Wednesday, 31 December 2014

2014: How was it for you?

OK, I lied, there will just be two blogs today. This being the second.

So, whew, what a year! It has been a rush, one in which I have grown into my job, a job which took me to Denmark on a regular basis, and also to Sweden, Germany and China. For me it was pretty much the year I was living out of a suitcase, or cases as I manage to break at least two of them. Here are those trips in full, as taken from our wall calendar, which I hope is accurate:


7th to 9th Esbjerg
14th to 17th Esbjerg


3rd to 6th Esbjerg
19th to 21st Arhus


4th to 6th Arhus


28th to 30th Arhus


6th to 8th Esbjerg
12th to 15th Arhus
21st to 23rd Gotenberg, Sweden
27th to 29th Arhus


9th to 14th Tianjin, China
19th to 26th Holiday to Northumberland


June 29th to July 1st Lubeck, Germany
1st to 4th Lem, Denmark
4th to 6th Esbjerg, Denmark
6th to 9th Ringkobing, Denmark,
10th Arhus
13th to 15th Varde, Denmark
16th Esbjerg
17th to 18th Arhus


18th to 21st, Arhus
26th to 28th Amsterdam and Rotterdam, Holland


2nd to 3rd Arhus
7th to 10th Lauchhammer, Germany
11th to 28th Annual holiday (resting)


7th to 9th Arhus
14th to 17th Arhus
26th to 29th Norwich Beer Festival


3rd to 7th Arhus
10th to 14th Esbjerg
17th to 21st Esbjerg
25th to 28th Esbjerg


7th to 11th Esbjerg
14th to 19th Witten and Stuttgart, Germany

In fact, it is not as bad as I thought, as in April and March I did very little travelling. But, I did clock the air miles up, and had a bag packed and ready to go pretty much all of the time. I guess the highlight was the trip to China. It was an experience I will never forget, and yet one I would not like to repeat, China and back in six days was too much flying and double jet lag, and too much for this bloke I can tell you. But, Anni and I saw some wonderful things on our trip into downtown Tianjin, were shown wonderful hospitality by our hosts. Quite wonderful really.

Work itself was a roller coaster ride of emotions, as I went from being shit-scared, to angry, frustrated and ending up as being in control and the customer very happy indeed. For that alone I can be very satisfied with what I achieved, that I found out that certain people in the organisation did not have any confidence in me, well, made my blood boil, now just makes me cold. The guy who expressed this still has not spoken to me, not that I expected him to.

In the wider world, it has been a grim year, as religious fundamentalism ran riot, with Islamic zealots beheading western hostages whilst the act was recorded and posted on You Tube. It is the modern way. A report revealed that the Western Allies laid aside their principles and conducted torture, kidnapping and jailing without justice.

Planes disappeared or dropped out of the sky, people ran amok with guns in America. The rich got ever richer and the rest of us got poorer. And the rise and rise of UKIP. Just horrible.


I tried to keep up with the latest trends in music, but I bought very little music to be honest. I am trying to think of songs that got my juices flowing, but nothing stands out as the really wonderful song of the year.

However, songs by Jamie T, King Creosote, Royal Blood did get my foot tapping. Here are sngs by those:

As for album of the year, I don't think I bought one, apart from the first CD by The Vapors, and as that was from 1980, that doesn't count here. Will try to do better next year, especially as the new album by Public Service Broadcasting is due out, The Race for Space. Should be wonderful.


I cannot remember if we went to the cinema this year, which means we probably didn't. Will try harder in the new year, I promise.


Everything revolved around the world cup, from watching the end of the Spain v Holland game in the middle of the night before I left China on my way home. That ended 5-1 to Holland, but that that result was not the most remarkable says something about the world cup this year. England failed to live up the the already low expectations they have set in recent years, that they were not quite as bad es expected speaks volumes about the state of the game. England failed to wine a game, and their only point came in the final group game, dead rubber against Costa Rica who had already qualified. Suarez dominated the middle of the tournament with his latest biting indecent. He got a massive ban, and a transfer to Barcelona, so no real punishment.

But on a balmy and barmy night in Ringkorbing, I settled down to watch the semi final between Brasil and Germany, and no one really could have predicted what happnened next. Germany were 5-0 up in under 30 minutes, including scoring 4 in just 6 minutes, as Brasil wnet missing, or at least their defence and midfield did. Germany ran out 7-1 winners and went on to lift the trophy, quite rightly.


Norwich had a dog of a year. Relegated from the Prem, sacking their manager 5 games from the end of the season, then flattering to decieve in the Championship, at the midpoint, we are ten points of the promotion places, occupied by the old enemy down the A140. We hope for better in the new year.


Another vintage year as I completed over 200 Kentish churches, saw 30 orchid species in Kent, I think. And went into Sussex looking for Burnt Tip and Suffolk for Frog. I may have found the first Sword Leafed Helleborine seen in Kent for 29 years, but will have to wait for this spring to confirm that. Butterflies suffered with the orchid obsession and work, but still a fine year. Plenty of rail tours came through East Kent, which also featured the return of a Western.

As for the new year: I see only work, work and more work. Oh well, enjoy the rest while you can.

Happy New Year

Wednesday 31st December 2014

And welcome to the end of the year.

This will be the first of three blogs today, this one will deal with events of yesterday, one will deal with events of today, and the final one will be a look back at the whole year.


OK, is it Tuesday? Is there any way of telling? I mean, it could be any day of the week, but looking at my friends on FB I see some have gone back to work, so that would seem to rule out weekends.

We start the day with bacon. Because:

In the beginning was the word. And the word was: Breakfast. And Jelltex said let there be bacon, and there was bacon. And it was good. It is true, that one of life's pleasures is the smell of bacon cooking, I think I could be a vegetarian, as long as there is no bacon cooking nearby. Or steak.

Sunset at Dover from St Martin's Battery

My plan to head into town for the sales to buy some shoes and/or trainers came to nothing as I listened to the radio, edited photos and the rest of the stuff that fills my life when I am not working. In the afternoon, Jools played with fire. Or at least lit a bonfire and fed it with broken pallets until it got dark. I made coffee at regular intervals, all seemed fine.

Sunset at Dover from St Martin's Battery

At just gone three, I drove up to St Martin's Battery in the hope the sunset would be as wonderful as Monday's. I stood on the bank in front of the gun emplacements as the sun set behind me, the scene in front of me changesd as the final rays of the setting sun left the castle on the other side of the town. Darkness quickly fell, as did the temperatures: I snapped the scenes as the light faded until I got too cold and decided to head home for a warming coffee.

