Moving in Circles that Party in the Afternoon




Its that time of the week when all good Bloggers, (and some not so good bloggers) have to commit to writing something which should be entertaining and a little though provoking. Now some people I know can sit down and knock out an article in twenty minutes, which makes sense and has just the right amount of Irony in it to make it a joy to read.

I on the other hand write in a dialect which comes from living in the northwest of England, as one voiceover guy once asked “do you want this script reading in English or with an Oldham accent”?

So to this weeks literary masterpiece. As most of you are aware my long suffering other half figures fairly large in my life because unlike most couples we know we don’t have a great deal in common. This means that we spend a great deal of time doing stuff the other one likes to do.

For example we went to watch the Jersey Boys and I found it more entertaining watching Ann sing along rather than the event itself. Equally there have been times when she has been on very long boring film shoots just so we could spend time together.  However having said that we muddle along together very well and life is very comfortable at our place.

We have now been married 34 years in June and it has flown past in the blink of an eye and when people ask us what is the secret of our longevity we jokingly respond by explaining we were that busy trying to pay the mortgage for the first twenty years we hardly saw each other.

More seriously though I put it down to the fact we learned fairly early on that we had to compromise in order to make life tolerable and it seems to have worked.

So what got me thinking about this was this afternoon we were lucky enough to be invited to a 40th Anniversary Party being thrown by some very close friends of ours. Now I have now reached the age were most parties we are invited to are in the afternoon, the reasoning I think has something to do with the fact we can keep awake and enjoy ourselves without dozing in a chair and dribbling.

To make the party entertaining they produced the wedding photographs and quite a few people at the gathering were actually at the wedding. We all had a Laugh at various dodgy 1970s hairstyles and fashions but on the whole the people who are now in there sixties didn’t look quite as old as my parents did when they were that age.

I urge you all to look at your family photographs and look at your mothers and fathers and look at them carefully and see if you can spot the hint of them having a hard working life. I am sure that I am in better shape than my parents were at my age.

My Dad worked Sixty hours a week all his working life and I never heard him complain once, even when he was leaving for work at six in the morning. So next time I start complaining about my 35 hour working week and my daily commute of around Ten miles, I think I need to get a grip.

I just need to cast my mind back to 1970 the year I started work when I worked five and a half days a week, from 8.00 in the morning till 6.00 at night and 8.00 till 12.00 on Saturdays and travelled an hour each way on a bus. By comparison even though my job can be stressful at times my working days are marginally shorter and I very rarely work weekends.


You Can’t Beat a Bit of Live Music to Make You Feel Good!


Let me set the scene. After what seems like months of being housebound and almost at the point of becoming stir crazy, tonight I have been lucky enough to go to a place that not only serve alcoholic beverages but they also have an almost unique sales proposition.

They are mad enough to put on very good live music acts. Maybe its only once a month but its keeping something alive which is on the brink of becoming extinct.

To add to my spring like insanity we decided to invite our grandkids along to see what they thought of it. I was surprised on several levels because one, they agreed to come and two they actually looked like they enjoyed it. Apart from one complaint that they couldn’t hear what each other were talking about.

So here is my question to all of you thirty / forty somethings out in suburbia when did your kids last go to a live band playing live music. Now I am not counting Karaoke, I mean real people playing real instruments and singing without the aid of auto tuning. I suspect not many.

Now I am not trying to sound righteous or superior and I admit at your age I was that busy paying the mortgage that I didn’t have the time or money to partake in such activities. But to watching young people’s faces whilst listening to a band who are playing songs they have only heard on the radio is magical. Its an expression which is a mixture of recognition and the fact that it doesn’t quite sound the same but in the words of my 10 year old granddaughter, “its very loud but brilliant”.

Whilst in-between sets I now realise I am now beginning to sound like my Dad, I was remonstrating with another grumpy northern bloke that when we were young you could go out any night of the week and listen to a live band and it was nothing special.

How little did we know that in the space of thirty years it would no longer be the norm but a treat to be savoured whenever the opportunity arose.

So here is my request to everyone. Just think what activities you enjoyed when you were young. Try to give your children or grandchildren the chance to have the experiences you enjoyed as a kid. Mine include running down a beach trying to fly a kite, the magic of listening to a band who for that moment in time gave you a feeling like nothing you have ever felt before, the magic feeling that sends shivers down your spine.

