Sunday, 30 April 2017

Friday 28th April 2017

One of those days when the best laid plans and all that went to pot

But one thing at a time.

In theory, take Jools to work, round up the cats, do some work, pick Jools up, drive up to Norwich.


But cats! They just know something is going on, and with one in a box, the other two either going scatty or having down a runner, it means a back up plan. In this case, call a friend to see if he would come and feed all three cats for the day and a half, then call the cattery, cancel their reservation, and by then, no time for work at all, just time to pack the car, gather the camera equipment, and go to collect Jools at twelve. That meant dropping the house key off with Gary, and with my head spinning. I had achieved nothing that morning, other than chasing cats and failing. But now the weekend could begin, and we could relax. However, in case of emergencies, I had my work phone with me, so I was contactable.

I drive along the Alkham Valley, then along the motorway before turning off for HYthe. A few seconds wait and Jools appears, we are free.

Sadly, with peak orchid season approaching, there was some stuff to snap before we left Kent, so it was a mad dash up the M20 and then the A249 to Stockbury to see the bluebells. It is hard to know when the peak will arrive, but with the poor weather the weekend before, and there being sunny intervals, I took the time to hammer up the down to the reserve, park up and rush round the path.

I know I say this every year, but the bluebell wood in spring is a thing to see. Especially at the peak moment, when just about every spike has opened, and it seems the forest floor has been flooded. But now, in dappled sunshine, it looked just wonderful. Near to your feet you could see the green of the foliage, but a few feet away, the solid panel of blue began. And all bar the narrow path between them, all was blue.

At the bottom of the site, just along the path, the Lady began. Most now are mostly open, at least on the side facing the sun. I lost count of how many there were open, or even partially. I snap some, but then, with the clock ticking, we make our way back to the car. Such a shame to not be able to spend longer here, but time was ticking.

One hundred and sixteen Down the hill, into a gap into the traffic coming north from Maidstone, then on the M2 and hammer up to Dartford, where, there should be no trouble getting over the river. Or in this case, under the river. But as it turned out, the best laid plans, and all that. Traffic began to slow down a few miles from the junction, and so it took and hour to crawl onto the M25 and then to the tunnel. There was no real reason for the delay, just weight of traffic. As Jools pointed out, it was Bank HOliday, and the weather was forecasted to be decent, so better expect that.

Blue and Purple We cross into Essex, and in heavy traffic, but with Radcliffe and Maconie playing on the radio, it was pleasant. Up the M11, into the rolling countryside of south Essex. But the traffic was very heavy, but we had time now. So I take my foot off the accelerator, and get in a line of trucks as we pass Stansted and into Cambridgeshire. We take the A11 off it, along very familiar roads. In the past, there would be long queues at Barton Mills when the good road ran out, but now the road had been dualled all the way to Norwich, should be no problems, right?

Lady Orchid Orchis purpurea Wrong.

All the tens of millions of pounds spent have done, is move the bottlenecks elsewhere on the road. Instead of stopping at Barton Mills, there are now jams at Thetford and between Attleborough and Norwich. In fact, all the way into the city.

We had all night, but it would be nice to arrive at the hotel, check in and relax, but there was nothing we could do. We sat in the jam for half an hour, then instead of inching our way onto the by-pass, I decide to go on into Norwich to the old ring road, then go to the football ground and station where the hotel was. We still go stuck, but was quicker than fighting onto the by-pass, and in ten minutes we cruise past Carrow Road, past the sites of the old Kingsway and Clarence Harbour pubs, taking the left hand turn over the railway bridge, and there was even a space outside the hotel for us.

An evening walk in Norwich The owner recognised me, gave me a permit allowing us to park, and showed us to our room. It was five in the afternoon, neither of us had eaten lunch, so thoughts were very much turned to food. I thought we could both do with a leg stretch, so we took the lower road to the station, then over the Yarmouth Road and alongside Riverside Road to the Bishop Bridge. This bridge is so ancient it beggars belief, but is still in used, but closed to traffic, and on the other side is a fine looking pub, The Red Lion. We could smell the food cooking from twenty metres away.

An evening walk in Norwich I get a pint and half a cider for Jools, we look at the menu and order. Soon I was tucking into a fine plate of scampi and hand-cut chips, and another beer which I sent down to keep the first one company.

Having eaten and drunk, we could now carry on our perambulation, and from the Bishop Bridge, it is a short walk to the Cathedral Close, access to is via a small gate, and into an ancient world, all flint built buildings, and so quiet, it was like the modern world had melted away. The spire of the cathedral was catching the rays of the setting sun; it was a perfect end to the day. Parents were picking up their darlings who attend the Norwich School, we walk back the west end of the Cathedral, go out the gate and take the road down as I had thought of another beer, and one of my favourite pubs was just a few minutes walk away.

An evening walk in Norwich The Ribs of Beef sites before the bridge on Magdalen Street. As well has beer, they have a boat landing with small tables, so we could take our drinks dwon onto the river, and sit alone in the gloaming, admiring the world going by, or in the case, the lazy river flowing gently to the sea away in the east. We watched as two lads climbed into a canoe, paddles the 25 metres across the river, tied up, then went up to the bar to get drinks. It would have been earlier to walk round, but then paddling to the pub: who wouldn't want to do that?

An evening walk in Norwich We drink up then take our leave and walk back up the hill to the top of Prince of Wales Road, making good our way before the nightowls and other creatures of the dark come out. We already see people out on the lash, staggering either through drink or silly footwear. Some bars had yet to open, others already had queues, we bought some chocolate at a corner store, then walked back past the station to the hotel to make tea and eat the chocolate bars.

