Friday, 31 July 2015

Friday 31st July 2015


And what is this feeling in my head that I have: oh yes, a borderline hangover. Well, there's a thing. I lay in bed whilst I think about opening the curtains and checking on the time. Half seven, and thick fog outside. What I need is a shower, and in my palace of a room, I have a twin headed multi-nozzle thing. 20 minutes later, I kinda feel human again. I dress and go down for breakfast, only to find the room to be full of happy, smiling families on their holibobs. I eat fruit and have a bacon roll. Well, it has bacon in it, on that the frazzled strips were once part of a pig, but they shatter as soon as you bite them. Still, BACON!

There is a short drive to the office, I arrive at half eight and being holiday season hardly anyone is there to notice me.

The main task for the day is to issue a certificate for the wind farm, I spent half a week last week trying to find out how to create the form, only to find it had been created already and sent. It just took some finding.

Then I have to write, carefully, the serial numbers of each turbine on the form. East, eh? I get t right on the 3rd try, I sign it, my boss signs it. I scan it and it is done. Yay.

I have other stuff to do, and the list of outstanding tasks shrinks hour by hour. Sometime after lunch, my head tells me that it needs some rest. An afternoon snooze would be perfect, so I wrap things up and drive back to the hotel in the glorious sunshine. Yes, the sun finally breaks through, and despite some thick clouds drifting by from time to time, the day gets nice and warm. I could go for a wander round the city, snap some of the wonderful new buildings. But I need sleep.

Back in my room, I put on the radio and take to bed, staring at the ceiling. With the radio playing a show from last week meaning I have no idea what the time was when I did wake up. Four o'clock was the answer when I got up to check.

Lens envy OK, time to get my shit together, find my trousers and then walk to a nearby church to meet my friend and former colleague, Anni. Through the shopping centre and up the busy street with art galleries and Micheline starred eateries to the church, and waiting there was Anni. She sees me and waves, which is nice. From there is was a short walk to their apartment, now on a quiet street as the construction work, as long-lived as Boston's Big Dig turns the city upside down. Up what seemed like 300 flights of stairs to the top floor, and here we are. They are nice enough to let me get my breath back before quizzing me about the holiday and other stuff.

They cook griddled pork with salad and fries. It is light and good. We talk, listen to some music, before going onto the balcony to see some evening sun, and to sip on another large glass of wine.

Anni and Bo But, it is time for me to walk back to the hotel, I bid my friends goodbye and promise to return next time I am in the city. I walk down much quieter streets as the sun goes down, I sense I am tired again, so go straight back to the hotel and up to my room. The hotel has these 'intelligent' elevators, that you have to scan your room key before selecting the floor for your room. A computer then allocated an elevator for you, telling you to go to life A, or whatever.

In my room, I put the radio back on, lay on the bed. I wake up at half two, with the full moon shining bright through the window, where there should have been curtains to keep light out. Oh well, I switch the computer off, clean my teeth and go back to sleep.


And going back home day.

I woke up at ten past six, feeling refreshed. I think I will just lay in bed a while, I mean I never go back to sleep. I wake up again at twenty to eight. Oh bugger, but then there is no pressing matters at work, so, why worry? I hope.

Anyways, I have a shower, pack, check the room and go to catch one of the clever lifts to reception, settle the bill and go for breakfast. Fruit and bacon rolls again for me, which sets me up. It is now half past eight.

Outside it is another glorious day, and traffic is light, so I drive along the harbourside, then up the main road, dodging round the roadworks for the tram which one suspects will never come. Or maybe it will.

I get to my desk at ten to nine, those in smile, but I am at least well rested. And being Thursday it is cake day, so, let us eat cake!

I eat cake, do some work, drink some coffee, have a roll for lunch, have another couple of meetings. And oh look, time to leave for the airport.

I have a Ford Focus, which is not a bad drive, but its no Audi is it? I tootle down the motorway, then out toward Billund. It is a fine day for a drive, in light traffic, but then I did know that at the airport there would be thousands of Danes in flip-flops and shots drinking huge glasses of beer, already in holiday mode.

I find a place to sit and keep track on the cricket, and after the hammering in the 2nd test, England are making a go of it in the 3rd, with the Aussies struggling to draw level in their second innings.

At half five, my flight is called, and I wander down the corridor to the gate, and find there are about 20 others also waiting. Less than normal, but then it is summer.

I have the usual seat, 8A, and settle down to what should be a short flight, now that we have jet engines rather than turboprops. We climb into the thick cloud over Billund, and we fly over cloud until we arrive over Holland, when the clouds clear and all is summer and sunny again. I accept the free meal, a roll and some cooked chicken, but pass on ice cream and Brandy.

London is glorious, laid out below us like a map, and to my surprise we skirt round South London for an approach from the west, over Battersea, Westminster, Buckingham Palace and The City. My camera is in the hold.

But, we bounce down, really bounce down on the runway, taxi to the furthest slot from the terminal, but that means a bus will collect us and deposit us next to the immigration line.

My bag is already on the carousel, so I grab it and make for the DLR station, as there is a chance I might catch the quarter past seven train, if I am lucky. A train arrives in a couple of minutes, but being unaware of the exact time the train to Dover leaves means I am not stressed.

I walk into Stratford station to find I have three minutes to get to the platform, and the escalator is broken. So I grab my cases and run down the eight flights of steps, making it onto the platform as the train arrives. I get a seat next to a businessman who sleeps the journey. And I read a copy of the Evening Standard to see what slant they are putting on the big stories. It passes the time.

It is another glorious summer evening as we flash through Essex and into Kent. I look out of the window as we pass fields that are being harvested, or look as though they should be.

Jools is waiting at Dover Priory, although I am still looking for our old silver Polo. But she is waiting beside our new car, and the traffic should be light enough she thinks it is OK to go up Jubilee Way home. I had seen miles and miles of stacked trucks on the motorway, which means more chaos.

We get home and the cats are waiting. They tell me they have not been fed.

I have to get some things from Tesco, so as Jools unpacks my bag, I drive to Tesco, to buy some lemons, then stop at the new KFC for a six piece meal for us, which we eat under the stars on the patio, as the full moon rises in front of us.

And it is free entertainment.

Thursday, 30 July 2015

Thursday 30th July 2015


And now, this feels like I am back at work. I mean, packing a case, checking in for flights and checking for the 7th time that I have my passport. But, due to the summer holiday, there is just the evening flight to Denmark, which means I can do some work in the morning before travelling.

Lucky me.

I am online at seven ready for the weekly management meeting, but it is cancelled again, so after checking mails for anything important, I make a second coffee and have breakfast. Outside there is the threat of sunshine, but the cats decide it is better to sleep inside. Situation normal, really.

At twelve I switch the computer off, I have another ten hours before I will be in the hotel and able to get some sleep. So, I shower, finish packing and have lunch before booking a taxi for quarter past two so to make the train to London at quarter to three. It turns up on time, and with little port traffic about, we make it to the station in plenty of time. Saying that, the driver did tell me it took him 50 minutes to get along Townwall Street to pick up a fare from the port earlier, so there is still traffic issues.

I am waiting on the platform and I see there are two trains to St Pancras due within ten minutes of each other. Then I remember that the line from Ashford to Canterbury is blocked by a derailed train after it struck a herd of cows. So, the trains are being sent this way round for now. And the first one would run ‘fast’ to Ashford, without stopping at either stations in Folkestone. Too good to miss.

So I climb aboard the extra train, have a front facing seat on the left hand side, perfect.

