Thursday, 30 April 2015

Thursday 30th April 2015


And like Tuesday. And Monday, I am working at home. I have the cats, almost unlimited coffee and an internet connection. Jools goes to work, I make a coffee and am ready for action at half seven, all ready to go. One of the things I guess we get used to here, is that we are on the edge of the village, and sometimes we see what you could call country things. Take this morning, as Jools left in her car, I went to the back door, and saw Molly and Mulder sitting on the bench on the patio, looking towards the bottom of the garden, kinda interested. I looked down, and there was a fox, as bold as you like, having a look around. It turned round, saw me and just carried on. After a while it jumped on the roof of the shed of the house at the bottom of the garden, and was gone. He was a handsome chap, or beautiful lady. Not sure which.

And, well, I check my phone for any urgent business, and so when I switch the computer on, it is on with the usual stuff, working through the inbox until I was up to date.

Lunch came and went. As did pot after pt of coffee. Collared Dove Streptopelia decaocto

I get the camera out, and the big lens so to snap the birds at the feeder, in the hope that something rare and/or unusual would come calling. But it is the usual suspects, so I snap starlings, doves and pigeons. Then go back to work.

In the afternoon I break out the power tools and get prepared, ready to spawn.

Wood Pigeon Columba palumbus

Spawn? I hear you ask. Yes, see, mushrooms now come as impregnated with mushroom spawn, ready to drill holes into a stump, put in the down and hey presto, in something between two and five years, we might get mushrooms. It would be an experience if nothing else.

I get the extension lead out, the drill, put in the 8mm bit, and begin drilling. Having not read the instructions, we have got it quite wrong, but we will give it a try. I drill and impregnate the tree stump and various off-cuts, then the cherry tree, and anything else I can see. That done, my back is screaming and so I have enough time for a brew before Jools is due back home.

I skin the aubergine, slice it, egg and breadcrumb it, and beging to fry it, as Jools came back home, she helped and soon enough we had a hooge plate of aubergine, a saucepan of pasta salad, and with the drinks poured. Time to eat.

And so we come to the end of the month. Well, with just the 30th to go. But I have achieved so much, and have a future ahead as there is talk of a new project. I have had a bonus, pretty much completed my travelling. So much to be so happy and proud of. Next month, well, who knows what the future will bring? I am so proud of having seen the project through. The customer is happy, and in a week or so, we should start to produce wiggly amps which begin to repay the investment, and I have played a part, a large part in that. Wow.

Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Wednesday 29th April 215


Outside the world was bathed in early morning sunshine, but mighty cold. Or at least felt it. And here I am working from home when I would rather be out looking for orchids. Or down the pub.

As usual, Jools left for work at seven, leaving me to have breakfast, wash up and get ready for work. And at half seven, I log on, read mails and the day begins to pan out. I keep refueled by lots of coffee and tea, a second breakfast, early lunch and listening to the radio when I am not on the phone.

Our house

The sun passed over the yardarm, so I take a coffee and sit on the bench outside in the afternoon sunshine, but with the wind back in the east it feels cool again, cool enough to have on a work jumper, which is double lined. I take the long-planned shot of the shiny fruit bowl I got from work a couple of months ago, and that came out well.

The day grows older, people in Denmark have gone home, I have answered my mails and done tasks for the day. I go back outside, read some more, then think about dinner. Thing is, the agreement was that we were heading out to look for orchids as the weather was going to change overnight, so dinner would have to wait until we came back, and then it might be eight. And then Jools gets stuck in traffic, so it is six by the time she returns. I make a brew and we have the last of the short cakes before we go out and drive to Barham.

Early Purple Orchid Orchis mascula

We park up, and even from the bottom of the hill we can see the blue carpet of bluebells, beyond which are the orchids.

Early Purple Orchid Orchis mascula

It was a struggle up the hill: a cyclist passes us, struggling but not quite as bad as us up it, and there, just a hundred yards or so are the first orchids. They are open, but the angle of the sun means the woodland is in deep shadow, and I have to do what I can to get shots. Sure, there are places with more orchids, in prettier settings, but these are hardly visited by anyone, so it could be we are the only ones to come here. I look for the Lesser Butterfly rosettes, but don't find any, but Jools find dozens of them down the hill: great news.

Common Twayblade Neottia ovata

Over the other side of the road we look at the masses of Twaybleds spikes growing. There are thousands, so dense it is like a carpet in placed. One is partly out, so I snap my 4th species in bloom after the Early Spider, Early Purple and Lady. Others are very close behind.

With the light fading we drive home, and once there I make a brew, and we have a snack for dinner. It is quarter past eight, where has the day gone I ask.

Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Tuesday 28th April 2015


Another day comes, and another day when I'm not travelling to an airport to jet off for some QA or QC related malarkey. Oh what fun those 18 months have been. But for a week, maybe just for this week, I have a week at home. Yes, at home with the cats. And because of the building work going on at Ramsgate means that unless i know I can get a desk there, I have to work home, with the coffee machine, the cats and the record collection. Able to go and sit in the garden for tea breaks, coffee breaks, elevenses, lunch, afternoon tea, high tea, brunch and any other meals I cannot think of.

Jools leaves for work, I watch a bit of football from Sunday, and at half seven switch the work computer on, check my mails, act on what they contain, update project documents. And like this the day continues.

Until the IT problems came.

And went on.

And on.

And on.

Until finally as the initial IT problem was fixed, Outlook crashed and no mails could be sent or received. I could monitor my inbox via my phone, but that was it for the day.

