Thursday, 29 September 2011

Thursday 29th September 2011

For those of you counting, this is my 498th blog on here. In just over three years. It's been quite a ride, and one thing for sure, I don't winge like I used to when I worked for Gardline, that's because there's less Mould in my life these days. That is a play on words, as our incompetent boss there was Kevin Mould, and he was a man with a long string of broken promises and poor man-management skills.

The uninvited extra person sitting in on the teleconference

anyway that is all in the past, and now I fly a desk not sail the seven seas looking for oil. I'm not bitter, not really; I do think about the money I could have earned, but value my sanity and happiness more than dollars and pence. It hurt when they did not take me back, but we got over it and I am enjoying life far more than I did back then.

The view from my office window.

So, last week in September; it has an 'r' in it which means we could have anything from sunny days to snow; and what we have is summer. So, even though it's been very warm all week, as the weekend nears temperatures are heading towards 30 degrees. Every morning, the sun rises through the fog and casts a wonderful orange light over the land. I wish I could stop and take shots, it has been magical. And by ten the fog clears and we have cloudless days with no breeze; it's hotter than July! That it is going to last into the weekend is the most surprising thing.

The view from my desk.

To add to the excitement, the new road into Ramsgate opened this morning, with the result all traffic entering the town from now has to use the same road, with the result of gridlock. Thankfully, most of the traffic is heading in the opposite direction to me, but the queues this afternoon added ten minutes onto my commute. I think its going to get worse, but we shall see. That this highly expensive road adds several miles and minutes to the trip seems to be a step backwards, but it must make sense to someone.

Time to go home

So, back home for the evening; Jools had a beading class and so I was home alone. Once the sun set and darkness began to fall, I take myself outside with several drams to sit in the garden to look at the stars come out. Even though we live in the south-east, it is possible to see the milky way with the naked eye, and with many jetliners crossing to Europe above Kent, it was a wonderful thing to see their lights go across the starry background.
And behind me, an unknown cat chased, caught, ate and then brought up said mouse. Oh, there's never a dull moment around our house.

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Three divisions, Two years, one team.

(Another blog about Norwich City)

Exactly two years ago yesterday, my team, Norwich City, played at Gillingham in Kent in a League 1 game. I went along, and reading my thoughts on that day in my blog post, I lamented how low City had fallen and how sad it was. For those of you who do not remember, City were in charge until our keeper was sent off, The Gills scored from the penalty, and with 10 men City tried to get back on level terms and eventually got the equaliser in the 97th minute.

Since then, of course, things have changed. That point, as a result of that rear-guard action was, I think, the turning point: from that point on City grew stronger the longer games went on, we turned draws and losing positions into wins week after week. And in time we climbed the table and just after Christmas we hit the top and did not give it up.

Last season, of course, whilst not blazing a train to another league title, City did cement their place and once again began to sneak late goals and so get three points where maybe we should have only got one point. I don’t think it was until there were about ten games to go, City were still second, that I began to dream that maybe we could go up again. I looked at the remaining fixtures, and I thought, we really could do this. And just when the resolution of our rivals began to waiver, City won game after game, with the exception of a defeat at Swansea. And on the 2nd of May, our promotion was secured with a 1-0 win at Portsmouth.

And we City fans spent the summer in a haze; first waiting for the fixture lists to be published, then the pre-season, and finally the first game. We all have hopes, of course, and we know we could have done better; scored more goals, conceded less penalties, but so far we have not been embarrassed or cowed.

And last night, the razzmatazz of Sky TV arrived at Carrow Road for Monday Night Football (MNF) for our game with Sunderland. We had won our last game and were going for our first back to back top flight wins since April 2005. There was a blimp flying over the ground, relaying live shots of the bright green turf showing up against the darkness of the city. There was in deep analysis by the presenters, highlights of previous games and predictions of where tonight’s game would go.

But, at the back of mind was the thought; this is it, we’re back in the big time; live on TV, flashing pitchside advertisements, large video screens and all the rest. And, just 104 weeks previously, we were just 17th in League 1 and by the end of the game last night we were 9th in the Premier League. It probably won’t last, we will almost certainly get relegated, but we won’t go bust as a result of it, and our team will be stronger and wanting more. And this week City head to Old Trafford for the one game in the season we are not expected to, let along win, not stand a chance in. In an infinite universe, anything is possible, except three points in Salford of course.

And all this has happened because City lost their first game of the season 7-1; had that result had not been so bad, then nothing may have been done. But Paul Lambert was brought in, fitness levels raised closely followed by expectation levels. Sometimes you have to hit the very bottom to realise how far you have fallen, and having the bottom it makes the highs all the more enjoyable.