An evening walk in Norwich A long day over, but we were out an about, and tomorrow, there was the promise of many Norman churches for me.

Thursday, 27 April 2017

The Goat is out and running

22 days after sending the Article 50 notification, the PM called a General Election. For this to happen, the fixed term Parliament Bill dictated that there needed to be a vote, and Labour, like all stupid turkeys, voted for Christmas. So as well as Brexit, the collapse of the NHS, galloping inflation, we now have an election, with even more lies and untruths being spoken by all sides.

In the meantime, the EU has completed its preparation for the Brexit Talks, and has pretty much controlled the process since the vote last June. If not before. The EU 27 are united, the four pillars of the Single Market are not up for discussion, and the deal that Britain gets will be worse than what they have now.

And the Government is now looking at sectoral exemptions for areas like farming, healthcare and the service industry, as the reality that they can't cope without low skill EU and non-EU workers. The pharmaceutical industry, that is currently run from London, will move to mainland Europe, and the British Government really thought that they could argue that EU institutions could stay in London whilst not being in the EU. The EU said no, and that's that. Each pharmaceutical job lost as a result of Brexit costs the British economy £109,000.

And the PM is refusing to take part in televised debates, stating she would rather go out and meet the electorate in person, which is why I am sure she visited a factory yesterday after the workers had finished and left for the day. Best not have anyone ask any tricky questions. The current manta is that a vote for Labour is a vote of the coalition of chaos, and a vote for her is for strong leadership.

And yet all the time, there will be almost nothing to discuss with the EU, as their position is clear and united. It really comes down to what they will grant Britain, not what Britain can negotiate. May has already played her two of clubs trump card in deciding when to trigger Article 50. But the EU have been ready for months, most British Brexiteers, and Jeremy Corbyn, still don't know what a non-tariff barrier is.

I could be wrong. Don't think I am. Brexit might go gloriously well, and Britain will be better off. But that really isn't going to happen. Not at all.

Thursday 27th April 20017

Pay Day

It would appear that between now and the end of May, I have just one day of work travel, and that is next Thursday. By the time I come back from vacation, the project will just about be finished. How'd you like those apples? So, in the meantime I am to work from home, pander the cat's needs, and try not to go mad.

It is a usual work day: get up, make coffee, feed the cats, check the internet, check the weather. For some reason we were up at quarter to six, and Jools left for work at twenty to seven. I then have breakfast and am ready to start work just after seven, as there are some urgent tasks to see to.

And then there are meetings. Four hours of them, all the way to half eleven. One after the other. At least having to leave one for the next means you're not party to that one overrunning, which was highly likely.

Outside the sun shone, I would love to have gone out, but work keeps me busy, and then the IT fails, so I have to speak to a colleague for a workround. Oh dearie me.

There is leftover chorizo hash for dinner, which I am tempted to pop open a Leffe to wash it down with, but make do with lemon squash instead.

I can feel the three day weekend coming, heck, even see it coming. In fact it is a three and a half day weekend as we are on our travels tomorrow. SO, I have to make sure all is up to date; it is.

Once work peters out, it is cold and grey outside, and looks like rain. So I take my shot for the day of Scully as she looks cute, then find an episode of Time Team to watch, and Molly joins me on the sofa, whilst various members of the crow family peck at seeds in the front garden.

One hundred and fifteen And then there are Jersey Royals to boil, wild garlic sausages to fry, it is spring after all.

And that is your day, really. The Manc Derby to listen to in the evening, the final details of the trip to arrange, and that is it.

See y'all on Sunday. Stay classy.

Wednesday 27th April 2017

I say I understand why hotels in Denmark seem to insist on 400 tog duvets Maybe they think its cold, or the Danes just don't like to be cold. Then why live in Denmark? So, through the night I alternate between being under the covers, throwing them off as I overheat, going from hot to cold before pulling the duvet back on. And repeat until dawn, or as near as.

I get up at quarter past five and outside it was already getting light, indeed the sun had already apparently risen, although the sun itself was hidden by buildings, but the few clouds were outlined by sunlight. It was a good day to travel home, but then it always is.

I pack, get dressed and go round the room to make sure I hadn't forgotten anything. And it seems I had managed to get it all in my case and work bag. As usual, too early for breakfast, so I check out, paying the bill with the company credit card, loading the car then finding the barrier would not let me out f the car park again. That fixed with a new swipe card, I an turn onto the main road, turning right to head out of town, as the city wakes up, and its people begin the morning commute.

Good morning, Arhus I had planned the journey carefully, allowing me just over an hour at the airport, thus allowing me the most time in bed. I didn't even have to rsh down the motorway, I could cruise at one ten, or one twenty, and enjoy the sun rise and early morning light. Oh yes, very clever I thought.

And all was going well until I turned off the motorway to go west to the airport along the A road. I even managed to get in front a of a truck so able to travel at the speed limit. 30 minutes to go to the airport, and ages to kill.

Yes, all was going well until I came to the first major junction, and police had closed the road. We were waved on the off ramp, there were no diversion signs, heck I even knew the Danish word for diversion, but there was nothing. I followed the cars in front and turned left, and as we crossed over the road I could see a jack-knifed lorry blocking the whole road, and I hoped no one got hurt.

The road meandered through the countryside, until it came to a small town, again no idea which way to go, so I turn right, hoping to be heading in the right direction. The road entered a industrial area, and I realise it what I can see from the motorway. Indeed, I could hear it and catch glimpses through buildings of cars rushing past. At a roundabout it said the motorway was 4 km away, so followed the signs.

