With Janecki to Kalmar….

… has the ring of a Boy’s Own Paper adventure; a stirring story of a campaign in the Polish – Swedish wars of the 1600’s, derring-do and so forth (Henty missed a trick here) but it isn’t. Janecki was, on this trip, my fellow magneteer.

Everything was going swimmingly at work until Bjoggs put his socks in the toaster and the whole operation ground to a halt – result: a couple of days of R&R for the Magneteers; time for a bit of culture.

We didn’t have far to go. Just like Karlskrona, Kalmar, some 40 miles north, boasts architecture in the Classical style. In the old town, the Domkyrkan (Cathedral) sits at one end of Stortorget, bordered by handsome buildings and facing the Rådhus (town hall – the building on the right).

Continuing our tour south past the Rådhus, brought us to the marina and turning right to get to the Tourist Information Office (usefully closed on this Saturday morning) afforded a view of Kalmar Castle which, for us tourists, proved irresistible.

It was a good walk in a brisk wind coming off the Baltic – I could still taste the salt several hours later – but well worth the effort.

Gaining the courtyard by way of the drawbridge and a tunnel with a painted ceiling, the Swedish taste for trompe l’oeil was first revealed and continued throughout the castle.

It was once used as a women’s prison and there was a gruesome exhibit showing several methods of punishment handed out to transgressors. Part of the display comprised contemporary re-enactments of these punishments captured on camera; the photo’s were extremely powerful.

The streets of the old town were charming and (obviously) distinctly Scandinavian in style. There’s something particularly homely about wooden houses; a warmth and coziness lacking in most bricks and mortar constructions. I remember remarking about my trip to Drammen in Norway that it felt like Mr Hornby had had a hand in the laying out of the countryside; just as easily he might have contributed to Sweden’s vistas – there’s something perfectly modelled about them. For some reason I keep expecting to encounter some brutalist style of architecture imported as a result of Sweden’s proximity to Russia. So far, I remain happily disappointed but, thinking again, although Finland (not strictly part of Scandinavia) hasn’t fared so well, maybe the hotel we Magneteers stay in near Pikkala, which resembles a Soviet style airport building, will one day achieve the status of Trellick Tower.

Back in Karlskrona I revisited the railway which runs right under the centre of the town. Long since abandoned and rather sinister, I read that it was built in 1887 to supply the Naval dockyard and was expanded to include a network of bunkers during World War II. I haven’t discovered if you can get down there to have a look round – I’m sure there’d be plenty of people who’d like to visit.

All too soon, our impromptu break came to an end and we were back in the dark satanic soup again….

……. and then with Janecki to Luton Airport.

Doesn’t have quite the same ring.


More Things To Do.

Yet another project, albeit a small one but even so, not without its complications. Four or five years ago, our village pub was closed and sold to a developer whose ideas didn’t really sit comfortably with the locals; a stale-mate ensued. Eventually the pub was sold to a local resident, restored and re-opened last year. One evening I was asked if I could give the landlord a hand lifting a barrel onto the stillage in the rather cramped cellar. It was an awkward job and really, some kind of hoist would have made the task much easier and, more importantly, independent of volunteers from the bar; a drink is the customary reward for these exertions. I said I would design and build something to fit in the space available but, more anon.

I haven’t started on the handbrake ratchet release system yet as I’ve been called away to Sweden. There’s 60km of cable to magnetise and so everything else has been put on hold. In the past we magneteers have driven to Karlskrona but this time the kit was sent on ahead and we took a flight to Kastrup, Copenhagen and hired a rather swish BMW to take us the rest of the way.

Very nice but, surprisingly, less refined than my 13 year-old Mercedes – no cruise control for instance, something a car of this calibre might certainly have – especially the automatic version. Of course, there’s every possibility that I just haven’t found it yet.


We’re working with the Maersk Connector; a giant of a ship complete with helicopter platform and, I’m informed, a flat bottom which, with its thrusters retracted, enables it to run up onto the beach to complete part of the cable connecting process. The downside of the flat bottom is the ship rolls about like a good’un in heavy seas..

