Tuesday, 31 December 2013

2013:How was it for you?

The 226th and final blog of the year.

And here we are again, at the very end of the year. And what have we learned this year? Not much that we didn’t know at the end of last year if we’re being honest, other than the NSA reads my e mails better than I do I suppose.

On a personal level, I have had four different job titles, the last one being an unpaid promotion which then turned into a paid promotion. There are scary days ahead, and stress levels off the stress-o-meter, but for now, let me just take stock and say, its been a good year. I have travelled, mostly to Denmark, but did some unpaid beer and rib tasting. I am now a certified lead auditor in ISO 9001:2008.

In health news, I have suffered a major skin infection in my leg (now cleared) and suffered a minor bout of gout! I am watching what I drink more, just a bottle of beer each day, and no more than a couple of glasses of red wine. In fact since the trip to France a few weeks ago, I have had just the one bottle of red, spread out over three days. Not that it’ll do me any harms of course. Mum just survived a lung infection. In fact she is only here as Pat called the ambulance when she saw Mum was so blue due to lack of oxygen. Nan had two heart attacks in one morning, and only just survived, and is now in a nursing home: although she is improving and things look a little brighter than they did a week ago. She might get that telegram next year after all.

Adonis Blue  Lysandra bellargus

Long-tailed Blue  Lampides boeticus

Chalkhill Blue  Lysandra coridon

White Admiral  Limenitis camilla

Heath Fritillary  Melitaea athalia

Duke of Burgundy

As usual, photography has taken more and more of my spare time as I really got into the projects this year: Kentish churches, Kentish pubs, butterflies and orchids. The orchids were a real highlight this year, especially the safari I went on at the beginning at June. A real treat to see some of the glories of the Kentish orchids. Then there was the finding of the Musk Orchids on the third attempt, and finally finding the Autumn Lady’s Tresses. As for butterflies, there was finally getting the Duke of Burgundy, seeing and snapping a few Adonis Blues, finding the Small Blues up on Western Heights, a friendly photographer showing me where the White Admiral could be seen ( and I did see it) and then finally seeing two Long Tailed Blues up on Kingsdown Leas. All real highlights. As for churches, we found some real obscure ones, but the highlight was the day in September zipping around the Hoo Peninsular snapping the fine churches there, some with very strong Dickens connections. Then there were the two trips behind steam locomotives to York and back, the one behind Bittern was a dream realised, of course. Open house was a joy, mostly, and I have some great shots from there, and many more churches in the City ticked off my list.

Marsh Helleborine Epipactis palustris

Pyramidal Orchid Anacamptis pyramidalis

Late Spider Orchid Ophrys fuciflora

Musk Orchid Herminium monorchis

White Helleborine Cephalanthera damasonium

Lizard Orchid Himantoglossum hircinum

Common Spotted Orchid Dactylorhiza fuchsii

Fragrant Orchid Gymnadenia conopsea

Greater Butterfly Orchid Platanthera chlorantha

bee orchid Ophrys apifera

Southern Marsh Orcid

Lady Orchid Orchis purpurea

Fly Orchid Ophrys insectifera

Monkey Orchid Orchis simia

Bird's-nest Orchid Neottia nidus-avis

Man Orchid at Monkton

Green-winged Orchid Orchis morio

Common Twayblade Neottia ovata

Orchis mascula var. alba

Early Spider Orchid "Ophrys sphegodes"

As for music, we did not go to any gigs this year, I think. A first for us. And as last year, I can’t say I have any favourite singles or tracks, other than most of what Radcliffe and Maconie plays are all brilliant. Without doubt, the best track I heard this year was this one from Little Richard, which Chris Evans played back to back with Rock and Roll by Led Zeppelin, which enlivened a morning drive to the Bluebell Railway.

I only bought a couple of albums this year; the new Arcade Fire on vinyl, which will take some listening to as it is spread over for sides of plastic. Must listen to it more. But without doubt the best thing we heard was the Public Service Broadcasting’s debut, which stands up to repeated plays and still sounds new and wonderful.

4464 "Bittern" The Ebor Streak 23rd June 2013

Royal Scot stock, The Ebor Streak, 29th June 2013

We went to the cinema just once, to see Gravity, which was OK, but not worth the extra to see it in 3D, most other releases we saw on demand from Sky. Must try harder next year: I mean we have not seen the new Hobbit film, and that is the first time I have missed out on one of them on its opening day.

On TV, I have watched mostly documentaries, with the two highlights being The Dark Ages: An Age of Light, which was just wonderful. So wonderful we watched it twice. And the other highlight was Tudor Monastery farm, which has only just finished, and we have a special episode tonight on BBC2.

