Diggle Blues Festival Weekend

The Lewis Hamilton Band @DiggleBandClub

The Rolling Stones have been in Manchester this week and according to the local press, tickets were changing hands at £400 a pop. So as much I would have loved to have seen them I will be giving that a wide berth then. 

The other big music event this week is the Diggle Blues festival and very good it is to. What makes it better is that it is free, all the organisers want from the audience is to turn up and throw a quid in a bucket if you liked what you saw. I have been known to throw a tenner in when the group has been fantastic.

What I like is the diversity of the bands and the venues. We have the local pub (The Gate), a coffee shop (The Woolyknit Cafe), A Band Club (Diggle Band Club), an Ice-cream Parlour (Grandpa Greens), A Church Hall (Kilngreen) and a Cookery School (Saddleworth Cookery School).

The Sessions are arranged so that you have 30 minutes to get to the next venue so you don’t miss anything.

What people of my generation want is to be transported back to a time when almost every pub in the town had a live band playing and the atmosphere was fantastic. There is nothing quite like listening to live music for raising your spirits and in this day and age, we could do with quite a lot of live music working its magic.

These bands and performers are fantastic at what they do and mostly they do it because they love performing and they get paid for doing what they love.

So back to my opening paragraph, do you think Messers Jagger and Richards when they started out playing in pubs would have dreamt they would still be filling stadiums some 56 years later? I very much doubt it. 


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!

Grand children, you have to love them if only because you can give them back now and again!



Grandchildren are special, anyone who is a similar age to me knows this even if only because when they are younger you can have them all day and load them with sugar just before they get picked up so they are hyper and out of control for your devoted children and partners.

Now this as a strategy works when they are pre teenagers but once the dreaded teens hits it’s an entirely different story.

Tonight Lady Ann and myself have been to Diggle Blues Festival which can I say was fantastic. The Band we saw had a collective age of 180 but they played like they knew each others every second thought and from what I have seen on TV recently that will equate to ten boy bands singing to a backing track.

This was music from my youth, no sync tracks just three guys playing great stuff and enjoying every second. Just think about it baby boomers all the greatest bands from our youth were a trio, The Jimmy Hendricks Experience, Cream and a whole list of others.

These guys raised the roof, they should have been on for an hour and a half and Two hours later they were still going strong, why? Because they love doing what they do, and they do it very well.

So back to my original story about my grandchildren. When they get into the teenage years they do become challenging. Jim Bob who was nine last week is easy, let him loose on your computer playing Minecraft and he is a breeze, his sister Saskia however is a completely different kettle of fish.

She is now 14 and knows everything, sulky and I hate to admit it she is very funny and as bright as a button and has an answer for everything. The one thing she hasn’t learned is subtly.

She has already asked if she can have my Mac when I shuffle off this mortal coil. Even if we arrange for a family holiday like last year we have to check it there is wireless on the complex so she won’t be out of touch with her posse.

But what I find is the biggest cheek of all is that they do visit when you are not at home and make themselves very comfortable. I don’t mean they break in, they have a key but they systematically empty the fridge, drink all the coke and eat all the stuff I shouldn’t eat (which I suppose is a good thing).

So when we arrived home tonight the note at the top of this post is the note that Saskia left on the coffee table so we wouldn’t think we had been burgled. You have to hand it to her she did think to let us know.

God only knows what the future brings but I know one thing for sure I wouldn’t change anything at all. Life is good, we have a great family around us and life is an adventure, and so it should be.

Why would you go to bed thinking you haven’t made a difference to anything or anyone. That would be my vision of hell and hopefully I won’t be visiting there anytime soon.

Cupcakes and Reminders of the Past

ultimate-chocolate-cupcakes-1-600Its Sunday night at Eccles Towers and its ten o clock and for the first time this week I have the lounge to myself.

Its a rare occurrence these days for me to sit quiet with a brew and the TV remote in my favorite chair I can tell you. Saskia has been with us now for two weeks and last night was joined by her younger brother James who has been lucky enough to have been born with a cheeky smile and fantastic red hair.

The only issue with the kids staying is that they expect to be entertained and kept busy every waking minute. Now Ann was up early with them which gave me a little time to gather my thoughts before I had to give offspring number one a lift to work because of his continuing car troubles and living in the hills buses are a rare on Sundays.

So a couple of hours later I walk in the house to find that Ann, Saskia and James had been baking. It was as though I had been transported back to my childhood with the smell of fresh baking wafting through the house.

I hung my coat up by the door and immediately the pair of them came running through very excited and dragging me through to the kitchen. Now Saskia apart from a little bit of flour on her cheek looked like she had been sat reading a book rather than baking but James was a whole other proposition.

He had chocolate all around his mouth and flour in his hair and on everything he was wearing. That should have been a clue to what I was to encounter in the kitchen. I think it would be best described as looking like a grenade going off in a flour factory.

I was dragged to look at the cupcakes that these to mini bakers had made and they presented me with my very own cupcake and they stood whilst I ate it, waiting patiently for me to tell them how good it was. It tasted even better than it looked.

