Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Wednesday 30th March 2010

I am, by nature, an optimistic person, but these past few weeks that stretch into ten weeks are trying my positive energy. However, maybe, just maybe, my luck is about to change. I am not counting my chickens as yet, but there are words of encouragement to spur me on.

Many of the job sites I look on have mostly senior posts on offer, and those are out of my range for sure. But, occasionally, there is the odd nugget. One, was an engineering admin at the wind farm site I worked at a couple of months ago, and I applied; but I also had to name my wages. Which is never easy. I mean do you pitch yourself too low to be a serious contender, or too high not to be considered? Well, the agency called and told me I was too expensive, which is not a rejection as such, and so I told them I was willing to negotiate, and so am waiting to hear about that.

And the formal background checks have been completed which means that in all probability I will be working at the cruise terminal in a month gearing up for the season.

Spring is in full retreat as a blast of winter strikes the country from the west; at least here it is just wind and rain, in Northern Ireland, Northern England and Scotland heavy snow is forecast tonight, with drifting. Just as it felt that we had left all the white stuff behind!

Anyway, our garden is waking up; the wild flower seeds I planted on Sulu's grave are showing through, and in a few weeks should be gently swaying in a summer's breeze. Jools'Dad has our seedlings in his greenhouse, and soon we will take them back and our tomatoes and spicy chilli plants will be growing away too. We have many flowers and shrubs either planted or on order too.

If I would have had a job, we would have been going to the Czech Republic for our friend's wedding next weekend. That can't happen now, and the speed at which that event has crept up is quite shocking. Oh well, Matt and Dadi, sorry about that; you know we'd be there if we could.

Anyway, news as I get it I will add to here.

Monday, 29 March 2010

Monday 29th March 2010

On my last blog it would appear that I got a comment in either Japanese or Chinese; using the translation thing on Google I find it's an Oriental porn spam comment. Yay, me!
It is Monday again, the last one before Easter of course, not that that matters much, one week seems the same; but Jools will have four days off at least. And she has just a four day week this week. Which means just four days of my own, and the cat's, company.

For this morning's entertainment I had to go to the Job Centre, or whatever they're calling themselves at the moment, as it would appear my paperwork got lost between Dover and Margate where the regional offices are, and so my claim is labelled as 'Dormant' and I have not been paid since I stopped my last job. So I had to fill in the small novel of paperwork again, which the upshot was that nothing had in fact changed since I last claimed.

This took an age to get done, because to have to queue to ask for the form, fill it out and then queue again to hand it in and tell them several times to annotate my file that I have handed this in. A woman with dead eyes said she would, which I have no choice to believe, although I don't of course.

The rest of the day I have done some chores; washed, mopped the kitchen, vacuumed and cleaned the bathroom. Yay, me again!

So, the weekend:

Saturday, we did our good deed thing as we took Jools' Nan to visit a friend north of Eastbourne in East Sussex, a trip of about 70 miles along country lanes and over rolling green and pleasant lands. We had the Sat-Nav to guide us, and it did it's thing very well indeed and we arrived in the leafy village with no trouble.

Birling Gap, East Sussex

Having dropped Nan off we head off to head to Eastbourne and the rising cliffs beyond to Beachy Head, the Severn Sisters and Birling Gap. This may seem a random group of words, but Beachy Head is the tallest chalk cliffs in the country, with a red and white stripped lighthouse below amongst the waves. The Seven Sisters are a series of rolling cliff downs that end at the shoreline, and are a spectacular series of cliffs. And Birling Gap is one of the lowest points along the Severn Sisters, where the cliffs are just low enough to get onto the beach and then walk along under the towering cliffs.

Birling Gap

We found our way through more country lanes and pleasant farmland, and then drove through a stunning village made entirely out of timber-framed houses and huddled close to the narrow winding lane that passed for a main road. And up and up as we headed towards the coast. And down, along a valley left by a stream, back along the coast road and then the lane to the gap.

Got that? Well, at the end is a car park, a grim 'hotel' and half a row of houses. I say half a row because the other half is at the bottom of the cliffs as the hungry sea has eatn the cliffs through the years. We have a coffee and a cake atthe hotel's coffee shop, we sit outside to avoid the screaming family of yummy mummy and her brood as she asks an endless series of questions about the food; is it organic? Do you have any fruit? And so on and on.

