Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Wednesday 31st October 2012

All hail the ale.

All cheer the beer.

Yes, it is the time of the year when I head up to the fine county of Norfolk for the annual and very wonderful beer festival. And this year it was the 35th festival, which probably doesn’t mean that the beer was going to be any better, but now in its 35th year, it is one of the oldest beer festival in the country.

But before then there was the weekend to get through. Saturday, as we have come to expect, poured with rain. And poured pretty much all day. So, after heading to Tesco first thing we got our chores done, and then I settled down to listen to Norwich on the radio. I won’t go into detail the animosity between City and Aston Villa now that the once King of Norfolk has moved to Villa Park. What is done is done, and we move on. City only managed a draw, which was a disappointment, which was the game which I saw described in one of the broadsheets as a desperate match between two desperate teams; sounded about right.

Sunday morning we headed out early on to visit Samphire Hoe; we were hoping to go to Richmond Park, but the BBC promised us it was going to rain. Hard. And so with the 15 minutes of sunshine forecast we thought we would go for a walk along the base of the cliffs. We saw various birds, but nothing rare as we had hoped. It was cold, but dry at least. And we can say that we did something with our extra hour instead of just laying in bed.

So, with the clocking going back, it is nearly light on my morning commute, but getting dark soon after five. It seems a long way until spring……

Monday morning, and before it was time to leave I managed to arrange my physio session at a private hospital for later this week, and get permission for my insurer to actually pay for it. Which is nice.

Jools came to collect me at just gone nine and dropped me off at the station, in plenty of time. I sneaked on an earlier train, so I could have time in London to get some lunch. Once at Stratford, I walked through the shopping centre, stopping off at Subway for a bite for lunch, and at WH Smith for a book to read. I chose The Great Gatsby, which I did try to read many moons ago. With that I walked to the platform to wait for the train to Norwich. NR did try to confuse me by having a platform 10 and 10A; which I thought would be one and the same thing. Just as well I noticed a load of people waiting on the next platform, I began to panic, went over via the subway, and just made it in time as the train arrived.

Tombland Antiques Centre

So, as we sped through the Essex countryside in the sunshine, I munched on my roll; I won’t call it a sub as that is clearly a submarine. Through Chelmsford, Colchester, Ipswich, Stowemarket and into Norfolk. And only a few minutes late we rumbled into Norwich. I had a couple of hours to kill before my friend, Matt, turned up. SO I walked up Prince of Wales Road hoping to get a haircut where I used to go when I was in the RAF. It was closed, but I found another place just up the road and had a trim. I then thought that there was just enough time to have a walk round the cathedral and take a few shots.

It is only a few minutes up the road, along the edge of Tombland and through the cathedral gate. The cathedral is spectacular, and well worth a revisit for me. I took many shots, and the fact here were so few other visitors meant it was all very pleasant. I got many shots which I will have to sift through and post in due course.

35th Norwich Beer Festival, St Andrew's Hall, Norwich. October 29th 2012

I walked back down to the station and went into Costa for a brew and to wait for Matt. Once he arrived we walked to the hotel and checked in. Clearly, Travelodge have been doing some cost-cutting, as all items of furniture, apart from the bed had been removed; curtains have been replace by blinds, there is no gel or shampoo in the bathroom and as expected the twin room requested was a double room, Now I like Matt……

35th Norwich Beer Festival, St Andrew's Hall, Norwich. October 29th 2012

The staff couldn't have been more helpful in providing us with spare duvets and towels; as they had supplied just the one hand and bath towel for two guests. It did all seem rather basic, and someone we met described it as being like a barracks. I’ll agree with that. Anyway, at just gone four we headed out to the festival to queue so we could be amongst the first inside. As we walked up Prince of Wales Road, the sky darkened above as clouds rolled in; it looked like we would get wet. We had about an hour and a half to wait, but time passed fairly quickly, and once the programs were handed out, we could plan our first drinks.

Half five came round and we were let in, and once be bought our glass and tokens we found somewhere to sit and went to get our first drinks. I decided on the best beer we had at last year’s; a blackberry porter which was just as good. And that is what we did the rest of the evening; drink, choose another beer, go and get it and drink. Repeat until your legs don’t work.

35th Norwich Beer Festival, St Andrew's Hall, Norwich. October 29th 2012

Not really, but we had a few for sure, and interspersed the drinks with healthy food like pork scratchings or pork pies. It all got a bit hazy, I do remember sampling a newly-opened barrel just after half ten, and then it was time to head back to the hotel. And try to get some sleep.

Next morning I was laying awake waiting for dawn, whilst Matt slept on. I got up at half six for a wander and so I could take more shots. I let Matt sleep on. I walked up the hill and back into Tombland. There was hardly any other people around, so I got lots of shots of empty cobbled streets, which is not a bad thing. At St Andrew’s Hall, supplies for the next drinking session were already being unloaded.

At the market, most stalls were still closed, but the greasy spoons were open, and so I chose one and ordered a tea and a bacon sandwich. I walked round some more before heading into Costa to wait for Matt to wake up. He called after a while, and after meeting up we did a quick tour of the sights before heading to the Hall once more and queuing up for some more beer.

And why not?

More beer, pasties, chips, more beer.

And it was time to head for the station and go home.

We poured ourselves onto the train, slumped into a seat and waited for departure time. And so as we dozed, the Norfolk and Suffolk countryside slipped by as the sun got lower in the west. By the time we got to Stratford, it was dark and I had 15 minutes to the International platforms to catch the train to Dover. I made it with five minutes to spare, and thanks to it being 12 cars long, I even got a seat.

Once back in Dover, Jools was waiting; on the way home we stopped off at the chippy for fish and chips, and that was the weekend over and done with, and the detox to begin…..

Saturday, 27 October 2012

Saturday 27th October 2012

I guess I should mention that whilst on the course, my back did, as expected begin to play up. I did warn the instructors, and they did help me through the toughest part, which I appreciated.

However, once back at home after two days of climbing and then sitting in not the most comfortable seats for most of the evening, it was clear that I would be in some pain over the next few days as the stresses and strains that my back suffered was worked out of my muscles.

