Sunday, 31 January 2016

Sunday 31st January 2016


For a change, we had done all the shopping we needed through the week, so there was no need to get up early to either Tesco or Sainsbury's first thing. I had toyed with the idea of going to the barnet mangler at half eight, but with the rain falling outside, I decided to stay in and comb my long flowing locks. Looking at the weather, it was due to clear up soon after lunch and with shots needed to be taken at Shakespeare Beach and of Burlington House, one might have thought that would be easy enough to do in the few hours of afternoon sunlight. However, and there is always an however, it seems some political fuckwits had other ideas. What with Dover being so close to France and the shanty town of immigrants in Calais, the far right felt the need to protest and smash up Dover to make their stupid point. Needless to say, the far left also felt the need to hold a counter-demonstation and window smash up, so Dover was to be locked down most of the day.

The ongoing repairs to the sea wall at Shakespeare Cliffe, Dover In the event, I went over to Preston to buy some meat, as you do. Now, St Mildred's in Preston is one of the churches that has eluded any attempts by me to snap inside it, being that it is always bloody locked. So, for the second time I wrote to the vicar asking for details on how I could get inside. I received no reply. Again. So, it was just to the butcher I went. I got ribbed because of the Liverpool result last week, but in good nature of course. Mark plied me with free samples of cheese, but I did not give in, we already have a selection at home.

The ongoing repairs to the sea wall at Shakespeare Cliffe, Dover The back roads are almost flooded, and tricky for our little Corsa to get through, shows how much rain there has been. I come back via Deal as I want to miss all the port traffic now being diverted onto the A2 to avoid the protests, which is a good excuse to drive along the coast road and past the fishing boats on the beach.

Skies began to clear, and with cabin fever setting in, I felt the need to get out. The plan which we hatched was to go to Folkestone via the Alkham Valley road, me get a haircut and then come back along the A20 to Aycliffe to get shots of the repair work. Traffic was quite heavy, and at the bottom of the valley the Drellingore was flowing again, what must be the 3rd or 4th winter in a row it has. I will try to snap it on Sunday as the train of traffic behind us made it dangerous to pull in to take a shot.

The ongoing repairs to the sea wall at Shakespeare Cliffe, Dover Once in Folkestone we walk up the Old High Street to the barbers I might now use all the time to to the fact there is hardly ever a queue and they're open on Sundays too. Anyway, I get my hair cut, the young clipper is interested in my job and how much traveling I do. He is jealous, and I suppose it is a pretty good job too.

The ongoing repairs to the sea wall at Shakespeare Cliffe, Dover We drive past the long lines of parked trucks along the A20, queues that would get worse as the day goes on and the protests will spill onto the main roads. We turn off at Megger, and drive back along to the subway. And after unpacking my cameras we walk under the road then up the narrow path up the cliff. It is high tide and most work had stopped, but it is clear they have uncovered much more damage and many more sink holes. Work will be extensive and take months I think.

The ongoing repairs to the sea wall at Shakespeare Cliffe, Dover I try to drive back home along Townwall Street, but can see a line of police cars blocking the road to the port, we have no choice but to double back along the A20 and drive back to Hawkinge and then back along the Alkham Valley road, through River and up Connaught HIll to the castle then along the cliff road home. It took a while, but we were not held up, and we arrived home at half two just in time to have the radio on to listen to the three o'clock kick offs in the Cup. Sadly, City are already out, but still, the Cup!

The ongoing repairs to the sea wall at Shakespeare Cliffe, Dover I cook steak for dinner; its been ages since we had it, and it was as wonderful as hoped. They had an offer on aged rump, and it was melt in the mouth lovely.

Somehow it is eight in the evening already, where did the time go? We tidy up meaning it is nearly nine before we sit down for coffee. It may have been a dull, quiet day, but it was light until nearly 5, the year is getting on and soon there will be orchids to hunt. Soon be time for the madness.

Saturday, 30 January 2016

Saturday 30th January 2016


Phew, nearly the weekend, all I have to do is get through the day and then I can do some serious relaxing.

Switching on my computer I find more than a dozen mails demanding action. Sigh. But most important thing is the report I need to write from the previous day. All can wait. So, with a cup of extra strong coffee I get stuck in. The radio burbles away in the background. Inbetween working, I make a batch of rolls, so I have something for lunch. Which means that the morning is full, and before I know it, the rolls have been baked and are now cool enough to eat. So with a large cuppa, and lashings of butter and apricot jam, they are wonderful.

The afternoon sees me tying up the loose ends of the working week; fielding phone calls, booking working hours and the such. Outside rain gently falls, and the day fades. I am waiting for a phone call until half four, when I decide I have done enough hours so I turn the computer and phone off for the week. All is good.

For dinner we have something the local butcher called hunter's chicken; chicken breast wrapped in bacon and stuffed with cheese. I make some fancy rice to go with it, adding herbs and spices until it turns yellow; looks good. Whilst cooking I crack open a bottle of IPA, and the weekend had started properly.

The weekend had arrived, we celebrate by watching an old TOTP; all Kim Wilde, The Passions, Ultravox and Kiki Dee, before it was football time on the other side, so Molly and I settled on the sofa to watch Derby play Man Utd; Utd ran out 3-1 winner, quite easy really. Whilst outside the wind howled as yet another Atlantic storm blew in, and would blow all night

But it is the weekend after all.

Friday, 29 January 2016

Friday 29th January 2016


In which you find the young author having to act like the professional his colleagues thinks he is.

Or something.

Despite being in Denmark. In January. With the window open. It has been a warm night in the hotel room, and I have not slept that well. But hey, breakfast ahoy. So I jump up, get dressed and go to meet my colleague Manu for breakfast at half seven. I have fruit, then I find the ready-made pancakes! so I put two on my plate, a healthy portion of crispy bacon, then smothered in maple syrup. Lovely. Manu look quite disgusted as he tucks into pickles, some kind of preserved meat, tomatoes and cucumber. You don't hear me complain do you?

A6 We meet beside our cars; he has car envy once he claps eyes on my A6, he has some Seat thing, not as good or as sexy as my Audi. I try to program the sat nav, its having none of it. So, Manu says he'd done it in his car, so I follow him out of town, round the top of the lagoon and then down the road through the dunes to the factory. Dawn is showing, and in the east there is clear sky even hinting where the sun will rise later.

Hvid Sande, like most of the west of Jutland is popular with Germans I have no idea why, but there you go. Danes do also holiday here, but mostly its Germans. There are holiday homes scattered in the dunes, mixed in with the German WW2 fortifications. There are lots of sports on offer, or there are in the summer; yachting, fishing, kite surfing and all that. So there are shops and tat merchats catering for them all. But not in January. Just the locals and us working.

Hvid Sande Like all holiday areas out of season, it is slightly eerie, but at least with the sun now above the horizon it could almost be summer, even if there are no other people about. We arrive at the factory, some half an hour early, but better to be early. Manu decides it is too cold to be standing outside, even if I fancy walking over to the beach to maybe take some shots with my phone. Instead we sit in the Audi and I try to program the sat nav for the airport. As it is stored in its memory, it seems no problem. We shall see later if I can make it to the airport before my flight.

We will be shipbuilding At nine we all have arrived, we gather round a meeting table, which is laden with another breakfast, coffee and cake. Seems like we would not go hungry.

The day passes, they take us out for lunch, at some fish place. We have several kinds of fish on a plate. Most of it is OK. Except the boiled fish. I leave that.

