Thursday, 31 December 2009

How was it for you? The decade

Best Record: Funeral by Arcade Fire. The debut by the most important band of the decade, just wonderful, soaring, emotional music on a grand scale. From Canada.

Song: Do You Realise by The Flaming Lips. The song of the state of Oklahoma, who cold argue with that? And who else could write a song about the fragility of life and sound so wonderful?

Film: A tie, all three of The Lord of the Rings movies. Who would have thought that the book could have been filmed so well, and be this good?

TV show. For the first six years of the decade I was a TV addict, and then I went to sea and did not miss it at all; so, in recognition of that fact I'm gonna choose the Radio, as it's what we use the Sky box for most of all.

Radio show. At the moment it's the Radcliffe and Maconie show, but earlier in the decade it could have been The Phil Jupitus Show, the Andrew Collins Show, or any number of 6 Music's shows, but then they began to employ crap comedians and 'personalities as DJs and it all went to shit.

Book: The best book I read was The Star of the Sea by Patrick O'Conner, Sinead's bother. A wonderful book which enthralled and entertained. Subsequent books repeated the formula, and lessened it. But for that book, brilliant.

How was it for you? 2009

Film: we only went to the cinema once, I think, so that'll be Moon, David Bowie's son's directing debut.

TV show: Did not watch much TV at all, so it's either Have I Got News for You or QI again.

Radio: This was the year I discovered Radio 4, so, it has to be I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue, but with The Unbelievable Truth, Saturday Live, The Now Show and Dessert Island Discs coming close. The best music show was Radio 2's Radcliffe and Maconie Show. Again.

Record of the year: For me it has to be The Duckworth Lewis Method, endless joy at cricket and clever wordplay, set to wonderful music.

Best moment; Moving into the new house.

Worst moment; hearing whilst on holiday that my employer, UTEC, had gone bust and we had all lost our jobs.

Wednesday, 30 December 2009

The fag end of the decade

Jools has been working these last two days, and so I have stayed home, and not ventured out as the rain it has fell in stair-rods from leaden skies.

Yesterday I wrote a blog, like today, and edited lots and lots of pictures from the London trip. I got so many good ones, a mix of interesting building and landscapes and others of people, which are just as interesting.

We went to the pub quiz at the Harbour Board Social Club, the usual stuff; Jools and I answering most of the questions, writing them answers down, listening to the small talk of the others in the team. I think we have reached the end for now and will give next month's quiz a miss.

We finished 4th, which is about right for us, just outside the placings.

As we headed home, we past the castle which was shrouded in fog, but the floodlights made it look like it was on fire; we did think about heading back out with camera and tripod, but thought better of it.

Today, two friends came over from Ashford, and they took me into Deal to have breakfast on the pier. It is always nice, and the occasional full English is rather nice. The rain started to fall heavier, and after dashing to the bead shop for Jools we headed back here for coffee and they headed back home and me to settle down and listen to the radio.

Deal Pier Again

Jools is now home and I have two small cheesy potato loaves baking in the oven, and they will go very well with the tomato and basil soup for dinner; all we need now is for the logs on the fire to catch and we will be toasty and warm all evening.

Tuesday, 29 December 2009

London Town day out

From about a year ago, we in Kent, have been preparing ourselves for the arrival of the future, in that we were to get Britain's first 'High Speed' railway service.

High speed being in quotation marks because it's all a bit of a con. A con because in everyday use, the trains will only travel 125mph. I say only, it's pretty quick I'll grant to. But, a steam locomotive, Mallard did 126 mph in 1938, and the HST, introduced in 1976, and initially called 125s because of their top speed.

The class 395 'Javelin' travel from Kent towns, and at various points join the Channel Tunnel Rail Link, (CTRL) nnow called HS1, to head via Ebbsfleet and Stratford to St Pancras. Using these services, we save something like 20 minutes in getting into London, but arrive on the Euston Road rather than on the banks of the Thames, and so a trip on the Tube may be needed.

And, we have to pay a premium for this, and lose 'fast' services to both Charing Cross and Victoria, and so we get less choice.

I am not trying to rubbish these trains, they look fabulous and are quick and do the job. But, north and west of London, people living in towns equal distance from us have had such a speedy service into London with no premium to pay.

So, we in Dover have an hourly service into London with these; we travel by normal lines through Folkestone Central and Folkestone West and onto Ashford non stop before arriving at Ashford and then whizzing up HS1.

A ticket costs something like £4 more at the moment, and even on a bank holiday, the train was quite empty when we left Dover, and had a carriage to ourselves. We picked up a few more passengers at the two Folkestone stations, and more at Ashford. And then, whoosh, we zoomed up through the Kentish countryside, cars on the M20 beside us trailing in our wake.

We looked at Ebbsfleet where a friend of ours now works helping people getting on Eurostars, but did not see him. At Stratford, we stopped at Britain's newest station, which in two and a half years will be the main arrival point for people going to see the Olympics. It is a plain modern station, fifty feet under the ground in a concrete box; it does the job, and is modern functionality personified.

