Wednesday, 24 August 2016

Monday 22nd August 2016

And another working week rolls round, but this time not only am I traveling, but I am traveling to beautiful Belgium, and I can get to call it work too.

The plan for the day was to pick up the hire car, come home book the tunnel, then drive to tunnel, cross to France and finally drive the hour up the E45 to Oostene. Simple. But something told me that it wasn't going to be that simple, travel across the Channel rarely ever is.

As it was such a glorious morning, I thought it would be nice to walk into town along the cliffs once again taking in the views over to France and getting some phys too.

A walk into Dover to collect the hire car After coffee, Jools dropped me and my camera along Reach Road so I could cut through the estate then across the fields to the South Foreland Light, and then by the path along the cliffs, and hopefully not all down to the beach below.

All seemed still asleep at quarter past seven as I made my way to the overgrown path and then to the fields beyond. The combines have been busy, as the big field was strewn with bales too, so it would not be right not to stop to snap the scene as I walked to the wood. Te sun was just showing over the houses in the distance, so I hoped for some artistic flare would lighten the shots. Ahem. Chiz.

A walk into Dover to collect the hire car Once at the lighthouse, there is the narrow path leading to the cliffs, and then the vista opens up all the way to Dover Harbour some four miles away, and over the sea to France to boot. And this counted as work I told myself as I walked along, snapping as I went.

A walk into Dover to collect the hire car It was already a very warm morning, and was only going to get hotter, so the quicker I made it to the docks and the car hire place the better I suppose. There were very few other people about, a group of Gurkha running from the local barrack; they wave at me as I snap them running by.

A walk into Dover to collect the hire car The view from the very top of Langdon Cliff was impressive as the ground dripped away to the beach to my left, and as I looked now the cliffs dropped in height towards the harbour, then to the east the downs rose and on top was the Castle, St Mary in Castro and the Pharos. This is stunning landscape in anyone's book, and this is where we live.

A walk into Dover to collect the hire car On the other side of Langdon, I take the Cliff Road, then the path leading up to the top of the steep path which plunges down to East Cliff. Yes, I was now warm enough thank you very much indeed.

Down the steep path, under Jubilee Way, then at the bottom turning sharp left into the Eastern Docks and into the terminal building. And the car isn't ready, please wait.

I suppose waiting rooms in terminal buildings for buses, ferries and the like are much the same the world over; utilitarian, cold and faintly threatening. There was a black French family with three very young children waiting for a taxi after arriving on a ferry. There was no place to relax, just institutional style bench seating. There is a Costa, and so I have a coffee, charge three quid for a poor coffee and a giant Jammy Dodger, wich thrilled my inner child as it really was as big as I remembered them from childhood.

The car is ready, it was being cleaned, apparently. But when I go outside after the paperwork was completed, it is covered with dry dirty water. looking probably worse than it did before they washed it. But it is a large car, a Skoda "Superb", well, that's their opinion, and after two days with it, I will have mine. I can tell you now, it should have been called the Skoda "Average, but a bugger to park", doesn't rooll off the tongue I suppose.

Back home I book a place on the tunnel, a train leaving at midday, gave me 90 minutes to pack and get to the terminal, check in. Easy peasy.

It is great driving along the A20, instead of going towards Lympne, but taking the sharp bend into the back entrance to the tunnel complex. I check in so easy, go through British customs, then through French customs. And then I see the snake of traffic that had been directed round and through the car park all around the terminal building. This would take some time. In half an hour, I had made it to the terminal, and I had to get out to visit the AA shop to buy a set of light adaptors for the car, seeing as supplying me with a left hand drive car is beyond the wit of Budget Rentals.

I rejoin the queue, and we inch our war closer to the trains, but my planned departure time came and went. At least there was the radio to listen to. At two we made it to a train, the internal doors were closed and we waited. And waited. And waited.

There was an announcement.

The train had broken down, but technicians were on their way.

We waited some more.

The train could not be fixed, we would have to board another one. The doors opened.

And we waited.

And then there was another announcement.

The train had been fixed, and so once the train had been secured, we could leave.

Oostende, Belgium And finally, we were on our way, heading under the downs and the sea to France.

Thing is about traveling on the tunnel, is that once you reach the other side, the doors open and you drive off, and once up on the roadway, it leads straight to the motorway; no customs nor immigaration to get through either. British radio had faded, so I opened all the windows, and with the wind in my hair as I cruised along at 120kmh, I just relaxed as I drive north into Belgium.

