Thursday, 31 December 2015

2015: How was it for you?

Happy New Year, folks!

Hello and welcome to my review of the year, each year the format is different, as what I do changes bit by bit; so things like album of the year is won by Public Service Broadcasting due to the fact it was the only album we bought this year. And as for film of the year, we failed to cross the doorway of any cinema this year. At all. The idea of single of the year is a bit outdated now, I couldn't even begin to think of which track I heard this year I liked most, not to say that there wasn't any good music released in 2015, there is good music every year, just sometimes you have to hunt for it.

Looking back at my Faceache timeline, I see that Hookworms, Father John Misty, The Charlatans, FFS, Hooton Tennis Club, Albert Hammond JR, Drenge, Rat Boy, Public Service Broadcasting among others. Can't choose between them, so well done all.

As I said above, album of the year is Public Service Broadcasting and their Race for Space, the only album you needed this year. Apparently.

TV show, well, much good stuff to see, but I think Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell captured our attention as good as anything. However, as you may have noticed The Bridge is something we are catching up with on DVD.

For me, the highlights of the year: well, as a Norwich supporter, seeing City win at Wembley after defeating the Old Farm enemy over two legs in the semi takes some beating. Here is my blog post for the day:

25th May 2015 Monday

Bank Holiday Monday

Play Off Day.

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

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

She had a point.

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

Bee Orchid Ophrys apifera

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

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

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

The Yellow Man

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The celebrations begin

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

Final Whistle!

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

Celebrate, good times, come on!

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

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

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

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

And professionally, the successful execution and completion of the Luchterduinen Project was a major achievement for me, and for the team of course. My employer said thanks by treating us to three days out in Amsterdam:

10th September 2015

About a decade ago, I left the RAF and resumed my life in Civvy Street, that road, that path, was not always smooth, and friends dropped in and left along the way. That is friends in the usual sense and those I met online. For the best part of a year, I struggled to get motivated to find a job, but once I did, I found some online friends left me, maybe it was that they did not want me to move forward or be happy. I suppose, what I am trying to say here is that few of my first online friends stayed the course. Now, this may be partly down to Blogspot, as for the first few years I was on here there was no dashboard, and so I did not know about people's comments. So, maybe many friends thought I was ignoring them, when the truth was, I did not know.

In the period inbetween, I have moved forwards, sometimes back again, but for the past few years I think things have gone well. And this is what I would wish for everyone who reads my words, friends or not. So, when I heard this morning regarding two people who I know read this, well, I could not be more happy. One of them is my oldest online friend, who, has not always had things smooth, but is a talented writer, and I am proud to call her a friend. So, not wanting to sound to enigmatic, you know who you are, and I could not be more happy for both of you.

It may well be the modern way, that I have not met either of them, but the news is like that regarding oldest and dearest friends.


Another week, and another week of travel. Or three days.

Monday, however, was another day at home, and trying to get ahead so the days when I was away things could not get too out of control.

For some reason, Monday was steak night, so I had to remember to get two out of the freezer and get them defrosted. The get down with work, wait on the cats, drink coffee, drink tea, pick raspberries. In short the usual things I do on a work day.

It was a glorious day, and so picking raspberries for a mid-afternoon snack was wonderful, as was watching ice cream melt on them. Then diving in and making the half pound of ripe fruit vanish. That was good.

The day fades, and the heat goes out of the day. With the coming of clouds and the wind turning north, it even was cold. So cold I broke and put the heating on. I mean I was shivering.

In fact it was so cold, and we were so hungry that when Jools came home, we bailed on the evening walked we planned, had coffee, then i cooked dinner. Steak and all the trimmings on a schoolday: nothing better. Even if in the evening, I did have to pack and get ready for another business trip the next day.

With Wales playing in the evening, I listen to the radio as an excited Robbie Savage nearly explodes each time Wales get near the goal. But it is to no avail as the game ends in a 0-0 draw, and so Wales still need a win to qualify.


Whilst on the face of it, an eight thirty flight seems late enough not to cause problems, but then there is the getting up, drinking coffee, travel to the station, train to London, travel to the airport, security and so on. But it does mean I have to be on the first high speed service out of Dover, and then hope there is no holdups. I reckon I could still make it with an hour's delay, but it would be cutting it fine. Which is why it was still dark at night outside when the alarm went off at half four. Even the cats seemed reluctant to be fed at that hour.

I have coffee, then we pack my bags into the car and Jools takes me to the station. £85 for the ticket to London. And back. A few other bleary-eyed travelers were also waiting on the platform for the train, some hugging cups of coffee. I would wait until I got to the airport. The train arrived, I slumped into a seat, then stared out of the window as the train pulled out, with light growing in the east as dawn arrived. We pick up passengers en route of course, and it is not overly busy, until we stopped at Ebbsfleet, when the whole town got on, apparently. Standing room only once again. But then it is just 15 minutes into London from there, less if you, like me, get out at Stratford, and I have a seat!

Off at Stratford, across east London on the DLR, full of builders heading to work on various projects, most seemed to be nursing hangovers or at best in rather a bad mood, but then, hey, a long day at work ahead I suppose. The airport is quiet, I get a boarding pass, drop my case off and walk to security: I am through in ten minutes, which gave me an hour to have breakfast, which was just about perfect. Unlike the breakfast, which for an orange juice, two poached eggs on toast and a coffee: £13. A rip off really, but then everything is expensive there.

