Friday, 11 August 2017

Friday 11th August 2017

The last blog for a while.

The biggest and most stressful event of the day was the great cat roundup. Herding three cats whilst appearing not to be stressed, and three cats being very stressed. And then there is Mulder's bowels.

The plan was to lay in bed until seven, go down and give them a few kitty kibles, then WHAM, ambush each one and put them in a basket. That was the plan, and a plan which we executed perfectly, and by ten past seven, three cats, in baskets, and we could relax. And after covering them with blankets, the meowing calmed down, until it was eerily quiet.

Two hundred and twenty three Jools went to work at half seven, I had breakfast, got dressed, so that at five past eight I was loading the hire car up with cats and camera gear, and leisurely driving to Denton to the cattery, not getting mixed up with the boy racers on their way to work, no just tootling along at the speed limit, soothing Mulder as we go.

And it worked out perfectly well, I arrive just as the cate to the farm was open, paperwork checked and cats put in their pens. And the task was done.

So the trickiest part was over, but that doesn't mean we won't miss the mogs, we will. But as bad as putting them in the cattery is this time, the reverse is true when we collect them upon our return.

I have an appointment in St Margaret's, but have 50 minutes in which to get there, so I take the country lanes through Barfrestone, Coldred and Eythorne to West Langdon and home, along many sis foot sixers, as the road signs stated. I do come home, have breakfast, scrambled eggs on fried stale bread. Lovely. But it is already quiet in the house, no meows to break the silence, just me slurping my brew.

I am at the monument at quarter to ten, and search for the ALT spikes, to prove to the council there are there. Dan, the man from the council is no time, I show him the pikes, and reveals that his conservation expert had not been able to find them two days ago. Well, I found 11 spikes in total, and he agreed no mowing at the front until the end of the month. I explain the life cycle of the orchid, as they have Bees outside their offices and are thrilled about that, so I advise him to make sure the rosettes are not mowed after Christmas.

I can then go to Temple Ewell, to the downs above the village and hunt for orchid sand butterflies in the glorious sunshine, until the wind was due to pick up after lunchtime. I wanted to see more Adonis Blues, and see at least a dozen within 50 yards of the gate to the meadow, all bathing in the sunshine and glinting like sapphires against the green of the vegetation.

I was also looking for the Silver Spotted Skipper, a rare butterfly, now only found in the south east. But nearly two hours of searching revealed no skippers. I bump into two other snappers, and they had not found any Adonis but had snapped the skipper, so we swap info, in fact I take them to where I had seen most of the Adonis, and indeed within two minutes I had spotted one a few yards away.

To find the skipper, I had to climb further up the down, and where the trees die out, among an ancient track, is where the skippers should be. I see clouds of blues and Meadow Browns, but nothing that looked like a skipper. I few yards up the bank, I see an insect crawling among the grass. It was a Silver Spotted Skipper!

Silver Spotted Skipper Hesperia comma I get a few shots, not good ones, but good enough for me, meaning I could say I had completed my task and now the princess should be freed.

I walk back down to the car park and drive into town, I have supplies to get; insect repellant and cream for bites and stings. Just in case. I buy some shorts, meaning the US will be treated to my knobbly knees.

And that is that, all jobs done, tasks completed, I go home via Reach Road as I love to look over the Channel to France. And once home, I put the radio on to wait for Jools to come home, and so falling asleep on the sofa. Being on holiday is hard work!

Jools comes back at half four, and we make the decision to return the hire car back right away, meaning we didn't have to do it later on in the evening or tomorrow. Traffic lokked bad, but we get the job done in half an hour, back home and me cooking rice to go with the defrosted chili I had got out of the freezer that morning.

With the chili we much our way through the most of a bag of doritos and a bottle of pink fizz too. It is a fine way to start the holiday.

We pack, repack and put in stuff we had forgotten, but by nine we had two cases and my big camera bag packed, all ready for the morning. I think we are ready, is America?

Thursday 10th August 2017

And so, on Thursday began the holibobs.

And in order for his nibs to have some automotive transport the next two days, he had to collect a hire car. So it came to pass after the early morning coffee, Jools drove me to the lay by near Dover Castle leaving me to walk down the full length of Castle Hill.

Dark clouds were already gathering, so I snap them towering over the remaining towers of RAF Swingate, then walked down towards the castle, and being rewarded by 5 minutes sunshine, illuminating the castle, the church and Pharos. Worth the work just for that moment if I'm honest.

Two hundred and twenty two I walk down the hill, crossing over and taking random shots as I walk. I have an hour to waste, or to spend in an unproductive manner, and I'm an expert on that!

Yet another walk into Dover I walk all round the St James development, recording the progress, snow that the walls are on some buildings, and those having been covered with plaster or something similar. And as the pavement along Townwall Street was closed, I had to walk back up Castle Street then on towards the port. But as I neared Eastern Docks, dark clouds appeared over the cliffs, and a hard rain began to fall. But I had an umbrella, which meant just my ankles and feet got wet. And so I scampered into the port where my car was waiting; just sign here, here, here, initial there, there and there, and away you go.

Yet another walk into Dover Meaning I was back home by half eight, and treating myself to yet more oatcakes with butter and marmalade. A breakfast if not of kings, then worthy of the first of fourteen working days off. With rain continuing to hammer down outside, I thought I would get the worst of the chores out of the way first, a haircut.

Yet another walk into Dover So into town, park on Cherrytree and straight into an empty chair, and was shorn. We talked of the holiday and eclipses, she had not heard of the event, nor knew where Wyoming was. But sounded excited enough that we were going. A tenner sees me looking sharp and some pounds lighter.

