The guy with the lovely name

Just before Christmas I took a road trip to Florence to pick up my youngest. She has spent just over a year there and has now been poached to work back in the city. I set out on my own on the 6 o’clock ferry to Dunkirk, it was a good crossing and once the other side it was a jaunt through Belgium and on into Germany for a run down to Ulm and an overnight in the Golden Tulip Hotel. I love Ulm but unfortunately time was tight so I set out about 7am for the run to Florence. When I got downstairs at reception, I was greeted with “you’re the guy with lovely name”, it cheered me up a bit. I was soon on the nice empty roads heading south, last time I came this way I diverted to Westendorf in Austria. I didn’t do this this time. I only did about 25miles in Austria before turning off and going through Switzerland, the bonus with this is the weekend ban for trucks at weekends, which meant you can keep a decent speed on the two lane motorways. It was a long old drag to Florence from here with a few hairy moments on the Italian side.

20161218_092235_019Driving through the Swiss Alps

 

 

 

 

After the trials of the Italian Autostrada, I eventually reached Florence, with a quick stop off at her flat to pick up her things, I managed to get to my hotel at around 16:30. I stopped again at the Athaneum, which is a five minute walk from Toni’s and a ten minute walk to the city centre. I stopped here before with Lesley for a week back in February, another good hotel. The main bonus this time was underground parking for the car. Like all cities, car parking is at a premium. We had a wander around and visited the Christmas market at Santa Croci, we both had Bratwurst and Saurkraut, washed down with a beer. We didn’t stay out late as we wanted to be up and out early to try and get a head start on the traffic. We set out at 6 am the next morning and managed to get up the road a bit before the madness started, I have to say the Italians drive like they talk, fast and all over the place. We caught some queues around Milan but it wasn’t long before we were making our way North towards Switzerland and the Alps, the traffic dying down the farther north we went. We went through the St Gottard tunnel, and my thoughts rushed back to 1984 as a twenty three year old lad driving a coach full of people to Lake Garda, who took the pass road instead of the tunnel and had the most frightening experience of my life at this time. I’ll leave this for another time though. We had snow through the Alps and while I Toni was praying for it to get heavier I was praying for the opposite, I’ve had experience of driving in the Alps in the snow, not something I want to repeat.

As soon as we got the other side of the Alps and closer to the German border the snow stopped and we were able to pick up speed again, I made this leg of the trip the longest one as I wanted to cut the mileage and inevitably the time down on the last leg to Dunkirk. We stopped overnight in Karlsruhe, I couldn’t get two rooms at my favourite hotel but I did manage to get in a bit further down the road, I also got upgraded (Gratis) to a deluxe room. We had a few drinks in the hotel bar on the evening and we had a good old natter about everything. Another early start on the final leg in order to catch the 4pm sailing from Dunkirk. We were soon into Luxemburg and making good time, stopping off halfway to get a fridge magnet for Lesley. The journey was uneventful and we got to the port in good time, I’d booked the priority boarding previously and it turns out we were first on and first off. We eventually arrived home at about 19:00. I was glad to be home, I used to do those journeys for a living, I don’t think I could now.

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Left Toni, Mick& Anne

 

Lesley’s parents came and stayed the day after I got back, we took them out for a meal on the evening with Patrick and Toni, and you can see the picture above Toni showing her grand-parents pictures of her travels on her phone. We had a good meal and they left after lunch the following day. Her Mum and Dad have been great over the years, a real constant throughout our lives. Patrick visits them at least once a month and spends the weekend there, Toni is in touch with them by phone weekly and still stays with them a couple of times a year. Despite all the problems they have had to deal with over the years they remain as always brilliant grandparents.

