Saturday, 19 April 2014

Saturday 19th April 2014

Good Friday.

In another life, I was what were called back then, a hairy-arsed armourer in the Air Force. Like most people we were supposed to conform to a certain pattern in that we were supposed to be heavy drinkers. I mean real heavy drinkers. I have always been a lightweight, and normally bailed after 5 pints and would find my way back to my bed. Since leaving the mob, I have drunk less, which also means no hangovers, and more money in my wallet come the mornings.

Even still, I like a beer festival as much as the next man, or woman, and as a friend from Flickr was travelling down to Kent for the Planet Thanet festival, plans had been made for me to meet up with him. However, with the orchid season beginning so very early, I decided to go orchid hunting instead. My liver cheered.

Early Purple Orchid, Orchis mascula

So, after breakfast, and checking that my batteries were charged, that the memory cards were all in the cameras. And away we go!

We took the sat nav, as the first of the sites is tricky to find. But after getting the right turning off the main road, we soon remember the way, heading down the narrowest of lanes, which was still strewn with rocks and flints from the heavy rains during the winter. We head along the bottom of the valley, and halfway back up to the parking place. And here we are again.

Early Purple Orchid, Orchis mascula

I take just the 6D and my new lens and pack the 50mm in my coat pocket in case I want to snap some general landscape shots.

The view from the meadow

And here we are, rambling through a Kentish wood in the spring sunshine, the air thick with the songs of dozens of happy birds. All is well with the world. Up and up we go until we come to the clearing, a few Twayblade spikes could be seen, but the view to the farm on the hill opposite was wonderful.

Early Purple Orchid, Orchis mascula

On we went, now slowing down and bent double as we search for the Fly Orchids. We spot none, but soon as the path heads down again, and the sunlight rains through the canopy of trees, we see dozens of the finest Early Purples. They look fantastic, and so we stop to snap them before we turn to head back to the car.

Fly Orchid Ophrys insectifera

It was then that I spotted the first of the Fly Orchids. Tiny, looking like a piece of grass, but with the hint of purple as the bloom began to open. As it is next to the path, I was able to get down to get a shot. On the other side of the path we see a few more examples, none as far advanced as the first though.

We arrive back at the car, consult with the map and decide it is easier(!) to head cross-country than to find our way back to the main road. However, not all roads are signposted, so this is a bit of a gamble, and yet it not being ten in the morning, we had all day to find our way.

We pass through pretty villages, and fine looking churches; one I did not recognise, until we parked outside, and then, yes, we have been here before. We drive on.

And through woods and across fields until we came to the unusual named road, and there is the parking place; just one other car there. We would have the place almost to ourselves.

I choose just to take my 6D and the new lens, and off we go. Its about a 15 minute walk to the orchid site, but it is splendid through the wood with bluebells stretching as far as the eye can see on both sides. The sun breaks through the clouds and the colours are breathtaking. I then see some movement out of the corner of my eye, and about 50 yards away is a buck deer, just watching us. i raise my camera, which just has the 150mm on, and fire off a shot before the sound spooks the deer and it bounds off with another which had been hidden. We watch them for the next 5 minutes as they go further up the slope and into the wood, but all the time keeping an eye on us.

The deer and the bluebells

We enter the conservation area and straight away there are two Early Purples on either side of the path. I snap one which was easy to get to before we move on. Our target this time was Lady Orchids and the rare duke of Burgundy butterfly. In the end none of the Ladys were out, although some we close, and despite the ground being covered with the Duke's foodplant, the air was empty. We'll have to come back in a week or so.

Although it is nearly opening time, we decide to head home for lunch, as we have a full larder. And I have a batch of fresh saffron buns to munch through too. Green Winged Orchid Orchis morio

In the afternoon I head over to Sandwich Bay to see the Green-winged Orchids. They do grow there, but are not as numerous as further north in the county, and it will be to that meadow we will head to maybe in a couple of weeks time. Anyway, I head along the Golf Road to the Bay, thus avoiding the entry charge. And I also had forgotten my jacket, which mean it felt bitterly cold in the stiff breeze.

Life sized

The easiest part of looking for something is knowing where to start, and as i remembered from last year's orchid safari, I park up along the beach, head through the gap in the fence, and about ten yards in on the right are about a dozen orchids. Most are stunted, but a couple are a foot or so high. I get the shots i wanted and head back, via the Rack of Ale, as I was a bit thirsty.

