Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Tuesday 30th June 2015

The world is a grim and horrible place at times. Last week eight people were shot to death in a church in Charleston. The murderer was a white man, and the dead were all black. It was an act of terrorism, but most are not calling it that. Since then many churches, all black churches, have been hit by arson, but that is not arson either. At the weekend, 38 people were gunned down on a beach in Tunisia, but that was terrorism, because it fits the image. Watching the news is painful. Painful too because of the continued and increased attacks on the poor, the sick, the disabled by our caring government who thinks the best way to ensure people get well paid jobs is by cutting there benefits; as if people choose to have low paid jobs. From tomorrow, the disabled will lose disability allowances which mean many will not be able to get out of bed, because there will be no money for help. The 'war' rages in Ukraine, but it is not called that either. The news has moved on from a year ago, and the west and Russia play their war games in a bombed-out country. In the Middle East, IS is still killing innocent people in the most barbaric of ways, Israel is still killing Arab children, and their leader justifies it.

The one bright spot this past week, has been to Supreme Court's decision in America to legalise the right of marriage to people of all orientation. That should be a cause for celebration, but the religious right think that only they should make the laws of the country, rather like IS in Iraq, turning the moment into all about them, their hate, their bigotry, rather than the happiness of thousands of loving couples who can now marry.

I don't listen to the news much now, nor watch it on TV, I get the highlights through Twitter.


6 days since I last saw an airport of a security scanner! And I feel great. Just three days to go and then the holidays. I know I talk about it a bit, but I am quite looking forward to it. Anyway, with meetings from seven in the morning, my day is full, and on top of that I have to be sure that the projects are OK before I go on holiday. Lots to do, and everybody wants a piece of my time.

While outside the sun shone down from a clear blue sky, a gentle breeze disturbed the nodding heads of the fresh poppies. It was far too nice a day to be indoors, working, And yet there I was. Even the cats were too hot to pester me for stuff, except in a middle of an early meeting, Mulder came in from his trundles and demanding feeding. NOW.I was able to walk away from the computer, feed him, go back and the same guy was still talking. Wonder if I should have wandered away more!

The morning turned into afternoon, and I celebrated with stuffing sandwiches. And mayo. It were right grand. Outside, it just got hotter.

I made some focaccia in the afternoon. Found a recipe online. Well, the first recipe I found, I used, and it came out very nice: flavoured with lazy garlic, and with sea salt and rosemary on top as it cooked. Wonderful with the Insalata Caprese we had for dinner.

It was too hot to go for a walk, so the salad, bread and beer/cider meant we did not feel like it much either. With no Glasto for us to ignore, no football to watch, no TV eye candy at all. I sat outside in the cool of the evening shade as the sun set behind the house, the sky to the south turned pink then red. I had a wee dram, and then another. Birds, bats and bugs filled the air, and far overhead jetliners soared their way over the Channel to 'somewhere else'.

We live here. I live here. This is our life, in the house we bought. In reality, the cats run everything, but for a moment, I thought we did.

Monday, 29 June 2015

Monday 29th June 2015


And I think it is fair to say, that on Sunday my enthusiasm finally ran out. I could not be bothered to do anything much, maybe listen to the radio, edit some shots, and the usual, but go out, visit Nan? No.

I think the treadmill of work, which, and let's be frank about this, is not that hard for me, but even still, it has worn me down, to the point where I now feel I really need the two weeks off. I am really counting the days and minutes to Friday when we set off. But before then: Sunday.

After the glory that was Saturday's weather, Sunday was a dull and drab affair. It even rained some in the afternoon, cats came in complaining that their lovely fur was all damp. Or I guess, or imagine what they were saying.

Even though it was only yesterday, quite what I did to while the day away is a mystery to me. All I know is that soon it was lunch, eaten in the cool lunchtime out on the patio. Jools, who was inspired and worked for five hours gardening, the opposite of me. The garden looks a picture, although we are still unsure of what to do with it come the autumn, and thoughts are still on the 'footballer's wives' fountain, which will be road tested when we come home towards the end of July.

Jools went to see Nan at three, and I stayed behind to cook dinner: the full roast chicken dinner, with chestnut stuffing, Yorkshire puddings, roast potatoes and steamed veggies. I had bought a bottle of Prosecco the day before, and it went down very well with dinner. Stephen Fry accompanied dinner too, with his desert island discs, which was a real treat.

Which gave us an hour to prepare for the 7th and final part of Jonathon Strange, which was rather wonderful again, and Sunday evenings won't be the same now it is over.

Ad so was the weekend, but for me, just three working days ahead, and then. HOLIBOBS.

Sunday, 28 June 2015

Sunday 28th June 2015


Once again, on a day off, we were awake well before six, when the alarm was not set to go off. Anyway. Not that the cats minded. They were perfectly happy with being fed before six, that meant they could beg for 2nd breakfasts even earlier than on a normal day.

First task of the day was a trip to the temple that is J. Sainsbury Ltd. We make a list, onto which, I scrawl adding at the bottom, beer and cider. We are at its door at five past seven, along with many other people our age, which means that we are at least conforming to stereotypes. We zip round the aisles, piling stuff in our trolley. There are only two checkouts open, giving us an open goal to engage in some complaining, but we conform to another stereotype by queuing up in silence, arranging our goods on the belt in weight order, so to aid packing.

And we are out, driving home along deserted roads. Whilst Jools unpacks, I begin the morning ritual of the cooking of the bacon. Oh yes, bacon butties.

All fed and watered now, it is time for the orchids. The season is rushing forward, being the final weekend in June, the main season is drawing to an end, and most of the wonderful orchids have already either died off, or are past their best. Now, at this point I could so that due to theft I will not reveal where we went, but at least one of the sites is only one of two in Kent where that orchid can be found. So, due to my description, and it is a public site, you would know where it was. And finally, as the site has security, and you can be charged seven quid for entering the whole estate, so, you know where it is. Right?

In the interests of orchid security, I will not reveal the two locations, you know why. Sigh. I was alerted this week to two incidents of orchid security: one, where a guy was with a cool box, apparently collecting orchid seeds and some planted. And a second where a site of mutant bees was flattened and one of the more unusual mutants, picked. This is why I generally do not reveal locations.

That apart, on with the orchids.