Christmas

This year was the first time in thirteen years that Lesley never had to work either Christmas day, Boxing day or both. We had a great break and it was really good to have Toni home with us. This year was also the first time in about ten years that I managed to stay up for midnight. It was also the first time I have ever watched Jools Holland on the telly, I have to say I now regret not watching him for all these years, the guests he had on were in the main from my era and it had me tapping my foot, this is about the nearest I get to dancing. So while I still think he is a pretentious knob, the show was good and he is bearable.

Allotment

I write this as we are now in 2017, I spent an afternoon up the plot with the dog, and managed to get my Rhubarb planted as well as a Blackcurrant and a Redcurrant bush. I have to go back to work tomorrow and I am already missing being able to do as I please.

 

So with that, I wish anyone reading this a safe and prosperous new year

 

 

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Dah Dah Dah

Flippin hell! a month has passed since my last blogpost. I sit here writing this after I have just booked ferries and hotels to make a road trip to Florence to visit my daughter before Christmas. The last time I went the return leg was through France, this time around I am going to go back up through Germany, but stopping in Karlsruhe on the way back. I had some fun times in this neck of the woods in the eighties. I won’t be visiting Westendorf this time as the family I normally visit will be away for December.The main difference between this trip and the last one is that I will be going out alone but coming back with Toni. She has been headhunted by a company in London so she is winging her way back home with me. I’m sad that she never stopped in Italy, but the offer she has had is very good and she will be able to get her own place when she settles down.

Allotment

Things have quietened down on the plot now. Last week the people with the stables next door delivered 6 cubic metres of manure. So I have been spreading this all over my now, mostly barren, plot. The Autumn raspberries fruited and I had some, but the frost took care of most of them. My Kale and Brocolli are still doing well and I have some cabbages on the go as well, but apart from that it is all quiet up there at the moment. We also had some good news this weekend, we took the plot over in June and we soon noticed that we had never seen anyone on the other half of the plot. I expressed an interest in the other half should it become vacant. Other plot holders told us that the tenant had not been near or by for over a year, but they had seen him around the town so knew he was still about. Anyway to cut a long story short we have now been told we can have the other half, although we can’t start on it until the paperwork is done. The plot had two apple trees and a pear tree on it, these have since disappeared once word got out that the previous tenant had given up. I am not really bothered about this as while the fruit was very good, the trees were planted a bit higgledy piggledy. This now makes it easier to plan out the whole plot.

Family

We had some good news, Lesley has worked either Boxing Day, Christmas Day or both for the past 13 years. This year she has them both off! This is great news for us and to add to that Toni will be home, I think we have the makings of a great Christmas.

Leyton Orient

The O’s are now getting lots of media attention for all the wrong reasons. Our form so far this year has been abysmal, we have only won one game at home this season so far, we are also on our third manager and it isn’t even Christmas yet. The sad thing is that from 1968 to 2014 we have had 12 managers, Francesco Becchetti took over in 2014 and we have had 8 managers. Morale at the club is at an all time low and the atmosphere in the stands is becoming toxic. We are playing Blackpool today and there are some planned protests, so it’s going to be fun. The O’s are in real danger of dropping out of the football league for the first time in its history. We currently have another Italian manager, who hasn’t worked since getting Sampdoria relegated 5 years ago. The man doesn’t speak a word of English and we regard it as another puppet manager just like the other Italian managers we have gone through. One of the concerns that has come out of recent rumours and radio interviews is that the Chairman is picking the teams for the matches, not good at all. We have also seen our favourite and most loyal player let go (just outside of the transfer deadline which stopped him working till Christmas) much to annoyance and bafflement of the fan base. I’m not really sure what’s going to happen next but you can’t help thinking that with that big lump of prime real estate that is the ground, there may be a plan to force Orient into the Vanarama so that they would have to sell the ground to survive. I will go on supporting the O’s wherever they end up, but it shouldn’t have to be like this.

Radio

The bands have been very flat as we trudge through the low part of the sun spot cycle. I did manage a CW contact with a station on the Island of Minorca (Javi EA6ALW) but I couldn’t hear the Serbian or Ukranian stations he worked before me. The conditions are very odd to say the least.