Yet another walk into Dover I decide there isn't any point in going home, as I am to meet a friend in Faversham, so drive to Temple Ewell in order to follow up a lead on some errant orchids. It is still raining, not hard, but it had been hard,, but I am a son of Norfolk and made of hardy stock. I walk up the path, only to find the nettles and brambles bent over by the weight of water, blocking the path. I try to push by, but get stung and scratched, until I have to give up. Those darn orchids were going to have to wait.

As it seemed to be brightening up, so I thought if I went to meet Mark at Faversham, we could go out early and go orchid chasing. As I drove towards Canterbury, the rain fell harder and harder, and so it seemed madness that we were going to spend the rest of the day outside looking for orchids and butterflies, but then as my old Dad might say, its just a clearing up shower.

In Faversham it was grim, raining and gloomy, but not disheartened, I said it was brightening up near the coast, so lets go to Barham to see the Violet Helleborines. Back down the A2, along the road with nearly an inch of standing water. It seems madness, but we were happy just being out.

And at Barham it did seem to be brighter. We walk to along the woodland path, up the hill and found the spikes with no problem. I didn't take any shots as I got the ones I wanted at the weekend, so I watched as Mark got his shots and drooled over the wonderful flowering spikes. I mentioned my encounter with John and his insistence that there were ALTs at Temple Ewell, and with the weather brightening up further, we decide to go there next for a hunt.

He guided me to the car park, halfway up the down, meaning the walk to the meadow wasn't too bad at all. Now, despite lots of hunting in what looked ideal ALT habitat, we found no spikes at all. But I distracted by the abundance of butterflies, and some were clearly Adonis Blues.

Adonis Blue Polyommatus bellargus I gave up on the orchids and wait until I find a male Adonis, then have camera poised as I wait for a clear patch of sky to allow sunshine down, and despite me saying that I bet he won't open is winds. As the sun shone, the small butterfly opened both wings, blinding me with its azure brilliance. That was worth the whole day right there. I also see Common Blues, Chalkhill Blues, Brown Argus, Large White, Gatekeepers, Meadow Browns and Small Heaths, and in less than ideal conditions. I decide to return on the morrow when phoebe was due to shine.

We walk back to the car, and decide a ten minute diversion to the Dover Patrol monument was a good idea, but once there, a close search revealed just two spikes, and neither close to flowering. Oh well.

That left us with the last port of call, back along the A2 to Sittingbourne to a nature reserve where the Autumn Ladies Tresses are said to be earliest. It rained some more on the way, but was dry, at least in the air, by the time we arrived. We searched and searched, and finally Mark found a single flowering spike, beside the bottom footpath. We both take dozens of shots, as it was open. But despite looking all over for more, just a few non-flowering spikes were found. Mark does stumble across a Silver Spotted Skipper and napped it. I had never seen one, but despite another hour of searching, I see hide nor hair of a skipper.

Autumn Lady's Tresses Spiranthes spiralis It was now 5, and I had to drop Mark off, then make my way home to feed the cats and prepare dinner. It was raining again, meaning that despite the weather, we had a card full of shots and many fine things seen, including a pristine male Adonis for me.

I arrive home ten minutes before Jools comes home, and dinner was to be; cheese and crackers and wine (or cider). It was quick and easy. I do cook a burger each later int eh evening, and that felt much better as somehow I had managed to miss a meal during the day. Anyway, a fine first day off, and many, many more to go.

Thursday, 10 August 2017

Wednesday 9th August 2017

We have come to the deadline. No more morning and afternoons sat in front of a laptop keyboard, thinking of things to write, questions that needed to be answered. And come what may, I needed to have some kind of presentable draft ready for review by the end of the day. It was possible I would be burning the midnight oil.

Jools laid in bed until half five, getting up to get ready, and when I can smell coffee brewing, I go down too. Cats were already outside sitting on the patio, having a post-breakfast wash and licking their lips. At least some were happy.

And then it was eyes down with a fresh brew and some oatcakes coated with marmalade, and time for work. Thing is, I had added comments through the document, made notes and crossed other stuff out, and as I worked through the document, it all seemed to fall into place. Anyway, that process took six hours, and as well as that, there was meetings. Always with the meetings.

I had the storm radar on, s there was promise of thunder and lightning by the late afternoon, and there is some fun in watching the strikes get closer as the storm front heads north, and matching the marks on the sensor with what we can see out the back of the house. Only the much promised storm failed to arrive, the fronts drifted south east, and petered out over Flanders.

I work on, and by half three I was done. I mean there was a document I was happy with, a few questions remain, but otherwise, it is done, and with an hour and a half to spare too. I celebrate with a glass of the Sloe Port, still too ginny, but enjoyable. I sit down to watch an episode of Time Team, but the port helps my eyelids droop.

Two hundred and twenty one Outside it has been a fine and sunny day, I had hungs washing out. It dried, meanwhile an hour up the high speed line it poured in London all day. What can I say, on the coast it were lovely.

For dinner there is one of the butcher's chicken kievs each, some leftover pasta salad and a fresh steamed corn. Simple food, but wonderful. There is cider too, and wine. And life is good.

There are no storms that evening, the clouds melt away and we are left with the just past full moon shining from behind the thinning clouds.

But I was on vacation, on another holibob.

Wednesday, 9 August 2017

Tuesday 8th August 2017

There have been times when I could tell you to the minute what I was doing, flying or driving across Europe, auditing, inspecting or managing. But another week working from home, well, each day is pretty much the same as any other. Except on Thursdays when I put out the bins.

Bearing that in mind, when I come to write that day's blog, I am sometimes at a loss to say what I did all day. I mean I got up, had breakfast and started work sometime near eight. But then? Well, there was lunch, made coffee and tea at regular intervals. Waited on the cats through the day. Made pasta salad and later in the day prepared the aubergine. But other than that?

