Down and Down there is no up

It’s been a mixed couple of weeks, I made contact with a couple of old friends recently, one of which was my best man and I have known him since junior school. Also a colleague who I worked with at TfL, he was the first (knowingly) gay man I worked with. He was such a funny guy and used to make my sides hurt if went out for a beer after work. In work they used to call us the odd couple, mainly because of my Alpha male appearance, and his very, very camp behaviour. He told me stuff I’d never heard of and there was always a story attached, many of which I dine out on now. He had HIV and he moved into the last stage and had to finish work, he picked up an illness which hospitalised him caught through contact on his travel to work, it was an infection only women suffer from. The doctors said it could have been picked up from a handpole on a bus or train, but his immune system was non existant now so it was in his interests to stop working. Thanks to the miracles of modern phones he got in touch with me through whatsapp! He has married and is now living on a Spanish island, it’s really great that he is still about, he sort of dropped off the Earth and no one could get in touch with him. Good to be back in touch Michael!

Plot 8

This week has been a complete washout, we have had so much rain of late I haven’t been able to do anything, I have tidied the greenhouse, planted some seeds in the greenhouse and that’s about it. I find it really frustrating because I want to get on with it.

Orient

We managed to get our first point this year away at Yeovil, things are very bleak in deed, we lie second from the bottom of League 2, and I fully expect Orient to either go out of the league or go intro administration or both. I can see no way out.

Family

I went up to see the in-laws this weekend, they both seem to be deteriorating, they are both heading towards their 80’s and health wise aren’t doing too well. We are going to try and get up there once a month, luckily Ian lives nearby and pops in as much as he can, Patrick stops up there every month or two and loves spending time with them, I do wish we lived closer though.

That’ll do for now.

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Take my Hand

Well, January sort of whizzed past and here we are in February.

Plot 8

We are now paying the price for the previous plot holder not handing the plot over till November. To be where we needed to be we ideally should have had the plot flattened by now. Unfortunately with the short days and the weather I haven’t been able to get where I wanted. The days are getting longer and I am now able to get a bit done when I get home from work early. I have flattened the plot and have put some manure on to part of it, however there is still a lot of earth to turn over. I have started sowing seeds in the greenhouse, Cauliflowers and Tomatoes (Moneymaker). Yesterday I took delivery of two new trees, an apple (Worcester Pearmain) and a Medlar. The medlar is a funny looking fruit which fell out of favour many years ago, apparently you have to leave the fruit two weeks once it has been picked to “Blet”, or soften up. Then you scoop the insides out and eat. So I can’t wait to give that a go. I bought another apple tree to replace the one that was taken from my plot just before we got it. I am not going to plant the tree in the same spot, I am going to plant it in line with the other apple tree and the gooseberry bush which will break the plot up. I have discovered a massive strawberry patch on the plot, I’m not sure whether I will thin this out yet, I’ll have to see how it goes. I have been getting into youtube of late, I get so much info on allotments and it has been a great help. I have even put a few of my own videos on there and it’s good to receive encouragement and tips.

Orient

The team has gone from bad to worst and for the first time in its 136 year history it looks like we are about to drop out of the league and go into the non league divisions. This will of course finish the club. We don’t own our own ground, this was split up when we nearly went bankrupt in the 90’s. There is no way we could afford the rent if we drop and the blame, in my opinion, lies fairly and squarely at the owner of 2 1/2 years. He took over a club who was one penalty kick away from the championship league, and 2.5 years and 10 managers later we find ourselves 2nd from the bottom of the 4th division with the assistant manager of the youth team now running the main team. Grim times indeed. Whatever happens I will be there every match.

Family

Toni is now back from Italy and working for a marketing company in London, she managed to get a good package, and I still don’t understand the industry.

Radio

The bands are still completely flat however there are signs of an improvement, My friends who are hams, but at home during the day have noticed some lifts on 20 and 40 metres from time to time, so things could be improving. VHF has been very interesting, with some tropospheric ducting occurring a few times, a few of the local hams have worked into Spain on 2 metres. I managed France and Belgium, but by the time I got home from work the lifts was waning. For info the 2 metre band works normally line of sight, so depending on hills etc, normally about 25 miles. So you can see that Harlow to Spain is quite an achievement.

 

Right that’ll do for now.

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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.

20161221_203648

 

 

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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Restrictive Covenants

Everything seems to have been busy of late, both work and family life, and I’m not complaining as time flies when you’re busy.

Boat

We managed four days up in Norfolk last week, the weather wasn’t fantastic but it was great to get away. We went took Martha out an spent a bit of time visiting old haunts, and managed to run into a few old friends. It was good to get around, the boat behaved herself and is now due some maintenance for the winter. As usual Alfie thoroughly enjoyed it and we managed some good long walks ashore. That’s the beauty of having had a boat here for so long, I now know most of the public and permissive footpaths which take me and the dog off the beaten track. One of our friends is moving up here in the next couple of months and we took a drive to see her new place, I’m not sure how they are going to get on as it is a bit rural and I don’t see them living like that.