Back on the motorway, heading south, but the airport was still half an hour away and I had less than two hours to go before the flight left, and still did not know what to do. I could follow my route that I did on Tuesday to Esbjerg before taking the road north to the airport. It was then I remembered the new Vejle. Although to get on it I would have to go past the off ramp and double back, but that joins the road which was blocked, after the blockage!

One hundred and fourteen I had worked it out, so I relaxed again, put my foot down until it was time to turn off, until I had to turn off, go over the motorway and back on, taking the right hand lane, and onto an almost deserted road, and soon when the speed limit sign was cancelled, I could cruise at top speed, 130, and enjoy overtaking lines of trucks. I go past the junction I usually join the motorway and carry on until it is time to turn off for the last few miles.

No queues at the check in desk, and only a small one at security. I am always amazed how many people get pulled up for failing to pack liquids correctly. Or fail to take off watches, bangles or whatever. I am through, so go up to the business lounge, and I have time to have a roll, two coffees and check some mails on the computer before it was time to go to the gate.

The flight was three quarter full, full of mostly fellow business types. I say fellow, I seem to be the only one no working even as the safety brief is given. Documents are reviewed, and letters written on computers. And I read the in flight magazine, I wonder if I'm the only one who does. I enjoy reading John Simpson's pieces. This month he describes the Velvet Revolution in Czechoslovakia. Nearly 30 years on, its easy to forget how unbelieveable it all was, when people's revolution swept through Eastern Europe, and 21 years after another revolution had been crushed, freedom flowered again. These are the things we must remember, when our freedoms are taken away for our own safety, and what people did, what they risked, in order to have the things we all too easily take for granted. And the moment when Václav Havel introduced Alexander Dubček I felt tears running running down my cheek.

Springtime for Denmark We take off, flying into the blue skies, which were adorned with fluffy clouds. I closed my eyes, only opening them to accept a fruit juice and then a cold breakfast and then coffee.

Amrum Sadly, no approach from the west again for us, we go down the Essex coast before turning down the Thames. Sadly, cloud thickened, so saw little of the ground and the points of interest I so enjoy seeing as we get lower. We emerge from cloud over Tilbury, skimming over the hosues of Thamesmead, Belmarsh Prison before crossing over the river and we were down on the ground.

Redsands We taxi to a distant pan, and wait for a bus to collect us. We wait for 5 minutes. Ten minutes. Twenty minutes. And then a bus finally comes, and we are allowed off at last. In waiting, I missed whatever chance I had of catching the earlier train home. Meant I could take my time, take pictures on the DLR station, have coffee at Stratford, then wait on the platform for the 10:44 train.

DLR Arriving at Stratford, I have a coffee and a chocolate chip muffin, then go down to the platform and find that trains were being delayed. Cracks had been found in the tunnel leading to St Pancras, but things were getting back to normal. Three Eurostars cruise past at something like a quarter of top speed, I snap one of them, and another going up the central track that separates the two platforms.

Have I been on holiday?

No, work.

Work? Where?

I explain. She makes it sound so exotic, I suppose it could be seen as such; living in hotels, eating out, traveling the world, or Europe at least.

She gets on another train, leaving me to wait ten more minutes for my train. It comes, and I get on, and then find myself surrounded by sick people, coughing and sneezing. And theres me hoping not to be infected. Especially as my allergies had been acting up. I think the woman on the train on MOnday had triggered the first one, then the Beamer had been cleaned with something that made me sneeze like crazy. Allergies are bad enough, but allergies with a cold or flu???

Temple Mills bound The sickies get off, and I am alone for the last leg between Folkestone and Dover. I try to see the orchids from the train as we go past Samphire, but there are too few to see them this year.

The taxi is waiting for me at Priory, I get in and despite it being sunny, and not cold, he has all the windows up and heating on full. But then he's twice the man I am and wearing shorts. Not a good look, but then who am I to judge?

Down the rabbit hole He takes me home, leaving me standing on the street, but home. Once inside I put the kettle on and make a brew, and being just gone midday, its lunch too.

The cats come to visit and say hello one by one, each telling me they have been starved when I was away. A handful of kibbles seems to do the trick, and they are happy again. I do the circuit of the garden, seeing what has grown since I was away, and what new is showing.

And then there is work to do. It would be nice to while away the afternoon, but not today.

Even here in Kent, it is cold. Not as cold as in Denmark, but close. Too cold to sit outside for too long, but I do anyway, sitting under the shelter, admiring the view back to the house.

Hertog Jan Grand Prestige Evening comes, I cook chorizo hash and pop open a fine bottle of beer. Jools comes home, I dish up and so we can catch up whilst the radio burbles away.

Halfway through the week already, and a day nearer the three day weekend, and a couple of days away; what could we be up to?

Wednesday, 26 April 2017

Tuesday 25th April 2017

21 months in, and time for some celebrating. Yes, in the words of Mr Churchill, this is not the beginning of the end, but might be the end of the beginning. Of the project. In light that offshore work finished some weeks ago, a hog roast was planned for the workers at Esbjerg, and it became clear I among the project management was the only one not also invited. That corrected, I said I would go.

One hundred and thirteen I had meetings planned in Arhus before and after the celebration, requiring me to drive 80 minutes each way from the hotel, but it would be worth it, and be back for meetings in late afternoon. Only those got cancelled, and in hindsight, I should have stayed in Esbjerg, allowing me to get two more hours work done, but in the end, couldn't be bothered, so with the arrangements as originally made, I would have the best part of three hours on the road, and in a 320 Beamer, it wouldn't be a hardship.

