When being quiet means being busy

It’s been a bunch of time since I last bothered this little corner of t’internet, but…

I have been busy.

I could list everything that’s been going on, but that would be dull.

Anyway, the real message is that I have hopefully turned a corner (or two) and should be on the cusp of being significantly not busier not busy.

This means that I will have more time for annoying people and, now the clocks have changed, annoying even more people.

And enjoying the ZX10-R, obv.

Speaking of the Ninja, she had her first annual service last weekend.

And, being a whole one year old, an insurance renewal.

My (still fully comp) premium has dropped significantly and, for good measure, I got cover for my leathers thrown in.

So that’s all bloody marvellous.

Oh yes, and I’m idly considering buying a horse.

Busy doing… well, everything really

It is a truth universally acknowledged that…


I  have been stupidly busy.

My aspiration to do less remains just that.

An aspiration.

I have many demands on my time, yet the amount of time I have available to service these demands seems to be on a diminishing curve.

Work continues to be busy, which is great.

But being busy at work isn’t helping with the ‘do less’ thing.

Not having horses in my life should be – and is – helping, but I actually found myself looking at a rather tasty 5yo mare last week.

That would be totes bonkers.

*steps away from the horse-buying thought*

Motorbike time has been limited, due to the awful weather.

But I did trundle out and about for three hours on Saturday, in the freezing cold, and as a result I was given this:

Enhanced Rider Certificate

Enhanced Rider Certificate

I think this means that I am now officially licensed to scare professionals, or something.

Actually it means that I am now a Blood Biker.

I have already passed the Controllers training; now I’m able to go out on the bikes too.


I have a new guitar.

Well, actually I have almost two new guitars.

After encouragement from top muso and ace bloke Ash, I sent my SG away to be professionally set-up.

It came back, a week later, feeling like a new man guitar.

Seriously, it’s a different guitar, in terms of playability.

But Ash started me looking for another guitar, something with a different neck design, to the SG.

I’ve been looking at Fender Strats, having played one of his.

But after an unplanned visit to a guitar emporium in Leicester, I accidentally bought this:

G&L Legacy

G&L Legacy

The Legacy is a different animal to the SG, and it feels very Fender Strat-y.

But in terms of playability, it’s a significant step up from the SG (even from the newly-feeling, professionally set-up SG).

Unfortunately, the new-and-a-half guitars haven’t lifted my playing ability from the crap zone, but I have got a lot of practice in this week.

I have got a lot of practice in this week because Sam has been in Dubai, UAE; Dhaka, Bangladesh; Yangdon, Myanmar; Bangkok, Thailand; and Saigon, Vietnam.

She’s on her way back from Saigon to Yangdon, then to Dubai, then EMA, then home.

So while she’s been away I have played guitar.

I have also babysat the two rescue kitties and the two rescue kittens.

I have done a bit (not much) of laundry.

And cooked and eaten like a singleton.

And worked.

When not working I have fallen asleep during TV watching.

Actually there’s a topic.

I don’t seem to watch ‘live’ TV any longer.

I have watched the first two episodes of The Grand Tour (or, to give the show its real name: How To Look And Act Like Top Gear Without Actually Calling Yourself Top Gear).

My three word review: Trying too hard.

I fell asleep during both episodes.

I have also successfully fallen asleep during three episodes of The Man In The High Castle.

And an episode of Lucifer.

I quite liked Preacher, and didn’t fall asleep through any of that.

There are other TV programmes that I have fallen asleep through, but their titles have been as memorable as the watching experience(s).

I recently got a Fitbit (there will be a more detailed post about this, soonish).

It is interesting, wearing a piece of medical tech.

I have become slightly addicted to checking my heart rate, but this shows me that I have an odd pattern of fluctuation.

I checked my heart rate before taking the ZX10R out for the three-hour test on Saturday.


I checked my heart rate after the journey up to the Blythe meeting point.


So, when slobbing about at home, my heart rate is higher than yours (probably), but is in the average zone for me.

But, contrastingly, a fairly swift trip in, frankly, some pretty hairy weather, and on one of the world’s most rapid Superbikes, actually lowered my heart rate to what is (probably) average for you, and is below average for me.

All of this is a bit bonkers.

Indeed, sitting here typing this (and watching the Blessed Sandra Bullock in ‘Gravity’ at the same time), my heart rate is currently 99bpm.

