Off track

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by Poptop2, Apr 5, 2019.

  1. Poptop2

    Poptop2 Administrator

    New roof.

    My plan was to go up a floor. I’d worked on a cabin in the top field some months ago and built them a mezzanine floor. Fortunately they had an high roof building and had room to build it in comfortably, we didn’t.

    When I did the initial rebuild on our bungalow I used to say to people that I should have completely rebuilt the roof then, but didn’t because of the restrictions the council seemed to put on everything we submitted and went for the easiest option just so as we could have a secure home as swiftly as possible.

    Now my idea was to ask permission to build a full single apex pitched roof across the entire building that would enclose the front patio and add a conservatory when funds allowed. I asked the planning officer to come advise me. I wasn’t very hopeful of getting anywhere.

    He did come and visit me and he did advise me. He said I could certainly reroof the place with an apex roof and that I could cover but not enclose the front patio area. He was quite content we’d built the place on a secure foundation as he’d signed them off before. He did some calcs and told me the height I could build the apex to. 7’6” max to the top of the ridge tile, and suggested we submitted a drawing for reference and got on with it.

    It wasn’t enough height really, but as he seemed quite content for us to go ahead and the cost of the main build wasn’t too astronomical I decided to grab what he’d allowed us and get the the thing built ASAP.

    I really didn’t know the ruling on a roof renewal and totally expected more argument from them. I was very happy with the laid back attitude to my idea and I was very keen to order materials and start the job, but as we had just had a massive spend out; money was tight. I had to sort something quickly.

    In the course of a regular week I was building, handy-manning and driving trucks still.

    One of my regular drops while driving was a furniture store in Chandlers ford near Southampton. It was on a industrial estate and opposite was an Hendy Ford dealership. One day on my break I got talking to the car salesman who was having five himself. I explained that I’d just bought a brand new escort and had done no mileage at all in it so far. I told him we could do with swapping it in and getting something cheaper and releasing some cash. He suggested I had a look around and see if I fancied anything they had on a backward deal. Basically I swapped my brand new car for an older model and some cash.

    I saw a year old ford escort eclipse of the previous model shape that was up for a pound under £6k, I’d just paid £7.2k on my vehicle in a mates rate deal, so gathered I’d possibly get a grand and the eclipse from him. I said I liked the eclipse and he said he’d have it prepared for Saturday if I’d like to come down with my car and sort a deal.

    We were a week away from a month break in Italy that Saturday, but seeing as we needed to get this sorted we popped off down to see them. I remember passing the 500 mile mark on the milometer on that trip.

    Lou was impressed with the eclipse when we took it for a test drive, so was I, which was odd because I’d just driven 130 miles in a brand new car and expected to be disappointed in one that was twelve months old and had 10k on the clock, but no, it was spot on, if not feeling a slightly better drive. We asked the guy to do the figures when we pulled up back at Hendy ford.

    Well, you could have blown me over with a whistle when he said he’d give us £4K and the eclipse for ours. I don’t think I’ve ever said yes quicker in my life. Where did we sign?

    The sales guy who’s name was Simon was very laid back about it all and suggested we go to Italy, have our well earned break and come back after to do the deal. He would keep the deal, we’d sign the preliminary papers there and then and he’d have the eclipse ready to roll the day after we got back from our hols. Top man!

    All the way home Lou and I tried to work out the figures and why we’d got such a great deal, 25 years later we still don’t know, but it was a good one, and the eclipse was Lou’s favourite car ever. On with the build.

    To satisfy the council, the roof revamp had to be simply that ‘ a roof revamp’ no windows no roof lights a minimum pitch of thirty two degrees and no mention whatsoever of a loft conversion. We were allowed a single pitched apex roof that would not exceed 7’6” at the highest point from wall plate. Basically we could build a wooden framed triangular box on top of our bungalow and tile it. We could not at that point enclose the patio area with a wall otherwise we would use up more than the permitted development of 70 m2!

    This we did. We built off the top of the existing walls by removing the outer tiles and rafters from the old roof to expose the wall, left the old roof in for the build and built off the exposed top of the wall. We would remove the old roof internally during the Christmas break as time was short and the council were playing ball at that moment. We had to get a move on and the removal of the old roof would take at least a week, and there was a chance the weather would change. This way we would still have a roof over our heads while we built a roof.

    I’d never taken on a full roof build and tile before, but I had studied building to a degree while I was working as a transport manager in a big window company. I knew I could design the structure, but I would have to recruit Tom’s help in the intricacies of the tiling and lath set up. Tom was always helpful and was more than happy to felt and lath it out for me and advise on slating and the purchase of, so we got a crack on.

    My brother in laws, Pasquale, Steve and Dave came to help. Pas looked at the drawings and declared I was hopelessly wrong with my design and in his less than qualified opinion it needed to change. I asked him why he thought that and what qualified him to question it. Apart from it didn’t seem right and his macho listen to me I’m in charge type attitude he didn’t really know. In respect for his input I double checked my design and calcs with an architect friend from down the lane. It was spot on, but it had set the job back two days and cost me £50. I’ve never listened to Pas’s advise-since!

    The carcassing took a week. The dimensions were, forty foot long by twenty six foot wide and seven foot six inch high. The carcass was made of stress graded tanalised timber and clad with OSB board on the roof and tongue and groove lap at the sides. The side and roof were insulated with Rockwool, but we were allowed no windows in the initial build and as a consequence the first phase went up very quickly

    I have to confess to it being function over form on this build and ignoring the council to enclose the patio area. They ignored it too, thankfully!

    The first stage of the over roofing complete. We used doors and frames that I’d had off other jobs for the front wall, simply because we decided to take a chance on filling it in and had them available. They were painted up to match later on.

  2. Poptop2

    Poptop2 Administrator

    The raft race.

    Every May there is a raft race from Arley to Stourport. It is for charity and has a big prize for the fastest raft that attracts some serious rowing teams with well designed rafts, but the majority of raft teams are in it to raise money and have some fun.

    Kim and Andy, our friends from opposite with a cabin on the river always invited us over for a get together on the day of the raft race. We would invite our extended family and Kim her’s. It was beers and food on the patio that had the best view of the shelf.

    The shelf was the drop by the cattle drink. Put simply it was a part of the river bed that shallowed out for half a mile before a shelf in the bed formed a sort of underwater cliff and dropped suddenly to about ten or fifteen feet. It was a fun place to watch the rafters take an unexpected dip.

    The early crews were the fast ones after the prize money, they knew the river and seldom took the far bank route and had a surprise dip, they usually took the near bank sailing easily through the cattle drink channel, over the barbel hole and on, but the inexperienced charity crews were the ones we waited for.

    The earlier crews were sometimes twenty minutes or so ahead of the charity crews, we’d have time to eat and drink our food, and get our hose pipes and water pistols ready. Yes we liked to attack them with water and add to the carnival atmosphere of the race by playing loud reggae music and drenching them when they passed. It was all taken and done in good heart.

    They’d often stop by the jetty and get us back with their own pumped high pressure hose, or come and have a beer and dance, but a lot of them were too drenched and shocked, not to mention embarrassed to stop as they’d just had a surprise dip.

    These were the inexperienced crews that were doing a one off fundraiser and had usually spent the last week or so hastily completing the rickety oil drum raft that ten of them were now trying to steer and paddle down the mighty Severn with all its quirky navigation issues, and by now were not only paddling but struggling to hold the thing together while trying to choose a path. The shallowing area before the shelf with its smooth flow and unrippled surface always looked the right course. It was just lulling them into the drop, but in the party mood and a belly full of Dutch courage they would go for that easy course every time.

    We sat and waited for the raft to run aground, then the look of surprise as the raft ran aground. The next thing they would do would all get out and push, and just as they felt happy the raft was beginning to float again the shelf . Sploosh, in they’d go one after another, sploosh, sploosh sploosh. The language of surprise was fabulously inventive, some of the expletives were pure Black Country humour ” blimee oi needed a baff, cor, I dae ispect thot, I still got me watch on aye I” the watch one being the favourite, nearly every charity crew went in at the shelf and at least one would say ‘ I’ve still got my watch on’ then as they passed us and waved, we’d drench them again with our pressure hoses and water pistols. They’d fire back if they were armed, some of the crews had their own high pressure hoses and bags of flour that they attacked the other crews with, they’d turn them on us and pelt is with flour bags and we would all be in stitches. It was a fun day. Some of the crew would never complete the race and abandon their rafts and stay for a drink and await a lift home, some would come back after for a drink and we would usually party into the early hours making new friends as the day went on.

    It was always a great day and we still pop over to see the race even now.

    A faster crew


    A fun runner just before we hosed him.

  3. Poptop2

    Poptop2 Administrator

    The new roof was inspected at a glance by the surprisingly less than enthusiastic planning chap. He simply said “ that looks about right” from the seat of his car and off he went. I heard he retired a week later, so that may have been the reason for his indifference. Who knows. I was content he was content! What we now had to do was discreetly create a upstairs area without being restricted by them.

    What we did was remove the old roof from inside and lay 8 x 2 joists across the inside walls to form a large central upstairs area of roughly 25 ft x 26ft. The whole new ceiling throughout the house was plaster boarded and skimmed and a open tread staircase made to get up to the attic room.

    Frank and I made the staircase in his workshop by the railway line. We made it in our spare time during the summer. His knowledge was a great help, he suggested we made them with the treads sitting on captured wooden strips either side embedded in the wall string rather than cutting the wall string to sit the treads on thus keeping the string stronger, we pulled the strings together using althread across the bottom of three steps, top middle and bottom. It worked a treat.

    Lou was heavily pregnant when we took the old roof out during the Christmas break. She went to stay at her sister Maria’s house and Steve her husband helped me remove the old roof along with my brother in law Dave. It wasn’t a difficult job as I had stripped the tiles lath and felting previously whenever I had five minutes. What was left to do was to move all the furniture into the new area that was the patio and now enclosed, take up the carpeting, sheet everything else up and crack on with pulling down the plasterboard and timber purlins, It took a full 18 hour day that was broken up with dust breaks, whisky breaks and sandwich breaks.

