Thought for the Week

"A hug is a perfect gift - one size fits all and nobody minds if you give it back."

The Canal

My latest desire for a photo trip was to capture some beautiful landscape in reflections, and so after a brief moment of thought, the Royal Military Canal seemed like the most obvious choice.

Some facts about the Canal:

  1. The Royal Military Canal is 28 miles long, running from Seabrook in Kent to Cliff End in East Sussex.
  2. It is the third longest defensive monument in the British Isles after Hadrian’s Wall and Offa’s Dyke.
  3. The canal was built in anticipation of a Napoleonic invasion. Napoleon had his armies massed on the shores of France waiting for the moment to invade.
  4. The Royal Military Canal was the third line of defence after the British Navy and a line of Martello towers stretching from Folkestone to Eastbourne.
  5. The canal has ‘kinks’ every 500 metres along its length. This is a defensive measure, allowing troops to fire cannons along the canal if invaders tried to cross.
  6. The first sod of the canal was dug on 30 October 1804 at Seabrook.
  7. A narrower road was built on the seaward side as a towpath for the horses pulling the barges.
  8. As well as stopping Napoleon it was hoped that the canal would hinder smuggling which was a serious problem on the Romney Marsh.
  9. Iden Lock was completed in 1808 and linked the Royal Military Canal with the River Rother. The original buildings - the officer’s house and the soldier’s barracks - can still be seen today.
  10. The canal took 4.5 years to complete at a cost of £234,310 - a huge amount in Georgian England, approximately £10,000,000 in todays money.
  11. The Royal Military Canal is one of two canals that were entirely state funded, the other being the Caledonian Canal.
  12. In order to recoup some of the money spent on the canal, it was opened for public use and tolls were charged to take barges on the canal...
  13. The last toll-paying barge travelled through Iden Lock on 15 December 1909.
  14. During particularly cold winters the canal would freeze, and it was possible to ice skate all the way from Iden Lock to Seabrook.
  15. The canal is vital for irrigation and drainage on the Romney Marsh.
  16. It is still possible to take non-powered boats on the canal today.
  17. The canal is a fantastic home to lots of wildlife, including Laughing frogs, emperor dragonflies, kingfishers and the majestic mute swan.
  18. Parts of the canal are a Site of Special Scientifc Interest (SSSI). The remainder of the canal is a Local Wildlife Site.
  19. Today the full 28 mile length of the canal has a public footpath along it and makes an excellent waymarked long distance trail

I picked up my camera and tripod and headed off to my Mum's as we had arranged the trip earlier in the week. As much to give me a break from my nursing/mothering duties as anything else, and by the end of the first week it was much needed.

We drove down towards Hythe, stopping just short at Seabrook, which is where the path along the Canal actually begins. Here we took a short wander on the beach, passing another keen photographer who photographing exactly what I had come to do, the rough sea crashing against the man-made sea defences which consisted of huge boulders stretching out from the sea wall directly into the sea. The size and the shapes create a great back-drop for the spray of the waves as each, in turn, hurls themselves at the immovable objects. Once wet, the boulders take on a whole new image, reflecting the waves as they arch above.

After our brief interlude here, we sat in the car and enjoyed a warming cup of tea that Mum had brought with her in a flask. Whilst enjoying the tea, we also enjoyed the view, enhanced greatly by two very fit looking guys in surfing apparel who were taking their boards out for a spin!

The main event, was the Canal however. I found a quiet spot to park and we walked towards the water, the sun bouncing off the small ripples created by the gliding swans and ducks.

The ducks are always happy to see people, they know that invariably this means they will get fed.

As we began to walk down the path, my new perspective on the world, from a photography point of view, was turning cartwheels. This was pure paradise. A place of beauty during every season of the year, with each season having it's own unique input into the colours and textures of the landscape. Autumn, of course is the most colourful by far. With the tree lined canal a miriad of sedate greens, burnt oranges, fiery reds and bright yellows.

This was the first shot I took, but the speed ramp, and tarmac entrance, on the right hand side, to a club house really detracted from the feeling I was trying to capture with my shot.

So armed with Photoshop (isn't digital manipulation brilliant!!) I removed the speed ramp and extended the grass verge, not bad for my very first attempt at using Photoshop.

The oak and ash trees, the birch and poplars stood alongside many others, together with and my favourite, the grand old weeping willows with her branches so elegantly sweeping towards the water, hovering, teasingly, a couple of inches above.

The bridges at intervals along the canal are each a little different, some are for vehicular access, some are pedestrian only, but each one is stunning, illuminated by the low, bright autumn sunlight which reflects its image on the water below

It was on this bridge here that I stood looking in the direction we had just walked, with one of the 'kinks' in the river in view, admiring the the adeptness of the seagulls whislt they jostled positions to further their advantage over the ducks in obtaining as much of the bread as possible that a small child was throwing into the water.