At St Pancras we headed straight for the underground station, and another problem with St Pancras became clear, the tube station a full five minute walk from Southeastern's platforms. This adds on time to a journey which is not the case at either Victoria or Charing Cross.

A quick ride on the Piccadilly Line to South Kensington at to the museums. I had seen a shot from inside the Natural History Museum, and the great hall was majestic, yes, it was for purely selfish photographic reasons.

There were long lines outside, which gave us time to look at the skaters on the rink below us, most were quite poor with just the occasional person able to glide over the ice.
After a 5 minute week, we were inside and heading up an escalator heading into a model of the centre of the earth. It was amazing, but half of London were in there as well. The crowds were huge and there were people jams round some of the more interesting things. We struggled to find our way, but after going through a nondescript door we found our way into the fossil hall, past the shop and there was the hall. Like the inside of a cathedral, high windows cast light onto the crowded floor with just one exhibit, a diplodicus gazes out the main door.

The Great Hall, Natural History Museum

We went round snapping away, up a grand flight of stairs, past, in pride of place, a statue of Charles Darwin, through the primate gallery and up more stairs, and right under the roof, wonderful views all the way down.



Went the camera as I saw shot after shot after shot.

I had the shots I wanted, and the museum was filling up quickly, and so we chose to leave and head out into the winter sunshine.

We headed over the road and found a small place to eat in a backstreet; I had a salt beet panini with mustard and pickles; it was glorious. Jools had a ricotta and spinach tart and she said that was excellent too.

Learning new tricks

We headed back down the Tube and a couple of stops away was Green Park and where Betty lives, sometimes, in Buck House. It was great to stride across the park, with locals and tourists alike heading down towards The Mall. The Queen is not in, she is in Norfolk celebrating Christmas with her family and other Germans.

Patriotic photographer

There was no traffic on The Mall, people were just walking along; I took pictures of people, and headed towards Admiralty Arch and Trafalgar Square beyond. It was cold, but walking kept us warm. The Square was crowded, but room enough once we made it to the base of the column, tourists were climbing all over the lions, but in good spirits. I snapped more shots of people.

Galloping along

We walked through to Leicester Square and marvelled at the small fair there; more pictures, of course. And then on to Soho, through narrow streets, past dodgy shops and strange and exotic people. Chinatown was crowded as usual, and apparently full of Chinese tourists, which seems odd to come this far and wander round London's Chinatown.

Scream if you want to go faster

And then onto Regent Street, so we could wait for the sun to go down and I to take pictures; lots of pictures. The pavements were crowded, the roads were full of angry taxi drivers, I found a small traffic island and waited, and waited. After I got some shots we wandered down to Piccadilly Circus, through theatre-land, through Leicester Square, all with more shots taken, and then down into the Tube and back to the station to get the Javelin back to Dover. And we were home by half six.


I put the steak and Ale pie in the oven, boiled and fried spuds for sautéed potatoes, and steamed carrots, broccoli and cauliflower. And we sat down for a wonderful dinner at twenty past seven.

The new Spice Girls

Another one of them great days.

Boxing Day and beyond.

We had planned to do something on Boxing Day, honest. But, other than make scrummy sausage rolls and then settle down and eat them when they were still hot, we just lazed around in the house.

Being a Saturday, there was a full day of sport, and so live games on TV, commentary on the radio, and messing around online with photography on Flickr.

We did sit and watch the first series of Eureka, which I bought for Julie, nice gentle humour and some original ideas, and so very X-File-y. Anyways, we enjoyed them very much, sitting on the sofa with our cats, drinking some nice coffee and a huge slice of Dundee Cake.

What's not to like?

The Parish Church of St Mary the Blessed Virgin, Woodnesborough, Kent

Sunday was fairly bright, and so we went out in the car. I wanted to snap another couple of churches, and so after looking at the list and picking a couple just east of Sandwich and headed out in the car. The truth is I had picked one church now I come to think of it, and on the way we came to a small village church in Woodnesborough. It was locked, but had been open there would have been a service

The Parish Church of St Mary the Blessed Virgin, Woodnesborough, Kent

And after getting the shots we headed to the village of Ash. Ash is quite a large village, and the church is on the highest point beside the main road, and has a huge churchyard.

The Parish Church of St Nicholas, Ash-with-Westmarsh

There was a service inside, and I could hear the odd snatch of organ playing. Light was tricky, as was getting a clear shot, but I can always go back in the summer.

The Parish Church of St Nicholas, Ash-with-Westmarsh

We then drove to Grove Ferry, we were going to have a snack in the Inn there, but after looking at the menu and hearing the specials, we chose the roast beef. A wise choice; we sat at a table by the large windows, we looked out onto the river, the willows weeping into the cold water.

