Thursday, 28 April 2016

Thursday 28th April 2016

I have been wanting to say this for some time, but we are going to Japan next week! Eeek, how darned exciting does that sound? I just hope we are prepared for all we want to do; today I received the opportunity from British Airways to choose my inflight meal on the flight out. Which was nice. Now we are nearly at the departure date, anything we have forgotten is too late now. Maybe just buy a new pair of shoes or trainers and I'll be done. Now that I've got the lens of course. And so, just two more working days to go; yes it really is that close, and it will be time to go. Before hand, there is a three day weekend, hopefully some fine weather and time for orchid hunting and a barnet mangle. I have given up on City staying up, if they do win the two or three games needed, it'll be luck that there were two worse teams in the division. But, onwards and upwards....

Wednesday

After the long drive into Ramsgate yesterday, well long in time if not distance, it seems a luxury to be able to wave Jools off to work at seven and pop the kettle on for more coffee and breakfast before the stress of the working day begins. Despite being sunny, it is cold out there, in fact there has been frosts all week, and during the day it fails to be break above 10 degrees, but the sunshine is bright, and in the house it is lovely and warm.

Spring Morning I have a mammoth task, turning out a document for a new project, and making sure it is in a usable state by the end of the week, so with a strong cup of coffee and silence in the house I get to work, and only stoppingfor dinner and answering phone calls, I work through until four, at which point I have the bare bones of what I need. Phew, that was a long hard day of concentrating, but worth it, and so I thought I deserved a small beer before I begin to prepare dinner. There is a bottle of the Leffe 9% rocket fuel; oh well, can't hurt. Only I have to cut a couple of chicken breasts in half, which after just a small bottle of the Leffe requires some more concentration.

Heads Storm clouds gather outside, and soon sleep and hail are falling, bringing the cats rushing in. Is it dinner time they ask?

We have breaded chicken and Lentil Dahl, which is lovely, and requires a certain kind of beer to go with it; a bottle of Esbjerg Brewed smoked stout, which isn't bad, more like a porter, but the smoke flavour seems very artificial compared to the Mikkler I had a few weeks back in Arhus.

Stormy I find out there is free to air football on TV, Athletico v Bayern, and is a great game with the home side winning 1-0. Even better as it was free too.

And so ends another day, time is running out before the fun really starts!

Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Wednesday 28th April 2016

Monday

Interview day, as I have previously blogged, but also it was back to work day, working from home day, and all things generally returning to normal after three weeks of traveling. Of course, traveling is now generally the norm, and working from home the exception, but hey.

Foolishly, a few weeks back, I promised few weeks back to provide some rather important documents to my boss at the end of this week, so, I had better make good on that promise and get started. I arrange meetings, get templates and begin work, and through the day, inbetween breaks for breakfast, mid-morning coffee, elevenses, lunch, brunch, afternoon tea, high tea I get it done until I have what is an OK first draft. That leaves me with four days to complete the other document.

All through the day I am helped by the cats, who check up whether I will maybe give them an extra meal. Or two.

The afternoon is full of meetings, the final one finishing just before my friend Gary comes round, he is here to snap the scenes behind the video camera. And you can read all about that in the post from yesterday, below. Once they had gone, and I bid them farewell into the taxi, Jools had just returned home all full of questions asking how it all went. I tied to answer, but I suppose my head was a bit scrambled; what better way to help than to feat on leftover pasta salad and aubergine? None whatsoever. I have a bottle of beer from the Farno Brewhouse in Denmark, which I have to say goes down very well indeed.

It comes as no surprise to learn that there was football that evening on the wireless, Tottenham v the Baggies, and all Spurs had to do was win to keep up the pressure on Leicester. And, in the first half it was going wekk, 1-0 up, playing well, hitting the woodwork 3 times. But after the break, they lost their way and conceded midway through the half, and could have lost the game. It ended 1-1, and so leaves Leicester needing just one more win from their last 3 games to claim the title. Incredible stuff.

Tuesday

On Monday I had a problem updating my work laptop, which could only be fixed by going to the nearest offices, in Ramsgate, plugging into the network then updating. The update would take 2 minutes, but in order to be able to do this caused great disruption. Mainly for jools who had to either be taken into work and collected, catch a bus either way, or a combination of both. In the end I said I would take her into work, then in the evening she would catch a bus to Dover and I would pick her up.

