Helen & Mike’s Wedding

The happy couple, and family, in a truly magnificent setting.

Saturday, June 25th, saw the much-postponed wedding of my cousin Helen Charlston, to Michael Craddock, finally taking place. In the truly sublime setting of Trinity College Cambridge, no less!

Getting into Cambridge and parking, etc, can be quite tricky these days. I’d assumed we’d park in the Park St car park, near The Round Church. But that’s been shut! Due to be demolished and re-developed, apparently.

In the end things went smoothly enough. We allowed plenty of time, and were very lucky to arrive and find someone leaving the otherwise totally full Shire Hall car park. We could’ve walked from there. But Teresa, in new heels, was adamant that we take a taxi.

Sat outside Fitzbillie’s, feeling a little overdressed in the hot weather!

This we duly did. And we were dropped off just outside a new(-ish?) branch of Fitzbillie’s, where we had a latte and a bacon sandwich. Mmm… scrummy! We really ought to have had at least one of their legendary Chelsea buns. But with a big wedding meal in wait, we thought it best not to.

Inside the beautiful chapel at Trinity.

None of my photos (all taken on my old iPhone) of the chapel – the ‘pano’ pic I took is so glitchy I’m not sharing it – do the setting justice. Which is a pity. What a glorious venue for a wedding! And apparently Trinity very rarely grant anyone the privileged permission to use their facilities for weddings. So, quite how Mike and Helen wangled it, despite being College alumni, I don’t know.

Teresa, and our side of the family.

The ceremony and readings were a perfect fit for the venue. And made the occasion feel very special. Hannah King’s Maya Angelou reading struck a different note to the other more trad’ Christian ones. Was that down to Angelou’s words, or King’s own allure/charisma?

My biggest regret of the day is opting not to record the 40-part performance of Thomas Tallis’ Spem In Alium. It’s a piece of music I adore. And not what one expects to hear at a wedding! And it was a terrific performance. Owain Park really milked the final chords, almost like a ‘big rock ending’. Powerful stuff!

Perhaps unsurprisingly, given that Helen and Michael are both pro’ singers, the music during the ceremony was tremendous. From the organ parts, kind of what you do expect at a wedding, to the baroque ensemble with recorders and viol de gamba, and the anticipated Gesualdo presence, right up to the massive and less obvious Tallis ‘number’, the musical aspect made a special day even more magical.

On this day, the Gesualdo Six were, for obvious reasons, The Gesualdo Five!

It was also interesting, for me, as a former Christian, to experience (again) the intensity of High Anglican Christianity, in its rich and powerful religious form. I was never in this sort of church, growing up (Baptist and Evangelical, etc). It’s weird, when one is amongst a flock who know their hymns!

Some aspects of the religious side of this day – and for some it’s doubtless just rites and tradition, for others, perhaps, a staunchly held belief? – were really lovely, beautiful even. But whenever confronted with the conformity of faith part of me rebels and is deeply troubled. But I set that part aside for Mike and Helen’s (and everyone else’s) sake.

After the wedding ceremony, which was really lovely. There was a brief hiatus, before drinks and canapés in the normally off-limits Fellows’ Garden. How often I would look into this space from the bridge over the Cam nearby, and wish I might be amongst the elect. And on this day, we were!

Leaving the Fellow’s Garden for dinner.

I made a conscious effort to chat with folk I didn’t know. I started with some of the singers and musicians, feeling that perhaps we might have some common ground. Not just in knowing Mike, Helen, Terry, etc, but even as musicians!

Later on, at the fabulous dinner, in the very opulent dining hall, this theme of chatting with strangers continued. And it was actually one of the really nice things about the day as a whole.

Not a great pic, but get those windows!
The magnificent dining hall.

And by some providential accident, Teresa and I were at the ‘top table’ end of one of the three massive rows of tables. With a terrific view of everything. And, ‘by ‘eck!’ the chow was top-notch. As was the wine. The whole meal passed in a long rapturous reverie of chat and delicious grub!

We were still ‘in hall’ and ‘at table’ when the time we’d expected to leave came and went (my mum and Hannah and co did leave at this point). But we were enjoying proceedings, and opted to tag along to The Cambridge Union, for more drinks, dancing, and whatever.

