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December 2001

The on-line magazine of the Burnham Beeches Radio Club.

World Wide Web Edition

December 2001

Welcome to the December edition.

I'm sorry that this edition has been delayed a little, but it's been a trying time for me. I've lost my job again, as a result of a takeover, and also I've been a guest at Royal Brompton Hospital again.

Roger G0HZK, Editor


My life, did I get it all wrong?
M3's, a new Foundation.
Morse, local B's get assessed!

Did I get it all wrong?

You may remember that just before Christmas last year, I went into Brompton to get some RF burns inside my heart. When I first saw the consultant, he booked up the treatment for me, but I 'jumped the queue' by going in as a private patient. During the summer I had had a recurrence of the original problem, so I went to see the consultant again. We decided it was worthwhile trying the process again, and set the wheels in motion. Then about three weeks ago I received a letter from the hospital offering me a bed - it seemed that I had got to the top of the NHS waiting list for the original treatment! So I went in this time as an NHS patient.

The main difference between private and NHS treatment at Brompton was that my bed was in a ward with five other patients. Since Brompton is primarily a cardiac hospital, they all had heart problems. Listening to their stories, I got a picture of what is important in this life. There are a few risk factors that can lead to heart disease, and these people illustrated this. Most were in for angiograms, which consists of placing a catheter (a thin tube) through a vein in the groin and feeding it through to the heart. This enables various measurements to be made inside the heart chambers, narrowing in the cardiac blood vessels can be detected and treated, 'holes' between chambers can be detected, etc.

Most of these patients had high blood cholesterol, were smokers, etc. I think they gave me a good incentive to reduce my weight, watch what I eat, etc. I took a bit more notice of what was going on this time, when it came to my turn to 'go down'. Brompton has four catheter labs, each with high tech X-Ray equipment and large screens displaying various images. As the catheters were pushed up each side, the X-Ray heads moved up my body, and I could see the probes moving inside my veins on the live X-Ray displays. These displays were real-time. For final positioning and adjustment when in my heart, the heads rotated in an arc so that the two heads were positioned either side of my chest, about 90 degrees apart. Most interesting, this technology. I was on the table for over two hours, I hope I don't have to go back! My condition is not heart disease (it's like a wiring error), and has probably been been lying dormant since my birth. However unless you are keen on experiencing modern cardiac treatment, I would advise you to check that your blood pressure and cholesterol levels are OK, lose some weight, do some exercise, watch what you eat, etc....

Losing my job was also unpleasant. Apart from the difficulty of finding another one, with a salary which is enough to support mortgage and children, and especially when you are my age, it's amazing how much paperwork is generated.

Going from a situation where I had a good income, to one with no income, meant that something had to go. Since I was paying into two private pensions, I put these on hold. Luckily both are fairly modern policies, so this can actually be done, without punitive charges. But it meant a few phone calls, letters, forms and statements. Being unemployed means you can claim some benefits, especially if you have no money at all. This involves a great deal of form filling, and documentary evidence needs to be collated. So far, I have 'signed on', although I have already missed the first regular appointment through being in hospital. Now I have to take documentary evidence of my job search to the Jobcentre each fortnight. Having been employed in a specialist capacity for the last twenty years doesn't help, as specialists are seen to be people who can't do anything outside their field. One agency told me that it was a waste of time applying for any type of job that I hadn't done before. And after an interview for a job I have done for about 30 years, I was told that I had 'insufficient experience'. One thing I am learning is that I have done it all wrong since 1962. The first mistake was to get a job in science. I realised this in 1969, and moved to electronics. Although this seemed a good move at the time, I should have guessed it would backfire eventually.

I don't know what sort of career I should have chosen. Many of the popular choices in 1962 have vanished without trace. And the jobs for which there are now vacancies didn't exist back then. It would be interesting to know what has happened to my old school mates. I am in touch with only one, who also went into electronics. He has had only two employers since 1962, what did he do right?

I have a few friends from the seventies. Most have a job, just. So if I could go back to 1962 again, what would I do? Firstly I would either buy a house earlier, or stay living with my parents, like my sister did. My first house cost £22,500 in 1979. If I had bought it a couple of years earlier, it would have been half that price. In 1969 you could buy a new house for £4,500. My current house cost £35,000 in 1984, the morgage will be paid off in 2009.

I think that in 1962 I should have gone off around the world on my motor-bike. Here I am now, and I've only briefly seen a few countries. The most time has been spent in the USA, about seven weeks, all on business. I was going to Iceland in 1970, and the Soviet Union in 1972. But I didn't. Bah, will I ever get a chance again?

Would I get married and have children? A tricky one, this is! Will my wife find BeechLog!

Certainly a single man can live very much more cheaply than I can, although whether I would look after my money wisely is a different matter. Laverdas and Lotus Super Sevens were not cheap.

Looking around, I have a few relatives who have retired at fifty. My cousin did this (actually at 48 or 49), and a year or two later he got married! I think this may be related to the size of his civil service pension (I turned down a job at the place where he worked in 1967, silly me!).

However this is about getting some sort of financial security. While I lived with my parents I didn't need to spend much money. But I did. I could have saved about three quarters of my income, which if invested, probably would have made it possible to retire before now. Even after marriage, we could have lived a meagre life and saved hard. But I'm not very bright, and never managed to earn the kind of salary to live comfortably and save.

As I finish this off, I've now been unemployed for 5 weeks. I've just received a batch of claim forms from Slough Council. Basically these seem to suggest that if I was paying rent, I could claim to have some of this paid for me, and also get relief from council tax. However since I have a mortgage, none of this is possible.

