Saturday, 30 April 2016

Saturday 30th April.

We have made it to the end of another month, and are still fighting. That's something to be happy about. But before I tell you about the weekend, we have to go back a whole 24 hours to what happened on Friday.


The realisation that our holiday is almost upon us, is the fact that I had just two working days to do before the holiday begins, and there is a lot to squeeze in, what with me making rash promises about what I can deliver in a week. Coupled with the fact I have to do my other main job as well. I shouldn't complain, I know others have worse workloads that that, but it seems that I will have more to do on this next week and when I come back from Holiday. I kid myself that it is good to be wanted, no?

There is then the weekly battle with the VPN client and the uploading of working hours: Should be easy, but is everything but. I give up and add it to the neverending list of jobs for Tuesday, which should be my last working day.

Outside the wind had got up, I did go out with the camera in the hope of snapping something, but there was little wildlife about, certainly no insects on the wing, so I go back inside and get back to work. The day passes, the radio burbles in the background, and the document I am working on swells and sells in size.

At four I am pooped, I can concentrate no more, I am seeing things from staring at the computer screen for eight hours straight. As I pack stuff away, Jools arrives home with her holiday barnet done, which means I have to get mine done over the weekend. We have a Magnum each; pink raspberry flavour, and I get down to doing dinner; sausages and chips and beans. Which is very dirty food, and therefore wonderful.

Jools goes to see the old folks in Whitfield, dropping off her tender plants to go in Dad's greenhouse, whilst I write a blog and mess around. On TV I find the Star Trek reboot just starting, so I find the +1 channel, and is just beginning when Jools comes home, so we sit on the sofa to watch that, and so the evening vanishes.

A quiet day, filled with work, but now there is a three day weekend to look forward to.

Friday, 29 April 2016

Friday 29th April 2016

Before we go on, can I ask how many of you have signed up for e mail notifications on an update of the blog, or some other such method, as according to Blogspot, I have four followers, and one of those is me! I know many more read it that that, but just wondering.

Anyway, on with the worms.

And you might get a little bored by this subject in the next 6 days, but in a week we shall be in Tokyo, it will be the middle of the night and we hope to have the jet lag beaten. I can't really say what we expect, or what I expect, other than to be amazed on a moment by moment basis. Please bear with me, and normal service will be resumed at the end of, er, May. There will no blogs for 15 days, but I plan to write daily and be able to post them when I get back, and there will be photos too of course!

Monday has been given over to be the day of preparations, making lists, packing and the other stuff we need to do. So we don't forget anything, which wouldn't be clever. Anyway, just one working day, a 3 day weekend and a day of operation cat roundup to go, and we'll be on our way to the airport.

But on with the blog:


Outside it looks like Spring, it smells like Spring, but the temperature is anything but springlike. We had snow the other day, and it really hasn't warmed up much. Plants and flowers are still growing, but it feels parky with the wind in the north, but it might warm up a tad over the weekend, lets hope so.

Spring morning Seven years ago, I was getting ready to leave Kazakhstan, you can go back to May 2009 and read my words, I did today, and it was amazing to read the things we saw cruising on the Caspian Sea. In 2011 we left to country to avoid the Royal Wedding, and so we in Germany, staying in a winery for the weekend. Still saw some newspaper headlines though, but we did have a great time of course. I suppose this shows how things have changed over time, as in 2010 I had just started at my current employer and was drowning in a sea of information. But I must have done OK as they kept me on. And so I suppose this means who knows where we shall be in two years, 5 years ten years time? And that goes for any of us.

Wallflower I have some serious work to do, so serious it has to be done in silence so I can concentrate, and pop music would interfere with my brain waves, if I had any. Anyways, I have lots to do, and there are always distractions to be avoided.

I am taking a break on the sofa with a coffee, when there is a large brown shadow against the window, causing the birds in the front garden to scatter. Of course I cannot be sure, but I think it was a sparrowhawk, only the second I have seen. It got nothing I think, but exciting stuff.

Windflower By five, I have done the first part, create a document that feels like it is pretty darn good. Outside the sun is still shining, and the plan is a walk and dinner out.

Its funny, through the winter we moan that it is not light enough to go for a walk in the evening, and yet when it is light enough, we are either too tired or hungry to actually go.

Thursday evening walk to The Smugglers for dinner The best way then might be to walk to dinner, in this case at The Smugglers in the village, walking over the fields to Fleet House, down The Dip, up the other side and then back into the village, past the pond to the pub. Where they did have a table, thankfully.

It looks warm enough, but was really cold, and Jools just wearing a cardy and shorts. THe horses were not interested in our passing, but the chickens were.

Thursday evening walk to The Smugglers for dinner And all the time the shadows lengthened and the light turned gold.

One of the houses opposite has bought an area of the field and seems to have planted an orchard, and I certainly like the geometric lines the supports make. Will keep and eye on it for sure.

Thursday evening walk to The Smugglers for dinner The Red Lion has closed its doors and is now for sale. Not sure if it will reopen as a pub, but we live in hope of course.

Inside the Smugglers we have Mexican food, nachos to start and something spicy to follow. And beer. And cider. And we are stuffed, but all is good.

The Smugglers, St Margaret's-at-Cliffe We walk home down Station Road as dusk falls; it is colder, but we are kept warm by the power of Mexican food.

Thursday, 28 April 2016

Thursday 28th April 2016

I have been wanting to say this for some time, but we are going to Japan next week! Eeek, how darned exciting does that sound? I just hope we are prepared for all we want to do; today I received the opportunity from British Airways to choose my inflight meal on the flight out. Which was nice. Now we are nearly at the departure date, anything we have forgotten is too late now. Maybe just buy a new pair of shoes or trainers and I'll be done. Now that I've got the lens of course. And so, just two more working days to go; yes it really is that close, and it will be time to go. Before hand, there is a three day weekend, hopefully some fine weather and time for orchid hunting and a barnet mangle. I have given up on City staying up, if they do win the two or three games needed, it'll be luck that there were two worse teams in the division. But, onwards and upwards....