It was a glorious if cool day, and we had planned on heading for an orchid wood in the evening once Jools got home. However, half an hour before she arrived home, clouds began to roll in and the light was lost. Orchids are just not the same in under clouds than in sunshine. So, with a fair forecast for Tuesday, we postponed the trip to Tuesday.

So, after a snack for dinner. OK, let me write was I was going to, we had a snack for tea. What is it with growing up and all that, as a child dinner was at midday and tea was the main meal of the day. IN THE EVENING! So we had scotch eggs and some pasta salad for tea, then Jools went to visit Nan.

I pretended to tidy u and do stuff, until she came back and we had a brew with a short cake as tea part two. Outside the clouds meant it was getting dark early, so I started to follow the Bouremouth game on the BBC. It was always going to be a long shot, hoping the best team in the division lose both their remaining games. And needed just win to almost certainly ensure promotion in the 2nd and final automatic spot, the scored twice just before half time which settled their nerves.

Game over.

Even more interesting, or worrying, is City will probably play our arch-rivals, Ipswich, in the play offs. It will get nasty. And nervy.

Monday, 27 April 2015

Monday 27th April 2015


More rain.

Lots more rain.

THe cats were even more impatient Sunday than the day before, with Scully chasing her tail under the wardrobe, meaning I laid in listening to her bumping her head. OK, I'll get up. At quarter to six.

I feed them, then check the interwebs, make a coffee and sit down to watch the football. I miss Norwich's turn on the Football League show, and then watch the story of the previous afternoon's games in the Prem, with Leicester climbing out of the bottom four. All exciting stuff.

Snake's Head Fritillary Fritillaria meleagris

But we're still heading for the play-offs.

I warm up a baguette, or more accurately, its smaller brother, a baton. Lashed it with melted butter and marmalade. Along with a hoooge mug of tea, that's breakfast done. Before the rain arrives, we go outside to tidy up the garden, deadhead some daffs, as you do. Bu tthen the light drizzle turned heavier, so we abandoned the garden for elevenses and another cuppa.

Jools went to visit Nan, but she has an infection, is delirious and has been drugged to the eyeballs. She is sleeping. Jools leaves and comes back.

Bleeding Hearts

The rain continues to fall, so we settle into our usual routines, me on the computer and Jools beading upstairs. We have music playing, all seems well with the world.

With a gap in the clouds, we go back outside and transplant some ferns, as you do, then with the rain coming down, and football on the radio, I decide to prepare dinner: simple roast chicken, but with chestnut and sage stuffing. I had bought a bag of ready cooked chestnuts, so added them to the stuffing, and three sausages, skinned, and mixed them up. Stuffed the chicken, seasoned it, and popped it in the oven. Within 20 minutes the smell was wonderful. But it would be two hours before it was ready.

I prepared the veg, the Yorkshire pudding mix and slowly it came together. At half five all was ready, the puddings and roast potatoes just crispy and perfect.

And with Chelski and The Arse battling out a dull 0-0 on the radio, we finished up, cleared away and the evening was ours. The rain had stopped, but was cool and overcast. We played some records. Yes, records, the new PSB one, which is growing really strongly. And somehow the day faded to evening and that was that.

Another weekend gone, but next week it's a three day bank holiday.


I suppose I should add at this point, despite my writing about rain and wind and fog, it is spring here, It might not feel like it from time to time, but the garden is alive, stuff is growing everywhere. From the window upstairs, looking across the valley, it is so vibrant with the colour of spring growth. And on Sunday, the most certain sign of spring: the tree that is between us and the Dover Patrol Monument has now grown enough leaves as to obscure the monument, we will not see it again until the end of October at the earliest.

Elsewhere, everything is growing. What with the orchids, bluebells and the rest of spring, either in bloom or close. Its just that the wind is set in the east, and that takes the top off the temperature. It will warm up, probably very soon, and a nano-second later we Brits will complain about how hot and humid it is. Happens every year. It is light pretty much to eight in the evening, and the sun has risen before six in the morning now.

Sunday, 26 April 2015

Sunday 26th April 2015


The weekend.

The cats were restless. Its their job to be fair, so trying to have a lie in was impossible. I get up, feed the cats and make a coffee. We write a shopping list, we check it twice. Outside it was dull and grey, with the threat of rain and/or sea mist in the very near future.

Driving to Deal for what is now the regular visit to Sainsbury's. Now that we are not what you call young, we join other folks of over a certain age who no longer are able, or willing, to lie in, and so get their chores done nice and early before 'the crowds' are about. Sitting back home, having another coffee and breakfast before the sensible world is awake.

That is us.

Jools had a bead class, and I was going to go with her and wander around Folkestone whilst she did her beading thing. But with the gloomy weather being the way it was, I stayed home, made a batch or short cakes, listened to the radio, and generally messed around. I even fired a few work mails off too. I also listened to the radio, Danny Baker and then Fighting Talk, a perfect Saturday, perfect if the weather does not allow orchid snapping of course.

At midday it was all about horse racing: the champion jockey was retiring, but the whole sport leaves me cold, and so I switched it off, and so began the great football avoidance. See, with two games to go in the season, Norwich needed to win both games and hope that two of the three teams above lost one of their two games. Desperate stuff all round. I did not want to spend the whole afternoon listening to the radio and swearing at my Twitter feed, so what with the BBC saying the weather was going to break through by mid-afternoon, the plan was to drive to Stockbury, snap the bluebells and orchids. Take Jools and my mate Gary, and not have the radio on at all. Sure, I would wonder how the game was going, but by the time we got back, it would all be over and I would just be able to look at the results.

