Monday, 27 July 2015

Monday 27th July 2015

Sunday

And on the day of rest, the rain did fall.

Although, it did not start off like that. In fact we had breakfast on the patio with the warm rays of the rising sun on us, whilst around dozens of insects went about, checking all the new poppies for pollen. Soon enough the clouds would roll in, covering the sky and a hard rain would fall.

What did we have planned? Nothing really. I mean with the weather expected to be so bad, every minute without rain was to be treasured.

But the rain did come at ten, and carried on pretty much all day and into the night as well. The cats stared out of the window, then went back to sleep, and outside even the birds didn't bother to come to eat the seeds put out. I tried to watch the Grand Prix in the afternoon. It should all be so exciting, I mean all that money, all that glamour, but twenty minutes of it with a procession of cars, refuelling and tyre changes, well, I could go down to Kwik Fit to see that stuff. I switched it off and put some music on: Denim followed by Siouxsie and the Banshees. Thats more like it.

Jools went to see Nan and the old folks in the afternoon. I bailed. I should have gone, but I could not. I mean, seeing Nan last time was distressing to say the least. But the news was good: she is sleeping and the visions have stopped. But she does remember them, and what she saw, or thought she saw.

The old folks are well too, and have new chickens, but we were offered no eggs. Maybe one day we will be some of the chosen few? Or not.

Whilst Jools was out, I cooked roast beef, which along with runner beans, fresh peas, Yorkshire Puddings and roast potatoes, was rather wonderful. I cut the joint in half, so we can have it again next week. Which sounds like a good idea.

In the evening we watched a recording of Zodiac, which I am still not sure if I have seen before or not, but was good, if at nearly three hours, took us to our bedtime.

And so the end of the weekend. And I am travelling again this week, off to the frozen wastes of Denmark, which I have been warned is very un-summery. Which is to be expected I suppose. It is to be a week of celebration, I hope. Anyway, see you on Friday.

Sunday, 26 July 2015

Sunday 26th July 2015

Saturday

And the weekend rolls round, with my head full of things to do, if only my back would let me do so. The upside being that it seemed to settle down when I stood up or walked about. So, let us plan for a full day and see what happens?

As usual, the first order of the day was to go to Tesco as we were out of most stuff except sausages, and man and wife cannot live on sausage alone. We thought nothing of the short drive to Whitfield, we put on our shoes, put the bags in the car and set off down the hill, past Walletts Court and onto the Deal Road, at which point we saw the traffic on the A2. Solid and not moving.

Late Friday night the wind picked up, and so it seemed that the ferries did not start running until later than normal, coupled with the strike action in Calais and the migrant activity, it means chaos here in Kent, and in Dover where the A2 and A20 meet at the bottom of Jubilee Way.

We get to the roundabout, and are able to weave a path round up to Whitfield, but we would have to go back of course.

But a whizz round Tesco, load the car up, and then some creative driving: we go to Church Whitfield, then take a narrow lane across the down to Guston and then up to the Deal road and home. Nother dramatic, but it tripled the time it took to get home, but we did get home.

Walk to Fan Bay We have breakfast, then think about the next order of business: the Fan Bay Deep Shelter.

During the war, the cliffs were home to thousands of troops, operating guns, lookouts or radar towers, it must have been a sight. These lasted until the 70s, when Dover District Council classed the structures as eyesores and had them demolished or buried.

Walk to Fan Bay One of these was a shelter built to billet and protect soldiers who manned some 9 and 15 inch batteries from 1940. Tons of earth and rubble were piled on top of the entrance and sound mirrors, and they were lost. Until the NT bought the land in 2012 and set about recovering them, and now they have been repaired, and are safe enough, tours are available. So, with the national news coverage stiff fresh, we had places booked on Saturday's half ten tour: we just had to get there.

Walk to Fan Bay Thankfully, there is a back road, Reach Road, which goes all the way into Dover, over Jubilee Way, so we could do it.

