September 29, 2015

What a bozo!

I did a very silly thing today. Now that the base of my new garden tool store is almost ready to concrete, I went across to Leroy Merlin on the other side of Périgueux to pick up some wood. First off, I needed a plank similar to those that I made the shuttering boards out of cut to a length of about 3 metres to use to screed the concrete off to the level of the shuttering boards and tamp it down. Secondly, while I was there, I thought that I might as well pick up the 24 ‘demi-chevrons’ that I need to make up the store’s framework.

The latter had been stacked up at Leroy Merlin in bundles of four with those horrible little plastic straps around them that can be a real pain in the backside to cut, but cut them I had to because I like to check each length of timber that I’m going to buy to make sure that it’s fairly straight, not full of knots and not split or damaged. I used one of my old Stanley knives for the job but unfortunately wasn’t paying enough attention and as I was slicing through one of the more intractable of the straps, succeeded in slashing the heel of my left hand.

The cut was pretty deep and something over an inch long, so I grabbed a few sheets off the roll of absorbent paper that I keep in the back of the Kia to use to staunch the blood and walked across to the yard office to see if they had a large plaster. Luckily they had a first-aid kit and a customer who was being served kindly gave me priority over his paying for the goods that he’d just bought. The look on the lady’s face behind the till when she saw the cut was something to behold, but I assured her that I wasn’t going to die there and then in front of her 🙂

Fortunately, I’m not a ‘bleeder’ and the injury didn’t stop me finishing loading the wood onto the roof of the Kia and tying it down or getting it off again when I got home. However, I want to get cracking on the concreting tomorrow and I think it could then begin to pose a bit of a problem. I’ll try changing the dressing and putting on a rubber glove before I don my leather working gloves and then see how things go. But what an absolutely stupid thing to have done. I really could kick myself this time 🙁

September 29, 2015

Tethering and trailing link updates

After I’d experimented with Tethering during the morning yesterday, my new French sim card arrived at lunchtime, so after setting my phone up, I was able to try it out for real. My first problem was getting the phone to work in 4G data mode. It continued working fine in my living room and I could even get it to tether my home wi-fi signal to my PC (a useless exercise in practise but an interesting and informative experiment) but I just could not get it to connect to the internet even though it showed that it was receiving a good signal in both 3G and 4G modes.

By mid to late afternoon I was becoming incredibly frustrated, having had to self-teach myself about Access Points and other stuff that ordinary people never have to worry about if they buy a phone from their network provider who kindly sets it up for them in advance. But I hadn’t, so it wasn’t. I suspected that not having the correct AP settings was my problem, but try as I might, I couldn’t find the settings for Free here in France anywhere on the internet. I’d have kicked the cat if I’d had one, but actually I should have kicked myself, because when I turned over the letter that I’d received from Free with my new sim card stuck to it, there they were, together with other helpful information, like how to access your voicemail. Doh!

It then didn’t take too long to get the phone working as it should, but if I’d been expecting blisteringly fast internet (which I was to a certain extent), then I was disappointed. I know that 4G is still in its infancy and yes, we are in a remote rural area, so it would be too much to expect miracles, but really and truly, it isn’t any faster on my spanking new smartphone than on my desktop PC with its steam-powered 2GB/sec internet connection. And Tethering, although it worked, was equally disappointing.

But then I’m not going to be using either the internet or Tethering when I’m at home, although I have to admit that I had harboured hopes of tethering to my PC and getting faster home internet. No, they will mainly be for use when I’m out and about and, who knows, things may be better wherever I happen to be at the time. And even at these speeds, I’ll still be able to do flight planning in real time, so that will be useful for next year’s flying tour, wherever we head for, so long as there’s a signal there 🙂

The postie also delivered a length of aluminium tube that I’d ordered for 28AAD’s trailing link repairs at the same time yesterday as my new sim card. I’d already received a length enough for a single trailing link of diameter 20mm and wall thickness 1.5mm a few days before, following which I’d then gone for the piece that arrived today. This was of the same diameter but with a wall thickness of 2mm. I thought that with an internal diameter of 16mm (compared to 17mm for the first piece) that it would still accept the jointing pieces that are inserted into each end that had had crude shims fitted around them in the damaged units, but it didn’t. So today I had to order a further piece enough for the second trailing link, of wall thickness 1.5mm, and will just keep the piece that arrived today ‘in stock’ for another time.

However, when I checked the 1.5mm thick tube against the old ones that had just split apart in the accident, I found that I will probably have nothing to fear, as it appears that whoever did the last repair only used tube with a wall thickness of about 1mm, or possibly even a bit less. Absolutely mind boggling! Is it any wonder that they failed on the next hard landing 😐

September 28, 2015

Tethering

I’m taking it a bit easy today after the exertions of the weekend – after all, I’m not as young as I used to be 😉 Actually, that’s only partially true. Simon the builder was supposed to have dropped in first thing this morning to talk about my planned building work, but he didn’t show up and couldn’t phone because he only has my old, now disconnected, mobile number. So while I was hanging around waiting, I thought that I’d make myself a bit more familiar with a process that’s of great interest to me at the moment for reasons that I’ll go on to explain.

The process, as the title of this post suggests, is called Tethering and it’s another one of the interesting and useful things that you can do with smartphones. I’m only now beginning to realise how much I’ve been missing by putting off getting one for so long, but now I have one, I’m determined to make the most of it. In simple terms, Tethering is a way of converting your mobile phone into a portable wi-fi hotspot, but before you go all glazy-eyed, if you don’t know what that means, stick with it and read on.

Smartphones are great for making and receiving calls, for listening to music while on the move, in fact doing almost everything that you don’t need a lot of screen detail for. But if you do need to perform a function that needs you to work on the screen, eg a spreadsheet, a word processor document, things like that, they’re not ideal purely on account of the size of their screen and the limited space that it offers to work with. Your tablet or PC would be much better for jobs like that. But what if you’re not at home so you can’t use your PC, or out and about with your tablet or laptop and need to write and send an email and maybe attach a word processor document to it at the same time? Well, if you have your smartphone with you and it has a data connection you can do it just as easily as if you were at home connected to your home wi-fi. You do it by making a wireless connection between your tablet or laptop to your mobile phone and the process is called Tethering.

For those who are unfamiliar with the process, like I was, the steps that you have to go through are relatively quite simple and I’ll go through them one at a time. Make sure that you are not in aircraft mode otherwise you won’t have a signal and the process won’t work.

Step 1 – Enter ‘Settings’ by tapping on the settings icon

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Step 2 – Under ‘Wireless & Networks’, tap on the ‘More’ space

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Step 3 – Tap on ‘Tethering & Portable Hotspot’

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Step 4 – Move the ‘Wi-Fi Hotspot’ slider across to the right to switch the service on

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Step 5 – Having done that, tap on the ‘Wi-Fi Hotspot’ space (in the following pic, mine is active, but yours won’t be)

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Step 6 – Tap on ‘Set up Wi-Fi Hotspot’

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Step 7 – Give your wireless network a name that you recognise and a password that is secure but easy enough to remember

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That’s it! return to the home screen and as well as being able to make and receive calls, your smartphone will now also connect to any device, such as your tablet, laptop and even your home PC that has a wireless facility in the usual way ie by going into the networks area, finding and clicking/tapping on your new network name and typing in the password that you selected. What a great facility and what amazing freedom it offers.

But just one word of warning. Leaving the hotspot switched on the whole time will contribute to draining your phone’s battery so it’s a good idea when you’ve finished what you’re doing to go back into the setup process on your phone and return the ‘Wi-Fi Hotspot’ slider back to the left again. Me? I’m still thinking of all of the applications that I’ll be able to use this for 🙂

September 27, 2015

More like it!

I was really disappointed with what I managed to achieve yesterday, especially given how long I’d worked and how much effort I’d had to put in. But today was better, much, much better!

I’d decided that it would be a waste of time to just keep trying to bang the shutter board pegs into the ground and that it would be better to hit them with the big guns straight away, by pickaxing down to the peg depth at each peg position first. And lucky that I did, because when I did so for the end peg that wouldn’t go down, I found the reason why. There were lots of small stones at exactly the depth at which the peg had stopped and even with banging the metal fence pole into the ground first, all that was happening was that the tip of the board peg would then hit another one of them on the next attempt.

The pickaxe method worked a treat and after carefully clearing away any other potential obstructions that might have prevented it from sitting down, I had the board in place within a few minutes. But not without a fair bit more physical effort, mind.

