Car Ownership Guide

An idea which might appeal to owners of cars out there if you have a car which you are interested in and are knowledgeable about then I am happy to write an article about it and post it on this blog.

The work for you is that (unless you are located very close to me) I will need you to answer a questionnaire (and possibly some follow-on questions) and I will need you to have reasonable ability with a digital camera – the blog is going to need pictures as well.

Although I compiled the following article from an interview in the old fashioned – turn up ask questions – manner. It seems feasible that I could compile a questionnaire from this which I could despatch to whoever was interested.

I am hoping that the idea has appeal and will encourage people to submit cars. If you are reading this blog and you’re aware of someone else who will fit the bill by all means pass along details so that they can profit from it.

A considerable number of years ago, when it was easier to dream, I had in mind that I would like to write for a classic car magazine. At that time one of the magazines was featuring a “Best of the Web” article. I was working in IT and loved old cars and so this suited me well.

For a short while I researched and wrote these articles and fitted it in around the day job.

Sadly there was a change at the magazine and it was determined (probably correctly) that the “Best of the Web” article was as boring as a lengthy parliamentary speech. So it was pulled.

A person less given to dreaming would probably have seen the writing on the wall. I hadn’t yet let go of that writing dream however and so I tried to come up with some ideas of articles that I could do.

I was approaching the very limits of expertise. I had no background in engineering or in journalism but I wasn’t going to let this stop me.

I realised that once in a while a very knowledgeable person drawn from a classic car club would lay out what it was like to own a specific kind of car. Such accounts were no doubt rose-tinted and that suited my somewhat romantically idealised view of ancient machines.

So I set about contacting owners clubs but I was aware that I could not use the cachet of any magazine’s name as strictly speaking I didn’t work for any of them.

Unsurprisingly for a very long time I didn’t get any takers.

Eventually however I had a response from Tom Lucas who was the owner of a Lomax. For those uninitiated to this car it is a vehicle that you could assemble yourself based upon a 2CV.

It turns out that I had been very lucky to find Tom. Not only was he knowledgeable and keen, he was also willing to help someone who quite obviously was no journalist.

I have subsequently discovered that Tom Lucas (surely the same man) published a book called “Lomax the First Ten Years” bookfinder.

The car YSU191 has also been the recipient of prizes.

It is also apparently still taxed and MOTd to this date according to the DVLA.

Tom, if you are reading this, thank-you for your help.

I returned to the magazine in the hope of a new venture but it turned out I was not as good at this writing business as I had hoped. There was certainly no suggestion of the article being used.

As a result I am free to use the article on this blog all these years later and hopefully Tom will get to see it here.

This was the article:

 

Ownership Guide

Engine

This is usually removed from a 2CV, the engine can be taken from an Ami 8, Dyane or from the rarer Ami Super.

Most Lomax are built with a standard 602cc 2CV, Dyane or Ami 8 engine (these are essentially the same being an air-cooled flat twin of 30 BHP).

The older 435cc engine (not found in donor cars after the 1970s) will fit but is rarely used.

Useful power improvements can be obtained by fitting the Ami Super engine (1015cc). This is a flat-four air-cooled engine and requires the 4-speed gearbox from the same car.

Alternatively the later Citroen GS (1299cc) unit is a simple exchange.

The Citroen Visa power plant (652cc) provides a more complex challenge. This 38 BHP motor had electronic ignition requiring sensors on the gearbox bell housing which do not easily fit the 2CV. One method in use is to utilise motorcycle electronic ignition from a BMW on the front of the engine.

Officially any 2CV engine from 1985 will run on unleaded; however engines from the 1960s are currently running on unleaded without detrimental effects.

The exception is the Visa 9 ½:1 compression engine, which requires super-unleaded.

The standard engine is “bullet proof,” even modified engines tend to have a standard bottom-end, as it is very tough.

Valve and seats are very hard and recession tends not to be a problem. Valve clearances are checked then checked again after the first 6000 miles. If no recession is detectable no further checks are necessary.

Oil Changes

It is worthwhile doing regular oil changes at 3000 miles – maintaining this interval gives increased engine life expectancy of 150,000 miles with 300,000 miles a possibility.

10/40 oil is recommended for the 2CV but the Lomax has different requirements due to the absence of the cooling fan from the front of the engine. This means that the engine runs hotter than in the 2CV a 20/50 oil should therefore be used.

Use of synthetic (or semi-synthetic) oil is not required.

The oil filter should be changed at the same time as the oil. This is easily accessible as the bonnet can be removed in one piece. It is therefore considerably easier to access than in the 2CV donor.

Parts are available from ECAS (Eastwood Continental AutoSpares) of Stafford (01785) 282882.

Carburettor

The standard 2CV is fitted with a single carburettor positioned in the middle of the engine over the crankcase (a downdraft Solex).

This requires a long manifold to each cylinder.

Post 1982 2CVs, Dyanes and Amis were fitted with a twin choke version – this yields 2-3 BHP extra.

A common modification is to fit 2 motorbike carbs on short manifolds (for example the flat slide Dellortos from a Moto Guzzi). This modification yields significant performance advantages.

Ignition

There is no standard distributor; instead there is a points box rather like that on a motorcycle engine.

This has a 2-lobe cam producing a spark to both cylinders at every engine revolution via a double-ended coil.

The cylinder that is on the compression stroke is able to use the spark to fire. The cylinder on the exhaust stroke gets a ‘wasted spark’.

Modifications include electronic ignition kits from Lumenition – this replaces the points and box lid with a sensor (£115). An alternative “123” Dutch-made kit is available through ECAS. This replaces the point’s box and the advance/retard mechanism (£112).

Gearbox

All gearboxes fitted since the start of production are the same in that they are all 4 speed.

The internal ratios differ slightly, the Dyane having a slightly higher ratio in top gear.

The gearbox is behind the engine and drive is transmitted via drive shafts incorporating disc or drum brakes.

The low weight of the Lomax and its relatively small frontal area (compared to the 2CV) make the gearing a handicap.

Top gear limits performance to around 80mph, as higher speeds would cause the engine to rev excessively (no taller final-drive ratios are available).

