Sunday, 24 July 2016

Sam Allardyce, England Manager


To my friend Tony, this is about football.

So, it came to pass that this week The FA announced that Sam Alladyce was to be the new England Manager on 2 year contract. "Big" Sam has been described as being a "Marmite" kind of manger in that some love him, others hate him, with little inbetween.

Am I bothered? Am I a Sam fan?

In truth it don't really matter that much; in the 20 years since England last made the semi-finals of a major tournament, England have had:

Terry Venables: it was under his leadership that England made those semis when the Euros were held in England. They weren't that good, but won ugly, except for scoring four past Holland. But then he got implicated in some financial dealings, and resigned. He was replaced by....

Glenn Hoddle: A once great player, who was something of a rising star in football management, but in the 1998 Wold Cup, as usual, England made the knock out phase before being knocked out by the first decent team they played, in this case, Argentina. He was replaced when he suggested disabled people were disabled because they were being punished for something they did in a past life, or something.

Sven Goran Eriksson came in, mainly because he was seen as so boring, it might mean the British press might concentrate on the football rather than the manager's private life. Sadly, he turned out to like a bit of rumpy and had an affair with the only other famous Swede in the country, Ulrika Johnson. Under him England made the World Cup quarters (twice) and the quarters of the Euros inbetween. He resigned in the end, and was replaced by his assistant:

Steve McLaren. Sadly for Steve, he was appointed only after THe FA ballsed up the appointment of "Big" Phil Scolari, and so had to find someone else. So what better than the person who had learned everything that Sven knew. Well apart from Ulrika, probably. England failed to qualify for the Euros, with McLaren pictured sheltering under an umbrella as the game slipped out of England's grip. Thus was dubbed The Wally with the Brolly. He left for foreign climes, where he added a faux Dutch accent as he lead FC Twente to the Dutch title.

Fabio Capello was brought in, hired for several King's ransoms. And really failed to improve anything that had gone before, reached the knock out stages of the World Cup finals before being knocked out by the first decent team we played, and then he left after the FA suspended "nice" John Terry after he was facing a racism rap after swearing Alton Ferdinand

Afet Stuart Pierce was brought in for one game, Roy Hodgson was brought in. He had a glowing reputation for innovation early in his coaching career, but in recent years had been a disaster at Liverpool, so there were signs things would not go well. A quarter final run in 2012, without a win at the world cup in 2014, and then the failure to beat Iceland in France last month. Roy resigned.

I suppose my point here is, The FA have appointed managers from different backgrounds, different philosophies and tactics, and nothing really changed much. Players have come and gone, some with huge reputations, and yet they all pretty much failed when it mattered, and England rolled over once the knock out games begun. It don't matter really, in the short to medium term, who is manager, players are picked on form rather than on the job they might do in a stable team. Although passing has improved, creating chanes is what did for England this year, despite having Harry Kane and Jamie Vardy on the pitch, along with Rooney and Sturridge at times.

It was painful to watch.

As always.

Maybe Sam will inject some steel into the team, or create or mold leadership in one or more players. I don't think it will be a disaster, but then neither will it be the roaring success most will be hopeful of. We will qualify for the World Cup, maybe even get out of the group, then lose to the first decent team we play. Or Iceland. We will get angry for a few days, then the thought of the new season makes us forget how dreadful it all was for the next two years, when the cycle begins all again.

Saturday 23rd July 2016

We woke up to find, thanks to Twitter, that Dover was already at a standstill. Seems that there had been less than the required number of immigration officials on duty on the French passport control, and with enhanced shecks in place, the whole port ground to a halt, and the queues of traffic quickly built up, with many families facing a 14 hour wait to get onto a ferry. If they were lucky. Many had to spend the night in their cars, with no food or water, and although this is clearly bad news for those setting off on their holiday, for us locals getting around was going to be just as bad.

But there are lanes and back roads we could go down, just in order to be able to go to the shops, or go out on an orchid hunt for example. Hmmmm.

Chalkhill Blue Polyommatus coridon After last week's failed Chalkhill Blue hunt, I thought what with it being such a fine morning with no breeze at all, and there being no one manning the toll booths at the NT place, it meant it would be free.

