Friday, 31 May 2013

Friday 31st May 2013


With even more sun forecast for Monday, it seemed only right to make the most of it by going out orchid hunting at least and then seeing what would be left of the day. I called my friend Gary to see if he would like to tag along, as you can’t beat a good orchid shot. I mean, they’re not going to fly away are they?

So, we set off just after then, heading for the Elham Valley to check on how the Monkey Orchids were coming along. Monkey Orchids are amongst the rarest of the British orchids, and one of the best sites in the country is near where we live. So, a quick blast up the M20, and up the valley, turning off onto one of the narrow lanes, we did several people already there and us taking the last of the three parking spaces.

Monkey Orchid Orchis simia

We headed into the meadow, and still the early purples were in full bloom, although many are now coming to the end of the season and so not quite at their best, but for the last weekend in May that is amazing. I scoured the slopes, but could find no evidence of Monkey spikes, until as I stood waiting for Gary and Jools to catch up, I looked down and there was a spike just showing white and pink; clearly a Monkey. I snapped it just because we were there, and then both Gary and Jools did too. I saw another spike nearby as well, so hopefully it is going to be a good season for those orchids too, even if it will be several weeks late.

Green Hairstreak

We headed over to Stelling ,back to where we were on Sunday, so Gary could see and photograph the Flies. I dropped them at the gate and then went to find a place to park, aiming to catch them up when they were hard at work, snapping the tiny orchids. However, pausing at the meadow, I saw a couple of Brimstone butterflies, and determined to snap at least one of them, I stayed stalking them as they crossed the meadow before flying high to the treetops. I got no shots.

Green Veined White

Jools and Gary came to see where I was, and as we talked both Julie and I saw the butterfly at the same time: a small green thing, fluttering just above the grass. I recognised it instantly, even though I have not seen one before, if was a Green Hairstreak, and so the game was now on to get a shot of one of these. Thanks to the bright sunlight, they were all very active, and not resting for long, but I got a few shots, crawling up to one as it settled in the grass before scaring each one away. But I was happy enough to get the shots I did, it was a start.

Fly Orchid Ophrys insectifera

I got some more shots of the Fly Orchid, and walking back Gary spotted a Green Veined White butterfly in a hedgerow, and we both managed to get shots as it was blown around in the breeze.

Fly Orchid Ophrys insectifera

By this time it was nearly one, and so that was it for the day, and I had the week away to prepare for, so we headed back to Dover, dropped Gary off and headed home for late lunch and some sitting in the garden enjoying the sunshine whilst we ate our rolls. This is the life.

I spent the rest of the day getting ready, and editing photos, which diverted me at every turn. I cooked a stuffed loin of pork for dinner, which was very nice indeed, and very soon the hours in the day ran out and it was time for bed as I was to be up at the crack of dawn for the usual commute to Esbjerg in the morning.


The alarm seems very early. I want to lay in bed all day. I don’t sleep well in the summer due to the light, and so I felt like crap getting up and getting dressed. I know the drill by now and so go on autopilot at the station, get my ticket, wait on the platform, get on the train, snooze to Stratford ignoring the babbling commuters, across London on the DLR to LCY, check in, drop my bags, go through immigration and I am so darn hungry! So I go to the restaurant and order a full English and so sit and watch the news on the huge TV and then tuck in to a tiny breakfast, tiny considering it cost nearly £13!

We board the plane, and after taking off head through the rain clouds soon after take off so nothing to see. I fall asleep and doze the entire flight.I miss lunch, drinks, ice cream and liqueurs. Oh well.

At Billund I collect by bag, head to the car hire place and pick up the keys to my steed for the week. A crappy Hyundai hatchback, which it seems is keen to use the full tank very quickly. I drive to the office and arrive for the afternoon of meetings, barely able to keep my eyes awake let alone my attention.

At five we finish for the day, I drop Steffen off at his house as his bike is broken again, it’s a nice drive out to his place at least. I check in, then head out for dinner; being my first day it Bones with a helping of ribs. That done, there was really nothing left other than to head to my room for a shower and to bed early as I had a two hour drive to Randers in the morning.



About 18 months ago, my Sunday evening was shattered that my colleague Helle had been killed in a road accident here in Denmark. It was one of those pieces of news you never think you are going to hear. Accidents happen all over the world, but its never anyone you know, is it? Well, sometimes it is. Back in those days I did not travel much, so there was no real chance of attending the funeral, and anyway the service would be in Danish, so I would be unable to understand.

Therefore, I did not attend the funeral, and so it passed that she was laid to rest and left a hole in our lives. Another colleague, and Helle’s best friend was on holiday in Thailand, and she also could not attend. So, in the intervening period, Anni and I agreed to visit Helle when there was an amount of light so we could go after work and not have to travel in the dark. And yesterday was the day we went. In the end it was the day before what would have been Helle’s birthday. In other words it was the perfect time to go.

But I had to get from Esbjerg to Randers, do a day’s work and then we could set off up the motorway to Aalborg. So, I ventured onto the road network at rush hour, but rush hour here is different to one in London anyway. So, it took me a couple of hours to drive up there, through roadworks and queues of traffic, arriving at our old offices at about half nine. These offices are to close next month, and we will move lock stock to Arhus, to a new building which seems to have dragged the company down, financially anyway. But it looks lovely!

I had meetings, as is the case, and managed to stay busy the whole day until three when Anni and I left for Aalborg. The drive gave us time to catch up, which was nice, and as we got nearer we talked about Helle. At the church we planted three plants near her headstone, and we talked some more. The rain held off and even the sun came out.

Frejlev Church

We decided to leave after about half an hour, I think it gave us both closure, and we were pleased we made the trip. For me it was for a colleague, but for Anni if was a good friend of many years. Not sure how she, or Helle’s family will ever fill that hole in their lives.

