Sunday, 31 December 2017

Saturday 30th December 2017

And here we are, supping on the dregs of another year, waiting for the new year beaujolais. We hope. The first nine months, give or take a week, we fabulous, but since then it has been a grind, and if I'm honest, we will be glad just to put a new calendar up.

We had two appointments in the morning; one with the vet for Mulder, and the other at the bank. So, no time for messing about, indeed, up when the heating switches on, and get a coffee inside us. All was going well, we sipped our coffee, checked the interwebs, and in short, the morning got away from us. Before we knew what was happening, it was half eight, we had eaten no breakfast, we had to leave for the vets and there was no Mulder.

We had no choice but to call the vet to see if we could book a new appointment, it was quarter to nine and even if we had Mulder in the basket at that moment, we would only just make it.

But at that moment, the cat flap went, and in he sauntered, I swept him up, popped him in the waiting box, and Jools too him to the vet.

I am ready to go, because as soon as Jools comes back, we will have to leave for town to be at the bank.

Jools returns, all is well, other than we have not had the results of the biopsy yet, but the growth has gone, and he is bouncing healthy as far as the vet could see. We let him out and we go into town, parking near the old Market Square and walking round to the bank in the driving rain. Our hope is to pay of the mortgage as soon as possible, and maybe retire, and the meeting was to look at our options. Two hours of talking about options, interest rates, and all the such, very grown up stuff, and important too. There is a chance we could pay off the mortgage in less than 100 months, if we tighten our belts; no more business travel, more time for orchids and churches. Sounds peachy to me.

Anyway, two hours had passed, and we were darned hungry and thirsty. We had stuff back at the house, so drive home for cold sausage rolls and the rest of the mince pies. And fresh brews. I mean, lunch of champions.

And then there was the review of the year blog to write, photos to edit, football to listen to. So as you can guess, the afternoon passed by quickly as I wrote, or typed, and edited. That took some 5 hours, with some sitting on the sofa with Scully and trying to stay awake. Norwich became the first team in 9 months not to score at Burton, drawing 0-0. Bah.

Three hundred and sixty four I made pasta sauce to go with the ravioli and garlic bread we had, eating that as Man Utd slumped to another dull 0-0 draw this time with Southampton. But I followed that via text, as two games on the radio was enough for Jools.

We watched some QI on TV, but found that we had worn our poor selves out, so went to bed at half nine, me not even being able to see the end of the Championship on the tellybox.

Saturday, 30 December 2017

2017: How was it for you?

As with last year, I am not going to go over the whys and wherefores of Brexit. I am as bored of it as you are, believe me, but its just that we Brits have to live with the reality of it. Closures of one kind or another is coming, as so is the acceptance of reality, that is when things will get really fraught. And the other thing, I am writing this today, as we have a short trip planned for tomorrow, and with it being New Year's Eve and stuff, we might be otherwise busy to write a post reviewing the past year.

The year for me was split into two; the first part was when the last project was rushing towards completion. The end came when I was on holiday in Scotland, so once back at work it was tying up loose ends and preparing for the next project. The second part was what happened after that, although that is by no means the whole story, as up to our wedding anniversary on 19th September, we had a great year, as you will see, but it was in the early hours of that day that Mum had her latest heart attack, and our lives changed.

I wish I could tell you about the best music of the year like I have in previous such posts. But I kinda lost track in February in making notes of what songs floated my boat this year. But I will try:

Ezra Furman - Love you so Bad.

Ride - Pulsar

Beck - Dear Life

Jane Weaver - The Architect

The National - Turtleneck

Songhoy Blues - Sahara

The Orielles - let Your Dogtooth Grow

Nadine Shah - Holiday Destination

The Breeders - Wait in the Car

Robert Plant - Bluebirds Over the Mountain

And what I think was the most joyous song of the year, Noel Gallagher

Again we did not go to the cinema at all this year, so no films to be mentioned. At all.

As for books; Danny Baker's latest installment in his autobiography series, "Going on the Turn" was a great book, but in that it details his dealings with neck and head cancer, its not easy reading at times, but is life affirming, as he came out of the end of it, though his sense of taste partially ruined. A small price to pay.

But as we're on the subject of cancer and health, this has been a bad year in which I lost a former RAF colleague, although I had not seen him since the summer of 2000, he was a great freind and top bloke, and apparently only nine months older than I. Thanks to my passport stopping working, I wasn't traveling much, so was able to go to the funeral in Wiltshire, and as well as pay my respects, meet up with other former colleagues and friends, and we ended up being coffin bearers.

