From birth control to infection control - older people rock and roll

Celia Walden, Telegraph, May 10th.

Will new condom reverse the tide of STIs in the over 65s?  

A range of garden-themed condoms for older Brits to practice safe sex.
They come in seed-style, naughty veg packaging (onions, avocados, plums, artichokes and courgettes are not left out). Sustainable of course. 'Horniculture'.

Apparently there's a surge in STIs at this age.

Police stations filled with drunken seniors. Alleyways clogged with geriatric brawls. Retired couples ignore son's advice "Take a taxi dad". You could go on.

Scarborough break - it helped to come round a bit from Covid

Scarborough to try and recover from covid. Improving but not back to normal. Is there such a thing after lockdown? The pandemic is not over, just hiding from us anyway - due our fourth jab soon.

The kids soon took over the flat. Had to relearn how to fold up the tent - must be the fifth or sixth time. We walked and walked, so ok up to mid afternoon. Emily and her little legs were fantastic. How many miles and stairs can you do in 3 days? We did well for weather. And lots of things to do. And the bus up to the north.
Jenson and Louise enjoy the cafe together, so we tried it - great, breakfast toastie £5. Not sure about the bloke on the beach.

Sea Life centre is expensive. Try and catch the short talks and feeding sessions. Makes the wallet more comfortable. The otters were our pick. Must have had a couple of hours there.

Emily does love a beach event with sandcastle. And walking in the sea in her wellies. And a visit to The Clock cafe. The tunnel connects the two halves of the gardens - the south cliff lift cut them in half with no connection. 'The tunnel is just five metres long and two metres high - but it will become a fully accessible route that will cut an entire mile off the present journey between the two halves of the South Cliff Gardens.' (Scarborough News). I'm not convinced it's a mile.

So Scarborough has plenty to do and is a great place to get relieved of a big wad of cash. The bus along the front is still the same price.

I visited Farrar's, the bar at the spa, and had a pint of the local brew. I asked the barmaid what it was, "a nail" was her reply. Bemused, dropped jaw followed by dropped penny, "An ale".

Jenson looked out over the bay at high tide. "Where's the beach gone?" He answered "The ocean's stolen it."

Now geriatric - it's official. Older people make the best of it.

April has been somewhat of a disaster, starting with Covid. Both lethargic for a couple of weeks, especially in the middle of the afternoon. We are now both over 75, so a quick post-lunch zzz is ok.
I still have a strange sensation in my mouth, but taste is back. Something to do with my bright or otherwise remarks.
  Then last week, gastroenteritis. Horrid 48 hours.
  Sandwiching a great week in Scarborough - see next blog.

Snatching what time we had in the good weather. Variety of seating and bulbs. Turned back to winter today.
The frog comes out for a sunbathe on warm days. We've had a male pheasant for a while. First time for a female. Must be related.

The birthday alien outside his new shed. Already serious scalp abrasions, so Jenson crafted a warning notice and the family bought me a crash hat. Perfect.

Greg's card is my pick. Thanks to everyone.

So the new shed. Old fart's delight. The old plastic garden store blew away in storm whatsit. Same one that turned the lights out in Alnmouth. 

Shelving from James Walsh. Too high, now minus the top one which has plants on.

Pockets from our defunct camping equipment. Helmet from the Bancrofts. Also sign from Emily - 'My shed, my rules'.

Carol Midgley. Times, April 23. Not one for new age approach to getting older, she is having a rethink after Corrie's William Roach approaches 90.

 pic from the Sun

Inspiring older people - maybe not

Aged p's join the mosh pit whilst uncle four stripes babysits the house. Well the golf was on with a Guinness fridge. We hit the Heather Small gig.

Heather Small. Picturedrome. Always liked her in M People and with her first husband, Sean Edwards. It will be the last gig we do. Buxton Opera House or Manchester Arena/Bridgewater Hall preferred. 

  No seating in the stalls, all mosh pit. Quadriceps work out, standing for two and a half hours. Hot, drenched in sweat.

  The first note, so-called intro, punched us hard in the chest. Bass, drums or keyboard. Then so loud. Couldn't hear the words, but it didn't matter because everybody else knew them.

  Several other couples our vintage. Stood watching, listening. The rest just went mad. Jumping, arms in the air, hair flying, bumping into everyone. Not offensive, just enjoying themselves.

