So I left the last blog hanging with the promise to write about the drama of my following Leeds United. For the last game of the season we needed to better the result of Burnley and, on paper, we had the more difficult fixture: they had Newcastle United at home and we had Brentford away. I decided I couldn’t bear to watch it live on Sky and started to wash the car during the game. Why watch the agony?
Anyway the Geordies (actually I expect it is mainly Frenchmen, various Africans and the odd Spaniard etc.) started to beat Burnley and I dared to sidle into the lounge and watch the Leeds game from behind the sofa through my fingers. The upshot was that Burnley lost and we won. Euphoria broke out in Acaster Malbis and the relief of not having to worry about Premiership survival could be parked until August when the trauma would start again. There is no cure.
It’s been a busy time since then. A couple of days was spent in Manchester stripping and painting a shed. This task was necessary for the upcoming wedding of the Favourite Youngest. It was the elimination of an eyesore in the garden (of the evening party after the wedding.) Two days stripping and painting a shed? Living the dream. Anyway the preparation was arduous and with some help from the fiancée and even the fiancé we got the shed to the state where we could paint it. The block of flats, it was sited behind, got a free overdue job done and I got takeaways, Tunnock biscuits and regular cups of tea.
After this it was down to North Wales to see my sister, Ann-Marie. She lives near Conwy. We did a couple of jobs at her home and had a trip out to the wonderful Secret Gardens near Menai Bridge on Anglesey. I’m not ordinarily wowed by gardens but it is sensational. You should visit it if you’re over that way.
Back to York I had three album reviews to submit to Country Music People. This month the three albums were dull affairs and listening to them and writing reviews a chore. If you like the album then scribing is a lot easier. I publish a fraction of the albums I review on my own site. If I’ve had to suffer them I see no reason why you should!
A flight to Limoges was booked for July. I’m taking the bicycle and will camp and ride back to Europort (Rotterdam) over a couple of weeks. That’ll be a fabulous opportunity to relax albeit with lots of pedalling.
This week it’s been up to Northumberland guiding. After the season I will put together a blog. (I think that if I did it now they’d sack me.) It starts with greeting the guests on Sunday night and continues through to Friday, albeit I was barracked 10 miles away and so I didn’t see them after Thursday night. The weather was sensational, the sights and walks superb and the guests good humoured, flexible, resilient and good company.
However there were the usual challenges with the week to keep the show on the road. The first was going on tour without my credit cards and no cash. I left these in York. Fortunately I had my phone and Apple watch with the banking Apps and they worked all week. Then there was the small matter of breaking my spectacle frames! A local Morrisons had some superglue for a repair to temporarily solve that. However, I woke up every morning, at around 5am, only to find my brain irretrievably switching on to start thinking about taxis arriving, tides to reach Holy Island, submitting menus to the guests to pre-select, the mobility of a couple of the guests on the walks etc. No further sleep happened those mornings. Just about most days were 13 to 14 hours long. So by Thursday night you start to feel zombiesque and hung over with tiredness. Yes, I know what you’re thinking, I don’t have to do it.
Gosh it’s been awhile and for a retired bloke who mainly paddles about there’s been a lot going on. Here’s the start of a catch up. In looking back through the last few weeks then I think we’ll start with the llamas!
The thought of visiting the Yorkshire Dales to walk with llamas and alpacas wouldn’t have been on my mind until February this year. However on a recce, for a holiday tour I’d be working on later in the year, I had cause to visit Nidderdale Llamas near Patelely Bridge to see their 100 plus llamas and alpacas.
What a delight these strange South American animals are. As part of Anna’s birthday celebrations we trooped up as a family to the farm to spend time being introduced to these quirky quadrupeds. The llamas have to be worked gently and work shifts with the public to minimise their stress. On our shift were a selection that were introduced and their personalities discussed and explained. After this we were paired with a beast that matched our personality and confidence and we went for a walk!
These gentle companions enthralled everyone; they were easy to lead. (I think they’d done it once or twice before!)
Katrina had a very slow animal. Apparently his handlers identified him as the equivalent of a troublesome teenager who had an attitude. Katrina urged him to walk faster and pulling did no good either. In her exasperation she broke into his native language, Spanish, to make him get a move on but to no avail. From here we departed for a lunch to a nearby restaurant to complete the birthday celebrations.
With Sophie and Harry’s wedding in August looming some serious beverage decisions needed to be made and ‘tasters’ gathered in Reddish to partake of the vine. We ‘blind tasted’ the selection. Hilariously the wine I liked least was the one I brought. I can’t repeat what I called it but I may never hear the last about that comment!
As part of her birthday gifts Anna got a new bike: an electric one. Yes, I know: I spoil her. It’s second hand but has been serviced and the wearing components replaced. We’d found it at a bike hire shop on the Monsal Trail near Bakewell in Derbyshire. It flies and when we first went out together I was well ‘off the back’ as Anna ploughed on without a backward glance.
Cycling is still the theme but this time in Mallorca. A long arranged trip for myself, Tim and Martin had been in the diary fro some time. Leaving Leeds Bradford on Jet2 with Tim was difficult, sadly another story of delays and very long queues. Despite being there nearly three hours early we still ended up having to jump up the long line for Security and were one of the last folk to get onto the aircraft.
As we waited and it was only 7.15 am my thoughts turned to lunch and I thought I’d have my tuna salad that Anna had specially prepared. Not the most logical breakfast, I grant you. The upshot was a difficult plastic container lid didn’t come off easily and most of the salad ended up on the floor. At this point I also discovered that we had sat in the wrong seats and leaving one awful mess we hopped across the aisle slightly relieved to be escaping the carnage on the carpet. Much to our surprise those three seats remained unoccupied for the flight and no one had the opportunity to grind it all into the carpet. However, not being all bad I did alert the cabin crew to the mess and that Tim was responsible.
Delays continued in waiting on a bus at Palma, where we met Martin. By early afternoon we had got to our splendid hotel in Puerto Pollensa and the holiday had started. For the four days we we cycled on the west of the island and up and down some very steep hills. It was terrific as Mallorca is road bike heaven.
We ate out most evenings and in line with our other obsessions we were able to watch English football and Leeds United’s inept performance against Chelsea. Relegation seemed inevitable. The next blog will address the emotions of it all.
It seems a long time ago that I was packing my laptop, projector, extension cable and heading off to some dark village hall to talk about my bike ride across the USA. The ‘tour’ of all these village halls had started when I declared on BBC Radio York that I would happily talk about this expedition in return for a donation to York Carers Centre. So began a trip around the local outposts of the Yorkshire Countrywomen’s Association and Women’s Institute. There have been other groups but these are my main victims. I get booked up months in advance. Last week the Easingwold W.I. evening came around. Over 30 women quietly listened to my tale of a long bike ride that included tales of mountains, McDonalds, bears, camping, prairies and coal trains. After I finished I got a cup of tea, a cheque and then quietly packed away my gear.
I often get waylaid by old dears telling me about their own American adventures. On this night a lady in her 50’s stopped to thank me and talked about her husband’s similar exploits and vast number of bicycles. It was all in the past tense? Yes, he’d got a melanoma and it progressed quickly to his demise in months. She still seemed exhausted and devastated yet capable of reflection. My talk had been an insight into a man’s world of bicycles, obsessive planning, lists of things to pack, a desire for adventure (with stupid levels of excitement) about the unknown. It took her back to happier times.
