Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Tuesday 27th March 2012

After I posted yesterday’s update, I realised I said nothing about the previous five days. Not much to tell really, as the clocks didn’t go forward until Sunday, it was getting dark each evening, but last Monday we did manage to get out for an half hour’s shuffle down to the piggies and back again. It’s only about a quarter mile each way, so it really isn’t a hard walk, but it is nice to get out and enjoy the outdoors. And it makes the days feel longer not having to sit inside looking at the inky blackness through the windows.

Our neighbourhood

Jools’ cough got no better, and by Thursday she was really suffering with the lack of sleep the coughing caused. So, she took Friday off, went to see the doctor, and got a course of anti-biotics as she had a throat infection. And, since then, she has got a little better, but even now is some way from being fighting fit. It didn’t help on Tuesday and Wednesday getting back onto the cross-trainer. Of course, everything is easier with hindsight, and at the time she said she felt better. But after the session Wednesday she really did get much worse, coughing all night. So, no training for Jools until she feels better.

The day's work is nearly done

I manage to get four sessions in a week, and am now increasing the level. I feel so much fitter. Well, most of the time anyways. There is more energy in my legs, and I do look forward to the half hour I spend pumping lard whilst listening to music.

With the coming of British Summer Time, spring has also arrived with days and days of unbroken sunshine. Well, once the early morning fog clears. The garden and the countryside are full of spring flowers and birds and bees doing what they do this time of year. The sunlight now seems to have that summer golden tinge to it, which is especially warming. And now the clocks have gone back, I get to see the sunrise on my morning commute and in the evening there is a good three hours of daylight to go.

Speaking of sunshine; here in the South East, we have had the driest winter of all time, or something close, and so from April 1st there is to be an official drought which means a hosepipe ban for us all, and with summer getting nearer the indications are for another long, hot and dry summer just like 2003 or 1976.

Best share a bath or two then…..

Monday, 26 March 2012

Monday 26th March 2012

And he we are again, Monday evening. Only this week it is still light as the clocks spinged forward. OK, sprung. And those of us who require our beauty sleep are denied an hour. Or in my case, as a combination of a cold, an itchy beard, being too hot and an over-active mind brought on by for cups of coffee during the day meant I slept only fitfully, and so felt and, I am reliably informed, looked like death all day Sunday.

Kings Cross

But, other than that, the weekend was great, we did most of the stuff planned, we just did not get round to creosoting the fence, but the rest got done. We watched the final two Alien films. In a surprise, I have to say I rather enjoyed the third instalment, which I am not sure if I had seen before, but if I did it was just the once back in the midst of time. Anyway, I think it was a worthwhile thing to do, and so here are my thoughs on the best to worst list of the four films:


Alien Resurrection was just an awful mess and everyone involved should hang their collective heads in shame as to how they made such a mess. But it does show that the first was the best for doing most of the killing offscreen and leaving the horror to your imagination.


We were up early on Saturday morning, and without breakfast and even a cup of coffee we headed out to catch the train to London. In order to be a Kings Cross before the crowds go to thick so we could take better pictures. I say ‘we’ as we both were shooting, or going to shoot. Or shot.

As we travelled up to through Kent, the sun rose lifting mist and fog out of the land, and soon enough we were zipping through thick fog at 140mph. It was rather exhilarating I have to say, and when we went over the Medway, just the M2 bridge could be made out beside the line, otherwise it was as though we were travelling through clouds way up above the ground.

Red pill or blue pill

London, however, was fogless, and we made our way over the road from St Pancras to Kings Cross. A new passenger concourse has been built on the side of Kings Cross, more than doubling the space for passengers, with lots more places to eat and wait. And it is all housed in what looks like half a flying saucer bolted to the old station. It shouldn’t work, but does. Funky lights illuminate the metal girders, and make it a wonderful place to people watch, even better at one of the new eateries high above the concourse. Needless to say I snap it from all angles and get the shots I wanted and even dreamt of getting. And best of all, no hassle from security staff whilst we snapped away. There is even a new bridge high above the platforms too, and so we went there to snap from there as well.

Platforms 1,2,3 and 4

We had breakfast burritos at the Mexican place on the balcony; it was a fine view, and getting a hit of caffeine was great too.

