Monday, 30 January 2012

Monday 30th January 2012

A weekend away!

The idea was to meet up with some like-minded railway-inclined photographers for beer, stories and taking lots of shots of locos at a steam gala in the midlands. It all sounded wonderful, but I did not read the mail properly, and missed the meet-up by a whole day. But still the gala was still on, and so as the hotel was still booked, so may as well make the best of things, eh?

I asked my good friend, Gary, to feed the mogs, and to borrow his monster 130-400mm lens, and so after being awake at a really silly hour Saturday morning, we fed the cats, packed the car and headed off into the dark to head up to Loughborough for lots and lots of trains. I won’t bore you with the journey, but it was pleasant enough, traffic light and weather was pleasant enough. Zoe Ball burbled on the radio playing inoffensive music and asking not-so-taxing conundrums.

4953 Pitchford Hall

Soon enough we turned off the M1 and a quick blast onto a local road and through the picturesque village of Quorn and then we arrived at the station, only to find most of the train fans in the country had arrived before us. Still, we paid to get in, found what seemed to be the last non-muddy parking space, I got the camera gear out and we headed to the station to purchase our tickets. At least by that time, it did not seem too crowded, and once we got the tickets, I snapped what locomotives were around, before we headed on the first train north to the main station at Loughborough to have a look round the yard and engine shed.

There was no chance of a seat, so we stood in the guards compartment, which was pleasant enough; we talked to other travellers and it really was very nice. At Loughborough, we got out and walked to the shed, only to find just about all ten locomotives were out somewhere on the line. But, one tank locomotive was being watered, and I knew that one of my Flickr contacts should have been working on it. ‘Is there a Mr Loose grip on there?’ I asked. The fireman turned and smiled, ‘I’m Loose Grip’ he said. I explained I was one of his Flickr contacts and just wanted to say ‘hi’. He climbed down to shake my hand, but then the signal dropped to show the road was clear, and he had to get back to work, and was gone.

Double Header

Everywhere was now very crowded, and so we walked from the station into the town to find somewhere to get a bite to eat. We walked into the centre of town, and in time found an Italian café and had huge breakfasts and a good sized cuppa. Feeling better, we split up for a while as she went to look for a bead shop and I seeking out the town’s church. Thankfully, it was unlocked, and I went inside and had a nice meeting with the churchwarden, before I got the shots I wanted, and I headed back to the station and the world of steam.

I got on the first train south. I say got on, the crowds were now so big, that I only just got on the train, being the last one to get onto the carriage. That was good enough for me. I wanted to get to somewhere with a clear view of the line so I could something other than close-up shots. I ended up at Rothley, a station in a deep cutting, and it seemed perfect. However, the cuttings were marked as private property, and even though others had broken through the gate and were happily taking shots or having a picnic, it felt wrong to me to trespass, and so I went back to the station, and the road over the railway, offered fair views of the line; so I stopped there to watch a few trains go past.

After a while, I went onto the station to try to get a drink. OK, a beer. I queued up to get a bottle of beer, and sat on a picnic bench outside and watched the world, and trains, go by. I got a call from Jools saying she had seen me as her train went through the station, and was trying to get back to me. Initially, we had planned to hang round the station some more, but the crowds were so thick now, and views were really difficult to get, so I decided that we should go to the hotel for a rest. I should also explain that I had flattened the battery on my main camera, and what with our early start, I needed a lay down too.

So, a quick twenty minute drive through wonderful countryside and stunningly beautiful villages we ended up at the Travelodge; the booking was good and we were shown up to our room, with the warning that the Little Chef stopped serving at nine in the evening. We explained that we had seen a nice looking pub, but she said to go to the village of Thrussington. We had been told there were two good pubs there, but we stopped at the first one, The Star, and after parking on the square, went inside and grabbed the last table.

Food was good and very flavoursome, which is a good thing I find. I had Moroccan Lamb Tagine followed by a good cheeseboard, washed down by Timothy Tailor Landlord and for the cheese a nice glass of red wine. A super meal, and just a 5 minute drive for Jools back to our hotel and time for bed.

4953 Pitchford Hall

Next morning we were up as normal before seven, and after packing and washing, we loaded the car and set off. The Little Chef failed to open, even if we had wanted to eat there, and so we headed back to Loughborough to find a place to take shots of the trains hurtling up and down. As we drove through town, I could see the smoke from the locomotives being steamed, and an idea formed into my mind; take shots of the yard with the ten steaming locomotives. I saw the bridge, and so swung the car round and parked up.

Sure enough, the view from the bridge was splendid, and I got the shots I wanted, and in the wonderful rosy light of dawn, it was a wonderful sight.

