Monday, May 29, 2006

York Trip

Spent a couple of days in york this weekend, primarily to visit friends and to see Martin Stephenson, who was entertaining as always.

Managed to see a bit of the city before the gig, it was a lovely day so the place was mobbed; also a bank holiday so that added to the crowds.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Dream #1

I used to write my dream down, cos I find them hilarious. Sometimes I'll dig ones out from years ago and I can still remember them; how they felt and the images.

Anyhoo, I had another one this morning.

Me and B were moving south. It was a good thing; the north had become uninhabitable. We were looking for somewhere to live in a town that was dominated by a huge cooling towers.

We'd looked before but it hadn't happened. All the houses we picked as possibles last time weren't available now, so we were staying in a bedsit until we decided. The room needed cleaned before we could stay in it, though [this could be a reference to the B&B we stayed in last week!]

As the evening went on, the sun became less strong so it was safe for the sunbathers to come out into the carpark. We went out too; to take some photographs of a carved sandstone face. B was about 3 metres away trying to get a close-up [!] and I was wetting the image to bring out the shape, by licking it and touching spit on its surface with my fingers. I went a bit far and so had to drain some of the excess off. Meanwhile B was dealing with a workman who'd decided to start shovelling gravel from a pile which sat in the shot; B complained but in the end we moved slightly to the right (the workman had a smirk as if to say 'bloody northerners' - he looked Hispanic)

Across the very busy roundabout nearby, there was a large warehouse where they stored the soldiers. Inside, it was really dark and the huge containers were like cattle trucks only about twice the size. The soldiers, instead of mooing or baaing, were singing like a Welsh choir. They seemed quite happy with the situation. If you stood on your toes you could see the top of their heads, they were lined up standing to attention inside the trucks.

I was looking for Benny [the cat] in there. She'd gone for a mooch and I knew she liked it here. I picked her up and held her fat little body tight. We went outside to cross the roundabout to go home. the traffic had all gone, because it was getting dark. There were lots of people out walking their cats. I was tempted to place Benny on the ground but was afraid she'd run off so I kept hold of her.

There was a bit in there somewhere when I deliberately cacked myself, a choice taken because I was going for an interview. I was wearing my good black trousers. [You'll be pleased to know the old wife's tale isn't true.]

Friday, May 26, 2006

And there's Gorse, of course!

Last weekend I had the opportunity to get up-close and personal with a few gorse bushes.

We were on a rock-art hunt... the gorse is good for protecting the panels from damage by livestock, but at the same time the roots can crack the stone and break up the surface.

Rock art in northern Britain is more often that not found at ground-level, on little hillocks raised above the field level. We knew it was in there somewhere - but only had a 6-place grid ref and the description "under a gorse bush" to help us!!

We didn't find it. There was three of us bent over hunting inside these huge bushes, getting scratched and dusty and eventually giving up after about an hour's searching. It was peaceful on that hillside, with only the occasional coo and the faint scent of coconut in the air.
After a while we found another panel we weren't looking for instead, which was nice!!

Gorse is in flower at the moment; brash and bright and prickly. En-masse they can be a bit scary; sometimes for good reason. It wasn't until two days later I found a tick on B's neck! (We removed it by dowsing with vodka and poking with a hot skewer!)

FOOT NOTE - This post gets more hits than any other on my blog - what were you searching for? Please tell me... I'm fascinated!!!! Thanks PFH

OK as a result of the answer to my above question is actually directing people to another site, I want to add this photo of a tick I took myself, in Lewis on the Western Isles of Scotland, in June 2007. Enjoy!

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

20 years? No way!!

There's a reunion been organised for my school year (1986). It clashes with another prior arrangement, but I am being strangely drawn to it.

I've kept in touch with some of the people I knew well at school - we continued on to sixth form and got together for christmas and birthday meals for a very long time - it's only really in recent years, when some of us have had children to worry about, that it has petered out.

There's at least one millionaire that I know of. Not sure if he will turn up, he was a bit of a nutter at school but dragged himself up by property development - he bought his first house at about 18 and it went on from there. He's now a big local player, involved in quite public controversy over greenfield housing developments, as I recall.

There were a couple of people who had to drop out because of unplanned pregnancies - I remember one girl who sat O-levels in the staff room because she was not far from her due date. Of course their children will be 20 now!! Blimey...

Will childhood sweethearts have stayed together? I was one, and I didn't, but we're still friends.

At least two people have died - one rather violently in a stupidly reckless car accident, the reports said. Another was suicide. I saw another report recently of someone with the same name as one of my other friends - they'd be the right age. Not sure if it was them or not.


But will I go? The more I think about it the more I remember how I wasn't that popular - there's a real danger of me sitting hugging my orange juice in the corner with the other nerds!

Monday, May 22, 2006

Eccentric / Concentric

It felt like a normal enough weekend, but looking back there were a few oddities.

The plan was to meet up with two Dutch friends who come over every year to visit the local historic sites. We arrived in the small town (anonymous to spare its blushes) on Friday evening and the first thing was to have a meal in the B&B we were staying at, very small portions but I suppose it was OK. The waiter, who is the son of the owners, was a very interesting fellow who mistakenly thought he was funny. We tried hard to excuse this behavior as we'd been warned he had a brain injury; now this together with the slight language barrier and another member of our party also having communication problems due to a stroke, meant that it could have quite quickly got very, very messy. The result was thankfully very entertaining!

