Thursday, 30 December 2010

Thursday 30th December 2010

Or, crocked for Christmas.

As I wrote before, I had a pain in my knee come on on Christmas Day. And that is where the pain stayed. Not on Christmas Day but in my knee. And so on Boxing Day, I spent most of the day on the sofa watching football and accepting cups of tea that Jools might want to bring me. Football does not watch itself you know!

In all seriousness, my knee has been giving me serious gip; I did drive some of the way up to and back from Mum's, but the next day I had to rest it again. I think it's getting better now, but on occasion if I turn too sharp or climb the stairs too quick it lets me know.

Santa knows best!

So, for the past two days Jools has been going to work, and I have been home alone; with cats. Yesterday I did some housework; clean the cooker, clean the grate and vaccuumed. And listened to some music online, and also got some singles out, snapped them for a project and played them too. Today, any pretence that I would be doing some housework was done away with and I spent the day listening to music and playing with photographs.

At least going outside was out as far as photography was concerned, as we have been shrouded in fog for the past three days. And so travelling to Mother's early in the week looks more and more like the best decision we made this month.

Tuesday, 28 December 2010

Tuesday 28th December 2010

Bank Holiday.


As yesterday was one too. If you follow?

Boxing Day is, apparently, a huge day for shopping with half the country going to shopping centres and Malls to spend what bit of their loans they had not spent on Christmas. Many people travel home from families, whilst the rest of us sleep the day before off. The day after Boxing Day is pretty much the same, doubly so this year as it was a bank holiday due to Sunday being Christmas Day and all. Against all reason, it was this day, bank holiday Monday, when we had decided, I had decided to make the trip back to the old country (Suffolk) to drop of Christmas gifts and do the dutiful son bit.

And so the alarm went off at five; it was still dark outside, but there was no frost at least, and so after a cuppa we loaded the car with gifts and set off for Suffolk.

The road, the A and then M20 were fairly empty, and so we arrived at the Dartford Crossing within an hour. We dropped the £1.50 in the basket at the barrier and off we went, under the Thames and into Essex.

The road, the A12, was empty and we made good time. We stopped off to try to get breakfast at a Little Chef, but they were not open until eight. we pressed on through Essex and into Suffolk. We tried for breakfast in the retail park around Tesco; but again all was closed.
We headed north, over the Orwell Bridge; as ever the good roads ran out and after Wickham Market we were down to a two line blacktop. As the good roads ran out, there is a farm cafe and shop; we pull in. There is woodburner roaring in the corner and for us the choice of tables at which to sit. We each order a 'Suffolk Breakfast' and read one of the magazines on offer on a nearby shelf.

The food is excellent, but the bill, £22 for two medium sized breakfast was shocking; no matter how good the food was.

We pressed on, and in an hour we were in Lowestoft and pulling up outside the house where I grew up. Mum now lives there alone; we arrived un-announced, but as usual, the door was unlocked and so after grabbing the bag of gifts, we walked in.

Her house is a little more cluttered, a little more dusty than before. I take a deep breath and we walk into the living room.

Home is where the junk is.

Dealing with Mother is like doing the tango; we each know the moves, the questions to ask, the subjects to avoid. All part of the game for sure. Mum made a cup of tea and we sat down to talk to; in an hour we were struggling to find new subjects to talk about. We talked on until the clocked moved on to one in the afternoon, and we made our excuses, packed our bags with exchanged gifts and walked to the car.


Before heading on to the wide open road that would take us past Bungay and Diss to Bury St. Edmunds, we stopped for a drink at a pub in a village just outside Lowestoft. An old schoolfriend I had not seen since May 1981 was propping up the bar, and after realising we recognising each other we swapped our life stories; multiple divorces, working in the oil industry and so on.

And then it was time to take to the road; alarmingly, Radio 2 was full of huge queues of traffic on the M25, and the talk was of hours of waiting to get home.


As it was the hardest part was the blandness of the radio, and our struggle to keep our eyes open. South of Cambridge, the M11 was nose to tail, but we moved on in due course. And then onto the M25. In the end, as it was getting towards half four, the traffic was lighter, and we kept on moving, more or less and by five we were back in Kent and heading home.

When we got home, we found that the pound of sausages we had defrosting had, as been feared, been found by the kittens, and were now scattered through the house. So, something else for dinner then?

We had six rashers of smoked bacon, a Christmas cake and mince pies. Soon enough the smell of bacon grilling and brewing coffee filled the house. The cats were fed, and soon so were we, and I slumped on the sofa to watch the Arsenal v Chelsea game.

Sunday, 26 December 2010

Sunday 26th December 2010

Being the only child of two only children is that as a child we only had 'small' Christmases. There were only ever the six of us, and that seemed big enough. Usually there were enough grumbling and moaning and sleeping for all to go round. And as the years went by as family members passed away Christmas got smaller and smaller, but it always seemed fine enough. The last Christmas I had with Mother back in 2005, after eating dinner, she slept through the afternoon and into the evening and so I went back home.
Then for three years I was at sea, the weather always good enough to be able to work on Christmas Day itself. And with each of those working Christmases I found myself longing to be here in Dover with Jools' family. None more so that in 2008 when I found myself in the Shetlands despite months of promises by my then boss, Kevin, that my name was top of the list for Christmas off.
So, despite the bad stuff that happened last year, I did have that family Christmas, and of course, would have that again this year.


as expected, we did very little on Christmas Eve other than watch the X Files and cook dinner. I had got a load of meat last time i was at the butchers, and so we had the finest piece of steak I have seen along with chips and mushrooms along with a fine bottle of 1993 robust red. It was splendid I have to say.

