Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Tuesday 31st July 2012

And welcome to another Olympic day here in England.

Looking at the BBC website you would be forgiven to think there is only one story in town. All other news, such as genocide on Syria, economic meltdown in the Eurozone, Romneyshambles, failure of the Indian power grid, volcanoes, wars, pestilence and everything else is now just a mere footnote to the British male gymnastics team winning bronze. Not that I begrudge them that bronze, it’s just not the most important story right now. It’s not even the most important Olympic story right now, that should be the fact the police (probably) lost the keys to Wembley Stadium. Yes, the keys, and all the locks are having to be replaced. As it costs £200 for one Yale lock in a front door one can only imagine what it will cost for a whole stadium. But it is good to see security being taken so seriously.

And in more bad news, viewers and British taxpayers who did watch events saw blocks and blocks of empty seats, seats that had been reserved and then not used for members of the ‘Olympic family’. This is being addressed, but it doesn’t look good on TV to see apparently apathy by British sports fans who we all thought had bought all tickets some 16 months ago.

I haven’t watched much of the games, nothing last night; instead I was tempted by some Portillo train porn as he went up Snowdon on the steam railway and went over to Anglesey to visit Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch and then onto Holyhead. Information for the village with the longest name in Britain can be found at the longest valid URL on the web: llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogochuchaf.org.uk

Oh yes.

Anyway, so with some more places to add to our list of places we want to visit were added, despite me saying after my last visit to North Wales after the bigoted welcome I and a friend received when we went to ride the Ffestiniog a decade ago. Maybe it’s better these days….

As far as real negative stuff about the games, that has come from Republican Presidential nominee Mit Romney who made some rather disparaging remarks about the game only to get bitch-slapped by socialists, David Cameron and Boris Johnson. Of course they are not socialist, but conservative with a huge capital C, but even they seemed to enjoy the ‘I love the NHS’ section of the opening ceremony and probably will announce that the plans to sell off parts of the NHS to their friends is to be abandoned at the soonest.

Or not.

So day four has:

09:54 11:27 Swimming Heats

08:55 13:05 Archery Elimination rounds

10:25 16:25 Equestrian Three-day Eventing

09:25 13:10 Rowing Heats

11:45 18:10 Sailing Opening Series

13:25 16:10 Canoe Slalom Men's C1 final

13:35 17:40 Hockey Women's BEL v CHN/GBR v KOR

16:25 18:55 Gymnastics - Artistic Women's Team final

19:25 21:30 Swimming Finals

19:35 21:55 Football


In other sports news, and I only am writing this because it is so unusual, but Rangers have no further fixtures at the moment. I won’t go into all the details, but after a decade of tax evasion and generally spending more than they earn, the club was liquidated, or not, and a new company formed and refused entry back into the Scottish Premier League and the First Division of the Scottish Football League. They have been accepted into the Third Division but arguments abound over TV rights and possible further sanctions over other transgressions. That Rangers were one of the biggest two clubs in Scotland, and the most successful and are now in such trouble is incredible. That fans are seeing this not as punishment but as victimisation is possibly true, as after years of bullying the rest of Scottish Football around, the rump of Scottish Football has voted for legitimacy in the game rather than chasing TV money in punishing rangers, and this will probably nullify TV deals, bankrupt other clubs too. But what the heck.

And on the south coast of England, the other football sick man, Portsmouth are 15 days away from liquidation too. As I write they have three players, and are trying to offload more so they have a chance in ‘honouring’ the previous creditor’s agreement of 3p in the pound. That the new season is just 10 days away and they have to get all professional players off their books does raise questions about their ability to take on a season in the Football League. But no, no one seems to be questioning that. Pompy owe many tens of millions of pounds, and have been owned by a series of dodgy James Bond-style villains ranging from the son of a Russian Arms dealer, a tax evader and best of all a person who probably didn’t even exist; which shows how good the League’s ‘fit and proper persons’ test is! After nearly a decade of being in the world’s richest league, Portsmouth still play in the same dilapidated stadium which has not seen any improvement in decades, have no training facilities, and do not own the land their ground stands on. And now have three players, none of which they can afford to pay. Brilliant.

And a month after the end of the European Championships the new football season is about to begin, and in truth, I cannot begin to raise any enthusiasm for it. Another nine months of football, petty squabbles, players getting to grips with Twitter and getting charged by the FA. I’m sure when I get my mojo back it will still be there waiting to suck me in. Sky have taken their sports channels away from me, but I did ask them to. And so they have increased all their packages by £1.50 to make up those who, like me, can’t afford, or just don’t want to pay THAT MUCH for sport.

Anyway, normal service will be resumed as soon as we can work what ‘normal’ is. We appreciate your patience and value your custom.

Exit through the gift shop. And mind your head on the way out.

Monday, 30 July 2012

Monday 30th July 2012

And so, after seven years, three weeks, two days of waiting (that is an estimate, I’m not really sure about that in all honesty) the Olympic Games finally got underway in Stratford, East London on Friday night. As I explained in my previous post, the games had already began two days previously when the football began. But, the official opening ceremony was to be on Friday night, and as director, Danny Boyle wanted it to take place in darkness.


Which is why it didn’t begin until nine at night, and end at something like a quarter to one on Saturday morning. Lets get the boring stuff out of the way first; at about the midway point the parade of competitors began with Greece leading the way, and then the next 202 nations, in alphabetical order and bringing up the rear was Britain as hosts. Once you have seen one team marching behind a flag waving that the crowd and with cutaway shots showing that country’s political leader waving and smiling back, you have seen most of them. After an hour of the parade we seemed to be still on the Bs. And we fought with our own heavy eyelids and the banal commentary from the BBC who in a lighthearted manner that country’s main interest, appalling human rights records and abuses by the governments on its people. It was oddly compelling.

