A New day and a New Year. It’s strange how the hype of New Years Eve and the rhetoric about new beginnings never cease to amaze me. A new year is just a continuation of the old one but with a new number.
Its a little bit like birthdays, I have a landmark birthday coming up and people are asking how do you feel about that, my answer is just like I do now but a day older.
As a modern society we place too much store in events that have no real significance whatsoever in everyday existence.
So this year when lots of people are saying no to alcohol for a dry January, I will be making a different statement. What about GInuary, it sort of works for me, so for everyone who buys me a Gin and tonic this month I will donate the same amount to help the homeless, now that’s a campaign!
All I can say I have made no resolutions, no promises I can’t keep but I will be trying to be a nicer person to people who really don’t deserve it.
So Happy New Year and I hope its a good one and it will be if you look out for those less fortunate because Karma always favours the kind hearted.
I am sat here at the end of a very long Christmas Day and I have loved every single moment of it.
Our day started fairly early about 8.00 am, now I can hear all the couples who have young children saying “luxury, ours children got up at six thirty”.
Ours have now fled the nest and it is our grand children who phone us to ask when we are going to arrive bearing gifts like Santa Claus.
So by nine we are on our first present drop-off the day, children vibrating from excitement and parents looking suitably knackered from getting up so early.
By eleven we are on the second drop of the morning and again we are met by youthful exuberance which I have to say is very infectious.
The third visit was to see an Aunty who unfortunately isn’t well enough to join us in our family dinner and then on to visit Anns brother who also can’t join us.
Now by mid afternoon I am beginning to feel like a driver from some delivery service and can I say I do get grumpy when I miss my afternoon nap!
By three we have to be at Sarah’s, our daughters for Christmas dinner.
Now Christmas dinner at my daughters is a thing of logistical beauty. She and Phil her long suffering partner every year manage to make it a very special day. This year we had twelve sitting down to Christmas Dinner and everyone gets into the swing of things.
Not only is the food great (apart from the smoked potatoes) but so is the company. With an age gap some 70 years everyone never stops talking. Now that maybe not unusual but having a great time is an even greater achievement.
Now if like me you lead a sheltered life then what happened next may or may not surprise you. Our children and partners decided that we should play a card game called Cards Against Humanity which sound very innocuous, but I can assure you it isn’t .
This is a very simple concept until you start reading the cards and the answers. Now Lady Ann was designated as the master of ceremonies who had to read out the statement on the black cards and then read out the cards that people offered up as answers.
Never in my wildest dreams would I have ever thought that she would have read out such profanities (even though in an innocent fashion) that shocked our children to the core! (Can I just say the Grand Children were in the room next door playing on the Xbox which could not have been as entertaining).
The only issue is that I know that tomorrow I will have to explain what these term mean but more importantly I will have to explain how I know what they mean. Now that is very difficult when you are sober but when you have a hangover now that is a whole different proposition.
So I hope that you have all had a great day and let’s hope the rest of your festivities follow a similar vein, So all that remains to say is I hope you have laughed as much as I have with people who you love and as you progress through life you will that you will find that is the one thing that makes all the difference .
I can’t believe the town we’re I live was at the centre the industrial revolution. It shouldn’t come as much of a surprise because Oldham is a town full of surprises.
Historically it was at the centre of the global cotton industry, and as part of that was also at the centre of social reform.
During this period workers campaigned for better working conditions and improved social welfare and these issues mobilised women in the town to campaign for the vote.
If like me you were probably introduced to the Suffragette movement at school. But if you only read the couple of paragraphs in the text books like I did then you only got the headlines, the story is far more interesting and inspirational.
It was a campaign that involved women from all over the country from mill workers in the north through to the landed gentry in the south. All with a common cause, to have a say in how the country was run. They wanted the vote and fought very hard to achieve it.
Today something happened that would have been unheard of a century ago. A statue of the local suffragette and campaigner Annie Kenney was unveiled in the front of the Old Town Hall.
