Sunday, 29 June 2014

Sunday 29th June 2014


The big comedown.

In that, no matter how good the holiday was, or no matter how much you love work, it means that work is now coming over the horizon. And for me, this means giving up the final day of my vacation to fly to Hamburg so I can be in place ready to begin an audit on Monday morning at eight o'clock. I did find out, after checking flight details and hotel details and all that stuff, only to find the client has postponed the audit start until the afternoon. which makes the travel on Sunday pretty pointless.

However, before I delved into the Pandora's box of my work e mail in-box, we had the final good thing, pick up the cats from the cat hotel. OK, cattery. So, at nine we set off along the A2, down the narrow country lanes to the farm. After some chit chat, we went to the pen to box the cats, for a change, they all climbed into their boxes without a hitch, we loaded them into the car and set off back home. And all the times the cats serenaded us with various pitiful meows.

Due to Mulder's weak bowels, as soon as we stopped outside the house, we got out, opened the doors to the boxes, and out climbed the cats. Meow? And so begun eight hours in which neither of us were out of the sight of one of the three former inmates. Meow? At first it was funny, touching, but after a couple of hours we were, go out and kill something, wander about and be normal. Meow?

I said I would deal with work in the afternoon, so time to head off for a haircut, do some shopping and then relax, listen to some radio and generally, be under the watch of one or more of the cats. I called my colleague, all is well with her and work. I then call my manager, most is OK, although he needs to speak to me. I explained that I am on the road for the next ten days, so that could be tricky. He understands, but call him.

Yes, I will be on the road for 12 days, not back until 11th July, so no blogs until then, just to let you know. I am auditing all week, until 5 on Friday, and have to be at the next audit at eight the next Monday. So, I decided it wasn't worth travelling back home on Saturday only to travel back on Sunday. So I am staying in DK for the weekend, hopefully chilling out, but I suspect I will be clearing my e mail in-box.

In the end, after realising that I will be away from home again from Sunday morning, I felt deflated, and so i messed around online all day, getting very little productive done. Which, I suppose, is oK. And it was also the first day for 15 days which was football-free; how could be cope. By wine, apparently.


I had hoped to head to Sandwich to snap the Marsh Helleborines, but we had more chores to do first: more shopping for food, buying a suitcase and then visiting Nan. That took up the morning, so back home for lunch, which was griddled asparagus, crusty bread and a glass of red plonk. Which meant nothing was done in the early afternoon, which meant no trip to Sandwich. No Marsh Helleborines.

At five I went out to snap a steam tour. The dark clouds had been gathering for a while, and as i drove to Ripple, the heavens opened and the rain poured down. But as I was already out, so I thought may as well see it through. I was met there my a Flickr-friend, so we waited in the rain until we heard the approaching steam locomotive. As it came the bend a mile off, we could see that the steam loco was not leading. So, not only was I missing the Brazil v Chile game, getting soaked, I was only going to get shots of a class 47. The steam loco was behind the 47, still smoking, and still working. But disappointing.


Time then to cook chorizo hash, have a shower, and the sands of time were slipping through my fingers, the evening slipped away, I wrote blogs, tried to watch more football. Too much to do, so little time.

Anyway, see you on the 11th. Be good.

Saturday, 28 June 2014

Saturday 28th June 2014 (part 3)


The long way home. But at least its all downhill from Kielder!

and as is usual, on the day we head home, the weather was glorious, bright sunshine and light winds. So, Jools and I head out to the squirrel hide to get our last shots of the red buggers. We were rewarded with two of the youngs heading right up to the feeder in front of the hide and feasting on the bird seed there. There were just a few feet away. The camera was set on ISO 10,000 and the shots came out fine, unblurry. Perfect.

Lets go home.

Back to the cabin to pack, have breakfast and one last coffee, load the bags into the car and hope there is room for us inside. There is, and so after dropping the key at the site office, we head out onto the open road, with several hundred miles to go. At least up here on the moors, the roads were empty, and driving was fun, heading dwon the rollercoaster that is the A68, heading over blind summits at 60mph. Great fun, just hoping there was nothing waiting on the other side, or we would be in big trouble.

Dark Red Helleborine, Epipactis atrorubens

Onto the A69 to Newcastle, which we had timed so to miss rush hour heading into the Toon or into Gateshead, and so we headed south into Durham. We were to call back to look at the Dark Red Helleborines, as they were not open on the way up, so a return trip was agreed upon, especially as the site was just off the main road, and we knew where to look.

Dark Red Helleborine, Epipactis atrorubens

So, we arrived at the old quarry, parked up and went inside. At first it looked as it we were to be unlucky again, as every plant I went to was yet to open, or had even grown to be fully erect. But at last, one plant had open flowers. Many of them in fact, so I was able to get shots, and say I had at least seen one open.

Dark Red Helleborine, Epipactis atrorubens

Happy with that we headed south. On and on the road went, it becomes mind-numbing after a while, heading past Sunderland, Durham, York, Leeds, Sheffield, Hull, Newark, Grantham. The miles piled up, we carried on hour after hour. It got to two, and we stopped at a Burger King just shy of Peterborough. It did what we wanted, we also stretched our legs.

I always felt that in reaching Newark, you are almost on the home stretch, but it isn't. The road just seems to take ages to pass Stamford, Peterborough before we head off onto the A14 to Cambridge and then down the M11 towards London. The plan had been to get here for seven, but we made good time and it was just half four. We headed down the M11 expecting to hit traffic at any minute, although it was heavy, it wasn't bad.

And onto the M25, traffic heavy, but we make good time. Until we get to within three and a half miles of Dartford, and then we hit the traffic. But, the traffic moved fairly quickly, and by five we were crossing the bridge and heading into Kent. This was the final stretch.

Just after six, and after 1422 miles we arrived home, after dropping Bradey off at his house, and we could pop the kettle on and chill out. In fact we had to call in at tesco on the way from Dover, so we had milk and something for dinner. Jeez, we were shattered, but home. Whilst we were away, the builders had repaired our chimneys, so they should not now let the water in. That looks good, and news came that our new porch is to be done on Monday, or started.

All that was missing, was the cats, and we would collect them in the morning. Until then, time for bed.

Saturday 28th June 2014 (part 2)


Last full day of the holiday.


As we enjoyed the early morning encounter with nature on Tuesday, we decided to repeat this on Wednesday. You see, it seems that getting the camera set up so the shutter speed in the shadow under the trees at the squirrel hide was no so easy after all. I usually listen to the noise the shutter makes, and can usually tell by the sound whether the exposure is good enough to get usable shots. Now, that might work with the 400 or 50, but i can tell you it does not work with the 6. As the day before shooting on ISO 800 meant I got very few good shots. So on Wednesday I tried ISO 1000. In the end it was still not high enough, and it would take yet another return on Thursday to get the shots I wanted that were not blurred.