Grove Ferry Inn

Food arrived, and the meal was good. We finished off with dessert, plumb cheesecake for me, and a cup of fresh coffee.

Saturday, 26 December 2009

More Christmas stuff.

So, just after one we headed out laden with boxes and bags of our gifts, loaded the car and headed off to pick up Jools' brother and his children and drove to Dad's.

Coming from a small family, sharing dinner with 11 others was an interesting thought. Tony had supplied plenty of chairs, and a tablefull of drinks chilling in the air outside. We sat round chatting, and some us opening gifts and drinking occasionally.

Tony had done most of the cooking, and most had already been done, and being kept warm in a hostess trolley, with just the vegetables and gravy to make and cook. Just after three we sat down round one large table in the living room, more wine and beer. We had chicken, beef and ham, with lots of roast potatoes, sprouts (the Devil's food, carrots, sweet potatoes and a huge jug of gravy. Those with large appetites had seconds of meat and potatoes.

We passed on dessert, sherry trifle, and soon enough decided to head home to slumber and relax. We got home just before 6, just in time to see Dr Who, and then on BBC see James May build the world's longest model railway, and try to run a train between Barnstaple to Bideford. He almost succeeded, but burnt out the motor on the last train still working at three in the morning 3 miles short of it's destination.

In truth I had not slept well on Christmas Eve, and so we went to bed at nine and soon were in the arms of sleep.

Friday, 25 December 2009

Chistmas Eve

After the hard driving and plain stress of the day before, we decided to take things really easy indeed. In fact the day began slow and we relaxed from there on in.

We did not go out, and in the evening failed to go to the local church either, and to the hotel for the folk singing afterwards.

Jools was upstairs doing a new tapestry, and I was doing photographic stuff down here in the living room. We listened to a radio show on the BBC i-player, and then had a lunch of crusty bread with stinky French cheese and some Stilton too.

In the afternoon I made another batch of mince pies, this time with thinner pastry as I had learned from the first batch, and then another jug of boozy egg nog from a recipe sent from an internet buddy of mine from Oregon.

We also forsook the carols on TV and radio, the ballet, Swan lake, also failed to hold our attention. Mid evening I cooked steak and sautéed potatoes, washed down with red wine (me) and cider (Jools).

All was quiet, I check to see where Santa was with NORAD, and as he neared England, we went to bed, lest he see we were awake and miss us out.

I love my wife so much......

We woke this morning to find he had left us a wonderful pile of things; books, CDs, DVDs, malt whisky, a home brew kit, clothes, fridge magnets and, from Mother, some pretty useless kitchen things.

Pasta Perfecto with free bonus personal size

And slippers.

Out with Homer, in with Mr Perfect!

And Ug boots for Jools; not proper ones, but still.


And so later we will head to Jools' Dad's for dinner with the family, which will be an experience for me, and back here for the latest Dr Who at 6 to find out if time itself will end; I think not.

Merry Christmas to friends and contacts

Merry Christmas to all my friends.

Thursday, 24 December 2009


We had been wanting to go to visit Mother since the weekend; the weather, the snow and the ice meant that it did not happen at the weekend. Tuesday we were busy with shopping and trains; Tuesday, Jools was working and so Wednesday it was going to have to be it. Travelling for 400 miles on Christmas Eve was certainly out.

We woke at half five, and there was no fog outside, but the snow and ice were mostly still there, but the main roads should be clear and gritted. After a cup of tea we loaded the car with presents and set off.

The A20 was clear of ice and other traffic mostly, and we made good time to Canterbury, but as we came to the Canterbury turn off, we saw a sea of red stop lights and made the decision to go through the city and take our chances on the motorway the other side.

The road was still open, we found out later that the police had closed the road due to black ice, so we chose wisely. Traffic remained light as we headed up to Dartford and the tunnel under the Thames. No queues and we were through. Once in Essex, the light was getting better, and it became clear that the snow had not melted there at all.

Laying snow got deeper as we turned up the A12, and deeper into Essex. We ran out of liquid in the screen wash bottle, and so we had to battle poor visibility as well as the weather.
We stopped off at a 'Little Chef' near Colchester and had breakfast, the adjoining garage did not have any washer fluid, and so we made do with bottled water until that froze in the bottle.

Passing through Ipswich, the sun rose and mist rose from the snow covered fields; stunning images, I just wish we could have parked to take shots of it, but there was no chance. And so as we drove on we were treated to the most wondrous winter scenes and light.

North of Ipswich, the good road ran out and we twisted and turned through the Suffolk countryside. It was rather wonderful I have to say. In deference to my hobby, we stopped off at the most striking church on the road between between Ipswich and Lowestoft; Blythburgh.

Holy Trinity Church, Blythburgh, Suffolk

Blythburgh dominates mud flats and the estuary and surrounding countryside. It is a parish church, but built on a grand scale. For me it was the sign as a child that we were less than 20 miles home when travelling that way, and I had never been to, let alone been inside.

