Wow! What a Week that Was

Coutesy of Getty Images

Well as second weeks of the new year went it has been quite a week.

We have poor Australia burning as we speak, President Trump has exceeded all expectations and has actually done the unthinkable and finally Prince Harry has delivered a death like blow to the monarchy.

Now Donald the Orange has done what most people would love to do by assassinating a rather vile individual (my mother said I should not speak ill of the dead) without batting an eyelid. The repercussions will reverberate around the globe fo a  long time. I must admit that when I saw him at the press conference earlier the pressure on him is not wearing well on his shoulders.

The only victims that I can see at the moment other that the target are the poor innocent people on the flight that was just leaving when the missiles were flying around who unfortunately died when the plane crash landed. That is the obscenity of war, the fact that it always the innocent who get caught up in the conflict that suffer the most.

Now I can’t do anything about Australia burning but people who are far more wealthy than me have donated millions to help a very rare bread of human and that is the Australian Firefighter.

Now I do not care what nationality or gender these fire fighters are but they stand and fight the fires that are unbelievable in scale or ferocity. These guys have been at it now for weeks and despite the odd politician trying to make political traction out of their efforts they have not budged an inch.

Earlier this week I happened to mention on Twitter that Lewis Hamilton had donated half a Million Dollars to help them and I cannot believe the reaction I  received for mentioning it. This is a man put his hand in his pocket and donated a huge amount of money to help without any expectation of reward.

So to the haters who think that he has done it to get positive publicity and a tax rebate I have one thing to say to you. Instead of criticising him give him a nod of appreciation. He didn’t have to donate anything, he did it because he thought it would make a difference, so from a grumpy northern bloke who would if he could afford to I thank him from the bottom of my heart.

Finally I cannot believe the furore that Harry and Megan have caused because they have chosen a life outside of what they are expected to live. I could have understood it if had been someone who was about to become at the next monarch but he has as much chance of that happening as I have becoming the next President of the United States.

Now I know that the public think that we fund the Royal Family and to a certain extent we do but at the last reckoning they brought in about a Billion Pounds into the economy. So the odd five million or so for his security etc. is a trifling amount in the grand scheme of things. If that’s what they want to do then I wish them all the happiness in the world.

What  cannot forgive them for is calling me and every other person in the United Kingdom for being racist towards Megan. This is an insult to me and everyone else in the country. I do not know Megan Merkel but I didn’t even know that she was a person of colour. If you see my granddaughter on a Friday night going out in her fake tan she looks very similar.

To me as someone who takes great exception to being labelled racist I find the situation deplorable and I after this obvious PR driven campaign to drive the couple’s popularity in America it is a shameful display of biting the hand that feeds you.

So all that remains to say is I hope the year improves on what the first few days have delivered on our doorstep. In the words of Lady Ann, Megan needs to man up and take her responsibilities seriously, she knew what she was getting into so she should deliver what is expected.

As a final comment its not very often I agree with Piers Morgan but I think he has hit the nail fairly and squarely on the head this week, now for me to say that it took some effort.

So finally I wish you all a healthy and prosperous new year, my prayers go out to the  people of Australia who have lost everything especially those who have lost the most precious thing of all their family members, Lewis for being an all round good guy and finally to Harry and Megan, I hope you find what you are looking for providing you don’t expect me to pay for it.

It’s the Student Life for me!

Untitled-1

What does a semi retired sixty odd year old do when the world starts to see him as the transparent grumpy old bloke that has very little relevance to the world in which he lives.

Now I am not complaining , I am quite happy with my lot, I travel, I am in good health and I keep abreast of the latest technology so I can survive in this world of handheld devices and the internet.

So back to my original question why?

The reason is simple, I am bored, not of life but after a life of tight deadlines and long hours my days have taken on a very sedentary pace. I needed stimulation of some sort so I thought that why not get back into education but not as a teacher but as a student.

So here I am six weeks into my first year as an undergraduate at the University of Central Lancashire studying Graphic Design at the University Campus Oldham and what a great time I am having.

Now my older friends think I have gone stark staring mad, others think I am getting down with the kids but what I am doing is keeping an open mind and exercising the grey matter and according to research that should keep me in good shape for years to come.

The added bonus is that Lady Ann my wife likes the idea and it gets me from under her feet for half a week as she says the fees are cheaper than a divorce!

Being a Teacher or Lecturer you forget what it is like to be a student and the biggest difference is that I am only responsible for my own learning, a refreshing change from managing 18 students in a class and being responsible for theirs.

I am learning some stuff I didn’t know, I am reinforcing what I already know and hopefully help people along the way with my experience in the production of creative products.

So its coming up to my first hand in and this is when I will discover whether or not I know as much as I think and can communicate it in a way that the examiners want it in. We will see after Christmas.

