Sunday, 31 July 2016

Sunday 30th July 2016

Kent is blessed to being the home of over half the native orchid species of Britain; indeed some only grow here. Some species are large, of showy, or blousey or all of the three. Or none of the three. Whilst each of us orchidphiles might have a favourite, for whatever reason, it is hard to imagine that anyone really is in love with the Green Flowered Helleborine.

It is a medium size orchid, has green flowers (as its name suggests) but as it self-pollinates, these flowers rarely open at all. IN the several visits I have been to the one public site in Kent, I have never seen a flower open. But hope springs eternal, and so we set off yesterday with hope in our hearts. Or at least mine.

Green Flowered Helleborine Epipactis phyllanthes We had already eaten breakfast, had two coffees, which wasn't such a good idea. As well as checked the traffic on the interwebs. I even remembered my camera, and so we were all set.

The decision on the second coffee was proven to be a bad one as we had to stop at maidstone services before pressing on to Swanley, then turning back south and into the Darent Valley.

The orchids live on a short section of chalk bank, about ten metres by one, either side of a lay by on a busy trunk road. In one of those quirks of fate, opposite the site is the lodge of a house once owned by one of the Victorian era's greatest orchid hunters; coincidence? Maybe.

Green Flowered Helleborine Epipactis phyllanthes Anyway, there were about thirty spikes, all had flowers but none were open, as ever. So I take a few shots, I'm sure getting odd look from people driving past. As last year I tell myself that this would be the last time I, or we, make this journey, a 130 mile round trip to see such disappointing orchids. But then, there's always next year.

Green Flowered Helleborine Epipactis phyllanthes It was a short drive down the main road to the next port of call; a church.

Shoreham, Kent Shoreham shares it's name with a seaside resort in Sussex, but this Shoreham in Kent is a small village on the banks of the River Darent, spanned by an ancient two arch bridge. It's roads and streets were narrow and lined with parked cars, so we had to drove right through it before Jools could drop me off and I walk back to the church, armed with cameras and lenses. Well, camera now.

Shoreham, Kent Approach to Ss. Peter and Paul is along a narrow fir tree lined path which went right past the porch. I turned left and through the gap in the trees, into the porch and through into the church beyond.

I was here as Shoreham church has an almost complete rood screen and loft, with the stars complete with doors also in place and could be used, it is a window into the dim and distant past when just about every church before the puritans would have had something very similar. The screen is six and a half feet wide at the top, and is finely carved, and worth the trip up on its own.

The wardens and other volunteers are doing the weekly clear, making new flower arrangements, so it is all looking and sounding busy. I take my shots, and once done and spoken to each of the people, I take my leave as Jools was due to be at the lych gate at twenty past ten.

She drives up, with our one car blocking the road, I throw my bag in the boot, climb in and we drive away.

The plan had been to go to Hever castle; but with the poor weather, much worse than expected, and the fact that in researching the place that morning, jOols found that there was an international jousting competition one, and therefore could be crowded. We decided not to go to Hever after all, and save that for later in the summer.

We programmed the sat nav for home, but soon decided we should maybe find a place for lunch. It was way too early round here, but by the time we drive to east Kent, and up Stone Street, we might reach Lower Hardres at midday, just in time for lunch in the village pub. Yes, that sounded like a very good idea.

Traffic on the motorway was mad, as you would expect on the second Saturday of the school holidays, but then we were in no hurry, so cruised down to Ashford before turning up Stone Street before we reached Folkestone. A 20 minute drive through the countryside brought us to The Granville Arms, where we hoped to have a ploughman's or something nice and light. They had no ploughman's on, but sid a good line in salads; so a Waldorf for Jools and a Greek one for me, and we were set.

Once back outside, it looked brighter, so I asked if Jools wouldn't mind a short walk to look for some orchids... Ahem. She didn't mind, and the place I had in mind was only a ten minute drive away. And from there a twenty minute walk along a woodland path.

Green-veined White Pieris napi Thing is, we usually are only here in spring, so to come in high summer was strange; the trees on either side had formed a roof with their leaves, and what was once a well lit woodland floor was now lost in darkness and shade. The wide track, wide enough for a lorry, was now so overgrown it was just wide enough for one person to pass in places. And it was quiet.

No sound, other than our breathing and footsteps could be heard.

We saw plenty of insects feeding on the summer plants; bees, wasps and butterflies; Green Veined Whites, Speckled Woods, Marbeled Whites, Gatekeepers and so on. Many of which I snapped.

We reached the bank, and after some searching we found some spikes, but only two in flower, it seems this is a very late season indeed, compared to other years. I took shots, but the less friendly insects had started to bite and feed. We decided to beat a quick retreat back to the car, and then go home.

Thankfully, the traffic was lighter than last week, and so we were able to use the main road back to Whitfield then back home, arriving home just in time for an ice cream, and sit in the back garden looking at our little piece of England.

Later in the evning I cook steak and ale pie, using the left over gravy from last week's beef. Needless to say, it is lovely, steamed vegetables and roast potatoes.

For some reason, we were shattered, and struggled to stay awake through a documentary of Tutankhamen.

Phew, rock and roll.

Saturday, 30 July 2016

Friday 29th July 2016

I have an admission: I have been stupid. You see, last weekend my shoulder finally got better, I had no pain and full movement. I was happy.

The lawn also needed mowing.

What is the connection? Well, we have a petrol mower, and it had not run for some weeks, so on Monday when I cut the grass, I had to pull, and pull and pull on the chord to get the engine to start. After the 4th of 5th time, I realised this wasn't clever, and managed to get it started with less vigorous movements, but it seems the damage had already been done. And as the week went on my shoulder began to ache more and more. I am hoping that its not so bad as first time I did it, but we shall see.

You will be pleased to know I am reminded of my stupidity every night as I struggle to find a comfortable position to sleep in, or the jarring pain when I turn over in my sleep.

So, each morning I wake up after another night of broken sleep, but at least I have either Molly or Scully keeping me company, they don't seem to mind my tossing and turning.

Being the last day of the week, there are the usual end of weeks chores to do at work, rounding up data, writing reports, making calls and the such. In that way the day zips by until come half two, I see that those who were in this week, have left, and as I seem to be caught up, I thought I would give myself an early stack. I told myself I deserved it, I have done some good stuff this week.

I sit in the garden ready the latest edition of Rail, so I can pop it over to Bob over the road, so next week I can crack on with The Night Manager that I started on the last trip. I can see me ending up reading all of Le Carre's novels.

Anyway, Jools comes home at four, we have coffee, then we decide we're hungry enough to have dinner early, and seeing as its left over pasta and aubergine, it is ready in a few minutes, and is wonderfully light and tasty.

Iggy Pop played his favourite Bowie records on 6 Music for two hours, it was wonderful, hearing his memories of the Thin White Duke, and the tunes were, well, Bowie. And special. You can listen to it on the BBC i player for the next 28 days. I would.

Friday, 29 July 2016

Thursday 28th July 2016

Another day, another dollar.

Somehow we have nearly reached the end of another month, and we are still going strong. Well, almost.

Thursday was pretty much the same as Wednesday, which was the same as Tuesday, really. Wake up, drink coffee, put out rubbish, say goodbye to Jools, have another coffee and breakfast, switch on laptop, work, have lunch, work some more, ignore the cats, have more coffee, eat ice cream on the patio in the warm sunshine.

Thursday afternoon walk As you see, your typical day working from home.

Once the working day was over, I put on my walking boots grabbed my camera and went for a leg stretcher, just for a while.

This is the period between when the wheat has ripened but has not yet dried out enough to be harvested. So, the fields are gilded and shimmer in the warm sunshine.

Thursday afternoon walk Inbetween the paths and hedgerows are getting so overgrown so that walking along them becomes difficult. Looking back towards the centre of the village, it is bathed in sunshine, but all bar the church tower is hidden behind mature trees, gently swaying in the breeze.

Thursday afternoon walk There are birds on the wing in abundance, and insects too, but at the butterfly glade there are just Small Heaths and Red Admirals to be seen, no Common Blues nor Brown Arguses, more's the pity. Maybe there will be a second brood soon? Yes, looking at my butterfly book, I see the second brood should be due anytime soon.