The flight is called, and unlike the flights I catch to Billund, this is a proper, if small jet, and being not fully booked we can spread out and have a double seat each, and there being enough room for all our bags. Perfect. Once we are in the air, London is lost from view, just a glimpse of the old Olympic stadium, now being made ready for the Rugby World Cup, wish I had had a camera, but then, can't snap everything. More's the pity.

We descend through thick cloud over Holland, only seeing the ground as we skim over the rooftops as we are on final approach. As far as hub airports are concerned, Amsterdam is not that bad, seems well designed and no queues until you get to a gate. But there is a long walk from the gate to immigration and then to baggage reclaim. Then there was the hardest thing, finding the rest of the team. Because we were all in Amsterdam for a celebration, the official team celebration for the end of the project. And there were cars booked, but not in my name, so I had to find them. And after agreeing on a place to meet, needless to say the others weren't there, instead waiting in a different place. My phone rings: we are you? Where we said we should be. We're somewhere else, come over to the car hire place.

All roads blocked? Go by boat! They were not there either. But, I saw the project director standing near an exit, so I rush over, which was un-necessary, as there were more waiting to be done, as people's baldders were emptied at different times before it was decided we could leave.

The cars were found, sat nav programmed to the restaurant we were to have lunch at, followed by a closing meeting. What could go wrong?

All roads blocked? Go by boat! Well, a water leak at the main hospital had turned streets to raging torrents, and the main ring road runs through the area, and that was closed. And as we tried to go round the blocked area, we realised that the restaurant was in the middle of the area. What could we do? A call was made and we were given the post code for a car park in a quiet area next to a country club. It was also beside a canal. We could see the restaurant on the other side of the canal, now what?

All roads blocked? Go by boat! We saw a small boat leave the restaurant, and it came to us: get in said the manager! Making it sound as if this sort of thing happens every day. He takes us across, we climb out, and we are shown to the private dining area. We are served a fine three course meal, after which we have to have a closing meeting. Which we do fine, even if we were all a tad sleepy.

The manager takes us back to our cars, so we can then make our way to the hotel, which was not in the city centre, but a short tram ride away from it, I noted! OK, we are given an hour before we were to meet up again, this time for taxis to take us to another restaurant, this time for dinner. And drinks. And celebrating.

REM Eiland, Amsterdam An hour and a half later, we met in the hotel lobby, and then went outside where our taxis were waiting, to take us to a most unusual place to eat. REM is inside a former helipad of an oil rig, and so is some 25m up in the air. And makes for a very unusual entrance, walking up the pierced metal stairway up to the main entrance.

After we had gone up to the helipad itself, we went back down to take our table, order drinks and food and wait to be served. Sadly, the food did not match the surroundings, or maybe it did. But it was free, or at least to us, helping the team celebrate the completion of the project. We drank strong Belgian beer, ate chewy steak, and then downed several desert wines. Before it was time to go back to the hotel, not before taking more shots of the view from the deck.

Amsterdam The taxis whisked us through the streets, running red lights and ignoring the speed limits. And say, should we really be driving along the tram tracks?

At the end of the evening


As you can see now, this trip to Holland was panned as one of celebration. For me, it was the end of 25 months of hard work, for others it was even longer, so to have achieved this was really quite something. And the main day of celebrating was the Wednesday, in which we, well, as you will see, we lived the life of Reilly. It was something we could all get used to.

The Celebration We had bailed on the idea of finding a local bar the night before, so we all rose bright-eyed and bushy tailed, ready for for what the day had to throw at us. A few of us met for breakfast, the usual Dutch thing, and whilst in Holland, I had buttered rolls with sprinkles. You have to have sprinkles when in Holland. So I did.

We did all meet outside the hotel at half eight ready for the drive to IJmuiden, on paper a 20 minute trip or so, but after the chaos of yesterday, anything was possible. In the event, we had a trouble-free trip. Or was much of it being trouble free as it could be with all of Holland on the roads at the same time, jams seemed to be everywhere, but we managed to get through, and soon enough we were travelling along beside the canal into IJmuiden. But for a change from the norm, we were leaving from the marina in front of the Holiday Inn rather than the quay beside the offices we worked from. All we had to do was find which yacht was to take us out and contactt he master.

The Celebration And thanks to mobile phone and with broken English we did, and soon we were let onto the pontoon on our way to to a fine trimaran yacht, our steed for the day. Waiting in the lounge was sugar cake and coffee, we were briefed. Outside the sun shone down from a clear blue sky, and a gentle breeze blew: it was a perfect day.

The mate cast off. I say mate, she was a woman, so it that a matess? I don't know. But with the engine chugging away, we moved out of the marina, into the main channel out of the harbour, between the lighthouses at the end of each arm of the sea defences and so out to sea. We cruised along, just enjoying being out on the sea, sipping coffee and sitting out on the deck soaking up the rays of the still warm sunshine. We did have to tell the master which of the windfarms to head towards, as there were three, but once we had been put right, we all settled down and waited for us to travel to the windfarm.

Luchterduinen As we drew near, a couple of bottles of champagne were opened, and foaming glasses passed around, we toasted our success and each other and the farm and us again. Not being on a workboat meant we could not sail into the windfarm, so we cruised around, taking our time. The mate brought up plates of food for us to feast upon, told us there was beer in the fridge. We feasted.

As we turned for IJmuiden, we headed into the breeze that had begun to blow, making the yacht jump out of the water at time, Even more so once the sails and spinaker were set, so we set along at nearly six knots, powered just by the wind. Just like the windfarm. Some of the team were looking a little green, and I have to say the smell of the fish from lunch wasn't pleasant even for me. It took two hours to get back, but once we entered through the lighthouses, the breeze dropped, and all was smooth once again.