Song Thrush, Turdus philomelos

It was a glorious morning as we stepped out of the cabin after:

1. Coffee
2. Feeding the birds

Wednesday morning, Kielder Water

There was no wind at all, and the sun shone from an almost cloudless sky. Once at the lake shore, we were greeted by perfect reflections, which we both recorded of course. Once at the hide, there was not much movement at first, but soon enough the Siskins were feeding, and in time the red squirrels came out to feed too, although they kept their distance.

Wednesday morning, Kielder Water

We did see them playing, and could hear their claws digging into the tree bark as they zoomed up and down tree trunks, apparently playing hide and seek.

Wednesday morning, Kielder Water

It was time to head back to the cabin, wake Bradey and then we can head out. The plan, or the best one we had was to head to Alnwick first, on the way snap some churches, have lunch, then head round to Hexham to find yet another orchid before heading into Hexham to a great Indian place we had been in before for dinner.

And off we went, sadly, the skies began to cloud over, but it was bright enough. I stopped at a couple of churches, met some kind people, and got some fine shots, or so I think. Everyone seems so kind, offering advice on where to go next, handing out leaflets and generally being interested.

Time was getting on towards lunch, and so we had better get to Alnwick. Parking was hard enough as most of the roadside parking was all taken, but we managed a place by one of the ancient town gates and set off. Visiting a place for the first time is always a thrill, as you never know what you might find around each corner. Anyway, first thing first; lunch. We ended up at Subway and had a sandwich and a drink as we sat on a bench looking out over the old market square.

I said to Bradey that we would split up so he did not have to suffer the inevitable trip to a church, and we would meet up in an hour. Jools and I walked across the square, down some ancient streets, arriving at the castle and then onto the parish church. As is the way all over the country, on entering it, it was hard to tell whether it was a grand Victorian church, or an ancient one that had been 'improved' by the Victorians. It had what must have been fine glass at some point, but the colours had faded in parts, and now just looked awful. As ever, there was a friendly warden to point out the interesting things, and facts.

I whizzed round, making sure I would be done I was done in time to get back to the square to meet up with Bradey. We were in time, and only had to wait a minute or so for him, so we walked back to the car and then off to Hexham.

It was an hour or so journey, and we had to travel down the A1 and then back along the A69, heading towards Carlisle. The orchid book gave what seemed detailed directions to the reserve, so what could go wrong? Well, for one, the places were so small they featured on none of the road signs at all. We drove round for what seemed like ages, before ending up in a village on the main line between Newcastle and Carlisle, hoping for a brew in the tea shop, which was closed. So the pub would just have to do!

After getting the round in, I asked if they had heard of the reserve, and much to our surprise they had, and that it was just a 5 minute or so walk away. So, after supping up, we set off for the station, crossed the line, then over a footbridge of the Tyne, and there we were. Or we just had to follow the riverside path to the reserve and then find the orchids.

Yes, orchids. Dune, or in this case the inland version, the Tyne Helleborine. Only problem was, it was a big site, the plants were green, the leaves were green and the flowers were green. But, we had seen Helleborines before, so we knew what we were looking for. And so once in the reserve, the search began. We walked down both sides of the reserve, and I even walked up the middle of it, off path, and saw almost nothing orchid-shaped, except two Common Spotted. I search the surrounding area, but still nothing.

It was now 5, and so I gave up, Jools and Bradey had sensibly given up ages before and were waiting for me on the bridge. It was a 20 minute drive to Hexham, we knew where to park, near the station. walked up the steep path to the town centre, and overlooking the abbey was the place, and it was open.

So, we went in, had a great meal, and me a couple of beers. And it was all over by half six, we were back on the road by quarter to seven with just a 45 minute drive back to the cabin, if only we could find a shop so we could buy some milk......

Amazingly, on the way we found a Co-Op open, and they had milk, so we would have breakfast before we hit to road south the next morning, as the holiday was drawing to an end. At the cabin the birds were waiting for their supper, aand so once feeding them I put the coffee pot on for a brew, and so we could watch yet more football on TV. Perfect.

Saturday 28th June 2014


And on the sixth day of the holiday, the weather was rather inclement. In fact the weather changed Monday evening, as the clouds thickened and the heaven opened. It cleared again pretty quickly, but the rain caused evening mists rise for the forest and the lake, obscuring the mountains in the distance.

At first the day was just cloudy, the mountains then disappeared from view, and then the rain began. Sadly, we had chosen that moment to walk to the shop on the site, so after buying a bottle of milk, we stood in the doorway as the rain hammered down. It eased a little, and so we made a dash for it, or as much of a dash as it can be with us struggling up the hill to the cabin.

Ed Banger the Blue Tit

The rain continued to fall, so we put the radio on and waited. And waited. I cooked pasta for lunch, and still the rain continued to fall outside. We listened to more radio. And then there was a bang. A bird had flown into the closed window and now lay stunned on the stoop. I picked it up and cradled it for a while, it looked stunned, and I did not think it would make it.

Feeding time

In time it recovered, and I was able to guess it was a Blue Tit fledgling, and soon it began chirping for its parents. It perked u some more, but still did not want to fly. As more rain threatened, I worried if it got cold then it might not survive, so I went to ick it u, and off it flew, as if nothing had ever been wrong.


Late in the afternoon, the skies cleared some and so Jools and I went for a walk, heading to the red squirrel hide, hoping to see some red action. When we reached the hide, I don’t know what we expected, but what we did see were numerous feeders, and birds everywhere; Chaffinches, Siskins, Nuthatches, Wagtails, Pipits, and there were squirrels. Red ones too! In time two of them came closer and climbed the bird feeders and stole peanuts. I got shots, but in the gloom of the wood, not many came out, but still, red squirrels!

Simply Red

Back at the cabin, we got ready for England’s last game, a dead rubber as we were already out and Costa Rica were already through. In the end it was a poor game, England were bereft of ideas and skill, and so the game ended in a tame 0-0 draw, so securing our first point of the world cup. Now we go home. In the other game, Suarez bit another layer, and now seems certain to miss the rest of the competition, despite his team knocking Italy out.

Adder, Vipera berus

Friday, 27 June 2014

Friday 27th June 2014 (part 2)


In an unusual move, I had planned some of the holiday in advance. One of these things was a cruise to the Farne Islands off the coast of Northumberland, to see Puffins. I have always wanted to see Puffins and photograph them.

All aboard for the ten o'clock sailing to the Farne Islands!

So this is why the alarms went off at six in the morning, and we stumbled about trying to make coffee before setting out across the moors to the coast. It was pleasant enough, heading down lanes and roads up and down valleys and over moors that looked anything but bleak in the morning light. We crested another hill after an hour of travelling, to see the sunlight dappling the surface of the sea. We were nearly there, and we were very early.

All aboard for the ten o'clock sailing to the Farne Islands!

We still had half an hour to go, up the A1 then u along the coast road to Seahouses. We parked up, and found a few other photographers milling around waiting for sailing time. We made use of the time by having 2nd breakfast at the greasy spoon by the harbour, and all the time, more and more people arrived.