On the subject of health, I think I should point out that since this seasons allergy season (for me) began in August, I have had had just two minor attacks, which mean four months during which I have not suffered a bad night's sleep. I cannot stress what a huge achievement this is, and how smug I feel in self-medicating myself. And that was only possible by this blog and reading posts and noticing trends, and when attacks started and ended, meaning that I am able to work out that it was either shampoo, shower gel, deodorant or after shave, and the overuse of one or more of these, meaning that my body got over sensitised, and so smaller amounts of them all could trigger an attack. Now, I am able to not give it a thought most of the time, and just get on with my life. On the rare occasions I do feel an attack building, I take an antihistamine pill or a squirt of nasal spray, and it goes away.

Less than a week later, Mum had her heart attack, and it became clear that it was more serious than last time and a bypass, two bypasses were needed, and so I was to spend five weeks up in Suffolk, visiting her in various hospitals, especially when she was in Papworth and on such days I would have a minimum of a six hour round drive from her house to Cambridge and back, and I got to know every bend in the A143 from Lowestoft to Bury St Edmunds, then from there there was the delight of the A14 through Cambridge. And then back at rush hour, getting back to Bungay as the sun set. Man, four weeks or so of that and I was shattered. O mean so worn out. So it was some relief when she was moved back to James Paget, then I could go home for a while, but then that is another four hour drive each way each time I moved between her house and ours.

I was up again when she was released, but it became clear that there was little I could do. Whether she gets on or not is up to her, so I left her to it.

Midway though Mum's stay in hospital, Jools' Dad died of the very same thing that Mum had survived two heart attacks. This is what life does, some it takes, others it leaves. The morning on which he had been found in their front bedroom will live with me forever, like some kind of waking nightmare as Jen tried to process what had happened, and what was happening. Going round in circles, asking the same questions over and over again. She did recover, and we all moved on, preparing the rest of our lives. We still feel the effects on a daily basis, with repercussions reverberating back and forth.

A good friend and colleagues is looking after his wife as she was discovered with cancer of the breast. Her lookout is good, but there have been dark days for them both. And there are no words that any of us can say. And finally, as you may have read, two football supporting friends of mine found out that one of them us inoperable cancer of her back.

There are no words.

So, in my month by month review, I will look at the good things, mostly, as even with all of the above, for us it has been a very good year.


Twenty five Looking back at my shots from January, it seems to be mostly of me traveling with work; flying to Denmark or driving to Belgium doing general Quality Managing, shouting, barking at people, not that it made that much difference. And there was the visit to the Hundred of Hoo, and trying to see more Kent churches. As it was, it would be September when I would see inside four of them, but a trip to the other world that is Hoo and Grain is never wasted, even in September. I also began my shot a day project, that I (almost) kept up through the whole year, though the days I worked from home tested my creativity in seeing something new.

Thirteen February

Forty More trips to Belgium, buying more Belgian beers, the Winter ales festival here in Dover.

The first signs of spring showed, with snowdrops in Waldershare churchyard. There were more Kent churches to visit, this time around Wye, with some fantastic places visited, Brook was a wonderful surprised, a church reordered to how it might have looked a thousand years ago.

Forty seven I organised a trip for a few friends to visit a church in The City of London. St Peter Upon Cornhill has been our bete noir for many years, the doors never opened to visitors. So, I called St Helen's, who run it, and arranged a visit. We met up from all corners of the country to be at the door to St Peter at two in the afternoon. And we got in, took photographs, and also we all met up, went for a coffee afterwards. What a joy that day was. I was also able to wander round the new buildings north of Kings Cross and St Pancras, walking beside the canal and watching people going to work, whilst I wandered about.

Forty nine Even at work I found time for photography, in Leuven for a meeting, I had an hour to walk round the fabulous church in the town's man square. It was a wonderful building, but also filled with glorious Renaissance art. How lucky I am to be able to do things like that.

Fifty one Closer to home, in our garden, dwarf iris began to flower, producing dashes of purple and yellow in the front garden. By the 22nd, we had daffodils open, and it seemed that spring was just around the corner. Which as it turned out, it was.


March began with manual labour, with me moving a ton of topsoil to fill up one of the raised beds, then having to do it all again with the other one a couple of weeks later. I did break the wheelbarrow, so Jools treated herself to a new 'un.

