Tuesday, 17 November 2009

We're Here!!

After what has seemed the most protracted house purchase in the history of real-estate we have finally moved down to Hythe in Kent. We were hoping that we could have been down here in time to enjoy at least part of the summer on the south coast but (obviously - what were we thinking of!) that was not to be. In the end we were grateful that the move went well and it didn't rain while Pickfords were unloading thirty years of boxes!

The first week was whirl of unpacking, exploring the town, trawling the internet for cookers and radiators and then trying to arrange for electricians and gas fitters to do their thing the following week.

Everything was going to plan, James had made the epic journey south for the weekend to help shift boxes from one side of the garage to the other and Lesley was due to arrive just after he planned to wend his way back to welshland (not that she was avoiding him but he was due back at work on the Tuesday and she was going to spend her reading week with us finishing her project with the bonus of constant hot water and three meals a day - oh for the life of a student!)

But, as they say, the best laid plans of mice and men... just as James was loading his car Dave had a funny turn which turned out to be a small heart attack. The ambulance arrived within about 2 minutes of phoning 999 - apparently they had been parked up on the seafront!

They put Dave on an ECG which didn't show any irregularity but later at the hospital his blood tests showed that something had happened. Now in the normal course of events they would have given him an angiography and an angioplasty, if one was necessary, the next day and then home the following day but unfortunately 2 out of the 3 cardio guys at Ashford Hospital had swine flu and they were having to transfer patients to Kings in London. As the faxes were being sent and telephone calls made between the hospitals sod's law intervened yet again when his ward was hit by a vomiting and diarrhoea bug. The hospital's infectious disease plan went straight into action and closed the ward to all new admissions and more importantly for Dave, all transfers out.

The cardio team went into overdrive and scheduled extra operations to help clear the patients from the ward. Dave was down to have his procedure on the Friday but unfortunately he came down with the bug the night before and had to wait until the following Tuesday before they could operate.

James arranged with work to stay down for the rest of the week and Claire braved the delights of British Rail to join him. Poor Lesley had probably the worst greeting at a railway station ever - 'Hi Lel, don't worry but Dad's had another heart attack' but don't know what I'd have done without them. Nothing was too much trouble, the week was a whir of hospital visits, electricians channelling out the walls for new cables, the plumber crawling up in the loft fitting new pipes for the gas cooker, taking out the old kitchen radiator then fitting the new whizzing hi-tec one and disconnecting the very pink sink in the bedroom (don't ask!!). Oh yes, I nearly forgot, Dave had also sold the old greenhouse that was taking up far too much space in the garden and had arranged for the chap who'd bought it to come and dismantle it that week.

Things have settled down now, James, Claire and Lel are back in academia, Dave's home taking it easy and planning to start work next Monday - it sounds a bit soon to me but he's promised to be sensible and rather than commute up to London each day he's going to stay up in town during the week, at least for the first couple of weeks.

We don't regret for one moment moving down here but it would have been nice to least have had a couple of months to settle in and meet the neighbours before we managed to bring Hythe to a standstill by blocking the road to traffic with an ambulance (we certainly don't do things by half)

I haven't had much of a chance to get out and about with the camera but I thought that you might like to see some of the photos I took on one of our trips down here earlier this year.

The Royal Military Canal was built to defend England from Napoleon's advances. Did the job, the French must have got wind of the plan and decided not to invade after all!

The main High Street is as pretty as a picture with lots of old interesting buildings and when I find out what they are I will let you know - all I've found so far are some very nice coffee shops and a very helpful hardware store.

This is the nearest beach to our house, it's only about a 50 metre walk from our front door. The round building are Montello Towers which were built at the same time as the Royal Military Canal for the same reason, to repel the French - they now mark the boundary of the MOD firing range.

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

More pictures from Blackpool

Ever since I was a little girl I have always wanted to ride along the front in Blackpool in a horse drawn carriage

So for our special trip down memory lane we did just that!

For Dave's recent birthday I bought him a fancy new Digital SLR camera and he had great fun snapping some of the iconic sights around the town

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It's been years since we've been to Blackpool. When the kids were little we used to enjoy our yearly trip up to see the illuminations but when they grew old enough to be completely embarrassed to be seen out with their parents we stopped going. We thought that to really appreciate the illuminations you needed to take little children to see their faces light up with awe and wonder as darkness fell and the illuminations were switched on.
I can still remember the thrill of a trip to Blackpool when I was a little girl sitting in the back of Dad's van, foot sore after walking the Golden Mile to the Pleasure Beach, tummy full after a special supper in our favourite cafe and excited to be allowed to stay up 'till it was dark and know that it would be way past bedtime before we arrived home.
The last time we all went to Blackpool was when Mum and Dad were staying out in a small hotel on he Queens Promenade, so it was especially poignant for us to start our day there and walk into town along the seaside prom.
I think that it is fair to say that Blackpool was devastated by this government's decision a few years ago not to allow them the 'Super Casino' as they had been planing for it as part of their regeneration programme. What the bloody politicians were thinking of by awarding it to Manchester god only knows. Blackpool would have been the perfect and most obvious choice. It has the space, the experience and it genuinely needed a commercial boost to the local economy. The days of Wakes Weeks when whole towns from Lancashire used to decamp to the seaside are long gone. Our tourism industry is having to reinvent itself to the needs of visitors in the 21st Century and a Super Casino in the resort would have brought in new investment.
That said, you can't fault the actions of the local council, they are investing heavily in a spanking new promenade and exceptionally fancy street lighting in the newly pedestrian areas behind the Tower but I'm convinced that the Super Casino would have made their task of regenerating what is admittedly in places, a rather run down town, a far easier task.
But when the sun is shining (which it did) and the sea is like a mill pond (which it was) there is nowhere finer than to stroll along to the Pleasure Beach, looking at the sights along the way.

Who needs Paris when you have have Blackpool Tower with its circus, ballroom and if you venture to the top, views of The Lake District

Where else can you find not just one but three piers?

and more trams than you can shake a stick at!

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Monday, 5 October 2009

A weekend exploring old haunts

As the big day approaches (we've all signed our contracts and now we are waiting for the Solicitors to get their act together and exchange them!!) we are still working down our list of 'let's appreciate what's on our own doorstep before we move' tour.

Even this far 'up north' we have been enjoying an Indian Summer, OK it's not been as warm or sunny as the South East but even so today is the first day I've woken up and considered putting the heating on, which is not bad considering its the 5th October. The trees around our garden are only just starting to show their autumn colours so what better time to wander through the woods at Norton Priory.