Fan Bay Deep Shelter However, the rules of the visit stated, that even though we already had tickets for the tour, we had to go by the NT's building at the White Cliffs to check in, and from there it was a mile and a half walk down to the shelter. Jools dropped me off at the NT's place then drove back up Reach Road to a much closer parking spot, and one which being free, was £3.50 cheaper than the NT's. I presented our tickets, a tick was put on a sheet of paper, and then I had to walk to the shelter. All seemed a bit un-necessary to me, but hey.

I doubled back so I could take the less-used track down to the Cliff Road, the trackbed of an old engineering railway, then back up to Langdon Hole, all the way along I could have fine views down onto the ferry terminal below. The sun was out, and in the lea of the cliffs, there was little wind, I even managed to bag a shot of a basking Chalkhill Blue, which saved the trip to the cliffs on Sunday. Although Jools did not know of that plan.

Up across Langdon Bay, and as I made the last few steps of the climb to the top of the cliff, the shelter of the cliffs behind me ended, and i was buffeted by the strong breeze. And Jools who had watched me walk across the bay, came to join me and so we walked the final few hundred yards to the shelter together.

The shelter is down 125 steps cut into the chalk, and at the bottom there are extensive shelters, tunnels and would even have been a mess. We were decked out with hard hats complete with head torches, and at half ten, we began the walk down.

Once down there is just the tunnels to see, but these have been pretty much untouched since the war, except for some graffiti added by urban explorers in recent years. We were given a good talk about the shelters and their re-discovery before being taken back outside to look at the two sound mirrors before going back inside again, then climbing back up the steps.

Fan Bay Deep Shelter From there it was a ten minute walk up the old military road to the car, but others in the group were following us, thinking we were going back to the NT's place and the main car park. Excuse me, are you going to the main car park the Mother asked? We had to explain that we were not, but showed them a gate and how to pick up the main path, and they left us to the cliffs, wind and skylarks.

Fan Bay Deep Shelter We drive back home and have an early lunch. As I had more plans for the afternoon.

Fan Bay Deep Shelter Go to the butcher in Preston, then check on the Violet Helleborines near to Canterbury: and avoiding the traffic. And getting back of course.

Fan Bay Deep Shelter Getting to Preston was easy: drive to Deal, then across to Sandwich (without going into the town), then take the Canterbury road, turning off for Nash and into Preston. The boys are in good spirits, and well on the way to selling out of stuff: but I get a couple of good steaks, a beef joint for Sunday and a few other things to pop in the freezer for later. It is the first time we have seen each other since the play offs, and they wish me and City well for the new season (just 13 days away now!).

Now, how to get to the orchid site? Well, take the road to Wingham, up the A2 to Canterbury and then the Ashford road, turning off under the railway, along ever-narrowing lanes until I arrive at the tiny church. And it is quiet. Also the sunny intervals of the morning have gone, but the wind has calmed down a bit, so, might get shots.

It is a pleasant walk along the track over the fields to the wood. The hedges are full of butterflues, mostly Gatekeepers, but some Large Whites and Peacocks mixed in. In the wood I begin searching, but on the first walk along the path, I find nothing: not one spike. On the way back, I finally see one unfurling spike, no flowers open. It is something, but not the dozen or so spikes we usually see here. Maybe I'm losing my touch? I get a couple of shots, then decide not to look again, if they were there, I think I would have seen them: maybe return in a couple of weeks. Or not

. Violet Helleborine Epipactis purpurata Now then, how to get back home? I turn on BBC Kent radio and hear there is a big accident on the motorway at Faversham, which means that I might be lucky, so I decide to try the A2 until I sense a jam. In thew end I get to Shepherdswell, but I knew there were queues still in Whitfield, so I turn down Lydden Hill, through Buckland and then upto the castle and along Reach Road and home. No queues at all, and home in about half the time I thought.

Steak and chips for dinner, which I prepare in about an hour, so by six we are sitting down to a fine meal: I open one of the few bottles of wine we have left to drink with mine; Jools has cider. Both work.

Saturday, 25 July 2015

Saturday 25th July 2015

Friday

Oh look the end of the working week: who saw that coming?

Well, I looked at the calendar, and sure enough it was Friday, which means that tomorrow, or even, that evening would be the weekend.

