Sunday, 31 May 2015

Sunday 31st May 2015


I have now come to realise that orchids brings out a special kind of madness. I may have said this before, but there seems to be no middle ground; meh or crazy.

In the past year or so, this madness has manifested itself by calling in at a nature reserve on the way to see my Mother, or travelling to the next county to walk the downs in the offchance of finding the tiddlers. And then there is the whole thing of planning not one, but two annual holidays around seeing orchids in the north east. There will be more of this in July I don't doubt.

And so it came to pass that we were to spend this Saturday driving round the M25 to Buckinghamshore to find a clearing in a wood, then onto Oxfordshire to walk along some downs to find another reserve. All this to find some rather special orchids. And once again Jools would say that I would claim that every time. But this time it was true.

We were awake very early, not by choice, but by the seagulls calling from our roof. No idea why in the last week they have taken up residence, but they are bloody annoying and loud, but saves on setting the alarm.

We have coffee, load up the car, program the sat nav; and we are off. Up the M20, along the M25, both very quiet, but getting busier as time went on, and finally up the M4, past Windsor. Soon we had turned off, along a very quiet dual carriageway until we came to Marlow. Marlow, a town I had not know existed before this week, was just walking up, and had we thought we should have stopped for breakfast, but by now the orchid blood lust was building and I had to see it. NOW.

Through a housing estate, and then along a winding country road through a forest, turning right at the Trout and Toolbox pub, or something, and up a very long, very narrow lane. The directions seemed right, could it be this straightforward? Yes it could. We stop at the entrance to the wood, and after dinning our walking boots, it was a 50m walk up the track and into the reserve, and there was another photographer hunched over an orchid, snapping away.

Military Orchid Orchis militaris

And all over the glade were orchids. Not just orchids, well, mostly one species: Military. The Military Orchid is closely related to the Lady orchid, but is much rarer: so rare in Britain, it is found in just two locations. And this is one of them.

Happy with the shots, I packed up my gear and we walked back to the car to drive to the next location: Princes Risborough to find a bead shop for Jools. It cannot have escaped your notice that most trips are for what I want to do, I can get a little obsessed with orchids, churches, trains or football. Or some other thing which suddenly becomes so important we spend all of the weekend chasing it. Anyway, it was 15 miles to the shop, and with the sun abroad, it was a very pleasant drive, along even narrower lanes, with grass growing through the tarmac, so thick we could hear it brushing the underneath of the car.

Military Orchid Orchis militaris

Outside Wycombe, we pass through a town, and now thirsty and hungry we find a small tea room, with a parking space outside. We pull in and find it is also an old fashioned sweet shop, with walls lined with glass jars of boiled sweets and candy of all sizes, shapes and colours. We order toasted tea cakes and cuppas. And when we leave we buy a pound of sweets; including rhubarb and custards for me.

We find a place to park outside the bead shop, and whilst Jools goes in I watch the locals try to park their cars; a scary experience, and I am glad that all spaces around me are taken and so our car should be safe!

Jools returns, and I have already programmed the sat nav for the Thames Valley. Another half an hour or so brought us to a nameless railway station. Two pounds and eighty pence of your Queen's money paid for parking until a minute to midnight, nothing less was available.

A fine dispay

A mile walk along a street lined with semi-detached bungalows, most guarded by huge hedges. And then into a narrow country lane, heading for a farm.

We turn off the lane, and walk up another leafy lane, through a gate and into the reserve. The lower slope was fine, south facing, but orchid-free. However, I saw some steps heading up through a copse leading to the upper slopes. There we already people up there, so yet more climbing and up we go.

Lady x Monkey Orchid Orchis purpurea x simia

And there behind a thin tape were orchids. Not just any orchids, but hybrids. The site is well known for Lady and for Monkey, but since 2006, they have been interbreeding, producing the Lady x Monkey, and this is the only place in Britain they can be found. Well, as there only two other sides where the Monkey is found, that is perhaps understandable.

I climb up the down, and despite the tape I can get very close to some of the orchids to get the shots I want, and the tape has done its job in keeping the majority of the site in a pristine condition, with no spikes flattened by eager snappers. We take a few minutes to sit down and survey the scene: the orchids, the river valley, the trains hammering along and above, Red Kites circling. A perfect afternoon.

I meet a local couple, who are visiting thw aite for the first time: they ask me about the orchids, and why they are special. Once you say that this one is found at only two other sites in Britain, and the larger ones found no where else, they get it. And realise how beautiful the orchids are. I explain how some people steal the orchids, dig them up, and then the orchid is lost forever. They understood. But I also warned about the orchid: they cause a great deal of madness, if you want to keep your sanity, keep away from the orchid!br />
Lady x Monkey Orchid Orchis purpurea x simia

Sadly, we have had noting to eat since the toasted the cakes, and nothing to drink either, and with the time ticking towards two, we think about lunch and then the journey home. We walk back down to te lane, then along the lane back to the railway station. Back through the village, over the double bridge over the river, with wonderful views of the weir, but we have no time to stop, we need food, and anyway, there were no places to park. Along the main road to the next village, and the riverside pub is jammed with Porches and other luxury cars: we drive on.

We finally find a sprawling pub, with spaces outside, and once inside we order large fruit juices and fish and chips each. The joices are good, so we risk a beer for me and a cider for Jools, and when the food arrives, the fish is fresh if a little greasy.

Just a few miles to the motorway, the M4, now packed with cars, and the peace and quiet of the valley is left behind. The M25 is even busier, and it is slow going at times, but we press on, and as the counties change to Surrey and the to Kent, we take the M26 and are on the final leg home. The sun still shines as the day turns to golden evening.

And it is Cup Final Day, Arse are playing Villa, and in a homage to The Likely Lads, I am avoiding the score so I can watch the game without knowing the score. We arrive home at just after seven, and with the need for dinner and then to review the shots of the day, the football is not watched. And whilst on Faceache, I see in a sidebar, the score. So, the surprise is gone, and I will watch the game in the morning.

A little fat to contrast to the long thin years

Another football related blog.

You have been warned.

I have been a Norwich supporter for 43 years now. And as previously stated, among those 43 years, there has been a lot of thin times, and not much thick. But when lady luck of the football Gods smile on us, it means we appreciate these good times all the more.

It has been a surreal week, after the wonders of Monday, back to work on Tuesday, and it soon seemed like those events at Wembley seemed with each passing hour, more and more like a dream. And yet, it wan't. We really did it. We went, we saw we won it. Hook, line, sinker and subscription to the Angling Times. I have seen Norwich lose this game some 13 years ago, when we lost on penalties to Birmingham. That still hurts.

What hurt just as much was the slow slide down the Championship table, year after year, with things getting worse and worse and with all of us kidding ourselves we were better than we actually were. We went down to the 3rd division, we still told ourselves we were a big club, come down to slum it. Colchester tore us a new arsehole; we woke up. We sacked our manager. Hired Colchester's, and things got better. We rose and rose and rose. Promotion followed promotion followed Premier League survival. The Villa stole our manager, we stole Birmingham's, and we started to sink again.

But all through this, the fans kept on coming, singing. And so when things did get better, we appreciated them more. Like we do now. We know that things will be harder, much harder in the Premier League, but I think we will survive. But then only time will tell.

Until the new season starts, I will keep in my head and heart, the rousing renditions of 'On the Ball, City' at the start of the final, and when it was sung with two minutes to go, and it became clear, nothing was going to stop us.

Saturday, 30 May 2015

Saturday 30th May 2015


Last day of work, well, until after the weekend of course. As I am to meet a friend in the afternoon, I have the car, so I have to take Jools to work. Should be simple, but all it takes is a road to be closed, the dumb driver (me) to think he knows a short cut, and like all good hobbits know, shot cuts makes for long delays.