Thursday afternoon walk In the pig's copse, the piglets, though not really piglets anymore, are nosing around in the dirt looking for food, too busy in their task to look at me walking past. As I approach the cope, a line of horses with riders go past, we all smile and wish each other a good morning; how pleasant.

Thursday afternoon walk I walk down the dip to the gate to the big field to snap the muddy area and to say hello to the sheep in the small paddock on the other side of the trach. They have forgotten me from last time when I fed them some fresh grass. But one curious ewe comes over to sniff my finger and takes a mouthful of fresh grass. But she is not impressed and doesn't take a second; happy to sniff my fingers and tug away at the short turf in their paddock.

I walk home, puffing in the warm sunshine as I walked back up the dip, then back along over the fields.

After feeding the cats I prepare the aubergine for dinner, and begin to slice them, egg and breadcrumb them. Before I have finished, Jools comes home and helps me finish so I can get cooking and have it all ready.

I had made the pasta before breakfast, added lots of Parmesan cheese and ground pepper too, so it would all be infused with great flavours by the time dinner time came round.

We feast on pasta salad and freshly pan friend aubergine, washed down with most of a bottle of red. It is wonderful, even if I say so myself. There is then TOTP to follow, all Bow Wow Wow, the Fun Boy Three and Bananarama, Depeche Mode, Julio Iglesias, Haircut 100, the Associates, Adrian Gurvitz and Tight Fit. And I can remember it being screened back in 82, and those painful interviews conducted by Simon (Master) Bates.

Anyway, a railway documentary to follow that, and outside darkness had already fallen.

Time for bed.

Disappointing news

I know you have been waiting news on my impending TV appearance following the recording made at the end of April.

Well, yesterday I received a call from the producer that the BBC, and due to the high volume of material they recorded for the show, my interview will not be used. Zoe appologised and said it was good, but with just an hour it was difficult to know what to leave out.

Oh well, fame eludes me once again.

However, you might be interested in the full list of number ones, I found a file hidden away in the "my documents" file:

1. Atomic – Blondie
2. Turning Japanese – The Vapours
3. Going underground – The Jam
4. Call Me – Blondie
5. Geno – Dexy’s Midnight Runners
6. Theme From Mash – Mash
7. Simon Templar – Splodgenessabounds
8. 747 Strangers in the Night – Saxon
9. Babushka – Kate Bush
10. Ashes to Ashes – David Bowie
11. Eighth Day – Hazel O’Connor
12. Don’t Stand so Close to Me – Police
13. Trouble – Gillan
14. What You’re Proposing – Status Quo
15. Enola Gay – OMD
16. Die Young – Black Sabbath
17. Rock ‘N’ Roll Ain’t Noise Pollution - AC/DC
18. Hit Me With your Best Shot – Pat Benatar
19. Happy Christmas (War is Over) – John Lennon
20. Antmusic – Adam And the Ants
21. Imagine – John Lennon
22. Woman – John Lennon
23. Vienna – Ultravox
24. Kids in America – Kim Wilde
25. D Days – Hazel O’Connor
26. Einstein A Go-go – Landscape
27. Keep on Lovin’ You – REO Speedwagon
28. I Want to be free - Toyah
29. Swords of a Thousand men – Tenpole Tudor
30. Chequered Love – Kim Wilde
31. I Want to be free – Toyah
32. Will You – Hazel O’Connor
33. The River – Bruce Springsteen
34. New Life – Depeche Mode
35. Sat in Your Lap – Kate Bush
36. Fire and Ice – Pat Benatar
37. Water on Glass – Kim Wilde
38. Tainted Love – Soft cell
39. Start me up – Rolling Stones
40. Souvenir – OMD
41. Invisible Sun – Police
42. Happy Birthday – Altered Images
43. Thunder in the Mountains – Toyah
44. Happy Birthday – Altered Images
45. Every Little thing She does is Magic – Police
46. Under Pressure – Queen & David Bowie
47. Four More From Toyah – Toyah
48. Don’t you want me? – Human League
49. I Could be Happy – Altered Images
50. Don’t you want me? – Human League
51. I Could be Happy – Altered Images
52. Golden Brown – Stranglers
53. Town Called Malice – The Jam
54. Go Wild in the Country – Bow Wow Wow
55. Mickey – Toni Basil
56. See those Eyes – Altered Images
57. Papa’s Got a brand New Pigbag – Pigbag
58. Instinction – Spandau Ballet
59. The Back of Love – Echo and the Bunnymen
60. Temptation – New Order
61. Fireworks – Siouxsie and the Banshees
62. Temptation – New Order
63. The Back of Love – Echo and the Bunnymen
64. Rock the Casbah – Clash
65. Strange Little Girl – Stranglers
66. Under the Boardwalk – Tom Tom Club
67. The Message – Grandmaster Flash
68. Under the Boardwalk – Tom Tom Club
69. Straight to Hell – Clash
70. Ziggy Stardust – Bauhaus
71. Shipbuilding – Robert Wyatt
72. Shadows of the Night – Pat Benatar
73. Christmas Wrapping – Waitresses
74. Let’s Get this Straight From the Start - Dexy’s Midnight Runners
75. The Cutter - Echo and the Bunnymen
76. Christian – China Crisis
77. A Little Too Late - Pat Benatar
78. Fields of Fire – Big Country
79. Speak Like a Child – Style Council
80. Don’t talk to me About Love - Altered Images
81. Let’s Dance – David Bowie
82. Blue Monday New Order
83. Song for a Future Generation – B52’s
84. I Love You – Yello
85. Qual – Xmal Deutschland
86. Birds Fly – Icicle Works
87. Never Stop – Echo and the Bunnymen
88. For you – The Farmers boys
89. Will you Stay Tonight? – Comsat angels
90. Confusion – New order
91. Crushed by the Wheels of Industry – Heaven 17
92. Dear Prudence - Siouxsie and the Banshees
93. I Wouldn’t Want to Knock it – Cook Da Books
94. The Love cats – Cure
95. This Charming Man – Smiths
96. Relax – Frankie Goes to Hollywood
97. Sunburst and Snowblind – Cocteau Twins
98. The Killing Moon - Echo and the Bunnymen
99. What Difference Does it Make – Smiths
100. Your Love is king – Sade
101. Swimming Horses - Siouxsie and the Banshees
102. Barriers – Tony Martin
103. Thieves Like us – New Order
104. Pearly Dewdrop Drops - Cocteau Twins
105. Silver - Echo and the Bunnymen
106. Dazzle - Siouxsie and the Banshees
107. Murder – New Order
108. Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now – Smiths
109. Get Your feet Out of My Shoes – Boothill Foot Tappers
110. Two Tribes - Frankie Goes to Hollywood
111. Seven Seas - Echo and the Bunnymen
112. The Comeback – The Mighty Wah
113. Sunset Now – Heaven 17
114. Kangaroo – This Mortal Coil
115. Love of my Life – Wild Indians
116. 54-46 Was My Number – Aswad
117. Listen to Your Father – Fergal Sharkey
118. Keep On Keepin’ On – Redskins
119. Respect yourself – Kane gang
120. Since yesterday – Strawberry Switchblade
121. The Green fields of France – Men They Couldn’t hang
122. How Soon is Now? – Smiths
123. Between the Wars – Billy Bragg
124. Aikea Guinea - Cocteau Twins
125. When Love Breaks Down – Prefab Sprout
126. Green Shirt – Elvis Costello
127. The Perfect kiss – New Order
128. Bring it Down – Redskins
129. She Sells Sanctuary – Cult
130. In-between Days – Cure
131. Immigrant – Patrick
132. Primitive Painters – Felt
133. Road to Nowhere – Talking Heads
134. Bring on the Dancing Horses - Echo and the Bunnymen
135. Subculture – New order
136. Echoes in a Shallow Bay - Cocteau Twins
137. Flag Day – Housemartins
138. Hounds of Love – Kate Bush
139. The Trumpton Riots – Half Man Half Biscuit
140. E=MC² - Big Audio Dynamite
141. Shellshock – New Order
142. Sinful – Pete Wylie
143. The Big Sky – Kate Bush
144. Medicine Show - Big Audio Dynamite
145. Happy hour – Housemartins
146. Rockin’ With Rita – Vindaloo Summer Special
147. Levi Stubb’s tears – Billy Bragg
148. Panic – Smiths
149. Don’t Leave me This Way – Communards
150. Take the Skinheads Bowling – Camper van Beethoven
151. World Shut Your Mouth – Julian Cope
152. Man Shortage – Lovindeer
153. Greetings to the New Brunette – Billy Bragg
154. Caravan of Love – Housemartins
155. Kiss – Age of Chance
156. I’m No Rebel – View From the Hill
157. If You Let me Stay – Terrance Trent D’Arby
158. What’s My Scene – Hoodoo Gurus
159. To Be reborn – Boy George
160. Heaven is a Place on Earth – Belinda Carlisle
161. Victoria – The Fall
162. Birth, School, Work, Death – Godfathers
163. Crash – Primitives
164. What’s Happening Here? – 10000 Maniacs
165. Cathouse – Danielle Dax
166. Theme From S Express – S Express
167. Alphabet Street – Prince
168. No Conversation - View From the Hill
169. Atmosphere – Joy Division
170. All Fired Up – Pat Benatar
171. Glam Slam – Prince
172. Like the Weather - 10000 Maniacs
173. What can I Say to Make You Love Me? – Alexander O’Neil
174. The Race – Yello
175. Birthday – Sugarcubes
176. The Killing Jar - Siouxsie and the Banshees
177. Fake 88 - Alexander O’Neil
178. Wee Rule – Wee Papa Girl Rappers
179. A Little respect – Erasure
180. Real Gone Kid – Deacon Blue
181. I Wish U Heaven – Prince
182. Kiss – Prince
183. Giving the Best I Got – Anita Baker
184. 9 a.m. The Comfort Zone – London Beat
185. Buffalo Stance – Neneh Cherry
186. Hit the Ground – Darling buds
187. Cathedral Song – Tanita Tikaram
188. Can’t Be Sure – Sundays
189. Like A Prayer – Madonna
190. Got to Keep On – Cookie Crew
191. Never – House of Love
192. I Drove All Night – Cyndi Lauper
193. Express Yourself – Madonna
194. Back to Life – Soul 2 Soul
195. Satisfaction – Wendy and Lisa
196. You’re History – Shakespears Sister
197. Hey DJ – Beatmasters with Betty boo
198. Partyman – Prince
199. Cherish – Madonna
200. The Sensual World – Kate bush
201. I Want that Man – Deborah Harry
202. Eye Know – Prince
203. All Around the World – Lisa Stansfield
204. The Arms of Orion – Prince
205. Waterfall – Wendy and Lisa
206. This woman’s Work – Kate Bush
207. Dear Jessie – Madonna
208. Nothing Compares 2 U – Sinead O’Connor
209. After the rain – Titiyo
210. Love and Anger – Kate bush
211. Love Shack – B52’s
212. This is How it Feels – Inspiral Carpets
213. Vogue – Madonna
214. Escapade – Janet Jackson
215. Roam – B52’s
216. The Only One I Know – Charlatans
217. Hippychick – Soho
218. A Leaf from A Tree – Mary Coughlan
219. Jerk Out – The Time
220. How the Heart Survives – Was (not Was)
221. Thieves in the temple – Prince
222. Ice Blink Luck – Cocteau Twins
223. Unbelievable – EMF
224. All together Now – Farm
225. Sons of the Stage – World of Twist
226. Sit Down – James
227. Get the Message – Electronic
228. Shiny Happy People – REM
229. Sheriff Fatman – Carter USM
230. And then She Smiles – Mock Turtles
231. Progen ’91 – Shamen
232. Apparently Nothin’ – Young Disciples
233. Sunshine on a Rainy day – Zoë
234. Insanity – Oceanic
235. Jacky – Marc Almond
236. I Believe – Booth and the Bad Angel
237. Forbidden City – Electronic
238. Good Enough – Dodgy
239. Race - Tiger