But before then was the opening ceremony itself, as seen through the mind of Danny Boyle; there was fields, Glastonbury Tor, a cricket match, the industrial revolution, war, the NHS, children’s literature the Queen and James Bond parachuted into the stadium (again), Arctic Monkeys and Paul McCartney. It was brilliant, left of centre, left of politics (if you’re a conservative MP or Mit Romney) and took my breath away on many occasions. At the end, David Beckham drove a speedboat up the Thames and passed the flame onto Sir Steve Redgrave and he ran into the stadium, and in a surprise, passed that onto seven young athletes who ran round to light the 204 copper urinals which rose up to form a cauldron of flame.

Before the ceremony, we headed to Ringwould to the Five Bells which had reopened earlier this year. We had passed it a few times and thought it would be nice to see what it was like, and so Friday was that night. We both had fresh pan fried lamb with mash and fresh vegetables. It was OK, if unspectacular, but the owners have done a fine job in restoring the building into a modern gastropub.

Five Bells, Ringwould

And Paul McCartney sand Hey Jude and got just all the bronze medal winner to sing this time, or some other silly thing. It was all too much and we went to bed.


Next morning the sport had begun, or the other sports other than the football began, and China won the first gold medal of the games. I went out to visit a country and steam fair at Coldred. Coldred is just a few miles the other side of Dover, and so took me ten minutes to get there and find a place to park in the muddy field. I paid my £7 to enter and so in I went.

The best fiver I have ever spent

I had been to the Chilli Farm before, and in truth it was little different to the one I attended three years ago. Vintage cars, tractors, motorbikes, commercial vehicles and steam traction engines all vied for space and attention. I took shots, walked round the site twice and decided to leave. I had my shots and I would have just ended up photographing people and maybe getting into trouble. I tried to shoot from the hip at a bloke wearing just shots but covered from head to toe in VM tattoos; and topped by a Mohican haircut. A nice look, but who am I to judge? I did visit a stall run by a bird of prey recue centre and paid to have a kestrel sit on my hand so I could photograph it. A wonderful thing to do, and something I would pay a fiver to do again. We looked at each other, me at the bird’s beauty and it wondering if I was tasty.

Small locomotive

I headed to Preston to the butcher and then back home. Jools was teaching beading to a couple of ladies, so I sat on the sofa with a huge cup of tea and the remains of the cookies left and began to watch the road racing. As if three weeks of it wasn’t enough. It seemed it was going to be simple for team GB to get its first medal, but things did not go to plan, and we came away medal-less.


That night I cooked peppered steak for dinner, which was really very good indeed and we headed to bed early, needing to catch up on what we missed the previous night.


Sunday, we awoke before half six, and outside the sun shone from a cloudless sky. The forecast was for clouds by ten and rain by midday. We grabbed a coffee and headed out. We took our favourite route along our street, up the track over the fields and then down the valley and heading over the downs to the cliffs at Dover Patrol. It was wonderful, and there were very few people about. We stopped at a couple of place to look for butterflies and to admire the views of the wild flowers of crops stretching to the horizon.


At the cliffs we paused to sit and admire the view, have a biscuit as a snack before retracing our steps back home as the increasing breeze brought thicker and thicker clouds to cover the sky. Within ten minutes of us walking in the door the rain began to fall, not much, but enough to have got damp had we still have been out. I cooked bacon butties and brewed a fresh pot of coffee for breakfast, and then I sat down to look at the 649 shots I had taken that morning. Really.

The Green Way

Now, walking back I noticed my right foot had begun to ache, and once back inside with my shoe off it really began to sting. Taking off my sock we find a lump about half the size of a boiled egg on top of my foot, which shows I wasn’t imagining it. So that put any thought of any more exercise that day out of the question, and so in the afternoon we went to visit Tony and Nan as I had seen neither of them since Tony went on holiday some six weeks ago.

The green tunnel

And that was your Olympic Weekend, although to call it that would invite court proceedings for infringement of copyright, such is the power of the IOC; the term summer, London and or 2012 in any combination could use you open to prosecution.


Friday, 27 July 2012

Friday 27th July 2012

I remember the moment when London was awarded the games; I was driving down the A1 on the way home from a holiday in Scotland with my Mother, she had been snoozing off for a couple of days but had rejoined the world of the conscious for the announcement. When the announcement came, there was a pause it sunk in that London and not Paris had won it. Next day four deluded young men from Northern England travelled to London and committed suicide bombings on various parts of London’s transport system, and the feel-good factor from the day before melted away.


Since then, work got on steadily and all the venues and transport infrastructure got planned and built. Without fuss or accidents or getting huge headlines in the red tops; people just got the job done. It was such a shock when the breakdown in the employment of security staff went so awry. That it was nothing to do with the government, LOCOG or any official organisation. It was G4S, a sub-contractor that screwed up. I suppose I could mention the ticketing that wasn’t always popular, but then no matter how the tickets had been sold there would have been someone very unhappy.


Anyway, tonight at 21:00 hrs, the whole things begins with the opening ceremony. Only it has already begun. The football began on Wednesday with the British women’s team playing their first game in Cardiff, and the British men played last night in Manchester (it rained). And today the archery has begun too with two world records broken before it was time for elevenses. There will be regular breaks through the whole fortnight for elevenses, tiffin, high tea, G&T and a Horlicks nightcap. As its being held in Britain we may as well do things just how we want.

