Monday, 30 September 2013

Monday 30th September 2013


Despite my allergies making themselves known again in the wee small hours of Saturday morning, I did manage to sleep until well past cat o’clock. Cat o’clock is about half five, but could be as late as six, but it when the first cat, usually Mulder, appears in our bedroom and meows.

And meows.

He means well.

So, anyway. As Jools had done the Tesco thing on Friday, it meant that:

a. we did not have to go on Saturday morning
b. we could laze around for a couple of hours before heading out
c. we had croissants for breakfast.


At nine we headed out to Dover; Jools went to the library and I headed to the station to pick up my Flickr-friend, Will. Will had said he would like to go to Hastings, and as we had not been for a few months I thought that would be a great idea. So after picking Will up, I went round to collect Jools again, and so we all set off on a jolly boy’s outing to Hastings.

Once at Ashford, we took the Breznet road and headed out to the Romney Marsh. Will had not been along this road before, so we thought we would head to Fairfield church, as it is such a great place. So we headed off the coast road at Brookland, and bumped along the rough road to Fairfield. It is a wildly isolated, of course, as it ever was, but looks like it is at the end of the world under those marsh skies. I saw from a notice on the gate that the key could be collected from a nearby house, and also that I had never been inside. So whilst Jools and Will walked to the church, I walked to the house and took the key from the hook on the side of the house.

As is usual for such an ancient building, the key is a huge brass thing, and once I had walked along the top of the dyke and over the narrow bridge onto the island the church stands, I let Jools open up, finding the keyhole in the weather-beaten and worn door. Inside the church had been decorated with dried hops, and it looked as though the box pews has just been painted freshly in white. I snapped it from all angles, but we may return with a tripod due to the very low light inside.

We locked up and made our way back to the car, dropping the key back off before turning round and heading back to the main road. Along to Rye and into Sussex of course, past Winchelsea and along the rolling hills. The reason I wanted to got to Hastings was to visit a pub. Nothing unusual in that, other than we had seen the General Havelock mentioned at the national tile museum a couple of years back, and said it was one of the finest tiled pubs left.

The General Havelock, Hastings, East Sussex

So, I found the postcode, programmed it into the sat nav and Bob’s your aunt’s live-in lover. There we were on Havelock Street and no sign of the pub. But we did see a street where seven out of eight of the shops were estate agents (realtors) and the rest seemingly nightclubs or ‘fun’ pubs. We parked in a multi-storey, and went back out into the street, and I soon saw it down the hill.

The General Havelock, Hastings, East Sussex

Inside it was every bit as glorious as I imagined, we sat down at a table and ended up not only ordering drinks but lunch too, all the while taking in the tiles. I grabbed a few shots as well. The Greek (lamb) burger was very good, but the beer was better!

The View from East Cliff

Will had wanted to see the fishing boats, which as at many south coast ports have to be hauled up onto the beach as there is no harbour. Jools and I had already seen them so we decided to take the cliff lift to the top of East Cliff and see what was up there. We arranged to meet Will in an hour and so left him. A return fee on the lift as £2.50 each, and not bad value.

East Cliff Lift

In truth there was not much at the top of the lift, just an ice cream van, a vast expanse of green grass and scrub and sensational views which on a clear day would stretch down to Beachy Head. On this day we could see St Leonards but that was about it. We walked a little, sat down, walked some more before turning round, getting an ice cream, a fine 99, and then sitting on a bench with a view of the old town below and munch our way through the ice cream.

Will was waiting below, so we headed back to the car and out of the town. As I promised that if we had time we would call in at Winchelsea on the way back to Dover, I headed down past the New Inn and found a place to park near the church. The church had a service on, so I made do with visiting Spike’s grave. We walked round the village for a while, but in truth the light was fading so we headed back through the car and left the village through the ancient town gate.

After dropping Will off, we headed back home to feed the cats and feed ourselves. Already the day was turning to dusk and there was a nip in the air. We decided to try to burn the garden rubbish in the brazier at the bottom of the garden. After a while the flames died down so we left it, but some embers mush have fallen below the decking, as next morning we found a couple of square feet of it missing, and the area round the hole badly charred. Oh dear.


Sunday was a day for chores. My allergies were making breathing difficult now, but I was determined to carry on regardless. After watching the two Manchester teams lose on MOTD, we went outside to prune some bushes along the drive and for me to finish creosoting the fence. That took the rest of the morning, by which time it was time to head inside to listen to City play Stoke on the radio. City outplayed Stoke pretty much the whole game, and ended up running out winning by just the one goal. But it is a win. An away win. Seven points from six games, not earth shattering, but we are now level with Manchester United!

By now my allergies were running wild, and so I gave up doing much else of the than sniffing, sneezing and gently moaning. I did manage to cook Sunday dinner, roast chicken, and Nan came up to eat with us, but talking to her was harder than ever as she still does not have a hearing aid, and everything has to be repeated, getting louder and LOUDER.

Jools took Nan home at eight and I took more drugs and whisky. Anything for sleep.

Sunday, 29 September 2013

Saturday 28th September 2013

Wednesday, Thursday, Friday.

And so, with a heavy heart, I headed back to the office on Wednesday. I shouldn't really complain, the drive to Ramsgate is not difficult, on the way I can watch the sun rise or the mist drifting over the Stour as I drive through Sandwich. And once there, the technicians head out to work as I arrive, and so after making a pot of coffee I power up the laptop, and wade through my cache of e mails.

And so the days crawled by until Friday arrived. And on Friday two massive dollops of news for VOFS arrived. First up, a long delayed and much promised link up between us and Mitsubishi. We are going to work for a new hybrid company, which does not have a name as yet. We will be separate from VWS, although not completely as our contracts will be unaffected. Clearly this is a huge change ahead and what it means to each and everyone of us is unclear. But this should ensure the future of the company, whilst we will no longer be part of Vestas as such.

This partnership has been in the offing for months: in fact whilst in Arhus back in July, whilst sitting at a marina-side restaurant with Graeme, I saw a group I oriental businessman approaching along the boardwalk. Laughing i said oh look here comes the Mitsubishi guys. I laughed. I then saw i our CEO guiding them to the table next to ours. Much nervous coughing ensued, and as soon as we could be paid our bill and left.

