Monday, 24 November 2014

Monday 24th November 2014

One month to Christmas

30 shopping days until Christmas.

Just so you know.


Jools' birthday: I am too much of a gentlemen to say how old she is, but a year on after her 50th, this one promised to be a little less hectic, not that it was that bad last year, just getting the whole familiy together, and arranging everything, whilst being out of the country most of the time, was tricky. So this year, I just thought of asking Mike and Jane round for dinner, and that I should cook the bejeweled fruit stuffed crown of lamb again, after it being a near triumph on that occasion.

It was forecast to rain all afternoon, so any activity outside would have to be before lunch. And clearly after MOTD, as it is always good to laugh at Arsenal lose from a winning position, which they did against Man Utd Saturday evening. The sunrise was glorious, but clouds soon swept in, so that by the time Gary was wrapping up the show, walking to take shots was out, really, and anyway, Jools had chores in the garden planned. Whilst she planted some new bulbs and plants, I pruned the bushes alongside the drive. A pleasant enough task, as long as I ignored the thorns ripping my hands to pieces. There's always gloves next time, said Jools.

At then I began the preparation of the lamb, well, preparing the stuffing, cooking the onion, adding the spices, almonds and fruit, and then putting the stuffing in the crown to infuse the meat. Lovely. The kitchen smelt wonderful. Ian Dury filled the house as I had bought Jools some CDs to replace ther worn out records. They have just been reissued on vinyl, but at £145 for the set, it was a little too much for our pocketses. Bejeweled fruit stuffed crown of lamb

Mike and Jane arrived at midday, so in wrnt the meat, smelling even better now, and so by quarter past one, all was ready, done to a turn, and amazing even if I say so myself. Lunch was accpmpanied by the last Grand Prix of the season, a sport which bores me rigid now, but Mike likes it, and it was OK. Hamilton won, and so the championship, so we all were happy. Mike and Jane left at three, so Mike could unload a ship of bananas, as you do. And Jools and I snoozed through the afternoon and into the evening.

And somehow the weekend slipped through our fingers again, with Monday on the horizon. Best hide under the duvet where it can't find us.....

Sunday, 23 November 2014

Sunday 23rd November 2014

Jools' birthday. Dr Who's birthday (both 51)

Anniversary of JFK's assassination (also 51 years ago)

But more of that stuff next time, because before that, it was yesterday.

Does that make sense?

Does it matter?

Anyway. Yesterday.


On what was supposed to be the better day of the weekend, we had chores to run down town, then we could do whatever we liked. I cooked bacon butties for breakfast, which soon filled the house with a glorious sweet smell. I mean really, really wonderful smell. Unless you're a vegetarian of course. Once we washed up, got ready, we headed into town, me to get my new reading glasses, and Jools to get some shopping from M&S that she had ordered online. That done, what to do?

Postcard from Postling

Well, Ian had decided that we should visit some churches. Just for a change you might think. Well, a Flickr contact had commented on a couple of my early, I mean first, Kent churches shots. And I realised that how I look at a church now is different, I see things I would have missed back then. And it turned out one of the churches, Ruckinge, I had failed to post any interior shots at all. So, I posted the ones I had on the hard drive, but clearly a return was needed. And then there was Postling, I looked at those and was unhappy at how poor an incomplete they were. And then there was Brookland....

St Mary And St Radegund, Postling, Kent

You get the picture? So, a plan had hatched: Postling, Ruckinge and Brookland with a pub lunch wherever we would be at midday. Perfect.

St Mary And St Radegund, Postling, Kent

We drive from Dover, up the A20, up over the cliffs and down into Folkestone, turning off on the A20 after our original road had turned into a mortorway. And then up the bottom of the Elham Valley, turning off before we reached Lyminge, doubling back on ourselves to Postling Postling is another, yet another, picture postcard village, set about a mile north of the Channel tunnel, but a million miles away, if you know what I mean. The village is situated round a crossroads, and snaking down a single street back down towards Folkestone. The church is right on the crossroads, but a an antique signpost, point the (accurate) distances to nearby villages and hamlets.

Dedication Stone, St Mary And St Radegund, Postling, Kent

From the car I see that the lights are on in the church, so I grab my cameras and make my way to the door before whoever is inside changes their mind and locks it up again. From outside I hear the sound of a vacuum cleaner, and pushing open the door I see two warden cleaning the church. I say hello and I am greeted warmly. The church is wonderful of course, with remains of wall paintings just about visible in a couple of places. I take my shots inbetween talking to the wardens, meeting such wonderful people is more than part of the pleasure, it shows that these are living churches and part of their communities.