Norton Priory Museum and Gardens is one of the North West's hidden gems. It was originally the home to Augustan Canons for over 900 years before the Brooke family built their country pile there and settled in for the next 400 years. The museum has excavated much of the ruins of the old Priory and its undercroft and there are excellent displays of findings ranging from medieval tiles to Victorian buckles and belts. A short walk across the bridge takes you to a fine sculpture trail among the woods and a well kept walled garden. Autumn is a lovely time to wonder through the woods, the trees are just starting to turn and the conkers and sweet chestnuts litter the ground just waiting for small children to collect by the bucketfuls. We had a fine old time collecting windfalls in the pear orchard and sweet chestnuts from the path down to the walled garden unfortunately I was far too much of a wimp to collect any of the mushrooms springing from the woodland. Bella and Murphy were in heaven chasing the leaves being blown about in the gales and not even the imminent danger of being brained by champion sized conkers was going to stop Murphy from racing around trying to catch the lone grey squirrel who just about managed to out run him.

The winds on Sunday had calmed enough for us to take a trip to the coast. Ainsdale beach was our first stop, I'd forgotten just how evocative memories could be, no sooner had we parked and wrestled the dogs from the back of the car memories came flooding back to me. Sitting in the sand dunes heavily pregnant with Lesley watching James and his Granddad digging a big hole while his Nan prepared the picnic lunch - happy memories and I swear that the tears in my eyes where from the wind (honestly)

Next stop was the seafront in Southport and after convincing Bella to walk up the steps to the pier we strolled up into the town and met Ian for a drink al fresco in the afternoon sunshine. More memories, most of them of little kids and happy grandparents wandering down Lord Street when the hardest decision of the day was whether James and Lesley would be able to manage an other ice cream before they went to feed the ducks in Hesketh Park - lovely days that I wouldn't swap for the world!

This afternoon we are off to see the illuminations in Blackpool. More memories, more smiles and I promise no more tears - well unless the wind gets in my eyes again...

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

I've been a busy bee

I've spent the past half hour trying to think of all the places we've visited on our 'lets appreciate what's on our own doorstep' trip, since we last spoke. That's the trouble with intermittent blogging you can soon lose whole days and never find them again. So rather than trying to list everything chronologically and in the process bore you into total rigidity, I thought that I would just ramble on and try and remember stuff as I go along.

The Tatton Park Show was a totally surreal experience. For someone who is totally comfortable in a city and has been in exile in a semi rural environ for the past 18 years, it still comes as a shock that country folk really do wear Burber Jackets and green wellies and spent a lot of time training dogs to fetch birds that they've shot or rescuing birds that their friends might have only winged or perhaps made orphans. Maybe it's something do to with the climate or the fact that they don't have Sky tv, but an awful lot of them seemed fascinated by the chainsaw wood carving competition and were queuing around the show field to taste the ostrich burgers on the bbq. Not one to be phased by all this rural nonsense I decided to enter Bella into the beautiful dog competition ('No prizes ladies and gentlemen, this is just for fun') though when I say I decided that's no strictly true, it was more of a dare, because as you may know, Bella is probably the scardiest dog in the history of Golden Retrievers. She is terrified of little children, baby buggies, diggers, buses, electric lawn mowers, hoovers, vet's waiting rooms, riding in cars, in fact any new experience has her heart racing and her jumping up on me in the ridicules hope that I will carry her (remember she is a Golden Retriever!) Why we thought that trotting around a parade ground looking beautiful would be a fun thing to do, was, with hindsight, a totally mad proposition. She slunk around the ring and refused point blank to sit facing the judges, in fact she showed her total contempt for the whole thing by facing me and showing her bum to the bemused panel and even my whisperings of 'please Bella show the lady your pretty face' only resulted in her jumping up and planting her paws firmly on my chest with a look that said 'get me out of her now before I take myself off to the Dogs Trust and claim asylum'. The spectators (and Dave) were crying laughing and to add insult to injury she wasn't even in the final three! I think that her chances of becoming a show dog are nil!!!

The one thing that both the dogs enjoy doing is swimming and last week they had a fine old time when we took them away to Ullswater in the Lake District. The campsite is right on the banks of the lake and only a short stroll into Pooley Bridge where there are some very fine hostelries serving some very potent locally brewed real ale. We were really lucky with the weather, it was glorious, but we hadn't realised quite how bad the rain had been the previous two weeks. The ground was sodden and we were all soon caked in mud, some of us worse than others. Fortunately the dogs washed off most of the mud swimming in the lake but it took two days to get the smell of damp dog out of the campervan, the smell of those animals can make your eyes water!

We left the dogs at home when we went over the Bank Holiday to the Wirral Food Festival, which was probably a very good idea. Murphy would have run amok if he'd been within a mile of all the wonderful food on offer, everything from local Buffalo to organic veggies and artisan baked bread. It was a veritable feast for all the senses and with bags groaning with exotic delicacies we managed to find room in the freezer to keep us going in in all things wholesome for the next few weeks.

In the middle of all this we have been flying up and down the motorway to Manchester helping to move Lesley into her new student flat. Our very brilliant daughter has beaten the recession and won herself a research fellowship at Manchester Uni and will be starting her MSc next month. So now Dave and I are all on our own again, well apart from the dogs, cats, fish and visiting herons. The move down to Kent is still on, despite Solicitors (don't ask!) but we are still waiting for a date. In the meantime we will carry on with the 'let's appreciate etc' trips, we're not even half through the list yet!

Tuesday, 25 August 2009

Southport Flower Show

One of the things that I have always wanted to see is the Southport Flower Show. So continuing our 'let's appreciate what's on our own doorstep' tours, last Thursday we set off for the first day of the show.

With over 100,000 visitors each year, Southport is the largest independent flower show in the country and best of all, only an hour away from our house. Even with a mixed weather forecast the show ground was busy but not so bad that we couldn't walk around and see everything without fighting our way through crowds.

Everything from the parking arrangements to the catering was very well organised and we even managed to catch a glimpse of Christopher Biggins who stayed long after opening the show to chat to the exhibitors and the paying public. He wasn't even fazed by the hoards of women of a 'certain age' who wanted their picture taken with him and he looked positively relaxed in his panama hat, Bermuda shirt and pale shorts - even if the rest of us were in in t shirts and jeans with umbrellas and raincoats at the ready for the inevitable downpour - well it is summertime in England -

We had a lovely time and I bought lots of new seeds for next year, so providing that this bloody house move finally goes ahead, we can look forward to forests of tiny little sweet cherry tomatoes tumbling from their baskets outside our new seaside house next year - fingers crossed!

Monday, 24 August 2009

Gone Fishing

We've had quite a few viewers round the house this week. One couple brought the young children and while the grown ups were doing the whole 'what a fabulous room' thing, the little ones sat happily on the living room rug play with a magnetic construction toy.

They were sweet little boys and after a cold drink they wanted to explore the house themselves I took them into the garden to feed the fish in the pond. 'What kind of fish are they' asked the nine year old 'we call the heron food' I quipped. After much giggling behind their hands they wandered off to tell their Mum.

Now fast forward to Monday morning. All hopes of a lie in were shattered when the dogs started barking at 6.30am. Dave wandered down stairs to be greeted by the sight of a very hungry heron eyeing up the little goldfish in the pond. He opened the back doors to let the dogs chase it away but even with the sight of two overexcited young dogs charging towards it, the heron mearly flapped it's huge wings and settled on the grarage roof.