Second earth-shattering announcement is that our next project has been confirmed. The one I am QA MAnager for. For me this will mean my work-life will never be the same again, as my details will be passed over to the customer and they will now be bombarding me with questions and demands. It is all scary stuff in all honesty. We shall see.

Jools came to pick me up at half three, and we made it to the butchers before closing time so I bought a chicken for Sunday dinner as well as other meaty treats. So, the weekend kicked into life and I turned the mobile off and switched my brain off until at least Monday morning.

Friday, 27 September 2013

Friday 27th September 2013


And so day 13, the final day in my holiday rolled round. As usual, we were woken by Mulder just before dawn reminding us, lest we forget, that it was as near breakfast time, so if we wouldn’t mind but could we get up and feed him so his hunger would not consume him. Or that’s what I believe he is saying.

The weekend was Jools’ Nan’s 99th birthday. We were away in that there London on the actual day. And really there is nothing you can buy the near-centurion, I mean if there is anything the average 99 year old wanted, they would have it by then. I would hope. Mostly Nan hopes for things like the correct number of prunes for breakfast, not too much for lunch, not overly spicy food but plenty of ice cream.

Folkestone Warren from Little Switzerland

There must be 7 prunes, not six, not eight, but 7. And they must not be too tough, chewy, but prune-like. It is possible to have dried apricots, but these really must not be too dried, not cut into cubes and certainly not covered in flour. I guess we all get a little choosy as we get older, and Nan has had more time than most to get choosy.

Anyway, we decided that we would take her out for the afternoon, and maybe stop off for a cuppa. And/or an ice cream.

So, we headed out after lunch, picked Nan up. The weather has reverted back to that of high summer, and it must have been 80 degrees. Nan had a sensible coat on, and after feeling a draught from a slightly open window, put up her scarf and held it down with both hands. We headed out to a small church in the Folkestone area to see a church. After I snapped it from all angles, and then we headed out to Little Switzerland where we knew there was a café, and if we were lucky it would still be open at the end of September.

Folkestone Warren

Sadly, after driving over we found that it was closed. I went to check it out and snap the cliffs from outside the tea rooms. I thought the only other choice was the NT place on the white cliffs, but then I remembered the Battle of Britain Memorial, just up the road in Capel. Jools took Nan inside and bought a cuppa and an ice cream. Nan was happy enough with that. I wandered around to the edge of the cliffs to look down at the Warren far below. I took shots to record the scene, and then of the female Adonis Blues which I spotted too.

Folkestone Warren

We took Nan back home, and then we headed back to our house, this time with all windows open was we enjoyed the cool breeze. The day drifted away, I looked at more photos, then at quarter to eight listened to the League Cup games on the radio. City came from behind to beat Watford, that they needed extra time for this meant that bed time was delayed until nearly twenty past ten.

Adonis Blue (f)

And so ended my holiday, the time slipping through my fingers like a slippy thing covered in slime. It’s been a blast.

Folkestone Leas

Thursday, 26 September 2013

Thursday 26th September 2013


After a wonderfully long and deep sleep, we awoke to find east Kent wreathed in fog. It would have been easy to lay in bed all day, but we had cats to collect! So, soon enough I was making a pot of coffee. My task for the morning was to make a huge pan of stew. Seems like my plan to do that at the end of winter had been forgotten, and so two huge pumps of beef skirt had lay in the bottom of the freezer all summer. So, I decided that I would use it during this holiday, and what could be better that the second from last day of the holiday when the weather should be autumnal? Well, right and wrong…..

Adonis Blue  Lysandra bellargus

The BBC promised us sunshine in the afternoon, which seemed unlikely, but they know their onions and I don’t, so as Jools went to collect the three cats, I began chopping onions, the meat and various root vegetables. Add to pan, add water, season add oxo cubes, bring to boil and simmer for four hours. After four hours the gravy has turned into sludge, mixed with the onions and soup mix which I also added. There is nothing quite like the smell of simmering stew.

The cats arrived, and poor Mulder’s bowels failed again, this time managing to poo through the bars of the cage onto the back seat of the car. It takes a special kind of cat to manage that!

Autumn Lady's-tresses Spiranthes spiralis

Autumn Lady's-tresses Spiranthes spiralis

After lunch we headed out to the cliffs on a hunt for the Long Tailed Blue butterfly. You may recall this rare visitor to these shores was seen at Kingsdown back in August. They ones seen then laid eggs, they hatched into caterpillars which have now emerged as glorious butterflies. I saw on a blog that a male had been seen at the weekend, it was a glorious sunny afternoon and so what could be better than a walk along the cliffs looking for butterflies?

Long-tailed Blue  Lampides boeticus

So we drove to the monument, parked up and grabbed the cameras. I thought of checking the monument for autumn lady’s-tresses orchids. At the beginning of the month the local council mowed the grass and several dozen tiny orchids. In truth it was late in the season and I was not expecting to see any. A quick glance and I saw no orchids. But a closer look revealed a couple of tiny spikes in the shadow of the monument. The more I looked, the more I saw. OK, no more than ten, but these were not fully out and should be wonderful by the weekend. So Jools and I got down on our knees to snap them, must have looked odd as what we were snapping as the orchids were invisible from any distance.

We walked along the cliffs, but I saw no butterflies about, even with just a breath of wind to move the long grass. However as we neared Kingsdown, I began to see the occasional blue, but soon realised they were all Adonis Blues, which of course is always a thrill. There really is no other blue that comes close to an Adonis. I snapped several before we moved on to Long Blue country.

Up on The Leas there were about a dozen other photographers were already there, all searching for the Long Tails. A couple had been seen earlier, and stories were swapped about sightings. Jools and I spit up, but I saw none, just more bloody Adonis. And to think until a few weeks ago I was obsessed about snapping just the one of them!

Long-tailed Blue  Lampides boeticus

Jools called out saying she had one. Now, I should point out this had happened six weeks previously, but had turned out to be a large colony of Chalkhills. I walked over, and looked. And sure enough there was the black spot, the long tuft on the rear wing. It was a male feeding on a bloom of an everlasting pea. Sadly, it inched further and further into the bloom meaning I just got a clear sight of its underwings, but it was good enough to appreciate its beauty. The upper wings, which I had caught a quick glimpse of, was a grey/blue colour, but also clearly marked with a black spot.