Trevor Horn saved my life!

Trevor Horn Band with The Sarn Orchestra

Lady Ann and myself have had a great week, apart from pedestrian activities like shopping for provisions and various doctors appointments we have ventured into unfamiliar territory we attended a concert in our local metropolis, Manchester!

Now I can hear all my friends asking why the hell would you want to put yourselves through that. 

Now we live in what our American friends call the Burbs, a place that is just far enough from civilisation but still has health support that is very effective and in this day and age that is definitely a bonus.

Now months ago a musical hero of mine, Trevor Horn CBE announced that he was touring with his band and an orchestra and was performing in Manchester and I immediately booked. 

It had been over 40 years since I first listened to the Buggles and I had always wanted to see them live, this was quite possibly the last chance I will get to see at least half of them so I jumped at the opportunity. 

I have to say that Lady Ann was less than enthusiastic at this news but seeing that I had been dragged to Micheal Bubble and Gary Barlow in recent years she reluctantly agreed to join me.

So we left to go into Manchester leaving enough time to park and get into the venue. Can I say that we only had one disagreement all the way in and that was about parking. We arrived got in our seats, got a drink and waited for the Concert to begin.

From the first number to the last this was like a romp through my favourite playlist from when I was young enough to be passionate about music. They covered songs I had forgotten and songs which reminded me of long lost times and brought a tear to my eye. 

It is not often you get to witness true talent and it was an evening of laughter and eye watering virtuoso performances from all of the band. Even Lady Ann enjoyed it which is a minor miracle in itself because apparently I only listen to ‘sad songs’.

It was so good that Lady Ann even bought me the tee shirt, (only because I bought her one at Paul Heaton and Jacqui Abbot the other month). So after a fantastic concert, (if you get chance to catch them it is well worth the ticket price) we made our way back to the car park.

Now bearing in mind that we travel a little slow because of my wife reliance on a walking frame we made our way back to the carpark behind the concert hall and I had a very surreal moment, Trevor Horn was stood by the rear barriers to the hall signing autographs.

Now bear in mind I never thought in a million years that I would ever meet the guy, but here I was with only two people getting autographs and I was within a very close proximity of meeting my all time musical idol which I have to say was a total shock. 

Now my mother always said that you should never meet your hero because they always disappoint. Can I say that she was totally wrong, 

I stood and waited like a teenager and went into total fanboy mode, strode forward and shook him by the hand and thanked him for a great concert and he very politely shook my hand and then saved my life from the barrier that was raising as I got to him that I had inadvertently missed.

Now Lady Ann was gobsmacked by the scene in front of her because after 45 years together she pointed out after the event it was totally out of character for me to actually put myself forwards and risk any type of rejection and that I am totally cynical when it comes to celebrity in any form, So she stood back and watched me make a total arse or myself.

So bearing in mind that I am famous for having a plan A,B and C in any situation I failed miserably, I didn’t have a pen so I didn’t ask for an autograph and I even forgot that I had a camera on my phone so I have no record of our encounter.

So I would like to thank Trevor for being ever so polite to a pushy 65 year old bloke and secondly for saving my life. But most of all I would like to thank him for all the great music that brought back so many memories whilst listening to the soundtrack of my life. 

Every song brought back fantastic memories and only great music does that and for that I will be eternally grateful.

The start of the Holidays

It has been a very strange day. Myself and Lady Ann decided mid afternoon to scoot over the hill to Yorkshire and sample the delights of the culinary cuisine on offer.

Now my dish of choice isn’t on offer everywhere so you can imaging my delight when I discovered Fish finger butties on the menu. This washed down with a very large Latte is just what the doctor ordered.

This evening was a very different proposition, it was Diggle school leavers celebration at Diggle Band Club. Now many of you will think is a totally abhorrent event to a grumpy old  bloke, but it isn’t.

I love the fact that families celebrate any minor triumph in their offspring’s development. These are the events that mould the lives of our children. By any measure tonight was a fantastic event. The kids had a great time and the parents enjoyed every moment. 

Living in a village takes a great deal of effort. Young families who are under pressure to carry out the traditions of the past put themselves under enormous pressure just so they don’t let their kids down.

I have a different outlook, If you give your kids a great role model to follow they will never let you down and they will remind you in years to come if you do! (mine do frequently).

Tonight has been a blast, parents in tie dye tee shirts having a great time with their children who will remember for a lifetime.

That has to be the best time ever!

Stand by for a Rant

The other evening I had to attend a meeting at the civic hall in Oldham at 7.00. Now not wanting to be on the last minute I arrived at 6.45 and thought the car park is £1.30 for 5 hours so I purchased ticket for £2.00 because I didn’t have the right amount and the machine didn’t give change.