Celebrate, good times, go on! I am also given the luxury of a lay in bed, until half seven or eight if I want, but there is a trash truck outside the hotel just after five, so I am awake as it clanks and crashes its way along an alleyway below. I get up and have a shower, check the internet and decide to get some miles under my belt. So go down for breakfast, finding the breakfast room packed with teachers at the conference, all talking about teaching and stuff. But I find a table, get myself some fruit and a coffee before going out to the car and manoeuvre the beast out of the car park and onto the main road south.

Celebrate, good times, go on! Traffic is thick heading north, but with the rising sun to the east, and with plenty of horses under the bonnet, I motor down the motorway, just enjoying the drive. I would have put the radio on or something, but the car was set up to speak Spanish. I had no idea how most stuff worked, other than make it go and stop. So, in silence, I drive on, with only my inner monologue complaining about other drivers to lighten the trip. Traffic was so much lighter once I turned on the motorway to Esbjerg, through farmland and marshes.

Celebrate, good times, go on! I arrive at the harbour, get through security and drive to the offices. All are smiles and I am welcomed with hugs and handshakes. All very nice I have to say. Not much else to do, other than meet my old quality team, find out their current issues, and wait until the food was ready. We all make our way to the warehouse, where someone had set up two smokers, and a pig was being finished off, carved up ready for serving. There was also smoked chicken (a bugger to light) and long Danish sausages, as well as a salad bar and bottles of fizzy pop.

Celebrate, good times, go on! Speeches are made (in Danish) and then the technicians are allowed to get their food. The rest of us wait until they had all eaten, no need to worry as there was enough for just about everyone to have seconds and some thirds. It's all pretty much over, we are all smiles, just about. Some ends to sort out, but, the end is near.

And like that, we all have to go, so one final rounds of hand shaking and saying thanks for all the hard work, etc, etc.

I swap beers with the boss, then go to the car for the drive back. Rain had kept off all day, but now clouds were gathering, and it was mighty cold. On the way north, rain, then sleet and finally snow began to fall. Day became almost night, and the wipers worked hard to clear ice from the screen.

Incoming Blizard I get back to the hotel just before the afternoon rush hour, parking the car and going to my room, my top floor room giving me fine views over the city as the sun got low in the west, illuminating the underside of storm clouds, making them seem jet black. It felt like the end of the world was coming, but the weather held off for an hour until the clouds opened. Rain lashed down, and people down on the street far below ran for cover. I decided to eat in the hotel that night, so did some work, listened to the radio, and generally took this easy.

Down in the restaurant, I order steak (makes a change from a burger), and onion rings. But its a lonely evening, reading an old magazine as I wait for the food to come. When it does, its overcooked and tough as old leather, but eat it anyway, just glad to be able to go back to my room to watch the football.

Chelsea were playing Southampton, and was a much better game than it should have been, so I lay on my bed watching Chelsea run out 4-2 winners and all but guaranteeing them the title.

And that was my shot trip to Denmark over with, just a few hours sleep and I could begin the long trip home

Monday 24th April 2017

No AC/DC to wake me up this morning. In fact, 36 hours later, I can't remember what it was, other than quarter to five is still too early, even if it is getting light. We have a routine now on such mornings, make coffee, feed cats, make breakfast, wash up, getting dressed, seeds out for the birds and so on. Meaning at then to six we are ready to go, suitcase in the boot of the car.

Always the same worries; will the trains be running/late, did I have my passport on me, or my phone. All is good, I get the ticket from the machine, and a couple of minutes before the train is due, other passengers get out of their cars and wait at the edge of the platform.

I get on, and manhandle my large case on; it contains safety boots and a reflective jacket as well as a selection of hopped beers for my boss. Best keep him onside.

LCY Anyway, I get a set on the favoured side of the train, although looking backwards, it'll have to do. The train seemed less full than usual, with only a couple of people standing by the time we leave Ebbsfleet on the last dash into Essex.I had looked on Twitter for signs of delays on the trains, DLR and planes; all seemed good, so I could stop for breakfast at Stratford station, also checking my mails as I make a chicken tikka melt roll vanish. Just like that.

Trains and boats and planes Onto the DLR to the airport, it is busy with kids all dressed smart in blazers n their way to school. I look like a bag of shit with a belt, but that's the way. As usual, the self-check in machines are not working properly, so I have to queue up to get my boarding card printed and case checked in. That took all of 5 minutes, upstairs through security and into the lounge where I can find a desk to work at, if only I could get the pesky free wifi to work.

Monday Morning, London Bridges Work updated, I can relax and ponder whether to buy a book or magazine, as I had forgotten to bring anything. I decide to save money, but also to buy a new memory card for the weekend. And more about that event later.

The flight is called, and after arriving find loads of people waiting, they have new gates which they check tickets before you board instead of when you arrive. So when the flight is ready for boarding, there is a queue of people waiting to go down the steps onto the apron, even though we were being bussed to the plane. Didn't matter if you were first or last on the bus, you would get on the plane at the same time. So, I am last on the bus, nearest the door. So when we pull up at the plane, I am first off, first to the steps and first in my seat. And with no bloody queuing.

Arhus rooftops And the flight is full, also with the usual first time flyers on this flight; the plane, its so small. Is that it? and so on.

Arhus rooftops We all get strapped in and we taxi off down the perry track, onto the runway; turn on a sixpence, the engines power up and off we go. We lift into the air, I get views over the airport, to the sugar refinery and then the river. We bank to the right, get views over the city and along the river before we climb into the clouds, and blighty is lost from view.

We are served juice, a cold breakfast and coffee or tea. It is very civilised, and enjoyable, until we begn to drop lower on approach to Billund. It's going to bumpy says the pilot. He's not wrong. I am snoozing, but brough back to the worl of the living as the plane lurches as it enteres cloud, then more sidewinds yank it in the other direction.

