Staunton Country Park Farm


A few days ago we spent a cracking day with some of our grand children. We visited Staunton Country Park Farm, a calm oasis just a short distance out-of-town. Calm that is, if you ignore the general hubbub of the excited children feeding the animals or in the play park.

From the Staunton website ….

Our farm, based on the 1830s style ferme ormeé (ornamental farm), is home to many different animals. Ranging from the everyday farm animal, like pigs, sheep, Shetland ponies, and chickens, to a selection of other animals such as llamas, a Poitou donkey and alpacas.

Here are just a few snaps that I took between pushing grandchildren on swings or carrying the youngest. Operating a Canon EOS 7D Mk II single-handed is no mean feat, weighing, as it does, nearly as much as my great-grandson.

So, for your delectation and delight ….

All in all a great place to take young children.

The farm is just part of the greater country park which has walking and cycling trails as well as three permanent orienteering courses. In the past we have hired bikes and explored the park. Sadly they no longer do the bike hire.

Staunton Country Park is a real gem and right on my doorstep.

Family


After two nights in Troyes, the end of our holiday was looming on the horizon. But we still had two nights left. No dramatic sight seeing planned for this part of our holiday, we were going to visit family.

Gerry’s brother, Doug, has lived in France for many years and now lives near Arras. We hadn’t managed to get together for quite a few years. He works for the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.  Our timing for this visit, probably could have been better. With many Somme 100 remembrance ceremonies taking place on the 1st July he was very busy at work.

As we headed north from Troyes the weather gradually deteriorated, becoming overcast and persistently dull. The traffic also grew in density as we left the agricultural heartland behind and  got nearer to the channel ports and channel tunnel. The amount of traffic was also probably influenced by our proximity to Paris, the centre of the French spiders web road system. Still, we made better time than anticipated and, as a result, there was nobody home when we arrived. They had all headed to Lille to collect Lynn’s dad from the bus station. He had travelled down from Merseyside, by bus, leaving around midnight the night before. Now that is a trip I would not like to make. My days of long distance coach travel are long gone.

As an aside, nearly 30 years ago, Gerry and I did a coach based holiday picked out of our local paper. We travelled from Havant to Trento in Italy. The coach drivers took us on a torturous route through France, Belgium, Luxembourg, Germany and Switzerland. They seemed intent on avoiding all motorways and the journey took nearly 24 hours. I recall that, at the time, I had a theory that the drivers were pocketing the toll money hence no real motorway driving. Although the coach had seats that reclined they were not all that comfortable and, for someone who is over six feet tall, not much leg room. So I do have some experience of coach travel, and it’s not something I want to repeat.

So, back to France. We  visited the nearby supermarket to pick up some alcoholic supplies to lubricate the imminent reunion. We hadn’t been back at Doug’s for very long when Andrew, Doug’s son, arrived and ushered us inside where we were soon drinking tea and coffee.

Later, Doug and co. arrived and there was much fat chewing and chin wagging. Lots to catch up on. As we all sat around the table for dinner the alcohol we had purchased was put to good use and it’s lubricity investigated.

The following day Doug had to work, returning home at lunchtime to pick up Brian, the father-in-law, for an orientation briefing related to the Somme 100 activities. Both Brian and Doug were going to be guides on the bus’ bringing guests into the remembrance sites.

Note: The above photos are from a previous visit in 2009. The weather was much nicer back then. Access during last week was severely restricted due to the Somme 100 activities.

The weather outside was awful, ranging from mizzle to full pelt rainstorms. We took the opportunity to relax, happy to not be moving for a while. Apart from a short walk, to the local school, to pick up  Doug’s grand-daughter, Maddie.

Another super evening meal (thanks Lynn), with more wine, beer and lots of conversation. Then it was heads down to sleep.

Doug and Brian had a very early start the next morning. Up at four and picked up at five to begin their “guiding”. We had a much more leisurely start and while Gerry and Lynn took Maddie to school I loaded the car ready for our journey to the tunnel.