A short drive to a seaside location, where I had hoped to see a final glimpse of the Bees at the seaside. In addition there is a fine collection of Southern Marsh there. So, seeemd like a good idea. That the site is now mainly used as a dog toilet, the descent onto it is a hopscotch game avoiding turds and discarded dog poop bags. Let us skip the fact that people collect their mutts poop in a non-biodegradable bag, then leave it where the dog pooped: why?

Southern Marsh Orchid Dactylorhiza praetermissa

Once again I digress.

Down on the site, among the the fast growing trees, bushes and other plants, there in an error of about ten square metres there is a fine colony of Southern Marsh, now in their prime. As ever, we took about 5 minutes to find them, as the large site can look pretty similar. I am sure we get odd looks as we lay on the ground snapping what look like pretty purple flowers, and yet ignoring dozens of equally pretty purple flowers. What can it all mean?

Southern Marsh Orchid Dactylorhiza praetermissa

A little further on I look for the Bees, only to find that on the bone-dry land, and under the sun, they had come and gone. All that were left were the dead spikes, now bereft of flowers, and already shrivelling back to the ground for another year. Jools did find one that still had a flower, so I snapped it. As you do.

The last Bee

Walking back to the car, I was on the lookout for butterflies, maybe a Small Blue or a Holly Blue, but saw just a huge Red Admiral. He failed to settle, or when he did I was not ready and it flew off again. Foiled again.

To the next site, a nature reserve, slightly overgrown. And more overgrown than when we were last here about ten days ago. We walk along the path, and to the left there is just a sea of tall grass, hiding almost all the orchids from sight. A few can be seen though. We find the path deeper into the area, and round a corner there are orchids everywhere, some, once again, looking a little past their best, certainly the Common Spotted did. I am here to check on the Marsh Orchids, trying to find a conclusive Leopard Marsh. Thing is, orchids, especially Dactylorhiza, are promiscuous, and will interbreed and hybrise like crazy, and telling an unusual hybrid from a Leopard can be tough. Doubly so as not all have spotted leaves, spots in donut shapes, or the patterns one would expect.

Leopard Marsh Orchid Dactylorhiza praetermissa var. junialis Anyway, such is the thoughts of an orchid hunter, but i am lucky in that one of the first Marsh Orchids I see had clearly donut shaped spots, and is of the classic Leopard colour and markings. I snap that, and lots of the others, such an array of colours and patterns, it is bewildering really.

Leopard Marsh Orchid Dactylorhiza praetermissa var. junialis Happy with the Marsh, the next port of call was Sandwich Bay. Sandwich Bay is private land, the visitor is charged seven quid to enter during the day, and failure to buy one can mean your car is clamped. Although this goes against every socialist bone in my body, it also means that the orchids which are found here are well looked after and do not suffer from theft. So, I pay the seven quid, and we drive onto the Strand, right to the end near the golf club where there are the thickets groupings of Lizard and Pyramidal, along with some Bees. But, once parked it seems that the Bees have gone here as well, so make do with the Lizards and Pyramidals.

Pyramidal Orchid Anacamptis pyramidalis

It is dry and hot here, and not conditions for orchids, even Lizards, and so they seem to be drying out quickly, and anyway the season is coming to an end for them too. Indeed, some are turning brown at the bottom, the flowers drying out turning the colour of dried leaves.

Marsh Helleborine Epipactis palustris

After half an hour, I have had enough, got the shots I wanted. Jools had spent the time laying on the beach looking at the clouds, which maybe time better spent, who knows. We get back in the car to drive to the observatory, to check if the Marsh Helleborines are out. Good news is they are, and we are given permission to access the site.

Leopard Marsh Orchid Dactylorhiza praetermissa var. junialis Across the meadow and then past the ringing site, and even before we go through the gate there are orchids. Beyond the gate, even more orchids, Southern Marsh, Leopard Marsh and Marsh Helleborines, for the time being, just a few out, but it is a riot of colour with the lush grass as background. It is wonderful. I see two wonderful Leopards, growing close to the path, the leaves are darkly spotted, not donut holed, but the colour and density along with the robustness of the plants meant they have to be.

The Marsh Helleborines grow here and at one more site in the county, and as that is private, we have to come here to see their delicate beauty. A paddock with these wonderful orchids is a sight to see and gladden the heart. I will try to return before the end of the week.

Lizard Orchid Himantoglossum hircinum Our final call for orchids, is the ancient beech wood where we have seen the Lesser Butterflies and the white Lady. It was now clouding over, but still wonderful to be on the wooded down, the air still. But the thick canopy of branches means that very little sunshine now gets to the ground, and what orchids were there, Twayblades, Lady, Fly are dying off or already dead. We search the usual sites for new rosettes, but don't see any. I do spot, ahem, three Common Spotted, much smaller and paler than the downland varieties, but that is all of fresh orchids. We don't go up to see the Lessers, happy wirth the morning's hunting, we turn round and walk back to the car, to go home for lunch, forgoing a trip to one of the local pubs. Oh, how I have changed.

Back home we have buttered multi-seed bread which we had bought that morning, washing it down with a good beer, or cider. Life is good. Outside the sun shone down.

Somehow, the afternoon slipped away, with a beer festival at the Carpenter's Arms under way, we had planned on going, but I decided that we would have dinner at home, breaded chicken, Jersey Royals and salad. And have another beer, then maybe relax the evening through. Which is what we did.

At nine we went outside to sit under the open skies, as the near full moon tried to shine through the thin cloud, and bats wheeled around us, chasing moths and other insects.

Saturday, 27 June 2015

Saturday 27th June 2015

Ten years ago today, I had my last 'working day' in the RAF. Some would say I had never had one, but, well, I know better. I try not to be one to look back too much, but ten years is ten years, 20% of my life and all that. That final week had been going round, handing in kit, getting the clearing chit signed, then the on this morning, the final round: OC Eng, OC Arm, then PSF, hand my ID card over, and that was it, I was a civvy. Almost, I was paid up to September 18th, so I had plans for the summer.

OC Arm, OC Armament Flight, was my boss, he should have had me in for a chat, thank me on behalf of the RAF and Queen for my 15 years of service, but he just signed the chit and shook my nad. He was a wanker, so why worry? Not me. I said goodbye to folks in the armoury, ignored the smiling knife who killed my career; yes, that's you Smithy you twat. Anyway, I walked out of the armoury, up through the camp, which was soon to close anyway, up to PSF, Personal Services Flight (?), hand in the ID card, sign some final forms, give them my address. And that was it, yes, you can go and do what you want!

