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.

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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 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 environment 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

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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.

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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.

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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 Continuing Saga of the New Saddleworth School

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Now the aftermath of the general election is over people have said it has all gone a little quiet on the New Saddleworth School Build.

It obviously hasn’t been quiet for everyone who wanted a new school.

If you cast your mind back to September last year Royton and Crompton School had this funding application approved By Oldham Council and the EFA.

This was reported by Jacob Metcalf from the Oldham Evening Chronicle online on the 20th September 2016

Extra £3.5m approved for school expansion

Reporter: Jacob Metcalf

Date online: 20 September 2016

COUNCIL chiefs have agreed to fund an extra £3.5million to not only rebuild but expand a dated school as part of a £17.5million overhaul.

At a cabinet meeting last night, councillors approved proposals to invest an additional £3.5 million of council money on top of the £14 million earmarked by the Education Funding Agency to rebuild Royton & Crompton secondary.

In 2014, Oldham Council applied for Priority Schools Building Programme funding for three schools, with only Royton and Crompton successful in 2015. 

The cash was intended to be used to build a new school on the current site with an eight-form entry of 240 pupils per year.

However, the council asked the EFA to consider increasing the construction to accommodate a 10-form entry of 300 pupils a year after anticipating a shortfall in the provision of secondary school places.

It would mean 1,500 pupils attending the school in total.

Rebuild

The EFA confirmed this would require additional funding from the council at an estimated cost of £3.5million, which the cabinet has now agreed to do.

The rebuild could include a new sports hall and see the current synthetic pitch replaced with a new one at a cost of £170,000 to the council.

Councillor Amanda Chadderton, cabinet member for education and early years, said: “On a personal level I think this is quite a significant move. 

“I get parents coming to me saying what a state that school is in. That school in 2016 is just not adequate.

“Education isn’t just about teaching students, we also have a duty that all our students are taught in a building that is fit for purpose.”

Councillor Abdul Jabbar agreed but admitted he felt it had taken a considerable amount of time to reach this point.

He said the progression of rebuilding was an issue that needed to be dealt with

 

Well things have taken a huge leap since then. This was reported on the same site by Lucy Kenderdine on the 23rd June 2017

School’s vision for the future

Reporter: Lucy Kenderdine

Date online: 23 June 2017

STUDENTS, parents and members of the public will be able to get a first glimpse at plans for a much-needed redevelopment of Royton and Crompton School next week.

Construction business Galliford Try is holding a public consultation event on Monday ahead of submitting a planning application for a new building at the Blackshaw Lane School.

The new block, designed by architects AHR of Manchester, will replace the existing 1960s main building with the original main building demolished following completion of building work elsewhere on the site.

Other buildings on the site, including the sports hall, and the existing all-weather pitch, will be retained.

Funding for the new building is part of the Education and Skills Funding Agency’s Priority School Building Programme. Last year, Oldham Council agreed to fund an extra £3.5 million to not only rebuild but expand the dated school as part of a £17.5 million overhaul.

A total of £14 million was earmarked by the Education Funding Agency (EFA) to rebuild Royton & Crompton secondary after the school’s bid for the cash was successful in 2015.

Galliford Try, which has a regional base in Warrington, has been selected to deliver the project with proposals for the new building to be submitted for planning approval by Oldham Council in July.

Jim Parker, managing director of Galliford Try North-West, said: “We look forward to welcoming local people to see our plans and speak to us and our stakeholders about this exciting project.

“Galliford Try has an excellent track record of working with the ESFA to produce high-quality educational facilities and we believe this new building for Royton and Crompton School will be of great benefit to local children and the wider community.”

Local residents and other interested parties are invited to view the plans for the new building at a drop-in consultation event at the school on Monday, between 4 and 7.30pm.

Councillor Amanda Chadderton, Oldham Council’s Cabinet member for Education and Early Years, said: “This consultation is a chance for parents, residents and interested parties to help shape the future of Royton and Crompton School. “Your views and opinions are important to us and we want to hear them.”

Parents, pupils and local councillors have argued for years that the school facilities are not adequate and are in desperate need of refurbishment.

Councillor Howard Sykes described the school as “physically falling apart and in desperate need of replacement” and lobbied for funding for a new school to be prioritised.

As the article suggests that through effective lobbying the funding has been allocated and the build is going full steam ahead.

The issue I have had all along with the Save Diggle Campaign is that they have not given one thought for the families or pupils who use the school on a regular basis.

All the delays and arguing about the so called heritage of the site has meant that Saddleworth School is no longer the number one priority at Oldham Council.

They have since the first article secured funding to improve Royton and Crompton school which should be completed long before Saddleworth School would even get planning permission.

It is also worth pointing out that the school is in far better condition than the existing Saddleworth School but the council can deliver it before funding may be withdrawn.

By my calculations with the summer recess looming the earliest the new plans would reach committee would be in September at the earliest. Then the Christmas Break looms therefore it will be January 2018 before it even gets to planning.

Add another round of legal wrangling it could be delayed yet another twelve months. By then the new Royton and Crompton School will be built and in use.

If I was the EFA I know what I would do with the Saddleworth Funding, I would re allocate it to a school that would be built and in operation without any delays that have plagued this torturous saga.

It saddens me greatly but I think that the fear of more legal delays will be enough to prevent Saddleworth School being replaced even on the existing site and our children will be sent to any school in the borough that has a place for them.

It is not beyond the realms of possibility that we could lose the funding and it would be a disaster not only for the children of Saddleworth but for the village of Diggle who will almost certainly have to endure a large scale housing development on the site.

This will undoubtably bring with it a great deal more traffic than the school would ever have generated and without any funds available to make any necessary road improvements.

So to the people who have lobbied against the school coming to Diggle I applaud you on your hollow victory.

In the long term, not only have you disadvantaged the children of Saddleworth in receiving an education in a new purpose built school but it will also mean even more buses to transport them in and out of Oldham and more traffic when the housing development starts.

I feel for anyone who has children at the school or who are making decisions on which school there children are going to next year!

Please don’t think that the majority of people in Diggle supported this action from the Save Diggle Campaign as they claim. I for one have been vocal in my support for any scheme that puts the education and welfare of our young people first.

It seem ironic that Kieth Lucas the individual who is the spokesperson for the group was actually was awarded an MBE for services to children!

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!

The Wild Atlantic Way Roadtrip

Irish world famous tourist attraction in County Clare. The Cliffs of Moher West coast of Ireland. Epic Irish Landscape and Seascape along the wild atlantic way. Beautiful scenic nature from Ireland.

Its that time of year at Eccles Hall that we get all excited. It is time for this years road trip and it’s going to be fantastic.

Last year we did the NC500 the tourist route around the highlands of Scotland, so how do you follow that I can hear you asking yourself.

After a little research and a little prompting for Lady Ann we have found this beauty of a trip, The Wild Atlantic Way in Ireland

This is no little expedition its a whopper as Dennis the Menace used to say. Its the longest signed coastal route in the world at 1,700 miles in length and plenty of side routes to keep us occupied.

Now 1,700 miles is a long way to travel and enjoy yourself so we are taking it easy staying a couple of nights in hotels along the route. Because of time constraints and the inevitable constriction of my wallet we have decided that this time we are only going to do the southern part of the route starting in Galway and following the route around to Cork. That’s still the best part of 750 miles so its not for the faint hearted.

We are visiting places with strange sounding names with scenery to die for and visiting pubs and restaurants that already have my mouth watering. We are visiting Dingle, watching a dolphin or two and even visiting the place they shot the latest Star Wars film. (the last location is mine, Lady Ann thinks I am a sad geek), I am not in a position to protest to much haha.

So the car is in for a service next week, Ann has started packing and I can’t wait to get started. So in three weeks off we go and hopefully if we have half the fun I am expecting it will be epic.

The Great Outdoors

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The Singing Ringing Tree in Burnley

After the horrific tragedy in Manchester last week, this week myself and Lady Ann have had a Duvet week to try and recharge our emotional batteries. When we were younger we had duvet days but as we are a little older we like to savour the delights of this ritual and take advantage of the fact we are growing old disgracefully.

By Wednesday we were ready for a change of scenery and stretch our legs and go out into the world and the sun shining we ventured out into the bright summer sun.

Now I am partial to a bit of sculpture and I had heard of one I hadn’t yet seen yet so it seemed like the ideal time to go and have a look. Now in our house we play the game of if you do that then we have to do something I want to do game and over the years its worked pretty well.

So, it was agreed I would go and look at the Singing Ringing Tree in the middle of nowhere and that would be followed by a retail based activity for Lady Ann, so off we went.

50 minutes later I was stood looking at this fantastic sculpture on a windy hillside overlooking the town of Burnley. It was by any measure a work of genius, not only does it look fantastic set against the landscape but if you sit for a while the wind makes the pipes hum and it sounds fantastic.

After a couple of photographs and a ten-minute sit down I returned to the car and we set off to a great little place called Hebden Bridge. It is a small market town set in the Pennines and has a very compact shopping centre with all the shops that Ann likes. After copious amounts of Coffee, Cake and the obligatory purchase for Ann all that was left was to return home having had a very pleasant day out.

It amazes me what a little bit of sun on your bones does for your soul, it somehow recharges my batteries which of late have felt a little flat.

After the last two-week emotional roller coaster ride in which I have been unfortunate enough to witness the worst in humanity, tonight I saw the best. I watched in awe a concert organised by twenty-three-year-old Ariana Grande and her team, who showed me that with a little faith and a great team around you can achieve great things.

After watching the fantastic One Love Manchester Event it warmed the cockles of my heart to see the next generation take up the cause of love not war.

I now feel our generation perhaps did something right in raising a compassionate generation of peace makers. For all our sakes, I hope they do a better job than our generation have. I am sure they will.

