Saturday, 29 September 2012

Saturday 29th September 2012

Good evening, and welcome to Saturday evening.

In football news, Norwich got spanked this afternoon 2-5 at home by Liverpool who managed to win their first game of the season at our expense. Grump. So, we go into October with no wins and just three points; it clearly is going to be a long, long season, as we have only scored four goals at the same time. I hope I'm wrong, but it hard to see who we can beat.

The week started with rain and wind and really that is how it continued. It did give us the opportunity of getting our chores done; 80 plus bottles of porter bottles finished and now sitting in the dark, gently ageing. Jools did the garden in-between the rain showers.

East Kent Ploughing Match 2012

So, Monday and Tuesday passed quietly with us getting stuff done, listening to the radio and watching the raindrops trickle down the outside of the windows. we hoped that Wednesday would bring better weather for Wednesday, as the biggest event in the village for years was due to take place.

For the last week, various tents and marquees have been put up on a couple of the old wheat fields on Wallets Court Farm in preparation for the 2012 East Kent ploughing match. I had been wanting to see this for a couple of years, and as it was taking place a few hundred yards from our home, and we were off work, there really was no excuses this year.

East Kent Ploughing Match 2012

Wednesday dawned grey by dry, but the days of rain we had made the ground underfoot soft to say the least. At half eight we left the house, walked over the main road and over the fields to the tents and marquees and the gathering of the tractors.

Inside the tented area, various business were offering services for farmers; tractors, harvesters and the suchlike along with food stalls. So, we wandered up and down snapping shots of the shiny machinery before setting off to watch the start of the ploughing.

Rule 12B: all competitors must wear trousers. bugger!

Turns out once you have seen one furrow ploughed you've pretty much seen them all. We stayed and watched as the farmers cleared all loose vegetation from their area so not to interrupt their plough and ruin their lovely straight furrows; and then it began, up and then down. and back up again. And so on until we got slightly bored and so went of in search of TSP. Thinly sliced pork: bacon!

East Kent Ploughing Match 2012

We found a stall run by the NFU and the provided us with a brew and a bacon butty only to refuse payment and say it was all part of the service. So, nice bacon and brew taken, it was on with the photography.

In truth there was just the horse drawn ploughing to see, and i went to sap the three teams taking part, and see just how dangerous it could be as one team got spooked and dragged the plough, sideways with the driver hanging on all over the field.

I got my shots and as the clouds darkened I made my way home and yet more warm tea and another afternoon watching the rain run down the outside of the windows as the strong wind made the rain fall sideways.

We turned the heating up and put the kettle on.

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Wednesday 26th September 2012

Before I talk about our second day at Open House, I think I should tell the tail of how a simple mouse caused a camera lens to be destroyed. The chain of events which lead to the lens being smashed is so bizzare that if you saw it in an episode of Terry and June you would laugh it it being too far fetched.

Or 'shit from China' (far fetched) as my dear Dad would have put it.

So, we arrived home from London at about four, and as you can imagine my only thought after making a cuppa was to look at the shots I had taken that day. So, my camera bag was laying open on the floor with the camera pouch empty. My 400D with the 50mm f1.4 was in the top pouch, which now I can say does not have enough padding. Anyway, where were we?

Oh yes, so we have the scene, camera bag, on the ground, with one camera in top pouch. The catflap goes and Molly lets out her 'I have caught a mouse for your dinner' meow. I get up to see her drop mouse in the camera bag. I pick up the back, but because the light wasn't good, I went into the porch to hunt for the mouse. I put the bag on the ground, but my shadow was getting in the way. I lift the bag up and put it on the small cupboard and hunt for the mouse.

It had scrambled to the other side of the bag; I see it and make a grab. The mouse seems my hand and jumps out of the bag, I go for the mouse and let go of the bag. I catch the mouse in my hand, but the bag, being top heavy, rolls backwards and off the cupboard and falls to the ground.

I picked the bag up and look inside; the filter had shattered and I knew it wasn't looking good for the lens. Being dark I decided to wait for the morning before testing it out. When I did, the autofocus did not work and the manual only works from infinity to about 5m. I will have to send if off to be repaired, as it turns out our insurance only covers 'entertainment' equipment. Who knew?

So, just after 5 months I have, by accident, trash another 50mm lens.


But back to earlier in the day.......

The plan was to head up to London by car, find a place to park and travel the final few miles by public transport. The weather was totally different from the bay before, clouds hung low and were menacing, and the forecast was for heavy rain later in the day.

So, we drove up the M20, passed under the M25 and then into south London to Woolwich. We parked up at a sports centre, and we walked to the DLR station. A train was due to leave in less than 5 minutes, which meant we should have been in The City by about half eight.

Sadly the whole DLR network was affected by delays thanks to a signalling problems, and the journey took 20 minutes longer than it should have. And those 20 minutes would prove to be vital. We got out at Bank and walked up through Leadenhall again and then we saw the queue.

The queue snaked from the Gherkin, along Leadenhall Road, we walked along it and saw it disappear into a side road and was coming back the other side. We joined the end and waited. What we did not know was the queue in front of us went round a corner, along a street, back again, snaked to the base of the Gherkin again beore heading up the other side of the road.

More people joined behind us, but it was clear this was a huge queue. After about an hour a guy came along to count the number of people, and he estimated that we were five and a half hours from the front. We had seen the queue the other side of the street move maybe 50 metres in an hour.


We had a choice to make. It wasn't hard. We left the queue and headed to our second building on the list, a church in Aldgate. Once we had worked where Aldgate was we set off and found St Botolphs Without Aldgate soon enough, apssing another, much smaller, queue for a synagogue on the way.

We went in and were met with a warm welcome; I took shots in the main body of the church and from the balcony above.

One down.

We were now hungry as it was about half ten; so it was clearly time for another breakfast. So we found a coffee bar and ordered a hot wrap and a huge coffee, and then we sat down to decide what to do with the rest of the day.