In truth, it wasn't that bad, but at times just sitting at the table on Thursday as I worked from home was painful. At least I was booked to see the doctor on Friday and I could get the 'official' version on what was wrong with my back.

Over the past few months we had booked tickets to see some gigs and/or poetry readings, and I had marked all but one on our calender; for some reason I decided to seek out the Marcus Brigstocke tickets during Thursday to find out what day his gig was. Just as well that i did as it was that night.

So, Jools and I exchanged e mails, and we decided that we would head into Canterbury at about half five, find somewhere to have dinner and then see the show after. As darkness fell, we headed out along the A2 to Canterbury, parked at Watling Street and walked into the city centre.

Butchery Lane, Canterbury

I took a few street shots with the marvellous f1.4 lens, most coming out very well, before we came to Butchery Lane and the smell of cooking garlic mixed with exotic spices enticed us to a Moroccan restaurant. We checked we could get a meal in the hour or so before the show, and settled down with kir royals and looked at the menu.

We had a mixed Moorish platter to begin with followed by a tagine, and then home made ice cream to end the meal. It was very nice, and full of flavour, and we were out with ten minutes to spare before the show.

The show took place in the Shirley Hall, which is inside the 'private' King's School, which as a public school borders the cathedral close on its north side. I had wanted to take some shots, but by that time it was dark and most of the school buildings were in deep shadow and photography would have been impossible.

The Shirley Hall, Kings School, Canterbury

The show was good, a piss-take on David Cameron's 'big society' idea. That is where ordinary people take on the duties that the state should be doing; running schools, looking after the poor or sick and so on.

By the interval, it was clear that my long days away and Jools' broken sleep from her cough meant that we were shattered, and so we decided to head back home and get some extra shut-eye.

And so to Friday, and my only day in the office; and it being a weather day which means that I have the office pretty much to myself as the technicians did not have to come into work due to the high winds.

I got through the day and it was time to head back home and the appointment to the doctor. I picked up Jools at the bus stop, and we headed to the surgery; the doctor told me I have early-onset arthritis and a bulge in one of my discs which is pressing on my nerves, which explains my numb legs. I have to arrange some physio via my health insurance at work, and told to take pain killers and take more exercise. Not as bad as it could be, I suppose.

And to the weekend!

Friday, 26 October 2012

Friday 26th October 2012

I am more of the opinion now that if we had been meant to hand from a slender thread some 25m above the ground, we would have been born as spiders and would be eating giant flies. As part of duties at work, I could be asked to climb to the top of a turbine. So, I have to be trained in working at heights and go on a course. So, that meant me travelling to Kendal in Westmoreland, to the National Training at Heights Centre for two days death by Powerpoint and dangling.

I don’t mind heights; tops of cliffs – Great, tall buildings – great. But that is because I am the master of my destiny, and gravity and I have a mutual respect for each other, I will snap it in action and it deals with the apples and falling pianos.

Anyway, I have done this course before, so knew what to expect, and just wanted to get the whole thing over with as soon as possible and get back to fun this in life like being at home and listening to the radio.

So, at lunchtime on Monday, I set off for the station and yet another fast train heading to London. Once in London, it is a ten minute walk to Euston and the mad scramble for a seat about the Virgin train north. As I walk in the concourse the platform had already been announced, and so I stomped off even quicker for platform 12. I was expecting two and a half hours in the vestibule as there were no seats left to reserve when I booked my tickets; but what is this, coach U? And a member of staff saying three coarriages were all unreserved. I asked which ones. This one she says pointing to coach U behind her. I scramble on and pour myself into a seat at a table facing forward.


The train filled up and the other three seats filled up, as did the rest of the train. But I could see out the window and I was in heaven. It may not sound like much, but two and a half hours in a train with nothing to look at other than the seat back in front of you is only possible when people design long-distance trains which have 16 seats per carriage with no windows. How is that even possible? A four year old kid could design a seat plan which matches up with the windows!

And at half one we left Euston and soon were rushing through at 125 mph, a speed at which blood boils and all air is sucked out of our longs; only that didn’t happen. We just dashed under the M25, though Watford, Milton Keynes and up the Trent Valley; twisting and weaving along the Trent Valley to Stafford and up to Crewe. Our first stop was at Warrington, home of our head office; I shuddered. And then onto Wigan, Preston and Lancaster before arriving in the small station at Oxenholme.


All the way up the country, we were bathed in milky autumnal sunshine, and the woods and forests of our fair land were turning to gold and brown. It was a simple pleasure to sit and watch fair Albion slip by.

At Oxenholme, I had a twenty five monute wait for the four minute ride down the Windermere line to Kendal. I grabbed a coffee and some chocolate from the platform shop, and waited and people-watched. The train arrived and we sat in it until a southbound train on the main line had also stopped, then the ‘express’ rattled down the hill into Kendal.

Thinking there would be a taxi rank at the station, I thought it would be somple to get to the hotel on the other side of town. Apparently, the station is too small for a rank, and therefore you have to head into town. Which I did. Where would you think a town would keep it’s taxi rank? I tried the bus station, the indoor market, the market square, and was about to give up so I asked some locals. And there it was 50 yards away. As I walked to the lone taxi, it drove away.

Anyway, another one arrived to takes it’s place, and luckily for me it was being driven by a wise guy who provided the entertainment during the ten minute trip to the hotel. And there it was, the Stonecross Manor Hotel. Not a manor, but a hotel and not cross-shaped. But, I forgave them. My reservation was good, and I had a room up on the second floor in what must have once been the servants quarters. Thanks to the sloping foor I managed to bang my head repeatedly, it always was there as I got up for the desk or bed. I would have hoped that I learned the first time. But I did find out that the word ‘fuck’ is the best thing to scream out in pain after banging your forehead for the fourth time.

My boss, who was on the same course, arrived at seven and we met in the bar for dinner.

And a drink.

I’m not going to bore you with the details of the course, suffice to say the next morning we were at the place by nine the next morning, we did the theory, then after lunch began the practical; up ladders, down ladders, on ropes, with hooks, without hooks but with sliders. It was getting dark by the time we finished for the day, and I had finally climbed to 25m and back down again.