As I turned to face up stream, the view almost took my breath away, and in that very instant, I knew this was the exact shot that I had come for, it couldn't have been more perfect

Dressing Up.

I am soooooooooooo having withdrawals from blogging. Time is still short, as ever, but daughter is on the mend nicely, so this is just a quickie (so to speak!).

A few pics I received in an email that made me chuckle, so I thought I'd share them with you.

Have you ever walked around the shops, or seen pictures of things in a magazine that immediately made you think of a friend or relative. Well, the last picture here, made me think of Cherrie, it combines two of her favourite things.

Hopefully I will get back properly next week, in the mean time, I am reading your blogs, just don't always have the time to reply.

Firework Celebrations

November 5th (or the nearest weekend to it) is when thousands of people in England celebrate ‘Bonfire Night’

In England, this celebration is much, bigger and more widely celebrated that Halloween which, being so close, takes a bit of a back seat to one of the biggest celebrations we have in our yearly calendar.

What follows is a brief history, for the benefit of all my readers who are not sure why we celebrate this event:

In 1605, Guy Fawkes and a group of co-conspirators attempted to blow up King James 1st and the Houses of Parliament, in what has become known as the Gunpowder Plot. Before they were able to carry out their plan they were caught, and subsequently tortured and executed.

Every year since then on November the 5th, we have traditionally celebrated his notorious treasonous Gunpowder Plot failure by letting-off fireworks and burning an effigy of 'Guy' on a bonfire.

In reality, and with the growing popularity of firework displays to mark other private special occasions, the bangs, pops, oohs and aahs start a good week or two before the 5th. Generally, the largest amount of displays will be held on the Friday or Saturday nearest the 5th November.
G and I were invited this year, as last, to J & K’s across the road from us for the celebrations. Everyone thinks that J has an unnatural addiction to blowing things up....

....what do you think, a tad excessive?

Like a little boy at Christmas, he gets so excited, for weeks before the night, at the thought of letting them all go. His long suffering wife will hear the phrase “I’m just going to let one off. Just one, I promise” for many nights running up to the celebrations. It’s like a child in a candy

The other thing is that J & K really know how to put a party on. This year it was to be even bigger than last year. The guest list totalled 90 people. The fireworks had been arriving home in batches for several weeks. The oven space of all 3 or 4 invited neighbours had been booked to cook the jacket potatoes and we had each volunteered to make a batch of curry, chilli con carne or tikka masala.

G spent the afternoon helping J to set up the garden and unwrap all the fireworks that he had bought and that which had been purchased by the guests. There was a sturdy ‘rocket launcher’ which would hold 7-8 rockets at a time, to position safely, and the rockets were linked with fuse wire which would then ignite them in quick succession.

A similar, much simpler set of pipes were erected on the opposite side of the garden for the smaller, less powerful rockets, and the catherine wheels were nailed, in a neat little row, to another structure.

There was an old tin bath filled, and a couple of other receptacles each filled with builders sand in which to bury the large ‘cake’ fireworks.

In the name of safety, J had constructed a clear Perspex barrier to separate the spectators from the field of ignition. The hose pipe lay down the length of the garden and buckets of water were placed close at hand.

The garage was taken over for the catering. The entire back wall was a sea of alcohol. To one side there were 5 slow cookers neatly lined up, all simmering away on a low setting and a small glass front warmer in which were some of the many jacket potatoes that had been cooked in preparation. To the other side of the garage was a smaller table, with heated containers in which lurked hotdogs and onions.

I had offered to photograph the whole thing for them. A good memento for them and great practice for me. My current college project is entitled Textures and Patterns, I just know some of the pics are going into it!!

Including J and G there were 4 guys setting up and lighting 8-12 fireworks simultaneously.

There were little ones, though not very many;

and there were big ones.

Then there were the really big ones. The ones that reverberated around the hills and left your ears ringing.

The biggest single firework was a 1000 shot cake. One fuse. One firework. One thousand shots. It was so totally amazing it is indescribable.

Here are a few more of some of my favourite shots. Enjoy.

Note to blogger friends: I may be missing for a short while, will try to check in with your blogs, and will write again as soon as I am able.

Memory Monday - Nostalgia in the Present

Last week I wrote about a nostalgic overload I had, when the computer in my brain decided to grab the ‘recycle bin’ and disperse the entire contents around my ‘Random Access Memory’. Boy was it random.

This weeks Memory Monday is a follow on from that entry….

So, in my mind, I was convinced. 100% sure. This ‘new’ friend, was in fact an ‘old’ acquaintance from 28 years ago, my primary school days.

All week, my brain has been tossing around ideas on how to have a little fun with him before telling him who I was, although a little bit of me couldn’t understand why he had not already made the connection himself!