And indeed, we did whizz through both Folkestone stations, making those waiting for the train behind us step back from the edge. At Ashford, those who had to use the rail replacement buses piled on. Turning a what was almost empty train, into a busy one.

I won’t bore you with the trip into London, it is one I seem to have made 100s of times, there was nothing unusual, just travelling in the late afternoon. I arrived at Statford, and realized that I had over three hours before my flight, so I stopped at the café on the station for a lage gingerbread latte with an extra shot. Two extra shots and a white chocolate cookie.

I stood on the DLR to the airport, so I could look at the progress of Crossrail near to the airport. In my time travelling from here, the tunnel has gone from a curiosity for me ( I wondered what it was, where it went) to being re-bored and now the track and signaling was being installed. IN a few months trains would be running through it once more.

I collect my boarding pass, manage to weave my way through confused passengers to drop my case off, get through security. It was half four, I still had two hours before the flight was called: so I had dinner. I would arrive in Denmark at ten, and the hotel at eleven, both too late to get any food. So, I had to eat before I flew. I had stuffed pasta and a beer, whilst looking out the window at the planes landing and taking off. One of the better tables with a view.

Time dragged. As I knew it would, and the place was crowded, packed with people going on their holibobs, or going back home after holidaybobing in London town. It gave me the chance to people watch, once I found somewhere to sit of course.

The flight is finally called, and I find it has now been upgraded to a jet, but with the same seat configuration. Hopefully, this would mean quicker flights and getting home early when I return on Thursday. I have 8A, which has good views not obscured by the engines or wings. I know these things are important, but they spoil my view and photos. I know what I like.

But with thick cloud over London, I would not be taking many shots on that trip. So I leave the camera in my bag, and instead look out of the window, waiting for the engines to start and then the plane to move.

We take off and bank slowly to the north, giving the familiar views along the Thames and The City. But the view soon changes, and we are fling north and eat out over the M25/A12 junction, which is stationary and in the middle of rush hour. I close my eyes as we climb through the clouds, and blighty is lost to view.

It will come as no surprise to learn that Denmark was under a large black cloud. And it was raining. And the cloud and rain had made it nearly dark. I now it was nearly ten, but this Denmark, land of the midnight sun and all that. As we taxi to the terminal, rain is bouncing off the plane, and I could see that the warning I received from my boss about needing a raincoat and boots was needed.

I get a Ford Focus and a sat nave, I now had to find my way to the downtown hotel in Arhus. In the rain. The rain did not hinder me finding the hotel, it was just yuk driving in the hard rain. The motorway was like a river, and lorries were kicking up clouds of spray. It was grim if I am honest. But an hour of driving brought me to the city, and down towards the docks I get to the hotel and find there are no parking spaces for me. I have to use the one for the shopping centre opposite. And then find my way back.

I drive into the car park and see signs pointing to the hotel to the lower levels of the car park. So I go down and down until reach the lower level. I park. What now? So I get out, get my bags and try to find the lobby. I am in a car park with no other cars, just hundreds and hundreds of empty spaces. Its kinda freaky.

Arhus I take the lift up to the shopping centre, see some more signs and follow them outside. I recognize the old train sheds in front of me, and so a quick walk will bring me to the hotel soon. It had stopped raining.

I check in and get the key for my room. Once inside get out my toothbrush and get ready for bed, not before looking at the fine view of the main railway station I now have. Oh man, I have to be up in six hours. I need sleep.


I lied, I get seven hours, and am only awoken by a text from Jools chiming at me at seven. My boss calls, am I at the office yet? NO, I am now going in the shower I tell him. I explain the late arrival and the need for sleep. All is good.

The call was because this was a big day, and the reason I was in Denmark: the final meeting with the customer on the project. And a celebration meal. And whisky.

But more of that later.

I get dressed and go down to breakfast. It is full of couples and families on holiday. I seem to be the only business customer. I have some yoghurt and a cheese roll then set off to find the car. The sun is shining and it feels like a fine summer day is in store, but being Denmark, it will soon cloud over and turn to rain.

I do find the car, pay the parking ticket and drive round to the road which will take me up to the office. Past even more modern buildings beside the harbor and up alongside the tram construction which makes the one in Edinburgh seem positively speedy in comparison.

At the office I think I have half an hour before the customer arrives. It is like a ghost town, and the canteen is closed whilst it is upgraded. But my boss is here, and we talk over the plan for the day. There is no plan, lets play it by ear. Seems good.

At half nine I call the customer: they are still at the airport and so will be at least an hour. So, time for more coffee.

They do arrive and we meet, we talk, we drink coffee, we eat rolls, we talk some more and we shake hands and it is all over. I say all over, we have the celebration meal to have now!

We agree to meet up at five, giving me an hour to freshen up: put on a t shirt after taking my shirt and tie off. That done, I listen to the radio some, watch trains from the window, and look above the city as another band of rain sweeps in. Summer in DK!

The end of a very long journey My boss is waiting downstairs, we walk through the city centre to the hotel where the customer is staying. And then back again to a fine restaurant: Mash. Mash does steak. Just steak. So, I order steak, as does everyone else. And the good news is, the steak is good. As is the beer. And the chit chat, nothing quite like success to get the juices flowing.

We retire to a pub-style bar. We have more beer. And whisky. Time passes, night falls and money evaporates out of my wallet. As it does.

At midnight, we all call it a night and go back to our hotels. I realise I am lost and need the bathroom. I flag a taxi down and get him to take me the half mile to it. I give him 200Kr, my bladder is happy. It is one in the morning, in the mirror I see my eyes are red. Mostly red, I need sleep. I really can’t do this stuff any more.

Monday, 27 July 2015

Monday 27th July 2015


And on the day of rest, the rain did fall.

Although, it did not start off like that. In fact we had breakfast on the patio with the warm rays of the rising sun on us, whilst around dozens of insects went about, checking all the new poppies for pollen. Soon enough the clouds would roll in, covering the sky and a hard rain would fall.

What did we have planned? Nothing really. I mean with the weather expected to be so bad, every minute without rain was to be treasured.

But the rain did come at ten, and carried on pretty much all day and into the night as well. The cats stared out of the window, then went back to sleep, and outside even the birds didn't bother to come to eat the seeds put out. I tried to watch the Grand Prix in the afternoon. It should all be so exciting, I mean all that money, all that glamour, but twenty minutes of it with a procession of cars, refuelling and tyre changes, well, I could go down to Kwik Fit to see that stuff. I switched it off and put some music on: Denim followed by Siouxsie and the Banshees. Thats more like it.

Jools went to see Nan and the old folks in the afternoon. I bailed. I should have gone, but I could not. I mean, seeing Nan last time was distressing to say the least. But the news was good: she is sleeping and the visions have stopped. But she does remember them, and what she saw, or thought she saw.

The old folks are well too, and have new chickens, but we were offered no eggs. Maybe one day we will be some of the chosen few? Or not.

Whilst Jools was out, I cooked roast beef, which along with runner beans, fresh peas, Yorkshire Puddings and roast potatoes, was rather wonderful. I cut the joint in half, so we can have it again next week. Which sounds like a good idea.

In the evening we watched a recording of Zodiac, which I am still not sure if I have seen before or not, but was good, if at nearly three hours, took us to our bedtime.

And so the end of the weekend. And I am travelling again this week, off to the frozen wastes of Denmark, which I have been warned is very un-summery. Which is to be expected I suppose. It is to be a week of celebration, I hope. Anyway, see you on Friday.

