Monday, 26 June 2017

Sunday, 25th June 2017

Sunday, a day of rest. Unless there are orchids, butterflies and trains to see. And photograph. Pyramidal Orchid Anacamptis pyramidalis Last week, when I walked to Kingsdown with Tony, I spotted a couple of pale Pyramidals on the cliff tops, so, with the best of the weather expected first thing, we went there first thing. Getting to the monument is now much easier that the estate owners have actually tarmacked the road, at least until the final hundred yards to the monument, that is still pot holed to the max. Pyramidal Orchid Anacamptis pyramidalis A short walk along the cliffs were the orchids, and a couple of hundred yards down I find the pale lilac spike, easily snappable, so I take advantage, and walking back find a few more. There was the single camper van beside the monument, I think they are trying t stop overnight camping there, maybe the Germans could not read the signs, or refusing to comply.

Pyramidal Orchid Anacamptis pyramidalis Back home for bacon butties and a brew, before the next item on the agenda; a hunt for the fabled Frog Orchids.

Two or three years ago, Jools and I searched the area above Crabble Athletic Ground for the orchids, but having not seen them before, wasn’t too sure what a spike would look like, even with the trusty Harrap in my hand. But after seeing them two years in a row now in Suffolk, and having top quality orchid eyes, we would search again. Once an area of downland is no longer grazed, it quickly gets taken over by scrub and eventually trees, closing in the open ground and forcing the plants that were there before to move elsewhere or die out, Moving is only possibly by setting seed and if there is a new place to grow, but there is the chance a spike or two could cling on, maybe in a glade.

We hoped.

Parking at the football ground, we walked up the steep slope to the old pasture that used to be where the spikes grew, at least to the beginning of the 80s anyway. Jools knew the area back then, but trying to reconcile with what was there before to what is there now, is difficult. Even asking a dog walker we wasn’t too sure either, but then he said he had seen what he thought was an orchid the day before, would we like to see it?

We did, of course, and so he takes up along steep and overgrown paths to where it opened out slightly, and beside the path were two small Common Spotted Orchids, showing, if nothing else, that conditions could be right for Frogs.

He also explained the land at the top of the downs, and where grazing took place, so we followed him up, and me branching off every time I saw a clearing or grass pasture. I looked and looked, even at the top of th down where there was a large clearing full of grass and willow herb, but nothing there either.

Finally, walking back down we came to an area which had been cleared last winter, hoping this would be the place; I found Knapweed Broomrape, and other wild flowers, many butterflies, but no orchids. However, this was by no means a comprehensive search, and a return, maybe next year at the start of the Frog flowering season.

We walk back to the car, finding it still only quarter past ten, and having done so much already.

Next up was Sandwich Bay to see the newest species of the season; the Marsh Helleborines. Many people’s favourite orchid. Me, I can’t choose.

One hundred and seventy four Sandwich was pretty much closed off due to a road race taking place, and a coach getting stuck down one of the narrow streets of the town, but one more entrance, over the old town bridge and past the church lead us to Sandwich Bay, and paying a pretty pound got access to the Bird Observatory, and a place to park, and where permission to see the orchids could be sought.

Marsh Hellebroine Epipactis palustris It was no trouble, so Jools and I got our camera and walked over the meadow to the ringing area, and into the orchid meadow. Most spikes were at least partially open, not quite at their peak, but good enough to get shots, and the sun even shone for a while making the pictures sparkle.

Marsh Hellebroine Epipactis palustris All the marsh orchids were over or almost gone over, so none were worth snapping, no sign of the pure white one either, but to compensate there were dozens of butterflies to see and chase once the orchids had been snapped.

Marsh Hellebroine Epipactis palustris We had a brew and some chocolate on the main building, swapping stories of recent finds with a friend. I say friend, stole one of my discoveries as his own, but who am I to bear a grudge?

And back home for lunch, which turned out to be dinner; chicken salad and Jersey Royals. And tea.

At four I am off out again to snap a train. The East Kent \railway was having a gala, and on the final train of the day there were going to run a train with three shunters pulling. Worth going to Shepherdswell for I think. So I am standing in a layby overlooking the line, which is hard to photograph due to thick hedges shielding the line, but I think I should get a shot here. I have half an hour to wait, enjoying the warm unexpected sunshine playing on the field between me and the line.

Just before showtime, another car parks near mine, and two volunteers from the railway run across the road, through the field and leap over the gate onto the line so they could get shots I guess. I think about following them, but decide to stay where I was.

Here come the beasts I could see the front of the first loco coming towards us through a gap in the trees, not going fast, so I snap a few shots. As the lead driver spied me, he tooted his horn, then the drivers of the three following locos all begin tooting their horns too. Sadly, I wasn’t taking video, but it was interesting to say the least, like a row of terraced houses about to fall down, moving, so ragtaggle did the locos look.

And they were gone, trundling into the gloaming of a summer afternoon, and I could make my way home, over the fields, along the narrow lanes Tony called six foot sixers, to Guston and then home.

Sunday, 25 June 2017

Saturday 24th June 2017

I won't go on about the cold war between us and the neighbours, but clearly I am. But, not really a way to see out of it to be honest, we both feel that the other side has been slighted, and so it goes on.

It was a grey day, cool and windy so no real point in going out orchid hunting, as macro shots would be impossible. So, with Jools going to Hythe for a class at lunchtime, I would stay home and maybe deal with the back lawn. I call it a lawn, it looks more like savannah to be be honest, but the Yellow Rattle has worked, not we have to scatter more over a wider area. It does look untidy though, especially down by the shed where the clower is several inches thick, and now that it had stopped flowering, best get the mower out.

