Sunday, 27 April 2014

Sunday 27th April 2014 (part 2)


The weekend.

Why is it, when we spend the whole week looking forward to a bit of orchid hunting, does the weather decide that it is going to pour with rain instead? Hmmmm? I did live in hope that maybe the BBC had got it wrong, but we woke up to leaden skies and more than a hint of rain in the air.

After a first cup of coffee of the day, I head to Tesco as with us both working again, fitting shopping into the working week is now impossible. Anyway, getting there soon after 8 means zipping round, grabbing stuff and being home within 40 minutes.

I had bought a tube of ready to cook croissants, which not quite as good as those baked in store, where better than nothing, as the ones from the bakery were not ready. Anyway, more coffee to accompany the croissants, and all was set.

i spend the morning listening to the radio, and send a mail in to the Danny Baker show as I thought they might be interested. They were, and after speaking to a couple of researchers, I was on air, trying to keep my nerves under control. Turns out many of my friends from school were listening, as well as some of my Flickr friends as they mailed me to let me know they heard.

34067 "Tangmere" takes on Martin Mill Bank

Jools went to visit Nan, and I did a session on the cross trainer. Yes, I am still pumping the lard away, but I guess it is not having much good, possibly as i like a beer or two. Anyway, I do feel so much better now that I am exercising regularly.

The worse part of supporting a football team, any sporting team in fact, is not the losing, but its the faint whisps of hope. The worse mantra is 'if we could just beat.....' And so on. City were due to play Man Utd at half five, and before then we had to listen to other teams battle for their lives. Utd sacked their manager during the week; David Moyes is a good man, but not man enough to be their manager, and judging by some of the stories coming out of the Theatre of Broken Dreams is certain players might have been trying to get him sacked. Anyway, with serial wife-cheating Ryan Giggs in charge, any hope we had of heading to Manc Land with them subdued were dashed.

34067 "Tangmere" takes on Martin Mill Bank

Indeed on a the crest of renewed passion, Utd turned on a classic second half display as certain City players just stood and watched, and watched as Utd ran in three more goals. It is, at the end of the day, just a game, and I have known for some time we have not been good enough, but to go out so meekly, just hurts.

34067 "Tangmere" takes on Martin Mill Bank

Anyway, instead of listening to football all day, I head out at twenty past four to snap Tangmere as she steamed through all bedecked in the Golden arrow regalia. I left it too late to head where I wanted to, and so had to dash to Guston bridge to get a decent spot, and good job I did as she was bang on time. The sunshine had broken through, and the scene was bathed in warm golden sunlight.

34067 "Tangmere" takes on Martin Mill Bank

Once she had disappeared into Guston tunnel, I packed my gear and headed to the beach. There is another site for Early Spider Orchids, and I thought I would see if they were out. Indeed they were, and as I looked I saw more and more flowering spikes. In the end I spotted something like 35 or more spikes, and most looking glorious. And the best part is that most people do not know they are there, and so they are just bothered by us photographers....

Early Spider Orchid, Ophrys sphegodes

I go back home to pick up Jools, ad we head to Sandwich to look at the Green Winged Orchids again. Well, Jools had not seen them before, so, and I wanted to see if I could see any white versions. We were impeded on our way by a convoy of hooray Henrys in BMWs and Bentleys heading to one of the golf courses. I am sure that if you have enough money for a Bentley then that is gOd's way of telling you that you have too much money. Give some away. They were driving like idiots, not indicating and generally acting like rich jerks, which is what they were.

Green Winged Orchid, Orchis morio and Orchis morio ver. alba

We parked up and soon enough I spotted the orchids, and as I looked I saw that they stretched on and on, and scatted amongst the thousands of orchids were a smattering of ver. alabas. Lovely.

Green Winged Orchid, Orchis morio and Orchis morio ver. alba

Jools and I spent an hour snapping away, getting our shots before a foursome came down the fairway, and as we had strayed from the path, thought we had better get out. I don't think the club minds that much that we come to look at the orchids. By now the sun was out and the light was just amazing. It was glorious to drive home via the road over the dunes then through deal and home.

Green Winged Orchid, Orchis morio

A fine end to the day.

I am on my travels again tomorrow, so there will be a brief interruption of my blogs, but I will be back at the weekend with all your Jelltex news.

Sunday 27th April 2014


Working from home.

IT does not work.

Oh joy.

Jools headed off to work at eight, and I was already dealing with the full in box, so full that it was some hours before I get down to the day's actual tasks. And its only going to get worse, of course.

Once the work for the day was done, I got out the strong flour and made a bowl of dough for a loaf to go with dinner. I added all the seeds we had laying around inside the pantry (there's a word from another age) and just before I put the dough out for the final rising, I added some chopped garlic and grated cheese. Would it come out OK?

Cheesy Garlic Bread

Well, I put it in the oven at half four, and it rose to the size of half a beach ball, the cheese had leached out and formed a crispy crust on the outside, and was perfect. The house smelt of bread and roasted garlic and cheese. I cooked the pasta and home-made sauce, and it was wonderful. And there was so much bread left there would be at least enough for sandwiches the next day. And Sunday as it turned out.....

That night we headed to The Berry to meet an old friend, Rob, with whom we used to go rambling with the Ramblers. The Berry was full as it was another quiz night, but we stayed long enough for a chat and drink before we decided to vacate the place as the quizzers were getting ready to do battle.

Saturday, 26 April 2014

3rd year German class invades East Germany

Back in October 1979, I went on an exchange trip with my School, the Benjamin Britten High School, to Burgwedel in the old West germany. As part of the visit, we went on a bus trip to visit the town of Goslar and went on to look at the border with the East.

