Being Down with the Kids

Male hippie making a peace sign

Well it’s been a busy couple of weeks so I apologise now for ignoring you all. So, what have I been up to. Well I have completed a short-term teaching contract and that believe it or not was a very pleasant experience.

I know some grumpy old geezers who don’t talk to young people but I on the other hand love it. Getting down with the kids as it’s known in our house is one of the most entertaining things you can do.

It’s their understanding of how they think about the world and they have priorities that are not bound by our life experience.

For example, one young man told me last week  that he wasn’t late because he had phoned up to let me know he was going to be late.

There is a logic in that premise, but it’s still flawed.

Another student once asked me “what was it like when the world was in black and white”. I answered, “I can only remember it being in colour”. To which they replied “so why do we have black and white films then”.

Don’t get me going about mobile phones. They seem to walk around looking at the screen with earphones in. If they lose Wi-Fi it’s as though the world has ended.

The main thing though I have noticed about the young people is that they have a different outlook on life and different priorities than us baby boomers.

Firstly, they don’t live to work, they work to live, and that is no bad thing. They are also brutally honest to the point of being rude and above all they need to feel respected, but don’t we all.

So, to all the grumpy old geezers out there here is my advice. Look past the hoodies, the trainers and the dodgy haircuts because think back to when you were a teenager, just how cool did you look in a pair of flared velvet trousers and a Kaftan.

I think the answer is not very cool at all.

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A Night at the Happy Beaver

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Tonight, has been a good night, no one was killed or even threatened slightly and in this day and age is a good thing. I find the older I get the less I am shocked at what the world throws at us.

My visit to the happy beaver tonight has been a great experience at best very funny and even at its lowest point it was a very enlightening experience. What I have discovered in my adventure with alcohol is that people become far less guarded and the true nature of a person comes to the fore. Now this is no bad thing, quite the contrary.

Tonight, I have discovered that people would like to be perceived as being like swans gliding through life without a single issue. That as we know is not how life is.

We all have moments when we feel like our lives are spiralling out of control and we feel like screaming. In other moments, we feel comfortable and totally in control. All this leads me to believe is that life is like a roller coaster ride, sometimes we are in control and others we are not and this is the fabric of life.

We are only here for a short time.  I know when you are young you feel like you are immortal. The older you get you realise that life is very short and you should live in the moment and make the most of every second.

So back to my premise. I have laughed, and I have had a blast with all sorts of people who all are fighting battles that no one else knows about.  They are people who have great compassion and know how to have a great time.

That is a quality we should teach our young ones, life is to be grasped by the throat and shaken vigorously. If there is a lesson to be learned you should travel whilst young, be hungry for knowledge and find a career that lets you be a child for the rest of your working life.

That way you never work a day in your life and you become like the people in the Happy Beaver, comfortable in their skin, care about other people and above all have the ability to laugh at themselves even more than they laugh at other people.

The Hectic Life of the Semi Retired

Older man relaxing by a luxurious pool

I am now embracing the life of a semi-retired individual and all the flexibility that comes with it. The freedom to do whatever you like whenever you want does have a certain appeal.

The reality of course is far from that. In between your family and doctors’ appointments there seems little time to do what you want when you want.

I don’t know what it is about the medical profession but once you reach sixty they have a fascination with your health and keep sending you for endless checkups. Now I’m not complaining and our doctor is fantastic. So much so that he appears on the latest Nation Health commercials for lung cancer.

I know that is no measure of his prowess as a doctor but he has the manner that I find refreshing in a Doctor. Not only is he good at diagnosis but he tells you like it is and whilst that might not be everyone’s cup of tea it certainly suits me.

This week we are off to Manchester for some tests with Lady Ann who is suffering breathing issues at the moment. So far, we have had several hospital visits, met some very capable doctors and some very nice support staff who are working incredibly hard to find out what the problem is.

I am just glad I don’t live in a country that charges for healthcare because by now I am sure the amount of treatment lady Ann has had I would now be living under a railway arch somewhere in a sleeping bag.

To add to our extensive diary commitments, whilst we were out the other day I received a call from a colleague I worked with at the local college. She had phoned to see if I was busy and before I had chance to answer Lady Ann had volunteered me for a couple of days teaching for the next few weeks just so I don’t get bored! I think she just wants me out of the house just so she can get some peace.

Now I don’t mind but I had my heart set on watching a box set or two and embracing one of life’s true luxuries, the afternoon nap. Ann’s logic is that the extra money could pay for some of life’s little luxuries and I’m all for that.