My favourite plan, with the assistance of G (hubby), was to try to steer the conversation round to school days, then subtly drop in first one name from the past, then another and watch the reaction of recognition spread across his face. This is what I decided would be the easiest way to have a little fun.

My plan, unfortunately, was flawed in more ways than one. The biggest flaw being that as the Landlord of the pub, and as there were two big footy matches being shown this weekend, the pub would be heaving and he wouldn’t stand still long enough to engineer any sort of conversation.

OK. Plan B.

Hmm. I don’t have a plan B.

Plan B will be ‘suck it and see’, ‘wing it’, ‘play it by ear’

Sunday morning arrived and me and G headed off to meet the rest of the team at the pub to see who needed lifts to the match ground. Big match this week. Next round of the County Cup. Everyone is there, everyone is pumped up and raring to go and ‘kick some ass’

Following the news that one team member brought with them, about another of the team having been jumped and attacked the previous night, they were all pretty angry, and you could tell that was going to fuel the hungry fire in their bellies even more.

As we left the pub, my ‘new’ friend Steve, said he would catch a lift with us, this is not unusual, when he is able to get to the match he usually rides with us. On the journey, which is only about 20 minutes or so, half of me was wondering whether now was the time, the other half was already deeply involved in the conversation surrounding the events of the previous night and the young team member who had spent the night in hospital. The poor, unfortunate lad in question was my God Son, whom I have known since the day he was born, so it had stirred some very maternal feelings within me, but that’s another story.

About 15 minutes into the journey, my inner voice was having a little conversation of it’s own:

Right, strike while the irons hot. You have his undivided attention for another 5 minutes.

Maybe now is not the right time


No I’m not

Then get on with it. Once you get out of this car you will be lucky to get another chance for an uninterrupted conversation with him today.

OK, I admit. Now I am face to face with him again….


…. There’s a 1% bit in my brain that’s not sure it’s the same guy!

Just do it. I need to know.


The general conversation amongst us paused.

Now’s your chance

Maybe it’s not him. Why hasn’t he already made the connection? I have a reasonably unusual Christian name, most people from my past instantly recall who I am just because the name jogs their memory and it’s not one they hear too often.

Maybe he has recognised you and chose not to say anything

Why? Oh God, maybe he does know who I am, and didn’t like me at school.

What the f***?

Well not only do I have an unusual Christian name, but my son, who plays for the pub team also, and has been a regular in there for a couple of years, has my maiden name. With the two together, he couldn’t fail to know who I am!!

Oh for Christ sake, just get on with it

But what if…. Oh bo**ocks! In for a penny, in for a pound

So I jumped right in.

Me: ~looking directly at Steve~ At the risk of making a complete arse of myself Steve
G: ~laughing loudly~
Steve: ~looking slightly concerned~ Yes
Me: Did you go to ****** primary school?
Steve: ~looking more concerned~ Yes I did, how did you know?
Me: ~cheeky grin~ I thought so!
Steve: ~puzzled~ Did you go there then?
Me: ~nodding~ Yes I did.
Steve: ~looking very puzzled, and leaning back for a better view~ I’m sorry, I really don’t recognise you.
Me: That’s OK, it’s taken me 5-6 weeks to recognise you.
Steve: So you must have been in the same class then, we’re the same age!!
Me: ~even cheekier grin~ Yep
Steve: So what’s your maiden name? I’ve only ever known one Ali
Me: Same as my son’s!
Steve: ~penny dropping, loudly~ Oh my God, I’m so sorry I didn’t recognise you. You look nothing like you used to!
Me: ~I wonder if that’s a good thing?~
Steve: Oh my God. It really is a small world. I can’t believe it.
Me: I was going to wind you up, and start name dropping to see your reaction.
Steve: ~Laughing~ You should have done! Do you remember Andrew N****
Me: Yes. What about Paul L**** and Dennis G****?
Steve: Yeah. Dennis comes in the pub now and then you know.
Me: No way!! ~pretending to cover G’s ears~ he was the first boy I ever kissed you know.
Steve: ~laughing~ Really?
G: You hussy!!!! ~chuckling~
Me: I was only 8!! We stood there, in an old building in the woods where lots of us used to play as kids, about 2 feet apart, saying “you go first”… “no you go first”…
If my memory serves me correctly this scenario continued for about 20 minutes, until Dennis planted the fastest, most awkward, totally hurried kiss on my cheek, and we ran out. Although I had stood there with my heart in my mouth for the full 20 minutes, I can remember thinking “Thank God that’s over!”

Those were the days.


When you are pounced on by a charity collector asking for money, or a donation to some worthy cause, it can be difficult to say 'No'. At least, for most people it is difficult to say no without feeling pretty damn selfish.

Then there are those who strike a deal with the supermarket, and perch on their seats in the foyer or entrance with their little tables covered with leaflets about how this child or that animal may die if you don't help them raise £50,000 to help the needy.