Once back home, I look through the shots i had taken, edit some and listen to the radio. A fine end to the day. Once darkness falls, we put the badger food outside and settle down for a weekly dose of the Don and HIGNFY. A fine end to the day.

Thursday, 17 April 2014

Thursday 17th April 2014

And so, lots to tell you about. But for now we shall stick to the tried and tested formula.

Wednesday.

After being assured by IT that the VPN problems had been sorted, i decide to work from home,mainly so Jools can have the car so she can attend another interview, this time near Canterbury. Just to make sure, I try to long in so she could take me to the office in case it didn't work. But, what do you know, it went fine.

So, at eight fifteen,I waved jools off in her best interview gear and i got down to work. The morning passes with meetings and phone calls and me starting another wonderful Excel spreadsheet, because after all, its just what the world needs.

Outside it is sunny but cool again with the wind in the north east, and i fight the urge to put the heating on and try to drink tea or coffee to keep warm.

At half twelve, Julie comes back with the news that the interview went well, she thinks. And as we're both hungry, we decide to head out for lunch. I had decided that we try The Plough at Ripple, as I heard that that was where the Ripple steam brewery have their tap, and the beer should be especially good. It is only a ten minute drive along to Walmer, left at the car wash, down Cold Blow Lane, over the crossroads and follow the road through the fields.

In the middle of the road

And there we are.

The Plough Inn, Ripple, Walmer, Kent

I order a pint of Steam beer to find myself standing next to the head brewer and he offers me a tour round the brewery any time I want. Which is nice. We chat and swap numbers, whether anything will come of it, I don't know. We look at the menu and decide its nice enough to stay for lunch, and we both have garlic tiger prawns which I follow with chilli and Jools had lamb shank.

The Plough Inn, Ripple, Walmer, Kent

Time enough on the way home for a call in at St Mary the Virgin, the tiny parish church in Ripple, but it is locked fast, which is a shame.

The afternoon passes onto evening. I climb onto the cross trainer and do half an hour, which I am happy about. I am really feeling the effect, in a good way of the workouts, and I just need the weight to come off my belly and all will be right with the world.

Thursday.

Another day working from home, and more IT chaos. See, I can't help it, but there you are. I try to log on with the VPN to find my licence had expired. As our fancy new communicator was working, I speak to Steffen in Esbjerg to find it is the same for the whole company. Anyway, I have stuff to be getting on with, and while to morning away writing mails and finishing the spreadsheet.

Jools comes back from her doctor and i cook lunch, as I plan to bake saffron buns in the afternoon, so we eat a proper meal at lunchtime. Proper chicken Kievs, very nice indeed. I mix the dough, give it a good bashing and then leave it to prove for three hours through the afternoon.

Jools heads off at two for another appointment with an agency, and I switch the computer off as nothing is working, still, and everyone else seems to have logged off for the weekend. Happy Easter.

Sigma 150mm f2.8 EX DG OS

I have to wait in as I am waiting for a delivery; another new lens. This time a new macro lens for the full frame camera. And it arrives just before four, just as the sun goes behind a cloud never to return for the rest of the day. I take a few shots anyway.

Test shots

Jools arrives home just as the first batch of buns are ready, so it seems only right that we try one each. And they were OK. I mean they were nice buns, but due to the high cost of saffron, and the fact the pack i bought for four quid had only about a dozen strands in it, which means you could hardly taste the saffron.

Test shots

As we eat the buns, the phone rings and its one of the agencies that Jools has registered: the company she went to the interview with on wednesday offered her the three month contract and she starts on Tuesday.

Happy Easter!

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Wednesday 16th April 2014

Monday.

Deep breath!

Back to work. And I have to head into the office in Ramsgate to work, thanks to the ongoing IT chaos. I promise I will say no more, but as it stood, I could not work from home, so go into the office and spend hours on the phone to IT explaining what the problem was. On top of that, having to re-discover where everything is hidden again. Still, makes life interesting.

I have taken to having coffee breaks every 90 minutes or so, as the walk down the stairs and standing in the sunshine does me and my legs good.

I get home and straight away have a migraine. Now, I am very lucky in that i just get the 'aura' which messes with my vision, and I know that if I sit in the shade with my eyes closed it passes. But this was a strong one and once it passed I felt washed out, like i hadn't slept in a week. Just as well that it was my rest day from the cross-trainer. And it came as no surprise that by eight i was shattered and took to bed.

Tuesday.

