Saturday, 30 January 2010

A working weekend!

And so it came to pass that I did start work yesterday. And verily did I pass the medical and so I passed on to the ancient town of Ramsgate for the formal Helath and Safety lecture.

Yes, at least for a few days, I am working. The details on Thursday were sketchy at least, not least the job itself. But, on Friday morning I go to sign on early as I have to be in Canterbury for 11 for the medical. The woman in the dole office was nice as anything, nothing too much trouble, searched through some international vacancies for me, in fact I had four women around the table offering advice on how to use the computer; of the lady on the computer was receiving advice.

So, off to Canterbury. I stopped off at a roadside van for tea and a bacon buttie, although I was going for a medical, I was hungry and needed something to eat. It was wonderful, and as I sat there eating and drinking, I listened to the radio as Tony Blair explained why he had taken Britain to war, answering questions with more questions, and generally setting his own agenda; as always.

And into the doctors, and apart from the weight issue, I sailed through, even to the point that he said I no longer needed glasses. So, I have the ticket and so onto Ramsgate to the main yard for a death by powerpoint presentation. And then onto the boat to meet the other survey crew and see how things were.

Turns out that there is one other member of the survey crew, and just the master and that is us, three! It's a small boat, and can only go 20 miles out. But we're happy enough, or I am as I am getting paid. Don't know how much yet, but better than minimum.

And at half five it was time to go home, with the thought that on Saturday we unbox the kit and set it up. And when I got home, Jools had cooked the curry and a nice chilled beer waited on the table.

Yay, work!

Today was glorious weatherwise, and all days long as I looked out of the window of the boat I thought of the pictures I could be taking. Oh well, think of the money.

I was awake before the alarm, and when I looked out of the window it was snowing again. Oh well, at least it was just a dusting. It did make the 20 mile trip to Ramsgate interesting.

And, then we unboxed the kit, connected everything, did tests, drank tea and waited. We do now have some obstacles in our way before we can work; a safety inspection, the installation of automatic vessel identity beacon, installation of PLB locator, and a new liferaft (maybe). Oh, and a new radio. But apart from those we will be able to work. Maybe on Wednesday, as the wind blew and the sea went up and down lots.

So, we did things with the computer and navigation computer all afternoon and then it was time to come home. Jools came in the car and then we went to a fish and chip restaurant and I had huge cod and chips whilst Jools had battered sausage and chips. And it was good.

Time then to drive home whilst the full moon looked down.

Thank you all for your kind thoughts.

Thursday, 28 January 2010

I can see clearly now the rain has gone.Again.

And the clouds part and the sunshine bursts through.


All of a sudden, I get a call from a mate that there is an offshore job, temporary like, in my area and to call this bloke.

Which I do.

And so I am heading to Canterbury in the morning for a medical and maybe joining the boat in the afternoon in Ramsgate for a sailing on Saturday. Depends if I pass the medical, of course. But things are happening; maybe.

It may not work out, but there is talk of more work, gathering pace. who knows?

Where tomorrow ends.

In a world where few hearts survive.

It's early, but a whisky or two to steady the nerves.

Cease fire, we're going in.

A chink of light. Maybe

After writing that, little did I know there was hope waiting in my inbox.

I won't say any more about it, don't want to spoil things, but I have to rewrite my CV and then wait and hope.

I have been under a cloud this week, and I hope this will bring me out of it. We'll see. Anyway, it will soon be the weekend, we have another Flickrmeet on Saturday, in Folkestone this time, hopefully the weather will be good. And maybe a ramble on Sunday, just to get out and do normal stuff, you know.

Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Strange times

So I go to the Job Centre for an interview into getting help with courses, only to find the person who i saw had not been briefed as to what I wanted or why I was there. And so I spend 10 minutes writing down what I said and nodding when I said something. And that was it! Ten minutes and thank you I will write to you in due course. To say I was fuming is an understatement.

Anyway, I get back here only to find I am locked out of my own blog, somehow it decided that it would need my little used alternative e mail addy instead of my main one. I had noticed that when I tried to get to the blog when away from home I had to use the alternative, but this was just freaky. Using the same addy as I have on here for over a year! So, I now have another blog, which is blank, on which I am following my own blog!

Like, duh!

And so another day goes by and I wonder where a job is coming from. We shall see, something could be right around the corner, I hope so. Being in the job centre with the dregs of society, those swearing at the staff, already drunk on White Lightning don't want to work, I do. Oh well.

Lets see what tomorrow brings.......

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

A church-filled Sunday

Sunday dawned grey and gloomy. We had arranged to meet up with our friend, Bob, for going out and generally taking photographs. In addition I had been invited by a new Flickr contact to go for a drink in her local, snap her local church and meet up with her in her village, Barham. This sorted out what we were going to do for the day, as wonderful Kent is, sometimes it is hard to make a decision where to go. With so many picturesque villages to visit, with historic churches and friendly pubs to visit.

