Sunday, 25 January 2015

Sunday 25th January 2015

Sunday morning.

And I have just packed ready for another week in the frozen wastes that is Denmark in January. I will not be back until late Friday, ready for another commute to the same place, same time next Sunday. Such is life, such is the job of a QA Manager.

So, all this means, no blogs probably until Saturday, and then just the one, just so you know.

Saturday.

The plan had been to be up and out at, if not dawn, but soon afterwards. However, what with one thing and another, it was just after nine when we pulled on our walking boots ready to step out into the crisp wintry sunshine.

Saturday morning walk to Kingsdown

We decided to avoid the usual route along to the pig's copse and down the dip, intead walking down Station Road and then turning at the Red Lion and meeting up with the normal route at the top of the steep hill.

Saturday morning walk to Kingsdown

Parked on Station Road was a lorry, the traffic I think is still bad at the port, and drivers have to find somewhere to stop. The M20 between Folkestone and Maidstone is a lorry park. Portable toilets have been set up as the trucks are parked nose to tail for mile after mile.

Saturday morning walk to Kingsdown

Up the hill past the Red Lion and down Kingsdown Road.

Joggers and cyclist sped past us, but we kept up our pace, making good time and enjoying being outside in sunshine.

Saturday morning walk to Kingsdown

Our walk takes us along the national cycle path, we have to doge those dressed in skin tight lycra, but for the most part we have the road to ourselves, do and down towards Kingsdown we go, until once we pass the golf course, the beach and Channel come into view.

There is no such thing as the dog poo fairy!

Jools went to catch the bus back home, and as for me another trip to Denmark and a week of meetings lay ahead, I decide to walk back, this time via the cliffs, through The Leas and up to the Dover Patrol Monument.

The wind was at my back, the sun in my face, and a fine afternoon of cup football lay ahead on the radio. So I walked with increasing stiffness to the kissing gate which I guess marks the boundary between Kingsdown and St Maggies, the air was full of the sounds of the Pringle set playing golf, which is fine, live and let live I say. I then cut across the fields getting back to the cycle path, back into the village, right at the Red Lion, down station road and back home.

Saturday morning walk to Kingsdown

Jools was waiting, as was the bread dough which needed to be made into a loaf and baked. For lunch. Therefore t was nearly two by the time the bread was cooked and cooled down enough to eat, with a huge cuppa. Just butter on the bread, what with the seeds and spices, that was all it needed. And so it was football time.

Saturday morning walk to Kingsdown

You can look at BBC sport to read all the details, but the fact that Utds draw on Friday is now seen as a good result shows how crazy it was yesterday. Chelsea were playing Bradford, Chelse went 2-0 up just before half time. Bradford pulled one back, then in the last ten minutes Bradford scored three more, to win 2-4, at Stamford Bridge. How is that even possible? Well, they wanted it more, and Chelsea did not defend well. Middlesborough won 2-0 at Man Citeh, and could have scored 6 in the 2nd half, Blackburn beat Swansea, Leicester beat Spurs. Crazy but wonderful day.

Sadly, City could not make the day perfect after slipping to a 2-1 home defeat to Brentford, showing that the problems laid not just with the previous manager.

We had some more of the Christmas turkey for dinner, warmed up after being in the freezer for four weeks. It was wonderful, as we had no gravy, I made cheese sauce for the vegetables, and that was great too.

But the time is now slipping through my fingers, we leave for the station in half an hour and the working week will begining again.

Saturday, 24 January 2015

Saturday 23rd January 2015

Friday.

And so our friend, Mr Weekend, is in sight, but all we have to do is get through Friday.

Friday was crap, as far as work was concerned, as I am travelling most of Sunday, I switched the computer off at half one, and I was glad to pull the curtains on a really disappointing end to what should have been a great week.

I looked out the back, and saw the sun shining bright now, so I thought I would get in the garden to do some gardening. I never really saw the appeal myself, which in this case of me gardening, is so that we have raspberries come summer. I take down the supports and strings, then cut the canes down to the ground. Some of them already had green shoots showing.