Oostende, Belgium The landscape is pretty featureless, towns and villages dot the vista, there are pylons, canals and lots of farms and fields. We enter Belgium, nothing really changes, but heading north, the sun begins to sink, and the traffic thins out some.

Oostende, Belgium It takes just an hour to drive to Ostend, and I had not been there since the summer of 1973 when we had a family holiday based there. Apart from that there was a beach, I can't remember much about it. Moden Ostend is approached down what looks like an American style strill mall, all fast food places and stores, but it is OK, traffic moves well.

Oostende, Belgium The road leads into what must be the ring road, the sat nav directs me into the town centre, right to near the Kursaal: the hotel has no parking, so I have use the one underneath the casino. The lug by bags up the steps to street level and back to the hotel.

I'm not sure what modern hotels have against fresh air; the windows are sealed, so on such a warm early evening, I have to put the air conditioning on, as it switches off when the room is empty. So, every tme I return it is like an oven, or a stuffy one anyway.

Oostende, Belgium After checking work mails, I take my camera for a walk.

Behind the Kuraal was the promenade and beach. Like most towns on the continent, it seems that Ostend decided to beautify itself after the war; build a wide promenade, build pretty buildings, in general make it a nice place for people to come and enjoy themselves. Its Britain that thinks what would look nice next to a beach is a block of flats.

Oostende, Belgium And it is packed with people, families just coming off the beach, couples making their way to a bar sent up in the ground floors of the fine buildings. I snap away. At the northern end there is some modern air, metal boxes painted red to look like some kind of modern Stonehenge. Not sure if I'd like to see it every day, but against the clear blue sky it looked fine to me.

Oostende, Belgium I walk back into the town to look for dinner; so many places to choose from, but I think the ones along the promenade would be expensive, so try to find something cheaper and quieter. On the main square i find a place that has dozens of free tables, but is named after a good brand of beer; so I go in, order a Leffe Royale and a plate of grilled scampi with fries and mayo.

Whilst I am waiting for dinner, I get a call from a colleague to say he has arrived in Ostend and once I told him where I was, he came to join me for dinner. And beer.

The food is good, as so is the walk back through the town afterwards; obviously not British, a line of bars and restaurants, with people sitting outside, smoking and drinking, and no hint of trouble. People of all generations are mixing, and all seem happy to do so.

We find a bar and treat ourselves to more Belgian beers; La Chouffe this time, and very flavoursome it was too. We have a table looking out onto the street, so we can look at the parade of people passing by. One more for the road? OK then. So it is half eleven by the time we roll back to the hotel, it is now dark and humid as heck. I soon fall asleep on the bed with the radio playing.

Situation normal.

Monday, 22 August 2016

Sunday 21st August 2016

And so to the second half of the weekend, with less wind and about the same amount of sun.

There is football to watch, orchids to hunt, then the Old Farm Derby on the radio to listen and fret to. And after that the rest of the day kinda evaporates.

Up at half six, and the sun is shining, though probably not for long. So, after coffee decide to go to the Monument to look for the Autumn Lady's Tresses, I grab the camera and drive there, as it would have been too windy for butterfly shots if I walked.

Autumn Lady's Tresses Spiranthes spiralis I arrive, find the first spike, stoop to take a a shot and the camera fails to work. I try everything, then find there is no memory card fitted, and so there is nothing else to do than to drive home, pick up the card and drive back to the Monument and then get the shots.

Autumn Lady's Tresses Spiranthes spiralis The site is still recovering after the latest mowing, but there was about 50 spikes, half a dozen open or partially, so I have some shots at least.

On the way home I stop at the village shop for bacon and bread, when I got home and opened the bacon, it was cut so thin that separating the rashers was like opening a damp book. The rashers split and looked pitiful on the grill. But once cooked they were ok, but for certain never going to buy Walls again, not in this lifetime.

I have chores to do, but with my shoulder messed up again, I can't do much other than help Jools collect the hedge clippings as she beavers away in the garden. I can make tea, bring out ice creams and such like. And listen to the radio.

At midday, it is High Noon in Suffolk, as Ipswich and Norwich lock horns, but its a poor game even on the radio; Norwich take the lead midway through the first half, Town level on the stroke of half time, and its pretty much even in the 2nd half. 1-1 it ends, and so Norwich make it four games unbeaten, and Mick is well grumpy.

After that I cook dinner, very early. We sit down to chorizo hash at half two, and that means that is it for the day. Jools snoozes on the sofa afterwards whilst i watch updates on the Prem games on Twitter.