  Nearly as bad as being at a match with All Black rugby supporters, but not quite. They can be offensive.

  Somewhere we were searching for heroes and wondering what we did today. Quite an experience and fun, really.

  A couple of nips with Chris watching the final holes.

Another not 300 mile walk, scavenger, role model?

So we went on another one


Roger Daltry looks bemused. Nina Myskow writes about him in the Times, March 19th. 78 years old and nearly shares our 50th anniversary year. Keith Moon (32) and John Entwistle (57) have passed. Roger and Pete Townsend left. Teenage Cancer Trust is a great fund raising mission. Outrageous, maybe correct, things to say about BBC and politicians. I couldn't possibly repeat. 8 children, ranging from 41 to 58. The tours are long and arduous.
  'Years don't mean much to me. It's the life you live.'
  On funerals, 'everyone turns up and says nice things ...  pub ... everyone is glad to be alive and goes home happy'. Not for him, 'paper bag up the dump.'

Anyone see the series on ageing rockers who played the Isle of Wight? Rock til You Drop. Age is no barrier to going for your dreams. One of the bassists asked "Is your life plan A plan B? Mine has always been B - this is my chance to change to A".

What will they say about you at your funeral? It's tempting to write your own, but it might also be tempting fate. Better than some of the bland vicars I've listened to.

Can you bear a random pic?

From the archive, Times Feb 26th.
May 5th, 1954. I was 7, but it's one of those rugby legends. 120,000 fans or so they say watched a replay of the drawn Wembley final. Warrington vs Halifax.
Ex-pro landlord of The Three Crowns at Scouthead, near Oldham, was Ray Hicks, coach of Saddleworth Rangers. We used to drink there with old warhorses Hardaker and Roly Lloyd. When the traffic moved around Odsal, an hour later it moved outside the pub, so they said.

Fartown beat Wakefield here
in the championship play off 1962. We ran on the pitch with an inflated Yogi Bear dressed in a Fartown shirt. I grudgingly admit losing in the Wembley final.


April random thoughts about walking in Spring


Spring and Lent and all things fresh


Peta Bee, the Times exercise queen, March19th, at it again. Walking. Blast fat, live longer, keep ageing in check, including dementia. She's fit.

Walking fast (100 steps per minute), add top speed intervals, do hills, carry weights, aim for 12000 steps a day. 

The important one for me is walk in nature. Stepping patterns improve when we like where we are. I call it getting a spring in my heels. We do know however some like to walk on pavements.

So we went for one. Spring was late, early April.

The date said spring
the snow hills whispered winter
cold as unseen ice, silent blind sun
lone duck shivered on still mill pond

Even Credo is getting into the walking act, Pete Greig, Times, April 2nd.
Not necessarily about exercise, more self-discovery, three weeks walking 300 miles between Iona and Lindisfarne. Nothing to prove, nobody to impress, wild camping, walking in the rain, Pete listens to God and realises He is everywhere present. No need to travel 300 miles. 

Through walking, silence and solitude, he comes to terms with who he is. Or gives it his best shot.

He quotes TS Eliot, 'Little Gidding'.
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time

This is available to all, religious or not. Simon Barnes and I recommend the sit for everyday reflection. The deeper 'who am I' is tough and tortuous. I came to it through study of our billion year emotional evolution. 

Ah Peta.

Rules for writing

 Rose Wild, Times, Feb 19th, was the stimulus for the following:

Orwell said political language 'is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidarity to pure wind.'

His advice included 6 rules: 

  1.  Cliches - 'never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.'
  2.  'Never use a long word when a short one will do.'
  3.  'If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.'
  4.  'Never use a passive where you can use the active.'
  5.  'Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an every day English equivalent.'
  6.  'Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.'
Stephen King has loads of rules, so pick and choose. No passive, no adverbs (particularly after he/she said), read often, turn off TV/distractions, leave out boring bits like research, take breaks.

Elmore Leonard had 10 rules apparently. 'My most important rule is one that sums up the ten. If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it.'

Returning to Stephen King because he agrees with me. Don't worry about perfect language. Write for yourself to start, then revise and cut out what is not story. Don't imitate others, write your own style. Stories are part of our evolutionary history so we find them in our imagination not on TV.

