Friday, 31 March 2017

Thursday 30th March 2017

Thursday. And day to go home. Only looking at my Outlook calendar, there are meetings through until after one. I will be late leaving for home it seems.

I have a shower, dress and then pack. I had a crap night's sleep; awake at four, my brain deciding it was time time to wake up. So my mind went into cartwheels and nosespins about nothing in particular. I even got up to put the radio on, listened to two editions of Mark Steel's in Town. A quarter to six, I I began to drop off, in time to get up, of course.

I have breakfast, meet up with Jimmy again. Good to have someone to talk to, even if its work we chat about. He is enthused as things have gone well for him, I smile.

I drive to work, and once again through almost deserted streets, round the two big roundabouts to the office, and then get down to work, before the meetings start. THere are things like real work I could be doing, but, meetings, you know, have to happen.

Matt cooks lunch, and its so warm outside that we can sit in the smoker's area to eat. There are no tabbers about, so we eat our grilled bratties and friks al fresco and think, despite of the chaos on the computer, how luck we are to live like this. I can go at one, so go round saying goodbye to my friends, that there is another work grenade to deal with as I switch my computer off means I am in bad mood as I drive away from site.

21 degrees in my shades Outside it is 21 degrees and getting warmer. It is a spring day, hazy sunshine falls through the light mist as I drive beside the canal on the way out of town. Soon the road criss-crosses over the canal a few time, via small bridges, with the window down I can hear birds singing. Life is good. It really is.

Traffic on the motorway is not too bad, so I can power down it at the speed limit, hammering past slow moving lines of trucks, across the border into France and through Dunkirk. On either side I can see towns and villages, each with the spire of a church church being the highest building in the town. I wish I could just detour off to go and look. Maybe I will do one trip. But those trips are running out. There are just 5 weeks to go before our vacation in Scotland, maybe one or two trips when I come home, and then that's it.

I began this project in September 2015, and traveled across Europe until the end of that year, then more serious preparation as manufacturing began. And then, in September 2016, the first trip to Oostende; a long and hot summer's day, Rune and I sat in a bar on the promenade sipping ice cold beers thinking how lucky we were.

The project has continued through that autumn, into winter, and now spring is here, it is nearing the end. 19 months for me in all. THe boy did OK, methinks.

Traffic is heavy around Calais, I have to slow to about 90 kmh, and it is not pleasant, but I am nearly at the tunnel, just a few miles to go. As if to prove it, the DAB radio wakes up and Radcliffe and Maconie blasts out.

Eighty seven I check in, and all is going well until I get to customs: do you have any tobacco? I am asked. Well, I had got some for the inlaws, and had pushed he limits. So I said yes, and was told to go over to the inspection area. A lady comes out, annoyed that she had not been told I was coming, but nice enough to me. She asked how much I had, and got confused and declared ten time the amount I had. She looked shocked, then I corrected myself. So, please empty the boot. So I do.

So, I do pollen now and then. I could give up. If I wanted. She checks the tobacco, and all is OK. I am asked why I was in Belgium, how long I had been away. And that was it. Allowed to go.


Snake's head fritillary Fritillaria meleagris So I load the car back up and drive to the lounge, but I just want to get home and not bother about a meal. So I go to the waiting area and wait. I take a shot for shot fo the day, and wait some more. Ten minutes later we're allowed onto the train, and just have to wait some more until loading is complete, the train secured and we can go.

I have a book to read, so time flies, I look up as I finish the book as we exit the tunnel in Folkestone. Back in Blighty.

Snake's head fritillary Fritillaria meleagris Off the train, onto the road and onto the off ramp to Folkestone, then onto the motorway before turning off down the Old Folkestone Road into town, past the castle, turning down Reach Road along the cliffs and home.

I have to unload the car, feed the cats and only then can I make a brew, taking my tea and the biscuits to the patio to soak up the sunshine while i read the latest Rail magazine.

Snake's head fritillary Fritillaria meleagris I survey the garden, noting all the changes in the four days I have been away, Many plants have grown more, but sadly the Imperialis are starting to fade already. How quickly their time passes.

Jools has got out a bag of chili for dinner; just needs warming through and rice cooked. I open a beer as I tell myself I deserve it. I mean it this time.

Jools comes home as the rice is done, so I can dish up. We eat, talk and toast each other, and the fact the weekend is just a day away.

