Friday, 30 September 2016

Thursday 29th September 2016

Summer has ended, autumn bypassed and Denmark went straight into winter!

I am awake at half six, I look out the window of my room and see large dark clouds gathering. I say see, I guess it, as it is still nearly dark, with some hint of dawn illuminating the rest of the sky. Turns out I was right anyway.

After dressing and getting breakfast, I drive to the office, arriving just before the heavens open, night returns and outside the office, rain hammers down, droplets bouncing off the granite chippings that make the ground outside. I shudder, and anyway, I have a full day ahead, beginning with; meetings. And more meetings.

And so, the morning passes, and outside the rain continues to hammer down, if anything, getting harder and more Biblical. And as we work from portacabins, the rain is hammering dwon on the roof, sounding like the devil tapdancing up above.

Thursday I skip lunch as we have dinner out planned for later, and to while away the hours inbetween I have our sharepoint site to tidy up and check on what has been uploaded, this is a task that has been waiting for at least two weeks, and although is dull, completing it gives me a warm feeling inside.

At half three, I am all caught up, well except for the 350 plus e mails that are unread, but if they were important when sent I am sure I would have heard by now. I switch the computer off and drive to the hotel, switching it back on to listen to the radio, lay on the bed and close my eyes. I snooze, the afternoon turns into evening.

I Have a shower, then walk over the road to Flammen where the team is gathering for a night of diet Coke (for them) beer (for me) and BBQ. We eat well, eat well again and are fit to burst. It hits me I am the manager of this team, well, how did this happen?

Back in my room, there is football to watch, Man Utd in Europe, and they were every bit as bad as they were good on Saturday. But still, the evening passes, I set the alarm for five in the mornoing, for on the morrow I return home.

Wednesday 28th September 2016

Unusually, I am spending 5 days away from home this week, which means Wednesday is the halfway point, kinda. So, should be happy. And to mix things up a bit, I am spending the second half of the week in sunny Esbjerg. But before I can make the drive down south, I have to have a meeting. Another meeting. And another meeting.

So I pack, shower and get dressed and go downstairs to check out, load the car and have breakfast. It is your typical business hotel, people from countries all round the world, all mixing eating what passes for breakfast in Denmark, which consists of mainly bacon and dairy stuff.

I have fruit and a bacon roll along with lots of coffee. Not sure if its the people I mix with now but there just isn't a lot of manners with these business types, with no please and thank yous as the staff try to keep the tables clear as a constant stream of people coming and going.

I drive to the office, just wanting to get there as soon as possible. The weather had turned autumnal, a cool breeze was blowing and leaves fell from the tree like snow in a blizzard.

After lunch I bid my colleagues farewell and take the car out onto the main road to the motorway and drive south. The day had brightened, so it was an OK drive, and leaving at one in the afternoon meant there was little traffic about. Once i headed out on the Esbjerg motorway, traffic thinned, and i put the hammer down, cruising at 130 kmh, and eating up the miles.

Near to Esbjerg, the two mighty turning V164 turnines could be seen towering over the surrounding trees and other turbines. There are our two new babies, generating 8MW.

Once in the office, I speak to the guys, try to catch up with how things are going, answer some mails, and somehow three hours pass, and it is time to go to the hotel to check in.

The Olympic isn't the grandest of hotels, but the rooms are OK, and the food, although rarely varies, I know the burgers are fine. And even wanting to order something healthy, with the people on the next table getting huge burgers as I look at the menu, I find myself wanting just that.

So I do. Cheeseburger and onion rings. Lovely unhealthy.

I could have walked to the Dronning Louise, maybe I will next time I'm in town, but I am tired, just want something close to my room to eat, so I can go back up, listen to the radio and watch the football.

Which I do.

And the evening passes.

Tuesday 27th September 2016

I had not had enough sleep, but the course was due to begin at eight, so I had to be up at half six. I say half six, for my body clock it was half five, and so outside it was still dark.

There was the usual rushing around, having a shower, getting dressed and going down for breakfast before driving through the rush hour traffic to the office. Not an unpleasant experience, what with the sun just rising, trees all dressed in golden leaves swaying in the morning breeze. But then there is the traffic, which is a nightmare, and they drive on the wrong side of the road here!

I make it to the office, have a coffee then make my way to the meeting room where I and twenty other colleagues have eight and a half hours of safety awareness training. And it was every bit as bad as that sounds.

As the day dragged on, we went without breaks in order to get the pain over with as soon as possible. And that pain ended at just gone four, with my brain having melted some hours before. I know safety is important, very important, but eight hours.

I took my sorry ass back to the hotel at five, when the traffic had calmed down to reasonable levels, taking the same route back and managing to avoid all the mad cyclists who are racing cars and each other around. At least they have their own signals at junctions for the most part, and most main roads have cycle lanes, and it all works pretty well. Heck, if I lived here, I'd cycle too. I like cyclists, some of my best friends are cyclists, so its not that I dislike them, just that at some junctions when you turn right, you have to give way to them and pedestrians, so different from home, it can be easy to make a mistake. I've not hit one yet mind, and maybe Britain should be the same?

I go down to the bar to meet with me old mate Shaggy who wanted me to bring him some mulling spice over. I did but what with the difference in wording, I mean his recipe called for 5 spice, which back at home is something you add to stir frys, so I bring some seasonal allspice, and one of the other might work.

We go to the Highlander for a beer and fish and chips, which was pretty good I have to say, and after a while we were joined by my boss, one of my bosses, Jesper, who came down to have a beer and a chat. What with Shaggy a brewer, and Jesper and i beer drinkers, we had plenty to talk about.

We call it a night at half ten, and so I bid them goodbye, and walk back along deserted streets back to the hotel. Where does the time go? Above me, a sliver of silvery mood rose, joined with the rainbow over the museum of modern art, making a fine sight.

Talking Brexit

On Monday I was talking to two colleagues, who I thought were quite intelligent, until we began talking about Brexit.

They shared the same view with some of Fleet Street and the Three Brixiteers who have been given the task of steering the good ship SS Great Britain through the icebergs of doubt and trade negotiations to the sunny uplands of a post-Brexit world.

Only their arguments settled on the "we're Britain, we're too big to not do deals with, it'll be a roaring success." And nothing was going to change their mind. In fact when I laughed in their faces, they got quite angry and demanded the subject be changed.

And that, in a nutshell, is the problem. Not seeing the multitude, the legion of issues that would need to be overcome before we could even start negotiating with other countries regarding a new trade deal.

A couple of weeks ago, lawyers for the Government made their arguments for not referring triggering article 50 secret, only known to the lawyers of those challenging it. Even us who backed the case were not told. On Tuesday, an appeal succeeded in revealing the who document. And it turns out that the Government believes the who question of triggering article 50 is so complicated that only Ministers who have the knowledge of these issues could deal with t, not both Houses of Parliament.

Which is, clearly, a pile of dingo's kidneys, as all three of the MInisters all have mad statements in the past two weeks that Number 10 have had to correct all of them. And even today, Liam Fox, the disgraced former Defence Secretary, now Minister for Trade Negotiations, or something, made a speech in which he failed to realise the treaties we have with South Korea today would become null and void once we left the EU.

Boris this week backed Turkey's bid to join the EU, despite being behind the Leave campaign which warned of a Turkish entry into the EU would unleash a wave of Scary Muslims and brown people. This hypocrisy was ignored by even the BBC.

Brexit still means Brexit, and the Government says it will make a success of it, but all discussions on it will remain secret, mostly from Parliament. Taking back control, right there.

Monday 26th September 2016

To call it a morning would be mis-naming the particular time of the day the alarm woke us up at. Half four the clock said, and looking outside I saw there was the merest hint of light in the eastern sky.

I like travel, but with yet another week away from home, and the first in what will almost be an unbroken such run until Christmas and maybe beyond. Work ramps up and demands even more of my time. And work demands I travel, for a safety course this week.

And why not.

We do our stuff what we do before work, or before me traveling. At ten to six, we leave the house and then drive down the hill to Martin Mill, where there was just one other passenger waiting. Dawn began reaching further above my head, on the platform, spotlights picked out patched of concrete. There is reflected light on the rails from round the bend from Walmer, indicating that the train was coming. More people had arrived, so we stretch out along the platform waiting for access to different carriages.

I settle into my seat, and hints of the countryside pass by in the gloom, mostly obscured by the reflections from inside the train. I am looking back at my own reflection. Through Guston Tunnel, then just wait for Dover to come into view as the train turns right, and there is a glimpse of the town from Buckland to the Western Docks, a town just waking up.