So, Jools was up and about at silly o'clock, so I thought I may as well.

She made coffee, and I looked at the interwebs to see if the law of gravity had been revoked. It hadn't, which means another day without walking on the ceiling. Darn.

So, the main task of the day was to create the srpeadsheet that I have been avoiding making for months now. Could I keep it together long enough to get it done? Yes I could.

So, the morning passed, and still the old inbox remained empty. Which got me thinking about my back. My God, it still ached, but as I have a mobile, why should i not take me and the laptop to the sofa so I could be at least comfortable. I switch on TV and find The Hunt for Red October had just begun. Oh, that might divert me. 90 minutes later I realsie I should check on my mails or something. And, still no one is about or mailing me.

Should I watch to the end? I decide not to, and switch the TV off just as the radiation leak happened, or was faked. Depending on whether you have or have not seen the film before.

THe day was heading towards the long dark afternoon of the soul, or at least the coffee break anyway.

I hunt in the kitchen for some drugs and find some ibuprufen, which if nothing else would be fun when I break the beer out. But it was already too late for that, as having looked through the fridge all I find is a frozen lump which I assume to be chilli, but is in fact Moroccan lamb, which goes down well with the frozen cheesy bread I bake and in half an hour I have a fine lunch, far too fine to actually stay awake through the afternoon having eaten of course.

Jools gets home at half six, weighed down with fish and chips, which was the plan. I make the brews and dish up, and all is set fair for a fine meal, and simple to make.

Te evening is a double bill of Monty: the first we have seen of him for 4 weeks, and then shower, wash up, coffee and oh my word, is that the time, yawn.

It is the weekend after all.

Good night,

Friday, 24 July 2015

Friday 24th July 2015

Wednesday

And here we are, back on the treadmill, nose to the grindstone and all that stuff. I am now back in the groove, that is until it comes to switch on the computer and work, at which point my get up and go leaves. I noticed as I switched down the computer the night before that some eejit had arranged 5 hours of meetings for Wednesday morning: did they not realise the time difference in the UK I fumed, starting at seven in the morning for heavens sake! So, I grumble my way through coffee, pointedly ignore my mobile chiming 15 and 5 minutes before the meeting. I will be deliberately late I thought, and when they ask why, I will point out the time.

Anyway, ten past seven, I switch the computer on, and look at Outlook only to see who the arranger of the meetings was: me. Yes me, the big hairy eejit. And the two other people who had asked me to arrange the meetings, and who were to join me for the 2nd half, were both on holiday, and there was no chance they would be attending. So I went from having a morning of meetings to none.

So, how to pack the morning full of stuff now it is empty? Well, I will just try. There is always the radio, the cats and coffee machine of course.

On Tuesday evening, Jools had thrown down the challenge by firing up the cross trainer. I can claim with some justification that I have been busy, but now I am hopefully not travelling so much, that maybe I will find time to pump some lard. In preparation for this, I charged the i-pod up, and so once the last of the day's mail came in, I was able to switch the laptop off and put on an old t short and get pumping.

In truth it was not the torture I thought it might be, in fact I quite enjoyed it, and I would have carried on beyond the 20 minutes I did, only it being summer and it was hot, damn hot. So, 20 minutes it was. And all the time Mulder lay on the spare bed, washing and looking at me like I was mad. Maybe I was.

Jools came back, and I let her go back on the cross trainer, and I cooked chorizo hash whist she pumped. It worked. Then we undid all the good work as we both had booze with our dinner, but then it was good, and we had pumped, so some good and some bad, makes us about even, right?

I can't say for sure whether is was the cross trainer, but I was about to encounter a bout of back pain, although that would not arrive until I went to bed and wanting so sleep.

Thursday

Oh yes, back pain. Well, a combination of that and some old fashioned night cramps meant I felt like I woke up feeling like I hadn't slept. Hoorah! What could be better. However, once up and about, I felt better. That is until I sat down at the dining room table for coffee and where in a while I would be working, only to discover that the angle of the wooden seats, my seated position meant that no matter how I sat, I was in pain.

Well, that is just peachy.