The deed is done

Against all my expectations, and one could argue, against reality and logic, on Wednesday the British Government delivered the letter confirming the Article 50 notification to Brussels. It is important to remember, this is the only, and therefore last, trump card Mrs May and her Government and Brexiteers can play. Saying when it would be made was the last thing that was in Britain's decesion to make. From now on it will be the Eu and the EU27 who decide what and when and if anything else happens.

This goes against what was said in the referendum campaign, and what has been said since. But the 27 are united, and are now set to protect themselves, and now that Britain has said officially it wants to leave, the duty of care towards us is removed.

However, Britain will remain part of the EU for the two years of the Brexit process, and so is tied by the rules that bind, unable to open negotiations with any other EU county, in fact deals can only be made with the whole EU27 until at least the 29th March 2019. And the same goes with the rest of the world; Britain is in the EU and tied by the same rules, cannot even begin to talk about trade deals until the same date. Indeed, it cannot even rely on the deals done with the rest of the WTO as part of the EU, Britain will fall back onto the most basic of WTO schedules.

Or not. We just don't know.

On Thursday, the Government published the White Paper of the so-called "Great Repeal Bill" revealing it to be as feared, a great power grab by the executive. Indeed, even worse than that, no draft bill is to be published, just the 19 pages of the White Paper to be discussed. Parliament might be by-passed in approving this, thus allowing the Government to rubber stamp its own power grab. JUst like was predicted. 47 years of intertwining of domestic and EU laws was never going to be easy, but without any oversight; where is my sharp pencil?

And then there was Friday. Friday the EU Council published it's negotiating strategy, and blew most of what the PM and Brexiteers have been saying since last June. Divorce settlement first, and only when the EU is happy with that will talks move on. No parallel talks, thus also blowing out many assurances to the contrary that the PM and her Brexit team had said up to now.

This is where on an almost daily basis, Britain and its crack (!) team of negotiators will bang their heads against the walls of reality. As more and more difficult and unexpected issues come up and can't be explained away by using the term "project fear". It will be painful for our nation, many will lose their jobs, will be poorer, and those that do have jobs will see long-fought for rights erroded as British companies have to slash costs to make up for tariff and nontariff barriers. Agreements set up to protect the staus of Gibraltar will not now be in force, and the EU makes clear, they expect movement on the issue. Just like we said. Imagine what happens with Argentina in the WTO!

We did tell them so, but they would not listen, or if they did, they pretended not to hear. Lloyds is already planning on moving to Brussels, others will follow. Many others.

I'll get me popcorn.

Wednesday 29th March 2017

Welcome to hump day.

And another day nearer when I can go home. However, the duvet issue is still making sleeping difficult, and I woke up with my alarm feeling unrested. There's always tonight, I suppose I told myself.

A quick shower, get dressed and down for breakfast, meeting up with the familiar faces, and so can talk more shop as we eat.

It seems that Belgium is going on vacation for two weeks, and some are starting early thanks to the warm weather, as the roads are clear and so I arrive at the office without incident, take a desk and begin work.

Each day is different in the challenges it throws up, but the resolution is done the same way; mails, phone calls and meeting. So my day is filled with those, except to pause for lunch, where instead of bad things having been grilled, there is salad. And rye bread. So, when in Denmark, or working with Danes, do as they do. And something light is good.

Late in the afternoon, we drive to Carfour to do some shopping. I don't think I have enough beer, well, do, but in big bottles, so need some packs of Leffe, La Chouffe and the such. So, we drive through the houses opposite the office, past a 20th century brick church (no picture), to the market. And inside was, as you imagine, full of lovely continental foods and drink, with beer being housed in its own little building. I look round and grab some old favourites and new ones to try. There also lovely Prince vanilla sandwich biscuits. Only only buy two packets by it could have been hundreds.

Eighty six Back to the office to clear up some loose strings, and then time to go back to the hotel, change ready to meet up with the team for yet another meal out.

This time at TEx Mex over the road, and we find ourselves being first at the door when it opens at sic. A good reason to be first is that they have few tables, and we wanted to make sure we get one of the unreserved ones.

We do, order beers and then our food: a large sharing platter followed by beef and chicken fajitas. And more beer.

It is good, but sadly, one of the team is leaving. Jesper has been reallocated, and will not return from his vacation. I will miss his friendship and professionalism.

The hotel is a short walk away, but with the sun having set, it is cool, and I am whacked. Again.

Thursday, 30 March 2017

Tuesday 28th March 2017

How can it be, that when you're tired, you end up sleeping even worse than normal? It's true, I tossed and turned all night, caused by having a winter duvet on the bed, and no alternative, other than to sleep without it. So, I alternate between being covered and uncovered and so hot and cold too. Bah.

