Friday, 31 July 2009

A Day out with Nan

So, as I found that I would starting work next week I thought it a great idea to take Nan out for the day, as all I had planned was driving around taking pictures, and having Nan join with me it would be a pleasure and company.

And so after filling out another half dozen forms out at the job agency, I headed off to pick her up, and we headed into the Kentish countryside in the search for picturesque scenes and maybe a pub lunch and ending up at Waitrose in Hythe for shopping and delicious food shopping.

We headed first to Coldred, where Jools and I had attended the country fair at the weekend. It is a beautiful village, all set around a village green with a pond and a colourful sign. At the cross roads, the signpost was mostly overgrown as it was being used as an impromptu vegetable patch, with bean and tomatoes climbing the post.

Signpost, Coldred

The church was tiny but charming, and dedicated to St Pancras; the graveyard was wonderfully sparsely populated, giving the impression that locals lived to ripe old ages.

St Pancras church, Coldred

At Eythorne, the old railway to the coal mine crosses the 'main' road, and the line has been transformed into a small preserved line. We have yet to visit this, so I stopped to take pictures. A helpful chap came out and told me some history of the line and presses literature into my hand.

East Kent Railway; Eythorne Station

We cross the main London road and plunge down the hillside to the village of Lydden; I took the wrong turn and find a small country church nestling at the edge of a wood. The light was just perfect and I snapped away.

St Mary the Virgin, Lydden

A farmer asks me to move my car. I explain I was then leaving, no he says, can I park it up yonder lane blocking it as he wants to bring his flock out of the field ad that will stop them making a run for the vicarage. No problems; and so I reverse and soon the flock come bouncing out, marshalled by one sheepdog; the sheep leap over each other and are soon out of sight.

We continue on; over hill and down dale until we come at least to the road to hythe and join the 21st century again.

As the clouds thicken I find a wonderful timber-framed pub called The Bell and we go in for sandwiches and liquid refreshments. Outside, the heavens open and the rain pours down. The landlord scuttles about doing the job of three people, all very well.

The Bell, Hythe

Shopping in a supermarket is seldom fun, and Waitrose is the best of a bad lot; they have wonderful but over-priced food, but there were some things we needed that could only be got there. At least in here there are customers of a certain type, and which means I am now one of them. There are no children running around, and few people with trolleys having conversations blocking aisles.

After getting everything on the lest, I go to the till and remark how much better than Tescos it is, then the cashier tells me the total and I reply now I remember why we don't come here very often.

Oh well, I'll be a working man again soon.

Welcome to the working week. Again.

And so, to work.

In the past three weeks I have been kept on tenderhooks by several job agencies; after promises of work and riches, this has been followed by nothing other than silence. And so I went from agency to agency, filling out form after form, clearing my schedule in preparation for work, doing fork lift driving tests, and generally fretting myself as to whether the phone is going to ring or not.

My sister-in-law works in the same place as Jools, and she is the QA manager; they need someone to oversee production at night; would I like to do it? Yes!

And so to another agency, this time telling them that a request would be coming for them to employ me from their client. I attended an induction where I felt like myself and the inductor had 90% of the braincells in the room. Oh well. And really that was it.

Other than to tackle the rules that run the DHSS or whatever they call themselves these days; Jobcentre plus or something. I have been off work for three months and I had to attend an interview yesterday about things to do to improve my chances of finding work; a jet powered interwbz maybe? Or getting companies really to recruit might help.
Anyways, I go in and explain that I am to start work on Monday morning and so the interview is not needed as it will be wasting their and my time. 'If you want to continue the claim to Sunday evening you must attend the interview, otherwise your claim will be terminated today.'

So, saving an hour of my life I decided to forgo the interview and four days benefit and use that time to take Jools' Nan out for the morning, have lunch out and generally spend some time with her while I can.

Whilst out with Nan I get a text message from my friend, Dick. He just had an interview with a bomb disposal company in Rochester, and they are planning in expanding into sea surveys.

Can you see where this is leading?

I knew about this and had sent in a letter and CV; in three days I heard nothing. Turns out they were waiting to see what Dick was like and seeing that I have just about the same experience seemingly are going to offer me a job as well. When I got home there was a call waiting, I send off my CV again, he calls back, we can do business.

So, choices, choices.

After nothing for three months, two in a day.

Anyways, I am starting the QA job on Monday to see how that goes and then go for an interview with the bomb disposal place; and a survey engineer not as someone who will doing the defusing I stress.

And so, on this bright and sunny Friday, I am going to be spending it relaxing, watching cricket, internetting and baking some saffron buns this afternoon. And then a pub quiz and beer and whiskey and much mucking around this evening.

To blog or not to blog

I have been writing down random thoughts since November 2006, when I embarked on my life at sea. Since then I have posted those on myspace and on of all things, a dating site called Matchdoctor. As time went by I got very bored with myspace, but the friends I made through blogging kept me on the latter site. And then politics and religion got in the way; name calling and those who shout the loudest; friends left, the fun left. And in the end I found I was enjoying writing on here more because at least I could post pictures at the same time as writing.
It was to be just a matter of time before I left Matchdoctor, and that time has now come, although my account is till active, I will use it just for mails to and from friends.

I don't claim to be a wordsmith or anything, but in the nearly three years I have been doing this, I have enjoyed writing, and hope to continue through whatever life may bring.

And so, another phase of my life is about to begin, new challenges and people to meet. Hopefully you will join me along to way. If not then at least it gives me something to read in my fast approaching dotage.

Tuesday, 28 July 2009

Music

Is my first love, and it will be my last. And so sang John Miles in the 70s. It was around this time I fell in love with music.

For Christmas 1977 I got what must have been my first Boots voucher. Imagine rather than giving someone money where they could spend anywhere, a voucher that could only be spent in one shop? Genius, and we fell for it.

Still, I had a Boots voucher and wanted to buy a record; my choice was Abba's Take a Chance on Me. I remember it came in a plain white sleeve, or mine did, anyway. I didn't have a record player of my own, so I had to play it on Dad's radiogram when they were out.

A radiogram was a sideboard sized piece of furniture that had a record player and a radio inside. Ours was used mainly for listening to the radio, and that was a multi-band thing with all those fabulous European cities listed on them. I used to love Wednesday evenings when Dad and I would wait for the music to finish on Radio 2 and the commentary from somewhere in Europe would fade in and out on medium wave. All those strange names and places. It also meant I could stay up to half nine, maybe later if it been a good match and stay up for Sportsnight where the highlights might be shown.