Oh Lordy.

But we get down safe and sound, stumble out of the plane to find that it is still February in Denmark. Cold and with a strong breeze. Words fail me. It's like bloody February again.

I get my case, go to the car hire place, and despite there beign a line, I am given the bag with my keys before anyone else, and given a BMW for the week too. Cheers easy!

Its a 320 tourer, and a manual, fun to drive, once I get myself in. I just find it hard to bend myself in a way that I can get in, but once in, press the start button, engage all gears and lurch off.

Mr Shags I know the way so well now, I don't even think about it, roaring off up the motorway past long lines of trucks to Arhus Nord to the head office, finding a parking space then going in as I have meetings arranged No surprise there.

The day all done at five, I drive to the hotel, where there is an international teaching conference on, and so I am lucky to get a room. My colleagues couldn't, so I would be billy no mates, other than my old Air Force buddy, Shags, is coming over at six to meet up for a chin wags and brews. Which is better than nice.

He is early, texts me telling me that, so I go down and we get the first beer in, toast our good fortune to be able to meet up like this. He then takes me to Mikkler Bar for some different and strange beers, and best of all, he's paying.

Mr Shags We both have work in the morning, so after two tasters, we call it a night, and I walk back to the hotel, leaving Shags at the station for his expensive ride back home.

Sunday, 23 April 2017

Sunday 23rd April 2017

St George's Day

A day in which England celebrates the martyrdom of a middle-eastern Roman soldier, who was not English and had never been to England. And doing so, the far right, and not so far right celebrate by displaying the flag of St George, using it a symbol in restricting middle-eastern and other brown people. And not so brown European citizens.

But I digress.

I love my country, and want what will make it stronger. This does not involve waving or displaying flags. Just saying.

Anyway, Sunday, and as for the weather, read yesterday's blog, because today the weather was just the same; cloudy and cold in the morning. But with the promise of sunny intervals again in the afternoon. So, fingers crossed.

Anyway, with me off on my travels again tomorrow, my thoughts turned to orchids, of course, so, my first thought was to go down to Kingsdown to check on the Early Spiders. It was dull and cool again, but with these orchids, the colours will show through even on a dull day, or so I hoped. Jools is a tad orchided out, so did not come, the plan was just to nip down, look for orchids, take shots and come back. And going early morning, traffic would not be a problem driving through Kingsdown.

And I was right, it was brightening from the north, si my hopes were raised on some good shots. I park on the main road, walk down the track, cutting through on the SSSI area, taking the right path. And I almost stand on a flowering spike. Orchids here are so much smaller than at Samphire, and are darker in colour, so well worth recording this colony.

Early Spider Orchid Ophrys sphegodes In fact, as I walked down the path, I found six more spikes flowering, and four more at least that will flower in the next week.

Early Spider Orchid Ophrys sphegodes I take many shots, shots of all flowering spikes, then go back to the car and then to home, as the morning demanded bacon. I get busy in the kitchen, grilling, buttering, boiling the kettle the dishing up. All done by quarter past nine. A friend of mine said he was visiting many of the Kent orchid sites Sunday, and his Facebook update suggested he left his house at six, so I felt enthused, and said to Jools, you go clean your teeth and I'll wash up. Which is Jelltex for I've changed the plan, we're leaving in 5 minutes.

The plan was to go back to Yockletts again, as there should be at least one Fly open. Fly Orchid that is, although it was getting brighter on the coast, once driving up Stone Street it soon got overcast again, so I did not have high hopes. However, once parked up, it seemed to be brighter, with breaks in the cloud to the north. I mean, who knows, maybe even sunshine?

As I walk through the gate to the reserve, I see something, looked like a leaf, but I knew it wasn't. It was a roosting male Orange Tip, clinging to a stem of Cow Parsely, and being cold meant I could snap him really close. The Orange Tip is beautiful in the upper wings, especially the male with those bright orange fore wing tips, but underneath, they are incredible, and I had been wanting to get such a snap for several years. And now I could.

One hundred and ten We walk up the bank, on either side of the path, the undergrowth is getting denser week by week, hiding many of the Twayblade rosettes and anything else of orchidy interest. We climb up through the bluebell glade, which is peppered with Early Purples too, plast the miles and mile of Dog's Mercury too until we come to the meadow, and I was hoping to see Green Hairstreaks. But the lack of sunshine meant they were roosting, if they were about, and without sun, we thought we would leave the basking adders and slow worms beneath the iron plates laid out on the edge of the meadow.

Behind the seat the large Fly had been uprooted, not by a person I think, as I found its withered remains nearby, but as it grew in the middle of a track, any animal could have stood on it. Indeed later, we disturbed a herd of deer just down from here whilst walking back, so a lot more wildlife about than we imagine, and some large.

Anyway, down the slope towards the middle of the reserve, we find may Fly spikes, including, at last, one in flower, and a couple nearly there. Up the path to the top meadow, the Greater Butterfly are pushing their spikes upwards, now erect and not floppy like last week.

On the top meadow I meet another orchid hunter, and we exchange news of what we'd seen. He just found his first Fly, a little way along I show him one that was fully opened, hidden my vegetation, but my eye caught it.

For the first time, we walk the who circular path, on through the woodland paths, then into the bluebell woods, scattered with Early Purples and the remains of the Wood Anemones. Down the hill, and just where I predicted, we found the mother lode of Fly Spikes, including two which were open.

We walk back along the lower path, finding many more Fly spikes, and Ladys about to open too, but none fully open. If there were time we would have gone back to Stockbury, but not this week.