We went down into the tube and took a short trip on the Northern Line to London Bridge so I could snap the new skyscraper, The Shard, as it is nearly completed. It is a truly huge building, and should offer stunning views over London when completed. We walked back over the river to catch a DLR train from Bank station, and were rewarded with fine misty views down the river towards Tower Bridge and the East End beyond.

We grabbed seats at the very back of the train, and we were able to get fine views as the train first rattled down the tunnel out towards docklands, and then as the tracks twisted around Canary Wharf and the other glass and still buildings that now make up the East End around the docks. The line headed back under the Thames, and we got off at Greenwich, and we headed out back into the sunshine, and into the crowds. Over the other side of the road we was a small place that offered coffee; we both needed another hot, and so we went in only to find they sold handmade ice cream too; so along with our coffee we both had a pistachio ice cream, and went out on the small garden in the back to eat and soak up the sun. By this time it was warm, and I was glad to have left my coat at home, as it was not needed now the fog had cleared.

Topping off

The into the grounds of the Old Naval College to visit a couple of fine Georgian buildings; the Painted Hall and the Chapel. Both designed by Wren, and wonderfully designed and decorated. I had seen some shots from a friend on Flickr a couple of weeks back, but the inside of the Painted Hall was so wonderful it took my breath away, even knowing what it was like. All the walls and even the ceiling have been painted, wonderfully. The effect is astonishing. Words, certainly mine, don’t do it justice. As is the way, the finest decoration was reserved for the wall behind where the top table was, as the Hall was designed to be a dining hall, which it still is, although it is used for grander occasions than the retired sailors that were to use it originally.

The Painted Hall, Greenwich

Over the courtyard is the chapel; with a matching dome to the Hall. A group was being taken around, but when they left we had the place to ourselves; I snapped away. Once again I will let the pictures do the taking when I get round to uploading them.

The Chapel, Old Royal Naval College, Greenwich

After a while, we turned and left, and made our way through the imposing buildings, crossed the road to the National Maritime museum, as it seemed a good idea to call in as we were here and it is free. There were two good exhibitions on, but Shackleton’s boat, which I had wanted to show Jools, was no Longer on display, but there was more than enough to dazzle the senses, including an exhibition on the history of the East India Company, with which we waged economic war on Holland.

We called in at the nearby Shepherd Neame pub for a pint before heading back home. We had a minute to wait at the DLR station; another two minutes at Stratford; five at the International station and just ten at Ashford. And so were home so quickly if really didn’t seem possible. Time enough to hear the final half an hour of the game on the radio.

Sunday was a much quieter day; the thick fog meant we did not have to go to the cliffs to watch the sunrise, and at nine Jools went to Ashford for a craft fair, leaving me at home to watch Match of the Day, do some exercise and bake some shortbread. Once the fog cleared after lunch, we went into the garden, and I mowed the lawn for the first time of the year, and Jools weeded the beds.

Finally, we had steak and ale pie for dinner, then sat down to watch Alien 4 as outside it got dark, but not fully dark until nearly eight.

Welcome to spring.

Monday, 19 March 2012

Monday 19th March 2012

I wish I could say that we achieved much over the weekend. But that would be a lie. We both have been feeling tired, and on top of that Jools has a nasty cough. What we needed was rest, and as it was the weekend; why not? And there was no power station being blown up this week, so no need to be up and active at the crack of sparrows.

Dover Castle

Needless to say, Saturday morning I was awake at some ungodly hour before it was light, laying in bed waiting for the blackbirds and other assorted garden birds to being their dawn chorus. As it got light, I got up, fed the cats and made a coffee and warmed up croissants so we could do the ‘French’ thing and dunk said croissants in the coffee. Or I could, as I like my buttery croissants dripping sweet coffee all over the dining room table.

And then; haircuts! And haircuts was about as exciting as the day was going to get. Jools dropped me off in Cherrytree to go to barbers for a trim and some abuse. And she went into the town centre to wherever she goes for her trim and abuse. Maybe in the lady’s hairdressers they don’t dish out abuse with the hairspray? It must come as a result of years of talking about Spurs’ chances in the cup, the weather and so on.

Anyway, we were abused waiting to go into the shop, waiting for our turn in the chair, and once in the chair as our locks were trimmed. Abuse, I hear you say? Well, nothing nasty, just that some of us were queuing up outside some fifteen minutes before the shop was due to open, that some of us were too frequent customers, some left it too long. And so on.

