The Widowmaker November 29, 2017

So, this week marks the three month anniversary of my ‘event’ ….my ‘eye opener’ …my heart attack.

I had my follow up with the consultant last Friday.

I was a little nervous, wasn’t quite sure what he would say ..would he give me a test that showed up chocolate consumption? ….or some sort of dye sprayed on my hands that would highlight traces of Melton Mowbray?? Would he welcome me by calling me ‘fatty’ or ‘chunky’ …(he settled for ‘large boned :-)…)

I tend to approach these types of situations with a touch of humour. Humour can get you through most things and having a smile at hand is a major tool when you have to go through some of the crap that life throws at you.

This week’s eye opener was when he described my heart attack as being nicknamed ‘the widowmaker’ – he went on to explain that 50% of people that suffered this condition – died ….(make a joke out of that one you large boned b*****d)…

It’s a bit of a weird one.

Everybody that I’ve told has said – ‘well at least you were in the 50% that survived’ – it doesn’t tend to make you feel that way to be honest. It makes you feel a bit odd, a bit ‘why me’….

Anybody that’s read previous blogs will be wondering how I’m getting on with the ‘reworked Mike Clough’

Well, it started well enough.

The diary was roped off and work day was decreed as Monday’s with follow up cash flow and sales on a Thursday – giving me ample time to rest relax and do all the things I’d been promising myself for years.

Reading, writing, going to the gym …bit of a massage …all good.

All good for about three weeks.

So… there’s a meeting on Wednesday this week with team building afterwards, Thursday this week Mike we need you to attend a planning session. There’s a bank meeting, a finance directors meeting, a new health and safety issue, some HR issues we need you to look at ….and by the way… it’s the Christmas party on Friday ..

In short… not been to the gym, massage missed, diary f**ked up ….and it’s the Christmas party….oh and by the way the wife is a little p***ed off at me.

I’m sorry everyone but it just ain’t that easy …

Everyone means well, and everyone at work is as helpful as they can be – but unless someone can come up with a healthy cloned version of myself…. then I’ve got a problem.

I’m pretty sure it’s down to me.

It’s not the people around me that have issues – it’s my inability to leave things to others.

I’m thinking of investing in one of those dog collars that gives an electric shock when the dog barks. I could give the master control to my wife who could administer shocks whenever I showed a tendency to sort a work-related issue.

Not sure I would survive very long though??

Mike C

Vindicated November 22, 2017

Finally….vindicated …by a completely random book.

Picking through the mountain of post the other day I pulled out the Porsche magazine. I hasten to add…I don’t own a Porsche. I used to, in fact, I used to have more than one – running three of the machines at one time. I don’t own one at the moment as any of the cars that actually attract my attention, are already sold out by the time I get to hear of them.

So…I’m… ‘out of the loop’ as far as Porsche’s go.

Put me down for a GT3 RS please or maybe the 911 ‘R’.

Anyway, back to the point. I opened the magazine and flicked through the various lifestyle choices that the magazine was selling – from Porsche underpants to Porsche housing (seriously). I was about to consign the magazine to the re-cycling bin – when an article caught my eye, well actually it was the picture that caught my eye…..a picture of a  tattooed guy with dreadlocks, jeans and a baseball cap.

This stood out mainly because the fashion within the Porsche magazine is usually limited to Germans in tight leather jackets and driving gloves looking dressed for a bondage session with some light whipping. They pretty much always have blond hair, glasses and very shiny shoes.

The article with the dread locked punk looking bloke just stuck out like a sore thumb.

The guy was called Magnus Walker – the book title was ‘Urban Outlaw’.

The short article sort of caught my imagination – a guy from a rough area of Sheffield going to the States and not only making good, but ending up with one of the largest collections of 911’s in the world.

It’s a good read.

Not only is it a good read, but it made me realise that I wasn’t as mad as I thought it was. Here was a guy taking his car out just for fun. He was driving for exercise….and not really giving a flying fxxk what anybody thought about him.

I quote ;

‘I like to get in a car and drive. That’s my meditation, my exercise, I’ve said it’s my drug, my religion – because nothing beats in when you are behind the wheel.’

So there you go.

It’s not just me.

