Thursday, 31 January 2013

Thursday 31st January 2013

As you may have noticed, I am trying to write a bit more this year. And so, I believe, this is my 22nd blog of the year. Why? I don’t know. I guess when I look at years gone by, sometimes there are gaps of up to 10 days between posts. And I know if I don’t write for a few days what happened the day before gets forgotten. Not that I am saying I am missing writing something earth-shattering that is going to change your life, nor do I have any insight into the human condition. No, it just a window into our life, and my trials and tribulations in the world of wind turbines.

Here’s something. I thought I was the only person with my name, but there is a second. He lives in Sussex or somewhere like that, and apart from tweeting he blogs too. So, yesterday I read his blog, and turned out he had a bad year, was made redundant and being messed around with various job agencies. This dragged on for a year, and reading his words I realised how easy it could have been me. He has not written since November when he was talking about depression; needless to say I hope he did find work and is in a happier place. I guess it shows how close we are to having our lives turned upside down by a bean-counter somewhere up the management chain who for no reason sees us as an un-necessary expense that should be terminated.

In fact, our big financial announcement is due next week; 2012’s Q4 results and where we are for the new year. Every announcement brings the need for more redundancies and more changes. I guess this year will be little different. My new boss has been unavailable all week, so is it all linked, or not? Whatever happens, we will roll with the punches and survive to fight another day.

60 years ago today, this very evening, a massive depression coupled with a strong north wind and an exceptionally high tide joined together to cause the worst floods in Eastern England all the way to Kent and in Holland. 1836 were killed in Holland, 307 in England, 28 in Belgium and 19 in Scotland. It was a thing of legend when I was growing up, those that lived through it told of their stories of escapes. My English teacher got home by walking over the railway bridge as the road bridge in Oulton road was under water. My Dad, who was 14 years old, kept a great scrapbook which I was unable to find when I was last at my Mum’s. I shall look when I go up next time, if I can. I guess the reason for all this looking back is that the lessons of the past are easily forgotten, money is cut from the repair or building of sea defences, the decades go by and no flooding happens, so we forget. And in the meantime, we build more and more houses in low-lying areas and flood plains and more and more houses get flooded more and more often.

Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Wednesday 30th January 2013

I don’t have the hardest commute in the world, I’ll be honest with you. At times I do grumble when there is a tractor in the way slowing me down, but for the most part it’s a clear run and I can get from Dover to the office in less than half an hour.

What I do like is the first morning back at work after being away, and getting in the car, turning on Radio 4 and just driving along looking at how the countryside has changed and, this week, how much lighter it was than last time I did the trip. Sometimes its these small details that make the difference.


So, it was back to work this week, and waiting for me on my desk was the new mobile phone I ordered after I foolishly told my new boss that I couldn’t check e mails whilst on the move as I didn’t qualify for a ‘smart’ phone. Me and my big mouth. Anyway, it has taken a full two days to synch my e mail with the phone and change the code on it that the phone likes. In the end I chose something that was easy to remember, the number of an A4 pacific after it been renumbered by BR.

Yesterday, I worked from home. I could have gone into the office, but given the choice, working from home wins every time. By a quarter to ten, I was hungry, looking in the fridge I saw eggs and bread. So, a simple choice for a snack was fried eggs on fried bread coupled with a huge cup of tea. Win!


As usual, I had to deal with the demands and whims of the three cats who, clearly, could not find their bowls of food, despite them being in exactly the same place they normally are to be found! Oh well.

The afternoon was enlivened by the delivery of the two CDs I have had on order; the expanded versions of Searching for the Young Soul Rebels and 2112. The cats did not seem to appreciate Rush, and Molly sat on the sofa with her ears flat against her head, meaning she was pretty unhappy with all the noise. But she did not leave her space on the sofa.

I have been back on the cross-trainer for about a month now, on and off, and have done three sessions already this week, and despite my back grumbling about it, I am feeling the benefit, and in truth my back seems to be better this morning. So, onwards and upwards.


One final thing: It crossed my mind that this month is the 15th anniversary of my paternal grandmother’s death. She outlived her only son, my Dad, by21 months and spent it in pretty bad health, ending up in a care home as her body failed her at the age of 97. We always thought she would live to get her telegram, maybe she would have done if Dad had lived; who knows? She had her full faculties until the end, and with her on her death bed, I travelled up from Wiltshire to see her, for one last time. She was weak and could not see much, she smiled when she knew it was me. How are you feeling, I asked. With my hands, she replied. Still fighting.

Today's Deliveries

Her answer has become a joke between Jools and me, but it is how I remember Nannie. Well, 15 years has passed in a blink of an eye…….

Monday, 28 January 2013

Monday 28th January 2013

And so the weekend rolled round, and I was back home on schedule and seen more snow and ice than is healthy, and would be very happy if no more snow were to be seen until Christmas.

Although the weather was in the process of turning mild, there was snow still to be seen, and it got ticker as we neared St Margaret’s. The road was just a strip of ice, but we could still get in and out of our drive, which was good enough for us.

Saturday was as rainy as the BBC promised; so we decided to head to Canterbury once the rain stopped. As you may recall, I am allergic to house dust and dust mites, and the cure to remove them from anywhere near my nose. Which, pretty much involved replacing our pillows, sheets and mattress protector, thus the specially treated linen will kill the mites and stop the dust.

Cathedral Gate

We drove into Canterbury, and parked where we could also get the car washed so the build-up of salt could be removed, and it saved us from doing it. So, we had a look round the shops. As it is so unusual for us to do this, as we really don’t like shopping. We headed to HMV where I hoped to pick up a couple of CDs, but could not find what I wanted amongst the stock they had. Most was on sale, and I suppose I could have trawled through the racks picking out stuff, but decided against it. That the CDs were hidden away on the 1st floor showed how far the chain has moved from their core business.

A Record Shop today

We called in a nice place for a coffee and after looking at the menu decided to have another breakfast; we had already eaten cereals at dawn. We both ordered a breakfast hash; chorizo and spicy sausage for me, and salmon for Jools. It was great, and set us up for the rest of the day and meant we skipped lunch. I guess as this was brunch that makes sense. Or if you have brunch do you have mid-afternoon tea and cakes? It felt like we should, but for me the lure of football on the radio was too strong. But more of that later.

Dreaming Spires

On our way out of Canterbury, we called in the bedding shop and picked up a new duvet, mattress protector and pillows and were free of the crowds heading in or already in the city centre. There must have been a queue a couple of miles long of cars waiting to head into the city. Phew.

The entrance

Looking at my reference book of Kent churches, I picked Molash to visit and so we set off in the general direction of Ashford. At Molash we headed up Church Lane, which was six inch deep in snow, slush and melted snow and sleet. Or in other words, water. However, we got through and I parked up. It was a fine church, and after getting out I hurried to try the door and see inside. Sadly, it was locked, even the door into the porch was locked, which was very disappointing.

GWUK #634 St Peter, Molash, Kent

I made do with snapping the church and stomping around it in the snow getting my feet nice and damp. On our way to Molash we had passed a fine looking church at Chilham, so I thought we might got here and that church was bound to be open.

So, back down the valley to Chilham, I park the car, swing my bag onto my back and head up the narrow street to the centre of the village and the church. What greeted me was a fine medieval square lined with old pubs and houses all timber-framed and looking wonderful. I take a few shots then walk to the church, up the path and try the door.