Uncle dave

And so we went to bed early so that we would not be around when Santa came to call.

Christmas day dawned and we were awake; woken as ever by the kittens throwing themselves at our bedroom door. We got up, got dressed and fed the cats, and then opened our gifts to each other, before calling family and friends spreading greetings around the world.


At half eleven, we load up the car with gifts and head to Tony's, for a family meal and all the usual Christmas malarkey. We sat in the conservatory as Tony prepared the meal; chatting about family, doubly so as Uncle Terry's passing a couple of weeks before. Drinks were passed around as the final guests arrived, and at twenty past two we sat down to a fine festive meal with all the trimmings.

Once we had finished the meal, and others had dessert, we moved the tables out of the living room, exchanged gifts and then proceeded to open what we had been given.

Mike and Jane

It was then nearly six, and we made our excuses and left; driving home along the deserted streets back home. Where once I got out of the car, my knee began to hurt; I mean really, really hurt. I had had some pain there for a few days, but just a nagging pain that could be ignored. But this was pain that made me limp and give a sharp intake of breath as I climbed just one step.

I managed it up the stairs and took to bed taking a handful of painkillers before falling into a fitful sleep.

This morning the pain is not so bad, but is still there when I climb just the one step; and so we shall take things gently today, and me rest my leg. Just as well there is a festival of sport on from lunchtime.

Betty and the trifle.

The one brightspot was waking this morning, turning on the radio and finding Australia all out for 98, and England approaching that score with all 10 wickets remaining. In the end, England finished on 157 for 0, and as complete a domination of a single day's play as I can remember. On a cautionary note, there are still four days to go, but surely this is a match England can't lose from this position.

Stranger things have happened.......

Merry Crimbo.......

Friday, 24 December 2010

Friday 24th December 2010

And here we are; Christmas eve. All the shopping is done. Gifts are wrapped. Cards have been sent. The shops are now closed. And it is all over. We just have to get through tomorrow.

I guess I am lucky in that I have been away from home for a few Christmases, working in the RAF or on the high seas, and in truth there is nothing else I would rather be doing than being with Jools and heading over to her Father's place for a huge family dinner tomorrow.

Our plans to head to our local church for candlelight carols and then the pub opposite for beer and mince pies have hit the dust for another year, as we have lit the fire now and are looking forward to a dinner of fine rump steak, mushrooms and hand cut chips. We might watch a film on TV, or we may not.

So, yesterday, Jools headed to Canterbury early on to finish our shopping; I stayed home with the kittens and wrapped the presents I had bought and to make mince pies.


In the afternoon we settled down to listen to the radio as Dave Lister took over Radio Two to play some tunes and some banter with listeners. And then Simon Mayo played two hours of requests, Christmas songs and non-festive ones.

The evening was spent with Mulder and Scully and Mulder and Scully as we and the kittens lay on the sofa and watched a couple of episodes of the X-Files on DVD. The kittens did not seem impressed.

Today, we had a few things to get, and so we headed into Dover before the crowds before driving along the coast to deal to watch the waves crash onto the shingle beach at spring tide.

we went to the pier and had bacon sarnies and a cuppa; we went back to the car to read a bit whilst the tide reached it's maximum. with a strong wind, the waves crashed onto the beach and against the pier. All under a leaden sky and in a cutting wind.

A quick drive to St Margaret's Bay to the Coastguard for a pint of porter of two, and then back home for some stinky French cheese and some tomato bread bought from No Name Shop in Deal.

The wave

And then sit on the sofa listening to the penultimate Mayo and Kermode film show on the radio; with Jason Isaacs again; what more could we ask for?

And so darkness has crept over the land, and NORAD informs us that Santa is in Wulumuqi, China and heading westwards dropping presents and gifts at an astonishing rate.

Good old St Nick!

Merry Christmas.

Thursday, 23 December 2010

Thursday 23rd December 2010

And so this is Christmas.

Today is the first day of my Christmas break, the weather is cold, but not cold enough for snow. what ice we have left is melting making pavements treacherous.

Yesterday, being the last day of term, as it were, I spent at home, well, working from home. as we had a funeral to go to.

35028 Clan Line & 44932 - The Cathedrals Express 22/12/2010

So, at least as I do most of my work with a computer, i can work from when it suits. Well, when it works. Setting up the internet connection and then the VSP; that can take an hour, as it did yesterday. But, in time it works, and i get on and deal with dealing with my work mail and other stuff. It's all magic really.

And then it was time to scrub up, put on the suit and head to the crematorium. Fog had come down, and so we cruised at a safe 50mph, whilst some folks headed past at silly speeds with no lights on, all whilst heading blindly into a bank of fog.

35028 Clan Line & 44932 - The Cathedrals Express 22/12/2010

It seemed like half the town had turned up for the service; there was standing room only, and we had to stand at the back of the balcony. Fine words were said, we listened to his favourite songs, and then the curtains closed and we filed out; said kind words to the grieving. And then we climbed back in our car and headed for home.