On leaving I met an old friend: you just posted in? he asked. No, now leaving. For good. We shook hands, and I walked to my car to drive out for the final time. It was a wonderful summer day, clear blue skies, no wind. I think it wasn't yet ten in the morning, so I had time to drive home via the Reedham Ferry, get changed and head down the pub to celebrate.

I spent the summer in the US, travelling to New Hampshire, Maine and New York State before travelling to Seattle, hiring a Mustang convertible before driving down route 101 through Washington State, Portland, along the Oregon Coast, up the Columbia River Valley, Mt St Helens, Crate Lake, San Francisco, California and finaly to LA. The flying to meet friends in Arkansas, my 40th birthday in Vegas, and two final weeks back in Arkansas. Then the real world hit when I cam e back, the pay cheques from the RAF stopped.

And that lead me to being a draysman, a chemical delivery driver, a geophysical engineer and finally to the wonderful world of wind turbines. Its been a blast. And in the meantime, I met Jools, moved to Kent, got married and we bought the ugly house on the cliffs: Chez Jelltex.

These blogs go back to 2008, just before we married, what went before was in another country, another time. The journey was tough at times, but I love where I have ended up. We are seriously thinking about a trip to the Far East next year. We shall see.


Day 6 of the 5 day week.

How did that happen? Well, the trip to Copenhagen of course. Since then I have been trying to smooth out the job and project in preparation for the holiday which starts at 16:00 on Wednesday. Not a minute later!

Being a Friday, I have wall to wall meetings. Starting at 08:00, and inbetween I have to review the project. It is relentless, but relentless at home, with coffee and cats and the sun shining outside.

The morning gives way to the afternoon, and I have another meeting, which turns into a talking shop, over runs by an hour. It is half three, and I think it is about time the weekend should start, being a manager, I believe that it is in my field of influence to decide when the weekend should start, so I decree to me and the cats that the weekend has started, and switch the computer off. No one complains.

Jools arrives home at half four, I am preparing dinner, and I realise we don't have enough breadcrumbs: shall we go out for dinner asks Jools? It is pay day, and I have received a bonus from work. It is an easy decision. We have coffee in the back garden before we drive into Deal for a curry.

The curry house is quiet, we get a good table and order a generous meal, but don't have a starter, just the poppadoms and dips. I have something with king prawns, and Jools has a balti delight. I ask if it comes with Angel Delight; apparently not.

On the way back we stop off at The Berry, which is having a beer festival, and a music one as it is Glastonbury as well. So they call their beer and music festival, Glaston Berry. Get it? I have a pint of chocolate beer, but with the curry laying heavy, I can only manage the one pint before thoughts turn to home and Monty.

Jools drives home, the weekend had begun, and i have three days before the holibobs.

Life is good.

Friday, 26 June 2015

Friday 26th June 2015


Another day with no airports.

Or hotels.

Tasks for the day:

2nd breakfast
hang out washing

In that order.

But, sadly, work took was clearly more important that breakfast or even 2nd breakfast. It began with meetings and continued with more meetings and ending with a hoooge meeting to end with, during which I listened to other people, in another country, argue with each other, before deciding at four that they were going to have fun then go to the pub. Now, I could have been there, team building, but I decided 5 weeks in a row away, was enough, and so refused to attend. Instead I stayed home, drank coffee and fed the cats. At regular intervals.


I have given up refusing to ignore the cat's demands for food. I for one worship my feline overlords. They seem quite happy with the situation, as they are getting rounder by the day.

Apart from meetings, I listen to the radio, and occasionally go outside to sit in the sun and to temper my impending allergy attack. Yes, allergy attack, you thought you had heard to the last of such things, I know I did. However, for some reason all this week I was tottering on the edge of descending into sneezing hell. I took drugs, or just tried to face it out, and did for the most part. Until last night, whilst watching TV, for no reason at all, I began to sneeze. And carried on sneezing, and sneezing more and more. I took drugs, had a shower and went to sit outside to get some fresh air, fortified only by a large tumbler of Danish whisky.


And the sneezing eased, which was nice.

But with Thursday out of the way, my 5th working day of the working week, and with Friday just to go before the weekend could begin.

Thursday, 25 June 2015

Thursday 25th June 2015


Despite it being the middle of the week, it felt like a Friday. It should have been a Friday. I mean, I worked on Sunday so that should make it at least Thursday, no?

No, but, how amazing does it feel laying bed until seven, having coffee, watching the birds outside, putting on the radio before powering up the work laptop at eight to begin the working day? No airports, or greedy stupid people in site, and no hours and hours in meeting rooms discussing the meaning of word. Just the usual hum drum day to days business of work. Except, there has been a software failure, and the day I had planned, searching through project data was put on hold.

I was still waiting at lunch, and into the afternoon.

I have lunch, deal with mail and all the while waiting for the software bug to be fixed. I have a project meeting, and finally at half three, it is working again. But with most of the day lost, I decide to start fresh in the morning.

Wednesday afternoon walk to the cliffs and back

At four, I pack up for the day, and looking outside at the wonderful sunshine, I think the best thing is to go for a walk, maybe all the way to the cliffs. It has been a while since I did this.

Wednesday afternoon walk to the cliffs and back

What with endless weeks away from home, and the poor weather and it being the orchid season, it means that I have not walked these paths for some weeks..

From the end of our street, the path leads through fields of broad beans towards the pig's copse.

The piglets hear me coming, and are squeeling with anticipation of dinner, but are disappointed. I try to scratch their noses, but they are wary. Maybe I smell of pork scratchings.....

Wednesday afternoon walk to the cliffs and back

Further on, the view opens up down to Kingsdown, and I walk down the dip and up the other side. The richness of the summer colour is dazzling, as is the myriad of flying insects and birds, filling the air, and struggling with the strong breeze.

Wednesday afternoon walk to the cliffs and back

Down the dip and up the steep climb the other side, pausing a regular intervals to take in the view and catch my breath. A curious horse came to the fence just to check if I had any carrots. I didn't, but it seemed happy with me scratching its nose.

