people have asked what I used to do.
In 1966 I started making
spice racks. Romsey Woodcraft was a reasonably successful small
In about 1980 for a reason neither I nor my competitors ever
the bottom dropped out of the spice rack market. It
happened to all the manufacturers I knew,
and as far as I could tell, all
over the world, at the same time.
In a period of only 3 years
sales dropped by 90%.
Luckily I was developing a range of pepper
mills and these became my staple line.
largest mills shown below are 16" high, the smallest 4".
Since I had a
national sales system set up, I also imported Portuguese
boards and table mats and a range of Danish wood ware and distributed a
locally produced toughened glass kitchen boards.
retired in 1996 and sold the thriving and still
years later the company went bust.
the late 1980s we had been fully computerised, for invoicing,
despatch, and stock control (including stock explosion for assemblies),
there were even programs I wrote myself to analyse sales and calculate
costings and order quantities. The new buyers didn't ask the names of
any of these analytical files or programs or take up my offers of free
assistance for 3 months.
Seems they thought that all they had to do was just to be there and the
money would come rolling in. The man in day to day
control didn't understand
computers, he had my secretary ordering stock, she was good but had never done
anything like that before, didn't know what to do. Within a few
months my same day
despatch had slipped to 6 weeks........
We had been selling
massive quantities of the kitchen boards, they were approaching half my
turnover, but my supplier had been taken
over and my cost prices were going up and distribution areas reduced
and they were making some horrid designs.
So I set up to
the boards myself. I bought machines, I commissioned
an artist who produced some superb designs with the same appeal as my
best sellers, I found printers and plate makers and glass suppliers
and even got a box designed and found a supplier for the box . We could
produce for less than half the price we were being charged, with all
costs allowed for. All it needed was, effectively, the switch
flipping to on. Before they bought I told the buyers the problems with
the current supplier. But they did nothing.
Nothing! I think
the only time they touched the machines was when they knew they were
going to go bankrupt, and then they took the machines home,
After they went bust it staggered on
under various owners until it finally succumbed and now it is no more
called in to say 'Hi' during this later period. Are you
back the ladies asked? It used to be fun they said, always
laughing and joking.
Now even the buildings now have gone and a totally different company
has built offices on the site.
whilst browsing Google Earth a few months ago I was surprised to see my
old buildings still shown there. The lighter roof to the
replacement for the previous section, which burned to the ground after
a lightning strike in 1993. I got the news of the fire at 8 pm on a
Monday evening whilst I was on holiday in France and I drove back
I reached my office at 6 am Tuesday after driving all night,
am there was a queue of fire assessors, and
electricity and telephone people there to get us operational. My staff
arrived in old clothes to help clear up. Early Wednesday morning
first of many fire replacements arrived, despatch cartons, made in
haste by my
regular supplier eager to help. More items followed. Later that day we started
despatching orders again.
Neither my customers nor even my
salesmen knew that we had had a major fire and had lost almost half
I had another
look recently, the Google photos have been updated,
it's gone now.
talking Google I was browsing Street View the other day, and spotted
I know it is it, because it was parked there for
Well, it's still there, but it's been moved further
away from the road.
It's for sale......
But this photo
is taken from Streetview. They cover almost the entire USA
with this detail.
Big Brother is
or 8 times during the 1980s I went to a balloon meeting in Barneveld
I cancelled the year I had the fire and never resumed.
One year I took my 2 boys Rupert and Daniel and
a local Pilot Ron Green came along as well.
I took a reporter
for a flight that year and he produced a full page article about his
The page is below. To get the picture I had to scan 5
different areas of the page,
then use the stitching program to stitch
them all together. A quarter of the page is
firmly glued in my
clippings album which made it rather difficult to scan some parts of it
It needed 2 hands to hold the page correctly against the
with lid removed,
then another hand to operate the scanner controls.
Since I only have 2 hands some of the images are blurred. That adds another item to my list of 'when it is useful to have a wife', I'm up to about 6 reasons now.
Here's a coupleWhen you are in the shower, there is someone to say "he's in the shower" When you have a rattle in the back of your camper van, there's someone who can go listen. I can't think of any more just at the moment but I know there are a few more
Anyway, here's the page..........
I never knew
what it said. But recently I had contact with Ina van der Craats, a Dutch lady http://www.balloonheaven.com
who said she could translate it for me. So here it is.
I think it is a charming article. And a charming translation.
Does it stand
beautiful beside the road or not?
thousand people are standing around the Koeweide on a Monday evening in
the Schafferlaarse woods in Barneveld. They were the witnesses of 14
hot air balloons and one hot air ship taking off in south easterly
direction. Four thousand people are dreaming about coming along. Only a
few were granted to go. One of them was Barneveldse Krant-reporter Jan
de Vries. He flew with the famous English balloonpilot David Barker and
his son Daniel far away from the earth's swarm.