I go for a haircut first thing; not been since the beginning of May, and it was resembling a guard's bearskin. And was making me very hot, so, off into town at twenty past eight, so to be first in the queue at the shop. Get in, have haircut, do some bantz and home. Home for poor undercooked croissants, undercooked even with a good 7 minutes in the oven to heat through and crisp up. Very poor there by Mr Tesco.

Jools leaves at then, and I had planned to work in the garden, only the neighbours are out. I thought it best to wait until they had finished. Yes, it really is that bad. So I listen to some radio, edit some shots and write the Brexit post I posted yesterday. And by twelve they had finished so I could go out.

Walking out I found that just doing that caused the usual scattering of roosting moths to fly away, so I decided not to mow the whole lawn, just the bottom quarter, where growth was at its most lush. I potter about, cutting the parts nearest the edges to make mowing easier, then tried to start said mower; only the second time I had fired it up this year. But it fires first time, and I make short work of the area selected, going back and forth, up and down, and in half an hour it was looking better, at least the most jungle like part now under control.

One hundred and seventy three Yesterday we also collected Yellow Rattle seed, saving it for an autumn sowing, spreading the area to further reduce grass growth and to prepare more ground to be meadow-ised. Anyway, that was done, and I was just about to start preparing insalata caprese when Jools arrived home, hungry. Just as well as it was lunch time.

I should have known not to have that third glass of wine, but you know, weekend and all that, so it came to pass shortly after finishing lunch, I was sound asleep on the sofa. For half an hour at least.

IN years gone by I would be glued to the TV watching the best sets from Glastonbury; Radiohead on Friday, Foo Fighters on Saturday, and all the other stuff, but, it seems to leave me a little cold now, making me tetchy that the usual shows on Radio 6 have been replaced by interviews with people saying "best gig of me life! and such things.

It is too cold to sit outside, so we drink coffee sitting inside, listening to the radio and doing other stuff. And in that way, a quiet day, quietly petered out. But more planned for the morrow.

Saturday, 24 June 2017

Friday 23rd June 2017

It all seems to be going a little wrong at the moment: with the neighbours, and at work where everyone seems to be losing their heads. I think they all need a jolly good holiday, just as well its July soon and all of Denmark will head to the sun. So, what I hoped was going to be a gentle day ended up being one of fraught and heated phone calls, angry e mails and pointed silences.

Jools and I had planned on taking Tony to France for the day, not realising that his flight had been booked for Wednesday, and so would be literally on the other side of the world by Friday. Instead she took the day off anyway, pottered in the garden, went shopping and visited her Dad, now home, and having to have insulin injections. He is feeling more like himself. Apparently in the run up to his spell in hospital, he was drinking coffee with four sugars in. That he has not drunk coffee since he was down the pit, and so much sugar not a good idea with someone with diabetes, meant his mood altered. Anyway, all good now, or so Jools would find out when she went round, and that another attempt at quitting smoking was being mooted. Might be easier now that I am not going to Belgium any more, so unable to bring back duty free, and currently they can't drive over.

One hundred and seventy two Before that there was breakfast, second breakfast and morning coffee and then elevenses. It makes the day fly by after all, and then the frequent trips to the facilities gives me exercise. And so the morning passes. One thing I do manage is to fill in the new format time sheets, what was simple now getting more complicated week by week, come Christmas I'll have to employ an 11 year old child to do it for me!

After lunch, Jools comes home with shopping, we have ham and cheese sandwiches and a Magnum. As you do, and sit outside for a while.

My plan to go to Sandwich Bay to see some orchids, yes really, were scuppered as the wind picked up and so would make macro photography impossible I hoped the sun would shine, or the wind drop over the weekend. So we stay home, do stuff. Stuff which takes most of the afternoon and keeps us busy. Busy doing mostly nothing, as the song goes.

And too full from lunch to have fish and chips for dinner, and listen to some music on the radio, watch The Sky at NIght on the i player, and in this way Friday passes into Friday evening, and it is time to go to bed. Let us hope tomorrow is better.

One year on

A year ago, I woke up in the Zleep Hotel at Billund Airport to find that the result in the referendum went narrowly in favour of Leave. I was shocked, and thrown into turmoil as to what it would mean, and since then I have written many posts as the Brexit "strategy" of the two Governments has developed Not that there really was one. Cameron resigned the day of the result, the May took over after a poor leadership campaign, she shen filled her cabinet with some of the leading Brexiteers, including Boris Johnson as Foreign Secretary. As he has insulted most leaders or their countries, what could go wrong? David Davis was made Minister for the newly formed Department for Exiting the EU, coming as the day on which Cameron resigned, Davis declared that within 100 days of the vote Britain would have secured 10 trade deals. Thus showing is total ignorance of trade rules stating that no such deals could be even talked about whilst Britain was still part of the EU, and such membership would only end after the 2 year Article 50 period. One imagines his learning curve has been steep indeed, as as Johnson's and the PM's.

At first I did not think Brexit would happen, as each day that went by it seemed to be more unlikely. And then came May's speech to the Conservative Party Conference stating Britain's so called red lines; one of which was not be under the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice. It is this body that resolves trade disputes, finding an alternative would be very difficult, especially in a two year period, doubly so as the final six moths would be given over to the ratification process within the EU27 and in Britain.

