Friday, 30 December 2011

2011: How was it for you?

I think I forgot to post a review this time last year, must have been short of time or something. As photography seems to take up more and more of my time this year, there seems to be less and less time for the other stuff. So, here is a list of the things I have enjoyed this year:

Best single: Desire by Anna Calvi.

I really loved this, came out around the time of Glastonbury, and the also did a great set in a tent there. Listen here:

Best Album: Shake England Shake by PJ Harvey

Another top album why Polly, and a concept record too. Another Mercury Prize for her too. Not much else to add. Here's a taster:

Best video: Rill Rill by Sleigh Bells

Not sure what is going on, but a search of You Tube brought this unforgettable video.

Best TV: Frozen Planet (BBC)

As someone who does not watch much TV, this is glorious, as is much of the BBC's nature output. This was glorious from start to finish, life on the edge.

Best Film: True Grit

We only went to the cinema twice, once was to see this. It takes something real special to better The Duke. Life is hard.

Best moment: Double promotion.

Two years ago, Norwich were in Division 3, now we're back in the Premier League. Hard to know what was better, promotion at Pompy or 5-1 at Portman Road. I'll include both moments:

Things to look forward to in 2012:

Friday 30th December 2011

Good morning.


Yes, we are still alive, just, and (fairly) well.

We both have been sneezing at regular intervals, sniffing and generally feeling very grizzly. But, it hasn't stopped us going out and doing stuff. Well, going out a few times anyway.

Once upon a time, you would buy the Christmas editions of both the Radio and TV Ties, and plan your festive viewing like a military operation. It seems, gone are those days. We did end up buying Radio Times last week, to see what was on, but we both had a flick through and nothing really grabbed us. It doesn't help that we really don't really watch much TV these days, I guess.

Back to the blog:

Boxing Day was pretty much like Christmas Day, just with no presents or calls to the family. Jools picked up Nan in the morning, and soon we sat down to pork pies followed by home made mince pies for lunch. I had made a fresh bunch of mince pies that morning, and the smell of cooking spiced fruits filled the house. Wonderfully Christmassy.

The photographer at Christmas

In the afternoon, the sports marathon began, but with games from the lower divisions at first. Nan soon fell asleep, and so Jools wrapped a duvet around her and we turned the volume of the TV down. With just the Christmas lights on, darkness fell; we all dozed.


At half four, I put a joint of beef in the over, prepared more veg, and mixed more batter for Yorkshire puddings. I really am getting quite good at this roast dinner malarkey, and at half six we sat down to eat another fine dinner with more red wine.

In the evening, as Jools took Nan back to Whitfield, I slumped on the sofa to watch another game on the TV.

Holiday Tuesday was pretty much the same as the two previous days but without roast dinners! I cut the salt beef I had prepared, and we had that in a sandwich for lunch. That afternoon we watched Super 8 on PPV, and it was OK. I mean it was good, but was really ET with an ugly rather than cute alien.

And more football in the evening.

Wednesday was not a bank holiday, but may have well as been, as we are both off all week. We did venture out of the house for a walk, to try and clear our blocked sinuses. This the keen wind did; but as expected, the land down the hill was way too muddy to walk down without waders, so we turned back home but did feed a couple of friendly horses with the carrots and apples we were carrying for just this eventuality.

In the bleak midwinter

yesterday, we got our shit together and headed up to London on the train for a walk and a wander round the Victoria and Albert Museum and then along Regent Street to have a look at the Christmas lights.

Lego Christmas Tree, St Pancras International Station

we took the first cheap train out of Dover at a quarter to ten, and were in London before eleven. A quick walk through St Pancras to see the Lego Christmas Tree, and then on the Piccadilly Line to South Kensington where the trio of great London museums can be found.
As usual the train was full, it emptied at Knightsbridge so the shoppers could get out to go to Harrods, but just as many got on. Once more stop and the train emptied and we all walked along the subway connecting the Tube to the museums. Most families turned off to go to the Natural History, but a few of us headed towards the V&A.

The V&A says it is the worlds best museum of art and design, and it is hard to argue with that. But even more, it is housed in another stunning building, or collection of buildings, and inside decorated to the extreme as only Victorians would.

The Victoria and Albert Museum, London

I could tell you each room we visited and the glorious things we saw, but that would take an age, and my words would not be good enough. The best thing is to visit it for yourself, it is free and it will enrich your life. I guess the room I enjoyed the most, was the 20th century room, as it was full of the wonderfully designed items; it had record sleeves, Dyson vacuum cleaners and the such. But so much more than that, and the room was an old library, which seemed to be perfect setting.

The Victoria and Albert Museum, London

After a couple of hours our senses had been overloaded so many times, we headed out to find a place for lunch. Across the road from the museums were a collection of places to dine in; and we had such a choice. In the end we couldn't decide and so went into the nearest, an Indian place called Qwality or something.

