Saturday, 31 May 2014

Saturday 31st May 2014

It is half four on Sunday morning, I have, once again, given up on sleep due to being unable to breathe caused by whatever infection I have. Outside the milky white light of the first dawn of the month of June creeps over St Maggies, there are no cats about and I have a headache that you would not believe. Jools is feeling better at least, and I hope to join her today, but this lack of sleep is not helping, however, I guess the 5 hours I got this night is just about enough for me to feel something approaching human.


We wake up at about seven, I send a mail to the office saying I would be looking after Jools for the day. And so begins the routine, making coffee, trying to clear up and the such. Jools rests most of the day until it is time to head to the hospital for the scan.

Its a half hour drive to Ashford, which isn't so bad, the holiday traffic is light enough. But going to Ashford means having to use junction 10 and the roundabout from hell. At least with it not being busy, we get round in one piece as cars overtake us on both sides, I indicate in plenty of time to give others notice of my intentions and so they can get out of my way. It seems to work.

Once the scan is done, Jools is given the all clear and so we can go home, although we will have to dispose the cocktail of drugs she had been supplied with the day before in case of a more serious result from the scan. We get home and Jools takes to bed. I am now not feeling too sharp, and to make matters worse i have been asked to meet a bloke at half five to show him where the Lesser Butterfly orchids we saw at the weekend were.

I leave Jools resting, and drive to the meeting place. John turns up and we head into the wood, and park in the same spot. I get out my camera and set off up the track, and this is when the trouble really begins. After a few paces I am huffing and puffing like i have run a marathon, and after 25 metres I have to stop for a rest. What the heck is happening? I make it up the slope, some 100 metres, but I am blowing bubbles and cannot speak. For the rest of the evening I in a cold sweat.

We find the orchids, but not the mystery plant. John gets his shots, I take a couple and I hope we can now go. But I am persuaded to carry on walking to where i had said I had seen many Common Twayblades. Anyway, it was kinda worth it as amongst the Twayblades we find White Helleborines, Birds-nests and Flys. A great and almost unknown site, one to keep to ourselves.

We head back to the car, i want to go home, but John wants to talk. So I am polite and let him. When he does get into his car again, it is half seven. I head home where Jools has dinner nearly ready, some pasta with homemade sauce.

I feel like shit, in a word. And as soon as dinner is over, of which I leave half, I head to bed and try to get some sleep.


Friday was a blur, in the late afternoon I had a friend coming down to look at some churches, so despite a crappy nights sleep, after sending another e mail to work with the update, I head to bed to groan in quiet. I am joined by the cat, and waited on by Jools, who although not feeling 100%, is feeling better than i.

Jools drives me to the A&E so we can confirm that I have caught whatever has laid her low. Although they don't do the scans, they suggest it probably is and recommend the general flu medicine and rest. And that was that after a 90 minute wait. I'd rather have stayed in bed to be honest.

The day passes with visitations from assorted cats. I snooze some, but now the coughing has made me ache all over. My friend has already left so i cannot cancel his trip now.


At five I head down to the station to collect him, I am feeling slightly better thanks to drugs and coffee. Lots of coffee. We come back to the house, I make chorizo hash for dinner and then we head out to Coldred to the Carpenters Arms for a drink, not the cleverest thing i have done, but then it felt like I should be sociable.

we head back home at ten, and we all head straight to bed, I hope I will be able to breathe through the night and so get some sleep. As events turned out, I would only get some sleep....

Friday, 30 May 2014

Friday 30th May 2014

It is ten to four on Saturday morning. I have been awake an hour and I have just given up on sleep, made a cup of coffee and decided the day will begin here. The journey as to how it came to this is a long one, and stretches back to early on Wednesday morning, but for now, shall we get back to where I left off?

OK, let me begin:


THe alarm went off at five fifteen, and we get ourselves out of bed and me, tick off the final few items ready for the commute. The commute to Denmark. However, this week would be very different, as although monday was a bank holiday in the UK, it wasn't in Denmark, but would be on Thursday. And that meant no planes home when I wanted to fly. Which in turn meant flying back Wednesday evening, which did make it feel as to why bother going over. But, ours is not to reason why, we shall just do.

The trip to Denmark is so mundane now, I call it a commute, but it is rather special even still. Jools drops me off at the station, I catch the high speed train to Stratford, catch the DLR to London City, check in, go through security, have breakfast, board the flight, leave England behind, arrive at Billund, go through immigration, collect the hire car keys, find the car, drive to Esbjerg, turn the computer on and begin work. It has taken six hours from the house in St Maggies to the office in Esbjerg: still amazing.

Back in England I had left low heavy clouds, heavy drizzle, typical weather after a bank holiday. Here in Denmark, the sun shone through Simpsons type fluffy clouds, and was nice and warm. In the hire car I turned the air con to max and enjoyed the now familiar drive to Esbjerg and the office.

I tried to make plans to meet up with some of my colleagues for beer and ribs in the evening, but their excuses ranged from 'family things' to 'I'm on a diet'. Pah!

At six i check into the hotel, don't really bother unpacking before heading out into the town for dinner. I called Jools on the way and I could hardly hear what she was saying as her 'cold' had now affected her speech and made her voice rasp. I said I was fine and we would talk when I got hoe the next day. Just to give her voice a rest.

I head to bones and order a medium portion of ribs. It is huge, and I feel guilty, but then i have had just fruit all day. Get over yourself, Ian. I do call in at Paddy Go Easy on the way back to the hotel, but it is packed with noisy drunkards: imagine that in an Irish bar! Anyway, sitting on my tod isn't fun, and so I give up after a pint and head to my room and bed.


