Wednesday, 31 August 2016

Summer madness

Today, the 31st August, is when the summer transfer window slams shut. It always slams shut. And, so the BBC tells us, 2016 is the first year that the 20 Premier League clubs have spent £1 billion between them. And then the BBC says this like its a good thing. A billion pounds. in two months. Jeez.

And, we know, from past history that most of that money will be pissed against the wall, with almost every club and the players they buy will be a colossal waste of money. Players who may or may not be international class, but for the most part they will stay for a year or three and then move on, and the clubs will lose their money. But TV brings in £5 billion a year, so who cares?

Maybe the hundreds of young players who dream of playing in the first team know that with each of these multi-million pound players signed pushed them even further down the pecking order, having to go out on endless loans to clubs in lower divisions, or other Premier League clubs or even clubs around Europe. They will never get near to playing for the club that actually "owns" them. Take Patrick Bamford, now in his fourth season with Chelsea, and yet to play for them, and now heading out on another season long loan, whilst his parent club signs more players today.

It is madness. And fans and the media just cheer the madness on, like this is part of the game. My club spent £85 million! well mine spent £120 million! Like some kind of sporting who has the biggest dick competition, as if winning games isnt enough now, its about how big your reach is, how much money you can afford to spunk on some 3rd choice left back from the Bundesliga. All the while hundreds of young players have their careers stagnate and fall out of the game. Thing is, fans don't care if the club captain was born in sight of the ground or on the other side of the world, as long as the team wins.

The Premier League clubs have been complaining that there are no chances for their young players to play competitive games, so the Johnstone Paint Trophy was thrown open to 16 development teams, to play games with teams from the lower two divisions. Only the clubs complaining the loudest have declined to take part, and it has been a still-born competition with fans, with many of last night's games having less than a thousand supports, some having less than 500.

Chelsea currently have 34 players on loan and a 26 first team squad, and two more players coming in today. On top of that they have 18 players in their development squad, some quick maths make that 78 players; they can only play 11 at a time, and a squad of just 18. And yet they buy more players to go straight into the first team squad. And this is just one team, the easy one to point fingers at, but other clubs are just as bad.

And then I pretend to myself its all about the game.

Tuesday 30th August 2016

The endless hot spell goes on and on and on. We try to keep the garden watered, but have now emptied both the water butts are now empty, and we have resorted to the hosepipe and tap water.

This does mean that the plants, flower, bulbs and flowers need watering at least every other day, so we do it. I did it early Tuesday morning, mainly because it extended the feeling of being on holiday until the very last minute. Away in the south eat, the run rises and lights up the garden, awaking the insects and butterflies from their root. I could have stayed out all morning, but work calls.

A walk to the quacks While I eat breakfast, I read my mails, plan my day ahead, which will be mainly sitting at the dining room table. But it is better than airports. I do know that.

I have to walk to the doctors for an appointment to get some pills for the pain in my shoulder. I mean its a little better, but drugs would help I thought. And as Jools had the car, I would have to walk, which at ten in the morning would get the juices flowing one way or another.

I walk down Station Road and up the other side, cutting through the village to the surgery. I am sweating by the time I get there, which isn't a good look when the quack has such a keen interest in my weight. But he allows me some drugs, and after waiting to get them and paying a King's ransom for the 12 pills, I can go.

A walk to the quacks I go via the village shop for some crisps, as a sandwich isn't crispy enough without them. After many years of research, this is what I have found, and the foundation in my doctorate in crispology. From the shop I walk past the Red Lion, still up for sale, then along the lane which doubles as a national cycle route, but I survive, going pas the new either orchard or vinyard, still not sure, but I think its vines to be honest. The small plants are growing strong, but look very small compared to the supports that has been provided for them.

A walk to the quacks I come to the top of the dip, and coming this way it is a far longer way down and back up the other side. There seems to be no moisture in the ground at all, it is just so dry. Even at the bottom the mud had hardened to concrete.

I stop at the glade, but see no butterflies about, it is too warm and too near noon to see any really. So I walk back over the field to home.

A walk to the quacks I check on work, then after a pint of iced squash and make lunch; sandwiches with crisps, which is a fine feast and appeals to my inner child. It would have been perfect with strawberry jam, but them with pastrami its still pretty good.

The afternoon is the same of the morning, but with slightly higher temperatures and humidity. Which is nice.

When Jools comes home, we have leftover aubergine and pasta salad, which is good with a bottle of French IPA, which as 70cl, is far more than I can drink in one evening now. I nurse the three quarter pint that is left after dinner for most of the evening. I went down the sink this morning.

And that was your day; it ended with us watching a documentary on medieval illuminated manuscripts before sitting on the patio looking at the dazzling array of stars and planes flying east. It is around the day of the new moon, so the sky is very dark.

Tuesday, 30 August 2016

Monday 29th August 2016

It was one of those Bank Holidays you dream of; long sunny spells, warm breeze, and only a few chores to do. And yes, the day passed with neither of us really achieving too much. But then after the best part of four weeks away, and then chasing orchids, sometimes its good to just be. Be at home in this case.

There is the usual football to catch up on first thing, although there was only the one game from Sunday worth catching up with, so, I do sit on the sofa and watch the football and the gangs of starlings that come to strip the bird tables at regular intervals.

Wasp Spider Argiope bruennichi At about ten, I can't sure of the exact timings as I wasn't taking notes, we go over to B&Q for some do it ourselves stuff. We have a fancy-shaped lamp shade that we have without actually using it as a lamp shade, it is an object d'art, it sits on the windowsill in the kitchen, and the yellow fabric has faded, so I have the idea of spray painting it to jazz it up a bit. And then we needed a new rubber hammer, don't ask, and then Jools wanted a power screwdriver, also don't ask. So, some £45 lighter, we return and I go onto the decking to spray the shade.