And then swear.

Lady Orchid Orchis Purpurea

We went to pick up Gary from River, and as we drive along the A2, the clouds did part and the sun did break through. It was going to be a glorious afternoon after all. After loading a lot of camera gear into the car, we drive to Folkestone then up the M20 to Maidstone, then up the downs to Stockbury, parking at the top of the wood. And even from there were could see the carpet of bluebells.

Lady Orchid Orchis Purpurea

We grab our gear, and walk through the bluebells and wood anemones to the clearing, and from 100m away, I could see the bright purple of the orchids. Oh how wonderful is spring in an English wood? I walk on, using the nifty fifty to snap some general scenes, especially of the bluebells, making my way down the site to the bottom, past the glade to where the Lady Orchids are. There were about 50 spikes and rosettes, but one spike had three open flowers, glistening in the sunlight filtering down through the tree canopy. This is what it is all about, much better than football.

Lay Lady Lay

I walk back up, meet up with Gary who has got his shots, and together we walk to the Early Purples, and so got many more shots. It is glorious when the sun comes out from behind a cloud, and it's like someone has thrown a light switch as the orchids change from a dull violet to bright purple.

Early Purple Orchid Orchis mascula

We drive back to Dover, dropping Gary back home on the way. I switch on the computer to find that City drew 1-1 with Rotherham, and had a player rightly sent off. It was a last minute equaliser from Rotherham too. To make it worse, Middlesborough lost, so a win would have taken us 3rd. But Watford won, and the two results for City and Boro meant they were promoted. Bournemouth play on Monday, and a win for them in either of their two remaining games means they will get automatic promotion. Bugger. So, the play-offs it is then, lets hope we get the wheels back on before the real scary shit start in some 12 days.

Early Purple Orchid Orchis mascula

I cook breaded pork, with cous cous, asparagus and baby leaf spinach. It were great.

The day ended with me watching a documentary on tour buses hosted by Rick Wakeman. It passed the time. Outside a fox came back repeatedly to clear the food left for the badgers. It was a handsome fox, but it could have been female, in which case it was beautiful. And pretty fearless. THe fat balls went, then the pork fat, and then all the peanuts. A balanced fox diet.

Return to the Kentish bluebell wood

Saturday, 25 April 2015

Saturday 25th April 2015


It is funny, after another few weeks of travelling, I find myself at home at seven in the morning, once Jools has gone to work, with the day stretching out before me. All is quiet, even the cats are out doing their stuff. I have breakfast, another coffee and begin work.

And so with the sun shining outside, I work the day through, dealing with each crisis in turn.

Lunch comes and goes, and as I work at the computer sat at the dining room table, my back began to grumble. I mean really getting painful. The only thing I could really do as sitting, standing and even walking round the garden, nothing lessened the pain. So, I put on my walking boots grabbed my camera, and set out for a walk to Windy Ridge.

Thursday evening walk to Windy Ridge

It was about four, although wall to wall sunshine outside, the easterly wind was still keen, and so wearing a fleece was essential. I walk out along the track at the end of the road, on either side the fields are now showing the season's crop, although I have no idea what the crop might be. The soil is bone dry, as are the paths and tracks. At the pig's copse, the wood is still empty, and it seems that there will be no porkers there this year. The view over the downs to Kingsdown was as wonderful as it always is, but the colours a tad more vibrant than before.

Thursday evening walk to Windy Ridge

I walk on down past the farm, and on the other side a herd of young heifers were very interested in me, but once they began to paw the ground in that comedy way bulls do in cartoons, I thought maybe their curiosity was waning and they might now me angry. So, I walk on.

Thursday evening walk to Windy Ridge

Up the hill, there were fields of oilseed, all bright yellow, dazzling technicolour in the spring sunshine.

Thursday evening walk to Windy Ridge

The wood was quiet, I have no idea why no bluebells or orchids grown here, but there is a carpet of wood anemones all green and white.

Thursday evening walk to Windy Ridge

At least my back feels better, so I walk back down the ridge, walking slowly along the track home, in the hope of seeing a Holly Blue, but despite the strong sunshine, there are no butterflies on the wing, and certainly no Holly Blues.

Thursday evening walk to Windy Ridge

Once Jools comes home at half five, we have coffee and a bar of chocolate, and then the plan is to drive to Sandwich Bay to check up on the Green-Winged Orchids growing on the golf course. With the sun getting low in the west, there is a fine golden light over East Kent. Through Walmer and Deal, and then past the golf course, along the narrow twisty lane to Sandwich Bay. Sandwich Bay is a private estate, and the owner charges something like four quid for access, but at the end of the day, the booths are un-manned, so we drive through, past the mansions and onto the road along the beach.

Green-winged Orchid Anacamptis morio

At the right spot, we pull over, get the camera gear out, and begin to hunt for the orchids. Like all seaside locations, it is a bit windswept, and it might have been too early, but there was the hope that in the lea of a dune slack, a micro-climate might allow for a spike to flower. And indeed this was the case, Jools calls out, and there was a single flowering spike, all blooms were open, and looking so bright purple in the golden sunshine. I snap it a few time, getting clear shots of the green rips under the hood. No problem with the ID of this orchid!