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I then backfilled the outer faces of all four boards sufficient to provide them with enough support against the weight of the concrete that they’d eventually contain and then it was time to level the area off within the boards and fill it with hardcore. Now the one thing we’re not short of in the Dordogne, as people will now realise, is hardcore. First in was all the stone that I’d dug out while preparing the base and then a load of stone under the nearby tree that I’d first come across with my new mower when I first began mowing my grass. But that still left a shortfall.

Now it just so happens that my old neighbour, Benjamin, had built up quite a nice little heap of clean stone from digging and tending his vegetable patch, which I knew he’d left in his garden under the trees next to my drive-in. As the new tenant will shortly be arriving, I thought that this would be a good time to remove it, and here are some shots that I took in the late afternoon after I’d put the whole heap into the base.

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Brilliant! I don’t think that my new next-door neighbour would mind if she knew – in fact I’m sure that she’d be delighted to see the back of it. So it’s a win-win situation, which is an excellent way to end the weekend 😉

September 26, 2015

Nightmare day

I’d hoped that by the end of today I’d have been able to say that I’d completed the shuttering for the concrete base of my new tool store. However, despite working nearly the whole day, practically to the point of exhaustion, I’m afraid that the job’s still not finished.

The main problem has been the amount of stone that I’m digging out of the ground every time I put a shovel into it or swing my pickaxe. Here’s a shot showing what I mean.

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Apart from making it really hard work, it also makes it very difficult to bang the pegs that the shutter boards are mounted on into the ground. The last time that I was able to work outside before the rain came and made the ground too wet, I tried first banging the metal rod into the ground that I used to make holes through my stone walls. The idea was that by making holes in the ground for the pegs to go into it would make it much easier to bang them in down to the required level.

It partially worked so today I used an old pointed metal fence pole to make bigger holes that should have made it much easier. That worked pretty well in the beginning and before long I had the two short side boards in place as well as the long back board that I put in place last time. However, although the ground appears fairly dry on the surface, it’s still very damp further down and it seemed to get worse as the day progressed.

By the end of the afternoon, I was finding that after I’d banged the fence pole into the ground, withdrawn it and then tried to insert it back into the hole that it had just come out of, in fact I ended up having to bang it in as hard to get it back in as when I banged it in the first time. There were two reasons – when the pole was withdrawn, it was impossible to prevent earth and small stones falling into the hole and partially filling it and also because the ground is so damp, as soon as it is compressed, it becomes almost as hard as concrete. I’ve found that the loose earth that I’ve had to leave lying around has done that because of having to repeatedly walk on it and eventually I’m going to have to break it up again using my pickaxe.

Here’s how the job looked at the end of the day.

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But don’t be fooled – there’s still quite a bit to do tomorrow, as the last shot shows. No matter how hard I whacked the board’s wooden pegs with my club hammer, it was impossible to get it down the last inch or so to the level of the other boards.

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It has to, so I’ll have to find some sort of solution to the problem tomorrow. I’m not looking forward to it 😐

September 25, 2015

C’est la France!

I didn’t get much of any importance done yesterday because I spent most of the day wrestling with French systems. First some background. As I mentioned in a recent post, I’ve just acquired a smartphone. This was also the incentive for me to make a change in home phone and internet provider, as by moving from Orange to Free, I could make a saving on the cost of my home phone/internet package and in addition get a mobile package with unlimited calls and SMS messages plus 50GB of data for only 5€/month more in total than I was paying for just the former. So a bit of a no-brainer, really.

Due to the change-over, I’ve had no home phone since the weekend, but strangely, after initially losing it for about a day, I’ve still had internet. Weird or what? But anyway, the Free box arrived on Wednesday so I decided to take the plunge and connect it all up yesterday. It went surprisingly well, despite the fact that the instructions that came with the box referred to links on the Free web site that you have to click on to complete the process, that don’t actually exist 🙂

That put me back by an hour or so due to having to find my way around the web site by clicking on all of the links that appeared relevant until I happened upon the right ones. But eventually all was up and running as it should be, although at the time of writing I still have absolutely no idea how to create my own voice-mail message, which although not a disaster is rather frustrating. There also appear to be no instructions on how to pick up any voice messages, so still a bit more fiddling around to do. Presumably the person writing the instructions had to break for lunch, which, of course, is essential on the dot of 12.30pm in France, and just forgot when they got back and returned to writing them.

But more was to come. When I ordered my Free contract, I also wanted to order the sim card for my new smartphone. Except that it was impossible. To get the discounted mobile rate, you have to provide your Free ‘Identifiant’ and ‘Mot de passe’, which at the time of ordering, you don’t know! It seems that it hadn’t occurred to whoever designed the web site that if you are ordering a Free home phone contract that you are automatically entitled to the discounted mobile rate, so you should just be allowed to go ahead and do so. No, you have to wait until your Free box arrives, after which you get an email that contains your ‘Identifiant’ and ‘Mot de passe’ and only then after, they believe, promoting it to you on their web site, will they ‘sell’ you a mobile contract that you wanted to buy in the beginning anyway. Utter madness.

But even more was to come! When you sign up for Free mobile, you have to provide them with your bank details for the monthly direct debit, and also pay for a month’s line rental in advance by debit card. This is when the fun really started. Unlike people like Barclaycard who have managed to devise a secure on line system in which, for any transaction, all of the data required to complete the transaction appears on the computer screen, here in France Credit Agricole, my bank, have a pedantic system that when you click on-screen to complete the transaction, they send you an approval code by SMS to your mobile phone.

Now it just so happened that by coincidence, my old mobile phone number that had continued receiving calls without allowing me to top it up and make any, was cut off yesterday, so when Credit Agricole tried to send me the approval code for my Free line purchase, I couldn’t receive it. The result was that my transaction timed out and I was referred back to the Free boutique. I can remember in the past receiving approval codes via email, but when I checked, no message had been received in my Inbox.

So I thought that maybe I’d missed a link on the approval screen and put the transaction through again. Sure enough, there was no link as far as I could see to request an email and the transaction timed out again. So time to call The Credit Agricole English service.

The sweet sounding young lady assured me that there was definitely a box on the approval screen to be ticked to request an emailed approval code and that if I put the transaction through again, this time I would surely see it. So I did, but no box, so I rang one of the numbers displayed to see if I could get a verbal approval. No luck. Before the rambling voice at the other end could get through all of the options and for me to try to listen to them all again, the transaction timed out yet again. So nothing for it but to try once more, but this time when I clicked to make my purchase the system told me that for security purposes, I was totally barred from making any purchases using my debit card on the Free web site. Unbelievable!

So I called the CA English service yet again. This time I got a young male voice who I told in no uncertain terms that their systems were unfit for purpose and that in all the years that I’ve been using cards to make online purchases, I’d never experienced such difficulties before. He told me that he would get my English adviser to call me – what was my mobile number please? Grrrrr!!!! Luckily, as my new dual sim smartphone also contains my UK sim card she was able to do so, but what on earth was wrong with using my home phone?

After a few moments she did and was full of apologies. She said that she’d made a change to the settings on my account and that if I put the transaction through yet again, this time it would work and there would be a link to request an emailed approval code. Except when I did, there wasn’t. There was a link labelled ‘I haven’t received an approval code’, however, which is something completely different and when I clicked it it took me to a pop-up screen with lots of information on it followed by another link that I didn’t bother to read before clicking it as by then I was losing the will to live.

Some moments later, luckily before the transaction timed out yet again, an email dropped into my Inbox with the required code, which I was able to use to complete the purchase of my Free mobile contract. Unbelievably, the whole process had taken something like two hours! A sign yet again that France has so much to do to truly get to grips with the internet and drag itself into the hard commercial world of the 21st century. If I’d had the choice, there’s no way as a free agent that I’d have persisted with wrestling with such a pathetic and useless system. I’d just have gone elsewhere.

September 23, 2015

All is now clear

For the time being, the ground is still too muddy for me to work on the shuttering for the concrete base of my new tool store, so I thought that I’d grab the opportunity to do some preparatory work on 28AAD, my little French Weedhopper ULM. All that I really wanted to do was release the pressure from the pod in the hope that it might help ease some of the distortion that resulted from Chris’s hard landing accident, but in fact I was able to get much more done than I’d originally thought.

