Author Archives: Nigel

About Nigel

This restoration has been a real learning curve - but far cheaper than paying a psychiatrist.

Arms Trade and Astons

“What is the point of the Arms Trade Treaty to my country – when people can’t get guns, they take pangas and chop each other” This was the quote of the day from the representative of the Central African Republic at the Arms Trade Treaty discussions the week before last – and she has a point – we need to change behaviours and beliefs as well as controlling the production and sales of weapons, and that’s a huge task.

It was a very stimulating week, and may lead to a change in direction for me in the new year. This week I am heading off to Barcelona for discussuions with a Colombian delegation about holding a seminar for central and south American states on humanitarian mine-action – followed by two days in Zagreb exploring a similar option for the Balkans.

When I get back I shall be up to the farm for my first sight of ROJ in it’s new paint.

Phil and Steve have done a fantastic job – and worked their little socks off… Here’s a little taste:

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Aztec Mayan – A Mexican supercar perhaps?

My fingernails have been gnawed to the quick waiting to see ROJ in its new paint job. To take my mind off the wait (and off the piles of work I’ve got on) Stephanie towed me off to the Yucatán Peninsula to study some Mayan ruins for a fortnight.

As a child I had a book about the Conquistadors and have long yearned to explore the ancient kindoms of the Maya and Aztecs.

I was not disappointed.

What an amazing place. The people are so friendly and welcoming, and everything worked with surprising efficiency. One does not, however, travel to Mexico for a culinary experience! Food was good and tasty, but glad not to have tortillas and black-beans for a while – Mayan Cacao however, I would fly back for anyday!

Getting off the beaten track meant that very few people we met spoke English – and as Mayan is as impenetrable a language as Icelandic – we really tested our rudimentary Spanish.

I decided it was going to be a bit warm and humid for the Indiana Jones outfit – just as well as the Mayan rain-God Chac smiled upo us in abundance!

 We started on the Caribbean at Quintana Roo – annoyinglly, I’m not medically fit for diving at the moment, so missed out on diving in the Grand Cenote, but did snorkel with the turtles  and through bat filled caves.

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The great thing about travelling out of season – and under our own steam – means we avoided the tourist hordes, and for the most part had many of the ruins to ourselves.

Here’s Stephanie at one at Tulum that has been resored:

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And here’s me at one that hasn’t at Cabah:

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 In between gazing at piles of rubble I spotted a number of other intriguing ruins – anyone know wht this might be?

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 Saw some great American steel – managed to get a snap of only one.

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The Mexicans have a far more relaxed approach to the MoT…!

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Bettle lovers would love it there.

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This in the art gallery in Merida was quite fun…

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Well, enough of that – back to the ruins:

We may think we invented the ball and hoop game in Europe – but the Mayans got there first – the theory is the losing team captain was sacrificed as part of a ritual – I reckon it was because some big cohone lost a wad …

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The idea is to get a big rubber ball through the hoops.

The big Pyramid at Uxmal.

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In Tulum we stayed at a great little hotel called the Posada Yum Kin – which may sound Korean – but that’s actually a Mayan name. In Merida we stayed at the Casa Mexilo – an excentric little place – more guest house than hotel, very close to the centre and full of character. In Valladolid we stayed at the Casa Qetzal – basic but comfortable and cheerful.

Everywhere we went there was music and singing – in Valladolid we joined the locals in the central square on the Sunday night and danced to a marvellous bunch of mariachis.

All in all, we liked the Yucatán

 

 

Phew – that was exhausting….

Still madly polishing bits of stainless steel trim to stick on ROJ once painted.

When I bought the first rusty wreck all those years ago (remember this one)

ABW aston2 023

I very optimistically – and extremely naively – thought that i could sand blast the chassis using this –

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It’s been sittting in the workshop since, and has been very useful for the odd little job. I’ve put it to very good use recently, sand-blasting the exhaust manifolds, which I then painted with VHT and baked in the oven at 250 degrees for an hour and a half.

 

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From this

to this:

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Last week I popped over to Luxembourg to discuss some activity next year using their presidency of the EU to target MEPs and directorate staff for funding for vcitim assistance projects in conflict and post-conflict countries.

After having a tour of the EU buildings, and the Parliament Chamber, our hosts kindly gave us a tour of the old city, and then a bit of fun in the countryside involving 2CVs an Ipad and a treasure hunt. Our team lost!CIMG0028

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Clippety-clip

It may be months since my last post – but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been busy – and ROJ has certainly not been neglected!

