Category Archives: Journal

Physics, Pilates & Anna – Week 19 : 2020

Anna (first wife) has acquired entry into her seventh decade on Planet Earth. She had a lockdown birthday at the end of April but we tried to make a fuss. A number of her friends did pop round with flowers whilst keeping the mandatory distance. Gals (sorry Favourite Eldest Daughter for this lapse into political incorrectness) are all very social and it was hard for her to let this landmark slip by so tamely especially with the daughters in Manchester. I hope when it is all over we can celebrate it properly. An observation about her cards was how many had a ‘60’ on them, mostly from the women! What happened to being eternally 39?

She’s also been a star shopping for some of the more elderly residents on the street. I have been making a couple of meals for one chap and was able to sell a Black & Decker Jig Saw on eBay for another chap. He had no idea what to do. I was worried after volunteering a selling price that it would fall short. Fortunately it did a lot better. On handing across the dosh he wanted to give us a tenner. That’s not the point of doing all this is it?

These marooned residents need food but they also need company. A long conversation is a kindness and they happily chatter away (even to me!). The chap who’s suffering my meals worked for The National Coal Board. This life of being down the pit now seems too dangerous to contemplate. Health and safety in the 70s and 80s isn’t what it is today. He was telling a story of his interesting life as an engineer when he recounted working at one pit for an awful manager with some stories of his bullying and intimidating behaviour. It sounded Dickensian. I did leave him reflecting on some of my personal experiences…

I was never very good a Physics at school. I’d dropped it by the time I had to pick my O Levels or it dropped me. My recollection of the subject, other than bimetallic strips, was that it could occasionally approximate to maths with homework that involved equations and the like. The day we had to present our efforts involved the master, David Welch, walking around the classroom checking the answers. The seating meant that mine was the first work he inspected.

I made a game attempt at the task but usually came up with the wrong answer. For this I would get hit around the back of my head. The Geography teacher, Mr Hartley, could also deal out corporal punishment for wrong answers. Barbaric really and useless as regards the learning experience. Welcome to the 60s and 70s.

With all this limited movement I’m still driving the Morgan. I pop out for the shopping and make rare excursions in it. I half expected to get flagged down by Plod to justify why I’m out in it! To keep fit I obviously ride my bike, as before, but in addition to walking we do some Pilates classes. (These are configurations of exercises we’ve learned and can remember from a class with an instructor). Anna was introduced to Pilates last year and loves rolling around on the floor. I started about eight years ago and am a lot less keen! It is a good thing to do and keeps us moving and free from some muscular aches and pains. I’m one of the oddities at our weekly class (during normal times) being male. More men ought to do it. I like to think I provide the girls with a little eye candy in what must be their humdrum lives.

Other exercise has seen us walking around the local area. On one such ramble we came across a lady carrying a Nikon camera with a long lens. This native finds locations to perch, mainly in the undergrowth, and then take some exquisite images of the wildlife. She then posts her images onto Twitter. (She can be found at @Natwalk101). The breadth of life she finds near us is a surprise. The biggest draw are the deer who run around a forest nearby. We’ve got a bit blasé about them but I may venture out with my proper camera shortly.

The Fear of clay, masking tape & scissors – Week 15 : 2020

In some ways ‘it’s a long time no speak’. Obviously my recent bike ride up Australia was followed by many of you but I suspect the majority didn’t follow my restless and fruitless search for a koala or (live) kangaroo on two wheels. I really not sure what to think about the four weeks after it’s premature end. Some great scenery, interesting communities, banter and the childish joy of riding a bike to come to mind but something was missing.

Since my evacuation from Down Under and re-integration into ‘lock down’ Britain it has been a mixture of experiences. The first was the reality that it hasn’t affected my diet, exercise regime, opportunity to listen to music or write. 

