Winter cruising December 2017; Leeds-Liverpool

This winter cruise was a continuation of a routine me and Pete had got into as part of our share of 57 foot Sapphire. We needed a hire boat however. The bottom of the narrowboat food chain. What is there to say about cruising the Leeds Liverpool canal in early December?
Foolhardy is most people’s first thought. Not if you have experience of driving and managing locks and stuff. Winter doesn’t make a lot of difference and the four of us were veterans, or thought we were. Each time we come though we have something to relearn. It soon comes back. And there is always room to learn something new - a real issue on this trip.

A second thought. Isn’t it cold? Yes. Our previous winter trips had prepared us for this, especially last year on Sapphire down the Middlewich Arm of the Shropshire Union to the Badger at Minshull. The barmaid was curious as to why we would choose the coldest week of the year for a holiday. Good question. Easily answered by the roaring fire in the back room and four pints of Black Sheep. We had the room to ourselves and a free rein on refuelling. And yes it was also cold on the Leeds Liverpool. A crispy blue skied coldness with clear far reaching views of lowland fells, winter fields and farms.

A final question. Hadn’t we something better to do with our time? No actually we hadn’t. Even in retirement we challenge our routines and commitments. Families, dogs, choirs, charity fund raising, hens, fitness sessions, housework. Need I go on? The list can be endless. Who did all these things when we were at work. We did. And we’re still doing them as grandparents. Stressful for some, needing time to refresh.

Despite these reservations off we went. Two stages. North east towards Barnoldswick and back. Drop our wives off at the station and just the two blokes down to Bingley for the last three days. Or so we thought. I received an email the day before we were due to go. Gargrave, an interim stop on our opening outward leg, was shut. You’re booked through Bingley manned five rise locks on such and such a day, back three days later. Okay, sounds like a plan. Except the dates. They were expecting us Monday but we were aiming for tomorrow, the Friday before. Big mistake on the booking front. Ouch! My dreaded hoodoo had struck again. Frantic phone call to the boatyard. Can you bring us forward? Half and hour later and yes they could. Your Bingley bookings are now these. Great, a life saver, for me anyway. Just what would we have done without that email?

Sadly this was an echo of things past. A self-adjusting one. Like the Ryanair flights to Italy. They emailed us to say the flights had been cancelled, for me to discover I’d booked the wrong dates. Would I like to reschedule? You bet I would. What about the wrong week on Sapphire with Pete and Jean, the same crew as this week? We had a brilliant time in Scarborough instead. The show in London two months hence I’d reserved for the same night I was booking. Jersey Boys. They gave us great seats. I’ve stopped counting the times I’ve bought two of stuff off Amazon. I now don’t buy anything expensive, just in case. I try to keep the childbride behind me on these occasions. Obviously not foolproof, with the emphasis on fool.

Beginning our winter adventure at Skipton, making for Barnoldwick or so we thought

The infamous bridge that marked our two hour delay, awaiting the boatyard boss arriving from Leeds

At the boatyard we were informed Gargrave was open, so we reverted to our two stage plan. Friday afternoon we only had time to go through the automatic swingbridge, park and stock up at Morrison’s. Despite central heating and solid fuel stove full on, Jean was frozen during the night, but put on a brave face the following morning. Back to the shops for a hot water bottle. Saturday lunchtime and disaster. Just beyond a swingbridge, Pete tried to hold the boat while we got back on. A gust of wind and grounded. Not difficult on this canal. A struggle and we were off. The engine cut out and wouldn’t restart. Back to the side. The middle rope looked a bit tight. We couldn’t shift it, wound under the boat and presumably around the prop. Into the weed hatch, access to the propeller, engine off, keys out. Yes a rope, but something else. Barbed wire. Thirty minutes wet and cold and no joy and multiple finger bleeding points. Phone call to the boatyard. Oh dear, the boss is in Leeds, I’ll ring you back. May as well have lunch. It’s lovely out. Two and a half hours later the boss returned from another boat which had failed to start. Gloves, courage to use the engine whilst not down the hatch, experience and he was done in no time. Great and many thanks. Barnoldswick had by now faded into the distance.

End of our first leg, Gargrave, and my interactions with a water board lady

We made the approach to Gargrave in the hour of sailing time left til dusk. We two blokes decanted to the Masons Arms to watch Wales have a go at the Blacks without much luck. Gargrave proper the following morning. Here I did something I cannot remember ever doing before. I left two paddles open on the lock gates. Canal crime of massive proportions. A waterboard person was parked just up from the winding hole and I stood corrected and ashamed. She spoilt it a bit by closing them herself rather than simply pointing out our error. Double whammy when she tried to give us a tutorial on reversing - “Thankyou” I said three times in between her bits of advice. She took the hint and went back to her newspaper. Her advice was on the money however, but I just wasn’t in the mood. Pete was driving and polite. Didn’t say “Eh” once.