Luchterduinen And just like, it was all over. I suppose I could have gone into great detail, but for the most part, we stood or sat, looking at the sea, the receding coastline or the approaching turbines. It was just bloody good, sitting on a yacht, drinking champagne, getting paid for it. These days happen very rarely.

We climb off the yacht and bid the crew, both of them, farewell. It had been a fine way to spend the day. We drove back into Amsterdam, little trouble with traffic this time, and with 90 minutes before wheels for another meal, I thought there little point in me going out exploring. So, retired to my room to freshen up and look at the shots I had taken.

Damstraat, Amsterdam We all met again at quarter to seven, where three more taxis were waiting for us, this time to take us to the very centre of the city, to where we were told they served the very best steak in the city. Lead on, McDuff.

The convoy headed off along broad roads, initially, then down narrow streets, dodging trams and other cars, over humped back bridges leaping over canals, sharp turns to the left and right. It seemed to take half an hour, but finally we were a few yards away from the sexiness of Dam Square. I can confirm, Rob, that we did flash past many of the fine churches I know you would love to have seen. I saw them flashing by, so now know how grand and wonderful they were. But they would have to wait another day.

Damstraat, Amsterdam The restaurant was called CAU, and part of a chain I have now found out, it is quite expensive, and getting a reservation for 12 is very hard. But they had our table, and a selection of fine strong beers. I order a 400g steak marinated in chorizo, paprika and garlic. Of course we have starters too, the sea life gave us fine appetites. THe beer flows, the food arrives in plates and dishes. Other also have deserts to follow their 1Kg steaks. I bail on those, and have a liqueur coffee, and as the other males look for a bar to retire to, I go with the director and a couple of the others into Dam Square where we negotiate with a taxi driver for the fare back to the hotel. I have to be out of it and on the road to the airport by half eight, so no extra beers for me.

We speed through the near empty streets of the city, running red lights and playing chicken with trams back towards the south part of the city where I would find safety back in my hotel room. Phew.

Photography and shit

This was the year I finally sold an image: £75 isn't a lot, but it paid for a trip to London I suppose. Makes it worthwhile. And I got to shoot inside St Paul's Cathedral in April, for a charity event. A once in a lifetime thing I suppose. I also visited cathedrals in Meissen, Dresden, Newcastle, Ripon, Canterbury and churches all over. I snapped a few railtours, as I do, although it was a thin year here in East Kent, I also photographed the final Vulcan flypast, but messed it up a bit, didn't get the shot I wanted, but got close to it.

In the world of orchids, I did get to see a new Kent species (for me) this year, the Early Marsh when a friend online showed me the site. Elsewhere, I saw the pure white variants of the Early Purple, Green Winged, Lady, Common Spotted, Chalk Fragrant and Southern Marsh. For the Greater Butterfly, it was a season when they tripled the flowering spikes seen the previous year. The Monkey seemed to have staged a revival after a poor 2014, but then not as good as the year before that. And then there was the wonderful mutant Late Spider seen up on the downs. But then there was the downside, the trampling, especially of the Late Spider site was very disappointing, and then there was the missing spikes too, which I don't think was all down to trampling.

Next year I look forward to trying to find the Burnt Tips and maybe the Sword Leafed Helleborines, but where I saw the one the previous year, all Helleborines failed this season. Very odd. But I can wait.

And then there was the trip to Northumberland where I finally got to fond the Lindisfarne and Tyne Helleborines, the mix of Northern Marsh and Early Marsh and Common Spotted and even a Early Marsh x Northern Marsh hybrid. Wonderful to see, even if I didn't realise it until I had gotten home and reviewed my shots.

And finally, to those 33 business trips and all the other places I went, looking rather like this:


6th to 9th Varde, Denmark
15th to 17th Lubeck, Germany
25th to 28th Lem, Denmark


1st to 6th Ringkobing, Denmark
9th to 10th Lauchhammer, Germany
17th to 19th Lauchhammer, Germany
23rd to 27th Various, Denmark


2nd to 6th Various, Denmark
16th to 18th Lauchhammer, Gemrnay
23th to 24th Ijmuiden, Holland
30th to April 2 Various, Denmark


13th to 16th Ringkobing, Denmark
20th to 23rd Ijmuiden, Holland


6th to 8th Arhus, Denmark
11 to 14th Arhus, Denmark
20th to 22nd Ijmuiden, Holland


2nd to 4th Arhus, Denmark 11th to 12th Copenhagen, Denmark
16th to 19th Ijmuiden, Holland


2nd to 17th Holiday
27th to 30th Arhus, Denmark


7th to 8th School reunion
11th to 13th Copenhagen, Denmark


1st to 4th Arhus, Denmark
8th to 19th Amsterdam, Holland
14th to 16th Ijmuiden, Holland
21st to 22nd Leuven, Belgium


1st to 2nd Newcastle/Durham
5th to 8th Arhus, Denmark
27th to 29th Norwich Beer Festival


2nd to 5th Lem, Denmark
9th to 12th Arhus, Denmark
17th to 19th Arhus, Denmark
27th to 29th Armourers reunion, Lincoln


7th to 11th Various, Denmark
14th to 16th Lubeck, Germany

Thursday 31st December 2015

Yes, we have made it, the the very end of the year. For some of us it has been quite a year, one filled with glorious days to remember, triumphs and things to treasure for the rest of my life. Others have not been so lucky of course, and I do wish that each and every one of you could have had the same year as I. Coming up later will be a review of the year, but first, here is Wednesday's events.