We’re lovin’ it.

Monday, 26 September 2011

Monday 26th September 2011

Saturday rolled round, and I found myself rolling out of bed at half five in the morning, as myself and my friend, Gary, hoped to see some deer in Richmond Park in London. And so after breakfast, I loaded my camera gear in the car and headed to his gaff. He was waiting beside the road, and after throwing his gear in we headed off towards that London.
We tried to ignore the fat that there was an attractive layer of mist all the way along the M20, and how bloody photogenic it was. So, we headed northwards, then along the M25 until the sat-nav told us to turn off. It directed us through various boroughs, through woods, up and down hills and in time, into Richmond.

The car park was quite empty, and so we parked up, picked up the camera gear and headed off in search of deer. Through a gate, along a path through trees and rhododendrons, out the other side and we were confronted by a fine sight of a huge open space filled with ferns, mist just visible in the golden light. And breaking the silence was the occasional HOOOOM. This, as it turned out, was the randy male deer. Their calls echoed around the park, and as we looked we could see antlers showing above the ferns, and as we walked into the wood, watchful faces could be seen.

We took our shots, then moved off towards two large ornamental lakes away to our left. On the way, we saw more deer out in the open, and we decided to follow. They were moving to a pool amongst some trees on the edge of another wood. We stood and watched as deer after deer entered the clearing and climbed into the pool to wallow in the mud. There were some confrontations, with males locking antlers and looking pretty angry. After locking horns, they would glare at each other and bellow HOOOOOM.


To add to the surreal nature of looking at this activity, bright green parakeets swooped down from the trees squawking loudly. These have escaped from people’s homes, and have made their homes in the trees of west London, and seem to be very much happy. Quite how our native birds feel about this is not clear.

To me, to you, etc.

After a while we move on, but although we see many other deer, none as close as around the pool, and as more folks arrived, we headed back to the car and then back home.

What's that you say? We're all ears....

As I have said before, there is little pleasure from driving on the British motorway network, but it is stressful and a relief when we get back into Kent and head back down towards the coast. And the traffic got lighter, and all the while we had the sounds of Radio 5 blaring out, chirping out funny stuff to entertain us.

And we were back home by half twelve, and I was sitting in front of the computer checking shots soon after one, listening to the radio as the football got underway. I did, however, fall asleep during the main commentary, and I did not know the results until I got round to watching MOTD on Sunday.

We spent the evening watching Smiley’s People, which is as gripping as TTSS, but with higher production values. Due to issues with the cats being hungry at three or four in the morning, we locked them out of the bedroom and we slept long and deeply.

Autumnal fruits

Sunday morning, like most have been recently, dawned clear and bright. After breakfast we put on our walking shoes and headed off for a walk along the lanes around where we live. The fields have all been harvested and ploughed and now harrowed. The hedgerows are full of fruit, but we have picked our share, made jams, jellies and wine, and now leave the rest for the birds.

Sometimes you just have to stop and look and marvel.

We see some butterflies, basking on south-facing plants; I snap them and we move on.
It is always a thrill to come to the cliff edge, and see the ground fall away to the breaking waves on the beach below.

Once back home we sit in the back garden drinking coffee and eating crumbly French cakes. Life is still good!

Watch that step

And then comes the afternoon and I lay on the sofa to watch the televised game, the spectacle that is QPR v Aston Villa; and it’s a real stinker, Villa offer nothing and yet take the lead due to an awful penalty decision by the ref. And the game got a better finale than it deserved as Rangers get a last minute equaliser, and I think about writing to Sky to get my 90 minutes back. I cook roast leg of lamb with all the trimmings, and then we slump to watch another episode of Smiley’s People.

Friday, 23 September 2011

Friday 23rd September 2011

Friday afternoon and for once I am not looking forward to the weekend. This is because I am on holiday already!


We head off with empty bags to go for a short walk to hunt along the hedgerows for blackberries, sloes and wild apples. There are plans for jam, jelly andmaybe more sloe gin. But, that is for later in the week.

So, half past week rolls up, and it is Nan's 97th birthday, or the day after, and we take her out for lunch. We head to Wickhambreaux, which is a real place; we past the two water mills and park at the village green. Nan walks into the pub and wtake a table in the corner.
We have good food, ploughmans for Jools and I, and a fish and chops for Nan: don't give me too much. Have some chips. Have some more chips. And so on.

It's not that bad, the food is good, the ploughmans comes on a large wooden board, with fresh bread, pickle and either ham off the bone or Stilton (or ours did) and it was good. We have ice cream for dessert; rhubarb for me, pistachio for Jools and mint-choc-chip for Nan. It was great.

