OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA I’m working towards my final carpentry project and as usual, using hand tools as much as possible; much to the disgust of my employer. One of the tools they disapprove of is this ‘Record No. A51′ spokeshave, inherited from my granddad (who featured here). It is looking a little battered and due for a repaint but still working well after at least seventy years of use.

I’ve found a surprising amount of jobs for it to do these last few months. Will have to smuggle it into the exam room next year.

[Edited for typos… Sorry about that]


While on my way to an appointment in our local big town, I came across this.

For the benefit of our local councillors I should explain that this is called a ‘cycle lane’, and is a place where ‘bicycles’ can be used safely and conveniently by people of all ages and abilities.

Significantly this is part of a ‘cycle network’ which means lots of these are connected together, so that people have a choice of transport mode and don’t have to use a car.

I can explain the concept in detail if any local government officials are having difficulty with it. Judging by past experience I suspect that is most of them.

Theory exams are over: no more revision and maths equations, hurrah…

Day one was ‘general exams': Business Studies, humanities and German. I am pretty sure the person writing the business studies exam wrote it for a different course, possibly in a parallel universe, but I muddled through.

There had been rumours of a ‘creative writing’ question for German, but I’d not taken much notice, so I was rather surprised to find one in the exam paper. I don’t know if I passed but I did have at least enjoy myself.

I have occasional panic attacks in exams, and on this occasion one kicked in about an hour an a half into the two-hour ‘important’ exam on day two. (obviously, no point in panicking in an unimportant exam, is there?) It is most frustrating to read a question, know that I understand it, know that I know the answer and should be able to write it straight away and move on, but to not have the foggiest idea what the answer is.

Day three was two hours of Technical drawing. I made a couple of mistakes but they were relatively small, (forgot to show the direction of the grain in a veneer tut, tut…) so hopefully that will pull my grades up to a more acceptable level.

And… relax….

Not quite. I have to present my idea for the final project to my employer next week, so I have to prepare the proposal, with reasons I’d like to do what I want to do. Thankfully some long suffering friends have already corrected/translated the text, so all I need to do now is take one last photo and put it in ready to print. The photo is of a prototype that I haven’t quite finished building yet, but that is a minor detail.


At the height of apple season I found one of the trees about to break under the weight of fruit. Not wanting to be the one to tell our landlord that we’d killed one of his beloved apple trees, I improvised this temporary support with extra padding so the wood wasn’t damaged.

As the late Douglas Adams said, you should always know where your towel is.

The next day I came back wit the cyclists solution to all things broken: used inner tubes.



This is the most interesting picture I could make of ‘revising for a carpentry exam’. As you probably know, the actual revision is even less exciting. I’m still hiding away from distractions like the internet, hence woodwork bench in the background.

All the theory exams are next week because obviously the best way to see if someone has understood two and a bit years of learning is to give them a couple of hours of multiple choice questions.

Today was supposed to be Business Studies revision, leaving the next two days free for doing maths. Except that with perfect timing, I’ve picked up a cold, I’m thoroughly groggy and can’t think straight.

Urg. Whine.


Living car free is easy, but the expectations of the car culture around us can be a problem. For example, when I have to get to several different places in a short period of time, and the public transport connection is just too tight or too long to be sure of making the appointments.

Enter the commuter bike which finds itself dumped at some distant tram or bus stop where I’d never dream of leaving my Xtracycle, while I follow some complex itinerary to get where I need to go.

Here it is towards the end of a rather complex journey involving two appointments in different places which required a round trip on several busses, trams and trains.

With exams in a week, my days are taken up with revising and doing more maths equations than I ever had to complete for high school.

I’m still ‘off sick’ and likely to continue that way for some time, which is a blessing in disguise as I wouldn’t have managed to learn half as much if I was at work. Wanting to take full advantage of this unexpected extra time, I’ve taken to revising in ‘my’ carpentry workshop which keeps me away from the distractions of the internet and other things.

bedprog_01On the other hand, working next to the workbench means breaks are taken up doing something useful. The replacement section for Youngest Son’s bed is coming on nicely, and providing me with practice material for the practical exam in the new year. That sounds almost plausible if you read it quickly.


With a little help from the end user himself. I can’t blame Youngest Son for the dodgy join in the foreground: that was all my own work. Fortunately it won’t be visible at the end.

Besides, if you want perfect, you can go to a shop…


The newest member of the family in profile. Estimated time of arrival is December the second.

The exciting bit of news I hinted at last week is that we have another tiny person due to join the madness here in a mere five weeks. Beautiful Wife has a beach ball tummy with a very wriggly occupant who has already managed to kick, or possibly elbow, at least one of his or her elder brothers in the ear.

Preparations have been going on for some time: I’m trying to make a way to fit the baby car seat into the Bakfiets, and Eldest Son and I spent a chunk of this morning building a borrowed crib. How we will fit this into our already cramped bedroom is a detail which we have yet to work out.

Another detail is a name: All the boys have a vaguely Germanic first name and a Celtic middle name, which causes consternation to the school because their systems don’t allow for a middle name and then the teachers can’t pronounce them. We seem to be getting stuck this time, still, there’s five weeks to go yet…

One of those weeks is full of exams. Must remember that bit…

A lot of things are happening, or about to happen: Not all are relevant to a blog about cycling and trying to live simply, but they’ll probably have affect my blogging so I’m going so I thought I’d tell my loyal reader in advance.

Number one is that as of last week, the end of my carpentry apprenticeship moved from June of next year to the end of January. I finished the paperwork just in time, actually a bit too late but as it was the college who made the suggestion they pulled a few strings and persuaded the trade guilds to agree.

After I’d signed the paperwork I looked at a calender and realised that  my final exams are now in three weeks. And I need to know the stuff that I’ll not be taught in the third year. Thankfully I’m still ‘off sick’ so I can focus on revising.

There are various reasons for this, one of which is a lot more exciting. I’ll talk about that at some point, as soon as I’ve done some revision…

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