The Joys of the Rural Lifestyle


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

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

So why do I think Saddleworth is so special.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Now is that a lot to ask!


An Adventure in Local Village Cinema


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


The Last Jedi I am Not!

The Last Jedi

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Magic of Music

Abbey Road
Image Courtesy of Apple corp

This time of year, is very special to me because as a family collective we love Christmas. I know this because the women in our family start planning for this extravaganza in October.

To make things worse come the first of December Lady Ann starts watching very average American TV Christmas films full of very bad acting and melodrama that could make you choke on your hot chocolate.

The only thing I truly love about the pre-Christmas warm up is the genius of the creativity of the people who make the Christmas commercials. These thirty or sixty second mini masterpieces are the result of people at the top of their creative game and they have budgets to die for and stories to tell which are truly fantastic.

My favourite by a huge margin this year is the John Lewis Commercial. It’s not only the story that makes me feel warm and fuzzy inside although that is amazing, it’s the choice of music and the artist that makes it special.

Golden Slumbers by the Beatles is by any measure a masterpiece. Add Guy Garvey into the mix who has a voice like velvet and a story that resonates with most of us (lying in bed scared of the monster’s underneath) is a work of true genius.

What makes it special is it works on several levels. I can remember listening to Radio Luxembourg on a transistor radio in my bed when Abbey Road was released in 1968. They played the album in its entirely without commercials (which was unheard of at the time) and thinking this was by far the best thing I had ever heard.

Two weeks later after saving up my money from my paper round I had enough money to go and buy the album, something I will always remember. Handing over a couple of quid and running home to listen to the album.

So, let’s travel forwards to the present. I sit down and watch the commercial and listen to Guy Garvey doing a fantastic version and it still has the same effect on me as it did then, it makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end. That’s no mean feat from an almost 50-year-old piece of music.

Music is invaluable it brings memories flooding back. It feels like it happened only yesterday.

I remember the very moment I heard it, lay in my bed feeling the soft fluffy sheets dressed in my stripy pyjamas with a small transistor radio hidden underneath the pillow, listening to this magical music on a single earpiece with the volume drifting in and out of signal and me thinking life will never get better than this.

That is the Magic of music!

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.

A Night at the Happy Beaver


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


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.

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