Very true in this case, as I stumble into the house at half eight, switch on the computer only to find it will not work. I switch it off and back on again. Still does not work. So, just like in Right Said Fred, I have a cup of tea. Some toast. Try again. Still does not work. This is now getting serious, as my mobile will not now sync to my mailbox either, so I cannot get any mails either. Anything could be happening!

I boot it in safe mode, then try again, and it works. It is quarter to ten.

I do the stuff I have to, try to update that I only have read writes on our shared drive. It is a problem we all have. Apparently. So no work can be done there. At eleven I have a meeting, and within ten imutes the server which carries the sound crashes. I can hear nothing, no matter how many times I try to join the meeting.

Late Spider Orchid Ophrys fuciflora

I tie up some loose ends, but there really is little I can do. In Denmark, people are logging off for the weekend. I keep my laptop on as I have lunch of boiled eggs and another cuppa. At two I leave home to go to meet a contact from Flickr who has driven all the way from Gloucestershire to see the white Lady Orchid I snapped last week. He was coming no matter what, no matter that the Gods had decided to throw everything at Kent that day. As I drove towards Folkestone I could see the storm clouds gathering. I went to Wye to have a look for the Late Spider Orchids: At first all I found was a pike of cages and no orchids, I began to worry that maybe they had been stolen or eaten by sheep. But I was early, but not too early as it happened, as I spotted the first of the spikes, and one flower just opening.

Monkey orchid Orchis simia

Got that one.

And quickly to PGD to snap the Monkey: the weather was holding: just. So I rushed to the second paddock, snapped a few as the first rain drops began to fall. I went as quickly as I could back to the car, and arrived as the rain began to lash down.

Monkey orchid Orchis simia

Of course, it was at this moment Simon arrived: he was determined to snap a Monkey or two, so donned a sou'wester and oilskins, or the modern version, and ventured out onto the down. He returned some ten minutes later, soaked.

We drove in convoy to Barham, I got an umbrella out, as it was raining so hard. We walked up to see the Lesser Butterflies: one had a flower or two out, but I was not getting my camera out in monsoon conditions. Simon did though. We then slithered our way back down to look in the other site for the white Lady.

Thankfully I had found it when I met Jim a couple of days earlier, so it was a quick matter of entering the wood, finding the path, and there it was.

We were by now, soaked. We tried to find some Fly, and I found a nice triple, but it was a lost cause to be honest. He wanted to head back via the Chilterns, where the weather promised to be better, and I had to go to pick up Jools in Hythe. So it was a quick run down the Elham Valley, and i was there with ten minutes to spare: but the rain still was tipling down. Jeez.

Jools comes out and we have to go via many back roads to get to the other side of the town so to dodge the traffic, as we head up the down towards the motorway, the clouds part, mocking the orchid hunters with the stunning light now available. We drive home, and as we climb away from the docks at Dover, the cliffs of France are as clear as anything, they look only a handful of miles away.

For dinner we have more dirty food: kofte kebabs and fried potatoes. It was lovely needless to say.

Somehow, it was half seven in the evening, and time was slipping through our hands already. But it was weekend. Time enough for a date with the Don and Nigel in the garden.

Friday, 29 May 2015

Friday 29th May 2015


Words cannot describe how I feel. Well, they can, but they would not be nice. I had my annual assessment, and like the other times in my life wen I know that I done good work, seems like my boss doesn't share that feeling. Nor the feeling from those whom I worked with who supplied input. See, I am average. Bloody average. After being asked to consider my position last July, but both the project director and my line manager, and then going on and exceeding the customer's expectations, and all the other stuff. And I am average. No bad, nor good. Average.

To says I am lacking in motivation now is an under-statement, and so I go from feeling on top of the world to feeling somewhat less than that. We shall see how this pans out I guess.

Thursday evening walk to Fleet House

Other than that, life goes on at Chez Jelltex: Jools leaves for work before seven, I have 2nd breakfast, more coffee, power up the work laptop, radio playing on my computer, and the day passes. I have lunch, of pancakes, because I can and there is no one to tell me I cannot. They are delicious, all covered in sugar and lemon juice, as is the only way to have pancakes.

At four I wrap up work and go for a walk along the lane at the end of our street. It has been some weeks since I walked along here. The truth is in orchid season, everything else, other than football it seems, can go and hang. But, I do like where we live, and to see how and what has grown in the past three weeks or so.

Thursday evening walk to Fleet House

The two fields either side of the path seem to be growing peas or beans: after talking to Jools we have decided they are broad beans, and they seem to go on forever. Each plant has a small clutch of flowers near the stem, shaped like lea flowers: white and red.

Thursday evening walk to Fleet House

At the pig's copse, there are two tiny piglets snuffling about, they are not bothered by me, nor curious of any noise I make to entice them over. And old sow lazes in the warm sunshine in front of the sty.

Thursday evening walk to Fleet House

I walk down the dip, at least to get a view along the shallow valley as it heads down towards Kingsdown. All the fields are covered in buttercups, turning fields of green to yellow; another celebration of Monday's result? Maybe.

Thursday evening walk to Fleet House

I walk back. As the wind was breezy, there were no butterflies about, which was a shame, but there will be other times.

Thursday evening walk to Fleet House

Dinner was dirty food: asparagus and cheese (not in itself dirty, but cooked in butter, so quite dirty), followed by cheeseburgers. Just cheeseburgers. Full of meaty, lamby goodness.

Finally, I sat in front of the TV, going back in time 35 years to watch Top of the Pops: full of Heavy Metal, Two Tone, dodgy UK disco, and Legs and Co prancing around in bikinis. And then Dexys at number one. DEXYS!

Dexys have been in my head for weeks now: the opening of Dance Stance, the brass refrain from Tell Me When my Light Turns Green, or all of The, There my Dear. I tell Jools this, and then Dexys are in her head for the rest of the day too. Best to share.

Thursday, 28 May 2015

Thursday 28th May 2015


And waddaya know, its nearly the end of the week, and its pay day already.


And did I mention Norwich were promoted; did you miss that?

My voice still had not returned, but anyway, I just had the cats to talk to, so having a voice wasn't really essential. Was it?

Jools went to work, leaving me alone, as the cats were already out and about. Outside it was a glorious day, lots of warm sunshine, but I had to stay inside, working away. Oh woe is me and all that stuff. However, a main distraction was the news that broke just as I got up that a number of senior FIFA figures had been arrested by the FBI and Swiss officials. Seems like it was corrupt: who knew? As to what will happen in the ned, that is still playing out, but it did divert more than my attention it should have.

What can I tell you: it is odd not travelling. It doesn't feel right. I mean, it is halfway through the week, I could have had burger and fries several times by now. I break and agree to a request from my boss to travel next week to Denmark. I mean I can meet friends, drink beer, eat ribs and all the rest of the stuff, what's not to like? After that I plan to travel once more to Holland, and hopefully that will be it until after the holibobs. Really, whats not to like about that?

Jools promised she would call the garage to see when we would get our car back; and she was told that the part was not in the country, it was on back order. So, imagine her surprise when they called back half an hour later to tell her that the car was ready for collection. So it goes, so it goes.

It clouded over, and the wind got up, it was too cool to walk, we decided, and so had early dinner, were washed up and ready for the main part of the evening by half six. And that meant Springwatch: nature porn, from Suffolk. Lovely.

Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Wednesday 27th May 2015


The day after.

Let me begin by asking, that if any of you find my voice, please return it to me, but I think the primal scream at the final whistle is what done it. Or the most rousing rendition of 'On the Ball, City' at the start of the game. Whatever, my voice for the day was best described as 'raspy' or 'sexy', depending on your point of view I guess. It was in the papers, on the news and all over the interwebs, which means I guess it wasn't a dream, and we have been promoted.

