Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Garage completed

Today the last part of the work on the garage was finally completed. The contractor returned to fit the downpipes to the guttering, and that was the job done.

But that is not how I know the job is done - I know it's done because of the bill that landed through the letterbox :)

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Garage update

Over the last 5-6 weeks not much happened with the garage, it was waiting for the plasterer to return. Saturday two weeks ago the electrician came and put in the first fix electric, and couldn't go any further until the two remaining walls were plastered.

This week the plasterer returned, and finished off the two internal walls. With the reasonable weather outside he was able to dash some more too, and a couple more days outside should get the dashing done. Then it's just the bases to rub up.

Yesterday the electrician returned to start the second fix, and got on fairly well, although there is still a few hours work left.

No pictures I'm afraid, as the daylight hours are few, and by the time I remember to take some each day it is dark :)

Thursday, October 29, 2009

A week off

We have all been off work and school this week, and as usual we have been busy. I had quite a bit of tidying up to do to the paved area, and I had managed to get a Saturday or two at it, but what I needed was a sustained effort. I started on Monday, and finished this morning.

Lots of the edge flags had been cut, but not placed, and it took quite a bit of preparation to make the area ready for them. The adjacent sand and cement mix had hardened and needed chiseled out to enable new mix to be laid to bed in the edging.

There were kerbs to be laid for the edge at the
front, so we got that done too, and placed the flags in behind them.

the most challenging cutting I had to do was the bit around the manhole. This was tricky because the slabs that had been left out created a space that wasn't really very square, and also cutting slabs to fit inside the manhole cover was extremely delicate. Worth it in the end.

The doorstep at the patio was also finished, just this morning. I had to build the edge and then fill in the centre with concrete, and when that had hardened I laid the paving stones.

The plasterer has also been here, but only for two days, and has most of
the inside rubbed up, and all four corners done now. Lets hope it doesn't rain tonight!

Friday, October 16, 2009

Roof Tiles

After another bit of a break the contractor was back today and got the roof tiled. They intended to do it last Friday, but it was such a miserable day they just gave up and went home.

Today the tiles went on at an incredible rate, and late in the afternoon they had it finished.

As a bonus the plasterer arrived today, and by the end of the day he had three of the exterior walls scratched.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

At the beach

This morning instead of my normal Sunday lie-in I decided I would take advantage of the moderate Westerly wind and head to the beach.

I arrived at the beach just after sunrise, and had a reasonable session, although the waves were a little too huge for me. For the first time I was riding a little in my bad direction.

I can't wait until I'm out with some of the more experienced guys again, 'cause I'll be looking for some advice, and also its a little scary being out there on your own. If you lose your board, or get into any sort of trouble, you have no help, so I was being cautious, staying within my depth at all times etc. What I really need to do at this stage is start off out beyond the breaking waves, so I have more uninterrupted water to practice in. The problem with that further out, better water is that it is so much more dangerous.

Out of the water and packed up for just after 9am, driving back across the beach I spotted Alan, who is one of the other regulars. Spoke briefly, and left him to it, apparently he had a good session too. Can't wait until next time!

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Trusses on!

Today the trusses were put on. Yesterday the workmen were back and started the work, but really just got the preparation work completed. Today they came back, and very quickly finished the job.
The brickies were also back and almost finished off the pillars at the road. Just the pillar caps to go on.

The good thing about seeing the trusses on was that I could see the size of the room it gives above the garage - that's the place that all the stuff w
e should throw out, but will keep for years will stay. It will be a good size of a room.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Step foundation

The slow progress continues on the paved area. Today we used the mixer that the builders have left to mix some concrete for the foundation of a step at the conservatory doors.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Best day yet.

In March, when Marty and I were in California for 3 weeks with work we were determined to have a good holiday, as well as doing whatever work had to get done. Every day when we went somewhere we enjoyed it more than the previous day, Big Bear, Sunset Beach, San Diego, Vegas, Grand Canyon, Beverly Hills. Each day we acknowledged that we'd had the 'best day yet'. Well, today was another 'best day yet'.

A few months ago the guys at scoobyireland had arranged to hold a "rolling road" day, and today was that day. It had finally come round; it's something I've always wanted to do, I would have loved to have put my GTE Astra on the rollers as I'm sure it was pulling close to 200bhp.