Fifty nine The days warmed up, and the yellow rattle I had sowed in the lawn began to grow, as did many of the other spring flowers. In fact the Fritillaries were in flower before the month was out, having grown from fresh shoots to be over a metre tall in just over a month.

Seventy four Of course, in the woods and on the downs, orchid rosettes began to show and put forth spikes, but I already covered that part of my life in other posts this week.

I went to London to see Stiff Little Fingers in concert, meeting up with an online friend and enjoying the energy of a punk gig. That the band are are only a handful of years older than us, and they could pogo like the mosh pit.

Sixty nine I was also in Canterbury at the end of the month to see two round the world cyclists return home, to great cheers from friends and family.

Eighty four April

Highlight of April was seeing nearly 100 balloons lift off from Lydden Hill track, then rushing to see them drift over the Channel to France. One of those magical mornings that will live in the memory forever, brightly-coloured canopies lifting off into the rays of the rising sun.

Ninety seven April is when Spring sprung, with hedgerows, woods and downs bursting into colour. So began the days when there is not enough time to see everything: bluebells, orchids and all the other wonderful plants that make spring so special. Butterflies on the wing too, always something to photograph.

Ninety nine At work, the project was nearly done, with turbine by turbine, work being completed.

One hundred and fifteen On my last trip to Leuven, I treated myself to a waffle, from the stall opposite the church on the main square, and was mildly disappointed with the experience. But I did it. The beers in the Capital afterwards never disappointed though, not when Manu paid anyway! And there was an end of project celebration at Esbjerg, as the onshore part of the project was completed. This involved meat being cooked outside, or in the warehouse anyway.

One hundred and thirteen At the end of the month, Jools and I went to Norwich for a church festival, and in a long Saturday I walked round the city visiting 18 churches, all new for me. I met wonderful people along the way, and found new parts of the city I had not visited before. And me taking many shots in all of them.

One hundred and eighteen May

One last trip to Belgium to see the lads before the project ended, and I go on vacation. How suddenly things change as what became normal became a thing of the past. How I missed those visits to the wine warehouse or the Spar.

One hundred and twenty four The Bluebell season peaked, the Duke of Burgundy appeared and basked in the spring sunshine. I tried to balance work and photography and Jools. Although time spent in the woods or on the downs is never ever wasted.

One hundred and thirty four On the 14th, Tony arrived from New Zealand, looking relaxed despite his 36 hour trip. He had come over to stay as we were to go to Scotland to stay in a cottage for a week. Which meant I was also on holiday, the first time I had off that year. In the week that followed I showed Tony around some of our haunts here in Kent before we went up to London for a day and night touring the sights before meeting up with Jools the next evening outside Euston to catch the overnight sleeper north.

One hundred and forty five We stayed in a cottage on the west coast of Skye, toured about, drank beer, did a little walking, went up and down a road which went over a mountain and rode on the Jacobite steaming from Mallaig to Fort William. That was a wonderful and hot day, which I was bitten to buggery by midges, then roasted in the old carriages. But what a day.

One hundred and forty six All things come to an end, and we bid farewell to Tony outside a car hire office at Glasgow Airport; he was staying up there for three more weeks, we had a long drive south on the Audi.


One hundred and fifty two I had to go to Denmark at the start of the month to have my annual assessments, and my boss arranged a social event as we were all in Aarhus for the same reason. As it coincided with the end of the project, it seemed only right to celebrate long. I also visited the open air museum in the city, taking an afternoon off work. It seemed the right thing to do, and good job I did as I have only been back there once since. Such as life been so complicated.

One hundred and sixty nine Tony came back for a few days fresh with stories about his travels in the Outer Hebrides. But he soon left on his long flight back home, not before we took him for fish and chips again at Folkestone Harbour.

One hundred and fifty eight We had one final meeting in Leuven, and I traveled over the day before, staying in Brussels a night, wandering along the narrow streets taking shots and sampling some local beers in the evening summer heat.

One hundred and seventy eight July

July was a quiet month, in Denmark most people went on vacation, I stayed at home, creating a spreadsheet, so copied and pasted for eight hours a day, the afternoons of these days spent on the sofa watch the Tour de France. I won't lie when I say they were good days, but I did get work done too.

One hundred and eighty seven We went to Lullingstone Roman Villa, as well as going to many orchid sites around the county, but already the end of the orchid season could be seen coming.

