Monday, 22 December 2014

Monday 22nd December 2014

Saturday.

And relaxxxxxxx.

Saturday morning, no need to go shopping as Jools had already done that. So after a bit of a lay in, I get up to make coffee and cook bacon sarnies, after Jools reminded me that there was a pack left over from the previous week. So, what to do with the day, especially as the sun was due to shine. However, my back was grumbling, and grumbling loudly. So, after breakfast, we put on our walking boots for a short walk along the road.

Saturday morning leg-stretcher

It was soft under foot to say the least, and I found my back let me walk at one speed: slow. So, we kinda shuffled over the fields, where just before Fleet House a couple of ponies have taken up residence in the paddock. There were warnings on the fence surrounding the paddock asking the ponies not to be fed, and as we had no food with us, we could buy comply. The ponies were friendly enough, but did nibble our fingers just to check if we had any food with us.

Saturday morning leg-stretcher

We walked on to the pig's copse, and three well grown piglets came running over in the hope that we might have some food. We took in the views over to Ringwold, looking down the two lanes, but seeing that both were mudbaths, we decided to turn for home. My back agreed.

Saturday morning leg-stretcher

I listened to Fighting Talk, then settled down for an afternoon of football, as Norwich were kicking off at lunchtime playing top of the league Derby County. In a frustrating game, City took the lead only to concede twice in the 2nd half, but then dominated the remainder of the game, and scoring an equaliser in the final minute to claim a point. For the main batch of games, I decided this required extra concentration, so Molly and I took our places on the sofa and snoozed.

Saturday morning leg-stretcher

Outside day turned into evening and then got dark. In between snoozing I decorated the tree, so as it got dark the multi-coloured lights illuminated the room.

We cooked breaded aubergine for dinner, washed down with a fine pint of Broadside.

Sunday, 21 December 2014

Sunday 21st December 2014

Thursday.

I think I forgot to say where we were in my last post. We were in a small town some 15 miles from the airport called Kirchhiem Unter Teck, an industrial town, set in what might have been nice countryside, or not, I did not see it during daylight hours, so impossible to say. At one end of the town was a large industrial estate, more of an industrial area really, where the supplier we were visiting were located.

And this was to be the final visit to be made with the customer of this phase of the project, although not much time to rest on my laurels as the next phase is due to begin in January, and indeed the towers are already being made, so things march on.

I wake up and am in no pain, but after a few minutes the ache begins and is soon morphing into pain. Oh well. At least my work bag has wheels, so the carrying of it is not that long, just up and down stairs. So, off we go.

I meet Anni for breakfast at seven: fruit, rolls and coffee as usual. Feeling like we could take on the world we set off for the factory a whole half a mile away. We arrive early, and so are well prepared for the day ahead.

All goes well once again, and when the customer announces they have a plane to catch at five, the afternoon session consists of just twenty minutes before wrapping up. A few hand shakes, and it was all over. After eight months, travelling in Denmark, Sweden, Germany and China, we had done it, all obligations carried out. Customer happy. Apparently.

Anni and I drive back to the hotel, I send a few mails out confirming the triumph, I get a call from the manager telling me well done, now relax and be ready for the really hectic period coming up. Yes sir!

Anni and I meet in reception at seven, but the whole Gasthaus is full of people drinking and getting ready for Christmas dinner. They appologise, but it is fine, there are a few other places in the village, and indeed a couple of hundred yards down the main road there is a Greek place, we walk there and upon entering I ask, Kooned wire mith Eurocard betzahlen? Meaning can we pay with our company credit card. We can, so take a seat, order two large beers and toast our success. Hoorah.

I plump for the simple gyros, always a winner. And it is good, and not too filling. One more beer and it is time to go back to the hotel, pack and get our heads down as tomorrow we go home. !

Friday.

And here we are, time to go home and chill. But first we have to: pack, have breakfast, check out, drive to the airport, check in, security, etc, etc.

I cram everything in my case, and manage to close it! Always a good sign. And after breakfast we check out and are on the road by quarter to eight. The motorway is busy, but we make it to the airport in good time, find the drop off point, everything is good, so we were free to head to the departure hall. Sadly, BA says we can't check in until two hours before departure time, and there is no one at the desk, so I have 45 minutes to kill before we can check in. Anni is flying with Lufthansa, and she checks in and goes through security. I wait and people watch, all seems good. The airport is stunning again, and the supports for the roof with look like trees have been wrapped in fairy lights, looking amazing in the early morning sunshine.