Homemade poppyseed wholemeal bread

But, I got mine done, did a deal on some free haircuts if I supplied the geezer with free beer next Christmas, and I was back outside with colder ears by five past nine. Jools picked me up at quarter past and we were home at half nine waiting for another pot of coffee to brew. I made a loaf of bread, using the poppyseeds I bought online, and whilst I headed up the stairs to the cross trainer, the bread cooked and filled the house with fine smells. We had the bread for lunch, still warm, with lashings of butter and tangy marmalade.

DFDS Dunkerque Seaways

And then I went to the sofa to watch the football, and try not to fall asleep due to the excitement of it all.

That night we watched the second of the four ‘Alien’ films, as I have borrowed a box set from a guy at work. All this is in preparation for the new film, a prequel to the original, coming out in June. All the excitement meant we went to bed at nine.

Dover Eastern Docks and Shakespeare Cliff

At least Sunday morning I did lay awake until nearly half past six, which on my current form is something of a rip-van-winkle length sleep. At least I did feel more human that morning; and after more coffee and croissants we headed out for a walk along the cliffs to get a close look at the cliff fall. By the pictures I thought a long expected section had fallen to the beach, but when we got up there, only a small section has fallen and much more is still, er, hanging in there.

The Belly shot

After some heavy rain the evening before, it was a wonderfully clear and sunny morning, the air sparkled, but there was some mist which kept France hidden from view. Some might say that would be a good thing, but I always find it a stunning thing being able to see another country where they speak a different language, drive on the ‘wrong’ side of the road from the comfort of our own cliffs.

We walked from the NT’s place in the shadow of the castle, down the dip at Langdon Bay, and up the rolling cliffs the other side where the fall had taken place. It became clear that much more is yet to fall, and so I made do with shots from a secure place to one side. And satisfied I got the shots we headed back down the hill to the car and back home.

And that is just about it for the weekend; more football on Sunday afternoon, with Norwich losing 1-0 at Newcastle; not playing too bad in the 2nd half, but chasing the game after Toon to a first half lead, we just didn’t have enough to get a point. Oh well, 36 points at this stage isn’t bad at all.

Friday, 16 March 2012

Friday 16th March 2012

And, deep breaths now, its Friday.

For some reason this week seems to have dragged on for more than 5 days. I think it may be a combination of not sleeping too well and having stepped up the exercise on the cross-trainer.
After the first few weeks, I can’t lie, going on the cross-trainer was more than a chore; it was like it was mocking me. The dials with which you monitor your progress display the same information as the ones I used to use. And so you mind tells you to do 60 rpm, which is what I used to be able to do. The result is that within 3 minutes I feel like I’m about to have a heart attack. Or did. Anyway, instead of having to do it in four two and a half minute chunks to get upto 10 minutes, I do 30 minutes, and am only puffing as I step up the pace at the end.

I guess, we all like to kid ourselves that we can do the same stuff as we did when we were in the full bloom of youth. And I had not been exercising for what, two and a half years? How unfit an you get in that time? The answer is very.

So, since the middle of January I have been huffing and puffing and gradually getting better, and one hopes, fitter. I feel better for it, as does Jools to be honest, and now coupled with drinking less and trying to cut down on the food too; I just hope that I will soon begin to see the benefit. In fact, I think already my jeans are looser, but that could be my imagination. We shall see.

Anyway, four sessions on the machine this week equals two hours huffing and puffing whilst listening to music, and I am now enjoying my time on it.

The Pfizer Sports Club sunrise

On to other matters. Driving to work I now pass the chimney and tower-less Richborough. And it quite amazing at how different the commute is, and how big the sky at Richborough now is. Work is much the same; preparing documents for our next project. I can feel the workload increasing, as we get nearer and nearer the beginning of when spanners and screwdrivers are lifted in anger for the first time.


Spring, on occasion, threatens to break out. Although for the most part is just wall to wall grey cloud. We, who live in south-east England, are now officially in drought conditions, which will mean from April 1st there will be a hosepipe ban, and we will have to share showers and glasses of water. Or we could just go without showers and drink only gin. Now there’s an idea…..


Yesterday evening, after work, we went for a short walk before the sun set. Just a short wander along to where the pigs are. Next weekend the clocks go forward, and we will have enough time to walk to the cliffs if the weather is nice enough. Looking forward to those evenings already.