For the next hour or so the damn thing wouldn't budge, just flitting from the decking to the garage when ever the dogs charged out of the conservatory.

Eventually it gave up the battle but only when it was chased off by four very angry looking magpies - maybe if he comes back for another try we should spray Bella black and white and teach her to squawk!!!

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

Let's appreciate what's on our own doorstep...

We've been out and about again, this time we had a few days on Angelsey meeting up with three generations of the family who were on holiday there. We are very lucky to have this beautiful island virtually on our doorstep. Well maybe that's a bit of an exaggeration but with the excellent roads through North Wales, Angelsey is only about an hour and a half away.

Our early morning start became something of an adventure when I had an unexpected phone call about half an hour after leaving home. "Hi Joyce, this is the Dale Winton Show on Radio 2. Dale really loved your choice of records for the 'golden oldies' slot and wants to know if he could talk to you about them on air this afternoon" - or words to that effect. Dave's expression was a classic as I relayed the conversation to him. He gave me that 'OMG what have you let yourself in for now' look, while I sat there giggling away like a teenager.

So picture the scene at three o'clock, on the beach in Treaddur Bay clutching Dave's mobile to my ear (mine didn't have a signal!) wanding around so that the wind didn't deafen the listeners and ending up outside of the restaurant on the promenade with my back to the beach and face to the wall, chatting away to Dale Winton. And now the whole of Radio 2 knows during the long hot summer of '76 when I told my Mum that I was going out for the day with Dave we were really spending the weekend together in his little tent - oh the shame!!!

The rest of our stay was much more wholesome with fishing in rockpools at building bonfires on the beach. The weather could have been kinder but it stayed dry and Paul swears that the sea was warm enough for swimming but you'll be relieved to hear that I didn't venture further than a little paddle so at least I didn't frighten any young children ;)

Tuesday, 11 August 2009

It's been a busy week

One of the benefits of the the 'current economic climate' are the deals that are around at the moment. Rather than leaving rooms empty at the weekend, some hotel chains are offering great discounts and last weekend Dave managed to book us into the Marriott in Canary Wharf for less than the price of the rail ticket down to London. From the twelfth floor we had great views over the wharf towards the O2 Arena and even if the weather wasn't quite what we would have wished for it was warm and mainly dry.

We spent Saturday doing the usual tourist stuff up in town, taking the Clipper from Canary Wharf we went through to Westminster and walked along the embankment and strolled up to Covent Garden and then on Leicester Square and China Town. I don't know how we managed to resist the wonderful smells from the many restaurants around Gerrard Street, the food on display looked fabulous but if we'd given in to temptation mid afternoon we wouldn't have had the energy to do much more than stagger back to the hotel. As it was the weather took a turn for the worse and along with half the tourists in London, we battled our way to Trafalgar Square and took refuge from the downpour in the National Gallery.

One couple who didn't seem at all bothered by the weather was this lovely bride and groom. They seemed to appear out of nowhere before posing for their wedding photos among the tourists and pigeons in the square. The ever resourceful bride even had a beautiful umbrella ready for when the inevitable next shower came.

On Monday rather than drive straight home we took a detour to Cambridge. I can't remember the last time we were there but it must have been when the kids were little as double buggies and beakers of juice seem to ring a bell. It was warm and sunny and a perfect day for strolling around the colleges or even just sitting watching the tourists trying their hand at punting on the Camb.

After our lovely weekend away we decided to make the most of the fine weather and fire up the van later in the week and head off to Coniston Water in the South Lakes. The dogs couldn't believe their luck, not only did they get to sleep in the campervan of a night but there was a huge lake for them to play in during the day. Luckily Dave and I were so tired after all the fresh air and exercise that we weren't bothered too much by the smell of damp dog wafting up from between the beds (well not too much!)

Thursday, 30 July 2009

Postcard Home

In 1955 my Aunt passed her driving test and in her very first car drove my Dad and my eldest brother across to Europe so that Dad could visit the War Graves of the friends he lost in the war.

This is the postcard that Dad sent home to my Mum who was pregnant with me that summer Isn't it amazing what you can find when you're trying to declutter.

School Days

If there is one thing guaranteed to drive me mad, it is stupid comments from parents that in their day school children were studious, hard working, god fearing, well dressed, respectful swots who would put the kids of today to shame.

According to them in 'my day' we spent so much time studying for our (much harder) 'O' levels that we had no time to chase boys, drink or experiment with illegal substances. These are the same people who won't let their children travel alone on public transport in case their little darling is whisked away by an asylum seeking paedophile, or even, heaven forbid, allow them to venture as far as local shop in case they meet an axe welding dope head who will rob them of their mobile phone.

Apparently we were better taught, in strict single sex god fearing schools that turned well balanced highly educated captains of industry. Well let me tell you I went to a very good Church of England Grammar School where the prefects as well as the teachers wore gowns all day. We were taught to respect our elders but to fear no man, we were sent into a world that didn't acknowledge sexual equality but with the confidence to believe that one day we might change it.

But we were no angels, some of us (naming no names) went out with boys, drank alcohol and even smoked and played poker in the caretaker's office.....not me I hasten to add, I was a good girl, (ok... I was a wimp) but some of us did. We ran out of school at the end of the day and hitched our skirts up and pretended that we were far more sophisticated than we could ever have dreamt of being. We cheeked our parents and thought that the world was against us.

We hated 'the system' and wanted change. We longed to be rebels and and 'show' the grown ups that we were a force to be reckoned with but instead we went to work or on to college. We conformed, we grew up and in time we became parents ourselves (some of us didn't even wait until we were married!!)

So the next time you are tempted to tut at the school kids who are messing about at the bus stop or who are trying to act as if they are 15 going on 25, cast your mind back to your own school days and if you are really honest you will smile a wry smile and hurry off home to put the kettle on for a nice cup of tea.

Friday, 24 July 2009

Memory Lane

Long, long, ago, when the world was made in black and white, one summer we rented a caravan in Rhyl for our holidays.

Not that I can remember anything about it, but when I was sorting out the garage I came across these old photos showing my Nan, my eldest and youngest brothers and little old me sitting on my Mum's knee.

Where my other brother and sister there with us?

How did we all fit into that little van?

Did Dad take the photo and was he staying there too?

Is the holiday camp still there?

When did I stop being so dammed cute?

Are all my memories triggered by photos?

So many questions, what is a girl to do?

Easy, last week we took a trip down memory lane as part of our 'let's appreciate what's on our own doorstep before we move' travels. Although I remember bugger all about the holiday in question what I do remember is that North Wales was a very long way away from Liverpool. It seemed to take us days to get there but now we can pop out there for an afternoon - absolute madness - is the world getting smaller!!

Apparently there were six of us staying in that little van, unfortunately Dad and big brother couldn't stay as there was still the business to run but they did come out to visit us during the week.