The Victoria and Albert Museum, London

It was quite swish, but the service good and the food very tasty.

Afterwards, we thought we would head to soho so Jools could visit a bead shop. The thought of being squeezed on the tube did not fill us with glee, so we thought we would ride a bus. But, as we walked down to the bus stop, it began to rain: I saw a church like building, and the doors were open, so we went inside.

The London Oratory

We had stumbled into the London Oratory, a Catholic church of immense scale. I was awed, really stunned by the scale and the detail all around. Along each wall was a chapel to another saint, I guess, and in each many candles burned. I took shots of each, but unknown to me, by lens had filled with condensation and the first shots are unusable.
In time the lens cleared, and I have a couple of shots. It was only on the way out I saw the sign forbidding photography, for which I apologise, but I saw no sign on the way in.

Back at the bus stop now the rain had stopped, we saw that we had just missed one service and would have a 15 minute wait; we took the decision to flag a taxi down and soon we were heading to the bright lights of Soho, or the better side of it according to the taxi driver.

We climbed out near to Regent Street. we dodged our way through the crowds and headed along Carnaby Street and along to Kingly Court. I waited in a nearby pub, and tried their own-brewed beer. I had a pint of strong IPA which was very lemony in flavour, but nice enough.

And then, back into the gathering dark and into the crowds in town for sightseeing and some shopping in the sales. And for me to get some shots of the lights.

Carnaby Street, London

We walked up to Oxford Circus and back down to Piccadilly Circus, with me snapping away. The crowds were not quite as bad as they could be, but were thick enough and difficult to get shots. I got some I was happy. And after snapping Eros we walked down to Leicester Square, to the left the bright lights of Chinatown and the seedier parts of Soho beckoned, but we were tired, and we sought our way home.

Swallow Street, London

There was time enough to head to St Pancras and wait 5 minutes before our train arrived and we slumped in seats around a table and waited for the departure. It is still amazing that we live just over an hour from the centre of London, and within 15 minutes of leaving the station, and a blast along two tunnels, we emerge into the inky blackness of a winter's night in Dagenham. Over the marshes and the M25 at Dartford, before dashing through another tunnel under the Thames and into Kent.

The Criterion, Piccadilly Circus, London

And home.....

Monday, 26 December 2011

Monday 26th December 2011





Merry Christmas.

As I write this, it is ten in the morning on Boxing Day in Chez Jelltex. It has been a quiet Christmas for us, but very pleasant. If has been just Jools and myself, oh, and the cats, which was just perfect.

On Friday, I got a stinking migraine at work; I struggled through, as driving home with it would've been just as hard as working. But, by the time it was time to leave I was feeling drained but better.

So, that was another year's work completed, and time now to relax and enjoy a Christmas at home. The one good thing was that we had done all shopping, so we did not have to go into the bearpit of Tesco or anywhere else.

We had a very quiet Christmas Eve, just chilling out. For lunch I cooked steak and fried potatoes, corn and mushrooms; it was wonderful I have to say. And afterwards there was time to go and visit Nan up at Whitfield.

Standing room only

We exchanged gifts and swapped news, before heading back to St Margaret's so we could head up to the village church for the nativity service. We parked up the car outside the house, and headed off for the walk up the hill to the village centre.

In the lead up to Christmas, every house in the village had received a newsletter fro the church and in particular about the Christmas Eve service. But, even knowing that, did not prepare me for the sight when I walked into the church; every seat taken, and people sanding in the aisles. We squeezed in a pew and waited for the service to begin, and even more people filed in.

St Margaret's of Antioch

The service was very good, lots of carols, and with one final blessing and the Lord's Prayer, we headed off into the night. Straight across the road to the White Cliffs hotel for free mince pies and mulled wine; perfect for keeping the evening chill out.

And then back down the hill and back home. And like all good boys and girls we went to bed early so to be sound asleep when Santa came to call.

The best pub sign in the world, ever

Santa always knows best, and he brought me two bottle of whisky, which must mean I had been good all year after all.

But, after having lovely bacon butties for breakfast, and before opening our presents, we headed out in the car to head to Battle in East Sussex for a walk and to take some snaps.

Battle is about a 50 mile drive, through farmland and over the Romney marsh to Rye and onto Hastings and then Battle. Battle, as the name suggests, is named after a famous battle; the most famous, The Battle of Hastings in 1066, which, apparently did not take place in Hastings after all. And probably didn't take place in Battle either, but that doesn't stop just about every shop and building having a name based on the battle of something associated with it.
But on a dull Christmas morning we had to town just about to ourselves. I snap various pubs and interesting buildings, including the front of the abbey and the parish church, before heading back to the car and then back home.

Battle Abbey and battlefield

Once home, I weigh the turkey and calculate that it will take 3 hours to cook, so I quickly got it ready and popped it in the oven. I peeled the spuds and the other vegetables, mix the batter for the Yorkshire puddings, and then wait. Soon, the house is filled with the smell of the delicious turkey cooking.