We drove back south, dropping Anni off at Randers. And then I had two more hours to get back to Esbjerg. Nothing much happened on the trip, just that the Hyundai hatchback ran low on fuel and I had to fill the bloody thing up, and going over 110km the engine noise was so loud I could not hear myself thing, so I tootled along.

Time to dump my bags off in my hotel room, make it to Paddy’s. I was thinking England were playing that evening, and I wondered if they would show it. I then remembered we were playing Ireland, so it was a daft question. I then made it to Dronning Louise for a burger before heading back to Paddy’s for the game. I wasn’t going to have much to drink, but I met a guy who I work with, and a pint of red lead to a whiskey to another beer to another whiskey. And so on.

It was a good night even if England stank the place out.

Next up: Thursday.

Monday, 27 May 2013

Monday 27th May 2013 (part 3)

And so to the rest of the weekend.

And once again, the weather have been very favourable, and we have been able to get out and do stuff. In this case 'stuff' means chasing orchids, which seems to be my new passion. I have a friend who gives me locations, we find out where they are via the web, and the sat nav takes us there. and it gets us to new and out of the way places, down lanes that are more pot holes than roads, and around every corner we might come face to face with a fox or maybe another splendid vista opening out.

Fly Orchid Ophrys insectifera

Hunting out these fabulous orchids means getting out of the car and walking through woods, which is, of course, great exercise, and there is always the temptation to do more and more, even if you are dog tired.

Fly Orchid Ophrys insectifera

Saturday, we headed out to a bank near the village of Petham. When I say a bank, it is really the side of a hill, managed by the Kent Conservation Trust, a managed habitat, home to much wildlife and a few orchids. In particular, the Fly Orchid. My friend Mark has snapped them, and they looked unusual enough to warrant chasing them down.

We parked at the bottom of the hill and walked up the road to the entrance to the wood: and in we went. Now, finding the first example of a species is difficult because you don't know how big the orchid is, what is its location, chosen habitat, so a lot of slow walking is needed. We headed through the wood, slowly heading upwards, past a clearing which is now a fine meadow. And into the wood again. I spot some Twayblades, a lot in fact, and then, a plant that looks like grass, but hanging from it is a tiny flash a burgundy. Our prey.

Fly Orchid Ophrys insectifera

In the end we find maybe a dozen examples, most with a single head, but one double. We get down on the ground to get our shots. We pass many people who walked right past them, despite in the wood just to see the Flies. We pass down our knowledge and they seem happy enough.

Lady Orchid Orchis purpurea

I head to the wood the other side of the road to view the collection of Lady Orchids, and get shots just because they were there. I have a bucket full of such shots, but they are so stunning when fully open. Why not?

Lady Orchid Orchis purpurea

It was now well past opening time, so we head back over Stone street to a pub I had seen a signpost for. We sit in the beer garden and order grilled chicken Ceasar salad and I wash mine down with a pint of dark mild, which was very good.

The plan was to head to another site to see orchids, but the warmth meant we were a little jaded. So we decide to visit a church we had seen. Turned out to be one I had visited in the winter but found closed because the key had gone missing. The key was now available and so I was able to go inside and see its delights. And wow!

In the late 18th century it had been converted into a non-conformist church, and never turned back when reverted to Anglican. This makes St Mary's at Stelling unique in Kent. I took it from all angles, and put a fiver in the collection tin as we took a jar of quince jelly which was for sale.

Brown Argus

And so we made our way by ever widening roads back to Folkestone and then to home. We sat on the patio with a beer or cider in our hands, as the afternoon sun brought warmth to our back garden and to us. At our feet various cats came to say hello and enquire when we might be feeding them.

Brown Argus

We walk along to the glade just to see if there were any late afternoon butterflies around, and we were rewarded with a single Brown Argus, which I got two series of shots. A worthwhile walk for sure.

We dine on a Chinese takeaway, and watch as the sun sets on a glorious Kent spring day, filled as it was with orchids.

Monday 27th may 2013 (part 2)

We woke up at seven or so, and what to do with the day? Well, we had said that Mum should not get much in, so after a chat we headed out to The Foxburrow for breakfast. It is attached these days to a Premier Inn, so a good value meal can be obtained for a fiver.

We then headed to Love Road to see if the chap who has cut the all the men's hair in our family since the 1950s. It is good to report that Stuart is well, and still working at 68, although I did keep an eye on his slightly shaking hands. As I did take the opportunity to get a trim.

Anchor Smokehouse, Lowestoft, Suffolk

Then into town to get a gift voucher for Mum's birthday at the Marina Theatre, call in at the smokehouse for some haddock for our tea. And then back home to spend time with Mum before it was time to leave.

Anchor Smokehouse, Lowestoft, Suffolk

Mum is the same as ever: no, that's not really true. She is not well, she still smokes and now has an ulcerated leg and what look like he beginnings of more ulcers on her arms. When we were there, her help was in cleaning the living room, moving the dozens of ornaments in order to dust whilst Mum just sits there.

The dusting did affect my allergy, and despite taking breaks outside i found I was sneezing more and more, so at midday we took our leave and headed south. It was pleasant driving out to St Olaves to Haddiscoe, Bungay and then down to Halesworth. It was getting near lunch time, so a plan formed in my head. I remember there being an interesting post on the GWUK group of the church at Bramfield, so I thought we could find a pub, have lunch, see the church before heading home.

Queens Head, Bramfied

We pulled in at the Queen's Head, went in and found it to be friendly enough. We ordered three-cheese ploughman and got drinks and went into the beer garden. Well, what can I say about the most perfect view possible from any pub? The beer garden went up, but beyound the brick wall was the parish church of St Andrew's. A typical East Anglian church with a round tower, except the church is thatched and the tower is completely separate. It was a stunning scene with which to have lunch, and our soundtrack was of hundreds of birds, all apparently happy with the way of things on the warmest day of the year.

Queens Head, Bramfied

The church itself was wonderful inside too, although I have yet to process those shots, we left a donation and headed back to the car, but only got as far as Wickham Market where i was sure there would be a fine church for what is a market town.

