Come again

Alf, Buses, Photography

I took a trip to Inkpen beacon and Coombe Gibbet on Sunday with my daughter. She hasn’t been before and I had worked out a circular 10 mile route with some good climbs on it. We set out early as it takes around two hours door to door. As we went farther west it seemed to be getting foggier and foggier, the last ten miles from the motorway more and more rural until the last mile or so is on single track roads. As went headed toward Coombe Gibbet I noticed the fog was getting more and more dense, with the visibility down to 20 metres in places. It was hard to find the car park, you can normally see the gibbet from about five miles away but I couldn’t see it due to the fog. I eventually found the track and could vaguely see the car park through the gloom, I realised then we had passed this spot half an hour ago. I was that bad, you couldn’t see the gibbet from the car park. We set of along the Wayfarers walk past Walbury Hillfort, there was little point in going onto the site, which normally has great views, due to the fog. We had a great walk but it was very disorientating and my ordnance survey map and compass got a lot of use. We had a great walk and met some good people and I can’t wait to get back there when the weather is better,

Lost and bewildered in Berkshire

The new job is starting to make sense now and I am getting my teeth into it. The management style is much different to my old firm, much more open. It is much more accessible, a three hour drive away and there isn’t an issue if I want to visit the factory. It is a much smaller set up than my last place and change has taken some time for me to get used to. I don’t miss the old firm now and it feels like I left a year ago, I think the time was right for me to move on and I definitely made the right decision. I had got to the point where I was getting really frustrated with the lack of direction and inaction, it was like it was the same company that was poorly managed and ran out of money the year before. It had the same senior management team as were running the company went it sunk, and I felt the same problems were being put into place as before. I’m glad I went back, but glad I left.

I received a letter from TfL a couple of weeks ago and I am now allegedly entitled to my pension. The good thing is, it goes up for every year I leave it in, so I’ll have to wait and see. If all goes well, I have five years left to work and I can’t wait. I really enjoy me weekends and time off now so I think I am about ready to retire.

Alfie and his new mate

I have trying to get Alf used to horses and I think I’ve cracked it. Alfie can bark when he is scared or stressed and it always worries me that he will bark at someone riding a horse and end up spooking the poor thing. Luckily we have a lot of horses on the common ground around Harlow and I have been taking Alfie on my hikes and I always make a point of feeding them. Alfie has now got used to walking around the horses while I am feeding them and doesn’t really pay them any attention other than to smell their hooves.

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Come live with me

Allotment, Buses, Work


On the 25th September Wrightbus finally went into administration. As usual the media were well in front any info coming from the company. I found out the night before from one of my contacts inside the factory, that the company would be going into administration in the morning. I was told to gather my staff and expect a call in the morning to receive the news officially. Sadly my staff came to Orpington and we all hung around waiting for the call, we watched a covert feed from the factory as production staff were all told it was over. We waited till 14:00 and still hadn’t heard anything official so I sent the lads home and told them to not drive their vans tomorrow until we had heard something. We received the official notice at 16:50 after a hastily organised conference call, it was as if they had forgotten they had staff on the mainland.

I was devastated by the news, I had worked for Wrights for nine and a half years and had built the team myself, it was like a bereavement. After 42 years of continuous employment I was now looking at the prospect of signing on, I was advised to do this straight away by the administrator. I wasn’t really up to doing this and quickly found myself a new job. I am still connected with the bus industry.


The plot is now more or less finished for the year and I am in the process of covering it up. I left it too late to cover last year and really regretted it. The plot really ran away from me, in part, due to not covering it up. So I am not going to make the same mistake again. I am going to leave a little part of the plot open so that I can plant my garlic and some winter onions. I haven’t produced as much as I like to this year, but everything grown got eaten.

Mostly cleared but still a bit to do

Photo Archives

I was having a rummage around through my old photographs and came across this one. It was from one of two holidays I had with my parents and was taken in the south of France. We went away in an old 1961 Vauxhall Victor Estate, my dads sister and her family came with us in a different car. We went as far as Lourdes, my fathers family were big Catholics. The little girl next to me is my cousin Margret, I am still in touch with her today. I was about five years old when this was taken.