And so at ten we meet up with Bob at his place, and we go up for a coffee to catch up. His flat has fine views over Dover to the castle high up on the cliffs, this never fails to inspire me, or Bob.

Once we had drunk the coffee, we head to the car and drive out through Dover, up the old London road and away from the traffic. Our first call was the village of Coldred, to a pretty little chapel I knew was there. Sadly the light was still flat and as I had shots of it already, I stayed in the car whilst Bob snapped away. After that it was back in the car and down twisty country lanes up and down gentle hills, some turns at un-signed crossroads until we came to the village of Barfrestone.

The Parish church of St Nicolas, Barfrestone

In the reference book on Kentish churches I got for Christmas, it said that the church had an original Norman Rose window. And that was it. Once there, the wonder of this little gem was obvious. It is a wholly 12th century chapel, made entirely of Caen stone, all carved with Norman arches and grostesques. It stand on a curve in the lane, with a four foot wall supporting the churchyard. The church has no tower, and is apparently two oblong building abutting each other.

The Parish church of St Nicolas, Barfrestone

And wonder of wonders, the door was open. Inside it was wonderful, with three slit style stained glass windows topped with a glorious circular window, the Norman Rose window. We all snapped away, I think the shots I got were fine.

The Parish Church of St Nicolas, Barfrestone

Anyway, once we, or rather I, had snapped it from all angles, we got back into the car and headed towards Barham. However, we got sidetracked and went up Church lane in the village of Shepherdswell; where we had nearly bought a house. Anyway, at the top of the lane is, not surprisingly, a church. And so as I had not photographed it before, I took the chance to. And as we walked around the church, snatches of hymns could be heard from inside. Sadly, the light was still poor, but I got some good-ish shots.

Back in the car and down the hill towards Barham as it was nearing opening time at the Duke of Cumberland. It was just 5 miles, and so just had enough time to stop at the church and grab some shots.
Barhman nestles at the top of the Elham Valley just a few miles shy of Canterbury on the old line from Folkestone. Since the railway left, it has gotten quiet again, and little traffic now passes between the thatched cottages and pubs.

Unusually for a Kentish church, Barham's has a tall spire, although once again the light was dull and flat. We walked to the door and it opened. Inside was a delight, all arches and wonderful coloured light falling through the windows, and there was a stairway leading to the belfry, which gave wonderful views over the pews to the altar.

The Duke of Cumberland, Barham, Kent

And then it was midday; opening time, and the beer was calling. And so we drove down Railway Hill and found the pub, parked the car and walked inside. There was one unreserved table, and after ordering some drinks we sat down to wait for Frances to arrive. The pub had both Woodforde's Norfolk ale and Adnams on draught too. East Anglia's best, Bob and I had a pint of each.

Norfolk and Suffolk's best in Kent

Frances arrived and we chatted, and chatted. Outside the sun broke through the clouds, and so when we came out we dcided to visit Barham church again, and then head back to Coldred as Frances had never been there.
As we were outside the Church of St Pancras, a local man came to check on the church, and of course he had the key to the door. He let us in to snap away, the tiny chuch is wonderful inside; it has a whitewashed barrelled roof, supported which the churchwarden said may have been made from ships's timbers.

(over the next few days I will add shots of the churches as I upload them to Flickr.)

And then back to our house when I cooked dinner for the four of us, steak and ale pie, roast potatoes and lots of vegetables and followed up by apple and cinnamon crumble. And it was good.

After Bob and Frances left, there was time for a coffee for Jools and I before the NFL championships games began. And I created an Ian shaped dent in the sofa.

Monday, 25 January 2010

I am a photographer not a terrorist

As you saw from the previous blog, the cut and paste one, I feel quite strongly about photographer's rights, and the chance to protest and raise the profile of the issue was too good to turn down; and so I decided to head up to London early on Saturday morning, at least to make some use of going up and taking some pictures.

Dover Priory

And so I found myself getting out of bed at half five to have breakfast and get ready so to catch the quarter to seven train from Dover. Sadly, I was only able to look at my own reflection, as it was still dark outside, and so the Kentish countryside whisked by unseen. As we got to Dartford, a pale blue light spread over the land, and I could make out shapes; under the Thames and out into Essex and then into the East End, and then into the long tunnel to St Pancras.

St Pancras

It was half light by the time the train pulled in, and as I had a couple of hours to kill before I could get into where I wanted to go. I walked round the station, snapping away, at least the station is more than half empty, and I got some good shots. Out onto the Euston Road to find a cash machine so I could then go and get a coffee.
Cash in hand, I head to the nearest coffee shop and have a smoothie, a cereal bar and a huge Americano, and watched London life pass by the window. Tramps and richly dressed couples passed by, and on the street traffic got heavier as London woke up.