Common Blue Polyommatus icarus And it goes well until the can of pant jams, and the accelerant just vents with only half the shade yellow and all glittery. But what I did do looks fine. Half a good job done, then. Jools roadtests the power screwdriver once it is charged and seems happy enough, but she doesn't try the rummer hammer on me, well, not yet.

The morning has passed, and we feel we should do something with the day, so we walk along the road to the track over the fields. I know you know this route by now, but to walk it through every season, year after year, is to feel connected with the land. Hope that makes sense.

All the crops have been harvested, at least all round the village anyway. Some fields are now being ploughed ready for the sowing of a winter crop. But most of all it has the feeling of being dessicated, as it seems weeks since we had any rain.

Brown Argus Aricia agestis At the copse there was butterflies; Large Whites, Common Blues and a single Brown Argus. I snap them before we go to see the piglets who, lets be honest here, are now pigs and are very demanding, and squeal loudly as we approach, it seems they were expecting food, but sadly we had none. The follow us along the track and back, asking for food.

Back home we have a cooling drink and lunch. Its how we roll. There is music on the radio, pictures to be edited and some of them are even more of the Japan trip. In fact, I have gone back to update all the blogs from the trip and add more shots to most of them. I hope they might make more sense now. A long shot I know.

Fleet House And so the day fades, we cook breaded aubergine to go with the pasta salad I made earlier. There are hot and crispy and delicious. Even more so with some red, red wine.

I go upstairs for a shower, and before I take the plunge, I take a look out of the window and marvel at the scene: to the right I can see over the rolling countryside to Kingsdown, the turbine at Fleet House barely turns in the evening air. To the right, the big field the other side of Station Road, dozens of bales still lay uncollected, with the towers of RAF Swingfield stading in the evening air. And in front, a few scattered bonfires are lit, burning the faded summer growth and the smoke rising barley stirred by the wind before it fades to nothing. This is the very end of high summer, the hedgerows have fruit ripening, whilst gardens are beginning to turn to reds and golds, the colour of autumn. And of course it is the end of the orchid season, our local colony of ALTs nestle in the shadow of the monument which I would be able to see if the trees between me and it were not so full of leaves.

Once showered and smelling all lovely, we sit on the patio whilst the day fades. Swallows and swifts already seem to be gathering, but the bats still come to feat on small flying insects. As it near to the new moon, when darkness falls, the sky is full of stars and the Milky Way visible. I finish off the wine and we take to bed, the three day weekend over, and now no more until Christmas Day, now less than four months away.

Monday, 29 August 2016

The future

It is now some three months since we left for Japan, or nearly that long anyway. And it had been pointed out by Jools that we need something to look forward to sometimes to make this life bearable. I have to say, that for the most part this life, what with the traveling and living in hotels, eating and drinking in restaurants, isn't that bad to be honest.

So, here is the plan for the next year, or so.

September to Easter:

I have to be honest, this is going to be a very busy time for me, in that I will be traveling back and forth between home and Ostend most weeks. The weeks when I don't travel I will be going back to Denmark. I will ost likely be working over Christmas, if the weather allows, which means no time home with Jools and her family, but then no having call Mum either. Upside to everything.

May 2017:

Isle of Skye. A sleeper train from London Euston to Fort William, then either a steam train or local service to Mallaig, then a ferry to the isle. Renting a cottage overlooking the rugged coast, walking about, celebrating life and those we love. At least that is the plan.

August 2017

Wyoming. There is to be an eclipse, and we are planning on flying in, renting an RV and seeing the eclipse and then visiting Yellowstone.

At least that is the plan, and we are very, very excited. And also the thought that we might meet up with some readers and so friends of these words. How darned exciting is that?

Sunday 28th August 2016

Any thought of going anywhere had been torpedoed after a truck struck a footbridge near Maidstone, causing it to collapse, and so since then all northbound traffic was going up the A2, so when a ferry docked it was very busy indeed. Saying that, we really didn't feel like going that far anyway. And with the weather being breezy and cool, maybe a day doing next to nothing.

I start off by first going outside in my slippers and dressing gown to put bird seed down, and bump into the local Goth walking by doing her makeup. She doesn't seem to mind, so I dont. I walk back inside and with a fresh coffee, settle down to watch the football, that the machine had recorded because the channel had not been changed as the Olympics had finished. Halfway through I pause it and go make bacon butties. I return to watch the football, this season sans Norwich of course, which makes for more pleasant viewing, as I don't have to hide behind the sofa now when they're on like last year.

Foolishly I had said two days previously that maybe I should go over to Whitfield to meet the old folks, as in truth I really have not seen them since Nan's funeral. Jools reminded me of this rash promise several times until relented and agreed to go. Not much has really changed there since Nan went into the home; Tony still smokes like a chimney and talks about the past a lot. Jen's Mum is going slowly peculiar, but then she is 96 this year so that's allowed, but her erratic demands are getting the ever-cheerful Jen down at times. And Jen is, well, Jen. All smiles, making tea and coffee and bubbling with energy.

After an hour we leave, to come home and have lunch: leftover crusty bread with apricot jam. Simple food for simple times.

The weather is still cloudy and breezy, so there is the radio, then the football to listen to, before I start dinner; rib eye and sweetcorn with garlic mushrooms and sauteed potatoes. And champagne! Yes, a bottle of fizz to celebrate my birthday and my recent good fortune at work. Oh, yes it pays to be good, apparently.

We are stuffed like plush toys, so sit on the sofa and watch a documentary about Greece, and how it is coping in the modern world; that their problems with the EU are blamed on unfinished business from the war and the Nazi occupation, and the influx of refugees; you can build a wall as high as you like, they would still run from war towards a better life.

Sobering stuff, but also wise words.

