Friday, June 26, 2009

End of an era

This morning we got the news that at the age of 50 Micheal Jackson had passed away.

Today I have listened to lots of comments from ordinary people I work with, from friends online, from folks making one liners on facebook, from the media, from on the radio. Some comments were tributes, some thought of the man's family who are left behind, some were jokes, you knowm those tasteless ones which are typical of the stuff we say to comprehend and make sense of things that seem senseless.

I was never a particular MJ fan, although some of his tracks and stuff he did when with his brothers in the Jackson 5 I love, Rockin' robin starts me singing Thriller just makes me want to start dancing, Billy Joe makes me cringe, and Ben makes me cry.

For me, it marks the end of an era (aside from the fact he was only a year younger than me and makes mortality stare me in the face). Love him or hate him he was a huge part of my growing up years. In my day music and the charts were so different to what they are today. We had very few one-hit-wonders, only one or two manufactured bands (The Monkeys and the Partridge family spring to mind but its hard to think of any others), musicians actually had to be able to perform on stage without resorting to electronic enhancement of their live voices (and they had to be pretty good at miming too LOL) and their chart position of any released single was oh so important. As teenagers we knew from only a few bars of a song the title, the artist, the chart position that week, the record label and who wrote the song alongside every member of the band's name. Whoa betide anyone that hadnt sat up on Sunday listing to Caroline's chart show, when they got into school on Monday!!

And a big part of all that were The Jacksons, or Michael on his own. There were very few weeks when one or the other were not in the charts. So love him or hate him, he was part of all that, his songs were being played everywhere, he was strutting his stuff on TOTP's nearly every week.

Today, in much the same way the death of Maurice Gibb a few years back marked the end of part of the disco era of the 70's so today's news marks another era passing. And despite any media hype, I for one feel a little sad that another part of my youth can never be experienced by myself or others again. To me its a huge huge chunk of my life (in terms of music, mood, era) that has gone. Yeah it was gone anyway but Michael's death makes its real somehow. Alot of us 'wrinklies' who can recall his first ever time on TOTP's will feel the same.

As for him as a person and his lifestyle - well remember we only ever got the media show's version of all events and how much of that was hype, publicity stunts, exagerated, madness, following ill advisers? or the truth? I dont think we will ever know the truth but I suspect that over the next few weeks/months/years a lot more is going to hit the fan which is a real shame for his family. Sad as it is, the media being what it is, we will all soon get really tired of hearing obout him.

I hope he is finally at peace where ever he may be now. RIP.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Another day another dollar

Which is something one of my bosses at Telecommunications used to start every morning saying, and which really got up everfyone's nose, plus today I am not earning another dollar as for the first time in ages I have no work booked. Its nice to have a few days at home though as the garden is completely over-run, and yesterday I started the huge job of weeding, deadheading and pruning back. One bed down .... tons more to do!

I am also doing a bit of crafting, despite lots of evening time being taken up with playing My Farm over on Facebook. I started out of curiousity because some of the teachers at the school I was working in were talking about it in the staff room, I am now hooked and refuse to give in until I have got at least one greenhouse LOL

Still on my craft table I have 2 nearly complete LO's awaiting journaling, and the photos printed out and cropped ready for a third. I also have nearly 100 glasses that need name tags made, printed and tied onto them, wedding menus to even get started on and 80 order of service cards awaiting their insides!

Most things are in hand as THE WEDDING edges ever closer. On Sunday (Father's day) we were invited by the happy couple to go over to the venue for lunch where we would be sampling their chosen menu. The setting is stunning and the new owners have been in for nearly a year making lots of improvements and alterations. I know the hotel well as it used to be a top favourite for teachers who had to go on courses or conferences. The place was so good then that it used to be a bit of a bun fight to get signed up for any teacher develepment days behing held there. The ownership then passed on and the new landlord was not a patch on the old, within only a short space of time their bookings dropped off, and when we initially went to check the place out as a proposed wedding venue we were shocked to find the place in the hands of the liquidisers. However the present new owners seem determined to make a go of it and so far so good.

