Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Tuesday 26th April 2011

Bank Holiday Monday.

And the sun did shine again! Quite how we’ll feel when we get the usual Bank Holiday weather is another matter. And we have seven whole days to wait for the next one!
We decided to have a really quiet morning, the cats ran around being happy just having us there I guess. The birds sang in the garden, the sun shone from a clear blue sky. It really was very nice indeed.

In the afternoon we drove into Dover to see Jools’ nephew drive in banger racing. Well, not quite bangers, budget stocks, which allows contact but no dangerous stuff. The track is at the end of a long valley to the north of the town, and the only way there is along a single track road. Of course most should be heading the same direction, but as usual there are one or two who are going the wrong way and cause us trouble in finding a passing place.

wheel to wheel

It was £18 for us both to get in, which came as a shock, and for that you got a spot in a field to park your car, and the rest is up to you. The track is in a bowl at the bottom of the hill, there is some fairly robust fencing to protect the crowd, some rudimentary toilets and that is about it. Judging by the smell there was somewhere that did chips and the such. Now, one thing to point out is that banger and stock racing seems to attract a certain demographic; certaily having armfulls of tattoos helps you to belnd it, as soes close cropped hair cuts for me and a gaggle of small children for women. Drinking from cans of Fosters or Strongbow will also ensure you look one of the crowd. Some came prepared with picnic hampers, cool bags or even bbqs, all set for a fine afternoon looking at men vs machinery action and lots of crashes.

Still, it is good to get out of our boxes every now and again, isn't it?

After some waiting the racing began, the track kicked up large amounts of dust, but the racing was good. I got some shots from the car, then walked down to the pits to speak with George and Jools’ brother, Mike, before getting a place on a bank looking along the back straight for better shots.


And that was it really, races came and went, stocks tore round fairly damage free, bangers went mental, or rather their drivers did, with cars going both ways around the track as scores were settled for perceived infringements form earlier.
George’s race came round, he was quickly up to second and doing well, but on the third lap, something in the engine let go and he cruised to the centre of the track.
That there were some nine more races planned, and it was so very hot, and quite frankly we were getting a tad bored, we headed home for tea and saffron buns and for me to listen to yet more football on the radio.

Mud racer

Yes, more football. And this time it was just football league, as the season is now reaching it’s climax, and City still in 2nd going into their third from last game. And it was breathless, exciting stuff, as Norwich twice took the lead only for Derby to claw it back. And so it stayed until the 6th minute of injury time as City got yet another late, late goal to take all three points, reclaim 2nd spot and Deny QPR their promotion party, at least for a few days.

In the evening we sat down to watch the new Tron film, as although the original wasn’t exactly Citizen Cane, it wasn’t bad; so this one would be great, right? Er, no. It stank. And stank like last week’s fish guts too. Full of faux Zen-isms, and visuals taking up 99% of the budget and the script written on the back of a fag packet, it was a relief when it finished. Jools and I then spent half an hour discussing the plot holes before sleep took us from this world.

Sunday, 24 April 2011

Sunday 24th April 2011

And today the Lord is risen. And the children of the free world are showered with chocolate eggs, as nothing celebrates the rebirth of our saviour than a chocolate egg or two.
This being the most important festival in the Christian calendar, one would have thought we could agree on a date when it would be celebrated. But no, there is a formula when it can and can't be. And this year, Easter is almost as late as it can be, some 26 days after the first new moon after the spring equinox (but not on passover, because that would mean celebrating on the same days as the Jews, and that would never do). So, we have Good Friday on the 22nd of April, and glorious weather all round, and it all being rather marvellous. The earliest Good friday can be is the 22nd of March, and it can be chuffing cold that early, but the British will still sit on promenades up and down the land trying to eat ice creams in force ten glaes whilst trying to convince each other that they are HAVING A REALLY GOOD TIME.

Bluebells at Kings Wood, Challock

So, yesterday (and today) the day dawned with a glorious sunrise and clear blue skies and no wind to speak of, so we won't speak of it again! After a quick breakfast we climbed into the car to head once again to Kings Wood near Challock, as my little spies had told me the bluebells were now, at last, at their peak. And they were to be proved right.

The roads were quiet at half six in the morning, and by the time we reached the car park, the sun was quite high in the sky, but there were just three other cars parked.

The path and the Bluebells

In fact, even before we got to the car park, the woods either side of the main road were full of bluebells. So full it looked like a blue carpet. It may seem simple to say that, but there are really no other words to describe the scene.

As we walked deeper into the woods, the bluebells just got thicker and thicker and the colours blue deeper and deeper. Most stunning was when one looked along the line of a bank of bluebells, or where the rays of the rising sun fell through the woodland canopy causing apparently every shade of blue and purple to be seen.

Kings Wood, Challock

Just when you though you had seen the most glorious scene, the next one was even better. And being so early, we had the woods almost to ourselves. We heard a large commotion amongst te trees, and expecting to see a gaggle of cross country cyclists coe crashing by, instead over 20 roe deer ran past, too quickly for me to raise my camera, and away they went.

after a couple of hours, we made our way back to the car and then back home, this time via Waitrose as we needed something for lunch and some salad stuff. As it happened, the bread and rolls from there is very fine, and so is everything really. On top of what we need, we bought mozzarella and huge tomatoes for lunch, which in the gloriously hot sunshine went down very well indeed.