It was another day that promised thunder and heavy rain, but as the day went on, the threat went away. I am trying not to think that I am on vacation in two days time, or when I come back from holiday the project will be going crazy. These have been real salad days and I have enjoyed them, getting stuff done, but not under pressure, and listening to the radio, writing, or watching Time Team if it was an edition I hadn't seen. But these are now drawing to an end, there is the threat of meetings with the customer, monthly reports.

And then sometimes all it takes is a stray critical comment and all the good intentions go out the window as your inner voice says "why bother?". Why indeed. I had been working in silence, but put the radio on at one, and do manage to work the afternoon through, but the document seems a mess and I have to produce a decent version by the end of Wednesday. So, anyway...

Outside, the sky clouds over and looks like a storm might break out at any point. I have one more day to work, I feel I am on target, but won't know until tomorrow. Until then I pour a beer and think about preparing dinner.

Jools is working longer hours, so gives me three rings on the phone to let me know she is on her way, so I can begin to egg and breadcrumb.

By half five I am working hard, the phone rings. Once. Twice. Three times. Was that a forth. I rush over the phone but it has stopped. I take it as a sign. A sign Jools is coming home, so I light the gas and get cooking.

When Jools walks in the door, dinner is cooked and I have poured the wine/cider. We should go out for a walk really, but we are too hungry and drained. There is something about the cooling freshness of the pasta and the crunchy salty goodness of the aubergine that works so well. Dinner is served, and is good. As always.

Two hundred and twenty Meanwhile outside rain begins to fall. Hard. Cats run in to escape being wet.

And suddenly, the rain eases up, sun comes out, and there is a rainbow in the dip outside.I rush to get a camera to record the optical effect, and do so for many angles and focal lengths. There is football on the radio, the Caribou cup or something, Norwich play Swindon, and win 3-2, closer than it should have been if I'm honest. But a win's a win, right?

Frontline Brexit

There is a chain of thought, that goes like this:

If Brexit is going to happen on 29th March 2019, then there should be a lot of work going on; lorry parks, waiting areas, recruiting customs officials both here in Dover, but at all ports and along the Irish border. In fact nothing is happening, other then the new bulk freight handling terminal at Dover being behind schedule and now being refused using aggregates from the Goodwin Sands. But there is nothing being done; the roads have been "improved" in light of the bulk freight terminal; roundabout removed and replaced with traffic lights, and the reduced speed limits and traffic lights at Aycliffe. Where are the lorry parks for thousands of trucks that will be held up? Just looking at Kent POlice's Operation Stack page on the net, it seems that Manston Airport will be used, at least for port traffic.

But if the worse case scenario happens and there is a permanent operation stack, what then?

Well, for locals, not just here in Dover and Folkestone, but all those living along the M20, the mere act of going to the shops or on the school run becomes difficult, if not impossible. Indeed delivery trucks for shops and supermarkets would also get stuck in the traffic and it is likely there will be food shortages. At least to some extent.

Others might say that this is scaremongering, but once Britain diverges from EU standards, or might have trade deals with countries with different standards, origin checks on some if not all goods will have to happen at entry points into the EU; at Dover, Felixstowe, Southampton, the Irish border and so on.

It could be that there is the belief that Brexit might not happen, at least in Cabinet meaning these things will not have to be built or prepared for, or they are just hoping to do the British thing and muddle through. Or even more likely, they haven't even looked that far ahead as yet.

Meanwhile in Dover, residents in Aycliffe have been complaining about the noise from queuing trucks down the hill, so that a "no unnecessary horn" sign has been put up, and finally the temporary speed limit of 40mph have been made variable, Dovorians have been complaining about this for months since it was introduced. Quite how they will react if the semi-permanent operation stack happens, thd there will be lines of waiting freight backed up to Birmingham waiting to get through.

As with the Irish border, there are two things that have to happen regarding the border at Dover/Calais, and each one precludes the other, so fixing this is going to be interesting to say the least. The two issues are:

1. Frictionless border
2.Ensuring all goods entering the EU are within EU standards, and that point of origin paperwork checked.

As previously stated, one of the main concerns from the EU side is the divergence of standards, especially if Britain signs up to a separate trade deal with America or other countries, and there is a risk that any goods of a lower standard could be snuck through into the EU.

Whatever the eventual outcome, the effects will be felt here in Dover and along to irish border before anywhere else, and failures in this area alone would not bode well for all the other areas affected.

Away from Dover, some realism has crept into some areas of Brexit, with the acceptance, by some, that Britain will have to pay a bill to leave the EU. ALl that needs to be done is agree a formula on how to come to an actual figure, (which is the way the EU wants to do it), rather than decide on a set amount now (which is what Britain wants. Or some of it, John Redwood, Rees-Mogg and Boris Johnson apart).

Be thankful perhaps, that this might well be last Brexit post for some three weeks, if not longer.

Tuesday, 8 August 2017

Monday 7th August 2017

Those of you with sharp eyes, or those who have been taking notes, will realise that time is getting short before we head way out west, and so from Friday there will be no blogs for nearly three weeks, but upon our return there will be an avalanche of them, as I hope to write on our pocket book tablet thingy. Maybe, if you're lucky, I will be able to update photos as we go to Flickr, but the blog site really doesn't like me to travel as the new ISP seem to confuse it.

So for now, I have three days work left, and working from home too. Which means me working at the dining room table, and trying to concentrate on the job in hand. Which is preparing a document for the new project, whose name I can't tell you, yet. But soon, my precious.