Anyway, lets hope all goes well and it is a memorable games for all the right reasons, that transport does not grind to a halt, the venues all look great and we see lots of sporting records and derring do.


Away from Stratford (an other places), life continues on. This week the season has been mainly summer, with day after day of unbroken sunshine. This we have had to observe through the glass windows of our office, and now that the weekend has begun the clouds and heavy rain have returned. But we may be lucky tomorrow, sunny intervals and not too hot and humid.

After working out and a dinner of baked beans and cheese on toast, I went out for a walk towards Westcliffe, just to take advantage of the glorious light. It was still humid, and by the time I reached the chapel and then walked back, I was hot and sweaty, and considered another shower to cool off. Instead it was a cold bottle of Wobbly and a sit on the patio watching the birds fly to their trees to roost.


One thing I did not mention last time was the shallow end in the living room. On Saturday, for some reason I was barefoot walking through the house instead of wearing slippers and I could feel dampness. And when sitting at the table it was downright wet underfoot. Seems that the old radiator had finally let itself go and was emptying itself on the floor. We tried to put bowls under it to catch the water. The plumber came round on Wednesday and isolated the rad, he disconnected it and we took it outside, and now we are waiting for the carpet and underlay to dry out. The cats now see the bare floorboards as a constant source of interest, especially when they drop a mouse down and watch it try to burrow under the rolled carpet.

So, the weekend is here, time to chill and relax, and head to Tesco for some hunter-gathering action……

Monday, 23 July 2012

Monday 23rd July 2012

One of my oldest online friends lives in a place called Aurora, Colorado. I have often imagined what that place is like, and in my mind it is typical American housing, picket fences and the snow-capped Rocky mountains in the background; all very dramatic and beautiful. That, I now know, is wrong, its nothing like that, and seems to be largely a suburb of Denver. A quick look at Wiki shows it to be a city of over 300,000 souls.

I mention this as, sadly, last Friday there was another shooting, 12 people shot whilst watching the new Batman film. Sadly, for the rest of the world now, whenever they hear the name of Aurora, it will be linked only to the events in the movie theatre. I won’t preach about gun control and the other issues, it is something the US as a whole is going to have to grapple with. What I will say is that the right not to be shot was violated in the movie theatre, and that trumps anyone’s rights to bear this or that.

I don’t know how a city or a population recovers from something like that……..


Away from those events I was home alone this weekend. Well, Jools’ Nan was visiting friends in Devon this past month, and Jools volunteered to go down this weekend to collect her. And rather than drive there and back in one go, she decided to drive down Friday night and stay in a hotel or a pub and so split the driving. And what with it being the beginning of the school holidays, she wanted to get an early start, so she took the car and left at lunchtime. Or as it turned out a bit after lunch as a major problem developed at her work. The database they all work from crashed and the back-up failed; or something like it. And all data was having to be recovered by hand. Even the thought of that is scary, but it shows it can happen.


So, once she could, Jools left for Devon and I worked from home. Which isn’t that bad a thing, of course; as long as the cats decide that they will leave me alone. I had a new procedure to write, and that gave me something to get my teeth into for the day. And all was well until I saw the rat. I think, on reflection, the rat had appeared the night before, as Jools and I were chasing it around the living room trying not to get bitten. We failed and it hid somewhere under the furniture. It was a small rat, but a rat nonetheless, and sometimes when you were least expecting it you would see it on the prowl for food or water. Or as it turned out, avoiding one of the cats.

Small Tortoiseshell

That night, after chasing it under the DVD shelves, I pointed it to Mulder that it really should be his job. It seemed to work and he sat guard. Whilst I was in the kitchen, I heard some loud squeeking, and came in to see the rat cornered and it just jumping up and down whilst Mulder looked on. I think it had just had enough and wanted out; so I took off my t shirt, threw it over the rat, scooped it up and went to the back door, turned the t shirt inside out, the rat dropped to the ground, stunned, as it to say, bugger me, I’m free. And he scampered off.

And that was the exciting bit.

I watched the last hour of the final ‘proper’ stage of Le Tour, and Bradley came in having lost no time on those behind, and it really was his to lose. It still didn’t sound right, though. GB being first and second on the GC.

After cooking a fry up for dinner, and a half hour on the cross-trainer before that, I sat down to watch TV; I could have watched the first time Great Britain had put out a football team in a generation or two, but I ended up watching Gardner’s World on the other side instead, and then heading to bed at half nine as I was pooped again.

And so Saturday, and if the BBC was to be believed, the beginning of summertime proper. Although it was grey and overcast again, so I began the day with another session on the cross-trainer and did some chores around the house. The sun broke though in the middle of the afternoon, and so I walked along the lane at the end of our road to check out the butterflies and was rewarded with more Meadow Browns, Marbled Whites and this time, Gatekeepers. And the Gatekeepers we happy enough to bask in the sun and let me snap them to my heart’s content.

Time then to watch Bradley Wiggins cement his place at the front of Le Tour as he beat the rest of the field by 90 seconds in the final time trial, and it really was his race now.

Jools arrived home, and we sat in the garden soaking up the warmth chatting, but sadly she had to go into work on Sunday for more data recovery.

On Sunday, she headed to work at eight, but my planned walk along the cliffs was cancelled as it had clouded over. But within an hour it had cleared again, but instead of more photography, I did chores in the garden. Collect the last of the hedge clippings, mowed the lawn and made the edges neat and tidy. By half ten I was hot and a beer would have gone down nicely, but I made do with squash, and then made some bread rolls to go with our dinner.

