Wednesday, 30 September 2015

Wednesday 30th September 2015 (part 2)


Due to work, and some Kentish churching, then work again on Monday, time is going to be very tight the next week for blogs, so not to get too far behind, I am providing this, a bonus blog post for today, and one to round the month of September off with.

Wednesday afternoon walk to Otty Bottom Another glorious morning, a clear blue sky, and as I wake up at quarter to seven, the sun is just about to rise, once again picking out the few clouds and con trails in the sky.

Wednesday afternoon walk to Otty Bottom Jools leaves me alone with the cats, I make a second cup of coffee, have breakfast and begin the working day. I have a lot of preparation work to do for a meeting you will be hearing about at the weekend, but I will leave it there for now. The morning passes with me making several Powerpoint presentations. Outside, the sun rises and it becomes very warm again, almost like a summer day.

Wednesday afternoon walk to Otty Bottom I have the last of the rolls I made yesterday for lunch, I sit outside as I eat it, with cats around wondering what nice things I could be eating and would there be any left over for them. No.

Although I am mostly over the cold/allergy thing, I still need plenty of fresh air, so I decide to go for a walk in the afternoon.

Wednesday afternoon walk to Otty Bottom These are the salad days.

Some might call this an Indian Summer, but they would be wrong. There has been no frost as yet, so this is just a very late summer.

Wednesday afternoon walk to Otty Bottom For what seems like the past week, we have had nothing but unbroken sunshine, weather which allowed us to see the lunar eclipse two days ago, and means that I am greeted with stunning sunrises and sunsets each day.

For lunch, and even for breakfast some mornings, I can sit and eat on the patio, as what wildlife is about, insects and birds, busy themselves for the thing times ahead.

Wednesday afternoon walk to Otty Bottom I am feeling much better after the triple whammy of a cold, allergy attack and migraines of the weekend. But, I have a chesty cough, and to make the poor breathing easier, I need fresh air. So, after the busy part of the day passed, I took myself out for a walk.

Wednesday afternoon walk to Otty Bottom It did look like summer, but the hedgerows are full of berries, and the fields have mostly been harvested, ploughed and re-seeded. The year presses on, and the farmer's work is never done.

I walk across the now empty fields, the dried beans have been collected, and now the fields await their next crop. After much heavy rain, but none for over a week, the ground is quickly drying out, but where farm machinery has struggled up steep tracks, chalk has been turned into white mud. Walking is tricky, but with careful footwork, it is passable.

Wednesday afternoon walk to Otty Bottom With the fields now mostly empty, I stop at the top of Otty Bottom Road, I mull over whether to walk to the cliffs, but I am happy with what I have done, so turn for home, with a few tasks yet to do, and maybe a treat of a bottle of porter once I get inside.

The day fades, and I begin to prepare dinner; roasted vegetables and chicken kievs. All very nice stuff and lots and lots of garlic. So, no vampires will be calling here tonight. I pack my bag for tomorrow, and once Jools arrives home, I dish up dinner, and with a couple of generous glasses of red form the box of wine that fell onto the trolley at the weekend. All was set now for a quiet evening of laughing at English clubs in Europe before an early night.

Wednesday 30th September 2015


As always, the start of a new day is always much better after something close to ten hours great sleep. Outside, there is a glorious sunrise, with orange on the horizon, and the few flecks of clouds and contrails already lit by the sun which was still below the horizon. Jools had got up without disturbing me, and came in with a mug of fresh coffee. Yes, I felt better, altough my chest was full of crap and I easily was out of breath, but I did feel human again.

She is ready for work, I am not. My head is full of wool, but in a good way that comes after a fine night's sleep, even if you are hemmed in my slumbering cats. She leaves, so I go downstairs, check on the interwebs to see if mankind is still doomed. It is, but no more than the day before. Not for the first time that day, a cats says meow.

I make another coffee, have breakfast and begin the day of catch up, as I lost five hours the day before. Thankkfully, the sky was not falling in there either, and within a couple of hours I was all up to day, and had time to do the first task of the day: make a pan of soup. Making it up as I went along, I sweated some onions and garlic, cut up half a butternut squash, added two pints of stock, whisked it up when the squash was soft, and i have a bowl of soup. It even tasted good, which is always nice.

Sloe Gin To go with the soup, I made some poppy seed rolls, and left them to rise.

And after the final meeting ended at half two, I got on with making the second Christmas cake of the week. It has been a year since I made one, but I think I remember how. Even if it comes out wrong, who cars? CAKE! And once all was mixed in and the mixture poured into a double lines tin, popped int he ovem and the smell of the all spice filled the house. Soon mixed in with the smell of the cooking rolls too. How clever I am said Jelltex, how cleaver am I?

Christmas Cake Indeed.

I even had time to squeeze in a little bit of shed repairs, as the roof is always problematic. Jools had bought some skyhooks, or something, and this drilled through the roof, attached the roof firmly to the shed. It might even last the winter. Stranger things have happened.

I warmed the soup through, buttered a couple of the rolls, and dinner was ready when Jools came home, and very nice it was too. The cake was ready at half seven, and I left that in the oven to cool over night.

I listened to the football on the radio, not expecting much entertainment, but with Arsenal ending up losing 3-2 to Olympiakos, and Chelski losing ay Porto, there is now a crisis in the Prem, apparently. NOne too soon saythe rest of us. Jools and I crack jokes through the second half, as Arse get ever more desperate, and concede within a minute of equalising. Now, that is funny, right? Jools begs the radio to be switched off as the inquests begin, and Mr Angry of Tonbridge Wells rings in to offer his point of view. I smile my way to bed. As you do.