Coming home, I could have spent hours trawling through Twitter at all the wonderful things, images and what will become memories of the day. I could even watch the highlights of the game on the iplayer, after re-setting the BBC website to be the east of England. Yes, it was all there, all things I remember; the screaming, the jumping, the goals, the celebrations.

The local, well local to Norfolk, newspaper said it was the biggest day in the club's history: now, I have not lived through all of Norwich's 113 year history, but I am pretty sure there have been days to at least equal it: Beating Liverpool in 1909 in the FA Cup, getting promoted to the 2nd division in 1934, reaching the FA Cup semi-final in 1959, reaching the First Division in 1972, qualifying for Europe, beating Bayern Munich in Europe at their place.

I have even seen Norwich promoted three previous times: At Hillsborough in 1982, where despite losing, we went up anyway. There were 15,000 City fans there that day. In 1986, we went up at Odsal Stadium in Bradford, in front of about 800 fans as our nearest rival lost. That was quite a day. And finally, at a reserve game in 2004 when another near rival lost in a league game. But now this. So, in my mind, I hear you ask, what was the biggest day?

Well, I might say beating Ipswich in the Milk Cup semi-final, to get to Wembley. And why the semi-final rather than the final? Well, after a wonderful evening, and scoring with just 3 minutes from time, anything esle was going to be an anti-climax. The final, against Sunderland was a dreadful game, really poor, and we scored the only goal via a deflection. The game in Munich where we won 2-1, was close, and until Chelsea beat them in the CL final a couple of years back, that was still the only English team to win there.

So, three FA Cup semi-finals; all lost. Four League Cup Finals; two won, two lost. One European campaign of six games. And promotions to the top division in 1972, 1975, 1982, 1986, 2004, 2011 and now 2015. What day was best? Well, I suppose as on Monday, Norwich were in control from start to finish, and once went 2 up, changed tactics to contain, and we really did not worry about the outcome, maybe it was the biggest day. To get promoted at Wembley, to do it in front of 40,000 fans, get presented with a trophy: maybe it was. The near past always wins anyway.

It was all a bit of a comedown on Tuesday morning. I had a croak for a voice, Jools made coffee and then left for work. I logged on my work computer expecting there to be an early meeting. I was the only one in. So, I caught up on my mails, updated paperwork, the usual stuff that I do. The day went on.

I found time to make some pasta salad for dinner, made calls, and dote on the cats whenever they opened their little mouths. Bless. Because, that is why I am at home, clearly.

Lesser Butterfly Orchid Platanthera bifolia

At four a couple of friends came round, so I could show them the beech wood over near Barham. It is a short drive, but we had a good couple of hours there, snapping away at the all the lovely orchids. We found 12 spikes of the Lesser Butterfly, as well as rediscovering the pure white Lady for them, and maybe even a Fly x Bee hybrid, which was very nice indeed. Although did fail to find the Sword Leaved Hellebroine again, maybe it was never there and all in my head?

When I returned home, Jools was here, and we worked together to egg and breadcrumb the aubergine, I shallow fried it, and so dinner was ready in half an hour. A nice bottle of red helped it down too.

Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Tuesday 26th May 2015: A Grand Day Out


Bank Holiday Monday

Play Off Day.

I was fairly pan free: I took several drugs, used Deep Heat and I should be OK for the day ahead.

The big day arrived, with endless sunshine: was it a sign? Well, it was a sign that I thought I should take an hour or so to go to Pegwell Bay to look for some orchids. As you do. We had coffee, and I encouraged a reluctant Jools into the car; she thought me a little mad. Obsessed.

She had a point.

We drive to Richborough, find a place to park and go into the reserve, me with my orchid eyes peeled. I see Common Spotted spike, but that is it, as the reserve is already looking overgrown, well, not overgrown, but the foliage is well into spring, and growing strongly, hiding some less vigorous plants. I assume this is the case here.

Bee Orchid Ophrys apifera

It is a further shot drive to the other part of Pegwell where I hope to find the Bee and Yellow Man Orchids. I have seen no other reports from here, so it was just a guess that it would be worth it. It took some time to orient ourselves, I strode off to where I thought the Bees would be found, but I see nothing. Jools spots a spike, but is a week away from opening.

Further on I find many more spikes, so closer to opening, until right at the edge of the site, there was one spike, opening its first flower. A great find indeed. A dog walker eyes me warily as I lay down to get the shots.

A short distance away is the colony of 'lemon flavoured' Man Orchids. There are, if any thing, more robust than last year, and all are pretty much fully open, including one with elongated 'arms' and 'legs'. I snap that one good as well.

The Yellow Man

It was then a sprint to the car to drive back to get ready for the quarter to ten train.

Whilst I get ready, Jools makes breakfast; just a cuppa and a slice of toast. It is twenty past nine, I have a shirt I have never worn before, a camera, my phone and the ticket. Lets roll.

Norwich last made the play off final 13 years ago. I had worn a 'lucky' t short all through the season, and said I would wear it for the final. I bought a short marking the final, saying i would put it on for the journey back. City lost to Birmingham on penalties, and the shirt remained unworn. But I thought, what better way to break the 'curse'?

Norwich City regain their place in the Premier League with a 2-0 win at Wembley in the Championship Playoff Final

Standing on the station platform were two Boro fans, we made chat and wished each other the best. A young family in City colours looked nervous, but it was all good natured, they even posed for a photo. At least the train wasn't full, and I get a seat opposite the two Boro fans. We smile and I find from them a quicker way to the stadium. So, I said I would go that way.

At St Pancras there were many fans from both clubs about, eating or drinking: I had a date with some old friends at a pub near the ground, so I walk to the Tube station for a Metropolitan train towards Wembley. It is well used, but not crowded, so it was all pleasant, even the bunch of drunken City fans who spent the twenty minute trip bouncing up and down and singing.

Norwich City regain their place in the Premier League with a 2-0 win at Wembley in the Championship Playoff Final

At Wembley park, it is all so well organised, we are funneled up the stairs, through the exit and at the top of Wembley Way, where we all get our first view of the stadium: and it was true, we are here and it is real!

Norwich City regain their place in the Premier League with a 2-0 win at Wembley in the Championship Playoff Final

I head the other way to the pub, The Torch, to meet a friend. It is heaving, as you would expect, and I decide not to bother having a drink, just meet my friends and then walk to the ground, taking in the atmosphere and, hopefully, enjoy the day.

Norwich City regain their place in the Premier League with a 2-0 win at Wembley in the Championship Playoff Final

It is now packed, but there is no trouble walking down, we have 90 minutes before the game starts, and everyone is in good spirits, singing, taking photos and the such. Up the ramp to the outside of the stadium, the two sets of supports are parted, we to the east side, they to the west. The view back down Wembley Way is incredible, I take shots, as does others, but now I think it is time to go in take up my place.

Norwich City regain their place in the Premier League with a 2-0 win at Wembley in the Championship Playoff Final

There were no queues at the automatic turnstiles, and there was an escalator to take us up. And another. And another. And another. In the concourse there were bars, food outlets, plenty of toilets, and I could see the entrance to where my seat was. I have a beer and to my surprise get change from a fiver. Not a lot of change, 20p, but still.

Norwich City regain their place in the Premier League with a 2-0 win at Wembley in the Championship Playoff Final

Up the steps, I was directed to my seat, on the next to back row, but the view is sensational, the green of the pitch contrasting with the red of the seats. I guess there is less than 10k in the ground, no singing, but there is the sound of a thousand conversations. I get a tingle up my spine.

As time goes on, the ground fills up, the players come out onto the pitch to warm up, and the singing begins. By a quarter to three, the ground is full, we are all standing. And singing.

The teams are let out, there is more singing, we cheer and the players get ready for the game.

