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

Debt Free.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



Technology can take you to the most surprising places


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

We decided the day after boxing day that this year’s 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 doesn’t seem to sound quite like 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 to the west coast for our first nights stop in Galway.

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

Beach 01
Inch Beach, Dingle Peninsula

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


So this is where 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, but there is also 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 Kinsale 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 too much and loved every minute of the trip.

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

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

The place I made my best decision ever

Steak and Chips

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Wild Atlantic Way Roadtrip

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

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!

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 heartbreaking.

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, but it’s also 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 carrying 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

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 at its 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 exact 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


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.




Betrayal is a word that sounds just like the emotion it evokes.

It arrives in our lives at the most inopportune moments and is often delivered by people who you would least expect it from and that is the bit that hurts. Now there are two ways to deal with this treacherous act, either confront the perpetrator or alternatively (my preferred method of dealing with it) play the long game, after all revenge is a dish best served cold.

So what do I know about betrayal?

By my reckoning I have been betrayed three times in my life, the first time by a so called best friend who stole my girlfriend. Forty or so years on and reflecting on the episode I can forgive him because she was very nice and I didn’t have the emotional experience to appreciate her. So to a certain extent that is how it goes.

The second time was in my career.

When you are a member of a team and you go the extra mile to make sure that everyone gets the recognition for any success only to find out when its to late that one of the team has taken all the glory for your hard work.

The third and final time is now.

I feel betrayed by the government who I put my trust in to look after me in my twilight years. Instead I find we are governed by a group of self serving individuals who don’t give a second thought about selling us down the river and abandoning the infrastructure that enabled them to be in such a position.

On a personal level I have very little to complain about. I have been fairly lucky health wise and our exceptional NHS have provided for me in my most vulnerable moments.

I have been the recipient of a very good education, like many of our MP’s in government who unfortunately a few years ago decided that this opportunity was wasted on the rest of us so decided to charge for courses or starve it of investment so it becomes almost insignificant to the recipients.

But the biggest betrayal of all is that I mistakenly thought that our elected representatives did it out of a sense of duty and to look after the less fortunate in our society.

You might think that I am being naive but I put that down to the fact that I was brought up to respect everyone not just the successful.

So there we have it in a nutshell, the working and middle classes have been betrayed by their own, the opportunists, and the easily corrupted.

This is the time to make a change. Lets give these people the result they deserve rather than the result they expect. It happened with Brexit and in America with Trump.

During this election campaign please hold the thought that these people do not tell the whole truth or even anything like the truth

You never know third time lucky we could do away with the spivs and opportunists and put the fairness back into politics.

All I ask is that you vote, I care not a jot for who (unless its for this uncaring government, then I might wince a little) but for someone who you can trust and can put integrity above the mighty buck.

Unfortunately I am not seeing many of these individuals around!

The Secret to a Happy Life

Beautiful young woman sleeping and smiling while lying in bed comfortably and blissfully on the background of alarm clock is going to ring. Sunbeam dawn  on her face.

Picture a scene. You are in your thirties, it is a Sunday morning and you are in bed with the strands of sunlight drifting through the curtains. Your eyes open and you see your partner in life bathed in the early morning light , asleep and naked.

Now I have got you attention!

This is the mother of my children, my best friend and above all this is the person that I am comfortable with. Every contour looks familiar and welcoming.

This is the person that I belong with and this is what I find erotic. It is not the nakedness but he warm feeling I get from lying in a bed with someone I have experienced my most intimate moments in life with in my arms and loving every single moment of the experience.

As get older I have discovered that I don’t remember the grand gestures in life or the life affirming moments, all I want is to cuddle up with someone who knows me and give me comfort in my darkest moments.

I believe what is important in life is to be given unconditional love and cuddles from your nearest and dearest (and beer but that does not sit well with Ann).

Have a great Easter Guys.

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