From David GRAY
@. . . . . . Very sorry for my lack of contributions; this apparition had the planet most unfavourably placed from this latitude of +54ﾟ40'. What opportunity there was, has been accompanied by very poor seeing. This coupled with my continuing awkward nightshift at the bakery has meant there was nothing obtained worth reporting or indeed recording!
Just to summarise the sorry history of my observing aspirations these past months I include below some extracts from replies to John Rogers, Richard McKim, and recently Alan Heath. I do not know if you will be inclined to print all of what follows, but it explains the situation I am in; and it is becoming rather monotonous go into each time a fellow observer get in touch! Few things put people off like whiner so I apologise for that!
Many thanks for your letter of June 21st. It is good to know that visual work still has a place with the section. No I have not given up - observing is a joy to me, whether the date is reported or simply filed away. In particular, coming home from work and observing the planets using the time honoured visual disciplines is my ideal stress reliever!
However, work and other factors are seriously eroding my observing opportunities on all sides. I have been at the Shildon bakery (3 miles, south, as the crow flies, but nearer 5 on the bicycle!) for over two years now; still all night-shift. They have of late taken on far more trade than the premises, let alone the diminishing number of skilled bakers, can cope with. This foolishness means I spend little quality time at home these days/nights. In a nutshell, I am three years away from my 60th birthday and having to‘fly’about most of the shift like a 20-year old. Our nights off are suspended and we are doing six 10 to 12 hour shifts a week (add 30 to 40 minutes total travel time per day etc. etc.). I have already warned them once our health and fitness goes we are no use to anyone; a shrug of the shoulders is the only response! You know, when I was at the Spennymoor bakery and things were not going well with the production I would at times mutter“God get me out of this”- he did - he sent me to Hell! Be careful what you pray for!
Nothing worth reporting from the recent apparition, I live in hope for the current one. Will, hopefully, again be in touch as to what I can manage. At least this and subsequent once will find the planet better placed for me in the darker morning hours......
Dear Richard [July 21],
.....Well the situation has eased a little (had my first Friday night off in months yesterday) - but not for long I fear. They are shortly to take on two more outlets, with another twenty three in prospect for October!! This is complete folly and I doubt if they will retain the staff they have let alone find more, which they are having little success with anyway. We are getting two type - imbeciles (I have heard of chimpanzees that can do better), and those who have the sense to get out quickly when they see the situation. Leaving us the added stress of supervising the former category. They plan to introduce a three shift system by October but I do not see how given the current state of recruitment. What is putting the load on myself these past months is that, Johnny, the foreman, is off on indefinite sick leave. So they have me as a virtual (unpaid) foreman; I have told them that in spite of 32 years as foreman at previous bakeries I want no more, but they seem to be putting it on me by stealth, and asking for the going rate would be acceptance in their eyes I fear. The situation is becoming impossible; at the first opportunity I am getting out.
Apologies for the prolonged moaning, but I feel I should get across to one and all that I have not deserted the eyepiece - at least not willingly - and certainly not due to CCD. John Rogers says that someone had told him I might have given up; well they had no right say that without consulting me. I suspect that this has been done on the (mis-)information highway. I am only frustrated that this visual/CCD thing has occurred when I am in no position make a decent contribution for the visual site - not that it should be a conflict, but rather a complementary partnership I feel. At 57 my eyesight is virtually unchanged, though I sometime have to use reading glasses (1.25×) now. I can still see the most difficult n.e. test features on the moon, resolveεLyrae, go better than mag. 6.5 in good skies, and the latter with less than 10 min. dark adaption as in my youth! Not sure when Father Time will take all that away but then CCD (or whatever) will be considered....
And lastly to Alan Heath....
....Well the situation has eased a little more since those letters. A former employee has returned until March - he works for a holiday company during summer months. So the ovenman and myself now have our nights off again. And we two (he also worked in my shift at Spennymoor) have had a ￡30 a week pay rise. This came out of the blue after veiled threats from both of us, in concert with our subtly demonstrating the mayhem that would ensue regarding our absence!! Only one outlet out the 23 has been realised. Hence the 3-shift system is shelved. Although they are considering doing away with the nightshift in favour of an afternoon one. Actually I feel this may interfere more with observing. They are calling it the shift, more truthfully it will be a 2 till whenever one! We are the last line before despatch and cannot just go with no one to take over; and I suspect we will be even more at the mercy of the slackness and thoughtlessness of the dayshift; and we do not get paid overtime!....
I will close by saying that I feel honoured that you have continued to send me your CMO in spite of my not being able to send observations. You have shown more understanding than one, or more, others. Let us see what the next apparition brings! Finally I do not wish my recent poor showing to be even a small part of apparent. Finally I do not wish my recent poor showing to be even a small part of the apparent disheartening of other visual observers. After all in spite of things I have still managed over 30 decent sessions with Saturn, and a few with Jupiter.
NO I HAVE NOT GIVEN UP!!