Flughafen Stuttgart

Finally I drop my case off, queue for 20 minutes to get through security, meet up with Anni before, at ten, go to look for my gate. It is crowded, but we have our seats, so why worry? And being a business traveler now, I get to board first anyway! ha ha. I take my seat at the back of the plane, and watch as everyone else boards and tries to find a place for all their bags. Why not check it in?

We taxi to the end of the runway, the engines power up and off we go. The flight should take an hour and a half, but we make good time. So good is our pace, we have to hold over Essex for half an hour, circling over the same place for 20 minutes. We go over the North Weald airfield some three times before we turn and fly towards east London before turning along the river, getting lower and lower, heading in the different direction to when I land at City airport. The views are sensational, but my camera is in the hold, so you'll have to take my word for it.

And then were are skipping of the rooftops of West London, down and down until we land, slowing down. The trip, the working year, was over.

I am the very last one off the plane, as I am in no hurry. The arrivals hall is in chaos as hundreds of people are queuing to catch connecting flights, but why they have to queue for so long is beyond me, no other airport seems to do this. I breeze past, go to the line for the e passports. And in a couple of minutes I am through. I just have to get my case, then find the Heathrow Express station, and I will be set. Last time here, I had to wait half an hour for a train, but as I go down the escalator, I see a train waiting. I think it might leave before I can get down, but once the station matirx sign comes into view I see I have six minutes.

I slump into a seat, it seems to have been a long week. My back does not help, but both my cases have wheels, so I can get about with them. The train accelerates out of the station and into the tunnel that will take us to the GWML. Into the sunlight, through metroland and into the splendour that is Paddington. I know my way to the taxi rank, so walk briskly up to street level, I look at my watch: I have missed the quarter past one train, but should be in plenty of time for the one in an hour. The traffic seemed to have other ideas: Marylebone Road was chocker with traffic, as was Euston Road. But I get to St Pancras with half an hour to spare, I pop into M&S to get a sandwich and a drink. And by the time I make my way to the platform level, my train is arriving.

I get on, stow my cases, slump into a seat round a table. The final leg, then.

I share the table with a heavy smoker, as he smelt like an ashtray when he breathed out. He also played a loud game on his phone, and fielded calls from who was going to meet him at Ashford.

After he got off, silence returned to my part of the carriage, we slipped through the countryside as the sun sunk in the west and the shadows go ever longer. I got off the train, passed through the gates and into Dover. I had forgotten a doorkey, so I would have to wait for Jools. What better place to wait then that The Rack of Ale? I had a couple of pints, and tied the mead they had gotten in. All was good. All was good until I looked for my phone to realise I had left it on the train. And by now it was heading back for London.

Bugger.

Jools arrived, we went to the station on the offchance it had been handed in. It had, so I proved it was mine, signed a piece of paper, made a donation to the cleaners Christmas fund. We went home.

Un packed, said hello to the cats, Jools went to the chippy, so dinner was fish and chips and a huge cuppa.

The working year was over. Except for some paperwork, but that is for Monday. Until then, relax.

Saturday, 20 December 2014

Saturday 20th December 2014

Tuesday.

I am writing this on Saturday morning. From here, Tuesday seems a lifetime ago. The reason for that will become clear as I write this post, but I have done a bit of travelling this week, almost as much as I have done through the year, except that week I went to China.

Friday was a day of work, rather than travelling, so up at the crack of dawn, I set the alarm, but the rattling of freight trans had woken me though the night, I look at the phone and I see it it is quarter to six. Time to think about getting up. THe time for getting up would be closer to half six, as it happens. I lay in bed, listening to the trains, and watch as lights play on the wall opposite to the balcony door.

I meet Anni for breakfast at half seven, as usual its fruit, yoghurt and a roll with nuttella. And coffee. Lots of coffee. With extra coffee.

It should be a simple drive to the factory, a couple of miles through the town, dodging trams and parked cars. The sat nav takes us through residential areas, wondering whether we were in the right place, but the other side of the junction, I see a factory. Looks like the right place. Turns out it was harder to get in than Fort Knox, after filling out endless paperwork, showing our cards, we have to wait in a plain room. Once our host arrives, we walk apparently round the entire factory to the meeting room.

And so the day begins.