The Atrium, The British Museum

I wanted to go to The British Museum, to photograph the Atrium, a covered square which I knew would look great with my wide angle lens. I set off through a housing estate, as gated communities lived cheek by Jowell to council flats, inbetween there were pubs, churches and convenience stores. All was quiet, the occasional person walked to or from the paper shop with a large bundle of newspapers under their arm.

Brunswick Square

After wandering in a large circle through streets of housing, I found a street map and realised my mistake and so came to the museum quarter of an hour before opening time. Much to my surprise, it was open, or the atrium was, and so I could go in and get my shots. I took about 30 shots, just to be sure, you know.

And then, what to do? It was two hours before the demonstration was due to begin. I decided to try to walk into central London, and see what I would find. The answer to that is lots of interesting places and buildings. I snapped away as I came to the original Tin Pan Alley, Ronnie Scotts and dozens of other fabulous places, some down at heel or plain dirty, other glitzy art shops.

Bar Italia

On the edge of Soho I came to an Italian coffee shop, I called in and had a double expresso. The cafe was wonderful, all shots of the great and good who had called in for a cup of Java lined the mirrored walls. I felt more awake at least and set off into deepest Soho.

Bateman Street W1

In Chinatown, delivery vehicles were everywhere, dropping off meat and exotic fruit and veg for the days cooking, the casual photographer takes his life in his hands as he pauses in the street to take a shot.

And then I was into the West End, all theatres and adult shops and closed eateries. My camera went snap, whirr, snap, whirrr, etc. Piccadilly Circus was crowded, and so I set out south to Trafalgar Square.

I'm a photographer, not a terrorist!

A few other photographer's loitered around, and so I decided to wait and watch the world's tourist come and go and take pictures, and me take their pictures as they took pictures. As I do.

I'm a photographer, not a terrorist!

As midday drew near, more and more photographers arrived, until there was a couple of thousand of us, and so we passed the time taking photographs of each other; which was the point. There were no speakers, just lots of people taking snaps of each other; the BBC and Sky news sent crews to film us, so we took their pictures back. A couple of MPs arrived and said supportive things.

I'm a Photographer not a terrorist

By half twelve I got bored, and my bladder was fit for bursting and so I set off to find a place to fix that and top it back up with some beery goodness. The pub was called The Sherlock Holmes and was more than a little touristy, but they had Speckled Hen on draught, and a place to sit, and a toilet, so all boxes ticked.

I'm a photographer not a terrorist

And there was just time to catch the tube to Stratford to use the new International station through which all those attending the Olympics in town and a half years will use. Twenty minutes wait and my train pulls in, I find a table empty near the front and soon we are whizzing home. And just an hour later we are arriving back in Dover.

I'm a photographer not a terrorist

That night I cook roast pheasant, roast potatoes and lots of steamed vegetables. Needless to say it was rather wonderful, even if carving the little bird was tricky, I did find the alternative 'pulling the flesh off' technique worked really well.


Friday, 22 January 2010

Photographers and section 44 of the anti-terrorism act.

Some quotes and details from a website for some background.

"I’m a Photographer, Not a Terrorist! invite all Photographers to a mass photo gathering in defence of street photography.

Following a series of high profile detentions under s44 of the terrorism act including 7 armed police detaining an award winning architectural photographer in the City of London, the arrest of a press photographer covering campaigning santas at City Airport and the stop and search of a BBC photographer at St Pauls Cathedral and many others. PHNAT feels now is the time for a mass turnout of Photographers, professional and amateur to defend our rights and stop the abuse of the terror laws.

Section 44 Terrorism Act and Photography

Adverse media coverage of the police service use of Section 44 powers, when dealing with issues relating to photography, have recently hit the headlines again and suggests that officers continue to misuse the legislation that is available to them. The evidence also suggests that there is confusion over the recording requirements of ‘Stop and Account’ and the actual police powers of ‘Stop and Search’. The purpose of this letter is to clarify the legislation and guidance in relation to these matters.

Stop and Search
Section 44 gives officers no specific powers in relation to photography and there is no provision in law for the confiscation of equipment or the destruction of images, either digital or on film.

On the rare occasion where an officer suspects that an individual is taking photographs as part of target reconnaissance for terrorist purposes, then they should be treated as a terrorist suspect and dealt with under Section 43 of the Act. This would ensure that the legal power exists to seize equipment and recover images taken. Section 58A Counter Terrorism Act 2008 provides powers to cover instances where photographs are being taken of police officers who are, or who have been, employed at the front line of counter terrorism operations.

These scenarios will be exceptionally rare events and do not cover instances of photography by rail enthusiasts, tourists or the media.

The ACPO/NPIA Practice Advice, published in December 2008, is again included with this letter and specifically covers the issues surrounding photography. The guidance also includes the need for clear briefings on the use of Section 44 and it may be appropriate to include photography issues within those briefings.