I didn’t think anything of it and went into my meeting. 

You can imagine my surprise when I came back to the car 2 hours later I was greeted with a penalty charge notice for an expired ticket at a cost of £25.00.

So I wrote to them to appeal stating my case that in my mind I had purchased a ticket for parking for up to 5 hours and even overpaid for the seven minutes before the evening parking started privilege. They pointed out that the evening parking doesn’t start till 7.00pm and the machine had given me a ticket for two hours so they obviously declined and give me 14 days to pay.

According to the Oldham Councils Parking department If I had stood and waited till seven o clock I would have got a valid ticket and it wouldn’t have been a problem. 

Now I don’t mind being caught if I had not put on a ticket or not parked within the white lines (which has happened in the past) but surely common sense should be applied to these circumstances.

I paid £2.00, £1.30 for five hours parking and 70p for the Seven minutes I had parked before hand. By my calculations if it costs £1.30 for one hour to park then that is 2.1p per minute, so for seven minutes that is a payment of 14.7p which means I overpaid by 55p.

Now the Council are struggling to reinvigorate the night time economy in Oldham and I find it hard to see that happening anytime soon if these draconian actions are taking place on a regular basis. 

They need to make it clear on the parking signs that this can happen and show some common sense.

What makes matters worse my appointment was at the Civic Centre , Oldham Council really know how to make visitor’s welcome! 

Can’t Beat a Bit of Social Media to Lift the Spirits

I can’t believe it’s been three months since I sat here and wrote a blog entry but we have had a very eventful time.

Since Christmas two things have hoovered up my time, Lady Ann’s deteriorating health which is now improving and deciding to stand in the local elections as a Councillor.

Now either one of these soaks up enough time on there own but combined I haven’t had time to even have a mid afternoon nap (shock horror) and this has made me a little Grumpy.

The good news is that Lady Ann is getting better and requires fewer visits to the Hospital so just a couple of things to sort out them we get our lives back. I can’t believe how much time it takes just to attend an appointment.

My attempt at becoming a local councillor again was unsuccessful but I did a lot of walking, 62 miles in four weeks to be exact. I have lost about 12 lbs in weight which make me feel a lot healthier even though I am probably not.

On the bad news front whilst Lady Ann has been housebound she has resurrected her Facebook account and she is now seeing that it is not the devils work she previously thought it was. 

She has connected with a group of friends who she was at school with and that has lifted her spirits somewhat. The downside for me and the family she has started commenting on what we are posting, so we will have to start behaving haha.

I posted my Star Wars day photo and got this withering response from her! 

Will it stop me, I very much doubt it, after all being social is what life is all about.

The Changing Face of Village Life

Diggle in 1900

February is here and the lighter nights have started making an appearance and that is always welcome. By mid month it always reminds me that winter is on the way out and warmer days are coming.

Here on top of the world it is when the moors start to change colour and the village starts to come to life again. Now village life is not for every one but I like it. Villages are places were people care about each other and were people stop in the street for a chat and you can find out about what has happened since the last time you managed to stop for a chat.

In this day and age it is becoming increasingly harder to make sure that village life as we know it will survive for future generations.

Diggle is like many other pennine communities it has a church, a couple of Pubs and a very good post office. The only issue is that all of these institutions are under threat. 

Our local church St Chads is threatened with closure because of the repairs that need carrying out.

Pubs all over the country are closing at a phenomenal rate, we are lucky in that the two we have have recently changed hands but who knows how long they will last in the current financial climate. 

Finally our local Post Office which until now survived is the only way that people can use any form of banking services is a godsend.

Saddleworth as an area is a very desirable place to live and with that property prices are at a premium. This means that our community is becoming more of a dormitory rather that a mixed vibrant community. 

With people having to work longer hours or commute further it means that all the people who used to volunteer to run the many organisations and events that make a village are now few on the ground and it is these people who keep our villages vibrant and full of life.

So I do question how long the activities that I hold dear will carry on. So if you live in a small community it is vital that you get involved. No matter how little time you can offer, collectively a group of people can achieve far more than individuals.

Just think of all the traditions that could be lost because we are collectively too busy. From Whit Walks, Brass Band Competitions, The Rush Cart Weekend, The Diggle Blues Festival and all the other things that happen in the area.

These events take a lot of people and a great deal of effort to organise. So if you love living in a village then please invest a little time and expertise to keep our very pleasant lifestyle alive and well.

If you do you will feel great knowing that you have contributed and I can guarantee you will make some lifelong friends in the process.

Support me in my Ginuary Campaign

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. 

What a Great Christmas Day

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 .

Oldham Never Ceases to Surprise Me!

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.