My tour guiding tours require me to have an Outdoor First Aid certificate. The one in question required 16 hours of class. I found a course in the Peak District and circled the dates on the calendar for an April weekend. Tony doesn’t do blood, unconscious bodies or mouth to mouth resuscitation: it could have been a difficult experience. So in a scout hut in the small village of Youlgreave I turned up with ten other people who were either renewing their certificate or starting afresh. Most seemed to be tour guides although a couple mentioned ‘life skills’: I need to ask my eldest daughter what those are but I’d guess it was something acquired spending two days kissing a dummy in the countryside.
However, seriously… The course is focussed, full on and ultimately might help me save a life. CPR and mouth to mouth resuscitation part of the teaching but if you had a nearby defibrillator and an the ambulance turned up in minutes you’re still only looking at a 40% chance of survival and that’s after I’ve broken your ribs by pressing down 6cm on your chest 30 times consecutively before blowing twice into your mouth. Apparently the breath we exhale still has 40% oxygen in it. It was all hands on (in the building and then an afternoon doing it outside in a woodland) and repetitive for the process of assessing the casualty. This repeated assessment did drive it home and it was always with another course member. My unlucky partner/victim was a young bloke called Paddy who runs a gym in Meanwood. He knew it all and constructively appraised my shortcomings and helped me get better.
Preserving life is the number one aim. Maintaining airways and ensuring they cannot choke is the number one priority. Therefore you can move someone with a spinal injury if they’re going to choke to death. Let’s hope I don’t need to kneel beside someone in distress and utter the immortal words of “Hello I’m Tony, I’m a First Aider, can I help you?”
In less profound developments I realised an ambition. I saw a wallaby in real life not in a zoo or Australia but three miles from our house! Great nephew Ted needed entertaining and at a local agricultural college they have some curated wildlife in the grounds. I was disappointed on my time in Australia to have never seen the animals in the flesh and so this realised a bucket list item. This was alongside otters, meerkats, raccoons, marmosets, llamas, goats (!) and giant tortoises. I think I was more excited than Ted but that’s nine year olds for you!
Delightful news emanated from Manchester in mid February. Wedding bells. The Favourite Youngest Daughter, Sophie, and Harry were getting engaged. They have been together since university and, maybe unkindly, the first reaction could have been ‘about time’. They have lived together for many years in their own property. Nevertheless this is an exciting and lovely event for August. For the females in the family now is a feast of calls or meet ups on dresses, menus, guests, wine tasting gatherings etc.. Enjoy, this is what the best of life should be about.
However, all is not well with another female love, Samantha. She’ll be 12 this year and is showing signs of age. First there was a misfire and back firing when in second gear. When that was hopefully fixed she started to spray water, via the bonnet louvres, onto the screen. The radiator was kaput and she was shedding any coolant in the system. My treasured Morgan after such a quiet life is now making my, and her, life less smooth.
A new radiator was needed. There were several suppliers and a popular forum website gave me a name for an approved source. (The radiator is not a standard or volume part.) It was the lowest price as well. £619 later I’m trying to find a slot at the local garage to fit it. However, there’s the small matter of towing the car to the garage as it can’t be run there without coolant. I’m sure she’ll be fully restored; it’s important as apparently she may have a bit part in Manchester in August.
More immediately we’ve just had a lovely relaxing week in Lanzarote. We went in search of heat and sun. We got the sun but the temperatures were not as sizzling as we might have ordered. Anna jogged along the front at Playa Blanca and I headed north on a hired bike. My route was a 46 mile loop with 800m of climbing and involved mainly battling into Lanzarote’s horror head winds going north turning round and then ‘flying’ south. On my second ride the wind was so horrific, with sudden gusts, that I decided to walk the bike for about 200m at a height of over 400m as the bike violently slewed across the road. I’m seldom frightened on a bike but this was one such time.
However, aside from that we rested and ate well with the highlight being a Portuguese restaurant and a delicious shared cataplana. Across the island you’ll find many walled fields of ash/lava with withered vines in dug holes attempting to avoid the ever howling wind. I thought it was a very unproductive piece of agriculture and the produce probably mediocre. Little did I know as we sampled some of the fayre at a bodega. It was delicious whether red or white with the latter being a very attractive dry drink. I shall look it up in the UK. In our apartment we had all the main UK TV channels and watched the awful news from Ukraine. What can you say?
There’s no coverage of the actual war. Instead we have reporting on the Ukrainian people, their suffering or flight. We also receive a diet of the latest Russian lies or atrocities and the brave statements of the Ukrainian President. We all feel helpless and angry. At the end of the day I expect this won’t end well for Ukraine with all the displacement, destruction, loss of life and territory. When it’s over and an inevitable compromise negotiated do the Russians expect to trade or mix with the West normally?
In the British media and on social media we have a talent for eventually dividing along the usual fault lines of Left and Right and fighting amongst ourselves. Stand by for 24/7 recriminations about what we did, as regards Ukraine, too slowly, too quickly, too little, too much etc.
I nearly wrote a blog about the former manager of Leeds United when we were promoted out of the Championship. Timing is everything; sadly this blog is an obituary.
Like most British football supporters I had never heard of Bielsa when my mid table Championship club wheeled in the latest managerial solution to attempt to lever the club back into the Premier League (after sixteen years in the lower reaches.) Good luck I thought as he looked at the meagre talent in his squad and the absence of significant money to address the problem. Leeds United had turned into a saloon door scenario for managers passing quickly through. The new post Cellino Board had appointed some real clunkers prior to this and nothing bode well.
What happened over the next three seasons is of legends, well at least in West Yorkshire. Bielsa transformed the team into a free flowing, ever running attacking force and got the team promoted at the second attempt. Journeymen players were transformed and the football we played was often sensational and much admired. The desperate and loyal fans were energised, inspired and beyond grateful. What at an exciting time ahead. It was dream time.
Bielsa was, in reality, the anti hero. The very definition of understated. Despite the large salaries coaches earn that could support a very plush lifestyle. Portly and forever dressed in a sweat shirt and tracksuit bottoms he exuded humility, compassion and kindness. He eschewed ever publicly speaking English and seldom looked at the camera in an interview. His post match comments were often weary and evasive gibberish: talk of ‘efficiency’, ‘execution’ and ‘moments’ that never gave you any meaningful information or emotion. So from here we dissected small vignettes of his kindness or personal relief. For example, the enormous hug he gave one of his coaches when the third goal went in against Burnley and secured the three points was such a moment, here was a man under enormous pressure. Kindness involved his interaction with the fans or paying a fine he received for the misdemeanour of sending someone to watch a Derby County training session. Kindness was paying for a gym for staff to use and the endless selfies he posed for. Many of these images were taken around Wetherby where he lived. Morrisons will miss him! He was a very regular sight and even I saw him one Sunday morning.