Putting it simply give them a chance to live in the moment, experience what we have taken for granted and unfortunately let disappear from our lives, because one thing I have learned is that once it has gone, it has gone forever.

Ice Station Diggle

Photo by Oldham Mountain Rescue
Diggle – Photo by Oldham Mountain Rescue
There are various advantages to living in Saddleworth the great friendly people who still think its important to put something back into the community they live in, the beautiful countryside and on hot sunny days the quietness of the moorlands that give you a time to mentally recover from what life throws at you in this hectic 21st century way of life.

This time last year it was warm enough for our first BBQ of the summer, this year on the other hand It would take me twenty minutes to dig it out of the snowdrift it is lodged in.

Having said all that on Saturday evening we had tickets to see Jersey Nights at the Opera House in Manchester. We left Saddleworth around five looking like a pair of Arctic explorers prepared for every eventuality and set out by car.

By the time we had got down to Ashton there was little in the way of snow and by the time we reached Manchester there was non at all. Now this is good news in one way but the strange looks you get from people when you arrive in Manchester dressed like trainee mountaineers is a little disconcerting.

I can also say that the Opera House gets very warm when you are wearing thermals and several layers of clothing, I think I lost a stone in weight by the time the show ended. (which was very good considering I don’t do musical theatre).

When we came to return home the temperature in Manchester was two degrees. By the time we reached Ice Station Diggle it was minus two, that is some temperature drop in the space of ten miles.

The weather this weekend up here on the top of the world has been challenging to say the least. Snow has come down in bucket loads and what has made it worse is the wind has gathered it up and put it in places that are far better off without it.

So to the point I am trying to make. If you live in Saddleworth you dress according to the weather and you know when to try and travel and when not to. I have a stick in the front garden and if the snow covers it I know to get back in bed until the first bus passes through.

This comes from the collective experience that says trying with hundreds of other commuters to get over the hilltops that surround us is a fruitless exercise which prevents the snowploughs from clearing the roads in an efficient manner.

I suppose we all take for granted that someone will come and rescue us should we find ourselves in trouble. But I always think that if you do not put yourself in the position in the first place then the emergency services will be free to help people who really need help.

This weekend our intrepid Mountain Rescue Team have been incredibly busy working in conditions that would give every Health and Safety person palpitations.

What makes me appreciate these individuals is not the unquestioned bravery or the obvious expertise, it is that these dedicated professionals do it because they care about the environment they live in and they feel they make it safe for less experienced individuals to take advantage of our beautiful moorlands.

So I would like to take this opportunity to say thank you to all the volunteers and fundraisers of the Mountain Rescue Team that help make Saddleworth a safer place to live in.

The Perils of High Street Shopping


I think I need the Phone number of George Osbourne, I think I have found the solution to the downturn in retail sales on the high street.

This weekend we decided (or should I say Ann Decided) that we haven’t seen much of the grandkids recently and we should take them out for a treat into our local town centre on a shopping expedition, buying things they want rather than things they need.

So at Six Thirty on Saturday morning I was woken by my very excited grandson James (who for some unfathomable reason has been awarded the nickname of Jim Bob. I think its a Walton’s reference) who is six, on his mothers mobile asking what time we were due to pick him up and take him to buy, in his case a one eyed piece of plastic which cost Twenty Quid. I did what all good grandfathers do and immediately handed the phone to Ann who was the instigator of this day of blatant extravagance to make the necessary arrangements for the day ahead.

Arrangements were made and cutting a long story short, four hours later I am in the Town Centre with Ann, two teenagers of the female variety and JIm Bob, the nearest person I have as a male companion on this intrepid expedition.

It used to be in the past that whilst our women folk went clothes shopping us guys would go into guy type shops, perusing white goods and gadgets we could ill afford, but it gave us the opportunity to press buttons and check boy stuff out. without having to assist women in choosing whatever they decided to buy.

Since the advent of the internet and the fact that we guys are essentially lazy and can’t be bothered with shopping we have managed to shut down most of the guy type shops within a very short timeframe. The only solace that Jim Bob and myself found in the whole experience was in the Costa Coffee shop which offered us the chance to escape the clutches of women shopping.

Now there is only so long that you can sit in a coffee shop with a six year old, even though he was playing with his one eyed piece of plastic and was very well behaved. But when a woman who was berating a teenager in her charge by calling her Bonkers (a great word) he immediately wanted an explanation as to what it meant. I tried to explain in politically correct terms but was failing miserably but was rescued by our women folk arriving chattering about dresses and shoes and shops, with arms full of bags.