At this point, I did begin to flag. I managed a beer, and a little bit of dancing, before more or less flaking out! Some food arrived. Which was great, and very nearly put the pep back in my step. Teresa wanted to stay longer. She was evidently less washed out than I felt! But in the end, probably around 10pm, we bad the happy couple and the few family and friends we knew good night.

By the time we got home we’d been out over 12 hours. That’s not something, in the social way of things, either of us are used to any more!

Anyway, to finish… if you have a beverage to hand, raise it, and toast the happy couple, Helen and Mike!

MX5 Interior Clean

Clean ‘n’ shiny!

Having fixed my motor, and cleaned the engine bay, I checked all my levels, coolant (still good; so glad I fixed that!) oil, etc, checked tyre pressures, and belt tensions.

With everything ship shape, I moved in to cleaning and sprucing up the interior. After a serious vacuuming, it was out with the cleaning stuff. Once again ChrisFix (and others) was invaluable. I used his list of products and steps for cleaning.

Not pristine. But much better than before.

Once you start down this road, however, I can see the danger of obsession lurking. The nicer any one part looks, the more you notice the other less spruce aspects.

A few more jobs are definitely looming: replacing the worn out ‘shift boot’, aka gear stick shroud (?). My knob (chortle) is pristine! And ditto all the engine bay hoses and tubing, along with all their clips.

Greatly improved.

I’m also going to clean all the wheels. Although I doubt I’ll be going as far as ChrisFix and others in trying to get them looking like new. That said… maybe!? But in truth I’d like some nicer wheels anyway. Wire wheels are the dream!

Another little mini project, for as and when I get a new set of tyres, could be to ‘whitewall’ them. I reckon that’d look super-fonky!

Getting the windscreens clean was really hard!

MX5 Engine Bay Clean


Having replaced the cambelt, etc, and got Maisie back on the road, I’ve felt a sudden urge to look after her generally.

The first manifestation of this bizarre compulsion has been to clean the engine bay. I watched a video by the very popular American YouTuber ChrisFix, to glean how to clean, so to speak.


I wasn’t quite as patient or methodical as he evidently is. And although I was recently given a jet-washer, I was unable to use it, as I couldn’t find a tap close enough to reach the front of house/car.

But I did spend the required time, knuckling down to a good few hours of fairly fastidious cleaning. I cleaned the inner ‘hood’ as our former colonials have it. And the whole engine bay got a once (twice, or thrice?) over.

Part way through the clean up.

My before and after shots aren’t quite as drastic and compelling as ChrisFix’s. But they do show a marked improvement. One notable lacuna being that I didn’t do the cam cover as well as I might.

But in order to do that properly, I need to remove the VVT and spark-plugs. And I decided to leave it at a cursory clean for now, as I might be having it off again (snigger) for a really proper clean, and poss’ even a spray paint.

The final state.

Looking at the pic above, I can see a few things I might want to re-visit. The above-mentioned cam-cover is the most obvious. But the two clamps that hold the radiator in place (and the radiator itself!) would make a notable difference.

Another ‘when funds allow’ job for the engine bay is a complete new set of hoses, pipes and clips. Some of the hoses definitely need replacing. And not only should everything look better, it ought to function better, and add longevity.

Home/DIY: Fixing A Hotpoint Washing Machine

We have one of these; Hotpoint WMXTF 842P

Today I decided I’d try once again to sort out our washing machine. I’ve tried several times before, without succeeding. According to the rather scant Hotpoint support, on YouTube, 90% of issues are due to the filter getting blocked.

I’ve attended to this filter several times. It’s occasionally had a little crap in it. And I really mean a very little. But mostly it’s been pretty clean and empty, i.e. free of any serious obstructions. Never enough to have caused the blockage and drainage issues we’ve faced.

Eugh! The area under the machine was horrid.

The most recent and worst of these was when it stopped draining altogether. Meaning that we had to empty the drum using a measuring jug. A faintly unpleasant smell gradually but inexorably turned to a truly rank odour!

Intuition and common sense suggested that as the filter was pretty clean and totally not blocked, then logically the blockage must, surely, be in the drainage hose?

So I took the hose off – much easier said than done! – and stuck a trombone cleaner down it. Alas, the ‘bone unblocker isn’t as long as the hose, so I had to attack it from both ends.