All Saint's spire dominates the town, and it is attached to an octagonal tower, with the church itself being of an unusual shape. I went inside high with expectations on what wonders i would find, but it turned out to be almost completely free of any character, it having been 'renovated' by well-meaning Victorians. Even the pews have now been replaced with modern plastic chairs, to me, giving me the air of a community centre. It is clearly a living church, but there should be room for the past in the modern church.

We headed back to the car and headed back south towards Essex. All was going well, maybe too well as we neared the M25. Then we saw a matrix sign saying the M25 was closed and on the radio it talked of 10 miles of traffic going nowhere. I thought about it and we headed south towards Southend, then along the A13 to Thurrock. We encountered no traffic and zoomed onto the bridge doing 70mph not having been held up.

We crossed into Kent and then onto the M20 and the 60 miles to home, getting back some time just after 5. The cats did not seem that bothered we had been away. There was time enough to cook dinner, smoked Lowestoft haddock and boiled potatoes, which was very nice indeed, before it was time to put on the TV, take my place on the sofa for the football.

Monday 27th May 2013

And so it came time to leave Esbjerg, climb into my Golf automatic and drive the heck to Billund where I had the golden ticket into the business lounge. I got me my free beer, free wine, free spirits and mixers, free snacks and free internet. But I just wanted to go home.

Sadly, once at London I would have to head north to deepest Suffolk instead as it is mum's birthday, and being the only child, yadda, yadda yada.

So, we took off in bright sunshine, but that soon changed into near total cloud cover, and despite planning the flight so I knew we would be approaching LCY from the west, cloud cover and rain would make for poor, if any shots. The plane was full, but this time with a smattering of of people heading to London for the Champion's League final, and they were in party mood, hitting the free wine and spirits on there too.

At london, we descended through the rain clouds, breaking through at about a thousand feet. I got some shots over Vauxhall, Westminter but at London Bridge we entered a cloud just as we flew over the Shard. We lumped and bumped our way to LCY, and after landing, sat whilst our luggage was unloaded and we were allowed to get off.

GWUK #757 Leyton Station, Central Line, London

Right through immigration, but then we had to wait 20 minutes for our bags. Jools was waiting in arrivals, so we took the DLR to Stratford and then the Central Line to Woodford. Best placed for a getaway up the A12 we thought. We caught a slow train, in the end, so we ambled round the northern suburbs until we trundled into Woodford, got the car, programmed the sat nav and headed off into the evening traffic. It was already eight, and we would be very late getting into Lowestoft.

The A12 was chocked with traffic, and we were held up at every roundabout and set of lights,which seemed to take an age for us to get out of London. But we did in the end, but only to find the A12 full, and the traffic only did thin out slightly as we headed north and into the dusk. We stopped at Colchester for a snack, then got back on the road and into the heavy traffic.

Once north of Ipswich, the road narrowed to just two lanes, and we got stuck in a convoy of car travelling at 45mph, and as ever, it seemed to take forever. But, we did arrive in Lowestoft, just after 11, and made it to Mums, unloaded the car, made small talk for twenty minutes before we headed to bed at the end of what had been a 20 hour day for me.


Saturday, 25 May 2013

Saturday 25th May 2013


It has been quite a week so far.

It all began very relaxed with a fine day working from home with the cats, me sitting at the table with the occasional feline visitor asking for food or attention. I could feed the birds when they had eaten all what was outside. Although, the weather was not good, so I was not tempted to take an early stack and go for a wander with camera in hand.

I checked in online, and picked my preferred seat in seat 8A, so my view would not be blocked by the propellers or engine. And then it was a case of watching the hours slip by into later afternoon and evening.

Tuesday morning was the usual rush to get to the station in time. This was not helped with me coming down when it was getting near when it was urgent to leave with Jools having the door of her freezer in her hand. It just come off in my hand she said…..



We got it back on by using the magnets in the seal and hoped for the best. I got to the station, got my ticket and the train arrived. I took a seat on my preferred side of the train so I can see the remains of Dover Town Yard, Shakespeare Beach, views of the sea, the Folkestone Harbour branch, views of the M20 and looking over the Thames at Grays as we sped over the M25. At Folkestone the train filled up, to be completed at Ashford. Although there seems to be enough seats for all.

ESPF, Esbjerg At Stratford, I changed onto the DLR and headed to the airport. There were no queues so I checked by bag in, got through security and was sitting down for breakfast within ten minutes. Eggs Benedict and a huge cup of fresh coffee and soon enough I felt almost human again.

Sadly, there was almost total cloud cover, and after taking off we were in clouds from the time we flew over the Dome until we were skimming over the treetops approaching Billund. So, just as well I thought that was what was going to happen so I did leave my camera in my bag, even after what happened last week!

ESPF, Esbjerg

I collected my bag, went to the car hire place; I now know them all by name, and they know my e mail address by heart too! I was given the keys, and I went to see what I was given: a Golf automatic, which is good to drive and has lots of room, although I have nothing to fill it with.

ESPF, Esbjerg

A 40 minute drive to Esbjerg and straight to the office, and early enough to sit in a couple of meetings and get some work done before it was time to head to the hotel before all the parking spaces were taken. After chilling out reading, there was little doubt about how I would spend my evening, heading to Bones to have my usual meal of ribs and salad. It was all very good I have to say.

ESPF, Esbjerg

The other news was that Yahoo imposed many un-announced changes on Flickr; now, at first this was shocking, but in fact most of the changes are not that bad, and the changes don’t go very deep, but the fact changes to accounts was done to those that paid and were, as customers, were given no notice or choice says a lot about Yahoo and how they see their users; as product not customers. Anyway, the firestorm that erupted still has not died down, and no staff are being made available to address some justified questions. The main problem is the new version of the site does not offer thumbnails on the front page, just tiled justified images which eat up bandwidth, which will cause problems for those of us who live in rural locations.