Which is also a bit bonkers, obv.


I shall try to be less busy, and make more of an effort to hang around here.

Mental as

For a weekend that started off with no real plan, it has been a brilliant yet very active few days.

Saturday included the usual household/laundry chores, plus a trip to the tack shop to buy Vin a new stable rug, and a trip to Sainsbury’s to replenish food stocks.

And a trip to the cinema to see Gambit (3/5, awesome cast, baggy plot).

And long chats with my daughter.

And long, long, long chats with a couple of friends who are going through various transitions in their lives.

These things seem to be a bit like buses. Nothing for ages and then three or four relationship problems all at once.

One has been made trickier because I feel a great connection with one of my friends in particular. It was only a year ago that my own marriage failed. And I am sensitive to my friend’s predicament, and sensitive to this time of year.

I also spent some time firming up my plan to spend Christmas and New Year somewhere else. Anywhere else.  I just don’t want to spend Christmas and New Year here.

Sunday involved picking up a friend from Thornhill Park & Ride, taking a trip out to see (and throw carrots at) Vin, a quick flip back home to show off the palatial home (hahaha), and then a drive in to Oxford for lunch.

We ate at Brown’s in Oxford Market. Brown’s (sic) is the home of the misplaced apostrophe. Or the menu is.

After eating we walked through Oxford, gawping at people and getting a little culturish and vulturish.

I may have talked some deliberately misleading bullshit about one or two of the colleges. But that’s alright. They deserve it.

Oh, and no, Jesus didn’t actually go to college there.

This evening I’ve come in, unloaded the washing machine, tried and failed to deal with a couple of emails and talked to my daughter and two friends.

Fell asleep on the couch, briefly.

And now, like a dragon in his den, I’m out.

As you were

In contradiction to my desire to do more with less, I find myself planning a trip to Somerset on Saturday (tomorrow).

And then coming back home, then going on to a gig in Oxford on the same evening.

I need to stop thinking like this.

My trip to work this morning was accompanied by the most sentimental mawkish ballad I’ve heard in a very long time.

Imagine, if you can, Snow Patrol’s worst excesses, blended with Keane’s more popular work.

I listened to that track four times on repeat.

It might be sentimental, but it is lovely.

For the the last ten miles, as an antidote to the ballad, and to get my head ready for the office, I had to listen to some arse-kicking thrash metal from Gibraltarian rockers Breed 77.


*does the rock fingers sign thing*

Kidnapped. By aliens. Twice.

The last week has been fun, terrifying, exciting, amusing, painful and full of absolute joy.

And that’s just been my drive to work.

I have spent a lot of time, over the last seven days, thinking about my life and how I live it.

I find I have not had too much time for anything really good.

No real ‘added value’.

Working 12-15 hours a day, seven days a week will do that.

It will take time away.

From the good things.

I have not seen Vin as much as I would have liked.

I have not practised guitar as much as I should have.

I have not written as much as I should have.

I am behind in my audio and video editing projects.

Work – in the wrong quantities – will do these things.

I threw myself in to work and a mass of personal projects a year ago.

It stops.

It stops now.

It is time to get the quality back in to my life.


Not squeezing some nice things in here or there.

It’s time to do more.

With less.

Starting now.

Knackered (confessions of a plumber, part 4)

I arrived at the house on the fourth successive Saturday morning – toolkit in hand once again.

But this time I had the *second* replacement mixer cartridge component.

Honour needed to be restored!

I slumped in to the bathroom, shut off the water and




removed the faceplate









removed the water flow control









removed the outer temperature control arm







removed and dismantled the mixer control gears









cut the waterproof sealant, and removed the backing plate from the wall.



Using the same BluTack and long screwdriver Mission Impossible technique, I carefully removed the screws on the brass cover.

Then I worked the mixing cartridge out of its seat and through the tiny gap.




I put the new cartridge in to the backing plate.






It slid straight in.

I reassembled the shower.

The BluTack/Mission Impossible/gynaecologist/watch-maker/screws through a tiny gap thing was more nerve-wracking than ever.

My hands shook.

With everything back in place I switched the mains water supply back on, put water back in the system and…

Listened to the…



No dripping at all.

I adjusted the temperature and water flow, then turned the shower off.