Finally, we are given a tour round their shipyard, and their new ship they are building for the Norwegian government. Brought it home to me how difficult and time-consuming fitting out a modern ship can be. But time is slipping by, and I have less than four hours to get to the airport, check in and relax and stuff. So, Manu and I make our excuses and take our leave.

In the car I punch a few buttons and ask the sat nav if it is taking me to the airport by the shortest route. It says nothing. Even the long route would probably be OK. I start the car and glide out of the car park, spinning the wheels and sending shower of gravel behind me. It was fun.

Back through the dunes along the long straight roads, east to Ringkobing, then back down the other side of the lagoon. I did know the way from here, really. The car is a joy, and I realise I would be handing it back in less than two hours. Very sad.

I roar past an accelerating truck as we exit a roundabout. The engine roars loudly, I pull in and zoom away from the truck. I near the airport, traffic gets thicker, but I have plenty of time. I take a shot of the car as I leave it in the car park, drop off the keys in the hire office, get a boarding card walk to the BA desk to check my small bag in. If I wanted to, I could carry it on the flight, but I don't mind checking it in, really.

I am given the magic ticket: a pass into the business lounge: free food and drink. Yay! Manu who was ten minutes behind me, does not get the golden ticket, so sits down below with these in cattle class. In the lounge several of my colleagues are there, drinking and waiting for their flights home. I know a lot of the others by face at least, the same people are traveling over to DK most weeks.

I get a beer, power up the laptop to arrange travel for next week, have another beer, have some peanuts. Have some more peanuts. An hour has passed, and it is time to board the flight. Northern Europe is under starlit skies, so it is all laid out below us as we travel south, like an illuminated map. I see the coast of Holland, with Amsterdam inland, lights and streets tightly packed. Offshore, windfarms with their lights flashing away, warning ships of their presence.

Over the Essex coast, more windfarms twinkling away, with the north Kent coast away to the south, Thanet all lit up sticking out into the channel and the curve of Pegwell Bay to the south and in the dark I thought I could see the lights of St Margaret's up on the downs. We lump and bump on final approach, over the Dartford Crossing where traffic is gridlocked, as are all the approach roads in south Essex, it looks a nightmare. We bounce down, then have a long wait for a bus to collect us, but drops us off right beside the immigration control, we are through in seconds, I collect my case and walk to the station where I have a 2 minute wait for a train to Stratford.

It is quart past seven by the time I reach Stratford, not really time for a coffee, so I watch people, then go down onto the platform to wait, and to see the Eurostars screaming through at full speed. My train is full, but space in the front carriage. Its too dark to see anything, so I finish the music magazine I had brought, and we glide over the M25, under the river and through Kent.

Jools is waiting at Folkestone Central, driving me on the last leg home. We go via KFC as neither of us has had dinner, some dirty food to round off the day.

Phew, I am home at half nine, seems such a long day, and like me, Jools is shattered. We eat, then get ready for bed. However, tomorrow is Friday, then it am the weekend.

Thursday, 28 January 2016

Thursday 28th January 2016


The alarm goes off at quarter past five; its blowing a hooly outside, and the lest thing I want to do is go to bloody Denmark. However, I have little choice as I am not suffering from the plague or my foot fallen off. Jools makes coffee, and the other stuff that we have to do in the mornings, only for me to realise that we have just ten minutes to leave otherwise I might miss the train!


It is three minutes past six as we pull out of the drive, I have 25 minutes to get to the station in Folkestone, just hope there is no trouble on the roads. Rain is hammering down, and I know Jools was going as fast as she could, but it felt so slow. Lorries were parked up heading down into the port on the A20, but apart from a couple of them struggling to get up Shakespeare Cliff it is quite quiet for us.

I have 5 minutes to get out of the car, get my ticket and walk up the ramp to the platform. The train is waiting, so I select my seat, sitting on the other side of the train for a change, but hey, we can all do with a change, right?

The train pulls out, and it is still dark as we rattle through Folkestone and into the countryside. The train is full once we get out of Ashford, pretty much standing room only, meaning those at Ebbsfleet really have to squeeze on. It really is pretty grim, even if it is for only 20 minutes, but it is just not pleasant, and the thought of doing this trip every day just chills my blood.

I am at least traveling from London City today, which means it the usual journey, passing the familiar landmarks, including the old Olympic Park, now nearly four years since the games were on. Time really does fly. The athletes village is now flats and condos, and the games are now a very distant memory.

There is a bit of a queue at the airport, but with my boarding pass I can go straight to the desk, check my case in and go through security. The flight is delayed, and I have two hours to kill. My stomach says “feed me”, so I take it to the grill for breakfast. I have the Full English, but with scrambled eggs, which cause me no issues.

I still have an hour: I people watch, look round the duty free shop, look round WH Smiths and more people watching.

On the flight I skip another breakfast; it would have been greedy. And once we take off, we slip into the low cloud as we pass over the O2, and I see no ground until we are 100m over Denmark bouncing around just before we touch down. I have snoozed, drank orange juice and read an entire edition of Rail.

In the car hire place she said that she had to upgrade me to an Audi A6. She may have said some other stuff, but I wasn’t listening. I had no idea what an A6 looked like, but it was bigger than an A4, and them were huge.

I walk to the car, pressing the open button on the key. The A6 flashed its lights at me and opened its boot. Cheeky thing, and we only just met! It is huge, nearly an estate, and there are more buttons than inside the Space Shuttle. I argue with the sat nav that it should direct me to Ringkobing, it said OK, but clearly changed its mind en route and was taking me somewhere else, but I knew the way anyway, pretty much.

It was cold, grey, drizzling, windy and misty in Denmark. And being pretty flat, there was nothing to take a photo of, and going to the coast seemed pointless. So I drove north to the hotel. It is near here were the nacelles and towers are made, but for today, I have nothing to do other than to prepare for the meeting tomorrow and have dinner.

The A6 goes a bit. Oh yes it does. I find us going 120kph on country roads, a tad too quick, but safe enough. I get the measure of it, and the radio, and find a classic 80s station to replace what sounded like either someone having a baby or having sex that was playing when I got in.

I arrive at half two, relaxed and ready for some more relaxing, radio listening and flicking through the 100 TV channels. Which is what I do.

Wednesday 27th January 2016


With today, it makes very nearly a week that I have been home. Just my luck that my manager arranged a meeting in Jutland on Thursday so I would not get too used to being home or something like that. Perish the thought I might like to spend a whole week at home.

Tuesday was a bit of a dead loss weather-wise, as it was when the storm which dumped feet of snow on eastern US arrived, although it just had rain to drop on Blighty, so probably more floods I expect then.

And for what I expected to be a quiet day at work ended up being full on with added IT problems and telephone meetings. And it all began so well. But soon after eight the meeting invites began to arrive, and so it continued.

I looked in the fridge for something for lunch, and seeing just empty shelves, and with my egg intolerance, it meant drastic measures. It was then I saw the block of butter, and I thought I could make a batch of mince pies. So, at ten I am elbow deep in a bowl of flour and sugar, mixing in the butter, then making the pies, popping them into the oven.

Only I am halfway through a meeting I had arranged when I can smell burning pastry, so I make an excuse and rescue the pies from incineration, and get back to the meeting. An hour later I have a couple for lunch with a huge cuppa. Perfect, just like Christmas.

I cook dinner; chicken and gravy pie, for dinner. Using up the rest of the veg from Sunday. Not a bad way to celebrate Tuesday evening. But then it means I have to pack, and generally get ready for the trip on Wednesday. Such is the life of a playboy and international playboy!