The PM and Brexiteers talked tough, said things would be easy, when anyone who looked into a small policy area such as trade rules for biscuits, revealed them to be complex. And that is just something you dunk in tea. Much more serious was things like Britain pulling out of the Atomic Engert Body, and then the Single Market and the Customs Union, none of which were really talked about, and if they were, "no one is is talking about leaving the Single Market, but refusing the free movement of people meant that you cannot be in the Single Market and not accept its four main pillars, including free movement of people. It is this free movement, or apparent free movement that the Leave Campaign used to scare people. Turns out that people can move freely in the EU, but if they don't find a job after three months they can be forced to leave,. Only, Britain decided that monitoring such movement and EU expats in Britain would be too difficult and expensive, so much easier to blame the EU for an imaginary problem that was really the British Government's fault.

As time went on, it became clear (to those that listened) that the policy was softening up people for the prospect of a "Hard Brexit" or a no deal exit. And blaming such a result on Europe, rather than a lack of clarity on Britain's part. Harder demands, with the threat of walking pout if talks did not give Britain what it wanted, really is no way to undertake trade negotiations, or say such things before they started, and served to unify Europe, to agree a joint position, and make the EU even stronger.

Whilst Britain did nothing, or as next to. And then May announced that she would trigger the Article 50 notification by the end of March, thus setting herself a needless deadline, which if she kept to it meant that Britain would be unprepared, miss it and look like a failure as a leader. And then fight, and appeal the High Court decision that she did not have the authority to trigger Article 50, but needed agreement from both Houses of Parliament. The time and money this wasted is shocking. But after losing, a short bill was passed, which the Commons then failed to add any clauses to which would have made the process of leaving any easier. So, article 50 was triggered on the 29th March, and then things began to go wrong. Here is a summary:

On the First Day of Brexit, we jeopardised the safety of our own people by using security cooperation as a bargaining chip.

On the Second Day of Brexit we undermined the sovereignty of our Parliament by planning to give law making powers to an unelected Executive.

On the Third Day of Brexit we were warned by carmakers that Brexit was "the biggest threat in a generation."

On the Fourth Day of Brexit we learned that no one believed our computer systems could cope with us leaving the Customs Union

On the Fifth Day of Brexit, and after sixty years of peace inside the EU, a former Tory Leader threatened to go to war with the Spanish.

On the Sixth Day of Brexit Spain accepted an independent Scotland could remain in the EU, rendering more likely the dissolution of the UK.

On the Seventh Day of Brexit, our PM finally admitted we could have no trade deal with our biggest export market before we leave the EU.

On the Eighth Day of Brexit, the European Parliament published its negotiating guidelines and proved German car-makers don't make EU policy.

On the Ninth Day of Brexit, we learned 'no deal' means a "distinct possibility" there will be no flights for a time between the UK and EU.

On the Tenth Day of Brexit, we learned the Remaining Member States weren't desperate for us to stay. They just want it over. 720 days to go.

On the Eleventh Day of Brexit one group of Leavers said another had betrayed the Leave vote. And proved the 52% had chosen different things.

On the Twelfth Day of Brexit it leaked we would sacrifice the environment to our need for new trade deals to replace our EU membership.

On the 13th day of Brexit we were told that Euro clearing - employing tens of thousands - could not remain in the UK.

On the 14th day of Brexit we were isolated commercially and diplomatically. Legal control, it turns out, isn't really what matters.

On the 15th day of Brexit, a leading FinTech player said at our leading FinTech event the industry should look beyond the UK. Humiliation.

On the 16th day of Brexit real wages flatlined. With wages growth trending down and inflation trending up real wages will soon fall.

On the 17th day of Brexit we learned our NHS was "reduced to begging" for staff. And that's before we restrict free movement.

On the 18th day of Brexit we learned we'd made ourselves friendless. Not one of the r27 would back our call for parallel trade negotiations.

On the 19th day of Brexit, we acknowledged the cost of losing the EU Banking and Medicines Agencies and fought to retain them. Hopelessly.

On the 20th day of Brexit, the Government floated a scheme to permit low skilled EU nationals to continue to work here if we leave the EU.

On the 21st day of Brexit - she lasted three whole weeks - it got a bit much for the PM. She broke her word and called a General Election.

And so in the time between the 19th April and the 9th June, very little was done on Brexit, only that negotiations would begin 11 days after the election. May hoped that she would get a bigger majority giving her a mandate to carry out talks, but more importantly have a healthy majority in the Commons when she came back with a Bad Deal or No Deal. At first up to a 200 seat majority was forecast, but then as in most of the things she turned her hand to, running an election campaign was done so badly, the manifesto so bad, it has since been deleted from the Conservative Party Website, that she only won a minority Government, and having to go asking the DUP to support her Government.

She ran off to the Palace to seek permission for form a Government, we were told a deal with the DUP was imminent, and that was two weeks ago. No deal as yet, and maybe there won't be a deal. And this is negotiations with just one other party, imagine what it will be like for Davis and his team with 26 more parties to deal with! That and the fact that half his Department was changed after the elction, quite how this is a good thing I don't know, but shows the chaos going on behind the scenes.

And yet our press cheers Brexit on, declaring anyone who speaks against it as a traitor or unbeliever, and that it was the people's will. That a yes/no choice on a question that could have many, dozens of answers, and the cost of choices were not, and still not known meant that this was not democracy at all, just fairy tales of sunlit uplands and cakes and eating them.

And this week, as I have said, the Brexit Bumblebees came up against the double glazing of reality, as they always were going to. With no real plan, no planning, Davis headed to Brussels for first meeting with the EU. He had said beforehand that Britain wanted parallel talks, one side on the Divorce Bill and EU and British expat rights, and trade talks on the other. This, he declared, was to be the fight of the summer, it didn't last until morning coffee break as Britain accepted the EU's agenda.