These pictures give you some idea of the drismal nature of our departure day. It matched the sad feelings we were feeling to be leaving family. It had been nice to catch up and of course we have all promised to not leave it so long until our next gathering. After all we are all just a couple of hours from the tunnel, on either side of the channel. No excuses.

So Gerry and I bid farewell to Lynn, having said our farewells to Andrew earlier in the morning, and to Doug and Brian the night before.

Au Revoir !!

 

 

Early Days


Yesterday was the first day (officially) of my retirement. However, it was not totally disassociated from work, as there was to be an official luncheon. The IBM Hursley clubhouse had put on a beautiful spread for the buffet and I thank them for that. There weren’t as many attendees as might have been, had I retired a few years earlier. During last week I had already had a number folks say that they wouldn’t be able to make it due to work commitments or vacation. On the way out to Hursley I received a couple of texts from folks who would not be attending for a variety of reasons.

The main reason though, I think, is that due to the companies “restructuring” over the last few years I have out lasted many of my colleagues. Although the department in which I worked numbers over 150 folks, I have to say that I don’t know many of them and I’m guessing most of them would say the same of me.

During my thirty eight year career I have worked with many people spread across the whole company both in the UK and globally. While company restructuring (redundancies) will have seen off many of my UK colleagues, the recent shenanigans with the company pension scheme saw quite a few more leave or lose their benefits. More recently my working from home will have removed me from my local UK colleagues memory banks. And so latterly, but for a small core of UK-based folks, most of my work has been with people based in the US and Mexico.

I always find these kind of events to be a bit odd.  Some folks find it awkward speaking to colleagues about to leave. Perhaps some are a little jealous that the retiree has found a way out. For some it may be that their workload has increased as a direct result of the retirement.

Still, it was nice to exchange memories with those that did turn to. For some of them, I was already an “old hand” when they began as new hires. For at least one a black cloud settled in when he realised that after eighteen years he still had another twenty to go based on my time served, the realisation that he hadn’t even reached half way.

I have experienced many things during those 38 years. Been part of the explosion of computer technology. When I started there was no such thing as a personal computer. My career started working with display products where we saw the introduction of colour “dumb terminals”, the introduction of terminals with a microprocessor which allowed for “multiple partitions and scrolling”. Think windows before Bill G got started with Microsoft. Later I moved onto storage products where disk drives were huge and driven by washing machine motors. The first product that I worked on was a 850Mb drive which was around the size of a large suitcase, was a two-man lift and mounted in a rack. Back in the day, during a presentation on disk drive technology I remember someone stating that the target was to get costs down to $1 per megabyte. That was the target and recently I saw that the current costs are around $0.0000317 Now there are solid state drives and mechanical disk drives that you can put in your shirt pocket. Storage was where I finished last Friday.

Just one other point regarding my 38 years. I started at Hursley in 1977 and my first office was on the second floor of C Block. After having offices in just about every building on site, as well as two assignment stints down at the Havant manufacturing site, I have ended up back in C Block. One floor down. So 38 years and just a change in altitude.

From a technological standpoint I wonder if the next 38 years will be as dramatic for the folks that come behind me. I don’t understand the media excitement generated by the next iPhone or iPad and it  just leaves me cold. I guess it is not so physically obvious now, as technology marches onwards.

For me, retirement is both the end of an era and also the beginning of a new one.

Mayor of Havant’s Charity Classic Vehicle Run


Last Sunday morning, under beautiful sunny skies, the Mayor of Havant’s Charity Classic Vehicle Run took place. With around 200 vehicles gathering in the car parks adjacent to the Public Service Plaza. That’s Havant Borough Councils office buildings to you and me.

Many of the drivers were making sure they were well fueled before setting off.

burger_QThe queue for the burger van was never much shorter than this while I was there. However, it was moving along quite swiftly and I was sorely tempted by the delicious smells wafting my way. But I wasn’t there to eat, I was there to view some classic automobiles.

