Thursday, 31 March 2016

Days of wine and roses

And so we find ourselves at the end of the final day of March, with Spring in full swing outside, the countryside is alive, and I am enjoying my second week in a row at home, I have been working out, drinking and eating less. In short, I feel fine. April starts tomorrow, Friday, and then the weekend, during which we have been promised sunshine at least on Saturday.

But after the weekend there will be more traveling; Stuttgart next week, Dusseldorf the week after and then back to Denmark for more meetings and visits. That will take me to the last week in the month, 6 working days, and then we will be off to Japan; it really is that close.

And finally, when I return, the project will be in full swing, so I will be hither than thither visiting, auditing, inspecting and the such. And work and orchids and churches and beer festivals will take me through until the end of the year, and it will be Christmas before we know it.

The month has seen many things for me; a course in London, visit to our new nacelle factory, Easter at home, working in the garden, 3 days off in which I visited 11 churches. And then there was all the other stuff; cooking, orchid hunting, walking the woods.

We have gone from the cold and frost at the start of the month, to long warm spring days now. Last month the sun rose and shone onto the back of Chez Jelltex, now it rises way to the east, almost hidden by next door's house, and by the time it is in the south, shining on the back of the house, it is quite high in the sky, and its rays have plenty of warmth. Plants have grown, at times with astonishing speed, first breaking the surface, then racing, reaching for the sky. And it is all stuff we have done. To see life growing from the virgin ground, life that we planted several months ago.

Birds are nesting, in the front garden, the acers are putting forward new leaves, bring the garden alive with ruby red leaves. It really does feel like life is renewing itself, just another rotation in the circle of life.

I can't promise to post every day from now on, but I will post when I can, and in the next few months I can assure you that I will be visiting France, Belgium, Holland, Germany, Denmark and Japan. All exciting stuff, and now what counts as normal for me. Except the Japan thing, that is not normal, and it is so close now it is frightening, as we try to plan things to do so we leave and not be disappointed at stuff we might have missed. We shall see.

April will also see the 20th anniversary of my Father's death. I will not come over all maudlin, I think about him most days, and so won't miss him any more that day and any other, but 20 years is a long time, and almost a lifetime ago. I'd like to think he would like the life I have carved out with Jools and the cats down here in Kent.

Thursday 31st March 2016

Wednesday

I suppose we should take solace in the fact that it is just a four day week this week. However, I never try to be that productive if I can help it. Another day working from home, and Jools driving off to Hythe to tackle the forces of darkness that is purchasing. I am happy to stay in quality, happy that although I don't know anything about anyone else's job, I can tell them they are doing it wrong. Hoorah for the ISO standard, then.

Once we had had coffee and breakfast, Jools went off and I had some fruit, cereal and another coffee. The cats all went to bed, leaving me and the space on the table where the work laptop should go. At just before eight, I slapped myself about the face and switched it on. Ando so came the usual pattern of the working day; mails, documents, responding, making coffee or tea.

Spring colour When I make a drink, I do go out to the back garden for a wander, breathing in deeply the scent of the blooming hyacinths, which is every bit as glorious and sensuous as it sounds. Oh my word, the very air seemed heavy with the right smell.

The storm had bent several of the Fritillaria imperialis over, so I cut several lengths of bamboo and fashioned supports for each of the leaning plants. In other beds, yet more of them were showing through the soil, meaning up to this point, just two of the bulbs have yet to germinate. Not a bad hit rate, considering some of the bulbs have put forth two shoots, so we have even more shoots for our money.

Fritillaria meleagris Jools and I had planned to go for a walk once she got back home, but as on Tuesday, the sky clouded over in the afternoon and it turned downright chilly. And we were both hungry by the time she got back home. Now, a few days ago I had a dream about having a desert called Jam Roly Poly; a sort of Swiss Roll with custard. Now, I wish I could say that I made the roly poly myself, but on Monday when we called in at Tesco for some bits and bobs, I found some ready made roly poly, and Cornish Custard. It seemed kismet, so we bought both, and warmed them through for dinner, and let me say now, it was glorious. Although, the roll was not made with suet, but still, with lashings of jam and creamy vanilla custard, it were great.

Molly Next time it might be treacle pudding and custard.

With a belly full of poly and custard, a session on the cross trainer seemed out, so we settled instead for some astro-physics and a program on dark matter and relativity. And why not? At least it wasn't football. And the upshit is, that mankind knows less than it likes to admit to. I have no shame in admitting such things, however.

Wednesday, 30 March 2016

Wednesday 30th March 2016

Tuesday

100th blog of the year

And back to work

You know what happens if you don't check the volume on the clock radio the night before? It is on silent, somehow, and we both sleep until half six. Needless to say there is a major panic as Jools tries to get everything done; breakfast, make pack lunch, get dressed and so son, before she leaves for work. That she was just ten minutes behind schedule when she left showed that when need be, we can work as a team. That left me home to have breakfast and find the enthusiasm for work, which at least for the second week in a row means I will be working from home. Although the spectre of travel is looming, meaning I have three weeks of travel to plan and book.

At eight I put the computer on, and away we go, on the roller-coaster of a work day. Mails, documents and the such pout into my inbox, I deal with them and bat back.

After demanding more food, all three cats go to bed. Molly only after I make a bed on the chair next to where I am working, and then she can sleep. And sleeps until late in the afternoon. Whilst I work away. Such is life. And outside the sun shines, so I make sure when I have tea breaks, they are taken in the back garden and I can inspect our wonderful flower beds, as more bulbs seem to be sprouting on a daily basis.

From the back door, I see a pair of small birds flitting between a couple of bushes and one of the conifer trees. I had noticed them the night before too, so try to get a shot of them, and when one sat on a branch in the sunshine, I got it. Now comes the fin of the identifying, but with the two tone call, I already suspect it to be a Chiffchaff, which is what they turn out to be. Some of the first migrant songbirds returning to these shores are a winter away somewhere warmer. And it is the first time I have seen or snapped one of the LBJs.

Chiffchaff Phylloscopus collybita Little Brown Jobs.

The day fades, people in Denmark and Germany finish for the day, and the mails slow to a trickle and then stop. I pack up for the day, and before the heating switches on, go upstairs to do a session on the cross-trainer, which goes well. And I even enjoy it, at least with the music blaring away. Scully watches me from the spare bed through half open eyes, clearly I am keeping her awake.

Outside it clouded up, and the thought of going for a walk seemed less attractive, so by the time Jools came home we are both hungry, and instead of a walk in the country, we opt for the aubergine/pasta salad and beer/cider combination. It seemed the right thing to do.

That evening there was more international football, with England playing Holland. Or The Netherlands as it was billed as. Anyway, after the entertainment from Berlin on Saturday, Wembley was packed, but England never really got going, but despite taking the lead early in the second half, they gave away a silly penalty, then a clear foul of a defender was waved away by the referee and Holland scored the winner. In fact, England played better in the second half, and were not that bad, but a loss is a loss.

