Saturday, 24 November 2018

London Lights Up

18th November 2018

After my walk through the deer in Richmond Park I caught a train from Mortlake to Waterloo to see some of the Xmas lights in London. Crossed over the Thames and had a quick coffee and phone-charge I walked up to Charing X Rd. and Strand.

Rather traditional lights on Strand, giant baubles with blue stars suspended across the road above the busy traffic.





Irving Street has nets of myriad tiny white lights suspended above the West End crowds below. Though these may not be just for Xmas as some central London streets have permanent decorative lights - Villiers Street next to Charing Cross Station is another.








Leicester Square has been taken over for an event "Christmas In Leicester Square" in order to extract maximum cash from the tourists and the trees have been dressed with stars (or are they snowflakes?) and vertical strings of fairy lights. But there is too much light from below so the effect is somewhat lost.








Oxford Street's shopping canyon has again its simple but effective white and purple baubles. Possibly the classiest thing in the street. Apparently new lights are planned for 2019.











Christmas is calling at Oxford Circus, between the Oxford Street baubles an animated display of multi-coloured "laser flashes" radiating out from the middle of the road.

Not real lasers though as in 1978 which to be fair were fairly unimpressive though did concern one American tourist I met then that the lasers might cut the tops off the double-decker buses. A level of intelligence that might explain the election of the current POTUS.




Regent Street has again its large "winged angels" flying up John Nash's sweeping curved shopping street from Oxford Circus to Piccadilly Circus.












Carnaby Street this year has a suitably flamboyant Bohemian Rhapsody theme to its lights - a promotion for the recently released film of the same name about the band Queen.

















Foubert's Place (part of what I see is now branded "Carnaby Sohoho") is a bit more Christmassy though.



Ho Ho Ho!














Though from the other side the message appears to be more X rated than Merry Xmas - reminiscent of Meg Ryan perhaps.















And while William Shakespeare looked down upon the Soho revellers from the corner of Great Marlborough Street some of us had to get a train home so headed to Green Park Station to get the tube back to Richmond. 

There to find Southwestern Railway definitely not running to schedule and having nearly an hour's wait on a freezing cold Ascot station en route to Camberley.











They could at least unlock the sodding waiting rooms.

Or provide a seat on the covered over-bridge which was the only shelter from the wind. 





Richmond Park, yes deer.

18th November 2018

On a sunny autumn Sunday afternoon got the train from Camberley to Richmond (just making the connection at Ascot) and a 65 bus to The Dysart, close to the gate into Richmond Park near the playground. Inside the gate turned left and headed uphill to King Henry's Mound a viewpoint with a telescope which has a (protected by planning laws) view of St. Pauls Cathedral, 10 miles distant in the City of London.  At least it does if you can get anywhere near it, which on a busy Sunday afternoon with lots of families queuing up little Tarquin and Amelia for a go I couldn't. Fortunately this highest point in Richmond Park also has panoramic views over the Thames Valley to the west. 

Having taken in the views I headed northwest from the mound, crossing Queen's Road where there are good distant views of London, many walkers, quite a few MAMILs, kite fliers, even a couple of picnickers well wrapped up as despite the sunshine it wasn't particularly warm.




Continuing across the open space towards Sawyer's Hill I also got my first sight of Richmond Park's deer. Fallow Deer in this case. Though wild they are so used to people that unlike most other places in the UK where a deer sighting is usually of its disappearing rump, or of half a ton of potential venison jumping out of a hedge in front of your car at night, these deer almost pose for photographs.




Carrying on northwest across Sawyer's Hill and heading downhill towards Sheen under clear skies and with no clear plan of where to walk to next I almost missed the next herd of deer, blending into their surroundings as well as they do it was the sound of antlers clashing that made me look across to a small stand of trees where a sizeable group of Red Deer were grazing in the late afternoon sun. 




Though the deer were some distance off and the other side of a fence fortunately I'd brought my camera with me rather than just a mobile phone so was able to get some half-decent shots using the long zoom lens and resting my elbow on a fencepost.