We weren’t going anywhere. Forward were a dozen locks and more, up one day down the next. No fun there, so we did what we used to do in college on Sundays. Got the papers, stoked up the fire and blobbed. Cold and sunny and rolling hills viewed through the windows. O happy boat.

The Polish war memorial. Wellington bomber with polish crew.

More or less warm that night. Leisurely progress back to Skipton on Monday. A total of eight miles in three days. The wives caught the train home Tuesday morning. Pete and I departed for Bingley, not quite to five rise locks. This proved to be trial by swingbridge for me, a breeze for him. He hobbled dramatically, especially downwards, steps and slopes. Two replaced knees that need replacing and I’m the muscle. Getting the fire in, cooking bacon butties, making coffee, on and off the boat, on and off the boots and I’m blessing him and those bloody swingbridges. How many were there? Double figures certainly and to be done twice. Most were manual. The ones with roads and cars, about a third, were automatic, but were they? A waterboard key turned in a large grey box to set the warning lights and siren off. Barriers down okay, except the ones I had to do myself. Cars stopped. Then bridge swinging on automatic. Okay except for the couple I had to do myself. Boat through and reverse the process. So not all automatic then. How did I discover the variations? There were instructions on the top of every grey box and frantic specs on to read them when a bridge didn’t work. Then the two or so occasions I’d done everything and they still didn’t work. To keep the electric sequence going, manual barriers and bridges as part of the automatics had to be engaged solidly in their housing at the end of their swings. A good old clang. On the manual bridges if you did this I got a bounce so I’d learned to slow up. The penny soon dropped that I had to take a run at the manual bits. Managed somehow and no complaints from drivers.

The all-manual ones were tougher but more predictable. For walkers, sheep and cows. They were all held closed by a chain attached to a fixed point on the bank. The chain was guarded by an anti-vandal handcuff. You’d think handcuffs were for vandals. No, these were for anti-vandals. You’d also think the bridges were far to big and heavy to be vandalised, but I guess the farmers wanted them to stay closed. The chain looped back on itself around a strong metal piece of bridge, through the cuff, which was then screwed firmly shut, using another water board key. The key ring had two keys and a spare, for the toilets, and a cork float, in case you chucked the ring in the cut. These got all tangled trying to turn the cuff screw, both to undo and redo it. And access to the cuff was a lottery. Upside down, to the side, behind a railing. The chains tended to be tight, so if the bridge had bounced a touch screwing up the cuff was impossible. I took some pride in getting the hang of it, along with some supportive language, achieved in beautiful weather which for the most part I was able to share with Pete.

Out in the wilds, great mooring, lovely sunset

Bacon sandwiches, the Marquis of Granby and icebreaking

Down in Bingley we needed water and a winding hole. Both in the local boat club, separated by guess what? A swingbridge. Crossed by members of the club, so keep it closed or else. Pete grounded again, and an old scrote gave some advice through his central hatch. Pete would not have heard. Watered up, backwards through the bridge, winding hole a bit tight between two club boats. Obviously the rule of no parking in winding holes does not apply to the privileged. A club boat decided to pull out. It must have been pretty obvious that we were pointing the wrong way. I trudged up to engage with the woman. Somehow I negotiated we would go first. Pete did it well. We set off, passing said club boat, bloke at the helm ignoring me. Well I ignored him too. We were a hired boat, less than the dust.
A couple of decent pubs on the way. The Marquis of Granby was hospitable, big fire and Osset Brewery’s Silverking. The Robin Hood in Silsden was not Pete’s favourite despite a decent fire. Too many rough looking blokes enjoying happy hour. Builders who swore a lot. But a good mooring out in the wilds which was near enough to the pub. Sunrise and sunset were stunning.  
Cold blue trip back to Skipton, swing bridges in reverse order. Icebreaking with a sound track. Tinkling near the bow on first touch, then loud cracks as cracks penetrated to the bank. Ice shards pinging across the slippery surface. 
The boatyard staff could not have been more welcoming. There was a big list of things that hadn’t gone well, but being out on the cut and sailing longish days is a challenge and a pleasure. So a bit of a balancing act. More of a pleasure for me, but whether we do it again in winter has no answer.

Team Sheila out fund-raising again for Forget-me-not

Back at the local narrow gauge railway for the Christmas fund raising session

Team Sheila at Shelley terminus
Forget-me-not children's hospice
Santa looks happy - something about cream and a cat

I bought some supermarket budget lager yesterday. It's not a drink, it's a penance.

Bill Bryson's book on Shakespeare is mostly a delight. I was warmed by all the different copies in folios and quartos and goodness knows what else. Sounds like total chaos, and well done all those guys who tried to sort it out. And, there were plenty of fraudsters, even then. My meagre contributions to literature are in order by comparison, sort of - who misplaces my stuff, right when I need it.  

I love starting a sentence with 'and'.

My daughter arrived yesterday when I was sitting in total darkness. "What's up? You having a funny do?'
"No - we've just had a smart meter installed."

