Thursday, 30 October 2014

Thursday 30th October 2014

Tuesday.

Oh yes, waking up just before dawn, secure in the knowledge that I had nothing planned to do for the day, other than have a wonderful stroll along the river through Norwich, meeting with a friend, and maybe a return visit to the beer festival in the evening. Oh yes, this is the life.

Passing Crown Point

I put the radio on to listen to the business news, and then the round up of the world news and events at six. I went down for breakfast at half seven, a small fry up which sets me up wonderfully for the day. Outside the sun is already shining with a warm light, best get out there and make the most of it.

I walk down to the bridge over the main railway, pausing to snap a few comings and goings, enjoying the sight of locomotive hauled trains, and enjoying that although it was still just half eight, it was already warm enough not to have a coat on, and so my decision to leave mine in the room was already proved correct.

Autumnal walk along the River Wensum, Norwich

Down from the bridge, past the former site of the Clarence Harbour pub, now some small houses, and round the football ground, just remembering some of the great games I saw here over the years, but now are in the past as I seem to be a live-away fan now I’m settled in Kent, and so maybe my game attending days are at an end.

I was due to meet a friend, Sarah, at half nine on the bridge over the river, so I had 45 minutes to kill. I walk to Carrow Bridge, looking on at the profusion of flats and the such which now line the river on both side, taking the place of the industry and warehouses that used to be there. The flats are sure better looking than the warehouses, but it seems that our heritage, or the city’s is being lost a bit at a time.

The sun shines, if anything, even more golden, I wander round, taking shots as the clock ticks down towards half nine. Sarah arrives, and so we able along Riverside, past the glut of bars and nightclubs that opened and then closed in the area around the cinema, on what used to be the locomotive sheds (32A) of Thorpe station. Beyond Prince of Wales Road, we crossed to the other side of the river, past Puls Ferry and on the left, fine views of the Anglican cathedral over the playing fields of Norwich School.

Autumnal walk along the River Wensum, Norwich

Over Bishop’s Bridge and onto the sharp bend at Cow Tower, where the sunlight fell dappled through the boughs of the ancient trees on both sides of the river, and golden leaves floated with the current like a tiny golden armada. Round the back of the old hospital, past Jarrolds factory and into the area around the Ribs of Beef pub at Fye Bridge.

Autumnal walk along the River Wensum, Norwich

We stop for coffee and a scone in the arts cafĂ© by the bridge, before carrying on along the river, making for the final bridge by the old brewery, along the way taking in many fine sights, and the massive queue for the lunchtime session at the beer festival which snaked its way over the footbridge over the river. Maybe later, Ian…..

Autumnal walk along the River Wensum, Norwich

Once we reach the final city bridge, Sarah asks if I want to come to hers for a bite of lunch. More of a slurp really, as its soup, but the offer is accepted and so we walk up the hill, under the shadow of the RC cathedral and into the leafy mature suburbs where she and her husband lived.

Autumnal walk along the River Wensum, Norwich

Soup was fine, as was the coffee and warm mince pie, but the day was getting on, and not wanting to extend their hospitality, I bid them goodbye, and walk back into the city, looking for a place to get a haircut. In the end, one of the places I used to use, Gatsby’s had a spare chair, and so I went in and they poor lad tried to tame my mane. I felt a stone lighter, and so what better way to celebrate other and with a pint of the Dark Pils from Redwell. No better way indeed.

I decide that the beer festival should be avoided, but then it is not the only one taking place, I know where more beer can be sampled. So I stroll through the city centre, making my way up Timber Hill to The Murderers, where a dozen more beers are ready for tasting.

I have a couple of pints of Wadsworth Swordfish, which was very nice, and as it was now getting dark outside, thoughts turned to dinner. I make my way to one final pub, The Wheatsheaf and order a burger and another pint before heading back to the hotel, as it was now seven, and I was cold without my coat.

I fell asleep sometime after eight, waking up only to turn the radio off, another fine Norfolk day ended with me sound asleep.

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Wednesday 29th October 2014

Monday.

Back to work.