Sunday, 26 July 2015

Sunday 26th July 2015


And the weekend rolls round, with my head full of things to do, if only my back would let me do so. The upside being that it seemed to settle down when I stood up or walked about. So, let us plan for a full day and see what happens?

As usual, the first order of the day was to go to Tesco as we were out of most stuff except sausages, and man and wife cannot live on sausage alone. We thought nothing of the short drive to Whitfield, we put on our shoes, put the bags in the car and set off down the hill, past Walletts Court and onto the Deal Road, at which point we saw the traffic on the A2. Solid and not moving.

Late Friday night the wind picked up, and so it seemed that the ferries did not start running until later than normal, coupled with the strike action in Calais and the migrant activity, it means chaos here in Kent, and in Dover where the A2 and A20 meet at the bottom of Jubilee Way.

We get to the roundabout, and are able to weave a path round up to Whitfield, but we would have to go back of course.

But a whizz round Tesco, load the car up, and then some creative driving: we go to Church Whitfield, then take a narrow lane across the down to Guston and then up to the Deal road and home. Nother dramatic, but it tripled the time it took to get home, but we did get home.

Walk to Fan Bay We have breakfast, then think about the next order of business: the Fan Bay Deep Shelter.

During the war, the cliffs were home to thousands of troops, operating guns, lookouts or radar towers, it must have been a sight. These lasted until the 70s, when Dover District Council classed the structures as eyesores and had them demolished or buried.

Walk to Fan Bay One of these was a shelter built to billet and protect soldiers who manned some 9 and 15 inch batteries from 1940. Tons of earth and rubble were piled on top of the entrance and sound mirrors, and they were lost. Until the NT bought the land in 2012 and set about recovering them, and now they have been repaired, and are safe enough, tours are available. So, with the national news coverage stiff fresh, we had places booked on Saturday's half ten tour: we just had to get there.

Walk to Fan Bay Thankfully, there is a back road, Reach Road, which goes all the way into Dover, over Jubilee Way, so we could do it.

Fan Bay Deep Shelter However, the rules of the visit stated, that even though we already had tickets for the tour, we had to go by the NT's building at the White Cliffs to check in, and from there it was a mile and a half walk down to the shelter. Jools dropped me off at the NT's place then drove back up Reach Road to a much closer parking spot, and one which being free, was £3.50 cheaper than the NT's. I presented our tickets, a tick was put on a sheet of paper, and then I had to walk to the shelter. All seemed a bit un-necessary to me, but hey.

I doubled back so I could take the less-used track down to the Cliff Road, the trackbed of an old engineering railway, then back up to Langdon Hole, all the way along I could have fine views down onto the ferry terminal below. The sun was out, and in the lea of the cliffs, there was little wind, I even managed to bag a shot of a basking Chalkhill Blue, which saved the trip to the cliffs on Sunday. Although Jools did not know of that plan.

Up across Langdon Bay, and as I made the last few steps of the climb to the top of the cliff, the shelter of the cliffs behind me ended, and i was buffeted by the strong breeze. And Jools who had watched me walk across the bay, came to join me and so we walked the final few hundred yards to the shelter together.

The shelter is down 125 steps cut into the chalk, and at the bottom there are extensive shelters, tunnels and would even have been a mess. We were decked out with hard hats complete with head torches, and at half ten, we began the walk down.

Once down there is just the tunnels to see, but these have been pretty much untouched since the war, except for some graffiti added by urban explorers in recent years. We were given a good talk about the shelters and their re-discovery before being taken back outside to look at the two sound mirrors before going back inside again, then climbing back up the steps.

Fan Bay Deep Shelter From there it was a ten minute walk up the old military road to the car, but others in the group were following us, thinking we were going back to the NT's place and the main car park. Excuse me, are you going to the main car park the Mother asked? We had to explain that we were not, but showed them a gate and how to pick up the main path, and they left us to the cliffs, wind and skylarks.

Fan Bay Deep Shelter We drive back home and have an early lunch. As I had more plans for the afternoon.

Fan Bay Deep Shelter Go to the butcher in Preston, then check on the Violet Helleborines near to Canterbury: and avoiding the traffic. And getting back of course.

Fan Bay Deep Shelter Getting to Preston was easy: drive to Deal, then across to Sandwich (without going into the town), then take the Canterbury road, turning off for Nash and into Preston. The boys are in good spirits, and well on the way to selling out of stuff: but I get a couple of good steaks, a beef joint for Sunday and a few other things to pop in the freezer for later. It is the first time we have seen each other since the play offs, and they wish me and City well for the new season (just 13 days away now!).

Now, how to get to the orchid site? Well, take the road to Wingham, up the A2 to Canterbury and then the Ashford road, turning off under the railway, along ever-narrowing lanes until I arrive at the tiny church. And it is quiet. Also the sunny intervals of the morning have gone, but the wind has calmed down a bit, so, might get shots.

It is a pleasant walk along the track over the fields to the wood. The hedges are full of butterflues, mostly Gatekeepers, but some Large Whites and Peacocks mixed in. In the wood I begin searching, but on the first walk along the path, I find nothing: not one spike. On the way back, I finally see one unfurling spike, no flowers open. It is something, but not the dozen or so spikes we usually see here. Maybe I'm losing my touch? I get a couple of shots, then decide not to look again, if they were there, I think I would have seen them: maybe return in a couple of weeks. Or not

. Violet Helleborine Epipactis purpurata Now then, how to get back home? I turn on BBC Kent radio and hear there is a big accident on the motorway at Faversham, which means that I might be lucky, so I decide to try the A2 until I sense a jam. In thew end I get to Shepherdswell, but I knew there were queues still in Whitfield, so I turn down Lydden Hill, through Buckland and then upto the castle and along Reach Road and home. No queues at all, and home in about half the time I thought.

Steak and chips for dinner, which I prepare in about an hour, so by six we are sitting down to a fine meal: I open one of the few bottles of wine we have left to drink with mine; Jools has cider. Both work.

Saturday, 25 July 2015

Saturday 25th July 2015


Oh look the end of the working week: who saw that coming?

Well, I looked at the calendar, and sure enough it was Friday, which means that tomorrow, or even, that evening would be the weekend.

So, Jools was up and about at silly o'clock, so I thought I may as well.

She made coffee, and I looked at the interwebs to see if the law of gravity had been revoked. It hadn't, which means another day without walking on the ceiling. Darn.

So, the main task of the day was to create the srpeadsheet that I have been avoiding making for months now. Could I keep it together long enough to get it done? Yes I could.

So, the morning passed, and still the old inbox remained empty. Which got me thinking about my back. My God, it still ached, but as I have a mobile, why should i not take me and the laptop to the sofa so I could be at least comfortable. I switch on TV and find The Hunt for Red October had just begun. Oh, that might divert me. 90 minutes later I realsie I should check on my mails or something. And, still no one is about or mailing me.

Should I watch to the end? I decide not to, and switch the TV off just as the radiation leak happened, or was faked. Depending on whether you have or have not seen the film before.

THe day was heading towards the long dark afternoon of the soul, or at least the coffee break anyway.

I hunt in the kitchen for some drugs and find some ibuprufen, which if nothing else would be fun when I break the beer out. But it was already too late for that, as having looked through the fridge all I find is a frozen lump which I assume to be chilli, but is in fact Moroccan lamb, which goes down well with the frozen cheesy bread I bake and in half an hour I have a fine lunch, far too fine to actually stay awake through the afternoon having eaten of course.

