Thursday, 24 February 2011

Thursday 24th February 2011

Good evening.

The choice of viewing is either watching Liverpool in the Europa League or watching paint dry. There are other channels, hundreds and hundreds of channels, but there is nothing on. I have, in fact, given up looking.

That is a lie of course; I am sure that if I were to look there might well be something to watch, but I have chosen not to. Since that day in November 2006, when I went to sea for the first time, my love affair with television, to give it its official name, is over.
Even now that I don't go to sea, I still don't feel the need to watch if House has cured every disease and found happiness (whichever is more unlikely), there are more corpses in Vegas, Miami and New York than CSI don't know what to do with. I could go on, but won't.
The only thing we have watched these last few weeks was the Spike Lee film, When the Levee Broke, which was wonderful. But once it finished we turned off the TV and went to bed.

So, it is Thursday; Thursday evening. I no longer go to camera club because of the cliques and the sheer ridiculousness of it, and do 'other stuff', which normally involves messing around with photography and pictures anyway, just someone not saying if the shots are any good or not. And not listening to Jezza rambling on about Photoshop, HDR, and all the other stuff.

So, here I am writing; I have caught up on all my periodicals too, so an evening in bed covered in cats seems like a plan.
work is going well; getting things done, fixing problems and making flow diagrams with arrows, decision and process boxes; it'll be great when it's finished.

Spring is in the air, we have snowdrops in the garden as well as crocuses and the daffodils are sprouting well. Heck, it was even warm-ish today!

So, one more day at work, and then two days off and my planned walk along the cliff tops to Folkestone. I used to do it, so it should be no bother, right?

Wish me luck.....

Sunday, 20 February 2011

Sunday 20th February 2011

Good afternoon.

Or possibly good evening, as it is five after midday and I was never sure as to when the cut off between afternoon and evening is. Maybe it's five; in which case it is evening; early evening, or maybe late afternoon. There are still football matches being played. Probably. So, whatever.

Anyway, it is late afternoon/early evening, dusk is falling and the mist rolling in once more as the day turns from light to dark grey to black. It has been a mild, damp and misty weekend, with no sunshine and little light to break the gloom. But that did not stop us from enjoying ourselves.

We get up fairly early, and after what has become our breakfast of choice on a Saturday, croissants, we head up the a2 to Bluewater for some shopping, hoping to get there before the rest of Kent and get out again with our sanity intact.


I would like to say the drive up the A2/M2 was pleasant, but in heavy spray and heavier traffic, it was enough to arrive safely and without delay. That we were the slowest car on the road, and the maniacs carried on speeding as though there were perfect conditions is another matter. No police to point out the error of their ways, and even less in the future of course.

Bluewater is a shopping Mall a few miles from the Dartford crossing, built in the remains of an old chalk pit, with parking to 10,000 cars. At nine, the opening time there were about 9,500 empty spaces to choose from,a nd so we park near an entrance and go in.


We go into House of Frasier to buy me some aftershave, into the Sony shop to try and get a cover for Jools' Walkman and finally a date with the fancy nut and snack stall before it was time to head to Faversham and meet up with friends.

Faversham is on a creek which flows into the Medway and then into the Thames, and brewing of beer has happened without interruption since 1692. And I had booked a tour around the brewery that still produces fine Kentish Ales to this day from the same location.

Shepherd Neame Brewery tour 19th February 2011

We met up with our friend, Bob, for a drink and then dinner before heading to the brewery for the tour to begin. Another friend, Frances, joined us. I had a pre-tour beer just in case. In case of what I don't know. And then it was a short film and a walk round the brewery and back to the bar for some tasting of beer and buy more beer, if needed before it was time to head back home again.

Shepherd Neame Brewery tour 19th February 2011

And today; well, after our glorious victory in the pub quiz the other week, our prize were vouchers for a carvery meal, and today is when we cashed them in. 13 of us met at the Harbour Board Social Club for a meal, chat and a drink; and very nice it was too. Doubly so when it's free and there is no washing up!

Shepherd Neame Brewery tour 19th February 2011

And just like that the weekend goes and Monday looms up behind us. Oh well, just another 5 days and we can do it all again......

Thursday, 17 February 2011

Thursday 17th February 2011

Good evening.

As I looked up at the night sky last night, I was surprised to see that the moon was once again almost full. Which means that some two weeks has passed since I looked up at it last and it was just a sliver. I say this to make the point at how time flies; tempus fugit I believe is the phrase on the street these days.

Or not.

Already it is the 17th of the month, the second month of the year; is this what happens, the days of our lives just slip by, like grains of sand through our fingers?