Thursday, 28 July 2016

Wednesday 27th July 2016

Hump Day

And although it is the 3rd day of the working week, it only felt like the second, so like most things in my life, it was a bonus.

It is another day working from the dining room table, and it would be memorable for the ongoing argument with Scully, a cat, as to where her food should be. She will only eat when her food is on the windowsill by the back door, even if there is one, two or three full or partially full bowls elsewhere in the utility room.

So each time she comes into the living room, meowing like she hasn't been fed in like, months, I follow her into the utility room, pick her up from the windowsill put her on the work top by the other bowls of food. She looks at the food, jumps down and goes out.

Five Years ago: Crescent lake Then comes into the living room 5 minutes later, meowing like she is sooooo hungry.

I am then into my Scully loop as detailed above. Its just a case who will get bored first, me or her. I can do this all day, otherwise I'd have to do some work or something.

Five years ago. Neah Bay Anyway, is it time for lunch? I ask myself at nine. I tell myself wait an hour. I do and so toast some cornbread and have tangy Seville marmalade spread thickly on it. Yes, this is the brunch of champions I tell myself.

It is a grey day outside, so dark I have to have the table light on some of the time, but then work gets very serious, and I am on the phone for ages and ages. Anyway, the day passes quickly and soon enough it is time to wrap up, and do chores.

Five Years Ago; North west Point Chores in this case is watering the pot plants and tomatoes, as the rain we should have had, had pouring down, failed to come and instead we just had drizzle. So, parched and drooping plants fixed; now just wait for Jools to come home with breaded chicken fillets so I can make dinner; something light as we have the final two slices of the limoncello and grappa tart to eat that evening too.

Somehow it is ten past eight by the time we sit down after clearing up after dinner. Where does the time go? Just to confuse matters there is Gardeners' World, on a Wednesday, and our weekly dose of The Done, followed by a new series about the native tribes of the Pacific North West. Great show and wonderful scenery. Although I have been there once before, we feel a return might be called for. So, another place to add to the list!

Wednesday, 27 July 2016

Tuesday 26th July 2016

Another glorious morning dawned, and from upstairs in the golden light of early morning, I could survey the work I had done on the lawn the day before. From up in the back office, the lawn looks fine and the moss which covers most of the top half is impossible to see. What is still visible is the path the cats take in walking from the back door to the gap in next door's hedge.

Like a bowling green Jools is off to work at half six or so, so I am left with the task of making the second coffee for the day, then making breakfast and then thinking about the big task for the day: travel expenses. They are never as bad as you think they will be, but always drag my heels when it is time to do them, but I can spread the task over two days, and be free of them for another month.

The highlight of the past two days has been that I sold my second item on e bay, and so once the auction closed, had to arrange it to be taken to the buyer. I have never used a courier, but it was simple enough, and was given a time between half ten and four when the box would be collected. They came at half one, looked over the box, scanned the label and it was gone; the Revolver turntable I bought for £80 in 1995 sold for £100, and all those years of fine service inbetween.

With that excitement done, I needed a sit down with a strong cuppa, so I did, watching some Time Team eye candy over my lunch break.

With the Limoncello and Grapa Tart still about, and it being so rich, we only need snacks for the next two days while we finish it; so once Jools is back we have cheesy beans on toast before making another pot of coffee as we tackle another slice of tart, and as the serving suggestion, er, suggested, served with cream and more limoncello. It was wonderful.

The evening was cooler, but we still sat outside watching the day fade and the planes flying over head, seeing if we could spot their lights through the thin cloud.

You might be interested to learn that I have begun updating the Japan blogs as many were written in a rush, so expanded and now with extra photos too. Look for the blogs in May with the (updated) prefix.

Tuesday, 26 July 2016

Monday 25th July 2016

5 months to Christmas.

And what a wonderful feeling it is, not travelling to a bloody airport on Monday morning. A Monday morning. You know what I mean.

The alarm can go off at a normal time, or we can lie in bed ignoring Mulder's plaintive cries for breakfast, and pretend we're still asleep. That is until Vanessa come on when the alarm goes off, being all cheerful and chirpy. She's clearly on drugs.

The view from the breakfast table Jools makes coffee and prepares her lunch, and I potter around upstairs, getting my dressing gown on and sweeping down the stairs like I own the place. Which I half do.

Coffee is great. I mean the morning does't seem right without a cup or two.

And then Jools is off out to work in the car, braving the traffic that is still out there. But the queues of Friday and Saturday are mostly gone, so she speeds to work ready for her day. And I make another cuppa, have breakfast and listen to some radio before I begin.

And then: work. Switch on the computer and get on with the mails that came in over the weekend, and any other issues that might have happened. The cats are sleeping somewhere outside, so I am left mostly alone. And the day passes quietly.