Anyway, back to music: I remember the time when I heard a song I actually loved, and remarked that my heavy metal loving friend, Mark, that my new favourite song was Since You've been Gone by Rainbow. More of a pop-metal thing I guess. That summer, we had taken part in an exchange thing where we had a German student stay with us, we were to go to Germany in October. On a trip to Norwich my friends went into a long gone record shop and bough singles by UK Subs all on coloured vinyl; I didn't get it.

Later that year I did. Armed with more Boots vouchers I bought an album this time; Queen's Live Killers, as I loved the song Don't Stop me Now; but that wasn't on it, and I didn't get the live recordings of songs I knew and those, most of them, that I didn't know. I sold that on quite quickly.

Having started a paper round just before Christmas, I soon had twenty pounds of tips to spend money on; it was Pink Floyd's The Wall and both of Blondie's records, Parallel Line and Eat to the Beat. This was more like it, or at least the Blondie ones. Pink Floyd was spread over two records and was hard work for my 14 year old ears.

I think the first single I bought with my own money was also by Blondie; Atomic, which was not on a album, I think. But that was quickly followed by The Vapors Turning Japanese. Now I was an earner, i could buy whatever I wanted, just as long as it was one single a week. I earned it, Mum and and Dad I think were quietly pleased as they loved music too, although they played records very little.

Anyway, I had my own record player, or music centre as they were called. It had a deck, a tape player and a radio. And Dad hung the plastic speakers on the wall just perfect so they could vibrate and make the house echo to dodgy bass sounds. I recorded music from the radio, even though it was killing music, apparently.

A few years ago, my selection was on 6 Music's Gideon Coe's show feature, Hit the Dec's, where one listener would choose a favourite record from the 60s, 70s, 80s, etc. Here is my selection, and the reasons.

1960s:

Excerpt from a Teenage Opera by Keith West.

This was always on Junior Choice on Radio 1 when I was a kid. I hated it, and then a friend with whom I worked loved it, and I listened to it and realised how sad the words were. Grocer Jack did indeed die. But I guess the most amazing thing is that Radio 1 had a show just for kids, real kids, not indie Kids, but children, and they played The Laughing Policeman, Puff the Magic Dragon and all that kind of stuff. And David Bowie's The Laughing Gnome. Oh how we laughed. And we did.

1970s

Denis by Blondie.

Musically, the first thing I think Dad and I agreed on; although to be fair I think he had an altogether different interest to me. As a Sun reader (the shame) he said in hused tones as she danced across the screen, 'She don't like to wear anything on her legs, apparently' he drooled. I just loved the music and indeed she did look stunning. But, it was the music.

1980s

Song to the Siren by This Mortal Coil.

Not a hit, but a wonderful song. A cover of the Tim Buckley classic as done by an indie supergroup made from bands on the 4AD label and voiced by Elizabeth Frazier of the Cocteau Twins. To me, it sounded like nothing else, and now being a self-confessed indie kid who listened to John Peel every night, this was just perfect. At the end of 1984, two of my friends were killed in a road crash on Christmas Day; this was played as Chris' funeral. Has been known to reduce me to tears when played late at night.

1990s

Common People by Pulp

During the early years of 'Britpop' I lived in Germany where I was serving my country by drinking as much beer as I could. The queen was happy with that, she gave me a medal. And this, in the summer of 1995, after I split from my first wife, was the song I heard everywhere, and I think has stood time as the best thing to come out of the whole scene. Another Peel favourite, no need to add.


2000s


Tiny Spark by Brendan Benson

Brendan Benson found fame, of a kind, by being in the same band as The White Stripe's Jack White for a while. I got to love his music when I picked up his first album whilst in the US. This track was the first thing I heard of the second one, via his website. Nothing can ever come close to the goosebump inducing moment when I stood outside the Louisiana pub in Bristol and hear this being played as part of the soundtrack. Brendan's music is a mix of pop and catchy tunes with self-deprecating lyrics.


The first band I ever saw live was Iron Maiden at the beginning of 1981. I say Iron Maiden, in truth it was their support band, a French heavy metal band called Trust who were quite bad. Even still I went out and bought their record as soon as I could. I didn't keep it. Living in the wilds of East Anglia, getting to see bands was very difficult, impossible if you didn't have a car. Our nearest venue was at the University in Norwich, and they only had bands on during term time, and so six months of the year there were no gigs at all.
Someone at school arranged a bus from school, and some of my friends and I got tickets and went. I do remember my ears ringing for days afterwards, and having a very stiff neck from two hours of serious headbanging. That and the mildly comical sight of dwarfish lead singer Paul Di'Anno gurning as he roared the songs out.

I guess the best show I ever saw was me and my friend, Douggie went to London to see Prince play Wembley on the Lovesexy tour. We had seats a handful of rows from the front, and had a great time, and marvelled at the show as well as the music. I went in only quite liking his music and walked out a converted fan. Sadly, he put out ever decreasing quality records, and I fell out of love with his music. Bt we'll always have that night.

Monday, 27 July 2009

Dover 100

So, a 100 years ago, a French bloke, looked out across the La Manche and decided it was worth risking flying his mono-plane the 23 miles from Calais to Dover.

Ships I see no ship. No, hold on

Of course, everyone has heard of Louis Bleriot and his flight. And so to mark the centenary, Dover council saw fit to organise a celebration of sorts, and that was to take place on the day of the centenary.

Pies? Where?

What they did fail to do was to plan in time and so not have any decent air displays, host the main part of the celebrations in a private school where people could be charged £10 to enter the grounds. And then have a celebration meal somewhere out of private eye where local politicians could mix with the great and good chomping away at a meal costing £250 plus drinks.

A long wait

We didn't go.

The fly past began at nine in the morning, and after a few scattered microlights flew over from France a whole lot of nothing happened for a few hours. A lone Spitfire flew over, and mid-afternoon a Lancaster swooped down. At seven, the Red Arrows flew over in formation.

Winston Says...........

And left again.

No display.

And at a quarter past ten there was a fireworks display; but we were home and although tried to spot the fireworks above the cliffs, saw nothing and so went to bed.

Captain Webb is feeling colourful

Rock and roll.

That is the official celebrations; here's how we spent the day..........

I awoke Saturday morning, literally bouncing out of bed and fed the cats, put the coffee machine on and made ready for the full day ahead. There was no putting it off, and so we were heading towards Tesco sometime before half seven, and with our list we ran round throwing stuff we thought we needed. And back home in time for breakfast, put the shopping away and be ready for going back out, this time into the crowds, by nine.

We decided to head to the National Trust place on the white cliffs and walk down the path into the town if we felt the need to see what the fair or fete or whatever it was being called.

Dover Elephant(2)

There were still lots of parking places, and we got a prime slot and walked to the edge of the cliffs to see what was going on/

A whole lot of nothing.