    The weather was bitterly cold so we burned the old timbers on a bonfire in the garden on the same day to save carting it to the skip. At midnight on that Saturday the interior of our once smallish bungalow was like the inside of a cathedral, it really was a huge looking roof space with all the rafters and the purlins and ridge plate all on show. I was tempted to leave it as was for moment and build two mezzanine floors either side, but no I’d got a plan and ordered the timber for that plan. Tomorrow we would have a clean up and slot in the new joists to form the upstairs floor.

    The Thursday was a very straightforward day really, we simply had a big clean up of yesterday’s mess and slotted the joists in through an opening we’d made in the shiplap outside wall covering, positioned them and cut noggins to space them out and form a floor. It really was that easy. By lunchtime it was done and ready for boarding and the staircase on Friday Christmas Eve, Steve and Dave went home to their respective families and I stayed to finish off in readiness for the next bit, I finished when I couldn’t stay awake any longer, there’s always something to do on these projects and I wanted it to go smoothly, so I pushed myself.

    As you can probably gather, this was a serious part of the build and as it was Christmas and the families all wanted us home and settled there was very little time for the usual banter and merriment. We cracked on with it. Dave only had one day left to work on it anyhow and Steve had to visit in laws. Lou wanted to be home for Christmas Day on the Saturday to be ready for our guests that we’d put off until Boxing Day that year and so we started boarding at 5 am on Christmas Eve. I really hoped we didn’t lose the electricity supply again.

    The job was completed by lunchtime, the whole new ceiling was boarded and the staircase was in, held in place by two six inch nails either side at the top into a joist. Perfick, time for a beer to celebrate I had a beer and did a bit more. The lads went home!

    Lou and I spent Christmas Day morning at Maria and Steve's, we had lunch with them and then went home to clean and get the house ready for our guests the next day. Maureen and Bob supplied us with humour and food during the afternoon and evening. It was all very welcome as the past three days had been full on, I could have slept on a clothesline by the time we’d finally got the place shipshape at about 8 o’clock, I’d hammered, banged, pulled, tugged, carried lifted and swept constantly for nearly four 18 hour days, I’d just finished a massive block laying job on the Tuesday and as I sat and looked at the strangely different but tidy new home, I drifted off on the sofa. It was a very satisfied and contented drift off.

    Boxing Day went off without an hitch, we had mum and dad and brother and family over as usual, there was no electric loss that day, Lou and I finally relaxed and fed people like we loved to. It was another good moment, chin chin, chink!

    The next day however I was in the mire with Lou...
  4. Poptop2

    Poptop2 Administrator

    So by now we had gone from this

    To this


    To this


    And in the next year we added this

    Some build pictures for now


    And the back was being prepared for a new block built entrance and wrap around rear porch.

  5. Poptop2

    Poptop2 Administrator

    The day after Boxing Day when everyone was gone and Lou and I were rested I decided to tackle an issue that arose in the planning.

    When we built the new roof over the existing roof we could support the long span of the main ridge plate at intervals on the existing roof, we simply used 4x2 offcuts seated on the existing roof and nailed them to the ridge plate. It wasn’t rocket science and it worked well. However, when we removed the old roof they had to come out and the main ridge plate sagged. Today I was going to insert two 6 x 6 timbers between the new floor and the ridge plate at seven foot intervals. They would straighten the ridge and form a nice feature.

    To do this I cut slots in the joists immediately below the place I wanted the new upright to seat and nailed a 8 x 2 down at the joist height to sit it on. I then used a car jack and a slightly shorter 4 x 2 sat on it to jack the ridge plate to the correct position and slot home the new 6 x 6 upright, then lower the jack trapping the new timber in position. Easy!

    It was far from easy. I was working with no floorboards fitted, I was precariously balanced on two joists jacking up a heavily straining wall plate on a bottle jack with a now bending very taught piece of 4 x 2. Just at the last inch as the roof strained the timber to it’s upmost it sprung out, bang, it hit me full in the face with the force of a train. I was knocked cleaned off my feet; passed out and fell straight between the joist through the ceiling and onto the sofa below. Good god that hurt. Lou came from the kitchen to see dust plasterboard, a jack a piece of 4 x 2 and me spark out on her brand new sofa in her brand new clean living room, I don’t know what she was concerned about most.

    I came around in a daze with Lou asking me what happened, I felt the massive bruise on my face and wondered the same thing myself, blimey that was painful.

    After sorting myself out with tablets and a check over I cleared the mess away and sat under firm orders from Lou to rest. But I was okay I thought, I’d give it an hour and have another go. Lou didn’t think it was a good idea so I repaired the ceiling with fresh plasterboard instead.

    When I did that and had another rest and the living room was cleaned I traipsed back up the stairs to get that ruddy timber in. My face hurt, my head was muzzy and I was not in Lou’s good books, but I had to do it.

    This time I made double sure my set up was perfectly vertical, I nailed the upright to the ridge plate and positioned the jack perfectly vertical beneath it and began the whole process all over again. I got the height I needed and cautiously pushed the new 6 x 6 into position and lowered the jack. BANG, the ruddy new piece sprung out and hit me with full force straight into my blooming face again, jeez, I lost balance and fell off the joist with both legs dangling through the ceiling holding my now exploding face in my hands, god this was ridiculously painful and idiotic, I heard Lou scream, I thought it was in surprise and concern, but no, she’d lost the plot, broom in hand she began bashing my dangling legs with the head and shouting at me for ruining her living room again, her cheese had finally slipped off her cracker and with every syllable she screamed at me I got a full on smack across my legs and ankles. I tried pleading and moving my legs out of the way, but I was stuck, the blows kept raining down on my legs and the angry words louder “ Look, smack, at, smack, the, smack, mess, smack... “ Ouch, ouch, ouch!, OWWH!

    FFS STOP YOU EFFING MANIAC!” I shouted “OR I WILL LOSE MY EFFING RAG!” This seemed to stop her in her tracks as I seldom shout or get annoyed with her, but I had no choice at that moment.

    I extricated myself from the ridiculous situation and limped down the stairs not knowing what to hold or what to expect when I got there. Lou was in tears on the chair, she was shocked and upset not only about the damage to me and the room, but her reaction, she thought I was really angry with her, but I wasn’t. I hurt and I had no idea what damage she’d done to my legs, but I understood her frustration. I had the same frustrations myself and I wasn’t 6 months pregnant. We had a big hug, let her tears flow and the frustration come out, then had a look at my injuries. My head was battered and my ankles bruised, I needed a few more pain killers that was for sure.

    After a rest and a good old laugh, Lou and I repaired the ceiling again, cleaned the living room again and left the job for another day. When I finally did it the following weekend with the help of my brother in law Steve, it took an hour!
  6. Poptop2

    Poptop2 Administrator

    The skip.

    There was no waste collection service on the lane. A small pick up truck was sent out from the council and collected bagged rubbish from the odd farm cottage or posh house, but other than that nothing for the cabins, it was as if they ignored us and treated us like we didn’t exist for fear of acknowledgement meaning they would have to provide more services which in turn might encourage others to move down the lane. I am pretty certain this was the case as I spoke to quite a few councillors about it in the course of finding out what we could and couldn’t do to our properties. It was handy having Bob on the council.

    Even though they charged full rates for the properties, they wouldn’t supply any service that was dedicated to our residencies. On their maps it was called Kidderminster foreign, and that’s what we felt we were treated as, a foreign land. Never mind eh, it kept them at a distance and had its benefits too.

    The waste disposal was an issue though. The farmer had suggested he hired a large industrialised size skip on a permanent contract that we could pay collectively for at about £100 a year for everyone and site it in the lane just past the phone box in a clearing in the wood. This worked well and became a recycling centre.

    David cleared an area in the wood just big enough for the skip lorry to get into and load or unload and parking for a couple of cars with a clear area of about ten foot all round. Everyday bagged waste went into the skip. Building materials and the like was stood up around the back area for others to have if they needed it, if it was there a week or so and no one had taken it someone would then skip it as it was obviously no use.

    Tom and I would take things off buildings like doors or windows or tiles and always put them by the skip for others to use, they seldom stayed around long, everyone had a project of some sort that they might come in handy for. Even a few of the town builders would bring stuff up that they thought might be repurposed by someone on the lane. There was always a log burner or chimney system, radiators, doors, bikes, mopeds, all sorts of useful stuff was recycled there, It was a cracking system.

    We used to tell people if we knew they were after a certain item and we had seen it there or were going to skip something off a job that we knew they’d need. It would be left in a certain place and the message passed on that it was hidden by such and such, if they never took it it would moved into the open by the skip area.

    My own personal find in the skip was a full sized jacuzzi corner bath that was brand new and still in the protective film. I was putting some building materials by the skip for recycling one morning and a builder mate from town ‘ Doug’ and his son pulled up with it on their pick up. Doug asked if I could use it before anyone else had it. I had a decko and asked what was wrong with it, he said it had a slight chip in the seating area where he had dropped something on it some years ago and the person who he was working for had asked him to replace it. He’d had it long enough now and decided it might do someone some good and decided to recycle it here. I looked again and decided I could hide the chip by drilling it and putting in a couple of equally spaced chrome tank blankers. So I had it. I had to go to Brum to buy a £90 pump for it, but it was our own huge jacuzzi bath when we revamped our bathroom a week or so later. Result, Lou and I had talked about having a jacuzzi bath when we redid the bathroom, but at over a grand a go back then had decided against it. Happy days.

    The skip was often filled by fly tippers and it was a constant battle to stop them. The village spirit of the lane was best at times like that and as soon as the fly tippers mess was discovered people would all muck in to clear it up and keep the area tidy. People you wouldn’t normally speak to would stop by as soon as they saw someone clearing up a mess and in turn they’d become friendly and speak from then on whenever they passed each other. The skip was probably one of the more communal places in the lane as we never had a pub or central meeting point, it was possibly the only place people could stop and make new acquaintances. I know of at least one couple that met at the skip too. I am sure there were more over the years.

