“We’re installing an update”

That actually means that we’ve sold you a product and tested it on you, but it does not work properly. So we are fiddling with your existing product, that does not work properly and we will then test this on you, to see if this one works. If this does not work we’ll be coming back and trying something else.

When you bought your Standard Motor Car you got exactly that. They’d tested it as best they could back at the factory and it was safe, within reason, and had the basic bells and whistles. It stayed pretty much like that for most of it’s limited life. Now it’s very different. You might get Standard Product, but it will not be quite as expected, the ‘garage’ will send an automatic update that will give it a new engine every 6 months or so. They will move the handbrake or replace it with a new and improved handbrake system, without telling you how to operate it. They will give you a link to a website that will tell you how it is supposed to be operated, and there will be a group of other frustrated handbrake operators like yourself who will form an online group. They will be called discussion groups or even a community, though that is never what they are. Within this community you can grumble about handbrakes until you go blue in the face but they will not persuade the makers of the Standard Product that the old system was fine, and that they could have saved thousands of pounds of developer time by sending the handbrake developers to a school for sewing where they would be better employed making gowns for the NHS.

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Below is a piece by my late friend and collaborator Gordon Thorburn, which touches on the same subject in a way. It’s from a book that we created together called “Some Missing Persons”, and is about creatures that are no longer with us, or are in danger of extinction. In this case there are still Men who mend cars, but very few.

Men who mend cars.

Sometime in the 1970s, a design engineer had the idea of putting a computer in a car. At that instant, an entire breed was sentenced to death and we can expect Man Who Mends Cars to be virtually extinct in the western world by about 2015AD. Then, there will remain only a few isolated individuals within whom will reside the last shreds of knowledge about how to repair cars rather than psychoanalyse them and reconstitute them with plug-in components.


By then, except in Famagusta and at Classic Car rallies, you will never see a Ford Cortina nor any kind of Austin, Morris, Triumph or Hillman. All old-style VW Beetles will have been squashed flat. No Citroen Deux Chevaux will be worth flogging. People will think the Fiat 500 is the Italian share index.
There will be no cars left without fuel-injected air-conditioned sports warranties and three-year ABS alloy airbags. Every car will bong at you to say that you have left the door open, the handbrake is on and you haven’t fastened your belt yet. Equally newsworthily, every car will tell you that it’s cold outside and there are roadworks on the M6. Every car will have more buttons on its radio/CD dooberry than were once considered necessary for the entire dashboards of twenty MG-TCs.


Meanwhile, Man Who Mends Cars looks out onto the road and sees a never changing stream of vehicles which are incomprehensibly complex inside and whose outsides cannot be told one from another. Eventually, the only task within his capabilities will be changing a tyre.


Today, if you want to spot Man Who Mends Cars, you will need to go to a small country town (non-commutable) or the back streets of a poor area of the city. Look for a rusty sign saying National Benzole or Pratt’s Motor Spirit. There, inside a dark cavern with a rectangular hole in the floor, will be a stove burning sump waste. You will see some motor cycles (BSA C15, Ariel Square Four, Triumph Tiger Cub, Norton Dominator), the bonnet and wheels of a Riley Elf and several wiring harnesses on a hook. In the chaotic area designated ‘office’, there will be a picture of a Jowett Javelin, some horrible items to do with making tea, and a girlie calendar for 1972 provided by RW Grimbagg & Sons (Abrasives) Ltd.


The man himself, in a dark blue over-all, will be sitting on a bentwood chair eating a king prawn jalfraisi, part-payment for a job he did last year on the Taj Mahal owner’s daughter’s Mini Moke.

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Man who mends cars always had someone who could be called Man who mends cars consultant, a smallish chap who would share his tea and voice the occasional opinion on the merits of the much lamented Jewett Javelin.

Have a good week

A Park Ranger and a bear in April in LA, Bet it was hot in that suit.

One of a series of drawings from earlier posts when I tried to use the same basic drawing as often as possible. I tired of it eventually, I think others did too.

A truck in a farmers yard in South West France, it’s a mobile still, he used it to brew a sort of liquor, probably highly illegal but it was in France so people probably just gave a Gallic shrug.

Sign in LA.

Guiting Power: An actual place name in Gloucestershire which derives from the ability of the local vicar to be able to power a large bicycle at a consistent speed whatever the gradient.

Man in y fronts looking for a phone signal.

Liquor store: LA

Mural: LA

Telegraph pole: LA

Old Volvo Truck which I think was in Sardinia.

Balanced diet.

Watercolour painting in Britain.

My Rhubarb on the plot. Love rhubarb.

One of my twin grandsons, not sure which one.

My work place, at least in my mind.

An Austin A40. My Aunty Alice had one of these and to say they were small is an understatement. She claimed to have invented the screen washer after she took a squeezy bottle of soapy water with her on each journey and would squirt it on the windscreen from her driving position. It was a small enough car to be able to do this without a lot of effort.

Hair

I’ve not seen my neighbour for weeks, that’s not unusual as he’s quiet and reserved at the best of times. Then this morning he’s there stepping out early to take the dog for a walk, and he’s grown a beard.