One last thing to say is that this was the day of the mouse. Or mice. Two dead mice in the morning, Molly brought in two during the day. And in the evening I managed to catch two more in the humane trap, and another one over night. Now, I thought that cats were supposed to keep the house from being mouse-free, not, as it turned out, cats bring the mice in, and me, the human, do the mouse catching, putting them outside. No?

Tuesday, 29 September 2015

Tuesday 29th September 2015


We had plan to get up at three in the morning, to see the lunar eclipse. However, as soon as I went to bed, I began to have trouble breathing, it was what happened in the theatre some hours before. I laid there tossing and turning for two hours or more, before I just gave up. The cats omn the bed must have been glad when I got up, as I was keeping them from sleeping.

I went outside at half twelve to look at the full moon, it was wonderful and bright, what would the eclipse look like, I thought. At quarter past two, the eclipse began, I went outside to look, it was if someone had rubbed out a corner of the moon. As time went on more and more of the moon vanished: it was like watching two week's worth of moon phases in an hour.

2015 Lunar Eclipse As time got to nearer three, the moon had almost completely vanished, hidden behind the silver sliver was a red ball.

Jools got up at three, and we both went out into the garden to watch totality; it would last over half an hour, so I had plenty of time for shots, as I had my tripod out there.

So, I get my shots, none are that good, and I am disappointed. And tired.

2015 Lunar Eclipse We go back to bed, and I manage to get three hours sleep, but I am back awake before half six, meaning less than three hours sleep. I have a wooly head, and am seeing flashes in my vision, I fear it is another migraine coming. I have meetings and mails to attend to, but it was clear with how I felt that I could not spend the whole day in front of the computer. I put an out of office massage out just before twelve and take to my bed. Sleep would not come, I toss and turn, but after taking the stronger anti-allergy pill, breathing was OK.

The weather was good enough to sit outside, so I do for a while until the sun began to sink in the west and behind the house next door. It was getting chilly, and I felt like death.

I cook burgers for dinner, which was all I could think of as I had forgotten to get anything else out anyway, but then there is always the chippy I suppose.

I called it a night at eight, went to bed to listen to the first half of the football before switching it off and trying to sleep. I hoped tomorrow would be better!

Monday, 28 September 2015

Monday 28th September 2015


It seems my claim made in yesterday's post that I have been allergy free pretty much the whole year was perhaps a tad premature. However, my words as describing where a cold ends and allergy begins is a tricky one, even for me. What I can say is that for the most part of yesterday, I had a cold, but after some lawn mowing action, it seemed I touched my eye which still had some dusk/grass seed/who knows what on the top of the engine: the upshot was a badly bloodshot eye, and within an hour, a mighty sneezing bout which should have told me what it was, but by that time we were away from home where my drugs of choice are kept.

Foraging for Sloes This is miles away from the bright and glorious morning when I awoke after some six hours sleep, much better rested than I should have been, but then I was still riddled with cold/flu. We had coffee. I watched the recording of the football. All seemed well, I even felt fine enough to go for a walk. It is the beginning of autumn, and there is fruit to gather, this time it was sloes. Sloes for Sloe Gin. The recipe calls for three ingredients: sloes, gin and sugar. Sloes grow wildly around here, and not many people pick them, so having noted where the best bushes are, we set off just after nine with bags and walking stick for gathering.

Foraging for Sloes Along the lane at the end of the street to just before the pig's copse, then doubling back along the cross-field path down the dip to the farm. Through two hedges, back up the other side to the hedges that surround the farm. And sure enough there were many, many sloes. Although small in size, many were already going over or had burst. So we started to collect, and soon had a couple of pounds.

Back down the dip and back up to our street, where once home we had to go to the attic again to look for more demijohns, as we would be distilling, although that is not the right word, instead of bottles this year. On her way back from seeing Nan, Jools collected another bag of sloes from the layby at Westcliffe, so we had more than enough, or so we thought. She had also been to Tesco for the gin supply, five bottles. Along with a bottle of washing up liquid might be one of the odder shopping trips.

Foraging for Sloes After lunch, Jools went to see Nan again, leaving with with six pounds of sloes and a sharp stick to prick them with. Minutes stretched into an hour; Jools came back, helped me finish the last bag, pour them into the demijohn. Nearly full. And once we poured in two and a half litres of gin, half a kilo of sugar, it was full. Perfect. Now to shake vigorously. Shake some more. And job doone, until tomorrow when we would have to shake again. And every day for a month, to ensure the juice is coming out of the fruit.

After a lengthy break, I am felling OK, so decide to mow the back lawn, and it was after this that I rubbed my eye and so began the whole allergic reaction thing. I washed my face, but that wasn'ty going to be enough, or at least I can say that in hindsight. We climbed into the car and drove to Canterbury. Again. Second time in two days, this time for a show.

Henning Wehn is German, and a comedian, and thankfully is very funny, this would be the third time we had seen him. We have seen him go from the 50 in Deal a few years back, to the couple of hundred at Folkestone, and now 1100 at the Marlow. And beforehand we thought we would eat out.

We drove into the City, found a parking space fairly near the centre, and being charged six quid for four hours of parking seemed very steep to us, only made possible by paying with a card. I mean, shouldn't these things be free once the shops have closed??