As we travel on, the day brightens, a clear blue sky above and the train fills up. It's odd, what people do on trains; read the Metro, watch phones or tablets, write mails, put on make up, talk to friends or like me, look out the window.

Breakfast at Stratford, including a large coffee. It feels cool inside the station, and in a few weeks it will be as warm as a fridge when the wind blows from the open entrance way to the DLR station. But for now its warm, and the coffee is good.

The airport is being improved; more seats, more shops. But before the improvement comes the building work, which makes things worse. I look at the price of whisky and decide its all too expensive. I get a seat and check mails, make calls whilst all around people come and go, traveling to various far flung places over Europe. And Cardiff.

Yes, Cardiff; fly there from London.

The flight is called, and it is gate 9, the furthest flung gate from the hub, a walk of very nearly two minutes. We wait, then are allowed onto the plane, and with the usual preparations, the engines start, safety brief given, and away we go. We take off into the east, thus being deprived of the fine view over The City when we take off from the opposite direction.

We climb into the blue sy, bank left and right, climbing all the time until we reach Brentwood when we go through the cloud base. And I lose interest.

Breakfast, or strictly speaking 3rd breakfast for me, which doubles as lunch, is served, and we fly over the North Sea to Holland then turn north for Denmark.

Denmark is still sunny and even warm. Which is nice. I am given a VW Passat estate, which is room even enough for my huge case full of British beer for my Danish buddies.

Up to the motorway, across the harvested landscape, through light traffic. It is a good day to be working. Or driving. I am ahead of schedule enough to be able to go to the office and do some work there, and arrange a social evening with people who might be tempted with a night of beer and bbq. Chris and Paul are up for it, so we arrange to meet at six for a beer before walking down to the smokehouse.

I work to five, which is when the traffic thins enough to be able to drive to the hotel, along streets lined with trees just turning golden with the arrival of autumn. Houses and offices are bathed in warm golden light, heck its good just to see these sights, let alone be paid for it, and be able to chose where and what to eat of an evening too.

We meet at six, and also at the bar were a gathering of corporate lawyers, not sure what the collective noun is, could be a scouse as they all live on The Wirral. I taunt Robert, the Everton fan, with last week's result, We City fans have to make hay when we can.

Its a short walk down the hill to the smokehouse, they have a table and cold beers, which is always a bonus. We all know the meu by now, so we order without looking, and I am having the ribs, which are in a different class from the ones at Bones, which is saying something.

But with traveling and busy weekends, we are all tired, so after a second beer, we walk back to the hotel, but I find the Burnley game on TV, which means it'll be a late night,. Even so I manage to miss both goals. Oh well.

Good night

Sunday, 25 September 2016

Sunday 25th September 2016

Good morning.

Or good afternoon, or evening.

It is three months to Christmas, which, isn't long. But the weather is still warm, warm enough to believe it is still summer, even if it is dark before half seven now. The year gets older, eben if it doesn't seem like it, well, until evening comes and we can sit out on the patio, marveling at the majesty of creation in the heavens above.

But I am getting ahead of myself, because before that, we must lie in med like slugabeds until very near seven in the morning. I was in bed so late, Scully came back up and sat on my legs, meowing loudly, demanding breafast. Then, when I try to get out of bed, she refuses to move.

Situation normal.

We get up, make coffee and feed the cats. I settle down to watch the football, which is nice, especially with the girds busy on the feeders outside the window. Man Utd beat Leicester, Arse beat Chelsea, Liverpool thrash Hull. And so on.

I make bacon butties for breakfast and watch the rest of the football, by then the sun was abroad, and it was about time I did some stuff. But before going out, there was a second Christmas cake to make; mixing the sugar and butter, pouring in the eggs, folding in the flour and fruit. Twenty minutes and it was in the oven, slowly cooking.

Which meant I could go into Folkestone for a hair cut.

I could have waited a week, but then who knows what I would rather be doing next weekend? So I drive into Dover, up Military Hill and onto the A20 to Folkestone, finding the only parking space free near the barbers. Folkestone is already busy, as people are about, looking for breakfast or even eating it.

The chair is free in the barbers, so I go in, and my graying hair is shorn, making me feel cooler. I look in the record shop for something inspiring; but they did not have the first Public Service Broadcasting record, and the new Yello record dies not come out until next Friday. I save my pennies and walk out empty handed.

Back to the car and out of town, up to Capel and along old Folkestone Road into Dover, where I am stuck behind a learner driver and a line of cars. It would have been quicker to tackle the roadworks along Townwall Street. Up Castle Street and then past the National Trust place, round the hairpins bends and along the clifftop road back home.

The afternoon passes quietly. Jools is working in the garden, and i prepare the steak for dinner and keep an eye on the cake still baking. It smelled glorious. West Ham are on the radio, playing badly to be spanked by Southampton. Still, gotta laugh.

I cook dinner, and it is everything the dinner at the Smugglers on Monday wasn't. I know how to cook a decent steak and I can't deny. I sample a glass or three of one of the new wines I brought back from Belgium last month, and I can confirm it passes muster.

A couple of hours later, my case is packed, and I am ready for a week away. Jools is watching The Man Who Would be King, and it is heading towards its sad finale.

I'll see you all on Friday.

Saturday 24th September 2016

And at the weekend, Jelltex and Jools did rest. Or we did this week anyway. The last two weekends have been either Open House or the Heritage Weekend, and we were pretty busy, going to churches, snapping them and so on. And with next week being a return to the frozen north, I felt like staying at home, not taking to many pictures. I say that, there is always the temptation to go to take shots, but in the end, the chores we had meant that staying home was just as attractive.

There was shopping to do, I dropped Jools off at Tesco and I went to the butcher in Preston, a trip which would take about an hour, if they did not engage me in conversation too much that is.

It still feels like summer, but with the harvest safely in, and the fields all ready for either the winter crop or for next years to be sowed, the countryside had a brown tinge, but above were clear skies once again.

The boys were in good form, Paul hopeful of a Chelsea victory later in the day, when he would escape his mother-in-law and hide in the pub. He would be disappointed if he did go, as The Arse thrashed Chelski 3-0, and should have had double that. I buys steak, pies, crown of lamb, sausages, burgers; the usual really. And a quater of a wheel of cheese as Paul would not shut up about what a good bargain at four quid it was. Ok, you win.

As I pulled up back at Tesco, Jools was coming out with a trolley laden with stuff, we transfer that to the boot and go home for breakfast, then prepare to do the big jobs: beer and cake.

It has been some years now since we did some home brew, but me mate Shags' efforts have inspired me, so the plan was to make a Christmas Ale; just a Norfolk Nog kit with added allspice really, but it should be good in three months.

We sterilise the kit, boil water, then mix the wort, add the spice and yeast; stir for 5 minutes and then put the lid on. Simple.

We should bottle it next week, and have 40 bottles of strong Christmas Ale.

Next up was making the first of our two Christmas cakes. It is three months to the big event, and like spouts, need preparing and cooking well in advance. At least with a mixer it is easier than in days of domestic science class, so I mix the butter and sugar then add the eggs, fold in the flour and finally the fruit and booze, which had been sitting in the same bowl for some hours, so the fruit will be nice and boozy.

Then begins four and a half hours slow cooking, which will fill the house with fine smells.

And that really is it; the afternoon was spent listening to football: Norwich went top of the league after beating Burton 3-1, which is the only result that really matters.

We have insalata caprese for dinner, along with more of the cheese and chuntney bread, which we dipped in the balsamic vinegar/olive oil mix once we had eaten the cheese and tomatoes.

On TV was an odd thing: BBC gave the controls of BBC to to; Kieth Richards, who talked in a rather Rowley Birkin kind of way, things which seemed to pop into his head, then folllowed a TV show, or some clips, or a rare Johnny Cash documentary from the 1960s. It was headspinning stuff, but Spike Milligan in Q8, inbetween the mumbles and clouds of smoke, it was rather good. There's more tonight, including a showing of The Man who Would be King.

Saturday, 24 September 2016

Friday 23rd September 2016

Jools and I both had the day off, and so what to do? My initial plan was to go to Birmingham to look at the new, new New Street station, take some pictures and the such. This wasn't the only reason, the other one being that I wanted to travel on the line from Marylebone to Birmingham Moor Street, as they still have locomotive hauled services. Now I am sure for most of you this means diddly squat, but for folks like me, OK spotters, the chance to ride behind a loco and ride in wonderful Mk3 carriages was very tempting indeed. And buying our tickets in advance meant that we only paid £75 for the return trip.

