Snowmaggedon!!!!!!

Rant!

This week we saw the Met office actually get something right, despite a number of false predictions this week saw us actually get some snow. It’s when this happens, I actually feel embarrassed to be a Brit.

It started off at the beginning of the week with a weather warning that most of the east coast were going to be hit by a pocket of cold air building up over the Baltic assisted by wind coming from Siberia. Very quickly the media started building the hype instantly followed by the rail companies who were already reducing services despite the fact no snow had fell. By Tuesday my area had received around and inch of snow yet many mainline trains through Harlow were cancelled. My daughter had a nightmare getting to work and getting back home again, despite at this point the snow being no worse than the past couple of years. The daily travel for me which involves 32 of my 38 mile trip on the M25, this was great as most people had listened to the media and decided it was too dangerous to leave home, this remained the same for the next three days. Some of my staff were unable to come in due to railway stations being closed due to snow on the platforms!!! The bus industry struggled on with most operators running a Sunday service. All of my mobile support staff managed to get to work through the week.

God forbid we ever get one of those winters we had in the late 70’s or even the 1963 winter. I don’t think the country has the moral fibre to cope. I remember in 1985 I drove a coach to Westendorf in the Tirol, it was a 24 hour drive, it started snowing on our last pick up in south London and never stopped all the way to Westendorf. When we arrived the hotel owner warned us that it was going to be -32c overnight, I of course, answered in total disbelief that it wasn’t that cold on the Russian front and me and the other driver went off to the bar. It took me 8 hours to get back into the coach (frozen doors) and a further three days to get the coach running again. I left it running overnight for another seven days.

I don’t think as a society we have the energy or brains to adapt when things get rough, it’s a poor state of affairs.

I went out on Thursday for a drive around the local lanes and couldn’t believe the number of cars in ditches, one of which was a 2017 plate top of the range Mercedes. This car would have all the bells and whistles fitted including ABS, EBS and Traction control and still the driver managed to loose control and put it in a ditch. This is another theory I have. Modern cars, trucks and buses have no physical link between the driver and the road. Throttle and Brakes are now controlled electronically, these systems receive inputs from the driver and the vehicle ECU’s carry out the requests. The driver doesn’t actually ‘feel’ that road, I think there should be a way of disabling these controls for this sort of weather. You see so many drivers trying to get up or down hills beaten by the abs or traction control. This is why I love my old Landrover, the second you make a mistake you feel it and can adjust.

Sometimes modernising doesn’t always work. I remember in the 90’s we started seeing a problem with trailer fires in the UK, this was blamed on a change in trailer coupling configurations, not the fifth wheel coupling but the air couplings. What used to happen was that the red line (which feeds the trailer supply tanks) would become unseated during the journey and stop feeding the air tanks. Continuous braking would deplete the tanks so much that the there was not enough air to hold the trailer brakes off, and gradually they would come on. This wasn’t a new phenomenon, it has always happened. What had changed was at the front of the combination, the tractor unit. Years ago you when buying a tractor unit you would specify the tractor with enough power for what you needed, if you were a bread company driving mainly around pan flat London, you would get a small engine, however if you were pulling heavy loads up and down the motorway you would go for the large option, normally 300 bhp. Due to changes in engine technology in the early 90’s when we moved from mechanical controls to electronic diesel control meant that you could squeeze more power out of a smaller engine and vary that output according to the driver/trucks needs. And this is where the problem starts. For instance I am driving a 1985 290hp ERF up Shap on the M6 (a long drag) while I am going up the climb flat out squeezing all the horses from the engine and probably running at 45-50 mph, the brakes start applying I after a very short time notice a drop in speed despite my foot being to the floor, I know something is wrong. Spin that forward 10 years and I am driving an MAN with a 250hp truck which can achive 500hp when needed. Now I am driving up Shap in top gear my foot is on the floor, due to the speed of the truck the engine is supplying around 300hp. The trailer brakes start to apply and the truck ECU starts to slow slightly, it notices that the throttle is still on the floor so starts putting on more power to negate the slowing down, the driver notices nothing. The ECU keeps upping the power until it reaches maximum output, its is only at this point the driver might notice that there is something wrong, by then the trailer brakes are glowing red and as soon as he stops, the brakes no longer get the cooling effect of the wind resistance and up she goes. A prime example where advances in technology aren’t always a good thing. The problem with trailer fires are much reduced now due to an addition to annual test which now incorporates a check on the sealing arrangements of the red coupling.

Rant Continued!!!

This has pissed me off this morning. I walk my dog through some woods near me, its a nice spot with deer and farmers fields once you get going. The first part skirts the edge of Harlow cemetery and this is what I came across this morning, if you look in the background you can see the lines of graves. These three balloons never even managed 100yds. I burst them and picked them up and they were in memory of some lads Nan. They probably cost £10-£15, Johnny’s parents should have told him that his Nan can’t see the balloons and if he wanted a memory he should have planted a tree or give the money to a donkey sanctuary or anything other than this. You’ve gotta love this bling generation, all bloody show!

Right, it’s the weekend and I’m off to do some chores, Mrs H is off up her parents tomorrow so its just me and the dog next week.