Paul and Margret C1965

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Under your thumb forever

Allotment, Buses, Uncategorized


We had a call on Friday updating us on the current situation, which hasn’t told us much more than we already know. We are expecting it to reach a conclusion in the next week or so. I’m not sure what Wrights will look like after this is over, I have my own views. I’ll share them when its all settled.


I have more or less got my plot cleared! It has been really hard work, a big lump of the plot has really gotten away from me this year. I think the effort needed to clear the plot has really taken my mind off of the shenanigans in Ballymena. I have some big plans next year and in the four years I have had the plot I don’t think I’ve ever got all of it back to dirt. Over the next few weeks I will be rotavating and covering most of the plot in order to get a good start next spring. Lesley has already started covering her plot as most of her veg is up and stored now. Lesley has had a good year, with a bumper crop of spuds, carrots and butternut squashes. I did really well with onions and shallots, and I have three strings of onions hanging in the shed, I reckon they will see us through to December/January. I had a ropey year for Apples, Tomatoes and Beetroots. I had plenty of gooseberries, redcurrants and plums. So I still have much to do but should be fully closed up by November, the only thing will grow over the winter will be garlic.

The plot looking less grassy

Ham Radio

Although I haven’t done much radio lately and have no intentions of attending the club, I did find out that that one of the guys I liked up there has died. Steve M6SBQ was a fair bit older than me but came from the same part of London as me. We instantly had a connection that many of the other members of the club didn’t get. Even though Harlow is only about 20 miles from where I grew up, if you weren’t from there you couldn’t understand. I don’t know where you ended up Steve, but all the best mate until we talk further down the log.

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Alf, Buses, Modern Technology


This week we saw the Met office actually get something right, despite a number of false predictions this week saw us actually get some snow. It’s when this happens, I actually feel embarrassed to be a Brit.

It started off at the beginning of the week with a weather warning that most of the east coast were going to be hit by a pocket of cold air building up over the Baltic assisted by wind coming from Siberia. Very quickly the media started building the hype instantly followed by the rail companies who were already reducing services despite the fact no snow had fell. By Tuesday my area had received around and inch of snow yet many mainline trains through Harlow were cancelled. My daughter had a nightmare getting to work and getting back home again, despite at this point the snow being no worse than the past couple of years. The daily travel for me which involves 32 of my 38 mile trip on the M25, this was great as most people had listened to the media and decided it was too dangerous to leave home, this remained the same for the next three days. Some of my staff were unable to come in due to railway stations being closed due to snow on the platforms!!! The bus industry struggled on with most operators running a Sunday service. All of my mobile support staff managed to get to work through the week.

God forbid we ever get one of those winters we had in the late 70’s or even the 1963 winter. I don’t think the country has the moral fibre to cope. I remember in 1985 I drove a coach to Westendorf in the Tirol, it was a 24 hour drive, it started snowing on our last pick up in south London and never stopped all the way to Westendorf. When we arrived the hotel owner warned us that it was going to be -32c overnight, I of course, answered in total disbelief that it wasn’t that cold on the Russian front and me and the other driver went off to the bar. It took me 8 hours to get back into the coach (frozen doors) and a further three days to get the coach running again. I left it running overnight for another seven days.

I don’t think as a society we have the energy or brains to adapt when things get rough, it’s a poor state of affairs.

I went out on Thursday for a drive around the local lanes and couldn’t believe the number of cars in ditches, one of which was a 2017 plate top of the range Mercedes. This car would have all the bells and whistles fitted including ABS, EBS and Traction control and still the driver managed to loose control and put it in a ditch. This is another theory I have. Modern cars, trucks and buses have no physical link between the driver and the road. Throttle and Brakes are now controlled electronically, these systems receive inputs from the driver and the vehicle ECU’s carry out the requests. The driver doesn’t actually ‘feel’ that road, I think there should be a way of disabling these controls for this sort of weather. You see so many drivers trying to get up or down hills beaten by the abs or traction control. This is why I love my old Landrover, the second you make a mistake you feel it and can adjust.

