April 2005 Archives
April 30, 2005
Tiger just arrived. Could be a long weekend... But first, lunch, licensing the car, picking it up from the garage, buying a new mobile phone, stocking up on critical supplies (ie. tea, milk), putting the washing on, installing big new hard drives, and backing up everything. Twice.
Ah, it's good to be home.
April 29, 2005
Home again, having explored the outer limits of pressure washer/birthday party interactions and toilet bowl/garden shed mechanical interfacing. Yes, I'm being deliberately obscure in case somebody making Scrapheap reads this. You never know. Anyway, it was fun, mostly. It was also, mostly, very wet. Ugh.
Back in Glasgow, I find I have no polling card, no insurance certificate for my car (thanks, Direct Line), no itemisation on my rather large and eminently claimable mobile phone bill, and -- critically -- no milk. This last is particularly vexing, since I've been looking forward to a decent cup of tea for fully two weeks now. Every new cup/mug/plastic beaker has brought a flutter of renewed hope, only for my aspirations to be rent asunder upon first sight of the inevitable layer of scum. And now, finally at home in a soft water area and with tea leaves more substantial than floor sweepings, I of course have no milk.
I'd find it all rather depressing, save that it puts me in exactly the appropriate mood for the forthcoming Hitch-Hikers' movie.
April 25, 2005
While one can find dodgy hotels all around the world, I posit that Britain is a world leader in the subset that may be characterised as betraying 'faded elegance.' They're a curious bunch, however, since many decrepit and decaying hotels were clearly, at some point in their respective pasts, considered the finest in their towns. How did they slide so far, one wonders?
Take the Hotel Gleneagle in Torquay, for example. Said the clerk at reception "You're in Idlewild, Mr. Sanderson, and your colleague is in Red." There was a pause, which grew into a silence, then became a lengthy intermission.
"And where," I enquired, "might they be?"
This query evidently startled the clerk, who looked mildly affronted that the reputation, history, and indeed floorplan of his establishment hadn't somehow permeated my consciousness at an early age. Finally arriving at the curiously-named room, I found it overheated to a point where I feared for the safety of all my paper documents, spontaneous ignition being what it is. Then in the morning, having been waved nonchalantly to a table for breakfast, I witnessed the endearing performance of a member of staff staging a stand-up row and walking out of her job.
Now, the Gleneagle was, one is led to believe, the very hotel from which Eric Idle's bag was ejected, and messrs. Cleese et al witnessed a hapless diner being instructed on his choices, in the series of events that led to Fawlty Towers. While I'm sure many hotels in Torquay claim this recognition, it certainly rings true for the Gleneagle. And on a subsequent evening, the night porter assured me it was the case. For about forty minutes, until I finally managed to interject to the effect that I'd better get to my room before I fell asleep on the stairs... which of course only served to start another story of dubious provenance.
But no, the Gleneagle played up to its image -- and was genuinely OK in practice -- but it was clearly never in the upper echelons of the hotel fraternity. The Royal Norfolk in Bognor Regis, however, quite possibly was. Once.
A glorious 1830s building set back from the promenade and yet with a clear view to the sea, it exudes... actually, paint fumes, mostly. It's fascinating to speculate on just what led to the Norfolk's fall from presumed grace. Failure to change with the times? Relentless efficiency savings? A misguided desire to stay true to its formal Victorian roots? Chronic underfunding over decades as Bognor lost its cachet and the tourists headed to Spain? Or a deliberate attempt to move down-market? Possibly a little of each.
And this is not to say that the Norfolk is a bad hotel. Far from it. It's just... velour? Chuck in the leaking ceilings, frighteningly-unbalanced sash windows, strewn notes for the odd-job man ("Do not ask Paul to help lift the cot out of the fire stairs, he has a heart condition and is not up to heavy lifting"), and you have an hotel with... character.
The crowning glory so far, however, has to be returning to find no power to my room tonight. No sockets, no lights, nothing. I eventually managed to scare up the night porter, who wandered off to investigate. Ten minutes later he returned. The electricians were in, and while my room should have been fine, evidently it wasn't. Sorry. Well, that's OK -- I'd be asleep in five minutes, and modern mobile phones make surprisingly effective torches for such circumstances.
Only, as I fumble my way into bed, there's a knock at the door. Staggering back into decency, I open the latch to find the night porter's buddy brandishing a candlestick, along with ten minutes' patter about how it'll at least give me something.
So now I type this -- the wonders of batteries, of course -- by candle light. Wondering what, exactly, happens when I blow out the candles. Should I be worried by the over-zealous multiple smoke detectors?
Ah, crummy hotels. When the alternative is Holiday Inn, there's frankly no contest.