And at three, it all came together, and we sat down to overflowing plates of turkey, roast potatoes, cauliflower, broccoli, sprouts, carrots, Yorkshires and lots of proper gravy.

In the evening we played Scrabble, whilst listening to Dessert Island Discs, before heading to bed at the rock and roll time of half ten!


Friday, 23 December 2011

Friday 23rd December 2011

Thank God it’s Friday.

And not just any ordinary Friday, but it’s been the final work Friday of the year, and tomorrow the Yule break begins. I say that, because the idea of a break from work at this time of year pre-dates Christianity by a long, long way.

Yesterday saw the shortest day of the year. It was dark when we went to the supermarket sometime before seven in the morning, and seemed to begin to get dark at about half two. I know this because I was off work, getting ready for Christmas. Which involved getting to Tesco before the crowds; not that we had a huge amount to get, but we just hate shopping in crowds, doubly so this time of year.
We have been getting stuff for the last month, which meant we only had to get fruit, vegetables and milk yesterday. As most people seems to be saying this year, if we haven’t got it by now, we’ll just have to do without.

The White Cliffs Circular at Minster (Thanet) 22nd December 2011

I took the day off work yesterday, as the last steam tour was due to pass through, and I really didn’t want to play hooky from work, even if I could have got away with it. And as it turned out, I got lots of other stuff done, well, shopping at Tesco, tried to repair some lighting at home (I failed with both lights), went to the butchers to pick up the turkey and other assorted meats and snap the train. And maybe find a pub selling Shepherd Neame’s Christmas Ale. I did all with great satisfaction.

The shelves at Tesco were fully laden, we whisked round the store picking up what we needed, got a checkout with a short queue, loaded the car and headed home. Jools headed to London to search bead shops for stock before they closed for Christmas, but was beaten by the crowds which thronged the streets and stores in the City.

The White Cliffs Circular at Minster (Thanet) 22nd December 2011

I headed out for Minster, my chosen spot to photograph the train from, at just before eleven, giving me two hours to get other tasks done. I called in at the church at Woodnesborough on the offchance it was open, as I had snapped it from outside on a dull day. As luck would have it, two people were installing the parish Christmas tree inside, and the door was open. I went in, and took the shots I wanted. The church is on a small hill and dominated the view over Sandwich. I am told the translation of the village’s name is Woden’s Hill, which tells how old the settlement is, and its Norse history.

St Mary the Blessed Virgin, Woodnesborough, Kent

Once I had my shots, I headed to Preston to the butchers to collect our Christmas order including a turkey with a bacon lattice on its breast. It’s going to be a great Christmas I think. And then onto Minster to take up my position on the footbridge to photograph the train.

St Mary the Blessed Virgin, Woodnesborough, Kent

The location is great as there is a straight of about a mile, so there is a long opportunity to snap the approaching train, then, if it is going to head down to Dover, it has to slow down to cross to the other track, which means lots of time for shots with much smoke and steam. And yesterday with the strong sidelight and chilly air, there was smoke galore and the shots were really good, even if I say so myself.

The White Cliffs Circular at Minster (Thanet) 22nd December 2011

After the excitement of the train, I thought a pint of beer would be in order. A pint of Christmas Ale to be exact. And seeing as I know the area quite well now, I headed towards Canterbury and then over the marshes to Grove Ferry and the Inn.

And, they had the Christmas Ale, and they pointed out that the seat beside the open log fire was free. So, I took my beer and a bag of spicy crisps to the fireside and sighed, real deep.

Sunday, 18 December 2011

Sunday 18th December 2011

Post #519.

(I know you're counting)

So, this weekend we did the dutiful thing and headed up to Suffolk to exchange Christmas gifts and actually meet face to face rather than do the subject dancing on the phone. No, in person, we get to play avoid the elephant in the room. Or herds of elephants.

I won't go into details, but there is stuff, there are things that have come between us, and for the sake of our sanity and tempers, it has been unofficially decided not to mention these things unless conversation hits DEFCON 2 or higher. It didn't come close yesterday.

We got up at half five and after a strong cup of coffee, hit the road on the long road to Suffolk. I say long road, it just seems that way. Or does north of Ipswich when everything slows down real slow.

But, before then we can speed along Kent's wonderful motorway network, up towards the Dartford Crossing. Traffic was light and we got there in about an hour, paid out £1.50 and headed down into the tunnel under the river. And into Essex.

GWUK #268 All Saints, Frostenden, Suffolk

Aah yes, Essex.

Radio legend, John Peel, hated driving in Essex so much, he used to drive round it, it is easy to see why. Essex seems to have more boy racers, middle lane huggers and racing drivers using the roads for practice for drag racing than anyone else.