What to do with the canes? How about a bonfire? Well, that's what I thought, so stuffed the canes into the brazier, got the firelighters, and applied a flame to the firelighter. It burned well, but the shoots were still green, and there wasn't enough dry fuel to make them burn, but I sat on the bench watching flames dance and smoke rise. I was joined by Scully. And then Molly. Which was nice.

The sun sunk in the west, light faded. Jools came home, she had left work early to see the dentist, and then the barnet mangler. Now she was back, so I start to prepare dinner: breaded butterfly chicken and sauteed potatoes. I could not be bothered with beans or vegetables, so it was all 'dirty' food. I opened a bottle of wine, which went very well with the food.

It was FA Cup weekend, and on Friday Manchester Utd visited Cambridge, and should have been a no contest, but Cambridge rode their luck and the game ran out a 0-0 draw, which was about the right result. Now, time for bed.....

Friday, 23 January 2015

Friday 23rd January 2015

Thursday.

Back to work.

Well, back to sitting at the dining room table, dealing with mails and the such. In fact I had taken my work phone with me to London on Wednesday, so there were no nasty surprises waiting for me in the morning, Which was nice.

Jools took the car to work, so I was at home, with the cats. I dealt with the weekly task of taking the bins out, and bringing them back in once they were emptied. The cats slept, I answered mails, took phone calls. I made some bread during the day, mixing the dough in the morning, leaving to prove all morning, beating it down at lunchtime, then baking mid-afternoon. Mmmm, nothing like the smell of bread cooking: I made rolls, and the plan was to cook some minute steak to have in them, a simple dinner.

The day faded once again into dusk, I did a session on the cross-trainer. I would like to say it was fun, but at least I have the music to listen to.

Once we had eaten, we watched Top of the Tops, from February 1980, what a wonderful time it was, but the show was still more cheesy than cheese.

The day ended with us watching the final edition of Winterwatch, what made it special was Mulder seeing a mouse on TV, then spending 5 minutes trying to chase it across the screen and behind the set. Oh how we laughed, no really.

Thursday, 22 January 2015

Thursday 22nd January 2015

Wednesday.

Midweek.

Hump Day.

And a day on which I bunked off. I don't know where you're from, but where I grew up, the term was bunking off. Bunking off meant doing something else other than going to school. Or work. And after working last Saturday, well travelling back from Hamburg until after midday, and I will be travelling again next Sunday, I thought I would claw back some time. I informed my manager, and he understood. So, all was set.

The plan was to head to London to visit a church I tried at least three times before to get inside, only to find it shut, or a service about to start. So, that and a return to one other at which I had my camera on the wrong settings, and so the pictures were not good. And I arranged, maybe, to meet with a couple of friends for photography and/or beer.

I thought I would catch a bus into town, then walk to the station. Simple. Only, that thanks to the fire and associated problems in the Channel Tunnel there was a massive backlog of traffic trying to get to the port, and after Jools called me after she arrived at work saying she thought that the buses might be affected. Therefore, I decided to walk to Martin Mill down the hill, and catch the train from there, now that they run to St Pancras from there now.

St Magnus the Martyr, Lower THames Street, City of London

Last week they changed all the train times, and which stations they stop at; so after years of knowing what time a train left either Dover or London, all is confusion once again. Anyway, getting to London would be simple, all I had to do is survive the walk to the station. You see, Station Road, as the name suggests, runs from the middle of the village to the station in Martin Mill. So, walk down the hill to the station, no? Yes, and no. You see, from the top of the hill all the way down to where Station Road crosses the Deal road and beyond to the station it has no pavement, and for the most part, there are steep banks and hedges on either side, so you have to hope that a car or bus driver would see you and overtake you with plenty of room. Or not.