It kicks off, and is it tense stuff: we hit the bar, then Boro do too. And then the ball breaks in their penalty area, and Jerome scores in the near corner. We go mad.

We are still singing when the ball breaks to Redmond, who puts the ball into the far corner, and we are 2-0 up with 15 minutes gone, and in total control. Boro were rocking, and we could, should have scored a couple more, but the attitude of the teams change, City happy to contain, and Boro to huff and puff. Ruddy does not have to make a save.

Half time, and I am not concerned at all, it is all going to plan, and all seems set fair, and we have one foot back in the Premier League.

The celebrations begin

The second half goes much the same way, Boro probe, we defend, all pretty tame stuff, but City are in control. Boro get more desperate as time runs out, and with a couple of changes, we could have scroed more, but it wasn't needed. Time ran down; 15 to go. 10 to go. 5 to go. 2 to go. Then four minutes of injury time.

Final Whistle!

And it was all over. We had done it, promoted. I had a tear in my eye, which transferred to my glasses as the bloke behind me gave me a bear hug. There was more singing, dancing, the players celebrated. We celebrated. The Boro end emptied, as Norwich made to climb the stairs to collect the trophy. It seemed to take an age, but Russel Martin raised the cup, they cheer, we cheer, we all cheer. There was the usual team photo, popping champagne corks, fireworks all the usual stuff.

Celebrate, good times, come on!

It was still going on as I left, we walk down an endless staircase, going down and round and down and round, until we come out on the side of the stadium, all City fans had huge smiles on their faces. The poor Boro fans had the opposite of course.

As we all walked down Wembley Way, there was some singing, which could have turned nasty, but didn't. At the station enough fans were allowed on to get onto a train, a train arrived and we all got on, six stops later I got off at St Pancras, with enough time for a beer at the Betjamin Arms. I meet up with a father and son Boro fan, we chat, they are very kind in defeat, said we were the better side and Boro hadn't been in it. They had to buy train tickets before they knew whether Boro would make the final, then had to allow for the chance it might got to penalties before booking a train back. They had to wait for the half eight train back north.

At half six, I walk to the platform, the train is waiting. I get a get and look at the photos. It wasn't a dream.

Back in Dover, Jools is waiting to take me home. The day was over, but the went well. And I was there.

Monday, 25 May 2015

Monday 25th May 2015


I am back from London. I went up to see Norwich at Wembley. It was a great day, met some old friends, made some new ones City ran out 2=0 winners.

I drank some beer, I shouted and screamed.

We got promoted.

Tomorrow the details, but for tonight, the celebration.

But first, Sunday.


The weather forecast does take a lot of stick at times, but it is increasingly accurate, we are able to plan, or I am able to plan the trips to snap orchids with military precision to make the most of the great light. In light of this, the best of the weather was to be at the start of the day, so it was that after we had a strong of coffee, we loaded up the car, and drove out to Barham.

The site at Barham is little known, and is large with at least three different areas in which orchids can be found. And in fact we have just looked at only two of them, so at some point, if time allows, we will look in the 3rd slope, as we can see at least four large Lady Orchids in view of the road. Who knows what else could be hiding there?

The Orchid Wood

As we could already see thickening cloud sweeping in from the west, I decided that we would go to the main slope first before hunting the Lesser Butterfly Orchids.

The first of the woodland Ladys

The main slope is under mature beech woods, and is now in very deep shade, but there are thousands of orchids in the undergrowth, dozens of Lady, several Fly, but thousands upon thousands of Common Twayblade. I am sure there are spikes of others, but they are not showing as yet. I look through the Lady to try to find a pure white var. alba. And after some searching, I find a couple, including one that had no purple colouration, a green hood and pure white flowers. An amazing sight at an incredible site.

Lady Orchid Orchis Purpurea

We then walked up the bridleway to look for the Lesser Butterfly: the Early Purples were still a wonderful sight, although some are beginning to go over. There was the var. alba, just off the bridleway, still looking stunning. After some searching, we find, or rather Jools finds, seven spikes of the Lesser Butterfly, maybe a week from opening. This is an increase of the two we found last year, that the orchids here are increasing in number is great news.

Lady Orchid Orchis Purpurea var. alba

From Barham it is only a 5 minute drive to the Birds Nest wood: and once there, we find there are dozens of spikes showing, in pretty much the same area as before, but in far greater numbers. And inbetween, the White Helleborines are of an impressive size, and once again, many about a week away from opening.

Lady Orchid Orchis Purpurea var. alba

One final call was the Man Orchid site, just off the A2. On the bank, the lime coloured spikes are in great numbers, with most of the spikes mostly 90% open. Which got me thinking about the yellow Men at Pegwell Bay. A lan began to form for Monday morning.

Fly Orchid Ophrys insectifera

By now it was half eleven, our stomachs told us it was getting close to lunchtime, so we mix it with the port traffic heading for Dover, we drive home.

After lunch we do a bit of gardening. But by this time, my back was really beginning to scream. It began as we left the house that morning, I had put my shoes on, and was just walking to the kitchen when with no warning my lower back began to throb with pain. I have no idea what caused it, but I did struggle with the orchid snaps, but now, all I was fit for was sitting on the sofa ready to listen to the final Prem games of the season. I say sit, I mean lay down.

Hull were relegated, Newcastle survived, so it goes, so it goes.

I cook roast chicken and all the trimmings for dinner. It is wonderful, well even the smell of it cooking, the anticipation is everything. So, at half six, we sit down to a fine dinner, with wine (and cider). And that is us for the day, well except for the second episode of Jonathon Strange and Mr Morrel. Odd but great stuff.

Sunday, 24 May 2015

Sunday 24th May 2015


One thing I did not mention about Friday, happened late in the evening. As usual on Friday, we sat down to watch Monty on TV, this week a round-up of what happened at Chelsea. My computer was on all this time, and so when I went to check, I saw on Twitter a guy had posted that he had a ticket for sale. Some 25 minutes had passed, but I replied straight away that I was interested. We DMd each other, and the upshot was I would have his spare ticket. Only problem is that he lives in Great Yarmouth, and I live in Kent. What with it being mum's birthday in the next week, and despite me saying over an over again we would not be going up, a plan formed: we would drive up to Lowestoft, and the guy would drop the ticket in, just after two in the afternoon.

I was shaking at the end, too good to be true, but I had a ticket, probably. But we had to be up early the next morning, so, off to bed and get some shut eye.


The big trip? Dover to Lowestoft and back. In a day.

Take a deep breath.

And it was a glorious morning, the forecast was for cloud. I would like to have been out walking on the downs, but hey, football ticket!

We loaded to car, not ours, that is still in the shop: so this is the loan car, a little underpowered, and sounds like it might have blown a gasket: would it make it?

Right away, we found our way blocked; a queue on Jubilee Way, so we turn round to try along the Alkham Valley. It is Bank Holiday, so the ferries are bound to be busy, but even still, to be queued up halway up Jubilee Way was a surprise. We re-joined the A20, now the M20, at Folkestone, traffic was light, so we settled back and enjoyed the trip. And at least now they have changed the way tolls are collected at Dartford, we just cruise through the tolls and go down into one of the bores of the tunnel. As usual, the roundabout where we turn off the motorway and go up the A12 was a scary moment. But we make it, I am accelerating, I indicate to pull out to overtake some slower cars, and then the woman driving the middle just begins to pull out as we are beside her. I jam on the horn, she jumps and the car swerves back: In the rear view mirror I can see her husband, or partner, shouting and jumping about.

My heart is jumping for that matter. But that turned out to be the last of the nasty shocks, as the road was nice and quiet, even on Bank Holiday Saturday. We cruise up to Chelmsford, then upto Colchester: no worries, just with the lary Essex drivers who were clearly in some kind of race. We pod on at 60mph, we have lots of time. Over the Orwell, and once passed Woodbridge, we are onto the proper Suffolk country roads, the A12 despite being a 'trunk' road, would barely make it as a B road here in Kent.

