Can you hear me Mother!

Allotment, Orient, Work

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.


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.


The circus continues as we all sit and wait for Administration or relegation.


That’ll do for now


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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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Foiled again!

Buses, Radio

As you may know, for the past three months I have set myself a target of one CW QSO per day through the whole month. You may remember, I have failed miserably with 4 out of 31 for January, 11 out of 28 for February, so 31 for March seemed impossible. Unfortunately I failed again, however this time it was a much more respectable 22 out of 31, in fact if I went and had 9 qso’s tomorrow I would have achieved it, not likely. I am not downhearted about it I think I did quite well and I reckon April may be my month.

What didn’t help my CW activity this month was a last minute unplanned visit to the factory in Ballymena. So Wednesday night saw me getting on a plane to go to Belfast. The reason for the visit was because we had a customer coming across to sign off their order of new buses. Normally when I visit I end up staying about 5 minutes from the factory, however this time I was stopping in a hotel called 10 square right smack bang in the middle of Belfast city centre. The visit passed by without incident and on Friday afternoon saw me back on a plane to Stansted. The flight was absolutely jam packed and I found myself sat in among a group of young ladies on there way to London for a boozy weekend. Judging by the conversations I pity any poor lad tried his luck with them.

I had intended to take part in the CQWPX annual contest this weekend, I had absolutely no luck on Saturday, things were that bad I was beginning to doubt my equipment, in fact I only managed a Polish special event station (HF15NATO) on the key. I went into the shack on Sunday morning to get my saw to cut a cabinet I had just built, I switched on the radio on 10 metres and it was absolutely buzzing. I had a dabble and was straight in working a Russian station. I quickly cut the wood and went back to the shack, I then went on to work 22 stations in the contest and added two new countries to my list Aruba and Brazil, I was selective in my contacts and managed the Azores, Canaries, Greece Turkey, Canada, USA and Madeira Island to name but a few.

Next week I should get my new car.

I have had a good weekend and look forward to the next one

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Wet Wet Wet

Alf, Boat, Radio, Work

This month has to be the wettest I can remember, I’m not basing this on any recorded empirical evidence, it just seems that all the fields and green areas where I walk Alf are completely waterlogged. The road I use to leave Harlow on has been more or less impassable in a normal car for a week or so. I am a little cautious about this as I managed to bugger an engine on my company car three years ago on this road due to flooding, so I don’t want to do this again. Luckily I have my old Land Rover discovery and I have no problems going through most flooded roads in this area.

Work last week was painful to say the least, I have never had so many staffing issues, at one point last week I was five men down. It gets stressful running this short of men (all off for genuine reasons) and it got to the point where we were only repairing VOR’s.

Anyway next week we have a few more bodies back and things should get easier.

One of my goals for January was to have 31 morse contacts on the radio and while I may be a little way off that target I did manage 5 this weekend. It is becoming much easier and my confidence is building. I have had an offer of a loan of a receiving antenna from a local ham. The reason being is that the noise floor on 80m for me is excessive in the evenings, I think this may be due to a plasma TV, but all the same 80 metres is off limits for me in the evenings. The idea is that you listen through one antenna and transmit on the other, the listening antenna is a loop and is less susceptible to noise and interference. I’ll do a bit of research and see if my radio will support a listening antenna and may take Roger up on his offer.

I dug the 897 out this weekend with a view to do a bit of portable. I never managed to get out in the end due to lack of planning. I fell short in two areas, firstly I have 10 metres of coax which connects to my Pro-whip antenna, I used this with the 817. I had forgotten I used this when I set up my new shack. Secondly, power! I had forgotten to sort out a battery to take with me, I did get my hands on a very good heavy duty motorbike battery with a 13 amp hour capacity. I have put it on charge but it wasn’t ready Sunday morning. I’m not sure if the 13Ah is going to be man enough but experimenting is what the hobby is all about. So the plan is to try the radio out this coming weekend although it may be from the boat in Norfolk.

In other news the pooch hasn’t been to well this week with an upset stomach so a trip to the vets was in order, a load of pills and £200 later he seems to be on the mend. With my workloads as such last week he wasn’t able to get the exercise he normally gets but he more than made up for this the weekend. He has been out with his buddies and it always lifts my spirits to see him chasing around with his mates.

I have had a taste lately of why I don’t get involved in clubs…….in the main its people. I have absolutely no understanding of depression, when someone tells me they are off work for depression I just think to myself, pull yourself together! I had a brother who suffered from “depression” and I felt at that time it was a load of crap and up to now I haven’t changed my mind. The way I see it is that both my Grandads served in world war one, both were badly injured and had to be discharged, one had his house bombed in WWII, and neither to my knowledge pulled the bedsheets over their heads and said “fuck it! I’m depressed”. I think depression is just a con for some time off. I know I’m probably being harsh but I’ve never been around anyone with “depression” that convinced me that anything was really wrong apart from being fed up.

Rant over!