The alarm goes off, and I have to be up and about early, as I am being audited. Or rather the site it, and I am the liaison. So, no time to waste. Down at breakfast I meet up with Jimmy, then joined by the two auditors and then Manu. A tableful.

The usual stuff for breakfast, while we all talk shop. Or turbines. And there is always coffee.

I make it to work before half seven, beating the rush hour and having the choice of desks. There is the final check to make sure we are ready, alignment with people. And the auditors arrive, and we get down to business.

Eighty five It went well, we audited until lunch, ate, then audited some more, then it seems Soren and Flemming had another appointment and left us. All done, and so it was left to me to put up the flags and send the white smoke signals.

A few hours to catch up on work, and it turns out I was shattered and really needed a shower an lie down. So, being manager, I told myself I had done a good job and told myself to take a few hours off. Being a good employee, I did as I told myself, took myself in the car to the hotel, ahd a shower and took to bed, where in less than 5 minutes I was so hot I had to get up again.


Dinner was set to be at half seven, twelve of us meeting at Den Artiest for steak, fries and beer. And although it was as good as ever, with just one member of staff serving, it took two and a half hours to have a starter and main, and by that time, too full to be able to sleep right away.

Oh dearie, dearie me.

I listen to the radio, write and call Jools. And by eleven, I try to sleep, but a late work mail caused my brain to wake up, meaning sleep was still some time away....

Monday 27th March 2017

Pay Day

And I am back on my travels, or as much as a three hour drive to the tunnel and up through Pas de Nord and Belgium can be said to be travels.

It is dawn again when the alarm goes off, but will mean it will be light into the evening. So, anyway, let's get it done.

Eighty four While Jools feeds the cats and makes coffee, I pack my small case, and double check my work bag to make sure I have passport at least, and I can drink the coffee and look at what frightening things the world has been up to. Jools is nearly ready to leave for work at seven, and for a change with no football to catch up on, so am I. Does this mean that I put watching football before work? I'm saying nothing.

The car is loaded, I am ready, I even have my lightweight coat, as it feels like spring; the sun is up, there is a gentle breeze and feels warm. Or, if not warm, it will get warm later. I was able to snap another sunrise shot, as when we got up, the house was shrouded in fog, but once the sun was up, it began to melt away.

On the way to the tunnel, there was more mist and fog, but not enough to slow me down. There had been a ferry just docked, as the roads were, not jammed with trucks, but the slow lane was very slow, and those of us in cars tried to get past, impatient as ever. At the tunnel I check in and go through immigration. Is this your car? No. No? It's a hire car. The guy is satisfied and dies not ask to see proof, which they never seem to.

The Singing Ringing Clock I can drive straight onto the train, parking up and getting out to stretch my legs. There is a short delay, safety messages are made, and we're off. As I always say, this is such an unremarkable thing, driving onto a train in Folkestone, the train then going into the cliffs and then under the seabed to France, and us emerging to be able to drive straight onto the motorway. I mean, just think of how amazing that last sentence sounds! You can even get a mobile phone signal down there too.

Spring in Oostende Off the train at the other end, drive onto the motorway, to leave it again two junctions later to go to the wine warehouse for some supplies. It had been four weeks since I was last here, and I had just two bottles of beer left in the fridge at home. Best stock up good.

Spring in Oostende Once I had loaded up my car, back onto the motorway for a blast up to the border, then up to Oostende, taking just over an hour. I suppose the most amazing thing was just how quiet the roads were, a few tucks and other cars, but I was able to hammer along at the speed limit, just enjoying the day, able to look at the signs of spring on either side of the road, and passing all the familiar landmarks.

Onto the A10 and in a few minutes into town, taking the road to the office, arriving at ten past eleven, having time to get up to date with work before lunch is prepared, and so some reason there is steak to eat. Salad is made, just need a good bottle of red, but no, make do with water.

Spring in Oostende At five I leave the office and drive to the hotel, finding one last parking space, checking in and going straight back out with my camera for a walk. On the way in I had seen a park which was planted with thousands of daffodils, in fact all the way back from the office, the verges, medians and roundabouts were all thus planted, and a riot of colour. Makes it all look very pleasant indeed.