Into the sun #2

I lay on the sofa as outside was too hot, and watched the Cardiff vs QPR game, the result going City's way as QPR get a late equaliser and our destiny is back in our hands.

And so after more coffee and another couple of saffron buns we headed out for an evening walk in the cooling air of a spring evening.
My hopes of snapping a butterfly or two would prove fruitless, but it was pleasant enough as signs of new growth were all around. We made our way to the cliff edge at Dover Patrol, and looked out onto the almost still Channel, and dozens of people out enjoying the scene as much as we did, and there were more than a few campers taking advantage of the free pitches overlooking the Channel.

Another local horse

A group of Hutterian Brethren were having a meal on the cliffs, thier woman dressed modestly with shawls on the heads, but they were full of joy. A well spoken older family from staffordshire were having a picnic, celebrating a birthday or two with a bottle of Champagne and some fine snacks. Nice that they envy us for living here; and we at least know how lucky we are.

we walk back through the village in the gathering gloom, and make it back in tie to put some chicken things in the over, prepare a salad and tuck in as the lights came on and the stars came out.

Blooming nettles

Today was just as warm and sunny; we lay in bed quite late, half seven, and then had a lazy breakfast before heading out to pick Nan up to take her for a drive, mainly to see the bluebells at Kings Wood, and then drive the leafy Kentish lanes, stop for an ice cram and a pint a little later.

We drove the same way he had the day before, the only difference being the much later hour. This was reflected in the overflowing car park at the woods, but as we were not planning to stop, this was not trouble for us. we drove on the Wye, stopped for an ice cream, and then decided to try and retrace our steps from the drive we had the week before.
we failed, but after passing may junctions with no signs, we headed to Elham where we knew there were at least three good pubs and the chance of getting a seat and a pint in one of them.

The Hutterian Brethren celebrate Easter on the cliffs at St Margarets.
we did get our drink, and then time to head back as Nan had a dinner appointment at half two, and we were feeling hungry and in need of some lunch.

And so another lazy spring day passed quietly by, with just Mulder bringing in a fledgling blackbird still flapping and chirping in by way of a present. I put it back in the hedge and hoped it not too damaged by it's trip into Chez Jelltex.

Time then to put a joint of beef in the oven and rustle up a Sunday roast, and that really was it for another day.

Friday, 22 April 2011

Saturday 23rd April 2011

St George's Day.

(Not) Bank Holiday, England.

It does not feel like Saturday, looking outside I can only see myself looking back in as it is still dark. a combination of a few things meant I have been awake since three and up since four.

I have fed one cat, she was asking all cute like, the crazy cat has walked through the living room and is probably gnawing on Jools' nose as she did mine yesterday. She could have just meowed here and I would have fed her, but that would be too simple.

It is the four day weekend and the sun is shining and even yesterday it was hot. Not just warm, but hot. Hot as in too hot to sit in the back garden at half nine in the morning reading. Hot as in going for a mid-afternoon snooze on the bed even though I had not touched a drop of the cooking sherry.

Wild garlic at Waldershare

And its going to be pretty much the same today. And tomorrow. And its a double bank holiday; has the world gone mad? It should be raining with people huddled inside shelters wearing gaberdine macs eating cold chips all the while telling themselves they're having a good time. How can folks do that if the sun is shining and we're all wearing Bermuda shorts and knotted hankies?

And if the burning ball of gas eight and a half light minutes away shining from a clear blue sky wasn't enough, we have a Royal Wedding to look forward to. I say look forward to, those of you paying attention will remember we're leaving the country on Thursday for the duration. I don't begrudge anyone happiness, even a Royal, but when the country has gone to shit and it's all the BBC seems to think we care about. well, best to turn it off and look for your passport.

But let me stop grumbling, yes really. As life is good; the garden is coming ever more alive, the birds are singing, as I write this an owl is hooting mournfully, probably sad he didn't get a wedding invite either!

And there is football. Yes, football.

I have supported norwich for some 38 years, and as i said there has been a whole lot of thin and not a lot of thick in those nearly four decades. But this season the good times have been continuing after a great year last year in the 3rd division, and now we are just three games away from possible promotion back to the Premier league which would mean more money, but also lots of defeats. But that could be in the future. For now things are great and getting better. And with four games to go, all against teams well below us and games we could win all of, first up was the enemy. Ipswich; or as the wag on the radio put it, The Old Farm Derby! Oh, how i laughed.

For years, certainly when I was at school, City lived in Town's shadow. But things are more even these days, and even though we only got promoted back to this level this year, we are ten places above them in the league and with the chance of glory, whilst their season peters out towards the summer.

Wild Garlic

All Town fans had to look forward to was the chance for their team to fatally derail our promotion push. Sadly, Thursday night's game was not on TV, so those of us who could not go had to make do with listening to it on the radio. City should have won, but local derbies can be nervous and a shock result is possible.

One nil.

Two nil.

And that was halftime, City cruising and having a great time.

Three nil.

Three on. Four one.

