Monthly Archives: February 2012

The Apprentice Caravanner

I can hear the rain bouncing off the velox window tonight – time to think of better things ūüôā

It’s five years this month since I bought my first caravan – an Eriba Troll.

She was lovely inside and out —

That was when I decided to leave England where¬†I had been living for the past thirteen years and retire to my native Scotland. A long haul mostly on the M6 brought me over the¬†Border at Carlisle and I made the spur of the moment decision to swing left at Gretna and go visit Portpatrick by Stranraer cos I’d heard so much about how beautiful it is.

I wasn’t¬†going to make it in one day so I started looking for a caravan site for an overnight stay by the time¬†I reached Dumfries. I was a few miles past the town when I saw signs for Barnsoul off to the right. A three and half mile drive down country lanes lanes brought me to Barnsoul Farm and¬†Wildlife Centre. They also had a caravan site and I booked in for one night.

That was the best night’s sleep I’d had in¬†yonks so I went down to the office the following morning and booked in for a month —

The ‘wildlife’ were truly wild! Red squirrels, roe deer, woodpeckers¬†and several other spieces. On my first walk¬†towards the hills¬†I came across two roe deer but they were gone before I could flash my camera at them. Further on I spotted a bunch of Llamas running wild in a wooded area further up the slope —

My next surprise was to find this monument to the Covenanters¬†below the summit of Skeoch Hill —

It was a reminder that three thousand local people worshipped on that bare hillside¬†back in the 16th century¬†when¬†they were being hunted down and killed – dare I say ‘murdered’ by the King’s Redcoats.

Further on by Glenkiln Reservoir¬†I came across John the Baptist by French sculpture Rodin striding across the hillside as naked as the day he was born —

I¬†returned to the campsite via an Iron Age fort on the hilltop —

With views across the caravan park to the rolling Galloway Hills beyond —

Cycling on the country roads was tough but there were beautiful sights round every corner —

I just had to keep telling myself that exercise was good for me ūüôā

I never did reach Portpatrick with the caravan but I have been there many times since on the motorbikes ūüôā

Footnote; My Eriba was two years old when I bought her direct from the importers near Oxford  The first photo with my Eriba set up complete with the awning was at Barnsoul right at the start of my journey.

The next two pics showing the exterior and interior were taken three years¬†and three months later after I toured europe as far as Croatia and virtually lived in¬†the caravan¬†full time. Testament to how well this van was constructed with it’s tubular skeleton frame chassis and aircraft style alluminuim cladding. Such a pity that the Eriba is no longer in production.

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Posted by on February 26, 2012 in out and about


Armchair Pilot flies Again

Yep – the armchair pilot flies again. This time in a Vickers Vimy Replica of a bomber built for the first world war.

The¬†plane arrived too late due to problems with engine supply to have much input in the¬†outcome of the war but it did go on to set long distance records in peacetime. Amongst them were the first trans-atlantic flight by Alcock & Brown. The first flight from England to Australia and¬†an attempt to fly from England to Capetown. The latter doesn’t really count as the pilots had one plane go down with engine failure.¬†A second plane was borrowed¬†but crashed and broke up¬†on landing at Bulawayo.¬†The intrepid pilots carried on in a third borrowed plane of a different make to reach Capetown.

In 1992¬†a vintage aeroplane enthusiast – Peter McMillan got the bug to replicate these journeys and¬†didn’t stop untill he had dunnit – with a little help from his friends. First he took the original plans for the aircraft¬†to the US where he¬†built a replica from the ground up. He got round the engine problem by fitting¬†latter day¬†BMW units. Mr McMillan went bust twice during the proccess of building and flying the plane.

Photo of Vickers Vimy Replica NX71MY – origin unknown.

In 1994 McMillan and Lang Kidby replicated the original historic multi-stop flight from England to Australia in their Vickers Vimy Replica NX71MY.

In 1999 they successfully completed the multistop flight from England to Capetown with their same Vickers Vimy Rep NX71MY.