One hundred and eighty eight I went up to Cheshire to head office, as I had some kit to return, and a social event had been arranged at Haydock Park to have a meal and watch some racing. Sadly, due to a serious accident, the meeting was abandoned, and I was left with a nightmare ten hour drive home. The day before I had a few hours at Liverpool Pierhead, somewhere I had always wanted to go to. Very enjoyable, and a photo rich environment.

Two hundred August

The month was taken up by a sixteen day trip to the American mid-west to see the solar eclipse. There was the usual cat round up, take them to the cattery, then the next day the stressful trip in a taxi to the airport to catch the plane.

Two Hundred and Twenty five In Denver, we collected a Mustang and drove to the hotel for a single night, the next day driving across Wyoming to Yellowstone. Three days of Geysers, geothermal activity, deer, bison, goats, butterflies, mountains, waterfalls, wild flowers and so on. There is so much to tell about those days, but before we knew it was time to move on to Montana, two days there before moving on to Cody Wyoming, and prepare for the big day. An 80 mile drive to the area of tatality, and find a place in the desert to watch the show unfold.

Two hundred and twenty nine Moving on again to a cabin on the mountains for three days, with more butterflies, elk, porcupines, squirrels and wild flowers. And then it was time to come home, stopping off at my oldest online friend near Denver, and meeting her new partner, all in all like we had all known each other for decades. What a fantastic end to a wonderful holiday.

Two hundred and thirty three Either side there was the end of the orchid season, walks along the cliffs and reuniting with the cats.

Two hundred and thirty six September

The month began with a trip to a railway depot to look at some locomotives, along with several thousand others. It was a hot day, but an enjoyable one, but to be honest there is only so many trains you can look at, and with the crowds. We left just after midday and was back home by teatime.

Two hundred and forty five Coming back from America, the chip in my passport stopped working, so until I got it replaced, I could not travel anywhere outside the country. So after filling in the application, I went up to London to wait in line to get a replacement. In the few hours left of that day, I got taxis to take me to four new City churches I had not visited, leaving me just two more to see inside. And a week later I got the new passport.

Two hundred and fifty five For heritage weekend, I completed all the churches on the Grain Peninsulare, as well as West Malling. I went alone, as Jools did not fancy a whole day of church crawling, and who could blame her?

Two hundred and fifty nine Inbetween that and Open House, I had to go to Wiltshire for an old RAF colleague's funeral in Chippenham. It was a fine autumn day, and I along with eight others gathered with his friends and family to honour Andy's life and our shared friendships.

For Open House I had booked us tickets to see the Pink Floyd exhibition at the V&A, that took most of the morning, and was rather wonderful, it left little time for other things. We met up with a friend from the GWUK group for a meal, then we went to the Royal Albert Hall to take some shots before we walked what seemed like halfway over London to Sloane Square to see another church.

Two hundred and sixty four Finally in the month, I went on a railtour to Chesterfield to see more steam locomotives, as you do. It poured with rain most of the day, but stopped as our train left again, as is the way. But by this time things had changed, Mum was in hospital, although it wasn't clear at that point how bad things were.


Two hundred and seventy four Mum had to have a cardiac artery bypass graft. Two of them in fact, and would need to go to Papworth to have the operation, her veins were in such a bad way it seemed. It was decided I would rent a car and go up to visit her and keep her life on track, and try to sort out her house.

Two hundred and seventy eight The house was even worse than last time she had a heart attack, so untidy, dirty and filled with crap. Over three weeks I sorted though food and other cupboards, clearing dangerously out of date food, and trying to rid the house of cigarette smell. As she said she would try to stop if she got out.

Because, make no mistake, it was a major operation she was having, and there was no guarantee that she would survive. But she did. I travelled for two weeks back and forth between Lowestoft and Papworth, on the worse day taking six hours on one trip home. It was wearing me out.

Two hundred and ninety eight After three weeks I went home for a break, only for us to get a call on the Saturday morning that Jools' father had passed away. I wrote about that morning earlier in this post, so I won't repeat myself. That day was hard, Sunday was bad too, but the days got easier until we had the funeral at the beginning of November.


Mum Was was transferred back to James Paget, which I hoped would mean I need not stay up there, but she contracted two infections, and her friends were thus discouraged in visiting her lest they catch it too. So I was back up there for a time. Jools also spent a week up there, and she did more cleaning in the house.I began the Kent church project back in 2008, and Barham was one of the first dozen I visited. I took a few shots, and from then I remember the window showing a very fine St George and a balcony from where the bells are rung giving great views down the church.