I wake up just before six. I have a 90 minute drive to Arhus for a risk management workshop, then another meeting, head to the airport and hope to catch the flight.


I clean my teeth, head down to the lobby, check out and skipping breakfast, there wasn't time, I pack the car and head out on the drive north. I drive quickly, this is not because I want to make the risk management workshop, but that the traffic in Arhus is awful, and the nearer you are the eight in the morning arriving at the office, the worse it is.

It is at least a fine and sunny morning, and driving even in heavy traffic isn't really a chore.

The traffic in Arhus is as bad as I remember, and I am driving along the outer ring road at a quarter to eight, cursing myself for those extra ten minutes stretching time I spent in bed. As I arrive at the office I get a text message from Jools which something along these lines: "Don't want to worry you, but just been discharged from Ashford hospital, all is well now."

I was shocked, but there was little time t think about it, and even less I could do from Denmark, at least I was going home that evening and I could look after Jools.

The day dragged: but I got through it, and some two hours before flight time I made my excuses, packed my bag and headed to the car to beat the afternoon rush hour and head to the airport and home. i had spoken with Jools and she was OK, but had been in pain the evening before, called NHS direct and they dispatched an ambulance. They did a blood check and took her to hospital. They did some tests, and would have to go back later on Wednesday for a scan. All this was going on as I travelled back.

I arrived at the airport, handed the car keys in, and checked in, went through security and had enough time to grab a burger from the fast food joint, it was awful and the last time I will be using that! But it was the first food I had eaten all day, and it did feel pretty good.

Once in London, I spoke to Jools and she was feeling slightly better, but could not drive due to the lack of sleep and cocktail of drugs she was on. Her Dad would collect me from the station and take me home.

Once in London, I get the DLY and I work out that if I am lucky I will catch the 18:49 train, and thus be hoe 20 minutes early. I check my watch all the time as the train neared Stratford, and I work out I will have two minutes to make it to the station.

As I pass through the barrier onto the Southeastern platforms, I hear the train approaching, so I pick up my cases and stumble down the escalator. As I arrive on the platform the train is pulling in, I run along the platform to make sure I am in the portion of the train heading to Dover. Once the doors open, I stumble in and I made it!

At Dover, Tony is waiting, and he gives me the lowdown on the day's events. But I also am aware of his dreadful driving and hope that I make it home in one piece as we hurtle round roundabouts without him indicating, and being in the wrong lane. It is a relief when we pull into our street and arrive outside home that I can get out.

Jools is asleep on the sofa when I walk in, but is OK generally. She says she has to go back on Thursday for a CAT scan as the worry is for a blood clot on her lung. After a cup of coffee we head to bed and hope that Thursday will bring an improvement in her condition, and get the all clear from the hospital.

Thursday, 29 May 2014

Thursday 29th May 2014


Bank Holiday Monday.

The day before Mother's (70th) birthday. Although we had been told, by Mother, that it was her 70th birthday, and yet we forgot, and so bought a standard run of the ill 'Happy Birthday Mum' card. I'm sure we will burn in hell for being so thoughtless, or not.

As I said in a previous blog, we really wanted a quiet day on Saturday, and so that meant Monday would have to be spent hurtling up the M20/M25/A12. And as I have said before, north of Ipswich, the A12 disappears into a time wormhole and you head back to the days when a bloke in a top hat walks in front of every motor vehicle. Or it just seems that way.

In order to make the trip to the past more palatable, we normally try to arrange another visit to somewhere less filled with elephants. And so this time it was planned to head to an orchid filled meadow to look for another mighty rare orchid. We programed the post code into the sat nav, and followed the instructions. Of course, in rural areas, a postcode stretches for miles and miles, and the postcode turned out to be a country lane in a field, where there might have been a WW2 airfield at some point. Here be orchids!

We headed back to the village, and asked at the local shop, where a volunteer was there serving who worked at the orchid site too. So, armed with directions, we headed to the meadow, and found, after parking, that the meadow was many hundreds of square metres. What we did see were hundreds, thousands of Green-Winged orchids. Among them were many of mixed colour, which were well worth seeing as well as photographing. We did fail to find the orchid we were looking for, nor did we find the Bee Orchids which were supposed to be there.

Green-winged Orchid, Anacamptis morio

We could have looked on and on, but we really should move on to Mothers.

Green-winged Orchid, Anacamptis morio

Lowestoft is the same as it ever was, and Mum sinks further and further into her addictions, and makes no attempt to hide her smoking. which we decide to ignore, like we really care. Anyway, Aunt Kathleen was there, so so it gave us all the opportunity to talk about football (her son is manager of Lowestoft Town FC) and other family matters rather dewal with the usual stuff.

As Kathleen left, another friend arrived, and began to talk about the cost of food at Liddl and other such banal matters. We had been there not quite 90 minutes. We made our excuses and left. I was due to fly to Denmark the next day, but in truth we had arranged to visit another Flickr friend in south Suffolk and talk stuff over with him. He also mentioned the possibility of cake.


We drove down the A143, before turning off and heading to another picture postcard village. we parked in the main road, and headed to a group of new builds, trying to make out the numbering system which seemed to begin at three. Not much help when you're looking for number 2. Anyway, we were seen and were ushered into a house full of books. and coffee and walnut cake. Which was so nice we had two slices.

Jelltex and the Bear

Time soon passed and it was 5, and we had over two hours drive to go. We really had to leave as I had to pack, eat dinner and all the other stuff before i headed to the land of Lego on Tuesday morning. At least with the weather clouding over in the afternoon, most folks seemed to have left for home already, and we had a clear run down the A12 and onto Dartford and Kent beyond.

There was just enough time for a rushed dinner, getting packed and having a shower before the day had to end and we head to bed.

Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Wednesday 29th May 2014


You know, despite being home and the weather outside, whilst not being perfect weather, was good enough for getting out and doing stuff. Stuff connected mainly to do with photography. And yet, what with the hectic week heading to Sweden, working, coming back and all the other stuff meant that what I really wanted to do all day was pretty much nothing.

And so, after heading to Tesco for those all so essential things like food and drink. Back home, put it all away in the fridge and pantry. Croissants and coffee for breakfast. And then down to some serious nothing. I made sure the radio was listened to all morning, that task carried out we had lunch. And then. And then? Well, maybe we listened to some music. That sounds right, then I listened to the play off final on the radio. Yes that was it, but as I had had a beer, no, two glass of el plonko at lunch, I may have snoozed for some time during the game.

I cooked something for dinner. I have no idea what, but I am pretty sure no sharp objects were involved, me without doubt being the least sharpest object in the kitchen…….


It is the modern way, that thanks to the websites I am a member of, I get requests mostly in the line of, where did you find that orchid? All a variation on that, really. Truth is the orchid brings out the obsessive in us and soon we are driven to extremes to get out orchid fix. The Late Spider is one of Britain’s rarest orchids, it grows in just East Kent in three sites. And these sites are small, and the chalk downs on which these sites are found are large and can take hours to find. If at all.

Late Spider-orchid, Ophrys fuciflora

So a friend said if he came over from Brighton could I show him one of the sites? Obviously yes, as it gives me the chance to take yet even more photographs of them, as if the several hundred I have are not enough. So, at half seven we are in a quiet market town nestling in the shadow of a large down, upon which, it is said, Lucifer makes is devilish butter. Probably.

Late Spider-orchid, Ophrys fuciflora

John is there in his hairdressers car. Sorry, this is hard, but then if you drive a bright purple Rav 4 then it gets called a hairdresser’s car. Anyway, just as well as it is easy to spot lined up with the other parked cars. I stop and say hello and say, well, follow me. We drive partly up the down, then along under it’s feet, ending up at a certain bend in the road. Now, I did take a wrong turn at one point, and drove past it forcing us to turn round on the narrow country lane.

Monkey Orchid, Orchis simia

Just visible from the road are the wire cages used to make sure no hungry rabbits munch them up. It was cloudy, but the forecast was an improving one. So, we get the gear out and get snapping. The breeze blows the clouds along so we get sunny intervals in which to get our photos taken in, revealing orchids bejewelled with dew, all glistening in the sunshine.

Monkey Orchid, Orchis simia

We get our shots then move on to another well known site, where John had been just the once. As I have snapped hundreds of the Lady Orchids, I concentrated on the Butterfly Orchid, hoping to find a Lesser amongst the Greaters, but no luck that I could see. John announced that he had to leave for home, as his wife needed the car, but he had got the shots he wanted. I decided we should get some Monkey into the morning.

Fly Orchid, Ophrys insectifera

We drive over to another chalk bank, where the photographers were out in force, I go to look for the lonely Lady Orcid, but there is no sign. I gets to snap the Monkeys, which, if truth be told are a little disappointing this year, a little small and yet to open fully. But still, another stunningly rare orchid, although as we are spoilt in East Kent, we are used to seeing them, but I fire off another 50 shots or so at the best specimens. I lament to another photographer about not being able to find the Flys here, and he points out about half a dozen Flys within five yards.

Fly Orchid, Ophrys insectifera

I snap those, and more as my eye becomes accustomed to the small orchids, amazed at how many I missed despite walking right through them. Oh well.

Fly Orchid, Ophrys insectifera

Back at the car, preparing to head home for lunch, I get talking to another photographer who says he was going to look for Lesser Butterflies. I really wanted to go along when he offered the chance, but I know we should get back for lunch. Anyway, he revealed another easier to find location which we might like to seek out when we wanted. Jools said we could go in the afternoon, which seemed a good idea, and so a plan was hatched.

Lesser Butterfly-orchid, Platanthera bifolia We had lunch, and after consulting some large scale maps, decided we could find the location, so we set off.

And so we decide that this forest track is the right one, rather than the dozen or so we passed on the way here. Leading up from the car is a wide bridleway, which seemed just so easy. Its gonna be harder than this, right?

Lesser Butterfly-orchid, Platanthera bifolia

Up we walked, a hundred yards or so, looking on either side. And then I spot the familiar shape of a Butterfly Orchid. Was it? I get the macro lens out and look real close. It looks right, I snap it. A lot.

I go hunting for others, although I know it is quite early in the season for them. In the end I found nothing, but Jools did find one more, which was in a pool of sunlight, I took more shots.

Lesser Butterfly-orchid, Platanthera bifolia

Walking back down the track, there were bluebells in great numbers on both side, but all had gone to seed. And then something caught my eye, looked white, could that be an orchid? Turns out it was, clearly a Helleborine, the shape of one I have never seen before. It was two feet high, with all the leaves at ground level, and a few white flowers at the top. Te leaves were very narrow indeed, and the description I thought fitting was sword-like. I snapped it and we walked back to the car.

I fired off a mail to my orchid obsessed friends only to find that if this is a sword-leaved helleborine, it would be the first one found in Kent, name in papers kind of thing. Well, name in orchid obsessed paper kind of thing anyway.

That night I cook roast chicken for dinner, and the day is slipping away from me again, and tomorrow, we are to time travel back to the 1950s and head to Suffolk to wish Mother a happy birthday.

Sunday, 25 May 2014

Sunday 25th May 2014


So, I suppose you're asking, why is he in bloody Sweden, and if its for work, why is he wandering around, eating salads, drinking coffee and looking at towers? And you would be very wise to ask such things. Sometimes I ask the same questions. And another one is, does anyone read this paperwork I produce? And would they notice if I just stopped?

who knows?

