Sunday, 26 February 2017

Saturday 25th February 2017

And here is the weekend.

A dull and dreary weekend is forecast, enlightened by some egg chasing and the EA Derby. And we have work to do in the garden.

And, as you will not be surprised, we have shopping to do, and I have a hire car to collect. Lots of ands there.

After a coffee, Jools takes me down to the Eastern Docks to the car hire office, all is well, other than the car and paperwork is not ready. So there is some waiting to do. The terminal building is typical of the kind of space that caters for the poorest travelers; it is functional, clean but clear of any real comfort for those that have to wait or linger. here is a Costa coffee shop, but food there is really amed at the richer part of the traveling public. I mean a bag containing half a dozen bite sized shortbread pieces comes in at £2.55.

There is an FNG learning the ropes, and he has the task of filling out the green card which authorises me to take the car out of the country. Finally, the paperwork is done, but the car is still being cleaned. By the time it is done, it is quarter to nine, and so I go home waiting for Jools to come back from Tesco with the shopping, and breakfast.

Once she is back, we put the shopping away, brew another pot of coffee and warm up the croissants. And then, the idea had been to go to St Nicholas at Wade, but the wind had already got up, and it seemed to be a dangerous thing to travel too far in such conditions. Anyway, we had jobs to do in the garden.

Fifty five Between the two of us, we drag the bag of topsoil, or what's left of it, down to the second of the raised beds. SOmehow we manage to get the bag over the wooden edge and empty the bag into the bed. It is still very empty and so we will need another bag.

Next up was to move the quince tree from its place in the middle of the "lawn" to a more sheltered place beside the shed. In time we will replant it, but it has not been happy since arriving at Chez Jelltex, the leaves grow, turn green and then over the space of a few weeks turn brown and drop off. We think it is either wind burn or lack of water. So, the first stage is to shelter the tree, hence the move. It it fares better, then we will replant it in the autumn.

Finally, there is the budhlya to prune. I say prune, I get the saw out and hack it to the stump. Looks harsh, but it always re-grows. And once cut, we have to trip the branches to get in the bags so they will be collected by the council. Phew.

And with that is is nearly lunchtime, I go inside to make rolls and brews.

THere is rugby on TV, Wales v Scotland. Or was it the other way round. Anyway, watching the game on TV and with the football on the radio beside me on the sofa. This is the life for sure. And no stress about Norwich, as they don't play until Sunday, so just sheer enjoyment in taking in all the sports.

In the evening we start to watch a new BBC series, Taboo, which we have been saving to bingewatch on the i player. We manage to get through two episodes, and for the moment we think we know what it is called Taboo, other than that, seems to be all all style over substance. But a lot of style, so that's OK.

Saturday, 25 February 2017

Friday 24th February 2017

We made it, at least the the start of the last day of the working week! Say, take two days off.

Yes, it is Friday, spring is on the way, mornings are lighter, evenings too are getting lighter. Soon the orchid season will have begun, and we will be out, out out every opportunity.

But until then, there is work, stuff to do in the garden and wait on our feline overlords at their beck and call. Because, and lets be honest about this, is why I work from home every other week now.

Here comes the Queen Anyway, Jools just has a 6 hour day, and mine should be something similar, however, things did not work out quite that way.

Spring colours and shapes On top of that, there is the fountain to put back upright. Molly comes out to supervise the work, just in case I might like to feed her at the same time. Every time I go out to the garden, there is something else to see either shooting out of the soil, or has flowers opening. THanks to a hole in the hedge, a ray of light is illuminating two blue crocus under the fir trees, it looks so picture perfect, I go back inside and fix the macro lens on the 6D and take some snaps.

On top of that, the four pots of dwarf iris looks stunning in the sunshine, so I take shots of those as well.

Spring colours and shapes The fountain is back upright, and looking fine in the spring sunshine. How lucky we are I say for the millionth time since moving here.

Back inside I finally get through to IT after not being able to use a piece of software, as I show him how after clicking on the app icon,showing how it fails to work. It works. Why is this always the case?

Oh well. I then find that the codes I have for inputting the information are not valid for the new year, so back to square one.

Spring colours and shapes Oh look, nearly dinner time. But instead of baking rolls, I rustle up a batch of Norfolk Short Cakes. These are something my Nana used to make, and are just wonderful either fresh out of the oven or once cool. Heck, good for breakfast, lunch or just a snack. I tell myself, when I get them out of the oven, I will have just the one so when Jools comes home we can have a brew and another one.

Fifty four And somehow, I manage to keep to that.

Work throws a curveball, and I find myself working until half three, but just as I pack up, Jools arrives home with the emergency supply of milk, so we can have that brew. And a short cake. Yum indeed.

I put on the radio, and Steve Lamacq is playing some cracking tunes for the end of the week, as he always does. I cook dinner, boiled chicken and rice, whilst the weekend soundtrack kicks on.

Yeah baby!

Friday evening is quiz night, that is until the return of The Don. So after Top of the Pops from April 1983, which I can remember being aired, and coincided with me starting a job training scheme at Hubbards Electrical in Lowestoft. I can remember going out of the Ford Transit delivery truck with Joboxers blaring pout of the radio on Radio 1 on AM. Those were the days.

Anyway: Mastermind followed by Only Connect means that it is soon nine in the the evening. So, one final check of the interwebs and see what that Shitgibbon Trump has been up to now. Banning the free press because of all the lies they print because of the leaks of lies coming out of the White House and everywhere else in government. If the leaks are lies, and printing them are lies, then what is the problem you Nazi shitgibbon? Fake news from a fake president.

Friday, 24 February 2017

Thursday 23rd February 2017

In order to make our mild weather more interesting, a few years ago, the Met Office began to name storms. And yesterday, Doris blew in. I mean, who names a storm Doris? Doris Storm sounds like she could be either a background character in a gritty northern soap, or someone who plays roller derby. Not a life-threatening storm!

And so yesterday, along came Doris, blew a lot of warm air, knocked over a lot of trees, took out most major rail routes, disrupted power, and made for dramatic photos on coasts, especially in the west. Here in St Maggies, it was windy, and caused minor damage to the garden, but more of that yesterday.

Fifty three Wind had built up during the night, and by dawn was a full blown (ahem) gale. Trees and other plants were blown sideways, and cats made it clear that unless there was a danger of bursting, there was no way they were going back outside. And neither was I unless I had to. And I had to as it was bin day, even if Jools had put them out when she left for work, but I had to go back out several time to rescue our and those of our neighbours from blowing away. The rain was horizontal, and wasn't much fun, but then interesting too, in the sense that I was quite interested to get back inside.

But then there was always work to take my attention from the weather, and then there was a promise of a nice early meeting at eight, that only two of us turned up to. We swapped news, and then got back to the stuff we should be doing.

Stormageddon 2017 Thankfully I have the radio on in the background so to keep my mind from wandering too far.

Outside the wind peaked just after lunch. I looked out the back, now bathed in bright sunshine and the fountain had been knocked over, but that was the extent of it. Clouds rushed across the sky, light changed moment by moment.

Stormageddon 2017 Before it got dark I go back out to put the fountain upright, fill the reservoir with water and re-position the pots I had placed around it. Ten minutes later it was down again, like me leaving the beer festival! Ha.

Jools gets home safe and sound, and I can get round to cooking dinner: grilled marinated lamb, fried potatoes and garlic mushrooms. I had got the lamb out that morning, made a marinade out of honey and mustard salad dressing, smoked salt, pepper,fresh garlic, mustard seeds, rosemary and a clove or two. Whizzed up with some olive oil, and it was perfect. And the meat was done just perfect, lovely with the dressing on.

Late in the evening news came that Leicester had sacked their manager some ten months after guiding them to the most unexpected of league triumphs, showing that there is no sentement left in the game, and the reality that you're only as good as your last game.