But, at seven in the morning, traffic was light, and we made good time as dawn crept over the sky and in time the sun rose. In fact the sun rose as we headed into Suffolk, the sun caught the tower of Stratford St Mary's church.This is the first sign that we were in Suffolk, and on other trips i had always thought this looked a fine church; we had time, so we turned off to have a look.

Blue frost

I parked up and got my camera out the back of the car, and then headed into the churchyard to head to the far side of the church to catch a shot of the church in the golden light of dawn. It was worth it, and I got my shots. And behind the wall at the edge of the churchyard, I peeked over and disturbed a flock of sleepy sheep.

Back into the car, and back onto the A12 and up to Ipswich, and onwards into the frosty Suffolk countryside. We stopped off at Darsham at the Halfway Cafe for breakfast. Nothing quite beats sausages, bacon and eggs when on the road, and once full of breakfast, we headed off on the last leg to Mother's.

Sunny St Margaret's-at-Cliffe

We arrived at about half ten, and we chatted, exchanged gifts, were polite. I mean, nothing outlandish happened, there were no tears for a change. We stayed for what we thought was a suitable amount of time, until two, and we then packed the car with stuff, including my football program collection from her attic, before heading back south.

Once again traffic was light, and we even got back over the Thames with little trouble, no queues in fact. And were back home by half past six. On the way down, we listened to the football on the radio; Norwich nearly held on to win at Everton, but conceded in the last ten minutes to draw 1-1. Still, and away point is pretty good.

Sunday morning was cloudless but cold and frosty. After breakfast and watching the repeat of MOTD, we headed out for a walk along the lanes and footpaths around here. There was a keen wind blowing, but it did feel slightly warm in the sunlight. The views over the downs to the Channel were stunning, and i snapped them.

Days of long shadows

And that really was the weekend; apart from an afternoon of football on TV, lighting the woodburner, and snoozing after Sunday lunch.

It is evening; all chores are done, the cats are sleeping and the fire is slowly dying in the hearth.

Friday, 16 December 2011

Friday 16th December 2011

Whatever was going to happen this week was going to be overshadowed by Helle’s passing. We had a meeting over the communicator on Monday morning, and were told there was support if we needed it. The funeral was today, but my boss and I decided not to go. There are many reasons, I guess for us it was the fact that the service would have been in Danish. There are other reasons, but I’ll leave it at that. That we decided not to go does not mean we miss her less of course. Seeing the announcement on our intranet made it seem all the more real; the reporter who wrote the announcement, asked to use a shot I had taken during our visit last month. Of course, I said yes, and there it is whenever I log on to the intranet site.

Monday night and into Tuesday we had a heck of a storm. Although it was very windy and wet, but thought no more of it until Tuesday night when one of our neighbours brought our shed roof back. Oh dear. And as more wind and rain was forecast for Thursday, I had to put the bloomin’ thing back during Wednesday, when I was at working from home as our car was in the garage getting serviced. So, with the roof back on, I thought it better to have it strapped down, and so we headed to B&Q for strapping, which I attached to the walls of the shed, hopefully securing the roof. It’s all exciting stuff down here you know……

Full Moon

I ended up working from home on Thursday too, due to the volume level of the technicians in the office making conversations over the phone impossible. The only drawback to working at home is the cats. I am captive, and they do like to let me know how hungry or how much they would like their belly rubbed. So I have to comply, unless I am actually on the phone when I have to ignore them. And how pathetic do their meows become, especially Mulder’s. But mostly, they get what they want.

And so the weekend has arrived. And tomorrow we are heading to deepest, darkest Suffolk to visit my Mother; take a deep breath. She has a box of stuff from her attic which seems to be football programs. So, we shall transfer said box from her attic to ours. It’s the modern way. We are thinking of buying some Christmas cards as the festive season is almost upon us.

Monday, 12 December 2011

Monday 12th December 2011

Life has a way of shaking us from time to time. Just when we think it has settled down and we are comfortable with what it has given us, fate comes along and changes everything. Life, does go on of course, and we can be thankful for what those who have departed have given to enrich our lives, and how much duller of lives would have been in not knowing them.
Apart from us, there is the families and close friends of those who leave us, and how they pick up the pieces of their lives.

I think, we really should say to those who really do make our lives worth living, what they mean to us while we can, before we lose the chance.

Last night, the weekend petered out, fading into a wet and windy Sunday evening, a post on Facebook changed all that. I work in a small department of just three people. I work here in Ramsgate; my boss works in Warrington and Helle works, or worked, in Denmark. She was driving home from work after picking up her daughter from school, and a gust of wind blew a truck into the path of her car.

Not really much else to say; like all good people, she will be missed. She leaves behind a husband and two children.