Another quiet neighbour has also disappeared, his normally manicured grass cut to within a centimetre of its life is now growing like the other neighbour’s beard. The company that descend on his place every week are nowhere to be seen and the regular sound of mowing and blowing, even if there’s nothing to blow, have evaporated into the new normal silence of the area that makes the birds seem positively riotous.

So there’s a run on hair clippers, I’m likely to start to look more and more like Wurtzel Gummidge as the weeks progress. I toyed with the idea of buying some electric clippers but the memory of last time I let my other half free with them still haunts me. My daughter used to do it for me back then and made a great job. After she left home I asked my wife if she would do it. She was somewhat nervous and approached me with the buzzing clippers rather like a pilot on his first landing at an island airport with a strong crosswind. The clippers bounced on the runway and there was some turbulence in the room. We landed but it felt like she’d landed on my head without the landing gear. Her promise to do a little better next time was met with a “ There’s not going to be a next time thanks”. One does not want to land at an airport in a crosswind with the pilot announcing that he’s going to “Give it a go!”

So project hair ended there, and I searched for a decent barber. Found one, after some research, but it may be some time before I land there again.

Intermission

Some will recall the phrase on the BBC by a cultured voiced announcer : “There will now be a short intermission”. That’s what I’m doing today. Some random images from my archives for no apparent reason, as there’s no apparent reason for anything these days. I hope you enjoy them.

” Use sliced bread”

These were the almost last instructions from my dear late father when, back in 1966, he and my mother were flying off to Norway for what for them was a once in a lifetime holiday. They were leaving me and my elder brother to cope as best we could by ourselves, when he uttered these words I asked, not unreasonable, ” Why? “

“So you don’t cut yourself” was his simple reply, thinking that I was obviously far too young to be wielding a bread knife and that I’d be found lying on the floor soaking up blood from a crusty wholewheat special, when they came back. What this simple sentence did was to illustrate how worried he was that they were going away and leaving us to our own devices and that he and my mother loved us.

When back, we took it as an opportunity to use whenever they went out of the house, even on a small errand, to rub in exactly how funny this was to us. He and my Mum took it in good part and later he used it ironically himself if we were ever going a away. It became a family saying which just meant ” Look after yourself”

On the way back from Norway, my father, then a smoker, took time out in the plane’s loo for a quick drag. One has to remember that these were the days when smoking was the norm, but not on a plane. As he lit up a voice came over the tannoy and barked something in Norwegian. ” Crikey they’ve seen me lighting up” my father thought to himself from his comfortable seated position, quickly extinguished the cigarette and adjusted himself for re-entry into the cabin when the English translation of the Norwegian came over the tannoy: ” You will be pleased to know that England have defeated Germany in the World Cup Final at Wembley in extra time. Well done England!” My father left the cubicle on a cloud of euphoria as well as a little smoke.

Meanwhile back at home my brother and I were probably slicing through a wholemeal in celebration.

Boom, boom!

Making yourself feel useful

How do you do it? Some people can turn their hands to all sorts of practical tasks to help in a crisis, and for the first time the word crisis is the correct word to use in the present situation. Perhaps a first time in recent years, makes Brexit seem almost inconsequential, even though it’s not.

I do it by banging on about stuff and trying to extract a smile. I wake up with ideas, go back to sleep and then forget what I thought of. I’ve been writing “Keep your distance posters” as if I’m employed by the Ministry of Information. I’ve been drawing cartoons as usual, with the same sort of theme, I’ll probably go on to the theme of staying at home. I’ve been gardening like fury, finding seeds and plants here and there and glaring at the pots challenging them all to germinate.

Our diet has changed, we’ve avoided supermarkets as much as possible and found other ways to get what we need. I’ve not seen a chicken for a while, but we have a ready supply of veg supplied in boxes from a farm shop. So I’m making myself useful here again by encouraging you to change your shopping habits, go local and find a farm shop. Our last supermarket order that was delivered was short of every basic that we had ordered and the veg we got came from Mexico and Morocco ( asparagus and brocolli ), For crying out loud, it must have been flown here. We ate it with a fair amount of guilt spooned over.The veg box from the farm shop? All the veg came from around here, and had not long left the field, tasted wonderful and their system of non contact worked a treat.

Local neighbours here have been busy arranging donations for the homeless, so they must feel pretty useful, and the young son of a good friend has been churning out parts for facemarks on his 3d printer to supply to the NHS. How brilliant is that?

This is what my friend’s son has been helping to make.
Find out more right here

“Keeping in touch with family and friends is important” says he who hands the phone to his wife when the kids are on and says “Best talk to your mother” On the other hand, my friends get the benefit of a long and rambling call when they probably had something much better to do in the garden or making something for the NHS.

Here’s a sample of my posters, and you can get almost any of these printed on a t-shirt or even a mug from right here. As well as the typographic designs there are cartoon versions. What’s more I’ve set a zero mark up on these in the hope that the people who print and produce them might get some work from it and stay in business. I have no wish to profit from them.

Having uploaded these to Red Bubble yesterday I took a look around at other Covid 19 stuff and there’s quite a bit. But what was immediately apparent to me is that the USA is still stuck in Imperial measures and one is asked to stand 6 feet away from anyone else to comply with social distancing. Strange, strange times.

Please share this as much as possible. Make yourself useful.