Saying that, we had booked particular trains to travel on, so in theory limiting when we could travel. But when I looked at the tickets, the out portion had to be used on the 24th, but the return within the following month. And despite this the ticket said that it could not be used on all trains, but then failed to tell us which trains we could use it on. That we traveled on the 06:08 service from Martin Mill, and this most clearly is a peak service. What I'm saying is that none of the above makes sense, and if someone who knows something about tickets and railways is confused what chance does the casual passenger have?

But I digress.

We had to be up for five, and out of the house by ten to six to make it to Martin Mill for ten past and our train to London.

It is still nearly dark at that time, the days of standing on the platform watching a sunrise will have to wait for another year. In fact the 22nd marked the autumnal equinox, so the days are now shorter than the nights, and it is now dark before eight in the evenings. But there was light in the sky, a little anyway. The train is more than half empty, we get to choose a seat at a table round at a window, but looking outside we just saw reflections of ourselves looking back.

But as we trundle through the Kentish landscape to Ashford and Ebbsfleet, day dawns and mists rise from damp grounds, creating hauntingly beautiful landscapes. But we are now traveling at at least 125 mph, so there is no chance for photos, just sit back to enjoy the views. Or I would have, if it were not for the return for the allergies.

This was not unexpected; I have had bad attacks these last five years, or at least when I making note in my blogs. I have no idea what it is about this time of year I am allergic too, or if it an accumilation of the years irritants. But on the train, breathing in recirculated air, I was struggling. But once out of the train at St Pancras and walking to the tube station, my breathing was as clear a bell. No idea what is going on.

Marylebone At least traveling away from The City meant the tube was comfortable for the short run to Baker Street, we then do down into the bowels of the earth to pick up a Bakerloo train one stop to Marylebone.

Marylbone is a small station for a terminal, and apart from a few others waiting for news on platforms for our departures, it was quiet. And then a commuter train came in and disgorged hundreds of passengers ensuring the concourse is busy until they all go down to the tube or other exits, and calmness returns.

Much to my disappointment, our train is not loco hauled, but is four DMUs joined together for an eight car set. But it does mean there was much room for all who wanted to ride.

Marylebone Jools had bought bagels and a coffee for the ride, so as we ate, the train engines roared into life and we pulled out of the staion, into the long tunnel that took us out to Hamstead and the leafy suburbs. We were rattling along as such a rate, I could not see the names of the stations we passed through.

In and out of tunnels, from darkness to bright sunshine, and was very pleasant indeed. At least for me, for whom nothing is more enjoyable than looking out of the railway carriage window as the countryside flashes by.

The frst stop was Banbury, after passing through what the BBC used to call The Home Counties, all rolling countryside, deep shades of green, and all of it looking so glorious still in its summer colours.

168 216 We get off at the second stop, Leamington Spa, it is a fine station still bearing the branding of the old Great Western Railway; seats, awnings and all coloured brown and cream.

It was half nine, although we had eaten 90 minutes before, we felt some more coffee and maybe a slice of cake was needed. After struggling to find the way to the town centre, we cross a main road and soon see the large parish church rising, and I know from the maps I had looked at, that the tourist information office lay just the other side.

Royal Leamington Spa It was closed, but in the old Pump Room building, there was a cafe offering coffee and huge slices of coffee and walnut cake. We order bot. Each, and sit at a rickety table outside and savour the moist cake.

I suppose one of the most painful things we will remember about our visit, were the number of people sleeping in shop doorways. A town so apparently well off, and yet we counted at least five homeless people. Speaking to a Big Issue seller, the council refuses to accept that there is a homeless problem in the town; official figures show none. And yet......

Royal Leamington Spa This is in a stark contrast to the fine Regency town, which we had came for after all. Past the church, the town hall and to the main Regency part of town, smart buildings all occupied by fashionable brands and high street favourites. And yet it didn't seem to be that busy. As shopping is not our thing, unless it is for beads or records, we just look in the windows and laugh at the "fashions", most of which as far as the shoes are concerned, might render the wearer crippled.

Royal Leamington Spa We walk to the top of The Parade, then turning back down and walking back down the other side. We retire to the park beside the river., and watch as children feed the ducks and pigeons. It is fun, as it people watching, and of course, it is free. We spend a good half hour sitting on the bench, until we walked over the bridge to the parish church.

And then what? Well, Jools needed a hair cut, and there was a shop nearby, and they could squeeze her in. What should I do? Oh yeah, go to the pub. It is a Weatherspoons, which makes me feel dirty, but it is cheap and I can people watch again. And is interesting as most drinkers know each other and pass the time of day as they wait at the bar.

Royal Leamington Spa Jools comes back, hair looking tidy, so we have another drink and some nachos. And watch more people. A spotty herbert apparently does a drug deal on his phone, then goes out to meet a guy on a bike to pay for what he ordered. We overhear him talking in another call, swearing in quite an advanced way.

At one we walk back to the station to catch the train back home. There are a few people waiting too, and when our train arrives, we have nowhere to sit. But being the loco-hauled train I hoped for, there were seats in the vestibule, so we sit there, and even have windows to look out of.

At Banbury a seat becomes free, so we move there and settle back to watch the afternoon roll by as we speed towards London. The ride is so smooth, my eyes drop and I snooze on and off. Jools is already snoring gently.

68 008 We arrive in Lodnon and find that rush hour was beginning early. After a short trip to Baker Street, we have to fight to get on a train to Kings Cross, but we do make it.

We have half an hour to get to our train, and so on the way Jools goes into M&S for some drink and some pistachio cookies to munch on. I go to grab a seat, so we will be comfortable on the last leg home. It is full as we pull out, and I have some git sitting next to me who insists on taking the whole table on which to read his free newspaper. But being British it would be bad form to say anything, so I don't.

The train empties as we stop at each station, and so we can stretch out as we still struggle to stay awake. From our seat we can see over the Channel where the water is the most wonderful shade of blue, and the cliffs of Cap Gris Nez as clear as if they were a handful of miles away, not the 23 or so they really are.

We get the glimpses of Dover in the later afternoon sun as the train climbs out of Buckland, then into Guston Tunnel before the train then cruises to Martin Mill. We were back. And from there its a simple run up the hill, crossing Deal Road, to home where the cats were waiting, asking where the heck we had got to. We were 5 whole minutes late for their dinner. Jools goes out for dinner, fish and chips, so we eat as darkness fell,a nd the food was so hot and fresh, it tastes like manner from heaven. Which is it, really.

Friday, 23 September 2016

Thursday 22nd September 2016

One of the reasons for wanting time off, is to catch up on my church project. Thing is, orchids hijack everything from April to September, so the churches have to wait. There is the Heritage Weekend of ciurse on the 2nd weekend of the month, and I suppose that got be back into the church saddle as it were.

Now I could have saved all the shots I took for GWUKs, but that would have made this blog very dull, and as they are talking so long to guess that last batch I posted, they can't have these.

Anyway, the endless wonderful sunny autumn goes on day after day, for the most part. And Thursday was supposed to be cloudy, but it seems the weather had other ideas, and the sun burned the clouds off, and we were left with another wonderful late morning and afternoon of wonderful warm and sunny weather.

I had to drop Jools off in town so she could take the bus to work, leaving me with the day to call my own. In fact, it looked like rain first thing, as dawn stretched over the eastern horizon, but as I drove back home, the sun rose all red and angry, and I remember thinking it would be the only glimpse of it that day. How wrong I was.

I left at eight, when there was full daylight, and drove to Barham on the last Ghost hunt of the season. As I have written before, it was always going to be the longest of long shots, but a walk in the woods at the beginning of autumn was never going to be a waste. I park in the clearing and take the bridleway up through the coppiced areas before climbing up into the main part of the wood.

I check on the Violet Helleborines, all gone to seed now, but still clearly orchids. I walk along the southern escarpment, ankle deep in leaves, a keen eye looking out for anything unusual. At one point I saw something different, and went to investigate, only to find it a slim trunk snapped off, so looking like a spike of an orchid.

Oh well, always next year.

I walk back to the car, put on the radio and look in John Vigar's book, then cross reference with the A-Z and decide on Headcorn: a friend had been there and did some great shots of some Kentish cottages. So, I set off for Folkestone, and then up the motorway to Ashford.

Now, let me tell you, driving along the highways and byways of Kent, on a fine autumnal morning, with the radio playing cool tunes, is a thing of great pleasure, even if Jools was at work, so I was alone. What I could do was do as I pleased, so when I saw a spire, I drove towards it, and came to one of the most remarkable churches i have been to in quite some time.

High Haldon is a stone and flint church, but with a wooden octagonal tower base and shingles top and spire. Inside it was like a garage or shed, except for the bell ropes hanging down. I was greeted by a volunteer mowing the churchyard. He drives 20 miles to do this, and to look after the war memorial at 82 years old, because he Dad is on the memorial, and he wants it to look its best. He tells me about the church, and says I will enjoy it. He wasn't wrong.

