Monday, 30 May 2011

Monday 30th May 2011

After what seemed weeks and weeks of endless sunshine, being a bank holiday weekend, the dark clouds did roll in and the temperatures drop to below seasonal norms.


At least on Friday we were spared the trek to Tesco at we had done that on Thursday. But instead we had to take Molly and Little Girl to the vets for their annual jabs which are required by the cattery if we have to leave them there when we go on our travels. So, it should be easy, right; come home, round up cats and pop them in the baskets and off to the vet?
No, Molly was no where to be seen. We had locked the flap, which had broken in the kittens desperation to get out, but Molly had not come in. I searched in all her usual hiding places, with no luck. Just as it was getting too late, she wandered up as I was getting ready to feed the other cats. I grabbed her and took her into the porch, at which point she saw the cat basket and operation panic began. I closed the door to the house, which means there was no escape. She gave in and went willing into the basket.

The Sittingbourne & Kemsley Light Railway

That over, it was just a quiet evening ahead. I cooked maple syrup covered chicken with fresh asparagus and corn, all accompanied with a fine glass of red wine.

As I had bought a beef joint on the way home from work on Friday, I thought it good we have some vegetables. and so we headed down into Dover first thing to run some chores and get the vegetables. we paid some students to clean the car whilst we shopped, and so that was all done and all set for a relaxing day.

The Sittingbourne & Kemsley Light Railway

The afternoon and evening were spent on the sofa, for me, watching the first of the play-off games and then the more serious matter of the Champions League final. Despite all the hype, it was as easy as you like for Barcelona, and a very comfortable 3-1 win, and SAF's face was redder than ever, but Man Utd had been beaten by the better team.

The Sittingbourne & Kemsley Light Railway

And so to Sunday, supposedly the best day weather-wise of the weekend. And my plan was to head to Sittingbourne to ride on the re-opened Sittingbourne and Kemsley Railway. It used to serve a huge print works in the town, and is now run by volunteers. And open again after two years after the line secured permission to run trains on the line again.

The Sittingbourne & Kemsley Light Railway

Anyway, I had not ridden this line before, but it seemed easy to find, looking at the map. But, due to vandalism, the line is not yet operating into the centre of Sittingbourne, but you had to go to an intermediate station, near to the ASDA store.

we drove round and round, and eventually into the ASDA carpark, and there were signs. we parked the car and walked along beside the hedge, the other side of which we guessed was the line. There was a gate, and we walked through and up the embankment was the line with a waiting train. we paid our £4 and climbed on. By the time for departure came round, the two carriages and one wagon was full.

we were in the open wagon, and it was wonderful being behind the tank engine, smelling the smoke and steam as we trundled through the industrial landscape, or abandoned industry of Sittingbourne, until we arrived at the end of the line, at the gates of the mill the line used to serve. There now is a collection of sheds and buildings, which is pretty interesting. There was time to have a coffee and a look round before it was time to head back to the train for the return trip.

Once back at ASDA, I suggested heading to the new gallery in Margate, and so that is what we did, head off onto the motorway, and then on the Thanet way towards naughty Margate.

Turner Contemporary Gallery, Margate

As usual we parked at the Lido, and from there it is a short walk to the Turner Contemporary which has just opened. It looks like a warehouse from the outside, but inside there is a good and interesting selection of modern art, all thought provoking, and well worth heading to look at. For me the best installation is the round shaped window in the main hall with walls of glass either side, giving a view of infinity. I loved it.

Turner Contemporary Gallery, Margate

Time then to head back home and begin cooking dinner; roast beef and all the trimmings.

And so to Bank Holiday Monday: sunshine shock!? Well, eventually. It was cold and misty at first, but we decided to have a walk, our usual one via various lanes to the cliffs and back through the village. As we walked, the mist cleared and the sun came out, it even got warm. I saw a new species of butterfly, a Holly Blue; I even got near enough to snap it!

Holly Blue butterfly; Celastrina argiolus

We called in at the Bluebirds Cafe for tea and shortbread before we headed for home. Heck it was warm by now, and it was good to get home, pop a pizza in the oven and crack open a bottle of homebrew, before it was time to sit down to watch the championship play-off. Phew, rock and roll.

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Wednesday 25th May 2011

I like to think I am not a sentimental old bloke, but this month used to be when most of the family’s birthdays used to be. Last week would have been Granddad’s, this week Dad’s, and on Friday it is Mother dear’s. And on top of that, today would have been the second Mrs Jelltex’s birthday. So, on occasion I have been thinking about what might have been and what was.
Granddad was like most people’s Granddad was, kind, loving and proud as punch. Proud even when I joined the RAF rather than the Coldstream Guards, which was his old regiment. He had been trying since I was old enough to walk, to march, to do rifle drill and the such. He even took me to the central recruiting office in London at one point. All I can remember about that is being able to play on a full size snooker table. He did come up to Lincolnshire to see me pass out after completing basic training, and I think I did OK. He passed away, alone, some three days after Dad did in that dreadfully memorable April in 1996. The last twenty years of his life were not fun, sharing life with his wife would have tested the patience of a saint. His health got worse; heart attacks, angina and other problems meant he was in and out of hospital. It got such a regular occurrence, we thought he would always come out again.

Dad was dad; a gruff bear-like man who tried to understand feelings and stuff. I guess underneath the hard sawdust coated exterior, was a kind and loving man. I did see that side sometimes, events since his death have shown that he was batting a lying and evasive foe, and trying to get the truth out of his wife, my Mother, is not easy. I have given up on that. We fell out on occasion too, going years without speaking. With the end of my first marriage, bridges were rebuilt between us, and I spent one last glorious Christmas at home in 1995, on leave from the RAF in Germany. By the end of April the next year, he and Granddad were both gone and it was me, Mum and two Grandmothers.