Anyway, I walk past the two rows of shops between the hotel and the park, then round the ornamental lake, reveling in the reflections and colours. I sit on a bench for a while to take it all in, and then remember that my colleague was here to carry out an audit. I call him up, and we arrange to meet on the promenade, as they were hungry, and well, it was time to eat. So, I wander back to the Kursaal, then along the prom until I see Soren and Flemming.

From there it was a few minutes to find the bar, we get a table, order beers and study the menu. It all looks good, the other two had given up studying the folder listing all the beers, I mean once you get beyond ten there is really too much choice, and most Belgian beers, dark, light, dubbel, tripel, lambic, and so on. The pick one each from the draught list and are happy.

The food is good, I have Ardennes Balls, which is tasty. Meat balls. In sauce. And more beer.

And that is it, a walk back to the hotel, a shower and then relax in time for bed.

Sunday 26th March 2017

Mothering Sunday

First Day of British Summer Time

We wake up at six, but it was already seven. The modern clocks had already changed, the old fashioned manual ones were easy, but the clock radios@ tricky. Jools began the hunt for the instructions.

There were cats to be fed, coffee to be made, and then marvel at the site out the back of the house, as the imperialis standing tall and erect, but all bar one that are out are the orange ones, just one yellow and no red. Oh well, just was well the orange look stunning on their own.

Jools was still tired after her day out in that London, and with the orchid season not yet open, I said that we should stay around the house, do chores and get the garden ready, because soon enough I will become obsessed. And being an international break, there was no MOTD to watch, just the whole of the England game on TV that evening. What joy.

Molly The task at first was to empty the collection of pots we have, transferring the plants into the old raspberry beds, then the trimming of the grass round the fritilary beds, and the apple tree before mowing. That took best part of an hour, and then the age old ritual of getting life out of the motor mower. One sharp tug should do it.

Two sharp tugs.

Three hard yanks.

Several rude words.

Another couple of pulls.

Nearly caught.

And put, put, put, roar.

It's alive!

Mulder And away I go, weaving in and out of the beds, over the strip of no man's last which marks where the cable was buried for power to the shed. Avoid the area where yellow rattle were sown. Avoid the Bee Fly, chase the cats with the mower. And in half an hour the job was done, and how wonderful it looks, especially from a great distance when the lumps and bumps for the trenching is not so obvious.

I go to look at the time, and shocked to find it half twelve and dinner time. I go to butter some rolls, fill them with some cooked meat, make a brew. And jobs done.

Scully We sit on the patio, gazing upon our field of labour, and feeling really pleased with what we have achieved.

I retire to the living room to write yesterday's blog post, listen to the radio, and in about an hour make more coffee, to be served with a slice of "Sicilian Lemon Tart". Now not sure if the lemons were from that island, or the tart. But it looked nice, only to be too sweet and gooey really. Still, plenty of coffee to drown it with, and then settle down for the warm up to the football.

Garden update Only, Wembley seemed to be half empty, and I thought the kick off was at five. But there seemed to be nothing happening, so maybe I was wrong. And then the teams were in the tunnel, shaking hands, and getting ready. I put on the radio, as nothing is worse than an ITV commentary, and so made myself comfortable.

And I might as well have spent the afternoon watching paint dry, so dull was the game. At half five I go to prepare the potatoes and get them cooking, for chorizo hash, and at half time prepare the onions and peppers, so that as soon as the game finished, I could get cooking and we would eat within half an hour. England won 2-0, but it was a dull, slow performance, and I really should have done something else rather than watch.

Eighty three But dinner was good, accompanied by a bottle of pink fizz, and the latest Desert Island Discs.

Robot Wars to finish the day, and somehow that was ten in the evening, though in fairness, we had lost an hour with the clocks going forward, but where did the time go?

Sunday, 26 March 2017

Saturday 25th March 2017

Yes, the weekend comes round. And this weekend, yes, this weekend, the sun was going to shine both Saturday and Sunday, and due to Jools going to that London with Jen, I was home alone from about half ten in the morning util the evening.

And there was another reason to celebrate this day, as it felt like the last day of winter, as that night clocks would go forward one hour, making it lighter in the evenings, darker in the mornings, and a sure sign that those long dark nights of winter were behind us.

But for now, the sun rose in an almost clear blue sky, soon banishing the reds and pinks from the sky.

