Come live with me

Allotment, Buses, Work

Wrightbus

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.

Allotment

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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Oh no, Joe Porterhouse

Alf, Allotment, Orient, Work

Allotment

The allotment is giving up the last of her goodies but there is still stuff going on, I put the garlic in last weekend and it already putting shoots out. I’m not sure whether to grow it in the greenhouse or outside. Garlic is hardy and the rule of thumb is to plant on the shortest day (Dec 21st) and harvest on the longest day (June 21st) so it will survive frost and snow. I will put some in the greenhouse as a comparison and see how it woks out as I intend to cover my plot again this year. While clearing the plot this week I noticed three new cucumbers, I though I had seen the last of these. I have moved them to the inside of the netting to stop the foxes having a snack. My medlars are looking ready and during this weeks high winds a couple were blown from the tree, but the rest still feel pretty attached so I am resisting the urge to pick them. They are normally ready in October/November but due to the very hot summer they may ripen earlier, just like most of the other fruit and veg.

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Pulled, Picked and plucked this week

  • Tomatoes for ripening
  • Rose Hips (for making tea)
  • Cherry Tomatoes
  • Jalapenos and Paprika (for pickling)
  • Butternut squashes (Roasting and for soups)
  • Beetroot (Pickling and Roasting)
  • Lemon Balm (I use it in vinegar)
  • Rainbow Baby Carrots

Not a bad haul for late September

Family

My daughter and her boyfriend have recently bought a French bulldog pup which they have named Freddie.

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I am not into small dogs but I will make an exception with this chap. He has absolutely no fear and is the most confident pup I have ever come across. When they visit he walks around my house like he owns the place, much to the consternation of Alfie (My 6 year old chocolate Labrador). Alfie isn’t good with puppies so barks at him a bit but it doesn’t put Freddie off at all even when he is running from Alf after pinching one of his favourite toys. My daughter and her boyfriend are now going through the pain of house training, something I don’t envy. That said, I have been really lucky with dogs, my last two have picked it up really quickly.

Leyton Orient

The O’s are really on fire at the moment and we are currently unbeaten this season and sit at the top of the Vanarama league. Its now been 18 months since the mad Italian (Francesco Becchetti) cut us loose with just eight players three weeks before the start of the season and we seem to have turned a corner. Last season was a real eye opener, the national league really is different type of football. It also goes without saying that the refereeing is equally poor. We struggled last season but this season we are certainly looking like promotion candidates subject to a disaster. Probably the only thing I like about this league is the proximity of the away games, they are quite easy to get to as many of the clubs are in the south east. Braintree Tuesday evening!

Work

Last week I travelled to Northern Ireland for a meeting back at the factory, I was an eye opener for me because over the past couple of months the factory has been moved to a new site across the road into the old tobacco factory. It is really modern compared to the old site. The old factory grew organically and tended to be a pick scattered, whereas the new site now has a flow to it.

The worst part about the trip was the fight into Aldergrove just as storm Allie turned up. The landings at Aldergrove can be interesting due to crosswinds at the best of times but this time was probably about the hairiest I have had.

 

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He just loved to live that way

Allotment, Work

My employer Wrightbus, have just announced another 95 redundancies, or should I say the start of a consultation process to make 95 members of staff redundant. We are only just getting over the previous redundancy announcement. Things are going to get very interesting over the next 6-9 months. Wirght’s like the other UK bus builders are feeling the pinch after recent reports showed a marked downturn in passenger number over the past couple of years. The situation is different to the provinces where the routes rely on passenger revenue, in London, routes are controlled by TfL and are allocated on a pence per mile basis, so passenger numbers don’t normally mean that much to the operators, however TfL holds the purse strings and they have some major budget restrictions. I’m not sure where I will be in twelve months time, but whatever happens it’s going to be interesting.

 

Allotment

The plots are both looking well and Lesley has surpassed herself with her plot. She really has a knack for gardening, something that surprised us both.

Everything that needs to be in the ground is planted with my runner beans being the last sees to plant, which I did today. I still have some serious weed problems on the top half of my plot, with bindweed and the dreaded mare’s tail. Mare’s tail is almost impossible to resolve as the root can be over two metres below the surface.

