Friday, 17 April 2015

Friday 17th April 2015

Tuesday (continued)

Back at the hotel, the TV in my room showed a Champion's League game, can't remember who it was, Paris maybe. As all my concentration was on the computer as Norwich played at Elland Road, just 240 minutes from promotion, if they win ALL their remaining games. And first up was dirty Leeds.

City managed to miss a first half penalty, but were a different team in the 2nd half, and took the lead, and in injury time, as just about everyone's nerves on Twitter were shredded, news came of a 2nd goal, and the three points were ours. I have to admit, my eyes moistened, and I am a few months shy of 50, why does the game, this team mean so much? It might not be quite like being there, but it felt good. Really good, sharing the emotions with everyone else online and those tweeting from the game.

I went to bed happy.

Wednesday.

And so to this, the final inspection at suppliers for the project. I have been doing this for a year now, and to come to the end is something of a shock, and the wonder is what will I do now to fill my days….

I have to leave the hotel, so I pack, have breakfast, check out and load the car, before driving the 500 yards to the factory, and wait for the others to arrive. At nine the show begins, and everyone is in a jovial mood, except really for Jesper who really had better things to do. But, he smiled and we go on with the task at hand.

Worked till lunch, and again after, with the final inspection ending at the end of shift at four. And that was it. Smiles and handshakes all round, hugs even. We all wave as we climb into our cars, and head in different directions. I drive to the airport in driving rain. It seems like deep mid-winter, other than the fact it is still light at six. I am glad to arrive, drop the car off and have my usual burger and beer for dinner in the arrivals lounge, before walking back to the hotel to write some reports, I know how to celebrate.

And that is it; a major part of the project done, I send out notification mails to everyone I can think of, just to let them know how well it has gone. The football on TV goes unwatched, but music plays out of the computer and I speak with Jools. Home tomorrow and for a long weekend I think.

Holland next week, but then a time at home, some paperwork and maybe tackle the carrier bag of travel receipts I have to scan and allocate.

That’ll wipe the smile off my face.

Thursday

My flight home seems to have a different take off time each time I use it; this time it is half eight, which means I don't need to be having breakfast until half seven. However, I am awake before the alarm goes off, it is dawn outside. I pack, have a shower and get dressed. Just time for a roll and a coffee before the short walk to the terminal. It is very quiet, so I get my boarding pass check in my case and I'm through security in no time at all. As I have three things to celebrate, I decide a bottle of champagne is called fo, so I pick one, and then a bottle of Danish whisky; as I was talking to Henrik about the stuff the day before, and it being half price, so why not.

I find a place to sit, check my mails, and watch people waiting for their flights, drinking beer and going outside for a smoke. All the worse things for your health....

At eight I go to the gate, it is already packed. As packed as it can be with 28 passengers, such is the number of passengers for a flight to LCY.

Tilbury Fort

I carry my booze on the flight, take my usual seat in 8A, and wait for the usual pre-flight checks, the engines start and we are on our way. We rise into the sky, pass through clouds and Denmark is lost below us. We are given fruit juice, a cold breakfast, coffee. Europe passes below us. I don't recognise the route, we seem to be inland more than usual. We seem to spend an age crossing the Channel, or is the the North Sea. Finally the Essex coast passes below us, all the familiar landmarks.

Final approach into LCY

We pass over Southend, cross the Thames over Kent and round south London before turning over Crystal Palace and again over Battersea. The Thames is below us, and London, or the north part stretches to the horizon. I snap away as we pass over Westminster and The Temple.

Final approach into LCY

Down and down we go until we are skimming over the rooftops and down onto the runway. Welcome to Blighty.

I am in no hurry, I have an hour and a quarter to get to Stratford for my flight. I wait until everyone has got off, I check for my passport then make my way off, collect my briefcase and walk to the terminal.

I collect my case, walk to the DLR station, have less than two minutes to wait for a train. Somehow the children are still on holiday, how is that possible, Easter was like two weeks ago? Anyway, I make it to Stratford, order a coffee and a bu at the cafe. I have half an hour, so I savour the coffee.