Jools gets home at half six, weighed down with fish and chips, which was the plan. I make the brews and dish up, and all is set fair for a fine meal, and simple to make.

Te evening is a double bill of Monty: the first we have seen of him for 4 weeks, and then shower, wash up, coffee and oh my word, is that the time, yawn.

It is the weekend after all.

Good night,

Friday, 24 July 2015

Friday 24th July 2015


And here we are, back on the treadmill, nose to the grindstone and all that stuff. I am now back in the groove, that is until it comes to switch on the computer and work, at which point my get up and go leaves. I noticed as I switched down the computer the night before that some eejit had arranged 5 hours of meetings for Wednesday morning: did they not realise the time difference in the UK I fumed, starting at seven in the morning for heavens sake! So, I grumble my way through coffee, pointedly ignore my mobile chiming 15 and 5 minutes before the meeting. I will be deliberately late I thought, and when they ask why, I will point out the time.

Anyway, ten past seven, I switch the computer on, and look at Outlook only to see who the arranger of the meetings was: me. Yes me, the big hairy eejit. And the two other people who had asked me to arrange the meetings, and who were to join me for the 2nd half, were both on holiday, and there was no chance they would be attending. So I went from having a morning of meetings to none.

So, how to pack the morning full of stuff now it is empty? Well, I will just try. There is always the radio, the cats and coffee machine of course.

On Tuesday evening, Jools had thrown down the challenge by firing up the cross trainer. I can claim with some justification that I have been busy, but now I am hopefully not travelling so much, that maybe I will find time to pump some lard. In preparation for this, I charged the i-pod up, and so once the last of the day's mail came in, I was able to switch the laptop off and put on an old t short and get pumping.

In truth it was not the torture I thought it might be, in fact I quite enjoyed it, and I would have carried on beyond the 20 minutes I did, only it being summer and it was hot, damn hot. So, 20 minutes it was. And all the time Mulder lay on the spare bed, washing and looking at me like I was mad. Maybe I was.

Jools came back, and I let her go back on the cross trainer, and I cooked chorizo hash whist she pumped. It worked. Then we undid all the good work as we both had booze with our dinner, but then it was good, and we had pumped, so some good and some bad, makes us about even, right?

I can't say for sure whether is was the cross trainer, but I was about to encounter a bout of back pain, although that would not arrive until I went to bed and wanting so sleep.


Oh yes, back pain. Well, a combination of that and some old fashioned night cramps meant I felt like I woke up feeling like I hadn't slept. Hoorah! What could be better. However, once up and about, I felt better. That is until I sat down at the dining room table for coffee and where in a while I would be working, only to discover that the angle of the wooden seats, my seated position meant that no matter how I sat, I was in pain.

Well, that is just peachy.

So, I have regular breaks between bouts of gentle moaning, drinking coffee before giving in and going for the drugs.

I struggle through the day, swapping the dining room chair with the sofa or the bed, anything to take the pain away. In truth I don't much work done, certainly in the afternoon. But before then I had to wrangle with a spreadsheet and then turn it into a PDF. I mean it could not be that hard, could it? Well, I had to shrink the spreadsheet to fit on one page wide, to do this I had to shrink columns or remove them. And then the really tricky part, I had to add a header and then upload a picture to it. And finally, make the header larger so the picture, of our logo, could be seen. Two hours later, I had it done and could convert the spreadsheet to a PDF and job was done.

I was drained. And in pain.

I gave up for the day and switched the laptop off, but in a show of either extreme bravery or stupidity, I thought that maybe some exercise would help, and maybe make the muscles in my back stronger, thus making the pain less. I can say, that although it did not make the pain worse, neither did it make it better either. But, hey. I did some Phys.

Dinner was sausages and lentils. As you do. It was very good indeed. And to follow there was a massive dose of nostalgia with more pop music from 1980 on Top of the Pops, best watched with a coffee and a tub of Ben and Jerry's cookie core ice cream. Not as nice as you'd think it is if I am honest, and our resident ice cream expert, Jools, has stated she is not going to eat any more of it, so its all mine, mwah ha ha.

Thursday, 23 July 2015

Tuesday 21st July 2015


And welcome to the working week. Again.

I would be lying to state what a joy it was to wake when the alarm was set for six, and jumping out of bed, we spring down the stairs saying “hello clouds, hello sky” as we made coffee and fed the cats.

For me there was the usual meeting at seven to discuss last week’s performance, which I could not complete, as, like, I wasn’t there. Anyway, I logged on to the computer at seven to find a message from my boss saying it had been cancelled.

Anyway, as I was there, lets look at the rest of the inbox: 79 mails, not too bad. And when I looked half them were automated messages confirming already completed tasks. Yay me.

Have a coffee.

Have another coffee.

Jools had left for work by now, and so it was me and the cats left alone, and as they were still getting used to life back at home so they would come by every half an hour to ask for yet more food. For the most part, I give in. But this is going to have to stop I tell them. And as next week I am travelling again, they really will be back to normal.

But until then: meow?

Then there is the temptation for me to graze at the food in the house through the day. I try not to, but, you know, its there, right? So, the day passes with me working, eating, feeding the cats and looking at the bright sunshine outside, wishing I could be out there. I do go out there when I have a coffee or lunch. The poppies are still a fine sight, and the air is thick with insects busy collecting pollen. How it should be.

With over half the company still on vacation in Denmark, I am able to tackle the inbox, and soon I can get work done, this really is too good to be true.

At four I think that counts as a day for the good guys and give myself the rest of the day off. We are having insalata caprese yet again, so I make some focaccia bread, heavily laced with garlic. It is a triumph even without the rosemary on top. Oh well.

That night we set the recorder to tape the 750th edition of Sky at Night, as it was to feature the latest pictures from New Horizons as it zipped by Pluto the previous week.

We sit back outside as the day fades, it is dark by half nine, the year is slipping by, and in 5 months it will be midwinter, and the ground will be hard as iron.


And more of the same, in short.

Up with the alarm. Make coffee, feed the cats, get dressed and get ready for the great switch on of the work laptop.

Outside the sun shone on, although the wind was getting up. I have another coffee, gird my loins and switch the computer on.

And just as it was all going so well, here comes a grenade which explodes in my hand. And everyone I need to speak to is on their holibobs: how is that going to help? Grrrr.

Inbetween ever-increasingly desperate mails to people who were lounging on a beach somewhere that is not Denmark, I manage to get a load of washing done, and even hang it out.

The day passes, I have more coffee, maybe too much, but hey, I can handle it.

No need to cook dinner, as we are going out to meet an old colleague of Jools’. Laurence has also left the box factory, and has been to Japan for his holibobs in the past, and we are planning this for next year. So, we wanted to pick his brains on how to arrange a fine trip.

At seven Jools and I drive down into Dover, park outside the Co-Op, and see that over half the multi-story car park beside Burlington House has already gone. I regret not taking my camera. We go and have a closer look and can see they are making quick work of it. Burlington House might be more tricky though.

We are to meet Laurence in Il Rustico, an Italian place on Market Square: it is OK, not sensational, and we have a simple meal of pasta and a beer. We catch up, he is happy with his new job and new house, which is good news. We also get details of the company to arrange the trip, which is even better news: all we have to do is save the money up now.

Back home to watch the program on Pluto: Jools snoozes, outside the day fades and the stars and crescent moon come out. The end of another working day.

More tomorrow.

Sunday 19th July 2015


And this really is it: the last day. We sleep long into the morning, the bed covered with three cats, all trying to be the nearest to us. Great how quickly things return to normal.