Green-winged Orchid Anacamptis morio

Having snapped our prey, I am happy, and now thought turn to dinner. And the choice is endless. One of the places we have not been for a while is the Old Lantern in Martin. It's quiet, but the beer and food is good. The Deal road is closed in the evenings due to roadworks, so it is quiet as we drive to the turning to Martin Mill, down past the station, under the bridge and up the hill into Martin. The pub is quiet, we get a corner table, and order our food. I have steak and ale pie and a pint or two of Spitfire.

Outside as we leave, the air is alive with bats chasing moths as the evening is just warm enough. Above the crescent moon and Venus are shining bright, showing us the way home.


I needed the car, which means I have to take Jools to work and then drive back. Hythe is just a handful of miles away. Just the other side of Folkestone, should be so simple. However, it seems that Kent County Council is intent on digging up every road in the county, making even the most simple of journeys masterpiece of route planning. But sometimes you just have to put up with the traffic lights and delays. On the way back, there is then the carziness that is the traffic monitoring system on the A20, which means on a dual carriageway between Folkestone and Dover, all traffic is limited to 40mph. Even if there are no queues. However, it seems foreign lorry drivers have relaised that the cameras probably won't lead to a fine, so we have the crazy situation of all cars tootling at 40, whilst lorries hurtle passed in the outside line at nearly 60.

So down Old Folkestone Road, and then getting caught up in the school run traffic. I crawl through Dover, up Connaught Hill and then get caught up in the traffic at the Duke of York's roundabout. Deal Road is jammed with traffic too, I take a further 5 minutes to cross through it to the road to St Maggies. An hour and 40 minutes after leaving home, I get back home. Nearly half past eight. So, on with the computer to find that as usual, the shit has hit the fan. I try to put out more fires until the meeting at 11.

As I have chores to run, I bale the meeting at quarter to twelve and head into Dover for an appointment. Just by pure chance, me coming out coincides with the chance to snap a heritage train heading through Dover, so I go down to Ayecliff, park on the main road, and walk through the underpass beneath the A20, and down the steep steps to the footbridge over the line. I have a 20 minute wait for the train, a couple of walkers go past giving me odd looks as I am standing on a bridge with a camera with a hooooge lens. As you do.

Thumper enters the rabbit hole

It comes, I get a shot I had noticed as I waited, looking through the portal of the tunnel, and the yellow front of the train showing up in the sunshine at Samphire Hoe. I wait for it to come through the tunnel, and much to my surprise, it was rattling on at a fair rate of knots. I switch to my other camera, getting shots as it passed beneath me and on towards Dover.

So Thats All Good

All that was left was the long climb up the cliffs, in the warm sunshine, dodging the dog shit left by careless owners.

Back home I have lunch, I check my work mails. I have some thinking to do before I respond, so I decide to mow the lawn as rain is due over the weekend. Once done I still am thinking. And so put of the e mail hand grenades for another day.

At three I leave to go to collect Jools from work, it is clouding over, so no need to think about going to visit the Hoe for more orchid shots, but I can't resist, so go anyway, but the wind is really blowing, and the orchids bopping like hooped clubbers at a rave. I give up and walk abck to the car and drive to Hythe, where Jools is walking across the green to meet me.

Once home we have coffee, more chocolate, and I prepare and cook chorizo hash. Which is good. Very good.

We sit down at half eight to watch The Don. I am turning into my gandparents, just need a teasmade to make a cuppa at half four in the morning.

Friday, 24 April 2015

Friday 24th April 2014


The hotel in Ijmuiden was full of Japanese or Korean tourists. I had bet them the evening before when all of them, and their luggage, tried to get in the lift I was trying to go up to my room in. THat there were just a dozen steps to reception which they had to climb, no, we must use the lift, they must have thought. In addition, what is that fat man doing in our lift when we want to go out 2m to the reception level? In which case, I decided I would try to be out of the hotel before they found the breakfast bar.

And so at dawn, or something close to it, I was awake, had a shower and packed. Downstairs I paid the bill, loaded the car and went for breakfast, just as the first of the tourists arrived looking for food. I have nothing against tourists, certainly from neither Japan or Korea, just don't interfere with my morning schedule. That's all.

After breakfast of cereal and a roll with sprinkle. Yes, sprinkles. When in Holland you eat sprinkles on your bread, it am the law. And I like to blend in, unless it is eating pickled fish or something like that.

At the office it was a day of fighting fires, I can't remember what my plan for the day was, but it seemed out of control from the outset. And got worse.

I drew the line in the sand, and said at two I was going to the airport for my flight home. And on time I switched the computer off, and loaded the car, said goodbye to everyone. And I was off. Holland is well served by roads and railways, and yet the roads are crowded. Very crowded. I decided to take thinks easy, and just drive at 100kmh. Seemed to work. Near the airport there are roadworks going on, been going on for years apparently, and still not done. So you have to drive past the airport, past another part of it, turn round at a junction and drive past it all again. It works, I get to the parking garage, drop the keys off, the car is checked, and then just the 2km hike to departures. At least most of the way is via travelators.

I have checked in, and have printed my boarding pass, and so all I have to do is hand my baggage in. Now this is done by self-service, and yet seems to require more staff than before. Seems to be the modern way, but I drop the case off, it is scooped away by a robot, and I can go through immigration, and from there it is a ten minute walk to the gate, passing the Irish bar.