The inevitable difficult second season in the Premiership came along and Leeds have stuttered. Yes, injuries, a feature of a Bielsa regime, have bedevilled the team along with many complaining the squad was too few in number. I personally don’t subscribe to all of this. The team appeared to fail to turn up for several fixtures and the tactics employed the season before no longer surprised the opposition. Maybe the team was too tired to swamp the opposition. I had no confidence that our catastrophic run of conceding 17 goals in the previous four games was about to dry up. What could the Board do? They did the inevitable, initiated a departure and found a new coach.
The grief and resentment to the Board was palpable amongst many of the fans. Many would have preferred to stick with him and gone down with him. Such folly was the case with Nottingham Forest who stuck by Brian Clough in 1993, all the way until they were relegated into the Championship. Leicester City had no emotional attachment to Ranieri who perished in 2017, the season after miraculously lifting the Premiership title. Football clubs are £ multi million businesses with shareholders, debts and employees. Players have release clauses that may mean relegation sees them sold at fire sale prices etc. It’s logical and correct that changes should be made when needed. Unfortunately for the coaches they are obvious first casualties, unlike players, shareholders or directors who may have all serially failed.
They’re talking of erecting a statue or naming a training ground after Bielsa. I would like that. It would be fitting but, there again, where is the one for Don Revie or Howard Wilkinson? If Leeds do get relegated then Bielsa may have crawled away from the wreckage in good time. I hope the affection endures and his reputation grows as we all go marching on together.
I mentioned in my last blog about taking on a tour guide job for a few weeks during the summer. This week saw me spending time visiting and familarising myself with parts of the Northumberland coast and the Yorkshire Dales along with other trainee guides. I was the only complete beginner and whilst the other guides were not familiar with this sets of walks and routes they were all experienced. What a delight and what countryside to understand! Any visitors will be spoilt (especially if the weather is 10 degrees warmer and the sun peeps out.) Most of the trips are walking holidays with sights at the beginning or end of the walk.
The weather was grey and blowy but with our time constraints we were not encouraged to walk the Pilgrims Way from the mainland shore across the sand to the island itself. This can be taken at low tide. It’s advised to do it in bare feet as the sand clogs everything. Many of the future guests are walkers and will leap at this. We took the tarmac causeway that is only passable at low tide. Personally I’d contemplate the walk in a sedan chair only! From here it was Berwick- on-Tweed. Despite swapping between the English and Scottish over a dozen times it’s been English since the 18th Century. It has a magnificent set of fortifications to walk along.
A quick lunch and then back in the bus. The guides will have to drive this. As the passengers will have, in effect, paid to ride in the bus the driver needs a private hire licence. This means taking a number of tests. Back to school and learning the Highway Code for me. So what colour are the cat’s eyes on the outer edge of a dual carriageway?
Our drive back south took us past the magnificent Bamburgh Castle. At this point the rain was coming at us horizontally.
Next and last was Craster. Famous for it’s crab catches. No such luck for us but we checked out the parking and did a couple of the walks from the village.
The party was getting to know each other and used to hopping in and out of the minibus!
Day 2 saw us leave our trusty Travelodge and head up first to Walkworth to see my favourite amazing castle.
Next to Alnwick for a planned walk and to visit the castle.
From here it was time for a toasted teacakeat the amazing and famous second hand book shop, Barter Books.
A drive inland took us to Cragside, the first house in the UK to have electricity, and a walk in a forest. Again these form part of the walking tour with Explore!
On the last day in the North East it was time for some Roman history and in increasingly gale force winds we saw some of the sights on Hadrian’s Wall. All these brief visits were not to dwell or enter the sights but work out the route and logistics for when the guests are in our company.
This was all for the day as the weather got dangerous and awfully wet. We drove down to York and the next day was in the Dales. We got to York in a virtual monsoon! We started early on the last day in Skipton and concentrated on the sights around here.
A couple of weeks before I’d been up in the Dales with Peter, the regional manager. We’d visited the llamas near Pateley Bridge, Wensleydale Creamery, Settle and the various hotels that the guests would be staying at. I may now know a lot more about my home county than I ever did before.
After this there is a lot to study and think about. It’s another thing to take strangers around a part of the world that you yourself are not overly familiar with. My first tour is in May and so there’s plenty of time to get that pesky driving licence and become more expert on the history.
Selby Town Hall welcomed one of the UK’s most respected country duos, My Darling Clementine. For those not familiar with Selby it has an industrial heritage and the industrial bit left decades ago; the town is now mainly a dormitory for workers and families in Leeds and York. The Town Hall is a cultural oasis and a credit to the organisers. They curate an interesting selection of acts including country, americana, bluegrass, blues, rock and stand up comedy. The acts veer between several worthy but unknown US acts to UK heritage bands from the 1970s or 80s.
Ordinarily acts play, surprisingly, to a full house. The ticketing arrangement is that if you buy three tickets you get a fourth free. Yorkshire knows value for money when it sees it and there’s not a better offer midweek in winter. However, this season the attendance has been dented by Covid hesitancy. Those who brave the cold and dark nights still often don’t match the acts they’ve bowled up to see in age group, taste or humour. Just as English comedians ‘died’ on stage at the Glasgow Empire then I’ve seen Selby break several creative hearts. California’s Dustbowl Revival were bemused at the indifference to their lively show, blues sensation, Sugaray Rayford wandered amongst the audience to check pulses and I’m surprised someone hasn’t quipped that the only thing that moves in Selby is the smoke from the crematorium chimney. However, whilst Colorado’s The Railsplitters’ bluegrass didn’t get feet moving they did provoke some outrage. The lead singer said she liked the ‘village’ of Selby. The natives grew restless and were quick to demur that the settlement was certainly larger!
So onto our erstwhile impressive duo. This was their first post pandemic gig and the start of a long tour that would see further UK nights followed by a European jaunt and then some dates in the US. In front of depleted numbers Lou Dalgleish and Michael Weston King trod the boards with a backing guitarist and ran through 20 songs from their back catalogue including some from their Elvis Costello covers album. King’s strong voice leads the way whilst Dalgleish, his wife, takes a number of leads clutching her red handbag and scarf. The traditional acoustic country is a delight and the voices meld well and often a special atmosphere is created by the poignancy of their lyrics.
King tries to engage with the audience and soothes any fears of anything too racy by confirming this will be a laid back show (how little he knows) to help them ease back into playing live after the pandemic lockdown. His first misstep was introducing “Our Race Is Run” from their 2013 The Reconciliation? by calling the Prime Minister a bastard and that this song was for him. I’ve sat through many acts apologising for Trump and even more cringingly an excoriation of Nigel Farage by Fairport Convention’s Chris Leslie. What artists don’t realise as they fail to ‘read the room’ is that these UK politicians get a lot of votes in North Yorkshire. Whatever happened to not discussing politics and religion with strangers or in polite company? I digress, other musical highlights include a wonderful “Yours Is The Cross I Still Bear”. King attempts some bants with Dalgleish: if they’re enjoying it then the audience isn’t reacting. As we approach the break Lou implores the gathering to have a drink and return ‘pissed.’ With slumped shoulders they shuffle off for their own stiff drink. I feel their pain.