The border was meant not to keep the West out, but to keep the East in, and so the barbed wire fence was some 15 metres inside the border, and the border itself was marked with just red and white signs warning that that was where the border was.

Halt. Or, British Schoolchildren invade the DDR!

Our exchange partners strode to the border and carried on right up to the fence. Thinking this was normal, we followed, right to the fence, pulling on the wires which we found out later were attached to automatic machine guns.

As we stood there, two guards came screaming down on a huge motorbike, the guy on back carrying the biggest machine gun I ever saw. One of them took out a camera, so we hammed it, pulling all sorts of poses, including the old Churchill Vs. we took to throw stones onto the rough ground the other side of the fence, which we also found out later was a mine field. We all survived.

Late, we found out that the guards watched to which coach we got into, checked to see who had hired it to make sure it wasn't a horrible Western plot to overthrow their country. The East German Government then took the case to the international peace court and got massive compensation from the West Germans, and all coaches banned from some 2km of the border.

Listen to me explain this to DJ Danny Baker on Radio 5 this morning, as 'my 3rd form German class invaded East Germany. I'm on after about 55 minutes.

The follow up was that our class was the first official visitor to what it was hoped to be our German twin tow. Lowestoft already had a Dutch one (Katwijk, which in the 90s ditched Lowestoft as the Dutch deemed poor old Lowestoft too dull to be a twin town!).

So the German town, Gross Burgwedel, laid on a civic reception for the class, and it was all very formal, until they brought out the food, open sandwiches, some of which had what looked like raw sausage meat.

Now, the role of a food fight in a formal situation is never a good one. Sadly, soon all sorts of food was being thrown about, and we had a fine old time. It came of something of a matter of pride that when the local paper came out, our food fight made the front page. Which was nice.

In the end Lowestoft did not get that town as a twin, as due to a technicality, Gross Burgwedel was not a town, but part of a civic area called just Burgwedel.

Friday, 25 April 2014

Friday 25th April 2014


Six weeks ago, when I agreed to travel to Essex to conduct another audit, Jools had no job and we thought maybe making a day of it, a pub lunch, visit some churches, etc, once the audit was over. As it turned out, Jools began a new job at the beginning of the week, and so we had to decide how she was going to get to work as there was no way I could travel to Essex using public transport, as their office is in a barn 20 miles from the sea. Handy as they're a company that runs a fleet of small vessels.

So, it was decided I would drop Jools in Dover at half six, she would make her way to the office on buses and I would drive to the meeting. And that is what we did, as dawn crept over east kent I dropped Jools at tesco so she could get some lunch and catch a bus for Canterbury from there. I headed up along the Alkham Valley to the start of the M20 and on up to Dartford.

Traffic was light at first, even at the crossing. But the A12 to Colchester was different, as traffic built up towards rush hour and I was stuck in queues at Chelmsford and Colchester. and then into the Essex countryside to the office.

We shake hands and get down to the audit; to my surprise they had done all I asked from the previous audit, and it was all rather straightforward and wonderful. I ticked all boxes, drank coffee as went through each section. And just after lunch, it was all over. Thanks you very much. Shake hands,. Say thanks again. Shake hands again.

Fly Orchid, Ophrys insectifera

And into the car and the race to the tunnel, or bridge, begins to see if I could get there before rush hour and the queues begin. So, I dashed along the A120, down the A12 and onto the M25, which was empty as a crash in Hertfordshire had closed the motorway. And I was through and back into Kent and heading down towards Canterbury.

I reach Jools' office at half four, and wait for her to finish. Once she gets into the car we head down through Chartham and onto Stone Street as we had an appointment with a fly. A Fly Orchid.

Fly Orchid, Ophrys insectifera

We find the site, park up and I change out of my suit, grab my camera and lens, and off we go into the golden light of a Kentish spring evening. Even if we failed to find an orchid, it was wonderful just to be out. We passed the site of the Flys once, but on the way back my eye was caught by a dark colour of the flower. And soon enough saw maybe half a dozen of the tiny orchids. I got my shots, and was even able to show an elderly couple the orchids. They were very happy.

Time then to head home for dinner, and to feed the cats and relax, 380 miles later I was home and whacked. Time for a beer then.

Thursday, 24 April 2014

Thursday 24th April 2014


And now the added problem begins of Jools starting work. She has a 12 week contract at a company in Canterbury, and my office here is in Canterbury. As she did not have to start until half nine, I decided to work from home, thinking that the IT problems from last week would be fixed, right? Wrong, nothing worked, well, with the exception of webmail again. And there was me thinking that IT would have fixed it over the four day weekend. Apparently not.

So, I worked as best I could, and all in all was quite productive. I arranged more visits, or at least sent in the applications.

Jools arrived home at about half five in high spirits, being able to do all the tasks her new employer wanted with the minimum of training. And most of the folks she works with are nice enough, and there is a small chapel on the site which interests me no end, I can tell you.

The evening was mainly taken up with watching Chelsea in the Champions league. As Chelsea have reverted to playing anti-football, in that they concede lots of possession and attack on the counter. ITV tried to tell us it was fascinating. In truth it was dull as ditchwater, in tat there is so much as stake and so the game ends in a dull, dull, dull 0-0.


So, Wednesday, lets see if we can both go into the office. So, at half seven we head off for Ramsgate so Jools can drop me off before heading to the other side of Canterbury. Sadly, the traffic was crazy, at least for a Wednesday morning with most of the children still on holiday. Anyway, the 16 mile trip took 40 minutes giving Jools barely enough time to get to work in time.In fact she was a couple of minutes late, but this is something now we have learned.

I have another triumphant day at work, get lots done and send out a landslide of e mails, I feel in control and in a good mood. And the monkeys were offshore, so the office is as quiet as a morgue, which is just how I like it.