We headed off towards the countryside, and a bridge on a lane I had spied on Google Earth. We found the bridge with no trouble, turned the car round ready for a quick getaway. We were the only folks there, so I congratulated myself on choosing somewhere that no-one else had thought have using. I failed to realise it was still early. By half eight there must have been a dozen other cars parked up beside ours, and by nine, there was very little parking available.

Breaking on through

Anyway, at a quarter to nine, the first locomotive went down the line; the frost and damp air meant that it created a huge amount of steam and smoke. It was wonderful. So, I snapped it good. At nine, the first passenger service was due to appear, and sure enough a huge cloud of smoke approached, and as expected it was being double-headed by two fine locomotives, and the smoke they produced was wonderful.

The Cornishman

I hung round until ten, by which time I was frozen to my bones. I packed the camera away and we pulled away with the heating on full to warm up.

Not much else to say about the weekend; we had a good trip home, but having to drive the other way round the M25 due to an accident; this meant we had driven all round it over the weekend. Not the first time this has happened either. We were back at home by half two, and making a nice cup of tea soon enough.

And if the weekend wasn't good enough, Norwich beat West Brom again, at their place, in the FA cup. And we now have a home tie against Leicester in a few weeks. The dream lives on!

Friday, 27 January 2012

Friday 27th January 2012

The one thing I did miss out on my previous post was the state of the job. And whether I still have one.

I do, for now. Deadlines come and go, with the promise of announcements and some clarity.

We were told that with the president leaving, we would have to wait for the FNG to come in; this happened yesterday, and those of us who could, watched a telecast of his speech in which he said not a lot. He can’t really, it was his first day, and my head spun on my first day, hell, first six months and I was just dealing with NCRs (don’t ask) and he has the multi-national company to look after.

Seems like a nice bloke; not German and still intends to live in Germany although the company is based in wonderful un-German Denmark.

There are rumours, of course. And semi-official ones at that; but nothing worth pinning one’s hopes on. I do feel my boss is honest, and he tells me all of what he knows, and I trust him. Which is more, much more, that could be said of most of the people I have worked under since I was a dole boy back in the early 80s.

So, no real change for now, but there might be some announcement on February 1st.

Or not.

And that really is all for now; the weather still seems very mild. In the garden birds are checking out the nest boxes, spring flowers are nearly in bloom and it is getting light when I leave the house in the mornings for work.

This weekend we are away; heading to Loughborough for a weekend of steam trains and photography for me and a hunt for a bead shop for Jools, and just a weekend away. Should be nice, no rain forecast, and ten different steam locomotives to snap in one place.

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Tuesday 24th January 2012

Like every weekend, Monday morning comes round so quick it makes your head spin. It seems like it was Friday night just a few hours before and then the alarm goes off at a quarter to six and I drag my sorry backside out of bed. I wish I could say we did something fulfilling or worthy, but what little we did, we enjoyed.

Shakespeare Cliff, Dover

Friday night, I was home alone as Jools had to go to Heathrow to pick up her Dad who was coming back from six weeks in Australia over Christmas. And as luck would have it, or bad luck for them, the M20 was completely closed, and they had to go to the M2 to come home. Now, this sounds straightforward enough, but of course it was a Friday afternoon and the already busy M25 was at a standstill. It took them 5 hours to get back to Dover, and so me and the cats sat on the sofa and watched some TV shows about railways until she got back. And by the time she was back, and we had dinner it was time for bed as we were both shattered.

The Pentagon

Saturday morning it was windy, and we thought of heading down to Shakespeare Beach in Dover at high tide to see if the waves would be worth photographing. There was on a few bigger than average waves crashing against the Admiralty Pier, and to park up it was going to cost us £3.80 to park the car as that was the minimum charge. I had a pound in my pocket, and we did not like the thought of getting a ticket or worse, getting clamped. So, we headed to Samphire Hoe again as that would cost us one English pound for two hours parking, and we could grab a cuppa at the kiosk to, as well as walking along the seawall to the base of the famous white cliffs.

I take many pictures, trying out some long exposures to blur the movement of the waves crashing against the cliffs. Some came out well enough, and whilst I snapped away, Jools tried to use her kite; she did OK, but the blustery wind made it tricky to get the kite up high. And after crashing on the seawall one too many times meant it ended up going to the kite eating tree in the sky. But, she has a spare one to use another time.

Back home for lunch, and time to sit on the sofa to watch Norwich play Chelsea on TV. Watching your team on TV is hardly ever a pleasant experience, and Saturday was no exception; Chelsea outplayed us for long periods and we had just one decent chance on goal, whilst Chelsea has several golden chances, most of which Fernando Torres managed to miss. So, the game ended up 0-0, and meant that we now have 29 points and still happy with that.


