Got no reason, for coming to me….

Facebook,

I removed myself from facebook a couple of months ago, I un-friended all my “friends” and deleted my account. I never missed the interaction with people but after some time I did begin to miss some of the groups I belonged to, so a week or two ago I set myself back up again and just use it for the two or three groups I belong to. I didn’t use my email address to verify my account I used my mobile phone number. Despite this I have still had a number of friend requests, I have decided however, not to accept any requests and just keep my account for groups.

Allotment

I dug my rotovator out this week from the locker where it has been parked since I last used it. To say it was ridden hard and put away wet would be an understatement. When I put it back it had a puncture and was stuck in gear. I had the thought of sitting there in the sunshine carrying out the repairs and giving the old girl a service. Spin the clock forward 5 months and I am now under pressure to make it serviceable. I dug it out of the locker, and when I say dug, I mean dug. I bought a couple of new inner tubes and set about replacing the tube on the punctured tyre, what a bastard! For the uninitiated the smaller the wheel diameter, the harder it is to get the tyre back over the rim, anyway after some sweating, struggling and swearing I managed to get the tyre back on after changing the tube and even managed to avoid catching the tube. After this I set about getting to bottom of why it was stuck in gear. On this model the gear is constantly engaged and relies on a manual belt tensioner which when tightened by a lever engages the tensioner and the belt then connects the engine to the gearbox. This just needed the cable adjusting, a quick pull on the start cord and the 200cc engine sparked into life and she was up and running again. She will get a lot of use as we clear the plot for the winter, the aim is to manure and cover up again till March/April. I still have some stuff growing, cucumbers, runners, butternut squashes, beetroots, tomatoes, medlars, brussels and celeriac. I expect most of this will be finished in the next 3 weeks, I can then get the soil turned over, fertilised and covered.

Leyton Orient

I have just come away from the 11th game of the season and once again the O’s come away unbeaten after beating Barnet 3:1. We are absolutely on fire this season and for the first time in about 4-5 years we look like a threat, we are looking like we might be a serious challenge for promotion this year. Up the O’s!!!!!

Ham Radio

We are currently around the low point of the sunspot cycle so conditions have been poor for some time, this is the main reason for my lack of motivation to have a tap on the morse key. I plan to go up into the shack next week and have  a play and get my ear in again to play a bit of morse.

Pastures New??

I went to see another company this week with a view to joining them, the interview was very informal, I have known the interviewer for more years than I care to remember, I was very impressed with the set up, but am keeping an open mind. Watch this space!

 

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The Squeaky Wheel gets the Oil

I have decided to close down my website and domain hence the move to the wordpress site, we’ll see how this works out. Well it’s been a couple of months since I last posted and the summer has practically passed by.

Allotment

It has been a bumper year this year for most of the plot, the big disappointment was the berries and currants. This is mainly due to the very dry weather an extreme heat. However everything else really took off, but watering became a mammoth task, with me having to water on a daily basis. The house is overflowing with pickles, rhubarb gin and this year I have had a go at making hard cider, thanks to the abundance of apples grown this year. We also had enough onions for me to string them and store them in the shed, and right now I have about 15 butternut squashes hardening up. All in all it has been a good summer on the plot.

Inkpen Beacon

My favourite poem is Wessex Heights and some time ago I decided to try and visit the places mentioned in the poem. I was at a loose end on a day off back towards the end of July so jumped in the car with the camera and did the two and a half hour journey to Inkpen. The place is a long way from the beaten path, probably 30-40 minutes from the M4. I arrived there at about 11:30 and made my way to the gibbet. I think if Hardy was to turn up today he would recognise the spot. It was very difficult to find anything modern on the horizon except for the radio mast at Membury a way off in the distance. I had a very peaceful afternoon and met some nice people. Definitely worth a visit again.