A short walk away was a nice Moorish restaurant we have been to before, and they have a table for two. We have a starter of Moorish Tapas, followed by a pan of seafood paella to share. We did to hold the squid, but some did still were mixed in with the rice. Now in the interests of being adventurous, I did try some baby squid/octopus, and although it is clearly not as unpleasant as kidney, it was something I could live without eating again, so left anything else that looked squid or octopus-like.

It was whilst we were waiting for our food that the sneezing really began, and once we were to leave I was fully blocked up, and not enjoying things very much at all.

On the way to the theatre, the full moon rose huge above the city. It looked amazing, and wish I could get a shot of it above the city. I took a few street shots, but we needed to get to our seats, or so we thought. Our seat was upstairs, which meant I could get the shot I wanted of the moon, if I could get close enough to the window to avoid reflections. We took our seat, the heat inside was incredible, and this served to trigger something in my sinuses to close whatever small gap I had been able to breath through up to this point. Maybe I should have given up at that point, but I decided to see it through, although it really wasn't the best of evenings for me, even if the show was very funny indeed.

Full moon over Canterbury The show ended at twenty to ten, we walked back through the almost deserted streets back to the car park, and then back home. Above us the full moon rose higher, and looking larger than normal. It was getting lose to be bright enough to be almost daylight.

Later that night, there would be a full lunar eclipse, we hoped to wake up to see it, but as things turned out, I would not sleep at all, so I wasn't going to miss it either way!

Sunday, 27 September 2015

Sunday 27th September 2015


As you may well remember, I have an allergy problem. But thankfully for the most part of this year, it has been under control, which is a very good thing. Something like 75% of the time, it is dust that sets it off, and away I go sneezing and reaching for the drugs. Despite blood work showing I had no other allergies other than dust, I know that 25% of the time, it is deodorant and aftershaves that will set off an attack. As it stands, I can only use one brand of deodorant, Sure, the rest cause me to have sneezing fits; and I gave up on aftershave about 18 months ago, and have felt much better since. I have also been very lucky with colds and flu, free of both the whole year. But when Jools brought home a cold this week, there was always the chance it would get passed on. But for the allergy sufferer, when the sneezing and sniffling starts, which drugs to reach for? I go for the safe bet and take drugs for colds and allergies.

It doesn't really matter, as Saturday progresses, I get more and more congested, which bode not very well for a decent night's sleep Saturday night, but before then, life was for living and doing stuff. And listening to football. And before that, there was the delight of heading into the naked city, Canterbury, for some shopping and cathedral action. As you do.

Canterbury Cathedral, Canterbury, Kent Before that, as is almost always the case, we had shopping to do, as there appeared to be little beer and cider left in the cupboard, which, as you can imagine, is a disaster! So, once up and having drunk the first coffee of the day, I drive to Deal to scour the shelves for fine ales and cider, whilst Jools stays home to sort the washing out and put the first load in the machine. Once back from Sainsbury's, we pack it away, and instead of eating our usual cereal, we decide to drive to Canterbury right away to find a place to eat. And why not, it was pay day after all!

Canterbury Cathedral, Canterbury, Kent There was more than enough traffic, and most of it heading for Canterbury, but as we park near St Augustine's Abbey, we turned off and were soon parking up in a not quite deserted car park, but one that had a choice of empty spaces. Walking down the lane towards the City Centre, we pass a new sandwich bar, so call in; we look at the menu and both decide the cranberry and bacon pannini with chilli jam sounds nice. Which is was once it came, along with a side salad.

It is just after then, and so the crowds of tourists are not that thick, but groups following guides with umbrellas or rolled up newspapers are massing outside the gate: so, I have to admit to pushing through whilst the groups are sorted out, I reach the booth, pay my ten pounds fifty, and find there is no year-long entry any more. When I tried to ask the guy in the booth, I found he could hardly speak any English, and responeded by holding up one finger at me, which could have been rude, I guess. So, I walk across the Cathedral Close to the main door and I am in.

Canterbury Cathedral, Canterbury, Kent I walk round the cathedral, snapping anything of interest to me, I mean I have been in before, but I see so much more detail and features. Down into the crypt, where photography is banned, but flks with i pads are snapping and flashing away. I resist, just, but do take one in one of the small chapels down there.

Canterbury Cathedral, Canterbury, Kent Back up to the main part of the cathedral, I switch to the wide angle, and go round again, taking in the scale of the cathedral and the increasing crowds inside. At eleven, with a small service about to begin, I take my leave of the cathedral, and walk to the Buttercross to meet up with Jools again. We have to go in a cookware shop for some new plates as we are butterfingers when washing up, and down to just two plates now. So, that done, we can return to the car, drop off our shopping before making our way to the Abbey.

Canterbury Cathedral, Canterbury, Kent In 597 AD, St Augustine set out on a mission to England to turn it back into Christian: that the northern parts of the realm had remained Christian notwithstanding. He landed on Thanet and established his See in Canterbury. Over the centuries many buildings, churches and cathedrals were built, and what is now the Cathedral and the area what is now called St Augustine's Abbey, mean that religion took up a large part of the city. After dropping the shopping off, we walk over the car park to the entrance: Jools had seen it before so sat just inside reading, whilst I went round snapping.

Canterbury Cathedral, Canterbury, Kent An abbey, a church, another church, cloisters and other associated buildings make it a large site; of course, good old Henry VIII made a good job of demolishing the Abbey, but with what is remeaining, you can see the layout of the buildings and where Kings, Queens and Archbishops, including St Augustine himself, were laid to rest. All this ancient history, just there.