A quick drive along Rach road, and then through the NT place, up to the overflow car park, careful not to disturb those sleeping in the tents near the edge of the drop to the car parks below. I go through the gate, look up the down and could see no butterflies on the wing, but as there had been mist at dawn, it meant that any that were about would still be warming up and maybe even basking in the morning sunshine.

Chalkhill Blue Polyommatus coridon Just below the top of the down there is a sheltered glade, I go there first, and at first see just Small Heaths and Marbled Whites about. I look into the long grass, and deep in the undergrowth, near to the bottom of the stalks were three male Chalkhills, wings open wide taking in the morning sun.

I bend down to try to get shots, a couple fly away, but one lets me get quite close before it too flies off.

A little later on, I see one on a crown of wild rosemary, so I get down on my belly, and leopard crawl closer and closer, getting better and better shots with the male apparently stretching it's tongue.

Chalkhill Blue Polyommatus coridon With there only being half a dozen about, I have some shots, but will return in a week or so. Anyway, time for breakfast.

It has been a couple of weeks since I went last orchid hunting, and with the main season now over, it just leaves the Helleborines to look for and snap. Only that many of them now grow further away from home, so require more travel, and with the main roads blocked with port travel, it would require some serious alternative routes for us to be able to get onto clear roads, and then we would have to get back, but hey, life is a gamble, so lets get it done.

After breakfast, we load the car with camera, tripod, reflectors and the such, along with a bottle of water, just in case, and drive down the the Deal road then through Guston, then via narrow tisty roads to Whitfield, then again down more lanes to Eythorne and then to Shepherdswell. Taking over half an hour for a trip that would normally have taken a few minutes. But at the A2 we were confronted with stationary traffic on both carriageways of the port-bound side, and that soon narrowed to a single line, and so they would not be going anywhere very quickly. Indeed, we same most drivers and passengers out of their cars and buses, walking around or sitting on the side of the road, they had been there for ages, clearly.

Brimstone Gonepteryx rhamni We were able to get over to the London-bound side, and accelerate up to 70 and cruise past Canterbury and onto Faversham. We would have to get back of course.

Once off the main road, we drive down the old A2, turning off and making our way to the golf course, where I had heard there was a small colony of very pale Broad Leaved Helleborines. I had been to the site before, but that was over two months ago, and I really didn't think I would be going back, so didn't pay as much attention as maybe I should have.

It was a wonderfully sunny and therefore hot, and not really the right time to be recreating Dr Livingstone's trek through the African bush. But, with only the most briefest of directions where to go, I go clambering up and down the grass bank, forging paths through saplings and thickets, getting scratched and all hot and bothered. I see no orchids, just a multitude of butterflies, and most of them Brimstones, both male and females, and I even get a couple of half decent shots, but they weren't in the best of positions for shots, and when I moved closer all of them flew off.

Brimstone Gonepteryx rhamni I searched for two hours, and was covered in scratched and bathed in sweat, and found zero orchids. At midday I promised myself I would abandon the search, which whilse was a disappointment, meant we could go onto to another site, via a pub for some refreshment of course.

Broad Leaved Helleborine Epipactis helleborine Back through Fasversham then seeing the coastbound side was packed with traffic, we turn the other way and decoded to take the back road way to Detling. We come to Newnham, and see there are spaces in the car park at The George, so go in and decide not just drinks, but we were so hungry we would have lunch. After a fruit juice, just to cool down and quench our thirst, we order our meals; burger and fries for Jools and chili for me, and we are set. The food is good, but to be honest we were so hungry, I think we would have eaten almost anything.

I pay and we return to the car, drive south through Doddington to Lenham, then along the A20 to Maidstone before turning back up the down to the small village where we would abandon the car before walking into the woods.

Our destination was a clearing, a quarter of an hour along narrow paths through the woods, where there was a large colony of BLH. We come to the clearing, and climb up to to the shade of the trees where they usually grew, only to find none. But after some searching, I find a few spikes, yet to flower. Nearby Jools sees one partially open, so I snap that. We walk down a footpath on a slightly different was back tot he car, and I see several dozen spikes, some open and many more yet to. I snap those, and happy that at least for all this effort I had some shots of orchids.