Anyway, we were in Sweden to audit one of our suppliers, the customer was entitled to do this, and it is my job to facilitate the audit, arrange it and coordinate the visit and actions. All exciting stuff you would probably agree. Or not.

So, Anni and I met at seven only for one of the customer's auditors there as well. Can we give them a lift to the factory? We really did not want to, as they should have their own transport, but in the spirit of teamwork we said yes, but be there at reception at eight. Dead on ten past, one of them comes out, promising the other is on the way. Five minutes later, with no apologies, he trundles up.

So, it was a two minute drive to SKF, and I book us in at the gate and their staff will come down to meet us and take us to the conference room. I won't go into any more details, but the day went well, and the customer was pretty happy. Happy enough to end the audit before two. and just like that it was over.

We had another 15 hours to kill before our flights, and they were heading to the airport to go home that night. Oh well.

We went back to the hotel, and I took to the bed as I was still tired and anyway, it was so darned hot outside that I could not be bothered to head out for a walk. Does not sound good, does it? Well, in truth my back had begun to play up,. so walking was out anyway. I trawled through the ten Swedish TV channels to find something in English to watch, and something that would be interesting.

So the afternoon passed into the evening, I met Anni for dinner, then we sat beside the pool chatting until it neared nine. Time for some packing action and some decent sleep before the trip home in the morning.

Friday. Up again at seven to meet Anni for breakfast. She has an earlier flight, so that means me having to wait over three hours for my flight, but hey, I'm going home.

Goteborg Airport

Check out, load the car, fire up the sat nav, and off we go through Goteborg's inner motorway network and then out into the pine forests, past the lakes and to the airport. We hand the keys in, and Anni and I are leaving from gates at opposite ends of the departure hall, so we say farewell, but we will meet again next week in Denmark.

Goteborg Airport

The British Airways desk is unmanned as yet, but the Brits heading home are already forming an orderly queue. It is really something in our DNA. I sit down and read a magazine. Time passes and a couple of hours before my flight the staff arrive and I join the queue. But as i was the only one who had used the online check in, I go to the baggage drop desk, get my boarding pass and I am first heading up to security.

Goteborg Airport

Once through I have to buy something new to read, and then find a seat facing the departure board, so I know when to head to the gate. More time passes.

Sweden from the air

Yay, time to leave, so we board the flight, and soon are flying above the forests and lakes of Sweden until we enter the clouds and it is all lost to sight.

Sweden from the air

I snooze but do take the meal, which is a simple grilled chicken flatbread, but comes with a cup of tea. A proper cup of tea as well. Tastes like tea, which is always nice.

Windsor and Eton

We arrive over Essex to find it covered in cloud, but I catch a glimpse of it through the occasional gap in the clouds. We are kept in a stack for half an hour, going round and round. Oh well, I'm in no hurry.

Finally we are given permission to land, so we get lower and lower, and turn onto final approach over Windsor Castle, allowing me the chance to snap it from my seat in 19A. And we're down.

Windsor Castle

Heathrow is a dreadful airport, so busy, but at least we arrive at terminal 5, which is almost civilised. Once off the plane we have to queue again for immigration. Unlike at LCY, the queue is huge and takes another half an hour.

Terminal 5, Heathrow Airport

Once reunited with my case, I head to the station to see a train just leaving. Bugger. We have half an hour to wait for the next one, which is not that bad, really.

Terminal 5, Heathrow Airport

The train arrives and soon we are speeding through the tunnel towards the Great western Main Line, and then into London, all in 15 minutes. But still at £34, a rip off.

Heathrow Express

I get a taxi from Paddington to St Pancras, so I could get a bite to eat there before boarding the train to Dover. I head to Yo Sushi and have four bowls of food, not sure what some of it was, but it tasted good. Just time to pay the bill and head upstairs to platform 12 and my train home.

Paddington Station, London

It is nearly full, with those leaving work early settling in to a seat with a can of beer or something from M&S to munch on. I close my eyes as the train glides out, and we are speeding under East London towards the Essex marshes and home.

I have an hour to kill in dover, so head to the Rack of Ale for a pint or two and to wait for Jools. Not a bad way to end the day at all. I work my way through a couple of pints and half a pint of pork scratchings. And feel fine. Jools arrives and after she has a half of the lemon cider, we head home and the weekend can begin.

Saturday, 24 May 2014

Saturday 24th May 2014


The alarm went off just before six. I guess I got something close to four hours sleep. But however much I did get, it was nowhere near enough. I got up, I didn't even need to pack as I had not opened my case. Blugh!


I went downstairs, checked out and headed over to Waterloo Station. On the tube to Waterloo and next was the task of getting a ticket for the Heathrow Express. This meant handing over the astonishing fee of £34 for a return ticket comprising of two 15 minute train rides. That this is to Britain's main hub airport means TFL can charge this stupid amount as the Tube takes three weeks to get out to Heathrow, and that is in Zone 27. And then we have to sit and are bombarded with advertising all the way. A complete rip off. But then the company was paying so, I stumped up the cash and took the next train out of London.

SK524 'LHR

When I travel to Denmark, I normally fly out of London City, which is a small airport, you can turn up just over an hour before your flight and still be in plenty of time. Heathrow is a monster of an airport, has not really been planned and has just grown as the years go by. The upshot means that the simple act of checking in and getting through security can take up to four hours!

So, I arrived with three hours to spare, expecting the worse. I went to the SAS desk, there was no queue. I checked in, dropped my case, went up to security and was through in about 15 minutes. Two and a half hours to kill. Best have breakfast. I find a nice French themed place and let the company buy me two glasses of orange juice, two cups of coffee and a big plate of pancakes, bacon and maple syrup.

