Monday, 31 December 2012

2012: How was it for you?

And we have made it to the end of the year. Another one down, and another year older and wiser. Apparently.

So what has this year brought me? Well, at the end of the year,; a new boss, more travelling and general uncertainty at work. Another year with many, many photography based trips around the world and into Europe. A visit to Germany and back to BFPO 43, where I spent three years of my life.

The thing I was looking forward to most in 2012 was the film, Prometheus. We went to London to see it on the huge IMAX screen in June, and we were underwhelmed. We watched it again a couple of weeks ago and its still a mess. Lots of exposition, not much character other than alien food or more exposition. 2/5. Sigh.

We also went to see Dredd; which was pretty good; apart from the 3d stuff. But it stuck pretty much to the 2000AD version, and he kept his helmet on the whole film. All in all, not bad, 4/5.

The other major film was The Hobbit, also in 3D, another film not too bad. Jackson treats the books well, and it is a feat for the years. Or will be in 2D. And seemed an hour less than the 2 hour 40 minute running time. 4/5.

I did not really buy many records this year, or enough to be able to pick out a favourite. That is the first time I can say that since 1978. I listen to the Radcliffe and Maconie show most weekdays, and love most of the stuff they play; some more than others. Outstanding track of the year was Public Service Broadcasting's Spitfire. Let's see if I can embed it in my blog:

As for the news; it has all been so very depressing this year. From America's latest presidential election, even more nasty than usual: more mass shootings in the US and the refusal of the NRA to accept change is needed, and the inability of either presidential candidate to come out and say that gun control was needed. The economy of Britain, Europe, The US and the World is still in a mess, and it seems that another recession is on the way next year. The demonisation of those on welfare, disabled, jobless or just plain poor continued apace this year by various government ministers. And yet most of them have been suckling from the public teat all their political life too, and fleecing the system out of thousands of pounds by posting fraudulent expense claims. Multinantional businesses from Google to Amazon to Starbucks have been shown to be tax avoiders. So it would appear that Starbucks makes us coffee because it loves us not because it makes any money. More and more High Street names went bust, as the deadly combination of online shopping and the economic downturn meant people stopped spending. And 2013 does not seem to be looking to be better.

We shall see.

As for sport; football compared poorly with almost every other sport this year. What with racism by players, violence and racism on the terraces. Cheating, diving, accusing officials of racism and the ever-increasing wages of the top players makes the whole sport just plain ugly and unsustainable in the current climate. Yet it goes on in its own way ignoring calls for cheaper tickets for fans or common sense in wages. On the pus side, the dam finally broke and justice began to be served on those responsible for the cover up after Hillsborough in 1989. An independent report exposed the lies, and other criminal actions carried out by the Police, local authority, Sheffield Wednesday FC, the Ambulance Service, the coroner, Kelvin McKenzie, various ministers, enquiries. Apologies have been made to the reletives of those not who just died, but were blamed for their own deaths, were drunk, urinated on and stole from the corpses. The coroner's report on all 96 dead has been anulled and now we wait for new inquests after more than two thirds of those who died could, and should have been saved.

For Norwich it was a bitter-sweet year. We began 2012 with hopes that City would survive, and survive they did, finishing well ahead of the relegation dogfight and rounding the season off with a victory over Aston Villa. But, all was not well. Manager, Paul Lambert did not say 'see you next season' he just wished the fans good luck. A few weeks later, in a fog of confusion he headed off to Villa Park, and City recruited Chris Houghton, and with a few hiccups, carried kn much as before and ending the season in 12th place.

Manchester City won the Premier League in sensational fashion, pipping United to the title thanks to two injury time goals in the final game to grab the trophy out of United's hands, whose game had already finished.

Chelsea won the Champion's League thanks to boring Barcelona to death over two legs of the semi-final and then beating Bayern Munich in the own ground on penalties in the final. But it did not thrill the same way as the Liverpool win did a few years back, it was more of a workman-like performance rather than a skilful one.

A British man won a major tennis tournament for the first time since before WW2, and Andy Murray won the Olympic title too. Another Brit won Le Tour de France for the first time in its 99 year history. A week Later Wiggo went to the Olympics in London and won gold again.

The main memoires I have of the sporting year is Wiggins punching the air as he crossed the line after winning the final time-trial knowing nothing could now stop him, and his speech after winning Le Tour, asking the crowd to get out their raffle tickets.

And what a pleasant change for the winner of Sports Personality of the Year to actually have a personality.

Yes, the Olympics: long expected to be a failure. An embarrassing failure, were a spectacular success; from the transport infrastructure, to the venues, to the BBC coverage to the performance of Team GB; it was wonderful. There are too many medal winners to list them all, but to be in Britain for the Olympic Games and Paralympic games was a privilege, and provided us with memories to last the rest of our lives.

Right from the opening ceremony which was stunning in its audacity and brilliance right to Coldplay performing during the closing ceremony of the Paralympic games, it was all a triumph. The thousands of volunteers who gave their time to help out, the Games Makers, were rightly treated as heroes too, and they made a visit to the Olympic Park and wonderful experience, despite the crowds.

Europe conjured the most remarkable comeback in Ryder Cup history to reclaim the trophy, England won a series in India to close an up and down year for them. Oh, and I am sure there is more stuff I could mention, but it was all glorious stuff. Well, even England did OK at the Euros, not spectacular, but made it through to the quarter finals before losing to Italy. On penalties. Of course.

So, from the best sporting year ever (with the exception of football) we bid you farewell and wish all my readers a happy and prosperous New Year.

Sunday, 30 December 2012

Sunday 30th December 2012

And good afternoon and welcome to Sunday. Or at least I think it's Sunday. At Christmas all days blend into one, and with the weather being largely damp and grey, one day really is like another. Doubly so with little on TV and football every couple of days.

St Margaret's Bay

But we can see the fag end of the year approaching, and tonight I'm going to try to make bubble and squeak as we have lots of vegetables left over from the roast dinners we have had over the last week. The recipe I have seen online suggests adding garlic, which seems exotic to me......

St Margaret's Bay

Thursday, Jools had to go into work to man the phones and finish the filing. So I was left at home, and the plan was to write the audit report from Sprogo, but three carrier bags of family photos to sort through and scan meant I did that instead. I had stuff from BBC radio on the i-player. It was a great day, whilst outside the rain hammered down the windows.