Sunset at Dover from St Martin's Battery

I made chorizo hash for dinner, which was very good indeed, doubly so as we seemed to have missed a meal out during each of the previous two days. Not that we went shot food-wise what with the snacking. And cake.

We watched the first of the Planet of the Apes reboots in the evening, outside a fox came to feed once again. Just after ten a second one came, and briefly they fought until one bowed out and made a run for it.

Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Tuesday 30th December 2014


Back to work.

Or not.


My manager told me to relax over the holidays, and so that is what I am doing. As I will expand on in a future blog, the year will ramp up very quickly for me in the new year, with even more travelling and work and travelling and work. Well, go get the picture. So, for now, I take things easy, eat cake and drink tea and/or coffee. Oddly enough, booze is something I have only had the occasional drink of all over the holidays.

We get up a little later than the day before, it is just getting light as I draw open the curtains. It looks like it might be a good sunrise: oh no, too late, there it is. Oh well, better have a coffee. I catch up with yet more football on TV, yesterdays Premier League football, and all very exciting and hectic it is. Although managers are angry, but aren't they all?

Jools decides to head into town for the sales, so I stay home and mix up some bread dough, of course. So, I wait for her return.

And wait.


And at midday, just as its time to pop the bread in the oven, she returns, just after the kettle had boiled. Should have thought of that before. We have fresh crusty, chilli rolls with the last of the salt beef. Wonderful stuff. And a hooge cuppa. Much better.

Winter sunset walk around Folkestone Harbour

As I think I mentioned before, mother had given us a load of ancinet booze when we were about to leave hers, and so as much of it we won't or do not drink, we found a place for them up in Whitfield at Dad's. So we took the rum, a Southern Comfort, Sherry, Archers and a Peach Chardonnay (!) along with the after shave I think I am allergic to. Quite a bag of loot I think you'll agree. Up at Whitfiled all is full of the festive spirit, I set up Tony's tablet, download solitaire app for him. All is well with the world!

Winter sunset walk around Folkestone Harbour

We then take our leave, then drive to Folkestone as the day has been glorious with endless sunshine, so the sunset I hope would be worth snapping. In the end it was more than that, it was wonderful. We parked up at Wear Bay, walked down to the beach then along the promenade to the harbour.

Winter sunset walk around Folkestone Harbour

All the while the sun was getting lower and lower, eventually eclipsed behind the Grand Burstin Hotel. There wasn't a breath of wind, so the reflections in the harbout at high tide were perfect.

Winter sunset walk around Folkestone Harbour

By the time I got to the far side of the harbour, the sun had set, but the sky looked like it was all on fire. Words fail me how wonderful it was.

Winter sunset walk around Folkestone Harbour

The race was then on to snap scenes as the light faded, I make my way back to the car, then rush to Capel to snap the scene looking back towards Folkestone and the blood red sky.

The Warren

Finally, we call in at the NT's place up on the cliffs so I could take some shots of the docks at dusk, although by then it was almost dark. I take a few shots, and we finally turn for home, with the temperature already below freezing, and above the stars were already beginning to shine.

Three Ferries

We watch The Muppets on TV, whilst eating the rest of the rolls and washed down by yet more tea. A fine end to the day, and just two more before the end of the year.

Winter sunset walk around Folkestone Harbour

Monday, 29 December 2014

Monday 29th December 2014


Another day of rest.

Le Tour de St Margaret's

And no football to watch in the morning, it being one of the rare days these holidays without a game, we start of with a coffee, bacon sandwiches and more coffee. Then, what to do?

Sunday morning walk to the cliffs and back: the wrong way round!

Well, the sun is shining, there is a breeze, so why not go for a walk. Why not indeed? Looking in the fridge, we see there is few vegetables left, and as we wanted to have turkey roast for the third time in four days, and we were running out of milk, best we go shopping. And the easiest thing would be to walk to the shop, get supplies, then strike out for the cliffs.

Sunday morning walk to the cliffs and back: the wrong way round!

Which is what we did, but as we had left out our walking boots on the patio the previous evening, and the rain had given them a real soaking, we had to wear our alternative footwear; and for me it was an old pair of safety boots. Which although did not look to good, did the part, but then had little tread left, so I would be slipping and sliding on muddy banks.

Sunday morning walk to the cliffs and back: the wrong way round!

We walked down Station Road, and up the other side to the shop, where all they had were carrots. So we bought carrots. And milk. The had to carry them on the rest of the walk of course. We took an different path out of the village, and across the fields, getting back along The Droveway, then across the downland to Dover Patrol, where it was blowing a hooly. Amazing that it could have been only breezy back home, but here it was like standing behind a jet engine. It was cold, but also wonderful. Down below waves rolled in to the rocks at the feet of the cliffs as it was low tide. A couple of ships were taking shelter in the lea of the Goodwin Sands, and a few hardy dogwalkers were taking the air along the clifftops.

Sunday morning walk to the cliffs and back: the wrong way round!

We turned for home, as clouds rolled in, making the light change over the countryside from minute to minute. Near home we came across a friendly horse, and we ended up feeding him over half the carrots. We did have peas and sweetcorn, so we would not go hungry.

Sunday morning walk to the cliffs and back: the wrong way round!

Back home, the full afternoon of football was about to get under way, so after a coffee and a couple of pieces of shortbread, I settled down to see how the games would go. Sadly, City failed to follow up their thrashing of Millwall by slipping to a poor 2-1 defeat at Reading, same old story with a lack of concentration coming to the fore once again.

I cooked turkey roast again: well, warmed up some more turkey, cooked roast potatoes, Yorkshire Puddings and steamed vegetables once again. All lovely stuff, and washed down by a bottle of 33 year old wine from Mum's, which was OK, but strong and sweet,. I had one and a half glasses and left it at that.

Sunday, 28 December 2014

Sunday 28th December 2014


And so, once in the festive period, we must load up the car and drive to Suffolk to visit Mother. And due to the way the days fell over the holidays this year, that day was Saturday.

Driving to Suffolk and back, about four hours each way is just about do-able in a day, whilst getting some visiting in whilst we are in Lowestoft. But, at this time of year, it means leaving home some hours before dawn, and returning home well after dark, and most of the travelling being in the dark, and that is never fin, but add in torrential rain to the mix, and it all adds up to a grim day all round. And that is without taking Mother into the equation!

