Αρχαία Ιστορία

….. or Archaía Istoría in the Roman script which meaning you can at least have a stab at, but when you’re trying to read a map and all you’ve got to go on is a lot of quite unfamiliar shapes, it’s easy to get lost in the hills – as of course, I did.

The day before, my fellow Magneteer and I had a few hours to spare after setting up our gear at the factory. We asked Pericles, a young Greek chap we had met last time we were in Naples, what was near to hand. Quite a lot as it happened.

The ruins of a temple – in fact several temples, the earliest of which was 9thC BC – dedicated to Hera, sister to, and scandalously to our modern sensibilities, wife of Zeus.

The view from the lighthouse at the very tip of the Perachora peninsula would have been magnificent if the skies had been clear. It was also blowing nearly 30kts so we didn’t get too close to the edges of the cliffs.

With still a little bit more time to spare, we came back around the bay to look for the Corinth Canal. I’d always thought that this was an ancient structure but I’ve since learnt (from the huge inscribed monument at the site) that, although first proposed in the 7thC BC, it was completed after many a false start, in 1893.

My picture doesn’t do justice to the walls that rise 90mts above the water – it’s a long way down.

We’re never alone in our work place. Stray dogs abound and they scavenge for food wherever there’s human activity. The factory workers seem to keep them going with the remains of their lunches. One chap I was speaking to had befriended one of the dogs as a puppy.

As it was my turn for the night shift, the following day I had a couple of hours to spare before going back to the hotel for an afternoon snooze, so I took the turning to Corinth. Corinth has had a bit of a chequered history it having been destroyed by earthquakes and latterly a great fire. Each time, the city was rebuilt in a different place – I was looking for the earliest site on the Isthmus of Corinth with the remains of its Temple to Apollo.

Corinth is approximately halfway between Athens and Sparta. Sparta – there’s a name to conjure with! My education in matters of Greek history, Greek mythology and almost everything else Greek is shamefully lacking so seeing the names of these places on sign-posts had a slightly surreal feel.

And they do like their old cars. There seems to be a scrap yard at every turn. I’ve seen the shell of a Mk X Jaguar lying in a vineyard, a couple of ‘B’ type Opel Kadett’s – one a fast back coupe and, coming out of a café tonight, I tripped over this Peugeot.

Not long before that’s ancient history.



The Great Collector popped by the other day – he was looking a bit sheepish so I knew what was afoot.

A 14hp Bean. Absolutely immaculate and it sounds very sweet with its rebuilt engine. I don’t know why but, many years ago – when in fact I was still at school – I got into conversation with a music master who lived in a house not far from our school entrance. I remember his name was Mr Durant and he claimed that his father – or grandfather, I can’t remember which, was the man behind the Star car. I recall he became very animated when I mentioned the Bean in the same breath. I’ve tried to find out if there was a connection between Bean and Star but have so far drawn a blank.

It has a very shapely radiator.

Mr Summers (of Summer Road) despite some setbacks with his new road springs being far too stiff, is still determined to have his Morris tourer ready for the summer.

And I see that Learned Counsel has endorsed my choice of brake calipers by choosing the same Wilwood brand. He’s gone for the single pot version but then his car weighs only half that of the Hillman.

And I was just going out of the door to collect the aluminium discs to make up the false brake drums when a call came through to jump on a plane to Athens for a magnetising job. The only flights available, as it was half-term and Easter, were Swissair Business Class, with a 4 hour break in Zurich. Beastly luck.

Normally, I don’t eat anything offered to me on an airline because it’s mostly tasteless pap that sticks to the roof of your mouth and, anticipating that, I stoked up on a complimentary breakfast in the Executive Lounge at Heathrow. Then on the plane, the hostess put this in front of me and I have to say, it was as good as it looks. After landing In Zurich, we sat about in the Business Lounge where again, there was a huge selection of food and drink to choose from. With not much else to do, it was difficult not to have a little something to pass the time of day.

We continued to Athens with Aegean. They served up a very good Moussaka, chicken salad and selection of Greek cheeses. I didn’t think that I’d be able to get out of the aircraft door at our destination! As we didn’t arrive until midnight – Athens is 2 hours ahead – we camped out for a night in the Holiday Inn near the airport before continuing the next day to the Fulgor cable factory on Cape Sousaki and our hotel a little bit further round the bay in Loutraki.