After the long drive into Ramsgate yesterday, well long in time if not distance, it seems a luxury to be able to wave Jools off to work at seven and pop the kettle on for more coffee and breakfast before the stress of the working day begins. Despite being sunny, it is cold out there, in fact there has been frosts all week, and during the day it fails to be break above 10 degrees, but the sunshine is bright, and in the house it is lovely and warm.

Spring Morning I have a mammoth task, turning out a document for a new project, and making sure it is in a usable state by the end of the week, so with a strong cup of coffee and silence in the house I get to work, and only stoppingfor dinner and answering phone calls, I work through until four, at which point I have the bare bones of what I need. Phew, that was a long hard day of concentrating, but worth it, and so I thought I deserved a small beer before I begin to prepare dinner. There is a bottle of the Leffe 9% rocket fuel; oh well, can't hurt. Only I have to cut a couple of chicken breasts in half, which after just a small bottle of the Leffe requires some more concentration.

Heads Storm clouds gather outside, and soon sleep and hail are falling, bringing the cats rushing in. Is it dinner time they ask?

We have breaded chicken and Lentil Dahl, which is lovely, and requires a certain kind of beer to go with it; a bottle of Esbjerg Brewed smoked stout, which isn't bad, more like a porter, but the smoke flavour seems very artificial compared to the Mikkler I had a few weeks back in Arhus.

Stormy I find out there is free to air football on TV, Athletico v Bayern, and is a great game with the home side winning 1-0. Even better as it was free too.

And so ends another day, time is running out before the fun really starts!

Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Wednesday 28th April 2016


Interview day, as I have previously blogged, but also it was back to work day, working from home day, and all things generally returning to normal after three weeks of traveling. Of course, traveling is now generally the norm, and working from home the exception, but hey.

Foolishly, a few weeks back, I promised few weeks back to provide some rather important documents to my boss at the end of this week, so, I had better make good on that promise and get started. I arrange meetings, get templates and begin work, and through the day, inbetween breaks for breakfast, mid-morning coffee, elevenses, lunch, brunch, afternoon tea, high tea I get it done until I have what is an OK first draft. That leaves me with four days to complete the other document.

All through the day I am helped by the cats, who check up whether I will maybe give them an extra meal. Or two.

The afternoon is full of meetings, the final one finishing just before my friend Gary comes round, he is here to snap the scenes behind the video camera. And you can read all about that in the post from yesterday, below. Once they had gone, and I bid them farewell into the taxi, Jools had just returned home all full of questions asking how it all went. I tied to answer, but I suppose my head was a bit scrambled; what better way to help than to feat on leftover pasta salad and aubergine? None whatsoever. I have a bottle of beer from the Farno Brewhouse in Denmark, which I have to say goes down very well indeed.

It comes as no surprise to learn that there was football that evening on the wireless, Tottenham v the Baggies, and all Spurs had to do was win to keep up the pressure on Leicester. And, in the first half it was going wekk, 1-0 up, playing well, hitting the woodwork 3 times. But after the break, they lost their way and conceded midway through the half, and could have lost the game. It ended 1-1, and so leaves Leicester needing just one more win from their last 3 games to claim the title. Incredible stuff.


On Monday I had a problem updating my work laptop, which could only be fixed by going to the nearest offices, in Ramsgate, plugging into the network then updating. The update would take 2 minutes, but in order to be able to do this caused great disruption. Mainly for jools who had to either be taken into work and collected, catch a bus either way, or a combination of both. In the end I said I would take her into work, then in the evening she would catch a bus to Dover and I would pick her up.

Sounds easy, but we had to be up early and out of the house by half six, driving along Townwall Street was fine as there was no ferry in at the time, and the roadworks where the roundabout is being taken away from was no problems either. So it should have all been plain sailing. Or driving. And was until we came to the Roundhill Tunnels, where there had been a major accident and the road was closed, meaning we had to file onto the exit lane, go round the roundabout and get back on the road. This took the best part of 20 minutes, so was running a little behind, but once onto the A20 then on the back road to Hythe it was fine.

Coming back was OK, I picked up my work bag from home and thought a drive through Deal would be OK. And was until I got past Shouldham where I was in a massive line of cars stuck behind a roadsweeping truck, traveling at 5mph. That took another 20 minutes to get past, and by then it was rush hour at Ramsgate where the road divides to go up to Westwood Cross, stuck in more traffic there until I could turn off through the tunnel to the old ferry terminal and the office. Once I got past the roadworks along the seawall where they are laying a new sewer; another 5 minutes lost there.

I forgot how pleasant to commute to Ramsgate could be, through the Kentish countryside, fields alive with colour and the air thick with the smell of wild garlic as I went past Waldershare. What I don't miss is the crazy driving and chaos on the Sandwich bypass. However, I have the radio on, and all is well with the world.

Early Spider Orchid Ophrys sphegodes Once into the office, and after the usual pleasantries after meeting friends and colleagues for the first time in many months, I powered up the laptop, changed the password, and was done. But I had other stuff I could do, and with the late arrival meant waiting until I had had a meeting before I could drive back home. This time getting stuck behind a tractor and stretching out the return trip to nearly an hour too.

Back home I have lunch, survey the back garden as the frits are beginning to fade now, but away from the south side look fine still.

Meetings, meetings, meetings. In the afternoon. It clouds over and looks like rain. So much so it does rain. Nearby, Faceache updates tell me its snowing in Dover, which is where it should stay. If you ask me.

I go to pick up Jools at six, then we drive home via the cliffs as the clouds had parted and allowed some late afternoon sunshine, highligting the storm clouds over France, though in drops of sunlight we could see the cliffs clearly.