Mind you even the best make mistakes and the landlady, although confirming that it would be fine to come sample the kids chosen grub, had forgotten to tell the chef, leaving us rather stunned to discover only the main course on our menu to be available, and even then not with the veggies we wanted. Wayne, not surprisingly made his feelings known, since this was not a freebie and we would be paying. We would still have to come back a second time to ensure the menu tasted right as a whole, meaning they would be getting a lot more money out of us. Di, Wayne's mum didnt really catch on to what Wayne was up to, but I could see the twinkle in his eye and it was clear from my seat that he was simply aiming for a free lunch. Di kept telling him to let it go, and not to worry, but he told her to be quiet and continued with his pitch. It partly worked as we all ended up with free deserts.

Anyway without giving any surprises away, sufficient to say what we did get to eat was superb (well the chef needs to learn how to cook potatoes but other than that..!)

We then spent quite a while wandering around the building a grounds, helping on decisions of table placement, band set up etc before heading off home again. We have now been invited to do the whole exersice over again next weekend but hopefully sampling the weddings full breakfast!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

York and Yorkminster

I know its been a while now since we were in Yorkshire, but I still want to document the rest of the holiday, so please bear with me. Thursday we set off for York. Now this really was doing a bit of distance as we had to get back onto the A1M and even getting to that, before the drop down the country to York, was a good 16 miles across country. We decided to use the park and ride, the bus dropping us virtually at the door of York Minster so that was our first port of call. The cathedral itself is really imposing and even to us hardened to the common daily sight of Canterbury Cathedral were impressed.

We were not as equally impressed with the charge to actually go in the place so we did a quick gander through the entrance, nabbed a photo and hotfooted it back outside. Dissappointed we wandered around the city. There is an excellent selection of shops, both modern highstreet chains and little independants. We particularly loved The Shambles, where tiny victorian shops nugded together with the street market in the narrow lanes.

Now remember back to my post about the jacket for the wedding. I decided that while we were standing outside I would abandon Martin to the street entertainment (some Indian dancing, pan pipes and a couple of singers) nip into M&S and chance my arm. It was a way bigger Marks than any of our local stores (I can get to three or four in a 30 mile radius from our house) and it was packed. There was a good selection of suitable jackets too which came as a surprise. As well as a white one that had Navy stitching which would meet the bill, there was an Olive green one with geogeous beaded stitching that I fell in love with. Ok it wouldnt go with the dress I already had, so a brilliant excuse to get another dress. A nearby manikin sported just the one that would work. Now this M&S had a very strange set up for trying clothes on. Armed with my dress and jacket, I had to join a (long) queue of other ladies who, once at the head of the line, handed their prospective purchases to a salesperson behind a large desk. She counted the number of items and gave back the appropriate numbered tag. She then handed your chosen clothes to another M&S employee who hung them on a rack. When a changing booth became available that same woman took the items off the rack and handed them back to you. Another Mark's worker showed you to the changing room and you finally got to try the items on. On the way out, you handed your numered tag and any unwanted or badly fitting bits and bobs to a fourth lady behind a different large desk on the other side. As you can imagine all this, as well as being heavy in manpower, took a very long time. I had to phone Martin who had now been watching the entertainment on the road for over half an hour just to tell him I was still alive and well.

Of course the dress didnt fit properly so the jacket was of little use, but I still got Martin in to confirm his opinion and finally I got a jacket for the wedding. Outfit now only needing a hat, shoes and a bag!

Having finally got that out the way we could continue our sight seeing, and having our English Heritage cards with us we climbed the steps to get a freebie view of the city from the CLiffard Tower.

And what a stunning view it was, and if only I had known we were so near to not one but two chocolate factories!!

Although there were lots of other places we could have visited we were now getting tired, and the weather was getting cooler and a bit windy, it was still a long way back to our little cottage, and it took as over an hour to find somewhere to have a scone and a coffee (we bought them in two seperate take away places and ate them in the square in the end, York has a good opening for some tea rooms) we decided to grab the park and ride back to our car and head back into the hills.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

S'eye' of relief

Those few of you who follow my blog may recall back in March I rattled on about the poor eye test I had recieved care of Specsavers, and the fact that they were refering me to the GP. Well I never got to see my GP but was refered straight on to the hospital.