Oh well, off to bed. Another day in the morning.

Tuesday, 29 March 2016

Tuesday 29th March 2016

Monday

Bank Holiday Monday

Storm Katie day

I mention the last one because, well, Katie did indeed arrive and made quite an impression on everyone.

Storms are not only the concern of autumn, but can happen at any time, but a storm of this ferocity in the early spring is very unusual. The only good thing really was that most trees do not have their leaves yet, and so created less of a wind break to the storm-force winds. I had made a bit of a joke about the storm on Sunday, having had a garden chair blown over, but all in all it was a nice sunny day with just the one heavy downpour, the storm winds seemed a million miles away.

Deal Pier But overnight they came, and by morning light were at their height. They woke me up just before seven, so came down to feed the cats and make coffee. I suggested going out to take some shots of the storm. Jools said it was too dangerous out there. I agreed.

A few minutes later I said to Jools, I am going to Deal to snap the paves and the pier. She replied that good as she was coming with me. So, we got ready, grabbed various cameras and lenses and set off. Deal road was quiet, but as we went through the wood between here and Ringwould, pieces of dead wood were raining down onto the road, one catching the front of the car as we went along, causing a loud clang. I pulled over in the village to inspect the damage, there was none, but shows how risky this trip was. In Walmer, a large rotten oak tree had been blown into the road, snapped it's trunk in two by the power of the wind and two policemen were directing traffic around it's shattered limbs.

Storm Katie hits Dover We parked near the pier, and although the wind howled, there was little of any real rough seas to see. But I took shots just to make sure, and anyway, the light was fabulous with the sun trying to break through in the gaps in the clouds.

We get back in the car and decide to drive to Dover to St Martin's where we could look down onto Shakespeare Beach and the waves, we hoped that would be crashing against it. So, back down the Deal road, over the roundabout at the Duke of Yorks, down past the castle, down Castle Street then up Military Hill the other side to the site of the old battery.

Storm Katie hits Dover Down below, huge waves were crashing onto the beach and against the wall of Admiralty Pier, the wind whipping the spray into huge clouds that then obscured the old station and the neighbouring Prince of Wales Pier, whilst we were being buffeted as I tried to take shots. The light changed second by second, si I ran off hundreds of shots over half an hour, getting back in the car when I could no longer feel my hands because of the cold.

Piers By half eight you could see the winds dropping, and above the skies began to clear, so we went back home for breakfast and something warm to drink.

We put the radio on and reverted to our respective hobbies, whilst outside the wind blew clouds across the sun, casting shadows and shapes on the land. We had the last of the saffron buns for lunch, then more hobbies.

Did I want to go and visit the old folks I was asked. No, I honestly replied. It is frustrating that we only live a few miles from Jools' Dad he has visited here maybe half a dozen times, and that we have to go and present ourselves there. But in the end I do go, mainly to see how Jen was, and of course, she had gone out to visit Nan, so we ended up talking to Dad about stuff.

We make our excuses and leave after about half an hour, driving home along the deserted roads back to St Maggies. The cats were waiting, hungry. As ever.

I had made pasta salad in the morning, so just the aubergines to prepare and cook before we sat down to a fine dinner, one of our favourites as you know.

The sun set at quarter past seven or so, and was still light at eight, or nearly so anyway. And somehow, another weekend, this time a four day weekend had slipped through our fingers.

Monday, 28 March 2016

Monday 28th March 2016

Sunday

With an hour less thanks to the clocks going forward, but it being darker in the morning meant that we slept until nearly 8. After getting up and having coffee, thoughts turned to the plan for the day. And with Biblical amounts of rain forecast, we thought we had better make most of the sunshine early doors.

Now it was Jools' idea to go to Kingsdown to check on the orchids, I say that with hand on my heart. Seemed like a plan, have a bit of a walk at the same time.

Once parked on the coast road, we walked to the site, and after some looking, I mean I know where they grow now, so it wasn't hard, I found a good half dozen rosettes, most with spikes formed and growing upwards. Will be at least a week, but the season is nearly upon us. I take shots just to say we were there, then there was the question of breakfast.

With it being Easter and double bank holiday, we thought that Deal might be packed with hipsters and their families. But there is the Corner, on the main drag into Walmer, which usually is quiet, and if it is open.....

It is, and after finding a place to park, we go in and order the standard breakfast; no tinned tomatoes for me, as there is no place in a fry up for fruit! Breakfast is good, with extra hash browns too, perfect.

Back home,t he sun is still out, so I go to check on the flower beds and find the hyacinths are all out in one of them, and looking pretty as a picture. So I take one. Or two.

Hyacinth Insode, whilst we waited for the rain to begin, we put the radio on and listen to Cerys and her eclectic mix of stuff, whilst outside the sun still shone down as clouds zipped past at what looked like 100mph.

Lunchtime came and went with the sun shining brightly outside, apparently not informed of the BBC forecast. Jools went to visit Nan, just as there was a darkness gathering on the horizon, and as it swept over East Kent, turning day into night, rain began to fall. I say fall, I mean it was all but horizontal. I watch the scene from the window of the back room, through the raindrops running down the outside of the glass.

I feel that I have been lazy, so, despite feeling quite well as I was, I do a session on the cross-trainer. Pounding away for the allotted time, singing and puffing away to the tunes on the i pod. The i pod is still the only piece of Apple technology I have bought, and I have to say that in the 9 years I have had it, it has worked almost perfectly. No moving parts, just a couple of files got corrupted, but other than that, it has been a really good buy. Jools bought it for me when I first began working on the survey boats at the end of 2006; I took it Indonesia, The Arctic Circle and points inbetween. And it worked. It last that the three sets of noise-cancelling headphones I have had too.

Late afternoon sun I have a shower, and by the time I have shaved and made myself look lovely, the sun was back shining outside. Now, I used shampoo, shower gel and after shave, and no allergy attack for me, it is now two weeks since the last one. So, everything in moderation seems to be the key, except excess of course.

Late in the afternoon, I put the joint of lamb in the oven, cooking it on low for three hours or so, until is was so tender it fell off the bone. I did the usual trimmings, including Yorkshire Puddings, we washed it all down with a bottle of Prosecco, which was just fine and dandy. In fact the whole meal was great, if just a little late in the evening. Once we had eaten, cleaned up and put the washing up away it was nearly nine, as just time to squeeze in a documentary on Denmark and Danish art.

Phew, rock and, indeed, roll

Sunday, 27 March 2016

Sunday 27th March 2016

Saturday

The last day of winter, because at one in the morning on Sunday, the clocks go forward.

It is now almost fully daylight at half five in the morning now, which is when my restless brain wakes me up. I lay for a while, then Scully joins us, so I curl up around her and nod off once again.

I wake with a start at quarter to seven, there is work to be done! Or at least shopping anyway. Jools is up feeding the cats and making coffee. So, once the coffee is drunk, I say I will go to Tesco to hunt and gather, which seems fair.

