Random musings from the front line (well, more like the support trench, or perhaps the castle 10 miles away, supping Chateau Lafite with the General Staff) in the battle for curiosity, inertia, grammar and a Dachshund called Colin.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Of Lights and Men

So, fit clip A to grommet 3, while keeping clips B and C in your right hand. At the same time, take lamp 1 from holder Q, taking care not to knock holder S into the engine sump. Then remove clip A from grommet 3, re-attach it to retaining hook 8a, and kiss your Boxing Day goodbye. Repeat until suicidal.

Merry grazed knuckles to both my readers and a happy MG-Rover-executive ear-Boxing Day. I had a marvellous Christmas back in the family bosom, with lots of "Oh God even my Mum thinks I'm middle aged" presents, and after 3 days of Waltons-type bliss I had planned to drive the 60 miles home from my parents' house yesterday evening (after restorative canapes at my parents' neighbours' house) . Unfortunately, my nearside dipped beam headlight lamp (or "bulb" to you non-pedants out there!) had blown the day before, so it needed replacing before I drove home at night. Being a rejected-but-adherent-to-the-principles Boy Scout, I had purchased a replacement lamp the same day from a local branch of surly-spotty-youth-employment-industries Halfords.

"How difficult can this be?", I thought to myself, so merrily started, at 2.30pm yesterday, on the Owner's-Manual-recommended technique of changing the lamp. So, after swotting up on what I had to do, I removed the access hatch in the wheel arch, reached up inside the engine bay (it can't be done from under the bonnet), removed the rubber headlight unit protector and unclipped the wire lamp-retaining clip. So far, so good (although it was 2.45pm and starting to drizzle).

Unfortunately, just as I removed the duff lamp, the said wire retaining clip sprung off it's hinge and onto the tarmac. "No problem", thought I, and after putting the shiny new lamp in the holder tried to fit the clip back on. And tried. And tried and tried and tried. For 2 hours, as it became pitch black, I tried to get 4 poxy metal prongs into 4 poxy metal prong holders. I went online (to the excellent MG-Rover Enthusiasts Website- as I have a very sexy MG ZT - the last decent British Car ever made) and threw my problem at the merciful hands of the Forum users. The only reply I had said "Quick answer to headlamp clips........ Dont let them fall off ! If they do its a lot lot quicker to remove the front bumper and headlamp assy to refit it, beats scratching your arms to bits and struggling in a place you can't see." Hmmmm.

This was knowledgeable, but not exactly helpful, so I explored further in the interweb. I found (from the same site) an excellent Technical Data Sheet that explained how to do it as long as the clip doesn't fall off. Aaaaaaaaaaaargh. So, in desperation, at about 6pm and with my knees in agony, my hands scratched to pieces and my patience exhausted, I admitted defeat and (slightly guiltily) called the RAC. Two hours later, the super efficient and very nice patrolman arrived, immediately grasped the situation and removed the entire nearside front wheel, fusebox, intake hose and everything in his way, all to get an uninterrupted view and access to the headlight unit in question.

After an hour, he said "It's impossible. Sorry mate, have a good Christmas anyway", fitted all the bits back together (except the f@*%ing headlight lamp, of course) and drove off, reminding me it was illegal to drive on the road with faulty headlights at any time of the day, but I was unlikely to get caught if I did so in daylight. So he disappeared, I went next door, ate my neighbours' canapes, returned to my parents' house, remade the bed and played Yahtzee with the family until 2am. While getting drunk.

No wonder they went bust. Bastards.

Friday, December 23, 2005

EBay Comedy Genius

It's a shame that bidding has closed for this item - else I'd be buying it for my brother just for the description. You HAVE to read this...

eBay: DKNY Men's Leather Pants I Unfortunately Own (item 8335653541 end time Sep-23-05 12:50:38 PDT)

The best thing about this item though, is the seller's style of leaving feedback. The guy in question (his user name is bsack, but his real name is Brian Sack, a brilliant US comedy actor) is a comedy genius. Here are some of the feedback comments he has left for others (see the original page here!):

  • Consider me a lazy, cat-poo hating American happy with my electro-litterbox.
  • Buyer now owns the first car made solely from pistachio shells and barley. A+
  • Good transaction, though I'd hoped for $2 Million.
  • Finally! Someone bought the sweater that cursed my family for 12 generations. A+
  • Look for an article on the greatness of this transaction in the May issue of GQ.
  • Choose between Anna Nicole Smith and this transaction? This transaction. A+
  • I often wake up at night to the fond memories of this transaction. A+
  • This transaction was classy, unlike the Oscars with Chris Rock. A+
  • This was the kind of good, well-rounded transaction you can't find in Belarus.
  • Long after I am gone this transacion will live on. That makes me happy.
  • A+ with an extra + for good measure. And a smiley face and a thumbs up
  • Words can not express the greatness of this transaction.

