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I am seriously thinking of giving up amateur radio, and it is all because of the neighbours. It all began about 18 months ago when we moved into this pleasant little village. The removal men were bringing in the heavy stuff and I was putting first things first by carrying the sacred radio equipment when I became aware of my next door neighbour standing by the gate. He stretched out his hand. “Hello there my name’s Robinson.” “Pleased to meet you Mr.Robinsorl,” I replied. “Major actually,” he said, taking me out of my stride for a moment. I completed the introductions but didn’t mention my army rank because we old unfrocked Lance Corporals don’t go spreading it about more than we can help. He pointed at my transceiver, ”Nice radio.” “Yes.” I said,” I am a radio ham.” “Radio ham eh ? We will have to see about that.” And with that very disturbing remark he disappeared indoors. My cherished vision of a modest G5RV strung between the chimney stack and a pole at the end of the garden was beginning to fade. For the next few days I was too busy unpacking boxes and putting up shelves to give the matter much thought but on day four I noticed the Major doing what appeared to be house to house calls. I could see the glint of his blazer buttons through the hedges as he made his way in and out of various driveways. He was carrying a clip board and, as he seemed to be visiting everyone except us, I naturally feared the worst. Sure enough, a few evenings later, he came to our front door carrying a long piece of paper filled with signatures. I invited him in and braced myself for the inevitable. “I have been having a word with the local residents,” he began.” and I have told them all about you being a radio ham and they have all signed this piece of paper to ask you to put up a nice aerial for your wireless.” I stammered out my thanks and offered him the easy chair. “Oh there’s just one other thing,” he said,” When you were moving in you were carrying in a little box with a meter on the front.” “That,” I said “Is what we call an SWR meter.” “ Well Mrs.Hopkirks at number 38 saw it and said she thought it looked a bit small and cheap so she is having a coffee morning next Thursday to buy you a bigger one.” I could hardly credit what the man was saying, but I thanked him warmly as I showed him out and went to break the good news to my wife. I decided that as these people had been so kind, I would repay them by just putting up a half size G5RV which I did the very next day. That evening the Major was at the door again. He looked a little perplexed. “That aerial of yours, it’s not very big is it ? I thought you chaps had high towers with all sorts of things on top.” I invited him in, and with the aid of Radcom, I explained to him that towers and beams were such expensive items most of us use simple wire antennas. He was very interested in all of this and when he left I lent him the Radcom to take home with him.
I am not quite sure what woke me up at 7.30 on the Saturday morning 2 weeks later. It may have been the arrival of the mechanical digger or it may have been the crane driver lowering the 75 ft tower on to the drive, it certainly wasn’t the ready mix cement lorry because that didn’t arrive until the afternoon, as did also the 5 element tribander. By 9 am the Major was out in the garden directing operations, and in no time all our lawn was transformed into large crater. By the end of the week when the cement was dry, the whole structure was dwarfing everything in sight. In the midst of all this excitement the arrival of the linear amplifier went almost unnoticed. I tried to bring up the subject of who was paying for all this but the Major waved me aside. From then on our lives were completely taken over. Everyone we met inquired about the latest DX and it began to dawn on me that these people, nice as they were, were using me as a status symbol. Photo-stat copies of my log were starting to appear on the Parish Council notice board and when I was foolish enough to mention to the Vicar that I was entering a contest, he offered up prayers for my success at the evening service. There was also an unconfirmed report that the members of’ the Women’s Guild were knitting me some QSL cards.
The Major came in daily to inspect my shack, and on one occasion a couple of weeks ago I thought he seemed less than happy. He looked like a man who had just spotted his Colonel entering the Officer’s Mess on a skate board. He eventually confided in me the reason for his misery. Apparently his wife had been talking to her sister who lives near Winchester. They were trying a little gentle one- upmanship on each other when the client in Winchester spoilt it by saying that their local radio ham had a thing called a rhombic which was the most wonderful antenna in all the world. What,” he asked,” What was a rhombic and why hadn’t I got one ?“ I drew him to one side and explained all about rhombics and how they were so large that one needed an immense acreage to think of even building one. He didn’t except defeat lightly but I thought I had convinced him that we had reached the limit of our capabilities and he went away, not exactly singing, but most of his frown had disappeared.
Then, yesterday he came flying up the stairs two at a time, all flushed with excitement. The words came tumbling out. “It’s OK, it’s all fixed, we are going to have TWO rhombics. We have leased two fields at the back of your house, we are getting quotes for eight more towers and to raise the money we are having a giant Fete in four weeks time. There will be stalls, a boot fair, marching bands, show jumping, gymnastic displays, the brewery shire horses freefall parachute team C I am not standing under that lot ) and the Red Arrows.” He flopped down in the chair exhausted. I was not able to reply as I was far too busy searching for my smelling salts.
So that is the state of things at the moment. Events have completely overtaken me and I am a virtual prisoner in my shack. If I go down to the village to purchase the necessities of life they are all very nice to me of course but there is always the underlying feeling that they think I am wasting precious minutes when I should be on the air. I have given very serious thought to the possibility of making my escape one dark night and starting a new life elsewhere with just a few watts and an indoor wire, but you know what these military men are like. The Major would no doubt class this as desertion, and with his proven talent for organisation it wouldn’t take long for him to rustle up a firing squad. How I envy all you people who have rotten stingy neighbours
Stan - G4ITM. October 1989.
Re-published from the Vital Spark, the clubs monthly magazine.
To read Amateur Radio related articles written by the Hastings Electronics and Radio Club Members, please visit the clubs magazine archive on our official site, the Vital Spark archive containing many interesting, educational and technical pieces: