Friday, 30 June 2017

Thursday 29th June 2017

Another day, another dollar Or pound. Whatever.

Thursday, and the weather is grey, but due to improve, so much so a walk might in order come four o'clock.

One hundred and seventy seven Sadly, I have to report I am suffering a relapse with my arm/shoulder. In fact it really did not heal properly last year, and for the last week there has been a twinge which has got worse each day. To the point yesterday I had a stabbing pain in my shoulder blade, and what with not being able to lay on my right side now, I bit the bullet and booked an appointment for the chiropractor, sadly, not until next week. I only mention this as a reminder to myself that maybe I should have had this seen to before, but thought I could live with the restricted movement.

A walk to the butterfly glade Anyway, summer has arrived, and the garden is a riot of colour. Each morning more poppies have opened, and other flowers are bloomin' marvelous, and the air is full of buzzing and flapping insects, all trying to get some sweet nectar. We have do so much thus far, but more to do with more Yellow Rattle to get and now a meadow to sow this autumn.

Meadow Brown Maniola jurtina That said, it is Thursday, so put bins out, update meetings to be held and all the usual gubbins. The morning flashes by before I know it, or my stomach, and as normal I am having lunch by half ten as, you know, the food calls me telling me its there.

Small Copper Lycaena phlaeas Outside the clouds part and warm sunshine beats down, I look out and think I could be doing something else, like walking or snapping. But I carry on working until half three comes around, and I can finish for the day, grab my camera and go on a butterfly hunt.

There is an area at the end of the path which leads from the end of our road, near to where it joins with Collingwood, a glade, a small part of a field that has been left to go wild. It is dominated by Buddleia and Teasel, but many other wild flowers and plants grow, and feeding on them are a good range of butterflies; the showy ones feasting on the Buddleia now open, but Meadow Browns in among the long grass.

Common Blue Polyommatus icarus On the path before I get to the glade I see two Comma, great to see this once common species on the bounceback now after two or three really bad years. There are lest three more in the glade itself, along with Red Admirals and Peacocks up high on the Buddleia flowers, Common Blue and Meadow Browns in the grass, and even a Small Copper; the first I had seen there.

Large Skipper Ochlodes sylvanus But I am getting looks from two residents whose back gardens look onto the path, I say I am butterfly hunting, but they look on suspicious. Maybe if I said I was a burglar casing out their houses they might be happier. Anyway, I carry on with my search.

Comma Polygonia c-album An hour passes and I have half a dozen good shots, so turn for home as clouds begin to roll in from the west, and anyway, I need a brew.

Back home there is a welcoming committee of cats, all demanding not only to be fed, but be fed first. So, I do the usual routine, so I can then get on with peeling and preparing the aubergine for dinner, as only half got done last night, meaning freshly prepared and crispy ones tonight too.

I am just finishing when Jools arrives back home after another tough day at the coalface, but we can now relax, eat and listen to Desert Island Discs on the i player, and so the gentle evening begin. As it is the week after mid-summer, it stays light until nearly ten, but after several nights not sleeping well, I need to go to bed well before then, so, farewell, until Friday.

Brexidus; movement of the people

Brexidus has begun, the mass movement of EU citizens moving from the sunlit uplands of a potential post-EU Britain back to Europe. We have to ask, how did it come to this? Applications from the EU for nursing vacancies down 96%? Well, you only have to listen to the Brexiteers and the their cheerleaders in the press, and that no one, no one is questioning the thought that free movement of people is bad. When it is good, even for Britain.

Free movement means people have come here to work, live, pay taxes, support the NHS and other social programs, without them, there would be less taxes to pay for those that need care. They pay taxes to enable all the other things that Britain needs; new roads, railways, paying of the DUP; and without them, their tax monies vanishes as well. And those jobs remain unfilled, those taxes go unpaid, meaning less tax pounds for the Government and local authorities to spend, meaning that there will be more cuts or those that live here will have to pay more.

Have to pay more as corporations also will want to pay less tax for staying here; without the support of the EU, Britain would just have to accept whatever terms a multi-national company wanted so they would stay in post-Brexit Britain. Meaning less money from their taxes which will either result in more cuts to social sending or the rest of us that have jobs, pay more in taxes. I thought that there was nothing but good news in Brexit-world. Having cake and eating it.

Already Airbus is concerned about it's supply chain; wings for it's airplanes are made in the UK, employing 10,000 people directly and another 100,000 indirectly. All those jobs could go without agreement on tariffs and non-tariffs.

This week the Government decided to spend £1 billion on a bribe to the DUP to keep itself in power, in what is described as a supply and confidence agreement, which is not a coalition, oh no. In return, the DUP will support the Government on important cotes, like voting down amendments giving public sector workers a pay rise above the 1% they have had since 2010. So the brave men and women of the London Fire Brigade and their colleagues around the country, the police and security services who put their lives on the line and have received our thanks in the last two months for being there during some dreadful events. Thanks but you're not worth any more money, as there is no magic money tree, but there is for the DUP and Northern Ireland.

And where is the opposition on this and Brexit? At least they voted against the Government on the public sector pay rise, but an amendment to try to keep Britain in the Single Market was defeated, then Corbyn sacked three front like shadow ministers for disobeying the whip. This from a politician who hardly ever followed the party line when he was a backbencher. So, there is really no difference in the position of the Government of the opposition party on Brexit; leave the EU, the Single Market and Customs Union. He is playing the long game, we are told, will change his position when public opinion is clearly against Brexit; by that time he will have run out of people to make shadow ministers, and with the Article 50 clock having nearly ticked down, we could crash out of the EU with no deal at all. And when the left wing of the Labout Party speaks against free movement, then you really know we have crossed into Wonderland.

God help us all.

Finally, let me tackle the lie that the EU might in some way want to "punish Britain: it was Britain that voted to leave, so that everything that comes our way will be all of our fault. Of course, how, as a country, we came to vote for Brexit, is another matter, but all the while, the Article 50 clock is ticking, and if we don't reach agreements on UK/EU Expat rights and the financial settlement, then nothing else can be decided, and unless we get the EU 27 to agree to pause or cancel the notification, then we leave the EU anyway. Imagine starting a process with so many risks not knowing whether it could be stopped. Yes, imagine that!

Thursday, 29 June 2017

Wednesday 28th June 2017

And just like that, one chapter in work ends, and another chapter begins.

It meant a day back home, working on the laptop at the dining room table, and dealing with the demands of the cats. But for some reason, they seemed content enough to have me home, and by half three I was searching their sleeping places to see if they were all OK.

I sleep through the alarm, but Jools is up, and by the time I stir she is eating her breakfast. I am still so tired, not sure why that is, just worn out I guess with the endless meetings, mails and the suchlike. However, six weeks to go and it will be time for another adventure, but more of that nearer the time.

But, just for fun, if people would like to guess what the adventure might be, some already know, or have an idea. But, might be fun.

Jools leaves for work at seven, and I am left inside, looking outside at the rain-laden clouds, not quite fully light, but just a very dull day. I would have liked to have gone for a walk, or something, but the weather really meant that there was little point, as I usually combine a walk with snapping. I could just do the walk, which I think I might do in the near future, but again, more of that another time.

Meetings from eight until one, with breaks to be snatched between to have breakfast and lunch. And by half two, my eyes were itching, and concentration was becoming difficult; let’s give up for the day. I go to lay on the sofa to watch a documentary on life in Japan. Molly joins me and soon is laying asleep, gently snoring beside me.

The documentary was about home life in Japan, the minimalism that we had seen, but how modern life for most Japanese means there is no space for space, everything piled up in apartments just 50 square metres in size, or smaller. The aspiration of empty or negative space is almost unobtainable. So it goes.

One hundred and seventy siz Dinner is pasta salad and aubergine again. I make the pasta during the day, then Jools helps me with the aubergine to egg and breadcrumb it, before I shallow fry it, so we can eat while I’m Sorry, I Haven’t a Clue burbles away from the I player. Always a good day when a new series of that starts.

Another quiet evening spent quietly; I write and Jools catches up on the latest series of Dr Who.

Another day done, but another one will be along shortly.

Wednesday, 28 June 2017

Tuesday 27th June 2017

Pay Day.

And then some.

But, I will brush over those parts.

I wake up in the air conditioned luxury of the hotel room in centraal Brussels, after a good night's sleep, and only stirring once the alarm had gone off.

Magdalenakapel, Brussels In theory, I had an easy morning, I had to be at the airport by eight, but there could always be issues to deal with, so best be early to meet my colleagues and sit around kicking my heels.

I have a luxurious shower, get dressed in my shirt and tie, and after throwing by other stuff in my backpack, I go down to check out and then go for breakfast. It is yet early, but already there are a few others eating away and checking work mails. I look the part too.

Magdalenakapel, Brussels A short walk past Sainte Marie Magdalene is the entrance to the station, I get a ticket and find a train going to the airport leaving in a few minutes. Down on the platform it is like the black hole of Calcutta, as my Grandfather would have said, possibly the most unwelcoming station in all of Europe, but I wait, and soon what was laughably called an Inter City service rattled in, almost empty, with the next stop after Nord, the airport.

Brussel Centraal Brussels airport is one of the hardest to get into; baggage check just to get out of the station, but then there was an attack there last year. I have no case, so able to jump the queue , and go to the arrivals hall to wait for Jesper and the others. Turns out I have at least an hour to wait, so grab a coffee and try to see how long I could make it last. I pass the time looking at people waiting, mostly chauffeur drivers with boards held up wit the names of their prospective clients written on. All seem to know each other, and one by one their clients arrive, either with just a briefcase or a dozen cases on two trolleys.

I sip my now cold coffee, and in time I see Jesper and two other arrive from the Billund flight, and then a few minutes later, Lloyd from the Manchester flight arrives. After shaking hands, we go down to the station to get tickets for the trip to Leuven, then down onto the platform as an even older and more rattly train shudders in. And there is no seats, so I have to stand in the vestibule, which smells like a toilet, probably with good reason......

20 minutes later we arrive at Leuven, and we escape the stink of the train and walk down the main shopping street to the customer offices: time for work.

Three hours or so later, we are done, the last visit to Leuven, and with five hours to kill before our travel back home. So we do what we normally do, head to the main square for special beers at The Capital. Only, it's closed. It had been sold , and now opens "after two", giving us more than an hour to kill. We take up seats in a street cafe opposite, order Hoegaarden Grand Cru each, and watch the world go by.

One hundred and seventy five Yes, this is our last time here, it will be a huge miss once that sinks in.

We have a second beer, then walk to the burger joint around the corner, for old times sake. Burger, fries and onion rings each, and a coke, as we had drunk enough beer by then.

Leuven I walk back to the main station, arriving at the station to see the police arrive to see a gang of young yobs kicking another youth on the ground. A young man on a bike tries to avoid the fight, fails to see the steps at the edge of the pavement and crashes off his bike, breaking his leg. A few minutes later the siren of the ambulance can be heard approaching.

Get on board with the double deckers I squeeze on the train, get a seat, even though it is not too hot, I am sweating like mad in my suit, wishing I could change somewhere into my lightweight trousers and t shirt.

Stella Artois Once at Midi, I see I might be able to make an earlier train, so I ask about the cost: £140, getting back an hour and 50 minutes earlier, at least at Ebbsfleet, and with an hour to wait for a train to Dover. To get back an hour early. Not worth it. I decline and walk out of the station, make for a bar and sit under a parasol, order a Coke and Stella and write some mails. Time passes, the sun shines, and people come and go; air stewardesses, bums and people inbetween. I drink my beer and walk back to the terminal, check in and get through security in time to see the seven o'clock train leave for London.

First trip on an e320 We wait for 50 more minutes before our train leaves. Getting on board reveals a real treat; the new Eurostar, an e 320, and I am in Economy plus, a seat to myself, and soo after gliding out dinner is served, all the while the Belgian countryside flew by.

First trip on an e320 As I drink coffee, we enter France, the sun sinks low in the west, but is still light as we near the coast. Through the tunnel and back into Blighty, and then the annoying part of going all the way to Ebbsfleet so I can get on a train to go all the way back to Folkestone on. Its the only way.

I arrive at ten to nine, giving me 90 seconds to get onto the platform to catch the busy train back south, getting a seat and closing my eyes as the commuters drink beer and cider whilst staring at their mobiles or tablets. All is silent on the train. And I am tired I close my eyes blocking the outside world out. Rain hammers down outside, but I think it will do the garden good.

Jools is waiting for me at Dover, we drive back home up Jubilee Way and the rain falls harder. There is just time for a brew and a scone before bed, falling into a deep, deep sleep after a long day, punctuated with strong beer. Situation normal then!

Monday 26th June 2017

I have been traveling to Belgium, at least once a month, for some 22 months now. It has become something of a chore, but there is always something to enjoy, even on a day trip; be it the beer, meeting with colleagues or just the traveling by train or car in a different country. Something not many people get to do in their work.

But, it has to come to an end. The project is just about over, apart from a few minor issues to sort out, the offices have been taken down in Oostende, and all of us have been re-allocated to other projects. This is just about the only way we can be shown to have done a good job, be trusted with another.

A morning meeting in Leuven means spending a night in a hotel somewhere; Heathrow, Brussels Airport, or the centre of Brussels itself as it turned out. Which meant choosing when to travel, arriving late in the afternoon, and as long as there was no urgent work, the chance for a wander with my camera.

Trip to Brussels Travel is now so second nature to me, it doesn’t phase me at all, nor cause stress; just make sure I have the details of my travel, passport and so on when I leave the house. Usually leaving packing to the last minute.

Jools had to go to work as usual, and I had to be online and ready for a meeting at eight, and more after that. After the cool breeze of the weekend, Monday was sunny and humid already, and would get warmer. I have breakfast, get down to work, chugging away until half ten, when it was time to get ready, pack and try on my suit, as I thought it would be funny to dress up for a change.

The taxi was booked for quarter past eleven, arriving 5 minutes early, it got me into Dover with 25 minutes to spare, time to get my ticket and sit on a bench, watching the comings and goings on the station.

The train wasn’t full, so I get a seat in my preferred position, on the right hand side looking forward, and with nothing to read or do, I could gaze out of the window as we left Dover behind, taking the line beside the beach and then through Shakespeare Cliff and westwards to Folkestone. The sea reflected the sky, and looked Caribbean blue, and welcoming, but I know would be cold.

Ebbsfleet International You know the route by now, through Ashford then alongside the motorway to Maidstone, then through the tunnel emerging to fly over the River Medway. This time I was getting off early, at Ebbsfleet to catch a Brussels bound Eurostar. There, it is small enough for there to be no queue for security, immigration and room in the lounge to relax and look out over the lines leading to the Thames Tunnel.

After a 20 minute wait, we could go onto the platform to wait at the marked entrance for our carriage. Sadly, it wasn’t a new e320 that pulled in, ut one of the few remaining original 373s, which are just as fast, but very tired inside.

Arrival at Bruxelles-Midi I had a seat facing back, sharing a table with two business people; they had been told my seat would be empty, so were not welcoming, but hey, its how it is. After pulling out and traveling back the way I had just come, I was brought lunch just as we dived into the tunnel at Folkestone, then nothing to look at for 20 minutes other than my own reflection as I ate.

Arrival at Bruxelles-Midi At Calais, I was able to take a seat opposite when the man who was sitting there got off, now able to face the way forward, stretch my legs out and close my eyes.

A walk in Brussels I doze all the way into Belgium, waking up as we rattled over the bridge carrying the line over miles and miles of carriage sidings, and into the international platforms. All I had to do then was find a train traveling north for one stop to the Centraal Station, and if I was right, my hotel would be a two minute walk away, if I went out the correct exit, of course.

A walk in Brussels Centraal Station is in the middle of a tunnel carrying the main lines through the city centre, and is as dark and unwelcoming as it sounds, but up the steps to the level above, and it is transformed into a modern shopping mall, with clear signage pointing the way I thought I needed to go. Down a narrow cobbled street, past an ancient church, and if I was right, the hotel would be on my left.

A walk in Brussels Although I have passed through or round the city in the last 22 months, I have not visited its centre since the summer of 1973, when my parents took me on a seven day coach trip titled "3 Capitals" or something.

IN a dazzlingly hot summer, we traveled in a non-air conditioned coast from Oostende to Amsterdam, Paris and a 20 hour day to Paris, and back.

A walk in Brussels All I can remember about Brussels was the Silver "Atomium" and the weeing statue.

A walk in Brussels Did it expand my horizons? Not sure, but Stella expanded by parents, once back home no more brown and mild for my father, but fancy lager, although not the same as the proper Belgian stuff.

It took 30 whole seconds to find my hotel, then change out of my suit, do some urgent work before going back outside into the early evening sunshine for a walk.

A walk in Brussels I ask the receptionist which way I should go; across the square she said, and just keep going.

A walk in Brussels So I went.

A hundred yards or so on, I come to a grand arcade, mostly lines with chocolate shops, selling goodies unbelievably expensive chocolate, the equivalent of a single finger of a Kit Kat costing €1.50.

A walk in Brussels Back outside I take a side street, all cobbled and lined with restaurants, selling what seemed identical course in the same combinations for the same price. Not sure how that all worked, but business seemed slow.

After some searching I find a bar and go in for a swifter.

A walk in Brussels €4 for a Karmeliet, with a view onto the cobbled street and rows of empty restaurants seemed very good value to me.

A walk in Brussels After drinking up, I could see the spire of a building, so go to investigate, and come to the main square, The Grand Place, which was full of tourists, police and photographers. I go round snapping all four sides.

Kaasmark, Brussel So I walk back the way I had came, stopping off in a bar for a cool trappist beer, strong enough for half a pint to make my head spin, then walk on looking for somewhere to eat, ending up after passing back by the hotel at a square called Cheese Market, and I take a table outside a nice looking place and have onion soup followed by meatball and fites; and was very pleased with my choice. I had the square laid out in front of me for entertainment, and on such a fine warm summer evening, what could be better?

One hundred and seventy four Back in my room, I get a mail telling me my work earlier was fine, so was free to either go back out or have an early night. I have an early night, in bed by twenty past ten, with the sounds of revelling outside stopped by the double glazing.

Monday, 26 June 2017

Sunday, 25th June 2017

Sunday, a day of rest.

Unless there are orchids, butterflies and trains to see. And photograph.

Pyramidal Orchid Anacamptis pyramidalis Last week, when I walked to Kingsdown with Tony, I spotted a couple of pale Pyramidals on the cliff tops, so, with the best of the weather expected first thing, we went there first thing.

Getting to the monument is now much easier that the estate owners have actually tarmacked the road, at least until the final hundred yards to the monument, that is still pot holed to the max.

Pyramidal Orchid Anacamptis pyramidalis A short walk along the cliffs were the orchids, and a couple of hundred yards down I find the pale lilac spike, easily snappable, so I take advantage, and walking back find a few more. There was the single camper van beside the monument, I think they are trying t stop overnight camping there, maybe the Germans could not read the signs, or refusing to comply.

Pyramidal Orchid Anacamptis pyramidalis Back home for bacon butties and a brew, before the next item on the agenda; a hunt for the fabled Frog Orchids.

Two or three years ago, Jools and I searched the area above Crabble Athletic Ground for the orchids, but having not seen them before, wasn’t too sure what a spike would look like, even with the trusty Harrap in my hand. But after seeing them two years in a row now in Suffolk, and having top quality orchid eyes, we would search again. Once an area of downland is no longer grazed, it quickly gets taken over by scrub and eventually trees, closing in the open ground and forcing the plants that were there before to move elsewhere or die out, Moving is only possibly by setting seed and if there is a new place to grow, but there is the chance a spike or two could cling on, maybe in a glade.

We hoped.

Parking at the football ground, we walked up the steep slope to the old pasture that used to be where the spikes grew, at least to the beginning of the 80s anyway. Jools knew the area back then, but trying to reconcile with what was there before to what is there now, is difficult. Even asking a dog walker we wasn’t too sure either, but then he said he had seen what he thought was an orchid the day before, would we like to see it?

We did, of course, and so he takes up along steep and overgrown paths to where it opened out slightly, and beside the path were two small Common Spotted Orchids, showing, if nothing else, that conditions could be right for Frogs.

He also explained the land at the top of the downs, and where grazing took place, so we followed him up, and me branching off every time I saw a clearing or grass pasture. I looked and looked, even at the top of th down where there was a large clearing full of grass and willow herb, but nothing there either.

Finally, walking back down we came to an area which had been cleared last winter, hoping this would be the place; I found Knapweed Broomrape, and other wild flowers, many butterflies, but no orchids. However, this was by no means a comprehensive search, and a return, maybe next year at the start of the Frog flowering season.

We walk back to the car, finding it still only quarter past ten, and having done so much already.

Next up was Sandwich Bay to see the newest species of the season; the Marsh Helleborines. Many people’s favourite orchid. Me, I can’t choose.