Sometimes modernising doesn’t always work. I remember in the 90’s we started seeing a problem with trailer fires in the UK, this was blamed on a change in trailer coupling configurations, not the fifth wheel coupling but the air couplings. What used to happen was that the red line (which feeds the trailer supply tanks) would become unseated during the journey and stop feeding the air tanks. Continuous braking would deplete the tanks so much that the there was not enough air to hold the trailer brakes off, and gradually they would come on. This wasn’t a new phenomenon, it has always happened. What had changed was at the front of the combination, the tractor unit. Years ago you when buying a tractor unit you would specify the tractor with enough power for what you needed, if you were a bread company driving mainly around pan flat London, you would get a small engine, however if you were pulling heavy loads up and down the motorway you would go for the large option, normally 300 bhp. Due to changes in engine technology in the early 90’s when we moved from mechanical controls to electronic diesel control meant that you could squeeze more power out of a smaller engine and vary that output according to the driver/trucks needs. And this is where the problem starts. For instance I am driving a 1985 290hp ERF up Shap on the M6 (a long drag) while I am going up the climb flat out squeezing all the horses from the engine and probably running at 45-50 mph, the brakes start applying I after a very short time notice a drop in speed despite my foot being to the floor, I know something is wrong. Spin that forward 10 years and I am driving an MAN with a 250hp truck which can achive 500hp when needed. Now I am driving up Shap in top gear my foot is on the floor, due to the speed of the truck the engine is supplying around 300hp. The trailer brakes start to apply and the truck ECU starts to slow slightly, it notices that the throttle is still on the floor so starts putting on more power to negate the slowing down, the driver notices nothing. The ECU keeps upping the power until it reaches maximum output, its is only at this point the driver might notice that there is something wrong, by then the trailer brakes are glowing red and as soon as he stops, the brakes no longer get the cooling effect of the wind resistance and up she goes. A prime example where advances in technology aren’t always a good thing. The problem with trailer fires are much reduced now due to an addition to annual test which now incorporates a check on the sealing arrangements of the red coupling.

Rant Continued!!!

This has pissed me off this morning. I walk my dog through some woods near me, its a nice spot with deer and farmers fields once you get going. The first part skirts the edge of Harlow cemetery and this is what I came across this morning, if you look in the background you can see the lines of graves. These three balloons never even managed 100yds. I burst them and picked them up and they were in memory of some lads Nan. They probably cost £10-£15, Johnny’s parents should have told him that his Nan can’t see the balloons and if he wanted a memory he should have planted a tree or give the money to a donkey sanctuary or anything other than this. You’ve gotta love this bling generation, all bloody show!

Right, it’s the weekend and I’m off to do some chores, Mrs H is off up her parents tomorrow so its just me and the dog next week.


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Double Decker Move Along

Allotment, Buses, Work

Plot 8b

Hedgehogs, I was speaking to one of the plot holders the other day about the distinct lack of hedgehogs on the site. He was telling me there were a few pairs on the site up until about 4 years ago. The site manager at the time had a real thing about order and tidiness and got rid of all the hedges and any rough patches we had. The hedgehogs were never seen again. With this in mind I contacted an Essex rescue centre and had a chat with them about rehoming any of their hogs. The lady was really keen but after some discussion it became apparent that due to the use of pesticides and slug pellets they cannot leave any hogs at our allotment. I was gutted about this, but fully understand. I’m now wondering how much the depletion of the hedges had to do with the disappearance of the hedgehogs , more likely the use of pesticides and slug pellets. I don’t use pesticides but most of the other plot holders do.

My butternut squashes are really growing now and have gained around five inches in a week. We are going to have people queuing up for them when they are ready. One of my courgettes is still putting fruits, but I don’t know how much longer for. One has stopped now but the other is a monster. I have harvested my pippins, and they are extremely tasty. I have a blackthorn bush behind my plot and now cant wait for the sloes to ripen so that I can make some sloe gin, we’ll see how that works out.

This week I will be planting parsnips & chard. I have some red onions for when the potatoes come up and I got some daffodil and tulip bulbs for planting under the fruit trees. Daffs are Lesley’s favourite flowers so I should get some brownie points for this.

I will plant some green manure also for the winter, this is a plant that is used to condition the soil, the other guys on the plot have never heard of it but that won’t stop me.