THe train is less than half full, I get a seat, have my cases in the overhead storage, and we are on our way. And for me, back home. The sun is breaking through as we zoom through Essex, and the family in the seats in front of me are feeding their children consistently, they are travelling from St Albans to Ashford, I do believe there will be shops in Ashford. They get off, and silence descends on the carriage. Folestone West, Folkestone Central and onto Dover. Just a short taxi ride home.

If there was a taxi of course. I wait in line, for five minutes. Ten minutes. 15 minutes. One arrives, and takes the lady in front of me. Then three arrive at once, so the panic as who out of me or the French family who did not understand the British art of queueing would get the first car, we got one each. I chat to the driver about beer. Traffic is light, not even much on the way to the port. We get home in double quick time.

Here I am cats, back home from foreign lands! They ignore me. I am alone. SO I brew up, have a cuppa and some fruit.

I have some work to do, which I finish, and I can relax. Seems like I have been up for days. I sit in the garden with another cuppa, there are butterflies about, and oh look, Molly comes to see if I have any food. Yes, love you too miss.

The afternoon ends, clouds roll over and rain falls, just a gentle shower.

Jools comes home, I cook lamb burgers for dinner. The world is fine. We watch The Sky at Night, darkness falls, which seems only right. At nine we go to bed, it has been a long day.

Thursday, 16 April 2015

Thursday 16th April 2015

Sunday

I would have posted this Sunday evening, but we got sidetracked by a film. Or a movie. You decide which. Anyway, before then we had some stuff to do.

Sunday began, like all good days of rest with me worshipping at the altar of football. MOTD anyway, which being premier League is not real football, and that is not just bitterness from a FL team supporter, but it has long since stopped being a real competition, just for those with the deepest pockets.

What have you go in your pocketses I wonders, yes I do, precious. Oh, you have money, more money. And in the other pocketes, more money. Poor precious.

After the football, breakfast, we went out in the car to that secluded valley near Barham, to check on the Early Purple Orchids. We parked up, walked up the bridleway, and still no open orchids, but plenty of pikes, some about a week away from being open. On the other side of the road, I explored the wooded hillside, and found, as expected, hundreds, if not thousands of Common Twayblade rosettes, along with rosettes from White Helleborines, Flys and a Common Spotted. A lovely sight, and one which will be amazing in a month or so.

Spring rosettes

We drive back home, and have some fancy soup for dinner, along with the rest of the bread I made a couple of days before.

Spring rosettes

Classy.

Outside the sun shone on, but the wind was in the east, and was cold, and in truth I was in the mood for a walk, although I should have gone. I messed around on the computer, listened to the radio, and later prepared dinner. Jools went to visit Nan, and I listened to the Manc Derby, Utd ran out easy 4-1 winners, and so for Citeh another round of heartache is about to begin. Probably.

We had a small lamb joint for dinner, with steam veggies, roast potatoes and Yorshire puddings along with the rest of the gravy from the beef the week before. It were mighty fine. We listened to some Wittertainment, then sat down to watch Nightcrawler, which I had heard things about, and indeed Jake was wonderful, but the story unsettling, and off kilter, which was the point.

Spring rosettes

And once again the sands of the weekend had run out, time for a shower and then time for bed. And being almost springlike outside, it was hot with our spring duvet on, so followed a broken night’s sleep. Broken further by worries on my part of thoughts of work.

Monday.

I was awake at four, in the spare bed where it was cooler, but where there is no clock, so I tried to guess the time by the sounds outside. I am guessing it was four, maybe a little after. I tossed and turned, and then the birds started singing. Dawn showed round the edge of the curtains, a cockerel crowed. It was half five, and time for action.

I got up, packed and had coffee. I really did not feel like travelling. But hey, I am the boss and I arranged it. So, blame me.

Jools dropped me off at Martin Mill. And there I began the fire-fighting phone calls, dealing with the issues that had woken me up. Calls to Denmark, calls to Scotland, calls to Germany. The train came, and the calls continued until we went into Guston tunnel and I lost the signal.

In London the calls continued, but I fixed the problem, or rather it sorted itself out after an unexpected outbreak of common sense. That will never do. Whatever next?

I checked in, checked my case, went through security, but I could find no books or magazines to read. All I had was a two-week old copy of Rail. I hope work would keep me busy. No need to worry on that. As I queued to board the plane ,my phone battery died, so I would have peace until I got into the office.