Having done similar work twice in the past on MYRO, my original old UK Weedhopper, I now know the procedure pretty well, so was able to crack on at a fair rate of knots. I knew from having inspected the aircraft in Chartres before I bought it that the pod had been resprayed, which didn’t worry me. There could be various reasons for that but in my mind, any ULM, unless it’s led a very sheltered life indeed, is liable to have been involved in the odd scrape and accident here and there that might have made it necessary. I’ll go onto the dismantling procedure shortly, but it soon became clear that before being resprayed, the pod had had some small repairs done to it too. Initially I didn’t know why, but it soon became clear as things progressed.

I knew that there was something a bit strange about the trailing links that had snapped during the accident because there was something red and metallic showing inside each of the snapped ends. When I removed them and looked at them closely, this is what I found.

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They were far from original – in fact it was pretty obvious that they’d been knocked up as a very poor repair. The red metallic items inside each one turned out to be shims crudely made out of an old Coke can that were being used to pack out the end pieces within the tubes of the links, and there was only one reason why that should have been necessary. The aluminium tube that had been used in the fabrication of the links was of too thin a gauge. Now why should that have been, and why had replacement trailing links been necessary anyway?

Time to look a little bit more closely, and the next clue was one of the snapped cabin tubes, the one on the passenger side. The next shot shows that two extra bolts had been added at some time to the lower part of the tube and closer examination revealed why.

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The lower part of the snapped tube had had a metal sleeve inserted into it that had been attached to the tube by the two bolts. Only one conclusion could therefore be drawn from all this. Chris’s accident was not the first time that 28AAD had suffered a hard landing and collapsed undercarriage and whoever had done the repair work last time had done a very poor job.

I have no idea just how hard Chris’s landing was – he said that it was pretty hard – but these little Weedhoppers are very sturdy little beasts, as I know only too well from experience. Was the fuselage tube that snapped already cracked from the previous accident and was that why the metal sleeve had been inserted into its lower end? And what about those trailing links? If whoever knocked them up had used the correct gauge aluminium – I’ve ordered 20mm o/d with wall thickness of 2mm, which my micrometer suggests is correct – would they still have snapped causing the undercarriage to collapse? We’ll never know for sure, but it doesn’t really matter as at least now the job is going to be done properly, as it should be.

So let’s get into the dismantling sequence. First to come off was the fuselage cover so I could get to where the work needs to be done and also closely inspect the rest of the aircraft’s structure.

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Once the cover was off, the twin tank arrangement was revealed in all its glory. It looked pretty good, except for where someone had packed the top webbing strap of the second tank out with an old bit of aluminium tube, so I’ll have to sort that out a bit later on.

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You can also see how someone’s suspended a plastic container from the main tube in the rear of the fuselage. It’s accessible from between the seats and is obviously there as a handy container for small items of baggage eg spare oil, things like that, but I can only imagine the fuss it would have caused as an unauthorised mod if an inspector had found it in a UK Weedhopper!

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Next to come out was the instrument panel. Its foot hadn’t been secured by cable ties as is done in the UK. Instead it was fixed by two long, thin bolts that had both bent during the accident. I can’t help but think that cable ties are a better arrangement.

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With the panel front out, the next job was to remove the panel top and screen. Usually it’s a two-person job unless you have arms that are 2 metres long so you can reach under the panel on the inside to the nuts securing its front while unscrewing the screws or bolts from the outside.

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This time, because the screen is scrap anyway, I decided that the best course of action would be to just cut the screen across its front with metal shears so it could be removed to give easy access to the securing nuts and screws.

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So with the panel and screen both out of the way, it was then time to move on to the preparations for removing the pod.

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However, before doing so, I noticed that the left hand tube that forms the fuselage side and acts as an engine support had been quite seriously abraded by an ill-fitting screen, so will have to be replaced with one from MYRO as part of the general repair.

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The next job was to disconnect the rudder cables and remove the rudder pedals. By this stage, you’re beginning to think of the pod being unsupported, so what I do is support it front and rear from both sides using rubber bungies. The front of MYRO’s pod was only supported by the two large bolts that also secure the pedal assembly, but 28AAD is a bit different in that it also has two aluminium plates positioned in front of the pedal assembly above the fuselage tubes on the inside and below the pod on the outside secured by four bolts. This is there to provide the pod with more support and is a good idea I think.

And don’t overlook the fact that in order to remove the rudder pedals, you must also disconnect the nose wheel steering links. I prefer to remove them completely from both the pedal and wheels ends because it avoids lots of fiddling about if they’re allowed to hang free.

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So with the pedals and those plates removed, the pod begins to become quite bare.

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You can see my bungie support arrangement for the pod more clearly in the next shot. If you don’t do it, I know from experience that it’s easy to drop the pod while you’re trying to remove (or refit) it with the possibility of damage being caused by impact against bits of hard metal.

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There are two more supporting bolts that need to be removed at the ends of the floor crossmember and once that’s done, the pod is basically hanging freely. Usually you’d also then need to disconnect the trailing links at the cabin ends but on this occasion I didn’t need to as they’d been snapped off. To finally remove the pod you need to drop the nose wheel out. This is easy as it’s only held on by one large nut, which has been removed in the next shot.

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Here are two shots, the first showing the pod with the nose wheel removed and the second showing the nose wheel and fork assembly itself.

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It’s then just a matter of releasing the bungies and carefully dropping the nose of the pod slightly and pulling it forward in order to remove it.

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Then you can replace the nose wheel to get the aircraft standing back on its undercarriage again, but take care as with little weight on the front now, it’s essential to have a firm support under the tail to keep it from tipping up.

This then seemed like a good time to me to see if 28AAD’s main undercarriage had actually been damaged in the accident or not. It was a simple matter to loosen three bolts on either side and then give it a good shove with my foot while firmly hanging onto a fuselage tube. Clunk, click and it slipped smoothly back into position, as shown by the next couple of shots.

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That was not really unexpected but was good news nevertheless. But what about the pod? Upturning it revealed that despite what it had been through, it is still in pretty good shape, and much better than MYRO’s was when I first refurbished it.

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Sure, as the next couple of pics show, there is a little bit of damage that will have to be seen to, but it won’t be hard to fix and isn’t in areas that are easily visible anyway.

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What will probably need to be addressed, though, is the creasing. I already have ideas on how to do that, which will involve removing paint from the inside walls and fibre-glassing in some strengthening patches, not too hard a job but a bit time-consuming if it’s to be done well and properly.

So at the end of the day, to my great surprise there was 28AAD standing there back up on its undercarriage and with everything removed from its structure to enable the repair work to proceed, a very satisfactory state of affairs, I thought.

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This evening I ordered some aluminium tube from which to fabricate the new trailing links and that will take a few days to be delivered. The rest of the items that will be needed will come from my old friend MYRO, sad but true. In the meantime I will get back to working on my new tool store and I just hope that I can make as quick progress on that as I managed to on 28AAD today.

September 21, 2015

Weedhopper 28AAD update

It turned out yesterday that getting 28AAD off the trailer wasn’t as difficult as I thought so I did it by myself without waiting for Wim. That gave me the whole day to get everything off and out of the Kia and stowed away safely in my atelier and all that I’ll now need to do is get a waterproof sheet to cover the fuselage to protect it from the weather and I’ll be able to keep it until I have the time to start on the repair work. After all, I can’t afford to lose sight of the fact that finishing off my new tool store is the main priority at the moment.

Here are a couple of shots that I took after I’d got it off the trailer.

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So now I could have a good look at the damage that it had sustained. First off were the trailing links on both sides. Both had snapped showing just how hard the landing had been. Chris said that he’d lost power in the approach just before the flare at about 80 kmh and had dropped onto the runway and that although he himself is fairly slightly built, one of the problems was that he was carrying a very heavy passenger!

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Apart from some deformation of the pod, hopefully just creasing which should come out again once the strain has been released, and the undercarriage collapsed backwards, there was little else to see from outside, so it was then time to open the doors and look inside. The doors don’t come anywhere near to fitting as it’s obvious that the cabin floor has risen slightly causing the screen to push downwards and the pod sides to compress. This has thrown everything out of position and it was soon easy to see why.

When both of the trailing links snapped, it was natural for the main undercarriage assembly which more or less hangs down on big rubber bushes and is located in position by the trailing links, to pivot violently backwards on its mounting bolts on both sides. This in turn put a huge strain on the ends of the two tubes that form the sides of the cabin and that use the same mounting points, causing them to also snap, as shown by the following pics.