Canterbury Cathedral, Canterbury, Kent I get my shots, speak to some people, as I do, then go back to meet with Jools so we can go back to the car and home.The city was by now very crowded, no spaces in the car park, and the streets of the city were jammed with people. So, much better to go home so I can chill out on the sofa whilst the football plays out.

Back home, I put the radio on, look at my shots, but I am pooped. On the radio Spurs are being played with by Citeh, it seems they were in for a spanking. Bob from over the road comes round and we chat for a while: now when he arrived Citeh were winning 1-0, but once Bob left, Spurs were 2-1 to the good and follow that with a third! Where did those goals come from? Citeh were so much in control. Spurs also add a fourth to ease to a huge win for them, and give the blue, well, the blues and second defeat in a week.

Canterbury Cathedral, Canterbury, Kent Norwich were away at Wet Sham, and anything could happen. We take the lead. Are pegged back. Then re-take the lead with 8 minutes to go, would be a huge win. Only Hammers equalise two minutes into injury time, which although disappointing not to have won, still getting a well-earned point there still seems a good result. With better defending, we might have won easily.

The dried bean harvest I walked outside once the final results were in to hear the sound of farm machinery: they were havesting the dried beans in the fileds at the end of the road. So Jools and I take a wander to see them and for me to snap the harvester in action, as due to work, I missed the wheat harvest back in July. It was already chiily, and we had to wait 20 minutes until it emptied its hopper of beans so was ready for another couple of runs. And as it drew level with us, the sun even came out to bathe the scene in warm light.

The dried bean harvest That evening, England played Wales in the Rugby World Cup, and should have been easy for England, at home, ten points to the good after half time, but they go to pieces, and a stirring Welsh comback was completed in the final three minutes, so, England are now clinging on to stay in the competition. How did that happen? Time for a whisky before bed, just so I could nod off. Phew, I feel like crap warmed up, as Dad might have put it, but then he was a poet.

Not really.

Saturday, 26 September 2015

Saturday 26th September 2015


I knew it was going to be a tough day, a brief look at my calendar would have shown five hours of meetings straight off. Meetings sat at my dining room table whilst I strained to hear what people were saying in another country, listening to them laughing, drinking coffee, whilst there is me, and the cats, and me with my headphones on, trying to listen. Do I have any comments I am asked at the end of the fist one! Well, if I heard things correctly, then no But should have added I only really heard one in five words, so who knows, really?

Before that I head breakfast, more coffee and while I tried to prep for the meeting, I saw nothing but endless sunshine outside. When my time comes, I will go out I promised myself.

The morning passes, I attend the second meeting, and finally do some admin. And at three, I can finish for the day. Outside the sun is hidden behind clouds, but there will always be the chance that there will be sunny intervals....

Friday afternoon walk to Windy Ridge It is now past the autumn equinox, and so the days get shorter and nights longer, but for a time the days can be as warm as summer.

I have had a long week, made so by that long, long day to Belgium and back on Tuesday, and working at the computer all week has meant that my allergies are on the verge of erupting again.

Friday afternoon walk to Windy Ridge So, once I had attended all the meetings I needed to, I put on my walking boots and went for a stomp.

The forecast said it should have been sunny, but the clouds overhead were thick and contrasted against the sun when it broke through.

Friday afternoon walk to Windy Ridge The hedgerows are heavy with fruit, but the elderberries are just done already, but the blackberries and sloes are now at their best. The fields of beans still have not been harvested, but as I write this there is the sound of machinery in the air, so who knows.

Further along, someone has cleared most of the vegetation from the butterfly copse, so part of me hopes that is all that will be done, as it is a haven for wildlife.

Once beyond the pig's copse, the sun broke through, turning the vistas into technicolour!

Friday afternoon walk to Windy Ridge Up from the farm, heavy recent rain has worn a channel on the track leading to the wood, but with the sun now out, it is warm enough to take my coat off as I start to huff and puff.

Into the wood, it is still shaded, with the leaves still on the trees above. And despite apparently looking ideal for fungi, I see just a few King Alfred's Cakes on dead branches laying on the floor.

Friday afternoon walk to Windy Ridge With the sun now over the yardarm, I sense it being gin o'clock, so decide to walk home for a pre-dinner swifter.

Jools comes home and so I bol some potatoes to sautee, fry up some sausages which where left over from the spring and flavoured with wild garlic. It is a quick, simple meal. And dirty, in tat apart from the boiled corn, it is all bad stuff. But sometimes you just want bad, dirty food.

Friday afternoon walk to Windy Ridge Outside the day fades t night, the moon rises earlier and fuller than the day before. It will be whole on Sunday, and there will be an eclipse on Monday morning. Will we be up? maybe.

That leaves us with The Don, and then a travelogue about Patagonia, and fires our desires to go there even further.

On a downbeat note, I suffer three migrane attacks for the fist time in the afternoon and evening, so bad is it I go straight to bed without cleaning my teeth due to the dancing lights in my vision. Needless to say, I do not feel good. I hope that things will be better tomorrow, it is Saturday after all....

Friday, 25 September 2015

Friday 25th September 2015


And yet I am still tired.

So very tired.

And the biggest news of the day is that a certain Manchester miserbalist has released his first novel. And apparently, it stinks. Who'd have think it? Well, one Stephen Patrick Morrissey has written a novel about a ficticious American track team in New England where they apparently run in a relay team that has never been run, let alone be a team for. And they speak how you would expect Morrissey to speak. And the cherry on top is the well reported sex scene which includes the description of a male member calling it a "bulbous salutation ". No wonder Twitter was eating itself yesterday.