Lego VW Campervan

Friday morning we did the Tesco shop: we had not been there for a couple of weeks, and needed just milk and veg, so planned it like a military operation; in and out all by eight o'clock, and were back home eating breakfast before most of Dover were even awake.

Lego VW Campervan

Friday went as much as Thursday, except Jools did not have to work, so she carried on and finished the Lego VW Campervan, whilst I messed around with more photos; scanning and the such.

Saturday morning the wind did blow, but it was at least dry to start with. We headed down to the Bay to see if the waves were crashing ashore; as the wind was blowing from the south it seems the waves were bigger and more impressive south of Dover. We know this because we saw them from the train as we headed to London.

Yes London.

House of Fraser, Oxford Street, London

It seems a tradition that we visit the capital once inbetween Christmas and New Year, and as we enjoyed photographing the lights on Regent Street; ok, I did, we thought we would go back to see Oxford Street, and whilst we were there take in a show. And just any show, but the longest running play in the world ever. The Mousetrap, now in its 60th year. I booked tickets online the night before and so were set.

Next, Oxford Street, London

We caught the 12:44 train, armed with cameras and an umbrella, as rain was forecast. We got off at St Pancras and went again to inspect the work going on at Kings Cross as the structures of the 1970s are swept away, soon to be replaced with a plaza. There is now more space and light for sure, and I got the shots despite the rain beginning to fall.

Kings Cross Station

We headed to Marble Arch via Holburn; we went to snap the arch, then as the rain began to fall harder, so we took refuge in a pub off Oxford Street and to let the light to fade so we could snap the lights to best effect.

And then into the craziness that is Oxford Street at the height of the sales. And oh, was it crazy.

It was.

Anyway, I snapped as we went along, so I stopped from time to time to snap the more attractively decorated buildings and lights stretched across the street. We walked right down Oxford Street, then down into Soho.

Oxford Circus

The rain began again, and so we popped into a French restaurant for a coffee, but the menu looked so nice we ended up having an early dinner, just a light one; Jools had a plate of smoked salmon and I had goat's cheese salad. All very nice and full of flavours.

Outside it had stopped raining, so we walked down to the theatre to pick up the tickets, then retracing our steps back to Soho and then over Shaftesbury Avenue into Chinatown.

I snapped away, and as we headed deep into naughty Soho with all the neon lights advertising strip clubs and peep shows. We ended up in Foyles bookshop as we looked for a place for a coffee that was not bursting, but no luck.

St Martins Theatre

At seven we headed back to the theatre, and once inside it was revealed as a wonderful old building, needing a bit of TLC, but the seating in the upper circle raked at an alarming angle. I am sure some of the older members of the audience would have liked sherpas to take them to their seats.

GWUK #585 St. Martins theatre, London

I won't reveal anything of the play, except to say it was great, with twists and all characters having something to hide.

As soon as the play finished, we were down the steps out into the street and up to the main road; we flagged down a taxi and were soon at St Pancras, in the end with ten minutes to spare before the train left to Dover.

We were amused by a group of very Drunk Arsenal supports on their way back to Folkestone after seeing the Gooners demolish Newcastle 7-3. Yes, seven-three. Sadly City lost 4-3 at home to Man City, but put up a good fight and could, maybe should have got at least a leveller in the final ten minutes.

Once we were back in Dover, the heavens opened, and so we drove back home in a storm of astonishing ferocity. And that was another day over with.

Friday, 28 December 2012

Friday 28th December 2012

I hope you all had a very good Christmas.

We woke up at half seven to find just three hungry cats waiting for us, so we fed them and made breakfast. We had planned on maybe heading up to London to snap the empty streets, but the heavy rain forecast really put paid to that. I put on a Christmas radio show and Jools began to make her Lego VW campervan. Some three days later she's still doing it, but it is nearly done.


So we sat around in our PJs listening to the radio just chilling. At half eleven i put the turkey in the oven and prepared the veg. Soon the house was filled with the wonderful small of the cooking turkey. On the crack of two I dished the dinner up; turkey, roast potatoes, Yorkshire puddings, sprouts, cauli, broccoli, leeks, pigs in blankets and lots of gravy.

Needless to say, it was rather wonderful. Whilst cooking, I opened the large bottle of Danish Christmas beer, which went down very well. I opened the last bottle of Old Crafty hen to wash dinner down with; needless to say by the time we finished dinner, we had a lay down and I managed to snooze the rest of the afternoon away.

Christmas dinner

Boxing Day we got up at the crack of sparrahs so we could head up into deepest Suffolk to visit Mum. I think travelling on the 26th was a great idea, as the roads were so quiet, almost nothing else on the M20, and we were able to dive right up to the barriers of the tolls at Dartford, and then into Essex, up the equally quiet A12 and into country I know so well.

Saying that, I don't know it as well as I thought, as I am now a connoisseur of churches, I now realise I had not been inside that many of them; so each time we go up we visit a couple on the way to Lowestoft. We stopped at Farnham, Saxmundham and Kelsale, all of which looked wonderful in the early morning winter sunshine.

St Mary and St Peter, Kelsale, Suffolk

In the end we arrived in Lowestoft just after ten. We drove up London Road South instead of through Oulton Broad as I realised I had not been that way for years, and Jools had not seen it at all. All was quiet, and soon we were passing over the harbour bridge, pass the station and back round to Normanstone Park and onto Mum's.

I won't bore you with the details, it was good natured and for a change did not spill over into bitter exchanges as the elephants in the room went unmentioned. She allowed me to search her house for a couple of old photo albums, which I did find, along with hundreds of family shots, and so I was very happy indeed. All I have to now is to scan them all, which will take some time.


We left at two, stopping off at a pub in the hope of bumping into an old friend, but he did not turn up, so we headed south stopping only to have a snack at KFC. By the time we got to Ipswich, rain began to fall, and all the way home it hammered down, and made driving most uncomfortable. but we got over the bridge at Dartford and into Kent. I eased up on the speed as we had only 60 miles to go, and so we arrived home at half five, just in time to feed the cats and put the kettle on and finish up the final two slices of Christmas cake.

