I feel I must start off this month by apologising to regular readers - are there any (readers that is) - if this column appears to be below par. The fact is that you very nearly did not have anything at all. There are many reasons for this; some of which may become clear if you read on.
For a whole host of other reasons - none of which is likely to become clear in this column - I have been suffering from an increasing degree of deep depression which makes just about everything seem to be a total waste of time. This has been variously diagnosed as mid-life crisis, fed up with being taken for a mug, supreme laziness, etc. Suffice it to say that I am shortly to undergo a course of psychotherapy in an attempt to cure the condition.
With that in mind as a background, consider the following, in which we blow the lid off the magazine business - and others:-
Back around the end of last year, your noble editor twisted my arm to supply him with a rather lengthy article - for which he paid well below the normal rate! Give him his due, he did draw my notice to the fact before paying me - pleading a shortage of funds for that issue - and promised to make things up by an 'adjustment' in the next issue.
Fair enough, thought I, but come the next issue - nothing! This state of affairs has continued ever since with reminders meeting the response, "Oh! didn't I do that? I'll get on it right away." And the band played 'Believe It If You Will!'
What's he complaining about, you may ask. Well, if only that were it.
I do write a regular column in another magazine in the same building (don't look for it, I write that one under an assumed name). Now very few people find it easy to write a regular article and the usual procedure is to sit up all night on the day before the copy date. How would you feel if you did this and took the copy into the office to be greeted with the news that there was not room for the column in last months magazine so it was not yet required?
The editor responsible for that one also sends his contributers a letter each year with a list of the 'themes' to be used for each of that years magazines, with a request that you should try to include something on that subject in your column. In this years letter he pointed out that he had too many regular columns and it would be necessary to miss one out occasionally. Fine, in one stroke he justifies the former and makes the latter impossible!
Just to rub salt into the wound he does not always use the intended theme for the magazine anyway!
The next chapter of disasters concerns my flying. Considering the various items covered here from time to time, some of you may be surprised to learn that I also fly those aerial Meccano sets known as helicopters. In fact I have been struggling for some time to master the gentle(?) art of dead stick landings, otherwise known as autorotations. One particular model has had no less than 4 tail booms fitted this year as a result.
Another model which I had long ago cast off as being too twitchy to be any good at all was resorted to and found to be an absolutely wonderful trainer for this sort of thing. You could do just about everything wrong and still get down in one piece. Imagine my surprise one Sunday morning when the model suddenly went totally berserk and attempted to do an autorotating inverted spiral dive all on its own and dig a large hole in a snow covered ploughed field (no the field, not the plough).
No amount of investigation would reveal the cause of this - the radio still worked perfectly after cleaning. Two weeks later, another set of equipment from the same company (this one has the magic letters PCM attached to it) went on strike just after I had started the motor at a fast tickover. Some panic ensued while I found a way of stopping it before the clutch burnt out.
This particular set remained totally dead for the rest of the day and was still not working after returning home and unloading the car. Later that evening I tried again - yes, it worked perfectly! A previous problem with erratic operation of this same equipment had been diagnosed as low temperature crystal drift and had been cured by trying another set of crystals. Examination revealed that all the receiver crystals which had been regularly used with both sets had cracking of the bakelite base material around the pins. Now crystal cans are evacuated during manufacture and thus contain a vacuum to give temperature stability. Cracking would let air in and destroy this stability.
I had learned shortly before this that this type of crystal was no longer recommended for use with PCM sets and had been replaced by a new type with a metal base. Hmmm...
The crystals concerned are fitted into shaped rubber 'bungs' which are a very tight fit in the receiver. Obviously, any misalignment between the receiver case and the crystal socket will put the pins under considerable strain, so it might be worthwhile to dispense with the 'bungs'.
Needless to say, the importer does not yet have any stock of the new crystals and what is more, rumour has it that these have now been superseded by yet another new type with a gold anodised case! Perhaps I should build some more free flight models.
Talking of model helicopters (were we?), what a license to print money that 'hobby' is? Typical conversation from one importer to another, 'Our main blades are better that yours and they are only £75 a pair.' Not all kits are now sold complete with rotor head and the head can cost nearly as much as the kit. And new kits are still appearing at a healthy rate. I suppose we should be happy that at least some aspect of the hobby is actually advancing rather than looking back at itself.
What has all this got to do with the near non-arrival of this months 'Short Finals' you may ask. 'Well', I thought, 'Gee can sweat it out for a while and chase me for my copy.' Nearly two weeks after the copy date I was beginning to get a little worried and ventured into the office to see that other editor, mentioned above, whose office is directly opposite that of this magazine.
After an hour or so's chat, with no approach from Gee, I wandered over to his office to find him playing 'Patience' on the office computer. 'Ah! Graunchet', he said, 'I'm terribly worried about this months 'Short Finals' column, you are going to let me have one aren't you?' Bloody cheek! Note that it was still me chasing him - not the other way round.
Anyway, we came to an arrangement whereby I sat up all night and produced some copy, in return for which he would make 'an adjustment'. If there is no 'Short Finals' in next months issue you may draw your own conclusions.
The moral to the above story is:-
Just because I'm paranoid, it doesn't mean that they are not out to get me.
If you laugh at that one Gee, remind me not to speak to you again.