The plan today, was to see some orchids. Again. If we see the Broad Leafed Hellebroines, it would leave me with just two more species to see, and we should get one more next week. How quickly the season seems to be over down here.

Purple Rosebay epilobium angustifolium We have breakfast and decide to see Nan on the way out: she has recovered somewhat since her suspected stroke a couple of weeks back, and it would be our first visit since then.

She is awake and recognises us, although not all is well. She is hallucinating again, and it is so bad she daren’t close her eyes, and the lack of sleep which we believe is the cause of these, is made worse. She is seeing horrible things, doesn’t know if she slept in the home that night, as she thinks her bed was moved. She has seen people cutting their arms off, threatening her too.

Broad Leafed Helleborine Epipactis helleborine There is nothing we can do, which makes us feel nearly as bad as it can be.

After 45 minutes we leave, with Nan distraught. It is hard. Very hard.

We drive to Folkestone and then onto Ashford until it is time to turn off the motorway. We passed where, until late yesterday, hundreds of trucks had been parked; portable toilets still stood every hundred metres or so. But now it was back to being a motorway again.

Broad Leafed Helleborine Epipactis helleborine On the side of the down, we park and walk along the overgrown path until we come to the clearing. Although we could not see them yet, we knew there were orchids over there. They were not quite as advanced as I thought, but several spikes were at least partly open, so I got the shots I wanted. Here were butterflies around too, so I snapped what I could before we turned to leave.

It would take 45 minutes to get home, so, I decided against looking for the Violet Helleborines, as it was at least a week too early, so drove home down the motorway, then through the town to doge what queues there might have been at the port.

Broad Leafed Helleborine Epipactis helleborine Shall we stop at the Rack of Ale to pick up a carry out?

I think we shall.

We stay for a swifter, and a chinwag. But time is getting away, so after putting the world and our local CAMRA branch to rights; Jools and I go home for dinner, some more booze and a snooze.

Back home I cook breaded chicken, but do not cook the salad. I say salad, we forgot the radishes, spring onions, lettuce and beets: so salad was in fact cucumber, sweet peppers and half a chopped onion. Still worked though.

And the day and our holiday faded. The first time Jools and I have had 14 days off together since the wedding, or our wedding. One to remember and treasure.

Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Saturday 18th July 2015


And so the final two days off. The sun is shining, so should be perfect for some more orchid chasing. Just to let you know the season ends at the end of August, at the latest, with just two more to see now, so, should be back to the usual church and football subjects by then. Talking of which, one of the projects for the winter is a guide to Kentish Orchids which will be published on Blogspot too. A brave plan and something that might not happen, we shall see.

Anyway, after breakfast, a second cup of coffee, we get in the car to drive out to the first site. All was well until we approached the Duke of York roundabout: there was a long queue of traffic, and we could traffic on the A2 was also solid.

A summer walk to the cliffs and back We had to go into town to get some bird seed, which now resulted in us turning round, driving back to St Margaret’s, and then along Reach Road past the castle and so into town.

Traffic in town was very light, probably because most folks could not get into town! So, with a few bags of bird food, we try to get out of the town. I look at the fuel gauge, and see we are running on fumes. Even if we get out, we’ll have to get some petrol, and with most stations now only part of supermarkets, it looked bleak. Driving out along the A2, traffic was queued up beyond Shepherdswell and getting worse.

A summer walk to the cliffs and back There was the station at Barham, we could fill up there. But even by the time we got there, we had already decided to drive round to Deal and go back home, hopefully avoiding all the traffic and being safe at home with the cats.

A summer walk to the cliffs and back And that is what we did, and although it took half an hour, we met little traffic and turned off the main road before we hit the stacked up traffic.

At least the cats were pleased to see us. Or that’s what we told ourselves.

Instead of orchids, I satisfied myself with a walk to the cliffs. Its been a while since I did that, what with being away and all. So, I put on my boots and set off. It is high summer, and the growth of spring has now slowed as water is short, and the ground underfeet is like a dustbowl.

A summer walk to the cliffs and back Along the path at the end of the street, between two fields of broad beans, now heavy with full pods. All around there were butterflies: Red Admiral, Painted Lady, Small Tortoiseshell, Ringlet, Small Heath, Wall Brown, Marbled White, Small Skipper, Comma but no blues. I snap some, others I am happy to see flittering about.

The piglets were sound asleep in the corrugated iron shed deep in the copse, and the horses in the field beside the path leading down the dip, turned their back on me and carried on eating nettles. I had no carrots with me anyway.

A summer walk to the cliffs and back And after going down the dip, of course I had to climb back up the other side. More butterflies were about, but clearly the wind was getting up, so soon the butterflies would be hunkering down, so no snaps.

Across the downs, through fields of wheat and long grass to butterfly alley, which as it was now gone midday, was partly in shade, and so had few of them about.

Up the final slope to the monument, and the cliffs. And after seeing no one else for half an hour, to see dozens of folks walking up and down the cliff path was if not a surprise, then unwelcome. I went to the edge to snap the cliffs, clooking down on the waves lapping at the feet of the cliffs: high tide, then?

And then down the path, trying to snap a Marbled White, and the plan was to get to Kingsdown Leas to try to snap a Chalkhill Blue or three. But the wind was getting stronger, the Whites were being buffeted, and I knew the Chalkhills would be deep undercover clinging to grass stems. So, I gave up halfway to Kingsdown and turned for home.

At three I got back, and realised I had missed lunch somehow, so it was then declared brunch o’clock. And as it was cold left over breaded aubergine and pasta salad, it took less than 5 minutes to prepare and be sat down eating.

Now, although we like to think ourselves as social people, to be invited to a wedding reception where we knew only the groom was always going to result in the two of us sitting in a quiet corner of the event. But first we had to find the location.

Not helped by the invitation having the wrong postcode on, so after driving to Faversham, and down the main road through the town, we came to where the postcode said there was a golf course: there was just a school. No golf.

A hundred yards further along, I see a sign pointing down a lane to a golf course. Could be it. So we went down the lane. Then along a bit, round a corner, left at a junction, up a hill, down again, took a left fork, along a mile. And there was the golf club. Or A golf club. Not the golf club.

I re-programmed the sat nav, and apparently we were still 15 minutes away. So, back we went, back through Faversham, back down the A2, took the next exit, along a bit and there was THE golf club. And there was sounds of a party.

Indeed it was the wedding, so we parked and went in, dropping the card in the ‘wedding postbox’, I saw Will, the groom, so we went over, shook hands whilst he got ready for the traditional first dance.

That first dance is all important: for Jools and I it was Barry White, for my friends Jason and Cheryl it was Blister in the Sun. I did not recognise the one they had, something modern, poppy and autotuned. They seemed happy.

We went outside to find an empty table, and watch the bridesmaids and whatever boy groomsmaids are called, pay rounders. It passed the time, until we thought we had been there long enough so we could leave again without causing offence.

We did say goodbye, then walked back to the car, whilst some guests staggered around smoking a roll up; four weddings this wasn’t, but then, what is?

We drove back in the gathering gloom of a July evening, even the traffic had vanished, so we arrived home, sat outside on the patio looking at the stars and passing planes overhead, whilst three cats kept their collective eyes on us.

Friday 17th July 2015


First full day back home, and the very first job, well after the first cup of coffee, is to head to Tesco for some essential supplies. We are out of almost everything, including holibobs, so best get on with it. We are there at half seven, rushing round, grabbing stuff, trying to be healthy and so on, which we mostly succeeded in doing.