Victoire Wiggins

For the afternoon, I watched the final stage of Le Tour, a procession into Paris and then a sprint round and round Le Louvre until one last dash and it was over. The presentations at the end all seemed rushed, Wiggins was presented with flowers, a bowl and a trophy, waved to the crowd and made a speech in English which begun something like “And now your raffle numbers…….” After 109 years and 99 Tours, Britain, a Briton had won.

And another had come second too.

Thursday, 19 July 2012

Thursday 19th July 2012

In 8 days the Olympic games kicks off.

Although there will be no kicking of a such. If the rumours are to be believed the opening ceremony will include, but not limited to, the Coldstream Guards marching to Blur’s Parklife and Russell Brand singing a ‘comedy’ version of God Save the Queen. Oh it will be great, especially for those in the stadium who paid at least £2012 for a ticket. I mention the Olympics because on Wednesday the torch arrived in Dover to spend the night at one of the town’s world famous bed and breakfast establishments. Probably, it spent the night in the back of a van somewhere between Dover and Deal where it began the grand tour around Thanet on Thursday.

first look

I thought it would be a jolly thing to do, to go along and snap the occasion, the people and maybe the person carrying the torch into the town; so I booked a day off, ordered tickets from Ticketmaster, which despite being free carried a £2 administration charge. By Monday the ticket still hadn’t arrived and I mailed Ticketmaster and they said in reply that a duplicate could be picked up from the sports centre on the day.

South Foreland lower light

No problem, then. But it became clear this was a much larger problem as I looked on the Dover Locals website to see many hadn’t received their tickets either. Hmmmmm. Anyway, more of that a little later.

Cliff fall aftermath

So, Wednesday dawned; Jools headed to walk and I laid in bed until the very late time of half six. So, I messed around until half ten before setting off. It wasn’t raining, but it was breezy, but the light was interesting enough and sunlight casting pools of light over the fields as I headed into the village and then onto the cliffs beyond.

The Olympic Torch relay at dover

It was bracing at the cliffs, the breeze was quite strong, and blowing from the direction of Dover, so it was blowing in my face the whole way. But that was good, and I loved the view. I mean its been 14 months since I last did this walk, and it was great. In several places cliff falls had taken place meaning the path strayed nearer the edge than it used to. There were more than a few people walking along as well, and for the most part we wished each other the day’s greetings. All very civilised.

Olympic Torch relay at Dover

I got to the National Trust’s place, and headed down to Athol Terrace and along Townwall Street, past the sports centre where my ticket was supposed to be waiting. As I walked down the cliffs, rain could be seen sweeping in from the direction of Folkestone. I decided to go to a pub until it was time to collect my ticket. I had planned to go to the First and Last, but to my surprise it was closed and boarded up. So, it was the White Horse.

Olympic Torch relay at Dover

Up past the sports centre and into the pub for a pint or two and a bag of crisps. I had not been in here before, and the graffiti seen from outside showed itself to be the names, dates and crossing times of cross-channel swimmers, and there were hundreds of them written on the walls and ceilings inside the pub. It was great to llok at, and I spotted the name of Jools’ niece written there!

At two I headed to the sports centre to pick up my ticket to find hundreds of people there waiting to pick up tickets as well. The woman beside me told that when she called Ticketmaster the night before, she was assured she was the only one who had not received their tickets. This was clearly a lie as we had to wait 40 minutes in line, and as we waited more joined behind us and as I collected my ticket the queue was out the door.

Dover Olympic Torch relay

I walked to the promenade were an area had been cordoned off and waited at security to gain entry. I was holding my camera with a standard lens fitted. The guard saw it and remarked that it was good it wasn’t over 6 inches long. I joked that the lens in my bag was. He stiffened, that can’t be brought in he said. I thought he was joking, but no. He checked with his boss after I explained how could I know the terms and conditions if I had only received my tickets I argued. It was on the website says he.

I laughed, a bitter kind of laugh that comes after a day’s holiday wasted, and the thought of a 5 mile walk back home that beckoned. As I walked away from the promenade, I found someone to give my ticket to, and head back to another pub to wait for Jools to finish work so I could get a lift home as there were no taxis to be had in the town.

Laying in bed, we heard to fireworks being let off at ten, it would have been a very long evening, but would have been nice to have the choice whether to stay rather than be confronted by stupid rules and jobsworths. This morning the torch passed within a hundred yards of my office, and I did not go to watch and had left my cameras at home. I just can’t be arsed with it all. Shame really…..

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

How hard can it be?

Over the past three weeks, the BBC has run a series called 'The Men Who Made us Fat', and the last one was how to choose what is healthier for us to eat.

One of the main thrusts of the last program was the labelling of food, and how it varies. So, knowing that food, fat and sugar can be hidden in our food, we tried to compare how healthy our cereals are. Jools has 'Kellog's 'Raisin Wheats' and I have a mix of Tesco's 'Bran Flakes' and 'Maple Crunch'. So, that should be straighforward, shouldn't it?

Only it wasn't; all three cereals had different servings size, 30, 40 and 50g, so some maths was needed to compare the calories contained in each servings. That two of the boxes were from the same supplier, Tesco, makes this ludicrous. They all could used the 'traffic light' system for labelling, but that would make it far too easy for the customer and we might stop buying unhealthy food.

In the meantime we carry on buying unhealthy food mostly in ignorance.