Still life goes on; it did then, and does now. Pain does subside in time, and I even forget the date they died; but their birthdays I remember. As for mad wife #2. Today would have been here 50 something birthday had she lived; but she didn’t, she chose a long slow death by diabetes, and left behind her only son aged 16. But that point we were divorced and separated by the width of the country.

Life still goes on.

The Spitfire, Lydden, 22nd May 2011

I did actually buy Mum a birthday card at the weekend, and it is on the dining room table waiting to be written on. I meant to write on it Sunday, and then Monday, and Jools even said it needed to be done last night so it would catch the post this morning. We went out for a walk last night and it kinda got forgotten. And so I walked into Ramsgate this lunchtime to buy another card, and take it to the post office to be posted, just to make sure it will be there by Friday morning.

As ever, work goes on as ever, with my deadline rushing towards me. I have completed one task and sent that off today to my boss. Lets hope he likes what I have done. Other than that, I am reading and re-reading procedures to enlarge my understanding of how things work, or don’t.

Blind Spot by B.T.

I have the evenings free now as the football season is almost over. I have caught up on my reading as far as magazines is concerned, and there is nothing better than laying in bed with a cat or three asleep pinning you in one position whilst you read. Until you try to move, of course, then its cramp in both legs and the cats think you’re crazy.

Last night we did go for a short walk; we left well after dinner, as the sun set casting wonderful golden light over the downs. There are very few butterflies around this year, or maybe they are just avoiding me. And this week has been quite windy, which means those that are about will be sheltering. Anyway, we walk along the track at the end of our road, past fields of wheat and barley, join the track about half a mile away, past the copse with the pigs and end up at a field with two horses. Unusually, they were friendly, and came over and nuzzled us both, hoping for food. And one just stood still as I stroked his chin, he dribbling on my coat.


Anyway, two days to go before the weekend; a three day weekend and it is pay day too! And after that, nine days at work until we head off on our holidays to the Welsh marches for a week of castles, walks and trains. Maybe.

Until next time, may your God be with you….

Monday, 23 May 2011

Monday 23rd May 2011

And so another weekend rushes by like a runaway train leaving just memories. And photographs.

Given the choice of shopping on Friday evening on the way home from work or going Saturday morning when we might just like to be laying in bed, we chose to join the crowds and go on the way home from work. As is usual, just the essential items now costs over £60 and there really isn’t much to look at. Lots of fruit and salad stuff and a few other things, and there is all that money gone just like that. I have not been to the country butcher in weeks now, its not that we begrudge them making a living, its just the cost and the fact we spent the whole month’s money in five days in Germany. Not that we regret going, but it was ambitious, its just we have to literally pay for that trip now.

Ox Eye Daisy

Anyway, shopping done, we feed the cats, prepare a salad for dinner and set about some relaxing.

Saturday morning we lay in bed for a while, with various cats coming along to say hello, demand attention or just be crazy. We get up, and go for a walk along the cliffs. We drive to the lighthouse, park up and set off, down the narrow path beside the lighthouse and then onto the clifftop path with fine, fine views over the Channel.

brown tailed moth caterpillar

We had gone to look for spider orchids, which to be honest we were probably a month too late to see, but we might have been lucky; we were not. But anyway, its pretty enough up there, with many other wild flowers and insects flitting from one plant to another. I snap some macros and we walk on. Although the wind is keen, it is warm, and very pleasant indeed as we walk along.

Dover Harbour from Langdon Cliffs

Time to head back to the car, and then time to nip into Dover so Jools could change her library books and me buy the stuff we had forgotten is Tesco the night before: cream, bread rolls amongst other things. And time to head off back home for lunch of those rolls and to sit in the garden and relax.

And then in the afternoon, we do the family duty and visit Jools’ Dad and his wife and Nan. I take the camera along just in case he has some interesting shaped plants in his garden. So we sit in his new swing seat in the sunshine and chat, birds are singing in the bushes either side of the garden, even the dull hum of the nearby A2 seemed quieter than normal. It wasn’t bad.


Sunday began sunny enough, but soon clouded up just as those blasted forecaster predicted. So after breakfast, second breakfast and elevenses we headed out to Shepherdswell as there was a steam train due, and I wanted to photograph it. I and many others who were already waiting for 70013. I chatted to the really keen guy who had been there for two hours already, he was keen to know of signal boxes and semaphore signals between there and Canterbury. I admitted my lack of knowledge and he was happy enough. Until folks came along and ruined his sightline. As I walked away I could still hear him imploring folks to stand back from the platform, and as arrival time got closer to be quiet as he was recording.

The Spitfire at Shepherdswell 22nd May 2011

Just to make my day, a no talent ass-clown with an expensive camera (the name of one of the groups I belong to on Flickr) came along. He has the most expensive digital SLR Canon makes, along with top line lenses and other gear; he is the reason I left the camera club due to his boasting and lack of basic understanding of photography. And he asks me what setting to have his camera on and what I thought was the best position for the best shot. I thought he knew everything. Just to make him feel worse I told him I use just two settings on my camera, sports and landscape so I could see the look on his face. Ha ha, tosser. It’s not quite the truth, but not that far either. And I get results you clown.

The Spitfire at Shepherdswell 22nd May 2011

So, we head up onto the footbridge and wait. Like last week the train was on time, maybe even early. And soon we could hear her coming through the tunnel ahead. She got louder and louder before emerging into the sunshine and thundering through the station, leaving behind a lot of smoke and the smell of sulphur.
We leave and head home via McDonalds where we get a chicken deli sandwich and drive home. I settle down to watch the build up to the final Premier League games, manage not to fall asleep and the results went one way and then the other. Blackpool and Birmingham get caught by the trapdoor whilst Wigan, Wolves and Blackburn all survive.

The Spitfire at Shepherdswell 22nd May 2011

And then it is time to catch Oliver Cromwell’s return run, and so Jools and I head out to Lydden to see her come out of the other end of the tunnel. We wait whilst cars pass by with their drivers giving us looks as if to say, why are you standing there, and us trying to not look like spotters. And then we see the light at the front of the train reflected in the rail, and she emerges almost silently from the tunnel, coasting down into Dover. I fire off a series of shots, and that is it.

Back home for dinner and to get ready for the week ahead, I try to read in bed by my eyes go heavy and instead turn the light out and go to sleep, it is only just nine o’clock; rock, and indeed, roll.

Sunday, 22 May 2011

Survival Sunday

Is what today has been called by those involved in the hyperbole that is football. It is the final weekend of the Premier league season, and most issues at the top have been sorted, and now all eyes turn to the bottom of the table, where two teams out of five will be relegated this afternoon.
Blackpool and Wigan has 39 points, Wolves, Birmingham and Blackburn have 40. Teams could lose and stay up or win and still get relegated. Wolves play Blackburn, and we know that whoever wins, if anyone, they will be safe. Other than that anything could happen.
Other than it be the end of the world for the two teams that go down; the sun will rise in the morning and people will carry on with their lives, my point being, it's not going to put families out on the street if an team does go down. It's just a game, folks.
Anyway, it will be a day of high drama and worth not getting off the sofa for for two hours or so from four this afternoon.

Talking of the end of the world, it did not happen yesterday, which according to the tele-evangelist was exactly 7000 years after the Biblical flood. As ever, it was unsure whether god would follow GMT or EST, but as it turned out he did not show up and 200 million evangelical Christians were not swept to heaven in the rapture.

So the football is going ahead after all.

A good quote from William Hill on the subject of betting on the end of the world; we let punters chose their own odds, as if they're right we won't have to pay out!

Friday, 20 May 2011

Secrets and supersecrets

So, the news is full of the word superinjunctions and various footballers who may or may not have applied and got one to hide what they may or may not have done.
For those of you living outside of Britain or are Sun readers, a superinjunction is so called because not only is the events that it covers become secret so is the fact the injunction itself, or the fact there is one, is also a secret.

Turns out that the rich and semi-famous have been getting them when they can’t keep their peckers in their pants and want to hide the fact. Now, I have to say I don’t care who has done what with whom, especially footballers whose only claim is they can kick a bag of wind around. And when they are not kicking a bag of wind around or buying supercars or shooting work placement types with an airgun, they like to go down the local disco to get some action. And after the action there is sometimes a consequence.

So, the rumours are that a family loving player had an affair with a former contestant from Big Brother and another famous football got a 16 year old girl pregnant last year. I heard from my good friend Jimmy that the first was Ryan Giggs and the second is Steven Gerrard. So, in the interests of research I thought I would see how easy it was to find if these were true.

I powered the laptop up and went onto Google. I typed in the words Ryan and Giggs; the autofill came up with all sorts of pages: the Man Utd homepage, his Wiki entry. I typed in the letter ‘s’: the autofull changed and the top it was Ryan Giggs superinjunction. I clicked on the link. I was taken to an Irish site which reported that various websites around the world had indeed reported that Giggs was the player in question. There was a link to an American website; and on that was an editorial comparing Ryan Giggs to Brett Favre who both have let their winkies lead them into trouble. And notes that if Giggs were in America he could not have hushed it up, as Favre had tried to do after e mailing pictures of his willy to a young lady. He failed in the US, but Giggs is still being portrayed in the British press as this straight-laced family loving man and most decorated player who should be the next Manchester United manager, who has a superinjuction keeping his affair secret.

I told Jools about this and said that Steven Gerrard has a similar superinjunction, and so she typed in his name into Google along with the word superinjunction and found that last year he had got a 16 year old girl pregnant. Which will not go down well with potential American sponsors as this would count as sex offence if committed in America. Will not look good.

So, with two simple Google searches I have circumvented the superinjunctions and found out the stories. If it is this easy, then the law as it stands is an ass and should be changed.

Thursday, 19 May 2011

Thursday 19th May 2011


On the long slow downward slope towards the weekend.


The days are filled with the same old stuff; writing mails, rewriting procedures and all the usual stuff that takes up the working day. And then I drive home, along the coast, past Pegwell Bay and the waders and seagulls feeding on the mudflats, past the old power station at Richborough and then past Sandwich, which is gearing up for the Open Golf tournament in July. What is clear is that travel between home and work will be impossible and I will be pushing for working at home. Anyway, that is in 6 weeks.

Summer is nearly here; the hedgerows and fields are full of flowers and blooms, and on clear days we can see to France. Our garden is a riot of colour, but the kittens have claimed one of the flower beds for their outdoor place of slumber. Nothing can grow as the ground is compacted, and they look out through the valarum at possible birds to prey on. Two nights ago, Mulder did bring in a fledgling blackbird, alive; I managed to get the bird out of his jaws and take the bird out and place it in the hedge in the back garden. I kept the cats inside for a few hours, and we hope the bird survived. The next morning there were no feathers or signs or carnage in the kitchen, so it may have survived.

Each night at a quarter to eight, I take to the sofa to watch the Football League play-offs, secure in the knowledge that my team are already promoted, and I can thoroughly enjoy the games and the drama they contain.


Time moves on, of course, and people I have worked with here at Vestas since I joined the company have moved on or even left the company. Jesper was the latest to leave. He is a bundle of energy, but so single-minded on the task; he also knows who to ask difficult questions of, and more importantly, under whose chair to light fires to get results. Life will be duller without JFF. I did go out for lunch with my old boss, Ian this week. Mainly to ask questions about his time here, but also to catch up and just have a huge bowl of chilli-cheesy-chips. That done we each drunk pints of Coke, as smelly of beer is frowned upon at the offices of our rivals next door. Promises were made to catch up again soon. I suppose I should be used to the moving on bit; after 15 years of it in the RAF it still is difficult to say goodbye to our friends. Sometimes people we have seen every day for years. Facebook and other social media makes it easier to keep in touch, but soon we lose what we had in common, promises to call are broken time and time again, and soon I reach for the ‘de-friend’ button and we are strangers again. It is the modern way.

Other than that, the time passes and the season march on.

World of spiders

As the cost of fuel goes ever upwards; I filled the car up on Tuesday evening, for it to cost an eye-watering £58. This sees a 50% since we bought the car, and I think this will mean us really considering if that trip at the weekend is really necessary. That we have a 1.4 Polo, and it costs that much, how on earth do people with larger cars, who do more miles cope? It seems we shall be messing around in the garden at the weekend, maybe some walking and watching the final games in the Premier League. The next time the Premier League kicks off, there will be a certain team playing in yellow and green taking park; exciting days for sure.

Monday, 16 May 2011

Monday 16th May 2011

There is something quite wonderful about weekends; I mean if you’re feeling crap and after a short walk feel like doing nothing more than laying on the sofa watching football, then that is fine. Even better is to pop the cap off a couple of bottles of home brew whilst watching the football.

The weather forecast was not good for Saturday, a bright start but getting cloudy as the day wore on. As it turned out, the sunshine would last all day.


We set out from the house and down into the main part of the village, before turning westward to a row of WW2 concrete structures that can be seen on our way home. The whole area around our village was sealed off during the war, as it was the front line, and on either side of the Channel, Britain and Germany built huge artillery guns and lobbed shells at each other. Several of these guns were in our village, and a railway was built to transport the shells. Anyway, it became clear that the structures were weapon storage buildings and there is even a low platform which I guess helped to unload the wagons.

Our little piece of England

We were treated to some different views of the village, looking wonderful in the bright sunshine and the greens of the fields looking stunning. I took a few shots to record the views, and a good view of our part of the village. After half an hour we turned back and wandered back to the village, called in the shop for a loaf for lunch and then the amble back home.

The Diamond

We sat in the garden reading in the warm sunshine, whilst the cats wandered around demanding attention/food/whatever they could get. It was all rather good I have to say.

I took to the sofa at half one to watch Manchester United win the Premier League with a draw at Blackburn, and then pour another beer in anticipation to the FA Cup Final in which even though it was a poor game, it was compelling, Manchester City beat Stoke by a single goal to lift the cup. Time to get those legs working, Ian!

The forecast for Sunday was even better, and so after looking through a list of gardens in our area, we settled on Mt Ephram the other side of Canterbury. As we set off the cloud seemed to be getting thicker instead of thinning, but what the hell.

We arrived and were confronted by a small car park with a request written on a blackboard to put our entrance fees in an honesty box. This we did, and our attention was immediately caught by a field of either Llamas or Alpacas. Having gone away to do some Googling, I can confirm these were Alpacas. They look like a sheep crossed with a giraffe, which is a thought.

Anyway, they seemed curious enough and I snapped a few of them especially their faces. Anyway, we turned and headed to the gardens. I think what made Mt Ephram better than the average, as their not quite unkempt feel, but certainly the weeding was getting behind, but the overall feel was of a semi-natural garden, situated between the large house and the small stream at the bottom of the small valley, and then up through the woodland on the other side of the stream Needless to say, in years gone by the stream had been dammed and a large ornamental lake formed.

Having a macro lens means I study more than ever, the minute detail that nature has designed. Sometimes the patterns created are just stunning. Flowers, leaves, trees, ferns all have magical elements to them, sheer simple beauty in the way they grow or attract insects. I snap away. Once over the stream and into the woods, there are a few scattered rhododendrons in amongst the trees. Each one slightly different in design or colour from its neighbour. Such joy in something so simple again.

After a while we head off from the gardens to find a place to get a drink and maybe a sandwich. But it being a Sunday our first port of call, a pub, is just serving Sunday dinner; and despite it smelling delicious we really just wanted a sandwich. So, we head off for a fine pub we knew was just down the road. But, we could not find the Four Horseshoes, and after following a wandering country lane for a few miles came across the Dove. We park on the side of the road and find the same story; no snacks, just wonderful meals. In a surprise we make do with a bag of crisps along with our drink and we sit in the one free table and watch the locals.
I snap the bar to upload to Flickr, and then a woman comes up to me and asks:

Are you Jelltex from Flickr?

I say, ‘Errrr, yes’

Oh, I follow your photostream says she.

I am lost for words, she explains that from time to time I post shots of myself on Flickr, and I was inside a pub shooting the bar, so it wasn’t a great stretch for her. Even though, it was pretty freaky all the same.
We drain our glasses and head home, calling in at McDonalds for a deli sandwich and an ice cream as we couldn’t think of anything else. This should have been a warning to me to get the loaf out that was in the freezer for the weeks packed lunches; but no. It carried on being frozen.

34067 "Tangmere" at Dover 15th May 2011

And then back to the sofa for more football.

At half four I headed out into Dover to snap a steam locomotive that was due to pass through. And in a turn up it was dead on time, which caught me out as I still had the lens caps on my two cameras and was very flustered, but did get some good shots anyway.

34067 "Tangmere" at Dover 15th May 2011

And then back home to listen to the end of the Wigan/West Ham game, which in the end saw the Hammers relegated and much gnashing of teeth by their supporters.

And so the weekend endeth, and we get ready for another week at the keyboard in the office.

34067 "Tangmere" at Dover 15th May 2011

Saturday, 14 May 2011

Saturday 14th may 2011

So, asked Jools, when does the football season finish?

This, of course, raises the question of what do we mean when we say end of the football season. For Norwich and most of the teams of the Football League and non-league pyramid, the season is over, with just the play offs to complete. The Premier league finishes next weekend, and the final of the Champions League is the weekend after, along with the play-off finals.

Maelstrom nears its peak

So, the answer to that question is, last week, next week and in two weeks. All of which are correct and possibly annoying. And today, the 14th, was the FA Cup Final; Manchester City winning 1-0 against Stoke in a dull-as-dishwater game. And that after Man Utd won their 19th title as some league games took place on cup final day for the first time in 60 years> Heresy I say.

It bee dandruff

It has been a quiet week with us working the first five day week in a month, although it has felt longer. Nothing much exciting happened in the office, just the usual as i battle to write new procedures and struggle with the most user-unfriendly computer system since the RAF got LITS to find the information I needed.

Vinca Major L.

Anyway, there was football every night, and with fine weather, the chance to walk in the evening. But, as I have felt so crap for the past three weeks, we only did that twice.I won't go into details, but I will be so relieved to feel better and not be such a moaner. Anyway, on with the other stuff.


Out of the blue on Wednesday, my employer announced that intends to build the largest wind turbine production facility less than an hour away from home on the Isle of Sheppy. We area long,long way from it happening, but the opportunity it could offer me for work and advancement are only now coming clear. All turbine components will be made there, and all pre-assembly activity done as well, before loading onto construction ships. I would just love to see this built as the scale is going to be so huge and create up to 2,000 jobs for the area. It all depends on the government and orders for the next generation of turbines coming through. we shall see, but it all rather exciting at the moment.

Cultivated Knapweed.

And in gardening news, I did not kill the grass with the lawn treatment I put down before we went on holiday, and a lot of the weeds have indeed died off. Whatever next?

They're here

Monday, 9 May 2011

Monday 9th May 2011

And so, just like that, our holiday was over. But, on the plus side we still had the rest of the week off and in which to squeeze lots more fun things in. Although before that could happen, the usual stuff, like the washing needed to be done, a trip to Tesco, collect the cats from the vets and tidy the garden. And so went Wednesday and Thursday pretty much. Sometimes it’s just good to relax and do some stuff, then sit in the garden drinking a beer and then doing more stuff. Even more so than usual, the cats were clingy once we got them back, which was good until the novelty wore off and wished they went to bed or bird hunting rather than sit on our chest as we tried to watch TV or read a book.

Life got a bit more exciting on Friday, as I headed up to London to meet with one of my Flickr friends, as he was over visiting from his home in Indonesia. I caught the first ‘cheap’ train of the day just before ten ( a train which arrives in London before ten costs over double what the ‘off peak’ costs). Another glorious day to be off work and heading into London for sure.

I arrived at St Pancras just before 11, and snapped the huge Olympic rings hanging over the train. I snapped other stuff too, as I do really. Then down into the Underground to get to Trafalgar Square which is where I was to meet Michael.

Flickr friends

As we travel to London at all times of the year, and visit places off the beaten track, it is sometimes easy to forget just how bloody popular and crowded it can get. Walking into Trafalgar Square on that bright lunchtime, when it seemed there were people from all corners of the world mingling around taking photos and just enjoying the day.
I had arranged to meet at a quiet pub between the Square and Charing Cross station called The Sherlock Holmes; shouldn’t be hard to find, should it? Well, even though I knew roughly where it was, I had to resort to Google maps to find it after walking past the same shop for the third time. I was early for the meeting, but time for a drink. As I was ordering, Michael came over and we shook hands, and I got him a pint too.

St Pancras International; your Olympic station

It is a wonder, or maybe not a wonder, of the modern age that you meet with someone for the first time, and yet you know them so well; as we have written to each other for months, looked at each other’s pictures and shared our musical memories, as that is our real shared love.

Anyway, I sat down with Michael and his wife, Mau Mau, and we talked about life, art, music and wind turbines. The time just flew, we ordered fresh drinks and talked more.

After a while we went to the National Gallery as there was an exhibition that they wanted to see. After walking round that, we walked through the various rooms showing each other our favourite paintings and artists. There really are no better ways to spend an afternoon.

But is it art?

At about three I took my leave to beat the rush on the trains and made my way back to St Pancras and then soon enough zipping through the tunnels under north London and into the Essex countryside.

After dinner we sat down to watch Unstoppable on TV; better than it had any right to be, and it features a lot of train shots, which is great for me. Denzil as a train driver was a little unbelievable, but still, who hasn’t wanted to be a train driver.

481 4 42 49

And then it was Saturday. The day of the party.

The day of THE party.


Norwich City have been promoted, I may have mentioned that before. I may have also mentioned that I am a fan of them. Really. And as it had looked like for a while that City might get promoted, I decided to head up for the last game of the season, even though I knew I would not get a ticket, just to be in the city and for the celebrations.
So, I took the train once again, up to Stratford, and waited for the Norwich train, and relaxed into my first class seat and watched the city slip by and then the bright colours of the countryside take over. Through Chelmsford, Colchester and Ipswich, into Suffolk and then Norfolk, arriving in Norwich 18 minutes before kick off. A quick walk to the ground to see if I could buy some tickets, with no luck. Inside the cheers and clapping was deafening, the streets emptied and I walked to a bar and ordered a couple of beers.
The final games all kicked off at the same time and most issues were already sorted. City ended up drawing 2-2, and then the presentations and lap of honour and then the crowds came swarming out and most of them wanting to celebrate with a beer. And then another. And then another; and so on and on.

Hands up if you're Premier League.

I met up with my friends, we bought drinks, emptied our glasses and got more beer. The hours passed, and then at eight, I guess under instructions form the police, they wouldn’t serve us any more, which meant some of us would go home, or the crowds disperse anyway. We went to another pub near the ground and had one more, and then I went to my hotel to clean up and sleep.

Next morning I had a good breakfast, packed my bag and headed to the station for the nine o’clock train back to London. And first class once again! Once in London, almost all tube lines were shut, and so I had to get the Central Line back to Stratford as it was easier than getting to St Pancras. Whilst waiting I orderd samosa and a coffee and sat on the platform to wait for my train. And so ended the great adventures, the holiday and City’s triumphant return to the Premier League.

Job done.

I hate to end on a down note, but when we got back from Germany two pieces of bad news reached us. One of my local Flickr friends, Ken Baker, collapsed and died of a suspected heart attack whilst on a photoshoot at the weekend. And then thanks to some odd posts on Facebook,I found that my friend in Arkansas, Jason, had taken his life on Monday evening. Jason was like a brother to me for a while, and although we had not spoken for a while, and I knew he had been going through some bad times, I did not realise quite how bad. I will miss them both, and my thoughts go to their families.

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Double bubble delight

Those of you who read my words may have picked up on the fact I support Norwich City. Its true, I do. Its my cross and it has been my burden since 1972.

Two years ago City were relegated to Division 3 with a whimper at The Valley. A new manager, a new belief saw us promoted back to the championship last year, and this year, we have been promoted again; back to the Premier League.

It was nervy for a while, but more late goals,a Derby demolition and three points against Pompy after Cardiff failed to beat Middlesbrough was enough. Second place and promotion secured with a game to go.

In 1982 I was at the game at Hillsborough where all Norwich had to do was draw to secure promotion. 11,000 other City fans were also there, and saw us lose yet still go up as whoever was behind us failed to win either.

In 1986, a hardy band of us travelled to Odsel In Bradford knowing that we would go up, probably next week, because Portsmouth were playing the team at the bottom of the table and couldn't possibly lose, could they? Yes, they could. And did. And so began another huge party.

And in 2004, Cit went up again without playing as Crystal Palace lost at home, meaning we could not be caught. There was a reserve game on at Carrow Road and 5,000 fans and Sky TV were there to record the moment.

An in 2011, I was sitting in the dark of our hotel in Germany, waiting for my friend to text me scores as data on the interwebs was so expensive. and at twenty to eleven, the text came through; we are up.

I am going to Norwich on Saturday for a mother of a party and maybe a drink or two.

Picking the player of the year is impossible, as each and every one played their part in this miracle season. It has seen the players, the club and supporters as one all season long; it seems like we can take on the world; lets hope so.


Wednesday 4th May 2011

Friday 29th April 2011. (and beyond)

And so the Royal nuptials have been completed, kisses on balcony have been given and taken, and, dear reader, have missed it all. Or rather we did not miss it at all. But more about our adventures on this day a little later.
We left home, it seems like an age ago, but was only nine in the morning of yesterday. We got up with the larks, packed, Jools to the cats to the cattery and I did some gardening. Really. I sprinkled lawn feed and then watered it in.
Jools arrived back with the news that Mulder had an accident and so his basket and the car stunk of cat poo. Yay! That cleaned up, we loaded the car and headed off into the end of the morning rush hour. There are some advantages living four miles from Dover, the best, other than the views from the cliffs, is being only a 5 minute drive from the docks. We drove down Jubilee Way, right at the roundabout, through customs and up to the check in desk, got our confirmation and boarding pass, and drove to the boarding lane. All in ten minutes of leaving home.
Not bad.

Leaving Dover

We drove onto the ferry at ten, and were under way in half an hour; time enough to get a coffee and a bun before the queues began as we arrived in Calais and it was time to head down to the car.
I fired up the sat-nav, punched in the address of the hotel. It thought about this a while and then came up with our route. The ramp came down, the cars drove off, as did we, and we were on our way through France to Belgium and onto Germany.
Traffic was not too bad at first, and the route into Belgium we knew well anyway, so it was pleasant enough. We then headed towards Brussels, and it was there that we hit traffic big time. Although it did not hold us up much, and once clear of the city and it’s ring road, we were speeding through the verdant countryside at 80mph in alternately bright sunshine and heavy showers.
In tie the road began to climb into the Eifel Mountains, and the views became spectacular. The road crossed massive viaducts, with views of deep valleys and little alpine looking towns in the distance. We crossed into Germany and the motorway gave out, but the speed of the locals apparently doubled as we were passed by a succession of Mercs and Beamers going something near the speed of sound. And scattered over the hills as far as the eye could see were numerous wind turbines, some even emblazoned with the name of the company I work for.