And just enough time for another breakaway goal to make it five.

Five one.

I was running round the living room whooping as the goals rained in, I could hear the chants of cheerio, cheerio ringing around the empty stands of Portman Road as the Town fans left to catch an early train home.

In the cosmic scale of things it means no more than three points, but it was the biggest win by City over our rivals, coming a few months after the previous record was set, 4-1. heady days indeed, but we need to keep our heads as there is another game on Monday which is even more important now.

Apart from football, I organised a flickrmeet yeasterday, not very far away in Waldershare Woods, as the wild garlic is in full bloom. Only four of us turned up, but it was nice enough, walking in the woods to where the wild garlic lays thick like snowdrifts.
As we walked through it, the bruised leaves released the scent of garlic, for our three friends, they had not seen this scene before, and thought it as wonderful as we did.
We all snapped away.

Bluebells at Waldershare

After a quick visit to the church, we all headed our ways back home for lunch, and for me to bake a batch of saffron buns. Soon the warm air was heavy with the sell of rising and then baking bread, mixed with the scent of saffron. We sat on the patio, the heat of the day now cool enough for us to sit there under the blue sky, eating buttered buns, sipping a fresh cuppa and all the while telling ourselves, we live here. We really do.

Happy Easter.

Thursday, 21 April 2011

Thursday 21st April 2011

Easter is nearly here. The clock is counting down towards leaving off time, and I am listening to old Desert Island Disc shows streamed from the interwebs.
Summer has arrived very early, for what seems like the umpteenth day in a row, the sun is beating down from a clear blue sky and the temperatures are again in the low 70s. And the good news is that it is going to stay like than until Tuesday at least.

And so we are almost on the bottom of the long, gentle slope heading towards the four day weekend. I could head off now, but will stay until four in case something terrible happens; there always has to be trade cover in the bay.

Never mind the Bollards.....

The week has been fine; the weather has been glorious and I drive to and back to work under clear blue skies with the sun beating down. In the evenings we watch the moon rise and light up the village like a ginat spotlight. Whilst our garden wakes ever more up, the daffodils have dies, the tulips are in their prime now. And the next colour is growing like mad.

And as we sat outside in our garden last night, the swallows arrived from their long migration and swooped with joy catching bugs in the evening air. They chirped with joy, and who wouldn't not be happy to be back in Kent?

Before that we had been to Tesco for the big shop; so to not have to do it tonight. In truth it wasn't bad, but the shelves had been cleared of salad stuff and most bread. But we got the essentials; milk, bread and fruit. The rest we can get over the weekend as and when we need it.


For the weekend we have little planned; another couple of walks in the woods to see the wild garlic in flower and to see, at last, the bluebells in their glory. And there may be other photograph related malarkey to be done, football to be watched and the usual.
City play the Auld enemy tonight; a win for us would see us back to second in the league and maybe a seaon in the Prem ahead. For Town the chance to prevent just that from happening. Its not on TV, but is on radio, and I shall be listening to every kick and word.
Me may indeed lay in bed of the mornings, and have the cats come and join us. And then lay in the silence, maybe with the news headlines in the background, and listen to the world wake up. Our world mainly means the birds singing in the trees and letting the whole world how they feel about that.

And so, let the weekend begin and bring on the long summer days and evenings.

Pimms all round methinks.

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Tuesday 19th April 2011

Tuesday, and half past week. And the 19th April is the date I started with Vestas last year, what seems life a lifetime ago. Both Vestas and I have come a long way; initially distrustful, we now seem to be deeply in love and getting on like a house on fire.
I remember those first weeks, months even, when I really didn't know what I should be doing, or how I should be doing it, attending weekly meetings with nothing to show for what I had been doing.

And then it clicked, and I haven't really looked back.

So, we are both looking forward to a glorious future building turbines as far as the eye can see, producing cheap, renewable electricity. That's the plan, anyways.

Half past week as I say, as Friday is a holiday; Good Friday of course. And the first day of a four day weekend, and the first of two four day weekends back to back. We are so lucky!

Work is quiet; most in Denmark began their vacation last week; which is why I had to fly Ryanair, as just about every Dane was heading for somewhere else. So, I get stuff doen, go over figures all the time whils the radio burbles in the background. Its not bad, really.

Hopefully, we will go for a walk this evening, as it is glorious in England right now, more than ten degrees about normal April temperatures, and wall to wall glorious sunshine. It really is good to be alive.

We watched the full moon rise over the village last night, through the boughs of our tree in the back garden. It was bright red turning to yellow as it climbed higher. We can track the seasons with the waxing and waning of the moon and as the rising sun appears each morning further and further east. I never noticed these things before.

So, nearly time to go home, driving into the setting sun and meet Jools off the bus. Life is, indeed, still good my friends.

Sunday, 17 April 2011

Sunday 17th April 2011

I will begin with a look back.

15 years ago today, my Father died. Nothing amazing about that, time passes and in truth I had to look at the calendar for April 1996 to be sure of the exact date.

He was cycling home from work, got off to walk up the slight hill over the bridge at Oulton Broad, and in the word of the paramedic on scene, his heart just ran out of steam. He felt no pain, he fell to the ground dying.