It seems that each Friday we have a stir-fry; they're healthy, no? well, all them vegetables, seafood and good stuff, some spices and herbs.... Like most people, we buy a stir-fry sauce to flavour it all. So, I look at the sachet and find each sachet contains enough sugar for 82% or a person's daily need. One tiny little sachet; that we usually have two in our stir fry means we are maxing our on our sugar on stir-fry sauce alone! Needless to say, most of the sauce went uneaten and next time I will either be making my own or buying something much more healthy.

Apart from that, I have been back on the cross-trainer for about three weeks now, and really enjoying it again now the initial pain in my muscles has gone. As the weather is not too hot as yet, even exercising in the house ins't too bad either. Today I am going to walk to dover, along the cliffs, as the Olympic Flame is due to come through the town this afternoon. I think I am looking forward to the walk more than the un-necessary razzmatazz and corporate sponsorship that is going to be shoved in our faces all day.

I am going just to take pictures, seeing fire does not make me look on in awe, even if I am from Norfolk.......

Monday, 16 July 2012

Monday 16th July 2012

After my earlier statement that I would not be watching Le Tour due to being ‘all sported out’ turned out to be something of a lie.

I didn’t mean it to be, but that’s how it turned out. And no small part in this is down to Mr Bradley Wiggins and the rest of Team Sky as they dominated the second week of Le Tour as it completed the stages in The Alps, headed down to Cap d’Agde and onto the Pyrenees. And Bradley is still leading the GC by over two minutes. And thanks to our ‘summer’ weather, I ended up watching the two weekend stages; on Saturday as from just before midday the rain began to fall and just got heavier and heavier.


Yes, another washed out weekend, pretty much, all thanks to the weather. As Saturday was forecasted to be swept away by torrents of rain, all I did on the morning was go into Dover to get a haircut. That done I headed back home, listened to the end of the Danny Baker show on the radio, and at the SAME TIME, made some bread rolls for lunch. So, in with the flour, salt, sugar, water and poppy seeds, mix up, knead, and left the dough to prove. As lunchtime was approaching, once an hour had passed, I made into four rolls and put them in the oven.

After the rain 2

Much to my surprise, the rolls continued to grow, and so we had four, what could be described as small loaves for lunch. Anyway, I was pretty hungry by then, so after letting them cool a little, I cut them open, slapped some butter on and all was ready. Even being hungry, the rolls proved to beat both of us, and so we ate just one each and left the rest for a mid-afternoon snack.

Then I sat down on the sofa to watch the stage down to the Mediterranean. After a poor night’s sleep, I felt my eyelids drop, and soon both I and Scully on my lap were snoring loudly, whilst unseen, the cyclists headed south.

Marbled White, Melanargia galathea

Outside the sky darkened and the rain began to fall; heavier and heavier. Thunder rolled around, and the clouds were so thick the TV signal could not get through and I was left watching a blue screen for a while. It has to be said, there are advantages in living at the top of a hill, as the rain hammered down, we knew that we wouldn’t get flooded out. However, out the back windows the rain so heavy, it was like thick fog and our view of the village was blocked out.

Meadow Brown, Maniola jurtina

At least on Sunday the rain did stop, and after breakfast and another stint on the cross-trainer we headed out for a walk on a butterfly hunt. Any thought of going further than the copse with the pigs were dashed as the path through the fields was very muddy from the previous day’s rain. At first we saw few butterflies, but in time we could see Marbled Whites and Meadow Browns flittering about. We tried to snap them, and after a while got some shots, but both species seemed to be very flighty and settled rarely and flew off once we approached to get our shots. We got a few, as it turned out, and a couple of a Small Skipper that put in an appearance. Sadly, there were no sign of any Blues, which was a shame and surprising as the clearing was so full of them last year.

pimp my fly

As more dark clouds rolled in, we headed back home for a lunch of pizza and beer, and then more cycling on TV. Wiggins kept his lead as the Tour meandered through the foothills, and the action was even more exciting as it appears tacks had been spread over the course and multiple punctures caused havoc with the Peloton. Whilst I lazed watching the cycling, Jools worked hard in the garden cutting the hedge back.

And that was your weekend; more rain and cycling, and British riders in the top two places on the GC. Strange days indeed.

Friday, 13 July 2012

Friday 13th July 2012

And so Friday rolls round again.


For some reason this week seems to have taken forever to roll round. Quite why this is, I don’t know. Anyway, needless to say, we’re ready for the weekend and so needing a rest after yet another work at the coalface.

In truth, not much has happened this week, other than the usual. The only change for me was on Wednesday when I headed to our site in Whitstable to do an internal audit. I had to leave home at six and pick up a couple of folks in Ramsgate before seven and then head along Thanet Way to Whitstable.

The office sits right at the end of one of the harbour arms, and so has very fine views along the coast and across the Swale to Sheppy and across the Thames estuary to Southend. The light was crystal clear, which comes after several days of rain, and individual buildings could be made out in Southend some miles away. But, I was here to work, and as the light changed and clouds rushed across the sky, I turned round to pay attention to the work of the day.

At lunchtime, I sat at the table in the canteen trying to ignore the selection of cream cakes in the fridge and really looking like I was enjoying the tin of grapefruit segments I was tucking into instead.

Once the work was finished, we got back in the car and headed back to Ramsgate. All around the sky was alive with vigorous cloud formations, and in a few places heavy rain could be seen to be falling. Oh, how I wish I could have stopped to snap the scene. Another day, maybe.

That night the rain hammered down again, and lightning flashed and thunder rattled the windows. I carried on watching the highlights of Le Tour.

