Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Tuesday 30th September 2014

The final day of a golden September. It has been the driest September since records began, apparently, and I have seen very little of the wet stuff, certainly hardly any on my time off. Autumn seems to be very advanced, the raspberries are not edible now, and yet temperature soar in the day, sometimes still over 25 degrees. It really is wonderful, when in three months it will be the penultimate day of the year. Outside, the builders are wrapping up the side of the house, with just the front to do, which might be completed tomorrow. It is looking very good indeed, and I can't wait to see it once the scaffolding is taken off.

Anyway. That is today.

This was yesterday.


The black cloud that is the first day back at work arrived and soaked with with a downpour of gloom. I was awake before 5, and so got up. I had been suffering with suspected food poisoning some of the night, which explained my broken sleep and general lack of it. I skipped breakfast and had just coffee. Got my bag and pass to get in the compound. Right, let's do it.

I dropped Jools off at the factory, and then drove up through Buckland, past Tesco and out onto the Sandwich road. There was mist, which developed into fog as I neared Ramsgate, and at the roundabout on the new bypass, a car had crashed through the barriers at the side and the police were there taking statements. The traffic was just awful, and further delayed the great switching on of the work computer. Which once in the office, putting the coffee machine on, it was time to do it and see the avalanche of e mails waiting for my attention.

And so the working week begins.

At ten I walk into town to get some cash out of the bank, so at least I could get some food from the butty wagon when she came round.

The afternoon passed.

Until half two, and I got a screaming headache. I have looked at every mail, and so I thought I could go home and get an hours kip, without the world missing me. So, out into the school run traffic, and home where the bed was calling. I was joined by Mulder and Scully, and despite thinking I would not sleep, I got an hour and felt, if not refreshed, something akin to being normal.

I pick Jools up, and we decide that the best thing would be to have fish and chips for dinner. Also, the builders were taking the day off, so home all was silent, apart from the demanding meows of the cats calling for their dinner. Jools went to the chippy, and I try to watch something on the TV, but there is nothing on. And I even find Top Gear mildly interesting, mainly due to Martin Sheen being on, but I soon realise it is a ancient edition and I have seen it.

We call it a day at nine, with the badger already in the garden, munching away.

Monday, 29 September 2014

Monday 29th September 2014


And so the seventeenth and final day of my vacation.


I have been very lucky with the weather, for the most part I have endured endless sunshine for the most part, with little wind, glorious sunrises and sunsets. Hedgerows are laden with overripe fruit. All in all it has been glorious. It really has.

And indeed, on Sunday morning, after the early mist cleared, the sun shone once again as the temperatures rose and rose.

We had breakfast and another cup of coffee, and I settled down to watch MOTD whilst Jools went off on a sloe hunt/forage. The garden really needed some attention, but instead it was another day for train chasing, as another steam tour was going to wind its way round the county, and with the weather so glorious, the shots should have been fine as well.

I had arranged to meet Will in Sturry at 11, so I dropped Jools off at Nan’s and drove the 20 or so miles over the marshes onto Thanet and then out to Sturry to wait on the Fordwich road. And then wait. And wait. Eleven passed, as did quarter and half past. I had to leave to get to Chartham to be able to get shots of my own.

70013 "Oliver Cromwell" at Chartham, Kent

I drove on country lanes round Canterbury to Lower Hardres and then over Stone Street to Chartham, down the hill, past the Artichoke and into the car park at the village hall. Already there were several on the station, some 20 minutes before the train was due. I took up position on the footbridge and waited, passing the time with other snappers, and avoiding the curious glances of passengers waiting for a service to London.

Just about on time, just after the London-bound train had left, Oliver Cromwell steamed into view, powering its way towards us and then under the bridge and away behind to Canterbury. All over in about 15 seconds I suppose.

And like that it was over, we all wander back to our cars and for me, back home.

Once there, Will had rung, apologising for not being there, but wanting to see it in the afternoon. So he agreed to come to Dover on the train, me collect him from the station and then to the location to do the snaps.

Jools and I do some work in the garden, but it is really too warm to be raking the lawn, so we do some and then retire to the chairs with an iced drink to look at the little work we had done.

At four I go to pick Will up, and we drive to Aycliffe, park up and walk down the dog poo covered steps to the footbridge, where there are already three other photographers waiting. One has some kind of real time train times and announces that it is 27 minutes late, so we settle down for the long wait until quarter past five. In fact Oliver Cromwell almost chased the 16:45 Javelin out and no sooner had the Javelin entered Shakespeare Tunnel than we could hear OC working hard round the bend near Dover Harbour Station.

70013 "Oliver Cromwell" at Dover Town Yard

Accelerating now away from the tight curve, we all snap it as once again the loco vents steam, and closer and closer it comes, I have just enough time to switch to the nifty fifty before it is passing underneath us and into the tunnel behind.

All there is left to do is walk back up the steps and to the car, drive home for a cuppa before Jools takes Will back home in Herne Bay and I cook dinner. It is just gone eight before we sit down for dinner, and dark outside, with the first badger of the night tucking into a feast of peanuts and stale cat food. We know how to treat a badger.

And like that the 17 days was over, and work was beckoning. Oh dear. Time to sensible and all growed up again.

Sunday, 28 September 2014

Sunday 28th September 2014


Awake at half four with a mild allergy attack, I lay in bed half an hour listening to me wheeze, and decide enough is enough so I get up to make a coffee and fed the cats. It is just getting light on the horizon, and mist is rising in the valley below. I leave the kitchen door open to allow some air in. It feels good, though better had I have had another couple of hours sleep.

I head to Tesco whilst JOols tries to return the hire car she had whilst I was away, only to find the office was closed, so she comes to find me in Tesco, as still have no mobile phone. As we still have to return the car, and have half an hour to kill, we drive down to the cafe in Snargate Street for breakfast. A small fry up is just what makes you feel better, as outside traffic rumbles by heading for the port.

Back home we unpack, and pass the time away until it is time for me to head to Sturry to pick Will up, s o we can go and do some train chasing. It has been over two months since we had a steam tour round these parts, and now we have two in two days, and I decide to get shots both days before and after the stops in Canterbury. First up is Braunton at Wye, where there is a fine view down the climb out of Ashford, giving the photographer plenty of time to get shots as the train gets ever nearer.

I fond a place to part near the station, and we have 40 minutes before the train, so we head into the Tickled Trout for a drink, and find their service as slow and poor as usual, even though we just wanted drinks. We just about get the drinks, finish them before it is time to walk along the road to the station, take up position on the bridge and are ready for showtime. A couple of regular services go through giving us the chance to set up the shots nicely. And as one passes through the station, in the distance we can see Braunton already accelerating up the hill.