Work has been manic, I’ve been organising a conference on Innovation in mine-action at the Royal Geographical Society in London – speakers flying in from all over the world, Ministers to be briefed etc etc. Will be on January 20-21 if anyone’s interested in coming.

ROJ has not yet gone to the paint shop – but what I have done is sell off the scrap car and all my store of extra parts – which means I’ve got the money to spend on getting the engine sorted and into the car once painted.

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I hired a man with a van and we moved all my tools and the rest of the bits back to London.

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I’ve already had a couple of parts refurbished – and had a tour of the Aston Martin Heritage Works at Newport Pagnell.

Stephanie likes the DB5 front ends

Stephanie likes the DB5 front ends

The garage at home has been almost cleared and now waits for its new resident.

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So while I’m waiting for ROJ to arrive I’ve been busying myself with getting the re-chromed door frames reconstructed with all new rubbers from AM.

The helpful chap at Aston Engineering told me fitting the quarter lights was a job even the professionals hate – but with plenty of silicone grease and some thin plastic sheets to guide the glass into the seal – I got it done.

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And, because I’m also a bit OCD, I took the scruffy old windscreen trim clips and soaked them first in white spirit to dissolve any residual glue, then in Jenolite to disolve any traces of rust, scrubbed them with a wire brush and painted them with flexible enamel paint.

before...

before…

...and after

…and after

 

My next job will be to clean up the manifolds and paint with VHT enamel.

 

 

 

Exotic company

While ROJ is waiting in its pajamas for its paintjob, we took P19 to get its tail straightened after the latest rear end shunt.

Our local bodywork guru Michael has some seriously interesting toys in his yard.

This eight-wheel amphibian is one of only a handful made and used during the Falklands War.

Falklands swamp basher

In the workshop a shiny 70’s beetle.

straightening p19 tail

And then in the back yard – Lamborghini, lotus and MG.

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And back on the farm last week, ROJ had a visit from this –

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I like it.

 

Rubbed out!

Not much to write about the work on ROJ on my latest trip to the farm – more filling, more rubbing – and soon to paint.

Had two great evenings out with Malcolm and Kaye at their converted pub, and a BBQ at Clive’s – just like old times.

A new member of the museum – Steve has bought this immaculate 1957 beetle

Beautiful beetle

Beautiful beetle

The boys have also rigged up a makeshift paintbooth.

pop-up paint booth

pop-up paint booth

Always time for a bit of R&R at the farm pond.

How big...?

How big. Phil…..?

Steve’s got the engine in the 260

Siney engine

Shiney engine

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Very Sweet.

Amalfi drive test run

High on my list of things to do when ROJ is finished is to take a run down from Sorento to Amalfi… Well it was!

Last month was our 27th anniversary and Stephanie – who has long wanted to take me to see her old stamping ground of Naples, Sorento and the Isle of Capri – finally got her way. Even though ROJ was not ready.

So we did the run on a local bus.

You know something’s going to be hairy when the locals cross themselves before getting on board…..

Well, It was less like the opening sequence of the Italian Job and more like the closing sequence!

In a bus, one is higher up, therefore you can look down over the roadside fence, and straight down the 300 foot drop!

Looking back down at the road to ravello

Looking back down at the road to ravello

I would recommend it to anyone (as long as you’re not prone to bus sickness) It was exhilerating.It also made me seriously question whether we should inflict the route on a forty year old car – although the V8 would easily cope with the steep roads.

If we do take ROJ down there it would have to be out of season when the big tour coaches aren’t scaring the pants of everyone.

Stephanie was right to be enamoured with Sorento and Capri – it really is a beautiful part of Italy. We’ve both been visiting Italy since childhood, and I’ve noticed over the last few years that the Italians have become much calmer – and have even learned how to drive!* (*does NOT include Rome!)

I had been reluctant to visit Capri – and first impression was not good – but pretty soon, once we got past the glitz and posey people, the island really grew on me – If it was good enough for Tiberius to rule the empire from, then it was good enough for me.

Superb historic sites and spectacular (and very rugged) walks and scenery.