Now, I like a good Smith's tune as much as the next bloke, but I have never been a fan of SPM, in fact I gave up reading his interviews before the band split, and I bought none of his solo albums and just the first single. And his constant whining is now what I think of when his name is mentioned. But most of all I think of the far better writers who struggle all their life to get published, and he not just gets books published, but chooses the Penguin Classic imprint for it to be published on: pretentious? Obviously.

But don't believe me, read this from yesterday's Guardian That aside, it was a very quiet and busy day with me, as I spent it reading a contract. Oh my word, if you need to go to sleep then it is something to read, but then I have to know this backwards, sideways and with my eyes closed. Then a meeting with my boss, about this, so it was just like revising for a German test: only much more serious. That done, I have a few loose ends to tie up, and somehow that made it already half four, and already the sun was setting and it seemed too late to go for a walk.

Pretty in Pink At least I did not have to do much for dinner as we had more than enough pasta salad and cold breaded aubergine to to feed not only both of us, but as it turned out be enough for my lunch the next day too. And where has the day gone again? Its already gone seven, dark outside and we both seem so tired. I look at the TV listings, and see there is rugby on: New Zealand v Namibia. Now I have heard of the second team, but New Zealand? who knew, eh? Anyway, a much closer game than expected, but the All Blacks running out winners, although conceding a try and three penalties.

The game done, it is time for bed, but the cats have beaten us to it, and we have to fight for space in the bed. As usual.

Thursday, 24 September 2015

Thursday 24th September 2015


Three months time it will nearly be Christmas, so if you want your dinner to perfect, put your sprouts on to cook now before it's too late. Its what your Grandma would want!

And Wednesday was the Vernal Equinox. Isn't it two days late? Or is it the calendar getting out of sync with the stars or something? Who knows?

But, back to Wednesday.

After the 19 hour day of the day before, and that Jools drove through rain and past the four horsemen of the apocalypse to pick me up from the airport, we both decided that we bot deserved a lay in. And why not? Even the cats let us lay in to seven, at which point the alarm went off. Oh dear again.

Jools got ready, we made coffee, then she got ready for work, and I made to tidy up, have breakfast before the usual stuff I do during the day. At half eight I began to work, and yet I began with a clear vision of the tasks ahead, the first one caused such a diversion, it ended up being the only task completed. In terms of a working day, it was an improvement on most.

Outside it was a wonderful autumnal day, even if I was stuck in the house, the sun shone all day, and was warm enough to have the back door open, and so keep the sneezing at bay.

Whilst I was traveling, the second demijohn of wine started bubbling, and both now look like fizzy Ribena, but slightly more alcamoholic. As I sit at the dining room table, I can hear the gas bubbling out through the airlock, everyone turning a little more of the sugar into booze. Yay, booze.

Elderberry Wine As ever, dinner was a problem, and with a delivery from Tesco inbound during the day, and unsure what was ordered, I plumped on the old standby: breaded aubergine and pasta salad, which on a warm evening would be light and just perfect.

Jools did not go and visit Nan as planned, so instead came straight back home, and as her boss is now back, her workload which has been massive these last two weeks should have been halved. But still we are both pooped from the previous day. Any thoughts of doing anything else other than eating, and relaxing for the evening was out. And anyway, it was League Cup night, and City were up against WBA for a place in the next round. I lay on the sofa, with the radio burbling away, but did not snooze. Just anyway. City run out 3-0 winners with late goals, and we are all happy enough with that.

The Killing Moon Outside the month moves on, it is now dark just after seven, and the moon is waxing towards full, I snapped it standing on the pack porch, as it emerged from behind a cloud.

Wednesday, 23 September 2015

Wednesday 23rd September 2015


In the end, I did sleep well. Well until half four when the alarm went off. I dressed, cleaned my teeth and got dressed, then began the hunt for the restrooms, as I did not have an en suit room. I found one down on the groundfloor in the bar: is there are more sad sight than a bar in the cold light of morning, bare of warm light, laughter and people? Only, wasn't in the cold light of morning, it was still dark.

That done, now was the great search for a taxi. Most doors into Waterloo station were still closed, but I found my way up to the main concourse, then followed the signs for the rank, back outside into the cold early morning air. Of course, a railway station before either the first arrival or departure is a quiet place, with mostly the bleary-eyed, hung over or night workers milling around, or making their way to the one coffee bar open that time of day.

The taxi rank had half a dozen cars waiting, the drivers milling around, chatting away. I got in one, and off we set into the dark city streets, with the traffic lights blinking and stopping invisible traffic. We pass over the Thames crossing Westminster Bridge, passing the unlit Houses of Parliament and into Parliament Square, where all demonstrations have now been cleared, there seems to be no right to protest under this Government. As there is no right to health care or social support, but hey, we're all in this together, right?

Up Whitehall, crossing through one of the Parks to Buckingham Palace and then on to Paddington. There is no one about, but I had just missed the first train to the airport. I walk down onto the station concourse, buy a ticket, now at £35 for a return trip of two 15 minutes: all hail the triumph of the privatised railways! I get in a carriage and wait for the departure at five twenty five. We glide out, and are bombarded with ads from the TV screens: I paid for this, apparently.

43012 Outside was still inky black, so I see little of London as we rattle along to Kilburn, then into the tunnel to the station.