    Bob the chap who worked for Tom met a lady at the skip. Whenever they met they chatted until one had the courage to ask the other out. Bob said he would go out of his way to take rubbish down every day, and after they’d been going out a while she admitted she did too. The unfortunate thing about that was they got together and moved out of the lane into a town house. I liked Bob and missed his humour. Cest la vie!
  7. Poptop2

    Poptop2 Administrator


    Ever since I was a boy I loved to fix things. I hated seeing things broken or neglected and seemed to be drawn to them, if I could I would fix it up and get it working again or if not cajole someone else into doing so. It didn’t have to be perfect, it just had to function as intended. I remember seeing someone throw out two old Decka record players when I was about twelve and had no electrical knowledge whatsoever. I asked if I could have them. They were those suitcase type record players that had a carry handle and a lid. I took them home and as my mates looked on dismantled the record deck from the case. I worked out which part wasn’t functioning and swapped it for the one off the other one. We switched it on and my mates waited with baited breath while I put on the only record I had ‘ Gilbert O’sullivan’s Claire’ in my defence I was only twelve. It worked a treat. My mates thought it was genius, one of them still calls me the eternal doer upper to this day.

    Growing up it was expected I went into my dad’s business which was painting and decorating, but after years of working on site with him during summer holidays and the like I hated it. I knew in my heart of hearts I would never become a decorator or join his company, but I never knew exactly what I’d do until I met John our neighbour from across the road.

    John was an ex champion grass track rider that had owned the local motorcycle garage. He was semi retired and did mechanics and converted Bedford vans into Dormobile campers on his drive from a kit. We got talking and I spent all my spare time over there helping him. It made me think I’d like to be a mechanic one day.

    I did indeed become an apprentice mechanic when I left school, but after six months of working for a tyrannical boss I left and took a job in a local greengrocers going to Birmingham market at 4am each morning in a Bedford lorry with the boss, anything not to work for my dad’s firm. It was weeks before I told him I had left my apprenticeship and worked in a greengrocers.

    The greengrocers store was a great experience in my young life. I had learned to deal with customers and do deals with stall holders at the market, and handle money properly. most importantly I met my future wife there. Lou began working there as a part time school girl and I took a shine to her. It was a few months before I asked her out, but eventually I plucked up the courage and we started dating. Young love had blossomed!

    However I realised I had to get a more responsible job at some point in my life, the grocery trade was fun, but the money and prospects very poor. I applied for a job as a trainee transport manager in a large window factory and got taken on. Not a job I had ever seen as a career choice for myself, but good opportunities were scarce back then, so I took it and soon felt right at home.

    That job was quite responsible. Pretty soon I was in sole charge of transport and on occasion the whole factory. I got to further my education via their involvement with the government schemes they were connected with and even studied structural engineering to post graduate level. I learned all aspects of curtain wall building and did site visits and measures on quiet days, I even did troubleshooting for them when the job wasn’t going right. It was certainly a very hectic and serious job at times, but towards the end I realised ( faced the reality) I wasn’t really suited to the critical life of an engineer, I was more free spirited and artisan than a person who enjoyed calcs and the rigidity of that work, coupled with the responsibility of my other duties I really wasn’t enjoying myself. I felt I wasn’t paid my worth either, and after 8 years with them cleared my offices ( yep I had two ) handed back the keys to my company car and decided to leave for a life in Bournemouth.

    I suppose I’d unwittingly armed myself perfectly for our life in the lane. With my mechanical and building experience and love of doing things up I now had the seeds of an ability that would see me through the next stage of our life, Bournemouth wasn’t right for us, but somehow the lane was.
  8. Poptop2

    Poptop2 Administrator

    Our son Neil was born reluctantly on Sunday the 24th of April at 07.27.

    Mum wasn’t doing too well after a difficult 14 hour long birth so the nurse gave him straight to me for his first feed while she helped deal with Lou.

    Neil and I bonded immediately, as I held him I felt the love of parenthood for the first time in my life, it was a bond that would never be broken, an overpowering sense of awe and love that only first moments in life can create. As I looked at him I felt I’d finally done something perfect, between us we had created a person, a new all in one piece beautiful boy.

    I remembered that first moment forever, when he took the first steps into school and waved nervously back at us with his satchel and uniform, the first time he played piano in assembly, his first concert in the town hall, when he brought his first girlfriend home, and the day he received his music degree in Coventry cathedral, all those first moments brought back that very first moment in the hospital when I fed him his first bottle and felt the pure pleasure of being a Dad.

    He’s my mate. So too is his brother Will. I’m blessed with two boys that I’ve been lucky enough to help into this world, they’re cracking lads and have filled Lou and my lives with joy and love.

    We have had our moments like all families, but thankfully nothing serious.

    While Lou was pregnant my customers on jobs gave us cards, my customers on the lorry job gave us cards and the company I worked for had a collection. For some reason everyone seemed very pleased for us to be having a baby after twelve years of marriage and showed it in gifts. One of the places I delivered to in Rowner Portsmouth was staffed by a group of hard acting lads that I’d had real problems getting on with in the beginning, they asked what we needed for the baby and clubbed together to buy a beautiful new cot. They amazed me with their care and thought.

    Another company in Chichester sent me a huge £250 road map rug when they found out we’d had a boy. That was just a superb act of kindness and thought. I have always thought I would do any favour for them even now and I haven’t seen them for nearly twenty years. I won’t name them, but they were a big carpet wholesale company near the Solent in the town I mentioned earlier.

    When we returned from hospital my sister in law had filled our house with flowers from the leftover money from the company whip round. As well as buying the things we had asked for they had an excess of money that literally filled our house with flowers. It was an amazing sight that Lou and I have never forgotten, we’d had a torrid time in the hospital and coming home to that sight was unforgettable.

    The forty or so cards we had kept were opened that day too, they all had fivers and tenners in them and some had gift cards. One company from Warsash had put £50 in a card. We had no idea how we could ever repay their generosity, but Lou said “ perhaps we already had by just being us” who knows. I was overwhelmed though.

    In the lane our neighbours were just as generous. Each day someone would pop by with a gift or an offer to walk the dogs or babysit for Lou to have a nap. They brought fresh cooked pies and other Stuff they had made especially for us as they’d heard Lou had been ill. They all said we could call them any time and when I went back to my jobs there was always someone around to help Lou out and see she was okay. Not least Maureen, our beloved Maureen, she’d just been diagnosed with cancer and we were to lose her later that year, but she was there for Lou and Neil, full on and bubbly. We’d gained a massive chunk of love in our lives that year and later we were to lose a massive chunk too.

    1994 what a year!
  9. Poptop2

    Poptop2 Administrator

    And so life down the lane went on. Our house grew into a roomier house with it’s very own set of stairs and a huge loft that we could now convert quietly into a large bedroom. We could also quietly build a conservatory and hope the council didn’t notice. We were confident the council wouldn’t as they seldom ventured down the lane unless prompted, and their policy of ignoring us was ingrained into their culture. We just got on with the conservatory!

    At work I’d been busy getting more and more building work that I’d quoted for, but it was all for the following summer and the handyman stuff had dried up a bit so when my lorry driving boss asked me to take over as traffic manager on a temporary basis I reluctantly went back into a transport office working 12 until 8 each evening. I really didn’t want this job, but circumstances dictated differently and we needed to pay the bills like everyone. I was soon immersed in the hectic world of a busy transport company again, dealing with customers, drivers and clients, the job was extremely stressful as I well expected when I said yes, and predictably as before I felt disheartened by office work. I seemed to be getting up, having breakfast, doing a small handyman type job in the lane and then into work for 12 for 8 or more hours of stress, coming home, having tea, walk the dogs and wash for bed, before starting all over again the next day. I was back on the treadmill I’d opted out of 6 years ago.

    Not only was I doing this, but I was driving waste oil collection tankers on Saturdays and some Sundays, while still quoting for building jobs.

    Something had to give!


    With all the jobs I was trying to juggle, a new born baby and a house to complete I can’t think how I had time to sleep. To be Frank it was probably something I would have taken a pill to avoid if I could have back then, I was a tad driven. I can say that now looking back and smile at my old self, but at the time it was full on and I seemed to take it in my stride with a smile ( or so I thought ) unbeknown to me I was pushing myself way beyond my body’s limits.

    A new company had taken over our delivery firm and that was why I was suddenly propelled back into an office job, basically I had the office job or no job. They had promised us that our depot would be kept open in favour of their head Office Depot if we beat their figures for successful deliveries.

    Me and the depot manager John were told this from day one, and so we had pursued our staff to beat them.

    Most of the staff and drivers were friends and family. 12 office staff and 36 drivers. People had loans and mortgages on the back of the secure job they all thought they had, but that was with the previous company. Now, we had to get this right, and we did.

    The Christmas was when we thought they would close us if we were to close, but Christmas came and went, our figures were fantastic and we silently congratulated ourselves on a job well done. We put our heads down and worked diligently to ensure this. Things were looking good, so good in fact, when Phil one of the drivers asked if he should take out the mortgage he’d applied for, we all said yes.

    March saw things change. The company announced our depot closure out of the blue, staff from our office that had moved over to head office had even kept it quiet, it hit us like a lightning bolt. We were devastated!

    John and I worked hard phoning hauliers and warehouses in the district trying to place our lads in jobs and relocate others within the company. The midnight oil was well and truly burned as we attended meetings and sounded out the other companies locally over desks, bars and even in one case, the snooker club.

    I am proud to say John and I managed to secure positions for everyone bar three people who said they’d source their own jobs. They were Big Alan, Arthur and Rocket Ron. The rest we helped into new jobs. Yay us!

    Myself, I was offered the Bristol depot, an increase in salary and a moving subsidy. I was given until April to mull it over and told by the MD I was in the frame for depot manager at a new central depot that they had in the planning. Things for me looked good.

    I took the full three weeks mulling it over and gave some careful consideration into how I would tell them to stick their offer where the sun doesn’t shine.

    They must have thought I was mad to even consider I’d work for them again, I was mad, but only at them and their appalling treatment of the nicest bunch of people I have ever had the pleasure of working with, no I had already sorted a job for myself with the waste oil company and that’s where I was going, Bristol, no chance!

    The depot closed in April as they said. We all went our separate ways and I began working for the oil company the following Monday. All was good!