So, leaving 40 minutes for the walk, I leave the house, returning to take the key out of the back door. The first part is fine as I walk the rest of the small estate on the side of the hill, but past the last road, the footpath runs out, and so I have to walk in the road. For the most part it was OK, just one female Mini driver going past we leaving less than a couple of inches between me and the car's wing mirror. Oh well. Then came the really hard part was crossing the main Deal Road, at the junction with Station Road, avoiding not only the cars travelling along the main road, but the cars turning out of either part of Station Road. In the end I walk in front of a van turning as he failed to bother to indicate, so told him so as he went past.

But, I was across the main road, heading down the rest of the dip to the station, arriving with 15 minutes to spare before the departure time. The ticket office was manned, so I got my cheap day return, and took a seat on the platform to wait for the train.

It was at least a dry day, if not warm. I have both a fleece and my double thick work pullover on, a combo I will come to regret by the end of the day. However, I was warm, and enjoying just being on a railway platform, hoping that maybe a loco-hauled railhead train might come down the bank from Guston. But no

. St Magnus the Martyr, Lower Thames Street, City of London

On time, the train arrived, I set a forward facing seat on the left hand side, ideal for looking out to sea after passing through Dover, looking down the Harbour Branch at Folkestone, the traffic on the M20, traffic on the Dartford bridge and freight locos at the Ford plant in Dagenham. I am happy with my obsession. I admit that.

I sat back and enjoyed the trip, which apart from the familiar journey from Dover to Stratford, now I can go from Martin Mill, so get great views over Dover as we come out of Guston Tunnel and weave round Buckland as we descend to the junction and on into Priory. It is a real pleasure, to see the house backing onto the line, and sound of the wheels as they scrape and screech against the checkrails. Apart from a slow part due to a signal failure between Folkestone and Ashford, it was much the same journey as ever on the high speed service. And being the first post-rush hour service, it was pretty full.

St Magnus the Martyr, Lower Thames Street, City of London

We arrived at St Pancras some 15 minutes late, but I have nothing to do other than to wander round churches, taking photos and hopefully meeting friends, drinking beer, as you do.

St Magnus the Martyr, Lower Thames Street, City of London

I walk to the tube station and take a Norther Line train (details are important) to Bank, then take the passageway to Monument, emerging into the light drizzle with the Monument itself before me, and to the right, The Walkie Talkie towering over everything. It also appears to be a building site, but down the hill I see the tower of St Magnus the Martyr, a church, which for me, has almost legendary status; would it be open this time? So, I walk down the hill, cross over Lower hames Street, and there is the entrance, I look insode and see the doors are open and so, I can go in.

St Magnus the Martyr, Lower Thames Street, City of London

St Magnus stands on what was the approach to the Old London Bridge, yes the one with all the houses and shops on it, which was demolished in 1825, so the roan road across the river used to pass right by the door to the church, and inside a scale model of the church sits in a glass cabinet. It is the most wonderous thing, and such a shame that the bridge did not survive today, because it would have been incredible to have an 800 year old bridge in the city. But the bridge featured very small spans, and restricted traffic upstream of it, so it had to go. Halfway across it, a chapel dedicated to St Thomas was built, it must have been a fine sight.

St Magnus the Martyr, Lower Thames Street, City of London

Anyway, I have the church to myself for a while, so I grab some shots of the interior, before focus on the memorials and windows. It really is a wonderful church, apparently quite 'high', as it has many icons and models of the Madonna and child, as well as a figure of St Magnus. A party of walkers and their guide comes in, so I get my last shots, gather up my stuff and walk back up the hill to the tube station to make the short trip along the Embankment to Mansion House, where I think a short walk will take me to the top of Fleet Street.

In the end it works out even better, as another church I wanted to visit was St Martin in Ludgate, I look at the map at Mansion House station and see if I pass by St Paul's, St Martin's will be in front of me. And that is what happened, I walk past St Paul's, the stationary traffic passing by it, caused by some road works, me going quicker than the traffic. As it usual in London.