For the rest of us, of course, there was the shock. I was stationed in Germany at the time and the Orderly Officer and Duty SNCO came knocking on my door. I thought it was my Grandfather's time, but no, worse than that. Although, fate dealt me a hand which meant that Granddad passed away three days later. Yes, three days later. My blood relatives went in total from five to three just like that.

In my 15 years in the RAF, this was the only occasion that the organisation worked; a seat on the VIP flight from Bruggen into London the next morning, an MT car on the runway to take me to my Mother's and a bucket load of understanding from Insworth.

But, life goes on, and as the adage goes, time heals. Hardly a day goes by when i don't think of him, so I don't think of him more or less on the 17th april. I still miss him and regret I will never have the chance for one talk to clear the air, find out what I should do.

But, I have a lifetime of his and my Mother's teachings and instructions, so I should do fine.

So, in my last blog i left me in a grim airport hotel at Billund in Denmark. Could it have been really that bad?


Thing about hotels at airports is that there is never quiet. Flights in and out until late and then warming aircraft up from five. I was lucky I got any sleep at all, really.
The hotel did no food and so I had to walk to the terminal building and get something there. Something was burger and fries and another 0.75l Easter beer. I walked back to the room, listened to the radio on the computer and went to bed with earplugs in.

I was awake again before five, as the aircraft had their engines warmed up and light began to show over the horizon. At seven I went down for breakfast and had a roll with chocolate spread and lots of coffee.

I packed and walked to the departure lounge, checked in, got my boarding card and sat in the cafe after walking through security to read some more.

The charge for the gate began at 10:15, but I had priority boarding and so had the choice of seats. Five minutes later everyone else got on board and got what seats they could.

Rape seed plant.

I had a window seat and so watched as we taxied and took off; we climbed and banked and then flew along the coast towards Holland with the wide sandy beaches and seaside towns way below us. It was glorious, even if you could block out the constant selling the crew were trying to impose on us passengers.

We landed at Stansted; London Stansted, so near London it takes nearly and hour by train to reach Liverpool Street. I already had my ticket, and got an empty carriage, but it soon filled up with people from my flight, all chattering away in danish about heading to London.

Sadly, for a first experience of England, the Stansted Express is a grim one; tired trains, crowded, no room for luggage and seats so small and close together so not to be comfortable at all and had me wishing i was back on the Ryanair flight.

I got off at Tottenham Hale and caught the tube to St Pancras, and 15 minutes later the Javelin was whisking me under the London streets out into Essex and then into Kent and home.

Jools was waiting for me, and took me home where i proceeded to relax, make myself a huge cup of coffee and begin the weekend in earnest.

Come in No. 77, etc.

That night, Norwich were on TV, playing Nottingham Forest; it was a nervy game, but City ran out 2-1 winners which meant the weekend was relatively stress-free as we could sit andlisten to others' scores knowing our work had been done.


Saturday dawned bright but with some high cloud. we decided to head to the Isle of Sheppy for a walk in the spring sunshine, and so headed off before nine and headed out into the holiday traffic.

Our first call was a secluded wood near here where we knew the wild garlic should been nearly in bloom. As I feared they are about a week away from being glorious, but then there is always next week, isn't there?

Once on the Isle the traffic thinned, and we took the narrow track over the marsh towards Harty. The fields were alive with colour as the rape seed was out in bloom. we stopped at a viewing point to watch Marsh Harriers swoop for prey, before driving on to the church and where our walk would begin.

Wild Garlic

We walked down the lane to the path, dodging tractors pulling carts of slurry to put onto the fields. A nice country smell could be detected!

To the dark side you have gone, my young Padowan.

And then onto the sea-defences and looking at the insects already out looking for food so early in the year. I took a few shots and got some good 'uns, before we realised it was nearly midday and time for lunch.

we walked to the ferry Inn and ordered ploughman's, or as they called them, ferrymen's, and sat down outside to catch the last of the sun as the clouds bubbled up just as foretasted.

Pollen season time again

On the way home we went to a bathroom showroom as we may just be having some work done in June, and we wanted to see what our meagre savings might buy.

And then back home for more coffee and relaxation before thinking about dinner of fresh bread and the left over cheese from my strip to Holland the week before.

And today we headed off back to Kings wood near Challock to look at the bluebells again. It was a wonderful spring day; clear blue skies and lots of sunshine. we walked for an hour and a half, but the bluebells were not quite at their best yet, and so another trip next week will be required.

We stopped off at Wye for a loaf of bread, ice cream and a drink. That done we headed up the chalk downs for what we thought would be fine views over the low lying land. Sadly, our route was blocked, so we took the first clear turning and headed into unknown villages, passing new churches and pubs. I don't know why I did not stop to photograph, but there is always next week isn't there?

Kings Wood, Challock

and that is it; back to work on the morrow, for four days anyway until it is Easter and the first of two four day weekends!

Bring it on!!

Thursday, 14 April 2011

Thursday 14th April 2011

Hello and good evening. And welcome to the hotel balnd at Billund Airport. It is an easy target, but a hotel at an airport is never going to be terribly swish, but this really is not very good even in that low company. I could have got a flight home tonight, but did not know if I would finish my presentation in time to catch said flight. So, book a nights accodation and rise, relaxed in the morning.

