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.

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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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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