34046 "Braunton" at Wye, Kent

Quickly she is nearly upon us, and the shutters are going eighteen to the dozen and there she goes below us and away onto Canterbury. I only find out once home that all the shots with the 50mm are blurred as the lens decided to focus on a lamp rather than the train behind, not one can be rescued from that, a shame as they should have been great. Oh well.

The old and the new

We drive back to Dover and then home to have a cuppa, to review the shots and prepare for the next location at MInster. I want to listen to the football, but as it is Ryder Cup, there is 44 hours of golf on the radio, and all programming on Radio 5 seems to have been postponed for golf talk. So, I have to put up with Talk Sport, which is almost just Premier League focused and does not seem to have a commentary anywhere, and at the most exciting moments, like the final seconds of the games, they cut away for an ad break. And then do not give the Norwich result or score as we drive to Minster.

At Minster we are confronted by the scourge of modern railway travel; the rail replacement bus. And there is very little parking around the station, so we have to park in front of someone's house and walk to the station. And once there we find a Javelin in the platform, and the news is it is waiting for another bus, this time from Margate, before it can leave for London. Indeed as we hear this, Braunton comes round the bend in front of us, and stops at the signal and can do nothing but wait.

Pressure drop

Some 20 minutes later, the bus arrives, half a dozen people get off and start to walk up across the bridge, only to stop to photograph Braunton as she steams in the distance, thus missing their train and watch open-mouthed as it glides out of the station. They'll be having another hour's wait then.

Braunton gets the road, and starts to move, invisible from us she she is shrouded in steam as she vents steam. But she appears out of the steam, like a scene from the Railway Children, crossing over onto the 'wrong' line and accelerating towards us. And as quick as that she is below us, and we are in a cloud of smoke and steam as she takes the chord to Deal and away from us. As she disappears from view, we can hear her pistons working hard as she gets up speed.

We walk back to the car, and I want to know if Norwich had won, but the north London derby is on, and it is all Talk Sport wants to talk about. I drop Will back in Sturry, and then drive back via Sandwich and Deal to home, where we have a cuppa and a couple of slices of fresh corn bread.

Operation "big job": the final leg day 5

Phew, I have done nothing, but taken all day to do it!

Saturday, 27 September 2014

Saturday 27th September 2014



I awake after a good night's sleep to see dawn's pale light creeping round the edge of the curtains, meaning it was almost time to get up. I switch on the radio only to find Radio 5 full of little else other than golf. Now, I like a little golf from time to time, but on the radio? And so 44 hours over the whole weekend? I don't think so. So, I switch to Radio 4 to get some non-golf news before boiling the kettle for a pot of tea and then a shower. I explore the village before breakfast, which I had been asked to be in the house at eight to eat, having ordered my English the night before.

b Like a lot of villages, Hindolveston has no shop nor pub, but it is just a short drive to bigger places where supplies can be sought. So, the village is quiet, except for those heading to work in their cars, so I walk to the small Victorian parish church, take a couple of shots and head back to the farm where it was five to breakfast.

I am joined in the breakfast room by a long haired cat and a deaf border collie called Peg. She waits quietly in the hope that I will give her something from my plate. She got half the second sausage, which she wolfed down in one movement. Satisfied I had no food left, she wandered off, and I left to pack and load the car.

I was in Norfolk to visit a Flickr contact, Mike, who is a fantastic wildlife photographer, and has a river at the bottom of his garden where, on occasion, kingfishers can be seen and photographed. And as I had never seen a kingfisher, this could be a chance. So, I drive over to Great Ryburgh, find his house thanks to the sat nav, and he is waiting. We end up talking for over three hours about this and that, before I said shall we try to see a kingfisher.

So, Mike gets out is portable two seater hide and we walk down to the river, carrying our gear. He sets it up, lets me borrow his lens and tripod, and so we are set. I said we'd give it an hour, because, in truth, I am not a hard core wildlife photographer. So, we sit and wait. And talk. And wait. And talk.

The hour passes with no kingfisher seen, not even a hint, so we pack up, walk back to the house, have one last cuppa before I set off for Kent and home.

At the end of Mike's street, there was a fine round-towered church, St Andrew, so I stop there to look, and find it is glorious inside and was well worth the stop. I take shots with the wide angle, and then fetch my 50mm too as the church is so good.

St Andrew, Great Ryburgh, Norfolk

OK then, let get it done. I program home into the sat nat, and I set off for Swaffham and the road south. It was wonderfully quiet, but I knew it would change, and I knew where it would change. Brandon would be one place, and then there would be the motorway, the M25. Swaffham was busy, as it was when the kids were leaving school, and beyond there, the road was quiet again. Quiet really until I got to Brandon, which I passed through in under 5 minutes, but the queues heading north went on for a couple of miles.

At Barton Mills, where the dualling of the A11 is underway, traffic blocked the roundabout for 5 minutes, before we forced our way across and down towards Newmarket. Already the traffic was heavy, and it would mean I would be hitting the M25 at five in the evening, just about at peak rush hour. It could not be helped. In the end traffic was quite light until I got past Brentwood, and then with the matrix signs flashing, it all ground to a halt. But, we kept moving, and we got closer and closer to the bridge. I suppose it took some 45 minutes to get from the bottom of the M11 to the bridge, which for a Friday evening was not bad, and I had Simon Mayo entertaining me on the radio as I drove.

Through the tolls and into Kent, along to the M20, by which point I relaxed as it was just an hour home, so I slowed to 60 and turned the radio up, and even sang along to the Spice Girls. I will beat myself with birch twigs later.....

I arrived back in Dover just as dusk was falling at about quarter to seven, along Townwall Street, up Jubilee Way and along to St Maggies, I was home. Again.

I saw right away that the guys had been busy, most of the side of the house and all of the back had been completed, and the new estimate was for a Thursday finish. Jools put the kettle on, and I get my bags in, whilst a couple of the cats fussed around indicating they had not been fed since I was away. Situation normal. Jools ordered a Chinese, and went to pick it up, whilst I stretched out, shattered drinking a cuppa out of my pint pot.

There is no place like home.....

Friday, 26 September 2014

Friday 26th September 2014


Start of the two day road trip.

I was awake before five with my allergies giving me hell. It was so bad I thought I had a cold, but it went off during the day, allergies is the best fit, but as I was feeling better later, it don't really matter. Anyway, we have breakfast, I load the car having packed the night before, and I drive Jools to the factory. And It's just me and the open road. Well, apart from all other drivers in south east England who were driving too. In fact I got caught in a train of cars heading to Folkestone behind a Dutch camper van travelling at 25mph.

However, onto the motorway and into the rush hour traffic of Ashford and then Maidstone before the fun that is the M25 heading into Dartford. It is odd that the most important part of the motorway is the corssing and we have to pay to use it, even if it has already been paid for and it causes god-almighty traffic jams. It's not that the money is reinvested back in the road system, as you will see later when I moan about the East Anglain road system with its myriad of bottlenecks and planning disasters.