Holy Trinity Church, Blythburgh, Suffolk

It is wonderful, the golden light made it look like it was on fire. Wonderfully, the door was open and so we got to photograph the inside and meet the churchwardens. We were made very welcome. In the beams of the roof, carved angles looked down on the pews and us. Sadly, we could not stop for long, but it is a glory and well worth a stop if you're passing.

Holy Trinity Church, Blythburgh, Suffolk

At Mother's, things were no different to other times, my heart sank, we danced around issues, but we were polite and had lunch and talked. Piles and piles of stuff lay everywhere, her talk of change had been just that, talk.

So, as the clock ticked slowly towards two o'clock, we decided to head back to Kent, as freezing fog was forecasted for Suffolk. The road to Ipsich was slower than before, but we kept on moving. Over the radio came a warning of the road on the Orwell Bridge blocked by a jack-knifed lorry, the vague message we worked out suggested it was in the opposite direction, and so we pressed on. The driver was being helped by other motorists, blood pouring from a gash in his head.

As the sun went down, warning of queues at Dartford came over the radio, and so we had a choice, the M25 or risking going into London to the Blackwall Tunnel or worse, central London and Tower Bridge, and rush hour. There was one other choice, the Woolwhich Ferry, we had seen it in the summer, and I thought that the best bet.

Eastern Avenue was very busy, and confusing to the casual visitor, we got caught up in roadworks, but kept on moving. Down onto the north Circular and east into Docklands. Traffic was surprisingly light, past the end of the runway at the City Airport, down a small turning and into the car park. We stopped behind a truck and were prepared for a long wait.
Two minutes later, cars came the other direction and we moved, right onto the ferry. We turned off the engine and the ferry moved off.
Once off the ferry we headed off into Woolwich and then Charlton, towards the A20 and hopefully the road home. Traffic was still light, and soon we left the houses of south London behind and were whizzing through the night into Kent and home.

400 miles there and back on a cold and wintery day, on what the radio told us over and over again was the busiest travel day of the holidays; thanks for that.


Market day in Kings Lynn.

Not that we would be heading that way; not today at least.

After Monday's success in snapping the train at Dover, we knew that another was heading across the Romney Marsh to Rye and then on to Hastings on Tuesday, and so I agreed to pick Gary up at half ten before heading west to the Marsh.

Earlier that day, the weather looked very different than forecasted, the grey was leaden and heavy, and the rain poured down. After dropping Jools off for her last day at work before Christmas and then onto Tesco before the crowds turned up, mainly to get milk and vegetables.

Tesco was fairly empty, and I rushed round picking up things we needed, and was out again within 20 minutes and heading home.


As the morning went on, the sky lightened, the rain stopped and the sun broke through. By ten it was glorious and the light wonderful. I braved the traffic heading to the port and went to pick Gary up and then heading over the roundabout near the port and his house and we were soon heading up the A20 to Folkestone and beyond.

Dungeness old lighthouse

As the train was not expected until one fifteen, we had time to do other stuff. There was one picturesque church on the coast road to Romney in Dymchurch. We stopped off there and both snapped away; sadly the door was locked, as expected, but the golden light and blue skies made for great shots.

Dungeness skyline.

It was then out to Dungeness, where there is a nuclear power station and a collection of what were once fishermen's cottages, but are now mainly a bohemian art community. Built on the shingle beach, it is an odd place, especially with the power station in the background and the narrow gage railway, The Romney Hythe and Dymchrurch Railway. There are two lighthouses, old and new ones, and along the high tide mark, a collection of fishing boats that had been dragged up the beach until needed again.

Dungeness beach

We took pictures, but shivered in the chilly wind, and then headed inland to the picturesque church at Fairfield near Brookland. The light was so great, and the colours so vivid, it all looked so un-natural, we carried on snapping.

34067 Tangmere: The Sussex Belle 22nd December 2009

And then onto Rye where there is a bridge carrying the railway over the river, and should make a good view.
We were expecting plenty of warning after the smoke and steam of yesterday, but it seems the weather had other ideas. A toot of the whistle told us it was coming. The train just trundled over the bridge with little steam or smoke, and was gone just as quickly. We had our shots, and before heading back to Dover.

Trailer park with a view.

We stopped at one of my favourite pubs, the Woolpack at Brookland, built in 1420, it is all narrow beams and uneven floors. With a huge open fireplace with seats in the chimney breast, two cats snoozed in the warmth of the fire. I had a pint of Autumn Gold and we each had a sandwich. Nothing quite beats sitting in such a place on a cold winter's day nursing a pint of winter warming ale.

That evening, Jools and I headed to the Harbour Board Social Club for a Christmas dinner and dance. They hadn't sold enough tickets and friends and family of people who worked there were offered to swell the numbers for a tenner. The food was great, especially the roast and vegetables. We left before the music began, as we had plans to be awake early the next morning.