All aboard for the ten o'clock sailing to the Farne Islands!

One by one, boats loaded up and headed out, until at ten it was our turn. The boat was packed, but we all had enough room, and so settled down for the half hour trip to the islands. We went to Inner Farne first, to drop off some photographers off on another boat so they could snap a rare Turn which had arrived this week. We went from island to island, each one had cliffs that were packed with nesting birds: Shags, Guillemots, Kittiwakes, Cormorants, Razorbills and Puffins.

Farne Islands

As we went from island to island, it became clear, that despite the glorious weather, there was a problem. And in time we came to Staple Island, where we should have gotten off, only to be told that due to the swell and high tide, landing was impossible. A massive disappointment for us all, but nothing could be done. And so with all the shots we had, we headed back to ort to get off and to decide what to do next.

Bridal guillemot, Uria aalge

Farne Islands

Seahouses had filled up with people, and the small fishing village was packed with people, the jetty even more so. Once landed we went to the car, loaded up and set off up the coast. All we wanted to do was find a nice quiet pub and have a bite of lunch. Bamborough was also jampacked, so we headed further up the coast.

We had decided to head to Holy Island, so I could try to find another rare orchid. Lets hope I would be lucky! At the top of the road to the island was a good looking pub, and as the causeway would be closed until gone three, lets do lunch and drink beer!

We have a fine long lunch, and afterwards we head down to the start of the causeway, to find that dozens of cars were parked up, and people were standing on the causeway, looking at the receding waters. Which one would be brave enough to be first across? Turns out it was an Audi driver, heading over the flooded causeway, with the water lapping at the bottom of the car. But he made it, and so one by one others inched across. Half an hour later, but half an hour before the safe time for the crossing, we went over, and the road was mostly out of the water.

Waiting for the low tide

Once over we park at an area called The Snook, and so began the great orchid hunt, which struck, if not gold then silver, as I saw a few Pyramidals scattered in the dunes. Further on I came across many Common Spotted and Northern Marsh. The area was huge, and I was beginning to despair of finding a Helleborine, let alone a Lindisfarne one.

I ask a couple, and they say beyond the house about a hundred yards away is orchid heaven. I stride out and sure enough there were Helleborines. Marsh Hellebrines. Not the ones I was looking for, but hundreds and hundreds of them, mixed in with a few fading Early Marsh too, as well as Common Spotted. There must have been thousands of orchids, most of the Marsh Helleborines, but no sign of either a Dune of a Lindisfarne.

Marsh Helleborine, Epipactis Palustris

Time was running out, it was four, and so I gave up, happy with the shots I had, and the discovery of what looked like to me Leopard Orchids, but they don’t exist, so who knows, these interbreed like crazy. The last one was a monster, over a foot high, with a flowering spike some nine inches of densely packed flowers. It was stunning.

Northern March Orchid, Dactylorhiza purpurella ver. cambrensis

Back over the causeway, back over the railway line, the A1 and into the countryside, with the dark hills in the distance getting nearer and nearer. It took 90 minutes to get back, but it is a pleasant trip, heading via Kelso and Jedborough before heading over the moors to Kielder.

Northern March Orchid, Dactylorhiza purpurella ver. cambrensis

Friday 27th June 2014


Sometimes, there is nothing better than doing nothing. Doing nothing for hours and hours on end. And having no internet connection, and just the TV and radio for entertainment, well, we listen to the radio, read, or just watch the wildlife outside our windows.

Whilst waiting for Bradey to wake up, Jools and I go for a walk down to the lakeside, and take a seat at a bench overlooking the quay, whilst swallows swoop around us, chasing insects. The sunshine was warm, there was barely a breath of wind. All was well.

Just before lunch we headed out in the car, with the thought of ‘having lunch’. We drive along the lake, through Kielder village and u the valley, the road twisting but always getting higher. We were the only ones around, and it felt like we had the whole park to ourselves.

It's good to travel, but better to come back home

We end up in Hawick, where a couple of friends of ours have moved to. I had hoped to see Sam or Beverley walking along, or in a pub. But we didn’t. And being without an internet connection, I had been unable to let them know we would be visiting. Another time.

We find a place to park and head to an Italian place we had seen. It wasn’t spectacular, but good enough for us. Although the murals inside were shockingly bad, bad enough me to photograh the worst of them.

The next port of call was a village called Gordon to see yet another orchid. Gordon was a 45 minute drive away, up the A68 towards Edinburgh. We dodged an RTA and headed across country, past some ancient country pile. And just to the west of Gordon was a sign: Gordon Moss.

I was here to find another new orchid species for me, The Coral Root. What resented itself to us, was an area the size of a football pitch, heavily overgrown, and the chances of finding anything seemed slim. And indeed that was the case, the grass was over 5 feet high in places, and I felt like an African explorer thrashing through the undergrowth. Butterflies and moths of all sorts flew out of my way, but sign of a small red orchid there was none.

(possible) Coral Root Orchid, Corallorhiza trifida

Except, right at the end, I came across what seemed like a single red spike, the flowers had died, but I looked at the stem, it had no leaves and so seemed right, but that was all I had for two hours of searching. It was an hour back to the cabin, heading into the warmth of the setting sun, back over the moors and hills towards the lake.

Once back it was another evening of football, and for supper: cheese. We had bought a selection at the farm shop, so we dined well on Stinking Bishop and Brie.

And wine.



And on the seventh day Jelltex did rest, and so did everyone else. We lay in bed until gone eight, whilst outside nature went about its business not missing our participation at all. So with a whole day ahead of us, the question was what to do with the whole day, especially as u here daylight lasts until gone ten in the evening.

We listened to the radio, read, messed about on the computer, and generally wasted the morning. It felt good. However, the sun was threatening to break through, so Jools and I decided to head out for a walk. It is twenty miles all around the lake, and we knew that was beyond us, but maybe four or five there and back? It pays to have ambition.

We set off down the hill through the cabins and into the nature garden. There is a sign saying that on sunny days you might see an adder basking in the sun. Yeah, right, like that is gonna happen. But, there, curled up in the sun was an adder, I moved to snap it but it slithered off. Well, that was a bonus! Sadly, I just had my 50mm lens on, but I got a shot. Not bad.

We head down to the waterside, and find the path heading north, and off we set on the look out for anything interesting. Anything interesting is just what we saw, as dramatic clouds were reflected in the waters of the lake, around each corner was another stunning view, with trees lining the shore, or meadows scattered with sheep.

After an hour, the orchids appeared, just Common Spotted, but as these are some of the most amazingly pattered orchids, I always enjoy seeing them. Some of the orchids are of great height, and yet have the same small flower heads at the top of the spike. We watched as Martins and swallows sat at the face of a sand bank, we think sipping water.