Tesco is quiet, as is the A2, now cleared of traffic waiting for the port. I don't ponder too much on that, just happy folks is getting to where they want to be going. I go round, treating myself to some Easter Whisky and beer, and cider for Jools.

Back home for breakfast and tea. I like to vary things sometimes.

Outside it is dull and grey, but the wind is picking up like crazy, so it seems fair to just sit inside and watch the birds feeding and listen to the radio. Just music today, as football is on an international break fro friendlies, indeed England play the old enemy in Berlin in the evening.

Saffron buns for elevenses, then sausage sandwiches with no sauce at all for lunch, and another saffron bun in the afternoon. Jools says she will not eat again that day, which turned out not to be the case, but hey.

We watch a wonderful documentary on Janis Joplin, her story and rise and then fall into drugs and booze. Such a complicated story, and so sad as we know how it will all end.

At half seven, after a shower, I settle down with a beer and some cheese and crackers to watch the game. But something went wrong; the team in England shirts played quick, accurate passing football, creating chances and generally being easy on the eye. Then, two minutes before half time, after an injury to their keeper, England concede possession deep in their own half, and Germany score. Normal service resumed. Just after half time, Germany score an undeserved second, and it seems it will be the same old story. But, Harry Kane scores a wonderful solo goal after winning the ball in the German penalty area, Jamie Vardy comes on and scores a beauty backheel goal to tie things up before Dyer heads in a winner in the last minute to complete the first England comeback from two goals down since 1976. A wonderful performance from a young England; no Rooney, no Milner, and so much better for it.

Saturday, 26 March 2016

Saturday 26th March 2016

Easter was never a big thing in our house, even lower key than Christmas. I remember getting Easter Eggs, most of the time an egg, but really, that's all any child needs, not dozens. Anyway, I suppose the grandparents migt have come round on Easter Sunday, but that was it. Once I had passed my driving test and we had a car, it came a habit rather than a tradition on Good Friday to drive into deepest Suffolk to visit Bildeston and Kersey, for some spring sunshine, a meal out and look at the flowering daffs.

Kersey There was a fine old pub in Bildeston, it claimed to be in the top ten most haunted buildings in England. I don't know about that, but I do know they served the best scampi Proven├žale I have ever tasted. At least that would have kept the Easter vampires at bay. And Kersey, an astonishingly attractive village built either side of the lane whuch crossed the shallow valley with a ford instead of the bridge serving as a crossing point of the steam that flows through the valley. I say flow, meanders is a metter description. There was always a few ducks with a new army of chicks following, mixing it with the traffic crossing the ford.

Kersey, Suffolk This continued after Dad passed away 20 years ago, at least whilst I lived at home with Mother; although traveling in the car with Mother would be a trial, looking at the wonderful south Suffolk countryside certainly wasn't; attractive villages with churches, windmills and timber-framed houses. All very chocolate box pretty.

Ford? No, it's a Mini. Friday Therefore, Easter for us is an opportunity to draw breath and see how far we have come in the new year, relax and maybe get out and do some stuff, usually to do with photography, and being start of the season; orchids. And for 2016, nature presented us with a day so springlike, it was almost too perfect. Heck, it was even warm with the sunshine and lack of a breeze. Even when we got up at about 6, the sun was already climbing into a clear blue sky, well, beyond the wispy clouds that the sun soon burned off.

After breakfast we drove down to Samphire Hoe, or tried to anyways. No trouble driving along the Deal road to the Duke of Yorks, then turning left onto Jubilee Way, we were confronted by a line of traffic nearly all the way down. I quickly undertook a U turn and instead went down past the Castle and into town, driving up Military Road, through St Martins and getting onto the A20 out of town at Ayecliffe finally up Shakespeare to the turn off to the Hoe.

Down through the service tunnel down through the cliff and out onto the Hoe, paying the £1 for the two hour parking. Jools seemed to suggest that a walk along the sea wall as preferable to a stumble, looking at your feet, or just beyond for orchid rosettes! How mad is that?

Orchid Rosettes So I grab my cameras and walk up the track beside which, the orchids should be showing. It was always going to be a long shot seeing flowering spikes in March, especially as there had been a dip in temperatures these last two weeks, so it was no surprise to find hundreds of rosettes, but no spikes, and indeed a lot of where the orchids are found, barely dry land after being flooded all winter. But even still, a walk in the lea of the cliffs, sheltered from the winds by the Hoe meant it was downright warm, warm enough not to have a coat on for sure.

Samphire Hoe on Good Friday Jools joins me by the entrance to Abbotscliff Tunnel, which is now silent, since the last trains ran through it on Christmas Eve, and the rails gently rust.

Samphire Hoe on Good Friday Once back at the car, we had to try to work out a route to Barham avoiding the traffic, not that hard really, but I chose the scenic route up the Elham Valley towards Canterbury and Bridge, leaving the motorway at the Hythe turning. The sun was abroad in the sky above us, an its warm light brought the countryside to live, in vivid, living colour. I had thought about stopping for brunch in at the cafe in Elham, but it was closed, and anyway, it was jam=packed with cars making parking a real problem. So we drove on to Barham, turning up the hill and into the boondocks.

Orchid Rosettes We park at the bottom of the bridleway; Jools says she is stating put to read her Kindle, so I put on my boots and begin the slithery climb up the down to where the Early Purples are to be found. I had not gone ten yards when a bloke with a dog asked, friendly like, what I was doing, and was really interested in the orchid thing, but I did warn him about the mania that lives within orchidmania.

Orchid Rosettes At the top of the down, I found the rosettes, all well formed, and a couple of spikes beginning to form, but flowering spikes were maybe two weeks away,a nd that is with fine warm weather; with a typical went and windy bank holiday, it could be a month. Still, orchids to come, and in huge numbers.

Orchid Rosettes On the other side of the road, I went to check the Lady and Twaybalde and Fly: and everywhere, rosettes and unfurling spikes were growing through the leaf litter. I take snaps of them in dappled sunlight, falling through the canopy of the trees, high above. Of course, I see now, how much lighter it is, without leaves of course. It will be a different place in a month when the Lady begin to flower.

Bluebells We walk back to the car, then work a route back home, thinking that to go via Wingham to Sandwich, then south to Deal and home. Which is what we did. I suppose we could have cut caross country, but with the radio on, and the fine views of the Kent countryside as we drove north over the A2 then towards Thanet before turning towards Deal. Surprisingly, there was so little traffic about, I decide to drive through the centre of town then south along The Strand past Deal Castle to home. It was so warm now, we open the car windows and the breeze blew back our hair, or tried to in my case.

Back home we make a brew and I put some crispbakes in the oven, defrost some seeded rolls, and soon we soon we are feasting on lovely hot filled rolls. Before going out, I have prepared a batch of dough for saffron buns, and left it to rise above a warm radiator and in the warmth of the sun. In the end it had been some four hours there, so when we came home the mix was level with the top of the bowl, but light and easy to work with. I make them into buns, leave for another half hour to rise again, then pop into the oven once the crispbakes come out, cooking quickly.