Stop and Account
Encounters between police officers and PCSOs and the public range from general conversation through to arrest. Officers need to be absolutely clear that no record needs to be submitted to cover any activity that merely constitutes a conversation.

Only at the point where a member of the public is asked to account for their actions, behaviour, presence in an area or possession of an item, do the provisions of the PACE Act apply and a record for that ’stop and account’ need to be submitted. Even at that point, such a discussion does not constitute the use of any police power and should not be recorded under the auspices of the Terrorism Act, for example.

Officers should be reminded that it is not an offence for a member of the public or journalist to take photographs of a public building and use of cameras by the public does not ordinarily permit use of stop and search powers.

Yours sincerely

Andrew Trotter OBE QPM
Chief Constable
Head of ACPO Media Advisory Group

Yet days later Architectural Photographer Grant Smith was Stopped & Searched in London after he refused to give his name (which he is perfectly within his rights to do) while photographing a church. He’s sent us this after it happened:

On a beautiful sunny day in London I was taking photographs of Wren’s steeple at the ruined Christ church, Newgate, which adjoins the building occupied by Bank of America and Merrill Lynch.

After about 20 minutes of taking photos, a security guard approached asking for ID and the purpose of photography. I refused to give any details. Shortly after a suited head of security came out to ask me the same questions under the pretence of ‘hostile reconnaissance’ . Again I refused. I had no obligation to provide corporate security guards any of this information as I was in a public space.

I moved away from the building, under the constant surveillance of the guard, and crossed the road to get a wider shot.

I was then approached by a PCSO who crossed the road and asked what me what was I doing, again I declined to give any information. He responded that if an ‘incident takes place, like a bomb going of,f in the near future and I hadn’t questioned you, I wouldn’t be doing my job properly.’

After his departure I heard police sirens coming from the east and west. and watched in stunned amazement as 3 police cars and a riot van arrived, all with flashing lights. They pulled up outside the entrance where the guard had approached me. 3 of them marched toward me and said they were responding to an ‘incident’. Apparently there was ‘…an aggressive male who had been in reception of the building taking photographs of the staff, and who refused to leave’.

I argued this with the police officer, saying that this was wrong. I was not in the building reception, I was not photographing staff, nor had I been asked to leave.
I was asked by police what I was doing and it was obvious I was taking photographs, but I initially declined to give any further information. During this questioning, one of the police officers was admiring my camera, and commented amusingly on my ‘I’m a photographer, not a terrorist’ badge.

My camera bag was searched for terrorist related paraphernalia (notebooks and maps I assume), despite my lame protestations.

The police officer again asked for my details as he produced his stop search form. When I said that I was not obliged to give the details, he said I would be physically searched, which did not sound like a very pleasant experience. So I gave my details and was not detained any longer.

All of this was because I declined to be bullied or intimidated by a security officer, who now have what appears to be the full backing of the police in their assessment of photographers.

And for the latest news go here:

More than 1000 photographers are expected in Trafalgar Square on Saturday to defend street photography rights and call for the government to repeal anti-terrorism powers that have been been used against photographers

The campaign group I’m a Photographer, Not a Terrorist has called on photographers to gather on 23 January in Trafalgar Square in London. 'The use of Stop & Search without grounds for suspicion has been ruled illegal by European Court of Human Rights,' say the organisers. 'This ruling from Strasbourg comes as thousands of photographers are set to gather in London on Saturday 23 January to take mass action to defend their right to photograph after a series of high profile detentions under Section 44 of the Terrorism Act.'

They add: 'Our society’s visual history is under threat of extinction by anti-terrorism legislation. Section 44 of the Terrorism Act has in effect ended the confidence of the citizen to engage in the act of photography in a public place as photographers, artists and illustrators, amateur and professional are harassed by police invoking terrorism legislation to stop and search them. The act of documenting our street scenes and public life, our built environment, whether iconic or not, is now considered to be an act of hostile reconnaissance and could result in the detention of the image-maker.'

Already, more than 1400 photographers have pledged to attend the event, which will kick-start at noon. BJP will be there to report with regular updates on the 1854 Twitter feed.

Rockin' their (photographic) world

And so, like that visit to an old smelly distant relative, the new season at the camera club rolled round again.

In truth, Dover Gateway Camera Club is not that bad, it's less cliquey than others I have been to. My impression might have been because I was not a frequent visitor because of work, and so I did not make connections or friendships. That is my problem, I guess.

Anyway, the first meeting of the year is one where members are invited to bring in images that they have taken during the break. Sadly, most don't bother, I think many not to give away s hint of what images they will be entering in competitions during the year.

One of the other members who actually did bring in some images was mr 1D himself. I think upon reflection, I have been hard on him. He may have bought a top line camera, but it trying to push the boundries of what he does; over the break he decided to build himself a device to fire his flash by sound, so he could photograph balloons popping.
And he did it, he has the mechanism built, done some test shots, and got some results. All he needs to do is fine tune that. And his water droplet series was wonderful, and once again his description on how to control the drip rate, something I have never thought was a problem.