Or nothing unusual. Being the start of school holidays, the port was packed and the queues were out back onto the A20, but we were above all that, and the tannoy announcements had a sort of surreal nature to them. Ferries hurried back and forth, and were loaded and unloaded. Other early arrivees had brought picnics, tables, kitchen sinks and the such.

Ant-ici-pat-ion

A few tiny planes stuttered across the channel; we walked down to the prom and where the action was. Or wasn't.

As is usual, the fair or fete was filled witht he usual tat; a stall selling nothing but water pistols. Sorry two stalls selling nothing but water pistols. Inflatable nuclear bombers; yup, we had those. And all the other stuff; donut stalls, ice cream vans, tea stalls, fish and chips, kiss me quick, inflatable slides. Oh, there was everything.

Ant-ici-pat-ion

We stopped and had a bacon butty with a cuppa and watched the world go by. I took pictures and was happy.

We walked to the end of the prom and then turned round and walked back. Up the steps and back to the car.

We went home. for lunch.

A Spitfire flew over.


Grrrrr.


We decided to go to a quiet bit of the cliffs nearby where we would have a great view of any aircraft flying along the cliffs.

As we drove to the cliffs, the Lancaster flew over sounding all big and impressive.

We looked at the boughs of threes and imagined what it looked like.

On the cliffs, we had a great view.

Of sky and clouds. The wind blew and we got chilly. We tried to read The Times, but the wind made it hard. We silently agreed to go home, and a seaplane did aerobatics over us as we walked back to the car.

I cooked steak whilst Jools went to a chippie for chips, and we had a splendid dinner and afterwards we sat outside as an unseen plane did aerobatics somewhere. On the dot of seven, the Red Arrows and their French counterparts did a play past and kept on going. We were disappointed; we can only imagine how sad the children were at waiting all day for a 20 second view of nine aircraft heading home.

I poured some more wine.

At ten fifteen the fireworks started, but from our back room we could see nothing; and so we went to bed.

Green Line Bus

Sunday, we had a banquet of things to choose to do; but we chose to go for a ramble. That it began and ended in our own village meant we really should have gone on it. And in the end we enjoyed it, and found some unexplored and quiet parts of the village. Met some new people and walked along the cliffs some.

Ford Edsel

After lunch we went to a village fete about 5 miles out of Dover at a village called Coldred; there were cars, tractors, animals, stalls, beer tents and the usual there. I took loads of pictures and we had a great time. How much better it seemed organised, and how much better it was for being low key.

In the future everything will be smaller

Having bought half a cow, we had only eaten half the steaks the night before. I made beef Wellington for Sunday night, and a veritable triumph it turned out to be.

Friday, 24 July 2009

Ozark, Arkansas

As Brits, we generally only visit the coast areas of America, thuge bit in the middle we fly over sipping cocktails and watching films as we head to SF, LA or Seattle. Which is fine; from our window seat we see patchworks of fields, looking quite small, but I guess in reality must be miles by miles big.

I want to tell you about the small town in America that I know quite well; Ozark Arkansas.

Arkansas has a reputation I guess, I know it from Whacky Races and the Arkansas Chugabug car, and that why isn't pronounced Ar-can-sas? It is against state law to deliberatly mispronounce the State's name; so there.

So, how I came to find myself in Ozark Ar, on the edge of the Ozark mountians in quite simple. When I got online, and realised that I could write to anyone, anywhere, I just needed to know their e mail address, I searched Google, my first google search, for pen pals and joined a site. I wrote to people, many people, mostly in the US, some I am still best friends with, some we still write on occasion, but most have drifted away.

Anyway, Mother dearest got envious of the time I was spending online, and the letters I got and I asked if I could put an ad for her too. I ended up writing the letters as well, but after some freaks and crazies were filtered out she, I, we wrote to one good lady in Ozark Ar. And in one letter she wrote if ever Mother, or I wanted to come over and stay that would be fine.

And so in October 2003, I found myself on a flight from jolly olde England to Oklahoma City where my friends were going to pick me up. On the map, Oklamhoma City to Ozark, or Fort Smith looked close, imagine my surprise when it turned into a four hour drive! For us in England that would be something of a road trip adventure requiring weeks of planning with maybe an overnight stop halfway. (not really).

So, we arrived in Ozark, and it was quiet. Linda, Mum's friend lived on Plumb street, some 5 miles outside of Altus. Altus is another town, I guess we'd call it a village, it's some 5 miles from Ozark, it has a bbq place to eat, Alagator rays, a cool bar, and is really famous for being the home of 'The Simple Life.' I had no idea who Paris Hilton was, there was sign on the edge of town proclaiming the above fact, and they were all quite excited about it.

On my last visit there in 2005, that sign is now gone; maybe being linked to Ms Hilton wasn't so good for image. Back in 2003, I though Paris Hilton was just a hotel. Which it probably is.

I made real good friends with Linda's son Jason, and soon after my first visit I was planning my second, for July 4th the next year.

The south, or maybe the Deep South is a different country for sure. But nothing quite prepared me for the humidity as I got of the plane and headed towards the car park. It was like a sauna. And people live here! It was something else, but I kinda got used to it.

Jason drives a propane truck, and I went with him on a few of his routes, from the houses in town, and then up into the foothills of the Ozarks where crazy old men live in trailers whilst going odd. One old coot came out in red long johns and failed to notice my accent as we reversed up his drive through the dog s@#+. They lived up these dirt tracks in trailers, I guess brewing their own booze and being generally odd. I loved it, it was like a film made real.

Up in the mountains we drove to a place called White Rock, up a twisty turny dirt road, dodging logging truck to the overview, and from there just the gap in the trees that marked to road, there was nothing but trees to the horizon. Nothing to show that there was any people here at all. A couple of buzzards flew around kinda half interested in what we were doing.

The average Brit in small town is greeted by the same phrase over and over again:

"Oh my God, say that again! Where'd you get that accent?"

Or the best one by the secretary at Jason's company;

"Please talk to me"

"what about?" I asked.

"It don't matter!" said she.

That aint never happened to me. Before or since.

But I loved that town, Aligator Rays does serve cooked gator; tastes like chicken I was told. I stuck with pizza. The BBQ place did all you could eat ribs one night, I managed just the one plateful. But it was good, sticky stuff all over my fingers to lick off as we drove home.

Jason lived on South Roseville, down a grassy track through several dead pick ups and assorted agricultural vehicles. I got used to that, yards are big enough just to leave stuff to rust and become overgrown and impossible to move, even if you wanted to.

My last visit in 2005, I stayed for 5 weeks to see if I could stand the heat before seeing if I could go and live there. It would've been tough; work would've been hard to find, although homes were cheap enough. I think I could have done it, but decided to try and make a go of it back home before gving Arkansas a try.