We came to where a road used to run into the valley and now just disappears into the brown peaty waters of the lake. It was now half twelve, thoughts turned to food, and so our feet turned for home, retracing our steps back to the park. We called in to look at the Osprey lookout, and I was able to look through a scope at the eerie some two miles away. I could just make out a single chick looking out for its next meal to be brought back.

Happy with that, we head up the hill to the cabin, have a brew, then I get down to cooking chorizo hash for brunch, which was good as we all agreed we were hungry. It took some time to prepare, but the anticipation is good, as is the smells as the vegetables are cooked, then the sausage and finally the potato. And it was good, or even if I say so myself. And it was all over in time for the five o’clock game on TV.

The evening passed with football, whilst outside nature carried on its business unaware of the circus on the other side of the world.

Thursday, 26 June 2014

Thursday 26th June 2014

Mulder rolled in some seven hours later than is usual. By this time we had taken the other two to the cattery, and I had come back an settled into some more waiting. I walked down the garden yet again, and I swear I head his high pitched meow. And when I went insde, there was Jools wresting the poor lad into the box.

So it was a quick runround of collecting our stuff, packing the car and off we went, via the cattery again, and then onto Mike’s to collect Bradey, his step-son. We had agreed to take him along, or rather he had agreed to put up with us.

We loaded the car, and off we set, to Folkestone, Ashford, Maidstone, Dartford, Harlow, Cambridge and on further north. Thanks to Mulder we were some six hours late, thus heading under the Thames into Kent just before rush hour, but meaning we would be heading round Cambridge at 5. The traffic was horrendous, but we made steady time, and then onto the A1, and so we switched on the radio to listen to the build up of the England game.

A blockage on the A1 meant the journey took even longer, but we were back on track, or at least on course. As the sun sank, we headed into the East Riding, along the M18 towards Hull, and then branching off across country through pretty little villages until, as dusk settled we headed into Beverly, where our rooms for the night were booked.

By now I was shattered, the jet lag coupled with early mornings before work, and the full on nature of arranging the road tri for when I return to work had caught up with me. My eyes itched from the lack of sleep, I just wanted to get to the hotel and have a drink. In the end even heading to the pub would be too much, and I would sit on the bed with a cuppa watching the football.

As planned, the guest house was beside the Minster, but our mood was down, as on the radio England had endured a poor first half and were one down. We unloaded the car and went to our room and so I was sitting down in time for the second half to begin. England were, if anything, even worse, and it took half an hour for them to recover and in the end equalise.

But, in the game’s death-throws, Suarez, broke through and pounced to win the game and almost certainly send England home. In all honesty, it doesn’t really matter. We are a mid-ranking team with limited skills, and were found out, losing both games and, although you could say it was an improvement on South Africa, that isn’t saying much. At the end of the game, I switched the TV off and had a shower. As I lay in bed, the mister chimed the quarter hours away, and I slipped into a deep sleep.


I posed the question the night before, that I wondered if the bells of the Minster would chime all night, and so would they be made silent after, say, eleven? I can now reveal that the bells did chime all night. I would like to say it was kind of re-assuring, but the ringing, not only of the hours but an attractive peal before the hours were chimed, was loud, loud enough to wake me from my slumber on a few occasions.

We arranged to meet Bradey at eight for breakfast, and in an unusual move we had to exit the guesthouse and go in the front door for the breakfast room. It worked, and soon we were tucking into toast, cereal and a huge cup of coffee or two.

Before breakfast, Jools and I walked round the minster, and saw that it opened at nine, so we hoped to load the car and be at the doors at the final stroke of nine so we could hit toe road as soon as we, or rather, I had my shots. And this is what happened. The car loaded, we walked to the minster to find the door unlocked, but the church deserted. So, I rushed round getting my shots, it is always wonderful to have a building to oneself, but one as grand and as special as Beverly Minster was a rare treat.

Outside the clouds were clearing, and so once we made it to the car, the sun was breaking through, and it was turning into a very nice day indeed. We headed back to the A1 the way we had come the night before, over free land and picturesque villages before it was back onto the motorway and back to the modern world of the thundering lorries and traffic jams.

Apart from getting to our cabin in the evening, the only other plan was to find a very secial site (aren’t they all?) for orchids, and hopefully see a rarity, Dark Red Helleborones, if they were in flower. Up the great north road to Durham, and then along increasingly narrow lanes until we came to a quarry. Not the one we wanted as this was a working one!

We turned round, headed through the village, asked a local where the reserve was, then along another narrow lane, and there it was.

After a pleasant walk through an ancient forest, it opened out into an old quarry, now being taken over by nature. Everywhere were Common Spotted Orchids, even a couple of pure white ones, as well as what looked like maybe a Heath Spotted or two. Bradey spotted a Bee, and nearby there were another couple of spikes, one with three blooms on, a real treat. And as I found out from a local, very rare for Durham.

I saw a few Pyramidal spikes about to open, and then we realised the tall dark green plants we see unravelling were the helleborines. I guess we are about a week too early to see any open blooms, so maybe if the weather is kind on the way back south we will call in? We shall see.

Back in the car, back to the A1 and head north to Sunderland and Newcastle, and into the real heavy traffic of a Friday afternoon. We headed west on the A69, and soon the houses thinned out, and we were in the Tyne Valley in glorious sunshine. Thoughts turned to lunch, even though it was two in the afternoon, we were pretty hungry.

We came to a farm shop which said it had tearooms. We went in and sure enough they did tea and had rooms. But they had a glorious selection of cream cakes, savouries and salads. We ordered something each, me choosing the tradition cream tea. And we sat down to wait delivery.

Also there was a farm shop, so I bought some supplies for dinner, it seemed we were going to be having pasta. I bought some black pudding flavoured sausages, which I fried u to add to the pasta sauce. But before dinner, we had to head into the wilds of north Northumberland. Up our favourite road, the A68, all straight roads, sharp corners and multiple blind summits. We tore up the road, leaping over the blind summits, at one point the front wheels lifting off the road. Quite an achievement as the car was so fully loaded.

We headed off across the open moorland, the sunshine dappling the landscape with glorious sunshine, make it seem so special. It was all rather wonderful as we headed down into valleys and then up again as we neared our destination, Kielder Water, Europe’s largest artificial lake. And we had a cabin booked on its shores.

We drove round the lake until we came to the ark, Jools collected the key from the office, and we trundled round to cabin #7. We were here.

After unloading the car, I made coffee, and then fried the sausages up, added them to the sauce before finishing off the pasta. I missed the lot up, served it u, sprinkled grated cheese on top, served with a bottle of red and a bottle of rose wine. Simple but delicious.