The alarm went off at five, and after plenty of faffing around, we left home at six, and went to find an open petrol station. Tesco was closed, but the Shell one in the centre of town was open, I filled up, bought some chocolate, and pointed the car north. At least the road was quiet, and we drove up the M20 through Folkestone, Ashford, Maidstone and upto Dartford. Where, thankfully, theey are sweeping away the toll boothes, to be replaced with number plate recognition, which means you have to set up an account, but it should do away with most of the queues. At seven in the morning there was little traffic, and we drive through and into Essex.

As I have stated on many occasions, Essex seems to be the home of the boy racer and the mad driver. I take my time, and despite still being dark, the traffic is light so the drive was not too bad. Dawn came as we drove over the border into Suffolk, round Ipswich, over the Orwell and then into the dark heart of the county. It is some 46 miles from Ipswich to Lowestoft, so should take less than an hour, but there are few overtaking places, and once stuck behind a lorry of tractor, you had better get used to it, cos you aint going nowhere fast.

But we make steady time, and are soon rolling into Kirkley, then onto Lowestoft, over the river. Now, Mum's house is filthy, so we do not drink or eat there, so we head to a Premier Inn for breakfast, like we always do when in town. Being Christmas, it is much busier, but we have fruit, toast and a bun. More than enough to set us up for the day. Now for the main reason for us being here: to Mum's.

I won't bore you here with the whys of why we don't really get on: it goes back years, but I am her only son, and she is my only living blood relative. We make small talk, she makes a show of her presents. I show her the calendar I have made for her, and made a joke of 'if you don't want it'. She said she really didn't need it, but said she would look at the photos, but we could tell she wasn't really interested. Mum used to coo over these, but has fell out with a mutual friend, Pat, who used to rave about my shots, so now MUm can't show off, she isn't interested. Well, as long as I know.

And as we talk, Mum drops off several times. Despite her denials, I see her jaw drop and her false teeth partly come out. Just peachy. Anyway, after an hour and 50 minutes, we take our leave.

We drive along much familiar roads to see my Godfather and his wife: they are nice people, but now in their 80s, and getting ever more infirm. I do worry about Heather, she repeats herself so much a times, but we ignore that. After half an hour, we take our leave from them too, and begin the long drive home. However, we would be goin via our friends place in south Suffolk, Rob and Sarah. It is about a 45 minute drive down through Bungay and Diss, the sun is low in the sky, and driving is difficult with the sun so low. But we arrive safe, where there is the promise of cake. And tea.

We stay a good couple of hours, outside the sun sets and dusk begins to fall. We really have to make tracks. Be say goodbye, not before more tea and a mince pie is served. I point the car south and off we go towards Ipswich. The traffic is light, and listening to the radio, there are queues, but none on the part of the M25 we will be travelling, which is some kind of once in a lifetime event. Indeed, once we get onto the motorway, traffic is light, there are no queues on the bridge, and we all drive in four lanes off the bridge and into Kent. It is the first time I have driven over the bridge at 50mph all the way!

It is dark now of course, but we are in no hurry, so we cruise along at 60mph, retracing our route from this morning. We see the castle from the Capel turn off, and then as we descend from Shakespeare Cliffe on the A20, the lights of Calais twinkle from across the Channel.

We are home, met by our trio of cats. Mum has given us a dozen bottles of old spirits and wines, which will sort out, but now have several litres of spirits. Partay?

Saturday, 27 December 2014

Saturday 27th December 2014

Boxing Day.

So named because of the fighting which breaks out at the sales.


Or not.

After the glorious sunshine of Christmas Day, Boxing Day was always going to be a comedown. We have our normal breakfast of fruit and cereal, before donning our walking boots for a quick stomp. Now, my back had improved some, and so I had better press it further by some more walking to make sure it stays fixed. Or pain free.

Boxing Day morning walk

Just a short walk to the pig's copse and back, but the day is fine and wind free, although the radio is telling us that something akin to the Biblical Flood is coming in the late afternoon. So better make the best of it. We see a few folks out, wish them the glad tidings of the season. One of the pigs is out, but too busy eating the offcuts from the big day's vegetables to pay us any attention. I decide to press on and go down the dip and up the other side. My back grumbles, but we walk on, and up the other side to the cycle path, where the choice is: go back or go to the cliffs. As I have made some bread, and the dough needed beating down and putting in the oven, we decide to go home, back through the village and down Station Road.

Boxing Day morning walk

The dough is about to break free, so I beat it down, make it into eight rolls, weighing each one so they are all pretty much the same side. They are a slightly pale red colour. This is due to the cayanne pepper I added. Couldn't hurt, could it?

Boxing Day morning walk


So at half twelve, the rolls come out of the oven. After cooling for ten minutes, I split them, slap some butter on and fill them with salted beef. And dinner is prepared. And oh my gosh, wonderful food again. The saltiness of the beef, mixing with the spiciness of the rolls, zinging on the tongue. Lovely.

Boxing Day morning walk

And Boxing Day means football. OK, take me to the sofa, where I snooze through the first game, but at three City kick off against Millwall, and put them to the sword, 6-1. Yay.

Boxing Day morning walk

Alas, the sniffing and sneezing I have had since getting up erupts into a full blown allergy attack, which calls for drugs, and lots of them. I feel shot, and on Saturday we hope to head to Suffolk to visit Mother dearest. I am just able to eat Christmas Dinner #2, made with some of the left overs from yesterday. It is good I have to say, and even have an extra Yorkshire to mop up some of the extra gravy.

All there is to do is go to bed, having taken more drugs and hope that I could get some sleep.

Friday, 26 December 2014

Friday 26th December 2014

The calendar says it is a Friday, but it could be any day of the week. I have been off nearly a week now, and the days are beginning to blur together. My back has been painful all the way through, some times worse than others. I have said if it is still bad in a week I will go to see the quack, we shall see.

Christmas Day.

Christmas Morning walk along the sea front, up the cliffs and down Jubilee Way

We slept in until nearly eight. We had switched the heating off so the boiler switching on would not wake us, on the downside the house was chilly of course. We have a coffee then we get dressed and put on our walking shoes as we have decided to go for a walk around the harbour. Dover port is very busy, one of the busiest in the world, and there is always traffic queuing to use it, except on Christmas and New Years Days. And as the sun was shining down from a clear blue sky, no better day for a walk.