Wednesday afternoon walk to the cliffs and back

Along the top road, another three horse came to the fence to check my progress, one quite keen that I should provide some food, so I gave it clumps of grass, which seemed to be appreciated.

Wednesday afternoon walk to the cliffs and back

At the junction where the footpath heads up across the downs and the road heads down to Kingsdown, the field is full of young bulls, who are wary of me, but pose whilst I take a shot.

Wednesday afternoon walk to the cliffs and back

The gowns are all full of waving barley, wheat and grass, all billowing in the breeze. I can already see over to France, and the ferries which are working again.

Wednesday afternoon walk to the cliffs and back

And finally to the cliffs, with the ground dropping away, and the sea lapping at their feet.

And around me, I see the tell tale purple of Pyramidal Orchid Spikes. There had to be orchids, no?

Pyramidal Orchid Anacamptis pyramidalis

At the cliffs I was asked to take a picture of four ladies, who were having a get together to mark 50 since wince they met at college. I had to tell them that they met just before I was born then. They seemed to find it funny.

I did show them some orchids, but they did know more than they let on.

Back home, which for the most part, is downhill, and out of the breeze. It was warm, and my legs were getting achy, but in a good way.

Wednesday afternoon walk to the cliffs and back

The horses ignored me, and carried on eating grass, and the piglets squeeled when I walked past, but in a half-hearted manner. It was hot after all.

I made pasta salad, then as Jools returned egg and breadcrumbed the sliced aubergine and shallow fried them. Simple but wonderful. Jools opened a bottle of red plonk de plonk, and all was set for dinner.

The good news of the day was that Barclays had no, in fact, lost the £20g of Nan's money after all, just closed down the account and not sent the cheque out. Good job Jools checked!

Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Wednesday 24th June 2015


I wake up at four in the morning, with a glorious pre-dawn light creeping round the curtains. Despite being a part of Copenhagen, there is no sounds of the city, just nature waking up and feeling pleased with itself. I drift back off, and stir again at quarter to six, I think about things and realise that I had once again failed to change the time on my phone, so it was an hour later, and so I was running late. As if the underline that, I get a text from my colleague asking if I had been down to breakfast yet.

I leap up and get dressed, Frank is waiting downstairs, so I join him for coffee. We talk about the upcoming meeting, and how it might go.

The ten minute drive to the venue for the meeting can either be done via the busy motorways, or through housing estates. It all depended how the sat nave felt. As it turned out, it took me the easy way through the houses, bringing me to the offices in very quick time, allowing me time to review mails and documents. Frank arrives, so we go in, ready for the day ahead.

We finish at half three, and one of our colleagues needed a lift to the airport, a taxi had been mentioned, but I had little else to do for the day, so I offered. When I tell people back home that there are traffic jams in Denmark, the attitude seems to be where are they going, then? As if people in other countries don't have jobs, cars. It was a 35 km drive to the airport through endless intersections and junctions, with lots of jams, slow traffic, and all done in glorious warm sunshine.

An evening walk around Gentofte

I get him there 45 minutes before his flight, but then have to drive back of course, through yet more jams and slow moving traffic. And to make matters worse I had selected the address of the office, rather than the hotel as my destination, so it was with a long, deep groan when I saw their offices on my left hand side. I pull over, reprogram the sat nav, and drive back through the houses to the hotel, taking just ten minutes of course.

I dump my bag in my room, change out of my short and tie, put on an old t shirt and grab a camera and go back outside for a walk around the area surrounding the hotel. I had decided against going to the city centre as there looked like massive storm clouds surrounding us as I drove to the airport, and wandering around in the thunderstom did not appeal. Of course, as it turned out, there was no thunder, no rain, just more warm sunshine.

An evening walk around Gentofte

Gentofte is quiet and leafy, but it has a commercial centre with convenience stores, cafes and a nice church. But nothing more than to take any more than 15 minutes of my time. I photograph it all, then walk back to the hotel for dinner and a beer or two.

An evening walk around Gentofte

Because of the silly time of my flight the next morning, I went to bed at nine, in the hope I would be able to sleep through what was the longest evening of the year. Not entirely successful.


Because my flight was at 07:20, I had to be on the road some two hours or so before that, and therefore up half an hour prior to that. I set the alarm for half four. I was awake at four, which thanks to the time difference was 03:00 back home in Blighty. Outside a milky light was abroard, even the birds were not singing yet. I pack, was and go downstairs to check out.

Once on the road, it is gloriously quiet. The sat nav takes me back to the airport, passing where I had been held up the previous evening. I zoom through at 110 kmh. The sun is showing over the horizon, it feels great to be going home, even if I am so tired my eyes are itching.

At the airport there are no care hire staff about. So I park the car up, walk to the terminal to drop the keys off. I quick walk to the other terminal to check in and drop my bag off: all painless. Even though there is a massive queue for security, and the four minute wait from this point sign seemed very optimistic, it was right, and once scanned and I had all my stuff and put my belt back in so my jeans would not fall down, I set off looking for breakfast.

I am still trying to work out why shopping is such a big thing at airports. I like a bottle of aftershave or a nice bottle of whisky as the next guy, but there are hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of square metres of retail space, all just opening up at six. All I want is a coffee and a bite to eat. I find a cheap place, get a cheese roll and a large coffee, then comes the harder task of finding a place to sit. Mustn't let people have more space than shops, must we? All we want is a place to sit, not much to ask, is it?

I walk to the gate to find it already very busy, I find a seat and check my mails as more and more people arrive. We wait and wait, and eventually the doors are opened and we can pile on board, there is the usual scramble for luggage space above the seats, and I look at some of the large cases which some are pulling and wonder how those can be allowed as carry on? But, once inside the plane, there is just about enough space for everyone, without the need for the usual appeal from the crew for people to take smaller bags out to make room, as the flight is being delayed. I feel the plane taxi, the engines rev and the thunder off down the runway. As we lift off, I close my eyes and drift off to sleep for an hour, only waking up when the little girl in the seat behind thoughtfully kicks the back of my seat, which she does every few minutes.

Blighty hoves into view below. We circle a lot, getting lower before we go on final approach, dropping below the level of the clouds, over the M23 and down onto the runway. It is ten past eight.