If there are no noisy aircraft taking off or landing, and what are the chances of that happening at an airport, right?

So, back to this hotel. There restaurant is not open tonight, and so we have to walk over to the terminal to get something to eat there. I am already looking forward to that trip I can tell you. My room is more barrack-like than I care to admit. It does come with a flatscreen TV, which a quick flick through the channels showed the Danish royal family on four of the nine choices. Just like being home, really. Seems like the royals were on a boat and not one of them had insulted someone from an ethnic minority; they really must try harder.

Esbjerg, Denmark

So, after this fine hotel and breakfast, which means the kitchens will be open at that point, I have a flight with Ryanair to look forward to. It can't be any worse than Easyjet, can it?

I awoke this morning to the sight of thick fog, which was just like Holland last week. I loaded the car, paid the bill and grabbed breakfast. I programmed the address into the sat-nav and headed off into the rush hour traffic.

I say rush hour, there was a few extra cars about, but no Hangar Lane gyratory system. The sat-nav did try to take me into a freight yard. In fact it did, as the guard just waved me through I guess as I had a day-glo jacket on and I must have looked like I belonged.

I went back out, the sat-nav must have thought not that way then, Guv? and this time took me the right way. I parked up, and then had to go through the usual health and safety.

Don't get hurt.

That about covers it.

I gave my presentation, it took about three hours. Much to my disaappointment, none of them fell asleep; and they did seem to gain something from the morning. A wad of papers if nothing else.

And then it was time to head back to the airport, guided by the sat-nav I got back in about an hour. Danish drivers are odd, liking to rush about until they come up against a slower car, at which point they tailgate rather than overtake. Possibly due to the thought that a passing dinosaur might crash into them. Or not.

So, what a night of fun I have to look forward to. I'm sure you won't be able to wait until I write the next installment of these tales of an international quality 'expert'.

Photos of the trip will be added over the weekend.

Be still my beating heart.

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Wednesday 13th April 2011

Welcome to Denmark.

Just as promised. In a surprise move, the sun is shining and is quite warm. Not as warm as home, but not Norway cold for sure.

Now that my boss has given me the department sat-nav, I can find my way to anywhere in Europe, as long as I travel on roads more than two years old, as it needs updating.

But, it found the way from Bilund airport to Esbjerg, most of the way without using the motorway, which is fine with me. Denmark smalls of shot, as they're spreading it everywhere on the fields and it smells pretty ripe I have to say. As no one really lives here, the roads are quiet and driving is pleasant; not said that about driving in England for years I think.

Warrington at night.

I am holed up on the third floor in room 305, the same room number I had in Warrington, with views over the red-tiled rooftops of the town centre here. I am working, or would be if I wasn't doing this anyway.

All has gone well so far; the taxi arrived this morning as I was checking out, and me questioning the bill. £30 for a crap dinner last night that should have been 20% cheaper due to the early hour I ate; in the end I paid the bill and left.

It took about 20 minutes to head down the m6 to the airport. I checked in, left my bags and made my way through immigration the the lounge. When we use this one flight with BA, they let us use the executive lounge with fine views, free breakfast and unlimited coffee.

Machester Airport

As I finished my first plateful of croissants and Danish pastries, my boss turned up. We chatted for a while, and he tried to log into the free internet network. I did not try as I had managed to check my mails last night when the hotel network bandwidth supported VPN.

And then it was time to board the Sopwith Camel; or it seemed that small. And we were off. Time for another breakfast on the flight, as the north Sea slipped by beneath us. Near to the Danish coast we flew over a huge windfarm, maybe even one of ours.

And then we were getting lower, circling the tiny airport, probably doing some crop-spraying as well. And with a bump or three we were down.

I love land. I'm getting a worse traveller as the years go by, and this tiny aircraft did not ease my fears much.

Hotel room view, Esbjerg

So, once in town, I parked at the hotel after finding a space which did not have a time limit, and then set off for a walk to buy some fruit and maybe take some snaps. It could happen.

So, at some point I will venture out to find somewhere to eat for the evening.

Until then, catch you later Bill and Ted.

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Tuesday 12th April 2011

And so this is the modern way?

Here I am sitting in a soul-less hotel in Warrington. The hotel sits in the middle of a business park set between the M62 and M60. Not that there is anything wrong with the hotel, the place, the room, the food. Just soul-less.
The taxi driver who dropped me off said that this is a twenty minute walk from 'normal' life and a proper pub with prober beer and food.

I could have called for a taxi, went into town, found a pub showing the football, drunk a few beers and had a great night. It would have cosy the best part of £50, possibly more, and I have to be up at the crack of parrows tomorrow to head to the airport as I'm off to Denamrk for more lectures and another hotel.

I came up yesterday on the train, an hour and seven minutes into London, a ten minute walk along Euston Road, and an hour and forty minutes non-stop to Warrington, and I was here.

Warrington looks fine; a normal run of the mill, er, mill town, lots of back to backs, shops, chippys, pubs you know, the usual. And then there is Birchwood Park. Where I am now.
This is where head office is, my first trip here. Its a modern glass and steel box, all very functional, and not bad. I am here to give a lecture, three power point presentations and answer questions.
That done, more meetings with my boss, answer mails and back here.


