Fancy a ride?

Taken from:

On Saturday 19th June, we shall ride for one complete lap of the M25 (117 miles) in the inaugural “London – the long way round” Parade, Once this is primarily for the thousands of you who want be able to attend the hearing days which are during the working week in the centre of London, and whilst we appreciate that many smaller cc machines would be excluded, there are 3 other powerful, and highly symbolic reasons:-

a) to really show everyone that still sides with the robber-barons of Westminster Council, as well as the law-makers and the Court the true extent of the “army” of malcontents circling and surrounding the Metropolis
b) to send a clear signal to all the other London (and non-London) councils that may be tempted to follow Westminster’s lead
c) to show that the bikers are reforming as in days of old to once again become one of the most powerful lobbying groups in the UK.
Starting at the M40 junction, we will ride clockwise around the M25 hopefully being joined by you & bikers from all over the country at your/their preferred junction. As we intend to cruise at a safe 45mph, we will post estimated times that we anticipate to be passing each junction, and we will be making full 15 minute pit-stop at each of the service stations to allow re-fuels; leg-stretches; bum-reviving etc but more crucially, a chance to pick up other riders safely. Please take note that this inaugural run will be unashamedly fund-raising for the legal fund by asking anyone joining us to contribute £5. We intend to use these as the official count for the numbers that attended, so, should you ride but not contribute, alas, you won’t be counted!

We hope to be able to offer both “I was there” t-shirts and commemorative hi-viz’s in the run-up to June 19th, but the main emphasis will be on encouraging you all to become OUR promotional department. We really need to you pass the word to make this ride-out, even though its the first time, one of the best attended.

Friends, the end of our “journey” together may well be in sight, so please help us in this our final furlongs to ensure that our legacy is permanently etched in the minds of the bureaucrats lest they ever want to challenge the biking community again. And whatever may befall the campaign, lets hope the “London – the long way round” becomes and annual charity event that keeps that legacy alive.

So, the cunning plan.


I bought a similar voltage/power battery off Ebay, cheap.
Dismantled it.
Used the cells in the original laptop battery.

Job done!

Or not.
Unfortunately these cells refuse to hold a charge longer than 5 minutes either.

Plan D is to somehow try to fabricate a power pack which can hold ordinary rechargeable AA batteries. I’ll post an update after I’ve blown myself up.


I should have known.

The Li-ion batteries I pulled from the old battery pack turned out to be past their sell-by date. Well past their sell-by date.

Although they were showing 3.7V, they had insufficient oomph to even turn the laptop on despite charging for an hour.

Back to the drawing board!

I do, however, have a CUNNING PLAN.

More details later.

Today I have mainly been…..


Now I should explain; I bought an old Sharp laptop off Ebay for next-to-nothing. Very good condition and the build quality is excellent; the only problems were that it did not have a hard disk (I have an old one), the keyboard doesn’t work (I’m working on that) and the battery doesn’t hold a charge.

So today I tackled the battery. 

In accordance with article 27 subsection (c) Paragraph ii, as described here, I dismantled the Sharp laptop battery.
9 NiMH cells. Size 4/3A. 4500mAh, 1.2V.

So I searched. And searched. And finally found a site in the States that sells these cells by the sea shore. But at just over £7 per cell, you’ve got to be ‘avin’ a larf. Innit?

Eureka! I then had another idea.

I’ve still got a long-life battery from a long-deceased Sony Vaio which has been up for sale for about 2 years on Ebid, and on Ebay whenever there’s a free listing day. Nada. So, out with the hacksaw.

Screwdriver? Check.
Blunt chisel? Check.
Hammer? Check.
Spanners? Che… what?

So some hammering and drilling later, the Vaio battery lay exposed before me. Rolling up my trousers, I examined the cells. Ah-ha! Lithium-ion! Excellent – these don’t have a memory effect. And they’re the same physical size as the old batteries too! (Well, 1mm shorter but that’s dandy).




Hang on a minute.

9 cells times 1.2V = 10.8 V. Correct, that’s what it says on the bottom of the Sharp battery.


3 cells times 3.7V = 11.1V. Ah-ha! That’s within range! But each cell is….. 3 down carry 1, add 27, take away the number you first thought of…. 1800mAh. And I can fit 9 of ’em in there. That means 3 x 1800 = 5400mAh! This laptop battery should last for days between charges! Muwahahahaha.

So it’s out with the soldering iron.

The battery is now back together (held together with sticky tape for the time being) and back in the laptop (which has been placed carefully in the middle of a large sheet of cardboard just in case it blows up).
Plug in adaptor. Check.
Plug adaptor into laptop. Check.