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In fact, the second shot above shows that the tube on the passenger side was also displaced sideways after snapping. The pod is only attached solidly to the airframe by two bolts passing upwards through its underside that are secured to the floor tubes and its upper is attached to the bottom of the screen, which in turn is only supported by cable ties to the two tubes in question.

Without the support of those two tubes, the momentum of the accident then caused the pod to be forced upwards against the screen causing the pod deformation. The screen/pod structure is further supported inside the cabin by the instrument panel, which is attached by bolts that pass through all three units to provide rigidity. The foot of the panel upright is then attached to a cabin cross member by cable ties.

In an accident like this, those cable ties snap allowing the foot of the panel upright to move backwards and the panel itself to collapse downwards, as the following pictures, which are eerily reminiscent of ones that I once took of MYRO, quite clearly show.

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So what does all of that show? Well, so long as the pod itself is not badly damaged, it looks like pretty good news. Because of the manner in which the cabin has deformed, it’s doubtful that there will be any damage to the lower tube structure, although even if there is, I should have any replacements that are necessary. It looks as though after removing the fuselage cover so I can get a good look and dismantling the screen and pod, all that will be necessary to effect the repair will be to make up two new trailing links (easy), relocate the main undercarriage and replace the two snapped cabin tubes.

It will then just be a matter of checking the structure thoroughly and reassembling. I have some 1.5mm Lexan in my atelier already so I’ll make a new screen as I’ve done twice for MYRO (I think MYRO’s is undamaged so may be usable). I’ll also need to get hold of some 1mm so I can make up some new doors which are structurally undamaged, but tatty. After all, if a job’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well, isn’t it 😉

September 20, 2015

A heck of a long day!

But worth it! I left for Chartres at 6.30am yesterday while it was still dark and arrived back home again at 2.30am this morning. But the trip was worth every minute! I’d arranged with Chris, the owner of the Weedhopper, to meet him at his house from where I would follow him to the airfield where it’s hangared.

The drive there was almost 500km and I arrived just before 12.30pm, almost dead on 6 hours after leaving home. I’d encountered heavy rain, and quite thick mist on the high ground in the south, especially between Brive and Limoges, but by the time I got to his house, which I recognised immediately by the FFPLUM sticker on the bumper of a car parked in the driveway, the day was shaping up very nicely.

Chris turned up soon after as he’d managed to get a flight in before I arrived (can’t blame him) and after a coffee, over which I met his lovely wife and two children, we set off for the airfield. I mentioned to Chris that I needed to buy some diesel for the drive home, but with everything else that was going on, we both then promptly forgot, a lapse which came back to haunt me as I’ll explain later.

There are three ULM fields in the Chartres area and as Chris said that the one that he flew from was quite close to his home, I thought that we would be going to LF2823 Loulappe. However, I was wrong and we ended up at LF2854 La Saussaye, a bit further away. In fact I was pleasantly surprised to be taken back the way that I’d come, finally turning off the main road along a ‘chemin rural’ next to a college that I knew from having passed it many times on my way to and from the UK.

We ended up driving along the usual farm track until we arrived at a cluster of farm buildings, one of which was being used as a hangar, next to a grass runway with a windsock hanging limply and after parking next to it, Chris opened the doors and I got my first sight of MYRO’s French cousin, 28AAD. And I have to say that I was very impressed.

Unlike MYRO and most of the AX3s in the UK, 28AAD has never been used for training, and it showed. It obviously has far fewer hours on it than MYRO and the tubes and fixings all looked to be in more or less ‘brand new’ condition with not a trace of rust or a scratch anywhere. Except where it had been damaged, of course, which I’ll come back to in a second.

From what I’ve been able to gather so far from the paperwork, I think it’s a 1998 model, which would make it 3 years newer than MYRO. It appears that it was modified in 2003 with a second tank (as I did with MYRO), a ballistic parachute, which Chris is selling separately for 450€, and its new skins. The skins in general are in excellent condition. There is a unfortunately a bit of hangar rash on the wings, although not an excessive amount, but the fuselage and tail skins are immaculate. But the Ultralam and stitching is otherwise perfect with many years of life left in them.

It was fitted from new with a 582 Rotax, which again Chris is selling separately that I’d love to have kept, but fitting MYRO’s 503 as per all of the factory built UK AX3s is really what makes the project economically viable. Sad I know, but a necessary fact of life.

It has the French large-wheel undercarriage which I much prefer to MYRO’s small wheels as specified for the UK and which contributed in part to MYRO’s undoing. Now that I’ve seen it, the damage that it’s sustained looks like quite an easy fix, so I should be able to retain them. It also has a brake lever on its control stick in the manner that’s much loved here in France, rather than the original heel brakes that MYRO still has. I’ll keep an open judgement on it for now as I never had a problem with MYRO’s brakes and certainly after Regis converted his 701’s brakes to hand operated, he has never been able to get enough force on them to hold the aircraft under power.

But that’s enough for now. There’ll be plenty of opportunity to go into the more technical aspects when I start on the repair work and the first job, after agreeing to buy it, was to get it broken down and ready for transport back home. Chris said that he’d stay and help until the job was complete, which was very handy as I’d originally said that once we’d got the wings off and the fuselage up on the trailer, he could go if he wanted to as I could strip the wings myself. It was also good from another aspect because while we were working, various club members turned up who I was able to press-gang to help lift and hold things at various times during the process.

Having now done the job two or three times, with Chris helping, we were able to make quite fast progress. It was obvious from the condition of its pins and safety rings that 28AAD hadn’t been taken apart very often, if ever, and some pins eg the main ones holding the wings on, which can be quite tight at the best of times, took a bit of budging. But eventually the job was done and with the help of Alain, one of the ‘volunteers’ who has a Blériot historical aircraft and museum, we got the fuselage up on the trailer, which I’d modified to a platform by removing its front, rear and side panels, making it perfect for the job. I rolled the wing covers up and they went inside the Kia together with the wing battens, wing tip tubes and jury struts, and the main struts and wing tubes I carefully packaged up very tightly so they couldn’t shake, rub together and damage each other, to go on the roof.

Chris had left by this time to go and pick up his son and I’d worked up a real sweat as it had been hot and humid all afternoon. Finally the job was done and everything was tied down securely for the journey back to the Dordogne and just before I started off, I took the following pics.

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I’d left the ’empennage’ (tail assembly) on as I don’t want to have to remove it unless I really had to. I knew that there would be a bit of an overhang as shown by the following pics, after having transported MYRO in a similar way (we took 56NE’s tail assembly off for the journey down from Bretagne), but I thought that it wouldn’t be excessive, as proved to be the case.

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I was more concerned about the extent of rear overhang off the back of the trailer, as the following images show. However, although I knew that I’d be driving for a short time through some quite narrow streets in Orléans, most of the drive would be on open main roads and during the evening and night when there would be little other traffic, so I wasn’t too concerned.

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The drive was tiring as I’d had a very long day but although I thought about pulling up in a rest area for a nap, I couldn’t because with all of 28AAD’s stuff in the back of the car, I couldn’t recline my seat by even an inch! So I just had to press on, which I did stopping every now and again for a break, a drink and the occasional pee. It was a great relief to arrive home and I just parked everything in my driveway and fell into bed. Surprisingly, I awoke this morning after only 7 hours sleep feeling quite refreshed and here are some shots that I took.

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Remember how I mentioned that I forgot to get Chris to point me in the direction of a nearby petrol station? Well, not long after I’d left the airfield my fuel warning light came on during the long cross-country leg from Chartres to Orléans. I could hardly believe that there I was in the same heart-stopping position that I’d found myself in only a few weeks before on my way back from the UK. I knew that I wouldn’t come across any garages on my route and just as before, as I checked my fuel computer, it flipped to ‘zero’ as the distance that I could drive with the fuel remaining in my tank.

So there was nothing for it. As I was passing through a village, I decided to pull up at the side of the road and knock on a front door to ask the resident where I could find the nearest petrol station. I chose a nice smart looking one and when I knocked on the front door, which was ajar, a sweet young schoolgirl in large glasses came to greet me. I explained my predicament and she said ‘pas de souci’ (no problem), if I turned around back through the village, then turned right and continued straight on, I’d find one only about 6 kilometres away. I thanked her and after following her instructions and stopping again to ask a kind lady motorist who was just about to drive off in her car, I found what I was looking for at an Intermarché supermarket.

