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.

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.

Message ends————————————————————————————-va

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.

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.

Message ends—————————————————————————————–va

 

There’s a figure against the moon

Radio, Uncategorized

It’s been a month since my last post, and this is really a reflection of how busy things have been.

Radio

I took a trip to Martin Lynch & Sons, a ham radio equipment supplier in Chertsey. I decided to get my 7 year old FT-950  wide banded to accommodate the new radio allocation of 5MHz. I went there with good intentions of paying £50 to have the radio modded, but ended up coming out with a brand new FTDX-3000, and quite a bit poorer.

I always go for Yaesu radios, not because I think they are superior to other radios, more for the fact that they are now familiar to me and its easy to go from one model to another without having to try and get used to a different layout. The radio is a level above my old FT-950 and has a built in band scope. One of the downsides of the 950 was the fact that you had to rummage through menus to change the output power, the 3000 has this on the front panel which does make life easier.

ChOT9hjWMAAo28QPride of place below my IC-910

 

 

 

 

So far this month I have had more than 60 contacts on the key, which is something of a record for me. I have not worked any DX of note with a couple of Asiatic Russian stations, but in the main I worked mostly EU stations.

I went to Dunstable Downs rally this weekend and for the first time in a few years I came away without a load of crap. I think because I’ve spent the last few weeks clearing the shack out and throwing away most of the crap I have bought at radio rallies, I don’t want to fill the shack back up again.

Walking

While out walking with the dog recently I found a route that will take me from Harlow to Epping using only public footpaths and bridleways, crossing only a small number of minor roads.

Whilst walking a couple of weeks ago I found an old flint tool, I can only make assumptions as to what is was used for, but it fits the hand very well and by holding it it could either be used as a scraper or some form of digging tool. The flint has been worked and has a pointed end as well as a curved sharp edge on one side. For all I know it could just be a naturally shaped stone but I doubt it.

Kombucha

After a while searching I have found a supplier of Kombucha in the UK. I have now had a couple of boxes from them and I have to say it is very good.

Boat

The boat has once again taken a back seat as other events in our lives have taken the driving seat.

Family

This weekend Lesley’s mum had a piece of her lung removed in a bid to remove the cancer. It looks like she will be starting chemo in the next week or so. I feel really sorry for Ann, she is 73 years old and never had a cigarette in her life. Her and her husband ran pubs for most of their working lives while it was still legal to smoke inside. I can only imagine this is due to secondary smoke inhalation.

Lesley is up in Doncaster taking care of her, it is handy sometimes having a nurse in the family.

Toni has been all over the place over the past couple of weeks which included a trip to Portugal with her boyfriend, and business trips to Los Angeles, she wasn’t overly impressed and Madeira, she liked this place. At the end of June she is off to Budapest for a week with her boyfriend. She is loving life at the moment and I’m really pleased for her.

That’ll do till next time

Message ends——————————————————————————————-va

72 DXCC’s and growing

Cycling, Orient, Radio

The weather is on the turn and at last I feel like summer is on the way. Work has been up and down of late, but nothing new there I hear you mutter. The less I dwell on this the better for all parties involved.

Radio

Radio keeps getting better and better. Yesterday alone I added 4 new entities to my list. First off I was delighted to a Japanese station, followed very quickly by a Libyan station, some time after I managed a closer station, but nonetheless elusive (for me), Crete. After this excitement (this is what passes as excitement when you’re my age) I went back downstairs for dinner. I went back on the radio and after working a few stations including Ken K3WW, I worked what I thought was another US station which turned out to be the US Virgin Islands. A very good days work. My target this month is 31 stations, it is the tenth of the month and I am already on 23 stations, so I am quite a bit ahead.

Election

This week saw the general election come and go, I have to admit to having an interest in politics, so I followed this closely. It was a result I don’t think anyone foresaw and I think it will be remembered for some time to come. The one thing we have now that we didn’t have at the last election was Twitter, unfortunately the moans and groans are piling up and I think because of the medium it is being listened to, it’s sad really because once again the noisy minority will probably be appeased to shut them up.

Leyton Orient

Well, it happened, my team have been relegated to the 2nd (4th) division. I managed to get to their last home game of the season against Sheffield United, which they managed a 2-2 draw, but it shows that the team are being poorly managed, I won’t go on about it, plenty of people have. Roll on next season!

Cycling

My fitness is slowly coming back and I am enjoying being back on the pushbike.

That’ll do for now.

Message ends——————————————————————————–va

 

First Transatlantic CW QSO

Alf, Boat, Radio

Another week flies by with not too much going on. However, on Thursday I returned to morse classes, the main reason for this was to return the trophy I won last year. My badge will stay on there but this year it will be passed on to another newcomer to morse. I enjoyed the class to a certain extent but felt a bit of frostiness, I’m not sure if it was because I haven’t been for a while, or whether it is because I am now on the air, but that said there was a certain amount of stand offishness. I would add though this was not from the chief instructor Andy who has helped me immensely over the past year or so. I am in two minds whether or not to continue with the classes, I will probably go this week and see how the land lies but I have never seen the point in putting up this sort of thing. I do benefit from the classes and could always do with constructive criticism.