Cornish Saffron Bun So wonderful did they smell, that I make another brew and we have one of the fresh buns right out of the oven, smothered in melting butter As you do.

Happy Easter!

The sun begins to move further round to the west, so the back garden is soon in shade, and gets positively chilly. We come inside and put the radio on, throw some shapes in the living room to confuse the hungry cats.

The evening is filled with 80s pop music from TOTP from 1981, then there is The Don in the garden and finally Springwatch. All good stuff, but all that fresh air meant we were pooped again. Best go to bed.

Friday, 25 March 2016

Friday 25th March 2016

Thursday

The final working day of the week. I suddenly feel that I really need a four day weekend. Good job then that it what we have this weekend. Saying that, it is always a pleasure to work from home for a week, getting stuff done and then being able to go out and sit in the back garden when I make a brew, if the weather is warm enough. Jools hoped she would have a short day, but it wasn't likely. I wave goodbye to her at seven and make another coffee, then find out that all the tins of grapefruit segments I bought early in the week were all in juice and not syrup and sharp as an ex-wife's tongue.

Breakfast done, I settle down to the main task of the day; travel expenses. I have a new way of doing them, and it should more environmentally friendly, with no printing of invoices, just using existing PDFs. We'll see if anyone notices. I have three to do, and have all the receipts separated, so its a case of making sure they go in the right folder once scanned, then sending them to my work mail, adding the other PDFs and forwarding them onto my boss for authorisation. It takes less than half an hour, and I had been putting it off all week if truth be known, and wasn't hard at all. So I reward myself with a cuppa and a couple of ginger nuts, because, you know, as a manager I should reward good work and all that.

I have to update paperwork, send that off to people who won't read that until after the weekend. And by midday I was really done. The forecast was for rain later in the afternoon, but for now, a weak sun shone from behinfd the thin clouds, so I decide to mow the lawn for the first time this year. With the new beds, its a little more complicated now, and I won't get the stripes on the grass, but then its mostly moss anyway in places, so, just have to find some work boots, some enthusiasm and then try to get the mower started.

Once I tug on the starting chord a few times, the mower roars into life, under a cloud of blue smoke. I let it run a few minutes then set about the preparation work, handcutting the grass near to the wooden edging of the new beds. This involves bending down, stretching calf muscles and the such. My legs are not impressed. But I get it done, finally fill the mower with gas, fit the basket and away I go. Up and down, round and round, across and in about half an hour it is done, and despite being just the first cut, because no matter what Rod the Mod says, the first cut should never be the deepest, it looks much better and almost tidy.

I am tempted to treat myself to a beer, there is a large bottle of Leffe that has been chilling all week, but instead make a coffee and sit down with a bowl of Amoretto ice cream and watch some dudes in Vegas rebuild a hot rod; I have no idea why this is interesting, maybe because such things would be beyond me, but it passes an hour and I eat all the ice cream.

I amke breaded chicken and lentil dahl for dinner, all ready for when Jools arrives home at six, having had to go via Tesco for some milk.

Let the four day weekend begin!

Top fo the Pops from 1981; some documentaries on archaeology. And bed. Phew.

Outside the rain hammers down, but a badger sits at the base of the bird table, munching on peanuts and fat balls, apparently not noticing. Is it raining?

Thursday, 24 March 2016

Thursday 24th March 2016

Wednesday

The quiet week continues. It does mean I am up to date of course.

Outside the glorious sun of the previous day was gone, replaced by blanket cloud and a cool breeze. I have work today, so apart from putting the daily two tubs of bird food outside in the front garden, and the regular spring bulb patrol, I don't go outside. Instead I sit at the table, listening to the radio and working away.

All in all it was a quiet morning, which I enlivened by making a batch of rolls to go with the soup we were going to have for dinner. Chili seeds: check! Poppy seeds: check!

And making the dough rise means having to have the heating on so, I sit around as the house warms up, waiting for the fine smell of baking yeast working hard. All are proven and baked before the afternoon is a couple of hours old, but this did not stop me from cutting one open and smothering it with butter, just to carry out a QC check, just to make sure that were up to standard. And glad to report that they were.

I gird my loins once more and just before 5 take myself up them stairs to the spare room to pound some lard on the cross-trainer. Despite having some fine tunes on, I ran out of puff three minutes short of my target, and sadly, gave up for the day. Scull, who now has decided the best place for bed is in the spare wardrobe, looked out at my sweating form slumped sitting on the bed.

Dinner?

Jools was due home at about seven, so I listened to yet more radio, edited more photos and posted them on Flickr. It keeps me quiet.

Jools comes home, tired after a long day at the coalface with her boss away, so I warm the soup, butter a couple of rills and ta-daaa, dinner is prepared!

What better way to get ready for sleep than to watch an hour documentary as to the nature of gravity and whether anti-gravity is possible Jools stayed awake for most of it, but at nine we accepted the inevitable and switched the TV off.

Same shot tomorrow, yeah?

Wednesday, 23 March 2016

Wednesday 23rd March 2016

It never ceases to maze me what a cruel and forgiving world we find ourselves living in, there seems no depth to which one group will stoop too deep in which to they will go to further their misguided ideals. When in truth most of the time they just want to be heartless bastards, getting other to blow themselves up on the promise of some delight in the afterlife. Yesterday, there were a series of coordinated explosions across Brussels. I avoid the news all day, as political opportunists uses this cruelty to promote their own poorly thought out ideals, blaming the result of not leaving the EU or rounding up Muslims will result in more of these. Not sure who was worse, Trump or our own dunderheads to be honest. And one of the top hashtags on Twitter was 'pray for Brussels', now call me a cycic, but I think they had enough faux religion there yesterday when all is said and done.

Tuesday

Tuesday morning I study the BBC weather forecast for Dover, so to know when to plan trips, walks, pub lunches, etc. So I am sure that on Monday when I looked there was nothing but light grey cloud forecast for the whole week. So, it case as a major surprise to find that once the increasingly early dawn brought with it a fine sunrise, which then rose into an almost cloudless sky. Once risen, the sun did cause some mist to form, but that soon burned off, leaving a fine, sunny and almost warm day.

Walk to Otty Bottom Road It is Easter in Denmark too this week, and all over the RC and Anglican faiths, so no surprise there. But it does mean many folks are taking an extended holibob, meaning the volume of mails and answers to my grenades thrown over various walls go mostly unanswered. But I plough on towards lunchtime. I have the last of the bread, two crusts with layers of two week out of date cheese on them, toasted so the cheese bubbles and turns crispy brown. Lovely with a huge cuppa and two of the ginger nuts that I should really be sharing with Jools. But hey, ginger!

Walk to Otty Bottom Road I go out to check on the back garden and the shooting up bulbs, the Fritillaria imperialis seem to get bigger and bigger, growing at least 1cm a day. I go out several times to look for frogs in the ponds or to see if more Fritillaria imperialis had shown through the earth. In this I accompanied by at least one cat, sometimes two or all three, just them shadowing me to see if I had any food. You know, just in case.