So, I take shots again, and head out the other gate and down the main road where there were more fine buildings with a great looking Shepherd Neame pub at the bottom. I snapped each building, then went back to the car. Only on the way back did I notice the gates to a grand country house at one end of the square, which turned out to be the gates to Chilham Castle. Somewhere else to visit in the summer once it’s gardens are open in the spring.

Sunshine gives you wings

We ended up heading home instead of seeking more churches to visit, and so it was I found myself on the sofa at a quarter to three in time to listen to the football as per usual. Now, I don’t ask much from life; OK, I do, but one of the things I would love is to see Norwich playing at Wembley in the FA Cup Final one May. Not much, and I thought that as this November will mark my 40th anniversary in going to see them for the first time, this really could be our year. Doubly so as we had drawn non-league Luton Town at home in the 4th round.

Great Tit

City did not play well, but came close a couple of time, but there wasn’t much urgency or class. And then, ten minutes from time, Luton scored. City had chances to level, but I don’t think we really deserved to, and so became the first top flight team to lose to a non-league side since 1989; 24 bloody years. Words fail me. I turned off the radio and avoided all news broadcasts and listening to the radio for the rest of the weekend.

Still nuts

By Sunday morning, the snow had pretty much all gone, and the rain was hammering down again. So, we waited until it stopped, I caught up with some stuff on the radio, then we had an early lunch before packing all the camera gear in the car and heading down into the bay. The sky was clear blue, and the wind was brisk, so I was hoping to see some good waves on the beach, but the wind had calmed since dawn, and there were no white horses to be seen, and what waves just rolled onto the beach.

Life's a beach

Still, it felt glorious to be out, and I took shots of the scene as well as plenty of the patterns in the beach caused by the retreating water.

Next we headed to the Blariot Monument to see if there were any birds around; we saw just the usual mix, but we stopped just to get some shots, as the ones I took last time did not seem sharp and I wanted to check that there was nothing wrong with the camera or lens. All seemed well, so we then headed over to Whitfield to visit the small parish church which I had tried to find before.

St Peter’s is on the edge of the village, overlooking open fields towards Deal; in design it is very similar to Waldershare, and I could not wait to get inside. And for the third time that weekend I was thwarted by another locked door. Sigh.

So, I snapped it from all angles along with a couple of grave markers, before we got back in the car and went to see the old folk.

Tony has rheumatism, and is on pills which has swollen his fingers. He was picking up dropped tobacco from the floor, he wasn’t going to give up! Anyway, other than that,. Just the usual stuff, and when Jen came in she told us dozens of time not to tell her the Andy Murray result as she had recorded it. As you know, he lost in four sets, but did very well in the matches leading to the final.

And just like that, the weekend came to an end, and we found ourselves preparing for another working week. But for both of us, just a four day week. The reason why will become clear in due course.

Sunday, 27 January 2013

Sunday 27th January 2013

Thursday promised to be something of an unusual day in Denmark in that we were expected to see sunshine. Now, sunshine in Denmark, in the depth of winter is something unusual.

After breakfast I went out to the car, scraped the ice of the screen, and headed off to the office on the other side of town. And as i worked away, the sky cleared and the sun came out, and it looked glorious outside. I thought no more of it and just enjoyed seeing the vibrant colours of what I could see of the countryside.

As we gathered to leave off at half four, the Danes amongst us and remarked that their smart phones predicted night temperatures of minus twenty degrees. Now, minus twenty is an altogether different level of cold that I am used to.

I guess I should say, that that I don't believe it got much below minus 11, but that is still very cold indeed. And I thought there would be nothing better than just staying in the hotel and eating burger in the restaurant, as dull and uninteresting as that might seem.

But, Jesper and the rest thought we should head into town and sit down together, drink beer and eat meat.

So, at half six we met in reception, and after donning an extra couple of layers, we walked out into the winter wonderland. And heading into town meant walking down the steep set of steps beside the hotel, which was tricky as no one had cleared any steps. Some of us coped better, my old boss had his sensible work shoes on, with no tread on them, and he hung on grimly as we walked down to street level. In truth, I did little better as I was worried a fall onto my glass back would do it no good.

So, we got down, and walked through the deserted centre of town, and found our way to 'Meat and Wine' or Mog od Vin or something. Another buffet place, and another meat-only buffet.

We were shown into a separate area from where nice families and couples were alrteady eating; maybe our reputation preceded us? So, we all got beers and went to fill our plates. And repeated until we were all full. That we did not get refills until we had to go and chase the waiter and ask meant I hope got no tip, but the project manager was paying, so it was his call.

After eating, we went back outside, I felt bloated and the last thing I wanted was more beer and schnapps in Barry's. So, all bar Jesper and Bavo bailed and headed back to the hotel, and glad I was too to get back inside and sit beside the radiator and thaw my feet and hands out.

There is something oddly beautiful the way smoke rises on a bitterly cold but windless morning. I looked outside, and the wizzard's power station was pumping purple smoke out, and the column went right over the hotel; in the sky, a pale pink colour could be seen. It looked mighty cold out there.

I had breakfast, packed and then paid my bill. Out at the car the windscreen was covered in a thick layer of ice, which could not be scraped. I started the car and turned the blowers on. It made no difference to the screen. I scraped some more and cleared a small hole in the ice, which I could see enough to drive. I'm sure the police had they seen me might have had different views. But, I had a rozzer-free trip.

The display read minus ten, but once the car warmed up, it read minus five, then four. Which meant that I did not put much store in what it said, but it was cold enough.

I had to drive down to Esbjerg to have a meeting, so i headed back down to motorway, then took a right turn and in doing so crossed the country to a port the other side. This is where we are going to build our lovely new turbines, and then load them onto a ship, so there is some panic (ha) as worktime approaches.

As I neared the coast, there was some lovely freezing fog to add to the cold weather mix; it made the landscape look beautiful, and trees were covered in an inch thick coating of hoar frost.

I made it to the meeting, and we talked and discussed issues with the upcoming panic, sorry, work. Imagine our surprise when we were told that the others who worked in the warehouse told us we would have to vacate the building at one as they were going to have a long weekend. No really.

So, i said goodbye, got back in my car and set off for Billund, arriving at the airport just in time for my flight some four hours before my flight was due. I had burger and fries along with a huge beer as I waited. And once through security I had another beer as I read the Stephen Fry's book.

The flight left on time, and all of Europe was soon laid out below me as the beers took effect and I fell asleep as the meal was being served. We lumped and bumped our way back onto the ground at London City. And then it was back into a London rush hour to get to Stratford in order to catch the train back to Dover. Everyone was wrapped up like they were about to make the final push towards the South Pole, I had just a t shirt and my thin fleece on, and that undone.

And like that, the week was over and now the weekend lay ahead. Hoorah.

Saturday, 26 January 2013

Saturday 26th January 2013

Thursday 24th January.

It is a cold, crisp but sunny morning here in Randers, Denmark. The gauge in the car read minus eight this morning, and it did feel mighty cold. But we have good heating in the offices, too good really, as I am thinking that despite it being before nine, I could really do with a nice snooze.

Monday night, I went down to the restaurant for an early meal, as my old RAF buddy, Shaggy, was coming to the hotel to meet and have a beer or two. And collect the Bovril and Marmite he had requested I bring over. Seems that Marmite is actually illegal in Denmark, or cannot be sold for some reason, so he hand his family rely on friends bringing supplies over.

We also had a couple of beers, whilst discussing trains, home brewing and life in general. It does make a pleasant start to the working week…..