I am away in Belgium all week, which means I need a car, and to ensure a quick getaway on Monday morning, I am collecting the car at eight. Jools drops me off, and then goes to Tesco, meaning two chores done at the same time. Everything is pre-booked, so should just go in and sign, but the green card has been forgotten again. And the new bug behind the desk had only written one once before. He calls someone up to talk him through it, which isn't so bad, as I can look around at those who are waiting for the next sailing to Calais. They are waiting because they are foot passengers, and need the port bus to take them to the dock. They are a mixed bunch, not that I am judging people, but I am sure there is a good reason to go by foot; that there is a super rail service the other side being one I guess. As I wait they are called to the bus, and the waiting area, and Costa Coffee are empty, ready for their next influx in a couple of hours.

Wood Anemone Anemone nemorosa I am given a VW Golf, nothing special, but it is higher spec than our old Polo, and once I had checked and driven it out of the port, it pulled well up Jubilee Way, passing a line of trucks whilst still in third gear. I leave it outside the house, and wait for Jools to come back with the shopping so we can have breakfast, then she get ready for the trip to London. I am to pick up Jen, then drop them at Martin Mill, and then collect them some ten hours later. What high jinx can I get up to in ten hours?

At ten Jools and I get in the car, drive to Whitfield to collect Jen. Tony wasn't home, so there was very little small chat before we could all get back in the car and drive back to Martin. At least it was a fine day, so I was able to drop them off so they could try to print off their tickets from the machine, and then sit in the sunshine on the platform. Only, I had forgotten my mobile, or the work mobile, so if there had been problems, they could not have contacted me.

Wood Anemone Anemone nemorosa Instead of going back to the Deal road, I take the back road way through West Langdon, taking my time going down the narrow lanes that ducked and dived through the landscape, comin in time to the bridge over the Sandwich road, and into Waldershare.

Wood Anemone Anemone nemorosa Waldershare has a small church, which is under the care of the Church Conservation Trust; it is worth a visit on its own. But the church yard has a dazzling display of snowdrops earlier in the year, and if you walk through the churchyard, you find a footpath leading over an avenue of trees, then on into an ancient wood.

Wood Anemone Anemone nemorosa All along the footpath, there was signs of new life, green growth, meaning trees and shrubs were also coming back to life, not just the spring bulbs and flowers. Just over the avenue of trees, the ground was covered in a carpet of wood anemones; small woodland flowers, easily overlooked, but glorious if you look closely at a single flower. But where there are hundreds together, they make a wonderful sight. I mean, I say this about o so many flowers and orchids, but I do mean it.

Ramsoms, Allium ursinum I get down onto the ground to get really close to them, and to get a shot as they merge into a white line before the darkness of the woods stops them.

Further on, the wood closes round, and once you go down a gentle slope, the plants on the ground change, and the pungent smell in the air gives their identity away, but I knew they were here anyway. Ramsoms, or Wild Garlic, grows untamed in the wood, growing so thick it looks like a crop under the trees, which is what it could be, harvested I mean. But there is just a narrow path through leading to another old avenue, made when the nearby grand house was new, now the avenue is overgrown and the view at the end hidden by fallen trees and overgrown vegetation.

I try a couple of the leaves to get a garlic hit. It is really intense, especially the first one, coming so soon after cleaning my teeth after breakfast. I take many shots, most won't be used, but it feels right to take them anyway. In a month or so, they will flower, and the green carpet will turn white. Another sight to go back to see. And photograph.

Ramsoms, Allium ursinum I go back to the car, and think what to do next. A friend of mine on Flickr has been posting shots of churchyards in the north of the county, filled with daffodils and other spring flowers. So, I thought I would go to a few in the local area. Taking the road down to Eythorne, I turn west to go to Coldred, thinking if the churchyard didn't have any bulbs, then the village green would. I was to be disappointed, as the churchyard is dominated by a hedge-lined path, and the green, although had daffodils, just a few scattered clumps. I stop to take a snap of the avenue of trees, each with a island of daffs at their feet, before crossing the A2 to Lydden.

Lydden church was standing smartly, apparently its churchyard having just been cleared of vegetation, and looking like a well kept garden. But no daffs!. I went on.

Just up the hill is an nature reserve, and in one part there are orchids growing. Too early to see a flowering spike, but there is a campaign to photograph each species all through their lifecycle, so I thought I would check on the Man Orchids. I park in the central reservation, not really allowed, but the road is quiet enough, and after grabbing my camera, I walk over to the fence and climb over the stile.

After some looking around, I see a small emerging rosette, more than I was expecting, so I snap that.

And yet a few feet further along, there was a much larger rosette with a spike starting to form. I was more than happy to get that. A bus passes by, and I am looked at from the passengers, probably wondering what I was doing on a chalk bank looking like the same back that ran for a mile on either side of where I was, only this one has orchids on. But the bus was gone, leaving just a cloud of fumes.