Three Generations

St Martin was open, and once again I had the church to myself, so I go in, take off my coat, and get to work getting pictures. St Martin's is a wonderful church, square and supported by classical beams. I love the open and airy feeling it brings to the church.

St Martin within Ludgate, City of London

I walk on heading towards Fleet Street starts, and walk down past St Bride's and on the other side sits St Dunstan in the West, about the most westerly of the city churches. It is octagonal inside, and is used by the Romanian Orthodox church, which gives it a magical air, but due to the overcast day, it is dark once again inside, I get better pictures, but another visit is required.

I had planned to meet up with fellow church and orchid enthusiast, Henry, but he called me earlier to say he couldn't make it due to work. The night before I saw that my old Sgt from the RAF was in town, I gave him the address of a pub I liked and I said I would meet him at one if he was free. The George sits on The Strand, and is timber-framed, has lots of room and the food and beer is good. It is also opposite the Royal Courts of Justice, so there are few pubs with fine views. Indeed, behind, the ancient area of the Inns of the Court are behind, so the legal profession is all around.

I take a seat, order a bowl of pumpkin soup and a pint of Guinness and wait to see if Dave will arrive. 40 minutes pass, and no Dave, so as I leave I update Facebook to say I was leaving. Apparently we must have passed each other on The Strand, but I check Facebook again after I had passed through the Inns of the Court, so say I will go back to meet, and once I get back inside the pub there is a pint of ale waiting and there is Dave.

We catch up, swapping news on us and friends, an hour quickly passes, then he realises he has a plane to catch in 90 minutes,, he has to rush off, and I am alone again. Once last thing to do is to return to Baker Street to take some more shots, this time with my 'proper' camera.

Baker Street (revisited) So I walk through the Inns of the Courts once again to Temple Station, take a circle line train back round past Kings Cross to Baker Street. I get out, take a whole batch of shots, and climb on a train heading back towards Kings Cross where I could walk to St Pancras for my train home.

I get my shots of Baker Street, it is crowded by is unlike almost any other station in that it feels like a surface station. Anyway, no time to wait, as i am in a hurry to get a seat on the train back home. So, back three stops to Kings Cross/St Pancras, up to the station, through the stunning station to the Southeastern platforms. I have enough time to grab a coffee froma stall that has been set up there before we are allowed onto the train ready for the trip home.

The train fills up, I close my eyes, and dead on time, we glide out into the London dusk, disappearing into the tunnel beneath London. By the time we emerge at Dagenham, it is almost dark, with only the red tail lights of the jam on the A13 showing.

I arrive back at Martin Mill at six, Jools is waiting, its been a long day and I have had several beers, so Jools goes out to get fish and chips whilst I attempt to butter some bread. Yay beer!

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Wednesday 21st January 2015

Monday.

Back to work?

So Soon?

But then I did not get back from Hamburg until Saturday lunchtime, and I got thinking that maybe I might claw back some time. More of that tomorrow.....

Jools had the car, so I stayed at home, fired up the laptop at eight and spent three hours firing off mails, updating documents, and feeling like I'm really on top of things. I have meetings, all is good, very good in fact. So I have lunch.

Monday afternoon walk

More meetings after lunch.

More work.

Monday afternoon walk

And then I have to make my way to the doctor's to collect some drugs. The surgery opens at half three, so I set off at three, thinking I should make the most of the time and go for a bit of a stomp. Only there has been some rain. Quite a bit of rain, and the ground is muddy like I have never seen it. Getting along the path at the end of the street was fine, but then after passing by the pig's copse, I turned down the lane to the dip, and it was ankle deep. I slithered down, and of course at the bottom it was even worse, with mud and water spilling over onto the 'dry' path that runs round the bushes.

Monday afternoon walk

I stagger up the hill the other side, puffing and blowing bubbles, I really am out of practice. Still, spring is coming. I decide to skip the walk over the fields, and instead walk back into the village along the cycle path, then up by the pond, past the school to the surgery. It is getting dark as I was into the village, but much easier going now I am on firmer ground.