Tuesday, the office was almost deserted, as there was the first day of team building taking place, so I plugged away getting stuff done and drinking lots of coffee. At half four I headed back to the hotel, just to put the computer back on again so to listen to the radio. Outside, the Randers rush hour kicked into action, and I could hear the rumble of traffic well into the evening.

At seven, I went down to the restaurant, and resisted the burger and fries and had sensible jagerschnitzel and vegetables. I do try to act like an adult on occasions. Between courses I tried to get into the Stephen Fry autobiography, the first part which I have yet to read. It is great stuff, but a sparse number of diners meant the food coming quickly.

Once back in my room, I lay on the bed and listened to the radio, and at a quarter to nine followed the text of the League Cup game on the BBC website, as it is impossible to listen to the commentary due to access rights. Even with just the text, it was exciting to watch as Bradford knocked out Aston Villa at the quarter final stage, despite Villa throwing everything at them in the first half.

Oh well.

And so to Wednesday; and the day of team building. It is a worrying thing when you see team building on the agenda, it could mean almost anything from death by powerpoint to having to build a bridge across an imaginary river. And anything inbetween. Thankfully, it was much nearer the former, as we discussed issues facing us all, and how we should tackle them and in due course improve the service for our customers. There was much coffee and cakes to eat as we talked, and a full meal at lunchtime. It does seem that team building builds big appetites.

At half three we all pack up, with actions agreed, and get in a convoy of cors to head to a nondescript building on the other side of town for some fun. Anyway, five cars in convoy, with only the lead car with an idea of where we were going, could we all get through the multiple traffic lights and junctions all together so none of us get lost? Yes, so it turns out. We all arrive and pile out at Segway World.

Yes, Segway World; a place where you are trained and then let loose on a Segway. We put on a helmet, gloves and elbow pads, and then are talked through the machine, then allowed to get on one and see if we can control it in a small pen. Once we could prove we could go forward, backwards, rurn and stop, we were allowed to go on the various courses and then have some fun.

IN a surprise, I did get the hang of it, after some moments of doubt early on, and was soon whizzing around at the max speed of 15km/h, which did seem much faster; up and round the testing course, over the bridge and down again. Yes, it was fun, but half an hour was long enough of fun before it became a little repetitive.

Another convoy, this time into the centre of Arhus, to a new restaurant for more team bonding and lots of food. Flammen ins a BBQ place, where there really is no point in a vegetarian going, as their main selling point is 12 different sorts of meat to choose from. We ate well, but there is only so much meat one can eat, and I was feeling sleepy.

So, back to the car and back up the road for half an hour back to Randers, it was still early enough to grab a beer as I went to my room, and then chill out by doing just what I had done the night before, football on the radio via text and the Radcliffe and Maconie show whilst I stretched out on the bed. All of Denmark was a buzz yesterday for the world cup of handball semi-final, and the staff at the hotel could not understand thaet maybe we would not want to watch it.

So, less than two days in Denmark now, and thoughts turn to the weekend and what we might do… I would say that there will be photography involved at some point…..

Oh yes,

Friday, 25 January 2013

Friday 25th January 2013

Of course, only an idiot would think of travelling to Denmark on Monday morning. Sadly, I have a week of meetings to go through, and a team bonding day all day on Wednesday (see, my blood went chill at the mere mention of team bonding). A visit to Esbjerg possibly on Friday before flying home.

I can say that there is less snow here than in England, but snow does make the East End look beautiful; something which, until this morning, I would have thought impossible.

We got up this morning, checked the trains, the planes, the airport; it all seemed fine. I had breakfast, packed. Well, repacked as I had forgotten to close my case so it all spilled out when I picked it up. We drove to the station and my train was waiting already. I got my ticket and got on board.

Due to conditions the top speed was reduced, so we rattle along beside the M20, and then up to the Medway before plunging under the Thames into Essex. Traffic looked very light at Dartford; I thought many decided not to bother with work today, pity I couldn’t.

At Stratford, the DLR was waiting, and five minutes later, headed out. We passed through the Olympic park, now being dismantled, and looking a little forlorn. Anyway, we did that good, didn’t we?

I got out at the airport, printed out my boarding pass, queued to hand in my bag. And that is when it all went pear-shaped.

There were queues, but that was to be expected, right? But it didn’t look too bad, there was no long queue for security as usual. But, my plane wasn’t leaving from London City, it was leaving from Stanstead.

My heart sank; a coach trip through the gridlocked streets of East London and then up the M11, if it wasn’t closed due to an accident, and then finding a gate, checking in my bag (I had been given it back). So, I grabbed another breakfast along with a huge coffee. At quarter to ten we were lead out to the bus, and after a wait we set off through the traffic.

And that is how I saw how beautiful East London was in the snow; side streets were snowbound, and pedestrians sliding along on the pavements. We headed along the North Circular, then up the motorway. All was going well until we got to the airport, then we had to work out where we had to go.

We all stood around the departures board looking for our flight, and could see nothing. Then, a voice from above over the tannoy told us to go to desk 56. We did, checked in. Again. And then had to go through security. Now, we had been given hand-written boarding cards to get us through security, which raised some questions from the one guy who did not know about our flight. We had been told to make our way to gate 11, but you do like to check. There was no mention at all.

So, passing by the delights of the bars and restaurants, I took the shuttle train to the gate, at least there were others off the bus in the train, so we would be all getting it wrong!

Once at gate 11, there was a confirmation tannoy announcement, we were allowed through, down the steps and out onto the apron and onto the tiny plane. Once we were all on, all 15 of us, the captain explained that coming to Stanstead meant leaving at midday, had they waited to get into London City there would only now be leaving Denmark. So, only two hours and ten minutes late, the engines started and we were revered out.

And that is it, really. We took off, flew to Billund. I got by case, picked up the hire car and drove the 77 miles to Randers and now I’m in the hotel. Just like normal…..

I did read a bit of the Daily Hate Mail over the guy in front of me’s shoulder on the flight. Seems like yesterday, an old edition of a kid’s show was aired which had a depiction of Jimmy Savile. Not him but one of tha characters dressed up as him doing an impression ; this dated from 2001. A mistake, any kid watching would not have known, a few parents maybe. But this was used as another big stick to beat the BBC with, one of several as it turned out. Corrupting young kid’s minds ran the editorial. This coming from a paper whose online version describes a 14 year old’s curves as she models a bikini. How’s that for double standards?

Another thing that happened over the weekend that horsemeat was found in some economy beefburgers. Now, this is clearly not good, but it’s not the end of the world, and all offending product was removed from the shelves. But it turns out that packs of these burgers, 8 for £1, had been sold by several of the big stores as well as the German bargain ones. Thing is, if you’re buying a pound of beefburger for a quid, some corners are going to be cut; no? I mean, you’re not going to get ground fillet steak, are you?
If you can buy a pair of jeans for £4 in Tesco, then someone along the supply chain is getting paid peanuts. You couldn’t buy the material for that price let alone have something to wear….

Best I don’t tell you the horror stories from the chicken factory then? How do you think chicken went from becoming the most expensive meat to the cheapest? Mass production and cutting corners of course, but we like to live in ignorance don’t we, happy that we got a bargain rather than some yokel was working his fingers to the bone trussing half frozen pullets for minimum wage just so you can have a chicken for less than £4.

Probably just as well you don’t know how those ready meals are made either……

Bon appetite!

Sunday, 20 January 2013

Sunday 20th January 2013

Good evening.

For my entertainment this afternoon I have cleared six inches of the snow from the drive. Early next morning I must go to Denmark; if the trains are running: and if the planes are flying. So, rather than do it in the morning, I cleared the snow away tonight.

