Monday, 27 January 2014

Where It All Began, Pt 2

Second part of my inane ramblings about how I got into this hobby,

We start here with the young me making his way across the fields between my village and Erics, past the new Tescos (as was then). Very nervous, I arrived at Erics house and was shown into his shack. Well, this was the under stairs cupboard converted, and I had never seen so much radio kit! How the heck we fitted in their I dont know. In the dim light of the radios displays, and with the undecipherable sounds of HF, I was captivated.

John Dennis arrived, and I was bundled into the rear of a Volvo estate. A few minutes later, after Johns customary blind call on 2m FM of 'At the flats, Bob', we arrived in Balby at the home of Bob Honor. With Bob collected it was on to Harrop Hall in Mexborough, home of Mexborough and District Amateur Radio Society.

Harrop hall is a small square brick hall on a rather steep hill. It was here that I was induced onto the then City and Guilds Radio Amateurs Examination course, taught by Eric Rogers. I was certainly one of the youngest in the class. Back then, there were two UK classes of amateur license, A and B. A pair of passes or better in the RAE would give you a class B license, allowing up to 400W of transmit power, but restricted to the bands above 50MHz. In order to get a class A and move down to shortwave (HF), you had to pass a 12 words per minute Morse code test. Over the coming weeks, Eric taught us all about radio and electronics. I would learn about oscillators, amplifiers, antennas, propagation, modes and operating techniques.

Halfway through the evening, we stopped for tea and biscuits, prepared then, and indeed now, by Peter Myers. I became an established tea drinker, something that was thoroughly reinforced a few years later in the TA! Downstairs at the club, was the club shack. There I learnt more operating skills, and listened to the radios.
As the course progressed, I saved enough money to purchase my first radio, a Kenpro KT-22EE 2m FM handheld. This beast was a copy of an older Icom model, and its frequency was set by thumbwheel switches. By modern standards it was huge, but it worked well for me, until a few years later when it was nicked off my belt in Doncaster market!

I took the two exam papers at Mexborough comprehensive school. After a nerve jangling wait of several weeks I received my pass slips, showing I had earned Merit scores on both papers. I sent off my license application to the Radiocommunications Agency, with a cheque to Post Office Counters, and received back my license and allocated callsign - G7MRV.

I started to operate on-air. The first few calls are the most difficult, but I was soon active regularly. I built a 'slim-jim' antenna for my handheld, made from wire mounted on stiff cardboard, and wedged stood up on my desk. This worked well but had a habit of folding over and resting the high voltage sections on my bare arm! I progressed to a 25w Icom IC-229E mobile rig and a 'Sams Special' ex-PMR vertical antenna. I began making far reaching contacts, including when the conditions were right, across into Belgium and Denmark. It was then I found my love of working special event stations.

Soon, I was operating on club special event stations and field days. I manned stations on behalf of the scouts for Jamboree on the Air, and the guides for Thinking Day On the Air. I manned the Pilgrim Fathers station, taking the overnight shift with only one young lady for company, at Austerfield. It was during that operation that my lack of HF knowledge caused me to miss a chance to work JY1 - The King of Jordan! But my love of special event stations was ingrained by then.

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