We stop off at the posh cafe just after Wickham Market: I have scone and jam, Jools has mushrooms on toast. It is eye-wateringly expensive, but good, and it means that we can decline Mum's offer of food and water. Up and up we drive, until we get to Blythburgh, at which point I think it would be better heading across the marshes to get to Oulton, so that meant heading inland to Beccles before picking up the road to St Olaves. It also meant, hopefully, of seeing the Rhododendrons beside Herringfleet Road; always a highlight at this time of the year.

Once across the marshes from Haddiscoe, and turning off the Yarmouth Road, the Rhododendrons are there, but nearly all finished,with just a few of the tree-like bushes still having blossom in flower. We don't stop. We were nearly in Oulton, there was no avoiding it, next stop would be at Mum's. Another deep breath....

Ting is, we're all so used to the charade that goes on when we visit, it is almost funny. Mum is all full of life, how she does this or that for her neighbours, and yet, she struggles to carry a cup of coffee. In truth, I have no idea what the truth is with her, whether she really is disabled and so needs the zimmer frame and all the other stuff the council has put in her house, or is it just a game? IN the end, I no longer car. e house smells, both beds are piled up with shopping still in their carrier bags, God knows what is in there, whether it was needed or what.

We sit and chat, decline tea, a sandwich and everything else, me just checking my mails and Twitter for news of the guy. At two he says he is leaving work, and so our time in the house of whispers is nearly up. At quarter to three, a car draws up, he has an evelope: better check it he says, handing it over. I open it, inside is the ticket. I smile and hug him. I am nearly in tears. I am going to Wembley after all.

After ten minutes or so, we make our excuses and pack ready to leave. We have been there for three hours or so, the longest we have been there in years: last time it was half that. At least being the end of May, there would be daylight until we got home, and probably no rain. So, we should arrive home not too tired. We wave and drive off.

I still have my ticket.

We re-trace our steps to Beccles, then take the Bungay road and then to Bury to pick up the A14 then south onto the A11 to London. Traffic was light at first, we make good time along the road to Bury, there is plenty of warm, golden sunshine, and I am tempted by many churches on the way. But I drive on. We will return one day to visit the wonderful round-towered churches.

As we get to Cambridge, we see an airshow at Duxford is reaching its climax, with contrails of the Rad Arrows renting the sky apart. I press on as once they are done, the roads would fill with spotters! The motorways is heavy with traffic, but we still make good time, making to the M25 then onto Dartford without issue. Once again, no queues, so we are back in the right county. Our plan was to stop at Medway services for Burger King dinner, then the last blast home.

I have no idea what was going on, but people were driving like crazy: some must have been doing 120, 13 as they hammered passed. We were at the limit, and were the slowest on the road. But still, we made it to Canterbury safely, and by then most of the traffic had turned off, and it was just us and the people making their way to the port.

The final leg, along the Deal Road, then turning off past Walletts Court, the last afternoon sun was glorious, but we had done it: made mUm happy (even if she did know the real reason for our trip was something other than her birthday), and I had my ticket.

The cats were waiting for us, it was just gone seve, and we had only been gone 12 hours or so.

And I had my ticket!

Saturday, 23 May 2015

Saturday 23rd May 2015

It is Saturday evening. We are just back from the annual mammoth Dover to Lowestoft round trip to wish Mum happy birthday and sit in awkward silences. It is the family way. And to make it even more awkward, today would have been Dad's 76th birthday. There was also another reason for going, but you will have to wait until tomorrow to find out that.


I woke up after over eight hours of good sleep, and felt better. Outside the sun was already warm and shining in a clear blue sky. I lay in bed, thinking of having a shower, then realising I had forgotten to buy any deodorant. Another fine mess I thought.

I showered and dressed, went for breakfast, and after programming in the directions to the office, set off on the 7 mile drive back into Ijmuiden. Traffic was not so bad, but people seemed to be driving very fast: I stayed in the nearside lane and hoped for the best. THe best being that I arrived at the office, which was shadowed by an even bigger cruise ship, and that in turn was joined by another, The Saga Saphire. I pondered that, and then realised that in 3 months I would be old enough to be able to go on one of their holidays. Bah and humbug I thought. And my inner child blew raspberries.

Work went on in its familiar way, although with each passing day it seems to be better and better for me. We are over halfway through installation, fe snags. So we shall see how it pans out. As a reward, I have been given a new, more expensive and important project. They have faith. Pity the fool!

The day slips through my hand, it is soon five, and time to head back to the hotel. But there is good news, a courier has delivered my case, and in it is a change of clothes and deodorant. I cannot wait for a shower and a change of clothes.

The repeat drive to the hotel, my case is there. I take it and my stinking body to my room and have a good 15 minute shower. It is glorious. I then douse myself in vapour for the can, and smell, well, not human, like a bowl of flowers, but I am happy. Now, my plan had been to walk back to where I had seen a shoarma grill the night before, but when push came to shove, and as I had not had a bite to eat since breakfast, my stomach said RIBS!

So I dressed and went to the restaurant for a repeat helping. But although the food was as good, the service was poor as there was only one girl on, and she did her best, but some had to wait an hour for their food. Should have had the shoarma after all I think.

I am shattered, I go back to my room, put on the radio, and climb into bed. I am woken at a quarter past ten with Jools calling me asking if I was OK. Yes, just tired. We chat quickly, and I go back to bed.


I sleep in until half six, then lay in bed as I listen to the birds sing and smokers cough outside. But, get up sweet prince, for today you go home to be with your princess! I have another shower, pack, check out, load the car and go back inside for breakfast. Bread rolls and sprinkles, like what else is there to have in Holland?

OK, to work! The usual drive to Ijmuiden, alongside the canal and the fish docks. It is still a real working town, maybe the fish comes from elsewhere in the world, frozen, but they know what to do with it. And the smell of fish hangs over the town.

Work goes well, I do the jobs I need to do, meet with people, make phone calls and set my out of office message. At half eleven, that is it, the start of the journey home and the three day weekend. This means taking the motorway to the airport, and the perplexing system of interchanges around Schipol, which means you seem to go by it three times before you are actually allowed in. I have three hours before my flight, so I am not stressed. The car is checked in, then begins the route march to the departure terminal, and then to security and then to the gate. Saying that, I did have a gate near the centre of the hub, so according to the sign it was an 8 minute walk.

Halfway there is the Irish pub. I say pub, its just an area of the airport done up to look like a pub, but it serves good beer, and a beer and plate of nachos is €10. All you have to do is find somewhere to sit. I find a place at the bar, and behind me a party of Scousers seem to be having a stag do at the airport: Hey boys, Amsterbloodydam is out there!

I make the nachos and two pints vanish, so go to find the gate. The plane is delayed by nearly an hour, but I sit at the gate, checking my twitter feed in case I am offered a ticket for the game on Monday. A faint hope, but still hope. And it is hope that gets us all in the end.

We all squeeze on the flight, and thanks to the beer, I fall asleep right away. We must have taken off, as I wake up as we are over Essex and I recognise the industrial estates around Thurrock. We land safe and sound, rush off the aircraft to get through immigration. I have 45 minutes to catch the quarter to five train. I might just be lucky. I have to wait for my case, at least it arrives!, then rush to the station only to see a train leaving the station. I have eight minutes to wait. And as always seems to way, once it arrives, the journey seems to go on forever, and waiting at each station seems like it has taken forever.

But I get to the station with 7 minutes to spare, four by the time I am on the platform. The train stops right by me on the platform, so I get on, put my cases in the rack and stand in the corridor as all seats are full, but I am on the train.