The second half sees the the adaptation, into duets, of several of Elvis Costello’s country songs. The strength and timbre of King’s voice approximates to Costello’s and the interpretations are superb, not least “Indoor Fireworks”. The explanation of the co-writers that Costello worked with from Jim Lauderdale to T Bone Burnett adds to their performance. King plays “I Felt The Chill Before The Winter Came”, a Costello co-write with Loretta Lynn. He opines that this has miraculously racked up 6,000 plays on Spotify in Russia and pertinently suggests ‘that maybe Vladimir’s gone country?’ When the audience prematurely applaud “I No Longer Take Pride” before the end, but after his vocal finishes, and before Dalgleish’s starts he ruefully comments that in the ‘duet game’ prenuptial agreement then both parties will have to sing on each song and we’d overlooked this clause!
The crowd is hardly on fire as the set concludes and King turns to another tragic crash. He notes that today is the 63rd anniversary of Buddy Holly’s death. Prior to the encore a rousing “It Doesn’t Matter Anymore” is sung as a tribute. I hope they recovered their mojo following Selby. They are superb and I’ll be checking out their quality catalogue. Oh yes, and this is the second time they’ve played Selby. Now that is the stuff of a song!
A drive into the Yorkshire Dales provided an unbelievably beautiful moment. When breasting the top of Buttertubs Pass. The gloom, at 2.5°C, was broken by two large shafts of sunshine as they shone down through a break in the clouds. This windy pass is special as it was on the 2014 Stage 1 Tour de France route.
I have been searching for something to fill in a bit of time and certainly on a part time basis. It had to be something I’d enjoy and use a bit of brain power. My good friend Peter mentioned a job that he’d done as a tour guide. He was connected to a UK company and so I put my name forward, was interviewed and accepted. I think my being the age of some of the guests, quite organised and being able to rattle on about most things was a benefit! My training starts in February. The arrangement is that tour companies like Jules Verne or Explore sell Yorkshire or Northumberland short holidays. They ferry people around on a mini bus stopping at the many sights. My employer is a charter for these tour operators. I’m passionate about our great county of Yorkshire and the Northumberland coast, castles and Hadrian’s Wall are also treasures. Everyone I know is concerned about my ability to be ‘nice’ for six straight days. Anna is even more concerned that I am prone to gesticulations, and worse, with other road users. Obviously I don’t recognise these possible failings. I’ll be fine.
The BBC is to lose the licence fee. This led to many tears on social media and many BBC employee were pointing out that £0.43/day is surely nothing when you think of what you get? I think those who’ve grown up with the organisation would possibly exalt the Beeb (as many do the NHS.) However, the debate is not about my age group. I think our daughters give the veritable institution little or none of their time, maybe ‘Call The Midwife’? News, music, sport, drama or entertainment has been migrating over the decades to the internet fed channels and stations. The end was signalled some time ago. There are some BBC radio stations we all must admit we have never listened to. There’s maybe much of the BBC to retain in whatever model: subscription, advertising or reduced licence fee. Like the ‘High Street’ the internet may have found another victim.
In a week where I got a new car I also came across a photo of an identical car I first owned. My new car, my first in seven years, is a BMW 320i estate. My first car was a white Triumph Herald. There are 56 years between the two motors. The hand over of the new car took over two hours despite the fact the deal and monies had been sorted out a long time ago. Most of the two hours was filling in paperwork, sending texts to each other or waiting for the salesman to paddle about looking at my part-ex or trying to find a way to expedite payment for a service package (for his own personal advantage no doubt.) In fact, of the time spent, about 20+ minutes was spent sitting in the car whilst a kindly technician went through the mind boggling intricacies of the dashboard electronics. Just about most things, including the windows, can be operated by voice. By the time this was complete it was dark and I had to drive off into rush hour Friday night traffic. Not ideal or a bonus of the customer experience. Irrespective of what make or model of car you buy then there is always something deeply disappointing about the sales process.
My first car’s registration was KPF 587C. The technology was none existent apart from a choke. (Answers on a postcard what one of those is please.) The car was one where you could lift up the bonnet and feel you might actually have a clue as to what to do to solve a problem: nowadays I can just about work out how to refill the screen wash. I had this car, starting in 1973, at Ealing Technical College and then at Manchester Polytechnic before selling it in 1978 to someone I worked with at Aveling Marshall in Gainsborough. Like all 60s British cars it had chronic corrosion issues. The passenger footwell filled up with water and any girlfriend was well advised to wear wellies on a night out if it was raining. The front of the car was all one piece (above the chassis). It was a massive bonnet that opened the opposite way to how bonnets open today (like the E Type Jaguar). The bonnet corroded to the point of nearly falling apart and I was lucky to get one of the last all steel replacements. There was a lesson to be learned for life in not selling a car to someone I knew! I sold it to a work colleague and it shortly exhibited brake problems where after pushing the brake pedal it could slew violently to the left (brake fluid was leaking onto the brake drum.) Not great when approaching a corner at speed. I had to work with the chap who bought it and needless to say he looked at me with a lot less affection thereafter!
A friend who has become a grandfather was elaborating on the appropriate address for the child when they could speak. He’d been subsequently christened ‘grandpa’ and his wife ‘nana’. On the latter he had rubbished his wife’s moniker as being a ‘bit council estate’. I did comment this is what I called my grandmother! However, I digress, as I raised this important matter with my first wife to discover that all this had been discussed and she was to be known as ‘grandma’. As for me I do wonder at what age the child will be able to say ‘Mister Ives’.
Eric, my father in law, is wheeled into the visitor’s room. He’s now wheeled everywhere. It was a battle for him to accept his walking days were over: another sign of mobility and independence ebbing away. A carer is pushing him. She’s in her uniform and behind her mask. The relationship between the carers and residents is kindly and they show concern and patience with their charges. She turns to go and Eric asks for two teas, it’s 3 O’Clock and time for afternoon refreshments. He’s maybe a little cheeky to ask on my behalf. However, she has no problem with the request and disappears. She goes behind the door into the corridor that I’m not allowed to enter without supervision as the home seeks to control the spread of the virus.
“Good afternoon!” I begin. I’m there as Anna’s abroad. Her attendance is around three times a week and heaven knows what she finds to talk about each time: a talent no doubt of the fairer sex. Our lives can be routine yet Eric, now a widower, has little variation in his daily schedule to talk about. However, Eric’s pleased to see me. I expect it makes a change from the daughters. I’ve now known Eric longer than I knew my own father; we go a long way back.
I begin by complaining about the wintery road surfaces being dirty and wet and how washing a car is pointless as you’ve undone the cleaning after half a mile. Of course, Eric knows the weather from a quick peek from his window. The opportunity to get out given the temperatures and the pandemic have been severely restricted, it’s a big loss and now his life runs on his memory. We discuss the snow and temperatures Anna’s experiencing in Finland. I say it’s not for me although Anna has taken enough thermals and layers to have made a serious attempt on being comfortable for a trek to the North Pole.