Friday night I went to Harlow radio club, it was pretty full and very lively, about ten o’clock I sat with Bob G0AGO while he worked a couple of US stations on the key, I was writing down what was being recieved. Bob worked a couple of stations and then disappeared to get a cup of coffee. I sat at the radio, mainly to block anyone taking over the set to work SSB :). I was havingf a listen either side of the QRP calling frequency on 20 metres and heard an american station calling (K2JT), I decided I’d go back to him, but wasn’t expecting much as the rig was only set to 2 watts max output. This is very low power for those not familiar with radio. Sure enough the chap came straight back to me, I was amazed as the radio was set so low, the power needle hardly moved on the ATU when transmitting. We had a QSO, the guy was called Joe and he was a Viet Nam veteran living outside New York. To say I was chuffed would be an understatement, 5500kms on 2 watts! the only downside was that this was on the club callsign (G6UT).

Me and the wife went to the boat on Saturday for the weekend. The aim was to prep the boat for the boat safety check she now needs. Once again the boat gods were against me. First off I fitted the new fuel sedimenter and fuel lines bled the system up and started the boat. I left her running and went off to play ball with Alf, after a few minutes I could hear Martha’s engine hunting and and racing and knew that the fuel system had some air in it, sure enough she eventually cut out and died. So it was a case of climbing back down into the engine bay to bleed the air out of the system. After some time I realised that the air was not coming out and air must be entering the system through a pipe or connection. Eventually I found that the pipe I made to the lift pump was letting air in and try as I may I couldn’t rectify this, so this would have to be a job for next week after I get some more parts.

In the afternoon in between covering myself in Diesel, we took Alf to the beach, I was wondering what he would make of it as the last time I took him he was unimpressed and also afraid of water. He was great this time and had a splash while playing ball.

The next job was to get the heating working, yeah you guessed it, this also would not play ball. I ended up stripping the heating down to try to get it to fire, but alas all I got was smoke and cold air. This dampened my spirits as the predicted temperature for Saturday night was -2C. After a chat we made the decision to stay and would probably get some heat from the oven once Lesley puts the dinner on. Well we managed to warm the boat a little but the oven was no replacement for the diesel heater. I turned in about 10pm with the dog and had one of the worst nights I’ve ever had on the boat. Firstly there was a fair amount of diesel fumes laying around since my problems earlier in the day, this played havoc with my throat and left me with coughing bouts. Then there was the cold, I tried to open the cabin window to let some fresh air in about 2 am and it was frozen shut with ice on the inside of the windows. And finally, this was Alf’s first time overnight on the boaty and he would not settle which of course disturbed me and Lesley.

I didn’t want to get up Sunday morning, not because I was comfortable as I wasn’t, but because it was bleeding cold. Luckily Lesley got up and braved the cold and put the kettle on. I got up after and cooked us both cheese on toast, this is proper boat food!

I decided to set the radio up (FT-897) and see if I could work anything, while setting the radio up I accidentally knocked the heater on and believe or not it fired first time. At least we had some heat for the morning. I stayed on the radio for an hour and managed to work a few stations including an american station on 15 metres SSB. I do like my FT-897.

Alf is now languishing upstairs as I type this totally dead to the world, he won’t return to normal till Tuesday, poor sods knackered.

Message ends——————————————————————–va

Quality over Quantity?

Radio

While lounging around this weekend, due to my back, I found out that I can upload my radio logbook directly to the web.

My yearly tally of contacts has been to the front of my mind of late, after talking to one of the local hams recently about number of countries contacted, I was astounded at his claim of 125 countries so far this year (on 10 Watts). I decided to have a tally up myself, I have put some raw details at the bottom of this page. The upshot is that I have had a total of 293 contact during the last year which is made up of 45 different countries (10 different CQ zones). I think the only thing I take from this is that I must try harder, but you have to take into consideration the 6 weeks I had off due to a broken leg. I am expecting this to improve over the coming twelve months due to the re-location of the shack.

During the field weekend at Aylmers farm I had a rubbish weekend QSOwise, mainly due to a contest being on and me only having a QRP rig to use. I decided after this that I would get a portable rig with a bit more power which gives to the option of being heard. Well this week my secondhand FT-897 arrived, this is a rig made by Yaesu, I like Yeasu equipment. It has all bands from top band right up to 70 cms. The rig has a power output from 5 watts to 100 watts on side band and up to 50 watts on CW so it will give me that exrta kick when I am out portable. I will keep the 817 for the time being.

 

The Numbers Oct 2012-Sep 2013

Number of QSO’s      293

Top Ten Countries Worked

 

1 European Russia 53
2 Ukraine 33
3 Italy 25
4 Spain 23
5 England 17
6 Poland 16
7 Hungary 11
8 Slovak Republic 9
9 United States of America 9
10 Czech Republic 7

Bands Used

20m

224

15m

18

17m

15

40m

13

70cm

8

10m

7

12m

4

2m

2

30m

2