Fritillaria imperialis In the afternoon, with my eyes itching and other early signs of allergic attack, I decide to go out for a walk. Needless to say, just after leaving the back door, it started to cloud over, but I worked out that the direction the light wind was coming from would bring more blue skies in time. By now the mud of a few weeks back har dried out and in places nearly turned to concrete. I had put on my new walking boots, but could have easily worn slippers for how dirty I got.

Walk to Otty Bottom Road Still no pigs in the copse, but seeing as I brought the remaining carrots from Sunday dinner, the horses in the field at the top of the dip soon realised I had something for them, and came trotting over.

At the bottom of the dip, the mud was the consistency of treacle, and will soon be rock hard too. There is the chance of rain over night during the week, but that won't make much difference. Up the other side, up the long hard climb to the cycle path at the top, then along to the top of Otty Bottom Road before turning round once again.

I re-trace my steps back home where I could sense there was a large cuppa waiting for me. Later in the afternoon, I even go on the cross-trainer again, and do an extra few minutes as I wanted to listen to one last song.

We have bacon butties for dinner, followed by the last two short cakes from the weekend. A dinner of champions, containing items from all major food groups. We round off the day, watching a show on the origins of the universe, whilst a large badge feats on fat balls and peanuts outside. Molly isn't impressed, but doesn't follow up on on her unease. Just growls.

Tuesday, 22 March 2016

Tuesday 22nd March 2016

Monday

Good morning!

Or good afternoon. Or good evening.

And so it came round for the start of the working week. Only, we have car problems. The engine isn't firing right, so needs a computer lead attached at the garage to find out what is wrong. This means that I have to take Jools to work, or drop her off in town so her colleague can pick her up. Or would have done if they had agreed where Jools would be. In the end, Jools catches a bus and taxi and is only 10 minutes late.

I go back home for breakfast and more tea.

Then I have to go back out to the short drive to the garage into the school run traffic. Only it is Easter holidays and there is little traffic about so I arrive dead on time, and they are expecting me, they take my keys and take the car away for tests. I have a coffee and take out the copy of WSC to read while I wait. Time drags, I marvel at the number of employees the garage has, in sales, back office. None of them seem to be busy, but they must do something I spose.

In the end they upload new firmware, then carry out the 1st year service and in a little over two hours, I am handed the keys back. And the bill of course.

I drive back home, make a brew then switch the computer on, take a deep breath and open Outlook and the carnage that it my mail inbox. It seems that many are taking an extra few days off, as many of my colleagues have out of office messages set, which is just as well as I have mails to catch up om, so by four I am up to date once again, with a plan for work on the morrow.

I really should do some phys, but I am still coughing like a dog on occasion, so give it a miss for another day.

I go into town to collect Jools from the bus stop before coming home and then cooking dinner: chicken and chorizo sausages with mash n beans. A mighty fine dinner, and enough for us.

With dinner over, clearing up and making a follow up brew, it is half seven, getting on for eight. Where does the time go? Anyway, a four day week, and one of those days go? So, to bed, to dream.

Monday, 21 March 2016

Monday 21st March 2016

Those of you with sharp eyes, and sharper minds, will realise that today's (Monday's) date means it is the spring equinox. Although, due to the way our planet as it hurtles around the sun, does so at different speeds, the year is never the same length. The upshot being, this year, was that the equinox was just past four on Sunday morning. Quite how they work that out is beyond me, but there you go. So, Sunday was the date when day and night were equal. And that is something to celebrate, seeing as from now on until 21st (or 20th or 22nd) the days will get longer and the nights shorter.

Sunday

Sunday; last day of my brief holibobs, and on the morrow I shall return to the world of work. But before then, a day of rest.

A cup of fresh coffee. A recording of the Saturday's football. More coffee. And listen to yesterday's radio shows. As you do.

With the weather dull and grey, we sat around and did our hobbies, drank coffee and generally did very little. Just as Sunday's should be.

We have an early lunch of pork pie and more shortcakes. As you do.

I was going to visit my friend, Gary, in the afternoon. But he having just recovered from a three week cold/flu thing, and me still feeling rather chesty after my cold/allergy thing, we both thought it best if I didn't go round after all. This meant Jools went to visit Nan and the old folks up Whitfiled, now that they were back from Jen's bother's funeral. Their Mu, Bet, is 96 and still alive, but getting peculiar and even shorter than ever, no Mother should ever have to see their child buried, really.

I stayed home to listen to the radio; more football sadly, what with there being so darned much of it at the moment. The Tyne-Wear Derby, which ended in a 1-1 draw, which meant the team that won was, in reality, Norwich. But those us us long in the tooth know there is still much football to be played this season. Bey you're happy with that news? Following that was the Manchester Derby, which ended in a 1-0 for United, but in reality was a poor game played between two poor teams, the winning goal well out of the class of this sort of match. And to think a few years ago, these used to be the best two teams in the county.

Whilst the Manc game played on, I prepared roast beef and all the trimmings, filling the hosue with fine cooking smells and much anticipation of the fine feast to follow. Indeed, it was rather splendid, Jools arrived home at half five with tales of funerals and piles.

We sat down for dinner as dusk settled outside, the forecasted dull day had instead ended with the clouds magically clearing, and us getting some late afternoon sunshine. Quite beautiful, really.

We rounded off the weekend with the season finale of The X Files, a somewhat overblown description if you ask me, of a 6 show run. However, it all left a bad taste in my mouth as the usual suspects ran round trying to figure out the alien/human hybrid thingy and what it means and trying to save the world as it seems a vaccine shot had doomed the planet to due of all diseases except those with the alien DNA. Would M&S save the day? We may never now as the show ended as Mulder lay dying in a car on a bridge. On this evidence, I have no idea if it will return, but on this showing, I don't really care. The stand alone episodes have been fine, but this storyline has already been done to death, do we want to see more, unless they tie all the loose ends up and move on. Or stop.

Sunday, 20 March 2016

Sunday 20th March 2016

Saturday

With the three days off, and repeated visits to Tesco and other shops, it meant that there was no need for any more shopping this weekend. Which meant laying in bed even after dawns pale light had woken us, and cats tood on our chests meowing for their breakfasts.

A coffee whilst checking to see if the world was still doomed, then bacon butties and another brew. The world, doomed or not, looked a little better after that. However, after getting a beef joint on Friday, it did mean that some fresh vegetables were needed to go with it. The easiest thing was to go down town, to the veg stall on Biggin Street, then go to a few other places and take photos of St James and once I had everything from town, drive up to Ayecliffe to snap the repairs to the sea wall from the cliffs.

Town was yet to get busy, so I rushed around getting vegetables and allergy relief spray, just in case of an attack.

The ongoing repairs to the sea wall at Shakespeare Cliffe, Dover Anyway, back to the car and then up along to Ayecliffe, park up and take myself and camera gear up along the narrow path up Shakespeare Cliff. In fact the one change apparent was that a huge crane had been assembled by the tunnel portals, but elsewhere, final work on the firm ground over which it, and other earthworking vehicles could operate safely. I walk right to the end of the path, to the start of the steepest part of the path leading up to the top of Shakespeare. Just getting there was enough for me.