Some of the best comments I've had are from guys who wonder why I am so brief and I take it as a compliment. I do not spoon-feed readers. They have to do some of the work. I recall from a module on literary theory at college (far too difficult overall for me) one approach covers how readers interpret the text. Leave the text spare and a reader can ride a horse through it and enjoy the trip. In effect we are writing together.

Beer, a walk, spring

Amazing brewing wealth on the Huddersfield Narrow canal. Empire in Slaithwaite, Riverhead in Marsden and Zapato's in between. Sons of the North, a cafe in Armitage Bridge sell Empire Ale in bottles. Started in a Quarmy pub and is now next to the famous guillotine lock gate. We recently visited the Riverhead - a Sunday at 4.30pm - mobbed. We had to drink outside and share a table with a man from Saddleworth. Zapato's have pleasing outdoor seating - great when the weather is mild. They also have a caravan that does quick food.

Spring in his step? Em's birthday


Older people stay physically and mentally active

 In praise of walking: a head-to-head between walking for fitness and walking for the joy of the wild.

Walking on the menu

   For 1.5 million years, our hunter-gatherer ancestors walked and ran regularly in packs, tracking and killing lunch. Fatigue was not an option. Coming out of the trees, walking on two legs must be good for something and we can still do it. Farming did follow but not for a long time. 

  Simon Barnes, Rewild Yourself, suggests we have lost some of the old skills, particularly recognising the sights and sounds of birds - on the African savannah don’t follow oxpeppers, they’re grooming a predator, not seriously - it’s an example. He mentions the importance of peripheral vision. Invaluable on the savannah. Apparently there is a separate neural pathway which is easy to lose, in alzheimer’s for instance. One of the reasons he says for falling over in old age.

Walking instead of medication

  It’s Peta Bee again, Feb 19th, Times newspaper. Health benefits are the most talked and written about. Short diversion, not an ageing question, but how do you prepare Lily James to be Pamela Anderson? Carefully, at least to start with. Personal trainer, Matt Baron, used a mixture of machines, free weights and resistance bands.

  And what else? Matt says walking is - ‘the most underrated calorie-burner’. Anna Maxted, Telegraph, 1st march, tells us middle aged and elderly people need to walk briskly for 150 minutes per week (5x 30 mins). That is if you are not doing anything else like rowing, marathons, peleton. And, all this effort is wasted if you sit about the rest of the day. So mobilise regularly every hour for 10 minutes. It’s not compulsory, merely advisory.

  It’s mix and match. You can get a gizmo that does the maths or, like me, do a guestimate, or really like me, don’t bother. Get a programme that suits and do it regularly. I’m always ‘work in progress.’

  Kingsley Amis couldn’t see the point of giving up something in order to spend his last two years in a nursing home. We might however be able to get more into our later lives if we avoid hypertension, diabetes and obesity. It is also claimed that keeping physically fit will help grow new neural pathways. A hedge against falling with dementia maybe?

Walking as meditation

 Walking, not only ‘the most underrated calorie-burner', but Matt also says it’s de-stressing, a bonus strong meditative element. One foot at a time. Sounds, smells and sights, including peripheral vision. In the moment. Breathing depends on the effort. But you might want to stop as well. Simon in contrast suggests it’s all very well going for a run with phones in your ears, but getting out there in whatever shape or form is more a sharing with nature. And yes it’s good for you. Not just physically. Don’t go out walking and running just for your health. My experience suggests fitness and meditation can go together - top end of breathing to maintain pace (is this the anaerobic threshold?), the mind tends to be empty. 

  Simon is a devotee of sitting in nature. Don’t forget a plastic bag to keep a dry bum and a pair of bins. Initially it maybe to spot something. Eventually, being on a wild sit is enough.

Walking method

  The current recommendation is 12000 steps a day (was 10000). Equivalent to 6 miles, 5-600 calories and 1lb body fat per week, depending on speed, terrain and incline. NHS sources suggest most Britons average 3-4000 steps per day.

  So, how to calculate all the daily action? There are step tables for example,

  • 30 minute walk 3000     
  • 12 step staircase (x 10) 240 daily  1680
  • walk 3 mins every hour 250 daily  1750     and so on

  Do something regularly.

