Friday, 20 August 2010

moaning is something old people do.

Since Sunday my left shoulder has become very sore, probably as result of hoiking myself in and out of holes, I have to say that it was worth it. I haven’t had that much fun for a long while and I can’t wait to do it again.

I’m currently supporting the gym run at work, no I don’t make use of the amenities, that’s a concept that is totally alien to me, I have been making use of a very accurate set of weighing scales. Over the last months, I’m not entirely sure how long really, I’ve lost over two stone. Currently I’m losing about two pounds a week. I’m not absolutely certain what I’m doing, but whatever it is it’s working. A lot of my friends have told me that the weight loss is showing, plus I’m having to put new holes in my belt. By my reckoning, if I maintain the trend I stand to lose around four stone over the next four months. I may put a few pounds back on in December, but at least I have a target. I’m hoping to lose at least half of that by Christmas. Wish me luck on that.

Now for a bit of a moan, TV, with particular reference to weekend programmes, they’re rubbish! People say how rubbish things like Doctor Who, Merlin and Primeval are, but really look at the forthcoming season. This weekend will see the broadcasting of two programmes that centre around second rate pop stars that have been given video cameras so that they can film their day to day living. We also get the return of x factor, also known as talentless chavs who have been told by their nans that they sing well in the shower. Sadly the nan omitted to tell them that they’re deaf from all the raves they attended when they were younger. We also have the pleasure of less than minor “celebrities” throwing themselves around a dance floor, only to be told how rubbish they are at dancing. Well duh! These people aren’t professional dancers, so of course they’re going to be rubbish. At least we say goodbye to the mind numbing trite that is Big Brother. What’s happened to all the writers? Surely there’s a few good ideas floating around out there, or do we have to suffer East Coronation Dale and celebrity dog walking for the next eight months?

On a brighter note for those who enjoy being entertained by the idiot box when it has a proper programme on, Mark Gatiss, He of League of Gentlemen, Doctor Who scriptwriter and co-writer of this years, rather good, adaptation of Sherlock Holmes, is working on a new adaptation of H G Wells’ The First Men in the Moon. I reckon that’s something to look forward to. Wells is considered, by many, to be the creator of modern science fiction, some would argue that Jules Verne holds that title; maybe we could do a TV documentary on it! I remember the Lionel Jeffries version from 1964, it wasn’t a bad film, and because Wells lived in the area, Dymchurch gets a mention.

So there you have today’s blog, a bit of a rant, and a bit of good news on a personal level.

Monday, 16 August 2010

Oh happy days

Sunday last saw me and a group of my very close friends return to Lydden Spout to further explore the area. We all met at the bottom of Folkestone Hill, I’m a Dover lad so it’s always been the hill into Folkestone rather than up to Dover. Two of us got the bus up, as there wasn’t room in the car. Dave and I got a bit lost so we called into a local tavern to ask for directions, the barman, for some unknown reason served us to pints of ale whilst we studied the map. Once we had our bearings we set off in search of the rest of our party. They were lost too, well, I say lost, they’d parked the other side of the pub. They’d also sent one of their number in the pub to ask if anyone fitting our description had been in, we’d been rumbled. Having regrouped we set off for our destination. The walk wasn’t as pleasant as the last time we were there. We had a force 10 gale blowing and no sun. However, we didn’t let that deter us, and we made headway to the holes. I was confident that the entrance to the deep shelter was somewhere down the cliff face, so myself and the rear admiral had a bit of a scramble down the cliff in an endeavour to locate it. We had no luck and realizing that we were in the wrong place we scrambled back up. I’m not as fit as I use to be, after that ascent I was quite knackered. We moved on to hole #1. A bit of a tight squeeze but I managed to get in and the exploring commenced. These holes have been there for over 60 years, they show many signs of neglect and abandonment, but they’re still impressive. They were excavated by the royal engineer corps to accommodate the crews for the large guns that defended that section of the coast. This battery, along with two others in Dover and another three between Guston and St Margaret’s were pivotal to defending the channel from the German war machine. Sadly history hasn’t been kind to these amazing places. In fact none of the fortifications have survived well, except for the installation beneath Dover castle. It seems to me that rather than preserving these places, it’s quite the opposite, and they are being allowed to fade away in the hope that what they stood for, and against, will eventually be forgotten. This is a great shame as both the wars are an important part of history, not just ours, but the whole of Europe’s. Anyway, I digress, after the first hole, or to give it its correct designation, Magazine store #1, we headed back to the cliff face in another attempt to find the deep shelter. This was the equivalent of an air raid shelter for the gun crews. We found some steps heading down the cliff and, again two of us climbed down. A third body went down a path that was slightly to the west of the steps where he stood on top of a well constructed wall. We didn’t find the entrance, but I have since learnt that body three was very close, it’s at the base of the wall just to the left of where he was stood. I also have it on good authority that the entrance is very close to total collapse, so maybe it was a good thing we didn’t find it. I just hope that when nature does finally have its way and seals the entrance permanently, no one is in there. Returning to the top we headed over to the hole we first explored on the walk a few weeks ago. Not much had changed, apart from a few more spider egg sacks. As we started to walk back I noticed what appeared to be a large, rusted, hatch lid. It was too heavy for me to lift it on my own, but it was clear that it could be lifted. So Dave and I took the initiative and lifted the hatch. Beneath it was a shaft with a ladder going down one of the side walls. After a brief discussion it was agreed that some of us were prepared to climb down the ladder and see what was down there. We had found the emergency escape shaft to the plotting rooms; this was the control room for the guns and also housed the Battery Command Post. The larger room was the plotting room itself and doors lead off it into smaller rooms which housed the ventilation plant and probably mess rooms. Something that we all thought was a very touching tribute to the men that manned these positions was a visitors book that someone had left there, along with some photos and letters from, I think, former servicemen and women. Again the area is well preserved, to the point where some of the light switches and power outlet switches work as well as they would have sixty years ago. Flicking the switches made a resounding click. I’m certain that if there was still power to the facility, some time and effort could easily restore this place to its former glory. We were about to head home when we found centre battery point and more holes. The magazine tunnel was the hardest to enter, there was virtually no foot purchase and the access hole was quite deep. We managed to get in and explore what may be the longest of the three tunnels. Getting out was even more difficult than getting in. Dave had to be yanked out, sheer bloody mindedness made me determined to get out unaided, if only to prove to myself that I could. Finally we ended our day’s adventure and walked back to the pub. As we sat, partaking of our refreshments, Dave and I started thinking about the visitor’s book. It’s been left on the floor and is likely to get damage through moisture. Initially we thought about installing a shelf for it to rest on, but that would involve drilling into the walls. The more I think about it the more I feel that it would be better to put a table of sorts in there, that way the book would be off the floor and may last a little longer. The annoying thing is the idiots who have nothing better to write than offensive comments. Which is ridiculous when you consider the efforts they went through to get down there in the first place? I don’t know what’s worse, the fact that these places are being allowed to decay, or the idiots who have no respect for the history they are helping to destroy.

For our next adventure I’m hoping we can visit some of the fortifications on the western heights, if the guys were impressed with Lydden Spout, the Detached Bastion will certainly have the same effect at the least.

Some pictures from the day can be found on my facebook page.