Tuesday, 26 January 2016

Tuesday 26th January 2016


And as certainly as toast lands butterside down on the carpet, Monday follows Sunday, and I am suffering with allergies. In trying to find a pattern in all this allergy malarkey means that I know think I am allergic to shaving; or the shaving gel I use. Or have been using recently. I could be wrong. Or mad. Or both. I have no idea what sets off the sneezing, sniffing and itching, but then if I am allergic to dust, then I must be. But I cannot deny that was fine on Sunday, and all allergic on Monday; you tell me!

Welcome to the working week In science news, if you want a perpetual motion machine, then in reference to the paragraph above, instead of buttering toast, butter the back of a cat. As you know, butter will always land on the floor, and a cat all always land on its feet, therefore, a cat with a buttered back will fall until just above the floor, at which point it will spin and spin forever.

Monday walk Jelltex solves the global energy crisis with just a tub of butter and a spare cat.

But it is Monday morning. I have a full inbox to deal with, meetings to attend, and allergies to put up with. I take drugs before getting the booze out. Nothing quite ends a fine day with a three hour phone meeting, where you are the one who cannot see the documents being discussed due to a software failure that should not be able to happen. But it does, you know...

Monday walk At lunchtime, inbetween tasks, I decide to get some fresh air, as it is a glorious day out there, with the sun clearly higher in the sky now, therefore casting less-long shadows. I go over the field to the pig's copse, where there are no pigs or piglets left, the final one having been taken to market since I last walked up here. I have, however, remembered to bring some old carrots with me, so walk down the dip where the gray filly observes me with disinterest. However, changes her tune when she sees my bag of moldy carrots.

Are those for me she says, trotting over, and no you cannot touch my nose or head, but I will let you feed carrots into my mouth until they have all gone. Yum. No, I said do not touch my nose, I am not interested nort hat kind of horse, however, give me all your carrots.

The bag empty I walk back home, snapping the vibrant colours, and in the sunshine it certainly felt like spring, warm enough to have my coat undone.

Back home there is the three hour meeting to get done, I only escape because of the time difference in Denmark and they need to lock up the offices. Phew.

We have cold stuffing and friend potatoes for dinner. Or that's what I decide to cook. Always good when you let your inner child cook. But it is why I don't let it go shopping any more of course.

There is the final episode of the history of Egypt to watch, which means I feel all the worse for not having visited it before now. So add it to the list.

Monday, 25 January 2016

Monday 25th January 2016


You wait all week for the weekend, and when it comes it brings nothing but fog and constant drizzle. I know we could have put on rain coats and gone out anyway. But in the end, we seemed to just stay around the house. What I do know is that I am getting fixated with listening to the football on the radio almost as much as i was when I was watching it on TV. So, a break is needed, and more time to be spent outside. But for the most part this does require fairly good weather. I was hoping to head into orchid country to check on rosettes, but after some of the trips last year, I know the best site for Early Purple would be a mood bath right now, I think a couple of weeks of fairly dry weather is needed.

And then there is the system that dumped all the snow on the eastern seaboard is making its way across the Atlantic right now and arrives late tomorrow and into Wednesday, bringing up to 6 inches of rain to us. Yay for rain.

Sunday As for Sunday, breakfast, then watch football, including the horror show from Carrow Road, where defending was so passe and forgotten about. Why bother? Indeed. The period after City scored the penalty, we seemed to be reduced to headless chickens chasing shadows and deserved to concede the goals we did. I think we'll still be OK, as we can score goals, but will let in many too. But not all teams will capatalise like Liverpool did.

Jools went to see Nan, whilst I stayed home to cook lunch: roast chicken and all the trimmings. Its been a while since we had one, so the house filling with the smells was rather wonderful, and by one we were both hungry, and more than ready to eat. We also had a bottle of Prosecco too, an unusual indulgence, but very nice all the same.

I listened to the football on the radio, but soon had drooping eyes and I must have gotten an hour or more of zeds. No more lunchtime drinking for me!

The day darkened outside, and the fog finally lifted, but too late to do anything outside. We listened to more radio shows, played some Camper Van Beethoven CDs, and the day was frittered away. We even spent the evening watching TV, nothing too demanding, dinosaurs and the final part of the Romanov story, with added mad monk! He was the lover of the Russian Queens you know!

102 days until we leave for Japan. Apparently. Not that I am counting of course....

Sunday, 24 January 2016

Sunday 24th January 2016


With the trip to Leuven this week and the adventures in picking up and dropping off the car, it has seemed a short week, but in reality, I did a 16 hours on Thursday, driving and in meetings and the such, so I like to think my employer got their pound of flesh this week, or good value at least.

As is always the case, first task of the morning, once we have had coffee, is a trip to Tesco for life's essentials, and this time no beer, no cider and no wine needed nor bought. Not much to report, other than it is always a relief to be driving out of the car park and back home.

The ongoing demolition of Burlington House, Dover We then have chores to run in town: not just the usual weekly snaps of Burlington House coming down, but also some serious stuff, including a trip to see the bank manager. Oh dear.

Anyway, a trip into town now means avoiding Jubilee Way, just in case there is trouble at the port, so past the castle and down the hill and dodging the various closed roads and car parks in town, finding a spot and once paying for the ticket, we slit up as I zip round the outside of Burlington House getting my shots, only now because there is so little of it left, it is barely showing above the green wooden fence which surrounds the site. Which shows it's time on this earth is now measured in very few days. The wrapping has also been removed showing one, maybe two stories left to come down.

The ongoing demolition of Burlington House, Dover Back to the banks, where it seems no one has thought of bringing the keys, so we wait half an hour whilst someone runs around to collect the branch keys from the manager who apparently is having the day off. So, we wander round town for half an hour, I buy a new guide to Japan, the Bowie tribute edition of Uncut and then dive into Costa for a gingerbread latte with an extra shot, just because i can, really.

We see the manager, and all goes well which is good, really. But it takes and hour, and with the time heading for eleven, I was planning on going to Shakespeare for an updated look at the works on the line, with the latest rumours being its likely to be closed until the summer. However, as we walked back to the car, the warm temperatures caused fog to form, and as we neared the car, it was clear that there would be nothing to see, other than fog, from the vantage point.

Additionally, with City kicking off in the early game at quarter to one against Liverpool, and being on the radio, there seemed little choice but to return home, have lunch and then for me to settle down and enjoy the game.

What followed was one of the most remarkable games in recent years, with Liverpool taking an early lead: City equalising and taking the lead before half time; extending their lead via a penalty early in the 2nd to lead 3-1. So far, so good. Straight away Liverpool opened up our defence like it was made of fod, and pulled one back, equalised in similar fashion a few minutes later then took the lead a few minutes later on. In injury time, City pull level with a piledriver of a shot, so that should have been that. Only for Liverpool to force home a winner with the last kick to win 5-4, and leave players and fans reeling.

To be honest, the rest of the afternoon was spent in a bit of an anti-football grump, but at least Man Utd carried on their dreadful scoring record, once again failing to score in the 1st half, and slumping to another defeat thanks to a Southampton winner. Still, got to laugh!

Smokey BBQ chicken for dinner, not one on a barbecue of course, but then its not really bbq weather is it?

Saturday, 23 January 2016

Saturday 23rd January 2016


At least it is Friday, right?