Outside swallows and Martins swooped and dived hunting for insects on the wing, our own air display. On the grass rabbits came out to have supper, and all of this set in front of the backdrop of the ancient mountains and moorlands rising to the sky in the distance. As the sun set the greens turned to inks and reds, and the sky seemed to catch fine. And so England’s world cup adventure came to an end, relying on Italy beating Costa Rica, then having to beat CR themselves next week. As it turned out, Italy could not do England a favour, CR running out 1-0 winners, and that was that. What could be said this time round, is that it wasn’t as bad as in South Africa, but then it could hardly be worse. Four years after Bloemfontein, and the hammering we received from Germany, in the minds of the team, players and FA, nothing has changed, the same players, playing the same way.

Nothing has changed, and nothing will change, we will stumble into the major competition every two years, hoping against hope that this time it will be different, but it never is. So, until football admits to itself that there is something wrong, and the FA actually does something about it, it will not change. I was so angry after South Africa, and yet, the FA did nothing. And so this time round, I’m not angry, just disappointed that four wasted years, no real change has happened, nor has any change been put into motion.

The likes of “Super” Frank and Stevie “G” will now being closing their international careers, each two years there has been nothing but optimism followed by failure. The players say they are sorry for letting the fans down, let the FA say something similar, saying how sorry they are at the failure of getting out of the group stages for the first time since 1958.

So, while the rest of the world celebrates and looks forward to the next stage of the competition, England’s layers will be either on the beach soaking u the rays, or getting ready for pre-season. The really sad thing is eight weeks from now, the league season will be under way, and all this failure at international level will be forgotten, and the media will be telling us how great the Premier League is. And nothing will change.

Quite how English football has sunk so low, and we are so happy for it to be this way is a tale of money, money and more money. And how the incompetent FA allowed the Premier League to be set up, and failed to put in controls and so the league bloated and became the foremost football organisation in the country, and the success of the national team is of no concern to the PL, just how the billions keep rolling in from TV companies from around the world.

Eight years ago, Germany were horrified by only reaching the quarter finals, and so reorganised the game in their country, and four years later, a youthful German team took England apart en route to the semi finals. Oh, if only the FA would take such actions after this shocker, but things will not change, the same players for the most part, will be laying the same tactics and we will endure failure once again in Russia in 2018.

It is, after all, just a game, and gives us something to talk and moan about, those 52 year of hurt.

Thursday, 19 June 2014

Thursday 19th June 2014


And so the great getaway is about to begin, we have to put in force operation cat round up. First two cats, Molly and Scully are easy, so one is in the bathroom, the other is in the porch. We just have to wait for Mulder to arrive. And so the waiting begins.

We are packing, as we travel light, not a difficult task, and then deciding what else to take, i think we'll stop at the kitchen sink.

One piece of news I forgot yesterday, was that out of the blue, Jools' old employers, the LFB rang, offering a job for six months, on more money than she was on before. As this coincides with the other one finishing, she is going to take it, which makes our money situation much easier at least until the end of the year. It certainly is a strange thing, but if it suits both sides, then its a win/win situation.

Last night both Spain and Australia lost, thus both being the first teams to exit the world cup this year, and Spain being the first holders to go out at the group stage. They were poor, and lost 2-0 to Chile, who were rather pleased. I did watch the whole game, but struggled against heavy eyelids all evening, no doubt made worse by the two glasses of wine I supped at dinner.

Anyway, the waiting goes on, but soon we shall be heading northwards. See you next week.

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Wednesday 18th June 2014


It became clear at four o'clcok in the morning that the jet lag was serious about messing with my head. I lay there, trying to get back to sleep, but sleep would not come. I got up and was ready for work, all sorted out before seven. Although, I was working from home, as our little car had to go in the garage for a service as we are on our travels later in the week.

I switched on the computer to find not the landslide of e mails I had been expecting, however, it did take a couple of hours to sort through. Jools headed off in the car at eight for the garage and to do some chores in town, and I carried on working.

By lunchtime, Jools was back, but the jet lag had now morphed into a major headache. I looked at the computer, the picture swirled, I gave up, turned it off and went to bed, although sleep would not come. I lay on bed listening to the birds outside. The pain in my head passed.

I wrote off the rest of the day, had a shower, and fell asleep on the sofa with the world cup blaring away on TV.


And off to work in Ramsgate. My, its been some time, or so it seemed. The monkeys had been given the day off as the wind was set in the north, and so waves were battering the windfarm. i set up y computer on Pete's desk and worked away. Outside, rain fell in a light drizzle, which does make the thought of being at work acceptable.

I have a stack of things to do, planning a trip around Europe from the end of the month. Getting confirmations on visits here and there, then trying to agree on flight details, hotels and the such. The mundanity of work makes it seem the spice of the trip last week an age ago.

I get home in time to take my place on the sofa ready for the first game of the day. This is how it is supposed to be, but just not enough time in the day for all the radio listening and photo-editing that I feel need to be done.


I suppose, bit by bit, I have clawed the sleep my body it feels the sandman owes it. I must have got eight more last night, and do feel slightly human. Maybe even a living one!

Jools drops me off at work, and I try to finish up all the arranging and paperwork before the end of the day, as from tomorrow we are off on our holibobs. Anyway, more about that in a bit.

The day passes, I manage to speak to everyone I need to, I send a torrent of e mails to all sorts of people, maybe even some will get read. Stranger things have happened. Out in the Channel, the wind has stopped blowing, and the monkeys are called in. I ring Jools to come and pick me up in case they don't go offshore.

As it turned out, as Jools arrives, the monkeys are loading up the truck to head to the quay. But its too late, I'm outta there. We head home, and I have just enough time to set up my computer before yet another meeting is about to begin. I finish up at half four, just in time for the beginning of the first game of the day, Australia v Holland, which is wonderful and Holland scrape a 3-2 win. We pack, sort stuff out inbetween the football. We are away in the morning, and so service might be interuppted again for a week or so, you have been warned. Tie for a break.

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Tuesday 17th June 2014


It will come as no surprise to learn that as a result of the jet lag and my screwed body clock, I was awake at five in the morning. I mean WIDE awake. I lay there, wondering whether I should try to go back to sleep, or give into the inevitable and get up, have a coffee and watch the rest of the England game that I taped the night before.

I put on my dressing gown, put some birdseed out so I could watch them birds in case the football failed to be interesting, made a pot of coffee and switched the TV on. We can say that England played OK, much better than any of the four games from the previous World Cup, however, despite being level at half time,they failed to build on this in the 2nd half, falling behind once again, and this time there was no way back. A 2-1 defeat against Italy isn't bad, but it a defeat, and means that the pressure is on for the remaining two group games.

Now, I had been told about some rare orchids (aren't they all?) along the coast in Sussex. I was tempted to go, but the weather was poor, cloudy and windy and so in the end we decided to have very relaxing day. Which I think was the right thing to do. I listened to the radio, watched some more football on TV. The day passed and I would have to go back to work on Monday.

The weekend drifted away, and so the week in which I made it to China also faded away. I tried to go to bed as soon as the eight o'clock game finished, lets hope I would sleep until six at least.