35028 Clan Line & 44932 - The Cathedrals Express 22/12/2010

On the way back Jools and I stopped off to watch a double-headed steam tour thunder through. we arrived a few minutes before it was due to find half a dozen gricers already there. Word came through via text that the train was ten minutes late, and so we tightened our coats, stomped our feet and double checked the settings on our cameras.

Then, we saw three lights from the mouth of Guston Tunnel; out of the gloom and mist they came, smoke everywhere, it rushed towards us; my camera whirred; and then it was under the bridge and it was heading away, leaving us wreathed in smoke and steam.

we got back in the car and headed home. we made lunch and sat down with a hot cup of coffee after turning the heating up another couple of notches.

I did some more work as the afternoon turned towards evening, and then at five turned the computer off, and that was it for my working year.

I made chorizo hash for dinner; washed down with a bottle of home brew, and we settled down to listen to the final Radcliffe and Maconie show on the wireless.

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

It snow go!

It is amazing, when you think about it, that as little as six inches of snow can bring the entire country to a standstill. I mean driving on an ungritted and unploughed road is going to be tricky, especially in something like a Smart Car, but trains? Airports? Should we really accept the pleas of managers when they claim unprecedented amounts of snow as a catch all excuse?

Take Heathrow Airport, one of the main hubs in the world of aviation: It has not snowed there for three days, and yet just one runway has been cleared of snow. And they cannot get equipment around and under aircraft parked at a terminal to clear snow. On average there is 32 tonnes of snow under each family sized passenger aircraft. It would appear the plan, as it is, is to wait and hope that the weather warms up. And then the passengers will go away. If only there were items of machinery that could clear a runway of snow; thankfully no other countries in the world have snow as heavy as London has experienced since the weekend.

Oh, wait a minute……

Yes, airports all over the world in extreme latitudes cope somehow; planes take off; planes land; passengers are not delayed. Heck, planes take off and land on icy runways! Is that impossible to happen in London ? Maybe we have different types of ice. Yes, that is it; different kind of ice that the snow sweeping machines cannot cope with.

So, is it any surprise than an airport that operates at 98% most of the time, that when something goes slightly awry, maybe we should just accept that six inches of snow will result in the average passenger having to sleep on the floor of the departure hall. Heavens forbid they could actually come up with a solution…

And then they are trains; since the steam locomotive was invented at the beginning of the 19th century, devices like ploughs have been invented to clear snow from lines so that the papers, milk would be delivered on time. During the harsh winters of 1947 and 1963, trains still ran, papers, milk, coal, etc were still delivered. Who would have thought that here in the future when we should all be living in cloud houses, wearing silver suits and eating meals in pill form, that our modern, sleek, fast trains could be stopped by a couple of inches of snow? Can it really be beyond the realms of possibilities that someone could find a way to get our modern trains cope with snow?

Where I live, in Kent; or New Siberia as it is being called, we have had maybe a foot of snow since the weekend. Which, is a fair amount. And yet our local TOCs trains cannot get enough grip due to the fact they are so light and use third rail electricity. Three years ago after a similar amount of snow it was discovered that the modern EMU cannot be coupled to a locomotive and be hauled; this was to be rectified. Well, we see how well that went! There is talk of heating the third rail; this would cost hundreds of millions of pounds to do over the entire network, and would cost millions per winter to operate. So, what we are saying is the Victorians could get and keep the trains running; so could the Edwardians; heck, even the much-maligned British Rail could keep the trains running. But the power of market forces and the horizontal privatisation of the rail network cannot.

In closing; let us hope that the cold does not continue for three months as happened in years gone by, as we will all starve as we all by our goods are not now local but our milk comes from Yorkshire , probably, so the breakdown in transport infrastructure has huge implications. What happened when millions of people cannot get into work; shops have nothing to sell? It’ll be Lord of the Flies all over again. I have an idea; let’s eat the bankers and the weathermen; problem solved!


Tuesday 21st December 2010

So, Monday rolled round and it was time to head back to work. The snow from the weekend had not melted and so we slithered our way down into Dover so I could drop Jools off; and then back up the side of the valley for the main road to Sandwich and Ramsgate beyond.
The main road although being a four lane one, was down to one lane in each direction, and speeds were down to 30mph. But, I got to work on time, ready for a full day at the coal face.
So, a busy day went well and despite a late finish due to meetings; I was in good spirits as we were off to a Christmas party in the evening. Sadly the snow Gods had different ideas….

The BBC had forecast light snow from midnight and turning heaving by three; as it turned out the snow had begun by six and was turning into a proper blizzard by seven. We looked out the office window at the back of the house across the valley to the village the other side; just a few lights shone through the snow. We decided not to head out, and called Jools’ father to break the news.

I looked in the freezer, and all that we could cook from frozen was lamb-burgers; and so soon they were sizzling away in a frying pan, as outside the snow swirled and began to pile up. As has become normal, I sat on the sofa watching the game on TV, with a lap full of kittens; except when they see the players running across the screen, and they go to see where the ball is going to, and no matter how much they paw the screen they can’t play with that ball.

Anyway, we went to bed at ten, with the snow still blowing and settling outside. We were fully expecting to wake up to drifts of snow and not being able to get out of our drive in the car. However, when we looked closer at the street, we saw that car tracks made in the snow had gone down to the tarmac; the snow was melting.
But there was still the task of clearing the drive to do, eat breakfast and then go out into the world of idiots and see if we could avoid them. As it turned out, with the schools being off already, the roads were all but empty, and the drive into Dover and then to Ramsgate was painless and thankfully uneventful.