She was a day late arriving so I had a bit of time to explore and drove up the east coast to see what Sweden had to offer. There were some charming little villages with harbours though I suspect most of the houses were holiday homes; they had that recently-abandoned-flip-flop air about them.

Before I left for Sweden, Learned Counsel and I aligned and welded the two parts of Project ‘Z’ to the frame of one of my workshop benches. Learned Counsel’s partner in this scheme, The Racing Driver, saw to it that the Kawasaki engine was removed to make way for a Honda 600 CBR, all the suspension components and the MX-5 diff came off and the work of rebuilding the cockpit section could begin.

Apparently, by the time I get back, the welding will be complete and then it’s up to me to get on with the body design as quickly as possible. Not knowing anything about fibre-glassing, I went with The Racing Driver to a place not too far away where all sorts of fibre-glassing activities were taking place – from car bodies to panels for (static) DH Mosquito’s. It was only about 10 miles away, next to a shop that built racing cars and I hadn’t a clue that either of them existed! Chap was very helpful and gave me a few pointers on building the buck.

On my return I shall first complete the stillage hoist; I know – shooting myself in the foot – but these things must be done.


So, Which Is It Then?

When I started on the 1906 Rover gear lever and brake quadrant, there were a couple of things that I had to assume, one of which was that the main casting that attached to the bodywork and supported the mechanism, was correct for the car.

It wasn’t. Further research threw up a couple of pictures from period Rover catalogues….


… both of which were different. In the first picture, the gear lever (the one with the knob on the end) appears on the outside run of the quadrant. In the second, the handbrake has taken its place and is most likely the result of some confusion on the part of the touch-up artist. The next problem was a picture purportedly from of a 1906 Rover control arrangement that had been reassembled in the order that it had come off the car.

This shows the gear lever on the inside and with the return spring holder (the short tube at the base of the lever) facing outwards. Then another picture – this time a known 1906 car….

…  with the return spring holder facing inwards. This is the one I decided to replicate with a little help from another set of pictures which included better detail of the gear spacing on the top of the quadrant.

I won’t cut the slots for the gear positions until the quadrant is on the car and we can determine exactly where the gears are – they’re bound to be different to this example.

With the laser-cut kit of parts, I was ready to start the assembly with the tricky bit – bending the base of the quadrant. The 5mm steel was easy to bend with the aid of a press but it needed to be right first time and the two arms, with a datum taken through the centre of the body attachment lugs, were effectively of different lengths putting the bend lines in different places on each arm but still requiring them to be joined with the cross plates in the same plane – if that makes sense.

The operation went smoothly and whilst I remembered in what order I did things, I bent up the spare base plate to match. Then it was just a question of getting everything to sit in the right order and to make sure that there was enough clearance between the two levers.

I had a set of spacers to play with and they proved extremely handy in determining how long the final one-piece spacers would be.

In the end, although the assembly may not be exactly as it came out of the factory, the controls will look right and pass muster. The handbrake ratchet release is the next bit to create; it works by pulling towards you an aluminium handle on the end of the brake lever which in turn disengages a stop from the ratchet teeth. It’s all a bit backwards at first glance but it’s simple and effective.

I’ve forgotten what the second thing was that I had to assume but it most likely would have been wrong in any case.



Project ‘Z’.

Learned Counsel turned up the other day with the chassis of a racing car on a trailer.

I’ve been invited to help design the body – that’s nice – and I was just getting the pencils out when the call came for me to leave for Nordenham in Northern Germany. NSW have a very big cable-making factory on the banks of the river Weser and needed a kilometre of cable magnetised. Fortunately for us, all the hotels in Nordenham were booked up so I and my fellow magneteer had to stay in Bremerhaven on the opposite bank, in a spanking new hotel – beastly luck, what?

There’s a lot of building work going on in Bremerhaven; new marina’s, hotels and so forth and I gather that the town is gearing up for the tourist industry and hoping to persuade the smaller cruise ships to visit.