Chorizo hash with Danish smoked stout to wash it down with, was a fine dinner, as we were both darned hungry. And then there was the small matter of the CL semi final between Citeh and Real; which was a borefest, so much so I went for a shower twenty minutes before half time. I missed nothing as the game ended in a 0-0 draw. Oh well.

Tuesday, 26 April 2016

27 years and 11 days

That is all it took to get something approaching justice. Justice for the families of 96 people who went to a football match on a sunny spring day in April 1989.

Just about everyone who should have looked after them, or when that failed, investigated what went wrong so that it would not happen again, or look after the sick and dying, either was useless, poorly lead or just lies and lies and kept on lying about it for nearly a quarter of a century.

THe police lied about the opening of a gate, blaming it on drunken fans, when an office ordered it to be open. A lie was made up about drunken fans stealing from the dead, urinating on the bodies and the police. The lie was repeated, and retold by newspapers, even though it soon became clear that wasn't The Truth. It took one paper until 2012 to admit The Lie, although they re-employed the editor who insisted The Lie was published. The coroner at the original inquest decided that all fans would die after 15:16 and so listened to no evidence after that point, missing evidence that better first aid could have saved many of the fans. The ambulance service were so poorly lead, that dozens of vehicles were lined up outside, whilst inside fans died. The ground had not had a valid safety certificate since 1980, and yet had staged not just league games, but cup games through the decade. Even the Prime Minister guessed the truth, but did nothing. Her press secretary insulted fan's groups, and today still refused to withdraw his remarks. An independent investigation by another police force failed to find anything wrong, but by then many note books had been tampered and officers who had been on duty pressured to change their statements. And all the time the fans were blamed for their own deaths, and their grieving families accused of self pity.

It took Andy Burnham, attending the 20th anniversary service at Anfield to hear the fan's anger that finally persuaded him to launch an inquiry. The Independent Panel reported in 2012, and made several recommendations, including annulling the inquests of all the 96. So for the last two years, in a business park in Warrington, inquests into the 96 deaths were re-held; and witnesses spoke on oath, and the cover up was revealed in detail.

Despite all the above, it is unlikely that anyone will face criminal charges for what happened, senior police officers who either took part that day, or in the cover up in the days, weeks and years afterwards, have MBEs and knighthoods and expensive pensions, living in their mansions, affected not one jot by what happened today.

But there has been closure for the families. And 96 ghosts can sleep untroubled, cleared of their own deaths, having been victims of the largest criminal cover up in modern times, maybe in history. And all down to the hard work and dignity of the families, so of which did not live themselves to see justice. The country should be ashamed. The police should be ashamed. The Sun should be ashamed. The Ambulance Service should be ashamed.

In the end it could have happened to the fans of any club; I was att he other semi-final, had the draw gone the other way, could have been us. Could have been us at any time.

Tuesday 26th April 2016


Interview day.

Those of you who read my words on a regular basis will know that via a series of unfortunate events, I was approached by the BBC to be interviewed about being a music geek. In particular the charts I used to write and keep during most of the 1980s. The question really was, why did we do it. I say we as it was my friend, Trevor's, idea. Initially it was frustration at the rubbish in the chart, but then for me it was a way to find new music and I think keep track of it. Back in 1980, I was 14 going on 15 and could barely afford to buy one single a week, let alone albums, so instead of buying stuff, I kept my charts, recorded songs of the radio, marked the start point from the tape counter on my music system, and come Tuesday night, pretend I was a DJ on my own radio station, doing the chart rundown.

My inner music geek Chartbound sounds, if you will.

So, I talked about what it is now; a window into my music tastes on a week by week basis, and for me that is really invaluable to me; seeing whnI switched from just liking music to switching to Heavey Metal, and then to what was called electropop, Soft Cell, Depeche Mode and so on. For the researcher, it was a look into the music tribes of the day; mods, rockers, indie kids, metal heads, punks, skins, soul boys and straights. Because, even if you didnt fall into one of the music tribes, one was created for you anyway; straights.

Being miked up I recalled how we went to Youth Club on a Tuesday night, 50p for two hours of music; 90 minutes of disco and soul, twenty minutes of ska and Two Tone and two heavy rock records; almost always Paranoid and Whole Lotta Rosie. A few of us also used to go to the Caroline Roadshow at the South Pier too, but that got boring too, and as a group we grew out of it, and were blessed with new albums by Echo and the Bunnymen, The Cure, New Order, Depeche Mode, Soft Cell, Heaven 17, Human League, Altered Images, and so on and on and on. We were, in a word, spoilt for choice.

The interview The I was asked to read out charts from through 1980, showing how my tastes changed from month to month, which it did very clearly. From the start in March I was into all sorts of music including The Specials, The Jam, Blondie; but by July it was half filled with metal from the Tommy Vance Show.

I was interviewed by a young lady, Zoe, who was both the researcher and camerawoman; I was filmed taking the chart book off the shelf, then going to sit down before talking about the charts. Zoe also had a PA, whose name I have forgotten in all the excitement.

Run VT In all, it went on for three hours, and we covered what it was like growing up in Lowestoft, a hundred miles and a hundred light years from the bright lights of London; how hard it was to get records, see bands and even hear the songs we wanted, only thanks to John Peel of course.

It will be broadcast in late September or early October, and I await the results with trepidation.

Monday, 25 April 2016

Monday 25th April 2016

The day of the interview.

But I think you'll have to wait until tomorrow for news of that!

Its what we bloggers call a cliffhanger.


The ongoing repairs to the sea wall at Shakespeare Cliffe, Dover And being the weekend, the BBC soothsayer did foretell that the heavens shall open and a torrent of ye cats and doges shall fall. Or would do nearer luncheon time.