Monday, 16 June 2014

Monday 16th June 2014

Once the departure gate showed up on the screens I headed for the immigration clearance, along with all the other travellers heading out. This process was not so difficult as entering, and the queues not so long either. I got my passport stamped and I was free, free to enter the departure lounge with its multiple shopping opportunities. All of them pretty much the same, however.

And there was almost no screens on which departure information was being displayed, which meant that nearer departure time I would need to sit near the gate to keep an eye on when we would be allowed on the plane. In the meantime I went into one of the duty free shops to get some gifts for Jools, and on the way out manage to lose my boarding card. An assistant was wandering around holding a found boarding card, I went over and it was mine. Major panic over.

At midday, some two hours before boarding, I thought I would get something to eat, and instead of the stir frys and such I had been eating all week, I thought I would treat myself to a burger. Can’t go wrong with a burger, right? Wrong. It was horrible. However, it would be ten times better than airline food.

I wandered round some more, and then at two, the gate opened so I joined the queue and it was goodbye China.

I guess 90% of the passengers were Chinese, and I had an old Chinese guy next to me, who of course, could not speak English, and hawked greenies through most of the flight, including rinsing out his mouth after lunch and spitting a mouthful of water back in the container. Lovely.

Instead of staring at the inflight display, I thought I would take advantage of the on demand movies, so I selected John Wayne in ‘The Searchers’, followed by the first ‘Star Trek’ reboot with Chris Pine and then ‘Despicable Me 2’ which I had heard so many good things about; it was wonderfully funny. Bottom.

I played the computer at Poker and won, and rounded the flight up with episodes of CSI and NCIS. People still being killed and the good folks working it all out. Yay, good guys!

And here we were circling round southern Essex getting lower, awaiting a landing slot. And down and down we went, I glimpsed green fields out of the side window, meaning it looked like home. And down we went, until, bump, bump, screech! We were home.

Then came the scramble to get off the plane, and I managed to get into an argument with a masked Chinese woman who barged past me as I got my bag down. She ignored by curse at her. I walked off the plane to see her and the rest of her party waiting on the ramp for the rest of her group. Go figure. I walked on. I could see outside, clouds heavy overhead, it looked like rain. Good, we were home.

What I noticed is that I could see the clouds, thing is in China, the pollution was so bad, and visibility so poor that only the vague outlines of clouds could be bseen, and the hint that the sky may be glue in some places. Here, in Albion, it was as clear as a bell. I walked to immigration to find no queue, using my biometric passport I used the ‘e lane’ and was out in baggage reclaim in a few seconds.

I then had to wait 15 minutes for my bag to come round, but hell, I was home on Saturday, and due to travelling with the rotation of the earth, we left China 1t 14:30 and landed in England at 18:00 the same day! And if I could stay awake, I might be able to watch the England game on TV at eleven….

Jools was not waiting, so I went to M&S for a bite to eat and a smoothie, I watched people arrive, meeting their friends or people holding their names on boards. Jools came and we went to the car park, paid the ticket and loaded the car, and vroom, we were off.

At least landing on a Saturday evening, the M25 would be fairly quiet, so we made good time along through Surrey and into Kent, onto the M20 in into Kent, the sun shone occasionally overhead, I was heading home with Jools and so all was well with the world.

We headed into Dover just before nine, seeing the castle from Capel meant I was home. Oddly I did not feel that tired, despite not having slept for 29 hours. Once indoors we have a couple of rolls and me a glass of Old Hoppy Hen followed by a huge cuppa. Lovely.

After showering, I settle down for the England game, sure in the knowledge that with all the will in the world, I would never see the end of the game. England began the game well, passing the ball around with accuracy. My eyes got heavy, and I began to nod. At half eleven, after 30 minutes I admit defeat and head up the wooden hill. All I have to do now is beat the jet lag, and all would be well.

Sunday, 15 June 2014

Sunday 15th June 2014


Believe it or not, we turned down a trip to the great wall so we could have a business meeting back at the factory. I hope my boss and the customer appreciate our commitment to the cause! As ever we met in the restaurant for breakfast, before climbing into an ancient taxi. I guess it could have been a fairly new taxi, only the dents and dust has hidden all that. It is also a gamble as to how the driver is, whether he is a little crazy or just plain mad. This morning the driver was fine, the craziness would happen on the trip back later in the day.

Also as usual, the customer was half an hour late, but once they arrived we sorted out many issue that had been holding both sides for months. As long as the customer’s bosses agree when they see the MoM anyway. And at two, all was concluded, so we all decided to part there and head back to the hotel to relax, pack and generally chill out.

Taxis were arranged, and I know the customer took our, as I had to sign the travel documents for them, and the ride from hell cost me 60 Yuan. The driver was permanently angry, shouting at other cars, whilst, and at the same time, checking google maps, text messages, updates from the Chinese version of e bay, talking on the radio to his office and fielding other phone calls. That we were not killed is a miracle.

We did get back to the hotel, and Anni and I agreed to meet hat 5 for drinks before dinner. I found out that by using the company’s VPN, I could get round the great firewall of China and access Facebook and Twitter, and at the same time IE now failed to crash every 5 minutes.

The afternoon passed, the sun sank in the sky and the traffic thundered past the hotel. Dinner, as ever was the buffet, but this time with free wine, or a glass at least, which was passable. There is nothing quite like a glass of wine with dinner. Unless its two of course.


I awoke at four, and unable to sleep, switched the TV to find the last 5 minutes of the Spain v Holland game on TV. The score was 5-1, although I wasn’t quite sure who to, so I assumed Spain were cruising. They were, for a bruising! It was Holland who were winning, and going for a 6th as I watched. Spain looked shell-shocked, which is good, in that it would be good to see someone else win it.

I had a shower, packed, uploaded some shots to Flickr, and the hours passed until half six and it was breakfast time again. I treated myself to bacon and pancakes, which, all in all, is not very Chinese, but just what felt right. On the next table I watched a guy who looked like Kim Jong Un eat a five course breakfast, very noisily. It what passed for entertainment.

Time then to check out and find the car to take us to the airport. I go outside to find the car, and am nearly run over by a reversing taxi: another life lost! The car is waiting, so I pay my bill and off we go, loading the car into a plush VW, and into the light Saturday morning traffic.

On the way to the motorway, we pass mile after mile of factories, mostly famous western companies, all of which now manufacturing here in China.

Once on the motorway, we pass mile after mile of farmland, lakes and then rising out of the land another mega-development of dozens of huge blocks of flats, and then countryside again. All very odd, and soon enough becomes normal. As we near Beijing, traffic becomes heavier, and the driver is weaving in and out of the lanes trying find the quickest route. We have to trust he knows what he is doing and cling on for dear life.

In time we see the signs for the airport, and we relax, as we had made it. In the terminal, Anni and I part, she has a further two hour wait than I, which means lots of waiting around for her, but then I did wait 5 hours for her on Tuesday when we arrived. I find the desk and check in, and the Chinese adventure is nearly over.