All the time, economic data has been heading south; wages stagnating, inflation up, real living standards falling, numbers of EU nurses applying for jobs down 96%, the number of apprentices down 99%, banks relocating, Farmers reporting they can't find enough migrant workers to pick soft fruit, and all the while Brexiteers and the papers say immigration is too high, even as jobs such as these go unfilled. Farmers might just manage this year, but next?

All this has happened in the past year, and much more too. Where will we be in a year? Either leaving the EU in a chaotic Brexit or staying. Nothing inbetween, there just isn't time or skill on our side to negotiate anything else. How could such a thing be sold to the people, when they realise that they had been lied to on such a grand scale? Will split the Tory part in two, Labour too, and probably the formation of a Europe-friendly middle party, while UKIP and the hard right Tory Party grind their teeth.

Much more pain will have to be endured or the country sees the ashes and pain coming if we continue down this path. And all the time, the only thing we can rely on the reality of leaving the EU and the lies of those who pursue it like some fundamental religion. For them, no facts or evidence to the contrary will convince them of their mistake, and will demonise anoy non-believer. Runner up in the last leadership campaign that saw Maybot win, on Thursday expressed the wish on Newsnight that broadcasters should be more patriotic: tractor production figures, anyone?

Friday, 23 June 2017

Thursday 22nd June 2017

An all round odd day, however, after the best night's sleep I have had in a week, I did not feel quite so shit. However, I did temper that with having an argument with our neighbour, which will never be healed I think. Oh well.

Thursday was the day the weather was supposed to break, with thunderstorms, cooler weather and generally be more bearable. NOw, I like a good storm, so switched on the computer to see how the storm radar was looking. Storms over Hampshire and Dorset but heading east. Oh goody.

Sea mist But there was the bins to put out, as we had forgotten or been away the last 2 times the recyclables were collected, we had an overflowing binful of glass and plastic bottles. So the most important thing was to pug the bin to the top of the drive as soon as possible, then think about breakfast and prepare for the first meeting of the day.

It was the usual Thursday morning moan in, and all of us in my role, I am not the only one, took turns in describing the issues each of them faces, with mixed results. And then there was the quarterly company meeting to attend. However, there was good news here, which, sadly, I can't tell you. But, still.

Good news!

Outside clouds gathered, sea mist rolled in and the wind picked up. I watched on the radar as the storms krept across Hampshire, Sussex and West Kent. Just before lunch I could hear the rumbles of thunder, then a couple of minutes later see the lightning register on the detector. Amazing.

One hundred and seventy one The clouds swept over, thunder and lightning dazzled, rain fell for 5 minutes, then it passed.

And that was it.

Clouds cleared and the sun came out, drying out the rain that had not soaked in, and in an hour you would never know it had rained.

At Jools' request we had burgers for dinner. Something quick and easy. And very dirty. Anyway, was good.

Later in the evening, after we had watched Monty, a day early because of Glasto, I heard from Tony, in middle of a 5 hour layover in Sydney waiting for his final flight to Wellington. Amazing to think he is already so far away. But he sounded in good spirits.

Thursday, 22 June 2017

Wednesday 21st June 2017

Mid-summer's day.

Tony's last day in the Engerlands. And Scotland. Hibernia.

I hope that Tony had as good a time as he anticipated, and that he did all what he wanted to. I know he reads these posts, but that was our most sincere wish, that he had a holiday of a lifetime, and we did not take the shine off that. He traveled from deepest Kent to the Outer Hebrides and then out to St Kilda. THat was one trip we wished we could have gone with him on. But then we have another chances, every year, we just have to prioritise what we want to do.

One hundred and seventy But he is on his way home now, his flight left some 20 hours ago, and I guess he might be somewhere near Australia and should get home sometime tomorrow. I hope he had someone to talk to on the flight this time. We are missing you, Tony.

Walk back from Dover As it was his last morning, the one thing he had not seen in his time here, was the White Cliffs, or what most people think of them. And as I had an appointment in Dover first thing, a plan hatched that once I had seen the quack, we could walk back.

We got up at half five, Tony at six, and after the usual faffing around, Jools took us into town, dropping us off, giving us half an hour to wander round the deserted streets before I could be seen in the surgery. That done, we could turn tail and begin the walk home, and if we put our feet down we should be home in 90 minutes or so.

Walk back from Dover Up the steps steps leading from East Cliff, under Jubilee Way and finally coming out behind the earth bank beside Reach Road where it doubled back on itself, climbing the down in a hairpin bend. We were breathing hard, but then there was the view to also take our breaths away. Further.

Walk back from Dover Below the port was busy, with the first sailings of the day casting off, and more trucks and cars arriving all the time, queues trailing back through the check in booths, the roundabout and away along Townwall Street where we lost sight of the queue.

Walk back from Dover We took the path down onto the Cliff Road, and from there there was even better views for Tony to take in of the port below, and for me Pyramidal Orchids everywhere, and a smattering of Common Fragrants too. I snap a few, then see the first Marbled White of the year, but fail to get a shot. Foiled this time, but there would be other opportunities.

Walk back from Dover Up the gentle slope of the Cliff Road, turning the corner to where it ran inland following the contours of the land, but we took the steep path across Langdon to join up with the cliff path on the other side, as it climbed to the highest point, Langdown Cliff.