Adonis Blue  Lysandra bellargus

Turned out I was happy enough with those shots and we turned to head for home. It was now hot. I mean really warm, maybe in the 80s, just like high summer back in July. And the only thing to do once home was crack open an ice cold beer and sit in the wooden chair on the patio.

That night I warmed up the pot of stew, boiled some potatoes and it was as wonderful as it smelt. Time then to sit on the sofa nicely pooped out.

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Wednesday 25th September 2013

We woke at half six and just lay in bed. Outside it was dull and grey, the top of The Shard was hidden in low clouds. Jools made a cuppa and I lay in bed some more watching Match of the Day. As you do. However, just before that started, the BBC new announced that the final leg of the Tour of Britain was due to finish on Whitehall that afternoon. And where were we heading? Oh yeah, Whitehall. I could see the day having unexpectedly high level of lycra. That might prove to be interesting.

Misty Morning


At half eight we went down for breakfast, and after taking some fruit for the healthy option, I then undid that by having fried egg, bread, sausage and has browns. Mmmmmm, fried.

Feeling full, I went to check if we could leave the case in the club whilst we went to carry on the Open House thing. The receptionist was happy that we asked, as we explained we were part of Open House as another guest was asking; could we explain to her the details? We said yes and were introduced to a lady. Turns out she was a war widow staying here and meeting a friend. We ran over the details, gave her a spare brochure and tips for places to go.

Take a brochure

But I guess what I took away from the meeting was that there were such things still as war widows, and as each month in theatres such as Afghanistan swells the number of war widows. And the horror that some of them are just 20 years old. The world is a crazy place indeed.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Whitehall, London

We headed over to Westminster, emerging from the tube into the shadow of Big Ben, or St Stephen’s Tower to give it it’s official name. We walked over to Whitehall, and all along the middle of it, a trailer park had been set up, flags were flying advertising, well, the advertisers. As we walked along, women were completing one circuit after another, and indeed they would still be doing this when we came out of the FCO.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Whitehall, London

We rounded the corner to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) expecting there to be huge crowds. And there were none. It was only the banners on the walls giving it away that the building was open. We went through security, and I was briefed photos only in staterooms and on stairways. OK.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Whitehall, London

So we went in to the quadrangle (no photos here either) and then into the building. Round and round we went, up and up grander and grander stairs. Into one grand room after another. We finally came to the grandest staircase of all, and were indeed dazzled by it. We all stopped to snap it, and I hope my shots do it justice, chiz, chiz…..

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Whitehall, London

Outside once again, we walk up to Horseguards, only to find a queue, although not long was not moving either. I tried to some up some enthusiasm, but it was gone. We chatted and Jools said she would find somewhere to sit down if I wanted to do some more visiting. Inside I really wanted to, but my feet had had enough, and it was easy to say, let’s go back to the club, have a coffee and head home.

Race for the prize

We stopped to look at more cycling, and I also wish we could have stayed to see the end of the Tour of Britain, but I know that would not end until about five-ish. So, we headed back to the tube, and along to Waterloo. We had a coffee then the choice was to either tube to St Pancras or Stratford, taxi to St Pancras or catch the ‘classic’ service from Waterloo East. In the end it was easier to walk up the stairs opposite the club and along the bridge and onto the platform as the train to Ashford arrived. We got a sea and so slumped down as the London suburbs slipped away and we headed into Kent.

Giving it all

We had a half hour wait at Ashford, but that was fine as we could just sit and watch the trains running past us on other platforms. It was with some relief we got off the train at Dover and walked to the car and drove up the cliff to St Margaret’s. Time then to put the kettle on for a very large and strong cuppa and then review the shots I had taken.

As we were to be catless until the morning, it was quiet without constant feline demands being meowed at us. Dusk settled around the house and we headed off to bed.

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Tuesday 24th September 2013


We woke at dawn, and looking out of the room window we saw the Shard silhouetted against a fabulous pink sky. Needless to say we both snapped it before getting dressed and heading down for breakfast. A proper hearty breakfast, I had a fat boy fried breakfast just in case. Just in case of what I don't know. But it felt good.

Dawn Behind The Shard

We walked over to Waterloo station and took the shortest tube line, the Waterloo and City to Bank station. We stood as we went along the travelator then up the escalators to street level. From there it was a short walk to Threadneedle Street and the Bank of England. A queue had already formed despite it being just after eight, but I guess we were something like 50th, so not long to wait once it opened.

Jools at Bank Station

I left Jools to take some shots of The Gherkin and Lloyds, and the people queuing up. Lloyds was similar to the Bank of England, but The Gherkin was crazy as usual. Apparently people started to queue at one in the morning, and the line stretched out of sight. I snapped them and then went back to Jools at the Bank.

Queue at Lloyds

Queue at The Gherkin

Queue at the Bank of England

At half nine the doors opened and we inched forward, and in about 15 minutes we were granted entry. Sadly, photographs is not allowed inside and so you will have to look on Google for images of what we saw. Best thing was a five storey high staircase that wound its way from the basement to the top floor. I guess making things like money they are touchy about what we might see and snap. Oh well. It was good to see the heart of our failed capitalist system, one that prints money as that is the only way to stop the whole economy from collapsing.

Welcome to the Bank of England

Anyway, we left the Bank and headed out down towards Bank and 1 Poultry. from there I saw a tower of a church on the other side of the road, so we headed off to St Stephen Walbrook. It is another City church rebuilt by Wren, but is glorious inside, and capped with a fine dome which seemed to be a test for the one at St Paul's. We have a cuppa as we take in the decor, before we bid the staff thanks for their time and tea.

St Stephen Walbrook, City of London

Next up was St Mary Aldermary, which was closed, but a couple waiting said it was due to open at eleven, and as it was five to, we decided to wait. Glad we did as it was a fine church, the roof covered in tracery, looking like a giant spider's web. We were offered more tea, but declined.

St Mary Aldermary, City of London

Last stop before lunch was one of the livery halls, The Vinter's. There was no queue, so we walked in and during the tour learned all about the Hall and the livery and why they count and weight the swans on the Thames. Did I want to enroll on a wine appreciation course? Hmmmm, wine!