Sunday, 28 August 2016

Saturday 27th August 2016

As I thought, I woke feeling like my right shoulder had been hit by a freight train. But this should mean its going to get better, right? For a change, there was shopping to do first thing, so I decide to take my half dead arm and do the work at Tesco. I arrive to find that the handy scan and shop service is now only available after eight, which means having to stand in line at the till, then pack. I mean its so last century. It is fairly empty, and being summer there is a good range of fresh fruit from Britain and around Europe. Fresh apricots are always a treat, so I stock up on those.

It does mean having done the shop that we will have fresh croissants for breakfast once I am home and all the shopping put away.

Autumn Lady's Tresses Spiranthes spiralis With the sun out and light winds, I think I should go to the Dover Patrol to look at the tiny spikes of the Autumn Lady's Tresses. Although driving up Granville Road I did think how angry I would be if I found the site mowed again. Very angry indeed I decide, enough for a double tut. Anyway, no mowing down, and so several dozen, maybe 200 spikes showing, some over three inches high, and some showing a picture perfect twist.

Autumn Lady's Tresses Spiranthes spiralis I get down and get my shots; singles, pairs and triplets. These mark the end of the orchid season of course, and now will come the long wait until next spring when the madness will take me again. But, there could be time to look for one or two more.

Autumn Lady's Tresses Spiranthes spiralis There is an orchid, it's name alone with have orchid fanatics foaming at the mouth with just the thought of seeing one. This is the Ghost Orchid, it has not been seen for seven years in the UK, despite many more people looking for it now, and before then, it had been over two decades when the previous sighting happened. It has been found in two areas, Buckinghamshire and Shropshire, but in theory, it could grow anywhere suitable. But it only shows above ground to flower, and that flower may only last a day or so, and is tiny. There is no rosette, and the spike itself is waxy white and be very small.

Green-veined White Pieris napi So, a long shot to look for one in Kent, but if one were found, anywhere, national fame would follow very quickly. So, I thought a couple of the usual haunts sounded about right, and with breakfast eaten and the washing up done, I load the car with camera equipment and we set off.

Violet Helleborine Epipactis purpurata We park near the usual spot at Barham, but not looking on climbing up to where the Lesser Butterfly are usually found, I park along the road to seach where a couple of months ago the ground was thick with Twayblades, Lady and Fly. Now, there is nothing, well, nothing orchidy for sure. But I look anyway. I find the Herb Paris now having reached the end of their annual life-cycle, holding their single poisoned berry to the sky as the leaves below fade and die. All things end.

Violet Helleborine Epipactis purpurata I search all the way up the slope, but the only flower I find is a single Bell Flower; no orchids. But Jools has gone off, up the slope and out of site, so after 90 minutes I make my way back to the car, thinking Jools would be waiting. She wasn't, but after chasing a Green Veined White around the glade for a while, Jools returns and casually states that she found some Broad Leaved Helleborines. I ask her to describe them, and sounds right-ish, but I want to be sure. There is always the chance they could be Narrow Lipped or Violets. So, after moving the car, we set about following the fence line up the down, past the partridge farm and down a dip until we join a bridleway.

Violet Helleborine Epipactis purpurata Up and to the left, through a mature beech wood with light vegetation all over, it should all be perfect orchid growing area. But orchids being orchids, they will grow, crowded together, in a small area where it suits them.

After walking along for ten minutes, I spot a spike away to the left, then as the path drops there are two large clumps too. Most have flowered and turned to seed, but there are more than a couple of younger spikes with flowers open or yet to open.

Violet Helleborine Epipactis purpurata The light purple stem shows them to be Violet Helleborines, and a much better site than at Crundale, as one of the clumps has nearly a dozen spikes, all growing together.

I get shots, hundreds of shots. As I have left the tripod in the car and it is too far to go back for it, so I manage and if I take enough, some should come out. Let's hope so anyway.

And with that the day is done. We walk back to the car and could have gone to a pub, maybe the Black Robin, but decide to go home and save money. That is until I remember the site where we go to see the Birds Nest Orchids, and so drive over the A2 and find a place to park up.

In the wood all is quiet, and apart from the dried spikes of last year's and this year's Bird's Nests, there is no orchid action at all. But then it is good to go to such a familiar place in a different season to see how it changes. With that done, we can go home for lunch.

Traffic is heavy coming the other way, which is unusual for the A2, but we don't really give it much thought.

Once back home and having made lunch, I go online to see a footbridge had collapsed on the M20, and the road was closed, and lucky no one was killed. But it did mean all traffic for London and beyon was making its way up the A2, which explained the traffic.

There is football on the radio, but then there always is. Norwich slip to a dreadful defeat at Birmingham, and as I listen to the bad news from St Andrews, I hardly notice scores coming in from other games. We have insalata caprese, again, for dinner. It is quick and easy, so why not?

Outside there is the threat of thunder, but even after sitting on the patio for a couple of hours there is not one crack of thunder nor drop of rain. It is now very dark before nine, doubly so with the new moon due.

Saturday, 27 August 2016

Brexit: hard choices

If you read only the main stream and former Fleet Street based papers, in particular the Daily Express, you would think that leaving the EU was easy, and we could do it tomorrow. Or yesterday.

In fact they are right, with Brexit all of it is easy, as long as you don't mind settling for a dreadful deal for the UK. I mean you could go into trade negotiations, say with the US of A and agree to all their demands, sign the piece of paper and you have yourself a deal. But it would be all benfit America. A proper trade negotiations, take years, involve detailed discussions about a range of good and services, and maybe, after a decade, you might get a good deal.

Thing is, of course, if you are a country that, say, just voted to leave the EU, had deals with no other countries, would have to accept any deal on the table. And then deals would fall like toppling dominoes as other countries saw what was in the first deal and demanded at least that, if not more. All this would make either British goods and services more expensive, or imports seem cheaper. It would be bad news all round for British companies, let alone those British companies owned by either EU companies or companies from elsewhere in the world.