People get off at Ebbsfleet, and I get a seat. At Ashford more get off, and I move seats so I can chat to an interesting looking chap, a WW2 airman, who did 32 years service. He had some fine tales of far off lands, and much derring-do.

He gets off at Folkestone, so I am all alone, with just the views over the Channel as we emerge onto The Warren and then run alongside Samphire Hoe. Through Dover and round Buckland upto Guston Tunnel, climbing all the time and finally to Martin Mill, where Jools is waiting for me to take me home. We are both tired and hungry, so she drops me off and then goes to the chippy for a couple of large cod and chips. Just what the doctor ordered.

So good to be back home again

Outside it was a wonderful golden evening, the clouds parted and bathed the village in warm sunshine, whilst the farmer tried to ahrves the hay in the field below. He was still working away at half eleven. But by morning, it was all in and bagged.

Time for bed.

Friday, 22 May 2015

Friday 22nd May 2015


Turns out that we have arranged an alternative method of a hire car. And when I saw we, I mean Jools, obviously. So, she had to leave for work nearly an hour later than usual.

The weather said it was going to be good in the morning with rain in the afternoon. Which meant the long-delayed trip to the village post office to post my six months of travel claims. I did some work, in the meantime, and tried to ignore the cats. At ten I set off for the post office, pocketful of change with me, as well as the package, now a small parcel.

Anyway, a pleasant walk down the hill and up the other side. Wait a minute, this counts as work, right? Better look like I’m not enjoying it, which is why, I guess, after posting the parcel, I bought an ice cream from the village shop. And crisps. And chocolate coated ginger biscuits. And the washing up liquid I went in for in the first place.

Once home, it began to cloud over, and soon enough heavy rain began to fall. The cats sat at the window and looked out, mournfully wishing they could go back out. Work carried on.

The day passed. Rain continued to fall, interspersed with hail storms. All the fun of the fair. All that changed, however, at two when I had to go with Tony to pick up his computer form the repair shop. The hard drive had been reformatted, cleaned up, now all was ready for them to mess it up again. The plan had been to give them a massive talk on how to be careful, but it goes in one ear and out the other. I hope that having to fork out eighty quid this time, it will sink in.

It also meant Tony was going to pick me up and drive me to Deal to the shop, then take me back to Whitfield, for me to fix their home page, then take me back home. A drive with him takes years off your life; the random driving, random indicating, poor road sense and he is also stone deaf. He could not hear my directions at first, and told me not to mumble.

Once we picked up the computer, he mistook a queue of traffic at the lights for parked cars, left it too late to get in the right lane, so he decided we could go ‘another way.’ This was the country way, through Mongeham, Sutton and onto Whitfield. He drives some kind of MPV bus thing, and he likes to drive in the middle of the road, and down narrow lanes, it meant having to almost get into the hedges to allow cars to pass the other side.

I was happy to get to their house, set up the laptop, and have a cuppa before he took me back. I lost another cup of lives on that trip, but did get home safe. So, I pack so I am all ready for the trip in the morning. Jools comes home in the hire car, another Corsa. We have chorizo hash and some wine/cider/beer, and pretty soon it is getting dark outside, and time has gotten away from me again.

News came in the afternoon that no tickets would be available for City fans who were not members, which means no Wembley trip for me next week, which sucks, but I was expecting it.


It seems I am always travelling, preparing for travel or recovering. And yet I did miss it this past week, but it took being on the DLR train for 5 minutes, and then the chaos at the airport to convince me that what I really needed is a few weeks at home. And that is hopefully the case from Friday, once I get home.

As the flight to Amsterdam is at twenty past nine, I have to catch the first train out of Martin Mill, just gone six, which means being up an hour early for coffee. And dressing.

Martin Mill

It is a glorious morning, the sun had just risen in the east, and it was the light that woke me up at five. I am all ready to go at quarter to six, so Jools drops me off before she heads to work. There are a few others out and about getting the early train, but the train, when it arrived, was mostly empty, and after stowing my bags, I settled down to stare out the window.

Kent is in bloom, or growing leaves. Or, more likely, had grown all the leaves and now looks radiant. I mean the English countryside in the full bloom of late spring is a wondrous thing. What I really wanted to do was go out with my camera to the orchid sites, but instead I was on my way to the airport. Again.

The train fills up, but is not that full, but fills to capacity at Ebbsfleet as yet more people squeeze on.

At Stratford, many of us get off, and I make my way to the DLR station. It is a journey as familiar as walking to the end of the street to be honest, and nothing out of the ordinary. I kinda just drift off into daydreams as we rattle our was south through West Ham, Canning Town and to the airport.

Stratford Arrival

At the airport, it was chaos. Seems the runway had a hole the day before, lots of flights cancelled, and so many of the flights today had delayed passengers. Including mine. However, the City Jet queue was small, and I dropped my bag off and was up the stairs to security, I looked back and the BA queue stretched round the hall and out of the building.

I try to have breakfast, and do, but it is full, and the order takes an hour to come, as does the coffee as they have just the one machine. But, I am fed and watered, and ready to go. I even meet a couple of colleagues heading back home to Denmark, we talk work and beer. As is the way.

Now, as I said before, there had been some delays the day before at LCY, but even still it was a surprise to find the flight fully booked. And as most people were using it to connect to a flight to Lagos, many were laden down with extra bags, most of all decided to try to take them into the cabin. It was chaos again, and the poor cabin staff tried to get all the bags to fit.

We took off half an hour late, and I feared so over-laden we might not take off. But we did. And the short hop to Amsterdam was noticeable for the guy in the seat next to me, checking his four phones, tablet, and as soon as we landed, he switched them all on, and began texting again. It was a relief to get off, into the orderly chaos of the airport, and the long walk to the baggage reclaim.


Four of us got off with bags to collect, we sat and sat and sat. In the end a sorry looking official came to tell us our bags had been unloaded, but lost. Not lost, but misplaced. We had to go to make a report out, and they would be brought to our hotel in due course. After filling the form in, I walk to the car hire place, only to find my car was still being cleaned. So after signing the paperwork, I begin the walk to the garage, only to stop for a coffee and a piece of cake. Not cake, some kind of flan, all with strawberries and raspberries in jelly on a crispy base.

It was mighty fine.

By the time I arrived at the garage, the car was ready. I take the keys, program the sat nav for the trip to Ijmuiden. Along Holland’s very busy motorways, over canals and dikes. All pretty unremarkable stuff. Turn off, drive along the canal into the town, then to the cruise terminal as our office is next door. And there was a cruise ship in, like a skyscraper laid on its side. Massive, and making ready to sail.

View from the office window

In the office there is no one about from my team, so I make myself comfortable in the office and get down to work.

Hotel Bastion

I then realise I have to buy some toothpaste and a brush for the evening, so just before 5 I set off for the hotel in the hope there would be a shop nearby. The hotel was in Haarlem, a new one on me, and looked OK from the outside, although it was surrounded by dikes, would I be flooded out? The receptionist tells me where a supermarket was, so I walk along the street, along a cyclepath, through an underpass and find myself in a small village. Or town, hard to say, really. Anyway, I walk up the street hoping to find the shop or a chemist, but as it was just before six, most were either closing or already closed.

An evening walk in Santpoort

I spot the shop the other side of the street, and so go over and manage to find what I need, along with some Dutch mayonnaise, which is unlike no other. I am tempted to have dinner in a couple of places, but think I should just relax at the hotel and see what the food was like. It was great, I had ribs, three big racks of them, frites with sauce and veggies. It was wonderful, and very filling. I am stuffed, and tired. I take another beer to my room, do some work, listen to the radio before my eyes get so heavy, I cannot keep them open.