On the radio, pretty much the same as last year: Radcliffe and Maconie, Steve Lamaq I’m Sorry I Haven’t a Clue, The Now Show, The Unbelievable Truth, The Infinite Monkey Cage all were unmissable.

In sport, it was a mostly disappointing year: in football, although Norwich finished in 11th place, it still felt like it was a disappointing season, with survival only obtained after two wins in the final two matches. Inbtween those two matches, City won the FA Youth Cup, which bodes well for the future. We hoped.

But, despite spending more on players during the summer than almost all managers have ever spent at the club, things have not really improved, and as the year closes we find ourselves in the middle of a relegation battle and doubts over the manager.

Football in general is obsessed with money as ever, with players on huge sums of money and ticket prices going up, yet TV money increasing by 60%. The owner of Hull City wants to change the name of the club to Hull Tigers, as City is crappy or something, the owners of Coventry have moved the club to Northampton in a dispute with the city council over the ground and finally Vincent Tan had already changed Cardiff City into playing in red and changing the badge from a bluebird to a dragon, now he wants to change the name too and sacked Malky as the owner thinks he has done no good. Its all so sad, as on none of these cases have the fans been asked, or taken into account. Thankfully, football is not a life or death matter, then.

Elsewhere, Andy Murray became the first Briton to win Wimbledon since before the war, Chris Froome won the 100th running of Le Tour de France and England won the Ashes. Again. However, England also lost the Ashes in Oz, in miserable fashion, currently having lost all four of the tests so far, and little hope of a different result in the final game. In the Prem, Manchester United won the title, but that tempered with the news that Sir Alex Ferguson announcing his retirement just before the end of the season, and David Moyes replacing him from Everton. Since then, all has not been well at Old Trafford, but things are picking up for them as they try to chase down Arsenal and Man Citeh at the top. Although money talks still, Swansea won the League Cup beating Bradford City and then Wigan won the FA Cup to enter European competition for the first time. I did not watch the Tour this year, just not enough time, but I did keep up to date via Twitter and the radio. A second Brit winning it in two years is really something to be celebrated. Neither did I watch any Wimbledon, a combination of work, orchids and butterflies was the reason, but he did well to cope with the pressure and a nation’s hopes to lift the trophy.

The government has continued the war against the sick, the disabled, the singe parents and the unemployed, whilst the Tory press urges them on to even more savage cuts. Sometime I wonder how we got ourselves into this mess with Tory boy and his cronies, and then I remember Bliar and Brown. Oh yes, you have a lot to answer to.

Tomorrow I will bring you my hopes and predictions for the new year…..

Monday, 30 December 2013

Monday 30th December 2013


And on the Lord's day the sun did shine and the winds did not blow!

In truth most days have felt like Sunday since I stopped work for the festivities on Monday. But, like most other days there were plenty of football to listen to in the afternoon. So, there was never nothing to do.

The cliffs at St Margaret's

In the morning, after a late breakfast, we drove down to Dover Patrol for a walk along the cliffs. A walk along the cliffs is never a wasted one, as the views down onto the beach or crashing waves, or even over the Channel to france is always aweinspiring. We found a place to park and set off, and we were not the only ones to have these thoughts, although most seemed to be day visitors or tourists to the area. But we don't mind, there's plenty of room for all.

The cliffs at St Margaret's

Just north of Dover Patrol we could see there has been yet another fresh cliff fall, just a small one, but the bleached-looked blocks of chalk reached out about 50m into the sea. The fallen section gives dramatic views down onto the beach and along the line of cliffs to Kingsdown.

We walked back to the via the path over the fields, and we meet no one else along the way. Once back at the car park we see that there are many more cars about, and one is waiting for us to leave so short are the parking spaces. We drive to B&Q to check out roof panels for the shed, only to find they sell only very large ones. So, we retreat home to check online, and for me to cook lunch.

Lunch turned out to be warmed up turkey and all the trimmings (cooked fresh) and in about an hour we had a very fine Sunday lunch indeed. We open a bottle of wine, and listen to a match on the radio as we eat.

Sunday, 29 December 2013

Sunday 29th December 2013


Not it really was Saturday, with football and all that shit. And the shops were open! Yay, shopping!

We had been putting of food shopping for some days, but now we were out of cat food and a few other things, so better get it over with sooner rather than later. We rushed round, got our stuff and got out before it got too busy.

I say this only because we really needed a new lamp for the dining room table. The one we have had a wiring fault, which I fixed, but it really was a bodge. And then one of the shades cracked in half, caused by some other fault, and so we really needed to get rid of it. So, we looked online, expecting to find a local lighting shop, I mean most towns used to have them, right? But the nearest was in Canterbury, which at eleven could be an interesting experience with the traffic.