Christmas Morning walk along the sea front, up the cliffs and down Jubilee Way

We drive to the Duke of Yorks, where there is no traffic, turn down Jubilee Way which is just as empty. Small barriers had been set up at the entrance to the port, but there was no one trying to get in, we carry on and park along the sea front, get out our coats and cameras, and off we set towards East Cliff.

Christmas Morning walk along the sea front, up the cliffs and down Jubilee Way

We cross over and take the footpath the other side of Athol Terrace, heading up underneath Jubilee Way, taking the steps leading to the edge of the carriageway. We see there is a gap between the barriers to allow us to walk down beside the road instead of back down the path. And this meant having a birds-eye view of the port below, which was all now silent and still. The occasional car goes past us turning down onto Townwall Street, but what is this: a lorry? Yes, the first of three lorries we see slow down on approach to the port to find it closed. They would have to wait until 6 on Boxing Day morning.

Christmas Morning walk along the sea front, up the cliffs and down Jubilee Way

We walk back to the car, go home for a cuppa. And a large piece of Christmas Cake.

Christmas Morning walk along the sea front, up the cliffs and down Jubilee Way

We do some visiting, off to Whitfiled to see the old folks, all is well, but then the rum has yet to be opened. It is all very pleasant, the food is nearly cooked, and they would be eating at half two. We were not eating until evening, anyway, as dinner time approaches for them, we say goodbye and brace ourselves for a visit to Nan. Not that we don't like Nan, its just we are so powerless to change anything for her. As we enter her room, we see her head propped up on three pillows, but as she is now so thin, her blankets hardly change shape where her body is, what we can see of her arms looks like pipecleaners. She is low, but happy to see us. She can hardly see us, but her TV is fixed, but she cannot see the screen as it is the other side of the room, and the volume is not loud enough for her to hear. She says again that her wish for Christmas is just to fall asleep and never wake up. We hope for the same thing, really, as at the moment she is just waiting for death, but death does not want to come. I think she is getting a little stronger, but I could be wrong.

Christmas Morning walk along the sea front, up the cliffs and down Jubilee Way

We give her a drink as she is thirsty, but her cup and bottle of Lucozade are out of reach, so unless someone would come in, she would just go thirsty. She does have a call buzzer, but it is mostly ignored, and it is her belief that the button as the nurse's desk is switched off. We have to leave as lunch is being served, so it is back home to pop the turkey in the oven. It was too big to weigh on our scales, so I have to guess, and decide three and a half hours should do it I cover it with silver foil, set the over to mark 5, and sit back and wait for the smell of cooking to appear. It takes 90 minutes, but once it does, oh wow, smells amazing. But it would be four hours from start until carving time.

N'ice Chouffe

I prepare the vegetables, mix the Yorkshire pudding batter; all is in control. Serving time is just past half five, it looks wonderful and we have a bottle of champagne to wash it down with. We are stufffed, and are fit for nothing else than settling down to watch Dr Who before we begin to clear up.

Nearly ready

And that was your Christmas Day at Chez Jelltex.

Thursday, 25 December 2014

Thursday 25th December 2014

Christmas Eve.

Otherwise known as Wednesday. From 16:00 today, the shops will be closed for nearly 36 hours, have we got enough of everything?

Or that is what the rest of the country seems to think. As for us, I have to get Mum's Christmas Card, which we will deliver at the weekend, and run some chores and that is it.

We wake early, half five, and I lay in bed waiting for the heating to come on at six, although Mulder does try to point out we can get up and feed him at any time. We decide to head into town and be there for nine, so we can get the bits and bobs and go back home. In the end we were parking up at half eight, so use the time to ask the folks at the car park wash the car and then go to Chaplins for breakfast. We both settle for a small breakfast, which is really all we need to be honest, but we are the only customers, which seems odd. But then the whole of the town centre seems very quiet, even if it is early on Christmas Eve.

I get a card for Mum, Jools goes to the library, and we are done in under an hour, then have to sit and watch as our car is washed. It is raining gently, but that is OK. At ten we get the car back and drive home via the cliffs; we can barely see the sea from the road due to the mist and drizzle. Better be at home with the heating ramped up.

We have cold sausage rolls for lunch, and when the steak has defrosted, I prepare that for the evening, and we settle down on the sofa with the cats to watch the second part of The first Hobbit film. It is OK, bit already seems overlong. And there are tow more to go. Oh well.

Before dinner, I am thinking my back is still painful, and that sitting around will not do it any good, best do something, so I decide a session on the cross trainer is called for, and that is what I do, 30 minutes listening to music, the time goes and although I don't feel better, or my back doesn't, its not worse.

The steak is wonderful, I cook garlic mushrooms, peas, sweetcorn and fried jacket spuds. All wonderful washed down with a bottle of rose wine. Mmmmm, not bad at all.

All through the day, my thoughts are on events some 30 years ago to the day. Two of my best friends were killed in a car crash on Christmas day in 1984, I remember, that they had called for me early that evening, and as I had been unemployed all year, I had no cash and although they would have subbed me for drinks, I did not want to sponge off them, so I refused. I could have been killed or injured that night, but instead stayed home with my parents. On such things our lives change forever. In our memory, Jim and Chris are forever 20, frozen in time. Over the years, most of us have lived life, met people, got married, had families and some are now grandparents. life goes on, our memories fade and the past is a foreign country, but we do still remember

In the first weeks of 1985, we all attended two funerals, one for each of them of course, during the ceremonies, two pieces of music were played, that will forever be linked in my mond to them, which piece was played at which funeral, I can't remember, however, it doesn't really matter.

First one is Decades by Joy Division: Here are the young men.....

And the second is Song to the Siren by This Mortal Coil: Here I am, waiting to hold you........

Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Wednesday 24th December 2014


A day of action.


Jools had to work for half the day. Shopping had to be got from Teso. I had to fetch the turkey. Photograph a train. Maybe cook the salt beef. Collect Jools.

It is odd, that now that most large supermarkets are open for 24 hours, that they are ever crowded. But they are. I planned the trip to Tesco like a military operation: make a plan, get in, get stuff, pay, get out. Bang, bang, bang!