I let the rush die down after we arrive at the gate, I mean this gives our bags time to make their way to the reclaim area. No point waiting there. The long walk to immigration, then downstairs to the reclaim, where after a minute or so, my bag appears. I just have to get to the station now. My plan had been to upgrade my ticket so I could go to St Pancras and then catch the high speed line back home, but half of Europe was queuing up, trying to make sense of our over-complicated ticketing system. I decided that i would rather use the quiet, lesser-used lines via Redhill and Tonbridge, on a bright day it would even be a pleasure.

Stretching to the horizon

And for the most part it was: the train from the airport to Redhill was busy, but from there to Tonbridge there were plenty of seats, and the views out of the window were glorious. I just watched the greenery pass by, go through quiet stations and leafy villages.

I had a short wait at Tonbridge before a direct train to Dover pulled in; and once again I get a set with fine views over the Kent landscape, passing by Marden where I see half a dozen photographers looking round the orchid meadow. We trundle on.

There were strikes and blockades in Calais: I mention this as when this happens, roads in Dover quickly get jammed, and my fear is that I would not be able to get a taxi home. As usual, my fears were unfounded, and outside the station, there were 5 taxis, and the driver said there were no jams. Yet.

When I get home, I look at the traffic cameras, and see that between Ashford and Folkestone, the motorway was closed, and there were two lines of parked trucks waiting to get to the port.

It was wonderful to be home, even better that there would be no airports or passport control until the 21st July at the earliest. I am home at midday, but already I have been up 9 hours, and am shattered. I check my mails, write a couple more, but soon I am snoozy so sleep on the sofa, whilst birds chirp away outside.

Jools picks up fish and chips on the way home from work, and she did not encounter many jams either, so was home at half six.

After catching up, we watch a recording of the penultimate episode of Jonathon Strange., which just gets better and better. Sad that Sunday will see the final one. Just ten days wait now until the holibobs.

Tuesday, 23 June 2015

Tuesday 23rd June 2015

I have no idea how many folks out there read my words. According to the dashboard, just four people actually follow the blog, and one of them is me (don’t ask). So, at times I feel like I speak or write to myself, and so when I do get feedback via a comment it is like I have won the pools. A real joy. I also reailse that for the most part this is a I did this, then that, and then this and so on kinda blog, in that I give little of myself away, what I think. Maybe I am wrong on that, on the whole I do enjoy I enjoy my job, even the travelling that leaves me so shattered, knackered that I can’t think. But it is better than the blog I would have written some 30 years ago, which would have been something like this.

06:00 Got up, had breakfast, drove to the chicken factory.

07:15 to 16:30 worked on the whole bird line, either turning wings or stuffing giblets back up where the sun don’t shine.

16:30 to 17:30 Drive home

17:30 have dinner, listen to my cassettes or records, listen to John Peel. Go to bed.

Repeat for 5 days, then recover over the weekend.

And repeat.

We used to listen to Radio 1 on the factory tannoy, and the fact that Simon (master) Bates was the highlight says so much about the cultural wasteland that was the 80s. And we are nostalgic for these days?

Talking of nostalgia, this is the year of the reunion. I am going to two. Maybe.

In August this year, the final people in my school year, including me, turn 50, so we are having a 2nd, and probably final get together. Although the first one was my idea, I did not go. I am going this time, if Jon is coming over from Texas, it seems the least I can do. But, what do we have in common apart from the time in Mr Lush’s maths class. And so on? Well, I don’t know, I am quite looking forward to it, in a way.

Although I will have to explain why I am ignoring my old best friend’s frequent request to be a friend on Facebook. We have nothing in common is the answer. And to those who do not know, I did rejoin about 18 months ago, to keep in touch with these people, and the group of people I will be meeting in the 2nd reunion.


Well, I suppose it is good to know where we came from, how far we have come, and the popular guys at school are now busking for pennies down on the pier. None of us made that much of ourselves. And yet as I wrote that, I remembered one of us is a well known children’s author and illustrator. It’s not me, I swear way too much. So, we shall see what happens, and if I can really go home and not visit Mother. I was going to stay with her, but she says its not a good idea, so I am in a seaside B&B instead. Less arguments there one imagines.

And the second reunion is a RAF one. I was in the RAF, for, oooh, some 15 years. I joined up late, at 25, did 15 years and left at 40. See I can do hard sums too. But this being the case, I do not define my life by those 15 years, and since leaving the mob some ten years ago, I have attended one such reunion, or piss up as they like to be called. Well, in truth this is dedicated to St Barbara and will take place in Lincoln in November. I am taking Jools, for the weekend, not the drinking. We will be taking in the cathedral as well so to counteract the bad living.

So, being of a trade that was known, well known maybe, for hard drinking, it is an embarrassment for me to say I could never hold my drink, and I am even more lightweight now. Really, I am not embarrassed to say that, I am rather glad. I like a drink, but also to feel great in the mornings, and not have hangovers that now last three days.

Anyway, more of that later in the year.


And here we are, another Sunday and getting ready to travel on God’s day of rest. Again.

I had hoped to do some orchid snapping before the serious traveling thing, but the clouds never cleared, and so I busied myself with photo editing, listening to the radio and eating croissants. As you do.

But all the time, our time together was slipping away, and just before midday, after a snack of Scotch Eggs, I loaded the car, and we set off for Gatwick. Gatwick on sea. Or not. There is nothing wrong with Gatwick, really, but in between Dover and Gatwick lay the M20, M26 and Ms5 and M23. Nightmare. Most of southern England were also on the road, heading down to Brighton for some winkles. Did they not know an international playboy and quality expert needed to get to the airport?

Traffic, more traffic with added traffic. It was slow going, but we got there with just over two hours before flight time. Jools drove off after I got my stuff out. I took the escalators up to the departure Hall, checked in, changed seats, checked in my bag, went through security, all in ten minutes, all painless. All the places to get food and drink were heaving, so I looked at my mails and answered some, threw grenades at others. Time passed.

I decided I would get something to eat, despite being at the airport for an hour, I still thought I had two hours to kill. I go to Frankie and Benny’s, a New York/Italian fusion place, like it was dreamed up in Basingstoke, which is probably was. I order a beer and a chicken wrap. I read, look at the web. The food arrives, I eat. I look at my watch. Five past three.

Five past three!

I had 25 minutes to get to the gate before the flight was due to leave. Thankfully, I have only a ten minute stumble, but it was panic time, but even so, I had to leave half my dinner.