We decided to head to the Apothecaries' Hall in Blackfriars. I looked at the tube map and saw it was a few stops on the Circle Line. We went to Aldgate station, and down onto the platform only to find that there was no Circle or district line servces running.

It was remarked by a guy next to me that they had been spoiled during the Olympics with everything working and no engineering, sorry upgrade, work being carried out.

So, we decided to walk.

Outside it was raining, so I put up the umbrella and we set off in a rough south west direction through the City. I can't remember much about the walk, but we did walk past St Pauls and then along near the river until we came to Blackfriars Station.

And up a side street there was a nondescript doorway with a guy welcoming visitors. Can we come in I ask. Of course.

We went across the courtyard and into the main building and we confronted by a large room, wood panelled with a grand staircase leading upstairs. There were cabinets against most walls, and each was filled with old and ancient bottles of medicine and potions.

Apothecaries' Hall

Upstairs, was more of the same; but around were many volunteers, who were only too happy to answer any questions we might have. Each window had wonderful stained-glass crests and heraldry. All wonderful stuff for sure.

Back outside and back in a general north-east direction as we had an appointment for a tour at Liverpool Street at two. At St Paul's we call into the Information Centre to get a list of the City churches open and so planned to visit a couple on the way.

On the way to the first one we came across St Mary le Bow, which was open. So we went in.

St Mary le Bow

We were greeted warmly again, and more information thrust into our hands before we had a chance to look round. The church is another post-war-rebuilt Wren designed building, and wonderful. It had a broad arched ceiling, painted blue. It was a delight. As was the crypt, although most of which is now a cafe, part was a small chapel, and simply lit with candles and the walls lined with icons.

Opposite the bank of England we came across another church, St Margaret's, Lothbury, which was open, and so we went inside. It was another wonderful building, which I snapped from all angles whilst dripping rain everywhere.

walking on along Watling Street we came across another plain doorway with another 'Open House' sign. And where are we I ask the guy on the door. The Drapers Hall came the reply. Do you want to come in?

Yes, I think so.

So up a long corridor and up a grand marble staircase, and the choice was one of three doorways; I went in the closest, and wow. A square room lined with tapestries and with a grandly painted ceiling. The second room was more of the same, but at the far end was another doorway. I went through, and walked into a palace.

The Livery Hall, Draper's Hall

Or felt like it.

This was the Livery Room, and it is better they describe it:

" The Livery Hall was enlarged to its present size by Herbert Williams in the 1860s. The twenty-eight marble columns provide ideal spaces for the display of the Company’s collection of royal portraits including King William III by Sir Godfrey Kneller, George III by Sir Nathanial Dance and George IV by Sir Thomas Lawrence. Richard Belt’s statue Hypatia and a copy of John Gibson’s The Tinted Venus, both purchased in the 1890s, grace the north end of the room.

In 1901 the Company commissioned Herbert Draper, a neo-classical painter who had recently been awarded a gold medal by the Royal Academy, to create paintings for the Livery Hall ceiling panels. These were produced between 1903 and 1910.

The Company was at first uncertain whether the artist’s choice – scenes from The Tempest and A Midsummer’s Night’s Dream was appropriate but the artist persevered and completed the remaining space with representations of History, Science, Ethics and Literature."

My words will not do it justice; the volunteers called it The Grand Hall as well, and if so, it is well named. I just down and let my eyes travel round the room taking in it's fine details.

Time then to head to Liverpool street to find the Masonic Temple. Sounds simple, but it turned out that not just having your name on the list was enough, finding it was an aptitude test. We walked round the old Great Eastern Hotel, looking for clues whilst the rain poured ever harder.

No clues, no signs. In the end I went into a posh hotel to ask, and turns out it was through the hotel; so we went along a corridor, up two flights of steps, along another corridor and there it was.

Legend has it that the temple was hidden for a century, forgotten behind huge locked wooden doors until Terrance Conran asked what was behind the doors. What it is is a Masonic temple in marble and ebony and is glorious.

Masonic Temple, Great Eastern Hotel, Liverpool Street Station

There was no tour as such, we took our shots, sat down for a while, then as the rain steamed out of our clothes we headed back out, and once in the rain we decided we had had enough and so headed to Liverpool Street to Stratford on the Central Line, Canning Town on the Jubilee and then onto Woolwich on the DLR, to the car and then onto the wet roads and home.

I tootled along at 50 mph in the heavy rain so we got back home nice and safe. Got back in time for the lens/mouse indecent to happen.....

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Tuesday 25th September 2012

The third weekend in September can only mean one thing: well, it probably means many things, but to us it means Open House London and at least one trip up the the Capital, maybe we'll even make both days this year!

And this year we were going to take my Flickr friend, Gary, along as he wanted to see Lloyds and City Hall. He also wanted to see the Gherkin, but could not manage two days up in London.

Back to Normal

Anyway, just after 6 we leave, go and pick Gary up and drive down to Priory station, get our 'three for the price of two' tickets and climb aboard the high speed train and wait for the off. Soon we were rattling our way past the harbour and along to Folkestone; once at Ashford we switched to the high speed line and were zipping along in the early morning sunshine up into Essex.

All alone

We got off at Stratford, and went to take the DLR to Bank, only to find that services were being disrupted due to signalling problems; we switched to the Central line, but this did mean missing out on snapping the Olympic Park from Pudding Mill Lane.

Leadenhall Market

Once at Bank we headed up onto the streets and walked to Leadenhall Market to take some shots, only to be captured by the smell of bacon frying. So, we got a table and ordered bacon butties and a brew, and sat out in the cool morning air taking in the scene.

Lloyds of London

We walked round to Lloyds, getting there at about eight thirty; the queue was already a couple of hundred strong, so whilst Jools and Gary went to snap the Gherkin. Lloyds was due to open at ten, but they threw the doors open at about twenty to and so we were among the first to get in. We joined the throng under the Lutine Bell and most seemed happy enough to snap away.

20 Fenchurch Street from the Lloyds Building

Not being Lloyds virgins, we knew there were lifts to take us to the top of the building, and so we made our way through the underwriter's desks to the lobby. "Can we go up" I asked. Of course.