Instead of the one we got the last one from in Palace Street, we saw there was one out near Wincheap, which could mean missing the worst of the traffic and the crowds in the centre of town. Worth a try! So, we drove to Canterbury, found the shop and a free parking space right outside, which was a stroke of luck. And we both agreed on one heavily reduced lamp for under sixty quid, we checked it worked and paid for it.


so instead of heading back down the A2 I took us down the Ashford road, alongside the flooded River Stour.

St Mary, Eastwell, Eastwell Park, Ashford, Kent

Where we going, Jools asked. Not that she was bothered, but when I said we were going to look for Eastwell, she kinda rolled her eyes, or I could have imagined it.

I thought I remembered the way fro the map, but it was clear that I was a little lost, I pulled over to check the map. There should be a turning just along here I said, more in hope.

St Mary, Eastwell, Eastwell Park, Ashford, Kent

And there was; and as soon as we turned down the lane, I could see the tower through the trees.

St Mary sits beside a lake, and is almost too perfect. As we crossed over a small bridge we could see a thin mist rising from the lake. The road was just about passable after the recent rain, so we made it to the gates of Eastwell Park and the church.

St Mary, Eastwell, Eastwell Park, Ashford, Kent

I snapped it from all angles, happy with what I got a promise to return when the surrounding area is not a swap to explore the surrounds and lake. At the end of the lane, I turned right and headed to Westwell, where there was another church.

And another St Mary's.

Situated in the centre of the village, it was an unusual church for Kent; a square tower with a short spire. But, as is the way for me, it was locked and no details of how to get the key. so I got shots all around the outside and went back to the car so we could head back to Dover for lunch.

And so to settle down on the sofa to listen to City take on Man You on the radio. And, well, after dominating play in the first half, as seems the way we slipped to be ever more defensive in the second until Utd scored the inevitable winner. CH spoke about commitment and passion, but Chris, they will only take you so far, and commitment along will not win football matches. Goals do.

So, another evening ruined and means I have to dodge MOTD again. Grrrr.

Saturday, 28 December 2013

Saturday 28th December 2013


One of those nondescript days between Christmas and New Year. I wish I could say something better about it than that, the kind of day you long for in the spring or summer when you have to go to work and there are churches/butterflies/orchids just crying out to be sought out. In a bid to stretch out the excitement, we postponed the trip to Tesco until Saturday as we had enough food....

The wind did blow again, not not as strongly as just before Christmas, so we watched as the raindrops ran down the window. As you do....

In the morning we did chores, then we both did a session on the cross-trainer. Oh yes we did! I stepped it up a bit and did half an hour, which was not too bad, and then I cooked bacon butties for lunch which undid all the good work that the cross-trainer has done. Or not.

In the afternoon Jools went out to see Nan and pick up more of her old paperwork from the house of silence. Nan was feeling better, issuing orders left, right and centre. That might be harsh, but as she has so much thinking time it is to be expected I suppose. We hope that these list of orders will get smaller as the days and weeks go by... The home is not perfect, despite the rates charged, there are staff shortages, and patients can be left for long periods. Its hard to know what to do as there really are no alternatives that have spaces. And the number of alternatives are so small, just three other such places in town.

Whilst Jools was out, I took to the sofa to take in the final Wittertainment of the year. A best/worst of, always good for a listen, even if I did struggle to keep my eyes open.

In the evening we watched Austin Powers, as jools had not seen it before. And I keep quoting lines from it. It wasn't as funny as I remember, but it raised a few smiles.

Friday, 27 December 2013

Friday 27th December 2013

Boxing Day

Or Christmas Day part 2 as it was in our house. And that is because we decided to go to Dad's for Christmas it meant that we had a turkey crown all to ourselves for Boxing day.


We did go and see Nan in the morning. She is holding her own, but she look pale and her body only sakes a slight bump in her bedclothes as she lays in bed. Her speech is difficult to understand at times, and she has been having very odd dreams thanks to her medication. The home has all sorts of residents, from those who can move about or are lucid, the the lady in the next room who shouts random noises all day. Even Nan without her aids can hear her.


Once we were back home, we headed out to see if there was any sign of the shed roof. I suppose we should have gone out before, But what with one thing and another, we didn't. Anyway, with the sun shining it was a great day for a walk. We found nothing, and the ground is saturated with rainwater. We walked for an hour then turned back so I could but the turkey in the oven.

The great Boxing Day shed roof hunt

We ate at two as the first game of the day reached it's climax. And once we had cleared up, there was more and yet more games on the radio. I snoozed on the sofa well into the second half of the three o'clock games; City conceded a goal in the last 5 minutes to slump to a 2-1 defeat to Fulham. As bad a result as it is possible to have, and what with Man Utd visiting just 48 hours later, they really will have to lift themselves.