Driving Jools to work along the A20, the plan changed, go to Folkestone Tesco, do the shopping before half seven, then drop Jools off, back to the butcher and then home. Yes, sounds great.

Only those on their way to work or the sleepless were in the shop at seven, so we rushed round, grabbing stuff off the list, finding most of the stuff we wanted, or needed. Finally, against my pronciples, we buy vegetables for Christmas dinner, I really want to use local suppliers, but I felt there wasn't time. Maybe I was right. Or not.

Anyway, sixty quid lighter, we load the car up and drive into Hythe so Jools could go to work. All the time I was planning the route across to Preston and the butchers. In the end I decide up through Hawkinge, up past the cattery at Denton. Traffic at Wingham is as busy as ever, people travelling between Canterbury and Sandwich, or the other way round.

Then it was out over the marshes to Preston: the butcher was already busy, I took him a bottle of sloe gin, in exchange he let me have a turkey, some bacon, salted beef and lots of sausage meat, all for just over a hundred quid! I know it will all be great. Anyway, I wish them Merry Christmas, walk back to the car and drive home. The traffic was light enough, even at eight, seems that many had chosen to begin Christmas early too.

The Cathedral Express at Roman Road, Dover

Once home I put the shopping away, but I think I should cook the salted beef. So I chop a couple of onions, add various herbs and spices, and put it in the largest pan we have, fill with water and set the gas on full. Whilst waiting, I have breakfast, toast and tea. Soon the house is filled with the fine smell of the beef cooking mixed in with the aroma of herbs and spices. All wonderful stuff.

The Cathedral Express at Roman Road, Dover

At half twelve, having remembered to top off the water in the pot containing the beef, I drive to Roman Road to snap the steam tour puffing its way upto Guston Tunnel. To my surprise there were already half a dozen folks there, with more arriving as show time approached. NR had thoughtfully covered all vews from the bridge with thick wire fencing, making clear views difficult, but thanks to physics and optics, a medium telephot lens could focus through the fence and a decent shot could be obtained. Hoorah for physics!

The Cathedral Express at Roman Road, Dover

We could hear the hard working locomotives working their way around and up the Dour Valley, until as the noise of puffing grew ever louder, at first a puff of smoke could be seen, and then the first Black 5 followed by the second. No time to think, the camera rattled off the shots as the train drew nearer, until it was too close. So over to the other side to see the train approach the enter the tunnel, leaving behind a thick shroud of smoke and steam. All over for another year.

The Cathedral Express at Roman Road, Dover

Jools said she would make her own way home, so I go home, turn the stove off and remove the beef from the water to cool off. I was thinking that we did not have much for sandwiches, but then I thought why not have some of the salt beef? Brilliant idea. So, with lashings of horseradish sauce, I make the sandwiches, with generous portions of beef in each. The beef fell apart as I carved, so tender was it. And it was wonderful. Another triumph.

We followed that by a wedge of Dundee Cake with more tea. Outside dusk fell and the lights on the tree shone brightly.

We rounded up the evening with freshly baked sausage rolls as we watched The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (The directors cut) We last about 90 minutes before our eyes drooped and we made our way up the wooden hill. Next stop is Christmas Eve

Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Tuesday 23rd December 2014


The shortest day of the year. Or the longest night, if you're a vampire. And as the BBC liked to remind us, that after today, the mornings will not begin to get lighter earlier, nor until the end of the year anyway. The changes will be so slight in the length of daylight, we may not even notice it for a while, but the days will get longer, a bit at a time, so the rush towards spring and summer has begun.

As it is another day of rest, we lay in bed until nearly seven, at that point the complaints from Mulder had got so loud, we really had to give in. First cup of coffee of the day whilst MOTD plays on TV, whilst outside the birds are scrambling for seeds and mealworms which we have already put out.

Mid-winter walk along the cliffs

Jools decides to walk to the cliffs. My back says I can't. SO I agree to collect her in an hour from the monument. I tidy up, prepare something for lunch. And off I go, arriving at the cliffs a few minutes before Jools. It really is a wonderful feeling, being on the edge of the sheer drop, the wind in your hair, and France just visible amongst the clouds in the distance. I walk along the cliffs for a bit, taking snaps of the cliffs with the waves lapping the foot of them down below.

Mid-winter walk along the cliffs

We drive back home, make another cup of coffee and decide to take an early lunch of Scotch Eggs.

And then, the serious business of the day: going to see Nan. I have not seen Nan since her birthday. The reason for this was her stroke, and the possibility that she may not last long, and Jools said it would have been better to remember her the way she was. But, some ten weeks since her birthday, and I really had to go. THere is a smell about the home, not pleasant, and it feels like a prison every time I go. In fact it really is a prison for Nan now, as they have insisted that the sides of the bed are up and locked in position, so she cannot get out of bed, or reach anything she might need, even a glass of water, without calling for help.

If help ever were to come, of course.

Nan is now very frail, she is not wearing her teeth, and so looks like a child. It really is a pitiful sight, and she knows it too. It seems that all the people who live here, are now being forced to wear pads as the staff cannot respond in time to take them to their en suit facilities. Which is a shame as these will not now be used. Thing is, we cannot move her, as the move would probably finish her off. The home is now under investigation by the local council. The food is crap, the care is minimal, and for this she is charged just shy of three grand a month. Most of her savings have now gone, and she is miserable and just wants the end to come. Very sad to see, and we have no words to make it better, as there are none.

We stay for 90 minutes, and she is happy with that. She is lucid, and knows how crap it all is, which makes things just worse. We talk to the daughter of the lady in the next room, and she is as frustrated and powerless as we are. But it is good to know that she feels the same way about the lack of care.

We bid Nan goodbye at four, and go home for a brew and a slice of cake, because it is nearly Christmas.

Darkness falls, we put the heating up a notch and feel toasty warm. Lovely.


On paper, my final working day of the year, although I have only a little to do. Should take a couple of hours.

Jools still had a day and a half to do, so I lay in bed stretching as she got ready for work, nice bloke that I am.

She leaves at seven, I make a second coffee, put the birdseed out, and settle down to watch the recording of the previous day's football. Only to discover the TV had decided it should record Have I Got News for You instead. Oh well. So I watch that, and begin to get the schores done I have planned. The rain outside meant I postponed my walk until after lunch, but it then became clear that my back was not going to be happy about a walk, and so I thought a session on the Crosstrainer would be better. I do half an hour, and feel OK, and my back is not too bad.