Sounds easy, but we had to be up early and out of the house by half six, driving along Townwall Street was fine as there was no ferry in at the time, and the roadworks where the roundabout is being taken away from was no problems either. So it should have all been plain sailing. Or driving. And was until we came to the Roundhill Tunnels, where there had been a major accident and the road was closed, meaning we had to file onto the exit lane, go round the roundabout and get back on the road. This took the best part of 20 minutes, so was running a little behind, but once onto the A20 then on the back road to Hythe it was fine.

Coming back was OK, I picked up my work bag from home and thought a drive through Deal would be OK. And was until I got past Shouldham where I was in a massive line of cars stuck behind a roadsweeping truck, traveling at 5mph. That took another 20 minutes to get past, and by then it was rush hour at Ramsgate where the road divides to go up to Westwood Cross, stuck in more traffic there until I could turn off through the tunnel to the old ferry terminal and the office. Once I got past the roadworks along the seawall where they are laying a new sewer; another 5 minutes lost there.

I forgot how pleasant to commute to Ramsgate could be, through the Kentish countryside, fields alive with colour and the air thick with the smell of wild garlic as I went past Waldershare. What I don't miss is the crazy driving and chaos on the Sandwich bypass. However, I have the radio on, and all is well with the world.

Early Spider Orchid Ophrys sphegodes Once into the office, and after the usual pleasantries after meeting friends and colleagues for the first time in many months, I powered up the laptop, changed the password, and was done. But I had other stuff I could do, and with the late arrival meant waiting until I had had a meeting before I could drive back home. This time getting stuck behind a tractor and stretching out the return trip to nearly an hour too.

Back home I have lunch, survey the back garden as the frits are beginning to fade now, but away from the south side look fine still.

Meetings, meetings, meetings. In the afternoon. It clouds over and looks like rain. So much so it does rain. Nearby, Faceache updates tell me its snowing in Dover, which is where it should stay. If you ask me.

I go to pick up Jools at six, then we drive home via the cliffs as the clouds had parted and allowed some late afternoon sunshine, highligting the storm clouds over France, though in drops of sunlight we could see the cliffs clearly.

Chorizo hash with Danish smoked stout to wash it down with, was a fine dinner, as we were both darned hungry. And then there was the small matter of the CL semi final between Citeh and Real; which was a borefest, so much so I went for a shower twenty minutes before half time. I missed nothing as the game ended in a 0-0 draw. Oh well.

Tuesday, 26 April 2016

27 years and 11 days

That is all it took to get something approaching justice. Justice for the families of 96 people who went to a football match on a sunny spring day in April 1989.

Just about everyone who should have looked after them, or when that failed, investigated what went wrong so that it would not happen again, or look after the sick and dying, either was useless, poorly lead or just lies and lies and kept on lying about it for nearly a quarter of a century.

THe police lied about the opening of a gate, blaming it on drunken fans, when an office ordered it to be open. A lie was made up about drunken fans stealing from the dead, urinating on the bodies and the police. The lie was repeated, and retold by newspapers, even though it soon became clear that wasn't The Truth. It took one paper until 2012 to admit The Lie, although they re-employed the editor who insisted The Lie was published. The coroner at the original inquest decided that all fans would die after 15:16 and so listened to no evidence after that point, missing evidence that better first aid could have saved many of the fans. The ambulance service were so poorly lead, that dozens of vehicles were lined up outside, whilst inside fans died. The ground had not had a valid safety certificate since 1980, and yet had staged not just league games, but cup games through the decade. Even the Prime Minister guessed the truth, but did nothing. Her press secretary insulted fan's groups, and today still refused to withdraw his remarks. An independent investigation by another police force failed to find anything wrong, but by then many note books had been tampered and officers who had been on duty pressured to change their statements. And all the time the fans were blamed for their own deaths, and their grieving families accused of self pity.

It took Andy Burnham, attending the 20th anniversary service at Anfield to hear the fan's anger that finally persuaded him to launch an inquiry. The Independent Panel reported in 2012, and made several recommendations, including annulling the inquests of all the 96. So for the last two years, in a business park in Warrington, inquests into the 96 deaths were re-held; and witnesses spoke on oath, and the cover up was revealed in detail.