ESPF, Esbjerg


Meetings. And more meetings. A day in which time slipped through my hands like sand on a beach. As Bill and Ted would have put it. At two we realised we were hungry, so we went out for bagels; I had a garlic bagel with garlic cream cheese, but I skip the garlic dressing as I was sharing an office with my boss!

As warm as Tuesday was, Wednesday was so windy and cold it felt like winter. Clearly it was too bad for there to be no work possible, but of course, that does not affect those of us chained to our desks…..

As we ate lunch so late, it meant that I was not hungry until after eight; so I went to Dronning Louise for a beer and a plate of cheesy nachos, which was just about the right amount of food. I had a very good pint of Adnams, so 7% mighty strong beer that I have forgotten the name off. It went down very well indeed.

And there is no football with which to tempt me into a last night, so I go to bed at a sensible time once again, while daylight still creeps round the side of the curtains……


Work ended on Thursday and so I made arrangements to meet Steffen for a meal and drink and to meet his friend who may, or may not, be our next padowan in Esbjerg. We tried to get into Bones, but due to a lack of free tables, we ended up at the place next to Dronning Louise, another bar/bistro thing, which quite soulless had decent beer and food.

So, we all ordered huge beers and huge burgers and chatted whilst we waited for our food to arrive.

After wards, we spit, and I thought maybe I would go to the Irish Bar, just for one…. It ended up being just two, but on top of the two in the bar it was enough for me. There was a pub quiz on, which I could have joined in with, but thought better of and headed back to the hotel.


And the sun shines, and people are giving us jobs like you would not believe. Still, it keeps us busy. And now it is near two and most folks have begun an early weekend, so I shall soon head back to Billund as I have a ticket to get into the business lounge, so I can relax and be fed otters noses, ocelot spleens and sweetmeats in aspic, rather than sit with the shouting classes below. But we shall have to sit next to each other on the plane.

And so, once landed, Jools will meet me and we will head to Woodfood and then by car to deepest, darkest Suffolk and a visit to see Mother.

Wish me well.

Monday, 20 May 2013

Were you not entertained?

And so, with a whimper the 2012-13 Premier League season came to an end yesterday, with the only really excitement in prospect being whether Chelsea, Arsenal or Tottenham would finish in 3rd, 4th and 5th place. Is this is what it has come to for the self-proclaimed 'best league in the world', 'most exciting league in the world' or however they are trying to sell another flat season where the top is the same as last year, just in a slightly different order.

Manchester United won the title by after finishing 11 points clear of Manchester City. City themselves finished some 3 points clear of Chelsea who were two points clear of Arsenal. And that was your top four. Tottenham were a point further back in 5th, but after that the pack were a long way back: Everton were 9 points behind in 6th with 63 points.

So, does this season on season dullness really lead to exitement? Not really, and when you look at the fact, then the Premier League isn't the most exciting league in Europe, its not even the most exciting in England. No, that would be the Championship, or Division 2 for you who don't like decimalisation.

I compared the four professional divisions of English football, and looked at the difference in points between the team that finished above the relegation zone to the team just one place below the play offs, or in the case of the Premier League, 5th place. Andthe results:

Premier League 33 points (11 wins)

Championship 13 points (4 wins and a draw)

League 1 20 points (6 wins and 2 draws)

League 2 17 points (5 wins and 2 draws)

And bearing in mind in the bottom three divisions they play eight more games per season, this shows just how uncompetitive the elite division really is.In most weeks the top clubs beat the ones below with the same dullness that the Harlem Globetrotters used to dispatch those no-hopers in the exhibition games as the Empire Pool.

With TV revenue going up 40% this year, and with the top 4 clubs getting double again for competing in the Champions League, the possibility of this changing anytime soon is between slim and zero. And we put up with this and accept it from the swill-merchants at Sky and other arms of Murdoch's empire.

Here are two of this season's most incredible finishes:

Brentford v Doncaster: winner goes straight up to the Championship:

Or Watford v Leicester Championship Payoff Semi Final second leg:

You pay your money, take your choice....

Monday 20th May 2013

I received a mail from a friend giving the locations of some more orchid sites: so I planned a trip to one of the places I have yet to snap: Stockbury near Maidstone. We loaded the car with four cameras, ourselves and set off up the A2.

Lady Orchid Orchis purpurea

Stockbury is between the Medway towns and Maidstone on the A149, (I think) or something like that. But getting to the wood meant crossing the eastbound carriageway, which with the almost Essex-like speed of drivers in the area is a worrying time. And then onto the lane beyond and quickly it shrunk to being just a car wide, with moss growing inbetween where cars wheels go, and climb steadily into the wood.

Lady Orchid Orchis purpurea

We saw a Kent Conservation Trust sign, so we were in the right place. And in the wood in all directions were bluebells. Hundreds of thousands of bluebells. So, we grabbed the cameras and set off, whilst occasionally, sunlight streamed down through the trees casting patterns of light and dark on the bluebells.

Orchis macular var.alba

We soon came to a clearing which was scattered with fine specimens of Early Purples, so I snapped a few, even another of the var. alba seen yesterday at Park Gate. We walked on and headed deeper into the wood; we passed many more bluebells and the occasional clearing which had more early purples.

Mint Moth Pyrausta aurata

Do at the bottom of the hill, some almost fully open Lady Orchids could been seen, and in the clearing Orange Tip Butterflies and small moths and many assorted flies rushed around collecting pollen and doing what insects do at this time of year. Sadly, I did not see any Fly Orchids, but that could due to their tiny size and my lack of orchid spider senses picking them out between the bluebells.

Comma butterfly, Polygonia c-album

We headed back to the car, and went to investigate the downs, but I found no further orchids, but I do come across St Mary Magdaline, a church not the saint. And it was open, so I went in to snap it and be able to tick another off the list.