I finish work at half three, sit outside on the patio with a magazine for a while, and then I look at the lawn. We have let it grow, as this time of the year we get a good crop of clover near the shed, and the bees and butterflies all feed on it. But in allowing the clover to grow, so does the grass. And I suppose is between 6 and nine inches long, and required some serious mowing. And created bags and bags of cutting. And the repeated emptying of the box meant the who process took over an hour, and I am all hot and bothered all over again.

Once done done, I make a glass of iced squash and sit once again on the patio, where various cats try to convince me that it's dinner time already. They had a point, it was nearly 5, so I give in and feed them, so they can scatter once again.

Dinner once again was insalata caprese, and is always welcome on a hot and humid day, as is the couple of glasses of red that I wash it down with.

Its cool in the evening, so after watching some TV we sit outside as the sun set, warmed only by a large tumbler of smokey single malt.

Brexit means Brexit

Yes, more fall out from the referendum result held at the end of JUne. In fact, yesterday saw the very first month anniversary of it, and what has changed, if anything? Well, for one, we have a new Prime Minister, whose mantra is the title of this blog, but without saying with any detail, other than saying that Brexit, whatever it is, will happen. Only, not before the end of the year.

And by that we think she means the article 50 notification. We think.

Even that notification is unclear. The first clause says that the notification must be in compliance with our constitution, only Britain doesn't have one. Not a complete one, what we have is spread over all the laws of the land, dating back to the Domesday Book. The Government Lawyers maintain that the PM, Teresa May, has inherited what is called "prerogative powers", that she, or whoever is PM at the time, can take certain actions without the OK of Parliament. Both Houses of Parliament.

Yesterday, a report by The House of Lords didn't see it that way, and expects to be informed and consulted through the notification process and the negotiations afterwards.

On top of that there are up to 11 separate legal challenges to the prerogative powers, including one which has, in part, been crowdfunded by me. Most are seeking the legal process to ensure that the letter of the law is followed. But then, as most of such powers are not clearly defined, it is likely that such definition is not wanted to be spelled out, not least in a court of law. But we shall see. The first hearing is scheduled for October, and whoever wins is expected to appeal, and this will go to the Supreme Court in the end.

I think it is possible anyway, if such process is not clearly defined, then the EU could refuse to accept it it will be unclear if such notification is in accordance with our constitution (as it is).

Meanwhile, Alexander Boris de Piffle Johnson, who let us not forget is the Foreign Secretary (but in reality is the FS for all countries not in the EU) has said that Brexit with access to the European Economic Area (EEA) along with no free movement of labour is still possible. The French president, François Hollande said: "It will be a choice facing the UK – to remain in the single market and assume the free movement that goes with it, or to have another status."

A slightly watered down idea of an alternative membership of the EU, a kind of EU-lite with a little bit less access to the EEA and a little bit less freedome of movement might be mooted. But then the ghost of Tories past, John Redwood said: "The UK did not recently vote for a slightly beefed up version of Mr Cameron’s attempted renegotiation with the EU. We voted to leave, to take back control of our laws, our money and our borders."

Mrs May has also expressed the idea of a "hard" border between the Republic and Northern Ireland a non-starter, but how that would fit it with being outside the EU and a potential free-flow of movement across such a boarder has not been explained.

In the month since the vote, apart from the chaos on the stock markets and currency markets in the immediate days following it, not much has happened, not much by anybody. However, the IMF has downgraded Britain's growth for the last two quarters of the year, and next month The Bank of England is expected to step in by reducing interest rates to zero and printing more money. This might mean that banks will begin charging for being in credit, for individuals and for businesses.

Soon the price of good; oil and foodstuffs will begin to climb, as will the cost of domestic energy so much of the electricity that we produce is via imported gas. Serious choices will have to be made about spending, not only in Government departments, but on infrastructure projects like Hinkley Point and HS2. And remember this is even before article 50 is notified and the whole horse trading begins.

Only the EU has ruled out the idea that any formal or informal negotiations can begin until the 2 year article 50 have expired. As previously stated in past blogs, negotiating up to 60 trade deals, simultaneously (including with the EU) is going to take more than 2 years. Then there is the fact that the EU might emarrk on what could be described as "project pain". The EU fears its own break up, and giving Britain anything else other than unfavourable terms upon exit would be a trigger to see other countries might trying the same thing. So, making it clear that you can't get a better deal by leaving is almost certain to take place.

You would think that all of the above would be a high priority; but the UK Parliament is in recess, and so is the EU; so nothing is going to happen for at least six weeks. At least nothing official. Of course, the newspaper barons who championed Brexit are fanning the fires of publicity, to quite a laughable degree. Special praise should go to the Daily Express, owned by the non-UK tax paying Barclay Brothers who live on a small island off the coast of the slightly larger island of Sark. We mustn't let the un-elected mandarins in Brussels decide or present and future; but billionaire tax-exiles are OK. Obviously.

So, where are we? Well, if Britain does leave, then it will be a long, painful and expensive process.

Monday, 25 July 2016

Sunday 24th July 2016

How can it be that the weekend goes by so quickly? Already it seems Monday is on our shoulders, and back to work. Although this week I will have the luxury of being at home at least until Sunday afternoon at least.

But more of that another day.

Sunday morning means bacon buttes and relaxing. So, after defrosting some bread, I make the sarnies and a fresh brew whilst the cats laze around in the garden.

We should have gone and done something, but with the cloud thicker, and the wind stronger than expected, I put off going out to the gardens we had been planning, as I had eyes only for a steam train.

It has been some months, in fact before Christmas, since a steam tour had made its way through this part of Kent, but there was one, only going as far as Deal, so my choice was the usual vantage point at Minster station.

34052 Lord Dowding The traffic was still crazy in Dover, but we could go through Deal and onto Minster that way, so setting off an hour before her arrival left us with plenty of time. I wasn't sure how many people would be out, but as we took the last remaining parking space at the station, there were already 30 or so people waiting, and more came as her expected arrival time approached.

I was on top of the footbridge as usual, and a group of more well spoken people were laughing about some such thing, only one of the younger chaps's Dad worked for Network Rail, as sp kept us up to date with what was happening. Somewhere between London and Canterbury, the diesel locomotive on the back, caught fire, and required changing. Well, instead it joined the train behind the steam loco and another replacement was attached at the back.

34052 Lord Dowding This meant the train was 15 minutes, no half an hour, no 40 minutes late. And so on until we got news it would not be going to Deal but steaming through straight to Margate. As I was telling a grandfather and grandchild this, the signalman set the points for the Deal line meaning it had changed again, but also that it was finally getting near.

It came around the corner, smoking well, and eventually slowing to a walking pace as it neared the signal about half a mile short of the station. It was given the road, so a few hearty puffs and smoke bellowing out of its chimney, and it pulled away before cruising to the points that took it onto the up line before taking the sharp turn to join the Deal line.

34052 Lord Dowding It all happened so quick, I rattle off a load of shots, but soon it is too close for my zoom and so just walk over to the far end of the bridge to snap it as it takes the sharp turn, wheel flanges screaming against the check rail.

And that was it, we could hear the train screaming further round the curves as I walked back to the car. And once we had gone past Sandwich and were on the low part of the road, we could look over to the sea wall, and just in front of it, Lord Dowding was making up time accelerating towards Deal. I could have stopped to take shots, but I was happy with what I got. Anyway, we wanted tart.

Yes, tart. Another generous slice of Limoncello and grappa tart and a fresh cup of coffee whilst sitting on the patio was very much called for.

It is gloriously lemmony and alcoholic and just perfect with the cooked raspberries and blueberries inside.

There is time to listen to the radio before my next task; cooking Sunday dinner. A colleague of Jools was coming round with her partner, and I was to cook roast beef and all the trimmings. And it was just like me to spend the afternoon over a hot oven on a hot summer afternoon. But hey, there was sparking wine as a reward to go with dinner, so, I began.

A 3lb joint took an hour and a quarter to cook, prepare the vegetables, cook the potatoes and mix the batter for the Yorkshire pudding. It all came together at half six, with our guester having arrived and them sitting on the patio sipping summer ale.

All is done to a turn, and it is wonderful; not only to be sharing food with friends, but that it is the first roast I had cooked probably since before we went to Japan.