Despite all the above, it is unlikely that anyone will face criminal charges for what happened, senior police officers who either took part that day, or in the cover up in the days, weeks and years afterwards, have MBEs and knighthoods and expensive pensions, living in their mansions, affected not one jot by what happened today.

But there has been closure for the families. And 96 ghosts can sleep untroubled, cleared of their own deaths, having been victims of the largest criminal cover up in modern times, maybe in history. And all down to the hard work and dignity of the families, so of which did not live themselves to see justice. The country should be ashamed. The police should be ashamed. The Sun should be ashamed. The Ambulance Service should be ashamed.

In the end it could have happened to the fans of any club; I was att he other semi-final, had the draw gone the other way, could have been us. Could have been us at any time.

Tuesday 26th April 2016

Monday

Interview day.

Those of you who read my words on a regular basis will know that via a series of unfortunate events, I was approached by the BBC to be interviewed about being a music geek. In particular the charts I used to write and keep during most of the 1980s. The question really was, why did we do it. I say we as it was my friend, Trevor's, idea. Initially it was frustration at the rubbish in the chart, but then for me it was a way to find new music and I think keep track of it. Back in 1980, I was 14 going on 15 and could barely afford to buy one single a week, let alone albums, so instead of buying stuff, I kept my charts, recorded songs of the radio, marked the start point from the tape counter on my music system, and come Tuesday night, pretend I was a DJ on my own radio station, doing the chart rundown.

My inner music geek Chartbound sounds, if you will.

So, I talked about what it is now; a window into my music tastes on a week by week basis, and for me that is really invaluable to me; seeing whnI switched from just liking music to switching to Heavey Metal, and then to what was called electropop, Soft Cell, Depeche Mode and so on. For the researcher, it was a look into the music tribes of the day; mods, rockers, indie kids, metal heads, punks, skins, soul boys and straights. Because, even if you didnt fall into one of the music tribes, one was created for you anyway; straights.

Being miked up I recalled how we went to Youth Club on a Tuesday night, 50p for two hours of music; 90 minutes of disco and soul, twenty minutes of ska and Two Tone and two heavy rock records; almost always Paranoid and Whole Lotta Rosie. A few of us also used to go to the Caroline Roadshow at the South Pier too, but that got boring too, and as a group we grew out of it, and were blessed with new albums by Echo and the Bunnymen, The Cure, New Order, Depeche Mode, Soft Cell, Heaven 17, Human League, Altered Images, and so on and on and on. We were, in a word, spoilt for choice.

The interview The I was asked to read out charts from through 1980, showing how my tastes changed from month to month, which it did very clearly. From the start in March I was into all sorts of music including The Specials, The Jam, Blondie; but by July it was half filled with metal from the Tommy Vance Show.

I was interviewed by a young lady, Zoe, who was both the researcher and camerawoman; I was filmed taking the chart book off the shelf, then going to sit down before talking about the charts. Zoe also had a PA, whose name I have forgotten in all the excitement.

Run VT In all, it went on for three hours, and we covered what it was like growing up in Lowestoft, a hundred miles and a hundred light years from the bright lights of London; how hard it was to get records, see bands and even hear the songs we wanted, only thanks to John Peel of course.

It will be broadcast in late September or early October, and I await the results with trepidation.

Monday, 25 April 2016

Monday 25th April 2016

The day of the interview.

But I think you'll have to wait until tomorrow for news of that!

Its what we bloggers call a cliffhanger.

Sunday

The ongoing repairs to the sea wall at Shakespeare Cliffe, Dover And being the weekend, the BBC soothsayer did foretell that the heavens shall open and a torrent of ye cats and doges shall fall. Or would do nearer luncheon time.

Now, I can't really remember what I did for the morning, but it probably concerned listening to Prince-based radio shows, writing blog posts, editing shots. Outside the clouds cleared, and the sun did shine. So, I gathered up my camera gear and went out in the car, whilst Jools tended the garden. I had a date with a cliff path overlooking the sea wall to record the latest work, and then maybe go to check on the orchids at the Hoe.

The ongoing repairs to the sea wall at Shakespeare Cliffe, Dover I drive through the town to Aycliffe, through a heavy shower that quickly turned into bright sunshine, but then I suppose it is April after all.