Station Road

That assumes that the snow is going to stop at some point. It hasn't really stopped since about half seven this morning, and it has piled up. I have seen heavier snow, but not in England, and not for so long.

Morning has broken

Anyway, the drive is clear; I have scattered rock salt, and now am back inside listening to the football on the radio and drinking tea. The cats must be wondering what is going on outside with the garden now hidden under a very deep blanket of snow, and none of them really happy about going outside, except when nature calls.

Run with the Fox

And the weather really has curtailed our activity yesterday and certainly today.

Shoot the snow

We went out at dawn yesterday to see what was abroad, and to take shots. The main road out of the village was snow and ice free, but the fields were covered in show. We just walked along to the main road, and back down our street to where the houses end to look at the wonderfully bleak view over to Kingsdown.

Station Road, St Margaret's-at-Cliffe

My back has been painful again, and went into full complaining mode at this point, so we headed back inside for second breakfast and another strong cup of coffee.

Station Road, St Margaret's-at-Cliffe

After lunch we headed into to Dover to Jools' brother's to help him bottle a batch of cider we prepared last week. The roads, at least the main ones were clear, and once the cider was bottled and capped, we headed back home so I could listen to the footy.


Oh, the pain: a 5-0 thrashing at Liverpool was the Yellow Army's reward for a seven hour trip to Merseyside in the snow. That hurt for sure. Only one point gained since the middle of December is not good and needs addressing.

Convoy CT15

So, in the evening we had five episodes of Great British Railway Journeys to watch, so it was train-porn evening.

Rhino with a brain the size of a peanut.

And today: The snow began at half seven and has not let up. We went out twice to check on the roads, and to take pictures. Then came back. A day in which not a lot happened.

Steak and chips for dinner, and as I'm hungry, I'm going to go and start cooking.

See you next weekend.....

Friday, 18 January 2013

Friday 18th January 2013

And I left you last time with me deciding to head back to the hotel to do some work. I knew it would take nearly an hour to walk to the hotel, so I thought i would find a taxi. I mean, how hard could that be?

I walked to the centre of the town and see a sign for 'taxis'. so, I follow it to a crossroad in the pedestrianised main part of town. A sign pointed down a street, and another down an alleyway to almost back where I had begun. I saw bis stops, but no taxi rank. I try to flag several down, but none stop. An ancient Mercedes taxi sat on the other side of the street, but nowhere did it say taxi rank.

I try to flag one last taxi down, and he tells me to go see the Merc driver, by this time the driver had worked out I wanted a cab and so moved up towards me. I throw my bags in the back seat and climb in, and we lurch off.

It dropped me off at would be best to describe as a small castle; a château maybe. The Abbey Hotel is set in the grounds of Furness Abbey, and the main part of the hotel is rather wonderful; all wood panelling and fine art. So I walked in dragging my small case and wearing my steel toe-capped boots. A little out of place.

I checked in and was shown to my room; no four-poster, but a room with fine views down to the abbey. I take out my laptop and try to log onto the internet.

And that's when the fun really began. I could get the hotel network, but local only; no internet. I try and try again. I call reception; the lady who answered didn't know. 'It should just work' she said rather unhelpfully.

I worked offline as much as I could. A long time later, the internet was available, and so all I had to do was log onto the VPN network and all would be peachy. Only, no e mails were coming in. I waited and waited.

The taxi driver had told me about a good real ale pub nearby, so I thought I would seek it out. Having no smart phone now, I checked a map online and thought I knew the route. But as I discovered that is very well as long as you set off from the point you thought was the same as the one on the map. Turns out I was about a half mile out.

Instead of the pub I found a hospital. A large hospital. In truth, it wasn't really lost. Beside it was a modern housing estate; no ancient real ale pub there. It was cold, very cold. So I walked back to the hotel, ordered a beer and looked at the menu.

And so ended another day in the go-ahead world of Quality. Next day dawned cold and cloudy. As we had a nine thirty start, once awake I laid in bed for nearly two hours watching it get light outside and listening to Radio 4. This is why we went through punk in '76?

anyway, I went down for breakfast only to find the staff moving furniture round me as I sit down; is this the wrong time? I have salmon and scrambled eggs and leave sharpish before my chair is moved, with me on it, outside.

Graeme picked me up at nine and we braved the one way system in the town centre. Twice. As a wrong turn means going all the way round again.

So, we arrive; do the audit and then talk turns to snow. The opinion is Graeme and I should leave that afternoon to avoid snowmageddon which is being forecast for Friday.

Barrow in Furness station

Graeme takes me to the hotel, I throw my things in the case and after checking out he drops me off at the station, and at half one I'm rattle back to the mainland.


and so, getting off at Lancaster, changing onto a southbound train to Euston. A walk along Euston Road, a bit of a wait for the Dover train to arrive then scramble for a seat, and then into the darkness and on to home. I was back home by ten to eight, and sitting down with Jools for scotch eggs and salad and a huge cuppa.

Tomorrow is snow day; it had better as I missed out on Tandoori rump of lamb to go home.

Thursday, 17 January 2013

Thursday 17th January 2013

Hello and welcome to Barrow in Furness. I have no idea what a Furness is, but we are in it.

With Barrow.

Barrow is situated on a headland at the north end of Morecombe Bay (possibly), it takes a 55 minute train ride to go from Preston to Carnforth onto the peninsular and then across two lots of mudflats to Barrow. I am here to do an audit tomorrow and am in a hotel in the grounds of Furness Abbey. It is very nice and not for the like of me in my workgear.

I wish I had stopped off at Carnforth for an hour, as it is where Brief Encounter was filmed, and it is a very nostalgic station. But I only thought of that as the train pulled out and I saw the wonderful looking station café on the other platform. Another time then?

Grange over Sands looks as hard and bleak as granite, but worth a return visit if only for the views over the salt flats I guess. It looks wonderfully bleak, if you know what I mean?

Anyway, I am here with more people on the train warning me about the strong possibility of getting my lights punched out in a town centre pub. I certainly got some hard stairs as I wandered around taking photographs, but I remain punch-free for now.

It was very dark when we woke up at a quarter to six, but the room was illuminated by the pale blue light that indicated snow had fallen. We had a couple of inches and it was still falling. We got dressed, had breakfast and then I went outside to move the car from the drive an onto the road. I put in my luggage and we headed out.

A lorry had jack-knifed at the bottom of Station Road, so we had to turn round and try to get to the top of the hill and onto the Deal Road from there. It took a couple of minutes of sliding and wheel spinning, but we got to the top and cruised to the junction: and then along the Deal Road and into Dover. Almost a blizzard was blowing, and I doubted any trains would be running. But a Javelin was waiting, and I got on it and a couple of minutes later it pulled out on time.

The snow petered out by Folkestone, and apart from patchy fog sweeping in, it was an uneventful trip to London. I had an extra half hour as I had caught an earlier train, so went to Kings Cross to see how the station clearance was going and to snap the scene, before heading Down Euston Road to the station and to wait for the train north to be called.

I saw the platform number go up on the sign, I move towards the platform and am in full stride as the announcement is made. I am second at the barrier and, well I won’t say run, but walk quickly to the first of the unreserved standard class carriages and bag one with a table and a fine window. The carriage only ends up being less than half full, and I had all four seats and the table to myself. And 20 seconds early we pull out into the winter morning.

There was some snow around Milton Keynes, and thick fog too in places. But most of all were naked trees with branches bleached white with hoar frost all along the route, or at least until 11 when it must have warmed up outside. It was glorious to see, and I wanted the train to stop so I could get shots. But couldn’t of course.