Sunday morning we were up nice and early, and so we headed out in the car to drive along the coast to Dungeness and maybe snap the sunrise. In the end we stopped at Dymchurch, climbed the seawall and were confronted by a fine scene. Now, I had not been to Dymchurch before, and didn’t really know what the beach was like, but was a broad pure sand beach with a few tiny, lazy waves lapping the shoreline. We waited whilst the light got stronger, and at the same time, the tide came in, wetting my feet when I stopped to take shots.

High Tide

Dymchurch is a small seaside resort, but it has a small funfair, amusement arcades and a few cafes, and I thought it would be fun to snap the town with no people about. And once I got those, we headed off to Dungeness for more shots and a bit of walking on the shingle beach.


Dungeness is an odd place; as well as a huge variety of cabins and shacks that have been built on the shingle, and a narrow gauge railway that cuts through the village, all of it is overshadowed by not one but two nuclear reactors. And all along the water edge, and about a 100 yards inland, all fishermen’s gear lay amongst the dunes; boats, nets, winches and lots of other mechanical equipment. It is all photogenic in a 28 days later kind of way. So I wander around the boats and gear snapping away, working my way up to the railway station where I was to meet Jools with the car.
The fishing boats have to be dragged up onto the beach, as there is no harbour, but due to the rich fishing to be had just offshore, there are dozens of boats that fish from here.


Once I had flattened the battery on both my cameras, we got back in the car and headed back, looking for a place for breakfast; one of the places in Dymchurch was now open, and so we went in to have a small breakfast and a cuppa before heading back home. And back onto the sofa for more football; Man City vs Spurs and Arsenal vs Man Utd; two good games and two home wins.

And then the last of the Christmas steak made for a very fine dinner, along with sautéed potatoes cooked in our spanking new fryer. How much easier that was than using a frying pan, and the spuds were pretty darn good too.

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Tuesday 17th January 2012

And the big question on your lips is, ‘does Ian still have a job?’

The answer is, ‘yes’ but for now.

There are many reasons for this, which I won’t go into, but for now we carry on as normal pretending that we may all lose our jobs within the next month. Or not. We just have to wait.

Liquid Gold

On my way to work on Friday, I stopped off in Pegwell Bay to see if the dawn was worth photographing. As it turned out, it was. I parked the car off the road, and walked into the long grass, and unbeknown to me, into the shallow water of the salt marsh. I did get damp feet when my boots leaked. I found the best location and waited to see if the colours in the sky would get sensational rather than just plain ‘great’. The did, and with the pools in the foreground, I got shots of the dawn and reflections. Well worth stopping off for.

Friday the 13th

And on my way back, I stopped off just before the harbour tunnel to watch the sun set the other side of the bay. Living on the east coast, getting a clear view of a sunset is tricky, but on the Ramsgate side of Pegwell Bay, the sun sets the other side of the bay, so you get reflections in the bay as well as the sky and the sun setting below the horizon. It was chilly, but not windy, and the sun slipped below the horizon in a stunning mix of colours, with the land turning ever darker and finally to black as light faded from the day. Satisfied, I hopped into the car and headed home.

End of another week

The weekend was already half an hour old!

So, last week we put the cross-trainer together, and no it was ready for use, now that we had deciphered the instructions and it all seemed to be fine. I first used it Saturday morning before breakfast. I used to be able to go for hours on a cross-trainer, so the plan was to ease into it with an easy 20 minute session. After six minutes I was blowing bubbles, took a breather, and then completed 10 minutes. I laid on the bed, puffing and panting. I was really in that bad a shape. But the up-swing had started. I did another 10 minutes on Sunday; it was hard, but not quite as bad, and so hopefully by the end of this week I will be able to do 10 straight minutes and then build up my stamina a couple of minutes at a time.

And then the serious stuff begins.

Level Hedge

So, back to Saturday morning: and after the brief workout and a shower, we headed out for a walk along our road and into the countryside beyond. The ground was still rock hard with frost, and the colours of the land were muted. I took a few shots as we walked, but our plans for a longer walk down the hill were foiled as the sun was already abroad warming the land and turning the mud from something uncomfortable to walk on back into, well, mud.

In the bleak midwinter, frosty wind made moan, Earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone; Snow had fallen, snow on snow, snow on snow, In the bleak midwinter, long ago.

Back inside, I put the coffee pot on and got the flour out to make one final batch of mince pies. At lunchtime they were ready, and with another cup of coffee went down very well. There was not enough mincemeat for a full batch, so with the rest of the pastry, I made a dozen shortbreads, which came out wonderfully too, and go just as well as the pies with tea or coffee.