It wasn’t that long ago that the council was looking to put a statue of Winston Churchill on the plinth to celebrate his achievements and as much as he was a great statesman in later life, his brush with Oldham was less than inspiring.
So why do I think Annie Kenney is a better choice?
Her influence along with Emmeline Pankhurst showed working class people who thought they had no voice that if they joined together they could make a difference.
These women changed our country for the better, they gave women and the down trodden a voice to make a change for the better.
I wish we had people of that spirit around today, I wonder what we could achieve if we did.
Its Sunday morning and I am sat here recovering from a very busy week realising I may not be as young as I used to be. So let me explain.
Months ago I was approached by the College I used to work for to help arrange their annual awards evening. Now I know this doesn’t seem like a big job but the way the Oldham College do it its like the Oscars with bells and whistles.
So in April I started creating the first draughts of the running order and booking equipment for the evening which you need to do in order to make sure you can turn your idea into a reality.
The week started with one or two changes to the running order a few changes to some video inserts and generally making sure that everything is in position for the all important deadline which by this point immovable on Thursday evening at 6.30.
So this is were it starts to get challenging. A couple of weeks ago Lady Ann found out that she had to go into hospital for some surgery on Tuesday. I thought this is manageable I can work during the day and visit in the evening and she would be home for Friday. So I dutifully dropped her at the hospital in Manchester at 7.30 in the morning which was the time they gave us (Not me dumping her in a chair and running) which gave me the days to polish the rest of the videos for Thursdays show.
Tuesday evening I go to visit Lady Ann who I must say was as high as a kite but looked very relaxed but was talking gibberish. So I then went home to an empty house which after 40 odd years is a very strange experience I can tell you.
Wednesday arrived and then the work begins. All the AV equipment arrives and has to be installed. Now the College has the foresight to ensure that the students take part in the running of the awards ceremony as part of their work experience. So this is the first time I meet my crew, they all arrive fresh faced and inexperienced ready to take part in the running of the event.
This is the part of my job I love, developing young people and helping them achieve something that they would consider an impossible task a few days ago. They always rise to a challenge and they always deliver. Some of the contractors and the entertainment did this event when they were at college and still remember it like it was yesterday.
So everything is going swimmingly well, my plan is going to plan that is until I get a phone call at 5.30 from Ann saying she can come home but can’t be left on her own for 24 hours.
Now not for one second did I think I wouldn’t pick her up and bring her home but then I had the issue of who can look after her whilst I was out working all day Thursday. This is were having a family is great, I phone my daughter up and that was all sorted.
After picking Ann up I had some last minute amends to make to some graphics which meant my bedtime was 2.00 am to make sure that rehearsals can go ahead as scheduled. It was a great evening, catching up with colleagues I hadn’t seen for a while and watching the faces of the proud parents as there kids picked up there heard earned awards.
At 9.00pm it is all over the awards taken home and the £150 worth of pizza for the crew was just a few empty boxes neatly stacked on a table.
So why was the event a success.
I was surrounded by great people from the college who make things happen.
I was supported by great technical staff from companies I trust implicitly to deliver what they promise.
And finally I arrive before everyone and go home after everyone to make sure that everything is done and ready for the next collective deadline. That is the secret of success in the AV business.
So to all the award winners, congratulations. To all the nominees commiserations but you have obviously worked hard to even be nominated.
So why am I tired, well according to my phone in two days I walked 12 miles and climbed 57 flights of stairs. Juggled numerous requests for script changes run two rehearsals and staged the event and on the Friday de rigged the venue all in time for lunch with Lady Ann.
Since Friday lunch time I have now taken on the role of head nurse at Eccles Towers, Sarah my daughter has given Ann a bell that she can ring when she needs something. Now that can be very annoying when you are trying to have an afternoon nap especially when I am sat in the chair next to her who has set up base on the settee, but I wouldn’t change it for the world.
Ann has now stopped talking gibberish and is issuing orders left right and centre which must mean she is on the mend.
So next week I am hoping for a bit of a rest, but I cant see it happening anytime soon.
Its been a busy old week for retired grumpy old bloke, myself and lady Ann decided to have a gander at the new release that is Bohemian Rhapsody. (even though the critics have had a field day).
Because of what I see is what I judge , I honestly think it’s a great movie . It tells a story, I care not a jot that it may be factually correct but that I connected to it emotionally.
Movies are by their nature are a work of fiction. A version of the facts that maybe true or not.I think to judge a historical movie you have to experienced what it was like then and not now.
It is what life was like in the Seventies and Eighties which is quite different to what our understanding is now. Is is a fairly authentic representation of what it was like back in a far more innocent time.
So how can a thirty odd year old judge what they are seeng if they did not experience what life was then.
So let’s look at the track record of these critics. “ Blade runner “ one of the most iconic movies of all time”, thats a no then!“Apocalypse Now” do I need to go on because my list is endless!
Now I am not saying that this movie was without its faults, but it did what it said on the poster, it told a story of a man who was flawed, and who was troubled but told it with dignity. I agree it was a little forgiving but gave a credible back story that made Lady Ann cry, so it obviously touched a nerve somewhere.
People who make films are a unique bread, they do it because they love telling stories. It it does not sit easy with Directors or Producers to be judged by people who spend their lives behind a keyboard and criticise what they have achieved.
Making a film is not easy, even without the battles over funding and all the crap that comes with executive producers. Filmmakers are a unique bread, It is very simple they do it because they passionate about what they do and would probably work even if they didn’t get paid.
Film critics on the other hand are a far more venomous proposition. They are judged on column inchesrather that creative input and could I suggest it is far simpler to critique rather that create something,
So in my world I do not listen to the critics, I may learn from them if I think it is relevant but on the whole the only people I listen to are the audience, because they vote with their feet.
So on a scale of one to ten Bohemian Rhapsody scores a massive nine mainly because it transported me back to the eighties which I look back at with some affection.
I can’t believe it’s two months since I last wrote anything on this blog so I apologise for my rather tardy behaviour. Since my last understated literary masterpiece things have been rather frantic.
Many of you will be aware that I have actively been trying to retire now for the past couple of years but my strategy of picking and choosing projects to work on that won’t interfere with me enjoying myself appears to be getting in the way of me being lazy and idling my days away.
Now my idea of retirement was to do lots of things that I wanted to do rather that the things I had to do to pay the mortgage and the other essentials that living in these days requires.
There is a flaw in that strategy. What happens if what you enjoy doing is what you did as a career! Now there is nothing I love more that delivering a challenging project and without blowing my own trumpet it is something I am quite good at.
That’s when it all gets a little confusing, especially to Lady Ann who since my first attempt at retirement has had a list of chores for me to do a mile long and after two years it’s still half a mile long.
So why would a retired person wish to go back to work, and work as hard as they did when they were working?In my case it’s all to do with maintaining your lifestyle without the risk of running out of money in your retirement and I also blame the latest in car handsfree technology.
It seems that most jobs that come in are from people who I have worked with before and they always start with a phone call. Now if I’m in the car I am a good boy and I ignore it and return the call when I have a break on the journey, that is a sort of filtering system that means I can get in some “me” time.
The issue is that if Lady Ann is in the car she answers the calls and volunteers me for all sorts ofprojects that which although are very interesting and keep my mind going they are also very time consuming.
So I am currently sat here approaching midnight working on scripts, running orders and production schedules that will ensure that I can still play at being a producer and get paid for the privilege and that is great.
Now if you ask any producer what drives them, most of them will tell you it is not just the money, it’s the challenge of creating something that people will see and hopefully like. So for the next four weeks I will be stomping around the house with my mobile pressed to my ear trying to negotiate with some fantastically talented people across Manchester so we can collectively produce something incredible.