Lloyds, Willis and the Gherkin

We had the lift to ourselves and got shots as we zipped up to the top floor. Once we got out, we were greeted by each and every one of the volunteers and handed lots of leaflets. We got our shots, and made our way to the balcony, which we had to ourselves. Even though I have already snapped the scene, I did them all again, as the view into the atrium is one of the most iconic sights of Open House.

6 floors

Once back down at the ground floor, we bought a coffee and waited for Gary to catch up, and then head back outside to head over to Southwark to visit City Hall.

Clearly, on a weekend where tens of thousands of extra visitors would be heading into London to snap the lovely buildings, Transport for London (TFL) thought it might be more enjoyable if most of the tube lines were closed for 'upgrade' work. Apparently the term 'engineering' is so last century, that a committee has spent the last 12 years coming up with a new phrase which can be used. Clearly, upgrade is tech speak for lets close it for a laugh, and let the plebs bloody walk.


So, after waiting at bank for a Circle Line train that was only going to arrive sometime early on Monday morning, we decided to walk to Monument instead and then walk across a bridge to the other side of the river. Yes, folks, a bridge; walking on water is not just last century, its last millennium. and not just any bridge; Tower Bridge; yes, a bridge with towers and a bascule or two.


Iconic London

Thankfully, the queues at City Hall could be counted on the fingers of hands measure in the fingers of one's hand. And once through the x-ray machine, lie detector, ant-gravity machine, foetal frightening device we were allowed to look at the large scale aerial photograph of London which is in the basement and used to distract angry London voters when they arrive with pitchforks looking for Boris.

And up in another elevator, not the same one as at Lloyds, but similar in that it also had a floor, we headed to the top and then outside to look at the view of London, although this time we did not see wilderbeast sweeping across Richmond Park whilst being chased by lions on 4x4s.

We snapped the scene, the river, the bridge, the Tower of London and the City Skyline before heading back inside and snapping the curly, swirling staircase, and then walking down it to the ground. These architects think of everything.

Of course this is now the third year in a row we have been to City Hall, but who cares when you can get shots like these:

City Hall

And these: (pictures to be uploaded later)

The Outside of the Asylum.

The Vortex

We walked back along the river to London Bridge; a bridge and its in London, who'd have thought it? And over it back into the City and along the bank of the river to Customs House. A house in which HM Revenue and Customs used to collect tax on good brought into the city when London was a port. Hence the name, Custom House.

We toured the various rooms and were handed leaflets all very informative on why tax should be paid. I collect a few extra copies so I could mail them to some Conservative Party donors. And Mit Romney.

By now it was getting towards mid-afternoon and nearly nap time; so we caught a cab back to St Pancras, and a few minutes later were heading through the tunnels under East London, over the south Essex marshes and into Kent and home.

GWUK #468 Lloyds of London

We were pooped, but I did have 730 shots with which to play with whilst I listened to the radio the rest of the afternoon.

Saturday, 22 September 2012

Saturday 22nd September 2012

And so the big news yesterday was that Apple brought out a new phone; but this one had the number 5 in its' name, not the number four. People queued for days to be the first to own this piece of technological fluff.

I say fluff, because in the end it is a phone that can surf the net, has apps and the such. How much of a radical departure can it be? Oh yes, the number 5. So, whilst fanboys wet themselves and spend £575 for no good reason, my phone contract peters out and I will soon become less connected.


I have had a mobile phone since 1999, and have thought how wonderful they are; but this past 18 months I have used mine mainly to surf the web whilst sitting on the sofa watching football.

My friend had a Nokia Communicator a decade ago that does most of what the iphone 5 can do; it was a brick; ok, a brick and a half, but it was wonderful; a full QWERTY keyboard, saved pictures, I think it surfed the net.

So, anyway. Elsewhere, people in the middle and far east killed themselves over an American made film that mocked Islam. Like that is going to make anyone think twice before making something even more offensive about the great prophet? And yet for over a year, President Bashar al-Assad of Syria has been murdering men, women and children; all Muslims, and there is not one protest. Make a video and the world burns.

The Passion Go figure.

We went out for a meal to celebrate our anniversary on Wednesday; a quick trip down into the bay for dinner at The Coastguard. As we had fish and chips for dinner on Tuesday, and so we chose something different; steak for Jools and burger for me. The burger was a disappointment, but the beer, cheeseboard and fine malt was good enough.

Worked dragged as we crept towards the weekend and another week off; I even filled in my expenses and finished a draft of yet another procedure; this one on how to fill in a form. The world may yet not recover.

So, it is the weekend, and tales of our trip to London where the roads are paved with gold and the cats sings bawdy showtunes.

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Wednesday 19th September 2012

Good afternoon or good evening depending on where and when in the world you are when you read this. I should say good morning too, then.....

Hmmmm, if writing a blog is tricky, imagine who difficult it would be if we time travelled! I think Douglas Adams had something to say about the grammar of time travel.

"One of the major problems encountered in time travel is not that of accidentally becoming your own father or mother. ...

The major problem is quite simply one of grammar, and the main work to consult in this matter is Dr Dan Streetmentioner's Time Traveller's Handbook of 1001 Tense Formations. It will tell you for instance how to describe something that was about to happen to you in the past before you avoided it by time-jumping forward two days in order to avoid it. The event will be described differently according to whether you are talking about it from the standpoint of your own natural time, from a time in the further future, or a time in the further past and is further complicated by the possibility of conducting conversations whilst you are actually travelling from one time to another with the intention of becoming your own father or mother.

Most readers get as far as the Future Semi-Conditionally Modified Subinverted Plagal Past Subjunctive Intentional before giving up: and in fact in later editions of the book all the pages beyond this point have been left blank to save on printing costs. The Hitch Hikers Guide to the Galaxy skips lightly over this tangle of academic abstraction, pausing only to note that the term "Future Perfect" has been abandoned since it was discovered not to be."