Scandinavia is part of Eric’s heritage. His Norwegian parents emigrated from Oslo. He warms to talk of the weather and how folk survive the winter. He’s only been as far north as Anna on a cruise with his late wife, Margaret. We relive the ship’s progress up the fjords as it dropped off groceries and supplies to the villages combining tourism and freight movement. Suddenly I think of the WW2 German battleship Tirpitz being attacked and fatally damaged by the RAF in the Kaa Fjord above the Artic Circle and asked Eric if he’s been up there? “Of yes”, he rejoins and goes on to explain the quality of Norwegian supermarkets in the fjords enabling the inhabitants to exist quite easily. Obviously he’s misheard and I settle back to learn about his understanding of Artic grocery retailing. I’m here to provide him with some company and whatever we discuss is fine.
The carer returns with the tea. Yippee, there’s a biscuit! However, because the food is calorie counted it’s a solitary fig roll. Not all bad I think until it nearly breaks in two as it’s so old and dry. She pauses near Eric, leans over him and asks if that’s okay? He grabs her fingers in a small act of affection that’s noticeable and touching. He’s not a tactile man and hilarious stories come to mind. When he had four females in the house it was observed the only member of the family who received any soppy or sentimental chat was the dog!
This is now his home and will be for the end of his days. They’ve done a magnificent job in protecting the residents from the virus but you can’t help, and sadly, reflect how many have lost some glorious time with close relatives or loved ones as the pandemic has locked them away. Anna’s photos of the Northern Lights, reindeer and huskies are shared on my iPad. He marvels at the quality and the fact that she’s still there, yet here we are and have these photos to look at. The family is always delighted to be inclusive and ‘transport’ him into their lives wherever they are in the world. He’s interested, engaged and stimulated.
Suddenly the door opens and a new carer appears. The visit is over in 30 minutes. The room we’re using is booked for another visit and a no nonsense approach is enforced as his wheelchair is turned on its axis and I watch his back as he trundles off across the corridor to his room. The carer bellows up the corridor, in broken English, for someone to show me out. My plastic apron is handed back and an external door is opened and I’m soon out into the winter air. Bye bye Eric.
A different Christmas this year and maybe a sign of things to come. After decades of hosting we were invited by our Favourite Eldest Daughter and Matt (on the wrong side of the Pennines in Reddish.) Needless to say I understandably had anxiety about the meal in terms of the sprouts, bread sauce and other vital details. In the end my sleepless nights were not necessary as they knocked it out of the park. The Favourite Youngest Daughter and partner, Harry, did put in a brief appearance and we saw them the next day.
It did seem we spent a lot of the Christmas period at various traffic lights in Stockport. However, in between seeing relatives we took in the Spielberg remake of West Side Story. It has a magnificent soundtrack, captivating actors and is energetically portrayed and faithful, to a large extent, to the 1960s film original. It’s sensational and I can’t recommend it enough. By all accounts it’ll go big with the gongs when the luvvies hand them out to each other later in the year.
Another masterpiece I devoured was Disney Plus’Get Back documentary on The Beatles. In 1969 they were recording tracks for the Let It Be album. For the month that they sat down to do this it involved a lot of fooling around, the weird sight of Yoko Ono never more than one foot away from John Lennon’s side, the dominance in terms of authority and creativity of Paul McCartney, the close and informal involvement of many others such as producer, engineers, roadies and WAGs, the continual smoking of cigarettes and, oh yes, George Harrison temporarily leaving the band. It was engrossing and better than any biography you might read about the individuals and the dynamics between them all. For musicologists or fans of the Fab Four it was compelling.
Wildlife Update: two new residents, four legged, appeared on our lake at the estate. I shoo away most four legged beasts but these were welcome. Even to the extent that a professional photographer turned up; here is a collage of the otter snaps.
Sport remains important, either doing it or following it. Leeds United are truly in the doldrums but a victory just after the New Year was hailed by the faithful as a great relief. Usually after this the fans start to lose any grip on reality and predict the possibility of great things. I’ll be happy with surviving in the Premiership. One ‘bucket list’ item is to watch England play cricket in Australia. However, it wouldn’t have been this year as we are embarrassed by their inept performance: lambs to the slaughter. I think the Aussies who relish the fight are disappointed that it’s not really a contest. From this follows all the hand wringing about what we’ve got wrong as a team. It seems to me that the players are simply exhausted and befuddled by playing so many different formats. Maybe Test cricket is irretrievably lost as the other more lucrative formats take over?
My sport had a painful moment. At the weekend, on my bicycle, I turned a corner on a road near Full Sutton and all of a sudden I’m was on the tarmac. Black ice. Given that I rode well over 5,300 miles last year riding in most weathers in every month it’s surprising that more accidents didn’t occur. The present Mrs Ives was in North Finland, with the Favourite Youngest Daughter, at the time seeking the Northern Lights (see below). By way of an evening chat I mentioned my fall and that afterwards I had picked myself up and ridden the 25 miles home. Anna told her father, Eric (incarcerated in his care home.) He reflected on my mishap and was worried as to whether I was in hospital. He rang another daughter in London who knew nothing of my tumble. She rang me in the middle of a pilates class (with 10 other folk) to pass on his concern! My wife’s movements will be more closely managed to control her use of the phone in future.
So how long will it take you to stop writing out the date as 2021 before twigging you’re a year out?
Anna lost her landmark birthday celebration of 60 in 2020. A trip away was cancelled. However we eventually got away to Bakewell to rent a property avec les enfants et hommes. We had a splendid weekend eating and drinking. I managed to drag Harry out on his bike around the Peak District, which is not an easy bike ride for someone not expecting the odd hill or two!
A small stream that runs past the end of my sister’s little Welsh garden. It switches between a summer trickle or a winter torrent. It’s been eroding the bottom of her garden in an alarming fashion. We needed a strong barrier to stop the erosion. It was difficult to find a contractor for a residential project. After a few false starts, mainly to do with the weather, it was started and finished in July. Ann Marie is now looking forward to heavy rainfall to maximise the return on her investment!
Much to our dismay we woke up earlier in the year to find the lawn was ripped up. After more visits and damage it was shortly tracked down to hungry badgers that were searching beneath the turf for chafer bugs. The solutions to eliminating the desirable bug or deterring badgers were bordering on comical and old wives tales. We did consulted far and wide and then decided to build a fence around the garden to stop access. It’s worked so far!
Alongside Matt (son-in-law) we managed to do a decent job of sanding his dining room floor. Other DIY at their house involved some pointing of their long brick wall. Back in Acaster Malbis I did some fencing and fence painting at the front of the house to keep out the pesky badger. After all this I decided to retire for the year and bask in the glory knowing that next year had a long list of jobs.
A difficult time for my father-in-law was made easier as lockdown easing meant there was access for relatives into his care home. More importantly his three daughters could make pre-arranged vsits to sit with him. For them it was a great relief to be able to get into his company. He’s remained in terrific spirits and it was super when we could take him out the home and bring him to York to join in Katrina and Matt’s wedding celebrations. For those in homes this pandemic has and continues to be awful.
Our one escape abroad was to Portugal. This was initially delayed from October to November, when I caught Covid. We stayed on the Algarve toward the west just outside Portimāo at Ferragudo in an apartment. With a car we drove around including a memorable lunch at Salema and popping along to Quinta do Lago to meet a friend who was also over there on holiday. Some warmer weather was a delight and taking my bike enabled me to get out and see around us whist Anna when running. We also found some lovely sunsets.