Only I don't pass the Irish bar, no I go in, order a pint of red and a plate of nachos, which seemed a bargain at €10. Only it was in competition with the travelodge at LCY for providing the worse plate of nachos in Christendom. How is it possible to mess nachos up? Should be a crime. The cheese was cheese slices, you could tell this as they had melted in clear squares on the plate and doritos. I munch my way through them, watching the news on CNN guessing what they were talking about by the Dutch subtitles. The great horseradish shortage I warrant.

I treat myself to a second pint.

I walk to the gate, and realised I needed to find the facilities. Darn you beer!

The flight is called, all the tiny-minded folks fight to be first on the half full plane. Why? I amble on, and fall asleep in my set. Put your blind up, seat rest down. I am told.

Another one of those taxis longer than the flight jobs, as we seem to go round and round Schipol, until we find a runway, the engines roar, and off we spring, and into the air. My camera was in the case above me, something I would regret over London, but for now Holland is hidden beneath thick cloud.

Blighty hoves into view below with a glimpse of Clacton. Oh, lovely Essex. We cross the Thames, and skirt round south London before the usual turn at Crystal Palace and again at Battersea. I have wonderful views as we fly low over London, and with a final turn over London Bridge, I had a great view looking down the length of The Shard. It was wonderful, but you have to take my words for it, as I said, did not have my camera. It was like four feet above my head, but hey ho.

Down we go, bouncing onto the runway. At least we can get off pretty much straight away as there is no valet case thing. They even open the rear door, so I am one of the first off, walk down to immigration, show my passport at the machine and I am through. I have to wait ten minutes for my case, and in doing so I miss the train that would have gotten me to home 40 minutes earlier. I climb up to the DLR station just in time to see my last chance to catch the earlier train, another train in this case, leave the station. IN the 8 minutes to the next one, my connection at Stratford would arrive and leave.

It does mean I have the chance to grab a coffee and a cookie before my train. I hope that as this train just goes to Dover it might not be as full as the usual ones I catch. WRONG, it is rammed with people, we on the platform just get on, me with my cases. I have to ask someone sitting in the luggage rack to get off so I can put my cases up.

But we are all on, and we are going home. Or I am.

At Ashford most get off, and I get a seat, and so watch the spring countryside roll by as we get to Folkestone, then along to Dover. Jools is waiting. Time to go home.

We have cheese and beans on toast for dinner, and half a bar of chocolate each. We had each other. And cats. And I was home.

Thursday, 23 April 2015

Thursday 23rd April 2015


Tuesday morning dawned bright and clear. A perfect a spring day as it is possible to have. With the only drawback having to go to work. I opened the curtains and go out onto the balcony, and find the sun just rising in the east, casting warm light over the dunes in front of me.

A walk through Keukenhof

Time for a shower, pack my work case and go down to breakfast, ready for the stress of the day. As is usual, I begin the day with a buttered roll with sprinkles, and a coffee or two.

And so, here we go, back to the office and into battle.

A walk through Keukenhof

The short drive past the yet to open fish markets, fish processing plants and fish factories, past the cruise terminal and to the office. All were there already, or so it seemed. I sign in, find a spare desk in ‘my’ office, and settle down for a day of slog and meetings.

In fact it was not that bad, regular breaks for talks and chats with colleagues, and where the project is. Since yesterday and flying over the farm, two more turbines have been installed, and it seems like it is accelerating. An out of control train is about the right description.

A walk through Keukenhof

At three, I stop for the day: I have my caera, and am up to date at work, and I see that the world-famous garden at Koekenhoff is just a 40 minute drive away. And being a manager, I give myself two hours off, and so pack up, load the car, program the sat nav and set the air con to cool, and set off of tulip country.

I had imagined huge queues leading to the gardens, but they never appeared: if anything things were worse leading from the garden, and I arrived within 5 minutes of the estimated time, parked up and walked toe 100m to the entrance. €22 saw me pay the entrance fee and the parking fee, and so I walked in, joining the masses of Japanese and grey haired flower snappers inside.

A walk through Keukenhof

Now I could describe in great detail the colours, textures and smells I encountered inside, but words cannot describe. It was a perfect spring afternoon, clear blue skies above, and beds and beds and beds of flowering bulbs nestling among the trees in the sunshine. As a school kid I got told off by a teacher for taking 24 pictures, a whole film, here alone back in 1977. What would they think now as I filled a 32 meg memory card with image after image of spring colour?

A walk through Keukenhof

I did not care.

The beds are scattered around a series of ornamental lakes, under the shadow of mature trees, that have yet to produce leaves. It clearly is man made, and yet, it works. People are asked, and mostly, they do keep off. Paths wind their way through the woods, beside the lakes and inbetween the beds. It is glorious. Maybe it was because I was there in the late afternoon that the crowds were light, and thinning out as time went on. Surprisingly, there were few oportunities to buy bulbs: I saw one place set up, but you had to choose from a catalogue, and there was a mighty queue to wait in turn to see the selections. I decided to snap the names of what I liked and order later.

A walk through Keukenhof

However, after a while there is only so much bulb on bulb action one can take, and after consulting the map, I see there was an orchid house, I walk there, via a faux canal, a transplanted windmill and a walled garden to the orchid house. Being mostly far eastern, they left me cold, as I know where hardly local orchids could be found. Heck, I might go and look at a few this weekend. Chances are 100%.

A walk through Keukenhof

I walk back to the car, program the sat nav for the hotel, and venture out into the traffic, dreading hours and hours spent in queues. But, there were none. I took a winding road through picturesque towns, yet actal natual woods and past many, many fields of multi-coloured bulbs to Haarlem, and onto Ijmuiden. Back inside my room by half six, eating dinner by seven.