Gearbox rebuilds are very rarely required, as they are very durable. For instance large, quality, bearings were used in the gearbox manufacture. Regular gearbox oil changes at 12,000-mile intervals are recommended to prolong gearbox life. Reconditioned gearboxes are available from ECAS (£220).

Brakes

The brakes are inboard – either drums or discs dependent upon the age of the donor (cars prior to 1982 having drum brakes). Changing pads is easy; changing shoes requires removal of the driveshaft first.

Drum braked cars tend to have a more effective hand brake as the disk-braked cars have separate (small) pads for the handbrake. The lightweight of the Lomax however, means that this handbrake system is still adequate in disk-braked cars.

No flexible brake pipes are employed. The solid brake pipes are coiled to take up any suspension movement. Despite this unusual arrangement no brake pipe fractures take place.

The gearbox from a Citroen GS comes with 11” disc brakes which would seem a useful modification. However, the Lomax is already significantly lighter than the donor car so no changes to the brakes are necessary.

Later Citroens with disc brakes do not use standard brake fluid but LHM mineral oil. The seals on these cars are a different material to those on drum-braked models (which use standard brake fluid). This means that the correct fluid must be used. In addition when replacing the rear-wheel brake cylinder it is critical to select the right one (the LHM version is painted green).

Rust

The body of the Lomax is GRP and hence does not suffer from rust problems; however the chassis is of steel and from the donor car.

Earlier cars had better chassis (those built in the late 1960s) particularly the Ami – these are therefore better donors.

The chassis from an Ami Super is a good choice as it is made from 1.2mm steel. The 2CV chassis is made from 0.8mm steel.

Cars manufactured between 1987 and 1990 tend to be more prone to rust and should be avoided.

Alternatives include a galvanised square section tubular steel chassis produced by The Lomax Motor Company.

Alternatively ECAS sell a galvanised replacement 2CV chassis for £430.

Preservation of the chassis when constructing the car is recommended. To do this, prop the framework against a wall so that it is close to vertical. Pour in Waxoyl from the top and allow it to drain through.

The exhausts rot out regularly due to the small engine and long exhaust, the rear of which remains relatively cool even with prolonged use. This means that acids tend to condense causing deterioration of the back box.

It is common to use a motorcycle silencer on the Lomax, but in this application a stainless one is recommended.

Body

The body is all GRP and the floor is of plywood.

The GRP gelcoat is a popular finish to leave the car in when first assembled.

The colours available include British Racing Green, Pillar-Box Red and Anchusia Blue.

However the finish tends to fade in UV light (i.e. in the sun) dark shades particularly becoming unattractive after a number of years. The car can then be sprayed conventionally to disguise this.

Crazing of the GRP can occur at stress points over extended periods of time. Replacement panels are available or if the body tub is affected it is cheaper to grind away the gelcoat and fill with fibreglass resin.

Suspension

Most Lomax cars are assembled using the 3-wheeler format– this entails removal of one of the rear suspension arms. The remaining arm is modified at the Lomax factory allowing it to be turned through 1800 to be inboard of the rear chassis arm (which is removed).

The suspension is totally derived from the 2CV with horizontal canisters containing the road springs.

The kingpins tend to wear if they are not greased at 500-mile intervals. To replace these, the driveshafts have to be removed and the bushes replaced with a press or a sledgehammer and a drift can be employed for similar results. After 2 or 3 sets of kingpins have been fitted the arm is too worn to accept another set and must be replaced (£95).

The suspension arms turn on taper-roller bearings which can show signs of wear at 100,000 miles (£24.50 each – 2 of per unit) – they are sealed for life so once fitted need no maintenance.

Genuine Citroen telescopic shock absorbers are required (£65) as they are designed to work on their side – conventional shock absorbers would wear out very swiftly if employed.

The Lomax suspension is lowered when compared with the donor 2CV. The suspension arms have tie rods, which are threaded. Releasing these rods a few threads lowers the suspension. This increases the kingpin castor angle improving the self-centring of the steering with a slight increase in kingpin wear as a penalty.

The lowered suspension can “bottom-out” and so modifications have been developed to use both suspension canisters.

Lomax has chosen to use a “rear anti-roll bar.” An alternative is to use the arrangement originally designed for a competing kit car (the Falcon). A front anti-roll bar on the three-wheeler is a requirement to prevent the car banking hard into corners.

The anti-roll bar from a Citroen Ami 8 or Ami Super can be used to make cornering safer (these are now scarce). The Lomax Motor Company now manufactures its own version. Alternatives are available from other kit-car manufacturers e.g. Black Jack in Helston.

Performance Improvements

The air filter is a bulky item which can be improved with a low restriction type, such as that manufactured by K&N.

Removing the front cooling fan and ducting is good for 2 BHP.

Carburettor improvements include use of the later twin-choke version (2-3 BHP over the standard item) or use of twin motorcycle carbs.

Performance cams are now available due to the popularity of 2CV racing.

Modifications include boring out a standard 2CV engine to fit a Citroen Visa piston – this raises capacity to 650cc whilst retaining the same stroke as the 602cc. The downside is that the cylinder side wall is made very thin by this modification and the engine can seize whilst running in.

Swapping the 602cc engine for the 650cc engine from the Citroen Visa is workable (the camshaft in the Visa engine is “hotter” than standard) but this is not an easy modification.

Driving

3 wheeled driving is a very different experience. The car has a sports car stance being close to the ground and alighting requires climbing down into the seats.

The suspension retains the donor’s ability to soak up potholes – only finding difficulty with the taller “sleeping policemen”. If the rear wheel hits a diesel patch or wet manhole cover then the rear can step out, but will swiftly regain traction.

The insurance is very low due to the small engine size.

There is lots of capacity in the boot for shopping or even continental touring.

The car is relatively safe in accidents due to built-in weak points in the Citroen chassis– a built in “crumple-zone”. These fold in the event of accident protecting the cockpit from serious damage.

The performance is better than the 2CV donor with good acceleration and 80mph normal. It will cruise at 70mph easily.

It is equally manoeuvrable handling twisty back roads faster than a number of conventional vehicles.

The controls are conventional apart from the gear change pattern where 1st is opposite reverse. The handbrake is an umbrella version (from 2CV donor) although some builders have opted for a more conventional handbrake layout.