 

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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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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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All is not as it seems

We’re now into the thick of the new year and work things are starting to settle down. The period between Christmas and new year sees a real down turn in bus service with a Saturday service operated during this period. The downside is some buses don’t move during this time and we end up with a mad rush the day after new years day with non starts etc. Things are quietening down now however.

Radio

After a few weeks off the air with work and antenna problems I am back again. I put a new antenna up last year and intended to try it out for portable, when I’m out and about. I was so impressed with it’s performance that I left it up, which is fine. However I hadn’t sealed the connector and box for the weather. A few weeks ago I noticed that the antenna wouldn’t tune and that’s when I realised my mistake. The Unun box had water in it and rain water had also got into the co-ax which kissed good bye to any insulation required. I have now replace the feeder and dried out the box and we are up and running again. I had two 599 contacts into Spain and Slovenia yesterday evening, so I know its all working again. I like the antenna because I can tune from 80m to 10m, so it is a useful antenna.

Boat

I should have been up at the boat this weekend gone but didn’t manage it, I had a few jobs around the house to do. We went up over Christmas but the boat looks a bit neglected at the moment, due to the mild weather there is quite a bit of algae covering all the boats up there so I do need to get down and give the old girl a wash. Plus I could do with a tinker, with a boat, unless its a year old there is always something that needs tightening adjusting or replacing. The worst thing you can do with a boat is neglect it as it will bite you back at some stage.

Radio Club

I went to the radio club on Friday, I ended up staying until half eleven, I haven’t done this for ages. We had a good laugh, I actually enjoyed myself up there for the first time in over a year.

Alf

Alf January

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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You aint a beauty but hey you’re alright!

It’s been a couple of weeks since my last post and this is in the main because I have been so busy up at the boat. This weekend has been the first one in seven weeks that I have actually been at home all weekend.

Work has been a real grind lately with a lot of negative activity in the press and media which has ramped up the pressure on my department considerably. Because of this radio has had to take a bit of a back seat of late.

I have been getting back into photography lately and as my technique improves I started seeing the shortfall with my current camera, Canon 1000D. So I took the plunge last week and bought a 7D body and upgraded.  I liked the 1000D but in comparison to the 7D it is way behind. The 7D is an 18mp camera as opposed to the 1000D which is 10mp. The 7D is nearly twice the weight of the 1000D but it does feel like a proper camera, the bonus is that the lenses fit both the 7D and the 1000D, so it was a relatively cheap upgrade.

I have been out this weekend trying it out and and I am liking the results see below:

Micro Butterfly Buff TailBumblebee Buff TailBumblebee2 Deer Statue Hornet

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Some of the pictures above were taken at my local nature reserve, I live about half a mile away and in the twenty odd years I have lived here this is the first time I have visited. I was really fortunate as today they had an exhibition on beekeeping and honey making. They actually had a working hive on display with glass panels, it was fascinating. I got talking to a chap outside who had been keeping bees for over thirty years. I then had a walk around the reserve and it made a nice pleasant stroll. I will definitely be returning.

Alfie found a frisbee yesterday and has made me take it out every time we went for a walk this weekend, the poor sod is knackered now.

I belong to a facebook group called photos of Harlow, there are people on there who are a mine of information about Harlow. I found out this weekend that the pond in Risdens wood is actually a crater left over from a V2 rocket strike in WWII, in fact it was the 599th rocket to hit the UK. I think my dog would probably thank the Germans for this if he could.

Football season starts next week for me with Orient at home to Barnet, we have lost some good players over the summer but I am hoping with the new manager they get wound up enough to want to get back up into the 3rd division, watch this space.

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Es Wolt Ein Madchen

At last we have had some signs of summer. I have lived in Harlow for more than 20 years. In  all this time I’ve never really explored the area so On Sunday the sun was shining and I decided to take Alfie for a walk along the River Stort. I made my way to Parndon Mill and managed to get parked up. So we set off along the river bank which is mainly an asphelt path, it was quite busy with lots of people on bikes and also walking there dogs or just strolling. As usual Alfie loved wandering off in front all the while looking for a way to get into the water. The Stort is a navigation and the banks are quite steep, but it didn’t take long and Alfie was swimming around. On the way back there was a narrow boat in the lock at Parndon Mill. I stopped for a while and had a chat with the couple whose boat it was. They were a really nice couple who had been living on the boat for about 8 years. It was great chatting to them and it was just nice to wander around and smell the fresh air without any timetable. I am looking forward to getting around Harlow with my camera a bit more over the next year or two.

IMG_2592

 

left, Alfie running along the riverbank

 

 

 

Radio

Last month saw my best month so far for CW contacts with 42 contacts made.  But we are into a new month and it starts again, this month has been slow starting but I’m sure it will pick up.

I have bought an new beam for 2m and 70cm, I have now built it and can’t wait to get it up and work the UKAC contest. Watch this space. I have been attending the Harlow club again, I am not convinced it’s where I want to be but we’ll see how it goes.

Other News

Life is pretty good at the moment, I am trying a different approach to life and at the age of 54 I seem to be seeing things in a different light. I’m not saying we should expect a different Paul, but lets just say my outlook is changing. Things that used to be important to me are now less so. Lets see how it goes.

The diet is going well and I’m still finding it quite easy to follow, which is half the battle.

 

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