Now, I can't really remember what I did for the morning, but it probably concerned listening to Prince-based radio shows, writing blog posts, editing shots. Outside the clouds cleared, and the sun did shine. So, I gathered up my camera gear and went out in the car, whilst Jools tended the garden. I had a date with a cliff path overlooking the sea wall to record the latest work, and then maybe go to check on the orchids at the Hoe.

The ongoing repairs to the sea wall at Shakespeare Cliffe, Dover I drive through the town to Aycliffe, through a heavy shower that quickly turned into bright sunshine, but then I suppose it is April after all.

Up on the cliff path, I saw at least three cranes, a piling machine and several new piles; you could get some ointment for those you know. As I walked back, the sun came out and the view is fantastic, with the path in the foreground and the view over Shakespeare Beach in the background and the harbour and white cliffs right at the back. Good here, innit?

Early Spider Orchid Ophrys sphegodes A quick drive up the A20 to the slip road to Samphire and orchid heaven.

Indeed there were few nearer the car park than in previous years, and further along they were even more numerous. I met a couple of snappers from Sussex, and showed them where the main part of the colony was, and the very nice variant I found; they seemed very pleased, as was I. I had thought about driving from there back to Kingsdown, but as I looked the clouds seemed to thicken, so I made for home via the cliff road from the castle, reveling in the views from the top over the Channel to France.

Early Spider Orchid Ophrys sphegodes Back home we have lunch, more pan fried asparagus and crusty bread, and all is well with the world.

There is football in the afternoon on the radio, Leicester thrashed Swansea to move even closer to the title, and all was even better with the world, at least that part which is forever Leicester.

Early Spider Orchid var. flavescens Ophrys sphegodes Pasta salad and, yes, pan fried breaded aubergine for dinner. Lovely and light, and I hope some of you have now tried this delight since I put the recipe up.

Sunday, 24 April 2016

Sunday 24th April 2016


St George's Day

400th Anniversary of William Shakespeare's death

FA Cup semi-final weekend


And the weekend comes round once again! Hurrah! Bob over the road is up early at seven to put of the flag of St George to celebrate St George's Day, whilst after coffee I went to Tesco for some essentials. And croissants. And inside I found some nice looking English asparagus which I decided would be just splendid for lunch, fried lightly in butter.

Back home and Jools decides that the idea of driving round the county looking for orchids wasn't for her, so I could go on me tod. So, after more coffee and croissants, I loaded my camera, three lenses and loaded the car.

First port of call was Kingsdown to check on the small colony of Early Spiders, and thankfully, there was one (almost) flowering spikes, with two showing, although not fully out. I am worried that this colony is shrinking, over 25 three years ago, and less than ten yesterday Some might be late in showing though, we shall see.

Early Spider Orchid Ophrys sphegodes From there it was a long drive to Barham, going via Deal, Sandwich, Wingham; crossing the country, mostly bathed in cool spring sunshine. Yes, cool, the wind was set in the north so that took the edge of the warmth of the day. Through Barham and over more fields and through woods to the bridleway and wood where I hoped to see more Early Purples.

Pink among the blue The clouds cleared as I walked up the bridleway, so when I came to the orchids I was able to snap them in their purple gloryness. There must have been 30 or more flowering spikes, a good show for this time in the season, but sure there will be more to come in the coming weeks. There were no signs of the rarer colour variations; the pale pink and the pure white var. alba. But the bluebells stretched as far as the eye could see, looking just wonderful in the dappled sunshine.

The light wan't due to last much beyond midday, but I thought I would give Yocklets a go, as it was just a short blast down Stone Street from Canterbury.

Early Purple Orchid Orchis mascula I got the parking space at the side of the reserve, which means a shorter walk than usual, and at first checked on the Lady Orchid copse, which had been cleared over the winter, revealing two massive Lady rosettes, which in a couple of weeks would look fine in the unbroken sunshine now the copse had been cleared.

Along the lower path to the main part of the reserve, and so begun the annual hunt for the first Fly; Fly Orchids being so small are easy to miss, especially when they are just spikes, lost among other woodland plants. But there was one I remembered which is always the first to show, and rows in the open. So, I make for that, but I meet a fellow photographer on the way, and we have a fine chat about orchids and nature in general as I look for the elusive Fly.

Fly Orchid Ophrys insectifera I do find the spike where I remembered; its leaves had been nibbled, but the spike was untouched, and should be in flower within a week. Maybe I will have time to go back. Or not.

I show the guy where the Sloe Worms could be found, and we were rewarded with three of them, all pretty shocked at their home having been invaded. We both took shots and let them be.

Slow Worm Anguis fragilis I bid Malcolm farewell, and walked back to the car, and with the sun just past midday, I drove home via the A1 for fine lunch of fresh asparagus and some crusty bread smothered in creamy butter. And yes, it was as fine as it sounds. Lovely stuff.

With Norwich not playing this week, it was a fairly calm afternoon listening to the Prem on the radio, especially when Liverpool took a 2-0 lead over Newcastle, but in the 2nd half, Toon came back and really should have won the game. So, the three teams are split by just one point and goal difference.

Later, Man Utd played Everton in the Cup, and in a surprisingly good game, Utd nicked it in injury time, with something like the 40th shot on goal winning it.

After dinner we watch a Billy Fury documentary; he was my Mum's favourite, and was an interesting story, and a window into the world in Britain before The Beatles arrived and rewrote the rule book.

Saturday, 23 April 2016

Saturday 23rd April 2016


My original travel plans for the week had included a very late return to Heathrow; from there I would have to have got to central London then to Kent. At least a two hour trip, if not nearer three, meaning I would get home at midnight. So Jools decided it would be better to come and pick me up, and we would be home in 90 minutes. And then the meeting on Thursday got cancelled, and so changed my travel, hence I was home by teatime.