So after I finished my first week of teaching Ann said she thought that I needed cheering up so she had booked a surprise cruise for us in May next year. Now that was a surprise and I do love the Aegean, something she said for me to look forward to. What I wasn’t expecting was the bill! All I can say is I am really cheerful now!

Somehow this retirement malarkey isn’t panning out quite as I had planned it. But at least I am not getting bored!

The secret of creating interest in your blog

Teddy

The other day whilst I was getting out of the car on the road in front of Eccles Hall I found a very small cute Teddy Bear which was probably dropped by one of the children on their way to our local primary school.

It was raining and I thought I would do the right thing and pick him or her (we haven’t decided yet) and take it in doors. We dried it out and I had a thought, why don’t I use social media to try and reunite the little fellow with its owner.

What happened next has be almost lost for words. I posted a picture of him and asked if anyone recognised him or her and message me if you need to pick him up. I know its a long shot but you never know it could work.

Normally my pedestrian posts about were I am or what I had for breakfast etc normally get one or two likes or retweets but the amount of interest it has generated has surprised me to say the least.

To date it has been retweeted 35 times and liked by 11 other people. When you look at how many followers each have its been seen by 17,500 individuals. Non of them may I add from were I live.

The majority of the people come from Manchester which is about 15 miles away

Next is Oldham which is 9 miles away

But my favourite was the guy in New York who I thinks Diggle is a city.

Now this has been the most interest I have ever had on my social media. Now I wait to see if our little visitor manages to be reunited with his owner.

The End of Summer

elderly retired couple sitting together on the bench in autumn park, love concept

Summer here in the UK is when most people take a vacation or the very least have a long weekend doing stuff of life rather than the stuff of paying bills.

Now according to the BBC (and they should know) this year summer started on Wednesday 21st of June and will end on Friday the 22nd September. But if you are like me you think that summer ends as soon as the kids go back to school and that is normally the first week in September.

I think we all have our personal clocks that match our lifestyles. For example a friend of mine his clock is governed by the Premier League and when the season starts thats when his every waking moment is analysing the fixtures and team signings, etc.

Now here in Saddleworth it’s a standing joke that our winters start a month before anyone else and summer starts a Month later. This means in real terms that our summer is one month long and  with a challenging climate it means that if it isn’t raining its either just stopped or its about to start.

People who visit us from abroad always comment on how green it is, I tell them thats because it is always raining. Now that is an exaggeration but everyone I know has an umbrella and a waterproofs in the car and when we get to November you can add to that a shovel and walking boots in case of snow.

So the beginning of September gives me a feeling a little like Sunday nights when you have work the day after.

Now we have another couple of weekends away to come before the end of the month so I am doing my Mr Sunshine dance so we can at least feel the warmth on our bones before the first frost arrives.

So here I am moaning at the passing of summer and grumbling about a bit of rain. I can only count my blessings that we do not suffer to the extent of the poor people of Texas who have lost family members and everything they own in some terrible storms.

Now in recent weeks we have read in the media about the rise of Right Wing Facist groups operating in America but all the photographs I have seen in recent days doesnt bear that out.

In a time of need most people will try to help and it doesn’t matter what your beliefs, politics or race are.

It’s a pity we don’t remember that when everything is running smoothly.

The Shock of the Summer

Image courtesy of 96.2 The Revolution

For me this has been a summer of shocks and this week the biggest shock of all came in the form of our local newspaper The Oldham Evening Chronicle being placed in administration because of dwindling circulation and ever decreasing advertising revenus which made its business position untenable.

The Oldham Evening Chronicle for many of the towns older folks was the first stop to find out what was happening in the town and more importantly it was a place that made our local politicians and council officers accountable for the decisions they make and that is an important function of any media institution.

Now many people will blame the introduction of the internet, free news sites and social media for the decline in readership, but thats not the only reason.

More importantly the readership have less time to spend consuming the stories and articles that newspapers deliver. We have arrived at a population of headline readers. People who are intrigued by a headline then will want a very short paragraph or two outlining the detail of the item and that is not viable when you have to fill column inches in a daily newspaper.

So after 160 years the paper has finally shut its doors and the town will be a lot worse off for it’s passing. I hope that the dedicated staff who lost their jobs soon find a new home for there skills but somehow it wont be the same, we will loose all that local knowledge and expertise which means that something very special has now been lost forever.

