Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year

I wanted to get some “big” entries done over the holidays, after I’d finished doing the last few incidental illustrations for issue 4 of my comic, and printed it, of course.

Except, I go back to work tomorrow and have not yet put physical pencil to physical paper. The cover date on the comic, when it eventually gets finished (hopefully before my birthday, at the end of June), is getting a little silly, too:

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Anyway, that’s enough about that. More important is this CD that I got at the end of October:

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What’s better than a double-disc compilation album of 50’s Rockabilly? One that’s ALL CAR SONGS

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Well okay, there’s a few bike songs, too. Available from Fopp’s bargain section now!

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Little Downham Byegones and Organs fair, 29th March 2014

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I remember going to this event a few times as a young child (when the car-trailer-sized mechanical organs seemed like gigantic towering machinery), then didn’t for years and years. As my interest in classic cars, steam engines and patriotism increased, the more annoyed I got with myself for always forgetting this (only remembering as I drove past it, on the way to some other place).

More recently, I got involved in an international group of friends called The Regular Sweets, and we make collaborative and individual videos about our lives, and where we come from (and, less recently, I started this blog XD). This event was perfect material for that, so off I wandered!

Agricultural engine “Success”

I actually thought there would be more steam engines than there was, and there was only one “full size” one (unless you count the steam car that was also there). I also thought there would be steam engines powering the mechanical organs, but actually they were just run on electrically-generated compressed air instead.

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And an information board about the engine. Interesting to see it was built in 1914. 1914 is quite “in the culture” at the moment, as it’s now 100 years on from World War 1. Much is made of the “modern warfare” aspects of that conflict – the aircraft, tanks, machine guns etc. But in everyday life there was still plenty that was driven by “Victorian” technology! These traction engines in particular would drive from farm to farm (very slowly), and would then stay still, using their engines to push and pull machinery such as ploughs up and down fields with pulleys.

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Other steam engines

There was also a couple of mini traction engines, though one of them had two seats and was being driven around. Steam has incredible torque, you know. At one point they put it into reverse and just instantly went backwards, no need to stop first XD.

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And then there was this “Lykamobile”. It looks like a Victorian car, but has modern “59” (that’s late 2009, not 1959) numberplates. I thought it might be electric, as I think the safety regulations are a lot more lax for electric cars (mainly so the G-Wiz could be sold here, though a reproduced original Mini couldn’t). But actually it’s steam powered! It can also be bought and built in kit-car form, meaning you could have a steam car of your very own! (With a lot of money and assembly time, anyway).

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http://www.steamtractionworld.com/lykamobile.htm

More classic commercials

A Ford Escort van, Morris Minor van and Commer van. Last time I went to this show properly, probably 2005-or-so, there was a Morris Minor van for sale, which needed quite a bit of restoration. I wonder if this is the same one, newly finished?

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Also, an old military ambulance, based on a Land Rover. It won’t be from during the war, but is probably from not long after it.

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Classic cars

There was quite a few, and quite a variety, of classic cars there. Though there was also several Morris Minors, two very similar Rover P4’s, and even a couple of 50’s Vauxhalls of the same family!

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Morris Oxford estate, and 2CV-based kit.

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Big green Austin, of some kind, with military markings.

Here’s some immaculate Rover P4’s, and a Morris Minor. Just the sort of scene you might have seen on a hastily-converted “bomb site” city-centre car park, circa 1959.

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MKII Lotus Cortina, but not in the famous Lotus colours.

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Vauxhall Cresta from 1955. I think this was before the “P series” Crestas, which started from the PA Cresta, which looked like a 57 Chevy, or something.

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A Swift… *squiiint*… F Type?

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Morris Minor Travellers.

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Something from the Rootes group; Singer / Sunbeam / Hillman etc.

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The cooler Lotus Cortina. I once saw a fake one for sale, based on a normal 2-door Cortina that had had a ‘modern’ (well, 80’s) 2-litre Capri engine chucked in. Wish I’d bought it!