The view from our hotel window

As the time neared six and then seven, we were getting nearer to our destination, and after finally finding a service station, and having filled with gas, we put our foot down and made it to the turning for Cochem. The road passed through a pretty village before dropping quickly into a twisty ravine with wooded cliffs towering above us. This continued for four Km, until we came into the finges of the town, sheltering under these massive cliffs.
Once we came to the banks of the river we turned north and then left up a side street, under the railway and there was our hotel. We quickly checked in as two of our friends had decided to stop here on their way back home, so we could meet up for a meal and a few drinks.

From our dinner table I can see.....

We walked into town and met Matt and Dadi in the main square; it was a good meeting as we had not seen them in months. And then we set out to find a place to eat. We chose a hotel on the banks of the river with fine views to the far banks and the rising vineyards beyond.
After finishing our pepper steak supper we found a small bar in which we could get a quiet corner and talk some more, before it became clear that we were shattered after our long drive and so we decided to head back to the hotel and take to our beds.
We fell asleep to the sound of freight trains thundering past, which seemed to go on for most of the night, but we heard them little.

Cochem at dusk

Friday morning dawned cool but bright; and so Jools and I went for a quick walk before breakfast, just as the town was waking up. As everywhere, deliveries were being made before the shoppers and browsers were out and about. We stopped at the bridge to watch the swallows swoop and dive catching bugs in the early morning air. It was all rather wonderful.
The four of us then walked back into town so we could ride the cable car to the top of the valley. For most of its length through Germany, the Mosel runs in a deep valley, with vineyards up the lower slopes on both sides. Towns are situated beside the river and the valley sides, and roads and a railway run on one or both sides of the valley. The valley meanders in stunning lazy bends, with towns appearing like scenes from a fairy story as you go along. And Cochem is the main town along the valley, it has cobbled streets, timber-framed houses and lots of bars, places to eat and many more places in which to sample the local wines.

Following our friends

We walk back up the road out of the valley to the cable car station, pay our 5 euros and wait for a car. I say car, it’s a two seat thing suspended from the wire, and once we are swept off our feet, the car rises steeply u the valley side leaving the hustle and bustle of the town far below. Soon our feet are passing through the tops of bird-filled trees; its all rather splendid. Again.

Cochem am der Mosel

At the top we are instantly rewarded with stunning views down to the town and along the valley in both directions. It is a cliché to say the cars and trains below looked like toys, but no other words really describe the view. And even better, for most of the path to the best view, there are no barriers, with the efficient Germans apparently thinking that the thought of a drop of two hundred metres was warning enough.


Needless to say, we took loads and loads of photographs, but already the heat of the was becoming uncomfortable, and we made our way to the café which had its own fine views for a little liquid refreshment. Just soft drinks this time, it was before eleven. And we took a table right on the edge of the terrace with views down to the town and railway below. Magical.
And then it was time for us to part, and our friends had to get some lunch before heading back to England and we, of course, had four more days of our vacation left. We walked back to the hotel, picked up the car keys and drove off for destinations unknown.
We headed off south, through the town and along the road that follows the river; we passed through picturesque village after picturesque village, all with its own vineyards and places offering wine tasting. Outside the villages, the sides of the valley rose sheer above us, but even still, they were covered with vines, sometimes it looked that the slope was over 60%, amazing that people can stand on these slopes let alone are able to harvest and tend the vines.

Lunch in Zell

We came to a fine looking town just after one, and it seemed like lunchtime and so we pulled in, found somewhere to park and began to explore. As is the way along the Mosel, the streets of the town were narrow, cobbled and lined with timber-framed houses. Off the main street we saw what looked a fine place with tables on the streets. We sat down and ordered schnitzel with beer for me and a sweet white wine for Jools.

Zell am Mosel

The meal came with a huge pile of fresh asparagus in a white sauce.
We set off again down the valley, at each town taking the road out that followed the river bank. At three we stopped again, at twin towns; one on either bank of the river We parked under a bridge which crossed the river, and on the eastern bank once had a gate house to guard the town.


We climbed up some steep steps into the town, and walked along the main street. Our plan was for ice cream, and as it turned out, this would be successful we as came on an ice cream parlour, and ordered what we would call a sundae back home, but here is a becher. The ice creams came in over-size wine glasses, huge and covered in cream, sauce and nuts. It was a meal in itself.

We scream for ice cream

And then as the shadows lengthened, we headed back to Cochem, along the same roads we had travelled.Back in time for a snooze before the task of the evening, to find somewhere to eat. At the restaurant I ordered ham and cheese salad, or that’s what the menu said; when it arrived it was processed cheese and spam cut into strips; not what I was expecting and very underwhelming.

Saturday dawned bright and with the sun just rising above the top of the valley. We quickly had breakfast and headed out as we had to catch a train into Koblenz, as we had a date to meet one of my Flickr contacts. I even was able to buy or tickets from the machine, and then it was a case of waiting on the low platform for the train to arrive.

The train to Koblenz

Right on time the train pulled in, we got on and climbed the stairs to the upper level as these carriages had two floors, and took up or seats on the side so we could look over the river as we travelled north. As it was a local service, it must have stopped a dozen times, each time people got on; many were football fans, heading to Cologne for a big game. Friends met up, beers were opened and toasts for luck made.
As ever, walking out of the railway station in a strange town can be bewildering, but we followed the signs to the ‘Altstadt’ the old town, and see where that would lead us. Right into the main shopping area it seemed. As it was getting warm, we found a café and ordered orange juices and iced coffees and watched the world go by. Not bad really.
After drinking our fill, we found a bank, got some money, and then made our way back to the station to meet my friend, Gergorius, of Gunter as I later found was his real name. Amazingly, his train was delayed, and so we waited in a bar near the station and ordered beer and garlic bread. The day got hotter, and we watched folks come and go from the station.