One hundred and seventy four Sandwich was pretty much closed off due to a road race taking place, and a coach getting stuck down one of the narrow streets of the town, but one more entrance, over the old town bridge and past the church lead us to Sandwich Bay, and paying a pretty pound got access to the Bird Observatory, and a place to park, and where permission to see the orchids could be sought.

Marsh Hellebroine Epipactis palustris It was no trouble, so Jools and I got our camera and walked over the meadow to the ringing area, and into the orchid meadow. Most spikes were at least partially open, not quite at their peak, but good enough to get shots, and the sun even shone for a while making the pictures sparkle.

Marsh Hellebroine Epipactis palustris All the marsh orchids were over or almost gone over, so none were worth snapping, no sign of the pure white one either, but to compensate there were dozens of butterflies to see and chase once the orchids had been snapped.

Marsh Hellebroine Epipactis palustris We had a brew and some chocolate on the main building, swapping stories of recent finds with a friend. I say friend, stole one of my discoveries as his own, but who am I to bear a grudge?

And back home for lunch, which turned out to be dinner; chicken salad and Jersey Royals. And tea.

At four I am off out again to snap a train. The East Kent \railway was having a gala, and on the final train of the day there were going to run a train with three shunters pulling. Worth going to Shepherdswell for I think. So I am standing in a layby overlooking the line, which is hard to photograph due to thick hedges shielding the line, but I think I should get a shot here. I have half an hour to wait, enjoying the warm unexpected sunshine playing on the field between me and the line.

Just before showtime, another car parks near mine, and two volunteers from the railway run across the road, through the field and leap over the gate onto the line so they could get shots I guess. I think about following them, but decide to stay where I was.

Here come the beasts I could see the front of the first loco coming towards us through a gap in the trees, not going fast, so I snap a few shots. As the lead driver spied me, he tooted his horn, then the drivers of the three following locos all begin tooting their horns too. Sadly, I wasn’t taking video, but it was interesting to say the least, like a row of terraced houses about to fall down, moving, so ragtaggle did the locos look.

And they were gone, trundling into the gloaming of a summer afternoon, and I could make my way home, over the fields, along the narrow lanes Tony called six foot sixers, to Guston and then home.

Sunday, 25 June 2017

Saturday 24th June 2017

I won't go on about the cold war between us and the neighbours, but clearly I am. But, not really a way to see out of it to be honest, we both feel that the other side has been slighted, and so it goes on.

It was a grey day, cool and windy so no real point in going out orchid hunting, as macro shots would be impossible. So, with Jools going to Hythe for a class at lunchtime, I would stay home and maybe deal with the back lawn. I call it a lawn, it looks more like savannah to be be honest, but the Yellow Rattle has worked, not we have to scatter more over a wider area. It does look untidy though, especially down by the shed where the clower is several inches thick, and now that it had stopped flowering, best get the mower out.

I go for a haircut first thing; not been since the beginning of May, and it was resembling a guard's bearskin. And was making me very hot, so, off into town at twenty past eight, so to be first in the queue at the shop. Get in, have haircut, do some bantz and home. Home for poor undercooked croissants, undercooked even with a good 7 minutes in the oven to heat through and crisp up. Very poor there by Mr Tesco.

Jools leaves at then, and I had planned to work in the garden, only the neighbours are out. I thought it best to wait until they had finished. Yes, it really is that bad. So I listen to some radio, edit some shots and write the Brexit post I posted yesterday. And by twelve they had finished so I could go out.

Walking out I found that just doing that caused the usual scattering of roosting moths to fly away, so I decided not to mow the whole lawn, just the bottom quarter, where growth was at its most lush. I potter about, cutting the parts nearest the edges to make mowing easier, then tried to start said mower; only the second time I had fired it up this year. But it fires first time, and I make short work of the area selected, going back and forth, up and down, and in half an hour it was looking better, at least the most jungle like part now under control.

One hundred and seventy three Yesterday we also collected Yellow Rattle seed, saving it for an autumn sowing, spreading the area to further reduce grass growth and to prepare more ground to be meadow-ised. Anyway, that was done, and I was just about to start preparing insalata caprese when Jools arrived home, hungry. Just as well as it was lunch time.

I should have known not to have that third glass of wine, but you know, weekend and all that, so it came to pass shortly after finishing lunch, I was sound asleep on the sofa. For half an hour at least.

IN years gone by I would be glued to the TV watching the best sets from Glastonbury; Radiohead on Friday, Foo Fighters on Saturday, and all the other stuff, but, it seems to leave me a little cold now, making me tetchy that the usual shows on Radio 6 have been replaced by interviews with people saying "best gig of me life! and such things.

It is too cold to sit outside, so we drink coffee sitting inside, listening to the radio and doing other stuff. And in that way, a quiet day, quietly petered out. But more planned for the morrow.

Saturday, 24 June 2017

Friday 23rd June 2017

It all seems to be going a little wrong at the moment: with the neighbours, and at work where everyone seems to be losing their heads. I think they all need a jolly good holiday, just as well its July soon and all of Denmark will head to the sun. So, what I hoped was going to be a gentle day ended up being one of fraught and heated phone calls, angry e mails and pointed silences.