Sunday, 19 December 2010

Sunday 19th December 2010


Yes, snow.

what it is that brings out our inner child?

The inner child that screams 'SNOW, lets play, that'll be FUN!'

The inner child that makes normally sane people drive at 90mph on ice.

The inner child that makes folks panic buy milk, bread and sprouts.

OK, maybe not sprouts, but still, confronted by endless rows of empty shelves, it's like a shop behind the iron curtain in the 80s.

So, back home from the course; I worked from home on Thursday due to me getting home so late on Wednesday. I can answer mails and check databases, call on my mobile; it really is almost like being at working the office; except with kittens.

Ah yes, kittens. Kittens like the cursor on the laptop screen, and think it's just another thing to be played with and chased. Oh how I can laugh now, but not at the time.

And then on Friday, I did make to trip into work, driving carefully as there was a dusting of snow. I got stuff done, made calls, done stuff on the databases. And then came home.

Snow was not forecast for that night, but was for Saturday. and so, against my better judgement, I went to Tesco that evening for milk, bread but no sprouts. We now have enough stuff until after Christmas. YAY!


The snow was not forecast to hit Dover until the afternoon, but by the time we got up the blanket was spreading south, stopping travel and forcing the postponing of sporting events. We headed out for a walk around the village, there was a little snow around, not a lot, but the ground was as hard as iron. I took a few shots, we talked, it was good to be out and doing something.

Fields of iron

At the cliffs we went into the cafe for a coffee and a piece of fresh shortbread, before heading back home through the village. By the time we got back most football games had been postponed, and so myself and a lucky kitten to the sofa to listen to the games that survived.

Spikey Spike

At half one the snow began, and continued until dark. The ground was so cold it lay straight away. Most folks were already home and so the world seemed strangely quiet. I had lit to fire, and so it got nice and toasty, just like the average house cat likes it.

Snow 15:00 hrs

The snow continued to fall all evening, until the clouds parted and the moon came out casting a silvery light over the land. The reflections were so strong, it was almost like day, and there was even a shadow of the tree in the back garden.


Unbelievably easy mince pies!

Not much snow today, just a few flurries this afternoon. we headed out for the same walk as yesterday; the only difference was being ankle deep in snow today. At least the wind had died, and it did not feel as cold. we have made this walk in all season, and how the colours and vistas change through the year is really stunning. And now the year grows old, and most is asleep as the wind blows and the snow falls.

Sea view country lane.

On the way back home we call in at the Red Lion as it was five past opening time, and very nice it was supping Christmas ale sitting in front of the open fire. Once home, I made sausage rolls, and soon they were ready to eat, hot out of the oven. Nothing quite like it.

Wrapping up

And so, we should be able to go to work tomorrow; two days for Jools and three for me, as we begin our holidays by mid-week.


Thursday, 16 December 2010

Thursday 16th December 2010

Good morning, good afternoon, good evening or pleasant dreams; depending on when you get round to this. That is, of course, assuming that anyone actually reads these words. I do and I know Jools does, so, that's good enough for me.

So, sorry for the break in updates from the house of the happy kittens that Chez Jelltex now quite clearly is. But, we had a quiet weekend and then I had to travel to Kendal to climb their large ladder. I cannot believe that Kendal as the biggest ladder in the land, but it was that I was sent on how to climb and work at height without killing me or anyone else.

Saturday, we lay in bed a little too late, but once we got up and made bacon sarnies, got our act together and headed out to near Sittingbourne to find a home brew shop. There are better reasons for going out, but buying home brew kits is surely one of the best reasons.

We headed up the A2 and then into the boondocks to find the shop. It was full of lovely beery and winey goodies. we stocked up on two beer kits (for me) and a cider one (for Jools) before we headed off. we passed an unusually shaped church at Tonge, which needless to say, we stopped so I could snap it.

GWUK #58 Mill House, Church Road, Tonge, Kent

we then headed into Sittingbourne to see if there was anything worth snapping; after battling through it's one way system we decided to head right back out as noting other than soulless shops could be seen.

We headed out onto the Isle of Sheppy and then out across the marshes to the remote Hart Church and the Ferry Inn for a drink before heading back home.
From the motorway, I spied an unusual church, and as it was within a mile of a junction, we headed off to find it.

GWUK #59 The Church of St Peter & St Paul, Ospringe

As it turned out, the church had a Christmas tree festival on; and so we parked up and walked in. St Peter and St Paul Ospringe as a very unusual tower, and some mad Victorians had added towers and turrets to it to make it really stand out from the crowd. We were greeted at the door and were told the church's history before we walked round, with me snapping away.

The Church of St Peter & St Paul, Ospringe

We headed home after having a cup of tea and a ginger star cookie, for a snooze and a lay down listening to the footie on the radio whilst covered in kittens and cats. As usual!

Sunday was a much brighter day, and so we headed out to walk along to revamped promenade in Dover and get some exercise in, and gird our loins for the trip to Sainsburys which we had planned next.

New Dover promenade

The new flowerbeds and paths were all twisty curvy things, and along with the bright sunlight suited my wide angle lens perfectly.