Can I take this opportunity for apologise to all the people in 2017 I have insulted, ignored or just been downright grumpy with.

Finishing with a preposition - criminal.

Christmas in Manchester - another senior moment

Nice place, nice people, and singers too
Back in Manchester for the Christmas market - okay but there is nothing cheap. Sausage and a wine for two £20.

Had to introduce the childbride to the karaoke spot of the century, as made famous by Michael McIntyre. Bursting at the seams with pensioners and a queue to sing. Some a tad flat, but most spot on. The guy in the background is the music, with enough synthesisers to do a full orchestra.

I went to the bar to order drinks and engaged the barmaid in a short conversation.
"Are they all ex-pros?"
"But they are not looking at the words"
"There are no words"


It's freestyle.

Clic on the link for my first visit

Civic Hall poetry evening - Ian McMillan, Tony Husband

Very successful McMillan and Husband combination - words and pictures

Fund raising for the new set up at Holmfirth Civic Hall - good attendance, entertaining duo

Image courtesy of Anne Little

If this is a taste of things to come, the trustees will be pleased

Just one thing - I won third prize in the raffle; guess what? 2 free tickets for Zumba

Thanks Anne

Mindfulness - Polly Vernon is over it

Times Oct 7th - Polly comes clean about her experience of mindfulness.

"Mindfulness has gone mainstream, been co-opted by fashion, commerce and my revoltingly competitive friends."

"Like another pressure in an already overly scheduled, too-regimented day."

"I'd started exercising a lot ... focusing your body by working it hard takes you away from the washing machine churn of your thoughts."

So Polly has moved from meditation to exercise. It's a personal view. It will suit some, but not everyone. I don't live in a competitive world, up in Holmfirth, where my commitments are weekly choir practice and pilates. But I'm aware of time and how I might use it better. Certainly not moping about SEO which is a very dark art (search engine optimisation). Better not post too much or it simply becomes another version of social media. Yet, a record of trips, some family stories, advice on ageing well, senior moments and coffee time are moderately interesting. Well it's a full week, isn't it? Add in the housework, wood-burning stove maintenance and baby-sitting.

I can't wait for Anne Little, our pilates teacher, to start her next meditation course.

What are the alternatives to mindfulness. Polly Vernon discusses.

Either that or a few pints in the Mute Swan, Hampton Court.

Champion Olympic Swimmer in our kitchen

Special olympics star Jazz Stagg display her medals

Special Olympics star Jazz has her medals framed by proud mum.       
Jazz recently won a gold and three bronzes in the swimming gala at Sheffield.

Hebscape coffee shop and gallery

Going to Tarbert, you come across a wood building on the side of the road. Easy chairs, low tables, a menu, including Belgian chocolate biscuits and lots of photographs and art works, such as an image of Callanais on a tile which now sits proudly on our wall.
  The coffee is brilliant and sold in beans or grounds. They'll pop some in the post if you want.
  And shower, tied up with gold chain and home to a yucca.

Hebscape gallery and coffee shop, Harris, Outer Hebrides

Two English guys. A caterer and a graphic artist. Making a living in a brilliant environment.

Clic to learn more about this great wee place out in the islands - Hebscape coffee shop and gallery

Jigsaw mayhem

Strange jigsaw back to front and out of order

Isn't this just how you feel some days. It all started innocently enough as a break from the train track. Then the pieces fitted wherever. Then, editing in the computer it finished up back to front. So it's all wrong, yet it has something about it. 
Why are the pieces the same shape? Wouldn't have happened in my day.

Lewis and Harris - 17 facts and moments that don't appear in the audiovisual presentation

The Arch pub for our evening meal in Ullapool. Irish girl in her twenties served. "How long have you been here?" "Thirteen years." "Which part of Ireland are you from?" "Deep south west - the arse end." It wasn't the information that threw us, more the tone. But, fair enough.

Our Ullapool landlady was called Shirley. We weren't expecting that either.

A dolphin pod cut across the Stornaway ferry bow.

Haircut in Stornaway. The first in a series of exotic haircut locations.

Interesting the possible ways that soap was discovered - ladies washing in Rome next to a cooking fire. Fat from the animals mixed with ash, which is apparently alkaline, produced stuff which made the washing easier. This from the Hebridean soap company. The owner was a single lady with a dog. Originally from the Sheffield/Nottingham area, via Frankfurt and other places. A financial refugee. The village ladies wrap the soap bars. Outlets mostly on the island.

A Saga bus rolled up when we were at Callanais. Uncharitably I compared their ages with the stones - I should talk. A radio suddenly started blaring out pop tunes. "Who is the idiot with the radio?" I said, pointedly looking and glaring about. Big D looked at me disdainfully, "Dave, it's coming from your pocket." Shit, my hand-me-down phone from son Chris was switched on and tuned to one of his selections. Didn't cover myself with glory at Callanais.