And then the biggest and best job is to collect the cats from the cattery and bring them home. This will be the second to last trip in the hire car, so Jools gets to drive there and me back. We leave at half nine, after the school run has ended, but it is still busy. At the cattery, we pay the hefty bill, and then try to round them up, which is harder than two weeks previously, but we do manage to do it whilst getting some superficial wounds, mostly from Molly.

Now is the rush to get home before Mulder’s bowels give out, so I try to be as quick as possible, but from Whitfield traffic is heavy, with hold ups at the Duke of York roundabout too. He is really spooked, and the inevitable happened as we passed Walletts Court, and he filled the basket, then lay in it. Man, it stunk to high heaven.

The demolition of Burlington House, Dover Once outside, we open the baskets and the cats run free, Mulder is told to clean himself up before thinking about going inside. The others seem to not believe they are back at home. Then normal service is resumed:


The blanket is thrown out, the cats fed, and they follow us around all day like little lost sheep, asking for food every hour or so, which we give them.

The demolition of Burlington House, Dover We do have to head back out, into what can now be called carmegeddon. It seems that the traffic chaos caused by ferries not working to full capacity had yet more effects, and with operation stack back in place, as we tried to take the hire car back, we encountered traffic backing up on Jubilee Way. This time we got through in ten minutes, but it was only going to get worse as most of the nation’s schools would be hon holiday from today, with many more people heading for the ferry port.

The demolition of Burlington House, Dover We drop off the car with no issues, no damage and a wad of cash to get back from our deposit.

I take shots of the ongoing demolition work going on in the centre of town, the car park next to Burlington House being taken down, and the offices of the House itself being emptied prior to it too being taken down. It really is happening.

The demolition of Burlington House, Dover Now to deal with the issue of a certain high street bank that seems to have mis-laid £19k of Nan’s money. That this is still ongoing is a shocking reflection of this bank. We sat in the office of the manager for 90 minutes whilst various parts of the bank tried to find where the money was sent, after it was agreed Nan never had it.

We will still be waiting until into next week, when the money will be transferred, rather than one of those pesky checks being issued. Not much else we could do.

We go home for lunch and then more time with the cats, photo editing, blog writing and general time wasting, which is what you are supposed to do on holiday.

Wherever each of is goes, we are followed by a feline ghost, just tracking us and reminding us that should be decide to open a packet of cat food, they will be more than happy to eat the contents.

And so the day passes into afternoon and into evening.

Tuesday, 21 July 2015

Day 14: Thursday 16th July 2015


I woke up at some point in the night with terrible indigestion. I mention this gastric fact because, as I sat in the vinyl chair, sweating gently, I thought, you know, we have been away 13 nights, why don’t we just drive straight home in the morning?

We were booked into a hotel in Ely for the next night, as I wanted to snap the cathedral, and there was a bead shop nearby, so why not do both and stay in the area?

I did go back to bed and slept until half seven, and I mentioned the idea of going straight home to Jools, and she agreed. Strongly. It would save us the hotel, a night of eating out, a day’s extra car insurance and so on. So, we would still go to Ely but drive home in the evening.

That agreed, we packed and loaded the car. Needing to fill the car up, we find that the petrol station also had a Greggs in it, so along with paying for the petrol, I also got two bacon and sausage baps and a couple of coffee. Worked well.

We drove off onto the A1 only to find it at a standstill: we drove back off at the next junction. Jools worked out a route to get us to the M180, on which we could then head south and home. Maybe.

We drove on near-empty roads through a flat landscape while munching on our breakfast. On the motorway, we made good time, whilst the car radio played out Radio 6. Life was still good even though the holibobs were nearly over. But then we would be home that night, and see the cats in the morning!

Onto the A1, and we thundered south, eating more miles. We pass through Newark and so into Lincolnshire, still heading south. Into Cambridgeshire, and it was time to leave the wide open road and take to the twisty roads crossing the fens. By now I had decided not to go to Ely at all, and we would just call in at the bead shop, then resume our trip south.

Haddenham, Cambridgeshire We pass through more wonderful looking villages with fabulous churches: why don’t we stop asks Jools. If we stop at one, we have to stop at them all I answer. Hope that makes sense.

Haddenham, Cambridgeshire We stop in Haddenham. Haddenham is how most people pronounce my surname, and is one of the most popular mis-spellings of it. So, it kind of felt like home, and quite odd seeoing the name platered everywhere: Haddenham Garage, Haddenham Library, Haddenham Art Centre, and so on.

The Three Kings, Haddenham, Cambridgeshire Jools goes to the bead shop, and I go to the church, but find the south door closed: this is the one the main path leads to. Apparently I should have gone to the north side, but how was I to know? I gave up and wandered round the village, going to the art centre. It was fabulous, and I even bought a salad bowl, made in Afghanistan. Or somewhere.

Haddenham, Cambridgeshire Jools comes out of the shop, and the sat nav says it is two hours and forty minutes to St Maggies. Seemed optimistic.

However, the roads were very quiet, down the A14 to the M11, then rattle down to Stanstead. We still were motoring along, the music on the radio was good, and we were in Essex, one county away from home.

We drive onto the M25, still making good time. His was all too good. Even at the Dartford crossing, we barely slowed down and were back in Kent. Hurrah.

Now, at this point, I should point out there was a slight diversion, and it will come as no surprise to learn that the reason for the diversion were orchids. We are now getting close to the end of the orchid season so these little spike, Green Flowered Helleborines, found at just one unlikely site in Kent, was just off the main road home.

Green-flowered helleborine Epipactis phyllanthe So, we thought we could remember where we saw them last year, and so set off in hope. We did find them, growing beside a main road. As they do. Just here and nowhere else.

Green-flowered helleborine Epipactis phyllanthe So, I get the camera out, lay in the gutter to get my shots. I could have taken more, but these small orchids hardly ever open, I had the shots; lets find lunch.

We go to the nearby over-picturesque village to find the pub by the ford packed out. Probably rubbish with it we both say. A little further up the main road we find a nice place which had tables and good food. We both order ploughman’s, and then have to endure a party of four young women who lunch, babble about clothes, shopping and oral sex in loud voices as their fizzy pink wine took effect.

They did leave, and our food arrived: and it was good.

That done, we just had the task of getting home. Since we had been gone, the problems with the ferries had not gotten any better, and indeed the motorway was closed again for operation stack, which meant having to cross up to the A2, then mixing it with the early rush hour traffic, as well as the lorries, car and buses heading for Dover. It was all crazy.

But, we arrived at the sign for Whitfield, then along the dual carriageway past Tesco to the Duke of York roundabout, turn left onto the Deal road. Right to St Maggies, left onto Station Road, and there we are: home.

We sigh in relief.

The car is unloaded, and when we are inside, we see a pile of mail on the dining room table. But, first, lets have a brew!

The kettle is boiled, cases unpacked, washing put in the machine and the wash begun. Outside, the garden has exploded, even without father-in-law’s lack of watering. We have apples nearly ready for picking. And raspberries reading for eating already.

We sit outside sipping our drinks. It was quiet without the cats, but that would change in the morning for sure. But for now, we continued to get stuff done, and then begin the photo-editing and posting. As you do.

Day 13: Wednesday 15th July 2015


All good things come to an end, and for us, it is the start of the long, long trip home. Somehow I manage to sleep until half seven, which means rushing round like a blue-arsed fly, having showers, packing, going down for breakfast and then loading the car. It might not be the best hotel in the world, but with views like those, who really cares? The room was clean, the breakfast good, and there was a well-stocked bar downstairs if you got thirsty.


