Christmas 2008                                      page 4
Older Stuff

Several people have asked what I used to do.  
In 1966 I started making spice racks. Romsey Woodcraft was a reasonably successful small business.
   In about 1980 for a reason neither I nor my competitors ever understood,
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. 

 The largest mills shown below are 16" high, the smallest 4".

Since I had a national sales system set up, I also imported Portuguese
Memo boards and table mats and a range of Danish wood ware and distributed a range of
locally produced toughened glass kitchen boards.

 I retired in 1996 and sold the thriving and still growing business.
Two years later the company went bust.

From 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 manufacture the boards myself.  I bought machines, I commissioned and paid 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, together with the designs.

After they went bust it staggered on under various owners until it finally succumbed and now it is no more  
I called in to say 'Hi' during this later period.  Are you coming back the ladies asked?  It used to be fun they said, always busy, everybody laughing and joking.

Now even the buildings now have gone and a totally different company has built offices on the site.  

However whilst browsing Google Earth a few months ago I was surprised to see my old buildings still shown there.  The lighter roof  to the north is 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 immediately.  I reached my office at 6 am Tuesday after driving all night, by 9 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 the 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 our stock and buildings.

I had another look recently, the Google photos have been updated, it's gone now.

But talking Google I was browsing Street View the other day, and spotted my RV.  
I know it is it, because it was parked there for  while.  
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 watching you.

7 or 8 times during the 1980s I went to a balloon meeting in Barneveld in Holland.  
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 flight.
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 scanner, 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 couple

When 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..........
Barneveld Newspaper loading
I never knew what it said.  But recently I had contact with Ina van der Craats, a Dutch lady 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?

Four 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 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 off with 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 an airplane.

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.

While 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 precautions 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 reached 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 in the 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.

Once 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.

Barker is 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.

Before 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 over there.”

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.

I walk back to the balloon while the guard drives off. At that moment “the 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”.

He understands 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.
Picture 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”

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 trip. Really 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.
 Jan is still a journalist, and is taking beautiful photographs.  You can see 1057 of them at
 I wish I could take photos like that.

Well, there we are.  All that remains is to say I hope you found these ramblings
 to be of interest and once again to give you my very best wishes for Christmas and the New Year



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