St Mary the Virgin, High Halden, Kent I go round with a smile on my face, taking shots, and generally enjoying myself. But it is that porch-cum-entrance that is remarkable.

I drive on and once again am diverted by the name of another village: I had seen I was within 5 miles of Sissinghurst, but decide not to go without Jools, instead I drive to Frittenden, as I think it sounded like it should be in Norfolk. I drive through the village, and find the church, either Victorian or so heavily restored there is previous little left of the original. But it is open, and is nice in its Gothic revival. I am taken with it, and my interest is piqued what may be a charnel house at the edge of the churchyard, surely not?

Ss. Peter and Paul, Headcorn, Kent I don't know, but now my aim was on Headcorn, which was just 3 miles away. Headorn is a main station on the old line to London from Dover, and I should have know it would be more than a village. But, once I had found the church and found a place to park, I found that the area around it was a delight, all Kentish cottages and houses, clapboarded and peg-tiled. And all the gardens still a riot of summer colour. I visit the church, take my shots, but with the town being so busy, I thought I might find somewhere nice for lunch.

I look at John Vigars book again, and decide that Ulcombe sounded nice, in a West Country kind of way. Like a few other churches, it is perched on the edge of the north downs, overlooking the plain I had just driven up from, the village pub looked like it had been closed for a couple of years, but the church was fine, and was open too.

It had several medieval wall paintings, or fragments of anyway, scattered around the church, and the face of one arch still had its painted chevrons still showing colour after half a millennium.

Ss. Peter and Paul, Headcorn, Kent One more church, just along the ridge, and I was so used to churches being open, it came as a shock to find the inner door locked. I tried several times, and looked on the notice boards, but could find no details of a key holder. The hamlet had just a handful of houses, but no one seemed to be interested in what I was doing.

I went back to the car and drive back to the main road, where, on the way to Ashford I knew there was a petrol station. I could have gone to Lenham I suppose, but I left my church list at home, and as the number now nears 300 I can't be sure which ones I have and haven't seen inside. That for another day anyway.

I refuel and pick up something to munch on the way for lunch, taking the A20 into Ashford then onto the motorway and what should have been a clear run home. But, thanks to an accident between Folkestone and Dover, I have to go up the Elham valley then into Dover and home along the cliff road, where, depsite the recent rain, France was lost in a misty haze. But I was home.

I put on the radio to listen to the interview with Chris Barrie, as the new series of Red Dwarf is due to begin. I have not seen a series since 6, maybe i should catch up. But Chris sounded good and revealed he was the voice of Ronald Reagan on Two Tribes, which the boys also played.

Jools tried a new way home, bus to Sandling, then the train home. She got back at 18:20, about half an hour later than if she had driven, so not too bad, and dinner was nearly ready for her too, just the pork steaks to cook and pop the potatoes into fry.

I have lost heart with I Robot, just don't find it engaging, so Jools will watch it next week when I'm away. There just doesn't seem to be any time in the evenings to watch it, what with writing blogs, editing photos and sitting on the patio watching the stars and passing planes. Its a full life for sure.

Thursday, 22 September 2016

Wednesday 21st September 2016

Up at half five, and then I turn downt he chance to have the car for the day, deciding instead to go for a long walk along the cliffs to Kingsdown.

An autumnal walk Due to the knee-deep mud in the Dip, I had to go down and up Station Road before cutting up through the village.

An autumnal walk The bales still have yet to be collected, making me think I could have spent an extra half hour in bed that Sunday morning last month when I scrambled up early to snap them after the harvester had finished.

Through the village, passing by a few friendly locals, then turning off down a little-used path, cutting across the edge of fields towards the cliffs.

An autumnal walk The house in the village that used to have Autumn Lady's Tresses in the front garden, have now lost them thanks to the new owner likes to mow his lawn so much. What wouldn't I give for orchids in my garden?

But there are still some at the monument, most have gone to seed but a handful have a partial spike still in flower.

An autumnal walk Ad then there is the cliffs. Are the cliffs. Whatever.

Down below, the remainder of an old cliff fall was turning green as the sea reclaimed what was hers. I pass a few people on the path, but not amny. We are all looking for various parts of nature's world. Have I seen any rare bids I am asked. No, just looking for butterflies is my reply

An autumnal walk I walked down along the cliffs to Kingsdown, looking for butterflies, especially Long Tailed Blues, but saw a couple of Small Coppers and a single Red Admiral, and that was it.

But a walk is never wasted, and the cool morning gave way to a warm morning, and hot afternoon.

An autumnal walk I am passed by a troupe of three horses and riders as I walk along the cycle track; it is hot, the horses swish their tails and the riders make small talk. I stand to one side and let them past, so I could snap them really.

I turned for home, walking back over the farmland, past fields that had been spread with much and now ploughed, back to the village where i bought lunch from the shop.

Back home in tome for lunch. Foolishly I have a beer too, this means I take to the sofa and snooze the afternoon through. I seem to have done nothing with my day off, but enjoyed it very much.

There is dinner to make; boiled chicken with rice. Which seems very bland, but it is rather good.

Take some chicken thighs. Remove the skin and place into a pan of water, season then bring to the boil and simmer for half an hour. In another pan fry two chopped onions, a pack of bacon, and fry enough rice for two people in the remaining oil/fat. Add all ingredients into a pan, bring to the boil, simmer until the rice is cooked and there is no excess fluid. It is rather wonderful, and I eat more than I should, as does Jools, but even still there is enough left over for her to take to work the next day.

Another day has passed, we sit on the patio again, cloud covering half the sky, but it is warm enough. I sip the left over wine from the bottle opened, and another day has passed.

Wednesday, 21 September 2016

Tuesday 20th September 2016

Second day of my planned week off, and I am preparing to log in again. It must mean that I love my job. Or something. Or it could be just that my boss asked very nicely.

Whatever the reason, I am up at half five with it being just about still night. Te cats are happy, and Jools is taking the opportunity to go into work early to catch up.

Jools leaves and so leaves me with an empty coffee pot and the thought of never getting to the point when I could actually take some time off. At least the weather was helping, in total disregard to whatever the weatherman said about warm September days, it was raining heavily outside. So it was nice to sit at the table and ehar the rain pouring outside, doing the garden good. Or at least that what I was thinking.

Walk to the Dip I checked the internet speed; 12 mbs, which meant that something like Netflix should be possible now, although upload speed had yet to improve.

So I began work, and battled to put of fires. I was losing the will to live to be honest.

Lunchtime came and went, and just when it seems that all would always go wrong, the planets aligned, and just before a meeting I called, it was green lights all across the board. So, we had the meeting, agreed the outcomes. I wrote the minutes and that was that. I set my out of mail message and switched the computer off. So the week off, now shortened to three days, could no begin.

Walk to the Dip To celebrate, I went for a walk.

I had it in mind to go to Kingsdown to look for the Long Tailed Blues, late in the afternoon with the sun now out, it what ambitious. Some might say foolhardy. I put on my walking shoes, grabbed my camera and locked the door.

What was clear, even walking across the fields was that the rain had made the ground soft, but still the fields looked dry. I lived in hope of seeing other butterflies, especially at the copse, but apart from a couple of Large Whites, there was little life on the wing. And no blues.

Walk to the Dip Past the pig's copse, where the piglets are now huge, and apparently hungry. I looked in and they made a healf harted attempt to turn the ground over, but they looked pretty well fed as it was. I walked on.

Down the Dip, also known as Norway Drove, past where there should have been lots of chickens scrabbling around in the undergrowth of Fleet House, but there was no sound. Maybe the fox has called again. There were sheep in the paddock, and pretty warm looking sheep too, sheltering under the trees out of the sun, as their fleeces had grown well over summer. They eyed me with suspicion, and with good reasn as I knew the taste of mint sauce, and they knew it.

Walk to the Dip Down at the bottom of the dip there was a mud bath. Not just a mud bath, but a pond covering the track, and the avoiding path so overgrown there was no way past. I thought about it for a moment and turned for home. I told myself i would do more tomorrow, even believing it myself.

I made a pint of squash once home, sat in the shade of the living room and listened on catch up to Radcliffe and Maconie as they interviewed Yello because they have a new album out, and are preparing for their first ever live dates! To top it off, it seems that Boris Blank and Dieter Meier share a house together, in their late 60s. Can you imagine that? Anyway, the apir are wonderful, and have great Swiss-German accents, and thew record, Toy, sounds wonderful. Here is the lead single, Limbo:

The afternoon ends and the sun drops low in the sky to the west. We have leftover aubergine and pasta salad, so no cooking for me to do, just remember to get the food out of the fridge an hour before eating, to allow the flavours to be released. And this time I used fresh basil as well as the flavoured cottage cheese. Another triumph for Jelltex it has to be said.