Low Tide, Birling Gap

We walk to the set of stairs that go down to the beach and then onto the stony beach and to the base of the cliffs. I mean Dover has chalk cliffs, but these in places must be twice as high as Dover's; it's an impressive sight for sure. It's also low tide and so a large flat are of sand and chalk is exposed, and the occasional family is picking their way through the pools.

Birling Gap

Jools and I decide to walk a way to see if we can see along to the lighthouse. Going was hard on the large stones that move with each step; I turn my ankle over a number of times. I say, we'll go to that cliff and see what's round the corner, and if there's no lighthouse, we go back. We get to the cliff and look round; more cliffs. We turn back.
The view along the Severn Sisters is stunning, as is the colours of the beach and the tiny figures of other walkers beside the cliffs.

Birling Gap

We get back to the steps, flushed with the exercise, and decide to get in the car and head to Beachy Head itself. Beachy Head is, I think, the tallest part of the cliffs, and under the lea of the cliffs is a candy-striped lighthouse. And the cliffs are so tall you look down on it way below.

We park up and walk to the edge of the cliff, the drop takes our breath away. All along are bunches of flowers and small crosses to mark those that have travelled here in desperation to throw themselves over the edge. Words are not enough at this point and so I'll just leave it there.

We head back to pick up Nan, all the time listening to the radio as the football begins, and Norwich kick off against Leeds. If City win we almost certainly will be promoted. After picking up Nan, we head back east as the games draw to a close, and with a minute to go, Norwich score, and I jump up and down in my seat.

As we cross the Romney Marsh, the storm clouds gather, but it doesn't rain, but the sun breaks through making the grass seem frighteningly vivid.

Back home I pop the southern covered chicken things I had bought, and boiled some new potatoes and soon we were tucking into dinner. And then we sat down to watch the extended versions of the lord of the Rings films. Our plan had been to watch them all in one sitting, but ended up with one film a night.

Demolition of Blue Circle/LaFage cement works, Northfleet; 28 March 2010

On Sunday we had arranged to go with a friend to the north of the county to see a couple of chimneys demolished at an old cement factory. But Matt came down with an eye infection, and after some deliberation we decided to go by ourselves.

Demolition of Blue Circle/LaFage cement works, Northfleet; 28 March 2010

Right by Ebbsfleet International station, we saw a load of people gathered already standing at a fence by the side of the road; there was a place to park, and so we stopped there and joined them at the fence.

Demolition of Blue Circle/LaFage cement works, Northfleet; 28 March 2010

We waited an hour until the time of eleven, and a minute or so past, one of the chimney began to lean, I pressed the shutter of the camera as it leaned more and more until it crumpled as it began to crash to the ground. By this time the other tower also began to lean; the camera whirred away.

Demolition of Blue Circle/LaFage cement works, Northfleet; 28 March 2010

The bang of the explosives reached us and scared the birds in the trees around us, thus proving that light travels much faster than sound, whilst over beyond the second chimney too disappeared in a cloud of dust. And it was all over.

Demolition of Blue Circle/LaFage cement works, Northfleet; 28 March 2010

We then drove for half an hour to Ightham Moat, a Tudor manor house that I had seen pictures of, and thought it would be good to visit; I was wrong, it was very special indeed. The timber-framed manor house stands in a moat, and the light, although wasn't perfect, there was no wind or breeze, and so the moat produced almost perfect reflections.

Ightham Mote

We went inside, and each room had been restored and filled with period things from each age the house had seen. On hand in each room was a helpful guide to answer questions, and make sure nothing was touched. And photography is now allowed in NT properties, and so I snapped away.

Ightham Mote

It was really a delight, and a jewel of a house. Instead of getting a snack in the restaurant, we drove to the nearby village for a beer and a snack in the local inn before driving off, and back home.

Ightham Mote

Once home we had lunch and then snoozed the afternoon away as twenty two millionaires kicked a bag of wind around for my entertainment on TV, before I cooked our customary Sunday dinner of roast chicken, before we put the DVD on watched the second LOTR film; The Two Towers.