Why is all this important? Well, it seems there is pressure from a group of about 40 "Eurosceptic" MPs for the PM to not to bother with Article 50, but to annul the 1972 European Communities Act and just tell the EU we have left and not pay a penny more nor obey any more of their rules. Taking back control in one move!

Unfortunately, there is a small problem with that. It would be against all current trade deals and treaties with the EU, the very people that 50% of UK trade goes to, and who we would have to renegotiate new deals with. Not starting with a strong hand there, and those remaining 27 countries would not be minded to give Britain favourable deals, if a deal at all. Some of our closest European friends have already started to draw up "wish lists" of what they would like Brexit to deliver for them.

Even if the instant "hard" Brexit were possible, for the rest of the world, the rules stating that no trade negotiations with a country until it had left the EU, 2 years after triggering Article 50 would still hold. So no deals for two years, trade embargoes, tariffs and the suchlike. All round bad news. And all that stating that triggering article 50 must be in line with that country's constitution. And Britain not having a constitution, so what with seven or more legal cases going through the courts challenging the Government lawyer's belief that the PM has Royal Prerogative in the matter, until this is cleared the EU might refuse any article 50 trigger anyway.

The conservative party is, and always has been, split on Europe. The refendum and the result has meant that the lunatic fringe created to challege UKIP is now partly in charge, and trying to trigger the leaving process before everyone realises that its not so easy, and will be very expensive. How expensive: well corporate lawyers are being hired at £5,000 a day, and trade negotiators at £1,000 a day. Even for a five year negotiated exit, this will cost £5billion, and that is before you take into account the loss of jobs, taxes. And, traditionally, the Tories have been the party of big business, and what with so much of big business stating they would, if not leave, but consider leaving in the event of EU, and the City of London would not be able to be the financial capital of Europe if their banks and institutions cannot trade in the remaining 27 EU markets. Some banks and funds have already begin to apply to relocate.

And how do we know this? Well, despite the Leave campaign stating that the £350 million a week they claimed Britain pays to the EU could be spent on the EU, we are instead seeing massive further cuts being planned. And if there is to be a roll back on free movement, the NHS would face a crisis, larger than they have now, in recruiting, especially as the Government has imposed contracts on junior doctors and taken away bursaries from nurses. Where are all these staff for the so called 7 day week NHS going to come from? Like the Government has any idea!

So, will Brexit happen? Well, if Ian Duncan Smith and William Rees Mogg have their way it will be instant and very painful. They have the support of about 35 or so other MPs, but for that to happen there would have to be a vote to annul the 1972 act. Or would the PM be able to annul that? What and go over both Houses of Parliament, when the whole Brexit was supposed to be about Britain making it's own laws. An unelected PM annulling an act of Parliament without any debate? The Daily Express and the Murdoch empire are cheering them on, and not stating the negative effects. Anything could happen, at this point. I haven't thought it would happen, but if there are MPs so bat shit crazy pushing for the "hard" Brexit shows that all bets are off and any thing could happen.

One thing is for sure is that the phony or false Brexit we've had thus far is to end: Parliament is to resume soon, then it is conference season, and most importantly, Europe is back from extended holiday, and pressure will mount on Teresa May to decide what kind of deal Britain, if any, is looking for. She knows she cannot put that choice off for long, and the sceptics in her party are prepared to jump on anything less than they think they won back in June, anything else other than Leave, then the electorate will have to be explained to. And all the while the anti-immigration and Islamophobic stories keep appearing in the press, and the stark factt hat immigration has a net benefit for the UK is ignored.

Welcome to the post-fact Brexit Britain.

Friday 26th August 2016

At last, there is a little breeze to stir the air in East Kent. To make matters worse I had Molly sleeping against my back all night, as nice as that is, she is like a hot water bottle. Anyway, considering the temperature didn't drop below 20 degrees, we did sleep in the end.

And I have a nice day working from home, which should be a pleasant thing, no?

Misty in August Maybe.

After breakfast and the second and third coffees I dare switch the computer on and deal with the latest rounds of hand grenades. Molly sleeps under my chair and is always hopeful when I get up to make a brew that I might feed her. She is mostly right.

The day goes well, I get stuff done. Stop to have lunch, have meetings on the phone. And all is done for the week.

My shoulder has been getting worse for some ten days now. And with sleep now broken every night, I think I had better go back to the chiropractor. Once Jools comes home, I take the car to go to the surgery. I explain what had happened, he gives my shoulder a good feel and declares that the scar tissue has mostly healed, but the muscle is very tense. So, so pummeling is administered. And vibrating, and pulling and pushing.

Once he was done I felt pain free, but I knew that by the morning it word hurt real bad.

Now, what to have for dinner? We think maybe fish and chips, or maybe a Chinese. But neither of us want to drive to collect them, so we decide to go to The Swingate Inn, which has been an Indian restaurant for some time now, but we have never been. It is a 5 minute drive, and after parking we manage to secure the one remaining table. It is very nice inside, and the food smells wonderful. We even order starters, I have tandori prawns, which were delicious, and then follow up with lamb something, which was just about spicy enough to just be able to be eaten.

And that is that, I take to my bed once home, with an ice pack on my shoulder, hoping sleep would take me. Which it does in time.

Friday, 26 August 2016

Thursday 25th August 2016

Today, I turn 51. And after four weeks traveling, on and off, I decide that after dropping the car off, I would play hooky. I had told my manager of this plan, and said that I would have my phone with me in case of emergencies So all was set.

Wednesday night was so darned hot. I guess I must have slept at some point, but it seems I tossed and turned for hours, and work when the alarm went off at six feeling like I had less than an hour.

