How did I get myself into this mess . . .

. . . After all, it didn’t necessarily have to be this way.

By now I could just as easily have found myself merrily ‘chugging’ along the Middlewich Branch of the Shropshire Union Canal. To anyone else, that would have been the logical and preferred option.

Not me though, for I had (via an uncharacteristic flip of the coin) entrusted my immediate future to chance. Unsure in which direction to take my viewers on their next waterways adventure, I had simply written the names of two canals on pieces of paper and drawn one from an old jam jar.

I shouldn’t complain really, or for that matter be particularly surprised. This current predicament I now found myself in, could have happened anywhere. In fact it was inevitable really. I should have taken heed of the warning signs. I only had myself to blame.

Heaven knows the simple yet no less effective vintage mercury thermometer, sat atop the equally simple, yet no less effective vintage Petter McLaren diesel engine, had been trying it’s utmost for several preceding months, to warn of the impending doom heading my way.

Continue reading “How did I get myself into this mess . . .”


4. Launch day, when the stars align . . .

. . . anyone who’s ever dreamed of, planned and then finally achieved a longterm goal, will know all too well the mixture of emotions that come with it.

This experience is made all the more poignant if the plan in question, involves changing your entire world . . . entirely.

Up to this point I’d turned my back on everything that had gone before, jumped into the unknown, and spent more cash in one transaction than I thought possible.

Later and after a further 4 weeks of readying Aslan for a life afloat, I faced the final resultant ‘madness’, focussed on the one goal of living aboard a boat, and exploring the UK canal system.

Following the nerve-wracking experience of Aslan’s launch, not forgetting the blood, sweat and tears previously expended, the relief on my face is plain to see.

I was on the water, at long last.

I was also very ‘green’ when it came to navigating a boat along a stretch of (thankfully) quiet canal.

What wasn’t so apparent was that I was also very much alone. Off camera, I was relieved it was finally happening. However I was also very upset and cried . . . a lot.

The biggest contributing factor in all of this, was a continual nagging question, “have I done the right thing?”

Still, I’d ‘made my bed’ as they say . . . and now I had to lie in it.

3. The guided tour and ‘that’ cheese on toast . . .

Looking back at this now 10 months later, it’s clear to me I felt as if I was about to turn a corner.

The sun was shining, it was warm and not only did I have a new camcorder to play with, I now had a definite ‘storyline’ to shoot to.

Did I give the impression I was proud of my new boat (and home)? 🙂

The determination to film every square inch of the inside and out isn’t lost on me – and that engine. Walking past it every morning from the bedroom to the galley. Boys and their toys.

Two things I’m asked quite frequently. Was the cheese on toast really the first meal I cooked on the boat?

Yes, it was. My god, all I had was some bread, no butter, cheese and one OXO cube. I didn’t even have a plate.

And secondly. What was I thinking of, covering it all with a beef stockcube? To be honest, I was hungry and yearned for something with a meaty flavour. Couple this with the fact there was almost nothing onboard resembling food, nor anything utensils-wise to cook with anyway.

Ah, those were the days.

2. Ah so he’s buying a boat…

… Now it’s beginning to make sense.

Here we are just over 9 months later and looking back, it’s apparent I was not a well man. The stress had taken it’s toll, both mentally and physically.

Sadly it wasn’t over with the realisation I was now in a financial position to buy a boat.

Heck, even with my pitiful collection of worldly possessions crammed into the camper van, I still hadn’t decided if I would be buying this particular vessel.

Always in the back of my mind was the very real prospect that if Aslan turned out to be a bit of a lemon, I would have found myself hauling a van load of belongings to the four corners of the UK, – for an indeterminate amount of time – until I did find a suitable boat.

It’s during periods like these, that you realise you’re in this position solely because of your own actions – there’s no turning back and you are now, in fact, homeless – and very much alone.

A sobering and often nauseating thought.

1. CountryHouseGent goes missing. What’s that all about? . . .

… Amazing! Where it all began.

One day I upload a video review of a mechanics ratchet set and the next, this short, cryptic and completely unexpected video appears.

Here I was, sat by a canal and listening to a news report on the radio, saying that I’ve been missing from my home since May.

Mad 🙂

An Introduction to the World of Motorcycling for Spotty Teenagers . . .

. . . This is another article that was originally published in the June 2007 issue of Classic Motorcycle Mechanics Magazine, here in it’s original and unedited form . . .

An Introduction to the World of Motorcycling for Spotty Teenagers

“What is the first thing that enters a fly’s mind as it hits the windscreen? Its arse!” Ah, the old ones are the best.

In my case, the first thing to enter ones adolescent and bewildered brain, had been the mental image of two front-seat occupants in a Ford Cortina. To this day, frozen in time like a snap-shot, I vividly recall how they sat, facing each other, giggling and staring into each others eyes, he (the driver) with his hand on her thigh.

Fair enough you may think, but surely inappropriate behaviour, whilst overtaking an asthmatic tractor, on a blind bend?

Continue reading “An Introduction to the World of Motorcycling for Spotty Teenagers . . .”

Building a Motorcycle Hillclimb Racer & Barbon 2006 . . .

. . . The following story was published in two parts in the January and February 2007 issues of Classic Motorcycle Mechanics magazine. Enjoy . . .

Part One

The sweaty and naked blonde floozy appeared to wink at me from the June page of the Miss Rubber Tyres Calendar, hanging from my workshop wall. I chanced another peep. No it wasn’t April the 1st and the letter I tightly gripped was no joke. My entry had been accepted for the 2006 Barbon Hill Climb, at Kirby Lonsdale, Cumbria, on the 29th July. My first motorsport event!

Now, almost at the end of June, a 1989 Kawasaki KL650 Tengai had undergone a dramatic (read, traumatic) transformation, solely for this event. From idle rust bucket, to shining Cafe Racer in just 1 year. No more Paris Dakar styled bodywork, replete with mammoth fuel tank and stepladder seat height. No more high slip, low grip knobbly tyres. In came shiny and rebuilt 17” stainless spoked wheels, with super sticky Bridgestone tyres. Out went most of the wiring loom. Oh and any surplus brackets, half the subframe, the exhaust, header tank, clocks, lights, switchgear, brake lines etc. Most of the leftovers were sold through Ebay and went in some small way, towards the ever-expanding costs.

This machine would be the epitome of lightweight, mass centralisation, flickability and time displacing acceleration. Cooool.

Kawasaki Tengai converted to a Cafe racer
No it’s not a 1950’s Cafe Racer but that was the inspiration for it.

Continue reading “Building a Motorcycle Hillclimb Racer & Barbon 2006 . . .”

Modifying a 1956 Egmond 12 String Acoustic . . .

. . . With this post, there will probably be many of you fellow guitar enthusiasts out there, that will think I’ve completely lost the plot?

Several years ago, I visited a charity shop in Kendal, UK. There, sat in the window, was something that instantly caught my eye, a guitar. It turned out to be a 1956 Egmond (Dutch firm, now bust) 12 String acoustic, 17 fret neck, 12th fret at the body.

Imagine my surprise when enquiring, that the price was just £40. SOLD !!!

1956 Egmond 12 String Acoustic Guitar
1956 Egmond 12 String Acoustic Guitar

Continue reading “Modifying a 1956 Egmond 12 String Acoustic . . .”