Broad Leaved Helleborine Epipactis helleborine Next up was Crundale; the most remote Kentish village, and where we were going was most remote part of the village. From the vantage point of the car park, I could see just one farm and nothing else, and yet this is Kent in the over-crowded south east! It was half one, and the hottest part of the day, so Jools says she would not be accompanying me on the walk to the wood, so I take the camera, tripod and reflectors from the boot, and set off on the mile and a half walk along the undulating track to the wood.

I won't lie, it was hard work, and I was hot and bothered all over again; the scratches I got earlier in the day, itched like mad, but I pused on until I reached the shadow of the wood. In I walked, looking on either side of the track for the telltale shape of a Helleborine spike, but saw none. I was searching for the Broad Leaved less showy cousin, the Violet, very hard to find, and found only on a couple of ancient beech woods. I searched and searched, retraced my steps back out of the wood, and found none at all, not even an unfurling spike.

From there it was a long walk, but mostly downhill back to the car where the water bottle and Jools was waiting.

Quarter past four the clock said, and now we had to get back home. Back up north via Stone Street to Bridge, then along the A2 until the traffic news at quarter to five told us there were 5 miles of queues ahead of us, so we turned off and went via Womenswold, Barfrestone, Shepherdswell and Eythorne, following the route we had left on that morning.

The Deal road was quiet, so turned towards Deal before branching off up Station Road and home. Quarter past five. Sheesh. What a day, and all I have to show for it was a handfull of orchids and a few blurry shots of Brimstone butterflies. But I had pushed myself very hard, and came through it.

We sit in the shade of the living room and drink pints of squash with lots of ice. That's better.

The evening before we had made Limoncello and Grappa tart together. After eating dinner; making the pastry, separating the dozen eggs and mixing in the booze and ground almonds. I let it cool all night, before popping it in the fridge for the day. So, we were able to cut the first two generous slices along with a fresh pot of coffee, so sat on the patio in the evening sun, munching on what is the best desert in the world. And I mean that!

1 packet of ready rolled sweet pastry (I make my own)
1 punnet of blueberries (I use one of blueberries and one of raspberries)
12 egg yolks (yes, 12)
juice and zest from 3 lemons
100ml limoncello
50ml Grappa
300g caster sugar
250g ground almonds.

454g = 1 pound, 227g = 1/2 pound, etc

Method: Butter a 12 inch flan ring, then line with pastry stabbing the base with fork. Pour in berries and allow to rest in fridge for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 160C/325F/gas mark 3. Whisk the eggs, lemon juice and zest, limoncello and grappa and sugar in a large bowl. Fold in the almonds pour this mixture in the tart shell. Bake for 40-50 minutes. Will be cooked when a knife comes out clean. Serve dusted with icing sugar, more limoncello and cream.

Saturday, 23 July 2016

Friday 22nd July 2016

I awoke at gone seven again, after some nine hours peaceful sleep. And felt great. I mean better than I have felt for weeks.

And I was going home!

Heck, there was barely enough time to get dressed, pack, check out, have breakfast and finally load the car and it was already past eight.

I knew the way, the car had a bonnet full of horse, it was a glorious sunny day, and the roads were so empty; this was going to be fun! I put a rock station on the car's hifi, and set off.

Down the street, past Anni and Bo's place and out of the city, out onto the main road where it turns into a motorway, climbs gently uphill before joining the E45 south. AC/DC were playing, there was so much space in which to put my foot down, and yet the engine did not scream.

I turn off the motorway for the last 36 miles to the airport, get stuck behind a truck for a while, travelling at 4km below the speed limit; as soon as the road turned back to a motorway, I put my foot down and the Audi leaps away like a scalded cat.

I arrived at the airport to find shorter queues than normal, but then I was about a quarter of an hour later than usual. Sure enough inside the depature hall, families are everywhere, getting ready for their Ryanair flights to the sun further south.

The Flight Home I set up work at a free table and try to ignore the screaming children about me. I know I was young once, and I would be doing the same if I had flown at their age. But how am I supposed to concentrate? Anyway, I fire off a couple of mails, and update yet more documents no one will read, and then it is time to go to board the flight.