Thursday, 23 February 2017

Wednesday 22nd February 2017

It is only when we are getting better, do we maybe realise how ill, or how shitty we have felt. And indeed, so it came to pass yesterday evening, that my sciatica did pass, and so I no longer have partially numb legs and shuffle around like an old bloke. No, I shuffle around like a middle aged one instead. But, and I won't go into details here, after an event, the sciatica did pass, and I am now able to go up and down stairs with no trouble, stand whilst cooking and not getting back ache. And so on.

But before then, I did still feel crappy. That getting to the post office on Tuesday seemed such an effort, I wondered how on earth I used to walk into Folkestone without thinking much of it. Anyway, let us hope I never have to speak of it again.

It is so light in the morning, with clear blue skies, it appeared almost full light at six in the morning when I was woken up by Scully jumping back on the bed after being fed. Jools had gotten up a few minutes before without disturbing me. Anyway, I can smell coffee brewing, and that means I need to get up.

Just the usual stuff to report on: coffee, breakfast, more coffee, listening to the radio. And then work. I catch up on the electronic mail, update spreadsheets, make calls and the usual stuff. Been quite a good week at work, a nice steady stream of mails without become a torrent or avalanche. Just steady.

Fifty two I put a free ad up on Facebook so we could get shot of the old sofa bed. I liked it, but as we only used it as a bed, it seemed sense to actually get a bed instead. I was reluctant to get rid of it, I suggested to keep it intitially for those who said were coming to the beer festival, and then to use it in the shelter. But then every one dropped out of coming over, and it became clear that it wasn't practical to use it, or store the mattress outside. So, a coulple came round to collect it, it was mostly dismantled, but I had to take apart the subframe so they could get it in their Astra. And then it was gone, much more room in the bathroom where we had stored it.

Looking in the garden, it seems the fruit canes are just still sticks. But not dead sticks, and in the beds we dug 18 months ago, the Fritillaria imperialis are sprouting already, and as last year, growing at a remarkable rate. Not all beds have them showing, but I'm sure we will soon have a fine showing, and so spring is getting ever nearer. Wildlife ponds needs topping up with rain water, just the usual stuff.

With the weather forecast is for storms on Thursday, I try to batten down the garden, protecting that which could be blown over, the most suspect was the footballer's wives fountain. I prop it up with two large pot plats, hoping that those and the reservoir of water would keep it upright. Job done, I check the mails, and then take to the sofa to rest my poor back, watching some Time Team whilst Molly keeps me company once again. In this way the afternoon passes, and by the time I stand up to feed the cats, the day was fading outside.

Jools is coming home with fish and chips, so I just have to butter a couple of slices of bread, make sure the kettle is freshly brewed for drinks, and other than wait, I have the radio on and am dancing round the living room to Madonna tunes.

She comes home at quarter past six, filling the house with the smell of freshly fried food and that mix of salt and vinegar fumes which there is no other way to get.

You will not be surprised to learn there is more football on the radio, indeed I could have watched it on TV, if we had BT Sport, which we don't. Plans are coming together for the holiday to Skye, with an alternative plan now for the car hire. News of that when all is confirmed. But the holiday is getting close, as so is the arrival of a certain ex-Olympic cyclist who will join us on the adventure to bonnie Scotland. Much more of that when it happens, I can assure you.

Wednesday, 22 February 2017

Tuesday 21st February 2017

A week working from home fells almost as good as a holiday. I mean I can lay in bed, have a leisurely breakfast, commute to the next chair at the dining room table, have the radio on, eat sandwiches or leftovers for lunch, be pestered by the cats and be able to look long at the birds in the front garden and the emergence of the spring plants in the back garden. How lucky am I?


So, we get up at six as usual and feed the cats, make coffee and check up on the world to see if Mad Donald has been even madder. Only 7 years 11 months before his craziness is over. Sadly. Unless he is impeached. That there are people still defending hm and his policies, and the way he attacks the 4th estate, almost as though he has stuff to hide. I mean, links with Russia, tax returns, dredging up his past and things he has said in the past. And holding him and his administration to account, why would be be afraid of that?

Jools leaves for work, leaving me to work and the three cats to sleep the morning through. And some of the afternoon, waking up to be instantly hungry and come to me to demand meow. And now!

I spend the morning trying to get my new work phone to work. I guess something is happening as my old phone has no signal, meaning no one can call me. Result! But the new phone works once I restart it, and then I have to figure out how it works. I have no idea. I have yet to receive a call on it. However, I have to sync my work e mail to it, and IT have helpfully made a page on the intranet to help. Only there are three different sorts of phone; android, OS and Windows. What do I have? no idea. I google the phone name and it is android.

I have to download an app from the store, apparently. But it fails to recognise me, or my authority to do this. Finally I work out how to link Outlook on the phone to my account, and in an hour all my mails come pouring in.

It is lunchtime, and there is leftover chorizo hash to have. I had planned to make an omelette, but look in the fridge and find zero eggs. So, I just warm it up in a frying pan and it is pretty darn good, even if the potato cubes are not as crunchy as last night. Still, not bad for lunch.

I have to return my old phone, and at the same time I could post off 12 months of travel receipts. And I need to have eggs for dinner, so no other choice but to walk into the village, down and up Station Road, past the empty Red Lion. Its a cool day, but the hill soon has me puffing. In the post office, I meet the village character, he stinks, and smells of stale wee. Really quite unpleasant. I think he needs help to be honest, and once he leaves the post office, the ladies behind the counter asks if we would leave the door open so to ventilate the shop.

I send the phone and receipts back, costing a total of eight quid.

In the village shop, I meet the character again, he is talking to a packet of cornflakes. I grab the eggs and a magnum, pay and make a dash for it before he comes near. I sit outside on a bench eating the ice cream. Its not really summer weather, but hey, why not?

Back home, there is more work to be done, but I finish early to sit on the sofa to ease my sciatica. Such is things when you get old, I suppose. The sofa is soft and means Molly can come and sit between me and the arm of the sofa, she purrs all the way through a whole episode of Time Team, I am nearly as happy.

I finish off the flower bed, plant the roses and water them in. Job done. I am supervised by Scully who is keen to make sure I have no kitty kibbles down there, she is excited when I get the boxes of bonemeal and rose food out of the shed, but is disappointed when it turns out not to be kibbles.

Fifty one I make breaded pork and lentil dahl for dinner. A dinner of champions. In anticipation, I open a bottle of Leffe Rituel, at 9% a powerful beer, and as is usual, a 70cl bottle. Now I will say in mitigation that I had bought it to give a friend when we met in London, but he bailed, and so I have a bottle of beer in the fridge. So, I open it when I start to cook, and all is going well until I get a call from Jools to say she is stuck in traffic heading down into Dover. She may be some time.

Leffe Rituel I take a sip of beer.

And another.

By the time she gets back, I have drunk one healthy glass and pour a second, leaving just a mouthful in the bottle. I finish off the pork, warm the lentils through and serve. Lovely.

You will not be surprised to hear that there was football on the radio, so I sit at the table, listening and following the banter on Twitter. It am the modern way.

And that was Tuesday.

Over to you, m'lords

In which we ask, what is the upper chamber for in a Parliamentary democracy.

Is it to either rubber stamp everything the lower chamber says and does, or is it to scrutinise and question legislation that is passed before them.

If it is the former, then we may as well save ourselves a whole load of money and abolish it now. If it is the latter, to ensure that The Commons dies not pass something through without realising, or ignoring the implications. Say, something like the Brexit Bill.

That on the day that the Lords began their debates about the bill, many of the pillars of the 4th estate chose to run stories questioning the point and relevance of the Upper Chamber. Coming after the recent attacks on the Judiciary as being "Enemies of the People" in applying the rule of law to the question of article 50. So in the space of a few months, two pillars of our society have been attacked by the press for frustrating the people's will rather than just accepting it and ignoring the law.

The "Will of the People" is an euphemism for whatever the speaker, usually Nigel, in justifying whatever extreme right wing of racist policy he is peddling that particular day. I will spell this out nice and simple for Nigel and all the other Brexiteers, the referendum was advisory. The Government could have made the result mandatory, but chose not to. Secondly, only 37% actually voted for it, 63% did not. And finally they need to realise or admit that both sides will want something out of the negotiations, not just Britain, and that without giving something we will not get anything back.