In 2005 Steve Fosset and Mark Rebhilz flew from Newfoundland to Ireland in Vickers Vimy Rep NX71MY. A successfull completion of the first Transatlantic flight by the original Vickers Vimy six months after the end of hostilities in 1918.

Steve Fosset, the intrepid Adventurer Рholder of over 100 world records including circum-navigating the world Phileas Fogg style in a hot air balloon was to lose his life while flying solo in a light aircraft in the Sierra Nevada Mountains in 2008.

Here is Vickers Vimy NX71MY flying over Brooklands – photo courtesy of Jamiestar

Why now? Tonight Peter McMillan will¬†be recognised for his efforts at the Royal Geographical Society Museum in Kensington, London. Let’s hope he also¬†replenishes his bank account with the procceeds from the sale of the book about his epic¬†20 year¬†journey to replicate the¬†flights of those early pioneers in aviation.

The book is aptly named Journey’s End. No doubt my kids will bring me a copy bought on Amazon when they make their once a year visit from their ‘busy’ lives just¬†before Christmas. I’ll thank them nicely and won’t tell ’em I’ve¬†already had a signed First Edition from my good friend Peter so that¬†I can¬†build the plane and fly his routes from the comfort of my armchair ūüôā

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Posted by on February 23, 2012 in out and about


The Burns Supper

My first Burns Supper and it won’t be my last!¬†I can be notoriously insular but Rabbie with the help of a few drams has a way of being a great leveller and at the end of the day ‘a man’s a man for a’ that’.

The speakers tonight were fantastic and my learned companions ensured I had a seat at the centre of the festivities. The guy on the right is Bill Nolan who gave the speech to ‘Immortal Memory’ – and how! Bill makes it¬† his life’s work to carry the spirit of Rabbie Burns around the world and he certainly captured mine.

Their was a large contingent from the Irvine branch and it was there that Rabbie had found his initial support which led to his work being published. The connection with Kirkcudbright is that an Edinburgh based Kirkcubright chap was the main man in having Rabbie accepted into the broad scheme of English Literature..

And hey – what about this! The dress code meant I had to wear a tin flute for the first time in many – many years

I was surprised to find it still fitted me ūüôā

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Posted by on February 19, 2012 in out and about


More from the Armchair Pilot

More from the Armchair Pilot

Probably the slowest attack plane from the second world war was the Fairey Swordfish which was primarily used to launch torpedoes, initially at surface ships and later at submarines. One notable success was a hit on the mighty Bismark.

Not bad going for a biplane that was originally developed from a civilian design to become a spotter – reconnaissonce plane for the Fleet Air Arm.

The pilots must have needed nerves of steel to fly the required long, straight, low-level approach in what was little more than a concoction of string, wire and balsawood before launching their torpedo, especially at a target like the Bismarck bristling with armaments. Brave men and women!

Back to World War One and recognised as¬†the most successful RAF fighter plane of that period was the Sopwith Camel. First flown in December 1916 it was pressed into service in 1917 when thirteen squadrons were equipped with them. Unfortunately it proved to be a pig to learn to¬†fly and many student pilots were lost during training. The main problem was that 90% ot the biplane’s weight was built into the first seven feet of fuselage making take-off difficult. Armaments consisted of fixed twin Vickers .303¬†machine guns firing through the prop.

Records don’t show how many Sopwiths were brought down when their machine guns went out of sync and shot their own¬†props off —

Once the weight distribution and gyroscopic effect of the rotary engine were mastered the¬†Top Guns had their day with 1294 enemy aircraft being accounted for by the agile but eccentric Sopwith Camel.¬†There was a high attrition rate amongst the Camel’s too and I think it would be fair to¬†assume that¬†the overall result of the¬†fight in the air over the battlefields was a draw.

Sopwith Camel in flight courtesy of

Thanks to Wilkipedia for info and photos.

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Posted by on February 16, 2012 in out and about


The Armchair Pilot

The Armchair Pilot

The armchair pilot – that’s me – dreaming about the planes I would love to fly.