At half three, I set off on the greatest, hardest trip of my life, getting back home on public transport. I mean, how hard can it be?

Leg 1. Walk from the office along the harbourside to the bus stop. Without doubt the best part, as the sun shone down and the yachts and boats bobbed on mirror-like water. I saw a bus waiting, so I hurried on hoping not to have to wait the seven whole minutes for the next one.

Leg 2. I make the bus, pay my one pound ten and take my seat near the back of the bus. And off we go, up and down the narrow streets of Ramsgate, heading to the station.

Leg 3. I arrive at the station, pay nine pounds for a ticket, and look at the board. The 15:23 was reading as not having departed. So, I make my way to platform 2 as the train pulled in. Inside it was a mess as it had not been cleaned, but I took to a seat by the window and settled down, hoping that it would leave soon. Others had been waiting nearly an hour for this, so I was lucky.

It left at four, and trundled its way to Minster and then onto Sandwich, where every schoolchild in kent seemed to be waiting to get on the train. As you can imagine the train filled up with kids, all excited about going home. Most got off at Deal and Walmer, leaving the train fairly quiet as we descended into Dover from the portal of Guston tunnel.

Leg 4. The walk to the Rack of Ale. It was Jools' idea that I should wait in the pub until she arrived to pick me up, and i thought that a fine idea. So, there I was on St George's Day, sitting in the pub whilst the staff dressed as either St George of a serving wench hurried around giving out free food or making sure or glasses never emptied. What better way to spend and hour or so?

I was on my third drink, just a half, when Jools arrived. She joined me with a cider before we headed off back home to the cats. Needless to say there was no exercise done that evening, just me laying on the sofa, snoozing. Which was a fine way to end the day.

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Wednesday 23rd April 2014


Bank Holiday Monday.



Welcome to London, the rain from last night has passed and instead when we looked out the air conditioning units and other such lovely things were bathed in a warm morning light. We would have stayed the night anyway, but I thought we might like to go to the Viking Exhibition at the British Museum before heading back, and so managed to get tickets for a session just before lunchtime. What could go wrong?

The best way to Cockfosters

In a word, nothing. But for now, we showered and got dressed before heading down for breakfast. Its always better do things in that order. So, for a seven quid we get the choice of cereal, fruit, a full English, kippers, toast, cakes, coffee, tea, fruit juice. I mean you could fill up for the day, although you wouldn’t be able to move! Anyway, we eat our fill as the serving and retired officer types come down with their wives to complain about the tea/coffee/food in very loud officer issue voices. Its what they do…..


We pack and then head out, and decide to head straight to the museum and have a wander. So, after checking the route we set off and ride on mostly empty trains, which was a surprise for a Bank Holiday. Anyway, we arrive at Russell Square, ride up in a lift and are soon out walking in the sunshine. Instead of wandering about, we sit on a park bench and watch the world go by. In this case was a large group of French students milling around acting French (which they did well) and various dog walkers. All the while sitting on the bench in warm sunshine. Not a bad way to spend the morning.

British Museum

At ten we walk round the corner to the museum, and find that most tourists had also thought about coming here too. What is amazing was that very few English voices were heard, or even English spoken. With so much to see in London, it seems odd to come to a museum, but then I suppose as we stole so much history from other countries, it’s the only why they can see their own history at times. Although most of what is on display is fantastic, taken out of their context, it is a little meaningless, especially the large statues, and I thought when looking at one of the Moai from Easter Island. Wonderful as it is, but it really should be taken back to whence it was taken. It would not matter if it was a copy.

British Museum

Anyway, we head up to the Saxon rooms, so I could look at the Sutton Hoo artefacts, which still thrill me hugely. At half eleven, we head down to the exhibition. And it was then the crowds got really bad.

Sutton Hoo

Once would have thought that having a ticket, and having to pay £16.50 each for the tickets, there would be limited numbers inside, but as the doors swung open we were confronted with a sea of people, and every single exhibit so surrounded by people, it impossible to see how we would see anything. There was little order, so people began at a random point and just stayed. We moved off, and as the exhibition progressed, a corridor twisted one way and another than the crowds thinned some. However, in the main room where the remains of the Roskilde #6 boat dominated, more and more people were milling around. We did get to see something over half of the exhibits, but it did feel a rip off to be honest, and any thought of paying £80 for membership soon evaporated.

We headed back to the tube and the one stop to St Pancras. We had enough time to head to M&S to get some lunch, before boarding the train and heading south to Kent and home. The train glided out of the station bang on time, and we whizzed under east London to the Essex marshes, we emerged into more bright sunshine at Dagenham, and sped towards Thurrock, under the Thames into Kent.

Thankfully our car still had all its wheels, and so we were home soon enough, putting the kettle on and wondering where on earth the cats were. Seems like they took exception to not being fed by us and had been out sulking, or something. But by five, they were all back refusing the food from early in the day and demanding something fresh.

Even if you are away for just a day, it is always nice to come home, put your feet up and sip a large cuppa.

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Tuesday 22nd April 2014


Easter Sunday.

When you arrange to do things at weekends, you always assume that come the day you'll be excited by the prospect. And yet when it comes round you end up thinking that what you'd really like to do was sit around and do nothing, maybe go to the pub, or whatever else.

The reason why we were going is that we got tickets for Bellowhead's 10th birthday concert at the Royal Albert Hall. And although i love their music and love seeing concerts in the RAH, it does mean leaving home for the night, arranging for our good friend Gary to feed the cats, the cost of staying in the UJC. And so on....

And as the weather was expected to break and rain for most of the day, it would have meant lazing around the house, eating saffron buns and so on. Anyway, we had already bought the train tickets, the hotel room and arranged something for Monday too. So, better get on with it and have a good time.