Monday, 24 December 2012

Monday 24th December 2012

In the last edition, you left me at the airport mulling over whether to get another beer.

I did, but in getting one, I bumped into a friend at the bar who worked on the Thanet project; so we caught up on news of ourselves and mutual friends until his flight to Manchester was called.

The Substitute

I headed down to the Lego shop and then onto my own gate to wait for the flight to London to be called. My head was spinning, but all I had to do was to pour myself into my seat, right by the door.

I saw you standing alone

So, we flew through the darkness, over Denmark, Holland and over the sea before flying in over Essex and along the Thames before turning over Battersea and over The City and low, skimming over the rooftops before bumping into LCY.

A dash through immigration, through customs and onto the DLR platform and onto Stratford for the train to Ashford where Julie was waiting. And then back home in time for toasted cheese sandwiches for supper and a slice of Christmas cake before it was time for bed.

You don't have to put on the red light

Next morning it was up to take Julie to work before heading to the hospital in Canterbury for what turned out to be my last physio appointment, with things pretty good, and even if it wasn't as good as we wanted, I now have a plan on how to keep healthy and pain free.

A couple of meetings with work, and suddenly worked stopped and it was Christmas, even if it did not feel like it.

And if to emphasis the point, the forecast for Saturday was for heavy rain with added rain. We drove to Sandwich to finally get an aerial shot of our house framed; a task that has been pending since August. Sandwich was soggy and made not really for wandering around window shopping. So we headed back home via a farm shop where we got our fruit and veg for Christmas.

Regent Street 2012

And so back home for soup with added French saucisson from No Name Shop and a loaf of lovely rustic French bread and we were set for the afternoon snooze whilst I tried to keep awake for the football. City took the lead, but ended up losing by 2-1 to WBA. Oh well, can't win them all.....

Sunday morning we were up nice and early so we could catch the early train to London as we had tickets to see The hobbit in IMAX at the BFI in Waterloo. On the way from St Pancras we manage to visit Kings Cross, Euston, Waterloo and Charing Cross. I take photos all the way, which is the way now....

The East Coast Elves (and Santa and Christmas Pudding)

The Hobbit flew by in the blink of an eye; and now we want to visit NZ more than ever....

One day, my Precious......

Kings Cross

We had a late lunch in a small Italian place on Villiers street before heading to Trafalgar Square, Piccadilly Circus and onto Regent Street, snapping as we went. It was glorious to see the folks about and the Christmas lights all twinkling in the dark.

S Stock leaves Euston Square

And so onto Christmas Eve; we headed to the butcher's this morning to get the turkey and other meats; visited Jools' father and family before heading home for lunch. I made sausage rolls, which we ate fresh from the oven, lovely and hot. And then mid-afternoon we had another slice of Christmas cake.

Piccadilly Circus

And now, we are listening the final Radcliffe and Maconie show on the i-player, for the moent when Noddy says 'It's Christmas!' and then it will be. Merry Christmas.

Thursday, 20 December 2012

Thursday 20th December 2012


Some 59 years ago, someone had the idea of arranging an annual celebration of sport, with the Sports Personality of the Year awarded at the end of the transmission. Those of you with a keen eye might notice the emphasis was on personality. Now, I don’t know that many keen sportsmen or women, but my guess that the majority of them are pretty single-minded and that leaves little room for personality. If you look over the years, there have been some very dubious people honoured, elite sportspeople for sure, put for the most part, a personality vacuum.

Take last year’s winner; Mark Cavendish. Nice bloke, great cyclist. Thinks only of getting to the head of the pack 50m from the end get the win. Not that there is anything wrong in that, he is the best sprinter in the world of pro-cycling. But listen to him talk. Talk? Drone more like. Anyway, lets got onto this year……

2012 has been a vintage, if not golden year, for British sport. The glittering centrepiece was the Olympics and Paralympic Games held in London. Then we had a Brit being the top golfer in the world, a Brit winning the US open in tennis, a Brit winning the Tour de France for the first time. Not just winning it, but dominating it.

So the choice was for 11 Olympians or Paralympians and a golfer. Andy Murray and Bradley Wiggins not only won big, they also won their Olympic titles too. Some Olympians won for the forth games in a row, other won double gold, triple gold, quadruple gold. And so on.

So, in this golden year, who would you choose? Bradley? Andy? Mo? Jess? Them and dozens of others deserved to win and yet were not in the 12 strong shortlist. For me there was just winner; 5 years ago cycling was something people did when the tube was on strike. Some went to France in July to see them riders climb a mountain, sometimes a Brit or two took part. In the past decade, we have had stage winners, jersey winners, but the thought of someone from these shore winning…..

Bradley Wiggins is a great cyclist; of that there is no doubt, but he is a student of his sport, he knows the history and those in whose tyretracks he now rides in. He also has a personality and a sense of humour, showed his sense of fun when on the Champs-Élysées having been presented with the trophy, he suggested the massed crowds should now get their raffle tickets out.

The Brits laughed. A lot.

Bradley is also a mod, friends with Paul Weller and loves the music and dresses in a dapper style. Andy Murray, in contrast, sometimes does not cut his hair for six months, and when being interviewed after winning the US Open sounded like his cat had just died.

Bradley won, I think by a landslide, as we seem to know a top bloke when we see one. Jess came second and Andy, third. This is the third successive year that a cyclist won, after Chris Hoy in 2010 and Cav last year. On top of that Dave Brailsford won coach of the year for his work with team Sky and Team GB cycling. And all this after, 5 years ago, Dave persuaded the authorities that if cycling was funded he would deliver a British winner of the Tour in 5 years or less.

Hello and welcome to Denmark. Again.

It is Monday evening, and outside the world is white and grey with a mix of week old snow and fog. Driving up from the airport was interesting, with most of us being sensible, whilst other driving like they could see for miles and miles….

So, this is the last week at work before Christmas, and I have meetings, more travelling and an audit to do on a island between two huge bridges in the strait of Sprogo. But that is for Wednesday and I have to get through security on the island first, which judging by the visitors information could be tricky. Still, I like a challenge…….