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Morris Six

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Can’t remember what this was

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Vauxhall Velox, a lower “trim level” than the Cresta.

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Austin Cambridge, basically the same as the Morris Oxford from above.

Bikes

There wasn’t that many bikes, of the motor or pedal kind XD. And they were all kind of crammed away behind the mechanical organs.

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Honda

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The best one, late 20’s / early 30’s mean machine.

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A pedal bike based on a post office motorbike, from the 40’s

Tractors and Stationary engines

There was plenty of non-steam farm equipment too, mainly old tractors and a bunch of small stationary engines (internal combustion). Most of the latter were running, and backfiring like mad. They were all pretty crudely built, some just had a big hole for an exhaust pipe. I loved the smell!

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Rat tractors!

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RrRrRr-PHUT! RrRrRr-PHUT!

Mechanical Organs

These are one of the main attractions of the show. They have a lot of wind-pipes like a church organ (though with a different, less sombre tone), mechanical drums, bells and other tinkling bits. Some even have animated figures that move! In Victorian times, they were controlled by long strips of paper, card or punched wooden sheets with holes in, or else revolving drums with spines on. All these systems activated ‘switches’, or valves for air pressure, as they moved – making them an early ancestor of computer programming. I don’t know if the organs there that day were Victorian survivors, newly-built, or maybe restored old ones which have been installed in modern trailers.

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Fenlander II

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Galadriel

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Los Tubos… this one had quite a different tone to the others.

Byegones

Inside the village hall, there was a number of displays of interesting old things. There was also a number of barrel organs and smaller mechanical organs, though I forgot to take pictures of most of them.

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Small piano thing, on a table of assorted bits and bobs

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Matchboxes… surprising to see how old some brands (like Spar) actually are!

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Old car ornaments

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Cans for petrol and oil

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Toy cars

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Farm tools

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Ice skates.

Somebody at my work does something called “fen skating”, where they wait for areas of fenland to get slightly flooded in winter, and then freeze. If you get enough rain, followed by low enough temperatures, you could skate for miles, in and out of trees, over fences and so on.

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Childcare / midwifery table

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Magic lanterns

Magic Lanterns were the “TV” or “Cinema” of the day, with several projected pictures over one another giving the illustion of movement, for instance a scene of a fire with ‘moving flames’, or a ship with the sails dropping. This one would probably have been extremely expensive.

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More modern video equipment, including a 60’s cine-camera and 80’s video camera, which you actually put VHS tapes directly into!

Heh, I mentioned seeing somebody with an even bigger VHS video camera at a school sports day in about 1991, my mum had his name instantly. She never forgets the “insult” of somebody conspicuously-consuming, evidently.

Barrel / Smaller Mechanical Organs

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One “played” by an animatronic clown. There was actually another one being played by a teddy bear, but I forgot to take a photo.

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Other ones

The event was pretty cool in all, though not very big (I’m sure there used to be another event in the village that was in both the village hall car park, park car park, and school playground, with all sorts of events and displays). But it did put me in the way of knowing that there’s a much bigger steam engine / classic car show in Haddenham in September, which ought to be worth seeing (well, if I’m here in September, anyway). There’s also a place called Prickwillow Engine Museum, with displays of steam and diesel engines which used to be used to drain the fens. That might even be worth a “dashcam” cycle trip to!

The miscs

Just a bunch of other photos from my phone…

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Revised “looking for a Japanese girlfriend” t-shirt design

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Odd thing seen at Camcon

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Things that people made for my work’s charity Halloween party.

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Soho Bullit! Right next door to a good Japanese book shop, which is called, er, “Ultimate Dry Cleaning”.

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Suddenly, and for no reason, these thumbnails have started to be stretched vertically. Anway, a gingerbread house somebody at work made for Christmas. Check out the second photo!

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Third hibernating butterfly to wake up too early. This one I kept in my cabinet with a flower it could eat pollen from, but it died anyway.

