Wednesday, 10 February 2016

Wednesday 10th February 2016

Tuesday

At least, I would have hoped, could not be any worse than Monday. Though in truth, it wasn't that bad as I really hadn't lost my job, killed anyone thanks a to a bizarre series of incidents which began when all I wanted was a cup of tea. No, in the end, Monday wasn't bad, and Tuesday was better. Which was nice.

Sadly, Jools' boss is on holiday this week, which means she is doing the work of more than two people. Again. Which means she leaves for work at half six, setting off before dawn and not returning until six. Which means it was just me and the cats for the day. In all the excitement they all took to their various beds and slept until after lunch. We have the radio on, or at least I do. Molly says she don't like Radcliffe and Maconie, but secretly I can see her wagging her tail in time to Fieldmusic.

Outside, it rained for a change. Which was nice. I mean we'd hate it to be sunny for like a whole two hours.

After lunch, I tackle the dread that is travel expenses. But being without a printer, this takes two days, the first day is the computer work, assigning credit card receipts to a trip, saving the form, then sending it to Jools to print out. Six trips, six forms, six flight receipts, six car hire bills. And so on. Tomorrow it would be the scanning, once all the credit card receipts are found, which could take, oooh, weeks. But then I like a challenge.

At the end of the day, I sat on the sofa, after having been joined by Molly, to watch both weekend editions of MOTD. As you do. I watched the City game from behind the sofa, so bad were they.

Jools arrives home, we have more pasta salad and cold breaded aubergine, washed down with cider and/red wine. There seemed to be just a glass left in the box, so I was intent on emptying it. Halfway through the third glass at some point later in the evening, I gave up, with half a glass still swilling round, and if I wasn't mistaken, at least another glass still left in the box.

Tuesday, 9 February 2016

Tuesday 9th February 2016

Monday

Why not brighten your day by booking some well deserved time off? OK< I think I might just do that.

I say this because in terms of working day in recent months, Monday was a shocker: just about anything that did go wrong, did. I means things have been going rather well, all had their wheels come off. i mean, it was endless. I suppose some stuff could go wrong, but all at the same time??

Meanwhile, outside the wind blew. In fact it had been blowing since Sunday evening, but come Monday it was crazy. Weather, it seems, is just not exciting enough, so it seems we needed to ape the US and begin to name storms. So, for the 2015-16 winter, we have had several so called named-storms, and this week it was the turn of Storm Imogen. It did blow and blow, winds gusted to over 100mph, and up here on the cliffs, it was very blowy around the parts. Indeed. On TV, there was lots of shots of presenters trying to stand up on various seafronts and river sides, like we couldn't imagine what a windy day might look like.

The cats stayed in, demanding food and looking mournfully out of the windows. Rain hammered down in short sharp showers, whilst the parade of shot continued from work. Why, on a Monday. Oh yeah, Monday.

And then tomorrow I am gonna have to tackle the backlog of travel expenses. Oh deep, deep joy.

Finally, the working day drew to an end just after four, and I retreated to the kitchen where I peeled some aubergines ready for some egg and breadcrumbing action before shallow frying them. I had made some pasta salad earlier, so all was set for a nice summer meal, but in February.

Jools had also had a dreadful day; this was cured by the joint power of beer (for me) and cider (for Jools). And dinner.

That night it was the return of The X Files, which I wrote about in my previous post. Just so you know. And that was your Monday, and how many days until that time off?

The Truth is Out There. Still. Possibly

Make no mistake, I loved the X Files. I mean really loved it. I still have every episode on DVD, in nice box sets, the final four series are still unopened.

And that is the problem, or was the problem, with the show. In the end there was only so many layers of deception, scheming, lies you can in one story arc in a TV series before you give up. And I gave up in about series 6 when it was shown, and never sat down to watch the series I missed. I did watch the final episode, but then it was out of relief that it had been put out of it's misery.

All such a contrast to when it begun, and I fell in love with it. Posted to Germany, one of my friends at work, Karl Emmings was recording the show off Sky and passed me the tapes. I was hooked for the first episode, and spent many nights immersing myself in the whole series. Then there was a short wait until the start of the second series, that was even better, and you could feel the hype around the show was building. Then came the videos; first the so called "Unopened File", the final episode of the second series and the first two of the third, all in one movie length experience. I almost exploded.

There was even a proper film; Fight the Future, which was even pretty good. More conspiracies, but a good plot.

The mythology of the main arc, the abductions, the alien/human hybrid/ the consortium and so one, layered levels of conspiracy, deception, and so on that I lost as to if Mulder found his sister or not, who was good, bad could or could not be trusted. As David Duchovney took a step back, so did I. Agent Dogget came in, and the series continued with dropping ratings and meandering storylines. I stopped watching.

