A couple of months ago I bought a Hot Tuna rucksack for Little Boots. It was blue camo with orange trim and immediately designated as “Epic!”.
We left the shop and were 10 yards away when the zip broke.

So we took it straight back & changed it.

The following day on rucksack number two a zip broke. (it was a different zip – the bag has three).

This time we took it back and since they had no other blue camo bags got a refund.

We tried to interest Little Boots in other bags, even visiting several shops, but to no avail. They just weren’t epic.

So a week later, against my very best judgement bought a third Hot Tuna blue camo rucksack.

Entirely predictably one of the zips broke. Unfortunately it was just over a month from purchase and so too long to be able to take the bag back.

Even if I could have taken it back there seemed little point as we would doubtless just end up with a fourth broken zip.

So I bought a heavy-duty zip and strong thread and spent three hours sewing it in.

Of course Little Boots was delighted and said it was better than ever. I should here mention that the original zips were branded Hot Tuna on the puller and so it wasn’t just a case of them having cheap generic zips.

Whilst the bag owner was chuffed I certainly was not and emailed Hot Tuna explaining the sequence of events that had left me cross and disappointed at their poor quality merchandise. Adding that I was also out of pocket and tired having wasted three hours.

I received an email back from Hot Tuna Customer Services:

“Thank you for your email.
We will endeavour to respond to your query at the earliest opportunity, normally within 1-3 working days.
During busy periods this may be longer, should you need to follow up on this case please quote the reference below:
Reference: CAS-xxxxxxxxxxx
Kind Regards,
Customer Services”

That was a month ago. Mid-way between then and now I sent a second email, received the same automated reply and nothing else.

Now compare this pathetic customer service the great service I got from Moonraker Knives.

I ordered a brass fitting from them for a little project I’m working on. The piece arrived swiftly but had slightly the wrong dimensions. Within hours of my email querying this they replied with an apology and said they would send a replacement out. It swiftly arrived and they told me that I need not return the original piece.

Now THAT is customer service.


Whilst I don’t have fine skills. Certainly not in woodwork or metalwork, I think I’m pretty useful with my hands. Handy you might say. My father a mechanic and panel-beater taught me two important things in the realm of mending, fixing and creating.

Firstly get the right tool for the job. Otherwise you may spend a lot of time, energy and also patience trying to complete what could be a relatively easy task.

The other one was to think about what you are going to do before you do it and all the while that you are carrying out the operation/exercise. This trail of thought isn’t just about being systematic, but also creative. The methodical and the imaginative are not always found together, but if you can combine the two you can end up getting a good result.

All of which preamble – or should that be preramble? – bring me to this little project.


What is it?

Well it’s a kind of pistoley thing that fires elastic bands. But it is also a prototype trigger system for a crossbow that Little Boots asked me to make.

That request was no doubt fired by the rediscovery of his bow and arrows in the garden playhouse and the discussion it prompted about a crossbow we made together about five years ago. Made from a big T-shaped piece of wooden train track, three large elastic bands, a peg and a lot of masking tape it fired corks and LB used to regularly ambush me with it.

To be honest I agreed without really thinking through what it might entail. It’s proved to be far more complicated than I thought, but I know have a working system. As you can see it’s made from scraps of wood and MDF screwed together. But what isn’t so obvious is that the mechanism itself consists of:

  • a fishing line spool
  • a piece of thick u-shaped plastic from some packaging
  • a piece of elastic
  • a piece of plastic heating pipe
  • a drawing pin
  • a nail
  • the spring and plastic pipe from a bottle of anti-bac spray

Luckily I have a “Womble box” full of plastic oddments that I keep for things like this.


More amusing signage.

This time the mirth-making is utterly unintentional. Indeed I would suggest that that person responsible for this is utterly devoid of any sort of humour.

As you will see it says “Steep Drop” and as it is attached to the railings on a third floor stairwell it’s difficult to think of a drop that could be any steeper.

Of course I could be pedantic and say that it is not steep since that suggests an incline, but rather it is a shear drop. But then I would be as small-minded as the dolts responsible for twerposity of this sort. By which I mean the kind of Health and Safety tediousness which litters our world and serves no purpose other than an extremely slim, anti-Darwinian possibility of stopping idiots harming themselves.

Phew, relax, Clarkson moment over.

Glad I got that off my chest.

book 003

So I left my cap on the train. Pah!

Sure it was an Adidas one that cost a few quid, but I never liked it that much. It had the newer 3 bar logo on it which is a right load of gash, even more so when you think it replaced the classic trefoil design.

Besides I had another. The thing is it was a cheap Primark special that I bought five years ago to wear whilst constructing a garden for the RHS show at Tatton Park and not to care if it got trashed.

The trouble is that it looked like all of those things.

So I decided I must get one that didn’t look like it had been stolen from a tramp and coincidentally I came across this one the very next day.

Life Is Good is not just a statement, but is actually the brand name. Not one that’s particularly known in the UK I’d say, but they claim to produce “environmentally friendly clothing for environmentally friendly people”, plus they do good work for kids in need.

All of which sounds fine to me

These things I only learned later.