A trip to Dumfries & Galloway was one of our staycations. We took a house on an estuary near Kirkcudbright and either cycled or drove around. This part of Scotland is beautiful, green (wet) and dramatic. Despoite the vistas the level of tourism is restricted to a few caravan parks. As a complete pleb I did eventually yearn for a bakery with sourdough and maybe a deli.
After being prodded by sister I had converted to a digital format cine films and photograph negatives from the late 1940s and early 1950s. This revealed people at times in their early lives that I saw in a different light. The quality of my grandfather’s photography was exceptional in composition and inclusion. We now have an easily accessible treasure trove.
Jurassic Coast by Bicycle
A cycle ride along the UK’s southern Jurassic coastline took place in September. The expedition started in Devon and then climbed and climbed to Dorset. I cycle every year for a few nights with a pal from my University days, Tony. Along for the ride this year was Martin, an old work colleague. I chose the coastline from Plymouth to Southampton (and then onto Abingdon with Martin).) It was possibly a mistake! The coastline is terribly hilly and the traffic can be busy. Martin cycled with the wrong set of gears and Tony, an irregular cyclist, manfully went about every day but finished in darkness twice. I worry they’re daft enough to be back for more next year.
Katrina & Matt
In 2020 the Favourite Eldest Daughter, Katrina, married Matt. Due to Covid restrictions we couldn’t bring all the family together. Eventually in our garden the weather held up and we brought everyone together for a belated celebration. It was a lovely day that will be remembered for a long time for the great company and not least for the egg and spoon race!
Lands End to John O’Groats by Bicycle
Bicycles feature in my life and with no long overseas bike ride in prospect I decided to do the iconic British ride: Lands End to John O’Groats. That is, from the tip of Cornwall to the far top of the island in the Scottish Highlands. It was a hard ride of 1,000 miles riding with Peter, an old friend. It has a memorably brutal start but eventually things got easier. The weather was kind until the last day. The last night of the trip we celebrated with malt whiskey and the day after was a groggy and leaden affair getting back by train to York! I blogged everyday.
The lockdowns meant lots of time for walking around the local area drinking in the scenery and seasons. We’re blessed with lots of fields and leafy paths. This was a great opportunity to have my headphones plugged in to listen to new albums or podcasts. After all these years I started to notice how transitory nature is. Other regimes to keep fit included pilates every week and occasional trips to the gym. When added to the 5,200 miles of cycling then I think I did a good job on trying to keep fit.
The holidays this year were mainly short breaks and we went down to Walsingham. Here we stayed in a property near the coastal harbour town of Wells-Next-The-Sea. It was wet but very delightful. Further east is the splendid Royal Palace at Sandringham. The house is set in beautiful grounds and after visiting here we went for lunch in nearby Hunstanton with some local friends. Norfolk could do with a road system to get to it but it is truly a lovely part of England.
I think we all became more social as lockdowns became part of our lives. I certainly put quite a bit of time into seeing friends. Some of these I had known for over 50 years. A special night was organised with old work colleagues, many I hadn’t seen for over 10 years. The list of old pals included Tim J, Mark D, Lyndon B, Tony, F, Brian E, Tim S, Mark G, Andy W, Tim M, Martin A, John V, Jim B, Steve & Sharon J, Mark S, Greg S, David C and Robert H.
Despite having not worked for a long time my state of antiquity was finally confirmed when I started to receive my State pension every four weeks plus a free bus pass and my Winter Fuel Allowance (£200.) What a time to be alive! Despite my excellent environmental cycling credentials I’ve not managed to use the bus pass yet and also slightly embarrassed by the Winter Fuel Allowance I have donated that to a more worthy cause.
The Queen has had a rough year (in fact it’s one the Royal Family will want to forget.) I came to respect and like the Duke of Edinburgh more as I got to know more about him. I think his past had its blemishes, some of his comments are quite rightly unacceptable today, but there was a gritty self sacrifice that garnered him a lot of respect and his departure was the first tangible sign that the old order was moving on. I hope Her Majesty has a lot more years in her.
I subscribe to a Morgan car magazine, plus MoJo, Record Collector and Country Music People. My consumption of books is modest . This year I mainly read history ‘The Mallon Crew’ (WW2 Bomber crew), ‘Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee’ (the demise of Native Americans at the hands of the US Cavalry), “Fatal Colours’ (The War of The Roses machinations leading up to the Battle of Towton) or biographies about Martin Luther King, Reggie Maudling or Tammy Wynette. I’m currently reading a book about the war in East Africa in WW1. It’s always non-fiction for me.
A Life in the Age of Steam
I embarked on what I thought was a simple bit of typing but it turned out to be a massive document of 166,000 words telling the early life of Eric Blackburn. A lad who left school at the age of 13 during war torn Hull and found his way onto the locomotive footplate. An interlude of National Service took place before he moved to then Tanganyika to work on the East African Railway. It’s a wonderful, event strewn, story and hopefully it will make it into published print.
In December Anna found a property back in the Peak District at Tideswell. With our daughters and Sophie’s partner’s mother, Tracey and sister, Annabelle. We spent a couple of nights walking and seeing the sights. The ladies went to look around Chatsworth House decorated for Christmas, it looked magnificent. I popped to Bakewell to look around a record shop; then on the Sunday managed to get out on my bike. Log fires, hot soup and umbrellas were de rigeur.
In 2019 we had some flights booked to Singapore (and back from Cambodia) in 2020. This quickly got shelved as the Far East went and stayed in lockdown. Next we used a voucher to fly to Miami for next February. This was weirdly compromised when British Airways cancelled some connecting flights with no solutions offered. So yet again we took a voucher. We still plan to get over to the USA in 2022. The thought of all those wide open spaces, eggs over easy and amazing parks call us. However, we’re not counting any chickens yet.
My journalism continued with mainly scribing for Country Music People. A selection of Country or Americana music was sent to me to listen to and then I had to pen 3/400 words and send back to the editor. As if by magic I was then in print every month. My blogs continued albeit they were a bit spasmodic. I blame the pandemic for limiting my ability to write something interesting or ridiculous! Added to this was Eric’s journal that saw my often looking through Google Maps to find the spelling of a remote railway station in 1960s Tanganyika.
Languishing in the loft of several houses for over 70 years were a selection of cine films my grandfather and father shot. The films’ survival was probably down to being allowed to grow dusty in the recesses of these dark spaces rather than being repeatedly moved and their worth of retention debated. In fact I probably have the projector that can show these films but the wiring is also at least 70 years old and may make it a safety hazard.
Of the 52 cine films we found then 36 date back to the late 1940s and early 1950s. I was amazed by the quality and the fact my grandfather was an early adopter of technology. Some of the quality as well as composition are better than my father’s Super 8 cine films and I cringe to think of the several days of camcorder footage I took mainly of the daughters in the late 1990s and early Naughties. (Never let a man get on a steam train with a camcorder and an hour to kill is sound advice.)
My grandfather shot 16mm wide cine film and to get this converted to a digital format meant some hunting around to find a company to convert it. I found a one man band (plus part time assistant) operation in a three story one room per floor building in the market town of Otley. I never met the owner but rumour has it that he now frequently jets to Hawaii on what he charged for the work.