Walk back from Dover I hoped that from there it would be downhill all the way, but not quite, but easier going for me anyway. We turn to look back, getting a group of Kopiak Horses standing in a slightly photogenic group with the Eastern Docks behind.

Walk back from Dover We huff and puff up the final slop of Langdon Cliff, giving one last look at the Eastern Docks with the town laid out behind, and the looming shape of Shakespeare Cliff in the distance. Yes, dramatic landscapes around here.

We push on along the top of the cliffs, using the new but ugly path to the beginning of Fan Bay, past the deep shelter and towards South Foreland, the top of the lighthouse we could see. And by quarter past nine we were at the gates of the lighthouse, Tony stopped to take a shot, and we walk on, down the service road, now a green tunnel that the trees have branches full of leaves.

Walk back from Dover THe final stretch is across the fields to the housing estate on the edge of the village, then through the church yard to the village shop to buy some lunch, and an ice cream.

Walk back from Dover We amble down the final stretch down Station Road and back up the other side to the end of our street and finally along to home. We had been lucky with the weather, clear blue skies but cool enough to enjoy the walk, at least until we turned inland. Now back inside, we were very warm indeed.

But for Tony, time was running out. He had to pack, repack and decide what to leave behind. Passports, tickets and taxi rides were checked and rechecked.

We have lunch, hand and cheese sandwiches, and that was it. He had an hour to go, time for a shower and to move his bags to the front door. The taxi arrived dead on time, his bags were loaded and we hugged and shook hands. Time had run out.

Common (Chalk) Fragrant Orchid Gymnadenia Conopsea He climbed in the cab, and it took off, I stood in the street watching it go, turn up Station Road and was gone.

I go back in the house to do some more work, but the house was quiet, very quiet.

Outside it was as hot as it has been this week, too hot to sit outside for sure. I have the radio on, and an hour later I switch the work computer off and see if there was a Time Team worth watching; there wasn't.

Jools come home at six, asks about how Tony did, did he get off in time? and those sort of questions. I have cooked dinner; breaded chicken and Jersey Royals, which was light and fresh. We have the other bottle of pink fizz I had got out for the previous evening, but seemed right that we shared it.

But we were pooped. We needed sleep, and after sitting in the garden for half an hour or so, we went to bed at the early hour of half eight.

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Tuesday 20th June 2017

Another hot and humid summer day, and one for which I am glad I do not have to go out in, as I have to work, and Tony is to go to Dover castle in a taxi, thus relieving me of going out with him. In fact, nothing would have given me more pleasure than to wander round the castle all day, but I am sure my boss and manager would have something to say about it.

There is plenty for me to do, mainly start to compile an Excel spreadsheet with all the stuff I need for the new project.

Sadly, it was the hottest most humid night of the year, and I woke at half two, covered in sweat, and unable to stay in bed. I say to Jools I will go and lie on the sofa to try to get cool. Molly also thinks this is a spiffing idea, and joins me. I guess I might have dozed for an hour, but I am awake at four to see dawn creep over the land, causing the streetlight outside the house to blink off, and in the south the increasing light causing the sliver of old moon to fade.

I make a coffee and once made, go and sit on the patio to take in the coolness of the morning. All I can hear is birdsong, and all around our borders are full of bees and butterflies, already going about their business. Especially bside me, small grey bees are going crazy on the lavender bush we planted in a bot, going from tiny flower to tiny flower making sure there was no more nectar.

Jools gets up at half five and joins me outside, having breakfast and sipping coffee. She tells me the air on in her office is great, which is just as well.

I have a shower and almost feel human, but I know that by lunch I would be fighting the migraines off. Tony comes down just as I start work, so he does his morning chores, sorting through shots from the prevuous day, posting more and reading comments online.

Come hal nine, Tony has his taxi booked, gather the tools of his trade; phones to record the day and to trace his every step, and then is gone. Work carries on.

Indeed at lunchtime, my eyes can't focus and the flashing lights appear in my vision. I am done. I set an out of office message and head to bed, putting in earplugs to block out the noise of the outside world, and I think I got a good hour. But as the sun tacks westwards, its rays hit the windows in our bedroom, and I can feel it heat up. No more sleep at least until evening.

I have a huge glass of squash, and sit on the sofa with my eyes closed.

As it is Tony's last night with us, I said I would cook roast chicken with all the trimmings. I should have rethought that really, but at quarter past four I am putting the bird in the over, peeling the potatoes and the rest of the vegetables. It doesn't get hot until both ovens are going, and three of the rings, that pushes the temperature through the roof.

Tony comes back at quarter past five, Jools at quarter to six, and dinner is nearly done. I dish up along with the fresh Yorkshire Puddings dead on quarter past six, and I sit down, a veritable ball of sweat, but able to toast our guest with Jools, and we all soon demolish dinner, and the bottle of pink fizz opened for the occasion.

One hundred and sixty nine Cheers, Tony.

We sit outside until disk begins to fall, but we are all shattered, and make tracks up the stairs shortly after nine, hopeful of some serious sleep.

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

Monday 19th June 2017

The endless summer continues.

We Brits do like to complain; its either too hot or too cold, or too windy or too wet; you get the picture. And its not that we really have extreme weather here; the occasional storm or snowfall from France notwithstanding. But, even after taking that into account, it has been too hot. Certainly at night, where sleep is almost impossible, and we wake up each morning feeling like we haven't slept. And each day seems to be longer and hotter than the day before, meaning that we have to water the garden; not a chore really as we love the colours and the results we have been getting, but I am feeling like we need a break.

