Saturday, 31 December 2016

One last thought

THis was the year I, we, realised a lifelong ambition to visit Japan.

In order to make it happen, we had to save for a year, go without many things, so we would pay for the trip and spending money. Tanks to Jools' organisation skills, and the travel arranger, the whole two weeks went flawlessly. It was like a dream.

I don't really know what I expected Japan was going to be like, that part had not occurred to me, just that I wanted to go. And take photos. Lots of photos.

Landing in Tokyo, and seeing all the signs in both Japanese and English made me realise that it was a very different place, but we should be able to cope. We were met at the exit from immigration by a smart man with our name on a sign, and he took us to a car and drove us right to the door of the hotel. He spoke little English, but was very pleasant and liked that I was taking photos of everything.

We went to the lobby of the hotel, checked in, and once we had completed the paperwork, went to our room. We were on our own. Kinda. We had a book of instructions for the whole two weeks, but we had to make it happen, no one was going to do it for us.

And outside the window, was one of the largest cities in the world, and it was ours to explore and discover. Only, where to start?

We did the sensible thing, really and explored the local area, seeing what was about, seeing that just off the main road, there were narrow residential streets where ordinary people lived and worked. And it was thus all over the country.

But there was fear. Fear of the unknown, and fear of looking silly. I spotted a Denny, and I thought that would be an easy place to eat first. Maybe have some familiar food. But, it was a Japanese version, and although they spoke some English, we picked our food from a pictorial menu, but it was all painless, ad the food came and was good. Even if I had no idea what I was eating. But then we had to do this twice or three times a day for the next two weeks.

After wandering about for a couple of hours, then going back to the hotel to snooze, we went out after dark to find dinner. All places looked fabulous and strange. Which one to choose, I had no idea. But Jen just got fed up with our prevaricating, and walked into a steak joint. A simple chain place, and we sat down and tried to swim. Or not drown anyway. And we did it, and that gave us confidence to go on and try more traditional places to eat on other nights. Although some nights we just wanted to eat something familiar.

And so it went on.

And then we came back. And the experience sunk in. I wrote blogs, edited shots, told people about what we did, re-wrote blogs, edited more photos. And so those two weeks lasted the whole year, and we can say we went to Japan this year, ate strange things, met wonderfully friendly and polite people, and it was as magical, strange, colourful, wonderful and memorable as I had hoped. As we both hoped. It is a holiday that will last a lifetime, and has changed us as people. We de-cluttered, be ate differently, we will eat those things again. We were polite, more polite than normal, and I don't think it would hurt us in England to all be a little more polite to each other, rather than be greedy stupid people.

I am also glad that you, dear readers, enjoyed the trip with us.

And many thanks for reading my other posts, I really am very touched that you do so, and would like to thank you all.

Happy New Year to you all.

2016: how was it for you?

Hello, and welcome.

I think before I start, I should point out that because I have written about Brexit and occasionally other politics through the year, I am not going to go over the same ground here You know the score how I feel about Brexit and Trump. I might look into my crystal ball tomorrow and issue some thoughts on what may happen in the year ahead. But for most of this year, politics on either side of the Pond has been grim and has not gotten any lighter. Only thing that keeps me positive is the knowledge that reality cannot be explained away as easily as the Brexiteers have done in the past 18 months. Reality of Brexit and its implication for Britain and it's people cannot be waved away by a tousled haired Foreign Secretary.

For Sport: Well, it was an Olympic year, but work made it impossible to have anything but a passing interest in what was another golden games for Team GB. For that I apologise without reservation. In football, as a Norwich fan, it has been a year of almost unrelenting pain. Deserved relegation from the Premier League was confirmed after we had left for the Far East on our holibobs. I was not surprised, we had been poor since the new year, and the hope that there were three teams worse than us proved to be way too optimistic. City finished 19th, with only Villa behind. Since then, after a good start, two wins in ten have put paid to automatic promotion already, and with current form so poor, a change in manager seems to be the only choice if a place in a play off scramble can be maintained. I did say that I wouldn't blog about Norwich so much, but then slipped back into the old routine. Sorry about that.