It was good to have a shower, listen to the radio and await for dinner time to come around. I had rack of lamb, again, but not as good as mine, though. And a couple of pints of Wobbly to wash it down with. Time then to see the second half of the Man Utd game and see them struggle, but come from behind and win against Braga.

Next day it was more of the same, this time with dummies. To practice rescues on. And the last item to do was to use a self-rescue to get off a 25m platform. Just rig yourelf up, swing out over the open hatch and take the brake off and you will gently drop to the ground. Simples. For a confirmed coward like me, this was difficult, but despite pushing me and my poor back to the limit it would have been a shame to give up at the very last, and so I swung out and let go.

Gravity did its thing and soon enough I was back on the ground. I resisted the temptation to sink to my knees and kiss it. Go to the classroom and take off your kit and go home. Or something very similar.

My boss dropped my off at Oxenholme and so began to wait for a train. In truth it was little more than a quarter of an hour before the train rumbled into the station. Thinking I might get a seat in coach U again, I waited at roughly the halfway point on the platform, and the coach stopped right in front of me. I got on and found a free table just inside the door so I sat down once again facin the direction of travel and settled down to watch the northern landscapes sweep by, I was entertained by a couple of teenage girls in the seats opposite, regaling us within earshot of their adventures of shopping in Kendal. The reapplied make up and updated their Facebook pages and discussed possible dates for that night. All exciting stuff.

They got off at Lancaster, and I had the table to myself all the way to London, and treated myself with a sandwich and coke from the on-board shop.

It was dark by the time we reached Stafford, and so I I dozed and watched the stations fly by. We arrived in London and I walked back along the Euston Road and into St Pancras hoping to get a bit to eat in the 55 minutes until the train from Dover left. All places seemed full and it was probably I wouldn’t get served in time to make the train, so I headed to the platforms and got a train to Ashford instead. And then waited for 20 minutes for the connecting train to Dover, thus getting back in town ten minutes quicker than if I had waited for the direct train.


There was just time to pop into a chippy for some supper and then back home to the cats. Yay.

Sunday, 21 October 2012

Sunday 21st October 2012

So, I am bringing you the post-weekend blog a day early as I have to travel to the frozen north so I can be taught how to dangle from a rope without killing myself or anyone else.

As I am not very happy with heights, this week will be something of a trial for me; doubly so as I am doing the course with my boss. So, no chickening out!

I found out the results of my MRI on Friday; I say results, the doctor was so sure there would be nothing wrong he told me to ask the receptionist for what the report said. I did, and it being a couple of days late, means that if there was anything wrong it would be too late to cancel the course.

Half Sovereign Cottage, Hastings

Hope this is making sense to some of you....

I have some disc damage, nerve bunching. and I now have to see the doctor to find out what this all means. Which means after the course. So, I will do my best. I guess it is good in that I wasn't imagining the pain. I remember when in the final days of my service with the RAF, I registered with some service organisation, it was a week of much, much paperwork. And I was asked what my trade was; armourer says I. So, that'll be bad knees and back came the reply.

The Net Shops, Hastings

Didn't think too much about it at the time. I got to thinking of all the humping and dumping I did, lifting tails, missiles, budging s-type trolleys. Hmmmmm. Of course there was my end of service medical which resulted me in being discharged as fit. With my poor hearing!

Anyway, so, lets see what the quack says next Friday and hope I don't freeze to death on the tundra of the Lake District!

Sinnock Square, Hastings

So, this weekend: Friday afternoon I got my lens back fro the lensdoctor. It is wonderful to have it back, but as it was already getting dark by the time we were home, it would have to wait until Saturday to put it through it's paces. The question was, what to do?

Sinnock Square, Hastings

In the end we decided to head to Hastings, for the reason we haven't been there for some time. So, once we had ventured to Tesco to stock the larder, we had breakfast and headed out into the grey morning.

Sinnock Square, Hastings

To get to Hastings we travel along to Ashford and then across the marshes to Rye, through Winchelsea and onto Hastings. We parked up near the beach and set about to find the public toilets. We found them nearby, and were pleased to see that the local council had rated them with 5 stars, but despite advertising being open from seven in the morning, at half ten in the morning they we locked fast.

We walked around the Staid, snapping the exhibits of the fishing museum, including the towering net shops, which are now no longer used, but look like something from a Tim Burton film.

We head off into the town in search of:

1. interesting places to photograph 2. public toilets

Along to High street we come to a cafe, and decide to have a coffee and end up having an early lunch too. Afterwards we set off up a narrow path to see what we might find.

Houses had been built hugging the hillside, and were only accessible via the narrow and steep paths. As we went on the path got steeper as it weaved between the houses scattered around.

The houses cleared, and we found ourselves near the top of a hill, with yet more town just glimpsed on the other side of the green. Having climbed to the top, we rewarded ourselves with a sit down on a bench and a half hour looking at the world go by and the town spread out like a map below.

Ye Olde Pumphouse, Hastings

After a while we head down back into the town, back down via more steep pathways and down onto the High Street. We come out beside what looks like an ancient Shepherd Neame pub, and so we go in to have a drink, so I could get some shots. The beer was OK, but the service wasn't so hot, but it looked fine enough, although a search on the net reveals that it isn't as old as it looks.

We head back to the car via the beach so we can walk amongst the fishing fleet that is dragged onto the beach each evening, and is an unusual sight to see dozens of ships beached.

The New Inn, Winchelsea, East Sussex

We drive back home and stop off at Winchelsea, as I had always wanted to see inside The New Inn. I also took the chance to go into the ancient church opposite and photograph that. Inside the pub I have a pint of Speckled hen, which was the best of a poor selection, but the pub itself is a fine one.

The East Window, St Thomas, Winchelsea

Once home I sit down to watch Twitter and follow the City game against Arsenal that way. City take the lead through Holt in the 19th minute, and end up hanging on for their first win of the season.

And Sunday; it has rained all day. Sometimes it was just drizzle, at other times it was driving down. We sat inside and watched drops run down the windows. We cleaned the house, did some washing, and I caught up on my radio shows.