However, I paid a price. To punish me, the stern lady in my satnav took me back to rejoin the main road over some of the most atrocious rural roads that I’ve come across this time in France. From time to time I thought that 28AAD was going to jump right off the trailer, but finally all was well and we made it back to the main road and eventually home to the Dordogne with no damage being suffered. Now comes the job of getting it off the trailer, with Wim’s help, and getting it safely stored until I can start the repair work.

September 18, 2015

Son of MYRO?

A few days ago I spotted a Weedhopper ULM on LeBonCoin. It’s a French one, of course, that’s slightly different in design to the UK version, but most of the main structure is identical. It had been in an accident, a very hard landing much as I recently suffered in 56NE at the end of our west coast tour, but considerably harder. It had resulted in damage to its undercarriage and, apparently, its lower tubes that make up the floor of the cabin, but nothing else appears to be damaged. The owner has already stripped off the engine, a 582 Rotax similar to 56NE’s, and taken out the instruments, which he’s selling separately, and put the rest of the aircraft up for sale to a ‘bricoleur’, or handyman.

Now it just so happens that the damage suffered by this Weedhopper is totally the opposite to the damage incurred by MYRO. The whole of MYRO’s lower half is undamaged, except for the pod that was damaged during the recovery, but it needs a main tube, at least one wing and sundry bits of covers that were either damaged in the accident or during the recovery. All of those items are present on the French aircraft, which just needs undercarriage and lower tube work, and I still have MYRO’s 503 Rotax engine safe in my cave.

So after thinking long and hard, as to be honest I don’t really need to take on yet more jobs when I already have enough work to do in the house and garden, but you can’t allow a good opportunity to go begging, I contacted the seller and made him a ‘realistic’ offer for the aircraft. I was going to leave it for a few days to strengthen my bargaining position, but last night I noticed that the seller had placed separate ads for the fuselage, wings, wing struts etc and the last thing I wanted to happen if I was to acquire it would be for parts to go missing. The outcome was that the seller accepted my offer of 600€, subject to my viewing the aircraft.

Here are some pics of it that Christophe, the seller, kindly provided me with.

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I’m not that bothered about the extent of the damage as it appears in the photographs and has been described to me, as it’s not as bad as I had to deal with on the last occasion before coming to France with MYRO. So I’ve arranged to go up to the seller’s home airfield tomorrow with a view to completing the sale and picking it up. My new trailer will be big enough to take it and I’ve converted it into a platform by taking its sides, front and back panels off. So now I’m looking forward to the drive north leaving early tomorrow morning. As usual, I have to go to the other end of the country but there’s nothing I can do about that. Well, it’s only money, isn’t it 😉

September 16, 2015

Done it

I’ve done something that I said I never would. I’ve got myself a smartphone. Up to now I’ve managed with an old-fashioned device with a small screen and no frills, two actually, one with a French sim and the other with a UK one, but something happened recently to cause me to have a rethink.

First, a little bit of background. I’ve never been a big mobile phone user. Sure, like everyone else, I like the convenience of having a mobile with me, but on my own terms. I mainly want it for if I need to phone someone when I’m out and about and it’s also handy for receiving text messages from my son because like most of the younger generation, he can’t be bothered with making real phone calls. It’s nice for friends to be able to call me when they need to but otherwise I don’t want to be making and receiving calls the whole time or walking round with my eyes glued to a screen like a zombie.

So up to now I’ve been quite content to have Pay-As-You Go mobiles both in the UK and France, although for the latter, there’s an important consideration. All of the major French networks offer PAYGO phones but if you don’t use up any prepaid credit within 30 days, they steal what’s left off you. Yup, you read that right, and I don’t know how they get away with it either.

However, I managed to find a company, called LeFrenchMobile, who operate in the same way as a UK provider ie your credit is carried forward indefinitely until you use it all up. So that suited me fine, and I also had a jolly good number from them as well. That was until nearly a year ago when they announced that due to their changing network provider, I’d have to use up all of my credit by a certain date, or otherwise I’d lose it, and I’d have to buy a new number from them too.

That was OK as far as it went, although I didn’t much like the idea of losing my number, but it seemed that I had little choice. Except that it didn’t happen. The deadline date came and went and my old number kept working. And I was even permitted to top it up a couple of times, until, that was, a couple of months ago when I wasn’t, with the result that my credit ran out and I was unable therefore to make any more calls. I could, and still can, receive calls, but making any was, and is, out of the question.

So what to do? I still have my UK PAYGO phone which allows me to make calls, albeit at slightly higher cost, and I can still receive calls on my LeFrenchMobile number, but clearly it’s inconvenient, to say the least, walking around with two phones and the situation can’t be allowed to go on forever. LeFrenchMobile have told me that if I’d contacted them earlier, they could have arranged for the number to be transferred to another paid-for network but now they couldn’t help as their contract with the original provider, Bouygues, has expired. Armed with that information, I’ve contacted Bouygues direct, but as they haven’t bothered to reply (hey, this is France!) it appears that I’ll be forced to give it up. So now what?

Clearly, it’s silly to walk around with two phones in my pocket (not that I was when my French number was working – I just left my UK phone at home turned off) but until the position with my existing French number is clarified one way or the other, that’s what I have to do if I want to be able to receive and make calls. But thinking ahead to the future, even if I could find a basic dual sim card phone (quite hard these days) is that what I want?

I think not. Since having my little Asus Android tablet, I’ve realised (OK, I’m a latecomer to the party) how handy having mobile computing is. And if you can connect to the internet as well… you can see where I’m going with this. I think that if we’d had the equivalent of my tablet connected to the internet on our west coast trip (a) we’d have been able to update our weather, NOTAMS etc in real time for our daily flight plans and (b) we’d probably have avoided the fiasco of changing our flight plans and heading for an airfield that didn’t exist. And the equivalent of my tablet connected to the internet would be a half-decent smartphone.

So it’s a done deal. Never the conformist, instead of just nipping into a local mobile phone dealer, a couple of weeks ago I logged onto aliexpress and ordered a smartphone direct from China. I could have had the very latest model with a big 5 1/2″ screen but personally I think that’s a bit too hefty to carry around in your pocket. So I went for a 5″ Android, dual sim model with octa core processor, and it arrived today. Here are a couple of pics of it.

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It cost me the princely sum of 71€ including delivery. As you see, it looks fairly normal. It has the usual stuff like wi-fi and bluetooth and also gps so I can if I want to, run my MMap navigation app on it, which I successfully loaded this evening. I first loaded my full-size UK PAYGO sim card, which worked fine straight away. I then cut down my French PAYGO card from mini to micro size using a template that I downloaded and after a little bit of fiddling around, that works fine too.

So for now, I can receive calls on either sim and I’ve set it up to allow outgoing calls on my UK card only for now. So that’ll do me for the time being while I wait for another week or so to see if Bouygues get around to answering my request for them to release my existing number. Then, either way I’ll have to decide on what package to go for with which French service provider – do I assume that I’ll stay making just a few calls per month and add a low-use internet connection or will I become like most other smartphone owners, and start ramping up my usage once I have a data connection available? That’s a decision that I’ll need to make in a week or so’s time – in the meantime I’ll just content myself with playing with and finding my way around my new toy.

September 15, 2015

Suffering cats!

As I type this the rain is falling slowly but steadily outside. So I’m stuck indoors again and unable to do the work that I want to do on my new tool store as if I did go out and make a start, I’d be soaked through to the skin in no time at all.

This time last year, I was working on my wood store and looking back I see that we were enjoying a long, dry sunny spell with temperatures up as high as 30 degrees Celsius. So now I understand why I have this feeling that summer has come to an abrupt and sudden halt this year – it really has gone on for longer in previous years while I’ve been here in France.

A few minutes ago I was reading a news story about the El Nino effect. Scientists are saying that it is continuing to grow in intensity this time around. One outcome is that meteorologists are predicting a long, hard winter in the UK, a bit like that of 2009-10, so I’m wondering whether we should brace ourselves for something similar, but a bit less severe, here in the Dordogne?

Rain is forecast every day for the rest of this week, so the prospects for me making much progress on my tool store don’t look that good. So I’m sitting around and wasting my time as although there’s work to do inside my house, there’s nothing that I really want to make a start on. If the rain reduces to a light drizzle I’ll just have to bite the bullet and get out there, I suppose, because otherwise I’ll never get the ground work on the tool store done which will be essential for making progress on the main structure on the occasions when the sun does show itself. It’s very frustrating.