And then the sun came out

After work this afternoon, I headed down to the NT's white cliff place to take some snaps, as last weekend there was a massive cliff fall, and it looked a wondrous sight. Indeed it was, although I did not have time to walk to where the fall was, but I got some shots from about a mile away, with tiny figures of people looking over the edge to the chalk boulders below......

A quiet weekend ahead with nothing much planned apart from dodging the rain which has, or hasn’t been forecast.

Monday, 12 March 2012

Monday 12th March 2012

And so this weekend we came to the end of the great Harry Potter-a-thon, in which over a series of three weekends we watched all eight films. And, they held up very well I have to say, and were very enjoyable. It is odd to think we shall not see another one now.

So, apart from Potter, what else did we do?

Well, we went to Margate on Saturday. At last. There is a wonderful JWM Turner exhibition on, and as he is my favourite painter, and it was free, it seemed the right thing to do. So, after working out on the cross-trainer. Yes, the cross-trainer; we still have it, and both of us are getting quite fit now. Clearly we both have some time to go, but we can both do 30 minutes now, and at the end of it not feel like we are going to die! It is very good, listening to music as I pump lard, and the half an hour soon passes. Now to up the level a couple of times, and then move onto some interval training, and I think we shall then be seeing some real results.

The Margate Kiss

So, we headed out to Margate, via Preston, as I managed to drop my credit card there last time I called in, and so I bought some stuff for the weekend, including some nice smoked bacon for breakfast on Sunday morning. And then on to Margate. I have described Margate in previous blogs, so I won’t repeat myself again. We parked the car near the old lido, and walked down along the seawall to the gallery. The sea was a nice shade of brown, under the leaden skies, so I had to turn them into mono versions to have any merit at all.

Richborough power Station demolition

The Turner Contemporary is a great place; my only gripe would be is that it is too small. But, it is free, and is a well designed building, letting in lots of natural light. Seeing Turner’s work on light, even in his sketches and preliminary work is incredible, as he depicted light passing through clouds and onto landscapes like no one else. Sadly, the crowds were sizable, and after seeing what we wanted we left and headed home for lunch and then to watch football on the TV.

Richborough power Station demolition

And Sunday; off to Pegwell Bay to see the old power station at Richborough. This is something that has been planned for over a decade, and after so many false starts we really didn’t think they would ever come down. I had agreed to take a Flickr contact along, so we made our way to Walmer to pick her up, and then onto Sandwich and the bay beyond. I thought it would be packed, but traffic was light, and seeing only a couple of people down on the apron of the old hoverport, I found a place to park on the housing estate off the main road, and we walked down the slope of the old abandoned approach road.

And as the bangs were due at nine, we had just over an hour to wait. The mist that was around at dawn burned off, to leave it a bit hazy but we could see the towers clearly enough about half a mile away. As time passed more and more folks arrived, but there was more than enough space for us to see clearly, but that did not stop one six foot eight cyclist stand right in front of me having arrived minutes before nine. I strongly pointed out that he should move out of the way, which he did, reluctantly.

And at nine we heard a faint bang; unbeknown to us this was the launching of a flare giving 30 seconds notice. And then, we saw first one tower just collapse, then quickly the other two and the tall chimney as well. Leaving behind a big cloud of dust, which drifted slowly towards Sandwich in the light breeze. And that was it, after standing for 50 years, and being the final reminder that once upon a time, coal was dug from beneath the garden of England to be turned into wiggly amps here. But in 30 seconds they went the way of the mines too. I got my shots, and at the end everyone gave a small round of applause, for who we do not know, but it was a great show.

Richborough power Station demolition

Norwich were on TV in the afternoon, and played poorly and so managed just to draw with Wigan, but probably have enough points to already be safe. That we considered failing to beat a club with 7 years Premier League experience shows how far City have come in three years.

Thursday, 8 March 2012

Thursday 8th March 2012

And so Tuesday morning dawn bright and clear. The early morning light showed through the gaps in the curtains. I put on the radio to listen to the early morning news and boiled the kettle for a brew. Right, my boss had suggested going for a walk if the rain had stopped, and I thought I should just go and do it.

