Tuesday, 29 November 2016


I've been getting more acquainted than I would like with Bournemouth hospitals. First there was the laser treatment to avoid horrible things happening in my eyes. Then there was a visit to a skin cancer clinic to check out an odd thing on my shoulder that I'd woken up with one morning on Erin Mae. At first it had felt like an insect bite, but it didn't go away and grew into a blister. The specialist thought it wasn't a cancer, but didn't know what it was, and six weeks later it's still in evidence. Next was a gastroscopy to check why I was getting too much acid reflux. That was a horrible procedure! It showed an inflamed area where the oesophagus enters the stomach so, among other things, for the next two months I'm off coffee, chocolate and the small glass of red wine that has usually accompanied my evening meal. Grrr!

Finally, following a routine annual blood test, the GP rang me (yes, the GP rang me!), asked me to come round to the surgery, and told me I needed to be admitted immediately! I spent two nights there, on a drip and being investigated for liver problems. This went some way to explaining the unusual fatigue I'd been feeling for a week. After an arm-full of further blood tests they discharged me with instructions to keep drinking lots and to come back in two days later for more examination.

It was after I got home that the jaundice really turned my skin yellow and scratchy, but the tests so far haven't identified the cause. Being boaters, we'd wondered about leptospirosis, which they got Porton Down to test for, but that was negative, as were the tests for various forms of hepatitis virus and Lyme Disease. So at the moment we still in the dark.

On the positive side, this has excited lots of caring emotions in my best beloved, so I'm getting lots of top-notch attention! And, over the last few days, I've actually been feeling less tired. We've gone for some walks along the sea-front and the cliff-top, and today we drove up to Erin Mae to put her to bed for the winter. This meteorological high sitting over the UK means she would shortly freeze up at night if we didn't, but it made for the most wonderful, bright day as we travelled up to Great Haywood.

Friday, 4 November 2016


The compatibility of Erin Mae and bikes has never been entirely clear to us. On the one hand there was the occasional desirability of being able to cycle to a shop too far for walking, and the possibility of an alternative exercise mode (particularly for the sedentary steerer). On the other, this was offset by the problems around storage, vulnerability, towpath conditions and the question: would we really use them?

I still have a Raleigh Pioneer bought 20 to 25 years ago, though I haven't ridden it for about 10 of those. My best beloved's went to a worthy cause a while back, but she's been hankering after another, even if it never gets to see a towpath. The New Forest authority has been developing and promoting more cycle trails, and the attraction of those couples powerfully with the perceived benefits of extra exercise. But would she still be able to manage a bike? Her bionic knee doesn't flex as far as the original.

We have an excellent local bike shop in Ringwood, and went to see what they could recommend. First attempts were not encouraging. On a typical hybrid bike, with the saddle high enough to allow the knee to pedal, her feet were not sufficiently near the ground for safety and confidence. James suggested we might consider an Electra. Their USP is a re-think of basic bike geometry, to give a comfortable riding position in which the rider can both pedal easily and get the feet flat on the ground when necessary. We agreed and the shop got one in from the European supplier for us to try. After final trials today we dolled out the dosh. Excitement!

We're very much looking forward to putting it through its paces in the Forest, when the constant drizzle of today has relented. Whether this machine and Erin Mae will be introduced to each other any time soon, or at all, remains to be seen.

Thursday, 3 November 2016


We were up betimes this morning to be at the hospital for 9 a.m., so I could be punctured. The general idea is that my eye-balls, being a slightly odd shape, make me (and other long-sighted people) a bit more susceptible to acute glaucoma, which is definitely not something you want on your medical history. This happens, apparently, when the fluid in the front part of the eye can't drain out because of its normal pathway becoming blocked. So they drill an extra hole between the front and the back, through the iris, just in case. And to drill the hole they use a laser.

Up to a point it was a bit like going to the optician. You put your chin on the chinny thing, and rest your forehead against a bar to hold everything steady while gazing close-up at a complicated piece of optical equipment. But that was where the likeness stopped. The surgeon had already already put some drops in my eyes to shrink-stretch the iris, on the same principle as a balloon being easier to pop when it's blown up and tight. By the time I got into the darkened room this was causing quite an eye-ache. Then he put another drop of something in to anaesthetise the front of the eye. The problem with anaesthetics, of course, is to do with insertion before they numb the respective part (as every dentist knows). He kept issuing more and more tissues from his box, while I reminded myself that I am a man, and have faced many worse things on a hockey pitch. Then it was time for what the explanatory leaflet had called a "special contact lens". This turned out to be a large plastic object, lubricated with a layer of some gooey stuff, to be attached to the eye and tucked in top and bottom. After that came the laser.

I had thought, in my innocence, that he would aim the gun, fire, and that would be that. The leaflet said nothing about target practice. 28 shots it took in my left eye. With the right, which he did first, I hadn't known I would want to count them. His comment, when I asked, suggested that he had created a hole and now needed to enlarge it. Meanwhile I was feeling each one and seeing stars and fireworks in the red colour that shows up on the shirt of an assassin's target just before the deed is done. I was riddled!

Ah well, all good things come to an end. He issued me with a third type of eye-drop, to be used 4 times a day for a week. That makes one drop for each time he pulled the trigger. They're corticosteroids, and therefore almost certainly on WADA's list of banned substances. Just as well I'm not in training for something for which I would have to submit to doping tests.

