The future… August 30, 2017

When I was a child the image I had of ‘the future’ was very much based on… ‘The Jetsons’. For those of you too young to remember this classic – this was a cartoon family from the ‘future’ who had all the gadgets that you could ever want. They were dressed automatically in the morning, fed by tablets that turned into a roast chicken when put in the oven ….and floated around everywhere on jet packs or flying cars.

Everything they did was just made that much easier by machinery and robots. I just couldn’t wait for all this to happen – my young life was just full of jobs that I was convinced could easily be handled by some automaton.

Washing up, cleaning, shopping …. jeez…all so boring.

I’m not that old …but I can clearly remember having just a black and white TV that we huddled round watching BBC 1 – there was nothing much on but we watched anyway. I can also remember ITV starting, and the wonder of BBC 2. My mother was convinced poor people watched ITV and intellectuals watched BBC 2 – it was literally that clear.

As I have grown up I have appreciated the arrival of –

Central heating

Colour TV

Dishwashing machines

Drying machines

Video machines

Fax machine

Car Phone

Word processor

DVD’s

CD’s

The internet

Ordering food on line and having it delivered

Mobile phones

Robotic hoover

Robotic lawn mower

Sky TV, film downloads

Music available to download…

…and more recently

Electric mountain bike

Wi-fi in my car

But with all these inventions coming at me thick and fast I’m just beginning to have one or two concerns about where we are headed? Are we just hurtling towards a scenario when we as humans have very little left to actually ‘do’…and have we thought about the consequences of this…??

Driverless cars. Ok I’m getting the point of this…the roads are just getting busier and busier and much of the time that you are in a car you aren’t actually moving. In fact, the majority of the time a machine could take the strain and just gradually move you along in heavy traffic whilst you read the paper or maybe did the crossword…or maybe even had a kip? So maybe a feature that can be switched on when traffic is so busy that your boredom level is at such a point that you need the car to self-drive.

But what happens to all the drivers of commercial vehicles who become unemployed as driverless lorries and container trucks take over the roads? What happens to all the mechanics who have trained so religiously on internal combustion engines that suddenly have nothing to do when electric vehicles with few moving parts suddenly become the ‘norm’.

All that skill and expertise gone to waste when all you have to do is ..plug it in… or maybe switch it off and on again??

All that shopping on line and Amazon related buying …. that we all do – amazing though it is – this is all stuff that you used to do by going to the shops and walking around and putting your hand into your pocket getting your wallet out and paying. You did this by interacting with people and shops and people in cafes and people attending you in the car park and people helping you load the car etc etc etc.

If you do this all on line – what do all these people do that used to help you and serve you… do now??…their jobs are all now done by machine??

…and it doesn’t end there.

Pretty much every job that you think of – can potentially be done by machine. Doctors can be replaced by a diagnostic computer that you breathe into. Surgery can be performed by robots…and this weekend I read that ‘sex robots’ will become the norm and there are already brothels with just robots to serve the desires of both the men and women that want this sort of thing…

I’m getting a few warning vibes being felt…. there may be trouble ahead???

Luckily, I reckon that all this shite will really hit the fan once I’ve retired so I’m not over worried. I’m also thinking that maybe somebody will read this blog in the future and realise that Mike Clough had sussed all this out – but just wasn’t listened too enough for anyone to act.

So maybe I will be looked up to once I’m dead…

Unlikely.

 

Mike C

Aspiration…. August 23, 2017

What is it that makes you get up in the morning? Is it the thought of Kellogg’s Crunchy Nut cornflakes or maybe toast with butter and honey?? Or…do you have a longer-term vision of what you are trying to achieve in the day??

I think targets are a great way of focusing on where you are trying to get to. I write endless lists of tasks that I hope to complete – these start with daily jobs, then weekly targets, then monthly aims – all the way up to a ten year plan, a retirement plan and ends with… whose coming to my funeral and who is barred … (you know who you are).

I’ve written about this before, but one of my most straight forward ways of challenging myself was my car chart. On the wall in my office toilet I had pictures of the cars that I aspired to, and when I should acquire said vehicle.  Once I had had purchased the vehicle it was ceremonially crossed off with a thick red felt tip pen to show – ambition achieved.

It gives you a target. It gives you an aim.

Surely with nothing to aim at – how are you ever going to hit anything? …

Nowadays however, much of what I considered aspirational is now deemed ‘materialistic’.

We are told that’s its bad to ‘want stuff’ and people that still chase and strive to get the next car or next watch/handbag etc. are seen as shallow and somehow ‘less fulfilled’ than those moon staring hippy types that just want love and peace for the world.

