Monty The Boat Horse


As an IBM retiree, I am a member of the IBM Retired Employee Club. The club organises various activities to keep us occupied, mainly via organised excursions. These activities can vary from shopping trips to London, mystery coach rides through the British countryside, shows and visits to stately homes.

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Canal Side Flowers

A couple of weeks ago we did something a little different, for us. The scheduled excursion was a trip to the old market town of Marlborough, combined with a horse-drawn boat trip on the Kennet and Avon canal.

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Tranquility

So, reasonably early in the morning, we set of on the coach. It was quite a dull day, in fact it rained quite hard as we drove down the M27. This didn’t bode well for the time we were due to spend in Marlborough. Plodding around shops is not my idea of fun. Doing it in the rain, even less so. However, 90 minutes or so later we arrived at Marlborough High Street, the second widest in Britain. The rain had eased off to a light drizzle so that was good.

Marlborough is an interesting town but, since we have visited several times before, we opted to spend very little time window shopping. Instead searching out a cozy hostelry, namely the Castle & Ball hotel, which dates from the 15th century. Here we had a very pleasant meal.

Having completed our lunch, we were soon back on the coach, ready for the days highlight, the boat trip. And, after a short, thirty minute drive, we arrived at Kintbury and were soon aboard the canal boat.

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Kennet Valley – Our 1 Horse Power canal boat

Our horse-drawn boat, Kennet Valley, is a wide-beam passenger vessel, purpose-built in 1976. She operates from Kintbury and is 20.4m (67ft) long by 3m (10ft) wide. Powered solely by the 1hp towing action of a horse.

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Monty ‘The Star’ – a Welsh Cob Shire Cross

The horse in question is Monty ‘The Star’ a Welsh Cob Shire Cross. He was ready and harnessed when we arrived. Shortly, after all passengers were aboard, Monty was hitched up and off we went.

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Regular Stretching Exercises – Keeping The Rope Clear

This is a fabulous way to travel. So smooth and quiet. Sometimes, there are obstacles to negotiate. The guys, our crew of three, were very adept. Lifting the tow rope over other craft moored alongside, so as not to take down their chimneys ……..

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Aye Aye Skipper

….. steering to avoid oncoming craft. Yes it was very busy. I think during our three hours on the boat we encountered two other craft coming towards us. I think the rules were that, since we were under horse power, they had to give way to us. …..

…. Locks are an intrinsic part of the canal way of life. During our journey we had two locks to negotiate each way ….

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Passing Through The Lock

….. and bridges too.

Between locks, some of us decided to jump ship and walk alongside the canal. This was so relaxing.

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Threading the canal boat through the eye of the needle

If there hadn’t been some fifty odd passengers chattering away, this would have been a very quiet journey.

About half way through our journey, the galley was opened and we were served a fabulous tea. Hot tea and coffee along with Walnut Cake, Victoria Sponge and Lemon Drizzle Cake. Best of all we were treated to Fruit Scones with Cherry Jam and Cream. Surprisingly, the chatter level increased with everyone enthusing about the quality of the fare.

However, even with all that chatter, this was a lovely way to travel. No monotonous engine drone, no exhaust fumes, just the fresh country air. All accompanied by the bleating of lambs in the fields and the birdsong to join us on our gentle glide along the canal.

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Monty walked steadily along, grabbing mouthfuls of grass and other foliage at every opportunity. Literally, foraging on the hoof. During our journey, we were regaled with tales of how, on a previous “wrinklies” trip, Monty did a runner. When Monty was un-hitched to allow the boat through one of the locks, he decided he had had enough and took off along the canal-side, all the way home. This left the boat stranded while the skipper trotted back home to retrieve Monty and bring him back to finish his days work.

On this occasion he behaved himself. Our journey was all to soon completed and we were back on the coach. Safely back to our departure point and then on to home.

A Great Day Out.

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.

And So The Journey Begins


One of the major topics of conversation during the latter weeks of 2014, for me at least, has been retirement.

In June of this year I will achieve the grand old age of 63. This is significant, as that is the target retirement age defined in all my company pension bumf.

I started with the company back in July of 1977. This is also the year that I got married. So, when I retire

  •  I will have been employed by the company for 37 years and 11 months.
    and
  • I will have been married for 37 years and 6 months

1977 was a momentous year. It was the year I left the comfort of working for the MOD where I had worked for the previous 8 years. Starting first as a Fitter & Turner Apprentice in the training center at Flathouse Quay, then as a qualified Fitter & Turner working “afloat” in HM Royal Dockyard, Portsmouth. Finally, after a 6 months training course at Priddys Hard, as a Ratefixer Planner based in RNAD Frater, Gosport.

After an acrimonious year I left to join IBM as a Technical Analyst. I had no idea what one of those was, but it really didn’t matter. So long as I was out of Frater. Later that year, Christmas Eve, I got married at Portsmouth Registry Office. And here we are 37 years later, still together, and about to embark on a huge adventure.

Today, I received notification of my pension start date. Rather, I got asked the question, am I going to retire or carry on working.

I, of course, have responded that I am going to retire. The next stage of my life journey is definitely underway and I feel like I am just reaching the top of the Pepsi Max Big One.About to plummet down towards Blackpools Pleasure Beach.

Whooohooo !!!