The ongoing repairs to the sea wall at Shakespeare Cliffe, Dover I take the shots and make my way down the path back to the car, and then make my way back home, dodging into the lorries heading down to the Eastern Docks, then taking Jubilee Way back home.

And back in time to listen to Huey on 6 Records, have a brew then make a batch of Norfolk Shortcakes. This was to be lunch. Still warm shortcakes almost straight from the oven, with a nice big cuppa. Just like old times, really.

At half twelve, Jools went out for a barnet mangle of her very own, and I therefore can listen to the football, whilst doing all the other stuff that I fill a day i the living room with; editing photos, writing blogs, drinking tea.

Arsenal beat Everton, then Leicester beat Palace, whilst at the same time, Norwich take on WBA, and in a shock, win 1-0. An ungly win, and the goal coming from a scuffed shot, but still, well take anything we can, and so move out of the bottom three.

During the second half, I cook dinner: steak and all the usual stuff. It were mighty good, washed down with a pint or two of Old Crafty Hen.

I know the day doesn't sound exciting, but I enjoyed it, double so as it ended with England playing France in the final egg-chasing game in the 6 Nations, and thus winning the Grand Slam, but that really does not tell the whole story, we'll also take the first Grand Slam in 13 years.

And that was your Saturday; wins for Leicester, Norwich and England.

Saturday, 19 March 2016

Saturday 19th March 2016

As the world turns, the year moves on. It is now almost light when the alarm goes off at six in the morning. Now, I am thinking that my eyelids are getting thinner as I get older, because as soon as it is light, I wake up, which can be a bugger in high summer. In the back garden, in the new flower beds, the Fritillaria imperialis have now started to show above ground and are flowering furiously, with apparently, more an 1cm of growth a day at the moment, and new shoots showing daily too, pushing clumps of loam out of the way as they reach for the sky. I really hope these will be as spectacular as the ones I saw in Holland last spring. Time will tell I guess.

Fritillaria imperialis But as we rush towards the Spring equinox here in the northern hemisphere, in the south, it is the opposite, the last of the golden days of autumn before the long cold dark nights start stretching out for months ahead.

Friday

I woke up at half six, refreshed and with a chesty cough, but I no longer felt like death, which I saw as an improvement. As I posted on Faceache, you only realise how ill you have been when you start to get better. So, I spring up having heard the water boiling in the pot meaning coffee would soon be ready.

I have the day to myself, and despite feeling better than I did on Thursday, I did not feel like doing too much, in fact a day if leisure seemed very appealing, but with a trip to the butchers at some point, as I fancy some steak for Saturday.

As predicted, it was dull and overcast morning extended into the afternoon. I was going to see if St Mildred's was open in Preston when I went to the butcher, but in the end I knew it would be locked, so put that off for another time later in the year. Mid-morning I do go out, and drive out towards Thanet before taking the turn back towards Canterbry, then the Nash road to Preston. THe last of the winter broccoli was laying rotting in the field, and elsewhere, workers were busy getting the fruit trees ready for the new season.

Sadly, they already sold out of the wild garlic bangers, but promised more in the near future. So made do with tow topside joints, a shoulder of lamb, four ribeyes, pork pies, pork steaks. We won't go hungry, but then it is not just for this weekend, this will last for several weeks.

I had also bought a handmade Cornish Pasty, which are every bit as good as their pork pies, so I warmed that up in the oven whilst I put the rest of the shopping away, so it would be ready to eat once the kettle had boiled and my tea had brewed. I know how to live.

I edit lots of shots of churches whilst I listen to the radio. Outside it begins to drizzle, so I make a brew and turn the heating up a notch: The cats were telling me they were cold.

At three I go out to collect Jools from the car hore place, as it had to be returned before five, and she left work at four. Anyway, I had noticed a field of grass that had been mown over the previous two days, and I forgotten to snap, so I took the camera along with the big boy lens to get some shots. The light wasn't prefect, but good enough for what I wanted, with the lighthouse in the distance, just sticking up over the end of the filed.

Westcliffe That done, into town to Townwall Street where the yard was, and thus having to negotiate the roadworks and single lanes. Despite being a few days before the equinox, it was bitterly cold, and so I put the heated seats on, and for the first time ever, the heated steering wheel. And yes, you read that right. And it was needed.

Once Jools had handed the car back in, we drove into the rush hour traffic towards the Eastern Docks and then up Jubilee Way and so to home. Phew.

I had also made a huge pan of chilli in the afternoon, so all there was to do was cook the rice, warm the chilli back up, and we had dinner. And even if I say so myself, it was damn fine chilli too, not too spicy, but enough warmth to feel it in the back of your throat. Yummy. Heck, we both even had a small second helping. As you do.

We had a double helping of The Don, as Jools caught up on last week's episode, but then fell asleep during this week's. After we got caught up in the Loretta Lynn documentary on BBC4; he son being the star of the show, I'd like him as a friend cum drinking buddy. The music was great too, a strong woman kicking against a male dominated industry. I learned much.

Friday, 18 March 2016

Friday 18th March 2016

I have never subscribed the the nonsense that is St Patrick's Day. I am part Irish, owing to my Mother's heritage and distant relationship to the Beamish Brewers back in the old country. It has never occurred to me that this is anything else than part of who I am, I don't consider any part, no matter how small, to be slightly Irish. So, come March 17th each year, when the excuse to dress up and drink colured beer never appealed to me. I did drink green beer once, however. Back in the day, in Vegas I visited the Star Trek Experience at the Hilton, and seeing they sold Warsteiner (Wobbly), I stayed to sink a few. Only they called it Romulan Ale, coloured it green. Some 12 hours later, I was shocked to see that the colouring had turned my poo green. I thought I was seriously ill. Or turning into a cow. However, I remembered the green beer. So, let this be a warning to all of you.

Thursday

As you know, and if you didn't you might have realised after yesterday's post, that I am undertaking a project to photograph Kentish churches. I am up to over 240, that's an estimate, but it's going quite well. And whilst I have snapped many of the churches in East Kent now, there are a couple that are buggers to get into. Preston for one, and the former Betteshanger parish church, now the Northbourne School Chapel being another. So, a couple of weeks ago, I mailed the school and arranged a day and time when they would let me have the key. And yesterday was the day.

So, I lazed around until half nine, doing the usual Thursday chores; putting the bins out, cleaning up, feeding the birds, having breakfast. At nine fifteen, I grab all my camera gear, including the 80s monster tripod, loaded them into the car and drove along the Sandwich road to Northbourne.