You walk in, and no-one says anything. You walk through the first door, fix your gaze on the second door, thinking this somehow makes you invisible, or at the very least, the fact that you haven't acknowledged their existence means it's not that you are a right stingy bugger, you just didn't see them!

Why should anyone have to feel guilty in that way? If you gave to every charity that asked or suggested that you should, or that your donation alone would make such a huge difference, you would be in need of charity yourself. It is not possible to donate to them all. I, myself, tend to reserve my donations for children's charities.

This said, I still try the 'I'll just pretend I haven't seen you' technique with the rest.

Last week, whilst exiting the supermarket with a loaded trolley, barely able to steer it with the use of both hands, I was approached, asked if I would like a leaflet, and before I had time to answer, the leaflet had been unceremoniously stuffed into my 'still clutching trolley' right hand.

Cheeky bugger, I thought, but hey, I had it in my hand now, I may as well read it right.

To my surprise, it didn't involve giving money to anyone. What they wanted was time. They were on a recruitment drive for volunteers.

This caught my interest. I have been considering trying to get involved in some sort of voluntary work for a couple of years, but have never been able to determine what kind of work I could fully ccommit to and give 110% to without pay. Working directly with the elderly just doesn't appeal to me, rightly or wrongly, it's really not my cup of tea, and I couldn't bear the thought of assisting in a charity shop for several hours at a time. So this leaflet was appealing.

What was it I hear you ask?

It was for the County Search and Rescue (Lowland) team. A voluntary organisation, that is mobilised via the coast guard, RAF and police forces with in the county to assist with the searching for missing, vulnerable people.

Just up my street. Interesting and challenging and helping to hopefully minimise distress caused to victims and their families at difficult times. Search and Rescue training together with general first aid training has to be completed before you can become operational, if you are accepted as a volunteer. I realise that sometimes, the SAR team have to deal with the not so pleasant results of a missing person, but life is all about balance, and I feel sure that the good results will far outweigh the bad.

Anyway, I decided to check out their website and then emailed the coordinator to see if working full time meant I would not be of sufficient use. Turns out, it's fine. So I have filled in all the relevant application, medical and vetting forms, which I put in the post today.

Fingers crossed.


Hell. Why does your brain throw random information at you when you least expect it?

Has anyone ever had one of those 'light bulb' moments, where your brain, for absolutely no apparent reason, retrieves some previously insignificant piece of information from your on board recycle bin and not only restores the item to the location it used to be at without you requesting it, but whilst it's on a roll, it digs around in the recycle bin and retrieves a few more items which it deems have some sort of link to the newly recycled information and stores them right at the front of your brain. Just in that part which comes to the foreground of your involuntary thought processes at the most inconvenient of times?

The reason my on board computer decided it was calling the shots - it thinks it's found a link with the present.

Let me explain.

I was visiting the little girls room at work, minding my own business. I don't recall having been thinking of anything in particular at the time, when all of a sudden I was bombarded with names and memories and information from my past. My brain had this little flurry of nostalgic moments and continued to overload on them.

The motherboard must have had a power surge or something, the information came thick and fast...

"Steve W..., - Stephen W..."

"Of course. Holy Shite. Stephen W..."

"Thought he looked familiar"

"Went to primary school with a Stephen W..., I wonder if it's the same person"

"Steve W... the landlord of football teams pub, of course"

"That's why he looked so familiar"

"Michelle C..., Amanda S..., Stephen W.... holy cow."

"Of course, it makes sense, I can see it in his mannerisms"

"Stephen W..., damn, why didn't I spot it before"

"What are the chances of that? It must be him"

"I can see it now. Hell, wait till I see him at the weekend!"

That was the gist of my brain function. There was a few more similar thoughts and they came at such a rate of knots I felt almost dizzy.

I wrote about the footy team last week and of having gained back some of that 'family' feeling I used to have years ago when I played darts for a pub team.

Well, Steve W... is the landlord of this current pub. I have been a regular in the pub and at the footy games now for over a month. At first I thought he looked familiar, then I thought he just had one of those faces and personalities. Some people get you like that, they are so cheerful, and so at ease with people that you feel like you have known them for ages.

The landlord and landlady are both like this. On one of the walls of the pub is painted the phrase

"There are no strangers here - only friends that haven't met yet"

And that is exactly how they are with all of their customers, whether it's the first time they have seen you or the 100th time they have seen you.

The more I have thought about it, and believe me my brain has been thrusting this info at me constantly for the last 24 hours now, the more I am 100% certain. He has the same looks, the same smile, the same mannerisms.

It is 28 years since I saw him regularly at primary school, although I think in the 5 years following that I saw him a handful of times around the estate that I lived on at the time.

It truly is a small world.

Fancy making a 'new' good friend, only too find out he was an 'old' friend of sorts.