We talked and dusk fell, now getting dark before nine in the evening as the year begins to grow old. The air had been filled with the sound of harvesting all day, now bats wheeled about in the air above the patio. There was time to wash up, have a coffee before it was time to get ready for bed, and think about the week ahead.

Sunday, 24 July 2016

Sam Allardyce, England Manager


To my friend Tony, this is about football.

So, it came to pass that this week The FA announced that Sam Alladyce was to be the new England Manager on 2 year contract. "Big" Sam has been described as being a "Marmite" kind of manger in that some love him, others hate him, with little inbetween.

Am I bothered? Am I a Sam fan?

In truth it don't really matter that much; in the 20 years since England last made the semi-finals of a major tournament, England have had:

Terry Venables: it was under his leadership that England made those semis when the Euros were held in England. They weren't that good, but won ugly, except for scoring four past Holland. But then he got implicated in some financial dealings, and resigned. He was replaced by....

Glenn Hoddle: A once great player, who was something of a rising star in football management, but in the 1998 Wold Cup, as usual, England made the knock out phase before being knocked out by the first decent team they played, in this case, Argentina. He was replaced when he suggested disabled people were disabled because they were being punished for something they did in a past life, or something.

Sven Goran Eriksson came in, mainly because he was seen as so boring, it might mean the British press might concentrate on the football rather than the manager's private life. Sadly, he turned out to like a bit of rumpy and had an affair with the only other famous Swede in the country, Ulrika Johnson. Under him England made the World Cup quarters (twice) and the quarters of the Euros inbetween. He resigned in the end, and was replaced by his assistant:

Steve McLaren. Sadly for Steve, he was appointed only after THe FA ballsed up the appointment of "Big" Phil Scolari, and so had to find someone else. So what better than the person who had learned everything that Sven knew. Well apart from Ulrika, probably. England failed to qualify for the Euros, with McLaren pictured sheltering under an umbrella as the game slipped out of England's grip. Thus was dubbed The Wally with the Brolly. He left for foreign climes, where he added a faux Dutch accent as he lead FC Twente to the Dutch title.

Fabio Capello was brought in, hired for several King's ransoms. And really failed to improve anything that had gone before, reached the knock out stages of the World Cup finals before being knocked out by the first decent team we played, and then he left after the FA suspended "nice" John Terry after he was facing a racism rap after swearing Alton Ferdinand

Afet Stuart Pierce was brought in for one game, Roy Hodgson was brought in. He had a glowing reputation for innovation early in his coaching career, but in recent years had been a disaster at Liverpool, so there were signs things would not go well. A quarter final run in 2012, without a win at the world cup in 2014, and then the failure to beat Iceland in France last month. Roy resigned.

I suppose my point here is, The FA have appointed managers from different backgrounds, different philosophies and tactics, and nothing really changed much. Players have come and gone, some with huge reputations, and yet they all pretty much failed when it mattered, and England rolled over once the knock out games begun. It don't matter really, in the short to medium term, who is manager, players are picked on form rather than on the job they might do in a stable team. Although passing has improved, creating chanes is what did for England this year, despite having Harry Kane and Jamie Vardy on the pitch, along with Rooney and Sturridge at times.

It was painful to watch.

As always.

Maybe Sam will inject some steel into the team, or create or mold leadership in one or more players. I don't think it will be a disaster, but then neither will it be the roaring success most will be hopeful of. We will qualify for the World Cup, maybe even get out of the group, then lose to the first decent team we play. Or Iceland. We will get angry for a few days, then the thought of the new season makes us forget how dreadful it all was for the next two years, when the cycle begins all again.

Saturday 23rd July 2016

We woke up to find, thanks to Twitter, that Dover was already at a standstill. Seems that there had been less than the required number of immigration officials on duty on the French passport control, and with enhanced shecks in place, the whole port ground to a halt, and the queues of traffic quickly built up, with many families facing a 14 hour wait to get onto a ferry. If they were lucky. Many had to spend the night in their cars, with no food or water, and although this is clearly bad news for those setting off on their holiday, for us locals getting around was going to be just as bad.

But there are lanes and back roads we could go down, just in order to be able to go to the shops, or go out on an orchid hunt for example. Hmmmm.

Chalkhill Blue Polyommatus coridon After last week's failed Chalkhill Blue hunt, I thought what with it being such a fine morning with no breeze at all, and there being no one manning the toll booths at the NT place, it meant it would be free.

A quick drive along Rach road, and then through the NT place, up to the overflow car park, careful not to disturb those sleeping in the tents near the edge of the drop to the car parks below. I go through the gate, look up the down and could see no butterflies on the wing, but as there had been mist at dawn, it meant that any that were about would still be warming up and maybe even basking in the morning sunshine.

Chalkhill Blue Polyommatus coridon Just below the top of the down there is a sheltered glade, I go there first, and at first see just Small Heaths and Marbled Whites about. I look into the long grass, and deep in the undergrowth, near to the bottom of the stalks were three male Chalkhills, wings open wide taking in the morning sun.

I bend down to try to get shots, a couple fly away, but one lets me get quite close before it too flies off.

A little later on, I see one on a crown of wild rosemary, so I get down on my belly, and leopard crawl closer and closer, getting better and better shots with the male apparently stretching it's tongue.

Chalkhill Blue Polyommatus coridon With there only being half a dozen about, I have some shots, but will return in a week or so. Anyway, time for breakfast.

It has been a couple of weeks since I went last orchid hunting, and with the main season now over, it just leaves the Helleborines to look for and snap. Only that many of them now grow further away from home, so require more travel, and with the main roads blocked with port travel, it would require some serious alternative routes for us to be able to get onto clear roads, and then we would have to get back, but hey, life is a gamble, so lets get it done.

After breakfast, we load the car with camera, tripod, reflectors and the such, along with a bottle of water, just in case, and drive down the the Deal road then through Guston, then via narrow tisty roads to Whitfield, then again down more lanes to Eythorne and then to Shepherdswell. Taking over half an hour for a trip that would normally have taken a few minutes. But at the A2 we were confronted with stationary traffic on both carriageways of the port-bound side, and that soon narrowed to a single line, and so they would not be going anywhere very quickly. Indeed, we same most drivers and passengers out of their cars and buses, walking around or sitting on the side of the road, they had been there for ages, clearly.

Brimstone Gonepteryx rhamni We were able to get over to the London-bound side, and accelerate up to 70 and cruise past Canterbury and onto Faversham. We would have to get back of course.

Once off the main road, we drive down the old A2, turning off and making our way to the golf course, where I had heard there was a small colony of very pale Broad Leaved Helleborines. I had been to the site before, but that was over two months ago, and I really didn't think I would be going back, so didn't pay as much attention as maybe I should have.

It was a wonderfully sunny and therefore hot, and not really the right time to be recreating Dr Livingstone's trek through the African bush. But, with only the most briefest of directions where to go, I go clambering up and down the grass bank, forging paths through saplings and thickets, getting scratched and all hot and bothered. I see no orchids, just a multitude of butterflies, and most of them Brimstones, both male and females, and I even get a couple of half decent shots, but they weren't in the best of positions for shots, and when I moved closer all of them flew off.

Brimstone Gonepteryx rhamni I searched for two hours, and was covered in scratched and bathed in sweat, and found zero orchids. At midday I promised myself I would abandon the search, which whilse was a disappointment, meant we could go onto to another site, via a pub for some refreshment of course.

Broad Leaved Helleborine Epipactis helleborine Back through Fasversham then seeing the coastbound side was packed with traffic, we turn the other way and decoded to take the back road way to Detling. We come to Newnham, and see there are spaces in the car park at The George, so go in and decide not just drinks, but we were so hungry we would have lunch. After a fruit juice, just to cool down and quench our thirst, we order our meals; burger and fries for Jools and chili for me, and we are set. The food is good, but to be honest we were so hungry, I think we would have eaten almost anything.

I pay and we return to the car, drive south through Doddington to Lenham, then along the A20 to Maidstone before turning back up the down to the small village where we would abandon the car before walking into the woods.

Our destination was a clearing, a quarter of an hour along narrow paths through the woods, where there was a large colony of BLH. We come to the clearing, and climb up to to the shade of the trees where they usually grew, only to find none. But after some searching, I find a few spikes, yet to flower. Nearby Jools sees one partially open, so I snap that. We walk down a footpath on a slightly different was back tot he car, and I see several dozen spikes, some open and many more yet to. I snap those, and happy that at least for all this effort I had some shots of orchids.