We are told that we should ‘opt out’ of the rat race and find solace in more ethereal things like …a nice flower or rain falling on sand. Cars are bad, they go fast and they pollute the environment and they kill people daily. Money is the root of all evil and chasing money is bad for you and will result in early death from stress. Work is also bad and will also result in premature death and taxes.

So…the brave new world that we face …in our identical electric f**king cars- is a bland, grey unexciting splodge of mediocrity where nobody strives to do anything but relax and chill out. Nobody does anything even remotely dangerous because it’s dangerous and everyone just relies on everybody else taking the strain.

I’m sure I’ve read about this world in a science fiction novel.

It’s the one where everyone just curls up and dies because they’re so goddamn bored.

Let’s get a reality check here people.

The rich folk are somehow stuffing all this crap down our throats because they don’t want you and I aspiring to the stuff they want. That’s because they want it all to themselves – so they encourage us to think that we are being clever identifying ‘materialism’ and making it a dirty word.

The Establishment wants us all brain washed and pliable so they can keep all the good stuff to themselves.

Fight back – get a Ferrari, buy that Rolex, invest in Gucci show them you still have the balls to want to rule the world from your yacht in the Caribbean ….

You’ve got to fight, for your right…to party.

 

Mike ‘beastie boy’ C

They think it’s all over…it isn’t August 16, 2017

I have spent a lot of my life warning people about the dangers of Japanese knotweed. I have also spent a lot of time telling people not to panic about Japanese knotweed. Like many other things in life, there is a fine line between having something to worry about and there being nothing to get in a blather about.

Many people say to me…. ‘Will Japanese knotweed grow through concrete??’. The correct answer should be – ‘no’ – …. ‘in well laid, properly finished properties with decent depth of foundations Japanese knotweed will not damage the building structurally.’

But – I then find myself saying…. ‘Then again…. if you do build on top of actively growing knotweed you will find that with poorly laid concrete or inadequate depth of building foundation – this can result in the plant showing its ugly head.’

Once you have explained the problems and the potential for damage that Japanese knotweed has then most people GET what it’s all about. However, some people just don’t understand how plants grow.

If I were to say that Japanese knotweed is capable of growing 7 metres in all directions, which is a phrase you will often hear repeated, then your average client will imagine JK rampantly growing in all directions – at speed – whilst devouring everything in its path.

Now in certain circumstances this can happen – open ground/free draining/no obstructions etc. etc. However…if you were to have a concrete block on one side of the knotweed growth and open ground on the other side – then the knotweed will not force its way through concrete just for the hell of it ….it will take the easiest route and grow into the open ground.

Clients and often surveyors will take the ‘7 metres in all directions per season’ – as a strict rule. If a property has a knotweed problem at the bottom of the garden (say 21 metres away) the surveyor measures the distance – divides it by 7 (answer 3) – and then says you will have Japanese knotweed in your front room in 3 years’ time (or whatever the answer from the sum is)…

It’s just not as simple as that though.

If you can – then you should ask an experienced Japanese knotweed consultant for the risk factors within any newly found stand of the plant. With working with the plant for several years, you can generally tell which plants will cause a problem and which will be less troublesome.

Occasionally Japanese knotweed will just ‘sit there’ and do nothing – no growth, no spread…nothing but come into leaf, flower and then die back. It may do nothing…for years – but then perhaps having been disturbed by nearby construction work – it will suddenly shoot off in all directions…

It’s difficult to explain this to clients who just want a ‘black and white’ answer…

I’m also having problems explaining the after-care management of Japanese knotweed. Most clients get that you have to have an aftercare package – but once you have a situation where there is no visible growth they… ‘think it’s all over’…and don’t want to pay you to come back any more.

This is when the problems can start to come back…

Be careful when managing your land that’s been infested with Japanese knotweed. You need to monitor and check for a period of ten years. Try and establish a new sward onto the area that you’ve cleared – try and get the naturally occurring species to re-establish. This may mean the use of seed mixes or taking turves from nearby ground.

Leaving bare ground where you have treated an invasive non-native species just leaves ground available to the next invader to come along.

Be pro-active.

It’s not over till the fat bloke says it is.

 

Mike C

 

Timing is Everything August 16, 2017

Timing is everything, especially when dealing with invasive species.

The key to successfully chemically treating Himalayan balsam and Giant hogweed is applying herbicide at the right time. Application needs to be when the plants are young and before they flower and begin to form seed.

Chemical application should be made early in the growing season when the leaves have formed and are fully open (May – June). By treating plants early you can prevent them from setting seed and spreading the infestation further.