Our Strawberries are ripening now and we have already had a few bowlfuls so far. I also have quite a few blackcurrant bushes which are in fruit at the moment and the berries are darkening daily.

Not much else to say today, more next time.

 

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Doomed to Live

Alf, Allotment, Work

Work

This week saw me working overnight in east London. I do enjoy having the freedom to roam around my old stomping grounds and love the memories it evokes. At one point I found myself driving through Shoreditch, it was 01:30am. I couldn’t believe how busy it was. The first time I remember going here was around 1975 and I used to have to go here to collect stuff my parents wanted from collecting Kensitas coupons which came with the cigarettes they smoked. I also used to come this way to work when I was an apprentice Diesel Fitter in the late 70’s. The whole are at this time was boarded up warehouses and shops, as well as very old tool companies which hadn’t been upgraded since god knows when. One hardware place I remember was Smith and Tyzack who used to sell tools, it was like stepping back into Victorian times entering that place.

Anyway the whole place has become gentrified, full of wine bars and gin bars and trndy clubs, lots of hipster types wandering around. I can’t help but feel it’s the emperors new clothes as I drove around, but I had my time and now it belongs to this generation. It does worry me that the current generation are completely absorbed by media and only feel validated by likes and followers. I recently watched a programme about bailiffs on the telly and it involved a re-possession due to unpaid rent. The tenant owed about £9k in rent and it turned out she was a blogger with more than 100k followers. Her videos and posts portrayed a luxury top brand lifestyle and she even received an income from companies willing to work with her. While her pictures and videos looked like she was living the good life, the state of the house she was kicked out of showed she was a dirty slob. The owners ended up spending thousands of pounds to have the place re-carpeted and deep cleaned. Hopefully people will start to see through some of these internet “influencers”.

Allotment

The plot is really kicking off now, everything is coming into bloom now despite being a little behind due to the weather. My medlar tree has lots of blooms on it so I should have a bumpers crop this year. All the fruit trees have plenty of fruit on them including my three apple trees. I am looking to have so many apples that I am considering making some cider with them. It’s still early yet but I do like the idea of making some cider. I’m not a fan of cider and I haven’t had a drink now for over seven months apart from a glass of porter on Christmas day and a couple of pints with my father in law in October. Despite my abstinence I still enjoy being creative with food and drink hence the damson gin I made at Christmas, everyone who had it, loved and have ordered some more for next year. I take my pleasure from the production. My cucumbers and gherkins are very late and I am getting a bit worried as I do make a lot of stuff with these.

It looks like I am also going to have an abundance of Blackcurrants this year, I haven’t worked out what I’m going to do with all these.

Alf

Alf has been really poorly lately and ended up having to see the emergency vet. He had some sort of stomach bug which ended up with re-hydrating him intravenously, x-ray’s, ultrasound and medication. He had blood coming out of both ends and we did fear the worst after what happened to one of our cats recently. We had a smashing vet who worked tirelessly to get Alfie turned around. It was touch and go for a while but he eventually turned the corner. He is now back to his old self and the vets have no idea what it was, I’m just thankful that they sorted him out.

Alfie taking it easy after his ordeal.

 

 

 

 

 

That’ll do for now

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Hello darkness my old friend

Allotment, Boat, Work

Work

2018 carries on unabated, Christmas seems just a distant memory now as we race through January. Work picked up right where it left off in December and at times if feels like feeding wolves, no matter how nice you are to people, you are still going to get bitten at some stage as it is in their nature. They were biting hard in December and resumed straight away in November. I discussed my 2018 plan with my boss last week and I am pleased to say that he as agreed all my suggested changes, so this year looks to be very challenging. I was a bit disappointed with a couple of events recently at work, a couple of guys who I have looked after and helped out when they needed it,in two completely unrelated events, both stitched me up royally over the past four weeks. It’s a shame because it’s always the people who take liberties that end up spoiling it for everyone else.