Eeeh by gum! A charge light! So far so good; now we’ll see how long a charge lasts. I’ll do a full charge/discharge cycle a few times first.

Fly tipping – and an unusual bonus

Well, my wife and I just got back from our walk in the countryside as we do every Sunday.

In spring, summer and autumn this is normally a foraging-type walk where we pick apples, mushrooms, blackberries or whatever else we can find.

Unfortunately some people use the countryside as a dumping ground. Not really surprising, as council refuse dumps levy a charge to make use of their services (unless one is a private individual). So Mr. Bodgit & Scarper, your otherwise law-abiding builder/decorator/handyman, doesn’t take rubbish to the right place. Instead it’s “park down a country lane, and if nobody’s looking, empty the back of the van quick”.
Well, today we came across an upright refrigerator which was looking rather forlorn, with the doors broken off. I thought we could maybe salvage a shelf or two for our freezer. But on closer inspection we discovered that two of the drawers still contained food. So we came away with 5 mini chocolate bars, a bag of ginger, some spring onions, and a rather nifty little tupperware box of cheese.
Which was nice.

Stealth poison?

I don’t normally go in for company-bashing. But the large pharmaceutical companies certainly have a lot to answer for.

My wife has started to suffer from some sort of eczema. Definitely an allergic reaction to something. And I’ve started itching as well. Sympathetic reaction? Maybe. So we put our thinking caps on. Having worked in IT support one of the first troubleshooting questions to a problem is “When did it start?” Followed by “What’s changed?”

Well, from what we can work out, it started in December. What’s changed? The only “new” thing we could put our finger on was that we purchased some new fabric softener from Morrisons supermarket.

On the label is the following:
“NEW! Sea Breeze. Concentrated fabric conditioner. Longer lasting 7 day freshness.” Couldn’t be that, surely?
Well, last week we stopped using it and went back to using Lenor. The allergic reaction is still there though. Could a fabric softener really be the cause? I decided to investigate a bit.

So what exactly is in this stuff? On the back of the bottle is a web address. I had a look.

It asked for the barcode.
The response was a list of ingredients (which are listed on the bottle as well by the way).

Here they are:
5-15% Cationic surfactant (whatever that is when it’s at home – presumably something to do with lessening surface tension)
Iodopropynyl Butylcarbamate
Butylphenyl Methylpropional
Alpha Isomethyl Ionone
Hexyl Cinnamal

So I used Google.
Chloromethylisothiazolinone (also Methylisothiazolinone)
From Wikipedia:
“also used in glue production, detergents, paints, fuels and other industrial processes”

WHAT? And we’re adding it to our clothes?
Further down:
“Methylchloroisothiazolinone is an allergen for 1.7% of individuals.A common indication of an allergic reaction is eczema-like symptoms on the hands and wrists. These symptoms will disappear several weeks after exposure is ceased. A common point of exposure in household items is shampoos and soaps.”

Oh great, so we’ll have to wait a couple of weeks to see if that was the cause then.

Gideononline says
“Used as a preservative in polishes, paints, cleaners, and metalworking fluids”

Just the sort of thing you want in your underwear then.

“Allergic contact dermatitis reported in workers using products containing this preservative”
“Corrosive to skin and eyes”

Two out of two.

Iodopropynyl Butylcarbamate
Natural Skincare Authority says:
“Unsafe”. “Classified Toxic”. “Safety Unassessed”. “Reproductive toxicity”. “Safety Warnings”.
Well I don’t necessarily believe everything that one website has to say – although the layout of this site looks familiar – could it be another SBI site? 😉 so I looked elsewhere as well.

From The Green Beauty Guide
“strong evidence as human toxicant”
“Allergic contact dermatitis”
“This chemical is a potent and proven contact allergen”

Which is nice.

Three out of three.

Butylphenyl Methylpropional
Cosmetics Info states

“The IFRA Standard restricts the use of Butylphenyl Methylpropional in fragrances because of potential sensitization.”
Hmm. Restricted use. Anything nasty about it?
The next website says
“The topical application of this ingredient has been shown to cause irritation and allergic reactions in many individuals”.

Oh – and it’s also listed on a cleaning products website which states

“One or more animal studies show skin irritation at low doses”

Four out of four.

Alpha Isomethyl Ionone
Cosmetics Info says
“The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved the use of Alpha-Isomethyl Ionone as a flavoring agent for direct addition to food.”
Ah, finally. If you can eat it it can’t be that bad then. Can it? Oh dear:
“The IFRA Standard restricts the use of mixed isomers of methyl ionone (including Alpha-Isomethyl Ionone) in fragrances because of potential sensitization.”