Or as Kryten would say:

"Actually sir, we don't ever have existed here anymore, but this is hardly the time to be conjugating temporal verbs in the past impossible never tense!"

But, I digress. As I usually do, of course. Today is a day of anniversaries; two in fact. On this day four years ago I married Jools. My third time. Third and final I stress. Not because i have anything against wedding cake, but I have found the person I want to spend the rest of my life with; and in fact she has already lasted longer than the two previous Mrs Hs; so either I'm mellowing or I have actually got it right this time.

If you want to read all about that time, go and read my entries for September 2008, which details the build up to the big day, the wedding and then the honeymoon afterwards.

Yes, I am happy; and for the past 17 years it is how I have lived my life; leaving the first mad Mrs H and ending up starting the divorce. Funnily enough, just as i left facebook she joined, and there was a picture of her with her two teenage sons, scowling; yes, that's how I remember her. I left and stayed left from her because I suddenly became so much happier. Yes, happy, smiling me.

And then there was the second mad Mr H: now, it's wrong to speak ill of the dead, so I'll just say I was happy for a while, and then wasn't; and it was only going to end one way; with me walking out the door.

And I am here because I'm happy, which is a very good reason indeed. Even happier I don't have to work offshore now and I'm back home each night and not having to deal with Malfoolish or any of the other maladjusted folks who choose to spend their life working away from home for months at a time.

2 years on: Scully

The other anniversary today is it is two years since the kittens came rolling and tumbling into our lives and hearts. We have seen them grow into very fine, loving cats, and despite the occasional spat between them and Molly, it has worked out pretty well.

2 years on: Mulder

This week we are back at work, and we were both greeted with full inboxes on Monday morning, and are working hell-for-leather all week as we have another week off next week. Today, I have been building a teamsite on the company intranet, and I managed to format all the hyperlinks the same. So, not all going well, but it makes a change from writing procedures.

The good news is that my long run of battling germs might be being won, as this latest batch does not seem quite so bad. And I got back on the cross-trainer today for the first time in several weeks.

This week I had the results of my blood test, and everything is fine apart from cholesterol which was a little high. And apart from the pills I was given, exercise helps, apparently.

Tonight, we are going out for dinner to celebrate our anniversary, but more about that night time.

Sunday, 16 September 2012

Sunday 16th September 2012

Good afternoon. And welcome to Sunday afternoon. We're just back from the old folks where Jools' Dad smoked and told takes of Dover past, and we listened. Let it not be said we know our roles and play them well. I did notice this afternoon that Nan's room has a sea view. I say sea views as it she lives beside the harbour. I think the bit of sea she can see between the pitched roofs of the houses opposite may be off Ramsgate, and she may be now at least twelve inches too short at the age of 98 to see the sea for herself, and there is also good chance, as she didn't have her hearing aids again, she didn't understand what I said anyway.

The New Metropole, Folkestone

It has now been three and a half weeks, August 22nd to be precise, since I was germ free. I have no idea what I have, but every four or five days I get sneezy, then congested. I hates it as I can't sleep,and it looks like I have yet another bout about to begin.

There is always whisky.....

Friday afternoon we headed to Ashford to go to the cinema to see the new version of Dredd. On the way we set out to find the ruined church of St Mary at Little Chart, but despite finding the village and looking everywhere, we found the new church, but not the old one.

St Mary the Virgin & The Holy Rood, Little Chart, Kent

The film was fine, but despite going at the cheap time, along with the 3D glasses it cost us £19.40 for just the two of us. It really is not a cheap thing to do any more, and that was without buying any snacks, despite the popcorn smelling so delicious.

Yesterday was another glorious autumnal day, and we headed out to take yet more pictures of Kentish churches, this time not quite so far away, but armed with a large scale map, we proceeded to visit the cross-shapes in an area.

I guess we did about three in the end, but it was pleasant enough, and all were open, which is always good.

The Grand 1

First of all we headed to The Leas in Folkestone,the reason was to photograph a topiary crown. Yes, you read that correct. As it turned out, we were too late and it has been taken away, but it was wonderful wandering along the broad grassy expanse of the Leas up to the once luxurious hotels right at the southern end.

And after taking my shots we head back to the car and out of Folkestone and into the countryside. We had consulted maps and asked friends, and found that the ruined church, despite being the parish church for Little Chart, it isn't in or near the village.

We found the church with no trouble, and had the site to ourselves. The church was severely damaged at the end of WW2 when a doodlebug landed short of London; thankfully no people were injured but the church was damaged beyond repair. Now, nature is taking it back, with ivy half covering what is left of the tower.

St Mary the Virgin & The Holy Rood, Little Chart, Kent

We consulted the map, and headed back towards the motorway, but Jools had noticed a cross near the hamlet of Charing Heath and so it was there we went to first. Along narrow lanes and through wonderful villages, we ended up at Holy Trinity, almost passed it as it sat beside the road behind a hedge with no signs.

The church is a simple Victorian building, but with a wonderful wooden pitched roof which gives it an air of grandeur. A mother and her daughter were inside discussing arrangements for the daughter's wedding in a couple of weeks time, but they made us welcome and made sure they did not disturb us. I got my shots from all angles, including up a flight of rickety stairs to the small balcony; the things I do for photography!

East Street Harrietsham

Back in the car and along more country lanes to Harrietsham. it is a fine stone church, very large for a small village it serves, and it was a hive of activity as the churchwardens and volunteers prepared for the annual village fete that afternoon.

GWUK #463 St John the Baptist, Harrietsham

As always, we were made very welcome, with the churchwarden and church historian on hand to answer any questions and to point out details of interest. As they were clearly very busy, we left after getting my shots, and we headed back south, this time back to Little Chart, as during our church hunt the day before showed us how picturesque the village was.

St John the Baptist, Harrietsham

We walked up the main street, taking shots of the really nice places; thatched cottages and clapboard houses; then into the local pub for a pint and maybe a bite for lunch. They didn't seem to be very ready for customers, asjust the one ale was one; just Doombar which isn't my favourite pint. So, we drank up and headed out.