So whilst they jumped up and down they got one each and made all sorts of sounds that one makes when eating something delicious, Ann was busy trying to sort out the kitchen, (somehow they had managed to use every bowl and utensil in the place).

“We are going to make biscuits next time granddad and we will save you one”. James said with a bowl and spoon in his hand busy scraping the remains of the mixture they had used.

By two o clock when we took them down home we had almost managed to clear up and put a cupcake in a bag for mum and get them in the car for the journey.

So spin the clock forward Six hours and Saskia is back with us because we have the school run in the morning. She is sat on the settee in her pajamas and dressing gown watching XFactor and smelling of bath time and looking like she has been scrubbed until she shines.

Again for some reason it took me back again to my childhood, its strange but it was the smell that instantly transported me back fifty years to Sunday Nights at my parents house, watching Sunday Night at the London Palladium after having a bath and everyone sat around having a brew and a piece of Victoria Sponge.

Its strange but now I am getting older I have started to remember things I had long forgotten and the strangest things make you think of the people who you loved and who are no longer with us and when you think of them you miss them instantly.

I suppose we are fortunate enough to be in a position that enables us to let the grand kids enjoy the simple pleasures that we remember from our childhood. I hope they remember days like today and do them with their children. I suppose that this has been going on for centuries but we never have time to sit and think about it.

So that’s this weeks ramble out of the way. Just enough time to try another cupcake with my brew, my excuse is that I am saving Ann from herself, she has weight watchers on Tuesday and if she hasn’t lost weight I am in for a very hungry week.

We are about to be Space Invaded

Saskia the Space Invader

Next week if you listen carefully you will hear the collective sigh of millions of parents knowing that their little darlings are back in school for another year. No more hunting for cheap things to do to keep the kids occupied.

I had almost forgot what it was like to keep kids occupied, ours fled the nest years ago. I can only imagine that in this day and age it is even more of a challenge. In this age of instant everything kids have forgot what it is like just to sit and do nothing. My granddaughter can manage about five minutes before she visibly starts twitching looking for the next thing to do.

Now she will be staying with us for the next couple of weeks whilst her mum goes into hospital so I can expect my workload to quadruple during this period. On Saturday she came with her list of things she needs to do just to survive for the couple of weeks at our humble abode. Bearing in mind she thinks we live in a technological black hole and she questions how can we survive without what she considers essentials.

Its the amazement in her voice when she found out our shortcomings. “What do you mean you don’t have Sky catchup”, “Isn’t your broadband slow” and the unforgettable “When you die Granddad and can I have your Mac”? All this from an eleven year olds lips.

She will arrive next Monday with various iPads, iPods, hair straighteners and enough clothes to keep her going for six months. Also she will bring her beloved Saxophone which for some unknown reason she likes to practice when I am watching something.

Now I know I am sounding very grumpy but the plus side of having young people around the house is the energy and laughter it brings and that is no bad thing. I think I am lucky in the fact that the job I do brings me into contact with young people everyday and it’s fantastic.

Just to sit and listen to them and try to work out the reasoning behind some of the discussions they have is brilliant. The what colour should I have my hair done this week conversation is a personal favourite of mine, mainly because I have hardly any left and if I did I wouldn’t dye it anyway.

Now I know that you will find this hard to believe I was once young and can remember a particular conversation I had with my dad after another weekend of treating his house like a hotel and not letting them know I was staying at a mates.

I can remember turning to him and saying “dad, I am eighteen and you just don’t know the pressure I am under”. To this day I don’t know why he didn’t batter me senseless. I am now at the age he was then, and if I knew what life throws at your average fifty odd year old then, I think I might have kept very quiet.

So think of me this coming fortnight, bringing in horses, running her to guides, listening to her playing her Sax, homework and not being able to use my computer because she will have commandeered it like she does every time she comes.

The surprising thing to me and my wife is that we wouldn’t have it any other way because when she is here she is great fun and at our age being around that is priceless.

Hi Love. I Have a New Hobby.

The Veterans after the parade
The Veterans after the parade

This weekend has been another in a long line of special weekends in Saddleworth. Its been the annual Yanks weekend were hundreds of people gather in all sorts Second World War uniforms and get together and have a great time and find an escape from everyday life for a little while.

Whilst I was waiting for the Parade to pass by at lunchtime I was lucky enough to watch the real veterans march past looking very smart in Blazers, Berets and Medals gleaming and worn with pride. They were greeted with a huge round of applause, not that this surprised me because like many I believe we owe these people a great deal and we don’t show as much appreciation as we should.enough.

Shortly after the parade three of these veterans came into the beer garden and had a well deserved pint or two. These guys were laughing and joking and had more life in them than most thirty year olds. I stood and laughed with them and had a great half an hour listening to them recant various tales about colleagues and events that left me slightly in awe of them.

However it was what one of the veterans said that made me think. He pointed out that he could understand these people getting dressed up and having a good time and looking back with affection, but what fascinated him more than anything was the guy who turned up with a Tank Transporter complete with Tank!

Tank Transporter

He said “What would you tell the wife when you turn up at the house with that lot”? His mate calm as anything says “He just told her he had a new hobby”.


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