Tipped her on her side, to access the hose.

After this, I rigged the pipe so it was on a constant downwards gradient, and started running hot water through it. After about five or six flushes, the stinking opaque effluence had turned, if not into wine, at least into clear clean water!

After re-assembling the washer, and clipping the hose back in place, I ran a cleaning cycle with some soda crystals added to the drum. It was then that another recurrent fault reared it’s ugly head: the machine never reaches the end of any programme.

Not sure why, exactly, but whatever program we run, the machine always ‘hangs’ on one minute remaining… forever!

Hoses and a tub, outside, in case of overflow!

To finish any program off, requires turning the entire machine off, and restarting it set to a rinse ‘n’ spin (which in turn won’t actually finish!). Bit of a palaver. And a lot of a pain!

But not having to bail out stinking dirty water is a tremendous improvement! Compared to which having to fudge finishing wash and rinse cycles is but a minor issue.

I’m not a slick blogger or YouTuber, and very rarely if ever document these things thoroughly, let alone well! But the few pics here do give an idea of just how dull a job this is.

The black clip in the centre releases the hose.

That said, and despite the as yet unresolved ‘won’t finish’ fault, improving the situation does come with a certain pay off.

It’d be great if we could fix the ‘one minute remaining’ issue. And we do also need a new front door seal, as well. But, little by little, we’re getting somewhere.

Work: Today’s Office, Groovy New Tee

Loving my new Steely Peanuts T-Shirt!

Today is apparently an official heatwave. And, dang-nab it, it sho’ is hot!

Today’s office, #1.

Having just recently got my beloved car back on the road, after a cam-belt failure (which I repaired myself!), just being able to drive to work – last week I taught the same day’s workload using public transport and a taxi to get around – is bliss.

And, I’m realising that my life really isn’t too bad at all. There are things that need tweaking. Most obviously a greater income, and a concomitant lessening of expenditure!

But by and large my actual work is both a doddle, and usually really quite pleasant. The kids I teach are all quite charming. And whilst the range of ability is wide, and weighted towards the lower/lesser end (today is a two primary schools day), they’re all both pleasant and enthusiastic.


MX5 Cam-belt & Gasket, cont.

Getting the engine under-tray back in situ.

The large and rather unwieldy plastic under-tray ought to be fixed at about nine points. One old and two new bolts secured the flat frontal portion nicely enough. But at the rear, one old bolt had to suffice. The other (passenger side) bolt had broken off, and remained in her hole. So I had to zip-tie that off!

Three bolts hold the front (at left).

Both sides of yon under-tray go up into the wheel arches. But the two holes on either side don’t seem to correspond with any locating holes in the body. So they’ve been left – see picture directly below – as is.

Under-tray wheel arches not secured.

So now all that really remains is the major coolant leak, which urgently needs addressing. I’d bought a few bits at BOFIracing, inc a new thermostat gasket, and rubber doodads for the soft-top latches. I installed the latter there and then, before a surprise visit to mum and Malcolm, who live nearby.

As it happened they’d already passed me, earlier in the day. So my surprise wasn’t quite as complete as planned. But still, it was nice to visit them with the ol’ jalopy back on the road! Albeit still suffering from the coolant leak.

Thermostat housing, front, before cleaning.

As can be seen, from the above photo, the old (new!) gasket needed removing. And the two faces of the thermostat housing needed to be thoroughly cleaned and flattened.

The gasket originally in the car seemed to be made of something metal like, and brittle. And was in pieces. Whereas both of the new gaskets appeared to be made of card, or some similar compacted fibrous material.

Thermostat rear, all cleaned up.

I got conflicting advice about adding RTV, belt and braces style, to this gasket. I’d done so on the previous newly installed one, and that failed. So this time I just left it at the gasket, and torqued up my nuts – ouch! – to the appropriate degree.

New gasket on, and back together.

And so far so good! She’s holding. No major coolant issues since I did this.

Whilst at BOFI, I enquired re a complete engine bay hose set. And they have them in, at roughly £100. That’s something I’ll do as soon as funds allow. There is another lesser coolant leak, coming from the very old and worn out main radiator hose (the radiator end clip of which is busted!).