Birthday Girl

We head back to Dover in the late summer/early autumnal sunshine. It seems that there are several definitions as to when autumn begins; the met office say September 1st, some say the 21st and my desk diary says it was the 22nd; so take your pick.

Ham ploughmans

Anyway, we drop Nan off and head home to wait for our German friends to return,as they were to catch the ferry back home on Thursday and were to stay with us that night. Anyway.

We wait. and wait. And they turn up at nearly six, we make a drink talk about the things they saw in Wales and Cornwall. And then we head back down to the Bay as Guenter and Martina were treating us to a meal at the Coastguard; and who were we to turn down such a fine offer?

So, at seven we headed down the bay, and were given the same table as the week before, and once again Guenter and I ordered fish and chips and a pint or two of fine ale, followed by their famous cheeseboard. Afterwards we went up on the cliffs to look on the lights of Bolougne and Calais, and above us the Milky Way could be seen. It was a fine end to a great evening.

On Thursday morning, our guests packed their bags, carried them to the car and were gone, off to catch the ten o'clock ferry to Dunkerque.

We end up having a quiet day, about time too one could say. I listen to the radio, edit some photographs and Jools potters around in the garden. In the evening we watch the final three episodes of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy and at the end we found that professional nasty character actor, Ian Richardson, was the mole in the Circus; who saw that coming? *Ian waves hands in the air vigorously*


And that leaves Friday: and all there was left to do, was to make the jam, jelly, crumble and chutney with the fruit and stuff we either had gown in our gardens or collected from the hedgerows. I went out with my friend Gary to Sandwich, to the wildlife sanctuary, to snap what we could see; egrets, herons, other birds and insects.


We head to the hide on the marshes, and are treated to many egrets, a heron, crows and various ducks. Already in the hide were several twitchers, each swapping news of latest sightings and differences between stints and other similar wading birds. All above my head in truth; I was happy enough to snap away at the birdies.

Ole Frank goes ahuntin'

Off then to the woodland, and we were treated to a fine autumnal display of butterflies; red admirals, speckled woodlands and several commas. I snap many, after changing lenses to the macro and getting some great shots.
I stand still, and as I hoped, a comma lands right in front of me in a shaft of sunshine; I snap it; great.

Comma Butterfly

And that just leaves the afternoon in which to overdose on Flickr and listen to the film reviews on the radio; just like the old days.

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Wednesday 21st September 2011

Good afternoon.

As is typical for the time have year, we are getting several seasons per day; right now it is like summer again with blue skies and warm late afternoon sunshine. But earlier, we had wind a drizzle, not very pleasant at all. Not that we did much today; it is Nan's 97th birthday, and we were due to take her out for lunch, but she did not feel well and with the weather they way it was, lunch has been postponed until a sunny day. Maybe tomorrow.
We did go to see her, drop her card off. She has had more cards than I ever had, but then in 97 years one has many friends I guess.

As I wrote before, Monday was our anniversary, and we decided to head to Bluewater for lunch, as there is a You Sushi there, and they do good deals on a Monday with all dishes costing £2.50.

Chartham, Kent

On the way up, we visited the village of Chartham; it was a fine morning and we headed towards the village from the A2, down twisting lanes through orchards and hop fields.
We find a place to park by the village green, and head for the church, but find it is locked. I take some shots and we head along the main road, looking for the village pub to photograph before heading back to the car.

St Mary's, Chartham, Kent

We get to Bluewater, and surprisingly for a Monday, the car parks are quite full and there are lots of people already there. But, or so it seemed to me, there wasn't much shopping going on, just people wandering around, and going for lunch, after all is just what we were doing.

We roll up at the sushi place just gone midday, and get a booth for a change and we eat a couple more dishes than we planned, but the food was all good.

Having eaten, we wander round the mall some more, buy some fancy snacks for later on, and then head back to the car and back home. After the busy weekend we were pretty whacked and so a nice relaxing afternoon seemed perfect. So, on with the radio and do more work on the photographs I took over the weekend.

City Gates, Boulogne-sur-Mer

Tuesday, we were up before dawn, having breakfast as we were heading to France for the day. It is just a 15 minute drive to the tunnel terminal, and with no fuss we check in, go through customs and are queuing up within 40 minutes of leaving the house.
We file on the train, the doors are secured, we listen to the emergency drill announcement, and the train glides out of the station and under Roundhill Tunnel and down and under the Channel, soon zipping along at 140kph. In 35 minutes we emerge into the light in Calais, the train stops and in under 2 minutes to partition doors open and we are able to drive off and straight onto the motorway.

un petit café

We head straight for the wine warehouse, pick up several cases of plonk and head down to Boulogne, a 30 minute blast down the motorway. We head down to the centre, find a place to park and then wander off to find the old walled part of the city.