St Mary And St Radegund, Postling, Kent

Indeed, as out next port of call, Ruckinge, is where I first noticed the church being all things to the village, not just a church, but a place for coffee mornings too, and more besides. We drive back down the valley, over the motorway and down the A20, turning off to pass through Lympne, pronounced Lym of course. Or so I think. The taking the road along the edge of the down onto the Romney Marsh. Ruckinge is right on the edge of th marsh, and the church stands looking forlorn, the tower appears it it might fall down. But looks can be decieving. Inside it has been renovated since my last visit, and is looking splendid. There is another warden hard at work here too, preparing the church to the 50th anniversary of the local guide troupe being held on Sunday. The church is decorated with photos and momentos from the last 50 years. The church is cold, but you can feel the warmth of the village inside.

St Mary Magdalene, Ruckinge, Kent

I am tempted to say for lunch in the local pub, which has just reopened this year, but it is not yet midday, and I had it in mind to try the other pub in Brookland, next to the church. Which is what we do. Setting off out of the village, and then up the main road to Brenzett and onto Brookland.

St Augustine is a wholly remarkable church. If it were just the unique 'candle snuffer' belltower, that would be fine. But it also has a unique porch, and inside reveals it to be of, at least to me, unusual design, with walls and columns which seems about to fall down. This is not an illusion, the soft marsh has spread the foundations, meaning supporting spars and butresses have had to be installed. But still it is a wonderful church, and one I had really only glanced over before. I take many shots, happy with the result, we go outside to see smoke rising from the chimney of the pub. Shall we go in I ask, pointlessly, as we were going anyway.

Inside the smoke from the large open fire was having trouble making it up the chimney, and it was hard to see across the bar. But it clears, we order drinks and ploughmans, and setlte down to people watch, for me a large family of toffs at the next table trying to get their children to behave. The meal is small enough to be a snack, which is good as we have sausages for dinner back home.

We take the coast road back home, to Hythe and then to Folkestone. Back in time to listen to the afternoon games on the radio, time enough to get angry as City throw away the lead twice to draw 3-3 with Brighton. It is turning into a hard season after all. We then watch New Zealand play Wales at egg chasing, and a great game it is, with Wales looking like running out surprise winners, until the All Blacks score three tries in the last ten minutes and it seems oh so easy. A great game though.

Pork and ginger sausages, baked beans and sauteed pototoes. Lovely. A perfect dinner.

We round the day off by watching QI, and that seems to be it. Another day crossed off.

Saturday, 22 November 2014

Saturday 22nd November 2014


Working away from home so much, means putting routine stuff off week after week, until there comes a point when you have to set aside a day to get such tasks done. Like today, it was eye test and a hospital appointment, visiting the doctor. And with the travelling inbetween takes up most of the day.

UK Class 374 Eurostar e320

I drop Jools off in Hythe early in the morning. Not quite sure what it is about people driving to work driving like maniacs, I'd get it if they were driving home, but why drive at 900mph to work? Whatever, it was scary stuff on the M20, good job when we turned off, and up and over the down and into Hythe, down to the beach, drop Jools off and turn round for home.

I stop off at Dollands Moor depot to snap the new Eurostar that is being stored there: it was up at St Pancras last weekend, but we were too busy to go up to look. Anyway, I got a couple of shots in the pale light of dawn, and happy with those, I get back in the car and drive back to Dover.

Remains of the St Margaret's MIlitary Railway, Dover, Kent

This time going via Reach Road to look at the short stretch of rail track that had been exposed in the last few weeks. Click on the picture below to get the history behind these two very ordinary looking tracks.

I had enough time back home for a coffee a bowl of porridge before I had to be out again.

Into town for an eye test. I have been having trouble reading in the evenings, it seems to have got suddenly worse, but that seems to have coincided with the dark evenings and low light in Danish eateries. Seems like ity was nothing to worry about, I have to get reading glasses, but that diagnosis too 90 minutes of my life.

Next I have to drive to Canterbury for a hospital check up, nothing major, but the traffic in Canterbury is legendary. As it was this time, as what should be a 20 minute drive took over an hour, then the search for a parking space, find a parking machine, pay four quid for the privilege of parking near the hospital, wait two hours for the appointment, have the scan, take an hour to drive back. And it was four in the afternoon, and time to go and pick up Jools from Martin Mill.

