Monthly Archives: October 2009

Mediterranean motors, Cuban revolutionaries, hot pies and brake master cylinders

What a busy half term I’ve just had….

Spent the first week in Malta at the Phoenecia Hotel in Valetta, superbly sited to explore the island’s incredible history.  Annoyingly I had injured my right eye, so spent the week walking around with one eye closed.

Most people associate Malta with the Knights Hospitaler of the Order of St John, but few may know that the oldest man made standing structures are also on the island. The megalithic temples of Ggantia, Hagar Qim, Mnajdra and Tarxien, and the Hal Saflieni Hypogeum are just stunning. Although at €25 each the Hypogeum was an expensive visit!

Ggantia blogTarxian blog

Malta also has this wonderful fully interactive public transport museum…

malta bus 1malta bus 2

And lots of interesting cars to spot…

malta singermalta simca

Che, Che, Che

The Sunday Times were giving away copies of the  Motorcycle Diaries. Great film – but I do have this problem with Che Guevera. I have to be really careful here not to upset my Cuban friends because even though Castro’s gilding has definitely worn thin, Che is still held in great affection.

I have always seen young Ernesto as an idealistic, glory seeking, self publicist. I haven’t yet seen Che with Benito Del Toro, but will be interested to see what slant the movie gives him.

Hot Pies

A fellow member of the AMOC forum posted an amusing story about Natal and curry which brought back a memory from my student days at the University of Natal in Pietermaritzburg.

Late at night when we took a break from “studying” someone would usually suggest a visit to the Pie Cart. A mobile kitchen dispensing gristle and gravy in a pastry casing – with chilli sauce to disguise the flavour of decaying warthog. The Pie Cart van would park itself in market square – and while munching our pies in the safety of someone’s car, we would watch the world come and go.

One night a bunch of “skellems” roared into the square in something they had obviously stolen from the local scrap heap, slammed on the brakes and the headlamps both fell out – if that wasn’t funny enough, the car shot forward and ran over both lamps!!

I have not laughed so hard or for so long since….

Master Cylinder

Hmmm, sounds like one of te older Jedi knights… But I digress.

Despite still having a dodgy right eye, I spent a few days on the farm after getting back from Malta. I stripped down and overhauled the brake master cylinder and fitted the vacuum pipes around the top of the engine bay, I’ve just ordered a range of small parts ncluding new brake hoses to fit over the winter months.

cylinder apartcyinder incylinder under

Awfully fishy….

Well the party conferences are done and dusted. The rhetoric spouted to thunderous applause by adulating acolytes… And we can now all get back to work (Did I just say back to work…it never bloody stops!) and prepare for the elections in about eight months’ time.

As if some of the hyperbolic political proclaimations didn’t leave a slightly sour taste, my doctor has just advised me that cod liver oil is the best thing for my arthritis – IT IS DISGUSTING! I feel as if I’ve just licked the deckboards on a Taiwanese trawler… Urgh! But if it means I can crawl around under ROJ for a while longer I suppose it will be worth it.

Before we really knuckle down for the new parliamentary term – a quick holiday has been booked . A last glance at the sunshine in Malta. We’re staying at the Hotel Phoenicia from where I hope to explore some of the Crusader sites – do a little diving, and spot a few classic cars.

The Bees Knees…

Well I couldn’t find any…. Legs, plenty, knees (knobbly or otherwise) nope.

After my foray onto the roof of the Houses of Parliament last year to watch the Peregrines, today I was on the roof of a civil service building on Victoria Street having a lesson in apiary from a charming young lady called Caroline.

blog bees

On, off. On…off. ON! …and off again…

Well, there I was, on the farm again for four glorious days, with grand plans to finish the brake system.

So, I started where I had left off – making the new brake pipes. I had all the old pipes that we cut off originally – so that I could get a rough idea of what was needed – then using a nifty bending tool, made the shaped pipes – allowing for excess legnth to be be cut down. (In my enthusiasm I made a couple too short to start with.)


I then tried to fit the pipes – only to find they didn’t fit, and hand to rebend some of them by hand. Long fiddly job.

Next thing to do was put on the fittings and flare the pipe ends.


Once I’d got all the pipes done and in place I started to strip down and overhaul the master cylinder – and this is where it all ground to a halt. I needed a 13mm allen key to get the tipping valve out. And I didn’t have a 13mm allen key. Nor did Malcolm, Gary or John, or the farmer next door….

13mm required

So I decided to stop doing the brakes and to think of something else to play with.


Air filters. That seemed a good plan.


I stripped off the rust and old paint off one airfilter housing. cleaned it up, painted it, replaced the old padding where it attaches to the chassis, and discovered that to fit it I had to remove the brake servo and all the pipes I had just made….


Damn, damn, damn.

I will also have to drill out the rivets on the hose brackets I had made to fit the plastic hose – which I split while trying to compress it…

So now my shopping list for my next trip includes – one 13mm allen key and two pieces of flexible air duct in black plastic.

What I love about the farm is that each time I visit Malcolm has a different project on the go – he’s almost finished the Renault 4 – and has a R5 outside waiting for an engine swap,


…..and he does not look at all happy about the state of the roof of this 70’s Datsun 240 – it appears to have been damaged in a roll, cut off, sort of bashed into shape, and then really badly welded back on out of alignment. That really deserves to be on the ‘There, I fixed it’ website.


At least it looks as if Gary’s finished the Alfa track car.


You won”t find  Nemo – he’s Sushi

After the farm on Monday I dropped into the RSA for a screening of Charles Clover’s excellent film ‘ End of the Line’   A harrowing tale of the effects of over fishing  on the world’s oceans.

Marine conservation has long been a passion  – I was  for many years a trustee of a marine research foundation in Oxford.  I am really pleased that such a highly respected journalist has taken up the campaigning banner – although the task ahead is huge, especially in taking the message to the Far East.

Back in the 60’s  my Father used to complain about the Japanese long line trawlers around Mauritius taking all the fish – admittedly because it meant there were less of his beloved marlin for him to catch.  China and Japan are the largest consumers of the world’s fish stocks – and as prosperity grows in mainland China more people will be able to afford to eat the fish once reserved for emperors.

Good luck with it Charles – and I shall urge all my fellow Aston owners and enthusiasts to ensure that the dish they choose to accompany that bottle of viognier or Krug, Clos du Mesnil is from a sustainable source.