I haven’t been to the radio club since before June, so I will show my face next week at the AGM. I’m not sure why I have a lack of interest for the club, considering three years ago I was there every night and at every event and maintenance day. It may be that there are only a couple of member who I have anything more than radio in common with, it could be that I grew tired of listening to the people who do bugger all for the club moaning about the way the club was run. It could be the fact that once you’ve heard the same jokes and banter a couple of times it wears a bit thin. I will go next week, I will also re-join again, but I don’t have any plans to be a regular visitor.

Right that’ll do for now.

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Core N’grato

Florence seems like six weeks ago now, it’s funny how a break like that is soon a distant memory, while if I was at work last week it would still be fresh.

Well, we had a great break, we flew into Bologna airport on Saturday morning. The clouds just opened up in time for us to see the Alps. After a cab ride and a 40 minute rail journey we were at Florence Central Station. After a 20 minute walk we were at the hotel, it was a cracking hotel and one we’ll definitely stop at again, especially as I’m coming back again in August.

We had a great week, we never got to Rome but we managed Pisa. Toni took us to some fantastic restaurants and I think we covered every inch of the city. It was great spending time with Toni and we were all shattered by the end of the week. Toni is in Paris this week and will be stopping off home on her way back from Dallas in April, so we wont have to wait too long to see her again.

Orient

Orient have finally broken their losing streak at home, on Saturday we faced Crawley Town, this has become a bit of a bogey team for us, but I have to say I saw the best performance from the O’s I have seen in a long time. We ended the game two nil up and while Crawley aren’t a good side, they are the sort of team we normally lose to.

We have another home game this Saturday against Luton Town, one of my old mates from FTA is meeting up with me for the match, so we’ll have a few pints before the kick off and a good old chinwag.

Apart from that, I have nothing else to report.

 

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I could yawn and be withdrawn and watch them gallop by

So here we are it’s D Day!

I’m writing this at the end of a week which started really well and descended into the snake pit very quickly.

The O’s

Orient played Northampton Town last Saturday, it was always going to hard, especially as Northampton are at the top of the league and on a winning streak. Orient however have been pulling a few surprises since we got the new player manager. However it was not to be on Saturday. We held them well in the first half and ran our socks off, however when they came out in the second half Northampton had the measure of us and ran us all over the pitch, we were very soon two nil down which saw hundreds of “O’s fans” get up and walk out. In the last ten minutes Northampton scored another two goals and I was willing the final whistle. I get really angry when fans do this, I know they pay their ticket and can show their upset whatever way they want, but it is football and anything can happen. But I really don’t think you can call yourself a supporter if you do that, we have got 9 points from the last five games which I think is pretty good in Orient terms!

Florence

Now doing my last minute packing for Florence, we are on the 8:10am flight to Bologna. Can’t wait to see Toni, although we talk every day, I do miss her. There are a few more places I’m going to visit, and plenty of walking.

Blast from the Past

I bumped in to an old friend of my dads last week. Patsy Cullen, he worked at Evan Evans with me and my old man, he was a Cornishman, a real character who always had a fiddle or scam. He hadn’t changed at all, still trying to work out his next money making scheme. Poor sod didn’t look like he had a pot to piss in. He was a great guy to sit in a pub with, after an evening with him your sides would be aching. Daft thing is after all these years he still has a Cornish accent. There’s not too many blokes left who worked with my dad and I am in touch with most of them, however they are starting to drop off the perch now.

Right, that’ll do time to go and get my travel stuff together.

 

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Where the Hell is Horham, oh I get it

Had a good weekend this weekend.