Up on the cliff path, I saw at least three cranes, a piling machine and several new piles; you could get some ointment for those you know. As I walked back, the sun came out and the view is fantastic, with the path in the foreground and the view over Shakespeare Beach in the background and the harbour and white cliffs right at the back. Good here, innit?

Early Spider Orchid Ophrys sphegodes A quick drive up the A20 to the slip road to Samphire and orchid heaven.

Indeed there were few nearer the car park than in previous years, and further along they were even more numerous. I met a couple of snappers from Sussex, and showed them where the main part of the colony was, and the very nice variant I found; they seemed very pleased, as was I. I had thought about driving from there back to Kingsdown, but as I looked the clouds seemed to thicken, so I made for home via the cliff road from the castle, reveling in the views from the top over the Channel to France.

Early Spider Orchid Ophrys sphegodes Back home we have lunch, more pan fried asparagus and crusty bread, and all is well with the world.

There is football in the afternoon on the radio, Leicester thrashed Swansea to move even closer to the title, and all was even better with the world, at least that part which is forever Leicester.

Early Spider Orchid var. flavescens Ophrys sphegodes Pasta salad and, yes, pan fried breaded aubergine for dinner. Lovely and light, and I hope some of you have now tried this delight since I put the recipe up.

Sunday, 24 April 2016

Sunday 24th April 2016

Saturday

St George's Day

400th Anniversary of William Shakespeare's death

FA Cup semi-final weekend

weekend!

And the weekend comes round once again! Hurrah! Bob over the road is up early at seven to put of the flag of St George to celebrate St George's Day, whilst after coffee I went to Tesco for some essentials. And croissants. And inside I found some nice looking English asparagus which I decided would be just splendid for lunch, fried lightly in butter.

Back home and Jools decides that the idea of driving round the county looking for orchids wasn't for her, so I could go on me tod. So, after more coffee and croissants, I loaded my camera, three lenses and loaded the car.

First port of call was Kingsdown to check on the small colony of Early Spiders, and thankfully, there was one (almost) flowering spikes, with two showing, although not fully out. I am worried that this colony is shrinking, over 25 three years ago, and less than ten yesterday Some might be late in showing though, we shall see.

Early Spider Orchid Ophrys sphegodes From there it was a long drive to Barham, going via Deal, Sandwich, Wingham; crossing the country, mostly bathed in cool spring sunshine. Yes, cool, the wind was set in the north so that took the edge of the warmth of the day. Through Barham and over more fields and through woods to the bridleway and wood where I hoped to see more Early Purples.

Pink among the blue The clouds cleared as I walked up the bridleway, so when I came to the orchids I was able to snap them in their purple gloryness. There must have been 30 or more flowering spikes, a good show for this time in the season, but sure there will be more to come in the coming weeks. There were no signs of the rarer colour variations; the pale pink and the pure white var. alba. But the bluebells stretched as far as the eye could see, looking just wonderful in the dappled sunshine.

The light wan't due to last much beyond midday, but I thought I would give Yocklets a go, as it was just a short blast down Stone Street from Canterbury.

Early Purple Orchid Orchis mascula I got the parking space at the side of the reserve, which means a shorter walk than usual, and at first checked on the Lady Orchid copse, which had been cleared over the winter, revealing two massive Lady rosettes, which in a couple of weeks would look fine in the unbroken sunshine now the copse had been cleared.

Along the lower path to the main part of the reserve, and so begun the annual hunt for the first Fly; Fly Orchids being so small are easy to miss, especially when they are just spikes, lost among other woodland plants. But there was one I remembered which is always the first to show, and rows in the open. So, I make for that, but I meet a fellow photographer on the way, and we have a fine chat about orchids and nature in general as I look for the elusive Fly.

Fly Orchid Ophrys insectifera I do find the spike where I remembered; its leaves had been nibbled, but the spike was untouched, and should be in flower within a week. Maybe I will have time to go back. Or not.

I show the guy where the Sloe Worms could be found, and we were rewarded with three of them, all pretty shocked at their home having been invaded. We both took shots and let them be.