The article was
written by Jan de Vries. I Googled him and was able to say
thank you, 25 years later. He wrote
It was me. Its a long time ago we made that
surprising to see the article back. I never collected my
articles. I still
remember my first balloonfligth with you and your son. For me it was
one of my
top 10 life experiences. Even these days I often tell the
story to friends. I’am
glad you like the report.
only thing that can go wrong is that we can not attach the flag from
the sponsor” David Barker from Hampshire in England smiles. There is
lots of time to talk to him before the preparation of the balloon.
Involuntarily we come to the dangers of ballooning but Barker is short
about that. “Nothing can go wrong” he ensures his passenger. “You know
that they always send the journalists with the best pilots. Pilots with
less experience always get officials as passengers”. Again there is
that generous smile. Barker tells me that from all the participants of
the BallonfiŽsta 1984 he has the most flights to his name. (“Or does
that German have more experience. Well I don’t know”). Barker has taken
his balloon about 750 times.
“Ballooning is more
beautiful than travailing by airplane, you can look all around you. In
an airplane you only have one window most of the time” says the English
pilot. He flew 35 times across the Alps. That’s a topic that Barker
can’t talk about enough. ‘It is so exciting. You can get very
close to the mountain tops with a balloon. And if you want you could
fly over the mountains or down in the valley. That’s not possible with
Barker has six balloons
of his own and one balloon in
partnership with a woman who has more balloons. When you imagine that a
balloon costs between 40.000 and 80.000 guilders, you can calculate
yourself how much the Englishman has invested. And that are not that
many balloons compared to Mister Forbes, he has 27 balloons. His
helpers told me he’s a billionaire.
Between half past six and
seven p.m. the preparations start. It seems that the attaching of the
sponsorflag indeed causes for some trouble. David hasn’t got a rope to
give the sponsor BK-gas enough visual time. Also around us his
colleagues are calling out for some rope. After that has been delivered
the routine job begins. “How long, ”I am asking, “does it take before
this balloon is fit to travel?” “It depends on what you want,” Barker
answers. “It can go pretty fast but we take it slow so that the
audience can get their money’s worth. We make it more spectacular than
it really is. You must understand that, being a journalist.” he laughs.
his son Daniel and a friend are letting the air into the balloon (piece
of cake) Barker explains to me about the construction of the basket.
You see that my basket doesn’t have the luxury that some of my
colleagues have. It’s much cheaper and you don’t need all of that. I
rather give my money to good navigation equipment. Meanwhile the
balloon is rising up that it’s time to connect some wires inside.
Barker invites me to step inside of the balloon. “The inner side of the
balloon” gives you the feeling that you are standing inside a big tent.
It’s really fascinating. Barker tells me that he doesn’t have a
parachute in the top of the balloon, like most of his colleagues. He
has a flap that opens when he pulls a rope. That way he can let the air
escape and the balloon descents.
After all the safety
the burners ignite. If you want to take a great picture, you have to go
into the balloon while I’m burning” says Barker. Again I feel like a
kid in a candystore. David Barker tells me where to stand so I’m not in
any danger. He’s doing his very best to please the journalist from the
local paper. Later on I hear that the journalists are getting this much
cooperation so that trough their articles, the popularity of the
balloon sport is increased.
While the burner from the
Barker equipe is still roaring, the first balloons are going up. It all
seems to go very rapid, Barkers balloon is rising up. He jumps on
board. His son, who is standing at the beginning of his fifth journey,
follows him with quick moves. As the last one I’m hoisting myself
inside the basket. I don’t get more time to think about it. Before I
realise what I got myself into, the balloon is several meters above the
forest, waved off by thousands of people.
In no time we have
halve a kilometre. Barker gets his map to get orientated. Around us are
flying (well sailing) the other balloons. A moment of pure silence. The
absolute silence is once in a while broken by the expressions of joy by
DaniŽl and the roar of the burner. “My kids love this” Barker tells me.
”They always wanted to go up all from when they were little, but I’ve
always said: you can come when you are tall enough to look over the
edge of the basket. You know that they were always crawling inside the
basket until they could see over the edge. And they were shouting
daddy, daddy it’s time”. Then they could come along.
We are no
longer in the company of other balloons. Barker climbs to about 2800
feet (almost 950 meters) while his colleauge-pilots are staying closer
to the ground. As a consequence we pick up another windstream that
takes us in the direction of Apeldoorn. Far below us we see the other
balloons go in to the direction of Harskamp and Wekerom where most of
them, as it seems, would land.
We follow the Wesselseweg
direction of Kootwijkerbroek. About a kilometre below us crawls “the
white van” (the Volkswagen van that is driven by a friend of Barkers)
over the gray road. Pilot and driver can communicate by radio.
above Kootwijkerbroek David Barker has to decide if he descents and
goes in the direction of Harskamp or over the Kootwijkerzand in the
direction of Apeldoorn. To my joy he decides to choose the last option.