I hope to fly back home on Thursday night, on Friday I’m back at the hospital, then one more meeting and then I am free. Maybe even snapping another steam railtour later in the afternoon.

But, back to the weekend.

Saturday was a day filled with trains. Or would have been if there had been more daylight. A steam tour leaving from Ashford heading to Norwich at eight in the morning, and a diesel railtour heading along both the Dungeness and Grain branches. The latter so late in the afternoon meaning the hour or so it would take to get there would be wasted by poor light. But, I thought I would see how I felt after snapping it at Lydd.

60163 Tornado "The Cathedrals Express" at Pluckley

In a surprise move, Jools thought that a who day train-chasing might not be fun, and so decided to go to London in the search of shiny beads. We were up at half five and out of the door so I could drop Jools off to catch the quarter to seven train and give me time to get to Pluckley to snap Tornado steaming past.

Pluckley is easy to find, and there was me thinking the station would be in the village. I should have known better, I had been there before and not seen a station. So, I head off up the M20 and then along the A20 from Ashford. Down the road to Pluckley, it still being dark at the point, and once in the village follow the sign to the station. Only there was no sign at the next junction.

I turn left, then right, see another sign, follow that and as I’m crossing a bridge see the lights of the station below. I turned round and found my way to the station car park, then had to wait for 20 minutes until it was train time. So I sat there and watched the rain run down the windscreen. Did I mention it was raining? It was pouring.

And it was dark; did I mention that?

At a quarter to eight, I make my way onto the station, looking at the poor ‘light’ I decide that only the 50mm would do. I stand beneath the footbridge, which offered some shelter, it was getting a bit lighter, but still gloomy. One other photographer came down, he decided to stay by the footbridge, whilst I headed beneath the roadbridge, the view from which meant that the lights from both platforms would offer most illumination.

Ten minutes late we saw the column of smoke, the light at the front of the locomotive. Pluckley stands on one of the longest straights on BR, and so we saw it for a minute before we could hear her working hard. I raised the camera and pressed the shutter. The camera whirred as the engine powered through the station, surprising a couple of old ladies waiting on the platform unaware that a living steam engine was to pass. I got shots, so me good, some not. But under the conditions, I was happy.

The Short Haired Bumblebee, 15th December 2012

I consulted the map for churches, and set off looking for more to snap, even if it wasn’t yet fully light. I ended up in Smarden, which was just waking up. The church was locked, but I snapped the church and a few of the wonderful buildings.

I decided to head to the scene of the second train rendezvous, Lydd in the Romney Marshes. I realised I had not snapped the church their, and I though parking spaces might be of a premium.


I say ha, because there was just the two of down by the level crossing waiting for the tour. But anyway, onto the church:

The church is massive, has a huge tower and has the longest naïve in Kent at 199 feet. And I had it to myself. I snap it from every angle, then set off to snap the pubs in the town before heading down to the bridge and level crossing where I hoped to snap the train. I had checked the view on GSV and decided that was the one I wanted with the new freight locomotive and the abandoned station in the background. What I realised was that we could see the locomotive approaching from over a mile away, we could stand on the track, behind the level crossing and see it get closer and closer.

In time we saw the headlights come into view, and then gradually get larger as the train trundled over the tracks. The line is used now only for the transportation of flasks from the two nuclear power stations at Dungeness, one train each way each week. So, a railtour with a dozen carriages was a red letter day. It just seemed that no one knew about it and so we were all along as the train got closer.

The Short Haired Bumblebee, 15th December 2012

As the train drew to a stop the other side of the bridge from us, a local man ran up to us; That’s a passenger train he correctly pointed out.

Yes, we both said.

Are they starting services again?

No, we both said again.

What’s the special occasion?

None, just a forgotten tracks railtour.

We stood there with his young son as the gates were opened and the huge locomotive and carriages inched their way through it, stopping so the man could lock the gates again before setting off towards Dungeness again. And that was it.

I headed back to the car and decided to find a crossing somewhere on the marsh and wait to snap it. The rain began to fall again, so I waited in the car with the tracks in my rear view mirror. As it came into view, I got out and snapped like crazy, as it approached the corssing, corssed it, and headed off into the distance. I was if not soaked, I was damp from the rain, so I thought a pint might warm me up.

I set off for New Romney and called in at The Warren and found, to my joy, they had porter on; a opint of that and a ham sandwich please!




And that was just the beer.

I got to Dover just as Jools got in from London, and so we went back home and decided to cut one of the Christmas cake and have a slice each ‘because we could’. It was wonderful. On the radio Norwich beat Wigan to move up to 7th with 25 points, and apparent safety. Dangerous to think like that, but it’s true.

Sunday, we got up late, had a lazy late breakfast then went out to snap birds down by the castle, we met our friend Brian who was also there; it was he who began to feed the birds there so their tameness is all down to him. Just time to visit more friends, Gary and Julie who have just moved from the village to River, and into town to buy some Christmas cards, and back home for lunch and more cake.


And that is how you can make a weekend vanish like a vanishy thing.

Tuesday 18th December 2012.

Hello and welcome to the town of Kosor here in Denmark. I cannot tell you what the town is like, other than a sprawl of modern offices and this modern hotel. The rest was lost in the dark, as was the ten mile long bridge which spans the great belt joining the two parkes of Denmark together with two grand suspension bridges.

I arrived here at about five, and it had been dark for nearly two hours, or as near dark it don’t matter a jot. I drove over from Randers after a morning of meetings and struggling with various IT problems. For the last 70 miles here, I drove along roads that were new to me, and in truth the landscape was just the same, rolling farmland with the occasional scattered towns and villages, all sprinkled with month old grey snow. It could be worse, as I believe I have said on many occasions.

So, I am staying in a nice room in a wing of this massive hotel, all apparently staffed by one woman on the desk. The service is good, and the food was good too. I had lobster soup followed by aged steak and rounded off with cheese. All washed down by two bottles of Fur; a local brew made on some nearby island. It did it for me anyway.

And I am now back in my room, listing to a podcast of yesterday’s Radcliffe and Maconie show on the i-player. Isn’t the modern world wonderful?

All the times I travel over to Denmark, I don’t have any local money as I can charge everything to the company credit card. That is all very well until I have to pay road tolls, which has not happened. Until today. Despite being assured that the tolls on the bridge took cards, I had a crisis of confidence and began to stop of at service areas to try to find a cash machine; no dice. So, I thought I would risk it.

