is an amalgam of several tatty specimens photographed by Paul Bartlett in the 1970s and 1980s. The model was built for a client from a Just Like The Real Thing kit, with some additions and modifications, to S7 standards. 

Signed, sealed, delivered

I delivered three BR Mark 1 SKs to the client yesterday. He will add the final lettering and weathering. I had to do a bit of tweaking to get them running smoothly on the layout, but everyone was pleased with the finished results.

Happily, another commission came my way while we were at the meeting, this time from another party. You know, there may be something in building things for people after all.

Almost there

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The coach triplets are nearly ready for delivery. The picture shows them earlier on our putatitive 7mm scale layout (which will probably never be completed, sadly), undergoing running trials. The close-coupling and gangway connections needed some adjustment to negotiate the pointwork without derailing. The upshot is the coaches now go round corners, but aren’t quite as closely coupled as I’d like. I guess compromise is a fact of life sometimes.

So, some last details to do, such as handrails, door handles, various steps and so on, a little retouching of damaged paintwork, and then their official photos before delivery this weekend.

In some ways I’ll be glad to see them go. In other ways it means I need to find something constructive to work on while I seek that elusive job.