The Basilica of Notre-Dame de Boulogne

As it happens, we had off up a narrow residential street and see the remparts of the walls, and so after crossing a main road, walk through the ancient gateway and into the old town proper. Although it is packed with cafe's and trinket shops, it is possible to see how wonderful all the old buildings are, even after the repair of bomb damage from the two world wars.

We have a cup of coffee and a Pâté bagette whilst sitting outside watching the world go by. Which in this case seemed to be schoolchildren mainly.

We walk round the city walls, marvelling at the size of the basillica, and all the while the drizzle gets steadily heavier. We continue the walk, all the way round until we end up back at the massive church. I push the door open, but the sound of a service comes out, and so I let the door close gently.

The Vole Hole, Boulogne sur Mer

We head to a tiny bar for a drink, and then head back to the car. We head to the coast road, as it is wonderful to travel along, through picturesque villages and then up twisty roads to the tops of huge chalk cliffs with views over the Channel back to England. Or would have if it were a clear day. The rain falls, and we head back to the tunnel, check in and wait for our departure back home.

The Vole Hole, Boulogne sur Mer

It really is all so painless, but is functional.

I cook and early dinner, and we head out in the evening as we have tickets to see Reginald D Hunter in Folkestone, and we have a great night as he tries out new material on us.

And then back home, we actually get home at nearly eleven, very late for us, and then have the flavoured nuts purchased the previous day.

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Tuesday 20th September 2011


Even though we could lay in bed all day, if we wanted, we were up and ready by half six, and eating breakfast by seven. I spent the morning catching up on Saturday's radio and editing photographs. I took nearly 800 during the trip to London, so i have some work to do.

We were to meet a friend at two for a trip out the the breakwater in Dover Harbour, where we would be met by an historian and be told something of the history of the structure through the 20th century.

We met on on the cliffs, then drove down to the cruise terminal in a convoy, then twisting through various bollards and barriers we came to the harbourside where our boat was waiting for us.

We climb aboard with all the grace of a herd of arthritic bewilderbeasts, and settle back for the 5 minute trip to the breakwater. And then we all have to get from the boat onto the steps, without mooring the boats whilst carrying all our photographic gear!


We get it done by way of teamwork, and then climb the steps and onto the breakwater, and are confronted by the first of two barracks, both sadly out of bounds, as are either end of the breakwater. Oh well, we'll make do with what we got.

we walked to the end, or as far as we could get, whilst the old guy told us of the history and what life was like for those stationed out here. It was interesting stuff, but not as interesting as being within 50 feet of huge ferries going in and out, and we soon wandered off to get our shots, and shots of the cloudscape, which was stunning, but got darker as the afternoon wore on, and there was certainly going to be rain soon.

Dover Breakwater

At for the boat came to take us back to shore, and we climbed in the car and headed back home, to watch the big game (which I had recorded, and to make dinner). I just could not be bothered to watch any NFL this week, there really is not enough hours in the day, and so after another episode of Tinker, Tailor, Solider, Spy we hit the old wooden hill to bed.

Monday, 19 September 2011

Monday 19th September 2011

Good morning.

It's Monday and I am sitting at the dining room table after a late breakfast. And that is because we are both on a week's holiday. Today is also our 3rd wedding anniversary, and so we are heading out later for lunch out; sushi, which is raw fish, of a kind. I'll have mine cooked smothered in soy sauce methinks.

It has been quite a weekend; we have done lots and have much more planned for the rest of the week, with tomorrow looking particularly exciting; a day trip to France and in the evening Reginald D Hunter live in concert. Funny!

But, back to the weekend.

Friday was, of course, my last day in the RAF reserve; I had plans to stay up sipping sweet whisky until the clock ticked past midnight and I was free. As it was, we sat outside in the warm evening sunshine taking in the last of the autumnal sunshine. And then we headed inside to watch the first episode of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, the original BBC series, which I have never seen. Gripping stuff.

Trinity House

And once that was finished we headed up to bed, with me thinking there's plenty of time in the rest of my life for celebration.

The alarm went off at half five as we had to catch the quarter to six train to London. It was just getting light as we pulled up at the station in Dover, and the sky was reddy with the portent of rain to come later, which, as it turned out, was dead right.

Westfield Stratford City

We got off at Stratford, but now as the mall is open, we did not have to catch the world's shortest bus service to the other part of the station. Instead we went through Westfield, past huge numbers of shiny new shops through halls of cathedral size magnitude. And walking along were large numbers of security guards patrolling away, making sure no one was taking photographs or not buying anything.