    Basically, I was given a tanker lorry, a set run, a basic salary, some cash and told to go buy waste oil and sell it back to them. What could be easier?

    It was an easy job. I soon learned all the tricks, the ducking and diving to get into a garage or dealership or bus depot or even a train depot, a listening ear or a bottle of scotch goes a long way. I could make money without trying some days. A bund wall full of diesel at a rail goods yard needs pumping out, and if it was at 2 am it was going to cost, it was up to me what I charged, it was my money. Then I sold the diesel back to my company. Win win.

    Within six weeks I could fill a tanker with oil by 9 am every day. My money was secure and I could get on with my other jobs or projects. My weekend sometimes saw me driving a grain bulker to Cardiff on the Saturday to help out a local farmer/ haulier, I could not stop for a minute.

    Then one morning I couldn’t lift a cup of tea...
  10. Poptop2

    Poptop2 Administrator


    I literally couldn’t lift a cup of tea. One morning I woke at 4am as usual, made my flask and a cuppa, went to wash etc, and when I went to lift the cup of tea I couldn’t. I just couldn’t physically lift the cup, I remember nervously laughing to myself and trying again, but no; all my strength had gone completely, it was something I just couldn’t get my head around at all, I tried and tried, but after an hour I gave up and went back to bed. I asked Lou to phone into work and explain and told her it was my cold and I was under the weather. It was true, I had had a sniffle for a few days. I told myself that’s what it was and pulled the duvet over me.

    A few days later I was still no better, I still couldn’t lift a cup, but worse still my get up and go seemed to have got up and gone. I made an appointment with the Doctor.

    The Doctor did a few tests, then asked me to fill in a questionnaire. One of the questions asked if I had ever had thoughts on suicide. I simply thought that meant exactly that, have you ever had thoughts on suicide. I had and said yes, but I’d only thought about them along the lines of why do people do that and the usual stuff about what they do to commit hari kari, I’d never thought of doing it myself. Oh well my mind wasn’t working properly at the time. He diagnosed depression and sent me away with a prescription for antidepressants.

    Three months later I saw another Doctor and explained my worries. I didn’t feel depressed and I had certainly never thought of doing myself in, but since I’d been on these tablets I felt like a zombie, I couldn’t remember stuff, I had no appetite, I could sleep continually and my attention span was zilch.

    This new guy did a few more tests and asked me lots of questions about my lifestyle previous to the cup of tea incident and my week of lethargy that lead to my first visit. When he was done he asked me to return a few days later.

    A few days later he said I had been wrongly diagnosed and the tablets had done me no good whatsoever. He felt I’d just been exhausted and the previous years stress had culminated in my body shutting itself down. He said I could have had a few weeks off and began a exercise regime to get going again, but now I had an uphill battle, it had been left too long in his opinion and if I was to get back to full fitness I was going to have to do it properly and work hard at it.

    It took me twelve months of walking, running, cycling and swimming to get back to previous fitness levels. 12 months of pure hard work. I ate less drank less and worked less. In fact I didn’t work at all, I simply got my body fit again. My mind was a different thing.

    In those 18 months or so I’d lost something, my smile had gone, I didn’t remember simple things and I struggled to read a book. My confidence had wained and I had most definitely become slightly reclusive, but each day I got up and pushed myself, I walked or ran carrying Neil in a sling on my back, I’d cycle with Neil on a child carrier behind the saddle, we’d do miles and miles over hills, down river tracks and all over. It was another bond formed that he remembers nothing about, for me it is ingrained into my mind like a film that reruns when I least expect it, but eventually I knew I was back to my fittest self. I knew it, but with my new found lack of confidence I didn’t know what to do with it. Tom had the answers.

    Tom had been listening to and watching my progress throughout my illness. One day he popped in to see if I fancied doing a slabbing job with him, but I made lots of excuses about my bad back I’d had etc. Tom told me to go get some ibuprofen cream from the bathroom and rubbed half a tube into my back. Then he had word with me.

    Tom told me he knew what I was going through. Told me I had to get back out there and take on the world, I didn’t have to fight them, just get on with life and take life on. He told me to stick out my chest, put on my smile, offer an handshake and listen to what people had to say.Mmm and ahh in the right place and offer sympathy, but never advice unless asked, but most importantly, chest out and smile. In the meantime we had a slabbing job to do.

    Another friend who is a Doctor spoke to me about anxiety and how we build it up by worrying and overthinking things, she suggested I may have been a person that thinks too much. She gave me a mantra that works even now “when you begin to think too much about something, stop!” It works a treat for me!’

    To the point that I seldom think too much at all if I can avoid it :)

    Those 18 months were the worst of my life. It changed me, but now I realise it changed me in a good way. I wouldn’t recommend it as a lifestyle revamp, but I do like to think I’m a better and more understanding person for it.

    Cest la vie, or should I say ‘ la vie Peut etre comme ca!
    Last edited: Dec 27, 2021
  11. Poptop2

    Poptop2 Administrator

    Back on the tools.

    With my fitness levels back and my confidence found, work was calling.

    There was a backlog of proper building jobs by now, Tom had taken on my more pressing jobs, but the full refurbs and rebuilding jobs were still there for me to crack on with.

    One of the jobs had been on my mind for a while.

    I thought I should tackle this first as the lady customer had been extremely patient and understanding through my illness. She had lost her husband the year Neil was born and had thoughts on moving from the lane, but had previously sounded me out about renewing her property at a cost she could afford and making it more usable in her later years. My plan was to demolish her old property and outbuildings build a block and concrete base then source a new or secondhand cabin to place on the new foundation, she preferred ramps to the old rickety steps that were there and a completely new self contained fibreglass septic tank. It would take me about 6 weeks ( a month - before I was ill ) and I’d ease myself back in gently.

    Pamala moved out into rented accommodation a few doors away while the work went on, she cried openly as I bulldozed the home she had shared with her late husband and where they had raised their small family, an emotion I fully understood. I consoled her by telling her of a conversation I had had with John before he died.

    John her husband had said to me, he knew he was dying, but if he had time he would have the place knocked down and rebuilt, he hoped she would have the Heart to do it when he had gone and stay on in the lane. Pam confirmed they had had the exact same conversation a few months before he went. We both smiled and there were no more tears.

    The job went really well, the site was cleared in a week and in two weeks the footings were in for the big new retainer walls that formed the base to go in. The weather was blazing that June month, but when the sun was out down the lane it was a pleasure to work there. Three weeks saw the retainer built and an hole sunk for the new septic tank. With the piping for the waste plumbed in and electric services rerouted by the local electrician ‘Ted ‘all that was left was 34 ton of scalping stones to backfill the base and a top screed of concrete.

    My plan was to reverse the tipper lorry up to the base and tip in. There were two loads of 17 ton to tip, but the day came and the heavens opened, it rained all morning and made the sloped site inaccessible for the lorry. Luckily he couldn’t get there until mid afternoon by which time it would have hopefully dried a bit, but no, no such luck. Steve the driver tried, but the wagon slipped sideways as he tried to get close enough to tip. There was no option but to drop it close and use the JCB bucket, however, the best laid plans of mice n men and all that.. the JCB had a pipe go. Damn!

    Now it was shovel and wheelbarrow. I had the cabin coming in two days and concrete at 7 am the next morning. The stone had to be in. It was 4pm and Steve would be back with the second load at 5.30. Time to test my new fitness levels.

    As I began to load the barrow and do a few loads Pam’s son saw my predicament. He offered to help. Between us we barrowed the stone into the base some 6 ft away by running it up three planks and tipping it into the base. After a few goes it was obvious he was a better shoveller than barrow pusher as the push up the planks was very hard. We got two barrows going, one he filled and one I pushed. We actually got the load into the base just as Steve turned up with the second load, luckily he’d been held up at the quarry for an hour and we had time to be ready for the next load. Once it was tipped and Steve paid, we looked at each other and thought, blimey here we go again.

    By 10 o’clock that evening we had done, we were done in too. We had a beer and congratulated each other on a job well done. 34 ton of stone barrowed up a plank and into a base in less than five hours was good going. My fitness wasn’t in question, but I was more impressed with this lads than mine, he worked in Curry’s and I had seen more fat on a greasy chip than him. He was wiry, but god he worked well. I made a mental note to keep an eye on his work availability for the future reference. He was a good lad.

    The next two days saw the concrete top go on and the two halves of the new cabin come to site and be sited by the crew that brought it. On the evening of the cabin installation I had taken four weeks from demolition to top out, not bad for a bloke who’d thought he’d never work again 12 months previously. Yay me.

    The rest of the job was done in the next fortnight. The septic tank came and was craned into the hole, the sides were gravelled after connection, the ground around concreted and the fence replaced around the property. I then ordered twenty ton of soil from the sugar beet factory to level the garden and turfed it.

    She was a very very happy lady when I finished the turfing. She now had a beautiful new home to live the rest of her life in securely. I don’t know what was in the sugarbeet soil, but she had the best field mushrooms ever in her garden for years after, and always shared them with us.

    That job and my new work ethic was the catalyst for me to grow my building business. Soon I had built or refurbed a dozen properties on the lane, I had also taken on a few jobs in town on Georgian houses that required special consideration as they were mostly listed. The rewards were good, I was now getting what is locally considered good work and a good satisfied customer base.

    I had to tax the van!
  12. Poptop2

    Poptop2 Administrator

    La dolce vita.

    Food in our house was and is paramount to happiness. My wife Luisa is Italian food IS life in her world. The family are from Naples where food isn’t something to to snack on, food is to a Neapolitan what the sunlight is to a solar panel, food is more important than politics, religion, Vesuvius or god. Only the Neapolitans can start a family feud over the amount of salt in a pasta sauce, or the freshness of a tomato. This is ingrained into their psyche, it doesn’t matter where they live in the world or what the local growing conditions or chefs are like, nowhere has food cooked and grown like Naples, to them their food is sacrosanct, and Lou’s family are no different, neither is Lou, so every effort is made to reproduce that proper Mediterranean flavour into our home.

    Thank god. My mum’s cooking skills consisted of knowing how much bicarbonate to use to turn her sprouts the right shade of pale yellow. Thank the lord for Naples and Neapolitans I say.