Back to the car, and up the Gogway to Stone Street, back through Bridge and to Bishopbourne on our way to Barham. By now it was after midday, and there was little traffic about, at least down the narrow lanes of East Kent. We park at the bottom of the bridleway, and I go up to check on the various bi-coloured, pink and pure white Early Purples. But the EPOs have almost failed here, just bare spikes were showing in most cases. Not sure if they have been eaten, or just not produced sepals and lips. How odd. I do find the Lesser Butterfly rosettes, and they too are well developed, and starting to push upwards.

On the other side of the road, there are no spikes open, apart from Twayblades, so I do a quick survey, and we will return again. And again. And again.

We call in at the old folks on the way back, Tony was planting in the greenhouse, and the chickens all seemed to be playing the roll of the Cooler King, although got excited as I fed them grass and daisies. Again, we were offered no eggs.

Half one now, and we were beyond hunger, so we stop off at KFC for a snack, and pretty poor it was too. I have a "burrito", which was poor. The fries, as ever, were dreadful. But, saved me cooking, and as we had nothing, best we got something.

The day is slipping by us once again. Instead of cooking dinner, I warm up some pull pork sausage rolls; dies this mean that as they don't contain sausage meat they therefore should not be called sausage rolls? I do think about these things, and sometimes say them out loud. This is when Jools sighs a lot I think.

I write, listen to music, have a shower, pack and so am ready for the early start on Monday. There is the football to watch leftover from the morning when orchids were clearly more important.

Outside darkness falls and it grows cold again. We have put more peanuts out for the badger, and as I go to bed at half nine, he is already out there frantically munching away. Today Kent, tomorrow Denmark.

Saturday 22nd April 2017

It would be nice if every week when the weekend come round, we have wall to wall sunshine to enable orchids to be photographed in the best light. We can't always have that of course, and we also need rain in order for plants to grow, but rain at weekends can be annoying. In the end, if its cloudy, or rains, we just have to deal with it. I might be grumpy about it, but then, it might clear up later.

As expected, it was dull and dreary when we got up, I scour the horizon to the north east to see if there was hint of sunshine, but no. I check online for the weather for here, the Medway Towns and Canterbury; and although there was some hints that it brighten up later, nothing was certain. It was also the 20th Records Store Day, and although I would like to have gone to the place in Folkestone, it goes against what I think it should be ablut, much less limited editions meaning more people have the chance of getting what they want, not just chancers getting them and putting them straight on e bay. Jools also had a course in Folkestone, she could have dropped me off, I was tempted, but in the end, I decide not to go, and potter around at home.

There is the shopping to be done, and so I say I'll go. We make a list and I get in the car for the short drive to Whitfield. I zoom round getting what we need, and apart from a diversion to the beer section, I get all that was on the list and go to pay. JUst two bags of shopping, but not all of it healthy, but then looking at us, you'd expect nothing less I suppose.

One hundred and ten I return home, put the shopping away and Jools makes coffee, puts the croissants in the oven. I check the weather every ten minutes, there seems to be sunny spells developing after three in the afternoon. I am fixed on that.

Quince in flower Jools leaves at half ten, so I check work mails and find I have documents to check. I power up the laptop, do the review and find mistakes on all three. So I send them back asking for them to be redone. I get a call. There's nothing wrong with those boss, I'm told.

Wisteria So, I explain that there is, and thankfully I was right, all will be redone and sent back again. And so the morning and early afternoon passes.

A star after the rain Much to my shock, the sun comes out at about half one, and Jools is not back with the car. I fret about missing the light as the minutes tick by. She arrives home at half two, I have packed the camera bag, put my shoes on and am almost ready to sprint out to the car to snatch the keys out of her hand. I don't, but explain I'm going straight out, did she want to come? No, fine.


The plan was to go to Samphire Hoe to check on two new colonies of Early Spiders I had been told about. A family fishing give me looks as I walk by, but on I walk, almost out of sight, then at the end of the path, in the lea of the cliff, among the long grass, I see the first spike. It is very tall, so it shows over the surrounding vegetation, but looking unlike any other ESO I have seen.

Early Spider Orchid Ophrys sphegodes Nearby, I find another growing on a chalk boulder, out of apparently no soil at all, but it seemed happy enough. Orchids do grow in the most amazing places sometimes.

Early Spider Orchid Ophrys sphegodes I walk back and along the usual track, seeing if there were any variations on show, I don't see anything other than older spikes losing their colour after pollination. I snap a couple then move on. I count 23 open spikes, I'm sure I missed some, and there was the other colony I did not bother to find. Anyway, more than enough I think.

Early Spider Orchid Ophrys sphegodes So I walk back to the car, with a pair of Peregrine Falcons wheeling above me, calling loud, in what I guess is some kind of mating ritual. I see one wheeling in tight circles chased by the other, then they are gone, away to the west, still calling loudly.

Rook and Jackdaw On the radio, the day's football matches are drawing to an end, but City have already played. So I can listen with detached interest. From the Hoe I drive to north of Dover to check on the colony of Man Orchids. Always good to visit here, a site not many people know about, and a smattering of a good 100 or so spikes. But the dry winter isn't doing the orchids that much good, and the rosettes are a yellow colour rather than green. But a couple are putting up spikes, one spike even beginning to open. It won't be long.

I go home, the good light is fading as it clouds over again. Back home there is the FA Cup Semi Final to watch, Chelski v Spurs; a good game, and worth watching with a beer as the two teams actually go for it. Spurs were the better team, but Chelsea have class and win 4-2, Spurs almost here, but not quite. Surs doing a Spurs, really.