Back home for a late lunch, and to mow the lawn as the forecast for the rest of the week is for rain, and I will be in Denmark from tomorrow, so better just get it done. And afterwards why not sit in a chair on the lower decking, with a cold, frosty beer in hand and survey my good work.

A walk in the blue

Why not indeed?

And then prepare for the afternoon of trying to stay awake during the final round of games in the Prem. City were playing at Citeh, one of our many bogey teams, but one which had just sacked their manager, and so much to our joy we ran out 3-2 winners and ended up with 44 points and in 11th place; a place higher than last year although with three less points. And so some 15 days after being convinced we were going down we end up being almost mid-table.


So, nothing more than to wait for MOTD and see City’s goals, whilst outside a procession of badgers of varous sizes came in to feed from the low bird table. I counted 11 of them, and it was wonderful to be so close to them all.

Sunday, 19 May 2013

Sunday 19th May 2013

And so to the weekend. Oh no, but first, a day working from home, and I have a stack of stuff to do. So, i sit at my computer, the back door open and from outside I can hear the sound of spring and a gentle warm breeze blows through the house.

At half one, a headache brought on by a lack of sleep accumulated over the course of the week drives me to switch off the computer and lay on the sofa with my eyes closed. Outside, it clouded over, and inside the house it got cold, but I know that was due to me feeling so tired. I put the heating on and returned to the sofa.

The cross trainer went unused.


Friday night was a mix of Gardener's World and Have I got News for You and then an early night. Next morning I am awake at the crack of quarter to eight after nearly nine and a half hours sleep and feeling much, much better. A couple of cups of fresh coffee, into which I dunk two croissants make for a fine breakfast. We gather our cameras and head out into the spring sunshine.

My first thought is of orchids: so we drive out to Folkestone then up the Elham Valley to Park Gate to check on the Early purples and maybe see how the Monkey Orchids are doing. The Purples are going to seed, little else to see, although there was a very nice albino Early purple which to snap.

Orchis mascula var. alba

Our next destination was Chartham to photograph Tangmere on her way to Canterbury. It is a great location because of the old fashioned level crossing and signal box, makes a great shot with a steam locomotive going by. So, we park up and I think about trying to get into the church which always is locked when we visit. Two ladies are outside, and it seems there is a wedding that afternoon, and on the first chime of midday the vicar arrives and unlocks the church. I work quickly to get my shots as the weeding is planned for sometime around one.

The Golden Arrow Statesman

I say around one, as the air is full of the sound of the church bells from about twenty to one until after Tangmere steams past, me walk back to the car and we drive off in search of a pub for lunch. On the way to Petham we see the bridal car, a vintage Rolls Royce making its way leisurely to the church.

We stop off at I place i had seen a few weeks back, The Chequers at Petham, and once inside we are dazzled by the wonderful menu, I order the rack of lamb and Jools orders the duck breast. Both were wonderful, I mean this was the best rack of lamb I have ever had, and told them so, washed down with a very nice dark mild.

The Golden Arrow Statesman

On the way home we stop off at McDonalds in Whitfield, and we picked up a couple of ice creams, and headed home. Jools sat outside eating hers whilst reading Game of Thrones, and I looked at the shots I had taken that morning.

The Golden Arrow Statesman

At half five I head out again, this time to see Tangmere again as she screeches her way past the docks at Dover and head off back towards London.

All in all, another one of them great days.

Oh Golden Balls, Up Yours!

My journey home on Thursday was enlivened by the news that former England captain, Manchester United, Real Madrid, Mrs Posh Spice, The man Beautiful, whatever, announced he was to retire at the end of this season.

That the news can generate such extreme views on what exactly his legacy or how much he achieved over the course of his career.

From my point of view, any rational overview of his career should probably end when he left Old Trafford. Maybe even the season before. He did win the Spanish League with Real, and captaining them to the title. But by then he had called time on his Real career by signing a pre-contract agreement with LA Galaxy after not being able to get a game for the first half of the season. It did then appear that he tried everything to get out of the contract, and even played in Italy with AC for a few months.

He did say that he wanted to take the game to America; high ideals were tempered by the fact he was paid something like $20 million a season, more than ten times what the rest of the team were earning. And that really tells us all we need to know about Beckham, he has, well for the last decade, followed the money. From aping Michael Jordan by taking the squad number 23, and wanting to become a brand, a global brand. That he has done, and has advertised everything from sunglasses to pants.

It is hard to think of anyone who has made so much money playing football, although now what he earns outside the game dwarves what he earns by playing. Which is why he will never be short of a bob or two. That he chose to spend his final 6 months playing in Paris for PSG, rather than say go to help take himself to Leyton Orient playing for free to give something to the area where he grew up.

Also his wife isn't short of cash either, despite being one of the less talented of the Spice Girls; she graves numerous fashion and celebrity magazines, mixed her own perfume in her bath during fallow periods.

I guess, what this means is that Beckham is THE modern footballer; paid millions for playing, make tens of millions for endorsements. It seems unlikely he will grace the pundit's couch or the coach's bench, so what will Mr Beckham do with the rest his life? Who knows, who cares. He was a player that was graced with more talent, and he used it, able to dip a free kick over the wall, fire a 70 yard cross-field pass, and he did lead his captain with pride and lead by example. I thought it crazy to make him captain, but he thrived.

Anyway, all we have is memories of hair cuts, sarongs, and the occasional free kick and pass. So, so long David, thanks for the Alice Band.

Manchester United 394 games 85 goals
Real Madrid 155 games 20 goals
Milan 33 games 2 goals
Los Angeles Galaxy 118 games 20 goals

Saturday, 18 May 2013

Saturday 18th May 2013

You would have thought I would have learned by now. What, I hear you ask?

Well, I was about to climb on the plane back to Blighty, I looked at the sky, it was dull and overcast, so I thought I would not bother taking the camera with me, as I am seeing the same things flight after flight.