Stephanie at Villa Rufolo at Ravello

Stephanie at Villa Rufolo at Ravello

 

Glad to see plenty of these still around

Glad to see plenty of these still around

For an amateur archaeologist a day at Pompei is a must

For an amateur archaeologist, a day at Pompei is a must.

Whenever you see a celebrity on TV driving down to Amalfi – it’s often in a red Alfa Spider – this one to be precise. For hire to tourists who want to feel like Marcello Mastroianni or Sophia Loren.

 

Stylish hire

Stylish hire

Bucks fizz and breakfast in Sorento

 Breakfast and bucksfizz in Sorento.

The view with dinner in Capri

The view with dinner in Capri

We had our anniversary dinner at the Restaurant Brunella – with a stunning view of Capri town and harbour. Stephanie has become a ‘senior reviewer’ on trip advisor with the user name Stefaniaspina - her review of the Brunella is here: http://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/ShowUserReviews-g187783-d1463521-r209036401-Terrazza_Brunella-Capri_Island_of_Capri_Province_of_Naples_Campania.html#REVIEWS

More archaeology - Tiberius's Villa Jovus on Capri

More archaeology at Tiberius’s Villa Jovis

We stayed in a delightful little private hotel called the Canasta, overlooking the monastery and the sea, and also had dinner at a restaurant proclaiming ‘James Bond Views’ – although Capri has never been a James Bond location.

A superb location though to spend one’s anniversary.

I tried in vain to get a photo of this lovely old Capri Taxi

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 After three days of peace and quiet on Capri – Naples was a real shock to the senses. A messy, bustling, typically Italian city. With a view to die for – quite literally when Vesuvius blows its top again!

A view to die for

A view to die for

As tedious as an Andrew Lloyd-Webber musical

A whole week on the farm!!

How exciting should that have been.

It would have been if it hadn’t been the most boring part of the restoration… preparing the car for painting.

This involves: rubbing the car down, wiping over with de-greaser, painting with etch primer and then filling all the dents, wrinkles and holes. Then, sanding down the filler, de-greasing, priming, filling, rubbing down, de-gre…. you get the idea!

I dressed all the welds first, and used seam sealant on the inside. It was lovely having Stephanie with me to help.

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I always enjoy seeing the projects the others are working on – Phil with his Japanese drifters and Steve, who was highly modifying this Nissan Skyline engine to put into his 1970’s Datsun 260Z. (Not the one in the background!)

 

Steve Grove engineer par-excellence

Steve Grove engineer par-excellence

I’ll be back up in a couple of weeks for more rubbing…

In the meantime… Landmines under Big Ben

A little over a year ago Rt Hon John Bercow MP, the Speaker of the House of Commons agreed to let me turn Speaker’s Green in the shadow of Big Ben into a demonstration mine-field and invite Parliamentarians to come along and try their hand with some mine-detection equipment.

Landmines Under Big Ben

Speaker’s Green is not open to the public and therefore not part of Parliament where one can hold events – It was a real privilege.

I had originally planned to run the event on 5th November last year, but this proved impractical 

April 4th was the International Day of Mine Awareness so for the Thursday and Friday 3-4th April I got together Action on Armed Violence, Find a Better way, G4S Ordnance Management and MAG, and got UNMAS over from New York to talk to the politicians while G4S did an outstanding job of demonstrating the mine-clearance techniques.

The event was sponsored by Matthew Offord MP for Hendon and among the parliamentary visitors some old friends, such as Hilary Benn and Alf Dubs dropped by and spent quite some time with us

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LtoR Steven Smith MBE AOAV, Martun Dansey FABW, self, Rt Hon Hilary Benn MP Leeds Central, Don MacDonald and Marc Finch G4S Ordnance Management

LtoR Steven Smith MBE AOAV, Martin Dansey FABW, self, Rt Hon Hilary Benn MP Leeds Central, Don MacDonald and Marc Finch G4S Ordnance Management

It was particular good to have Giles Duley with us too.

LtoR Dr Matthew Offord MP Hendon, Giles Duley and Marin Dansey CEO FABW

LtoR Dr Matthew Offord MP Hendon, Giles Duley and Marin Dansey CEO FABW

Appalling timing

Stress was at mega levels – I had to get the whole event completely organised by the week before, because from Sunday to Wednesday I was in Geneva for the annual meeting of mine-action directors and United Nations ddvisors. Unlike my last trip I was in a decent hotel overlooking the lake – and just down the road was this garage:

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