Despite being the main road to Copenhagen, an me expecting it to be like the M25 at rush hour, there were no queues, and I pulled in at the kiosk, put in the card and all was fine. Sadly, being dark I could see nothing of the Grand Belt, just lots of dark. Maybe more luck tomorrow…..

Other than that, the US debates whether there is a place in the family home for assault rifles. The clue is in the name, guys. An interesting point is that the British Armed Forces didn’t have an automatic weapon until the introduction of the L85 in the mid-90s. It’s predecessor, the SLR had the automatic option was disabled. So quite why civilians need one other than to shoot other civilians is beyond me. But other than that I will say nothing on the gun control issue. This all came about because on Friday 20 plus 6-10 year olds were killed after a teen shot his Mom then went to where she worked and run amok with an assault rifle.


I wish I could leave it on a brighter note, but sometimes life can just leave you lost for words………

Wednesday 19th December 2012

Two days until the end of the world.

Or not.

Mostly not, I would say.

Today was the day of the great audit, and I was due to head over the huge bridge to island and audit the windfarm which has its office there. Sprogo is a protected island, houses the remains of a 12th century castle, a 19th century lighthouse and a 20th century hostel for promiscuous women. Honestly. That has now closed down, and we are told that the ghosts of some of the women imprisoned wander the corridors of the buildings.

Sprogø I saw no ghosts, just a painter and decorator who took me to the right office. Maybe he was a ghost decorator, using ghost paint and paintbrushes? OK, no to that, then.

I woke up this morning to find it still dark outside yet the clocks showing it gone half six. I showered and went down to breakfast, when I went to the car it was just getting light, so I set out for the island. Now, there is a poorly marked exit off the motorway, but if I missed it there would a 16 mile round trip back to the mainland and back out again.


I did find the exit, and at the barrier called security who let me in. I won’t bore you with the details, but it went well. My boss and the other auditor arrived just before nine and we got down to the audit. I did get the chance to go outside to take some shots of the lighthouse and suspension bridge. The island is 8 km from either shore, so it must have been a grim place to be interred. It is now home to a very rare frog that is found nowhere else. I did not see them as they were hibernating. Lazy buggers.


Afterwards we went to the eastern bank for lunch at the service station (the food is better there than in UK ones) before we all went our separate ways. Time then to drive back across the bridge to the hotel, and now I have the evening in which to write my report, drink some more super-strength Christmas beer and maybe have dinner….

Thursday 20th December 2012

What have the Danes given to the world?

I give you stupid strength beer. Don’t get me wrong, I like beer, and the thought of beer at 9.2% seems like a good one, it will have flavour unlike piss-poor American Bud or Miller Draft. But less than one bottle in you feel like you should really have a lay down and a couple of hours shut-eye.

Its what happened yesterday afternoon; I got in from work, passed the bar on the way to my room and picked up a bottle of beer. I had a bottle of the Christmas beer the night before, and at aboyt 6.5% wasn’t bad. But this other Christmas beer was 9.2, and even after the burger and fries from lunch I found myself snoozing for at least a couple of hours whilst listening to Radcliffe and Maconie on the i-player.

Which does explain why I was working up to half ten last night, refining a method statement for our next project.

Anyway, I am here at Billund Airport, having had a nice bottle of Ale, chickening out of another Double IPA as that is 9.4% or something, and 6.5 sound almost sensible.

I woke up this morning at half six, and decided to just lie there and relax. And why not?

I went down for breakfast and was presented with a small fruit salad, a selection of breads, a litre of orange juice and a litre of coffee. As there were just the 5 guests in the hotel they decided to skip the buffet thing and just give us lots each.

I paid the bill and headed out with some eight hours to kill before my flight home. I headed into the town to see if there was so little there as had been suggested.

Korsor will not win any beauty competitions. It is a fishing town, and still smells of sish; fresh and fried. Its buildings are pretty ugly, but functional. I wandered round, took some shots before leaving. I headed back to the bridge and crossed it for the last time and I was in no way taking photographs as I was driving along.

Oh no.

I stopped to look at the view on the other side, but the steady drizzle meant that I ended up driving east to Billund. The traffic was light and the sun even came out for a while, so the drive was pleasant and I found myself here at about one, with just the 5 hours before my flight. I had lunch and a beer, checked in, went through security and had another beer whilst I read some.

And that is where you find me, it is four, there are dark clouds overhead and the rain is falling once again. I have about 90 minutes before boarding and I think that maybe another beer would help…

What could go wrong?

Thursday, 13 December 2012

Thursday 13th December 2012

Warning; may contain nuts, or nutty ideas.

I’m not allergic to nuts, or I don’t think so.

I have to wait for the new year for the blood test, and then maybe three weeks after that to get the results. And I am pretty sure what I’m allergic to; cats and house dust. All that I will have to work out is why it has exploded from just itchy eyes to full on flu. Maybe its what happens, things change.

Who knows?

Sunrise 3

So, this week has been recovering from the latest bout on Sunday/Monday; once I caught up with sleep I felt human again. So much so I got back on the cross trainer. I didn’t realise how long it had been. It must be two if not three months, what with allergy, flu and travel the thought of getting back on it has not been an appealing one. But last week I charged the i-pod, and so no excuses. I did just 15 minutes on Tuesday, and 20 on Wednesday. It’s not a marathon or a triathlon, but it is a start, even if I get icy glares from Scully as she tries to have her 15th snooze of the day on the spare bed.

Blue Ice

I had to work from home yesterday, and as I couldn’t book up an appointment with the doctor the day before, I called at half eight and got one for ten. I decided to walk across the fields to the surgery. It was a very cold and frosty morning, but good to be out and walking up the hill the other side of the dip really got my blood pumping and I was soon warm enough.

Path to the farm

So, I tell the doctor the tale of the flu/allergy. He says, ‘you have an allergy’. No shit!? So, make an appointment to have a blood test. So, until then I have to cope as best as I can. I suppose I should be glad that he believed me this time and was willing to do something.