In order to be able to pick me up, she had booked a day off on Friday, and with it being a day off in DK, and having caught up with work, we might go out during the day, doing "stuff".

I woke up with Scully asleep on my feet, as is the usual way when am at home, it was twenty to seven, and there was brightness creeping round the edge of the curtains. I stretch then get up to feed the cats and make coffee. Soon the smell of brewing coffee spread through the house; it is a fine way to start the day, topping up the espresso with hot water. Jools has her instant coffee, that me being a coffee snob, shidders to make, but as she likes it like that, then who am I to argue?

I check mails, fire off some replies and update some project documents. In an hour I am done, and we then have to nip into Canterbury. It has come to pass that my photography has outgrown the EF-S format and in particular the Sigma 10-20mm lens. What with the trip to Japan coming up, I don't really want to lig two lenses around, so the thought was of trading in the camera and lens for a full frame wide angle zoom. Canterbury Cameras had what I wanted, and with Jools wanting to nip into the city centre, it gave me time to buy the lens, if it was still there of course.

Lens We drive up the A2 to the city, park near St Augustine's Abbey, and from there it a short walk to the shop. I had been in communication with the shop during the week, so when I walk in the shop and ask about the lens, they say, "Are you Ian?". I am indeed. I try the lens, it is sharp as a razor blade, so I put it on my credit card and the lens is mine.

Test shot I go to wait in the car, and switch Radio 6 on as they are playing Prince tunes all day, and it is great stuff, even if the reason for them playing is not.

We are both hungry, it is nudging half eleven, which means it was nearly lunchtime, so the next question was where to eat? I had thought either Whickhambreaux or Ickham, and as there was no parking to be had at the former, the Duke William in Ickham it was.

There is a good menu: Jools chooses fish pie and I decide in fish and chips. Every time O have that, I think of a certain former Olympic Cyclist on the other side of the world, thinking he would love to be here waiting for lunch. Indeed, when it arrives, the fish is pure white showing how fresh it is, and the batter is so golden, so crispy; perfect. I sup a pint of Ripple Steam whilst I eat, then am tempted to have rhubarb and cold custard compote, which was very bitter-sweet, and perfect.

We drive home so I can check on work mails once more, then try the lens out at home, but I really need to go somewhere church-like to really put it through its paces.

I put my old Sigma lens and the 50D for sale, and right away have someone asking about it. We agree a fee and he will come by at seven to pick it up and pay me! No going back now. So, we make the deal.

On the radio, wall to wall Prince tunes plays on. What a dreadful year this has been for good talented people to be taken from us, why not the odd dictator or FIFA Official instead?

The bloke comes round at just before seven; tries the lens, is very happy and gives me a was of notes in exchange. Deal done.

The day fades out to dusk outside and a steady rain begins to fall. I have hope of sunshine in the morning so I can go orchid hunting, but we shall see. There is a good documentary on the Everly Brothers after The Don, but Jools eyes cannot stay open, so she takes to her bed at half nine. I am tempted by a Prince documentary after that, so am heading for bed late at quarter to eleven. But it is the weekend. So, hey!

Friday, 22 April 2016

Friday 22nd April 2016


Due to the fact I have a mod-morning flight, I have the delight of another lay in, if I want. But as usual, the Scandinavian dawn had other ideas, with it getting light before half five and as I opened the curtains the sun showed over the rooftops of the town.

Good morning Esbjerg I put the computer on so I can listen to some more radio whilst laying in bed; now that is luxury. Outside, the world wakes up, and I yawn and close my eyes. Time ticks on.

I have a shower, get dressed and pack. I work out that I had to be at the airport two hours before my flight so I could check in my luggage, so after paying the bill, I have breakfast, and for the last time before the holibobs, load my gear into the hire car for the drive to the airport.

The glorious sunrise had given over to menacing low clouds, flying quickly from horizon to horizon. So, with little to snap, I take to the main road out of town, then take the road towards Billund, going in an almost straight line north over the low rolling countryside, interspersed with light woodland and small villages. There are no trucks around, so I put my foot down and power over the flat landscape, enjoying all the spare horses that the car had to offer. And this is work.

I arrive at the airport, drop the car off and walk to the terminal. Flying no BA meant a queue to get a boarding card, as the self-check in machine said, with no trace of irony, our records show you are traveling with an infant; is this correct. I am given the option of pressing either a yes no button. I press the no button, and the computer has a hissy fit and spews out a form which it informs me I have to present to a representative. When I do this, she says I am the twelfth to have had this that morning.

I get two boarding passes and say goodbye to my case which I am sure won't make the transfer in Amsterdam as I have only 55 minutes.

I check mails and try not to spend any money in the shops; although The Simpsons Kwik E Mart in the Lego shop looked good, but not at £235 good.

There is no boarder check, as my first hop is only to Amsterdam, so I settle into my aisle seat and wait for the engine start and the taxi to the runway. All the time I am looking at my watch imagining the seconds slipping by to me making the next flight.

Boarding at BLL We land, and as soon as the plane comes to a stop, I am up and waiting to get off. Last time I had what seemed like a four mile route march to the gate, I manage to get off fairly quickly, and find that despite being at gate D59, it was a two minute walk to immigration, and on the other side I could see gate D1, and I needed gate D7. It did not tkae much to work out that I was very close and could relax as I still have ten minutes before boarding started, and 40 before the flight left.

Servicing an A380 And I had a window seat, so could watch as we taxied apparently to the Belgian boarder before taking off for the hop over the Channel. There was tome for drinks and a slice of dake to be dished out to everyone. We were on final approach when the came to collect the trash. I couldn't see much with half the view of the ground being blocked by one of them engine thingys. Anyway, I try to work out where we are, only recognising the Thames as we turn onto final, getting lower and lower until we were down on the ground. Welcome to the Englands; please queue here!