Only, its not. You see, I cleared my calendar for a few days this week so I could go to the beer festival in Norwich. And why not, there will be precious little time off from this point on, possibly until the early summer, so get it in now!

Jools, sadly because of the firing and then re-employment thing, dod not have enough holiday, or so she thought, to accompany me, so I booked travel and hotel for myself, and at half eight, Jools dropped me off in Dover so I could grab a second breakfast before catching the nine o'clock train out to Ashford and then a quick change, and onto Stratford.

Loco heaven at Norwich Thorpe

I went into Chaplins for a medium breakfast (no tomatoes, extra hash browns) and that set me up very well for the day indeed. I could not leave until nine, as train rules mean that if you arrive in London before ten, that counts as peak time, and almost double the fare. So, I am happy enough with the train I have to catch, as I would arrive in Norwich at half twelve, giving me five hours to pass before the drinking would begin.

The train is quite full, I realise that this week the kids are on holiday, which means that on this the first cheap train to London, most Kentish families would be taking the kiddies up to that London for the day.

I get off at Stratford and listen as a stressed young Mother tried to find out from a train cleaner, who did not know, where the train for Norwich left from. Feeling sorry for her and her son, I said that I would be catching the same train, and so I would take her to make sure she got on it. She was relieved. So we sat at the front of the DLR train for one stop, the passing by platform 10 we went to 10A, a different platofrm, oddly, and waited in the right area of the platform where the standard class seating would be. She and her son, and I, got on and soon were whizzing through the north London suburbs and in to Essex, heading north and into the wilds of East Anglia. Through Chelmsford, Colchester, Ipswich and into Norfolk at last, arriving in Norwich just about on time and with time, for me, to spare.

Redwell Dark Pils infused with coffee beans and chocolate

I drop my bag off at the hotel, and my room was ready so I freshen up before walking back out into the wonderful late autumn sunshine. Up Pronce of Wales Road, where even more clubs and bars seem to have opened, along past the cathedral into Tombland to the new brewery tap for Redwell, The Mash Tun for a relaxing beer, a warm up for the festivities later on. I have a pint of pale ale, then try their dark pils which was infused with coffee beans and dark chocolate. It was stunning, so much so I have a second.

Norwich Market

I walk to the fish bar opposite the old Pottergate Tavern for a big portion of chips and a battered sausage, something to line my stomach with! I sit on a bench next to a young couple, who were smoking pot and discussing what tattoos to get next, as well as his next appointment with a psychiatrist. Maybe pot was not the best idea, I don't know, but they were happy enough, in their simple simon druggy way, talking about getting an apple tattooed on his adam's apple, maybe with an arrow through it. The arrow would be a classy touch! I leave them to it, and walk to the mustard museum shop, hoping to get some powdered mustard for Anni at work, but they have had printing problems with the bags, apparently, and have none.

37th Norwich Beer Festival

Time then to head to St Andrew's Hall to queue up for the festival. It is good to be near the front, to get in early, get a table and have the choice of beers. My friend Simon was coming in to town to join me, and I get the message he will be with me just before 5. He is surprised that there is a queue. In fact on a busy session, it goes all the way down to Colgate, but lunchtimes are usually quieter, even on the first night.

37th Norwich Beer Festival

At half five we are let in, we get our glasses, our beer tokens and get a table before selecting our first beers. We are joined by a couple of couples, with whom we chat with and watch as the ladies get tipsy very quickly on strong cider. At half eight, and after several pints, it is time for Simon to head to the station for his train home. There is time to call in at the Compleat Angler for a pint before he goes, leaving me to drink up and then head back to the hotel for a cuppa and to fall asleep.

Tuesday 28th October 2014

I know its not Tuesday, but I'm a little behind with my writing. I ran out of time on Monday morning, before I had to rush out to catch a train back to the old country. So, here is what we did with the rest of the weekend.

Sunday.

And what to do with the extra hour we have been given with them clocks going back? Well, the obvious thing would be stay in bed, but in fact we did get up, make coffee, feed the cats, check the e mails, and then watch MOTD, as usual.

