That's where people like the engineer come in. The engineer lives in a caravan on a farm in the next village. I have lived in Norfolk and The Fens since the mid-eighties, but it is only since being here that I have discovered a surprising number of people who live in caravans on farms. Even the farmer and his girlfriend live in a caravan. The engineer has worked all over the world. He has worked on two of the world's three largest supertankers. He has also run a huge vehicle hire operation in South Africa and a pub in the village. He recently bought a house in Bulgaria for £1,500. The engineer's personal needs are modest, much like the farmer. From what I can work out the engineer doesn't actually earn any kind of wage on the farm, but every so often his farmer will give him a cheque to tide him over for a year or two. He fixes things; big farm machinery, little farm machinery, but mostly the personal vehicles of members of his farmer's extended family. Every now and again he needs to get off the farm and away from the demands, so he comes here. He likes to talk and his stories are always interesting and he knows what to do with the spanners and wrenches I have acquired since living on this boat. I have also learned a lot about my BMC 1.5 engine from the engineer. He likes older engines. He can get at the bits and does not need to use outrageously expensive diagnostic devices where computers talk to computers and only let outsiders in on their discoveries on a need to know basis.
|My BMC 1.5 Litre Diesel Engine|
One day the engineer phoned and said we are going to take off the fuel injection pump and have a look at it. "But what about a timing gauge tool?" I asked.
"Don't worry, I have a plan; a cunning plan," he responded and in my imagination he was tapping the side of his nose.
Removal of the fuel injection pump was not straightforward, of course. It required the removal of pipes and connectors, which themselves required the removal of other bits including the fuel filter and the rod that connects the cable from the throttle lever to the engine. We hadn't got very far into the operation when the engineer confessed that repairing the fuel injection pump was no longer an option. A spindle was wobbling where it shouldn't wobble and he diagnosed that it needed to be removed and taken to an holy place to be inspected, dissected, repaired, reassembled and extensively tested. There was such an holy place about thirty miles away. We went. They greeted us with joy when we showed them our sacred artefact. The engineer and another customer engaged in a conversation that made no sense to me at all. I am pretty sure they were discussing my fuel injection pump, because another customer said, "I haven't see one of those for years," and I realised we were on familiar territory. What followed though, was a discussion in an arcane language involving much swapping of numbers, brands, styles and processes and of which I understood not one word.
Three or four days later we returned to an holy place to retrieve the rejuvenated pump. The engineer was worried that it might cost as much as £100, so I needed to be there with my credit card. The engineer was wrong. The full service and refurbishment cost £260 and, in a state of shock, we returned to the boat where the engineer could distract me from my silence once more with his amazing depth of knowledge and skill. With no timing gauge tool (and I still have no comprehension of what one of these might look like or even do - I just knew we needed one) the engineer said that we were going to have to do this the old fashioned way. In removing the pump he had left the rods in the rocker box in exact places with instructions to me not to touch anything until we got back with the pump. Then consulting runic engravings we uncovered with the application of magic emery paper and muttering magic spells including the incantation, "22º before top dead centre," he manoeuvred and eased the crucial bits into place. Once we'd refitted all the bits we'd had to remove it was time to crank the engine. It turned, but wouldn't fire. Damn! It coughed into life on the second attempt. We let the engine run for a while and then pulled the throttle back to tickover. I know nothing about engines, but I am pretty sure I have never heard an engine run that slowly before and still manage to keep going. It was a quasi-religious experience, a thing of beauty. I had been blessed with a little insight into how some men get a bit excited about things like engines.
This seems an appropriate moment to take a pause. This story is not over and I shall continue it because the engineer is coming any time now.
In other news, Jack was on his fourth vet by yesterday afternoon. He may not have "concertina'd hisself" after all. The latest suggestion seems to be