In other news, yesterday was international roadie day, or 12.12.12 as it was otherwise known. As it was one of those freak of the calendar that occasionally throws up these numerical conundrums. Doesn’t mean anything else other than it looks good when you write it out or see your digital clock tick down. It doesn’t mean the world is going to end for sure. Talking of which, some believe that according to the Mayans, the world is going to end on the 21st. Quite good as they didn’t have a good grasp on how long the year actually was, and since then we have had at least two stabs of calendars, and probably the mayans version was hundreds of years ago, or hundreds of years in the future. I hope it doesn’t end, as we have tickets to see The Hobbit on the 23rd. But we have to visit Mum at some point, so swings and roundabouts if the world does end.

By the village pond

Some people have gone to live on the side of a mountain in France as this is where aliens(!) will arrive to rescue mankind, or something. Did the Mayans know France was there? Or would be there at some point in the future? This really does sound very silly. As silly as those who gave up their jobs, houses in order to meet their alien saviours.

So we sat down, I say we, I mean I sat down, to listen to Norwich play Villa in the League Cup, or whatever it is called these days, on Tuesday. Sadly, City’s 10 match unbeaten run came to an end, and finished losing 4-1 to Villa after falling behind with 10 minutes to go and then went chasing the game. Oh well, I tell myself it don’t really matter, which is doesn’t.

That apart, much the same as ever, the weekend approaches with the promise of much train chasing ahead, which will be nice.

Monday, 10 December 2012

Monday 10th December 2012

So there we have it: I am allergic.

Allergic to what is what we just have to work out. I have been feeling pretty good for the past couple of weeks: I got up yesterday morning feeling fine and then began sneezing. And did not stop for most of the day. Then it joined with a severe blocked nose and sinuses. I felt like crap. The followed a dreadful night's sleep. So I planned to spend the day in bed catching up with sleep.

And then at about eight o'clock, my nose cleared and whatever it was was gone. It has to be an allergy. So, I try to make an appointment with the nurse so I could talk it over with her as the doctor really does not give a toss.

I have an urgent appointment on the 4th of January.

Let's hope I don't get another bout or two in the meantime.

So, that put a downer on the whole weekend thing, really. Or the second half of it anyway.

Saturday was an altogether much better day which began with coffee and croissants and was then followed by more bird and squirrel watching down by the castle. No, I forgot the whole haircutting thing. I went to have my hair cut and to drop off some beer in the salon which means I will be getting free haircuts for a few months now.

Nom nom nom

We then headed into town as the weather was overcast and I thought that if we did something for an hour the clouds might clear. So we went to Chaplin's for a second breakfast and to people watch. We both had a small breakfast, just to tide us over until lunch, and then headed up to the castle for the bird and squirrel watching.


Sadly, we did not see anything new; I was hoping for long-tailed tits, but no luck. But we did see squirrels, jays, magpies and various tits and finches. It was still very good, and as hoped the sun came out to really make the scene so colourful.

Chillenden Mill

We drove into the country to Chillenden to see the post windmill. We have been there before, but it looks splendid with the bright blue sky as a backdrop. Once I had snapped it to death, we headed off on a church hunt, and so we drove on through Snowdon and onto Woolage Green. We drove through the village twice before I spotted the tiny chapel that has long since been converted to a holiday home.

GWUK #556 Chapel Cottage, Woolage Green, Kent

We went into the village pub which was opposite, because it was there, and had a fine pint and played with their collie dog throwing its toy over the pool table. It made the dog happy, which was nice.

Two Sawyers, Woolage Green

We drove back through Snowdon again, so I stopped to snap the old colliery, as it about the only buildings of the Kentish coalfield that is left. And then we headed back home in time to hear the commentary of the afternoon's football.

And imagine my delight as Norwich took a 3 goal lead before halftime at Swansea, before the roller-coaster second half saw The Swans score three goals too, but City got another on, so ran out 4-3 winners. Phew. 22 points from 16 games. Not bad. not bad.

That night we watched The Dark Knight Rises on TV, which was rather good, although we did struggle to remember what happened in the first two films. We shall have to go back and watch them all, I suppose....

Friday, 7 December 2012

Friday 7th December 2012

It says here that this year’s prince is born
Ever wish you were better informed?
And it says here that we should be proud that we are free
And our free press reflects our democracy.

So wrote Billy Bragg back in 1984. And who would have thought that those words about royal babies and the press would resonate so loudly in 2012? What better way to distract the people from the impending clusterfuck that is going to be the implementation of the Levenson Inquiry than fill up every newscast with Kate; still pregnant stories?

I arrived in the hotel Monday afternoon and after unpacking switched the TV to find what was going on in the world. Trouble in the middle east, financial collapse, hurricane in the Philippines and so on; but I found that BBC World News had dropped all those after an announcement from St James’ Palace that Kate is preggers and throwing up. Apparently, if the BBC was to be believed, the whole world was talking about little else. I am sure that those living in Syria or Egypt or elsewhere that actually staying alive each day is the main subject of conversation and the thought in your head, they really couldn’t care less.

As you can tell, I couldn’t care less either. Not that I wish Kate and Will any ill; that I can remember the day his impending arrival from between Diana’s thighs was announced means I am an old git. But I thought that we had done away with this fawning over the Royals; did we sit through ‘It’s a Royal Knockout’ for nothing?

Later in the week the headlines were:

Kate still in hospital
Kate leaves hospital
Kate waves at press
Prince Charles happy about pregnancy(!)
Oh, and two Australian DJs ring the hospital to get update on Kate
Prince Charles makes jokes about prank phone call

Bollocks. It goes on and on, and will do so ad infinitum.

In other news, as well as Saville, Glitter, Freddie Starr being linked to either child sex cases, we have had former Radio 1 DJ Dave Lee Travis arrested for sexual assault, and this week both Stuart Hall and PR guru Max Clifford have bother also been arrested. Now, I have no problem at all with anyone who has committed crime be punished for them. However, how can anyone be cleared or charged over things that may, or may not, have taken place in some cases over 40 years ago? Also, during the 70s, my family had News of the World, The People and The Sunday Mirror delivered, and each one every week would be jam packed with sordid kiss and tell stories. I cannot see how all these famous people could have gone through life with the baying pack of Fleet Street not sniffing or printing anything; how can that be? Stuart Hall was a major household name, presenting It’s a Knockout’ most weeks, Jimmy Saville was a DJ and had TV shows, Garry Glitter was, well, Garry Glitter; one of the most famous pop stars. How many copies of any of those papers full of stories of his very illegal sexual preferences sell? It beggars belief that no one know. In which case why was no stories written and published?