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Decorative lamp I got my granny

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The last sunset of the year (2013!) was wonderful. Taken with two different cameras…

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There’s a monthly manga meetup in London, which I went to a few times last year. This year I hope to go more regularly. I had to kill time (it’s on a Sunday, everything shuts hours beforehand), so went to the Embankment, first time I’ve been there, actually.

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Had the Mini out the other weekend

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Fucking hell, ever since booking my holiday to Japan all I’ve done is stare at the internet, looking at places to visit in Kyoto (in all of the two days I’ll be there), for weeks on end. Anyway, when I wasn’t doing that, me and dad had my Mini out, as we had to move it from the drive to the side of the house. It’s needed the waxoyl on the underside “topping up” since 2006, and we kept saying we’d do it “in the summer”. Also since finishing Uni I decided I’d get it out “in the summer”, but that never happened either.

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xx

Anyway, we got the cover off, for the first time since possibly 2009, and discovered that it was still pretty shiny and had not rusted away, woohoo. A few insects had also got under there and long since perished. We then attempted to start it, using a knackered old battery. After several tries I remembered that it was built as a racer, and so has an electrical cut off. With the key put in that it still refused to start, though did make clicking noises.

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Less than no frills. Also using the heater pumps carbon monoxide into the cabin, which isn’t good.

After jump-starts, and a lot of faffing about, it finally ran… sort of. The engine was running at very high revs, but would still cut out if I didn’t keep my foot slightly down. Dad adjusted the carbs, and then it ran at high revs even when I wasn’t touching the pedal. Oh well, we can fix it properly next summer, when I’ll really drive it (or will have moved to Japan and need to sell it).

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Anyway, at one stage in the adjustments it conked out completely and wouldn’t start. I suggested it may have run out of petrol, as it was running at such high revs. Dad put some more in, and that did the trick. After moving it, though, we found some animal had made a nest of leaves (with a small entrance, and burrow into the gravel) under the sump guard. This was empty, but damp. We moved the leaves and discovered the burrow was filled with petrol, there was also a trail halfway around the side of the house. So basically i’d been sitting in a bare metal container, on top of a huge fireball waiting to happen, starting and re-starting electrical ignition systems.

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Those lights do actually work, though I preferred covering them up, but one of the covers has now perished 🙁

Anyway, whichever weekend this was (can’t even remember now) was at the start of one of the few sunny periods of this summer, so for a week or two afterwards we got a strong whiff of petrol whenever we opened the front door. But it was finally washed away by the recent rain. A match might have got rid of it sooner, mind you.

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Also the exhaust was a bit sooty.

The new year

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Last sunset of 2011

I was magnificently lazy over the Christmas holidays, I just sat about eating chocolate and writing short half-arsed reviews of a bunch of small press comics for a magazine. Oh wait, that’s bad! I meant to do a heap of comic drawing, including finishing off my ill-fated manga for a competition the Japanese embassy was running. I’d failed to get it even near finished before that closed, but I hoped to get it finished by tomorrow for inclusion in the next “issue of” (it’s no longer a ‘regular’ comic) Non Repro. But won’t finish it in time for that either now.

The reason? Sherlock! Yes the BBC finally got off their arses and made another three (three! When are we getting a proper series?) episodes of this. And BY GOD are they awesome. The first one was shown on New Year’s day and the second last night. The second was based on the Hound of the Baskervilles… except now “Baskerville” is a secret bio-weapons research facility. You can see where this is going… except it doesn’t go there, actually XD.

Speaking of Sherlock Holmes the latest Hollywood film is incredible too. It’s 2 and a half hours long mind you. But actually there’s only 8 minutes of story and the rest is filled up by slow motion (troof). Still it’s incredible, even if some anachronisms annoyed me… no, his car is not one of them! But the fact there’s nobody walking in front of it with a red flag is. Mind you though, Sir Conan Doyle never liked Sherlock Holmes using motor vehicles, and still had his hero riding around in horse-drawn cabs even after he’d bought a motorcycle. Of course Sexton Blake’s writers had no such qualms, and a motor-car featured in those stories as early as 1898. Later he was thundering around in a Mors car at thirty miles in the hour!