Jools is snowed under still, which means getting up at the crack of dawn, getting ready for work and driving to Hythe at half six, then working for at least 11 hours to try to get ahead. I don't have such issues, thankfully. I just plod on, writing, cross-checking references.

Two hundred and nineteen I have breakfast, and a really strong cup of tea. And that is all I need to power through until nearly nine when more tea is needed. And again at ten. And again at eleven. I brew up as I was on my way to the downstairs facilities anyway.

Despite the best of intentions, the forces of evil are abroad, diverting me from my chosen task, and at this rate the princess in the tower will never be freed. Sigh.

I have some pate on toasted cornbread with yet more tea, and all is right with the world. Until I am diverted again. Bugger.

I give up, switch the main computer on and have Radcliffe on as I swear at the e mails coming in. I mean, why bother. Why indeed. Half four comes and I give up, saving the document I should have been working on and call it quits for the day, and should have gone straight onto the crystal meth. But there is dinner to cook, of course.

Jools is working an hour and a half extra a day, an hour in the morning and 30 minutes in the evening, so I can mess around through the late afternoon before preparing dinner for us. I had gathered the courgettes from the garden, baked them along with some tomatoes, onion and garlic, then whizzed the results up ready to pour over cooked pasta, once I knew Jools was on the way home. Looked messy, but was lovely, espeically with the stuffed focaccia bread I baked too.

Once washed up, we sit in the garden and eat the last of the Magnums, as darkness falls. Sadly clouds were too thick to see the full moon rise, but we were treated to a yellow smudge between the houses on the other side of the dip, marking where the moon had risen.

Silver anniversary #2

The second anniversary (this week) is that of the Premier League, or the FA Premier League as it was branded, at first.

The reality of the Premier League is that it was a venture born of greed and not wanting to share their dosh with clubs from lower down the pyramid. The first thing to point out is that the teams that contested that first Premier League season which kicked off on 1th August 1992 were exactly the same teams that would would have contested the Football League First Division, and as time went on, each season would have, by and large, had the same clubs competing whether the PL had happened or not.

The only difference between the Premier League and the First Division is marketing. Marketing and money. Marketing, money and satellite TV.

Three things.

The other thing that coincided with the formation of the PL was the dawn of the all-seater stadia, meaning that a premium product could charge premium prices, meaning that on top of the TV money, more and more money came rolling in. It is sobering to reflect upon that it is football, the PL in particular saved the infant B Sky B, or whatever it was back then, as premium film channels were not attracting the punters, but it turned out live football did. Without this symbiotic relationship, then maybe the story would have been different.

The owners of the clubs at the start of the PL cashed in, making huge sums, approaching £100 million in some cases, to other wealthy people who thought, correctly, they could leverage even more money from the supporters and viewers.

That the game itself, and the promises made when setting up the PL failed to materialise, especially how good having the world's best players would mean their English team mates would get better, thus benefitting the national side! no? Regular readers will know this didn't pan out either, as expected.

And what of the vast sums of money the PL now generates? most of all it gets paid to other clubs around the world as the biggest clubs battle to secure the services of the biggest names. So fees rise year on year, wages rise year on year. And fees were paid to agents to set up the deals, they sometimes earning nearly as much as the players.

And what of the game, is it any better 25 years on? Standards are higher, standards of play that is, technically, football never has been better. Nor has it been so expensive to watch, either in person or via the telebox. To say money spoiling the game is a modern phenomena would be a lie. Money has been in the game, even before it went professional in 1888, with clubs finding "jobs" for players in lieu of paying them to play, most player in these deals didn't really work at the jobs found. But with the forming of the Football League, professionalism was here to stay, spread from the north to all corners of the country. Transfers and wages climbed year on year, fans were treated poorly and in most cases, players worse.

Back when I first drove to games, a ticket in the main stand at Carrow Road was £4, and a pound cheaper to stand. It now costs over £40. Prices have not gone up a thousand percent in 35 years, but the cost of games has, or by even more if you're unlucky enough to be an Arsenal fan.

I can't break the habit of a lifetime and switch off. But I won't be conned either. The last time I went to a game, at Chelsea in 2011, it cost £49 for a seat with restricted view. With the cost of getting up to London, a drink or two and you can say goodbye to a hundred quid. Call me crazy, but I don't want to spend north of fifty quid to sit in a tiny plastic seat, when for the same money Jools and I can feed ourselves. I don't pay for Sky of BT Sports, nor do I buy replica shirts, I just support them best I can.

So, happy anniversary to the Premier League. Can we have our game back please?

Monday, 7 August 2017

Silver Anniversary #1

Twenty Five years ago today, I got married for the first time. What I realise now is that I am as old as my Dad was in 1987 when my parents had their own silver anniversary celebration. It is a sobering thought that the deed was so long ago. The marriage did not last 5 years, and in the intervening 20 odd years since the decree absolute was issued, I have no regretted it for a moment.

We could have had a good life, Andrea and I, but that would have required her to be a nice person, not vindictive and selfish. Sadly, it took me a few years to see what she was like as a person, and finding yourself married to a person you don't even like and yet you love, is an odd one.

Then one May Day, the straw on the camel's back was broken, and by the end of the day I had moved out into the barracks, and life was never the same again. She stayed on base for some twenty months after I left her, and the last time I saw her was the day before Dad died, I passed her and her only friend as I cycled home one day from work. I can't remember if we spoke, it don't really matter in the long run as the next day my life changed forever, and after the dust settled I was posted back to the UK and never saw her again.

I did hear from her about 15 years ago, through a friend she got my e mail addy, and wrote to me, I guess in the hope to persuade me to take her and her children back. She denied this, but, she was and still is shameless and will do whatever it takes to achieve what she wanted, no matter who it hurt. I said no, and I would be mad to have taken her back then after the hurt she caused me, and would not take her back now of course.