So, I have regular breaks between bouts of gentle moaning, drinking coffee before giving in and going for the drugs.

I struggle through the day, swapping the dining room chair with the sofa or the bed, anything to take the pain away. In truth I don't much work done, certainly in the afternoon. But before then I had to wrangle with a spreadsheet and then turn it into a PDF. I mean it could not be that hard, could it? Well, I had to shrink the spreadsheet to fit on one page wide, to do this I had to shrink columns or remove them. And then the really tricky part, I had to add a header and then upload a picture to it. And finally, make the header larger so the picture, of our logo, could be seen. Two hours later, I had it done and could convert the spreadsheet to a PDF and job was done.

I was drained. And in pain.

I gave up for the day and switched the laptop off, but in a show of either extreme bravery or stupidity, I thought that maybe some exercise would help, and maybe make the muscles in my back stronger, thus making the pain less. I can say, that although it did not make the pain worse, neither did it make it better either. But, hey. I did some Phys.

Dinner was sausages and lentils. As you do. It was very good indeed. And to follow there was a massive dose of nostalgia with more pop music from 1980 on Top of the Pops, best watched with a coffee and a tub of Ben and Jerry's cookie core ice cream. Not as nice as you'd think it is if I am honest, and our resident ice cream expert, Jools, has stated she is not going to eat any more of it, so its all mine, mwah ha ha.

Thursday, 23 July 2015

Tuesday 21st July 2015

Monday

And welcome to the working week. Again.

I would be lying to state what a joy it was to wake when the alarm was set for six, and jumping out of bed, we spring down the stairs saying “hello clouds, hello sky” as we made coffee and fed the cats.

For me there was the usual meeting at seven to discuss last week’s performance, which I could not complete, as, like, I wasn’t there. Anyway, I logged on to the computer at seven to find a message from my boss saying it had been cancelled.

Anyway, as I was there, lets look at the rest of the inbox: 79 mails, not too bad. And when I looked half them were automated messages confirming already completed tasks. Yay me.

Have a coffee.

Have another coffee.

Jools had left for work by now, and so it was me and the cats left alone, and as they were still getting used to life back at home so they would come by every half an hour to ask for yet more food. For the most part, I give in. But this is going to have to stop I tell them. And as next week I am travelling again, they really will be back to normal.

But until then: meow?

Then there is the temptation for me to graze at the food in the house through the day. I try not to, but, you know, its there, right? So, the day passes with me working, eating, feeding the cats and looking at the bright sunshine outside, wishing I could be out there. I do go out there when I have a coffee or lunch. The poppies are still a fine sight, and the air is thick with insects busy collecting pollen. How it should be.

With over half the company still on vacation in Denmark, I am able to tackle the inbox, and soon I can get work done, this really is too good to be true.

At four I think that counts as a day for the good guys and give myself the rest of the day off. We are having insalata caprese yet again, so I make some focaccia bread, heavily laced with garlic. It is a triumph even without the rosemary on top. Oh well.

That night we set the recorder to tape the 750th edition of Sky at Night, as it was to feature the latest pictures from New Horizons as it zipped by Pluto the previous week.

We sit back outside as the day fades, it is dark by half nine, the year is slipping by, and in 5 months it will be midwinter, and the ground will be hard as iron.

Tuesday

And more of the same, in short.

Up with the alarm. Make coffee, feed the cats, get dressed and get ready for the great switch on of the work laptop.

Outside the sun shone on, although the wind was getting up. I have another coffee, gird my loins and switch the computer on.

And just as it was all going so well, here comes a grenade which explodes in my hand. And everyone I need to speak to is on their holibobs: how is that going to help? Grrrr.

Inbetween ever-increasingly desperate mails to people who were lounging on a beach somewhere that is not Denmark, I manage to get a load of washing done, and even hang it out.

The day passes, I have more coffee, maybe too much, but hey, I can handle it.

No need to cook dinner, as we are going out to meet an old colleague of Jools’. Laurence has also left the box factory, and has been to Japan for his holibobs in the past, and we are planning this for next year. So, we wanted to pick his brains on how to arrange a fine trip.