This website states
“It’s been known to irritate the skin and trigger allergic reactions for some people. After evaluating the potential side effects of Alpha-isomethyl Ionone, the International Fragrance Association (IFRA) banned the ingredient from being mixed into fragrance products “

Five out of five.

Well that’s the long names out of the way. What about the rest?
From Wikipedia :
Found in many plants. Used in perfumes since 1882.
Hmm. Not that bad then? Hang on a minute.

“moderately toxic to the liver and kidneys.”
“potent rodenticides”.

Nice. So that’s what we’ve been using to make our clothes nice and soft. I couldn’t be bothered to look up the other ingredients; I think I’ve made my case.

Lenor doesn’t appear to be much better either. Although it has less of the long-name ingredients, it does contain Alpha Isomethyl Ionone, Coumarin, and also Benzisothiazolinone – again from Wikipedia :

“used as a preservative in emulsion paints, varnishes, adhesives, washing agents, fuels and in the papermaking process”.

So we’re going to stop using this stuff altogether. It could take a few weeks for the allergic reaction to clear up; we’re also having to re-wash everything.

And from now on – eco-warriors will be pleased – we’ll use a friendlier, cheaper alternative.

White vinegar.

We may put a few drops of lavender essential oil in it.

So, are you using pharmaceutically-manufactured fabric softeners?

You have been warned.

Lest we forget

In Memory of


577913, Royal Air Force

who died
age 18

on 10 August 1941

Son of William Henry and Georgina Honor Powell, of Lowestoft, both of whom were killed in the same incident.

Remembered with honour


Commemorated in perpetuity by
the Commonwealth War Graves Commission

How NOT to do it

I’ve just come across a diary entry from 2006. Not that I keep a regular diary, you understand, but occasionally I do make some notes.

(At the time I was working in IT for a company in central London.)

So, the company had decided to replace all the leased Xerox multifunction copiers with Canons.

The leasing company was therefore asked to remove one of these machines, and I was asked to show the removal men where it was. Now, bear in mind this was a copier which was working perfectly, but the Canons had a bit more functionality. Also bear in mind the Xerox has a decorative back panel which proudly declaims the brand name.

The removal men duly turned up. For the sake of this narrative I will call them Boris and Igor (they were Eastern European). They arrived in a large white van; I noticed at the time it did not have a tail lift, neither did they have any sort of trolley. I thought this was a bit odd as these machines are quite heavy. I took them up to the 7th floor to show them the location of the device.

Boris said something to Igor which presumably meant “you grab that end and I’ll push from here”. Igor grabbed the output stacker tray and lifted.


“Oh dear,” I thought. I told them to be more careful, and pointed out that they would need to remove the back panel in order to get it through the narrow doorway leading to the lift. Blank looks resulted. Boris pushed mightily from one end and the machine started to move. I leaped out of the way, switching the machine off at the wall and unplugging it in mid-leap. The machine reached the doorway.

Igor said something to Boris, presumably “er, this ain’t going to go through ‘ere.” Boris turned to me and said, “You haf screwdriving?” It turned out they had not brought any tools. I told them I would go and fetch one. Igor came down in the lift with me. Leaving him in the reception area, I went into the IT Department.

I located a screwdriver and returned to reception. Igor was missing. I went up to the 7th floor. Boris was missing. I removed the decorative back panel and after waiting forlornly for a few minutes for the missing removal men, returned to the lobby. As I reached it, Igor came through the door, closely followed by Boris, proudly carrying a brand new set of screwdrivers from a hardware shop nearby. I didn’t have the heart to follow them upstairs.

Now, the entrance to the building has two glass doors on either side of a revolving glass centre door. This revolving centre door can be collapsed in order to allow wide loads through. However, as luck would have it, I was called away from my current position as interested spectator in order to attend to a minor crisis elsewhere.

Ten minutes later I returned to the lobby. The receptionist was staring in horror at the scene. She had told them that the central door was collapsible, they had thanked her, and forced the Xerox through the left-hand narrow doorway. I was very impressed; I was sure it would not have fitted through the gap. Observing the scratches on the front and back of the machine, I returned to the IT Department to make sure that everyone was in agreement that the 7th floor Xerox had been in perfect working order.

At this stage I should also point out that there are two long steps leading from the pavement to the glass entry doors. Going back to the lobby, I saw that the way that Boris and Igor had chosen to solve this problem was simply to push the machine down the steps. (Once they had gone, like a good citizen, I picked up all the little bits of plastic from the pavement.)

Now this is where a truck tail lift would have been useful. Having trundled the now wobbly machine across the pavement, they then realised that the back of the white van was higher than the kerb.

I couldn’t bear to watch so went for a short walk (Company Health & Safety rules dictated I was not allowed to move equipment of this type).