Radio

Nothing at all to report here, I have not had a contact on the radio since August as I have been drawn into other distractions of late.

Allotment

The growing season is really winding down now with activity at the allotment (from others) really dwindling now. As for us we continue to grow and plan for next year. I am just pulling up my butternut squashes, in fact we started eating our squashes last night. I am also growing some winter cabbages (Durham Early) and some parsnips. I finally got my greenhouse up and it went together well, just in time for the winter and getting stuff ready for the new year.

GreenhouseThe greenhouse up and in place, minus the glass obviously.

 

 

 

I have also got some autumn raspberries coming along as well, these are not as sweet as the summer varieties, but nice all the same.

Autumn Gold20161021_172536

The last Carrots for this year

 

 

 

So Plot 8b is winding down although there will be plenty of maintenance to carry out during the winter, and I hope to be able to report some good news regarding the allotment in my next post.

Work

I was offered a role with a very large Fleet Management company recently. Unfortunately as with all these things not is all as it seems. The post was for a Fleet Engineer covering the south of England and had 4 depots in the region. One of the depots was a problem depot, which they were keen for me to sort out, and I was up for the challenge. The first alarm bell started ringing when at my second interview I asked for a copy of the job description, this was not forthcoming and the interviewer got a little testy about it. A job offer came and few days later the job pack arrived at home. The first surprise was the pay package, which was lower than discussed, and even lower for the first 3 months. The contract also had a restrictive covenant in it which stop me working for any other fleet management companies for at least three months after leaving them, this is almost unworkable for me. There was also a clause about items not mentioned in my contract but I am still contractually obliged to conform to, I asked for details of what these items are, to be told that I would have to ask for specifics items as there were too many to list.

With all this I decided that the job was not for me so dropped it much to the disappointment of the agency. So it looks like I will be staying put, for the time being.

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I’ll be standin on the corner full of gin, when they bring your dead body in.

Its been a couple of weeks since my last post, but that’s not to say nothing has been happening.

Allotment

I have finally got my last courgettes from the plot, I have now dug up both plants, they were starting to suffer from leaf mould and I don’t think they would have bore much more. I have turned over the soil and put some manure in.

The onions are now coming up and Christ they are strong.

I dug my spuds up, they make it look very easy on youtube but I don’t think I had a spud that hadn’t been spiked with my fork. I got about 5lbs from the plants and considering they grew from a couple of jacket spuds we didn’t eat I think it did well.

My butternut and St Johns Squashes are growing well and the St Johns ones are already being taken home. I have planted some winter potatoes, these should be ready for the Christmas table.

I have planted some Parsnip, Cabbage and Chard seeds into the little greenhouse and these are shooting up now. And my tomato plants have been planted out and are flowering.

We still haven’t heard anything about the other half of our plot yet, but if it doesn’t happen, it doesn’t happen.

This weekend I went to one of my cousins to pick up an unwanted 6ft x 6ft glass greenhouse. I can’t wait to get it erected, this will give me a lot more options with stuff to grow.

I had a pretty stressful week at work last week and on Friday evening I went up to the plot for a few hours. I was amazed how de-stressed I was when I went back home at sunset.

Orient

I went to the last O’s match vs Yeovil, the game was atrocious and Orient wouldn’t have looked out of place on the Hackney marshes on Sunday, in fact I think there are some better players over there. At the end the fans were shouting Becchetti out at the gallery. Becchetti is the clubs owner, what happened next beggared belief, the chairman just waved the supporters quite dismissively which made matters worse,  and then to put the tin lid on it all the fans clapped and cheered the Yeovil players off the pitch after booing the Orient players off. We are playing at home again on Tuesday evening and the fixture has almost become a side line to the inevitable protestations.

Watch this space.

Other news

I had an interview last week and the feedback from the agency was that I am now a firm favourite, time to start thinking about what I want to do. I will have a second interview in a couple of weeks so I have time to consider this, but its strange. I am now responsible for 30 staff and three business units and I am having crisis of confidence, I know this is because of my age and the time I have spent with my current employer, but its still difficult all the same.

Toni has just returned to Italy after being in New York for fashion week and a few days spent in Santa Barbara on the west coast. I envy her, to be that young and be paid to visit these places, she’s a lucky girl.

Boat

We spent last weekend at the boat and the weather was perfect, Martha behaved herself and we had a good trip visiting some of our favourite places. Alfie hurt his leg while we were up there, but it is better now. I think he may have a weak joint or muscle as this keeps happening.

I bid you a good evening and what’s left of your weekend

 

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Double Decker Move Along

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

Work

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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