In seat 5A, I slumped, failed to read the in flight magazine, and instead watched as we taxied, the engines revved and off we leaped. Below London disappeared from view behind so low clouds. But Essex appeared a few minutes later over Chelmsford. I had fine views over East Suffolk and u the coast to Yarmouth as we flew out over the sea. I had breakfast, a coffee, and I was ready for the day.

At Billund I collected the keys for my Renault Clio, and drove in strong winds and what could be described as sunny intervals.

At Esbjerg I was greeted by my friend Shelly informing me that my friend, Anni, had left the company, like half an hour ago. Words fail me on that. Coming after another colleague who is resigning, and then on Friday the news that my boss has been replaced, sidetracked and I have a new boss, who I have never heard of, we are now a production-focused dept, and all change, all change. New balls please.

Night of the long knives. It will not be the same with two of my best friends leaving or left.

I have the weekly project meeting. Well, I turn up. Then Dave turns up, so we swap news, and I show him some files, as you do. I wondered to offer if he wanted to see some etchings. Maybe not.

Nothing else to keep me there, other than I might get asked more questions, so I take my leave, and then drive the hour and 20 minutes to Ringkobing, where my hotel room was booked for two nights. The morrow promises more inspections, maybe the final ones. Now that calls for a celebration! A beer for cheer and a beer for sadness, and a meal on my own. As is the way.

Welcome to Ringkøbing

In the hotel, I have a fine room with views overlooking a reed bed. I sit there and watch the sun go down, promising myself to photograph it the next day. But being Denmark, the clouds did gather and a great rain did fall. But all of that tomorrow.

Tuesday

I went to bed last night watching the sun set in a most spectacular fashion, but this morning, it was grey and cool.

Just as well as I have just work to look forward to then.

I have a shower, get dressed and head down to the restaurant for breakfast, before the 15 minute drive to the factory. I do realise, that this is the first time I have made the trip in daylight, and how much nicer it is. I arrive, am met by the manager, and so begins the debrief before the day begins.

And here we go, ready for another day at the coalface, the arguments and the hassle, and yet its never that bad.

We finish at three, and that is that, what should be the final inspection here, everyone happy, and everyone saying how good the whole experience has been.

Even better is when I am back at the hotel, a bombshell is dropped asking about my plans for the future and would I consider working for him? Hmm, let me think. OK> See, despite it all going so well, there is always the fear that at the end of the project, I could be out on my ear, and what with we buying a new car. But then buying the new car was acceptance that I can do the job, and am happy doing so, go figure.

I head to the Italian place in town on my own, have half a bottle of red, to wash down the insalate caprese and rare steak. Lovely. Time for a limoncello before I walk back to the hotel to keep track of City vs Dirty Leeds.

Sunday, 12 April 2015

Sunday 12th April 2015

Saturday.

Did I mention it is really beginning to feel like spring? No? Well, it has, for the most part, but when the wind blows it still feels mighty chilly. Outside the daffodils are going over, and sheltered tulips are opening. But not in our garden, yet.

The day began dull and grey with a hint of rain in the air, and after a coffee I drove to Deal again to shop at Sainsbury's. It's a little further, but its not crowded, and lets be honest, the food is better. And I fancied another couple of bottles of Skrimshander, which was very fine last week.Alas, they were out, so I stuck to items on the list, but then I did add bacon as it only seemed right to begin the weekend with bacon butties.

However, as I needed a haircut, there is time to put the shopping away before I have to go out again to ensure I am near the first in the queue so I don't have to spend half the day getting abuse. They are short again, with another barber having quit, and another is late in. But I am third, I give as good as I get, and I do get my hair cut by quarter past nine, so I can go home and begin cooking the bacon for breakfast.

Early Spider Orchid Ophrys sphegodes

We are done by ten, and with rain coming down outside, I spend the morning editing more photos of St Paul's and writing a blog.

That done, and the rain having stopped, we go out to make our way to Samphire Hoe for my regular look at the Early Spider Orchids growing. It does mean running the risk of getting caught up in the jams leading to the port, which is just getting worse and worse.

SO we drive down Jubilee Way and the traffic is being controlled by the police, which is keeping the roundabout at the entrance to the port clear. There is also a set of traffic lights at Lime Kiln roundabout, which only lets a few lorries through at a time, which should mean that locals will be able to get about the town, but most roads into the town from Folkestone will be blocked. I think this is due to extra passport checks being carried out on people leaving the country, which isn't going to help immigration.