Today I went for that appointment. I spent an awful hour having various drops in and several people look into my eyes with a battery of instruments. At least the doc there had the decency to tell me why I was there. The pressure reading on my eyes was slightly above the top tolerance, and I had also failed the field of vision test. Turns out that yes the reading was above the tolerance levels ... but only because specsave had not allowed for the thickness of my cornea and when that adjustment was made, it put the reading to within safe limits. Three months of worrying and suffering poor vision for no reason.

There was nothing wrong with my field of vision either, I passed that with flying colours! Yeah, that was the one I did at specsavers after she had shone the light in my eyes for 10 mins.

Totally loosing all confidence in specsave I went to a 'proper' optician where he retested my eyes and told me that the specsave perscription was 'nearly' the same as his (which is a professional way of saying it was wrong). He explained that wih my pressure readings he would not have refered me but put me on a monitor with yearly instead of bi-yearly recalls. He also told me that all the specsave staff excepting maybe one on duty optician had only 3 day trained on how to use the equipment and were not opticians.

He did laugh like a drain when he questioned if I usually walked around with my nose in the air and I had to tell him it was simply because my glasses were bent and it was the only way to keep them on - again down to the lack of quality in my cheapo specsave glasses.

In the long run going to the cut price option has resulted in paying for two eye tests, 3 months of angst, an unneccesary hospital appointment and the frustration of having to wear the wrong perscription for weeks on end.

Guess who is NOT going to specsave again??

Saturday, June 13, 2009

More of Yorkshire

So on to Tuesday, and not such a sunny start. I had told Martin that enough was enough and it was time he stopped driving and had a chill out day, so the plan was to stay at the cottage, maybe a trip out to the nearby village but mainly NO driving. Well that lasted until about 10 o'clock by which time, we had had breakfast, I had played solitary sudolu, and started a watercolour of the garden in the boiling sun (yes the weather had rapidly changed and it was hot, hot, hot!). Martin was obviously bored too because it didnt take more than a couple of words to persuade him to get back behind the wheel.

Amongst all the hundreds of tourist leaflets I had picked up from various shops along the way, was one describing a 'craft' trail, following a circular route starting at Hawes, 4 miles down the road, we could visit the cheese factory, the felt factory, the sheep dog demo, the waterfalls, candle making, rope works, the county museum and several other wonderful places. Sounded good so off we went.

We started in Hawes where we managed to buy me a hat (purple baseball cap, but at least it kept the sun out of my eyes) and after a quick squizz at the local market stalls, we headed to the rope making demos. Now Mart was facinated but to me it was rather small potatoes since I had already seen the demos at Chatham where the supposedly longest rope making shed in existance still makes ropes. However it was still interesting, although as a working factory there was little to tell us what was going on, we just got to watch the two guys making rope.

The rope making place backed onto the country museum, which also held the Tourist information shop. We had being seeing signs and directions to these all over Yorkshire but had yet managed to actually find one, but it was a little late into the week to find the free information of much use, we still enjoyed browsing all the leaflets and suggestions though. The museum, unlike most town museums was not free to enter, and neither could we see how big it was or what delights it might hold. At £3 a shot, we decided we really didnt want to take the risk of paying £6 to see what might only be a few rusty relics.

Mind you, outside it was perfectly possible to see all this for free, so maybe the artifacts may have been a bit more exciting than a few Roman coins and a collection of someone's 1810 photos.
Before we left Hawes, a must was the Wensleydale Creamery where all the Wensleydale cheese is made.
This was really interesting, first a musuem with loads of cheese and butter making artifacts alongside some old farming instruments and loads of info on how the creamery came into existence from a very well made video presentation, and then into the veiwing room where you could witness the production of that day's cheese being made.

My first few photos were pretty poor as the viewing window was pretty filthy. Then I discovered I could zoom in and get much better shots.

Not expecting a picnic opportunity I had thrown a cold drink, apples, cheese, and some crisps into the car, so before carrying on along the craft trail we sat in a feild, admired the view
and munched our snack as it was now gone 1 o'clock. We hadnt got far around the actual trail but we were having fun. A good job too as the rest of the trail was not quite as sucessful.