Once that is complete I can get back to ignoring the dreaded list of chores and maybe Lady Ann and myself can get away for a quiet weekend somewhere before the juggernaut that is Christmas visits Eccles Towers and all the pandemonium that will ensue until the new year!
I sit here on the eve of one of the busiest weekends of the year here in Saddleworth, The Yanks are coming!
When I say Yanks I mean an army of 1930s re-enactors along with Jeeps, tanks, guns, uniforms and all of the paraphernalia that goes along with them visiting. These are very dedicated people who love to celebrate the past and in Churchill’s words “our finest hour”. We even have a fly pass of spitfires and Lancaster’s!
It is all under the premise celebrating the film Yanks that was made in the seventies using locations in and around Saddleworth.
Now I know its not fashionable to celebrate war on any level however if you look past the obvious I can see the appeal. For example if you can imagine you lived through those years. For some it meant huge sacrifice but for some who came out of it on the other side it was quite possibly the most exciting and dangerous time of your life.
Veterans who I have spoken to who survived say that they lived in the moment and didn’t take anything for granted and did extraordinary things just to survive.
Last week I read of an extraordinary woman, Mary Ellis who was 102 who had passed away. Nothing remarkable there I hear you say but what she did in the war years was astounding. She delivered Spitfires and all sorts of planes to airfields all over Europe.
I just wish there were role models like her around today for our young people to look to for inspiration instead of the endless battalions of reality stars who are all about themselves rather than working for the greater good.
We seemed to have travelled backwards since that time. After the war many of the women who worked as engineers and in all sorts of positions that were normally the preserve of men quietly returned to being the “little woman at home”.
What a wasted opportunity that was, all that talent wasted just so we could all get back to normal.
So back to this weekend, There will be promenading, dancing, drinking and everyone having a fantastic time. But I think that we should share a thought for the generations of people who sacrificed so much for us to enjoy the lives we have today which I sometimes take for granted.
So to everyone who lost a relative or a loved one I thank you for your sacrifice and I hope that in years to come we will still remember them and try to ensure that the incalculable loss on all sides was not in vain and we do not travel down that path again anytime soon.
This year it was Lady Anns turn to pick our holiday (since I picked last years epic road trip to Ireland) and she had other ideas about what a holiday should be. So she booked us a cruise around the Adriatic visiting all sorts of places we would never think of visiting.
To some people cruising could be seen as your worst nightmare, stuck at sea with lots of people who you may not like. The reality is far different.
Imaging staying in a luxury hotel and it moved every night to a new location whilst you sleep so you get to explore another great location every day. We did a cruise several years ago and most of the places we visited we have been back to for holidays so it’s a great way to explore holiday options for the future.
So what did I discover on this trip?
I discovered that coincidence is still alive and kicking. On the first night the head waiter sat us at a table with a random set of people only to find out that the guy sat next to Lady Ann went to the same primary, junior and secondary school as her and lived in the next street to her when she was growing up.
I discovered that the Italians are still as cool as ever making me feel quite inadequate in the fashion stakes.
I also discovered that Croatia and Slovenia are beautiful places that are still relatively unspoiled by tourism which I found very refreshing in this day and age.
My only disappointment was Venice. We visited it about fifteen years ago and it was a magical place full of deserted back streets and interesting squares with local people eating and drinking in the cafes.
What a change, it was rammed full of tourists in every corner (thats rich coming from a tourist) which made it more of an ordeal than a visit. According to the guide who showed us around it gets busier in August and I was thinking to myself how can you get even more people in his magical city without destroying what makes it unique.
Having said that we had lunch on Burano, one of the islands in the lagoon and that was fantastic.
The only saving grace of the visit to Venice was that when leaving the ship travelled down the Canale delia Giudecca which meant that I could take all the photographs of Venice from the comfort of the balcony with my camera in one hand and a drink in the other.