A few months ago, The Met Office decided that all major winter storms should have names, and like in the US, names were allocated for each letter of the alphabet. On the 29th and 30th Storm Frank swept in, drowning the north of England and parts of Wales and Scotland in some places for the 4th time in as many weeks. Down here in the south, we saw little other than clouds fleeing across the sky all day, followed by some heavy rain once night had fallen.

We while away the morning, doing, well, nothing really. We have the radio on, we drink coffee, whilst outside the morning passes into afternoon.

Damage to the sea wall at Shakespeare Cliff, Dover . December 30th 2015 I decide that we might check on the sea wall on Shakespeare at high tide, so at just gone two, we are on the narrow footpath over the tracks that lead out of the tunnel over the sea wall. The sink holes are obvious, as are the cracks in the seawall just above where the beach used to be. There are a few others there, we nod to each other, but the strong wind forces us back to the car and then back home.

Damage to the sea wall at Shakespeare Cliff, Dover . December 30th 2015 After yet more coffee, we watch a couple of episodes more of The Bridge before it is time to go out. Instead of buying her gifts, we are taking Jools' sister out for dinner. She isn't adventurous, so this means heading to the best Chinese in town where we booked a table. We pick Cath up on the way then drive into town. They have an eat as much as you can deal for twenty quid each; so we choose two starters then three main courses and began to talk.

Life at the box factory is pretty grim, so the break over Christmas has done Cath the world of good, and maybe she will choose to jump in the new year. Or not. Anyway the world is full of possibilities.

Wednesday, 30 December 2015

Wednesday 30th December 2015


The year gets ever older as we edge towards the bright new golden dawn that undoubtedly 2016 will be. Thursday will bring you a bumper review of 2015, and what I thought of it and whether it ranked as one of the best or one of the worst of years. Or maybe it was just both?

Yes, the year creeps towards its end, but we can squeeze more fun stuff out of it can't we? I believe we can.

So, the plan was to go up to that London to look at the festive lights, but with the closure of the line between Dover and Folkestone, this required some alternative travel arrangements. Free parking is available at Folkestone West, which on the face of it seems fair enough, and indeed on the trip up was simple as anything. However, I thought that the change to the high speed line at Ashford might be a little busy, so I suggested staying on the 'classic' line up to London, and as we would be arriving at Victoria, a place we had not visited for a few years, we might like to walk into the West End from there, past Buck House, Trafalgar Square, Leicester Square and all that.

But with the extended travel time, we opted to catch the quarter past twelve train thus arriving in London just after two. Traffic to the port was light, so we arrived at the station with half an hour to spare. A cafe has opened up in the ticket hall since we last used it, so we bought a coffee and a cookie then went onto the platform to wait for the train. We could see it standing at Folkestone Central less than half a mile up the line, but it was still mild, warm enough to be up and about without a coat on to be honest, and up in London it would be even warmer.

Approaching Victoria We settled down in our seats for the run up to Ashford, where more than 90% of people got off to change to the high speed line. We then trundled up through the Kentish Weald up to Tonbridge and into the south eastern London suburbs before making our way through houses and industrial areas to run into Victoria beside Battersea Power Station, or whatever it will become once its transformation is complete. There are fantastic views across south London looking towards Canary Wharf and The City, with the mostly clear blue sky, it is rather stunning. But then is quickly lost as we snake though more houses or shops.

Approaching Victoria We pull into Victoria, bathed in golden light from the low sun. I look back at the end of the platform to snap the scen before we walk down towards the concourse where we met most of humaninty who seemed to be looking for a train out of the city. In truth, there were crowds everywhere, and later we would encounter dense crowds in town for the lights, the sales or just to wander around in a zombie like state, updating Facebook on their mobiles.

Victoria's Golden Reign We have a pasty before we left, opting to sit in a small square outside the station and eat, on other benches are workers dressed in their reflective clothes, sipping coffee, smoking or just goofing around. All around is wonderful architecture, all with a French-flavour, looking more like Paris than London. Then a hundred yards away all is building sites as yet more modern office blocks are rising from the London clay. Ten minutes away is the back of Buckingham Palace, and it is here we encounter more crowds, crowds that do not let up until we get off the train back in Folkestone. Down past the wall of the Palace's gardens there are groups of tourists, being guided by umbrella wielding folks. We walk past, but then we see the road opening up as we come to the familiar front of the place and the view all tourists want to record.

Tradesmen's Entrance People are jammed against the railing, snapping a whole load of nothing going on; a couple of guards a hundred yards away standing at attention. We walk across the road to the Vicoria memorial; Victory has her norks out, again. Not sure why Victory is thus depicted, but it is always so. I snap her and other figures before we turn to walk up The Mall. It is lined with grand buildings and memorials, it is also thronged by people of all nations just out enjoying the late afternoon air and sights. Over to the right you can see over the park to Westminster and Horseguards.

Route 6 at Piccadilly Under the portals of Admiralty Arch and into Trafalgar Square. But we don't want to linger here, we make our way past the National Gallery into Leicester Square where a fair had been set up once again. It is a short walk from there to Piccadilly Circus then we were at the start of Regent Street. Now, Regent Street is w wonderful piece of continual architecture, but also home to some of the most famous brands ion the world, all having sales now. So, as you can imagine the crowds here were thick and we soon lost any patience we had as we made our way to Oxford Circus, then turning west as Jools wanted to go into John Lewis for some tag things to help her crochet. I waited outside.