Monday, 21 December 2009

More Monday

And so I head out into the winter wonderland after the morning rush hour had died down. I headed down to Halfords to pick up bike lock for Jools' niece as a Christmas present. Something so simple are no almost as expensive as a bike!

And then up to Whitfield to battle with the evil that is the BT broadband hub; I cracked my knuckles as the computer powered p and prepared for the worst. Only, it worked fine. Really. I went to a couple of sites and it wasn't quick, but good enough.

A quick dash home for a bite of lunch before heading back out, this time to photograph another steam locomotive. I went down beside the sea in the shadow of Shakespeare Cliff and waited.

I worried that maybe all trains had been cancelled, and had to wait for half an hour until one Javelin service finally went passed. As the second service went round the sharp bend near the Prince of Wales Pier, a puff of smoke could be seen.

60163 Tornado: White Cliffs Christmas Luncheon Special 21st December 2009

And then, puff, puff, silent at first, but then a hint of a 'chuff' sound. Tornado accelerated, and huge columns of smoke rose up into the leaden skies. I snapped away, and the camera recorded every frame, six a second.

60163 Tornado: White Cliffs Christmas Luncheon Special 21st December 2009

And then it was under the bridge we were standing on, and we were engulfed in smoke and steam as the train passed by. We went to the other side of the bridge to try to get s shot as it went into the tunnel under the cliff; more smoke, more steam.

And it was gone.

And so back home, after picking Jools up, she had bought a bun tin, and so back home and make some mince pies. I used a recipe from the BBC website; the pastry had just flour, butter and sugar, handrolled and put in the tin; a spoonfull or mincemeat and a handrolled top and then in the oven.

And they are dreamy; quite the best ones we have tasted. Washed down with a pot of coffee made with home made egg nog instead of milk or cream. We lit the fire and sat in the twilight munching on mince pies, drinking coffee watching the flames devour the logs.

Merry Christmas, everyone.

Snowy Monday

Yes, the white stuff is still here, and we even had another inch last night as well! Once again the roads are slippery and the traffic into town horrendous.

The View

Yesterday, as it was gloriously sunny, but cold, we went to the cliffs for a stomp in the snow and to take pictures. There were very few folk around, and so we walked over virgin snow, making tracks and photographing them.

Waiting for a ferry


We had wonderful view over to the castle, and down onto the crowded docks and people tried to get onto ferries to head to France, even though the weather was even worse there. Below our feet, the channel tunnel was empty after six trains in less than 24 hours have broken down, causing even more people to try to use the ferries. Dover's roads cannot really cope.

Dover Castle

So, we stomped around in the snow, snapped away, and returned to the car happy enough. We then went to Jools' Dad's to set up his broadband hub. Oh dearie, dearie me; how hard could that be? Very hard, and BT say that the uhb needs 24 hours to settle down before a decent connection can be made. So, I'm gonna head there later today to battle with the evil that is BT.

Foxhill Down, NT

Before that, I hope to snap some shots of a steam engine as it passes through Dover at lunchtime, if it is running. I have the location and shot I want, just need the weather to play ball, really.

The all new even whiter white cliffs of Dover!

Jools has gone to Canterbury for some last minute shopping, I did mine all online and am just waiting for some final things to turn up, weather allowing, of course.

Saturday, 19 December 2009

That's snow business!!

So many times over the years, weathermen have forecasted 'heavy' snow and it never turns up. And so when the expected snow on Friday delivered just a dusting, and another coating was all we thought would turn up. Imagine our surprise when dawn's early light revealed four glorious inches of snow.

Now, four inches ain't much I know, a few years ago I was in New England when we had something like eight feet over two nights, so this should not be a problem.

Well, Britain is crap at extreme weather to say the least, and so it turned out again. 5 Eurostar trains broke down in the Channel Tunnel, the M2 and M20 motorways were blocked by snow and parked trucks, no ferries were leaving as it was worse in France and most trains failed to run as the trains could not get a grip on the rails. In effect, we were cut off.

A planned trip to see mother in Suffolk was cancelled for today and tomorrow, as Suffolk got it bad too. We'll try to do that on Wednesday.

After a breakfast of bacon sandwiches we sat down to ponder what to do when the power went off. Just like that. So, we decided to walk into the village to try and get the paper, and maybe take some pictures.

Station Road, St Margaret's-at-Cliffe

The main road into the village was in chaos, a gritting lorry had hit the kerb with it's plough and the plough come off blocking the road. Cars were strew on both sides of the road, no one going anywhere. A few people were walking, like us either to or back from the village.

This is what I think of snow.

As we walked up the hill into the village, a car would go past and then halfway up lose traction and slither to a stop. We carried on walking.

I want one of those!

The power cut had hit the whole village, but they had the papers and were accepting cash. All round the small square people were stopped talking, children throwing snowballs, and oddly, a fire engine parked up with the firemen collecting for charity whilst festive music played. All rather wonderful and community feeling.