There is a rush to get off, but I have an hour and a half to get to St Pancras, so I wait until there is a gap. I find we are at terminal 4, and we seem to be the only flight arrival, and so am through immigration and waiting for my bag, which I am sure is still in Amsterdam. It rolls down the carousel, I grab it and make for the exit, wanting to get to the station for what I knew was a shuttle to terminal 3.

A train had just left, so there was a moment when I had the platform to myself; so I take a shot of it.

Terminal 4 The shuttle arrives, and takes us to the next terminal, where it actually meets with a train to Paddington, so step of one onto another train, take my seat on the left hand side so I could look at the Crossrail work under the Westway as we neared Paddington.

Paddington It was three, and after fielding a call from my boss, I make my way to the tube station for a direct train to St Pancras, and once there I have an hour to kill before my train to Folkestone, where Jools would be waiting for me after leaving work, thus meaning I don't rush for the next train, instead I make my way to the Betjeman Arms for a pint. Or two. And a Scotch Egg.

I sit at one of the tables with views of the train shed, filled as it was with Eurostars. And this is work. I tell myself again.

e320 Half an hour to go before departure, I make my way to the Southeastern platforms, and my train was in, so we wait a while for the doors to open, then pile on, me grabbing a seat with a table and aligned with a large wndo on my favourite side of the train.

I suppose it is half full by the time we leave at 16:36, and even after Stratford there are still seats. I close my eyes.

St Pancras Jools is indeed waiting for me, so we drive through the town, round the harbour and up to Capel to avoid the traffic on the A20, arriving home just after 6. And I am spent.

We celebrate the weekend by having a brew with a Tunnocks Caramel Finger, which is very British, no Scottish. Anyway, it feels great to be home, and home now until we go to Japan.

Jools looks at the internet, and on the BBC it has announced that Prince has died; just like that. I switch mine on to check Twitter, it is true.

Jools goes out for a Chinese, which we wash down with beer/cider. And we are both pooped. So pooped we go to bed at nine again, but Jools has the morrow off. So, should we make plans?

Thursday 21st April 2016


And with my next meeting not beginning until ten in the morning, I have the luxury of being able to lay in bed until what, seven, eight? Needless to say, the sun made an appearance sometime before six, and with my window facing east, it shone brightly through the thin curtains at the large picture window.

The view from room 503 I switch the computer on, put on the latest Radcliffe and Maconie show and go back to bed for a stretch and just close my eyes and waste the glorious morning in an unproductive way. So, nothing new there then!

I get up at half seven, have a shower and get ready for the day, or morning ahead.

Downstairs the restaurant is not too busy, so I have breakfast alone with my thoughts, looking at my fellow diners, muching away, each having their own version of their country's traditional start to the day. After fruit, a bacon roll and a chocolate spread roll, I am done and ready for the drive to Varde, now that the rush hour was over.

Spring in Esbjerg I know the way to Varde so well, I don't need the sat nav, but anyway I set out half an hour early so not to panic, which meant I could take my time, admire the emerging spring in the Danish countryside, which was bathed in glorious sunshine. But needless to say, the wind was cool and keen. I am half an hour early, so sit in the car, listening to the radio and checking mails on my phone. It is the modern way.

Spring in Esbjerg It seems that no one was expecting a meeting, but then I am first to arrive, and shortly the rest turn up for the meeting. We have two hours, so, on your marks...

We wrap up, go for lunch before it is time for us to go our ways, and for me that leaves either going back to the hotel or to the office in Esbjerg. I take the latter option, taking 20 minutes or so to reach the gates to the harbour, then along to our cabins.

I have reports to write, people to catch up with, a good two hours then. And indeed, at half three, I am done, all caught up, at least for a day, so I can return to the hotel, relax and maybe go for a walk, seeing that spring is about 6 weeks behind up here to what I see back home.

Spring in Esbjerg Around the historic tower in Esbjerg are planted hundreds of daffodils, so although I snapped them 5 years ago, I thought I would do it again, and anyway, the walk was worth it, blowing away the cobwebs in my head that a day and a half of meetings can bring.

My feet take me in time to the Dronning Louise, were half of the town's ice hokey team are celebrating after winning the national league, or something. They are mostly all American, but very happy, as so are many of the other's in the bar too, toasting their success. Champagne corks popped, toasts were made. I ate chili burger and drank hopped spring beer made in the town. As you do.

Back in the hotel, I watch Barcelona demolish Depotivo 8-0 in another of them footballing lessons they like to do from to time.

Thursday, 21 April 2016

I could never take the place of your man

I arrived home to the news that Prince had died after a short illness.

The only other musician I could compare to Bowie would be Prince. He was that good, maybe even better, but better whisper that.

I first saw a photo of him in Record Mirror in about 1980 or 81; he was almost naked and wearing leather briefs. Of course. I remembered him, and so when he had a hot with 1999 the first time I npticed it, but mainly for the fact it wasn't really dance music.

Within 18 months he was one of the biggest stars on the planet, what with a hit album, hit singles and a huge hit film. And the hits and genius just kept producing wonderful music for him, his backing band, his girlfriends, girlfriends bands, other people he knew and others he didn't.

Like all geniuses, he had little quality control; he thought all he did should be relased, and the sheer amount of what he put out was mindblowing, and it seemed to accelerate as the 80s went into the 90s. He recorded The Black Album, scrapped that and recorded Lovesexy in its place; an altogether more upbeat and likable record.

I saw Prince three times; the first time was the best; and I mean really the best, on the Lovesexy tour at Wembley Arena. I had a seat seven rows from the front, and his stagecraft and musicianship was world class. Nothing, no act or band has come close to that night. Not even Prince.