After the 9th series, there was a second film, so bad, I can't recall it's name, but starred Billy Connolly as a pedophile preacher who might be able to see into the future. Or not. It was dreadful. And to make matters worse, Mulder and Scully were shown in bed together, thus ruining the dynamic. Let us not speak of the film again.

And now there is a new, 10th series, maybe even a reboot. Mulder and Scully are older, they had a child, and separated in acrimonious circumstances. But wait, there is more, you know the conspiracy that we did for none series, what about if it was a conspiracy, bt not what you thought it was, or what any of the characters, including those who spoke of an invasion in the consortium, but something else? If you forget most of the alien invasion story lines, it just works, like squinting at a film not quite in focus.

That they are back, and all what has happened between them is not ignored, nor relationships with Skinner and the rest, well, OK. But the shadowy figure meeting Mulder in dark places in the middle of the night to expedite is there, just like there was one in the first series. Still ripping off All the President's Men.

And at the end, a text from Skinner; situation critical, come at once. And The X Files are re-opened. Just like that. And finally, The Cigarette Smoking Man is there, growling, the reopened the X Files. Like we never were away, and that might be the problem.

Monday, 8 February 2016

Friday 8th February 2016

Sunday

And for a change, the sun did shine and there was brightness on the land. Jools assumed that I would want to sit around in my jimjams watching football until after nine. But no, what with the horror show from City on Saturday, I would save that delight for another time. No, what interested me was getting out and taking some shots. The two ongoing projects: Burlington House and the repairs to the sea wall at Shakespeare. And then there are orchids.

There are always orchids. The season is nearly upon us, the madness awaits.

But until then there is the track repairs and the wrecking ball!

The ongoing repairs to the sea wall at Shakespeare Cliffe, Dover There was no traffic on Jubilee Way nor along Townwall Street, which was the quietest I have seen it since we went down there on Christmas Day 13 months back. No traffic at all for the port. Well, that might change with the latest storm which was due to blow in that evening, but until then we drove upto Aycliffe, park next to the subway, grab the cameras and begin the walk up the narrow path leading to the overview above the tunnel entrance and the wonderful views back to the port.

The ongoing repairs to the sea wall at Shakespeare Cliffe, Dover I take my steps carefully, dodging the dog's eggs that litter the paths around here; never pleasant, but with there so much mud around, it becomes a lottery. However, I think my eyes are playing tricks on me, as I look down on the the railway below, it looks almost ready to have tracks relaid on it; some mistake surely? But no, as I go further up, I can see more of the sea wall and all sink holes and excavations had been filled in, and a layer of hardcore had been put down, and now it looks like just the ballast and tracks need to b put down. Amazing. No official word on that as yet, mind.

The ongoing repairs to the sea wall at Shakespeare Cliffe, Dover I take the shots, but with so little to snap now, I don't walk back to the roundabout as I planned. Instead I walk back down to the car and drive us to near The Mash Tun so I can do one last round of shots of Burlington House. Only it isn't there any more. The final parts we demolished last week, and now all that remains is a huge pile of rubble. And the row of shops fronting onto Townwall Street. The high winds had knocked down the sheeting hiding these last remains, so I snap those. Further along, Russell Street is now fenced off as the car parks are dug up ready for what seems are newer, shiner car parks. Car parks of the 21st century where DDC can charge double or treble what they used to. Hoorah for the future!

The end of Burlington House You all know about Samphire Hoe, made from the poil from the Channel Tunnel, under the lea of the the cliffs between Dover and Folkestone. Well, it is nearly time for the orchid madness to begin, and as we're here might as well go check out the rosettes. Up the A20 over Shakespeare Cliff, then down the tunnel down onto the Hoe itself, parking near the visitor centre, which meant it was time to get out the 150mm for some macro work. It's been some time, my friend.

The end of Burlington House Samphire is home to the largest colony of Early Spider Orchids, I say this without hiding the information, as anyone can Google it and find out this information. I know, its how I first found out, and a chance meeting with another orchid fan lead me down the rabbit hole of madness. Anyway, along the path, looking down to see if there were any signs. I think I saw a few, but nothing worth snapping, at least for now. Much more impressive was the view at the end of the Hoe, looking down onto the beach and across Wear Bay towards Folkestone. Waves crashing onto the beach, with dogs and their owners having to jump out of the way.

A walk on windy Samphire Hoe I walk back slowly over the Hoe, unable to take the sea wall route because of the waves crashing in. Bloody health and safety!