Other than that, the story of the year, or the first half was the triumph of Leicester in winning the Premier League by a country mile, and thriving in overcoming the pressure to always be leading the pack. Spurs fails to keep pace, and in the end running out of puff to finish 3rd. Arsenal came runners up, but were once again so far behind the eventual champions. Since the new season has begun, Leicester have struggled in the league, and still can be relegated. A first in not just the Premier League era. But they are doing great things in Europe, even winning their group.

In books, I had another quiet year, with me reading mainly non-fiction. The exception being The Spy who Came in from the Cold by le Carre. A wonderfully written book, so perfectly capturing its time in both London and East Germany. I read Bill Bryson's new book about Britain; and what a dull complaining old man he has become, finding something to moan about everywhere he went. I gave up in the last chapter as he neared his goal, not caring whether he made it or not. Much better was Stuart Maconie's The Pie at Night; another travel book, this time around Northern England, and what a delight his writing has become, the passages about the Lake District were wonderful, made me want to leave for there right away. And he's a DJ too, a as good at that as well!

David Hepworth's 1971: Never a Dull Moment I took with me to Japan and entertained me immensely. I read the blog it was based on the year before, and so knew some of the tropes he would be going with. But this was a wonderful read, dealing with the pop culture events on a month by month basis, who knew the world of music, film, literature and stage could be so interesting. Highly recommended.

In music, it was another wonderful year. Although one tempered by the deaths of so many of the art's icons. Starting with David Bowie in January, a mere hours after releasing what would be his last album in Blackstar. Prince did too. He was the one other artist that came as close to Bowie in the genius stakes, and between 1982 and 1990, he produced album after album of great music, whilst writing hits for other people too.

Nick Cave returned this year with a new album, the first after the death of his son. And it was stunning, and bleak.

One of the best things I heard this year was the Kevin Shields remix of The Undertones "Get Over You" with the poppy stuff taken out:

I know very little about Haley Bonar, other than I like this, the first track off her debut album

I know nothing about Trentmoller, except this is a cracking tune:

I have no idea who these guys are, but this floated my boat this year:

You can always rely on Wilco to come up with something good:

According to my notes, I liked this too:

A new year, new PJ Harvey album, and a cracker and art installation too:

I always knew Mark E Smith was an old wise man, so does he too, apparently.

Something else, I have no idea:

White Denim!

Underworld do a impression of The Fall

And, this is my favourite single of the year. Mind you, this is the un-censored version, its a bit seary: Sleaford Mods!

As for films, we did not go to the cinema again this year, and what films we did watch were mostly on TV and so not 2016's. We did was Star Trek yesterday, but it was a pit pants. TV was mostly the same. New series of The Bridge, just one episode of Sherlock. But there was The People's History of Pop, which was marvelous even if they did not use my interview. THe Iclandic TV show, Stranded, kept us rivited through four weekends over the summer. More Scandic Noir.

In Photography, I have already gone over the Kentish Orchid season last week, so will not repeat myself again. In butterflies I only snapped one new species in Kent, a Silver Washed Fritillary.

Silver-washed Fritillary Argynnis paphia But I did this shot of two Heath Fritilleries resting next to each other.

Heath Fritillary Melitaea athalia The Kent churches project went from strength to strength, with the following churches photographed, mostly inside too.

