Monday, 31 July 2017

Brexit omnishambles

A day is a long time in politics is the new a week is a long time in politics.

As I was saying only this morning, the EU says it is hard to negotiate with a party, or country, that doesn't actually know what it wants.

This morning, a spokesperson for Number 10, presumably back from holiday, stated that the end of free movement would coincide with UK leaving the EU, no transition, thus contradicting the Chancellor. Although the words used could just as well mean that it might continue be changed or just have a new name. I mean no one really knows these days.

Liam Fox reiterated his statement that he did not know, nor agreed on a 3 year transition deal, a spokesperson for Boris Johnson made a statement to AP that he was not considering resigning; this came after a little reported rumour from the Lib Dems. I mean, this is chaos on a grand scale.

A possible explanation for the Chancellor's statement that he was trying to railroad the cabinet into a course of action that meant less a cliff fall come March 2019, or maybe a power grab, or just felt with the PM away on a walking holiday to Italy, he might just try his luck.

Not only is the country not speaking with one voice, not only is parliament not speaking with one voice, not only is the Government not speaking with one voice, it appears that the Cabinet is not speaking with one voice either.

And all the while the clock ticks down, four months gone, twenty to go, take away the six months for ratification, leaving 14 short months of negotiation, and most politicians are on holiday until September.

Sunday 30th July 2017

We realise that we have one more weekend before, you know, the trip, so with time running out to get stuff done, we, er, go to a chili fair. Now, I'm not sure why its called the chili fair, other than on the fair's Faceache page, it suggested the purchasing of many different chili sauces could be made.

At it did not begin until ten, or that's when the gates opened, we have something like 3 hours to kill before we set out on the 15 minute drive to Coldred.

So, coffee, bacon and music on the i player. And outside the sun shone. Or did, once the clouds cleared and became almost summery. Is that a word? Apparently it is.

Bacon from the butchers, fresh brews and lazing about. I think, Jools wan't that thrilled with going to the fair, can't see why not; vintage cars, vintage tractors and stalls selling tat; sounded a wonderful. I mean it was at least 5 years since I last went, enough for the memory of that visit to fade, so we left light of heart and high in expectations. Much to my surprise was that there was no extra traffic about; maybe we were early, or it wouldn't be that popular.

Chili Farm Festival 2017, Coldred, Kent Anyway, we arrive at Coldred, park in what was once a grassy field opposite, but now was turning to mud thanks to the rain the day before. We park and slither to the road, cross over and then wait in line behind a few folks for the gates to open at ten.

It shrunk in the wash We paid our eight quid each, am allowed inside, and then, wander round.

First up was the line up of vintage cars, among which was a mk V Cortina, the very same model I owned twice as a young bloke. Is that what will happen now, things I remember now becoming "vintage"? It was bad enough to see bomb disposal landrovers at the museum at Manston, I had been driving those 5 years previously, but a lovely Cortina? Anyway, the Cortina Crusader was a lovely motor, Ghia trim and four forward gears and one reverse. It was in great condition, as were all the cars to be honest.

"Gigantic" We walk pass some mini traction engines that were being fired up. Not sure what the point of them were for, either real working engines, or facsimiles of the full sized ones. Or both. People had brought caravans to the site along with their engines, camping it up, as it were. And they looked happy enough, many of them sipping brews as the steam pressure built.

Chili Farm Festival 2017, Coldred, Kent A "Wall of Death", every hour on the hour, first show at eleven: check watches, 55 minutes away, unlikely we shall still be on site we think.

Chili Farm Festival 2017, Coldred, Kent People are walking to a row of tractors, ranging from monster to little more than sit on mowers. We find out they were, in fact, sit on mowers, with no blades. Many had been polished, and looked fine in the sun, engines were started, or handles cranked, and one by one they trundled into the display arena.

Chili Farm Festival 2017, Coldred, Kent We stop to watch the leaders do a circuit, then one by one they line up in the middle and the MC interviews each of the drivers, including the guy on the sit on mower with no blade.

Chili Farm Festival 2017, Coldred, Kent More cars, motorcycles, stalls selling flags, some trucks and we were round the site. We try to find something to buy, but we were OK for flags and flat caps, nor did we want to be photographed with a plastic dinosaur. So, we were the first people to leave the site as most people were still arriving. It was five to eleven, and would have caught the wall of death, but decided to leave.

Chili Farm Festival 2017, Coldred, Kent We go home via Tesco to get the stuff I missed; yoghurt, cheese and cottage cheese.

And then back home for brunch made of free cakes supplied to us by Mark at the butcher(!), and then some relaxing before we tucked into cheese and biscuits and a beer (or cider) for lunch. Some nice English cheeses also from the butcher, and all very nice I have to say, just need to have a snooze.

But no, we are to go out walking, seems that Yellowstone is at, its lowest point, 4,000 feet above sea level, our camp site is 6,700 feet above sea level, and our camp site at Little Big Horn is over 8,000 feet. We are beginning to worry about altitude. I'm sure it'll be OK, but worth thinking about. I think we have left it too late now, so maybe sleeping the first two nights there will help acclimatising? We hope so.

Another walk to The Dip Anyway, on with the boots and over the field, pushing our way through massively overgrown shrubs and bushes, which gently sway in the breeze, to the butterfly copse to look for a small blue butterfly, which is not blue but brown. The Brown Argus is quite common, but finding a place to find them can be tricky, so the copse is a good place, near to home, and also home to many other species this time of the year.

Another walk to The Dip As soon as I stooped to look at the first butterfly, I saw it was an Argus, got the shot, then saw many other butterflies, snapping a few.

Holly Blue Celastrina argiolus We walk on to the pig's copse, and find the trailer in place, so the pigs can get used to it before being herded into it for the last trip they will make. Yeah, not nice, but that's what happens the world over and where bacon comes from. Or some of it.

Another walk to The Dip One look down the hill to the top of the dip, the track already dusty and dry, despite the inch or so of rain we had the day before, but at the bottom I could see the ruts overflowing with muddy water. Situation normal.

Brown Argus Aricia agestis We turn from home, and I find yet more butterflies; Common Blue and Holly Blue as well as a fleeting glimpse of an Adonis Blue flitting by. As well as the usual Red Admirals, Gatekeepers, Peacocks and Large Whites.

Brown Argus Aricia agestis A glorious end to the day; lengthening shadows in the garden, and me cutting tomatoes and cheese for the insalata for dinner. As is usual on a Sunday, we listen to Desert Island Discs, and are moved to tears of love and loss.

I manage to spend the evening watching England in the European Women's cup, or something like that. And England beat France by a single goal.

Sunday, 30 July 2017

The weekend Brexit

Sorry for another Brexit blog, but you, know, you can skip it.

Last Friday the Chancellor, Philip Hammond, said that there was common consensus in Cabinet over the plan for a three year transition period come March 2019, meaning full Brexit would be achieved by March 20122. Nice that the Government had a plan, even if what the goals even for the transition would be, but still. Be thankful.

Only time would tell, and with the weekend, and Sunday in particular, when the papers have interviews, splashes and exclusives, and there are the political chat shows like Andy Marr Show, or the one on ITV with Robert Peston, would this unified front stand up to Sunday?