A Sad Long Goodbye

 

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It’s been a bit of a bad day today. I was woken this morning with the sad news that an old friend had sadly passed in the night. Now this was no surprise to me as we had said our unspoken goodbyes at our last meeting but it was upsetting non the less.

Paul and myself go back a good few years, about thirty to be precise. Now in that time our lives collided now and again but as life has shown me it is not the frequency of contact that counts, it’s the feeling that meeting engenders.

Paul had that rare ability to make you feel special, that you make a difference and that you had relevance in an ever complicated world. That may sound a little old fashioned to the thrusting young guns but can I say this is a very special gift.

I am not one to eulogies but today I am at a loss. I have mixed feelings, I think maybe I could have done more to help his final weeks on this planet we call home but I am sure that is not what he wanted. I know this because he like me was someone who played his cards very close to his chest.

In the end all he wanted was to be surrounded by his loved ones and to feel normal not to be a victim but to have a pint in a place he called home surrounded by people he cared about and who cared about him.

My final meeting with him was when he was very ill and with his wife we sat in the square in Dobcross sharing a pint or two talking nonsense and me trying to convince him and myself that the inevitable may not happen.

To his credit he didn’t try to make me look like an idiot (but in the face of adversity I think we all turn into blithering idiots).

This is a man who made my life a little brighter when we met, made me a little more compassionate and above all made me think I had a friend who I could count on.

So all that remains to say is fairwell my friend I hope your God is kind to you and maybe we will meet again in some other place.

God Bless and my thoughts are with your family at this time.

OMG I am debt free! So what do I do now?

Debt Free.

I am in a unique position like about 5% of the population I am about to pay my mortgage off. As a sixty odd year old guy you are probably thinking what took you so long.

Well, I can tell you, Its because mid career I decided to take the decision to become one of the great unwashed!

Now if you are one of the fortunate people who have always had a salary to depend on you are lucky enough to enjoy your job you won’t understand my logic, but if you are not passionate about what you do eventually the salary slips don’t make up for the boredom you have to endure. With that thought in mind I became one of many people who serve a very important part of the creative industries economy, I became a freelancer.

Now freelancers are a very special bread, they operate on a very different level to most people you know. They live in a very precarious business environment and are often brought in to provide very creative solutions to very difficult scenarios and some of the guys I have worked with are borderline geniuses.

Now you would think that most businesses that employ us are happy with this arrangement, but sometimes they are not. They often pay us handsomely to give them the information and strategies they need but then they often ignore us because they judge it to radical and goes against their own business operating environment .

This is very frustrating and can lead to a breakdown in many a working relationship. I can say though I have never had to walk away from a contract because of that reason.

If you are brave enough to operate in this environment it is one of the most rewarding environments to work in. When you make a difference no matter how small you get a warm fuzzy feeling inside.

Most people I know who work in the media do not do it for the money, they do it because they can make a difference.

I look at people like Amor Rajan who was the editor of the Independent. He and his team had the hearts of lions. They in one headline and photograph showed the world the true horror of being a refugee. A small boy being picked out of the waves in Greece reduced my to tears and has had a lasting effect on me.

Without people like him to uncover injustice and hypocrisy the world would be a far darker place.

So tonight I will sleep knowing I will not have to sell my humble family pile anytime soon and I can work in the voluntary sector and get some job satisfaction. I can also pursue vanity projects that I can see a point to rather than trying to please everyone and that is a great position to be in.

Someone once asked me if you could turn the clock back 20 years would you still make the same decisions that I made then or would I change them.

I can safely say I wouldn’t change a thing!

 

Technology can take you to the most surprising places

maps

Myself and Lady Ann have just returned fro our annual road trip. Something we started a couple of years ago when we discovered we where not getting any younger and if we left it much longer it would be to late.

We decided the day after boxing day that this years adventure would be on the Wild Atlantic Way in Ireland. So after months of planning and booking hotels and what we would like to see it was all planned with military precision (that is how deluded I am, it never goes to plan does it).

So early on a Sunday morning we packed the car with enough clothes for a month satchels containing ferry reservations, Hotel confirmations, route plans, maps and even the iPad just in case we needed technology backup. I know I said it was going to be wild, but the Comfortable Atlantic Way doesnt seem to sound quite as an attractive proposition.

We arrived in time for our ferry to Ireland, had a peaceful three hours eating and sleeping ready for our dash across country for our first nights stop in Galway.

Our next stop was the Cliffs of Moher and onto Lahinch for Pizza with some Surfer Dudes who looked at us as though we were in the wrong place but very pleasant all the same. After a quick trip on the Kilrush Ferry it was onto Limerick for another overnight stop.

