Chatiere

November 15th, 2018

I discovered that the French for catflap is “chatiere”. This I discovered from the instruction manual.

Our return home from a gentle pub crawl (only 3) in Walsall was greeted by QT, on the front doorstep. Now, QT isn’t that bright, but he usually manages the cat flap. Shortly afterwards, Kitty announced her inability to get in by banging repeatedly against the flap and had to be let in.

I had a look at it. It’s about 7 years old, and opening it up disproves the adage that cats are clean animals, so I carefully clean it, lube it, and put it back. QT exits, and it doesn’t register his chip. Looks like it’s fucked. A temporary mod of tape to allow access for anything, and off to Amazon for a new one. There’s a large array of chip-reading flaps, now, but I just bought the updated version of what we had, not feeling like any potential door modification.

So then; programming the cats into it. I knew the old flap was a bit tired- yellowed from UV outside, cracked from getting knocked, but I’d been putting it off because I have a long memory, and aversion to injuries, and don’t like stressing my children.

As it was, leaving the old flap in place, assembling this one inside, using a long extension cable, a bit of patience, and (critically) realising the reader works upside down, and the fact the cats are more settled and older now, meant this passed without any fighting, and just a little initial suspicion of the new device has passed, and the cats can roam without having their food nicked again.

Desi Pubs, Part 2

November 14th, 2018

A day off presented the ideal opportunity to continue our Desi pub tour, so once more, we caught a bus out to West Brom, continuing onwards to Smethwick and The Red Cow. Indian barbecue lunch, and then off to The Ivy Bush (on a very crowded school-chucking-out-time bus). A walk up Spon Lane South

crossing 2 lots of canal (the old and new main line) and the railway, and passing under the Oldbury viaduct works on the M5:

M5 Oldbury Viaduct work from Spon Lane South

There’s a lot of transport in a tight space here: the Metro is only just up the road too. Lots of history too; Chance Glassworks, the canals, and the lovely Kenrick Building.

A interesting crossing of Kenrick Way, and The Island Inn, and finally, a non-Desi pub stop in West Brom: The Sandwell, before a bus home. Our bus mojo was working today, our only significant wait was 17 minutes for a bus home from Walsall.

Lock In

November 13th, 2018

So, back in July/August, while I was recovering from surgery again, I was a passenger in the Lupo more than usual, and noted the central locking unlocking and relocking the door every time we slowed and sped up.

“It’s been doing that. seems to be getting worse”

Given my less mobile state, I just broke out VCDS and disabled the automatic door locking function in the CL module.

Investigation when I was a bit recovered found that the microswitch that tells the module that the door is locked wasn’t working, so it kept trying to relock the door. This is all built into the door latch module, so it was off with the door trim again (and the car retained the stripped out rallycar look for 3 months or more- time pressures, and the non-availability of the membrane behind the trim (which is impossible to remove in one piece).

Stripped out look.

So, in theory, it’s easy. Remove a cap in the back edge of the door. Insert a T20 torx driver, and carefully unscrew just enough to pull out the lock cylinder (don’t unscrew too far, or the pingfuckits drop inside):

Door handle with lock cylinder removed.

Make sure the other door is open (!), and there, in the back edge of the handle, is a cable that connects the handle to the latch. It just flips out with a small scredriver. The internal release, and the button that pops up when unlocked are attached to the latch, which just unbolts with a 8mm spline bit in the back edge of the door. Undo the electrical connector, and lift it out:

The latch mechanism.

So then. Simple, huh? Get new mechanism, a few bolts, job done?

Nope.

Genuine ones are £160. Aftermarket ones under £20, so off the the tat bazaar for an aftermarket one, fit it.

The door won’t stay shut.

Piss about for ages, mess with the striker plate- still won’t shut. Give up, refit old one. Door shuts.

Lock door, unlock door. Door won’t open from either inside or outside. The fixing bolts, remember, are only reachable with the door open. Contemplate attacking door and/or latch with dremel, decide against that, sleep on it.

Realise, eventually, what is so well described in this video:

(this guy knows his VWs, by the way, and his videos are much better than many- less waffling)

So, after several hours, back where I started. I return the ebay mechanism, and buy a used one from Stevens VW (for about the price of the cheap aftermarket one), and fit that, only to have the same locked-out issue.