THe plan for the day was to fix the downpipes so that water would flow into our two new waterbutts. Big water butts. I like big butts. So, we looked at what needed to be done, and headed out to B&Q to get some pipes, joints and the such. Then, back home, have a brew and think how to do it. First was to plumb the one in which was to be fed from the guttering round the roof. I read the instructions,a nd seemed they supplied a joint, and after cutting the pipe in half, put in the joint, added the hos to join that up to the butt. And it worked.

At which point we had another cuppa.

We then constructed a zig zag pipe from the car port roof to the second butt, which as it turned out hasn't worked too well. And I know why: not enough bodge tape!

We had another cuppa. Jools and I moved some plants, I baked, Jools did more gardening. The day passed. The sun went down and so it was time to prepare dinner, steak and chips, whilst listening to the Man Utd v Chelski game on the radio. That ended up a 1-1 draw, but the meal was a triumph, and we were stuffed. And tired.

Sunday, 26 October 2014

Sunday 26th October 2014

Saturday.

There is something special about the final dawn of British Summer Time, it is so late, that by the time were are leaving Folkestone, is it light enough to see anything out of the train windows. Yes, we were heading to London for the day, or at least part of the day, and tomorrow, we get the extra hour in bed, but it will be dark by five in the afternoon.

Oddly, we decided not to set the alarm for the morning, instead agreeing to head out when we were ready. So it was a bigger surprise that we were both awake and up and about before half five. That meant we would be able to catch the quarter to seven train and thus be up in London by eight. We drive into town, finding a place to park in Priory Mews, it is then a minute or two walk to the station, get the tickets and make our way through the barrier where the high speed train is already waiting. I select my favourite seats, second carriage from the front, on the left so I can see the sea on the way to Folkestone and the motorway beyond Ashford as well as a fleeting view over the Dartford Crossing as we thunder over it at 125mph.

Stratford, London

Jools reads as we travel along, she bought herself a Kindle on Friday and is deep into her first e-book. I look out of the window, hoping to see something else other than my reflection looking back. There is light in the sky to the east, dawn is not far away. Even at this early hour, the train is more than half full by the time we pull out of Ashford, where it is now light enough to see the countryside, and the change in colours you get at the end of September. Fields are beginning to get waterlogged, crops are sown, winter is now very near.

Stratford, London

We get off the train at Stratford, a place I know only too well. We are hungry, there is a cafe. We go in, order coffee and a pannini each. We eat, drink and feel much better. A train to Stratford is pulling in as we ride the escalator down to the platfor,, and at Stratford we cross to the other DLR line tso we can ride through the new Pudding Mill Lane station, which was required due to the Crossrail work. Sadly, the new station has no views of the AEML, which means any steam trains will have to be viewed elsewhere, maybe Stratford. Things change......

Poplar, East London

We change at Poplar for a train to Tower Gateway, as we wanted to see the display of ceramic poppies in the moat of the Tower of London. As usual, the hardest part is getting across the many lanes of traffic, but that done it was a short walk towards Tower Bridge to gain access to the park which had the fine overviews of the poppies. One poppy has been planted for each of the 888,246 British and Commonwealth soldiers and other servicemen who lost their life in the first world war. A striking thing, seeing the poppies, which have been made to look like a giant lake of blood in the moat.

Being still early, there are only a few people about, but more and more people are arriving, so we deiced to head to Westminster to see the Cenotaph, which I though was being guarded by servicement until the 11th. But as it turned out, it wasn't, but a trip to Whitehall is never wasted. We decide to walk, as it is only just gone nine, and we halve all day, and in truth central London is not as big as you think it is. Or that is what we told ourselves.

The blood swept lands and seas of red

We tightened our belts and set off past All Hallows by the Tower and onto the City. The City skyline has changed greatly since I first photographed it back in 1987, when there was only the Nat West Tower and the Lloyds building punching the sky. Since then, there seems to have been some collective madness in the planning department, and unsightly building after unsightly building has been allowed to be constructed, further blighting what was once a wonderful sight but now St Paul's is getting lost. The latest, and worse carbuncle, is 20 Fenchurch Street, aka The Walkie Talkie, a building which not only is very tall, but is wider at the top than the bottow, thus towers over, literally, those buildings near. It is horrible, but now it is built, London will just have to get used to it.