 

 

With thanks to Tom Lucas for advice and information. Tom is the author of “Lomax the First Ten Years” (£10 from most bookstores).

 

 

 

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Fifty Special Things – Longthorpe Tower

When: 04-05-2015

Where: Longthorpe Tower

Price: £6 for two adults £4 for a guidebook

 

Review: Very popular – it was cold the day we went but there were still a number of people there.

Tip: Opening is restricted – limited to weekends and bank holidays – check the English Heritage site before setting out.

This hasn’t been open long, I found it had opened in 2013 by Dr Janina Ramirez (famous historian and TV presenter)

We were determined to go see it because of the well preserved mediaeval artwork. We visited on a bank holiday monday – one of the few that it opens during the year – don’t turn up on a weekday.

We have been National Trust members for a while but haven’t yet stretched to being members of English Heritage as well. If you do a lot of ancient building exploration joining would be worthwhile.

Patience is the order of the day if you want photographs of the walls inside the tower. It was very popular the day we went. I imagine that remains true throughout the year due to the restricted opening times.

Second Floor

The address is Thorpe Road, Peterborough, Cambridgeshire, PE3 6LU. However parking is in St Botolph’s church car park. This is no particular hardship as long as you are reasonably mobile. However bear in mind that access to the tower is up a set of external stairs.

The tower is the only part of the site that is accessible as the rest of it is still in private hands. Whilst I’m sure it’s lovely to live in such a prestige location I’m not certain about lots of visitors traipsing past your door every day.

The tower was apparently originally built by Robert Thorpe who was a lawyer. It was an addition to an earlier house.

The tower is a solar tower – added around 1300 but is unusual in that they were usually added to grand houses – possessed by nobles – rather than someone from the legal profession.

The tower or solar contained Thorpe’s private apartments, the second floor contains Thorpe’s bedroom. Thorpe was a Steward of Peterborough Abbey which at the time owned nearly all the land.

As an official of the cathedral Thorpe would have been a well-respected professional in his day. However he is the mediaeval equivalent of a man made good (from humble origins). Thurstan De Thorpe was still a (villein) serf to the manor at Orton Waterville until 1200 (or thereabouts).

However by 1226 his son William was able to buy the manor at Longthorpe. No one seems to have dug too deeply into how they got their cash…

This site however speculates that with education it was possible to elevate yourself (even in an era when to pass yourself off as gentry was illegal).

The family seems to have loved that habit of naming the son after the father: William begat William who built the manor house and the church whose car park you used on the way in. Originally St Botolphs was on the edge of the village. It was for the use of the manor originally but now is the parish church.

Second William begat Robert (which would be easier only Robert then begat you guessed it – Robert).

First Robert is the one we have to thank for the solar – it is a scaled down version of a similar construction more frequently found in castles. Robert became enriched through services to the nearby abbey. However by 1320 was working directly for Edward II. (He received a knighthood).

Second Robert became a steward to the Abbey like his father and the wealth continued. It was he who commissioned the paintings, which were painted around 1330.

As a defensive building it is sadly lacking (Robert was attacked there in 1327 and held to ransom). It was designed to show off the owner’s wealth and status – this it does rather better.

It is likely that connections with the Abbey allowed Robert access to artisans with significant skills (such as those commissioned for work on the 1st floor). However the skills are somewhat variable as some paintings are better executed than others.

Sadly it wasn’t to be for the Thorpes – although the building remained with the family, the final Thorpe – William – died without children in 1391.

Thereafter it was a second home for a while for John Whittlebury. This family retained the house from 1391 and sold it  to the Fitzwilliam family in 1501.

The Fitzwilliam family retained the house thereafter – the tower alone was gifted to the nation in 1948. This was probably because it required some quite expensive structural work which was taken on by the then Ministry of Works.

It is a great shame that the adjoining buildings can’t be viewed as well. After all that history one would imagine that they are magnificent.

The ground floor is unpainted and historically would have been used for storage. (The painted room is on the first floor). But you can’t get into the ground floor in any case.

The second floor is also unpainted but has some interesting displays including this helmet.

On the day we went (probably for everyone on reflection) we were invited to lift the above helmet to discover how heavy it was.

It is extremely heavy, how a mediaeval knight managed this together with a suit of armour I do not know – they must have been very hardy types.

This is the stone seat of a Garderobe – this is a basic form of mediaeval toilet.

Given it’s on an outside wall and would have been exposed to the elements I couldn’t help wondering why the seat wasn’t wood faced as it must have been very cold in winter.

Apparently a good cure for moths was to hang clothes in the Garderobe as the smell deterred them.

The word wardrobe apparently has its origin in this practice of hanging clothes in a small space.

As you can see mediaeval rooves were not hot on insulation the tile pegs can be clearly seen here. The house might be impressive but it doesn’t seem to have been cosy.

All the windows have been glazed over but historically glass would have been very expensive indeed. Certainly areas like the Garderobe were often left open to the elements in order to dispel the odours.

Rooftop views of adjoining buildings to which sadly there is no access.

The existing access is provided by a timber stairwell up through an enlarged former window. Originally the access would have been through a door (now blocked) to the adjoining hall. Additionally there is no direct access from the first floor to the ground floor storage area – access originally being gained through the adjoining building.

The adjoining hall is Grade I listed like the tower.

The narrow stairwell to the first floor.

It is best to avoid people on the way down – passing on those stairs would be challenging.

I didn’t find the rope of much assistance. Pushing against the wall whilst muttering “steep stairs piggin’ steep stairs” in the end being much more efficacious.

An arrow slit on the main stairwell – now glazed.

How on earth did servants get up and down these stairs whilst carrying things? I’m not clear if Thorpe liked to dine in his chamber but the kitchens were elsewhere in the site so it would have involved some trek if he did.

Small room off the recess in the second floor probably originally a latrine.

The First Floor

And so at last to the first floor, this is what the fuss is all about. After the paintings became unfashionable the walls were whitewashed over (around the time of the reformation). The paintings were thus hidden from view for centuries.