Absolutely zero drippage.

Elapsped time on this visit?

90 minutes.

Honour restored.

And the shower owner thinks I’m pretty bloody magnificent.

Next time, no matter how pretty the face, no matter how distressed the maiden?

She can get a plumber.


(to be never continued)

Knackered (confessions of a plumber, part 3)

Feeling a bit jaded, I turned up the following Saturday with, as well as my trusty toolkit, a small cardboard box containing a complete mixer cartridge assembly.


Nothing can stop me now!

I thought.

Straight in to the bathroom, off with the shower, slice the waterproof sealant, and then




I removed the faceplate









Then I removed the water flow control









Then I removed the outer temperature control arm







Then I removed and dismantled the mixer control gears









Then I cut the waterproof sealant, and removed the backing plate from the wall.



Using the same BluTack and long screwdriver technique, I carefully removed the screws on the brass cover.

Then I worked the mixing cartridge out of its seat and through the tiny gap.




Then I replaced the old mixing cartridge with the bright shiny one that had been delivered a few days ago.






I couldn’t mount the bloody thing back in to the base unit.

I spent two hours taking it out, making sure everything was good, checking every component was correctly aligned, putting it back in and…

Failing to get the thing to seat sufficiently deeply in to the base unit.



No amount of tea and toast could lift my spirits, and no amount of adjustment, tweaking and fiddling, could get the component sufficiently embedded.

I took the new cartridge in to the kitchen and examined it very carefully.

There was a tiny component, right on the back end of the new mixer cartridge, that rotated.

The same component on the old mixer cartridge didn’t.


It was broken.

I gave up.

Once again I remounted the old cartridge.

It slid straight in to the base plate.

I put everything back together.

Did the Mission Impossible bomb disposal thing with BluTack and a long screwdriver.

Resealed the backing plate.

And felt thoroughly dejected.

The next day I called the Shower Doctor. They agreed to send me a replacement.

Guess what I would be doing the following Saturday?

(to be continued)

Knackered (confessions of a plumber, part 2)

The next Saturday, 10am, I rocked up – toolkit in hand once again – but this time I had the full service kit for the shower.

I was determined to succeed, this had become a point of honour; I had already spent four hours of the previous Saturday on the shower!

Once in the bathroom, I followed the same process I had developed the previous week.

I shut off the water and then




I removed the faceplate









Then I removed the water flow control









Then I removed the outer temperature control arm







Then I removed and dismantled the mixer control gears









Then I cut the waterproof sealant, and removed the backing plate from the wall.



Using the same BluTack and long screwdriver technique, I carefully removed the screws on the brass cover.

Then I worked the mixing cartridge out of its seat and through the tiny gap.




I took the cartridge in to the kitchen then broke it down to the 15 component parts.








I removed the old washers and O-rings.


Then I installed the new washers and O-rings that came in the service kit.



Then I rebuilt the mixer cartridge, then reassembled the shower.

Really, I can’t tell you how much like a Mission Impossible scene inserting those screws, one by one, through that tiny gap was.

With everything back in place I switched the mains water supply back on, put water back in the system and…

Listened to the unchanged drip-drip-drip from the shower.

At least I was getting quicker.

This time I had only used two hours.

The service kit had been a fair stab, but it seemed I had to get a whole new mixer cartridge.


(to be continued)

Knackered (confessions of a plumber, part 1)

7.30pm, Sunday 29th July 2012. Day two of the London Olympics if you need another time reference.

I am in bed.

Yes, that’s right. 7.30pm.

I am, by every description you could apply, knackered.

There have been so many things going on, so I’ll just fill you in on one thing – one thing that I’ve been working on for the last few weekends.

I’ve been repairing a shower.

It is a little known fact that I’m very competent DIY-er.

I just choose to hide it.

Carpentry, plumbing, electrical work; I can do any of these things to a very competent, semi-professional level.

I just can’t be bothered (or interested) to do it for myself, when I can pay a professional tradesman to do it, while I’m getting on with something else; something that I want to do.

Not something that I have to do.

But I am a sucker for a pretty face, and a maiden in distress will, in certain circumstances, get me in to all sorts of trouble.

And that has been the beginning of a number of downfalls that I’ve walked, open armed and wide-eyed, in to.

The bathroom shower, I was told, had a persistent leak.