Bright Lights, Big City The sun had set by now and the light began to fade, the festive lights showed up against the darkening blue sky. We walk back to Oxofrd Street and then down Regent Street, at least for one junction. We turn off to find Carnaby Street, as the light there are always special, and are again this year. From there back onto Regent Street for one last shot before walking along to Wardour Street and then into Soho, to find a place to eat. Thing is, no matter what you want to eat, there will be somewhere in London to cater for your taste; we past a quiet looking barbecue place, looks good, so go in and order ribs and a beer. In fact we have ribs, fries, bbq beans, fried okra. And beer. It is wonderful, and very filling. And despite being in town for just a few hours, we had had enough of the crowds, so set about trying to get back to St Pancras.

Bright Lights, Big City Down through Chinatown, thronged with people, mostly Chinese tourists, I suppose looking for a taste of home.

We find the tube at Trafalgar Square, I have time for just 'one more shot' before we vanish underground for that crowded train north. It is like a sauna down there, and the train crowded, but we find a carriage with space, so we hang on for the 5 stops to Kings Cross. We have 5 minutes to make it to the Southeastern platforms, and climb onto a train for Margate; we will have to change at Ashford. We find two seats together, settle back and the train pulls away, silently.

chinatown The guard advises us to travel round to Ramsgate, get a connecting train to Dover, rather than get off at Ashford as there would only be a ten minute saving. We mull it over and decode to get off at Ashford anyway. Once off the train we find we have a 45 minute wait, I notice the vending machine has just one Mars bar in it, nothing else. How soon before we start eating the weakest? An announcement comes out over the tannoy, a bus is now leaving for Folkestone and Dover. We rush down to the stand, and climb on an ancient double decker, we wait 5 more minutes before we rattle off round the ring road to the motorway.

Ours is the first stop, we walk to the car and from there is is a trundle along the A20, over the cliffs and down into Dover. It is very quiet, but from the top of Shakespeare, we can see the lights of the French coastline. Along the deserted Townwall Street, past the docks and then up Jubilee Way and so to home. The cats are waiting, demanding to be fed, even though we had left extra food out.

We just have enough time for a coffee and an episode of The Bridge before bedtime. Phew, rock and roll

Tuesday, 29 December 2015

Tuesday 29th December 2015


Bank Holiday

Could be any day, if I'm honest.

But the calendar says its Monday, therefore it must be. This is because the period between Christmas and New Year blur into one long orgy of sausage rolls, mince pies and avoiding Eastenders and/or Coronation Street. Life is quite miserable enough without made up misery. Each to their own: I used to watch Corry, back when it had one foot in reality: last episode I remember watching was when Alf Roberts was knocked down outside his shop. And Deadenders, seems to be on long argument, and after two failed marriages I have had enough of those.

Bank Holiday morning walk to the cliffs Anyway, back on with the blog. Monday was expected to be the best day weather-wise, so after breakfast, I went for a walk and Jools stayed behind to do some gardening.

The plan had been to go up to that London, but with the line between Dover and Folkestone closed for several months and there being a Sunday service, or amended Sunday service, we thought it better to wait until Tuesday.

Bank Holiday morning walk to the cliffs With the sun low, but bright in the sky, just after breakfast I pulled on me walking boots, Jools was staying behind to do some gardening (whatever that is) I set off across the fields to the pig's copse then down the dip, past the ever-growing collection of horses.

Down the dip, avoiding the deepest mud, and all the while marveling at the glorious light the low sun was casting over the land, while above the sky is criss-crossed by con trails.....

Bank Holiday morning walk to the cliffs Up onto the downs with views over the rolling landscape down to the edge of the cliffs.

Bank Holiday morning walk to the cliffs Even now, at the every end of the year, signs of summer are still about, with a single knapweed back in flower, even if the wind had blown it flat to the ground.

Bank Holiday morning walk to the cliffs Sheep had been allowed to graze the field nearest the cliffs, adding some interest in an otherwise plain green field. And of course, the view from the cliff edge was as spectacular as ever.

Then all that was left was to retrace my steps back home for lunch.

Bank Holiday morning walk to the cliffs We have rolls for lunch, and the last of the mince pies. So many mince pies.

The afternoon passed quietly, listening to the radio, messing around on the computer and listening to more football on the radio. Yes, more football. City were playing Villa at home, and needed to win really. THis they did, 2-0, so reach the end of the year and the half way point of the season on 20 points, which will do.

Bank Holiday morning walk to the cliffs Which lest us the whole evening with the 3rd season of The Bridge to begin with, we got through two episodes, which took us to ten o'clock and time for bed. Phew, this relaxing is tiring!

Monday, 28 December 2015

Monday 28th December 2015


I should point out that after yesterday's post, I may sound a tad ungrateful. Nothing could be firther from the truth, I love pointless expressions of love and friendship. Its just that despite being my Mother, she knows so little about what I like and what I am as a person. That my sister-in-law who I have seen less than Mother this year knows how to tick the boxes in that she bought me a splendid die cast model of a steam locomotive. Just the sort of thing I like. A couple of years ago, she ordered a load of stuff from the Norwich online shop; that she is a Gooner and for years City send her nice up to date catalogues is another thing.

Mum called last night, and asked if I liked the gifts; the nuggat and the 'luxury' hamper. Turned out she calls up her catalogue and in the welcome message goes through deals of the day; and it is several of these deals that she bought. I hate to see money wasted, you know. At least Jools likes the nuggat, the small bag of peanuts will vanish tonight when we watch the third series of THe Bridge. I can take the small box of ten tea bags to Denmark when I travel. The two small pieces of fruit cake has already been thrown out, as we still have one and a half cake still to eat here.