It is a strange thing for sure…..

It is rather good to be just heading into work for the last two days of the week, just driving into Ramsgate each morning, getting work done and being home by quarter to five. Sometimes it is the little things that matter. I would always have thought that business travel would be so great, seeing the world and getting paid for it; even if the world is just London City Airport, Billund Airport, the road between Billund and Randers and the hotel Scandic. But, it quickly does become a grind, but I shall try to put things in perspective and make sure I travel with a smile on my face and tell myself how darned lucky I am.

Even if travel means travel expenses. And if you are not very good at keeping up on them you then have a carrier bag full of receipts to check and assign. That I have done this morning, and I should now have a stress-free day with maybe an early stack with a stop at Tesco on the way home….

And so the weekend is nearly here; outside it is snowing hard, but the ground is wet so travel back home should not be a problem later. We hope… Catch you later, Bill and Ted……..

Update: Of course, by now you will have heard that the nurse than was manning the switchboard and who passed on the hoax phonecall at the hospital was found dead in her flat this afternoon.

Thursday, 6 December 2012

Thursday 6th December 2012 (part 2)

I woke up on Wednesday morning not really wanting to get out of bed. So I didn’t. At least for half an hour. I quickly went down for breakfast before heading back to my room and packing. I threw everything into a suitcase and after one final look round the room I left.

Needless to say, I am bound to have left something behind; I always do to be honest. But hey, I’m an international quality expert now, right? I checked out and went to the car to find it had been turned into a Corsa-shaped popsicle. I fired it up, and lazily scraped at the windows with the tool supplied (not me). And finally, I drove off and into the rush hour traffic. Now, what counts as rush hour in Randers is the half mile stretch of dual carriageway until it crosses the river.

minus eight

I imagine this is how it must be driving in Moscow, despite having the engine on for 15 minutes, it was still beyond frosty inside the car, and outside smoke from the various factory rose slowly into the sky being turned pink by the rising sun. I parked up outside the office and made my way up for the final six hours before I could head back home.

All the while I kept more than an eye on the weather outside, and panicked everytime a flurry of snow began to fall and I imagined myself stuck in Randers for another night….


At just before two, I powered down the laptop, packed my stuff away and headed down to the car for the 70 mile drive back to Billund. The sun shone from a cloudless sky, and I was driving right into it. Darn. But, I made good time until I began to worry that I had missed the turning and was heading for the German border as none of the scenery on either side looked familiar. I had no map with me, so if I was lost then it would be something of a problem….

Just as I decided I would get off at the next junction, that turned out to be the one signposted to Billund and it all looked familiar again. How strange….

By now the thermometer in the car which was reading minus three when I left Randers had now dropped to minus seven as I neared Billund and the sun had set. I parked the car, handed the keys over and headed to check in, get through security and sit down to read the last of the Stuart Maconie book and have a bite to eat.

I couldn’t resist the charms of another bottle of the 9.2% Double IPA, and settled down with my drink to watch a very cold darkness fall over the airfield outside. But, my flight was called on time, and we went to the gate and finally took off only 15 minutes late, and were soon flying into the inky blackness with all of Denmark laid out below us like yellow diamonds scattered on black velvet. I snoozed only to be woken up by the capta

in saying we were flying over Amsterdam and beginning our final approach to London. We flew over Shoebreness and Southend before heading over the Thames and flying down the Medway before turning sharply over Rochester and getting lower as we crossed the river again at Dartford with the bridge below us, all jammed with rush hour traffic. Down and down we went before we skimmed over the final dock, and twisting in the sidewind, we touched down and back on Mother earth once more.

A quick dash into the terminal, straight through immigration; once again our bags were waiting. Out into the arrivals lounge and into the DLR station; two minutes later a direct train to Stratford left, and I had 20 minutes in which to grab a coffee and muffin on the station before heading down onto the cold platforms for the final 5 minutes before the train pulled in to whisk us to Stratford where Jools was waiting.

And just like that another trip was over, and just two days of the working week to go too. Result.

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Thursday 6th December 2012

4th December 2012

And welcome once again to sunny Denmark. I am in the office, outside dawn creeps over the tundra of Randers, and inside I have a day of meetings and countless cups of coffee. Over the weekend they had several inches of snow here, and like we would expect of the Nordic types, the roads and car parks are clear of snow and ice, and life goes on.

I was nearly two hours late arriving here yesterday after the plane got snowed in at Billund aiport due to heavy snow. That meant that our flight got delayed too. Thankfully I travelled during the day instead of the evening, otherwise I would not have arrived at the hotel until nearly two in the morning. As it was, I got here at half four, checked into the hotel to find they had given me a suite as I must be some kind of regular customer now. And I have coffee making facilities in the room! And not just the over-priced minibar.

Evening rush hour

Anyway, I have to say the thrill of business travel has long-since left me, and it is just a grind to climb onto the twenty to seven train out of Dover, get out at Stratford, catch the DLR to London City Airport, print out my boarding pass, check my case in, go through security and wait for my flight to be called. Even writing it down there, I realise that it is an exciting thing to be doing, and much better than shoving giblets back up a chicken’s backside which was one of my first jobs. Even better than working at the box factory too. Sorry Cath, but there it is. The train from Dover is a modern, Japanese built bullet train. Kinda. And it whizzes through the dawn of a new week dropping me off at the International Station at Stratford.

That a new DLR line was built that matches my business trip from that station to the airport means my trip involves just one change until I’m in the departure hall. And the line goes through the heart of the Olympic Park, so I see the main stadium, the aquatics centre and the other iconic venues. It already seems so long ago that we were there cheering on Team GB, the athlete’s village is being transformed into housing, but there does not seem to be any urgency about the work. But then that is compared to the pace of work before the games.

Whilst waiting for my flight, I realised a long-held dream; to have my shoes shined. Not much of a dream, but I thought such things only existed in flims, but no: I climbed up and me and the shoe shine made small talk about the weather whilst he buffed up my old No 1s.