I got off at Lancaster, and my connecting train arrived, and soon the expanse of the bay spread out on the left hand side of the train. In the distance the peaks of the Pennines were white with snow, it looked magical. After an hour of trundling along, we pulled into Barrow and after snapping the station, I headed out into the town.

The town is like any other in Northern England, I guess; it is suffering from the economic downturn, and there are a number of closed shops. Even a discount Supermarket has closed and is boarded up. Most of the pubs look hard as nails, like the one in Pottersville; only to get people drunk. Fast. Maybe I’m wrong, but they didn’t look inviting.

So, I snapped some stuff, and at the town hall found a place to eat and had a salad and some spicy pasta and a beer.

Time then to find a taxi and take me to the hotel and maybe get some work done.

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Tuesday 15th January 2013

in an attempt to enliven a dull week, I will be attempting to travel by train from the ice fields of Kent to Barrow in Furness tomorrow. I say ice fields, that should read potential ice fields of Kent, as all we have right now is the promise of ‘some’ snow overnight and into tomorrow. Southeastern Railways have suggested they cannot guarantee any services until tomorrow and they can assess the situation.

Let me say that the snow forecast is maybe an inch or so, and already the train companies are preparing for an abandonment of timetables services. Temperatures are expected to plunge to almost freezing point, so that must mean no train services at least until the weekend.

I know we say this every year, that how totally unprepared Britain is for the outbreak of winter. Can we really be so crap at this? I guess we must be.

On the offchance of reaching Barrow, I have booked a hotel, and am really looking forward to another trip up the West Cast mainline to Lancaster and then onto Barrow. Barrow is famous for having a very tasty bus station and a nuclear submarine shipyard. So, plenty of folks glowing in the dark with extra heads.

I have been warned that the locals can be a bit punchy, and to be careful in local pubs. Hmmmm. So, we shall see how that all goes. At least now we can virtually visit anywhere in the world thanks to Google Street View, and it looks like a normal town to me, just stuck out in the Irish Sea. But, hey, it’s going to be an adventure.


Morning has broken

Last night then; no snow, no fox to watch out the living room either. We did head to my brother-in-laws as we are helping them brew their first batch of home brew cider. If truth be known, I did not feel like going out last night, but we did go. And having remembered everything except a hydrometer. A quick phone call to a friend meant we did not have to go home to get ours, and after checking the gravity it was found to still be too high; just as well we didn’t just get on and bottle it as probably the bottles would have gone pop.

The Path

Or boom.

So we sat round, drinking tea and swapping news. Sometimes it is good to have a change in scenery.

Elsewhere I have been looking for anti-allergenic pillows and sheets; such is the rock and roll lifestyle I lead these days, might even get a new vacuum cleaner too. Steady on, there.

Fields of snow

In the real world, another High Street name appears to be heading down the toilet; HMV has called in administrators, and might well go to the wall. HMV is 91 years old, and is the last of the High Street chain of record shops. I should feel a pang of regret; and do for those that are going to lose their jobs, but is it really a surprise? We buy online or download music now, and it is seen as being a pretty disposable commodity in the 21st century. Maybe a backlash against tax-dodging Amazon will boost sales for those shops which might be saved, or it might just be delaying the inevitable.

Monday, 14 January 2013

Monday 14th January 2013

Good evening; welcome to Monday. And at least it is nearly over. And if you are reading this in NZ (Hi, Tony) it is already tomorrow. Outside, it has turned from a winter wonderland into the usual grey and damp winter’s day that are so typical of a winter in England.

Yes, we woke up this morning to find several flakes of snow had fallen and turned our dull and grey neighbourhood into a scene from Santa’s grotto. During the day, snow flurries turned into sleet which is now just plain, everyday rain. It may snow again tonight, which could make the trip into the office tomorrow morning interesting. By interesting, I mean screaming obscenities at other drivers for their stupidity.

GWUK #613 The Drellingore at Alkham, Kent

So, the weekend is your oyster; what are you going to do to fill it up? Oh yes, chase streams that only appear once every seven years. The alternative route from Dover to Folkestone takes you along the Alkham Valley. Like all vallies, it must have been formed by water, but now you come to mention it, there is no river or stream running along it to explain the erosion.

Kearsney Abbey

When the water table gets high enough, a spring, a winterbourne flows along the valley. According to local lore the Drellingore flows one every seven years. In reality this happens only when there is enough water via the water table. It comes as no surprise after last year’s rain that most winterbournes in East Kent are in full flow at the moment.

The Drellingore at Alkham, Kent

My plan was to head to Alkham to snap the Drellingore, then maybe head to Barham to snap the Nailbourne. Before then, Jools had to have a haircut, so we were in the centre of Dover for half eight, then by nine parking up in Alkham marvelling at the dry culvert, or normally dry culvert was two feet deep in a torrent of water. We snapped it, then went out onto the main road to snap the whole scene before heading to Barham.

The Drellingore at Alkham, Kent

In an odd move, the bourne to the north of Barham was dry, but south of the village it was two feet deep and flowing well. We ended up in Lyminge, as I thought Jools might like to see the wonderful church there. Turns out it is my favourite Kentish church and she was not with me when I visited it a few years back.

Lyminge Parish Church of St Mary & St Ethelburga

Anyway, we found the Priest Door open, with a warden giving it a polish. So we take our shots and after some fine chit-chat move on. We do stop of at another church, but I shall not reveal its identity, as it is the subject of a GWUK on Flickr, and folks have begun to read these words. So no clues, guys.

We ended up heading home for lunch and then me snoozing on the sofa whilst I pretended to listen to the football on the radio. Before settling down to a long hard serious session of scanning family photographs. Norwich struggle to a 0-0 draw with Newcastle, and so are without a league win since before Christmas. I cook steak and ale pie for dinner which goes down very well.

Chaffinch (m)

Sunday, we should have gone to London to snap steam trains on the Underground. I baulked at the cost and what could very well have been a waste of time on a whole day of our weekend. I think we chose right, seeing a team locomotive on the tube would have been great, but little chance of getting any shots. What with the threat of snow hanging over the whole country, we decided to stay in Dover and maybe have a lay in.


During the week we had taken delivery of a couple of bean bags with which to support our cameras when we were snapping wildlife, so we went out to the Monument to snap the birds. I think the shots were better which justified the cost of the bags. Our plan to head out to the beach at Samphire Hoe to have a look at the Lydden Spout (another bourne) went unfulfilled as it was cold outside and we stayed inside and I fell asleep listening to the football on the radio.

And so ended the weekend.

This morning I had an appointment with the doctor to discuss my blood test results. Seems like I am just allergic to dust, and so there is no drugs that can be proscribed other than anti-allergy ones. I walked to the surgery over the fields taking shots as I went. And then back home to get back to work on my laptop…….

And finally, another name from the High Street vanished as Jessops closed it's doors for the last time on Friday, it's bankers having run out of patience and added 1600 to the jobless totals.

Your blog comments; an apology

My dear reader(s). Every now and again I go back to see what I was doing in that week in years gone by. Its harmless, and sometimes serves to remind myself how far, or not, I have come.

Anyway, looking back to 2009 and 2010 i see that many people wrote very supportive comments in reply to my posts. And it would appear that I promptly ignored your kind words.

Now, I would like to point out that back then, there was no single page you could review all comments, so you would stumble over comments. Or not.