Another member showed half a dozen shots of his recent trip to Argentina; some of people dancing the salsa, brightly coloured housing in shanty towns; all very good indeed.

Next up was Gary, a fellow Flickr-ite, and he showed his great shots of garden birds, steam trains and the such, as well as his super-cool neutral-density filter, used for those really l-o-n-g exposures.

And then there was me. I collected a few images on a data traveller without much thinking to be honest, shots I liked.

Here are the images:


The Great Hall, Natural History Museum

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

The Clachan

The Great Hall, Natural History Museum

The Parish Church of St Mary the Virgin, St Mary in the marsh, Kent

St John, Maddermarket, Norwich

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


Mr 1D had said that he thought that there was not much going out taking pictures at this time of year, and that is why he was doing his stuff with the balloons. So, I showed my 14 shots, talked about why I had taken them, about hand-holding low light shots to more than two seconds, answered questions. I think this was the first time they had seen so much of my work, and they were quite stunned. As I left many said kind words.

So, hell yeah! Bad time for photography indeed, and so much for not hand-holding below 1/50th of a second. I rock!

Thursday, 21 January 2010

Thursday. Same as Wednesday.

You get the picture?

And so, here I am, having pretty much exhausted job searching online, checking, re-checking sites, applying for jobs that I'm either hopelessly under or over-qualified to do. But I keep going because I have to.

Today I went to a presentation at the cruise terminal for casual summer workers; the jobs don't sound too bad and there should be plenty of work between April and September. But that is two months away, or more.

I have yet more paperwork to fill in, references to get, and all the other stuff that goes with applying for a job, only this is not permanent. Just give me the chance and I will do it, people!

The days are beginning to merge into one. At times I am hopeful, at other times I am down; it's the way things are. Applications for jobs which I called for, fail to arrive, and it all adds to the gloom. Even if it was a job I probably couldn't have done anyway.

So, the weekend is coming up, and i hope to head to London for a demonstration in Trafalgar Square against the use, by the police, of section 44 of the new anti-terrorism laws against photographers. Fight now or we will lose all our rights.

I will also take the time to snap some other places, maybe the British Museum, as thr atrium is very photogenic. And then, who knows?

And Sunday I should be meeting with another flickrite out in the Kentish countryside to discuss photography over a pint or two of ale.

Fingers crossed on something turning up, folks. Thanks for your support.

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

More trials for Jelltex

So, Tuesday. That must mean it's time to register with another job agency! It makes me wonder how there is enough work to go round to make all these places profitable, but clearly there is.
Anyway, I drive over to Folkestone to fill in another ream of paperwork, and answer so very simple questions as so ascertain my understanding of the English language, and then stand like an expectant schoolboy as the girl, just out of school, checks my answers.

And I pass.

The good news is there might be a job, a temporary job, driving a fork lift down Dover docks, starting next Monday. I have heard these promises from agencies before, so we will see.

I still have heard nothing from BAE, working in the middle east; not my choice of jobs, but needs must. That they haven't answered one e mail of mine is a concern, but we shall see.

Monday, 18 January 2010

The Weekend.

And so after four days of unemployment, the weekend came round and for two days we were like normal people. Although, from now on we would be looking after every penny.

Although, the weather had other thoughts, and for most of Saturday the rain fell from the sky. In the morning we did chores, or Jools did, she tidied the garden until the rain began to fall really hard.

The afternoon, for me, was given over to watching Liverpool struggle once again to play something approaching football, drawing poorly against the might of Stoke, conceding another last minute goal, and Rafa Benitez rather than admitting his team were in fact, crap, decided to blame the referee once again.
And then from three, have the radio on for the three o'clock kick-offs and to follow Norwich's match at Colchester. Colchester were the team that beat City 7-1 on the opening day of the season. Much talk all week had been of revenge, and scores to be settled. On a quagmire of a pitch, Norwich scored five goals from their six chances to romp to a comfortable win, and leave Colchester mumbling about stolen managers and how life is so unfair and go to their collective bedrooms for a good sulk.

Jools went out for the evening, to the box factory's Chistmas function. Being as I was not permanent staff, and now having left, I was not invited, not that I would have wanted to go. Well, I would have, but saying that was trying to show I didn't care. On TV, there was the opening episodes to a history of Christianity and a history of the Royal Navy. Both wonderful, and well worth the licence fee for the BBC.

Jools came back just after nine with a KFC zinger burger for both of us. I had had a toasted cheese sandwich or two during the TV shows, but when asked if I fancied something from KFC, I thought, why not?

And then to settle down to watch the New Orleans Saints thrash the Cardinals. Sadly, the late game as just that: late. A half one kick off meant that I would be sitting up until gone four, and no matter how much I enjoy football, that is too much.