For £14.95 a night you get on-demand moveis, family and adult, unlimited internet, but no sports. And the restaurant manager won't hear of football being on whilst people are eating. What is this, the bloody Ritz?

So, instead of getting a taxing, raiding the cash machine, I let the company pick up the cost of the internet and listen to the commentary on Talk Sport. The main reason for getting the internet was so that I could carry on working, but the connection could not stand a VPN connection and took up the whole bandwidth and I gave up.

So, after a bland dinner of pork and leek pie with a free pint of beer, I made my way back to my room to watch the boy racers speed past with techno housey house music blazing away on their Blaupunkts.

Its the modern way.

See you in Denmark.

Sunday, 10 April 2011

Sunday 10th April 2011

So, last night after watching Norwich lose for the first time in ages live on TV, we sat down in the dark to watch Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part 1 which arrived in the post that morning. As expected it was even darker than previous films in the series, and we were joined on the sofa by most of the cats, even Molly who did want to lay with us but rewarded strokes with hisses and swipes of her front paw.

This morning we went out before nine to head to the other side of Ashford to visit Kings Wood, where we were hoping to see some bluebells. As it turned out, we were probably a couple of weeks too early for them, the wood was carpeted with what seemed like millions of bright green bluebell plants, but very few in bloom; we shall have to go back in a couple of weeks.

Kings Wood, Challock

Anyway, so we headed down the Alkham valley to check for potential sites of poppy fields, before heading out onto the M20. Traffic was light, and although there was some high, wispy cloud, the day was bright enough.

We parked the car, with just the vehicles of early dog-walkers and cross-country cyclists there before us. We headed off along the path, passing dozens of small plastic bags, which dog walkers had put their pets poop, but rather than take said bags home or disposed of them in the corrective manner, had just tossed them in the undergrowth. Bastards. Why just do half a job, tossers?

Anyway, a few hundred yards from the car park, the poopy bags thinned out and it was just us and the woods. Until a few months ago, works of sculpture, wooden sculptures, were scattered to discover, but the works of art did not last much longer than 5 years, and some have been removed and so the new visitor is greeted with a woodland clearing with a sign telling the name of the sculpture and no sculpture. It happens. We hope that new works will be placed in the wood in due course.

I heart lichen

Elsewhere, the woodland floor is carpeted with bluebells plants, tree stumps and other such woodland stuff. We saw no wildlife, and no deers which we saw last time, but the walk was pleasant, I was slobbered over by a French dog, a golden retriever, who was very pleased to see me, the non-dog-lover of us two.

After a couple of hours we returned to our car, and headed back towards the motorway. As we were hungry, we went to Sainsbury's to get lunch and dinner. We picked up a selection of samaosas and onion bahjis to go with the salad pots and headed home. even hungrier.

Kings Wood, Challock

And that is it; we chilled out for the afternoon, I watched football a bit and messed around with some of the shots I had taken. and now we are listening to various podcasts on our internet radio; we writing and Jools beading. It's not rock and roll, be we love it.

Saturday, 9 April 2011

Saturday 9th April 2011

And back to the working week. well, not quite, as I asked if it was OK for me to work from home, and my boss said yes.
So, I laid in bed a little later whilst jools got ready for work and made the morning go by stroking the cats who love someone laying in bed.
In the end I got up, I had a phone conference with my boss and the one other person in our department. That done, it was lunch time, and looking outside the sunshine made the garden look very inviting.
But, I knuckled down and worked away, but at three I had to return the car to the place in Dover. I filled it with fuel, £66 for the return trip, not bad. and then down to the harbourside to return the car. No problems were found and I was free. I walked around the harbour, snapping the scene with the castle high above the town. Feeling thirsty I decided to have a drink in Cullen's Yard next to the marina, and ordered a Bitt.

Sunny Dover

It really was very nice indeed to be sitting in the late afternoon sunshine. I finished my beer and walked to the promenade and took a seat on a bench and did some people-watching. I passed the time watching folks walking by and the ferries coming and going on the flat-calm sea.
And then it was time to head to my chosen viewpoint, as a steam train was due to pass. I chose a bridge just as the line comes out of the harbour tunnel and on a sharp bend. The locomotive should be working hard as it accelerates away from the tunnel. Or that was my plan.
Others took up places on the other side of the bridge; did they know something I didn't? I think they were staying there as they thought the light would be better, gambled that the angles and my skill in metering would see me through.

70000 Britannia at Dover 7th April 2011

5 minutes late, 70000 Britannia came into view with a long rake of carriages of different colours. I began snapping, and swapping to a different camera as it neared me. Then rushing over the other side of the bridge to see the train puff round the curve and away along the coast line towards Folkestone. Long after it was out of sight, I could still here the loco working as it's huffs and puffs reverberated against the cliffs.

70000 Britannia: Cathedrals Express 7th April 2011

And then on Friday, and back into the office for just one day and then its the weekend! And all the while the sun shone down fro a clear blue sky. In the end it was a busy day getting ready for my road trip next week where I will sample the delights of Warrington and Esbjerg.