The great Boxing Day shed roof hunt

In the evening we watched a film, Elysium, which was OK, with holes in the plat which did not make any sense, but it diverted us. Later we got the scrabble board out so Jools could beat me, which she did, just. It's just not my game, really, but I do do better. Maybe with practice and a dictionary I might just win.

And during the night the wind did indeed begin to blow again. Lots of weather about.....

Wednesday, 25 December 2013

Wednesday 25th December 2013

Christmas Day.

There is a reason as to why I am blogging at half four on Boxing Day morning. That reason is that I went to bed before seven yesterday evening, so I have had something like seven hours sleep now.

As to why I went to bed at such an early hour, that was down to two further factors: being up at five on Christmas Eve, then sitting up till nearly midnight watching tV and just five hours sleep. And four pints of wifebeater. Sorry, Stella. Stella used to be called Wifebeater when I was in the RAF, but then so did Tennant's too.

Let me say I have never beaten any of my wives, nor do I think such a thing is funny.

Anywho. It is still dark, there is no wind, for a change, there is a badger in the front garden hoovering up peanuts, England are on the verge of another collapse Down Under, and I have just had a cold sausage roll for a light snack before I try to get more shut-eye.

There is still no sign of the shed roof.

So, I got up at five yesterday, fed the cats and put on the Christmas tree lights. It still didn't feel like Christmas. Once Jools got up we had breakfast. I call it breakfast, in truth it was two mince pies,which was pretty darn good. At nine we got a call call from mum; she is not well again, as she is not looking after herself, back on the crap food and fags. So, I say the right things and we chat some.

Christmas Morn dawn

At eleven, once the rain has stopped and the sun has broken through, we head out to the NT's lace on the cliffs to look at all the ferries berthed on the one day of the year there is no service. There were less than in previous years, but a good half dozen were tied up, and crew seemed busy doing stuff.

Dover Eastern Docks: Christmas Day 2013

We sat on a bench to take in the scene, and Jools spotted a Kestrel hovering over some poor animal just a handful of yards away. Could I get the other camera out, change lenses so I could get a shot before it moved off or dived?

Dover Eastern Docks: Christmas Day 2013


A crow chased it off, and despite waiting half an hour, it did not return. We did a quick visit to St Martin's Battery up on Western heights to get the view from there, before we head to Dad's for the traditional family get-together and dinner.

Dover Western Docks from St Martin's Battery, Western Heights

We chat, we drink, we open gifts,and at half three dinner is served. Just as well as we are all very hungry, and so tear through what Tony has prepared.

Jools drops me off home while she does the taxi duties. I watch the end of Muppet Christmas Carol, and feel like crap. I try hard to keep awake, but it is useless. I head to bed before Dr Who, and go to sleep as the title music starts......

Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Tuesday 24th December 2013

Christmas Eve

I awoke at five when the alarm pulled me back into the world of the living, it sounded like there was a hurricane raging outside. Rain was lashing down at the back of the house. I laid for a while listening to the radio to hear the news on the damage to the country from the storm.

I went downstairs, fed the cats and made a cup of coffee. Feeling slightly more human after just the 5 hours sleep (damn you MOTD and beer!). I went out to the car and so began the exciting drive to Preston, kent. Now, it takes just half an hour tops, on a normal day to get to the butchers, but today I thought might be different. Having just gone six, the petrol station at the Duke of York's was open, so I filled up, whilst all around the wind and rain swirled. Under the Guston bridge, deep floodwater had gathered, but as it always does this i knew it was there so had slowed down.

I tootled along at 50mph, all the way to Sandwich, the wind still howled but little by little the rain eased. There was standing water in places, but none too bad. Once I took the Canterbury road the rain eased more, and so by the time i took the Nash turn it had almost stopped. There was a car in front of me,so I let them test how deep the regular floods along the road were. As he got through, i trusted that I could, and in the end none of the floods were deep enough for concern.

I got to the butchers to find three of them waiting and no customers; I suppose people thought it better to wait until the storm passed before going out. Maybe I should have done that, too? Anyway, we were all in good spirits, I picked up my order, paid and headed back out onto the pale light of dawn. At home i saw that one of the roof panels from the shed was missing; not much I could do about that, other than go upstairs to see if I could see it. No luck, it could be anywhere from in next door's garden to Deal or beyond. We shall have to go to B&Q to get a replacement after the festivities.

Anyone seen our shed roof?

Despite knowing the road was OK, I took the longer one to Wingham before doubling back to Sandwich, just as it meant driving along better, more travelled roads, and the less chance of floods.