GWUK #464 St.Peter & St.Paul Bilsington, Kent

A friend's picture on flickr had alerted me to a very picturesque church on the edge of the Romney Marsh, so we crossed Kent by narrow lanes and byways through wonderful, if oddly named, villages and hamlets.

St.Peter & St.Paul Bilsington, Kent

We arrived at Bilsington, and found the spot where the church should be, but could only see a sign. The church was behind a farm. So, we parked up and walked along the lane inbetween two high hedges, and in due course we could see gravestones.

St.Peter & St.Paul Bilsington, Kent

The church sits on the edge of a hill, overlooking the marsh with it stretching away into the haze. The church is surrounded by farmlands, sheep, and it is a wonderfully remote location. The single bell isn't in the tower, but sits in a frame underneath a small pitched roof. The door was open and so we went inside.

St.Peter & St.Paul Bilsington, Kent

The church, or parts of it date to the 13th century, and the mid-point of the naive, the two halves of the church are on slightly different axis. all in all it was a wonderful church, and a real hidden gem. I only discovered that the church we wanted to visit in fact was a couple of fields away; so we will have to go back.

Anyway, with that it was time to head back; I put on the radio to listen to Norwich play west Ham. They fought out a dour 0-0 draw, and so City remain win-less this season. And we have all the 'big' clubs yet to play. Still, it's still early days.

Friday, 14 September 2012

Friday 14th September 2012

It isn't the worse thing that could happen during a week off work, but getting flu and losing two days getting out and about time due to the congestion one day and the subsequent loss of sleep the next day. Coupled with that, I was eaten alive whilst hunting for dragonflies on the Isle of Sheppy on Monday. My arms were so itch Monday night I was awake at three in the morning scratching away on my arms.


Say cheese

Anyway, back to before the flue and the bites. Monday was a glorious early autumn day, with blue skies, unbroken sunshine and only a breath of wind. We headed off in the car after breakfast. Up the A2 and then over the bridge onto Sheppy. Across the island and then down Ferry Road and into another world.

Migrant Hawker

Sheppy is made of what was three islands, although now the water between them is land, it is still possible to see where Harty used to rise above the Thames. We headed over the marshes, on the recently repaired road and want to park outside Harty Church, only to find a sewer being dug along with a new parking bay. So, we parked on the side of the road alongside the nearby farm and walked back past the church and along the farm track down to where we hoped the dragonflies should be.

Migrant Hawker

As it turned out, there were dragonflies and butterflies everywhere, even up near the church. So, we made our way slowly down past the fields of maize, snapping at the dragonflies everytime we spotted one.

Once down near the saltmarsh, there were even more dragonflies, the Migrant Hawkers hanging from the trees like some bizzare fruit. I snapped them all, or tried to, and then down on the ground were many butterflies; Commas, Red Admirals and Large Whites. I tried to snap them all to. Whilst all the snapping, I failed to notice the insects which were feasting on my bare arms. The itching would only start in a few hours by then it would be too late other than to take drugs and scratch.

Common Darter

We headed back to the car, and then back along to the main road. We stopped off in Eastchurch, as jools had spotted a church. Well, there would be, wouldn't there? Anyway, it was open and I took more shots. There was a fine window to Charles Rolls, he of Rolls Royce fame, who was killed in an early air accident in 1910 nearby.

GWUK #459 Hon Charles Rolls and Cecil Grace Memorial Window, All Saints church, Eastchurch, Isle of Sheppey, Kent

We headed back onto the mainland, and then along to Wingham, where we stopped off at a greasy spoon for bacon butties and a brew before heading to Preston for some shopping. And then back home.

And that is pretty much it for this week, the rest of the time we were either doing chores or I was sick with flu or very, very sleepy due to lack of sleep.

Oh well.

Thursday, 13 September 2012


Or at least the beginning of it for the family and friends of the 96 people who died at Hillsborough, Sheffield Wednesday's ground, on the 15th of April 1989.

At the time, and during the intervening 23 and a half years, is that the blame for the tragedy was laid at the feet of the fans themselves. Accusations were made of drunkenness, ticket-less fans and worse. The coroner decided that all victims were dead or in the process of dying at 15:15 so that no further investigations were carried out after that point. He instructed the jury to pass 96 accidental verdicts and the case was closed.

No words are enough

However, the families did not let it lie. They fought against the police, and the attitude of the state that it was all settled. A failed private prosecution against the South Yorkshire Police came and went, all out of the pockets of the families.

Bit by bit, drop by drip, snippets of truth came out, but still no one listened. There was enough evidence that one of the victims lived until after 16:00. His Mother found and spoke to every involved in her son's treatment.

Last year the government brought in 'e-petitions' which enabled petitions that obtain over 100,000 signatures to be debated in The House of Commons, maybe. So one was raised by the families and it sailed past the 100,000 signatures. It was debated in the commons and an independent inquiry was set up. Yesterday, it published it's findings.

Here is a list of the headline findings:

"It is evident… that the safety of the crowd admitted to the terrace was compromised at every level: access to the turnstiles from the public highway; the condition and adequacy of the turnstiles; the management of the crowd by South Yorkshire Police (SYP) and the Sheffield Wednesday FC (SWFC) stewards; alterations to the terrace, particularly the construction of pens; the condition and placement of crush barriers; access to the central pens via a tunnel descending at a 1 in 6 gradient; emergency egress from the pens via small gates in the perimeter fence; and lack of precise monitoring of crowd capacity within the pens.

"These deficiencies were well known and further overcrowding problems at the turnstiles in 1987 and on the terrace in 1988 were additional indications of the inherent dangers to crowd safety. The risks were known and the crush in 1989 was foreseeable."

"The flaws in responding to the emerging crisis on the day were rooted in institutional tension within and between organisations.