Radio

The first Radio Rally of the year always kicks off with Canvey Rally, I haven’t been for a couple of years and as I queued up in the wind and then squeezed into the main hall I remembered why I haven’t been for a few years. It is always ram packed and of late it really doesn’t warrant it. I tend to use the Rally’s to socialise, once a year is what suits me as far as keeping in touch with people these days. The other thing that worries me with the radio hobby is that so many hams give up on personal hygiene. The smell is often overpowering, it may be that these old fellas are widowed and Radio is there only outlet, but they should know better. I went there with the intentions of not buying anything and came away with a Yaesu 2 metre radio and mobile antenna. On the way home I phoned my friend, he asked me how many radios I have, and I really had to think about it. Including transmitters I have built myself I have 13 radios! It surprised me, its easy to get carried away. I know that I can’t use them all the same time but they do all have a purpose.

I managed to get some morse in over the weekend and managed a new entity, I managed to work a station in Gibraltar, although not a great distance, there are so few hams in Gibraltar that it is a rare entity. I then went on to work Alf in Maryland on 15m. It looks like the bands are on their way up again.

Family

We are now all booked up for our trip to Florence in a couple of weeks time, Mrs H doesn’t fancy the drive so we are flying. We have got a nice hotel booked in the city centre and we will be there for 5 nights. I am going to fit a trip by train to Rome, It’s been 30 years since I’ve been there so am looking forward to it. Lesley has never been to Italy before so this will be a first for her. I know Lesley can’t wait, this is the longest she has ever been apart from Toni, even when she was at University she managed to get back once a month or so. She is getting on well in her new job and has been to Berlin in January, is off to Iceland in March and Houston in June, she is also coming back to London in April, and all this is business. I think this has been a good move for her.

Other Stuff

Over the weekend I was having a poke around the various internet tools that my webhost provides, I have noticed recently that this blog has been receiving an increase in visitors, when I say increase you have to remember that two visits is an increase on bugger all. I was curious as there is nothing on this blog of interest to anyone except myself. After about an hour I came across a report that shows me where visitors were viewing the site from. There are always a few random visitors from odd countries which have probably found me through QRZ.com a ham radio site. However I noticed no fewer that 25 visits from Suffolk, Horham to be precise. It didn’t take me long to work it out who, the thing I ask myself is. At this point in the game I can’t for the life of me understand why the visits, someone’s just bubbling away looking for something to make himself feel better, which will only happen if something bad happens to me or my family. It’s not healthy. Anyway keep reading away if it makes you feel better although you’ll never find peace with yourself if you don’t move on, but that’s up to you. Me, I don’t give a monkeys what you think or what you feel.

 

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You can have it all, my empire of dirt!

As much as I enjoy the winter I do welcome the change as the season passes on, the days are now noticeably getting longer with sunset now putting an appearance in around 5pm. I mainly notice this because of walking the dogs, I take Alfie in the woods for his walks but when it gets dark I can’t see him, so I tend to notice the light changes and the time I take the pooch out.

This week I booked the flights and hotel for our upcoming trip to Florence to see our daughter. We will be staying for 6 days and this will give us a good chance to have a look around the place, we are also hoping to take a train to Rome, I haven’t been there since 1984. Toni has now had the chance to find some other walks and I am looking forward to taking the camera. I got some good (by my standards) photos when I was over in December, Florence is a very photogenic city.

Toni has now started her Italian lessons and she tells me it is a difficult language to learn. She has made some friends over there and her flatmates are very good, she shares a flat with two Italian girls and she is thoroughly enjoying it. She works with a multitude of nationalities and this can only be a good thing, friends all over the world means more travel. I am envious of people who are able to travel, I did a bit when I was younger but never got outside Europe and only did it through work. Don’t get me wrong it was better than working in Tesco’s in Kilburn High Road, but compared to people who can pop a rucksack on and bugger off to New Zealand it does not compare. I learned how travel broadened your horizons early on, I remember coming back from a breakdown on the Spanish border when I was 20, I walked into the my local and my mates were talking about a traffic jam on the Barking road and I told them about an accident I’d seen on the route de la Soleil, and I was hooked.

Right that’ll do for now.

 

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