Jools and I had planned on taking Tony to France for the day, not realising that his flight had been booked for Wednesday, and so would be literally on the other side of the world by Friday. Instead she took the day off anyway, pottered in the garden, went shopping and visited her Dad, now home, and having to have insulin injections. He is feeling more like himself. Apparently in the run up to his spell in hospital, he was drinking coffee with four sugars in. That he has not drunk coffee since he was down the pit, and so much sugar not a good idea with someone with diabetes, meant his mood altered. Anyway, all good now, or so Jools would find out when she went round, and that another attempt at quitting smoking was being mooted. Might be easier now that I am not going to Belgium any more, so unable to bring back duty free, and currently they can't drive over.

One hundred and seventy two Before that there was breakfast, second breakfast and morning coffee and then elevenses. It makes the day fly by after all, and then the frequent trips to the facilities gives me exercise. And so the morning passes. One thing I do manage is to fill in the new format time sheets, what was simple now getting more complicated week by week, come Christmas I'll have to employ an 11 year old child to do it for me!

After lunch, Jools comes home with shopping, we have ham and cheese sandwiches and a Magnum. As you do, and sit outside for a while.

My plan to go to Sandwich Bay to see some orchids, yes really, were scuppered as the wind picked up and so would make macro photography impossible I hoped the sun would shine, or the wind drop over the weekend. So we stay home, do stuff. Stuff which takes most of the afternoon and keeps us busy. Busy doing mostly nothing, as the song goes.

And too full from lunch to have fish and chips for dinner, and listen to some music on the radio, watch The Sky at NIght on the i player, and in this way Friday passes into Friday evening, and it is time to go to bed. Let us hope tomorrow is better.

One year on

A year ago, I woke up in the Zleep Hotel at Billund Airport to find that the result in the referendum went narrowly in favour of Leave. I was shocked, and thrown into turmoil as to what it would mean, and since then I have written many posts as the Brexit "strategy" of the two Governments has developed Not that there really was one. Cameron resigned the day of the result, the May took over after a poor leadership campaign, she shen filled her cabinet with some of the leading Brexiteers, including Boris Johnson as Foreign Secretary. As he has insulted most leaders or their countries, what could go wrong? David Davis was made Minister for the newly formed Department for Exiting the EU, coming as the day on which Cameron resigned, Davis declared that within 100 days of the vote Britain would have secured 10 trade deals. Thus showing is total ignorance of trade rules stating that no such deals could be even talked about whilst Britain was still part of the EU, and such membership would only end after the 2 year Article 50 period. One imagines his learning curve has been steep indeed, as as Johnson's and the PM's.

At first I did not think Brexit would happen, as each day that went by it seemed to be more unlikely. And then came May's speech to the Conservative Party Conference stating Britain's so called red lines; one of which was not be under the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice. It is this body that resolves trade disputes, finding an alternative would be very difficult, especially in a two year period, doubly so as the final six moths would be given over to the ratification process within the EU27 and in Britain.

The PM and Brexiteers talked tough, said things would be easy, when anyone who looked into a small policy area such as trade rules for biscuits, revealed them to be complex. And that is just something you dunk in tea. Much more serious was things like Britain pulling out of the Atomic Engert Body, and then the Single Market and the Customs Union, none of which were really talked about, and if they were, "no one is is talking about leaving the Single Market, but refusing the free movement of people meant that you cannot be in the Single Market and not accept its four main pillars, including free movement of people. It is this free movement, or apparent free movement that the Leave Campaign used to scare people. Turns out that people can move freely in the EU, but if they don't find a job after three months they can be forced to leave,. Only, Britain decided that monitoring such movement and EU expats in Britain would be too difficult and expensive, so much easier to blame the EU for an imaginary problem that was really the British Government's fault.

As time went on, it became clear (to those that listened) that the policy was softening up people for the prospect of a "Hard Brexit" or a no deal exit. And blaming such a result on Europe, rather than a lack of clarity on Britain's part. Harder demands, with the threat of walking pout if talks did not give Britain what it wanted, really is no way to undertake trade negotiations, or say such things before they started, and served to unify Europe, to agree a joint position, and make the EU even stronger.

Whilst Britain did nothing, or as next to. And then May announced that she would trigger the Article 50 notification by the end of March, thus setting herself a needless deadline, which if she kept to it meant that Britain would be unprepared, miss it and look like a failure as a leader. And then fight, and appeal the High Court decision that she did not have the authority to trigger Article 50, but needed agreement from both Houses of Parliament. The time and money this wasted is shocking. But after losing, a short bill was passed, which the Commons then failed to add any clauses to which would have made the process of leaving any easier. So, article 50 was triggered on the 29th March, and then things began to go wrong. Here is a summary:

On the First Day of Brexit, we jeopardised the safety of our own people by using security cooperation as a bargaining chip.

On the Second Day of Brexit we undermined the sovereignty of our Parliament by planning to give law making powers to an unelected Executive.

On the Third Day of Brexit we were warned by carmakers that Brexit was "the biggest threat in a generation."

On the Fourth Day of Brexit we learned that no one believed our computer systems could cope with us leaving the Customs Union

On the Fifth Day of Brexit, and after sixty years of peace inside the EU, a former Tory Leader threatened to go to war with the Spanish.

On the Sixth Day of Brexit Spain accepted an independent Scotland could remain in the EU, rendering more likely the dissolution of the UK.

On the Seventh Day of Brexit, our PM finally admitted we could have no trade deal with our biggest export market before we leave the EU.

On the Eighth Day of Brexit, the European Parliament published its negotiating guidelines and proved German car-makers don't make EU policy.

