Saturday, 27 June 2009

"Give me a lever and I can move the world"

I wonder if Archemedes knew that one day I would be laying underneath Althea with my legs sticking out into the road thanking him for inventing the lever. It has been a day of serendipity and friendly neighbours.

Yesterday I crawled underneath and tried to get the bolts that hold the prop shaft on loose. They were hard to get to, rusted in and it wasn't long before I had given up and decided to cut and drill them off instead. That was when I realised I had locked myself out and had to get Peter the caretaker to climb in through my window. I'm sure we looked a sight.

This morning I went to the hardware shop to buy metal drills and goggles and came back with some special sockets for removing rounded off nuts and a length of steel curtain rail instead. I decided to have another go.

At my garage I met the neighbours who are having a 90th birthday party in the grounds and they thanked me for lending them a couple of plastic chairs. Someone mentioned that they had forgotten the covers for their gazebo and I loaned them the covers for mine. The frame for which was destroyed at Glastonwick this year (see post not yet posted) but I kept the covers just in case.

As I started the job the man who has the garage near where she is parked offered to lend me allen keys and electricity. I took a couple of 8mm allen keys off him and destroyed one of them.

I decided I needed something like a traffic cone to put in the road to stop cars running over my legs and found one about three yards away on the pavement.

I tapped the 8mm allen socket into the first screw and slid the curtain rail over the ratchet spanner handle and pulled with all my strength. Something had to give. Either the screw would break, the curtain rail would break or the spanner. There was an almighty clunk and bits flew everywhere. I expected the worst but found that the screw had turned. I worked out a system of moving Althea very slightly to position the next screw and after three more of the same the front end was off. The back was very similar apart from having to use the thing for getting rounded off nuts off with.

While I was doing all this a 60 something woman came and told me how much she loved "that old bus". She told me how much she loves the movies and collects the posters. Sher told me about all the places she's been to to visit the locations and how many times she's seen Titanic. She talked about how if she had been a bit younger she would happily live like a gypsy. It's so nice how the community seem to have adopted Althea. She really does bring out the best in the nice people and the worst in the not so nice.

The prop shaft is now in the garage. I am filthy but very happy. By next week hopefully she will have her new one and I will be able to take her to get the fuel pump and clutch cable sorted.

Below:mucky me, the gazebo and the prop shaft,

Sunday, 21 June 2009

No Fish Today

This trip was supposed to be in Althea but she's in need of a new prop shaft so I didn't risk a very serious accident and left her at home. She has a new clutch now and is back home waiting for me to take the old prop shaft off and take it to Feltham to be copied. Then I can drive her to John in Norfolk to get the fuel pump fixed and the clutch cable sorted then fingers crossed that should be it for major works for a while.

I managed to get so much stuff into my little MX5 that people on the campsite commented as they went by.
"Are you going to get all that into that little car?" they asked,

"It takes all day but yes, I'm very good at Tetris," I replied, which is a lie. I'm crap at tetris but I am very good at packing. There must be a name for the skill of being able to fit shapes together and have a good idea of what will tessellate with what in 3D.

It has been a lovely couple of days but alas no fish. My crab pot was extremely successful, I put a little bacon in the bait bit and chucked it into the water the night before. In the morning it was alive with worried little crabs. But none of them were peelers and after a very traumatic experience killing one of the crabs to use as bait I decided to release the rest. It was a great feeling watching 20 little brown crabs head for the water and freedom. I wonder if the one I killed is being sung about in crab folk songs now or being worshipped as a saviour in the beginnings of a crab religion that will eventually become huge and cause a crab world war, or at least some crabby crusades.

I fished a few spots but with not so much as a bite. I did see one lovely big Bass showing off his silver sides but by the time I had got my lure in the water he was gone. I made a note of his face and vowed to get him next time. Fishing is so pleasant it can be quite removed from catching fish. I sometimes think catching fish and fishing can be in many ways completely removed from each other. They were this weekend that's a fact.

There was the old captain across the way with his captain's hat looking like Popeye's dad who grunted and smiled a few times, making the "drinking" hand gesture every time I looked over at him. There were the "two or three families together" with the two teenage girls who I did start to think were tethered to each other in some way as they were never more than 2 feet apart and seemed only to have pyjamas to wear. There were a couple of young girls who came back from a walk by the river caked in mud from head to toe and were sneaked into the showers by one of their mums " quick before your dad sees you".

I had to laugh out loud when Oscar the three year old worked out that the plastic cricket bat when applied to uncle's ankles was much more fun than when used to miss the ball.

I got chatting to Keith and Karen in the tent next to mine when I saw he had fishing rods too. Before long we were fishing together and later we got pretty drunk together and fed the mosquitos late into the night.He told me about how he'd managed to be in the army at exactly the right time to miss any active service and she told me all about how different cocaine producing countries have different methods for wrapping it up to be ingested for smuggling purposes, nobody uses condoms apparently that's a fallacy (wink wink). We shared our love for drug and bomb dogs and she told me all about money and food dogs too.Yes there are dogs that are trained to sniff out money. I want one of those.I wonder if a dog could be trained to sniff out parts for old ambulances.