    For us there was an abundance of natural food down the lane. There were fish in the river, fruit in the hedgerows, plants in the field and even wild garlic along the lane. People never seemed to notice how much food grew around them, perhaps they had lost touch and their wealth allowed them to buy everything they needed, perhaps they didn’t know what was growing under their noses or care, but they were missing out on some free and very wholesome wild food. More for us!

    I’m not saying we cooked and ate everything freshly caught from the river or picked fresh from an hedge row, or even wanted to, it was just a very nice treat when we did, and who better to put the dish together than Lou and her fabulously talented mum.

    A pike from the river would be descaled by me using a knife ran edgeways along the back over a bucket of water to expose the flesh. Then with a freshly sharpened knife I would fillet the pike, the head and tail would be discarded in favour of the fleshier parts of the body, they in turn would be sliced away from the myriad of bones that form the shape of a pike. Overnight the fillets would be soaked in salt water to remove the earthy taste that often spoils the taste of river fish.

    The next day the water would be drained and fresh water added to soak in until the frying pan beckoned.

    To accompany pike would be a side salad of freshly picked and sliced tomatoes soaked in the finest olive oil and sprinkled with oregano, a potato salad made with potatoes boiled in the skin, peeled after and diced, salt would be added along with olive oil balsamic vinegar more oregano and salt. A fresh tasting accompaniment to the pike fillets; that were dipped in flour and gently fried.

    The meal had a taste of the Italian countryside. The fish tasted fresh and juicy as if it had simply leapt from the river into the frying pan that minute, the tomato salad was so sweet soaked in the best olive oil it tasted like eating the sunshine itself, the potato salad filled the stomach as it washed down by a glass of Barolo or chianti. Our meals took over the day, we would eat antipasto as a first course, the fish as a main and bread and cheeses the third course. The cheeses were always sourced and sampled locally before finding their way to our larder. We had some fabulous local cheese makers and sought them out eagerly sampling before we bought.

    The whole day would be taken up on days like this, Lou and her mum would be cooking happily most of the mornings, chatting contentedly about the way a dish would be cooked or the virtues of a certain ingredient to compliment the dish. To me it was like watching a master and pupil at lesson.

    Another dish that we often found hanging over our fence was rabbit. The farmer would hang a recently shot rabbit or two on our fence and the dish would be planned. I don’t think they were gifts especially for us, I just think the farmer liked shooting things and it gave him an excuse to pop the odd rabbit off.

    Rabbit Italian style is a treat to the taste buds. It is known as ‘corniglio arrosta’ roast rabbit to you and me.

    It’s a simple dish, but tastes like heaven.

    Two rabbits skinned and quartered. Lay them in a Pyrex dish and add a cup of white wine. Add onions and a clove of garlic, then peeled and chipped potatoes some more water to cover, mixed herbs, salt and pepper, cover the dish and cook slowly, then just before serving remove the lid and add half a pound of fresh peas and allow just enough time to heat them through, serve and enjoy the freshest tasting rabbit hot pot you’ll ever eat.

    To say we enjoyed the benefits of the lane would be understating it a bit. There was miles and miles of wild garlic in the lane, the leaves go well in a salad or added to a dish as garlic would be. In early May the baskets were out and off we would go happily harvesting the free garlic leaves of the lane. In August and September the hedges were filled with blackberries, beech nuts and hazelnuts. It was a race to beat the squirrels to the nuts though, they’re the masters of nut collection without doubt.

    In Italy they eat acorns, I’d eaten them in Calabria and was curious as to how they were prepared. Lou’s dad showed me how.

    Collect the acorns and peel off the outer green skin, keep a net, like the ones peas or onions come in at the veg shop. Fill the net with as many peeled acorns as you can, it takes a while to fill a net, but if you had the patience to fill it you had a good supply for eating for very little outlay.

    Lou’s dad Tony would spend hours peeling the acorns he collected down the lane, he’d sit contentedly with his little knife making a slit around the side and peeling back the green outer skin before dropping it in the net glancing occasionally at the progress and how full the net was. I think he was more happy sat there peeling acorns than at any other time of his life, I think it reminded him of his childhood in Italy. When he’d filled the net he would tie the neck with a long string that tailed some 15 foot or so, he’d sling the net over his shoulder and head for the fast flowing channel of the cattle drink and chuck the net in the river and tie it to an handy branch. Happily he’d stroll back whistling some aria or other and occasionally singing his own variation on the words ( usually slightly rude ) he’d be smiling and looking forward to the fruits of his labours.

    The next day he would fetch the net out of the river in the full knowledge the flow of the river had agitated the acorns in the net and removed the tanning by friction. He handed them out like a magic prize. He loved the look on people’s faces when they tasted an acorn and it didn’t poison them, you could see his glee in revealing a secret and surprising a friend. It was a good moment. The acorns could be milled or ground to make a flour for polenta or a coffee bean substitute. I loved learning these things from Tony, he even showed me how to harvest fungi in the autumn . He used the beautifully poetic Naples names for them, but even though I understood them at the time, unfortunately I forget them now and Tony is long gone. Chanterelles and honey fungus from a tree stump were my favourite, yet there were hundreds of edible ones we picked and ate, I just haven’t got the knowledge to do it myself these days.

    Down the lane we ate pheasant, pigeon, all manner of fish from the river done with an amazing array of accompaniments picked fresh from the field or hedge. The Taste was something that always amazed our friends and sometimes we would say after they were fully fed and happy that it it came from the field or river and cost nothing but time. I don’t know whether it was the actual meal or the copious amounts of strong wine we encouraged them to wash it down with, but everyone seemed to love it and ask how we learned such wonderful cooking techniques.

    It’s difficult to explain something that is so natural to a person brought up in a culture of fresh food to people that look upon food as a thing they have to eat to get through the day as opposed to people that are brought up on food as a way of life like Lou was, but we tried. People would listen and promise their self they’d cook it one day, but they Seldom got it and seldom less cooked it, no, it was much better to eat at ours and talk about it to our other friends afterwards. I have to admit I preferred eating it to preparing it myself, but I was brought up differently too.
  13. Poptop2

    Poptop2 Administrator

    A couple of tramps.

    Once a year Lou and I had a dinner date with Mo and Bob. It was a tradition we had started the first year we met. One of us would host the the other one at theirs on alternate years. We would dress in our very best dining clothes and put on the best meal we could cook, the others would arrive at 7pm prompt and the the evening’s dinner date would begin with cordial invite to aperitifs. It was all outrageously pretentious, but great fun and had become a looked forward to occasion, each year the table got grander, the food more gourmet and the clothes more formal, it doesn’t sound like a thing everyone would enjoy, but to us and our silly sense of humour it was brilliant

    Just so as you get our SOH I must tell you of a time when we lived together years before.

    Maureen had a three piece suite that she had bought at a charity shop, she loved the shape and design, but the cushions needed restuffing. For this job Lou and Mo had ordered a huge polythene bag of foam balls, the bag was huge over six foot tall, and when they had finished it had a about six inches of foam balls left in the bottom. Bob and I sat there looking at this bag wondering what we could do with it, I suggested we could make a human snow shaker from it by putting the hoover on blow. in a flash I jumped in the bag and pulled it up over my head, Bob got the hoover out and put the pipe on blow then inserted it into the scrunched top of the bag above my head. The foam balls swirled around me like a snow scene and I began to dance. Lou and Mo were weeing themselves with laughter, the more they laughed the more I danced and we were in hysterics, everyone had a go in the bag. I even got in again after just For the heck of it, then the doorbell rang, it was the Verger from the church, the church hall was on fire could he use the phone. The poor guy rushed in to the sight of me dancing around in a 6ft plastic bag of foam balls and an hoover in the top swirling the balls around me. He stopped dead in his tracks and seemed to think about turning around and using someone else’s phone. Mo pointed him to the cupboard and said the phone was in there. He made his phone call and left with a worried looking glance back to the living room, as the door shut we fell about laughing, I’m sure he thought we were on hard drugs or something, but it was hilarious. The church hall burned down unfortunately.

    The meal was at Mo and Bob’s this year. As the hour came around for Lou and I to get prepared I suggested we go as tramps. Lou looked at me as if to say ‘ no, that would be terrible and very naughty’ but fun, so she went for it.

    We found old clothes that we gardened in, Lou backcombed her hair into a frizz and put her make up on with smudges. My jeans were dirty and had holes, my shoes were one wellington and a slipper, Lou’s tights had holes and her shoes were from the potting shed, we were a mess, you get the idea. Anyhow off we went with our swag bags over our shoulder and a cheap bottle of plonk for our hosts.

    Maureen’s face as she opened the door in her sequinned dress was an absolute picture, if it was to be all downhill from there; that moment and her face was an absolutely brilliant moment, the shock on her face was undeniable, we’d got her’ then her face cracked and she began to laugh, she never actually stopped laughing all night. She called Bob in his dickie bow and dinner suite. He fell about laughing and called us some choice names as he’d had to miss the news to get ready for this and now we’d turned up as a pair of tramps.

    Lou and I spoke coarsely all night, throwing in the odd f word and referring constantly to life on the road, the best place to buy cheap sherry, how to get out of date food from the skip at the back of Sainsbury’s, where the best doss houses were etc etc.

    How we ate the meal that evening and carried on all the traditional things we did on those nights I’ll never know, tears of laughter rolled down their cheeks. Bob added to the hilarity by occasionally moaning about missing the news and having to do up a dickie bow, it just made us laugh more.

    When our friends heard about what we did that night they were horrified at first, they knew the effort we all put in to this night and felt for Maureen and Bob, but then they began to see the funny side of it and it became a legendary tale to relate. The times I’ve heard this story retold in the past twenty five years is uncountable, each time I hear it it becomes more and more outrageous, but that was the real story I’ve just retold. It wasn’t that outrageous, but we still think it was hilarious, especially seeing Mo’s face as she opened the door to us.

    They really are missed.
  14. Poptop2

    Poptop2 Administrator

    My mate, the other Bob.