Each morning I wake up to the sound of business news on Radio 5, and every day it is full of grim economic news for the average person, but huge bonuses for bankers, and trying to justify both. I don’t know; can’t we just have our money back? Wages are going down but prices are going up, and clearly at some point things will reach a breaking point. And the latest news is our caring sharing coalition government is trying to get hundreds of thousands off sickness benefit and back into work, just as the economy contracts and there are less and less jobs. How, exactly, is that going to work?

So, back to this weeks events; not much of any importance has happened; I go to work, and write procedures and mails and flow diagrams and hope that they have some effect. And then come home, pick up Jools, cook dinner and then relax for a couple of hours before its bedtime and then get up and do it all again. And so the days, weeks and months pass. On a plus point, I don’t feel the executioner’s axe over my head quite so much these days, but there is a warning that he is still out there and that no one can be sure they are safe.

Oh great.

So, lets make the most of things and do stuff at the weekend. We are planning either to go to Bluewater or Lakeside this weekend. We are planning it like a military operation; get up early, leave early, be there when the doors open, do our stuff and get out before the crowds arrive. And then do other stuff, like visit a castle of garden and take pictures. But the weather may have a say on what we do after the shopping as heavy rain is forecasted; so we shall see.

And then on Sunday, we are cashing in our free meal vouchers which we won the other week at the quiz, and go for a Sunday carvery with the family at the Harbour Board.

And this news just in: Brewery tour! Yes, why not spend the afternoon walking round the oldest brewery in the country, sampling their wares and the such? I could not think of a reason not to, and we’re off to Faversham on Saturday afternoon.

Sunday, 13 February 2011

Sunday 13th February 2011


And good afternoon. And welcome to Sunday. Sunday afternoon. The long dark reatime of the soul approaches.

It is a dull, grey and damp weekend. and so we are having a quiet day, with Jools' Nan coming round for dinner.

So, the weekend; and our rock and roll lifestyle.

After leaving work on Friday I called in at Tesco to do the weekly shop. At the till the cashier saw my branded top from work, and asked if i worked on the wind turbines. I confirmed this, not expecting her next question.

What do the wind turbines do?

Flummoxed, I said er, it generates free electricity.

when do I get y free electricity she asked.

well, if you would like to put up three quarters of a billion pounds, we can build you a windfarm, and after the nine years it takes to pay the loans off, you get 11 years free electricity.

She seemed happy with that, not as happy as me to get out of there.

I picked up Jools and we went home. Pizza is one of our favourite meals, and so I bought a couple for dinner, with the thought it would be easy for us to cook and then relax.

Saturday dawned grey, but with little wind. And after breakfast of coffee and croissants, we headed out for a walk along the cliffs.

Life on the edge

There is nothing quite like a walk along the cliffs, the views ever change as the seasons move on; sometimes we can see France, the flora changes and even in winter we pass other walkers. Some of these are locals, but others are visitors from all over the world, taking in the sights and sounds of these famous cliffs.

As I said, it was a grey day, but there was plenty to see; even edging to the cliffedge, and peering down to the beach below is a thrill, as is watching the ferries zipping back and forward to France.

Ghost ship

I met a couple from Ipswich, down in Dover for the first time, and filled them in some local details, they seemed happy enough, even with the mud underfoot. and we squelshed our way up and down the paths all the way to the edge of Dover.

We stopped at the National Trust place, for a toilet break, the coffee shop was yet to open, and so we turned round and headed back home.

The afternoon was spent on the sofa listening to the football, and once again Norwich score the winner with the final kick of the game to stay in 2nd place. It's going to be an exciting end to the season.

In the evening, after dinner of jacket spuds, we sat down to watch the second part of When the Levee Broke; things got no better once the flood waters went down.

And today has been a day of chores; vacuuming, ironing and tidying in general. Nothing exciting, but at time required. And now more football this time on TV.

Saturday, 12 February 2011

The digital decade

It is February 2011; nothing odd about that. Well, it was a decade ago that I joined the digital revolution, or at least the online version.

A decade ago, after a week of gate guard, I went home with an AOL disc in my hand, powered the mighty computer on and loaded the disc and waited. And waited.

But of course that waiting was nothing compared to the waiting ahead.

Once loaded, all these wonderful icons on the desktop, I double clicked on the AOL one and listened to the soon to familiar sound of the modem dialling.

And wait.

And wait.

And in time, I got the welcome to AOL page.

I looked at the screen expecting the tidal wave on information to swamp me at any moment. I looked and the screen looked back. I saw there was an e mail in box, and I had a mail. Welcome to AOL it said. Thanks.

Now, thanks to an aborted college course 18 months previous, and so was aware of search engines. I saw a box in which to enter a word to search. So, I typed

Pen pals.