White steps, white cliffs

And then it was off to Folkestone and the battle of the superstore. In truth, Sainsbury's is not as bad as Tescos but we went round getting the stuff we wanted before getting the heck outta dodge and heading back home and vowing not to go out again that day.

Waves and curves

And so a quiet afternoon deveoped with me, the kittens and the football on Sky getting acquainted with the sofa. Some snoozing might have been involved too!

And so, the day slipped through my fingers like sand and darkness fell and the NFL went by mostly unwatched, especially as the Vikings game got postponed due to snow inside the Mall of America dome; they have some serious snow there for sure!

And so Monday dawned and my long trip to the ladder in the north loomed large. At least with modern trains, a trip to the Lake District is not a long one; a short blast up HS1 on a Javelin; a walk along Euston Road and then a Pendilino north meant that I arrived in Kendal in less than five hours after leaving home.

With a map on my phone I wandered around Kendal until I ad to ask where the Premier Inn was, and a further walk along past the bus station brought me to the hotel. I checked in, unpacked; I say unpacked, I took the tee shirts and stuff and arranged them in a ball on a shelf below the TV. And then it was time to head out to find a pub showing the football.

Oxenholme (Lake District) Station

finding the white Horse, I bought a Christmas beer and settled down, chatting to a local guy on the table next to me and waited for the game to begin. In truth, no matter that the game featured two of the country's biggest teams, Man Utd and Arsenal, it was poor fare and the beer at least made it pleasant enough. Once the final whistle blew, I walked back to the hotel a bit peckish as I had not eaten since lunch; imagine my dismay that KFC was closed already, and the hotel just had a vending machine. And so I went to my room with a small packet of bite-sized cookies and a cup of tea.

KFC is closed!

Now, in my haste to get work done last week during my two days in the office, I failed to print out the joining instructions from the training centre. I had made a note of it's postcode. And so I thought it wise to set off early as possible to find the centre and better to be an hour early rather than an hour late.

So I walked back to the station, under the bridge and out on the main road north, the map on my phone promising me I was going the right way. And indeed I was, as I arrived at the centre dead on eight and exactly an hour early. I waited, and then waited some more.

Training in Kendal

At half eight the staff began to appear and I went inside the office building and waited some more, breaking the boredom by filling out forms. YAY!

And then, right on time at twenty to ten(!) the course began with some serious death by Powerpoint on the rules and regulations regarding climbing.

That afternoon the practical began; ending with each of us having to climb 20m or so. Now, 20 m don't seem very high, but up on the narrow rung of the ladder as I struggled with the harness and hooks and things, it seems halfway to the moon with people down on the floor looking like toys.

But, I passed the test, and thought the worse over. But little did i know what tomorrow would bring......


That night I went out with camera and took shots of the town centre in the dark; well, lit up by neon and streetlights. I met up with a guy from the course and we had a couple of beers and played some pool before I thought it best to have a meal once in a while, rather than just ale.
I went back to the hotel and its attached pub and ordered steak and mushroom pie which appeared in 5 minutes. It was horrible, clearly microwaved and stodgy to say the least. But the ice cream I had for dessert was fine enough.

Smoker outside the White Horse, Kendal

And so a second day climbing training and I could go home; easy, eh?

Well, an hour of watching videos and then back to the climbing frame thing and TERROR! We had to climb through a hatch in the floor and just using the harness and ropes gently float to the ground!!!

I say ropes, they were properly tested ropes and harnesses and shackles and stuff. I was last to go, and thought about it long and hard, but in due course I sat on the edge and let myself go and I was floating down to the ground like a large leaf. A very large leaf indeed.

The rest was easy easy and we were let out at three and the guy I had met the previous night for beers and me shared a taxi to Oxenholme station on the main line in order to get a nice early train. Ten minutes after I arrived, a train pulled in just stopping in Preston before arriving in London; I got on and tried to find a seat. And so as the sun set and dusk crept over the land we sped south and the snow clouds threatened to gather and scatter the fluffy white stuff around and maybe could have left me marooned in Kendal.

Saturday, 11 December 2010

Saturday 11th December 2010

And so another week goes by.

The Leas, Folkestone: Tuesday morning 8 a.m.

As I said in a previous blog, I have been on a first aid course this week. What going on a course like that brings is the chance for people from different backgrounds together. And then forces them to sit in a room in close proximity whilst listening to a chinaman lecture us on first aid whilst laughing at his own jokes and with hilarious mispronunciations. Did I mention the lecturer of Chinese extraction? No? I say Chinese, he is from Hong Kong, but Joe has been living in the UK for decades and has a nursing background. So, he was qualified to teach us first aid. But then there was the diversions; the little stories, some of which had relevance, most didn’t. Still, I was being paid for being there, and it was in a hotel, on The Leas in Folkestone, which was quite swish.
It did also mean a late start of nine o’clock and a finish of half four with an hour for lunch. I’ve been on worse courses, and will do again of course. Next week I have to go all the way to Kendal for a course on working at heights, as apparently they have the biggest ladder in the country. But, more of that next week upon my return.
So, the first aid course: we were a mixed bunch, two from a holiday company, a few dinner ladies and a couple of lads from a building company. And me. I was the only one who did not take notes. Not one. I was banking on the hope that the assessment on the final afternoon would not be too taking.

The Leas, Folkestone: Tuesday morning 8 a.m.