Before then, it had been an odd weekend. By the end of Friday I was shattered, and as soon as four o’clock came round I went to bed. Being tired, I felt also felt cold. I got out of bed just before seven, as we had tickets for a show in Folkestone: thankfully, Jools looked at the tickets to see the show was for Saturday night, and so we needn’t have a late night after all, and could sit round in our dressing gowns and slippers.

We had a Chinese meal delivered, and listened to the radio before heading to bed nice and early.

Needless to say, I was awake so early on Saturday, I got up, fed the cats and made a pot of coffee and sat down at the computer. Jools was off out as she had to take her Dad and his wife to Heathrow, as they are off to Australia for Christmas, and so needed a lift. I dropped Jools off at their house, so she could drive their, larger car.

I headed home for breakfast, as I had other plans, plans for photography and a steam locomotive.

At nine I picked up my friend, Gary, and we headed out along the A2 to the other side of Canterbury, and then through country lanes to the village of Chartham to await the arrival of ‘Clan Line.’ In fact, we had over an hour before we would have to take up our position, so we wandered around the village snapped a few things and then went to the village shop to get a snack.
At half ten we walked to the station to wait. The train was due at ten to eleven, so we had about 20 minutes to wait.

The Canterbury Christmas Special at Chartham December 10th 2011

Or so we thought.

I had chosen Chartham as it has a picturesque and working signal box, and as we walked onto the platform I asked the signalman if the train was on time. 18 minutes late we were told; well, that’s not too bad we thought.

We took up positions on the footbridge and waited. More and more other people arrived to take shots, or just to take the scene in as the train would go thundering through. Every now and again the signalman would come out and shout that the train delay was not 38 minutes and so on. And then, the gates closed and the signalman shouted that the steam locomotive was due, as was a local train coming in on the nearest platform. The news didn’t reach the dozen folks waiting there to photograph the steam train coming through. And sure enough as we heard the toot of the train’s whistle, on the London-bound platform a modern passenger train pulled in.
Up on the bridge we had fine views of Clan Line as it came through, and I could hear swearing from the platform below. And in a few seconds, it was gone, leaving smoke and steam in the air.

Chartham, December 10th 2011

We packed our camera gear away, and now quite cold after our hour-long wait and so headed to the local pub, the Artichoke for a pint of mild for me, or a cuppa for Gary.

The Artichoke, Chartham

And then, having snapped our snaps, and me with a pint inside of me, we headed back to Dover for lunch and then for me to lay on the sofa, as usual, and listen to the football on the radio. In a turn up, Norwich play well and take their chances against Newcastle, and head four goals to go back up to ninth in the league after running out 4-2 winners.

The Artichoke, Chartham

That night we headed out to Folkestone for the Mark Steele show, and to get a bite to eat beforehand. We had spotted an interesting Spanish place just at the top of the Old High Street, and so we thought we would give that a go. And very good it was too; I had garlic prawns followed by chickpeas and chorizo sausage for a main. Now, that doesn’t sound too exciting, but it was very good and very filling. And so with half an hour before showtime, we headed down to the theatre.

The show was good, a kind of stage version of his radio show, where he looks at a town via the newspapers and our opinions about the town. We laughed. A lot, before walking back down Tontine Street to collect our car and drive home under the silvery light of the full moon. And for a change, there was almost no traffic into Dover, and the drive was almost pleasant. Sadly, we had missed the total lunar eclipse, but seeing it full now was good enough.

Sunday was every bit as grey and drizzly as the BBC promised. I was sneezing my head off inside, so I thought that a walk in the rain and fresh air might help. It was bracing, and we didn’t really walk too far, but we did see a couple of folks on horses and people walking their dogs along the paths around our neighbourhood.

Back home for a nice cuppa and then cook roast chicken with all the trimmings for lunch. We shared a bottle of fizzy Italian wine, and so the afternoon contained:


Thursday, 8 December 2011

Thursday 8th December 2011

Have you see the price of truffles recently?

Not the chocolate covered ones, but the real Italian, buried in the ground, found by pigs, pickled in aspic kind. I do. Now.

It all started with the pate. Somehow, we had a few packs, and I got thinking as to recipes that we could use some of it up in. My mind went to Turandot Rossinni. A dish we have had at one of our local pubs; fillet steak, fois gras, toast, and a rich sauce. That would be nice, no? So, I searched the interwebs for a good recipe, and found one that required just one spirit rather than three. I needed:

Beef stock
And truffles.

So, there is just the one place in Thanet that could provide such ingredients: Waitrose.

So, on the way back from work I headed over to Waitrose to search for the ingredients, and a walk up and down the aisles, I found the stock, and there in the same aisle was a tiny little jar with two little black lumps: truffles. £7.50. In the basket. And finally a cheeky bottle of vintage Madera. Oh look; next to it a small bottle of Vin Santos, a Tuscan dessert wine. Yes please.