Thursday, 25 March 2010

Thursday 25th March 2010

Good morning. Those golden spring days have given way to low, grey cloud and relentlss drizzle. It's so dark in the house i have the light on. And I am currently girding my loins to enter the Pandora's box that is re-writing my CV. I have a whole load of guides to help me, and I have to get it done for tomorrow so to show the Job Centre. Since when has a simple statement of qualifications and record of employemnt taken on this massive status. You have say the right things, use the right phrases and in under two sheets of A4. Surely it should be enough to say here are my qualifications, here's where I worked and my duties; employ me!

But no.

So, I will sit huddled over the computer strung out on milky tea and digestives, just like Kerouac did when he typed On The Road on that wallpaper roll. Nonsense about drugs and the like, it was tea.

Anyway, life goes on, although in an unexciting way for the most part. Tuesday I got to lawnmower out and treated the back garden to a spruce up; due to the good drainage here and the wonderful late summer and autumn, it is the first time it has been mowed since the middle of July, but still looked ok. At least it looks cared for now. I pulled some weeds up, and moved some earth around and was done.

Yesterday was fine and sunny, with just a hint of mist to limit visibility. And as, after studying the tide tables, the last of the spring tides was yesterday, and low tide at around half eleven, I set out to walk from the house to the cliffs and then along almost into Dover to climb down the twisty path the Langdon Bay at the feet of the White Cliffs.

It is a fine thing to walk out of the house, turn right down the street and then take the path between the last two houses and strike out across the fields to the village. Everywhere is a sea of green as spring shoots are showing, and the gentle breeze felt warm.

Once out on the cliffs, the breeze was stronger, but nothing cold, just as well as I had just a fleece top as my coat was currently sitting outside the factory in the boot of our car as Jools worked. I set a good pace and was soon nearly warm enough to take that top off, but decided to save that for the return journey, as I knew i would be a huffing and puffing after the climb back up the cliff path.

The twisty path, Langdon Bay, Dover

As the clifftop path came over the hill and Langdon Bay opened up below, with the castle high above, I took the lesser used one that carried on along the cliff edge, heading down, down until there was a concrete platform, and the path need to take turned sharp left and down.

The path is more like a drainage channel, which is what it becomes after any rain, and going is not too bad. There is a set of railings for most of the way, and the path is not quite as steep as I thought it would be. In places the foliage gave way to offer great views down the cliff, over the zig zag path and down onto the shingle beach below, which got much nearer with each zig and zag.

About five yards above the beach, the path levelled out and came to a platform; to the right there was a doorway into the cliff and to the left a set of steep steps, a ladder, down onto the beach.

Langdon Beach, Dover

I turned right and went into the darkness. Inside was the remains of a WW2 artillery battery, with a couple of gun emplacements that stuck out of the cliffs, although the guns had long since gone. Each emplacement was a brick lined cave, which had been covered in graffiti over the years, with an arched opening looking out to the harbour, the Channel and France. The floor was scattered with little, mostly picnics made of supermarket sandwiches and the like, with a few beer cans, but did not smell like the toilet I thought it was going to be.

Langdon Battery

I took some shots and went back out onto the platform, went to the top of the steps, took a shot and climbed down.

The Rapture

The beach was made of large round flints, made smooth by years of movement by the sea, and standing up was tricky, but I managed it. And made my way down to the low tide line where the skeleton of a boat lay, slowly rusting away.

SS Falcon was carrying a cargo of hemp and matches in 1924, when it caught fire and destroyed the ship, it's bulk ended up on this hard to get to beach and slowly was returning to it's natural state.

I snapped it from a few angles, snapped some huge chalk boulders that had been sculptured by the sea and covered in green weed, and then gathered myself for the return trip.

The climb was not so bad, it sure got my blood pumping and my breath was hard to catch, but in nine minutes I was standing on the grass of the cliff tops, and another 5 minutes was at the highest point of the walk, and the top of South Foreland Lighthouse could be seen.

I had my jumper off, and the warm wind cooled me down. I passed many people walking along the cliffs, but only I had been down to the bottom and back.

Once back in the village, I even resisted the temptation to go into the pub for a swift pint or two, deciding that a cuppa and something healthy to eat would be better. Not as much fun though for sure.