Here’s a lesson for you; that cable that attaches to the handle? Adjustment is *critical* – there’s about 4-5mm adjustment where it fits the handle- and they are not all the same. The one I got with the used latch was shorter :-/. If the cable is too tight, the door won’t open *at all*. It’s also hard to get right unless the handle is bolted back into place…

So, with the used latch, the correct cable, and some trial and error, all is well, and the central locking works correctly. Just repair the membrane with some plastic sheet, repair the broken trim clips (the trim is getting delicate, at 18 years old), and refit the trim. I’ll probably strip and repair the original latch at some point.

Hearing You Loud & Clear

November 11th, 2018

I’m going to whinge, like the miserable, middle-aged man I am, with a first-world problem.

On Friday, I had an afternoon off, so we went into Walsall, and for a change to The Fountain.

I used to love The Fountain, but my last few visits have resulted in a change of heart, and it’s people that are the problem. Jeebus, I hate people 🙂

Further people to hate materialised when we went for something to eat. We went to Golden Moments, a Indian restaurant that’s been there forever, and that we’ve used for some 30 years now. It’s a step above the ordinary curry house- not expensive or overly posh, but relaxed, pleasant, and a nice place to be, which made their behaviour all the more…irksome.

It’s something I’m increasingly seeing, and it seems really odd to my late 40s mind: not just taking a phone call in a quiet restaurant, but using speakerphone to do so, and having it loud, and shouting, seemingly oblivious that the whole place can hear the conversation.

What is this? Is it learned behaviour from The Apprentice or countless other “reality” TV programmes (where there is at least a reason for it), or is it just total ignorance?

I’m not the only one to wonder this: from Mumsnet to Reddit, via Digital Spy, people are mystified.

My opinion? Some people are just entitled, inconsiderate fucks.

Broughty Ferry

September 22nd, 2018

Again, I’m posting after the event, but I’ve fudged the post date to suit. We went to Broughty Ferry, effectively a suburb of Dundee. N,ot a bad journey, considering: the furthest I’ve driven in one stretch for a good while, and not too tricky either; M6, M74, M73, M80, A9, A90.

The A9 had gained average speed cameras since our last trip on the “road of death”. I don’t know if it’s lowered the casualty rate, but reportedly speeding has reduced; thankfully they’ve had the good sense to raise the 40 mph limit for HGVs on the single carriageway bits to 50. Fortunately, we only had DC bits to deal with.

A little bit of getting lost in Dundee itself saw us at our cottage by around 4:30pm, so after a short rest we went out to the first pub, then find out what Broughty Ferry is like on a Saturday night (the answer is: busy). It’s a suburb that likes to pretend it isn’t, and it’s a little bit affluent: not as many Range Rovers as Sutton, perhaps, but plenty. It feels smaller though, and public transport to central Dundee was good.

We went to have a look at the new V&A, which had opened the day we arrived: a magnificent building, for one so modern. It’s a shame that one view of it will be blocked by what seemed to be another office or hotel being built near it. Near the V&A was the rebuilt station- Dundee has excellent rail connections, at least until Storm Ali came along when we’d gone to Perth (but then we found the bus service is good too).

Dundee is a fine city: the city centre is quite compact and easy to navigate, there’s good pubs and restaurants. It’s also home to D C Thomson, home of the Beano, and the school that inspired The Bash St kids is still there, right in the middle, near the McManus Gallery, which had a Beano-themed exhibition on, which was a nice surprise.

We wandered about, visited some fine pubs, and had some good food. Even our return journey was decent, at less than 6 hours of driving time.

All’s Well That Sandwell

August 28th, 2018

We were feeling a bit lethargic, so it was a surprise we managed to start on what we’d planned for a while: a look round the Desi pubs detailed by Creative Black Country in their book.

Desi pubs- pubs run by (and to some degree for) Asians are a familiar thing in and around the Black Country- we’ve even visited a few, like The Pool Hayes or The New Talbot, and let’s face it, what’s not to like? Indian food and beer. Sounds awful.

So then, into Walsall, a quick change to a bus bound for West Brom, up through Caldmore, passing very near to one Desi pub, and right past another. Through Stone Cross, lamenting the loss of the old cinema, and into West Brom.

We passed one of our targets on the way in, without realising in time, and continued into town. A slow walk down the High St pedestrianised area, and everything goes a bit Indian; sari shops, Asian grocers, and the pubs, bars and grills. We passed by the magnificent (but very faded) Lewisham Hotel, as was- now Desi Junction, passed The Prince of Wales (to return later), and ended up at The Sportsman for lunch. The return journey took in the Prince of Wales, then a break in the bus journey back took in The Red lion.

I’d not been to West Brom town itself for some time, and not the true centre for the best part of 30 years. It seems (I’m sorry to say) to be better than Walsall- the market thrives, it’s extremely multi-cultural, there’s not too many empty shops in the bits we saw, and there’s clealy been some investment in the High St.