Before heading off, there was time for a session on the cross trainer, write a blog, edit some shots, drink coffee and watch football. Its all go here, I tell you.

That all done, and taking an early lunch, we head out of the house at one so in plenty of time for the quarter to two train. The rain had already begun by this point, but wasn't heavy. So, we found somewhere to park, walked to the station to find our train waiting. Always a good thing. At Folkestone a young scally got on, turned out, or so he said, he was just released from the police station and was heading home and did not have a ticket. Listening to him thinking that society owed him enough so he could travel free was mildly annoying. Anyway, I am sure the BTP would catch with hi in Ashford.

By the time we got to london the rain was hammering down, makes little difference if you're travelling on the tube I guess, but once at Waterloo we had to dash to the Club dodging the raindrops. We had a cuppa in our room, then went to the par for a drink of something stronger, before we headed out looking for a place to eat. It was still pouring, so we decided to slum it and eat at Burger King on the station before travelling up to South Kensington and the RAH.

Northern Line at Waterloo

Full of burger and fries we go down into the underground and make our way at first to Charing Cross, as Embankment station is closed, and then onto South Kensington. When we got there we find the place jam-packed full of people. I had forgotten that it is where the main museums are, and people had taken to them because of the rain. We had to force our way through them to get to the subway, then I am like an ice-breaker, forging a path through those who were walking taking up the whole width of the subway. By the time we got to the end, the crowds had thinned out, and so we climbed the steps beside the Science Museum and the V&A. The rain had stopped, so it would be pleasant waiting for the doors to open.

Albert Memorial

We had hoped to find a pub open, but just found universities and embassies. We made our way to the RAH, got a the measure of where we would have to queue up, and went to find the stage cafe for a coffee.

Royal Albert Hall

Once we had drunk, we retired to a bench in the park beside the Albert Memorial to watch the folks pass by, which is one of those great things you can do which is free.

at seven we went to queue up, there were plenty already in front, but we knew there would be plenty room inside, as we only had standing tickets. We go in with ten minutes to spare before the gig began, and as we climbed the steps to the arena, the view of the hall took our breath away.

The band came on bang on time at half seven, and ended up playing nearly three hours, and did soething like four encores, of which this is the last:

Once the gig ended, we went outside with the short trip back to the hotel. On our way to the tube station, we flagged down a taxi and so were back at the hotel within ten minutes, sitting in the bar watching MOTD and supping a pint. Although Norwich did not beat liverpool, we did put up a fight losing out 2-3. Too little too late it might be, but better than the capitulation we have seen since Christmas.

Monday, 21 April 2014

Monday 21st April 2014


And the sun shone on. And on. Kind of.

At the least the forecast promised sunshine, though in reality we got a lot of cloud mixed in. At times, mostly cloud, but whatever.

And on the list of things to do today was to revisit another of the orchid sites to check on the progress of the early orchids.

Early Purple Orchid, Orchis mascula

So, after breakfast we headed out along the Alkham Valley to Folkestone, and then along the motorway a bit before turning up the Elham Valley. We know the way now. And when we get there we find four other people surveying the orchids. Sadly, at first glance we no orchids, but as our eyes get used to the scene we see a few stunted early purples scattering the down.

Early Purple Orchid, Orchis mascula

Although I have nothing against Early purples, our, or rather MY aim, was to check on the later orchid species. And there was much evidence of a multitude of spikes all over that in about a month time this will be orchid heaven. But for now, a few stunted Early Purples. we search for Flys, but all I found was the rosette for the solitary Lady.

Early Purple Orchid, Orchis mascula

The sunshine is intermittent at best, and with the small orchids all we could fine, we decide to head off. Or rather I decide we should go back to see the Early Spiders. On the way we go to the garden centre in Folkestone for some seeds and other plants for the garden, and then onto the Hoe. I will not mention many other orchid sites, but there is little point in pretending I do not go to Samphire Hoe for the Early Spiders.

Early Spider Orchid, Ophrys sphegodes

I wanted to try my new lens out, and also see how much they had come on in the last two weeks. I made my way up the track, and found a fine display of orchids. I sat down to wait for Jools to catch up, but watch as a family group of eight people walk off the path and through the largest group of orchids, flattening them. I was horrified. So, I pointed out what they had done, showed them some other Early Spiders, and despite being locals did not know that the orchids even grew there. And the people who run the site posted no warnings, just a tiny 'please keep to the path' sign.

It being a bright sunny day, people were arriving to use the site as a park, rather than a nature reserve, and no one seemed to care, not even the warden when I told him. Its an open space he said. I decided to leave as i could not bear to see more orchids flattened. The really annoying thing is that the warden told me off for laying dwon to photograph the orchid last week. I won't go back this year.

Back home we have lunch, and then seem to let the rest of the day slip by. I listen to the radio, edit some pictures and the usual stuff. And in this way the afternoon slips by. Jools went out to get a Chinese for dinner in the evening, which I feel is far better than me cooking!

Saturday, 19 April 2014

Saturday 19th April 2014

Good Friday.

In another life, I was what were called back then, a hairy-arsed armourer in the Air Force. Like most people we were supposed to conform to a certain pattern in that we were supposed to be heavy drinkers. I mean real heavy drinkers. I have always been a lightweight, and normally bailed after 5 pints and would find my way back to my bed. Since leaving the mob, I have drunk less, which also means no hangovers, and more money in my wallet come the mornings.

Even still, I like a beer festival as much as the next man, or woman, and as a friend from Flickr was travelling down to Kent for the Planet Thanet festival, plans had been made for me to meet up with him. However, with the orchid season beginning so very early, I decided to go orchid hunting instead. My liver cheered.

Early Purple Orchid, Orchis mascula

So, after breakfast, and checking that my batteries were charged, that the memory cards were all in the cameras. And away we go!