Wessex Heights by Thomas Hardy

There are some heights in Wessex, shaped as if by a kindly hand
For thinking, dreaming, dying on, and at crises when I stand,
Say, on Ingpen Beacon eastward, or on Wylls-Neck westwardly,
I seem where I was before my birth, and after death may be.
In the lowlands I have no comrade, not even the lone man’s friend –
Her who suffereth long and is kind; accepts what he is too weak to
mend:
Down there they are dubious and askance; there nobody thinks as I,
But mind-chains do not clank where one’s next neighbour is the sky.
In the towns I am tracked by phantoms having weird detective ways –
Shadows of beings who fellowed with myself of earlier days:
They hang about at places, and they say harsh heavy things –
Men with a frigid sneer, and women with tart disparagings.
Down there I seem to be false to myself, my simple self that was,
And is not now, and I see him watching, wondering what crass cause
Can have merged him into such a strange continuator as this,
Who yet has something in common with himself, my chrysalis.
I cannot go to the great grey Plain; there’s a figure against the
moon,
Nobody sees it but I, and it makes my breast beat out of tune;
I cannot go to the tall-spired town, being barred by the forms now
passed
For everybody but me, in whose long vision they stand there fast.
There’s a ghost at Yell’ham Bottom chiding loud at the fall of the
night,
There’s a ghost in Froom-side Vale, thin lipped and vague, in a
shroud of white,
There is one in the railway-train whenever I do not want it near,
I see its profile against the pane, saying what I would not hear.
As for one rare fair woman, I am now but a thought of hers,
I enter her mind and another thought succeeds me that she prefers;
Yet my love for her in its fulness she herself even did not know;
Well, time cures hearts of tenderness, and now I can let her go.
So I am found on Ingpen Beacon, or on Wylls-Neck to the west,
Or else on homely Bulbarrow, or little Pilsdon Crest,
Where men have never cared to haunt, nor women have walked with me,
And ghosts then keep their distance; and I know some liberty.
Message ends-----------------------------------------va

 

He just loved to live that way

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

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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Is it on then? Are we on the brink?

Allotment

At last the plot is drying out and I have a chance to get the soil turned over.

 

 

 

 

After a number of false starts I have managed to get the soil turned over on my plot. The soil is London clay and it doesn’t take too much rain to turn it into an 80ft x 20ft solid lump. We had some good weather last week and I was able to get the rotavator out and start breaking it up, and had to fork it all first however. During this time I managed to fix the rotavator, since I’ve had it, it runs for a while and then cuts out. I first thought the problem was fuel related and have stripped the carburettor and cleaned and re-jetted it with the fault still occurring. Last week I decided that I was going to get stuck in and get to the bottom of the problem even if I had to strip it into a hundred pieces. Anyway to cut it short I eventually diagnosed to a faulty oil pressure sensor. The motor has a safety device fitted to stop the engine running if it runs out of oil. I bypassed this and the problem has gone away, it was great being able to run the motor continuously and get my work done.

I managed to plant seeds in the greenhouse, get my climbing frame up, plant some King Edwards and Maris pipers and 50 onions. All my trees are in full bloom, with the exception of the Medlar, and I’m not really sure what to expect from that. My blackcurrants, redcurrants and raspberries are going well and are in fruit but albeit quite a way off.

Left: Blossoms on the cherry tree with my plum tree in the background.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bike

Left: This steed was dumped at my workplace and has been sitting there for three years. The bike is a messenger type cycle with a fixed wheel and no brakes. I took it home and fixed it up and for the first time in more than 30 years I had a ride on a fixed wheel. The discipline is quite a bit different than riding a bike with a freewheel. The first thing you notice is setting off. You have to set the pedals to the right position to start and of course you cannot back pedal to line them up. Once moving you cannot freewheel, which can be fiddly if you are using clips or toe-clips as you have to either lock in first time or wait for the pedal to come around again. Stopping is another novelty, you don’t need brakes in the conventional sense. Normally fixed wheel bikes have just a front brake as heavy braking is carried out by applying downward pressure on the up stroke of the pedals which takes some getting used to. Anyway I managed 5 miles without killing myself, people or animals. I’d forgotten what fun these bikes are to ride, this one definitely has a place in the stable with my six other bikes, you can never have enough pushbikes.