We then have to round the kittens up to get them their annual jabs. Being out all day, not giving them any food for the day meant they were waiting for us when we returned. Into the boxes and off we go. Another forty minute wait, two jabs. That'll be £78 please said the vet. Seems like I'm in the wrong business.

Drive back home through the rush hour traffic, drop the cats off, feed them, drive back into town to Tesco for the weekly shop; which means at this time dealing with people doing some early Christmas shopping. Bah humbug! We have a list of things to get, we try to get round and out as quick as possible. At least with the scan and shop zapper, we are in and out in 20 minutes.

But even then it is half six by the time we are home, put the shopping away, boiled the kettle and sitting down having a brew.

All I can say it has been a much busier day than being at work would ever have been. Phew.

I make chilli for dinner; something I have not made for ages, and felt like something hot and spicy. And very good it was too, with a pound of mince making enough chilli for that night and two more meals. It was washed down by a bottle of Guinness Wet Indian Porter, which tasted just like Guinness to me, but went well with the chilli.

We were pooped by nine, and so called it an early night.

But it is the weekend.

Friday, 21 November 2014

Friday 21st November 2014


My phone alarm went off at quarter to six, now where was I? Oh yes, at the Zleep hotel at the airport. I turn the light on and see I had emptied my case of its contents and now had what we in the RAF used to call a floordrobe.

Billund Airport (BLL), Denmark

I grab a shower, pack, do a final check of the room to make sure I have left nothing. A quick bite to eat downstairs, some cereal and a cheese roll. And coffee. Sweet coffee.

It is just a couple of minutes walk to the the terminal, and inside it seems to be full of Danes getting ready for more holibobs. I get my boarding card from a machine, and the BA desk had just one person waiting. Once checked in, I pass through customs, pass through the duty free without looking as money is tight, and find a table so I can catch up on some mails. I have an hour to wait until boarding, holiday flights are called, and by the time I walk to the gate the airport is pretty empty once again.

Misty Morning, Danish style

Out on the airfield, mist had rolled in, and above the banks of swirly vapour, the sky turned pink as the sun rose, and just visible was the thinnest of a sliver of the old moon. An altogether beautiful sight. We climb on board, I am at the back, but being a morning flight, there does not seem to be a hurry to get off the other end. I have the John Lydon book with me, so the flight will pass quickly. We take off into the mist, before entering the thich cloud, I get a glimpse of the landscape shrouded with mist, it is a wonderful sight, but is soon lost as we climb higher.

Grain and Thamesport

Europe seems to be all covered with mist, I see nothing of the lan below until we begin to drop down towards Essex when I can make out the sea below, and then the familiar shapes of Foulness Island, and then Southend with the pier only half visible in the fog. We cross the Thames and skirt round southern London, turning at Crystal Palace transmitter, just sticking up through the fog, the rest of London was lost from view. I could just make out Battersea, but then after dropping down some more Vauxhall and the Houses of Parliament, Buckingham Palace, The Barbican and then the City. It was all hazy, and I tried to get shots with the little camera.

Victoria Enbankment, The Inns of Court and Fleet Street

Once down we waited whilst the plane was made safe, then led into immigration, once again no queues, and then the unusual event of waiting for our bags. Once on the DLR station I had another short wait, all the time checking my watch, wondering if I would catch the next train home, or have to wait. In the end I miss it by a couple of minutes, so John Lydon and myself have a gingerbread latte with an extra shot in the cafe overlooking the station and waited.

Being after rush hour, the train I knew would be almost empty, and so it was, so I picked my seat opposite the luggage rack, and settled down to watch the Essex marshes and then Kent slip by as I got ever nearer home.

Once in Dover I had to get some cash, as Jools would be at work for another 5 hours, I had to get a taxi back home. There were at least three wating so I would not have to go into town dragging my cases looking for a taxi office.

All in all, travelling back in the morning is so much better than in the evening, what with there being no rush hour as I travel back from London, being able to get a seat and it being daylight! Will have to do this again.

The cats were waiting for me, telling me they had not been fed in like ages. I give them something to keep them quiet, put on the kettle and get out my work computer to catch up, but thankfully all is quiet. At four, all is done, so I switch it off, make another coffee and wait for Jools to come home. Another week nearly done.

Thursday, 20 November 2014

Thursday 20th November 2014


Monday morning rolls round once again. There is rain in the air outside, and it is still very dark. I really do not want to go, but not in a really miserable way. At least I think.

I get ready, as does Jools as she will drop me off on the way to the factory. Traffic is light, and as we pass the castle the lights on the French coast some 23 miles away can be seen. There is the hint of dawn in the east.