And so it turned out; so now I can apply a bandage which may not make your condition worse; and in the event you are unconscious and still breathing, I can put you in a recovery position. And then, if you stop breathing, break your sternum whilst massaging your heart. I passed the test, and went home with one (used) dressing, one (reusable) triangular bandage and a handbook to consult if anything else happens that we have not covered.

So, it is now the weekend, and two days off. Maybe we should actually get Christmas gifts for the family and write cards? You think? Maybe we shall sit down tonight and write cards and make lists…..

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

Wednesday 8th December 2010

Hello and good evening.

The news is, well, I have been busy. Kinda.

For the past three days I have been doing a first aid course, which it turned out was not just a first aid course, but a workplace first aiders course. So I can now add that to my CV, if the need arises of course.

Winter sun

So, we arrived home a week ago from the bright lights and glamour of Manchester and Blackpool for icy winds but no snow. But we did not have to wait long as soon enough it began to fall. I lit the fire as we tried to warm the house up. While outside the drifts began to pile up.

Of course, the British idea of heavy snow may differ from yours, but by the morning there was about 5 inches outside; and a quick look at the main road showed that we would be going no where for a while, or at least until the ploughs arrived. And then there was the factor that more snow was forecast for the afternoon. And so I plugged my work laptop in and set it up, and carried on working as normal. Or as normal as it can be with two kittens jumping up and down.

Friday it looked just about clear enough to try to head into work; first I had to drop Julie off in Dover and then try to get back out of the town, up the many hills. That done, the snow began to fall again, and even on the four lane road to Sandwich there was just the one lane open in each direction, and we tip-toed along at 30 mph, and this continued until I got to Ramsgate and the office.

Work done, I headed back home half an hour or so early, just in case the snow did fall again, and back via Tesco as we tried to get some supplies as at the sight of a flake of snow folks had cleared the shelves of bread and milk.

Once home we heard on the radio that England had failed to win the right to hose the World Cup in eight years time, and Russia winning the right. And then Qatar winning the right to host the 2022 competition. I say won, more likely paid the most money. whatever, it's all leaves a sour taste in the average fan's mouth.

Deal, Kent

With milk and bread and a few other things, it was back home to settle in for a quiet night, and as it turned out, a quiet weekend; as I think we were pooped out by our travels in the past week.

On sundat the rain began to fall at dawn, and soon the rain was melting fast. Snow or now, it was not the weather for travelling, and so we settled in for a quiet day in, and football for me on the TV and radio. The old enemy lost in the televised game Saturday lunchtime, and then City won away at Derby to go fourth. Not a bad day. And then I got a migraine, which left me with the Hobson's choice of going to bed with the lights out; which I did of course.

Sunday, we drove to Deal once the rain stopped; we parked up and walked along the far end of the promenade to where the golf courses start, right to the remains of Sandown Castle. Chilled to the bone, we turned round and walked home and then drove home for lunch and then more football on TV.

And so on.

And then onto Monday and the course: so, instead of heading to Ramsgate, I drive to Folkestone for a nine o'clock start for lectures on injuries and how to fix them. And drink coffee. Lots of coffee.

Repeat three times.

It is now Wednesday. And we are still snow free. for now.

Friday, 3 December 2010

Friday 3rd December 2010

Or what we did in Blackpool.

I finished yesterday as we waited for our train to carry us through Bolton, Preston and onto Blackpool and the seaside.

We waited at one of the two through platforms, and at the appointed time a two carriage EMU trundled in, and we climbed into a couple of empty seats and away we went into the dusk of a Lancastrian late afternoon. We were sitting on the wrong side of the train to see the tower from a distance, but I did spot the sun setting with a great flourish beyond the Irish Sea.

It was nearly dark when we climbed off the train at Blackpool North, and consulted our mobile phones for directions to our hotel. But, it seems 'your location' is accurate to only within 1600m, and as our hotel was closer to the station than that, it was anyone's guess. But, knowing we were at the station, looking at the map I was able to see where the hotel was, and we headed off down the road with the sea glinting in the middle distance. We turned right when we reached the prom, and walked past the Metropole Hotel and then up one of the side streets to our hotel.
We rang the bell, and the owner came down; Mr H? He asked. Yes, we said. Oh do come in.
He showed us to our room and said we should go down to the living room for a cuppa and we would sign the register and have a chat.

Being a hotelier was really only a hobby, as Fraser is a nuclear scientist full tie; and teaches that subject locally after graduating from CERN. In the end we had a fine talk about life, science and what we did, what he did. We also drank tea, coffee and ate biscuits.

He recommended an Italian place round the corner, and after a quick wash and brush up, we wrapped up warm and set off for a constitutional, with cameras too.

Blackpool in December is cold, and quiet, doubly so on a Monday night. Most places were closed, the tram tracks were being replaced and (as we were to find out on the morrow) the tower was even closed. But, we walked down the promenade, The Golden Mile, past rows and rows of fast food joints, B&Bs, bars and the such, all closed for the winter.

We turned back and headed up through the town centre, a few pund shops were still open casting a golden light over the rows of waiting taxis in the rank outside.

We found the restaurant and got a table near the log fire, and over glasses of cava we ordered and ate good food. And people watched.

Not a bad day.

At all.