Chris had challenged me to buy a Tweed jacket, so I had a look in Stornaway. Saw just the one in my colour - a dark browny-green - but the lady serving on confused me about buying a cloth length and having it made up. Fitted nicely too.

The tourist guide suggested a loom 'demo' shop on the high street. An old scrote emerged from the dark back room. "Where's the loom?" I asked. "I'm not peddling that any more, I'm 72" Oh, alrighty then. "You're still in the brochure." The reply was succinct, possibly in gaelic, and the tone was unambiguous. It takes one to know one - a grump that is. He mellowed a millimetre when we said we were from the W Riding.

The checkout at Tesco's was manned by a guy who didn't understand what I was saying. I had to repeat "How are you doing?" twice, which I did increasingly slowly and loudly. Perhaps he didn't normally get asked questions of a personal nature or perhaps he was a gaelic-speaker. He certainly wasn't deaf. I can be a wassock at times.

During our great visit with Norman at Carloway and his magnificent Hattersley Hand Loom, the so-and-so radio went off again. The crowd, six in total, sighed and looked at the ceiling. I disappeared. I'll bless Chris.

The beach at the tip of Great Bernera would grace the Caribbean. The Time and Tide Bell was here. It wasn't working.

We burnt peat on the cottage fire.

Away from Stornaway or tourist spots, there is no one about. The island seems more remote than the Dales, Lakes or Scottish west coast. Places we know quite well.

I bought a jacket and cap in Tarbert, Harris. The lady serving on said she didn't have my size if it wasn't on display. Big D sent her over to supervise me personally. After some time I got a perfect fit in blue. They are made in Leeds and even she got muddled over the chest sizes in combination with long, short or regular fit.

Great coffee shop - Hebscape - run by a couple of gay men. I was a little concerned about the shower in the toilet. Is it engaged and in use? I wouldn't share wi a yucca anyway, would you? However I couldn't help noticing the golden chain. I wonder if the yucca is being held captive? For its own safety? Or ....  ?

 Hebscape - a great coffee house with excellent photo gallery

Harris has one breath-taking view after another.

The Red River distillery used to be a fish farm. The whisky on sale was great and expensive. Matured in bourbon casks. The barley, which the owner grows himself over in Stornaway, was peat roasted for 2 days only. The girl doing the tours and the tasting didn't drink. Their other offering had only been in cask for eighteen months and was 'medicinal'.

Norman and his Hattersley hand loom

Lewis, Outer Hebrides 2017 - an audiovisual presentation

Blackhouse is a name familiar to us from Peter May’s Lewis novels. A native dwelling made of low dry stone walling covered over by wooden rafters and thick thatch. Inside, the families shared the living space with their animals. No chimney and smokey. Islanders lived in them for 150 years up to the 1970s. They easily fell into disrepair however and modern amenities like plumbing and heating eventually became preferable. Some have been renovated at Gearrannan and converted into a museum, a cafe and several holiday lets....

An audiovisual presentation of our visit to Lewis in the Outer Hebrides

full transcript

An unintended error refers to the novels as the Peter Lewis trilogy - actually Peter May.

Scarborough and Malton

Two senior gentlemen take advantage of the good weather to visit the Clock Cafe, Scarborough, for breakfast

Three days off in Scarborough are not complete without a breakfast at the Clock Cafe. Amazing that the weather let us sit outside. In the background to the right Harry Ramsden's fish and chip shop is on fire. No one injured.

Malton by bus, home on the train. Great lunch in between

The Royal Oak in Malton. Outstanding sausage and bacon sandwiches for lunch. Later we did the quiz at the Highlander, calling ourselves Two Huddersfield Grandads. 29 out of 40. We got an honourable mention.

Continuing my theme of not having a haircut in Holmfirth. This time opposite the market in Scarborough. No waiting. £6.50. My stylist was married to a bus driver who used to drive a Routemaster (link to wiki).  He said the seat was the most comfortable he'd ever sat in.
My last haircut was in Stornaway, Island of Lewis. Another lady stylist. I'm easy really, number 4 all over, eyebrows and ears.

Pete needed a replacement pin for his metal watch strap. Timpson's. A cobblers with a line in fashioning replacement keys and repairing stuff, like watches. "It needs a split pin, £3. Did you notice the face is cracked. Can do that for £25." Pete's reply was predictable. The lad moved over to the watch department with an impressive display of pins, one of which he fitted in no time. He then tapped it with a hammer. 5p for the pin and £2.95 for the knowledge and experience.

The rest of the time was spent visiting familiar friends, the North Riding, the Golden Ball and others. You have to come home for a rest.