The only light in this very dim tunnel was when Ann asked James about his Skylander (the one eyed piece of plastic that cost twenty quid). His answer although very eloquent left Ann with an expression that said I know what you are saying but i don’t understand the words, are you sure its english? She got lost at the point of the relationship between the black dragon and the boy who became the King.

Poor Ann’s expression was pure defeat and immediately she did was most people do in that position, change the subject and turned back to the girls discussing dresses and such girly things that us men do not understand.

At this point it hadn’t been to bad, after all I was now full of caffeine and biscuits, so I was ready for anything, or so I thought. Primark is an experience I had not encountered before and I can tell you it will be some time and I will need a great deal of therapy before I do it again.

Three women wanting dresses for a party is a recipe for driving a man to the edge of insanity. After forty five minutes of looking at the choice of dresses we eventually arrived at the changing rooms. Now for women this is a normal experience, but for the poor bloke who is with them this becomes a nightmare.

If you are a bloke you are aware that most women’s changing rooms are situated in the ladies lingerie department and no matter were you stand, as a bloke on his own you feel like a fish out of water. So me and James stood dutifully whilst the ladies went to try stuff on. I was pretending to look at my phone to keep busy and not make eye contact with anyone in case I was mistaken for a stalker or something.

I was doing really well for the first ten minutes but then it started to go pear shaped. I noticed a young women who was shall we say a little on the large side looking at thongs. Whilst I was trying to work out what must she be thinking to even consider such a proposition, she noticed I was watching and she gave me a very black look.

She put the thong back on the rack she started walking towards me, I had visions of her shouting at the top of her voice “pervert”. As she arrived at where I was stood she said, “Isn’t your little boys hair a great colour”. Surprised at this I explained that he was my grandson and I was waiting for my wife. She left leaving me a shivering wreck.

For the next three hours of shopping for shoes handbags and accessories I kept my eyes under control and avoided eye contact with anyone and after three very stressful hours was relieved to be back in the car and on our way home.

So back to my cure for the High Street Mr Osbourne, fill all the empty shops with big boys toys and gadgets that us guys can play with whilst our women go and shop till they drop. It would take the strain out of shopping for every bloke and you never know we might even buy something we like without going to look at eBay first.

A Perfect Valentines Day Northern Style

Valentine's Day

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!

How Do You Get Taken Off Santa’s Naughty List?


This is the first posting of the new year so I suppose I had better start as I mean to go on. I always think that New Year is a time to stop looking back at the past and look forward to what is possible. Looking back should be done in that blurry time between Christmas and New Year.

Looking at what I want to achieve in the New year begins once the hangover starts to wane on new years day.

Now this will come as a shock to people who know me I know but I do try to set out some simple goals to strive for but the more the years go by and the faster the pace of change happens the harder it is to try to set yourself a target.

Now looking back can be a dangerous activity. Just how many of us think now and again ‘if I could change that decision I made’. I call these ‘What If’ moments.

The problem with these moments is that you cannot change them (unless someone has invented time travel over the Christmas period) and they can drive a grown person to distraction. These moments colour you decision making and can sap your confidence.

Just remember back to when you were a teenager, anything was possible, the world seemed to be a huge playground with all sorts of activities you wouldn’t even give a second thought about before trying out. Although drinking five pints of Bitter, half a bottle of Port some Southern Comfort when I was eighteen has left a deep scar, if I even catch the smell of Southern Comfort at twenty paces it still induces me retch uncontrollably.

So over the years we gain experience that tells you that not everything is possible and we can overcompensate. This is not to say that you shouldn’t learn from your experiences however your experiences shouldn’t limit what you think is possible.

I cannot say I wasn’t disappointed when I looked out on Christmas morning and discovered that my new f type Jaguar was not sat outside my front door (Santa must still have me on his naughty list).

Now I could be bitter, but no, I think that anything in life is possible and given the right circumstances and a fair amount of luck you never know what can happen.

So this year I just need to take advantage of the opportunities that are offered to me, work hard and make enough money so that I could in a moment of temporary insanity actually buy one.

So all that remains for me to say is that I hope you all have a great 2013 and just maybe if you see someone in a White F Type Jaguar it could be me who has finally been taken off Santa’s naughty list, alternatively been paid what I think I am worth or I have won the Lottery.

So all thats left for me to say is dare to dream and you never know it could happen in the new year!