As the day passes, my back begins to ache, I mean really ache, hurting in fact. Even sitting is painful. I struggle though. Being the little trooper I am.

Back at the hotel, I take drugs, and then meet our hosts for dinner in the restaurant below. It is all very nice, I have steak and beer. We talk and talk, and many of us swap stories about the more remote areas of the world we have visited, and the strange food we have eaten. There was talk of whisky, but I knew that would be a bad idea, I make my excuses and head back to my room and a chance to stretch out on the bed.

Wednesday.

Another day of travel.

I say a day of travel, our flight is not until five to four, which means having to kill five hours after we have to leave the hotel at eleven. Despite being able to lay in bed until eight, I am awake before seven woken by the sound of freight trains once again, long before they can be seen passing through the station outside my window. I look out, and the city is waking up, but the only sound is from the railway.

We meet for breakfast again, but our quiet breakfast is spoiled by a Pole on the next table who slurps his tea very loudly, then takes a phone call and talks even louder. How rude.

Back in my room, I pack and catch up on work. IBy ten I can hear the cleaner in the room next door, so I decide to check out, load the car, and then wait for Anni. Time passes so slowly. Anni comes down just before eleven, she checks out, we load the car, program the sat nav and set off through Witten to the motorway and onto Dusseldorf. Driving on the autobahn is terrifying, cars hurtle by in the rain at what seems over 100mph. We are not in a hurry, we settle in behind a lorry and we make our way to the airport.

Finding the car hire return was hard, but we do make our way to the parking haus, round and round up the spiral ramp we go. No problem in dropping the car off, we sign a form and are free to go.

Dusseldorf Flughafen

Despite being more than four hours before the flight, we are able to drop our bags off and go through security. The airport is quite small, and apart from reading, checking for mails or people watching there is little to do. We have lunch, and then sit by the gate where we wait next to an elderly American couple, who are on the way to meet their son. Everything about the airport is amazing to them, the tiny planes, that we are travelling by bus to the plane. She is also doting on the pictures of little Prince George which were published: I tried to sell Price George to them on a buy one get the rest for free offer, but she is not impressed. All babies are cute, even poor ones. She makes a disparaging remark about Obama, so I say I'm going for a walk and don't go back.

Dusseldorf Flughafen

The afternoon crawls by, we break up the boredom with some window shopping, and going for a coffee in an Italian place. Our flight is called, so we go to the gate and we are allowed on board. As is usual, larger hand luggae is not allowed on, but will be put in the hold but able to be collected as we leave the plane at the end of the flight. Another thing for our American friends find amazing, as to them their prized possessions have been taken from them.

The flight last for an hour, it is dark and raining by the time we land in Stuttgart. Once again there is no problem in getting the hire car, we walk to the parking garage, program the sat nave: 15 minutes it says. But we had seen the traffic as we came in to land, it looked crazy out there. As it was. Traffic was dreadful, but we make steady progress, and for the most part, people are patient, there is little crazy driving, and after a few miles, traffic speeds up and we make the junction, and from there it is a couple of miles to our hotel, or gasthaus. We are expecting something like a Danish Kro, or British pub, and indeed turns out half the place is like that, but the hotel itself is a new build, and the rooms are wonderful. And Anni and myself are given the two suits on the second floor, both rooms are on two levels, with a separate living room, huge bed, black marble bathroom. I open my case and my shabby clothes spring out.

That evening we have huge bowls of soup, a local speciality, which is filling.

All very nice, and so is the thought that once last day tomorrow, and not only is it Christmas for me, but that marks the final contractual audit with the customer, and all done with only minor issues. A pleasant thought.

Friday, 19 December 2014

Friday 19th December 2014

Sunday.

At least this weekend I would not need to travel until the afternoon, but still, it had meant giving up a large portion of Sunday. Again.

But before then, I had the football to watch, coffee to drink and cats to cuddle. As you do. Outside, it was cold and frosty, but nothing better than sitting on the sofa with Molly whilst watching the footy and the birds out in the garden.

At ten, Jools went to see Nan, and I got to packing and generally getting ready for the traveling in the afternoon. I throw some clean clothes in my case, check in for the flight in the morning, check my work bag, and I’m done. We listened to Sarah Millican on Desert Island Discs, which was rather splendid I have to say, time then to dash to Witfield to see the old folks, do the dutiful thing and formally decline the offer of Christmas dinner.