So, if you have commented in the past, and pissed off because it seems I ignored you, it wasn't like that, honest.

So, if you would like to comment on any comments, please do and i will try to even answer you. Wowzers.

Sunday 13th January 2013

So, the choice to be made on Sunday morning was whether to head to London to see and photograph steam locomotion return to the London Underground for the fist time since 1905.

You might think this was, in fact, no choice at all. However, there would be drawbacks: the main one being the world and his wife had been made aware of the LU 150 celebrations; and so a quick internet search would reveal the route and times.

A trip to london costs something like £76 for the two of us, and that was 2012 prices, it's possibly near a ton now. And then there was going to be the crowds and the thought that a trip to London to see a train pass could mean getting into a ruck with hundreds of other photographers, and maybe not seeing anything at all.

So, we decided to stay home in Dover, save our money. Am I really getting that sensible now?

Friday, 11 January 2013

Friday 11th January 2013

On the 12th of January 2009 I was ‘let go’ by the box company I had been working for. At the time, to be turned down for what was a job only paying the minimum wage seemed to be the final straw. Although it was never going to be the final straw. But at the same time neither Jools or myself saw it as my dream job, just something to do until another, better job came long. I suppose that is what the box company thought, and why I was not kept on.

Thankfully, those dark days seem so very long ago. Hearing my old friend, Dick, getting a job, even if was for BA in Saudi, it meant that I felt I was being left behind. But, things did get better, if took a couple of months, but I found this job.

What it did do was make me go through the whole unemployment system, feeling like a piece of worthless crap as each two weeks you had to justify that you tried to find work hard enough to justify your dole. In practice it wasn’t that bad, but then that is exactly what happened. To show how tiny-minded the system was, I found this job, and was due to start on a Monday, but I was due to go through a morning of lectures to help me improve my job-finding chances. That I had a job already meant that this was a waste of my time, and a waste of their time and money. But I was told that if I did not attend my money would be stopped and I would lose three days dole money. Gain a day in which to do ‘stuff’ or go to the course.

I stayed home and lost three days money and gained a sense of satisfaction. But it does show how tightly rules have to be applied and that there is no room for common sense. Oh well.

So, after another tough day at the coalface, during which I was told:

1. I was not going to be site assistant on the project in Belgium (a waste of my skills)
2. Was told, in not so many words, that I was getting promoted.

Now, I have a feel it’s one of those modern promotions with more responsibilities and less money, but that I might have minions to order around and do my bidding is an odd one. How did it come to this? Anyway, that is in the future, maybe the second half of the year. Before then there is much to do (no, really). I have trips planned to Barrow in Furness, Denmark (for a change) and later to Sweden. And that’s just work!

In our spare time, i.e. weekends there are many things to see and do; beer festivals, steam on The Underground, more churches, pubs and all that fun stuff. So, I am enjoying these days when I still go into the office in Ramsgate, which is nice, especially to be home by five and have the whole evening with Jools and the cats. But things do change, and it means getting out to new places, places which I can then photograph. Perfect.

Anyway, there I was preparing dinner last night; nothing complicated; scotch eggs, coleslaw and lots of Piccalilli, which is just perfect. In fact how did I reach the age of 47 without eating Piccalilli? We’re both making up for lost time. Anyway, the phone rings, and it’s the doctor’s receptionist. I have to make an appointment, as my blood tests are in, and my allergy levels are high. Well, I wish I could say I was surprised, but six months of flu and colds, or the symptoms of them says that, clearly something was up.

So, anyway, I had an appointment to see the quack on Monday to see what can be done. Until then I’ll keep taking the drugs!

Watching two hours of astronomy on TV last night might have been a little much, especially as there was three more hours over the two previous nights; I can say, space is brilliant, time is brilliant, space-time is brilliant and this is just what we pay our TV licence for! Anyway, it was brilliant. And the brilliant Dr Brian Cox was on it, and he was brilliant.

And so to the weekend and all what it may bring. Huzzah!

Thursday, 10 January 2013

Thursday 10th January 2013

The week slips by and we find it is Thursday with even half of that having already passed.

Once home last night, I refilled the bird table with seeds and peanuts, scattered mealworms on the ground then went upstairs, got changed and went for a session on the cross trainer. I am enthused now that my back does not ache much at all now, and I don’t want to go back to walking around all hunched like an old man.

Anyway, I do half an hour, with Scully laying on the spare bed, apparently thinking when is this bloke going to stop so I can get some decent sleep? The poor love had just had dinner and needed her power snooze.

Anyway, so after I cooked dinner (chorizo hash), we sat down to watch Brian Cox, Dr Brian Cox on TV where he was going to run through the last 13.7 billion years of creation, and where the Corby Trouser Press fits into nature’s grand plan. Or something like that. So, we were sitting there, looking at the science-porn on TV when I noticed some movement in the front garden.

Urban Fox

And there, eating away from the bird table was a fox. We daren’t breathe, as Jools was only about four feet away from it, but with a window in the way. But the fox knew we were there and just carried on eating. In time it wandered off, only to return half an hour later and finish off what was left on the bird table. And to think we were excited when a badger came, now we have a fox.

Can’t wait until the local elephant comes round to hoover up some peanuts……

And then this afternoon I was told by my boss I would no be doing menial jobs like i did on the last project, oh no, i will be managing my own little army of mini-mees, giving orders and generally being a pain in the bum. Or maybe I won't have anyone to 'manage' but it sounds cool to me; being valuable means not being sacked.

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

Wednesday 9th January 2013

On Monday afternoon, Mark Radcliffe said on his radio show on BBC 6music, that the one thing he wished for this year was hearing something new from David Bowie. Oh yes, the Thin White Duke, wonder what he is doing now, we pondered and then moved on to thinking about something else.

I got up Tuesday morning, and over breakfast powered up the laptop only to find the twitterverse going bonkers. January 8th is Bowie’s birthday, and with no warning he has recorded a new song. Which is going to be the new single. And there is a video for the single. Which you can watch now. And the single is taken from the new album. Which is out in March.

I clicked on the link, and there is the video and watched it through. Typical Bowie, cut up lyric, odd video. All about Berlin. I’m looking forward to hearing his song about Grimsby though.

Anyway, the major news outlets were told at seven, and they went crazy; even Radio 4 played the song. They got Robert Peston to talk about it. Because we want to know what he has to say about the record. In fact Today was still banging on about it this morning.

Although it was clearly a major event (in music), it wasn’t earth-shattering, it isn’t going to make us all feel richer or cure cancer. And in truth, rather than being one step ahead of the crowd, it seems a step back; produced by Tony Visconti, it seems to be more a Low era recording than Earthling. However, it is a new Bowie song; he is alive, looking well if older, which applies to just about everyone, even Cher.

Elsewhere, it has been much the same as ever. I did manage to get to work yesterday with the wrong set of key, so not able to get into my desk to work. *Sigh* So, I drove home, got the right bunch and drove back. The second trip into the office was fine, just with lots more traffic.

I am getting back into the fitness thing, two nights already this week on the cross trainer, and I think I feel my back getting better. Although, Scully does not seem to appreciate having her main snooze of the day interrupted by me singing along as I pump lard. I just have to make sure I keep it up now.

The BBC held the first of two specials on starwatching last night, and in the great tradition of such things it was wet and cloudy the whole two hours; looking down, Sir Patrick would have smiled as this affected him on more than one occasion.