Everyone there and in other 'small' towns I have visited, the welcome was nothing less than warm; and indeed on my drive down the west coast I never dined alone, or sat at a bar, as someone would ask me what my story was, and I would ask them theirs. It was great. I would be invited to their place, if was around the next day.

My last memory of Ozark was the first High School football game of the season; the local team were called The Hillbillies.

Really.

The week leading up to the first game people had painted shop fronts down Main Street the team colours, with encouraging messages. Even I was excited. After Jason and I finished the gas route, we picked up his family and we headed into town for a family getogether and grill at a large house, a short walk from the field. The whole town turned out to cheer the team on, I could see their sense of community. It was great.

This was the focal point for the town, old friends greeted each other, and old players exchanged stories of great games past.

The Band played the Antional Anthem, hand on heart and looking to the flag. I people watched.

At half time the two teams bands had a battle, tried to outplay each other, this part I enjoyed the most; we don't have this sort of thing in Britain. The final part was the drum section going what I would call 'crazy.' The drummers were blur as they made huge sounds, but was wonderful.

Sadly, the team could not match the band, and in the final minutes the other team got two touchdowns and then went for the two point conversion to edge the game. It was still great.

The town went home quiet; huge moths circled the lights as they illuminated the night. I had a fantastic time. Now I understoof Friday Night Lights.

I have not been back since, and have a longing to go to rays for a brew, or maybe to Rays to try the aligator. Maybe one day.....

But, I do love America, and it's people. I write this because the BBCs correspondant has a book coming out about small town America, and I heard an interview with hime this morning,

Susie's Fingers

I saw her across the room, and I knew I had to have her.

She had wonderful eyes; one half shut like she was winking at me, roughled hair, but in a cute way.

She lay on the blankets arms and legs spread-eagled.

Did I mention she was naked?

No matter how young i was, I found that appealing.

I asked Mrs Fletcher if I could have her, and she said yes.

So I picked Susie up and tucked her under my arm and put the thumb from my other hand in my mouth and trotted home behind Mum back home.

Susie may have been a doll, and may have bene a boy, but having no brothers or sisters, she became the sister I never had. I took her everwhere, Mum put her in the wash when she bacame grubby, and she shared my bed.

Which is where we pick the story up early one weekday morning.

I lay there listening to Dad getting ready for work, the familar music of the Radio 4 news show beginning at seven. It was the same tune as used on one of my favourite TV shows; but I knew it was the radio.

I lifted Susie up and looked at her hands; her fingers were short and stuumpy, but could be moved. Unlike the rest of her they were some kind of rubber. Lazily I pulled and one finger came off.

Ooops.

Looking for somewhere to put the finger, I put it the first place I cam to.

My nose.

Oh look, another finger. I pulled and that came off.

And it followed the first.

And so on until my little leper doll had no fingers at all. Mum came to wake me and asked mhy I had a funny voice, all blocked up like.

I replied it was because I had Susies fingers up my nose.

There was a pause while Mum digested this piece of information.

I held up the doll to show her.

You have all ten fingers up your nose?

Yes.

Don't sniff.

What?

Don't sniff!!!!!!!

We didn't have a car, ever; so she ran around our neighbours until she found someone who would take me to the A&E.

Riding in a car was fun; something I hardly ever got to do. I thought it was great. I can remember that sunny morning even now. We went past the fire station down past the cemetary right to the hosptial.

I loved it, not only was the car ride great, but I was a celebrity at the A&E dept.

What appears to be wrong young man?

I have Susie's fingers up my nose.

Pardon.

So, Mum explains and she then added, don't sniff for like the millionth time that morning.

The doctor got a mirror and torch and looked. And then he got to longest tweasers I had ever seen and pulled them fingers out one by one.

Phew, no need for the operation after all.

We had to catch the bus back home; no car ride now I was fingerless. And poor Susie went to the great toy store in the sky.

I write this as Mother tries to embarass all my friends with this, so when you meet her now you can tell her you already know.

Thursday, 23 July 2009

Anything just isn't Cricket

It may have escaped your notice, but a major sporting series is happening right now over here in England. If you live over here, of course, the Ashes are a big deal; a battle that dates back to....

*googles for date*

1882, when the English team toured Australia and lost; causing someone to burn the bails of one of the wickets after the 1883 series, so legend has it. But since then, every two years, the two teams take it in turns to host the 5 or 6 game series.

England won the 2nd test today to lead the 5 game series 1-0. It may surprise you to know that cricket, test match cricket, a test match can last 5 days. Yes, that's 5 days. And you thought a 19 innings baseball game was long.

Generally, as well as being a sport, it's a game of manners, if a batsman knows he is out, he will walk not waiting for the umpire's raised finger. Or not.

It takes a special kind of country to invent a game that takes 5 days to finish, can't be played in rain or evenings. And then export it to various countries around the world, and now have test matches against what were once former colonies.

Of course, there is more to cricket than that; it's like a chess match on a grand scale, and can be compelling viewing. Or not. I love it, although life gets in the way and mostly can't get to see much of it on TV.

So, here is a potted guide to the game; pay attention, I'll be asking questions later..............

Take two teams of 11 players, toss a coin and the winner of that decides to be either in or out. Batting or fielding. The team that is out try to get the team that is in, out. Then the team that were in, but are now out, try to get the team that were out, but now in, out. Then the team that were out, then in are out try to get the team that were in, then out, now in, out again. And finally the team that were in then out then in try to get the team that were out then in then out now in, out.

I think that covers it. The team with the most runs, wins. Teams play in white flannel trousers and white shirts and possibly white woollen pullovers. Players can be out by being caught, bowled (the ball hots the wickets or LBW, which is way too complicated for this. Fielding players have silly names for the position where they stand, gully, slip, silly-mid-on, etc. Interested?

The Play for Yesterday

I was reading a book today, and in it the author mentioned his school plays.

I was not much of a Thespian in my younger days, I loved TV too much, I have to say, and finding the night of the class play was going to clash with the final series of Dad's Army, I lied and made something up.

My first role was either as a raindrop or a ray of sunshine. I was 5 years old and all us in my class were dressed in paper tabbards with either a diagonal yellow strip on the front, or a tear shaped rain drop. IN the passing thirty eight or nine years, the name of the play or the plot has been forgotten. Needless to say, I was the star.

The next year I had my only speaking part, ever in a school play. In the story that was Noah and his Ark, I was Ham, Noah's son. And even to this day I remember my line. My only line. On hearing that two of every animal was to go into the ark, I had to utter the fillowing line:

"What about my hamster, Dad?"

And from then it was downhill. I don't know if that line brought the house down; it should have.

I think.