Yes, I decided I needed a full inbox and that digital friends was the way to ensure this happened. So, I clicked on a link, waited, waited. The page loaded. I clicked on the link to the ads section. And begin to scroll down.

After a while I selected people to respond to I wrote initial letters. And, I did get many replies, and with some of them I did make real friends. I say friends, because that is what I made. I had not met any of them yet, but it turns out that I would meet some in the future. So, my weekends began to be filled with writing letters to and from people all over the world. I guess some of us learned how each other lived, and how that despite our distances, our lives are pretty similar.

I am writing this because I have received three mails today, one from one of those first friends, one from what could be called the middle period and one from a recent Flickr contact. I have never met any of them and yet I know details of their lives I don’t know of closest ‘real friends.’ Their news was not good; I feel every bit of their pain, really.

I guess my point is that a lot of folks we meet online have real lives and real problems; very real problems. And we share in their ups and downs, revel in their triumphs and feel their pain.

My thoughts are with three of my friends who are dealing with problems that dwarf anything I have ever dealt with. Stay strong my friends, i am with you in spirit.

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Tuesday 8th February 2011

So, this week I am conducting an experiment to see how long I can go without the interwebs. Or, how long can I co without Flickr and Facebook. But, mostly Flickr.

I wake up in the morning, get dressed and Jools put the 'puter on so I can check my photostream. I answer mails, make comments whilst eating breakfast. And leave enough time to make lunch, clean my teeth before we head out to work. And it makes me grumpy; not having more time.

The view from my office.

As well as so much of my spare time taken up with photography and Flickr in particular, there really isn't enough time for everything else in life i want to do; reading, music, football and so on.

So, from Sunday evening, no Flickr, no Facebook, well in the morning and at home. I can use my phone to check on messages and the like from both accounts. So, how'd it go, Ian?


Well, no bad moods, even with little sleep, and the Steelers losing the Superbowl, I was fine. Lesson learned. I came home last night, made dinner, had a shower and read some magazines, and when tired went to sleep. Woke up refreshed and fine again.

Damn you interwebs!

Work has been fine, my boss in in Denmark and I have a stack of stuff to be getting on with. I have radio 6 streaming whilst I work. Life is good.

Ramsgate Harbour

And then today the sun came out. I mean it really shone bright. So, I decided to take my cameras in, and go for a walk into town, and have lunch at one of the harbourside cafes and take it all in. It really was very nice.

I sat and drunk espressos and ate French Onion soup, before wandering back to my office. t was all rather great.

Feeding the gulls

Sunday, 6 February 2011

Sunday 6th February 2011

Another weekend over.

just like that.

Not like that.

As seems the usual way, we began the weekend with a canter around Tesco; or I did, as Jools had not finished for the week. and so as her bus pulled up I was walking to the car with trolley loaded with stuff and ready to go home.

I had forgotten Jools was out that night having a meal with people culled just before Christmas from her factory. So I had bought a chicken and chorizo paella for us, which was too much for me. and so as Jools left for the meal I was cooking egg banjos, fried egg sandwiches to you.

I had, as the day had progressed, that i would like to watch the rugby from Wales; and yet like formula 1, the idea was much better than the experience. And even with England winning I turned it over, watched some Futureama before finding Spike Lee's When the Levee Broke. I had always wanted to watch this, and so I sat down and as the program went on, mistake after mistake after sheer incompetence unfolded. And as always, it is the people who have to deal with it, or die.

So many people died, in America. In America. Whilst the President looked on, and Ms Rice went shopping, Dick went fishing whilst none of them looked at a TV. And when they did, it was too late, civilisation had broken down.

The stories made your heart weep, and I hope that lessons on how city, state and federal levels will work together and who will make the decisions.

Anyways, Saturday, it was the annual Dover winter ales Beer Festival, and something too good to miss.

My friend, Matt, was coming in from Ashford, and so Jools dropped me off in the centre of Dover for me to wait for his train. Once he turned up, we headed to Snargate street for breakfast and to catch up on life, work and all the other things two guys talk about.

Admiralty Pier, Dover

We headed to the old Admiralty Pier, as it was high tide and a gale blowing, just to have a look if the sea was worth snapping. As it turned out the sea was getting up, but was just confused as it was still two hours to high water. We made do with snapping the interior of the pier, at the walkway that took generations of travellers from their trains to ferries and ships. And many soldiers to troop carries to take them to the battlefields of Europe.

CAMRA White Cliffs Winter Ale Festival

And then it was time to head to the town hall for the beers festival. we walked the streets as the wind tried, and succeeded in blowing my hat off, and the rain came down. Once inside the town hall, be bought our glasses, beer tokens and made our first choice of the day and then found a table where some of Matt's friends sat, and soaked up the beer and atmosphere.

Oh, Mr Porter!