Oh yes, Le Tour. As I write this, British riders are currently running first and second in the general classification. That may change when today’s stage end, over 220 km in the alps. Wiggins leads Chris Froome as they decimate the field and ever-increase their lead. Things could change very quickly of course, but it has been an incredible sight, seeing British riders to be so strong and have the tactics to win stage after stage.

Game on.....

Another little titbit of news is that our Paralympic tickets arrived, and so we have something to look forward to, and now just have to arrange train travel up to London on the two days we have the tickets for.

Monday, 9 July 2012

In the end was The Word

I love music: that may not be a shock to those of you that know me, but it is true, I do love music. I have most of my old vinyl, CDs and tapes; including those old John Peel shows that I keep meaning to digitize.

And I love reading about music about as much as i love listening to music. and always have done.

In the end was The Word

My first plunge into the world of the music press was the October 13th edition of Record Mirror, it had a picture of Debbie Harry on the cover and a huge Blondie feature. But a whole weekly newspaper dedicated to music; can you imagine it? But it wasn't the only one, there was Sounds and Melody Maker and NME. More of NME later.

So, I got a copy of Record Mirror every week, poured over the charts and new releases. I was in music heaven each Thursday when I picked up the new copy. I did try Sounds, it was laddy but championed Oi through Gary Bushel's weekly column. And then there was wordy Melody Maker. I tried it, but I hadn't heard of half the bands they featured and so I went back to RM.

Until April 1982, when NME celebrated its 30th birthday and published a celebratory edition. I bought it and found so much to read, so until I joined the RAF I didn't buy another music paper.

Then at the end of the 80s, I found the glossys. Q magazine, with colour pictures, I bought a few copies, and in time the magazine joined the 80s and dropped the endless Beatles features and featured newer acts.

During my RAF years between 1980 and 2005 I bought Q and Empire every month, and loved them both. But then Q began to lose good journalists, and I read it less and less despite buying it every month.

By now the music papers were down to just the NME, and it really is a young persons paper, so I tried Select and the others.

And then, one long dark afternoon in Hammerfest I wandered into a shop and they had a copy of The Word, a British magazine I had seen but only bought once. On the boat I read it from cover to cover; it was funny, serious and was clearly written with passion. Q was cancelled and I look forward to the new copy dropping onto my doormat at the beginning of each month.

But this month, the last ever edition has just been published; another victim of the economic squeeze and so I will read every last word (ahem) and place it on the shelf for safe keeping. And won't buy another music magazine unless those who write for The Word move somewhere else.

So, 32 years of reading about music, filling up the corners of my head with useless information comes to an end.

I shall miss The Word very much indeed. And that is all I have to say about that......

Monday 9th July 2012

And so to the weekend….

The rain did not relent on Friday evening, so I sat and watched the highlights of Le Tour. Nothing that earth-shattering is it? As I cleaned my teeth just past ten, I noticed a yellow light out of the corner of my eye. Through the crack in the open window, I could see this light; maybe it was the light of a house on the other side of the valley.

Renault Twizy

Not, it was the light of the rising full moon. The clouds had cleared enough for the moon to be seen through the trees and hedgerow on the other side of the valley. We went to the window in the office to watch it rise. It may not sound much, but it was a wonderful thing to see. We have become used to marking the passing of the weeks by watching the phases of the moon, but this unending summer rain has hidden the moon for weeks on end, and so when we do see it, we find ourselves saying things like, the moon is nearly full again, or something similar to remark where the time goes.

Google Street View

It slips through our fingers like sand……

Saturday we were up with the larks again, to get ready to head to London for the day. We did think about not going as heavy showers were forecasted, but decided maybe we could dodge the raindrops. So we set out for the station to catch the train to St Pancras.

A view ruined

Our plan was to visit St Paul’s Cathedral and the new cable car that spans the Thames from the EXCEL Arena to the Dome; it promised to be a big day. Also, we hoped to see how the preparations for the Olympics are going; I had seen that flags had been hung all along Regent Street, so we thought we should head over before there before the shops opened and the pavements would be thronged.

Fleet Place House, Holborn

So, we headed to the Underground to head to the West End. But, we could not help but notice the banners hung from every surface how fast food peddlers, McDonalds, are sponsoring the games. Quite what makes them a suitable sponsor for the games does escape me. But then there is the official soft drink (Cocoa Cola) and an official beer (Carlsberg, or is it Heineken?) none of which is full of the Olympic spirit, they just paid the most money. So, we see everywhere, how the Olympics should be enjoyed with a greasy burger or a pint of bland over-fizzy beer. I would rather we British taxpayers had paid a few million more and had to whole thing ad-free.

Regent Street

All on the underground were pasted up pink signs giving directions to all the main venues, which I guess is a good idea. We went along to Oxford Circus, and headed up back into the streets all under a leaden sky. Indeed, Regent Street is lined with dozens, maybe even a couple of hundred flags, from many nations; most flags I did not recognise, but it did look rather wonderful. At the top of Regent Street, we went up to look at Broadcasting House, the old home of BBC radio. I don’t think I had been there for some 30 years. As you would expect, I snapped it from all angles.

Oxford Circus

We walked down Regent Street, only for the heavens to open, so we dashed into a small greasy spoon on Little Portland Street. I had wonderful hot salt beef and pickled gherkin sandwiches, and Jools had a scrambled egg and salmon bagel. All rather wonderful.