Jools is waiting, for me and for news of the next and final call. More orchids.

A walk on windy Samphire Hoe We drove along the A20 to Folkestone then up through Hawkinge taking the road up to Wigham, but turning off before crossing the A2. A glorious morning, sun shining brightly, and the countryside apparently waking up from its short slumber, alive with vibrant colours.

The beech wood is in a deep valley. Well, deep for Kent, and along the bottom of the valley runs a quiet road. A bridleway goes up one side, and on the other is the beech wood. First of all, up the bridleway, is where I know I will find Early Purple rosettes. It was mussy, but I was wearing my boots, stomping along, which might explain how the buzzard some 25m ahead of me lifted up and flew through the branches of the trees overhanging the track. On each side beds of wild bluebells were showing, pushing up two green fingers to the sky.

A little further p I see the first rosettes: one deeply spotted and other unmarked. As it should be. They are well advanced, especially for the first week in February. I try to look for the Butterfly Orchids, but my eye is out on those. No sign that I can see, at least for now anyways.

Back down the track and over the road, into the wood, and where last July when I last came looking for the fabled Ghost, it was so overgrown, now there is bare ground between the trunks, bare but covered in fallen leaves an inch or so thick. And in places, there are rosettes. Some large, some small, but signs of spring nonetheless. I see Lady, Fly and Common Twayblade at least, I feel it is going to be a great season again with all the rain we had this winter.

I stomp around, see more and more rosettes, but many still quite small. It will several weeks, if not a couple of months before they will flower. Even still, it could be a very early season as long as we don't get a cold snap or two...

It is half eleven, my stomach says time for lunch, so we drive home and finish off the batch of rolls Jools had gotten in for when I came home on Friday, we also finished off the last slice of the second Christmas cake. Always a sad time, but they really did last well this last Christmas. Only ten and a half months until we have the next slice!

It is the afternoon, an afternoon for listening to football, maybe snoozing on the sofa, and make a fuss of all the cats.

The plan for the rest of the day is for celebrating: It is Jools' Dad's birthday, so he and Jen were coming round for dinner, and I was to cook the best steak I could. And as I like a challenge, I accepted.

I prepared the steaks that morning, oiled and peppered, so they would be nice and tender when cooked. I think Jen was a little disappointed when she saw I cooked them by the use of a stopwatch, just two and a half minutes each side. I microwaved the jacket spuds, then fried them. Finally, I cooked some garlic mushrooms, all done to be perfect at the same time. And it did turn out just wonderful too. The steak was very tender, red in the middle except for Tony who only wanted it pink. I had bought some salted caramel dessert things with coffee to round things off.

We ended the evening with a couple of hands of Meld, which with the booze that flowed was interesting and full of laughter. A fine evening, and Jools and Jen did the washing up too! perfect.

Sunday, 7 February 2016

Sunday 7th February 2016

Saturday

Another Saturday morning when I am laying awake before six wondering if I should get up. And that was with a late night last night whilst waiting for Jools to come home, meant we were both a little tired. Jools had said to her Dad and Jen on a few occasions how nice the steaks I cook are, and what with it being his birthday this weekend, they have been invited over for an evening of steak and cards. What could go wrong? But that means we need four good steaks, mushrooms and jacket spuds to microwave and fry until they're crispy.

So, after coffee, I say I will go to Tesco to get a few things then go to the butcher. Tesco is pretty empty so I zip round, picking up stuff that we need, not taking much that are not essential. Then along the Sandwich road, turning west to Ash then across the marshes to Preston. This used to be sea, and so is very low-laying, and the ground is saturated, the road is just about passable, if I drive on the other side when I pass the biggest puddles.

The Coastguard, St Margaret's Bay The guys are in good spirits, and rib me gently about Norwich and that we failed to beat Spurs. The joint wisdom is that Norwich would win today. Shows what we all know then! I get four nice thick sirloins, all from the same row which means no one should have a 'better' steak than any other. But, really, they will all be great. I hope.

I drive back home, taking my time, listening to Huey on the radio, enjoying the, if not sunshine, then bright weather.

Back home I put the shopping away then make bacon butties, which as neither of us have had breakfast is very welcome indeed. I maybe could be a vegetarian if it were not for the smell of cooking bacon.....

There is rain forecast, as well as gale force winds. So there seemed little point in going anywhere far. So, we listen to the radio, until I decide maybe we should go down to the bay to look at the waves crashing in, or at least the rough seas. So, at about half ten, we make the short drive into the village then down the twisty road into the Bay.