Tuesday we woke up toasty warm, and had a cuppa along with a biscuit. Oh yes, biscuits. Most hotels leave one mean packet of three biscuits for a days tea and coffee; but not this place. A dozen packets of cookies and ginger nuts were spread out among enough milk, coffee and tea bags for a weeks stay.

We went downstairs for breakfast, and were presented with a huge plate of scrambled eggs, sausage, beans, hash browns and four rashers of bacon. And then there was toast. And more tea and coffee.


We rolled down the road to the promenade, and walked down onto the beach just north of the North Pier. It was glorious. Cold but glorious. The beach at low tide stretched beyond the end of the pier, to the north the snow covered hills that lead down to Barrow glistened in the sun. On the horizon, Robin Rigg windfarm glittered in the sun, that's another of our projects; all working fine.

We walked under the pier, basking in the glorious sunshine, but wrapped up against the keen wind. It was wonderful I have to say. But, we had a rendezvous to keep; with an old friend, Jane, in the cafe at Debenhams. We made it with a couple of minutes to spare and chatted away the morning.

North Pier, Blackpool

We parted at midday, and we tried to go up the tower; but it was closed. What to do? No trams, no tower. We walked around the town centre, and then headed to a pub at the end of our road for a drink.

And yay! they had Warsteiner on draught. Two pints, Mr Landlord; now, any bratties?

We went back to the hotel, so we could be rock and roll and read. I finished the Stephen Fry autobiography and maybe had a beery snooze.

Rock, and indeed, roll.

That night we headed out to the Italian place for more pasta and fruity wine.

We packed and so were ready for what was looking to be an interesting trip home on the morrow.

We were awake early enough, showered and had a light breakfast, and so made the 08:45 train back to Manchester with over an hour to while away before our train to London was due to leave.


Lots of snow began to fall as we arrived in Manchester. And by the time we climbed out of the train, a blizzard was blowing outside. As we went to the cafe on the mezzanine floor for coffee, the announcements was that no trains would be running to Sheffield or Cleethorps, and trains east were all delayed. The platform from which our train was due to leave was most certainly train-less.

At ten past eleven, it arrived and we grabbed seats and prepared to wait before the train departed. But, there was no wait; just 5 minutes late we headed into the snow and towards home.

As we headed south, the snow got less and less, and we began to worry less too. London was almost snow free, and even though the walk along Euston Road was cold, we arrived at St Pancras in time for the Dover train, which was on time.

As we came out into the light at Dagenham, the snow was back, an inch or two on the ground; but we did not slow up, and rushed towards Kent and home. At Ashford, the snow was back, but thinned out again as we neared Folkestone and the coast.

At Dover, Jools' father was waiting to take us home, and there was very little snow at all. Once home we were greeted by four mewing cats; all hungry. And as we settled down on the sofa, we looked outside and the snow began to fall.

we had made it home just in time.

Thursday, 2 December 2010

Thursday 2nd December 2010 (part 3)

Monday was not quite as cold as the previous day; and so we had decided, due to the weather forecast of possible snow we would not head to Chester, but to head to Salford quays instead, for culture and architecture. and photography. So, we headed to Piccadilly Station, this time to catch the metro, or the tram as it was, and head out to Salford.
We had breakfast in the station cafe, and huge coffees before as we waited for the rush hour to abate. Three pounds bought us each a return ticket on the tram, and a long wait on the draughty platform beneath the station.

Salford Reflections

But before long we were heading up the main street, and then past what was G-Mex and onto old rails and into Salford. Over the ship canal and then beside a large dock the tram spat us out into the crisp air.

It was well signposted, and we headed slowly along the dock, or former dock to the Lowry Centre and the Imperial war Museum (North) on the other side of the river. It had started out cold and grey, but soon enough the clouds parted and the sun came out, and without a breath of wind made for fine pictures. There is a photogenic bridge leaping over the river, and I snapped it, and snapped it good from all anles, before the cold sent us into the nearby mall for coffee.

Lowry Bridge

Back out we crossed the bridge and headed for the war museum, as it is all modern and has brutal architecture, and made for more fine shots. We went inside, and it was good; informative without glamorising. As ever the items from the Holocaust brought me up short; how could human beings, much like you and I treat others, like vermin? There is no place deep and painful enough where those who committed such acts will spend eternity.
We climbed in a rickety lift to go to the top of the shard tower, for fine views over Salford, whilst standing on a metal grid. My head did cartwheels as the vista opened out and you could see hundreds of feet below as you walked. Keep looking forward, Ian.

Lowry Bridge

And so, back to Manchester; buy two tickets to Blackpool and wait for our train to depart.

More next time, peeps.

Thursday 2nd December 2010 (part 2)

Sunday dawned cold. 'Kin cold. I mean there was no wind to stir the chill, but the air just hung feeling heavy like the opposite of a fur coat. we walked to a cafe and had huge hot drinks and a cooked breakfast. we had to sit on the mezzanine floor as on the lower floor, the cold hugged the ground like a mist.

We headed out towards one of the old industrial areas, now taken over by the gay community; all bars and clubs along an old canal, all overshadowed by warehouses which are now loft apartments and the such.

What was amazing, was that a couple of clubs were still playing high energy dance music, although whether they were folks dancing still, is a question I cannot answer.

We crossed back over towards Piccadilly Basin, which we hoped would be full of narrow boats and those filled with water gypsies. Or I did. Possibly. Instead we were greeted by a car park on a brown field site, overlooked by more ex-warehouses. We spotted a shady character heading down a towpath into a tunnel, and I thought we should follow.