Outside it had stopped raining, so we walked down to Piccadilly Circus, along to Leicester Square. More flags hung everywhere, but the square has been cleared of the old fair rides and a statue of William Shakespeare is now revealed in the centre. So, I snapped that too.

The rain began to fall again, so we dashed into another place for what turned out to be a third breakfast. Although I had a small glass of Italian dessert wine and almond biscuits to dunk; not a normal breakfast, I grant you, but nice enough.

Thames Cable car

We continued to walk up to St Paul’s, along Holborn to the Cathedral Yard, and in through the main door; only to discover that the entrance fee was £15 and that photography was not allowed. I tried to see how such a fee could be justified and failed, and should we accept to pay such a fee. We decided that they could do one or the other, not both. So, St Paul’s went unvisited and we headed to the nearest Underground station to head to the East End to the cable car.

Thames Cable car

We headed to Bank station, and then along various tubes and down stairs and escalators to the DLR station; a train was about to leave, so we jumped on and away we went, back into the broken sunshine and heading toward what was once London’s docklands. I thought that many people might be heading to the cable car, but at Queen’s Dock about a dozen people got out; so we followed them to the station and were confronted by confused tourists and staff who seemed even more confused.

Thames Cable car

I knew that we could use our Oyster cards, so after asking one of the staff who did know, we jumped the queues of the tourists getting their tickets, swiped our cards at the turnstiles and headed up to the boarding area. And after 5 minutes climbed into a car and swung out over the old dock and then up, up and away.

Thames Cable car

The views were spectacular, as you can imagine, we could see Canary Wharf, and across to the Olympic Park at Stratford, but central London was hidden by the curves in the river behind Canary Wharf. Even still, it was great, and the kilometre long ride I guess took about 10 minutes so soon we were descending into Greenwich beside the Millennium Dome soon enough. As there is very little else to do there, instead of walking to the Dome we got back on a car and headed back north of the river. As we crossed back over the Thames, heavy rain began to fall, so we made the decision to head back home.

We got a train direct to Stratford, and as we approached the end of the line I realised that if we were lucky we could catch a train to Dover almost straight away. We rushed off the train, up the steps and into the International Station, down onto the platform and within two minutes the train arrived. We got seats and so we zipping back to Dover at 140mph as we snoozed the journey away.

The Big Issue

After a dinner of chorizo hash we sat down to listen to the Summer Concert from Vienna on the radio, which was wonderful.

And Sunday; and on the seventh day the heavens did open and the rain did fall. Well, for most of the day, although around lunchtime it did stop long enough for to get out into the garden to pull some weeds. And in the afternoon, myself and a couple of cats sat on the sofa and watched stage 8 of Le Tour. Outside the rain fell with increasing ferocity.

Lets hope that at some point the rain does stop and we can have a ‘proper’ summer. A plus point is that the hosepipe ban has been lifted. If I didn’t know better I would say they were taking the piss after three months of what seems like non-stop rain…

And so the exercise continues.

After various excuses and reasons for not doing any, the waistline expanded back to where it was back in January. So, back on the cross-trainer we climb. Phew.

Why did all those good intentions fall by the wayside? Why does anything happen I guess is the answer. Trips away with work, holiday in Germany, the European Championships and it goes on. Days stretch to weeks stretch to months. And all the good work goes to waste.


Let’s be honest, most days its far easier to say ‘no’ or I’ll do it tomorrow. And of course tomorrow never comes.

And so here we are, in high summer, in the humid spare bedroom pumping lard once again. To be honest I was able to get back and do 20 minutes right away, then build it up to 25 and now 30. Mulder sits and watches from the spare bed and must wonder what those crazy humans are up to now. I do sometimes. But, like yesterday, it is a great way to start the day. Pump some lard for half an hour, have another cup of coffee and then the day is free for us to decide what to do with, even if it is to watch the raindrops running down the other side of the window.

If the sun does shine, we can go out for a walk as well, and enjoy the wonderful thing that is the English countryside in the summertime.

The other reason for putting the weight back on was falling back into the old habits with food too. Especially in Germany where we would have lunch and maybe a mid-afternoon cake and then beer or wine with meals. Back home I would bake buns or Limoncello and Grappa tart. All nice but to be eaten as additional food beside our normal meals.

So, this weekend, I resisted the impulse to bake another batch of saffron buns, and instead just have the coffee. And it worked for the most part.

So tonight, back home, get changed, pump some lard and then think about dinner. It makes sense and hopefully within a month I’ll be back where I was at the end of March, looking at old clothes that I could get into once again and think about putting in an extra notch on the belt.

One day at a time….

Friday, 6 July 2012

Friday 6th July 2012

Or the year without a summer.

Another week and another week of rain and low temperatures. Or, mostly. Down here in Kent we have seen some sun, and the wind had dropped enough for it to be positively humid in the evening and we have even sat on the patio taking in the evening sun. Occasionally.

It has been unusually wet, exceptionally so at times and in some places. Records show that we have had three wettest April, May, Junes on record since records began in 1910. And the three month period has also been the wettest on record too. We have had unseasonal storms and strong winds, ruining some sensitive plants in our garden, once again the quinces are going to be a dead loss. On Wednesday morning the weather forecaster on Radio 4 stated that this unsettled weather was going to continue for a week, and probably the rest of the month. I am sceptical as sometimes getting the next day’s forecast is so wrong, how can they be so sure about what the weather is going to be like in four week’s time. According to the BBC website, this is because of the high temperatures in US are affecting the jet stream is now much further south than normal, thus generating low pressures. And this sort of weather pattern takes a long time to change, hence the forecast of no change for weeks.