From gladness to sadness

Vocal Expressions and New Mill Male Voice Choir
If I'm laden at all
I'm laden with sadness
That everyone's heart
Isn't filled with the gladness
Of love for one another

New Mill Male Voice Choir sing for Pete sat in his front room

The wall at the hospice

In recognition of fund-raising at our 70th birthday bash

This is our hospice brick at 'Forget-Me-Not'
Thanks again to all who attended and gave so generously

Late flowering clematis on honeysuckle

a haiku popped up, though I did massage it a bit
autumn surprise
climbing purple flower
retirement in style

Darkwoods coffee house - Marsden Jazz Festival

pleasing musical experience but the voice was an additional instrumental

listen to 'the breath' on utube - a song called 'harvest'

We go to the Marsden Jazz Festival. The childbride, and I. Walking up and down the main street and popping in the free gigs and having a pint or two. This year we paid for a concert at our favourite coffee shop. It's not jazz as we expected, but very musical and a pleasing way to spend time. We couldn't make out the lyrics, but it didn't matter.

Inspiring Ageing - The Times 23.9.2017

Anyone catch this edition?

Joan Bakewell (84), Judi Dench (82), Christine Brinkley (63), Bruce Springsteen (68), Jane Fonda (79) on fitness, diet and sex.

My pick was Michael Mosley, a medic who has just turned 60. Things I didn't know (it's a very long list):
(1) Measure the waist - it should be less than half the height. Nasty fat lurks in here.
     Go for the six pack, I should coco, but there might be something in this.
(2) Eat more nuts - part of the Mediterranean diet (fruit, veg, plus eggs, nuts, oily fish, olive oil. Less likely to die from heart attack or develop diabetes and dementia.
      You just get to die of something else. My favourite meal is bacon and eggs - then fish and chips. You look at the fancy food in magazines and you buy a load of stuff you are never going to use again at not inconsiderable prices.
(3) Fast weight loss can be okay.
      On the whole I'd rather be in the Mute Swan at Hampton Court.

Fire, lovely staff, decent ale and food - just a great place

(4) Use high intensity training. Ten sets of six-seconds sprints with one minute rest on an exercise bike against resistance which can be ramped up as you get better at it.
      New one on me - I've read a lot and it's been mostly on slower longer regimes. But why not?
(5) He also recommends mindfulness sessions which are a form of meditation.
      I think all of us have heard of or have had a go at this. The idea is to reduce stress, so good for both mental and physical health. I struggle to find the time to do it - stupid really. I do sit looking out the window with my moka coffee quite a lot. Does that qualify? 
      It's about giving oneself permission to take time out at a regular moment in the day - minutes or longer. Joining a group could help maybe. It's a shared commitment. I'm the last person to join anything - I always meet someone who is far too good. I've lived in the bottom of a scrum all my life, amongst the muck and bullets. I take a perverse pride in being a grumpy old sod.

      BUT, I've been in a pilates group for three and a half years. Admittedly the coffee afterwards with Greg and Bob, Derren and Nick, is part of the draw. Anne Little, our teacher, has recently started relaxation and meditation at the Carlisle Institute, Meltham. I've signed up amazingly, to help get it going of course and it is a course for six weeks. Anne's main claim to fame is Zumba and you can contact her with a clic here. You would not catch me at that in a month of Sundays.

Grumpy old sod who we all lovedMore grumpy old sods
Here are some more grumpy old sods. Brian was my hero, and still is. I met him twice, two pleasures. He was in his pomp when we were at school - Huddersfield New College. He gave us permission to be talented and speak our minds and not to worry too much about any fall out. Then there are the College rugby union team survivors. Alan Roberts organises us to meet at Lockwood Park, every two years. The team started in the 50s, run by Ron Capper, and died in the 70s when New College became a Sixth Form.

Saddleworth Rangers ARLC v. Deighton CYC
Leeds Rd Playing Fields - circa 1978
I loved playing at Leeds Rd. All that slutch. Memories of St Josephs - Irvine, Howlett and Summerville, Kelly and McDonough
I've just received the ball from first man Dave Tyrell. 
A great ball player and fantastic grumpy old sod, and I mean old.
12 pints was his dose after the game.

Away to Fleetwood for Andrew's birthday weekend

 Nostalgia trip to the ferry et Fleetwood
The ferry district at Fleetwood is a little poignant for me - that's why I booked a caravan here for Andrew's birthday. It used to be a car ferry I think to cut out the drive down the Wyre river. Now, two or three pedestrians only, every half an hour. Knott End is a great name - I've actually been.
  There are several fishermen and trawler memorials. This is a family welcoming their menfolk home or saying goodbye.
  The Ferry Cafe is the biggest place for breakfast in the world. Several years ago I came here with Andrew and Fern, our labrador or retriever, I forget. We went in the cafe and the lady behind the counter said, "Here's two breakfasts." It's cheap and cheerful, if not high quality, with a great view over the Wyre.