I had three thoughts about this. First, whoever analysed the aetiology of acute glaucoma was a genius. Second, whoever dreamed up a procedure for shooting you with a laser to pre-empt the condition was (or is) a mega-genius. Third, I am truly grateful for the NHS, which makes the process of getting from optician's general check-up to being laser-riddled today as complication-free as it has been.

Tuesday, 1 November 2016


Such excitement! A trip up to Erin Mae to clear up, clean out, winterise and fit the new tachometer! Until…

My fears about the wiring of the adaptor harness proved well-founded. The old 8-pin plug into the existing tachometer was pretty much as expected.

However, when I removed it and inserted it into the adaptor, the wires clearly did not match up correctly. In particular, the green sensor wire on the new tacho had nothing connecting to it at all. Where that wire is situated (bottom left), there is no corresponding wire from the alternator on the other side.

I emailed the tacho techie guy with a photo, and rang him again. He spent quite a long time being puzzled, and saying rude things about whoever had put it together – we agreed it had probably been after a hard night out. Until he spotted the item code on the harness in my photo, alongside the telltale initials "JCB", and realised that it was the wrong harness. The one I needed was item X11392, and they'd sold me an X11394. I know nothing about part numbers, but it was precisely something like this that I had suggested at the start, both to him and to the supplier. Ah well…

So it was another phone call to the supplier. The very nice bloke in sales expressed puzzlement – he didn't even know there was an alternative harness. He said he would ring the tacho techie guy and get back to me about "availability and pricing". As of a quarter to five I'm still waiting for the phone call. Perhaps he wrote the number down wrong – it's all too easy to mix up a digit.

We would wait for it to be sorted out, but unfortunately we have to go back south tomorrow – Thursday is the day when issues with my trebacular meshwork are to be addressed, courtesy of the NHS. So it looks as though winterisation will have to wait until the end of November, by which time I hope they will have found me an X11392 (or good instructions for modifying an X11394). I spent the day cleaning all the silicone sealant from where the control panel sits on its column (you know what that stuff is like!).

It seems such a pity that, when this job is finally completed, I shall have to put some more on to keep it snug and dry.

Tuesday, 25 October 2016

Tacho techie talk

Steve the tachometer technical support guy was back at his desk this morning, so we had a good chat about wiring the new one to the old harness. He said they'd never had a problem with the adaptor, and confirmed what I'd thought I'd been told by the supplier – that the old connector should simply unclick from the back of the existing instrument and plug into the adaptor.

Very usefully, he emailed me a PDF of the fitting instructions for the old model, and the diagrams there certainly match those in the engine manual. But playing around in my mind with the orientation of the adaptor and socket wiring, I still can't see how the wires are going to align correctly, and he wasn't able to enlighten me.

We hope to go up to Erin Mae at the start of next week, and then I shall be able to see exactly what's what. Steve is very willing to talk about it again once I have some field experience!

Sunday, 23 October 2016


It being the sabbath day, we took a break from tachometers and went for a walk this afternoon in the New Forest. As we were getting ready to leave, this chirpy chappy turned up in our back garden.

The book says that green woodpeckers commonly feed on the ground, and this one was going to it with a will – digging right down to about the death of its beak to extract some juicy morsel. Once (s)he'd left, so did we, to Linford Bottom, one of the places we used to take the boys when they were young. Not much sun by the time we got there, so the autumn colours were not at their best. But the animal beauties were out and about.

The horses and ponies in the New Forest are mostly shades of brown – I wouldn't know the correct terms. This one stood out with her beautiful dappled grey colouring.

This pony was more typical, but seemed proud to display the contrast with the general tone of her coat of the white socks and the lighter mane and tail.

It's been a very enjoyable autumn day.

Friday, 21 October 2016

Tacho photos

Halfie suggested that my comments about Erin Mae's new tachometer would benefit from a photo or two. Since I'm sure that, even so, they're not every reader's cup of tea, I've taken the photos against a different background. If you get to the end of this post, you can see whether your guess as to what it is matches the final revelation!

The back of the new tacho has two sockets. The one with 8 terminals carries most of the connections. The one with 14 terminals uses only three for this application – two to connect to button switches used in setting it up, and one for an output for a warning buzzer, should the engine exceed a user-defined maximum speed. That's not going to happen, so Ive asked technical support if I can just remove the 14-terminal connector once configuration is complete.

The top two bundles are the 8- and 14-pin connectors with their wires. The one at the bottom is the adaptor for connecting the 8-pin socket to the existing wiring harness. Erin Mae's current tacho has a large whitish connector on the back and I'm meant to be able to disconnect it and plug it into the adaptor's white socket. That's where things get interesting. Here's the diagram from the engine manual showing the existing connections.

If I position the new adaptor to align its green signal wire with position 4 on the diagram (where the alternator lead is to be attached), it looks like this:

However, that leaves some of the remaining wires apparently not connected to anything, which won't be right. But it's a bit complicated by which way round you're looking at things – back or front of the plug, etc. So that's the substance of my main question to technical support, who hopefully will be back from holiday on Monday. If need be, it looks as though I could re-arrange the positions of some of the terminals in the adaptor plug. But I can't do anything until (a) we get a response from the, hopefully, helpful techie, and (b) get back up to Erin Mae to look at it all in situ.

Now for the background revelation:

It's a table cloth made from PVC-ish material from John Lewis. Some of the map elements are in English and some in German or Dutch. It's quite good fun to plan impossible routes as you eat your lasagne. I've invented a game in which you have to pick two towns / cities with the same initial letter and the greatest ratio between the real distance between them and the distance on the map. So far I haven't found anything to beat Rio and Reykjavík.