Thursday, 29 October 2009

Marvelous Monday

All good things must come to an end, and so Andrew's time with us was drawing to an end. Quite what to do when he is here is tricky sometimes, as he does not speak much, and says 'yes' to most ideas and suggestions. Anyway, if we keep him supplied with tea or beer and plenty of football to watch, he seems fine. And he said he had a great time too. So, I think we did OK.

As it was a bright sunny day and headed out to the Romney Marsh again for a wander around the streets of Rye.

The Parish Church of St. Mary the VIrgin, Rye

Rye is the first town in Sussex as you head west along the coast road, and is a picturesque town mostly on a promentary overlooking the mark and the meandering river.

The Parish Church of St. Mary the VIrgin, Rye

The buildings of the town are made of wonderful bricks, and the town seemed to glow in the autumnal sunshine, and it was just great to wander down to narrow street, window shopping and dodging families with children of old couples with tiny dogs straining at the leash. Lets be honest, it wasn't all bad.

Andrew and I went to the parish church, and after looking inside went up the belltower to sample the views over the rooftops and to the marsh and sea beyond. Needless to say, I took plenty of pictures and felt happy enough with that.

We had decided to have lunch out, and my choice was the Mermaid Inn on Mermaid Street; re-built in 1420, it's all higgledy piggledy, with timber frames and wattle and daub walls. The bar has a few tables and a huge open fire, with a leaded window behind the bar setting the whisky and brandy on fire with light.

We took the table nearest the fire and had a splendid meal; Andrew and I fish and chips and Jools having chicken salad. And then rounding off with crème brulee! The beer was good, as was the company and the fire.

We drove home in the afternoon sunshine, Andrew and my bellies full of good food and beer; we were happy.

That night we had sandwiches made from the cold beef from Saturday's dinner, and it was indeed, good.

And so Tuesday dawned, and time for Andrew to return to Suffolk; after packing we took him to the station and made sure he was on the right platform.

We then headed out to Samphire Hoe for a walk along the base of the cliffs as the tide ebbed, and see what we could find. We didn't quite have the beach to ourselves, but there was enough room for us all, and I took many pictures of stones and various flotsam. The waves had smoothed fallen chalk into wonderful shapes, some boulders as big as a house. Trains thundered by on the line to Folkestone, we walked as far as we could and then turned back home, and back to our lives. We visited Nan in the home, she is fine, and then back home to watch the afternoon turn to gold as the sun set.

Monday, 26 October 2009

Taking it easy

After the travelling of Friday, it turned out to be a quiet day on Saturday, the weather having much to do with that though.

The forecasted rain arrived and the wind did blow, but not as hard as we had been lead to expect. We headed to Deal to pick up a CD we had ordered and other than to buy a loaf of garlically bread to go with the home smoked ham I had bought from the local butcher.

As we arrived back home the rain began and did not let up all afternoon. Andrew and I settled down for an afternoon of listening to the football on the radio.

Sunday was very different, as we were off to London for an afternoon or all-American fun as the NFL roadshow hit London and we had prime tickets.

If you want to get ahead, get a hat shaped like a wedge of cheese!

Back in January I had a very different life, we had a bank account full of money and so paying over £100 for a seat for the game was something we hardly blinked at. But now with those high earning days long gone, it was sobering to being going and using tickets that cost the price of a months groceries. Oh well, they were paid for and we may as well have enjoyed ourselves.

Get yer pom poms out.

We drove up to south-east London and caught a local train into Charing Cross. We had decided to spend the bright morning walking in one of the huge parks or public spaces. We thought that Hampstead Heath, as it was near Wembley where the game was to be held.

A Bucs fan before the game

Back in the 19th century, Hampstead was a village, but now is a very fashionable and expensive place to live. We got of the tube at Hampstead Station, once called Heath Road, and walked up the main road to the higher ground where the heath began.

In the end we got our directions wrong and ended up walking around Golders Hill park instead. The trees were a pleasant golden colour; squirrels scampered around doing suirrelly things, a light breeze moved the leaves and they rustled before it would be their turn to fall to the ground.