And my favourite 2 comments:

  • Great transaction. At no time did we discuss Michael Bolton.
  • A great transaction, which my skrieking baby can attest to.
As from now, my EBay feedback is going to be a lot more like Mr Sack (see also his www.banterist.com) and a lot less of the rubbish "AAAAAAAAAAAAAA+++++++++++" that everyone else leaves. Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 19, 2005

Merkin's South American Adventure

Well, I'm back. What a trip! Although I spent the majority of the time acting as a cross between a Butlins Redcoat and a dashing rent-a-dinner-host, it was still an amazing experience, on a vessel that can only be decribed as a floating 5* hotel. My main job was to help that day's selection of several dozen charming, but not-exactly-mobile, septugenarians on and off my allocated coach for their daily excursion, counting them in the process - woe betide the Tour Escort who mislaid a passenger! Anyway, armed with my cheapo digital camera I tried my hardest to capture my favourite parts of my cruise in the artiest way possible. I am fully aware that if I were to sign up to a whizzy photo hosting service like Flickr, I'd probably be booted off for incompetence, but I'm rather pleased with most of the following images as they do, after all, remind me exactly what I saw over the last 3 weeks.


First stop was Buenos Aires, which now is the proud holder of the prestigious title "Merkin's Favourite City". It reminded me of a more laid back (and safer feeling) Barcelona, and the crumbling architecture and non-intimidating bars made me feel like I was wandering through a city just before it is discovered by trendy jet-setters (again!). And as long as no-one mentions the Falklands, then the locals are the friendliest, most pro-British charming individuals then you could hope to meet. The photo above is of "Floralis Generica", which as far as I could tell is an 18 ton sculpture paid entirely by a local power company and their architect (Eduardo Catalano?). Looking like a massive tulip, the best thing about it is that it closes at sunset, and the stamens light up an eery red, until sunrise when it opens up again. Cool!


Sticking in Argentina, this is a shot of an amazing lake called the "Lago Escondido", about an hour north of Ushuaia (the southernmost port in South America). Escondido means "hidden" in Spanish, as until the Argentinians built the 2000 mile long "National Route 3" from the very north of the country to the very south, no-one knew it was there. Possibly the quietest (in terms of noise) place I have ever been anywhere in the world - I sat on that rickety jetty for about an hour just thinking. Very zen.


This was the highlight of my trip - sailing up a fjord off the Beagle Channel (the route through the Tierra del Fuego archipelago discovered by HMS BEAGLE) to see the amazing Garibaldi Glacier. It took my breath away, and although we were only 100m away from it in a 31,000 ton ship, the water beneath us was still 100m deep! You could actually taste the freshness of the air - and after a lump of floating ice was recovered from the water, a select few of us managed to taste the freshness of the glacial melt water. Mmmmmmmm. My favourite photograph.


As a seafarer, one of the great moments of the trip was rounding Cape Horn - the southernmost point of South America (although there are a few islets slightly further offshore) and a notoriously treacherous piece of water. On the chart you can see at least 100 wrecks in no more than 1 square mile area - I hate to think how many thousands of people perished beneath this very spot that I took the photo - but we were incredibly lucky to find a benign day, in a narrow window of current and weather that allowed us to get less than half a mile away. Apparently, according to nautical tradition this now means I can put one foot onto any ship's dining table - the other can be plonked there when I round the Cape of Good Hope.


After 4 different excursions to penguin colonies, I became slightly blase about the little critters - but here are my favourite - the cute little Gentoo Penguins of the Falklands. They actually walk like a 70s comedian doing a bad impression of a penguin walk and are completely fearless of humans so you can get very close to them. The Magellanic Penguins of Tierra del Fuego weren't nearly as sociable - I guess that's British good manners for you....


Our cruise ship was too large to get into Port Stanley, so we spent our few days off the Falklands at anchor in the shadow of 8 Second World War guns. I just liked this photograph for purely immature reasons. Boom!


The final picture of my cruise is of the recreation of the fort (called Fort Buelnes) at the southernmost settlement on mainland South America. However, life wasn't exactly easy at this place and most settlers died of starvation. Eventually the survivors found a different place nearby with better prospects, so they deserted their original location and built a new, slightly northerly city called Punta Arenas instead. Mind you, they could have given themselves a fighting chance by naming their original town something other than "Port Famine"...