At seven Jools and I drive down into Dover, park outside the Co-Op, and see that over half the multi-story car park beside Burlington House has already gone. I regret not taking my camera. We go and have a closer look and can see they are making quick work of it. Burlington House might be more tricky though.

We are to meet Laurence in Il Rustico, an Italian place on Market Square: it is OK, not sensational, and we have a simple meal of pasta and a beer. We catch up, he is happy with his new job and new house, which is good news. We also get details of the company to arrange the trip, which is even better news: all we have to do is save the money up now.

Back home to watch the program on Pluto: Jools snoozes, outside the day fades and the stars and crescent moon come out. The end of another working day.

More tomorrow.

Sunday 19th July 2015

Sunday.

And this really is it: the last day. We sleep long into the morning, the bed covered with three cats, all trying to be the nearest to us. Great how quickly things return to normal.

The plan today, was to see some orchids. Again. If we see the Broad Leafed Hellebroines, it would leave me with just two more species to see, and we should get one more next week. How quickly the season seems to be over down here.

Purple Rosebay epilobium angustifolium We have breakfast and decide to see Nan on the way out: she has recovered somewhat since her suspected stroke a couple of weeks back, and it would be our first visit since then.

She is awake and recognises us, although not all is well. She is hallucinating again, and it is so bad she daren’t close her eyes, and the lack of sleep which we believe is the cause of these, is made worse. She is seeing horrible things, doesn’t know if she slept in the home that night, as she thinks her bed was moved. She has seen people cutting their arms off, threatening her too.

Broad Leafed Helleborine Epipactis helleborine There is nothing we can do, which makes us feel nearly as bad as it can be.

After 45 minutes we leave, with Nan distraught. It is hard. Very hard.

We drive to Folkestone and then onto Ashford until it is time to turn off the motorway. We passed where, until late yesterday, hundreds of trucks had been parked; portable toilets still stood every hundred metres or so. But now it was back to being a motorway again.

Broad Leafed Helleborine Epipactis helleborine On the side of the down, we park and walk along the overgrown path until we come to the clearing. Although we could not see them yet, we knew there were orchids over there. They were not quite as advanced as I thought, but several spikes were at least partly open, so I got the shots I wanted. Here were butterflies around too, so I snapped what I could before we turned to leave.

It would take 45 minutes to get home, so, I decided against looking for the Violet Helleborines, as it was at least a week too early, so drove home down the motorway, then through the town to doge what queues there might have been at the port.

Broad Leafed Helleborine Epipactis helleborine Shall we stop at the Rack of Ale to pick up a carry out?

I think we shall.

We stay for a swifter, and a chinwag. But time is getting away, so after putting the world and our local CAMRA branch to rights; Jools and I go home for dinner, some more booze and a snooze.

Back home I cook breaded chicken, but do not cook the salad. I say salad, we forgot the radishes, spring onions, lettuce and beets: so salad was in fact cucumber, sweet peppers and half a chopped onion. Still worked though.

And the day and our holiday faded. The first time Jools and I have had 14 days off together since the wedding, or our wedding. One to remember and treasure.

Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Saturday 18th July 2015

Saturday

And so the final two days off. The sun is shining, so should be perfect for some more orchid chasing. Just to let you know the season ends at the end of August, at the latest, with just two more to see now, so, should be back to the usual church and football subjects by then. Talking of which, one of the projects for the winter is a guide to Kentish Orchids which will be published on Blogspot too. A brave plan and something that might not happen, we shall see.

Anyway, after breakfast, a second cup of coffee, we get in the car to drive out to the first site. All was well until we approached the Duke of York roundabout: there was a long queue of traffic, and we could traffic on the A2 was also solid.

A summer walk to the cliffs and back We had to go into town to get some bird seed, which now resulted in us turning round, driving back to St Margaret’s, and then along Reach Road past the castle and so into town.

Traffic in town was very light, probably because most folks could not get into town! So, with a few bags of bird food, we try to get out of the town. I look at the fuel gauge, and see we are running on fumes. Even if we get out, we’ll have to get some petrol, and with most stations now only part of supermarkets, it looked bleak. Driving out along the A2, traffic was queued up beyond Shepherdswell and getting worse.