A walk through Keukenhof

It was another one of those great days. And one I was paid to do. Two beers, a chicken burger. Perfect. And again no internet, so I spend the evening watching football before going to bed at a sensible time.

Dutch in its purest form

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Wednesday 22nd April 2015


I thought I had said goodbye to all this: having to travel on a Sunday. But then it is probably my fault as I said I would travel any time. On Monday. Little did I know there was a flight at ten to eight, and a quit calculation on my part soon realized that there was no way I could get to the airport on Monday morning, therefore, I would have to travel on Sunday, if I could find a hotel room, and battle with the evil that is the rail-replacement bus. As Sundays is the day when engineering work is carried out.

But before then, there was coffee. And football. And bacon.

Coffee. Football. Bacon. Coffee.

Now I am ready to face the day. Only it is cloudy, windy and cold outside. We do some gardening, and what with one thing and another, the day was just frittered away. We sit in the garden drinking yet more coffee, eating chocolate, the cats come round, seeing what we were doing. Did we have any food for them?

Looking back it seemed we spent all day eating: scotch eggs for lunch, then some stewed rhubarb and cream to follow. I listen to some football, pack, have a shower, listen to some more football. And at six, it is time to head to the station. This time Ashford, as all lines out of Dover are closed due to engineering, and so the easiest thing is to drive to Ashford, grab dinner on the way, so I don’t have to suffer with the foot at the Travelodge in London.

We stop at Burger King, it is crap food, but sometimes it hits the spot. So, two chicken burgers, fries and a coke, and we are done. 15 minutes up the motorway to Ashford, I have 10 minutes to get a ticket, get up onto the platform. I make it just as the train is pulling in. I get a seat. We are treated to a wonderful sunset and evening as we zoom north, the sky is all reds and pinks, turning to purple and black.

Off at Stratford, a walk to the DLR station, and a short trip to the airport, and finally a short walk to the hotel, where it is even more short-staffed than last time. It is nine in the evening, and I am shattered, all I want to do is get my key and chill for half an hour before bed. But the electronic key does not work. The receptionist tries to reprogram the door lock, which takes more time, and in the end once I get in, I decide to stay in, just in case the does not work.

London City Airport

I flick through the TV channels, but nothing on, only a Star Trek film, it diverts my attention for a while. I catch the news, and then, it is time for bed, as I have to be up at half five in the morning. The news is full of the election, no real news on policies, just Tory Boy slating all others and tarring them with scare stories. Rather than talk about his record as PM. As is the way.


I woke up at ten to six. Outside the traffic was jumping, the whales were humping, and everyone was working from nine to five. Or something. OK, so there was no whales, but there was traffic.

I got dressed, packed and went downstairs to hand the key in and walk the five minutes to the airport. In the east, the sun rose like a very angry blood ornage, turning the sky very angry. I knew I should not have had that cheese the night before. Taxis were running to the airport, then getting stuck in traffic after the drop off, I was happy knowing that I was as fast as the traffic beside me, and it was costing me or the company nothing.

Take off from LCY

Instead of admiring the sunrise, I went into the terminal, checked in and went up to security. I had an hour, so I had breakfast. I tried to order poached eggs on toast, which had ordered from the place before, but he tried to make me order eggs benedict or eggs royale. Or some other fancy egg-based muck. So I called his bluff and ordered a full English, but with COFFEE! Ha ha ha.

It was good. I had another coffee. Paid the bill. Wandered a bit. Bought the new Al Murray book, and watched the departures board. Like everyone else.

The flight was called: Amsterdam here we come.

Flight to Amsterdam

Only we had to wait for the plane, or some other such rubbish. Then it had to be re-fueled. Like any ful no. The they let us on board. Then we had to wait. And wait. And wait, so we were like 20 whole minutes late leaving. Bastards.

I made them serve me fresh orange juice to make up for it. Although everyone else got it too. But not until we had defied the laws of gravity, buy obeying the laws of flight, using a combination of thrust and lift, we soared into the air, over the w=swarming mass that used to be the east end, but now is mainly hedge fund managers sipping triple skinny machatos. Or something.

Flight to Amsterdam

We flew along the Thames, out over Essex, leaving dear old Blighty behind, not knowing when I would be back. Until I looked at my e ticket and it said Wednesday.

40 minutes they said the flight would be, so why did it seem to take like forever to cross the Channel? Hmmm. We got lower, went round and round, passing over a new wind farm being built. I counted the turbines that had been installed, they were on the tenth. I realized that this was MY project, MY windfarm. It wasn’t a dream and Bobby was not in the shower!

Yes, it is all too real, and somehow I am this manchild playing the part of the renewables hot shot in this man’s world. How on earth did I get away with it? I have no idea. But here I am, about to land in naughty Amsterdam, for three days or meetings and wind turbine related malarkey.


I know the airport by now, I know where immigration is. I know where the baggage reclaim is. I know where the car hire place is. I even know where to collect the hire car from. However, once I am out on the mean streets of Holland, I take the wrong direction and am driving south, thinking theres something not quite right here.

Flying over Ijmuiden

I argue with the car as to how the sat nav works. Or how it should work. The car does not listen, and instead I have to do it the way the four wheeled monster wants. But once we both agreed as to where we were going, I found a way to turn round, and off we went to wonderful Ijmuiden an Zee. Up the motorway, beside the canal, and into the town, past the fish factory, past the other fish factory, round the fish factory, and between some more fish factories. Past the cruise terminal, and onto the office.