I couldn’t get the fox video to play through the blog so I put it on youtube and you can see it here


The consultancy I am doing for the Chinese Organisation is coming to an end, I have about three days work left to do over the next couple of weeks, I will even be receiving a bonus for my efforts, which isn’t necessary considering the hourly rate they are paying me. It got me to thinking about when I started work in this industry in 1977, I was paid 40p per hour, and the Chinese are paying me more an hour than I earned a month when I first started work. It’s funny how it all works out in the end, I am eternally thankful to my old man and my brother Pat for pushing me when I was younger to get qualified. I know the old man would be proud.


I think that will do for now until the next time


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Progredere Ni Regredere

Allotment, Buses, Family

Its been a few weeks since I posted last so I thought I would update.

The past month has just flown past. This is, in the main, due to my latest obsession, Plot 8b, Honey Hill Allotments. We have now had our plot for just over a month and boy what a month it’s been. We got the plot after it had been left for some time so were really thrown in at the deep end.

We now have the shed in place and I have been planting stuff to try and get some vegetables in before the autumn. I find it hard to believe that everything I have planted has put in an appearance

Before and after June 2nd & July 2nd

Before and after June 2nd & July 2nd










Luckily we were left with some fruit and I have now harvested most of this, Cherries, Redcurrants & Strawberries

The work has been hard but I have found it so rewarding, I think I’ve always been a frustrated gardener, I grew up on the 13th floor of a block of flats so never really had a garden successive moves have seen me end up with slabbed gardens. My mother was into gardening when she moved to Dagenham.

My biggest surprise was the seeds from a butternut squash I cooked, I sowed about ten seeds and they all germinated

Butternut squash seeds from a store bought squash

Butternut squash seeds from a store bought squash









I know have about 8 squashes growing.

Also on the go I have:

  • Radishes
  • Kale
  • Broccoli (Purple Headed)
  • French Beans
  • Cabbages
  • Carrots
  • Onions
  • Beetroots
  • Lettuce

Some of the above I have planted from a seed,  and I’m not too sure what is going to be ready first.

Broccoli & Kale caged up to keep the birds off it

Broccoli & Kale caged up to keep the birds off it







In other news there isn’t a lot to say. Toni visited us last week on her way back from Budapest, Lesley was in Doncaster so I had Toni to myself for 24 hours, we had a good natter and it was great to catch up. We always seem to be on the same level, she gets my jokes and I hers. I really miss her but am so proud of her.

Lesley’s mum continues to get better and the consultants believe they have caught all the cancer from the piece of lung removed.

Radio has been quiet lately but that is mainly due to the fact I spend every evening digging up a lump of Harlow.

Work, least said soonest mended. I will share this one day but I obviously can’t while I still work there. Suffice it to say that something happened last week which has made me start looking around for another job.

Right time to go.

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He just loved to live that way

Buses, Family, Radio

It’s been a month since my last post so I thought I’d bring you up to date.

Toni has now been in Italy two weeks and is settling in nicely, she loves the city, and the job and everyone is really friendly.

On Friday this week me and Patrick will be taking the rest of her stuff out there by car. Fifteen years ago I wouldn’t have thought much of jumping the car and driving for 15 hours straight, however as I get older I am beginning to understand my limitations. So the itinerary is thus.

Friday Harlow-Dover-Dunkirk- Ulm overnight

Saturday Ulm- Austria – Florence 2 nights

Monday Florence – Dijon overnight

Tuesday Dijon – Dunkirk – Dover Home

I’m looking forward to the drive and will be re-visiting places I have been to and spent some time at in the past.

As expected things are very quiet at home without Toni, but I do keep in touch with her through the half a dozen apps at our disposal, but its not the same. Toni has lined up some places for us to eat next weekend and from what she tells me you can’t really go wrong.

This week saw the club AGM, and I couldn’t be bothered to go, strange really but although I still enjoy the radio and am as active as I can be, I’m really not bothered with club activities.

Work is still busy and we are looking at around June for the last bus to roll off the line probably LT800.

That’ll do for now


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You aint a beauty but hey you’re alright!

Alf, Boat, Buses, Orient

It’s been a couple of weeks since my last post and this is in the main because I have been so busy up at the boat. This weekend has been the first one in seven weeks that I have actually been at home all weekend.