Beach 01

Inch Beach, Dingle Peninsula

Now the highlight of the trip for me was to explore the Dingle peninsula with all its incredible scenery and some great beaches. We even took a boat ride out to spot Dolphins which we did in Scotland last year which didn’t produce any significant sightings. This was very different. We spotted one so close you could have reached out and touched him.

dolphin

So this is were the adventure really starts. After three days travelling Lady Ann was getting Cabin Fever so we decided to take a short cut to our final destination which when we looked on the map seems a rational decision to make. What could possibly go wrong?

To help us along the way I put our destination into the Sat Nat and pressed go and away we went following the instructions from the very annoying lady in the device.

Everything was going swimmingly well for the first 20 or so miles then she told us to turn left into a single track road which I duly did. I thought it must be a short cut through to another main road, how wrong was I then.

It took us through a mountain pass called the Priests Leap for 20 or so miles on a single track. The scenery was spectacular, we saw Rabbits and various birds which you only see in the wilderness.

Priests Leap

Priest’s Leap

Once you reach the top of the pass (350m) you get spectacular panoramic views of Bantry Bay. But this is not only a visual highlight, in this place there is absolute silence. Only the bleating of some sheep could be heard from time to time.

In twenty miles we only saw two more cars and I had to reverse a couple of hundred yards so they could pass. The driver in the other car looked even more startled than us which made me feel less of a wimp.

Once we came down the other side which was equally terrifying and we reached civilisation and drew a sharp intake of breath and do what one does in these situations, find a cafe and have a brew and some cake (if more people did this the world would be a much nicer place).

When we reached Kilsale our destination I decided to check carefully the route back, I didn’t fancy another repeat performance and I checked the settings on the Sat Nav and I discovered what the issue was.

Every SatNav has settings that you should use to modify its operation to what you need it to do. One of these settings was the choice between the quickest route or the most economical. I set it to quickest and my issues evaporated.

Crossfire top

But it got me thinking. Firstly, my Crossfire was possibly the only Crossfire ever to visit the summit and two it was a journey that made me feel just a little scared and that is no bad thing at my age.

It will make a great tale to tell in the pub after a couple of pints.

We had a brilliant week in Ireland and one thing is certain, we will be back next year to do the other half of the route. We saw some great things, met some fantastic people, ate and drunk far to much and loved every minute of the trip.

Now that is the measure of a good road trip. As Douglas Adams once famously said. “I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I intended to be.

Here is the rest of the trip in a couple of minutes

The place I made my best decision ever

Steak and Chips

Cast your minds back to March 1975 and picture the scene. Lady Ann and myself where out for a romantic meal as it was then at our local restaurant.

People think that eating out is a fairly recent invention but I can assure you that it was very popular but a completely different experience to what it is now.

It was in a time before globalisation and the food was very basic and mainly consisted of Prawn Cocktail starters with very large well cooked steaks with chips and garden peas followed by Black Forest Gateaux . All washed down with either a bottle of Blue Nun or if you wanted a particularly nice candle holder for the house a bottle of Mateus Rose.

It was a time when it was quite acceptable to be smoking whilst at the table and all the guys had pints of Bitter and the ladies bottles of Babycham.

Very sophisticated I can hear you say but then it was a simpler world and people had just been introduced to this pastime through watching James Bond movies.

Now I know I’m going off topic a little but even after forty-two years it somehow seems like it was yesterday. So why am I remembering this now.

Yesterday myself and Lady Ann on our way back from Manchester decided to do Lunch, (normally its Monday but somehow this week we have been particularly busy). Lady Ann suggested lets see if we can get in at The Black Ladd in Shaw. So this is were you now discover what I am going on about.

As we entered to see if we could get a table, all the memories from years ago came flooding back. It has changed a little and still has all the charm of an old English Pub and it was packed which I found surprising with it being Thursday.

We sat down and ordered our lunch and whilst I was waiting for it to arrive I looked across the room towards a little table that sits in a small alcove, an ideal romantic corner if ever there was one.

I said to Ann do you remember what happened in that alcove all those years ago. She said “yes you spilled wine all over the table”. I said “besides that”. “She said yes and it doesn’t seem that long ago does it”.

It was the place I proposed to her and luckily for me she said yes, it was the best decision I ever made. I have wondered if she feels the same but I don’t think I will ask, as my Dad used to say never ask a question that could give you an answer you may not like.

If only David Cameron had listened to similar advice we wouldn’t be leaving Europe!