When I returned ten minutes later they had gone.

Two weeks later, the phone rang.

“Hello, administration department here. What was the last meter reading on the Xerox?”
During the conversation which followed, I explained that the Xerox would need to be switched on in order to take the meter reading.

The following day, the phone rang.
“Hello, administration department here. The Xerox won’t switch on, it’s coming up with an error message. We’ve contacted Xerox, but they won’t send an engineer out because the Xerox is not at the contractual registered address.”

One day later, I get a call from the receptionist. “There’s a Xerox in reception which has just been delivered, do you know anything about it?”

Due to lack of space, the only place to put the Xerox was … you’ve guessed it … on the 7th floor. A couple of beefy blokes from the administration department duly trundled the Xerox upstairs, where it was plugged in and switched on. Surprise, surprise, the screen displayed a “hardware failure” message.

A Xerox engineer was requested – he turned up and proceeded to replace some broken bits. This took him two visits. At the end of the second day he reported to me that the Xerox was up and running again.

“Of course,” he said, “I’ve had to replace several parts. One of these was the network controller board. So I’m afraid your meter readings have been reset to zero.”

I’m currently waiting for Boris and Igor to take the machine away again.

(Boris and Igor never returned. When I left the company two years later the Xerox had been moved to an empty office on the 2nd floor.)

Lethal Weapon VIII

The Case Of The Subterranean Bang
A tale of suburban woe and economy.

Having retired to bed at around 10 pm last night, I had been looking forward to finishing my book. “Les Miserables” by Victor Hugo. A cracking story. The only problem is, it’s a very large book, and rather uncomfortable to read in bed. My wife was still on the Skype phone to her friend in France, and had been since 8:30.

Pixie the cat was nowhere to be seen; probably out on one of her frequent evening rambles around the neighbourhood, which is normally punctuated by the sound of caterwauling, hissing and spitting, and the sight of flying fur as she says hello to one of the many district felines.

I had just reached the part where Cosette was getting cross with Jean Valjean, when a dull “thump” shook the house. It was followed by the sound of someone dropping a tea-tray containing one’s entire collection of bone china. Following this noise, utter and complete silence ensued. Finishing the paragraph, I thought I’d better investigate why my wife was throwing tea-trays around whilst on the phone to her friend, so donning my dressing gown and sheepskin slippers, I found my way downstairs, where I found her peering anxiously upstairs. “What did you break?” she asked.

“Ah-ha!” I expostulated.

Well, if it wasn’t me, and it wasn’t her, the cat was out, and we don’t have a dog, what the hell was that noise then? It sounded as though it had come from the cupboard under the stairs. The door creaked as I opened it slowly, fearing that somehow the recently-captured Tilehurst bomber had escaped and was finalising his fiendish experiments in the stair cupboard.

A scene of devastation met our eyes. The serried ranks of home-brew beer bottles stood glistening in the light of the 40 watt bulb which I had installed using a contact switch. This fiendishly clever device turns the light on whenever the door is opened. It is not an energy-saving bulb; and once the directive from the EEC comes into force Heaven alone knows what we’ll do when it burns out.

Although I am becoming quite a fan of LED bulbs, the technology is not yet in place to enable the cost of the bulb to compete with the 100-year-old design of a tungsten filament. And the current fluorescent bulbs are all very well, but they take ages to warm up.

Where was I? Oh yes. Serried ranks. Well, when I say “serried ranks” it was evident that one squad-member had deserted its post. Peering into the gap, it was soon apparent why the beer bottles were glistening. When I bottled the last batch of elderflower wine, we ran out of wine bottles, so I used some clear glass beer bottles for the remainder.

It was evident that fermentation had not –quite– finished, and the resultant pressure had caused this particular ex-beer-bottle to expire. Dramatically. Shards of glass were embedded in the under-stair timbers, and the floor was awash with elderflower liquor.

The conclusion was actually to be expected. At times one felt like shaking Jean Valjean and saying “get a life, man! Don’t be such a prat!”. Yet all in all, bearing in mind that it was written in the late 1800’s, a very good read. I can thoroughly recommend it.

Oh and the understair cupboard? All clean again. My wife donned her French suit of armour on top of the full “Noddy” suit (a British army invention in case of NBC warfare), and, armed with long-handled pincers left over from her gold-pouring days, removed all the bottles to the safety of the kitchen.

One of the most suspect individuals is, as I write, in the fridge door. In a plastic bag. In a teatowel. Oh, and the eggs compartment – which is normally directly above the bottle tray – has been placed at the back of the fridge.

The remaining suspect bottles are back under the stairs, this time standing in an empty cat litter tray, covered with a blanket.