Finally, the nuclear situation, is in March 2019, not deal in place and Britain crashing out of the EU with chaos reigning, and falling back onto WTO schedules, if they can be agreed. That the EU has not agreed on schedule for nearly 15 years means that even if Britain getting the same terms as it does currently, means working out what terms the EU is on, what percentage of those terms applies to Britain and then getting all other 161 countries to agree on that.

Probably the most amazing thing is that the Government, and most of the 4th estate, are willing to start a process they have no idea whether they can stop or not. Or how mediation will take place in case of a chaotic exit. Madness with bells on it.

Finally, David Davis admitted today, that mass immigration by EU workers will have to continue after any Brexit, simply because areas like agriculture, the NHS and care homes rely so heavily on unskilled labour from abroad. So another lie of the Brexiteers comes crashing down, no restricting immigration, no £450 million a week for the NHS on top of leaving the Single Market and other European institutions that were not mentioned on the ballot.

We have to hope that the House of Lords this month does the job of the opposition and insert clauses ensuring that cecks and balances are put in, and maybe the oportunity for Parliament itself to reject the final deal, and make the Government and the 2 year timeframe start again.

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Monday 20th February 2017

THe start of the working week, and the day on which Jools found out about the job.

But more of that later.

Seeing as we were both tired, for whatever reason, we did not set the alarm until six, by which times the cats were most impatient and outside dawn was already showing away in the south east. But then, since December 21st, the light of the rising sun has slowly moved from a more generally southern direction to SSE and then SE, and will continue to rise ever more eastwards until June 21st arrives, and then the rising sun will move back south again, day by day.

We have coffee, check on the web to make the world is as crazy as it was yesterday, and it is. Not sure if that is a good thing, but with the 45th President of the goold old US of A getting is foreign policy information from Fox News rather than government agencies, then we can agree that is is full on fruit loopy crazy.

Jools leaves for work, and I log on to the work computer to see what's been happening, as due to incompetence, not on my part, I had avoided work all weekend. Good news was that there had been no major issues, and I hadn't been missed. Which is good.

Fifty I also have a new work phone I have to make work. It is some kind of Samsung thing, and seems very good, well as being a phone I suppose. I don't use 99% of what a mobile can do, and this it will be less than that, but IT had sent me a very informative guide telling me how to transfer my old number to the new phone.

I call EE, give them the number and am told that there is no name registered against the number, so cannot ask any security questions, so do nothing.


I call IT, and turns out this is not unknown, and he will deal with it, so I have to just wait. In the meantime I catch up on mails, update documents and project folders. That takes all morning.

After lunch, I am waiting for a delivery. A delivery of soil, so we can fill up the two raised beds in the back garden. The truck arrives at two, so I tell him where to drop the tonne of soil, it is some distance away from the back of the garden. In fairness there is the house, a fence and other stuff in the way. So this means it would be a spade and a wheelbarrow job.

Now, it is some time since I did any serious manual labour, even walking at the moment is hurting due to something I have done to my lower back, so this would be interesting. After a couple of return trips, I have a plan, use the spade to fill up the barrow, take it to the bottom of the garden, and using the side of the bed, using it a pivot, empty the soil in. After a few return trips, the old bad back kicks in, so after two trips, I have a 5 minute rest.

What I missed out when I wrote this first, was that the barrow had seen better days. I did not realise that the wheel came off. And came off every time I unloaded it, and if I was too quick going up the steps to the house. Time and time and time again, I had to turn it over and refit the wheel before carrying on with work. I made the whole process take twice as long.

Up and down I go, and the bed fills up. That is until I trample it down. So much more to go. Back and forth I go, moaning and groaning about my back, but then not giving up. At twenty past five, I do the last trip, the sun has set, the sky had turned from blue to red to pink and was now going dark. I even put away the tools, satisfied with the afternoons work. Just don't sit down or I would not move.

Jools arrives home with the news we have all been waiting for: she did not get the job, she is disappointed, but then means we don't have to go through the upheavals and only seeing each other three days in ten. Like everything, its been an experience, and can use this to move on.

I cook chorizo hash, always a welcome meal, and especially heartening after an afternoon's hard work with spade and wheelbarrow. I have even remembered to put a bottle of fizz int he fridge, so as I dished up dinner, Jools popped the cork and we toasted our luck in living here, having each other and the cats.

THe evening was spent on the sofa where any movement was painful, but then a reminder I have to do more of anything to avoid getting old before my time. Sutton were playing Arsenal, but no upsets this time, the Gooners running out 2-0 winners, but a good game anyway.

Monday, 20 February 2017

Sunday 19th February 2017

Second day of the weekend, and turns out that despite us both being knackered all weekend, we were both wide awake at six, and the cats said that seeing we were awake would we find it in ourselves to feed them? Needless to day after thinking about it for a while, we did get up, feed the cats and make coffee. Sweet strong coffee.

There was the upsets from the previous day's football to catch up on. I stop after the first two games to make bacon butties and huge fresh brews. Then go back to the sofa to complete the football.

Sunday Once that was watched, I see that the sun was out, much against what the BBC had promised, so I got the idea that we should go out so I could take shots of snowdrops before the light went. So, I hurried Jools up, got my gear together and we drove to Waldershare, where around the old chapel there are hundreds of snowdrops in among the old graves.

I picked what I thought the most photogenic clump, lay on the wet grass and took a hundred or so shots. It was only when I got home I found that many of the shots could not be used due to dust, or looking more like cumps of mud, on the sensor.

Once back home, I walk along to the house at the end of the street, as his daffodils have finally come out, some eight weeks later than last year, but still feels early. As well as that, the first of the dwarf iris are out in our garden, a flash of colour just outside the living room windw, and everywhere else, there are the green shoots of other spring bulbs, including the large fritillaries showing above the damp and heavy soil.

Forty nine That done we drove home to do some more relaxing, and listening to the radio. As you do.

Lunch was cheese and crackers, I opened a bottle of beer, intending only to drink half of it saving the rest for dinner. Only, I ended up polishing off the bottle sitting on the sofa watching the Fulham v Spurs game, but within twenty minutes of the start I was sound asleep. I wake up several times, check on the score and go back to sleep.

As the game finished, I wake up, but to say my head was wooly would be the same as saying it had a flock of sheep grazing inside it. Still, as I was awake, best make a coffee and prepare to listen to the 2nd game of the day, Blackburn v Man U, which also ended in a 3-0 win for the Prem team.

And by now it was evening, which means the weekly ordeal that is the phone call with Mother dearest. There is no news from Lowestoft, other than Mum has blocked ears. So I spoke loudly, just to be sure she could hear. Anyway, she did not laugh. The call lasted ten minutes, does that mean I am excused phone call duties for 4 weeks? Apparently not.

We watch a fine tele-visual program of a year in the life of a mountain. No really, and if you can, watch "Life of a Mountain: A Year on Blencathra" and marvel at the cinematography. I know we did.

Sunday, 19 February 2017

Saturday 18th February 2017

And welcome to the weekend. Waking up at half six was several hour too early, and it took some time to get going, but as always a cup of fresh coffee always helps.

We have to go to Tesco, there are five items on the shopping list, but we still manage to spend seventy quid, somehow. Over twenty of that was on kitty kibbles, which shows how much we care. That and milk, bacon, fruit and vegetables. With trolley loaded we pay and go to the car.

Back home we have croissants and another coffee.

Now, on Friday we took delivery of six raspberry canes, two loganberry canes and two red current bushes. Looking at the planting instructions, we see to our surprise that we could not plant them in the beds where the old canes used to grow. So, we did some thinking and decided on a new bed near to the raised beds, which meant we would have to get the tool out to dig an area one by three metres. Not much you would think.

We alo had to get some bonemeal for the roots, and then there is the bird food and fat balls for the badgers/foxes that we need too. So a trip to Charlton to the pet food place and to Morrison's for some pies (don't ask), then back up the hill to B&Q.