Three hundred and eight We said goodbye to Tony on the 1st, a sad and miserable day meeting at Denton at midday then moving on to the railway club. But it was also a celebration of his life, as his friends from the whole of his life came together to share stories, many raising a smile or laugh.

Three hundred and thirteen I went back to Denmark for the first time in 5 months, meeting back up with colleagues, and doing my spirits the world of good. It gave me a chance to meet up with Anni and Shags, go out for a drink and a meal, and for Shaggy and me, an evening in the Highlander where it all got messy.

Three hundred and seventeen Jools and I did another secret London tour, this time at Down Street Station, and on the way walking through the drifts of leaves in Green Park.

Three hundred and twenty three December

And here we are, up to date.

Mum was to be released from hospital, and I went up to stay with her for a few days to help her aclimatise. But as it turned out, she was only too happy to fall back into her old ways. There were sharp words spoken, and I realised she needed her own space and time to make her life choices. Jools came up as we had tickets for a concert in Norwich, long planned, and until the last minute we didn't think we would be able to go. But we did. Peter Hook and the Light, playing the songs of New Order and Joy Division.

Three hundred and forty one The Rack of Ale closed, we went down to pay our respects.

Three hundred and thirty five The month rushed on, and before I knew it I had only a few working days left. We were bot so worn out what with our lives and working round Mum and what a hole she has gotten herself into. But we are done with that, we have to look after ourselves, which is what we planned to do over Christmas.

three hundred and thirty And then it became clear that the change in Molly's behaviour needed more investigation, and Mulder then became ill, with what may yet turn out to be a tumour. But for the moment it seems it might end happily.

Three hundred and fifty five We have slept long each night, rising later and later, just enjoying being at home with each other and with the cats.

I do hope our batteries have been recharged, as the madness or work will ramp up soon in the New Year.

Friday 29th December 2017

Friday was the day of the camera delivery. I checked my e mails first thing and the tracking said it would be delivered between 9 and 5, but on busy days later than that.

Which meant that I would be stuck inside until the parcel was delivered, so Jools would be the one to go shopping. As she had some cash left on a Sainsbury's card, she went to Deal at eight to get some essentials, and wine. And I cleared up in the house.

And the compact camera had recovered now it was dry, and worked as it should! phew. No more using it in the rain, then.

The delivery van pulled up at nine on the dot, and I was presented with a huge box; seems that I had missed the bit where it came with a bundle of extras. But despite waiting for 6 months for this moment, I wait longer to open the box. Jools comes home with the shopping, we put that away, have breakfast, wash up and put the stuff away.

Three hundred and sixty three And then I start to open the box. I did nearly cut a finger off with the knife, but then life is meant to be exciting. First thing I find in the box if a new camera bag; one of the items in the free bundle. I like this bag a lot, and comes with a waterproof compact camera bag, and one for a DSLR which folds into a small pack. That will come in handy out in the orchid fields of Kent. Also there is a high capacity battery and a ultra high speed memory card. And then there is the camera.

Test shot First thing to do is to charge both batteries, as the camera also came with a battery, and then wait.

Outside the rain was hammering down again, and would continue until the afternoon, but after lunch there should be a clearing of the sky, and there might be some light in which to do a small wee test of the new camera.

St Margaret's Bay After lunch the clouds do clear, but there seems to be more rain clouds building, so we jump in the car and go down to the Bay to take a few shots.

And as lunch would have it, it was low tide, meaning lots of tones and colours on the chalk shelf stretching into the sea, all out of water. The northern end of the bay was bathed in warm sunshine, but the cliff nearest was in deep shadow.

St Margaret's Bay I walk onto the beach to get a shot with no people of the cliff, then go to look at the seaweed on the chalk shelf, before walking up the beach into the sunshine.

Any thoughts of trying out the Coastguard, some two years after it had been taken over by SN was shelved as I could see the car park full and people sitting outside drinking as the bars were full. I like a beer, but not enough to sit outside drinking, not when I could have a beer at home.

St Margaret's Bay So we return home, have a brew and a mince pie and listen to the radio some more, settling back in the familiar pattern of the last few days.

After dinner we watch Black Mirror, or an episode of it. Jools has paid for a Netflix subscription, so we were able to sit back and enjoy some good scifi.

And that is it really, two days of the year left, Mulder still bouncing about, and all seems better in our world.