Ease Up IPA As Saturday Live burbles, with Roy Hudd as the star guest, and what a joy he is, I make dinner; insalata caprese, which is just perfect at the end of a relaxing day, and one which I achieved quite a lot.

Saturday, 22 April 2017

Friday 14th April 2017

All good things come to an end, and sometimes even difficult things even come to an end. What I mean by this is, that we are on the final stretch of the project. I know I have not said that much about it in these posts, but, just so you know, when managers and customers beginning to plan celebration parties, then the who shebang is coming to an end. I have been doing this since the middle of September 2015, and it is now April 2017. So, that's a fair chunk of time and effort. I hope that those in power realise how much blood, sweat and tears this has cost. Anyway, just so you know, and that might explain what is going to happen in the forthcoming week.

On Friday morning, I would love to have laid in bed for hours, but being out of the office for a day means that that day's work, as well as the work for the current day, all needing attending to. So, no point in laying in bed doing nothing, and Jools had a stack of work to, and she was up and about before six, feeding the cats and making coffee. It is a grey day, and cold too, or so it seems. I wrap by dressing gown round me, and go downstairs to face the day, and see what Friday would have in store.

Jools has a shower, gets dressed and is soon leaving, meaning that I have to get my shit together, have breakfast and get down on it. But then it is amazing how when the clock is ticking towards start work time, that you begrudge giving a minute too much before what you decide is a proper time to start work. Anyway, on with the computer, make a fresh brew.

Eyes down for a full house!

I have so much to do, and the morning flies by. I arrange a meeting, that needs preparing for, and then the minutes written up. And after lunch I have to tackle the growing mountain of travel claims and reports. The day flew by so quick, and when I looked at the clock, it was quarter past seven. Phew.

Jools calls, she is coming home via Dover, I said I will cook breaded chicken and chili cous-cous for dinner, so no need to call in the chippy.

So it was quarter past seven before we sat down, there was TOTP to watch, then Gardener's World and then Springwatch in Japan. So, it was quarter past nine before we sat down at the table and I realised I had not taken a picture for the day. I had just been so busy. I took one of Jools finishing work on her Japan scrapbook, but I couldn't really use that, so the picture for the day is of a knapweed flower, sadly taken a couple of days back.

Through the evening, Norwich were playing, playing the newly-crowned Champions, Brighton. I had low hopes, so did not follow the game until after the Japan show, and found City 2-0 thanks to two own goals after shots came back off the woodwork and rebounded in off the keeper. Twice. Too little, too late, but hints of what could have been.

So, we were tired, the day had ended, and outside the young badger was munching away on the leftover peanuts, without a care in the world. A nice scene to see as I climb the stairs.

Friday, 21 April 2017

Thursday 20th April 2017

Away day to Leuven

We had set the alarms to go off at quarter to five, they would both come on to the dulcet tones of Radio 2, old radio quiet, thinking that maybe something gentle would ease our brains into Thursday. Instead, imagine my surprise for Down, Down by Status Quo to fade into the obvious opening bars of Highway to Hell. I laid there listening to it, even though the radio wasn't quite tuned in, it was clearly AC/DC blaring away, and an unGodly hour. Apparently this was the Radio 2 Rocks show, however, looking at the playlist, Flock of Seagulls, Oasis and Kansas doesn't suggest rock to me. But AC/DC is good enough for me.

Jools is up, so I get up to, and between us we do the chores of the morning so I can be out of the house and at Martin Mill by six to get the ticket and wait for the train.

As I wait on the platform, the sun has risen, and some of last years teazles waved in the light breeze between my eye and the sun: I take a photo. Of course.

Martin Mill sunrise But I am on the train for just half an hour, just to Ashford where I will change to get a Eurostar to Brussels, then an IC train to Leuven. And I have to say, it is a pretty nice way to start the day, a seat to myself, as the sun rises higher and the landscape and buildings in Dover turn to gold.

The train fills up until we get to Ashford, when I get off, forcing my way through the crowd of commuters trying to get on. Down the steps into the subway, turn left to the little used west side of the station, up the steps and escalators to the Eurostar check in and lounge. Three staff are waiting for customers, my ticket is scanned, then I put my bags on the belt for the scanning machine, then through two sets of immigration checks, and into the large lounge that overlooks the roof of the station.

Waiting at Ashford A few other people are waiting, so I get a coffee and a Bakewell Slice, and sit down to wait. No long queues here, just pleasant and peaceful. And no worry about getting a seat as all our seats are reserved. So, even when the train is called and we are allowed onto the platform, we all amble and not rush, just like we're going on our holibobs, not work. Although I do feel that only a few of us are going to work, there are families going to Disneyland, all with Mickey Mouse hats on, although the younger children are barely awake.

Thundering 66 The train glides in and those of us in above cattle class are met at the carriage door and shown to our seats. I can move to a nice dounle set of armchairs, even facing the way of travel. Would I like breakfast I am asked. Yes, I think I would. Coffee? Yes please.

Somewhere between Calais and Lille The train pulls out and is soon at top speed going back to the Kent coast, rattling through the Eurostar depot and then into the darkness of the tunnels. I time the transit under the sea at 19 minutes, emerging at Calais into bright sunshine. It seems that I am the only one who is looking out the window, as we travel towards Lille, over rich countryside, dotted with picturesque villages and the sky pierced by the spires of their churches. It is a delight, only problem was we were doing nearly 190mph, so as soon as you saw something, it was gone again.

Wheanwhile, in France I take a few shots of what I see, just to show I'm not making this all up.