There’s a chance we might be able to fit in a tiny bit of sight-seeing before our cable-laying ship comes in so, more anon.


Excused Games.

Not long after returning from Norway, a slight tickle in the throat heralded the onset of an extremely painful cough. I hadn’t been to the Doc’s for years but thought it best to trundle on down to the surgery and see about some antibiotics.

Then all I had to do was look out of the window and sit it out. Thank goodness I was clever enough to invest in a subscription to Netflix. I finally got to the end of ‘Breaking Bad’, sat through days of ‘Designated Survivor’, ‘Homeland’, Person of Interest’ and, as the course of antibiotics came to an end, so too did ‘The Crown’. The alternative – regular daytime television – would have been purgatory. I promised myself I would do this and that; catch up with bits of reading, do some drawings for bits of machinery but, I didn’t.

Unlike Leon who busied himself making a new catch tank for the breather on the Climax engine…

… and continued his experiments with the Special’s brakes.

Mr Summer’s looked in to give me his Morris Minor windscreen to assemble…

And I bought a new tool bag for the Hillman – idle hands often turn to Amazon! The last canvas bag had been in service in several different cars going back 30 years and tools were beginning to escape through holes and rattle around in the back.

And while I’m upgrading the front brakes, I wondered about putting a twin carb manifold on the Morris Six. I’ve got all the bits but as I’m only getting about 22mpg at the moment, do I want to spend more money on fuel for not very much more performance? I might just rebuild one of the spare engines with a twin manifold and hold it in reserve. As I was in recovery mode, Counsel and I popped up to Redditch to see about having the discs and bells made for the Hillman. We had half an hour with the chaps at the engineers and decided they’d be made in two pieces – the bell and the disc being held together with bolts threaded into the disc. They’ll be a little bit more expensive than I’d anticipated but still a lot cheaper than not being able to stop in a real emergency. We elected to come home a different way as the traffic on the A1 and A14 was at a stand still on the way up. We came back via Warwick and looking in the car mirror, I thought I recognised the scene. I parked and dashed back up the road to get the snap.

100 years ago, I bought for £10 in a junk shop, a small coloured etching of the West Gate at Warwick. It’s absolutely charming and I’ve even reproduced it in miniature in one of my paintings – I like putting pictures on walls in paintings. I couldn’t remember the artist’s view-point in the etching – I discovered that it was across the road when I got home but, very little else had changed.

When I say I ‘dashed’ back up the road, that’s not entirely accurate – I think I’ll be off games for a while yet.

A Few Days R & R.

My phone’s battery is getting a bit tired so as soon as I’m on the aeroplane and headed home, I switch it off to conserve what’s left for getting taxi’s and so forth at the other end. I almost always end up missing a good photo.

There was a Norwegian 737 with two de-icing trucks dancing attendance on the other side of the apron though by the time my phone came back to life, it had gone. I managed this shot which would have been better but at the last moment I had to move from my window seat to make way for a cello. I wouldn’t sit next to one again – never said a word all the way home.

I was nevertheless distracted by a spot of lunch which I’d prepared at the hotel and wrapped in a BeeBee Wrap to keep fresh. BeeBee Wraps are beeswax impregnated cotton squares and used as an alternative to cling-film. It’s reusable and said to last about a year.

Traditionally, I’ve used cling film to wrap up sandwiches and there’s always a certain sogginess about them by the time I get round to lunch. Not so with these wax wraps. The claim is that food stays fresher for longer because the wrap is breathable – a claim I wouldn’t dispute.

The sky was clear as we came over the East Anglian coast and I was pleased to make out a popular spot for The Special Builder’s Breakfast Club at Southwold harbour (arrowed in green).

But the next morning the picture was slightly different – cue, travel chaos.

Those of us lucky enough to work from home, always have something on the go to keep us occupied when the rest of the country shuts down. Learned Counsel is making headway with the Mazda-engined racing car aided by his new Lidl air rivet gun. The chassis has been powder-coated and I lent him a 100m roll of plain wallpaper to cut the body panel patterns out. Wallpaper is perfect for the job as it’s stable enough to take a bit of rough handling.