House Sparrow (female)

And so the usual Saturday afternoon beckoned, with me taking my place on the sofa to listen to the football on the radio. I sat by the window as more birds are now using the feeders in the front garden, even though the cats have now noticed this too. Anyway, whilst sitting on the sofa I snap a house sparrow, and I am pleased with the results. Whilst on the radio I tense up as Norwich take the lead against WBA just before half time, only to give away a goal through a penalty midway through the second half, but whilst a reporter briefed us on the radio of the latest developments, Norwich create a break and sprint up the other end of the pitch for Steve Morrison to head in Grant Holt’s cross. Then came seven minutes tension as the game crawled to completion, and Norwich ended up with the points and so stayed in 9th with 28 incredible points! The ride carries on.

Prince of Wales Terrace and Deal Castle Road,Deal, Kent

Sunday morning, after another session each on the cross-trainer, we headed out in the car to sunny Deal for a walk along the prom and then breakfast on the pier. It was a bright and glorious morning, we parked the car and headed to the path beside the beach. There were just a few others out, most jogging or just walking their dogs. We walked past the castle, the beached fishing boats and onto the pier. We took a table and ordered the small breakfast and a drink, and soon were tucking into bacon, eggs and beans. Lovely.

Time: for breakfast

After a walk down the High Street, we headed back home to do some chores, and so I could light the wood burner for the chill of the evening. Soon enough the fire was roaring away, and the house warming up, although the crackling of the wood did scare the cats a few times.

And finally, we had our kitchen tap fixed,and it now no longer drip, drop, drips driving us all mad; and now we have a shiny new tap. we just have to save up now to get a shiny new kitchen to go with it. All in good time....


Meanwhile, we are having our oddest winter in the village so far. Mostly it has been so mild, it has felt like spring, if not later, and this has confused the plants in our garden and elsewhere in the village and beyond. Spring bulbs are several inches high already, and on a bank on the main road we saw a daffodil about to bloom. For each of the past three winters we have been here, we had already been snowed in at least one day in each of those years. Maybe it will snow sometime soon. Or not.


At least with the year moving on, it is now nearly daylight when I am travelling to work, and the sun now sets at twenty past four. It feels like spring is just around the corner, even though it is still the middle of January.

And now, it is Tuesday, another week is passing by; the world turns, things change, some things don’t.

Thursday, 12 January 2012

Thursday 12th January 2012

Good evening.

And the news for todays is that the sword is still swinging. Or maybe not.

Today was the day of the big announcement of the reorganisation in the company. Only many details have yet to be agreed; and so we will wait some more. All in all it what we should have expected to be honest, but in the end, we all just want to know. Anyway, my boss has always been fair with me, and so I am sure he will keep me informed. We have already talked, and so I am convinced that he knows as much as do.

Well, hopefully, he knows more than me, but then again.

So, let’s deal with other stuff:

This week we had an item of exercise equipment delivered. I had to work from home on Tuesday, and just when I had given up the truck pulled up. So, the guy drags a box, which looked worryingly heavy from the back of the truck and asked if could give him a hand and carry it with him to the house. And my gosh, it was heavy. 85Kg heavy it turned out.
We get it into the house, I sign the paper, and he rushes off; leaving me pondering how we are going to get it up the stairs to the spare bedroom. In the end we open the box and take each part up, and in a while it was all in the bedroom, including the mechanism, which must have weighed well over half that weight, which we just got to the top of the stairs.


And Wednesday night was the evening of the great assembly. And low did we gather each and every part and compare them to the drawings on the instructions, and verily did we put tab A into slot B. And so on. And by half six it was done; all except the control panel which the designers have made next to impossible to attach the four tiniest screws into holes which you cannot see and cannot locate without looking.
We shall return to this tonight when we may actually get to use it, if I have connected all the wires correctly.

And in cat news; Scully went missing for over a day. No sign at all. Although we go to work for eight hours, and she could have returned during those hours, she wasn’t there at dinner or breakfast. But turned up on Tuesday evening, and has been back to her normal loving self. All in all, all is well in cat world, well, apart from the mice being brought in. It was bound to happened that I would miss one, and sure enough I dropped one little mouse and saw it scuttling towards the book shelf. And it must have gone elsewhere, as no cats are sitting staring at random bits of furniture, which usually indicates the presence of a hidden mouse.