There is the usual scramble for seats, but I don't bother to join in, I am last one and find I have a row to myself, whereas all the others are squished in. But the guy behind me spends the whole flight putting his knee into the small of my back, so I punch it back repeatedly. Makes no difference.

We arrive over a mostly cloudy London, and as we bank onto final approach, I get a fine view down the river than all the chaos of the city on either side.

The Flight Home We touch down, and we all scramble to get in the queue in the aisle even before the door is open. It is the modern way. We are let out, and I help a mother with her child, carry out her bag for her, as it was the right thing to do of course. But in the airport arrivals hall, there were no queues, we go to the front of the line, get our passport scanned and once through find our bags already waiting.

I dash down onto the platforms below to find a train waiting, and I work out there was a chance I might even make the twenty to two train from St Pancras. The train wasn't even half full, quite amazing really, everything so much less busy than normal.

I decide not to go on the Tube this time, as it would be so hot, especially as there were no queues for taxis. I get in one and tell him to get me to St Pancras, and he tries to get me there for half past. But the traffic along Euston Road is just too heavy, and we catch all the lights as we go down it.

As I climb out of the cab, I see I have 30 seconds to make it onto the platform to catch the train, and I'm never going to do that, so I make my way to the shop just inside the station for a bottle of cold Budweiser (Czech version) and wait for the ten past two train to Ashford. Jools said she would come to pick me up there, so even though there were no seats, I am happy enough, knowing that I would be with her in 30 minutes. It was hot on the train, but the trip is not long, and I could look at all the usual landmarks as we speed into Kent and travel towards the coast.

Jools is waiting, so I throw the bags in the back, and we drive to the motorway and then towards Dover, but there are queues already building, and we are held up ten minutes at Ayecliffe, we turn up Military Road, go through the town and up Castle Hill, and from there along Reach Road, along the cliffs to home We had done it, and it was the weekend.

We have a brew and an ice cream, sitting on the patio in the afternoon sun. I feel full of beans, but Jools is shattered.

I cook chorizo hash for dinner, and as usual it is marvelous, and perfect with half a bottle of red too.

That night the next part of The People's History of Pop was on, 1965 to 1975, very good, but too much to squeeze in. And in the next one, I may or maybe not be featured. We shall see. I have signed the copyright clearance forms, so it might yet happen. Will just have to wait until the end of September to find out.

Thursday 21st July 2016

I woke up with what could nearly be described as a hangover. Almost, but not quite.

But it was a close run thing. And as ever, as the evening was panning out, I felt like one more whisky could not hurt, could it? Of course not.

Anyway, I slep through what time I would normally like to be up and about, so it was ten past seven before I opened my eyes for the third time and decided that maybe I should now get up.

Only it became clear that I should not stray too far from the bathroom. However, better put in an appearance.

The breakfast room is empty, apart from a couple of German couples up early. I had hoped to see someone I knew. As I walked past the reception, I could see someone waving from inside one of the glass-sided lifts; he was big and blonde and Jesper shaped! Jools says that some people light up the room when they enter it, some when they leave. And Jesper is very much the former, and is delighted me meet me, gave me a huge bear-hug and we swap news. But I have to get going, and he has to get breakfast, we make plans to meet in the office, but didn't in the end.

Usually, Arhus is gridlocked with traffic, but this week is slap bang in the middle of holiday season, and the city is more than half-empty. I take the road down by the harbour then turning up Randervej to look at the progress on the new tram line; it is nearly done at that end, with just the terminal station to complete, and further up, most of the track is now laid, and even half the line across the busy O2 road is half done.

The car park outside the office has a handful of cars, and once I swipe my card and enter, I find there are just five of us in an office for over a hundred.

And it is hot, did I mention that? I mean I know I joke about it being the frozen north and all that, but sometimes when the sun shines and the wind doesn't blow, it can be downright hot. And this day was very hot indeed.

I get down to work, but without being disturbed I quickly catch up and by lunchtime I am twiddling my thumbs. And that is when my stomach did it for me, and I thought the best thing would be to lay in bed, snooze, listen to the radio. So, I drive the car back to the hotel, even remembering the back streets way, and after grabbing two diet Cokes I go up to my room, hang the "do not disturb" sign on the door handle and throw myself into bed, whilst the radio quietly burbled in the background.