The only way to get into Dover today!

We walked to the church to take pictures, the snow lay deep in the churchyard and up the grave markers. All was quiet, as little traffic was on the main road.

The Parish Church of St Margaret, St Margaret's-at-Cliffe

We walked back, put some water to boil on the stove and made tea and had the final slices of Dundee Cake #1 which we had begun last weekend and had pecked at through the week.

After a couple of hours, the power came back, we lit a fire and the house warmed up, and I settled down for an afternoon of sport and messing around on the computer. Yay!

Friday, 18 December 2009

So, first morning off work.

And what to do?

And that is indeed the question. Well, I decided to stay in the house today and not drive Jools to work because there will be many other times to go out, but the main one is it looked so bloody cold out there this morning, I thought it best to stay in and do some chores. Other parts of Kent and Essex and Suffolk got lots more snow than us; it was just a dusting here, and so not even very photogenic. Well, I guess it could have been, but we'll never know now.

The chores for the day:

Wrap presents;
Make mince pies;
catch up on my reading;
Make dinner.

I think that's it.

Every task is make more difficult by the fact I have banged my thumb quite bad this week; there is a chance it's broken to be honest. The nail is all black, and after a quiet night when I did get some sleep, I banged it again this morning and now it hrts like hell again.

Mince pies should be easy as all I have to do is make the pastry, as the jars of mince meat are everywhere, even still I bought mine weeks ago just to make sure. Oh and make egg nog. One thing that a Christmas in New England a few years back was a taste for egg nog; I use it instead of cream in coffee as well as on it's own, and is wonderful. And alcoholic, as I use three different spirits in it too!

Working now means I seem to be able to grab just half an hour a day with my magazines in the canteen, what with cooking and photography and all the other stuff that makes up our life, I have a stack of things to read. So, this afternoon I plan to sit on the sofa and read Empire at least and catch up on some movie news and reviews. That is until Mark Kermode comes on the radio at three for his review of the year. Wonderful.

Dinner is going to be chicken kievs with salad and some potato bread; it is what Jools asked for and who am I to refuse. So it looks like Snday will be curry day as usual.

And so, day one of the long Christmas break begins.

Thursday, 17 December 2009

Bland Idol. Now That's what I call Bland. The Bland Factor.

Seems like Simon Cowell does not have a sense of humour after all. A Facebook group which has the aim of getting Rage Against the Machine's Killing in the Name of to nmber 1 instead of the latest bland clone has been met with derision and anger by the rectangle headed svengali.

"If there's a campaign, and I think the campaign's aimed directly at me, it's stupid. Me having a No 1 record at Christmas is not going to change my life particularly," Cowell said. "I think it's quite a cynical campaign geared at me that is actually going to spoil the party for these three."

On Sunday, this year's clone, a Geordie called Joe something won and the next day the single, a cover of a song by Billy Ray Cyrus's daughter, was released.

What Mr Cowell failed to realise is that the vast majority of the contrary failed to vote or don't give two figs about the X Factor, and would like to have something original at number one at Christmas. What we can be almost certain of, Joe will be Joe Anonymous this time next year again.

Anything that puts a crack in his smugness has to be a good thing.

It's nearly Christmas!!

And this evening, or afternoon, work stopped in the factory and we were allowed to go home at three; and that is it until the 5th of January. Those of s taking part in Box Idol were promised a decision on who would be being kept on on a full time basis. That this has been dragging on for three weeks is all a little tiresome to say the least, and so it was of some relief when we were taken one at a time into the factory manager's office to be told.....

..... no decision had in fact been made and cold we come back in January to jump through some more hoops. At this point, words do fail me. We are all now at the point we just want to be told so those of s who won't get the job can go and do something else. But because of the state of the job market we have to smile and say thank you.

The excuse is that we have not had enough training on the machines, and they want to be really sure. And so we will have this hanging over us for the two weeks that the factory is closed wondering if we should sign on, if we can sign on.

However, I have an interview on the day work resumes, with Eurostar to be a telesales person. Not my job of choice, but it comes with perks; namely, unlimited free travel in Eurostar to Paris and Brussels and half price travel on London Underground, and after a year cheap rail travel for me and Jools.

I filled in the application form with a sense of desperation, as the questions seems to have little to do with the job you are applying for, and being a male I left it to the last minute to fill in the form. But, I got an interview if nothing else, and so office work could lay ahead, and lots of travel to Europe for us ahead.

Being that we finished for Christmas today, it was snowing when we left the factory, and the roads like a skating rink, with just one road unblocked by accidents; the steep one, which we slid down in the car with Jools' feet jammed on the brakes. We slithered to a stop a couple of feet from the car and stop lines at the bottom of the hill, and at which point our hearts began beating again.

And so, 14 days of rest for us, with just a visit to my Mother's at the weekend to cloud the horizon. Oh well.