And here we are heading to work again, feeling like I hadn't slept in a week. Isn't it about time I had some time off? Anyway, it being nearly Easter, I am told that in Denmark people have until the end of the month to use up last year's allocation of holiday or lose it. Which is why there is hardly anyone in work in Arhus. So, I do work, answer e mails and listen to radio and drink coffee and help fix the guys computers, or at least give them advice. Have you switched it off and on again? The old ones are always the best......

On the way home, I have to take a diversion due to subsidence and I pass by a church with a welcoming sign in its doorway: 'church open.' It says. Hmmm, I have my cameras in the back, so I find somewhere to park and go in to find a perfectly formed church from the peak of Victorian gothic design. I won't name the church as its the subject of a GWUK on Flickr. So, let me say its a church I have been wanting to get into for a while, and I did. Result. So, another one off the list.

Back home Jools has is still waiting to hear about the job, and has another interview on Wednesday, so, its all happening. Lets hope that someone spots her potential. I mean, its not hard to miss is it?

Despite it being gloriously sunny, the wind is in the north and so it feels cold outside, even in the sunshine, so we forgo the evening walk and I take to the cross-trainer instead and pup some lard, and feel all the better for it. We have steak and ale pie for dinner, which seems too much as we have been cutting back on our meals for a while, but as most of it was fresh vegetables, it was good stuff. I did make 3/4 of a bottle of red wine disappear, which was very nice indeed, and meant I could doze whilst listening to the football in the evening.....

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

25 years too long

I am a Norwich fan, and have been since November 1972, and in those years I have seen a lot of thick and thin. Mostly thin.

Which is why is it very hard to imagine that 25 years ago, we were going for a league and cup double. Really. In fact, both would fail at Villa Park, the league crumbled with a 5-0 Easter Monday televised game. And the cup, well, that didn’t really matter in the end.

What I remember most is the sunshine, and being so full of hope and expectation. Dad and I travelled down from Norfolk on a coach, and i had borrowed one of those Sinclair portable tVs for the day so I could watch Saint and Greavsie from the M6. No such luck, never got a picture with it. So I stuck to my little transistor radio.

We arrived at Villa Park at about half two, and made our way to The Holte End. Once inside I saw in one of the dark passages a guy selling programs from both semi finals, I bought one each. And tucked my t shirt into my jeans and dropped the programs down my shirt and we made our way to the terrace.

Us and Everton shared the Holte End, half each, but what Dad and I found was something like a war zone, with the West Midlands police having a go at some norwich fans, who may have had a drink or two. We just wanted to see the game so we walked right to the back of the stand.

The match kicked off in bright sunshine, and we were so excited, but I noticed a message soon enough on the scoreboard at the other end of the pitch that play had been suspended in the Semi.

I turned on my radio and held it to my ear; Radio 2 would relay to me the tragedy unfolding. It became clear that there had been deaths, and the game in front of me faded into insignificance. I tried to tell those around me, but they did not believe me.

By half time dozens were dead, so said the radio, and we were one nil down. That did not matter. I just wanted the game to end. It did, and we lost, and on the coach we listened as the deaths were described. Dad never went to another game away from Carrow Road.

I had been at three games before then that I feared for my safety, but I don’t think I feared for my life. One, at Ipswich in 1985 was another semi-final, a League Cup, I preyed that we would not score as I feared being pushed into the barrier in front of me. Same at an FA cup 4th round game at the old Baseball Ground in about 1984. Another balmy spring day, a stand packed and I could lift my feet of the ground and not move. Finally, a last game of the season match at Grimsby prior to promotion in 1986. Too much drink and high spirits. Another prayer that we would not score. As many have said, Hillsborough could have happened to any of us, at any time. That made it all the more real. And still does.

Monday, 14 April 2014

Monday 14th April 2014

Sunday.

And now it seems that spring is here for keeps, then nature seems to be springing into life with more and more vigour. What with the Early Spider orchids more than 4 weeks ahead of what they were last year, which means that now is the time when every fine day or drop of sunshine should not be wasted and we must go out with cameras to record each and every moment of spring. During last week’s search for orchids in the Elham Valley I saw many bluebells out, and so what would be better than to head to Kings Wood to see the mother of all bluebells displays.

So we set off at half seven, driving up to Ashford and then up into the downs. We saw that lower down the bluebells were stunning, looking glorious in the dappled sunshine filtering down through the canopy of trees. But at the top, where the walks are, being higher up, the bluebells were not yet out. Very disappointing indeed. However, all was not lost. I knew there were bluebells at another site, but this one would have Early Purple Orchids too.