I may not have slept, but I took my brain off the hook, didn't even mess around online, just listened to the radio, and closed my eyes.

The afternoon slipped by, my stomach emptied itself, and I felt washed out, but by evening, was at least hungry. So I find the smokehouse that Chris took me to a few months back, booked a table, and at half six, I went out through the gangs of Pekemon hunters on the grass outside the hotel, then doen the sidestreet, right to the bottom where the Memphis Smokehouse was.

I have an ice cold IPA and it tastes like nectar, but not in a Fosters kind of way. I ordered smoked brisket and Jamaican spiced lamb and watched as the owners waited the tables, made small talk and welconed returning frequent customers. Their attention to detail was great, as was thei hand made sauces, made to compliment the dishes, which they do.

I am stuffed, and still feeling washed out, and in a rare move, I go back to the hotel to relax and go to bed at half nine, switching off the second Star Trek reboot film, and so I let Mr Sandman take me from this world once again.

Friday, 22 July 2016

Wednesday 20th July 2016

I awoke at some point very early in the morning, I looked round the edge of the curtains, and the sun was just about to rise, the sky a mix of blue and pink, all over. I needed more sleep.

I woke again just after seven, behind schedule and needing a shower and to pack.

That done I went down to the reception to check out, then go for breakfast, and it was the emptiest I had ever seen it, with just two diners, one being my colleague Manu, so I joined him for coffee and to talk.

The car is loaded, I find some station playing an old Bee Gees track, start the car, open the windows and take the short drive to the office.

Man, it is already hot in the office, and the remote for the air con unit has been lost, so there is little else to do other than to endure it, maybe have the window open ajar. Thankfully that side of the building was in shade for the morning, so it didn't get too hot. And by the time the afternoon arrives, I will be on the road to Arhus.

Evening in Arhus I find work to do, and fill the morning so that come one in the afternoon it was time to pack up and leave for the 90 minute drive to Arhus.

I say my farewells, it will be two weeks before I am back, so once done, I can walk to the car, across the car park that is so dry it is like a desert. In fact when the wind blows here, sand and grit are blown around, so much so the whole area is called Sahara. Anyway, I get in the car, open all the windows and drive away, wanting to go as fast as possible so that the wind would cool me and the car down.

Evening in Arhus The Audi is so easy to drive, the steering wheel doesn’t move unless you turn it, it has so much power, it accelerates very quickly. In short, I’m having a blast. Down the motorway for 60 or so km, the turn onto the E45 for the half hour drive up to Arhus South and from there down into the centre of the city, take a left and another 5 minutes to the hotel.

And there I see the first Pokemon Go players. In fact I nearly take four of them out as they run in front of the car, waving mobile phones in front of them. I park in front of the hotel, check in and take to my room where there is more work to do, enough to keep me busy until half four, when I will go and meet my old RAF buddy, Shaggy.

Evening in Arhus However, I thought I knew the way, and despite being just a few minute walk from the bar, I convinced myself I knew the way, walked down the hill past the modern art museum, along the road behind it, back up the other side right back to where I started.

I walk round, then see a sign post, so I have to go and check that, and sure enough it points back up the hill, and is some 800m away.

Mr Shaggy Shags So, by now I was sweating, and walking hard, puffing up the hill, across the intersection, then at the next crossroads, I see the station square, and just a little further on would be the bar.

Shaggs was waiting outside for me, checking with me on Facebook via his phone, sadly mine was in the hotel room, so no chance of answering him. We are meeting because he is going to buy my old 50D body, as I have failed to sell it via e bay, as well as bringing him so British supplies, Bovril and Marmite.

Highlander Bar He buys me a drink, and we retire to the beer garden, mixing it with the smokers and wild birds feeding in the tree above us. Its not a bad life, all in all.

After a refill, we go to the diner up the street and have burgers and huge plates of fries and mayo and strong Barley Wine to go with it all. I had no eaten since breakfast, so was hungry, and I can tell you, that it was all good, even though very unhealthy indeed.

Evening in Arhus Another short walk away was the Mikkler Bar, so we retire there to sample some unusual beers, and at that point I thought we would be calling it a night. Show me the Highlander Bar he asks.