Once home I switched the computer on so I could let Jools know how things were as she was going to try to get a train back. London Underground was mostly unaffected, and there were just trains to Ashford from St Pancras. This I told Jools on the mobile and that I could go and pick her up from Ashford if needed.

I went back out to find a fruit and veg shop, as the two farm shops on the way home from Preston were still closed at seven. I headed to Cherrytree in town and found a parking space. So it was a short walk in the rain to the shop, and I managed to get the few things I needed to complete the meal.

And back home again for breakfast, and to wait news from Jools. She got to St Pancras and got on a crowded train to Ashford, and that was as far as it was going, as the line beyond to dover must have still been flooded or blocked. So I set off to pick her up.

I drove down Jubilee Way to see if there were queues for the ferries, but it seemed very quiet; one was just docking as another headed out into the Channel, and the A20 had a few lorries, but no the Operation Stack I was expecting. At least traffic was light up to Ashford, although it was still raining and there was plenty of spray about. That does not excuse the idiots driving around at 90mph and with no lights on.

I got to the station with a couple of minutes to spare, and I had hardly parked the car before Jools came out. Christmas could now begin.

We drove back at 50mph, as we were in no hurry; back to Dover and then up Jubilee Way along the Deal Road and home. It was a relief to know we were home and not needed to go out again.

What better than a cup of coffee, a generous slice of Christmas Cake and a sit down looking at the grim weather outside.

That day I made mince pies and sausage rolls, and it is these we had for dinner once it had gotten dark. If we were not ready for Christmas now, it was too late.....

Monday, 23 December 2013

Monday 23rd December 2013


The weather did let up yesterday afternoon and the sun even broke through. I decided to head to Westernhanger to snap the tour; plenty of time to frame the shot and a train, or trains, at speed. Nice. So with over an hour before showtime, i headed off to the other side of Folkestone, took the Hythe road and headed down to the old race course and the station.

A couple of younger lads were there, setting up a video camera. They were at the far end of the platform, and I was right at the other end, hoping if the tour was late i could get some illumination from the platform lights. As things turned out, I was right to think that way.

It is a sad fact that here in Dover and at Beachy Head, there are dozens of memorials to those who have chosen to travel there to end their lives. I can't say I understand that, but they must be in a very dark place indeed. However to drive to such a beautiful place to end their lives seems odd to me. As does throwing themselves under a train: there is the thoughts of the driver, the emergency services and those who have to clean up. I mention this as yesterday, a woman chose to end her life in Faversham by throwing herself under a train. My thoughts go out to her family and friends of course.

44871 and 45407, The Cathedral Express, Westenhanger, Kent 22nd December 2013

What the disruption meant to me was that the tour was delayed. And delayed. The sun set, and it began to get dark. And then almost an hour later it came round the bend in the half light. My lens could not focus in that low light, so I switched to manual. I got some shots, a couple of which were useable. even with the 50mm on the 400D, with f1.4, I was only getting 1/15th of a second and so the motion of the locomotives were very blurred. But the shots were effective.

44871 and 45407, The Cathedral Express, Westenhanger, Kent 22nd December 2013

I headed back to Dover, calling in at the Rack of Ale to pick up Matt's gloves that he had left behind last week. And it would have been rude not to have a swifter just to be social. I had a fine pint of Christmas porter, which was excellent.

When I got home Jools told me that she had been offered tickets for a show at Wembley on Monday featuring some Dutch fiddle player, and it involved a night away; did I mind? So, that's sorted, all of Monday, Monday night and Tuesday morning just me and them cats; what could go wrong?

I cooked steak and ale pie for dinner, which was perfect as i starving. Not really starving, but you know, it were great food, and I polished the fist of the bottles of red I got from Calais earlier this month. Very drinkable!


I worked from home today, as the weather was going to be so grim. And I had to drop Jools off Dover Priory at half nine. So, I wrote a few mails, played around with a spreadsheet. Dropped Jools off, came back, worked some more. And then I saw no one else was on line, so I thought, why not, lets start Christmas early! So at half one I brewed up, cut a slice of Dundee cake and sat down to watch some TV as the wind began to howl outside.

Now it is dark, and it is blowing a proper hoolie out there. Ferries can't dock and folks are going to have to spend the night moored out in shelter of the Goodwins. I hope we will have a shed in the morning. Heck, I hope we'll have a house in the morning! It is going to be lively to say the least.

Sunday, 22 December 2013

Sunday 22nd December 2013



and indeed,


December will be magic

But let's not all get carried away with all the festive spirit, when much more importantly as it was the shortest days yesterday, the days from now are getting longer and that means that spring is on the way. Despite according to Google yesterday was the first day of winter. In celebration of the coming of spring, it is hammering down this morning and the wind blowing a hooly. So, it might take a while for the weather to feel spring-like.

