Category Archives: Journal

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

Downton Abbey – The Movie/Film – Week 40 : 2019

October 9, 2019

I was sat at my desk and a voucher from Lloyds Bank caught my eye. As a customer they gave us six cinema tickets. I’d had half a mind to go and see the above film from its release. So on a cold Friday afternoon with nothing better to do than various chores that seemed deeply unappealing, I wended my way to north York to the Vue cinema. 

I grew up with musical films – South Pacific, Calamity Jane, My Fair Lady, High Society, The Sound Of Music. Most of these were from the 60s with no pretence at gritty realism or more ambition than seeing off a baddie and the guy getting the gal after a bit of a chase. The soundtracks were all sublime: how could you fail with Cole Porter, Rogers & Hammerstein or Frederick Loewe. Unfortunately there was no music involved in Downton Abbey but the harmless beautifully overdressed fun was similar.

Continue reading Downton Abbey – The Movie/Film – Week 40 : 2019

Father, Flu & The Garden Of England – Week 38 : 2019

September 18, 2019

An early morning text from an old friend alerted me to the latest edition of the local newspaper – The Yorkshire Post. There was a pull out section with images of the past. On the back was a photo of my father. He died in 1989 and 30 years later you don’t expect to see his photo in a newspaper. By the time of his photo I was living away from home but I vaguely recollect him coming across this post box/plate. He was a Councillor on Leeds City Council. I think this may have been something that was surplus to requirements after an old building was demolished and he he bagged it. He did have it refurbished and I expect it then languished in the garage or similar.

Continue reading Father, Flu & The Garden Of England – Week 38 : 2019