Hmm, I thought I could go in and just have one, so I agree, and we walk along near-deserted streets to the bar, where Julian perks up when he finds he has some ex-forces drinkers in.

Evening in Arhus We sample the pineapple rum, and some other rum. Then it got silly and we switched onto some far eastern whisky he had just brought back after meeting with the distillers. It was good, aged in sherry casks and is was luscious. Sadly, Julian told me there was an even better one, although twice the price. I can’t resist, and have one for the road, and leave some £65 lighter.

Evening in Arhus From there it was a short walk back up the hill to the hotel, Shaggs walks back to the station, and all is quiet, apart from the Pokemon players running around on the grass near to the hotel; keeps them fit I suppose.

Tuesday 19th July 2016

Summer in Denmark seems to be cold and cloudy, just with more daylight. Things is, you wake up and it is clearly light outside, does it mean it's stll before four in the morning, or is it after eight, in which case I'd be very late for the meeting.

Turns out it was seven, giving me half an hour before I was due to meet with Manu for breakfast, and then drive upto Hvde Sande for the meeting. I bumped into his the night before and said whoever had the best car would drive the next day. Having an A6 meant I was pretty sure I would win.

He arrives as I am tucking into a bacon butty, or roll in this case, and he is well, but tired after a weekend moving house.

Turns out he has a qashqai or whatever Nissan calls them, so I win. And we will be powered by many Audi horses for the day.

We load up, set the air conditioning to ice cold and drive off through the city up the well known road to Varde and then onto Ringkobing from there we would drive to the coast then turn south to Hvide Sande.

The question I do get from time to time is, what is Denmark like: well, rolling countryside, farms, woodlands and bogs, small villages and farms. No point is higher than 170m above sealevel, and for the most part looks the same. Or at least Jutland does. I have been to Copenhagen, and it is really a different country to Jutland.

We drive through the countryside, discussing politics, moving house and work. Life is good. Through Ringkobing and down the coast where many people go for their holidays, mainly Germans to stay in cabins hidden in the dunes. On a dull, cloudy morning, it seems hard to see why. And as Manu says, the cabins aren't cheap, as much as a flight for two to Spain where sun is assured.

Anyway, we arrive at Hvide Sande, go to the meeting room to prepare. And wait.

We are done by half one, time enough to go to Esbjerg and the office if we can get back quick. We take the road south, on the spit of land between the sea and lagoon. Traffic is heavy, and almost all German, but the sun is shining from a clear blue sky, it is so warm its hot, and holidaying here now makes sense.

In the cool of the evening We feel so lucky in being able to do this, drive along in an air-conditioned Audi, looking at wonderful scenery and calling this "a job". We do resist the lure of an ice cream parlour and press on away from the dune on the back road to Varde and then back south to Esbjerg.

Work is fine, just good to touch base with people, see how things are going. Half an hour later, people are finishing for the day, and so I think maybe I should too.

Anyway, I can work from the hotel room, sit in its cool shadyness and drink ice cold Pepsis from the reception. Yes, that sounds like a good idea.

I have the radio on, try not to take to bed for a snooze, and find that time slips through my hand and I can go down to meet Manu in the bar before we cross the street for some BBQ at Flammen.

A cool German wheatbeer, then the walk, more beer, salad and meat. Lots of meat. I go back for seconds, and am presented with a baby rack, which falls apart. And is delicious.

We round the meal off with a glass of wine, which hots the spot. Now just need cigars....

Monday 18th July 2016

In just typical manner, high summer arrived just in time not just for the working week, but a working week in Denmark. It was going to be a very hot day, it even felt hot at half five when the alarm went off, so before leaving for the station, I went round watering all the potted plants around the garden.

Just before leaving, I look up into the sky and there is no clouds. It will be tough in London.

I say London as I am going up early, to have a mooch around and try to see a couple of churches before I travel to the airport for the flight, I now have to depart and return from Heathrow, a major pain in the ass, and one that means a half day travel now turns into a full day one.

I load the car, and Jools takes me to Folkestone, traffic is heavy as a ferry has just arrived, so we crawl through the roadworks along Townwall Street, work which may become irrelevant, as the EU funding for the Western Docks redevelopment may not now be forthcoming, another effect of Brexit.