Lyons Robin Hood holiday camp is still there and is still going strong but as you can see from their website the caravans on offer today are a lot bigger than the one we stayed in!

And apparently I'm still quite cute......

Friday, 17 July 2009

Lesley's Graduation

Yesterday was one of those perfect Summer days, the kind of day that when you are old and grey you remember as the kind of day that you should have all summer long. The sky was blue with just a hint of white fluffy clouds sailing across. The sun shone all day long, warming our skin and making everybody smile in that 'my god the sun shining in Yorkshire in July' kind of way.

Mum's had had their hair done especially and were wearing their prettiest floaty dresses and Dad's were suited and booted fit for a royal garden party. The scene was set for a day that was celebrating the culmination of years of hard work and years even harder partying. It was graduation day for the alumni of York 2009.

I was so proud I thought my heart would burst when Lesley walked onto the stage to collect her degree. In fact I was so emotional that I wasn't taking any chances with the only photos I had to take that day. I had prepped the shot and had the camera focused on the exact spot so that I could capture the moment for all time - the camera however had other ideas and went into sleep mode as soon as she set foot on the stage. In my blind panic (you try taking a photo with tears in your eyes!) I only managed to get a picture of a tiny dot walking across the stage- It's a good job that we had James as our 'official' photographer of the day for the rest of the pictures and we don't have to rely on my snaps as the only record.

As soon as I get the copies I will make an online album of the day to share with you. In the meantime you will have to make do with a picture of Lesley telling her brother that there is no way that she is going to pose for a photo with one of the famous York ducks - enjoy!

Congratulations Lesley - BSc extrodinaire

St George's Hall - Liverpool

Continuing our 'let's explore what we have on our own doorstep' travel theme, Dave I went went into Liverpool on Tuesday afternoon to visit St George's Hall.

The building has a fascinating history. In 1886 public money was raised for a building for festivals, meetings and concerts and the architect Harvey Lonsdale Elmes duly set to designing a wonderful building in the heart of the city.

However this was a time of boom for the city and with any great growth in population there is also exponentially a growth in crime and Liverpool needed it's own Assize's Court. So what did they do? well the only sensible thing, they had Elmes redesign one half of the building as a court replendant with it's own cells in the basement and the other half as a splendid ballroom with a tiled Milton Floor!!

As the guide said 'only in Liverpool' would this have been considered the 'sensible' option. I love this city.....

For a paoramic guide of the hall check out http://www.stgeorgeshall.eu/ but be patient, it takes a little while to load but it's worth it!

Sunday, 12 July 2009

Touring The North West (contd)

The Lowry Salford Quays


As part of our continuing 'tour'of the North West of England we went to Manchester this week. I enjoy our occasional visits to Manchester for the Christmas Fayres and the excellent shopping, but this time we thought that we would do the 'touristy' thing and visit
The Lowry Salford Quays

Like many docks in this country, containerization sounded the deathnell to the docklands in Manchester. It was no longer viable to ship goods up the Manchester Ship Canal to the heart of the city and the docks became a wasteland. With no brick warehouses to convert into trendy appartments and bars, Manchester City Council quickly realised that they would have to be forward thinking in their plans to regenerate the Salford Quays area. They called on the private sector to get involved with the regenration and building of the dockside apparments and in 2000 The Lowry was opened. It is a fine theatre in an iconic building and it set the stage for the future of the area which is now home to the Imperial War Museum of the North an exceptionally large Outlet Mall and the Media City which when it is completed in 2011 should house 5 departments of the BBC bringing 1500 jobs to the area.

We had a fine old time, after an al-fresco breakfast of warm croissant and coffee we strolled around the mall picking up a bargain or two before setting off across the bridge to the Imperial War Museum.

The only trouble with being a tourist in term time is the school parties. Now usually I don't mind being sorounded by kids following the 'trail' around museums and galleries and I even had a giggle the other week at the Tate when two young school boys were having a debate on whether or not the person who was staring intently at a picture next to them was a man or a woman. They were convinced that the person with eyeshadow and hair down to their bum was a girl but I felt that the five o'clock shadow and prominant adams apple rather gave the game away, but I digrees. KIds as a rule see things that us old folk often miss and it can be a joy to look at some exhibits through their eyes which haven't had the time to get as jaded as ours have. Unfortunately the buggers who where visiting the Prisoner of War exhibition at the IWM were just a pain in the bum and I for one didn't appreciate their constant whistling of the theme tune from The Great Escape, little sods.

Yesterday we had a 'memory lane' trip. When Mum and Dad were staying in their caravan in Formby, we often drove over to see them via Lydiate. It isn't the most direct route for us but it is the prettiest, especially at this time of the year when the sunflowers are just coming into their own and the road side flower stall is selling freshly cut flowers from their own fields. I used to love buying armfulls of sunflowers to share with Mum,and as a little homage to those days we stocked up on beautiful local grown vegetables at the Church View Farm Shop before spending a small fortune at the flower stall. Our house is now bursting with sunflowers and sweet william and we are going to feast on lots of fresh veg with our lamb for dinner tonight - I love summer-time!

Monday, 29 June 2009

Borth, Aberystwyth and Lake Bala

You could just about spot the animals on the hillside from our van

After dinner we sat by the sea to watch the beautiful sunset

The weather was glorious and Aberystwyth was buzzing with visitors (even the 4 legged variety)

On the way home we stopped at Lake Bala for a picnic but the thunderclouds were rumbling in

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Where am I?

OK fancy a little quiz?

We had a few days away in the van last week and woke each morning to the sound of little monkeys screeching as they played among the branches of a near-by tree - from the farmer's field we were saying on we could see goats on the hillside and a cheetah sleeping the day away - at the beach side pub were we were having dinner, we could watch dolphins playing in the bay - most of the locals spoke to us in English even though for some of them it wasn't their first language - the evenings were so warm we could sit by the sea watching the sun set without having to wear a coat.

So have you guessed yet?


Need another clue?

There is a railway line but it's only a single track with just one train every two hours.....

OK do you give in?

Borth in West Wales (just along the coast from Aberystwyth) and the animals? well our farmer's field was next to the famous Borth Animalarium (that's a mini zoo to you and me)

(lot's of photos to follow as soon as the heat goes out of the conservatory and I can get to the printer without passing out!)

Sunday, 21 June 2009

Liverpool - Centre of the Universe

One of the many things that happen when you finally decide to move house is that you start to appreciate what you have on your (current) doorstep. Don't get me wrong, we are really looking forward to moving down to Kent and in some ways the move can't happen quickly enough but we have decided that until the move happens we are going to make the most of where we are living now.

We have always been big fans of the North West and no matter where we live we will always look forward to coming back to visit family and friends as well as rediscovering some of our favourite places and reliving more happy memories that you can shake a stick at.