THe disgraced former Defence Secretary, Liam Fox, gave an interview to the Sunday Times stating he was unaware of any such agreement in cabinet. Maybe it was because the interview was given on Monday said The Times? Not so said Fox later in the day, that was the case. And a "spokesman" for Boris Johnson said the same. That both the Secretary for International Trade and the Foreign Secretary are not being kept in the loop regarding Brexit, and discussions and agreements is a startling worry, that even in Cabinet the Tories cannot agree on what Brexit might mean, makes the EUs complaints that discussions cannot carry on as the UK Government has no clear position on many subjects, like the "divorce", and that it cannot trust that discussions with Davis, or whoever, has the unanimous backing of the Government..

4 months have passed since the Article 50 letter was sent, and the Conservatives are still playing party politics with the nation's future. It is also clear that they still have no real idea what Brexit means (ahem) other than Brexit, of course. That the Cabinet, let alone the Government of Parliament cannot agree on something basic like what to do with movement and status of EU Nationals, and by default, movement and status of UK Nationals in the EU, only 20 months remain before the Brexit alarm clock goes off, and Britain either has a deal, cancels Brexit or more likely crashes out of the EU without a deal become very real.

Two deadlines are to be looked for: one this year in the autumn when the EU will decide if enough progress has been made on three urgent issues, including the Irish Border, if not no further talks on anything else will take place. And secondly, all talks will stop six months before 29th March 2019, so end of September 2018, to allow for the ratification process through the EU and other parliaments and courts. These are real deadlines and are important.

Saturday 29th July 2017

The weekend.

The weekend stretches out before us, like a large stretchy thing, ready to be filled with shopping, steaks, orchids and Austin Allegros. But first, there is shopping to do. In fact, it looked like for a while there would not be time, as I had arranged to meet a friend and go to a country show, but due to ill health he had to cancel, meaning it gave us more time to do other stuff, and maybe go to the show on Sunday when the weather would be better.

I volunteer to go to Tesco, its not that bad first thing in the morning. In fact this week it was so darn quiet, it was freaky. However, being obsessed, I drive there via the Monument so I could check on the Autumn Ladies Tresses, half expecting to see some sign, but other than panty of plantain, there was no sign of an orchid. There were a few twitchers about, binos at the ready, but I didn't stop to ask what it was they were hoping to see, so left for the bright lights of Tesco.

Two hundred and ten Despite having a list, I manage to forget some important stuff, meaning we would have to go back at some point, but enough for breakfast and lunch. Back home I put the shopping away and Jools pops the croissants in the oven and makes fresh coffee. All on track.

Now not meeting Will meant taking our time before we went out again, but in the 90 minutes between the Tesco trip and going back out, port traffic had backed up, so when we reached the Duke of York's, all was jammed. Managing to turn round, we go via West Langdon, crossing by way of the six foot sixers, narrow lanes, to Eyethorn and from there to Shepherdswell and onto the A2. Getting back was going to be problematic, but what the heck, we were out and free.

Enchanter's Nightshade Circaea lutetiana; Anyway, with the forecast was for the bright start giving over to clouds and then heavy rain in pretty short order; so the plan, at least on my part, was to see the Violet Helleborines at Barham, and seeing them before it clouded over and began to rain was a priority, at least for me.

We reach the parking area, and make our way along the wide path, and it must be the 3rd of 4th trip up here to see the same plants. But this time was prime-VH season, the seven or eight spikes were all in flower, some all the way up, other maye half way. I get the tripod set up and take shots, whilst Jools goes to check on the other clump further on. That one wasn't so far on, but as I went to take a shot, Jools asked, are those more spikes over there? I looked, and indeed there looked like three or four more clumps some ten metres away. I go to investigate, and we find more like six or seven clumps, most out and some in beams of sunlight. This must more than trebled the number of the spikes at the site.

Violet Helleborine Epipactis purpurata I take many shots, many did not come out as the wind was still strong, but I got enough. And was more than happy with the shots that did come out.

We walk back to the car, load up and drive back through the narrow lanes to Wingham then onto Preston to visit the boys at the butchers. Jools went to the plant nursery next door, so I go in to buy some steak and stuff, some for dinner that evening. They were in good spirits as ever, and we chat about the upcoming season and other such stuff. Jools had bought three new flowers for the garden, and she was waiting for me back at the car, but with the sun still shining, it wasn't a drag really.

Violet Helleborine Epipactis purpurata In fact, the drive back home via Deal was very warm indeed, we had to put the air con on, and we cruised along, in quite heavy traffic, but would be better than going back to Whitfield and getting stuck in the port traffic.

In Deal, what with it being carnival week, there was a fair on at the reen in Walmer, and I am sure it would be jampacked later in the day, as yet the carnies were just setting up for the day, getting stock for the day.

Violet Helleborine Epipactis purpurata We arrive back home with no trouble, and despite the BBC saying it should be pouring with rain by now, the sun shone down, very warm and pleasant indeed. We unloaded the car, and by then, it was lunchtime, so ham rolls with red onion marmalade bought from Lullingstone a few weeks back. Worked very well indeed.

With all the fruit left over from the week, there seemed no better thing to do than make Rumtopf, as last year's was such a triumph, so much so I had to give the last half litre away, left my liver become overworked. Thing about rumtopf is, you put in what you have left over; grapes, raspberries, plums and so on, so a full litre done, just need some sloes and blackberries from the next few weeks to make it a full 2 litre. And now there is the waiting.

As clouds rolled in from the west and rain began to fall, we had lunch, listened to a recording of Huey on the i player, it got dark, so dark the lamp had to be put on. And cas came in, soaked and demanding food. Attention. and other meow.

Steak was prepared for dinner, so that marinated in olive oil and ground peppercorns, whilst in the fridge, a bottle of pink fizz chilled.

Not really much to tell about the day, rain fell in increasingly heavy amounts, I cooked dinner, we ate, listened to more radio and drained the bottle of fizz. It got dark by half eight, and felt very autumnal, but tomorrow. Tomorrow, was going be be sunnier, warmer, so more time to do stuff.

Saturday, 29 July 2017

A transitional Brexit?

Yes, another day and another Brexit blog. But, things move quickly in politics, and even more in Brexit politics.

Yesterday, the Chancellor announced that there was a unified opinion on the Cabinet that a transition period of exactly three year, not a moment longer would be needed to ensure the British economy does not fall off a cliff. What this fails to mention if agreed, the falling of a cliff bit will just be delayed 36 months. But hey.

Thing is, agreeing between ministers, even if true, is one thing, getting the 27 EU national parliaments, 11 regional parliaments, the EU Parliament and the European Court of Justice to agree, will be 40 other things. And surely such suggestions are best left to actual meetings between the dim Mr Davis and that nice Mr Barnier? Just an idea of course, but then the real battle for Brexit isn't with the EU it's with the editors and owners of the various Brexit supporting daily newspapers, especially the Mail and Express.

Anyway it's all pretty much a moot point at the moment as the EU is said to be disappointed not only at the lack of progress thus far in talks, but that Britain has no position on many issues, it wasn't really in a position to trigger Article 50, but then we knew that didn't we?