The whole exercise was in someways a leap into the dark as to what we’d find or if the films were even intact. What I got was moving footage of my parents as millennials, a lot of relatives I never knew or could recognise, wonderful old pre and post war cars all painted black, street scenes of places that seemed so empty and sedate by today’s standards and a level of dress that was so formal and smart (!) compared to how we all slob about today.
However, more illuminating and emotional was an insight into the lives lived. The looks people gave each other, the fun shared, the mutual affection or hierarchy. Who always took the lead when walking or came across as bossy, even without audio? The way they handled a toddler with affection and delight, the deference to the old and the emergence of the best china even for a cup of tea. I learned of my grand parents surprising devotion to Catholicism with the local priest going from Leeds to Bournemouth on holiday with them (and countless other photos). Any fervour for religion was never passed down the family and we have no connection today. The Christmas lunch setting that now seemed so sparing compared to how our tables groan with food and decorations nowadays. The number of folk who smoked: a classic way to relax and often a shared pleasure between members of the family. Lastly my thoughts migrating from how they all appeared here to how they eventually became when I knew them and, in the case of my grandparents, I only knew them as old people with much of that mobility and energy gone.
One of the major projects now is to identify all the people in the cine films. There’s no audio and neither is there a lot of identification of people and places on the boxes or tins. Some, I or my sister Ann Marie, know. Some seem obvious when say, you have a mother with a child ie. the child belongs to her and it’s male etc. A lot has been found by Anna, the Queen of ancestry.com, who has followed lineages to build a magnificent ‘tree’ of both sides of my family. In the cines you can eliminate people by the date of the cine film and what age people were or, sadly dead, by then.
In addition to the cine footage was the small matter of 1,500 still photographs. All black and white and many featuring the people in the cine films. These are the images in this blog. Most are family scenes but there are many holiday snaps including the beach hut on the front at Bournemouth. I actually cycled within feet of this on my saunter along the front with Martin and Tony in early September on our bicycles. How lovely it would have been to stop at the hut and talk with the current occupants about it’s history of 70 years ago.
Some of the shots are of dramatic ships and aeroplanes.
We have an ambition is to try and contact some of the relatives of these people to share these films. I expect many are scattered across the globe and have tenuous connections to my family. However, this is a history that is unrepeatable and a wonderful insight.
I’m a couple of weeks past Covid-19 and pleased to have emerged feeling fine albeit with a bit of a cough. With the double vaccination I never felt that I wouldn’t be well afterwards. If I learned anything then this virus is very easy to catch and quite indiscriminate. I was amongst family who had the same exposure to the infected strangers I was with yet they were unaffected. No one knows why this is the case. I assume I’ll get called for the third jab soon along with the flu jab. I’ll happily be in the queue.
At long last Anna and I attended our first concert since the pandemic started. It was in Salford at The Lowry where we saw The Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain (check out this clip, beyond epic). Seven very talented ukulele players played a selection of modern covers by AC/DC, ZZ Top, Wheatus, The Cranberries, Willie Nelson, Pharrell Williams, Lady GaGa, Kraftwerk, Jackie Wilson, George Formby, Ian Dury & The Blockheads and, my favourite, Hawkwind. The renditions are brilliantly played but there’s lots of humour interspersed. For example the Blockheads lyric migrated from ‘Sex and Drugs and Rock n’ Roll’ to ‘Cakes and buns and sausage rolls’.
We stayed over near the venue and the next morning went to put some luggage in the car before going into Manchester for the day. At the car park pay machine we identified two members of the band who I gushed over. One of the chaps was inserting his parking ticket into the machine followed by his debit card. I always find this needs the closest attention and concentration so I can well imagine, in retrospect, what he thought about some garrulous bloke gibbering on about the set they played and where were they playing next etc. Rock stars eh? It’s a hard life.
As we were in the locality where the eldest daughter and husband live I continued a job that reminds me of painting the Forth Road Bridge. The property is surrounded by a very high brick wall and as it was first built in the 19th Century the mortar between the bricks is of variable condition, but mainly bad, around the house and yard. Applying replacement mortar to a vertical surface is not easy but it kept me out of harm’s way for a few hours and will for many more to come.
So I was barrelling into Barwick-in-Elmet on my bike when I saw a phone fall from a passing car. I was on a 40 mile circuit from home and had found a delicious tailwind. I reckon the driver had set off from home with the phone on the roof and when traversing a speed bump it fell to the ground. With the car long gone I stopped and picked it up hoping to stop a car driving over it and to find details about the owner. I found his name as well as his Driving Licence, credit and debit cards, Leeds United season ticket and other membership cards. I was surprised that someone carries so many important items in one wallet.
Anyway I found someone with the man’s surname in his phone directory and rang them. It was his brother. I obtained his home address, which was about half a mile from where the phone was found. When I got there I checked again with his brother that this was his house. He wanted my personal details to allow his brother to thank me but whilst not being evasive I gave him only my name and the fact I lived in York. I was happy just to complete the task without any thanks. I posted the phone through his letter box and got on with the remaining 25 miles to home.
I bring you news about Christmas. The last 20 years have seen the festivities at our house. This year it has been out sourced and the Favourite Eldest Daughter and Matt are hosting the feast and present swapping in North West England. (Note, she would give me a reprimand over a GDPR compliance breach if the disclosure identified the town she lives in.) To take over this responsibility brings several critical considerations that mustn’t be overlooked. This includes the starter (The Favourite Youngest is insisting on Yorkshire puddings with cauliflower cheese: I like the way she’s thinking), what type of Christmas crackers? (Oh no not the usual detritus of key fobs, miniature packs of cards and bottle openers?), the appropriate vegetables (carrots, sprouts, parsnips and maybe peas…obvs) and lastly the ‘lubrication’ for the Christmas Pudding (call me revolutionary but I’m a thick double cream type of boy.) This serious project has merited a PowerPoint and (without fouling GDPR) here are a few slides…
Lastly on ‘Morrisons Watch” apart from their disposal for £6.3 billion I note the students are back in earnest. As I was cruising the aisles in central York a badly dressed oik approached a member of staff and enquired as to where the hot dogs were? After grabbing a large glass full of them he headed for the checkout. I used to eat this stuff when I was 19, maybe some things don’t change?
So there was I looking for something to write about in a blog when I struck unlucky: I got Coronavirus.
As a man who spends a lot of time avoiding people by riding a bike or hiding in a back bedroom writing about Country music I can count myself unlucky to cop for this. On Friday after about three hours outside power washing the drive (living the dream) I was knackered. I felt truly zonked and I wondered why but put it down to the tasks I’d be doing. Later I slumped to bed with a few snuffles. I’d be all right in the morning I thought.