Anyway, headed off this morning for AI Autosport near Randalstown, and was the first one there, so got first shot on the rollers. I'd hoped this wouldn't happen as it would have been nice to see what goes on before actually going. Phil reversed the car onto the rollers and they got it tied down with ratchet straps. Because my car was the first of the day the rollers had to be heated up, so he took the car up to 100mph and ran it there for a few minutes.

Then the run began, the car is held at 3000rpm for a few seconds to calibrate the machine, af
ter which the operator lets it rev lower, and then floors it. The graph is updated live on the machine, although its hard to see what is actually happening on the screen; there is so much information.

My car ran twice, once on SUL, and once on LPG. I was really curious about both runs because the car has 135000 miles on it, and IMO it has never really been going 100%, so I was expecting less than the stock 208bhp for the petrol, and slightly more on the LPG as it has a higher octane rating (apparently).

Wrong. 251bhp (219 at the wheels) on the SUL, and 240 (203 at the wheels) on the LPG.
Fantastic result, and although it cost £70 for the two runs, I think it was a good economy, as I was thinking about a chip, or boost controller, but sure now I don't need one, I'm already 20% over stock power!

Next it was off to Benone for a spot of kitesurfing. It was alright, first ride was the best going slightly upwind, after that it was a series of sinking, or crashing into waves etc. Then the wind died etc, so not a great session, but great to get out again for the first time in 3 weeks, after our wind drought!

Finally I have just spent over 7 hours painting in the living room. It's well overdue as with a coal fire burning there is a lot of soot. Now its got a nice fresh coat of paint. Actually found the job strangely enjoyable today, I'm sure that feeling couldn't last!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Garage - Day 5 - Brickwork complete

The brickies finished off the brickwork of the garage today, so we have to wait for a week for the trusses to arrive.

While the brickies were here we decided to put their skills to good use, and they finished off the copings on the wall. This was probably a wise decision, as it took them about a full day in total, so I don't think I could have done nearly as good a job.

After marking out the sizings for the pillars and wall at the road we got the foundations dug and poured today. Now all we need is the building done!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Garage - Day 4

More work on the garage today, and we also marked out at the roadside where we hope to put pillars and a wall.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Garage - Day 1

The workers arrived today to start the garage. I expect it'll not take them long to put it up, at least they're getting great weather for starting.

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Moving shed

In preparation for the garage getting built we had to clear out the accumulated rubbish from the foundations. For the most part this meant lifting wood and other rubbish, but the biggest item was the garden shed, which was a quite substantial task.

After preparing the path we got the heavy lifting machinary in and got it delicately balanced on the forks. Matthew kindly drove it all the way around to its new resting position, where it will stay until the real garage gets done.

Now we just have to wait for the builders to turn up :)

Thursday, September 03, 2009


On day 4 out on the water I'm finally riding, only short distances, but still up. Once I made it over several waves, and couldn't believe how I got over each one! Looking forward to getting out again...

Friday, August 28, 2009

On the water again

The wind was just right again tonight, so I was back at Benone to pick up where I left off. This time I was able to go short distances before falling. I'm not ready for any competitions yet, but at least a little progress is encouraging! No pics or vids tonight, the multimedia crew let me down!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

On the water - just about!

After months of waiting for wind that was the correct strength and the correct direction I saw the forecast for tonight, and left work as early as possible. On arrival at the beach at Benone I was pleased (although a little intimidated) to see three kiters already out on the water.

I headed over and parked up, introduced myself, and began to get set up.

After my first few disastrous attempts on the water one of the fellows came over and offered some advice, so I tried that for a while, until the handle came off at one side! Fortunately it was just a loose screw and I was quickly back in action.

Hours, and lots of attempts later, with more advice I was making some progress, "riding" for short distances before either sinking or being pulled over on my face.

I definitely am absolutely no good at this sport, but it definitely is the most fun I've had!

Unfortunately there are no pictures of me up on the board, one person suggested that it was because there wasn't a fast enough setting on the camera!

Thursday, August 13, 2009


Last night we had the contractor who built our house back to give us a price for building a garage. Hopefully it'll come in at something reasonable, but we'll wait and see.