I’ve taken her out for several runs since things have been brought to a satisfactory conclusion. Having my wheels back is sheer bliss!

MX5 Cam-belt & Gasket, cont

Yet another strip down and rebuild!

At this point I’m starting to lose count of how many times I’ve taken stuff apart and put it all back together. But I guess it’s all good, in a way? As with repetition comes better facility.

I’m posting this in its proper timeline sequence, but retrospectively. And as a result I’m a bit sketchy on detail. But I think at this point I had the engine back to life, running. But it wasn’t sounding strong or healthy.

Behind the harmonic damper, lies the four-toothed trigger wheel.

I.e. the timing was still out somehow. My intuition told me that it was probably the trigger wheel. which can be seen behind the harmonic damper in the above image. Just two of the teeth are visible in this shot.

In removing all of this stuff initially – trigger wheel, damper/pulleys, and central crankshaft wheel – I’d needed to use mucho persuasion! This lead to the trigger wheel getting somewhat deformed, by the time I’d banged/prised it orff…

I used numerous hammers, mainly large heavy soft-headed types, and some vice compression action, to flatten the bugger! And then I re-installed it, making sure it was properly aligned: concave face forward, convex rearward, locator pin in hole, and engine TDC, resulting in the top tooth (of just four!) being just past 12 o’clock.

Checking timing alignment hasn’t shifted out of whack.

With the trigger wheel replaced and hopefully now in its proper position, I had to once again set up the timing. By now I’m getting quite good at this. That said, it’s always hard work!


I didn’t super document any of this, given I’d done it all before. Instead I photographed the bits that were specific to the days’s work

Pictured below was a bit of lower engine detail I’d missed before. The plastic clip and metal doodad I’m holding should be affixed to part of the three-part front engine cover, which protects the cam-belt and pulleys. but two thirds of that isn’t back on, due to it being k-nackered!

A sundry fixing item, to be removed.

Once this fixture was removed I cable-tied the lead out of harms way. All of this business required, once again, the drainage and removal of the radiator and various pipes and hoses.

A rather pricey Mazda plastic radiator plug.

Having lived with a bodged radiator plug fix up till now, the arrival of a new genuine Mazda radiator plug was most welcome. There they are, directly below, and facing the same way. The old one is completely jiggered!

Old and busted vs the ‘new hotness’!

With the trigger wheel properly installed, and the new radiator plug allowing a coolant refill, I took her around the block, and then parked her up in her accustomed spot. And all was well! (Aside from the persistent coolant leak!)

Finally she’s off the drive and back on’t road!

By close of play today the engine was running much more smoothly. And where before she’d struggled as you increased revs, she was now sounding consistently healthy across the whole range. Result!

MX5 Cam-belt & Gasket, cont

Spark-plugs reminder photo.
Working in dazzling sunshine.
Note that banjo bolt (rear of VVT) leaketh not!
Later in’t day, torch now required.
Happy grease monkey; engine starts!

And lo, it came to pass, that ye olde engine was fix-ed! Hence the happy mien, and Churchillian two finger salute above. The image below is just a reminder of an earlier – and at this point gratifyingly absent – OBD fault diagnosis.

Adopts Inspector Clouseau voice ‘Yes, I know that, you fool!’

But at this point I still have a major coolant leak.

Free Speech: Wit, Humour, Quotations, and The Idiot Robots of FB*

* And their compliant human drones.

Oh dear, the humourless idiot machines are winning!

It’s kind of shocking when one learns that films like Idiocracy turn out not to be mere satire, but Über-Nostrodamian prophecies, or even just simple documentaries.

As Iain Overton says, in his book, The Price Of Freedom, and others do elsewhere (for example Sam Harris, in The End of Faith), the responses to perceived threats are sometimes more damaging – usually by dint of curtailing the freedoms of the more docile many in order to supposedly more fully control the errant few – than the threats that supposedly prompt them into existence.

So I can’t make a particular joke, quoting Count Arthur Strong, in a FB group dedicated to him, because a human will do the bidding of a robot that doesn’t understand or can’t differentiate between my innocent humour – and let’s not forget it’s a quote, so it’s not even me saying the allegedly egregious thing – and a genuine incitement to violence.

This is of course utterly ridiculous. Those intent on acting out violence will both do so, and find ways to express themselves, regardless of what anybody else does. And such folk are, thankfully, are a very small minority.