Time for a relaxing afternoon, spent on the sofa with a cat on my lap and my head in Apathy for the Devil, the Nick Kent book about is adventures with rock's superstars and his decent into drugs; it's a great read and lifts the veil over how great being a rock god was, and just how amazing that Keith Richards is still alive.

And then time to make dinner, some breaded pork steaks, some curried lentils, fresh veggies and a glass or two of red; lovely.

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Monday 22nd March 2010

Or rather Tuesday morning, but not much exciting has happened this morning; although it is yet early and anything could, in theory, happen.

Anyway, another weekend over, although that sounds like I am wishing my days away, it just feels that way sometimes. Friday was the last of Jools' days off, although we still had the weekend of course, and so we began it by heading to sunny Tesco and doing the weeks shop, which thanks to the money off vouchers was £13 less than it should have been.
As the weather was cold and cloudy, we stayed around the house and did more chores, me cooking inside and Jools doing the garden. It works well, we each do what we want to do.

White Cliffs Flickrmeet; 20th March 2010

Sadly, Saturday turned out no better, but we had a Flickrmeet to go to, and one in walking distance. Living in Kent there are so many great places to visit and discover, but once again the meet was here around Dover. This time on the white cliffs.

South Foreland Lighthouse

We walked the three miles along the cliffs to the national Trust's place high above the docks and town, and waited for the others to arrive from around the country. And then once we had all turned up, walk back along the cliffs to St Margaret's, whilst us locals pointed out points of interest to our visitors.

South Foreland Lighthouse

Our original plan was to walk down the winding path to the beach at the foot of the cliffs, but the walk had been mistimed with the tides, and the sea was well on the way to high tide as we looked down, and by the time we would have slithered down the cliff there would have been no beach to see. So, another time then.

South Foreland Lighthouse

One of our group, Simon, works for National Trust, and had arranged for us to have a tour around the lighthouse on the cliffs, South Foreland. This lighthouse was the first in the world top have electric light, use radio to ship to shore broadcast, and generally be the first in most things lighthouse-y.

South Foreland Lighthouse

The tour was good, and all the information that we picked up from the guide; but for me even better were the photographic possibilities on being inside the lighthouse, all those curves and angles. I went snap happy.

South Foreland Lighthouse

And then back home for lunch and for me to listen to the radio to the football, as Norwich get nearer and nearer to promotion, although it is nervous, and we did concede an equaliser with the last kick of the game, we're pretty much on track with ten games to go.

Sunday was another quiet day, with there being a big game on TV to watch come half one, and so we read some of yesterday's paper and listened to the radio, and then I began cooking as a friend of ours came over for dinner and to chat.

When despair grows in me.......

And that really was the weekend, and Jools only had work to look forward to. Whilst i had a day of waiting in Canterbury. Our car was sick, just not firing right, but it was still under warranty, and so I had to take it to the nearest VW dealer and they look after it. But, there is nothing else to do than wander around the city until it was time to go and pick it up. Just as well that Canterbury is a beautiful place, full of history and historic buildings. And so whilst the sun shone I walked round snapping more buildings, and as the clouds rolled over I went into a book shop to buy Nick Kent's book about his life as a rock and roll journalist on the NME in the 1970s. And then find a nice park to sit down in and read, baby read.

Telephone box tourist location.

At one o'clock the phone rang, car all better; and so I make my way back to the garage, thorough groups of hundreds of students all being taken around the city, following someone with a red hat or an umbrella, and then sign this piece of paper and here's your car and I was away.

West Gate, Canterbury

I took the back roads, as going through Canterbury would mean dealing with horrendous traffic and their one way system, it feels like there is one, but isn't. And home in time for a late lunch and answer e mails about possible jobs and then time enough to go and pick up Jools from work.

The Old Weaver's House, Canterbury

Phew! just like being at work. Or so it seems.

And now, back at home on my lonesome, waiting for a letter or e mail.

Thursday, 18 March 2010

Thursday 18th March 2010

Good evening and welcome to spring. Yes, spring. It has lambs, flowers, sunshine and a large ball of fiery gas high in the sky bringing us heat and light and all life on planet Earth. Unless you are a creationist, in which case it was created 24 hours before the planet earth a week last Wednesday. If this is the case I would have noticed; let me check my earlier blogs.