Deutsche Ecke

At one y friend arrived, and with the wonders of modern technology, our mobiles, we found each other and set off for the old town and the confluence of the two rivers, the Rheine and Mosel at a place called Deutche Ecke, or German corner. Sadly, for us, the area is limited for access as there is a huge flower show on all summer, but if you know the way to go, it is still possible to get to the corner and take in the view.
Gunter had thought that the best thing to do would be to go on a cruise on the river, so we walked along to the Rheine and found a kiosk, bought our tickets and with an hour to wait, what better way than to have a drink?

Friends, and wife.

And so at three we boarded the boat, took our position at a table near the back, ordered yet more beers from the waitress and waited for the trip to begin. In reality it was a simple cruise out of the city, turn round and back again with a look at the German Corner, and that was it; not even much of a commentary, but good enough, especially in the warm weather with freight trains ratting along and over the river to keep me interested.
Once over we walked through the old town, found an old square, we took a table and had a farewell drink and then we made our way back to the station only to find we had missed our train my a couple of minutes. No worry, we took a seat in a café, and waited the 40 minutes for the next train, an express, which got us back to Cochem just 15 minutes later than the earlier train.
Time then to walk into town, and up one of the steep sidestreets following signs to a little Italian place; we both ordered schnitzel, but mine came in a rich butter and cheese sauce, which was not unpleasant. On the way back to the hotel, the streets we almost empty, as were the bars and restaurants.
Sunday, the 1st of May.
Another beautiful morning, clear blue skies and sunshine, once the sun rose above the valley side. After breakfast we walked along the river to see if there were any boat cruises to be had; there were, aqnd once again we found ourselves on a boat waiting for departure.


We ordered coffee and a slice of cheesecake each, and took in the passing scenery. The weather was beautiful, without a breath of wind, up past Cochem we went, turned round and headed upstream past a couple of small towns, turned round again and back to the dock. Doesn’t sound exciting, but it was wonderful, the colours and the air filled with birdsong.


We docked and we got off, through the crowds gathering for the next departure, and into the town, up the narrow alley from the previous night, past many houses and bars built on an increasingly steep hill. We stopped at a fine viewing point, not quite at the castle to marvel at the scene of the long wide bend in the river and the town beside it.
It was too warm now to continue to the castle, and so we walked back down to the town, and right in the main square took a table on the cobbles and ordered iced coffee and apple strudel with cream and ice cream. And we sat there and ate it, taking in the scene whilst being serenaded by a busker singing traditional Irish folk songs, a little out of place but good enough.

Monday, we decided to head out on the train again, this time to the town of Trier, which is the largest in the region. As before, after breakfast we made our way to the station and waited; a couple of freight trains rattled through and so I snapped them, and then our train, an express pulled in. We got good window seats and away we went. It took 50 minutes to reach Trier, we passed through tunnels, over bridges spanning the river and through lush farmland.

At Trier Hbf, we got off and watched the train leave to continue its journey into Luxembourg, just a few miles away. We left through the main entrance and were confronted by a typical modern European city. There were tourist signs, and one pointing towards Porta Nigra, the black gate. It is the finest preserved Roman city gate, and is three stories high and still in use as part of the city museum.

Porta Nigra

I snapped it and we walked on. We really should have gone to take a closer look, but there were a lot of tourists around it, each in groups with a guide. We prefer the independent way.

After a cup of coffee in a fabulous building, we headed toward the market square and the cathedral beyond. The square was fantastic, all huge timber framed buildings with ornate carvings. And leading from the square was a wide road leading to the cathedral,or rather the complex of churches and cathedrals. Sadly one was closed for renovation, but the cathedral was open, and we went inside to be greeted with a fantastic building with massive carvings, memorials. A wonder for sure. I took pictures, but we had to leave at midday as a service was to begin.

Haupt Markt, Trier

We went outside and at a pavement cafe we ordered salad with drinks and watched the world go by in the huge square. And then it was time to do some more walking to find the amphitheatre.

But first we came on a huge Roman Basilica, all built with flat bricks, clearly Roman; it was stunning to find, and still in use today. Inside it was simple with little decoration and clear windows, but the age of the building is simply staggering.

We followed the signs through a huge park, past another Roman church, this time just the remains, but still another huge building. The signs took us through a residential neighbourhood, over a railway line and up towards open countryside, and there it was. Or the entrance.

Unlike the collesium, this amphitheatre was built into the side of a hill, and is largely intact. It is now a grass filled bowl, and a new floor has been laid on wooden supports to show it would have looked some 1600 years ago.

Cathedral of St Peter, Trier

Time then to head back into town, finish off my shots in the cathedral, have an ice cream in a parlour in the main part of town, and then catch the five o'clock train back to Cochem. Another good day.

That night we went to a restaurant on the east bank to have something to eat, and watch the sun go down behind the valley sides. We ordered schnitzel and watch barges ply their way up and down the river, swallows swoop for food and just enjoy ourselves.

And then dawned Tuesday, and time to go home. we packed, loaded the car and after breakfast, set off, hoping to make the four o'clock sailing from Calais. It was a rush, but we did it with an hour to spare, and soon enough we were heading back to Blighty; and from our table we could see the white cliffs and on them, the first houses of our own village, St Margaret's.