"This was reflected in: a policing and stewarding mindset predominantly concerned with crowd disorder; the failure to realise the consequences of opening exit gates to relieve congestion at the turnstiles; the failure to manage the crowd's entry and allocation between the pens; the failure to anticipate the consequences within the central pens of not sealing the tunnel; the delay in realising that the crisis in the central pens was a consequence of overcrowding rather than crowd disorder.

"The SYP decision to replace the experienced match commander… just weeks before an FA Cup semi-final, has been previously criticised. None of the documents disclosed to the panel indicated the rationale behind this decision."

"Throughout the 1980s there was considerable ambiguity about South Yorkshire Police's and Sheffield Wednesday FC's crowd management responsibilities within the stadium. The management of the crowd was viewed exclusively through a lens of potential crowd disorder, and this ambiguity was not resolved despite problems at previous semi-finals. SWFC and SYP were unprepared for the disaster that unfolded on the terraces on 15 April 1989."

"Not only was there delay in recognising that there were mass casualties, the major incident plan was not correctly activated and only limited parts were then put into effect. As a result, rescue and recovery efforts were affected by lack of leadership, co-ordination, prioritisation of casualties and equipment.

"The emergency response to the Hillsborough disaster has not previously been fully examined, because of the assumption that the outcome for those who died was irretrievably fixed long before they could have been helped.

"It is not possible to establish whether a more effective emergency response would have saved the life of any one individual who died. Given the evidence disclosed to the panel of more prolonged survival of some people with partial asphyxiation, however, a swifter, more appropriate, better-focused and properly equipped response had the potential to save more lives."

"During the inquest, the coroner ruled that there should be a cut-off of 3.15pm on the day in relation to medical evidence, arguing that the fate of all those who died after this point had already been determined by earlier events.

"The panel's access to all of the relevant records has confirmed that the notion of a single, unvarying and rapid pattern of death in all cases is unsustainable. Some of those who died did so after a significant period of unconsciousness during which they might have been able to be resuscitated, or conversely may have succumbed to a new event such as inappropriate positioning.

"It is not possible to establish with certainty that any one individual would or could have survived under different circumstances. It is clear, however, that some people who were partially asphyxiated survived, while others did not. It is highly likely that what happened to these individuals after 3.15pm was significant in determining that outcome. On the basis of this disclosed evidence, it cannot be concluded that life or death was inevitably determined by events prior to 3.15pm, or that no new fatal event could have occurred after that time."

"It is evident from the disclosed documents that from the outset SYP sought to establish a case emphasising exceptional levels of drunkenness and aggression among Liverpool fans, alleging that many arrived at the stadium late, without tickets and determined to force entry.

"Eight years after the disaster it was revealed publicly for the first time that statements made by SYP officers were initially handwritten as 'recollections', then subjected to a process of 'review and alteration' involving SYP solicitors and a team of SYP officers.

"Some 116 of the 164 statements identified for substantive amendment were amended to remove or alter comments unfavourable to SYP."

The panel also looked at the allegations of blame levelled against Liverpool fans in some newspapers, including The Sun.

"The documents disclosed to the panel show that the origin of these serious allegations was a local Sheffield press agency informed by several SYP officers, an SYP Police Federation spokesperson and a local MP.

"They also demonstrate how the SYP Police Federation, supported informally by the SYP chief constable, sought to develop and publicise a version of events that focused on several police officers' allegations of drunkenness, ticketlessness and violence among a large number of Liverpool fans. This extended beyond the media to Parliament.

"Yet, from the mass of documents, television and CCTV coverage disclosed to the panel there is no evidence to support these allegations other than a few isolated examples of aggressive or verbally abusive behaviour clearly reflecting frustration and desperation."

In short, everything that the families said was true; the police created stories that the fans were drunk and stormed the stadium gates. All to protect the police themselves, and let the fans take the blame, and the families fight for the truth and justice, whilst being labelled troublemakers, looking to make a quick buck in compensation. The sheer front of the south Yorkshire Police is staggering. The changed and amended witness statements to deflect blame from themselves. Some 41 of the 96 victims might have lived had they received prompt treatment; instead 41 ambulances were stopped by police on the road outside the stadium, whilst people were dying on the pitch a few yards away.

This is what the magazine, When Saturday Comes' said two weeks after the tragedy:

When Saturday Comes

Like you, we have read a hell of a lot about Hillsborough over the last couple of weeks. We quickly reached saturation point, partly because there are a limited number of ways in which the same points can be made without becoming repetitious and partly because so many stupid things have been said.

One thing deserves to be reiterated, however. The deaths of 90 people (*) at a football ground in Sheffield were not just another tragic accident. Instead, they were a predictable consequence of the fact that the people who run English football have stumbled from one crisis to another without evolving a coherent, consistent policy to deal with any specific problem.

The rise to public prominence of the FSA and the spread of the independent magazines has encouraged the belief that supporters might finally get the opportunity to wield some influence on the way football is administered in this country. An incident such as this demonstrates both the urgent need for such a development and the amount of work that still needs to be done.

Slow progress is being made but nothing has really changed. The individuals who run football clubs with, in many cases, breathtaking incompetence, continue to manifest total disdain for football fans. Periodically, the cast-list is shaken up — new additions to the familiar clutch of pompous businessmen seeking personal aggrandisement — but the attitudes are as entrenched as ever. The same policemen adopt the same aggressive attitude to football, insisting that it should be treated as a public order problem rather than a form of entertainment. The same prejudice is attached to all football fans, deemed to be passive accomplices to the sociopathic minority.

The police see us as a mass entity, fuelled by drink and a single-minded resolve to wreak havoc by destroying property and attacking one another with murderous intent. Containment and damage limitation is at the core of the police strategy. Fans are treated with the utmost disrespect. We are herded, cajoled, pushed, and corralled into cramped spaces, and expected to submit passively to every new indignity.

The implication is that “normal” people need to be protected from the football fan. But we are normal people. “The Football Fan” is not an easily defined social stereotype, whatever the tabloid cartoonists may choose to believe. All manner of people go to football matches. A few of them are intent on unleashing aggressive instincts which are also manifested in wine bars on a Saturday night or in tourist hotels on the Costa Del Sol. Thuggish behaviour is rarely reported in any detail when it can't be directly linked to a football match.