Andover House, Great Yarmouth

I grabbed my camera and put on my coat and went downstairs, opened the front door and the chill hit me. But it wasn’t raining, and the pavements were already drying. I headed to the seafront and walked past many closed and gently faded arcades. A few joggers and dog-walkers passed me by as I snapped away. As I looked at the arcades, and behind the neon signs and lightbulbs, details of the original building can still be seen; wonderful art deco brick buildings, decorated with tiles. Wonderful stuff. Maybe if they strip the tacky stuff away it might look better? Just an idea….

The Winter Gardens, Wellington Pier, Great Yarmouth

I got as far as a couple of abandoned cinemas, both art deco in design, but now both closed and crumbling, and now only home to colonies of pigeons. It was nearly time for breakfast, so I headed back up the promenade to the hotel, dumped the camera in my room and went to the dining room to join my boss for breakfast.

The Hippodrome Circus, Great Yarmouth

Thanks to the wonder of modern technology, we knew roughly where the Scroby offices were, so after settling the bill we set off through the old guesthouses towards the river. We found the building with no trouble, and after booking in we were all ready to go and be a pain in the ass. It is now my job to ask questions and get answers. Not in a nasty way, but just to ask and ask. And if I can’t get the answers I want, I suggest how they might want to do things better. I am still learning, but I can already see the benefit to what we do. So, I ask, they answer, I write what they say and we move on. And the day passes and soon it is time to head back home.

At a quarter past two, the rickety diesel EMU shakes us out of Yarmouth Vauxhall and over the marshes to Brundall and onto Norwich. There, my boss and I part, with he catching one of the most crowded services to Liverpool and I onto the express into London. I settle into a seat with good views and watch the East Anglian countryside slip by as we speed towards London.

I get off at Stratford, switch to the International platforms and wait for a service to Dover with the hundreds of other commuters as Eurostars go thundering by at 170 mph shaking the platforms like an earthquake. The train arrives, and I end up standing all the way home, but it’s for less than an hour, and my half past six I am back at home indoors, just like I had never been away.

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Wednesday 7th March 2012

And good evening from Great Yarmouth.

Yes, Great Yarmouth. Not so called because it is wonderful or anything, its just that over time two towns devolved either side of the River Yare, and the part of the town on the east bank was larger than the half on the west; so one became great and the other was lesser or little. So, Great Yarmouth sits on a spit of land as the river makes its way to the sea; it used to be a very popular seaside resort, but now is suffering like most similar towns.

And Great Yarmouth was the place of my birth. Yes, its true. At the fag end of the baby boom, with all the maternity wards full, I was born in the sanatorium right on the seafront. Dad had to cycle from Oulton Broad to Gorlestone to register my birth. There is something of a love/hate thing going on between Lowestoft and Yarmouth. We used to visit Yarmouth just once, and told ourselves we didn’t enjoy our visits either. Yarmouth was everything Lowestoft wasn’t, touristy, full of amusements and had a pleasure beach.

These days both towns have suffered from an economic downturn as a result of Thatcher’s economic revolution; factories and shipyards closed; supermarkets opened in their place. It is just the offshore industry that is just keeping Yarmouth’s head above water. And with 36 hours rain it seems that the town is about to sink back into the steely grey water of the North Sea.

Aaah yes, the rain. Lets go back to the weekend. All our plans for work in the garden and other chores; thick fog showed St Margaret’s all day Saturday and into Sunday. We headed into town to get a few things. Mainly a loaf of bread as we were out, but a few other things. And then back home. I had slept badly Friday night, and so after a twenty minute workout on the cross-trainer, I slumped on the sofa to watch the big game and try not to fall asleep. I listened to the radio, and so heard Norwich fail to score against Stoke and so lose 1-0. Saturday and Sunday night we carried on with our Harry Potter-a-thon, and that was really that for Saturday.

Sunday I had to head into the office early as I had forgotten some paperwork, back home in time to do half an hour on the cross-trainer, and then cook Sunday lunch; roast beef and all the trimmings. And then more football from the sofa, and drifting off into a light sleep from time to time.

Ipswich Station

And now I am in Norfolk; I caught an early train from Dover; changed at Stratford; headed up to Ipswich and change again onto the train to Norwich and finally onto the rickety old local train to the coast. I am here with my boss to do an audit, the final piece of my audit training. I have trained and studied, now it is my turn to be a pain in the ass.

It’s a tough job, but someone’s gotta do it!