I Am Still Trying to Retire!

img_4387I 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 of  projects 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!

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It’s that time of year again, the Yanks are coming!

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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. 

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Mary Ellis – Image courtesy of http://www.Mirror.co.uk

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.

Holidays prepare you for stressful situations

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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.

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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.

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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.

Saskia05But 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!

Diggle Blues Festival Weekend

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The Lewis Hamilton Band @DiggleBandClub

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. 

Another Year Another Whit Friday

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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.

Karma will always get you back!

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I hope you guys feel like me. I blinked and my life went from Christmas to Easter in about a second!  I know from what my dad told me that the older you get the quicker life passes you by but I didn’t think it would be this quick.

I have turned into what I perceived as a geeky spectacled young dude into a plump balding old guy in the blink of an eye.

So how can we overcome this obvious trick of getting older. The only advice I can give you is treat every day like it’s your last and never ever put off doing what your heart desires.

Most sixty odd year old guys only have three things on their mind. If you are lucky it’s family, guitars and cars. If they are unlucky it is young nubile females who’s running costs far out weigh the benefits.

So here I am sat here after my usual night in the Happy Beaver thanking my lucky stars that I am here and worried enough about my reputation not to have done anything socialy unacceptable.

Lady Ann is being very patient with me at the moment because of my current interest in becoming a local councillor (which can I say has involved far more effort than I had imagined).

I decided on this course of action because someone once said that if you want to make a difference you have to put up or shut up. So rather than shouting from the sidelines I think you have to stand up and be counted and in this ever changing political landscape that is far more difficult to achieve than you think.

It’s the things like what do you stand for or which party has the most policies you agree with that causes me the most trouble.

This has caused me huge headaches but you have to go with the one that matches your personal values and the things that will make a difference to people who need help.

What I want is to stand for is for all people, the hard working individuals who are the backbone of this great country and those less fortunate who need a helping hand.

Now that is not a radical comment, I do not care if you are white, green or yellow. Christian or Muslim, it is about how you integrate into our communities that is important.

I treat people with respect and I in turn expect to be treated similarly. I want to help people to help themselves but not to the detriment of the people on the fringe of society who need our help to just exist.

That is the failing of our current government, they show little or no compassion or understanding of what its like to exist on the breadline with little hope of improving your lot in life.

So to all our MP’s and councillors I have this message.

DO NOT overlook the young, the sick, the elderly or the vulnerable because one day you may just be in the position of needing help yourself.

Show some compassion and give these people the respect they deserve because not everyone in society has had the opportunities that have been afforded to you.

Remember the God of Karma gives you back what you give to those who need help. The God of Karma also always pays back with equal measure any misdemeanours.

So be good or else!

Valentines Day Northern Style!

A friend of mine decided to make valentines day something special this year. After years of a house full of Kids, dogs, assorted friends and acquaintances he decided that this year was going to be different.

With the kids away at university he had decided it was time for some well deserved time together with his wife to try and capture some of the magic of when they first met, he decided to arrange as the americans call it a date night.

So he arrived home from work, armed with a bunch of roses and a reservation for a very nice restaurant. Now like most women married to Northern blokes this came as quite a shock, but took it in her stride and spent the next two hours getting ready for a romantic evening which she had thought was beyond her husbands limited romantic experience.

What she didn’t know was that he had enlisted the help of her sister and his daughters to find out what would be the ideal evening out and duly carried out to the letter the list which had been carefully constructed for him.

He had a  limo booked for seven to take them to the restaurant were upon arrival they had champagne cocktails waiting before being taken to the table in the corner were thirty years earlier he had asked her to marry him.

The meal was incredible, the wine flowed and all was going great. At the end of the meal the limo picked them up and took them to the Cinema were he had booked a private box for a showing of Les Misérables. Throughout the film they made use of the waiter service extensively.

All was going really well and after the film the limo came to pick them home which up to this point had been the perfect evening. He had carried out the list to the letter and his wife told him this was the best valentines day she had ever had.

By now it was well passed midnight and he decided that he would try to finish the night off with a suggestion of reliving another romantic episode from their past. He suggested that they could take advantage of the fact that they had the house to themselves so what about  making love in front of the fire like they used to in the years before the kids arrived and made it difficult to be so adventurous.

So with a glint in his wife’s eye he was amazed that she actually thought it was a great idea. He could not believe his luck and whilst she was getting the cushions ready he had a thought that after all the beer and wine he needed the bathroom.

He made his excuses and said he wouldn’t be long and his wife proceeded to make herself more comfortable making herself naked in front of the fire!

What happened next he cannot understand but after his visit to the bathroom he then inexplicably got in bed and went to sleep, only to be woken twenty minutes later by a naked furious wife throwing her clothes at him, before she left to sleep in the back bedroom.

Its now been a week since that night out and they are still not speaking, which goes to show men are rubbish at romance when left to there own devices!

The Joys of the Rural Lifestyle

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Here I am in the place I call home, Its green, rural and rugged. The stone cottages punctuate the great big green hills and I think in summer there are few places more beautiful.

So what is Saddleworth? It is a number of small villages built along the valley bottoms in the South Pennines all with rather strange sounding names. I live in a village called Diggle (names don’t come much more stranger than that).

So why do I think Saddleworth is so special.

I was brought up in a small mill town called Royton which was a place full of terraced houses, large cotton Mills and lots and lots of cobbled streets with lots and lots of people living on top of each other.