I spent a little while here taking photos and watching as the two stags tussled in a fairly leisurely fashion, the hinds grazed around them, and most of the other walkers carried on by without taking much notice. Either locals accustomed to the sight or too engrossed in their conversations to notice I suppose.



Time was pressing on and the light would soon start to fade so I put the camera away and walked on toward Sheen. Downhill and easy going on one of the many paths leading toward Sheen Gate where there is a car park and more importantly a public toilet which I was really hoping would still be open on a Sunday afternoon in November (It was thankfully, well done The Royal Parks)


And then I came across The Poseur. So I had to get the camera out again.

Just sitting in the long grass in the fading light next to a path busy with walkers, cyclists, and dogs a solitary large stag.



He didn't seem at all concerned about the people or the dogs, just lay there head erect watching us watching and photographing him - in some cases from quite close up though I made use of the zoom lens as seemed more prudent with a large wild animal with a big set of pointy antlers attached.


Onward down into Sheen and to Mortlake station to catch a train into town, the light fading now as four o'clock approached and everybody heading home from the park.

Richmond Park is a good place to visit. I'm glad I went by public transport (despite delayed trains) as a previous attempted visit at a weekend by car had failed because all the carparks were full to the point of queuing up outside which is no fun (I went to Ham House instead that time) and if you haven't got to retrace your steps to get back to the car you get to see more park and less car park.

As usual more photos in this Flickr Album.


Wednesday, 21 November 2018

Random Sofa Surgery (Part 2).

Springing into action.

So ten of these showed up on the doorstep on Monday. Shame whoever the "other courier" was that the eBay seller used didn't bother to knock on the door or ring the bell, I found them when taking the rubbish out.

They were particularly well packaged though and required assault with a Stanley knife to liberate them from a cocoon of plastic film and Sellotape.

Inside along with the ten zig-zag springs were clips and nails for fixing them to the sofa frame. After work on Tuesday I once again upended the sofa and set to work.

First discovery was that the holes through which the nails were to go were a bit tight. Probably OK if you were building a sofa from scratch and had plenty of room to wallop them with a 1lb hammer but in the more confined space in which I had to work it was easier to drill them out slightly.

My plan was to fit a spring under each front-to-back elastic webbing strap under the sofa seat to support the ageing material and give more support to the seat cushions.

I had measured the distance between the frame timbers and made an estimate of the length of spring required, adding a bit for the spring to bow upwards and settling on 24".

Yeah, as you can see that was an overestimate and 23" or maybe even 22"would have done. 

Not a problem as there's plenty of space at the back for the excess to overhang and the clips will fit anywhere along the spring. I considered cutting the excess off but as it will never be seen didn't bother. Spring steel isn't the easiest thing to cut anyway.

Still, too long isn't a problem but too short certainly would have been.

It was also easier to open out the clips to 90 degrees in order to nail them to the frame and then hammer them back down around the spring. Less chance of flattening the clip with an inaccurate hammer-blow.


Once all the springs were clipped into place another nail is driven in through the top of the clip to prevent it opening out and releasing the spring.

I forgot to take a picture of that before re-stapling the bottom cover of the sofa into place.

Once the feet had been refitted I put the tools away, righted the sofa, and thoroughly tested it for the rest of the evening.

It's much more comfortable, doesn't look as knackered as it did before, and should last for a good while before I have to think about replacing it.

A job well done I reckon and puts off the day that I'll have to deal with slimy furniture salesmen 😉

The springs came from this eBay seller foamandupholsterywarehouse_1 who were quick, efficient and reasonably priced.


Wednesday, 14 November 2018

Random Sofa Surgery (Part 1)

Not sitting comfortably.

My sofa has been sagging for a while now. Mostly caused by some fat bastard lounging on one end of it making it sag unevenly as well. Apart from the sagging however it's in quite good nick, being good quality leather and I've not been able to find a suitable replacement that I like.

Reduce, Recycle, Re-use, Repair.