Hmmm, the world seemed much better after that. I wander round the departure lounge, checking out the hilarious prices of stuff on offer, and the array of perfumes and after shave on sale. Can there really be that many variations? I think they mostly smell the same. Apart from Old Spice, which smells like your Dad.

Time then to find the gate and do the British thing, which is to queue. Its in our DNA. As I like to buck the trend, I sit outside the gate waiting to be the last on the plane, and as the plane is not full, and the idiots have reserved seats at the front ready for a quick exit at the other end, I have three seats to myself, and a window seat.

Welcome to Goteborg

We taxi off, and trundle to the end of the runway waiting for a slot. And then up we go, roaring down the runway and over London and into the clouds, leaving Britain lost below the cloud cover.

We emerge from the clouds somewhere above the sea approaching Sweden, that makes it the Baltic, no? Anyway, down below we are greeted with fine sight of the coastline, all rock formations smoothed down by the action of glaciers which only retreated last Wednesday. Sweden is heavily forested, scattered with lakes and little red houses before scattered along the coastlines of the sea and lakes.

Once we land, the door is opened and the rush of warm air is surprising. Apparently, Sweden is in southern Spain, or that's what it feels like. Man it is like high summer in England. I take my jacket off. Its still hot.

I get through the border, collect my case and try to find my colleague Anni at the car hire place. I fond it and she is there, having already collected the car keys, so we set off towards the car park to find our car. Imagine my disappointment to find we had not been given a Volvo, but we have a Golf instead. We program the sat nav and set off towards the centre of the city, that is Goteborg. We drive along the tree-lined motorway and into the city centre, finding our way through the inner city traffic system and to the hotel.

Anni and the buses

The Hotel Apple. Situated beside the main road to Stockholm and the main railway. We check in to our rooms and I find it clean enough, but on closer inspection I see it is tatty round the edges. The sun is shining outside, so we decide to set out on foot to find somewhere to eat lunch.

More transport fun from Goteborg

We have a selection of maps, and so we think we can find our way. We walk alongside the motorway for a while then set off through a housing estate. We have to find somewhere to eat, it can't be that hard can it? We find a tram route and we follow that until we come to a large park. Still nowhere to eat. Anni asks and is told the best cafe in town was down that street.

Skansen Lejonet / The Lion redoubt

So we follow another tram line and find a Cafe Paris or something. We both order salad and a diet coke. It was good and to make it better that company was going to pay. But it is still so hot. By now it is late afternoon and the heat is weighing on us heavily. Once back outside, we spy a tower nearby, and sow we decide to head over to investigate.

We find the tower on a hill surrounded by both a motorway junction and the convergence of several railway lines and sidings. Needless to say I was happy enough standing below the tower watching the rush hour trains coming and going. I could have stood there all evening in all honesty.

But we head back to the hotel, back alongside the scenic path beside the motorway. By the time we get back to the hotel, I am all hot again so have the second shower of the day, and its not even my birthday. I meet Anni at half six for dinner. Included in the price of the room is a buffet diner. So we join the blue collar workers who have been hard at work all day, whilst we have been travelling and snapping trams and trains.

I realise how tired I am, after a celebration beer, I head to bed to get my head down and get ten good hours sleep. Good night, Sweden.

Friday, 23 May 2014

Friday 23rd May 2014


And back to work.

Writing this now, Monday seems a lifetime ago, as I have since spent a day orchid hunting, travelled to London and then on to Sweden, did an audit, and then travelled back. All in something like four days.So,Monday, being a normal day at the office, was as normal as it was going to get.

We get up early and have to be out of the house by seven, so Jools can make the bus from B&Q to Canterbury and onto her office. I drive on through the light traffic to Ramsgate and the usual stuff. The monkeys are just leaving to go offshore, but I exchange banter with them, and they seem in good spirits.

Seaside orchids

I settle down to a day of work, pinging e mails back to the senders and ending up by tackling the travel expenses. With the travelling I am doing now, this is serious and tricky stuff. But then again, its never as bad as you think it is.

I have a doctors appointment late in the day, so I leave the office early and head to St Margaret's to see the quack. I have allergies, nothing more can be done. Get rid of the carpets, and that sort of thing. I pick up my month's supply of drugs and head to Canterbury to collect Jools before heading to Pegwell Bay to check on the Marsh and Bee orchids. Hardly any showing, and certainly no bees, but then it is still early.

Seaside Orchids

I was going to go to the CAMRA meeting, but time slipped away from me, and for Jools too. And in the end I slumped at the table and edited photos. But tomorrow I have the day off and there will be orchids.


Despite being on holiday, if only for a day, I am up with the larks so to take Jools to the bus stop so she can go to work as normal. I head back home and the plan was for me to pack and get ready for my trip to Sweden, as I would have to leave for London that evening as my flight was early the next morning. However, I am very good at getting diverted, and soon I am lost in my own world of photography and music, and fail to notice the time slipping by.

At the last minute I go to pack my bag and find I cannot find my passport. It's not in its normal place in the drawer, nor is it in the pouch in my work bag.


I rush round looking, checking and swearing, only to find it ten minutes later in a different drawer. By now my brain is fried and I have convinced myself I am going to be late in meeting the others at Sandwich Bay. You see today was the day of the big orchid hunt/safari, and myself and others in our Flickr group were going to go on the grand tour of Kent orchid sites.

Meet at ten.

Only I had convinced myself it was now meeting at nine, so rushed out without making any sandwiches, making a drink. I was a mess. But I did remember my cameras.