Christmas 2011

And so, back home to get creative in the kitchen. I had to reduce the stock to a thick sauce, I boiled some sliced potatoes to make sauté, steamed some vegetables and opened a very good bottle of red. Just before it was all ready, I dry fried the pate, removed it and put it on the pan fried toast: I poured the Madera into the frying pan (I bottled the flambéing bit), added the stock, cooked the steak.

And there it was.


And it was great; a real great combination of flavours, topped off by the slices of truffle on top of the steak. And that sauce, soaked up by the toast. Well, delicious.
For the rest of the evening I lay on the sofa and watched Chelski go through to the last 16 of the Champions League. Not a bad night.

And so, back to Sunday:

Why is it that on days when I can lay in bed all day, if I wanted, I am awake even earlier than weekdays? I was awake at 05:15; I got up and fed the cats then made a fresh pot of coffee, and then sat down to watch a recording of MOTD, with City’s game every bit as painful as a 5-1 defeat should be. In truth, we lost to a good team, maybe a great one, but we did ourselves no favours by not keeping possession and gifting Mancs the second goal. On the plus side we did keep playing, and we only have to play them twice in a season…..

A long way down

After that, we went out for a walk. Well, we drove to the cliffs at Bluebirds, and then walked along the cliffs. It was cold and a little breezy. The only other people out were dogwalkers and golfers. The golfers were playing on Kingsdown course, but were up really early, and there was several of them. At one point, I crawled to the edge of the cliff, and with my arms stretched out before me, took some shots showing the sheer drop to the beach below.

Christmas 2011

Lunchtime, we headed over to the Dover Harbour Board club for Christmas dinner. Yes, Christmas. Jools’ Dad and his wife are heading to Australia for Christmas this weekend, and so last week was the last chance to get together and celebrate before they fly. It was OK, not that bad, really. We all sat round a table, there must have been a dozen of us, and chatted. It really is the only time the whole family gets together. There was a carvery, which was nice not to have to cook.

Christmas 2011

And by three we had all eaten our fill, and it was time to head off, and for some of us, a date with the sofa beckoned with me watching the afternoon game on TV.
And that was your weekend. Just a few more days until we do it all again.

Christmas 2011

Saturday, 3 December 2011

Saturday 3rd December 2011

I guess it would be remiss of me not to comment on what has been described as a protest of the a socialist revolution, depending on which daily newspaper you read. Public sector workers are holding a 24 hour strike to protest about proposed cuts to their pension provisions. I read one nurse saying it would cost her £160 per month just to keep her current levels if these changes go through.
Everyone has the right to withdraw their labour, as long as the unions have gone through the right channels and obeyed all laws governing such actions. I hear talk of change in legislation to limit such actions in the future. Yes, that’s what we want, in the land of the free, the mother of all democracies, make striking against the law, that will keep the folks happy.
I don’t know what the answer is, there are tough decisions to be made for sure, and quite how far up shit creek we are is open to debate. Reducing spending only has the effect of depressing the economy, but then if we don’t reduce spending…..

And the circle is completed.

What strikes me is Eton Boy’s assertion last year that ‘we’re all in this together!’ Are we Dave? I mean, really? Can you survive on minimum wage, pay for housing, food, fuel, a car, clothes for your kid? Not that Tory Boy has any idea what minimum wage is like. Let’s see MPs slash their pension provision to the same extent they are wanting to impose on doctors, nurses, fireman and the like and I might begin to believe we’re all in this together.

But having been to London Town recently, I can see that for some, the current economic climate is another opportunity. Plus la change.

Meanwhile, we all try to keep our jobs, find jobs, and pay our bills.

This week has been more normal, with not trips to London and no shows to see in the evening. we have even had rain, so much on Tuesday, it felt like it never got fully daylight, and i drove to work in the dark and drove home in the dark too. On the trip home, the rain hammered down, and people drove like conditions were just dandy.

And so the weekend rolled round, and after jools went to get fish and chips for dinner, we then settled down to watch the final Harry Potter film which arrived this week. It didn't seem quite as dark as it did at the cinema, and i think it is a fine ending to the series.

More security guard hassle....

And so to today:

Why not visit the country town of Kent? well, it is the busiest day of the year for shopping, and so would that be wise? Well, if we get there early, and get out when we got bored, it could just work.....

So, with the rain still falling, and the BBC insisting that it was going to be a day of blue skies, we set off for the M20. As we headed north, the rain began to fall, sometimes heavy, sometimes just drizzle. But, as we pulled up at the park and ride, the rain did stop and blue skies did threaten to break out.

Robins and Day, Maidstone

we got out in a nondescript street somewhere near the centre of town, and wandered off to find things to photograph, and maybe a cup of coffee.

Maidstone is a mix of the old and new, the bland and the interesting. I snap some of each, but focusing on the old and interesting. we find a fine small place to have breakfast; i have a panini filled with spicy, local sausage, red onions and cheddar cheese. And it was as tasty as that sounds.