On the Ninth Day of Brexit, we learned 'no deal' means a "distinct possibility" there will be no flights for a time between the UK and EU.

On the Tenth Day of Brexit, we learned the Remaining Member States weren't desperate for us to stay. They just want it over. 720 days to go.

On the Eleventh Day of Brexit one group of Leavers said another had betrayed the Leave vote. And proved the 52% had chosen different things.

On the Twelfth Day of Brexit it leaked we would sacrifice the environment to our need for new trade deals to replace our EU membership.

On the 13th day of Brexit we were told that Euro clearing - employing tens of thousands - could not remain in the UK.

On the 14th day of Brexit we were isolated commercially and diplomatically. Legal control, it turns out, isn't really what matters.

On the 15th day of Brexit, a leading FinTech player said at our leading FinTech event the industry should look beyond the UK. Humiliation.

On the 16th day of Brexit real wages flatlined. With wages growth trending down and inflation trending up real wages will soon fall.

On the 17th day of Brexit we learned our NHS was "reduced to begging" for staff. And that's before we restrict free movement.

On the 18th day of Brexit we learned we'd made ourselves friendless. Not one of the r27 would back our call for parallel trade negotiations.

On the 19th day of Brexit, we acknowledged the cost of losing the EU Banking and Medicines Agencies and fought to retain them. Hopelessly.

On the 20th day of Brexit, the Government floated a scheme to permit low skilled EU nationals to continue to work here if we leave the EU.

On the 21st day of Brexit - she lasted three whole weeks - it got a bit much for the PM. She broke her word and called a General Election.

And so in the time between the 19th April and the 9th June, very little was done on Brexit, only that negotiations would begin 11 days after the election. May hoped that she would get a bigger majority giving her a mandate to carry out talks, but more importantly have a healthy majority in the Commons when she came back with a Bad Deal or No Deal. At first up to a 200 seat majority was forecast, but then as in most of the things she turned her hand to, running an election campaign was done so badly, the manifesto so bad, it has since been deleted from the Conservative Party Website, that she only won a minority Government, and having to go asking the DUP to support her Government.

She ran off to the Palace to seek permission for form a Government, we were told a deal with the DUP was imminent, and that was two weeks ago. No deal as yet, and maybe there won't be a deal. And this is negotiations with just one other party, imagine what it will be like for Davis and his team with 26 more parties to deal with! That and the fact that half his Department was changed after the elction, quite how this is a good thing I don't know, but shows the chaos going on behind the scenes.

And yet our press cheers Brexit on, declaring anyone who speaks against it as a traitor or unbeliever, and that it was the people's will. That a yes/no choice on a question that could have many, dozens of answers, and the cost of choices were not, and still not known meant that this was not democracy at all, just fairy tales of sunlit uplands and cakes and eating them.

And this week, as I have said, the Brexit Bumblebees came up against the double glazing of reality, as they always were going to. With no real plan, no planning, Davis headed to Brussels for first meeting with the EU. He had said beforehand that Britain wanted parallel talks, one side on the Divorce Bill and EU and British expat rights, and trade talks on the other. This, he declared, was to be the fight of the summer, it didn't last until morning coffee break as Britain accepted the EU's agenda.

All the time, economic data has been heading south; wages stagnating, inflation up, real living standards falling, numbers of EU nurses applying for jobs down 96%, the number of apprentices down 99%, banks relocating, Farmers reporting they can't find enough migrant workers to pick soft fruit, and all the while Brexiteers and the papers say immigration is too high, even as jobs such as these go unfilled. Farmers might just manage this year, but next?

All this has happened in the past year, and much more too. Where will we be in a year? Either leaving the EU in a chaotic Brexit or staying. Nothing inbetween, there just isn't time or skill on our side to negotiate anything else. How could such a thing be sold to the people, when they realise that they had been lied to on such a grand scale? Will split the Tory part in two, Labour too, and probably the formation of a Europe-friendly middle party, while UKIP and the hard right Tory Party grind their teeth.

Much more pain will have to be endured or the country sees the ashes and pain coming if we continue down this path. And all the time, the only thing we can rely on the reality of leaving the EU and the lies of those who pursue it like some fundamental religion. For them, no facts or evidence to the contrary will convince them of their mistake, and will demonise anoy non-believer. Runner up in the last leadership campaign that saw Maybot win, on Thursday expressed the wish on Newsnight that broadcasters should be more patriotic: tractor production figures, anyone?

Friday, 23 June 2017

Thursday 22nd June 2017

An all round odd day, however, after the best night's sleep I have had in a week, I did not feel quite so shit. However, I did temper that with having an argument with our neighbour, which will never be healed I think. Oh well.

Thursday was the day the weather was supposed to break, with thunderstorms, cooler weather and generally be more bearable. NOw, I like a good storm, so switched on the computer to see how the storm radar was looking. Storms over Hampshire and Dorset but heading east. Oh goody.

Sea mist But there was the bins to put out, as we had forgotten or been away the last 2 times the recyclables were collected, we had an overflowing binful of glass and plastic bottles. So the most important thing was to pug the bin to the top of the drive as soon as possible, then think about breakfast and prepare for the first meeting of the day.

It was the usual Thursday morning moan in, and all of us in my role, I am not the only one, took turns in describing the issues each of them faces, with mixed results. And then there was the quarterly company meeting to attend. However, there was good news here, which, sadly, I can't tell you. But, still.