When I got to the bird observatory, only Mark was there, so we chatted until the others turned up. Then we had to decide the plan for the day, something which had been missing up to that point. As the weather was supposed to get worse from the west later in the day, best head there first.

The names have been changed to protect the innocent

However, as the Birds-nests were so close, it was decided to go there as most of the group had never seen those before. So it was a short drive to the triangular wood, we parked in the village and walked up. We were all still thrilled that the meet up had actually happened, and so in good spirits.

Once we got our shots there, it was off to see the famous Kentish Monkeys. I won't go into the detail of the trip, but the four cars sped cross-country, passing picturesque villages and wonderful countryside.

The down is still not at its best, with the Early Purples having almost died out and the Monkeys are still opening up, plus the other mid-season orchids, the Common Spotted and Fragrants are some way off still. So, we snapped a few Monkeys and then headed off to another down, this time to see the Flys.

The names have been changed to protect the innocent

However, sensing time was short for me, what with travel with work, Mother's birthday and visits from friends, I thought I would head off to see if the Late Spiders were open at a site I know, whilst the others headed to fly country. We were to meet up at another site to see the Ladys and Greater Butterflys, and maybe a Duke or two.

I headed across the country, just a few miles, but by narrow twisty lanes, could I remember where the site was? Well, after one wrong turn, I found myself driving along a familiar lane under the lea of the down, and in a bend in the road, I saw the style over the fence. This is the place.

About seven of the Late Spiders were open, so I snapped each one of them in turn, although the angle of the sun made it difficult, but in the sunshine the colours were just incredible.Having got my shots, I realise I was now hungry, and so headed back to the others via a cheeky little pub I know on Stone Street.

Late Spider-orchid, Ophrys fuciflora

The Granville did not have the home made scotch eggs on the menu, but I have a fine plate of pate and toast, washed down with a pint of Early bird, which was just as good. And I was ready for yet more orchids.

I made my way to the dead-end lane, parked at the end and walked down the path and lane to the top of the bank, dodging the wood ants nest I make my way down to find I am alone. I snap a Duke and then go to check out the greater Butterflys, as I have snapped so many ladys already this season.

As I am snapping away, I hear voices: it is the others arriving. We wander round getting our shots, me helping some of the others find a Duke to snap. As I looked on at the others, the skies darkened and soon enough rain began to fall. We made our way back to the car, and looking at the time I see I have a couple of hours before I have to pick up Jools, so agree to head to the downs near the coast for another of the lte Spider sites.

A quick blast down the old Roman Road, along the motorway, and soon we are climbing the downs on a narrow lane. We park at a place that looks the same as any of the down along the road, stretching for many miles, but the orchids like it here, just along from where we park.

In fact the Late Spiders are restricted to an area about 10m long, and that is it, but as tightly packed. Even in the poor light they look great, and we take many more shots. I look at my watch, it is time to go. I have to collect Jools, we have to have dinner, I have to catch a train and head to the club in London.

I bid my friends farewell, and head back towards Canterbury. I arrive at Jools' office with half an hour to spare in the end, so I wait in the car listening to the radio. Once Jools come out, we head back home, along lanes I quickly learnt like the back of my hand. We call in at the chippy on the way home, and are soon tucking into dinner.

I try to look at my shots from the day, even extend my time at home by an hour, but only get halfway through before time runs out and it is time to go. But little did I know the adventure was just beginning.

Jools dropped me off at the station, I got my ticket and climbed into the waiting train. It pulled away on time and soon we were speeding towards Folkestone. At The Warren there is some work going on, so the trains all slow down there, but suddenly the brakes are applied and we stop suddenly. In a couple of minutes the power is cut and all we have is emergency lighting.

A guy had walked along the tracks from Folkestone Central and was now on the tracks threatning to throw himself under a train. Power had been cut to the rail so he would not electrocute himself, and we would have to wait until he was moved.

Half an hour passed.

An hour passed. I should now be in London.

Another half an hour passed. I should now have been in the club, in e the bar with a pint.

It was decided to reverse the train to Dover and see what would happen then.

Another half an hour passed.

We crawled back to Dover heading on the wrong tracks with no signals with the driver in constant contact with the signalman. Once in Dover it was decided the train would go via Minster on to Ashford and another until should be waiting to take us to London.

And then, as if by magic, the jumper was taken away safely and we could head to London through Folkestone. Two hours late. Which is what happened.

I arrived at Stratford at ten to midnight, I was shattered, but I was already thinking of my trip to Heathrow in the morning, I would have to be up at six. Let me get to the club first. I managed to catch the very last Jubilee Line train out of Stratford, and so emerged at Waterloo at a quarter to one, checked into my room and lumped into bed just before one. I would have to be up in five hours, and my mind was racing.

Monday, 19 May 2014

Monday 19th May 2014


It is half five in the morning, the sun has already risen although is hidden behind a veil of cloud. A family of starlings that has taken up residence in the hedge outside the bedroom window are making one heck of a noise, generally asking where the hell their breakfast is. We lay in bed until six then climb out, get dressed, feed the cat and get our stuff together.

Although Kent is a wonderful place for orchids, not all British orchids grow here, and some have become extinct. One Kentish orchid that is now extinct in the county is the Burnt Tip, which is found in small colonies in neighbouring East Sussex. I had asked one of my Flickr friends for directions to the biggest of these, and so we decided to set off for the 90 mile drive into Sussex and hunt for the orchids.

GWUK #1080 Lacy's Hill, Glynde, East Sussex

The roads were empty, and the cloudy and cool morning meant we made good time and fairly relaxed even on the M25 where the roadworks have now been completed and traffic flowed smoothly in the four lanes. A quick blast down the M23 to Burgess Hill, through the places where my ancestor’s grew up: Cowfold, Warninglid and Burgess Hill, places I knew from my childhood, but now are expensive places to live deep in the commuter belt.