We had an unexpected departure last week, we have two cats, sisters who are seven years old. One of them was a bit under the weather and we decided to take her to the vets to get her checked out, little did I know that she wouldn’t be coming back. It turned out that she was in the final stages of Kidney disease and had to be put down. She gave no signs of being ill apart from a couple of days before we took her to the vets. It was such a shock, completely unexpected. We picked up her ashes today.

Orient

We have now come to the end of the home season with one last game on Saturday at Gateshead which ends our first season in the national league. It has been a funny seasons with lots of ups and downs and two managers. I haven’t missed one home game and even managed a couple of away games. I will renew my season ticket this summer and it is good to see the club being run properly after three years of being run by a lunatic Italian. We ended up mid table at the end of the season which I am happy with, there is a plan to push for promotion next season. I’m not going to hold my breath for this but after last season I am just happy I still have a club to support which wasn’t looking likely toward the end of last season.

 

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Snowmaggedon!!!!!!

Rant!

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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If he hears us he’ll knock all day

I took this picture of my plot on my trip up on Saturday. What you can’t appreciate from the picture is how wet the ground is, it is completely water logged.

There is some good news however, the raspberry and blackcurrant canes Reg, one of the other plotholders, gave me last year are actually in bud. It’s always nice when you see the

plants putting shoots on as it is a sign that we are heading towards the spring and that the winter will come to an end. I was talking to one of the other plot holders this afternoon and it looks like he is going to turn it in. It’s a shame because he is one of the younger members. But he is moving away and won’t be able to get to the plot as easily as he can now. It’s such a shame, I am concerned because we are a small allotment and that will make it four empty plots out of fourteen. We just can’t seem to get people to stay, we had a new guy start last year, he took over an overgrown plot (like me) spent all day clearing a 6ft x 6ft patch planted some spuds, came back once to see if they had come up and never came again. One of the nurses my wife works with came up in September and took over a plot near ours, once again overgrown, haven’t seen them since we showed them around. Such a shame, they have paid up for the year, not sure we’ll see them up again.

The rhubarb is coming up already but I have got a real problem with grass on the plot. I am going to look on youtube for some permanent tips on how to banish grass. I don’t use pesticides or weedkillers on the plot but the grass has almost driven me to distraction, but I still wont use chemicals.

I will be putting some more videos on youtube this year marking the progress as we go through the year.

Other Stuff

For about two years running I have set myself the goal of visiting one place per month where I haven’t been before. Up to now the time passes and I never manage it. I have decided that this is the year I do it! (Note to self: you do know it’s almost February?) I have struggled to find places to visit, I lack imagination, anyway this year I have come up with a few places. My favourite poet is Thomas Hardy, I love his poetry about Wessex, I also very much like Wessex. My favourite poem of his is Wessex Heights, and I intend to visit all the places mentioned or identified in this piece. Bullbarrow will be my first place to see, which is not too far from Shaftesbury. I used to stop here in the mid 80’s when I was coach driving. I used to do a tour called the inns of old England and the Grosvenor Hotel was my first overnight stop. The street plan of Shaftesbury has not changed since the 1200’s, just along the high street is gold hill, famous for the Hovis advert with the delivery boy pushing his bike uphill. I used to get here on a Saturday night and when we left on the Sunday morning you could hear the church bells ringing and it just seemed like the perfect place to be. I went back about eight years ago and I couldn’t believe how run down it looked. The hotel had now become a privately owned hotel (it used to be THF) and it looked really grubby. I will return again in the next couple of months and I am hoping it has not deteriorated any further.

That’ll do for now.

 

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