I get through the queues, pay my two quid to find the southbound traffic the other side of the tunnel is at least three times as worse. And then there is the hjoy of the A12 through Essex. How can it be that a simple road causes so much pain? Is it the mad driving, the racing to get to the next junction, the pointless jams at Chelmsford. I mean who would want to go to Chelsmford? But once into the quiet county of Suffolk, I was able to turn off and head into the Dedham Vale. Or would have if the road signs would have made sense! Does it sound like I'm complaining all the time? I don't like traffic, queues or Essex. So, maybe driving through Essex in the rush hour was planning for trouble.

I switched on the sat nav, programmed the first port of call, Stoke by Nayland, and set off. I was lucky that my friend, Simon, had provided me with a list of fine churches to visit. All of the churches I would visit this morning would be splendid. I saw a sign for the village of Boxted, and realise that is on my list, so I head there, driving towards Church Hill, which my spidy senses tell me I might find the church. I park on the small high street through the village, with the church on my left. I leave the sat nav in the car switched on, I thought there would be no thieves in such a wonderful spot.

And I was right.

Holy Trinity, Boxted, Suffolk

St Peter was quite spectacular, to me, inside, it was like a theatre, with a gallery containing seats and the organ, with the later being the centre of the stage. It was a delight, and is quite possibly my favourite church of all. Some doing, but I loved the church. But, I had to move on. But I tell the folks clearing bushes for the church wall how much I loved it. She had only been in once, at Christmas, but though the acoustics were good.

It was only a five minute drive to Soke by Nayland, I found the church and parked on the main street of the village and walked up to the churchyard noting the worker's vans parked near the porch. This could be trouble I thought.

St Mary, Stoke by Nayland, Suffolk

Simon feels that Stoke by Nayland is the finest church in England, as I do not now that much about churches I am not going to argue, but it is not mine. It has fine glass, memorials and tiles, but I did have a run in with one of the workers. I wanted to photograph the windows, and asked if I could get by. NO. I was told. We're busy. But you're just talking. No, we're busy, and we might hot you on the head, said the stage erector. I siad I would be careful, and he retorted that he would not be held responsible if I had an accident. All in all it put a damper on the church, so I got my shots and left. I mean I can always go back.

I stopped at the small book shop at the cross roads and by a Sherlock Holmes novel to read if I got bored that evening, and head off for the next church.

It is a short drive to Polstead, the next on the list. Now, I did not plan this and I am getting the feeling that I am retracing my tracks already, in fact I was to pass through Stoke by Nayland some four times during the day. Oh well, its no real hardship.

St Mary, Polstead, Suffolk

Polstead lies in a shallow valley, with the village scattered up one side. I assume that the church will be on the highest point. As there are only four roads in and out of the village, it shouldn't be hard to find. I drive past the attractive cillage pond, more like a lake and head up through the village, past many wonderful looking ancient houses, but find no church. Back down into the centre of the village and out another road, and still no church. This just leaves the road I came in on, and so head back down through the village, past the pond onto the main road, or what counts as the main road, and a few yards further along is a small white sign pointing up the other side of the valley into some woods.

A new road has been laid, and there is a good sized car park, so I abandon the car, grab the cameras and walk into the church year. From outside St Mary looks something like a typical small Suffolk church, others might feel differently about that, but nothing too spectacular. But once inside on is met with brick-topped arches and it filled with the most wonderful light. I am awestruck, and glad that I do not research these churches beforehand so my breath can be taken away by the beauty of these churches.

After getting my shots I go back outside, taking a tray of quinces that are on offer and deposit a couple of quid in the box as a donation.

I program in Wissington into the sat nav and set off. Soon I see we are to go through Nayland, so I decide if I can find a parking space I will stop here first and snap the church. Nayland is a stunning looking large village, but, it knows it. I wanted to warm to the village, but seems to be more Aldborough that traditional working village, I could be wrong, but judging by the quantity of high powered sports cars parked in the village square, I get the feeling I am right.

St James, Nayland, Suffolk

I find a place to park, and see the church framed down Church Mews making a fine shot. So I snap that and enter the churchyard, walking round t the main entrance through the porch. Inside it is another fine church, built on a grand scale. I really warm to the church and am happy to snap it.

When I parked the car I saw some fashionably dressed ladies sipping coffees outside a shop, so I go in search of a cup for myself, to find it an arts shop which held classes for children to pain ceramics, with a coffee bar as a side line. Having just two tables, and a queue of several people, I assume I won't get a table and hope I can find a place somewhere else. I walk back to the car, load up and drive off towards Wissington.

Entering the village, I see a sign pointing to Wisset church, not the one I was looking for, but a church, so I drive down the narrow lane to the parking spot. The church is on a private estate, and they don't want cars parking near the church. Or something. But it is only a five minute walk, and it is a wonderful autumn day with lots of golden sunshine, its no chore to walk.

St Mary, Wissington, Suffolk

Wisset or Wissington? Is the question posed inside the church, so they are one and the same, more mangling of the mother tongue by East Anglians, then.

I am greeted with the sight of the wooden tower showing over a modern barn, it looks wonderful. First thing I notice is the bowed end, which reminds me of Loddon. Entry is my a grand glazed porch, but inside the walls are covered by the remains of ancient paintings, and right in front, over a door, is a dragon. Not what I was expecting. It is a delightful small church, made all the more special by the paintings, some more complete than others. And once again I have the church to myself. I am tempted to stay here longer, but it is already getting near lunchtime, and time is getting away from me.

I program the next church into the sat nav and drive off; 6 miles. I get stuck behind a slow moving delivery truck, and we trundle along narrow winding lanes, eventually coming to Bures. I see the church and also a car park, so I decide to stop here, and in the end, decide this to be the last church of the day. St Mary is on a bend in the main road, and is another on a huge scale when compared to the modern village. It also has a fine brick built chapel and doorway on the east side, which I see when I leave and make a circuit of the building to get the church in the full sunlight.

I program in my friends place into the sat nav, and it directs me back the way I had came, but heading north towards Norfolk. Or so I hoped. Twenty past twelve and I am hungry and thirsty. It was now past opening time, and I think I should stop at the first pub I see for some scran. And a pint.

I find a pub called The Shoulder of Mutton in (searches Google) Assington looks welcoming enough. I find a parking space outside, and once inside order a pint of Adnams and a bowl of chilli and settle down to take in the details of the pub and people watch. Soon a party of ramblers comes in, fussing over where to sit, what to drink and the such. Tey are all of a certain age, early 70s I guess, but have enjoyed the morning, but I am glad i have already ordered as I feel the kitchen will be very busy for a while. The chilli arrives and is passable, it leaves a gentle burn on the tongue and throat, and my hunger is satisfied. THe pub is filled with the hum of over a dozen people, I want peace and quiet so return to the car and my journey north.