After a period of lease to the Home Guard in World War II the tower became part of a farm again in September 1945. The farmer (Hubert Horrell – a nicely alliterative name that) was prepared for decorating. He discovered sufficient of the pictures to make him believe that the tower was of importance.

He notified the owner (Captain Fitzwilliam) who thankfully recognised the importance of the pictures. He decided to fund an expert examination. He spoke to The Society of Antiquaries of London. Eventually a wall-painting specialist, Edward Clive Rouse was determined to be the man to start releasing the paintings from the layers of whitewash.

It took years – until 1948 – to reveal all of the paintings.

It is now regarded as one of the best preserved wall decorations of a mediaeval domestic building (in England if not in Europe).

Sadly the paintings are much faded now but are said to have been very bright indeed on discovery.

They were painted onto dry plaster using pigments including red/white lead, chalk or vermilion mixed with egg and oil. There is also evidence that some of the paintings were gilded.

Some of the depressed lines were made in the plaster whilst it was still wet.

Some of the detail that was evident at their discovery in 1946 can no longer be seen . Thankfully Mr Rouse was an excellent record keeper creating a small scale watercolour of every painting as he found it.

Potentially I assume this could mean that they could be restored. Something that has been done to great effect in some of the Egyptian tombs I notice.

This first floor room is believed to have been the great chamber for the manor.

It probably had several uses including dining room or reception room. The paintings were therefore for the purpose of impressing guests.

The West Wall

This is the Left hand side of the west wall. The west wall consists of a large alcove with a tiny window offset to the right hand side.

This leaves a large expanse of wall – now painted.

However remember that the paintings date to some-time after the building was erected.

Nonetheless this design seems to indicate that painting the walls was always in the plans. Otherwise why leave this large expanse of wall space and such a small window.

The tower has suffered subsidence in the past which lead to some alterations although it is believed that originally the North wall looked similar in construction.

The above picture shows 4 figures on the arch which are identified as the labours of the months – only 4 can be seen here starting with January at the bottom and moving up to April.

The months have an inscription (where this survives). January is said to be a man warming himself by the fire. February is too destroyed to be certain. March is a man digging. April again is damaged but it is speculated that he may have held flowers. This is in common with depictions at the time of rural people and what they were doing in each of the months.

The only other month that remains is December (the other side of the arch).

Close up of the lower left hand side said to be a pecking bird and the upper part of the door in the South wall that used to lead into the great chamber but is now sealed.

The upper picture is said to be St Anthony. Part of the inscription survives. St Anthony is the figure standing praying – asking how to find salvation. Opposite him is an angel sitting making a basket (working) and an angel behind stood (praying).

Overhead – now largely lost was the head and shoulders of God watching from above. The answer to his question – you can find salvation by praying and working.

The inscription read “do thus and you shall be saved” (apparently SIC FAC ET SALVUS ERIS) apologies to anyone who actually understands Latin.

St Anthony was the patron saint of basket weavers which is perhaps why this was the illustration chosen of work.

Alternatively Peterborough is considered the gateway to the fens and basket weaving has for a long time been considered a Fenland craft.

Two rabbits can just be seen behind Saint Anthony although these are less well done – appearing more like Disney Rabbits than real rabbits.

The border below is quite faded but apparently represents textile. It contained images of a lapwing and owl and a parrot apparently although you may find it difficult to pick those out now.

The two large figures are said to be a teacher and a student with perhaps the teacher wearing a doctor’s cap.

To the left of the teaching scene, on the walls of the recess. From the bottom of this picture: a square niche in the wall, above it a Heraldic Shield, above that a creature (mostly lost) and above that a heraldic banner.

Continuing to the left of the teaching scene, further up the wall on the same side. On the right hand side of this picture can be seen more heraldic banners, to the left a figure (unidentified).

On the West wall the lancet window is small and to the extreme right hand side (North). The window was apparently placed so that painting could be presented on the remainder of the wall. This is an alcove to the right of the window – 2 figures and an inscription which is now hard to make out.

The figure on the left wears a garment with a hood, the figure on the right is said to be a child. The hooded figure is saying to the child “Our Lady will absolve us from sin” (NOTRE DAME NOUS ASOUDRA DE LA PECHE)

This is the Right Hand Side of the West Wall said to be representations of a Bittern and of a Crane. (The Bittern is the uppermost picture). These were apparently not often painted from life but from representations of such creatures found in a bestiary.

The left hand side of the window in the West Wall this is said to be Saint Paul In his right hand a sword in a scabbard.

A close up of the same image.

The East Wall

In the upper part of the wall two figures address one another. The one on the left has been almost completely lost (some of the foot can be seen The figure on the right is complete. He is holding gloves and has a dog standing behind him, however the inscription which would have told us what this meant has now been lost.

Below him is a person in a crown standing behind a wheel. This is called a wheel of five senses and originates with Aristotle but found this form in the 13th century. The rim of the wheel has on it a Monkey, a hawk, a spiders web, a boar and a cockerel – of which the monkey (though partially missing) seems the best done.

These had the following meanings:

Monkey – taste

Hawk – smell

Spider’s web – touch

Boar – hearing

Cockerel – sight

The artist made a mistake with the cockerel and his first attempt can be just seen above the current version.

At one time the wheel would have had inscriptions which indicated what it meant – these are now lost.

It is believed that this means the five senses need to be regulated through reason and restraint.

To the right are two damaged creatures said to be hounds and to the left a damaged creature said to be a squirrel.

It can be seen here that the Boar is not very well done (could easily have been an overweight dog). The remnants of one of the damaged hound pictures can be seen.

Above on the ceiling is a representation apparently of an organ player (a mobile or portative organ with 16 pipes).

Close up on the Spider’s web which could as easily be a dartboard I suppose or given the date more likely an archery target.

Above the doorway can just be seen a very faded set of pictures said to be of the apostles.

This image is in the recess for the current doorway (which was a lancet window). It was enlarged to make space for the current doorway.

This picture appears above a doorway that would have led to a latrine. It is a picture to remind the viewer of mortality and was popular in mediaeval times.

Baased on a 13th Century poem originating probably in France. The legend is that 3 men meet with 3 dead and the 3 dead urge them to repent. The poem may have first been told by Baudoin de Condé a minstrel attached to the court of Marguerite II, Countess of Flanders in the 13th Century.