One other issue may well decide on the entire Brexit question, and that is the Irish border. As explained, each and every EU 27 country gets to vote on whether to ratify the deal, if there is one, between the EU as a whole and Britain, and any one of those, plus the regional councils, governments, EU Parliament and the UCJ all vote too, and failure by any of those to ratify the deal would mean that once the calendar ticks over to March 29 2019, Britain would be out of the EU without a deal. Of course, that could be extended, stopped or cancelled, but only on the unanimous decision by the EU 27.

The UK Government's suggestion for the Irish border is electronic surveillance, but the Irish Government wants no border at all, just like it is now, and has suggested moving the border between Northern Ireland and the rump UK. It is a sensible suggestion, but on those nice DUP chaps and chapesses, who are in a supply and confidence deal with the Conservatives thus keeping May and co in power, might not think so.

In short there are two requirements for the border;

1. that there is a hard border between the EU and UK (EU rules)
2. That there is no border between the EU and UK (Irish and GB governments)

That is the problem, and solving that might make the whole Brexit problem easier to solve, but fail to deal with it, and there can't even begin to be talks about the possibility of talks.

I am asked if I think Brexit will happen, and I swing from yes to no and back again, sometimes in the same hour. That the British government and the PM in particular have been so crap, so rubbish and seem to be willfully derailing the process by their sheer ineptitude means it might not. But to stop it, the EU would have to agree, and might force a "hard remain" on UK. And what would stop the issue coming again in a few years time? I think unlike some kind of cast iron guarantee that Britain would be in for good this time, they won't stop it.

Meaning Britain will crash out of the EU with either a poor deal or no deal at all.

Friday 28th July 2017

Yeah, I know its been a long and dull week, all copy/pasting and working from home with nary a walk to the dip to break the week up. But we reach to Friday, have done the task I set myself for July, and with two working days to spare, meaning I could no longer put of the travel expenses any longer. Then there is the usual task first thing of putting up my "working hours". And that really was it for the day.

I had slept badly, mainly thanks to Scully taking most of the foot of the bed, and me having to wrap myself round her, and taking an hour to get back to sleep after she woke me up in the wee small hours. In fact I don't hear Jools get up, only come to when I can smell coffee brewing.

The year is getting away from us, in some 15 days we shall be flying out on the great mid-west adventure, it seems that the year since we said we would go has flown by, and even now hard to believe in three week, or less, we shall be in Wyoming.

Two hundred and nine Anyway, with the final batch of spending money now added to our travel credit cards (don't ask), we are just about set. On THursday we managed to secure a taxi to and from the airport, so all is now set except for a cople of nights when we travel between places in America, all thrilling stuff, and we are leaving those two nights to chance and hope to find a place. Or we could sleep in the car.

At eight I start work, add my working hours, just before I get a reminder from my boss to do so.

Now, travel expenses are a pin in the butt, but never as bad as your mind tells you they are going to be. We have a new system, you just create a trip, attach credit card bills to the trip, add scans of said receipts to the report, and easy. as that. But, your mind tell you it was like it was in the old day, in SAP, make a mistake and the system would freeze you out for days. It isn't and doesn't,, but scanning and sending mails from one computer to the other takes and hour. So by lunchtime the job is done, and looking at my work contacts on Skype, all but two have either finished for the weekend or still on their holibobs.

I watch some TV before deciding that will do for the week, switch the computer off, pack it away and make a brew.

Jools returns at three, with more milk which means brews all round. Again.

And that meant it was the weekend, and we should do something with it. We listen to the radio. For dinner we have defrosted chili, nowhere near as nasty as it sounds. In fact was mighty tasty, and being frozen did nothing to lighten the induced burn.

A quiet evening, with Only Connect and The Don on TV. While outside a near gale blow, rattly fence panels between Chez Jelltex and the neighbours.

Friday, 28 July 2017

Thursday 27th July 2017

And so it came to pass, that the great copy and pasting marathon did indeed come to an end. I could go on and do the 32 remaining appendices, and maybe I will, but for now, that will do, Pig. That will do. Some of the annexes comprised only a few pages, a mere handful, so whipping through them this week has been easy, easy, squeezy peasy. So, even with meetings in the morning, the usual moan-in followed by the bi-weekly cannot dampen my joy at coming to the end of the project.

That said, with the summer holidays coming to an end next week, it means that work will become ever more demanding, and these weeks which have been spent copy and pasting and watching Le Tour will soon be but a memory. But then there is more travel, and not work-based travel, to look forward in just over two weeks. So, much to be excited about.

Outside there is more rain, heavy at times falling, so I have to get out early before work to snap some butterflies that were about and basking in the early morning sunshine: Small Tortoiseshells, Gatekeepers, Meadow Browns, Red Admirals and Large Whites all about, so I try to snap them, but in the keen breeze, it is tricky.

Two hundred and eight And then onto work, a meeting with fellow managers of quality; only four of us this week, but then that is a 33% increase on last week. We talk, we complain, then get back to work. I have the radio on, and sip a fresh coffee and the morning whizzes by once more. Lunch is cold wild garlic sausages, cous cous and a left over chili chicken goujon. I am tempted to have a glass of wine, but managed to have a tea instead and so the afternoon is as productive, and come two or so, I finish the final annex and can save the document.


In celebration I was a documentary about Mozart in London, and am amazed to find out he wrote his first symphony when in London. Aged 8. 8!

Anyway, the afternoon is getting on, and I decide to put off the travel expenses until Friday, thus meaning I had done this now each day, putting off doing something, the expenses, for four consecutive days and something which is never as bad as you imagine it will be. But that is for tomorrow, he said, watching yet another Time Team.

That leaves chorizo hash preparation to be done before Jools comes home, and dancing to the music in the kitchen as the radio plays songs by The Cure and Echo and the Bunnymen.

THe evening is filled with dinner, red wine and great music. Jools does some stuff in the garden, and I watch England Women beat Portugal; as you do, it don't watch itself does it. And I suppose this is where I have to tell you that the football season begins in 8 days. 8 days.

Thursday, 27 July 2017

Wednesday 26th July 2017

After many weeks of copying and pasting, suddenly I could see the end of the journey. Or at least the end of this phase anyway. And if you would have told me i could have done these 23 documents in three weeks, I would have doubted you, but hey. It did mean, that I switched the computer on, light of heart and full of the joys of spring. Or summer.

And as I slept for something like ten hours, at least, I felt refreshed, and thought it probable I would have no migraine issues.

Outside it was breezy and cool, cool enough to need having a work jumper on for sure. And it also came to pass that I recognise that it is very easy to eat at home, eat more than when I am out orchid chasing, so I would try very hard not to snack and be careful what I ate through the day.

And you know, apart from that, come eight I settle down to work, crack on and am soon flying through the documents. I quickly catch up with the Radcliffe and Maconie shows on the i player, instead work in silence as I near my target. As ever, there is meetings to attend, but sparsely attended ones, as DK is still on holiday, maybe even more so than in previous weeks. It does mean a 90 minute meeting is over in 45, I guess next week once people begin to return to work, meetings will drag on, and more mails will appear. Because, since the end of the last project, the usual two dozen mails a day is now down to just one or two, meaning, as planned, I really can crack on with work.

There were times when I thought I would not finish this, but now, maybe by the end of the week. Or sooner, I would be done.