We came to a place to eat by the bandstand and had a bite to eat and a large coffee. As we sat there we people watched, the sun broke through and all seemed fine.

We headed back into the centre of London and went to Euston to catch a train back out to Wembley. Already a few others in regulation replica shirts were waiting for a train there too.

Brandon Meriweather takes it to the house

Once in Wembley it became clear this was a big thing; thousands of people were milling around looking for a pub with space to have a drink. Fast food joints were doing a roaring trade, and some Americans were looking a trifle confused as to why cars were driving on the left side of the road and what Shepherds Pie could possibly be.

As we neared the stadium more and more people joined the crowd. Wembley way was packed, and so we made our way along to the stadium itself. I guess we must have seen people in shirts from all NFL teams, some College teams and some from the old European NFL. And everyone had a smile on their face; there was no trouble and it was just so nice.

The Brady twins at Wembley

After walking around the stadium a couple of times, we went in and after some heavy security checks, we went up the escalators to the foyer. As we had seats in Club Wembley, there was plenty of seats, good views of people still queuing outside. Andrew and I found a TV showing the Liverpool-Manchester Utd game; a huge cheer went up as Liverpool scored. Curious Americans joined us to watch the game, and joined in the cheering when Liverpool made it two just before full time.

About half an hour before the game we went to our seats and took in the atmosphere. We had a great view, but then I don't think there is a bad seat in the stadium. I had a Bucs fan or three beside me, and I asked them if they were going to give us a game to watch; they hoped so.

After the national anthems and the coin toss, the game began and by the 5th play of the game the Patriots took the lead with an interception.

Sadly, it wasn't much of a sporting spectacle as the Buccaneers offence made little impact and gave picks up, whilst on the other side Tom Brady was, well, Tom Brady and completed a high percentage of passes.

We left after the 3rd quarter with the score 28-7, the Bucs had failed to move the ball after being in good field position.

So, we joined the crowd heading down to the Tube station to crown onto the small train and head into London and catch another train back to where our car was.

We arrived back home at ten fifteen and were tired but happy.

Saturday, 24 October 2009

A Chuffing Good Day

And so, here we are on a Saturday evening, over halfway through my week off.

Time slips through my fingers like grains of sands, thank's for that Bill and Ted!

Andrew arrived on Wednesday afternoon. Before he arrived I had done the Teso thing and gone to the butchers in Preston.

So we headed down to the pub on the beach here, The Coastguard and had a pint and a sandwich. It was crowded even at this time of year; mostly old folks, so we fitted right in!

Afterwards back here so Andrew could unpack, and for a cuppa or two. Andrew is a quiet bloke, and just give him football to watch and he is happy. And so we sat down that evening to watch the Real vs Milan game on tv before heading to bed, sepparate beds, after what had been a long day.

Thursday we headed out in the car to see where it would take us. In the end it took us to my favourite overlook of the Channel Tunnel, and we watched as freight and express Eurostars headed to and from France.

After that we headed towards Folkestone, and stopping in the village of Newington to take pictures of its 11th century church, which for a change was also open. Before heading out past Ashford to the village of Pluckley for a dinner date in the Black Horse, and a nice pint of autumn ale.

There really is not much more spendid than sitting in an ancient inn, drinking fine ale with an old friend; although he is not a conversationalist, we had a good time, and soon we were heading back to Dover and home for a quiet afternoon.

That night we tucked into bangers and mash and beans; a wonderfully filling dinner before sitting down to more football. Yay!

Friday morning we were bright and early as we were headed into deepest Suffolk to see some steam locomotives on the Bluebell Railway. We dropped Jools off at work and headed to Ashford before heading across to the coast road at Rye, and then on to Hastings, Eastbourne before heading into the golden Sussex countryside and to find the railway.

Giants of Steam Weekend; Bluebell Railway.