Meanwhile, a much larger and more benign majority have their freedoms curtailed, in a very real way, and to no real benefit. The idea that maybe one day we’ll be the slaves of robots is grotesquely outdoated. We already are!

And, in a tip of the reality had to the apparently ludicrous fantasies of The Matrix series of films – whose overall adolescence of aesthetics rather undercuts the more sinister and prescient ideas about what constitutes reality, and our relationships with technology – we, the soft machines, are already becoming the willing collaborators and enforcers of this joyless, soulless, brainless automaton culture.

My reply to the citing of ‘evidence’ re a former ‘offender’.

It doesn’t bode well for the future of the species!

Little did I expect it to be a flippant and lighthearted response to a Count Arthur themed post, in a Count Arthur based group, that would bring this home so forcefully!

Adopting the CA voice, ‘Well, I mean… is it any wonder we tire of this ceaseless handholding? And you robots, you have to meet us at least halfway. Honestly, you couldn’t make this stuff up!’

MX5, Cam-belt & Gasket, Day 7

How things looked at the start of today.
My radiator coolant plug, with temp’ repair.

Today I didn’t do that much on the car. I re-filled the radiator with coolant. My sealant gasket fix of the radiator sump plug seems to be working, which is great (although I also have a brand new plug on the way to me).

I made this tool for securing the plug!*

I also torqued the crankshaft main bolt, to 160 NM, which required dropping the sway bar again, and removing some o’ the upper pipe works. And then, not forgetting to reconnect the negative terminal on the battery, it was time to have another go at starting her up. I was totally convinced it would be exactly as before, and not work at all!

So it was gobsmackingly amazing when the engine actually fired and turned over. I’m not a religious man, but… Hallelujah! Seems my timing belt change was successful after all. Sadly this state of bliss didn’t last long; the engine, whilst running, sounded bally awful, spluttering and struggling. So I switched her off, pronto.

Going round to the engine bay revealed an almost explosive looking oil leak had occurred at the rear of the engine. So I had to clean that up, and then take off and re-seat the cam cover. Whilst I was at it I cleaned up and removed the previous gasket sealant. I then refreshed the latter, with a new application, and re-seated the cam cover. Sadly I don’t have a small/low enough torque wrench for the final buttoning up.

The small torque wrench set I’ve just ordered.

So I’ve ordered a smaller (5-25NM) torque wrench, via Amazon (pictured above). That ought to arrive tomorrow. Once I’ve torqued off all the bolts topside, it’ll be time to try again. Third time lucky!?

I’ve learned a lot, and enjoyed working on the car. That said, there were some hairy/sweary moments. And occasionally it was too much like hard work. That one episode where I worked on one nut/bolt for about three hours was not a favourite moment!

And we’re still not there yet. There are at least three things still outstanding: 1) Have I sorted out the oil leak? 2) There’s also a very slight drip-drip-drip type coolant leak from somewhere on the thermostat housing (despite the new gasket). 3) Did I bugger the trigger-wheel when struggling to get the crankshaft pulley off?

Oblong is sensor; note single tooth on trigger wheel!

This last is a bit of a worry, as it concerns the accuracy of the timing, as did the whole cam-belt replacement shenanigans. Apparently it can quite easily by put on the wrong way round. It’s also supposed to be quite specifically aligned. I’m not sure mine is right in any of these respects!?

My thoughts at close of play today are that I’ll have to wait for the smaller torque wrench, then tighten off ye engine and try it again. If she runs and doesn’t haemorrhage oil again, I’ll take her for a shirt run around the block. But I’ll most likely need to get her to a garage to have someone competent look over her… hmmm!?

A trigger wheel off’t interweb.

And finally, what about work? Last Friday I did a full days’ teaching, for the first time in two weeks. My journeys were long and very arduous: two trains, a bus, and a long walk either end of the day, with a taxi journey in the middle!

Will I be able to teach tomorrow? It looks unlikely. I don’t want to lose that school and those pupils! Perhaps, if I get the car running tomorrow, all will be well and back to normal? But what about getting to a garage and checking the trigger wheel, etc?

* It didn’t work, sadly. So I wound up using a pair of circlip pliers, instead.