Enough of that, at four there is Time Team to watch; it seems I have seen most of the episodes now, as I had seen them both, but watch the first one, hunting for Bad King John in Sherwood Forest, as I know they find what they are looking for, except KIng John, mind. As ever, Molly joins me, and sits and purrs, waiting for me to get up and feed her.

Two hundred and seven The afternoon draws to an end, and I have another appointment with a chiropractor at half six, enough time for Jools to come home, unpack and I take the car down the hill so I can be prodded and probed and hopefully my shoulder made good again. And as it happens it seems things are getting better, and I don't have to return for a month, just as well as we shall be away in the US of A in two weeks time, so I will have to carry on with the stretching and stuff, and the pain might just go. And that will be forty quid, thank you.

Just about value for money I think. And by the time I come home, Jools is cooking breaded chicken which I had prepared earlier. And in 20 minutes we are sitting down to eat, raising glasses of cheer to our good fortune and all the rest.

And that was your evening, really. By the time we have eaten and cleaned up, it is nearly half eight and bedtime is fast approaching. I have to say these few weeks spent at home have now become the nrom, and I am enjoying them thoroughly. Just for some warm sunshine and low winds, then I could get some shots of the late season orchids.....

At the BREXIT crossroads

A week since my last Brexit post, and I had better do a catch up.

Working backwards, today, some 13 months after the referendum, Amber Rudd sets in place a report on the implications across the economy of restricting EU immigration. One might point out this is a little late for such a thing, and maybe this stuff should have been found out BEFORE the referendum. The report is due to be published sometime in autumn 2018, just as the real panic Brexit will create is reaching its peak. Meanwhile, Immigration Minister Brandon Lewis also today said that free movement would end in March 2019, and a new immigration system would be in place by then. No hurry then.

It is estimated that some 500,000 EU workers find employment here, the question is whether those people could be replaced by Brits, that many Brits won't have the qualifications, or want to pick fruit, clean the elderly's backsides or be hospital porters. And so on, then what is to do? If those jobs are unfilled, who will look after the infirm and elderly; their families? And what about the tax and NI contributions that won't be then paid, who will pay the triple lock pensions for those elderly Brexiteers? Those Brits who would no longer be able to work abroad, pay yet more tax? Probably. And then there's the incentives for companies to carry on working here; cutting corporation taxes, meaning the shortfall will have to come from somewhere.

But this week will be remembered for one thing: chlorine-washed chicken.

Not really because it's chicken, but that it is washed with a chlorine wash, when the EU rather goes for something different. The US uses the wash to kill any pathogens from the food chain, whilst the EU uses best practice through the food chain meaning such washing is not needed. And such washing is not allowed.

It is not the washing that is the problem, like any complex issue, it is best to pick on one small part and see what might happen, and that is where chlorine washed chicken comes in. The thing the EU and it's members are worried about is divergence in standards. The day Britain leaves the EU, our standards and those with the EU will be 100% aligned, but as time goes on, these will diverge, which is why the EU will insist on traceability of goods entering the EU/Customs Union, to ensure that all is within EU standards. The upshot could be that Britain would have to chose whether to primarily trade with the EU or the US, not both. Such checks have implications on the one land border between the EU, that between Eire and Northern Ireland. If a soft border is desired here, then it is less likely that a deal with the US could be struck.

But then this is where the Brexiteers get themselves all tied up in knots: we are told that a no deal with the EU would be better than a bad deal. Or that a no deal with the US would be worse than a bad deal. Why? And then there is relying on 45 tweeting his foreign policy. All his policy in fact. None of this is guaranteed, and considering in the same tweet he bemoaned the EU were protectionist, meaning a deal with Britain would favour the US? Probably.

A no deal with the EU would mean that British farm goods could be subject to up to 32% tariffs and the traceability checks. On perishable good this would be a disaster. And then if a deal with the US was done, this would mean cheap mean imports coming in, and against that, British farmers with out a common agricultural policy to protect them, could not hope to compete. A possible collapse of the farming industry would not just be bad for farmers, but for the environment too, as it is the farmers that manage the land, grazing means habitats for rare plants and animals are maintained. Without them, all would revert to scrub and then become woodland.

There is no sign of any agreement between Britain and the EU on the initial issues; rights of Britons in the EU, EU nationals in Britain and the Irish border. If no perceived movement is made in the opinion of the EU, then any further talks on anything else will not be allowed. And all the while the clock is ticking. Ticking ever louder.

The labour party is a confused as ever, not helped by their leader. He is befuddled that a country can not be a member of the EU and still be in the Customs Union and/or Single Market. Just like Norway. He said in an interview that a country couldn't, which must have came as a surprise to, er, Norway. That many people voted Labour in the hope of change, when, in reality, Corbyn has given no indication he is any better than luke warm towards the EU, in fact could be considered Eurosceptic. Who will speak up for the 48% and the other third of the country that did not vote and the young who could not vote? Probably, only reality.

Talking of reality, the Sun ran a front page story this week that the EU would stop Britons getting free healthcare in the EU whilst on holiday, and stating it was being cruel. And yet Brexiteers were told this would happen, and the only people to blame were those who push Britain to leave the Eu, trumpeting nothing but upsides.

I won't give up pointing out how stupid they are were and still are, but on the other hand, it is going to be fun seeing them twisting the facts to suit their story. In the end the whole effigy will come crashing down, just wait to see who will be crushed and who will escape from the wreckage. For the country, we will be impoverished, reduced in status and chasing any deals we can get, giving up more to larger potential partners, giving away far more control than we ever did as members of the EU.

Just so you know, I told you so,

Wednesday, 26 July 2017

Tuesday 25th July 2017

Tuesday will be remembered for being "migraine day"

I was having one even before I work up, experiencing the delight of one whilst dreaming. I can confirm then that the flashing lights of the migraine were affecting the dreams, like when awake the lights appear to be affecting what you see, causing distortion.

Two hundred and one So, when I woke up, I wasn't feeling too sharp, but accepted a coffee, not maybe the best thing, but did avoid the usual grapefruit for breakfast. After a while, it went off, but I was left feeling odd, the best way I can explain. I did switch on my work computer, did an hour, but I could feel the effects on my vision I get just before the flashing lights appear. So, I quickly set an put of office message, and signed off for the day. But this also had to be extended to the home PC, so, putting the radio on, I went to lay on the sofa, and there I stayed pretty much the rest of the day.

Greenfinch Chloris chloris I did find out I could do some photography on the sofa, snapping garden birds on the feeder. As you do.

I was able to watch some TV, seems the high cycle rate of the LED TV did not trigger an attack, maybe it was because I was sitting further away, or, who knows. Anyway, I watch some TV, listen to the radio, listen to a podcast, anything but go on a computer.

The morning passes, afternoon comes, which means Time Team, and so Molly and I can sit on the sofa and watch. An hour goes by, and it is time to prepare dinner, so I go to the internet to pull up a recipe for focaccia bread, and begin preparing. Not sure if it was the frequent trips to look at the screen for the recipe, but soon the migraine was back with avengeance. I carry on cooking, making the pasta sauce, cooking the pasta and baking the stuffed bread.

Greenfinch Chloris chloris I say dammit and have wine with dinner, I feel so shitty, why not go the whole hog. So when Jools returns from work, all is prepared and I am dishing up. We listen to I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue, then once that is done, I go to bed for a lay down, and end up not getting up until the morning.