My last starring role was in the 4th year production of Robin Hood.

I was a tree.

A freaking tree.

The two of us being the forest.

Of Sherwood.

And I couldn't tie knots and so each day had to paint a new batch of leaves.

And on the big night missed my queue and walked on stage at the end of act three instead of the beginning of act 4.

From that point on, if you were a failure as a tree, what else could you do?

Be a giant.

In middle school, given the task to walk like a giant in drama class, imagine my surprise to be chosen to be the lead in a play of the Giant's Garden.

In front of the school.


I actually messed up kinda on purpose; how could being a failure as a tree prepare the young actor to be the lead? Not at all.

I messed up the dress rehearsal and was deputised. The performance never took place due to some reason. Oh well..

Another week goes by

Sometimes, just when you think all is going right; it doesn't. Or when you think things are stuck in a rut, suddenly things change. Both happened this week. But more of that later.

Last Friday, I sat beside the phone expecting the call to say I was going to start work. I waited and waited. And as you may have guessed, nothing happened; no call, no nothing.

And so, Jools decided to take the afternoon off she is entitled to, and we had most of the afternoon together once I had picked her up. We headed up to the National Trust place high up on the cliffs to the south of Dover, and as we were about to set off for a walk her phone rang.

It was her friend from France, who runs the French and European part of where Jools works, Melanie had been sacked on the spot in a cost cutting measure. Thing is, Jools had forecasted this just seconds before the phone rang. I need her to forecast a lottery win quick. That would involve me actually buying a ticket once in a while, though.

Melanie was shocked and distraught, as this meant that she and her husband could not now buy the old water mill they had been planning as they could not get a mortgage. She was even frightened that her partner would leave. Who would run a business knowing the consequences of a decision?

Jools tried to talk things through, and in time we were able to go for that walk, to stand on the highest part of the cliff with a gale blowing through our hair and just feel alive. The view from here, of Dover spread out to our right, and in front over the channel to France and Calais is one that brings a sense of awe very time.

White cliffs (no blue birds)

Saturday dawned bright, and so as Jools had a beading class in Deal, I took the opportunity to visit Deal Castle and take some shots. Deal has an old fashioned feeling about it, built beside the sea just in view of France and at the end of the white cliffs from dover; it is a mix of narrow streets, whitewashed houses and cottages, a shingle beach full of small fishing boats and a very unusual castle.

Deal Castle

Each layer is built of semi-circles, each layer out of line, so the castle had a complete arc of fire for 360 degrees. On a bright day the black cannons with red corks in the barrels and the stonework make for striking pictures. Sadly, inside the castle is empty of furniture, and although is impressive as any building would be with 8 feet thick walls, I can't help but feeling it lacks something.

Deal Castle

For me, the biggest disappointment was being unable to get outside on the upper levels to see the patterns of the castle laid out below. Oh well.

Whilst I waited for Jools to finish her class, I retired into a pub on the seafront to read The Times and to sample the ale, just to check all was right of course. I made do with watching people walk along the prom; nothing quite beats people watching.

A Table's Story 3

I had such a great lunch at the village pub on Thursday, we decided to head out onto the Romney Marsh for another visit, and there it was Stilton ploughmans all round. And more foaming summer ale for me. Yay! Although sitting out in the beer garden, we run the gauntlet of wasps which did find Jools' cider apparently irresistible. The meal was wonderful, and sitting there watching what passes for village life, a passing couple of folks on horses or the occasional tractor. Not bad.

The Woolpack, Hamstreet

The weather Sunday was not so good, but was expected to perk up in the afternoon; which was just as well as we had another Flickrmeet planned; this time to Ramsgate group, and a wander along the edge of Pegwell Bay, and hopefully some pictures to be taken as well.

teazle

We spent the first half of the day in the garden and doing chores around the house, before setting off as the sun came out. Sadly, just five of us turned up, but we got on well, and as we wandered along the edge of the mudflats, we took pictures of what we thought was interesting or at least photogenic. And what better way to finish the afternoon off than to go to the pub for a pint and more chatting?

Ramsgate Flickrmeet

And so, Monday; the phone did not ring. I pottered around the house; did some cooking, and so the day passed. Tuesday, I had the car and so I went on a trip to photograph some more Kentish churches. Like most counties, Kent has history, but what I love more than anything else is that most villages are pretty much unchanged since the middle ages. Some new houses, but life is as slow as it mostly was.

St Anthony of Parmiers, Alkham

Alkham is a village on the back road from Dover to Folkestone; and it's church is behind the village pub and a little difficult to find the entrance to the churchyard. I mean you can see the tower, how hard should it be? But, I found it in the end, and took maybe a dozen shots before setting off again.

St Anthony of Parmiers, Alkham

After deciding to take some train shots, I made my way to Sandling station, which nestles in a fold in the downs. Once quiet and peaceful apart from the four trains an hour that pass through, it now sits beside the high speed link from the Channel Tunnel to London, and four Eurostars roar through on the new lines as well. Sdaly, the line is surrounded by high fences covered in warnings to thieves and terroists, like they'll listen to those. And photography was next to impossible thanks to the thick fence.

Sandling Junction

My final call ended up at Postling, just north of the Channel Tunnel entrance where I found a picturesque church which until that morning had an overgrown graveyard. A local man had spent the day with a scythe a and a rake cutting and piling the grass up. It made for a wonderfully timeless scene, and one to be photographed.

Church of St Mary and St Radigund, Postling

Inside, the church had details of former wall paintings that puritans had whitewashed over hundreds of years ago. I dutifully recorded those with my camera too.

On the way home I managed to get myself lost in the network of narrow lanes that criss-cross this part of Kent. I know if I kept going north I would get to where I wanted to go sooner or later. It was pleasant enough, driving through lanes with high hedges on either side, so little used that grass pushed up through the tarmac.

Yesterday, what started out as a short walk to visit a local chapel ended up with me taking my life in my hands walking on the main road into Dover for a while, then heading up to Dover Castle for some photographs before walking back along the cliffs.

Just outside our village is a hamlet called Westcliffe, and it has a pretty Norman chapel with an overgrown churchyard. Well, some of it is, some is neat and tidy, and still used as the fresh flowers proved testament to.

I decided to walk on towards Dover in the hope of seeing the golden corn harvested. But, sadly not, but I did get some nice shots of the heavy ears sagging and swaying in the breeze.

Corn

The footpath had run out, and I had to dive into the hedgerow when a car or bus passed. It wasn't that dangerous, but to get to the lane down to Guston, I had to walk along the main road, which was an altogether different kettle of fish. No footpaths to help me here, and no room for cars or truck to get past, so every couple of steps I had to leap out of the way of a zooming car or something bigger. This, I know, was not the cleverest thing I have done. But, I got to the Swingate Inn and crossed over the main road and was soon in a different century as I was once again heading down a country land with high hedges on both sides.