Family history at Yates - choir history at Winter Gardens

We caught the daily Blackpool coach from the bus station one year - Andrew and I. I got him one of those wrist bands at the Pleasure Beach and kept him moving all day. Twice on the Pepsimax and at least once on everything else. I got double the value and him knackered.
  Yates is a family tradition. Granny Addy from Whitestone Lane, Hillhouse, used to go on day trips and pop in for a sherry. They served it out of big barrels stored behind the bar. Older Brother and I went every year for about four/five years as part of attending the BARLA cup final - I was the medic and not too competent. A physician is not a sports specialist like they have today thankfully. That version of Yates was burned down 8 years ago and they rebuilt it in 2013 nearer the front. The older one had signposts to tell you where to queue for which drink. Even the champagne was on draught. It had a reputation for being rough. We never did work out why Granny went there - she was the widow of a bloke who was in the temperance movement. Maybe that was it - Yates was founded on the premiss that 'moderation is true temperance'. We went to the newest one near the South Shore and lively with 'hen' parties which I must say are a tad undignified. We watched Town get a football lesson.
Clic here for Yates wiki entry
  Back in the 90s I'm guessing, New Mill Male Voice Choir did a gig at the Winter Gardens, when Len Williams was MD. For women's rotary or some such. Derek, one of our tenors, was married to the 'queen bee'. We actually did two - the other one was at Scarborough Spa. I mentioned it recently to Chris Dempster, one of our current tenors. It was his first concert and he wasn't word perfect. They only had cameras and a big screen which kept looking at him. It's an experience, singing to 3000 women. The Scarborough concert was a disaster - the piano was too far away from the baritones. We enjoyed the cliff lift at the end.

Andrew scares himself to death and then give thumbs up
Andrew had to go on something, between pints.

Grandson helps out - Kirklees Light Railway - Shelley 2017

Jenson helps Ben to look after the engine
Jenson has a day out at the Kirklees Light Railway. His friend Ben gives Jenson a tour and suggests he helps out turning the engine round and filling the tank up with water. Jenson's pal Harper was also here, but she wasn't keen on the engine or having her photograph taken. She enjoyed the afternoon  out.

Away Days - Budapest 2017 - the seventeen things you didn't hear on the video

The 17 things you need to know not included in the official video

Contrary to our expectations, English was spoken everywhere - everywhere we were spending money anyway.

Buda is supposedly posh. Pest is trade. I wonder where the erstwhile in-laws live?

Other first impressions from the taxi ride in from the airport were lousy road surfaces and mad driving e.g. switching lanes at speed in confined spaces.

We took a little bit of Britain with us - a 7.00 pm beer in the lounge.

Toni Curtis was a Hungarian Jew.

The currency was Florints in telephone numbers. We discovered the exchange rate from a crone manning the toilets on the Citadel. A pee was either €1 or 250F.

Bloody hot!

It seems that most countries have had a piece of Hungary over the years, except Britain. It's surprising it still exists.

One use for the Labyrinth I forgot to mention was a haarem.

Elisabeth Square (where the big wheel was) and surrounds, with the Jewish quarter, was a slum which has gradually become gentrified, except the 'ruin bars'.

Our brilliant tour guide said there is no written Hungarian history. You can just make it up.

The kids would choose a weekend when the European Swimming Championships and the Hungarian Grand Prix were also on.

There was a full length mirror in the lobby of the apartment, a space we needed to negotiate in the night to visit the toilet. Scary! First time anyway.

We put towels on the balcony to dry. No phone calls from the residents' committee. Not like Tenerife.

I had deer stew one night. Don't. Goulash is good.

I set the alarm on UK time for the return airport taxi. Thankfully I wasn't sleeping anyway.

I'm not anti-skimpy clothing, but some of these young girls were seriously skimpy.

Away Days - Budapest August 2017

17th August 2017 was not a day we expected to be at the baths. Neither of us take a dip at home, so why would we in Budapest? Because it’s the thing to do. Young and old alike, especially the retired end. Walking about, talking, being on your own, lying on a sunbed as well as standing, sitting, lying and even swimming in the water. Stone statues, mosaic tiles and art nouveau main hall. Popular large outside pool and a smaller one at 36 degrees which is recommended for only five minutes or so ... If you would like to hear about the rest of the trip, please clic on the following link. 

Away days - Budapest 2017 - two days to get a flavour

Special Olympics 2017, Sailing Regatta, Pugneys, near Wakefield

5 boats fight it out for the Special Olympic sailing medals

In the swimming there were a lot of disqualifications, each announced as due to technical infringements. We were aching for "number 5, so-and-so, was disqualified for being a complete and utter wassock"

Laurie McMenemy was my pick of the opening ceremony celebrities.

Jasmine won two bronze swimming medals on Wednesday, another bronze today (Friday) and a gold in the relay.

The Childbride's lilies

these lilies just keep coming up every year

We do not claim to be gardeners. In fact we are the current custodians of a wilderness. But these beauties keep coming up.