My destination is to see my friend Rob in Mendlesham. I am told it will take 45 minutes. Back to the A12, and then the blast up to Ipswich I know so well, but turn west onto the A14 instead of east to join the A140 north to Norwich and home ground. A few miles north I turn off and into the village of Mendlesham, once a prosperous village, but now traffic passes by a few miles east on the main road, and it is quiet again. I knock on the door waking Rob up, but he answers the door in time and after entering we spend a fine three hours chatting and drinking tea. As you do.

At five twenty I realise I have to get going. Now we are nearing the end of September, darkness begins to fall before seven, and I have to find a farm deep in the Norfolk countryside. I bid my farewell and return to the car and to the main road. Now, I say main road, but the road linking the county towns of both Norfolk and Suffolk should be better than the one we have now. I make good time passing through Diss and heading north. But at Long Stratton there is a cross roads with traffic lights, and these cause tailbacks of several miles in both directions. The road is single carriageway for most of its length, and where it is dualled, the speed limit is just 50mph. I am delayed fifteen or 20 minutes; the queues heading south are much worse. Anyway, I am soon driving west of the southern by pass, still with half an hour to go, and I sensed the evening coming even before half six.

I turn up a country lane, and pass through villages I have not heard of before. It was now gloomy and the horizon was lost in the dusk. It was nearly dark when I came into the village of Hindolveston, I had a post code for it, and little else. Thankfully the owner had called me on Wednesday telling me their drive was opposite the village hall. Just to find the village hall........

After driving to one end of the village, and back again, I find the village hall, and the sign for the farm. I drive down a gravel drive and park outside my accomodation for the night. The owner comes out and shows me where everything is. Sadly there is no pub now in the village, and I don't feel like driving to Melton Constable for a takeaway. But she says she will make me a sandwich and a pot of tea, if I wanted. Perfect I said. And ten minutes later I am presented with a tray on which is a ham roll, a bag of crisps, a bag of mini cheddars, a pot of tea and two slices of tiffin. Heaven.

I am shattered and fit for nothing other than reviewing my shots and watching some TV before bed. One of them good days I feel.

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Thursday 25th September 2014


Warning: it is not Thursday.

Except where it is, like Australia and New Zealand. And other places in the extreme east. Or west.

But I digress. I am writing this a day early, because i am on my travels tomorrow, heading back to the old country of Norfolk to visit a couple of friends and to take some photos. In fact I should have gone today, but decided I would rather have a day lazing around the house, as it would appear I have to head out on my travels with work back to DK next week. Like I was never away, eh?

So, I drop Jools off at work, as there is a milk crisis in the house, in that we don't have much left, especially with three thirsty builders to keep in tea, so I head to Tesco for some supplies and I end up getting the ingredients for another Christmas cake, a bottle of gin for sloe gin, and tolls and donuts for the boys as well as they have been working so hard.

That done, I arrive home to find the builders already here and demanding tea. I have to make the cake first I tells em, as it takes four and a half hours to cook. So, I mix, beat and stir in all the ingredients and pop it in the tin, sprinkle with almonds and in the oven with it. I then boil the kettle for the first and not the last time. I think I make at least a cuppa for them every hour. But they are happy. Happier still when I make them ham rolls for lunch and then present them with the donuts. How nice I am.

Operation "big job": the final leg day 3

I do head out for a haircut just before lunch, and find Alan in a mellow mood, and end up talking to him for an hour about photography. But I am worrying about the cake in the oven!

Back home I prick the sloes and then mix with the bottle of gin I bought, shake well and all is done with that. How busy I am.

Outside the lads crack on preparing the walls for more of the final coating which is to be applied tomorrow (thursday) while I listen to the radio, watch some videos on You Tube and generally waste the day away. As you do.

It is time to collect Jools, and as we drive home along Reach Road, the rain earlier has cleared the atmosphere, and the view across the channel is amazingly clear. The cliffs of Cap Griz Nez look only a few miles away, and once again the buildings in Calais can be seen clearly. That's another country I say. And indeed it is.

The lads finish for the day, and all is quiet as I try a recipe for smoked garlic mashed poatoes served with the last of the wild garlic sausages. No danger of vampires at Chez Jelltex tonight.

I am packed and ready to go, which is nice.

Wednesday 24th September 2014


Google says that today (Tuesday) is the first day of autumn, and as the interwebs never lies or forgets, unless it does, then it was.

I dropped Jools off at work, then waited for the guys to arrive for work so I could make them a fresh cuppa before heading off to meet a friend to photograph some churches. As you do.

John Vigar is the author of the reference book we used in the initial stages of the Kent Church project, and I then got to know him through Flickr. He is due to move from the county soon, and he asked if we could meet up before then, as previous plans had collapsed. I arranged to meet him in an out of the way church in the far west of the county, Stone-in-Oxney, as this was the first church I visited using his book as a guide, and my shots were not that good. The stone in the name is a Roman carved altar, which is rather nice, and my shots last time failed to come out.

Instead of driving up to Ashford and then down the main road onto the marsh, I headed along the A20 to Lympne, and then along the edge of the downs before passing along narrow lanes onto the marsh and onto Oxney. I had forgotten how lovely and quiet this part of the county is, as it is an area seldom visited. It is criss-crossed with drainage ditches as this used to be marshes and channels. Anyway, along the lane into the village, over a narrow hump-backed bridge and up church hill, with its wonderful views over the marsh. I was 20 minutes early, so I looked round the churchyard, and admiring the ancient houses scattered around the church.

John arrived and we chatted a while before we entered the church, making straight for the stone which is hidden in the bottom of the bell tower. We looked around the church, taking shots. And then decided where to go to next. A plan formed, Snargate, Snave and then Brenzett, at which time it should be opening time. So, I program the sat nave for Snargate, and we set of in convoy.

John E. Vigar at St Eanswith, Brenzett, Kent

Snargate I had been to before, but found it closed. But it was open this time. Once again, we whizzed round, getting shots and John filling me in with the history and interesting aspects of the building, something he did at all churches.

Snave was next: it is situated beside the main road, along a lane, but as it is set back and accessable down a track, it is so easy to miss. As I did this time, but John knew it was there, so we parked on the lane and walked up, first around the church, and then in through the small side door, which although was not marked as such, was the entrance as the door in the porch was locked.

Inside it was an usual shape, but explained by John to extensive rebuilding in the middle ages. Once again we got our shots, and so looking at my watch I saw it was twenty past twelve, beer o'clock, so we decide to head to Ivychurch for a pint and a sandwich in the Bell, as I saw it was a recommended real ale pub. It was a ten minute drive to the pub, and it was crowded, even on a Tuesday lunchtime, a good sign. We both had pints of Cornish ale and ordered a sandwich before heading outside to sit in the sunshine beside the quite village high street.