Broad Leaved Helleborine Epipactis helleborine Next up was Crundale; the most remote Kentish village, and where we were going was most remote part of the village. From the vantage point of the car park, I could see just one farm and nothing else, and yet this is Kent in the over-crowded south east! It was half one, and the hottest part of the day, so Jools says she would not be accompanying me on the walk to the wood, so I take the camera, tripod and reflectors from the boot, and set off on the mile and a half walk along the undulating track to the wood.

I won't lie, it was hard work, and I was hot and bothered all over again; the scratches I got earlier in the day, itched like mad, but I pused on until I reached the shadow of the wood. In I walked, looking on either side of the track for the telltale shape of a Helleborine spike, but saw none. I was searching for the Broad Leaved less showy cousin, the Violet, very hard to find, and found only on a couple of ancient beech woods. I searched and searched, retraced my steps back out of the wood, and found none at all, not even an unfurling spike.

From there it was a long walk, but mostly downhill back to the car where the water bottle and Jools was waiting.

Quarter past four the clock said, and now we had to get back home. Back up north via Stone Street to Bridge, then along the A2 until the traffic news at quarter to five told us there were 5 miles of queues ahead of us, so we turned off and went via Womenswold, Barfrestone, Shepherdswell and Eythorne, following the route we had left on that morning.

The Deal road was quiet, so turned towards Deal before branching off up Station Road and home. Quarter past five. Sheesh. What a day, and all I have to show for it was a handfull of orchids and a few blurry shots of Brimstone butterflies. But I had pushed myself very hard, and came through it.

We sit in the shade of the living room and drink pints of squash with lots of ice. That's better.

The evening before we had made Limoncello and Grappa tart together. After eating dinner; making the pastry, separating the dozen eggs and mixing in the booze and ground almonds. I let it cool all night, before popping it in the fridge for the day. So, we were able to cut the first two generous slices along with a fresh pot of coffee, so sat on the patio in the evening sun, munching on what is the best desert in the world. And I mean that!

1 packet of ready rolled sweet pastry (I make my own)
1 punnet of blueberries (I use one of blueberries and one of raspberries)
12 egg yolks (yes, 12)
juice and zest from 3 lemons
100ml limoncello
50ml Grappa
300g caster sugar
250g ground almonds.

454g = 1 pound, 227g = 1/2 pound, etc

Method: Butter a 12 inch flan ring, then line with pastry stabbing the base with fork. Pour in berries and allow to rest in fridge for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 160C/325F/gas mark 3. Whisk the eggs, lemon juice and zest, limoncello and grappa and sugar in a large bowl. Fold in the almonds pour this mixture in the tart shell. Bake for 40-50 minutes. Will be cooked when a knife comes out clean. Serve dusted with icing sugar, more limoncello and cream.

Saturday, 23 July 2016

Friday 22nd July 2016

I awoke at gone seven again, after some nine hours peaceful sleep. And felt great. I mean better than I have felt for weeks.

And I was going home!

Heck, there was barely enough time to get dressed, pack, check out, have breakfast and finally load the car and it was already past eight.

I knew the way, the car had a bonnet full of horse, it was a glorious sunny day, and the roads were so empty; this was going to be fun! I put a rock station on the car's hifi, and set off.

Down the street, past Anni and Bo's place and out of the city, out onto the main road where it turns into a motorway, climbs gently uphill before joining the E45 south. AC/DC were playing, there was so much space in which to put my foot down, and yet the engine did not scream.

I turn off the motorway for the last 36 miles to the airport, get stuck behind a truck for a while, travelling at 4km below the speed limit; as soon as the road turned back to a motorway, I put my foot down and the Audi leaps away like a scalded cat.

I arrived at the airport to find shorter queues than normal, but then I was about a quarter of an hour later than usual. Sure enough inside the depature hall, families are everywhere, getting ready for their Ryanair flights to the sun further south.

The Flight Home I set up work at a free table and try to ignore the screaming children about me. I know I was young once, and I would be doing the same if I had flown at their age. But how am I supposed to concentrate? Anyway, I fire off a couple of mails, and update yet more documents no one will read, and then it is time to go to board the flight.

There is the usual scramble for seats, but I don't bother to join in, I am last one and find I have a row to myself, whereas all the others are squished in. But the guy behind me spends the whole flight putting his knee into the small of my back, so I punch it back repeatedly. Makes no difference.

We arrive over a mostly cloudy London, and as we bank onto final approach, I get a fine view down the river than all the chaos of the city on either side.

The Flight Home We touch down, and we all scramble to get in the queue in the aisle even before the door is open. It is the modern way. We are let out, and I help a mother with her child, carry out her bag for her, as it was the right thing to do of course. But in the airport arrivals hall, there were no queues, we go to the front of the line, get our passport scanned and once through find our bags already waiting.

I dash down onto the platforms below to find a train waiting, and I work out there was a chance I might even make the twenty to two train from St Pancras. The train wasn't even half full, quite amazing really, everything so much less busy than normal.

I decide not to go on the Tube this time, as it would be so hot, especially as there were no queues for taxis. I get in one and tell him to get me to St Pancras, and he tries to get me there for half past. But the traffic along Euston Road is just too heavy, and we catch all the lights as we go down it.

As I climb out of the cab, I see I have 30 seconds to make it onto the platform to catch the train, and I'm never going to do that, so I make my way to the shop just inside the station for a bottle of cold Budweiser (Czech version) and wait for the ten past two train to Ashford. Jools said she would come to pick me up there, so even though there were no seats, I am happy enough, knowing that I would be with her in 30 minutes. It was hot on the train, but the trip is not long, and I could look at all the usual landmarks as we speed into Kent and travel towards the coast.

Jools is waiting, so I throw the bags in the back, and we drive to the motorway and then towards Dover, but there are queues already building, and we are held up ten minutes at Ayecliffe, we turn up Military Road, go through the town and up Castle Hill, and from there along Reach Road, along the cliffs to home We had done it, and it was the weekend.

We have a brew and an ice cream, sitting on the patio in the afternoon sun. I feel full of beans, but Jools is shattered.

I cook chorizo hash for dinner, and as usual it is marvelous, and perfect with half a bottle of red too.

That night the next part of The People's History of Pop was on, 1965 to 1975, very good, but too much to squeeze in. And in the next one, I may or maybe not be featured. We shall see. I have signed the copyright clearance forms, so it might yet happen. Will just have to wait until the end of September to find out.

Thursday 21st July 2016

I woke up with what could nearly be described as a hangover. Almost, but not quite.

But it was a close run thing. And as ever, as the evening was panning out, I felt like one more whisky could not hurt, could it? Of course not.

Anyway, I slep through what time I would normally like to be up and about, so it was ten past seven before I opened my eyes for the third time and decided that maybe I should now get up.

Only it became clear that I should not stray too far from the bathroom. However, better put in an appearance.

The breakfast room is empty, apart from a couple of German couples up early. I had hoped to see someone I knew. As I walked past the reception, I could see someone waving from inside one of the glass-sided lifts; he was big and blonde and Jesper shaped! Jools says that some people light up the room when they enter it, some when they leave. And Jesper is very much the former, and is delighted me meet me, gave me a huge bear-hug and we swap news. But I have to get going, and he has to get breakfast, we make plans to meet in the office, but didn't in the end.

Usually, Arhus is gridlocked with traffic, but this week is slap bang in the middle of holiday season, and the city is more than half-empty. I take the road down by the harbour then turning up Randervej to look at the progress on the new tram line; it is nearly done at that end, with just the terminal station to complete, and further up, most of the track is now laid, and even half the line across the busy O2 road is half done.

The car park outside the office has a handful of cars, and once I swipe my card and enter, I find there are just five of us in an office for over a hundred.

And it is hot, did I mention that? I mean I know I joke about it being the frozen north and all that, but sometimes when the sun shines and the wind doesn't blow, it can be downright hot. And this day was very hot indeed.

I get down to work, but without being disturbed I quickly catch up and by lunchtime I am twiddling my thumbs. And that is when my stomach did it for me, and I thought the best thing would be to lay in bed, snooze, listen to the radio. So, I drive the car back to the hotel, even remembering the back streets way, and after grabbing two diet Cokes I go up to my room, hang the "do not disturb" sign on the door handle and throw myself into bed, whilst the radio quietly burbled in the background.