Leaving London, the city was momentarily bathed in pale winter sunshine, I could see along the river towards The City, how crowded it all looks and the people like ants, before the we were swallowed in the low cloud and I returned to read my book as we turned to the north and towards real winter.

E45 somewhere around Arhus.

We had a good weekend; I left work early on Friday; well, I left just before 11 to head to Canterbury for more physio. I had to call into a camera shop to pick up Jools’ new compact, so I thought I would have left enough time to get there. Traffic in Canterbury is legendary, and leaving 75 minutes to drive the 20 miles to the city and get to the hospital seemed plenty of time. However, the traffic bean in Sturry and was solid into the City. We inched along, I called into the shop, picked up the camera, rejoined the traffic, and despite that only taking 5 minutes, I was still 45 minutes late getting to the hospital.

Thankfully, I was still able to be seen, and I left at two in the afternoon, not having had any lunch and aching from the pummelling I had just received. Instead of heading back into the traffic of Canterbury, as the schools were about to empty and Old Dover Road would be solid with traffic, buses and parked cars, I headed out of the city and down Stone Street to find a place for a bite of lunch.

I stopped at Upper Hardres, pronounced ‘Hard’. I went into The Granville, a gastro-pub and had scotch egg and piccalilli. It was good enough for me, and afterwards headed to the two local churches to snap them. At Upper Hardres they told me of another one a mile away, so I called in at Stelling Minnis too, but that was locked fast with the key holder having no idea where the key was.

I headed home for a lie down as my back was complaining, needless to say soon enough I was joined by a couple of cats who thought they would point out that maybe I would like to feed them instead of just laying down…..

That night Jools had her work’s Christmas party; they went bowling in Ashford. And I headed to the cinema to see Skyfall. The plan being that the film finished I would go and pick Jools up. As it turned out the film overran and I was late picking her up. But, it worked out mostly well enough. The film was good, well the first two reels were action-packed, but let down by a low-key and implausible final reel and scene.

Implausible? Wouldn’t that describe most Bond films> I guess so. But for a film set in the ‘real world’ it had some unrealistic moments. But, it was mostly a triumph in what was Bond’s 50th year, and will take a lot to top when the next film is made. We drove back under a full moon with the stars bright as diamonds above us.

Saturday morning was much brighter than expected, so after thinking all week how to make my wildlife shots better, I got the chance to head down to the castle to the car park where we have been scattering seeds. I got some great shots of Jays, magpies squirrels and assorted finches and tits, using f6.7 or f8 did the trick and most of the shots are sharp as a tack. Sorted.

Pheasant (f)

We then headed out to Tong Mill to pick up some homebrew stuff for my friend, Shaggy, here in Denmark. We then went on a church hunt, visiting four churches south west of Faversham; only two of which were unlocked, but it made for a pleasant morning. One of the most impressive was the wonderfully called The Beheading of St John the Baptist in Doddington. It has a fine clapboard tower, and inside is typical Kentish, with a fine wooden roof and red Victorian tiles on the floor.

Hello Boys

We headed down the hill and found a nice looking pub,The Chequers. We go in and sit by the open fire, order our drink and a meal. I had ham, eggs and chips, a fine meal. The beer is good too, and the landlady is very pleasant calling everyone ‘duck’.

Back home then via Folkestone and along the cliffs, the views across The Channel were great with the buildings in Calais clear as anything. The rest of the afternoon was spent sorting through shots and listening to the football on the radio. A good way to end the day.

Great Spotted Woodpecker Sunday morning we head out to Pegwell Bay to try to find a flock of birds. No, really. Waxwings are winter visitors and can be seen at this time of the year in Kent. A friend snapped them earlier in the week, so we thought we would try. Or I did, as it was a glorious but cold morning, what could be better than a walk in the nature reserve?

Pica pica

It took some finding, the tree that the birds were roosting in that is, but as we arrived the whole flock of 200 or so birds flew off in search of food. I got two shots of them, and none close up; maybe we shall try again next weekend….

We then headed to Monkton, to visit the nature reserve there. Monkton is just the other side of Ramsgate, and not far. They have put some mirrored film on the outside of the library windows, which means the birds feeding just a few feet away could not see us. I got shots of various finches and of a great spotted woodpecker. Well worth going for that for sure.

We called in at Subway on the way home for lunch, then diverted to the old folks place to do our duty. And be home for four to listen to the City game on the radio, and revel in a fine 2-1 win against Sunderland at Carrow Road. Life looks better after four straight league wins at home and 19 points.

All that was left to do was to pack and be ready for the trip away…..

How the time at weekend slips through our fingers……..

5th December 2012

Good morning. It’s cold out there. Yes, minus eight degrees with a frost so thick I could not see out of the car when I got in this morning. At some point last night, the skies cleared and the temperatures plummeted. I had the chance to meet some friends over at Barry’s last night, but the sheer cold and the thought of walking along icy pavements in my old RAF shoes saw me bail on that and stay inside the hotel; they serve big glasses of Christmas beer and acceptable food. And I could watch the football in my room too.

I forgot to mention on Monday night after I arrived, I met up again with my old RAF buddy, Shaggy. He had asked me to bring him over some homebrew stuff, which I did, and we had another chance to chat. This time I went down for dinner before he arrived, so at least I wasn’t drinking on an empty stomach. But I had had one large beer And a glass of wine with the meal, so I was soon feeling pretty tired, and thankful when Shaggy headed for home at nine so I could head to bed.

Yesterday, I had a meeting with my new boss. We talked all afternoon about how we both saw things and where we want to go. Seems like he wants me to come over to Denmark much more often, every other week in the new year, which means more travelling for me and more Lego for Jools! Only joking.

The air last night was crystal clear, and the view over the town from my balcony was so clear. I took more shots of the town and the power station as it pumped green smoke into the night sky. It may be a gimmick, but it is effective seeing the smoke change colour minute by minute.

So, four hours in work, and then the seventy mile drive to Billund and maybe another bottle of Double IPA before heading back to London and the late rush hour back to Kent. All in all, its not a bad life. I certainly don’t miss stuffing those giblets……