This is the life.

Next up to Brenzett, where we found it, as expected, locked, but there was a keyholder listed, so I went to the cottage at the end of lane, and she was happy to let me have it. THe church is splendid inside, and so we got more shots (can you see a pattern emerging so far?). John said that an extension had just been completed at Kenardington, so we went there, another ten minute drive away there, and found that open as well. Oh lucky us. These churches are mostly hard to find, even when standing a few dozen yards from them, being marked by a simple wooden sign.

Penultimate church was Warehorn, a church I had also been to before, but not been able to get into. It is a mix of different styles and materials, and certainly is not the most attractive of the marsh churches. Anyway, it too was open, and another fine church. Sadly, the pub opposite has closed, and work seems to be going on inside which may mean it being converted to a house. A shame as their food and beer were both excellent.

Final church for the day, and my final one of all the standing Romney Marsh churches was Burmarsh. We found it with no trouble, and after walking over the narrow bridge into the church we too found it locked. But a quick walk to the keyholder meant I had the key, and we were inside the tiny church. Sadly, its marsh setting means it is suffering with damp and subsidence, but seems to be surviving, and is excellent inside. The pub next door, The Shepherd and Crook also looks mighty fine too, and may require a return trip.

I now had to bid John farewell as I had to go and pick Jools up from work, just as well I did as she finished even earlier than normal after changing offices and is now back working in just about the same one as she did before the sacking. Anyway.

We head home to find the first outer coat on and drying, but the guys have to wait until it is nearly dry before smoothing it down, and it took hours. It was nearly dark before they finished, and they packed up at just gone seven. I cooked warmed up roast beef and all the trimmings, so we sat down in little over half an hour later for a fine dinner washed down with a nice bottle of rose wine bought last week.

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Tuesday 22nd September 2014


First (official) day of autumn


And the first day of the invasion of the builders.

Monday morning walk to the cliffs. And back.

Yes, the builders arrive. This is a different set of builders from before, these are to apply the undercoat and top coat of the render, K-Rend, which will make the house waterproof and look lovely. Thing is, team A builders, who did the taking down, repairing brickwork and installing the new windows were totally reliable. You told them once something, and it was done. The B team, well, repeat, repeat and so on. Now, I have confidence, we have confidence in the work they will do, but it is a different experience for us. Mainly in that their work is powered by tea and tea alone. Head builder, Nobby, can her a kettle boil or two tea cups clank from a mile away.

Monday morning walk to the cliffs. And back.

Ok then, if you're brewing he will shout, so I make tea for the three of them.

Well, it helps pass the time when I could be doing something else, something else like watching and rewatching the highlights of the Leicester Man Utd game. It just wasn't funny enough first or second time around. That really is priceless.

Monday morning walk to the cliffs. And back.

I decide to leave the guys discussing how to begin, and walk to the cliffs and back. It is a warm day with lots of weak sunshine, so I take one camera with nifty fifty fitted and set off across the fields to Fleet House, then down the dip, up the other side and along the cycle path. The usual route, with the usual views. But there are changes: fields have been ploughed, the hedgerows are full of fruit, and the shadows longer. The year is getting old. Older.

Monday morning walk to the cliffs. And back.

Across the rolling fields towards the monument, and those are being harrowed, and huge clouds of dust are being thrown up as the tractor trundles along. I take shots just in case. Just in case they come out well.

I reach the cliffs, and take a seat on the bench near the edge. A cool breeze is blowing, and it is wonderful just to watch the swallows and swifts diving and swooping before they leave for Africa. France is lost in the haze towards the horizon, and there are very few people about now the kids are back at school.

Monday morning walk to the cliffs. And back.

I walk back along the same route, the hill on which the house stands comes into view, and I have to walk down the dip and up the other side. Once home I brew up for the guys and look at what they have done, the first wall is having the undercoat applied, and the guys seem to have applied it all over themselves. As well as being powered by tea, they are powered by roll ups, and discarded ones are appearing all over the garden. We will supply an ashtray for tomorrow I thinks.

Operation "big job": the final leg day 1

I bake a batch of short cakes for them, and for Jools and I , in the afternoon, and they have one final cuppa and a cake before leaving for the day, leaving us with one wall, on one side of the house with undercoat, but this is progress. There is a promise of more tomorrow.

Operation "big job": the final leg day 1

Jools comes home and we feast on unpasteurised French cheese and some old fashioned English beer, and all is well with the world. We sit outside as the sun goes down, and watch as jet lines fly overhead heading for destinations unknown. It may be simple, but we love it.

Monday, 22 September 2014

Monday 22nd September 2014



Although we did feel better. Or I did, as Jools seemed to be 8 hours behind me in symptoms, therefore, she was still visiting frequently. We had a brew, and wondered if we should try breakfast. In the end we decided we should, and so I grilled some bacon for butties, and they soon smelled good. That done, I settled down to watch MOTD, as per normal, before we pondered what to do.


It was Nan's 100th birthday, so we knew what we would be doing in the afternoon, but in the end whiled away the morning doing nothing, making the occasional drink and doing more general relaxing.

100 not out

At half one the afternoon's games began, with Man Utd playing at Leicester. All was going well by the time it was time to leave, with Utd 3-1 to the good and all set for 3 points.

Let there be cake

At Dad's, the world and his wife was there, as well as the photographer from the local rag. His duties done, he does a runner, and so all mingle, and when the cake is paraded in, we all join in a chorus of happy birthday, and she's a jolly good fellow and finally raise a glass of cava to toast the old girl It is all too much for Tony who has to rush out a couple of times with tears in his eyes, which then sets Nan off too. It all gets too much after a couple of hours, and Nan asks to be taken back to the home for a snooze. She did well.

She got cards from the Queen as well as Ian Duncan Smith, maybe he was checking to see if she was fit for work.

Anyone for cupcakes

We all take our leave to, only as we were leaving we heard that Man Utd had thrown away the two goal lead to lose 5-3.. Well I never, still, got to laugh and all that. My Facebook stream was silent from all the mouthy Utd fans who saw the game as the start of a fine new golden dawn, rather than the same old story as before.

Back home I cooked roast beef and all the trimming and all that and everything. So at seven we sat down to a right old plateful, which was a mountain of food really. But we had not eaten since breakfast, and so we thought we deserved it. It was all too much, and so the badgers got a bowlful of roast spuds, beef trimings and gravy-coated cauliflower. All of which they ate during the night.


Sunday, 21 September 2014

Sunday 21st September 2014


I will only skip over the reasons why Saturday's activities were severely curtailed. I woke up at five in the morning and felt the need to use the facilities. And so it began. And went on. I did not feel too bad, but did not feel like straying too far from home. Just as well then that we had decided not to go to London for Open House this year. And so we stayed around the house for the morning.