I like a challenge.

So, we head to McDonalds for 'breakfast'. There was nothing else open. And nothing says 'breakfast' better for me than a microwaved bun with a sausage patty and a slice of rubbery egg. The coffee was good though. Honest.

Westfield Stratford City

We walk on looking for the regional station, I leap behind signs to grab the occasional shot. Even though I find the thought of yet more shops opening, the architecture is stunning, and makes for fine photographs. Once outside I feel free to snap away, but a guard comes outside and tells me to stop. I question her as I think I am on public land, she says not. I wait until she goes back inside and carry on snapping.
Away to the west is the Olympic Park, now looking largely complete; I take a couple of shots and then we set out for the station.

Trinity House

We get onto the DLR and head towards Canary Wharf, where we change and then head towards Tower Gateway and our first port of call; Trinity House.

Walking down the steps from the station you are presented with a fine view of the Tower of London and Tower Bridge with the backdrop of the South Bank. It is quite something.

Trinity House

A short walk away is Trinity House, the home of the organisation that looks after the lifeboats and lighthouses around the country. We queue at the front door, half an hour before opening, and are joined by more and more people. Five minutes the doors swing open, and we go in and are presented with a fine view of a grand staircase to the first floor.

Trinity House

We head up to get shots before the rooms get too crowded. They are spectacular, with one having a fine painted ceiling, and all over the walls decorated with paintings of naval heroes or scenes of a nautical nature.

Trinity House

We leave after about a quarter of an hour, and head northwards towards where the Guildhall we thought was. We were right, but we did find some other interesting places to look at.

St Olave, Hart Street, London

First off was less than two minutes walk away, a little church set against the towering backdrop of The City. It looked tiny, but wasn't really. It was open so we went in, through the stone gateway decorated with skulls. This was one of Charles Dickens' favourite churches, and he based one of his literary creations on it. We were met inside by the verger, and he told us some of the history of St Olave's.

St Olave, Hart Street, London

Entombed within the church is Samuel Pepys and a pantomime character, Mother Goose. The church is named after the king of Norway who helped at the Battle of London Bridge in AD 1014.

St Olave, Hart Street, London

So much history around us, and doubly so in London.

We move on.

We call in at another City church, snap that and move on again. Jools spys an Open House London sign, and so we investigate, and find it's the Carpenter's Hall. We go in.

Of course.

We climb the wide wooden staircase and through one of three doors enter a huge banqueting hall. It is modern, post war again due to bomb damage, but the effect of the wooden panels and recessed lights is stunning. On the walls are the framed warrants signed by kings of old dating from Tudor times, granting permission for the most worshipful company to come into being.

Carpenter's Hall

More history. History so close you can reach out and touch it.

We head back outside, memory cards getting fuller by the hour.

We walk along, up, along, heading west and slightly north. Until we pick up signs for the Guildhall. And down a side road is what looks like a huge parish church. We walk to the entrance, have our bags scanned and head inside.

The view is a vast empty church, now reserved for civic and royal occasions. Along either side of the hall are tombs of the great and good; three Prime Ministers, including both Pitts, The Duke of Wellington and Admiral Lord Nelson. People gathered around the last two tombs, but the crowds were not big, as it does take some finding, The Guildhall.

Guildhall, London

We see some steps leading down, and find that underneath the hall are two mammoth crypts, one ancient, and the other post war again. Each window is decorated with a crest from one of the guilds. It is all rather wonderful.

We go up a different set of steps, and are transfixed by a fabulous tiled floor and see people coming down a staircase to the right. We go up and in time come to the Grand Hall.

Guildhall, London

This is where Royal Banquets are held, on high occasions such as coronations or jubilees. The size of the hall is huge, and built very much like a church, but built to the glory of England. Paintings decorated the walls, remembering such royal events from years past. England's Glory, or the Royal Family of it anyway.

Guildhall, London

Outside once again, we look for somewhere to eat, and make do with a Cafe Nero and have a sandwich and coffee.
We head south back to the river to head to Southwark to see City Hall once again, an Irish pub calls us in for some more liquid refreshment, and we sit outside watching the world go by before heading over Southwark Bridge.

St James, Garlickhythe

At once the empty pavements we had gotten used to all morning were now packed with locals and tourists, and we had to fight our way back east towards Tower Bridge. I see that Southwark cathedral was open, and so leaving Jools outside to read, I go in and warm the camera up again.

Southwark Cathedral

Southwark is, I guess, London's forgotten cathedral, there being others in London of course, and it is wonderful to step through the doors and enter the peace and tranquillity of the grand church.
Although from outside it looks like a large parish church, looks do deceive, and it is on a grand scale, but not too grand. And the roof above seems as high as the heavens.