It would have been tempting to sit around all day, but the canes needed planting, so we put our boots and coats on, got the tool out and marked out the bed.

We dug it over, then scattered garden compost and dug that in before finally digging a trench, sprinkling the trench and roots with bonemeal, planting the canes and stamping them down before watering them in. Took about two hours, and we had aching limbs, but we looked at what we had done, and it looked good. Jools did some tidying up, we had stopped for lunch, but now it was three in the afternoon and kick off time.

Forty eight And already there had been the first cup shock as Lincoln had knocked out Burnley 1-0. Millwall knocked out Leicester by the same score, and in the league we hoped City would continue their upward course, but sadly due to injuries and not being at the races, they slipped to a 2-1 defeat. I was going to go up to Burton for the game, but friends never confirmed the details, so more pain was avoided. But losing still hurts, even if you're 200 miles away.

I cook kofte kebabs and fried spuds, after speaking with my friend Tony on the other side of the world thanks to the wonder that is messaging on Facebook. The modern world is wonderful. Except when it isn't, clearly.

Saturday, 18 February 2017

Friday 17th February 2017

I have no idea why modern hotels think that a guest would not want to open a window. As the month progresses, each day seems to get warmer, as does each night. Using the air conditioning would have run the rist of an allergy attack, so I hope for a good nights sleep. THe late and large dinner meant that I was awake before four, so hot thanks to the combination of the lack of fresh air and meat sweats. I toss and turn, but there is no way I am going back to sleep.

So it is just as well that I have to attend the tool box meeting before the guys sail, to make a speech about quality matters. Once upon a time I would baulk at speaking to half a dozen people, but 50 technicaians all ready to go to work; now no problem.

Anyway, I pack and having already paid, all I have to do is walk to the car park under the casino, pay the €44 bill for 36 hour's parking, load the car and drive to the office. And I feel and must look like death warmed up. I feel like shit, should have had a shower, but I did not want to be late for the briefing. I'm not.

After saying my considered words, I can get down to work, updating the files with the latest reports and inspections. It takes a couple of hours, but feels good to be back in control. My friend, Chris, cooks some bacon for breakfast, just as well as I had missed the one at the hotel, obviously. So some bacon and curry ketchup hits the spot.

COme half eleven, with the last meeting out of the way, I think I have done enough, so pack up and load the car for the drive to the tunnel. I say goodbye to the guys still working, and off I go.

I take the scenic way, down along the network of canals leading in the same general direction of the A10, but avoiding the huge roundabout in town. I join the motorway, accelerating past two trucks, soon taking the exit to head south towards the border with La Belle France.

There's more British cars on the road, it being half term, and most of them are in a mighty hurry, motoring past me at speeds in excess of 100mph, as I am already at the limit of 120kmh, and they leave me standing. Oh well.

I am feeling no better, and my eyes itch thanks to the lack of sleep, but at least the drive down to the port is just over an hour, I'd be OK. Once I reach Calais, I think about going to the wine warehouse, but decide against it, it can wait as I'm back in two weeks.

There are lines at the tunnel, not too bad, takes about 20 minutes to get through the two sets of immigration. There was just time to go to the lounge, pick up a baguette and a drink before joining the short queue of three care waiting to board.

Forty eight We are let on, and I realise that the two cars in front are identical Range Rover Vogues, each with families of yummy mummies and various offspring. I try not to judge people, happy enough to people watch, but bot families clearly not short of a bob or two. Last thing I heard when it was time go drive off, was one of the Mums saying "have you all got your i pads?"

Once we have driven off and gone round the ramp and onto the on ramp to the motorway, they accelerate away, but I have a lane to myself leading back onto the A20 and back to Folkestone and Dover. On the radio, the Radcliffe and Maconie show starts.

I am home by half one, time for a brew and a sandwich, and unload the car before it is time to meet Jools on her way home from work down in the docks so I can drop the car off. It all works perfectly well, as I walk out of the car hire office, she pulls up, so I can get in and we drive home, and the good news was that the weekend had begun. With such a long hard week, once home I switch the mobile off, and it feels good to have done so.

It is clear to Jools, and me, that I am in state or mood to go to Tony's party that evening. I had forgotten all about it, and I groaned when Jools reminded me about it. She agreed to go to the chippy to get me cod and chips, meaning not only did I not have to go out to the party, neither did I have to cook either.

I have a night of music and quizzes: TOTP followed by Mastermind, Only Connect, a documentary on AOR and finally The Boss talking about the writing of The River. I should have gone to bed two hours previously, but Jools had gone out without a doorkey, so, I sit up drinking rumtopf. As you do.

At least that meant I would sleep well. Oh yes.

Friday, 17 February 2017

Thursday 16th February 2017


Leuven day.

Once a month I have to travel to Leuven for a meeting. In fact, several colleagues all have to, and sit round a table and discuss things. So since work began here in Oostende, I just travel from here instead of coming over on the Eurostar, and for the past few months, Manu has given us a lift from here to Leuven saving us the issue of getting a train.

Manu is at the same hotel as I, so we meet in the breakfast bear at half seven, then drive in the Manumobile to the office for a couple of hours work, before we then, along with Chris, get back in the car and drive to Leuven. Let me say now, this is not a chore. Manu puts some tunes on so we can sing along, we make jokes and funny observations, and so the time goes quick. In fact we all realised that these days are coming to an end soon, and we might look on days such as this, fondly.

We soon drove into fog, causing us to slow down, but after Gent it cleared, only for there to be roadworks so we got jammed up for half an hour. Still, music played, we sang and laughed.

We arrived an hour early, so I could take a short trip to the cathedral in Leuven, I have been wanting to do this for many months but had put it off, but now chances were running out, so, armed with the camera and two lenses, I rush round the chancel, now called The Treasury, which is packed with Flemish Art, a precursor to Gothic, and all is wonderful, just not enough time to see everything.

Forty seven In the main part of the church, the pews are dominated by the most extraordinary pulpit, showing a rock with two trees growing out the top, it seems to be carved from a single piece of wood, and is crazy bonkers. But glorious. It is covered with cherubs and squirrels, which is nice.

But onto the meeting.

And once over, we retire to The Capital for beer and venting. We have two beers each, then Chris and I realise we have time for a third before we have to walk to the station to catch the half six train back to Oostende. The record shop had just closed, thus meaning I saved several Euros, and we walked on.

We get seats on the train, and soon fall into a slumber as the express zooms to Brussels, then rattles between the tree city centre stations, before heading into the night to Gent and Bruges and finally into Oostende.

A colleague had arrived that evening from Denmark, so we arrange to meet in Den Artiest, a taxi to Chris and I from the station, dropping us at the door. Jesper was waiting and waving as we entered, so we join him at the table and in having another beer.

We all ordered steak, fries and more beer, and all is well with the world. Almost. But then it is half nine, I have to be up in seven hours, and am shattered.

Phew rock and roll.

On the way back to the hotel, the strap on my work bag broke, rounding off a fine day, leaving me to seethe as I walk into the night.

Wednesday 15th February 2017


And a day in the office ahead, waking up in the frugal surroundings of the hotel room. I have a shower, get dressed then go down to the breakfast bar where there is only a limited choice, unlike at the Andromeda, which is like a banquet in comparison.

Outside, it is nearly light, showing how the year is moving on, and spring is really close. It even felt mild to as I walked to the car park to free the car at a cost of €22.

Somehow, events put paid to my usual plans of work, ended up fighting fires instead, and then four hours of meetings followed, including one over lunch, so I was able to hear others eat whilst I listened to the meeting via Skype.

We wait for the technicians to come back to shore, and as they arrived in the harbour, dark clouds flew over, and soon the heavens opened with a downpour of almost Biblical proportions, turning what was left of the day to night, only for it to stop as quickly as it started, and we were then greeted with a fine and colourful sunset as the setting sun turned the clouds and sky bright red before turning to pink and then fading to night.

Forty six We go to the burger place next door to the Andromeda for dinner. Again. And have burger, fries and beer. Again. And it is good. Again. All in all, it’s not a bad life.