Taking Stock at the End of the Year


I don’t know about you but last time I blinked it was Easter and now I have just returned from my grand daughters school nativity and I am looking at the impending Christmas celebrations in a state of shell shock. 

As another year grows to a close if you are like me you will mentally taking stock of what has happened through the past year and how you have faired in the grand scheme of things.

So how do you judge how well or otherwise you have done. I suppose its all down to your own personal experience. Now I am a fairly positive individual, I am in the cup half full brigade opposed to the keeping up with the neighbors gang so my outlook is obviously coloured by this.

Now at my age the first thing on the list in your health, without it your life becomes instantly more complicated, and your time is consumed by waiting in crowded hospitals with people who could infect you with the black death at any given moment. This time last year I was recovering from what everyone thought was a heart attack. It wasn’t and I am still here and even more of a bonus I now know I have a perfectly healthy heart so I can now eat butter again for the first time in a decade.

So the next thing on the list is my Family. My long suffering wife who has had serious health problems in the past appears to be recovering. I know this because she is showing signs that her lust for life has returned and has made this year very special, its as though I have the woman I first met back in my life and that is priceless.

During the past twelve months my offspring have both found partners who will put up with them and there foibles and who are blissfully happy. I know this because the phone has stopped ringing quite as often. The only drawback to this scenario is that the number for Christmas dinner has doubled and the presents under the tree mean I cannot see the television without sitting up straight in my chair.

Unfortuately this year saw the passing of my cousin Jennifer who passed away a few weeks ago and my thoughts are with her family at this time, I find myself feeling a little guilty because I should have taken the time to keep in touch whilst I had the chance.

Friends are the next on my list, this year has been an exceptional year, I am lucky to have friends who always know when to turn up just when you need dusting off and leave when they think you can stand on your own two feet again. More importantly I haven’t lost any or been to a funeral which is always a bonus. It appears that living through the sixties and seventies was very detrimental to your health and longevety. 

The last thing on my list is my job. I am one of the lucky ones in life, I love what I do, I suppose my wife is right when she says I haven’t done a days work in my life, and I hate to admit it but I think she is right. The great thing about my job is the people I meet and try to help deliver various projects. From students who are at the start of there chosen career through to business men who need a hand in trying to understand the brave new digital world in which they have to exist. 

The most rewarding part of my role is helping community groups who are trying to improve were they live with very little in the way of resources, these people are the true heroes of modern society, people who share the little they have to help the communities they live in. 

So back to my opening premiss, How do you judge how well are you doing? It’s very simple, as long as you can cover your bills, have your health and are surrounded by people who love and care for you, you are better off that at least half the planet. 

According to my wife, if you add someone to do the ironing, copious amounts of Mince Pies and Horlicks into the mix life doesn’ t get any better. So all that remains for me to say is I hope that you and your families have a merry Christmas and a healthy and prosperous New Year.


Sometimes You Meet Some Truly Inspiring People in the Most Unlikely Places

227496_427688747278264_1670056239_n-scaled500I have been working out in the community for the past week or so with a group of women that have decided to make a difference in the community they live in. Working with these women has restored my faith in the human race.

Three years ago they asked a very simple question “what can we do that would benefit the kids on the estate”. So they set about finding the answer to a question that has stumped many a regeneration expert for donkeys years.

They took the unprecedented step of asking them, which is a novel approach I know.  So they made arrangements with the Headmaster of the local school and canvased every child in the school (even if they didn’t live on the estate).

The answer that came back was surprising. The kids didn’t want 50 inch plasmas or Games consoles, what they wanted mostly was “a nice place to live, with trees and flowers and stuff”.

So three years ago armed with £350 and a lot of hard work and the children from the school these women transformed a dark and dismal corner in the school grounds into a community garden that the children have looked after and taken great pride in ever since.

Since that project they have been responsible for planning and delivering a large scale development project that would scare the living daylights out of many a seasoned project manager.

They with the help from various agencies they have planted an orchard, a wild flower meadow and are about to put planters on the grass verges around the estate. Now I know many people out there will be saying well thats ok but the kids will just destroy them in no time, but somehow I don’t think so, the kids have invested to much time and effort in helping out.

Kids are at the centre of this project, they have helped plant more that 500 bulbs around the estate and have watched eagerly as the trees have been planted. These women have worked tirelessly with great humor and what’s more they don’t realise exactly what they have achieved.