I slept through the alarm, but the smell of brewing coffee brings me to the world of the living. It should have been an easy day, but first of all I have to return the hire car into town, then get back ASAP as a hectic day at work in in the offing as various work tracks are nearing their deadlines. It would prove to be interesting if nothing else.

So, after a coffee, Jools goes to work and I clear the rubbish the car had filled up on the road trip, then drove to Tesco to fill the tank up before tackling the port traffic along Townwall Street to the hire company's office. All signed in, no extra charges, and 341 miles done.

Now the million dollar question: can they run me back home? Otherwise it would be a £15 taxi ride, or a walk to the bus stop and maybe an hour wait for the next bus home. Turns out they had a drop off in Deal, so no trouble, which meant I would be home by nine and be able to get close to a full day in work. As long as the IT worked, of course.

I was dropped off at the end of the road, a short walk home, back in the house make coffee, have breakfast, and switch the laptop on. 3MB of data is downloaded, and there is a plethora of documents to review, which is not nice at the end of the week. Meeting invites for later in the morning pop up too, so, better get preparing.

I make some bread rolls for lunch, and the rest to go with the soup for dinner, so I have to take breaks to check on them and to pop them into the oven. They smell fine, and taste better when smothered with butter and apricot jam. Yummy.

I have to wait online until it was gone five in Denmark, just to make sure I could react to any last minute requests to do work. But nothing happens, I fill in my travel requirements for next week, then switch the computer off and make another coffee.

I warm the soup up, so it is all ready to eat when Jools gets home at five; she is downhearted as her sisiter lost her job at the box factory that afternoon. Not unexpected, but that is 30 years service gone up the swanee, and between Jools, her sister and their Dad, they must have put in over 80 years for the LFB, all gone now. It was not just Cath who got let go, another tranche of people from all levels went. All a result of the takeover from tow years back and the leaving of the family owners. All things change of course, but not always for the best.

The day is best remembered for the driving rain which drifted in about nine in the morning, then as it abated, the fog rolled in to replace it. But at least there is no frost, right.

Damp Friday We have a quiet night, listening to the radio, and sitting with the cats. Such simple things make the travel and the nights away worth it.

Friday, 22 January 2016

Friday 22nd January 2016


Or the one in which I go by train under the sea, drive through one country to get to another, have a meeting then drive back before returning on the train under the sea.

When you think about it, that there are two railway tracks that can take you from anywhere in Britain to anywhere in Europe and/or Asia that run under the sea between Folkestone and Calais is a remarkable thing. It has been open for 22 years now, taking people, and in some cases with their cars, under the sea to another country, where they drive on the other side of the road, speak a different language and generally are different. It is now such a unremarkable thing, that we, or I, take it for granted. But isn't it amazing? That in an houe from leaving Chez Jelltex I could be setting in a street cafe in France, sipping decent coffee, smoking a Gitanes and shrugging.

A lot.

So, the task for Thursday was to take the hire car to the Channel Tunnel terminal, board a train, then drive through France into Belgium to Leuven, have a business meeting and drive back. I was going to try this as an alternative to catching a plane, as this meant leaving from Heathrow, then getting back once I return, which with the late finish to the meeting making it likely that I could not get back home the same day, and maybe having to take nearly two full days to make, whereas I could drive there from home in 3 hours. And get back the same day, return home and sleep in my own bed and that and that.

So, even if it was going to be easier than flying, at least not requiring an overnight stay in London because of an early flight, the driving would be hard for sure. Anyway, as dawn crept over the horizon in the east, I loaded the car, checked my documents, sat nav and all the other stuff I needed. Climed into the Vauxhall Insignia and drove off towards Folkestone, avoiding Jubilee Way just in case there were queuing lorries blocking the road.

Near the castle, I pull over at the parking space near the Duke of Yorks to snap the scene to record the dawn. It looked spectacular for sure, but I have many, many miles to go.

The start of a very long day Normally, the drive to the terminal is straightforward, along to Folkestone, take the A20 to the back entrance rather than take the motorway. Only I found the back entrance closed, which meant driving up to Hythe then doubling back down, and I had already seen the queues of trucks on the hard shoulder of the motorway, this did not bode well. As I approached the exit for the tunnel, lorries were blocking both lanes into the terminal, the line of cars were forced to stop by a lorry stuck in the wrong lane, but it turned out to be the first of many who were using the car lane in order to jump the line for trucks. We ended up driving into some roadworks to get round the last of the trucks, thus enabling us finally get to the barriers and get our boarding passes.

Despite being held up for 20 minutes or so, I was able to get the train I was booked on, and so after draining me spuds, I got some headlight adapters for the car, and drive over to the waiting line to board the train.

Once the traffic light went green, we drove in line down the long ramp onto the platform, then through the wide door at the end of the train, and then up along the train until we filled up each carriage. As I think I have said before, the tunnel is efficient, but not romantic; after the safety announcement and the fire doors closed, the train pulled out of the station, and the glorious pink dawn vanished as we entered the tunnel.

After half an hour we emerged in France in full daylight, the train rattled round to the terminal, stopped. A couple of minutes later, the doors opened and we drove off it, up the ramp, round a corner and onto the motorway. As simple as that. Bonjour La belle France!

A wander round Leuven Two junctions up the motorway, I pull of to step at the wine warehouse; they have a good deal on a few labels, but I choose the cheapest, £2 a bottle if you bought six boxes. 36 bottles; yes, that would do.

I loaded the car, programmed the sat nav, and off we went, I went, up along to Dunkirk and into Belgium. And it was all very pleasant; the road was quiet, the weather glorious, and just over two hours to go. Across Flanders, past pretty small villages with almost Kentish church spires piercing the sky, Fertile farmland on both sides all very, well, un-British I suppose. As was the lack of litter really.

All was going well, through Gent, wich the sat pronounced as in gentleman, which made me smile each time it said it. I could see the outline of the cathedral in Brussels, which meant that traffic would soon get very heavy indeed. And as soon as I turned onto the ring road, we ran into a jam, it cleared, only for another one to form at the next junction, and so on for 11 miles.

A wander round Leuven Into Leuven now, through residential areas, the sat nave seemed to know what it was doing. I arrived at a quayside, only to find the road ahead now closed off: and all other roads away seemed to be one way, the wrong way, or brought me back to the starting point. This was just crazy. Taht I could see the offices on the other side of the water was even more frustrating. I ignored the sat nav and the signs, turning up a one way street, performing a forbidden left turn, and then I found a road that took me to the right part of town, up a narrow street to where I knew there was an underground car park.

A wander round Leuven I had 90 minutes before the start of the meeting, so, I had a camera with me. Should I go for a walk round the city centre? I think I should. A short walk along the main shopping street brought me to the main town square, dominated by the cathedral and glorious town hall. Surrounding both is a wonderful typical Benelux town houses, each housing a welcoming looking bar or restaurants. But I am already worrying that I might have misread the start time of the meeting, so I retrace my steps to the office. Turns out harder to get into than Fort Knox, but once inside, the rest of my colleagues are there.


A wander round Leuven Once done, it is half four, and I am thinking about the return trip, through all that rush hour traffic, and all of it going round the Brussels ring road. Out of the car park, taking the same road out of the town and onto the first of nearly a dozen motorways between there and the coast. And as I thought, heading due west into the rays of the setting sun. It does look wonderful, and I did think maybe I should have stayed for more photography malarkey.