It is quite a coincidence today 6 years ago we had his quantity surveyor here pricing up the build of the main house. Link here:

Monday, August 10, 2009

Ozone Imp Quattro 1.5

New kite for the kids arrived today, its an Ozone Imp which is designed to be an introductory kite, and its perfect for learners. It flys really nicely, right around the window, but never has too hard a pull, exactly what I wanted. Good fun for me too!

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Google car

Today on my way home I spotted the google car here. So when the streetview goes live check for a bule impreza in the middle of Greysteel, that'll be me!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Rust in my gas!

Today I finally got a change to return to Automotive Gas Systems in Portadown to see what was wrong with my autoGas conversion on the impreza.

After spending a while looking at it they discovered rust residue in two of the solenoids. They asked where I got my gas, as they said this can happen when people fill it from home gas tanks. I assured them that all the gas I got came from the two local Texaco garages in Coleraine.

Well, anyway, they replaced the two valves, and reset the ECU so we were on our way.

The ECU reset means we need another trip back, as the automatic learning program has to start again. Let's hope it goes better this time!

Monday, July 27, 2009

Rocker cover gasket

About three weeks after I fixed the last oil leak from the crankshaft a new oil leak appeared in my car. This time it was the rocker cover gasket.

The rocker cover gasket in something like a nova, which is probably the last one I have replaced, is a simple job, as the camshaft is at the top of the engine, and it takes about 10 minutes.

The impreza is not so simple, as with a box engine the camshafts are down at the side. So I stripped back the airbox, and the boost solenoid assembly to give me space and eventually managed to get the six bolts and cover off. It took ages to clean the seal as the old rubber gasket had disintegrated and stuck itself all over the place.

Placing the new gasket, and getting the cover back on was a breeze, and I then screwed everything back together, and as always was pleased when I turned the key and heard the engine start. Now all that remains to be seen is if the oil leak has actually gone, and if that is the last one!

Monday, July 20, 2009

First Day

Today I began my employment with Sita in Letterkenny. Quiet day, lots of reading and getting settled in. Seems like a nice place, good people, looking forward into getting settled in properly.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Benone with kite...

Nice and windy today, so we headed to Benone. We went off up the beach where no-one would bother us, and I practiced my one-handed flying, required when in the water with board in one hand and kite in the other. Kate took some pics one of which is above.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

No 747

While moving jobs this summer I had decided to take two weeks off in between employments. As always a list is compiled of things that should be done in the 'holiday'. This year that list had one item - slabs. We had left an area at the side of the house that needed to be laid with patio slabs, so the time had come to do it.

Just today, after 10 days work at the area I laid slab no 747 of 875 - that was the entire interior area completed; now only the cutting remains to be completed.

This is the result of the labour.

Thanks to all who helped, without whose help this could have not been completed in this time!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Another kitesurfing lesson

I waited patiently for today. I had booked a lesson on Friday afternoon, and took off work a bit early, but there was no wind. Then yesterday I waited patiently at Belmont Shore beach, but again, all day, there was no wind. I got up this morning really not expecting anything, but by the time I got to Belmont it was picking up nicely, a 10-12 mph wind was blowing.

I called Nudge, and he met up with me, and we took to the water.

I knew this would be difficult, but after spending almost 3 hours on the water I only made it sort of up, maybe twice. In my mind there were several factors in this:
1) I still can't fly the kite well enough (this is the main one)
2) Everytime I was ready to get up there were huge waves washing over me. I think I swallowed enough sea to avoid eating salt for 4 years.
3) Sting rays [] - apparently there are normally some lurking in the sand below the shallow water. They were on my mind.
4) Apparently it takes everyone a few attempts to learn :)

Having said all of that it was valuable time; having someone standing on the shore shouting encouragement, re-launching the crashed kite, and telling me where I was going wrong was all worthwhile. I will be much more confident at trying it at home now.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Back to CA again

With only 3 weeks of employment left I find myself sitting in an airport waiting on a flight to California, where I will spend the next 2 weeks. That'll be a total of 7 weeks spent in CA this year.

Saturday, May 02, 2009

2800bhp, what a drag

This what 2800 bhp looks like. Quarter mile in about 6 seconds at 220mph, and in that distance using around 6 gallons of fuel.