So over the next few months we are going to try and cram in as many of the places we have said that we 'must see' while we are still here. We kicked off this homage to the NW on Friday by visiting Liverpool as if we were just tourists rather than (in my case at least) an exile from that fair city. We started of at the Albert Dock to pay a rare visit to The Tate. While most of 'modern' art can, if I'm being honest, leave me cold, I did get very silly when I realised that The Tate Liverpool has Salvador Dali's Lobster Telephone, Henri Laurens Head of a Girl
as well as Andy Warhol's Black Bean Soup Can absolutely brilliant - I was so excited I can't tell you!

All that culture left us foot sore and starving so when we left The Tate we made our way the short distance to The Pumphouse for a pub lunch and a swift half before climbing up the hill to Liverpool Cathedral. The last time I was here was for a school assembly - oh yes that's right we did (I'm sure) have the odd assembly from Liverpool Girl's College at the Liverpool Cathedral. It must have been for some pretty big event but for the life of me I can't remember what it was. The one memory I have of the building was the size of it,it's huge, in fact it's the biggest cathedral in Europe and I hadn't realised that when I visited it as a school girl it wasn't even finished. From the foundation stone being laid in 1904 it took 2 world wars and the great depression before it was finally completed in 1978.

At the other end of Hope Street is the Metropolitan Cathedral and with it's iconic 'modern' design you would be forgiven In thinking that it is Liverpool Cathedrals younger sibling but appearances can be deceptive. The Metropolitan Cathedral was in fact consecrated in 1967 only 5 years after the first stone was laid - well not quite - the original foundation stone was laid in 1933 and the building of the crypt went on until 1941 when all work was halted because of the Second World War. So at one end of the street we have what looks like an old very traditional looking building while at the other end we have a very modern looking almost futuristic building that is in fact 11 years OLDER and joining the two Cathedrals we have Hope Street. Now when I was a girl this was a poor part of town. The buildings were neglected and some of the surrounding streets had more than their fair share of social deprivation, but walk along Hope Street now and you will see what urban regeneration, LIPA, two Universities and Capital of Culture can do for a city. With it's Georgian architecture, boutique hotel, cafes, restaurants, Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Hall and the Everyman Theatre, I think that Hope Street is possibly one of the finest in the city.

Wednesday, 17 June 2009

All Change

A week last Tuesday we had a phone call from the Estate Agents down in Kent. Apparently the people we were buying the house from in Littlestone had had second thoughts about selling. They were peeved that a house a few doors down had just been sold for £50,000 more than they were selling their house to us for. The Estate Agent tried to explain that their neighbours had sold a far bigger house with far better fixtures and fittings but they were not mollified and insisted that they were taking their house off the market with a view to re marketing it for £50,000 (ish) more.

So what did that mean to us? well we were stuffed. There was no way that we could afford the extra 50k even if we thought that the house was worth it (which it isn't) To say that were were livid is something of an understatement but after I'd dried my tears of hurt and anger we set about trying to arrange yet another trip down to Kent to start the whole process of house hunting again.

It never ceases to amaze me how selfish some people can be. If they were having second thoughts why did they leave us hanging on for two months believing that they were looking for a new place that they were going to have as a restoration project?

We had an inkling a few weeks before the bombshell that all was not well, nothing tangable, just a feeling that they were dragging their heels. We'd been down and tried to find another property 'just in case' but had been pipped at the post (literally by a matter of hours) on a house that would have made a brilliant, if not totally wacky, family home.

If they had only let us know sooner that they were having second thoughts we could have a) bought the wacky home at a knock down price and b) saved ourselves about £1000 in surveyors fees and travel expenses up and down from Cheshire.

The outcome of all this nonsense is that we have now put in an offer on a property in Hythe. It is only about 50 metres from the beach and just a short stroll into town. So it's fingers crossed all over again, although in fairness, these sellers seem a lot less 'flaky' than the last ones. They genuinely want to sell but as they still have to find somewhere to buy, it may be a while before we are moving.

(And there is no truth in the rumour that I have put a hex on the vendors of the first house - as if I'd do anything like that!)

Tuesday, 9 June 2009

The House

We were away in the camper van last week - long story -  suffice it to say if you ever see me wandering close to an Estate Agents window ever again, please shoot me!!!

We were so busy during the day looking at houses that most evening we were quite content to pour a glass of wine, fire up the bbq and just chill. So you can imagine my surprise when we eventually got round to buying a newspaper we found that not only have some back benches been plotting a coup against Gordon Brown but also that there were a cabal of women in the government who seemed to be hell bent on staging some kind of post feminist rebellion of their own.

Did Jackie Smith, Hazel Blears and the rest of the coven really think that the great British public would be impressed to see women, who had been exposed 'taking advantage' of  an expenses system that was designed and regulated by Westminster, leaving the government, not because they were embarrassed to have been caught out, but because they thought that their actions could effect a change of leadership?. Did they really think that on the eve of the local and European elections they were truly serving the people of this country with their chants of 'Gordon is a bully'?  

And if Brown is such a nightmare to work for, why, when they have had plenty of chances to make a stand and expose his autocratic ways before, where they seemingly content to sit on his cabinet and even accept the promotions that he handed out to them.  Could it be because some of them were so busy making sure that they were claiming everything that they felt they were entitled to they were happy to put up with the status quo?  

Irrational as it may sound, I am more disgusted that a woman like Hazel Blears who has banged on over the years about being a Salford girl born and bred and is a tireless worker for her constituents, has been caught taking advantage of a system, that to most ordinary people is yet another example of one rule for the rich etc. 

It is not good enough to say that MPs should get tax advantages on a second home because they have to have somewhere to live in London.  What about the thousands of people who have to work away from home, not because they want to, but because that is where the work is?  You try telling that to a builder who thinks himself lucky to have found work at the 2012 Olympic village in East London.  And just because his wife and kids are back home in Salford and there is no way that he could afford to relocate the whole family,  he is having to pay over £200 a week for a poky room in a shared flat in Leytonstone. He can't make a claim for a 42" plasma tv or a taxi to take him shopping in Waitrose never mind convincing the tax man that he should have a second home allowance.

Don't get me wrong, I don't want to go back to the days when only rich men could go into politics. The Mother of all Parliaments should be filled with the best that this country has to offer, regardless of the size of their wallet (or political colour) but the expenses that are available to allow MPs to do their job properly should be regulated by an independent body not by the MPs themselves.  The system should be open and transparent, with no room for ambiguity.  

To represent your constituents as an MP is an honour, a privilege, not an excuse to take advantage of an expanding housing market.  MPs should be paid a good wage that takes into account they hours that they have to spend both in Westminster and their constituencies.  They should have access to the best administrative and technological system that will enable them to best serve the people, whether that is in London or not.  

And maybe instead of throwing their dummies out of their prams, these woman should have tried plotting a different kind of revolution.  One that says why should, in the 21st Century, when we have video conferencing facilities in even the most humble of office suites, should an MP have to travel to London to attend a committee meeting on a Monday morning when it would be far more cost effective for them to stay in their constituency and just dial-in.  Why is it necessary for Minsters to fire off emails to each other from their offices in Westminster when they could be just as easily be done from St Ives or Newcastle.  Why should MPs have to spend all week in London when most face to face meetings could be properly scheduled to mean that they would be able to travel when only absolutely necessary. 