Happy Birthday sings Jools to me. I smile. It seems that I am more ready for this year's borthday than last year, which passed in a blur with little or no thought what we would do. But this year I had booked a meal in Canterbury for the evening.

A walk back home after dropping the hire car off Jools feeds the cats and makes coffee. The morning passes in a little bit of a blur. Jools is ready to go, so we say "bye", then it is up to me to put out the bins, have breakfast and so be ready to drive to the Eastern Docks for about eight. My plan had been to drop the car off, then walk back along the cliffs to home, getting some phys after three days of either sitting in the hire car driving or in meetings. A bit of a leg-stretcher. Although I almost changed my mind when Jools said there was a taxi rank outside the terminal and I could do that, as it was going to be so hot all day.

A walk back home after dropping the hire car off In the end, cloud appeared soon after dawn, but I was sure that the cloud would soon burn off. To make sure I didn't change my mind, I grab my camera and fit the macro lens on, hoping to see some butterflies. So no excuse now for bottling out!

There was little traffic about as I drove the couple of miles to the port, down Jubilee Way and into the small car park near the terminal. The office has just opened, so I hand over the keys and I am waved bye meaning that they will sort out the paperwork in due course. I was free.

A walk back home after dropping the hire car off I walk back across the car park, over the entrance road to the port to East Cliff and then doubling back up the steep path leading up the cliffs. The sun had indeed burnt off the clouds, and it was getting just the uncomfortable side of warm, meaning I had to stop several times as I struggled up the steep path to the cliff tops. Down below, a ferry was disgorging it's payload of cars, caravans and lorries. Lots of lorries. But as I went higher, their sounds grew dimmer and dimmer,until the slight breeze carried it away from me.

A walk back home after dropping the hire car off Along the top for a while, then down the narrow path leading to the cliff road, which in turn steadily climbs up to the top of Langdon Hole. I could have carried on the road, looping back round to meet at the top of Langdon Cliff, but I felt that I should push myself, so take the short cut down another steep path and back up the other side.

A walk back home after dropping the hire car off From the top of Langdon Cliff, where I pause to catch my breath and take a few shots, before pushing on to Fan Bay and the still closed Deep Shelter.

A walk back home after dropping the hire car off From there I take the old military road for the quicker more direct route to South Foreand Light, and from there cutting across through the bramble path and the harvested fields back into the village. Through the churchyard and into the village shop, where I buy an ice cream, as I thought I deserved one. And then the final leg down and then up Station Road to home.

A walk back home after dropping the hire car off Phew, its a scorcher! Too hot to sit outside, I take to the sofa with a pint, and then a second of squash to try to cool down. I have a shower, put on some clean clothes, and I feel just about OK once again.

The day passes; there is no emergencies at work, so the phone doesn't ring. I have lunch, listen to the radio and finally open my cards.

Jools comes home at the usual time, and rishes to get ready as we have to pick up a friend at half six so we can go to Canterbury for dinner. Lawrence was the person who planted the seed of us going to Japan as he did a trip a few years back, and we met him last winter when we were still planning the trip. So now we could meet up again and compare stories and thoughts on the country, whilst eating Japanese food!

Northgate, Canterbury I had done a google search and found such a place in Canterbury, booked a table and so we were set.

Once in the city, we stopped at a micro pub for a beer, and from there it was just a 30 second walk to the restaurant. It wasn't flash, but the food was authentic as it gets, really, and we enjoyed it.

Northgate, Canterbury By the time we finished, and had had another drink it was nine and getting dark; so we go back to the car and drive back, dropping Lawrence off at his house and then making our way back along Reach Road so we could look out over The Channel to the twinkling lights in France.

Northgate, Canterbury Back home I pour myself a wee dram of Japanese whisky, and we retire to the patio, as inside the house it was so hot and humid. Planes and satellites pass overhead, bats wheel in the garden as another birthday draws to an end.

Thursday, 25 August 2016

Wednesday 24th August 2016

And it is the hottest day since yesterday!

Yes, Wednesday was even hotter than Tuesday, it was going to be something like 35 degrees, and I was going to be stuck in a car driving to Calais and home. But before then I had to endure a morning's work in the portacabin oven.

We check out, have breakfast, then drive back to the office, along streets that were remarkably free from traffic. But thinking about it now, Belgium is off on it's holidays for the entire month, so maybe its normally busier? Who know As I will be working here for the next eight months, I guess I will find out.

There are mails to reply to, calls to make, and soon enough the morning passes. I get a mail from Eurotunnel explaining that due to enhanced border checks I might be delayed. So, I say my goodbyes at half eleven for the drive down the coast to Calais.

I switch off the air con, open all the windows and enjoy the feeling of the wind in my hair. Across the fields to the motirway once I had driven through the strip mall, through the roadworks then turning onto the motorway, cruising along at about 100 kmh, with most other traffic hammering past at all speeds. I have time, so I cruise along. On either side, the fields have been harvested, but they still have the golden hue of summer, eben as the stubble dries out.

At the terminal, there are queues, and there is no other choice but to deal with it. We inch through British immigration, waved through French Immigration and then everyone is stopped at sustoms with all documentation checked. By the time I'm through, I can board the next train, so drive past the terminal building, and am in one of the long queues to get on a train. The temperature dial in the car read 33 degrees, and was climbing.

After half an hour, we are given the green light, and so follow the signs over the tracks and down the ramp and finally onto the train. The internal doors close, and soon afterwards, the train slips out.

I am already out of the car, standing by the air blowers on the side of the carriage, trying to get some additional cooling effect from the moving air. In the car behind me, a woman of a similar age to me, instead of getting out of the car, sits in the front seat fanning herself with a newspaper.