First up is a Ford Consul Capri circa 1962. My metalwork teacher at Claverham had one of these. At the time I thought they were the best looking car on the road and I still rate them very highly in the looks department. This one is in superb condition.

 

Ford Consul Capri

Ford Consul Capri

From Wikipedia:

A Capri was tested by the British The Motor magazine in 1962 and had a top speed of 79.0 mph (127.1 km/h) and could accelerate from 0-60 mph (97 km/h) in 22.6 seconds. A fuel consumption of 36.7 miles per imperial gallon (7.7 L/100 km; 30.6 mpg-US) was recorded. The test car cost £915 including taxes of £288

Moving on, there were several very nice camper vans, the interiors were very chinzy but the exteriors were all to a very high standard.

camper1The black and white van looks so slick and was my favourite of the campers but the others also looked beautiful and showing the love bestowed by the owners.

camper2

Also putting in an appearance was some “heavy iron” headed up by Terry Pipers 1954 Dennis Pax flatbed truck

Dennis

Ably supported by this Bedford TJ

bedford

And this alien vehicle, a Chevrolet “Advance Design” Pickup truck, circa 1940’s.

chevyI’ve no idea what it had under the bonnet, or should I say “hood”, but it certainly was loud and proud. Apparently the engines ran from 3.5L to 4.3L !!

Everytime I visit a classic car event the one thing that amazes me is how vulnerable we all were. Many of the “family” cars were much smaller than modern day vehicles and with none of the safety features which we tend to expect.

Take a look at this wonderful Isetta ….

bubble

This 1958 BMW Isetta is owned by James Blake, Year of Manufacture1958, Cylinder Capacity (cc)298cc

I guess this was the Smart car of it’s era.

The first car that my wife and I purchased was a two tone Ford Consul Mk II, Primrose Yellow body with a white roof. Similar to the oen in the picture below. 1703 cc engine, 3 speed column change and front bench seat it handled like a round bottom boat in a heavy swell.

consulBut we learnt a lot about car mechanics and motoring with that car and had one or two adventures. Not the least of which was driving from Winchester to Portsmouth with no foot brakes and surviving the descent from the top of Portsdown Hill using a hand brake that barely functioned. And another, complete with “duck bill” visor …

Ford Consul

Ford Consul

Another car with beautiful lines was the Bristol 403.

bristolThe BMW style radiator grill is  hiding a BMW derived straight 6 and this car was capable of just over 100 mph.

Technology has made considerable advances over the years. Todays cars make a lot out of small packages. Small engines, 1500 cc, are to be found powering huge cars by comparison to the past. Here is an example of quite the opposite.

Triumph 1800 Roadster

Triumph 1800 Roadster

This car was introduced with an 1800cc engine in 1946.

From Wikipedia:

On test by Autocar magazine in 1947 top speed was found to be 75 mph (121 km/h) and 0–60 mph (0–96 km/h) took 34.4 seconds.

In 1948 the Roadster was updated and fitted with a 2000 cc engine. Again, from Wikipedia:

On test the changes resulted in the top speed increasing marginally to 77 mph (124 km/h) but the 0-60 mph time was much better at 27.9 seconds

Still, the lack of speed ensured one had plenty of time to admire the fabulous lines of this car.

Another classic from my youth was the Ford Consul Corsair although I never understood why so many British car names had “Consul” included…. Here is a very smart example.

Ford Consul Corsair

Ford Consul Corsair

Reminds me of the joke that was going around at the time.

Question: How many cars can you get under a police womans skirt ?

Answer: About 50,000 Corsairs

I’m sorry !!

Another car sporting a rather snazzy visor is this very clean Volvo PV544 with the B18 engine from circa 1962.

volvopv544

The Renault Megane was not the first car to be showing a classy rear. There were quite a few fancy behinds on display, so here are a few prime examples.

trunk

bristol2

Bristol

bubble2

Isetta

Capri2

Ford Consul Capri

volvopv544_2

Volvo

boattail

Rolls Royce

Watch this space….. I have more to share …….