All was well, as we flew over the Channel, below was a complete blanket of cloud; I thought smugly, good decision, Ian. Then, as we approached the Essex coast, the clouds began to clear and I saw the familiar sight of Shoebreness, Southend and the Thames estuary. However, the plane banked left and so we flew over South London, I got fine views over to the City and the River again. We turned north and turned onto our final approach with a steep turn above London Bridge station, and looking to my right I looked at the top of The Shard about 500 feet away, and all the way down the skyscraper to the station below. It would have made a stunning shot, alas, my camera was in the hold.

Oh, well, never again, I will carry my camera at all times.

On the way to the airport, I went to another local church, St Darum, which I had spotted the other week. It was another finely carved and painted inside, and well worth a visit. The weather was fine, the clouds cleared for a few minutes. Having got my shots, I climbed back in the car and drove to the airport. As I did not have the golden ticket to get in the business lounge, so I sat downstairs in the arrivals hall and had a burger whilst reading my book.

I went through security and waited for the flight to be called. There was little to do other than people watch, with the usual eclectic mix of people waiting to get out of Denmark, so heading to the Med, others just going to London. I was happy enough going home.

As seems to be usual, there was an almighty queue at immigration at the airport, and I waited in line for 20 minutes to get through, grab my case, run through the arrivals hall, get to the DLR station, I had just under half an hour to get to Stratford to get the 19:17 train to Dover. Would I make it? I had to wait four minutes for the drain to arrive, then just sit there and hope we got to Stratford in time. At each station, the train seems to wait for ages before the doors closed, and we moved off to the next station.

We got to Stratford International: I looked at my watch, 19:17, maybe if I ran I could get the train. So, I ran, as best I can into the station, I saw a group of staff waiting at the turnstiles; Dover train I shouted. Oh, just missed it one said. Bugger.

So, there was little else to do that just make the most of the 35 minute wait, go to the coffee shop, grab an iced tea and try not to watch the second hand creep round the face of my watch. In a surprise move, I got a seat to Ashford, then changed at Ashford, with plenty of trains to watch coming and going, and Eurostars screaming by in the twilight heading to France.

And that was your working week...... Almost.

Friday, 17 May 2013

Friday 17th May 2013


Although nothing would have given me more pleasure than to stay up until midnight watching the penultimate MOTD of the season, having to get up at five to be ready for the train to take me to London meant that I taped it and will catch up with it on Friday. Still, despite it being the most desperate of six months, the win on Sunday means we are safe form relegation now and can look forward rather than back. I do hope that some kind of investigation is begun to find out why we went from 7th to 17th in six months with just the two wins and an embarrassing FA cup defeat to chill the heart. That there was such gushing feelings of relief and joy should be tempered with the thought as to why we went so long playing poor football and not scoring goals, however we have now achieved the feat of scoring more goals that games played, 38 in 37!

Last night the Canary’s Youth team played the second leg of the FA Youth Cup final at Stamford Bridge, and 3000 canary fans cheered the young lads on to a 4-2 aggregate victory to lift the cup for the first time in 31 years, if my memory serves, and a really good sign for the next few years as these talents develop into professional footballers.

I caught my usual train out of Dover, it was soon full of commuters, but not that bad, really. I even gave my time to thinking about work, about the problems that we face and solutions. I really wasn’t just staring into space. London was as crowded as ever, as people pour into the old Olympic site to turn the village into flats for Londoners, and the temporary structures around the venues are slowly taken down. It seems so long now that we were all cheering Team GB on, and already the gold seems to be fading as cuts for funding are announced and training venues are being closed. So much for Olympic Legacy………

For an unpleasant change, the airport was in chaos, the self-chik in machines were not printing baggage labels, so we had to queue up to get the desks to print them, then another queue for security wound its way round the departure hall twice before it shrunk to more normal sizes. So, not time for people watching, just the Italian businessman man opposite talking loudly into his phone and waving his arms about; he looked like an Armani Ad, all perfect clothes, hair and tan.

And then it was time to board, and leave Merrie England behind and head to Billund. I read work documents on the plane, so no pictures of London to show you, sorry. All was well until we were on final approach when the pilot told us of the weather on the ground; misty, rain and just five degrees. When we got out of the plane it felt like February. Brr.

DFDS at the double

At the car hire place, I was given an Audi again, which made the little boy inside me grin from ear to ear. And then find the car and head to Esbjerg to find what was happening here, before leaving for the hotel at six. I went for a walk, took a couple of shots, but ended up at the Irish Bar for just the one beer, then heading back to the hotel for a burger. The food is fine, but the attitude of the staff is poor and the atmosphere is dreadful, like a morgue. So, I quickly finished so I could head upstairs to follow the youth team game on Twitter.


And the sun did shine on the Kingdom of Denmark and people did smile, even those in work.

Not much to report about work, other than I am sharing an office with my old boss this week, all is jolly and happy here. We got lots of work done, and despite plenty of meetings still got the job done and I could see the end of my inbox. Such an odd event don’t know if I should be worried they were all being blocked somewhere.

Fanø or Harwich

At just gone four, the computer system went down, again, so I packed up and decided to head up the coast to Blåvand where there is a lighthouse, and I though a drive might be good. Beats sitting in the hotel room or darkening the doorway of the Irish bar. Helps my liver too.

So, I had seen signs in town heading the way, but these took me through a commercial area, and then through residential areas. We came to a beach on the edge of town, and there was a statue made of white stone, of four seated figures. Seemed modern, so I stopped, snapped it and drove on.

The road opened out to wide flat vistas, crossed a shallow river, before entering a forest growing out of dunes. Past a Danish Army base, where I could see tanks dug in. I thought about stopping for snaps, but probably not a good idea and so drove on.