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Tuesday 19th May 2015


I have been home for some 5 days now, and it just don't feel right. However, those itchy feet of mine will get a little bit of a workout on Wednesday when I make the short hop to naughty Amsterdam for a couple of days. And that might be, well, not quite my last trip on this project, but maybe my last for a couple of weeks. As Jools asked on Sunday what travel plans I had after this week, I was able to answer, none whatsoever. And that felt good to say that.

But already dark clouds in the shape of not one, not two, but three new projects are on the horizon, each of which will be making claims on my time, and will require me to pack my bags. But before then, just enjoy the calm.

Monday, even for a day at home was looking manic. Over the weekend Jools had arranged things with the insurance company, the repair shop, a car hire place, and the probability was that one or all of them could phone during the day, and I might need to take the car in for the repair. And so this meant Jools had to take public transport, and that meant the 06:07 train from Martin Mill, up before five, feed the cats, have coffee before we had to leave the house at ten to six.

She did catch the train, and I went back home to have breakfast before the first meeting of the day, and stupidly early one at seven, UK time, meant having to be all logged on my ten to seven, all sitting down ready at seven. And so it continued, meeting after meeting after meeting. The garage rung up, booked in for Tuesday, but the car hire place is not a car hire place and was some kind of financial service company, given away by the breathless spiel given at the beginning of the call. And anyway, as Jools registered the car, she had to do all the arranging, so I had to give her the companies the details and I was off the hook. Just left to my meetings.

Outside the sun shone, at least for a while, then the wind began to blow, and that was quickly followed by the rain. The cats stayed in and complained. Or at least I think they complained, they could have been talking about investment opportunities in Bolivia I suppose. Or was that last week?

The day passed, I looked in the freezer for something for dinner, and saw little to inspire me, so it was burgers and beer. Just champion.

I picked up Jools at half five, told her the plan for dinner; oh good, dirty food!

Back home I fried the burgers, Jools poured the beers. And together we made it all vanish.

As we sat and watched the Chelsea Flower Show on TV, a fine young fox ambled into the front garden to munch on peanuts and look at us sat on the sofa as he ate. It was broad daylight, or just beginning to get slightly dark. Amazing.

Monday, 18 May 2015

Monday 18th May 2015


I think the orchid season has been with us for 5 weeks now, and with the peak still a week or two away, there are never enough days to get round the sites I know of, but now there is the added challenge of new sites. Kent is home to many orchid species, some of which are found only here, and sometimes, orchids that are found elsewhere and are common, are rare or even extinct here. The Burnt Tip is one cuch, where in the next county, East Sussex it grows on two sites, and one we visited last year, there are thousands of spikes, here in Kent is is almost extinct, but I know where the last sighting was.

A Sunday morning walk along Lydden Downs

And despite one of my fellow orchid nuts having failed to find one for the last few years, I decided Team Jelltex should take up the challenge. The worst case being we would have a fine walk along the downs in the early morning sunshine, and get some exercise. One of them win/win situations.

A Sunday morning walk along Lydden Downs

For some reason I was awake late, half seven. Well, that might have been due to the beer and celebrations on Saturday as a result of the football. But after a coffee, we were in the car and heading for Lydden before eight. Lydden is best know for the motor racing track, but for me, it is all chalky downlands and orchids. And butterflies. And a nice church.


We park off the main road, put on our walking boots and set off up the narrow track beside the village hall. It is quite ahike up the down, along the wooded track, but after a few minutes we came out of the trees, and ahead was another climb, over open downland to another gate. And once through that, a more gentle climb lay ahead, but once along that, we were at the top of the down, and the sound of the traffic on the A2 was close by.

Early Spider orchid Ophrys sphegodes

We consulted the map, and worked out were the paddock we needed was, so now the hard part of the walk was over, we could stride out and enjoy the views into the valley to our left. Noise of powerful locomotives could be heard, as navvies replaced track on the main line. The valley purred to the sound of their engines.

Early Spider orchid Ophrys sphegodes

We walked on.

Through another gate, and I saw all about were the tiny spikes of dozens of Early Spider Orchids, a new colony for me, but one I did know about. I snap them, and then looking over a few hundred more metres, could see where the Burnt Tip should be. But despite looking all the way along the face of the down, there was no evidence of any orchids, Burnt Tip or any other.

Early Spider orchid Ophrys sphegodes

We sit down and have a picnic breakfast. It is wonderful, and from our vantage point, we could down the valley to Temple Ewell to River and Dover beyond, and even in the distance, the Channel glistening in the sun.

It was time to walk back to the car, re-tracing our steps, passing a few dog-walkers also out taking in the air.

It was easy going, back down the down and the path to the car park. It was half ten and we seemed to have done so much already. But there was still time to drive a short distance to check on the Man Orchids, now half open, and about a week away from being glorious.

Man Orchid Orchis anthropophora

We drive home for a coffee and for me to look at the shots I have taken.

The rest of the day passes quietly, I sit in the garden reading, or on the sofa listening to the radio. As the afternoon wears on, a cool breeze gets up, and it becomes too cold to sit outside, even in the lea of the hedge.

The afternoon Prem games play themselves out. I cook dinner, bangers and mash. Which is just right.

We end the day watching Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell on BBC: it was OK, if a little light. But could be promising. I remember nearly buying the book a few years back.

Sunday, 17 May 2015

Sunday 17th May 2015


Game on.

The football season, (yes, this will be mostly about football, normal service will be resumed tomorrow, or the day after) is over. Or mostly over. The Premier League still has a couple of games to go, but the Football League and the rest of non-league football has ended. With the exception of the play-offs, and those of you who read regularly like, will know that to make it back to the Prem, we, first, had to beat our nearest and dearest rivals, Ipswich over two legs. Last week's game ended 1-1, so, all to play for.

I had asked friends if they could get me a ticket, and at eight yesterday morning, I was tweeted one was available. But I had to be in Norwich at eleven. That was never going to happen. So, I had to accept I would be following the game from afar.

Jools had chores to run in town, so left me to mess around until it was time to watch the game, she was planning on being out for two hours, so seeing her return in less than an hour was a surprise, only then did I see the dent in the front wing of the car. She was at the car park at the Co-op, when a woman driving the wrong way drove into the front of the car. She is OK, the car is driveable, but the wing and front of the car needs replacing. Along with the front wheel too I suspect.

So began the notifying of the insurance companies, whilst we did that, we missed a call from her Dad. Despite our warnings that no one can look into your computer without your permission, he had allowed it that morning, and lost control of their PC. We advised him to pull the plug on it, and remove it from the router. The guy from India called back and wanted to know why they had done that. But the damage was done. By the time we got there, and I ran a virus check, eight critical threats were removed, including the remote access software, but even then, it was not enough. We arranged to take it to a repair shop to be re-formatted.

Even worse than that, was when we told them they would have to cancel all their bank cards, check transactions for that day. All round buggered up their lives.

Time was running out, we drove to Deal to drop the machine off, and explain what had happened. Eighty quid for that. And it seems that their tablet is infected too, but it is cheaper to get a new one.

It was quarter past twelve, the big game had kicked off, so Jools dropped me off at The Alma, where the match was being shown. I went in, ordered a pint, and so the torture began.

With the game all square, any mistake could be decisive, and in the 1st half, it was cagey, if anything Ipswich were the better team, and they game played how they wanted. Just before halftime, their digital box failed, and so we were left looking at a black picture. All through halftime, the landlord tried to reset it, and finally, 5 monutes into the second half, or maybe ten, the picture was restored. But, by that time, all had changed. Thanks to an old boy who had the shame showing on his mobile, I watched as an Ipswich player handled a shot on the line: a penalty to City, and a red card for him. Wes put the spot kick away, and I leaped around the pub, nearing the end of my third or forth pint.