Vintners Hall

Back up at Poultry, we went into a Weatherspoons and ordered a pint, and ended up ordering lunch: Jools had a fine looking burger, whilst I tried to eat healthy and had a salad: no really! i did get free pint with my meal, which was nice.

After lunch, we split up: Jools went to Camden to look at bead shops and do some bead shopping. I got down to some serious photography. As an official photographer, I had a pass to get to the front of queues, but I used it just the once to get into Tower 42, what used to be called the Nat-West Tower. I took some shots of the queue and people reading the brochure, and then jumped in and went up to the 42nd floor.

Tower 42 view

The views were stunning, but at one window a Mother and Daughter had been there for 5 minutes and after I and another waited patiently, I asked if they were going to move as we wanted to look. I got a mouthful off the Mother to the effect I had jumped the queue and they hadn't therefore they were going to take their time and screw anyone ese. And they thought I was the one being rude!

I took my shots and got out of there.

Bishopgate Institute Library

I walked to Bishopgate, past Liverpool Street to look inside the Bishopgate Institute, as I had seen it when we were last in town. The Institute was set up to educate the working classes, and I can't think of a better thing. I looked round took some shots before walking to Liverpool street to head for the tube and then onto Blackfriars. Thing s with 800 buildings to visit, or the chance of visiting, there are just too many, and so I picked some out at random. One I did decide on fro the description in the brochure was Unilever House, situated at one end of Blackfriars Bridge.

Unilever Building

Outside it was a fine art deco frontage, but inside it had been renovated to house a stunning atrium, although we were unable to go up to the higher levels. Anyway, I take a breather and decide to visit the Black Friar pub on the other side of the road, as it is a stunning building, and I could really do with a refreshing drink.

after polishing off a pint of Hobgoblin, I set off up the hill towards Fleet street.

St Bride, Fleet Street, London

I walked around for a bit, ended up walking down Fleet Street where I went into St Brides church, which was hidden by scaffolding, but inside it was perfect. The crypt was also open and well worth seeking out to see the Roman and Saxon foundations. In here many of the pioneers of printing in Britain were buried, and of course printing only ended in fleet Street in the 1990s.

I walked on, stopping off for a coffee and a brownie in a small coffee shop opposite the Royal Court of justice. In the Strand I saw St Mary le Strand on an island, so I crossed the street and went inside.

St Mary Le Strand

In truth I was flagging by now, and the question was should I catch a cab, tube or walk back to the club. In the end I decided to walk, over Waterloo Bridge, past the IMAX cinema, under the Southeastern lines at Waterloo East and back to the club. I had another coffee whilst I waited for Jools to arrive, so I checked the football scores. City lost to Villa 1-0 at home, and so my mood darkened. But it is just a game after all.

Jools arrived so we went upstairs to rest before heading back down to the restaurant for dinner. Unspectacular as it was, the food was good simple stuff, and well cooked and very reasonable. It was just so British, I kept looking round smiling at the couples and groups eating. we all seemed happy enough though.

Too tired to watch to footy that evening, so we went to bed and slept long and deep. as it should be. The city did not miss us!

Monday, 23 September 2013

Monday 23rd September 2013

Good evening, and welcome to the working week. Or half a working week as I don't go back to work until Wednesday. It has been a glorious autumnal day, the the clouds being burnt off by lunchtime and the afternoon gloriously warm; warm enough and windless enough to be perfect butterfly hunting. And were we lucky? Well, you'll have to wait and see as I am so far behind with my blogs we have to go back to Friday.


So, with Jools and I heading to London for the weekend, it meant operation cat round-up was in full effect. So after dropping Jools off at work, I went home and began the great round up. Now, cats are clever creatures, they spot when anything is different. Like the cat flap being locked. So, after getting the baskets from the shed, I began with Molly who is normally the hardest. However, I had the element of surprise, even though she knew something very odd was about to happen. Scully I got as she slept in the cat basket, but she put up such a fight that it alerted Mulder who took a defensive position under our bed. He was now very flighty, but being without thumbs he could not open the bedroom door and so I grabbed him.

Now to get them to denton before Mulder's bowls failed. In the end we almost made it. Almost. Turning down the lane to the cattery, there was the pong. He had managed to poo at the far end of the basket and keep himself at the other end, so was clean enough. We got the cats in the pen, dumped the towel in the bin, and then back home to ready myself for when Jools was free to leave work.

At three I picked her up, only to be told operation fix Dad's computer was now in effect, and so we headed to the old folk's place to see what had happened. Somehow, he had managed to erase his Windows profile. I am sure this was the work of a virus, so what could we do? Well, I powered it up into 'safe' mode, ran an anti-virus and spamware programs, then had to reset the PC to a date last week. And that was it, fixed. In three and a half hours!

The View over Waterloo Bus Garage

Back home for dinner, pack and head out to catch the quarter to eight train from Dover to Stratford, then on the tube to Waterloo. And as we came out of the station we were at the right exit for the club. Over Waterloo Road, up the side street and up the steps; check in and up the lift to our room.

And relax.

Jools looked out the window and saw the Shard in the distance with all of London, south London laid up from our 17th floor window. So, I took pictures.Lots of pictures.

The Shard at night

Friday, 20 September 2013

Friday 20th September 2013


I have been asked by some people how Bowie is doing. In truth we do not know. We decided when he was taken to his new home in Walmer, we would not ask too many questions and let him be. I am sure he is OK, and Jools' friend, Colin, who found Bowie's new owner, would have mentioned it if anything was awry. What I can tell you is that our three resident cats are very happy, and life in the house has returned to normal pretty quickly. Which is just what we hoped. However, the cats are not happy this morning as they are shut in the house, ready for operation round up as they are going to spend the weekend in the cattery as we head up to that London for the whole weekend.


With the coming of the internet and all knowledge known to mankind being available to us at the click of a mouse, I use it mostly to track steam tours so I can plan photo-trips so I can snap them. Not the most productive of uses, but it works for me. Which is why after dropping Jools off at work yesterday I was heading to Ashford and then up to Wye, mixing with the rush hour traffic. It did mean braving the M20 J10, a horrible roundabout on which anything can happen. I hate it and will take a diversion of many miles to avoid it, but sometimes you just have to take it. Anyway, I got round it without incident, which was nice.