Misty morning, St Margaret's-at-Cliffe

Jools went into town to run chores, I had other duties to run, and did I run. Anyway, come lunchtime I felt well enough to drive to Minster to watch the progress of an Orient Express special which was heading for Deal. So, up to Sandwich then across the marshes to Minster where I was the only photographer waiting. I sit in the car listening to the QPR v Hull game on the radio until about ten minutes before the scheduled arrival time. I take up position on the footbridge, check the two camera over and keep my eye on the bend in the track, round which the train would come.

VSOE "Explore Deal" at Minster in Thanet

And bang on time, the class 67 came into view, slowing down in preparation to change tracks so to take the chord to Deal just behind me. So, I got off 50 or 60 shots, switching to the nifty fifty as it came into the station. Then it was beneath me and round the corner, being above I could not see into the carriages so see the passengers who had paid six hundred quid each for lunch and an hour in Deal. I am not judging them, just pointing out how much the trip cost. Anyway, I got my shots of the locos and Pullman carriages, so went home for lunch as I was feeling hungry.

Back home we have a pork pie and a cuppa. I am not feeling good, maybe down to a lack of sleep, but due to outpourings possibly. Anyway, I check the shots, and prepare to go out to Martin Mill to snap the train again on its return to Deal from Folkestone. Once again I am the only one at the station, so I stand at the end of the platform with a fine view up the bank towards Guston, and in a few minutes I could see the light which showed the train's approach. Closer and closer it got, I kept snapping until the train filled the viewfinder, then was past.

Thundering down Martin Mill Bank

Back home I lay on the sofa listening to the football on the radio. City are already two down to Brum, and I grumble. Just after halftime I head to the facilities again, and in my absence City score twice in as many minutes to draw level. I cheer weakly. I doze on the sofa through the second half of the Villa v Arsenal game, but Norwich are not mentioned again, so I assume, correctly, that there were no more goals.

I do eat dinner, a simple tomato and cheese salad, but not really hungy, and we both take to bed very early, as Jools was now visiting the facilities as often as I was.

Saturday, 20 September 2014

Saturday 20th September 2014


6th wedding anniversary.

It would have been easy to just decide to go out for dinner and have a fine old meal out in some country pub in deepest, darkest Kent. When I asked Jools if she wanted to go out or have me cook some steak, her reply was in an instant; steak at home!

So, I was to head out once the morning rush hour had calmed down, as the Deal road can be a bit mad. Even more so on a foggy morning, but more of that in a moment. As I made ready to go, the bloke we have employed to do the rendering turned up, as the materials were being delivered. I had to move the car to make room, and only just got out of the road before the unloading began. Once on the road, it became clear that not everyone on the road saw fog with a visibility of less than 25m as a worry, and so driving at full speed with no headlights seemed to be the norm. The fog was so think, that the only thing to do was to have the windows down to be able to hear approaching traffic. I drove at 40mph to Sandwich, by which time the fog had thinned a little, but still not fun.

I bought two nice rib-eyes and a few other things before setting of for Tesco, as we had run out of milk! Back in Dover the fog was thick, but not quite as bad as when I left, but the idiots were still driving around as if there was nothing wrong. I was glad to get to the store, run round getting supplies to make Christmas cakes and then get home, swearing to Jools that I was not going out again.

I say Christmas cakes, as you need to en sure you make then in enough time to allow them to mature and the flavour deepen. So, I got whisking up the sugar and butter, and soon enough the mix was in the tin, the tin in the oven and in time the house was filled with festive smell of ground allspice.

At some point the skip for the waste render was also delivered, and so all things are now in place ready for the work beginning on Monday, if Nobby turns up. I have a feeling he might be a problem, but we shall see. We shall see.

In the evening I cooked the steak, two lots of garlic mushrooms and some sauteed potatoes, opened a bottle of vintage red Cava, and it was as good as it sounds. Just lovely.

So, to end this post, I thought you might like to read my account of the big say in 2008.

Normal service might be resumed tomorrow.

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

There was just time for a shower; Julie went in as a calm woman, the same I had known for the past two years, but came out ‘with a panic head on.’

One of the jobs that needed to be done was going to the tailor to change the top hat. Somehow the wrong size one had been put in the box, and the hat sat on top of my head in a very humorous way, but not at all becoming. Julie also had to go and have her nails done; a first for her, and she had been growing them for weeks, making typing ever more difficult. Dropping her off in the centre of town, I headed to the main car park nearest the tailor.

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

More and more people started to arrive; I went round and thanked them for coming; then as two o’clock approached Julie arrived and I waited, back turned, for her appearance in the barn. To be honest I was nervous, more than I thought I was going to be. The ceremony went by quite quickly; I slipped up on one part forgetting what I was supposed to say. It was a civil ceremony, nothing religious, no readings to be done, but instead there were passages about love and commitment; it was all rather wonderful, and I will try to post about that when I get home(I am writing this in Tuscany right now, more about that another time).

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

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

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

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

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

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

Then the free bar opened.

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

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

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

It was left to Julie and I to get people into taxis and order plenty more, before it was time for us to climb into one of our own to get us back to the flat, and crash out for just three hours before it was time to get up, this time to get to the airport for the flight to Italy."

Friday, 19 September 2014

Friday 19th September 2014

Good afternoon, and welcome to Friday afternoon. The middle Friday of my 17 days off, and my official mood is: relaxed. And today is our 6th wedding anniversary. Yes, six, you count 'em! One, two, three, four, five and now, six. And in celebration I have treated my dear wife some facial surgery. No, not really, but in clearing some rubbish into a skip that had just been delivered, I managed to throw two panels of corrugated roofing at her head rather than in the skip. Now, I stress this was an accident, a major, stupid accident. I was about to throw two panels, one slipped from my grip, and in trying to control them both as I went to throw them in the skip, I managed to miss the skip and instead launch the panels at Jools' head.

Coming soon after Jools had lacerated her hand on another panel, she now has a bandaged hand, a cut on the bridge of her nose and what is looking like a black eye too. She was only expecting flowers. Probably.

So, tonight I am cooking rib eye steaks along with smoked garlic mushrooms and fried potatoes. Should be wonderful. That we chose this meal rather than going out speaks well of my ability now to cook a steak to perfection. Yay!

Our driveway is now blocked by a couple of pallets of remder which is to be applied to the parts, well the walls, on Monday morning, if Nobby can be relied upon. Now, let me stress, I have absolute confidence in Nobby to do the job, however, tying him down to anything definite is tricky. We shall see how this all pans out, but we have the render, we have the skip into which to put 'waste', and possibly a bloke and a labourer to applier said render to said walls of Chez Jelltex.