Football is being made the scapegoat for a society brutalised over the last decade. Yet, a proportion of law officers are afflicted with the same oafish sensibility that is exhibited by a minority of fans. Since this magazine first appeared, we have regularly received letters complaining about specific police actions. The correspondence has come from a broad spectrum of our readership and builds up into a weighty indictment of general policing policy at football matches over the last three years. A large proportion of the Liverpool supporters who angrily spoke out against the police tactics at Hillsborough will have had previous bad experiences which served to further fuel their sense of grievance. Fans and the police have developed a prejudiced view of one another that has served only to create barriers that are of as much significance as the perimeter fencing.

Then there are the administrators. Their attitude is one of utter incomprehension and cowardice. They don't stick up for football supporters because they basically neither understand nor like them. The FA have abdicated any responsibility for the events of Hillsborough in typical fashion. Faced with crisis and degeneration, they have failed to take positive steps to resuscitate the game. They have obstructed change where it was proposed by the powerless (the fans) but prostrated themselves before a political establishment that would be quite happy to see the game destroyed.

Complaints about safety and comfort were ignored because they were being made by supporters. Official action will be taken now, because the same points previously raised by fans are now being made by the government and the media. Their stupidity and cowardice over a long period of time allowed Hillsborough to happen.

Symptomatic of their paralysis is the frequency with which a certain phrase crops up in their public pronouncements. We are informed, with wearying regularity, that football needs to "put its house in order'". This is, of course, a laughably imprecise phrase, intended to imply a commitment to resolute action. Needless to say, it means absolutely nothing.

Clubs have to accept a proportion of the blame. They own the fences and turnstiles that helped to cause the disaster. Sheffield Wednesday officials seemed to believe that, in an emergency, it would be possible to evacuate a large number of people thorough a tiny gate in the perimeter fencing. They and their colleagues at other League grounds across the country insult loyal, put-upon customers with the pathetic standard of amenities on offer. They have failed to develop long-term strategies that rely on anything beyond glib slogans about families and the importance of sponsors. The executive box holders get central heating and smoked glass but the huddled majority don't deserve even an unobstructed view and a roof.

There is very little common sense applied to football. In no other area of life is the victim treated with as much disrespect as the perpetrator, nor the majority held to be guilty of the crimes perpetrated by a minority.

But, ultimately, what happens to us doesn't matter. It is our own fault for being football fans. That is why MPs always ignored pleas from supporters' organisations seeking to prevent the sort of disaster that has become a reality. Whatever they may say, few politicians gave any indication that they cared about football fans before Hillsborough happened. Suddenly everyone knows the answer. A fortnight ago, they didn't even hear the question.

It didn't take very long for Hillsborough to become our fault. Indeed, initial reports pinned blame on supporters who were believed to have broken down a gate. Later, as the analysts set to work, blame was heaped upon the large number of fans who arrived without tickets. Then the police's press department piped up, revealing that many were drunk and generally doing all the things that fans are famous for. Had the television cameras not been present to record the disaster as it unfolded, many people would have unquestioningly accepted the garbage that has been pumped out by some of the tabloid hacks.

Fans have been both the prophesiers and the victims of Hillsborough, but who believes that they will be invited to play an active part in solving the problems that it highlighted? We will be obliged to meekly accept the remedy offered. Standing has been proved to be bad for us, so we must sit. Stadiums in urban areas are, without exception. unsafe places for large numbers of people to congregate, so, for the common good, all teams will eventually be required set up home on industrial estates in the middle of nowhere. Better still, we are to pay for the changes that are required, despite the huge burdens already endured and the fact that the government takes vast sums of money from the game.

By the time this issue appears, the deaths of those Liverpool fans will have become just another "great story" disgorged by a media which revelled in one of the few disasters that happened live in front of the world's press. After a couple of weeks, there isn't much mileage to be derived from sombre proclamations that "It must never be allowed to happen again".

Of course, it will be allowed to happen again. The ID Cards bill with provisions that almost guarantee that such a tragedy will be repeated is to be pushed through nonetheless. No surprise there. Even after the Zeebrugge sinking, dangerous ferries are sailing the Channel, and on the London Underground, safety of passengers takes primacy only over ensuring that the chocolate machines are functioning adequately.

Some football officials smugly assert that such a disaster couldn't happen at their clubs. What they really mean is that now it has happened to someone else, odds are that it won't recur for a little while. It is less the Safety of Sports Grounds, but, rather, the Law of Averages that they see as adequate protection for their customers.

Disasters are happening so regularly now that we have developed a meaningless set of pseudo-religious rituals to acknowledge them. As has been clear for a long time, no disaster is worthy of the name until leading religious and political figures are officially informed and have given suitably trite quotes to the press. This immediate reaction is followed by The Visit. The seniority of the visitor is determined by media interest and death toll, and is, of course, performed primarily for the benefit of those clicking cameras. Survivors' stories are served up in tandem with chilling reminders of how easily death can take any of us.

All such rituals, crassly inappropriate in the main because they are so formularised, are supposed to make us feel that a mixture of fate and circumstance was ultimately to blame.

The key ritual of this organised disinformation is an inquiry. “Experts” are called forth (in this instance, few people other than football fans have any relevant expertise to offer). After accusations are made and refuted, a report is produced and the cheapest and most politically expedient bits form part of a new law. The rest is made voluntary. Identification of the real culprits is lost amid desperate, scurrying attempts to avoid blame.

The same people who indignantly call for the fences to be torn down now are the same ones who demanded that they should be put up in the first place. Thanks were duly said for there not having been any perimeter fences at Bradford, but no long-term lessons were learned from that fire. Superficial responses were the order of the day.

This is why it isn't all that surprising that the government wants to continue with the dangerous ID cards. It has weathered a sufficient number of crises to know that concern passes very quickly. They obviously reason that all will run smoothly if they can only hang on until something else is on the front pages. However, the ham-fisted attempts to bolster prejudices against football fans through the front pages of the Sun has rather backfired this time.