There you go.

It has been mild. Very mild. So mild that spring flowers are if not blooming, but close to it. In places summer flowers are still in flower. I hear it is the same in North America too, where cherry blossom is in flower in Washington, and one of my Flickr contacts said that last year it was minus 15, this year plus 15. It is crazy, and the wind is set firmly from the south. It is great for us, but in the north of England they have had toeential rain, many inches, with floods in Lancashire and no Yorkshire. Storms do batter us from to time; indeed on Christmas Eve a combination of storms and spring tides caused damage to the sea wall on which the main line between Dover and Folkestone runs, to close. More bad weather over Christmas meant that the sea wall has sevre cracks and the line has been closed. It seems to be replaced, and no trains will run on the line before the end of February.

After breakfast we drive down to the cruise terminal and once paid for the parking, we grab our wet weather gear and a camera for the walk along the beach. As soon as we step onto the beach, a spotty herbert in an NR van warns us to keep from the sea wall as it is expected to collapse. And halfway along the beach one of the twenty plus members of the orange army also warns us about the risk to life and not to go too close to the sea wall. We see straight away that about two metres of vertical height have been lost for the beach. The foundations of the sea wall have been exposed, and the beach itself now has a different profile.

At the far end near to the bridge, is where the cracks in the sea wall can be seen, there is also a two metre drop from the bottom step of the bride onto the new beach. Where the sea, even at low tide, gets too close to the sea wall, we stop and turn round, but we also see many structures have also been uncovered from the beach, maybe even a legendary WW2 defence system, and there is blocks of brickwork laying around.

We drive back home for breakfast and ponder what to do for the rest of the day. It seems nothing is the plan. I watch the rest of the football from the previous evening, then an Aardman animation, The Farmer's Llamas. I then get sleepy so take to bed for a couple of hours and even grab an hours sleep.

For dinner I warm up some of the Christmas chicken, boil some fresh veg and so we have another roast, which takes about an hour to prepare and make, which is pretty darn good. And like that the evening peters out, there is nothing on TV, and once we have listened to Desert Island Discs, we are all up to date with our listening. We do watch the news at ten, with scenes of flooding in Leeds, York as well as the clean up in Lancashire. The PM sounds sympathetic, but then ha has cut spending on food defences by 20%: how does he sleep?

Sunday, 27 December 2015

Sunday 27th December 2015


Boxing Day

A day for traveling and visiting.

We live in Kent, and my only blood relative, Mother, lives some 200 miles away in Suffolk. It is possible to travel there and back in a day, but it a long drive, especially in December when the days are so short and the nights long. But twice a year, as a minimum, we make the long drive North, and it seems that Boxing Day is a good day for such things, as apart from those heading into city centres and malls for the sales, there are few others about.

Or that was the plan anyway.

Although, as is always the way when you want to be on the road earlier, if not earlier, we sleep in until ten to seven, and by the time we have coffee, feed the cats get dressed it was just before eight when we left home. Clouds above were clearing, and it was the promise of a fine day. And the M20 was almost empty of traffic, which was a real pleasure. I put my foot down and we began to eat the miles up.

We arrive at the tunnel before nine and are through without dropping below 50. A dash along the M25 to the start of the A12, then into Essex for real. But even then, traffic was light, and I almost began to enjoy myself as we headed north, through Chelmsford, Colchester and then into Suffolk, round Ipswich. And of course, north of there, the good roads ran out, and we were stuck in a long line of slow cars, but this gave us time to admire the countryside, dotted with church towers.

I almost thought of stopping off in Blythburgh once again, its a few years since we last visited there, but I felt we needed to press on with the clock now well past ten. Anyway, I had my eye on another prize; a church were a lot of my relatives are buried, and I hope to find a particular grave. However, I that was much nearer Lowestoft. And anyway, more than half the traffic turned off towards Southwold, leaving the road clearer, although there are always those who try to get past no matter that they are already driving at the speed limit.

The church was locked, which came as no surprise. But I found many family graves through the small churchyard, but not the one was looking for. One final look round and with time getting on, we had better get back to the job in hand; visiting.

My Godparents are now in their 80s, and 2015 has brough to them; kidney stones, partial kidney failure, a knee operation and a driving ban among other things. So, reaching Christmas seems an achievement. But, the passage of time affects us all in different ways, with Heather it seems to be an attachment to the past, which means that on repeated visits the same stories are repeated. I suppose this is fine, and we sit and listen and swap news. They lost their only son just over a year ago, and now his partner has a new beau, a new father for their grandchildren. The world can be a difficult place.

Next up to my Mother's, where, if anything, things are crazier than normal. Well, I suppose just a general increase in the madness. All is cordial, I make jokes which she takes to heart, she has been smoking heavily, and the house inside is now stained a nice nicotine brown. Which is not attractive, she does at least stop for the 70 minutes we are there. We swap presents, and I refuse to open the one she wanted me to open. Two reasons really, one to be awkward, but the second is that despite being my Mother, she has no idea what to buy for me. Once home I did open to the present to find half a pound of nugat. I know I sound spoilt and rude, but it is all a waste of money, to buy things for the sake of it.

Well, we take some more, at every turn the conversation is turned back to her and the expensive lunch she had on Christmas Day. I tried to tell her about my life, but you can see her eyes lazing over. So, I give up and we make our excuses and leave. The events were not really a surprise if I am honest, and so we don't really talk about it much. I am sure as we get older we get stuck in our ways, I am sure I do, so maybe I am being hard on Mother. If she wants to smoke and eat Pringles, who am I to deny her that?