Man Orchid Orchis anthropophora I have all afternoon to myself, but I have things to do back home, so I think I should go and get some lunch. So, I brave the chaos that is Tesco at lunchtime. I have the scanner so can go in get what I want and be out, but it is packed, like Christmas Eve, and all are standing around talking, leaving their trolleys abandoned so others can't get past. I am in and out in ten minutes, laden with rolls, cheese and tomatoes, as I have dinner as well.

Back home I make two rolls for lunch, filled with pastrami, boil the kettle for a huge brew, and so can have lunch and review the shots from the morning at the same time.

A few months ago, my friend in New Zealand met two round the world cyclists who hailed from Kent. And since seeing the shots he took, I had been following The Tandem Men as they made their world to central America then to Africa on their last leg home, arriving in Europe last week, then coming through France and Spain before landing in Portsmouth on Friday. Anyway, I said if I was free I would go and welcome them home, and as it had been several months since I had been in Canterbury, decided to go.

Also there was the gardens beside the Stour at Westgate which I thought should be worth a photo or two. Only problem would be finding a place to park, but I hoped I could find somewhere near St Augustine's, then walk to the city centre. Which is what I did, I got the last space in the car park, and for four pounds twenty, would be OK until after six.

From there I walked down Monastery Street, past the two ancient gatehouses to get some shots, and to walk a different into the city.

St Augustine's College, Canterbury The old College is now an annex to the public school, but is good to look at, especially with a large tree in blossom contrasting to the red bricks and peg tiles.

In the city centre, it is packed, as was to be expected, but it really was jammed with people, even more so when I went down the old High Street, now pedestrianised, but rammed with people, so think it wasn't pleasant. But down here i could see Westgate over the heads of the crowds, and beside that would be the gardens.

A punt on the Stour I find a new record shop to look in, but with pay day not until Monday, best not linger.

Under Westgate and out the other side, and the Stour really was a picture, shallow and fast flowing, but weeds had turned the water looking green, and two enterprising people had set up a punting business, and were taking folks down the river at a leisurely pace. Made for a mighty fine picture, or so I hoped.

The return of The Tandem Men I walk back to the Buttercross to see if there were any preparations. I take an indirect route, and find time to call into a pub for a pint. In truth, a disappointing place for a drink, opposite the new Marlowe Theatre. It really caters for the theatre crowd. And soon enough, the pub which I had had to myself, was full of voices as people vied to get served, and looking out at the theatre, I saw dozens of people puffing on real and electric cigarettes. Must have been interval in a matinee performance.

The return of The Tandem Men Ten minutes later they had all gone, and silence returned. I drained my glass and left myself.

Back at the Buttercross, I found no preparations, but a few furtive people with plastic flags and banners. I listened in on their conversation, and realised they were the cyclist's family.

As time went on, more people arrived, and soon there must have been a hundred of us. One of their Mums said we should form two lines so they could cycle between us. And then we waited, other people going about their business wondered what we were doing, blocking one of the main streets in the city.

The return of The Tandem Men People tried to find where the boys were, there seemed to be no news. A phone call revealed them to be in Blean, maybe ten or so minutes away.

The return of The Tandem Men We waited. Five came and went. Quarter past five also passed. Half past crept by, ten more minutes was the shout. By this time, the shoppers and tourists had thinned, but in the distance we could see a group of cyclists. Was this their escort.

Then they were spotted, riding along, bouncing over the cobbles, and then they were on us, cheers went up, Mums burst into tears, and they went past and into the Cathedral precinct. 18500 miles done and dusted. Friends and family followed them, and I took my leave, needing to get back to the car before I collected a ticket.

Eighty two I drove home, a pleasure to be out in the golden hour, making my way home.

I feed the cats, put the radio on and prepare dinner; insalata caprese and two cheese twists breads. I popped open another bottle of Belgian beer and sat down to eat, outside the light failed and the sky turned red.

At twenty to seven, Jools calls, they would be back at eight, yes, I would pick them up. So, I was waiting at the station in the dark as the train glided in, and a few minutes later Jools and Jen emerged from the underpass, climbed itno the car. Yes, they had a good day. Stomp was good, and the Japanese Restaurant at Crossrail Place was good, but they had no idea what they ate.