We took the sat nav, as the first of the sites is tricky to find. But after getting the right turning off the main road, we soon remember the way, heading down the narrowest of lanes, which was still strewn with rocks and flints from the heavy rains during the winter. We head along the bottom of the valley, and halfway back up to the parking place. And here we are again.

Early Purple Orchid, Orchis mascula

I take just the 6D and my new lens and pack the 50mm in my coat pocket in case I want to snap some general landscape shots.

The view from the meadow

And here we are, rambling through a Kentish wood in the spring sunshine, the air thick with the songs of dozens of happy birds. All is well with the world. Up and up we go until we come to the clearing, a few Twayblade spikes could be seen, but the view to the farm on the hill opposite was wonderful.

Early Purple Orchid, Orchis mascula

On we went, now slowing down and bent double as we search for the Fly Orchids. We spot none, but soon as the path heads down again, and the sunlight rains through the canopy of trees, we see dozens of the finest Early Purples. They look fantastic, and so we stop to snap them before we turn to head back to the car.

Fly Orchid Ophrys insectifera

It was then that I spotted the first of the Fly Orchids. Tiny, looking like a piece of grass, but with the hint of purple as the bloom began to open. As it is next to the path, I was able to get down to get a shot. On the other side of the path we see a few more examples, none as far advanced as the first though.

We arrive back at the car, consult with the map and decide it is easier(!) to head cross-country than to find our way back to the main road. However, not all roads are signposted, so this is a bit of a gamble, and yet it not being ten in the morning, we had all day to find our way.

We pass through pretty villages, and fine looking churches; one I did not recognise, until we parked outside, and then, yes, we have been here before. We drive on.

And through woods and across fields until we came to the unusual named road, and there is the parking place; just one other car there. We would have the place almost to ourselves.

I choose just to take my 6D and the new lens, and off we go. Its about a 15 minute walk to the orchid site, but it is splendid through the wood with bluebells stretching as far as the eye can see on both sides. The sun breaks through the clouds and the colours are breathtaking. I then see some movement out of the corner of my eye, and about 50 yards away is a buck deer, just watching us. i raise my camera, which just has the 150mm on, and fire off a shot before the sound spooks the deer and it bounds off with another which had been hidden. We watch them for the next 5 minutes as they go further up the slope and into the wood, but all the time keeping an eye on us.

The deer and the bluebells

We enter the conservation area and straight away there are two Early Purples on either side of the path. I snap one which was easy to get to before we move on. Our target this time was Lady Orchids and the rare duke of Burgundy butterfly. In the end none of the Ladys were out, although some we close, and despite the ground being covered with the Duke's foodplant, the air was empty. We'll have to come back in a week or so.

Although it is nearly opening time, we decide to head home for lunch, as we have a full larder. And I have a batch of fresh saffron buns to munch through too. Green Winged Orchid Orchis morio

In the afternoon I head over to Sandwich Bay to see the Green-winged Orchids. They do grow there, but are not as numerous as further north in the county, and it will be to that meadow we will head to maybe in a couple of weeks time. Anyway, I head along the Golf Road to the Bay, thus avoiding the entry charge. And I also had forgotten my jacket, which mean it felt bitterly cold in the stiff breeze.

Life sized

The easiest part of looking for something is knowing where to start, and as i remembered from last year's orchid safari, I park up along the beach, head through the gap in the fence, and about ten yards in on the right are about a dozen orchids. Most are stunted, but a couple are a foot or so high. I get the shots i wanted and head back, via the Rack of Ale, as I was a bit thirsty.

Once back home, I look through the shots i had taken, edit some and listen to the radio. A fine end to the day. Once darkness falls, we put the badger food outside and settle down for a weekly dose of the Don and HIGNFY. A fine end to the day.

Thursday, 17 April 2014

Thursday 17th April 2014

And so, lots to tell you about. But for now we shall stick to the tried and tested formula.


After being assured by IT that the VPN problems had been sorted, i decide to work from home,mainly so Jools can have the car so she can attend another interview, this time near Canterbury. Just to make sure, I try to long in so she could take me to the office in case it didn't work. But, what do you know, it went fine.

So, at eight fifteen,I waved jools off in her best interview gear and i got down to work. The morning passes with meetings and phone calls and me starting another wonderful Excel spreadsheet, because after all, its just what the world needs.

Outside it is sunny but cool again with the wind in the north east, and i fight the urge to put the heating on and try to drink tea or coffee to keep warm.

At half twelve, Julie comes back with the news that the interview went well, she thinks. And as we're both hungry, we decide to head out for lunch. I had decided that we try The Plough at Ripple, as I heard that that was where the Ripple steam brewery have their tap, and the beer should be especially good. It is only a ten minute drive along to Walmer, left at the car wash, down Cold Blow Lane, over the crossroads and follow the road through the fields.

In the middle of the road

And there we are.

The Plough Inn, Ripple, Walmer, Kent

I order a pint of Steam beer to find myself standing next to the head brewer and he offers me a tour round the brewery any time I want. Which is nice. We chat and swap numbers, whether anything will come of it, I don't know. We look at the menu and decide its nice enough to stay for lunch, and we both have garlic tiger prawns which I follow with chilli and Jools had lamb shank.

The Plough Inn, Ripple, Walmer, Kent

Time enough on the way home for a call in at St Mary the Virgin, the tiny parish church in Ripple, but it is locked fast, which is a shame.

The afternoon passes onto evening. I climb onto the cross trainer and do half an hour, which I am happy about. I am really feeling the effect, in a good way of the workouts, and I just need the weight to come off my belly and all will be right with the world.