"Duirt me leat go raibh me breoite"

I cooked rack of lamb for lunch, and very good it was too. So, I laid on the bed listening to the radio all afternoon. And now darkness has fallen, and the rain still falls. It looks and feels like autumn. This time next week the clocks will have gone back and it will be night time.

Thursday, 18 October 2012

Thursday 18th October 201

And hello again. And as we are now over what is now apparently called hump day, this is what ‘the kids’ call Wednesday, apparently.

Big news this week has been the racist chants and fights at the end of the England u21 game in Serbia. That Serbia has since claimed that there was no such chanting and all the fault was on Danny Rose who was vulgar. Having listened to the sound of the crowd at the end of the game, the monkey chanting could clearly be heard. And we thought that such things were a thing of the 20th century. But no. In Ukraine, being openly gay is being outlawed, and this is considered alright by most people who live there. Gay activists are beaten up. Filmed whilst being beaten up. And the world plays with its fingers. A school activist in Pakistan was shot by the Taliban as she had been campaigning for schooling for girls. And in the US of A, defenders of freedom, a billionaire is running for president who declares that the poorest 47% are workshy democrat voters who want everything for nothing. And admitted to paying 14% tax over the previous three years. Nice bloke, he’s religious you know.

Oh, in Britain, the disabled are to lose up to £45 a week with the ‘streamlining’ of benefits. Because, let us not forget, we’re all in this together. The Speaker of the House is once again refusing to release details of MP’s expenses, which shows that nothing really has changed since 2009.

But let us move on from that and deal with the real pressing issue, that of the mouse.

The mouse.

What did you do at work today? I took a mouse to work.

Oh yes I did. It’s very simple, but unbelievable, but then coming a month after the camera lens/mouse incident, maybe it’s all too familiar.

We came down from bed this morning to see various items had been dragged from the pouch in my work bag. Clearly, a mouse had been about, got in there and the cats had tried to scoop it out. I thought nothing of it, put the stuff back in, put in my lunch and headed to work. And nothing happened for many hours. And then as I was working away, a thought popped into my head: what about if the mouse did not get out? Could it still be in the bag?

I start to take stuff out of the pouch, papers, pens, etc. And nothing. But wait; there are two shiny black eyes, whiskers and all attached to a small brown mouse. I close the top of the pouch up, and carry the bag downstairs and out the gate so I can deposit the mouse in the rough ground. I can’t tip the bag upside down as the other compartments are full, and thought I could grab it. I do it all the time at home.

But, as I make to grab the mouse, he panics and dives to the bottom of the pouch and disappears. And I empty everything out of the bag, turn it upside down and shake it. Nothing comes out. As the bag had a broken strap, the only real choice was to throw the bag away and get a new one. The only other choice would be to undo the stitching to find where in the bad the mouse was. And then catch it. And if I didn’t find it soon, the mouse would die of thirst and then the bag would begin to stink.

So, I have ordered a new bag from Amazon, and will now wait for that to be delivered.

Tell me readers, is it just our house where this stuff happens?

One thing I did do yesterday was to work out how much energy it would take to head up the world’s oceans by one degree. You see I am not convinced global warming is real. I believe the world is heating up, but I don’t believe it is all down to mankind. We could argue about it, maybe we should. But I was told that the amount of energy (latent heat capacity) needed to raise the temperature of 1 litre of water is surprisingly large. Turns out water is the hardest material to heat up. Anyway, turns out it is a frighteningly large amount of energy, and bear in mind temperature has been estimated to have risen by nearly two if not three degrees,. So, this is the number:

5,630,460,000,000,000,000,000,000 joules. That’s 5.6 million with 19 more zeroes after it. And that’s just one degree.

Anyway, just something for us all to think about.

The cost of the cheapest ticket in professional football in England and Wales has increased by 11.7% in the past year. The cost of this lowest ticket is now some £21.24.

In 1986, a season ticket in Norwich’s River End cost £50. Something like just over two pounds per game, which these days sounds like something of a bargain. Not only that it makes something my Granddad would say it cost during the war; am I getting that old?


In the 1983-84 season, a seat in the main stand, as it was then, cost the princely sum of £4. Looking at the figures for this season, the most expensive ticket at Norwich is now £50.00. Now, I don’t know much about economics, but I’m sure that inflation has not risen 1250% in the intervening 28 years.

As I have written before, I cannot and will not attempt to justify professional footballer’s wages. Some are earning something like £300,000 a week. That is more than I will earn in nearly 11 years. All for kicking a bag of wind about. There will be those saying it’s an international market for players and these are the going rates, but cost of tickets in Germany seems to be something like a quarter than it is here in England. The Premier League says that over 92% of tickets are sold season on season; that Match of Day shows expanses of empty seats week in week out at places like Wigan, Sunderland, etc shows that the picture is not as rosy as they would like to paint it.

One would hope that with next season’s 66% increase in TV revenue for the Premier League clubs, something of that windfall will be pushed in the direction of fans; but we know that is never going to happen. Players wages are increasing something like 15% year on year, and this will only accelerate with even more money in the trough.

So, for this season, I am not paying for Sky Sports, which has been difficult at times; but I am used to it now, and have grown to like the hissy reception of radio 5 on my transistor radio; just like the old days, really.

The most expensive club to follow is Arsenal; they do have a shiny new stadium to pay for after all. The cheapest matchday ticket is £24, but then a Gooner tweeted that he has never seen tickets on the Arsenal website at that price. And the most expensive is £124. Season tickets are even worse, at £985 for the cheapest and £1,955 for the most expensive. The club will tell you that that includes 7 cup games of your choice included in the price. Even still, two grand for 26 games of football featuring a team that has sold most of its best players in the last four years; no wonder the fans are beginning to revolt. Or baulk. Or both.

Not only is it in ticket prices are fans being fleeced; I heard from a Spurs supporting friend of mine that they have three kits for the league and another two for Europe. This is getting plain crazy. Of course, we don’t have to buy kits, buy drinks, pies, programs when we go to games, and as ticket prices rise maybe many more will be taking packed lunches and a thermos. Or maybe, like me, they will just say they’ve had enough and not bother. Not having Sky Sports saves me £30 a month, and not buying a replica shirt is another £50. The last game I went to, it is very hard to get tickets at Norwich these days as demand outstrips supply, was at Chelsea, and that cost £50. And then there was the cost of getting to London, £36. And after a beer and a sandwich, that’s £100 for 90 minutes of football. Not good value, and something I refused to do again this year.