I take Jen home, then Jools and i back home, going back via KFC as they had not eaten since lunch, so I joined her in a messy Louisiana sandwich, which looked wonderful in the picture. Once home and I got it out of the carton, it looked a mess, like all the other sandwiches they do. Oh well, and the thought is never as good as the experience.

Normalising extremism

A short post, but I think an important one.

Yesterday, someone I follow, the editor of a railway magazine, retweeted a Meme which had originated from Britain First. Britain First is a far right organisation, populated by knuckle-draggers and the such. But the meme, "retweet if you love British Traditions" wasn't obviously racist. And yet it came from a racist organisation.

I tweeted to home that I was disappointed he had done so.

"I'm Sorry?" he replied.

Retweeting something from Britain First. Disappointed.

His last word on the issue was "I support British Traditions". So he clearly felt, the editor of a national magazine, and using the Twitter account for that position, saw nothing wrong in retweeting something from Britain First. Maybe I'm being over-harsh. But I don't think so, if we give these bottom dwellers oxygen of publicity, even by retweeting them, they become normal. Hide the fact that they are racist.

If we we racism, sexism, homophobia, religious intolerance, or whatever, we should call it out for what it is, not to ignore it, or retweet it.

Saturday, 25 March 2017

Friday 24th March 2017

Last day of the week, and with much to sort out, and later I have an appointment to pick up some new glasses. So, lots to squeeze in before I set off.

I mention the forecast many times, and so we plan our days around that. And despite the start of the day being dull and cloudy, it was supposed to perk up.

Before I had even finished my first coffee, I was on the phone talking to my minions in Belgium, trying to make sure that things got straight. And as I was already working, best start the computer up, and sort out the e mails and make sure the world wasn't falling in. Again.

Walk into Dover And, with it being a Friday, suddenly troubles melted away, and a way forward was found. I briefed everyone, and that was done.


I had better make more coffee and have breakfast.

Walk into Dover My word, I feel good. So good, I decide to walk into town rather catch the bus, which I have never done from the village. Anyway, with my back playing up, was I asking for trouble? Probably.

I have a meeting to run, and even that goes well. All are aligned, so happy with that, I log my working hours and sign off.

Walk into Dover Friday came round, and I have to get into town to pick up some new glasses. I have the choice, either to walk, or catch the bus.

Although it was grey this morning, the forecast was for sunshine by lunchtime, so I took a chance.

There is just one safe way to walk into town, which just happens to be off the meter scenic, along the cliffs.

Walk into Dover Considering a week or so ago, I struggled to walk back from the village shop, to walk into the village, through the churchyard, over Reach Road, through the estate, over the fields, through the woods, past South Foreland Light to the cliffs.

Walk into Dover That alone was longer than the walk back from the shop.

Spring has arrived in East Kent, flowers in gardens and in the woods. Primroses, Grape Hyacinths, and other wonders all coming into bloom. And as I make my way through the woods after crossing the fields, the branches of the trees are full of birdsong. I get a glimpse of a Goldcrest before it flies away, but then it is replaced by half a dozen Long Tailed Tits, all chirping away to each other. I could have got my camera out, but just happy enough to watch them.

Walk into Dover I arrived at the cliffs to see three people messing around taking pictures on the cliff edge: photographic opportunity!

Along the cliffs, with the north easterly wind at my back, blowing me towards Dover. And as I walked, the clouds thinned and what was weak sunshine became a glorious spring day.

No better place to be than on the cliff tops.

Inbetween Langdon Cliffs and the Fan Bay Shelter, the National Trust have laid a path, looks more like a scar to be honest. But sadly needed, due to the added footfall along the cliffs with people visiting the shelter, causing erosion.

Walk into Dover Once at Langdon, instead of taking the direct path, I go round Harbour Filed, then down the old railway track leading to the Cliff Road.

Once out of the north wind, it feels warm, certainly too warm to need a jacket, and on either side of the path, spring flowers were already in bloom.

Walk into Dover On the Cliff Road, the sound of the busy port could be heard, and a peak over the cliff showed it working hard as usual, but no traffic getting of a ferry, but plenty more arriving.

From there it was a climb to the NT place, before making my way to the steep steps down to East Cliffe, passing a young Goth couple who found that dressing in all black wasn't a good idea.

Walk into Dover Finally, down through East Cliff, avoiding the traffic on Townwall Street, I make it tot he town centre, managing to take a few shots of the St James Development, as construction above ground continues apace.

I walk up Biggin Street to the optician, I do not have to wait, they fit first time, so I am in and out in under 5 minutes, with over two hours to kill before Jools would collect me. What else was there to do in town? THere is no other answer other than go to the Rack of Ale.