Southwark Cathedral

I meet the Bishop on the way out, and he asks where I am from. I tell him and I say how wonderful the cathedral is, and explain my task of photographing Kentish churches. He asks for my favourite, and I say Lyminge, due to it's age, the friendliness of the warden and the single flying buttress. He says he will endeavour to visit it.
I meet back with Jools outside, and in time we reach City Hall; once again Jools stays outside as I go in to photograph it once again, this time with the wde angle lens on my newer camera. As before, it is a wonderful building, all graceful lines and spiral staircase expanding, ever wider, round the atrium. I snap it some more, and once at the bottom decide it time to go home.

City Hall

I seek out Jools and we walk to Tower Bridge, and then onto Tower Gateway and the DLR back to Stratford. All would have been well until a squall blew up and the wind blew, the rain did fall, and we did seek shelter in the lea of one of the bridge's towers.

After a while we make a break for it, and arrive at the station like drowned rats. And the journey home began.

My attention was taken by the football scores, as Norwich went for their first win of the season. 2-0 up at half time, and as we arrived in Folkestone, the final score being 2-1 and the three points were ours.

All in all,a good day.

Friday, 16 September 2011

Friday 16th September 2011

And relax.

It’s Friday and we both have a week off from the second the hooter sounds.





It has been a fine week; it began with Britain being battered by a hurricane. Wow, that sounds amazing. But what it was really was an old hurricane that had really let itself go and was now a storm. OK, we did not get the worst of it here in Kent, but the wind did blow and the turbines did produce many wiggly amps. The technicians did not go out to work, and instead messed around in the office.


On TV there were the usual scenes of weather reports standing beside bodies of water, describing the force of the wind and putting into words what we could see happening behind them. When they were at Metrological school, do you think that is a phase they had to pass? Talking to a TV camera whilst trying not to be blown into the ocean. It’s like the weather maps with pictures of clouds; we know what a cloud looks like, do don’t HAVE to patronise us, but still you do. So, ferries got cancelled, bridges got closed. And the world still turned.

Before the Hurricane

The next day we had the tree in our garden lopped. More like a haircut, or leafcut, really. I mean it wasn’t really a problem, but was still growing, and we thought a smaller tree would provide more light, whilst still providing shelter for the birds. I was first home, and whilst washing up, the amount of extra light was amazing, and we can see the houses that used to lurk behind the tree up on the other side of the valley.

After the hurricane

The cats were more than spooked we think, and it took several hours for them to calm down and eat again. We have a leafless tree, a pile of logs for the burner and happy neighbours as their satellite works again.

Other than that, it has been a quiet week; Europe edges closer to the financial abyss as the Euro slumps and Greece needs yet more money. Promises are made, with crossed fingers behind the backs of everyone who is not Greek. Banks are worried, Governments are worried, rating agencies cut ratings (its what they do) and the world still turns.

Yesterday was a perfect autumnal day; the sun shone all day from a clear blue sky, and there was just the hint of a breeze. It was so warm I had to open the office window really wide to get a breeze and so cool down. We had dinner sitting outside. I say dinner, it was beer and pizza, and the day was already cooling down, but we were determined to make the most of the sunshine. Later in the evening, we got the camera, tripod, camping light and power tools out and made pretty patterns.

The Time Tunnel

And finally, we sat outside, looking at the rising moon, away in the east. It was blood red, and were I superstitious I would say it was a portent of doom. As it is, I thought it beautiful and toasted the moon with some Isle of Jura.

All that is left to do today, is to take Scully to the vet, and for him to decide on how her tail is healing. I think its fine, as she is carrying it like she used to, raised high in the air as though it was not damaged. That’s my view anyway. We are looking after Nan this week, and so she is coming for dinner tonight and we are having steak and ale pie with fresh veg and roast spuds. A proper dinner methinks. She will not like it, she doesn’t eat pastry, but there is raspberries for dessert, which is more to her liking.

And then it is the weekend, and me free of the MOD from midnight tonight.

Thursday, 15 September 2011

15+6 years

Good morning/afternoon/evening*

(*delete as appropriate)

At midnight tomorrow, my commitment to the defence of the realm comes to an end. How I came to accept the Queen’s shilling is quite convoluted, but then, most decisions we take in life are. I ended up joining the RAF in the autumn of 1990 because, mainly, my friend had joined the year before, and he joined because his friend joined some time before that.
I guess I wanted to see more than the refrigerated walls of the chicken factory. I mean, there had to be more to life than that, right? I was earning barely enough to keep myself in records/football tickets/camera film and all the other stuff I felt that I should be doing with my life.