At six we watch the men's handball final, as Denmark were playing France; and Denmark won in a great fast game so claim gold. As I'm half Danish now, it was almost like Britain winning another medal. We have not watched much of the games, but it looked great, but there were huge numbers of empty seats in most stadiums. Although the sporting endeavour was wonderful, as was our medal haul, even surpassing that of 2012.

Sunday, 21 August 2016

Saturday 20th August 2016

And here is the weekend once again, coming along to tempt us with the delights we can't have during the week; like going out snapping, and orchid hunting. Although, we could have gone looking for the Violtet Helleborines once again, but another trip to the north of the county seemed a little extravagant, so I decided that we should wait for another year.

However, plenty to do round here, like checking on the work on Shakespeare Beach if nothing else.

We woke up and the sun was shining, but with the promise of a storm later in the day. But looking out of the bedroom window, I saw a field of bales away on the other side of the dip, away towards Westcliffe. I think I should be out taking photos of that, so I get dressed and drive over there so to make sure I get the best of the light.

Job done I park just shy of Westcliffe, and in front of me there are some bales in front of me, so I get snapping when the sun comes out from behind the clouds. I'm sure I get looks form people passing, but judging by the tampled grass into the field, I wasn't the only one to have photographed this scene.

With shots taken on the nifty fifty and the wide angle, I drive home for more coffee and breakfast.

Jools wants to know what the plan is, and I don't really know. I mean we could drive for an hour up to north Kent on another wild orchid hunt and not find anything. But I feel we have already done that three times this eason, and I don't really want to spend another twenty quid when we don't need to. Anyway, there's stuff to do here.

Like what? Like checking on the sea wall, and then picking up two new camera lenses.....

So, at nine I go out to drive down town to get a huge bunch of cash out of the bank, then go up to Aycliffe to park and then walk up the cliff path to check on progress. And with the sun shining brightly between the clouds, the shots should be OK too.

The ongoing repairs to the sea wall at Shakespeare Cliff, Dover And wow! Both tracks have now been relaid, new signals installed and all bar the footbridge and the third rail seem now to be done and it should be good to go. All in eight months. Really great work by Network Rail and their Orange Army. It does mean that there will just be one or two more trips up the cliff now, and it will be over. And we will be able to travel from Martin Mill to St Pancras again.

The ongoing repairs to the sea wall at Shakespeare Cliff, Dover From there, I drive through town up to Connaught Barracks, as was, now a private housing estate, where a friend was selling two lenses; a 50mm f1.4 and a 30mm f1.4. Shane and I had not met for seven years or something, when I last bought a lens from him. So we caught up, chatted about life and photography and all that shit. I buy the lenses and then retire home to review the shots from the morning.

The ongoing repairs to the sea wall at Shakespeare Cliff, Dover We have fish cake rolls for dinner; we know how to, ahem, roll in the house. And with the wind howling around the house, and the clock ticking towards midday and high tide, I take my camera and the new nifty fifty down onto Samphire Hoe to snap some waves as the sea broke on the beach beneath the cliffs.

Test shot Down on the Hoe the sun was out, but with the wind in the west, it made for a fun walk beside the sea wall, even if walking on the sea wall was banned because it was dangerous. Anyway, a few other people were out, including a couple in huge trousers. Like MC Hammer and his wife. And MC's pants were halfway down his butt-ocks making it hard for him to walk. We did habour hopes that the wind would lift them both up like kites. But that didn't happen.

Crash At the end of The Hoe, the waves breaking almost to the foot of the cliffs meant we stood there and just watched. Not huge waves, but looking odd in dazzling bright sunshine.

We walk back, and take the Alkham Valley road back to avoid the build up of port traffic we had seen on the way out. We get back in time for football on the radio, which was nice. Liverpool lose to Burnley, which was something of a shock. Anyway, I review shots, edit and write blogs. All is well with the world.

I cook breaded pork for dinner, along with fresh Kentish sweetcorn and lentil dahl. Man that is good tasty food.

That night we watch Olympic Tae Kwan do with the sound down, which makes it hard to follow, but fun. And looked like some kind of strange dance.

Where did it all go right?

The title of this blog has been stolen from Andrew Collin's blog of the same name, for much the same reason.

There has never been any plan in my life, I have done what seems right, and for the most part, its all worked out.

26 years ago I was waiting to join the RAF, and 15 years later waiting to leave.