Monday afternoon walk

I collect the drugs then turn for home, back past the pond, The Red Lion, down Station Road to home.

Back in time to feed the cats, and prepare dinner, which is our old favourite, chorizo hash again, but it has vegetables in it, not just spicy sausage and potatoes. It is just ready as Jools walk in, a stressful journey for her, as all the roads are very busy with the backlogs from the trouble the Tunnel has been suffering over the weekend: a fire, water damage and then electrical supply problems.

We settle down at nine for the new series of Winterwatch; perfect, whilst outside the fox comes to feed, hardly casting us a glance.

Tuesday.

One thing I forgot to say was how cold it has been. Although, to be fair, its nothing like the minus 14 it is in the north of Scotland, its been cold enough. And so, for the first time in nearly two years, we have had snow flurries. Nothing to worry about, but snow nonetheless. I mention this, as Tuesday morning, as I was going into the office in Ramsgate, Jools had to take either the bus or train to work. And since the re-organisation of trains by Southeastern, the only train that will get her to work in time leaves Martin Mill just after 6, way too early. So, the other option is the bus, so I take her into Dover.

As I drive back out of the town, up the hill to Whitfield, snow begins to fall more steadily. I think little of it, I go into Tesco, get a few essentials, and when I come out of the shop, something close to a blizzard is falling, and settling even on roads that have been gritted. I drive home, aware of how slippery it is, but make it back with no drama, driving at 30 along the winding road past Wallets Court. At eight, the most amazing sunrise happened, as the clear area of sky allowed the rays of the rising sun shine through the snow driving in from the west. Needless to say, I took a shot. Or two.

Sunrise though a blizzard

Not only do I have the car to drive to the office, I also have an appointment with a physio. You see on my trip to Germany at the end of last year, not only did I hurt my back on that trip, I did something to my arm as well. Right arm too. As my back was causing me so much gip, I concentrated on that, but after I fixed my back, it became clear that my arm was not getting better. I got poor night's sleep, could not lift heavy objects, or even things like the kettle had to be lifted using my left hand.

To cut a long story short, I had tennis elbow. After a brief spell last week when it was getting better, I did it again on my trip to Germany last week, and so there was no other choice than to get professional help. There is a clinic between here and Martin Mill, so at eight I drove down the hill, and the physio then pummelled my fore-arm for an hour. Oh my word, it hurt, but sometimes that is what is required. So, lets hope that fixes it.

After than, I drove to the office, across fields that had a dusting of snow still. It was half ten before I reached the office, and another quarter hour before I was able to sit down to work after catching up with friends.

I battled with the evil that is the Citrix gateway, trying to clear my travel expenses, but Citrix won, meaning it would be at least three days before I could clear them. Oh well. And just as I reaslised that was the case, the techs came in from work, meaning I lost my desk, so I had little choice other than to pack my stuff up and head for home.

Once again the fields were white from snow and frost, but the roads were clear enough, so the drive was undramatic. At six I went to collect Jools from the bus station, and so ended another working day. By the time we sat down to Scotch Eggs for dinner, it was seven, and the evening seemed already mostly spent. Where does the time go?

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Tuesday 20th January

Sunday.

Sunday was one of those days when it wasn't quite cold enough for snow, not quite wet enough to make the rain interesting, not windy enough to make it worthwhile to go down to the beach, or any sun. It was a day for watching MOTD, eating bacon butties, and cooking bread. Chilli seeded bread. Lovely.

After lunch, the BBC had promised the rain would stop, it almost had so we went into Deal for a walk along the promenade, a chance to get some fresh air into our lungs and for me to take some photos. Its what I do.

Sunday afternoon walk along The Strand in Deal and Walmer

We parked up by the pier, wrapped up warm, and wandered along the prom, past the pier, the beach, the fishing boats, the castle, more beach, more fishing boats, until we came to the lifeboat station, which meant we were now in Walmer. So, where does Deal end and Walmer starts? A hard one; the castle is clearly Deal, but in the half mile towards the lifeboat station there must be where the boundary is.