In this representation the first king is now lost, the second has a red crown which you might be able to see, the third is the one speaking with his finger raised.

The three dead startle the three kings and the kings rebuke them for this. But the dead state that they are the king’s ancestors and question them about why they have not said mass for their souls.

The message is designed to point out how fleeting is the existence of man and hence provide a moral message.

The three next to the king with the upraised finger are now in black but the pigment was lead which has oxidised with time, originally they would have appeared as in white shrouds. The last though is without a shroud – naked – and covered in maggots.

Above the current entrance door there is an aperture cut in the 1940s to expose the remnants of the original lancet window. The current entrance was enlarged in the 17th century and is now back in use. It uses a wooden staircase constructed in the 1940s. The hole which you can see here (when viewed from the correct angle) shows the original construction.

The figure just before the hole is said to be one of the apostles. (The Halo is visible – potentially at one time having been gilded).

To the left of the apostle above is this image of an apostle on the same wall. There is no indication as to which apostle is which. This one appears to be writing I think. Traditionally an apostle writing is generally thought of as St Paul – after his letters to the Corinthians and so on…

Facing the current entrance (I.e. looking towards the east wall) there is a niche just inside the door on the left hand side.

It is of a bearded man teaching three pupils the only discernible word when uncovered in the 1940s was apparently OREILLEZ which may mean “hear me” in old French.

The North Wall

This is the Right Hand Side of the North Wall, uppermost is the second half of the “seven ages of man” the last figure is the easiest to see with a crutch he is decrepitude above him is old age (said to show a man with his life savings).

Above you can see the entire seven ages of man of which a great deal is lost. It starts at the left hand side with an infant; above this is a young boy with a spinning top; above that is adolescence but of which little can be seen.

In the centre top is a youth with a hawk; descending the right hand side is manhood – with a sword; old age – with life savings and decrepitude – with a crutch.

Beneath the 7 ages of man is a depiction of the nativity which has been partly encroached upon. (The window was widened in an attempt to counteract subsidence).

Originally it would have been a small window as for the west wall seen above. However what remains is Mary seated on a chair with Jesus. The missing part would have shown the crib , the ass, an ox (parts of these can still be seen).

The ceiling above the North Wall upper left of this shot is a partial figure believed to be a cymbalum player.

In the other quarter of the vault is the Eagle of St John and beneath that the figure of St David. To the right a Psaltery player.

The South Wall

This is the left hand side of the south wall. Above is a coat of arms said to be that of Edward III.

The border was originally of the Thorpe coat of arms and at one time was gilded – not that you can see it now. Apparently fleur de lys were once visible here – but you need better eyesight than mine to make then out now.

Below the border is an alternating checkerboard pattern said to be painted to look like a hanging cloth. It is likely that this once was behind a high-backed chair that sat against the wall in this position.

This is the right hand side of the South wall uppermost is the arms of Edmund of Woodstock. He was the Earl of Kent and a half-brother of Edward II. He was executed following a planned rebellion against the regent Isabella (after the king was deposed).

The Earl is considered to have been Robert Thorpe’s landlord and so it is likely this is the reason for the inclusion of this coat of arms.

Beneath this something which is much more fun, it is a Bonnacon. You can just see the arm and bow of an archer and the rear of a beast that appears to be ejecting poo in his direction.

Apparently you would be foolish indeed to shoot upon this mythical beast which despatched its victims with flaming ordure expelled from its behind with some force.

The Tower

This is one of the buttresses – showing that the knitting together of the walls is no longer that exact.

Buttress and wall look close to separating here – further evidence of subsidence damage probably.

Here you can see external cracks visible in both North and East walls.

Above the current entrance – the outline of the former lancet window which was enlarged to make this entrance can be clearly seen here.

Visible subsidence cracks on the exterior – work to attempt to remediate these resulted in thickening to the north wall and a change to the window aperture.

This is further up the same wall showing that the cracking extends up to the Battlements.

It is a fascinating place and I have had plans to revisit. Indeed given the gradual fading of the artworks (and no obvious sign that they are to be restored) it might be as well to visit sooner than later.

If you are not of the historic nature (but your partner is) you can indulge them and chill afterwards in Thorpe wood which is nearby.

On that day on May it was beautiful and I have no doubt restful at most times of year.

 

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Fifty Special Things – Cambridge Gin Laboratory

When: 18-02-2017

Where: Cambridge Gin Laboratory

Price: Free – It was a gift

Review: excellent way to spend a few hours, several different courses available

Tip: take the bus, and then you can spend the rest of the day in the bar next door.

I remember when I was thinking about how to make the fifty special things work that one problem was always going to be budget. Having made the decision to try to make my fiftieth year a special one, how do you afford it all?

So it was with great delight that I received a gift of a gin tasting session at the Cambridge Gin Lab.

It turns out that it is very popular, the day we went it was full up. I imagine other days are not dissimilar.

Gin 1

The Cambridge Gin Laboratory is at 10 Green Street, Cambridge.

Gin 2

There is a board outside to confirm location and a sign on the door.

At the time I was convinced that I was going to rule the world via the medium of blogging – such that there is quite a strong pictorial record.

Gin 3

Gin 4

It was around the time of this visit that I began to comprehend just how fashionable gin had become and just how many people were keen to get in on the act.

Gin 5

The lab is downstairs and is laid out with all kinds of gin-related paraphernalia.

Gin 6

Prior to the gin sampling itself there is a very interesting talk on gin and the history of gin from which I made a few notes.

Gin 7

Note the picture of the black Labrador on the wall, said to be the reason why it is called the Cambridge Gin “Lab”.

There are various events available including a tailoring option to create a unique gin.

Gim 8

Gin is actually juniper-flavoured vodka. The predominant flavour must be juniper. The juniper “berry” is used (which is technically a cone). No sugar.

The nose of gin is often described as “piney”. Juniper was used for medicinal purposes for a long time. However claims that drinking gin is healthy are sadly untrue.

Gin 9

A monastery used to distil wine and float botanicals in it and used this as a treatment. Drinking this though was not tasty so they started to sweeten it.