It was misty that morning, and we were treated to a stunning sunrise as the blood red sun climbed above the horizon. We went to my favourite church, and there I got a couple of classic shots as the sun rose behind it.

Fairfield Church, Brooklands, Kent

Into Sussex and we stopped off at an ancient church as the rays of the sun had lit it with a golden light; we got wet feet thanks to the heavy dew, but hardly noticed. That church too was open, and I recorded that as well with both cameras.

Bright sunshine took turns with heavy showers as we headed north; we resorted to checking the map to see if we were heading in the right direction; and we were, more or less.

At Sheffield Park, after grabbing the final car parking space, we joined the queue, and were delighted to find we were only going to be charged £10 to ride that day.

We caught the first train out at 11:00, and enjoyed the sunbathed countryside, littered, as it was, with photographers in bright orange tabbards.

Giants of Steam Weekend; Bluebell Railway.

We got out at the next station so I could take pictures of the train leaving; all smoke and steam. We grabbed a pint and a pastie before getting the train back to Sheffield Park and our car, and driving north to join the M25 and head back east to Dover and home.

And shes off,

As we neared Dover, the skies darkened and the heavens opened, and we were treated to a deluge of almost Biblical proportions. we drove through roads turned to rivers, and up the cliffs to the north and home to St Margarets and the warm welcome of three hungry cats. With time enough for me to prepare three man-size steaks for dinner. I may even be getting the hang of this cooking lark!

Thursday, 22 October 2009

Golden Days

At ten to four the power was cut to our part of town We were told to stand still as the emergency lights came on. We waited and were eventually told that the HV lines had gone and it would be hours before power would be restored, and we were allowed to go home. We went straight to Tesco and did the shop, and were home before 5 and now having the weekend free to do what we wanted.

Friday evening was spent in 80s nostalgia as the BBC did an evening of Electronic music, Synth Britannia. It was wonderful, and good to see some gravitas into something which was and still is derided for having no or little class. And to hear pioneers talk passionately of their love and their influences.

My new toy

Saturday morning we were up nice and early to head to Canterbury to pick up my new camera! Yes, I have a shiny new camera, due to the fast the one that Jools bought me last year is still not working. They offered to upgrade it for a newer model if we paid the difference; we jumped at it.

The Mayflower Ship, Canterbury

The Canon 50D has many more pixels and a larger sensor, but mostly is the same as the 40, just newer.

Canterbury Skyline

We walked around Canterbury some, walked along the city walls, through the old industrial are, past abandoned pubs, brewery and tannery. We had a coffee and breakfast in the place that the guy who chartered the Mayflower had his shop. There is so much history round here, he said understating the facts somewhat!

Canterbury Cathedral

We found the castle, not that it was lost, but in a historic place like Canterbury its just not signposted or on the tourist trail. We had it pretty much to ourselves. I got a few good shots as per usual.

Canterbury Castle

Before leaving there was time for me to go into the cathedral to grab a few shots of the aisle and tower. And then into the countryside. And back home to do some chores and enjoy the sunshine in the back garden.

Amanita muscaria

Sunday, we headed out into the countryside for a walk in the woods. The colours are not as spectacular as New England, but the dappled sunshine through the tree's canopy is wonderful. Throughout Kings Wood there are statues and works of rustic art, as well as flowers, trees and fungi. We gathered chestnuts and filled our pockets, when we passed people we greeted them with a cheerful good morning.

Coppice Cloud Chamber by Chris Dury

We drove home down country lanes taking turns to villages we liked the names of. But generally heading in the right direction. We found a pub in the middle of nowhere on a crossroads; we stopped and had a splendid lunch of chilli garlic tiger prawns followed by a beef carvery and all the trimmings. It was all rather wonderful.

The Kings Wood

We visited Nan on the way home; she is in a respite home for the time being until she feels strong enough to come home. She is fine and in good spirits.

That night whilst watching the NFL, we had roast chestnuts and for me a beer. Lovely.