We’re this side of the pond this morning with Bristol Bulldog, the staple fighter for the Royal Air Force¬†in the nineteen twenties and early thirties.The Bulldog never saw combat duties with the RAF but was sent to Abyssinia in 1935-36¬†to reinforce the war effort during the then middle east crisis.

The Bristol Bulldog was also the plane that Douglas Bader was flying during unofficial aerobatics at Woodley Airfield near Reading when he crashed, leading to the loss of both legs.

and another bi-plane – an RAF Trainer¬†in the thirties – the Tiger Moth —

As¬†I was heading towards the end of my useful working life I was fortunate to find a job in charge of ground ops on a small airfield down south. When I wasn’t moving and re-fueling the flying school aircraft – cutting the grass alongside the runway – manning the radio¬†– Oscar Tango Foxtrot – and attending to my¬†Chief Fire Officer duties I would pick the bones out of a crashed Tiger Moth dumped in the corner of the hanger looking for useful¬†parts that could be used again. There weren’t many! When these things hit the ground they disintegrate! Most of the body parts look like they were¬†made¬†out of balsa wood on a kitchen table. It’s strength seems to arrive when the¬† skin is stretched over it.

Lovely planes though.

Pictures courtesy of Wilkipedia – thank you.

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Posted by on February 15, 2012 in out and about


Scallop Beamer

I put a post on here with photos of the old scallop beamer Susan Bird featured recently.

We are into the short scallop season now and today she was unloading at the quayside when I walked past —

Being an old boat without a¬†hydraulic crane for off-loading, the bags of scallops come out of the hold in bundles of four instead of tens¬†as on the modern boats. Gives the¬†crew an easier time as the bags¬†all have to be man-handled on to pallets when they come ashore.¬†I didn’t spot if it was a winch powered hoist or a capstan they were lifting the bags out with which gives me the excuse to go back for a look another day.

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Posted by on February 14, 2012 in out and about


Am I a Pilot?

Am I a Pilot?

Am I a pilot? Yes – the armchair variety ūüôā

I admire vintage machinery – especially old airplanes and the people who flew them.

The Boeing Stearman — over eight and a half thousand of them were built. They were mainly used as trainers with a team of four making up the Red Baron Military Aerobatic Team.

Thanks to albSpotter Flugzeugbilder Photos for the Stearman pic.

The Grumman FF-1 or Fifi as she was affectionately known – the first fighter with retractable undercarriage —

Both built in the thirties but soon to be superceded by faster mono-plane designs.

The Grumman photo is courtesy of Wilkipedia.

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Posted by on February 13, 2012 in out and about


Banana Katana

Isn’t the internet amazing – delve into old Suzuki’s and all sorts of wonderful things turn up —

Suzuki produced the Katana in both 750 and 1100 forms – they had more than a few weaknesses but that hasn’t stopped enthusiasts from re-building them as works of art —

They actually look rideable – especially this second one from Michael in Germany with it’s¬†180x17ins rear – GS1100 motor and lot’s more gubbins fitted. For more info check¬†


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Posted by on February 12, 2012 in Uncategorized



TZ 750 Streetfighter

Another one from my mail box this morning —

Makes my GSX-R 600 streetfighter look like an unfinished kiddie’s toy!

I need to find this Swedish blogger and put a link to his website on here pronto.

Thanks again in the meantime ūüôā

TZ750 Streetfighter

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Posted by on February 12, 2012 in Uncategorized



Suzuki GS1000S

Well what do you know?

Look what I found when I checked my Spam pile this morning —

Someone spotted my Wes Cooley Rep post and¬†has sent me this photo of an original Suzuki GS 1000 – ok the name on the tank has been reversed but I can live with that because it’s such a beautiful bike. I didn’t know them in their heyday because I was working in Africa and the Middle East¬†during the seventies and played at trials riding when¬†I came back to the UK in the eighties. Big muscled road bikes were a foreign territory to me at that time.

And links to a Swedish Suzuki enthusiasts website got me this Wes Cooley Rep photo —

Thanks for this pic too¬†– it’s lovely – I am well pleased ūüôā

Suzuki GS1000S

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Posted by on February 12, 2012 in Uncategorized