We arrive in Folkestone, the train stops and the doors open. We drive out, round the flyover and onto the main road which leads onto the motorway. But I turn off, and am soon on familiar paths as this is the road Jools takes to work each morning. I take the A20 to the top of Old Folkestone Road before turning off and making my way down into Dover, past the station, then back up the other side along Castle Hill before turning along Reach Road, taking the narrow road up the cliffs then along to St Margaret's.

One thing about living here, is that the drive from either the Tunnel or port is short, meaning that I am soon home. It feels good not to have to travel too far I have to say.

It is roastingly hot, I know that's not a word, but it is now. France was clear just 22 miles away, but I had only sights for Chez Jelltex. The final run through the village, down Station Road to home. There is a black and white cat waiting. Waiting and meowing, loudly.

I unpack the car, feed Scully and have a pint of squash. It is too hot to sit in the back garden, so I lay in the semi-darkness in the living room. Molly brings me a mouse, as I must look a little pasty.

The afternoon fades, although it doesn't seem to get any cooler. The cats come in one by one meowing loudly, I imagine complaining about how hot the weather is. I feed them all, and they seem happy enough.

Jools comes home, we have dinner, then sit out back in the evening shade as its the coolest place we can fine. Molly is asleep on the patio and Scully in the bird house. he sun sets, stars come out as do bats, that wheel and dive in pursuit of insects.

Tuesday 23rd August 2016

It is the hottest morning of the year, and I am in a hotel a stone's throw fro m a wide and sandy beach. In Belgium.

It should be heaven, and in many ways it it is, but I am here to work. At some point during the night the air con had switched off, and it was warm and musty in the room. I have a shower and go down fro breakfast, meeting Rune before we drive to the office a few miles away.

Rune knows the way, as this is where ran a previous project from, so, I follow in the Average, whilst he takes me through the city centre and out to the now mostly abandoned port area, with quay after quay deserted, rauting rail tracks and sidings now a haven for nature.

The hottest day of the year We arrive in a large flattened area which must have been a warehouse at some point, but is now just a concreted area, with weeds growing through the cracks. The concrete stretches out for some hundred metres in all directions, but I suppose the harbour authority must have seen it loos a bit neglected, so there were two poorly motivated workers with hoes and assorted other sharp tools were trying to weed the area. Small piles of harvested vegetation were piled up showing where they had previously worked. Later in the day when we leave, they are far on the other side of the area, having missed out 70m of weeds to clear a new area.

The hottest day of the year Out offices are in a small group of linked portacabins, there is no air conditioning, meaning in the summer they will be like ovens, and freezers in the winter. Welcome to projects.

Quality is sharing an office with HSE, as is always the way. And as is always the way HSE have bagged the best desks, all grouped in the middle, with monitors, plants and desk-tidies, and we have two bar desks along one wall. We have one plug socket between both desks. HSE will therefore be pleased with the three extension leads and multi-sockets we used to make the modern office work. In no way a fire risk, honest.

The hottest day of the year So, there are meetings, calls, e mails and the usual stuff, but some of the meetings are now face to face, and things that take half a dozen mails ping-ponging back and forth over several days can now be arranged in minutes. My tasks leap forward several week in prep time.

We are told the local garage does good sandwiches for lunch, so we drive over in Rune's car to the main road and have two "farmer's specials", with have sliced frickadellers and salad all snothered in hot sauce, in a fresh baked french stick. All for €4 with a drink.

The hottest day of the year By four the air is so hot it feels like we are trying to swim through treacle. We have all had enough in the metal offices, so drive back to our hotels and arrange to meet for dinner at half six.

After a brief lay down, I walk with Rune along the wide promenade until we come to a bar in the ground floor of one of the grand buildings; they have a table overlooking the prom and beach, but importantly they have a sun shade, but of even greater importance, they have ice cold beer, and the waiter will bring us two bottles tout suit.

It is the hottest part of a hot day, we are sitting in armchairs at a table overlooking the prom, sipping ice cold summer beer. And this is work.

We meet the others at the restaurant next door for dinner; we have fish and more fish and some wine and some beer. It is very good, and they treat us uncouth heathens as though we were royalty, which was nice of them. I have scampi again, this time good in garlic sauce. It is nice and garlicy.

We the retire to a bar down the main street through the old part of town to drink some more beer; eurofizz at first, but then I persuade them to upgrade to La Chouffe, which is much better.

Darkness falls, and we grow tired. Its been a good day, but bed calls. Rune and I walk back to the hotel, across the tram tracks to the front door. Phew, rock and roll.

Wednesday, 24 August 2016

Monday 22nd August 2016

And another working week rolls round, but this time not only am I traveling, but I am traveling to beautiful Belgium, and I can get to call it work too.

The plan for the day was to pick up the hire car, come home book the tunnel, then drive to tunnel, cross to France and finally drive the hour up the E45 to Oostene. Simple. But something told me that it wasn't going to be that simple, travel across the Channel rarely ever is.

As it was such a glorious morning, I thought it would be nice to walk into town along the cliffs once again taking in the views over to France and getting some phys too.

A walk into Dover to collect the hire car After coffee, Jools dropped me and my camera along Reach Road so I could cut through the estate then across the fields to the South Foreland Light, and then by the path along the cliffs, and hopefully not all down to the beach below.

All seemed still asleep at quarter past seven as I made my way to the overgrown path and then to the fields beyond. The combines have been busy, as the big field was strewn with bales too, so it would not be right not to stop to snap the scene as I walked to the wood. Te sun was just showing over the houses in the distance, so I hoped for some artistic flare would lighten the shots. Ahem. Chiz.

A walk into Dover to collect the hire car Once at the lighthouse, there is the narrow path leading to the cliffs, and then the vista opens up all the way to Dover Harbour some four miles away, and over the sea to France to boot. And this counted as work I told myself as I walked along, snapping as I went.