I prepared breaded chicken and lentil dahl for dinner, which is just ready as Jools walks in the door. Perfect.

The evening moves on, we watch QI, listen to some music. The evening passes.

But, it is nearly Christmas. Even if it does not feel like it.

Monday, 22 December 2014

Monday 22nd December 2014


And relaxxxxxxx.

Saturday morning, no need to go shopping as Jools had already done that. So after a bit of a lay in, I get up to make coffee and cook bacon sarnies, after Jools reminded me that there was a pack left over from the previous week. So, what to do with the day, especially as the sun was due to shine. However, my back was grumbling, and grumbling loudly. So, after breakfast, we put on our walking boots for a short walk along the road.

Saturday morning leg-stretcher

It was soft under foot to say the least, and I found my back let me walk at one speed: slow. So, we kinda shuffled over the fields, where just before Fleet House a couple of ponies have taken up residence in the paddock. There were warnings on the fence surrounding the paddock asking the ponies not to be fed, and as we had no food with us, we could buy comply. The ponies were friendly enough, but did nibble our fingers just to check if we had any food with us.

Saturday morning leg-stretcher

We walked on to the pig's copse, and three well grown piglets came running over in the hope that we might have some food. We took in the views over to Ringwold, looking down the two lanes, but seeing that both were mudbaths, we decided to turn for home. My back agreed.

Saturday morning leg-stretcher

I listened to Fighting Talk, then settled down for an afternoon of football, as Norwich were kicking off at lunchtime playing top of the league Derby County. In a frustrating game, City took the lead only to concede twice in the 2nd half, but then dominated the remainder of the game, and scoring an equaliser in the final minute to claim a point. For the main batch of games, I decided this required extra concentration, so Molly and I took our places on the sofa and snoozed.

Saturday morning leg-stretcher

Outside day turned into evening and then got dark. In between snoozing I decorated the tree, so as it got dark the multi-coloured lights illuminated the room.

It's beginning to slightly feel like Christmas

We cooked breaded aubergine for dinner, washed down with a fine pint of Broadside.

Sunday, 21 December 2014

Sunday 21st December 2014


I think I forgot to say where we were in my last post. We were in a small town some 15 miles from the airport called Kirchhiem Unter Teck, an industrial town, set in what might have been nice countryside, or not, I did not see it during daylight hours, so impossible to say. At one end of the town was a large industrial estate, more of an industrial area really, where the supplier we were visiting were located.

And this was to be the final visit to be made with the customer of this phase of the project, although not much time to rest on my laurels as the next phase is due to begin in January, and indeed the towers are already being made, so things march on.

I wake up and am in no pain, but after a few minutes the ache begins and is soon morphing into pain. Oh well. At least my work bag has wheels, so the carrying of it is not that long, just up and down stairs. So, off we go.

I meet Anni for breakfast at seven: fruit, rolls and coffee as usual. Feeling like we could take on the world we set off for the factory a whole half a mile away. We arrive early, and so are well prepared for the day ahead.

All goes well once again, and when the customer announces they have a plane to catch at five, the afternoon session consists of just twenty minutes before wrapping up. A few hand shakes, and it was all over. After eight months, travelling in Denmark, Sweden, Germany and China, we had done it, all obligations carried out. Customer happy. Apparently.

Anni and I drive back to the hotel, I send a few mails out confirming the triumph, I get a call from the manager telling me well done, now relax and be ready for the really hectic period coming up. Yes sir!

Anni and I meet in reception at seven, but the whole Gasthaus is full of people drinking and getting ready for Christmas dinner. They appologise, but it is fine, there are a few other places in the village, and indeed a couple of hundred yards down the main road there is a Greek place, we walk there and upon entering I ask, Kooned wire mith Eurocard betzahlen? Meaning can we pay with our company credit card. We can, so take a seat, order two large beers and toast our success. Hoorah.

I plump for the simple gyros, always a winner. And it is good, and not too filling. One more beer and it is time to go back to the hotel, pack and get our heads down as tomorrow we go home. !


And here we are, time to go home and chill. But first we have to: pack, have breakfast, check out, drive to the airport, check in, security, etc, etc.

I cram everything in my case, and manage to close it! Always a good sign. And after breakfast we check out and are on the road by quarter to eight. The motorway is busy, but we make it to the airport in good time, find the drop off point, everything is good, so we were free to head to the departure hall. Sadly, BA says we can't check in until two hours before departure time, and there is no one at the desk, so I have 45 minutes to kill before we can check in. Anni is flying with Lufthansa, and she checks in and goes through security. I wait and people watch, all seems good. The airport is stunning again, and the supports for the roof with look like trees have been wrapped in fairy lights, looking amazing in the early morning sunshine.

Flughafen Stuttgart

Finally I drop my case off, queue for 20 minutes to get through security, meet up with Anni before, at ten, go to look for my gate. It is crowded, but we have our seats, so why worry? And being a business traveler now, I get to board first anyway! ha ha. I take my seat at the back of the plane, and watch as everyone else boards and tries to find a place for all their bags. Why not check it in?

We taxi to the end of the runway, the engines power up and off we go. The flight should take an hour and a half, but we make good time. So good is our pace, we have to hold over Essex for half an hour, circling over the same place for 20 minutes. We go over the North Weald airfield some three times before we turn and fly towards east London before turning along the river, getting lower and lower, heading in the different direction to when I land at City airport. The views are sensational, but my camera is in the hold, so you'll have to take my word for it.

And then were are skipping of the rooftops of West London, down and down until we land, slowing down. The trip, the working year, was over.

I am the very last one off the plane, as I am in no hurry. The arrivals hall is in chaos as hundreds of people are queuing to catch connecting flights, but why they have to queue for so long is beyond me, no other airport seems to do this. I breeze past, go to the line for the e passports. And in a couple of minutes I am through. I just have to get my case, then find the Heathrow Express station, and I will be set. Last time here, I had to wait half an hour for a train, but as I go down the escalator, I see a train waiting. I think it might leave before I can get down, but once the station matirx sign comes into view I see I have six minutes.

I slump into a seat, it seems to have been a long week. My back does not help, but both my cases have wheels, so I can get about with them. The train accelerates out of the station and into the tunnel that will take us to the GWML. Into the sunlight, through metroland and into the splendour that is Paddington. I know my way to the taxi rank, so walk briskly up to street level, I look at my watch: I have missed the quarter past one train, but should be in plenty of time for the one in an hour. The traffic seemed to have other ideas: Marylebone Road was chocker with traffic, as was Euston Road. But I get to St Pancras with half an hour to spare, I pop into M&S to get a sandwich and a drink. And by the time I make my way to the platform level, my train is arriving.