After that, he got into dance music, became more rhythm based, and I stopped buying his stuff. Once again there was so much of it, and the quality just wasn't there. Last time I saw him was in 1991 at Earls Court where he turned it into a massive echo chamber, with the bass bouncing off the walls. It wasn't good.

But then when he had set such high standards, his second best was often head and shoulders better than anyone else's.

He wrote the songs, words and lyrics, played almost all the instruments, arranged and produced them too. The designed the stage clothes and choreographed the shows too. He was everything.

The world will be a much darker place, but in heaven he and Bowie will be jamming.

Wednesday 20th April 2016


Let me say first of all, I left London at the height of spring, balmy warm days and cool nights, fanned by a breeze gentle enough to make macro work on orchids possible. Therefore, arriving in Denmark on Monday I was met my gale force winds, rain and temperatures hovering at 5 degrees. Like it was in England two months ago.

Ringkøbing, Jutland In truth, Tuesday was better in that it wasn’t raining, but it was very good and there was still a breeze blowing.

I met Manu for breakfast at half seven, I arrived first and attacked the pancakes, syrup and bacon with great gusto. We got through two pots of ciffee before we were done, and ready for the working day.

Holmsland Klit It is a short drive to the factory, and before the hordes arrived, there was time for some final preparation before the grand final dance began, and I could hear the rotund lady warming up! They arrive, and I take a deep breath, here goes…..

Seven hours later, it was all over and we part with smiles and handshakes, I have completed the obligations and with few problems; a cause for celebration.

Holmsland Klit It is bright outside, so I think instead of the familiar drive down to Esbjerg, I would take the road through the dunes, through Hvide Sande and may even stop off and investigate the dunes and beach beyond.

Holmsland Klit Which is what I do, with dark clouds hurrying across the sky, it was a race to get to a car park and out with the camera before the heavens opened. I drove along to Hvide Sande, through the other side and a few kilometres further on there was a sign pointing to a car park and the beach. I park up and grab the camera out of my bag, wrap up warm and set off up the dunes.

Holmsland Klit Looking back, there were many holiday homes, many thatched, nestling in the dunes, ready for the new holiday season, but for days warmer than today. To help to climb the dunes there was a rope ladder in the sand, which did make things easier, but how easy only became clear when the ladder ran out near the top.

And once I got to the top, I got a face full of wind-blown sand thanks to the strong westerly. I take a few shots, then turn round and go back to the car, turning the heater up a notch. I stop once more, at a group of fishermen’s huts I have been meaning to snap for a while, that done, I see how close I can get, or how far in truth, from Esbjerg before I resort to the sat nav.

Fishermen's huts, Nymindegab, Jutland It was ten minutes later, as I am driving down a shopping street in a town I had not been to before. But the sat nav said it was good, and keeping on that road, I end up in Varde and so from there it was just 20 minutes to the wonderful Scandic. It is OK, not in the top ten hotels in the world, but at least being on the 5th floor I have views of the red tiles on the roofs of the town stretching to the horizon.

It is my six year work anniversary, so I feel like celebrating, and it really is a coincidence that I arranged a team meal at Flammen in town. Although just one of the team, apart from me, turned up. But we make sure we celebrate well. Meat, meat and more meat. Really nice, and with a selection of salads to balance the meat out. Did I mention we had meat?

The day ends with me watching Citeh play Toon, and hoping Newcastle get thrashed, but get a deserved draw, making things even dodgier for Norwich. Such is the way. I am resigned to our fate now. Time for bed, anyway.

Tuesday 19th April 2016

Dad was born three months premature in the spring of 1939. He should not have survived, but he did. His Mother was already 39, so that she carried him that long, and he survived were double miracles. Dad was born very underweight, and all through life had a layer of skin too few. Apparently. But he did survive, their only child, and treasured. Survived the war, then made it through school, left handed and punished for that forced to write with his right, and profoundly dyslexic.

He first saw my Mum on the 3B bus, when she was barely 15 and he was nearly 20, and he was determined to marry her. Which he did three years later. Dad worked hard to provide for us, but it was hard. He went on strike, with the rest of the building industry in 1972 demanding a £20 week. He left in the end and went back to the shipyard, where he stayed until it went bust after being privatised in 1986, and so was back to square one.

Inbetween, he began to earn money, good money at times, and took us on a continental holiday in 1973, going to Paris, Amsterdam and Brussels. The years following were lean, and for two years we went to stay with friends in Essex, surviving on two quid a day. He hated it, that he had failed us.

But life improved, heck I even got a job, life became good for the family. But those days ran out when the shipyards were sold off, poorly run and he lost his job as being a union branch secretary. He found work, poor work, but made enough money to be comfortable, making doors in a factory. That is until that fateful day in April 1996, when his heart gave out.

I spoke to Mum on Sunday, but nothing was said by either of us, so, there were no arguments, no accusations, just the gentle passing of time before the 5 minutes were up and we ended the call. I worked in the garden, went hinting for orchids, and generally just got on with life. Which is what we do with the passing of time, move on but don’t really forget, just remember in different ways I suppose.


The alarm woke me up at quarter to five, with there being just a hint of light on the eastern horizon indicating where dawn would begin. I am packed, so just have to get ready and be out of the house before quarter to six, so we could get me to the station in Folkestone in time to catch the half six train to London.

I feed the cats, make coffee and breakfast, and so we are all set to go just two minutes behind schedule, but with the traffic so light, I am at the station at five past six and waiting on the platform by ten past, bathed in golden sunlight flooding the station from the east as the train pulled in quarter of an hour before departure, so I was able to claim a seat and check mails.

The train pulls out on time and calls in at the other Folkestone station and Ashford before speeding up and zooming up the high speed line to London. I make some calls and so feel in control of things, which is an odd feeling, bit is good, right?

There is chaos in London as one of the DLR lines is out, so people are making alternative travel plans, and our train is rammed. Through the old Olympic Park, and through all the places I know so well.