If the weather lets up, I might head out to snap a railtour this afternoon. But if the rain continues to hammer down, then i won't.

Thursday/Friday The weight of responsibility is something that promotion brings. And having to produce certain items for the contractual obligation and getting that approved took most of the week and a race against time to meet the deadline. When it was all over it felt like I had run a marathon and was exhausted.

Last commute of the year


For some reason I woke up at two in the morning. I can confirm on the shortest day of the year, two in the morning is dark. Very dark indeed. I went to the kitchen, made a cuppa and looked online at the news and checked Flickr and the such. At four, after I tried to sleep, we decided to get up and hit the road. Christmas is the time when families get together, and so for me that means heading up the A12 to sunny Lowestoft.

At least leaving at half four in the morning means the roads will be fairly empty and the Dartford crossing is free until six in the morning. After loading the car, we set off, dodging the lorries heading from the early ferry up towards London.

As we headed into Essex we thought dawn would be just a few minutes away. And yet due to the low cloud and heavy drizzle, dawn only made itself known as there was a creeping ligtening of the sky. Once north of Ipswich, once the decent roads ran out and we trundled up what counts as a trunk road to Lowestoft, it did began to get light, and the countryside came into view.

But we pressed on, heading further north until we passed the sign, 'welcome to the sunshine coast'! So called as being the most easterly point, it is the first part of England to see dawn's first rays.

We headed to The Foxburrow for breakfast before we went to see Mum. As to why; well, Mum's house is not the cleanest these days, and as she does not have the stuff we like, its easier for us to go somewhere, have a healthy continental breakfast which sets us up for most of the day, and then we don't have to go through the charade of pretending we're not hungry.

After that, I drove us to Gunton St. Peter church, which I had never seen before. Although I lived in the town for 25 years, but churches are not high on the list of places your average teenager wants to visit. Even if his best friend lived a hundred yards from it, and I must have cycled along Gunton Church Lane hundreds of times but never saw the church.

Of course it was locked, but then it was still early. But it is a fine looking place, stone and flint built with a small round tower.

There was no putting it off any longer. Let's head to Mum's and find out how things are!

Mum got out of hospital on Wednesday, and is feeling slightly better. She has lost a lot of weight, and she is focusing on that rather than the cause which is a problem with her intestine caused by decades of lack of fibre. Although things were cordial, when we pointed out that we had looked into her problem, and related what she should do, she did the thing she always does when she does not want to hear and move on to the next subject:

Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes.

Her mind is closed. Which is fine, its her life and she can choose what she does and does not. She will have to live the consequences of course. We let it lie.

Dawn of Time, High Street, Lowestoft, Suffolk

We shared some cheese and crackers with her before we thought it time to move on. we drove into town to visit a friend of mine who has opened a Dr Who themed coffee shop-cum-comic shop. He was surprised to see us as we walked in the door, we had a cuppa and caught up before he had to head out to do businessman things like go to the bank.

Dawn of Time, High Street, Lowestoft, Suffolk

It was time to head south, and so we went back to the car and pointed the bonnet south and pressed 'go'. We even saw some sunshine as we drove through Suffolk to Bury St Edmunds to join the A14 and then head further south to the motorway. In Cambridgeshire, the clouds gathered and the rain began. It was grim driving in spray and heavy traffic as we headed round the M25. There were warnings of congestion at the crossing, but at least the motorway was still open. At least we had the footy on the radio to us (me) company.

The queues were not that bad, and we were back in Kent soon enough and heading down the M20 towards Dover. The rain got heavier, so I eased off the speed and and headed for home. City drew 0-0 at Sunderland, which is OK I suppose.

The cats were waiting for us, which is always great. That night i made chorizo hash for dinner and washed it down with one of the bottles of fancy French Christmas beer I bought from our trip to Calais.

Thursday, 19 December 2013

Thursday 19th December 2013

As we head down the slope towards Christmas at work, thoughts turn maybe to taking it easy. And then all it took was a simple e mail from the project manager mentioning casually that there were more than the one document that needed to be sent to the client before Christmas. And then he went offline.

My head exploded. What had I forgotten to do? What could I have missed? Did I have enough time to produce a document from scratch? Needless to say as it was time to go home this weighed more and more as the evening wore on. I lay in bed staring at the ceiling going over what I needed to have done.

This morning I got a call from him; he realised what he had done and just wanted to not let me panic too much and just go over things.


So, with that emergency over with and my heart returning to normal bpm, it was time to put a pot of coffee on and start the day afresh.