Blåvand Lighthouse

Blåvand lies next to the sea and is a typical seaside place, a strip mall full of nick nack shops, ice cream parlours and the like. I drove on and the road turned and twisted through the dune, and between the dune, brick-built houses with thatched roofs nestled. Now holiday homes for the rich and German by all accounts. The lighthouse was covered in scaffolding, but I stopped to snap it, snapped the beach and German fortifications before heading back to Esbjerg as I had to meet with my old boss at half six so we could walk to Bones for some serious rib action.


I parked up and just had time to head to my room, dump my office stuff, change into a t shirt before heading back down to meet Philip and walk to Bones. As we ate, migrant east-European workers gathered on the corner opposite to drink cheap(!) beer out of bottles and smoke. Not the best place I guess, and ladies of the night chose their spot so they could carry out their business.


We walked back to the Scandig, and from my room I watched the evening ferry cast off and head out into the lagoon and then fade from view as dusk descended. I followed Twitter to see how Wigan were doing, they had to win at Arsenal to stay up, and did well for an hour, but conceded three quick goals to seal their fate and they will also be playing in the Championship next season. As City were already safe, I was able to enjoy the evening with a degree of smugness.


And before the final whistle, I headed to bed with another day at the coalface under my belt.

With half an hour to go before the great escape, time enough to pause to jot a few words down.

Outside, the sun is shining, so I may find a church to snap on the way to Billund, or I might just go straight back and relax in the lounge. Sorry bar, I do not have a ticket to the business lounge this week. Oh well.

Yesterday was a typical day here, like a whirlwind with a mix of meetings and getting actions done before the next meeting begun and more actions being allocated. So it goes, so it goes.

After work I went back to the hotel to read, only to fall asleep whilst reading, waking up in time to meet Philip for lunch. We headed to Dronning Louise in the rain, and managed to get a table. I had fine local beer with which to wash down the pulled pork burger; very nice, if a little cold. And then, I thought, back to the hotel to watch the game. But, disaster, it wasn’t on any channel. I thought about going to the Irish bar, but frankly was so tired I couldn’t be bothered, and went to bed at half time, so did not find out until this morning that Chelsea won another European trophy, although the Europa League does not have the financial reward the Champions League does. Still, Frank et al looked happy enough with their medals on.

And that is it, next stop Billund, then London then home, and tomorrow a day working from home. Just what the doctor ordered…

Thursday, 16 May 2013

Thursday 16th May 2013

As you can guess by the fact you are reading this on either Thursday or Friday that I got rather waylaid last weekend and I ran out time. I had the choice of photo-editing or blogging. And the photos won out, as they always do. And that is because we had a couple of really nice days over the weekend.


Up with the larks dead on the nose of half seven. We had breakfast and then decided to head to Preston to look at some plants and also to call at the butcher for something for the weekend. It was a fine morning, so we headed through Deal and out to Sandwich before heading inland to Preston. Whilst Jools did the plant thing, I went into the butcher and ended up with meat for each weekend meal: pork pie lunch, bacon for breakfast and a chicken to roast for Sunday along with stuffing, sausage meat, sausages and bacon to roll round said sausages. It was going to be a meaty weekend!

On the way back, I felt the impulse to visit a church I had not been to in nearly 5 years. Elsmstone is unusual in that it serves such a small village, but even more wonderful is that it has no dedication. Or more likely, that over the centuries the dedication was forgotten. So, I thought as it was only a mile or so out of our way, I felt the car turning almost by itself.

Kings Wood

Once at the church I went round re-photographing it, when the churchwarden turned up and asked if we would like to go inside? Of course!! So, she let us in, and we both snapped it to death; the church has the most wonderful windows, and the spring sunshine was pouring through them casting coloured patterns on the floor. The warden was friendly, and we ended up chatting to her for ages. It was all very pleasant. And I now had it recorded and just need to process the shots to be uploaded.

Back home for pork pie and a cuppa. And whilst Jools did some gardening, I ended up making another batch of short cakes as I just fancied one with a cuppa. So, soon the house was filled with the smells of baking, which was all very nice. But even nice was when they were done and I brewed up so we could sit outside sipping tea and munching on still-warm short cakes. The air was full of the sound of bird song, it was all rather wonderful.

Kings Wood

So, back inside for me for more editing and waiting for the Cup Final to begin. Now, I did write last week about how the Cup Final experience has changed, now with a five fifteen kick off, and I was so wrapped up in my work I only put the TV on at about twenty minutes to kick off. Twitter had supplied me with the teams and gossip.

The game was pretty forgettable, as Citeh should have run out easy winners over Wigan. But, football is never simple, and so it turned out again. City began poor and just got worse, although they played the better football at times, they lacked direction and purpose. As the game entered injury time at the end of the second half, Wigan scored from a corner and the upset was on. On and over. City had no time to respond and it was all over.

Kings Wood

Goodnight Vienna.


Sunday was a day that held many promises. A walk in the woods, maybe tow and possibly Norwich securing their survival if they could win their last home game against WBA. But that was to come at three in the afternoon. So, up with the larks at six, when in truth we would have liked to spend more time in bed, but the promise of a walk to see the bluebells of Kings Wood before the crowds of dogwalkers turn up in their dozens or hundreds.

Kings Wood

But first: bacon butties and a brew!

And then out into the early morning sunshine and a blast up the M2o to Ashford and then into the countryside to Challock and the wood. As expected, there were just three other cars there, so we grabbed our cameras and route-marched through the bluebell-less areas, past the less spectacular areas to the part where they cling to a hillside in-between trees so the sunshine can fall down between the trees casting dappled light on the blue carpet below.

Early Purple Orchid

I guess we have snapped this scene for the past three years at least, but it is always such a thrill to see something so beautiful, and is always worth the trip out just to be here in the calm of an early Sunday morning. And there wasn’t even the sound of any dogs, just birdsong filled the air. If was perfect.

But no time to ponder that, as we wanted to head to Petham to hunt for a very rare butterfly. I guess if it had a bland name we might not have been that bothered, but as it goes by the grand name of the Duke of Burgundy, it must be worth seeking out, right?