    We had a great variety of people that owned property down the lane. Some were quiet and almost secretive in their existence others were more prominent and outspoken, and some were positively outgoing and friendly. One of these was Mick, a keen fisherman who also happened to be Bob Geldof’s road manager, or so he said.

    Mick had a beautiful cabin built in the meadow, along with an aviary and a fishing shed, it was obvious he wasn’t short of a Bob or two, but Geldof’s road manager, mmm?

    Mick occasionally popped into a job I was doing to borrow some sand or cement or a tool to finish a project and we became friendly, I’m not saying over friendly or went out for a drink, but matey enough to have a laugh now and again.

    One day Mick said his 50th birthday was looming and he was thinking of having a marquee in the field and a birthday party. I just smiled and said it sounded like a good night, Mick said Lou and I would be more than welcome too and an invite would be sent.

    As the day drew closer it became obvious this wasn’t just an ordinary party or even ordinary marquee, yes there was an ordinary (slightly huge) marquee erected in the field, but also an enormous stage was erected, blimey we were getting some live music too, that got a thumbs up from me.

    Unfortunately for Lou and I we had a previous arrangement to attend that evening and wouldn’t be back until 9.30 on the evening, I apologised to Mick and sent a gift and card, Mick said just come later as the band wouldn’t play until 10 ish.

    Lou and I did go out that night and returned about 9 as we thought, Lou didn’t fancy the field party though and suggested I popped down to show face. I’m glad I did.

    The party was in full swing when I went down, there was lots of lights and music and I recognised lots of people from the field and from the town. It was obvious Mick was quite well known locally and he did seem a nice guy. I then began to notice lots of minor rock musicians from locally and further afield, it was obvious we were going to get some decent music shortly. Mick spotted me and made a beeline for me with a bottle of wine and a glass. He made me welcome and said he’d like me to meet his friend and almost dragged me to the table this person was sat at. Well, bugger me it was only Bob Geldof himself. Mick virtually pushed us together and said we’d probably get on. As I shook his hand a lady from the local paper took a picture. Fame at last!

    Actually me and my new mate Bob got on really well, I made him laugh talking about our life down the lane and the characters surrounding us, he seemed a genuinely nice guy, but excused himself as he had to go sing a few songs, and he went.

    He did a few songs accompanied by a few local notable rock musicians and ended his set with ‘ the great song of indifference’ it was a great moment seeing this band aid and boomtown rats legend doing his stuff in our field. He came off to a roar of approval, and headed back to me and my growing collection of wine. Mick kept bringing me bottles of wine over and telling me to drink up, well, I tried my best along with new mate Bob and we got absolutely bladdered that night, at four in the morning there was me Mick, a guitarist called Gary from Chickenshack and Bob Geldof as pye eyed as newts talking totally carp in a field. It was like a celebrity VW camp. I could hardly stand if I’m honest and I certainly couldn’t talk, my eyes felt tired and I heard a thump when my head suddenly hit the table as I passed out from alcoholic poisoning.

    Apparently Bob and Mick walked me home, but they were so pie eyed we got lost on the 200 yard walk to mine and nearly walked to the reservoir a mile away. It was only because the sun was coming up that Mick recognised where we were that I actually got home at all. I have no idea how they got home. I was out for the count all day.

    Mick said Bob really enjoyed his couple of days in the field, he’d been at Mick’s a few days quietly relaxing and taking in the surroundings, and he had talked about buying a place in the meadow himself.

    I never got to see him again as I slept through that day and he left that day too. I did enjoy his company though, I enjoyed his songs too. He seemed a good bloke and didn’t put on any airs and graces at all. Lou always said I should have got him to sign her rats album as it would be worth a few Bob now, but how could I have. I would have just come across as star struck ( as if I wasn’t)
  15. Poptop2

    Poptop2 Administrator

    Hole in the roof.

    We were quite sheltered in the lane as it was a valley with high hills either side. The mighty Severn flowed southward through the middle of it slowly eroding itself deeper into the valley floor. The hills either side sheltered us from the the worst of the winds from both east and west, but on occasion the weather blew up or worse; ‘down’ the valley. On the odd occasion when the weather came down the valley it would bring trouble in some form or other, high winds gusting to gale force weren’t unusual, heavy snowfall in the winter also came on the wind from the north and at other times heavy rain. Tonight it was blowing a gale and had already knocked the electricity supply out.

    As Lou and I sat there in the candlelight watching the flames from the open fire dance in symmetry to the tune of the wind we began to feel in touch with the elements, a strange feeling when you’re sat in your living room. The occasional whistle of wind down the chimney accompanied by a soot fall and a blow back of smoke atuned your hear and senses to other noises from the garden that were being generated in the mini vortex world it had now become, a tree branch would grind against the fence and creek eerily, a fence panel would rattle before the whoosh as it was hoisted into the air and fly off as if doing gymnastics across the field.

    I found myself going over in detail in my mind all the jobs I’d done out there, had I secured all the roof tiles, how many screws held the shed roof down, was the car port sturdy enough to hold up against this raging storm. I donned my jacket and went outside and checked the things that troubled me most, but there was little I could do in this, I could barely stand. I resigned myself to the fact there was little I could do now at this late hour without jeopardising myself, so I went back indoors took off my dripping coat and I sat sipping a malt by the fire. We turned on the transistor radio to take our minds off the worries, it didn’t work, but at least the news of others struggling with the elements too, was an odd comfort.

    Lou and I decided to sleep downstairs in the old bedroom this night, we would put Neil’s cot in with us for safety from the possibility of any branches from the huge mountain ash tree that overhung our property being broken off in the wind and falling on us. A lucky precaution indeed.

    It was the oddest thing that through all this noise and worry we slept sound in bed that night. I don’t know if it was tiredness or worry, but we did. I was awoken at 5 am by the weirdest sound of someone sawing wood, but shook my head, I must be dreaming and went back to sleep.

    Harry was our neighbour directly behind us in the lane. At 9 am Harry could be heard calling over my fence, I peered through the bedroom window into the uncanny darkness and there enveloped in a sea of leaves was Harry by our back gate calling me, I opened the window and told him I was okay and would be out in a moment.

    I checked on Neil and Lou, and then quickly dressed in my gardening clothes that I’d been wearing the night before, this was no time for a wardrobe panic, something was wrong. I made my way out through the back door onto our rear yard and saw as I looked up four or five neighbours faces peering down at me from a canopy of leaves and branches. This was surreal, had we all been transported to wonderland, where was Alice I thought. No, this was a huge branch from the mountain ash tree hanging over our hedge and onto my roof, suspended partly on a thick overhead computer cable that straddles the length of our lane from town to the waterworks a mile away. It was actually supporting the main trunk of a huge 4 ton branch, and had taken the sting out of its fall and possibly saved our roof from total destruction. Yay the waterworks and their cable. There was an hole in the roof, thankfully it was just a tiny one!

    Our friends were out in Force this morning and all very jovial. At first in my slightly worried state I wondered if this was some sort of sick macabre humour going on, and for a minute felt myself getting angry I hadn’t even had chance to inspect the damage yet!

    I should have known better really, they were just relieved we were okay and there really wasn’t much damage to my property at all. There was the odd broken slate, some of the gable timber was slightly broken on the edge and some of the plastic guttering was snapped, so really very little damage had been caused, they were laughing at something else entirely, something that had happened in the early hours while we were all fast Asleep.

    It appeared someone had driven down the lane from the far end and found their way blocked by the huge fallen branch. That person whoever they were had simply gone to the back of their car, taken out a saw and cut a perfect car height and width through the tangle of branches, replaced their saw, got in and driven on through. I guess that was the sawing I heard at 5 am. To me that simple act summed up the resourcefulness of the people that lived here in the lane, Class!

    The branch that was hanging over our property was like a fully grown tree in itself . The half inch thick main computer cable that held the bulk of it and stopped our roof taking the full brunt of its falling force looked stretched to breaking point, it was essential that we removed the weight sharpish. The consensus was to remove the branches that overhung our roof in the vain hope the bulk of the trunk would fall back from its pivot point back into the lane. Everyone had the chance to test out their little petrol chain saws, they all seemed to own one and attacked the jumble of branches with differing results, some were quite successful working well and methodically to remove the wood, but others were downright dangerous with a chainsaw in their hands, nonetheless after a couple of hours of hard graft the bulk of it was cleared, the plan to use the pivot point to get the bulk of it to drop into the lane worked well, we all stood back as the last few counterbalance pieces were removed and the trunk dropped gently into the lane. It was teamwork and was how things went in the lane at difficult times. The wood was simply shared between us for our log burners. The job took all day to tidy up properly and we all had a good time helping each other. A trouble shared and all that.

    The downside was, after a proper investigation into the condition of this wonderful 80ft tall Mountain ash tree, it was declared past saving. The whole tree became firewood within weeks, and left a gaping hole in the backdrop to our home. Suddenly we had sunlight streaming in through the back windows instead of a dank darkness, it’s truly amazing the amount of sky space a big tree takes up. I was sad to see it go as it was there long before us, but the new light and piece of mind was welcome.

    This photo was taken after we had cleared a lot of it Away.

    Me Left, Harry working and the elusive man from the council roads dept in hi viz rear

  16. Poptop2

    Poptop2 Administrator

    Stop the train.

    Behind our house ran the historic Severn valley steam railway and down the lane we had our own halt where we often stood and flagged down a steam train for a day out in Bridgenorth or Kidderminster, it was a good day out for visiting friends and as we had a local pass we had reduced travel rates, we could travel all day for a few quid if we wanted to. Some days we would simply hop on the train and go to one of the stations along the line for a walk and a meal, it was all very sedate and nostalgic. We were very fond of our big train set in our back yard. It was also nice to remember this line was why our properties were there, it sort of tied us all in as one and we all had an healthy respect for the railway and the volunteers that kept it running.

    The railway seemed to accentuate the halcyon day’s of inter war Britain and in turn our neatly painted little wooden cottages seemed to accentuate the quaintness of the railway and the steam trains that trundled past through the trees on their way to nowhere and back. It was as if we lived in a big model railway set up that was made and remained in the 1930’s. To me and lots of people like me, it was idyllic. I remember one sunny day sitting by the river fishing and watching the sun twinkle through the trees onto the dappled river when a castle class steam hauled train went by and thinking to myself that there was probably not another place in the country left so perfectly in another time. I did like our home in the lane.