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Me and my boss took a customer out this week. We ended up in a Brazilian restaurant in Pimlico. It was a bit of an odd experience, the idea is that you go to the buffet and choose from a selection of vegetables and salad and return to your table, then the waiters come round with meat on a skewer and cut it off for you. This wasn’t bad, probably ideal for people on the Atkins diet, but after the guys had been around about four times it began to get a bit familiar. I mean the meat was good, and very bloody which is how I like it, but after a while its all a bit the same. I must admit the following day saw me thinking about going vegetarian again. Both me and Lesley went vegetarian for about 3 years nearly 20 years ago, sadly I fell off the wagon first and after I went Lesley followed. I’m not sure if I could do it again as I love fish and Lamb, it was lamb that tipped me over the edge all those years ago. Anyway I’m not committing to major change just yet, but it certainly seems to be at the front of my mind at the moment. I suppose booze and food are about all I have left to give up. Watch this space.

2013-12-09 12.26.23

Left: LT81 arrives at Wembley from Stamford Brook to have it’s Battery Pack changed





My CW (Morse) practice has begun again in earnest and this was rewarded on Sunday with two contacts, one after the other on 40 metres. One was with a German Station and the second was with a Swiss station. I’m very pleased with this because I normally have to have a break after each contact, one because my wrist aches and secondly because my brain is frazzled. A QSO (conversation) using morse generally takes around 15-20 minutes, so the wrist does go through it a bit when you’re new to CW.

I got a call from the radio club chairman this week as he was getting rod of a settee and thought it would be useful at the club HQ. So Saturday I took the trailer to Jon’s house and picked up his old settee and took it to the barn. We managed to get it up the stairs, just the two of us and once in its final resting place it looked well. It will be a much used piece of furniture I believe.

I haven’t mentioned the dog for a while so I suppose now is about time. Alfie continues to grow although I think he must be about there now as far a growth goes, he weighs in at 5 and a half stone and he is quite lean. I think you have to be careful with Labradors as I think they can get fat quite easily. I meet up with a couple of Lab owners every Saturday and Sunday and the dogs have a tear up together and burn off some of that energy they are renowned for.

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Alf (in red collar) and Coco both holding onto a log. They tease each other with logs or branches, once one has a branch, the other one wants it



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Alfie has turned into a good looking dog




Anyway one more customer to dine next week, last year we went to Chinatown and had a meal, it was a very nice evening, I’m hoping it will be the same as last year.

That will do for now

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Alf, Buses, Radio, Work

28 and Counting

Buses, Radio, Uncategorized, Work

This weekend saw my 28th wedding anniversary come and go,  I can’t believe she has stuck with me for so long, but she has.

For fathers day, some months ago, my daughter treated us to tickets to the Rugby League world cup semi-finals. At that time we had no idea that England was going to be in the semi’s so we had a nice result. It was a double header with both semi finals being played that day. First up was England vs New Zealand, it was a good match and there was a good turn out at Wembley stadium with all nationalities covered. The first half saw us loosing to NZ. this was quickly turned around in the 2nd half and we managed to get four points ahead of the kiwi’s. Very disappointed when about a minute from the final whistle we were penalised for a high tackle and our fortunes quickly changed whenpossesion changed to the Kiwi’s followed up by a try and then a conversion in the last 10 seconds which ended England’s cup run.

The next game was Australia vs Fiji, the final score was 64-0 to the Ozzies, I don’t think I need to comment any further on that one. Suffice it to say that at half time the Ozzies were up 28-0 and even the three Oz supporters in front of me had sort of switched off at 20-0. The atmosphere had left the stadium so me and Toni decided to start the walk back to my workshop to pick up the car. It was a very good day and put to bed the disappointment of not being able to go to the Shard earlier in the year.

The radio has been pretty quiet of late with band conditions fairly flat, although when they do get a lift, they really lift. Unfortunately I seem to have been either working or doing other stuff each time there is a lift on. I’m hoping that this weekend I’ll be around in case there is a lift.

This weekend I am going to attempt to wire up my 70cm antenna and rotator to the new shack, I have been without 70cm’s since the move and while it isn’t my most active band I still miss some of the activity.

Work continues at a stupid pace but there is some light at the end of the tunnel, I have been given authorisation to recruit some more engineers, which is good as we are now up to over 100 Borisbuses and this is keeping us very busy.

On Sunday we are supposed to be off to Doncaster for an overnight stay, however as with all plans this year, this is now up in the air. Just as I got home yesterday I received a call from Lesley to say she had been sent home as she had been vomiting. She spent the rest of the day laid up in bed and the outlook doesn’t look good for travel on Sunday. We shall have to see.

Last night was the Harlow and District Amateur Radio Society AGM. It was a good meeting and the committee remains unchanged, this means I am still Vice Chairman.

It’s a funny job really with no real tasks, most other committees I have sat on the VC has also been the secretary.

Anyway that’s enough for now

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Alf, Boat, Radio, Work

An update for last week’s post first.