We shall see.

And today, Friday, we have had steady rain for ten hours here in East Kent, but Wales and the Midlands are expecting three to four inches of rain today, coming after three months of rain means more flooding.

Sweet william

And so this week has rushed by, oddly at work I have been in a kind of limbo as we have had six months of work writing a contractual document for the next project; it had to be completed by last Friday. We did that and now wait for the feedback. So, for 5 days at least, we have been able to do other stuff.

Which is nice.

And of course we have had no football to watch. Although, the football season did begin on Wednesday, although you could be forgiven for missing that, as it was just the very preliminary rounds of the Champions and Europa Leagues. But, the new season is just round the corner, and most of the country says ‘already?’.


Anyway, the summer of sofa sports continues with the final few days of Wimbledon, and Andy Murray is in the final/fell once again at the semi-final stage *delete as appropriate. The Tour de France is heading into the mountains this weekend, I have watched two stages, and as ever I enjoyed the passing of the countryside slide past. And then the countdown to the opening of the Olympic Games goes into the final three weeks, and I hope to go down to when the touch passes through Dover on the 18th and maybe take a few photographs. We shall see.

border colour

Monday, 2 July 2012

Monday 2nd July 2012

And another weekend speeds by like the last bus home on a wet Thursday night in Wakefield.

Phew, where did it go?

Well, in the end, the non-appearance of summer again meant that plans were changed and in the end, not much actually happened. An old friend of Jools’ came to stay, and so after the weekly bearpit of a run round Tesco to get the week’s shopping, it was back home to wait for Em to arrive and so we could eat. She arrived just before half eight, just we were ready to eat anyway. But, all was good; grilled maple syrup chicken with salad and fresh rustic bread; delicious.


Saturday and as ever, apparently, the wind began to blow and so more butterfly searching was pretty pointless. Jools and Em went for a walk to the cliffs and I stayed behind to mow the lawn. I did manage to find something to photograph as I disturbed a big moth from the hedge and managed to snap it before it hid again. At lunchtime, we headed to Deal for some shopping and to look around, as despite the wind, the sun shone brightly and it felt almost like summer.


Deal was packed, but we did manage to find a place to park, and I set off to the record shop to get a couple of recent releases. Only to find it closed. Stunned isn’t the word, I was shocked. I mean, I know I haven’t bought much music recently, but we have always tried to support the shop when we could, and I have not bought that much from Amazon recently either.

Oh well, I’ll make do with visiting the book shop to see if any interesting new local books had been published; and that was closed too! This really is getting beyond a joke. Deal is a nice town, full of small and independent shops, and has many visitors, so it should be able to support shops like these, but clearly that hasn’t happened. And I guess that with the economic squeeze tightens, more people will be shopping online to save money so killing more high streets up and down the country…..

And then I was being serenaded by three women dressed in oilskins and sou’westers.


The Deal Festival is on, and there were a few more odd sights to see, and a fair on the grass near the lifeboat station.

We called in at No Name Shop and bought a couple of nice looking unpasteurised cheeses and a loaf of wonderful bread before we walked to the seafront to have a walk down to the castle and back. We passed many others doing the same; and then we sat down on a bench to watch the world go by. The world seemed to be wearing flip-flops and updating their Facebook accounts on smartphones rather than looking at the fine vista of azure blue sea and shingle beach, and look, a castle just over there! No, just saw a dog in a hat, LOL, was much more interesting.

alone again or

Oh, talking of Facebook, my account was permanently deleted last Monday, June 25th, and to be honest, after couple of days of missing it, it seems so ludicrous that I spent so much time and effort into it. I have replaced it with Twitter, at least on occasion. I don’t do that much, but have found a few interesting people to follow, and if you want to follow me, #jelltex is my Twitter account.

After sitting on the bench a while, we headed back to the car and then home for lunch of bread, cheese and wine.

Triple-crown roast of lamb with a jewelled fruit stuffing and minted red wine sauce

And then chill for the rest of the afternoon, either sitting in the garden or messing around on the computer. I’ll leave you to guess who was knitting in the garden and who was editing photographs. Sometimes it is important to keep up a degree of mystery.

Triple-crown roast of lamb with a jewelled fruit stuffing and minted red wine sauce

For dinner I cooked a crown of lamb stuffed with spiced fruits and almonds. It took a bit of messing round to prepare, but all in all, it was wonderful. I did sautéed potatoes and steamed vegetables to go with the lamb. And best open a good bottle of wine to go with the feast. Afterwards we all mucked in with the clearing and washing up so we could sit in the back garden to watch the end of the day.

Holly Blue

Sunday morning, despite the BBC saying we would see lots of sunshine, the rain did fall. By lunchtime it was clear the plan to go to the steam fair in Preston would be cancelled; Em headed home and so Jools and I got the house to ourselves once again. I watched the first stage of Le Tour whilst catching up on my reading. I enjoy watching the landscape passing by as much as the cycling. No, I enjoy the passing countryside and urban landscapes much more than the cycling. Anyway, it passed the afternoon gently, and I caught up on my reading, just what am I going to do in the evenings now the European Championship has finished?

Red underwing moth

Oh yes, football.

It was the final of the Euros last night, and expectations were high for a great game. And in the end, we did get that, but a very one sided one, as Spain ran rings round Italy and romped to a 4-0 win, which was about right, although they could have scored many more had they put their mind to it. Italy, just looked tired and it was a game too far after their tricky games in the previous 7 days. Oh well, six weeks until the new season begins and the whole circus begins again…….

Deal pier