Anyway, past lorries as they struggle to climb Shakespeare Cliffe, and onto Folkestone where I see a Javelin just pulling in, just when wasn't due. Hmmmm.

I take my cases out of the car, get my ticket, but on the platform there is news of delays; the train I had just seen leave was the half six, at ten past seven, and no news when another might come. I got ready for some waiting.

In the end the broken down train was cleared, and although two trains were cancelled, another left on time, although that meant passengers for two services were squeezed on it, we were pretty much on time, been if it was the seven o'clock train, or the half past. Who knows.

Thought of Train of Thought by Ron Arad, St Pancras Station I get off at St Pancras for a change, I was in no hurry so I am last off, pushing my case. MY first target is the new work of art above the buffers at the far end of the station, so I weave my way though the crowds waiting to board trains for France, climb the stairs to the upper level where I could get clear views of the piece, a chromed blade that rotates, reflecting the station in itself.

Thought of Train of Thought by Ron Arad, St Pancras Station And then down into the tube, for a hop to Paddington, to drop of my case at the left luggage place, which like most things now has been privatised and cost £12.50 for four hours, rather than the 50p it should have. Grrrr.

Waiting at Paddington I managed to squeeze on with my case and take the 5 stops to Paddington, people do this every day I thought, and I could if I took a job in London, I have had them offered. Not in this lifetime.

I find the left luggage place, deposit my case, then make my way to the underground for a short hop to Notting Hill. Now free of the case, I can take shots on the platform and trains coming in and out. At least here the trains were mostly empty, so I could sit down for the two stops.

St Margaret Lothbury, City of London Next it was down onto the Central Line, where the modern age and the Gods of Air Conditioning had not yet reached, and squeezing onto another crowded train, hotter than a Turkish sauna. And I had over ten stops of this. But I was standing by one of the partition doors which had a window open, so there was something of a breeze to cool down.

St Margaret Lothbury, City of London At least my top half anyway.

I get off at Bank, then have to walk up the right exit for my destination; another church. But this one I have visited before, St Margaret Lothbury. I had last been here on a very wet Open House day, when we were soaked and the thrill of seeing so many open spaces soon lost their thrill, and we decided to call it a day very early and go home, as we were soaked.

Anyway, back here, and after walking three quarters around the Bank of England, I find the church and the door is open. A good sign.

I hear voices from the rear office, but they carry on as I go round snapping away, getting shots. It is a fine church, similar to several other City Churches, but decent enough, I am happy to redo my shots, with the new wide angle lens too.

St Margaret Lothbury, City of London I walk back past the Bank and the Royal Exchange to check on another church, one which is never open, St Peter Upon Cornhill. It is locked again. So I decide to make my way to my main target for the day, St Mary Abchurch. Instead of walking, I though I would catch the tube, only the walk to the Circle Line platforms went on forever, going up, down, along past the DLR station, the Northern Line Station until coming to the Circle Line, but this was Monument Station, meaning I had walked half way to Cannon Street anyway, and I just had one stop to ride; should have walked all the way.

St Margaret Lothbury, City of London Before walking to Bank Station, I decide it was time for breakfast. Or second breakfast, especially as first breakfast was just grapefruit segments and a coffee. I find an Italian place down a side alley from the Royal Exchange, I order a panini and sip from an ice cold bottle of orange juice, so sit on a stool byy the window to chat to an older gentleman about the changes he has seen in The City, and the wonderful churches and buildings that can be seen, and some of the less good ones too.

I get off at Cannon Street, and find it in chaos: there are gas main repairs going on, with traffic lights, and two of the sets of lights so close to each other and not in sinc, that the traffic is lines up blocking both. And it is hot. Damn hot. I know we have been waiting for such weather, but in London, without a breath of wind, it feels like I am walking on the surface of the sun.

I have walked up and down Cannon Street several times and never noticed the spire of St Mary, but then that is easy.

Coming out of Cannon Street underground station, crossing over the street, chocked with traffic as yet more roadworks were underway, past two junctions, and then up Abchurch into the yard, another street closed because of roadworks, but just a few steps off Cannon Street is another area of peace and calm in The City.