A restless night saw me wake up to a full blown heavy cold. ‘Quelle surprise’ I thought, who did I know had a cold that I could have caught it off? No one. A bike ride was out of the question (highlighting the severity of my lethargy) and eventually the household sleuth, the present Mrs Ives, suspected foul play and that I should take a lateral flow test. It was positive. Oh no. Next I made an appointment at a York Testing Centre for a PCR test. So what does PCR stand for? Polymerase Chain Reaction (obvs stupid.) It also stands for a git, dressed as if he’s about to walk into the ruptured Chernobyl reactor building, sticking a swab stick into the back of my throat in three places; stopping when I’m convulsing and about to gag on each occasion. Warming to the abuse at hand he then, with undisguised delight, asks which nostril I wanted him to stick the swab up for 10 seconds? Still gasping for air I had thoughts of telling him to stick it up his fundament but then volunteered the nearest nostril to the car window, By way of small consolation I had the car door handle to hold onto as I endured this attack. If there’s an incentive not to get Covid then this regime should be implemented at every nightclub and football ground.
Which brings me to where I thought I got it. The Favourite Youngest Daughter had arranged a brilliant day out with epic hospitality and a top class football match at Leeds United. I was sat next to a stranger at the lunch table and the staff fussed closely over us with food and drinks. I think this was my downfall and don’t mention the football, we were annihilated 0-3. Needless to say companions, Anna, Sophie and Harry have not caught the virus as I write. My father-in-law volunteered my frailty lay in have having depleted reserves due to the cycling. This appeals to my ego that as a finely tuned athlete, in peak condition, I have fallen prey to this misfortune as opposed to being a vulnerable and decrepit old sod. Whichever way then the Delta variant is a highly contagious phenomena and not to be treated with anything other than the utmost respect.
Given my lack of a social whirl meant that I inflicted myself on few people between the date of catching it and having it confirmed. However Steve (he of Vixen 101) and Sharon laid on a marvellous afternoon involving a grand stroll, a visit to the pub and then an early evening tea with lots of care and thought in splendid weather. My unhappy task was to text Steve on the Saturday advising I may be the carrier of the plague. I hope they continue to avoid my gift.
As I write then I am still drained and heady. My sense of taste dropped off this morning. Quite strange to all of a sudden find a cup of tea tastes like someone’s using old cardboard as flavouring. The family has rallied: Mrs Ives brought breakfast in bed, something she’s scheduled to repeat, if it follows a pattern, after Prince William accedes to the throne. The Favourite Eldest Daughter made herself available to facilitate her aunt mastering her iMac to load the Zoom meeting software. Not a task I was up to, Covid or no Covid. After showing such patience and skill I think Katrina could now be hired by Chester Zoo to teach primates to save the nation by obtaining HGV licences.
So I’ve only 6 days to go. I’ve had a couple of official calls, one to check I’m staying put and the other to ask if we need any shopping. I did establish that I will still be positive after 10 days but not infectious. A troubling question is how long do you remain infectious? I think it could be over a month which means our pre-holiday PCR Test for Portugal in October would show me up as being positive and initiate another lock down period as well as excluding me from travelling. Clearly another PCR Test is something to therefore avoid. Anna, as I write, is on hold with Jet2 trying to reschedule the holiday.
I used to joke that my father spent his retirement days, on the Algarve, worrying about where he could get the cheapest tomatoes. This was after a comment he made about a local greengrocer. Clearly the apple didn’t fall too far from the tree as we must discuss Morrisons. The present Mrs Ives and myself procure preferred items from either Sainsbury (decaffeinated coffee beans, energy bars and yoghurt), Tesco (fishcakes, salads and vegetarian sausages), Waitrose (any chicken product, wine and bread), Marks & Spencer (hummus and treats) and then Morrisons (meat pies, potato salad and pittas). We don’t visit each emporium weekly but we’re now programmed to seek out these items on entering the premises. However Morrisons is epic for people watching and crime. Located in the centre of York it attracts the less wealthy and upstanding amongst us all.
I do like the large number of students. Usually it’s a diligent young female attended by a gormless male who’s turn it is to pay for it all. (Obviously the rota on the shared house kitchen wall had detailed them to do the weekly shop.) The Chinese students have baskets groaning with pak choi, cabbage, avocados and anything green and healthy. I’d happily to be invited to dinner at their Hall of Residence. The, presumably British students, prefer sliced white loaves, anything that constitutes a meal if you add water to it and absolutely everything that’s processed.
The other clientele can be random. I well remember a punter putting down a basket full of spirits on the ground near the children’s clothes before loading them into his rucksack and sprinting out of the store, he was a millennial lad. Security is slack or non existent at the store and shrinkage must be terrible. Next was an elderly lady who surreptitiously, she thought, ran her hand over some packaged cherries in the fresh fruit department, she ripped back the packaging and was loitering feeding her face with the fruit. I was surprised at the audacity of it all. Lastly only in Morrisons would the tannoy ask whoever left a tied up dog in the foyer return to it. It was going ballistic barking at anyone who entered or left the foyer. Why would you do this to the animal and the store? Expect more reports from Morrisons…
As a fan of Test match cricket the commentary follows me around during the year. I can be around the house, in the garden, on my bike or in the car. I prefer the focus to being on what’s happening on the pitch but it seems banal banter about what the commentators ate last night, fancy dress and any topic that sets in train all sorts of surreal conversations populate the hours the match is on. Elevated to celebrity status is the scorer. At his finger tips (on his laptop) he can access complete trivia, often requested by the commentators. However, a laugh was emitted by yours truly when a question came up of “what’s the longest shot in cricket’s history? Without missing a beat he said “72 miles!” This happened in Settle, North Yorkshire. Apparently a batsman launched the ball onto a passing train which eventually came to rest in Carlisle, 72 miles away!
I’m thinking of buying a car. Not an easy pursuit those who follow my blog will note. I’ve decided to buy a Mercedes C Class. The new release was meant to appear sometime in the middle of the year but as we speak the dealership seem clueless as to when they’ll have a demonstrator or delivery. Another dispiriting discovery was that my ‘old’ car was not worth what I’d hoped when I checked last year. However, idly, I visited our friend webuyanycar.com to find that it had increased in value by over a grand in the year, not the usual trajectory for second hand cars. On top of this I have had six communication from the website exhorting me to follow through with a sale and they even increased their offer! The general shortage and delays of new cars have boosted all markets. If you were thinking of unloading that motor then now might be the time price wise.
Coming out of the lockdown we‘ve booked our first concert for many months. Blessed, by our visitation, will be The Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain at The Lowry in Salford. That’s not until October. Growing in importance, and certainly news coverage, is Leeds Festival. This takes place on the east side of Leeds in the grounds of a grand house. The line up is mainly stuff I wouldn’t walk to the end of the street to hear! More significantly the festival is a rite of passage for older teenagers. We know a few parents waving off their offspring worrying that several nights under canvas, probably approaching a unhygeinic comatose state through alcohol, no sleep and possibly illegal substances will not be a good thing. Our nephews used to attend and my lasting memory was the advice to pitch your tent toward the outer limits. Occupants toward the front or centre of the site were prone to be caught short in the night and directed their unwanted fluids liberally around their accommodation and onto the nearest tent. No wonder these tents are all abandoned as they depart.
During the week I make my way south to Plymouth to cycle along the coast to Southampton. Coming along for the brutal climbing on the Devon and Dorset coast are Martin and Tony. Expect a full report, and lots of bacon sandwiches, on my return.