Bus

I won't bore you with the walk to the castle, but I made it soon enough and without being run over, which is always good. We had been given a years membership to English heritage for Christmas, and so entry was free for me, and I walked up the slope into the castle and into 2 millennium of history.

The main keep is closed for restoration, and a huge marquee was being built for a celebration meal, as Saturday sees the centenary of Bleriot's first flight across the Channel, and huge celebrations are planned in Dover. But, the rest of the castle is photogenic enough, with lots to see and photograph. And being school holidays, there were fewer visitors than normal, and so I think my shots came out quite well.

In the castle is a Roman lighthouse, a Pharos, all built of stone and flint and nearly 2,000 years old. They have siege engines and countless cannons; and for me the best, stunning views over Dover and the Channel.

Pharos

After paying £6 for a sandwich and a tea, I headed off down into the town before turning north and up the cliffs for the walk back to St Margaret's. I have walked it several times now, and each month the walk is different; a couple of months ago there were poppies everywhere; now dozens of people were doing the same walk, and so I no longer had the walk to myself, but was wonderful anyway.

Once back in the village, my feet were screaming for rest and I was thirsty; and so I called in my favourite local, we have 4, and had a pint of Ruddles finest and sat listening to the barflies ribbing each other.

Another of them good days.

And this morning I find that I should begin working on Monday,and so my life changes again. Could be another of them good days, too.

Thursday, 16 July 2009

Some days

Some days are good, some are bad. Thing is when we get up we don't really know which one we're gonna have. It's the finding out part that is called life.

Take today; well, I kinda knew that it was going to be a quite good day as I had to head up to Ashford to go to an agency and fill out endless paperwork. I had done this at another one two days ago. Thing is, this time, I had been told there might be a job.

So, I dropped Jools off at work and headed up the M20 to Ashford. I had never been into the town centre there before, and I can now see why everyone argues not to. Ashford is a soulless new town, all shopping centres (malls) and strip malls. Not quite like in the US, but getting that way. I love the way the road signs just stop for no reason halfway to where you're going.

Anyway, I find the car park, and right outside the door to the mall is where I want to go; the agency. And I fill in form after form, and answer questions like; are you British? Can you work in England?

And then onto the bottling plant where it will be my job to move one pallet of fizzy pop to another place, probably without breaking a bottle. I had to pass a test, round and round the fork lift truck went. Up and down the fork took a pallet. Round and round went the truck. Well done says the guy, we'll let you know when you can start.

As usual, the weather forecast is wildly wrong; no rain and clouds, just endless blue sky and lovely, and so ideal barbecue weather. So, I will end this day as employed and sitting in the garden munching on carbonised burgers drinking cold beer.

I believe it's one of them good days.

Monday, 13 July 2009

A very modern meet up

Once upon a time, organising a meeting of friends could take weeks if not months with letters and phonecalls zipping between people as to who could and couldn't make it on a particular day. In our modern digital age, all it took was for someone to suggest a meeting in Manchester as a friend from Canadia was coming over; and in a couple of days seven of us online friends had a weekend arranged in Manchester. Oh, what a circus.

Of course, calling someone a friend in years gone by would mean having gone to college with them, or spend a decade in the paint dept. of B&Q stacking matt or gloss. Now, a friend can mean many things, we friends are members of a group on Flickr, and most of us had not met. But, what the heck? We knew about each other, where they lived and what we liked to snap at; so what could go wrong?

And to add some spice to the mix I was sharing a room with someone I had never exchanged a mail with; Thor from Norway was very excited, and so all was arranged.

So, on Saturday, I once again found myself on the 04:44 train out of Dover heading towards London. The train, was mostly empty, but the morning light was wonderful, and through each town we passed, markets were being set up as England woke up.

A quick dash across London to Euston station to catch the express, or what passes for one these days, and by twenty to eight I was zipping through the west London suburbs, heading north towards the Midlands and then onto the North and Manchester. The train tilted as it went round corners, like an aircraft banking, I sat at my seat watching the lush English countryside flying by. How wonderful.

Manchester Piccadilly

I arrived in Manchester before ten, and after taking a few pictures of the sleek red trains, I headed out into the craziness that is the English family heading out to the shops on a Saturday morning.

Apparently, many towns and cities have a shopping centre, sorry mall, called the Arndale Centre, named after the patron saint of chain fashion shops and pick and mix; I did not venture in the there, but wandered around the shiny new and revamped buildings with my neck at an angle snapping away at the glorious angles and fabulous reflections.

Watching the wheel. ホイールを見て

At the far side of the Arndale was a large Ferris Wheel, with no queue; so what the hell. I went on, had a capsule to myself with clear views over the city right to the coast in the west and to the Pennines to the east and north. People appeared as ants below, and trains running into Victoria Station were as toys.

After taking more pictures, I decided I wanted a drink, and looked everywhere for a traditional pub; all the 'fun' and theme bars were closed, but the Crown and Anchor was open, and inside was all wooden framed bar with old glasses stacked; and the beer, mild, was just two English pounds a pint.

I had another to make sure.

One by one people began to arrive, and we met up and shook hands and took up our conversations where our messaging had stopped the night before.

The meeting proper began at five in the late afternoon; and so did the drinking. We were a mixed bunch; students, parents, grandparents, but all photographers, and with tales to tell.

As the city centre bar filled up, we moved to Mark's local, a quiet back alley kind of place, friendly with six real ales and space for us all to sit, and a juke box full of Mancunian tunes; and so at some point I put on Joy Division, James, New Order and some Happy Mondays; it seemed to be the right thing to do.

Needless to say, many, many pictures were taken, and much fun today as we began to post them: http://www.flickr.com/groups/1174319@N23/

And so it came for Thor and I to find somewhere to get something to eat, all we could find in the pouring rain was a humble kebab shop. And so we had small doners and then back to the pub just as the doors were being locked. Yes, a lock in; for me it was too late, I had been up 20 hours and I was fit just for a taxi ride back to the hotel Thor and I were booked into.

Sunday morning dawned bright and clear; after a frugal breakfast we headed out into the city, so he could make his way to John Lennon airport in Liverpool, and me to while away the morning until my train left at half ten.

I bid farewell to Thor as the bus passed near an old mill and I could see a canal, and thought there might be photographic opportunities there; the once grim industrial area was now the city's gay district, and bright and clean it was. The sun shone through the boughs of lush trees onto cobbled streets. I snapped away.

And soon, it was time to leave, and I made my way to the station via a greasy spoon and the worse fry up I have ever had; at least it was cheap, and read most of The Sunday Times.