This is the brawn behind the operation - a V8 engine, no cooling, only runs for a few minutes, then rebuilt after every meet.

Of course, cars that go fast need good brakes. This car has no foot brake (the driver only has two feet, one for the clutch and one for the throttle) so there is a hand brake. More importantly there are two parachutes deployed at the back. These do most of the braking.

Friday, May 01, 2009


Last time I was in California the dinnertime conversation revealed that small earthquakes are not uncommon here, and being here for three weeks I thought I stood a good chance of experiencing one, but it didn't happen.

Tonight at work (I know, I was in the office at 6:11pm on a Friday) things started to shake, not a lot, but enough to notice things moving; I could see the monitors on the desks moving and feel the shaking for a few seconds.

I had a quick google, and came up with a site that listed earthquakes, and their magnitudes. It turns out that it was a 4.4 quake centered near Malibu, about 50 miles away.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Kitesurf lesson

Once again I find myself in the US on travel with work. This time I decided to see if I could get some lessons on kitesurfing, so I headed to the coast looking for kitesurfers. I eventually found a guy in a kite shop who pointed me to Belmont Shore, just north of Sunset Beach (sharing its name with the best TV show ever). 

Upon arrival I met Hank, who owns a kitesurfing shop. He told me to be wary of instructors who had no qualifications or insurance and pointed me to Nudge, who had a cancellation was able to take me for a lesson later that day.

We spent three hours on the beach setting up, taking down, launching and landing focusing a lot on safety. Nudge was able to give me a lot of good tips, and it seemed clear that the new kites make flying very safe and easy. The large amount of depower from the 8m Naish Code we were using made flying very easy, although there was almost not enough wind to fly properly - good for learning though.

What a great afternoon, I learned a lot and had lots of fun. Now I'm looking forward to the next lesson, where I'll get to do some bodydragging in the water....

Friday, February 06, 2009

Goodbye MNZ1221, hello new Astra

Four months ago we decided to change our Passat, and decided to go for a Kia Sportage. This jeep had all the good features of this type of car, but came at a significantly reduced price tag. We went to Roadside Garages, our local Kia dealer in Coleraine. After talking to their salesman we decided to go for a 2005 Sportage. 

After the deal was done we were very satisfied with our new car, well, all apart from the 25-30 MPG, but I suppose that was to be expected.

However about 4 weeks ago the car began to exhibit a fatal fault - every so often it would loose power and stop, but then after about 2 minutes would start and drive as normal. Obviously this was a great concern for our safety, so we contacted the dealer to get it fixed. Well, to cut a long story short the car seemed to have quite a chequered past and after disputes, solicitors, rumours, lies and the occasional fact we managed to strike a deal where they gave us an upgrade to a 2007 Vauxhall Astra.

We picked it up today from the garage. It seems like a very nice, solid car, and hopefully should give us a good length of trouble free motoring. I has only 8000 miles on the clock, which is less than anything we've had before. I think this is a record for the shortest time we have kept a car, but now I have another number plate to remember. Pity, MNZ 1221 was quite easy, even for a "fish brain" like mine!

Monday, January 05, 2009

Goodbye Pipex, hello TalkTalk

After months of gaining courage to do so I have finally signed up to TalkTalk ADSL broadband. I have been with Pipex on an 'unlimited' service for about 4 years now, and have had several reliability issues due to the long length of phone line connecting me to the exchange.

Recently it had been working very in a very satisfactory and stable way. However, it was still costing me about £20/mth for a 512k service. When TalkTalk recently revised their pricing I decided to look again, and after a phonecall from a suitably pushy salesman I signed up. Line rental, all landline phone calls and broadband for £21/mth - a substantial saving.

TalkTalk didn't really inspire confidence with their overzealous sales, but I though it was time to take the plunge as the savings were potentially huge, plus they promised a substantially better service. Well, today it went live, and when I got home I unplugged my trusty Draytek router and plugged in the less than industrial D-Link replacement. Surely enough all the correct lights came on, and when I checked it had connected at just over 1.1M - a great increase on the old speed.

So far, so good - lets hope the high speeds keep up, and that its reliable.