Somehow the morning had passed, and it was lunchtime already. Black pudding flavoured Scotch Eggs and a huge brew.

Three o’clock came round, and it was time to leave for the station. As ever, no idea where the time went, other than it did go, and now it was time to leave. Rain was falling, as predicted, but that did not improve my mood. I get my ticket and board the train, 15 minutes to wait, so I check my mails and see who else is working at the weekend.

No one. Apparently.

We glide off, into the late afternoon which turns to dusk and night before I arrive in London. From Statford I catch the Tube to Waterloo, and then it was a short walk to the UJC. My booking is good, so I dump my cases in the room, grab my camera and go back down and out into the naked city.

I catch the tube back to London Bridge, go up the escalators and into the throng. The building work being done means I am a little disorientated, but I see the entrance to Hays Galleria, knowing that the river could be found through there.

Christmas at Hays Galleria, Southwark

I am never sure what Hays Galleria is supposed to be, the open ended end facing the river meaning it is no warmer than an open space, but hey, it looks festive with a huge Christmas tree in the middle, with the backdrop of the City behind.

A quick walk along the riverside walk to London Bridge, and over looking back to the grand vista that opened up, all illuminated by a million office lights that never go out.

Its behind you

Inside the City, there are very few people about. I walk up to Fenchurch Street, so I can snap the Walkie Talkie towering over me and all of London. Nearby I see the welcoming lights of Leadenhall Market. It is also empty, save for another large Christmas Tree at the main intersection of the market. One side passageway is decorated with flying books, a reference to Harry Potter I guess. I think it works anyway.

London Bridge skyline

From there I walk onto Lloyds, still looking so futuristic, even after 25 years or more. It is illuminated by blue light, which works well. Opposite the new Leadenhall Building reaches for the sky. Since I started coming up to London with Jools, we have seen the old building demolished, new foundations dug, and this monster built.

Leadenhall Market

From there I walk down Cornhill, past luxurious shops selling trinkets with people with more money than sense. Back at the Bank of England, there is traffic and people again, I walk on towards St Pauls, which I thought might look good at night. It did, it looked wonderful in fact.

Blue, blue, electric blue

I walk round the outside, crossing the street to take the Millennium Bridge, so I could take shots looking back towards the cathedral. Everyone else were using a tripod, but with the 6D I did not need one. Or so I thought. Correctly.



St Paul's at night

My thoughts now turned towards food, but the south bank was full of tourists, and had eateries either full or so expensive, even with the company credit card. In the end I find a place in Clink Street, beside the prison, I have a beer and order some kind of grilled spiced chicken. It was good, and just enough for me. With the second beer anyway.

I walk back to London Bridge, take the tube back to Waterloo and the club. I settle back to watch some TV, but is it me or are shows really dumbing down now. What could have been a 15 minute segment on the casts from Pompeii was turned into an hour long show, endlessly repeating itself. At least I did not shout at the TV.

I watch the football, before turning in, the sounds of the city leaking in around the curtains, it is an exciting place, but I’m pooped.

Monday.

The alarm went off at quarter to six, I have nearly four hours before my flight, but even I should be able to get to Heathrow in that time.

I pack, well, put my toothpaste back in the case, I check out and walk up to the taxi ranks and say to the driver, can you take me to Waterloo? I paused, and said, aren’t we already there? Oh yes, make that Paddington.

Off to go, into the early rush hour traffic. We pass all sorts of famous places, including Buckingham Palace, no one seems to be up, we head on.

I buy the ticket for the train, even though the company is picking up the tab, £34 for a return trip to the airport seems very steep. But there really is little alternative, as the tube would take over an hour. So, into the dark morning we zoom, past commuter stations full of the bleary-eyed, and onto the airport.

Flying with BA means Terminal 5, so I hoped it would be painless. It was even better than that. I drop my case off at a desk with no queue, I wait ten minutes to get through security, and am now in the departure lounge, and I have over two hours to pass before flight time. I find a place for breakfast, and order a fry up: why not?

In WH Smith I bump into Tricky, are you Tricky I ask. He said he was. I told him I loved his music, which I do. He seems happy with that.

Heathrow Airport, 09:00 Sunday morning

The flight is rammed, and people are thronging to get on once it is called. I realize I am now a business traveler, and can get on via the fast track lane. I flash the card and walk on. Or shuffle on, as people now seem to be able to bring as much baggage as they want on board. One woman I counted had 5 bags in the cabin. Is this fair?