But before I tell you about today, let us go back a whole 24 hours, or more to what we did yesterday.


THe alarm went off at five. Outside it is still dark, with the hint of dawn on the horizon. Mulder has been climbing over us for over an hour trying to convince us it is breakfast time. He is handsome, and cute, but he has, so far, failed to learn to tell the time. We ignore him, and mostly he leaves us alone. And lets us go back to sleep. But this morning we were up before him and getting ready for the big adventure. Well, not that big, but heading over the foreign lands to, well, visit a couple of warm memorials.

Meanwhile, under the English Channel

I had looked on the interwebs Wednesday evening, and found two places that looked good; Tyne Cot and The Menon Gate; I programmed them in the sat nav, and so all was set fair for a day in the fields and former battlefields of Flanders.

We load up the car with: cameras, coats, more coats, spare car bulbs, warning triangle, maps, coats, shopping bags, sat nav, coats and us. And we were off.

Now, in the modern world it could be said that some of the romance of travel has been lost. Nowhere is this more true than in the crossing of the Channel by car. Or by train. Trancar. Oh I don't know, look you drive your car onto the train and they take you to France and you drive off again. The fact is, that the whole process is so simple, efficient and works so well. I booked online, so as we approached the automated barriers, a camera read the number plate, and the touchscreen already had pulled up my reservation. Which train did I want to leave on, is this your car reg? and so on. Our reservation was printed out and we hung it on the rear view mirror, so we drove to the terminal to get a GB sticker and headlight filters.

20 minutes later, we drove to the train, held for ten minutes in a waiting area. Onto the train, safety announcement as the doors were closed. And off we went. 35 minutes later we arrived in France, the doors opened and we drove off, onto the motorway and we were off to Belgium. So simple, so modern and with no romance. But it works.

Up the motorway, and then across mile after mile of flat fields, small picturesque villages until we came to Ieper, which used to be called, or spelt, Ypres. It was then a ten minute drive across more fields to Passchendaele. Now that name alone is enough to chill the blood. As we drove I was already getting emotional, as I knew from some more research on Wednesday that two family members were remembered her, as their bodies had never been found.

Hadingham S.E.

We found the cemetery of Tyne Cot, it was well signposted once we were near, and so, got the cameras out and walked to the entrance.

Flanders: 100 years on

Flanders is, as it ever was, I suppose all green rolling fields, small farms and villages. I took some shots showing the verdant countryside as we walked round the edge of the cemetery. On one side of the path was countryside, on the other over ten thousand graves standing in neat rows. And they seemed to go on and on and on. The shocking this is, once we had passed through the gates is that a lot, maybe something like half, we unidentified. Some they knew the regiment, but most are known only to God. Jools found a directory, and so we were able to identify which panels my relations were on. Seeing my family name, which it an usual one, there among the lost is sobering. A great-uncle, that I did not know nor had heard spoken of, gave his life because it was thought that the fight was good. I don't know about that, but he and his comrades gave everything.

Flanders: 100 years on

We stayed for an hour or so, the sheer numbers, 165 panels of names for those without stones whose bodies were never found, and over ten thousand stones marking those bodies that had been found. What else is there to say?

Tyne Cot

We drove on to Ieper, Ypres in old money, looking for another memorial to the lost, the Menin Gate. The address I had could not be found, and so we drove into the city centre hoping to find a sign, instead we found the gate itself. We parked up, and I took some shots. The Gate is a memorial to the lost, whose bodies could not be found, and despite its size, it became clear that the gate was not big enough to record all the names, the wall at Tyne Cot was built for the overflow. So much death. So many lost young lives, it leaves you numb.

The Menin Gate, Ypres, Flanders

We find a nice place to have lunch, Jools orders fish stew and I have garlic scampi. Both are glorious and come with huge amounts of Belgian fries and mayo. All wonderful.

The Menin Gate, Ypres, Flanders

It was by now very hot indeed, like high summer. There was no breeze, and the small amount we had to drink was making itself felt. We go into the local church, more like a cathedral for a while. I take shots, then we decide to head back early. Anyway, we had some shopping to do first. So, back to Calais and to the supermarket for some stinky cheese and spicy sausage, before hotfooting it to the wine warehouse for a few boxes of the cheapest of the cheap red wine. Yay!

At the tunnel we have half an hour to wait before boarding can begin, so we have a cool drink and people watch, then off we go, as before, a short wait, onto the train, safety announcement, and off. Arriving in Folkestone half an hour before we set off thanks to the time zones, and we were home by half five, feeding the cats and unloading the car. It was a tad cooler home, but not by much, so we have a shower and a coffee and feat of pistachio macaroons which we also had bought from the supermarket.

As darkness fell, the mist and fog rolled in, and we went to bed just after nine, with any sounds outside, dulled by the damp air. All we could hear was a badger in the front garden, munching on peanuts and sunflower seeds.

Tyne Cot

Thursday, 18 September 2014

Thursday 18th September 2014


I decided that for Wednesday I should little else other than walk to Deal so I could go in The Berry and drink beer. And why not? Well, I was going to get Jools to drop me off in Capel so I could walk back to Dover, but the BBC mentioned rain and cloud, so I thought I would do a bit of messing about and go to Deal later. Now, I know if there was a medal for wasting time, I would be up for that. Somehow I managed to waste away a good four hoyrs before I was ready to head out.

Sadly, the BBC had got it wrong, the cloud, if anything, was thicker than before, and threatened rain. Oh well. I shouldered my gadget bag, a camera and a macro lens and set off. You know the route so well by now, surely. Down the street, along the country lane, then the path past the butterfly glade, the pig's copse, down the dip and up the other side, then down Otty Bottom Road heading slowly down into Kingsdown. I was nearly mowed down by a couple of cyclists who did not want to take their offroad bikes onto an untarmaced road, which seemed a bit odd, and though they should just barge me out the way. As they were travelling at warp factor six, they were past me as I stood agape.

Anyway, onwards I plod, heading along the beach into Walmer, past the castle and into Deal Or I think, I am unsure where the border between the two towns is, maybe the The Berry is in Walmer after all. Good thing is that whichever town it is in, the beer is as good as ever. I have a couple of pints and a pack of crisps, read the latest issue of Channel Draught, then pondering whether to have another pint, and maybe not have enough money for the taxi. I get the taxi, just as well as I am struggling to stay awake until Jools comes in from work.

She makes apple and blackberry crumble for dinner, and then I lay on the sofa, gently snoring as the radio burbles the Citeh game from Germany.

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Wednesday 17th September 2014


We woke up at dawn to find the house shrouded in thick fog. The BBC promised us a fine and warm sunny day, so lets hope the sun would burn it through.