I may not have slept, but I took my brain off the hook, didn't even mess around online, just listened to the radio, and closed my eyes.

The afternoon slipped by, my stomach emptied itself, and I felt washed out, but by evening, was at least hungry. So I find the smokehouse that Chris took me to a few months back, booked a table, and at half six, I went out through the gangs of Pekemon hunters on the grass outside the hotel, then doen the sidestreet, right to the bottom where the Memphis Smokehouse was.

I have an ice cold IPA and it tastes like nectar, but not in a Fosters kind of way. I ordered smoked brisket and Jamaican spiced lamb and watched as the owners waited the tables, made small talk and welconed returning frequent customers. Their attention to detail was great, as was thei hand made sauces, made to compliment the dishes, which they do.

I am stuffed, and still feeling washed out, and in a rare move, I go back to the hotel to relax and go to bed at half nine, switching off the second Star Trek reboot film, and so I let Mr Sandman take me from this world once again.

Friday, 22 July 2016

Wednesday 20th July 2016

I awoke at some point very early in the morning, I looked round the edge of the curtains, and the sun was just about to rise, the sky a mix of blue and pink, all over. I needed more sleep.

I woke again just after seven, behind schedule and needing a shower and to pack.

That done I went down to the reception to check out, then go for breakfast, and it was the emptiest I had ever seen it, with just two diners, one being my colleague Manu, so I joined him for coffee and to talk.

The car is loaded, I find some station playing an old Bee Gees track, start the car, open the windows and take the short drive to the office.

Man, it is already hot in the office, and the remote for the air con unit has been lost, so there is little else to do other than to endure it, maybe have the window open ajar. Thankfully that side of the building was in shade for the morning, so it didn't get too hot. And by the time the afternoon arrives, I will be on the road to Arhus.

Evening in Arhus I find work to do, and fill the morning so that come one in the afternoon it was time to pack up and leave for the 90 minute drive to Arhus.

I say my farewells, it will be two weeks before I am back, so once done, I can walk to the car, across the car park that is so dry it is like a desert. In fact when the wind blows here, sand and grit are blown around, so much so the whole area is called Sahara. Anyway, I get in the car, open all the windows and drive away, wanting to go as fast as possible so that the wind would cool me and the car down.

Evening in Arhus The Audi is so easy to drive, the steering wheel doesn’t move unless you turn it, it has so much power, it accelerates very quickly. In short, I’m having a blast. Down the motorway for 60 or so km, the turn onto the E45 for the half hour drive up to Arhus South and from there down into the centre of the city, take a left and another 5 minutes to the hotel.

And there I see the first Pokemon Go players. In fact I nearly take four of them out as they run in front of the car, waving mobile phones in front of them. I park in front of the hotel, check in and take to my room where there is more work to do, enough to keep me busy until half four, when I will go and meet my old RAF buddy, Shaggy.

Evening in Arhus However, I thought I knew the way, and despite being just a few minute walk from the bar, I convinced myself I knew the way, walked down the hill past the modern art museum, along the road behind it, back up the other side right back to where I started.

I walk round, then see a sign post, so I have to go and check that, and sure enough it points back up the hill, and is some 800m away.

Mr Shaggy Shags So, by now I was sweating, and walking hard, puffing up the hill, across the intersection, then at the next crossroads, I see the station square, and just a little further on would be the bar.

Shaggs was waiting outside for me, checking with me on Facebook via his phone, sadly mine was in the hotel room, so no chance of answering him. We are meeting because he is going to buy my old 50D body, as I have failed to sell it via e bay, as well as bringing him so British supplies, Bovril and Marmite.

Highlander Bar He buys me a drink, and we retire to the beer garden, mixing it with the smokers and wild birds feeding in the tree above us. Its not a bad life, all in all.

After a refill, we go to the diner up the street and have burgers and huge plates of fries and mayo and strong Barley Wine to go with it all. I had no eaten since breakfast, so was hungry, and I can tell you, that it was all good, even though very unhealthy indeed.

Evening in Arhus Another short walk away was the Mikkler Bar, so we retire there to sample some unusual beers, and at that point I thought we would be calling it a night. Show me the Highlander Bar he asks.

Hmm, I thought I could go in and just have one, so I agree, and we walk along near-deserted streets to the bar, where Julian perks up when he finds he has some ex-forces drinkers in.

Evening in Arhus We sample the pineapple rum, and some other rum. Then it got silly and we switched onto some far eastern whisky he had just brought back after meeting with the distillers. It was good, aged in sherry casks and is was luscious. Sadly, Julian told me there was an even better one, although twice the price. I can’t resist, and have one for the road, and leave some £65 lighter.

Evening in Arhus From there it was a short walk back up the hill to the hotel, Shaggs walks back to the station, and all is quiet, apart from the Pokemon players running around on the grass near to the hotel; keeps them fit I suppose.

Tuesday 19th July 2016

Summer in Denmark seems to be cold and cloudy, just with more daylight. Things is, you wake up and it is clearly light outside, does it mean it's stll before four in the morning, or is it after eight, in which case I'd be very late for the meeting.

Turns out it was seven, giving me half an hour before I was due to meet with Manu for breakfast, and then drive upto Hvde Sande for the meeting. I bumped into his the night before and said whoever had the best car would drive the next day. Having an A6 meant I was pretty sure I would win.

He arrives as I am tucking into a bacon butty, or roll in this case, and he is well, but tired after a weekend moving house.

Turns out he has a qashqai or whatever Nissan calls them, so I win. And we will be powered by many Audi horses for the day.

We load up, set the air conditioning to ice cold and drive off through the city up the well known road to Varde and then onto Ringkobing from there we would drive to the coast then turn south to Hvide Sande.

The question I do get from time to time is, what is Denmark like: well, rolling countryside, farms, woodlands and bogs, small villages and farms. No point is higher than 170m above sealevel, and for the most part looks the same. Or at least Jutland does. I have been to Copenhagen, and it is really a different country to Jutland.

We drive through the countryside, discussing politics, moving house and work. Life is good. Through Ringkobing and down the coast where many people go for their holidays, mainly Germans to stay in cabins hidden in the dunes. On a dull, cloudy morning, it seems hard to see why. And as Manu says, the cabins aren't cheap, as much as a flight for two to Spain where sun is assured.

Anyway, we arrive at Hvide Sande, go to the meeting room to prepare. And wait.

We are done by half one, time enough to go to Esbjerg and the office if we can get back quick. We take the road south, on the spit of land between the sea and lagoon. Traffic is heavy, and almost all German, but the sun is shining from a clear blue sky, it is so warm its hot, and holidaying here now makes sense.

In the cool of the evening We feel so lucky in being able to do this, drive along in an air-conditioned Audi, looking at wonderful scenery and calling this "a job". We do resist the lure of an ice cream parlour and press on away from the dune on the back road to Varde and then back south to Esbjerg.

Work is fine, just good to touch base with people, see how things are going. Half an hour later, people are finishing for the day, and so I think maybe I should too.

Anyway, I can work from the hotel room, sit in its cool shadyness and drink ice cold Pepsis from the reception. Yes, that sounds like a good idea.

I have the radio on, try not to take to bed for a snooze, and find that time slips through my hand and I can go down to meet Manu in the bar before we cross the street for some BBQ at Flammen.

A cool German wheatbeer, then the walk, more beer, salad and meat. Lots of meat. I go back for seconds, and am presented with a baby rack, which falls apart. And is delicious.

We round the meal off with a glass of wine, which hots the spot. Now just need cigars....

Monday 18th July 2016

In just typical manner, high summer arrived just in time not just for the working week, but a working week in Denmark. It was going to be a very hot day, it even felt hot at half five when the alarm went off, so before leaving for the station, I went round watering all the potted plants around the garden.

Just before leaving, I look up into the sky and there is no clouds. It will be tough in London.

I say London as I am going up early, to have a mooch around and try to see a couple of churches before I travel to the airport for the flight, I now have to depart and return from Heathrow, a major pain in the ass, and one that means a half day travel now turns into a full day one.

I load the car, and Jools takes me to Folkestone, traffic is heavy as a ferry has just arrived, so we crawl through the roadworks along Townwall Street, work which may become irrelevant, as the EU funding for the Western Docks redevelopment may not now be forthcoming, another effect of Brexit.