She did teach me many things; about life, and about cooking. And we still have some of the recipes she brought from Jugoslavia and taught me. I thank her for that, and for the lessons in life she taught me, and that I had the inner strength to see the divorce through, despite the heavy pressure put on me by the RAF and killing my career in the process. It was worth it. And I would have fought even harder had I have known then what I know now.

So, happy anniversary, not missing you at all.

The weekend Brexit update

Maybe this will be the last update before the holiday. Maybe not.

The main issue in Brexit over the weekend has been the financial settlement, and how much it might be, can Britain argue it.

Basically, this is where the mantra of May and the Brexiteers meets the reality of modern trade negotiations. If Britain wants a trade deal, it has to get this matter (and the status of the Irish border as well as the staus of EU and UK nationals in each others respective zones. Quite simply, if no deal can be done, or even an agreement on the formula for deciding the bill, no other discussions can take place. That this should be one of the simplest of the three issues to settle it is surprising it is so vexing to the Government.

It is the basic principle, not the amount itself, that is the issue. All the lies spewed out over how much Britain would be better off out of the EU, £450 million a week was plastered on the side of a bus, would be blown out of the water if £40 or £50 billion is going to have to be paid. But paid it will have to be if any more meaningful talks are to be held.

But Britain has no policy document on this issue and many others. It has hinted that it might publish these, and more next week, but that comes three months after the referendum, and the year before that of the campaign. That Britain is so far behind in what is needed, or needed at this point in time.

One last point is that the EU is carrying on the discussions and planning of them based on the article 50 letter submitted in March. Unless there is a formal request to change the parameters of that letter, no one is sure even if that can be done, any UK politician talking about transitional deals of one, two or three years really is just talking rubbish. Such a deal would have to be asked for, formally, in a re-submission of the article 50 letter. It would then be a decision for the EU27 to either agree or not, or to add terms and conditions to such an extension.

And where is our glorious leader now that the sands of time are slipping away? On a three week walking tour in Italy, singing God Save the Queen in a hotel bar. So much for leadership.

Sunday 6th August 2017

Thanks to these posts and my words hereon written, I have been able to track my aches and pains, and in particular the allergies. Without these, I would be surprised every year as to when, in August, I get sneezing fits and faux flu. Instead I know when to expect them, but still do not know why. The internet suggests it could be the emergence of fungi and other organisms that help break down leaves and plants awakening before the autumn leaf fall.

Autumn Lady's Tresses Spiranthes spiralis I think of this each time I go into the woods to snap the Violet Helleborines at this time of year, as I have to lay in the drifts of old and decomposing leaves. Is my hobby making things even worse than they need be? It is quite possible.

Sunday morning walk to Kingsdown Leas I say this, because some three weeks earlier than normal, I have been sneezing and sniffling like a good un, I know this as in previous years the onset of the attacks coincides with my birthday. Life gives such great gifts. And this week, the sneezing has increased, and with each shower, application of deodorant or squirt of fly spray, I am sensing I am increasing the sensitivity of my body. And so through yesterday, the sniffing and sneezing developed into full blown flu. At least being outside would make things better as long as I stayed away from any woodland with leaves.

Sunday morning walk to Kingsdown Leas It was a glorious morning; sunny and not a breath of wind. And there was a number of things I wanted to do. I had wanted to wander down the cliff path to Kingsdown looking at plants and butterflies. Mainly in the hope of seeing an Adonis Blue of a Clouded Yellow, maybe a bit groggy and easy to snap first thing in the morning. And there are the orchids to check up on.

Sunday morning walk to Kingsdown Leas We drive up to Lethercote Point where we can park among the overnight camping vans, and go straight away to check the grassed area around the monument. I saw straight away that it had been mowed over the previous week, meaning there would be no orchid spikes this week, or flowering ones anyway. Jools did find two developing spikes, but they were very small, and poor showing for a site that produces hundreds in a good year. Can't say I was surprised, but having reported the orchids for the last four years, I would have hoped that I wouldn't have to do it for a 4th.

Sunday morning walk to Kingsdown Leas From there it was a lazy amble down the slope, following the line of the cliff edge, stopping off at regular intervals to check up on some new or unusual plant. So much to see, checking the differences between two of the three Scabious species I found. Some Jools knew, other I did, but mostly neither of us knew. But it was fun looking, even to joggers and twitchers, we were looking down not forward or up.

Field Scabious Knautia arvensis At the gate which marks the boundary between St Margaret's and Kingsdown, Jools decided that it was enough to walk that far, but I pressed on, knowing that in a few hundred metres, the butterflies would soon begin. Where the service road ends is where the Chalkhill Blues like to roost, and during the day fly about basking and collecting food.

Painted Lady Vanessa cardui I spot a pristine Painted Lady, just basking in the hedge, adjusting its position to get as much of the rays as it could I managed to get a few shots, you'll be glad to know.

Chalkhill Blue Polyommatus coridon Further along, I come to the house which houses an estimated 25% of the nation's population of Autumn Ladies Tresses, some of which have spread onto its well kept verge. But that had also just been mowed, however I did spot two more spikes there, just showing. Last year this had the largest spike of the ALT I have seen, so let us hope for bigger things in the next few weeks.

So, I walk back, checking the Everlasting Pea for any errant Long Tailed Blues, just in case. I see none.

Hemp agrimony Eupatorium cannabinum It is a long climb back up to the Patrol, taking some half an hour or so, broken only by regular stops to admire the view or look at some new plant I missed on the way down. I walked passed where Jools was waiting, and it took some shouting to rouse her revealing that I had walked past here some 500m before.