St Mary Abchurch, City of London A young man is serving coffee, and has few customers I would think on what must have been the hottest day of the year, but I see that the door was already open, so I cross the card, nose scrunched up at the smell of the drains below, and through the door into a cool and peaceful interior.

St Mary Abchurch, City of London Above the pews and marble floor, is a dome, painted to the glory of God, and is stunning. Apparently this was the practice dome for St Paul's, and it is glorious and managed to survive the Blitz too. I am met by a Friends guide, who asks if I need help, we swap words and news about other churches open, but is happy to leave me alone when she finds out I know the website and know my eggs.

St Mary Abchurch, City of London Somewhere inside St Mary, when changing lenses, some dust falls on the sensor, and I do not realise, nor could I do anything about it until I get home where I have the air blower. But most of the shots are OK, just the final ones taken outside where the dust is obvious in the blue sky.

St Mary Abchurch, City of London Once I am done, I sit outside on a bench, but it is in full sun, and it is baking, and I realise that I am not enjoying it. I need the bathroom, and these are in short supply until the pubs open, so I make my way back to Paddington where there are facilities, and a pub in which I can replace lost fluids!

I take the Bakerloo up to Baker Street, then along to Paddington, and once I had paid my 30p for spending a penny, I walk to the pub, order a pint of Pilsner Urquell on draft, and take it to the seat by the window so I could sit and look out onto the trainshed.

As I drain the beer, I see a vision in yellow and blue. It will mean nothing to most, but an HST, painted in original British Rail 70s Inter City colours, so painted to celebrate its 40th anniversary, so I take my camera to see if I can get some shots.

253 001 The lady working the ticket barrier, not only didn't mind me taking shots, but said it was OK to go onto the platform, without a ticket, to get shots. Many thanks to her and GWR,.

I collected my case and boadred a Heathrow Express, managing to find the single carriage with the air con broken, i moved to the next coach and settled down to leave.

At the airport i have lots of time, but I learn that I have been booked with a ticket with no baggage allowance, so have to pay £65 to take my case, and then that the £9 I spent the day before in reserving a seat is worthless as the computer had re-assigned me. I complained, asking if I would get the £9 back; but you are in row 3, sir, I am told. In short, upgraded.

Now, upgraded on a short hop to Billund isn't a big deal, but no one sitting next to you for a start, first off the plane at the other end. And food.

So, I accept the upgrade, pay the baggage fare and go through security only to find the flight delayed.

I go to sweary blokes Plane Food place and have burger as it would be too late once I got to Esbjerg to find somewhere open. All you get for the £15 is the burger, fries are £4.20 extra. And that is the bonus i used to get working in the chiller for a week at the chicken factory: a portion of chips! Would sir like to add bacon to the burger? I look at the menu: £2.50 for what would be a single rasher. I decline, thus saving the company some money.

By the time I am done, it is time to find the gate, and I discover that the delay has changed to being on time, and the flight will leave on time, and I have twenty minutes to find the gate. But that was a two minute walk away, and anyway, there is chaos at the gate and children are running around going crazy, and others are trying to jump the queue.

From the air After ten minutes; priority boarding please, which is my signal to jump the queue, and once down the walkway, slither into seat 3F and close my eyes. Behind me soon, a family takes their place in the cheap seats, and their eldest son spends the entire flight either kicking my seat or playing with the tray table. I add his name to the list!

From the air We are served High Tear: finger sandwiches, scone, jam, clotted cream and tea. It is lovely, really nice to be munching as we fly over sunny Europe. Needless to say I have the scone in the Cornish rather than the Devon fashion: jam then cream.

Needless to say, Denmark is cold and cloudy after all the sunshine a little south, but hey.

We have to wait ages for our bags, but then I am rewarded with an Audi A6 estate for the week. Lots of horses under the bonnet. I pack by back in the bag, start her up and just listen to the engine for the 45 minute drive to the hotel. Even then its just a purr, until you put your foot to the floor, then it roars, oh yes, my precious.

And there is a parking space at the hotel, so I take that, unload the car, check in, and once in my room on the top floor I find that the sky is falling again. So I have to have an hour's call with a colleague in which he explains how exactly the sky is falling.

Welcome to the working week!