This way they wouldn't need a second home, what they would need is somewhere safe and comfortable to spend the odd nights when they needed to be in London and maybe just maybe this would encourage more women to stand for parliament.  Real women, women who have families and responsibilities like the rest of us.  Women who don't want to palm their kids out to someone else to bring up.  Women who are not afraid of hard work but are not prepared to sacrifice their families at the alter of Westminister. 
I would have more respect for Jackie, Hazel and the gang if they had used this protest as a spring board for updating and modernising a system that is long overdue an overhaul.  We have the technology now - this isn't some kind of science fiction story - let's use British ingenuity and innovation to show the rest of the world that we can learn from this whole expenses farrago and come out of it with a stronger and  more modern government that will once again be the envy of the world.

So come on Gordon show us what you're made off.  Instead of listening to the fools that are trying to make you look like a poor man's Tony Blair, prove to your detractors that you are a forward thinking innovative leader who is not afraid of change and is prepared to change not only they way that you lead the country but that you're prepared to makes changes now that will mean the country can once again be proud to be setting the trends and not just doggedly continuing with a system that has been shown up to be no more that 'a glorified gentleman's club'

Wednesday, 27 May 2009

After the Sun Comes The Rain

The Bank Holiday weather had been glorious and we had made the most of the sunshine by being very lazy in the garden. We dug the sunbeds out from under a year's worth of 'stuff' in the garage, poured ourselves large glasses of something cold and alcoholic and then spent the afternoon reading the Sunday papers before firing up the BBQ for dinner. Just what we needed to recharge the batteries and forget (if only for a few hours)  about all the problems we are having with the people we are hoping to buy the new house from.

But yesterday it was back down to earth with a bump. The weather reverted to type and most of my day was spent dodging the showers, no sunbathing today, just taking Murphy to hydrotherapy, shopping, housework and then the afternoon in front of the computer writing the latest installment of the new story. - mind you the garden looks like it appreciated the downpours.
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Wednesday, 20 May 2009

Life On Hold and I'm becoming a grumpy sod

This might sound really mad but at the moment we are feeling that our life is somehow on hold.

All the decluttering has been done, the little jobs are finished and our home is spic and span and waiting for a potential buyer to beat a path to our door.

But (and you knew there was going to be a but didn't you) the people we are buying the house from in Kent  are having problems, the house that they were looking to buy has some issues - not sure what they are but they must be dramatic because they have pulled out of the purchase. That means that they are now running around looking for somewhere else to buy.  

So where does that leave us? Well at the moment we feel stranded, we don't particularly want to pull out from buying the new house but equally we don't want to be kept hanging around for the other people to sort themselves out.  Does that sound harsh?  well probably, but I make no apologies for feeling aggrieved because when we viewed the house they told us that they were as keen as we were for a quick sale as they were planning to come off the property ladder and rent for a couple of years.

As you can imagine the phone lines between Cheshire and Kent are buzzing away and hopefully we will be able to get something resolved in the next day or so but what we're not prepared to do is to be kept hanging around for ever while they get their act together.

So what do we do in the meantime - well we're thinking of running way - the weather has been awful for the past week and we don't fancy going away in the van spending our well earned rest cloud dodging - so sod it, we're going to get on airplane and fly away to somewhere hot and sunny (not next week though, I don't fancy battling through an airport on a bank holiday/half term weekend)

Thursday, 7 May 2009


At long last our house is now For Sale with the local Estate Agent.  The bloody HIP (Home Information Pack) nonsense meant that there was a two week delay before we could advertise but now it's all systems go.  

I'm not daft, I know that we are in the middle of a recession and house sales are at an all time low, but anyone looking for a house at the moment is in luck, there are some great deals out there - not least our home.  

So if you're looking a lovely big family home that's been filled with love since we bought from new, here's your chance - take a peek at the Agents website for details and pictures.

Tuesday, 5 May 2009

Phew, I've finished Chapter 1

It's been a really good day today. 

Dave has been running around taking more 'stuff' to the tip, dropping off the contract with the Estate Agent and taking Murphy to hydrotherapy, all so that I could spend the day writing.  And all his hard work has paid off, I've finally managed to finish Chapter 1. of Death in the Morning.

I can't believe how much fun this is to write.  With feedback and comments from Dave and Paul Daniels (yes the real Paul Daniels!) my hero is morphing from a quivering wreck in to a foul mouthed maverick, although I'm not sure if that's what either of them expected to happen.

Now I suppose you're wondering why Mr Magic himself is commenting on my story, well if I say that's it's all down to the power of Twitter would you be surprised? Well not half as much as I was when he Twitted me with his comments on my last post - you could have knocked me down with the proverbial feather - all hail the power of Twitter.  

I'm thinking up a new challenge for Twitter, something that's never been done before - keep watching this space and all will be revealed.

Friday, 1 May 2009

Busy Morning

With another two cupboards cleaned and sorted I felt justified in take a few hours off from the pending upheavel and settled down in front of the comupter to get on with some writing.

Not since Spanish Steps have I had so much fun with a keyboard.  Death in the Morning is a joy to write - no storyboard, no research just flex the fingers, bribe the dogs with a promise of a long walk and off I go.

This might not sound very revolutionary, after all how many of Jane Austin's story boards have ever come to light? but for me, the ultimate list maker, this is ground breaking.  I'm finally writing the same way that I think.  That's to say, disjointed, off wall ramblings, that will hopefully take the reader on a journey rather than drive them up the wall.

The story so far has introduced Ronny, a ex-copper who is still trying to sort out his feelings about taking early retirement. He misses the job and is probably feeling a little vulnerable for the first time in his life when out of the blue his wife goes missing.  Has she had an accident, has she left him, is she having an affair? I don't know yet where she is - I have an idea but I don't want to spoil the surprise.

Although the beauty of this kind of writing is that I may change my mind and have her hiding out in a convent in France after she hijacks a fishing boat and guts the crew with a filleting knife - god the possibilities are endless.....

Friday, 24 April 2009

Early Morning Worrying

When a young dog needs to pee it's best not to ignore the warnings, so when Murphy started 'telling' me at 6.30am that he wanted to go in the garden I gave up all hope of a lie in and went down to the kitchen to let him out.  