One day, the TV bubble will burst, and the flood of money will leave the game and then clubs will have to value, rather than take for granted, their fans. But that day Lucifer will be going to work on ice skates.

Monday, 15 October 2012

Monday 15th October 2012

Every week, it comes as a surprise that the weekend flies by like it dived out of a balloon at 132,000 feet. Anyway, before we knew what was going on, it was Sunday night, getting dark and work was looming on the horizon.

It would have been nice to sleep all day, but with an empty fridge and larder, the only answer was to head to Tesco for the usual battle. But, either the rest of the town was laying in or kidnapped by aliens. Whatever the reason, we got our stuff and were loading the checkout in about ten minutes. Back home for more coffee and croissants, and then to ponder what to do with the day.

One scoop or two?

I had hoped to be able to head to Folkestone with Jools when she did her beading class, but the clouds never cleared and the rain drizzled down. So, I stayed home and pottered. Pottered means listening to the radio and messing around with editing photographs. My allergy was quite happy with this, and so together we sat and whiled the day away. When Jools got back we had beefsteak tomato and mozzarella drizzled with olive oil. The two glasses of red wine I had at the same time went down very well.

Sunday morning we actually did lay in until nearly HALF PAST SEVEN. Wow, rock, and indeed, roll. And after breakfast we headed out to Kings Wood. Well, it is the time of year for fungi, and with all the rain this year the wood would be jam-packed with the little buggers wouldn't it?

In a word, no.

But first, the mist.

Yes, the mist. As we drove out of Ashford, the mist began to close in; but as the road climbed, the rose above the mist. Just as we entered the thickest part of the wood, we were treated to a glimpse of the valleys and dips below filled with mist. We both thought the same thing, find a place to overlook this scene. We turned off and went past the car park, through the wood until we came to a smaller car park. We stopped off and trotted off down the road, risking life and limb with the prospect of oncoming cars ploughing into us.

But this is photography, goddammit.

Jools thought she would make her way through a small copse, and I went along the road further. I came to a gate at the end of a small avenue through the trees, and was treated to a fine view as the ground slipped away from where I stood, past a small herd of confused looking sheep and into the mist below. It was all white from a few hundred yards away all the way to the sea. With the occasional tree or house sticking up.

A splendid sight.

Kentish Dawn

Anyways, we got our shot and headed back to the wood. I made for where the fly agarics usually were, and there was nothing. It was the same in the large clearing where the fungi usually crowd round at the edge. All the time, I could hear dogs barking, children running and laughing. As I walked back I passed at least three groups of foragers, baskets in hand, planning to look for autumnal delicacies. Another group, some 25 strong, made up of parents, children and dogs running loose. I was glad to be leaving.


In the future we must ensure we are here at dawn this time of year so we have the place to ourselves. Or we could go somewhere else.

Back to the coast and to Deal to inspect the new sea defences. Yes, really.

All along the beach there are diggers and excavators shoring up the beach, but sure as chips is chips, long-shore drift will have its day. I got my shots, then went to No Name Shop to buy some stinky cheese, only to find it has joined the record shop and the bookshop in the great High Street in the sky.


In the afternoon, I mowed the lawn, and did more pottering which consisted of pretty much as it did on Saturday.

Quite how we cope with the pace of life these days is the question on everyone’s lips……

Saturday, 13 October 2012

Saturday 13th October 2012

And once again, on a work day, the sun shines down from a clear blue sky, France can be seen across the Channel, and here I am at my desk, procrastinating as usual. At least it should be the same tomorrow, which should mean an opportunity to take some snaps and maybe find a nice Shepherd Neame pub and sup a pint or two of Late Red.

At about lunchtime on Sunday, Vodafone cancelled my mobile phone contract, and I switched it off. I can still surf the new with via our hub or any open access point, if I wanted. So far, my life hasn’t changed that much and I really have not noticed not having it. Of course, when we break down in the middle of nowhere, and I have to hike along lanes to find a farm or house;

Say, didn’t we pass a castle a few miles back?

And then I might regret not having one; and there is always the choice of getting a pay as you go sim if I really want one. We shall see.

And I have so far not been tempted to run back into the arms of Sky Sports either. On a rainy Sunday afternoon, or an exciting night in Europe, I wonder if I might consider it, but then come the weekend it is the same tales of moaning referees, diving players and the general pointlessness of seeing millionaires running around chasing a bag of wind around as if what they do is the most important job in the world. Once upon a time my life used to centre around football, and weekends were better or worse depending on how well or poorly City had done. Now, its easy to say this now we’re propping up the table, but it don’t amount to a hill ‘o’ beans, there are more important things in life.


And tonight, there is live football on TV, as England take on the might of San Marino in a World Cup qualifier at Wembley. I guess I shall watch, but I will be watching ironically. It’s the post-modern way. Like in the Premier League there is a glass ceiling which means only four or five teams can actually win it, in international, England has reached its own glass ceiling; we’ll qualify for most finals but lose to the first decent team we come across and be on the next flight home. But, that’s OK, we can cope with that, after all, its what we’re used to by now.

Hopefully, my camera lens might be back home this weekend after undergoing repairs. This does show, once again, that camera lenses do not bounce and I have to get a new camera bag to protect all my gear. Dear Santa………..

This week has been the usual mix of coughs, sneezes, cats, work, mice and the such that is your typical week. I am off to the quacks tonight to see if anything can be done about my non-stop flu and colds that I have suffered since the middle of August. I have gone from feeling like death last weekend and on Monday, to top of the world on Tuesday, and then a long slow slide downhill as it feels like I am going down with yet another virus……

We have at least two mice in the house, and that is apart from the four we have caught or found bits from. The one under the cooker was doing OK until I baked some rolls yesterday, there was some banging as the temperature rose, but since then, nothing. The one in the fireplace seems to be OK, though.