OK, nothing about the creation of earth and trees and puppies and Starbucks. So, anyway. Where were we? Oh yeah, spring.

Top Deck Deal

Tuesday we decided to go to Canterbury. Beep breath. On the bus. Da da DAAAAA! Yes, the bus, like a car, but red and larger and carries not just you but other people, and you pay for this. And the bus goes in mostly not a direct route, but might go through the occasional village on the way. Or, go to Deal, then back to Walmer, round the back of Walmer, under the railway, round an estateand back to Deal again.

And there we changed buses, and waited and then set off towards Canterbury. Via Great Mongeham, Northbourne, Betteshanger, Eastry, Woodnesborough, Sandwich. (Pause for ten minutes) And then, Ash, Staple, Goodnestone, Wingham, Littlebourne, and then via many outer parts of the city, Canterbury itself. The 18 miles, which the AA website tells me that it is 18 miles or so, the bus took two hours and ten minutes. Yay!

We were glad to arrive in the city, as we were about to lose the will to live, jammed into seats with seats with little or no legroom, but we did get to see over the walls and high hedges of houses along the way.

Anyway, we got off, and were very thirsty, and we took ourselves down the narrow streets past the cathedral gates to Palace Street to the Mayflower Cafe, where a few hundred years ago, the owner, a Mr Robert Cushman chartered a ship to sail some puritans over the ocean, which went quite well in the end, because they had turkey for dinnner when they got to Virginia, or was it Plimoth? Anyway, Canterbury is where he had his shop, and it is very good; the do a good line in smoothies, panainis, coffees and yummy cakes.

The Mayflower Ship, Canterbury

Our good friend Matt had come over to meet us for a while, and maybe take some photographs. Matt has just moved into a new flat with his fiancee, dadi, they are to be married next month. Anyway, he is a great guy, and I'm not just saying that because he may read this, I mean it.
I wandered around the city with him snapping away, we passed many churches, timber-framed houses and the like, and many, many tourists. It was a fine spring day, and wonderful for photography.

The Postman, Canterbury

And then it was time to squeeze ourselves back onto a bus and head back to Dover. This time it went the direct route, which was just as well as I couldn't actually move my legs, it was more than a relief to reach Dover and move seats so the circulation to my legs. And then the bus headed up the hill and along the cliffs to St Margaret's and home.

8 Palace Street, Canterbury

Time enough to be home, put the coffee machine on and tuck into the Norfolk Shortcakes I baked the day before. Wonderful.

Wednesday, we had agreed to take Jools' Nan over to Folkestone; and so on another fine, warm and sunny spring morning we headed out.

It's not far to Folkestone, and after dropping her off at the bowls club, we carried on down the coast onto the Romney Marsh and out towards the oddness that is Dungeness. Dungeness is an artists commune cum fishing village, made of shacks built on a wide stony beach with a couple of nuclear power stations thrown in. Yeah, it's odd for sure.

Lydd Station and level crossing

The wind was blowing hard, nothing unusual for down there, and so we did not stop, but headed further round to coast to Camber. Camber is a holiday town, made up almost entirely of caravan parks and grim prefab pubs. We parked up and walked up the dune to look at the wide bay heading down to Rye. It was high tide, and so no wind or kite surfers were out.

We drove on.

Rye is just inside East Sussex, and the old part of the town is on a cliff overlooking the marsh and the river's mouth; it has a castle, an imposing church, and a network of narrow cobbled streets lined with timber-framed houses. It really is quaintly English with a capital K.

We walked around, mixing it with several parties of French schoolchildren and rich Japanese tourists being chauffeured around in a huge limo, which was having a tough time getting round the tight corners and narrow streets of the town. We passed the car outside the Mermaid Inn, an old coaching in with a courtyard, with the Japanese asking if he could get the limo in the courtyard, a feat which would have meant the car being bent at a 45 degree angle to get it down the alleyway. He parked in the middle of the cobbled street and blocked the road.

We walked on.

I snapped the town into submission, and then we found a cafe and had lunch; well, I had a scone with jam anyways. And then we decided to head home beck the way we came.