So, when my parents left for their summer holiday in the summer of 1989, I went up to Norwich to meet with the careers people in the RAF and try to join. Seems simple now, but the wait dragged on for months, and the thought of being a driver had to be changed, and in the end I agreed to follow my friend as an armourer.
I say I agreed, the RAF decided for me, I could have said no, but this seemed like the last, only chance I had. The MOD decided they had enough drivers, and I had to choose another trade; I mentioned armourer, and the sergeant made some notes. It came as a surprise to receive a letter from the MOD confirming my joining the RAF on July 4th 1990 as an armourer. Somehow I had skipped the testing, the interviews and all that should have happened.

So, I began to plan in joining, I would hand my notice in with the factory a week before joining up, so they had better not find out. All was well until the wee small hours driving back from a Price concert in London, I manage to crash my car breaking my thumb, two weeks before my joining date. Although I didn’t know it was broken at the time. So I did not tell the RAF. I had a week on the sick, watching the world cup in Italy and sun-bathing, with a cast on my left arm.

A week later, I went to have the cast removed and an x-ray; unfortunately, it was broken, and my plans for my bomb-building future was laying in ruins. I had to call the RAF and explain that I could not join as the break would take six weeks to heal. Don’t panic they said, we’ll do some ringing around.

And in an hour some guy in Norwich was asked, and accepted my place to join in 10 days, and I got his slot in September. Time enough for my thumb to heal. Watch the world cup. Go and see the Rocky Horror Show in London. Madonna live in London at Wembley Stadium. Sunbathe. Watch the start of the football season. Hand in my notice, take all the holiday due to me, and not do a stroke of work until the middle of September. It was one of those win/win/win/win/win situations, really.

Jelltex: the rave years

The summer passed, and the cast was removed. It was healed but weak. I had to pass the medical, which was me squeezing the doctor’s hand whilst he looked into my eyes for a grimace of pain. I passed that and was clear to enter the RAF.

As September slipped through my fingers the date of when I would sear my allegiance got ever nearer. Panic gripped me as I went round buying the stuff I needed. Mainly arranging for name tags to me made so I could spend the long autumnal evenings sewing them into every item of my kit. There would be little else to do, other than the cleaning, ironing, polishing, mopping, marching and general bulling.

And then the day arrived; Tuesday the 18th of September. I went up to the RAF careers office in Norwich with my Granddad. We went up on the train as I had sold the car, or what was left of it after the crash that had broken my thumb. We got a taxi to the office, and along with the others who were joining that day in there, we swore our oath to HM the Q, received our certificate and our travel warrants for the morning. As we were to travel to deepest Lincolnshire to RAF Swinderby for our 6 weeks of basic training.

We went back to Lowestoft, Granddad went home and I met my then friend, Richard, for beer and pool. We met at his local, The Fighting Cocks, and drank Stella all afternoon and into the evening, until nine o’clock came and I really had to head home. We shook hands and he wished me well and we made promises about keeping in touch.

I walked back home, and climbed into my bedroom walking round my packed bags.

Next morning at five, Mum woke me up. I had the shakes and a stinking hangover. The taxi picked me up, and took me to the station and I collapsed into a seat and watched the Norfolk countryside roll by. On Norwich station I met the others once again who were joining with me, and we travelled up together. The enormity still had not hit me, and I was in good spirits even with the hangover.

AC Jelltex

Once at Newark, our instructions was to go to the front of the station and make our way to the bus that would be waiting. The only bus waiting was an old thing, which was smoking slightly as the engine ticked over it. As well as the driver, many young men and women with short haircuts sat looking pensive. That must be it.
We put our bags in the hold, and climbed on the bus and did some more military waiting. The first bout of military waiting I had done; but not the last, oh no.

In time all expected passengers had arrived and we left, through the suburbs of Newark, and into the Lincolnshire wolds, and then on the right we saw the low hangars and water towers which marked where our homes for the next six weeks or so would be.

THEN it hit. I had joined the RAF, and there was no escape.

Monday, 12 September 2011

Monday 12th September 2011

There are many things to lament on the modern world, how values we used to hold dear are sacrificed, and how we would all do so much better in living like they did in the past; like sending children up chimneys and the such.

But, the modern world in which we find ourselves is, for the most part, a wonderful place full of things that we, in our childhoods would really image what the future would be like. But without silver suits and food in pill form, of course. Some of these wonders include, carrying all the music I owned, in digital form, in a box the same size as a packet of fags, and another such box with dozen of films and TV shows on it, electronic mail, the internet, and so on.