Now if this was winter time, I would have stumbled down the stairs, let the dogs out, called them back in, suggested that they might like to go back to sleep for a while before dragging my weary bones back up stairs to my warm bed. But this is Spring time and the sun is shining and the birds and singing and we still have lots to do before the Estate Agent comes on Monday to take his pictures, so I decided to torment myself with BBC Breakfast News (you know how much I love a good rant in the morning) and then  make myself a cup of tea before starting another day of packing away some of the 'stuff' that apparently potential house buyers don't want to see when they are looking around your home (damn those pesky property shows)

But what do I pack away, that is the question?  should I cull some of my pretty collection of jugs that line the shelves of the conservatory - probably; and will I need to pack away the embarrassing pictures I had taken of the kids when they were little, the ones where they had to dress up in Victorian ragamuffin costumes - I love them , they hate them but what would a potential buyer make of them - probably report me to Social Services for child abuse. 

So you see my dilemma, there I am standing in my kitchen with Murphy tugging at my dressing gown while Bella is running around with a blanket in her mouth singing good morning to me (long story but suffice it to say, she's a retriever who thinks that it's her life's mission to bring you a present every time you walk in the room) all the time worrying about what I've got to do today.  

What's a girl to do other than make a cup of coffee, ignore the growing list of jobs and log on for a quiet 10 minutes while the dogs are happily chasing squirrels and drinking their own body weight in pond water. After quick moan on Twitter that I have a busy day ahead, I spot that one of my favourite bloggers has a new post and this is where the power of this interwebby thing really comes into it's own.

http://anexplorers.blogspot.com/2009/04/exhausted-and-befuddled-but-with-plan.html is the blog of a gentleman I have mentioned before.  He tells stories of his life in Canada, walks with his dog, pictures around his town and occasionally short stories that he's written.  He is erudite, charming and in a strange way, that is only possible because of the Internet, I consider him a 'virtual' friend.  But this morning I read that my friend has just been advised of his treatment plan of the chemo and radiotherapy for the cancerous growth in his esophagus's - sure puts my worrying about a silly jug collection into perspective.

Good luck with the treatment Barry, there are people all over the world rooting for you, people who because of a blog consider you a friend - as I've said before, this interwebby can be a powerful thing.

Monday, 20 April 2009


I'm sorry that it's been so long since I last blogged but we have been very busy bees since Dave finished his last contract.

Earlier this month while we were down in Kent on a 'fact finding mission' we put in an offer on a house down there.  Why Kent. I hear you ask, when our old plans had involved either Cornwall or Anglesea, well the truth of it is that Dave and I feel that we are both far too young to retire and live the quite life.  We still fancy living by the coast but had decided that we should be within striking distance a potential source of contract work for Dave (I'm lucky I can write anywhere) So out came the map and Kent seemed the ideal county, it has lots of coast line and with the promised introduction of a high speed rail link from Ashford, an easy trip to Central London.

So fingers crossed that the solicitors get their fingers out and the Land Searches don't throw up some awful history of unstoppable coastal erosion and that we can be down there to enjoy some, if not all, of the summer on the south coast.

The past few weeks have been manic with trying to arrange a HIP on this house and get things started on the purchase but (without wishing to tempt fate) things seem to be moving along.  We haven't decided yet whether we want to sell our house yet or if we should wait for the inevitable rise in the housing market and just rent it out for a few years.  Either way we have been clearing out some of the stuff that we've accumulated over the past 18 years, so it's been trips to the charity shop and even more trips to the tip.  Where does all the stuff come from, I could have sworn that I did all this two years ago, the only explanation I can think of is that it breeds, if you leave two old towels in the garage to wipe down wet dogs with and go back to them 3 weeks later there will be 4 of the buggers sitting there laughing at you!(and yes G, we do still have the hang glider suspended from the rafters)

So that's it, the Big Move is back on, so if you fancy a fab house with fab neighbours in a quiet cul de sac close to the station and an excellent primary school - watch this space.  As the government in it's wisdom has decided that the housing market isn't fucked enough at the moment that it should insist that all houses need to have a full HIP in place BEFORE they can go on the market, it be a few weeks before you see a board outside the house, but when it's up I'll let you know.

Wednesday, 25 March 2009

I thought you might to see some photos of our trip

Last Monday we set off bright and early, first stop the kennels so that Murphy and Bella could enjoy a few days of pampering and then off down the M6 heading south.  It was such a lovely day that we had a long lunch stop in Somerset along the way and it was at that point that we discovered a) Murphy's pain killers had fallen out of his bag and were sitting accusingly in the boot of the car and b) my camera was sitting on the kitchen table at home! A frantic call from the kennels sorted the medicine issue (they arranged with our lovely Vet to collect a new prescription that afternoon) and I set off to buy a disposable camera to record the trip.

This was our cabin on the lake - and very pretty it was too

If you peer very closely you might just spot Dave's friends calling for their breakfast (remember these pics were taken with a disposable camera!)

Afternoon tea on the beach at Lyme Regis - I told you the weather was great

There was a lovely pub on the quayside at Weymouth harbour and it would have been rude not to stop for a drink.

Fossil hunting on Chesil Beach - didn't find any, hey, I could have lied and said that we'd discovered a new dinosaur bone never before seen by man! (I'm too honest for my own good sometimes)

Monday, 23 March 2009

Two Go Daft in Dorset

To celebrate Dave finishing his contract in London, we took ourselves away for a few days down to Dorset.  

We had been considering booking a cheap flight out to the Canary Islands to spend the days lying around on the beach to get some colour back into our pale Celtic skin, but quite honestly I couldn't stand the thought of paying out good money to stay in an apartment complex where the kitchen is a two ring Belling cooker with a dodgy plug and a frayed lead. OK I know that times have changed and standards have improved over the years but when funds were limited and the kids were still young enough to want an early dinner and a nap before their wicked parents dragged them back out to a rustic traditional eaterie that welcomed little munchkins who thought that taramasalata should be worn as well as eaten, we stayed in some pretty ropey apartements.  Not that this spoilt our fun, we had some brilliant holidays when they were babies but there did come a time when we realised that if we took them camping in Europe then we could get a lot more for our money and they would have far more freedom then they ever would have in a small apartment with very little outside space.

Now we might be a bit older (just a little bit!) and the chicks have flown the nest but Dave and I still enjoy the freedom that camping gives you, the only problem is, the weather in March is so changable, you have to be pretty hardy (or fool hardy) to go camping even as far south as Dorset at this time of the year.  As it happens we had brilliant weather last week, the sun shone every day and, out of the wind, it was positivly balmy but being the wimps we are, rather than risk gales and heavy rain ruining our trip we decided to leave the camper van at home and rent a cabin down by the coast. 

We stayed on a holiday park (think Centre Parks without the subtropical swimming paradise) and had found that we were staying in log cabin on a little island set in the middle of a lake. There was only one other cabin on the island and we rarely saw our neighbours but Dave was adopted by some very confident wild fowl who came tapping on the kitchen door each morning and wouldn't go away until he gave them a breakfast of wholemeal bread loving torn into bite sized chucks by his own fair hands. 

Our days were spent exploring the villages and coast line of Dorset and in the evening we ate good food, drank lots of wine and snuggled down in front of the fire (only a flame effect electric jobby but who's complaining) where Dave tried to teach me how to do a cryptic crossword rather than the usual general knowledge take a wild guess at it type that I usually choose to do.