St Margaret's Bay The waves are no huge, but bigger than most of the times we have been down there. I park up, grab the camera and we walk to the sea wall. Behind us, The Coastguard is closed, having been taken over by Shepherd Neame, and currently being refurbished. Wonder if they will do the great fish and chips the previous owner did?

St Margaret's Bay We walk all the way along to Ian Flemming's old place; the cliff fall that nearly took it out has now mostly been swept away by the sea. A few others are also out, catching the air, a young coule struggle to get over the groynes so to walk in the lea of the cliffs. Brave folks! To our surprise the tea cabin is open, so Jools suggests we have an ice cream. So, sheltering in the lea of a fence, shivering, we eat our Magnums, then set off for home.

St Margaret's Bay After lunch, there is football, of course: Leicester playing Manchester City. Surely the bubble would burst for The Foxes? We have all been saying that since the beginning of September. It is no February, they have no European games to distract them, and they thrashed Citeh 3-1 at their patch. Amazing result. Sadly, Norwich could not match them, slumping to a 2-0 defeat at Villa, one of only three teams below them in the league. A dreadful result, and a poor performance too. Not good.

St Margaret's Bay Just as well that England beat Scotland in the egg chasing on TV; they played well, moved the ball quickly, and took their best two chances.

St Margaret's Bay We have steak and ale pie for dinner, along with lots of steamed veg and a good batch of cheese sauce. Really very nice indeed.

Saturday, 6 February 2016

Saturday 6th February 2016

Friday

You know the score: I am in the Zleep, I have to make my flight at twenty past eigt, get across London, catch a train, then a bus then a taxi home. Simples.

The alarm goes off at six; it has been a quiet night at the airport, but then with the new of the hotel they are building, and my room facing it, seems like it is dulling the sounds from the airport. Just as well, really. So I get up, have a shower, pack and am ready to go. Saying that, I look at the seven bottles of beer in my case and think there isn't enough padding round them.I take off my t shirt to pack round three of the loose bottles. Seemed safe enough. Famous last words, as it turned out.

Down the hall to the buffet; a glass of juice and a nutella roll and a coffee. See, I am enjoying destroying the rules of grammar that my middle school teacher drilled into me. Sorry, Mrs Farrell.

I am raring to go. Or so I tell myself: but outside it is the last few moments before dawn begins to show in the east; the sky is jet black, but the air feels crisp and clean. And in places, looking down, I can see frost on the grass near to the path. Brrr. I double my pace and make for the terminal.

No key for the lounge this time, but there is no queue at the desk, and only a short one at security, where it is mostly families with bleary-eyed children, griping about not being in bed, mostly. Once through, I make for a table under the lounge so I could use their free internet, as you do. I have mails to write and calls to make. Time goes quickly, and after speaking to my boss, I walk to the gate, after showing my passport at immigration. I have to show my boarding pass and passport again; how many times?

Anyway, we are let straight onto the plane, less than 20 of us on it, we make ourselves comfortable, as rain begins to fall outside.

Once in the air and Denmark is hidden beneath swathes of thick cloud, breakfast is served, and once I have another roll, I close my eyes and sleep through most of the rest of the flight, only jerked awake as we beging to drop down from the cruising altitude towards Blighty. The clouds did not clear, so we did not see London until we dropped below cloud cover somewhere over Grays. It looked dull down there, and packed with traffic as the rush hour drew to an end. Nearly home.

Handsome chap We are sent to the most distant slot, so have to wait for a bus to take us to the terminal, but the sheep are still queuing and pushing each other out of the way to be first off. I am next to last off, and anyway, there is space aplenty on the bus. But I had already worked out there was no way way I could get to Stratford for the quarter to ten train, meaning I had an hour before the next one. I had plenty of time.

I stood on the DLR and could smell stale beer. Some old soak had too much last night I thought to myself. And laughed. The train seemed less crowded than usual, I could have had a seat, but I chose to stand to look at the progress of Crossrail down below as we leave the airport; tracks are down and all now just waiting the trains. At Stratford I go to the cafe, order a coffee. OK< not just a coffee but a large gingerbread latte with an extra shot as well as a warm sausage roll. Lovely.

The 23rd White Cliffs Winter Ale festival, Dover Outside the cafe, I could sell beer again; this could only mean one thing; a bottle had been broken in my case. I open it, and at first all looks well. But sure enough there is one bottle with the neck broken in an almost perfect circle, a clean t short and pair of socks seem to have soaked most of it up, but the rest is smelling of beer at leat. I take the boken bottle and a couple of shards of glass out, the rest will have to wait until I am home.