Monday, 14 December 2009

Sunday, to the castle!

Sunday dawned quite cloudy, and my plan to go to Margate for the taking of photographs was not received very well. Jools said to go Dover Castle; and why not?

We had been given membership to English Heritage for our wedding, and cashed them in last summer, and so entry would be free for us, and as it's just a 5 minute drive from here; so why not?

We stopped on the way, to look out over the channel, as the sun was breaking through the cloud, and cast wonderful patterns on the sea, and way over to the north east, Calais could be seen poking it's head over the horizon.

Being just gone ten, we were able to drive up the steep road to the castle and were waved in, through the wall and past the WW2 lookouts to the car park. In the ticket office we were offered Christmas dinner that day for £15 as we were members; but we had luxury Tesco curries waiting for us back home and had to pass, though the thought of dinner in such wonderful surroundings was tempting.

The Keep, Dover Castle

We headed down an unmarked path towards the lookouts with views over East Cliff below and then over the docks and breakwater to the Channel beyond. Having snapped away, we made our way to the main keep and to where we knew there was a cafe as coffee and snacks were called for; a sandwich and a scone and two hot drinks came to nearly £9, but luckily for them, were rather wonderful.

The Keep, Dover Castle

And then to the keep; it had just been reopened after renovation, and now had actors playing parts of kings, servants and guards, and all very informative it was. Being so early, we had the place pretty much to ourselves and I let rip with the camera.

The Keep, Dover Castle

The King's chambers was all decked in flags and colourful wall hangings; the King invited people to sit on his throne! We made our way to the spiral staircase and then up to the roof with wonderful views over the town and ramparts.

Spiral Staircase, Dover Castle

As the tower began to fill with people, we decided to leave and go and visit the old folks, or Jools' family anyway. We confirmed that we have been invited for Christmas dinner, and so no need to rush out and order a butterball turkey.

And then back home to sit down in front of the TV to watch the Liverpool vs Arsenal game and have another coffee and another thick slice of Dundee Cake; just glad we did make the seconds one just in case!

Saturday, 12 December 2009

Saturday again

So we began today with me trying to fix a sign to the front of the house. How hard cold that be? Quite difficult it turned out.

I went to B&Q to get some proper fixings, and with these and a drill I thought I could do it. But something went wrong and the masonry raw plugs just spun in the holes drilled making them bigger. Bugger. That's £8 wasted. And no sign up.

We then went out at midday to meet up with a friend and to spend the afternoon having a pub lunch and a beer or two and then taking some photographs. We picked him up at his Mother's care home and headed to the north Kent marshes.

First stop was at the town on Minster, so I could photograph it's impressive church, once a major ecclesiastical centre, and the parish church being a mixture of what looks like several older buildings. The rain had cleared and the light wonderful.

The Gate, Boyden Gate, Chislet

We drove across the downs with the north Kent coast in view and to the village of Boydon Gate. There, is a wonderful ramshackle pub where Bob once had a good meal. We ordered beer and chose grills from the menu and sat down beside the open wood fire for the meals to arrive.

Mega grill at the Gate.

And when they did, WOW! They were huge, sorry, mine was huge, I had chosen the Daddy of the grills and it came loaded with food of all kinds. We had another pint of Christmas Ale to help the fine food down.

We then went to the nearby church at Chislet, a unique looking building with wonderful views over the verdant countryside. The churchwarden was inside and made us welcome; she opened up the tower, and we climbed the spiral staircase to the lvel where the bellringers do their stuff. It was fabulous, like it was unchanged for centuries. We snapped away, and were very happy indeed.

Flickr's most haunted

Then on to Birchington, where Bob was to check on his Mother's house, and Jools and I checked out another church in the rays of the late afternoon sun, taking more pictures of the church and the grave of a semi-famous pre-Raphaelite painter.

And finally, to Minis Bay to capture the final rays of the dying sun and the colours of dusk and gaze at the kite-surfers making their way up the beach after a fine afternoon jumping waves.

Happy, we made our way home, and once here we brewed coffee and then cut the first of the Dundee Cake, just for research purposes. Needless to say, we are gald we made another as it was delicious!

Friday, 11 December 2009

And the weekend arrives.


And so I was told to go home just after three this afternoon, which meant that as I drove back home I got to listen to the film reviews on the Simon Mayo show on Radio 5.

Double Yay!

And then head out to the chaos that is Tesco at this time of year. It is true, there are other supermarkets, other shops even, but this the nearest one to home and has everything we want, and much more that we don't.

Of course at four on a Friday afternoon most of Dover had the same idea and i had trouble finding a parking spot. I got one so far from the store it was just visible on the horizon, or so it seemed.

With list in hand I whisked round grabbing stuff we needed, and was out in about 20 minutes as every till was open. This saves the trouble of getting up so early in the morning and so lay in with the cats and the radio playing quietly in the background.

