Tuesday 24 January 2012

winter pass

 Busily painting birds just now. Nursing a sore throat, listening to the rain on the skylight which means that there's no point in going up onto the roof to look for an aurora - apparently there's some solar activity going on just now, which means that an aurora has been spotted as far south as Tyneside.

And I can't overhaul the brakes on the Moggy. Why do my cars' MOTs always need doing in the middle of winter? -I hate working on cars in the cold, and utterly loathe doing it in cold rain. One of these years I'll get a second MOT in the middle of summer, so the whole cycle gets moved on by six months.

The robins are all singing away in the pre-dawn, here. There are daisies and crocuses flowering on the Downs. Friends down in Devon have already seen primroses; I remember arriving in Poole in late February 2002, after sailing up from Tasmania, and seeing a splash of primroses on a muddy bank, as the train approached Warminster, and feeling the first stirrings of spring. That feeling has come for me already, this year. Looking forward into the new year, no longer back to the old year passed.

Over the land half freckled with snow half-thawed
The speculating rooks at their nests cawed,
And saw from elm-tops, delicate as a flower of grass,
What we below could not see, Winter pass

Edward Thomas

Sunday 22 January 2012


How to free up a jammed Bendix drive

Problems never come singly, do they? I was driving Katie across town the other day, for her Meeja course, and on the way home there was a faint sense of hiccuping from the engine. I pretended not to notice, because I had drawings to do. But that afternoon, repeating the journey, it developed into full-blown indigestion, and the engine kept cutting out, so that I was constantly juggling the choke and bump-restarting the engine as we coasted along. Katie was oblivious, as we'd stopped at Wai Yee Hong, the chinese supermarket, and she was munching her way through a box of Pokies while listening to her iPod, which was audible to me as that hissy sort of sound that was peculiarly annoying in the circs. So I stuck on Jean-Luc Ponty. Take that, popster!

Worry, worry. Was it the ingition system failing? I started with the simplest job- replacing the HT ignition coil with the spare one. No difference. I took the top off the carburettor float chamber. Loads of crap in there. So I took the carburettor off and stripped it down; the piston was grubby and prone to sticking. So I cleaned everything up and lightly lubricated it, and stuck it all back together, and it worked properly.

Then yesterday I was coming back from Mal's, where I'd been doing some chainsawing, and I'd just switched the engine off when I thought "I'll have a look under the bonnet, and check the mixture." So I engaged the starter. And, because the engine hadn't stopped turning, there was a horrible graunching noise. 

I stopped the engine, and turned it over by the cranking handle. Graunching noise was still there.

I cursed.

Then I took the starter motor out, and checked the teeth on the flywheel.

Blessedly, they were both in fair condition; but the Bendix drive on the starter was jammed. The Bendix bit is that cylinder thing with the cog on it, on the spiral grooves on the shaft in the picture there.

After scratching head for a bit, I compressed the spring on the end of the shaft, using a couple of Mole grips. Then banged it a bit. And it sort of went SPRONG, and the Bendix relocated itself at the right end of the shaft. 

And I breathed a sigh of relief. And cleaned the whole thing with surgical spirit, because Bendixes need to be clean and grease-free, otherwise it'll all end in tears again.

This is what a healthy starter motor looks like.

Sunday 15 January 2012

secret blackbird

secret blackbird, originally uploaded by Dru Marland.

This is for the new collaboration with Geraldine Taylor. I got the idea from a tile painting in Cardiff Castle, The Invisible Prince.

Friday 13 January 2012

Indian Runners

a line of ducks, originally uploaded by Dru Marland.

 I've just picked up some giclee prints of this painting, from Niche in Stokes Croft. And now they're in my Etsy shop

An envelope arrived in the post yesterday. Unusually, it came without any contents, though it was sleeved in a plastic bag from Royal Mail, the writing on which apologised for the fact that it had been interfered with. But, since there was no clue as to what should have been in the envelope, I can do nothing but guess what might have been in the envelope. A million pounds in Scottish £50 notes? A frog, squashed flat by a lorry? Who knows? Well, the sender, obviously. And the person who opened the envelope, presumably.

Do you recognise your writing, gentle reader?

Tuesday 10 January 2012

death of a local bookshop

I have several hats, though most of them are berets.

One of them is the hat of an itinerant book seller.

Which is a beret, since you asked.

I put it on on Saturday, and threw a pile of books and cards into the Moggy. Deb piled in with her promo packs for Communion, her rather fine poetry collection. And her poetry book hat, which on this occasion was an enviable knitted affair with a vague air of Middle Earth about it. And off we went, over the Avonmouth Bridge to Clevedon.

"I really want to take some pics in Seeley's", I said as we trundled past Easton in Gordano. "It's everything a local bookshop should be, which means it's not long for this world. Books, stationery, art materials, good local section, nice people. And Mr Seeley perched in his office up the stairs at the back."

"And the Fontana book stand", said Deb. "It's so Seventies! I really want that stand."

"The Galt one's my fave," I said; "Pure 60s.  ....I'll try and pluck up courage to ask if I can take pictures today."

We were a fortnight late. Seeley's had closed for ever, on Christmas Eve. We stared despondently through the windows at the debris of the last fifty years or so, revealed by the ripping out of the shelves; the two bob coin on the counter, the Empire Produce mango chutney crate with the note advising that 'Phil is having this'.

Monday 9 January 2012

the job's not started till the paperwork's done

So I hit the ground running at New Year. This year, I thought, is going to be hugely productive on the picture front.

And then I got a letter that meant I had to do all my accounts. A task the mere prospect of which is enough to bring on a panic attack.

Still, I got there in the end. And even completed my tax return. So now the decks are cleared for action. Back to the pencils. Out with the Indian ink.

These are little chapter heading pictures for The Changeling Tree.