I go down to the platform to wait the last few minutes before the train arrives. The front two carriages are almost empty, so I take a seat on my preferred side, and wait for the train to glide out. Out in south Essex the clouds are low and heavy, and so a steady rain begins to fall.

23rd White Cliffs Winter Ale Festival, Dover At Folkestone West we get off, and those of us for Dover and beyond climb onto the waiting coach, the heating is full on, and feels like a chicken Madras tastes; I sense my case steaming fresh beery aroma. Oh well.

23rd White Cliffs Winter Ale Festival, Dover I flag a taxi down at Priory; since the line was cut, I guess business has plummeted; there are more than half a dozen waiting for passengers who don't need them.

Once home, I leave the case outside. I have many things to do, least of all is eat lunch. So I make a large cuppa, butter a couple of fresh rolls. Then I unpack the case, put the dirty and soaked washing in the machine. By half twelve I am all done, caught up. And so I realise I could order another taxi to take me to the beer festival. Oh yes.

23rd White Cliffs Winter Ale Festival, Dover By ten past one I am waiting in line outside, I had also found my new membership card, and beer tokens left over from last year. I buy a glass, I bump into my old friend Matt at the bar, and once we have a pint, we go back to where he is sitting to catch up on news. We take it in turns to go to get refills and food. Time passes in quite a pleasant manner. I meet an old Flickr contact who comes down every year; he told me he was wearing a pork pie hat; so I ask every one in a hat if they are Chris. Only Chris is Chris. Apparently.

23rd White Cliffs Winter Ale Festival, Dover At four Matt and I walk over to The Rack to sample their beers. Trish is pleased we had gone over, I have time enough for a pint until Jools comes to collect me on her way home from work. She is going out in the evening with Jen, going to see some ballroom dancing in Canterbury, so I will be home alone.

23rd White Cliffs Winter Ale Festival, Dover We have a coffee, swap news, but then it is time for her to leave. So I have a shower, I then join Molly on the sofa so we could watch the recording of the midweek games from the Prem. Norwich we worse than I feared to be honest. And Carrow Road so quiet, something will have to shake them out of their torpor soon. There is a fine show featuring some 70s rock, including many I had not heard of before: Babe Ruth, Heavy Metal Kids, Nazareth, The Sensational Alex Harvey Band amongst others. A fine show indeed. What the world really doesn't need is a documentary on 'the most dangerous band in the world', Guns and Roses, apparently. Quite how they can get to the heart of the matter when the lead singer, one Axl Rose, is only represented via vintage interviews. He still comes over as a massive cock; so an accurate show then!

A final swifter at The Rack of Ale Jools arrives back at eleven, and I can't be bothered with the final half an hour of the show. So, time for bed.

Friday, 5 February 2016

Friday 5th February 2016

Thursday

With another crisis having developed overnight, I had agreed in a late night call to be in work as early as possible, which I why my alarm went off at six, breakfast at half past and I am at the office by seven. There is just a couple of other people in. Sigh. Here we go again, all aboard the Skylark.

I make good progress, things get addressed and meeting have to be attended. The morning passes, time enough to squeeze lunch in in the canteen, catching up on news as we eat.

And then back to the desk to fire of mails, make calls and generally be efficient.

My batteries beginning to go flat about two, and by three, I have had enough. I think that if I don't leave the office now, I'd be stuck here until after the rush hour, so I say to people I'd finish up work at the hotel at the airport. And I make a dash to the car, load my bag and myself and screech off heading back down past the old Vestas building, onto the bypass and then to the motorway. I wish I could say it was a pleasure, at least the sun was shining, but once off the motorway I am driving into the setting sun, with the light reflecting off the road making driving even more difficult.

The motorway was packed, but I got through the usual bottlenecks, and with my stomach telling me it really fancied burger and fries as soon as I could provide them, then that would be just dandy. As I neared the airport I could feel my mouth salivating at the thought of the burger....

Hey, its not quite five, isn't that too early for dinner? I hear you say. Apparently not said my stomach, but I did tell it not to request the double burger with extra cheese and chips option. Which was a wise decision. And the burger was good, leaving me stuffed. I walk over to the hotel, check in after a bus;load of Italian women and their male tour guide. I get a room on the ground floor, all I want to do is lay on the bed listening to the radio and fall asleep. Which as it turned out, is what I do.

I am channel hopping on and off, and at ten I stumble across the first edition of the X Files reboot. I watch twenty minutes, but I need sleep, and anyway, its on back home on Monday. More about that next week, then. I fall asleep to the sound of revving aircraft engines. I am used to it now.