Ijmuiden an Zee

Work. Coffee. Work. Coffee. And so on until six.

I drive the 400 yards to the hotel. Those last 50 are the worst. I check in, drop my bags in the room, grab the camera and go for a walk. It looks warm, it should be warm, but with the wind in the east, it feels cold. But being made of English fibre, or fat, I wear no coat, wear no scarf tied in a fancy dan way, now, armed with just a camera and a photographer’s eye, I walk to the dunes, over then and onto the beach. Where the tide has gone out, people are flying kites, and worried looking beach bar tenders look for custom.

Ijmuiden an Zee

But I have photography on my mind, and if that means getting salt water on my hundred pound boots, thus ruining them all in the name of getting the shot, so be it.

The seagulls flee at my artistic integrity, I snap away.

Ijmuiden an Zee

Back in the hotel I order burger, fries and a beer. And inbetween sips of dark ale, I read Al Murray. Not a bad evening after all. And, remember, somehow I am getting paid for this. I draw the line at Crème Brulee, but there is always tomorrow night I tell myself. The internet in my room does not work, so I watch a bit of TV, and go to bed before half ten for once. But only just before half ten. Standards have to be upheld you know.

Sunday, 19 April 2015

Sunday 19th April 2015


A day off.

I hope.

I say that as the project now forges ahead 7 days a week if the weather allows, even if I do not. So, I leave my phone on in case of emergencies and/or questions. All very grown up.

It was a glorious spring day, but once again with a keen east wind which took the top off the temperatures, and made the unwary feel cold without a coat. As seems to be usual, I drive to Sainsbury's at seven, to pick up a few bits and pieces, spending less than thirty quid, and only the bacon for breakfast was the item not on the list. Deal is waking up, cars filled all the parking spaces along the seafront, and fishermen were paying to get onto the pier for a session of worm-dangling. Such things are not for me.

Early Purple Orchid Orchis mascula

Back home for an hour or so, I cook the bacon, very crispy, which is the way to have streaky bacon butties. That done and washed up, we then have a plan for the day: drive to Stockbury to see the orchids and bluebells, then down the A2 to Preston to the butcher and the garden centre. And back home for lunch. Or a late lunch, you know.

The M20 was pretty quiet, and as we were not in a hurry, we amble up through Folkestone, Ashford to Maidstone before turning off and drive up Detling Hill to Stockbury. Despite the A249 being a main link road between the two motorways, and always busy, just a hundred yards off it, there is peace and quiet, if with the soundtrack of the the passing traffic below in the valley.

Early Purple Orchid Orchis mascula

After parking the car, we walk into the wood to see that the bluebells are almost at their peak, but not quite. You have to look along at flower-head level to seee the blue, otherwise it is just a hint. But still, with the vibrant greens of the bluebell leaves and the new growth of the trees, contrasting with the blue of the flowers, it makes for a fine sight. And in the clearing, even from a hundred yards away, I could see the bright purple of an orchid or two. And as we got close, maybe a dozen spikes already in flower, reaching for the sky. And again, despite it being windy, here in the woodland clearing, there is no wind, and is very warm indeed.

Early Purple Orchid Orchis mascula

I take shots of the orchid, many, many shots, as you would expect. Further along in a couple of places, there were Early Purples mixed in the with bluebells, showing brightly amongst the blue, caught in a beam of dappled sunlight. Oh, spring in England, there is nothing quite like it.


Down the hill, in another clearing, a dozen Lady Orchids are spurting, with one spike already showing a flower head. Although none are open, it will only be a matter of days. A pleasant surprise then.

We meet back up at the car, what to do? Oh the serious stuff; the butcher the garden centre. OK, it does mean trying to pull out onto the main road, something that if others saw us trying to emerge would move over to give us room: but that would be too easy, and so we have to wait for a gap and try to get out and accelerate as quick as possible. Down the M2, then on the A2 to Catherbury before turning off to Wingham to Preston. The boys are in good spirits, and we chat about football whilst they get my order ready. Jools goes to the garden centre to look for some pots for the front garden. Needless to say when I join her ten minutes later, we get different stuff than she wanted, but this is what happens when I get enthused I suppose.

Springtime in St Maggies

We have a boot-full of pots, plants, so I have to tootle back home so not to damage the pots, which makes for a pleasant drive in the sunshine.

Back home we have bowls of heart soup, and I have the football to listen to. Despite Norwich not playing, I have to keep an ear out for our rivals, even if all three of them have stolen a march on us. The only bright spot was when Bournemouth conceed a 94th minute penalty to go from sure fire-promoted to being back amongst the pack. Its so close. Two games each left, and nerves of steel needed.

For dinner we have the finest steak, fresh asparagus, sauteed potatoes and garlic mushrooms, with a bottle of quite expensive champagne. This is to celebrate the end of the inspections, 5 years with the company and maybe the new project. Wow, hard to take in, really. The steak is glorious, as is the rest of the meal. I watch the end of the FA Cup semi-final with Reading playing Arsenal: not a bad game, settled when the Reading keeper misjudged a poor shot and it squirmed from his grasp and through his legs into the net. Game over.