Through Lille and into Belgium, arriving in Brussels at just gone ten. Oh well, to Leuven and to work, I suppose. I have to get a train there first of course, so try to make sense of the departures board, where on the final destinations are listed. So I walk the width of the station, checking the screens on the information screens until I get to platform 12 and the one I want, in 5 minutes, direct to Leuven.

Midi Arrival I go up to the platform to wait, take a few shots, and soon see my train approaching, snaking through the jumble of points in the distance, pulling a rake of double-decked carriages. Needless to say, once the train stops and the doors open, I go to the dop deck so to get the best views out over the city. At this point the tracks snake and wind their way through the middle of the city, through a dark tunnel, in the middle of which is Centraal Station. The ride is rough, and not inter city quality, but then it is expected.

Good morning, Leuven Once though Nord station, we speed up and leave the city behind, rushing over the countryside, through the suburbs, over the infamous ring road until the large fermenting towers at the Stella Artois factory can be seen. Leuven again.

Good morning, Leuven I get off, swinging my work bag, now without carrying strap after that broke a month or so back. The zips are failing and stitching coming apart. I need a new bag, and with two hours to go before the meeting, I decide to go on the hunt for a bag shop. Shouldn't be hard, right? Lots of bags about, but almost all are the tiny fashionable handbag variety, and although it would be a talking point for me to walk into a meeting with one of those, not very practical. I reach the church, and remember I promised myself a waffle here one time I visit, and with those visits running out, I see there is no queue, so get a waffle, bog standard variety. I retreat to a ledge beside the road surrounding the church, and tuck in.

One hundred and eight And I was disappointed. Not what I was expecting at all. Maybe I should have had the chocolate covered one, or something even more exotic, but this seemed to have a sprinkling of sugar, and that was it. But I eat it, not before snapping said waffle for my picture of the day.

Along the street I find a department store, go in and through the lingerie section, the largest in Leuven apparently, down the stairs I come to the luggage section, and find a bag. I would have liked a larger one, but there was a difference of over €100 between the one I got and one with a few more pockets. So, I buy that and make my way to the office. I am given a desk to work at, and so make sure everything from the old bag is moved to the new one, but best of all, put the strap on, which means hands free again, which means easier for snapping on the go.

Anyway, best get to the room for the meeting.

Afterwards, the three of us do the usual thing, go down the main street to the town square, and retire to The Capital for a couple of decompression beers, and so quiet swearing. Now, although sunny, it is chilly, but not chilly enough to sit inside, and yet our glorious leader who, lets not forget, is descended from Vikings, thinks it is too cold to do so, so inists we sit at the table by the door, so we can still look at the scene outside. We have a beer, then another soon afterwards so the first one would not get lonely.

Chimay Tripel draught Aah, this at least makes the pointless traveling and meetings bearable. With just one more of these days for me, I will miss them, but I know how good they are, so will savour every moment.

Jesper leads us to the burger restaurant, and buys us a late lunch, and more IPA. And fries and onion rings. I have a Greek burger, which has feta cheese and chargrilled aubergine. As you can imagine as being the aubergine's chiefs publicist, I can recommend very highly.

Sint-Pieterskerk, Leuven And like that the day is over, and it is time to beat retreat to the station to catch our trains either to the airport of for me, back to Brussels. As we walk back, people are sitting outside the street cafes, drinking beer and wine, looking very happy. We should have joined them, but we have places to be.

Stadhuis, Leuven I arrive at the station with a few minutes before a direct train pulls in. It is packed, but I get a seat, then at Nord and Centraal, we pick up more passengers until it is my turn to apologise as I need to get off. I walk to the Eurostar terminal to find a massive queue, and lots of stressed people waiting to catch the earlier train. I join the queue and inch towards the check in, then queue again to get through security and again through two lots of immigration. It has taken an hour, meaning I have half an hour to kill before we can board the later train.

I sit and people watch, not much else to do really, there is a high end chocolate shop, but does paying £15 for a bar of dark chocolate really make you happy? I decided not to find out and carry on watching.

We are allowed to board, and warned we might be late in leaving. Oh well, nothing I can do about it, so I read a magazine until we leave at eight or so. Only ten minutes late, which might not sound much, but usually I only have a ten minute wait at Ebbsfleet before the train back to Dover. No point in fretting.

Bondgenotenlaan, Leuven We leave Brussels, the city, sky and suburbs bathed in a rich golden light, on a perfect spring evening as the sun got low in the west. I am served a cold meal, a small bottle of wine and a poppyseed roll, so to munch on as we cruise home. I am enthralled by the view out of the window, but around me people either watch videos or work.

e320 It is sunset as we get to Calais, and the sky is fire red, it is a stunning end to the day, and so we emerge into Kent at Folkestone with darkness nearly having fallen. We are 11 minutes late, and that meant I would miss my train, but maybe that was late as well......

I scramble off the train at Ebbsfleet thinking of the absurdity that the Eurostar had passed within ten miles of home, yet I had to travel to the banks of the Thames to get off te train, and travel back. Bad enough when on time, but as I climb up the stairs from the platform, I see that the time was 20:58, and my train had left three minutes ago.

Night of the Javelin I sigh and call Jools; she will meet me at Ashford in the car, and I will catch the half past eight train, meaning i have 35 minutes to kill on the station, with no shops of other people. I while away the time by looking at the updates from the Man Utd game, hoping that they might slip up. They don't, but still, we can hope.

Jools is waiting for me, so we drive home in light traffic, catching up on the day's news, getting home at just gone half nine. I am pooped, as usual, so boil the kettle for a brew and break out the ginger nuts.

The cats seem happy to see us, and tell us how hungry they were.

Nothing really changes, so I put some food out, and we go to bed. Phew.