Saturday, 14 June 2014

Saturday 14th June 2014

Beijing, Tuesday 07:20.

I have just been to Starbuck, an Amerciano is an Americano, and the call the sized the stupid names they call them in Starbucks all over the world. Globalisation has its place, a coffee is a coffee wherever.

A ten and half hour flight, an hour to go through customs and here I am, in the land of the Jade Dragon and other such things, and my pulse is not racing yet. Strangely. Outside the rain steadily falls from a yellow sky, I kid you not, people wander around polishing and sweeping anything. The airport gleams. It is a very nice airport, sparkly.

I woke at five, er, yesterday, and laid in bed till half past, then we got up, had a coffee and Jools dropped me off at the station for the ten to seven train. I decided to dodge London and travel to Gatwick via Redhill, which is much cheaper, and just quicker.

The train from Dover was soon full of commuters, and so it was a relief to take the train to Redhill and have a carriage to myself. At the airport, there was no queue to check in, security was just a few minutes, and so I had nearly four hours in which to get breakfast.

With such a wide choice, I chose a Mexican themed place, but the food was blandly British, with hardly any spice, and even the BBQ beans were just plain old Heinz.

I dossed around, then went to board at half twelve, but our baggage got lost and we sat on the plane for an hour whilst the bags were found and loaded, and then we had to wait more to get a slot. And then we were off, me, oddly disinterested, and yet, soon we were flying over Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Russia. Russia lasted for ours, Then Mongolia and then China.

I had a seat in the mddle of the plane, so I saw neither England slip from below us, but I did watch the in flight navigation as we crossed western Europe, eastern Europe and on into Russia. The day passed, but we were flying so far north that darkness did not completely come. The sun rose again as we headed over Ulaan Batuur and on into China.

In China rain was falling from the leaden and yellow skies. I saw us land through one of the windows across the aisle. It looked like any other international airport, it could be anywhere.

Beijing International Airport

The queue at immigration were huge, but after an hour we all got through, I was half-expecting to be refused entry, but my passport was stamped and I went into China. Or down the escalator to the train station for the shuttle ride to the next terminal to collect our bags, then get through customs. And THEN you would be in China.

shuttle train

I had a five hour wait for Anni, which could mean much more coffee. My body clock told me it is half one in the morning, but it is bright daylight outside.

Welcome to China.

Five hours passed. I read and finish the book I had brought with me, I still had an hour to go until Anni arrived. At half twelve I went to the exit from the arrivals hall and the arrival of Anni. I saw our taxi driver from across the hall, it was all going so well.

Anni arrived, and we followed the taxi driver to the garage, loaded the car and headed off into China. Which from our seats was mostly motorway. But the traffic was a mix of western cars, some high spec Mercs and VWs and even Bentleys, and old 3rd world style trucks, hauling all sorts of goods throwing out huge clouds of fumes as they chugged along.

I guess we had no idea what to expect in China, in that what would the towns and cities look like, what would the countryside be like? We headed out of the airport car park and into the craziness that is the traffic on one of the seven rig-roads that circle Beijing. Traffic was mad, cars jostling for position in whatever lane they wanted. At each intersection, more traffic joined the jams, and no one ever seemed to give way and cars and lorries just forced themselves onto the nearest lanes.

And no one used indicators, each lane had its own speed limit, and it was frightening at times. We had some 120km to go, so we saw lots of crazy driving, sudden lane changes, but the driver always seemed in control, and anyway, we were so tired and jet-lagged we hardly cared.

Once in the countryside, we saw huge expanses of fields, criss-crossed with drainage ditches, and then rising from the flat landscape huge new constructions of flats and massive buildings, most were as yet unfinished. And then the fields appeared again. And it was like this mile after mile.

Tianjin is about 30 miles across, and we headed past the port, the old town, the airport before we made our way into TEDA, where the hotel was. We pulled up at a massive Marriott hotel, our bags were unloaded and taken into the hotel. Everywhere was black marble and shiny surfaces. As we signed in, cups of lemon tea were brought to us, before we went up to our huge rooms.

Tianjin, China

The room was stunning, a big bed, a big desk, a big TV and a big shower, which was wonderful. We met down in the lobby and walked round the block, on three sides we were hemmed in my wide six lane roads that looked suicidal to try to cross. We headed back to the hotel, had a pint of cold local beer and waited for dinner at six.

First evening in China

We had the buffet, which was good enough, more than good enough really, but by now we were so tired we would have eaten anything.

First evening in China


I awoke at eight the next morning with a wooly head, I had just woken from 13 hours sleep! I was supposed to have met Anni for breakfast some half an hour before, so I quickly dressed and went downstairs to find she had tried to call me on my mobile and on the internal phone in my room, neither of which had stirred me.

Historic old Street, Tianjin, China

So, after breakfast we decided to head out into the city and see what we could see. I had read little of Tianjin before travelling, so it came as a surprise to learn that the centre of the city was a half hour taxi ride away.

Historic old Street, Tianjin, China

And so we hurtled off back down the motorway dodging from lane to lane, passing trucks on either side. Once again we lived to tell the tale. Once in the city, we went down wide and busy streets, until the driver pulled off a 180 degree turn scattering scooter riders and pedestrians in all directions before dumping us at the kerb.

The Mwaw Mwaw Lady, Tianjin, China

Before us was a Chinese arch, and beyond the historic street, which we hoped would be at least photogenic. In the end it turned out to be hundreds of tourist tat shops, but the people and the stuff they sold were interesting. We wandered around, trying to avoid eye contact as the owners tried to sell us something gaudy. On reflection, buying some gaudy tat would have been good I think. Instead we walked on.

The water boy

We had also decided to try to find and ride the Tianjin Eye, a huge Ferris Wheel, we had seen it as we rode across a bridge, so we walked along the river hoping to find it. As we walked under a bridge festooned with lions, there about a mile away was the Eye.

Tianjin from the Tainjin Eye

So, we walked in the bright sunshine, with the sun beating down, past pleasure boats, but mostly locals fishing and smoking. They seemed to catch stuff, which shows that the river was clean.

Tianjin Dabei Buddist Temple, Tianjin, China

The wheel is built in the central reservation of a main highway in the middle of the bridge that carries the road over the river. And an impressive piece of engineering it looks to. It was seven quid to ride, which seemed fine to us, despite there being many empty pods, we were encouraged to enter one already occupied by a young couple. Oh well.

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From the top we spied a temple complex near the bottom of the eye, so once off the wheel we walked across a not very busy road, through a small indoor market and to the gates of the tmple. Hmmm, tickets would be needed, lets see if I could go to the kiosk and buy a couple.

Tianjin Dabei Buddist Temple, Tianjin, China

Using the old tactic of holding two fingers up and handing over loads of cash, I managed to buy two cheap tickets and get change back too. So we went in.

Tianjin Dabei Buddist Temple, Tianjin, China

I guess its surprising to find that the Chinese are so religious, after decades of communist rule, and yet there were hundreds there, praying, lighting incense sticks and doing lots of bowing to statues. We wandered around, taking shots, just enjoying being there.