I'm Norwegian, Fly me

Needless to say, when I got to the gate, hundreds of people were ahead of me, and the plane had yet to arrive. I shouldn’t have worried. We are still there at half three, quarter to four. And at four the aircraft arrives, and we are let on, in the usual mad scramble for overhead bin space for all the stuff folks did not check in.

I get a space for my bag, and settle into my seat, and fall asleep. I do stir on occasion to see us flying over Essex, the sea, Holland and Denmark. We fly over Copenhagen, turn round whilst losing height, so we are skipping over the waves on final approach.

Once down there is the scramble to be first off the plane. I wait for the rush to die down, then grab my bag and walk to baggage recleaim where I wait half an hour. And oh look, there it is, going round and round and round.

I am given a large Toyota 4X4 and a sat nav, so go to find it in the parking garage. I program the nav, and off we go, out onto Copenhagen’s wonderful motorway system, taking junction after junction, with it all looking the same, and yet the machine telling me the hotel was getting closer.

After getting my room key, I dump my bags and go down for dinner, just getting my order in at 20:45 before the kitchen closed. Lamb, chips, asparagus and garlic mushrooms, and two bottles of stupidly strong beer.

It is the longest day, and so outside the sun still shone brightly, but I was not going out, I had documents to read. Tomorrow night, maybe.

Sunday, 21 June 2015

Sunday 21st June 2015


Yesterday, when I arrived home, I was shattered. I mean worn out to my bones. I have been travelling for four weeks, and with another trip to start on Sunday (today), by Tuesday I will be dead beat once again. I am so glad that for our holiday once again this year we are not flying anywhere, just getting in our car, and driving somewhere so remote there will be no phone signal nor no internet connection. I am so fed up with travel, airports, people and hotels, just to stay at home in bed for two weeks would be good. And then there is the chaos that is work, I won't bore you all with the details, but to me, it does seem at least I am wanted, which should be good, but seems to be just darn confusing.

I will just be glad not to think about it for two weeks. My work phone will stay at home, as will the laptop. I will have an old fashioned analogue holiday. Except for all the digital photography, obviously.

The weather was supposed to get worse through the day, so when we rose at six, and the sun was shining, my thought was for orchids, orchids in the sunshine. A friend had told me where to find a pure white Chalk Fragrant, and as it was a site I had not been to for a year, and was a pleasant walk, with the added bonus of maybe seeing an adder as we were early, it seemed a no brainer. So after a coffee, we loaded the car and drive over to Folkestone.

A short walk from the parking area, the ground dropped away to the Channel Tunnel Terminal below, already a hive of activity. We walked on along the edge of the down, looking for orchids. I spoke to a dog walker, who said he had never seen an orchid whilst out walking, but would love to. I wanted to tell him to open his eyes, but thought better of it. He strode on, and I scanned from side to side. About 10m down I saw the first spike, a Common Spotted I think, a sign that more would be close by.

Chalk Fragrant Orchid Gymnadenia conopsea var. albiflora

Indeed, we soon saw the first hint of purple among the grass, and then my eyes settled on a lone Bee, just beside the path. Further on the Chalk Fragrants got more numerous, and in the lip of the down, capturing the rays of the rising sun, was a pure white Fragrant. Not rare, quite common, I believe. But still the first I had seen, or at least until I began to look for the oddities rather than 'just' orchids.

I got the shots I wanted, and of few of the normal coloured Fragrants.

From there it was a short drive to the well-known site for the Late Spiders, so I thought I would stop by and see the damage the hoardes have caused. Once we had parked up and walked along the down, we came to the site to see the warden has put up cages over what is left. What a poor lot they looked, partly flattened, some had been picked and even the Man were twisted and broken A poor sight for an orchid lover. The mutant had been picked, and now just the bare spike remained, so we will never know if the buds further up would have been mutants too. So sad, and makes me angry.

Late Spider Orchid Ophrys fuciflora

We walk back to the car, in a poor mood. Jools says I can do what I want because of the travel tomorrow, so I say we will go to see the Musk. I see her mood sink, but then she thinks about it, and a walk in the downs, or through an orchid meadow is never a waste of time.

At the site, we were the only folk there, just the four highland cattle munching their way through the first paddock. They seemed happy enough. In the second paddock the Greater Butterfly were still showing well, but going over, as were the Monkey, just one seemed to be in a good enough state to photograph, but I pass. Out quarry is in the next paddock, and would be a challenge to find with the Musk being so small. We do see many Chalk Fragrant, including a few that are also the pure white var. albiflora.

Musk Orchid Herminium monorchis

Looking closely at the ground for the Musk, I walk carefully back and forwards, and then I see a group of eight spikes, with another couple nearby. Just like that. Jools could then even see them from a few metres away. I make sure the ground is clear before getting down to snap them. The light is getting worse, but I am lucky that the clouds part to bathe them in golden light. Lucky me.

We walk on to see if I could find the pure white Common Spotted, and I find at least two more, and the one I saw two weeks previously was fully open now, and a wonderful sight.

Common Spotted Orchid Dactylorhiza fuchsi var. albiflora

We walk back to the car, then drive back home, via the pet store to pick up yet more wild bird food.

At the bottom of the valley, we spot a field of red, which can only mean poppies. We drive along a side road and come to a fine overview of the field, I think there is a path up one side of it, I am right, so we park on the side of the lane, and walk up the footpath to the edge of the field. We have to wait for the clouds to part, and the field we in sunlight. But when the clouds do part, the poppies spring to life, or their colour does. I get the shots.

Like Poppies. Heavy with seed

That done, it was through Dover, up the hill and home. Time to make bacon butties and a huge cuppa and then the world seemed a much better place.

I look through the photos, Jools does some gardening. Lunchtime rolls round, we have cheese and crackers. Living the dream.

The afternoon drifts by, with the radio playing, the weather changing outside, clouds roll in, the wind builds and just before dinner time, the rain begins to fall.

We spend the evening watching a documentary on wildlife in Japan, which makes us even more determined to go there. One day.

Saturday, 20 June 2015

Sunday 20th June 2015


Another day of celebration. Apparently. Well, we are to have a meeting of the project managers, and put our heads together and come up with some lesson learned.

Another cool and cool day, the techs tried to go to work, but the swell caused them to turn round, and so I lost the desk, IN MY OFFICE! and had to go into the large open one opposite. I did get work done, in-between all the meetings.