I also got the two calenders I had ordered last week, and very good for £9.97 they both were. One was for Nan with views of Dover I have taken in the past couple of years, and the other a secret Santa for Jools' office, with pictures of various boxes for whisky we have made. Oh how he will laugh on Christmas morning when he opens it.

As far as the box factor is going; no training for me this week, but I asked and the trial is going over to a third week and I will be learning the art of maintaining quads and the tricks of the trade from Freddi, from what I see is chatting up all the pretty blondes in the factory. Something to look forward to for Monday, then.

Today, I was working with a guy, I won't mention Wayne's name, darn! But this is a guy not dealing from a full deck; random sentences spewing forth all day on subjects varying between death, sex, porn, football; none of which he really knows that much about. At first it was funny, humouring him, laughing at his 'jokes' and the such; but after a couple of hours as he cracked a really unfunny racist joke and moved onto bestiality, we asked if we could remove his battery or switch him off.

This guy is harmless, mostly, but at 20 is already a father, but is spending his money on getting himself tattooed, and spoke in pride at having 25% of his body covered already. Sadly I pointed out his trouble in the future getting employment with such visible body art.

Last night I went back to the camera club; it was the last meet of the year, and it was picture of the year. I had only entered two pictures all year, and so I put those up, one of which came a close third. What was depressing was that it was as cliquey as I remember, and snobbery was abroad from Nikon and Canon owners. I did meet some old friends, but my hastily made resolution to attend more frequently will be sorely tested by the second meet at the end of January I fear.

And so, the weekend awaits; go out and enjoy yourself!


Wednesday, 9 December 2009

I know you got boxing on ice with the stars

So, here's an update on the reality situation at the factory.

Not much to tell, really. On Monday I did the usual stuff, in the afternoon working with a couple of sour old women who held a grudge that a few weeks ago as a QA I had rejected some of their work; speaks more about them than me I guess, but they tried to make my life uncomfortable for an afternoon whilst I stuck calico onto some white card.

Ho well, time passed.

Tuesday was much better; I worked with a great small team folding CD covers, and we had a laugh and ribbed each other. Days like that make work bearable, you know?

Today I actually did some training; in that I was trained, I say trained, shown what to do and left to it; But I worked the mouther and press on the Folio line, and did ok; better once the mouther did it's job rather than crushing the slipcases. I had to concentrate, and so time flew and soon the day came to an end.

I don't know what tomorrow will bring; it's Thursday, and nearer the weekend of course. Work is supposed to be light next week, and so I expect to have next week off no matter what; restarting in January if I have a job, or signing on if I don't.

I was let go home early; only Jools had gone to Canterbury shopping, and so I walked some of the way home. I got down all of Combe Valley Road, along Cherrytree and right to Conaught Road. Up that and right to the Castle, buy which point I ran out of pavement and so waited for the call from Julie to let me know she was near.

I cooked herb crusted pork with pesto pasta and chorizo and two cheese bread; of would have been, so made do with left over paprika chicken from last night. Darn good it was too, and enough left over for lunch tomorrow, bt they'll probably froun at a glass or two of red wine which I had tonight.


And so Sunday rolled round, just right behind Saturday, just like we expect it to. Once again it was raining when we woke up, and the deluge continued through the morning. The BBC had promised that it would brighten up, but looking p to the dark clouds it seemed the rain had set in for the day.

Julie and the Wave 4

As what seems the custom, just before 11 we drove down to St Margaret's Bay to listen to Desert Island Discs and to watch the waves; but the wind had dropped and so we headed up the cliffs to Dover Patrol to look out from the cliff edge. The rain had stopped, and there were breaks in the clouds, and bright spots of sunlight played on the channel from our high vantage point.

Another Sunday and we're staring at the sea

A Flickr-friend, Matt, came over from Ashford, we met him at Western Heights, overlooking Dover Harbour; the clouds had broken, and big areas of blue sky could be seen, and waves crashed against the breakwater and beach.

Wave effect in Dover Harbour

We headed down to the cliff, and wound our way down the cliff to Shakespeare Beach, the sand all red in the bright light, and the air seemingly sparking in the sunlight after over 24 hours of rain. It was high tide, but we dodged the waves and made our way along the beach, walking in and out of the flotsam.

Shakespeare Beach, Dover

It was just wonderful to be in sunshine after a week in the factory and the rain of the previous 24 hours. We got caught in the waves, not big ones, but thrilling none the less. We marvelled at the cuttlefish washed up on the beach, and how amazing that the light should be like this so sudden after such torrential rain.

We headed back home and grabbed a lunch for pizza and beer. Matt and I headed to Deal to catch the last of the daylight and just for the trill of being out. It grew cold, but we headed to the beach and walked among the fishing boats and watched the people out and about doing the same us us, enjoying the light and sun.

The sky turned pink and the sun went down; Matt and I headed home and talked some; We had dinner, steak and ale pie, roast potatoes, and lots of veg and gravy.