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.

 

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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

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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.

 

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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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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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