Another day working from home, and more IT chaos. See, I can't help it, but there you are. I try to log on with the VPN to find my licence had expired. As our fancy new communicator was working, I speak to Steffen in Esbjerg to find it is the same for the whole company. Anyway, I have stuff to be getting on with, and while to morning away writing mails and finishing the spreadsheet.

Jools comes back from her doctor and i cook lunch, as I plan to bake saffron buns in the afternoon, so we eat a proper meal at lunchtime. Proper chicken Kievs, very nice indeed. I mix the dough, give it a good bashing and then leave it to prove for three hours through the afternoon.

Jools heads off at two for another appointment with an agency, and I switch the computer off as nothing is working, still, and everyone else seems to have logged off for the weekend. Happy Easter.

Sigma 150mm f2.8 EX DG OS

I have to wait in as I am waiting for a delivery; another new lens. This time a new macro lens for the full frame camera. And it arrives just before four, just as the sun goes behind a cloud never to return for the rest of the day. I take a few shots anyway.

Test shots

Jools arrives home just as the first batch of buns are ready, so it seems only right that we try one each. And they were OK. I mean they were nice buns, but due to the high cost of saffron, and the fact the pack i bought for four quid had only about a dozen strands in it, which means you could hardly taste the saffron.

Test shots

As we eat the buns, the phone rings and its one of the agencies that Jools has registered: the company she went to the interview with on wednesday offered her the three month contract and she starts on Tuesday.

Happy Easter!

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Wednesday 16th April 2014


Deep breath!

Back to work. And I have to head into the office in Ramsgate to work, thanks to the ongoing IT chaos. I promise I will say no more, but as it stood, I could not work from home, so go into the office and spend hours on the phone to IT explaining what the problem was. On top of that, having to re-discover where everything is hidden again. Still, makes life interesting.

I have taken to having coffee breaks every 90 minutes or so, as the walk down the stairs and standing in the sunshine does me and my legs good.

I get home and straight away have a migraine. Now, I am very lucky in that i just get the 'aura' which messes with my vision, and I know that if I sit in the shade with my eyes closed it passes. But this was a strong one and once it passed I felt washed out, like i hadn't slept in a week. Just as well that it was my rest day from the cross-trainer. And it came as no surprise that by eight i was shattered and took to bed.


And here we are heading to work again, feeling like I hadn't slept in a week. Isn't it about time I had some time off? Anyway, it being nearly Easter, I am told that in Denmark people have until the end of the month to use up last year's allocation of holiday or lose it. Which is why there is hardly anyone in work in Arhus. So, I do work, answer e mails and listen to radio and drink coffee and help fix the guys computers, or at least give them advice. Have you switched it off and on again? The old ones are always the best......

On the way home, I have to take a diversion due to subsidence and I pass by a church with a welcoming sign in its doorway: 'church open.' It says. Hmmm, I have my cameras in the back, so I find somewhere to park and go in to find a perfectly formed church from the peak of Victorian gothic design. I won't name the church as its the subject of a GWUK on Flickr. So, let me say its a church I have been wanting to get into for a while, and I did. Result. So, another one off the list.

Back home Jools has is still waiting to hear about the job, and has another interview on Wednesday, so, its all happening. Lets hope that someone spots her potential. I mean, its not hard to miss is it?

Despite it being gloriously sunny, the wind is in the north and so it feels cold outside, even in the sunshine, so we forgo the evening walk and I take to the cross-trainer instead and pup some lard, and feel all the better for it. We have steak and ale pie for dinner, which seems too much as we have been cutting back on our meals for a while, but as most of it was fresh vegetables, it was good stuff. I did make 3/4 of a bottle of red wine disappear, which was very nice indeed, and meant I could doze whilst listening to the football in the evening.....

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

25 years too long

I am a Norwich fan, and have been since November 1972, and in those years I have seen a lot of thick and thin. Mostly thin.

Which is why is it very hard to imagine that 25 years ago, we were going for a league and cup double. Really. In fact, both would fail at Villa Park, the league crumbled with a 5-0 Easter Monday televised game. And the cup, well, that didn’t really matter in the end.

What I remember most is the sunshine, and being so full of hope and expectation. Dad and I travelled down from Norfolk on a coach, and i had borrowed one of those Sinclair portable tVs for the day so I could watch Saint and Greavsie from the M6. No such luck, never got a picture with it. So I stuck to my little transistor radio.

We arrived at Villa Park at about half two, and made our way to The Holte End. Once inside I saw in one of the dark passages a guy selling programs from both semi finals, I bought one each. And tucked my t shirt into my jeans and dropped the programs down my shirt and we made our way to the terrace.

Us and Everton shared the Holte End, half each, but what Dad and I found was something like a war zone, with the West Midlands police having a go at some norwich fans, who may have had a drink or two. We just wanted to see the game so we walked right to the back of the stand.

The match kicked off in bright sunshine, and we were so excited, but I noticed a message soon enough on the scoreboard at the other end of the pitch that play had been suspended in the Semi.

I turned on my radio and held it to my ear; Radio 2 would relay to me the tragedy unfolding. It became clear that there had been deaths, and the game in front of me faded into insignificance. I tried to tell those around me, but they did not believe me.

By half time dozens were dead, so said the radio, and we were one nil down. That did not matter. I just wanted the game to end. It did, and we lost, and on the coach we listened as the deaths were described. Dad never went to another game away from Carrow Road.

I had been at three games before then that I feared for my safety, but I don’t think I feared for my life. One, at Ipswich in 1985 was another semi-final, a League Cup, I preyed that we would not score as I feared being pushed into the barrier in front of me. Same at an FA cup 4th round game at the old Baseball Ground in about 1984. Another balmy spring day, a stand packed and I could lift my feet of the ground and not move. Finally, a last game of the season match at Grimsby prior to promotion in 1986. Too much drink and high spirits. Another prayer that we would not score. As many have said, Hillsborough could have happened to any of us, at any time. That made it all the more real. And still does.