Work has been a real grind lately with a lot of negative activity in the press and media which has ramped up the pressure on my department considerably. Because of this radio has had to take a bit of a back seat of late.

I have been getting back into photography lately and as my technique improves I started seeing the shortfall with my current camera, Canon 1000D. So I took the plunge last week and bought a 7D body and upgraded.  I liked the 1000D but in comparison to the 7D it is way behind. The 7D is an 18mp camera as opposed to the 1000D which is 10mp. The 7D is nearly twice the weight of the 1000D but it does feel like a proper camera, the bonus is that the lenses fit both the 7D and the 1000D, so it was a relatively cheap upgrade.

I have been out this weekend trying it out and and I am liking the results see below:

Micro Butterfly Buff TailBumblebee Buff TailBumblebee2 Deer Statue Hornet



























Some of the pictures above were taken at my local nature reserve, I live about half a mile away and in the twenty odd years I have lived here this is the first time I have visited. I was really fortunate as today they had an exhibition on beekeeping and honey making. They actually had a working hive on display with glass panels, it was fascinating. I got talking to a chap outside who had been keeping bees for over thirty years. I then had a walk around the reserve and it made a nice pleasant stroll. I will definitely be returning.

Alfie found a frisbee yesterday and has made me take it out every time we went for a walk this weekend, the poor sod is knackered now.

I belong to a facebook group called photos of Harlow, there are people on there who are a mine of information about Harlow. I found out this weekend that the pond in Risdens wood is actually a crater left over from a V2 rocket strike in WWII, in fact it was the 599th rocket to hit the UK. I think my dog would probably thank the Germans for this if he could.

Football season starts next week for me with Orient at home to Barnet, we have lost some good players over the summer but I am hoping with the new manager they get wound up enough to want to get back up into the 3rd division, watch this space.

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Half forgotten memories

Alf, Buses

I have been in a very reflective mood this week, I tend to get like this when things at work or home aren’t going particularly well, it’s the only sort of escapism I do. I have joined a couple of facebook groups one of which is about the area I lived for over thirty years, it has been strange seeing some of the familiar names appearing, people from my childhood. Facebook has a strange effect on me and I’m sure other people feel the same, I tend to get feelings of inadequacy when looking at other peoples posts as it always looks like they’re living the dream while I plod along. I know this isn’t the case but it dies make me wonder why I stay on facebook.

Work has been a complete chore the past couple of weeks and I am considering my options again. I will watch things closely over the next couple of weeks, and plan my exit strategy if necessary.

we have Alfie since December 2012 and apart from washing him when we got him, plus a couple of dips in the sea and marina, he has never had a bath. The day came today when I took him over Risdens wood and he came back caked in mud and god knows what. I have to say I have been dreading it because the lad can be a bit of a handful. I was pleasantly suprised I helped him in the bath and he stayed put while I washed him, good lad. There was enough dirt at the bottom of the bath to grow potatoes in.

Tomorrow I have a day planned on the radio, Mrs H is on nights tomorrow night so I have some time to play radio while she is sleeping, with a bit of luck.

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I love it when a plan comes together

Buses, Family, Work

A few months ago when me and the lad were up the boat having a few beers, we came to the conclusion that as a family we don’t really celebrate birthdays. At the time we were a couple of months off of Lesley’s 50th so we decided we were going to do something. It’s always been a little difficult as Lesley’s parents live 160 miles away and have a dog which has to be factored into any plans we may try to make, also Lesley’s parents are now in their 70’s.

The long and the short of it was we decided to, book the in laws including her brother into a local nice hotel and book a table for seven at a very nice restaurant and keep it from Lesley as a surprise, the kids managed to get hold of all her old baby photo’s and had a book bound for her by Photobox to be given to her at the restaurant. Despite a few near misses we managed to keep it a secret from Lesley she only realised when she saw her family at the restaurant. we had a great meal and a fantastic evening, we need to do this more often, seriously!


As usual I was looking at the back of my eyelids before the new year arrived, but I am looking forward to a good 2015, I have a lot of targets (workwise) for the new year and these are going to need some changes in my management style to achieve, I am really looking forward to the challenge though.

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