And then, time for the train, and once again into my window seat and watch the landscape slip by. Sadly my ecstasy was broken by having to share my table with an ex-paratrooper who talked through the whole time down to Stafford, and regaled me with tales of his drunken nights and pranks whilst a squaddie. Why do these types think these antics are so funny and at best are odd and at worse slightly homosexual in tone as most seemed to involve putting things up drunken friends behinds; nice.

But, he got off and was Stoke bound as my train headed off, and I had the remainder of the journey and the English countryside to myself.

Friday, 10 July 2009

Let down gently

A short post today.

We have been ill this week; quite ill. Monday night Jools was very ill, and a few hours later so did I. We think it was a virus, we'll never know really, but I was washed out for 48 hours to be honest, and Jools bravely went back to work on Wednesday; quite where she found the strength I don't know.

In the middle of all the sickness, I got a call from the exploration company to say their client had chosen those for the job and myself and my friend, Dick, were not on the list. I felt so crap it hardly registered. I am still waiting to hear from a few other places, and they said there is another job in Oman coming up; they'll let me know.

I walked into Deal yesterday, and back. 13 miles all along the cliffs. It was very nice in the warm sunshine, passing other walkers, a word of greeting. Orchids are everywhere this year, and as I have done this walk and others since January I have seen the cliffs turn from cold grasslands into wild flower heaven. It is joyous to see the riot of colours up there.

One disturbing moment up there is when I passed Kingsdown golf club; pastel coloured Pringle knitwear! Is it really necessary? The ladies were the worst in matching pink shorts and tanktops; and after a round sit down outside the 19th for Pimms or G&Ts.

Deal is a delight; it has two Tudor castles; one more a fortified house, but the other, Deal, a wonder of circles on circles right on the beach. We have yet to visit it, but will do soon. I was parched and found a pub open at half ten, and treated myself to a pint of ale before heading to WH Smiths to buy a magazine, that wasn't in, before heading back home.

It got out warm, and going was tough as I neared St Margarets again; I called in at Bluebirds for a cold drink and a sit down before the final push home and the relief to take the walking shoes off and climb in the shower.

I am off to the north tomorrow; to meet up with people I met on Flickr. I have bought cheap train tickets, and am sharing a hotel room with someone I barely know from Norway. We meet in a hotel bar at 5 on Saturday for who knows what, but it should be fun before heading back home on Sunday morning.

Toodle pip, and see you soon.

Monday, 6 July 2009

The Weekend Ramble

I guess I only write about weekends these days, because that's when we get out and about and do stuff. During the week I feel like I should be looking for work online, and so that's what I do most of the time. That and mess around with Flickr, or course.

And so, Thursday was pretty much a normal day in the house, mooching around, doing stuff in the garden and reading. I was sitting on the sofa with Sulu on my lap, and the phone rang.

This was an event in itself; one of the cats is usually the best conversation I can hope for during working hours. There was one day last week when I invited the relief postman in for a cup of tea just because the four walls were talking about Big Brother and nothing else.

So, the phone rings; the female voice is she speaking to Mr Jelltex; not my real name. Yes, she is. Am I still looking for work?

Yeeeeees, I drawl, thinking there was a but coming.

How soon can you start?

Er, whenever you want, really.

Do you have any problems with working in Nigeria?

I was honest; I said it wouldn't be my first choice, but if that's where the work is, what the hell?

OK, I hear myself say.

And what would be the day rate you would be looking for?

Now, this is the hardest question to answer; do you be reasonable and say something just above minimum wage, or say something so outrageous to price yourself out of ever working in the industry? I waffle and say something non-committal.

She says send us your documents and we'll go from there she says.

So, I go from unemployed bum to potential jet-setting oil finder again in 30 seconds. I crack open the last bottle of whisky and put on Train in Vain and dance around the living room.
I call Jools, Mum and Tony and then have another whisky and put on the whole of the best of the Clash and dance some more.

Friday was to be an exciting day; getting important documents scanned and sent off for the job; signing on, heading to Canterbury to collect my mended digital camera, and doing shopping.

Having the car just one day a week means that day is a relief and a bit of freedom. I choose not to drive the other days, and let Jools have the car; and if I need to be in Dover I can walk, and do.

Signing on was a breeze, especially before she can ask what have I done to look for work, I can tell her I have been offered work in Africa. I walk out and wander down the High Street, buy a birthday card for Jools' niece who has her 18th this week, and head off up the M2 to Canterbury to pick up the camera.

It was all fixed and ready to collect; just the pain of having to brave the traffic around what is a mediaeval city with 21st traffic. Timing is everything, and I get through the centre of the city and out into the modern retail park. I test the camera, and it works. And head off in the other direction to the city to the countryside and the village butcher to collect steaks for dinner as well as lovely flavoursome sausages and burgers to keep us going for a few weeks.

Like everyone, the butchers now has a page on Facebook, and they are all jovial as the worst of the recession seems to be over and business is good once more. It's always good to be greeted like an old friend, and regale them with my thoughts on their white hot chilli burger I bought last time. In my view the chilli limit had been reached; no more chillies needed.

And then back home to unpack everything, and settle down to listen to the Mayo and Kermode film review show on radio 5, even if it does begin at midday because some rich tanned guys are playing tennis in SW19.

We decided to watch Andy Murray play; we had avoided Wimbledon for nearly two weeks, and Murray had done very well. It was the semi-final, and we thought he was good enough for us to watch and not effect the game. We were wrong.

He played well, but it wasn't enough.

I cooked the steak; we had wine, and all was right with the world.

And then there was a knock at the door; we had a flat tyre. Don't panic, I am man and I can do this. I look in the boot and everything I need is there. I will spare you the detail of the VW jack which is really, really useless. we borrow one from the people next door.

I undo the nuts, jack the car up, remove the nuts and pull on the wheel.

Nothing.

I yank it harder.

Nothing.

The wine wasn't helping. I look behind the wheel at the brake discs to see if there were more bolts holding the wheel on.

No.

It began to get dark and we called it a night. I felt like the wheel had defeated me. I slept poorly and dreamt of how to get the bugger off.

In the morning I tug on it some more, attack it with a hammer. It does not budge.

In desperation I resort to the internet, a VW mechanic wanted £24 for his advice. Bugger that. I googled some more and it said the alloy wheel had cold welded oit to the axle and it needed to be wiggled. I kicked it, and bit by bit it loosened, and with a cry of triumph I carry the wheel down the drive to show Jools I wasn't so useless after all. I had defeated the evil of the alloy wheel and we could go and get it fixed and do something.