A walk into Dover to collect the hire car It was already a very warm morning, and was only going to get hotter, so the quicker I made it to the docks and the car hire place the better I suppose. There were very few other people about, a group of Gurkha running from the local barrack; they wave at me as I snap them running by.

A walk into Dover to collect the hire car The view from the very top of Langdon Cliff was impressive as the ground dripped away to the beach to my left, and as I looked now the cliffs dropped in height towards the harbour, then to the east the downs rose and on top was the Castle, St Mary in Castro and the Pharos. This is stunning landscape in anyone's book, and this is where we live.

A walk into Dover to collect the hire car On the other side of Langdon, I take the Cliff Road, then the path leading up to the top of the steep path which plunges down to East Cliff. Yes, I was now warm enough thank you very much indeed.

Down the steep path, under Jubilee Way, then at the bottom turning sharp left into the Eastern Docks and into the terminal building. And the car isn't ready, please wait.

I suppose waiting rooms in terminal buildings for buses, ferries and the like are much the same the world over; utilitarian, cold and faintly threatening. There was a black French family with three very young children waiting for a taxi after arriving on a ferry. There was no place to relax, just institutional style bench seating. There is a Costa, and so I have a coffee, charge three quid for a poor coffee and a giant Jammy Dodger, wich thrilled my inner child as it really was as big as I remembered them from childhood.

The car is ready, it was being cleaned, apparently. But when I go outside after the paperwork was completed, it is covered with dry dirty water. looking probably worse than it did before they washed it. But it is a large car, a Skoda "Superb", well, that's their opinion, and after two days with it, I will have mine. I can tell you now, it should have been called the Skoda "Average, but a bugger to park", doesn't rooll off the tongue I suppose.

Back home I book a place on the tunnel, a train leaving at midday, gave me 90 minutes to pack and get to the terminal, check in. Easy peasy.

It is great driving along the A20, instead of going towards Lympne, but taking the sharp bend into the back entrance to the tunnel complex. I check in so easy, go through British customs, then through French customs. And then I see the snake of traffic that had been directed round and through the car park all around the terminal building. This would take some time. In half an hour, I had made it to the terminal, and I had to get out to visit the AA shop to buy a set of light adaptors for the car, seeing as supplying me with a left hand drive car is beyond the wit of Budget Rentals.

I rejoin the queue, and we inch our war closer to the trains, but my planned departure time came and went. At least there was the radio to listen to. At two we made it to a train, the internal doors were closed and we waited. And waited. And waited.

There was an announcement.

The train had broken down, but technicians were on their way.

We waited some more.

The train could not be fixed, we would have to board another one. The doors opened.

And we waited.

And then there was another announcement.

The train had been fixed, and so once the train had been secured, we could leave.

Oostende, Belgium And finally, we were on our way, heading under the downs and the sea to France.

Thing is about traveling on the tunnel, is that once you reach the other side, the doors open and you drive off, and once up on the roadway, it leads straight to the motorway; no customs nor immigaration to get through either. British radio had faded, so I opened all the windows, and with the wind in my hair as I cruised along at 120kmh, I just relaxed as I drive north into Belgium.

Oostende, Belgium The landscape is pretty featureless, towns and villages dot the vista, there are pylons, canals and lots of farms and fields. We enter Belgium, nothing really changes, but heading north, the sun begins to sink, and the traffic thins out some.

Oostende, Belgium It takes just an hour to drive to Ostend, and I had not been there since the summer of 1973 when we had a family holiday based there. Apart from that there was a beach, I can't remember much about it. Moden Ostend is approached down what looks like an American style strill mall, all fast food places and stores, but it is OK, traffic moves well.

Oostende, Belgium The road leads into what must be the ring road, the sat nav directs me into the town centre, right to near the Kursaal: the hotel has no parking, so I have use the one underneath the casino. The lug by bags up the steps to street level and back to the hotel.

I'm not sure what modern hotels have against fresh air; the windows are sealed, so on such a warm early evening, I have to put the air conditioning on, as it switches off when the room is empty. So, every tme I return it is like an oven, or a stuffy one anyway.

Oostende, Belgium After checking work mails, I take my camera for a walk.

Behind the Kuraal was the promenade and beach. Like most towns on the continent, it seems that Ostend decided to beautify itself after the war; build a wide promenade, build pretty buildings, in general make it a nice place for people to come and enjoy themselves. Its Britain that thinks what would look nice next to a beach is a block of flats.

Oostende, Belgium And it is packed with people, families just coming off the beach, couples making their way to a bar sent up in the ground floors of the fine buildings. I snap away. At the northern end there is some modern air, metal boxes painted red to look like some kind of modern Stonehenge. Not sure if I'd like to see it every day, but against the clear blue sky it looked fine to me.

Oostende, Belgium I walk back into the town to look for dinner; so many places to choose from, but I think the ones along the promenade would be expensive, so try to find something cheaper and quieter. On the main square i find a place that has dozens of free tables, but is named after a good brand of beer; so I go in, order a Leffe Royale and a plate of grilled scampi with fries and mayo.

Whilst I am waiting for dinner, I get a call from a colleague to say he has arrived in Ostend and once I told him where I was, he came to join me for dinner. And beer.

The food is good, as so is the walk back through the town afterwards; obviously not British, a line of bars and restaurants, with people sitting outside, smoking and drinking, and no hint of trouble. People of all generations are mixing, and all seem happy to do so.

We find a bar and treat ourselves to more Belgian beers; La Chouffe this time, and very flavoursome it was too. We have a table looking out onto the street, so we can look at the parade of people passing by. One more for the road? OK then. So it is half eleven by the time we roll back to the hotel, it is now dark and humid as heck. I soon fall asleep on the bed with the radio playing.

Situation normal.

Monday, 22 August 2016

Sunday 21st August 2016

And so to the second half of the weekend, with less wind and about the same amount of sun.

