Take my Hand

Allotment, Orient, Radio

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.


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.


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.


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

Allotment, Florence, Work

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.




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.


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.


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

Allotment, Family, Florence, Orient, Radio

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.


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.


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.


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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I could yawn and be withdrawn and watch them gallop by

Family, Florence, Orient

So here we are it’s D Day!

I’m writing this at the end of a week which started really well and descended into the snake pit very quickly.

The O’s

Orient played Northampton Town last Saturday, it was always going to hard, especially as Northampton are at the top of the league and on a winning streak. Orient however have been pulling a few surprises since we got the new player manager. However it was not to be on Saturday. We held them well in the first half and ran our socks off, however when they came out in the second half Northampton had the measure of us and ran us all over the pitch, we were very soon two nil down which saw hundreds of “O’s fans” get up and walk out. In the last ten minutes Northampton scored another two goals and I was willing the final whistle. I get really angry when fans do this, I know they pay their ticket and can show their upset whatever way they want, but it is football and anything can happen. But I really don’t think you can call yourself a supporter if you do that, we have got 9 points from the last five games which I think is pretty good in Orient terms!


Now doing my last minute packing for Florence, we are on the 8:10am flight to Bologna. Can’t wait to see Toni, although we talk every day, I do miss her. There are a few more places I’m going to visit, and plenty of walking.

Blast from the Past

I bumped in to an old friend of my dads last week. Patsy Cullen, he worked at Evan Evans with me and my old man, he was a Cornishman, a real character who always had a fiddle or scam. He hadn’t changed at all, still trying to work out his next money making scheme. Poor sod didn’t look like he had a pot to piss in. He was a great guy to sit in a pub with, after an evening with him your sides would be aching. Daft thing is after all these years he still has a Cornish accent. There’s not too many blokes left who worked with my dad and I am in touch with most of them, however they are starting to drop off the perch now.

Right, that’ll do time to go and get my travel stuff together.


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Road trip ptII


Our hotel was a ten minute walk from Toni’s flat.

The hotel was very basic but clean and comfortable, the beauty of it was that it was so central. After a quick catch up with Toni we set off for a wander around the city.

Toni was learning her way around quite well and showed some of the sites. We stopped in one of the squares and found a restaurant. We had a meal which was not bad, a typical tourist type restaurant. The Italians go out much later than us Brits and think nothing of walking into a restaurant at ten o’clock at night, lunch is around 3pm.


After a long walk round we said goodnight to Toni and I went to bed, Patrick wandered around the city for a bit longer..

i got up early on the Sunday and set off with my camera to get some shots. Florence is a very photogenic city, I will post my pictures in the gallery tomorrow.

Toni took us to a place where she goes to lunch, I only had a roll but the ingredients were fantastic.

We did some more sightseeing including a tour of her flat. She took us to a local restaurant for our dinner and I had the best pizza I have ever had. I will definitely be paying this place a visit when me and Lesley visit in February.  Almost as soon as it started our visit to see Toni was over.

We set off early on the Monday morning, we managed to say goodbye to Toni before we left.

We headed north following the coast road, it really was very scenic, unfortunately Pat slept through a lot of the first leg and only really woke up as we started climbing.

The route took us through Mont Blanc and along the white route to Dijon, the scenery was magnificent, photos in the gallery.

We stopped at an Ibis hotel in Dijon overnight, the hotel was very sterile as to be expected with an Ibis but it served its purpose.

Long story short we got home without any problems.

I am looking forward to another road trip in the summer and a flight out with Lesley in February

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Road Trip Pt1


I am sitting here on a Sunday night writing this, Lesley has gone to work and I am contemplating the coming week.

Last week my son Pat and I made a road trip to Italy to see Toni. I haven’t driven on the continent for nearly 30 years and to be quite honest I have been doubting myself when I think back to the journeys I made as a 24 year old coach driver.

By road Florence is around 1000 miles from Harlow, 15 years ago I would have done this in one very long day, I know my limitations so I booked a stop halfway on the way out and on the way back. We caught a DFDS ferry from Dover and managed to catch an earlier boat due the earlier one being delayed due to the weather. The journey down to Ulm was a bit of a drag, we hit some big delays around Munich and Stuttgart and finally got to the hotel at about 8pm. The hotel had a nice bar and it was good to sit there having a drink with my son. The next day we got up and noticed that the hotel was right next to the river overlooking the old town, so we set off to take some photo’s before we set off for the run down to Florence.

I wanted to go via Westendorf in Austria as I had spent a month there in 1985. I really liked the run down, motorway driving in Germany is so much better than in England. People really have good lane discipline and during my time there I never saw any near misses, despite the higher road speeds.

We got to Westendorf by late morning and I was disappointed to find that the hotel I wanted to visit was closed for December. So we took some snaps and made our way south through the mountains and finally got to Florence around 5pm.

We parked the car outside Toni’s flat, which was a ten minute walk to the hotel.

To be continued

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He just loved to live that way

Buses, Family, Radio

It’s been a month since my last post so I thought I’d bring you up to date.

Toni has now been in Italy two weeks and is settling in nicely, she loves the city, and the job and everyone is really friendly.

On Friday this week me and Patrick will be taking the rest of her stuff out there by car. Fifteen years ago I wouldn’t have thought much of jumping the car and driving for 15 hours straight, however as I get older I am beginning to understand my limitations. So the itinerary is thus.

Friday Harlow-Dover-Dunkirk- Ulm overnight

Saturday Ulm- Austria – Florence 2 nights

Monday Florence – Dijon overnight

Tuesday Dijon – Dunkirk – Dover Home

I’m looking forward to the drive and will be re-visiting places I have been to and spent some time at in the past.

As expected things are very quiet at home without Toni, but I do keep in touch with her through the half a dozen apps at our disposal, but its not the same. Toni has lined up some places for us to eat next weekend and from what she tells me you can’t really go wrong.

This week saw the club AGM, and I couldn’t be bothered to go, strange really but although I still enjoy the radio and am as active as I can be, I’m really not bothered with club activities.

Work is still busy and we are looking at around June for the last bus to roll off the line probably LT800.

That’ll do for now


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Arrivederci Toni!


Boat, blah blah blah, dog blah blah blah, Radio blah blah blah.

That’s the normal stuff out of the way, now for the fantastic news. My youngest sprog Toni, who works in marketing (an industry I have no idea how it makes money) has gone and landed herself a job in Italy. She’s sets off for Florence in a couple of weeks time. This is an amazing opportunity for her and I know she will do really well. She already has a flat sorted out and I will drive out in December and take some of her stuff out, as we speak I am just planning the journey.

I haven’t driven in Europe for about 30 years now so this will be interesting. The plan is to get the ferry to either Calais or Dunkirque then down through France to Italy, the sat nav calculates it to be a 15 hour 1000 mile drive to Florence which is going to be a grind, I’m looking forward to getting some photos.My son may be coming along with me for the ride but he has to see if he can get the time off.

It is going to be strange without Toni and all the noise, we have very a very similar sense of humour so I know I’ll probably find it hard. I’m pretty sure that this job will be a stepping stone onto other things and I wish her all the luck and good fortune in the world.

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