April 24, 2005
Since I think everybody's now told me (at least, some of their dogs have started mailing in as well); yes, I do know that comment posting here is busted. Sorry. Normal service etc etc. I'm surprised you all care so much, actually -- were I less knackered, I'd probably find it quite touching.
One failed comment came from Kim Plowright, who claims to work in yet another shady BBC department of which I've never heard. The comment consisted of a link, thus. Oooh! Look at the pretty concrete!
April 12, 2005
Oh, so it was just the stylesheet I managed to overwrite. What a twit, but normal service does at least appear to have been resumed, finally.
Have I mentioned how much I love Hustle? OK, so the grifter Danny's just dragged in is clearly a cop, and they all know... or something like that... but... damn, it's fun. Just tricksy enough for a Tuesday night, stylishly done, tightly written, shot and edited -- it rocks.
April 9, 2005
My car developed an annoying rattle a couple of months ago, and while I've not been using it much, it's still been irritating as heck -- every time the car hits 4000rpm a trim panel near the rear quarterlight resonates. And guess where the turbo hits full boost.
So, this morning, I dropped in to the local dealer to see if they could tell me what size Torx bit the trim panel bolts are, so I could run to Halfords and buy one. The service manager listened to my query, then turned a distinctly unflattering shade of ashen grey. "Does the car leak, by any chance?" Now, Roadsters are renowned for leaking from the door windows, typically around the wing mirrors and down over the speaker grilles inside. Mine, however, evidently had the doors put on straight and it's only ever let in a few drops, even under sustained jetwash assault. My comment to this effect made the service manager's face tinge vaguely yellow. "When did you last look at the engine?" she asked. Being a good boy, I'd checked the oil a month ago. The yellow taint didn't lift. "Let's have a look."
Boot open, luggage cover back, roof mounts out, carpet up, and... uh-oh. Lurking on top of the engine cover, a pool of water. The underside of the carpet shows the early signs of mould, too. "What happens now?" I enquire.
"You bring it back in on Tuesday, then we take the whole body off, dry it out, and fit new carpets and seals. Then we try to put it all back together again better than the factory did in the first place."
"That's not a small job." Ever-astute, me.
"We've got it down to three days' labour, but it takes a day to dry and another day to cure the adhesive for the seals. So it takes a week."
My turn to desaturate, as I tot up three times eight times the humungopounds per hour Mercedes charge for labour.
"Oh, don't worry. It's all under warranty, as is the loan car we'll make available for you. And at the end of it, you have an effectively handbuilt car."
There's a brief pause while the news sinks in. "You really hate fixing this fault, don't you?" I ask.
"Yup, it's just about the worst job going. But at least we get to sting smart for screwing it up in the first place."
April 8, 2005
I've been trying to find out about these things ever since I stumbled across a magnificent photograph in (I think) an old 1920s Proceedings of the Royal Institution. The photograph showed a chap sitting on a converted anti-aircraft gun mount, two massive ear-trumpets jutting out, with stethoscope tubes plumbed between them and his ears. Gloriously insane, and apparently the best way of detecting inbound aircraft in the pre-RADAR days.
Now, I did know that scattered up and down the East and South coasts stand the remains of sound mirrors. But I didn't know there were so many, until this post on Metafilter this morning. Denge looks like it's worth a visit, while this page has pictures of devices more like the one I remember.
So now I know where these things are, I simply have to dream up an excuse for filming at one. The only trouble is, building something like this strikes me as, potentially, hideously dangerous. Unless one introduces electric microphones and amplification -- which feels like cheating -- there's no prospect of noise limiting, which could really ruin your whole day.
April 7, 2005
Oh. I guess it's official, then; "Production of the smart roadster will be terminated at the end of 2005". That's a shame. But does it mean that I own an instant classic, or an instant lemon? Frankly, I still love it to bits, but I guess it'll be even harder to sell now. Heigh-ho.
April 4, 2005
Back from shoot 3. To report, I have: not much sleep; mostly poor food (with the exception of one rather good meal in an Italian restaurant in a town I can no longer remember the name of, but not far from junction 18 of the M25); an awful lot of angst; a retrospectively hilarious (but sadly off-camera) misunderstanding about a bath; four utterly bonkers and mostly successful machines; the three cutest dogs I've ever encountered.
The machines were, in the end, amusingly wonderful in their disparate ways. One family built big, beefy, dangerous and effective devices, while the other designed elegant and whimsical contraptions that were more like kinetic sculpture. Once again, we (the production team) were grateful we had a jury to decide between them; it's a bit of a tragedy that the BBC demand winners and losers, and it's a relief to pass that responsibility on to somebody else.
We're learning fast, but the show isn't getting any easier to make. However, we've a little over a week before we're back on location, so there's a modicum of time to take stock and work out what we should do differently. On the other hand, we next shoot three shows effectively back-to-back. Eek.