And then, the usual stuff, mails, phone calls. Oh, and acting as technical support as the offshore guys get to grips with a digital SLR: it won’t work, what’s wrong with it? Hmmm, I think it could be the human interface, but didn’t say that.

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Wednesday 18th December 2013

And so Tuesday at work ended, and what better way to celebrate another day nearer Christmas than heading back to the Rack of Ale to meet up with an old friend who was intrigued by the shot of it I posted on Flickr.

The day’s work over, which included another two examples of more expense: MOTing the car and getting the heating fixed. The car just cost £50, that and the tyres we bought at the weekend, but we’re street legal for another year anyways. And I worked from home so the plumber could look at our heating which is getting a tad unpredictable from time to time. Every now and again, the heating gets stuck on, and just pups hot water round, thus making the house very warm indeed, and emptying the water tank so we have cold showers.


Needless to say, when he turned up, the heating worked just as it should with no problems. This now results in the replacement of parts, one at a time until we find what stops the problem.

At half seven, Jools dropped my outside the Rack and headed off to see how Nan has settled into the nursing home. Matt was waiting for me, and so we quickly caught up, and despite him being young enough to be my son, he is a veteran of gout and was able to give me tips on how to deal with it. We also drank beer.

And ale.

The night ebbed away, and we had a cheese board to help soak up the beer. Jools came to pick me up at nine, after four pints it was just as well, really.

I slept well that night!

This morning I went to Tesco to pick up something for breakfast and get a couple of other bits and bobs, only to find that the wide aisle running across the store has been filled in with more shelves of stuff to buy. It seems that for Brits, or those who shop in my local Tesco are expected to buy lots and lots of booze. And most of it is on offer. Is this really what Christmas is about these days? I guess so.

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Tuesday 17th December 2013

I don’t want to scare you, but in a week’s time it will be Christmas Eve. In fact most of the stores and shops will be closed and you will have left it too late for buying gifts. I won’t lie, it has crept up on us again, we haven’t bought a thing as yet, and probably will have to go with gift cards as this seems the most straightforward. I was down town on Saturday, and it was crazy; no parking spaces to be had and the shops rammed with people. Good to see Dover’s shops doing so well I suppose.

In truth I have had the annual calendars done, and they are ready to be delivered to Mum and Nan, although Nan might not have much use for them in the home.

Oh yes, Nan. She left for the home yesterday afternoon. And it seems likely that she will end her days there. Jools is going to visit this evening, and needless to say we hope she is very happy there. And Mum. Mum is in JP in Gorelston having tests and should get the results today. Hopefully it is just a medication thing that needs to be done. We shall see.

And so what else? Well, City scrambled to a draw on Sunday against the Seaswans. Hooper scored a screamer just before half time to square things up, and then the game kinda fizzled out. Later on Spurs got thumped by Liverpool and so the next day AVB was sacked and now they are looking for another new manager. Despite them being in 7th place and just a couple of wins away from the top four. All aboard the merry-go-round where it stops, nobody knows…..

Sunday, 15 December 2013

Sunday 15th December 2013

When it comes down to it, in the end what will we have to show that we were ever here? Other things might cross our mind, did we change how things would have been, id we make things better? I mention this as tomorrow Nan will make what will probably be her last journey to a nursing home in River.

We went round to see her today, and talk is now what to do with her possessions, who will get what, who wants what. And all that sort of thing. It is a grim thing if truth be known, and not being part of the family sometimes I feel as an observer, just remarking what is going on. Nan is a pretty poor thing these days, she is breathing very shallow, and is very pale, although the paleness is not a new thing.

So, she has told everyone that we are free to take whatever of her possessions is left as she will not be needing them now. It's all so sad. Her lifetime of memories and momentos will be dispersed. Or worse.


Yesterday was a day for chores. First up was a trip to Tesco. The plan was to get there, get the stuff and get out as quick as possible. Which we did. On the way back we went to Cherrytree to the tyre place as one of our front tyres is more like a racing slick rather than the winter one it should be. So thats another hundred quid gone. But it pays to be safe.

Back home for breakfast and another coffee, before I head out to town to see a couple of friends of mine launch their new book. Paul and Jeff collect photos and stories about dover, and their second book has jut been published, Dover then and Now in Colour. So, I went down to offer them support and to get a couple of cost-price copies. Always good for a Christmas present.

When I got home, Jools had gotten down the Christmas Tree. I foolishly said I would trim it up that afternoon. So, after lunch, I got the baubles and tinsel out and did the tree whilst the radio burbled the football away. City are due to play on Sunday: in fact playing now at the moment. So I only had a passing interest in the matches, and it seemed that I was more interested in crashing on the sofa for a snooze. However, Citeh did thrash Arsenal 6-3 in the early game, which when all is considered, as Arse were the league-leaders, is remarkable.