But before all that, we have the weekend. Last night we watched half of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince in anticipation of the latest episode arriving over the weekend, and so need to catch up with what is happening in the story.

A bug's view

And today, I had arranged a flickrmeet at Walmer Castle, as the gardens there are wonderful, and once again the sun shone down from a clear blue sky. Jools and I walked from St Margaret's along the cliffs into Walmer. It was very pleasant, with the sun on our backs and spring in full force all around.

About a dozen of us were there for the start at half ten, and we went inside, through the castle and into the gardens. The gardens are not quite in full bloom yet, and the daffodils had just gone past their best, but it was good enough to wander round and talk and snap.


And then it was time to head home for lunch; we cadged a lift with our friends Gary and Julie, and they dropped us off at our car on the cliffs and then we drove home.

Time then for lunch of crusty French bread and stinky soft French cheese; nothing better.

Thursday, 7 April 2011

Thursday 7th April 2011

So, this week, for a change, I had a road trip. To Holland!

It was to work as normal on Monday, arranging the final details and then heading back home for a quiet night and then all systems go in the morning.

Jools dropped me off in town so I could pick up the hire car, and then travel back here and book up travel through the tunnel. All was going well until I forgot the security code for my company credit card and I was locked out. And so I had to call the card’s HQ in Sweden to reset that, go back online, book tickets again, pack and then set off.

Hotel Augusta, Ijmuiden

Halfway to the tunnel I realised I had not got my passport, and so I had to head back home, find passport and set off again. In the end I made my booked trip with half an hour to spare; enough time to get a magazine and a coffee before it was time to board. Once loaded I worked out my route against an atlas; I had go one from the AA, but always est to remind yourself of towns to be heading for in case I missed a turning. And then we were in France, unloaded and on the open road.

The budget cutbacks affect our hire car

First, north along the coast past Dunkirk and Ostende, and then inland to Antwerp, and the twelve lane ring-road night mare. After exiting the Kennedy tunnel, the driver is confronted with motorways joining, leaving, bridges, railways, trams all cross the motorway on bridges, and with tens of thousands, apparently, of crazy Belgian drivers in cars and trucks all competing for a bit of road, and all in driving rain; I was not enjoying myself.

Hotel Augusta, Ijmuiden

As I headed into Holland, the rain eased, and traffic thinned a little, and I did begin to enjoy the trip a little. I stopped for a comfort break somewhere between Brega and Utecht, and then thought about the difficult next part; picking up my boss at Amsterdam airport.

Hotel Augusta, Ijmuiden

When I suggested driving to the meeting, I did not really expect my boss to go for it, and so the plan to collect him at the airport; a major European hub was just a detail, but heading towards Amsterdam the reality became all too clear. I went past Amsterdam and took the airport turn off, but the traffic never got really heavy. I received a text from my boss saying he had arrived, and as I pulled up at arrivals he walked out of the terminal and to where I was waiting. All too easy.
So, we headed off towards our hotel, less than 30km away; he brought a sat-nav, and with that and my map we arrived within 20 minutes. He insisted I have the suite; and I did not argue, and walked the six flights to the top floor.
I am not used to such things, a huge bed, sofa, spa bath, shower, I pod dock, huge TV and mini bar. And a balcony. And all mine!

Zeldenrust, Ijmuiden, Netherlands

I met my boss down in the bar and we went to stretch our legs with a constitutional. Ijmuiden is a port, and a gateway to the canal system; it is industrial and pretty ugly. It was overcast but not raining. We walked to the locks, and then along the side of the canal for a kilometre, before walking back through the town to the hotel. I had a beer in the bar and then went upstairs for some luxury in my room.

We met up early evening for dinner, and very pleasant it was too. I had an Italian salad followed by fine steak and fries. It was very nice, and washed down by a bottle of house red, which was rather good. And then back up to my room to watch the Spurs v Real game; and Spurs were already 1 down and playing with ten men. It only got worse. Oh well.

Hotel Augusta, Ijmuiden

Next morning was cold and foggy; seagulls roosted on the roof above my room and were awake at five and so then was I. After breakfast we headed out to the offices where we were to give our presentation; we found it via the sat nav and set up the computer and stuff. And within half an hour of powerpointing had our audience drifting off to sleep. Mwah ha ha…..

We finished just after lunch, and after a de-brief I packed my stuff, loaded the car and under clear blue skies we headed back the way we came, me dropping the boss off at the airport and then me heading into the setting sun towards Belgium and northern France and the train home. As before, it was all going well u ntil I got to Antwerp, and it being rush-hour the roads were grid-locked, and it took what seemed like ages to get through.

Hotel Augusta, Ijmuiden

Once through the tunnel and heading across the Flanders countryside, the traffic thinned and with temperatures in the low 20s, I really began to enjoy the trip.

Once in Calais, I stopped off that the supermarche for dinner and then another quick blast to the tunnel, into the queue for the next train and back in Kent in under an hour and home ten minutes after that.

Not bad, not bad.