Gin 10

Traditional gin was produced in the Low Countries (Dutch) in the 15th Century. Jenever was their name for juniper.

Gin 11

The English fought the Dutch in the 30 years’ war. Soldiers began to be given alcohol before they went into battle – it became referred to as “Dutch courage”.

The English then started to make their own gin. The gin craze was between 1720 and 1751.

This could be thought of as the first drug war. In the poor areas of London 1/3 of households were making and selling gin. However there was lots of methanol left in it which is poisonous. Some sellers cut the result with turpentine which is poisonous.

They were drinking 80% ABV in pints – like beer. They became very addicted.

The Gin Acts 1751 started to legislate gin production.

William Hogarth 1751 creates two paintings Gin Lane is political propaganda intended to encourage people to switch back to beer (Beer Street).

Gin Lane
GinLane

Beer Street
Beer Street - Calle de la cerveza

Beer Street and Gin lane
Beer-street-and-Gin-lane

Gin was still allowed to be drunk however.

The theory is that Hogarth was paid by the beer industry to encourage people to drink beer.

The Gin Act was passed. After crop failures and attempts at alternative beverages – they eventually got better at making gin.

Alcohol fermentation, involving yeast processes on sugar, produces heat, carbon-dioxide and ethanol (together with other alcohols).

ABV (ethanol by volume) the maximum that fermentation achieves is 15% ABV. (You can heat the result to make it stronger).

To distil – put the alcohol in a still – heat it. It starts to boil and evaporate. The outlet tube is cooled in water (it is coiled to increase its surface area).

Simple distillation apparatus

Different compounds boil at different temperatures:
Ethanol 78.4oC
Methanol 60oC (ish)

You track the temperature and collect the low boiling point liquid and dispose of it, this is referred to as the “head”.

You collect the middle boiling point liquid and keep it.

You collect the higher boiling point liquid referred to as the “tails” and dispose of it.

In this way you get to concentrate what you want.

In vodka you remove a lot of the impurities, this produces 96% alcohol. In whisky you keep some impurities by retaining a greater heat range, this affects the flavour.

Gin started to be recognisably gin in the early 19th century – juniper is added during the distillation. Juniper flavour becomes incorporated into the gin.

They also started to use continuous distillation – here a huge still uses plates to draw off the distillate at the correct temperature range.


CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

Gin now starts to taste nicer – it becomes fashionable to have unsweetened gin.

London Dry Gin became fashionable – today this is a subcategory of gin.
London Dry Gin started in London but not made there anymore.

It is dry – not sweet – you must use real botanicals – these must go into the distillation pot and not be added afterwards.

Gin – is a shortening of jenever the Dutch for Juniper. Today other botanicals (plants) are used e.g. rose petal, cherry blossom, coriander seed, juniper cone.

These react differently to heat – the heat is high so the botanicals are added at different times – this is like adding ingredients in cooking.

You treat each botanical with the level of heat that suits it. The boiling point is related to atmospheric pressure – reducing pressure reduces the heat needed for boiling.

1 botanical is added at a time – you distil different botanicals. What comes out is not a gin, it is a flavoured distillate. Then you blend the distillates.

However it needs a basis of London dry gin. Therefore you can blend your own gin.

The distillery has 100s of distillates. It is tailoring gin to individuals, bars, and restaurants. You can use delicate things in gin e.g. cucumber.

Hendricks add the flavour afterwards – you can make a lot more gin this way – but not a London Dry Gin.

1 gin run takes 1 hour – there are 4 people in the company.

When we arrived we had a gin to start with which was a standard London Dry Gin with a fever-tree tonic. I rather liked this.

However we also got to use atomisers to spray gin directly into the mouth (well after some practice – the first squirt was directly into my eye). Atomisers contain the same spirit as the demijohns on shelves around the walls. They are used to allow tasting without consuming a lot of gin.

Brands feel it is important to be traditional – to have this as part of their brand.

Wheat is the basis of gin, potato potcheen (Poitín). Gin must be a neutral spirit – the basis does not have to be wheat, however if it is not wheat or potato then this fact must be listed on the bottle. Potato vodka is slightly oilier. Rye is slightly spicier (to a trained palette).

To make comparisons involves a system for tasting gin which needs consistency and needs a standardised language. Tasting is an ability that develops from training & experience. Room temperature is best to identify botanicals.

After the initial gin on entry and trying the atomisers there were 3 gins to try, these were sat on the table protected by glass lids.

The first apparently had rose and violet petals in it. The sequence is first mouth feel – it should feel somewhere between milk and water – medium. I have the palette of a straw bale I established.

There is no sweetness added – when you distil – sugar does not carry over, hence the distillate from pineapple has no sugar. What you can have is associative sweetness – this reminds you of sweet things for example florals gives this effect. (It’s all in the mind in fact).

It also had blackcurrant leaf – which gives a fruity flavour and basil, angelica, rosemary. Angelica is very common in gin – it is slightly spicy. In tasting you want to linger a little not too short.

You don’t have to prefer one that wins awards – as this is a measure of how well it is made rather than if you like it.

The Cambridge Distillery make different gins for different bars – Midsummer House has a herbal garden – we use those herbs in their gin.
Pint shop – Peas Hill we use peas in their gin.
College graduation gins – they forage for flowers in their garden – buy the gin which is unique to that year. Usually you have to go to the venue to taste their unique gin.

Japanese gin has become a retail product (this is the second gin that we tasted).
Nobu in London wanted one. It was made with a team of chefs inspired by botanicals used in Japanese cooking. This is light in intensity, the spirit is the same though. The botanicals are different, Juniper, cucumber, sesame, schiso leaf, almonds (it is marzipany), sanshō pepper (a bit perfumy), yuzu.

Botanicals are affected by the weather and are used seasonally. Each year there are seasonal gins. The ones in spring/summer are lighter. The ones in autumn/winter are more warming.

Each gin is therefore non-re-creatable. 100 bottles of each one are made and these sell quickly.

Autumn/winter gin contains bergamot. It has fennel in it, bergamot, rosemary, blackcurrant leaf, and juniper. It can manage a punchier tonic. They tend to use fever-tree as a good “go to” mixer…

The Dog – the black Lab is the lab dog Gin 12 he/she is why this place is called a gin lab Gin 13.