A wander round Leuven And turning onto the ring road, the queue starts, so we crawl at less than walking pace for nearly ten miles. I suppose it wasn't that bad after all, really, and once on the road back to Gent traffic thinned out, and I made good time, cruising at the speed limit until I crossed back into France. I had watched the sky go from a glorious red and orange to slowly darken to reds and purple before light faded to black and the stars came out.

There were no queues at the tunnel, I got my boarding pass, had my passport checked, and had just enough time to drain me spuds again before boarding the ten past eight train back to Blighty. I did look round the shop, there were some nice stuff, but really, did I need anything, really? Anyway, I had 36 bottles of wine in the car already.

Onto the train, the doors close and once again after the safety announcement we glide off, into the tunnel and under the sea.

Off the train, taking the quieter road from the terminal to Folkestone then up the A20 back to Dover. Phew. With the time difference, I was back home by twenty past eight, Jools had a huge brew waiting, and I had half a cold pizza for dinner waiting too. I round off dinner with a slice from the last Christmas cake, somehow the whole day, 16 hours was gone, time for a shower and then bed. Oh my, but tomorrow is Friday, then the weekend. Good job too.

Thursday, 21 January 2016

Thursday 21st January 2016


With each passing day my breathing gets easier. But sometimes I have a sneezing fit, or suddenly get congested, but I hope things will get ever better.

The day dawned with clear skies, red on the horizon and the promise of a glorious day, which means it was such a surprise when the skies clouded over and all was overcast in St Maggies. I had work to do, once Jools had left, of course, and that kept me busy until lunchtime. However, after lunch I had to go and collect a hire car from town, and with the promise of clearing skies the temptation was to walk into town, so as to help my clearing breathing even further.

Frosty start I put on my walking boots, but a nagging pain in my back had me wondering if I should take the bus instead, but seeing it leaving 5 minutes early in a cloud of blue smoke for Westcliffe kinda sealed it; walking it would be.

I cut through the churchyard, over Reach Road, through the housing estate and then over the large field towards the lighthouse. Past the WW2 remains of whatever it was in the first place, now covered by Dexter cows, through the gate, past the lighthouse and onto the cliff path.

A walk into Dover That walk takes about half an hour to get to the start of the cliff path, and isn't picturesque if I'm honest; the field is just stunted grass, and the rain has made it muddy and slippery. The woods between the field and the lighthouse are not attractive, even art the height of summer, and in the winter the paths are just rivers of mud. I did wonder if I should have waited for the next bus.

A walk into Dover But then you reach the cliff path, the vista opens out, and in the west the sun is trying to poke through the thin cloud layer, but already is casting a fine golden light on the scene.

As you imagine, walking along the cliff tops is wonderful in the summer, but in fact, at any time of the year is fabulous too, as the light changes, different plants and birds are about, and at least in the winter there are few other about to disturb the walker who might be lost in his own thoughts.

There are cracks in the topsoil, revealing deeper rooted problems with the cliffs, where maybe a future fall might occur. But then many of these have remained fairly unchanged for 80 years, looking like they will tumble to the beach at any moment. But they linger on.

A walk into Dover The path was muddy too here, but I could walk in the long grass, wiping the mud off the bottom of my boots, straying close to the cliff edge. Down below it was low tide, and the different layers of sand and chalk glowed warmly in the late afternoon sun. I met only two other walkers, both photographers, as I neared Langdon Hole, the sun even lower in the sky, and the sky an even more attractive golden hue.

The port was clogged with lorries, something has disrupted ferries in Calais, so we get the backup here. Jubilee Way is solid, as is Townwall Street. There are lorries, buses and truck everywhere. I worry about my trip to Belgium the next day and whether I will get stuck either going, or sorse, coming home.I snap the scenes, and the golden sunset on the promenade and town beach down below.

A walk into Dover All I had to do was navigate the last slope of the last cliff onto the path 10m away. I took one step, and my feet went from under me, my legs swung into the air and I landed on my bum, sliding down the slope towards the path, leaving my jeans and coat caked in chalky mud. Lovely. And I was going to collect a car. A brand new car as it turned out.

A walk into Dover Down the path into East Cliff, past Athol Terrace, crossing between the lorries onto the promenade before passing underneath the main road again at New Bridge before making for Snargate Street and the car hire place. I tried to clean up, but was inpossible: once I had signed for the car, I turned my coat inside out, sat on that so not to get the seats dirty, and I carefully drove home up Jubilee Way as the traffic coming down now backed up to the roundabout.

I put all my clothes in the washing machine and set it going, go up for a shower and put on my dressing gown once dried off. We had a pizza menu pushed through the door during the day, so I get two large pizzas delivered for our dinner, both were big enough so we could both leave half and have them cold the next day too. Brilliant.

I have to get ready as I were to drive to Leuven the next day, hence the hore car, so the evening slipped through my fingers once more.

Wednesday, 20 January 2016

Wednesday 20th January 2016


I do apologise for the allergy stuff, but I am using it as a reminder to me as to what I was doing the day before an attack to try to find a pattern. I could just be allergic to work of course. I'm sure I could find several teachers who would vouch for that. However, Tuesday was not as bad as Monday, so hopefully this will be the end of it for a while. For a long while. Let us hope so.

I did get enough sleep to be able to function, but a look at my calendar once the work computer was switched on revealed a four and a half hour 'workshop' which I knew was just going to be a talking shop. However, before then there was mail, documents to review, breakfast, second breakfast, elevenses, lunch. So I would have enough strength to last the barren afternoon.

Outside, of course, it was another glorious day with wall to wall sunshine, if very chilly in the north easterly wind. It looked like spring, with the single daffodil out by the apple tree. Didn't feel like it though.

I was proved right about the meeting, without strict adherence to the agenda, it hopelessly over-ran, and we only did one and a half subjects, which is about par for the course. And it turned out that each of our recollections of what we did and did not discuss was different, so all in all, pointless.

But with the meeting ending at half four, that seemed like the right point to call it a day and take to the gin on the sofa.

Football on the radio in the evening, laying on the sofa with Molly trying not to fall asleep. The way it should be. And I've not seen the inside of an airport for 5 days now. Feeling much better.

Tuesday, 19 January 2016

Tuesday 19th January 2016


And it all started so well. I mean I was not traveling, so I could lay in bed until a quarter past six, Jools was downstairs making coffee. And then outside there was a glorious sunrise that just had to be seen to be believed. Just as well for you, dear reader, that I had my camera handy. Soon after that it all went downhill. As I sat at the dining room table, I could feel the congestion building, breathing became difficult. It was going to be one of those days. One of those days I thought I had left behind.

Not so blue Monday I had slept well, but even still, sounding like you have your head in a bucket on the phoe made people ask what was wrong, so i explain over and over to various people what was wrong.

I struggle on through the day, but am left drained by about two. I only find relief really when either outside or standing up. So I go to stand up outside. I cut the raspberry canes down ready for the new season. I am overseen my Scully who is just checking i if I feel like feeding her at some point. Once inside, I decide to double bite the bullet and go for a session on the cross trainer, then straight into the shower to wash all traces of scent from me, apply no new deodorant nor shampoo or shower gel.

Makes no difference, I can hardly breath once back downstairs. I really thought I had had it beat. I take drugs, harder drugs then the serious only break open in the case of an emergency drugs. Still makes no difference. It seems to be worse sitting at the dining room table, so we retire to the sofa to watch a documentary on the group Genesis I had recorded. It turns out all past and present members of the group are splendid fellows, even Mr Collins, and how much better I feel towards them and their craft, and so I sense at some point I will be buying some of their earlier work, if not their later.