Royal Star Arcade, Maidstone

We go to the Archbishop's Palace, and the imposing All Saints church next door. The church is open, and so I go inside and take shots from all angles.

Back outside, we walk back to the centre of town, and the shops were really filling up now, and we made the easy decision to head back to the car and to find a nice country pub in which to have a pint.

We find a place called The Bull at Bethersden. The Christmas ale is not available yet, so I make do with a pint of Late Red and a bag of honey coated peanuts. and then it was time to take a lazy journey home along windy country roads.

And I have just listened to the radio as Norwich got hammered 5-1 by Man city, coming two years to the day after we had got dumped out of the FA cup by Carlisle. It hurts to be thumped like that, but we have come along a long, long way.

Monday, 28 November 2011

Monday 28th November 2011


One night in London; three nights sleep of five hours or less and three nights out watching comedy or music.


And I am shattered. I was more shattered on Saturday, slightly less shattered yesterday, and slightly less shattered today. But, I'm still dog tired. It is five fifteen in the afternoon, and I'm thinking about going to bed.


So, lets go back to Friday. Mulder woke us up at half four in the morning. I got up, made coffee, fed the cats, and made packed lunches for us to take to work. So, I went to work, dropped Jools off on the way, and drove to Ramsgate. And nine hours later, drove back.

I cooked some kind of chicken for dinner. I believe it was a dead chicken, or part of one. I hope it was dead when they liberated it's breast from the rest of it's body. If not, I expect the chicken would have been quite upset, and made quite a scene.

So, we made our way to funky Folkestone, where Ade Edmonson and the Bad Shepherds were playing; we had tickets. Had we not had tickets, I don't think I would have wanted to go, bed sounded really inviting. As it was, it was a cracking gig, punk classics played in a traditional folk style. With banter as you would expect from Vyvian from The Young Ones. And it was packed; we stood at the back, but in front of the mixing desk so the sound was great.

Ade Edmondson and the Bad Shepherds

Yes, it was great; apart from the drunk, dancing dwarf who kept waving his hands and standing on my feet as he tried to persuade his girlfriend to do the same (dance, wave her hands in the air, stand on my toes).

The gig ended, we cheered for an encore, the band came back on and did a version of 'White Riot'. In a new and radical departure, I shall try to embed a video in the blog.

We headed home, and once home we had a quick supper of Christmas Stollen and a cuppa, and then went to bed. Mulder woke us up again at half four. I didn't really get back to sleep.

So, off to Tesco at seven in the morning; it was fairly empty and they had full shelves everywhere. Back home for breakfast of croissants and more strong coffee. I then headed out to Preston to get meat for the month, once again doing this before most folks were up and about and getting back, armed with the meat plus pork scratchings and pork pies in time to lay on the sofa and listen to Danny Baker on the radio.

The forecast was for sunshine!

And then Fighting Talk, and then watch the game on TV.

And sleep.

And then, in the evening, we head out to Deal for an evening with Germany's Comedy ambassador to the UK, Hening Wehn. Link below (hopefully).

We drove to Deal, found a place to park and walked to the Astor Theatre. Our tickets were waiting, and as its a small place, seats are first come, first served. So, sit where you can. And we waited for showtime.

Hening has appeared on several Radio 4 shows, as well as QI on TV, and he is really very good, very good at holding a mirror up to Britain and showing us what we as a nation is like.

We laughed.


The theatre is a wonderful old place, and is a great place to have a comedy club. We even met Hening, but two rude drunken older women butted it, still, it was nice to say how much we enjoyed his work.

Above us, clear skies

Sunday morning, we went for a walk along the lanes near the house. It was a grey and gloomy morning, but it was good to get out and stretch our legs, despite still feeling very tired. I took a few shots, then came back to make the season's first batch of mince pies. They were a disaster, I undercooked them, and then they wouldn't come out of the tin. So we ate them as a pile of pastry and mincemeat; they were still good.


Finally, Sunday afternoon I visited a friend of mine who also lives in the village, to photograph garden birds from his living room. Doesn't sound very rock and roll, but it is always wonderful to watch wildlife at close quarters. And photograph them.

Back home before four to watch the football, and at the same time cook Sunday dinner. Both were good.

and that really is it for the weekend; comedy, music and catching up on sleep.


Friday, 25 November 2011

Friday 25th November 2011

And the newspaper says it is Friday, so that must mean it’s true.

This week has been hectic to say the least, and that will continue into the weekend, only in that in a major change, we have three nights out in a row planned. In fact last night was the first of these, a night in Folkestone watching Jack Dee on stage at the Quarterhouse. It’s a test run prior to him doing stand-up next year on the arena circuit, and he had decided to play Folkestone.
Being a subscriber to their newsletter, we got the heads up and I bought tickets seconds after they went on sale. Just as well I did as they sold out in 10 minutes. So, that’s where we were last night, and as I had also been away for two days, it meant I did not get home until a quarter to eleven, well past bedtime.