But before then, a morning in whiich I should have been able to get some work done, but people kept arranging meeting after meeting. And before I knew it, it was time to go over the the other building for the meeting.

I don't know what it is with business meetings, but clearly it is thought that all that talking and thinking is hungry work, as so much food always seems to be laid on. No difference here, three huge boxes of rolls and sandwiches, and then more biscuits, cakes and other stuff. It was for just four hours, so what size would we have been had it have been an all-dayer?

Once the talk was done, notes filed away, we walked to our cars to drive in convoy to the other side of Ijmuiden to a restaurant, where yet more food was to be eaten. And booze to be drunk. In getting there, I did at least see the shoarma place I had been told about, so on my next trip there, I shall dine on fine shoarma. Or shoarma at least! The venue was a Greek place, and the portions generous, coming after all the food of the meeting, it was a bit much. But some had keen appetites, and we ate well. I had a selection of skewered meats, yoghurt dip and rice, which was very nice, but I was bloated before I was done. Others had mixed grills or t-bone steaks. Don't know where they put it all!


One of the guys had an early flight to catch, so he was taken to the airport at half seven, which was also my excuse to leave as I had a very early flight, or had to be up early the next morning for my own flight home to London. So, I bid the team goodbye, we hugged and shook hands, it has been quite a ride, and all that is left now is to tidy up the loose ends and maybe have yet more tea and medals. One cannot have too many of those.


My flight was at eight thirty, it takes half an hour to drive to the airport, another 15 to walk from the garage to the departure terminal, then a check in, security and immigration. So, leaving at half five seemed about right. That and with all the roadworks being down on the motorway past the airport, the junctions keep changing, so you never take the same route to the airport. Always good to be kept on your toes.I shower, get dressed, pack then go down to the foyer to check out. Too early for breakfast at twenty to six, so I load the car and plan to find somewhere for breakfast at the airport.

Traffic is at least light, so I drive through the town to the motorway, then onto the airport. Well, past a part of it, under another part, round another part, then double back to the parking garage, where I drop off the car. It was six, just, and the first of the guys had just arrived, he took my keys off me and said it would all be sorted. He had eyes like two little red marbles: I mean he could not have slept, I felt like crap, but he must have felt like death. Is it early I asked. Its so early, he said, its still yesterday.

It raised a smile with me.

A quick walk from the garage to the departure lounge, where the less frequent travelers were milling around looking confused. I printed out by boarding pass, once I had swapped my seat, then waited in line to drop my case off, all done by yourself now, but painless, once you get the hang of it. A brief walk to immigration, where there was no queue at all, then through security where there were few people about, but plenty of scanners working, so through very quickly.

The early Jelltex catches the plane

I find a place to eat, I grab what is called an egg and bacon panini, but really is just a grilled roll, but it hits the spot along with a huge cup of coffee.

Another 5 minute walk to the gate, which sometimes involves another security check, but not this time. So I take my seat, write some mails on my laptop once I get the wifi to work. A modern problem.

There is the usual scramble for seats, or space in the overhead storage space, but I have chosen a seat at the back, which is less popular, so when I get to my seat there was plenty of room for my case. I settle in my seat, and to my surprise, there are no other passengers in my row, so I gave three seats all to myself, or at least until someone else takes the aisle seat after moving from his own crowded row.

After a long delay, we taxi half the way to London, then wait in line to take off. We are soon lost in low cloud, but as we pass into the cloud, I get one last glimpse of Ijmuiden below.

All of the sea crossing is lost underneath the clouds. I snooze, until the drinks trolley arrives at my row, as we had already began our descent into London. The first sight of Blighty is Clacton, with the pier and fish-tail-shaped sea defences. I recognise it, as I do all the towns we fly over. We circle over Grain, then make the final dash along the river, getting lower and lower before we bounce onto the runway. We are home, and it was 15 minutes before the time we had set off. quarter to nine! Which means I have an hour to get off, get through immigration, get my case and travel to Stratford. I was sure I would make it, which I do, with 15 minutes to spare.

I go into Smiths to get a bottle of Coke and two packets of cheese and onion crisps to munch on when I was on the train.

The train arrives and I find a double seat on the right hand side, facing forward: perfect. We glide out of the station, I pop the top off the bottle and open the first packet of crisps. Lovely dirty food.

Essex zips by, we dive under the Thames into Kent. And then onto Ashford and home. I quickly munched the crisps and drained the Coke. That felt better.

There was a row of taxis at Dover Priory, I get one, load my cases and he takes me by the direct route to St Maggies and home. Once I paid the driver, I walk to the back of the house and needless to say none of the cats were waiting for me. I open the back door and called out 'calling all cats'. None came.

I made lunch, well, some fruit and a small pack of oatcakes with marmalade. I put the radio on, and with a fresh cuppa in my hand, I realised that finally, I was home. Molly came up and greeted me with a meow which meant, where have you been fat boy, and where's my dinner? Anyway, I sat on the couch, flicked through the free TV channels, and Molly sat down beside me and rolled over showing me her belly. This i know was a precursor to the purring and the biting.

But she was happy. As was I.

At half four, Jools came home, but not before I checked on my work mails, and a whole new world of shit was brewing. However, it was shot that could, and would wait until next week.

Leopard Marsh Orchid Dactylorhiza praetermissa var. junialis

Before dinner, with the sun shining, I thought we could squeeze in some orchid bothering, so we get in the car and drive to Sandwich Bay to see the Marsh Orchids. The site is known, but less visited than it should, and after our time last year, it would appear that no clearance has taken, so it is overgrown, but the orchids can still be seen. Just. Just off the main path there is an area packed with orchids, most of a huge size, including the monster Leopard, now measured at over 30 inches tall.

Leopard Marsh Orchid Dactylorhiza praetermissa var. junialis

We scour the site, but find just more of the same, in that there were marsh and common spotted, but none as fine. So, we walk back to the car and then to home where we would have Insalata Caprese once more, this time garnished with fresh basil, which adds a wonderful touch to an already sublime meal. We sit in the back garden, watching the Swifts dipping and diving, which are soon replaced by bats as the sun sets, and in the west a sliver of new moon can be seen.

Leopard Marsh Orchid Dactylorhiza praetermissa var. junialis

Once we had watched Monty, we go back outside, I sip from a glass of Danish whisky, stars come out and we hear the sound of airliners flying overhead, but their lights are lost in the cloud.