The tour, from Canterbury to Salisbury, was going to stop at Wye, and already passengers dressed to their nines were waiting. A group of schoolchildren we brought out of class to see the steam train stop and then pass by. Which is a shame as word reached us that Tornado was being dragged by a class 66. Not sure why this was, but sure enough as the train rounded the bend a mile away, I saw the profile of a 66, and smoking behind was Tornado.

60163 "Tornado", the Cathedrals Express, Wye, Kent 19th September 2013

So, it was a bit of a disappointment, but nothing we could do about it. So I snapped it and waited for it to depart before walking back to the car and checking out a church or two to visit. I looked at the map, and saw there was a cross nearby at Godmersham; so set off.

60163 "Tornado", the Cathedrals Express, Wye, Kent 19th September 2013

Godmersham is on the main road from Canterbury, and I am amazed I had not noticed it before, so I pulled in, grabbed the cameras and after taking a few exterior shots, went to try the door. And wonder of wonders, it swung open. Inside, once again it was a delight. The large country house next to the church was once owned by Jane Austen's brother, so the church receives many visitors chasing the Austen link. It would be nice if they took the beauty of the church with them rather than seeing a scroll on the wall.

Next up was All Saints, Boughton Aluph. I had seen the tower one misty morning from the edge of King's Wood, and have always meant to visit it. So, I drove along towards Ashford, and got the right turning. The church is at the end of a long narrow lane next to a country house. I found a place to park and set about photographing the outside. I thought there would be very little chance this remote church would be open.

As I stood at the entrance to the churchyard getting my first shot, two cars pulled up behind me, it seems the keymaster had arrived! The churchwardens were there to take down the flowers used to decorate the church for harvest festival. Would I like to go inside I was asked. If it's no trouble I replied trying to sound not too enthusiastic.

So, I went in and got the shots. Inside of the church is a huge space, of which less than half is taken with wooden backed chairs. There were no pews. However, it has a fine atmosphere, and looked wonderful with the flowers all round the church. I said thanks and bid the ladies farewell.

I looked at John Vigar's book, and decided I really want to find Eastwell. Eastwell is a ruined church in parkland, not having the right map I could not use the grid reference, but looking at the map I saw a cross at the end of a very long lane in the middle of woodland in Eastwell Park. That has to be it, right?


It turned out to be the church for Challock church, or St Cosmas And St Damian: the church is where it is now, remote from the village as after the black death, the village centre was moved a mile away, but the church is still used. Sadly for me, it was locked, but a sign said I collect the keys from the village post office. Now, I did say that the church was at the end of along lane: along dead end lane, and driving along I had to dodge dozens of pheasants, partridges and quail. It was the most odd thing: and driving back to the village to collect the key, the same thing with mad game birds running in front of the car rather than flying away.

I found the post office, got the key and drove back again. The church had been unlucky during the war in that it received a direct hit form a stray bomb, as this is just about the most remote church in the county, this was bad luck indeed. It was repaired, and then the walls were covered in murals, giving, at least to me, a slightly bonkers feel, but it is unique, and as the mural depicts the faces of the villagers from the millennium, making the church really part of the community.

I took the key back, and as both camera batteries were dead, no point in looking for Eastwell now, so I headed back home.

Being our 5th anniversary, we went to La Scala for dinner. It really is a fine place and we had a great meal: lamb for me, and escalopes for Jools, washed down with a bottle of wine. Very nice. And then we were pooped, so back home for some sleeping....

Thursday, 19 September 2013

Thursday 19th September 2013 (part 2)

Wow, that went on a bit: I hope you enjoy that. I think my account captures the mood of the day, but it seemed to appear to those there like a gliding swan, but what they didn't see was us running around like crazy things getting the ice for the drinks.


It would have been easy to take the car yesterday and drive round kent looking for churches to get into and snap. But, I chose to stay home and get some chores done. And in truth I felt like crap. For some unknown reason my allergies have gone crazy since the end of August, and although some days its not been too bad, since Monday its been really bad to be honest. Knowing I'm allergic to housedust, maybe vacuuming wasn't the best of ideas on Tuesday. I took enough drugs and whisky which enabled me to sleep, but much else during the day than just breathing was an achievement.

Common Blue  Polyommatus icarus

I went for a walk in the morning, but going further than the glade was out as a few days of rain meant that the dip was clogged with mud at the top, so it would have been a mire at the bottom. In the glade there were a few butterflies about: I snapped three Common Blues and a couple of Speckled Woods and was happy with that. The sun shone brightly, and there was some real warmth in it, which meant i had to carry the coat I had worn since leaving the house.

Speckled Wood  Pararge aegeria

Back home I listened to the radcliffe and Maconie show on the iplayer, then as the sun was still shining, and I was sneezing and sniffling like I was about to keel over, I spent the afternoon in the back garden.

Yay, outdoors!

I even did something productive and mowed the lawn, and even resisted the temptation to 'reward' myself with a bottle of Crafty Old Hen; instead I sat down with a cuppa and read some train porn.


And finally, in more looking back, we have had the kitten (although they are no longer kitten of course) for three years now, and in commemoration I took some portraits yesterday. Hope you like them!


Thursday 19th September 2013

Today is our 5th wedding anniversary. Not only that, it is my first ever 5th anniversary. This comes at the third attempt and this time it really seems to have worked out. It has been pointed out that the common denominator in the two previous unions was me. Or it could be that maybe I just like wedding cake?

And now for your enjoyment, here are two different accounts of the big day. You could read mine in the blog archives. So, here we go:

"We woke at dawn to find the chaos from the barbeque all around. Seagulls had feasted long on discarded flavour of ribs and the suchlike. Quite where to start. So, bin bags were filled, washing up done and all other tasks that needed to be done.

There was just time for a shower; Julie went in as a calm woman, the same I had known for the past two years, but came out ‘with a panic head on.’ One of the jobs that needed to be done was going to the tailor to change the top hat. Somehow the wrong size one had been put in the box, and the hat sat on top of my head in a very humorous way, but not at all becoming. Julie also had to go and have her nails done; a first for her, and she had been growing them for weeks, making typing ever more difficult. Dropping her off in the centre of town, I headed to the main car park nearest the tailor.