I needed the car as I had plans to head to Hyde to ride on some very small trains earlier in the day. The drive into Dover was eventful as we drove in and out of fog banks. At the top of Connaught Hill all of Dover was under a thick blanket of fog below. Some might say that would be a good thing, but not me. Oh no.

Arrival at Hythe by #9, "Winston Churchill"

I dropped Jool off and rushed to Reach Road where I guessed the fog would be at its best and picturesque. As it turned out, the sun was already burning most of the mist away, and so I grabbed a couple of shots from the coastguard place before heading home for more breakfast.

Arrival at Hythe by #9, "Winston Churchill"

I drove out to River to pick up my mate Gary, then along the Alkham valley to Folkestone. As you turn into the village the tower of St Anthony is above all the roofs of the houses, and it always bugged me I had not not got inside, but of course, after a very successful Saturday afternoon, I finally did get in and get my shots.

Making Ready

Onto the motorway, a quick blast upto Westonhanger and then down into Hythe to park at the station. Hythe is the start of one of Britain's most remarkable railways, The Romney, Hythe and Dymchurch Railway, a mainline railway, but in miniature. It has been running since before the war, and is now one of the best known in the country, and yet I have not been here since 2007 when I first moved down to Kent. We park up, go in to get our tickets and then have half an hour to wait until departure time.

Waiting for the off

I was concerned when a bus load of Gemran teens arrived, and they had booked the carriage we had sat in. Don't worry, more carriages will be attached we were told. And indeed three more were shunted into position, and so Gary and I took our places in a compartment on our own, there was just enough room for the two of us side by side, and so bang on time, we shuddered off.


Despite it being such a long rake of coaches, "Winston Churchill" made short work of accelerating out of the station, and thundered along the winding double track towards Dymchurch, slowing down as we went over each level crossing. We were near the locomotive, so we got to hear it working hard, as well as lungfulls of smoke and steam as well.

The carriages made delightful ckickity clack noises as we ran over the old fashioned jointed track, just like a proper train should. As our speed increased, we were made to sway from side to side, I looked at Gary and he had a smile on his face, as did I.

Like a Hurricane

We trundled up to New Romney where the schoolkids got off and so the remainder of the trip was without the sound of a riot behind. Anyway, soon we were flying inbetween the back gardens of houses built on the shingle of the Marl, and eventually, even they thinned out until we were running between the dune upto the twin power stations at Dungeness.

Gary and I, as well as most other passengers, got out to stretch our legs and to snap the loco. It was a surprise then we with a toot on the whistle the train began to pull out. Gary and I tumble back in as the train accelerated, thankfully it was not going that fast, so there was no danger, but it did make us alught.

We got off at New Romney so we could look round the engine shed, the model railway exhibition and to grab a bite to eat. Gary treated me to a bacon roll and a cuppa, which hit the spot. We walked around the station and yard for half an hour, until it was time to take position on the platform for the one fifteen back to Hythe. It was now darn hot, and getting the air coming in through the door of the carriages was great, although as we were sitting right next to the locomotive, we also got plenty of smoke and steam coming in too.

Back in Hythe, we pack the car and drive home. I needed to do a couple of jobs, and Gary said he could do with a snooze. So we retraced our streaps back along the motorway and then down the Alkham Valley to River. I got the bits and bobs from Tesco, drove home to put it all away, and then just shill out as it was so darned warm. Phew.

That evening I listened to the football on the radio, whilst keeping tabs on City;s game at Brentford. After a dodgy first half, the Bees tired and we rattled in three late goals to go top again. Yay, winning is so much better than losing you know?

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Tuesday 16th September 2014


So, my first Monday morning on my holibobs, and I decide to walk to Dover. This meant messing around the house for a couple of hours, editing shots, writing blog posts, tending to the cats every whim: the usual stuff. I had planned to walk from Capel back into Dover, but the BBC said there would be rain first thing. As so often these days, the BBC got it wrong. Anyway, I have breakfast, a second cup of coffee, finally hang out the washing, and then I'm all set.

Monday morning walk to Dover. And back.

It was a bright and warm morning, and I put on my walking boots, tightened my belt, grabbed my camera and set off. Quite uneventful walking through the village. I take shots of the three pubs, including the sad sight of The Hope all boarded up. Lets hope, ahem, its open again soon. But once I reached the lighthouse and struck out along the cliffs to Dover, the views, as ever, were breathtaking. Something I never get bored with. It is that first sight of the cliffs, the land just dropping away to the beach below.

Monday morning walk to Dover. And back.

The sun was not bright enough to make photographing the cliffs impossible, and so taking regular breaks I neared Langdon Hole, and another water break. Now that the school holidays are over, there is hardly any other people walking along the cliffs, and seeing someone else was really quite noticeable. Ferries were coming and going, filling the air with the quiet thrumming of their engines.

Monday morning walk to Dover. And back.

As I neared Dover, the Eastern Docks were a hive of activity, with three ferries arriving within ten minutes or so of each other, the traffic soon stacked up. It is always great to see the end of the walk, even if it does involve walking down the impossible steep path from East Cliff. Under Jubilee Way and there I was in the town. A quick crossing of Townwall Street, along the promenade to New Bridge.

Monday morning walk to Dover. And back.

My plan was to head to the newest micropub in Dover, we now have three, and have a pint or two a bite to eat and maybe get a taxi back. What could go wrong?

It was closed that was what was wrong. Closed all day on Mondays. How could I have got it so wrong.

Monday morning walk to Dover. And back.

No worries, I walk round the corner to the Port of Call, order a pint of Ripple and a couple of tapas: fried Camembert and skewered lamb. All very nice. Even nicer was the second pint.

I surprise myself my deciding to walk back after all, and not get a taxi, so have a strong coffee before setting off back along the way I had just come. The worst part would be the climb up East Cliff, and that is how it turned out. The forecast had said it was going to be the warmest day since the beginning of August, and it felt hot. But I took a few rests climbing up, and was rewarded with fine views over the port, with the cliffs stretching away showing me the way home to the north.

Monday morning walk to Dover. And back.

Instead of walking along the cliffs, I follow the bed of the old railway up Langdon Hole, then take the old military road along the very tops of the cliffs to the lighthouse, then cross the fields to St Margaret's church, down Station Road and to home. The final climb was the worst, it was hot and my legs were screaming, but I made it. A walk I used to do without thinking had become a major hike, but, I did it.

Upon arriving home, I find the house covered in scaffold, ready for the work due to begin in a week. The drive is now out of bounds again, but it does mean the end is in sight.

Operation "Big Job": the final phase

Once home, I took off my boots while the cats told me it must be time for dinner.

Jools arrived home, I realise I had forgotten to get anything out for dinner, so we have burgers and beer, followed by raspberries and cream. Dinner of champions. The day ends with me listening to the Hull v West Ham game, which ends 2-2, just in time for bed.

Another day passes.