We go to visit one of my oldest friends and his wife: Dougie grew up in the house opposite my parents, and was the victim of an overbearing Mother. But he broke that, and is a well-balanced fine fellow, father to a daughter and step-daughter, and carer now for his Mother. It is a couple of years since we last met, and so had much to catch up on; them becoming Grandparents in the New Year being a red letter event. That I can remember their daughter being born, growing up and now is to be a Mother herself.

We stay for an hour or more, and it really is a joy. It was Dougie that got me hooked into photography, so I have so much to thank, or curse, him for, depending on my point of view.

It is already half two, and we really need to be thinking about going back home. So again we make our excuses and bid them farewell and wish them and their wonderful children the best for the new year. I decide to drive across the country to Bury before picking up the A11 and then the motorway south rather than take the meandering A12. And in doing so we pass through Bungay, and I get the idea to check up on another old friend, Rambo as we pass through.

For some reason we fell out of contact about three years ago, so what better time to build bridges? Well, he is in and answers the door, but fails to invite us in even though he knows how far we are from home. But then Rambo is not like a normal person, thanks to his strange parents. However, even from rambo this is odd. Not even a niff of a cuppa and we did not cross the welcome mat. We turn and walk back to the car, and Jools drives from here on south.

The roads are quiet, and even the jam on the M25 caused by an accident had cleared by the time we got there. Again there was no queues over the river an into Kent. Darkness had fallen, and once on the final leg of the journey, we slowed down to a cruise. Cars rattled by at speeds up to and indeed over 100mph, we putted along. Past Canterbury and onto Dover an home.

I had to football on the radio: City slumped to a 3-0 defeat at Spurs, which is par for the course for City on Boxing Day. Man Utd lost to Stoke, which raised a cheer in me. I managed to find 5 Live on the DAB radio, which means digital clear reception, which is a revelation after a lifetime of listening it on medium wave.

Once in, we fed the cats and had cold Yorkshre Puddins along with cheese and crackers for dinner.

It was the end of a very long day, and it will be 6 months until we have to do it all again, thankfully.

Saturday, 26 December 2015

Saturday 26th December 2015


Christmas Day

If I am honest, or if I am going to be honest with you, it has not felt very Christmassy this year. Even with having the week before Christmas at home, it has not felt the slight bit like Christmas. We put off and put off the trimming up, to the point it was just too darn late. Therefore, we have no tree in Chez Jelltex, no baubles, no garlands, nothing. Other than ourselves, and us feeling drained after what has been a long year. It is a shame when we go to visit other people's that they have the full blown Christmas spirit, have a tree, punch, garlands, baubles and the rest of the stuff that makes Christmas, Christmas. For us it feels a triumph to have reached this part of the year, and that feeling does not need a decorated tree to celebrate that fact. Saying that, we do love Christmas, we love the feeling of love, not that it needs to be just the one day a year, we hope that we feel such love 52 weeks a year.

We wake up at half six, with the cats milling around waiting for breakfast. We have cold sausage rills and mince pies for breakfast ourselves, that and more coffee. I call Mother, she is fine, she is going to have lunch with friends, and seems focused on that. Which is fine. What is worse, we are going to spend 8 hours driving to Suffolk and back tomorrow, to see her and talk, for what? God knows Being the only child is very hard, as at the end of things, it comes down to me. There being no one else. Over the years I have grown to accept this role that life has given me, not happy with it, but accepted it.

With nothing but rain and wind forecast for the day, we decide to laze around the house in the morning, listening to the radio, and finally getting round to writing in the cards we had bought for each other, until at half eleven, we can put things off no longer and go out to visit Nan.

There is not much yo can say to a 101 year old lady that is too blind to watch TV, too deaf to listen to the radio, and so weak she cannot reach for a remote or glass of water. She wants death to take her, but her body, against all the odds, gets stronger and stronger. However, she is not feeling well, she has a chill in her neck, so we have to find a scarf to wrap round her, then Jools feeds her lunch; just soup and Angel Delight, in all that takes about an hour. She is not happy, for the most part, and on our part, there is nothing we can say or do to make her life any easier.

We take our leave as the day is running out, and we have to visit to old folks in Whitfield too. Its not a good feeling leaving Nan there, but there is nothing at all we can do.

Up at Whitfield, things are much the same, people not talking to each other and the rest of the stuff. We accept a glass of wine, and chat. I look at the time and it is half two: I have a large cockerel to cook. We take our leave and drive along deserted roads back home.

I weigh what should be the six pound bird, only to find it tipping the scales at over ten. I calculate the cooking time, and work out three and a half hours. Oh well. I coast it with butter, season it and after covering with foil pop it into the oven. Then begins the waiting.

Soon it begins to fill the kitchen with fine smells. But for the first time ever I have giblets to deal with. I boil the wriggly bits with onions, spices and water, then go about the job of reducing the resulting brew to half its volume so I can make gravy with it later. With some small adjustments I make sure it won't be ready until after the end of Dr Who, which Jools likes to watch, and soon I am in the kitched surrounded by boiling pots of vegetables and other wonderful stuff.

I carve the bird, dish up the vegetables and hand out the Yorkshire Puddings and roast potatoes. We sit down to eat whilst we listen to Desert Island Discs plays on the computer. All washed down by a bottle of Italian fizz.

We are stuffed. And tired.