Hughes is an old fashioned shop; full of suits, but served with manners from days gone by. The door would be opened, and all the other such things that are vanishing from the modern world. With minimum fuss a replacement hat was found, this one a perfect fit, and I was on my way back home.

I got a call from the planner asking about ice, and a mild form of panic formed in my head; and upon Julie’s return we checked with Jen and realised there was going to be no ice to keep the drinks cold. So, against all our plans we found ourselves having to go to Tesco’s on a Saturday morning, mixing it with families and the confused to get bags of ice. We filled the trolley with bags, checking that we could use the express checkout and have 10 items or less.

The cashier looked at us strange after looking at our purchases, ‘do you have some kind of ice fetish,’ she asked. ‘Wedding; drink; no ice; panic!’ I replied. She seemed happy at this. She had been passing the time of day with an old friend as we waited to pay, and as the minutes dragged by I could see the minute hand on a clock in my hand sweep round like the blade of a fan. We then had to get to the other side of town, mixing it with traffic heading to the port as the tunnel was still closed. Thankfully, we did not get held up, and we arrived at the barn as the planner did and at least it was open.

As we stood there, the florist arrived, dropping off the table arrangements before heading to Julie’s Dads to deposit the bouquet and buttonholes. The caterer was there, already preparing our wedding breakfast, and seeing everything come together was reassuring, but also creating an even greater sense of panic as we realised it was now less than three hours to the beginning of the ceremony, and we had to get home, then Julie to her Dad’s, my best man arrive, get ready.


Thankfully there is a back way into Dover and right to our street, and so we were back home and only mildly worried within a few minutes. Julie had all her stuff in a bag, and so grabbed that and headed up to her dad’s, leaving me to shower and get ready, and wait for Mike, Julie’s brother and my best man, to arrive.

Unbeknown to me; Mike had decided to walk up from his house, and therefore be fashionably late and causing the panic level to rise still further. Causing me more worry was the discovery that there were no cufflinks in with the suits and shirts. My fault for not checking, for sure, but this meant I had to call Tony, Julie’s father to see if he had any; no dice. The only thing to do was to call Hughes and ask them; apparently the cufflinks were in the inside pocket of the jacket; I failed to see that there were two inside pockets and so checked just the one.

Another panic over, Mike arrived and it really started to come together. Thankfully the suits fitted, and somehow I had managed not to cut myself shaving, and it was time to head out to the pub down the road for some Dutch courage and to wait for the limo to take me to the barn. Whilst walking down I received a call from the limo driver, he was coming into town from a different direction and the directions to the pub did not work. I say I received a call, I had a voice mail asking me to ring him back and guide him to the Five Cups.

I did not have his mobile number; the only thing to do was to call Julie, and she call him back as she had the number. I really did not want to worry her right at that moment, but I had no other choice.

So, with that sorted there was just time to have a pint of Australia’s finest amber nectar before the Mercedes pulled up outside.

Our arrival at the barn was seen by no one, and walking into the barn itself we met just the photographer who was checking light levels and other such things. He set up a few shots of Mike and I outside, and it was during this that the registrar arrived; as did the first guests.

I have to admit that seeing that there was no one at all in the barn was a shock, but with 30 minutes to go before kick off I thought it a little early to worry too much. I had a short chat with the registrar, just confirming details I had given before, and then I was all ready to be wed.

More and more people started to arrive; I went round and thanked them for coming; then as two o’clock approached Julie arrived and I waited, back turned, for her appearance in the barn.

To be honest I was nervous, more than I thought I was going to be. The ceremony went by quite quickly; I slipped up on one part forgetting what I was supposed to say. It was a civil ceremony, nothing religious, no readings to be done, but instead there were passages about love and commitment; it was all rather wonderful, and I will try to post about that when I get home(I am writing this in Tuscany right now, more about that another time).

And after many nice words it was time to put the ring on her finger and for me to kiss Julie; and we were declared husband and wife. Everyone applauded, and we walked up the aisle outside to the marquee were we could meet each of our friends and welcome them as a married couple.

Second through was Julie’s father, but he could not stop and speak as he was choking back the tears. I gave him a look and went over and hugged him; he sobbed some more and patted me on the back.

Then it was time for the photos; with my Mother and Julie’s Nan sitting on chairs we arranged ourselves in ever bigger groups, as Colin snapped away. We then moved down to the Georgian townhouse that also stands there to take up places on the steps leading to the main door for some more pictures. The late afternoon sun beat down on us; the birds sang in the trees and all was right with the world.

We went back into the marquee where elderflower pressé was being served in champagne flutes. Seeing so many friends around was a real joy, and Jools and I circulated talking to as many friends as we could.

Then it was time to eat; we were seated at four round tables; Julie and I next to each other with each family next to us. This meant I was next to Mother dearest, but this was ok. We had steak, salmon, buttered potatoes, with salads of various kinds; followed by a choice of three desserts. The hobbits amongst the guest had two or even all three.

Then there were the speeches; Mike did not really know me, so there were not the usual embarrassing stories about the groom. I spoke only really to thank both Julie’s Father and my Mother for helping towards the cost, and to thank everyone for coming and making it such a joyful occasion.

Then the free bar opened.

We both mingled more; we watched the sun go down and the trees change colour. The DJ arrived and I said to play the usual cheese that gets played at weddings as I don’t think anyone would have liked Blister in The Sun, Wave of Mutilation or Train in Vain instead of Lambada, The Birdie Song or Agadoo.

The evening guests arrived from seven, and some of the older people began to leave. From that point on events get a little sketchy. One thing I do remember is that on of my friends of the matchdoctor site was there, and I forgot all about her until Julie mentioned her. How terrible I felt, all I could do was to blame the day and my mind being all messed up. But once I went over to say ‘hello’ to her, it was so good to meet someone for the first time that I felt had been friends for many years.

I think it would be fair to say I had had enough, but there were those who had much, much more. Glasses were dropped; people did fall around on the ground and I am sure people felt very silly in the morning.