Early Purple Orchid

So, we had looked for the little bugger last year, but thanks to the fact that from the first week in May for several months we had nothing but wind and rain, we never got to see one. So, and I believe if you look at my last blog post for last year it says my sole ambition for this year was to see and photograph this butterfly. We knew where to go, so we drove down country lanes to the wood.

Lady Orchid

Now the two parking places look exactly the same, and we managed to park at the wrong one. And although as we walked into the wood it didn’t feel right, it took at least twenty minutes for us to both agree this was the wrong place. We re-traced our steps back to the car and drove on a mile to the other car park, and both agreed this was right. And set off.

Duke of Burgundy

Now, I took a shot of the butterfly from the visitor’s information board so we could compare it to any we might see and off we went two happy folks walking along a lane through the woods in the sunshine. In time we came to the enclosure, entered by the gate and begin to slowly walk forward, our eyes peeled for fluttering, but none.

Duke of Burgundy

However, there were orchids, which was always my fallback plan, that we could get orchid shots. So I snapped an early purple and a couple of Lady Orchids.

In the distance, I saw a guy crouching down in the grass, clearly taking a macro shot. We crept over. In front of him was a tiny butterfly, it looked glorious. He saw us and let us get shots, which was bloody nice of him. As time went on we saw more and more, and so we spotted them for each other so we could all get shots. I guess their wingspan was about 2.5cm, so tiny, but in the cool sunshine they were quite sleepy so we could get very close indeed. With my macro lens, I managed to get shots with the butterfly filling the shot.

Duke of Burgundy

Happy with that, we decided to head home at it was now eleven, and we were mighty parched. And instead of waiting for opening time at a nearby pub, we headed home so we could have a drink at home with lunch.

So, once home I cracked open a beer and cooked fresh asparagus with parmesan shavings; simple and delicious. Then I had hundreds more shots to edit, so Jools went outside to potter, and I put the radio on as the build-up the three o’clock kick offs began.

It was tense stuff, but City took the lead on the half hour, and as other results went our way, and as we were playing a team already safe and having a poor game, City scored three more in the second half, running out 4-0 winners and safe from relegation. Such a change from last week when it seemed so certain we were going down. Ho well.

Now to enjoy the rest of the season, well, the one game with no worries or frets. Welcome to the summer, my friends. Anyone for tennis?

Saturday, 11 May 2013

Up for the Cup

Some 39 years ago this week, I sat down in front of the TV to watch a football match. Liverpool beat Newcastle 3-0 in the FA cup final, and I almost, almost became a Liverpool fan due to the way which Liverpool played. Kevin Keegan scored twice, and was a tousle haired football superstar. I can't remember much of the game, but I can remember how the experience of seeing the game on TV is seared on my mind. Come the new season, I reverted back to Norwich as soon as the first ball was kicked.

Anyway, from that moment, the FA Cup Final was the sporting highlight of the year, and each year I lived in hope that Norwich would make it all the way to the final, but every year we failed. Sometimes by getting just one game short and sometimes being knocked out at the first match.

But come each May, the day of the FA Cup Final the whole day would be planned out: at nine o'clock, Cup Final Swap Shop with Noel and Keith Chegwin followed by Cup Final weather. I mean, how important is that the cup final gets it's own weather? Maybe if you're lucky there would be an edition of A Question of Sport or Its a Knockout, but with the additional prefix: Cup Final......

And then the main event: with all the build-up in glorious British understated style. The players at their hotel eating lunch, on the coach to Wembley, arriving at the stadium, walking on the pitch, interviews with the players, shots of the crowd with their "humorous" banners. At twenty to three, singing 'Abide with Me', then the players walking out, presented to the Queen.

And kick off.

Sometimes the games would be forgettable, sometimes they were unbelievably exciting, but every time you thought you were witnessing history in the making. Southamption upsetting Manchester United, Ipswich's triumph, Man Utd coming back to to pip Arsenal, Ricado's wavy run, Coventry beating Spurs, Wimbledon upsetting Liverpool. And it goes on.

Only, its different now: the Cup is sponsored, its not the last game of the season, other games kick off on the same day and kick off time is now in the early evening. But despite all the changes, its still the FA cup, which is the same competition dating back to 1871. all that history. And this is the FA Challenge cup Final Tie, to give it it's proper name.

Play up!

Friday, 10 May 2013

Friday 10th May 2013

And so Friday rolls round again. Thankfully, despite being a day shorter and being at home, it still seems to have lasted several weeks.

Early Spider Orchid "Ophrys sphegodes"

Yesterday, after work I headed down to Samphire Hoe to snap the Early Spider Orchids, as I saw on Flickr many people snapping them at other locations. Being so tiny, they can be hard to spot, but sure enough after ten minutes looking I saw the first one, and soon after maybe as many as a dozen. It was tricky getting shots due to the stiff breeze, but I am happy with what I got and so moved onto Shakespeare Cliff to snap Tangmere as she steamed through Dover.

34067, Tangmere, The Canterbury Belle, Dover Town Yard, 9th May 2013

Having snapped her so many times, I decided to head up the cliff to get some panoramic shots from high on the cliffs. And as seems typical, the sun went in just before she arrived and so the pictures needed messing around with to boost colours and contrast. Still, good to see it come round the bend near the Lord Warden Hotel and slowly accelerated towards where I was standing before disappearing into the tunnel beneath my feet. And then she was gone.

Early Spider Orchid "Ophrys sphegodes"

So I headed into town to pick Jools up then to home for dinner and some relaxing time. I cooked one of our favourite meals, chorizo hash, which always goes down well, especially with a glass or two of red. Sadly, this meant that the session on the cross trainer did not happen, but I feel with all the walking I’ve been doing, not to get too stressed about it.

So, bring on the weekend……

I'll leave you with some more of the orchid shots.....

Early Spider Orchid "Ophrys sphegodes"

Early Spider Orchid "Ophrys sphegodes"