St Mary, St Mary Cray
St Alphage, Whitstable
St Nicholas, Thannington Without
All Saints, Birchington-on-Sea
St Laurence, Hougham Without
St. Mary, Capel-le-Ferne
St Peter, Whitfield
St Mildred, Preston
St Saviour, Walmer
St Nicholas, Boughton Malherbe
St Mary, Frittenden
All Saints, Ulcombe
Ss. Peter and Paul, Headcorn
St Peter, Canterbury
St Mary the Virgin, High Halden
St Michael and All Angels, Harbledown
St Dunstan's, Canterbury
St Nicholas, Sholden
St Mildred with St Mary de Castro, Canterbury
The Zoar Strict & Particular Baptist Chapel, Burgate Lane, Canterbury
St Martin, Great Mongeham
St Lawrence, Seal Chart
St George, Wrotham
Ss. Peter and Paul, Shoreham
St Peter, Boughton Monchelsea
St Mary, Stelling
St John The Evangelist, Kingsdown (Deal)
St Mary, Betteshanger
St Catherine, Kingsdown (Faversham)
St Bartholomew, Goodnestone (Faversham)
St Mary, Luddenham
St Mary Old Church, Burham
St John the Baptist, Halling
All Saints, Snodland
St Benedict, Paddlesworth (Maidstone)
All Saints, Birling
Ss. Peter and Paul, Ayesford
St Clement. Knowlton
St Mary Magdalene, Denton
St Peter, Swingfield
The Parish Church of St Martin, Denton with Wootton
St John the Baptist, Mersham
St Martin, Cheriton, Folkestone
All Souls, Cheriton, Folkestone


January saw the project begin to ramp up, with trips to Denmark and Belgium; something that would continue all year round. Damage to the sea wall in Dover meant any travel to London either needed a bus trip into Folkestone of Jools dropping or picking me up. It wasn't clear how long that was going to go on for, but it wasn't going to be a quick fix. In the centre of town, the carbunkle that was Burlington hOuse was demolished layer by layer, and was already just half the building it used to be.

One day, I walked into Dover to collect a hire car, and got this shot:

A walk into Dover And in the Alkham Valley, the Drellingore began to flow on the surface once again. Not quite at the previous year's levels, but still impressive, as this must have been the 3rd or 4th year in a row: THe Drellingore floweth once more February

More trips to Denmark and Belgium, and the Dover Festival of Winter Ales. That caused another headache. Oh well. Burlington House was gone, and it became clear that the repairs to the sea wall would take many months, maybe the whole year.

The hunt for orchids began, with shots from Dorset showing flowering spikes, whilst in the woods and in the dunes, we just had rosettes.

In the garden we dug wildlife pools with varying levels of success. I carried on the Kent Church project with several new churches visited, including Denton and Swingfield.

St Mary Magdalene, Denton, Kent March

In March I went to Odense in Denmark, but failed to find Hans Christian Andersen's House, despite it being signposted. Spring arrived with dwarf irises and daffodils in flower in the garden, boding well for the warm months ahead.

I did an ISO 9001 conversion course in London. Three nights in a boutique hotel on the company's tab. Got some shots done in central London and Chinatown too.

Ed's Diner I did also get inside All Souls Langham Place after years of trying, all whilst supposed to be working! nice

All Souls Langham Place, London I took a few days off work and did 9 Kent churches in a day, including may in the Faversham and Medway areas. I think we can say that was a good day.

St Benedict, Paddlesworth, Kent The previous summer, we planted bulbs, and so through the month we watched as the beds produced glorious Fritillaria imperialis

After years of trying to get inside the old Betteshanger church, now part of a private school: I wrote to the secretary to see if they could facilitate a visit. No problems they said, so one fine summer day, I went along with a tripod.

St Mary, Betteshanger, Kent Finally, the bluebells began to open, which meant that orchids would be close behind

Bluebells April

Spring arrived, hyacinths in the garden opened and filled the air with sweet scent, the days warmed up. And each weekend I went to check on the orchid spikes that were growing ever higher.

I visited Queen's Chapel of the Savory before one business trip, as well as St Michael Cornhill, but St peter eluded me as it did until November.

The Queen's Chapel of the Savoy, City of Westminster, London St Michael Cornhill, City of London By the middle of the month, the Fritillaria imperialis opened, and finally the first open orchid spike was een down on Samphire Hoe

Early Spider Orchid Ophrys sphegodes Fritillaria imperialis Soon enough there was so much to see, and not enough time in work-free days to get round all the sites for orchids. Early Purple began to open so I raced from site to site to snap them.