Walk into Dover Trish is inside, we greet each other with a hug, and she plies me with ale, which is nice. And I share with her the dregs of the Rumtopf. She liked that, and I also liked her ale, which was nice.

I sneak out to the nearby chippy for some chips, which go well with the beer, and as is usual, there is a great mix of other people in the Rack, and we chat and so the time passes quickly.

Thankfully, Jools rescues me just after three, dragging me kicking and screaming back to the car so she can take me home. It is a glorious end to the day, long shadows reach over the land, and the setting sun casts everything in wonderful golden light.

I have to cook, and it is boiled chicken with bacon and rice, as ever it comes out well. And considering the three pints I had supped, it came out well, even if I had forgotten to put in the bacon at first.

It is Friday, Monty night, so by eight, we are on the sofa waiting for the news from the world of gardening. And that was the end of the day, I had achy legs, and Jools was worn out from the working week, but the weekend had arrived and we planned to spend the next eight hours of it, snoozing.

Friday, 24 March 2017

Thursday 23rd March 2017

How does your voice sound? Do you think you have an accent?

I grew up on the Norfolk Suffolk border, as rural as it is possible to get, or so you would have thought, but then you've never been to Loddon.

Growing up, everyone else pretty much had the same accent, except for Darren Knott who was from London, and a Cockney, and a fire brand not to be trusted. Anyway, At some point in the mid-70s, my parents bought a Sanyo Radio Cassette player, something to listen to in the kitchen. And as you can guess, it could play cassettes. Not only that, it could record from the radio, and had an in-built microphone, so could record whatever was being said.

Pansies One Sunday as Mother was preparing dinner, she called me in to what can now be described as deliberate conversation about nothing, whilst standing in front of the new radio thingy. A while later, I was called back and invited to listen to what had been taped.

Violet To say I was horrified would be an understatement: I sounded like a junior farmer, or the singing postman, on helium. A broad East Anglian accent that I had not picked up in my own voice before. It was awful.


So, from that day forth, even at ten years old, I tried to rid myself of the accent. And over the years I pretty much succeeded, with only the occasional Norfolk-ism sneaking in, if I say computer or petrol, my mouth still says them in Norfolkese.

Hyacinth Why say this now, because I was on the radio yesterday, and when I played the show back on the i player, I did not recognise my own voice. Some kind of non-regional accent, deep. Maybe London, home counties. But not me. But it was, certainly not Norfolk now, mind. My younger self would have been pleased to have heard my voice. But this is what other people hear when I speak.

Fritilary Imperialis Anyway, that for later.

We have breakfast and morning to get through first.

I slept better, no night time panics, or any I could remember, but I had to be up and about early, as I had a meeting at eight, bins to put out and breakfast to get. In the end I failed to have breakfast until well after nine, after the meeting had finished, and the sun was out, and taking the edge off the keen breeze.

The meeting passes, then there is more work to do, and already I am feeling the pace so I warm up a bowl of curry before eleven, more than enough to see me through until evening. I take breaks through the day, as I try to concentrate on work, going into the garden with the camera to snap the plants, capture the colours, but really, just be be outside. Spring in the garden is wonderful, and I am joined by Molly, who does her circuit of all the sniffing posts, checking on who has been round. And making she is still queen.

There are even a few insects about, but I don't get a shot.

Eighty In the afternoon with more reading to do, I put the radio on, Radcliffe and Maconie, and listen to the tunes and banter. All very enjoyable. They have a game, called The Chain, where listeners can mail in with suggestions for the next tune. Normally I am working and listen via the i player, but I could write in, and in about ten minutes the producer calls. Did I want to be on the radio?

I did, so she checked some details, and said she would ring back at ten past two.

Jelltex garden update She rang back, I spoke to her some more, then put through to Mark, and away we went. All a blur, but I did OK, sounded slightly humourous, and then could listen to myself. Urgh.

You can here it here, fast forward to 01:15 Jelltex garden update Phew, I was drained. I make a tea and tell Molly all about it. She's not impressed, but then she has had seen the Queen.

The afternoon passes and so Molly and I watch Time Team before I get to prepare dinner; dirty food. Burgers and onions. And beer (or cider).

Jelltex garden update Yup, just about done when Jools came home, so we sat down to eat together and listen to some fool on the radio.

That left the evening, TOTP and a Henry VIII documentary before it was time to head to bed. Again. Phew, rock and roll.