Actually, that was putting it mildly.

That one bathroom shower was probably responsible for the entire south of England water shortage.

‘Probably just a simple washer replacement’, I had told myself, the night before.

Bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, I pitched up, the next morning, with my toolkit.

I thought ‘take half an hour to fit a new washer, spend the rest of my life being adored and idolised as a total hero, and have maidens far and wide flock to my feet to tend my every whim’.

I walked in to the bathroom, threw back the shower curtain and found myself staring at:


The trouble is, as you will have just realised, in control-surface terms, that’s all there was to look at.

The rest of the shower – the actual mixing cassette (where the flows of hot and cold water are blended in to a single flow) and the flow and temperature control mechanisms were actually out of sight.
Hidden inside a false wall.


I took a (very) deep breath, switched off the water main and began dismantling the controls.




First I removed the faceplate









Then I removed the water flow control









Then I removed the outer temperature control arm







Then I removed and dismantled the mixer control gears









Then I took a very deep breath and cut the waterproof sealant, and removed the backing plate from the wall.



Nestling six inches inside the wall was a large, square, brass cover, with the inside of the flow control pointing at me.

The brass cover was fastened with a screw in each corner.

Problem the first, immediately became apparent.

The hole in the wall that I had to work in, was a mere three centimetres wider, than the size of the large brass cover.

Somehow, to move forward, I would have to remove those four, deeply set, screws, using a technique familiar to gynaecologists and watchmakers.

Not plumbers.

While I was mentally regrouping I did what all good British workmen would do.

I asked for a cup of tea and a slice of toast.

Then I walked over the road to the village shop, where I bought a packet of BluTack (other adhesive putties are available).

Back in the bathroom, tea and toast appropriately disposed of, the careful application of BluTack on the end of a very long screwdriver carefully removed the screws.

It would be no exaggeration to say it was like a bomb-disposal scene.

I had just enough gap to slide the screwdriver in and, very, very carefully, ease each undone (but firmly attached) screw, one by one, through the tiny gap.

When I’d removed the large brass cover, I fiddled and worried the mixing cartridge out of its seat and through the tiny gap.



The troublesome, leaking device nestled wetly in the palm of my hand.


I quickly realised that the mixer cartridge had no standard washers.



Instead, the mixer had twelve (yes, twelve!) O-rings, and four (yes, four!) internal washers.

And each O-ring was a different size.

And each washer was a different size.

And none of them were any of the three main standard plumbing sizes.

I admitted defeat.

I reassembled the whole bloody thing.

Reseating the screws, using the BluTack and long screwdriver, was once again like a bomb disposal scene.

I resealed the backing plate on to the wall, turned the water back on and sat in the bathroom.

Feeling beaten.

I was almost deafened by the fast-flowing drip-drip-drip-drip of the leak-from-hell.

Four hours, in case you’re wondering.

That’s how long it took.

So I got on the internet, and found the incredibly helpful, Glasgow-based, Shower Doctor.

They advised me that I might need a new mixer cartridge (we estimated the old one had been fitted 20 years ago), but I might be able to get away with a service kit.

A new mixer cartridge was over £120. A service kit was three times cheaper.

I opted for the cheaper.

Three days later a package arrived from Glasgow.


I arranged to revisit the shower at the weekend.

(to be continued)


It is 8.15pm and I am in bed.

I have had, frankly, a lovely weekend; I can’t tell you about too much of it, I’m under contract not to.

Amongst the many and varied Saturday activities I managed to complete, that I can discuss, I bought a new pair of motorbike trousers.

[astonished voice]
Have you seen the price of a set of motorcycle leathers?
[/astonished voice]

Also, I got this weekend’s show out. There has been a bit of an ahem hiatus in producing the podcast.

But that’s only because I have a life.

Today I dozed through most of the British Grand Prix. I also spent a fair lump of time looking for a software installation disc. Which I found, in the loft.

A couple of hours looking for a disc, 15 minutes to install it? This ratio is wrong, obv.

So I am reorganising things; I am going to create a proper software library.

The law of sod will prevail, of course. I will probably never need to look for a software installation disc again. But at least I’ll know where everything is.

Anyway, here to put a smile on your face is the mime version of ‘Torn’ by Natalie Imbruglia (the future ex Mrs Jones).