Back in my room I watch Arsenal fall to pieces playing Bayen in the CL, they lose 5-1 for the second year running, showing no real improvement in any department nor learning from their mistakes. Still, got to laugh.

Tuesday 14th February 2017

And back to work. Back to reality.

Tuesday comes round, and it time to return to the grindstone, to put in the hours. And travel to Oostende once again. I do need a car however, and due to the fact I was on me holibobs for the week, so could not have a car delivered or picked up on Monday, I would have to do it Tuesday morning, but this would delay my travel plans by at least an hour.

Shooting stars In the end it could have been worse.

Jools agreed not to go to work too early, so dropped me off in town at just gone seven, which gave me an hour to kill before the car hire office opened at eight. It was almost light, clouds had cleared, so I thought I would take a walk along the prom, take in the sights, take some shots and stretch my legs.

Forty five Jools dropped me off by the old Prince of Wales Pier, which is being rebuilt at the moment and so is out of bounds. Not quite sure what it will be like, as it seems funding from Europe seems to have dried up; odd that. Anyway, work is ongoing, so I take some record shots of the clock tower and pier before beginning to walk north.

Early morning walk along Dover Prom Away to my right, the sun rose, all red and angry, but gave the promise of a fine day for travel. I snap it many times, and the reflections on the water and wet sand on the beach. Wading birds and gulls were searching for food before the tide turned. I looked at my watch to find it had stopped during the night, and when I looked at it, thinking it was twenty five to seven, it really read twenty five to eleven, or something. Upside down. I had no idea what the time was.

Early morning walk along Dover Prom I walked on, crossed over Townwall Street and under East Cliff into the port and to the office, where the staff were having brews. It was quarter to eight.

I have come for a car, says I. In what name, so I told them. No ready until four she says.

Early morning walk along Dover Prom Bugger.

But we can give you a different one. You’ll have to wait.

So I waited. 15 minutes. 30 minutes. 45 minutes. It was done.

So it was quarter to nine by the time I got back home, packed and made breakfast. I gulped it down, washed up and loaded the car. Nine fifteen.

I am on my way and halfway to the tunnel when I realised my phone was on charge at home. So I have to go back for it. I arrive at the tunnel at ten, having just missed a train, so have to sit and wait. So I pick up a free lunch, a copy of the FT and wait. And wait.

Early morning walk along Dover Prom We are allowed to board at just gone eleven, and then sit waiting for half an hour while a fault is fixed. Announcements are finally made and the train pulls out.

All of this means I arrive in Calais at midday, and have an hour drive ahead, which means I was going to miss the meeting. You know the drill by now, through Calais to the motorway, up to Dunkirk then over the border into Belgium. Across Flanders and finally turn onto the A10. Half one.

No point in going to the meeting, as I had not been able to read mails or papers to brief myself, so instead go to the office to begin the catch up process and sort through seven and a half day’s mail.

I could not get a room in the usual hotel, so am back in the Mercure, which is OK, just has no parking, and so have to use the park beneath the casino at €22 a night, nearly as much as the hotel room.

And I have the usual room, not bad, but just a bed and bathroom really. There is enough time to dump my bags before meeting up with Chris and another Brit for dinner. Despite it being Valentine’s Day, there were plenty of spaces where I usually order the Thai red curry. Which I and Chris have, and washed down by a bottle or two of Trappist beers, is splendid.

Back in my room for quarter to nine to follow the City game via Twitter. One down after 29 seconds, 2-1 up after twenty minutes, and in the end hanging on for a 2-2 draw with Newcastle. Phew

Monday 13th February 2017

The big day had arrived.

I say big day, what it was, was that I had arranged to inside a church in London. Myself and several other GWUKers had tried several times to see inside it, but we always found it locked. So, thanks to the internet, I was able to arrange a time and date when a small group of us would be allowed in. Or so we hoped, I mean one can never tell if on the day we were told no.

But, with arrangements made between the four of us, all that was left was to make sure camera batteries were charged, memory cards had enough memory, and then to set the alarm for early doors.

Even though the appointment was for two in the afternoon, as Jools had to go to work early, she dropped me off at Martin Mill at six so I could catch the early train upto London. At least it wasn't as cold as last time I stood here, but this time it was for pleasure, not for work, so maybe it was my mind telling me I was enjoying standing on the platofrm in the inky blackness just before dawn.

Javelin A few other hardy souls were also waiting, but it being the first day of half term, many parents were taking the week off too, which explained why the train was nowhere near full even after the Ebbsfleet stop. As we neared London, dawn came, showing up the late winter countryside, and mirror like River Medway as we thrashed over it at 140mph.

St Pancras by the slice I also got to stay on the train until St Pancras, but had no real idea of what I was going to do with my morning, other than take lots of photos. As we came out of the tunnel, crossed the ECML and rounded the final bend into St Pancras, I saw the old gasometers that used to tower over the tracks, now moved and one turned into a park, whilst others contained new builds. I have always wanted to see that park I thought.

So it was that I walked down into the subway, along the illuminated passageway to Granary Square, then mixing it with the builders trudging to work, carrying snap and bottles of high caffeine drinks. I stopped to take pictures at regular intervals, smiling as I did so. This was great, a clear day, soon to be bright sunshine and all of it to take shots in.

The builders went through a turnstile, and I walked on, down an alley, and into the park. And being early I had it to myself, just a couple of security guards walked by making jokes whilst they smoked. I took many shots, then stood on the side of the canal as trains left St Pancras on the other side of the water. I took more pictures.

Gasholder Park, Kings Cross There was a path alongside the canal, which took me back to St Pancras where I had spotted a nice Italian place where I could have breakfast. But for now, I was happy enough walking along the footpath, dodging joggers and cyclists, looking at river tugs moving barges full of spoil. I took photos of those too.

Javelin I had a cooked Italian breakfast and two huge cups of coffee. Spicy sausage was both spicy and a sausage. And good.

Fully fueled, I went down to the Thameslink platforms to try to get a shot of one of the new class 700 units. I only had to walk onto the platform to see one leaving. I took the first train south to Farringdon, got out to wait for one of the new units. It was less crowded there and better light. I only had to wait two minutes before the next train, a 700, came in. I got my shots, then climbed on so I could ride to the next station, City Thameslink.

700115 A plan had now formed in my head, revisit a church near to St Paul's, walk up to St Anne and St Agnes, my first time there, and I found it locked fast. But the other one was open, so I snapped in there, redoing shots I had done on the compact. Probably not much better, but the wide angle lens is wider, so more church per shot!

From there I decided to revisit St Lawrence Jewry, a church I last did several years ago and so was ripe for a revisit. It is near the Guildhall, and so easy to find, and just walking down the cobbled streets, past ancient and interesting buildings whilst the city started work was a real pleasure.

St Paul's St Lawrence was open, and empty, so I went in and did my shots, snapping more of the details I'm sure than I did before.

From there I thought I would go back to the very first church I visited in The City, St Olave Hart Street, a little gem of a church, so rammed with memorials and decoration, it is a delight in any direction one points a camera. I snap it good, and having noticed a Shepherd Neame pub on my way, I go back there to wet my whistle, and take the weight off me plates.

The Gherkin at St Andrew Undercroft It was midday and the news headlines were showing, I looked at them and shrugged. It all seems to trivial and us so powerless to stop the idiots in power. Let reality rip them a new arse, as me old Dad would say. Probably.

I walk over to St Helen's, we were due to meet at one, in the hope of going inside, as their website said that's when it be OK to go in. But there was a Bible class going on, and would not let Aidan or I in until two, and by that time we hoped to have met our two friends and we going over to St Peter.

St Olaves Hart Street So, we walked to St Katherine Cree and St Andrew Undercroft; St Katherine had a choir practice going on, so we did not stay, and St Andrew although the front door was open, you needed to enter a code to get through the inner door. So we walk across Cornhill to St Michael and find an organ recital going on. As Motzart said, the music had too many notes, but was very impressive in a Wren church, and I felt the walls to make sure the 16hz sounds of the deepest pipes were there. They were.

