Rock Follies

Our local auction is always bustling with scruffy and unloved specimens, but a few weeks ago I came across this:

Old, battered, over-strung and with a broken socket …. but enough about me.

A fanciful whim entered my head which somehow overrode the boring sensible part of my brain which we will refer to as “Trevor”. Trevor was saying things like “you can’t even play the bass guitar” and “what would you do with it” and “it’s broken anyway”. I left a £10 bid just to show Trevor that when it comes to rock and roll he doesn’t always call the shots (plus I was pretty sure I wouldn’t win it).

Later that day I drove back to the auction to collect my £10 bass guitar, which we shall call Jack after Mr Bruce of Cream. “Trevor, meet Jack”, I joked, before the po-faced misery pointed out that the Jack socket was hanging loose. “So am I , Grandad”, I said whilst doing that rock-hand-thing with my thumb and little finger.

I’ve never set hands on a bass guitar or even seen the appeal – after all, you can’t sit down with a bass and produce a stand-alone tune like a guitar. But my brother-in-law from France plays electric bass and is very good and I’ve got a grandson who is a budding bassist so I began to have daydreams of me and them sitting down to produce some hot club of Paris jazzy vibes.

I thought I’d summon my inner Barry Bucknell and restore Jack to his former glory myself, so I took it apart and laid out the pieces like James May did in what my wife refers to as “that paint-drying programme”. Talking of which, I fancied losing the chipped red paint and having a wood grain body so set to with paint stripper. The tin urged the user to treat the stuff like critical plutonium with masks and gloves and breathing apparatus but the reality was it wouldn’t even make a mark on the surface. In a flash of inspiration I borrowed a neighbour’s heavy duty sander and attacked the body with gusto.

Quite pleased with the woodgrain result, I then found the electric controls as well as the jack socket were duff and the pick-guard was impossible to clean so I ordered both from popular internet sites for £6 and £8 respectively. The volume and tone controls came pre-wired with their new jack socket for £6 delivered – from Hong Kong! (If I took it into our Post Office to send tracked to Hong Kong it would cost £10.15 just for sending). Anyway, it all duly arrived and I spent a furrow-browed morning in the sunshine wrestling with Jack’s re-assembly.

I was quite pleased with the result, which exceeded my expectations.

The next step was to get some tuneful bass sounds out of it so I repaired (good word!) to our local music shop (yes, we have one!) and enquired as to whether they could do a proper set-up on it that would pass muster with my brother-in-law. Luke looked askance, there was much head-shaking, sucking of teeth and expressions such as “good money after bad” and I eventually left the shop with Jack tucked under my arm and us both looking looking flat and glum.

HOWEVER, on the way home I decided two things.

ONE: Jack would become an attractive piece of wall-art in my office and a constant reminder for Trevor that we can all be a bit rash from time to time, and things never turn out quite like you think they will.

TWO: Having fallen quite strongly for the idea of a bass in the house, I got on to my Amazonian chums and this bad boy will be arriving on Saturday.  Meet Jack II :


I just need to casually mention this to Mrs Rine and we’re all good to go!


Diss & Disc Discoveries

Yesterday the weather was the glorious blue sky and sunshine we’ve missed so I took the opportunity to do my longest bike ride in 18 months in preparation for the 100 mile Diss Cycathlon in June. Here’s what I found out:


1. 55 miles is a blinking long way, even in Norfolk. I’m seriously considering revising my rashly conceived 100 mile entry in the Diss Cycathlon back to 50. That’s my current Diss stance.

2. For the 10 miles out of Long Stratton I really felt like giving up completely. My legs just did not seem to have the strength to get me home and I was even struggling on downhill sections (with the wind behind me).

3. Finally in desperation I stopped and turned the bike over to check the wheels. I spun the front wheel and …er… it didn’t. It was locked solid with the disc brake almost glowing like a superheated capsule re-entering earth atmosphere.

4. We all know that modern cars have become so technologically advanced that the idea of the amateur “tinkering” with them has all but died out. That has always been part of the appeal of the bicycle to me – transparent human-scale technology that relies on no outside input other that the rider’s effort. But the hydraulic disc brake system on my new Boardman Hybrid was palpably non-transparent – a baffling array of tubes, knobs and nuts containing a mysterious fluid which appeared to have expanded in the heat and locked the pads on the disc.