We watched the second episode of I Robot, still not sure, but it kept us quiet.

Then Norwich were playing Everton in the League Cup, a place we never win, so imagine the pleasant surprise when City ran out 2-0 winners, and so the beginning of what feels like a cup run.

It is now getting dark by seven, and fully dark before eight. The year surges on, and although it may still feel like summer during the day, night comes all to soon now, but it does mean more time sitting out on the patio, at least whilst it is warm enough.

Tuesday, 20 September 2016

Monday 19th September 2016

In a perfect world I should be on my first day of a week off. As it is not a perfect world, I have to work.

At least not getting up to that London, catching a plane and flying to either Denmark or Belgium working, but not being outside in the sunshine and fresh air.

Saying that, as Jools is holding the fort whilst her boss is off, she has to be in work really early, so we are up and about at half five in the morning, and I'm working at the dining room table at seven. Early enough. Heck, I even delay watching the football from the previous evening until "later", when I finish work.

Its not a good day outside, I tell myself, so am satisfied with being indoors, listening to the radio and working away. It happens.

And to make matters worse, its our wedding anniversary, but we're both working, so it don't matter that much. But it does mean I am in when Mum calls to wish us well. Which was nice.

And then my boss asks me to work Tuesday too, which I can't refuse, really. So, same place, same time?

Apart from the anniversary, today was when we switched to fibre broadband, with Sky promising up to 40mbs, which I aughed at, and she said would be the top speed, not the like, actual speed. But anything would be better than the .5 we had up to that point. I a told that I just unplug the old router, and pop the new one in, and it would do the rest.

Can't be that easy, could it?

Well, it was, only we saw little improvement, but we were getting nearly 1 meg upload, and download. The upload speed already double what we had before.

Jools came home, tried the internet, opened the card from Mum and got ready to go out. I mean we could have walked into the village, but in the end Jools said she would drive, then we would be back home even quicker. So, we drive to the Smugglers in the village.

The food is good, we have Mexican starters and then steak for mains. Although I have to say, the steak not a patch on mine, but it came with a Riojas sauce which was OK. We had wine, and then when we came back I had a whisky or two whilst looking at old videos on You Tube.

Monday, 19 September 2016

13 weeks

Last friday marked the quarter of a year since the Uk had that referendum. I refuse to call it Brexit, as this means anyone who does, can make it mean anything they want. The question on the referendum paper was: "Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union?"

In actual fact, the page I got that from, also defines what Brexit means: "The word ‘Brexit’ is an abbreviation of the words ‘British’ and ‘exit’, used to describe the United Kingdom’s possible exit from the European Union."

So, possible. Not binding.

And nothing about the single market, other than the Conservative Party's election manifesto promise to keep Britain in it.

In other words a mess.

That the people tasked with steering us through this maze have little or no idea on the matters concerning this task is astounding. They make basic errors, have to be corrected. It was admitted today by David Davis that Britain may exit the EU with no trade deals in place, the worse scenrio possible, jus the thing he said was "project fear" during the run up the the vote.

The EU still won't talk specifics until article 50 is triggered, and that is now put off until the new year. At least.

Some in Government are pushing for Hard Brexit, meaning trigger article 50 right away, then deal with the issues. Or even sooner if possible, this pissing off the very people who we will have to deal with in future trade negotiations.

And on top of this the masterstroke suggested by The Sun was to recommission the Royal Yacht and use this to impress the world traveling around the world, sailing to Switzerland, up the mountains, in order to conduct trade deals in palatial luxury. Sadly, the PM vetoed this today, it was clearly stupid. As was the idea to bring back imperial measurements, which was nothing to do with the EU anyway. And bring back the old British blue passports, like that makes any differences.

And still there are no real firm objectives as to what HM Government is pushing for, nor when they might make such decisions. If at all.

Sunday 18th September 2016

26 years since I joined the Air Force.

I have no idea why these dates stick in my head. I suppose in this case it really did change my life in a most significant way. Anyway. Sunday, day of rest and all that.

We were up at half six again, these darker mornings making it easier to lay in a little bit, even with Mulder's best attempts at waking us up, meowing, dribbling, standing on your chest just purring. Or all of the above,


I watch the football, make bacon sarnies, then we decide what to do; we could have gone up to London to see more Open House, but I am fed up with travel. I want to stay home and relax, so that is what I do. Jools does work in the garden, sometimes I help. Sometimes I make pasta salad. And sometimes I listen to the radio.

I am trying to fix the PC, it is very slow online, I think it is the bandwidth, but I am trying everything else first. We do have a new hub to use, so I will mess around with that later.

After lunch we go to visit a friend of mine, Gary and Julie. They live in River, which is a part of Dover, but not THE River, although there is a river that flows through River. Of course. In the same way there is a bridge in Bridge nearby.

Anyway, Gary has some tropical frogs now, so we talk about them and photography and stuff.

We come home at half two and make breaded aubergine to go with the pasta. There is also wine to be drunk, radio to be listened to. All in all its a very relaxing afternoon, and all the more agreeable as Man Utd lose to Watford. Jose is a gift that keeps on giving!

After dinner we sit down to watch the first episode of I Robot, which was OK, but not exactly ground-breaking. Still, one episode down and eleven to go.

As you would expect, we sat on the patio to watch the moon rise and ponder I Robot.

Sunday, 18 September 2016

Saturday 17th September 2016 (updated)

Open House

We have only missed one Open House in six years. With that in mind we did mean to make a good deal of it. But, what with work, travel and all the other stuff, I was planning the day mainly on Friday evening, looking at what was available in the guide. I had intended on a few of the Livery Houses, as well as some City Churches. Then there was the usual favourite of Admiralty House which we have failed to make it round to over the last few years, and as it turned out would again this year.

Should we have set the alarm for crack of dawn, or even before? Maybe we should have done, but then there was always Mulder to ensure we didn't sleep too long. IN the end it was nearly half six by the time we gave in and got up, fed the cats and made breakfast. It was a dull, grey morning but that could be a good thing, right? Not so hot on old London town, or so we hoped. I checked on the train times only to find that there were no trains from down the hill at Martin Mill, so that meant going into Dover, which meant either stumping up the cost of parking or find somewhere free.

Stratford We find a place along Priory Gate Road, whilst I try to park, Jools goes to buy tickets, as we have only a few minutes before we leave, and we have yet to have breakfast! I think we could have got something from the station buffet, but decide against it, and instead climb aboard the train and take a place around one of the tables in the front coach, ready to leave.

You know the trip by now, so I won't go into details. I look out the windows, always finding something new to look at, whilst JOols does some crocheting on the squares for the blanket she is making. And in this way we go through Kent, into Essex and into the tunnel to Stratford.

Stratford We get out, and go up to the concourse and have breakfast where I normally stop when I'm on my way to Denmark. We have coffee and baguette melt things, which is mighty fine indeed, and sets us up. To get to Stratford regional station, we walk through the shopping centre, and it really is horrific to see such a cathedral to commercialism. I mean I have no problem with shops and shopping, I like shopping. But three laevels of glittering and shiny emporiums, all selling pretty much what could be described as designer gear, and all of it pretty much looking very uncomfortable. Maybe its what makes people happy. Maybe not. And it goes on for ages until we get to the broken automatic doors and onto the bridge over the Great Eastern Main Line; but any thought of looking at the trains going back and forth were dashes as every glass panel had been covered up with advertising for Citroen cars. Do we really need all this? Is this public or provate space? I know the shopping centre is private, but this is just silly now.

Stratford On the Jubilee Line we get a carriage to ourselves, at least for a while, and wait for it to leave. The line runs beside the DLR line, at least to Canning Town, then it dives underground, and in the non-air conditioned carriages, its pretty warm.

Stratford We get off at London Bridge, with the hope of seeing the new concourse beneath the Southeastern platofrms, but we can only find our way to the Southern terminal platforms, and for a change, there was no strikes so all seemed to be working well. Saying that, we could find no signs for toilets, and so set out towards the bridge itself, to cross into the City, where there were some public conveniences near to the Monument. It seems that the modern world means less public conveniences, who says this should be? Phillip K. Dick didn't see that one coming.