And after saying all of that, I go out with Tony in the hottest part of both days for a tramp in the countryside. So I only have myself to blame really.

But Monday morning means back to work for Jools and I, back to the grindstone, well, for Jools this means a 45 minute commute in at least one direction such is the state of the roads around Dover. We are both awake at half five, thankful that we had something close to a full nights sleep, and ready to face the day.

Coffee, feed the cats, breakfast and then the final preparations before switching on the work computer to find that there are several program updates to install, and even some new programs. Oh this is going to be a joy. But it does mean that nothing can be done until the computer has finished, and restart is made. So, another coffee while I wait, and as I drink that Tony comes down and has to decide what to do with his day. Time is fast running out for him, just two full days left. He decides on a taxi ride into town and see about getting some of his stuff sent back home to save excess baggage on his return flight. He also has to arrange a taxi to the airport this end, and collecting once he arrives on the other side of the world.

He books a taxi to take him into town, also planned is a Strava walk, which ended up being 7km, ranging from the town centre along to the promenade, to the eastern docks, nback again and following the river to Morrisons to buy lunch before getting a taxi back home.

I carried on working, and during one of my frequent breaks, a walk int he garden revealed a mating pair of Azure Damselflies. On another trip out I snap a couple of males waiting for more rumpy, delicately balancing on blades of grass.

One hundred and sixty eight Once he was home, the plan was to walk into Kingsdown, instead of Walmer as I thought it would be too much in this weather, opting for the Zetland Arms rather than the Green Berry for an end of walk beer.

I opted to take just the compact camera, and ended up regretting it straight away as I found five Commas on the walk between the end of the road and the start of the fields; more than I have seen in the past two years. All looked fresh out of the cocoon and brightly coloured like you wouldn't believe. They were joined by a tatty Painted Lady and in the copse, many Skippers were about, and continued to be along the cliff edge once we got there.

Walk to Kingsdown We were again greeted by the pig in their copse, a little more distressed this time that we had no food, but they had plenty of water in their trough, so no worries. We walked on down to the bottom of the Dip and then the climb back up the other side. My back grumbled more than it had for some time, meaning I know I was holding Tony up, but I struggled on.

I made it to the top, so the walk to the start of the path across Bockhill Farm was easier. Off the road and over the fields, I realised it is probably nearly a year I had walked all the way to the monument, which came as a shock, as in the past we seemed to do it most weeks. Hmmm.

Walk to Kingsdown At the monument I paused on the bench, doing some stretching on my back, hoping it would get easier. Down we went, and I was amazed by the sheer number of pyramidal orchids; all shapes and sizes, and a range of colours, but no var. alba though. And butterflies; more Skippers and seven Marbled Whites out feasting. The orchids stretched beside the path all the way to the gate where Kingsdown begun, I so much regretted not having the macro lens, but there you go.

Walk to Kingsdown More pyramidals also on Kingsdown Leas, I stop to look at some, and the Marbled Whites when I could. Seems it was too hot even for golfers as the car park was empty, as was the fairways. We were treated to the fine view along the beach as we climbed down the cliff, all the way to Deal pier, but beyond was lost in a haze.

Walk to Kingsdown We walked across the gravel beach to the pub, texting Jools that she might like to pick us up. We get two pints of ice cold lager, I know, but perfect on such a hot and humid day. Tony surprises me by having a second, which shows how hot it was.

Walk to Kingsdown Jools arrives, she had guessed where we would be, but there is news; her Dad is in hospital with diabetes out of control, and is in a high dependency unit. She takes us home and goes off to the hospital in Ashford. The news is that he is getting better, but sugars are still too high.

Walk to Kingsdown In the event, I cook Tony and I chorizo hash for dinner, Jools would get a snack out, all put a bit of a dampner on things if I'm honest.

End of walk beer We are in the garden when she comes back, things looking brighter and he might be out in the morning now, but this was a serious wake up call for him.

We sit outside hoping to get cool. But it is humid, so humid that a mist begins to rise, meaning sleep will be difficult.

Starter's Orders

Yesterday, Monday 19th June, the Minister for Exiting the EU, David Davis, met his EU counterpart in the first face to face negotiation regarding Britain leaving the EU.

The British delegation did not have any briefing papers with them, it has been reported.

Almost from the off, Davis had agreed to the EU's timetable in discussing the fate of EU Nationals in the UK, UK Nationals in Europe, Ireland, then everything else, no parallel talks regarding trade, trade talks would only begin if the EU themselves thought sufficient progress had been made to that point.

So much for the bluster from Davis a couple of weeks ago that this was going to be the fight of the summer. When push came to shove, Britain had no opposition the larger party in the discussions. As was predicted, It does mean that now that is not going to be argued, that some kind of discussion can now take place, but that still gives both sides just 15 months now to conclude all discussions before the six month ratification process at home and in the EU can begin.

If any one country, parliament (national or regional) fails to ratify it, then there is no Deal. And Britain crashes out with no deal, and chaos will be unleashed.

Today, the Chancellor gave a speech in which he stopped pretending there was any upside to Brexit: "Monetary policy cannot prevent the weaker real income growth likely to accompany the transition to new trading arrangements with the EU".

The Governor of the Bank of England was even more pessimistic: "Before long, we will all find out the extent to which Brexit is a gentle stroll along a smooth path to a land of cake and consumption". Obviously, Brexiteers and its supports suggest this is naked politicking, but it his job to try to protect the national economy.

Who would you believe, the Governor of the Bank of England, or the Editor of the Daily Mail or Express?