5. Surprising myself with my own ingenuity, I eventually managed to open a small bleed valve and release enough oil to slacken off the pads. If there had been any passers-by on that quiet Norfolk lane they would have been bemused to witness this red-faced old wrinkly with an upside-down bike shouting “Yes! I’ve found the bleeding valve!”.

6. Once I tried riding again without the front brake locked on things were remarkably easier and I even posted my 2nd fastest time on the last 2.5 mile Strava sprint to my house.  That said, I don’t think I was quite ready to complete a second 50 mile loop that day, thanks very much.

Keeping Hot Things Hot and Cold Things Cold


When I first moved up to Thetford in Norfolk in the early 1970’s it was a veritable hub of industry.

Up until the 1960’s that hadn’t been the case as the career choice for young Thetfordians was simply beween the “Canning Factory”, the “Pulp Mill” or local agricultural or forestry work (Burrell’s Steam Engine Factory had long closed). In the 1960’s that all changed when the town was declared an “overspill” town by the Greater London Council and large new Industrial Plants with associated housing developments were built to encourage economic activity from London’s main conurbation to the fresh fields of East Anglia.  The population grew from around 7,000 to 17,000 in a very short space of time and for a while the town became the fastest growing in England. Notable businesses included Danepack (Tulip International) which ran one of the largest bacon production factories in the UK, Airscrew-Weyroc (chipboard production), Travenol Laboratories and THERMOS the eponymous flask people.

Other activities followed and the retail centre of Thetford grew. It had one small supermarket in the middle of the main street which used to do rather well.   The crew of Dad’s Army used to use the Bell Hotel when they were doing their filming.

If I had been making a film about this part of Thetford’s history my soundbed of choice would be “Telegraph Road” by Dire Straits about a sleepy rural town transformed by the arrival of the Railroad.

“Then came the churches, then came the schools
Then came the lawyers, then came the rules
Then came the trains and the trucks with their load
And the dirty old track was the A11”

Returning to the town today to visit Lidl amongst the great expanse of hypermarkets on the periphery I was struck by how much it had changed.  The major activities of “making things” had given way to “retailing things” and all this was occurring around the car-park rich edges whilst the centre clings on to its few speciality and charity shops like grim death.  Since things like insurance policies and bank loans became “products” and sales meetings became “workshops” there seemed to be a wistful longing for the days when we could actually make our own stuff.

This feeling of change became more poignant when we moved on to the massive Tesco Superstore and I discovered this evidence of Thetford’s historic past on one of the shelves. Check the address.


I suppose I shouldn’t become overly sentimental about the loss of Industry – after all, it wasn’t all sweetness and came with an overhead of pollution, disease and downtrodden workers. And taking the longer view, I remembered reading how Thetford had been the 4th largest town in England at the time of the Domesday Survey in 1086 and went on to become the ecclesiastical centre of East Anglia.  However the Dissolution in the 16th Century led to a rapid decline in the town’s fortunes and it was one of the very last towns in England to develop a mains drainage system.

At least it’s now got its conveniences.

*The title of this post relates to the old observation about Thermos Flasks. They keep hot things hot and cold things cold – but how do they know which one to do?*

Back to Mono

I’ve read a few suggestions recently that the 21st Century epidemic of phone-addiction can be mitigated by the simple expediency of switching off the screen’s high resolution bright colours and reverting to monochrome.

I have to hold my hand up as someone who spends (wastes) far too much of life staring and jabbing at a shiny 3″ x 2″ iPhone screen . It’s said that it is akin to slot machine addiction, constantly looking for a return in the form of likes and comments instead of coins tumbling into a metal tray. The theory, first put forward by “tech ethicist” Tristan Harris proposes that removing some of the bright shiny stimulation will make us less susceptible to its seductive ways.

I tried the monochrome thing this week and can report that whilst it does make a lot of interaction less, er, colourful and less interesting, it is far too easy for me to use the shortcut back to a colour screen. I would really need to find an irreversible colour swap to fully test this strategy.

However I feel sure my “Wonderful Life Theory” will apply. This proposes that content will always trump the medium and I developed it watching “It’s a Wonderful Life” and deciding very quickly that this film is in my top 5 favourites of all time. The fact that it is black and white is noticeable for maybe the first 2 minutes but after that one is so completely immersed in the terrific story and acting it doesn’t matter a fig about colour.