I am traveling on a different airline, so there is a different procedure, no choice of seats, and all much less panache.

Anyway, I drop my bag off, go through security and am the other side at eight, and hungry. So, I go for toast and coffee sat in a corner overlooking the flight line, almost like being in the RAF again, but with decent coffee and able to make choices!

Gate 5 LCY In a change, another change, I have to go via Amsterdam, and have 90 minutes for the change, which is made difficult by being half an hour late leaving from London. And I have an aisle seat, so am unable to see out, and guess by what the plane and engines are doing as to where we were between London and Holland. I do have a seat in the 3rd row, which means I am one of the first off the plane, and I begin the ten mile hike to the centre of the terminal for the transfer to the other terminal, clear immigration. And then another ten mile walk. Or something like it.

I make it with ten minutes to spare, then watch the lemmings queue to board the plane to get their reserved seats; I am last on and slide into my window seat for the 40 minute hop to Billund.

We arrive at the same time as a flight from Portugal, so there is a mighty queue for the hire car, so I write more mails, make calls and so am in further control. I have a Toyota something hybrid crossover car thing. It is good, and an automatic, so I put my foot down and the car leaps away.

I am off to Ringkobing, I know the way but want to take the coast road, so I thought I set the sat nav right, but clearly it wanted to get me to the hotels quick, and we go the familiar way, but I only relaise before its too late to change. So I am at the hotel at four and presented with a voucher for a free beer if I order before 5. Which explains why I am sat at the bar sipping a cool beer and reading the information for Japan.

Manu arrives, we share more beers then arrange to meet for dinner at seven. Steak and fries and beer and cheese was the order of the day. But, I am shattered, as is Manu, so despite there being football on TV, I go to bed at half nine and try to get some decent sleep.

Sunday, 17 April 2016

Monday 18th April 2016


And in the east, in that time, the sun did rise, and strongly it did shine, and so illuminated the orchids that were yet open.

And for some reason, I decided to forgo the joy of watching MOTD, I think listening to the City game had been bad enough without having to sit through it, then be picked apart by Alan Shearer and Robbie Bloody Savage. So, breakfast, coffee, then on with the boots and to the orchid fields we go.

Early Purple Orchid Orchis mascula Samphire is a fine place, but they don't put out ropes to stop people walking on the tiny orchids, or their dogs from shitting on them either. I am still trying to work out why people would take their hounds to a place like that, let them shit and just leave it? Not quite as bad as those who walk the countryside, littering as they go. Drives me mad. I think when we wander around I will carry a sack to collect the rubbish, then I can make a little difference.

So anyway, to Samphire and the ESOs. Traffic from the port was very quiet, so we could go down Jubilee Way and along Townwall Street with no hold ups, accelerating up the A20 to the turn off for the Hoe, then onto the tranquil place between the cliffs and the sea, and arriving at the car park, there were just fishermen's cars parked, so I would have the orchids to myself.

Early Purple Orchid Orchis mascula I find several flowring spikes, including a double and a treble, a real surprise this early in the season. Many more spikes are showing, so there will be quite a show in a week or so. At first I find no spikes, pausing where I was sure there were spies last week. Then finally finding one, then another, and I can finally say that the season has arrived! I count over 15 spikes in flower, and many, many others n various stages of growth. However, what with the popularity of the Hoe, I might not go back this season, but instead go to some of the other quieter sites.

Early Purple Orchid Orchis mascula We have a chore to run, dropping a concrete slab, reinforced with steel, to the tip up Whitfield; it just about doubled the weight of the car, and bounced around in the boot as we drove through town to reach the tip. WHat a fine nation we are, queuing up to use the tip on a sunny Sunday morning, dumping garden waste, old toys and the such. What a strange nation we are.

Early Purple Orchid Orchis mascula From there it was a blast along the A2 to Barham, and then across the fields and through the woods to the bridleway, park up and look for the second flowering species of the day, the Early Purples.

Early Purple Orchid Orchis mascula Up the slope, looking between the trees until finally I saw some purple among the blue of the bluebells. THere was just a few spikes in flower, and some of those only just opening, but enough orchid action to satisfy me, I get my shots, closeups, distance ones, and all the other arty farty stuff I do.

Early Purple Orchid Orchis mascula Quickly back down the slope and to the other side to check on the later orchids; later by just a week or so, but the lady, Fly and Twayblades are racing along, some already have spikes pushing towards the sky, hoping to reach the sun before the leaves on the treetops blots its warming rays out. I take shots of various rosettes, but jsut a few for records, then make it back to the car to meet with Jools so we can drive home for an early lunch.

Early Purple Orchid Orchis mascula Back home the sun is high overhead, and it feels warm enough to sit in the garden to eat the pork pies. But sill me has to sit inside to review his shots from the morning, so that's what I do.

Dark-edged Bee-fly Bombylius major After eating, we both attack the long grass at the edges of the lawn, and around the bed before I get the mower out to trim the grass once again. I guess it takes just over an hour, and the result it looks fabulous, with the beds in full bloom. We sit on the patio looking at our little piece of England, I open a beer which erupts like a beery volcano, but I pour some of the froth into my mouth. It is rather wonderful to look out on the garden, with all three cats circling us, and see what we have done, whilst sipping silly strong Belgian beer.

On the radio, yet more football plays out; Leicester draw with West Ham and then Arsenal draw with Palace. I'm only half interested really.

At five I begin to cook dinner; steam, mushrooms and all the usual stuff. It is splendid, as usual. But even as we eat, daylight is fading, and my time at home draws to an end. Again. Tomorrow I am off to Jutland once more, one final trip before our far eastern adventure. And a two-legged flight which will mean the trip taking just about all day to get to Ringkobing.

Sees you on Friday!