All Hallows by the Tower

We walk on, taking Cannon Street so to avoid the crowds at St Paul's, the pavements are empty enough, and traffic on the roads light enough to make it pleasant enough. At Blackfriars we decide to head to Victoria Embankment, as it seems many years since we last walked along there, and searching my memory, it was when we met for the very first time, back in July 2006. Time flies.

20 Fenchurch Street

A walk along the river is nice, but you have to deal with the packs of joggers who seem to only run in the company of other joggers meaning they take up much of the path, and then there is the four lanes of traffic along the embankment, which seems to be heavy even on a Saturday morning. However, it really is not that bad, and we amble our way past Temple and out of the City of London and into the City of Westminster. We pause beneath Waterloo Bridge to take in the scene looking east and west along the river, and the modern buildings scarring the skyline, it made me think that at least the river will be visible, until; they work out how to build on water, which might yet happen.

Victoria Embankment, London

We strike out for Whitehall, and quickly are among crowds of tourists who have gathered around Horseguards to see the Lifeguards, er, on guard, on horses. I walk down to the Cenotaph to get my shot, we then turn back up heading for Trafalgar Square as thoughts turn to lunch. The square is crowded, of course, so we strike north at first heading for Neal's Yard, but after passing restaurant after restaurant, we think, why walk another half hour into Soho, when we could eat here? NO reason at all, just where?

Standing outside a French place called Cote, we say this is as good as any, and are told we have to wait until midday before lunch can be ordered. We agree and take time to look at the menu before deciding on our choices. I have French Onion Soup followed by griddled half chicken. Very nice indeed, and it hots the spot.

It is now one fifteen, so we decide to head to St Pancras so we can catch the ten past two train home. We wait for a bus opposite Charing Cross station, scramble aboard and then we move and sway our way north to Euston which is just a short walk from St Pancras. There was just time for me to snap the square at the front of King's Cross before meeting back up with Jools outside the barriers as our train arrives, giving us 20 minutes to wait before departure. I look through my shots, then stretch out closing my eyes as we glide out of the station and into the tunnels under east London that will take us out to Dagenham.

After just over an hour, we trundle into Dover, so we walk to the car, and then we have to gird our loins as there is shopping to do. We tell ourselves Tesco will not be busy at half three in the afternoon. It was, but we need just a few things, we zip round zapping as we go, and are out again before four, and home in time for me to listen to the second halfs of the games on the radio. Sadly, City fail to score again, but don't concede either, but a 0-0 draw at Hillsborough isn't really good enough.

We feast on cheese and beans on toast, before Jools watches Dr Who, and I clean up. Another fine day, and tomorrow, winter arrives, but we do get an extra hour in bed.

Saturday, 25 October 2014

Saturday 24th October 2014

Friday. What is it with Fridays? I mean they should be the best darndest working day of the week, what with it being the 5th and last of those for most of us, and yet for the past few weeks Fridays have really been messing me about, and ruining my plans for an early stacks. Rather like, then, when I was in the RAF, and as duty armourer you would wait with the duty NCO until 17:00 on Friday so you could lock up either the dump or armoury, and then the phone would go. Is that the duty armourer? I need to draw out 50 pistols, its all licking of in Albania and we need to arm the crew. Or, that hilarious time when the USAF managed to overturn a missle launcher completer with nuclear tipped warhedaed missile on the Hardwick roundabout in Kings Lynn. Is that the bomb dump? There's been an accident, could you come and man a cordon and help right this missile?

Oh, how we laughed. In the end. Anyway, this Friday began with an e mail, and ended up with conferences with various CEOs and managers. As well as sitting in on various other meetings. Then fire off the e required e mails, make phone calls, clear it with legal. And, and only then, can the weekend begin. Oh yeah, remember to set your out of office message and all that stuff.

Man, what a ride.

But that is it, Friday over with, time to relax and especially with a 5 days weekend which will include a trip to London and other places. And beer.

We were both too shattered to do anything much, so we slumped in front of the TV for a while, then hit the wooden hill.

Bring on the weekend.