Scarborough for the cricket festival 2017, and some senior moments

A series of senior moments in an otherwise fun weekend. Cricket was dire, the food mostly good and the weather held up
Grandson Jenson wasn't with us, but it's a nice pic

Sadly Yorkshire cricket has gone way downhill, but we did see a lot of wickets. Even Geoffrey on TMS was stuck for words.
  The traditional trek for a Scarborough Clock Cafe breakfast went well. The order got mixed up somehow. My bacon and eggs turned into a full breakfast on a specially widened plate. The waitress kindly went and checked and came back and confirmed the list of food my childbride had made. So I ate it. Didn't eat again for 3 days.
  A walk. We did a bit of the Cleveland Way before going inland the Poachers' Barn and then onto the path up to Oliver's Mount. The beggars have only gone and built a load of houses, so the usual path is now obscured. Intrepid leadership with a red face over the remaining scrub and no one worried, apart from me. It has to include a bit of road in future. 
  The Italian evening meal was good and the atmosphere great. I boobed again. They said I hadn't actually make a booking, but I'm pretty sure I did. We were seated anyway until a foursome made a complaint that we were in their seats. Strange how angry people get these days. So we waited and had a drink which was fine. Just before pudding a very odd thing happened. The restaurant's oil and vinegar  decanters were housed in intricate metal frames shaped a bit like DNA helices. Pretty but impractical. Our neighbouring table requested one. The lady lost control of the top decanter, a bit slippery maybe, and up it went spilling olive oil on Pauline's clothing and drenching the floor. Pauline stood up to survey the damage and slipped. She finished on her right knee, head bowed as if she was being dubbed for a knighthood. Her chin received a mild soft tissue injury from the table. It could have been nastier and we could have been nastier, but we weren't. I had been totally shielded from any spray by Pauline herself. She used to be in textiles, so that's alright then.
  Nice cafe at Yorkshire Lavender. Odd looking cricket match on the hill. Lots of purple plants and produce.
  Everyone had a good time, despite the moments. Yorkshire need to get a grip. For once the Scarborough weather was clement.

Special Olympics in Sheffield August 2017

Special Olympics brings out the best in amateur sportsmen, disabled or not
Ponds Forge and Bramall Lane, Sheffield
Venues for the swimming gala and the opening ceremony

Yesterday we travelled to Sheffield to support Jasmine (Stagg) in her bid for glory at the Special Olympics. In her first race, breaststroke, she was hampered by water inhalation. She swam beautifully however in the individual medley and, if there was one, she would be on the podium for style.

This a festival for people with intellectual difficulties. and involves a number of sports. Winning is clearly the goal, but taking part is just as thrilling for many of the competitors. One of the speakers at the ceremony summed it up:

Do your best
Make friends
Go home with a smile

The competitors gain confidence and learn more about their social skills.
We learn humility. These guys have a place alongside us.

Professional footballers eat your hearts out.

The week's senior press extracts from the Times, Saturday 29th 2017

Meet Ellen, a first-time buyer at the age of 97. Ellen Merman is about to become Britain's oldest first-time buyer. David Byers writes.

Silver foxes are feeling just fantastic  -  British men believe they have become better looking with age and skin care products in this group are forecast to decline. Role models include Pierce Brosnan (64), Hugh Grant (56) and Colin Firth (56). So writes Neha Shah.
2 days away in budapest, silver foxes and vixens
And vixens

How we can create a clued-up generation. Crosswords ward off 'Alzheimer's, improve lateral thinking, patience and numeracy'. 'Older people who do the occasional crossword have a cognitive age about ten years younger than those who do not'. Written by Ben Macintyre.

Phone companies 'profit from dementia' - caught with their snouts in the trough, charging over £1000 after a frail elderly lady forgot about a mobile phone in the cupboard. Discovered by her husband with a bill going back to 2012. 


Great pub, full late afternoon, mature custom, elderly karaoke singers who can sing geriokeh

Our annual day out to Manchester. Meandered around Castlefield and Spinningfields, calling at the Oast House pub and one or two emptyish bars which, by and large, sold overpriced fizzy stuff. Chips with something for lunch.
  Then, around 4.30, came across a spot with retired people in it and an elderly karaoke (geriokeh coined by my pal Pete). Okay, they are not knocking it out, but the material was soft, easy listening, and in tune. It wasn't a machine either, but a real life accordion and keyboard player. Must be regular because the singers came in confidently on time.
  Shock-horror, the landlord came over and shook our hands. And thankfully a local brew - JW Lees, which I remember fondly from my days up at the Cross Keys Inn, Uppermill (may have changed since the 1970s).
  I don't think geriokeh will catch on for elderly karaoke.

Piano playing food critic on a rainy night in Buxton

Unlikely guest of piano playing food critic at the Buxton festival

Cheeky illegal photo inside the Pavilion Arts theatre, The Rotunda theatre for small fringe events, the Opera House in the rain and the university dome from the Kings Head

A talented writer, comic, journalist, cook and food critic, Jay Rayner also plays jazz piano. I hate him already. I suppose he did go to Leeds University. We walked into Buxton in the rain last Friday from The Manse B&B which is extraordinarily good. After two Stellas and a meal in the Kings Head we went see Jay and his wife (Pat Gordon-Smith) who is a brilliant singer. The guy on sax (Dave Lewis) was excellent as was the bass player (Robert Rickenberg). The sound he got from the double bass was just as good banging the strings with the palm of his hand as it was from horny-fingered plucking.