Today, I had to go along to the job centre for a meeting; turned out to be a group session, where everything I had been told up to that point by the job centre staff was royally contradicted. I wasn't surprised. I booked myself on a couple of courses and after an hour and a half of death by powerpoint, was allowed to leave.

And so for the rest of the day, Jools did the garden and I kinda helped. And so the week passes.

Monday, 15 March 2010

Monday 15th March 2010

OK, I can say it now loudly, but spring has arrived! We were able to sit outside this afternoon with our cups of coffee in just our t shirts, and were not cold; just cool when the sun went behind a cloud. Ladybirds are abroad, and the birds fill the air with their calls.
Julie is off this week and she did the garden, whilst I did stuff around the house, looked for jobs, baked some cakes cooked lunch and dinner. It worked well. Although still no news on jobs, but I did apply for several.I got a big pack of bacon from Tesco last week and so we had bacon sandwiches again today, and very nice they were; as there is nothing quite like the smell of bacon to get the taste buds going. And this evening I did roast chicken again, which was very nice, along with lots of veggies and Yorkshire pudding and roast potatoes.

Anyway, Friday was much the same as most weeks; Tesco after dropping Julie off at work, and then putting the shopping away, looking online for work before settling down to listen to the radio in the afternoon. But, once every two weeks I have to go to the job centre to sign on, and tell then I have been looking for work, checking online, buying local newspapers and the such. And then back home and wait for Julie to finish work.

Saturday we were up with the larks, heading off into London for a tip under the Thames and into the past. We boarded the train once again at a quarter to seven, and were soon zipping through the Kentish countryside and into Essex before plunging into the long tunnel to emerge once again as we approached St Pancras on the Euston Road.

Since embarking on my project to photograph Kent churches, I have developed and interest in churches generally; and I saw that the oldest site of Christian worship in Britain was at St Pancras; although the church has been rebuilt several times. The site was consecrated in AD 314, and used to stand on the banks of the River Fleet; but that river now runs through a culvert, and it's once idyllic location is now sandwiched between a main road and the many lines now approaching St Pancras Station. It is at least a green space amongst the urban sprawl, and the church tower rises and pierces the sky.

I take many shots and then we turn our attention to second breakfast. We had already eaten back home, but we decided we needed some more sustenance, and so we head to Costa coffee and have a soup-bowl sized cup of coffee and a toasted sandwich each.

Neal's Yard, London

And then we set off to walk through south Camden, past the British Museum and then into Soho, wandering down its maze of lanes and alleys. We head to Neal's Yard, a quiet haven just off Dury Lane where there is a good bead shop.

Thomas Neal's, London

We go past Convent Garden and have a look in, but the crowds of street performers were not yet out in force, just a woman miming to opera records and getting a good round of applause for it. Down then to the river, and at the back of the Savoy Hotel we pass a tiny church, which turns out is owned by the Queen, and then onto the Embankment and along to the quay, as we were to travel by a different mode than usual.

At weekends, London's transport is at the mercy of engineering, and many Tube lines are closed or only partly open; we wanted to get to Rotherhithe, which is not best served by the tube at the best of times, and at the moment the East London Line is closed, and so we took the Thames Clipper, which zipps along at a fair rate of knots along the river to quays along the river. And so we boarded under the shadow of the London Eye and were soon heading east to Greenland Pier. Past HMS Belfast, under Tower Bridge and into the East End.

We arrive at Greenland Pier and walk to dry land. We find ourselves at Surrey Quays, and I recognise it right away, and knew there is a floating pub not two minutes walk away. We walk to the Wibbley Wobbley, have a drink and a ham sandwich before setting off down the Thames path around the long curve of the river into Rotherhithe, whilst on the other side of the river, Canary Wharf and the other new high rise new builds of Dockland rise above the water.

Brunel Tunnel

From here the river looks several hundred yards across, the nearest bridge is Tower Bridge a half hour by car each way. Now there are many tunnels, for cars and trains. But in the 1830s, it was decided that a tunnel under the river would be the ideal way to get goods and people across the river. A bridge would be impossible due to the height of masts and rigging, and so the way forward was to build a tunnel. Even though no one had ever built one under a river before.