An even more annoying anachronism (to me), though, is the fact that they got the German flag wrong! Germany wasn’t using that flag in 1891 (though had used it earlier), they were using a Black-White-Red tricolour up to 1918. Mind you though, “The First World War in Colour” managed to get it wrong too. As did an old docudrama about the early days of Albert Einstein.

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My 2011 Calendar, from Sweatdrop Studios. It kind of sums up the person I was in 2011, very interested in Japan to the point of considering moving there and even becoming a naturalised citizen (eventually). I was working diligently on learning the language and spending hours reading blogs by foreigners who had gone to live there.

I was also giving vague thought to converting myself to drawing manga style, in the vague hopes of “doing a Bakuman” once I was naturalised. But then my girlfriend dumped me in November, and in December I found myself constantly saying “Nanaji” for Seven O Clock, when it ought to be “Shichiji”. Also I read a load of Debito (though a lot of it “through the filter” of Tepido). I still think he’s bonkers and his followers a bunch of commie shitstabbers. But you can’t argue with clear cases of shitty policing, insane working hours with no recognition and GIANT FUCKIN’ INSECTS. If I never set foot in neon hell again, it’ll be too soon!

On to the 2012 Calendar, then…

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Yep, that sums up the kind of person I want to be in 2012, the same person I was in 2006! I’m getting the Mini on the road no matter what and waking the echoes of a July afternoon out in the fens (without going over 50 XD). I’m also doing Download and as many local rock/metal/blues/ska gigs as I can cram in. Oh I’ll be collecting more antique comics rather than horror movies though. (Bring back Silverscreen! Those shops were great). Starting with this…

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It’s 6 months worth of The Boys’ Friend (aka the best British comic ever) from mid 1904. I got lucky on this one, nobody else bid and It went for £50! I was expecting to pay over £100. Maybe the low price was because it’s January. Anybody else out there wanting to sell bound volumes of the Boys’ Friend/Realm/Herald, Union Jack, (Halfpenny) Marvel or Skipper please do it right now or wait until Jan ’13 eh?

Boys Friend Price fluctuations…

Complete year 1903 – 04 – £49.99 (Was “pickup only” and BIN, I cheekily offered to pay extra postage and the seller agreed, bargain!)

Complete year 1902 – 03 – £170 (! And I had to drive down to Enfield to get it. Well worth it though! they look great on the shelf)

Half year Jan-Jun 1910 – £110 (great condition)

Half year May – Nov 1904 – £49.99 (woohoo)

Plus loads of individual issues at about a fiver each. Anybody out there got any they want to unload?

 

Other crap I can’t be bothered to write at length about…

– Helicopter crash! I saw it fly over my work, it seemed to be ‘skidding’ in the air and the wind was really strong that day. It exploded near Ely and crashed into a field

– The strong wind! Part of our fence blew down. A panel of fence at work somehow not only blew down but ‘jumped over’ a big wheelie bin.

– The Pheonix, and it’s dire distribution: http://blog.crystal-knights.co.uk/2012/01/09/the-post-formerly-known-as-wheres-your-pheonix/

–  Despite the lazy last days of 2011 work is going ‘decently’ on comic for 2012. I hope to do at least 6 issues of the Red, White & Blue, 3 of the The Trident, 2 of The Sentinel (a ‘red top’ for comic collectors) and 1 of the Small Press Digest (encouragement-filled magazine with yellow covers). I’ve got a table at Camcon in May, seemingly the first nerdy convention in Cambridge for many a year (possibly since the Old Boys’ Book Club met there!). Gonna be great! Also got a ‘premeet’ in April.

 

A video everybody must see

So some blokes who run a custom car parts company are out testing their in-car camera when they see some dozy tart driving like an idiot, and decide to follow her to see if she does anything stupid. And then…

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Unfortunately it wasn’t a life ban, but I’d like to see the insurer that will touch anybody who’s been inside for hit and run!