The weather forecast for Sunday for days had been for wall to wall sunshine; it was hard to believe that would happen after the rain of Saturday. But sure enough the sky was deep blue and the sun rose into an azure sky.

Two Lasers

Sadly our friends had bailed out of the Flickrmeet; Matt and Dadi were going to Wales to visit and Bob had caught what sounded like flu. And so Jools and I headed towards the north Kent coast and the town of Whitstable.

Whitstable Flickrmeet

Whitstable is a wonderful town, busy-ish fishing port, full of nice houses and pubs, and today, for a change for a Flickrmeet, the weather was wonderful.

After moving to Kent, a place where I knew few people, Flickr has helped me meet new friends and people, and the frequency of these meets is gathering pace. Apart from meeting contacts, what is great how each of us approaches the shoot, and captures something different in the same scene.

Whitstable Harbour

So, we meet outside a picturesque pub, and at 11 walk off down the beach, soon we are all stretched over a wide area. And as no rendezvous had been arranged, most were not to be seen again.
We ended up at the harbour, which was stunning in the bright sunshine, the fish market busy, which is the way it should be. I snapped away, Jools had taken her camera as well and so she snapped too.

Whitstable Harbour

We met up with a friend of mine, Gary, and we retire to a pub for refreshment and something to eat. The Duke of Cumberland is quite empty, but is homely with a real fire roaring away. I have a pint of Shepherd Neame and then Jools and I share a huge plate of nachos.

The Duke of Cumberland, Whitstable.

The light begins to fade, and so we bid Gary farewell and head off home, passing through Canterbury, and as the sun dips behind the horizon, arrive home. I put the coffee on and we settle down to a quiet evening, and me to watch more NFL with Bret Favre playing like a man 15 years his junior, a delight to watch.

We have steak and ale pie, roast potatoes and lots of veg for dinner, and then have the rest of an apple crumble I had made for Friday for supper.

Not bad.

Friday, 15 January 2010

Groundhog Day

So, I have to go back to the Job Centre. Again. Seems like yesterday I signed on for Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. And today I had to go back to sign for Friday. Quite why I could not do this yesterday is a mystery to me. When I saw the paperback I pointed out what I thought was a mistake on the guys part; but no. I guess we must find something for them all to do.

Anyway, went to Tesco this morning, after dropping Julie off at work. Whisked round getting stuff for most of the month ahead. And I am just back from there again to get the items I forgot off the list, which I had with me and checked several times.

Dinner tonight is jacket potatoes and beans. Something very simple. Tomorrow we have Tesco curry, which is nicer than you would imagine. And then on Sunday we have a Flickrmeet in Whitstable, and then back here with our freind Bob for steak and ale pie and lots of veggies and gravy.

And lots of play-off football. After backing the Pats going all the way, I now realise I know very little and think I should keep my views to myself. I'm just hoping they're all great games.

Let's play some football.

Thursday, 14 January 2010

Back to Square One

And so, here we are again.

Trawling the internet for a hint of a job.

Sending in applications, re-writing CVs.

Going to the Job Centre, sorry, Jobseeker Plus Centre, they've been re-branded.

The shrug their shoulders and say, it's the quiet time of the year.

It happens.

I'm not getting too down about it, I have some new skills to sell, and hopefully something will happen. Many thanks for your words of support, they are all appreciated.

Mum has been taken into hospital and is currently waiting for an operation. She has a strangulated hernia and it is now blocking things inside, as it were. So, we is waiting, unable to eat for two days in case an slot for the operation becomes free. We did at least talk on the phone, the nurse have not been telling her when we call to see how she is. So, she feels a little better about that now.
We are hoping that this will bring the change we think she needs, but change is something she has been unable to do, and like most of us sees faults in others but does not like to turn her gaze on herself.

It happens to us all.

The snow is melting, and rain is falling, and slowly the muddy colours of an English winter are emerging from below their white blanket. We may even see the sun on Sunday, which will be nice. We should be going to Whitstable for a Flickrmeet, people from all over the county meeting p and taking pictures, mostly of each other; but it will be good to head out, maybe have breakfast in the Old Oysterhouse, and pint of ale in the Old Nelson pub on the beach.

Something to look forward to.

Be lucky.

Tuesday, 12 January 2010


So, at about ten past five yesterday afternoon, I got called into the office at the factory to be told that they would not be keeping me on, please hand over your clock card, tabbard and locker key. And then escorted from the premises.

To say I was stunned is an understatement. I have had one days training, and the reason for letting me go is that they thought i was not up to scratch on the engineering front. Which is an insult, frankly.

And so here I am, unemployed once again, and looking online for a job, any job.

Back to square one, Ian.

The frozen east.

And so, it came to pass that we had to decide whether we would try to drive to Suffolk for the weekend and the school reunion.