Stratford Once in The City, the plan went out the window as usual, and I began the usual trudge round the City churches that are usually closed. Just the other side of Lloyds and in the shadow of the Gherkin, sits St Andrew Undershaft, not a small church, but dwarfed by the modern buildings that have risen around it. It is also partially hidden by the queues waiting to go into The Gherkin, usually the most popular building in Open House, and for which most people waiting will not get in to. We tried the first year and gave up when we found we were going to have to wait at least six hours and with no guarantee we would get in.

But we ask if we could get through the line, and find the door to the church open, and so we walk in. What greets us is an ancient church, but done with a modern makeover; ancient walls, and new wooden floor and seating. We were given a warm welcome, but for a moment I was just stunned to be inside, this being the first time I had even found the church open. Regular tours are taking place, but I decline one to go around myself and see if I can see the history of the old building.

St Andrew Undershaft, City of London I am met by one of the guides, who has already spoken to Jools, and asks me about why I am here. I can't really answer, even when put into the context of the Kent Church Project, because, why do I do that? What will I do with the thousands of images? I have to say, I am not sure. But I have a desire to see history, and to see inside something built by a name we all know, Sir Christopher Wren, a link to him and the Great Fire.

St Andrew Undershaft, City of London We are all looking for meaning in life, I am, and those who came before me are. I may have a modern scientific outlook, but still, why have I spent the last eight years of my life visiting 300 or so Kent churches, why do I re-visit the same places every year looking for orchids? Well, I enjoy it, and maybe that's enough.

St Andrew Undershaft, City of London I decry the enforced closure of St Peter Upon Cornhill to all those that its custodians allow inside; why should that be? It is a place of historic importance to London and England, why not allow all to see? I tell her of The Friends of City Churches, whose volunteers enable many churches to be opened at least one day a week, and could that not be extended to St Peter? She agrees that it should.

I take my shots, as usual, and we leave.

St Katherine Cree, City of London Up Cornhill we come to another church, not one I expected to see, but clearly is open; so we go inside. St Mary Cree is a delight, empty apart from us and the volunteer quietly reading near the door. It is a triumph to be honest, and unlike At Andrew, I can go round, seeing all what I want to see. Another understated City church, and a haven of gold, peace and light among the ugliness of the modern City outside.

St Katherine Cree, City of London I had been told in St Andrew that St Helen's in Bishopgate would be open. It was just a short walk, according to the map. IN fact, I didn't realise how close, and from St Andrew you could almost touch St Heneln's, but through narrow streets and lanes, we reach St Helen's, and indeed the door was open.

We go inside, and are greeted with the most extraodinary interior; a double nave, and also a church that survived both the Great Fire and the Blitz did not fare so well at the hands of the IRA who managed to bomb it twice at the beginning of the 1990s. So it has been restored, but the people who run it, St Andrews and St Peter Uopn Cornhill had had it done to meet their needs. Not to say it isn't a fine and unusual church, it is, but it has something of a sports hall about it, even with those 13th century walls. And it was wildly popular, with hundreds of people being taken round in tours, and over the state of the art system, a description of the church, and how it varies from the traditional Anglican churches. I run round getting shots, inbetween tours passing by.

So, three new City churches in one day. Won't be able to say that again I think!

We walk back to Bank station and catch a train to Chancery Lane to where there is a Tudor hall, part of a college, and is open. We follow the signs from the station, only to find them disappear once we get onto street level. We stop at a juice bar for some squeezed fruit and to consult a map. I am sure the college is just along the steet, and indeed this is the case.

We walk through a gateway, and soon have left the modern world behind. Apart from the hall, the ancient buildings have been lost, but Gresham College is still a place of learning, and offers free lectures to all, and they are all available online. We attend an intoroduction in the hall, and marvel at the surroundings. The college goes back to the 14th century, and its founder came from Norfolk. See, not such a bad place after all!

Where should we go now? Well, I consult the list, and a considerable journey away is a Gothic masterpiece. In order to get there and be able to see other buildings beyond that, we take a cab. We flag a taxi down, and despite telling his where we wanted to go, he latched onto the station at Warwich Avenue, and being the site of a driver's rest, he knew that, and would take no answer on the offer of the postcode for the church.

He drops us off outside the tube station, and after some orientation we find our way on the A to Z, and make our way over the canal at Little Venice.

After a short walk we realise we are hungry, and see a pub-cum-theatre on the other side of the road. We go in, and despite sloe service we order lunch and a drink. I have fish and chips whilst Jools had burger with cheese and yet more meat. It comes and is good, for London.

Once we had eaten, we walk farther along the road, at the edge of a 60s housing estate, then down a dip and over a playing field was St Mary Magdalene. A mighty Gothic pile, some child's nightmare maybe. Inside it was all that and more, a higher than high church, lit with candles and incense sticks. On the walls there were the stations of the cross. Everywhere were altars and icons, making this the most Catholic of CofE church I have seen. And yet there was one further glory to see: in the crypt, a chapel, covered in gold and idols, as Catholic as it is possible to get. I am not Christian or religious, but this plethora of sects is bewildering, high, low, Baptist, strict, non-conformist and so on. Its the same God, no? Be good, you yourself and others and be saved, is that not the message of Jesus?

We could have gone on. Admiralty Building was next, but I was done, and so we walked back to Warwick Avenue; we did not see Duffy, we flag a cab down and he takes us back to St Pancras, arriving ten minutes before the departure to Dover. We go upstairs to the platofrm, and find a seat. Phew, going home.

The tript o Ashford was quiet and usual enough. But there a group of four, two couples, gets on, with carry outs and drink quickly and are loud. Who am I to judge how people spend their spare time, but do anyway. I listen to their loud conversation as one can of vodka/red bull is downed, and other started. There are going to Folkestone for a night of more drinking, apparently. They are looking forward to a concert by UB40 in a few eeks time, and all seem to live for drunken fun. But who am I to judge?

They get off at Folkestone Central, and silence returns to the train. We get off at Dover, walk to the car and drive home. The football had ended, Norwich had won in Nottingham, whichw as good news and spared me all the stress of following the game via the radio and twitter.

We have cheese and crackers for supper, I watch the football on TV, and the just gone full moon rises, partially hidden behind light cloud.

Another fine day comes to an end.

Saturday, 17 September 2016

Friday 16th September 2016

All good things come to an end. And bad thins also come to an end. In time. Anyways, the long hot late burst of summer that all of Western Europe has been basking in ended on Thursday night; clouds rolled in, and there was rain in the air before we went to bed. And by morning, although the rain had stopped, the weatherman promised us 24 hours of the stuff from just after breakfast.

Jools leaves for work, and due to issues, I am working away at seven in the morning. Don't ask.

Anyway, at least his means the day passes quickly: breakfast, mid morning coffee, elevenses, lunch, brunch, afternoon tea. Phew. What with the traveling, I am seeing spots in front of my eyes, but I plough on. What a little trooper I am.

Summer has flown Outside the clouds thickened just before nine, and it hammered down all day. At one point I took a shot out the back door showing the rain falling so hard it was like fog. The cats look mournfully out fo the windows, and sleep most of the day. Just like it will be until spring now I guess.

At four I am done, but then at six I remember I have more mails to send. With the Friday Free for All on the radio, I fire off those, and it is the weekend. And if I'm lucky most of next week off.

With the radio blasting out, I cook chorizo hash, and open a bottle of 10% Trappist Quadrupel beer. Man, that was a mighty fine beer, but a 70cl bottle meant I was drinking it most of the evening too, and so stuggling hard to keep my eyes open.

Outside the rain falls steadily; our water buts are full, and the cats are inside. Molly lays beside me and falls blissfully asleep with her paws on my leg. Bless. We watch double Monty before our legs take us upstairs to bed. Outside the rain still falls.

Friday, 16 September 2016

Thursday 15th September 2016

I am writing this on Friday: the sunshine has ended, it is pouring with rain, wind is howling and I'm thinking of putting the heating on. But that is today, this was yesterday.

We were awake before the alarm again. A mixture of work pressure and high humidity was the reason. So we were up and drinking coffee before six anyways. Because we had an appointment in Canterbury in the evening, I was going to have pick up Jools from work en route to the appointment, but this also meant I had to drop her off in town so she could catch the bus to work from Dover.

On the 21st August, Twitter and other social media exploded reminding people that there is an eclipse in the US in 365 days time. This planted seeds in our heads, and we had been waiting for flights to be released so we could book a trip. Jools waited for me to come back before booking, so we could agree the details, and it turned out booking the flight and car through British Airways was the cheapest way. So, we were trying to book it before we left the house that morning, just so we got flights. The site crashed us out twice, and on the third time, as we were running out of time, it went through.

We are off to Wyoming next year, and have a Mustang convertible booked too. We are excited.