And so, the open roads, hundreds of miles lay before us, we just have to get through the mad traffic around Edinburgh first. Saying that, it flows quite well, and soon we are heading out towards the coast, the sun is breaking through, life is glorious. The coastline is green and rolling, and at times the road runs right next to the coast, giving views of the rugged shore.

We roar down the A1, through small coastal towns, past factories and nuclear power stations until we come to the border at Berwick.

10 miles south we turn off at drive for the last time to Lindisfarne. This time we did know where the Helleborines were. So, we drive over the causeway and turn off at the parking area. It was a brisk walk to the dune slack: now, I did know that they were in flower, as, I had managed to get the internet to work, and had seen phots posted. And, at the edge of the slack, there were two caged plants.

Lindisfarne Helleborine Epipactis sancta Now, I have to say, that for most people, travelling the length of the country to see these two larger plants, with two smaller ones on the dune just showing above ground, might sound mad. It does me writing it now. But, it gave me such joy to see these small, rare flowers growing in this one area, despite there seem many over many acres that would also seem perfect. But that is orchids all over.

Lindisfarne Helleborine Epipactis sancta We walk back to the car with smiles over our faces. Or on mine at least. We had met a couple of good folks last time we were on Lindisfarne, and they told us of another Tyne Helleborines site, where they should be flowering. Only trouble was that the directions were vague. But this site would save us over an hour of travelling to Alston. We shall see.

The sat nav is programmed, and off we go, leaving the island with two hours before the tide would have trapped us. The sun is still shining, and we have Radio 6 on the car radio; it is wonderful. We know the roads by now, and so are cruising down the A1 towards Morpeth where the decent road began again. From there it was 20 minutes along the Tyne Valley to the small village where we hoped we would find the plants.

We park up in the village, and walk along the bed of an old wagonway. No sign of tracks or that there was ever a railway along here. Except it ran level and straight.

Tyne Helleborine Epipactis dunensis We turn off it, follow a path, then head into the woods. No idea of distance, except somewhere along here there were orchids. We follow the riverside path, pass through a sandy area, which seemed perfect, but it was so overgrown, it seemed impossible that they would be here, or at least beside the river. After 15 minutes, we turn round and split up. I take the path beside the river, Jools follows the main path set back.

I lose sight of Jools, but then through the trees I see her red shorts. And the rest of her. Have you seen them, I asked fearing the worse. Yes, she says, just have found a group beside the path. And sure enough there, and many more in the undergrowth were the Tyne Helleborines. Wow, just like that we found them.

Tyne Helleborine Epipactis dunensis The ones beside the path were almost in the sunshine, so made for easy snapping.

Now, we had the two Dunes done, we now just had to re-visit Bishop Middleham once more to see if the Dark Red were open. I hoped they would be.

It was a half hour drive, back along the A1 through Newcastle and Gateshead, coupled with major roadworks, which made for difficult driving, but with the sun out if was pleasant enough. Into County Durham, and off the Great North Road, through some villages, past the huge quarry, through Bishop Middleham and to the disused quarry. Only to find ten cars parked on the narrow road, we just manage to find a space to park, grab our cameras and walk in.

Dark Red Helleborine Epipactis atrorubens I go straight to the edge of the quarry and look down, once again hoping to see a sea of red from the orchids: I think I see one flowering spike, so I give Jools the thumbs up. She smiles. I hope.

Down the steep steps and onto the floor of the quarry; around there are groups of two of three people looking at the plants and butterflies; they seem to have at least one guide with them. But we know our quarry in the quarry, and so go to where they are thickest. I am stunned to find either spikes not yet in flower, or worse, spikes that have been nibbled by rabbits.

Dark Red Helleborine Epipactis atrorubens I walk round increasingly desperate: this was supposed to be the slam dunk site: we knew this site, and where the orchids were. In the end we find a handful of flowering spikes, all I have to do now is wait for the sunshine.

Minutes dragged on, maybe 15 minutes, until the big dark cloud above us cleared, and the old quarry was bathed in warm sunshine. I get the shots I wanted, all in glorious sunshine, making the colours of the orchids so vivid.

After chatting with a local man, and showing him the orchids, he then points us to movement on the side of the quarry: a polecat was hunting rabbits and coming out of a rabbit hole and disappearing into another. One more highlight for our trip, but I don’t try to photograph it. It was too far away.

All we have to do now is to drive back down the A1 to a service area just south of Leeds. Not perfect, but £60 for a room is about what we want to pay, so, we set the sat nav for south, and off we go, Jools driving, and us roaring south, the Rav4 eating the miles.

The sun is now fully out, and it is hot so we turn the air con up another notch.

We arrive, weaving our way through the queuing traffic: we check in, and find our room faced south and with the windows closed seemed to be 120 degrees.

The choice for food is limited; Burger King, Café Nero, Greggs, etc. We hope, or thought we could find somewhere better, I mean every town has a good pub or two, right? We drive through Pontefract, but only find grim looking places, we do not fancy them. So, into Featherstone, and we find one place that looked OK; they have no chef as it has just been taken over, but they send us to a place called The Rustic Arms. We find it, only to find it a soul-less place, and much to our surprise, they stopped doing food at seven.

We gave up and thought that we would go back to Burger King. As we are driving back, we come across a really nice looking pub: we park up and go n: are you still doing food? Yes they were, and had a table.

I have steak and cheese pie, Jools as medallions of pork. Both are wonderful, but lay heavy: it would be an uncomfortable night’s sleep. But we got back, had a shower. We decided to take the duvet out of the cover and just use the cover, it was so warm.

A hard day’s travelling lay ahead tomorrow.

Day 12: Tuesday 14th July 2015


It feels that time is really getting short now, tomorrow we begin the long journey south, although we are going to break it into three pieces, we are already thinking of the return to work next Monday.

By eight, our appetites are sharp, so it was good to smell breakfast cooking as the fine smell made its way up the stairs. Fried egg, two sausages, tow rashers, a potato pancake and a round of black pudding was just perfect, all with a pot of strong coffee. Set for the day. Now I have the internet back again to distract me, we do not leave the hotel until half nine; we did have to find somewhere to stay for Wednesday night, so with that done, we were free to explore. And explore Edinburgh, deciding to travel in by train and so avoid traffic and parking costs.

It was quite some walk up to the station, and we were blowing bubbles by the time we got to the start of Station Road and the half mile walk to the station itself. The up the ramp and over the footbridge to the other platform; and we had done it, joining the families for the first cheap train into the city.

Edinburgh Once in Edinburgh, I did nearly get arrested. Well, I had a run in with a jobsworth over whether I should be taking photography. I argued the toss, argued the toss with a BTP office and again with Network Rail. Both the police and NR had sympathy, and NR gave me a badge to wear so I could go about snapping. But I was angry, snapped the roof of the waiting room before we walked off, cocking our noses in the air at jobsworths everywhere.

It is eleven, and so time for morning coffee, and opposite there is an old pub which has been done up; we go in and find it covered in wonderful tiles, which I snap as I drink lovely strong coffee.

Opposite is a tram stop, so we buy a ticket and hop on the tram just about to depart for a trip to the airport. And back. There is something satisfying about riding on a train running over the streets. Even a very expensive to build, late delivered but sleek modern tram.

Out through the suburbs, a business park to the airport. Then back. Lovely.