The Coalition government is just over halfway through its 5 years, and after declaring that everything was ‘OK’ in a joint press conference, Dave and Nick sounding more like a couple about to go to relate. On Tuesday, a vote was taken in keeping benefit payments down to a 1% rise over the next three years, this meaning those claiming will be suffering a cut in real terms. This comes after tory after tory chastised strivers over skivers, saying that those in work should not have smaller increases than those who are not. Turns out that just 3% of the benefit budget is spent on the unemployed, and fraudulent claims account for just 0.3% of all claims, yet the war on the old, sick, disabled and out of work goes on and on. And sadly the LibDems look on, mute, with just a rebellion by two MPs who voted against. I guess it must look good in the Editorials in the Torygraph or the Hate Mail.

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

Tuesday 8th January 2013

Have you ever Googled your name?

For the John Smith’s amongst you that is a pretty pointless thing to do, because how would you know which one was you? What then for those of us with a more unusual name?

I am such who is blessed, or cursed, with an unusual name. A quick Google search will reveal just the two of us; there is one who is a person who does charity runs, rates double glazing installers and is ‘looking for new challenges’ on Linkedin. Then there is me: international Playboy and Quality Expert, photographer, music geek, blogger and freelance booze rater.

The other guy only came on line in the last 18 months, so if you look through Google much of that stuff is me; all the albums on Amazon I have rated, the booze I have rated, comments on the BBC website and all the other stuff I did before I grew up and joined the adult world and left the RAF!

Take the name John Harrison; which of these below is John?

The inventor of the marine chronometer,
The baddie in the new Star Trek film,
JT i sued to work with at RAF Coltishall,
HV SAP on the Thanet windfarm project?

Answer is all of them or course. And I am sure that if I were to Google John Harrison I would find many, many more. I'm sure there are even more John Smiths than there are John Harrisons so they don't have the problem I have that when they Google their own name they will usually find someone else, whereas I Google my name and I find myself. Or the other bloke.

You will also find my online name I use on most sites; I share that with a type of fishing lure; so it’s either me or fish bait! The alternate spelling version I sometimes use is because I forgot my password using the original spelling back in 1999 when setting up my first e mail account; I ten got control of that back when the time limit ran out.

I mention all this stuff because, as was pointed out on a Radio 4 show last night, the internet does not forget. Everything you have ever done online is still there, and not just in the place you did it, as it is backed up on servers all round the planet. And it is very hard to get it deleted. Very hard. Delete it in one place and it lives on somewhere else. Although my Facebook account has been deleted, it still exits somewhere as it shows up on the first few pages of a Google search, so I guess Facebook does not delete all their data, and might even be keeping it. Potential employers now do a trawl online to see if what you might have said in your application was true, or what you really get up to in your time off.

What is clear too is that if someone writes something untrue about you, there is very little you can do about it. You might be able to get it deleted if you have the cash to take it through the courts, but it is probably searchable from rather than The question is, or the point is, should the internet be allowed to ‘forget’.

If it is to be allowed, then what should it have to remember, i.e. not be allowed to be deleted. Anyway, you can listen to the show here for the next 6 days:

Monday, 7 January 2013

Tales of winters past

It is the beginning of the first week of January and outside all is grey, dull and mild. I think this winter we have seen one morning of frost and not a hint, at least in Kent, of snow. There can be no little doubt about that winters have been getting milder over the years. And anyway, I got thinking about the most severe winters Britain has had since the war.

1963 was the one my Mother told me about and how bad it was; looking at the Wiki entry, it suggests that December 1962 was cold, with snowfalls through the month, but it began in earnest on Boxing Day. More snow arrived on the 29-30th, with drifts in the west country some 20 feet deep. January was the coldest month in the 20th century. The sea froze for a mile at Herne Bay in Kent for a mile; Mum also said that the sea froze at Lowestoft. Fears were expressed in Parliament that the Straits of Dover might become blocked with ice.

February saw more snow and gales to drift what snow was laying.

It finally broke on March 6th with a thaw followed by severe flooding.

In 1947, it all began on the 21st of January. Snow and gales swept the country, and even the Scilly Isles were under 7 inches of snow.

February was one of the coldest months on record; the ferry service between Dover and Ostend was suspended due to pack ice(!) In some places, snow fell for 26 out of the 28 days in the month. Coming so soon after the war, food was still rationed, and rations were reduced to below war levels as root vegetables were frozen in the ground. Coal could not be moved on the railways, power was restricted to 19 hours a day, TV was suspended and radio output, reduced. Newspapers were reduced to just four pages and many magazines stopped production.

In March one of the worst blizzards of the 20th century occurred, which left drifts up to 7m deep in places. The cold finally broke on March 10, which brought major floods, and the disruption meant that humanitarian aid had to be supplied to parts of Britain.

I guess my point is this; we are so used to mild winters, no disruption to transport or power that we take it for granted. And yet it can bite here, and can be severe; and can be again. Our food is now transported from one end of the country and back again, most freight goes now by road which is more prone to disruption. It will be interesting to see how Britain coped with such winters in the 21st century. It is estimated that GDP was down by 10% just because of the cold; imagine what that could do to a Britain trying to emerge from a double-dip recession…….

In other news we spent the evenings last week watching documentaries on Queen Victoria and her children. They showed two first about her daughters then sons. She was really shockingly horrid to them, judged them on their looks first, and how like Albert they were. As for their daughters, she seemed jealous of them, and once Albert died wanted to keep as many of them by her side. And all the while writing to all of them criticising them, berating them for perceived weaknesses. Quite how any of them emerged from behind her shadow mentally intact it amazing. But they did, for better or worse.
The last one was on Victoria’s childhood and succession to the throne, and how her Mother and ‘advisor’ tried to steal power that would have come to Victoria had she got the throne before she was 18. That she turned out so similar to her Mother is really quite sad, but all this is possible to discuss as most letters were either kept of transcribed.

I guess this was the last time there was anything like a battle for the crown, and the scheming that could go on in the background; a real game of crowns.

Sunday, 6 January 2013

Sunday 6th January 2013

Hello and welcome to the lark dark teatime of the soul. Or that is how Douglas Adams would have put it, over here at Chez Jelltex, we have been smashing bathrooms. there really is no better feeling than taking a hammer and GS (screwdriver) to bathroom tiles in preparation for the decorating!

Yes, after some four years living in the house on the cliffs we are going to make our mark on the house by getting a new suite, painting the walls, getting a new carpet and getting rid of the bath once and for all.

Its funny, but as this house by far the largest bathroom of any house I have lived in, we are going to create more space by taking the bath out, extending the shower cubicle by maybe 300mm and putting in some shelves! But it should look great. And painting the walls a funky red instead of the eggshell blue they are and ripping the MDF seasfloor scene that the previousowner left.

The Crispin Inn, Sandwich

Though in truth, Jools has already done that, rip out the MDF I mean. So, it is looking, how shall we say, a little untidy. But, yesterday we did go and pick out a shower cubicle, this follows close on the heels of the new toilet and sink we bought during the week. The shelves are on the way from Ikea-land, I think they are called SPARSAM or something. (you should head to to see how stupid names can be). Anyway, we even have chosen a floorcovering. And we agreed on pretty much everything; oh yeas, I forgot about the funky tiles we have chosen for the shower; it's going to look great.

The Crispin Inn, Sandwich

Anyway, that took up much of the morning yesterday; meeting the plumber/bathroom guy, ordering everything, heading to Topps Tiles and both liking the first thing we saw when we walked in the door. That's not how its supposed to be, is it? Or that how it should be, unlike the hassles couples normally have when choosing colours and things.