St Peter Upon Cornhill, City of London We walk back over to St Helens, and Sarah and Malcolm were there. We shake hands and greet each other, so for the first time, other old friends and I go into St Helens to see about accessing St Peter. A phone call was made, we were expected, so back over to Cornhill, and round to the yard, knock on the door, and we were let in.

St Peter Upon Cornhill, City of London We shook hands with the guy, did we need anything, and he let us get on with it.

50 minutes later, we all had our shots, so we said our goodbyes to the friendly bloke and the church, and went on the old Arthur Dent challenge of finding a good cup of tea.

St Peter Upon Cornhill, City of London Inside Leadenhall market we find a place, so gather round a table to chat like old friends, which we were, just most had never met before. But, time was ticking, and if I went back I could catch the half four train and Jools could meet me at Dover on her way home from work. I texted her to confirm the plans, then set about saying goodbye, and walking to Liverpool Street, taking the stairs down to the Circle Line and then just four stations along to St Pancras.

Enough time to use the free facilities for the 3rd time that day, then be up on the platform as the train arrived, get a seat on the right hand side facing forward, and then review my shots whilst waiting for the train to depart.

It filled up, but not too much,m until an orange family arrived complaining loudly that they could not sit together. They had been shopping and were happy with the clothes they bought. Takes all sorts I suppose. I blocked their chatter our and watched as Essex and Kent slipped by and faded into the dusk. End of a perfect day.

Jools was waiting for me, taking us up Jubilee Way to home, where dinner was taking the pasta and aubergine out of the fridge and pouring the wine. Diner in ten minutes after arriving, and very tasty indeed.

Needless to say, rest of the evening was spent reviewing and editing pictures and listening to yet more football.

A perfect day all round really.

Sunday, 12 February 2017

Sunday 12th February 2017

This will be my last post until Friday, I suspect.

I have a hectic day planned tomorrow, and then on Tuesday, I go to Belgium working until Friday. I will continue to write and post them when I can.

We woke up this morning to find the snow had all melted, and despite the BBC saying it would be a brighter day, there were dark clouds making it still feel like night, and a steady drizzle falling.

Forty three After making coffee, I watch the football, whilst looking at the birds outside feasting on the seeds I had put out. Afterwards, I decide that with the offcuts of bacon I had left from yesterday, I would defrost some bangers and make a fry up. So, I got busy, and soon had the sausage frying, bacon grilling, and cold mashed potato frying in butter to make it crispy.

The St James development, Dover We eat at about half nine, and it was as good as it sounds. Not if you're a vegetarian of course, but then we're not.

Somehow, Jools and I ran out of shower gel the same day, and so we had to pop into Dover to visit Boots, and that gave me the chance to snap the work on the St James Development. I guess its about a year since i last took shots, and in that time I guess they have been laying foundations and footings. And now they can put up the steelwork for the new cinema and shops.

The St James development, Dover Anyway, most of what you can see is a painted green fence, but there are places where you can see in, so I take shots whilst we walk round the site. Two through roads now don't go through, as this is where the new car park will be. Seems like they are expecting lots of visitors by cars, as this will be the second or third new car park. Sadly, the Co-oP closed last night, another victim to modern times, and a crowded town with only so many customers. It was the last of the town centre supermarkets, and now the shop will be empty.

The St James development, Dover Jools goes to Boots and I go to Sports Direct to get some new trainers, or walking shoes. As mine are either falling to pieces or covered in mud. So, I go in, see a pair I like, try them on, pay for them and leave. 5 minutes, I know how to shop.

And that is that, we walk back down to the car park, past more empty shops; many of which were charity shops. What does it mean when even they close? And yet more shops are coming down at St James, maybe they understand economics better than I do. Or not.

The St James development, Dover We go to visit the old folks at Whitfield. Tony is smoking huge roll ups like they're going out of fashion. But he's in good spirits, he's just had his 75th birthday, and we are going out for dinner on Friday. Or should be, I might be washing my hair. As it seems I have become unsociable in my middle age.

The St James development, Dover Back home for more rugby and football. And a glass of Belgian beer too. I try not to fall asleep as France just beat Scotland, and on the radio, Leicester lose once again.

For the first time in months we have fried breaded aubergine and pasta salad for dinner. Because its nice, and tomorrow when I get back from London I will just be able to get it out of the fridge and eat. I know how to roll.

So, we are tired, fed and watered, and tomorrow is MOnday. But a Monday off for me. News on that London and the working week in Friday.

Y'all take care now.

Satire is dead

Or at least pointless.

I used to listen or watch it all: The Now Show, The Bugle, Have I Got News For You, The News Show, as well as read Private Eye, watch clips from the Today Show. And you know what? Even though we all knew what was being parodied was ripe for it, and that the lies peddled by those in power, or those that sought it was right to be called out at satirised.. And none of it made any difference.

None at all.

Britain is bad enough with T May as PM, Boris Johnson as Foreign Secretary, David Davis as Brexit Secretary, and they are making a dog's dinner of things. And a bumbling pointless old bloke as leader of the opposition, and yet, things get worse. Satire would only make things worse, I mean, how can you satirise the above?

And then over the pond Trump is 45. He is all bluster, knows nothing about anything, has appointed billionaires to cabinet, is rolling back health care and social programs, just like he said he would. All ripe for parody, and yet, satire has been on his case for two years or more, and it made no difference. Like having all facts and common sense on the other side, Brexit and Trump won.

What hope is there when truth and reason n longer matter, no do those who lie when they are caught out lying, can call their lies "alternative facts", and we just blink.

I don't watch or read catire any more, satire could not take the pain and helplessness away that I feel right now. But satire and facts are all we have, because the Brexiteers and Trumps are more passionate about their lies, their made up massacres, sunlit uplands and Brexit fairy that we could ever be about facts, reason or social justice.

Saturday 11th February 2017

We have now been living in Chez Jelltex for eight years. I know this as I have been reading my posts for this week of years gone by. How exciting that was, packing, moving, unpacking, starting a new job, going to Kazakhstan then my new employer going bust. Yes, it all happened, we had just moved into a new house, with large mortgage, and I had no work. I can now laugh about it, but at the time it was a tough 18 months until I got the permanent job with Vestas.

Forty two We now have repaired the house, done up the garden and are settled here with the cats, it really is a fine life.

We wake up just before seven, and there is that odd blue light showing through the windows showing that it had been snowing. THe light doesn't last, so its a rush to go downstairs, find the camera, put it to the right settings, then go back to the bathroom to snap the scene. Already the blue is fading, but the clouds hanging dark and pendulous, look full of snow. And yet, it is clear the melt is already under way, and would continue through the day.

We were going to go to Littlehampton, or at least to west Kent on a church hunt, but to be honest the light was even worse than on Thursday and Friday, and the temptation was to stay at home and watch the wildlife come to the garden for food.

Consulting the BBC website, there is football on the radio, rugby on TV, and I have a stack of photos to edit. all in all, a fine day in. So I get down to make some bacon sandwiches, a fresh brew and all's right with the world. Katie is on the radio, so we listen to her as we do our hobbies, whilst outside the snow still falls. The cats are not impressed with the weather, and even when put out the door, they come right back in.

After lunch we watch Ireland v Italy, whilst I have the digital radio on beside me, with the football on. Its a fine way to spend the day; Molly sits beside me on the sofa. At three the football starts, and in 20 minutes City are 3-0,, and run out 5-1 winners over Forest. I'll settle for that.

At then to five, Wales v England kicks off, and is a brilliant game, with England behind until the final 2 minutes when they score a second try. Fantastic finish.

We have warmed up baked pasta, and it is still good. Great even.

City wnning, and scoring five top drawer goals means I have to watch the highlights at the end of the evening, and indeed the goals are well worth watching. That it might even now be too little too late for promotion is another matter, but let us celebrate a win, good performance and great goals.