Sunday, 3 April 2011

Sunday 3rd April 2011

Sunday afternoon; its Mothering Sunday, I've done the dutiful son thing and visited my mother back in Lowestoft. I wish I could report everything was wonderful there and that we had a great time. The short version is that things don't change, the lies are the same and there is more and more stuff inside her house. She says it's her choice of lifestyle, which is true. Just glad we are two hundred miles away and I don't have to deal with it all the time. Lies are so much easier on the phone.

So, anyway, to much, much better and nicer matters.

we both left work as usual on Friday afternoon; I went to Tescos on the way home, so it would be something less for us to upon our return from deepest, darkest Suffolk. we left Dover at a quarter to seven, thus allowing time for the traffic to die down on the M25, and by the time we got to Dartford, we were able to drive up to the tolls, pay our £1.50 and drive under the river and into Essex.

Black Tower, City Walls, Norwich

Traffic got lighter as headed north, and by the time we left Ipswich behind we pretty much had the road to ourselves. Lowestoft looked fine in the dark, I did think of having a drink before the arguing began, but went straight to Mother's right off.

As we had only told her we were coming as we were driving up, she hadn't really had chance to tidy the house or clean the fridge of the 'naughty' food. And most tellingly, hide the smell of the cigarette smoke.

The kitchen is full of junk that it was impossible to clear a space to make a drink; I made do with a glass of water. She took against my (probable) strong words, and went on the defensive. You could cut the atmosphere with a knife, and she tried to change the subject over and over again. Whats the point?

We went to bed at nearly midnight, relieved to do so and leave the nonsense in the living room.

It all began again in the morning when the subject of breakfast was raised. Nothing we liked and so we headed out to a motel in town where we know we could get a continental breakfast with fruit and unlimited coffee for under £6. after breakfast we headed down to Ness Point, the most easterly point of the UK, just because we were there. It was cool and a keen breeze blowing; we walk a short way under the shadow on a wind turbine to the actual most easterly point;and once we look around we head back to the car and then back to my Mother's.

The jelltex family home

Time with her was running out, the mood lifts and we pack ready to go. Just time to head next door to see Madge and David, as David is recovering from another close encounter with death as his body fights and fights MS. He was sitting up and ready to see Man Utd play west Ham on TV, and looked fine. Not bad for a man who we had been told ten days ago to expect the worse. Again.

We said our goodbyes, and I am sure Mother thinking she had fooled us; wrong there Mother dearest. Anyway, as we pulled away from her house, our mood lifted. we did talk about the events, and it pains me to say that Mother has failed to live up to her low expectations, and everything I have said about her she has proved time and time again. Sometimes being right is not nice.

Foulgers Opening, Norwich

We parked at Country Hall, and walked in a roundabout way into the city centre. We ended up at the top of Carrow Hill where there is a long length of the old city walls. We walk into a tower; The Black Tower, which now is a den for glue-sniffers judging by the huge number of plastic bags on the floor. But it is well preserved, and I snapped it and the wall from all angles.

we walk along Ber Street and then down Timber Hill and stopped at a pub with two names; The Gardener's arms/The Murderers. It's a fine real ale pub; I got drinks and grabbed a seat outside on the street. But the bouncer made sure I understood the rules; no standing at all, whilst you have a drink. And he barked at me to sit down as I stood up as I thought I could see a friend.

Royal Arcade, Norwich

We drunk up and headed down into the medieval heart of the city, down Back of the Inns, past Royal Arcade and onto Swan Lane. we stop for lunch at a fine deli; we go upstairs and order our lunch: I have chorizo pie and Jools has homemade scotch egg. Both were splendid. We have baklava for dessert, and then its time for me to head to the football ground to meet with my friends.

I walked down to the river and then along where Riverside Road used to run to one of the huge bars between the station and the football ground, and there my friends were waiting. we swap news and buy rounds of drinks, and then at two forty-five it was time to head to the game.

Daniel Pacheco

I took my seat just as the teams ran out, and the ground looked fine in the warm spring sunshine. It was a glorious game to match the day, City ran out 6-0 winners against Scunthorpe and now are just six games away from a second straight promotion, this time back to the Premier League. That is, if we carry on playing like we have and keep on winning. Six wins from seven games will guarantee it. How great it was to see City playing with tempo and panache; a huge change from games in seasons past.

The full time whistle went, I walked back to the Compleat Angler to meet Jools and then back along Riverside to meet with my friends and give one of them a lift home to Bungay.

after dropping Rambo off, we head south, stopping off at a country pub for dinner. The landlord did a good line in dry humour, but the beer is good and we order our meals and read the papers as we wait.

Time then for the final leg of the trip, back to Bury st Edmunds, then onto the A11, M11, M25, over the Thames and into Kent and then it is just an hour down the motorway to Dover and home.

We had a friend feed the cats, and so it was great to walk into the house and have all four of them greet us demanding food. Once we had fed them, time for a shower and then to bed.

Sunday was spent relaxing; I mowed the lawn, cooked lunch and am about to start dinner. Jools did load of gardening, ironed and cleaned up after our messier cats. Together we got our chores done, and there was even time for me to watch football this afternoon, as one-sided the two games both were.

And so that was the weekend; the upcoming week sees me travelling to Holland with work; so that will be a break from the old routine.