The evening was mostly music, in between we listened to him talking about Masterchef and The One Show etc and being the son of a famous agony aunt. A quick chardonnay in the interval.

Jay once made chips from polenta (boiled cornmeal - an Italian innovation), asking an innocent customer at the chippy what she thought. "It's disgusting, making something out of afterbirth." He fluffed the follow-up line but probably got a bigger laugh.
  Some guy, worried about the shape of his penis, wrote to the agony aunt, having carved a replica in wood, and asked for her opinion. She didn't see a problem and immediately saw the opportunity to incorporate it in her condom application tutorials. It's now a family heirloom. I'd heard of mum, but her demise had passed me by. My dear childbride upbraded me, "She would have been a big age, Jay's no spring chicken." Neither are we.

It began with a Jobim's Wave. There were Leonard Cohen, Ray Charles and Joan Armatrading numbers. And food and drink items. That Old Black Magic (Harold Arlen), Cantaloupe Island (Herbie Hancock) Eggs and Sausages (Tom Waits), and easily my favourite, One for My Baby (Arlen/Mercer). It is the ultimate drunk song, made famous by Sinatra. My flat buddy in Liverpool had a Sinatra album (Sinatra at the Sands), the one with the monologue in the middle, which included the song. Played that and Green Onions all the time or so, it seemed. Then there was Food, Glorious Food from Oliver (Lionel Bart) which started with something very similar to Miles Davis' So What.

He took some of it a bit fast, reigned in by his wife, who conducted for short while with her arms. He didn't flinch and checked her out after slowing down, "Is that better darling?" Endearing.

He even came second on Celebrity Mastermind (specialist subject Stephen Sondheim). His charity was Sense, for whom he championed sight and hearing loss in the elderly. All a bit sickening. Multitalented and a conscience. He says he is political - Corbyn you would imagine. Just lousy at cards I guess. He is not too keen on Gove, but not many people are. History Repeating (Max Gifford) was a song which nodded at the current hung parliament, originally sung by the Propellerheads in 1997, featuring Shirley Bassey.

It's a gentle and entertaining night out. Even if we struggled to hear some of it. And I admit I'm simply envious.

Breakfast the following morning featured opera goers with plums in their mouths. Stereotypes. The night before we'd been the retired demographic, simply there to enjoy and not be seen. 

And then blow me on the car radio on the way home, Kitchen Cabinet, hosted by who? Jay Rayner. Insufferable. Saturday morning Radio 4 is pretty good. The Week in Westminster was particularly refreshing, with a massive bashing of the political classes and the journalists that feed off them. I suspect Jay would have approved.

Coffee increases life expectancy and saves the world

Bloc coffee shop Facebook link
Freedman ND et al (2012). Association of coffee drinking and total and cause-specific mortality. N Engl J Med; 366:1891-904.

According to Freedman, 6 cups per day reduces risk of death by 10% in men and 15% in women. Decaff as well. So that's alright then, except there are other interpretations of the data - boo.
Angela Epstein in The Times Saturday 15th July 2017 brings it all up to date. It's a treatment for lots: premature ageing, heart problems and cancer; reduces risk of dementia; aids weight loss and fitness; cuts drug doses in parkinsonism; lowers risk of type 2 diabetes; boosts memory; helps beat migraine and depression. It's about inflammation caused by breakdown products of nucleic acids (our genes) which are cleared from the body by caffeine. Can I have an intravenous infusion please?

Walking through Holmfirth I noticed that Bloc, the new stylish coffee shop next to Ashley's, uses Darkwoods coffee grounds.
So do I! Remember 60gm per litre of water.

Coffee  helps premature risk of death and some ageing problems

Whisky - Make Mine a Small One

There is a boom in setting up small distilleries, from The Highlands to the Cotswolds (Sunday Times July 4th 2017). Apparently there are 50 businesses at various stages from planning to production. According to the Scotch Whisky Association, whisky is massively sought after and profits from these small ventures are all but guaranteed.
  The business is expensive to get going and there is a significant delay before sales. Customers can invest in new whisky/eys by joining the distillery's founders club or circle with significant benefits when the products become available. 
  The Cotswold Distilling Co Ltd filled the funding gap with gin production. Other companies that haven't include Toulvaddie and The Spirit of Yorkshire, a co-owner of which has the Wold Top Brewery.
  My current meagre collection provides an image. Big Peat is almost gone ('beachy and oceanic'), Jameson's Crested which is akin to a liqueur, frontier Bulleit Bourbon ('oak and vanilla') and cooking Famous Grouse from the duty free. Brilliant drinking for the older person with a diminishing capacity for beer.

Current whisky as an image to go with small business in Sunday Times