So, I had eight half pints of beer, some of them quite strong; and I knew I was at my limit. Matt had to head home, and so I called Jools and arranged to meet at the train station. Matt and I set off back into the wind and rain, and then for him to his train, and me with Jools home and to bed to sleep the afternoon away.

Today; another wet and windy day. We had two friends come over for dinner, and so after bacon butties for breakfast, Jools went out to tidy the garden and I began to cook. I made a huge pan of stew for next week. Although it will probably go in two days, and then prepared the vegetables and meat for dinner.

I made roast beef, Yorkshire Pudding and all the trimmings. And they brought trifle. We had a fine lunch indeed, and my attention was soon wandering as a result of wine and a poor nights sleep last night. I must remember not to have strong coffee and hour before bedtime.

All that is left is the Superbowl; although for the first time in years I will not watch it all, as I am off to work in the morning, not wanting to ask for yet more time off. and it is my team, the Steelers, taking part. well, it won't affect the result if I watch or not, and I'm not going into work with less than two hours sleep!

Next week i am going to have internet free, and so I won't be here until Friday. I have been spending more and more time online, and I think I need a break.

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Tuesday 1st February 2011

And so we waved goodbye to Sami as she sat on the train to London , we walked back to our car, turned around and headed back home.

It is quite surprising how absolutely shattered we were, or I certainly was after the week’s exertions. We went back home, put the kettle on and slumped down on the sofa. Phew!

Julie had a course at lunchtime, and so we had an early lunch before she headed out to Folkestone, leaving me behind to work through the hundreds of shots I had taken. As usual, there was football on the radio, and so I alternated between snoozing on the sofa and stuff on the computer.

Sunday we headed back over to Rye as I had booked us in for Sunday lunch, as I had so enjoyed the Mermaid when Sami and I went in for coffee the week before. We had some stuff to get from Folkestone first, mainly cat food. Feeding four hungry cats; that should be three hungry cats and an elderly contrary one, can be, is, expensive; so the chance to get 50% off means we got a bootfull and enough until the end of next month, hopefully.

#5 Hercules

We drove along the coast through Hythe, Romney before heading over the march to Dymchurch where there is a café near the station. We had enough time for a walk to the beach before we had to head to Rye and get there in time for our reservation. As you would expect, all manner of Sunday drivers were holding us up, and it was just before half past when we made it into the town. And then we had to make our way through the town and the parked cars, find a place to park, and then walk up the steep cobbled street to the Mermaid.

I've never had a Speckled Hen like this!

The Mermaid was rebuilt in AD 1420, and very much looks its age. It is timber-framed, wattle and daubed, and the timber frame have settled so the building is every angle except right ones. We walked in the main entrance, down the corridor painted with famous Elizabethan figures, and were shown to our table by the window. It was a leaded light window of course, I wouldn’t have expected anything less to be honest.

Pana Cotta with coconut and raspberry conserve

The waiter asked us what we would like to drink; I chose Speckled Hen and Jools chose cider. Both were brought in silver tankards. We ordered starters and then main course; fried risotto balls followed by roast beef for both of us. In the meantime we looked around and sampled our surroundings. It was all very nice indeed.
The starter arrived, and was beautifully presented with a savoury jus adding colour and pattern to the plate. The food was wonderful, needless to say.

The roast beef arrived and was well done, but melt in the mouth tender; it came with roast potatoes, Yorkshire Pudding (of course) and seasonal root vegetables. Along with the beer and a small glass of red wine, it was wonderful.

Coffee, Plum + Armagnac and pistachio ice creams in a wafer basket with a sugar thing net roof.

We even had a dessert; Jools had Pana Cotta with coconut and raspberry conserve and I had Coffee, Plum + Armagnac and pistachio ice creams in a wafer basket with a sugar thing net roof. Both looked stunning; so stunning we snapped each others dish before tucking in.

Would we like to retire to the lounge and have a coffee before leaving we were asked? It was too good an offer to decline, so we went into the lounge, sat beside the fire and waited for the coffee and petit fours to arrive; along with the bill. Ow, that was a shock, but the meal and surroundings were just amazing.

Time then to head home and get ready for the working week ahead. All good things come to an end, and the week off had.

Not a good start to the week was another round of redundancies announced by head office, hitting many people in our department. At the end of the day, a presentation came round with organisation charts of how we all fit in to the new, leaner company. Only me or my boss were not mentioned. And so the waiting goes on. Talk was of realignment, with no guarantee of where or if we fitted in.

First thing this morning a mail came round saying my boss has been promoted, or has a new title, and there is me on the flow diagram still working for him. YAY. Hopefully this is it now, the end of the sackings and redundancies and we can get on with working without the executioner’s axe poised over our necks.