Early Spider Orchid Ophrys sphegodes

The Hoe is quiet, with just a few others about. I grab my cameras, Jools leaves me to my madness and walks along the sea wall whilst I go to check on the little orchids. Still none out this week, although they are close, maybe in a week, or sooner if there is a real warm spell. The air is clear, so clear, France is visible some 23 miles away. It seems closer, and details can be seen with little trouble.

Samphire Hoe

I take my shots and am met by Jools who had surveyed further along: none out, so we turn round to walk back to the car.

We go home to while away an hour before we have to go out again, as Jools has a haircut appointment, and so I will spend the time she is getting cut by going onto the Rack of Ale for a pint or two. Which is what happens: the Rack is fairly full, but no one I know is in, so I read the local papers, drink some beer and make half a pint of pork scratchings disappear.

We get home at quarter to four, City are drawing 1-1, and despite playing well have mot made their advantage count. So, an hour is spent over the computer following Twitter and the BBC website. The match goes into extra time, and in the 93rd minute, Hooper manages to get on the end of a headed through ball and loops the ball into the back of the net. Yeehah! Back up to 2nd we go. And the Yellow Army go mad. Or barmy.

Fox off the rails

I still have time to go back out again in the hope of seeing a freight working/ I wait and wait, but see no train. But I do see a fox, hunting along the side of the track. He gets to the end of the platform in front of me, some 15 yards away. He notices me, looks at me for half a minute and then just saunters off. I give up, go home to cook dinner: chorizo hash, which is soon cooking nicely, filling the house with spicy Spanish smells. Nom nom.

Saturday, 11 April 2015

Saturday 11th April 2015

Friday.

Or, how the kitchen is not the best place for fox urine.

I say that as, well, one of the first tasks of the day is to collect the bowl that we put out for the badgers, usually it has the uneaten cat food in from the day before. Sometimes the badgers don't come, of the fox comes first, so the fox eats it. Nothing unusual in that you might think. I When I went out yesterday morning, I saw there was some liquid in the dish, so maybe there had been some rain or a heavy dew. But no, it was fox wee.

St Margaret's 06:20

Only I did not notice that at first, it was when the smell really set in and began to fill the house. So, there I was coating everywhere with bleach: hands, bowl, work surface, sink. And it still stunk.

Outside, there was a glorious dawn and sunrise, with still the hint of mist rising in the valley. I took a shot because I could.

And then work began. And right away it went to shit. No other word for it. Shit. And did not get better. Got to the stage where I was dreading e mails coming in. It was some relief when the time came to switch it off, and go and sit in the back garden in the warm afternoon sunshine. I was joined by various cats, all trying to tell me that it was dinner time. No quite my feline friends.

Jools came home, announced she was hungry, and when would dinner be, or should she go out for fish and chips? Silly question, really. She went back out, I made drinks, buttered some bread and waited. So, full of cod and chips, we poured oursleves a celebratory a weekend alcoholic beverage, and went to sit in the garden again to take in the late afternoon sunshine.

The sun sank, it got cool. We went inside to gird our loins and other wobbly bits ready for The Don. It was truly the weekend now that The Don and Nigel were on the telly.

Friday, 10 April 2015

Friday 10th April 2015

Thursday.

The day begins with the alarm going, and the BBC news on Radio 2. It is a sad fact that I have given up on the BBC news, it all seems to be just repeating what the government says, and rarely puts the other point of view. What happened to political neutrality, or a little bit of journalistic investigation on their part? Not when their charter is up for renewal next year, the Corperation does not seem to want to rock the boat, by reporting on things that are happening, or repeating Tory claims against the Labour party without thought. Already this election is the dirtiest I can remember, with the Labour leader being subjected to constant personal attacks by the Tories or the right wing press who seem his as fair game. Mainly because he doesn't worship at the altar of Murdoch and so has independent thought, and has now announced reform on a loophole that allows the richest to claim to live here but not pay tax: non-dom status. That this is a 200 year old law brought in when the Empire was being forged. The lie of the trickle down effect of tax cuts for the rich clearly has not worked, but already the sheep are being primed for yet more tax cuts for the rich, and this benefits the rest of us.