However the limits on movement and the continued close supervisory presence of the first wife has been different. Evasion of various stipulated outstanding tasks, by her having better things to do with her talents, has been difficult. A protestation that glossing some yellow skirting boards due to a lack of masking tape saw her texting a neighbour who (at a discreet distance) turned up at the door with said product. I never did like him…

It was a blow to my tactics. Other things on the list included turning over the flower beds and weeding. Frankly, any budding fundamentalist terrorist flirting with the idea of Western destruction could have his fervour nipped in the bud with the threat of several days of standing, with a spade, on a hard clay soil complete with hiding toads to first dig into it and then remove various roots and weeds. 

Other things that have filled time include some walks near the house. New life, despite our challenges, abounds with lots of lambs. Old friends have been spoken to after, in one case after a silence for many years. Cupboards have been emptied and difficult decisions made. An old PC I replaced 9 years ago was one of four computers I own: it’s now destined for the tip. Added to that is the use of Ebay to sell a folding chair. Oh yes, it’s all happening in Acaster Malbis.

Other pleasures include taking an abnormal interest in the progress of deliveries to the house (see the image). The DHL chap, when he got here, advised that he was not usually on this ‘run’ but due to phenomenal demand he was working six days a week. Clearly we’re all on the internet.

This was for a new phone. I’ve spared you all the joy of dealing with Sky, O2 and (attempted) Carphone Warehouse. One piece of information I would pass on is that prices are collapsing – fill your boots. Mine was an iPhone XR.

Social media has been a constant companion. Adding to Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp have been Houseparty and Zoom. The circulation of amusing videos has got to the point where you receive it from several sources. We’ve all got too much time on our hands.

As I write the Prime Minister appears to be fighting for his life. If there was ever an event that reinforced social distancing and self-isolation then this is it. Most forays into a retail experience have been delegated to my younger partner. I’ve consciously attempted to keep a low profile. Despite my impressive youthful looks and fitness you can’t escape your age and I’m mindful to accept all the advice I’ve received.

I’ve vented about the problem with 24/7 news coverage and the pandemic has enabled the same old weary journalists to have something to digest, cogitate over and then ask pointed and unhelpful questions about. When did a journalist specialising in Westminster politics ever have an informed or useful point of view on something as complex as coping with a pandemic of a respiratory infection that leads to pneumonia? However, the airwaves have virtually abandoned talking about anything other Covid-19. Just what we needed?

Before my trip to Australia I contacted BBC Radio York to advise them that I was on another cycling trip and were they interested to speak to me? Oh absolutely! I was invited into the studio and we recorded an interview, which went out. On my exit from the studio the presenter asked if I’d record a 2 or 3 minute clip weekly of my progress and he’d add it to the show. No problem.

After the first one I got an ecstatic response about my clip from him. I did another couple and never heard anything. Bemused I was wasting my time I sent an email enquiring if the content was okay? I got an email back, from the presenter, advising that he had an elderly relative pass and this event had left him at ‘sixes and sevens’. Naturally I sent my condolences and left matters as they were.

I never heard from him again and his appearance on the show resumed. I imagine the BBC focus turned to the virus and anything else was cast aside including advising a bloke wending their way up Australia on a bike that their services were no longer needed. It matters not a jot about my being discarded as regards the well being of the nation or my making a living or whatever but it made me reflect on how the media have enjoyed the crisis and swept everything else aside.

Lastly as we dwell on the threat of catching the virus I have to admit to another anxiety. Eventually my hair will need trimming. Logically this should fall to Anna. Would you trust your partner near your head with a sharp implement? I think not.

The Guest List, Aortas & My Cartier – Week 6 : 2020

I’ve been lucky enough to be on the guest list when attending a gig with the Mighty Jessney from Vixen 101 but never in my own right. So it was a thrill to collect my free tickets at The Sage in Gateshead to see Country music star, Brandy Clark, on stage.  It’s not so much the avoidance of the cost but I now felt part of the music industry. If I consider how many albums I’ve reviewed on websites, and in the press, then a little ‘recognition’ was splendid. Under ‘Music’ I have a review of the concert. Check it out, she was magic.

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We made a weekend of our trip to the North East. We stayed at a very modern and swish B&B near Hexham. This enabled us to visit Carlisle (impressed) on the west coast and avoid the rain. The next day was a walk on Hadrian’s Wall. After a mile or two stumbling up and down rocks, hills and mud we made a decision to do it again!

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Sadly I hit a pheasant driving into York. It simply strolled out in front of the car and there was nothing I could do. Horrible. When I got to my destination in York I checked the front of the car and extracted a few long feathers from the grill. On my I return I drove past the spot where we collided. There was no sign of the bird. I hope it was not fatally hurt and had just wandered off. Unfortunately that couldn’t be said for the one I ate on my stay up in Hexham. We dined at the Barrasford Arms, near Hexham, and the menu was a delight and I had game by way of a change.

When my then employer, Moores, was bought by an American company in 1996, the directors received a bonus. I bought a coveted watch – a Cartier Santos. I think it cost about £1,600. As a smart executive I was wearing Jaeger suits, shirts and ties and the watch was a compliment for all this sartorial elegance. (Nowadays I’m often found wearing fleeces, jaded jeans and a Swatch or maybe my Apple Watch). The Cartier usually sits safely secured in the house. However the battery does eventually expire and a visit to the jeweller is necessary to replace it. To maintain the waterproof seal and have an expert eye cast over its workings I take it to an approved Cartier specialist. As with all luxury items, with moving parts, the cost isn’t just about the purchase price. To replace the battery, check it over and replace a fragment of blue glass on the winder it cost £218. An expensive business you’ll agree.

For whatever reason we’ve been in and out of Boots (the chemist/pharmacy) over the last few weeks. The visits are for various reasons but latterly it‘s been to try and buy some hand disinfectant gel. This had meant visiting many outlets. The north of England has been gripped by coronavirus anxieties and the gel has sold out in most places. The chap in one of the Leeds city centre Boots told us that he was also out of facemasks. Anyway I am struck by how tired and run down so many of the shops are. A quick Google suggests that the company is considering about selling out to a private equity company. Let’s hope punters, in the interim, don’t abandon them in a fashion that they are abandoning their stores.

Lastly, I finish with medical matters. Before you worry..  I’m feeling great and behaving as regards diets, exercise and nearly always remembering to take my medication. However as the clock ticks well past 60 then the interest that the NHS is taking in my wellbeing is unnerving. I’ve gone an age group related routine regime to check for bowel cancer every other year. Not a nice project to administer when it comes round! Then after a visit to the surgery over something else I had my cholesterol levels checked. Another random visit had the doctor taking my blood pressure and don’t get me started on prostrate health… I went through the whole investigation and my lasting memory is asking the assistant practitioner what his training was for the rectum test.

So thinking I’m clear of more blood samples and prodding I was dismayed to see the latest letter drop onto the mat. This was an abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA) screening. This main artery can burst and there’s a 15% chance of survival if it does fail. So catching it can be a useful thing to do but the leaflet went on to advise that 2.4% don’t survive an operation to repair the aneurysm even if it hasn’t burst. Gulp.

So I tripped into the surgery for the ultrasound scan noting that over 1% of those scanned have a problem. I’m delighted to say I have no problem but I’m watching the door mat with anxiety for the next test the NHS has on it’s plan.

 

Bob Dylan, Gary Glitter & Hyundai – Week 4: 2020

As January grinds on I still dream of cycling in hotter climes. The warm breeze on my face, a clear blue sky, the hope of finding a sandwich in an hour or so and the open road ahead. Unfortunately Anna’s double vision is unchanged and I remain in Yorkshire. After the eye specialist consultations and their advice to wait for natural healing we await improvement. In the meanwhile my starring rôle as the chauffeur in ‘Driving Miss Daisy’ continues. To be fair Anna is catching buses and has been donning bicycle clips with no complaints

As a consequence of being at home then the phrase ‘the devil makes work for idle hands’ comes to mind and I have been rummaging  amongst  old documents. You can see Page 1 of a list of concerts I attended during 1971 to 1975. I even include the ticket for the Argent concert – note the entrance price. The list includes seeing David Bowie twice in a week. There are some artists I have completely forgotten such as Tim Buckley and (cough) Gary Glitter. You’ll be comforted to know that I only saw Gary as I waited for Vinegar Joe at the old Bradford Park Avenue ground on a sunny afternoon. Other memories of that afternoon include some bloke wandering past me, as I sat on the pitch, whispering did I “want to score some dope?” I think my response was “who are you calling a dope?”