Monday, 14 April 2014

Monday 14th April 2014


And now it seems that spring is here for keeps, then nature seems to be springing into life with more and more vigour. What with the Early Spider orchids more than 4 weeks ahead of what they were last year, which means that now is the time when every fine day or drop of sunshine should not be wasted and we must go out with cameras to record each and every moment of spring. During last week’s search for orchids in the Elham Valley I saw many bluebells out, and so what would be better than to head to Kings Wood to see the mother of all bluebells displays.

So we set off at half seven, driving up to Ashford and then up into the downs. We saw that lower down the bluebells were stunning, looking glorious in the dappled sunshine filtering down through the canopy of trees. But at the top, where the walks are, being higher up, the bluebells were not yet out. Very disappointing indeed. However, all was not lost. I knew there were bluebells at another site, but this one would have Early Purple Orchids too.

Early Purple Orchid, Orchis mascula

So, back up the motorway and across to the wood. I won’t mention the location here, as I have promised to keep the locations of orchids secret due to the fact many orchids have been dug up in recent years by stupid folk thinking they would look right dandy in their gardens, I guess. Either that or these are being sold. Whatever the reason, almost certainly the orchids would die away from the location and conditions that made them grow in that location in the first place.

Early Purple Orchid, Orchis mascula

So, we turned off the main road, and went up the narrow line to the top of the wood. Despite being only a few hundred yards from the main road, all was peaceful apart from the distant noise of the traffic. And we had the wood just about to ourselves, in an hour we saw just one other person, a local walking his dog. So, we grabbed our cameras and limboed under the gate and into the wood.

Early Purple Orchid, Orchis mascula

All around a carpet of bluebells looked glorious in the sunshine, with deeper shades of blue where shadows fell across them. I took a shot, then about 50 yards away I saw a flash of purple in a clearing I knew was there. Aha, an orchid. I marched off, and sure enough there was a single orchid, maybe 18 inches high reaching for the sky. In the shadows maybe a dozen more were already in bloom and just waiting for the afternoon when the sun would fall on them.

Meanwhile, in a Kentish wood

I took shots and then set off deeper into the woods where there were more orchids and many, many more bluebells. It was glorious, and as I said, no one else there. Down at the bottom of the wood I even found a couple of Lady Orchid spikes, one almost beginning to open a single flower. On the 13th of April, that is incredibly early.

On the way back to the car I stopped for ‘just one more orchid shot’ when some movement out of the corner of my eye attracted my attention. There, in a tree stump were at least three black and white kittens, playing in the sunshine in the bottom of a hollow tree stump. As I moved closer, they heard me, and along with a sandy coloured sibling they hid deep in the hollow of the stump. Looking up I saw their Mother looking nervous, so I backed away, leaving them alone. I showed Jools where they were, and on cue, a single kitten stuck its head out of one of the openings to see if the coast was clear. They’d do just fine.

Tree stump full o' kittens

We headed back home for lunch, just stopping off at the top of the downs near Dover to check on the Man Orchid site, but nothing showing there. These should be out at the same time as the Lady Orchids, which show how advanced the ones we saw earlier were.

Back home we had cold kebab for lunch, from the ones left over from Saturday evening’s dinner. And very nice they were cold, washed down by a nice cold bottle of beer. For the rest of the day I pottered about, did some baking, made and drunk big cups of tea and made sure the football was listened to. In the evening we started to watch Billy Connolly’s trip along Route 66. Hmm, that looks fun…….

And that was your weekend. At least next week its four day one. Be good.

Sunday, 13 April 2014

Sunday 13th April 2014


working in the office.

Jools needed the car as she had an interview in the afternoon, and to be honest I could not afford to have another day without a connection to my work files.

So, after breakfast we headed to the office. And once there I had to wait for the technicians to leave for work offshore before I got a desk at which to work. Once I got one, work could begin. And for the most part, it worked pretty well, if complicated. But I won't linger on that here.

At three, my colleague was about to leave; could he drop me off at the station, I ask? Yes he could, but you have to leave now. OK, so I wrap up and switch the laptop off, and we head for the exit. I squeezed myself and my work bag into his Audi TT and we zipped off.

At the station, I get a ticket to Deal, and see that my train was due to leave from platform 3 in ten minutes or so. I walk through the subway, and onto the platform. And then there is that curious mix of the unemployed and those, like me, off for the weekend and clearly heading home after a shift. I wonder the stores behind those that seemingly don't work, but then that is none of my business.

We get on the train, I get a seat by a window and which has a table. And relax.

We glide off, trundling through the outskirts of Ramsgate and head over the fields to Minster where we take the sharp chord towards Richborough and Sandwich. We run out over the marshes, which hundreds of years ago was under water as it was part of the Wantsum Channel. Amazing to think. Past Richborough Fort and into Sandwich.

People get off, others get on. And away we go.

Over more marshes, now at least firm land now the flood waters have receded. At Deal I get off the train and then off the platform which leads me to the car park of Sainsbury's. Every station should have a taxi rank, surely? I see a taxi office some 50 yards away, and so wander over and ask for a cab to take me to the Berry. Let me say it was Jools' idea for me to make my way to the berry so she would come and collect me after her interview.

So, I go in and order a pint of vanilla porter, which was very much as nice as it sounds. I took the first sip and toasted the weekend, just in case it thought it wasn't welcome. I sent another one down after the first, so it wouldn't be lonely. And felt just peachy.

At five, Jools appeared and had a half a cider before we headed for home. Not going to say too much about the interview; its early days, and her first ever interview, but thinks it went well. We shall know next week.


The weekend has landed.

And I promise not a word about IT problems.