 

Classic cars on parade at Havant – Portsmouth News.

Is Life Enough ?


Rapist locked up for life is branded danger to women – Portsmouth News.

Alexander Bell is behind bars after being found guilty of robbing and sexually assaulting a woman in her teens in August last year, also for twice raping a woman on the same night in October 2012.

During sentencing Judge Price described Bell as one of the most dangerous men he had seen at Portsmouth Crown Court in 18 years.

At least the sentence reflects the nature of the crime, three concurrent life sentences for a predator who has ruined the lives of the women that he attacked.

Physical wounds may be repaired but the effects of such an assault, on the minds of Bells victims, are immeasurable. One thing is certain these women will carry the memories for the rest of their lives.

The question that springs to mind is “What does “Life” actually mean ?”. Will Alexander Bell be considered for parole at any time ?

Anything less than whole life would be sacrilege, and an insult to those that Bell assaulted.

Restaurant closure – What a surprise, NOT !!!


Fast food giant McDonald’s has closed its Waterlooville Branch

McDonald’s said it was down to ‘changing trading patterns.’

Far be it for me to point out the obvious but this closure was guaranteed to happen, from the moment that the planners gave their blessing to McDonald’s new Larchwood Road development.

McDonald’s managed to railroad our local councilors into letting them build a new restaurant alongside ASDA at Larchwood Road, Bedhampton. Despite there being objections from the Highways Agency about the extra burden on an already overloaded road system.

From McDonald’s perspective it is obvious what the advantages are for them. They have a new facility with drive thru and adjacent parking, which Waterlooville does not. Being right next to ASDA means a much higher rate of passing trade. Certainly much higher than they could ever hope for from the diminishing numbers of shoppers in Waterlooville. And then there is the drive-thru facility which the Waterlooville branch did not have. All those ASDA shoppers who, being pestered by their kids, will drop in pick up a quick burger tea on their way home.

One has to wonder just how many outlets McDonald’s need in this area. A quick check of their website shows that they have 7 within 7 miles of Waterlooville.

I feel that our councillors have let us down, once again. They are responsible for controlling developments in this area. And yet they failed to see what  the obvious effects would be, of allowing McDonald’s to proceed with the development. They should have dug their heels in and said no.

This closure is just part of the ongoing pressure being applied to turn Waterlooville town centre into a residential area while shoppers are pushed out. Squeezing the heart out of this community.

Once again the council planners have failed this community.

Restaurant closure – Local Business – Portsmouth News.

End of era as Havant’s last greengrocer shuts


Although reasons for this closure cannot necessarily be laid at the door of HBC, they are not helping the situation

David Guest, deputy leader of Havant Borough Council and ward member for St Faith’s, said: ‘Hopefully we have not lost it and they are able to relocate.

‘A lot of people enjoyed that shop and I’m very sorry to see it go.’

He said that independent shops were an important part of Havant.

So important that the HBC is intent on dragging shoppers away from the town centre by allowing huge developments across the other side of Park Road in the Solent Road area.

‘It’s nice for people to have a choice,’ he said.

‘As long as people use these independent shops, they will survive.

How many people have stopped using the independent stores in Havant centre since the Tesco store opened ? From personal experience I know that I don’t tend to go to smaller stores if I am doing my weekly shop in a supermarket. We are all so busy that it is more convenient to “one stop shop”.

‘There’s no guarantee they will stay around.

‘We just want to encourage more people to open small shops.’

If you want more people to open small shops then you shouldn’t allow the big stores to open up so close to the town centres.

HBC, haven’t you learnt anything ?

And you are doing the same thing to Waterlooville by allowing the new Sainsbury store to open up outside of the town centre. There is no incentive to anyone to open small shops in either of these town centres.

I feel sorry for John Wills and his family. It will be difficult for him to relocate and keep his current customers,to start afresh and build a customer base under the current economic climate and with the lack of true support from HBC. I wish him the best of luck for the future.

End of era as Havant’s last greengrocer shuts – Local Business – Portsmouth News.