I get my ticket and go to wait on the platform. It seems busier than normal, but I could be imagining it. It feels still warm, not November cold anyway. The train glides in, I climb aboard and check my mails before we leave again and disappear into the harbor tunnel thus cutting the phone signal off.

By the time we reach Ashford, it is almost daylight, and the train is full, with people standing by the doors. I close my eyes and Kent slips by. The traffic at Dartford is heavy, but we thunder through at over a hundred, crossing the Essex marshes to Dagenham before heading underground to Stratford.

This really is as routine as I’m making it sound. I know the way now, and so am on autopilot at Stratford, riding the escalator to the concourse, walking to the DLR station, waiting for a train then getting one of the flip down seats so not to block the gangway with my cases. The usual mix of businessmen, construction workers and schoolchildren get on and off as we make our way to London City.

At the airport, I check in, drop my bag but find no one in security, and on a Monday morning. So I am through and sitting down for breakfast by twenty past eight, and eating by half past. I have a second cup of coffee as I watch the news scrolling by on the nearby large TV.

Time to board, no one I know on the flight, so I read a magazine until we’re allowed onto the plane, reading more until we taxi to the end of the runway, more revs are applied, the propellers spin faster, and we lurch forward, leaping into the air as we draw level with the terminal, and up through the clouds into the bright sunlight.

I read more, accept a glass of juice, and the journey passes.

We emerge from the clouds at Billund at tree top height, the clouds are thick and heavy drizzle is in the air. It looks horrible, and pretty much is. I get a hire car, another tiny Citroen, and drive the 45 minutes to the factory for another meeting.

The three hours pass quickly, so back into the car, and the Danish evening, which is pretty much night now as the rain still falls. It is just half an hour into Esbjerg, to the usual hotel. For a change I find a parking space, outside.

That evening I walk to the Dronning Louise again, I have a couple of Christmas beers and a burger whilst reading the John Lydon book.

Still only half seven, but I am tired, so I walk back to the hotel, and take to my bed, hoping sleep would come.


Another day in paradise.

Outside it is still dark, but we have a late start at nine, which means I don’t have to leave until after eight, so a lay in whilst listening to the delivery truck down below unloading, and the offshore workers making their way down to breakfast.

The day passes well, but I find out that the early start for Wednesday morning is to go ahead, and any thought of finding a place to watch the England v Scotland game is put out of my mind. I’d need my sleep.

I drive to the factory. Work. Have meetings. Inspect stuff. Drive back.

I meet up with Philip and Henrik for dinner at Flammen. There is a Christmas buffet on, and it is good to have someone to talk to over dinner, even if we do talk shop all evening. It helps to vent.

I take to my bed at half eight, once again hoping sleep would come.


Worried I would over sleep, I suffer a broken night’s sleep, and am wide awake at three and ready in the lobby waiting for Henrik at twenty past four. It is darker than dark outside.

I scrounge a coffee off the guy in reception, which helps me make up some. And at half four we drive to the next factory. We have more coffee there, then begin the inspection a little after five. It feels like winter in Denmark, not only is it dark, but there is a keen wind blowing in from the east. It feels like its below freezing, but its a few above. Still cold to me. The Danes laugh at me as I struggle to do my coat up.

Two hours later, when we have completed the inspection, it is beginning to get light. Day reveals itself to be grey and featureless, a typical Danish day in November. We inspect another tower, taking us to near lunchtime, so I head to the office to meet up with Steffen and the guys.

By mid afternoon I am shattered. My flight home is first thing Thursday morning, and I am booked into the Zleep Hotel at the airport. I bid my friends farewell and take the familiar road to Billund, I check in then head into Billund to look for somewhere to eat.

Billund is like a small version of Milton Keynes, all modern buildings and roundabouts. It looks soulless. I find it depressing. It is also where Lego is designed a made, and I find it disappointing that their buildings do not look like they are built out of plastic bricks. Seems like the business of plastic bricks is serious stuff.

I drive back to the airport, hand the car in and grab a burger in the departure lounge. Its not much, but is OK. Meaning I can go back to the hotel, chill out and get an early nigh, whilst I listen to the sound of the airport outside.

Sunday, 16 November 2014

Sunday 16th November 2014 (part 2)


Good evening and welcome to the sick house. Rather like the episode of The Young Ones, also called Sick, someone has turned on the sneezing and the not tap, and I am suffering. I got three hours sleep last night, and feel like crap. Urgh.