Sunday afternoon walk along The Strand in Deal and Walmer

Having reached our target on the lifeboat station, we turned round into the wind and light drizzle, and made our way back towards the car. We were getting cold down to our bones, but it had been worth getting out, stretching our legs. I now, however, fancied a pint. Of beer. So, I had an idea, go to Finglesham where there should be a fine pub.

Sunday afternoon walk along The Strand in Deal and Walmer

The area behind Deal and Walmer is home to many small villages and hamlets, and there is a network of small lanes criss-crossing the downs, and finding on lane that took us to where I thought Finglesham was harder than I thought. We consulted the map, put ourselves right and headed more towards Sandwich. And there were the signs, and there was the pub: open, lights shining golden in the fading light. Inside I have a pint of ruby bitter and Jools has half a cider. The Crown is a fine place, the food smells excellent. We will return with empty stomachs after pay day.

Sunday afternoon walk along The Strand in Deal and Walmer

Back home, it is now dark, feeding time for the cats, and time for a snooze on the sofa whilst another game plays out on the radio.

The day winds down, we put on a radio show, have hand-made sausage rolls for dinner. And it is time for bed. Where did the weekend go? Well I lost 33% of it travelling.

Monday, 19 January 2015

Monday 19th January 2015

Saturday.

As we drove back along the M25, we struggled to see whilst driving into the rising sun. Or at least Jools did, I just closed my eyes, but the early start for her meant that she was feeling sleepy, so we decided to stop off at Maidstone services for a coffee and change drivers. Or me take over possession of the keys. We go to Costa and see they have giant Jaffa Cakes for sale. Hmm, we were not really hungry, but giant Jaffa Cakes, made with Belgian chocolate and looking so nice. We broke and ordered two with our huge coffees and so found an empty seat where we could enjoy the cake and coffee whilst some gentle people watching was carried out.

When we came out of the services, there was a young French couple trying to hitch to Ashford and then on to Hamstreet out on the Marsh. I said we could not do it, but had second thoughts as we had all day, and a drive over the marshes would be pleasant. So we called them over, cleared the back seat and consulted the Kent A-Z. Turns out they were actors, travelling down from London to put on a show at the Primary School. So, as we drove, we swapped stories, and they seemed interested in wind turbines. How polite.

So down the motorway to Ashford, then off across the marshes towards Brenzett, turning off to Hamstreet, and when we arrived at the school, a teacher was already striding over to welcome the actors. Horah, good deed for the day done.

We drove home back along the road that winds its way through picturesque villages with wonderful churches: Ruckinge, Bilsington, Bonnington and onto Lympne. Then it was a quick blast up the motorway to Folkestone, up Shakespeare Cliff and down into Dover, along Townwall Street, up Jubilee Way and home. Phew. I had been up since two forty five, UK time, now it was just after midday, and I was shattered. I still had some mails to send, update the inspection plan. And that was it.

Jools left me to the radio and the sofa as she went out to meet a friend for lunch, I made do with cheese and crackers and a cup of coffee. I had the football on the radio, but the sofa soon called. So I answered it, and snoozed away. Jools had had an almost long day as me, so when she returned home, she took to bed for a snooze too, whilst I tried to keep track of Norwich on the radio. We were 3-0 up at half time, and cruising, but a lack on concentration let Cardiff back in it, and we hung on to win 3-2, but best the new manager sees the best and worst to find out what the real situation is.

Needless to say, once it got dark, our eyes got heavier and heavier, and it was no surprise when we gave in to the call of the bed at half eight, and so the long day was over.

Nan is still in the old home, and will not be moved. She was assessed last week, and the medical opinion is she is too frail to be moved, even if they thought that it might help. The council did have some ideas how to improve things, cutting down on her meds for one, and that is now having effect as she is sleeping better. The are trying to find out what has been causing her hallucinations. She has been more lucid, and even in fairly good spirits as the week went on.