Wednesday, August 15

Lift and tilt

So there's this new chair, well, bits of what could be a new chair, spread out on the floor. It's my birthday present to my backside after 15 years on a black leather one from the Victory Office Furniture catalogue. That still looks good but the cushions went flat several years ago, the gas leaks (resulting in a disconcerting slow shuddering drop accompanied by noises that you need to apologise for) and the tilt refused to tilt. The new one's better padded, has wood where there was plastic and is cream but otherwise pretty similar.

I carefully removed the plastic and smart silvery protecting foam and grabbed a screwdriver. It didn't look terribly difficult to assemble so I got stuck in and in no time had the back attached to the base and the mounting for the lift and tilt mechanism attached to the base and the wheels attached to that. So far, so good. There had been a choice as to whether the lift and tilt bit should go under or over the seat bracket but the way the metal bits were shaped seemed to match the order I'd done.

Last were the arms. I could understand why there weren't any instructions to hand as it all seemed pretty simple. All I had to do now was place the arms on the sides and screw in four bolts. One side needed a bit of an effort to match up the holes. The other side would have needed a large vice or several neighbours to sit on one section of the curved wood frame to bend it sufficiently to enable the holes to align closer than my strength could get them. Hmmm. I realised that the angle of the seat back and base may be crucial here so loosened the seat base screws and had another go at the arms. This time I did get closer, close enough to get the fourth bolt in but turning it more than a couple of turns was beyond the little Alan key provided. Time for a break.

I found a decent socket set and a hexagonal bit and attacked the last bolt again. This time I got a lot closer and it was almost complete. Then my friend Richard came round with some photos to put on-line. He liked the chair but I could see he wasn't impressed with the arm that wasn't as solid as it should be. Richard knows about these things and when he doesn't look as impressed as you'd like him to then you know something has to be done about it. He left with a cheery wave and I looked at the chair again.

I had now spent a good couple of hours on it - those arms taking up most of the time. I decided that it was OK for now and started tidying the packaging away. That was when I noticed the instructions. A single sheet tucked up inside the massive box with illustrations and several large black crosses. It appeared that the order of construction I had followed was almost completely the opposite, possibly actually completely the opposite, of what the illustrations showed. They had a strange folding and unfolding affair going on with the arms loosely attached to the back and base at the start. That made sense, I mumbled to myself, but was reluctant to undo what I had just spent ages doing.

What was wrong, though, was my choice of which first to attach to the seat base. I reckoned that might be important so, armed with another set of sockets, I removed the wheels, the lift and tilt mechanism and then the seat base bracket. That gave me a chance to sort the arms out too although I didn't go for the method suggested. I had a feeling that that last bolt had suffered enough and might well never go in any thread again other the one that it felt as if it had been cutting for itself before. I did manage, at least, though, to have it heading in direction rather more in line with its hole which should have been a good thing.

I had tightened all the base and other screws pretty well so removing them had taken some time but with the new sockets life was less heavy going and soon the base was on, the lift and tilt re-attached and all tightened and lovely. Finally I attacked the fourth bolt and was delighted that, once it had passed the half-way mark, it turned much more easily and was soon fully engaged with no arm wobble and the little cap thing fitted in the hole nicely after all.

Hooray! I thought, and plonked myself down it in. Nice and springy. Comfy but wait... it won't tilt. Oh no! What have I done? Thoughts of how on earth you can return a ruddy chair you've bought on-line swept through my mind and I uttered some pretty blue swear words too. It was exactly the same as the old black chair. It didn't rock, just rolled. Oh dear.

I had now been at this task for well over four hours. It was hot. I was hot. It would have been two and a half hours but I increasingly had been going outside to cool off, change tools and must have got through half a pack of cigarettes with frustration increasing my need for nicotine. Ten minutes a piece would have taken it to four hours.

Coming in after the last fag I decided to take a look at the underside and see if there was anything I had fixed that was blocking its operation. I also remembered reading in the advert that it had a 'lock' feature but I'd no idea what it was or how it worked. I fiddled with the lever. Put the chair upright again and, yes, it tilted! I was so delighted I decided I had to write about it. The new chair worked! I hadn't wasted my money and didn't have to start all over again or contemplate arguing with some distant customer services on an expensive 0845 number or worse. No land line means those calls cost a fortune on a mobile - but that's another story.

I did then wonder something. If I had accidentally locked the new chair, could I have accidentally, several years ago now, locked the old one? I smiled at my dumbness and sat on the old chair, pushed the lever in or out a bit. Yes, it tilted too. Unbelievable. It was still far too low and flat-bottomed but at least it could be useful as a spare rather than thrown away now. That tilt makes all the difference.

Tuesday, August 14

Paddock Party 8

Never had the grass looked greener, or shorter with the lovely weather during the days running up to Saturday's event allowing us all to get the paddock looking its best, the ladies' raking being most noticeably effective. A new layout too, including a bigger and better blue tent to replace one casualty of wind after the last party. The sun shone and the wind died down as Saturday arrived. We still didn't risk attaching all the tent sides, though, but once it got a bit darker it didn't matter a great deal.

The main dish was, as always, a roast pig and the queues seemed to start almost as soon as people arrived. We'd not realised that a new supplier sent only a man to carve the enormous joint, not serve it which resulted in some people going off with huge piles of pork with non-existent portion control! Luckily there was still just about enough for everyone.