Anyway, past lorries as they struggle to climb Shakespeare Cliffe, and onto Folkestone where I see a Javelin just pulling in, just when wasn't due. Hmmmm.

I take my cases out of the car, get my ticket, but on the platform there is news of delays; the train I had just seen leave was the half six, at ten past seven, and no news when another might come. I got ready for some waiting.

In the end the broken down train was cleared, and although two trains were cancelled, another left on time, although that meant passengers for two services were squeezed on it, we were pretty much on time, been if it was the seven o'clock train, or the half past. Who knows.

Thought of Train of Thought by Ron Arad, St Pancras Station I get off at St Pancras for a change, I was in no hurry so I am last off, pushing my case. MY first target is the new work of art above the buffers at the far end of the station, so I weave my way though the crowds waiting to board trains for France, climb the stairs to the upper level where I could get clear views of the piece, a chromed blade that rotates, reflecting the station in itself.

Thought of Train of Thought by Ron Arad, St Pancras Station And then down into the tube, for a hop to Paddington, to drop of my case at the left luggage place, which like most things now has been privatised and cost £12.50 for four hours, rather than the 50p it should have. Grrrr.

Waiting at Paddington I managed to squeeze on with my case and take the 5 stops to Paddington, people do this every day I thought, and I could if I took a job in London, I have had them offered. Not in this lifetime.

I find the left luggage place, deposit my case, then make my way to the underground for a short hop to Notting Hill. Now free of the case, I can take shots on the platform and trains coming in and out. At least here the trains were mostly empty, so I could sit down for the two stops.

St Margaret Lothbury, City of London Next it was down onto the Central Line, where the modern age and the Gods of Air Conditioning had not yet reached, and squeezing onto another crowded train, hotter than a Turkish sauna. And I had over ten stops of this. But I was standing by one of the partition doors which had a window open, so there was something of a breeze to cool down.

St Margaret Lothbury, City of London At least my top half anyway.

I get off at Bank, then have to walk up the right exit for my destination; another church. But this one I have visited before, St Margaret Lothbury. I had last been here on a very wet Open House day, when we were soaked and the thrill of seeing so many open spaces soon lost their thrill, and we decided to call it a day very early and go home, as we were soaked.

Anyway, back here, and after walking three quarters around the Bank of England, I find the church and the door is open. A good sign.

I hear voices from the rear office, but they carry on as I go round snapping away, getting shots. It is a fine church, similar to several other City Churches, but decent enough, I am happy to redo my shots, with the new wide angle lens too.

St Margaret Lothbury, City of London I walk back past the Bank and the Royal Exchange to check on another church, one which is never open, St Peter Upon Cornhill. It is locked again. So I decide to make my way to my main target for the day, St Mary Abchurch. Instead of walking, I though I would catch the tube, only the walk to the Circle Line platforms went on forever, going up, down, along past the DLR station, the Northern Line Station until coming to the Circle Line, but this was Monument Station, meaning I had walked half way to Cannon Street anyway, and I just had one stop to ride; should have walked all the way.

St Margaret Lothbury, City of London Before walking to Bank Station, I decide it was time for breakfast. Or second breakfast, especially as first breakfast was just grapefruit segments and a coffee. I find an Italian place down a side alley from the Royal Exchange, I order a panini and sip from an ice cold bottle of orange juice, so sit on a stool byy the window to chat to an older gentleman about the changes he has seen in The City, and the wonderful churches and buildings that can be seen, and some of the less good ones too.

I get off at Cannon Street, and find it in chaos: there are gas main repairs going on, with traffic lights, and two of the sets of lights so close to each other and not in sinc, that the traffic is lines up blocking both. And it is hot. Damn hot. I know we have been waiting for such weather, but in London, without a breath of wind, it feels like I am walking on the surface of the sun.

I have walked up and down Cannon Street several times and never noticed the spire of St Mary, but then that is easy.

Coming out of Cannon Street underground station, crossing over the street, chocked with traffic as yet more roadworks were underway, past two junctions, and then up Abchurch into the yard, another street closed because of roadworks, but just a few steps off Cannon Street is another area of peace and calm in The City.

St Mary Abchurch, City of London A young man is serving coffee, and has few customers I would think on what must have been the hottest day of the year, but I see that the door was already open, so I cross the card, nose scrunched up at the smell of the drains below, and through the door into a cool and peaceful interior.

St Mary Abchurch, City of London Above the pews and marble floor, is a dome, painted to the glory of God, and is stunning. Apparently this was the practice dome for St Paul's, and it is glorious and managed to survive the Blitz too. I am met by a Friends guide, who asks if I need help, we swap words and news about other churches open, but is happy to leave me alone when she finds out I know the website and know my eggs.

St Mary Abchurch, City of London Somewhere inside St Mary, when changing lenses, some dust falls on the sensor, and I do not realise, nor could I do anything about it until I get home where I have the air blower. But most of the shots are OK, just the final ones taken outside where the dust is obvious in the blue sky.

St Mary Abchurch, City of London Once I am done, I sit outside on a bench, but it is in full sun, and it is baking, and I realise that I am not enjoying it. I need the bathroom, and these are in short supply until the pubs open, so I make my way back to Paddington where there are facilities, and a pub in which I can replace lost fluids!

I take the Bakerloo up to Baker Street, then along to Paddington, and once I had paid my 30p for spending a penny, I walk to the pub, order a pint of Pilsner Urquell on draft, and take it to the seat by the window so I could sit and look out onto the trainshed.

As I drain the beer, I see a vision in yellow and blue. It will mean nothing to most, but an HST, painted in original British Rail 70s Inter City colours, so painted to celebrate its 40th anniversary, so I take my camera to see if I can get some shots.

253 001 The lady working the ticket barrier, not only didn't mind me taking shots, but said it was OK to go onto the platform, without a ticket, to get shots. Many thanks to her and GWR,.

I collected my case and boadred a Heathrow Express, managing to find the single carriage with the air con broken, i moved to the next coach and settled down to leave.

At the airport i have lots of time, but I learn that I have been booked with a ticket with no baggage allowance, so have to pay £65 to take my case, and then that the £9 I spent the day before in reserving a seat is worthless as the computer had re-assigned me. I complained, asking if I would get the £9 back; but you are in row 3, sir, I am told. In short, upgraded.

Now, upgraded on a short hop to Billund isn't a big deal, but no one sitting next to you for a start, first off the plane at the other end. And food.

So, I accept the upgrade, pay the baggage fare and go through security only to find the flight delayed.

I go to sweary blokes Plane Food place and have burger as it would be too late once I got to Esbjerg to find somewhere open. All you get for the £15 is the burger, fries are £4.20 extra. And that is the bonus i used to get working in the chiller for a week at the chicken factory: a portion of chips! Would sir like to add bacon to the burger? I look at the menu: £2.50 for what would be a single rasher. I decline, thus saving the company some money.

By the time I am done, it is time to find the gate, and I discover that the delay has changed to being on time, and the flight will leave on time, and I have twenty minutes to find the gate. But that was a two minute walk away, and anyway, there is chaos at the gate and children are running around going crazy, and others are trying to jump the queue.

From the air After ten minutes; priority boarding please, which is my signal to jump the queue, and once down the walkway, slither into seat 3F and close my eyes. Behind me soon, a family takes their place in the cheap seats, and their eldest son spends the entire flight either kicking my seat or playing with the tray table. I add his name to the list!

From the air We are served High Tear: finger sandwiches, scone, jam, clotted cream and tea. It is lovely, really nice to be munching as we fly over sunny Europe. Needless to say I have the scone in the Cornish rather than the Devon fashion: jam then cream.

Needless to say, Denmark is cold and cloudy after all the sunshine a little south, but hey.

We have to wait ages for our bags, but then I am rewarded with an Audi A6 estate for the week. Lots of horses under the bonnet. I pack by back in the bag, start her up and just listen to the engine for the 45 minute drive to the hotel. Even then its just a purr, until you put your foot to the floor, then it roars, oh yes, my precious.

And there is a parking space at the hotel, so I take that, unload the car, check in, and once in my room on the top floor I find that the sky is falling again. So I have to have an hour's call with a colleague in which he explains how exactly the sky is falling.

Welcome to the working week!