However my summers were spent in the Cotswolds at my Aunty and Uncles playing on the farm with my cousins. Even now I can still smell the fresh cut hay from when we used to help with the haymaking.

So when I got married as soon as we had the opportunity I moved to Saddleworth which was the closest thing to rural living I could afford without moving jobs.

I have lived here over 30 years so I must enjoy living here. We have raised a couple of kids who in turn have had families and are now trying to get on to the housing ladder in the area, which is becoming an almost impossible thing to do.

In the thirty years we have lived here it has changed immeasurably. New housing estates have been built and families have come and raised there kids just like we did but it’s getting harder and harder to do that.

Saddleworth as a whole is becoming more gentrified, we have coffee shops (and very good they are too). We have Gastro Pubs with fantastic food. But there is a downside to this.

House prices have risen above what an average family can afford and the Council want to build another 2000 houses in the area over the next twenty years all in the higher council tax bands to increase revenue.

You can imagine our narrow lanes and roads are already groaning under the strain of all the traffic and the doctors and schools are bursting at the seams.

It’s only when people start complaining about the issues the real problems start.

No one wants to change the charming olde worldliness of the area but everyone wants to park outside their own front doors.

They want public transport to be available when they want to use it but prefer using their own vehicles because it is more convenient.

People don’t want large scale developments of high cost housing but they don’t want affordable housing either because it might impact on the value of our properties.

So this is the dilemma of living in Rural England, we chose to live in the countryside because it offers us a lifestyle that we like and we don’t want it to change.

But everything changes with time and no doubt during the next twenty years we will have built over some very nice green hills and what attracted us to the area in the first place will be lost forever.

So here is my view, we need to build on land that has been built on before, brownfield sites and there are many all over Oldham. This is not me being a not in my backyard type, this is me not wanting what we have to be destroyed in the name of progress.

We do need affordable housing because I don’t want our villages to become old folks communities because families can’t afford to move here.

I want affordable housing to be built on brownfield sites rather than the half a Million Pound Houses that are currently being built on green fields.

Now is that a lot to ask!

An Adventure in Local Village Cinema

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This week I have been to a small local cinema in the village hall in Denshaw, Saddleworth and very nice it was to.

Non of that ever present noise  of explosions and intrusive American Voice overs or the smells of hot dogs and popcorn you get in a multiplex.

Imagine walking in and having homemade cake and scones washed down with a glass of wine before you even get to watch the film in very comfortable seats with another 100  people.

The added advantage is rather than the usual fare of blockbusters that seem to dominate every cinema complex at the moment, these guys pick films that may fall through the net at the more commercial venues.

We watched a brilliant film which I had never heard of before called “Lost in Paris” which is one of the funniest films I have watched in a very long time.

I am glad I am not a film critic because I would find it incredibly difficult to describe without spoiling it for anyone wanting to watch it.

All I can say it is beautiful to watch and especially look out for the dance routine by the elderly Emmanuel Riva and her old lover on a park bench which is both touching and brilliant.

The issue I have is that I could get used to being spoiled like this and what makes it even more enjoyable it only cost me £15.00  all in for two of us.

Last week it cost me £50,.00 to watch Star Wars in 3D which in its own way was spectacular but £50.00 is a bit steep even in 3D.

But Scones, wine and a belly laugh always works for me every time. Bring on next time I am sure my waistline can stand the home baking.

Have a look at the trailer you will see what I mean.

 

The Last Jedi I am Not!

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I have just returned from seeing the latest Star Wars film “The Last Jedi” and very enjoyable it was too. Myself and Lady Ann took James our ten year old grandson and he was mesmerised by the sheer spectacle of it.

Lady Ann on the other hand took the opportunity to get comfortable, warm and kept nodding off. Now thats not a reflection of the film more a reflection she hasn’t been sleeping very well  due to her back issues.

Its strange to think that the film franchise has been going for more than two-thirds of my lifetime and it must be one of the only franchises that most of the main character’s are still involved in a realtime storyline.

The iconic opening roller and fanfare still to this day still make the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end. It has to be one of the most iconic openings of all time.

This time though the film has had a more profound effect on me. It has made me more aware of my own advancing years. It was whilst watching these characters perform on the screen I realised I have known them for most of my adult life and that is very strange.

So with Luke and Princes Leia acting there grumpy old socks off on the big screen in my mind whilst watching them I can still remember vividly the younger versions of these characters in the first Star Wars movie back in 1978.

It got me thinking, I wonder when younger family members see me the person in front of them do they perhaps see a glimpse of me as my younger self.

I was trying to explain to James who Luke Skywalker was, I could see him trying to reconcile the young Luke Skywalker who he has seen on DVD and the one in the film, in his mind he thought the older Luke was the younger ones father. (because he has a friend who has the same name as his dad)!

According to James, age is an alien concept, he thinks his teacher is very old and she is only in her mid thirties, I haven’t been brave enough to ask him how old he thinks I am.

I suppose our culture is defined by the young for the young so I have now realised that maybe I have become a little more reflective and have started to look back just as much as I look forward.

Looking at the present do I see the panacea I was promised all those years ago?

Unfortunately not at all, all I am seeing is greater division in society and more and more social injustice.

I am sure most politicians enter office to make a difference and help everyone in our society. But I cant see that at the moment, all I see is self interest and people holding onto power at any cost.

I have realised however that if I was living in that Star Wars galaxy far far away I definitely would have been fighting the Empire.

As my mum once said I could get dirty in a field of snow so wearing a storm trooper’s uniform would be out of the question.