Concert List Page 1

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Another nostalgic thought about the Argent concert is that I probably happily drove into the town centre and parked up near the centre for nothing and strolled to the Town Hall. Today I’d be parking about half a mile away and paying at least £5 to leave the car in a multi storey for three hours. Happy days.

Whist I’m going down memory lane then you’ll note that Mount Park Road in Ealing was not a ‘lane’ I should have parked on. I was spending a year in London with a car at the tender age of 18 years old. I was at Ealing Technical College beginning my Economics degree.  I now prefer its current designation as The University Of West London. Anyway the fine was £2.

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I expected selling a car through We Buy Any Car.Com. would be commercial rape with some oily salesman. You’ve seen the adverts on TV. We sold a 12 year old Hyundai. The car belonged to a lady now unable to drive and resident in a care home. We got knocked down a bit on the price due to an administration charge and the fact it had some dents. However, it was quick and easy and with little aggravation. More surprising was a 68 plate 5 Litre Ford Mustang on their car park. Apparently dealers don’t want to touch these types of ‘muscle cars’ as they sit on their forecourts for ages. I cannot imagine how many thousands the previous owner lost on this misadventure.

On my bike rides I often ride through Saxton: a pretty village near Tadcaster. It seems to have it all (for it’s population of 1,000+). A calm rural setting with it’s own cricket field, pub, church and a primary school. Surrounding the settlement are large arable fields. I feel as much outrage as the locals to see that some pond life has dumped all this rubbish and cleared off. The reason for doing this is that they can’t be bothered to drive the nearest Household Waste site or that they are avoiding paying commercial charges for disposing of this stuff properly. Frankly if the new Government brings back public flogging for these animals then it will be appropriate.

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Now with a few dark and cold nights on my hands I signed up for an evening course at The University of York – ‘Bob Dylan, The Nobel Poet’. This dissects Bob through the ages in terms of his lyrics. We’re looking at the message (or not!) and the origins of the lyrics composition. They’re about 17 on the course and most are devoted Dylanologists who love the man. I don’t love him but he may the most important composer and artist of 20th Century popular music bar none. (Sorry Paul and John).

I had never seen the harbour so calm as it was at Whitby. My first wife deigned to be taken to the coast for lunch and a walk along the pier. How could you pass up the chance for a ride in a Morgan on such a sunny day? Yes, I spoil her.

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You’ll be pleased to see our ceiling has a new patch on it. If the plumbing has been sorted and it gets painted over I somehow feel I will have lost an old friend I made contact with last year.

 

MND, Molars & Megxit – Week 3 : 2020

The brutal disease of Motor Neurone Disease has struck Rob Burrows. The information hit the Rugby League community hard. He is a hero with a sparkling career in an all conquering Leeds team. The affection with which he is held is increased due to his physical size. At 5 foot 5 inches he’s a unique ‘giant’ in a sport full of exceptional specimens of the human form. The diagnosis is beyond cruel when you consider he is only 37 years old. In the various TV clips, of the game in front of 21,,000 fans, it was hard not to have a tear in your eye as he ran onto the pitch for the last 5 minutes. He certainly did.

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Meanwhile back in Hollywood: Megxit. I’ve nothing useful to add to the spectacle of this negotiation other than it never seemed likely that their integration into the Firm would work out. Anyway one unedifying spectacle is that the Queen seems to have been a victim of this debacle. At 93 years old she’s been left to chair this divorce settlement after having been treated disrespectfully by the public resignation. She’s not at fault, why do this to her?