Mist

And then there is immigration: I read a report saying that there is not enough working people to support the elderly: why not immigrants? Because the press scream they are lazy, scroungers from fuzzy wuzzy land. And yet, people believe this tosh, and are thinking of voting UKIP, the new haven for the BNP.

Tell you what, I won't listen to the news now, and we can get on with our lives. I used to be a firebrand, but now just want to work, pay off our mortgage and retire, take photographs, travel, do the garden and complain.

And on Thursday, I started the morning with a coffee and an hour reviewing the shots from St Paul's. Most were OK, some great, some not so great. But hey, I snapped St Paul's!

Sunset at St Margaret's

Back to work: the avalanche of mails, the tasks, the questions. I thought it would be getting easier. Outside, the fog lingered in the village and shrouded the house. It certainly made the house cilly enough for me to wear a works jumper all day. Seemed wrong to put the heating on anyways.

During the day I made a loaf, chilli seed and poppy seed. It looked and smelt so good that I defrosted some pea soup and we had that with the still warm bread for dinner. It hot the spot.

Sunset at St Margaret's

As the sun set in the west, I could see the mist diffusing the light and the promise was for a fine sunset. In anticipation we went for a short walk to the top of the down, and there the sun set like an angry red bumble bee. Or something.

Back home in time for Top of the Pops from April 1980, and a slice of fresh bread and marmalade with a nice big cuppa. Lovely.

Thursday, 9 April 2015

Surprise St Paul's

Wednesday

Once home from my walk, I packed, made sure my camera batteries were charged, made sure my ticket was in my wallet, looked at the TFL website for the best route to the cathedral on the tube, and gernerally got myself ready for when Gary came along ready to head to the station to catch the train.

As I have said before, its just a short drive to Martin Mill, with ample free parking, which I am sure we will soon have to pay for when they realise we are doing this. However, for now, free parking, and we get to sit in the warm afternoon sunshine, waiting for our Japanese built train to zoom us into London. Even with it being delayed ten minutes did not seem to matter, just nice sitting there, watching the birds.....

The train arrived, and we found seats together, and so began the much familiar, for me, trip into London along HS1. Although, I would be travelling all the way into St Pancras, not just getting out at Statford. Change can be good.

The Taster

We get off, and walk to the taxi rank; I realised we were so laden down with gear, that a hike on the Underground might not be for the best, so a taxi ride along the Grays Inn Road and into Holborn seemed a very good idea indeed. We were dropped off round the back from St Paul's, paid nine quid for the fare, then we had to decide what to do for the next three hours. Well, we wander round Paternoster Square, marvelling at the views of the cathedral. Hmm, nearly four, maybe we should have a cuppa? In the square we find a sandwich place that will make us tea even though they are really trying to clean up and go home. We sit outside, watching the world go by, sipping tea and munching on gooey flapjacks. I've had worse afternoons.

St Paul's Cathedral, City of London

Now what to do? Well, walk over the Millennium Bridge, have a look in Tate Modern? OK.

Which is what we do. From outside the cathedral, the bridge looks like a river of humanity, hundreds if not thousands of people, walking either way. When we get on it, seems to be goups of tourists being marched from one attraction to another, with The Tate and the Globe next door being on the list I guess.

We sit outside The Tate and people watch. A proper mix of people, all races and languages seen and heard. Insode they are preparing for the next installation in the Turbine Hall, so nothing to see there.Other than me in day glo tabbards and lots of scaffolding. Maybe its going to be an artist hole in the ground?

St Paul's Cathedral, City of London

Maybe not.

We walk back over the bridge and sit opposite where we guess the event attendees, including us, will get into the cathedral. With an hour to go, we spot the first other photographer, with bag and tripod. Tripod, oh yes. I have my 1980s, aluminium 200lb monster with me. God I hate it, it means I have to carry a second bag, and i can have both on my back, so one is always carried meaning my shots are one handed. I get hot, and angry with it, threatening to throw it in the bin. But I will need it later.

St Paul's Cathedral, City of London We join the queue with half an hour to go, about ten from the front, and soon there are maybe a hundred behind. To our surprise, they open the doors early, and we are allowed in; some run, like opening of the winter sales at Harrods. I am struck dumb by the spleandour all around. The Glory of God had come down from heaven, and I'm not religious.