It was left to Julie and I to get people into taxis and order plenty more, before it was time for us to climb into one of our own to get us back to the flat, and crash out for just three hours before it was time to get up, this time to get to the airport for the flight to Italy." And now one from a friend of mine from an old blogsite I used to use,

"It occurred to me very soon after I received the invitation that it was a very unusual thing I would be doing on the 19th September 2008. I’d not heard of anyone attending the wedding of a couple they’d never met before, not unless they were accompanying someone else who did! I was a friend of Ian‘s, but we’d only ever corresponded via the internet. He worked away on board ship for months at a time and spent time writing on a dating/friendship site to pass some hours away. I had been on the site for more than a year hoping to meet the man of my dreams, and made a number of friends along the way. I’d talked to both bride and groom on the telephone but we didn’t get to meet before the wedding.

The weather had decided to be especially kind for the time of year, starting rumours of an Indian Summer. I was unusually well prepared and, for some reason, the time was moving nice and slowly that morning. I knew exactly what I was going to wear, a dress worn once only on Millennium night. I had been living with my Mother at the time, she‘d washed it and it had hung in my Father’s wardrobe ever since. I found an equally old and rarely worn lace blouse to compliment the dress and bought a cheap pair of shoes and handbag to complete the outfit. My friend Lyn arrived on time, which meant I couldn’t straighten my hair, which is straight anyway, but can get a bit frizzy after it’s been washed. Lyn made a fuss of my two kittens, told me how stunning I looked, and I marvelled at the fact what she was wearing perfectly matched my attire. I often find that happens with my friends, it’s the psychic version of calling each other and asking “what are you wearing?”. I wonder if young girls still do that!

It was wonderful not having to drive for a change. Lyn thinks her car is a heap but it’s luxury compared to mine, especially with it’s comfortable leather seats and her driving it! She had a satellite navigation system so I didn’t have to follow a map or directions either, not exactly my forte. We gave ourselves more than enough time to get there and arrived at The Plough pub, close to the wedding venue, with more than an hour to spare. We had no idea what time we’d be eating so we ordered a snack and a coffee and Lyn continued to tell me her life story. We’ve known each other a while but meditation group isn’t really conducive to conversation, so it was great to finally get to know her. I told her she should write a book, although no one would believe it.

Ironically, the only point we got even slightly lost was when we were actually on top of the venue. The name of the venue wasn‘t indicated, but we thought the word WEDDINGS in bold letters on the large silver sign was a bit of a giveaway and decided we must be on the right track. As we pulled into the car park we asked one of the guests hanging around if this was Great Farthingloe Farm. He informed us he didn’t know because he wasn’t from around there. I decided to make the question a little easier for him and asked whose wedding he was there for and he pointed to a lady in a pretty white dress and said “that lady there, Julie”. With a sigh of relief and a laugh Lyn parked the car as I commented on how typical it was for a man not to know where the hell he was.

We arrived on time inside the converted barn where the ceremony was about to take place. I spotted Ian standing at the front, not because I recognised him, he had his back to me, but because my excellent powers of deduction was telling me he must be the groom because of where he was standing. He turned around and as he caught my eye we exchanged a smile and a “hello”, which was enough to convince me he’d recognised me.

It was a lovely ceremony, the atmosphere was laid back and friendly. There couldn’t have been more than thirty guests, which made it intimate and even more of an honour to be there. The music struck up and Julie made her entrance on her Father’s arm, smiling and radiant as a Bride should be. I saw Ian glance over his shoulder at one point and smile. The female celebrant conducted the ceremony with sincerity and emotion. The vows sounded pretty traditional to me, they always bring a tear to my eye, even though I swear to God I hate weddings! After the kissing of the bride and the signing of the register we followed the new Mr and Mrs H into the marquee especially set up for drinks on the lawn. I introduced myself to Julie and said it was lovely to meet her. I’m pretty sure she turned to Ian and said “This is Debs” and he made some kind of a joke and I responded appropriately. I felt very much like an old friend, rather than one they’d never met. As I walked away I got my shoe caught in the Hessian flooring and I was waiting for someone to say “Enjoy your trip?”. As I bent over to rescue my toes which were now wedged in a strange fashion in the front of my shoe, memories of the last wedding I’d attended came flooding back. I’d fallen down a foot deep hole in the grass as I walked away from having my photograph taken and fell flat on my face. It was the highlight of most peoples’ day and I’m pretty sure I might have ended up on You’ve Been Framed.

Lyn and I enjoyed the elderflower cup which was very refreshing once diluted. Poor Julie had almost choked on a neat glass earlier and wasn’t recommending it. In fact, my friend and I had two glasses and soon needed the Ladies. Whoever decorated the Toilets must have been giants because, at 5’ 4”, I couldn’t see in the mirrors to replenish my lipstick. Giggling about this, we made our way back outside and stood in the sunshine for a while so Lyn could have a cigarette. I was beginning to feel hungry by this time as the caterers were preparing steak and salmon on the barbecue and the aroma emanating across was delicious. Before too long we were being lead by our rumbling stomachs to our tables. Lyn and I had been put on “The Friends Table”, traditionally known as “The Noisy Table” at most weddings I’ve been to. Soothing, classical music played in the background during dinner and our table was probably quieter than the rest to begin with. Possibly because we were hungry by this time and the food looked so good. Before too very long, my friend Lyn was asking everyone about themselves and, as the wine flowed, we all began to loosen up a bit. When it came to my turn to explain how I knew the bride and groom I simply said I’d not met either of them before that day as I was one of Ian’s internet friends. If I’d dropped a pin you would have heard it in Dover Town Centre! I decided not to elaborate in case I dug myself into a deeper hole rather than out of one.