The school must be a former country house, very grand with splendid grounds, in front of the main building was light woodland and under the trees and veritable carpet of daffodils waving in the breeze and glowing in the spring sunshine. The secretary came out to meet me: can I help you? Checking my notes, I explain that I had been speaking with Ms Jones and.... I got no further as she said, is it that time already? I'll get the keys for you. I follow her into the office, show her my driving licence, she is happy with who am I am that I am just a photographer. I am trusted with the keys, pointed the way to go, and left to it.

I get te bag, another camera and tripod out of the car and walk along the edge of the wood and daffodils to a set of ornamental steps leading down to the church, the tower of which I can just see above the trees surrounding it, lost in the haze of a misty spring morning. But the sunshine was warm, and it felt good to be alive, and in my sweaty hands, I had the key to the church.

St Mary's, Betteshanger, Kent At the porch I put the key in the lock, turned it and the modern lock just clicked. I turned the handle and pushed; the door swung open. It was almost as dark as night inside, I hoped there would be light switches otherwise it would be a short visit. I found the bank of switches, flicked them all down, and an interior of Victorian delights was revealed. I rarely read up on a church before I visit, but I knew this to be a largly Victorian building, with only a few memorials from the long-demolished Norman one, but the fine detail of the carving and other work took me by surprise.

I took shots handheld with the 6D, then using the tripod took the wide angle shots. I was there just over half an hour, and I think I had snapped everything.

I switched the lights off, and locked the door. Making my way back up the slope to the steps and the main part of the school. Mission accomplished!

I handed the key back, loaded the camera gear back in the car, then pondered what to do next. There was a chance I could meet a friend at Kingsdown at half eleven, so I had an hour to kill. I had some stuff to get from Tescos, some bird food from the pet food shop, so that is where I went. With the scanner it was a simple task in going round to buy some rolls and ingredients for some handmade bread. I paid and left, was loading the car in about ten minutes.

I make my way along the Deal road, with some Landrover behind me, tailgating all the way, wanting me either to go faster or overtake, but I have been enough cars either in hedges or on the rooves in the fields beyond to know better than that. After fighting my way down Kingsdown High Street, or whatever its called, I park opposite the public toilet block on the way to the golf course, the orchid site being just the other side of the hedge.

Due to the prolonged chilly period, the rosettes had not advanced that much since my last visit, one maybe had a spike forming. Not sure. My friend, Mark, was not about, I then became away of the sound of a PTO, and saw a builder's Mercaht lorry near to where I had safely parked. Instead of waiting, the lorry had just parked next to my car and was unloading whilst blocking the road so no one could get by.

I throw my gear in the back and reverse out, with a driver inches from my bumper as I tried to make way. Some patience needed, perchance. Anyway, the road was now passable.

I drove a couple of hundred metres to repack my gear safely, realising i was at the bottom of the road leading to Kingsdown Church. A different Kingsdown church, and John said this one was always open. So, I take the cameras back out and walk up the slope then through the churchyard.

St John The Evangelist, Kingsdown, Kent A playgroup had just ended, but I was made welcome, and indeed had a great chat with the young lady running the group, and were both entertained by her daughter, demanding attention. Another fine Victorian church, with much to recommend it to anyone passing.

Thursday afternoon walk I go back home for lunch, and in the process of unloading the stuff from the car, I realise I am feeling quite crappy. I worry about sucj stuff all the time, sometimes worry that when I feel tired its just like before Dad died and he slowed down and I would die of a massive heart attack soon.

Thursday afternoon walk The sun is shining still outside, a cool breeze had built, but should be great weather for walking. I ache all over, and really don't feel like it, and once out can feel each step as it sends bolts of pain up my spine. I make it across the fields, past the pig's copse, with no pigs in it, still, and halfway down the dip. I give in, turn round and struggle up the slope and back home.

Inside I get congested, so take allergy medicine, congestion medicine, and make a tea. Nothing works, I am bunged up and in a bad mood. I try sitting on the sofa, at the table and laying on the bed and feel shit in all three.

Thursday afternoon walk Jools comes home at half five, I make fishcake sandwiches; yes you read that right. I lave them with sweet chili sauce and it is a triumph.

I spend the evening feeling sorry for myself, listening to the football, trying to clear my sinuses, and failing.

Thursday, 17 March 2016

Thursday 17th March 2016

Wednesday

First day off, and I have a full day planned. A really full day.

Over the past week I had developed a plan of places to go, churches to photograph. As always, there is a risk that many might be closed, but having selected a second half of the list as being made of CCT run churches, and their policy of them being open every day, I was hopeful that I might do well. And as it turned out, managed to see inside seven of the nine. Sounds like something from Star Trek.

Many years ago, Jools and I went to Ayelsford to see the ancient pack bridge, with the village bathed in warm sunlight on the other side of the Medway. Showing how long ago it was, I did not visit the church, AT ALL. Anyway, with that in mind, I had been told by my Kentish church expert friend, John Vigar, that it was well worth seeing inside. And that if locked, the key could be collected from the village post office.

Aylesford, Kent So, at quarter to nine, once I had eaten breakfast and had the second cup of coffee, I set off towards Dover, along the Alkham Valley and then up the M20 past Maidstone to Ayesford. I really did not need the sat nav, but had it on anyway. Radio six played in the background, the usual mix of morning stuff and great tunes.

Aylesford is an ancient village, but being so close to Maidstone, pressure is on for more housing, so there was talk of more new houses yet to be built.

I found a place to park the car, walked up the hill to the church. A good sign is that the gate of the porch was open, so I walk in and find a service under way.

Aylesford, Kent I find out later it wasn't a service, it was a reading, as the parish does not have a vicar at the moment, so prayers were said to guide those in charge to appoint a "good" one.

Ss. Peter and Paul, Ayesford, Kent I sat at the back, the first time I have attended a service for many, many years. As it was a reading, there were no hymns, but many prayers said, for the great and good, and for some locals.

Ss. Peter and Paul, Ayesford, Kent After the service the reader seeked me out, and we spoke, turns out he was just the reader, and not the vicar as I thought, but he was very friendly, but others of the congregation were more wary.

Ss. Peter and Paul, Ayesford, Kent I ran round getting shots whilst they cleared away the items used in the reading, waiting for me to finish. I think I got the shots I wanted, but we shall see.

Ss. Peter and Paul, Ayesford, Kent Ss. Peter and Paul, is large, the side chapel is as large as many Kentish parish churches. And the north chapel is dominated by a rather relaxed and well dressed family, who if the reader is right, were the main movers and shakers in bringing William and Mary to Merrie Olde England.

Ss. Peter and Paul, Ayesford, Kent It features a recently renovated and brightly pained organ, and on the Chancel roof, gold stars have been painted on the beams. I rush round getting my shots as the small group watching me, all but tapping their fingers on a pew in frustration. Anyway, I get most of what I want, so thank them all again, and am out back in the bright sunshine.

I walk back down to the car, checking my list off in my head. I had planned my trip based on postcodes, as I did not have my co-pilot, Jools, with me. So anyway. Next stop, Birling.