Good news!

Outside clouds gathered, sea mist rolled in and the wind picked up. I watched on the radar as the storms krept across Hampshire, Sussex and West Kent. Just before lunch I could hear the rumbles of thunder, then a couple of minutes later see the lightning register on the detector. Amazing.

One hundred and seventy one The clouds swept over, thunder and lightning dazzled, rain fell for 5 minutes, then it passed.

And that was it.

Clouds cleared and the sun came out, drying out the rain that had not soaked in, and in an hour you would never know it had rained.

At Jools' request we had burgers for dinner. Something quick and easy. And very dirty. Anyway, was good.

Later in the evening, after we had watched Monty, a day early because of Glasto, I heard from Tony, in middle of a 5 hour layover in Sydney waiting for his final flight to Wellington. Amazing to think he is already so far away. But he sounded in good spirits.

Thursday, 22 June 2017

Wednesday 21st June 2017

Mid-summer's day.

Tony's last day in the Engerlands. And Scotland. Hibernia.

I hope that Tony had as good a time as he anticipated, and that he did all what he wanted to. I know he reads these posts, but that was our most sincere wish, that he had a holiday of a lifetime, and we did not take the shine off that. He traveled from deepest Kent to the Outer Hebrides and then out to St Kilda. THat was one trip we wished we could have gone with him on. But then we have another chances, every year, we just have to prioritise what we want to do.

One hundred and seventy But he is on his way home now, his flight left some 20 hours ago, and I guess he might be somewhere near Australia and should get home sometime tomorrow. I hope he had someone to talk to on the flight this time. We are missing you, Tony.

Walk back from Dover As it was his last morning, the one thing he had not seen in his time here, was the White Cliffs, or what most people think of them. And as I had an appointment in Dover first thing, a plan hatched that once I had seen the quack, we could walk back.

We got up at half five, Tony at six, and after the usual faffing around, Jools took us into town, dropping us off, giving us half an hour to wander round the deserted streets before I could be seen in the surgery. That done, we could turn tail and begin the walk home, and if we put our feet down we should be home in 90 minutes or so.

Walk back from Dover Up the steps steps leading from East Cliff, under Jubilee Way and finally coming out behind the earth bank beside Reach Road where it doubled back on itself, climbing the down in a hairpin bend. We were breathing hard, but then there was the view to also take our breaths away. Further.

Walk back from Dover Below the port was busy, with the first sailings of the day casting off, and more trucks and cars arriving all the time, queues trailing back through the check in booths, the roundabout and away along Townwall Street where we lost sight of the queue.

Walk back from Dover We took the path down onto the Cliff Road, and from there there was even better views for Tony to take in of the port below, and for me Pyramidal Orchids everywhere, and a smattering of Common Fragrants too. I snap a few, then see the first Marbled White of the year, but fail to get a shot. Foiled this time, but there would be other opportunities.

Walk back from Dover Up the gentle slope of the Cliff Road, turning the corner to where it ran inland following the contours of the land, but we took the steep path across Langdon to join up with the cliff path on the other side, as it climbed to the highest point, Langdown Cliff.

Walk back from Dover I hoped that from there it would be downhill all the way, but not quite, but easier going for me anyway. We turn to look back, getting a group of Kopiak Horses standing in a slightly photogenic group with the Eastern Docks behind.

Walk back from Dover We huff and puff up the final slop of Langdon Cliff, giving one last look at the Eastern Docks with the town laid out behind, and the looming shape of Shakespeare Cliff in the distance. Yes, dramatic landscapes around here.

We push on along the top of the cliffs, using the new but ugly path to the beginning of Fan Bay, past the deep shelter and towards South Foreland, the top of the lighthouse we could see. And by quarter past nine we were at the gates of the lighthouse, Tony stopped to take a shot, and we walk on, down the service road, now a green tunnel that the trees have branches full of leaves.

Walk back from Dover THe final stretch is across the fields to the housing estate on the edge of the village, then through the church yard to the village shop to buy some lunch, and an ice cream.

Walk back from Dover We amble down the final stretch down Station Road and back up the other side to the end of our street and finally along to home. We had been lucky with the weather, clear blue skies but cool enough to enjoy the walk, at least until we turned inland. Now back inside, we were very warm indeed.

But for Tony, time was running out. He had to pack, repack and decide what to leave behind. Passports, tickets and taxi rides were checked and rechecked.

We have lunch, hand and cheese sandwiches, and that was it. He had an hour to go, time for a shower and to move his bags to the front door. The taxi arrived dead on time, his bags were loaded and we hugged and shook hands. Time had run out.

Common (Chalk) Fragrant Orchid Gymnadenia Conopsea He climbed in the cab, and it took off, I stood in the street watching it go, turn up Station Road and was gone.

I go back in the house to do some more work, but the house was quiet, very quiet.

Outside it was as hot as it has been this week, too hot to sit outside for sure. I have the radio on, and an hour later I switch the work computer off and see if there was a Time Team worth watching; there wasn't.

Jools come home at six, asks about how Tony did, did he get off in time? and those sort of questions. I have cooked dinner; breaded chicken and Jersey Royals, which was light and fresh. We have the other bottle of pink fizz I had got out for the previous evening, but seemed right that we shared it.

But we were pooped. We needed sleep, and after sitting in the garden for half an hour or so, we went to bed at the early hour of half eight.