Adonis Blue Polyommatus bellargus (f) What to do now? Well, once back at the car we decide with the time ticking towards ten, we should go for breakfast, at home. Being a Sunday there is bacon, there is bread, there are bacon butties. And whilst eating I can review my shots too, of course.

Now, there are still those Violet Helleborines to see in Barham wood, if we go now I could take some long exposure shots. I suggested to Jools. She wanted to go shopping for shoes first, just stuff for the trip, nothing like a Jimmy Choo hunt, anyway, we agree that we should go to the wood first, parking on the far side at the large paved area, then taking the bridleway through the trees, overgrown as it was by willowherb.

Violet Helleborine Epipactis purpurata To my surprise, some of the spikes had gone over already and showing seed pods developing. Others were in their prime, and the air moved slightly enough, but allowing for most of the shots I wanted. Checking on the group on the far side of the clearing, I am snapping away when Jools has found the only person we have ever seen here, talking about orchids and plants.

Violet Helleborine Epipactis purpurata As I finish I go and join, and turns out it is the chap I met years ago when looking for an Adonis Blue; he remembered me, which is nice. John knows the woods like the back of his hands, and reveals he has been walking this wood for more than 30 years, and know far more about the location of rare plants, including orchids.

Violet Helleborine Epipactis purpurata We go back via De Bradlei Wharf in Dover, I stay in the car as Jools hunts and gathers shoes, so am able to listen to a good interview with Thurston Moore from Sonic Youth. He is now not so youthy, but gravelly of voice. A smart cookie though, and the versions of the Backbeat Band's Beatles covers from the film were hard edged and very good in fact.

On the way back we stop at Westcliffe so I could snap the hay bales in the big rolling field there. Its like shooting fish, so I get some shots and retire back to the car.

Two hundred and eighteen Back home for coffee and an ice cream. Sitting on the patio eating the Magnums, peace and quiet all around, and our garden a riot of colours, and full of butterflies. I go to top up the top wildlife pond, and see the head of a newt sticking out, very much at home. So, there he is at last.

Dinner is chorizo hash, it must seem we have a narrow range of meals, but when you're chef, you get to choose what you make, and Jools likes what we eat, so there is no problem.

Dinner is accompanied by pink fizz and Desert Island Discs, and so another weekend has slipped through our fingers. And outside, the near full moon rises in a velvety blue sky, deep yellow at first as it climbs over the houses the other side of the dip. As I try to control my allergies, I sit outside and bats wheel and tumble, chasing insects before darkness falls.

At the end of the weekend Situation normal.

Sunday, 6 August 2017

Saturday 5th August 2017

Tee minus seven days. And counting.

Start of the Football League Season. You have been warned.

NOw, with the time spent at the Rack the afternoon before, and then coming home to cheese and wine, I was feeling a tad shabby Saturday morning. I could have done with a shower, a shave and a fresh set of clothes. But there is the usual Saturday ritual to be done: coffee, feed the cats and then Tesco. I say I will do Tesco, then we can have breakfast and I will shower and change. Not much needed, so I go round with the last shop for a while, then have an idea; why not go out for breakfast?

Two hundred and seventeen Why not indeed.http://www.dover-kent.com/Black-Robin-Kingston.html So, once back home, we unload the ice cream and dairy stuff, and jump in the car to go to Walmer to the Corner for fry ups. A large breakfast for me, and a normal one for Jools. And much better to have someone cook instead of me, and no washing up. It went down well, and we were fed and watered and on our way back home by nine in the morning. I have shower and shave when I get back and feel almost human.

Almost.

Thing is huge storms were forecast, and there was stuff to do in the garden, and wha with the storm tracker on, it was fin to see the lightning edge ever southwards through the home counties, London and then into Kent. In the end we had a few distant rumbles and that was it, but we had a good soak from a cloudbreak, so I was able to lay on the sofa watching the rain come down, whilst listening to the first games of the season. Norwich were away at Fulham, a place where we have not won since 1986. And we did not have high expectations, but after conceding a poor own goal (but then all own goals are poor no?), City got better, and pulled level with four minutes to go to claim a point and start the season unbeaten. Just 45 more games to go.

It will come as no surprise to learn we dined on insalata caprese, fresh bread and half a bottle of a cheeky red.

May not have been an exciting day, quite relaxing in part, but the garden looks a picture, Norwich are unbeaten meaning I could look at the highlights come nine on Channel 5.

Saturday, 5 August 2017

Friday 4th August 2017

And so, like magic, we come to the day before the weekend. Whereas THursday is just the day before the day before the weekend. As it were.

I feel like I am coming down with a case of cabin fever, so the plan was to leave off work at about midday and walk into town along the cliffs. But before then I could get a five or six hours work in, or so I thought. And there was no car to be repaired or hedge to be trimmed to further divert my attention.

Another walk into Dover I wake up at half five hearing Jools who had been up an hour already, taking the car out of the drive to get to work early so she can catch up with work. She has a graduate or something working with her, and is taking more of her time than she would like. Anyway, the cats have been fed, and all three are out in the early morning sunshine.

Another walk into Dover At half seven I start work, logging my hours, then opening up the document and beginning the checking of references, one by one. By midday I was still stuck on the first one, but I did get some other stuff done. Much tougher going than I imagined. Anyway, I have some scrambled eggs on toast for lunch, switch of both computers and after washing up, pick up two cameras, check for memory cards, and I am off.