Tianjin Dabei Buddist Temple, Tianjin, China

It was mid-afternoon, and we were hot, could we find a place to rest and get a drink? Well, it took a while, in the end we found our way back to the old town, we bought a couple of bottles of water, but were still thirsty. We found a fast food place and managed to order two Cokes, despite the waitress claiming not to have heard of it, there was even a soda fountain behind here. So with pointing and talking slower and louder, she got it, and brought us two cups of Coke, and we were happy.

Next we had to find our way back to the hotel, so we tried to get a taxi to take us back. The first couple refused, but the third seemed to know they way, yet took us a different route, but got us back in roughly the same amount of time.

Time then for a cold beer before dinner.



And the day arrived which was the whole reason for being here in China; work at the factory here, show the customer round and hopefully they would be happy. I set the alarm for six, just as well as I did as I could not sleep, finally falling asleep after three and so being jolted awake after something less than three hours.

I met Anni at breakfast. Yes, breakfast. I mention this as breakfast in Asia can be an adventure; stir fried vegetables, noodles, rice, fruit, cereal, fried eggs and bacon. There was something just about for everyone, including big mugs in which to drink coffee from. Proper man-sized cups offering enough caffeine to kick start the day.

The taxi was waiting; a taxi ride is always an adventure, as most speak no English and so making yourself understood is a challenge, at least this was arranged by our hosts and so was free and the driver knew where he was taking us.

Through the quite scary morning rush hour traffic with a mix of modern cars and ancient trucks, the fumes were horrible, but as rules of the road apply even less to taxi drivers here in China than at home, we were heading out on the motorway soon enough. Every direction seems to have at least a six lane highway leading to it, and so we headed to the factory and work beckoned.

I won’t go into details about work, except to say it all went very well, and at the end of the day we were all happy and the visit for Friday was cancelled as we did it all in one day, as expected that we would.

Tianjin at night

Once all was concluded, we were herded into a large people carrier and we made the half hour drive back downtown, this time in heavy evening rush hour traffic, to a very posh and expensive restaurant. I had battled with chop sticks for dinner, but whatever skills I had learnt then, deserted me and I was only able to get a few morsels onto my plate. I gave up eating, but our hosts were very happy, and there were plenty of smiles, even laughs. I say that, there were lots of laughs as we shared jokes, it was good to see that people of all cultures can mix and get one.

Tianjin at night

Next we were taken back to the old historic street, the thought was that we would be able to buy some gifts for our families. Sadly, all the shops had closed, and we wandered around before fining one stall open and so one of our Dutch colleague’s bought four wooden frogs, which he tried and failed to haggle the price.

Tianjin at night

We ended up on the Lion Bridge as dusk fell, the sky was the colour of fire, and people were flying kites which were lit up by small battery powered lights. It was a magical sight, and as we turned away from the sunset, the full moon rose between two skyscrapers in the east.

Tianjin at night

One of the Dutch guys spent half an hour haggling to buy one of the kites, then we walked down beside the river to board a pleasure boat for a trip up the river. I was by now shattered, and had wanted nothing more than to go back to the hotel since we left the restaurant. However, we accepted the tickets for the cruise, and at nine fifteen the boat cast off and we were on our way.

Evening river cruise in Tianjin

Tianjin is huge, I mean really big. It is a suburb of Beijing, and is even bigger of course. Beijing has something like 25 million inhabitants, as one of Beijing’s suburbs Tianjin has 11 million inhabitants and Tianjin has many suburbs itself, one of which has 3 million inhabitants. Its mindboggling.

Evening river cruise in Tianjin

The modern skyscrapers stretched for miles along the river, and away into the distance. Most were lit up, many more were still being built, it was like a scene from Bladerunner with it seeming to be an electric city, which oriental voices being broadcast across the city.

Evening river cruise in Tianjin

We ended up at the Tianjin Eye, now all lit up and looking perfect in the dark, rising over the river. I took many shots, most of which came out, at last the boat turned to head back to the quay. I was shattered.

It was a 40 minute drive to the customer’s hotel, then another half hour to ours, so it was just shy or midnight when we got out of the taxi at the hotel. We were to be up in seven hours for more meetings at the factory, better get some sleep…..

Sunday, 8 June 2014

Sunday 8th June 2014

Sunday. It is funny to think that in 24 hours I will be two hours away from Beijing. I should be excited, but I am not, not yet. I have packed, bought new clothes, even shaved for the occasion, and yet i am not stirred. Maybe tomorrow when I am on the train heading for the airport. Who would have thought that twenty five years ago, when I was a lowly giblet stuffer I would end up being an International Man of Quality? Not me for sure, and it has been quite a trip.

Man Orchid, Orchis anthropophora Var. flavescens

Today began with some extended sleeping. We lay in until nearly eight, and the cats even gave up trying to wake us and went back to sleep despite being hungry. We got our shit together and were out of the house at half nine, heading to Pegwell bay to meet a couple of fellow orchid nuts to show them the Bee and look for the pale man Orchids I had heard about.

Man Orchid, Orchis anthropophora Var. flavescens

The morning was cloudy, but as we drove the sun burnt the clouds off, and soon the sky was a deep blue and already very warm indeed. We arrived at the Viking Ship to find Jim and his wife already there, we made small talk before heading down the steps, and amazingly, I found the main group of Bees straight away, followed by another two smaller groups, but no Man Orchids. We spread out and soon enough they had been found, so Jim and I snapped them and we were able to move on to Sandwich Bay.

Man Orchid, Orchis anthropophora Var. flavescens

Now, I am an old fashioned socialist at heart, and the thought that land, let alone sea shore and beach should be in private hands makes me mad. However, being mad does not change things, and I realised despite going over to Sandwich Bay dozens of times, we had avoided paying for over six years, so maybe we should stump up the three quid for the toll.

Pyramidal Orchid, Anacamptis pyramidalis

Only on arriving did we find out the toll had increased to £7! So, we paid up and drove in, along the beach to the edge of the third of the gold courses, and there were orchids everywhere. I tried to find the white bee I had seen in a friend's blog, but could not find it, so we made do with dozens of plain bee and hundreds of Lizards, which stretched from the lawns of the mansions of the estate to the edge of pegwell Bay. Stunning sights.

Lizard Orchid, Himantoglossum hircinum

We headed home for lunch, then out again, this time to hunt for a Frog orchid, this time in Dover. Sadly, due to the lack of grazing, the area is now returned to woodland, and we could find no trace of any orchid, let alone a Frog Orchid. So, we went to visit the old folks up in Whitfield, before heading home for dinner, a shower, some packing action and a little relaxing on the patio before bedtime.

Lizard Orchid, Himantoglossum hircinum

And that is it, next time it will be Jelltex in China.

Lizard Orchid, Himantoglossum hircinum

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