Dubs At The Hall 2011

On Saturday I went to a car show called Dubs At The Hall, at Holt Hall in Norfolk. Unfortunately I missed the actual “car show” part as that was on Sunday, and I had something way cooler to do that day (pics tomorrow, hopefully). But there was still a few things to see, and the village of Holt itself was very nice.

But before that…

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Asahi Beer? Now I like superdry as much as the next vomiting salaryman on a train, but I’m pretty sure the last time I had it was, er, the last time I was in Japan!

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What’s the date on it? Eh? Today??

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What I’d actually bought. Fail.

Anyway after waking myself up I started off on the drive to Holt. Encountering around Ely bypass a black van with Ely Folk Festival advertised on it in chalk(!). The driver of the van thought that it was the correct procedure to slam the brakes on when exiting a roundabout, and to suddenly brake heavily, lurch around a corner and then indicate. I will not, of course, be going to Ely Folk Festival after a display like that.

Anyway, my planned route to Holt had been two roads, but my dad suggested a more “diagonal” route. Knowing my own amazing abilities to get lost even on straight roads I wasn’t expecting much, but amazingly I found my way to Holt ok! I’d not written any directions for where to go when I reached the village, because “the show’s bound to be signposted”.

NOT ONE SINGLE SIGN.

Well OK there was a banner advertising the show itself on a roundabout, which gave the dates, which was really fackin helpful. After a lot of circling about the lanes of the village…

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Which is very pretty

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No matter where I turned I kept ending up back here. It was like something from The Prisoner!

I finally, by PURE LUCK and a lot of turnings down winding residential streets that weren’t on maps, found my way to the show! After parking I walked into the show proper, through a nice path in a pretty forest.

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The sound of cover bands and aircooled fours lures me on!

 I was finally there. And discovered that it was in fact tiny. I was kind of expecting several large fields of row after row of custom bugs, Golfs and vans! Oh well. Let’s make the best of it.

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A rat Polo. There’s two kinds of “rat”, the proper kind – as in that evil Viva/Firenza in PPC several years back, and “Chav rat”, which is one rusty panel and a load of stickers. This car manages to be in the middle!

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Those were the various VW’s in the “show area”. However the show was actually stolen by a mighty Buick! It looked like the villain’s car from a comic!

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I took a turn around the rest of the interesting things at the show, and had some food. Then it was time to leave.

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The campsite and car park also had some interesting vehicles in them, I took pictures of a few as a substitute for the small showing at the, er, show!

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Why yes people were camping in the shed caravan!

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After leaving I decided to have a look around Holt itself. The village is beautiful! Very clean and well-maintained, it also has good roads, lots of parking and a load of small, non-chain shops. It was like stepping back in time 60 years! Except of course the people weren’t as well dressed and all the cars were modern ugly bloaters.

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Well, most of them.

I found a book shop that was full of crammed, haphazard rooms – just the way I like it! I went to the children’s section and got a few good ‘uns. I realised later that I ought to have looked for a crime section, and the attendant (maybe) Blakiana within. Oh well. I also got a 1984 Eagle Annual from another shop.

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The green book is by Charles Hamilton (aka Frank Richards) – the 20th century’s Shakespeare!

In all a pretty profitable trip :3

What’s the best TV show ever?

It’s a difficult question isn’t it? There’s a few candidates…

The Lock, Stock… TV Series

For: Hilarious and violent, some great characters.

Against: No fucker’s seen it.

 

The Fast Show

For: Putting up a tent is… very much like making love to a beautiful woman. You unzip the door, put up your pole and slip in to the old bag.

Against: It ended.

 

Doctor Who

For: When it’s good it’s very very good.

Against: When it’s bad it makes you taste sick at the back of your mouth.

 

Bonekickers

For: Great mysterious conspiracies, and friggin’ Excalibur!

Against: Not many cars

 

Top Gear

For: Lots of cars.

Against: Not a great deal of crashes or fireballs.