Gregorious has arrived

But even better is that the people we meet online and in the virtual world are real, and that sometimes we actually meet them. And the odd thing is that even though it may be the first time we meet them, we know so much about them, their life, its like meeting an old friend.

Dover College Chapel

On Thursday, one of my Flickr friends and his wife came to stay. We had met them when we visited Germany in May, and we said if they wanted to come and stay, they could. And so they took me up on that offer and arrived just before dinner time. Geunter and Martina spoke very good English, which is just as well as my German is at best, rusty.
Sadly Jools and I could not take the time off to show them round Kent, but they had a car and guidebooks and so they on Friday, as we headed to work, they headed to Sissinghurst in search of gardens and sunshine.

Friday night we took them for a meal down at the Coastguard in St Margaret’s Bay; we all had fish and chips followed by a cheeseboard and then Geunter and I had whiskies. Sadly, the good weather and the anticipated views to France failed to materialise, and so we made do with the sight of the rising near full moon as we sat on the patio of the pub sipping Glenmorangie.

St Mary's, Dover

Saturday morning, we were up with the larks, as our guests had to be up to drive to our mutual friend, Bob, and he was going to show them on a whistle stop tour of London. Jools and I had a fine day planned, as it was the annual Heritage Day as organised by English Heritage, and we had a list of places to visit. First up we both got haircuts, and then I walked into Dover snapping some pubs and interesting buildings along London Road. I sat down in the market square, waiting for Jools, and watching England labour to a last minute win over Argentina in the rugby world cup.

Dover College Chapel

We then walked up to the Unitarian Church, which is a wonderful building, and not very often open. The church is an octagonal building, and is a delight. We were greeted by what is the Unitarian version of a churchwarden to show us round and give us a brief history of the church and the organisation. I dutifully snapped it all, and I think it came out well.
Next we walked to short distance to St Edmund’s Chapel. St Edmund’s it a tiny building, and yet has survived since the 12th century. It’s history is astonishing, click on the picture to my Flickr stream for the full story. Once again we were met by a friendly person who told us the history and points of interest. The building is beside one of the main roads into the town, but you can so easily miss it, it being the same size as a garden shed.

St Edmund's Chapel, Dover

It was midday by now, and so we called into the Prince Albert for a drink before heading off to Dover College for more photography. The pub is a popular one, and caters for some of the dodgier people in the town, but friendly enough. We sat at the window and watched to world go by and those in the pub studying the racing pages in the paper and filling in their betting slips. Just like this has been done for decades, really.

Hard Boiled

And then out into the sunshine again for the short walk to the college. Dover College occupies the site of the old Dover Priory, and parts of it date back to the middle ages, and it has some very fine buildings indeed. The chapel is very fine, lined with memorials to former pupils who died on may foreign battlefields. The chapel pre-dates the college, as does many of the buildings. We heard piano music coming from one ancient looking building, and looking inside we saw it was the refectory, with trestle-tables set ready for lunch; the pianist saw us and stopped playing. I snapped the scene and left.

We headed back home for lunch, and were thinking of maybe going out later, but thanks to a disturbed night’s sleep, I was shattered and the thought was to lie on the bed and listen to the football on the radio; in a while I climbed into bed and slept the afternoon and the football away. Our guests did not arrive back until half ten, and whilst we waited we watched that Great British anachronism, Last Night of the Proms. Even if I do feel the jingoism of Land of Hope and Glory and Rule Britannia uncomfortable, the sheer passion and quaintness of it is wonderful.

Nun with a camera

Sunday morning, after a better night’s sleep, I was up before seven watching the recorded MOTD and drinking lots of strong coffee. I made bacon butties for us all which smelt really good, good enough to bring our guests down the stairs without having to call them. And then, out in the car for a short blast up the A2 to Canterbury, as they had wanted to have a look round.

We did the usual stuff, walked to the Cathedral, but being a Sunday was closed for a service, before taking them to the Kings School building and then along the city walls to the castle, where there was a display of Viking crafts and fighting skills. We carried on back to the city centre, stopping off in a pub for a pint of Hobgoblin before taking them to the cathedral so they could look round. It is £9 to get in, and Jools and I did not going in with them. Instead we went for a bite to eat and then went to a cookware shop to get some stuff for the kitchen; and then it was time to head home, and for me to start Sunday dinner; we had a huge joint of beef, and it needed nearly three hours to cook. But was worth it, as we sat down in the early evening with a couple of bottles of wine.

And today, our friends are leaving us for the wilds of Wales, and we get the house back. Not that they have been a burden on us, quite the opposite in fact. Although I think the cats will be pleased to have their lives undisturbed again.