For some reason there are just lifts upto the departure hall, so there is a mad panic to squeeze everyone into the first that arrives, then up we go. Across the hall to the self check in machine, get my boarding card, and as I have no bags to check in, straight to security and through in a few minutes. BA e mail with my gate, B46, I follow the signs, only to find I have to take a shuttle train; I now have 40 minutes before the flight, and am still not at the gate.

I find the gate, and there is a throng of people waiting to get on, so I grab a coffee and a dry scone from a bar that is open, and make both disappear before the gate is open and we can board. I am allocated a window seat that has no window: some mistake?, it is in the final row on the port side, but I can rest my head on the fuselage and snooze. Only the flight is full, and the bloke next to me is reading the Torygraph and making a great fuss of turning the broadsheet pages.

So, I have to guess by the aircraft's movements what is happening as we taxi and make ready for take off. The captain tells us once airborne that due to conditions, it is unsafe to serve hot drinks! NO COFFEE! Oh dearie dearie me. I refuse the offer of a soggy croissant stuffed with cured pig, our Prime Minister might have been near it. So doze as we lump and bump our way over the channel to Brussels.

Brussels Airport (BRU) We touch down, and taxi to the stand. I am in no hurry to get off, so let the others all off first, but then I have no real choice, being right at the back of the plane. A long walk down a long corridor to immigration, where an unfeasably long wait took place, I mean, who would be coming to Belgium in September? Just Belgians, I guess. I get a text message front he others, so walk to the car hire office and wait for our final colleague to arrive. And once he does, we walk to the garage and pile into two cars and drive to the city of Leuven, round Brussels's very busy ring road. Rain falls, and the sat nav leavs directions until the last minute, which results in an 'interesting' journey. But, we soon pass the Stella Artois brewery, turn down a series of ever-increasingly narrowing streets until we come to a housing estate with public parking in the basement.

We have arrived.

Once the meeting had finished, we had just enough time to go to a bar in the city centre for a glass of the local beer. I thought it was going to be a swish place, on a main shopping street, but had all but sawdust on the floor, and a right collection of characters at the bar, most with teeth missing, and clearly very regular customers. We took half the bar up, but had a couple of beers. I spent the time people watching, but not too close, just in case they minded. They all spoke Flemish, a mix of Dutch and French I think, and might have been Japanese as I understood none of it.

Leuven, Belgium We drank up and walked back to the car, then drove to the airport back along the very busy ring road. It was a relief to arrive, in plenty of time and be able to check in then look for a place to eat. I had eaten only snacks all day, so a decent meal would have been nice, only to find in the terminal the flight from London just had a snack bar; so a sandwich and a huge glass of Stella it was then!

Drinking Stella Artois in Leuven I while away the time until the gate opened, then walked to board using my frequent flyer card, but then with no large bags, it wasn't an issue for me. But still, nice to get on and watch the greedy stupid people trying to find space for their bags, and being told only one bag allowed in the overheads, the other ones they will have to have with them or under the seat in front, thus reducing their footroom. Still, all they have to do is check in their bags, no?

We all all on board and bags stowed, so we can leave. In fact we are taxiing before everyone has sat down.

We take off into clouds, but it clears as we cross the channel once again, crossing the coast at Foulness Island like the flights from Denmark do, only we are about ten thousand feet higher. Then comes the news that we will have to stack for 20 minutes before landing. So I am treated to glorious views over South Essex into Central London as we circle and get lower. The sun sets and dusk creeps over the land, streetlights brighten the view between the darkness of fields and parks. We are then on final as we fly low over central London, but my view is tot he south so see nothing of the grand buildings or river.

We are down, back in Blighty, but it is eight in the evening, and I have to get into London, cross it to St Pancras and then a train home: it was going to be a late one. But I hoped that Jools maybe has come to meet me in the car, in which case I will have her with me, and should be home an hour earlier.

This is indeed the case, I get a text from her saying she is on the way, stuck in traffic but moving. I get through security and make my way to the car park to wait.

She arrives and I offer to drive, I can at least work from home tomorrow, so the drive will not be so bad on me. And leaving from terminal 5, getting back onto the motorway is easy, and traffic is light enough to almost make it a pleasure driving home. We stop off to fill up and I get a pasty for supper; more snacking, before we take to the road again, only to find the motorway is closed from Maidstone again, so we will have to make a detour to the A2.

Which is what we do, we make good time, but even still it is nearly ten by the time we get indoors. I am parched so Jools makes a brew, and already it is half ten. Time for a shower and that is it. a 19 hour day.


Tuesday, 22 September 2015

Tuesday 22nd September 2015


And here we are back to work, or what passes for it in the modern times, which for me is sitting at the kitchen table with the work laptop, banging away hoping that someone, somewhere will ready my mails and notice my actions. It is better than that, of course, but on dark days, one does feel a tad out on a limb, not having an office to go into.

Monday Sunrise With the day of work ahead, our first task was to rack the wine. We had left the bag of fruit suspended over a pan, letting gravity do its thing over night. Now we ad to transfer the juice collected, fermented for two weeks juice, top it up with cold boiled water, then let bubble away for six weeks. If all went well. As we had let the fruit ferment for 15 days rather than the five we should have, I was worried that me might just end up with juice of rotten berries.

Anyway, we clean the demijohns, pour in the juice, top up with water, add the airlocks and all we can do now is wait. You can see through the airlocks, so any escaping gas from the yeast would force the water round the double u-bend, causing bubbles. But before this, that the water in the lock is not level as the concentration of gas from the active yeast builds. It is just a waiting game..

So, whilst I waited, I worked. Fed the cats. Drank coffee.