The other “Wonderful Life” film was in full technicolour and starred Cliff Richard but that is not in the same quality league. Neither is Sir Cliff’s “Summer Holiday” which actually morphed from monochrome to colour in its first five minute sequence.

My case rests. Perhaps I need to download a copy of “It’s a Wonderful Life” on my phone? Or possibly just get out more?

Fat Chance


I started a low-carb Mediterranean diet last June when I weighed in at 82.5kg and reached my target of 69kg by mid-November. This wasn’t my initial target (that was 80kg) or monthly revised targets prompted by the elation of seeing the kilos of fat melt away, but a final target that I felt was a reasonable weight to maintain before I descended into “wizened”.

Then I discovered that the losing phase of the low-carb “blood sugar” diet was the easy part – it’s the period when you are most motivated and seeing the greatest immediate results so reinforcement is strongest. The Status Quo is not such an exciting headliner ( although they did a great opening set at Live Aid).

There is a conventional wisdom that most dieters fail in the long term and inside every skinny new convert is the original fat person trying to get out. The figure which had stuck in my mind is that “95% of dieters put all or most of their weight loss back on”, a claim which has appeared for years in newspaper articles and television programmes. I tried to find the data to support this figure and it appears that the 95% claim first appeared in a clinical study in the USA in 1959 and focused on just 100 people. Since then it has been regurgitated endlessly and become a dark and foreboding dampener to the spirits of any new dieter.

Well, it turns out that the technical term for this figure is “bollocks”. ”That 95 percent figure has become clinical lore,” said Dr. Thomas Wadden, a professor of psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania. There is no basis for it, he said, ”but it’s part of the mythology of obesity.”

Well good news. And it’s not difficult to imagine that a lot of “fad” diets are not very successful in the long term because they don’t have a maintenance phase – if you have survived 6 weeks on pills and cabbage water the first place you’re going to be heading on the day the programme finishes is a Greggs or KFC where food often turns up in buckets.

The excellent thing about the Blood Sugar Diet is that it isn’t a just a temporary fix, it is a way of life, a style of eating which becomes permanent and satisfying. The difference between the weight-loss phase and maintenance phase is surprisingly blurred and nothing like the “falling off a cliff” feeling that fad-diet-to-binge-diet must give.

I’ve maintained my new weight for 2 months now and whilst it isn’t a piece of cake (no, it certainly isn’t a piece of cake!) I feel my Mr Kipling days are over .



Scientists are becoming increasingly concerned at an alarming and escalating epidemic in this Country which has been described by some as a “time bomb”.

The “naïveté epidemic” has swept through all generations but the under-forties appear particularly susceptible. Symptoms include believing that the EU have our best interests at heart and thinking that a pair of Marxist jobsworths will fix our NHS. It apparently relates to not being able to remember the 1970’s.

“It’s spreading throughout the West”, declared one Professor who pointed to the recent appointment of a narcissistic 70 year old child as POTUS. “Victims think they can solve all problems by typing on Twitter and Facebook – that’s just how far this naïveté has taken hold”.

Tipping the Scales

I think this year has seen the passing of Peak Marketing Email.

I used to quite enjoy the occasional informative email from Companies I’d purchased from in the past but this year a trickle of messages has turned into a veritable blitzkrieg of digital dross. Every Company from Argos to Zoopla has felt duty bound to mark every invented celebration from Halloween to Black Friday with a barrage of inane “eggseptional” or “spooktacular” email offers. The sheer naffness looks like an office intern has dreamed them up after a strong coffee but I suspect that the sad truth is that hugely overpaid agencies and “digital media Directors” have been involved.

I think the tipping point for me came when I received an email from Salter (from whom we bought £10 kitchen scales this year) announcing a “12 days of Christmas promotion” in which an email would offer special discounts on kitchen scales EVERY DAY FOR 12 DAYS!. Already pummelled to a frazzle by Black Friday deals I decided to call a halt. No weigh José!

Right, Amazon, Argos, Specsavers, Tog24, Halfords and the rest of you – you’ve spoilt it for yourselves and I’m unsubscribing from each and every one of you. If your “unsubscribe” button doesn’t work you will be directed straight into my spam folder. You’d been given a unique opportunity to address this customer individually in a creative and intelligent manner but like an alcoholic you just couldn’t resist over-doing it and now you can get lost.

If anyone reading this knows my email feel free to send me a message – my inbox is already starting to look as empty as Noël Edmonds’ diary.