Onwards to Brighton and then onto Lewes. At least with the sat nav we found Glynde very easily, found the parking area next to the village cricket green and the railway station. We got out, stretched and consulted the directions and map we have. At first it seemed simple enough, past the playing area, left past the post office and up the path.

Glynde Forge

Up being the operative word. Above us the South Downs towered. Well, I say towered, several hundred feet of chalk upland, dotted with sheep and it looked like birdmen. But it turned out to be paragliders who were throwing themselves off the down in the hope they did not crash to the ground. So, we tightened our belts and set off scattering shepp in our way.

The perils of an orchid hunter

Through the first gate and in front up us the path went in a straight line up the down. If that makes sense. We took our time, and in time we climbed up through the fields until we reached the second gate, beside which was a fine looking bench. Needless to say we had a sit down and surveyed the scene below us, and very fine it looked, even though the sun had not yet broken through.

Ahead of us now was the summit of the down, a huge round dome covered with sheep. OK, not covered but scattered. We sighed and set off, but taking regular stops to ‘admire the view’ below.

Aaaah, there you are!

I should explain that what happened next was all our fault, and our inability to read the contours on a map. Anyway, on a small map supplied by my friend was an arrow as to where the orchids could be found, the fences marking the nature reserve seemed to match the area on the map, so the orchids should be a few hundred yards along the crest of the down, away from the iron age fort and paragliders. When in fact the orchids were down below, in the ‘bottom’. Anyway, at some point we would realise our mistake, no?

Burnt Tip Orchid, Neotinea ustulata

Well, at least the views were splendid down onto the river valley below, the railway tracks and the occasional train. And over the other side of the hill, the town of Lewes nestled looking all busy buy far enough away.

We found no orchids, but in fact the who nature reserve did not feel right for orchids, as it had been recently grazed as there was sheep and cow poo everywhere, even on the soles of our shoes! I tried the other side of the fence, balancing on the edge of the drop into the bottom below. After an hour I found a few Heath and Common Spotted spikes, but nothing like a small Lady.

Burnt Tip Orchid, Neotinea ustulata

It was nearing midday. I went to find Jools who had left me to it. We looked at the map again, and the directions. The I saw that the orchids were on the steep part of the hill in the bottom not on the main part of the down. In order not to miss them, I walked in a straight line down the down and back up the other side of the bottom, whilst Jools took the level but longer route around the top of the bottom.

Burnt Tip Orchid, Neotinea ustulata

I had given up all hope if truth be known, and by now the sun had come out so it was getting warm if not hot. And we had not brought our water with us. Silly us. At that point I saw many more orchid spikes, but still just Heath and Common Spotted. And then, I saw something different. And sure enough, standing alone on the side of the down was a single tiny orchid. A single spike which around the top was surrounded by people-shaped blooms which were almost white and the unopened ones which were dark purple, from which the orchid takes its name.

Burnt Tip Orchid, Neotinea ustulata

I snapped it from all angles, then moved on. Jools thought she had found one, but that turned out to be a false alarm. But then I saw another. And another. So did Jools. And around us were hundreds of the tiny orchids. We both took many, many shots, and we stunned how an orchid so small, well compared to the related Lady Orchid, could be so wonderful. Anyway, after half an hour and the time edging towards one, we were hot and very thirsty.

Burnt Tip Orchid, Neotinea ustulata

Shall we head down and find a pub?

Burnt Tip Orchid, Neotinea ustulata

I think we should.

We got up and our legs began to complaining. And they did not stop until we got back to the car. It was a little gentle climb to the top of the down, then a gentle descent to the village below. It seemed to take ages, and we were getting hotter and thirstier all the time. I guess it did not help using the map to identify which one of the buildings in the village was the pub. The thought of a nice cold beer. Mmmmm, beer.

Com on feet, keep on walking!

Down and down we went, down the long straight path, through the sheep, past the post office and to the car park. In the boot we had a nice cold bottle of juice, which we drained between us. We drove over the railway bridge to the Trevor Arms, and both of us had a nice cold drink. That’s better.

The plan had been to take a long slow drive back along the country lanes and roads back to Rye then onto Folkestone. However, we were hot and tired, so we decided to head back up the M23 and M25 and back down the motorway. 90 miles in two hours or so.

Jools snoozed on the way back, but with the air con ramped up to the max, it was wonderfully cool in the car. The miles sped by, and soon enough we left Sussex behind and were back in Kent, heading home.

And by about four we pulled up outside the house, a welcoming committee of hungry cats telling us that the food already out was clearly not good enough and wanted nice fresh food. We had a coffee and chilled inside, I taped the Cup Final, so I could watch it later, and so whilst that recorded, I reviewed my shots from the day, and then cooked steak for dinner, which was very nice with another cool beer.

The match was OK, Arsenal beat Hull 3-2, despite going 2-0 after 8 minutes. However, the modern cup final, with banks of empty seats either side of half time and into extra time. Seems wrong. But by the time the match ended, it was ten o’clock and well past our bed time.


After the mountain climbing on Saturday, we decided to have a little lay in, despite the cats protests that it was sunny outside and well past breakfast time. Hmmm. So, get up, feed the cats and review more of the shots from the day before.

At eleven we headed out to look at the local colony of Man Orchids, which are now at their peak, I had gone early one morning last week, but the sun was not fully up and the orchids not properly lit, so best go back and snap them in the midday sun. So a short drive into the craziness of the Sunday traffic, as clearly in an evolutionary throwback, everyone feels the need to head to the sea when the sun shines warmly.