 

So then, on balance what’s the best show ever? Why it’s one I can’t understand and have never seen a complete episode of!

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Look upon it, ye mighty, and weep!

So why is this show the best thing ever? Well just look at the sort of thing that happens in EVERY episode.

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An SD1, man? That ain’t cool. Why can’t you pick on cars nobody cares about?

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That’s better.

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This scene is on Youtube. “Neeeein!” doesn’t have the same impact as  “Nooo!” somehow XD

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This scene is also on Youtube in an extended form, the heroes battle two VW vans and then this!

The main character who has been in all the episodes (except the first two, ahem) is called Semir and various other sidekicks have been rotated over the years. The current one is rather tasty.

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But anyway I suppose you want to see more crashes and exploding shit…

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The rules about hazardous material markings in Germany are apparently not very strict.

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This scene is also on Youtube and is utterly hilarious!

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They get through as many caravans as Top Gear, mind.

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Unfortunately this series doesn’t appear to be available in English. There’s a big fan-site (where I nicked all the pics from, they’re probably the copyright of RTL or some shit like that) here: http://www.afc11.nl/EN/ 

That site also has some videos including a “re cap” of the series from 1995 – 2009 (with plenty of crashes!) and also a video with the various languages the series has been translated into. These include Japanese, where it’s apparently known as “Aotobaan Supeedo”. Though when I was there once I did see a huge box set with the name translated into “English” as “Alarm For Cobra 11” (though of course a better English translation would be something like “Call For Cobra 11”). Of course the actual shows would be in Japanese though. If the video on that site is anything to go by one of the voice actors actually has a go at putting on a German accent XD

Top Gear is back!

The best show on telly was back on last night, Top Gear! It was a cracking episode too, with reviews of the BMW 1M (I like the 1 series saloons even though they are about the size of an 80’s 3 series!) and it also featured an original rallying Mini. But the show was stolen by a great big crowd of E-Types invading a picturesque village. To be honest I didn’t really rate the E-type much before, possibly because the only ones I’d seen pictures of were in classic car magazines where they kept saying that the cheapest way to own one was to buy the bulbous 2+2 Coupe version. However last night’s show heavily featured the wonderful 2 seat convertible versions, and colour me converted!

I’m even more converted, though, by this! The Eagle Speedster, which is basically an E-type re-made, but with “just enough” modern additions (NB: Why no that doesn’t mean airbags, satnav and a folding hardtop). It is, however, £500,000! Which is a lot for what is basically a sixties car… but if my six numbers come up I won’t even be looking at anything else.

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And why yes, that does appear to be four on the floor (AKA: “The correct way”) and not six speed paddles (AKA: “The incorrect way”).

What the pictures can’t convey is the exhaust note of this thing’s awesome straight-six. Let’s just say they have somehow managed to capture the resonant frequency of the human soul. The Jag mkX does that too, but this can even do it through the TV! (The Eurofighter also makes your soul vibrate, but that’s just with sheer LOUD).

Of course if my six numbers did come up I’d also drive an eco-friendly, renewable biomass-powered vehicle regularly.

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One of them.

Keeping to the theme of jingoism, the 50th anniversary issue of Commando is out now (and four others, of course). It’s number 4044 and absolutely brilliant! It also features several references to the titles of old issues. The main story is set in 1961 and features a character reading one of the first issues – which also provides a big clue in the later mystery. You might be left wondering “who told the tale?” though!

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It is every patriot’s duty to own this

Also at the weekend I was reading through my volume of a short-lived story paper called Boys, and came to one of it’s semi-regular “Boys’ Book Shelf” articles. That reviewed a school story, and I thought “I haven’t read an old school story in book form for a while” (If you want a good one, look out for “The Dormitory Flag” by Harold Avery). So off I trotted to the Haunted Bookshop to get one.

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That one

It’s also inscribed, which I like because I am pro-inscription! One dating from 1912 which has been crossed out and another wonkily-written and undated one added.

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Pictured: A real, direct connection with everyday history, in your hands!