It turns out that the mast I picked up is not a Tennamast, it is a lattice design and tilts over but it is not a tennamast, so I have to do some more research to try and find out who made it, but I think its a bit older that I first thought.

Talking to a few of the local hams about my windfall and it turned out that one of the locals has the control box for the loop antenna which was attached to the mast, he took it when Tom (the ham who had the mast) died. He kept it in case a local ham ended up with the antenna. Lucky Paul.

I managed to get to the boat this weekend, without Alf, but with Lesley. Earlier in the week we had very high winds in this part of the country so I needed to get up to make sure Martha was still in one piece. Martha was still in one piece, although looking the worse for wear, we have not been up to Norfolk since May so poor old Martha is looking a bit tatty. I covered her over over to keep her dry and to fend off the worst of the weather. I will go back up before Christmas as I have some boat safety work to do.Watch this space!

Sunday saw me making a concerted effort to get the wood burning stove installed and functional. Unfortunately one of the tasks involves a discipline I am totally crap at, throwing out junk!

It was very hard but I managed out 4 black bags worth of inanimate objects that for some reason I have placed an emotional attachment to. The second thing I was not looking forward to was making a hole in my perfectly good roof to allow the flue to exit the shack. I am hoping that the roof doesn’t start leaking

About one o’clock I lit the stove and was very happy with the amount of heat the stove kicks out, I can see I’ll have no problems once the temperature drops, in fact I’m looking forward to it. The stove will take some getting used to to as you can adjust the burn rate and this is a little tricky at the moment or at least until I get used to the stove.

I have stacks of wood left over from building the shack so I should be ok for a while, I also have some wood from when I cut down my last conifer a couple of years ago, this should be well seasoned now and be ok to burn. There is also a lot of wood in my local woods which I can cut down and store.

Busy week next week with a visit to Manchester on Tuesday to have a meeting with Siemens.

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Where does the time go?

Buses, Radio, Work

This week saw my youngest reach the age of 24, I can’t believe the time has gone so quickly. We’re not big on celebration, more’s the pity, in my house so it was a quiet affair. I think she’ll enjoy herself when she goes to Marrakesh in a couple of weeks time.

Work keeps on unabated and we are just about to take delivery of the 2nd big batch of Borisbuses destined for Go-Ahead’s Stockwell garage. I have my fingers crossed that the problems encountered on the last batch have been ironed out for this batch.

I have just had my annual audit at work and my stock is adrift by the equivalent of the GDP of a medium sized African state. I have spent the last week trying to reconcile the shortfall before I pass it back across to head office. So its a case of watch this space, I’m not confident that I’ll be able to ride this one out. To cap it all, while I was off on Friday, I got a call from my Supervisor to tell me that some pikey’s had blantantly pulled up outside the workshop and stole two brand new bus batteries and drove off. Another £1000 on the stock deficit.

My last uncle passed away last week, Uncle Pat, he was married to my Dad’s sister Kath. He was getting on and he had a good life I never went to the funeral, I am struggling with social situations at the moment. I will pop round and see aunt Kath in a couple of weeks time. My Brother Pat went and passed on my apologies for non-attendance. I had a chat with Pat in the week and he just christened his second grand child last Sunday, again I stayed away for the reason mentioned previously.

Progress on the shack continues and it is now wired up and one side has the panelling and insulation in place. I think the radio’s will be in by mid September and I am looking forward to operating from the shed again.

While working on the shack this weekend my daughter drew my attention to a caterpillar in one of the planters, on closer inspection we spotted about 50 of these, I looked them up and found out they were the larvae of the Large White Catterpillar. This has cheered me up no end. I love wildlife and this has been a sort of validation to the work we have put in on the garden this year, that a wild insect has chosen to lay some eggs in our garden. I think they may have hatched a bit late and I may try to grow some on in captivity if the weather gets worse.

CW classses started last week with a change of day to Wednesday instead of Thursday. I am still hovering  around 16 wpm and need a kick to increase my speed.





Borismaster-New Routemaster-NB4L whatever you want to call it

Buses, Radio, Uncategorized, Work

I have my head down quite a bit over the past couple of weeks. The main reason for this is the introduction of 32 new Boris buses into Metroline Holloway. As you may or may not be aware I work for the company that builds these buses and look after all after sales problems that may arise after the buses leave the factory

Boris Buses waiting to go into service


NBfL’s sitting at PV the day before moving off to Holloway. The guy in the centre of the picture has just finished fitting the blinds



There was a fair amount of snagging work to get them ready but the engineers worked their arses off to get them ready an on Saturday they rolled into service. This is still a very new product and teething problems will occur. The plan is to have 600 of these on London’s streets by 2017. Watch this space.

In other news the Radio club had station at the Harlow Museum Festival, it was a very good set up with both HF and VHF stations. The conditions weren’t great but we still managed a few contacts.

I think as I get older I am finding that I like people less and less, I’m not sure why that is but there is definately something going on up there in my old swede.


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