My Mother

Rumblings from the bush telegraph would suggest that my mother has taken a turn for the worst. I have not seen my mother for more that 5 years and we became estranged some 5 years or more before that, to all intents and purposes she died some time ago. However hearing that she has had to leave her home, has saddened me. My mother was a funny old bird and after speaking to a couple her sisters, she was a lot like her mother in some of her ways. I know she had an awful childhood with an abusive drunken father and I think in some ways this would explain some of her odd ways. I had my issues with my mother, but I wouldn’t wish that on anyone.

Chris, despite everything I have a lot of good memories of you and will remember these, all the best wherever you end up.

Other stuff

Quite a lot planned for the next couple of months, we are decorating top to bottom as I start to look forward to next stage of my life, Retirement. I have a few years left to go and it is in single figures now, but we have plans and that involves tidying the house up with a view to sell it. We will also sell the boat this year, we have had our use out of it and we only manage a few visits per year and it isn’t really cost effective to keep it, with mooring’s, licenses and insurance, you are into close on £3000 per annum before you even take the boat out. We have had Martha 14 years now and I think we’ve done it all, Lesley even says I can use the money we get for her to buy a newer Landrover. I better get this done before she changes her mind.

Allotment

The weather has been awful of late and I can’t do anything with the plot at the moment. The ground is completely water logged. I have a lot of plans for the plot this year so can’t wait for the weather to break.

Till the next time

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Can you hear me Mother!

Allotment, Orient, Work

The title of this post is related to the music hall comedian Sandy Powell, and is nothing to do with anyone related to me alive or dead!

Last week I was lain flat by a chest infection which very quickly developed into bronchitis. I had a bout of bronchitis when I was young and if you have suffered once you will never be fully rid of it unless you move somewhere dry and warm. I have always suffered with my chest once you know how it works you get used to it a know how to prepare for it before it comes.  I am now on the way out of the other side of it.

Plot 8

The weather is warming up now and plenty of my bushes are now going into bud, the only place I am not seeing much progress is in my greenhouse, I have a couple of cabbages growing in there which aren’t doing too bad. But my seedlings are yet to make their mark. I put my spuds out to chit in the greenhouse, I have put 12 out to start with, duke of York, King Edwards and Wiljna’s. I will start with 4 plants of each and then continue planting at intervals throughout the spring. We don’t eat many spuds and most of these will go to neighbours. I was up at the site this week and met a newcomer, I’m pleased to see this, as we have a number of empty plots and I like to see the place busy. Anyway Dave has taken over a derelict plot opposite my son’s plot. So that one down three more plots to fill.

My youtube channel is doing well, I have 40 subscribers!!!! There is a very good allotment community on youtube and it is a great place to get advice and assistance. One of the stars on there, a guy called Blue Star Dave had his plot broken into and his greenhouse was burned and damaged beyond repair. A go fund me page was set up and within a week he had enough to buy himself a new greenhouse, and he is now filming the erection on a weekly basis.

Work

The last New Routemaster buses will be coming off the production line in the next two months or so which will bring the total in London to 1000. It has taken the best part of four years to get these buses in to London, and while they are very eyecatching, only time will tell whether they will be well thought of in years to come only time will tell. They were branded as a replacement to the original routemaster, at the time I was working for TfL and I can say that the expectations were way over the top even in the early stages. The requirements for a bus to be used in London are so vast, that even an original Routemaster would not cut it in today’s world. I liked the original but it has a place, and that is 1970’s London, I always think trying to label something as a replacement was setting up for failure. This week I have been at Wrights for seven years, in another seven years I will a year away from retirement, that’s a sobering thought. Wrights have been in business 70 this year and to commemorate this they gave all staff a special edition model NRM, only 2000 made and all issued to Wrightbus staff, my bus is number 1725 of 2000. A number of these have turned up on eBay and the most I have seen them go for is £90. So mine will have to stay in my collection to appreciate for a bit longer. The lads in the factory were trying to get William Wright to sing their boxes so that the value would go up, he declined.

Orient

The circus continues as we all sit and wait for Administration or relegation.

 

That’ll do for now

 

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The guy with the lovely name

Allotment, Florence, Work

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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