I gave Keith my email address and we agreed to exchange fishing news and get together for some more focused fishing.I showed them a photo of Althea and they were both under her spell. Keith said "I thought when you said old ambulance it was going to be a bit crappy but that's a beautiful thing you have there, much nicer than a VW by a long way", he can come again ;-)

Thursday, 18 June 2009

Tubular Bells

So she now has a new clutch. It took the garage 12 hours to get the old one out and they had to cut a bit of the chassis out to do it. The universal joints on the propshaft are holding on by the skin of their little metal teeth (thanks to Chris and Mucker not greasing them) which is why when I change gear there's a lovely bell like clanggggg. I'll have to get a new propshaft made. In the meantime Althea will sit and wait. I've found a place where I can get one made but it will take a while to get the old one there so they can copy it.

I will have to get the clutch cable fixed too. Thanks to Chris and Mucker (another corner cut boys) the clutch was never set up right which is why it wore the way it did.

Wednesday, 17 June 2009

Fish Fingers Crossed

I just got a call to say that she's on the low loader on her way to the garage. The next 36 hours will be difficult. If it's just the clutch I should have her back by Friday and we'll be off fishing for the weekend.

Saturday, 13 June 2009

Troubles I got!!!

So I'm going to go a bit out of order here and blog what's just happened instead of keeping things in chronological order. I should really be telling you about the fun we had at Glastonwick last week but having had the drive I've just had you'll see why I'm writing this instead.

I have been toying with a few ideas about why she's been behaving the way she has and this morning I put on my scruffs and had a good poke around underneath. It was clear that the fuel leak was finding its way into the clutch and causing it to slip (diesel is very slippy stuff and clutches are all about friction innit!)

I came up with an ingenious design to fix the problem for a couple of weeks until I can get her to John (the guy who fixed Donna). It involved a few strips of cloth tied in the right places to soak up the leaking fuel and drip it away from the clutch.

It worked a treat. I set off to Ipswich to collect the pair of 1920s deck chairs I had bought on eBay. The journey there (91 miles) was a real treat (mostly). I got a real feel for what she'd be like with good traction and positive gears. So what if she shook a bit at 70 mph , she was only designed to do 55 anyway. She hauled ass up the hills and took the corners very confidently. It was delightful.

I even enjoyed the 1 hour delay on the A12 while we waited for the emergency services to clean up an accident. I used my iPhone to find an internet radio station dedicated to traffic reports to find out what the delay was. Then sat back and enjoyed the rest.

Note the people walking on the motorway to see what was wrong. It wasn't long before they were running back to their cars as the traffic got going again.


A few miles from the destination she started sounding a bit odd. Engine braking sounded like a bowling ball hitting the skittles and there was the occasional puff of smoke from the gear stick which was getting hot enough to melt the carpet.

I did stop a couple of times and have a look but what the hell could I do?

I collected the chairs and parked up in a layby surrounded by lush green English fields and cooked myself sausage and egg for lunch which I ate sitting in one of the newly acquired chairs. It was idyllic and what owning a campervan is all about to me. I could quite comfortably have stayed there the night. It was such a pleasure to just chuck a couple of bits of food in the back and know that everything else I needed was already on board.

So after food and a rest I set off again. In no time she was making her new noises and back to her old ways of dragging slowly up not very steep hills.

We managed to limp most of the way home but with only 23 miles to go I went to change gear and CLUNK!

I knew giving her hazard lights was going to be useful one day. It was so tempting to lay down in the back and have a nap while waiting.

40 minutes later I was guiding Althea onto the back of an AA low loader. Upgrading my account was a wise idea. She's sitting in her space now waiting for me to arrange her repairs. I would love to have John Warden work on her as I trust him and know he would do a good job but he's in Norfolk. So the search begins tomorrow to find a garage to do the job.
Up she goes. Thank you very nice man.

Home at last. We had fun getting her off the truck. As she reached equilibrium with her front wheels still on the truck. Even tipping it as high as it would go made no difference. We pushed and I jumped in and hit the breaks before she rolled back on.

Friday, 12 June 2009

Fashion...Turn to the left

With just the bass bin and a couple of pairs of speakers on board we headed off to Norfolk again. Althea is getting very sluggish now and I'm starting to worry that she'll stop altogether soon. I'm sure it's more than just the fuel pump now and am starting to wonder about the clutch. Maybe fuel is finding its way into the clutch and causing it to slip? Maybe it's just worn or needs adjusting somehow. I resolve to get her looked at and put it off no longer. She's got hardly any weight on board. Even fully loaded her Transit van engine shouldn't be struggling like this. We are slowing to 35mph on not very steep hills. it seems worse on long climbs which is why I am starting to think it might be fuel causing the slippage. The engine races but she just doesn't move any faster.

Apart from that it was a pretty uneventful journey to the Poole household. We had drinks and music and a few guests arrived to stay the night for the party the next day. Eleanor and I discussed a playlist, I uploaded a few tracks from her CDs and we all watched the Britain's Got Talent final together.

Next day at 1pm Dave Rainbow and I got access to the little village hall where the fashion show themed party will be. After I worked out that there was nothing wrong with the PA apart from the fact that I had plugged one side into the sub bass output which was why it had no top end, the setup went smoothly. Dave rigged his lights including my new laser cluster toy and we waited for the kids to arrive.

A guy called Campbell did an ad-lib fashion guru act and the kids loved it. I played everything on Eleanor's list and had a great time keeping the kids dancing for a couple of hours. The fashion show itself was a huge hit and just about everyone had a go walking up and down the catwalk.

Ed's older brother Simon turned up with his two newly adopted daughters which was quite a nice surprise too. Ed and he haven't been talking for a while. I haven't seen him for over 25 years either.

The whole village is talking about the party now I'm told.

Happy birthday Eleanor.