Independent Thought

August 14th, 2018

I picked up this article on Unherd via Twatter, bemoaning the loss of bus services in rural areas, and the general loss of non-profitable bus services, especially outside the capital.

It’s a good article, and you can see the impact, even around here, with a good, sensibly priced bus service. As I’ve commented before, some close-by areas in Staffordshire are now unreachable out of peak hours, even if we have gained a service to Lichfield.

Now, my blog was kind-of focused on my restricted opportunities for going on the piss, but also mentioning less well-off workers: the people that are out working for a living but can’t afford the considerable expense of a car.

The article mentions those, and adds another category: pensioners who either can’t afford a car, or indeed can’t drive (perhaps they never learned, perhaps medical conditions prevent it) even if they can afford it.

All of these people are being hit by reduced services and increased prices as subsidies are reduced and the non-profitable routes are stopped or limited. Getting to work, the shops, the job centre, medical appointments etc, and yes, the pub, suddenly gets harder, more expensive, and more time-consuming. People are getting isolated.

All of this because a route doesn’t stack up on a balance sheet. The real social cost of poor public transport acn’t be measured in cash terms. The private-sector model has its place, but it’s not here.

Immobile Again

August 6th, 2018

I’ve had yet another trip into hospital, a repeat of last year’s procedure to try and deal with the uncomfortable swelling in my trousers. This time on my mission to visit all of the West Midlands’ hospitals, it was the Royal Orthopedic. Day surgery only, and an exemplary case of great care, efficiency, and ease, from start to finish.

I’ve had a couple of examples of the reverse recently, which I haven’t blogged because I do not wish to add fuel to the funeral pyre the current shits in power seem to be arranging for the NHS. About the only complaint I can make about this hospital is location and parking, but that’s really a secondary issue; a favour from a family member soon sorted that.

So, I’m back off the bike, unable to drive for a while, and off work for a bit, so I’ll quite possibly get ranty here and on Twatter. Still, at least I get chauffeured about and I don’t have to suffer the Oldbury Viaduct for a while. Plus, this time, I’m not getting snowed in, so at least soon I’ll be able to make it to the pub.

Expense

August 6th, 2018

It’s been a pricey month. First of all the Lupo, is a disgusting example of how VW quality just isn’t what it was, had a failed alternator at a mere 18 years old. The it needed a service and MOT, all of which passed without difficulty.

The Scirocco, meanwhile, adds to the cost. A major service, a minor suspension link, and a radiator leak, a tweak of wheel alignment. The new tyres will have to wait a short while.

To be fair, both cars haven’t cost very much in repairs as of yet, and bearing in mind we’ve had the Lupo for some 13 years now, it still looks presentable, and drives well, there’s little to complain about. The Scirocco costs more, but racks up the miles (and again to be fair, there’s been very little outside serviceing and consumables in the 30,000 miles since I’ve had it). I also wonder if the radiator may have been weakened by me being a clumsy twat, though it showed no signs of a leak until very recently, and given the recent hot spell, it needed fixing.

[edit]

The expense continues into August. Our boiler, installed in 2006, has failed. Repair is possible, but not insignificant, so a new one it is, and surviving like it’s 1930 with no hot water. Still, as someone pointed out to me, fascism and the right is on the rise, so it’s all just nostalgia, huh?

A Sad Loss

July 17th, 2018

I was greatly saddened to hear from BrownhillsBob that we have to say goodbye to The Plastic Hippo, a man who made the local blog scene so much the richer.

This blog is just a random (and infrequent) outpouring of what I do, and what I think. It strays away from political comment most of the time, and my writing could never be described as eloquent or witty: there’s locals much better at that than me, and now we’ve lost one of them.

The Hippo, together with the also sadly departed Mark Blackstock did so much to help build up a local online community that I only ever managed to be on the very periphery of. His shock at the loss of Mark is still there.

I only wish that he’d been well enough recently to turn his talents loose on the huge cock-up that is Brexit, and the everlasting cock-up that constitutes the governance of Walsall Council, because it needs it. I just don’t have the imagination or writing talent to do it justice, unlike him.

I met him in person only a couple of times, but he was a nice guy; likeable, sociable, witty, and caring.

His online prescence made a huge impact for someone who claimed to be a technophobe, whether it was picking apart all that was wrong politically, or giving the odd arsehole a well-deserved kicking in the comments. I’d hope his blog remains online for a long time to come.

I’d like to pass on my sympathy to his family and friends, and just say rest in peace.