There is football to watch, orchids to hunt, then the Old Farm Derby on the radio to listen and fret to. And after that the rest of the day kinda evaporates.

Up at half six, and the sun is shining, though probably not for long. So, after coffee decide to go to the Monument to look for the Autumn Lady's Tresses, I grab the camera and drive there, as it would have been too windy for butterfly shots if I walked.

Autumn Lady's Tresses Spiranthes spiralis I arrive, find the first spike, stoop to take a a shot and the camera fails to work. I try everything, then find there is no memory card fitted, and so there is nothing else to do than to drive home, pick up the card and drive back to the Monument and then get the shots.

Autumn Lady's Tresses Spiranthes spiralis The site is still recovering after the latest mowing, but there was about 50 spikes, half a dozen open or partially, so I have some shots at least.

On the way home I stop at the village shop for bacon and bread, when I got home and opened the bacon, it was cut so thin that separating the rashers was like opening a damp book. The rashers split and looked pitiful on the grill. But once cooked they were ok, but for certain never going to buy Walls again, not in this lifetime.

I have chores to do, but with my shoulder messed up again, I can't do much other than help Jools collect the hedge clippings as she beavers away in the garden. I can make tea, bring out ice creams and such like. And listen to the radio.

At midday, it is High Noon in Suffolk, as Ipswich and Norwich lock horns, but its a poor game even on the radio; Norwich take the lead midway through the first half, Town level on the stroke of half time, and its pretty much even in the 2nd half. 1-1 it ends, and so Norwich make it four games unbeaten, and Mick is well grumpy.

After that I cook dinner, very early. We sit down to chorizo hash at half two, and that means that is it for the day. Jools snoozes on the sofa afterwards whilst i watch updates on the Prem games on Twitter.

At six we watch the men's handball final, as Denmark were playing France; and Denmark won in a great fast game so claim gold. As I'm half Danish now, it was almost like Britain winning another medal. We have not watched much of the games, but it looked great, but there were huge numbers of empty seats in most stadiums. Although the sporting endeavour was wonderful, as was our medal haul, even surpassing that of 2012.

Sunday, 21 August 2016

Saturday 20th August 2016

And here is the weekend once again, coming along to tempt us with the delights we can't have during the week; like going out snapping, and orchid hunting. Although, we could have gone looking for the Violtet Helleborines once again, but another trip to the north of the county seemed a little extravagant, so I decided that we should wait for another year.

However, plenty to do round here, like checking on the work on Shakespeare Beach if nothing else.

We woke up and the sun was shining, but with the promise of a storm later in the day. But looking out of the bedroom window, I saw a field of bales away on the other side of the dip, away towards Westcliffe. I think I should be out taking photos of that, so I get dressed and drive over there so to make sure I get the best of the light.

Job done I park just shy of Westcliffe, and in front of me there are some bales in front of me, so I get snapping when the sun comes out from behind the clouds. I'm sure I get looks form people passing, but judging by the tampled grass into the field, I wasn't the only one to have photographed this scene.

With shots taken on the nifty fifty and the wide angle, I drive home for more coffee and breakfast.

Jools wants to know what the plan is, and I don't really know. I mean we could drive for an hour up to north Kent on another wild orchid hunt and not find anything. But I feel we have already done that three times this eason, and I don't really want to spend another twenty quid when we don't need to. Anyway, there's stuff to do here.

Like what? Like checking on the sea wall, and then picking up two new camera lenses.....

So, at nine I go out to drive down town to get a huge bunch of cash out of the bank, then go up to Aycliffe to park and then walk up the cliff path to check on progress. And with the sun shining brightly between the clouds, the shots should be OK too.

The ongoing repairs to the sea wall at Shakespeare Cliff, Dover And wow! Both tracks have now been relaid, new signals installed and all bar the footbridge and the third rail seem now to be done and it should be good to go. All in eight months. Really great work by Network Rail and their Orange Army. It does mean that there will just be one or two more trips up the cliff now, and it will be over. And we will be able to travel from Martin Mill to St Pancras again.

The ongoing repairs to the sea wall at Shakespeare Cliff, Dover From there, I drive through town up to Connaught Barracks, as was, now a private housing estate, where a friend was selling two lenses; a 50mm f1.4 and a 30mm f1.4. Shane and I had not met for seven years or something, when I last bought a lens from him. So we caught up, chatted about life and photography and all that shit. I buy the lenses and then retire home to review the shots from the morning.

The ongoing repairs to the sea wall at Shakespeare Cliff, Dover We have fish cake rolls for dinner; we know how to, ahem, roll in the house. And with the wind howling around the house, and the clock ticking towards midday and high tide, I take my camera and the new nifty fifty down onto Samphire Hoe to snap some waves as the sea broke on the beach beneath the cliffs.

Test shot Down on the Hoe the sun was out, but with the wind in the west, it made for a fun walk beside the sea wall, even if walking on the sea wall was banned because it was dangerous. Anyway, a few other people were out, including a couple in huge trousers. Like MC Hammer and his wife. And MC's pants were halfway down his butt-ocks making it hard for him to walk. We did habour hopes that the wind would lift them both up like kites. But that didn't happen.

Crash At the end of The Hoe, the waves breaking almost to the foot of the cliffs meant we stood there and just watched. Not huge waves, but looking odd in dazzling bright sunshine.

We walk back, and take the Alkham Valley road back to avoid the build up of port traffic we had seen on the way out. We get back in time for football on the radio, which was nice. Liverpool lose to Burnley, which was something of a shock. Anyway, I review shots, edit and write blogs. All is well with the world.

I cook breaded pork for dinner, along with fresh Kentish sweetcorn and lentil dahl. Man that is good tasty food.

That night we watch Olympic Tae Kwan do with the sound down, which makes it hard to follow, but fun. And looked like some kind of strange dance.