There were enough live acts this year to run from start to finish - no CDs required. No doubt everyone will have their own favourite but I was really impressed with two acts: a chap called Nelson who had a slot in between the big starts of the night, a local blues and rock band called Deep Blue. Or something like that. No, not Deep Blue Something - that was Breakfast at Tiffany's and this was Hogroast at Maggie's. They rattled through Jimi Hendrix, Cream and variations on the theme and had a good crowd prancing around, some attractively and others less so. The jazz band have been to every event now and still don't look any older which always strikes me as a little weird. They're good, though and proved very popular as did the opening act, Blue Velvet and Jenny, a talented singer and pianist. All the acts played for free - for that quality of performance we'd never have been able to afford to pay what they deserve! All are local so, if anyone musically talented moves into the village before next August we'll have a mini festival on our hands! All from a modest 'let's have a party in the paddock' idea from 9 years ago.

The Saladeers had excelled themselves with far more salad than even a week's worth of paddock partygoers could have consumed, of which I am advised that a concoction involving cashew nuts and beans and things was particularly good.

A perseid made a brief appearance and guests did spend quite a bit of time watching the sky and bumping into each other in the hope of seeing some more shooting stars. Attracting a great deal of attention on the ground was Adrian's copper-coated contraption. Looking like a cross between a large bullet and a kid's drawing of a rocket, he had prepared it for service just an hour or two beforehand. No-one was terribly sure quite what might happen when filled with fuel and ignited. As can be seen from the photos, though, it produced plenty of heat and some nice-looking flames and proved decidedly photogenic if you are looking for something to scare the children with next Hallowe'en.

Although the calculations are still being done, it does look as though a tidy sum will have been raised from the generosity of both guests buying raffle tickets and hosts and friends' efforts to make the event, once again, a roaring success, probably the best so far!

More about that soon. For now, enjoy the snaps.

Wednesday, August 1

Many Happy Returns

The Prisoner nearly appeared in The Village on Sunday 29 July as the paddock was the scene for a splendid party. I made an attempt at dressing up which sort of worked and certainly blended well with No 53, otherwise known as Adrian, who also has actually met and quite resembles the chap who played No 53 in the TV series. We had several large white balloons which spent most of the day in the air looking fabulous and rather more friendly than Rover in the series. A couple of balloons did occasionally land in the pond which required a combination of fishing and acrobatics by Katie and Russell before the coots living there became too concerned.

The scene was captured by Richard in the photos shown here, none of which have required any adjustment, straightening or editing at all which just shows how good he is. (Just as soon as I get some from another guest that include him then I'll add some of the good fellow to that album!)

Graeme made a splendid job of producing large volumes of sausage, burger, kebab, chicken, steak and variations on that theme not just for lunch but also firing up the barbecue again in the evening for seconds all round.

As if rehearsing for the forthcoming Paddock Party 8, Penny, Maggie, Sarahs B and D, Sue and Kathie came armed with wonderful bowls of potatoes, prawns, salmon, salads, home-made bread and desserts galore including some particularly fine pineapple, orange meringue pavlova and chocolate cake. Now most of the words in that sentence are in the wrong order but they'll know who did what. In addition, Katie came from the West and William from the far far North, commonly called Scotland, carrying yet more food and Bryony, Kirri and Matti helped entertain everyone by running around quite a lot and looking cool or, in Matti's case, quite wet, for some time. Steven, Karl, Stuart, Mark and another Steve joined in the celebrations, usually with a glass in hand, and represented that dependable bunch of men that you like to have around should a gazebo suddenly blow away or a bottle need opening.

Other guests, including Amy, relieved neither to have had to bring her piano into the paddock or even perform on her clarinet, also helped us devour some of the food that Graeme was still cooking in large volumes.

Kirri had spent most of the night before transferring 200 music tracks I had selected for the party to an iPod which played continuously for 11 hours on Graeme's super BOSE device which few realised until the next day had, in fact, been running on battery power throughout. Despite my printing some quite incorrect track lists the choices went down really well and my rather strange mixture from seven decades worked well.

A huge downpour sent us all running for shelter in the early afternoon. My umbrella totally gave up and we just got used to getting wet for a while. Remarkably, the rain stopped after half an hour or so and the sun reappeared and dried off the grass and furniture in time for us to sit down and eat and then play an approximation to cricket. William had never experienced cricket before and, to be honest, still hasn't as he was out first ball! A friend of Amy's called Joe hadn't warned us beforehand that he was someone the England team may well want to call up before long and his second shot soared over a far away fence. We were about to toss Matti over the fence to recover the lost ball but another was found so the match continued and ended with a win for one of the sides, probably the Outsiders, but no-one was entirely sure quite when.

Adrian delivered a speech and reminded everyone how old I was and thankfully steered clear of most of the topics I was worried he might have amused people with. More than that, though, he delivered a brilliant present in the form of a day with a Caterham 7 car which he and I will fly around the country with some time soon. This is a truly splendid idea and we should be able to provide yet more great memories for the village and friends when we bring it this way.

I rambled on a bit after that and I do hope that I remembered to thank everyone but, if I did miss anyone or anything out, then let me say once again - thank you all.

As the sun set and the moon rose, logs burned contentedly in a battered old chimera. Sparklers scattered stars across the sky and two big white balloons had survived, one being thrown into the air at intervals by Matti and Kirri and friends to confuse anyone who happened to look out of their windows in our direction. There was port and more cheese than the parson preached about and no-one should have left hungry. I finally got a chance to open more presents and cards. Oh, did I not mention it was my birthday?