For my mind the linking of an image of a fisherman with the words “life is good” was enough to make me want to buy it. Because the last 12 months have been pretty fair, especially coming after three quite awful years and within those months the very best of times have been when I was away from it all and fishing.

And even more so when Little Boots was doing it too.

There was, alongside Words On Water, more angling on Radio 4 this week.

On Wednesday, self-appointed expert in absolutely everything, Count Arthur Strong went fishing, taking his split cane rod and Intrepid Black Prince up to Spiggy Lakes.

Following on from the post before last – a name I was surprised to find amongst those revered by the traditional angling tribe was that of Jack Hargreaves.

He was a television presenter that I recall well from my youth, but at the same time know very little about. This was no doubt because my father would not allow his programmes to be on in the house. So the most I ever saw was a minute or two.

Such ire was exceptional, even for my father who regularly watched TV programmes featuring people he disliked and, rather than change channels, would spew forth futile Alf Garnet-like rants about them. But Jack Hargreaves was beyond even this.

The general vein of this excoriation was that he was a “bullshitter” and not just that – the old man seemed to actually like bullshitters – at least the ones that he sensed didn’t themselves really believe the line that they were peddling. Hargeaves was something worse, a bullshitter of a townie pretending he was a countryman.

I have no idea myself having never seen more than a snippet of ‘Out of Town’, and being too young to judge even if we had been allowed to watch it. He starred in another programme, ‘How’ which we could have watched when the Old Man was at work, but we thought it was rubbish. My dad might have tolerated that one though, because it also featured Fred Dineage (a man with a ridiculously dodgy comb-over who was often on Southern TV programmes) who he loved to watch seemingly solely so that he could call him a w***er.

One specific incident sticks in my mind with regard to JH and that is when he was on some programme or other. I can’t believe it was his own, so he must have popped up and caught the Old Man unawares. He had a ferret and claimed that as a young man he would go to church on Sunday morning with a ferret in one pocket and rabbit net in the other and do a spot of rabbiting on the way home.

“Bullshit!” said the old man, rising rapidly into a boil of raging disgust. “You’d never catch a rabbit on your way to church, never mind on the way home.”

Whether this is true I don’t know. I guess there is an optimum time to snare rabbits, but it did cross my mind that if my Old Man (and his dad) had got up at the crack of dawn to go rabbiting it might have more to do with them not getting caught by the landowner, than it being the best time to catch bunnies. I did seriously think he was going to kick the telly in until having reached a crescendo of expletive abuse, he grabbed the remote, hesitated as if considering throwing at the screen, and then changed channel.

As his anger subsided, he turned to me. ” Do you remember that c*** when he judged you in that fancy dress competition? What a c***!”

I do recall the occasion and do struggle to understand why the old man was so cross because I won and took home a really good model JCB. Maybe I just won my age group and not the grand prize – I don’t know and probably now after his stroke neither does the old fella.

It was a good costume and later won prizes when my siblings wore it. From the ground up it consisted of some very long thin grown-up’s boots. They were vintage even then – the sort that fastened above the ankle via buttons and eyes. Next football socks, one blue, one red. Then a pair of grey adult trousers, cut off just below the height of my knee and held up by braces. The gaping waistband was held out in a hoop by a circle of wire, and they were decorated with multicoloured patches. On my top I wore a bright t-shirt and a waistcoat. My head sported a battered top-hat from which a blousy crepe flower danced on a springy wire stalk.

Obviously I had my face made up to look like a clown, though I don’t know exactly how. I do recall my round nose, made from a ping pong ball and held on with thin black elastic, because it was a long way from comfortable. It was horrible to touch too as it was coloured red by smeary red lipstick. For the first effort my father had used car paint from the garage where he worked. Apparently it had looked great initially, but had then slid into mush as the paint reacted with, and then dissolved, the ball.

But the piece of the costume that my father had spent most time on was a squirty flower. The petals were made from red and white vinyl and the centre was the nozzle from a car windscreen washer. This was linked via tubing, presumably of the same source, to a bulb from a bicycle horn, hidden in the trouser pocket. It was quite effective, though good for only one decent squirt before refilling was needed. I remember my father’s regret that he could not get a bigger bulb and that trials with a water-filled balloon instead proved unsatisfactory. Nevertheless it would have to do.

“When he gets close give him a good squirt” my dad instructed. “He” was Jack Hargreaves who was judging the contest at the village fete. Well I won my prize and was delighted, but my father’s disappointment was palpable. I had not drenched my assigned target. Not through lack of nerve on my part, I should add, I was more than prepared to carry out the hit, but the flower had a four foot range at best and he just never got close enough.

In hindsight I suspect the illusions wrought by television played a part in my father’s distain. Thanks to the edit suite a shot of Hargreaves casting would shortly be followed by one of him playing and landing a fish. The Old Man was convinced of a more blatant deception. As far as he was concerned there were a number of “proper fishermen” downstream who were hooking the fish which they’d immediately hand over to be filmed being brought in.

But apart from the fish fakery and the bullshit I think what grated most was the mellow theme music and opening scenes of a gently plodding horse-drawn-trap which painted the countryside and its past a golden mellow colour – the Old Man knew from generations of experience that the lives of the rural poor were seldom anything approaching golden.

More “humourous” van signage.

Drainage companies seem to really go for this.