So rather than chuck it and fork out a small fortune for a new one I'm doing my bit for the planet and repairing it. I've made some temporary repairs in the past when some of the elasticated webbing straps failed - caused by rubbing on part of the internal frame - but now the seat and back cushions really need extra stuffing. Also a more permanent solution to the "suspension failure" caused by the failed webbing.

Getting the bottom up.

Upside-down sofa
Fig. 1 Sofa in working position.
On this sofa the seat cushions can't be removed so any repairs have to be done from below. So the first thing to do is turn the sofa upside down. The last thing you want to do is crawl around on hands and knees for the next couple of hours so prop the sofa up under the arms to get things to a more convenient working height. (fig.1)

Next unscrew and remove the 4 feet. Now you can remove the bottom cloth which covers the innards of the sofa. This means prying out the staples using a bradawl or suitable screwdriver (the bradawl is more comfortable as the handle is designed for dusking on) and a pair of fine-nosed pliers. There are a lot of staples. A LOT. At least you can get away with only undoing the 2 short and one long sides and folding the cloth back. You can now see the underside of the seat and in my case the temporary bodge repair on the failed webbing straps. 

underside of sofa seat
Underneath the seat.

Bodge it.

This was done by fixing the broken ends to 2 wooden battens, Tensioning the straps by pulling the battens closer together using plastic cable ties (zippy ties), and then using sash cord to hold the battens in position. A piece of foam rubber is placed between the sash cords and the part of the frame that rubbed through the webbing to protect the cords from meeting the same fate. It's not pretty but then it's not usually visible and in 6 months or more it hasn't broken.

Unfortunately its not possible to get to the ends of the webbing straps to replace them as they're fixed to the upper side of the frame. I plan to reinforce the structure by adding steel zig-zag springs instead. That will be covered in part 2.
Meanwhile, in order to re-stuff the seat cushions I needed to get access below (or above if you prefer) the webbing straps to insert more padding between the strapping and the foam rubber cushions, thus pushing them back up against the leather covering above so that the seats regained some at least of their original shape. To do this required the removal of more staples to release the brown cloth at the back of the seat cushions and bottom of the seat back cushions (on the left in fig.2). Out with the bradawl and pliers again.

Hand in underside of sofa cushion
Fig.3 Space to stuff cushions.

Stuff it.

With the cloth folded back there is enough space at the rear of the cushion to push down the foam rubber and introduce extra stuffing (fig.3). In keeping with the environmentally friendly ethos of this repair the extra stuffing I used was recycled bed pillows containing hollow fibre wadding. These were almost exactly the right size for two of them to fit in the space available and just the right thickness to boost the foam cushions.

While working on the seat cushions I noticed that the lumbar support part of the seat backs had a zip on the back so I added some extra hollow fibre padding in there as well.

Once the re-stuffing was done I re-stapled the brown cloth to the seat frame using staples with 8mm long legs, similar to those that came out. Checking underneath I could see that the seat cushions were now a much better shape. They are not quite equal because as mentioned previously one end of the sofa had suffered greater wear than the other but they are near enough for jazz.

Pad it.

underside of sofa showing foam padding
Fig.4 protective foam padding
Now that the seat cushions were re-stuffed I needed to provide some padding and protection to the centre part of the frame, both to protect the webbing and cords from abrasion and to protect the posterior of sitters from the hard edge of the frame. It's a 2 seater really but occasionally has to cope with 3. Fortunately I had a piece of seating grade foam left over from making a dog bed which was exactly the right size and wedged into the space between frame and seat perfectly, folded double at the point where the most load is applied to the sofa.

A quick going over with the vacuum cleaner removed much of the accumulated detritus from the interior of the sofa - how did the lid of a Pringles tube get in there? As I still have more work to do I haven't re-stapled the bottom cloth back in place.

I temporarily screwed the feet back in place and turned the sofa the right way up.

Sit on it.

Fig.5 Re-stuffed sofa.
Well it looks much better than it did. It's noticeably less saggy at the end on the right in fig.5 and is more comfortable to sit on, which is where I'm writing this blog from. There's no way to get into the armrests to add stuffing alas but they're not too bad and I have scatter cushions on them usually.