All Saints, Birling, Kent A few minute drive brought me to Birling, a wonderful little village strung out along the main road, overlooked by the church on a small rise. I am past the church and following the lane round before I know it, as see no parking area. So, after turning round, I see there is a gate where I suppose the hearse backs in; well, I take my chances and park there, walk through the gate and into the large graveyard to the church. On the far side there is a set of steep stops leading up from the lych gate, and beyond is the village smithy, all clapboard and tumbledown and wonderful. I try the door, and it is locked. After walking down the steps I find the church notice board, and luckily, a keyholder lives opposite.

All Saints, Birling, Kent She thinks I am selling something, but soon smiles when I say I want to see inside the church, and points to a huge key hanging on a nail. I take it, with many words of thanks and a wave. Back up the steps, I put the key in the well-worn hole, it turned: I pushed the door and light flooded into the dark interior.

All Saints, Birling, Kent Like a lot of country churches, the local landed gentry had dominated the memorials inside. There appeared to me a metal door before the altar in the floor leading to a family vault below. It was emblazened with coats of arms similar to the ones on the wall, I guess. The shields on the wall seemed to commemorate each member of the high family that had been in which chivalric order, which was nice, if a tad boastful.

All Saints, Birling, Kent I go round taking my shots, covering all the angles, before switching off the lights, locking the door once again and hanging the key back on the rusty nail. Back in the car I program the postcode for the next church, Paddlesworth, and set off on the short drive there.

St Benedict, Paddlesworth, Kent This is the second Paddlesworth in Kent, the other is near Folkestone, and it is an ancient if rustic church, but a delight. This Paddlesworth is just a farm, or a collection of farm buildings, a house and the church. I say church, it is the most rustic of ancient Norman two cell churches, and certainly more rustic than the other one near Folkestone. At least it is under the care of the Church Conservation Trust which should mean it was open. I park the car in the corner of the farmyard and next to the ragstone wall of the church. I go to try the door, and it does not move. Well, it moves but does not open. I stand arund for 5 minutes looking stupid at the passing tractors and forklift trucks hoping someone would stop to help. None does, so I flag down the forklift driver to ask him: he tells me the door is stiff, and shows me how easy the door was. He can't open it either. He advises to go to ask the farmer in the green building behind the barn.

St Benedict, Paddlesworth, Kent He is crestfallen, as he thinks he has somehow failed in his duty to open the church on time, but he said there had been a group of young lads hanging around at the weekend, so he thought it best to secure it, and forgot to reopen it again. He was as nice as pie, and left me with the door open after he had unlocked it with a key large enough to be the one for the Bank of England.

St Benedict, Paddlesworth, Kent Inside it really very simple, only one memorial, a few simple pews and a small altar. The few windows were plain but with some red at the bottom. I take shots, go outside to take more, and in a few minutes i was done. What an amazing little building, and showing what a lot of the Kentish Norman churches must have looked like soon after they were built and all those side chapels, towers and the such added.

Next up is Snodland, a small town, and the church is the other side of a level crossing and beside a paper factory. It was very much as grim as it sounds. Saying that the church itself looked interesting, but it was locked, and there were no details of keyholders or anything else. I take a couple of shots and leave for Halling.

Just a few miles away, Halling was a nicer village, and the church looked more Kentish, but it was locked fast too, and again with no details on hpw to get in. I take more shots, tricky as I looking into the sun. I can always go back.

By this point I was fed up with urban churches being locked, and so decided to skip Cuxton, which I knew was a larger town than either of these. Next on the list is Burham.

The church is down the hill from the modern village, and it had been replaced by a Victorian one, which has since been demolished. St Mary sits at the end of a long single track lane, next to another farm. I know it would be open, and its rural location is confirmed with the rustic feel again inside, with a few pews, an altar and two fonts; both ancient.

I have the place to myself again, I take shots inside and out, and am now on a roll.

I program the next church, this and the remaining two are all around Faversham, which will give me a half hour drive, able to listen to the radio, and as I was going almost right past Stockbury, call in and check on the orchids.

I park in the usual place beside the wood, go for a short walk to the clearing, which had been cleared further, and in the usual place on the far side, the ground is covered in Early Purple rosettes. A few have what might be a spike growing, or they could be more leaves unfolding. Anyway, it is good to be back here at the start of the new season, ready for the approaching madness.

Anyway, I am thirsty, and I know there is a Shepherd Neame pub in the village: it is open, but the card reader is broken, so cash only so make do with a pint of Bishop's Finger and a pack of crisps. All of the major foodgroups.

St Mary Old Church, Burham, Kent Goodnestone, a different Goodnestone to the one near Deal, is on the eastern side of Faversham, down a long and winding dead end lane, across a farmyard. The church sits in almost splendid isolation. I park on the grass, there is nowhere else, grab the cameras and go inside. Given its location and surroundings, its no surprise that it is rustic. I could hear the wind whistling around the belltower, and inside it was as warm as a fridge. I really wanted just to go home, but there was still two more churches on the list.

St Mary Old Church, Burham, Kent Almost as isolated was Luddenham, also down a long dead end lane which ended at a farm. I park next to some railworker's vans, there was a footpath cum lane leading to a simple church, partly hidden by trees. The wind had grown stronger and colder. Why is it I do this?

St Mary, Luddenham, Kent Beciase the buildings are amazing, amazing in some cases that they survived or are still standing. The church is well lit with the light coming in through plain windows, I get the shots of the simple church, nothing fancy, then I consider whether to do the 10th and final one on the list: I realise it is the one designed by AW Pugin, which means I will go.



St Mary, Luddenham, Kent Pugin was a genius, born with a fervour for God and the Catholic church. He saw classical architecture as pagan, and saw Gothic as true Christian; or something like that. So, in is 40-something years he designed and built many churches and other buildings, including a family house and adjoining 'perfect' church in Ramsgate. Kingsdown is the only surviving Anglican church he designed, and it is this church that is my final port of call.

St Catherine, Kingsdown, Kent I could see the Gothic spire from across the fields, showing above it's surrounding trees. There is just a large grassed area outside the churchyard, so I leave the car there and look at the gate and path leading to the porch, lined with open daffodils on both sides, all bobbing in the cold breeze. Inside there are all the Gothic touches you would expect, tablets, friezes and windows. All rather marvelous. But, light is fading, or getting flat, I have taken 639 shots in the day, and before I go home I must brave Tesco. It will be nearly 5 before I get home.

St Catherine, Kingsdown, Kent I drive gently down the A2, past Canterbury to Dover, finding a bay near the entrance, I zip round filling up the trolley and bags with stuff. I am back home at quarter to five, met by a chorus of meows from all three cats who were demanding to know where the heck I had been and where was dinner? So, I put the shopping away, feed them, and then prepare dinner, breaded pork steaks and fried potatoes. Always a good meal, lots of dirty good. We'd be better tomorrow.

Or not.

In the evening, there is yet more football on the wireless; Arse v Barca, would be entertaining which ever way it went. Barca played with on arm tied behind their back and still ran out 3-1 winners to go through, and leaving Mr Wenger looking very sour indeed.