Thursday, 15 October 2009

Adventures in the world of boxes

I am guessing that my time in the world of boxes is coming to an end. Orders are coming to an end, and so I look at the sometimes dwindling numbers of temporary workers and realise that as less of them are required I will not be required either.

But for now we work away, making boxes for various clients of boxes of wonderful design and much difficulty to make. And sometimes upsetting team leaders when I reject their work and they have to sort through what they have made. This does not happen often, but happen it does, and each of them reacts differently; Tina is still not speaking to me after rejecting what she was making nine days ago. Every cloud has a silver lining!

I feel like I am fitting in; I am making friends and an impression; shouted football related insults are thrown now they know I am a Norwich supporter, bits of detail on local history are swapped, and potential photographic trips are suggested.

We are so busy the day flies, as we now do half an hour less and have to squeeze the same work in.

I am at least on holiday from next Tuesday evening, and my friend, Andrew, is coming down to visit us for a week. We hope to head off to Wembley in ten days time to see the NFL game, which will be wonderful. It will be good to meet up with Andrew again, as he lost his Father and Grandmother this year, as well as having some money troubles too.

That I have been at the box factory long enough to get 5 days off is thought-provoking enough, but one thing for sure, I will enjoy seven box-free days.

The light this evening was wonderful again. We stopped on the top of the cliffs to take the scene in; The Channel, the boats, Calais in the distance, and the tops of cranes and oil tanks sticking above the horizon to the north of Calais; we have not seen those before.

You may be bored with the tales of the Channel and seeing Calais; it thrills us every time.

Monday, 12 October 2009

Sick at the weekend

Sadly, not much to report about this weekend. I came down with a heavy, but short lived, cold on Thursday, and by the weekend I was ready just for some rest and time away from the crazy world of boxes.

As usual, we headed to Tesco on Saturday morning. At least at that hour it not being used for a crèche or a meeting place for the awkward. We zipped round getting the things we needed and was out again in under half an hour.

Then off down into Dover town for some more chores, mainly about saving money, changing my mobile phone contract and the such. So, now I don't have unlimited free minutes to surf the interwebs whilst doing things like walking or driving, which is probably for the best.

Back home by ten, and then settle down for some cooking and preserving. Jools had a beading class, and so I peeled the 22 pound of onions and prepared them for their pickling on the morrow. I also made a batch of saffron buns, which I planned to be ready when Jools came back from her class. As usual they were great, and wonderful with a cup or two of of vanilla nut deluxe flavoured coffee.

Nothing much else other than listening to the England game on the radio before settling back and watching the Ireland game on TV with Italy. Not very rock and roll, but it's the best we could do.

Sunday I searched the interwebs for pickling spice recipes, and thought I would do something similar; and then add lots of chillis. But at least these were our own home grown ones. Not sure how hot they'll make the onions, but we'll see in about 6 weeks time. So, along with the vinegar, chillis I added cinnamon, star annese, ground corriander and dill seeds and mustard seeds; mixed them up and tipped them in.

Pickled Onions with bite!

After that we went for a walk along the coast at Samphire Hoe. Not much to report on that, it was cloudy and the sea was not angry or even mildly annoyed. But it was great to just walk and let the sea air clear our noses. We headed back to the car, got a cuppa and a piece of cake from the cafe and sat in the car to listen to Dessert Island Discs on Radio 4. We are turning into are parents; maybe. We enjoyed it though. Steve Coogan was talking about his career and his life through music; we love that, and the insights these give.

Up then to see Nan in the home; she is doing better and quite happy.

We had a Chinese takeaway in the evening, and for me washed down with a bottle of black Sheep ale, before settling down to watch the Ravens/Bengals game before bedtime beckoned.

Saturday, 10 October 2009

Nan update:

Well, the news is pretty good. She is out of hospital and in a convalescent home in Dover. She is still unsure about things and maybe is cloudy on details in general; but I think after bouncing down a flight of stairs, that is not bad.

Our relief is huge of course; doubly so as it happened here. Proof that sometimes miracles do happen.