I slump in my seat at the back of the plane, whilst others file in, trying to find space for their bags. I close my eyes. I feel the plane move off, taxiing to the other side of the airport, but without waiting we are on the runway, the engines roar, and off we leap.

Into the blue sky, climbing as the skirt south London and then along the Thames, this time climbing higher and higher. The north Kent coast passes below us, over Whitstable, Herne Bay, and finally Thanet lays below, looking very crowded, but picturesque in the bright sunshine.

Cloud covers the view now, but less than an hour later we are descending towards Dusseldorf. It is gray, overcast and raining. Oh this is lovely. And I have a two hour wait for Anni, so after collecting my case I find a coffee shop by a large coffee and settle down to wait, spending my time people watching, as you do.

Anni arrives and we go to find the hire car, I have already programmed in the address of the hotel, so we set off for Witten, heading down various motorways, sorry autobahns, taking exit after exit, but we seemed to be on the right road.

Witten is wet and dark, we find the hotel by the main railways station: I hope I have a room overlooking the station I say. I do, so I spend a few minutes watching the comings and goings before I meet Anni at the rooftop café for coffee. And cake. Or waffle.

Witten, Germany

A bit daft at four, just a couple of hours before dinner, but the cakes looks so good, or the waffle with cherries and cream sounded so good. And it was.

We meet for dinner at half six, I have sauerkraut soup(!) followed by potato pasta or something with vegetables, which was mostly tinned carrots. It was OK, but not sensational.

Back in my room I get the computer working, and listen to the radio whilst outside freight trains rattle by.

Sunday, 14 December 2014

Sunday 14th December 2014

Saturday.

The weekend.

Again.

The BBC promised us that the sun would shine and so the day would be lit by golden sunshine. But not at dawn, as the sky was shrouded in cloud.

We went about the business of whiling away the morning. We had an early cup of coffee. A later cup of coffee with warm croissants. All was well. Jools went to clean her teeth, she then called out, "someone is filling a balloon in the field at the back". Eh? She repeated that. Better come up here she added.

Up

I went upstairs, and indeed, as we looked the envelope of a hot air balloon was being filled up. It also looked like another two balloons were being prepped. We ran round getting dressed, grabbing our boots and cameras, and went along the road, then down the footpath. As the field came into view, the first balloon almost fully inflated, rose from the ground, only the tether line holding it down. The other two were filling with air, and the morning was broken by the roar of gas burners.

French balloons at St Margaret's

All exciting stuff. Several other people from the village came to watch, as the first balloon was let rise into the air, quickly gaining altitude and drifting towards the coast. The remaining two balloons filled up, rose from the ground, equipment was loaded, people scrambled on board, and as the balloon was warmed up more and more, more lift was created, until one then the other were let loose, and quickly rose into the sky. We all stood watching as the three balloons rose up and then made their way to the coast and on to France. We found out later all three landed safely in France some two and a half hours later.

Flight preparations

We had to rush round, changing, grabbing our stuff, as we had a date with a train. As is always the case, isn't it?

Lifting off

But first we had to go into town to run a couple of chores before we had to rush to Wye to be at the station to see the train. All along Townwall Street, dozens of trucks were still waiting to get into the port. Apart from that the queues from Friday had died down. On the motorway we could see yet more trucks still waiting to get into the tunnel, but on our side, all was clear so we zoomed on. Up Stone Street, but then turning off to drive through Stowting, along wonderful narrow, twisty turny lanes, all overhung with trees, which let through the golden sunshine. It was a wonderful day to be out and about.

Through Stowting and onto Wye, arriving 45 minutes before showtime. I sat in the car listening to Fighting Talk, before walking to the station. I was met by another photographer who informed me the tour was running 173 minutes late! And there was doubt if it would even reach Kent.

What to do?

Well, head to a pub, have a pint, and a nice meal. A short drive through the village was The New Flying Horse, it was almost empty, so we took a table and both ordered fish and chips. And when it came the fish was as white a fresh driven snow, and cooked as perfect as it can be. All the better to be washed down by a pint of Christmas Ale from SN.