Thursday, 23 October 2014

Thursday 223rd October 2014

Welcome to the 227th blog of the year, and I hope you enjoy it.

I mention this as in the whole of last year there were just 226 blogs in the whole year, and the year before that, just 128. In fact it was back in August 2012, at the height of the Olympics, I got so used to writing almost every day, I have tried to continue that habit. Now, I am not sure if anyone ever reads this, I am assured that some do. I realise that sometime it must be a pain to catch up, if anyone ever does, on blogs for the previous week or two.

What I can say is that I am reaching a watershed in my life. Nothing too dramatic, but what I can say is that work is going to take up more and more of my life in the weeks and months to come, right up to the end of next year, as the project moves from the preparation to the construction phase. Now, as I said, I won't say too much about the project, other than it is wind based, and that some of my time will be in Denmark, some in Germany, some in Denmark. A return trip to China might happen. Or not. But details on the day to day issues and tasks will be sketchy, if that, that is because there is commercial consideration to be taken into account, and I have to be seen to be all growed up and adult about this.

These past 24 hours have been difficult: for no reason a major allergy attack struck, meaning I had to result to whisky last night to be able to sleep. I have had worse, but the fact it blew up with no warning, and I was in the office in Ramsgate when it started. I left early, at three, drove home with the windows in the car rolled down to get a flow of fresh air in the car. It partly worked, but during the evening, it got worse. So, whisky and roast chestnuts it was. And it did work.

Days are cooler now, and on Tuesday evening we had a storm, nothing unusual in that, but night came early as the clouds swept in from the north. Rain hammered down, then as quick as it arrived, it cleared, with the light of the setting sun on the storm cloud, revealed stunning mammatus clouds, all heavy and pendulous. The what clouds we had cleared and stars came out, the wind dropped. Amazing.

Mammatus Clouds!

Yes, autumn is here, leaves are turning gold and falling, falling like snow on some days. It gets dark before six in the evenings now, and will be an hour earlier next week once the clocks go back on Sunday morning. The winter will nearly be upon us. And yet, the days are warm, especially when the sun shines, and it can feel like summer, until the sun begins to drop in the afternoon and the shadows really begin to lengthen.

I drove to Ramsgate yesterday, enjoying the freedom of driving along familiar roads, even if their are colsures everywhere, the worst being along the harbour tunnel due to a sewer collapse, this means driving past The Grange, and then down and around the harbour. Not a trauma really, seeing the still waters in the marina. And then there was no one at work. Well, no one on the offices, no monkeys, no chargehands or managers. Just quiet. Very very quiet. I made a pot of coffee and ended up drinking it all myself. I did not run around like a headless chicken. I just got on with work.

Tomorrow is Friday, so the weekend looms, and for me a trip back to the old country and the old fine city for the beer festival. And then the craziness will start. Just saying.

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Tuesday 21st October 2014

Monday

Work from home.

After a couple of weeks away, it is always wonderful to begin the week by working from home. The extra half hour in bed, the endless cups of proper coffee, the views of the birds feeding, and no airports! Being a Monday, levels of mails were light, so I cruised through the day.

At two, Steve and Martin turn up with a sharp chainsaw to tackle the larger logs from the tree. The peace and quiet of the afternoon is shattered, and then they lug the logs to their truck as Martin wants wood to burn over the winter, so we have negotiated a price reduction for the work. Jools' Dad also turns up, dropping of a part invitation, but also taking the chance to look at the work done on the house. He is impressed and agrees the work done has been done well. He refuses a cuppa and leaves sharpish.

We have bangers and mash for dinner, always a favourite with us. Jools than takes me into town for the monthly CAMRA meeting, which turns out to be painful. I am abused, I kid you not, but the secretary, and then the meeting is riven with arguments and backbiting. I won't be going back, and will be submitting a letter of complaint. I went mainly as the meeting was in yet another new Dover micropub, The Mash Tun, It is very good, but then from what I have seen, all micropubs are fine. The beer is good, on the whole the evening is only spoiled by the meeting.

Jools comes to collect me at half nine, if I would have had a phone, I would have got her to collect me two hours before. After four pints, I slept well.