World of water

For the past two springs, we have been on a voyage of discovery, as far as orchids are concerned. We have turned up at locations, with little or no idea what we were looking for, only for someone to ask us what we were looking for, and helping us. Not just with orchids, but with butterflies too. And the opportunity to return that favour to someone else is always a thrill. And so as winter progressed people's thoughts turn to spring and colour and orchids. And so promises are made saying 'yes, I will take you to the orchid sites'. And so on.

Early Spider Orchid, Ophrys sphegodes

So, when I posted the first of the shots last week of the Early Spiders, someone asked if they could meet up. Why not? We plumped for Saturday morning and hoped the weather would play ball.

Early Spider Orchid, Ophrys sphegodes

Saturday morning was bright but breezy, but not overly so. So, lets go for it! However, we began the day with a short walk in order to check for Holly Blue Butterflies. The Holly Blue is the first of the blues to awake in the spring, and there is one place near here where I have seen at least one each year. It is a tad windier and cooler here than elsewhere in Kent and the southeast, and so we did not see anything blue butterfly shaped. In fact as we were so early, we saw no butterflies at all. But it was great back walking across the fields.

Early Spider Orchid, Ophrys sphegodes

We did not walk far, and soon we turned back for home and breakfast.

At half ten I headed out for the coast just south of Dover. As I have explained before, Samphire Hoe is an area of land at the base of the cliffs made from the spoil of the channel tunnel. And is the best location for Early Spider Orchids in the country.


We went down the tunnel to the Hoe, and after parking up sat at a picnic bench to wait for Gillian to arrive. Making such arrangements without a mobile phone can be tricky, and hard for some to understand that we do not have a phone, but we manage, as we did yesterday, as Gillian turns up at five past and after introductions we head out for the orchids.

Early Spider Orchid, Ophrys sphegodes

Not much to say about the orchids or the photography. We found a plant, got down on our bellies, snapped it, checked our shots and then moved on. This went on to just before one when Jools and I took our leave as this had been the third trip here in a week.

Early Spider Orchid, Ophrys sphegodes

Back home for lunch, and then settle down for the football. At three, Norwich played at Fulham in a must win game for both teams. That City lost 1-0 means things are hard for us now. I won't labour on it too much, but i have though for many weeks now that we would go down, and now that seems even more certain.

I do a session on the cross-trainer before i cook kofte kebabs for dinner, washed down with beer. The good news is that there is enough to have cold for lunch tomorrow.


Saturday, 12 April 2014

Saturday 12th April 2012


Working from home.

I thought, best give it a couple of days after the great iT switchover to try working from home, so as to be able to tell from those systems which had totally failed and those which could not make work through the VPN. As it turned out, I did not get that far as the VPN failed. Both VPNs failed, and so I was left to work with just webmail. Jools had the car, and so i had to just work out stuff as best I could.

Needless to say, apart from sending a few urgent mails, there was little else I could do.

The day passed. Slowly.

Once it got to half three I gave up and switched the computer off, headed upstairs to the cross-trainer and worked out my frustrations on that. I extended the workout once again and felt so much better at the end. Hoorah!

In the evening we sat down to watch the latest ad by the New Zealand tourist board, sorry Hobbit film. I allowed over three hours to watch the film, what with comfort breaks, coffee breaks and the suchlike. And very good it was too, but managing to stretch a book with about 200 pages into a 9 hour trilogy is really pushing it. At the end I worked out that the third film could be over in 10 minutes, as all there is left to tell is the destruction of Laketown, the death of Smaug, the Dwarfs heading back to the lonely mountain and Bilbo heading for home.

Do you think Peter Jackson could tell that in ten minutes? no, he likes a challenge, clearly. Anyway, the story was told well, and he is weaving an arc that will stretch over the six films which will make sense.

Anyway, weekend begins at four tomorrow....

Thursday, 10 April 2014

Thursday 10th April 2014


Look, I don't want to labour a point here, but the IT thing is a real pain in the arse, and is really making work difficult. I don't know why I started to detail the problems, but I did and they just go on and on, turning into different problems.

On Wednesday, I hav all new software, but don't know where anything is on the computer, and the systems we used to use and were just a click away are now reached via another VPN connection, two menus and then a virtual desktop. and I lose the will to live. There is so much to do and half of it does not work or is not there and the rest you cannot find. It took four hours to get the printer to work as the servers are not owned by us now...

And it goes on.

The day crawled by, I mean really crawled. At least it felt something like a step forward despite the problems. The day does pass, and I head home at half three.

I arrive back to find Jools on the phone, arranging an interview for Friday afternoon. We are not taking anything for granted, but this good news, we hope. She is now bouncing, excited that she is moving forward. Anyway, news about that in due course.

ET collects another loco number

At five fifteen I head out with the cameras so I can snap Braunton again. I head to Shakespeare Beach as I love the location, and if the weather is kind, and the right tie of the year the light can be golden. Well, it was perfect, even with the shadows lengthening. I park in Aycliffe and walk down the steps to the bridge, some twenty minutes early, but then you never know.

34046, "Braunton", The Golden Arrow, Shakespeare Beach, Dover

I get to practice with a few 375s and 395s so I get the angles right. And right on time she puffs round the sharp turn near the Lord Warden Hotel. There were huge clouds of smoke and steam; very impressive. So I begin shooting. She clears the curve and accelerates, getting nearer and nearer.

34046 "Braunton", The Golden Arrow", Shakespeare Beach, Dover, Kent

Soon enough she is filling the viewfinder and so I switch to the 6D and the 50mm, the light is perfect, and I fire off another 50 shots. Perfect.

I head home once the smoke cleared from the portals of Shakespeare Tunnel and we could no longer hear her pistons going. Time for some scan, then.