Mike C

Revisits November 15, 2017

Once again, it’s JKSL’s Operations Manager with the answer to a question nobody asked: ‘How are the revisits going?’

For many people, particularly clients of ours who are housebuilders, or private residents selling their own properties, our revisits are the forgotten part of Japanese knotweed treatment – but it’s something that Japanese Knotweed Solutions pride ourselves on being good at.

Even digging out and removing Japanese knotweed from a site is not 100% effective unless you remove every bit of the plant – literally down to the last gram. So, it’s best practice that a company carrying out Japanese knotweed works should come back to check the site, even if it’s just to check that the works have been a success. Where there is re-growth on site, as there will be at the early stages of a chemical herbicide treatment program, then this means you can carry out further treatment quickly and effectively.

So, it’s clear that site revisits are an important part of any Japanese knotweed treatment – and the same is true for many other invasive weeds, including Himalayan balsam and Giant hogweed. These hardy invaders keep coming back, sometimes because they lay down banks of seeds which can keep sending up new plants for many years. In the case of Japanese knotweed, which doesn’t produce viable seeds in the UK, revisits are required because the plant’s hardy rhizome (root system) can keep providing the plant with energy to grow, even when the application of herbicides like glyphosate prevent the plant from storing energy reserves.

This year, JKSL have well over 700 active sites UK-wide, and we have carried out in excess of 1,000 revisits (and that doesn’t include all of the initial works that we have carried out this year as well)! This represents a significant challenge for a small business with less than a dozen teams working on the road, and ends up with our dedicated Revisit Teams doing an average of around four visits across the UK every single working day for six months!

Such an achievement comes with its challenges – JKSL are working on sites over a period of up to five years (sometimes more), and these sites can change hands; land managers come and go, and sometimes we even find ourselves reminding our clients that they have paid for our services!

Many of these sites are also developed during this period, which means that our teams need to provide advice, feedback, and very occasionally to tell our clients’ contractors to stop what they are doing before they cross-contaminate the whole site!

So, it’s really important that we have knowledgeable, experienced, reliable staff, and at Japanese Knotweed Solutions, we have a great team of people managing the revisits, and some fantastic staff who work as full-time, dedicated Revisit Teams.

We have had great continuity over the years with our Revisit Teams, and the people doing most of this year’s final revisits are the same people who visited the sites when we were starting treatment off five years ago; this experience of the sites and our clients is invaluable in offering a premium service.

Another great thing about this continuity is that the team have developed strategies over the years to manage the issues that we run in to along the way (I do sometimes feel like referring to them as “coping mechanisms” during the busiest part of the year). The way we communicate with our clients and their tenants and neighbours, the way that we manage our site information and the high levels of training that our teams achieve means that we can be effective in treating invasive species in almost all circumstances.

There are odd bumps in the road, but managing these is another part of being good at what we do, and by resolving issues quickly and effectively, we build up trust and understanding with our clients.

This expertise is being passed on to newer members of the team, including our third dedicated Revisit Team and our current Operations Assistant, who is the “voice behind the curtain”, doing the significant job of calling, writing to and emailing our clients to book in all of our visits as well as sending out reports on every single visit.

I would be very surprised if any other company in the industry is carrying out such a high volume of visits throughout the year, with such a high level of customer service to their clients and I am really proud of the team that I work with to get these results year on year for our clients, and which make Japanese Knotweed Solutions so successful in the long run.

Chris Oliver, Operations Manager, Japanese Knotweed Solutions Ltd

INNSA Conference 2018 November 15, 2017

The next INNSA (Invasive Non Native Specialists Association) Annual Conference for 2018 will be held at The Riverside Centre, Pride Park in Derby on Thursday 25th January.

Rodger Burnett will be returning to give an update on the ongoing Japanese knotweed battle a homeowner is having with Network Rail. We also have Mark Sexton from Wiggett Group discussing the due diligence all developers go through before developing a site.

As usual the day will offer BASIS points.

Places cost £50 (incl. vat) per person. To request a booking form, please email Gemma Keeling [email protected]


A Story for our Times …. November 15, 2017

Those of you that know me will know that I like cars. Those of you that know me better will know that I’m a bit particular about keeping my cars clean and immaculate – I think ‘anal’ is the word that most people would use about my approach.