Monday, 19 June 2017

Sunday 18th June 2017

Phew, what a scorcher. Says all of Britain as it wakes up the the 3rd day in a row of temperatures that most Australians would consider "chilly". But it am hot, so hot that the cats no longer are sleeping on the bed, and Mulder just comes by to remind us that breakfast might be appropriate at some point.

A summer's morning walk round Canterbury Anyway, we get up, and outside the sun is already up, getting hotter and hotter. Jools and I have coffee, then wait for Tony to Join us so we can go out for the morning, as the afternoon would be too hot for anything. The plan was to drive to Canterbury, wander round, have breakfast and come home. Simple plan, and what could possibly go wrong. We drive to Canterbury, only worrisome spot was when a Ford Ka decided it had to be in front of us as we waited at the final traffic lights into the city, he then cut us up going into the roundabout, but then carried on, while we took the dead end street under the city walls tp the car park, stumping up tow pounds seventy of your English money for just over two hours parking, and then the city was ours.

A summer's morning walk round Canterbury As planned, it was quiet on the mean street of Canterbury; cafes and restaurants were only just putting out their tables onto the streets and alleyways. But for us, we could be the mix of old and ancient buildings, cobbeled streets, Pilgrims Hospital, the closes gates to the cathedral precinct. And then down Palace Street to see and snap the door at the old Kings School shop, walk back, look at the bridges over the Stour and marvel at the ducking stool used to try witches, so they say.

A summer's morning walk round Canterbury Places are filling up, so we walk back to the Buttermarket and take up a table in a Belgian place, Jools and I order hash and Tony has a fry up. And life is good. Despite them being short of staff, food comes just in time so I can scamper back to the car to get a new parking ticket and to wait for Tony and Jools to come back. They arrive two minutes after I have spent one pound seventy on another hour's parking, but I was happy enough to get in the car and drive us out into the countryside and hopefully will come in through the open windows and cool us down.

A summer's morning walk round Canterbury Our destination was Fordwich, the so-called smallest town in not just England, but Britain. But of course, turns out there are different measures as to what smallest means, but anyway, Fordwich is pretty enough, strung out along a narrow main street, which gets to less than 6 feet wide in some places, and with 90 degree bends. And yet people try to race through, swerving round corners. We are here to marvel at the way in which the modern worl has taken over the ancient, and the two live side by side, not always happily.

A summer's morning walk round Canterbury We found a place to park on the main road, the square outside the church was full with nearly half a dozen cars. Tony and I walk to the bridge over the Stour, taking our lives in our hands crossing over the road. We look at the river upstream. And then the river downstream. And walk back round the George and Dragon to meet up with Jools outside the town hall. The other pub was also closed, so no coffee for Jools. Having explored the whole village, we go back to the car to take a long round trip home, through Stodmarsh, back to Wingham and then back to Dover.

A summer's morning walk round Canterbury We arrive home after lunch, and treat ourselves with huge bowls of ice cream. It is too hot to do anything other than stay inside in the shade, listening to the radio, editing pictures and writing blogs.

One thing I did forget is that Tony and I went for a walk in the heat of the afternoon. Regular readers of my posts will know of "The Dip", and Tony is one of three of my friends on Flickr who have said they would like to walk down there for real.

As Tony's time here was getting short, even though it was hot and humid, just after three we set off, walking down the street to the beginning of the path over the fields. Not much different from the walk I did a few days earlier, other than I had company, for whom I am sure if was like a photo album coming to life.

Tony's first trip to the Dip I said to Tony that at the pig's copse we wouldn't see any as the young porkers would be sleeping through the hottest part of the day. But they heard us coming and ran through the trees to come and say hello, sniffing my fingers to see if I had any food with me. Sadly, I didn't, but they seemed happy that someone had walked by; pigs are sociable, so seem to have real joy in interacting. Doubly so if food is involved.

We turned right and the road began to drop, until the view opened out, and there it was: the Dip.

One hundred and sixty seven Pictures were taken, and asking if he wanted to go on, he did. We walked down to the very bottom, where mud from the storm a few weeks back was still several inches deep, and then after picking our way through the mud, began the long walk up the other side, with regular stops to look at views, wildlife and giving my poor back a rest.

We did it though, and to round off the experience, we went to the top of Otty Bottom Road to look down towards Kingsdown, before turning for home. His time taking the path from the village, through the farm and up through a field of broad beans back onto our street. The beans were so high, it looked like we were swimming as we climbed the last hill before arriving back home.

Tony's first trip to the Dip The afternoon passes, and as the day coold I make it hotter again by making steak, garlic mushrooms, steamed corn and fried potatoes. It was glorious, even if I was melting by the time I had cooked it all.

Days are now running out for Tony, less than three days before he begins his long trip home, he seems part of our lives now, even the cats, Molly excepted, have gotten used to him.

We sit outside as the sun set, me sipping sill strong Belgian beer.

Tony's first trip to the Dip

Sunday, 18 June 2017

Saturday 17th June 2017

Our experiment with the garden, the process to replace the lawn with a meadow has passed it's first test with flying colours. One quarter was seeded with Yellow Rattle, hoping that this would weaken the grass ready to be seeded with a wildflower mix this autumn. And in the process attract a woder range of butterflies and other insects. The yellow rattle means that we cannot mow the lawn/meadow until late July once the seed heads have dried, meaning grass has grown longer, and wild grasses have sprung up, creating roosts for butterflies and moths. As you walk through it, moths are woken from their slumbers, meaning that we now have polinators by day and night now.