It took 18 years, 5 miner's lives and the death of on of this land's greatest men; IK Brunel. But the tunnel was built, and opened for wagons to cross under the river. It was a failure due to the poor roads in the area, and was eventually sold to a railway company and became part of London Underground.

Rotherhithe London Overground Station

After it was built, it became a wonder of the age, with two million walking through it, parties and fairs were held down there. And then the trains took over and people only saw it dark through the windows of their trains.

Brunel Tunnel

Then, a couple of years ago, TFL decided that the line would become part of the overground network, and it colosed for re-engineering. And to celebrate is reopening, people were to be allowed to walk the tunnel just as they had done in 1860. And it was last weekend it was to be opened, and closed again.

Wapping London Overground Station

I had heard about it from a friend, and we got tickets, and so this was the reason for our trip up. We met an online friend of mine as we had a spare ticket, and so we queued up outside for our allotted time, whilst half of London turned up hoping to go down as well, unaware that tickets were needed and had sold out.

Rotherhithe London Overground Station

We went down the escalator, met our guide, donned rubber gloves due to the risk of disease from rats; and then down the steps onto the platform and onto the tracks. And then under the river.

Brunel Tunnel

It is just 440 yards to Wapping, and takes less than 5 minutes to walk it, but in it's day it must have seen a miracle. I managed to get some good shots, and was very happy to see decades of smoke and soot on the brickwork on the arches of the tunnel.

Brunel Tunnel

And then we were back on the south bank, and heading back into the daylight and then to find our way home.
We got on the bus with my friend and headed to Deptford, and got onto the DLR and north through Canary Wharf and to Stratford to pick up the High speed train back to Kent and Home.

Sunday, we decided it was time we began to exercise again, and so went on a ramble once again. We were to meet up in the village of Barham, and we took the chance to meet another online friend and she came along as well.

White Cliffs Ramblers

Up and down we walked, through wood and across fields and through picturesque villages. The sun was out, but there was a chill wind blowing, and so big coats were required, but by the time the walk ended it was warmer.

We went to Jools' Dad's for dinner and had a fine roast dinner, pork, and loads of vegetables and plenty of fine chat.

Thursday, 11 March 2010

Thursday 11th March 2010

Here we are again, another week in which very little happens. The weather has at least been quite good and I have been out rambling around the village, on occasion taking pictures at the same time.

Beware cliff edge!

Not much going on on the job front; I have a form from the place I did the work for at the beginning of February, can't tell if it's for something more permanent or just to update their records. Only time will tell, once I have filled the darned thing up, six pages and so far it's taken over four hours. And they want to know everything, I mean everything. My employment record back to when I put giblets back up chickens bums back in the days of Thatcher's Britain. Shudder.

Long way down

It was a fine day yesterday, at least in the morning, and so I went for a walk around the village, once again ending up walking along the cliffs and down into the bay. I met a couple of people with whom I passed the time of day with. As the day went on, the clouds got thicker and thicker, and by the time I returned home there was no sun.

Bluebirds on the white cliffs of Dover

Yesterday evening I was on national radio; The Radcliffe and Maconie show on Radio 2; how nervous was I? But it was good, like chatting to an old friend, really.

And so, here we are; Thursday. What will the day bring? Well, more form filling and then send that off; repair the oven as the handle has fallen off, and tonight, camera club, where I have three shots entered into an internal competition.

Fingers crossed.

Monday, 8 March 2010

Monday 8th March 2010

Welcome to winter; the return! Or so it seems. Even though it was sunny over the weekend, it was cold, but the sight of the sun in clear blue skies we could kid our brain, if we ignored the frostbite in our fingers that spring was here, or at least just around the corner. Snowdrops and crocuses are out, daffodils are budding, and the birds are busy trying to do the things birds are famous for at this time of the year; making more birds.

The bees are quiet on that subject, as yet.

After a busy Friday morning, as detailed before, I thought I would go out in the car, as the weather was set fair and all. As the roads were gridlocked down Dover way due to accidents, I headed north to Ramsgate, as when the sun shines it can double for somewhere on the med, with its yachts and pastel coloured cafes and bars reflected in the harbour.