Walking the metropolis

  Paul Morley, in his book, The North, writes of his youth discovering the streets of Reddish, near Stockport, near Manchester. ‘It was a fine place to walk, because whichever way you headed, there was always something to see ... a paving stone, a lamp post or shop window ... I became an explorer of corrugated iron, drainpipes and gutters ... and I have never learned to drive, preferring always the walking, and reverie ...' He’s not talking Manchester Town Hall, super though it is. He seems to get as much from towns as Simon does from nature.

post script  ‘My grandad started walking five miles a day when he was 60. Now he’s 97 years old and we have no clue where he is.’

  ‘I walk around like everything is fine. But deep down inside my shoe, my sock is sliding off.’ Perfect for me.

Awaydays - 50th anniversary at Alnmouth with Joan and Big Dave

It's not everyday you have a 50th wedding anniversary. So we had several days on a farm in Northumberland. With Joan and Big Dave.
  Specifically Alnmouth. We come here regularly. It's famous for, and became rich by processing guano. Also on Portillo recently as a well-known skiff-rowing centre. We like the beaches and the pubs. There is a pleasant coffee shop and gallery, but you have to drink outside. Twice we've stayed in a converted 4-storey warehouse, the grounds of which are now a building site. Whittling House was a lovely place to mark our day. Nice also just for a drink.
  Pilgrimage to Barter Books. Not a hushed hallowed library, but a bustling business. Converted Alnwick railway terminus. The town was far from shut. We supermarket shopped, gallery shopped and coffee shopped. No castle or garden visit.
  Muddy tracks, smelly barns and cows, hedgerows, path excavators for the shepherd huts, extremely pleasant and helpful Jackson family - Brian, Dorothy and daughter Catherine. Fields of stuff starting to come up. Hares abound and poachers with their guns and four track vehicles. Politely asked to leave after phone calls to neighbours. Seven farm cottages for let. Brian gave a tour of the two shepherd huts which will be snug - work in progress. Stunning views. There's even a holiday let on the main street with a white bay window.
  The highlight of our week, more a low light, was a power cut. Two days following a severe storm and felled electric poles. Weather stunning otherwise. The wood-burning stove was a life-saver. Catherine was still on and cooked our fish pie. Otherwise cold compilations. Brian and Dorothy supplied torches and candles. Joan and Sheila purchased 100 tea lights - why?
  Amble is as tired as any town centre, apart from Alnwick. Amble's pop-up market round the harbour still thrives. Bought some lego for Jenson. Raft of pint thirds (gills) of beer varieties with lunch.

  Just great. We wouldn't want it any different.

Back home we celebrated with Andrew.


Pat's 70th birthday winter walk

Sid's Cafe for some
Back-street steep cobbled climb
Gooey country paths
Pat's allotment
Photographic stations - Pat's highlights
Destination for the rest - mulled wine, cake, a fire, music, dogs

A pilgrimage


Faure's Requiem - the workshop and evening concert


BOOK EVENING CONCERT TICKETS HERE                Workshop Information

Thom Meredith our workshop leader and conductor

Thom began his involvement with music at an early age, singing with Leeds Youth Opera Group and then Leeds Youth Chorale.  As a treble he sang many solo roles including the Shepherd Boy in Tosca (Opera North) and the boy soprano in George Crumb’s Ancient Voices of Children (Ballet Rambert).  He studied singing with Jean Allister and then Arthur Reckless at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama.  Thom graduated from Brasenose College, Oxford where he was awarded an Exhibition as conductor of the Chapel Choir (1985 - 1987). Following a PGCE qualification from the University of Leeds he taught music in schools including four years as Head of Music at Colne Valley High School, Huddersfield.

Thom’s career involvement with young musicians continued when he joined the staff of Kirklees Music School in 1999 as Assistant Principal.  He was appointed Principal in 2004 and has continued to champion the cause of young people’s music-making over many years.  Thom formed and is Musical Director of the Kirklees Youth Symphony Orchestra whose performances have included Rachmaninov 2nd Piano Concerto (with John Lill), Gershwin Rhapsody in Blue, Karl Jenkins The Armed Man - a mass for peace, Tchaikovsky Romeo and Juliet, Shostakovich Festival Overture and Bruch Violin Concerto No. 1.  In 2012 KYSO was selected to perform in the Schools Prom series in the Royal Albert Hall.