We went back to the station only for me to see that the sun would now be shining right down the tracks, making photography near impossible, so I hoped there would just be time to rush to Chartham to snap it there, if it was coming. I knew the back roads, and I suppose it took 15 minutes to reach Chartham, where there was half a dozen photographers on the footbridge already. I jumped out the car, grabbed a camera whilst Jools parked the car, and asked one of the guys when it was due: 10 minutes.

Just Champion

So, a short wait, the gates closed and we heard the two tone horn of the Western away in the distance. We raised our camera and the shutter went click, click, click and so on, as the train came into view and rushed by. All over in about ten seconds. Gotcha.

I walked back to the car, then we drove home, back along the country lanes we know so well to Bridge, then along the A2 to home. A warming cup of coffee and listening to the football on the radio, the heating cranked up to molten lava, and all was well. But should I go to see the Western at Dover? I found myself grabbing my camera at twenty past four, in a good mood at City had scored three goals in the first three minutes of the second half against ten man Huddersfield. All was well.

I had tried to get accurate timings for the return run, but it still said it was on time, so I had to be ready at ten to five. Thinking I would only be outside for ten minutes, I did not take a jumper. BIG mistake. I parked next to the old Harbour Station, took my place on the bridge, met up with a guy from the Dover Rail group on Faceache, and we chatted. Showtime came and went. It was clear the rumour that it would be runing an hour late was true after all. As the cold chilled me to the bone, the minutes crawled by, until at quarter to six, a single light showed at the portal of the Harbour Tunnel,a nd round came the tour. I tried to get shots, but shooting a moving loco in the dark was not easy, but the results were acceptable. As it accelerated towards Shakespeare Tunnel, the wonderful growl of the two engines could be heard, that is what we had come to see. Or hear.

Western Champion

Back in the car, I found out that City had run in two more goals to win 5-0. Perfect.



Back home and I head for a shower to try to warm my bones up, which works. We have cold breaded aubergine and pasta salad for dinner, quick and easy. Molly is back to her lovable contrary self, the wound on her rump already closing up. All really is well. Except having to go away again tomorrow. Such is the way.

Saturday, 13 December 2014

Saturday 13th December 2014

Thursday.

The alarm on my phone woke me at quarter to six. I had slept well, but outside I could hear the sound of taxiing aircraft. The airport was working, which was good as strong winds were possible, at least in London. I did not need to look out the window to know it was still dark, it would be dark until it was time for my flight to depart, that was a given. But at least in less than eight hours not only would I be in Blighty, I would be home.

I shower, pack, go down for breakfast, where the choice was three cereals, or rolls. I have rolls. With butter. And Nutella. So goo was that I had another. Full of buttery chocolaty goodness. Lovely. Tow cups of Java and I was set.

I walk me and my two cases along the path to the terminal, I get my boarding pass, check my case in, go through security, and 5 minutes later I am sitting at a table sorting through the latest e mails. The hour long wait passes, I walk to immigration, and once through that is my time in Denmark done for the year! Hoorah.

Malden, Essex

The plane looks as though it will be empty, until a party of 12 Danish businessmen arrive, all talking at the same time, all sounding excited. Oh well.

Rochford

Once on board, I take my seat, open up the HJohn Lydon book, and soon am lost in his angry prose as the safety brief is give, the engines start up and we move off. We rush off down the runway, we leave the ground behind, cocking a snook at gravity and lifting into the morning skies, dawn having just broken to the east. We turn and head south where it should be warmer. I hope.

The Black Peril

London is busy. Or at least LCY is, I mean London is always busy, but we had to wait 20 minutes for a parking slot, so we do circles above Southend. I take shots of the mud at low tide below us. In truth I could have looked at that all morning. Oh what, we can land now? Oh OK, if we must.

The airport is not too busy for arrivals, so I breeze through immigration, get my case, and arrive at the station to find chaos. Seems like there had been a signal failure, and all trains were, well, unsure of where they might be going next. One arrived on the right platform for Stratford, but said it was going to head back in the opposite direction. It stands at the platform for 5 minutes, I think I saw the matrix sign change to Stratford before changing back, I jump on just in case. Moments before the doors close, the guard announces we are going to Stratofrd, and off we jolly well go, all squeezed up like a squeezy thing, with the two small dogs of the lady beside me, terrified of the noise and number of people.

going underground

The train takes its time, taking ten minutes longer to get to the end of the line, by then my train home had gone and I would have to wait another hour. I shrug. Oh well, there's always coffee. Gingerbread latte. With an extra shot. And a sausage roll. Yes, that sounds like a good idea.