Back to say that I did manage to go outside and get a bit done around mid-afternoon, but only a little bit before I decided to abandon play for the day. I managed to get the long rear shuttering board into place by first driving my trusty metal rod into the ground at each peg position and wiggling it about to enlarge the size of the hole, then banging the board down into position and levelling it up.

With the rear board in place, it was time to move on to the two shorter side boards. Flushed with my previous success, I thought that putting in place the right hand board with only three pegs compared to the five of the back board would be a piece of cake. But I was being a bit premature. I used the same method of using my metal rod to make holes in the ground first before dropping the board into place but no matter how much I banged it down, I just couldn’t get it level. So I dug a bit more earth out and then put a larger diameter metal bar into each peg hole, but it still resisted all of my attempts to bang it down to the right level.

And by this time the mud was beginning to cling to my shoes like snow on Ranulph Fiennes boots as well as becoming really trampled down, which will make it more difficult to dig out and level again later on when I eventually come to put hardcore inside the shuttering. It was time to call it a day. I can only surmise that due to the wetness of the earth, it was creating an airtight seal around the board’s mounting pegs, so when I was banging them into the ground, they were compressing the air contained in the cavity below them, which prevented them from penetrating into the ground and gripping the soil particles. This doesn’t bode well, of course, should the rain continue, but I’ll have to think of ways to deal with that when I go out to try again next time 😐

September 11, 2015

A job I’ve been dreading

A bit strong, maybe, but it’s definitely a job that I’ve not been looking forward to. Positioning the shuttering boards for the concrete base of my new tool store, that is.

Making them wasn’t too much of a problem and didn’t take that long as I had an assortment of power tools at my disposal, including an old deWalt chop saw that Nick, my elder stepson, gave me when I recently visited the UK, plus my hand-held rotary saw that cut through the boards I used like butter, and my jigsaw. And not to mention my amazingly handy Black and Decker cordless drill cum screw driver. Here’s a shot of the finished articles ready to be placed in position.

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One of the big advantages that I have this time around is that I can work outside the wood store that I built last year, which gives me electricity just where I need it. It also provides the possibility of shelter if the weather turns against me, which is very reassuring as not having any form of shelter was a source of great disruption every time a shower came over while I was building the wood store last year.

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Then came the job of placing the first board into position and it was exactly as I had feared. Although I did my best to excavate the ground away for the board to drop into, as soon as I started to bang the pegs that support it into the ground they hit rocks. After persevering for about half an hour and working up a real sweat, I decided that it was time for a tactical withdrawal in order to work out a new strategy.

After putting everything away and while enjoying a long cold beer, I decided the only way that I’ll be able to get around this will be to bang a long cold chisel into the ground first where each peg goes. This should break up any rocks that are there and allow the pegs to penetrate as deeply as necessary into the ground. If not, I’ll have to use the long metal rod that I used as a cold chisel when I had to make holes for pipes through the nearly 1 metre thick walls of my house to go down a bit deeper still. But anyway, that’s for tomorrow, if the rain that’s forecast for earlier on clears up enough.

September 9, 2015

Change of plan

The forecast for the rest of the week shows that the change in the weather that we were originally expecting at the weekend could come much sooner – in fact as soon as tomorrow, depending on which web site you believe. So I didn’t get to do the shuttering on the new tool store and instead I went shopping at Intermarché first thing and flying later on in the afternoon. The sky was already beginning to adopt a milky tinge and there was a much cooler edge to the day, so the signs that the change is on the way are definitely there.

I already had a flight planned and waiting so it didn’t take long to get myself sorted out. The one disappointment was that my little sports cam let me down yet again. It seems that the problems are with the batteries – as soon as I charge the sports cam with them in using my Asus tablet charger, which should be suitable as it just delivers the same current as a USB port, they are destroyed. So that’s now the original one plus one (or is it two?) of the three additional units that I bought a couple of weeks or so ago.

My route took me north-east up to Terrasson taking in the ULM field there, and then continued on up to Objat. Then I turned left on a long leg (nearly 20 minutes) that was straight into the sun, up to Excideuil, that I last flew over about a year ago. This was the worst part of the whole flight. Then I turned left again to fly almost due south down to my house from which I could see Galinat and it was just a matter of turning left and heading towards Thonac for a few minutes and then right for final.

Here are a couple of shots showing Terrasson from a distance as I was approaching it and then the ULM field there with a couple of flex-wings standing outside the hangar.

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Then Objat, which could never be described as picturesque. The first shot is of the centre of the town and the second of a lake just outside it to the north with a little water park on it for the small children.

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Next, a couple of shots of Excideuil with its little castle. By now the sun was getting pretty low and the vis closing in quite a bit out in the distance.

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Then Thenon, which I’ve taken shots of many times, but I took another as I passed by anyway.

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The flight lasted about an hour and ten minutes and I landed at around 7.55pm. Sunset this evening was at 8.20pm so I needed to get my skates on to get 56NE parked up and covered before the light began to fail. I succeeded and here’s a final shot that I took as the sun dipped towards the tops of the hills to the west.

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I don’t know whether it’s just me, but the weather has a distinct ‘autumnal’ feel to it which I don’t recall from this time last year. To me it feels as though the summer is coming to an abrupt halt when previously it has hung on for several weeks through September and going into October even. Whether that will happen this year, we’ll have to wait and see. But now I really must press on with my new tool store otherwise I’ll not have anywhere to keep my new ride-on when the weather does eventually change.

September 8, 2015

Bad news, good news

The builder who came in to see my job today, Simon, who’s a blunt speaking Yorkshireman, thinks that I’m being wildly overoptimistic with my budget. He thinks that my current concept involves a huge amount of roof and building work that alone would eat up a massive chunk of my budget, and that’s before adding in the custom-made hardwood double glazed windows and doors that I’d need and other items.

However, there was a silver lining to what he had to say. For a start, based on his experience of doing similar jobs, he thinks that I’ve grossly under-estimated the amount of space that’s available in my ‘grenier’, which means that in his opinion, the large roof window structures that I’ve envisaged will not actually be necessary. He thinks that by cutting them back to dormers and just adding two porches outside the main and kitchen doors, or even adding a larger extension incorporating eg a utility room, would provide what I need and cost significantly less.

So I’m now waiting for a rough sketch from him before seeing anyone else. Although I like my house, in the end there’s no massive emotional attachment and I just see it as a property that I’m looking to develop in the optimum way with a given budget, so I’m looking forward with interest to seeing what Simon has in mind.

I did manage to get out to do some more work on my new tool store, but a bit later than I intended due to playing around with a few sketches exploring Simon’s thinking. I did get the ground dug out for the store’s concrete base, though, as the following pics show.

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It needs to be level and despite being hampered by some huge rocks that I kept having to dig out, some of which can be seen in the pictures above, I more or less succeeded. The ground falls away from right to left and from front to back, so it meant laboriously digging out and shifting earth to get the desired result. The next stage is to put the shuttering in place, which I’ll probably do tomorrow, and when that’s done, I’ll be able to level the earth base more accurately before chucking in hardcore. No problem there, because there’s plenty of that around here – you only have to poke a stick into the ground 😉

September 7, 2015

Decision time

The weather forecast gets better and better this week right up to Sunday when the temperature could be back up at 30 degrees, but with the possibility of thunderstorms. So I’ll fit in a flight at some time between now and then and with that in mind, I thought I’d go across to Galinat today and adjust the new brake cables that I fitted a couple of weeks or so ago. They’ve now bedded in and when I last flew, I found that I couldn’t press the toe brake pedals far enough to hold the aircraft at takeoff power and although this isn’t too big a problem at Galinat with its nice long runway, it would matter should I fly into somewhere with less grass to play with.

The job didn’t take very long as it was really only a matter of loosening the bolts gripping the cables at the hub ends, pulling a bit more cable through and then tightening them again, but what struck me was how chilly it was while I was doing it. I was working in the shade of the trees, but to start off with I had to put a long-sleeve top on, so summer really is petering out!

Afterwards I took a few shots showing Galinat as it is now, a few days after I finished mowing it. To be honest, it was looking pretty seedy before, covered as it was in stringy weeds. To my knowledge, we haven’t had that many visitors flying in this year and this could have something to do with it, so I hope that the work I did will be worth it and encourage a few more to drop in.

I did it the way I think that it should be done and not totally as it was before. The main difference is that I’ve expanded the cut area at the top end on both sides of the runway so if a few aircraft land at the same time, there’s room for the ones that have already landed and taxied to the top to pull across to the right to clear the runway. Then, when they’ve all landed, I’ve made a large parking area that was never there before, on the other side of the runway, and you can see both of these in the following two pics.