Pegwell Bay

For another week the weather has been crazy; springlike temperatures have meant that the grass and spring bulbs are growing fast. Some days the temperatures have gotten to 15 degrees, and warm enough most days to wander around with no coat on. It may cool down this weekend, but at least it is now mostly light when I drive home, and last night I was treated to a stunning sunset as I drove home, but as I had not known beforehand, my cameras were sat at home. I’m not making the same mistake today, as the sunrise was glorious, but I was stuck at the computer looking at the presentation over the reorganisation.

In the end, tonight's sunset wasn't a patch on yesterday's, due to the shower we had this afternoon washed the dust out of the atmosphere; I have hope for tomorrow's though, after a long, sunny day it might just be great.


Saturday, 7 January 2012

Saturday 7th January 2012

And it's Saturday lunchtime.

I have just popped a batch of mince pies in the oven, Fighting talk is on the radio. Outside, it isn't raining, but neither is it the wall to wall sunshine the BBC website promised.
I went out early this morning for a haircut, I have been putting it off for weeks. I know I should be happy that at the ripe old age of 46 I actually have hair that needs cutting. But, I do, nothing I can do about it, other than have as much of it cut off I can.

It has only been a four day week at work, and I only went into the office for two days due to the noise and being impossible to hear anyone on the phone. There are better reasons for working from home, I'm sure, but this is the only one I have. So, I get to lay in bed for an extra half hour whilst Jools gets ready, then get up, make a pot of coffee and power the work laptop up and settle down for a day at the keyboard, only to be disturbed by the occasional cat demanding food or attention.Or both.

Talking of work, this coming Thursday, my company is to make another announcement about reorganisation and more redundancies. Nothing is impossible, and so we are kind of ignoring this date and its implications, but it does feel like we are trading water waiting for what Thursday might bring.

I could lose my job, i might not; I really don't know what is going to happen. On the surface all should be well with two big orders already signed and sealed, but you never know what might happen.

Apart from that, it has been wall to wall football on TV; Man Utd and Man City both managed to lose; United twice but City once. I guess we should be thankful that it is interesting. On the radio I listened to Norwich win at QPR and move back up to 9th with 25 points. Still waiting for the bubble to burst.

And that really is it for the week. Nothing exciting, no pictures, just the FA cup 3rd round this afternoon and mince pies fresh from the oven.


Monday, 2 January 2012

Monday 2nd January 2012

Good afternoon and welcome to the future. Each time I look as each year passes I expect to have the silver suit and rocket pack ; one year.

So, 2012 is to be the Olympic year, when the building site at Stratford will be finished and all the world's best athletes will descend on East London for two weeks of world class sport. and then a few weeks later the Paralympic games will take place soon.
I guess we all hope that it all passes off without serious indecent and is a success. Each time we go to London, we pass right by the Olympic park, and have watched as it has grown up from the industrial wasteland that was there before.

Anyway, such thoughts are for another day, but the opening ceremony is getting closer each day, of course.

So, New Years eve; we sat in, played Scrabble, and at eleven turned on the TV to watch Jools do his stuff. At midnight I had a glass of Vino Santos, so I toasted the new year in, and we headed to bed.

Now serving fruit-flavoured mealworms

We slept late, something which as the holiday has progressed we have got better at, until gone eight o'clock; how roack and roll is that? I cam down and put the grill on to make the last of the festive bacon sarnies. I put the coffee pot on the stove, and soon the house was full of the wonderful smell of breakfast.
Outside, it was grey and drizzley again, and soon the rain began to fall harder and harder.
we sat inside, watching the rain. I have bought some mealworms for the birds to feast upon, and so whilst the football played on TV, I sat on the sofa near the window so I could take photos; and I got some shots of a robin looking very happy with the food on the table. Even with the terrible light, I still got some shots, which I will post here at some point.

South Foreland

I baked sausage rolls for dinner, and so we had them fresh out of the oven along with a pint of porter for me. A nice lazy way to end the day on.

Today, Monday, another bank holiday, is one of those glorious sunny winter days we dream of, and so we headed out for the cliffs for a walk. We parked by the lighthouse at south Foreland, and set out up the narrow footpath for the cliff edge.

Wild is the wind

France could be seen on the horizon, with a couple of ferries scuttling back and forth. The clear blue sky contrasted with the bright green of the grass, and in the strong sunlight, I hope made for fine shots. I crawled to the edge of the cliffs a couple of times and got shots looking straight down to the beach way below.

there were many people out, enjoying the day, walking or running long the cliffs. How lucky we are to have this as our neighbourhood. Once back at the car, we headed back home, put the kettle on and tucked into the remainder of the sausage rolls.

One other thing we have done, is to order a cross-trainer, as we both have decided to tackle our waistlines with a little phys. I will keep you up to day how that goes in the year ahead.

Happy New Year.