Continue reading MND, Molars & Megxit – Week 3 : 2020

My Kind Of Retail – Week 2 : 2020

If you’re a landlord you need to have a few trades or suppliers, on short notice, to step in and put right problems. However, I would caution all landlords to inspect the problem prior to initiating the cost of a trade visit. You’ll be disappointed and surprised at how impractical many people are today, especially if they’re a tenant.

We once let to a doctor who was unable to change a lamp. We were called down to this ‘emergency’. On another occasion a set of Japanese academics implored us to change a whole light fitting because the replacement bulb was now unobtainable: needless to say it wasn’t. Usually our better tenants will go through a long weary explanation of how they went through all sorts of sequenced diagnostics before contacting us. Sadly this sequence can omit such basics as checking the fuse. When satisfied that the problem needs attention we contact one of our regular trades. One member of our supply chain is a small appliance shop in North York

It’s inescapable that appliances do break (but seldom completely die). I say this because our ‘go to’ little shop can resuscitate most things. I had to get to understand the operation of this quirky establishment before I got to love it. For example telephoning is not productive as you might hope. It is not uncommon to go through a series of ‘Press One for parts’ type of instructions before getting to a ‘department’ where inevitably no one answers and you have to leave a voice mail. If you’d never visited the outlet then this telephone experience would lead you to expect a big outfit. In fact it is a small corner shop in a terraced house built when Queen Victoria was young. Continue reading My Kind Of Retail – Week 2 : 2020

Bill Reed

Bill Reed passed in early December. It had been a 15 year struggle with cancer and whilst he coped brilliantly then eventually it called time. I had known him over 55 years. He must have been my oldest friend. In fact so many of my passions and values came from him that I owe him an incalculable debt. He came into my life as my sister’s boyfriend in the early 1960s. Our own relationship started in earnest in 1965 when he sat me on his shoulders in The Scratching Shed at Elland Road and started my life long love affair with Leeds United. From here he married, my sister, Ann Marie, and formally became part of my life. Always true, always completely trustworthy, always a friend, always fun and forever one of our family despite an eventual divorce.

He lived in Leeds and we met whether at Elland Road, at our house, mutual friends or his flat. It’s impossible to list how we shared many amazing times together. A few included a Christmas morning where a present of a football was wrapped, beneath the paper, in chicken wire with bags of grit in the package to give it a very odd noise when you rattled it. I think it must have taken me ages to open it!  Next was getting a call from my housemaster at boarding school when I was 17 years old saying that the next day I’d be going to The FA Cup Final (Leeds vs Arsenal). What an unexpected thrill. Other expeditions included finding his uncle’s WW1 grave in Northern France as we ventured abroad seeking his location. All these trips had hilarious moments and great camaraderie. Bill was my Best Man and that included a Stag Night dinner at The Flying Pizza in Leeds where unsurprisingly I drank way too much!

Throughout his life Bill liked to read and was passionate about sports but not many other hobbies. He worked until he was 67. It was people and their company he cherished. I can hardly remember Bill not working and the farmers or work colleagues, who I hardly met, loomed large in my life. Their legend was chronicled through stories of boozy lunches and foreign trips. If that was one set of friendships then he adored his grandsons. Also he would be delighted at a chance meeting in the street with, say, a waiter he used to know at a local restaurant. Everyone who came into contact with him found a positive and welcoming man with such a joie de vivre. He truly was loved.

Latterly he’d come to stay with Anna and me. This would entailed a hearty meal and either some cricket or football on the TV. It’s some time since I saw him take a drink but he was a knowledgeable connoisseur when it came to the grape and usually had a bottle in the boot of the car. 

We’ll drink to his memory as we say our final farewell on January 10th.

Happy news, Sad news & Crimbo – Week 51 : 2019

So it has been a month of momentous family news: some happy and some terribly sad. 