A little piece of me has been quietly altered!

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Photo Courtesy of New York Daily News

It has been a very dark week in Manchester. Every families worst nightmare has been acted out in the Media in an almost sanitised way.

Apart from the heroic efforts of people offering help and comfort in peoples darkest moments it has been relentlessly heart breaking.

The most difficult thing was for me was looking on social media and finding people begging for information about loved ones who were missing and knowing that the inevitable bad news would arrive at any moment.

I feel for the families who have lost loved ones because it was so unexpected. No one ever expects to drop someone off at a concert and not expect them to return home safe. Equally no parent ever expects to be blown up waiting for their children.

It’s not only the horror of what happened that keeps going around in my head, it’s the fact it could quite easily have happened to our family.

Some of the people caught up in this tragedy I know, I have worked with them and that is what makes it so hard. As much as I applaud the sentiment of carry on regardless and the outpouring of “we will not let these terrorists beat us” a little piece of me has been quietly altered.

I am not quite as understanding, I am not quite as forgiving in spite of all the outpouring I have seen and peoples demonstration of solidarity.

Don’t get me wrong I am all for treating people how I would like to be treated and that will not change.

What will change is that I have experienced first hand what has been happening for years in the middle east, the senseless slaughter of innocent civilians on a daily basis with no end in sight and that maybe is a good thing.

People have been horrified by this evil act in our city, but please share a thought for the 500,000 casualties in Iraq alone who have suffered a similar fate since the start of the 2003 conflict.

So as you go to bed tonight please say a little prayer for those families who all over the world are going to bed broken hearted because some have lost the most precious thing they have, their partner, their children or their entire family.

“Three Girls”! A Landmark in TV history

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Lisa Riley broke my heart in an epic performance which will live with me forever

In its finest moments TV can change the world and in is worst when it panders to the lowest production values it’s a waste of a valuable platform.

This week the BBC has managed to do something that rarely has happened in the last 63 years of my life on this planet. It made me cry.

I watched the BBC drama “Three Girls” over three consecutive nights which made me very angry (an understatement by any measure). Now I know you will say it is a work of fiction which is based on true events but this was something different.

It terrified me. It had me thinking that if a child of mine was treated in such a manner I would have to extract revenge not only on the perpetrators but the council and police officers who were fully aware of the situation, but had a reasonable excuse not to take the difficult path.

To add insult to injury in the subsequent aftermath they then shot the messenger, fed her to the dogs just to save the skin of a cowardly Chief Executive who knew what was happening and did nothing to stop it.

The subtext of this story is a tale of woefully inadequate politicians and a communications team who spent its whole time protecting the indefensible and they should be ashamed.

Hats off to the guys who made this landmark programme. We may criticise the BBC for being biased in its political coverage but this programme would never have seen the light of day on a commercial channel and for that I will be eternally grateful.

I have a dream

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It may come as a shock to most who follow my ramblings but I have a dream. Not an insurmountable dream but one that is quite achievable to most normal people.

Now I know what you are thinking, he wants to win an obscene amount of money on the lottery or even become intimate with Michelle Pfeiffer. I can assure you all that I am very happy with my life and in particular with Lady Ann and in general my life is fantastic.

Now this does not mean that I don’t have dreams of achieving great things, I do.

I want to make a difference, to be remembered for doing something that will make a difference to those less fortunate than myself. I don’t want adoration or recognition but I want to make a difference to peoples lives.

Can you imagine the satisfaction of being Stephen Spielberg, John Williams or Barak Obama. These guys have one thing in common, they have the ability to communicate on a grand scale and in an instant they can move you, they can make you compassionate, they can make you cry or take you to a place of euphoria in the blink of an eye. (Who remembers the scene when ET is rejuvenated). There was not dry eye in the house.

Cinema has the ability to do this, it is unique, it has the ability to take you to places that often you would prefer not to visit, and to make it worse it is projected onto a huge screen that makes it almost real.

So how does real life compare to the tinsel that is Hollywood?

I pains me to say this but as a species we have become emotionally bankrupt, we look at life as though it is a movie and we overlook the cruelty that exists in our world. We assimilate heart breaking news in a heartbeat whilst reading an article in a newspaper or watching an item on the news without even batting an eye.

Can I take this opportunity to remind everyone that life is real, it is not a soap opera, a news item or a TV drama or a film that you are watching as a voyeur.

Life should be full of compassion for people who are far worse off than you. It should be full of random acts of kindness and above all an understanding that not everyone on this planet has the opportunities that have been afforded to you.

So my message to you all is show some compassion to people who are either heartbroken, ill, lonely or misguided and can I please ask that instead of judging people we show a little compassion and understanding and try to make a difference.

The reality of our collective situation is that no matter who you think you are,  or what wealth you have accumulated you are only two months salary away from becoming homeless and vulnerable.

So after this very sobering thought please sleep well tonight because there are people at this moment who are not afforded that luxury.