A summer walk to the cliffs and back There was the station at Barham, we could fill up there. But even by the time we got there, we had already decided to drive round to Deal and go back home, hopefully avoiding all the traffic and being safe at home with the cats.

A summer walk to the cliffs and back And that is what we did, and although it took half an hour, we met little traffic and turned off the main road before we hit the stacked up traffic.

At least the cats were pleased to see us. Or that’s what we told ourselves.

Instead of orchids, I satisfied myself with a walk to the cliffs. Its been a while since I did that, what with being away and all. So, I put on my boots and set off. It is high summer, and the growth of spring has now slowed as water is short, and the ground underfeet is like a dustbowl.

A summer walk to the cliffs and back Along the path at the end of the street, between two fields of broad beans, now heavy with full pods. All around there were butterflies: Red Admiral, Painted Lady, Small Tortoiseshell, Ringlet, Small Heath, Wall Brown, Marbled White, Small Skipper, Comma but no blues. I snap some, others I am happy to see flittering about.

The piglets were sound asleep in the corrugated iron shed deep in the copse, and the horses in the field beside the path leading down the dip, turned their back on me and carried on eating nettles. I had no carrots with me anyway.

A summer walk to the cliffs and back And after going down the dip, of course I had to climb back up the other side. More butterflies were about, but clearly the wind was getting up, so soon the butterflies would be hunkering down, so no snaps.

Across the downs, through fields of wheat and long grass to butterfly alley, which as it was now gone midday, was partly in shade, and so had few of them about.

Up the final slope to the monument, and the cliffs. And after seeing no one else for half an hour, to see dozens of folks walking up and down the cliff path was if not a surprise, then unwelcome. I went to the edge to snap the cliffs, clooking down on the waves lapping at the feet of the cliffs: high tide, then?

And then down the path, trying to snap a Marbled White, and the plan was to get to Kingsdown Leas to try to snap a Chalkhill Blue or three. But the wind was getting stronger, the Whites were being buffeted, and I knew the Chalkhills would be deep undercover clinging to grass stems. So, I gave up halfway to Kingsdown and turned for home.

At three I got back, and realised I had missed lunch somehow, so it was then declared brunch o’clock. And as it was cold left over breaded aubergine and pasta salad, it took less than 5 minutes to prepare and be sat down eating.

Now, although we like to think ourselves as social people, to be invited to a wedding reception where we knew only the groom was always going to result in the two of us sitting in a quiet corner of the event. But first we had to find the location.

Not helped by the invitation having the wrong postcode on, so after driving to Faversham, and down the main road through the town, we came to where the postcode said there was a golf course: there was just a school. No golf.

A hundred yards further along, I see a sign pointing down a lane to a golf course. Could be it. So we went down the lane. Then along a bit, round a corner, left at a junction, up a hill, down again, took a left fork, along a mile. And there was the golf club. Or A golf club. Not the golf club.

I re-programmed the sat nav, and apparently we were still 15 minutes away. So, back we went, back through Faversham, back down the A2, took the next exit, along a bit and there was THE golf club. And there was sounds of a party.

Indeed it was the wedding, so we parked and went in, dropping the card in the ‘wedding postbox’, I saw Will, the groom, so we went over, shook hands whilst he got ready for the traditional first dance.

That first dance is all important: for Jools and I it was Barry White, for my friends Jason and Cheryl it was Blister in the Sun. I did not recognise the one they had, something modern, poppy and autotuned. They seemed happy.

We went outside to find an empty table, and watch the bridesmaids and whatever boy groomsmaids are called, pay rounders. It passed the time, until we thought we had been there long enough so we could leave again without causing offence.

We did say goodbye, then walked back to the car, whilst some guests staggered around smoking a roll up; four weddings this wasn’t, but then, what is?

We drove back in the gathering gloom of a July evening, even the traffic had vanished, so we arrived home, sat outside on the patio looking at the stars and passing planes overhead, whilst three cats kept their collective eyes on us.