Almost excited as we have also booked a trip to Scotland on a sleeper train, and a cottage on the Isle of Skye for a weel. AND a friend from New Zealnd is coming over to join in the fun. Oh my word. 2017 is already shaping up the be so great.

But for now, work and all that shit.

We drive into town to the bus station, or the street that doubles for one now. Jools has 5 minutes, and I have to turn round double quick to get home to put the bins out before collection and then to start work.

The novelty of working from home soon fades when the sky begins to fall once again. And all plans of tidying up paperwork and reviews is out of the window. But these things happen.

Three comes along and I have to finish as I have another appointment with the chiropractor. Still my shoulder, and still it hurts. Its only down the hill, so I drive down, wait and read a Thomas the Tank Engine book, while my inner monologue reads along in a Ringo Star accent. As it should be.

I am pulled, pummeled and injected with needles.

I then have to drive to Hythe to collect Jools, driving through the rush hour traffic, then back again, making our way up Stone Street to Chartham, then via a narrow twisty lane into Harblemdown and into Canterbury, arriving at the University at half five. Phew.

We are there to discuss pensions, and whether we can both retire at 60. 9 years time for me, and seven for Jools. Sounds tempting. Anyway, we listen to the advisor, ask questions and in the end we have some serious thinking to do. But, its looking OK, not great, but OK.

It was seven, too late to mess around in the kitchen, and as we were in the city, we look for a place to eat. I suggest the Gate Inn right on the Old Dover Road; it looks nice, and shouldn't be too crowded.

It was OK, Jools had seafood risto and I had fish and chips, which wasn't the best, or worst, I have had. Anyway, that's dinner done, so we could go home and relax now.

Inside the house it was as humid as ever, so we retire to the patio as clouds roll over the sky, hiding the moon from time to time.

A mackerel sky. I toast it with a wee dram of Japanese whisky. As you do.

I know how to roll.

Wednesday 14th September 2016

It was still baking hot. Even at six in the morning when I woke up, roused by my alarm. Outside it was not yet light, but the sky clear and certain it was going to be another hot, hot day.

I showered, packed then went down for breakfast. It was hot down there as well. I had an extra coffee which I would come to regret later.

After paying the bill, I load my rucksack in the back of the car, program the sat nav for the airport. I had 115 km to go, should take just over an hour. Easy.

Or should be, if it weren't for the roadworks near the airport.

I left Husum with the sun just risen in the east, angry looking and dark red. Mist rose in the drainage ditches. I really should have stopped to take a shot, but I was always fretting about not getting to the airport on time. But with there being 40km of single track road, and lots of lorries about, meaning progress was slow.

The road meandered across the marshes, nearing the coast sometimes, until the road just widened into an autobahn and we could accelerate past the trucks and drive at warp factor 9. I was driving no faster than 130kmh, for the most part anyway, and yet at times cars hammered past at speeds that must have been 100kmh faster than I was going. It was frightning to be honest. You look in the mirror and there is nothing there, by the time you have pulled out and halfway past the truck, there was a huge Audi with lights flashing an inch from my back bumper.

I made it to Hamburg, turned onto the busy road which was being reconstructed, and inched towards the airport. As I neared there were plenty of signs showing the way to the hire car return, only for them to vanish. I was back in the city, and struggled to find a way of turning round. I still had over two hours, so not panicking yet.


On the second pass, I see the signs and drive into the parking haus, the car is checked over in 30 seconds, I sign, and am free to go.

I walk into the terminal and find that the airline I am with does not allow self check in, so have to wait in line thus negating carrying all my stuff in just one bag. But I get a boarding pass, get a window seat and am free to join another queue through security.

I have mails to read and reply to, so my book is unread: poor Nigel Molesworth. Chiz.

The flight is called, and turns out the flight is less than half full, so we all get plenty of room. Sitting by the window with the sunlight pouring in, it is even hotter; who knew?

It was a short hop to Brussels, and I was sitting in a seat near to the middle of the wing, so I could see little of the ground. Anyway, mostly it was partially obscured my misty haze, so I close my eyes and the plane taxis and prepares to take off.

We arrive at Brussels half an hour late, and I have to get to a meeting in half an hour; wasn't going to happen. Especially as once off the plane and through security, I had to get through the automatic barriers down on the station, and they would not let me pass. In the end I had to queue up at the ticket office and buy a single to Leuven, rushing down onto the platform to make the train.

Once in Leuven I had to walk up the main shopping street, huffing and puffing in the heat, in an attempt to make it on time. although I was told not to worry. I arrive in a ball of sweat, but there are iced cans of pop waiting. I sit down and try to concentrate......

Some three hours later, we are free to go. We walk to the bar in the main square for some refreshment in the form of some trappist beers. Did I mention it was hot? Well it was.

From there across the street is a fast food joint owned by a famous Belgian TV chef that serves only hot dogs. We have two each, and another beer, and all is well with the world. Apart from the heat.

The three of us walk back down to the station, then onto different platforms for our trains. I am with Manu, the train is going onto Ostende, but there are no seats, so we stand in the non-air conditioned vestibule. It is hot. We are glistening in the humidity. Phew.

I get off at Midi and make my way to the Eurostar terminal, able to walk right in, go through security and then wait for the train to be called. There is nothing glamourous about the lounge, more like a canteen with a linoleum floor. It does not recreate the glamour of the grand tour.

The train is called some ten minutes before departure, and I join with the other businessmen into the economy plus carriage where we are presented with a cool drink, and once the train pulls out, a cold meal, wine, coffee, desert and chocolate. Outside the near full moon rises above the city, and as we make our way to France then over Flanders, it climbs higher and getting brighter. Darkness has fallen before we reach the tunnel, but my eyes had already closed and I snored my way to Ebbsfleet.

It is some frustration that the line passes within ten miles of Chez Jelltex, but I have to stay on the train for another half hour, get off at Ebbsfleet and then had to travel all the way back. Only plus side was that I had less than a ten minute wait for a train to Martin Mill where Jools was waiting. The train was full, but I sit next to an off duty train guard, and we rattle on through the night.

Jools is waiting, and she takes me home. But then she is also tired because her boss is on holiday this week and she is doing the job of both of them.

There is time for a brew once home, but as it is now after ten, it is time for a shower and bed. Now back home for 12 days......

Thursday, 15 September 2016

Tuesday 13th September 2016

And a day in which I have no planned work until half three in the afternoon. My minions were on a course, I was not, and therefore, I was free, to, well, do whatever I wanted. To a point. I was still at work, and so after a poor night's sleep thanks to the sky high temperatures and humidity, I had a shower, went down for breakfast, then returned to my room to work on the computer until I heard the maid next door at about ten, so I then decided to stretch my legs some and go for a walk.

Husum, Germany Outside it was like a furnace. All of north-west Europe has been baking this last week, and another day of sky-high temperatures was predicted. So, I walked to the main square where a few stalls selling fruit were set up, but lost in the size of the square. I walk on to the harbour, looking pretty as a picture at high tide, but not full of boats. I guess there were half a dozen, almost lost in the large dock, but still seems to be a working port.

Husum, Germany I walk past the row of restaurants, over the main road to the railway line, stopping long enough to see a train pass through and grab a couple of shots. Then to the warehouses and grain stores, standing tall against the blue sky. They also seem to be in use, but just not today.

Husum, Germany It is hot, so hot that I stop several times I as I walk along the road to the beach, or where I think the beach is. I stop just after the grain silo and see a flash of aquamarine blue: a kingfisher rose from the post at the bottom of the bank and flew into the reed beds. Wow, this was the first time I have ever seen one? I satand for half an hour, waiting for him to return, but he doesn't. I know they like to return to the same perch, but not this time.

Husum, Germany I walk on, past the wood store and the row of barges used for refueling and then into the open countryside, looking for all the world like the marshes beyond Oulton church where I grew up. But on the left hand side was the canal, or river along which boats came in and out. And one was negotiating the lock, so I sit down to watch.

Husum, Germany Time passes, it is half eleven and not getting any cooler. I decide that my life will not be poorer if I do not see the beach, so turn round to walk back into town, and to get a drink. I swear I was going to ask for water of a Coke, but the words bier came out. And the beer was good and ice cold. I order currywurst and fries to go along with the bier, and the world felt better.

I walk down the back streets, snapping some of the historic houses, but I know I need to go back to work in my room.

It was by now one in the afternoon, and the hottest part of the day began. I lay on the bed with the radio on and closed my eyes.

An hour past, maybe 90 minutes. I spring up, write some more mails, and was then ready for when the boys came back so we could have our meeting. The hotel supplied coffee, water and a room, so we sat down and talked things through, expectations and so on.