    On occasion they would put on a special train or a war weekend or a diesel gala and the trains would be rammed with visitors all enjoying a nostalgic trip out or showing their grandchildren what life was like when they were young. They were very popular weekends and still are.

    One time we had the Gressley Pacific A4 class down For a few weeks. It is a beautiful train of the class that broke the speed record back in 1938, these A4’s are legendary in British railway history, we sometimes had the Mallard down too, but the thing I really loved about the A4’s was the whistle. There was a moment in the evening and if the wind was in the right direction when they blew the whistle in the valley, the haunting sound would travel down the valley on the wind for ages, you could almost hear the whistle passing you before the train, the low almost baritone sound like an upper class English version of an American train whistle seemed to make the valley go still, as if time itself had stopped to stand and watch this marvellous piece of engineering go by in all its graceful snaking majesty. I loved those moments.

    One Sunday morning I was out in the lane with my hedge cutter sorting the tangle that was my overgrown hedge when I heard a very unusual loud crack, a second later I heard the unmistakable sound of a big tree falling, the sound was deafening and not very far away, Lou came out and said she thought it was on the railway, so as quick as I could I ran up the embankment to see.

    Sure enough it was a very big old oak tree and it was lying across the track completely blocking it. I was just about to go down the line and phone the station when I heard the unmistakable haunting whistle of the union of South Africa, she was coming from the direction of Bridgenorth. I had no time to waste I had to warn her, but how?

    I took off my red and check shirt and ran down the line towards the oncoming train waving it like a flag above my head, fortunately there had been a landslip previously and the train had to slow to less than 25 mph at this spot, as the train rounded a bend a quarter of a mile from the fallen tree the driver saw me, he shouted to me to get off the track I moved to one side as I had prepared to do anyway and shouted to him to stop now, there was a tree across the track, he heard me and the gigantic engine was suddenly screaming to an halt, the noise from the side of the track was overwhelming, the wheels screeched and slid, chains rattled, carriages banged on the buffers and steam gushed out from all directions screeching and hissing in unison, blimey, now I felt like I was in a scene from the railway children.

    The driver and firemen climbed down to ask what I’d seen and the guard came down the line shouting at me for stopping the train, I lead them around the bend to the huge tree blocking their way and watched their faces as the word ‘ phew!’ Formed in their collective minds. I was just as relieved as they were, I hadn’t expected to be in this position five minutes ago, but somehow I’d climbed the embankment assessed the situation made a decision and stopped the union of South Africa in its tracks and averted a possible crash down the embankment into the valley.

    The fireman asked if I had a phone and if he could use it, Neil’s face was a picture as I lead this overall clad soot covered man into our lounge to phone the station, he was convinced he must be the driver and asked if he could go on his train, of course how could the fireman deny this four year old a treat. We clambered back up the bank and he was passed up to the driver over the incredibly massive 7ft high driving wheels of this behemoth and into the furnace like heat of the cab. Neil looked worried so the fireman pushed me up to be with him, I took Neil into my arms and told him he was actually in the cab of one of the greatest trains in history and it was a treat for only the best children in the world. The driver asked if he wanted to pull the whistle, but he was unsure. SO I DID, insert smiley face. I actually pulled the whistle of the union of South Africa A4 Pacific class. Me, myself in the valley, I created that haunting sound. Neil Hated it and cried, ohh!

    The track crew were on their way to clear the tree, I comforted Neil and Lou supplied the driver and firemen with a bacon sandwich while we waited. In an hour so they had cleared the tree and the train was clear to go on its way, but before it went the driver came down to thank me and offer a footplate ride to me and Neil into Bewdley. Neil wasn’t having it and didn’t want to go in that scary cab again and I would have felt a tad silly going on my own, so sadly I declined.

    The day was saved, I had a an hedge to finish cutting, and dreams of being an engine driver on the flying Scotsman to rekindle.

    The railway were very grateful, they sent the local paper to interview me and take photos and then sent complimentary tickets for the Sunday lunch train for me and Lou to enjoy. I got my photo in the paper again and enjoyed a nice meal compliments of the SVR, but best of all, I had pulled the whistle on the union of South Africa and made that haunting sound down the valley. My life was complete.

    Not the union of SA, but in the place I stopped it. A manor class I think?
  17. Poptop2

    Poptop2 Administrator

    Old Frank

    In the end old frank proved my initial vibe to be right.

    My son Neil broke his femur one night while doing ju jitsu. I was there watching and obviously went to the hospital in the ambulance with him. The hospital was 20 mile away, it was an awful journey and one that is etched in my memory for life. The ambulance guys were friends from school, they couldn’t apologise enough for the journey and the fact they couldn’t give him any pain relief, but that was just the way it had to be, it wasn’t pleasant, but I knew them all and knew they were doing their very best for him.

    The hospital referred him to the Birmingham children’s hospital and another 30 mile journey some two days later, all the time I never left his side.

    In the meantime previous to the accident I was just finishing an extension job that owed me quite a few thousand pounds, luckily it was on a neighbours property just a few yards from my house and there were only two expensive wardrobes left to fit, I rang old frank and asked if he could fit them. They were just self assembly ready to slot in fitted wardrobes, there was one each end of the new bedroom to fit. Old Frank agreed and promised they would be sorted that week., he knew the people so I was content it would be done and I could collect the balance when everything was sorted with Neil.

    They operated on Neil’s leg on the Sunday, he had had the accident on Thursday evening, he. Had been shunted from the place it happened to A and E in Worcester twenty miles away, then taken five miles to another hospital for two days, and then finally the Birmingham children’s hospital another 35 mile away on the Saturday. On the Tuesday after the operation to pin it they got him up to do physio and he slipped and broke it again. Poor lad, now he had to go through it all again, and we were there for the duration. I never left his side, even sleeping in a temporary bed at the side of his some nights, it was an awful break and the poor lad was in agony for weeks. God I wince as I write this just remembering it. At some point during those three weeks I had a message through that the wardrobes had been fitted and the job finished, that was a great relief.

    The accident had been a very stressful time for us, but Birmingham children’s hospital is something else. That hospital is staffed by angels.

    After the journey to A and E we sat patiently for two hours for the X-ray. His femur was indeed broken in a spiral fracture, in essence it was broken in two lengthways as opposed to straight across, this created an issue for the bone specialist who we met four hours later after another ambulance journey across town to the decaying old Victorian Castle road hospital that had no children’s ward as such and Neil was taken to the male ward. With its foreboding high windows and glossed walls it wasn’t very welcoming for a Seven year old who was squirming in agony.

    The specialist came to see us and explained the difficulty in setting this break his instinct and training told him traction was the answer. I looked at him in disbelief, I pointed to my son and asked him if he thought a lad in that much pain could actually take any more especially the pain of being put into traction. And to spend another six weeks in this place was unthinkable, they were closing it down in favour of a brand new complex on the city limits, and it showed. I asked him for an alternative.

    The alternative was to have it pinned at the BCH, but that involved another horrendous ambulance journey. Neil was heavily sedated over the next couple of days, on the Saturday morning we set off to Brum in a state of resignation, this had to be done, it wasn’t something we could avoid, we gritted our teeth and smiled encouragingly at him.

    The journey was awful, there were lots of tears and lots of reassurance from Lou and I, but by the time the ambulance driver said we were there we were all very stressed.

    The doors of the ambulance opened and the midday sun shone down onto us, there before us stood a smiling red haired lady in a brightly decorated blue apron. “Hi Neil, I’m Kate” she beamed in her soft Irish brogue “ let’s find you a good bed and get this sorted for you, are you ready?” Her smile and happy chatter cheered us all, Neil spoke to her about his leg, and for the first time in days he smiled.

    The whole hospital is painted in bright happy colours, the ceilings have clouds and moons, the nurses all smiled and beamed happiness at every turn. We all had an awful lot going on our heads at that moment, but later when I nipped out for a cigarette and spoke to the other parents with children in other wards I realised how much these lovely ladies and gentlemen had to deal with daily. To maintain those smiles took something I know I have never had. They are Angels!

    The three weeks almost dragged by as each day threw up another difficulty to overcome. The hospital found us a parents room for a respite from the pressure because we lived so far away. Again we met other parents that told us of their children and their circumstances, how they coped I don’t know, no doubt the angels in the coloured aprons helped.

    Eventually after a second operation and two weeks of close care Neil was deemed mended enough to go home, we had been allowed to take him into Brum in his wheelchair to help us all get used to the forthcoming difficulties regarding his mobility and he had enjoyed the attention he received while out in a wheelchair with a obviously pinned leg, but secretly I think he actually looked forward to going back to the security of the ward and those lovely smiling faces.

    The day came to drive home and on the way out of the ward the nurses got him to sign the broken bone board that had little smiley faces, a note of the broken bone the patient had been in for and lots of enthusiastic thanks to the staff for the help in their recovery. Neil counted up the broken arms and other breaks before saying “ not many broken femurs Dad” one of the nurses stepped in to save me from my faltering reply by saying “ and not many who have broken them twice, you’re very special Neil” and put a ‘ X 2 ‘ next to his fracture.

    At home we had the usual overwhelming help and support from friends and neighbours and soon settle into a sort of routine again. The lane had a peculiar way of healing and de- stressing you, I don’t know whether it was the friendly neighbours, the tranquility or the security of being home, but we soon felt ourselves being lifted spiritually and finding the strength to get on with our lives and helping Neil back to fitness. Our lane always lifted our spirits so much so that each time we turned off the main road into it we usually began to sing or whistle, it was always done without thinking, but that was the subconscious affect the lane had on us.

