I walk the streets of cobbled stone

Well we’re now into Autumn and the year has really flown by. September in particular seems to have gone very quickly. I write this at the in-laws in South Yorkshire, Lesley has been here all week and I have come up today (Sunday) to bring her back tomorrow. I always try to stay over on the Sunday night for two reasons, 1. I get a chance to have a drink with the father in law at the local working mans club. 2. I love the mother in law’s Sunday roast, she still does it the Yorkshire way with a Yorkshire pud served first. Lesley’s brother Ian was also there and I watched them playing snooker at the club while sinking a few John Smiths. I love spending time here, I don’t get up anywhere nearly as much as I should, the father in law turned 78 last week and due to my infrequent visits I really notice the ageing process. Lesley and Patrick will be up again in a few weeks time.

Allotment

The plot is now really dying back now with only a few cabbages, swedes, cauliflowers and Brussels still growing. I get a great deal of enjoyment from the Allotment and Lesley and I have a plot each. This year I am covering the plots with plastic membrane, the damp membrane you can get from a builders merchant. The idea is to halt the growth of the weeds by blocking out the light. I am told it will work, and if you’ve ever left a paddling pool on the lawn for a week can see how this could work well for the plot. I also spotted some mares tail on the top end of my plot recently which is a bugger of a weed to control. I have dosed it up with a weed killer which I rarely use and covered this patch also. The mares tail root can be up to 2 metres below the surface which is why it can be so difficult to remove.

We have had a good year, however the soft fruits were a bit of a disappointment, but I believe this was due to the warm April weather early in the month followed by two very hard frosts at the end of the month.

Radio

I have managed to make some time to play radio lately. We are at the low point of the sunspot cycle which directly influences the Ionosphere’s ability to bound radio waves. For some time it has been very quiet with only very short skip to local Europe. However, last night I managed to work into Pennsylvania to have a QSO with W3C, a club station. Things may be on the up. I also built a regen receiver over the winter, this is a very old school type of receiver which takes quite a bit of practice to tune. It’s only a couple of weeks ago that the media established the fact that a large number of twenty somethings have no idea how to tune a transistor radio, with a standard tuner as opposed to a digital push button auto scan.

 

That’ll do for now

 

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Pain is in the Brain

Allotment

A month on and everything is grown on the allotment. My cucamelons are thriving, they still have a way to go yet but it is looking promising. I have gherkins, most are about an inch long but I have one that is full size, I won’t pickle this on it’s own and I doubt it will last until the others have caught up so I have to do something with it. My potatoes got blight, but I have got some more on the go. We have had some good crops of raspberries and I have made some jam out of the gooseberries. I have hardly any plums which I think was due to the late frost, so no plum jam this year. Everything else is going great guns.

Leyton Orient

After what seems like an eternity, but was three years in total, the O’s have finally been sold to a consortium headed up by a lifelong O’s fan. The owner  of the Baskins Robbins (Dunkin Donuts) has headed up a team and they have put the team back into stable management. Changes have started immediately and we have had more communication from Nigel Travis in 5 days that we had from the Italian clown in three years. The current plan is to get us back up into the fourth division within the next three to four years, this will give us time to build the club back up after Becchetti’s disasterous reign.

I have renewed my season ticket and will be back in seat M115 again.

Apart from that things have been reasonably quiet.

That’ll do for now.

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Behind the chalet, my holiday’s complete.

It’s been almost three months since I posted last and I doubt anyone would notice. I have been very busy with the allotment of late, and a few other projects have kept me busy.

DNA

I have been pondering having a DNA analysis done for some time now and in April I bit the bullet and bought a kit from 23andme. The kit costs about £150 and arrived in a very well packaged box. You produce a sample by dribbling into a tube, its a lot of dribble, once you hit the line you pour a liquid into the tube seal it up and send it back off in the packaging it was sent with, postage paid.

I tracked it’s journey back to the US via Holland and France and then you play the waiting game. There is a questionnaire you fill out when you register the sample which took some time, you then get a log-in to the website and you can look at samples of the reports. The company say to allow six to eight weeks for your results but in all honesty I received mine within four weeks.

The results were fascinating, the reports are web based and printable and easy to read, however some knowledge and research is needed to interpret some of the reports. You have an option of finding out hereditary health risks, I opted for this. While some of the results provided no surprises, I have a hand condition normally found in Scandinavia or in people with this ancestry, Vikings etc, so when Scandinavia showed up I wasn’t surprised. Some of the other locations were completely out of the blue. I’ll share the ancestry details on another page.

I also found out that on my maternal line my genes belong to the Haplogroup V. This group of genes originated in the last ice age in Iberia and then spread up the coast into Britain,  Sweden and Finland around 15,000 years ago. A piece of totally useless information is that I am (extremely) distantly related to Bono and Benjamin Franklin, still awake?

One of the options when to sign up is to allow your results to be matched with other people who have used the service, nothing is divulged, just matches found. You can swap info with members but this is purely your decision. When I ran this search it came up with over 400 connections, these are grouped by 1st to 3rd cousins, and so on. I have 4, 2nd and 3rd cousins on the list, one who I know, one who I know the family and two who I have no knowledge of the link. The spread is very wide and I have relatives all over the world. I have started getting in touch with them and have had a few share their information. The links are so far back that I don’t recognise many surnames, bearing in mind I have traced both sides of my family back nearly 300 years I know most of the names attached to the tree. Interestingly the name with the most common links to me have the surname parker, which I find really strange as I cannot find a Parker anywhere in my tree, I have a few theories on this but I only got the info a couple of days ago and it’s still a lot to take in.

Orient

For the first time in 136 years my football team has been relegated into the national league. The last three seasons have been very hard and highlights shortfalls with the EFL. Our chairman bought the club three years ago when we lost out to going up to the Championship league on penalties, and in that time he has been poorly advised, spent £10,000,000 on players, who were hopeless, decided he would pick the team and went through 11 managers in this time. We had an awful last season and set a record for the worst goal difference in the English league. As an act of defiance me and my son and around 1000 O’s fan stormed the pitch in the 85 minute of their final home game, the rest is reported in the media so I won’t go over it. We are currently praying that Becchetti finds a buyer soon and we can start the climb out of the lobster pot that is the conference league. If the club sells, I will renew my season ticket, but I am really reluctant to do this if he is still there, although I probably will.

Allotment

I’m not where I want to be, but I am progressing. I have plenty of stuff growing and yesterday I planted out my Celeriac. The greenhouse has been godsend, nearly everything I have on the plot started in here. I still need to work on my planning, this is harder than I thought. I’ll put some picture on when things green up a bit more. We had a bloke start up the allotment about two months ago, he took all day to clear a 6ft by 6ft square, planted some spuds and hasn’t  been back since. The old hands at the plot say they see it all the time, people come with all good intentions then once they work out how hard it is, disappear.

 

That’ll do for now.

 

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Can you hear me Mother!

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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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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