One hundred and sixty six The cats also like the longer grass, waiting to pounce on one of the other cats, usually Scully. But all is good, if looking a little untidy. This autumn will see the remaining three quarters seeded with more Yellow Rattle, and the remaining quarter be seeded with wildflower, and maybe an orchid or two.

So, it is with some satisfaction that we sit in the new shelter, both wisteria rapidly climbing the posts of it to make a canopy, looking out over what we have created, the sound of birdsong in our ears, and the tinkle of the Footballer Wives' fountain.

Saturday was the second day of the long Hot Summer Weekend which is expected to last most of the week in fact. So, after complaining for weeks that it doesn't feel like summer, what with the cool breeze and that, it has straight to phew, its too hot innit? Without passing Go.

If anything outside was going to be done, it would have to be done before midday, at which point we would have to retreat to the stoop to sip on our mint juleps. As usual.

Small Blue Cupido minimus Before then, there is shopping to do, butterflies and orchids to seek out. We did have enough food, but fruit and veg would soon run out, so after getting up and complaining about how hot it had been during the night, we have coffee and Tony and I go to Tesco for a quick whisk round, topping up supplies. Fruit, bread, vegetables and some paprika fried corn ar bought and paid for, and we are on our way out as the rest of Dover are just stirring.

Common Spotted Orchid Dactylorhiza fuchsii Back home the shopping is packed away, we have a breakfast made up of left over food from Friday. The Heston Blumenthal salmon bagels and sandwiches. Not pretty, but it was ok. Meaning Tony and I could go out and I could show him some more interesting sites and then we could hunt for some orchids! He's a lucky man.

Common Spotted Orchid Dactylorhiza fuchsii We drive into Dover then up Military Way the other side to Western Heights so I could show him one of the great hidden treasures not just of Dover, but the country. Built defend both Dover and England from Napoleon, three massive fortresses were built into the top of the downs to the south of the town, on a hill the other side to the castle. It is owned by English Heritage, but can spare no cash for it, so it is up to a band of volunteers to keep the weeds and vandals at bay.

Small Blue Cupido minimus There is a walk through a low tunnel into the moat, this never had water, but provided killing fields for the firing points in the carponiers in the fortress. It was all locked, so we walked rounf the fortress in the moat, passing a few other braving the already hot day, either jogging or walking their dogs.

Common Spotted Orchid Dactylorhiza fuchsii From there it was a 30 second drive back down the hill to the small car park, beside which is a large colony of Common Spotted Orchids. If I'm honest, I have enough shots of them, but there is always the chance there will be a rare variant to look for, so I get the camera and scramble up the bank and presented with the sight of about 200 spikes of all shapes and sizes, some var. alba, some close to it, but nothing to hyper-coloured or anything.

Common Spotted Orchid Dactylorhiza fuchsii But inbetween I could see the sooty blue-black shapes of Small Blue Butterflies flittering about, looking for pollen, and occasional basking in the sunshine. So I forget about the orchids and am chasing the butterflies until I get an open wing shot, and one of the undersides. This is Britain's smallest butterfly, so a challenge. But one I accept.

Common Spotted Orchid Dactylorhiza fuchsii Back to the orchids, and already they are beginning to fade, meaning the final part of the season, the Helleborines will soon be upon us. But for now, snap these and the marsh before they are gone for another 48 weeks.

Common Spotted Orchid Dactylorhiza fuchsii After snapping them, we made the short drive to Folkestone then up the Elham Valley to Park Gate Down, to look for more orchids, obviously. To me and all of who live in Kent, the narrow lanes that weave through the fields, dip and dive over and under the downs, are such a common sight to us, we barely give them thought, but Tony thought it magical, and so I stopped on the way down the PGD so he could snap the lane as it went through a wood. It is good to see things through a visitor's eyes sometimes.

Musk Orchid Herminium monorchis All this way to see the tiny flowering spikes of the Musk Orchid, now at what counts as their peak. They stand no more than 6cm high, and being green are hard to spot among the surrounding plants. And that as it is a large site, and they grow in just a tiny part of it, unless you know where to look, you'd never find it. And finally, I saw just 9 spikes yesterday, so pretty thin pickings.

We arrive at the right area, and I say to Tony "this is where is my orchid eyes are working properly". Within a few moments, I had spotted the first of the spikes, showing lime green instead of the darker green of surrounding grasses. Tony goes for a walk, while I search for more spikes.

I am also there to see how many var. alba Fragrant and CSOs there are. Turns out a bumper year for Fragrant, and there are many pure white spikes to find. After an hour, it is too hot to walk about any more, so when Tony comes back we walk back to the car and begin to return home. We call in at Morrison's for some lunch, pasties and some cream for the strawberries I got this morning. I did forget the cream, but hey.

We were in and out in 5 minutes, escaping the shopping hordes up Connaught hIll and along the coast road and home. Just in time for lunch, and a beer.

And with the heat of the day at its peak, we retreat to the cool of the house, listening to the radio as outside swelters in the summer sunshine. We have strawberries and raspberries wit cream, and then relax some more.

Jools and I do try to sit outside, but the humidity drives us back in twice, until it gets to seven, when a cool breeze just begins to move the air. Tony is introduced to the delight of insalata caprese, I don't think he is convinced, but he does eat most of it, and says it was OK.

Tny and I have a shared love for a certain American singer, despite living on opposite sides of the world, so I talk him through all the different versions of Pat Benatar's singles I have, playing We Live for Love of the original 12" single, before playing some Madonna and Soft Cell until we go out for the final hour to watch dusk fall. I sip whisky, and I declare that the day is good.