I go round with my 50mm, getting shots before the light faded, tried with the wide angle, but I guessed, correctly as it happened, that I would need the tripod. So, round and round we went, battling with all the other photographers. Trying to get the classic shots, trying to get something unusual. I like to think I did both. The glory of St Paul's was everywhere, and all around were the tombs and memorials of the great and good. In the crypt, the tombs of the legends were there: Duke of Wellington, Horatio Nelson and many other lesser know and lesser people. It was awe-inspiring.

St Paul's Cathedral, City of London

Back in the main body of the cathedral, the light is fading fast. I grab some last minute shots and we are ready to go. I look at my watch, we have 40 minutes to get to the station to catch the train back. Outside we flag a taxi down and he gets us to the station with quarter of an hour to spare. We have time to head to M&S to grab a snack and a drink before going up the the platform and claiming a set with a table and a window that matched the seating.

St Paul's Cathedral, City of London

Job done, the train filled up, we ate and had our drink. But we spoke little, we were both worn out, but we got our shots, and so just watched the inky blackness of the tunnels then the south Essex marshes slide by. The train emptied at each station, until we were the only ones left in the carriage was we glided out of Dover Priory for the last leg upto Martin Mill.

Gary dropped me off, there was time for a cuppa with Jools before bed, no time to even look at my shots. They would be there in the morning, and a proper review would take more than an hour. Plenty of time for that.

Thursday 9th April 2015

Wednesday

Today's blog will be in two parts. And forever, my life will be measured Before St Paul's and After St Paul's. But more of that in the next post.

Due to the fact I had an appointment with a cathedral in the afternoon/evening, so I had booked the day off. When I requested it, I thought that I would not get it, but everyone seemed very keen that I take the day off and all was approved. And as I did not need to travel upto London until the afternoon, I had the morning to myself to do with whatever I wanted.

What I decided is that Jools could drop me off somewhere on the way to work, and I would walk back. I decided on Kingdown as the drop off point, mainly in order to check on the progress of the orchids there, and that a walk along the cliff tops is never time wasted.

Kingsdown Sunrise

As expected it was a grey and gloomy morning, with the sun looking like it had hardly risen, and yet the day being already over an hour old. Jools dropped me off at the crossroads, and from there is was a short walk to the seafront, walking over the stones that had been swept on it, to the railings to snap the glorious scene. Pastel shades and the Channel gently lapping at the beach was perfect.

Walk from Kingsdown to home

From there I walked to the orchid site, many of the rosettes are still small and hard to find, but I did find one putting forth a tiny spike with a flower head already formed. With some warm weather, we might have a flowering orchid by the weekend. Or not.

Walk from Kingsdown to home

From there it was a short walk to the base of the cliffs, passing by a dispiriting amount of trash just left where it was thoughtlessly dropped. Quite why people would come all this way to see a beautiful location, nature in its glory, and leave crisp packets, plastic bottles. Don't even mention the plastic bags of dog poo!

Up the steps cut in the cliffs, up to the leas on top of the cliffs, past the golf course and towards St Margaret's. Already the mist was burning off, and the sun was warm. It was great to be out, and in all my walk I past just one other person, a twitcher who had come down from Margate but seen nothing interesting. Such is life.

Walk from Kingsdown to home

At the end of Kingsdown Leas, there have been several cliff falls, one of which has reduced the width of the leas to a few metres, and soon there will be no space left to the private land beyond the fence to the north. I walked on, all the time I felt my back getting stronger, which was great I have to say.

Finally through the gate, and just the climb to the Dover Patrol ahead, this I feel is the boundary between the two villages, so I felt I was at least on home ground now.

I picked up the pace, striding up the hill, looking back at the ever-changing coastline with its eroded cliffs. At the top of the rise, I changed my route, walking through the village instead of taking the usual route back down the fields and past the pig's copse. Sometimes we should encourage change.

The village was quiet, not many people about. Being the school holidays, there was no shouting from the playground, just the singing of the birds in the trees all about. JUst the walk past THe Rad Lion, down Station Road and up the other side to our street. And now for breakfast, a cuppa, and get ready.