Saturday, 18 April 2015

Saturday 18th April 2015


It is 19 years since Dad passed away. I don't make a deal of it on the day, or any day to be honest. Not a day goes by when I don't think about him in some way, so I don't get too maudlin on the actual anniversary. Nor any day, really. Mum usually reminds me the week before, as she did this year, and I make the same comment as ever, much as I have written above. I think it is far better we show those who we love how we feel when they are alive than make up for our shortcomings in their death. That is my lesson. Or hers. I can say I did not really understand him at the time, but we did make up just before he died, and we had that one glorious last Christmas, I would not have missed that for everything in my life.

Other people come and go, but there is really only one Dad. As it turned out, I had hoped that our shared love of all things yellow and green would have something really great to celebrate last night, we had our third from last game of the season, against Middlesborough, and whoever lost it would deal a death-blow to their automatic promotion. Boro scored an early goal, and shut up shop, and City could not break them down, time ran out without us scoring. Boro went top, we sunk to 4th. Oh dearie me. So, it will be the play-oofs for us, best get used to the idea and not feel sorry for ourselves.

The day began with a dentist appointment.

Well, after dropping Jools of at work, there was time to go back home, have breakfast and after cleaning my teeth again, I went into Dover for the appointment. I needed a filling, and as it was looking bad, another appointment was booked in for later in the morning, but no point in going home, so I wander round Dover, mixing it with the early shoppers and drinkers in the Eight Bells. At eleven I was back inside and in the chair, this won't hurt he lied. Why is it that our South African dentist has been replaced by another South African? How odd.

So at quarter past twelve, with a numb mouth, dribbling, I was free for the day. And as I have to travel on Sunday again, despite me thinking those days were behind me, I decided to grant myself the afternoon off as I would be putting in a shift on Sunday.

I drove don onto the Hoe to look at the Early Spider Orchids. I had heard from a friend some were out, and Mark even told me where they were. So, I walked past the rail workers who are down there trying to stabilise the cliffs above the main line, they watched wondering what I could be doing, as I walked along, with eyes on the ground, always looking for something.

Early Spider orchid Ophrys sphegodes

Three quarters of the way along, I saw the first flowering spike, barely that as the flower head was barely visible. However, it was the first orchid of the season, and I was going to snap it. Further along there were more and more spikes, some open, some had more than one flower. I snapped them. In truth macro photography was difficult with a very strong east wind blowing, I had to use a 250th second shutter speed to freeze the orchid, and hope that it would be in focus.

Early Spider orchid Ophrys sphegodes

I gave up and walked back to the car and decided to drive to another site. I knew that the downs would not have that much as yet, so I knew a sheltered wooded down, where Flys are a speciality, but Early Purples can be see there too.

Stone Street was blocked some way up, so I thought of heading through Stelling Minis to get round where I thought the black was. Turns out I could have got there without trouble, but I did not know that, and anyway, tootling along the Kentish country lanes is such a pleasure, I really did not mind.

Early Purple Orchid Orchis mascula

Across Stone Street, and down the lane, more of a track really, to where the small lay by is, I reverse in, and just a few yards in there are hundreds of orchids.

I grabbed my gear, and made my way into the reserve. The Lady Orchids were not yet showing, but further along I saw dozens of Twayblade rosettes, with hundreds of Bee Flys flitting about. I snap them, and a Peacock Butterfly too. Up the track, at the familiar clearing, dappled sunshine picks out a few flowering spikes of the Early Purples, maybe half a dozen of them.

Early Purple Orchid Orchis mascula

Even further along, I reach the clearing, and there is not a breath of wind to be felt either. There are more rosettes showing, but few inspects on the wing, but I do see a Brimstone, but it long gone by the time I have my macro lens fitted and walked over to where I saw it last.

Early Purple Orchid Orchis mascula

Along narrow lanes I make my way to the Granville on Stone Street, where I knew there would be some fine food and ale on offer for the hungry orchid hunter. My mouth was no longer numb, and the pain of the dentist chair was fading. I have fish cakes and a portion of fries, washed down by a pint of Early Bird. It were great.

There was just time to go to the other major orchid site nearby, but after making my way along the narrow dead end lane, I find the parking space blocked by a landrover and trailer. The farmer asks me nicely if we don't park there any more, as the gate opposite is in regular use, and in truth it saves a ten minute walk, which is not a bad thing is it? So, I back down the lane, make my way round the wood to the parking area on the other side. Grabbing my gear, I just have a walk down the long tree-lined track.

Into the reserve, and I expect to see Early Purples by the gate. They are there, but just rosettes, and no spikes. Oh well, may as well check on all the other species that can be found here. I see thousands of spikes, or something close to that anyway: Lady, Greater Butterfly, White Hellebroine amongst others. I walk to the far end, in the hope of seeing some Duke of Burgundy butterflies. Lots of their foob plants, but no butterflies. Oh well.

I look at my watch and I realise I have less than half an hour to get to Hythe to meet Jools out of work. So, I walk back to the car, and try to work out the best way thus avoiding the blocked road. I manage it, turn onto Stone Street, which was very quiet what with it being a dead end now. Stone Street is an old Roman Road, so is dead straight, and the temptation is to put your foot down, but there are junctions, and there could be deer on either side, so I tootle along, knowing I would just about be in time.

I was, and I wave to Jools from across the Common, on which a fun fair had been set up. It wasn't open yet, so she gets in and we drive to the motorway and back home.

Chorizo hash for dinner, as I wanted to be all ready for when the football began at half seven. And as we know, that didn't go well, and once the result was confirmed, it was time for bed.