I see he’s following my lead with Wilwood calipers and, I know that a bunch of washers as spacers doesn’t look very nice but for trackside adjustment (of the rake in this case) they’re the way to go.

My ‘snowed in’ occupation is a Model Airways Albatros D.Va kit. I first saw one of these kits in the late 70’s. It was a Sopwith Camel and I’ve never forgotten being completely bowled over by the level of detail. A model like this was always way out of my reach – historically they’ve been eye-wateringly expensive – but this last Christmas I bit the bullet and stumped up the folding. The kit has not disappointed – there’s a zillion parts in the engine alone! I think I’m going to cover it in a transparent Solatex of the type used for indoor flying models, paint one side and leave the other clear though I must first finish the painting of the Hillman which I’ve rather neglected of late….

… because, besides some more stainless steel manifolds to make, ‘Project W’ and some further additions to the silk finishing machine have taken up most of my time.

No rest for the virtuous then.


Things To Do In Drammen When It Snows.

In the rush to get to Oslo’s attractions the last time (but one) I was here, I didn’t notice that there was a museum and gallery in the town of Drammen, not 15 minutes walk from the hotel.

Another few inches of snow had fallen overnight…

… so it was a bit of a lark getting there on foot. I lost the path at one point and ended up in the middle of a roundabout. Happily, the Norwegians are very good about pedestrians and the traffic stopped to watch me struggle through a 3ft high snow drift to get back onto the footpath.

They like their wooden jugs…

.. and their mangles. These work by putting the freshly laundered item on a flat table, wrapping a moist cloth round a cane and with one hand on the horse shaped handle, the cane is rolled up and down under the board until the laundry is smooth before being hung up to dry. I think I’d be much engaged elsewhere if one of those came out of the cupboard – it must have been incredibly hard work.

A small room was devoted to Hans Heyerdahl, a realist painter whose early years were spent in Drammen.

I’d come across and admired his work in the National Gallery in Oslo so it was good to see him again.

Eduard Fischer was a contemporary of Heyerdahl. He seems to have specialised in water and boats but I can’t find much more about him.

Frederik Collett was doing his stuff mostly up the road in Lillehammer.

And finally, Gustav Wentzel with a very typical Scandinavian interior. The gallery followed much the same form as the Bornholme and Haugesund galleries I’ve visited in that it represented only artists that were ‘local’. I like that idea and for that reason I’m looking forward to visiting the Ateneum gallery in Helsinki whose collection comprises mainly Finnish artists. I’ve spotted also, on the way to Helsinki airport, an aviation museum that looks like it’s worth a visit.

With wood in abundance, interiors were lined with boards and then painted, as was almost every other bit of furniture and household utensil. A house without colour would have been a dull place indeed.

The museum occupied two buildings. One building, a modern glass and steel affair, housed the permanent collection. The other, the big house pictured above, had an exhibition of Scandinavian art and design from 1900 to the present. There were two exhibits which caught my eye; the chair above…

… and this small plate. Of the two I would have been happy to take home the plate which was perfect. The chair was nearly there but somehow, not quite.

Back in the hotel, the outlook from my window wasn’t encouraging as more snow fell throughout the day….

…. and with the temperature forecast to drop back to -11°, in the coming week, spending the day holed up in the tent with a box of cup-a-soups, was beginning to look less than appealing.

I’m not sure my building a snowman would be approved of, but it would be something to do.

An Impressive Amount Of Snow.

I was weighing up which might be the best way to create the false drums that’ll cover the discs and calipers on the Hillman when my fellow Magneteer and I were called back to Norway.

We got the front seats, the sun was out and it wasn’t a silly-o’clock departure – perfect. The outlook was less encouraging as we crept into Oslo through the clag, breaking through the cloud base at what must have been close to decision altitude.

A squadron of 17 snow ploughs was busy keeping things clear…

…. and it wasn’t long before we were back in Drammen….

….though a very heavy snow fall over the weekend promised to hold up the proceedings for 24 hours. Happily, that gave us time to get in supplies for the days and nights ahead. But, back to the aluminium brake drums; I had several options. Aluminium tube, 340mm id, 20mm wall, would give me enough material to machine the finning and weld in a 4mm face plate. Sandcasting was the second option.