I have a heavy cold right now, and so am taking things easy today. We did do the Tesco thing this morning, and then head into town afterwards to run some chores. I have prepared the lamb and chicken for dinner tonight, and this afternoon I have peeled 12 pounds of onions ready for pickling them tomorrow and made a batch of saffron buns as well.

We were due to go to the cinema this evening to see District 9, but I really don't feel up to it as I have not been sleeping very well; maybe tomorrow.

So, and evening of football as England play in Ukraine tonight; it's not on TV at all! and then watch Ireland play Italy if I stay awake, and even later is the promise of Peru vs Argentina, which if Maradona's team lose means they probably won't be going to the World Cup Finals next summer. Still, got to laugh.

Thursday, 8 October 2009

I can see clearly now the rain has gone.

That is how the song went, and I guess I never got that this is actually true; the air does get clearer after rain. This week it has rained, not Biblical amounts, but enough to turn our lawn back to green. We had whole days of rain, it was great at work looking at the tabbers huddling under the shelter trying to light a ciggy.

Anyway, today the skies cleared and the sun shone from a dazzling blue sky. Just sitting in the canteen looking out of the windows was a pleasure; but once the bell went, we got in the car and once driving though the town, headed up the hill to the castle. We turn down the coast road, past Bleriot's landing spot, over the A2 as it heads down Jubilee Way; up the twisty road, past National Trust's White Cliff park, round two more tight bends, up past the new coastguard station. And then, on the left hand side, the land falls away and there is the Channel.


Like yesterday, it was misty, drizzley, and the only water we could see was on the windscreen. But today, after the anticipation of the clear air and dazzling blue sky, we could see over to France. And indeed it was clear; we could see contours in the cliffs at Cap Gris Nez. The ferries could be seen all the way across and container ships and tankers seemed almost toy-like. Even though that view lasted only a few seconds, it lifts the heart and spirit, and the strain of the day falls away.

Monday, 5 October 2009

Water from the sky!

After what has seemed like a dry spell without end, water did fall from the sky today. Gardeners were seen to fall to their knees in praise and thanks.

I have not mowed out 'lawn' since July, and most of it still seems alive.

Other parts of the country, Manchester mainly, has had apparently had weeks and weeks of non-stop rain.

Oh well; it has meant that we have had great conditions for growing things in our garden; 56 pounds of tomatoes, lots of strawberries, a glut of courgettes and now we wait on the pumpkins and maize. Yay.

It is now misty most mornings and the grass is wet with heavy dew. The sun rises usually blood through the mist and clouds, and now it is soon to be dark before we drive home. And so the world turns and the seasons change.

Of marshes and churches

The weekend began with me being given the afternoon on Friday off so we could go to Ashford to visit Nan. We began by going out for lunch to the Railway Bell. Quite frankly it had been a tough week and the thought of having a pint and a bite whilst the world of boxes carried on without me was a pleasing one.

We drove to Ashford, as Jools had done each day that week, and found Nan to still be in a combative mood, but mellowing out with each day. We offered an ear and our support and of course our love, and that did the trick.

We headed home and cooked Chinese style ribs, which almost certainly they don't eat out there, but it was spicy and gingery and was just the right thing to have. We finished the meal with full bellies and sticky fingers.

Saturday dawned cloudy and breezy, as promised, and so we set off nice and early to the Isle of Sheppy for a walk along the beach and then on through the salt marshes and lunch at the Ferry Inn at Harty.


The Isle of Sheppy is one of many islands that rise from the Thames/Medway estuary. It rises a few feet above the silty waters, and is home to farms and holiday camps. Out of season it can be very bleak, and nothing better than when the winds blow and the sand stings your cheeks.


We parked at Leysdown-on-Sea, which is like a mini Blackpool, with caravans and Londoners. We pass through the town, each shop closed shut until the spring. Out into the land in the lea of the sea wall; we park up and pull our winter coats on the for the first time this season, and set off along the beach.