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Just for now, because the grass was so long before I cut it and I’ve only had the time to do one pass of its length, I’ve cut a length of about 150 metres much shorter at the take off end to make it easier for aircraft taking off to reach takeoff speed a bit quicker, and you can see that in the next shot.

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It’s not very clear in the next shot, but I’ve also cut an area in front of 56NE that’s connected to the cut area at the top of the runway so I can taxy across and back on short grass. I haven’t yet cleared the area where I park 56NE which has become a bit overgrown in the weeks since I last did it, so I’ll have to go back again with my ‘débroussailleuse’ (brush cutter) and give it another good going over.

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This will then present me with a bit of a dilemma, although I’ve already decided what I’m going to do. As the next two shots show, because the airfield hasn’t been getting the attention that it really needs for the last few months, it’s become generally pretty overgrown. This is especially visible in the hangar area, as the next two shots show.

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It’s such a shame to see Galinat in its current state, so clearly something needs to be done. The only aircraft now in the hangar is André’s Ballérit but at 91 years of age with failing eyesight, it’s doubtful that he’ll ever fly again. This explains why the hangar doors have remained unopened for so long. Clearly he’s in no physical state to tackle the physical work involved in tidying the place up and for some reason, Christian has been unable to do very much this year. The result is that Galinat is looking a pale shadow of its former self.

So I’ve decided that in the next few days, when I take my débroussailleuse over to clear 56NE’s parking place, I’ll do what’s necessary to give the whole airfield a bit of a tidy up. And in the coming weeks, now that I’ve got my new ride-on mower, I’ll also keep the runway trimmed and tidy too. The current small, tatty windsock is pretty hopeless, but I’ve already donated a new one so it’s just a matter of waiting for Christian to fit it, but I think that he’s probably leaving that until next season, after the coming winter winds. So if I keep the place looking good and under control in the meantime, when he does put it up, hopefully Galinat will be right back to its former glory and, who knows, possibly even better 😉

I had a quick lunch when I got back home again and then sat out in the sun for a while as it seemed a shame to miss it now the summer is drawing to a close. But I thought that unless I stirred myself, I’ll never get cracking on my new tool store, so then got going and cleared all of the wood and branches that were hanging over the area that I’ve got earmarked for it from the surrounding trees.

I want the tool store to look as though it’s standing in a small clearing in a wood as not only will this effectively screen it, but it’ll also look more appropriate for my garden. Here are three shots taken afterwards from the front and each side of what will be its position.

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I’ve got my second builder coming in tomorrow morning to look at the building work I want to do on my house. Once he’s been and gone, then I really will get my old togs on and do some real work on the tool store. I promise!

September 6, 2015

An unusual surprise

My neighbours have now moved out of their house next to mine and this afternoon Benjamin came back one last time check that he and Aurelie had not forgotten anything and to read the electricity and water meters. After he’d done so, he came across to say goodbye and I offered him a couple of beers before he left. While I was getting them, he drew my attention to this little chap who was standing on my front lawn.

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Neither of us knew where he’d come from and we both stood quietly and watched him for a bit. After a while I went over to him. He tried to make a brief run for it and went head-first straight into a small tree, but fortunately not at very high speed, and it was soon obvious that he wasn’t up to very much. He just continued standing there with his legs akimbo and his head down struggling just to keep standing and it was plain that he was either sick, exhausted or both.

The signs are that he’s also possibly blind as he offers no reaction when you move your hand near his eyes, but if so, it’s surprising that he should have survived in the wild to the age that he is. I tried to offer him some water but he wasn’t really interested and eventually his legs gave out and he collapsed next to a rosemary bush on the edge of my lawn.

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After I’d moved his front leg into what I thought would be a more comfortable position for him, he seemed to fall into a fitful sleep. After an hour or so I went over to him quite expecting to find that he’d stopped breathing, but not so. He was covered in flies though and although I shooed them off a few times, they kept coming back, the way that they do on horses and other livestock, so I decided that there wasn’t much that I could do about them really, much as I’d like to have done.

I went back again a bit later and was pleasantly surprised to find that he seemed to have perked up quite a bit, with his eyes open and his head held up where before it had been drooping and he’d hardly been able to lift it.

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At the time of writing, the signs are looking much better and he seems to be becoming a lot more alert. I cut up half a carrot and took it out to him and this time, as I approached, he let out a loud bellow of fear that rather took me aback actually, sprang to his feet and tried to do a runner. But it was not to be as he’s still not up to it and after falling into the rosemary bush, he ended up in a gap between two small trees. He was still on his feet, though and after he’d calmed down a bit, I pressed a piece of the carrot into his mouth, which he then munched on.

While he was eating, I noticed that he had several large ticks on him, but I can’t really do much about that. He took several more pieces of carrot and after he’d finished what I’d taken out with me, I went back for some more. When I got back, he’d collapsed onto his stomach again and showed no more interest in it. So I’m now keeping my fingers crossed and hoping that he’ll stay where he is for tonight, which will be a safe spot for him as he’s totally camouflaged and almost invisible, and that tomorrow morning I’ll find that he’s found his own way back to the woods at the bottom of the field opposite.

Update 7 September

I went out earlier to find out what had happened with my little uninvited guest and was delighted to see that the space where he’d been lying between the two small trees was now unoccupied. However, my delight was short-lived. I walked up to the road and after looking in both directions I saw his little body lying in the ditch a few yards down outside Benjamin and Aurelie’s old house. When I went closer I could see that his head was twisted unnaturally beneath his body and probably his neck had been broken, so at least his end was probably quick. I can only conclude that as he’d been tottering away from where he’d spent the night, he’d been hit by a vehicle as it had come round the bend.

I went back and removed the bowl of water that I’d tried to tempt him with last night and as the water was still clean and fresh, poured it out into the birdbath, which was then empty. When I looked back out of my window a few moments after there was already a little bird in it splashing away and sending water flying up in the air. So life goes on.

September 4, 2015

A full day

Very full, actually. In fact I’ve been pretty busy during the last couple of days. Yesterday Gerard, a French builder who I know because he’s one of Victor’s neighbours, came round to check out the work that I have in mind on my house before giving me an idea of what it will cost. When Victor and Madeleine bought their house, it was literally a ruin with four walls (almost) and no roof. Gerard did all of the work needed to convert it into the delightful house that it is today, so I know what he can do and more importantly, the quality of his finished work.

Gerard’s a man of few words at the best of times and he wouldn’t give me even a rough idea of what the work might cost until he’s done some sums and possibly even come back again to take some more detailed measurements, so I can hardly wait 🙂

As I mentioned previously, my lovely young neighbours Aurelie, Benjamin and their infant son Samuel are having to move away from the house next door because their rental lease has run out. Sadly, they will be leaving this weekend and Benjamin has been working feverishly to get the house and garden back into top shape so they know that they’ll get the whole of their deposit back. I’m really glad that I got the chance to mow their grass with my new ride-on before it stopped working because it’s saved Benjamin a lot of back-breaking work with his hand mower.

Benjamin’s already given me some well-seasoned dry pine that he cut down himself and has kept for three years outside in his garden and I didn’t have to feel bad about it, because where they are moving to is heated and they will have no use for it. He then asked me if I’d like some more that has been kept in his wood store. It would have been silly to turn it down as although I’m not so keen on pine, if I buy some dry oak as usual from M. Dumas, I’ll be able to mix the woods when I burn them to reduce the chance of having a build-up of oil in the flue of my woodburner.

In theory, it shouldn’t happen, of course, as the pine is now very dry, but after my original experience when my flue blocked up totally, I don’t want to take any chances. Benjamin dropped the wood off on the grass outside my new wood store, which I was in the process of clearing out at the time.

I then worked through to get as much as I could split down and stacked ready to burn and what was left, I then also moved inside in the dry to be treated in the same way later on. Unfortunately, during the process the push-button switch on my ‘fendeuse’ stuck on for some reason so I had to call a halt sooner than I’d wanted to and will have to take a look to find out what the problem is as soon as I have the time.

I had to get cracking pretty smartly this morning to get everything done that I wanted to. First, I had to nip into Intermarché to pick up a few items that I needed so I could pay in cash and get change for parking. This was because I then needed to dash straight down to the Sous-Préfecture at Sarlat, this time with all of the necessary paperwork to register my new trailer in my name, before the office closed at 12.30pm. Mission accomplished!