Husum We finish at about seven, and walk into town to a brew haus that also did food. Beers, burgers, steaks and schaslik, at least not all for me. But we sit in the beer garden, among the locals and other tourists and have a fine time. Unlike the German couple on the next table for whom nothing was quite right, and the husband had a very sour face as he sipped his half pint.

The others were going to make a night of it, but I had to be up with the larks in the morning for the 90 minute drive back to the airport. I bid them farewell and leave them to the beer.

Monday 12th September 2016

THe alarm goes off at half five. It is just getting light outside. The air, still warm from the prvious day, lays heavy like a blanket. People and cats have had a poor night's sleep, and now it is MOndya, and some of us have to go to work, while others have to travel. I have to go to Husum in northern Germany; this involves an early afternoon flight from London into Hamburg, but do I go early when Jools goes to work, mess around in London for a couple of hours, or stay at home, get a taxi into Dover and all that.

In the end, I decide to go up to London on the 07:06 train from Martin Mill, Jools can drop me off then drive to work, and I get to sit on a train looking out the window as we go to London: Dover laid out as we leave Guston Tunnel, the new viaduct, mist of the Medway and all the other stuff.

We are well organised, but yet I feel my time at home rushing to an end, I check Twitter for travel updates, have breakfast, then tidy up. And we're off.

The train is on time, and a few of us hardy travelers are waiting in the warm morning sunshine, most heading to offices in London to stare at computer screens or other such things. There is mist as we make our way up Martin Mill Bank to Guston, then into the darkness of the tunnel, emerging with the town on the left hand side of the line. THe train then meanders dwon through Buckland, losing height all the time until we are at sea level.

The train fills up, I look out the window, whilst others either read the free paper of stare into their phones. Some even sit in groups with friends, and do the old fashioned thing of talking to each other. I stay on all the way into London, still a novelty for me, as normally I get off at Stratford. I am last off the train, as I'm in no hurry.

I walk over first to Kings Cross to see if I can spy one of the new Azuma units at the buffers; but there are just the usual HSTs and 91s. I take shots anyway, because I can.

Kings Cross Back to St Pancras and down onto the Thameslink platforms to see if I could see one of the new 700 units: no luck there either. I take a very crowded train to Farringdon, and wait there half an hour, but just the usual mix of familiar traction comes through. And I attract the attention of the dispatcher, who eyes me with suspicion

I end up at St Pauls, and wander through the backstreets, ending up at St. Peter on Cornhill in the hope of getting inside, but it is locked. In amazement I see a young man swan past me with a key, open the door, go in without looking back. I was too dumbfounded to ask if I could go in.

I find a nice place for breakfast, it is already feeling like 30 degrees out there, and getting in somewhere with air conditioning was a real joy. I have salmon and scrambled eggs and a coffee, and pass half an hour.

By eleven, I am hot and bothered, and getting no photography done, I decide to go to the airport to relax there, check work mails and cool down some.

Olympic Stadium I walk to Bank station, then along endless passageways nearly to Monument to the DLR platforms. I direct train to the airport leaves within 5 minutes, taking me through the old East End and then out to modern Docklands. It really is a joy to be on a train weaving through the building and streets in the bright sunshine.

I get my boarding pass, and as I am traveling light, I have no bag to check, but have to put toiletries in a small bag. The woman on security seemed delighted to tell me that my deodorant was too large to be carried through by a whole 20ml. Bitch.

I check mails, make calls. The usual.

The flight is called, and the 30 or so of us make our way to the gate, show our boarding passes and passports again, then allowed to board. We take off into a blue sky, passing over the old Olympic Park and Stratford International before climbing into the haze of the autumn day leaving the land below just a hint.

Stratford International But where am I going you may ask: well, I am off to Hamburg, then by car to almost the Danish boarder to meet up with my minions who will be going quality work on the project. I have been at the airport before, so know where the car rental office is, so after leaving the pane I rush through the baggage hall and down the passageway to the office. There is no queue.

I find I have seven reservations for that afternoon; did I want them to cancel six of them? Yes, I think so. I am offered three different cars, but choose the Audi A4 of course.

After programming the sat nav, I take the ring road to the motorway, where they seem to be rebuilding half of it, and so with only two lanes in each direction, it is clogged with traffic, and the air thick with dust and noise from the work. Anyway, I have all the windows open anyway, as it is so hot, and I am recovering from my worse allergy attack in about seven months, so need fresh air.

I turn off the motorway, and onto another one heading north. This is much quieter, and once out of the city there is no speed limits, and so cars rush by me at stupid speeds. I cruise along at 110 kmh, no really I do. I have the windows still open, and so the noise would be so loud going any faster. The man at the rental office said the drive up to Husum would be dull and nothing to see. But as ever, there was; rilling farmland, a massive canal and other Germanic stuff, all neat and in their place.

Noord-Oostzeekanaal Once the motorway runs out, wind turbines spring up so thickly its like a forest; most are ours, or our parent company's anyway. The sky begins to darken and has a red tint to it. At least it is a little cooler. The final stretch is over marshland, like a Germanic Norfolk, don't ask, but is nice enough.

The town is small and neat, I follow the instructions to the hotel, but I pass the minions just near to it, and they tell me they are off for dinner. They will wait for me, their leader. Which is nice, but then they know I have to pay for dinner.

We walk down through the market square and down onto the harbour, which is lines with merchant hosues, each now with either a bar or restaurant inside. We choose one with a table on the cobbled streets, order beers and meat-based meals.

I had grillteller and frites, which was very nice and filling. Lots of meat anyway. The others have pizza, and we all have another beer.

The day fades, and I have to check in the hotel. I found out it has no air conditioning, so the corridors and passageways are like ovens, and I am sweating heavily by the time I get to my room. Phew.

Here i am, working, beside the seaside again.

Sunday 11th September 2016

It is Sunday, and as ever the weekend is slipping away from me, and on Monday I am on my travels yet again.

It as the second day of the Heritage Weekend, and if I'm honest, we could have done more with the day, but in the end we had enough planned.

Nothern Tunnel, Western Heights, Dover, Kent Being a Sunday, there is football to watch. And with it being so muggy even before sunrise, we are up and about before six, feeding the cats and making coffee. I then sit down and watch most of the previous day's MOTD. There is an hour when cloud covers the sky from horizon to horizon, but then the sun melts it away, and it soon is plenty warm enough.

Nothern Tunnel, Western Heights, Dover, Kent There is stuff to do in the garden; mulching the beds and deadheading, but it is soon too warm even to do that.

Nothern Tunnel, Western Heights, Dover, Kent At half eleven we go out to Western Heights, as the volunteers up there had worked hard through the summer to open a new section of the underground fort; this time the northern access tunnel, and we had tickets.

Nothern Tunnel, Western Heights, Dover, Kent It was just a short drive into town, then up Military Hill to the entrance. We park near the Knights Templar chapel, then walk back down, check in and begin some waiting. Western Heights are massive, a series of underground tunnels and Napoleonic forts, which have fallen into disuse and the haunt of vandals.

Nothern Tunnel, Western Heights, Dover, Kent These tunnels were the main entrance from the town, and were the modern version of moats and portcullises. It is in a poor state, with people having stolen floor tiles, and others trying to set the drabridge on fire several times. And yet it is all there, just. Shows how well it was made.

The Salutation Gardens, Sandwich, Kent The tour lasted an hour, and was informative, but really for locals shows how much has been hidden since the army pulled out at the beginning of the 80s.

The Salutation Gardens, Sandwich, Kent We were lead back out, back into the bright sunshine and the heat of the day.

The Salutation Gardens, Sandwich, Kent I had been promising Jools all summer that we would go to the Salutation Garden in Sandwich, and with the weather so good, and still feeling like summer we thought we would go straight there.

The Salutation Gardens, Sandwich, Kent We parked just outside the Fisher Gate, walked to the entrance, paid our seven quid each and went it. Amazing that a garden so near the sea could be so full of colour, and doubly so since the site was flooded by the sea a few years back. Now rebuilt and replanted, it was full of Dahlias, of all shapes, sizes and colours. And the air was full of butterflies and other insects.

The Salutation Gardens, Sandwich, Kent We walk round and look at the beds, plants and even talked to the head gardener. But, we had eaten no lunch, and so with pangs of hunger taking over, we go home for late lunch and sit out of the sun. We were pooped yet again.

I cook breaded chicken and dirty fried potatoes for dinner, and the day is getting old already. The sun sets and gets a tad cooler.

I can't be arsed to pack, so we sit outside in the gathering gloom, I pick up Molly and she agrees to be cuddled and even purrs, which she does much more these days.