Early Purple Orchid Orchis mascula And in preparation for the big holiday the next month, I got a new lens, baby.

Lens And at the end of the month I was interviewed by the BBC about my obsession with music. Sadly, my interview would not be used in the end, but it was quite an experience.

Being miked up May

With the orchid season rapidly approaching, it came as a surprise to find we had arranged a holiday to Japan from the 5th onwards. So it was a rush to get round sites to see the Green Wing Orchids, then see the first of the Fly and Lady Orchids at Yockletts.

Green Winged Orchid Anacamptis morio Lady Orchid Orchis purpurea Fly Orchid Ophrys insectifera The next two weeks we spent in Japan. I could go over all the stuff we did, but would be repeating myself. Best thing to do is to go back to read all the stuff we did and saw. Jools is compiling a scrapbook as I write this, and so are re-evaluating the trip and things we did and how it changed us, once again.

When we came back, the orchid season was in full swing, and me being clever had booked some extra days to go round to snap all the wonderful spikes. I leave it at that, but the days were now warm and the sun shining and orchids abroad. Perfection.


Monkey, Birds Nest, COmmon Spotted orchid all around, as were Late Spider, Man. And then came the Bee, showing that the year was getting on, and soon would be mid-summer. A friend, Mark, took me to see a new Kentish Species, the Heath Spotted and we even found a pure white variant.

Heath Spotted Orchid var. leucantha Dactylorhiza maculata On a trip to Arhus, I got very drink in the middle of the European Championships. I had a phone full of shots of people wearing hats. I'm sure there is a good explanation.

I got a new turntable, and we had to go to Essex to collect it. And after traveling so far, why not go further to venture into Suffolk to hunt for Frog Orchids; why not indeed. We collected the turntable on the way home. But it took me several weeks before I got it set up. Working like a dream now, mind

Rega Planar 3 Back home there was Lizard and Southern Marsh and Marsh Helleborines to seek out and snap, and like that the month passed, as did midpoint in the year.

Southern Marsh Orchid Dactylorhiza praetermissa July JUly 2nd saw the first of the Musk Orchids found, took some finding, as ever, but the colour gives it away.

Musk Orchid Herminium monorchis Work continued on the sea wall. I kept on going down to snap the progress. Seems like it might be open sooner than expected, or so we hoped.

We went to East Blean to find the Heath Fits, and after some searching, Jools found where they were roosting. I managed a few good shots, including this one having just opened its wings as the sun reached it

Heath Fritillary Melitaea athalia The harvest began in the middle of the month, we me snapping a harvester at work up on the downs near the Patrol Monument.

I had to travel to and from Denmark through Heathrow, meaning I got to pass through Paddington on the way, and one morning I saw the repainted HST done for the 40th anniversary.

253 001 Late in the month there was Violet and Broad Leaved Helleborines to find, Chalkhill Blues covered the downs high above Dover. And this was the view from the patio when having breakfast outside.

The view from the breakfast table August

Looking at my shots for the month, the beginning seemed to be filled with butterflies, the scarcity of them earlier in the season put right as the very air seemed thick with them. The Chalkhills were at their peak, and I got this shot, just about the perfect Chalkhill shot.

Chalkhill Blue Polyommatus coridon The Heleborines season peaked and passed, not before Jools finding a fine new site for Violets much nearer home. We went back several times as they too peaked and faded. I found no ghosts, despite looking hard, but then there was only ever a very slim chance of finding any in Kent.

The sea wall and railway line were nearly ready for reopening, and it was announced would open on September 5th. Travel would be so much easier from then on.

The final orchid of the year appeared, the Autumn Ladies Tresses sprouted and flowered. Nearly over for another year, not before finding a new colony at Kingsdown.

Autumn Lady's Tresses Spiranthes spiralis Work focus switched to Ostend, ando so I and a colleague spent two days before my birthday checking out the offices, hotel and local beers. We approved.