The clock is ticking…

As chemical can take a few days to kill individual plants, and the plant can still go onto producing viable seed within this period, mechanical options may be recommended the weeks before seed dispersal.

For example, in mid-summer, Giant hogweed seed heads can be bagged and cut*, and Himalayan balsam can be cut back, or hand pulled (making sure the stems are broken), to prevent the spread of this year’s seeds.

*Giant hogweed should only be dealt with by professional wearing full PPE

Missed the boat…

Once the plants set seed (or are in the process of doing so) chemical treatment and mechanical clearance are no longer an option.

If the areas of Giant hogweed and Himalayan balsam fall within a development footprint, they will require mechanical remediation to remove soils containing the plants and viable propagules prior to development and in accordance with relevant legislation.

If the areas are in a garden, or in an area that is left undisturbed, the plants can be left to die back and rot down naturally over the winter period. Plant seeds can remain viable in the soil (seed bank) for a number of years, for this reason a chemical treatment programme may be recommend to ensure that plants that have not germinated this year can be treated the following year… The cycle continues.

Halting spread

Although you may have missed the window of opportunity this year, don’t miss it the next! Every year that invasive species are left untreated is another year of growth and spread, meaning that a small and manageable infestation can become a bigger (and more expensive) problem.

Don’t leave it another year, contact us today to discuss options for your land.

 

 

Seminar 2018 August 16, 2017

I love doing the seminars that we do every year. I love the creativity, I love the different speakers, I pretty much love everything about it …except getting people to come along!

You would think the hardest thing would be coming up with ideas and concepts and getting people to agree to speak.

But no…the hardest thing is getting you – the people ‘out there’ in reality land – to say ‘yes – I will be there’.

I have lots of theories about this.

Is it because we charge a small fee?? The only reason we do this is because when we didn’t charge – people would say they were coming and then just not turn up. Hence a small fee was deemed appropriate to discourage time wasters from just saying ‘yes’ with no intention of attending.

Is it because people think we talk JUST about Japanese Knotweed?? We don’t, we never have – it’s an environmental conference sponsored by Japanese Knotweed Solutions Ltd …

Is it because we are all too busy?? Could be.

Is it because we are all too computer based?? Have we lost the ability to actually meet real people and have real conversations…?? Could be.

Is it because we are all too lazy? Could be.

I can assure you that the people that come along to these events love them – we get fantastic feedback every year, with last year’s event being described as the ‘best yet’…we had Michaela Strachan, we had Dick Shaw, we had John Lewis Stemple (author) we had Mark Avery (author) we had a bee expert we had a river keeper and we had me… and we should have had Trevor Renals (long story) …

We are already working on next year’s ideas and it promises to be a great event.

This article is a little is a little sampler to see whether people are interested in coming along next year – and it’s also a way of seeing whether anybody actually reads all this marketing material that we put out.

If you’ve read this and you fancy coming along next year – win a free ticket simply by sending an e-mail to me at [email protected] saying ‘yes count me in.’

It’s ALL about the money… August 16, 2017

I have had a couple of great days out recently – both were corporate hospitality.

You know how people invite you to events and 99% of the time you think …. ‘naah …can’t be bothered’ – well this time I thought… ‘you know what…I’m going to go’.

For years I have been ignoring days at the horse racing, nights at the opera, track days, launch of a new car etc etc but having been invited first to Aston Martin, then to Wimbledon I thought this sounds too good to miss.

I have also lately been feeling that life is way too short. So many times, you put things off to do tomorrow, then (as we all know) tomorrow never comes, and you don’t do the thing you’ve put off. So, the new older, wiser me has decided to get some experiences under my belt before it’s too late ….

The day with Aston Martin was just a real treat. The history and the story behind the brand was just amazing – and for a man who loves his cars you just couldn’t have a better day.

Wimbledon again – a real treat.

But…and here is the crux of the blog – I’m left with a bit of a feeling of elitism.

These were both amazing days, really well organised…. but …both were based on my buying power and the balance of my bank account.

What I’m getting at here is – I’m already an owner of an Aston Martin and I already shop at Ralph Lauren (the Wimbledon event)- what I really could have done with is having these events before I’d spent any money with these companies?????

When I was a young man I would have given body parts to have been taken round Aston Martin and been allowed to drive their cars.

My dad would have sold his soul to get to see the men’s semi final at Wimbledon but he never got the chance – and he never shopped at Ralph Lauren….

Ok, ok, ok…. I’m not stupid… I know how all this works and I know that only by having people spend money do these events work.

It’s all about sales and margin and marketing budgets…

…. but what about the people that aspire to these markets and aspire to these cars – shouldn’t there be some way that everyone could experience these events??