There’s a lot going for Bremerhaven and I would have liked a bit of time to explore the Maritime Museum which looked incredibly well stocked. The dock had a variety of vessels of all ages; tug-boats, sailing ships, a submarine and this interesting hydrofoil…

Even the shopping centre was shaped like a boat…

The hotel ‘Im-Jaich’ was excellent and I was delighted to see that the bathroom designer had taken note of my comments regarding shelves above basins…

… the perfect set-up but – there’s always something that’s not quite right. The water was luke-warm and no amount of running it produced the slightest increase in temperature. I had a particularly brief shower in the morning but noticed a control knob set into the wall under the sink. That evening I turned it to full and voilá – or rather, hier, hot water.

The dining room hinted at Hopper’s ‘Laundromat’ and the painting in the foyer was one which I would have quite happily hung in my house.

Someone on the interior design team had done their homework and it showed. It was the briefest of visits and I was looking forward to a couple of days R&R when I got home but the Silk Finishing Machine was needing further attention so I had to wait for the weekend before having a bit of time off.

A Special Builder’s Breakfast Club run with the Ambassador’s Daughter was planned but we got only 20 miles before the Hillman faded on a roundabout and, not wishing to tempt fate, I turned around and headed for home. We stopped at the West Suffolk Motor Club’s trial and watched a lot of people having fun in the mud before going home – it did look fun but something the Hillman is entirely unsuited to – too long and no turning circle to speak of. Later, I remembered that I’d removed the manifold to put the new copper gaskets on and hadn’t re-set the idle so we could have got to Southwold but, having never been to a trials before, it was a happy omission.

I saw that Learned Counsel had been at work while I was in Germany; I’m sure everything’s under control.



An Even Odder Business…

I thought there was something wrong with the suspension because every time I went over the paint on the lane markings of the Autobahn, the steering wheel shook like the feedback on a PlayStation racing car wheel. I’d had a similar problem with my Mercedes so I took my hands off the wheel and pressed the brake gently – no vibration but, there was a ‘ding’ in the cockpit and a message flashed up, ‘Do not remove your hands from the wheel’. What!

I discovered that the Ford S-Max which we’d hired for the trip had a feature called ‘lane control’ which, if you happened to stray, nudged the steering wheel so the car remained in the centre of the lane you were in. My first encounter with the system and not knowing about it was slightly unnerving but I worked out that indicating before I changed lanes, cancelled the ‘driver assist’. This also worked on single track roads and on my tour around the Bornholm coast, I decided to experiment and managed to get the car to go round gentle curves without any help from me, the upshot of which was that the car kept telling me that I should stop and have a coffee because I was clearly becoming incapable of steering the car myself. Clever stuff.

I visited Hammershus, a 13th Century castle at the Northern tip of Bornholm and developed a taste for bicycle racks….

… this one in Glamsbjerg and this next….

I spotted on our return trip via Rotenburg in Germany. This new enthusiasm somehow sits quite happily with railway lines. But, besides the art museum on Bornholm, the other great highlight of the trip was a visit to my sister’s friend’s near neighbour. A brickworks sits in the bottom of a shallow valley and in the middle of that, a fairly unassuming building houses a collection of over 100 cars; the Strøjer Collection.





There must have been around 20 Ferrari’s – at least half of which had racing history; a half-dozen Lamborghini’s, a similar amount of classic 50’s Mercedes sports cars, Aston Martins, Maserati’s, a Bugatti Veyron, a dozen Rolls’, a huge H6 Hispano Suiza, an even bigger Duesenburg. Billed as a collection of ‘dream cars’, there was a dream-like quality to tripping over this little lot in the middle of nowhere. Oddly enough, when I was in Finland just before Christmas I happened to turn on the TV in my hotel room and caught the last 10 minutes of a programme about what I now know was the Strøjer Collection; I recognised the hugely enthusiastic and welcoming owner who keeps all the cars in running order and uses them regularly.

Even odder still, a wonderful Skoda museum (although closed when I was there) is just down the road.


An Odd Business.

I may be old-fashioned but when I arrive at an hotel, I’ve come to expect to see someone, even if they take their time appearing at reception.


I dropped big sister off in Glamsbjerg (and spotted a railway line to snap) where she could spend the next few days talking dogs with her breeder friends which gave me the perfect excuse to further my research into Aage Georg Schad, the painter of the portrait I’d bought in a junk shop in Sweden in the 90’s.


I hopped aboard the ferry at Ystad (pronounced ‘oershtal’) in Sweden for a 50kt roller-coaster of a ride in one of the biggest catamarans afloat, to the island of Bornholm which is out in the Baltic, just below the Swedish mainland.


It was almost dark when I got into port at Ronne but the hotel was only a few minutes from the harbour and I parked outside to unload my bags. I went in and as there was no desk or anything and thinking I might have gone in the back door, I searched the place looking for some sort of reception or at least some sign of life. Nothing….. until I noticed an envelope on a shelf in the hallway with my name on it. It contained the keys to my room so that was a start but, what do I do with the car? I went back outside and wandered up and down the street trying to decipher the instructions on the parking notices – Danish is not my strong suit. Then I noticed a girl struggling with a pram up the steps of the hotel and seized my chance. Fortunately, practically everyone you meet in Scandinavia speaks excellent English and this young mum was no exception. My parking worries over, I went to look for something to eat; everywhere was closed (the off-season) except the garage which offered a selection of crisps and some local beer.


Jolly good it was too! You’ll notice of course, that the label is in the shape of the island of Bornholm. I’ll pop back tomorrow and buy a selection box to take back with me.


The island is not huge so I decided that I would go the long way round to the Kunstmuseum and try to get some feel for the landscape. There’s something here that’s very reminiscent of Cape Cod. If Hopper had been Danish, this is where he would have painted. Certainly the architecture; wooden and once bright but now fading painted houses set in isolation…..

Coast, Gudhjem

… and the rugged coastline would have appealed to him. I didn’t have enough time to seek out the ‘Hopper’ shot but it’s without doubt, here somewhere.


The Bornholm Kunstmuseum is a gallery which should be on every art-lovers ‘must visit’ list. Besides a truly excellent lunch, the permanent collection is wholly unpretentious and full of delights. It concentrates on artists connected with Bornholm and the Bornholm School of Painters but, typically, the only person missing is Aage Schad!

I had a chat with the staff and left some pictures so this extraordinarily odd omission may yet be rectified.






…. is blinkin’ taters in Suffolk, so the call which saw me swiftly departing the fix for Naples, was very welcome.


As the sun rose over Vesuvius the next morning, the cable-laying barge was in place ready for us Magneteers to get on with the job. We had 27km of cable to process which ordinarily would take about seven or eight days but the Italians don’t seem to be in so much of a rush as the rest of us so ten days in temperatures of 14°C was a welcome interlude.

On the beach

In my wanderings I spotted another plant on the beach below our loading jetty which I hope Mike, my botanist reader from Western Australia, will identify for me.

Night fishing

Early one evening, I noticed a light moving across the bay towards our station. I’m not sure what these fishermen were after but the chap standing on the prow had a five-pronged harpoon which would have made a mess of a passing Turbot; squid or eels perhaps?

Gulfo di Pozzuoli

The Gulfo di Pozzuoli. That’s Pozzuoli on the left and in the right conditions as you pan right, Capri would come into view just ahead of where the barge is anchored at the end of the jetty. It was odd but, all around us there were thunder storms and rain while our little bay remained sunny and clear for the most part.

Arco Felicé

I had my railway moment with a snap of the station at Arco Felicé.


And on the way home, we stopped in Milan as the sun was setting.

1908 Swift

I nearly forgot to mention something about cars – we had some fun getting this 1908 Swift started before I went away but I regret to say that I still haven’t been out in the Hillman this year as there’s still too much salt on the roads and it won’t be the last of it either at the rate the temperature is dropping.

And here’s something interesting: http://www.oldtimerdaglelystad.nl/nieuws/item/691-een-unieke-austin-7-special