Football then some ancient Egyptian history, something for everyone, even fans of Phil Collins.

Monday, 18 January 2016

Monday 18th January 2016

Sorry for the whinge in the previous post: I had hoped I had left all the allergy crap behind, but today, no matter what I did, no matter how many drugs I took, nothing worked. But then there is always whisky I suppose.....


We decided that no matter what the weather was like on Sunday morning, we should go for a walk. So, after the first coffee we got dressed and pulled on the walking boots and got ready for a stomp across the countryside.

Sunday morning walk We walked out across the fields, past the pig's copse, down the dip, through the mud bath at the bottom and up the other side, but turned right to make it back to Station Road and returning home. Nothing dramatic happened, we met no tall, dark strangers and no one offered us any magic beans. For a change. We just stretched our legs, cleared our lungs and got out of the house.

Sunday morning walk Jools has a cold, and I was coming down with something, not sure if it was a cold too or another allergy attack. We now know it was an allergy attack, but hey, all the fun in allergies is the discovery. We have cheese and wine for lunch, then there is football on the radio, then more football on the radio. And there is snoozing to be done. We don't think it is a good idea to visit Nan, taking our germs to infect someone 101 years old.

Sunday morning walk In the front garden I notice the dwarf irises are about to bloom, I also read that in the month since the winter equinox, we have gained 28 minutes of daylight. And in the next month we will gain another 90 minutes. Spring is coming, no matter how cold it felt today. Most of the country, even north Kent got snow over the weekend, we escaped, which after my trip to Norway, I believe I have seen enough snow and ice for one winter already!

Sunday morning walk The weekend is over, there is the history and splendour of the Romanovs to wallow in on TV before we head up the wooden hill to bed.

On allergies

It is Monday afternoon, and I am trying to both recover from, and worked out what caused this latest attack. It began yesterday, but was not bad enough to stop me getting enough sleep, but it began at DEFCON 4 this morning, and despite abating when I walked around, would return in earnest when I sat back down at the dining room table to work. I have done nothing different in the last 48 hours to warrant such a relapse, but as I always say to Jools I can only react to the attacks as they happen and hope to see a pattern or a common root cause.

But as yet I am stumped. I had to stop work at one this afternoon as I could not concentrate due to not being able to breath properly: I went outside to do some gardening, and then did some phys on the cross-trainer. I have come down and dusted around my computer, using plenty of Mr Sheen to not to make the dust float around. We shall see.

I hope I have fixed it, we shall see once I have a shower, use as little gel as possible, no deodorant and then get into a clean set of clothes. See how it pans out then. I had hoped these days were over, what with it being so spring-like outside, the longer days, maybe having a window open to circulate fresh air. I don't know.

So, for now, I am fed up, sneezing and just wanting to feel normal again. In shot, not happy.

Sunday, 17 January 2016

Sunday 17th January 2016


It has been a strange week, what with the news about David Bowie on Monday, then traveling and being away for the next three days, finally being so washed out yesterday, it seems amazing that it is Saturday again. While I remember, I suppose we think stars like Bowie are huge in this country and big news just here; yet when I landed in Oslo, his face looked out from all the national papers on the news stands. Through the week there have been specials on Radio 6, more today as well. I will try to catch up with them at some point.

The ongoing demolition of Burlington House, Dover It being a Saturday and that the fridge was bare, it meant going to the shops first thing. And with the scan and shop feature, going to Tesco means no queues and so no waiting around. Jools stayed at home for a shower whilst I went to Whitfield to whisk up and down the aisles scooping stuff up for us. Nothing really important, but we needed milk, bread and the essential stuff. That done, once home, I made butties with the last of the Christmas bacon, which as ever, was just wonderful.

The ongoing demolition of Burlington House, Dover With the sun set fair in a clear blue sky, a car full of petrol and camera batteries fully recharged, just what to do with the day? Well, the truth being I am very good at filling up the day with stuff, visiting churches, looking for orchids, visiting country pubs, any of which isn't really necessary, but all of it costs money. And I am determined not to spend on stuff that is really not essential. Saying that, there is a couple of ongoing photographic projects that needed updating: the demolition of Burlington House and the repair of the sea wall at Shakespeare Beach.

The ongoing demolition of Burlington House, Dover We park outside De Bradelei Wharf as Jools wanted to look at some suitcases whilst I walked down to Newbridge, through the underpass and round what is left of Burlington House. It looks like at least one more story has been removed, and now from Jubilee Way it is hidden from view by the Gateway Flats. I walk round, get my shots before doubling back and meeting Jools back at the car for the short drive to Aycliffe to walk up Shakespeare Cliff to take shots of the railway repairs.

The ongoing repairs to the sea wall at Shakespeare Beach, Dover However, once parked up in Aycliffe, we were in danger of being run over by dozens of runners, who seemed to all be running towards Shakespeare Cliff, maybe they were running to Folkestone. Even getting up Shakespeare at this time of year is a challenge, let along do it for a race! We were in danger of being run down on the narrow path, but we manage to dodge out of the way to allow the sport billies to get past and run further up the cliff. or at least further than we were planning on going.

The ongoing repairs to the sea wall at Shakespeare Beach, Dover Down below some of the tracks have been removed, and a hole dug. Sadly, the footbridge has been demolished, which thanks to Facebook I knew had happened, but still looks odd not seeing it there. More rocks have been placed against the sea wall, with many more further along the beach waiting their turn to be added to the growing pile on the sands.

New flood defences at Sandwich Once I got the shots, I decided we should visit Sandwich. Sandwich used to sit on a spur of land at the edge of the Wantsum Channel, into which the Stour used to flow. This meant that Thanet was indeed an island, separated from the rest of Kent by the channel. Since then, the channel has silted up, and the Stour now flows into Pegwell Bay. The river still flows through the town, but it is pretty much at sea level, and is at the risk of flooding occasionally. So in 2014, new flood defences were built along the river, and the attractive quayside might have been spoiled. I suppose due to all the other stuff we do in our lives, we had not been back to the town since 2012, so we were not sure how bad the changes, although essential, had been.

New flood defences at Sandwich We park on the edge of town, but it is a short walk to the quayside, where we find a four foot high brick wall now lined the river side, and stretched to the bridge to Stonar. It blends in quite well really, no where near as bad as I feared Indeed, the car park at the quay might have lost a few spaces, but there were seats set into the new wall, making it quite pleasant really.

We walk into town through the Fishergate, up the ancient cobbled street, past the church and to No Name Shop to buy some stinky French cheese and a couple of quiches for dinner. We walk back to the car, the sun is over the yardarm, which means time for scran; do we eat out or go home? We go home as there are two huge rills left over from the batch I made the day previous to go with the soup for dinner.

And being Saturday, that means football on the radio. Which I know fills you with joy. But hey, it gives me something to fall asleep to on the sofa. Apparently. City play badly and lose to Bournemouth away, 3-0, and we were lucky to get nil by all accounts.

With that, the day grows dark outside and we have dinner. And with that, another day has passed, and with this post we are 1 nearer the 1500th, which I am thinking something special to do after the Desert Island Jelltex of post 1,000. We shall see. I am thinking films, but no idea how to put my favourites in order. We shall see.

Saturday, 16 January 2016

Saturday 16th January 2016


Even with nearly nine hours of sleep, I still felt like crap Friday morning. Standing on my chest, dribbling, was Mulder. Its not that we mind the handsome chap being like this, but despite however hungry he says he is, he will eat just three mouthfulls of food and wander off again. Eating only again if he hears another cat eating, THEN he's hungry again. But, it is time to get up.