I think on reflection my favourite destination was Hvar in Croatia. A busy little port which hopefully will not turn into another Venice in years to come.
So after a busy week of cruising we arrived home feeling a little rested only to drop into the highly stressful preparation for Saskia’s School Prom. I think stressful may be an understatement, never have I seen such levels of anxiety about hairdo’s, makeup, dresses and the like of which I never knew existed. I hate to think what it will be like if she ever happens to get married, one thing I am sure of I will need a longer holiday to prepare for it.
But when she was ready and the Pre prom Photographs were taken it was well worth all the stress (according to the women in the family) but to me she always looks fantastic but then again I may be biased!
The Rolling Stones have been in Manchester this week and according to the local press tickets were changing hands at £400.00 a pop. So as much I would have loved to have seen them I will be giving that a wide berth then.
The other big music event this week is the Diggle Blues festival and very good it is to. What makes it better is that it is free, all the organisers want from the audience is to turn up and throw a quid in a bucket if you liked what you saw. I have been known to throw a tenner in when the group has been fantastic.
What I like is the diversity of the bands and the venues. We have the local pub (The Gate), a coffee shop (The Woolyknit Cafe), A band Club (Diggle Band Club), an Ice-cream Parlour (Grandpa Greens), A Church Hall (Kilngreen) and a Cookery School (Saddleworth Cookery School).
The Sessions are arranged so that you have 30 minutes to get to the next venue so you don’t miss anything.
What people of my generation want is to be transported back to a time when almost every pub in the town had a live band playing and the atmosphere was fantastic. There is nothing quite like listening to live music for raising your spirits and in this day and age we could do with quite a lot of live music working its magic.
These bands and performers are fantastic at what they do and mostly they do it because they love performing and they get paid for doing what they love.
So back to my opening paragraph, do you think Messers Jagger and Richards when they started out playing in pubs would have dreamt they would still be filling stadiums some 56 years later. I very much doubt it.
Saddleworth and Whit Friday will always be special to me. I first moved to Saddleworth when Sarah my daughter was two, and whilst walking today we collectively worked out we have walked on Whit Friday every year since.
We have lived in saddleworth now for thirty six years. We didn’t walk the first year because we didn’t know what it was. But I learned the hard way. Ann woke me up and said she had heard a shuffling sound in our front garden.
Now being a virile twenty odd year old (wishful thinking) I sprung out of bed naked and I can assure you it was not a pretty sight. I threw the curtains back just in time for the conductor who was stood on my garden wall to strike up the band and the rest of the village in a hymn to welcome us to the village.
Now there is not many people who can say they have flashed the entire village were they live, but unfortunately I can. I still go red when certain women in the village give you a certain look that makes you feel very inadequate.
I must confess Whit Friday has become a bit of an emotional roller coaster for me, it’s not the fact that the brood assemble at Eccles towers and hoover up most of the natural resources that our planet has to offer or the fact that the weather could be dreadful, (I experienced four seasons in one hour one year on the march down to Uppermill). Its the fact that I have got to an age were I remember what I have lost.
I don’t mean my mobile phone or my car keys, which I do on a regular basis, I mean all the people who I have known throughout my years here. The place were I call home. people who I have laughed and cried with, people who I would love to be here.
Many of these people from my past have gone but I can assure you that they are not forgotten. I always get a lump in my throat on the way into Uppermill, I find myself looking for them in the crowd. I remember where I saw them in years gone by and that hurts a little.
I don’t care that it may be raining, I don’t care that my shoes may give me sore feet on the way back from our communal service in Uppermill. I am still here and I celebrate that fact. Life is short and it is what you make it and I love the fact that I am still here.
So this year with another whit Friday under my belt I think I am very lucky.
So with that thought in mind I wish everyone who takes part in “the greatest free show on earth” a healthy, safe and prosperous year and hopefully we can do it all again next year.