Ten years ago I went nearly bankrupt, then got myself a crappy job delivering chemicals.

Seven years ago I was working for minimum wage at the box factory, and then laid off just after Christmas.

Two years ago I was made a quality manager, and after some initial problems, ahem, I got into the role.

This week I received a major boost with some nice words and a reward for the work I have done this past year, which was very welcome I can tell you. I have no idea how I have done it, but there you go.

So, a major boot for me. I just wish that all my friends had the same good fortune we have had, although I am told it was all down to my hard work. So, there you go. But then I could not have doine it without the support from Jools and the life that we have here up on the cliffs. Makes all the travel and feeling so tired worthwhile.

Next week, preparations start for the next phase of the project, with me and a colleague going to Ostend to look at our offices and plan work patterns. This will be my communte in a month, driving from home to the tunnel, then Calais to Ostend, 5 days a week. Interesting times ahead. And hopefully, no more travel through bloody Heathrow. But if that's all I have to complain about, well......

Saturday, 20 August 2016

Friday 19th August 2016

Both the Danish and British weather forecasters said that Friday was to be a day of torrential downpours. But the day dawned in Esbjerg, cloudy but with the promise of some sunshine.

I had time for a lay in, then get up to check the interwebs, have a shower, pack, check out, have breakfast, load the car, go back and ask for the room key to pick up the stuff I had left in my room. Then I had to call in the office to drop messages off. And then I could drive to the airport.

I must have travelled this road some 50 or more times, between Billund and Esbjerg. I knew all the landmarks on the way. Anyway, I had a big powerful car, and when I cam up to a slow moving truck, I had plenty of horses to call upon to whisk me and the car, and my luggage past and onto the long straight road beyond.

The harvest seemed to have been mostly harvested in the three days since I went the other way, fields all stubble and bales. And then there was more wind turbines being put up, three beside the road and a crane lifting baldes on a forth. It all seems to work for Denmark. There are a large amount of Teslas zooming about on Danish roads. Although, not zooming about too far of course, in case they run out of juice.

I arrive at the airport,a nd all seems clam and empty. But then I see the queue for security; oh well, I have two hours before my flight, so why not spend it waiting to be scanned? Why not indeed.

I am trough, and check my mails to find that I have dozens of mails to deal with. I make calls, send more mails, make more calls. Phew. Worse than being in the office.

My flight is called, and so there is the usual scrummage to get on first, even though the plane isn't full and we have reserved seats. Words fail me how stupid people are sometimes. I am in row 13, and have two seats to myself, which was nice. But only get one cup of tea and one pack of lemon favoured cookies. Sorry, biscuits.

We take off in bright sunshine, but the pilot assures us it is pouring in London. But there are no delays. Does this mean the 30 minute stack has now been factored into the flight time now?

As we cross over Holland, cloud engulfs us, and all is white. Hope nothing flies into us, I think as we zoom along. That would be a bad end to the day.

Over London is is cloudy, grey, but not raining. We approach Heathrow from the opposite direction, along the M4, over Windsor and down. Hurrah, back in Blighty, which still is in Europe.

There is the usual scramble to get off the plane, but most let passengers in front off first, which means that with the short walk to immigration, and a successful passport scan, I have a ten minute wait for my case, in which time I make three calls and send two mails. Phew.

I have a ten minute wait for the train into London, then we hit just about every red light onto the main line, and again as we crawl into Paddington The driver makes repeated apologies for the delays. Well, it is an "express" I suppose.

I could have caught the Tube, but decide to treat myself to a cab instead. I had my big case and so it was easier I suppose. But as we leave Paddington and head east along Marylebone Road past Edgeware Road, Baker Street and Great Portland Street stations; in other words the very same way the tube train would take under the road. Oh well. Into Euston Road, past the station then past the British Library and into St Pancras.

The driver who had blanked me all the way to St Pancras, now would not shut up as I tried to leave after paying. Strange bloke.

I had half an hour before my train to Folkestone, and I was hungry. So, why not get something to eat? Should it be something from Marks and Spencer or WH Smithes? No, I went to Yo! Sushi for some raw fish. And Tempura shrimp, obviously. I manage to wolf four dishes down in twenty minutes, am able to pay and go up to the platform to claim a double seat on the train.

The train fills with families heading for Broadstairs and Margate for the weekend. The two children in the seat in front of me are excited by Pokemon Go, and discuss the differences between the different monsters. I soon get bored listening to the younger child, so I am relieved when they get off at Ashford and silence returns to the carriage.