We wash up, put the pots and pans away, and that seems to be that. Next door are having a party which seems to involve a cheer every ten minutes or so. And at half nine, we give up and climb the wooden stairs to bed.

365 days until we can do it all again!

Friday, 25 December 2015

Friday 25th December 2015


Christmas Eve

The wind had been howling all night and the rain hammering down, but by half six when I stirred it had stopped. I get up, leaving Jools dreaming of sheep, get dressed, go down stairs, feed the cats and put on my coat, as I had to go to the butcher in Preston. To pick up the meat order, and spread some Festive cheer. Outside it was still dark, I put out the bins before I leave, then drive me whilst listening to Radio 6 up to the Duke of Yorks then along the Sandwich Road and finally across the marshes to Preston. There was plenty of standing water about, but the road was passable, and not as bad as two years ago when we had been battered by a huge storm, and at Chez Jelltex we lost the shed roof.

Salt Beef I was the only customer, but the shop is filled with other orders and smiling butchers. They even give me a small bottle of beer that a friend had brewed, based on a Victorian recipe that polar explorers, including Captain Scott, took to warm the cockles of their hearts. I said I would sample it later.

Back home I put it all away, then prepare the brine for the salt beef I am going to spend the morning boiling and making all tasty. I have no bay leaves, but put in cloves and mustard seeds, as well as salt and pepper, then set it to boil.

Mince pies Next I set about making a batch of mince pies, whilst Jools goes out taking cards to friends and families.

And finally I make two baking trays full of sausage rolls in puff pastry. They rise like crazy, but by half eleven, all is done and cooked, and so I think I deserve a brew and a quality check on one of the mince pies was needed, just to make sure that the standard has been maintained. Thankfully, it was wonderful.

Sausage rolls Jools comes home, so I open the arctic beer and we have a couple of sausage rolls, then settle down on the sofa to watch the first part of The Return of the King. Outside, darkness fell, shops closed and the final buses and trains ran. The craziness was over for another year, or at least the 26th when the shops open again for sales. Or we go up to Suffolk to see Mother.

Anthony's Arctic Ale We graze on mince pies, sausage rolls and chocolate biscuits for the rest of the day, watching the 12th and final disc of the Hobbit/LOTR marathon, and for the most part it was all very splendid indeed. So, what will we watch for the rest of the holidays? Maybe there will be something on TV? Maybe not.

Anyway, the house was quiet, nothing stirred as we have caught all the mice the mogs have brought in.

Merry Christmas.

Thursday, 24 December 2015

Thursday 24th December 2015


And finally the sun did shine from a clear blue sky. And for a change, being on holiday, we sleep until quarter to seven when the heating switches on. There is a Scully cat asleep between my feet, she purrs on and off through the night, whilst her brother checks from time to time as to whether we would like to feed him. It wouldn't be so bad, if once he is fed, he ate it all, but just a few mouthfulls and he is happy. Until he hears another cat eating that is of course.

Wear Bay We get up, then realise that we have to get to Tesco for the festive shopping, and it will be best to get that chore out of the way as soon as possible. We get dressed, gather our shopping bags and set out for the shop. The car park was already full, but we find a space and go inside, where the people seem to have their hunter-gatherer heads on, and are in a mean mood. Apart from those who go to Tesco to meet with others and talk in groups blocking aisles of course. We don't need much stuff, and are out again in 20 minutes and driving home.

A walk round Folkestone I make bacon butties and a brew, before we decide that we should go for a walk. Somewhere. As much as we like our neighbourhood, it is muddy and gets a bit samey, so we drive to Folkestone, park near the Martello Tower.

In the next car to us, a group of three young surfers are changing into wet suits, then grabbing their boards and running down the steps to the promenade agile like mountain goats. We were that young once! Down on the prom it is high tide, and waves crash against the vaulted structure, with sprey coming at us from both sides. We decide to take a break and just watch nature at play, as the waves crashed than then were deflected high into the air. Out in the water, the surfers are trying to stand up on their boards, but not doing too well, but they seem to be enjoying it. Young families are out, children running around under the sea spray laughing.

A walk round Folkestone The harbour is full of water for a change, so all the boats are floating. And there are plenty of folks about here too, although not many shops open, although the seafood place is, if you fancy some cockles or winkles for breakfast. We walk up the Old High Street, looking for a place to have coffee, but some are closed, and those that are open are packed. The main shopping area is manic, but it is good to stand to one side and just watch people go about their business.

A walk round Folkestone Walking back down we find a coffee place with some space, so we go in and sitting at a tiny table, we order coffee and a slice of triple-layered carrot and pecan sponge. It is gloroius, and a huge portion. So large we don't have anything for lunch when we get back. A few doors down from the cafe, I get my hair cut at a new place that has opened. That the barber was young enough to be my grandson is one thing, but he did OK, and we chatted about the area and history. He was one of them urban explorers, and turned out we have a few common friends.

A walk round Folkestone We drive back home up the A20; traffic is light, even on the 23rd of December. Maybe people are already where they want to be for the festivities? Maybe not.

At the end of our street, the wner of the corner house planted a load of bulbs a couple of years back, and last winter the first flowers we in bloom before the end of January. This winter, the forst two spikes bloomed on December 23rd, I was so impressed I went to take a photo. So, Merry Christmas, Happy Easter.

Christmas 2015 Back home we have a brew, then settle down for some Hobbit action, through the rest of the day we get through three disc of the LOTR films, and reach the end of The Two Towers. For dinner I cook dirty food; kebabs and chips, and it is wonderfully bad for us. Always the way.