I was awake just before three, and further sleep would not come, so I got up and did some computering, some reading and tea drinking. Dawn was a long time timing. I fed the cats, they then left me to my sniffling. I finished the Danny Baker book. Where did it all go right, Danny? Well, almost all the time it seems. And although I have not had a multi-media career which helped me spunk millions in holidays and the such, I do feel that despite never having had a plan in life, here I am, travelling, if not the globe, then the UK - Denmark axis, clocking up the air miles, in tiny amounts, and testing beers as a freelancer.

Sunday morning walk in Hythe

I have no idea, really, how I came to be here, but I am and so I had better make the best of it.

Sunday morning walk in Hythe

After breakfast, we decided to go for a walk near where Jools works, as I had not seen that part of HYthe before, and the promise was of tabernacles, fishing boats and canals. And I saw them all. We parked near the factory, and walked along the esplanade a bit, so I could take in the conversion of a Martello tower which was now a fine looking house, but one suspects the owners could not get away with that kind of thing now. Two further towers could be seen a little way along the coast in the Army Firing Range, and they looked untouched. Apart, one suspects, from the odd stray round or two. More fishing boats were laid up on the beach, we found the much-fabled smoke house which should keep us in smoked haddock as and when we need it.

Sunday morning walk in Hythe

We drove back through Saltwood, where I had seen a fine looking village hall to photograph. That done we drove back through narrow wooded lanes, all golden in the weak sunshine showing through a break in the cloud. We drove home down the Elham Valley, through Folkestone and home for the last of the first Christmas cake and a strong coffee.

Sunday morning walk in Hythe

At two we drove back into Dover for Jools' Autie's 70th birthday, or something. It was someone's birthday, the wife of the (late) brother of my father-in-law, that makes me confused just thinking about it. Now, being the only child of two only children, family get-togethers usually took place whenever the six of us ate on a Sunday, Christmas, Easter or whenever there was a birthday. Marilyn had hired a huge hall, and it was full with about 200, not all related, but most of them. It was all a bit much, really, and after an hour we played the we have to get back to the car as the ticket is about to run out line.

We came home, had more coffee, and I listened to the Wales (football) game on the radio, and in due course cooked dinner; a warmed through roast beef and new steamed veg dinner, which whilst not as good as the one on Thursday, took a lot less time than to cook from fresh.

We washed that down with a bottle of the 2011 Elderberry wine we made some 38 months ago, to find it had turned into brandy, or some other fortified wine, and blew our socks off. One glass was enough!

All that was left was to pack for the morning commute to Denmark, shave and write this. Job done, see you all on Thursday.


Sunday 16th November 2014


This is Saturday, watch and smile.



Yes, Saturday. Only, I have woken up with a sore throat, is that allergies or a cold or maybe even the flu? We shall see.

Saturday morning in Dover

Obviously, we have to go shopping for a few essentials, and end up getting some more beer, a cook book and some other more important stuff. Oh and bacon. And bread. Which combined can make bacon sarnies. Yay. And that is what we have for breakfast, soon the house is full of the smell of burning bacon, because streaky bacon has to be crispy, it is the law.

Saturday morning in Dover

I decide to skip the haircut, meaning we have the rest of the day with just the need to run some chores in town. So about half nine we set out. I mention the time as I had planned to snap a railtour this weekend, I spent an hour pouring over Google maps to get the best spot, planned Sunday down to the last second, only to fail to spot the tour was on the 15th, and when I was buying a birthday card, I should have been on a bridge at Westenhanger. O well.

Saturday morning in Dover

Chores done, we are soon back home, having another coffee together with a generous slab of Christmas cake. There seems to be only enough left for one more day. Shame. But then we have two more!

As all games in the top two divisions were cancelled for the international break, I decide I should watch some rugby instead of complaining about it. But much to my dismay, the England games was on Sky, so I had to put up with Wales v Fiji, and a very poor game that was; lots of mistakes, missed passes and dreadful refereeing. But then after that, the football team were due to play, and I am sure they could play much worse than Wales and Fiji. And almost did, a poor first half gave way to a barely better second, before England scored an own goal, and then sprung into life banging in three in the final 15 minutes. Just about OK, but won't set the world on fire.

I cook steak and chips and sweetcorn and peas and garlic mushrooms for dinner. It is wonderful, and just about finishes us: the badgers get some steak gristle and fat as well as a few crispy chips in their bowl, before we call it a night, and we take to our bed.

Sadly, it is a cold I have, and laying down causes much sneezing and sniffing. Its going to be a long night.....