Saturday, 11 February 2017

Friday 10th February 2017

Jools works until just two on a Friday, thus to get through all the tasks I wanted to do, I would have to work quickly. That including not sleeping through the alarm, getting up to make sure Jools made the train for work. That done, I could go back home to have coffee, a bowl of Bran Flakes and wait for the time to go to Tesco came round. In the end rather than wait until eight so I could scan, I thought I would just it over with, so mixed in with the early rush hour traffic, and that coming from the port.

I whizz round Tesco, scooping stuff from the aisles, including ingredients for a meal I was going to cook that night, but more about that in a minute. I fond an almost empty till out of the two (!) that were open, pack and pay for the shopping.

Once home, I put all the shopping away, and get down to make some tomato sauce. Yes, you read that right too. See, through December we had caught the re-runs of Rick Stein's Long Weekend series, and were taken with many of the recipes, so we bought the book, and I planned to make the one that leapt out of me; baked pasta with beef and pork ragu. I decided to only have one sort of meat in the end, but the rest would be as per the book. First of all was to make the tomato sauce which is the base for many Italian recipes. Two tins of chopped tomatoes, some garlic and olive oil. Cook for half an hour, whizz with the blender, and it was done. And even if I say so myself, it looked great. And the smell of the frying garlic cloves filled the house.

But no time to stop to savour that, I must get going. At half nine I am out of the house, driving to Dover to try to get a haircut. Once in thew chair, no waiting needed, I find that the new barber, a lady, if also an amatuer photographer. So we spend a very pleasant half an hour chatting about cameras and exposure modes. Much better than the blokes who were chatting about violent video games.

I pay and then drive to Priory Hill, a place I had not been to before. But I had heard that workmen had cleared undergrowth, meaning that the station below was visible from there once again, something that had been hidden for over 20 years. Dover is built in a steep valley, and near the centre the rows of terrace houses cling to the hillside, sometimes twisting and turning, with modern life meaning that parked cars almost block the narrow streets. It is for this reason, partly, that we moved from the flat at Crabble, to have a drive we could park on, as much for being in the countryside and peace and quiet.

Anyway, I find a place to park, get the camera out, get my shot and am back in the car in under two minutes, then have to try and find my way out of the labyrinth maze of dead end streets and courtyards. In the end I retrace my steps back down to Ladywell, and take the London Road to Crabble, past the old flat to Kearsney and finally onto the Alkham Valley road to Folkestone.

All is brown once again, spring seems so close, and yet far away, especially on such a grey and gloomy day. Onto the motorway before turning off into what will soon be orchid country. On Thursday I had missed a church out from my list, so decide to go there and see if it was open. In the county A-Z, it seemed to be another place at a bend in a lane, less than a village really, and one expects there to be a tiny chapel of ease or small church for a community so small.

The narrow lane takes me on a rollercoaster of a ride, down hills at 15%, back up the other side, past farms and hamlets, I take the final turn towards the village, and despite there being no village, just a farm, there is the church, one of the largest in Kent, set back from the road built of flint and ragstone. It has a triple gabled east end, with the chancel in the middle of course. A classic example how the basic Normal two cell church had been expanded over the years.

Much to my delight, the church is open, and the bank of light switches easy to find. So I light up the church, and gegin to snap away, with it being domminated by memorials to the local landed family, of course. It was them that created at least one of the side chapels I suppose.

I take near on a 100 shots, and I am happy with that. I make a circle of the outside of the church, checking for blocked windows and doors, before gong back to the car, shivering in the chilly keen east wind. THere was promise of snow in the afternoon, and it was easy to believe, it felt cold enough.

Into the car and driving along the valley, I soon come to a familiar area, Yocklett's bank. I take a turn up the down back to the main road, passing by the layby where soon I will be using in order to hunt the early Fly Orchids. I take the road back to the motorway, then across driving into the coastal town of Hythe, as I was to collect Jools at two. It was now just after half twelve, enough time for one more church. I park at one end of the town, then begin the long climb up streets too steep to have cars, to the church sitting high on a bluff overlooking the town.

I had been here before, to visit the ossuary under the chancel, but inside the church a wedding was under way. So, this was one I had not visited or photographed.

Up and up I go, huffing and puffing. Even when I got to the church gate, there were two more flights into the porch and another into the church itself. Phew. The church itself is massive, and it must have been quite a task to create a fairly level space on the side of the hill for the church. The chancel is accessed by climbing yet more steps. But is worth the effort. A heavily Victorianised church, but with plenty of pleasing architecture to keep you interested.

I get back to the car at ten past one, just time to pop into Waitrose for a couple of things I had forgotten from Tesco. It is an expensive place, filled with wonderful and tempting things. I keep my eye on just the butter and yoghurt we needed, paid for them and escaped without being lured into buying otter's noses or something.

To the factory, arriving just after half one, 30 minutes to wait, but with Radcliffe and Maconie on the radio. I find myself bopping my head along to Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs, Arcade Fire and The New York Dolls. The half hour soon passes, Jools comes out and the weekend can begin.

We drive home back along the motorway, then along the Alkham Valley to home, arriving home just before three, and just as the first snow flurries began to fall.

After making coffee, there is the rest of the recipe to make. Fry onions, more garlic, add the meat, wine and then the tomato sauce, let simmer for half an hour or so. Boil the pasta, mix in the saucepan with the ragu, pour into a pan lines with breadcrumbs and grated Italian cheese. Pat down, sprinkle with more breadcrumbs and cheese, pop into the oven and bake for 45 minutes or until brown and crispy.

Forty one I dish up, and it is marvelous. I mean really now too tomatoey at all, just bloody lovely.

There is TOTP from 1983, all Bananarama, Bonnie Tyler, jazz funk, Bucks Fizz and The Style Council. Finally, there is a fab documentary on Chrissie Hynde which reminds us not only how great a musician she is, but what a wonderful person she is too.

Outside, the snow carries on falling, and looks like it is settling too. As I watch the Chrissie Hynde doc, there is a fox sitting in the garden about ten feet away from me, eating peanuts left by the birds and keeping an eye on me. He seemed happy with the situation, he is there for about ten minutes before fading away into the night. In fact, this is the third time this has happened this week, maybe he just likes to watch TV through the front window.........

My Lords, do your patriotic duty

Anyone who follows current affairs will know that once patriotic fervour is called upon, that means there is no real evidence to support the cause. Just that it would be unpatriotic not to support the cause.

Thus it came to pass this week, that having been given the opportunity to debate the Government's Brexit bill, ended up passing it, with no amendments. This is mainly because the Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, forced a three line whip on the party, thus asking the PLP to put party before country. Several did vote against the Government and party line, and resigned from the Shadow Cabinet, thus forcing Corbyn into another reshuffle. Never has politics be seen so much as re-arranging the deckchairs on the Titanic.

Not that Labour should have voted against the ill, but should have put in clauses that meant proper oversight. This they failed to do, even failing to back an amendment in supporting EU workers' rights post Brexit. Hopeless. And once the 3rd reading had been passed, Corbyn then tweeted that now the fighting would start. Thus failing to understand what his party had just done.

In the end, when Brexit is the shambles that it will be, there will be a day of political reckoning, in which the two main parties will each split in half, maybe a re-drawing of the political landscape will be good, but as the Union will be fractured, probably beyond repair by that time, it will be more deckchair arranging.

THe Brexit bill now goes to the House of Lords, with leaks from Number 10 stating that the Lords should do their patriotic duty in passing the bill, or face abolition.

The Lord's duty is to do what the House of Commons did not do, insert oversight and checks and balances. It the Lord's duty is just to nod along, then it really is a pointless chamber.

May has set herself a deadline of the end of March to trigger Article 50, no one forced her to do that, showing once again she really isn't as good at her job as she would like us to think.

Brexit is like a divorce, and the first part of discussions between the two parties is about what the talks will be about. Top of the list is the divorce settlement, outstanding contributions to various EU projects and initiatives that Britain has committed to. THis could be as much as £60 billion. Failure to agree this, means that the talks will fail there, and nothing else will happens, and Britain will fall out of the EU in two years on WTO terms.

Or worse.