At eleven fifteen, my tain arrives. It is almost empty, so I take a seat by the luggage rack, slump in my seat and close my eyes as we move off into the long tunnel under east London. Essex flies by, we pass under the Thames, into Kent. Trees, houses, the motorway flashes by. It is amazing how soon we are at Ashford, then rattling along the classic line to Folkestone and then to Dover.

I get a taxi back home from Priory, the driver is a bit of a grump, but hey, he is taking me home, so my good mood is for both of us. Once indoors, I make a huge brew. Good to be home.

I have to work more in the afternoon, trying to make calls to those who do not want to answer. I write mails instead. I feel like I am up to date, so I switch the computer off. I had mixed some bread when I got back, now that it had risen, I made them into rolls and popped them in the oven, they would be ready just in time when Jools came home and perfect with her home made heart tomato soup. With added bacon.

Yes, home at last, and now have four days before I would have to leave again, on what will be the last trip of the year. Anyway, just good to be home, with Jools and the cats. Oh yes, cats. Jools said Molly had been acting odd, indeed last weekend she was cowering all the time and generally complaining more than usual! I checked her over and it was her rear end that she was sensitive about. But she was eating OK, and otherwise seemed fine, if not herself.

Friday.

I needed the car as I had to see the doctor, so I had to drive Jools to work. Not normally a problem, only there was the storm. The storm arrived during the night, and by the time the alarm went off it was blowing a hooly. We drove off, leaving early, and encountered no problems with traffic, and with the weather, it was fine as long as you kept below 50mph. Which was fine. Traffic was beginning to build at the port, but I thought little of it. I dropped Jools off, turned the car round and headed for home. I put the local radio station on. Traffic problems everywhere. We saw as we crossed the motorway, traffic for the tunnel backing up so bad it had blocked the M20. I drove into Dover along the old Folestone Road, a wise choice as by this time, Townwall Street was clogged with lorries. I stopped at St Martins to get a shot, then drove off in monsoon conditions down Military Hill, through the town centre, up Castle Hill and then along the lane along the cliffs to home. As I crossed Jubilee Way, it was solid from the roundabout, people would be going nowhere for a while.

rocks

Back home, I brewed some more coffee and powered the laptop up and began work.

The day passed, I went to the doctors. Came back, wrote some mails. And that was that.

Stormy Dover

At three I went to pick Jools up, although the weather was now wonderful, there was still massive queues at the port and the tunnel. So I took various lanes and back roads to Hythe, and waited for Jools to finish as darkness fell. It was almost dark by four, but hey, its the weekend!

We drove home via Saltwood and then up the Alkham Valley to River, then through the town and back up by the castle, along the clifs to home. We were home by five, drinking coffee and eating Danish chocolate soon enough. During the day I saw a large wound on Molly's rump, an abscess had burst, but she was clearly in no pain, full of the joys of life, back to normal, just with the wound. It looked clean and pink. We will keep an eye on it, but she should be OK. Probably was another rate bite. At least we knew she wasn't right and were keeping an eye out.

We had breaded aubergine and home made pasta salad for dinner, a nice light meal, and a change for the burger I had three days in a row whilst away. My choice I know.

Friday, 12 December 2014

When you use your enemy's methods, the enemy has won.

The biggest news this week was that a report into interrogation techniques by the CIA in the aftermath of 9/11 and beyond were far harsher than the organisation had ever admitted. In fact it lied. Lied and lied.

I was against the invasion of Iraq, I was also against to so called 'war on terror' as it had no defined target, range or scope. And as we saw with the Russians, they could attack another country and just claim its all part of the war on terror. But I digress.

If we in the west stood for anything, it was for the rule of law, freedom. If we do not uphold these values then what do we stand for?

In an attempt to avoid being accused of carrying out torture, the Bush administration just redefined what torture was. Easy.

And yet, so very, very wrong.

Suspects were transported across borders in by military flights, to black detention centres so to be out of the reach of western laws. They were then subjected to torture, some so bad that people died. Dead. One suspect was waterboarded over 180 times. When it was clear this wasn't working, instead of the fabric over the suspects mouth, a cupped hand was used. A wonderful new thing was created, rectal hydration: when a suspect refused to eat, they blended it, shoved a pipe us his ass and poured his meal in. And this is fine. Anal rape.