Tuesday, 25 July 2017

Monday 24th July 2017

Back to work and back to the copy and pasting.

The reason why there was no post yesterday will be revealed in the next post!

But as a day at home, and a day of work, that means copy and pasting for most of the day.

At least the weather matched the mood, pouring down and misty too. The cats eat and go to their various preferred spots this week, to sleep through the morning until the weather cleared.

Two hundred If things went well, I should finish the document I started some two weeks ago, the main one; can't say much more than that, really. So, eyes down and begin copying, line by line.

I put the radio on, and through the day get through three Radcliffe and Maconie episodes, lots of good music and chat. The day whizzes by.

Come quarter to four, I get to the 227th and last page, meaning I have completed the task. On this document, there are over a dozen more documents to do, although there is a good chance i won't do them all.

I celebrate with a fresh cup of coffee and watch an episode of Time Team, now that Le Tour has finished, the afternoon stretches out like a painted desert. Cats come and go, sometimes bearing gifts, sometimes even live ones. I break off meetings to chase mice round the living room. This is normal. In our house at least.

Jools returns home, and we have dinner, can't remember what to be honest.

The day had been cool, cool enough to me to have to wear a work shirt, and it got no warmer through the evening. We sat on the sofa and watched some TV, Molly sat between us, happy enough to purr for an hour or so.

I am such a doofus sometimes. Once Jools came back from work, we went to visit the old folks at Whitfield. It is possible this is my only second visit there this year, or probably second at most. So, we go over to say hello and to see Jools' Dad after his recovery from diabetes induced madness. Maybe not madness, but he became a little unhinged. So, he's back to normal, chain smoking and talking about the past, as usual. Jen is fine, has ridiculous hair, but is happy as ever and a joy to speak with.

Afterwards, I had booked a table at Nameste at the Swingate. It was planned, obviously. But we had a table overlooking the open kitchen, and I loved to see the clay oven used to cook the skewered meat and naans. Ihave chilli and garlic prawns to start followed by something from the "hot" menu, and it was pretty fiery, but bearable. It was quiet inside, so service was even better than normal, and without the hen parties, pretty quiet too.

We were back by half eight, in time for a coffee before bed time.

Monday, 24 July 2017

Sunday 23rd July 2017

I woke at half seven. I did wake at six and again at half six when Jools got up, but needed a few more minutes. This meant that I was already running behind in my chores for the morning. I say chores, anything but really, chasing butterflies and orchids.

Coffee is drunk, and I go out to look for Chalkhill Blues, whilst Jools stays behind to carry on painting the shed. This is beacuse rain was forecast in the afternoon, and she wanted to get it done. So she said she would pass on both butterflies and orchids. Can't understand it myself, of course.

There is no traffic about at all, and I am treated to a drive along Reach Road bathed in warm sunshine, and little breeze. I am heading for the National Trust's place, and just away from the upper overflow car park is Fox Hill Down, which should be full of Chalkhills. This is again the place where back in the day, Jools thought all Blues were Chalkhills. Not so, as since then we have seen: Holly Blue, Common Blue, Small Blue, Long Tailed Blue, Small Copper, Green Hairstreak, Adonis Blue. And Chalkhills.

Arrivals Down below, ferries are coming and going, I snap them before turning my attention to the butterflies.

I saw a few Gatekeepers, now looking tatty as they receive damage from the wind up on the downs and cliffs, but I snap them as they were happy enough basking, and was like shooting fish in a barrel. I saw a blue, and follow it around, but as soon as it settled, and I moved in, it flew off, but I knew where there would be richer pickings.

Chalkhill Blue Polyommatus coridon Through the gate, and down to the left is a sheltered meadow, and with bushes sheltering it from the wind and being a natural sun trap, I should get shots here. I mean over the years I have got plenty of shots of them, but there is always the new combination of camera and lens which updates from time to time, and what with views of the harbour and to the castle and castle church to the south, there is plenty of other stuff to snap.

Chalkhill Blue Polyommatus coridon I quickly find a female in the grass, I get down and shoot her through the grass, not the best of shots, but I quite like it.

I walk round some more, and chase a few males, finally getting a couple, but not too close, anyway, I knew that with the sun getting warm, they would be getting ever more flighty, so decide to go with what I got, and would have gone home, but on the way thinking about the incoming rain, I thought I would go to Barham instead to snap the Violet Helleborines.

Violet Helleborine Epipactis purpurata A speed down the A2, turning off at Black Robin Lane, and from the speed of the main road, quickly into the peace and quiet of the narrow lanes that lead to the beech wood. In parking, I manage not to run over two cyclists who were pondering whether to ride or walk up the bridleway; they decide to walk and push their offroad bikes, I am going to the other side of the road, carrying camera with macro lens and the big bad boy tripod, which I really must get used to.

One hundred and ninety nine I ten minute walk up the hill, along the wide path, and then following the path round and up, I come to the clump of Violets, and one of the seven spikes had begun to open. But due to the breeze, the shots I wanted, even with the tripod, didn't come out, lots of movement with the long exposures, so I will return next week. I did work out how to use the tripod, turn the post upside down, reposition the slider, and can get low down and close to anything now. But any insect seeing the set up will soon have escaped before I had a shot. Does for orchids though.

Sea mist I go back home, struggle to get past the heavy traffic to the port, but home by ten or so, time to make more drinks and cook some TSP; thinly sliced pork. AKA, bacon.

Jools has done the shed, and it looks blue. Painting the boards alternate colours was going to be too difficult, so is now a uniform colour, but shapes may be painted on it later. Or some stencils.

We were going to visit the old folks, but turned out that we got wrapped up in our stuff, then had lunch, with wine and/or cider, and that meant we were going nowhere for a while. And at half three, it was time for the final stage of the 2017 Le Tour, live cruising through the Parisian suburbs before racing round the centre 8 times, getting faster and faster. I manage to stay away through the initial parts, then watching as the riders go round faster and faster. And then it was all over, Chris Froome the winner for the 4th time, and so came to the end of another memorable Tour.

And somehow we had come to the end of another weekend, Jools watched some new series with Sean Bean in as a vicar, and I did stuff on the interwebs. As you do. Outside it began to get dark, and was so by half nine, einter is coming, 5 months to mid-winter. Now there's a thought.

Sunday, 23 July 2017

Saturday 22nd July 2017

In a perfect world, I would have laid in bed for hours longer, but I am awake at half six, listening to Mulder meowing for breakfast. So, I get up go down to feed the cats, put make the first coffee of the day.

The main order of the day is to take the hire car back, but this being the first day of the school holidays, it is going to be manic down at the port, but get the car back first thing, or so I thought. A quick look at the traffic radar reveals that all roads to the port are already at a standstill, and the queue getting longer all the while. But we must try.

So, we take Reach Road out of the village, go along the cliffs, thinking we could have a look at Jubilee Way from the over ridge and see if the traffic is moving. People were out of their cars, looking down the hill to where the road curved out of sight. Jools went back home, I had said I would try along Townwall Street, maybe that was moving. But that was as bad, so I also turn round and go home. At eight I call Avis, and don't need to explain, they tell me get the car back when I can.