Yes, there is worse, upsetting any one of the other 161 members of the WTO, including the EU itself, can trigger a dispute, trying trade up in hugely expensive (for British exporters) trade restrictions and border checks. But listening to the idiot savant, Jacob Rees Mogg, its so easy. Showing clearly, he doesn't really understand the problem, and he is an MP, son of a national newspaper editor, with the best education money can buy. All clearly wasted.

Part of me is past caring, let us see what happens. Maybe the whole process can be halted. Maybe it cannot. You would have thought the PM would have wanted to know, but they are so intent on implementing what is called "the people's will" which result in a massive power grab by the executive, changing laws and rights with little or no debate in the House, such is the so called "Great Repeal Bill".

Friday, 10 February 2017

Thursday 9th February 2017

I woke up and felt like an express train had run over me. In fact I slept so soundly I did not hear the alarm nor feel Jools get up. I did wake up when I smelled the coffee brewing. It seems me and my legs are very out of practice with a simple five mile round walk, so therefore, I will have to do more. But for a while, I just complain about how much my legs ache. And it is my thighs that are worse, just screaming with pain, asking what the heck did I think I was doing walking to Kingsdown when there are taxis available. Of course, that is the point. I must walk, or everything will seize up, and we don't want that, do we?

One other point before I get going, you will read later on something I will forever call the chip incident, and let this be a warning to us all. No matter how good a chip might look and smell, when out of the fryer, it will be hot.

Anyway, onto yesterday, and a day filled with churches, some of which I will have to hide the identity of due to being subjects of GWUK, but one I have to talk about, as it was so wonderful, I mean. Well, you will see.

Jools said she would travel to work on the train, so I could have the car for the day, but that meant her getting on the nineteen minute past six train from Martin Mill, which meant having to be out of the house by five past, which also meant having had breakfast by ten to, and finally being up in time to wake up, prepare lunch, have breakfast, shower get dressed and all that other stuff.

And as I said, I slept through it until five to six, when Jools was all busy getting clothes out of the wardrobe and heading for the shower. I'd better get up then! We are both dressed and ready to go by somewhere between five and ten past, and with it being just a two minute drive down the hill to the station, she was there in time to buy her ticket. And then I could drive home to make coffee and have breakfast, and watch the recording of last night's game, only due to it being extra time and all that, only the first half of extra time was recorded.

Oh well, I switch on the computer to see the highlights of the game, the two extra time goals anyway. And still, despite being on holiday, it feels like I am playing hooky from work. But I manage to fill in the time until the morning rush had died down before loading the car with camera equipment, and then checking my guide book, cross-referencing churches I had been to, making sure I was only going to new churches (for me). Such planning showed that I had missed out several churches close to home, or within a 45 minute drive anyway. But what I did lean through the day was that even if John had marked a place on the map in his book, did not mean it had a church, or if it did, then the church might be in another village, some miles away.

And such is the reality of the parish system, created hundreds of years ago, and where villages grew up does not mean is where the parish church was.

I get in the car and think that the worst of the traffic should be over. I was right about that at the Duke of Yorks, but further along at Whitfield, traffic was at a standstill. I tell myself not to panic, I have all day. I get through, roar past a line of trucks, and mix it with those making a last minute dash to get to Canterbury before nine. Certainly once past the Canterbury turnoff, traffic thins out to be almost non-existent.

I get to Faversham, then take a quiet road out, looking for a speck of a place which I am told, by John's book, there is a fine church. After driving down a succession of narrow, twisty and muddy lanes, I come to the village, and am through it before realising it. I find a place to turn round, go back through and count the buildings in the village on the fingers of one hand. And no church.

I program the next church in, or the next village, and check with the book that there is an actual church there to start with. There is, and the sat nav tells me it is ten minutes away. Halfway there I see the signs to another church, pointing up a lane that was called "Church Lane". Without thinking, I turn up it, thinking the church would be a few hundred yards up it. But no, the lane went on, up a down, down the other side, across a cross roads, which at least still pointed to the church, and the lane continued the other side.

I came to an ancient church, set beside a row of three cottages, the church itself is visible through a simple Lych Gate, but on either side there is no fence. As expected the door to the church is locked. But somewhere to come back to when the countryside is green and fresh, rather than the dull brown it is today. But here, best of all, is that the churchyard is carpeted with a thick layer of young snowdrops. Most are not yet open, but a few clumps in open ground are indeed open and worth snapping.

Forty The sat nav takes me to the next church, set back from the main road, and despite having two wide tracks leading to the Lych Gate, both have "private, do not park" notices on show. I don't have much hope of this being open if I'm honest, and I am proved right. But there is a good list of keyholders, including two houses near to the church. Not the one who had places the do not park signs, but at both the keyholders, there was no answer to the ancient pull bells by the aged oaken doorways.

Next, I am taken to a church set among what were outhouses and stables and bakeries of a fine country house, but is now an exclusive housing development of four and five bedroom houses for the upwardly mobile. The church is locked, but a sign promises a keyholder nearby. Once I had worked out the map, photographed it and worked out how that applied to the dead ends and courtyards I find, there is no answer to the electronic peals of Big Ben when I press the door bell.

Oh well.

My next target was one that I had not know existed until that morning, and yet on orchid hunts up on Wye Down, you look down on Brook down below, and I'm sure I have seen the church there. But, I had not set foot or tyre tread in the village ever. So, that is where I went next. Entering the village, at every junction and turn, were signs for the village pub, offering good food. After the third set, a plan formed in my mind, go to the church, find the door locked, then go to the pub for beer and food.

I find the church, a stocky ancient looking building, with a stockier tower. To get to it, one has to cross a bridge over a spring, hence the name of the village, Brook. I try the door, and find it yielded, and once inside, I entered a long forgotten world. In 2016, St Mary was reordered, the modern (well, Victorian) was swept away, and the re-discovered wall paintings were given prominence, and the altar replaced with the ancient stone one found in the churchyard.

The effect is magical, I mean, it feels so other-worldly, that one expected some long-forgotten figures come to chant incantations. On most of the wall, paintings fromthe 14th, 16th and 17th centuries are on display, in various states of distress, but then you would be if you were 600 years old.

I take so many shots, some will come out, some won't. I will post the best here in time.

A few hundred yards up the road is the pub: the Honest MIllar. I find a parking space, but inside the place is rammed. Mainly with a part of coffin dodgers, who in fairness have as much right to have food as I do, but then the single waitress did ask if there was anything wrong. Half an hour later after correcting what was wrong, apparently, I got my drink and ordered fish and chips, which seemed to be OK as the portions were small, and so should not ruin my appetite

Those of you who may remember the beginning of this post may now understand the warning about hot chips. Yes, the food did arrive, and was so freshly cooked the batter was still crackling. I tried a chip, it was so hot it burned my mouth. So I swallowed it. And oh my word it was hot I had to pour half a pint of beer down my throat to stop it hurting. Then I waited as I felt my windpipe expanding as the burn affected me. But it stopped, and I wasn't going to let good fish and chips go to waste, even if it had nearly killed me. Oh no. I ate the lot, finished my beer and said it was good. Which it was, just bloomin hot.

St Mary the Virgin, Brabourne, Kent I had one final church on the list, one which I must have been past, but is almost hidden from the road that passes through the village. There is a gravel track, and unfriendly do not even think of parking here signs. So I half block the road through the village and walk towards another St Mary, this time Brabourne.

St Mary the Virgin, Brabourne, Kent In fact, it is a very similar church to Brook, just left Victorianised and covered with family monuments by the local landed gentry.

St Mary the Virgin, Brabourne, Kent It is now two in the afternoon, and once I got my shots from here, I decide to go back home to sort dinner out and review the day's shots. Up to the old Roman Road, to Hythe then along the motorway before turning up the Alkham Valley to Dover and home, arriving home at half three.

I will have to collect Jools from the station at twenty past six, but with chorizo hash to prepare, I prepare the vegetables, boil the potstoes before setting off for Dover to collect Jools, then once home, all systems go, cooking the onion and peppers, frying the sausage then cooking the boiled potatoes until crispy.