The towpath lead under the carpark, the road and Piccadilly back towards the gay quarter. It was good to see such and odd place, and wonder what goes on when the sun sets. Best not to ask or wonder, eh?

We headed to the station for a coffee as a couple of other friends were heading for our meeting, and we thought that being there would make meeting easier. Not taking into account that I had changed my phone, and I did not have Ang's number. So we sat and waited, drank coffee and waited some more.

PEO: Wavy Moo

I got a call that Ang and Claire were at the wheel, and we stomped off into the cold to meet and to take pictures; lots of pictures.
The meet was of a group I am a member of on Flickr; we are all pretty much like-minded, and so set off into the masses of the Christmas market to see who or what we could snap, and to talk of course.

PEO: Smiley Bloo

After a couple of hours of wandering and snapping, thoughts turned to beer and my thoughts turned to football; as Norwich were about to play Ipswich, and it was on TV. So began the hunt for the pub with a TV or was open, and we settled on the Old nags Head. They had a TV and the barmaid found BBC 1. Sadly most of the beer was off; they just had one beer, one lager and no milk for coffee. But, they did have the football. And after removing several layers, I got down to the serious business of watching the game.

PEO: Claire

The good news was that Norwich won 4-1, and that matched the number of beers I had, and so was pretty merry. We put our coats back on and headed back for more snaps, and to get some nice smelling food. The light was amazing, and we all got some fine shots. As the light faded, we headed to Bloos local for a couple more beers and then we scattered; home or back to our hotel.

Punk's not dead!

That night Jools and i headed out, in a warm taxi, to an Indian place Bloo had recommended called East 2 East. It was very swish, but the food was fine, just a little spicy for me. I explained I normally had something Madras-like. a Madras, but thought I should try something different of about the same spiciness. When it came, it bubbled and hissed in its tray, but I could spot the whole chills right off.

Even missing those out it blew the top of my head off, and I could only eat less than half of it. But was full enough anyway.
walking out, we realised our hotel was a 5 minute walk away, and we could save ourselves the fiver cost. And so we walked down the deserted streets, under the Arndale and back to the hotel and warm, soft bed.

Thursday 2nd December 2010 (part 1)

And welcome back to the Arctic circle. Or Kent, as it is more commonly called. It seems winter arrived whilst we were in the north, or at least the snow did. The cold beat us to Manchester, minus nine degrees as it was as we stepped off the train.

But we're getting ahead of ourselves.

Of course, with hindsight, it is easy to see that travelling to Manchester and Blackpool on the last weekend of November might be tempting the weather Gods to throw their worst at us; but it's never that bad in Blighty is it??

So, Saturday morning rolled round, and we took the cats to the cattery, cleaned the house and at eleven set off for Dover station and the first leg of our trip north. It had began to snow as we left home, but once we got to Folkestone there was over an inch on the ground, and I did begin to worry that it was a mistake to do the trip.

But it was too late for those thoughts.

We arrived into St Pancras, and walked along the frozen Euston Road via Marks and Sparks for some classy food for the trip and an Italian chain for pasta and fizzy sweet wine. It was fine enough and we floated to Euston Station and our red and white train to speed us north to Manchester.

With wild abandon, we upgraded to first class for the princely sum of 15 pounds. And so we settled into our reclining armchairs with cups of fresh coffee laid before us, and soon enough London's north-west suburbs rolled by, and then wonderful Milton Keynes and then up the Trent Valley.

It was all rather splendid; waiter, more coffee if you please. we rolled into Crewe and did not change; and then Stockport, possibly, before as the sun set on a cold blue sky, we trundled past the Manchester outskirts, Man City's new home before pulling up at Piccadilly.

The doors slid open and the artic air rushed in. By heck, it were cold. Not just cold, but cold to the bone. We consulted our phones for directions to the hotel, and set off towards Piccadilly Gardens. Our hotel lay between a shoe shop and a branch of Subway; but was nice enough. We had a fine large room with a view over a side street to an interesting pub.

Big bubbles, no troubles

We went out soon after, wrapped up like Nanook of the north and his wife and tottered up towards the Arndale and the glittery lights of the closing shops and to weave our way in between the overladen shoppers.

The place I was heading for was the big wheel in the centre of the city, and so with little persuasion from Jools we were soon queueing up for a ride round and over the roofs of the shops.
I had ridden the wheel by day, and it was good, but by night the vies were spectacular indeed. We could right over to Salford and Old Trafford, still emptying after their 7-1 win.

The Printworks, Manchester

Into The Printowrks to meet with my friend, Bloo. We watched as the young and fearless, some wearing nothing more than a net curtain, apparently, set out on a night of white lightning and dancing round their handbags. Whilst we shivered in our dozen layers.

The Printworks, Manchester

Bloo turned up, and we headed for dinner; a Chinese buffet place called Yum Yums, which at a tenner or so a pop was not as cheep or as cheerful as it might have been; but the food was good and plentiful.

And then onto Bloo's local, for beer and chat. And a couple more beers thrown in for good measure before it was time to head back out into the bitter cold. We got lost, or took a wrong turn, and flagged a taxi down to take us the 500 yards through the backstreets to our hotel and our warm, warm bed.

The Printworks, Manchester