The Happy: Our eldest daughter, Katrina, became engaged to her long time partner, Matt (a sometime contributor to the site). Anna and I thought it was only a matter of time. It is happy news and another important step in their lives. They plan to buy a property in the Manchester area and tie the knot next August. Congratulations to the happy couple and I promise to behave on the Father’s Speech (maybe).

As if all things were falling into place Katrina secured full time employment at her employer, Arcardis, and so getting that mortgage became easier. Another happy event was my Favourite Youngest Daughter, Sophie, eventually starting to complete the purchase on moving apartments. This move has been awaited for 8 months whilst their buyer was generally disagreeable and sought various lease changes. It has been a long period of uncertainty and it tested everyone’s patience. They should move in early January.

I mentioned terribly sad. Bill, our former brother-in-law and my Best Man, after living with cancer for 15 years eventually succumbed. I will write elsewhere in a separate blog such is his important place in my life.

Bil (with daughter Victoria and son-in-law Ben)

I’ve written in my travel blogs about Anna having double vision due palsy in her left eye. This came on in South Africa at the end of November. This is a difficult condition as operating with one eye is very limiting on her mobility: she can’t drive. The good news is that an MRI scan and other tests reveal nothing sinister behind this problem. However we’ll have to wait possibly months for her nerve to heal and her sight to be restored. 

With no idea when this condition might correct itself I made the decision to cancel my trip to Australia. I was planning and had prepared to cycle 2,500 miles from Melbourne to Cairns. I cannot leave Anna stranded in our small village 5 miles south of York. 

Her new chauffeur has been bemused at being called to run her to have her brows done, who knew women paid other women to shave and manage this area of their faces? At our Pilates class the topic of Christmas presents came up. One lady wanted a puppy. I’ve always resisted such an acquisition but I did volunteer that if Anna could find one with a full driving licence I might weaken.

I can’t let the General Election go without comment. With this event complete and the selection made then the dialling down of hate posts on social media and the reduction in coverage on the mainstream media is a joy.

So seasonal greetings to my readers. We’ve made our last trip to Marks & Spencers to carry out that particular grocery shopping. This is a supposed period of peace and goodwill. However, it involves facing down the steely look in the eyes of 75 year old women. They are  armed with a full trolley advancing toward you with limited control over this WMD. Hopefully I can now avoid this until next year.

Leaks, Springboks & Science – Week 45 : 2019

November 4, 2019

Whilst my first wife was watching Strictly Come Dancing on the TV she glanced up at the living room ceiling, as you do. She saw a large wet patch. Consequently I was despatched to the room above it, a bathroom. There was no sign of any leak. A couple of days later a plumber appeared to ferret about in obvious areas to find this fissure. A lack of success gave rise to stroking of his chin and a considerable intake of air as it whistled between his front teeth: the floor had to come up or we had to access the pipes by going up through the ceiling below. 

Deep joy.

Continue reading Leaks, Springboks & Science – Week 45 : 2019

Murder, Discounts & Christmas Pudding : Week 42 : 2019

October 17, 2019

I have several cycling routes that I ride fairly regularly. One takes me out and back into the Yorkshire Wolds. It’s quite a lonely ride with few settlements: just sharp hills and lots of arable farming land. On my way home on such a four hour jaunt I ride through the peaceful village of Full Sutton. I say peaceful because on the outside it is anonymous albeit with a reasonable amount of residential housing and a large prison. I’ve reflected that as the prison is designated ‘high security’ it contains the worst of humanity. However I trundle past and look at the pigs running around in the field opposite reflecting on the free range nature of their existence before becoming sausages.

Despite this tranquility it is somewhat disturbed by being the location of a recent horrific stabbing that led to a prolific paedophile being murdered in his cell. This awful development even made it onto the CNN website. Incarceration can be a violent and hellish existence. I suppose being locked up with malevolent and mentally disturbed men for decades, with no hope of a better future, is a situation that spawns this terrible environment. My next cycle past will make me shudder at what goes on inside its high walls.

Continue reading Murder, Discounts & Christmas Pudding : Week 42 : 2019