Slow Worm Anguis fragilis I bid Malcolm farewell, and walked back to the car, and with the sun just past midday, I drove home via the A1 for fine lunch of fresh asparagus and some crusty bread smothered in creamy butter. And yes, it was as fine as it sounds. Lovely stuff.

With Norwich not playing this week, it was a fairly calm afternoon listening to the Prem on the radio, especially when Liverpool took a 2-0 lead over Newcastle, but in the 2nd half, Toon came back and really should have won the game. So, the three teams are split by just one point and goal difference.

Later, Man Utd played Everton in the Cup, and in a surprisingly good game, Utd nicked it in injury time, with something like the 40th shot on goal winning it.

After dinner we watch a Billy Fury documentary; he was my Mum's favourite, and was an interesting story, and a window into the world in Britain before The Beatles arrived and rewrote the rule book.

Saturday, 23 April 2016

Saturday 23rd April 2016

Friday

My original travel plans for the week had included a very late return to Heathrow; from there I would have to have got to central London then to Kent. At least a two hour trip, if not nearer three, meaning I would get home at midnight. So Jools decided it would be better to come and pick me up, and we would be home in 90 minutes. And then the meeting on Thursday got cancelled, and so changed my travel, hence I was home by teatime.

In order to be able to pick me up, she had booked a day off on Friday, and with it being a day off in DK, and having caught up with work, we might go out during the day, doing "stuff".

I woke up with Scully asleep on my feet, as is the usual way when am at home, it was twenty to seven, and there was brightness creeping round the edge of the curtains. I stretch then get up to feed the cats and make coffee. Soon the smell of brewing coffee spread through the house; it is a fine way to start the day, topping up the espresso with hot water. Jools has her instant coffee, that me being a coffee snob, shidders to make, but as she likes it like that, then who am I to argue?

I check mails, fire off some replies and update some project documents. In an hour I am done, and we then have to nip into Canterbury. It has come to pass that my photography has outgrown the EF-S format and in particular the Sigma 10-20mm lens. What with the trip to Japan coming up, I don't really want to lig two lenses around, so the thought was of trading in the camera and lens for a full frame wide angle zoom. Canterbury Cameras had what I wanted, and with Jools wanting to nip into the city centre, it gave me time to buy the lens, if it was still there of course.

Lens We drive up the A2 to the city, park near St Augustine's Abbey, and from there it a short walk to the shop. I had been in communication with the shop during the week, so when I walk in the shop and ask about the lens, they say, "Are you Ian?". I am indeed. I try the lens, it is sharp as a razor blade, so I put it on my credit card and the lens is mine.

Test shot I go to wait in the car, and switch Radio 6 on as they are playing Prince tunes all day, and it is great stuff, even if the reason for them playing is not.

We are both hungry, it is nudging half eleven, which means it was nearly lunchtime, so the next question was where to eat? I had thought either Whickhambreaux or Ickham, and as there was no parking to be had at the former, the Duke William in Ickham it was.

There is a good menu: Jools chooses fish pie and I decide in fish and chips. Every time O have that, I think of a certain former Olympic Cyclist on the other side of the world, thinking he would love to be here waiting for lunch. Indeed, when it arrives, the fish is pure white showing how fresh it is, and the batter is so golden, so crispy; perfect. I sup a pint of Ripple Steam whilst I eat, then am tempted to have rhubarb and cold custard compote, which was very bitter-sweet, and perfect.

We drive home so I can check on work mails once more, then try the lens out at home, but I really need to go somewhere church-like to really put it through its paces.

I put my old Sigma lens and the 50D for sale, and right away have someone asking about it. We agree a fee and he will come by at seven to pick it up and pay me! No going back now. So, we make the deal.

On the radio, wall to wall Prince tunes plays on. What a dreadful year this has been for good talented people to be taken from us, why not the odd dictator or FIFA Official instead?

The bloke comes round at just before seven; tries the lens, is very happy and gives me a was of notes in exchange. Deal done.

The day fades out to dusk outside and a steady rain begins to fall. I have hope of sunshine in the morning so I can go orchid hunting, but we shall see. There is a good documentary on the Everly Brothers after The Don, but Jools eyes cannot stay open, so she takes to her bed at half nine. I am tempted by a Prince documentary after that, so am heading for bed late at quarter to eleven. But it is the weekend. So, hey!