Edinburgh It was then nearly one, and clearly, lunch time. With food outlets everywhere, where to eat, or what to eat was difficult. We go to a pub, order some good pub food and good pub drinks and settle down to wait its delivery.

Outside the sun breaks through and it all gets much hotter and more humid. But after lunch, I feel enthused, and opposite is a fine church, one of the Scottish churches run it, don’t ask me which one, or what the difference is, but the church is delightful, full of light and all-inclusive, just as The Word should be.

Edinburgh I take my shots, speak to the warden and am in a fine mood.

It is now warmer than warm; hot in fact, so we go down into the park and buy an ice cream, before checking out a footbridge over the railway into the main station. Many years ago, I stood here with my Dad on another holiday watching trains come and go; one of my best memories. No Dad this time, just a couple of toddlers in love with trains, and their strained parents as the time comes for them to leave, but then there is one more train. Isn’t that the truth.

Edinburgh We are hot and bothered, and my back is playing up, so we walk to the station to find a train is waiting; we board it and wait the ten minutes until it roars out of platform 20, which is next to platform 11, obviously, and the 20 minute trip back to Queensferry and the hotel.

We take the steep footpath from the station, under the bridge to the promenade, and then along through the centre of town to the hotel, where a wonderful cool room was waiting, still with its wonderful views.

After a couple of hours laying in the cool of the early evening, we decide that we would try the local chippy. It was just a ten minute walk away, and we could smell it before we could see it. Now, what we did learn this evening is what ‘supper’ means north of the border. Down England, sausage and chips would get you a sausage and chips. Probably battered sausage. But fine. But what we got for sausage and chips twice was two sausage suppers: which was two battered sausages and lots of chips.

Neither of us managed to finish the meal, but I did eat both sausages at least, but was stuffed. Jools did just over the one sausage, but we can say they were wonderful chips.

We walked back to the hotel, watched the sun set over the Firth, then headed to bed, shattered once again as clearly, relaxing is tiring stuff.

Day 11: Monday 13th July 2015


And time has came to leave Causeway House. A sad moment. We have enjoyed our stay, slept well, relaxed and seen some great things.

I have one final coffee, before the packing begins, and we manage to fitit all in the car, with room for us to spare. Jools programs the sat nave to Rosslyn, the sat nave tells us our route, and we are off. It decides we should go via Carlisle and then up the motorway, which would have been OK were it not for the pouring rain, but then I guess all roads would have been horrible to drive on. Along the A69, round Carlisle and up the M6 to Scotland. But, as we crossed the border, the rain began to ease, and we thought we sensed some brightness overhead.

Rosslyn Chapel We took the scenic route alongside the trackbed of the old Waverley Line, through green valley, past the source of the River Tweed, over passes and down the other side. It is a beautiful route, even in list drizzle and mist, but after a while we began to wish for some straighter roads.

Rosslyn Chapel We stop at a greasy spoon some 20 minutes shy of Rosslyn, I have square sausage in a bun, Jools has bacon. And we still have six days of holiday left.

Rosslyn Chapel It is some 11 years since I was last at Rosslyn, back then Da Vinci Code fever had only just begun; but now it is a world famous place, and with ample parking. And nine of your Scottish pounds to get in! And only once we paid did we see the sign informing all that photography was banned inside. For £9, a small, if bonkers, church?

Linlithgow, Scotland We looked round, I took some exterior shots, and we left, leaving visitors of all nations behind.

Linlithgow, Scotland Thanks to my good friend, John, our next port of call was Linlithgow, where the Scottish Stewart Royal family had their home, and Mary, Queen of Scots was born. He recommended we go, and who I am I to argue with John?

The rain threatened again, but stayed dry, at least for a while. Round the Edniburg by-pass towards Glasgow, and there were the signs, all simple. Into the town, and then the road to the palace was closed, and there were no alternative signs.

Falkirk Wheel, Falkirk We drove up and down the high street, all the long term parking was full, until just as we were about to give up, we see signs for another, a little further out, and so do find a place to park.

It was a 5 minute walk to the centre of town, past the bowls centre, Tesco and the railway station. We were hungry, and there was a fine looking Italian place just there, should we go in? I think we should.

It is very nice, we have Insalata Caprese again, and some bread. And some olives. All is nice, so we are not tempted by the desserts. Well, we are but resist.

Falkirk Wheel, Falkirk The rain had begun to fall again as we walked to the old palace, up the cobbled street and through the ornamental gateway: the parish church is on the right, so we go in and once again are delighted. But the most stunning aspect is a modern south window, which is just spectacular and takes my breath away.

The castle next door is mostly complete, except for the roof, which in the steady rain would have been nice. But we get in for free, our favourite price, and have the place almost to ourselves. I follow a spiral staircase up, and end up at the top of one of the towers, with views across the castle and rooftops of the town behind.

Time was getting away from us, it was nearly two and we had so much to do: next up was the Falkirk Wheel. The Falkirk Wheel is a wonder of modern engineering, lifting canal boats in a ferris wheel kind of way 26m up a hill. And it is very photogenic.

The drive in more light dirzzle takes little under half an hour, but the entrance is in the middle of a housing estate, which without a sat nav would be impossible to find. After parking the car, we walk down the hill to a viewing point as the wheel is turning, and jools notices an orchid. And in the end it turns out the whole bank is filled with Common Spotteds, all of various sizes and shapes. Only, I did not have my macro lens. Oh well.

After walking to the top, looking at the canal entering the wheel, taking shots from all angles, we have had enough, not of the engineering, but of the rain, we walk back to the car so we could go and see some horses.

Two horses.

Big horses.

Big horse’s heads.

The Kelpies, Falkirk The Kelpies. A wonderful sculpture of two horses heads in steel, on a grand scale, and only just open by Good Queen Liz. So new, it does not have a post code, nor a booklet with instructions to get there. And the landscape does well in hiding them from sight until you are there. But a nice young man at the infomation office give me a map and direction, and off we go.

The Kelpies, Falkirk Situated at the edge of a large park, and in the middle of a building site stand the two horses heads. For two pounds you can park the car, then walk over the muddy ground to the statues. You can pay for a tour in which case you get to go inside. We decided that was just too exciting, so we walked round in the rain, taking shots and trying to resist the temptation to throw children in the canal.

The rain had stopped, but we now have to get to the other side of Edinburgh to our hotel, and instead of using the direct route, we decide to take the long way round and go back over the Forth Road Bridge.

Needless to say, traffic was heavy at five in the afternoon, and we stuck behind a caravan, which was a pain, but then we were not in a hurry I suppose. Soone enough we came to the bridge, got through the traffic and over it, with its wonderful views over the iconic railway bridge and out to sea, and down below was our hotel.

Forth Bridges We find the side lane leading to the car park, abandon the car in a position where it causes least inconvenience to others, and walk up the cobbled street to the hotel, check in, then carry on walking to the top of the hotel, where our room is. And what a room, with both the main window, and the winodwn in the bathroom having stunning views over the railway bridge. We have stayed here before, and so asked for this room.

After a cuppa and checking on the world via the interwebs, we set out on a quest for dinner, and dine a place with equally stunning views to the bridge; I have haggis as a starter then folloowed by oven baked plaice. And we have wine. And it is delicious.

There is just time to walk down along the high street and then along the promenade to the old jetty to photograph the three bridges in the glorious end of day light. I wait for an hour, watching as the light changes and colours go from gold to dark red.

A quick walk home, I pick up a wee dram from the bar before climbing the wooden hill, and we sit at the window as dusk falls.