Leopard Marsh Orchid Dactylorhiza praetermissa var. junialis

But it is the weekend. Well, 46 hours of it for me.

Southern Marsh Orchid Dactylorhiza praetermissa

Friday, 19 June 2015

Friday 19th June 2015


Workdays at home, working from home, either mean I am about to go on a trip, or have just returned. Being a Monday it means I was about to go, or will be on Tuesday.

Being a Monday, it was meetings, meetings. Only to find the 07:00 one was cancelled, apparently without my knowledge. Which was a tad disappointing. I could have been told in the blizzard of mails last week, and I just filed it I suppose....

I get a break from meetings at 11, time to make a brew before there is another one to attend to.

The days passes, I squeeze in lunch somewhere. And the afternoon trails off, as folks in Denmark head off for the day, as they are an hour ahead of us. I catch my breath, pack my work bag, double check my tickets, passport and Oyster card. And at four, I pack my case, forgetting a decent shirt for the project meeting we were due to have on Thursday. I will be wearing a t shirt emblazoned with Pac Man figures. As you do. One day it will be all the rage for business meetings.

Due to the cool and windy weather outside, the cats sleep the day through, and I am left alone. Well until four, when clearly the cat's internal clock are set to CET.

Jools comes home, we are both tired, and another planned walk in the country is shelved, and instead I cook dinner early, pan friend pork and cous cous. Not bad.

The day ends all too quickly, with me playing Heaven 17 and Mari Wilson records until the fix outside looks in, wth a look which suggests its time for bed. Which it was.

It is now the middle of June, and once again I can say that I have not had two weeks at home since October. I suppose I could look in my calendar and count the week, the days. To make matters worse, this weekend I fly home on Friday and fly back out on Sunday. However, that will be the last week away possibly until the end of July. So, fingers crossed on that one.

So, yet more travel, more airports, more hotels and more burger and fries.


The alarm failed to go off at quarter to five, which meant that when we did wake up at ten past, I had 35 minutes to get ready before Jools dropped me off at the station. It was a glorious June morning, few clouds and the sun already up and warm. But, with the cool breeze still blowing, I was glad of my coat of the platform at Martin Mill.

Just missed it

I won’t bore you with the details of the train journey, it’s the same week after week after week. So, Once we leave Ebbsfleet, there is standing the whole length of the train, and at Stratford, there is barely time for me to get out of my seat, get my cases and push by those with headphones on who did not realise I needed to get off. In the end it took someone blocking the doors which were about to close, to allow me to get off.

Breakfast at LCY

Then the dash across London to the airport, a quick baggage drop as I had my electronic boarding pass, through immigration and security. Two hours to spare, so I could have a slow breakfast, which is just as well as the service was very slow: 45 minutes for two cold crumpets and a pot of tea. There are apologies all round, which is fair enough, the airport now dealing more with tourist travel as well as business, so ever more passengers I guess.

My usual ride

I wait for my flight to be called, then somehow manage to leave my phone on the table I was leaning on, only trouble was that this had my boarding pass. I run back from the gate and find it where I left it. Now at the back of the queue, and then onto the aircraft, where there is the usual scramble to find a place for all the cabin baggage.

On the piano keys

We are late away from the gate, and in a queue of planes for a take off slot. But we are soon airborne and flying out over east London, turning east to the Essex coast and Holland beyond. There is time for drinks to be served, before the staff collect the empty glasses and we are already dropping down onto final approach.


Schipol is the usual busy hub, but by now I know the way to immigration, baggage reclaim and then to the car hire desk, the parking garage. It is now the everyday for me. I get a Golf, I program the sat nav, and all is set fair. Only, as I find out, the sat nav is trying to find a junction that has been taken away, and so we go up and down a road, with it asking me to turn either left or right onto a road that is no longer there.

Thorndon Park Golf Club, Ingrave, Essex

I decide to ignore the silly machine and follow the signs to Haarlem, and soon the sat nav agrees this is the best way, and shows me on the right road once more. I have a meeting, which my phone chimes away every 5 minutes to remind me of.


I arrive at the office some 20 minutes late, and get the meeting done: it goes well, then there is more meetings, coffee to be drunk. And before I know it, it is half five and time to go to the hotel to check in.

Hotel room, Holiday Inn, Ijmuiden

At the hotel my room is reserved, I dump my bags and go down to the restaurant for dinner. Depite wanting to be healthy, I order burger and fries, along with a tall clod beer. It is real good.

Tuesday evening walk in Ijmuiden-aan-Zee

Afterwards, I go for a walk to the beach, past the empty bars and tat shops, open for what little business there is even in June. Apparently the first week in July it will go crazy here. The wind whisltes over the wide, andy beach, seagulls circle above, looking for chips to feast on. I take deep breaths of the salty air. It is good.

Back in my room I have a balcony, so with the radio burbling in the background, I sit overlooking the marina and the steelworks beyond as the sun sets and darkness takes the world away.


Who took the summer away? Outside it is misty, cold and windy. I have left the balcony door open all night, and it is like a fridge on the room. I grab a shower, wake up some more, and once dressed go down for breakfast and then onto work.

At least being in an office, it gives me the chance to work, to catch up with some pressing tasks. And issue yet mre paperwork to the customer for them to ignore. It is the modern way.

The day passes, it clouds over yet more and there is rain in the air. So it only makes sense that I chose this evening to go to visit a dyke.


Not just any dyke, but still a wonder of engineering, some 20km long, which separates a large inland lake from the north sea, and protects the interior of Holland from flooding. It also has a motorway running along it. Its just an hour’s drive to get there.

The sat nav tells me the way to go, but it all looks the same to me, windmills, churches, rivers, canals, motorways, towns. All the same. But in time I come to the start of the dyke, abut am held up as a barge is going through one of the massive locks. Once the road is clear, I power up to 130km and head out over the sea, inland, where there is a clear view, the land is over the horizon, or lost on the drizzle, as is the end of the dyke.


I reack the far end, turn round and drive back, stopping at the point where the dyke was closed in the 30s, take seven shots, and get back in the car for the hour drive back to the hotel. The rain falls harder, it gets dark. And I am hungry.

Back at the hotel I have yet another burger and fries washed down with more cold beer.