Mikes car rules –

– Though shall not step on the sills of Mikes cars when getting in
– Though shall cleaneth ones shoes before entering the vehicle
– No food shall be eaten in Mike’s cars
– The volume control shall always be on an even number

… get the drift.

Cars will be cleaned and polished at all times. I think it’s my way of creating order in my life, when the cars are clean, all is well with the world.

With most of the cars that I’ve had one of the main niggles that I have is car mats. Car mats get dirty, car mats get soiled …and dirty car mats can make a vehicle look old and scruffy when in reality it’s just a bit of TLC that’s required to the car interior. I usually upgrade the car mats to the ‘superior’ or ‘luxury’ edition – I’ve even bought carbon fibre car mats for one particular car.

A few years ago I bought an Audi RS4 – beautiful car, quick, economic and a really versatile form of transportation. Imagine my horror when seeing the really cheap, crappy car mats that the vehicle arrived with. I contacted Audi service department and ordered some new mats thinking this would resolve the issue. Once the service department called and said that new ones were in stock I called in to pick them up – horror again – exactly the same as the cheap shite the vehicle already had???

I eventually resolved the issue by buying mats from an alternate supplier who advertised in the back of one of the car magazines.

Moving on from the RS4 I bought an RS6 – again same issues with the car mats being both cheap and nasty. I contacted the after-market supplier who advised that they could now do car mats with an RS6 logo on the mat – and colour coded to match the car. I tell you what – when these babies arrived it was like all my Christmases had arrived at once….absolute perfection ….highest rating possible on the Mike Clough qualityomitter ….

The car finally looked finished, the interior just sang of quality and luxury, I couldn’t have been happier.

So – dear reader – and we get to the point of my story. Imagine my horror when I rang to order a new set of mats – to be told …. ‘sorry mate we aren’t allowed to make these any more…’

Whaaaaat ????

I quizzed him up – what’s the problem ….? He advised me that they had been raided by Audi who had taken all their stock of mats, and all their templates – and advised them that they would be sued if they started to make them again.

This doesn’t mean that Audi will be starting producing these quality mats.

This doesn’t mean that Audi even wanted a cut of the proceeds from the sale of these mats ….

This just means that Audi didn’t want their customers to have the choice of a quality product to put in their cars…

How f**king childish is that ….?

Mike C

Mwah…. November 1, 2017

The trouble with nearly dying is that it makes you a bit ‘blasé’ about certain things. It kind of ups the stakes a little and makes what previously were key issues in life seem a little ….‘unimportant’ in comparison.

Things that seemed vital now seem a little mundane …and I’ve noticed it takes a lot more to get me riled.

Driving to work I’m letting people cut in on me, I’m letting people in less powerful cars overtake and I’ve even been known to stop on amber lights rather than shooting through even on the…. ‘early red’.

I’m now watching the television with a less aggressive viewing policy and am letting Mrs. C watch ‘Location, Location, Location’ without throwing anything at the image of Kirsty and Phil on the screen.

If people at work want maternity leave, paternity leave, dogernity leave or even grannyernity leave I’m more inclined to say ‘yes’ rather than firing them instantly.’

If someone approaches me in the street for a charity donation they are much more likely to be met with a kiss on both cheeks and a twenty pound note than the previously disliked knee in the groin followed by punch in the face.

What does this all mean?

I think it means I’m focusing on what really is important rather than my perceived little ‘Mike’ world where previously if things didn’t go exactly the way I wanted ….I got annoyed. I’ve now decided that if I can’t do anything about something – then there is no point getting stressed. ‘Live and let live’ might be my new mantra, rather than the old version – ‘live by my rules or burn in hell you bxxxxxd…’

This may be impacting on my work life in that previously I would aggressively chase every job until we won the work. I’m now adopting a more reasoned approach of – we know we are the best – but if the Client wants to use somebody else ….then ….that’s fine.

I think my priorities have been seriously re-configured.

It’s like I’ve been through a Star Trek transporter system and been changed during the process. It’s still ‘me’ but a rather laid back softer version that stops to ‘smell the roses’ and cries at girly films.

So if you see somebody that looks a bit like Mike Clough wandering along looking at wild flowers and hugging trees….don’t worry …this is the new revised version that might just be worth talking to.

Be warned – I do hug people a lot more though.

Mike C