No Name Shop, No Name Street, Sandwich, Kent

After all that spending we headed to Sandwich to pick up a picture we have had framed; rock and roll. A friend took a flight over St Margaret's, and snapped our house, so he gave me a copy to have printed. And once our our way to Sandwich we both realised we were quite hungry, so as soon as we parked the car we headed to The Crispin Inn for a bite to eat; but the menu looked so interesting we ended up having a meal; lamb shank for Jools and steak and Stilton pie for mee. It was wonderful, and the beer was excellent too.

The Barbican Gate, Sandwich

Afterwards we had a wander round the town, ended up and No Name Shop for more cheese and fresh bread for dinner. And then back via the framers and back home. That afternoon, once back home, I snoozed on the sofa listening to the football; City won at Peterborough in the cup 3-0, and after that, I scanned more family photographs.

And so ended Saturday.

Sunday, we were up with the sparrahs again at half seven; maybe we have this lay-in thing sussed now? Clearly, nature had not listened to the BBC weather forecast and was clear blue (and pink) skies as the sun rose; so we headed to the memorial to feed the birds and snap them.

Morning Sailing

It was just the usual suspects: jays, magpies, blackbirds, chaffinches, robins, dunnocks, great tits, coal tits and small tits; but it is great just to be so close to them when they come down to feed. And sometimes we get to snap them too, if we're quick enough.

Shakespeare Cliff at sunrise

And back up to the cliffs to look at the sea mist and snap the ferries as they come and go. In fact we had been there earlier, as on our way down to the monument, we saw the mist with the sun just rising above it, and it looked glorious. But by the time it took to drive to the National Trust's place on the cliffs the mist had burnt off. This took no more than five minutes.

Thursday, 3 January 2013

Thursday 3rd January 2013

And so the new year continues with the 3rd following hot on the hells of the 2nd; who’d have thought it? Well, those Muppets who really felt the world was going to end on the 21st, like when the guardians of all mankind’s knowledge, The Mayans, did, or didn’t, predict the world would end or was that just the beginning of another long count?

(Have I killed or mortally wounded out mother tongue with the paragraph above? There seems to be a lot of commas in it, too many perhaps. And a semi-colon. Oh well)

The New Year fitness thing has been still-born, as my back has been playing up. Seems that too much cake and turkey sandwiches really mess with your digestion; who knew? So, a crash course in fruit, fruit and more fruit seems to be working. Anyway, we still have about a third of the second cake, plenty more mincemeat for mince pies and sausage meat for rolls. Rather than eating them every day, one a week or something, perhaps?

Being a new year has meant we have seen the sun for three days in a row; at this rate the country will have dried up by the time summer comes round again.

We have bought a new toilet and basin for the bathroom, will buy the new shower tray and door thing this weekend, and we are now discussing colours for the walls and tiles. All exciting stuff I’m sure you’ll agree.

I have to admit, that coming into work yesterday was not easy; dossing around at home, watching TV, messing around on the computer or just going out to take pictures is so easy, and something I could quite happily carry on doing that the rest of my life. I think, therefore, I should start doing the lottery again and in the unlikely event we win than that plan, and “operation travel the world photographing it until its pips squeak” will be on.

There is some good news, today is Thursday and Friday is looming on the horizon, which means more non-work related stuff.

Wednesday, 2 January 2013

Wednesday 2nd January 2013

I used to spend New Year’s Eve with my grandparents as Mum and Dad would go out to frug the night away, or whatever they did in the 70s. It was all drugs back then, I’m sure. When I used to ask to stay up to see the New Year in, Grandma would say that there really was nothing to it, you watch the clock move round to midnight, then carry on as if nothing changed.

For once, she was right. Over the years I have spent the evening in pubs, clubs and once, even on the Royal Mile in Edinburgh. All of them were either spent in a drunken haze or in Edinburgh, frozen solid and unable to find a toilet.

In the 70s, New Year’s Eve would be passed watching Andy Stewart celebrate Hogmanay. Now we have Jools Holland, Alan Carr or some other such TV show to watch. We usually watch Jools, or Piano Blokey as it is fun to call him. Anyway, after the debacle in the Red Lion a couple of years back, New Year is to be seen in at home, on the sofa, with Jools.

New Year’s Eve dawned grey and windy, but would soon turn to what the previous 364 days will be remembered for; rain. It is funny, but in spring a drought was declared in the south of England as there had been so little rain the previous 12 months, and since then it really hasn’t stopped. The drought was lifted sometime in the autumn, probably as most people were bailing their houses and gardens out for the tenth time that year. Or something.

We didn’t get it that bad, not so much rain, and what we do get drains well into the chalk. But our gardens have suffered with too much rain and a plague of snails and slugs. The hedgerows were pretty bare this autumn, the crop of sloes failed almost completely, and so we made no sloe gin.

Once it was light we headed down to Shakespeare Beach to see the waves crashing ashore. The wind was so strong it was hard to stand up at times, but it was worth it as the wind howled and the waves crashed onto the beach and along the Prince of Wales pier. Once we were damp with spray, we headed back home for more warming coffee and another slice of Christmas Cake.

We had some stinky French cheese we had bought in Sandwich before Christmas, as well as some cheese puff things I made with some left over pastry. And beer; lots of beer.

I spent the rest of the afternoon scanning family photographs, laughing at some long-forgotten scene captured on film; dancers frozen in time or a cat in mid leap.

And so the afternoon waned into evening, darkness fell on the last day of 2012. It’s funny, most Christmases, no all Christmases, I think of my two friends, James and Chris, who were killed in 1984 in a car accident, or the moment in 1999 when I walked out on my second wife and her son, or that last Christmas I had with Dad before his heart attack in 1995. But, none of these events crossed my mind at all, not until I realised I had not thought of them. I think they are replaced by newer, better times. Its not that those events matter less to me now; they were major if not earth shattering events that marked massive changes in my life and my growth as a person.

Bad things can happen any day of the year, there was a massive crash on the M6 on Christmas morning; we read the headlines and the details and wonder what their families will make of these events. I remember watching an episode of MASH where they were trying to keep a soldier alive until midnight on Christmas so his family wouldn’t link Christmas to the death of their son. In the end they couldn’t, but changed the date on his death certificate.

We passed New Year’s Eve quietly, and put Piano Blokey on at eleven fifteen. He had various great acts on, including Petula Clarke, who at 80 has a new record out. She sang a version of Gnarls Berkley’s Crazy, and it was wonderful, well worth seeking out when the record comes out. She did a version of Downtown, of course, which is one of my favourite songs, and her version is by far the best. She does good for being 80. Adam Ant was also on, with a new band, and they cut the place up with a new tune version of Antmusic and Stand And Deliver. However, once can’t help thinking his use of a latex dressed backing singer and a voluptuous peroxide female drummer, was this to take attention from Adam who was sporting a fetching Napoleon style tri-cornered hat, in order to hide his bald head. But, he was in fine form, and that is good to see.

And the clocked ticked towards midnight, we raised a glass of Madeira, watched some more of Jools and went to bed.

South Foreland Lighthouse, New Year's Day, 2012

New Year’s day dawned bright and with a clear blue sky. After bacon butties we went out for a walk along the cliffs in the sunshine. It was glorious, and for half an hour we lay in the long grass looking at the sky in the weak sunshine. Below us waves lapped on the base of the cliffs and ferries hurried to and from France.

The Beach

That night we watched the delayed version of the new Year’s concert from Vienna; as there is no better way to celebrate the new year than with a waltz.

Happy New Year, everyone. Have a good one.