I get on, stow my cases, slump into a seat round a table. The final leg, then.

I share the table with a heavy smoker, as he smelt like an ashtray when he breathed out. He also played a loud game on his phone, and fielded calls from who was going to meet him at Ashford.

After he got off, silence returned to my part of the carriage, we slipped through the countryside as the sun sunk in the west and the shadows go ever longer. I got off the train, passed through the gates and into Dover. I had forgotten a doorkey, so I would have to wait for Jools. What better place to wait then that The Rack of Ale? I had a couple of pints, and tied the mead they had gotten in. All was good. All was good until I looked for my phone to realise I had left it on the train. And by now it was heading back for London.


Jools arrived, we went to the station on the offchance it had been handed in. It had, so I proved it was mine, signed a piece of paper, made a donation to the cleaners Christmas fund. We went home.

Un packed, said hello to the cats, Jools went to the chippy, so dinner was fish and chips and a huge cuppa.

The working year was over. Except for some paperwork, but that is for Monday. Until then, relax.

Saturday, 20 December 2014

Saturday 20th December 2014


I am writing this on Saturday morning. From here, Tuesday seems a lifetime ago. The reason for that will become clear as I write this post, but I have done a bit of travelling this week, almost as much as I have done through the year, except that week I went to China.

Friday was a day of work, rather than travelling, so up at the crack of dawn, I set the alarm, but the rattling of freight trans had woken me though the night, I look at the phone and I see it it is quarter to six. Time to think about getting up. THe time for getting up would be closer to half six, as it happens. I lay in bed, listening to the trains, and watch as lights play on the wall opposite to the balcony door.

I meet Anni for breakfast at half seven, as usual its fruit, yoghurt and a roll with nuttella. And coffee. Lots of coffee. With extra coffee.

It should be a simple drive to the factory, a couple of miles through the town, dodging trams and parked cars. The sat nav takes us through residential areas, wondering whether we were in the right place, but the other side of the junction, I see a factory. Looks like the right place. Turns out it was harder to get in than Fort Knox, after filling out endless paperwork, showing our cards, we have to wait in a plain room. Once our host arrives, we walk apparently round the entire factory to the meeting room.

And so the day begins.

As the day passes, my back begins to ache, I mean really ache, hurting in fact. Even sitting is painful. I struggle though. Being the little trooper I am.

Back at the hotel, I take drugs, and then meet our hosts for dinner in the restaurant below. It is all very nice, I have steak and beer. We talk and talk, and many of us swap stories about the more remote areas of the world we have visited, and the strange food we have eaten. There was talk of whisky, but I knew that would be a bad idea, I make my excuses and head back to my room and a chance to stretch out on the bed.


Another day of travel.

I say a day of travel, our flight is not until five to four, which means having to kill five hours after we have to leave the hotel at eleven. Despite being able to lay in bed until eight, I am awake before seven woken by the sound of freight trains once again, long before they can be seen passing through the station outside my window. I look out, and the city is waking up, but the only sound is from the railway.

We meet for breakfast again, but our quiet breakfast is spoiled by a Pole on the next table who slurps his tea very loudly, then takes a phone call and talks even louder. How rude.

Back in my room, I pack and catch up on work. IBy ten I can hear the cleaner in the room next door, so I decide to check out, load the car, and then wait for Anni. Time passes so slowly. Anni comes down just before eleven, she checks out, we load the car, program the sat nav and set off through Witten to the motorway and onto Dusseldorf. Driving on the autobahn is terrifying, cars hurtle by in the rain at what seems over 100mph. We are not in a hurry, we settle in behind a lorry and we make our way to the airport.

Finding the car hire return was hard, but we do make our way to the parking haus, round and round up the spiral ramp we go. No problem in dropping the car off, we sign a form and are free to go.

Dusseldorf Flughafen

Despite being more than four hours before the flight, we are able to drop our bags off and go through security. The airport is quite small, and apart from reading, checking for mails or people watching there is little to do. We have lunch, and then sit by the gate where we wait next to an elderly American couple, who are on the way to meet their son. Everything about the airport is amazing to them, the tiny planes, that we are travelling by bus to the plane. She is also doting on the pictures of little Prince George which were published: I tried to sell Price George to them on a buy one get the rest for free offer, but she is not impressed. All babies are cute, even poor ones. She makes a disparaging remark about Obama, so I say I'm going for a walk and don't go back.

Dusseldorf Flughafen

The afternoon crawls by, we break up the boredom with some window shopping, and going for a coffee in an Italian place. Our flight is called, so we go to the gate and we are allowed on board. As is usual, larger hand luggae is not allowed on, but will be put in the hold but able to be collected as we leave the plane at the end of the flight. Another thing for our American friends find amazing, as to them their prized possessions have been taken from them.

The flight last for an hour, it is dark and raining by the time we land in Stuttgart. Once again there is no problem in getting the hire car, we walk to the parking garage, program the sat nave: 15 minutes it says. But we had seen the traffic as we came in to land, it looked crazy out there. As it was. Traffic was dreadful, but we make steady progress, and for the most part, people are patient, there is little crazy driving, and after a few miles, traffic speeds up and we make the junction, and from there it is a couple of miles to our hotel, or gasthaus. We are expecting something like a Danish Kro, or British pub, and indeed turns out half the place is like that, but the hotel itself is a new build, and the rooms are wonderful. And Anni and myself are given the two suits on the second floor, both rooms are on two levels, with a separate living room, huge bed, black marble bathroom. I open my case and my shabby clothes spring out.

That evening we have huge bowls of soup, a local speciality, which is filling.

All very nice, and so is the thought that once last day tomorrow, and not only is it Christmas for me, but that marks the final contractual audit with the customer, and all done with only minor issues. A pleasant thought.

Friday, 19 December 2014

Friday 19th December 2014


At least this weekend I would not need to travel until the afternoon, but still, it had meant giving up a large portion of Sunday. Again.

But before then, I had the football to watch, coffee to drink and cats to cuddle. As you do. Outside, it was cold and frosty, but nothing better than sitting on the sofa with Molly whilst watching the footy and the birds out in the garden.

