Oh no, Joe Porterhouse

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.

20180921_171502

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.

IMG-20180912-WA0000

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.

 

Message ends——————————————————————————————————–va

 

 

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.

 

————————————————————————————————–va

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

Message Ends—————————————————————————————–va

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.

 

Message ends—————————————————————————————va

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.

 

Message ends——————————————————————————————-va

 

 

They’re skin and craters like the moon

Bloody Christmas

I am fed up with Christmas already, don’t get me wrong, I am not a Christian nor do I follow any organised religion. So I’m not going to bang on about the commercialisation of it all, or how it is getting away from the true meaning of Christmas, because I’m not sure that there was ever a true meaning. I’m not knocking anybody’s belief system, but my own personal belief is that religion answered the questions science never had the answers for, it was also a very good tool for controlling the masses. For me Christmas is a time when on the whole people tend to stop being arseholes, if only for a couple of days, and it is a good chance to catch up with family and close friends, a couple of days off work helps this no end. Anyway, whatever sky fairy you follow, best wishes to you for the Christmas break.

Old Friends

I was contacted this week by the wife of one of my old managers. Peter James was the Transport Manager of a coach company my father and I worked at in Leyton then Mile End and in the end Stratford. Galleon Coaches started off as Essex County Coaches in the Romford Road many moons ago, they were incorporated by the Workers Travel Association which had ties to the unions. Anyway I worked for Galleon as a driver for about three years, in fact the tip money I saved help us buy our first house. I enjoyed my stint doing tours of the UK and Europe, but having grown up around coach drivers (incl my Father) I never wanted to do it for a living long term. Of all the people I have worked with over the years coach drivers seem to have the highest divorce among any of my friends or colleagues in other trades. Anyway, back to my old guvnor, Peter had been a driver courier for Galleon and got himself promoted into the office. Peter took a chance on me and gave me a coach and sent me off all over Europe with tourists and trusted me to read up on the history of cities and monuments and relay this back to the passengers. It makes me go cold sometimes when I think of what I got up to, I mean, who would trust a 23 year old with a coach and send them off to Germany with 53 people to look after. I earned some fantastic sums of money and if I had my time over again I wouldn’t change a thing. Peter died last year a couple of weeks before his 81st birthday, I will always remember him as a firm but fair boss who had a wealth of knowledge on touring, I am pleased to have known him.

Allotment

I can’t really get on with much at the moment, the ground is completely water logged especially after the recent snow. I am going to have to make some time to do a plan for next year. There are some vegetables I am going to give a miss next year.

Peas are the first ones, I have tried for two years and never had any luck.

Radishes, I have no problems growing these, it’s just that no one at home really likes them.

Things that did really well

Gherkins, I love these and I have so many pickle jars they’ll keep me going over the winter

Cucamelons, easy to grow and taste lovely

Courgettes, but that’s a given

Must try harder

Potatoes, really never got going this year, both crops

Brussels, disappointing very small.

Butternut Squashes, I did so well in 2016, rubbish last year, 2 squashes

Watch this space.

Other Stuff

I did say I was going to put up my DNA results, but I have completely forgotten about it, my next blogpost will cover the findings.

Toni and her boyfriend have just bought a flat in Harlow, not too far from the allotment, she is now working for House of Fraser in the marketing team. So pretty soon 3-4 weeks it will just be me and Mrs H at home.

I finally managed to get Odin, my dear old Landrover, through its MOT. It has been off the road for over 12 months due to restrictions on my time. But I bit the bullet and replaced all the brake hoses and pads and put it in for test. It passed first time but I got a couple of advisories on rust, so that will be my summer project.

A couple of pics

Left, Odin in the snow

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Left: Alfie less than impressed with the weather

 

 

 

 

That’ll do for now, till the next time and you can find out why me and my siblings get very brown when the sun comes out, how I’m related to Bono and Benjamin Franklin and confirmation of my Scandinavian heritage, and more.