Another walk into Dover It was easy going down Station Road needless to day, past the new build house which is being put together at the bottom beside the horse hotel (!), then up the long slog into the village centre, taking the rough road beside the village shop, cross Reach Road and through the estate out across the fields. Already the barley has been harvested from the gig field, manure spread and harrowed in. If I am honest, my back was grumbling, but a breif rest in the village seemed to have helped, so pressing in towards the lighthouse, across the heath, and taking delight in identifying may of the wild flowers swaying in the wind. In fact, a short distance I saw a large clearing, something I had not noticed before, but full of thistles, crocosmia, Golden Rod as well as the usual chalk downland species. It was a dazzling display of colour, and I am left breathless. It must have been here in previous years, but the first time I noticed it.

Another walk into Dover Down by the lighthouse I take the alleyway to the cliff edge, and am met by dozens of people who had walked from Dover to visit the lighthouse. I have walked these cliffs in all weathers in every month of the year, the differences are stunning, as for most of the year if you pass two or more people, it is unusual, but I see dozens, some pushing a buggy with young children, bouncing over the rough ground.

Another walk into Dover It is windy as heck up there, sometimes strong enough to blow a small child into the sea far below. So parents hold on to their small children, to keep them safe.

Another walk into Dover I see some wild flowers, nestling close to the ground, so I get down to snap them, even identifying some of them, like Toadflax. There are a few people waiting at the Fan Bay Deep Shelter, and even more people walking between there and the NT main place. With most people following the main path down Langdon Hole, I take the path away from the cliff before turning down the Cliff Road, mainly because it would be less windy down there, and I might get lucky and see a butterfly or two. In fact I was nearly rewarded with an Adonis Blue, feeding on a sheltered plant, but as I try to get an angle to snap it, it flies away. In the lea of the cliffs, there were a handful of Chalkhills, but I let them be, they having found a sheltered place out of the wind.

Another walk into Dover Down the Cliff Road bending around the face of the cliffs, with the sheer drop to the port below, very quiet for a Friday afternoon. It was walking straight into a head wind, and a strong one at that, so any butterflies about were being thrown about, and anyway, time was getting in and I needed to get into town.

Another walk into Dover To go down, I need to go up first, along the narrow path up the cliff, then down the very steep path under Jubilee Way into East Cliff. OK, my legs were aching, but I had done it, made it into town, just had to walk past the swimming pool and along the edge of the St James Development before taking the path along the river, a more secluded route to Ladywell where the Rack was beckoning. A fair had set up in Pencester Gardens, and there was the sound of screaming from a few of the rides that were already running. I walk by, getting hotter as the valley in which Dover site was shielding us from the breeze.

Another walk into Dover Up the last stretch along the river, and there on the other side was The Rack, and Trish was outside, one hopes looking out for me. But it being a quiet day, she was looking for any customers.

I have a ginger beer to start, something alcohol free to quench my thirst, before going onto some hoppy beer. Lovely beer.

Another walk into Dover Time flies, three o'clock turns to four turns to half past. Jools comes in, and the three blokes in the bar are talking bollocks as usual, but it is funny, I think. Jools arrives, OK, one more beer I hear myself saying.

Sometime after 5, we leave, Jools driving us home. And once there we have cheese and crackers, and foolishly I have a glass of wine of two.

If I'm honest, the evening was a bit of a blur, as was Gardener's World, so we go to bed at half nine and I sleep without stirring.

Thursday 3rd August 2017

It might sound lazy to admit we had a man in to trim our hedges. We could have done it, we cave clippers; both manual and electric, but given that we both work, it would mean doing it at the weekend. Bob over the road has a bloke go round now he can't do the garden, so we had him come round in early spring to trim, and decided to have him come round again this week. An hour or so of work, paid to a bloke with all the tools, done a job it would have taken us most of the day to do. No brainer, really.

Two hundred and fifteen It being Thursday, its bin day, and have to do so in a way to avoid the neighbours, as the cold war continues In fact, not quite true, as Jools did speak to them earlier this week informing them of the hedge trimming, not much else to say other than they said thanks, and that was it. Anyway, bins put out in plenty of time, and I was having breakfast when the gardener came and was waiting outside for the clock to tick round to eight so he could start. I brief him, and say I have to go as I have a meeting to attend. So, I hear the motor of the strimmer fire up, and don the headphones and ring in.

After the trim At nine I go out to see if he wanted a brew, only to be told he was done and was packing up. We make small talk and I explain about the meadow conversion; e is interested, even more so in wild orchids, I could talk for hours on them I warn!

After the trim And then he is gone, and I can get back to work.

I have a pressing task, but the forces of darkness were determined to distract me from my chosen path, and so I get nothing done I had planned.

Come half three, nearly four, I was worn out. I mean worn down by it all, and still am really. THe upcoming break will be very welcoming indeed.

After the trim The evening was spent watching the Women's European Championship; England were playing Holland, and seemed like in with a chance of maybe winning. But from the start they seemed sluggish and second best. 1-0 down at half time, and conceding an early one in the 2nd half, and it was just about over. They hit the post and had a few other chances, but then Holland hit a 3rd with a few minutes left and it was all over. But a great showing from the Lionesses, and nearly 4 million fans watched on TV.

And that was it for another Thursday, just four working days to go now. Not counting, oh no.

Thursday, 3 August 2017

Wednesday 2nd August 2017

Not really much to say about Wednesday, other than it being halfway through the week of course.

THing is, heavy rain was forecast for most of the day, starting at lunchtime and was due to pour until the wee small hours. That meant the picture of the day had to be taken early, lest it be another looking down the garden as rain fell in stair rods, so with the sun low in the south east, I snapped a few with the light coming into the garden at a low angle.

One hundred and fourteen THe car was playing it. Its not been right for some time, but at the service the other week, nothing could be found. But at the weekend, as we drive around, it got worse, shaking when pulling under low revs, like it had last year. So, it was booked in, and as it is easier for me to drop it off, I took Jools into town to catch the bus to Hythe, and I would drop the car off at eight. At least with it being summer holidays, the rush hour doesn't really happen, so at eight when I drove to Whitfield to drop off the car, there were no queues, arriving at the garage on time.