As Musical Director of Colne Valley Male Voice Choir, a post he has held since 1989, Thom has enabled the choir to achieve musical standards which have taken them to unrivalled levels of success.  They have twice won Llangollen International Eisteddfod.  In May 2007, they won the International Male Voice Choir competition at the Male Voice Choral Festival in Cornwall and returned this year to once again lift the trophy as well as winning the title of best overall UK choir at the festival.  The Colne Valley men are doing their bit to encourage male voice singers of the future and have created Colne Valley Boys a choir for young men of school age which is also proving to be a great success.

In addition to his passion for conducting, Thom has also established a reputation as a fine baritone soloist.  Performances have taken him the length and breadth of the country performing various works from well-known choral works to new compositions.  Recent performances include Bach St Matthew Passion, Carl Orff Carmina Burana, Stainer Crucifixion, Brahms A German Requiem, Handel Messiah, Vaughan Williams Sacta Civitas, Five Mystical Songs and Dona Nobis Pacem, the Requiems of Faure and Durufle and Handel Saul.  In 2009, he released his first CD Let Beauty Awake (available on iTunes) which features English Song Cycles by Vaughan Williams, Butterworth and Finzi.

He also leads choral workshops for singers of all ages, teaches singing and arranges music for male, female, boys and mixed choirs, and orchestra.

With his wife, Lynn Hudson, Thom is a director of Harrogate Festival Choral Course, which stages a major choral work each year.  Recent performances of Belshazzar’s Feast, Sancta Civitas, The Creation and Elijah drawing excellent reviews.  Lynn also conducts the Halifax Young Singers and the community choir, CSI Halifax.


Kirklees Youth Orchestra our concert orchestra

Musical Director: Thom Meredith (Principal, Kirklees Music School)

Leader: Jordan Earnshaw

KYSO, under the umbrella of Kirklees Music School, was founded in 2000.  Its aim is to provide high quality orchestral opportunities for the students in the area who have reached advanced standards of performance.  The Youth Orchestra embraces a variety of genres and styles, from classical to contemporary, film and popular, engaging in project work with other arts organisations and complementary groups.

In July this year KYSO will be touring northern Italy before moving on to perform in Disneyland, Paris. Over the past ten years similar tours have taken in Spain, the Czech Republic, Saltzburg and the South of France.  KYSO has successfully participated in the National Festival of Music for Youth, appearing at the Royal Festival Hall, London, Birmingham’s Symphony Hall and notably in the Royal Albert Hall in 2012 as part of the Schools’ Prom concert series.  In November this year they will once again be on stage at the Royal Albert Hall, this time they will be performing pieces from their acclaimed production of The Mighty Sky.  They will be joined by school choirs from Kirklees and musicians from the Midlands and the south east.

Auditions for places in the orchestra are held in the Summer term every year, for further details please visit the website

Christopher Pulleyn our rehearsal accompanist

Christopher Pulleyn enjoys a busy and varied career as an accompanist, répétiteur, singer, and choral conductor. A graduate of York University, he now plays for a number of organisation around the North of England, providing piano accompaniment for a number of choirs and organisations, working with young talented instrumentalists at the start of their music career, to established West End Stars and Opera singers from around the world. He is an accompanist at Greenhead College 6th Form College, Leeds College of Music and Hull University, Assistant Musical Director of the Bradford Festival Choral Society, and a répétiteur with Opera North. He performs regularly in concerts and recitals both as an accompanist and a singer.

 Book evening concert tickets here

Resolution; away day; garden glimpses

Resolution was a steam loco Jubilee 'namer' we saw regularly at Huddersfield station in the 1950s/60s. It was 'shedded' in W Yorkshire somewhere ? Farnley.
'firm decision to do or not to do something'
A tradition for New Year, despite failure for most. Perhaps a bit more or a bit less of this?

Hunmanby distillery and Filey Brigg.

Rachel Mann, Times, Jan 1st writes about psychological, physical and spiritual 'reset' - a bit like Lent. Hope and promise balanced with failure and an acceptance of failure. Films 'The Shark is Broken' and 'Jaws' apparently illustrate this for her. Former sounds like a hoot, principle actors getting bored and drunk as yet again the mechanical shark breaks down. Yet the final film beats the box office.

The new bird feeder gets a workout.