They capture the lightest 1% of stuff that evaporates referred to as the angel’s share of gin. They have made an angels share gin at £2000 a bottle.

They produced about 6 bottles, all sold quickly.

In addition to the tasting which we attended there is also available:

  • Histories and mysteries of gin session
  • Make your own bottle
  • Themed tastings

Given how great our session was these will also be worth a try.
Afterwards they give you a voucher to try a cocktail in the bar next door (accessible underground). The bar is on Trinity Street.

This is at 2648 Cambridge. Great cocktails which may make you want to stay.

As I say take the bus there…

Gin 14

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Prezzo St Neots

When: 01-01-2017

Where: Prezzo St Neots

Price: Free – it was a gift

Review: I find Prezzo to be reliably good whenever I go there

Tip: Wise to book – it can get busy prior to film showing times as the cinema is next door.

This is an old blog post that never got put in the correct place. This dates from a time when I saw the future as reviewing those experiences I was able to take in.

Shortly afterwards I determined that the time for the experiences took away from the time for writing the blog.

This and a few like it will have to stand as memories of that aim.

The last such post is here: https://magic-phil.co.uk/2017/02/20/fifty-special-things-thanh-binh-restaurant-cambridge/.

I had concluded that I would write no further reviews. That was until fellow blog writer Anthony reminded me that the 50 Special Things did not officially have an end. Two years later it would now be 52 special things in any case so I have plenty to review.

You can catch Anthony here: http://unofficialcambridgefilmfestival.blogspot.co.uk/ or tweet him here https://twitter.com/theagentapsley

It had been a few months since my resolution to fill my 50th year with as many fun things as was feasible.

The visit to Prezzo St Neots was my suggestion. http://www.prezzorestaurants.co.uk/restaurant/st-neots/

The purpose: to celebrate my 50th birthday with my family. The event was coming somewhat after the actual birthday date.

If one believes in horoscopes I was born under the sign of Libra. (Which should give you a clue).

The original resolution for “50 special things” was before my birthday in a meeting with my counsellor . (However it was embellished on my birthday whilst eating in a resort restaurant with my two friends Jacqui and Jon. (We were in Gaya in Malaysia). I suspect in some not too distant blog entry details of that will emerge.

The idea of 50 special things was to dispel the belief that a birthday is limited to one day per year. Limiting celebrations in this way is likely to be disappointing. Allowing the celebrations to last all year circumvents that problem.

The idea came through talking to my counsellor. In my experience counsellors are often the source of great advice.

I’m certain that not all great recommendations come from counsellors but in my experience many of the good ones do.

This is quite an awesome responsibility when deciding to embark upon the journey towards being a counsellor. (How do you come up with these good ideas).

As a volunteer counsellor myself I am not certain that I can measure up to that expectation.

A 50th birthday celebration at Prezzo. This was in the hope that gluten-free means less stomach aches the following day.

Prezzo have a pretty extensive gluten-free menu (other restaurants take note). This menu means that I have eaten there many times.

St Neots is the usual Prezzo venue due to the familiarity I have with eateries there. (I live within easy driving distance of St Neots).

(I seem to be a creature of habit who would like to be a creature of adventure).

Prezzo is usually a place that is highly-populated due to its proximity to the St Neots cinema. It has a hubbub akin to a football stadium.

New Year’s Day and all I needed was to sleep (after a night in an Indian restaurant – the site of our New Year’s Eve celebrations).

Prezzo 1

An Indian restaurant some bottles of wine a need for sleep the day after. (To anyone of average intellect that would not have been surprising).

So I am sat half-asleep in a restaurant with a surprisingly muted hubbub. Perhaps I was not alone in my post Chilean wine indulgence.

New Year’s Day certainly seemed to bring a falloff in demand for Prezzo culinary expertise.

It was hard to get enthusiastic when consumption of unsuitable food the night before meant a tsunami stomach ache. Besides enough gas to replenish the North Sea pipeline.

Prezzo 2

Despite this malaise I noticed that the service (by three waitresses) was excellent. They seemed to cope with a deficit of staff (no doubt brought on by the holiday season) without noticeable decline in delivery or positivity.

For some reason the menu was not filling me with joy (as it has on previous occasions). I wondered if there had been a recent redesign or possibly it was feeling green that did it.

When you’re trying to avoid incompatible-with-IBS foods risotto is usually a good standby. That is apart from those establishments that insist all risotto must contain peas.

Prezzo 3

Peas are great if you fancy spending a day or so on your own fumigating a greenhouse. With a stomach that feels like a space hopper with an overweight and restless kid on it.

Sadly my choice was only slightly less tolerable as it contained leek. Leek is fantastic for post-food onion-orientated fragrances (as beloved by no one).

King prawn risotto following a starter of gluten-free bread with balsamic onion dressing. I love onion but onion wages outright war on me. It starts with the intestines and continues on down.

For an IBS-sufferer like me rice and gluten-free gets my recommendation.

Fortunately I have not developed a dairy-intolerance. If you are unable to take the cheese in the risotto there are a few gluten free pastas. I do not tolerate tomato well so eat these when I’m feeling quite well before hand.

Prezzo 4

Desserts of ice cream are well-tolerated by me (with peppermint tea). (This means I get to socialise otherwise going out would be taxing – finding foods that don’t make me ill.)

After all of these precautions I opted for the chocolate drink. In my defence I read recently that dark chocolate helps stay the commencement of Alzheimer’s. (Dementia has been a theme in my family).

Prezzo 5

I would recommend Prezzo as a place to go if like me you tend to tolerate some foods poorly. The menu gives some options that I don’t see at other nearby restaurants.

Although Prezzo is busy the service tends to be swift. The staff are pleasant despite having a huge number of tables to attend upon.

I tend to visit this restaurant every few months. So far the only down side is that the background volume in there can get elevated. In other respects I choose Prezzo over the alternatives.

 

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Privacy – A How-To Guide

There can be few people alive now who have not heard about Edward Snowden. 

He is a marmite character hailed as a hero by some and a pariah requiring execution by others.