Then we decided to visit the local pub, where our Dutch friends had been made so welcome in the past. After much merriment from the local Rangers fans, we were left in no doubt as to why this was the case. Out came the balaclavas and sword, the landlord was wearing an orange Nederlands football shirt... we made our goodnights and left them to it.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Saddleworth Flowers

Part of my travels today required that I travelled from Huddersfield to Oldham. I normally take the M62 motorway but there was (once again) a major blockage, so I decided to take the scenic route over the hills. Just before Saddleworth village the road climbs up a hill, commanding a wonderful view below. Wrapped around a wooden footpath signpost was a rotting collection of rubbish calling my attention.

Once home a very quick search found a news report of an accident at this notorious blackspot, exactly two months ago. It's all very sad. But who decides when it's time to clear this up?

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Cavvies Bites the Dust...

I live about a mile away from the place I had my first full-time job, which lasted 12 years. We all thought the place would last forever... and I surprised everyone (not least myself) when I left there 6 years ago. My last day was spent giving my opinions on the rebuild that was being planned; this never happened and instead the place fell into disrepair and the decision was taken last year to close that part of the business, making 600 people redundant.

After my return to Carlisle I have lived about half a mile's crowflight from this place, but I don't pass it that often because my route usually takes me in the other direction towards the motorway.

I got a real shock last weekend when I passed by and saw they were bulldozing it down!! I knew it was coming but it didn't prepare me for it, really. Was all I could do not to stop and see if I'd left anything behind.

And lo! There's another supermarket and more houses. Just what Carlisle needs...?

RIP cavaghan and gray

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Is This the Age of the Train?

Yesterday I had to go down to North London for a work thing. With only a weeks' notice, not only was it cheaper by train but it allowed a slightly shorter day - woohoo! So I booked the return journey for £135 and collected my tickets at the little machine in the station, which was really easy.

But... The train was delayed and there were two platform changes involving the bridge... Then a dirty huge goods wagon came in and sat there. And sat. The departure time came and went. I made enough of the inaudible announcements to understand that our train had been delayed north of Carlisle - This was why . Great eh?

Then the platform was changed back to 4 so back over the bridge again.
When the train finally arrived, it was 30 minutes late but I had a pleasant surprise - the cheap seat I'd booked was in first class! No idea how I managed that one.

The driver announced they would make up the time before we got to Lancaster - so he put his foot down!! These Pendolinos can surely fly!

After doing so much driving, it's good to see the countryside from a different perspective. We whizzed past Kemp Howe (I was on the wrong side of the train to see it, though)

For the next surprise, I got coffee, orange juice and breakfast! Now call me innocent, but I didn't realise that this was the major difference with first class... It made me feel really special, and regretted I had no-one to share it with me today, so I took a photo!

So anyway, the train whizzed me to Watford Junction, I did my day's work (!) and then awaited my return journey at 6pm. While waiting on the platform, 3 or 4 Pendolinos whizzed past at 90mph and I was contemplating the fact that the Hatfield train had been travelling at full tilt when the accident happened.

So I climbed aboard with the commuters and headed up to Crewe for my change, then on another link to Carlisle. It was during this last leg that the novelty had completely worn off - may have had something to do with sharing the place with a crowd of burping teenage girls running around in their socks. Just what I wanted to do with my Friday night!!!

Update 17/5/06: Network Rail offer reward cash to trap rail thieves

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

A Rant

Arrrgggr!!!! Been away for a couple of days and got back to find not one but two letters from MNBA Bank kindly supplying me with pre-printed cheques so that I can get money advanced on my credit card. This apparently will free me from debt forever (or something)

This practice should be BANNED by any self-respecting bank. Every time I get some I wrestle with myself as to what to do with them - rip them into little bits and shove down the throat of the nearest banker, or shred and dispose with the rubbish. Usually it's the latter, for the sake of saving time. Once, I even phoned them to give them a piece of my mind. After sitting in a premium-rated queuing system for about 10 seconds I slammed the phone down and gave up.

Someone somewhere is getting deeper and deeper into debt by following the advise of these people. Banks are businesses after all - they are only in it to make money.

The other thing that bothers me about this is security - I reckon this would be the easiest way for someone to steal identities - or money. And the banks make it really easy. Even if poor silly Mrs Apron decides to resist temptation and not take up the offer of free money, she then is expected to know that she should destroy the cheques safely. I think it's just shockingly irresponsible.

Rant over.

Monday, May 01, 2006


I spent the day with family yesterday, eating talking laughing and generally hanging out.

It's a rare thing to have such a close family, it's something I've always appreciated and I know how lucky I am (believe me).

We were at a caravan site about 30 miles away, but it could have been anywhere. The sun was shining, the wine was flowing (but I only had one glass - I was driving) and we were all very relaxed. Laughter is the great stress reliever... we all have our problems (some more than others) but we all managed to put them at least a few inches further back yesterday.

Together with my parents I took a little walk to see another small twig of my paternal branch, who live nearby. They live in a fantastic house and although getting on in years are always sharp and interesting. I was told of some developments in researching the family tree; my grandfather's mother's ancestors may be related to the Winders, and if this is proven I could have history going back to the 1200's, to a De Winder, and that's a Norman name... How cool is that!!

A lot of my ancestors can be traced to the local area in north and west Cumbria, with the more exotic blood coming from Ireland and Edinburgh. Frequent appearances by blacksmiths, miners, nurses, innkeepers, policemen. It's something I want to know more about - I spent some time on this a few years ago but I'm a bit rusty. Must do more.

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