At ten, Jools went to see Nan, and I got to packing and generally getting ready for the traveling in the afternoon. I throw some clean clothes in my case, check in for the flight in the morning, check my work bag, and I’m done. We listened to Sarah Millican on Desert Island Discs, which was rather splendid I have to say, time then to dash to Witfield to see the old folks, do the dutiful thing and formally decline the offer of Christmas dinner.

Somehow the morning had passed, and it was lunchtime already. Black pudding flavoured Scotch Eggs and a huge brew.

Three o’clock came round, and it was time to leave for the station. As ever, no idea where the time went, other than it did go, and now it was time to leave. Rain was falling, as predicted, but that did not improve my mood. I get my ticket and board the train, 15 minutes to wait, so I check my mails and see who else is working at the weekend.

No one. Apparently.

We glide off, into the late afternoon which turns to dusk and night before I arrive in London. From Statford I catch the Tube to Waterloo, and then it was a short walk to the UJC. My booking is good, so I dump my cases in the room, grab my camera and go back down and out into the naked city.

I catch the tube back to London Bridge, go up the escalators and into the throng. The building work being done means I am a little disorientated, but I see the entrance to Hays Galleria, knowing that the river could be found through there.

Christmas at Hays Galleria, Southwark

I am never sure what Hays Galleria is supposed to be, the open ended end facing the river meaning it is no warmer than an open space, but hey, it looks festive with a huge Christmas tree in the middle, with the backdrop of the City behind.

A quick walk along the riverside walk to London Bridge, and over looking back to the grand vista that opened up, all illuminated by a million office lights that never go out.

Its behind you

Inside the City, there are very few people about. I walk up to Fenchurch Street, so I can snap the Walkie Talkie towering over me and all of London. Nearby I see the welcoming lights of Leadenhall Market. It is also empty, save for another large Christmas Tree at the main intersection of the market. One side passageway is decorated with flying books, a reference to Harry Potter I guess. I think it works anyway.

London Bridge skyline

From there I walk onto Lloyds, still looking so futuristic, even after 25 years or more. It is illuminated by blue light, which works well. Opposite the new Leadenhall Building reaches for the sky. Since I started coming up to London with Jools, we have seen the old building demolished, new foundations dug, and this monster built.

Leadenhall Market

From there I walk down Cornhill, past luxurious shops selling trinkets with people with more money than sense. Back at the Bank of England, there is traffic and people again, I walk on towards St Pauls, which I thought might look good at night. It did, it looked wonderful in fact.

Blue, blue, electric blue

I walk round the outside, crossing the street to take the Millennium Bridge, so I could take shots looking back towards the cathedral. Everyone else were using a tripod, but with the 6D I did not need one. Or so I thought. Correctly.

St Paul's at night

My thoughts now turned towards food, but the south bank was full of tourists, and had eateries either full or so expensive, even with the company credit card. In the end I find a place in Clink Street, beside the prison, I have a beer and order some kind of grilled spiced chicken. It was good, and just enough for me. With the second beer anyway.

I walk back to London Bridge, take the tube back to Waterloo and the club. I settle back to watch some TV, but is it me or are shows really dumbing down now. What could have been a 15 minute segment on the casts from Pompeii was turned into an hour long show, endlessly repeating itself. At least I did not shout at the TV.

I watch the football, before turning in, the sounds of the city leaking in around the curtains, it is an exciting place, but I’m pooped.


The alarm went off at quarter to six, I have nearly four hours before my flight, but even I should be able to get to Heathrow in that time.

I pack, well, put my toothpaste back in the case, I check out and walk up to the taxi ranks and say to the driver, can you take me to Waterloo? I paused, and said, aren’t we already there? Oh yes, make that Paddington.

Off to go, into the early rush hour traffic. We pass all sorts of famous places, including Buckingham Palace, no one seems to be up, we head on.

I buy the ticket for the train, even though the company is picking up the tab, £34 for a return trip to the airport seems very steep. But there really is little alternative, as the tube would take over an hour. So, into the dark morning we zoom, past commuter stations full of the bleary-eyed, and onto the airport.

Flying with BA means Terminal 5, so I hoped it would be painless. It was even better than that. I drop my case off at a desk with no queue, I wait ten minutes to get through security, and am now in the departure lounge, and I have over two hours to pass before flight time. I find a place for breakfast, and order a fry up: why not?

In WH Smith I bump into Tricky, are you Tricky I ask. He said he was. I told him I loved his music, which I do. He seems happy with that.

Heathrow Airport, 09:00 Sunday morning

The flight is rammed, and people are thronging to get on once it is called. I realize I am now a business traveler, and can get on via the fast track lane. I flash the card and walk on. Or shuffle on, as people now seem to be able to bring as much baggage as they want on board. One woman I counted had 5 bags in the cabin. Is this fair?

I slump in my seat at the back of the plane, whilst others file in, trying to find space for their bags. I close my eyes. I feel the plane move off, taxiing to the other side of the airport, but without waiting we are on the runway, the engines roar, and off we leap.

Into the blue sky, climbing as the skirt south London and then along the Thames, this time climbing higher and higher. The north Kent coast passes below us, over Whitstable, Herne Bay, and finally Thanet lays below, looking very crowded, but picturesque in the bright sunshine.

Cloud covers the view now, but less than an hour later we are descending towards Dusseldorf. It is gray, overcast and raining. Oh this is lovely. And I have a two hour wait for Anni, so after collecting my case I find a coffee shop by a large coffee and settle down to wait, spending my time people watching, as you do.

Anni arrives and we go to find the hire car, I have already programmed in the address of the hotel, so we set off for Witten, heading down various motorways, sorry autobahns, taking exit after exit, but we seemed to be on the right road.

Witten is wet and dark, we find the hotel by the main railways station: I hope I have a room overlooking the station I say. I do, so I spend a few minutes watching the comings and goings before I meet Anni at the rooftop café for coffee. And cake. Or waffle.

Witten, Germany

A bit daft at four, just a couple of hours before dinner, but the cakes looks so good, or the waffle with cherries and cream sounded so good. And it was.

We meet for dinner at half six, I have sauerkraut soup(!) followed by potato pasta or something with vegetables, which was mostly tinned carrots. It was OK, but not sensational.

Back in my room I get the computer working, and listen to the radio whilst outside freight trains rattle by.