Next on the list was the Felt gallery and a waterfall worth photographing. We found the village easily, and parked up. The first thing we noticed was a sign saying that parking within the village was free but they would welcome donations towards the upkeep of the church, written in rather menacing tones. Mmm, strange. The felt museum turned out to be a private house with the upstairs open to the public. It looked rather forboding so we gave that a miss and turned to find the walk up to the waterfalls. As we had driven through the village we had seen a pathway advertised at the local pub. Martin said he could do with a drink so we went in. It turned out the waterfall access (not the waterfall) was across private land and they were charging £5 per person for the priviledge!! Not in this life, mister! We had seen waterfalls in Yosimite for free, much better than you could ever offer, so no thanks.

We had a swift half and got back in the car for the next installement. A drive across Butertubs pass with spectacular views across the Swaledale valley. The countryside up until now had been beautifully manicured, sheep grazing in every field, well kept dry stone walls surrounding pretty stone cottage farm houses. Out here it got a bit wilder,

the walls dissappeared and the sheep wandered in the roads, contained only by the lay of the land and cattle grids. Which invariably meant they wandered in front of cars!! The candle making demo's were suspended throughout June, but by now we were getting pretty tired so we decided to give the rest of the trial a miss and cut across country back to the cottage. Even this took us the best part of an hour as although the roads were good, there was no direct routes, and we meandered back and forth across the dales. We had intended to stop at Asgwrath falls but again the steep cost of the parking detered us and we pushed on for base camp. Finally we arrived back, and although tired we decided to hace one more short excursion to see the lake situated just behind Bainbridge.

Here the roads got very very narrow, and at one point seemed little more than a dirt track, which is where we spotted these little bundles of fluff! Wild pheasant chicks!!

Thursday, June 11, 2009


Kate Hatfield template, Miss Mint kit.

Its so easy to look at a map and think, wow, thats fairly near, lets just carry on up the road a bit. Well its what we tend to do a lot, which is why after a fairly exhausting morning looking around caves and walking dales, we decided to just nip up the road to Morcambe, and maybe even drop in Kendale on the way home!

Of course it didnt take long to realise it was further than we thought but it was beautiful countryside and so we just kept going. Despite the crowded seafront we managed to find a parking space virtually opposite the memorial of the one and only great Eric Morcambe. What a wonderful tribute the town have made to the genius of comedy, the stairs up to the statue are engraved with the words of 'Bring me sunshine', he's clever catchphrases are embedded in the paving slabs below and around him are stars depicting the major contributers to the art work. Martin was over the moon when he spotted that one of them was his very own employers Morrisons. And, well, you just have to dont you?

We looked for our hats, but would you adam and eve it, even though Morcambe is a traditional seaside town (all be it a bit tired and run down) there were no traditional bucket, spade and sun hat shops. We walked into town and managed to get sun screen in Boots, where a very confussed assistant tried to direct us to the nearest Morrisons (via the sea if we had followed her instructions) as we needed to stock up on basics and believe it or not, having only done about 400 miles a tank of petrol. We tanked ourselves up too, stopping in a beach front pub for a bacon roll and a coffee (it was on offer and the roll on its own was £1.20 dearer than if we had the coffee with it!). We also got chatting to a lovely old couple from Stoke who's highlight of the holiday was to be the meal they were just about to get in Weatherspoons! Ah bless.

Despite the milage, the hiking, the pot holing and the hour spent shopping in the supermarket (the latter being so few and far between in Yorkshire we stocked up for the week worried we would not find civalisation again soon) we still had enough energy and enough sun rays left to enjoy a BBQ in the little cottage garden.

Not a bad second day to our holiday.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Up north ... and outfitted

The last two and a bit weeks have been spent scouring shops for the final bits of my wedding outfit for Laura's wedding. I managed to get a really pretty dress off the Littlewoods cat. ages ago but still needed to get all the accessories that turn a simple dress into a fabbie wedding outfit. I decided to start with the jacket so that I could work in the colour scheme.

The dress, a grey based blue has cream embroidered flowers, pinkish seed beads and silver sequins (it sounds horrid, but honest it is really sweet).
Now this should have given me scope for plenty of colours in a jacket, pink, blue, cream, ivory, grey, or even a green in the same hue. Laura andI went into town and visited every single womanswear shop we could think of. I wasnt being fussy, anything smart in my size would have done. We simply couldnt find many jackets and they were all either black or white!