Back home we have breakfast, and wait to see what the day will bring. I check on the traffic, and watch as the queues spread outwards from the town. But after a couple of hours, things start to move, slowly at first, but by eleven, all roads are free, so we take the car back, I drive the Mercedes and Jools picks me up in our car. Nothing much to report about the trip, just lots of people sitting around, waiting for a departure, and cars in the new waiting lanes, waiting.

Jools arrives, takes me back home, and she goes back to painting the shed, whilst I prepare lunch, yet more cheesy beans on toast before I have to go out to meet a longtime Flickr friend.

We had arranged to meet in Hythe, he is undertaking visits to 100 English towns that he thinks are important architecturally, and Hythe is one of the kent ones. I wasn't sure what it was he wanted to see, but it would be good to catch up. Mark is the one who invited me to join a Flickr group that had the ambition to photograph every listed building in England, at least the Grade 1 and 2* ones anyway. I agreed to look after Kent, and that started me on the Kent church project. 300 or so churches later, and still going strong.

One hundred and ninety eight So I drive over, leaving at one not realising there was a food and drink festival on, and parking would be all but impossible. And the main road through the town was jammed, in both directions. I park behind where Jools works, and have to route march through the town, then up Church Hill, a steep footpath to the church, and coming in the other direction was Mark. Still looks like him, even with a beard.

He is on one of his flying visits, snapping mainly high streets, and had already been to Dover and Folkestone that day, and planned to go to Hastings after he left me. We look round the church, than I show him the old church hospital, now two flats called Centuries (don't ask me), then we amble up and down the High Street, visit the military canal. He had never heard of it, but then neither did I until I moved down here.

Invasion of the hollyhocks Finally, we go to a pub for a farewell beer. I persuade Mark to have a Bishop's Finger, it might be strong, but I wouldn't wish Masterbrew on anyone, not least a friend.

And like that he is gone, back to the car for a dash back to Hastings before returning to Wiltshire. I go home, and it being nearly four when I leave, I could reach the chippy for opening time, and would be home at quarter to five with dinner. And it worked out perfectly, the door had just been opened when I pull up, and the fish is already cooked, so I get the order, hop back in the car and rush home to find that Jools had abandoned the striped shed plan, and it was now all blue.

I make brews and butter bread, and in 5 minutes we are sitting down to eat, both of us shattered it has to be said, not enough sleep the night before. I watch the Tour highlights, just the time trial, not really exciting, but the shots of Marseille are fabulous, and the day ends with Chris Froome still in the yellow jersey.

I should have written a blog, but was too tired to do Friday justice, so we listen to the radio and eat Magnums whilst we watch a recording of Gardeners' World.

Friday 21st JUly 2017

I have been employed either by VOFS or MVOW for seven years or more. Depending on the date when I started work full time, for tax, legal or seniority purposes. It could be April, September or November But I digress; in all that time(s), my head office, at least officially is in Warrington. In some seven years, give or take a month or five, I had been there no more than four times. Since the JV going live, I have been invited to many social events, but with travel for projects, even if I was free, the thought of spending yet more time away from home, being sociable with people I did not know meant, that I politely declined each invitation.

And there was the invite from by ultimate boss, would I like to come to an event at Haydock Park races, meal, drinks and laffs? Well, the project had ended, and most of Denmark was on holiday, and I could return at least 5 years of IT equipment. So, I said yes.

All was set, travel up on the Wednesday; on Thursday return said IT equipment, have meetings, then on Friday go tot he event and drive home. It seemed to easy, but for the most part it worked out well. Only, and those of you who follow me on Flickr will now know that as part of the races on Friday, someone was killed in tragic and accidental circumstances, making the event, the betting, the races that we light-heartedly bet up, happen. He will no longer go home to his family, and friends and colleagues will not see him again.

On the other hand, he had a job for 25 years, if the bBC report on the accident is to be believes, and I see no reason not to. But more of that later.

So, now you know why I was able to go to LIverpool, and was staying in a business hotel in Warrington, and that come as soon as possible after the final course was served at the course on Friday, I would be itching for the long drive home to begin. IN a perfect world, a drive from Haydock park to Dover should take six hours. But this was the start of the school holidays, the busiest day on the roads, and heading to the biggest pinch point; the Channel ports. It was a perfect storm of delays, or potential ones at least.

Anyway, the day was set, no chance of backing out now, would just have to accept the day as it fell.

I woke at six. Seeing as I did not need to be in the office until after then, it made sense that I could have four hours laying in bed staring at the ceiling. I could hear rain falling outside, but then this is nearly Manchester.

I get up some time after seven, have a shower, put on a shirt and posh trousers, pack and clear the room. It was eight, time for breakfast and drive over to the offices to meet up with Philip, and maybe do some more copy and pasting.

There is the mix of the golf fan and the business types, along with the group of youths who had hogged the pool table these last two nights. They swore about life, ladies and work in what was a fashionable way some 20 years ago. I mean, who am I kidding, it might be fashionable again, I have no idea. But they eff and blind through breakfast, planning their weekend together, either here of somewhere else where they may live and/or work.

I check out, load the car and drive the 200m to the offices, then walk round, sign me and the car in, and go up to the office where, only me and Philip of those who were going to the social event were in, the others for various reasons, were not going. I log my working hours, copy and paste for an hour and a half until it is time to leave for the race course.

The social event was taking place at Haydock Park, a major horse racing venue, but one of many you've heard of, but not sure where in the country were it is. It is north of Warrington, near to Manchester, I think. We were told, by my boss, that this is a social event, men to wear trousers, shirt and ties. Women to wear something posh. Which for the most part seems to be fascinators. A fascinator is a hat, which does not do the actual job of a hat, material that is pinned to the hair of head, and look nice. Or, if asked how the fascinator looks, the average male must say, with no hesitation that the fascinator looks smashing.

So, we go to the car, I program the sat nav, and it says, we'll be there in 40 minutes. We had been told to be there for half eleven, when dinner, sorry, lunch, would start. We drive up the M6 until are told to turn off, through residential housing until just along the East Lancs road, we turn off, and are surprised to be the only car on the driveway to the course. There are loads of parking spaces, so pick one, and walk to the entrance, where we find we were 40 minutes early, so had to sit in the car to wait, whilst drizzle fell gently outside.

Black day at Haydock Park All those who come were dressed to the nines, and most ladies were of an orange tinge, something I will never understand if I'm honest, but at least most blokes looked uncomfortable in suits, or at least trousers and shirts. Come ten to twelve, we can now enter, so walk to the entrance, flash our tickets and passes and are allowed up to the 2nd floor restaurant, where many colleagues were already getting stuck into their first drink of the day. So the scene and pattern for the day was set.

Philip and I are given our drink, and we chit chat with others in our party, me at a disadvantage as I knew very few of them, but all seems good natured anyway. Our server got us to sit down and took our order: insalata caprese followed by lamb for me, and most of the others. Te guy opposite had green lipped muscles for starter, and felt pretty ill for the rest of the day; I'm sure the two are not connected.

Black day at Haydock Park After we had eaten the main course, time to put on our bets for the first race, the guy next to me knew someone who knew someone in the game, and had "hot" tips. I back the first of the tips, and put a fiver on each way, and much to my surprise, comes in third but at 8-1, wins me £15.