Oostende, Belgium September

The month began with a bus rally in Deal, and I went out to take snaps of the beses and bus fans. Of which there are such things.

JG 8720 The sea wall opened and I was on the second train over it as I went to Denmark. Again.

For the Heritage Weekend we went to The Grange again, then drove to Canterbury to visit the Zoar Chapel, and very glad we did, to see a chapel built into a water cistern.

The Zoar Strict & Particular Baptist Chapel, Burgate Lane, Canterbury, Kent On the Saturday, we did several Canterbury churches, had lunch out, then more churches in the afternoon.

St Mildred with St Mary de Castro, Canterbury, Kent I went to Husum to have a training session with my new minions. They were on another course, so we met up late in the afternoon for training, then went out for some bonding over beer and bbq.

Husum The weekend after, we returned to London for Open House; three churches including St Helen's Bishopsgate, but as ever, St Peter Upon Cornhill was closed. Grrrrr.

St Andrew Undershaft, City of London St Katherine Cree, City of London St Helen's, Bishopsgate, City of London I also took a few days off and found yet more churches in Kent to visit, including a stunning wooden church at High Halden.

St Mary the Virgin, High Halden, Kent Jools joined me that Friday for a day trip to Royal Leamington Spa, mainly so I could ride behind a class 68.

Royal Leamington Spa But the town was a delight, as were the people.


Summer lingered on even as the days grew ever-shorter. It seemed like the golden days would never end. We went for walks whenever we could, and sat in the garden enjoying these salad days.

The "before" shot We decided to have some work done in the garden, and this was the scene on one of these balmy afternoons before the work started.

I began to commute to Ostend each week, with a week in Denmark thrown into the mix to shake things up. I enjoyed things, even with the time away. Heck, it even still felt like summer there too.

A walk in Oostende By the middle of the month, the installation vessel had arrived to begin the next phase of the project, and in the words of a wise man, "this shit got real"!

Vole au Vont In fact, work seemed to fill most of the month, with a Flickr friend coming down to stay to watch his team play at Crabble. They lost 6-1.


More travel to Ostend for work. November 1st was All Saints Day, and the town was fuller than at any point I had seen. Town squares were full of fairground rides and stalls selling fair food. Everyone seemed so happy. I know I was

Street fair, Oostende Work began on the back garden with several tons of materials blocking our drive. This shit also got real.

Big Job: The Return I took a week off during a lull on the project and went back home to ride trains, as you do. I stayed at The Wherry, and went out each day.

Growling at Great Yarmouth Vauxhall 68005 There was another mini-school reunion, but just a handful of us turned up, even still, nice meeting up and drinking beer and chatting, even if the nightlife got stanger as my normal bedtime came and went.

Work in the back garden began, and it didn't seem such a good idea. For a while.

Big Job: The Return Big Job: The Return And in about two weeks, it was done

Big Job: The Return We went up to London for the day to celebrate Jools' birthday, and so I was able to photograph the Christmas Lights in Regent and Oxford Street. In the evening, we went for a steak in a posh place under the streets of Soho. Expensive, but good. Sadly, no werewolves were seen.

Regent Street December

And here we are, back p to date. More churches visited, all the listed churches in the Dover Deanery completed with Hougham Without snapped. A nation rejoices.

St Laurence, Hougham Without, Dover, Kent Christmas came, and not just here in England. Ostend was pretty as a picture

A hug isn't just for Christmas The Mad Hatter in Margate is to close, but we did manage to squeeze a visit in as we were in town for a Turner exhibition at the Tate.

The Mad Hatter, Margate With the line open between Dover and Folkestone, which meant we got to have steam tours in East Kent again. I went to Chartham to snap Tornado:

60163 Tornado at Chartham The project progresses, and there was time for a Christmas beer after the planning meeting in Leuven.

Christmas Drinks at "The Capital" And that is about it. Another year done and another year older. Many thanks to each and everyone of you for bearing with me and putting up with my spelling mistakes. And finally, a very Happy and Prosperous New Year to you all.