Once more, everyone is offering opinions on the game and its followers. Can it ever be the same again? Should it continue at all? A number of journalists have trotted out their "I'll never go again" line, much as they did after Heysel. It seems that any measure is justifiable in the wake of Hillsborough and some sort of punishment seems to be the accepted solution. The prime minister has no expertise to offer in this situation. She is blindly determined to act, and to be seen to act in accordance with her public image. She has nothing to say and yet remains shrilly determined to emphasise the fact.

Most of what we have outlined here has been said before. Some of it is repetitious, because football fans have gone on at considerable length in the past about most of these issues. To no avail. No one listens. Perhaps they won't listen now, because after all, we are only supporters. We derive no pleasure from saying any of this. We would much rather crawl into a corner and forget about football for a few weeks, but that isn't possible.

(*) This was the death toll at the time of writing"

The truth is that anyone of us could have been killed at any one of the matches we attended, that's why we cared so much and along with the families did not let it lie. My Dad used to say, "Treat people like animals, they'll act like animals". What he did not know the real animals were those in uniform who should have been protecting us.

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Wednesday 12th September 2012

Once back from the Hare and Hound on Sunday evening, we put the TV to watch the closing ceremony of the Paralympic Games. It was a wonderful evening, perfect to celebrate was has also been a wonderful games, full of joy and human endeavour. It may sound demeaning, but the levels of competition in both games were wonderful, and supported by record numbers of fans. It has been some five weeks, the like of which we will never see again.

Thankfully the overwhelming success of the games, the venues, the staff and the transport links along with the coverage of the Olympics by the BBC were nothing short of sensational. This meant that the probably already written editorials bemoaning the usual British failures were never published, but the games and Team GB went from success to success.

And the rest of the world has looked on at the show we and the athletes put on and I hope that they were as enthused as were in Britain.

Now of course, life goes back to something close to normal. It has been a sport-filled summer; The European championships, Wimbledon, The Open, international cricket (when it wasn't raining, which wasn't often), The Olympics and the Paralympics. It has been non-stop, then coupled with the Queens Jubilee, for those that like that sort of thing; bunting and flag makers have had a good year.

And just as we thought things couldn't get any better, Andy Murray won the US Open in the early hours of Tuesday morning in New York. To put that in context, this is the first major a Briton has won since Fred Perry won Wimbledon in 1936; that is 76 years.

Christmas Cake

Since Sunday, I have been ill, and on Tuesday got another head cold and was really fir for very little other than sit on the sofa. However, we have made two Christmas Cakes as well as complete most of the chores we had planned. so that will give us a couple of days to really get out and do stuff.

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Tuesday 11th September 2012

A day for avoiding TV methinks. Or maybe not, I don't watch discovery or National Geographic, but I guess they will be full of the 9/11 footage again. Maybe, maybe not. Like last year I will be looking anywhere except at those 'shows'.

Gold and green with a hint of blue

It is day 2 of the week off, and a day wasted as I wallow around the house with a heavy cold. As is par for the course, my nose is blocked up with something Noel wouldn't gunge his guests with back in the last decade. all I know is that I can blow it out just sniff it down; the upshot either way is no sleep. I have been awake since two this morning, and I wish I could say I've been productive, but no, just the usual stuff, messing around online and the such.


I almost forgot, I did manage to stand up long enough to help bake the second Christmas Cake; all is now done and it is cooling off nicely. Smells just like a Christmas Cake, which is just as well.

Large White

So, back to Sunday. It was hot, I mean hotter than down in the delta like it was in 72. I mean it was just humid. The thought of travelling to Ramsgate to climb a church towers was never really an option. After breakfast, Jools went out to forage over at Preston, and after some half-hearted procrastination, I set out for a walk, cameras in hand. Or bag.

Silver Y Moth

I set off along the path to the glade; snapped a Common Blue and a Brown Argus, but little other butterfly action other than the usual Large Whites everywhere. No Red Admirals, Peacocks or Painted Ladies to be seen. So, I press on.

Common Darter (F)

Instead of turning back, I head down the dip and up the steep path the other side, along the cycle pathand then over the gate and across the downs between the two wheat fields; now harvested and one ploughed and ready for next year already.

The paths are busier now, of course, and so I pass many folks, most pass the time of day, which is always pleasant. And we all have smiles on our faces, which is only right as we are out walking on the fine last summer's/early autumnal morning. Not quite sure where the cut off is between summer and autumn; there seems to be many ideas; I'm happy enough to call September autumn; the evenings are cooler, there is mist in the mornings and birds are showing interest in the seeds in the feeder again.

Brown Argus

Up at Dover Patrol parking spaces are in short supply, and it looks busy in Bluebirds. But the bench over by the cliff edge is free so I claim it, take off my camera bag and settle down to enjoy the view over the Channel to La Belle France. It is always a thrill to walk to the cliffs, doubly so if France can be glimpsed.

As the noise of loud conversation drifts over from the picnic tables, I get up and begin the walk back. I do prefer peace and quiet when walking, makes the insects less wary.

where land ends Talking of insects, although there was a general short supply of butterflies, there were thousands, and I mean thousands, of Silver Y Moths, out during the day and feeding as if in a frenzy. I get many, many shots, one of which comes out OK.

I meet an artist Jools and I bumped into a few weeks ago, and we swap sightings and our experiences of the Olympics; just like meeting old friends, really. English Channel

We spend a quiet afternoon sitting in the garden until we get too hot before coming inside to cool down. In the evening we head to the Blue Lantern for dinner, as I forgot to get dinner out of the freezer in time, but only to find they were out for the night too. So, plan B; The Hare and Hound at Northbourne; we drive over the downs along narrow country lanes as the sun sets in a ball of anger and some rain sweeps in to make it clear the hot weather had finished.

We both order roast beef, and have a very pleasant meal indeed, before trying to remember which lane will take us back to Chez Jelltex.