It is now Saturday morning, and so an update.

The doctor could find nothing wrong, and indeed I felt like a fraud sitting in his office saying how long I had been ill for. But within an hour of being back home I was sniffing and coughing as bad as before.

Therefore, we can deduce I have an allergy, we just have to find out what I am allergic to. I'd way work.....

Anyway, so I just have to find the right drug that will make life liveable, and then it should be back to something approaching normal.

And England laboured to a 5-0 win last night. I say laboured, as england are forth in the FIFA rankings, and Sam Marino are joint 207th and last. And the fact that English players could still not pass or keep possession shows just how bad things have come. Jonjo Shelvy made his full début, coming on as a second half substitute, this after what can be described as a handful of 'good' games for Liverpool.

As Paul Ince says, caps are being showered around like confetti.....

Thursday, 11 October 2012

Thursday 11th October 2012

Every now and again, something happens to shatter your illusions.

Take Jimmy Saville: No go on, you take him.

for many years he was a 'star' Radio 1 DJ, celebrity, TV host and hard-working charity fundraiser. Lets be honest, he was always a little odd, but that is OK to be a little eccentric, isn't it?

Well, no as it turns out. Last Tuesday, ITV were due to screen a documentary about how Sir Jim liked little girls, and molested them, and used his celebrity to keep his activities quiet. At first it was thought this was muckraking, but as the transmission date approached, more stories began to emerge.

Now it seems he did the charity stuff to hide his activities; at times attacked the most vulnerable of children; those who were sick or in care. And yet to the outside world he was the guy who made kid's dreams come true on TV in Jim'll Fix It.

The Daily Mail is using it as an excuse to bash the BBC, saying that the corporation hid his activities. In part that may be true, someone must have suspected or known. Stories now abound of young girls in TV centre for recordings of Top of the Pops being taken into his dressing room.

Yesterday, the police called his a predatory paedophile and his recently erected grand gravestone was taken down and is to be crushed. It seems people have made up their minds already.

A few years back, Louis Theroux did a show where he lived with Saville for a week or so. Jim was a little odd and wore lamé track suits. and last week in a show about radio stars, filmed before these revelations, fellow DJs said he was a private man, did not mix, but put it down to him being of an older generation.

In another story, cyclist Lance Armstrong was revealed to be a hard-nosed drug cheat after all, and not the superhuman man we had been lead to believe. In truth he was both, but he has now been stripped of his 7 Tour de France wins after 11 of his former team mates turned evidence against him.

That Lance has repeatedly denied the allegations, and indeed was never tested positive for anything in his long career, it seems he was lying to us and himself all along.

back in 1992, I worked with a keep cyclist, and I remember chatting to him about drugs and Le Tour, and his reply was that do you think that anyone could compete in the three weeks of the race and NOT be on drugs? 150km a day, up and down mountains and everything else.

But, if we are to believe the sport is mostly clean now, and cyclist are shown to be human after all, and cannot attack for a week straight in the mountains, and drugs don't now help recovery, that means we are helping sportspeople from themselves. And we get a clean sport.

That Armstrong got millions of people to buy in and buy his Lifestrong bracelets, when now it should say on them, Lifewrong instead.

The blog will be back to normal tomorrow, with just more light-hearted stuff, with added flu of course.

Until then.......

Monday, 8 October 2012

Monday 8th October 2012

Good morning, and welcome to the sick house.

I had hoped that my days of being sick with the flu were behind me as I had quite a good week last week, I even managed two sessions on the cross trainer as well. But, during Saturday night I began to get congested, I woke up sometime in the wee small hours wheezing like an old bloke.

And by daylight I was sneezing uncontrollably and the snot tap in my nose had been turned fully on. Coupled with the inability to breathe through my nose once again, I felt like crap. I thought that maybe some fresh air might help, and as it was a glorious day that our planned walk down the cliffs to Langdon Beach might still be a good idea.

Langdon Bay, Dover

Well, it didn't kill me,and maybe the fresh air didn't do me any harm, but I did take to my bed in the afternoon to listen to the football and try to get some zeds, which I failed to do. Last night, sleep didn't come easy either, despite taking most flu medication sold in Tesco. I guess I did fall asleep some time after two. That was after chasing the mouse Scully brought for me round the bedroom. She dropped it from her mouth and I was able to scoop it up and then carry it downstairs by it's tail to deposit it outside.

Langdon Bay, Dover

However much sleep i had, I was awake at half five, waiting for the alarm to go off and make the decision about going into work or not. Three night's poor sleep kinda swung it, and I am just dosing myself up on more drugs before heading back to bed and hopefully, some sleep.

The storms of Friday, ebbed away as darkness fell, but then the torrential rain began, and fell all night. We woke up at dawn with the rain still hammering down, so after a coffee, I headed to Tesco whilst Jools tidied up the house. Our plan to tackle the back garden failed due to the amount of rain we had, but a mail from a friend reminded me that a steam engine was due in Kent at lunchtime, and as promised, the rain stopped and the clouds cleared, just before one we headed out to Chartham to see Tornado pass, and for the last time for a while to see her in Brunswick Green.

So, with several like-minded people we gathered on the footbridge over the line with ten minutes to go in the autumnal sunshine, waiting for the crossing gates to be closed and the toot of the whistle. And as it turned out, she was on time; the gates were closed, the keepier giving us a thumbs up and so after a quick double-check of the camera settings, line up the shot and wait.

And here she comes.

60163 "Tornado" The Cathedral Express 6th October 2012 at Chartham, Kent

What a sight.

60163 "Tornado", The Cathedral Express at Chartham Kent

And there she goes.


All in about 5 seconds.

We all check our shots and make our way to our cars, and for Jools and I , we check the Kent church reference book and decide to head to Crundale.

A 13th century church some one mile from the village set on a bluff overlooking a partly farmed and wooded valley. We parked up, walked through the lych gate and tried the door and found it unlocked.

It is a simple two cell church, with parts dating from as early as the late 12th century, but most no younger than 15th; it has been restored in Victorian times, but done quite well.

I take my shots, which come out OK, before we head outside and consult the book before deciding where to head to next.

