Monthly Archives: December 2015

I just had to repost this!


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December 13, 2015 · 2:08 pm

True Tale – The explosives, the Garda and the cows


Ireland’s Electricity Supply Board (ESB), wanted to put the new Moneypoint Power Station into the hillside to make it less obtrusive (so did they succeed? The chimneys might give it away). To do this the contractors had to excavate a massive amount of rock. They also needed nice clean-cut sides to the excavation, and to get those they had to use pre-split blasting. Pre-splitting is a technique that provides nice flat walls to an excavation. A row of deep drillholes is charged with exactly the right amount of a certain kind of explosive – one that cracks the rock suddenly, rather than one that produces tons of gas.
The explosives arrived with an impressive escort of armed Irish police (it was the years of ‘the troubles’) There were about 100 drill holes to fill, so the Garda stood around for four hours until all the explosive was in the ground. Unfortunately the stuff that arrived wasn’t the explosive I’d recommended. But after all the hassle of getting it there we had little choice but to use it.
We retired to a safe distance (as it used to say on fireworks) with the shot firer carrying his blasting machine and trailing a cable. Safe distance for us meant over a small hill behind the site, as far as we could go before we were stopped by a barbed wire fence. The shot firer sounded his air horn, wound the handle on his box, and pressed the button. There was a roar. The sky filled with clods of earth. Chunks of rock and pieces of turf rained all around us as the explosive energy went skywards rather than into the ground.
It shouldn’t have done that. It looked like the photos you see of volcanoes erupting in Iceland – all the smoke and debris but with no molten lava. Our estimate of how far away to stand was about right. The largest of the rocks and clods landed some way off. What we hadn’t allowed for was the effect the explosion would have on the herd of cows grazing in the same field. Like us, they were safety away from flying debris. But not from the noise of the blast.
Were the cows unhappy? You bet. They came round the hillside like stampeding buffalo, about fifty of them heading our way. The barbed wire fence no longer seemed such an impediment to us. It’s amazing how quickly you can move and how high you can vault if you really try.
I learned later that while they were charging the holes with explosives, the contractors found they had too much. They couldn’t return it to Dublin because the police escort and armoured van had gone. No brownie points for guessing where they put the surplus explosive. Down all the drillholes.

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1952 BSA Bantam refurbished


I haven’t ridden this bike for five years. A few months ago I noticed that the front tyre was perished. The tyre was cracked, as was the inner tube (tubeless tyres weren’t widely available when this bike was made). The inside of the wheel was badly rusted so I decided to clean it up and repaint it. Then I thought I might as well tidy up and paint the mudguard and forks. One thing led to another. I took off the headlight. The wiring was poor. While I had the headlight off it seemed to make sense to replace all the wiring – and convert the electrics from 6 volts to 12 volts. That meant putting new electronics under the petrol tank.

When I took off the tank I noticed that it rattled. At some stage in its life it had been lined to prevent rust. Thanks to governments that are too thick to understand the consequences of what they do – UK and EU – insisting on ethanol being added to petrol, the lining had turned into broken-up lumps of what looked like old varnish. I flushed out loads of the stuff, it had clogged the fuel pipes and carburettor.

I added flashers, an LED ultrabright running light, and bicycle panniers. If any future owner wants to remove them, that’s fine. I want a safe bike that can be used on today’s roads. You might have noticed that the paint job finished just behind the engine. When the rear tyre needs replacing I’ll have a go at the rest.

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