They have done what most large organisations cannot do and that is mobilise and empower young people to make a difference and take pride in were they live and all that with a modesty that is amazing.

So ladies next time someone has a go at people for not wanting to get involved because it won’t change a thing, You have changed a very big thing, you have almost moved a mountain and you don’t realise it. I have been exhausted just watching you. I take my hat off to you, your community don’t know how fortunate they are!


We Will Remember Them


Remembrance Sunday always leaves me feeling  very proud and very angry in equal measure. Watching the coverage on the BBC was fantastic. David Dimbleby set the tone with a masterclass in how to give a  dignified commentary without becoming sentimental.

Its this expertise that makes the BBC a world leader in live television coverage. Great production values along with intelligent commentary make this event heart breaking and makes you remember the true cost of sacrifice.

But the real tragedy of this event is that many of the soldiers who paid the ultimate price, most are inbetween the ages of Eighteen and Twenty One, a criminal waste of a young life, cut down at the start of their lives, so much promise snuffed out in a second, a cruel waste of potential.

I was next to tears watching parents of one particular soldier fighting back the tears as they described with great pride their one and only son. How can you get over something so tragic, it must be a nightmare.

Many of the people in the parade are now elderly and wear the medals with great pride, and quite rightly so. My only hope is that we never get the opportunity to forget these individuals and spare a thought for friends and families who will miss them being in there lives everyday.

So one final thought on this day of reflection, someone said to me once that you should never look back, because you can’t change the past. I would like to add to that, it is only by looking at our past mistakes we learn and progress.

It should be a fairly simple exercise to try and prevent the huge loss of life that any conflict brings. I appreciate that negotiation is not always possible but surely it should be the starting point and not the final destination after thousands of people have died. 


Chicken Soup can Seriously Damage Your Wealth


It was Half Term in our part of the world last week and every parent dreads this one, especially because the weather is often so bad that the little darlings are house bound for the biggest part of the week. By midweek they are suffering from cabin fever and are bored of anything that is suggested.

Now normally that has little effect on our house because our kids flew the coop several years ago leaving me to enjoy the break. I celebrate Half Terms because it gives me chance to recharge the batteries after being mauled for six weeks of teaching pubescent teenagers full of raging hormones who look for ways to mentally challenge you to the point of meltdown. Its not this behavior thats the issue its the mental anguish brought on by having to appear like a swan, calm in the face of adversity but paddling ferociously under the surface just so you don’t lose face.

You can imagine how delighted I was when it was suggested that the grandkids should stay with us whilst there house is being fitted with a new kitchen and bathroom. They arrived on Tuesday with a mass of phones, IPods and Hair Straighteners, apparently essentials that the average 10 year old see’s as survival gear.

Its not the fact that they hounded me for my broadband Key and tripled my data usage, or the fact that at any given moment in the day I was having to watch them dance around the lounge dancing to Nicki Minaj’s latest video (that looked like a promo for a leather fetishist club). It was the fact that they decided that my iMac was a far better proposition for watching Videos with subtitles so they could sing along, leaving me with my iPhone for company.To be honest they haven’t been that bad really, they are like any other kids trying to understand the world we live in and put there own stamp on it.

However Thursday brought disaster into our peaceful co-existence, Whilst searching for some Gangnam Style piece of music, they managed to spill a cup of chicken soup into my beautiful Apple wireless keyboard. The scenes of shock, horror, tears and tantrums that ensued were of biblical proportions (but I soon gathered my composure). Ann helped them clear up the mess and explained to them that Granddad didn’t mean to be nasty and that he was stood outside to calm down because thats what old people do. (Cheeky Sod). So once my blood pressure fell I surveyed the damage, which unfortunately for me has appeared to be terminal.

The prognosis from my brother who works in IT was take the batteries out and wash it in a bath of hot water and leave it in the airing cupboard for a week or two and it may work. I pointed out that I had work I needed to do today not next month at which point he stated the blindingly obvious, buy a new one.

Now that means that I have to go into the apple store. This is not easy for me because every time I go in for something I always come out with something better which costs twice the price. I have purposely not been anywhere near the store since the launch of the new iMac a couple of weeks ago because in my mind I know I don’t need it but in my heart I have to have one.

So I have done the next best thing, I went to PC World without my credit card and paid cash so I would not be tempted. So all is well that ends well. I can do my work again but more importantly our iMac babysitter is busy doing the do with the grandkids meaning that I can get on reading my emails on my phone with the aid of a big magnifying glass.

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