City one up, playing against ten men, should be all over. But a ball hoicked into the penalty area following a foul, a couple of missed clearances, and the ball fell to a Town player, he skipped past Ruddy, and put the ball in the net. Carrow Road fell silent, apart from those in Blue in the corner.

Four minutes later, after a couple of blocked shots, the ball came to Redmond, and he fired the ball in, under the Town keeper: 2-1.

And to finish the game, Jerome was put through by Redmond, 1 on 1 with the keeper, who would get the final touch? Jerome, and the ball tricked under the keeper's armpit and int the back of the net. 3-1. Game set and match. Carrow Road explodes. I leap around the pub once again, order another pint.

The game peters out, and City win, the crowd are on the pitch, they think its all over. It is now. Of course.

I thank the landlord, and we drive home. Or Jools does, I am full of beery goodness. I manage to stay awake through the Prem games, but all was about City's win: social media in Norfolk and among fans, went mad.

I spent a couple of hours waiting to see if I could get a ticket: I could not. Oh well.

One final act was to cook dinner, I was sober enough to work with a sharp knife, I make breaded butterfly chicken breasts, and we have the rest of the pasta salad and breaded aubergine too. It was the first thing we had eaten during the day. It was good.

We sat in the back garden as dusk fell, until the bats came out, and did aerobatics above our heads, catching inspects to eat.

What a day.

Saturday, 16 May 2015

Saturday 16th May 2015

Sorry for the delay in posting. I have no excuse in not writing yesterday,other than what with work, orchids and going out in the evening, there was no time to write, or if there was, I let it slip through my fingers like grains of sand. That's the Bill and Ted effect, right there.

It is Saturday morning now, and in three and a half hours, the biggest local derby between City and Ipswich is taking place at The Carra, the winner goes to the play off final at Wembley next week, the loser plans for another season in the Championship. I have asked a pub in Deal if they will screen the game, the landlord promised. So, that is where I will be from midday.

Thursday. Ascension Day in Denmark. I mention this as it is a public holiday there, and so all of my Danish colleagues are off, and many of them are taking Friday off too, to make a four day weekend. This means that the flood of e mails, which, in all honesty has reduced to a trickle these past few weeks, will stop until Monday. But some people are working, i have meetings to attend, documents to read and update. And anyway, outside the rain poured down.

Jools leaves for work at seven, leaving me and the three sleeping cats. It is not yet raining, but it is dark with the thick clouds, dark enough to need the table light on as i work. Just before eleven the rain starts. Light rain at first, but it is soon steady, and it begins to fall thick enough to seem like mist, hiding the view of the village from the back window.

Rainy Thursday

Work goes on, I listen to the radio as I work, catching up on all the Radcliffe and Maconie shows, until I switch to a few Brief Lives shows on Radio 4, the Sir Joseph Bazalgette show was wonderful, as was the Marlon Brando one, where he is revealed be be a not very nice person, and maybe not a very good actor. Or a very great actor, depending on your point of view.

Jools comes home, we have dinner, and outside the rain may have stopped, but everywhere, and everything, including brave cats, are soaked through. The evening turns to night, we watch The Sky at Night, then some gardening show. We give in to our tired eyes, and head up the wooden hill at nine.


And what would the day bring? Well, first of all I have to drop Jools off at the station at six so she could catch the train to take her to work, this is so I could have the car for the day.

The station is deserted, and the ticket office not yet open, but the trains are running, so I leave Jools there, drive home for breakfast, and switch the computer on. Only three of us from my department are online, and we have a meeting at nnne, but before then we all have to do some number crunching, to create some KPIs, which our new boss wants us to produce every week. That done, and the follow up meeting completed, I see that the people hosting the really important meeting, after having not cancelled it, are not online when the meeting begins. I sit there on Lync waiting for ten minutes: no one shows up, as expected. Grrrr.

I then spend an hour searching through the audit database looking for a report. I search and search, and cannot even find the report I wrote a while back, let alone the one i need to find. It is midday, sun is breaking through the clouds, I have caught up with work, and I am angry. I switch the computer off, grab my camera bag and work phone, and drive off into the wonderful world of the Kentish Orchid.

I drive to Folkestone, then up Stone Street, before heading off to Pennypot Lane, to the usual parking space. There are six cars there already, which means just one thing, butterfly hunters. See, Denge Wood has two colonys of Duke of Burgundys, which are very rare. But this means that as it is also a nationally important orchid site, the butterfly chasers will flatten the orchids in chasing the butterflies. Uopn arriving, I see that there are only a few flattened orchids, and my initial impressions is, not as bad as I thought, shows how thoughtless some of the snappers can be.

However, upon entering the reserve, I see the Early Purples are now past their best and turning, but almost immediately, I see the first of the Lady Orchids, mostly open, and looking stunning, even if it has clouded up, but it is bright enough to show the orchids off well.

Lady Orchid Orchis Purpurea

I meet another orchid fan, who engages me in conversation, and is a little bit more fanatical than me, taking in latin names rather than common ones. But he leaves me alone when I begin to snap, but we did bump into each other a few times as we surveyed the site.

Lady Orchid Orchis Purpurea

There really is nothing finer than to see crowds of Lady Orchids all out, bobbing in the light breeze, and I am in orchid heaven, maybe even orchid nirvana. I snap away, marveling at the range of colours, shapes and sizes of the orchids. Other species are being to grow spikes, and some are near to opening. So, another visit here will be called for.

Lady Orchid Orchis Purpurea

At the bottom of the site I finally find some pure white variants, and snap them. These are rare, as most very pale variants I have seen still have some pink on the flowers, but not these.

Lady Orchid Orchis Purpurea var. alba

I also manage to snap a Duke, he was basking in the weak sunshine, making a snap very easy.

Lady Orchid Orchis Purpurea var. alba

Before I have to pick up Jools, there is just enough time to visit PGD to check up on the Monkeys, and look at how the site is recovering. It is a short drive, 20 minutes, to the site, along narrow lanes, that undulate along the side of the downs, go through woods, still carpeted with bluebells, it is a wonderful thing, just to see this stuff.

Duke of Burgundy Hamearis lucina

PGD is recovering, but is a long way behind. I find a var. alba Early Purple, and a single Lady Orchid growing, then on the way back I see three Monkey pikes growing, and in another spot where I saw last year some early flowering ones, four more spikes, a little further advanced.

And then it was a dash to get to Hythe to collect Jools. Hythe is at a standstill, seems like the school run, coupled with the usual Friday afternoon traffic means that the roads cannot cope. I make it to the car park tith seconds to spare, and once Jools arrives we take the back roads to get to the other side of the queues so we can take the lanes back up to Dollands Moor and onto the motorway. And to be honest, from there the traffic is very light, we cruise into Dover, along Townwall Street and finally up Jubilee Way and home. All very painless.

We have an early dinner, as we are having an evening out. A random Tweet showed up in my photostream earlier this week, about a show at the Astor Theatre in Deal, a talk about books with the two Marks: Ellen and Billingham. I have to admit not to knowing who Mark Billingham was, but Mark Ellen was a music writer, TV presenter, DJ and magazine editor, who I had followed through his career by accident from one paper to magazine and so on.

We have a couple of hours to kill, first at the Just Reproach, a micropub, and it is heaving, really doing well, and we can only just get in the door, but the beer is good. But we decide to leave. We wander to The Alma where they are showing the football on a large screen, and I get the landlord to promise to show the big game on Saturday for me.

Mark's talk is a delight, going over some of the highlights from 'Rockstars Stole my Life'. Including some that failed to make the cut, embellishing others and taking questions. Mark Billingham is another delight, although his stock in trade is writing about murders. I think we shall seek out his books in due course.

And that is the end, half past ten, time to drive home and hit the sack. After some supper.

A good day.