Next step is to fit the steel zig-zag springs which I've now ordered from a well-known internet auction site and will add some strength to the structure. It won't be "as new" but for an outlay of somewhat less than £20 it should extend its life considerably. I'll cover the fitting of the springs in part 2 when they arrive.



Sunday, 11 November 2018

Trip to Birmingham - Classic Motor Show at the NEC

9th & 10th November 2018

I let the train take the strain - and just for once the train wasn't a strain - to go to the Lancaster Insurance Classic Motor Show as I didn't fancy a very early start and then a late drive back.

CrossCountry Voyager at Reading

 An overnight stay in Birmingham meant just a short ride to Birmingham International station for the NEC but also a chance to have a few in the excellent Waterloo pub on Bennett's Hill the evening before 😀


The Waterloo is a really good pub with a huge range of real ales and the only thing on the telly is the list of available brews. So just the place to shelter from the rather horrid wet weather outside.


Birmingham was, despite the rain, rather lively and the largely under-dressed party animals trotting between the nightclubs outside the hotel kept going until the early hours - you've got to admire their stamina.
So, to the show itself. It was huge. I've not been to the NEC for a couple of decades at least. It's quite easy to lose your bearings within its cavernous halls. Even after six hours looking around I still think I may have missed bits! Here's a few pictures of my personal highlights:


Daimler SP250 Dart, I actually like the way this car looks but I may be in a minority. One of the most underrated British sports cars I think.


Jaguar XK120. The best looking of the XKs (apart from the E-type).


Hubnut's Invacar, Twc (pronounced 'Took' because it lives in Wales). I've been following developments on this on the Hubnut Youtube Channel


A fine pair of Bristols. Yeah, I know 😇


A grey Austin A35. I have a soft spot for these, first car I ever worked on 😀


As evidenced by this picture from 1965. Keep your work area tidy?


Riley One-Point-Five. I quite fancied one of these when I was about 18. Allegedly the fastest thing you could get for the £815 or so it cost when it first went on sale.


Austin 101 van, the Austin-badged version of the Morris Commercial J-Type. Reckon you could make an interesting camper van out of on of those.


Talking of which this Standard Atlas with its tiny engine isn't one you'd want to be stuck behind in the Scottish Highlands but is very nicely turned out.


Bond Bug. Who doesn't like orange?


Ford Prefect 100E. My Dad had one of those.


He also had a BSA Bantam the same colour as this, until some git stole it from the car park at work.

There are some more photos in this Flickr Album

Eventually it was time to take aching feet back to Birmingham city centre for something to eat (cheaper than the captive audience prices at the venue) and a remarkably uneventful journey home by train from Birmingham New Street.



Tuesday, 23 October 2018

Donnington Castle

20th October 2018

Donnington Castle (the one with three Ns not the one with two) lies a short distance to the North of Newbury, Berkshire. This ruined medieval castle of which only the gatehouse still stands is in the care of English Heritage. A bright, sunny Saturday afternoon in October provided an excellent opportunity for my visit to explore and take some photos.


Entry is free as is the small car park at the end of a private lane just below the castle mound. It seems to be a popular spot for strolling, picnicking, or just enjoying the sunshine and the car park was about half full. Walk up the gravelled path to the castle between the Civil War earthworks to get close to the castle itself. There's no access inside but you can get all around the outside.


Donnington Castle was founded by Sir Richard Abberbury the Elder in 1386 and was bought by Thomas Chaucer then taken under royal control during the Tudor period. The castle was held by the royalist Sir John Boys during the First English Civil War and withstood an 18-month siege After the garrison eventually surrendered, Parliament voted to demolish the castle in 1646.


I bet the view from up there is good.


The castle gates, alas closed to the plebs.


Inner gates.


Unless you're taking a picnic, which I wasn't, you won't spend a huge amount of time at Donnington Castle but it does make a good starting point for a country ramble. There are good views from the castle and its surroundings.

Worth a trip for a quick explore.