At two, I switch off the laptop, as in the evening, I have to travel to London to say in the Club, as on the morrow I have a really early flight out of Heathrow to Brussels. And there was no way I could get from Dover to the airport in the morning in time to catch the 06:40 flight, in fact I thought I could only just do it from central London. But, hey, lets try, it will be an adventure.

I pack, check my travel documents, and once Jools is home, I cook burgers for dinner, then she takes me into town to the station so I can catch the 19:45 train to London. As you can see, already the day is slipping by, and I would be at the club late. I chose to do it this way, so to have as much time at home as possible.

It is dark on the way up to London, so see nothing of the countryside, only the brightly lit towns as we speed through. I am sure I closed my eyes for some of the trip, but around Thurrock, the working day was still winding down with lots of traffic about, and the crossing busy. Rain hammered down against the train windows, its grimness matcing my mood. I was just so tired, and I knew I was going to get less than six hours sleep, and then have a 19 hour day before I would be back home. Grrrr. I get off at Stratford, change to get onto the Jubilee Line, then it is just sitting whilst we travel through the new docklands, along the Thames to Bermonsdey, Southwark and to Waterloo.

The escalator brings me onto Waterloo Road, a dash over it to the club, dodging the raindrops. I show my card to get in, get my room key, and take the lift to the 18th floor. Which like many times before, has grand views looking south but if I lean out, I can see the Shard all lit up, looking really quite nice, even for a carbuncle.

The room is small, but has a bed (always a good thing), a sink, a TV and tea/coffee making facilities. It is clean, and quiet, even with the bus depot way below my room.

It is ten, and I am to be awake in six hours, best try to get my head down.

Monday, 21 September 2015

Monday 21st September 2015


We slept through until gone seven, when the heating switched on so the boiler firing up did wake us up, and spur the cats onto another round of persistent meowing. One of us gets up, goes down the stairs to feed the mogs and put a pot of coffee on the cooker. Life will soon be better. Not that it is bad now to be honest.

I check the interwebs for the usual things: Flickr, Faceache and the football gossip. Then I can take my coffee to the sofa to watch MOTD and watch the birds on the feeders outside. Chelski beat The Arse, but Citeh lost to Wet Sham, Leicester came back to draw with Stoke, Blunderland slumped, Watford Super Hornet Boys won at The Toon. All in all, wonderfully unpredicatable.

We have breakfast, then get ready for come community action: a beach clean up. I have been meaning for some time, OK, many years, to put something back, and what with Open House, The Heritage Weekend and Orchid Season now over with, I have no more excuses. So we were to meet down at Admiralty Pier at ten to collect tools and have a brief, before the clean up of Shakespeare Beach.

Beach tidy-up It was also a scientific thing, with all litter and flotsam being logged by size and type. Brief given, we set off and beginning picking and logging. That is was such a glorious autumn day did not make it a chore at all, nor did meeting many like-minded people.

Lord Warden Hotel We were to meet the family for a meal at one, so at twelve fifteen we leave and head to the ‘family pub’ outside the military school, both called The Duke of York. Now, I have nothing against cheap chains, nor cheap food, but we were bot not looking forward to this. However, the reservation was good, and being the first two to arrive, we get drinks and wait. And in time the others arrive, including Jen’s friend from Australia, who was visiting Engerlands for the first time in 18 years.

Admiralty Pier, Dover, Kent Most of us have the carvery, which was OK, but the beer. Well, Wadworth 6X is one of my favourite beers, maybe even my favourite, so I though it so lucky that had it on draught. But the beer was awful, had an odd aftertaste, and that a follow-up pint of Tetley was much better shoed how bad it was.

Most of us were looking at our watches, me most of all as City were about to kick off at Anfield, in fact I thought we kicked off at half one, so wanted to get back for the 2nd half. In the end, it was a four kick off, so no hurry, but we were home anyway, so take to the sofa.

Admiralty Pier, Dover, Kent City’s game wasn’t even on the radio, just updates, but we played OK, fell behind just after half time, but Martin levelled with a fine shot/lob on the hour, and with a couple of scares, we deserved a point.

That done we have the remains of the garlic and herb focaccia for tea, grilled with both pate and cheese on, not together, but on on each half, see what I mean? Oh well. It is very nice indeed.

But then we have to turn our attention to the wine. It has been fermenting for two weeks, well, it needed after the first batch of yeast was out of date, so now we had to rack it. But first, put the fruit in a bag and let it drain and collect the fermented juice. First we find we had ;lost; the second fermentation bucket, then the demijohns and finally the airlocks. But, we did find the demijohns, and used a large pot to collect the juice, so have to rig up a Heath-Robinson stand with an old walking stick, and would have to let gravity take its course over night.

And that was the day and weekend. I really should have arranged my hotel accommodation for Monday night in London. But, I was pooped, so what better way to end the day than with a documentary on Ava Lovelace? None indeed.

Sunday, 20 September 2015

Sunday 20th September 2015


A red letter day for many reasons: 7th wedding anniversary, open house, International Speak Like A Pirate Day. And the sun shone. And like previous years, we underplanned our day, and so the night before Open House we were still planning a route and buildings to visit. One of the places I really wanted to go was an old cinema in Muswell Hill, but it would have taken two hours, to get up and and back, walk up the hill from the station. And so on the train up to London, we decided to scrub it from the list. In truth there are just so many buildings to visit, it is hard to know where to start. And on top of that, we failed to win any places for the really special buildings in the ballots, which meant the list of buildings looked like it was thick with churches.