Exhausted and out of car parking time, we came home I started searching the net. Still no luck. This was posing a problem as it is a strappy dress and really needs more than a cardigan to finish the look.

Anyway, pushing the problem to one side, Saturday Martin and I set off for a week in the Yorkshire Dales, where we had rented a little cottage for a bit of a get away. After five and a half hours of fairly pleasant driving, we arrived in the village of Bainbridge to an interesting sight.

Travellers on the green, horse racing.

Yorkshire villages are full of wonderful stone cottages and narrow lanes with no street parking. There was a spot for leaving our car a little way down the lane from our cottage but too far for two road weary oldies to carry heavy suitcases, so we opened the little swing gate to the road running behind the three cottages terraced with ours. No sooner than we had removed the last case than the wonderful friendly man from the end of the road arrived to greet us at the door ..... no actually it was to have a right moan and winge about us parking the car there! Did we know he had solicitors letters and everything against the shower who owned the cottage to stop this sort of thing ..blah, blah, blah. What a sad old git he must have been. Well we bowed and scrapped and doffed our caps, then after moving the car, retireing into the kitchen for a good giggle.

Stone cottage - front door with back garden?

Comfy cottage

The cottage was everything you would expect from a yorkshire stone built home, and it did us proud for the week. The only downsides being that there was no mobile phone signal in the middle of the downs, and it was also quite a way into the dales, meaning long drives to anywhere. In fact Martin managed to do most of his first 1000 miles driving on his new car during the week we were there.

Although I had packed quite a bit of food for the week, we needed bread for our tea, so as soon as we had unpacked we travelled another 4 miles into Hawes, a small market town with several pubs and some great small supermarkets. This looked like it was going to be a good week.

The first morning dawned hot and sunny so for a treat we had a full english breakfast set up properly in the garden. Stuffed to the brim we then headed off to Hadlow Carr, the RHS garden. On our way we passed through Masham, supposedly the most visited village in the Dales. We couldn't really work out the attraction but were surprised to spot these sights in the car park!

Is that really the garden shed making up the back of that car?

Maybe they have heard of the government scrappage scheme?

The guys actually turned the engine over and the car moved into its parking space under its own steam!

Neither of us had been prepared for the heat, and pretty soon we were in desperate need of hats, suntan lotion and drink. However we did not let that spoil our day, and had a wonderful journey through time as we inspected the gardens of Edwardian, Victorian, pre and post war England as well as a 1960's and 1980's garden. Then we laughed to see they were using a similar system of veg growing as I was at home, knowing that my dad had insisted it would not work.

It was certainly working for the RHS.

The maze was in the wooded part of the garden, the upside down trees confused us -

-the maze didnt.
We drove home via Harrigate - which we didnt like much, and Skipton which we did like but were too tired to spend much time in. Already we were clocking up the miles and although the countryside is spectacular, we decided a meal in the local pub was on the cards. Unfortunately the pub was shut, not opening for another 2 hours so we ended up back in Hawes where the local cafe did us proud with a huge roast beef dinner!

Martin isn't so in to gardening, so I was surprised that he enjoyed the day so much. Still to be fair, having had my choice I insisted that on day two he chose where we should go. He chose the caves . . not my cup of tea at all, but looking at the map, a visit to a hole in the ground would leave us close to the coast, so I agreed to a trip to Morcambe afterwards..

Martin had chosen the longer of the two caves on offer, but as we pulled into the car park not only did a coach load of school kids pull up too, but everyone was wearing cold weather gear, while we were in shorts and tee's. We drove onto the next cave, as the broachure assured us we could walk it in ordinary clothes, passing the 'Harry Potter' viaduct.

The only problem with the second choice cave was the mile long nature trail to get to the cave. Leaving the car in the village of Clapham, (not in the National Park facility as they wanted £3 for 2 hours) we climbed the hill and treked through the trail. All up the side of a dale, it was a long hot walk, but full of lovely sights, a huge lake,


dappled green trees full of song birds, and a very strange shell grotto,

There was a bit of a wait at the cave while the party of old folks finished their tour, but there were only us and a young man and his 10 year old daughter on our tour, so it was an intimate affair, and really interesting. I couldnt take photos in the cave but this is the outside - not very interesting but at least it proves we went! LOL

Morcambe to follow ......