Early Purple Orchid, Orchis mascula

So, back up the motorway and across to the wood. I won’t mention the location here, as I have promised to keep the locations of orchids secret due to the fact many orchids have been dug up in recent years by stupid folk thinking they would look right dandy in their gardens, I guess. Either that or these are being sold. Whatever the reason, almost certainly the orchids would die away from the location and conditions that made them grow in that location in the first place.

Early Purple Orchid, Orchis mascula

So, we turned off the main road, and went up the narrow line to the top of the wood. Despite being only a few hundred yards from the main road, all was peaceful apart from the distant noise of the traffic. And we had the wood just about to ourselves, in an hour we saw just one other person, a local walking his dog. So, we grabbed our cameras and limboed under the gate and into the wood.

Early Purple Orchid, Orchis mascula

All around a carpet of bluebells looked glorious in the sunshine, with deeper shades of blue where shadows fell across them. I took a shot, then about 50 yards away I saw a flash of purple in a clearing I knew was there. Aha, an orchid. I marched off, and sure enough there was a single orchid, maybe 18 inches high reaching for the sky. In the shadows maybe a dozen more were already in bloom and just waiting for the afternoon when the sun would fall on them.

Meanwhile, in a Kentish wood

I took shots and then set off deeper into the woods where there were more orchids and many, many more bluebells. It was glorious, and as I said, no one else there. Down at the bottom of the wood I even found a couple of Lady Orchid spikes, one almost beginning to open a single flower. On the 13th of April, that is incredibly early.

On the way back to the car I stopped for ‘just one more orchid shot’ when some movement out of the corner of my eye attracted my attention. There, in a tree stump were at least three black and white kittens, playing in the sunshine in the bottom of a hollow tree stump. As I moved closer, they heard me, and along with a sandy coloured sibling they hid deep in the hollow of the stump. Looking up I saw their Mother looking nervous, so I backed away, leaving them alone. I showed Jools where they were, and on cue, a single kitten stuck its head out of one of the openings to see if the coast was clear. They’d do just fine.

Tree stump full o' kittens

We headed back home for lunch, just stopping off at the top of the downs near Dover to check on the Man Orchid site, but nothing showing there. These should be out at the same time as the Lady Orchids, which show how advanced the ones we saw earlier were.

Back home we had cold kebab for lunch, from the ones left over from Saturday evening’s dinner. And very nice they were cold, washed down by a nice cold bottle of beer. For the rest of the day I pottered about, did some baking, made and drunk big cups of tea and made sure the football was listened to. In the evening we started to watch Billy Connolly’s trip along Route 66. Hmm, that looks fun…….

And that was your weekend. At least next week its four day one. Be good.

Sunday, 13 April 2014

Sunday 13th April 2014

Friday.

working in the office.

Jools needed the car as she had an interview in the afternoon, and to be honest I could not afford to have another day without a connection to my work files.

So, after breakfast we headed to the office. And once there I had to wait for the technicians to leave for work offshore before I got a desk at which to work. Once I got one, work could begin. And for the most part, it worked pretty well, if complicated. But I won't linger on that here.

At three, my colleague was about to leave; could he drop me off at the station, I ask? Yes he could, but you have to leave now. OK, so I wrap up and switch the laptop off, and we head for the exit. I squeezed myself and my work bag into his Audi TT and we zipped off.

At the station, I get a ticket to Deal, and see that my train was due to leave from platform 3 in ten minutes or so. I walk through the subway, and onto the platform. And then there is that curious mix of the unemployed and those, like me, off for the weekend and clearly heading home after a shift. I wonder the stores behind those that seemingly don't work, but then that is none of my business.

We get on the train, I get a seat by a window and which has a table. And relax.

We glide off, trundling through the outskirts of Ramsgate and head over the fields to Minster where we take the sharp chord towards Richborough and Sandwich. We run out over the marshes, which hundreds of years ago was under water as it was part of the Wantsum Channel. Amazing to think. Past Richborough Fort and into Sandwich.

People get off, others get on. And away we go.

Over more marshes, now at least firm land now the flood waters have receded. At Deal I get off the train and then off the platform which leads me to the car park of Sainsbury's. Every station should have a taxi rank, surely? I see a taxi office some 50 yards away, and so wander over and ask for a cab to take me to the Berry. Let me say it was Jools' idea for me to make my way to the berry so she would come and collect me after her interview.