After cheese and biscuits, there is a second race, I lose a tenner, but already the excitement was wearing off. And by the third race, i lose the last of my winnings, as each race from now on had four runners or less, only paid out on the winner.

Black day at Haydock Park Come the 4th, most people were concentrating on drinking or trying to secure additional deserts because of the amount of wine having been drunk. In short we were not really concentrating on the preparations for the 4th race.

It was due to have gone off at half three, but that time came and went, nothing happened, the TV screens showed races from other courses. Someone came in said there had been an accident, and there was a green screen hiding what had happened. The obvious thought was that a rider had been thrown, or there had been a malfunction with the stalls. It turned out that with the various length of races, the starting stalls had to be moved from the 5, to seven furlong to two mile starts, and in the last of those moves, the stalls had struck a working who operated the stalls.

Black day at Haydock Park The air ambulance arrived, and looking outside it was a scene of a major event, but no news came. Until four when as a result of the seriousness of the incident, all further races that day had been cancelled, so no more racing. Philip tried to get his money back, and once he had been to the bookie, we bid farewell to our drunken colleagues to walk to the car. I was going to drop him off in Stockport, have a cuppa before driving south. Only this was the busiest days of the year on the roads, not only was there racing, there was a flower show at Tatton Park and the Open Golf in the area. All roads were jammed, far worse than usual.

It wouldn't have mattered which road I had chosen even if I had not dropped Phil off, in fact once I got to his house and pressed eastwards over the Peak District, the promise was of a quieter route, but we had to get there first. Also in the way was Manchester Airport, and the radio reports from many of the local station s spoke of accidents on some of the motorways, especially the 62 over the hills east, which is the way I would have gone.

One hundred and ninety seven So we inch eastwards, down the 62 then onto the 57, taking the airport turn off, taking half an hour to get through a set of traffic lights and driving into the centre of Stockport before turning off into the leafy suburbs where he lived. We arrived at quarter to six, the 35 minute journey having taken just under 90 minutes. I said I would press on rather than come in for a cuppa and a bite to eat. So we wave farewell, and I set.

Head for the A6 he said. So that is what I did, getting lost on the ringroad, but finding a way to turn round, then in a long line of traffic, begin the drive towards the dark summits of the Pennines in the distance. In an hour I had left the big towns behind, and the road began to snake up and up, lines with dry stone walls, with stern looking towns lining the road.

Up and up the road wound, it would have been a fine drive if it had been a fine and golden summer evening. As it was, a steady rain fell, and the peaks of the hills hidden from view. I turn off towards Chesterfield, the road began to drop, twisting and turning down a wooded valley, but getting ever darker. A closed road meant a diversion around the city centre, getting stopped at every set of lights, following the yellow signs.

Before joining the M1, I fill up and grab a sandwich and sausage roll to eat, if all went well, it would be non-stop to Dover. If all went well.

And for the most part it did. Joining the motorway, I was able to cruise for hour after hour, making my way south towards Coventry. The sat nav and I had a difference of opinion, I decided to go along the $14 from the bottom of the M6 to Cambridge, then pick up the motorway south, joining the M25 further east that staying on the M1. In time the sat nav worked out my plan and agreed with the plan, the advantage for me was that I knew the road, so could relax and know roughly how long the remainder of the drive would take. I guessed I would be home just after 11, not too bad.

Darkness began to fall, and as is usual, Essex had more than its fair share of nutter drivers, but I make good time still, turning onto the motorway to Thurrock. And I began to relax, thinking I was inside the last two hours.

The matrix signs began to flash that there was a lane closed, I thought nothing of it, and for over 10 miles there was no sign of any problem. But as we began to climb on the approach to the bridge, traffic came to a halt, and there we sat for 20 minutes. No news on what was happening, only that there was a police car, just visible at the front of the jam.

And suddenly, it moves off, and the four lanes of traffic follow. Over the bridge and through the tolls, we come to an accident where a young man in a hatchback had rolled his car, two lanes were closed and he was still stuck in his car. I get a flash of a fireman talking to the driver, his head covered in dried blood as I drive by. And as soon as it arrived, was gone.

I was in Kent again, and home was an hour away, so I put my foot down and turn down the M20, knowing the road so well, I could almost drive it with my eyes closed, but keep them open.

In fact, traffic wasn't too bad, and in 40 minutes I had passed by Ashford and was thinking about the brew I would have when I got home. And that is when the matrix signs began flashing again. Half a mile from the Hythe junction, traffic grinds to a halt again. So we sit in darkness for another half an hour, no idea what the cause was. And again with no warning, the traffic began to move off again, with the only sign anything was wrong was a car and caravan parked on the hard shoulder.

I pull up at home at quarter to midnight, eight hours after leaving the race course, about what I thought really. Jools was up, waiting for me, waiting with a hot kettle to supply me with a cuppa before we can go to bed, another week over, and the start of another weekend.

Saturday, 22 July 2017

Thursday 20th July 2017

I wake up in the business hotel, the Pentahotel. Odd name, with no apparent logical meaning. The hotel is a box, oblong not eight sided. And this used to be a Hilton, its better now, but that's not hard. Outside, it is raining steadily, meaning I would have to carry my work bag and bag of old IT equipment whilst carrying an umbrella. All the fun of the fair, I guess.

I have a shower and get dressed, go down for breakfast before collecting the IT stuff from the back of the car, and struggle over the main road into the business park, along a new path through a small copse of trees to the building where my Employer has its UK offices. I get in the building and go up to the first floor, and after ringing the bell am allowed in. In theory, this is where I should work when not traveling. It is the first time I have been here for some four years, at least. I see a few people working away, a couple of I know. Soon my old boss, Philip, arrives, so after a coffee, I find a desk to work from and start the day with four hours of meetings.

The IT bloke comes in, so I present my bag of goodies. He is unimpressed, dumps the stuff in the middle of the office floor, and contemplates what to do. I'm guess it will be skipped, but at least I have all this stuff out of the house and not liable to be billed for, which was threatened. Anyway, back to the copy and pasting.

For lunch, I am taken by Rob to the nearby ASDA, a huge as an aircraft hanger, I'm sure they sell elephants on one of the wider aisles at the back. I buy a sandwich and some vanilla diet coke, so am set for lunch. We drive back to the office whilst Rob swears, loudly and frequently about all the other drivers. It makes me smile.

Come four in the afternoon, people begin to leave in order to beat the traffic on the motorways in the area. At half four I think I should go too. I think maybe I could watch the end of Le Tour, but arrive back as the peleton crosses the line meaning I will have to watch the highlights again later. Meaning I would need an early dinner, so book a table for six, and eat well of fish and chips, served on a wooden board, meaning the peas have to be served in a small dish. I am sure there is some point to all this, but what?

One hundred and ninety six Back in my room in time for the highlight, and watching them meant forgoing the chance to go out in the car to Warrington to take shots of the two parish churches and large theatre. But there will be other times, probably.

And I am able to upgrade the internet, and it is like someone has turned a waterfall of information on, and am able to upload pictures in seconds and listen to some radio. Outside the sun sets, and I have a view of the business park bathed in golden light.

Wednesday 19th July 2017

So much today to do, and only so many hours to squeeze everything into.