Way too many of life’s pleasures are available only to the wealthy and to the limited few – I’m not sure… but maybe I’m thinking this isn’t right.

I’m thinking that maybe this should be changed.

 

Mike C

We do everything…. August 9, 2017

I just thought I should put this ‘out there’ but having been around for over 15 years now, we should tell you that we can do pretty much anything that you want.

Japanese knotweed – we can dig it up, we can screen it, we can incinerate it, we can even compost it if you want.

Giant hogweed you name it we kill it. Himalayan balsam, been there killed that …Rhododendron we’ve hammered acres and acres of the stuff…

We also have been known to remove, fell chop and lop trees. We often get involved with invasive non-native species in amongst mature trees so it made sense for us to have experienced tree operatives on hand to carry out these works to our strictest of standards.

So were pretty damn good at removing and killing things…

But …did you know we can also plant, and create, and make beautiful landscapes as well…

More and more we are being asked to provide work packages that include a whole range of works from planning and liaising with statutory bodies to submission of detailed planning applications involving removal of invasive non-native species, recreation of lost habitat, footpaths, planting and amenity areas as part of the required planning conditions for new housing.

For any type of works in and around invasive non-native species – give us a call – we can sort all of your issues.

 

Mike C

Is that all there is….? August 2, 2017

Do you ever find yourself …disappointed with life…?

You see something advertised which looks like it will change your world…yet when you get it…its just a little – ‘…mwuuh..’.

It could be a car, it could be a watch, it could be a DVD ..or it could be something a simple as …a Pizza.

What’s it all about? Are we just programmed to pursue the next ‘thing’ and the next ‘thing’ until we spontaneously combust in a plume of smoke – or just disappear up our own backsides?

I have had various phases of this in my life.

Marbles – probably my first big passion. Only a little bag of about 30 or so coloured glass balls but boy did I love them. Swap, trade, upgrade …always on the lookout for the perfect sphere of glass. Of course one day I just woke up and thought ….huh… marbles what’s the big deal

When I was a little older I was obsessed with James Bond – books/films/toy cars – I had to have everything I could that related to Bond. I had all the paperbacks, I had the toy Aston Martin DB5 with the ejector seat and the bulletproof steel bumper. I queued to see the films and waited with baited breath at the end of each premier to see what the next movie ‘James Bond will return in…’

Following on from my Bond obsession I then became very aware of music as an influence in my life. I was into anything by ‘Stiff’ records. I collected vinyl albums in various colours and picture discs – the rarer the better. I relished showing friends albums from artists they’d never heard of…each record was filed and kept under a system that only I would understand.

My obsession cost me dearly as the music shops new of my addiction and whenever I walked in they would say … ‘pssst… how about this newly released single from the Stranglers in white vinyl* …only 100 copies made’ – aaaaarrrggghhh …this would result in no sleep until I had a copy of said single in my collection.  (Nb this was a version of ‘Walk on by’ – with a live version of ‘5 minutes’ on the flip side).

The music obsession was pretty much dead in the water after all of my music collection was stolen in the final days of college. Flat emptied and every piece of music that I’d ever owned – all gone in one go – :-/ …

Moving on from this stage I got into the obsession which has probably cost me the greatest amount of money over the years ….cars…

Cars cars cars….I used to lie in bed just dreaming of the day I would own the vehicle of my dreams. If only I could have this four wheeled magical contraption I would have the world at my feet. Women would throw themselves at me, grown men would cry with envy as I drove past, and children would point and shout out at mere sound of my car coming down the road…

I wanted SAAB’s then I wanted Audi’s… then I wanted Porsche’s… then I wanted Aston Martin’s…I had posters and pictures of all my favourite vehicles stuck on my wall – with timescales of when I would get them…ambition and a target that I could see fueled my burning desire to have these objects.

With each of these cars came additional costs as I quickly became bored with having a standard SAAB or a standard Audi – so came the years of tweaking and tuning and increasing of horsepower. Lowering, widening, modifying and generally pimping up the car until they barely resembled the original purchase…all in the name of being unique – having a ‘one off’ than nobody else had.

Unfortunately what you realise after doing this for a few years – is that its never enough.

Never quite quick enough, never quite enough power …and just when you think you’ve actually got something that you consider to be perfect – you realise that because you’ve been using it…its now a bit worn and not quite as nice as it used to be….

So going back to the question – … ‘is that all there is?’

I would respond by looking at what in my life has actually been a valid investment that has aged well and never bores me?

It still looks good most of the time and… though it does require regular maintenance….still hits all the right spots..???

That would be my wife.

 

Mike C