That means we can stay in the air a bit longer. And who has once made a
balloonflight, doesn't want anything else.
looking, whilst puffing his pipe, for a landing spot behind the
Kootwijkerzand. While he stands bend over his map (flat hat on and pipe
in the corner of his mouth) I get the feeling that this all isn't real.
I share my thought with David. “It's like I'm looking at a movie” I
said. “That feeling is more common with people who fly with a balloon
for the first time” he answers. “It is something special.” The
Kootwijkerzand, that seems to have endless length on the ground, looks
more like a large sandbox that we've passed in a short time. The
buildings and pylons of Radio Kootwijk are in sight in front of us. “Do
you think we can land there, ”Barker asks. I confess that I don't know
for sure but I do know that there is a road through that area. To be
safe the English pilot decides to land behind Radio Kootwijk. To arrive
there the balloon has to descent to 200 feet, about 60 meters. We shear
across the treetops. Again I'm under the impression that i'm in a film.
Radio Kootwijk it seems that the wind hasn't blown us into the right
direction. We are just a few hundred meters from the electricity
pylons. Then there has to be made a decision pretty quick. “We are
going to land,” Barker says. The first open space in the forbidden area
is going to be our landingspot. The ground is slowly coming closer and
Barker gently parks his balloon between a few groups of trees.
“According to our map the road should be a little bit further. We will
carry the balloon to the road, he says with a smile. We are exiting the
basket. Barker floats the balloon about a meter above the ground. We
only have to hold on to the colossus and push it forward to the road
that, indeed, is there. There the English balloonist puts the basket
finally on the ground. Suddenly he laughs again out loud. “Does it
stand beautiful beside the road or not? ”We are both laughing. The
laughter is dimmed when it seems that we don't have radio contact
between balloon and “the white van” anymore. “Nothings the matter,”
Barker says. “We just wait until a car passes us. Than you will go with
it to the nearest house and call back to give our position to the
people at kasteel Schafferlaar.”
Now it's my turn to
laugh. I tell
him that we are in a forbidden area that there is a small chance that
there will be a car passing by at this hour. ”Look” he says, not
worried about it, “over there is a light burning. Why don't you walk
Right at that moment four
young men emerge from the
woods. (Am I in a fairy tale or is this real?) They wonder themselves
that we’ve dared to land between the power lines. They are very helpful
and tell us that the light belongs to the porter’s lodge. David gives
me a note of 100 guilders and asks me to make the call. I’m just about
to tell him that we have the so called evening rate and that you can
call for only a few ‘dubbeltjes’ with Barneveld, when he tells me that
on that ‘note’ there is a phone number written. “I always do that
because I never loose money” he says,
Across the heath I run to
the light. It seems like an adventure that turned into reality when the
porter’s lodge seems abandoned. Inside there’s a radio playing, so I
thump on the window to state my presence. Nothing happens. I deliberate
with myself and decide to look for another place. At that moment a car
comes from the terrain. It’s the guard. He had seen the balloon land
and had gone to it. David Barker had told him about our unfortunate
landing and I can make the call. The man clearly has a conflicted
feeling. For one he thinks that the landing on “his” terrain is pretty
spectacular, on the other hand he thinks his boss isn’t too happy about
it. He is going to call his boss because the guard “doesn’t want to
take responsibility for it”. His chief’s phone appears to be busy. The
guard gets in his car and tells us that he is going to get his chief.
It only takes 5 minutes and we can’t do anything until than.
walk back to the balloon while the guard drives off. At that moment
white van” arrives. That’s not possible, I think. I’ve just made the
call half a minute ago. It seems that at the moment that I was running
across the heath, radio contact had been back on and Barker already
told them our position. Not long there after the guard arrives with his
chief who clearly sees a laugh in this situation. They let the
Volkswagen van onto the terrain and half an hour later the balloon is
only a small package. We drive back to Barneveld.
“What did you
think of it?” Barker asks me. Still deeply impressed by the experience
I’m not capable to answer him. “I have to think about it first before I
can say anything about it”.
completely. That’s how most people react, he says, when they first have
flown in a balloon…
Picture top left – The
inside of the balloon. David Barker (right) attaches the safety lines.
bottom left – If you want to take a nice picture than you’ll have to
stand inside of the balloon when I burn.
Picture top right – The
Kootwijkerzand, that seems to have endless length on the ground, looks
more like a large sand box
Picture middle right –
How do we attach the sponsor flag? Daniel Barker (with glasses) helps
his father find out the best way
Picture bottom right –
Helped by Daniel and his friend, David sets the balloon up. “We take it
slow for the audience”
is still a journalist, and is taking beautiful photographs.
can see 1057 of them at http://www.flickr.com/photos/91376556@N00/
I wish I could
take photos like that.
Well, there we
that remains is to say I hope you found these ramblings
of interest and once again to give you my very best
for Christmas and the New Year