Wednesday, 15 July 2009

those are pearls

There is something hug-yourself-ish about coming across a felicitous sentence in an otherwise extremely matter-of-fact book. Like those occasional moments in Pevsner, when he allows himself a dry smile, as with Bristol's church of

St Paul, Portland Square (E). 1789-94 by Daniel Hague, perhaps with some help from or interference by the Vicar. One welcomes the tower in the skyline of Bristol, though Mr Whiffen is of course right in calling it 'rather monstrous'.
The subject of workshop manuals came up yesterday, and I got to thinking of my old MZ motorbike manuals. The MZ (Motorradwerk Zschopau) was built in East Germany, and the paperwork was very 'socialist realism', printed on coarse paper and with very clunky black and white pictures.

Germans do take their engineering seriously. Once, when I was working on a seismic survey ship, we were refitting in the Lindenau Werft in Kiel. The yard's engineers fitted a large water pump on the gun deck so that we could pump canisters of nitro-carbo-nitrate along a tube to explode them deep underwater. Several engineers in white helmets superintended the alignment of the pump and motor, then came in a delegation to where we sat drinking our tea and gasconading, and politely informed us that it was essential to maintain a clearance of 9 mm on the coupling.

We smiled and assured them that we would take every precaution.

They walked back to the pump and conferred earnestly. Then the delegation approached us again and presented me with a feeler gauge. "Nine millimeters!", they repeated. We exchanged smiles. It was a 'hands across the ocean' moment.

I felt honoured. The feeler gauge is in my toolbox still, though we never used it on the pump, and it worked fine anyway....

Now then, to the accidental lyricism of MZ manuals. I remember the performance data, stating top speed as 78 MPH with the caveat that 'rider should assume a sporting position (slightly stooped). No loose clothing!'

Sadly, I gave the books away long ago. But I found an online copy of the MZ workshop manual, and this is how it begins:

In the high latitudes of Finland, in the parching heat of Africa, hence, under the most different conditions, the MZ moto-cycles run to the satisfaction of their owners.

Heck, doesn't it make you pine for the open road?