Not in my name.

And yet the eagles, the hawks say this is just fine, abandoning over 200 years of life, liberty and freedom, because, of 9/11. Even when there was no evidence that the suspect was part of that act, what the heck, lets just torture the shit out of the guy. This is the death of western values, the whole reason of why we went to war, to topple the unjust regime to just replace it with one just as bad. Hoorah for freedom.

Here are some extracts from the BBC website, all copyright is theirs.



The CIA carried out "brutal" interrogations of al-Qaeda suspects in the years after the 9/11 attacks on the US, a US Senate report has said.

The summary of the report, compiled by Democrats on the Senate Intelligence Committee, said the CIA had misled Americans about what it was doing.

The information the CIA collected this way failed to secure information that foiled any threats, the report said.

In a statement, the CIA insisted the interrogations had helped save lives.
"The intelligence gained from the programme was critical to our understanding of al-Qaeda and continues to inform our counterterrorism efforts to this day," director John Brennan said.
However, the CIA also acknowledged mistakes in the programme, especially early on when it was unprepared for the scale of the operation to detain and interrogate prisoners.

The CIA programme - known internally as Rendition, Detention and Interrogation - took place from 2002-07, during the presidency of George W Bush.

The report reveals that:

Detainees were subjected to repeated waterboarding, slapping, stress positions and sleep deprivation
Saudi al-Qaeda suspect Abu Zubaydah was kept confined in a coffin-sized box for hours on end
Suspects were threatened with severe harm - psychologically and physically.

Analysis: Frank Gardner, BBC security correspondent

This report makes deeply uncomfortable reading but it shines a much-needed torch into some dark places.
The fact that Enhanced Interrogation Techniques, or torture by any other name, was stopped years ago or that some people at the top of the US administration may not have known its full extent, does not excuse the fact it took place at all.
After going through six million pages of documents, the authors concluded that in none of the cases they had looked at did these brutal methods stop a terrorist attack. Meaning that America's reputation, and by extension that of the wider West, has been sullied for no tangible gain.
This will lay the US open to charges of hypocrisy, making it far harder for the West to criticise brutal and dictatorial regimes. It may also encourage terrorists to justify their atrocities by pointing to this past abuse.
It can only be hoped this report's publication means these practices will be consigned to history's dustbin.

Case study: Saudi terror suspect Abu Zubaydah

Abu Zubaydah

Described by US officials as al-Qaeda's former operational planner and terrorist recruiter, Abu Zubaydah was captured in Pakistan and sent to a secret facility in Thailand.
His cell was described as white with no natural light or windows, but with four lights pointing into the cell and an air conditioner.
He had two chairs, one more comfortable than the other, rotated based on his level of co-operation.
From 4-23 August 2002, following 47 days of complete isolation, Abu Zubaydah was subjected to EIT almost 24 hours a day.
Security personnel entered his cell, shackled and hooded him and removed his towel so that he was naked.
"Abu Zubaydah was typically kept naked and sleep-deprived," the report says.
He was backed up against the wall and a box laid on the floor to look like a coffin.
Whenever the suspect denied having certain information, the interrogators grabbed or slapped his face.
On the first evening, he was waterboarded, as a result of which he coughed, vomited and had spasms.
The sessions accelerated, progressing more quickly to waterboarding.
According to the report, the objective was "to ensure [he] is at his most vulnerable state", at all times.

The main points of the report include the following:

None of 20 cases of counterterrorism "successes" attributed to the techniques led to unique or otherwise unavailable intelligence
The CIA misled politicians and public, giving inaccurate information to obtain approval for using techniques
The CIA claimed falsely that no senators had objected to the programme
At least 26 of 119 known detainees in custody during the life of the programme were wrongfully held, and many held for months longer than they should have been
Methods included sleep deprivation for up to 180 hours, often standing or in painful positions
Waterboarding was physically harmful to prisoners, causing convulsions and vomiting

Mr Obama halted the CIA interrogation programme when he took office in 2009.

Earlier this year, he said that in his view the methods used to question al-Qaeda prisoners amounted to torture.

Publication of the report had been delayed amid disagreements in Washington over what should be made public.

Security was increased at US facilities around the world ahead of publication.

Embassies and other sites were taking precautions amid "some indications" of "greater risk", a White House spokesman said.

US Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel said he had ordered all top US military commanders to be on high alert.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-30401100