I explained what was wrong, they understood and said the injector coil and plugs would be changed. They were going to drop me back home, but the job should only take half an hour, so would I like to wait? Would I like a coffee? I read Country Life magazine as I waited, it was that or watch GMB, and anything is better than that! Anyway, the magazine was full of stuff to fill your home or wear to parties, all so called "designer", expensive and horrible. I did see a good article on attending the carol service at Brook land church, which we might do this yer, depends really.

And by the time I got to the end of the magazine and drained my coffee cup, the car was done, and done under warrenty, so free! My favourite price.

I go back home and start work, more writing documents, but get lost in the detail. I struggle on.

By lunchtime the rain had started, and so all cats inside and sleeping. Although upon her entrance, Molly brought me a large mouse for lunch. I pass.

Rain falls hard outside now, and it is dark enough to have the light on as I work. But come half three again, I have done six hours or so and decide that enough is enough. Mooly and I sit on the sofa and I catch up on my magazine reading, even reading this week;s, meaning I can take the read ones over to Bob over the road.

At six or so, I have to go to Martin Mill to pick up Jools, her boss drops her off at Sandling, and the train only takes 20 minutes to come round through Dover, meaning she is home just a quarter of an hour later than if she drove. It is hammering down as I wait outside the station, and she half runs to the car, so to be not too wet.

At home I had already prepared the aubergine and cooked it, so within a few minutes we are sitting down to eat, toasting our good fortune once again, while the rain still hammers down outside, and still is when we go to bed three hours later.

Wednesday, 2 August 2017

Tuesday 1st August 2017

And already we are onto Tuesday, hurtling towards the end of my last working week of the year. Really.

And the next two days there is other stuff to deal with, but for today there was to be just me, the work computer and the task of beginning to write a contractual document. Yes, this is my life now, me, and a blank Word template, and come the end of the process, fill it with stuff like I know what I'm talking about. It does mean some serious work, no distractions (sound familiar) and certainly no cats bringing in live mice or birds to break my concentration!

Two hundred and thirteen Oh no.

It is also the start of a new Month, meaning we could no longer say Tony was here last month, already the weeks are speeding past, getting darker in the evenings, I mean its nearly dark by nine now, and the colours of the flowers in the garden are now more dark reds and golden yellows, full of autumnal promise.

And it being a warm and sunny morning, and while I stand at the back door sipping on my second coffee of the day, bees and butterflies are already at work, gathering nectar and pollen, as busy as I should be really. I snap some shots of the Red Admirals on the buddleia, feeding away, and not having to cling on this time as the wind is barely noticeable.

But work is calling, so with a sigh and with a plateful of oatcakes covered with butter and Seville marmalade, I walk into the living room to eat and begin work.

The morning passes, I work away and make good progress if truth be told. And I am happy with the work I have done, so make myself an early dinner of scrambled egg on toast complete with a huge brew. Brain food I tell myself.

Red Admiral Vanessa atalanta And so into the afternoon, until come three o'clock, with my colleagues finished for the day, I take a pause for a walk. I could have waited, but I hoped to see some more butterflies and more flowers to identify.

I take a camera, or two, and walk to the end of the street, then down the lane, but see no Holly Blues about, then walk out over the fields, spotting a new flower in the undergrowth, and one I nearly get the name of right, Red Bartsia. I see a few spikes of it, but in the butterfly glade, it is nearly carpeted with the red plant, and popular with the Common Blues too.

Red Bartsia Odontites verna As soon as I'm in the glade, I see a pair of Common Blues, mating, locked together on a stem of Wild Marjoram. In fact they were still locked together when I left, the female dragging the male around as she tried to disengage, but no luck. Maybe they're still together, all shagged out? At least like that they are easy to snap, just wait for them to be still and snap. Like shooting fish in a barrel.

Common Blues As I stoop to photograph them, a Wall Brown lands at my feet to bask. The Wall is one of the more tricker butterflies to snap, as it basks on the ground and will take off if it feels footsteps. But here it was at my feet, wings three quarter open. So I snap it good too, and being only the third time I have shots of one.

Wall (Brown) Lasiommata megera Nearby there is a newly emerged Small Tortoiseshell, looking so bright and crisp as it basked in the sunlight, I didn't get too close, but close enough for an acceptable shot or ten to be rattled off.

Small Tortoiseshell Aglais urticae I walk back home, reaching the lane at the end of the street and see a dragonfly hunting along the line of the hedge. I tell myself, why are you bothering, they never settle..

Migrant Hawker Aeshna mixta It settled, so I edge closer, reeling of a few shots with each step, until I am within a foot of it, clinging to a fresh spur of ivy. The patterns and colours of it are incredible, and it seems happy enough just to hang there, also basking in the sunshine. That really was the crowning moment of the walk, quite probably the best butterfly hunt I have had in our neighbourhood.

Migrant Hawker Aeshna mixta Back home there is pasta salad to make, and nearer to when Jools returns, I go into the garden to cut a courgette which was now marrow sized, the prepare that instead of an aubergine. No idea if it would work, but being free, would give it a go. Turns out to be slightly more watery than the faithful aubergine, and sweeter too, but if cooked until dark golden brown, were very edible indeed.

Migrant Hawker Aeshna mixta Later in the evening, as the sun set and the three quarter full moon rose, we went to sit in the shelter, look back at the house and marvel at our luck, living here with the cats and each other. Bats came out, swooping chasing insects.

In the night garden In the night garden