If we did, we would have to fond a place for the cats to stay as our plan fell through for them to be looked after in the house. And so we called the regular cattery we use, and they could take them, and cars had been driving up their lane. Thing is, it's a narrow country lane on a hill, and would be interesting to say the least.

The Ribs of Beef Public House, Norwich

The Ribs of Beef Public House, Norwich

So, we decided to go, loaded the car with clothes, hot drinks, food, maps and cats and set off. All went well as we left Dover, traffic was light, and we made Denton, where the cattery was with no trouble.
The lane was tricky, but the car did it fine, although the driveway to the farm proved a drive too far. We abandoned the car in the entrance to the farm, got the cats and walked to the office.

The cats were not happy at all, and let us know all the way in the car, but were no quiet. We handed them over, turned and slithered down the yard to the car. I reversed into the lane and we skidded down to lane to the main road and hopefully northwards.

We turned on local radio so to get the best traffic news, and hopefully be able to drive round trouble rather than get stuck. There is a slight hill leading to the start of the M2 north of Canterbury, and trucks were having trouble. It soon became clear that the road was blocked and we would have to head west to the M20 where traffic was still moving.

Elm Hill, Norwich

We turned off at Canterbury and headed out into the countryside on the A28. It is a main road, and normally moves well through the rolling downs and pretty villages of the Kent countryside. On Friday it was a foot deep in snow and slush with two ruts showing the road below. We drove at a stately 30mph, and made slow time. I was expecting the road to be blocked by an accident or worse at any moment. But we moved onwards and eventually came into Ashford and reached to on-ramp to the M20.

The radio now warned of lane closures due to ice on that road, and so we set off at 50mph and into a blizzard. The two outside lanes did close, and we drove in single file as the weather worsened.
I had come to the decision that if things did not improve I was turning back at the next junction. And as if by magic just before the junction, the snow and ice suddenly cleared and we sped up to 70 and could use all the lanes.

Swan Lane

Traffic on the motorways, the M20 and M25 was amazingly light, and we made great time. There were no queues for the tolls at the Dartford tunnel, and so we went under the river and came out into the bright sunshine of wonderful Essex.

And they had had little snow, we saw grass, and in the light it looked vivid. We blasted alnog the motorway until we had to turn off and head north and east on the A12. This roads heads north through Chelmsford, Colchester, Ipswich and on to Lowestoft and our destination, although that is something like 90 miles.

Traffic was light and we zoomed north, we stopped at a gas station near Colchester to buy some sandwiches and for a stretch before getting into the car and moving on.

North of Ipswich, the good roads run out, and our way would be on a single carriageway road which twists and turns, and if there was an accident there are few diversions. However, we drove on, and the sun shone, and we had no mishaps. As we neared Lowestoft, the skies darkened and it was clear we were in for some serious snow. As we pulled up outside Mum's the snow began to fall, with big and sticky flakes.

Norwich Guildhall

I won't go into what happened inside, things are difficult for sure. She lives in a deluded state that all is fine while she slowly becomes housebound. I could not be bothered to deal with that and so we left after some chat which avoided the elephant in the room and drive to the hotel.

At least in Britain now we have reasonable accommodation for travellers, sixty quid for two nights is not bad, and so we checked in and headed to the pub opposite the hotel for a beer and a chat. Talking things through with Julie allowed me to collect my thoughts and a conversation I knew I would have to have with her began to form in my head.

Accomodation Module, S.L.P. Lowestoft

After if got dark, we went out into the night for dinner. I knew where a good fish and chip shop was, or was good when I lived here, and so we set off on slushy streets towards the town centre. We found a place to park and got cod and chips and then headed out to the harbour to park and eat the food from their newspaper wrappings. The fish was wonderfully fresh, the flesh bright white. Coming from a port, having such fresh fish means that the grey fish shops sell away from the coast is a poor imitation. In front of us, workers clambered over a maze of scaffolding constructing an accommodation black for a gas rig. It was huge, and I was so impressed I took several shots through the windscreen with the camera balanced on the steering wheel.

Accomodation Module, S.L.P. Lowestoft

We then drove over to the town church so I could snap it at night. I balanced the camera on a grave and took some shots.

St Margaret's, Lowestoft

A good friend of mine, and his family, lives about 5 miles outside town on the main road to Great Yarmouth. The road was tricky, as the snow kept falling. We parked at the top of their street, as once again they live in a slope and it would be bad having the car stuck there.
It was great to meet up, and we talked about music, photography whilst drinking tea and eating German stollen.

We headed back to the hotel at nine, and the roads were even worse as the snow had fallen continuously. we made it back, parked up and went to our room and cranked up the heating whilst watching the weather reports for the rest of the weekend on tv; and it wasn't good.

Saturday dawned to the news that the snow had stopped, but only seven football matches had survived, Norwich's being one of them, and so we had to think about getting to the City. We hoped the trains would be running.