    In the meantime I had made a visit to the customer for sorely needed payment for the extension, ( who just happened to be related to big John of caravan and fence problem ) and I was told in no uncertain terms he wasn’t paying the full amount. Apparently frank had slagged off my building work during his time fitting the wardrobes. Apparently my ceiling was out 18mm over 25ft. The wardrobes were both cut by Frank to suit the lower end and the customer wasn’t happy. Frank promptly blamed me to save his embarrassment and then went on to pick fault all over the build. The customer who was very particular wasn’t pleased, I tried to defend the problem by explaining the tolerances etc, but frank had done a good job on me and the guy insisted he kept £900 for the ruined wardrobe that was fitted in perfectly and being used as we spoke. I simply apologised and took the hit, I’d had too many down days recently to allow myself another. I told him the other extension he had planned would be done in a months time, and made a mental note to charge another £1500 when he got the bill.

    Frank in the meantime was owed two days pay for finishing the job, he was in for a shock.

    It was about this time that our cat Merry was walking with a limp, but we couldn’t see any physical injury. At the vets we found she had pellets in her leg, somebody had been shooting at her with a pellet gun. The vet was extremely angry about this and asked if I knew anyone with a pellet gun. After the issue with Frank and the loss he had just caused me I got to thinking about him and his motives, Tom’s words about him being an horrible bloke kept coming into my mind, when I suddenly remembered his pellet gun in the corner of his kitchen and his boast of shooting cats. No surely he wouldn’t shoot our cat Merry. Would he?

    I voiced my concerns to Lou that evening, she said she always suspected it was him and expressed her dislike of the man, he gave her the creeps apparently. Anyhow before Frank came to collect his pay Lou bumped into mad Addy the the cat lady in the lane. Addy ( who was far from mad and quite a nice lady ) ran the local cat rescue centre and was very much involved with the local vets, had heard of Merry being shot and asked Lou who had a gun, Lou said Frank, Addy’s eyes raised and that said it all.

    The RSPCA visited Frank, I saw that and I saw them take his gun away wrapped in a plastic bag, because I was working opposite at the time. Addy told us Frank had been prosecuted, but I never saw anything in the paper about it, and I paid him for the two days work.

    It wasn’t like I felt guilty about anything, it was just how I conduct myself. If I paid him I wouldn’t have anything on my conscience, he may have had, but I certainly wouldn’t. I also went to see him face to face when I did I told him what I thought of him and his behaviour. I told him he was no longer regarded as a friend and to keep away from me. It saddened me at the time and it still does now, we had after all had some happy times together, but Tom was right, he really wasn’t a very nice bloke.
  18. Poptop2

    Poptop2 Administrator

    The annoying VW breadvan's demise.

    During the 90's Lou and I had been seduced by the sleek appearance of a black Vw polo estate as a second car. My friend Geoff owned the local Vw backstreet garage and did me a cracking deal on it. Geoff and I began working together airbrush spraying beetles at the side of the road as a schoolboy hobby back in the 70's.

    When I went into the workplace proper I moved on to my apprenticeship at a Leyland dedicated garage and Geoff opened a Vw specialised garage some miles away in the next town. We remained friends and when the polo estate came up for sale I was quickly in.

    Geoff advised me that he had only recently had it in as a part chop and hadn't really tried it out properly, but it was only three years old and for £600 to me at mates rates I couldn't resist. I soon wished I had.

    The car itself was a lovely car, it drove perfectly went quick enough and stopped on a sixpence, but occasionally and usually at the most annoying time it wouldn't start.

    Geoff and I were totally baffled by it we checked and changed every part of the ignition system time and time again. She would be fine for weeks and then suddenly she just wouldn't fire. Lou would get most upset as it was her daily. We thought it may be an hot start issue like our bays, but after fitting different relays it still had the same issue. in the end we succumbed to the fact we couldn't pinpoint the issue and had to live with the occasional inconvenience, which usually lead to me being late to price a job, missing a train or simply walking home from town. It was without doubt a typical Vw wasserboxer in my opinion.

    However Lou seemed to be content enough to hold onto her until someone came up with the answer, it was after all a very nice bit of kit for what i'd paid for it.

    The lane from town to our home was exactly 1.5 miles of hedgerow covered lane. Neil our son called it the tree tunnel in the summer and Santa's sleigh ride in the winter ( that's possibly more to do with Lou's driving in hindsight than the beautiful snow covered trees ) I jest!

    The lane for all it's beauty however held a nasty surprise for the unwary driver during the winter months, Snow and water draining off the seven valley railway would lie on top of the surface in abundance, and on occasion the whole one and half miles would freeze solid like an ice rink and was virtually impassable with a standard car and an inexperienced driver. There were always those that ignored the conditions and we usually spent an evening dragging them out of ditches and out of fields with Dave's tractor or my JCB.

    Lou wasn't an experienced driver, but she was savvy enough to know when the lane was in this condition and would invite other mothers from down the lane to join her in the polo on the school run so as they could help each other if they had difficulties.

    Almost exactly halfway down the lane was an old disused branch line that forked off previously across the Severn and on into the forest and Tenbury wells. It was built later than the original line so the road beneath the new bridge was sunken to allow higher vehicles further access to the lane. this meant there was a slope down to it and up out of it by way of long sweeping bend from both directions. When the lane was iced over this was the real tricky section, you had to get it just right, enough revs to maintain traction and enough traction without slipping on the way up out of the bend to carry on Lou was good at this bit, and on the way to the the school bus judged it perfectly, unfortunately on the way home she misjudged it a little and careered into the bridge at about 40 mph. oddly she simply got sidetracked by her chatty passenger and hit the bend a tad too hard, the polo simply gathered speed on the ice and came to grinding crunch on the bridge wall. Not content with that she then further tried to break the bridge more by hitting her face hard on the steering wheel. Her friend was sent forward in her chair but was saved from serious injury by her seatbelt which most locals including Lou never bothered with down the lane as the seatbelt law was all quite new then. However they had that day buckled themselves in, sadly Lou hadn't thought to tighten hers

    I was working on a cottage extension some five miles away and stuck axle deep in mud when I finally got the phone call on my brick-like BT mobile, and by the time I had extricated myself from the Shropshire mud and made my over the river bridge back into the sanity of Worcestershire they were all home and sorted. No one was seriously injured, Lou's friend had bashed her shin and Lou had no more than a bruised nose. Phew!

    I had passed the written off breadvan on my race to get home to Lou. My friends had shunted her unceremoniously into a farmers gateway. She was definitely a write off and an insurance claim would allow a new purchase.

    I'm sorry to say that once I'd established everyone was fine I let out a yippee. Geoff did the same and I've never considered another polo since!
  19. Poptop2

    Poptop2 Administrator

    The flying bushman.

    As I have said before some of the buildings down the lane were made from all manner of recycled things, old train carriages, brake vans, Caravans from the 30's and all manner of other materials. It has to be said they were definitely built to a good standard by craftsman and although on the face of it may not seem possible, but they were made to such a standard they blended in perfectly over the years. Most though were made from standard building materials by skilled craftsmen.. The ones that appealed to me were the bespoke ones made with imagination and art.

    On occasion Tom and I would work together on a job, sometimes we would work for weeks together if the job was big enough. One of the jobs we worked on on and off one summer was the tart up of a place next to the railway line that was made up of the back end of two old 1920's buses. We had to paint the whole thing inside and out, replace all the fencing and generally tidy the beautiful little place up. We treated it like an hospital job and only cracked on with it when things were slow elsewhere.

    This little place backed onto the lane and had a lovely backdrop of the SVR line literally just forty foot over the lane and twenty feet above it and there were occasions when a steam train would pass this quaintly lit little chalet nestled in it's little hollow guarded at the back and sides by a well kept six foot privot in the evening dark it took on a magical appearance. If you happened to be there when this occurred the memory would stay for ever, it really was a special little place this one. I think that is why Tom and I always shared it and treated it like an hospital job.

    This year the SVR had employed a chap we got to know while working on the hospital job to clear the embankment of excess bushes and trim back overgrown trees.

    He had wandered down to us and introduced himself when we were ripping out some of the old fencing on the property. Although he was being employed by the SVR to do a job on their embankment he seemed intent on getting in as many foreigners as he could. His name was Rubin and as a tree feller or fence layer it was more than apparent he hadn't got a clue. However he had brass neck a chainsaw and a ladder, other people employed him readily, and to be frank we quite liked him and he often came over for a cuppa and a ciggy break with us, so we would recommend him for easy jobs. He also had a Morris minor pick up as his work vehicle.

    One morning as Tom and set up to start work painting the windows of the coach house ( as we called it ) Rubin wandered across the field carrying a long set of ladders to the bungalow opposite by the river that was surrounded by huge 60 ft tall conifers. we watched as he pushed his ladder up to the highest point he could get to on one of them, he was still 30 feet short of the top. Anyhow we made the motion to him of a cuppa later and turned to our own task for a minute or two.

    While Tom and I set up Rubin we presumed was doing the same and lashing his ladder and himself to the tree he was about to trim. Actually he wasn't doing anything of the kind. We heard the chainsaw start up and turned to see Rubin at the top of the ladder about to cut through the conifer at about 20 or 30 feet short of the top but forty feet up a ladder that definitely wasn't lashed to the tree or he to the ladder. Tom and I dropped everything and ran across the field shouting for Rubin to stop, but it was too late he's cut more than halfway through the trunk and we watched in slow motion as the tree top snapped at that point bent forward and took the remaining bottom half of the tree and ladder with Rubin on it down towards the ground, then without warning the top half snapped cleanly off and the tree sprang back with such force it catapulted Rubin from the ladder back over our heads and into the field behind us. The thud was sickening. Rubin hit the ground at such a force it broke his back and smashed the back of his skull in, but he was alive.

    The ambulance took twenty minutes to get to us, we comforted him the best we could, but really we had no idea how to handle this at all. there was no one at hand who could help that had any practical experience of this type of injury. When the ambulance guys saw the state he was in the injected him with morphine and told us they’d do their best but he'd probably die before they got him back down the lane.

    Fortunately Rubin didn't die en route, he actually made a full recovery within a year. I don't think he went back on the chainsaw again, although it did taint the view from our little pleasant job afterwards. I suppose the guy should have been assessed properly before being allowed to take that sort of work on
  20. Poptop2

    Poptop2 Administrator

    wild garlic [​IMG]

    old shack needing work


    Our old place from the lane in need of work now


    Field view river to the right would flood this whole field up to 6ft deep

    The JCB still going strong


    More wild garlic


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