Well we all made more than a meal of the delicious salmon and steak with all the salad trimmings including yummy home made coleslaw, pasta salad and those lovely little new potatoes with the skins on. I ate so much I had no room for the roll on my side plate, in fact I was in such a hurry to tuck in I’m ashamed to say I didn’t even take the time to put my serviette across my lap. I don’t know why weddings make people so hungry, it’s a strange phenomena! I wouldn’t mind betting we were all full, but no one was going to turn down the offer of dessert. The staff had come around earlier saying there was plenty more steak and salmon if we wanted seconds and we were thinking maybe it would be the same with the desserts. Profiteroles, banoffee pie and raspberry roulade were all on the menu. It became a competition for who’d chosen the best dessert between Lynn and Dougie, a really old friend of Ian’s. By “really old” I mean since they were kids. Dougie insisted he was only 27. Lyn hadn’t realised there was a choice of dessert and had happily accepted the profiteroles. She remarked that if she’d known roulade was on offer she would have chosen that. Dougie proceeded to wind her up, making noises over his roulade, looking at Lyn and saying it was the “best roulade he’d ever tasted”. Lyn rose to the bait, in fun of course, and told him not to be mean, which only made him taunt her more! When he’d finished, Dougie hid his dish and called a waitress over saying he’d not had any dessert. As she walked away saying she’d get him one he called out that Lyn hadn’t had one either, so I quickly hid her dish inside the guy’s next to her. At this point, I was still under the impression there might be plenty of desserts to go around. Lyn was a little embarrassed but she was really looking forward to sampling the roulade. When the desserts came up the waitress put the last remaining roulade in front of Dougie and the last remaining profiteroles in front of Lyn, much to everyone’s amusement. Lyn pretended to be upset and Dougie did the gentlemanly thing and swapped desserts with her. She said he would be known as “Two Puddings Dougie” from then on. Unfortunately for the two tricksters, the Catering Manager came over to the table to apologise. Not wanting to get the staff into trouble, they had to come clean. It was all taken in good part, but it did remind me a lot of school dinners for some reason. I’ve not had as much fun at mealtime in a long time!

Whilst we sat back and nursed our aching tummies, Julie and Ian made the rounds chatting to everyone. However, it wasn’t until an hour or so before Lyn and I were due to leave that Ian approached me looking flustered. It seemed he’d not realised who I was after all. When Julie had introduced me earlier he’d assumed I was one of her cousins or something, he’d hardly met any of her family before. It wasn’t until Julie asked him “Have you spoken to Debs yet?“ he realised who I was. I sometimes wonder what you guys would do without us girls. Although I thought it was absolutely hilarious and completely understandable under the circumstances, he couldn’t apologise enough. I was also relieved when Ian explained how he knew me to his friends at the table and in the presence of his new wife. I had been a little worried that imaginations were running riot and they imagined I hadn’t been invited at all and I was a mad, internet stalker obsessed with the groom!

I always knew Ian was a lovely, genuine guy and he really proved it that day. I loved seeing him and Julie together, it really restores my faith in love, marriage and togetherness. Ian said later he thought it was important to invite a friend from the internet because, firstly, he’d met Julie that way through a pen-pal site and secondly too many people thought we weren't real people because we were on line. I know exactly what he meant and it was really nice to finally meet in person and also to realise we get along just as well in person as we do on line. I felt completely at ease with the pair of them. I don’t know Julie, of course, but in a way I felt I knew her from Ian’s blogs. I know he never meant it this way, but they always spoke to me of so much domestic bliss, I yearned for similar.

I really had the most wonderful day. It was a wedding which altered all my preconceived ideas and cynicism about them. We didn’t stay long enough to find out if Julie threw her bouquet over her shoulder in the traditional fashion, but I mentally caught it anyway!" Many thanks for debs in writing this, the original can be found here:

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Wednesday 18th September 2013


Welcome to the working week. Unless you're on holiday of course. And what to do with the time off? What better than to head to East Sussex to the Bluebell Railway to ride the extension to East Grinstead? I couldn't think of anything better, so after dropping Jools off at the factory, I set off for Sussex.

I programed the sat nav and waited for it to pick up a signal.

And waited.

So, I set off hoping it would get a signal at some point. I drove to Folkestone: no signal. I tried resetting the sat nav, but it still didn't work. I headed off the M20 on the Breznet road, only for the sat nav to wake up and tell me I was heading in the wrong direction. So, turn round and back onto the motorway and head north.

It wasn't until I was north of Maidstone i realised it was taking me along the M25, which normally would not be a problem, but there is major roadworks going on, so I turn off the motorway and around Maidstone until the sat nav got the idea we would going cross country and caught up with new directions. We went through Tonbridge Wells, and the traffic was awful, but once through TW, there was no traffic at all, and I was driving down twisty country roads, sun dappled woods, past wonderful picturesque villages, churches and pubs. But I pressed on as I wanted to make the 11:00 departure.

Bluebell Railway, 16th September 2013

I arrived at Sheffield Park with 40 minutes to spare; I got my ticket and wandered around the station to take shots. Now, it seems that the train was filled with 'men of a certain age' and their wives, all excited about being on a steam train. Does this mean I'm one now? I guess so. Not that its a bad thing. Anyway, I thought the train would be empty, but it ended up being full as departure time approached.

Bluebell Railway, 16th September 2013

And on the dot of eleven, we pulled away, and trundled through the Sussex countryside. It was wonderful, bumping along at 25mph through woodland and farmland; we saw deer at the edge of one wood, all six of them showing off their tails as they walked slowly back under cover. I had thought about getting out at East Grinstead for a walk and a bite to eat, but the thought of two and a quarter hour wait for the next train meant that i stayed on and thought about going back to Sheffield Park and finding a pub.

Bluebell Railway, 16th September 2013

In the end, as I drove away from the station I saw the signs for Sheffield Park gardens, and being NT I thought there would be a place to eat. As I had my membership card, it would cost nothing, so I drove up the long driveway, parked up, showed my card and went in.

Bluebell Railway, 16th September 2013

For some reason, the gardens and the house are now separate; the house is private whilst the gardens are NT. The grounds are set round three ornamental lakes, which in the light winds reflected the fine trees and bushes. Soon though, dark clouds came over and the heavens opened. I took shelter under a tree. In about ten minutes the rain cleared, and what was left behind was crystal clear air which was windless.

Sorry, but that's the way it is

I went back to the car to drive home, and chose the coast road as I hoped it would be easier to get back to folkestone then home. Sadly not as it was school run time, but at least the views over the cliffs and rolling countryside were pleasing. I did not stop as I wanted to get back to pick up Jools from work, but it ended up taking two hours to be outside the factory, where Jools was waiting in the sunshine.

That's another good day done then!