It was a short drive to Waltham, but after finding the lane to Waltham blocked, we doubled back down a road so little used moss and grass was growing in the middle of the single track road, and it was littered with flints washed down from the hills above.

Once back in the village of Crundale we come across the pub, The Compasses, and as there was half an hour before closing time we decide to grab a drink. I have a very fine pint of Late Red whilst sitting in the corner, so I could get the best possible shots of the bar.

Back on the road and a short drive of a couple of miles to Waltham. St Bartholomew's is an unusual church, slightly square with a pitched roof and squat tower, and inside has the feeling of a barn, but it is light an airy, and decorated with autumnal flowers and dried hops.

I get my shots and decide that we have done enough, and we attempt to drive back to Canterbury voa Stone Street, an old Roman Road. We take the wrong turn and end up driving through Petham, which I am sure I have snapped the church of. I was wrong, and so we stop and I get out to snap that one, too.

Just coming out I meet the warden and she tells me something of the history and that the chancel walls are barrelling out and in danger of coming down; I discuss how other Kent churches have tackled this, especially Lyminge with it's single flying buttress. The warden is preparing for that evening's harvest supper, and I am sure it was rather wonderful.

I get my shots, and head back to the car, and then onto Canterbury and home. Listening to the radio was painful, as Norwich were playing Chelsea at the Bridge. City take an early lead, but The Blues score three ties in 12 minutes to knock the stuffing out of City, and score a forth late in the second half once we are home.

The season already feels long, and we have played less than 10 games.

Sunday morning, despite my fly and dripping nose, we head out at nine to head to the cliffs and our walk down to the beach.

Langdon Bay, Dover

We park on Reach Road where the dogwalkers park, and head to the cliff edge and then down to the start of the zig-zag path. It was a wonderfully clear day, with no clouds in the sky with just a hint of mist meaning France was out of sight in the haze.

Langdon Bay, Dover

As we begin to go down, we get out of the breeze and it really begins to warm up. We are treated to views down onto the beach and across to the ferry terminal, but have to watch our step as the ground is slippery after the rain on Friday and Saturday morning.

Langdon Bay, Dover

We make it down to the level of the searchlight battery, and then climb down the ladder to the beach. It is awe-inspiring to be in the lea of these massive cliffs, with other folks being tiny dots over 150 feet above us up on the cliffs near the coastguard station.

Langdon Bay, Dover

We spend about an hour down there, right up to hight tide at 10:35, before we begin the climb back up.

It is hard work, but we take our time, and within 15 minutes we are resting on the grass looking out over the Channel. Already the footpath between Dover and St Margaret's has many walkers, and after getting our breath back we head to the car and back home.

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Wednesday 3rd October 2012

What can I tell you about this week? Well, yesterday I got to leave off work early to head to Ashford to visit the hospital and have a scan.

I guess like most people my age, I suddenly feel very mortal as aches and pains erupt from nowhere. Anyway, since Christmas I have been suffering with a bad back, and the doctor thought it prudent to go for a scan. And that is why I found myself in the waiting room with an assortment of people, from an elderly man waiting for his wife to a Romany man who was getting frustrated at his long wait.

As I was only having an MRI, I did not need to drink the litres of water the others did, and just a few minutes after my appointment I went in and climbed onto the table, and then after a quick chat with the nurse was inched into the machine and warned of the noise to come.

And so the banging, whirring and clanging and went on for what seemed like 15 minutes. And what did they choose to pipe through the headphones? David bloody Gray singing stuff off White Ladder. A CD which we learnt this week is one of the top ten best selling CDs of all time in the UK.

I have to wait a couple of weeks for the results, and so I hope there is nothing serious to find.

The other story has been the disappearance of Mulder.

We last saw him on Sunday evening, and by last night we were thinking the worse. I said I would work from home today in case he came back. So, no sign, and I thought i would check in the shed just to make sure. We have not been in there since last week, but you have to clear your mind just to make sure.

I came back inside, sat down at the table to do more work, and the cat flap goes. I don't think much of it and carry on working, and then I turn round and there walking in is Mulder and he is meowing constantly.

The prodigal cat

So, I pick him up, check him over and can find nothing wrong. I take him into the utility room and give him a whole packet of food; he wolfs that down and so I give him another half pack.

He then goes out, but within 5 minutes brings me in a mouse as a present; thankfully it is dead.

And so the day continued, Mulder coming along asking for more food and eventually hitting the bed for some well earned sleep.

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Wednesday 3rd October 2012

Monday was October 1st, and it really felt like the first day of autumn, especially after the bright sunshine and warm weather of the weekend. When the alarm went off at five forty five, it was still dark, and as dawn crept over the land, it revealed a leaden sky with a key breeze blowing. It did not get fully light until I got to work. And as the day went on the weather got worse, the wind blew and rain fell, and it was already gloomy when we got home at a quarter to five.

To darken our mood further, Mulder has not been seen since Sunday evening, and how quiet it is without his constant mewing and playing. Still no sign of him Tuesday morning, either. Its still not long, but he never disappears for this long, the others; maybe. But not The Boy. We shall see.

The weekend, as I said, was bright and warm; so we headed out on Saturday morning to visit another church. It is a real benefit being on Flickr, when friends or contacts visit somewhere interesting nearby and we can then go along. So it was we headed up the A2 to Rainham, one of the Medway towns, to visit a church with a wonderfully painted ceiling. The Rainham Towns, Rainham, Gillingham, Chatham and Rochester all blend into one large town spread along the southern banks of the Medway. And, and lets be honest here, is not the prettiest of places. It is historical, there is the old Naval Dockyard, Rochester Castle and Cathedral. But, mostly it is houses and bland shops. And it seems to cut through with by-passes and dual carriageways, which is good for those driving, it is not eyecatching.

Anyway, after turning off the M2 we drove into Rainham, found a place to park at the nearby shopping centre and went looking for the church. As usual I had not noted the name of the church, just its rough location and apparently just hoped for the best. I do hope that one day I will learn from this and make some notes so we know exactly what it is we are looking for when we go hunting for churches; in some cases the actual village name would help, rather than me saying ‘well, it begins with a B!’