One of the banes of modern life is being out when the parcel guy comes round and you're not in. Or in the shower. Or the garden. And so we have to make a trip to Ashford to the depot which is in the middle of a retail park. The card had a map showing the location of the depot, but not how to get on the retain park or where in the town the park might be.

But, we did find it, and with several forms of identification we picked up the Guitar Hero gift pack, quite clearly what the modern 18 year old wants for her birthday.

The rest of the day was quiet; we did not feel well and thought the safest option was to go home and so know where the nearest toilet was. I'll draw a veil over that.

Fields of Gold

Sunday, we didn't feel much better, but well enough for me to think that what would make me feel better was a bacon sandwich in the cliff top cafe in the village. I like to think I was right; we sat outside on the picnic bench looking at the haze to where we believed France to be. We know it was there, it's too big to be stolen. Ferries criss-crossed the channel, we watched and munched away.

The Sea

In the afternoon we sat down and watched the men's final, and that did drag on rather. I mean, it was good, but one can have too much of a good thing. Our friends came round for dinner and the tennis was still going on. We ate once the tennis had finished and then went out to the cliffs once more. The sun was setting, the sky all pinks and purples. France was there after all, we took pictures, took in the atmosphere, and went back home, thus missing the moon rising in front of us. And there it was looking in the windows of the house, mocking us not realising it was a full moon and would have been spectacular.

Wide angle macro shot

So it goes, so it goes.

Wednesday, 1 July 2009

Weekenders

I guess the weekend was a little longer than usual; Julie had the whole week off, and so once we got back from the north, we had to decide on what to do for the rest of the week.
One of the things that Julie was envious of, was when home from the sea me being able to go out walking whenever I wanted, normally when she was at work. Nothing deliberate on my part, it's just the way it was. So, we decided to have a day walking, although the full walk to Folkestone was ruled out, a Dover to Folkestone one we agreed would be perfect.

And so at nine on Thursday morning, we parked the car at Dover Priory Railway Station, tightened our belts, girded our loins and started the climb up the hill to Western Heights and back down the other side to join the coastal path.

Dover, it is said, is built on seven hills, and most steep as anything, and coming from Norfolk, anything bigger than the stairs at home is a shock to the system. But I console myself with the knowledge that the view once at the top is usually worth it.

Four Six-Spot Burnet Moths

Western Heights used to be a Napoleonic Fortress, and most of it still stands today; it just has other uses; like an immigration detention centre. Up there is a Knots Templar chapel; which in other towns would be a major tourist trap. But in historic Doer it does not warrant a sign to lead the visitor.

On a hot day, the walk, sorry climb, up Military Road causes much puffing, and the unfit can pretend they are looking at the view behind into the town centre when they are really getting their breath back. And once at the top you go all the way down again to join the coastal path.

Which goes back up again; if only they built a bridge.

The path goes up Shakespeare Cliff. I don't know if the Bard has any connection with the town or the cliff, but the cliff is like a breaking tsunami wave, and the coastal path is along the edge with views down onto the rocks hundreds of feet below.

But first you have to get to the top, a very steep climb, in winter slippery as anything, but in summer just sweat inducing. We paused many times for views down onto the beach and beyond to the harbour and cliffs heading north even further away. A wonderful sight, and not one ever to get bored with.

Pyramid Orchids

Once at the top of the cliff, the walk is very pleasant and quite easy. Walking along the edge through the summer blooms with clouds of moths flying around and settling on the blooms. We took many, many shots. At the top of the last steep climb, overlooking Samphire Hoe, we stop for lunch; pork pies, sausage rolls, fruit and lots of water. It is a glorious spot; the Dover to Folkestone railway enters the cliff tunnel right beneath us, and France can just be seen on the horizon through the haze.

We head off, seeing more moths, butterflies and another adder; this one very black, but the zig-zag pattern making it stand out as it raced into the long grass.

We get to Capel-le-Ferne and stop off in the Lighthouse Inn; not the cleverest thing to do; but it's the hottest part of the day, and a cool beer seems the right thing. We decide to walk to the bus stop and go back to Dover; we had almost made it to Folkestone; about a mile short and it's not very pretty walking through housing estates.

We are able to check bus times on their phoneline, and so were in time to get the next one back, and within 20 minutes we were back home; coffee pot on and the freshly home made Limoncello and Grappa tart cut. we thought we deserved it.

One thing that the digital age has changed, is how e meet our friends. On Saturday we went back to Folkestone to meet up with some fellow photographers from Flickr. Only one of them we had really met before, and so a group of strangers met up high on the Leas, cliffs where the town's grand Victorian hotels are, for a walk around the town, and a sociable amble as well as taking many, many pictures.

The Leas, Folkestone

As luck would have it, the weather was great, bright and sunny with light clouds, and we wandered, talked and snapped away. We walked down the cliffs, past the Victorian water lift; which were not to know was to close just three days later. And on to the harbour and the abandoned Harbour Branch railway and station.

The Water Lift, Folkestone

We walked around the harbour, marvelling once again at the boats marooned high and dry on mud. We stopped off for a refreshing drink, and whilst we were in the bar, the tide began to come in, and within a few minutes the boats were surrounded by swirling tidal water, and in half an hour, already floating.

Folkestone Flickr-meet.

Up the rejuvenated old High Street, now rebranded the artistic quarter, or something. And on to find something to eat. We find a small Italian place and we each order something cool and light to eat and drink.

And in time, it was time for us to part, and we head back home along coastal roads, a cool breeze blowing through our car's open windows, and back home in time to light the barbecue and in the cool of the evening, much our way through various carbon encrusted meaty delights.

Something happened on Sunday to the weather; the supposed unbroken sunshine was replaced with white cloud, and so our plan for a boat trip in the Thames estuary was binned, and instead we decided to drive and see where the care took us.

And Dream of Sheep...........

Not half an hour from our house we saw a wondrous sight; three fields full of nodding poppies. We found a place to park the car and took the the byways. A stunning sight, not a field of crops with some poppies, but fields with nothing but poppies in. The deepness of the reds and clouds of insects was breathtaking.

Three fields of poppies

we took many pictures.

And on with the journey. With only a half idea to head to the Romney Marsh, we drove south-ish. Just after midday we came to a village, the name escapes me. A large country pub is advertising a carvery. We were both hungry. We pull in and enter the bar.

Is the carvery on?

Yes.

Now?

Yes.

We pay our money, get our drinks and take a table right in the open French windows with the breeze blowing through. We have roast beef, roast potatoes, Yorkshire puddings and a multitude of vegetables. It was great, we didn't have to wash up.

And then by a circuitous route we ended up at the hell on earth that is Tescos; only to find the rush over and every till manned. We get a weeks supplies and head back home. Our week together over; Julie having to go back to work on Monday, but ti was wonderful while it lasted.