Building up the drum and fins from different sized aluminium rings was the third, and lastly, rolling a 20mm x 100mm wide plate to form the drum and again, welding in the face plate. The first three options are all quite expensive so I’m going to go with the fourth. There’s a big engineering works down the road from me and I know they’ve got a set of power rollers – I’ll visit when I’m back from Norway.

I’ve also got to pop up to a company in Redditch to have the discs and bells made. I’ve made up the pattern from rings and everything fits in very nicely. The false drum face plates will have to have a slight dish in them as the caliper is just proud of the disc bell by 8mm. I’ll make up a couple of press tools and do that myself. I don’t yet know if, in order to create some visual balance, I’ll put false drums over the existing rear brake drums, it might look a bit over done.

Learned Counsel found time to get the hood started on the Jowett Jingle Bell – luckily, the original hood was in one piece so a careful unstitching of everything gave him a set of patterns to work with.

Mikhail Guermacheff was a painter born in the Ukraine in the late 19thC and, being back in Norway and not having seen so much snow for a long time, it brought to mind this painting belonging to the other Wright brother. Guermacheff’s treatment of the combination of snow, water and light – especially evening light – has always made his paintings instantly recognisable, so when a friend of mine walked into my local pub and asked if I knew anything about some paintings that belonged to his family, pictures of which he had on his phone, I was able to say in a very knowledgeable way, ‘Ah yes, Guermacheff,’ and blather on for a few minutes about the artist’s history.

Even I was impressed.





We Called An Attempt.

In the Olden Days, when model aircraft radio control systems were in their infancy,

Pa was Secretary of the Royal Air Force Germany Model Aircraft Association (RAFGMAA).

Under Pa’s tutelage, my brother and I were keen competitors in the Single Channel Spot Landing Competitions. Filling the fuel tank with an amount of fuel that you guessed would place you up-wind and high enough for a couple of positioning circuits, you started up and launched your model into the air. When the engine stopped, deft use of the rudder control (1 push of the button on the transmitter for left and 2 for right) you guided the model in to land as near as possible to the pre-designated ‘spot’. The rules accommodated for the best of three launches and, if you touched down a bit wide of the mark and felt you could do better, you called an ‘attempt’, and that launch would be discounted. My brother got rather good at this and would regularly beat all comers at the ‘Champs’ to carry home the prizes that Pa, in his capacity as Secretary, had selected from Herr Jansen’s Modellbaugeschäft in Mönchengladbach.

We never had a spark ignition engine – I’m not sure why – E.D.’s and Mills engines powered all our models until the Japanese O.S. engines became available (I think one of the very small ones was a prize once). The E.D. pictured here was used and abused for many years before being sectioned in the Station Workshops at R.A.F. Bruggen in Germany.

My brother has a box of now vintage engines, he being more of an aeromodeller than me, though I seem to have ended up with the paperwork.

We had over the years several radio systems, some of which were better than others. Starting out with the ‘Galloping Ghost’ escapements, we quickly progressed to the much more advanced Graupner sets that had proper servos – Bellamatic, Variomatic (I think) are names I recall. Simprop was our first ‘proportional’ system – how much you moved the joystick on the transmitter corresponded to the deflection of the control surface on the model – and was rightly considered a huge advance. Pa though, was always a ‘rudder and throttle’ man. He reluctantly added elevators in the late 70’s but I don’t remember him ever experimenting with ailerons. ‘Keep it simple’ (and light) was a sound philosophy and, against all odds, he managed to get a scale 56″ wingspan Sopwith Camel flying perfectly reliably on rudder and throttle alone.

A call to Norway for a quick magnetising job involved a 3:30am start (groan). My fellow magneteer and I arrived in Drammen to find snow piled 2ft high and temperatures promised to plummet overnight to about -16°. This cold snap wasn’t expected by the cable manufacturer (or anyone else) so after a night in my favourite hotel in Drammen, The Clarion, where the food is first-rate and the beds very comfortable, we were sent back home, to touch down at a sunny Gatwick (+5°) by 2:00pm the following day.

That’s what we call an attempt.