On the way, I got the shot at the old power station at Richborough that dominated East Kent. It dates from the time when coal was mined from under Kentish feet. When the mines closed so the Richborough. There seems no hurry to pull it down, and so stands as a relic of times past.

West Cliff Lift, Ramsgate

I parked down by the ferry terminal in Ramsgate, as there is an old art deco lift and facade near there I wanted to snap, and then down by a litter-strewn road to the harbour and the yachts and boats, playthings of the rich and great of Thanet lay at anchor.


In truth it's not a bad place, quite beautiful, really. Where the cliffs rise from the marina, a brick face was put up years ago, and now it looks like a ruddy coloured cliff instead of the chalk it would otherwise be. Building rise out of the brick, all rusty red in colour, and reflected too in the waters of the harbour.

big, bigger, biggest

I walk round to the north wall of the harbour where there is a barge tied up with six more bases for wind-turbines. I had thought they would make for fine pictures, and so snapped away to my heart's content.

Steps, bench, etc

That night we decided to go out for a meal. I remember seeing a nice looking pub out in the sticks in Stourmouth when Mum was here back in August. Through the magic of the interwebs we had a look at the menu and we decided to drive out onto the marshes to see if they could squeeze us in.

As it happens, it was very quiet and so we sat down at a nice table by the open fire and ordered paella for two to share and some garlic bread and sat down and waited. It was wonderful, all shrimp, spicy sausage, herbs, garlic, tomatoes and lots of rice; all very nice, and there was so much of it we passed on dessert too.

It was a very pleasant drive back home, through the winding lanes under the pale moonlight.

Saturday was cold and grey, and we ended up not doing very much in truth. I ended up doing chores around the house then watching of listening to football all afternoon. Not as exciting as it should have been, but Norwich won again, and not wanting to tempt fate too much, things are going much, much better these days.

Sunday was a glorious day, although once again it was cold but sunny. We decided to go for a walk around the village and end up on the beach at the bay; at the feet of the white cliffs.
The fields are ready for planting, or already have been, and there seems to be green shoots in places, we stomped passed the main part of the village and then along to the Dover patrol which is right on the cliff edge. Sadly, the cafe was closed, and so we decided to walk down into the bay and see if the tea shack would be open there.

St Margaret's Bay

Always glorious here are the views over to France and the ships either crossing between England and France or large container ship and tankers heading to destinations unknown.

Down in the bay, the tide was well out, revealing large area of flattened chalk and other rocks. Along the coast a way, a large part of the cliff had fallen, I tried to get along there, among the rockpools and boulders to get a closer look, but going was tough, with seaweed making the rocks slippery. I made do with grand panoramas of the bay with wonderfully huge skies above.

St Margaret's Bay

We walked back via an ornamental garden and then, as the garden was bereft of much colour due to the earliness of the season, and made our way up the steeps steps back up the cliffs to the village and then across the fields to home.

Once home we cooked a pizza and had coffee and a big slice of Limoncello and Grappa Tart, before deciding that we would head out to enjoy the sunshine of the afternoon.

In Margate, all weekend, they had ATV and motorbike racing over the dunes, and I thought it would be good for photography, maybe.
I knew the fuel tank was low before we set off, and the light came on as we came into Ramsgate; but we would find a gas station in Margate, wouldn't we? Or so we thought. We passed many that were now tyre shops or hand car washes, which have sprung up everywhere. The fuel gauge got lower and lower, and in desperation we ended up at Westward Cross; a huge shopping mall and strip mall which serves all of Thanet.

We got fuel in Tesco and headed back into Margate parking in our favourite place, in the deserted Lido car park. Most people had jammed the roads near the race track, but it was just a 15 minute walk, and not hard. But cold.

The money shot

Once we had seen one start and race, the novelty soon wore off; quadbikes jumped and whizzed round turns; I snapped away a lot, and then after doing some people watching amongst the fairground rides that lined the main road, we headed back to the car; much colder, but rosy cheeked.

Kamakaze pilots are getting younger.

Once back home i put a chicken in the oven, cooked and then roasted potatoes, made a Yorkshire Pudding and steamed some vegetables, and within a couple of hours we sat down to a fine dinner; not bad at all.