We decide to catch the quarter to eight train, which means that we can lay in bed until half six, in fact I think we could have laid in bed for most of the day. I know that a day on the hard streets of London did not fill me with joy. However, once we were up, and sipping from a fresh cup of coffee, we were ready for the day.

A quick drive down the hill to Martin Mill, find a parking space and go tot he platform for the 5 minute wait for the train. It is a glorious morning, not a breath of wind, but the crows and rooks above are making so much noise, something had wound them up. The train was filling up already, of just those who were on board sitting at the seats with a table, which is what Jools and I wanted to do. But, we find a seat, but for me on the wrong side of the train. And we are off, gliding up Martin Mill bank towards the portal of Guston Tunnel and then down to Dover.

Arrival at St Pancras The train fills up as we travel towards London: clouds gather as we near Ebbsfleet, maybe there'd be rain before the morning was out? We hoped not, but we both had coats, but I think we would be more likely to be carrying them before the morning was out. St Pancras was heaving, really busy with the normal mix of people, but lots of French rugby supporters milling around, wearing berets and striped t shirts: I kid you not. But we were on a mission, to head to the back of the station to the Italian place where we would have breakfast. We both have the cooked breakfast, which is fine, but not really very Italian, but then you can't fry pasta. Or can you?

On the Northern Line That done, we walk down onto the underground station to catch a train to Bank, where our church odyssey would begin. It was madness down there with the platorm fll, we make our way to the far end where there was less people, and even manage to squeeze on the train. Three stops later, we get off and make our way to the surface, and from there it is a short walk up Cornhill to St Michael's. And, it is open!

The Leadenhall Building The church is an arched Wren designed one, with an eggshell blue ceiling, and is wonderful. It also has many memorials and some fine glass. In addtion the wardens are really welcoming, and point out items of interest. They also give us a list of the churches that would be open, but looking at the list we see that St Peter, just up Cornhill would be closed. We walk up just in case, but find the doors locked, and it looking a very dispiriting place from outside. But as I had not expected it to be open, I was not downhearted. Next on the list was St Mary at Hill, another church that is always locked, but according to the list would be open from ten to five. Needless to say it was locked. It had taken half an hour out of the day to get here, only to find it shut fast, not good.

The Lloyds Building We consult the list and go to a series of other churches, even ones I have been to before, but find them all closed. All this time we can hear the bells of St Magnus the Martyr, and as we find ourselves walking along Lower Thames Street, and I know Jools has not been inside, so we do call in. It is very busy,that is partly down to the fine model of Old London Bridge, as the approach to the bridge used to run outside the church doors.

Jim I lived in hope that St Benet's would be open, but deep down I guessed it would be closed. And it is, however it was on the walk down towards Blackfriars. I had arranged to meet a friend from GWUK at The Black Friar at one; it was only twelve fifteen, but it was warm, we had been carrying our coats since we left St Michael's, and so we needed some liquid refreshment. I have a pint of brown ale, Cleveland Brown, which is a fine pint. We sit in the corner and watch a stream of people arrive.

Just before one, Graham arrives, buys me a second pint, so despite this being the first time we had met, it was like meeting an old friend, which I guess is the modern thing. Another GWUKer, Jim arrives soon after, and we are all squeezed around a tiny table, but chatting away fine, and like old friends.

The Black Friar, Blackfriars, London The joint plan was to go to Temple, to visit Middle Temple Hall, which should have been open. Famous last words. So, we walk to the gate into the calm that is Temple, only to find they are really doing so much this year, buildings open everywhere, and so many visitors. We see that Lower Temple Hall is open, so we go in and wander round the halls, which are decorated by paintings of old judges and lawyers. A short walk away is Middle Temple Hall.

Middle Temple Hall Middle Temple Hall is much older than Lower, and is topped by a glorious roof which is visible in the main hall. It is stunning, and so much history, but it is also so very busy. Jools and I decide to split and make our way into Soho, where I had hoped to see inside St Barnabas, a house for the poor. We bid our new friends goodbye, and walk down to Embankment and along to Temple Station, from there is was just a few stops to Tottenham Court Road. Up on street level, it is chaos; a new Crossrail station is being built, there are cranes everywhere, the road narrowed to a single lane and the pavement not wide enough for all the people walking.

We consult the A-Z and find our way to Soho Square, where the House of St Barnabas is located, and we find it, if not locked, then it clearly is not open. It was now half three, getting onto four maybe, and we were hungry, We should find somewhere for lunch/dinner. We walk back into Soho and find a nice small Mexican place. We go in and order beef fahitas and frozen Margaritas, which all go down well, but we go manage to spill juice and sauce down our shirts, just as well we are to go home now. The fact is, although we are no tired as such, we have had enough of the crowds, so we stand on the main road and flag down a taxi to take us back to St Pancras. I am sure the taxi was powered by the driver's anger, as he is swearing all the time.

He gets us to the station with 15 minutes before the train was due to leave, it is already waiting, so we climb on board and find a seat near the front. At Stratofd a couple of ladies, a Mother and Daugter sit with us, and they swap stories about the shopping they had done, and the money spent. They seemed happy with their day, and us with ours. We flash through Essex and back into Kent, getting back to the car in 70 minutes is really a joy and a relief.

Warm September evening Back home the cats are waiting, we feed them, make a coffee and try some of the 90% dark chocolate we have. It is bitter. Very bitter. We only have once square each. There is glorious light outside as the sun sets, smoke from a bonfire drifts in the still evening air.