Friday afternoon leg-stretcher The morning is always better with coffee, and then breakfast and then another coffee and maybe an additional coffee, just to keep the first two company. Jools leaves for work, I switch on the laptop and find who has been sending mails overnight. I record my working hours, upload a couple of documents, then deal with a couple of calls. THe morning is going well, and then all Office programs fail. All of them, at the same time.Re-booting fails to work, I cant even write mails.

Friday afternoon leg-stretcher I could feel a migraine building, that and another DEFCON 3 allergy attack meant that the only decent thing to do would be to go outside for a walk.

Friday afternoon leg-stretcher Just over the fields to the pig's copse, where it looks like the one surviving piglet from last year is about to go to market as the transport box is all parked up in the gate, ready and waiting. The poor hog was glad to see someone, pigs seem to like being in packs, and this poor piggy being alone seems unfair.

The track down the dip was muddy, and I had walked enough and got muddy enough to stand at the steel gates looking down into the mud bath at the bottom of the dip. I turn round and walk back home. Once home there is time for a brew, a check of my mails, and with my head pounding, I take to the sofa for a lay down. When I wake up, it is nearly dark and time to think about dinner.

Friday afternoon leg-stretcher That done, there is more 80s nostalgia with another TOTP re-run, only what with various sex scandals involving old Radio 1 DJs, we only get about 60% of editions as the others are hosted by convicted felons or known sex offenders. We end up watching an edition of The Good Old Days which was far more risque than I remember, but then I know no better. But it was enjoyable stuff.

Outside, the crescent moon was shining bright on a frosty landscape, but not minus 19 degree cold, just a couple of degrees below.

Anyway, its the weekend, so, to bed!

Friday, 15 January 2016

Friday 15th January 2016


I think of Denmark as part of Scandinavia, in that when I think of that northern landmass, or part of Europe, I think that Denmark, Sweden, Norway and Finland are pretty much the same, and the weather similar. This is clearly nonsense of course, and I realise this now. But looking at a map and seeing that Skien is only a hundred or so miles firther north than Denmark, and that I have already visited the southern part of the country a few years ago when I visited Horten, I thought it would be flat folling countryside with the same weather.

This, was also wrong. Whilst the area around Skien was hilly, it might not be described as mountainous, but then theose hills rise up several times higher than the highest point in Denmark. Also, when Denmark got an inch or so of snow last week, which melted in a couple of days, Skien got a full metre and that was still around.

The truth is that Norway is very much a different country, with far harsher weather, deeper snow and hardier people. I mention all of this, as for Henrik to catch the half nine flight, we would have to make an early start to the airport, some 120 miles away the other side of Oslo.

I got up at four, having been woken for the nth time by a passing snowplough scraping down the street outside. Henrik had the same problem and apprently slept less than I because of the noise. I got dressed, packed and went down to start the car, program the sat nav as there were three airports surrounding Oslo, and it would be silly to go to the wrong one. All doors and the hatch of the car were frozen shut, it felt like a freezer out in the car park. After some pulling I got the hatch open, then the driver door, started the car and went to remove an inch of snow from the car. The sat nav programmed, the receptionist then made a pot of coffee, so at least I felt kinda human once Henrik came out, loaded his stuff into the back, climbed in. Let's go!

The ploughs had done their job, the roads in town were clear, we drove through the quiet streets and up the steep hill out of town and into the countryside. Up and up, twisting as it went the road left the town behind and soon we were in evergreen forests, all threes bedecked with garlands of deep snow. It was impressive stuff, but I had to keep my eye on the road, as once out of town, the road was covered by a sheen of frozen slush, but the winter tyres did their job, and it felt fine driving. But I did slow down for the corners of course.

In still sleeping towns, people were waiting at bus stops, wrapped up like polar explorers, smoking as they shivered. Henrik pointed out tha as we left Skien and headed into the wild, the car's thermometer readings dropped from minus ten to twelve, and kept falling. By the time we were on the motorway, it was reading minus 17, and in the deep valleys around Oslo it dropped to minus 19.5. A heavy mist hung round, making it seem surreal, all vehicles were leaving trails of exhaust condensing into vapour, making them all seem like steam locomotives.

Around Oslo, the roads filled up and it was a hairy thing, as traffic got thicker and thicker. It thinned out again, as we headed north towards the airport. Phew, looks like we were going to make it in one piece.

We turned off the motorway, making our way to the terminal, then into one of the parking houses, crunching to a stop outside the office of the hire company. The car was checked over; no problems. And that was that. A short walk to the main terminal, up the escalator to the departure hall. No queue at the BA desk, I get my boarding card and go through security. All in about ten minutes. Just to find a place for breakfast.

Airport food is expensive and is generally crap. It seems to be a rule that is followed all over the world. I object to paying double what you would pay outside the airport, just because they have you captured. If they insist on charging so much, why not make it feel like it was getting value for money? I offer to go get breakfast from a canteen style place: two small rolls with cheese and chorizo and two small coffees came to 226 NK, something like £20. An absolute rip off.

Around us, what looked like a part of oil workers were getting stuck into pints of lager, and making it a mission to down as many pints as possible. I saw each one go down to the bar and come back with a tray of foaming beer. To think I used to do stuff like that, but no more.

With an hour to go before his flight, I bid farewell to Henrik and I walked to the immigration desk and onto the gate: I still had three hours before my flight, so once through I found somewhere to sit down and set about powering up my laptop and catching up on some work. Time passed really quickly, to be honest. At half ten I went for an early lunch, another expensive roll and a coffee, this time about £7 for a paninni, but it was OK.

At eleven, my flight was called, I flashed my frequent flyer card and jumped the line and made my way onto the plane, sitting in row 20 whilst the rest of the passengers were allowed on. We had to taxi to the far side of the airport to be de-iced, then onto the piano keys, rev those engines and into the sky we leapt, leaving snowy Norway behind. Needless to say it was a wonderful clear day, if bitterly cold, but I could not be bothered to get the camera out of my bag, so you will have to take my word for it.

Over the sea, cloud obscured the view below, so after another small roll and a cuppa, I closed my eyes and dozed. I woke up with us descending over London, but the city was buried below clouds. As we turned onto final, I saw the river below, and what looked like Putney, we got lower so we crossed west London, getting lower and lower. We arrived at terminal 5, waited for others to get off, then made my way ip the linkspan to find we were next to the immigration point. And no queue.

Once through, I had no bags to collect, so I went straight through customs and onto the station, only to find I had a 15 minute wait for the next train. It could be worse I suppose. On the way into LOndon I had a fine view of the work going on to complete Crossrail, and see where the new tracks plunge beneath the Westway.

At Paddington I rush up the ramp and down the steps the other side to get onto the Circle Line platforms, where a train was waiting. 5 stops later I was at Kings Cross and walking to St Pancras, I thought there was a train to Folkestone at about half past two, it was ten past. Well, 14:37, so I have half an hour, do I have a coffee? I decide not to, but then on the train a guy eats an enormous picnic munching his way through sandwiches, cake, crisps and endless bottles of pop. Smelling it I realise I am hungry, but too late to do anything about it.

Half past three and I am on the rail replacement bus, but we are going nowhere, as the driver is outside puffing on his vapouriser. The minutes roll by. At quarter to he decides to get in and switch the engine on, was he just teasing us? NO, we could now leave.