So no wild parties or late nights propping up a Spanish bar but for us it was the perfect break and now we are home, batteries charged and ready to face the next chapter....

Wednesday, 4 March 2009

I've had visitors bearing gifts

True to their word, our local Fire Brigade (are they still called a Brigade, or should we be calling them a Service?) sent two Fire Fighters to check out our fire safety awareness and fire alarms this morning.  

Well I'm not sure if they were Fire Fighters,  they could have been ex-Fighters who now have the dubious pleasure of going house to house fitting fire alarms for those of us who lost their temper with the last smoke alarm because the bloody thing used to deafen any one walking within a five mile radius of our kitchen  if I so much as boiled a kettle!

Suitably chastened and now the proud owner of two spanking new fire alarms that don't even need batteries (how does that work?) I am now trying to find a way of fitting the child gate across the kitchen door in such a  way that I can close the door while I'm cooking so the bloody things don't go off when I'm cooking dinner tonight.  

(The poor Fire Fighter (ex or otherwise) looked very confused when I tried to explain to her that the gate wasn't to keep children out of the kitchen rather to keep the dogs in - she didn't say a word, she just smiled sweetly and hurriedly made her escape)

Sunday, 1 March 2009

Galaxy Zoo 2 ( 2)

I have just finished reading Dr Chris Lintott's very good article about Galaxy Zoo in the September Issue of Physics World  and was struck by some of the testimonials from the contributors to the original survey.  They are intelligent, erudite and informed, just what you would expect from people who are so enthused by astrophysics that they were prepared to spend hours in front of the computers classifying distant galaxies, or is it?  

I think that the scientists might be missing a trick, after all here we have 10's of thousands of people all involved in one gigantic research project and nobody is asking who they are or why there are there.  With a small well worded 'give us a few details about yourself' intro for new classifiers, scientists could have a potential database of information about people who are prepared to spend time on this fascinating project.  

OK I hear you ask, why would a Physicist be remotely interested in the kinds of people doing the classifying?  Well for a start, the data could be used to influence how Physics is taught in schools.  I'm sure that I'm not the only classifier whose experience of Physics in school was a lesson in total bafflement - though in my defence our Physics teacher did run off with a girl in the Lower Sixth the year I was due to sit my O level and the supply teacher our school managed to find at short notice was worse than useless.

I would be fascinated to know who is doing all this classifying, are the majority scientists?  Or are they people who really enjoyed science in school but never had the opportunity to take their interest any further than buying a cheap telescope for their kids? Or are they one of the hundreds of amateur astronomists around the country for whom an interest has become a passion? Or are they like me? 

My son is a Physicist, my daughter a Mathematician and my husband is a Banker while I am just a dreamer.  I look at the galaxies presented to me and stare in awe and wonder at them.  I'm blown away by the colours and shapes and get foolishly excited when I see something that I don't expect to see.  I don't have a telescope or know the name of the constellations (apart from Orion's Belt) and I've literally fallen out of my chair trying to spot shooting stars (we were camping in France and Dave and the kids were getting excited watching a meteor shower but by the time they had shouted  'look at that Mum' the damn thing had passed over and I had to crane  my neck so far back I fell out of the chair)

The only astronomy I do is when I'm walking the dogs. I once got  so excited when I spotted Venus that I fell up the kerb!  But I love being a part of Galaxy Zoo 2 and take my role very seriously. I honestly believe that us dreamers have something to give to the scientific community even if it is only enthusiasm and not a thirst for greater knowledge or understanding of the solar systems.  I just want to keep looking at the sky and dreaming and what's so wrong with that?

Friday, 27 February 2009

Margaret Thatcher

I have an admission to make, last night I watched the BBC2 programme Margaret, there I've said it and would you believe it the world hasn't imploded.  

Why am I sharing this terrible secret with you? Well for those of you who didn't live through, or were having too much fun at the time and can't remember the Thatcher years, it may seem a strange thing to be so secretive about. But just try something for me - the next time you are talking to your parents/grandparents or any one over 50 that you know reasonably well, ask them if they ever voted for Maggie Thatcher's government.  I can guarantee that the answer will be a resounding NO.  I have never met a soul who will admit to be a Conservative supporter in the 80's and 90's - strange, when she was Prime Minister for almost 11 years.  But it's just something that nobody will admit to.

Did I ever vote for Maggie? Honestly the answer is no. 

As a card carrying member of the then Liberal Party I would never have dreamt of voting Conservative but, and this is a big but, I was tempted.  After all she was running to be the first ever woman Prime Minister of this country.  I, along with many of my friends, thought that this would be the turning point for women in this country.  No longer would Westminster be dominated by the old guard, the men in suits who ran the country as if it was their own private club.  I really believed that the doors of boardrooms throughout the land would be opened up to talented professional woman for the first time.  I imagine we felt much like Barack Obama's supports felt, this could be our time and believe me like America in 2008, this country in the 1970's was ready for change.

With hindsight though I can't believe how naive we were.  Maggie didn't open up doors for woman, she made sure that they were firmly shut in our faces.  Her hectoring and that incessant bullying tone of hers were legendary and the worst insult any young woman in business could be called was a Thatcherite (or possibly a raving feminist, but that's an other story).  The problem was that dear Mrs Thatcher didn't believe in sexual equality, she believed that she was better than any man. She ran the country as she ran her Cabinet, there could be no dissension, no discussion, no exchange of ideas, it was her way or noway.  She was a tyrant with a perm.

She was personally responsible for the emasculation of the Trade Union movement in this country, she shut the coal mines, destroyed the steel industry and decimated the docks and because of her actions in deregulating the City she is inadvertently partly responsible for the mess the banking system is in now.

During the 70's and 80's I was working in the City of London and saw first hand the effects of that Conservative government.  The Fat Cats were getting fatter and the 'boys' in the City were spending money like it was going out of fashion.  And all this was going on in a country where whole communities were being destroyed through unemployment.  In some of the old coal mining towns the despair was palpable.  Grown men were crying themselves to sleep because they couldn't see a way of ever getting back into work.  Many woman were working very long hours in degrading low paid jobs just to pay the rent and put food on the table while young City Dealers and Traders were drinking Bubbly at lunch time while arguing for a good deal on their latest new Porsche on their new fangled mobile phones.

Last night's drama concentrated on the eleven days leading up to Maggie's spectacular fall from power. Watching it brought back many memories for me of those days; from working in the City to getting married and eventually becoming a parent, all to the backdrop of Poll Tax riots, mass unemployment and the rise of a 'New Home Owning Democracy'.  It was a strange time to live through if you had any kind of social conscience and the one memory I will hold of the Drama is that of a defeated Thatcher sitting at the kitchen table in Number 10 sobbing.  I would like to believe that happened but somehow I doubt it, after all the woman who wasn't for turning certainly wasn't human.

If you missed the programme you catch it for the next 6 days on the BBCiplayer