The Tales of Flashover House – The Redemption of Harbottle

An unexpected vacancy had occurred at Flashover House. This was not due to the grim reaper, as was usually the case. You might say that in this instance, it was the work of the grim relative. One of the G4s had mentioned in an unguarded moment that he was thinking of upgrading his equipment, and somehow this leaked through to his Sister-in-law who had terrible visions of her legacy being frittered away on sheer pleasure. She descended on Flashover House, scooped up the luckless G4 and sent him away to rot at a home in swinging Mablethorpe. They were going to miss him the next time they wanted to put up an antenna as he was the only one who could climb the tree without fainting.

A few days later the hams were at the front door awaiting the arrival of the new man. They were anxious to see what his radio gear was like. The taxi arrived and out got a fit looking man with a fresh complexion of the type you don’t get sitting in a shack all day. He produced a massive bouquet of flowers, which gave the lads a bit of a turn because they thought it was a wreath. He then presented it to Matron who beamed with delight. Meanwhile the taxi driver was starting to unload his boot. The ancients all jostled for position. This was the exciting bit.

The first item out was a watering-can, this was followed by a spade, a rake, a hoe, a pair of hedge clippers, a bag of compost, and, to finish things off, a box of slug pellets. There was unrest in the spectators’ gallery. It would be an exaggeration to say that they were crestfallen, but their crests were decidedly drooping. It was left to Weasel to voice the unthinkable. “This man aint’ no ham, they have sent us a blasted gardener.”

Radio hams though are tolerant people and they would be the first to admit that gardeners have a place, albeit a small place, in society, so they showed him round and made him welcome. His name was Ted Harbottle and they found that, despite his agricultural tendencies, he was a kindly man and easy to get along with.

In the days that followed, they would be working in their shacks, while, in the mid-distance, they would hear the comforting snip of Ted’s shears as he attacked the shrubbery taking care to avoid the counterpoise earth wires, and the ring of his spade as he encountered the stray boulders down by the old rockery. He was happy in his work and, on a good day, with the sun on his back, he would often treat the residents to a vocal selection from Gilbert and Sullivan.

One day however while he was dealing rather noisily with the ‘Three Little Maids from School’ there was a discordant shriek and then silence. Weasel was the first on the scene and he found Fred writhing on the ground shouting “It’s me back.” Apparently he had been pulling a cabbage and the cabbage, which had a spiteful disposition, wasn’t too keen on the idea decided to fight back and caught Ted right off balance.

Help soon arrived and they helped Ted indoors and on to his bed. Matron removed his muddy boots (only a woman would think of that) and the doctor was sent for. The doctor ran the rule over Ted and diagnosed severe back strain but no bones broken. He gave him some pain killers and told him to rest and take it easy for a couple of weeks.

One of the most restful pastimes is reading, but Ted admitted that he was not much of a one for the books, so G2 lent him his pride and joy. his general coverage receiver to amuse himself with.

As the pain responded to treatment, Ted became a model patient. In fact, he was beginning to enjoy it. Angus and Rees Morgan acted as unofficial welfare officers, Matron supplied frequent hot water bottles for his back, and weasel dropped in from time to time to borrow his grapes.

Ted was making full use of G2s receiver and they could hear him scanning through the bands searching for farming and gardening programmes. Then, suddenly on about day three, they heard a different sound coming from Ted’s room – a sound they knew very well. It was Morse code. G2 went to investigate this phenomenon and found Ted sitting in his chair smiling like a cherub. He gave his explanation.

“When I was with the Devon and Dorset’s just after the war, they didn’t know what to do with us so they sent a few us on a regimental signallers’ course. To be honest I didn’t like it very much and dismissed it from my mind. Then, just now, I was twiddling round the dial and came across some Morse and found I could read about a third of it.”

What happened next resembled in some ways, the return of the prodigal son. It wasn’t an exact parallel as they still had some way to go before Ted could be thoroughly cleansed of those twin evils ‘On Your Farm’ and ‘Gardeners’ Question Time’, but it was a promising start. The major break¬through however, came from a junior G4 aged 65 and a bit. “Perhaps Ted would like to be one of our loggers in the World-Wide contest at the week-end.”  The old hands were staggered to hear such wisdom from one so young, but they really went for the idea and, what was more, so did Ted.

The conversation then turned to radio matters and there was even a passing mention of the RAE from Matron. “There is nothing to it Ted. I’ll lend you my hat-pin if you like, it did the trick for me!”

Three weeks later with his back almost recovered, Ted was sitting in his room listening to Morse tapes, while, in the garden shed, his spade and hoe were just beginning to show signs of neglect.

Return to the index of Vital Spark articles.

G3MGQ’s Month on the Air

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Vital Spark Archive

Vital Spark newsletter articles

Take a look through a large selection of articles written by club members over the years which have been published in the monthly Vital Spark newsletter .

Used Ham Radio Equipment

View HERC's Used Ham Radio Equipment for sale list..

Every four weeks, HERC's Used Ham Radio Equipment for sale list is updated on the site. Bookmark the gear for sale page to re-visit easily and take advantage of the used equipment on sale through the club.

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UK Amateur Radio Repeaters

UK repeaters

Click button above for full list, or a local repeater callsign below for info.

GB3EB 2m in Uckfield- Active
MB6EB 2m DStar Node in Eastbourne - Active
MB6RY Wires-X DigiGate in Broad Oak - Active
GB3HE 70cm in Hastings - Active
GB7HE 70cm DStar in Hastings - Coming soon
GB3ZX 70cm in Eastbourne - Low Power
GB3JT 23cm ATV in Hastings - NoV cleared
GB7RY 70cm X-Wires Repeater Rye - Active
GB7ES Eastbourne - DSTAR Rpt. - Active
GB3ES 2m in Hastings - Active

For a complete list of repeaters, head over to
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Popular pages

Get your amateur radio licence - Find out more about amateur radio licence training.
Month on the Air - G3MGQ's popular monthly DX contest/expedition list.
Wilf Gaye Memorial Cup - The clubs annual operating event in the memory of Wilf Gaye M0GYE.
St. Richard's College Buildathon/STEM/ARISS - HERC attends St. Richard's Catholic College for their various events surrounding the Tim Peake ARISS contact.
G3BDQ - John Hey's Rare QSL Cards.
Sussex Electronics Radio Fair - SERF Sussex Electronics Radio Fair 2016.
Vital Spark - A selection of articles re-published from the Vital Spark.
RSGB News - Find out how to get RSGB news on your mobile or PC.
Experimenters Corner - A selection of Proteus projects by Bob Gornal (G7DME)
BBADL - Bath Based Distance Learning Course.
Conquest Hospital Radio - Presented by HERC member Antony (G4CUS).
Radio Rallies 2016 - An up to date list of radio rallies scheduled for 2016.
Club QSL Cards - A selection of QSL cards the club has received over the years.
Other Newsletters - Excellent newsletters and magazines from other clubs.
TX Factor episodes - Take a look at the TX Factors YouTube videos.
John Taplin - A bio of the late John Taplin.

Amateur Radio Resources

Other Radio Clubs & RAYNET

BSARS - Brede Steam Amateur Radio Society

RAYNET - The Hastings and Rother RAYNET Group.

HERC members sites

Sigord - Gordon Sweet
Hastings Radio Comms - Andrew Haas-Campbell
Hoofbags - Liz Costa