I realised that in my Gravatar profile I state: “Keen on privacy and IT Security. A volunteer counsellor. I use blogging to improve my writing.” There has been a few blog items on writing and the odd one related to counselling but except for the EXIF article precious little in support of privacy.

Snowden showed us that if you decide to put something on the Internet it is not private anymore. (No matter how much security you imagine protects it).

Security services have techniques that can read information, often when we believed that information was protected.

Information that you put on the Internet today, believing it to be secure, is exposed in a security breach tomorrow.

Some people believe that this is fair enough, if you decide to put a nude selfie online for example then on your head be it.

This article is not for them.

Still reading? Ok, well there are some basic steps that you can take which will protect you. Some more advanced steps you can take if you are very keen on privacy. There are also steps you should take if your life depends on privacy (which is sadly not unfamiliar to some activists in the world today).

http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/entry/improve-internet-privacy_n_6902622

https://www.theregister.co.uk/2015/11/12/snowden_guide_to_practical_privacy/

  • Mobile Phones Mobile Phones – transmit a great deal of information about you. they are used by shops to track your purchasing preferences. They still transmit information even when you have turned location services off.

    If you are in the group that really needs to protect your privacy faraday bags for phones do work.If you like your privacy but your life isn’t likely to be in danger over it – turn on location services only when you need it.

    Similarly turn off Bluetooth and wireless when they are not in use.Better still if you do not want to be tracked leave the phone at home.

  • Encrypt Encryption uses mathematics to render the information inaccessible to anyone other than the people you want to have access.However encryption does not solve all problems.There is some evidence that some encryption has been circumvented. .However encryption will defeat prying eyes in the majority of cases.

    You can encrypt your phone .You can encrypt the hard drive on your laptop.

    You can use encrypted file storage online .

  • Encrypted Apps – Use encrypted alternatives to text messages. The recommended system here is an app called Signal which is as easy to use as any text message system.
  • Unique Passwords – Make certain that every website you log into has a unique password.

    Breaches in passwords happen every day.

    A breach is when a company loses the usernames and passwords of its customers onto the Internet. Criminals then get hold of these details and attempt to log into as many websites as they can. It takes criminals minutes to do this it can take many years before a company is aware of the leak.

  • Password Managers – maintaining a different password for each login (for every website) is a discipline that is sometimes beyond the memory of the average individual. This means that you really must use a password manager.

    Password Managers store all your passwords in one place and you only need to remember the one password – the one to access the password manager.

    I use KeePass . It is a standalone password manager (in that it is not integrated with your browser).This reduces functionality a little but increases security a lot. (With all your passwords in one place you do want the solution to be secure).

  • Use two-factor authentication. Remember I said that passwords are leaked onto the internet every day? How do you stop a criminal logging in when you don’t know that your password is already out there?

    Make certain logging on to your account takes more than a password.

    A number of sites permit use of two-factor authentication. Usually this means that after you add your username and password you get a text on your mobile phone giving you a code that you also need to enter.This small amount of extra effort can have a big effect on your security.

  • Use a VPN service that cloaks your location.Every ISP has a list of addresses that they hand out to their clients. This means that when you browse the Internet others on the Internet can determine which ISP you use. In many cases this gives a good approximation of where you are accessing the Internet from.In addition every piece of browsing behaviour goes through a link provided by your ISP who has a log of your activity. The only way to disguise your activity from your ISP is to have a tool that uses an encrypted tunnel to hide what you’re are doing.

    This can be a VPN , use of ToR browser or using ToR browser over a VPN .

    A VPN creates a tunnel between you and a VPN Provider.

    The problem with this is that it moves the keeping track of your actions from your ISP to your VPN provider.

    You therefore need a VPN provider that undertakes not to track your actions.

    For the truly privacy conscious use ToR.

    https://lifehacker.com/what-is-tor-and-should-i-use-it-1527891029.

    ToR is not a panacea but it does make it much more difficult to trace any actions back to you. ToR is a technology that sends the messages you use to communicate on the Internet through a very convoluted route, making it very difficult to trace.

Of course it is far easier to keep something private if you do not share it in the first place. If you share something which would have consequences (if it became public) then perhaps sharing it is not wise. Don’t depend for example on Facebook privacy settings. It is known that people use Facebook to monitor and to trap the unwary.

Don’t put your holiday destination into Facebook until after you have returned.

It is really a bad idea to exchange nude photographs. Can you really be certain that the picture won’t turn up later on in a context which you might not like?

Many sites allow recovery of your account if you supply personal details about yourself. This means that they allow you access after you share with them a secret that they know about you. A favourite is Mother’s maiden name for example. If you forget your password – you supply your mother’s maiden name – you get to reset your password.

If that information (your mother’s maiden name) is on the Internet already (say on social media) it is no longer a secret. Criminals can use this information too.

Firstly be careful what you share. Secondly if you are asked for a secret that can be used to reset your account – lie. If your dog is called Fido and the recovery question is “pet’s name” use ”jambalaya” for example (don’t do that – it’s in the Internet now so people know it – make up your own version and keep it secret).

Once you have created a lie make sure you record it somewhere offline (say in the password manager) so if you need to recover the account you can remember what lie it was that you told them.

Make certain that you use the HTTPS version of a website (most sites have a HTTPS version now). The HTTPS-everywhere add-on can do this for you. HTTPS uses secure communication and hence is more secure to use than HTTP.

Adverts on the Internet have been the source of a great many attacks. Wherever possible use an ad-blocker. This also makes it harder for sites to track your behaviour and use it to bombard you with ads.

It is known that search engines like Google mine your information in order to sell it to advertising companies. One way to obviate this is to use an alternative search engine that does not log your behaviour. The best known of these is DuckDuckGo.

If you are one of the people whose life depends on your privacy then this article is not going to be cautious enough for you.

ToR is a good start. There are also guides as to how compartmentalise your life. There are guides about how to communicate with journalists. Encrypted email solutions exist and should be considered. Even operating systems designed to preserve security.

However it would be remiss of me to advise about these given my life has never been at risk because of a lack of privacy. You must gauge the level of risk and apply appropriate precautions.

For everyone else these few steps can make a big difference.

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