From St Pancras

So, for the for the first four day of the week, I did not go into work. Monday and Tuesday, I worked from home, which is always nice. On Monday we had a central heating engineer call round to fix some leaks and other problems. So, inbetween waiting on the various cat’s demands, I got work done and dealt with the engineer when he turned up. Tuesday we were due to have a new tumble dryer delivered, and their best guess was ‘between 8 and 6’ not much help, so I worked from home again. They turned up with our all new quieter, cheaper to run tumble dryer just after two, and went back to work.

Kings Cross

Each evening I sat down to watch football on TV. For some reason I was shattered all week. And that was not helped on Wednesday at getting up at five in the morning so I could catch a train to London. I had been booked on an audit course, and so two days and a night in ‘The Smoke’ was for me.

Russell Square, London

Jools dropped me off at Priory Station, and I was able to get onto the 06:12 train and was soon speeding my way up through the blackness of a Kentish early morning and into a waking London. I got off the train with an hour and 40 minutes to kill before I had to be in the venue; so, I had my camera with me, so I had better go and snap some shots.
I snapped the ongoing work at neighbouring Kings Cross and walked down to Euston Road. I headed west before turning off and walked down towards Russell Square. I found myself walking through some splendid houses, down quite streets. I snapped them all, along with shops, hospitals and colleges. In the end I arrived ain Russell Square, with the venue for the course is found, The Russell Hotel. I walked over to the square and snapped what was going on; mainly dog-walkers and fallen leaves.
Time then to grab a coffee and something to eat before it was time for the course.

The Russell Hotel

The course went on until 5: I won’t bore you with details, just to say it wasn’t as bad as you would imagine, and the day passed quite quickly.

I left the hotel at 5.

Well, should I leave it at that? No, probably. The venue for the course, The Russell Hotel, is a Victorian palace, all marble and chandeliers and bell-hops in uniforms. And I was there in my jeans and plaid shirt, for a conference/course. And the great thing is, most of us were the same, and there we were mixing it with the rich and jetsetters who could afford to stay there. I took a few shots of the lobby and stairs, and was happy enough with that. I was told I could not stay there as the cost for a basic room was an eye-watering £230 a night, with breakfast an extra ££20. I stayed somewhere round the corner and half the price.

The Russell Hotel

I did get to walk across the square, through the fallen leaves, past the fountain and out of the square, round a university, and there was my hotel, a Georgian townhouse, now a boutique hotel. What is a boutique hotel I hear you ask, and I would reply I have no idea. My company booked it, and so I walked in and apparently was in a cross between an office and a living room. My reservation was good, and after checking in, was shown up to my room, six flights of stairs up. The room was fine, big bed and a shower and all the usual facilities. It had a mini-bar, which I have a policy of not using because of the cost and having to explain to my boss why I HAD to have those peanuts.

Russell Square

I laid on the bed and listened to the radio 4 news for an hour before heading out into the night, camera at hand.

I walked down into Bloomsbury to the British Museum, found one pub that was crowded, and another, The Plough, which had room enough for one fat bloke for a pint or two. I then went searching for a place to eat, and settled on a small Greek place. The food was simple, but good: tzusaki followed by mousaka and then coffee and baklava. All very good and in the end, filling.

The Plough, 27 Museum Street, London, WC1A 1LH

And after draining the coffee, I walk back to the hotel to watch the end of the Chelsea game on TV; but the TV did not want to show any ITV channels, so I made do with Sir David Attenborough and another stunning episode of Frozen Planet.

The Museum Tavern 49 Great Russell Street, Bloomsbury, London WC1B 3BA

I had the luxury on Friday of waking up at 7 and laying bed for nearly an hour listening to the radio again, then having a shower, packing then checking out and looking for a place to have breakfast. The café on the square did not take cards, so I had a coffee at an East European place just up from the square, and then I walked to the hotel and back to the course.

At 16:45, the course finished and I raced to St Pancras to try to catch the 17:10 train back to Kent as we had tickets for the Jack Dee show in Folkestone that night. I got to Russell Square station, squeezed into the lift down to platform level right away, and then onto a waiting train. In the end I was climbing onto the train before 5 and I even got a seat. I called Jools to arrange her to meet me at Folkestone, and so I could relax.

Jack Dee: Work in Progress

Once we were near the venue for the show, we found a parking space on the side of the road and with nearly two hours to kill, we went for dinner, a curry, in a place just along the road. I had garlic chilli chicken, which was great. And then we went to the harbour for me to take some shots, and there was even time for a wee dram in The Ship beside the harbour.

Jack was great, and it was wonderful to see him up close, as I had booked seats in the middle of the front row, which worked well as he does not really interact with the audience, so we were not subjected to ire or spite as could have happened.