Saturday, 14 December 2013

Saturday 14th December 2013

Thursday and Friday

So, three years after the last time I got to play with bandages, it was time to re-do my first aid certificate. what this means is two days off work, a late start in Folkestone at nine, but at the the same time heading out into what counts as rush hour here in East Kent.

Leaving at eight means joining the jam on the Deal Road as it approaches the Duke of York roundabout. In reality its not that bad, and after a delay of a couple of minutes I was heading for the Alkham Valley and what I hoped was the quick short cut way to Folkestone.

Red clouds

Once at the venue, the Best Western hotel on The Leas, I find that Folkestone council have tightened the parking regulations up, and it is impossible to park for any more than three hours. I go up The Leas and both mornings find a place within two minutes walk away. Thus saving three pounds in charges and a hundred in over-charges.

Bleeds, burns, fainting, chest pains, more bleeding, breaks, amputations and so one. And repeat for two days.

There were eight of us on the course, and we came from a mixed background, but overall it was enjoyable. Although by Friday afternoon the novelty had worn off and I was clock-watching. At least there was no practical exam this time, but we had to cope with about a dozen scenarios able to assess multiple injuries and prioritise them, treating the most serious first.

Friday night I went down to The Coastguard in The Bay to meet a Flickr friend for a chat and drink. I have been friends with Paul for a good couple of years and yet we never met. It is the modern way, it seems. We knew so much about each other through our photographs.

Thursday, 12 December 2013

Thursday 12th December 2013

Sometimes, we take the wonders of the modern age for granted. That we have the sum of all of mankind's knowledge at our fingertips with the interwebs, that I can take a photo and upload it to flickr (other photo sites are available) and the world can see it in seconds, that I can carry my entire music collection in a box no bigger than a pack of fags, we have sent probes oude of our solar system. And so on. and one closer to home, is that from leaving home here in St Mags, we can be in France within the hour.

Oh la la.

So, on Tuesday, we got up at five, had a quick breakfast and headed to the terminal at Folkestone. If we were lucky and time it right we can be driving straight on the train and be off within minutes. Sadly this time we had to wait 50 minutes for a space, which kinda scuppered our plans to drive to Arras that day. Arras is a 120 mile round trip, and with so little daylight at this time of year, we decided to leave that trip to the spring.

What better than a drive along the coast, past Cap Gris Nez and onto Boulogne? Nothing we thought. However, the Gendarmerie had other ideas. One road was blocked, and as we followed the diversion to the main coast road, that too was blocked by stern looking policemen. We headed back to the motorway and sped south and west towards the port.

Our plan was to head to the old town, have coffee, visit the basilica, have a drink in The Vole Hole and then see where doing for time. So, we headed to the ancient walled town, found a parking space and walked a few hundred yards along to the main gate and inside and along the narrow cobbled streets. It is wonderful.

Old Town Gate, Boulogne-sur-Mer

we headed straight for the basilica, hoping to get inside, or at least I wanted to as last time we tried there was a service going on. As luck would have it, workers were installing christmas trees, and the main door was open, and before they could cover everything with plastic sheeting, I got my shots. Sadly, the dome and crypt were closed, so another visit next year is called for, but it was still wonderful to go in. The dome of the basilica is some 100m tall, and can be seen from most places in the town. The view from up there must be wonderful.

Can you guess where we were today?

We went back outside to find a place open for a coffee; only place seemed to be the tbac we used before, so we went in and ordered our coffees and I had a croque monsieur, my first one ever. And I have to say that I was mighty disappointed, as it is a just a couple of slices of Mother's Pride (or french equivalent) with a slice of jambon inbetween and then some toasted cheese on top. Not even as good as cheese on toast!

Basilica of Notre-Dame de Boulogne

Oh well.

With the weather so wonderfully clear, we decide to take a stroll round the town walls, as these command fine views over the town to the port and Channel beyond. We are passed by several joggers, one pair passed us something like 4 times, so either they were fast or we were slow. I'll let you decide that.

Basilica of Notre-Dame de Boulogne

Once all the way round we find the Vole Hole is not open, despite it being ten to twelve, and so we decide to head to the car, go to le supermarche for some stinky cheese and then get some wine and head home. A quick blast up the motorway to Calais, along to Carfours, get the cheese, checkout, back to the car to the wine warehouse. Check the prices, get six cases, pay for them and down to the tunnel to check in, on the next train and back to merries old England.

And back home for three in the afternoon with just about having down all we set out to do. Time then for a coffee, a generous slice of tatre de pommes and a pistachio macaroon and we're set for the rest of the day.