We travel through the traffic thick with Mums on the school run, to the A20 then up the cliffs into Dover. Was the taxi I ordered waiting? Hell, no. I wait fiftenn minutes before the tiny Fiat put-putted in. I have the luck to have the boss of the company driving me. But I am on the last leg home. However, the Fiat barely makes it out of Dover up Connaught hIll. He drops me outside the house at half four, thirteen and a half hours after leaving Skien. I was shattered.

I make bangers and sauteed potatoes for dinner once Jools is back home. We watch TOTP form the beginning of 1981 on BBC4 before we both give up and go to bed before nine. Phew.

Thursday, 14 January 2016

Thursday 14th January 2016


Let me get this straight, there was nothing wrong, per se, with the hotel. It was warm, clean and friendly. But it was functional. No soft edges as it were, and so like all hotels no matter how nice it seems, it still is not home. The Dag was all the things above, but had an air of an institution, linoleum floors, fire doors and bright lighting. It also had very odd window fasteners, some kind of metal toggle thing that once opened seemed beyond the wit of man to get them to lock again. Or beyond the wit of this man, anyway.

A walk round Skien, Norway I woke up with the alarm, and the room full of reflected light through the curtains from the snow outside. It feels too cold in the room to get undressed for a shower, so I get dressed, go down for breakfast, which is fine enough. You really can't beat a bacon roll made with Nordic crispy bacon, but my Danish colleague told me the bacon was very salty compared with Danish; who knew?

A walk round Skien, Norway We program the sat nav for the factory and set off on the 5 minute drive through what counts as rush hour traffic in Skien. We find the factory, apparently over-large for the size of town. We find the reception, book in and meet our hosts.

Through the morning, day breaks and we see that the town is surrounded on three sides by wooded and snow-covered mountains, looking incredible. But no time to think about that now, we have work to do!

A walk round Skien, Norway At the end of the meeting, we go back to the hotel and Henrik and myself decide to go for a walk before the light totally fades.

Clearing roads seems to be a hit and miss, and ploughing seems only to take place in the middle of the night, when the scraping of the roads wakes everyone up.

A walk round Skien, Norway I guess there was about eight inches of the white stuff, and I am sure the town is fine enough on a summer's evening when you are sipping mint juleps beside the harbour. On a dull, freezing day in January, it wasn't that picturesque to be honest.

A walk round Skien, Norway Still took shots though,

Dominating the town is the fairly modern church, which in the best urban traditions was locked.

Down the high street to the harbour, past shops which seem to have no customers, but their lights are burning bright inside anyway.

The harbour is quiet, just an ancient tug is tied up beside quayside bars and restaurants which I am sure is splendid on summer's evenings.

Looking out along the fjord it seems to be a typical Scandinavian view, with a red wooden hut on stilts in the foreground and houses built onto the hillside melting into the dusk into the distance.

We walk back into town, look at the small lake created by a lock and the pleasure boats tied up and covered with tarps, protected against the winter chill. An illuminated sign above an office block declares it to be minus 5 degrees, and looking around, what was left of the day was fading fast. We look onto the shopping mall, half is empty, but the rest seems OK. But nothing to tempt us to spend any cash. We were almost tempted by a tourist tat shop, but like everything in the country it was eye-wateringly expensive!

That night we go back to the steak place, but have plates of ribs instead, and end the night with very sticky fingers and full bellies. Back outside it is too cold to linger, so we hurry back to the hotel to get our heads down as we had to be on the road at five the next morning for the long trip to Oslo airport. Or one of the Oslo airports, hopefully the right one for our flights.

Wednesday 13th January 2016


Just because a place is further north than where you started the journey, does not mean it will be colder or snowier. Sometimes, however, it is.

The trip north began with Jools dropping me off in Folkestone, so I could join the throng getting on at Central for the train up to London. Being an hour later than the train from last week, I was surprised as to how crowded the train was, and that was before we got to the west station, where even more folks crowded on.

Folkestone Central Outside it was getting light, and it was going to be a splendid day, or so it seemed. No delays on the run into London, and I was in no hurry as I had nearly 5 hours before my flight. I was last off the train, walked the length of St Pancras to the Underground station, where I joined the rest trying to squeeze onto the platform then onto a train heading west.

It was packed, and when the train arrived it was already full, but I managed to get on before the doors closed, so we trundled off towards Baker Street and then Paddington. I know which platform the train is leaving from, and I have a ticket, so I walk to the platform and get on the next train. What annoys me is that despite paying a premier price for the Express, we get bombarded by ads all the way through the journey. Is this right? Can we not just have some quiet?

The 06:15 to Cannon Street For a change I had decided not to have check in luggage, and just carry what I needed. So I got my boarding pass and went through security, and was on the other side looking for a place to eat. Most were crowdrd, but there was a new place open: Gordon Ramsey’s Plane Food. It was almost empty, and no more expensive than other places, so, why not?

Was it any good? Well, pancakes, syrup, bacon and coffee is hard to mix up, so it was OK, but worth the hype? Fuck no, Gordon!

I have a second coffee, read some, then have a wander round the shops, looking at the ten grand bottles of whisky, before I wander off to find the gate and wait.

I use my business card to get on the flight early, and make myself comfortable as the plane fills up, there is the usual fantic searching for space for the latecomer’s bags, but soon we are all one, strapped in and ready to go.

Into the air and into clouds pretty quick, which is the way the whole flight. With the exception as we fly over Lowestoft, I look down and through clouds pass and I can see the River Yare in Yarmouth, and see the very warehouse I used to bag up caustic soda some eight years back. How I have changed since then. The view passes, and all I see is clouds until we are on final, and then all I can see is snow. Lots of snow.

On the ground, we taxi, and as I have to wait for Henrik, I am in no hurry and so am last off the plane again. There is a mix up at immigration, and I find I am in the line for those requiring visas. But I am let out, go through the self scanners and now just have to find the car hire place. I get the keys, but I have 90 minutes to kill before Henrik arrives, so I get some money out, then go for a coffee at Starbucks. And wait.

The age old problem; the hunt for food Then wait some more.

At just before six, Henrik comes through security, we shake hands and walk to the car, program the sat nav then try to get out of the car park, which takes ten minutes, but we are on the motorway, in the dark and hungry.

The age old problem; the hunt for food For 90 minutes we drive along motorways though Olso, past shopping malls, factories and through tunnels bored through mountains and hills. The traffic got lighter, and the night darker. Into the country and still we plunge through endless tunnels, over bridges and through snow covered-forests. After 90 minutes we turn off and are driving down a twisty road, through thick snow-covered forest up and down hills, with the road having a good two inches of snow and ice on them. Man, this is exciting.

Through slumbering towns, up and down more hills, but after three hours of this driving we arrive in Skien, another sleepy town, but larger than the others we had passed through. The sat nav takes us to the hotel, we unload, check in but find they do no food.

The age old problem; the hunt for food But there is talk of a steak place called the Longhorn. We set off, wrapped up, in search of beef.

We find it on a side street, order Mexican spiced steaks, beers and sit down to chat with another colleague who had arrived. We were the only customers in the place, some 30 tables or so, felt quite odd, but hey, the beer was good. As was the steak.

Back to the hotel down quiet streets, decorated with eight inches of snow, compacted down to sheets of ice an inch thick in places, but back to the hotel, to the room and some sleep. With the sound of the plough going past each hour, scraping the road and waking everyone in the hotel up.