Then, as I’d hoped, the second new cutting belt for my new ride-on arrived in the post shortly after I got home. A cursory glance showed that it was indeed the correct one, so after a quick light lunch, the next job was to fit it and get the cutting deck back onto the machine. Job done and it worked perfectly 😉

So that gave me the chance to quickly run around my front grass (I use the term euphemistically after the damage wreaked by the summer – it’s now really just a large weed bed) before loading the mower onto my trailer and going off to Galinat to finish off mowing the runway there. This time I took the precaution of wearing jeans with long legs that I tucked into my socks, which did the trick and kept the biting insects off my legs and ankles.

An unexpected and delightful experience was that as I drove up and down the runway disturbing the insects, for several minutes I was surrounded by a huge flock of Swifts darting all around me just above ground level feasting on them and occasionally missing me by inches.

So that was it. I got home in the early evening and by the time I’d unloaded the mower and put it to bed and then taken a shower, it was already beginning to get dark. So quite a full day and as we boring retirees say ad infinitum, we don’t know how we ever used to find the time before to work with all the things that we now have to pack into the day!

Now that I’ve cut the grass at Galinat, I think it’s time to have a flight while it’s nice and short. Temperatures here are now in the low to mid-20 degrees Celsius and from the current forecast, early tomorrow evening would be a good time or perhaps early Sunday morning. I think that I’ll go with tomorrow, and that’ll give me all of the day to plan my flight. Very satisfying!

September 3, 2015

Gotcha!

And so soon after my previous post, too! The large, twin-wheel trailer that I acquired a few weeks ago has its own registration plate. I’m not exactly sure why, but I think that the owner said that with it, it would be legally permitted to take a heavier load than it could without it, but in any case, because it has it, I have to transfer it into my name. So yesterday I grabbed the paperwork that I had to hand (plus the inevitable cheque book – bureaucracy always has a sting in its tail in France) and made the drive down to the Sous-préfecture at Sarlat.

Now that August is over, the majority of the tourists have disappeared almost overnight so the drive there and parking weren’t half as bad as they would have been just last week. After paying 1.60€ for an hour’s parking, just in case there was a queue and I was delayed, I grabbed up my paperwork and went striding across to the ‘public affairs’ office. Surprisingly, I was the only one there, so I thought that it was going to be a quick and easy job. And so it was but for totally the wrong reason.

I presented the kindly looking lady behind the glass screen with my paperwork and told her that my visit was to do with the change of ownership of a trailer. She looked at the sparse few documents that I’d given her, laughed and said, ‘Is this all?’ In that instant, my heart sank as I recalled the palaver that I’d been through to register my old Vauxhall car that I’d brought with me to France from England and the number of times I went back and forwards to that same office. Surely, the same formalities weren’t required just for a ruddy trailer, for goodness sake?

Of course they are, this is France! How else do you expect to keep the vast army of bureaucrats installed right across the country gainfully employed? Still laughing the lady handed me another form to fill in for the new registration in my name that contains exactly the same information as the one filled out by the old owner and me when I acquired it from him plus a list of other documents that were required. Here’s a shot of it with the other papers that I’d taken with me underneath it.

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I noted that with the exception of a current CT (vehicle test certificate), it was exactly the same as for when I acquired my Kia car and transferred that into my name, so what a game! I thought that I’d got ahead by taking with me a stamped addressed envelope for the revised registration document to be returned to me, but not so! I also needed a copy of my passport and a recent proof of address – this all for a ruddy trailer!

But for me, the game was over for that day. The office only opens on weekdays between 08.30am and 12.30pm, so there was no time for me to return home and sort out what was needed. It’ll mean another trip back in a couple of day’s time, so I’d been beaten by the system yet again, as it would appear everyone else is too. Otherwise, why would the list of required documentation that’s as long as your arm that she gave to me be necessary?

It was obviously considered easier to make that than to modify and simplify the system and why would they want to do that, when so many jobs depend on keeping people as confused as they evidently are for as long as possible? And no concern about the cost, of course – who would think that the simple job of transferring the registration of a trailer would cost over 60€ – more than 10% of what I paid for it!

September 1, 2015

Caveat emptor

I’ve mentioned on several previous occasions that whatever you want to buy in France, things rarely, if ever, run smoothly and that was proven again yesterday. The French are not the most organised of races, as evidenced by their fondness for excessive paperwork and over-bureaucracy, and this is probably why they’ve not really been successful in embracing new technology, especially the internet.

This shows in all sorts of ways. In the UK and most of Northern Europe where things are much more organised, we think nothing of purchasing almost anything and everything on the internet, including many high value items. But it’s still not possible to do that for the most part in France mainly because lots of even quite large companies do not have e-commerce web sites and just use the sites they do have to display their wares, expecting interested purchasers to phone for prices and further details. That may have been OK back in the 90’s, but companies doing that in the UK nowadays would soon be dead in the water.

And many even that run web sites in France and look as though they’re set up to sell directly, aren’t. For example, I have come across several car insurance companies whose web sites lead you through the tedious process of finding out about your vehicle and driving experience, offering you the cover that you are seeking and even quoting a price, but whose final step is for you to click a button to get one of their salespersons to call you on the phone. So don’t hold your breath if you’re looking for immediate cover!

In a smaller but no less annoying way, I found a similar example yesterday. While I was cutting the grass on the runway at Galinat on Thursday, my new (to me) Jonsered ride-on mower stopped mowing. I assumed from the smoke that it emitted at the time (which I’d seen before with the original old ride-on that I acquired several months ago) that the cutting belt had gone so got straight onto the internet when I arrived home and ordered a new one and a second to keep as a spare. After all, what could go wrong – my ride-on is a late model from a well-known maker, so all I had to do was go onto a belt supplier’s web site, find my model in the manufacturer’s list, get the part number and place the order. Voilà! Oh, what an optimistic fool, this is France!

Luckily, when I had purchased some new ramps for loading the ride-on onto my new trailer, I’d also bought a device for raising the mower so you can work on it. I’d not expected to be using it quite so soon, but anyway, when the new belts arrived yesterday I could get cracking straight away and fit one of them. Or so I thought. In fact, after I’d removed the cutting deck side panels and could see what was what, it became clear that although the old belt was worn and well-used, it hadn’t actually snapped. But what had gone wrong was that the two belt tensioner pulleys were loose and hanging in a strange way, so off the whole deck would have to come to find out what had happened.

It soon became clear that the long bolt that is all that attaches the pulley assembly to the deck itself had lost its securing nut and from the look of it, had been working its way loose for some time. But what was slightly ominous was that it appeared from the way some small parts were missing (eg a retaining circlip for a rod that was no longer secured and had dropped loose) someone had at some time done a very poor repair in the area. But this should not have come as a surprise and it wasn’t worth dwelling on because to the average Frenchman, anything to do with engineering is a complete mystery and they’d sooner sell something that’s damaged and buy a new one rather than repair it. So I only had to do a proper repair, which I soon did using a locking nut and washer from the increasing stock that I’m now building up of old ULM bits, before fitting a new belt and refitting the cutting deck.

As the old belt was still in one piece, I was able to compare it to one of the new ones and it was obvious that the latter was considerably shorter. I went back and checked the delivery note, the part number and my order and all tallied, so what could have gone wrong? I had noticed that when ordering the belts, the supplier’s description of my mower said that it had a cutting width of 92cm when I knew that mine’s was 97cm but assumed that that was an error and that as the belts were to fit a Jonsered 2114, which is what mine is, that they would do so. But there was no way that they were going to, as I found out when I offered the deck up with a new belt on it, so clearly the supplier’s web site could not be trusted and more investigation was required.

This time I did a search in English for a Jonsered 2114 with a 38″ cut and immediately some new results came up with different part numbers including one for a longer belt that tallied with the old one. I then cross-checked with the supplier’s web site and it wasn’t listed – or didn’t appear to be. I then checked for the Jonsered part number, and there it was, but looking down the list of models for which the belt was supposed to be suitable, a Jonsered was nowhere to be seen. So the web site was wrong as I knew that it was the right belt and went ahead and ordered it – just one this time.

So I now have to wait for a return number so I can send back the belts that were incorrectly supplied and also in the meantime, my new mower is standing outside in bits while I wait another three days for another new one, hopefully correct this time, to be delivered. Like I said at the beginning, when you try to buy almost anything in France, it never seems to run smoothly – especially if the internet is involved 😐