Naturally eroded

It was low tide, and it was easy going, old groynes were rotting into the sand, and so the beach was in the process of being washed away. Still, the shapes made for interesting pictures.

We walk further along the beach and come to and pass a private village, Shellness, and carry on to the mudflats and wild bird sanctuary beyond. The wind was blowing, and the birds already wintering were huddled together on the mud, looking for food, and keeping warm.

I set out across the salt marshes that stretch from Shellness to Harty, whilst Jools went back to the car and then to meet me at the church at Harty.

The path goes along an earth bank which at high tides keeps the sea at bay; it wouldn't take an angry sea to broach that, not even a mildly irritated one either.

On the fresh water side, a sea of reeds and bullrushes waved in the wind like waves breaking on the shore; and on the salt side pools of water gathered in the hardy moss and litchen and the mud. I passed one man and a woman jogging. The silence was wonderful, regular signposts told me how far to the pub and as I passed each one the thought of a pint became firmer in my mind.

Before we made it to the pub we met up at the church where Jools was being entertained by three chickens and a peacock. The church was open, and was wonderful; the small tower was supported by thick wooden beams that looked original.

A bunch of cocks

We drive to the inn, and join the hooray henrys and queue at the bar. I have a ploughman's, although they call it a ferryman's, and Jools has a curry. For dessert they have creme brulee, and they are maybe the best we have had, and large ones at that.

The Ferry Inn, Harty

We head home as we were to entertain that evening as a guy from work who I found great to talk to was coming for dinner and a glass of red wine or two. But there was still time to visit another picturesque church in the village of Iwade, but it, like so many other churches was locked up as to guard against theft.

All Saints Church, Iwade

Pete did turn up, and we had Moroccan lamb tagine and ginger and turmeric rice; it was rather good even if I say so, doubly so as I made some cheesy potato bread to go along with it as well.

Sunday we had a late start as we were to visit Nan again in the afternoon and visiting hours did not begin until three. We headed out to a village I had noticed had a high concentration of grade one listed buildings.

Charing is indeed a wonderful village, with a high street full of timber framed houses and artisan bakers, butchers and candlestick-makers. The church was indeed grand, and open, and the vicar certainly did not mind me taking pictures. Once, in the distant past, the church was even grander as an archbishop's house once stood there, and grand arches and towers were part of a few houses that neighboured the church. Sadly, most were behind high walls, and so the church barn was out of bounds.

We drove on to the village of Pluckly, not quite as commuter-ish as Charing, but pretty enough, with views over the wooded plain below. The church was wonderful too, and the alter was laden with produce as the harvest festival had been celebrated that day. We retired to the village pub, The Black horse, where the 80s tv show, The Darling Bud of May was filmed. The beer was good enough, and the 15th century pub was good enough without having been linked to some cheesy tv show.

We would have liked to have people watched some more, but the hospital was calling, and our date with Nan.

And soon the weekend drew to an end and once again the world of boxes beckons.

Thursday, 1 October 2009

Things that go bump in the night.

Although the title of this blog may well appear to be light-hearted, the subject is not.

Half five Monday morning Jools and I were woken by a loud bang, a pause and them a longer noise, followed by cries for help.

Jools' Nan had taken a step too far and had fallen onto the landing at the top of stairs, just one step. But then rolled down the whole flight coming to a stop against the front door.

We rushed down, and having found that she was apparently unharmed, we took her back to bed. I went to work as usual, Jools had the week off and so waited for Nan to wake.

When she did, she was in pain and could not move. After her doctor refused to come out, we called an ambulance and she was taken to Ashford.

After a day of x-rays and scans it was found she had not broken anything, but had hurt her back some and so would stay for a while.

And that is the situation now; she is still there, being stroppy and unhelpful like any 95 year old would be. There are no broken bones and no lasting damage; a honest to God miracle.

My friend, Andrew, lost both his parents to falls on stairs, so if nan comes through this she will have done very well indeed.

We have had enough excitement for a week or two thank you.