Man Orchid

On the chalk bank, the undergrowth had grown so much that the orchids are only visible from close by, and I am sure that the passing traffic wondered what we were doing wandering around a sunlit meadow. I got the shots I wanted, just a few shots of the whole spike, rather than macro shots, but wonderful enough. We then drove on to where the Birds-nest orchids are, and after my last visit showed them only just showing above ground, must now be a fine sight.

Bird's-nest Orchid, Neottia nidus-avis

We parked outside the wood, and sure enough inside there must be about 50 spikes, some really magnificent ones, if one can say that about a pale orchid deep in the woodland undergrowth. Anyway, one was in a beam of sunlight, so I was able to get some unusually well-lit shots, and some good macro shots too. As we walked out, a couple were walking towards us holding camera gear.

Bird's-nest Orchid, Neottia nidus-avis

Hello, Ian?

Er, yes….

And it turned out to be the couple who had provided us with directions to the burnt tips the day before, come over from West Sussex to look at the Birds Nests and Man orchids. So, after some introductions, we showed them the orchids in the woods, then took them over to the chalk bank to see the Man. It was all rather nice, and a way in which we can pass our knowledge onto other people, just as others had passed their knowledge onto us.

We bid them farewell, as we headed home for dinner, and them to their orchid photography.

Having a pint at lunchtime was never going to end well for me, as I was tired too. And so after lunch I took to the sofa and slept the afternoon through. What better way to end a fine afternoon than to head to The Plough at Ripple for some good food and another good pint of ale? Nothing at all it would seem…..

Sunday, 18 May 2014

Sunday 18th May 2014


Morning comes oh so soon. It seems to have been such a long week, with the visa problems, travelling to Denmark and then the meetings audits. And the travelling back, the working late at nights. Sigh. I know you don't feel much sympathy, I know we all have to earn our crusts any which way we can in order to pay our bills, keep the banks from our door. And so on.

But Friday rolled round and outside the sun shone down from a clear blue sky, barely a breath of wind could be felt, and there was I inside writing e mails, filling in forms, submitting forms, updating spreadsheets. Lunchtime came and went. Over in sunny Denmark it was a holiday, prayer day or something, so once my in-box was dealt with, and all my tasks were done, I thought it only right with the hours done this week, that I too switch my computer off and head out into the sunshine.

Monkey Orchid, Orchis simia

It was two in the afternoon, right at the hottest part of the day. There was just the one thing on my mind: orchids. I drive up to Folkestone and take the road up one of the valleys leading up into the downs. I turn off and head up a couple of narrow lanes, turn left at the triangular green, down the hill, past the midden and through the wood which had now replaced it's carpet of bluebells and anemones with wild garlic. The air was heavy with the smell, but I drove on to the small lay by at the bottom of the hill. I grab my camera and head into the first paddock.

Monkey Orchid, Orchis simia

The Early Purples are all but gone, already turning over into shrivelled spikes looking all the world like they have been burned. A couple are worth snapping, just to say they were there. I press on looking for any sign of the next orchid in the season, and sure enough I begin to see a scattering of pink, purple and white, marking where the wonderfully rare Monkey Orchids were showing. Unlike most other orchids, these open from the top, looking unspectacular at first as a few blooms open, but as the days pass more and more open.

Monkey Orchid, Orchis simia

I walk to the far end of the site, but fail to see any of the Fly which I know are there, but my next call I would see enough of them to satisfy.

Lady Orchid, Orchis purpurea

It is a short drive of three or so miles to the next chalk bank, and I find the parking spot at one end of the site empty, well, apart from the felt roofing rubbish that had been fly-tipped there. As if it was less trouble driving all the way out here to dup it rather than use the council tip! Some people are so stupid.

Lady Orchid, Orchis purpurea

I walk into the reserve, and take the wrong turning. Good job I did as I find a glade with half a dozen splendid lady Orchids growing away, looking wonderful. I snap each of them in turn, and head off looking for my real target here, the fly.

Lady Orchid, Orchis purpurea

I make my way back onto the right path, and see many Fly beside the path. I decide to walk right to the other side of the site, and when I walk back count each Fly spike and see how many I can find. In the end I count 20 or 21 spikes, not deciding whether the best spike counts as one or two spikes, but with it's six open blooms and three more yet to open, it was worth travelling out just to see this alone.

Pretty Fly

I try my best to ignore the Brimstones and Green Hairstreaks that flitter across the glade, today is all about orchids! I look at my watch, half four, time enough to get to Canterbury to pick up Jools before we head to the best bank of them all the marvel at the collection of Lady Orchids which proliferate.

Greater Butterfly-orchid, Platanthera chlorantha

After collecting Jools from the estate office, we head back into the Kentish countryside, down a very little used lane and park at the end. A short walk along we turn off and head into the reserve, and I see once again I have the lace to myself,at least for a while. If it were just the orchids here, hardly anyone would make the effort to come, but as the country's rarest butterflies like to breed and live here, there is always a small crowd of people, stamping over the orchids on display, just to get a shot of The Duke.

White Helleborine, Cephalanthera damasonium

I have snapped him before, so concentrate on the orchids, apart from the Lady I see Greater Butterfly, White Heliborines, Heath and Common Twayblades. I am sure I missed others, but my orchid lust was satisfied.

Evening light at St Margaret's-at-Cliffe

We get in the car and head home to feed the cats and have dinner.

Evening light at St Margaret's-at-Cliffe

At eight we head back out to go to westcliffe to look at the sun setting and the colours in the landscape. It might seem a simple thing, but it seemed the perfect way to end the day. Shadows lengthened, colours faded to pastel shades and the sun sank behind the hill.

Evening light at St Margaret's-at-Cliffe

It was a good day.

Evening light at St Margaret's-at-Cliffe