It is a fine morning, bright with fluffy clouds and the low sun casting long shadows across the garden. But there is no time to stop and look, as there are cats to feed, coffee to make and breakfast to pour into bowls and pour cold milk over. Its how we eat bacon. No, just cereal.

Jools gets up, and after breakfast gets herself ready, and I even put some trousers on. At quarter past seven, she takes me into town so I can snap the progress on the St James development. I should have done this more frequently, but turns out not being orchids or churches, recording the work came low down in my priorities, so this is only the second time I took the shots in the last six months, and most of the steel frames are now up, with cladding being put up, and maybe some of it might be open by Christmas. We hope the cinema is, as being a five minute run into town for us, we could go frequently, if there was something good on.

Castle Street, Dover After taking those shots, and a couple up Castle Street up to the castle, I walk to Townwall Street, and apart from a quick diversion to the promenade, walk to the Eastern Docks to collect my hire car.

It was already might war, hot in fact, and so was hoping the car had air con, but I thought even if it didn’t, I could have all windows open. In the end, Adrian tells me he has reserved a good car for me, a Mercedes A180 or something, so I shake his hand, say thanks, and go to check out the ride. It’s not in the E class, but will do, even if it didn’t have DAB radio, radio 2 would have to do.

I drive back home, park up and go for breakfast, wash up then pack my overnight case. I load the car with; the overnight case, my work bag, my small camera bag, an umbrella and a box of old iT equipment. The boot is full, and all is set.

My destination is our UK head office in Warrington, but I had ideas of a diversion later in the day, depending on how well the journey went.

I was hoping to go west and clockwise round the M25 to the M40 junction and go up that so I could watch the Red Kites flying, but that was would take ages as there had been an accident on the M25, meaning I went over the familiar way through the Dartford Tunnel, then round the northern part of the motorway all the way to the M1.

It was cool in the car, even cold, so I turn the air con off as we head north. I pass through Milton Keynes, Coventry then take the toll motorway round Birmingham and West Bromwich, stopping for lunch at its end, what with it being one and well past lunchtime, but I thought I had broken the back of the trip.

M6 Toll From there it was a blast up the crumbling road past Stafford, Newcastle under Lyme, Crewe to the start of the M62, and instead of turning east towards the office and the hotel, I go west. West to Liverpool.

I had been to Liverpool twice before: once in 1985 to see Norwich play at Anfield in the Cup (we lost 5-0) and the journey was through the biggest snowstorm I had seen, I can remember the bus struggling up the M62 in near whiteout conditions, trying to get onto Saddleworth Moor. A spooky enough place with six inches of snow just visible in the darkness. Second time was a flying visit to the Tate at Albert Dock, when I was visiting a friend in about 2002, 15 years ago I realise. Two hours wasn’t enough, of course, and I took no pictures,

At the end of the motorway, the main road wound through modern estates, past empty factories and rows and rows of traditional norther terraced houses. I would had paid more attention, only I was trying to follow the signs to the waterfront area, which sometimes seemed to be missing at some junctions. But I went further and further into the city, finally dropping down to the old Pier Head area and the towering Three Graces.

Liverpool Pierhead I find a parking house in which to leave the car, and once which would be easy to find again in a few hours. I grab the cameras and walk quickly out into the street, across which is The Liver Building, The Cunard Building and the other one. The Three Graces.

Liverpool Pierhead I walk over, amazed at the size of them, the closest, the Liver, is huge, with big windows, bigger doors, as though giants once lived here. Even with a half hearted fun fair between them and the water, they looked magnificent. I take shots. All the time.

I walk south, towards Albert Dock, but in the way there are some fine modern buildings, including the new Museum of Liverpool, not sure if it all works, but with the old docks reflecting the steel and glass, it mostly does.

Liverpool Pierhead To get to the Albert Dock, I have to walk back to the road and round a larger inner dock, as there is yet more work going on, but that opens up new vistas and more photographic opportunities.

The docks must have been magnificent when at their heyday, all well built and surrounded by sturdy warehouses and offices, now most have been converted into galleries, restaurants, pubs and more museums. It is all rather wonderful, and even with so many people about, I find quiet corners in which to lose myself.

Liverpool Pierhead Walking back beside the river with views over to Birkenhead, with views over half a mile of muddy slowly flowing water. And to my delight, a Mersey Ferries comes across, with head full of Gerry and the Pacemakers.

Liverpool Pierhead Once back at the Graces, I take a road into the city centre, looking for a place to wet my whistle. I had looked at the pop up bars beside the river, but didn’t like the lack of choice. I find an old fashioned place called The Saddle, and order a pint of summer ale, and turned out to be the worst pint I had drunk in many long year. Still, with change from three quid I wasn’t that much out of pocket.

Liverpool Pierhead Outside again, I find more nooks and crannies to snap before walking back to the car down some fine old alleyways.

Getting to the hotel at five in the afternoon was never going to be a good idea, but with the sat nav to guide me, it took me along the waterfront some more, then up roads lines with more terraced houses, past the new cathedral which I had really wanted to visit, but can’t do everything in a few hours. Mile after mile of houses pass by, with more identical sidestreets leading off on both sides.

Liverpool Pierhead I finally get to the start of the motorway, and make good progress. The sat nave says the journey would take ten more minutes, but that was a guess as the first ten minutes had taken 40. I put the radio on, and enjoy the trip back east, towards the Manchester ring road/motorway. Just before that begun, is Birchwood Park, and where both the hotel and head office are.

A walk around Liverpool Pier Head and Albert Docks It is four years since I was here; the hotel has been sold, done up, and now is trying to be a gastropub, which I guess is an improvement on the atmosphere free place it was before. I check in at the bar (!) and go to my room, a disabled room (!), but spacious and with an armchair and huge TV.

A walk around Liverpool Pier Head and Albert Docks I select three wifi rather than the tenner for the high speed option, I mean, how slow could it be? I had to ask, and found out it was very slow indeed. Almost too slow to use Flickr or Faceache. But I struggle on. At seven I sit down to watch the Tour highlights, only to find the TV stuck on ITV and bloody Emmerdale.

One hundred and ninety five I press every button on the remote, and one of them allows me to select channel 20 and ITV4 where ten minutes had already past. But I could watch the rest of it, up and down mountain, breaks, getaways and riders blowing themselves out. Amazing stuff that after tw and a half weeks they have enough energy to be able to cycle up mountain after mountain.

A walk around Liverpool Pier Head and Albert Docks Once that finished, I go down for dinner, the restaurant had been full until then, full of the be-pringled ones up in the area for the Open Golf. Be pringled men prop up the bar, and bepermed women sip iced Chardonnay sitting perched on modern sofas, trying to look comfortable. I take a table a the back of the restaurant, order asparagus soup followed by burger. You wouldn’t want me to change, would you?

A walk around Liverpool Pier Head and Albert Docks And it is good, served by waitresses barely old enough to have left school, they do a great job in seeing to all the diners.

A walk around Liverpool Pier Head and Albert Docks At nine I am done, full and tired. I need an hour to edit two shots and post them online thanks to the transfer rate, which must be down to old dial up speeds. I try to get back to the sign on page, but can’t, stuck with an almost unusable internet connection. Too slow even for work, so, not all bad.