A Special Builder's Notes


The Special Builder's Breakfast Club

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26 August 2015

All Rush 'n' Tear

The trip to Nordenham was slightly more convoluted than at first anticipated. Instead of being dropped off on the way past from Sweden, we carried on to the Hook of Holland as there was some uncertainty about when the German job might begin (by the time we'd got to the Hook, the confirmation had come through). We docked in Harwich at 5.00am, I dropped my colleague off and went to the works to collect a different set of magnetising equipment, then picked up another magneteer and was back in Calais (we had to go back the long way round as the Harwich ferry was fully booked) by 5.00pm.

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The trip home wasn't without interest though as we took in the gliding club at Terlet, near Arnhem. The club house was set on higher ground and right on the approach to the landing area - good for pictures - and there was an interesting mix of old and new gliders popping in and out.

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When we arrived in the early evening to board the ferry home, this platform was being towed down the estuary by a couple of tugs. It's quite difficult to grasp that these leviathans can actually float.

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After a night stop in Ghent, we arrived in Nordenham late afternoon the following day and set up shop. Our tin hut at the end of the gantry, out over the River Weser, looked at first rather uninviting and with wall-to-wall sunshine had every prospect of turning into an oven. However, a good 10kt breeze and a lowering sky kept us comfortable and although everything swayed about a bit, it was a good vantage point to watch the river traffic.

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Our Works Manager, in Nordenham the week before us, had the good fortune to see and take pictures of the Tall Ships as they went by on his watch.

And while I was wondering where this railway went, it dawned on me that the whole point of being posted to Germany is so that you can buy a sensible bicycle. My father bought his first bicycle, a Rudge-Whitworth, in 1934 and it's still in use today at my brother's factory in Norfolk. It's a proper job; you sit up straight - no hunching over the handlebars with all your weight on your wrists, and the rake on the steering is perfect for no-hands, free-wheeling. There's also an old and very comfortable Brooks saddle; a far cry from the dangerous looking affairs on modern equipment.

I don't know why it is that you don't see many old-fashioned bicycles anymore. On a Sunday breakfast run in the Specials, we might pass several groups out for a bit of supposedly healthy exercise, all of them heads down, sweating away over dropped handlebars with their backs and necks contorted in an effort to see where they're going. It looks pretty torturous to me. Many years ago I read that the collective noun for a group of cyclists is, 'bottom'. If the current a la mode is anything to go by, that's unfortunate.

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There are two cycle shops in Nordenham and I popped into the smaller one to check the stock. To my delight, a bicycle that exactly suited my requirements was in the window and at half the cost of an identical machine in the UK.

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It's so comfortable to ride, it's not the sort of thing you want to tear about on.

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