Anyway, a brief walk up to the A2 and there was a church; turns out it was THE church, and after crossing the road we found the door open and so we went inside. On the ceiling in each panel is a representation of the sun, overlaid with both the red rose and white rose of York and Lancaster. It is very impressive, as is the rest of the church, built on large scale as Rainham always has been an important town.

We headed over to Costa for a coffee and a wad, which we consumed outside so we could watch the world go by. And the world seemed to be mainly female, checking their phones and wearing skin-tight leggings of various designs. Its how the other half lives.

Upnor High Street

We went back to the car and headed to the Medway Tunnel and the much more attractive surroundings of Upnor. I guess Upnor was once an isolated village, but now the tunnel is there, the centre of town is just 5 minutes away. The town is attractive, and the best part is the cobbled High Street lined with old houses and a couple of fine pubs. At the end of the street is Upnor Castle, and although we did not plan to, we did go in. Not before checking out a walk along the river, which seemed like a good idea, but it must have been high tide recently, and the ground was saturated, and then the path headed into a most unattractive industrial estate; so we headed back to the castle.


Before going in we stood and watched bees and butterflies getting the last of the summer pollen from a hedge in the sunshine; I got a few shots. And then we went in the castle; a wedding was being prepared for, so we had a quick look round and headed back out. We called in at the Kings Arms, where we did go in and order two salads and retired to the beer garden. And spotting several dragonflies did run round the garden trying to get more shots. Being in the garden, and it being sheltered, it got warmer, if not hot, and was like a reminder of summer.

Red Admiral

Once we had eaten, we headed back to the car and then back home, arriving back in time for afternoon coffee and the beginning of the three o’clock kick offs, and more pain as Norwich crumbled to another heavy defeat.

That evening, we sat in the window of the back room, watching as dusk fell, the air fill with swallows and martins, as they gathered at the edge of England before heading south for the winter. One swallow doesn't make a summer, but seeing that many here means the end of summer for sure.....

Langdon Bay

Sunday was breezier, but bright enough; so after breakfast we headed out and parked up along Reach Road near to the Coastguard station and headed out to the edge of the cliffs. Words cannot describe, even after living here over 5 years, how thrilling it is to look down at the cliff’s edge, and across the Channel to France. We walked down towards Langdon Bay down the course of the old railway, right down to where Jubilee Way cuts through the cliffs. And then turned back and walked back to the car.

Dover Eastern docks

It don’t sound much, but it was a fine way to spend a couple of hours, very exhilarating.

Back home and then it was slaving over a hot stove as I prepared and then cooked a huge pan of stew for us to have for dinner during the week. And at the same time cook a roast beef dinner with all the trimmings. Jools went to collect Nan, and at one we sat down to a very fine dinner indeed, along with a glass of vin rouge, and then spent the afternoon trying, and failing, to fall asleep.

And that was the end of your weekend.


Monday, 1 October 2012

Monday 1st October 2012

So, after the excitement of Wednesday, with the tractors, horses and free bacon butties, it was back to normal on Thursday. I say that and yet thinking back I can’t recall that we did anything much at all. I have no shots taken of the day, so either must have rained or we were kidnapped by aliens. Saying that, we did head to Ashford in the afternoon to see Killing The Softly, the new Brad Pitt film.

We were a couple of maybe ten people in the cinema, and rather wonderful it was too. If by wonderful you mean a brutally honest depiction of low-life crime and the damage drugs and guns can do.

Friday was a rush to get stuff done before our week off was over: it is funny how quickly time flies by when you’re not at work. Friday already and time to head to Tesco as it was pay day. And then off to Folkestone as Jools had a beading class, which left me with a couple of free hours whilst I waited for her to bead away. After looking at the A-Z I remembered another church on the edge of the Romney Marsh which I could visit, and so with the map beside me, I set off along to Sandgate and onto Rye.

The traffic was horrendous, but this turned out to be a suspicious package found in a petrol station on the seafront; but we did get past, and I headed into the countryside.

Bonnington is a tiny village overlooking the marsh, and down the hill on the side of the military canal is the 12th century church. It is not marked on our maps, but I knew a Flickr friend who had gone there and snapped it. GSV revealed it to be the other side of a field from another church I visited a couple of weeks ago. Anyway, it seemed easy enough to find, and indeed there was a sign in the village.

So I head down the narrow lane and almost onto the marsh, and there on the left, behind a high hedge is St Rumwolds. Named after a 7th century English infant saint, it is a simple 12th century building, still without mains electricity, and divorced from the village it caters for by nearly a mile. It is surrounded on two sides by farmland and the road and canal on the other two, it is possible to think that the town it serves no longer exists.

I park the car and try to get a shot of the church from within the churchyard, but it’s not quite right, and promise myself to walk along the canal later to get a decent shot of the church and its surroundings. I try to door and find it unlocked, so I go in and step back in time. I snap the church and it’s fittings before signing the visitor’s book and dropping a donation the box before leaving. I walk along the canal, look back and snap the church with the graveyard, but have to wait for 5 minutes for the sun to emerge from behind a cloud.

GWUK #482 Aldington, Kent

I set off for Aldington, as I had seen a church tower and had more than enough time to visit that one too. I head back towards Ashford then make for the tower. After parking up, I try the door only to find it locked fast and only open for services and for Wednesday coffee mornings. I make do with shots of the outside and a few of the graves, before getting back in the car and heading back to Folkestone. I had noticed an interesting pub in Sandgate, so headed to The Fountain and a pint whilst I waited for Jools’ course to end.

GWUK #484 RAF Lympne, Folkestone, Kent

I pick Jools up and we head to Ashford, getting there in 20 minutes and having an hour to kill before the film, I snap the new footbridge of the M20, and then see the sign for cocktails in a Mexican chain restaurant, so we head in for some liquid refreshement.

Because we deserve it!

Looper is a new sci-fi film, and very good, but ignores a couple of conundrums to instead dazzle us with flashy images, but the two hours pass in a flash, but whilst we wait for our meal in Frankie and Benny’s, the doubts about the film start to form and questions begin to be discussed……