So, I go in and order a pint of vanilla porter, which was very much as nice as it sounds. I took the first sip and toasted the weekend, just in case it thought it wasn't welcome. I sent another one down after the first, so it wouldn't be lonely. And felt just peachy.

At five, Jools appeared and had a half a cider before we headed for home. Not going to say too much about the interview; its early days, and her first ever interview, but thinks it went well. We shall know next week.



Saturday.

The weekend has landed.

And I promise not a word about IT problems.

World of water

For the past two springs, we have been on a voyage of discovery, as far as orchids are concerned. We have turned up at locations, with little or no idea what we were looking for, only for someone to ask us what we were looking for, and helping us. Not just with orchids, but with butterflies too. And the opportunity to return that favour to someone else is always a thrill. And so as winter progressed people's thoughts turn to spring and colour and orchids. And so promises are made saying 'yes, I will take you to the orchid sites'. And so on.

Early Spider Orchid, Ophrys sphegodes

So, when I posted the first of the shots last week of the Early Spiders, someone asked if they could meet up. Why not? We plumped for Saturday morning and hoped the weather would play ball.

Early Spider Orchid, Ophrys sphegodes

Saturday morning was bright but breezy, but not overly so. So, lets go for it! However, we began the day with a short walk in order to check for Holly Blue Butterflies. The Holly Blue is the first of the blues to awake in the spring, and there is one place near here where I have seen at least one each year. It is a tad windier and cooler here than elsewhere in Kent and the southeast, and so we did not see anything blue butterfly shaped. In fact as we were so early, we saw no butterflies at all. But it was great back walking across the fields.

Early Spider Orchid, Ophrys sphegodes

We did not walk far, and soon we turned back for home and breakfast.

At half ten I headed out for the coast just south of Dover. As I have explained before, Samphire Hoe is an area of land at the base of the cliffs made from the spoil of the channel tunnel. And is the best location for Early Spider Orchids in the country.

apparently.

We went down the tunnel to the Hoe, and after parking up sat at a picnic bench to wait for Gillian to arrive. Making such arrangements without a mobile phone can be tricky, and hard for some to understand that we do not have a phone, but we manage, as we did yesterday, as Gillian turns up at five past and after introductions we head out for the orchids.

Early Spider Orchid, Ophrys sphegodes

Not much to say about the orchids or the photography. We found a plant, got down on our bellies, snapped it, checked our shots and then moved on. This went on to just before one when Jools and I took our leave as this had been the third trip here in a week.

Early Spider Orchid, Ophrys sphegodes

Back home for lunch, and then settle down for the football. At three, Norwich played at Fulham in a must win game for both teams. That City lost 1-0 means things are hard for us now. I won't labour on it too much, but i have though for many weeks now that we would go down, and now that seems even more certain.

I do a session on the cross-trainer before i cook kofte kebabs for dinner, washed down with beer. The good news is that there is enough to have cold for lunch tomorrow.

Yay.

Saturday, 12 April 2014

Saturday 12th April 2012

Thursday.

Working from home.

I thought, best give it a couple of days after the great iT switchover to try working from home, so as to be able to tell from those systems which had totally failed and those which could not make work through the VPN. As it turned out, I did not get that far as the VPN failed. Both VPNs failed, and so I was left to work with just webmail. Jools had the car, and so i had to just work out stuff as best I could.

Needless to say, apart from sending a few urgent mails, there was little else I could do.

The day passed. Slowly.

Once it got to half three I gave up and switched the computer off, headed upstairs to the cross-trainer and worked out my frustrations on that. I extended the workout once again and felt so much better at the end. Hoorah!

In the evening we sat down to watch the latest ad by the New Zealand tourist board, sorry Hobbit film. I allowed over three hours to watch the film, what with comfort breaks, coffee breaks and the suchlike. And very good it was too, but managing to stretch a book with about 200 pages into a 9 hour trilogy is really pushing it. At the end I worked out that the third film could be over in 10 minutes, as all there is left to tell is the destruction of Laketown, the death of Smaug, the Dwarfs heading back to the lonely mountain and Bilbo heading for home.

Do you think Peter Jackson could tell that in ten minutes? no, he likes a challenge, clearly. Anyway, the story was told well, and he is weaving an arc that will stretch over the six films which will make sense.

Anyway, weekend begins at four tomorrow....