However it looks like there is a job offer on the way to me, so hopefully I should be working again in the new year.

There seems to be two ways of cushioning against all this aggro. Either start work at 16, live with your mum for as long as possible, and live a frugal life, saving everthing. Alternatively, spend as fast as you can, live in a council house, and don't worry about anything. Learn the system.

It doesn't help that we live in an expensive part of an expensive country. There are many places nearby where the money goes a lot further. The rural life in European countries is dying out. In Britain, the villages get taken over as weekend retreats by wealthy town folk, but on the continent this does not always happen. In France the country folk are moving to the cities. I have a couple of ex-workmates who have bought farmhouses in the south of France - they tell me that as the French move out, the English move in! I fancy rural Italy. Now if I can get these children to leave home...

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A new Foundation

Soon it will be January 1st, and the first M3 calls will be heard on the bands. The Foundation Licence seems to have been reasonably well received, and we will see how many B's suddenly get an interest in HF operation! I have heard many comments from current amateurs, who have felt that there ought to be a time limit on the new licence. I strongly disagree with this. New licensees may be dalayed from upgrading through no fault of their own, e.g. illness, marriage, job changes, etc. And the new licence may provide all that some people need. Those who live in flats, and many others, may be unable to run higher power due to interference problems. The licence gives access to most of our bands, and they may not miss those like 10 metres. 10 watts is capable of much more than some amateur expect. From my own experience, this is what I have managed:

160 metres - difficult with a small aerial, but many UK stations.

80 metres - I have worked all over the UK with my 80 metre transverter, including contacts with 1 watt stations in Scotland. Western Europe also quite possible.

40 metres - much like 80, but easier during the daytime. Not so good at night!

30 metres - I don't use CW, but the band is fairly quiet compared with the others, so should be capable of world-wide coverage on ten watts.

20, 17, 15, 12 metres - I've worked all over Europe on five watts SSB, with many US stations too. My neighbour managed all continents with about 10 watts to a mobile whip.

6 metres - I've worked all over Europe, the US, South America, and some of Africa and Asia with an FT690 and a small amplifier.

2 metres - All over Europe on 10 watts, including Czech Republic, Romania, Bulgaria, as well as all EC countries except Greece.

70cm - Most of Europe worked with an FT780.

With decent aerials, anyone could do better than me. The M3's probably need a bit of patience, but plenty is possible.

There does, to me anyway, seem to be a potential problem with what you get for each exam/course. In practice, an M3 could get away with running 50W, and this might discourage people from the taking Intermediate (Novice) course and exam. Likewise, they could run 100W and not bother about the RAE. The only liklihood of being found out would come from an RA inspection after TVI. So will we see further declines in the number of people taking the NRAE and RAE?

In any case, the NRAE may need restructuring so that it fits in better as a step after the Foundation training. At the moment it is a 'standalone' course/exam, but in the new year it may have to cater for upgrading Foundation licences.

The RAE is also likely to get candidates who are upgrading from Foundation or Intermediate. I hope that this exam will retain its format, which is the only test that allows home study candidates. Where it needs to change is in its accessibility - candidates need to take the exam locally, and not have to wait months for the opportunity.

The RAE is due for revision when the GCLI contract runs out. It seems logical that this too should be administered by local groups, who would be able to provide a better service to candidates.

Whatever changes take place, the new system will work only if the process is advertised properly. No-one will be able to join a course or sit an exam if they don't know where to go. If the RSGB is co-ordinating all this, then obviously it should be able to give details to anyone who phones or emails them. There needs to be regular advertising in all relevent magazines, and easy to find web pages. If courses are to be offered on fixed dates, perhaps even advertising in local papers. This should not be expensive, and could be financed by donations or fees from students/candidates.

All information relating to courses and tests could be published on a suitably named web site. This would need to be updated every week, with details of new courses added, and past ones deleted.

Good publicity is so important to our future. Maybe we should start holding public demonstrations again, and be suitably armed with hand-outs detailing all aspects of getting started. In the past, when the RAE was the only entry, it could take ages before interested people could get a licence. Now we ought to be able to follow up a demo station with a real Foundation course, timed to suit those interested.

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Local B's take a Morse assessment.

On the 17th December, the BBRC held its first Foundation licence Morse assessment for local amateurs with B licences. This was part of the RSGB/RA pilot programme, but was a real assessment nonetheless, and all eleven candidates were successful and walked away with the 'pass certificate' and Foundation licence application form.

Dave, G4XDU, Bryan, G4CVF, and Neil, G0SVN were the three assessors. Colin, G0TID, and myself, G0HZK, gave an introduction to those candidates who claimed that they were complete Morse novices.

Even class B diehards like John G1LMI and Paul G6TSF went away with yellow assessment certificates. If these two came away smiling, there's no excuse for anyone else. These assessments are purely to satisfy the Radio Regulations requirements, and so far no-one has gone away without a yellow certificate. Even me photographing 'tests' under way did not distract the candidates. All were taken without flash - exposures were around a quarter second at f2.8 on my Nikon digital camera.

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Some useful links

Eurostar timetable, Last week I went to Paris by train. If you've ever used the local rattlers, you would be surprised how quiet and smooth Eurostar is.

My new camera, with which I took the assessment photos.

Need a new phone? Try the smartest one in the shops today.

When will they learn? A really smart player, but you need a Mac to load it up.

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All opinions expressed are those of the author, and should not be attributed to the BBRC.
Beechlog is Copyright Burnham Beeches Radio Club 2001.