Wilde's Score, Lowestoft

We drove to the station and I asked the guy if the trains were running, he said yes as if I asked a silly question. So we had an hour to kill before the train and so I set off up the High Street taking shots of the town's historical buildings. And Julie had to buy a coat, as somehow we had forgotten to bring hers with us. It happens.

The Welcome

So, photographs taken, coat bought, we boarded the train and settled down for the 35 minute trip to Norwich. We went through the very wintry broadland, all sheep sheltering beside hedges or dykes.

Vladivstok, sorry, Lowestoft Central

Norwich was covered in snow, but not so much as at the coast. We boarded the free bus to the city centre and headed up the hill towards the castle.

St Andrew's, Norwich

I worked out that I had a couple of hours before I would have to meet up with friends near the ground. And so we did a whistle-stop tour round the city's mediaeval buildings. Church after church crowd round the wonderfully named Tombland area; snap, snap snap went the camera as I recorded church after church. We also went to the cathedral and then headed up towards the market area where we parted our ways.

St George, Tombland, Norwich

I walked down the hill to the bar area between the station and the football ground. My friends were there waiting, well, drinking. We chatted and generally caught up.

St Peter, Hungate, Norwich

At half two I walked to the ground and then up to my seats. Darn, it was cold, and the game was poor, but it was great seeing my team again, although I recognised very few players. Norwich won, somehow, and so I left for the station to catch the train back to Lowestoft and the the reunion.

Norwich Cathedral

Julie met me at the station, and after dumping stuff in the room we walked to the venue, another pub, to wait to see if any people would come.

Carrow Road

And we waited. And drunk some beer. And waited some more. And sometime after seven, friends began to arrive and the smiling began. Julie and I went to the restaurant upstairs for dinner, and came down again, well fed, and fond that more than a dozen had arrived.

Of course, I wish I could tell you what we talked about, music for sure, but the booze was flowing freely, and my memories become cloudy at this point.

The weather forecast had been grim for Sunday, and neither of us were looking forward to driving back to Kent. Strong wind and more snow was expected, and so we wanted to head off early and see how far south we could get.

Alma Mater

In the end, the weather stayed good for us, and apart from having to drive to Norwich before heading south to avoid a loose horse on the road to Ipswich, we made good time, the main roads were clear, and we arrived back in Kent before two. We had seen some snow all weekend, maybe a foot at most, but right here, on the road between Dover and St Margaret's, huge drifts had built up by the wind, six maybe eight feet deep. We were shocked; it seems that the village had been cut off for the most on Saturday.

We got inside, cranked up the heating and put the kettle on, things are always better with a cup of tea!

Thursday, 7 January 2010

Thursday, Snow Day

Those of living in mountainous or chilly climates may find this funny. Anyway, we had snow, some more snow. Britain does not get snow, I don't think we get past the ohh, isn't it pretty thing, and fail to see it as dangerous. Anyway, the upshot is that after anything more than three flakes the whole country grinds to halt and the news reports are just about weather, people stuck in remote pubs, kids on sledges, and the such.

Snowy St Margaret's-at-Cliffe

Well, after many nights of being promised snow, it arrived. It began falling as we drove back from work last night, and continued all evening. Before we went to bed, we agreed to check the main road before we even tried to get to work in the morning.

Snowy dawn at St Margaret's-at-Cliffe

Not much more snow fell overnight, but something like 4 inches on the ground. The inspection of the main road showed that it was sheer ice, and we stood no chance of turning p it on the 'safe' way to Dover. So, we called in and said we might be in work later.

We put the kettle on and had another cup of tea. And second breakfast, like good hobbits, and then watched as dawn came up and daylight brought home how still the morning was. No cars travelled up or down the hill and the windy road was deserted as well, we can just it over the fields from our back room window.

The all new Ford Igloo

A look in the fridge showed us to be short of milk, and so we decided to walk into the village to the shop and see if they had any; it'd be nice to have a walk anyway.

Family Fun

We had to walk in the road as the pavement was over ankle deep in the white stuff. Families we sledging down the main road into the village, in-between the cars, anyway. The shop was out of milk, well, the delivery had not turned up. And so we turned out and went to the churchyard for more pictures of the snow and graves, always picturesque.

St Margaret's-at-Cliffe

We headed back for more hot tea and then to clear the driveway as we would have to do something really heroic; brave Tesco in bad weather, certain panic buying would be in full swing.

We got out of the drive and down our road, up the hill with no problem. The Dover to Deal road was passable, with slush and snow from drifts still in place. Onto the A2 and then onto the trading estate where Tesco was. First shock, lots of space in the car park. We got a trolley and headed in. Next shock; milk! Bread!! Every till open!!! No queues!!!! And petrol in the service station!!!!! And in half an hour we were back home, with enough food for the rest of this week and into next too.

And then an afternoon spent reading the last of the magazines I had left, some messing around online, more tea, and as dusk fell, so did the snow again. Tomorrow we are hoping to drive to Suffolk.