Its still not raining as I load my bags into the back of the car; thankfully Jools has got to the station in time, so we can drive home and be home and brewing up for four in the afternoon.

And relax.

Steve Lamaq is on the radio, playing a fine mix of new and classic tunes. I prepare insalata caprese once again, why not when it is light and flavoursome? Oh, and there is a bottle of wine to polish off too.

Will come too soon There is The Don on TV, and some Scottish wildlife porn too. We are both tired, but it is the weekend.

Friday, 19 August 2016

Thursday 18th August 2016

I awake at ten to six, but dedie to lay in bed a while. I re-awake at half seven, half an hour after I should have been at work.

Oh well.

Outside, cloud has covered the sky, and a breeze is blowing. But it feels warm enough when I open the room window. I get dressed and go down for breakfast; just a snack, and so am at the office just after eight, not too late. And anyway, as manager, I only have myself to answer to.

Components arrive through the day, then there is a database to update, mails to answer, calls to make. In short all the usual things that make a project tick.

The morning passes, there are more unwanted rolls on offer from meetings. I want them, filling them with cheese and quaffing more horrible coffee from the vending machines. The sun shines a little, the turbines out in the yard look magnificent.

I get news that my flight home is cancelled, but this means I will have to return via Heathrow once again. Not the worst thing in the world, but adding two to three hours to my day, and instead of being home at midday it would now be gone four. A full day of travel again. Anyway, I get my e ticket details, so it seems I am set. Still grumpy though.

Once again half three rolls round and all the technicians leave. I'm not far behind them, and as the day before I head to my room to listen to music and chill out. I lay on the bed and all but fall asleep, jerking myself awake a few times until half five rolls round and I go down for dinner.

I am eating so early because I am meeting a friend later, so I had better eat first. I don't even have to look at the menu, I order burger, fries and a beer. But it seems that the good food this week has played hell with my digestion, and I feel stuffed, acid bubbling away.

I walk to the main square where there is a music festival one; a stage has been set up at one end of it, and bench seats set up outside the Dronning Louise. I thought the guy on stage had forgotten the words to a Mike and the Mechanics song, but turns out he was just doing a soundcheck. But I can tell you the smoke machine was working fine as he as all but invisible.

Stffen is there, so he buys me a beer. And I struggle to drink it, taking an hour to empty the glass, and refusing a second.

When I go outside the square had filled up with people, and bloke with his guitar was doing an acoustic version of Take on Me, which was OK. I don't stay however, I have yet more mails to write, so walk back down side streets, then back onto the main shopping street, passing stragglers heading to the square going in the opposite direction.

Back in my room I settle down to watch some handball; I have no idea what's going on or how long the game is. I think several times the half, or third, or quarter was coming to an end, but they kept on playing. France won in the end. So I went to bed as darkness fell, ready to go home.

Wednesday 17th August 2016

First full day back in Denmark, and the sun is blazing down already from a clear blue sky. This is not the Denmark I know!

And I have a meeting at seven in the morning, so have to be up at six, getting ready and heading to the office after a rushed breakfast.

Once at the office, we go out into the yard, not without reason called the Sahara, as the crushed stones that make up the reclaimed land can be subject to dust devils and worse when the wind blows. Or on a day like this it can be as unforgiving as the desert.

The turbine sections stand spread out, most ready for transportation prior to installation. It is quite a sight; 26 complete towers standing tall with a huge installation vessel behind, 24 nacelles lined up looking for all the world like spaceships. And the blade sets, not so many of them, but arranged in photogenic stack system. I wish I could show you pictures, but I can't.

I realised today, that this is my world now, full of the remarkable and modern things that make the modern world possible. No longer for me the rows of chicken carcasses, but huge wind turbines, ready for 20 year service out in the North Sea.

How did I get here?

I have no idea.

That done there are always meetings to fill the day, and to eat left over food for other meetings. It all works out.

At three when the rest of the site finishes, I decide to go back to the hotel to relax and listen to the radio; I send a mail, then lay on the bed and fall asleep for two hours. I wake up some time after six, the radio still on, and outside the sun beginning to drop low in the west.

I go for dinner in the hotel; artichoke ravioli, not at all like the stuff in cans from Heinz. Much better. Better too with a glass of red and some fresh bread and salted butter. I know how to roll.

There is Olympic football on the TV later, Germany v Nigeria, its pretty good; Germany win, of course. Then I go to bed, worrying sleep would not come after my combat kip earlier.