Sunday, 4 October 2015

The silliness of things.

We only ever buy newspapers at the weekend. Well, occasionally, if we are travelling by train in the UK we buy one to read on the train. This is especially so if Phil spots one that offers a free bottle of water. Otherwise, as I said, only at the weekend. Life is too short to read a whole newspaper every day of the week. So, today being Sunday, when I ran through the village this morning I stopped at the Co-op to buy the paper, among other things. 

It was only as the cashier totted stuff up that I realised that I had accidentally picked up two copies. The cashier was gaily ringing up two copies without a concern in the world. I suppose it was conceivable that I was picking up a paper for a neighbour but you would have thought she might have asked if I really planned on reading the same paper twice. Fortunately I noticed in time! 

Looking at the magazine section over breakfast I spotted some things about fashion. First of all, in an item called "We love", one of those features that selects things you might possible covet, there was a coat that looked as if it was made up of rejects from the kind of rugs my grandmother used to make. In reality, I think it was made up of sections of lambskin dyed in a range of colours and patchworked together. Part of an exclusive collection by Net-a-porter, it had a ridiculous price tag. Sorry, fashionistas, for just over £1,500 I expect more than something that looks like my grandmother's old rug! 

Then there was a so-called teddy bear being sold by Harrods. This is the Burberry Thomas bear, another exclusive item, made of cashmere (woven fabric, not even fur!) and retailing at £425. Who buys these things? You couldn't give it to a child to cuddle and chew and drop in its breakfast Weetabix! 

I moved on to "10 things we learned at London Fashion Week. The first thing I learned is that the models all look androgynous and miserable. Are they not allowed to smile at all? Is it like passport photos? Nothing else of great import was included in the article. One fashion designer is promoting the wearing of bumbags. Not, however, the kind that make you look, to quote the article "as though you are an American tourist in fear of being mugged for your passport" but an enormous thing with "room for everything in there from your supersized mobile phone to a spare pair of shoes". There are two odd things there: mobile phones, which everyone wanted to be as small as possible, are getting bigger and people expect to carry spare shoes around with them! How odd!! 

Later I found an article called "What does this dog say about me?" It featured a young lady called Nicola who owns a Pomeranian, the same kind of small dog that our granddaughter turned up with recently. This young lady is 22 and works as an administrator for Dior. What exactly does a 22 year old administrator do? Anyway, she has this dog and apparently people often tell her, "That's not a real dog - it's a teddy bear." Which is also my reaction. The other bit of my reaction is that it might be cheaper to have a teddy bear, even one of those exclusive Harrods teddy bears. 

The journalist writing the column was quite impressed at one so young as Nicola owning a dog at all. According to her it shows commitment and the ability to love something other than herself. She also commented that you can tell Nicola works in the fashion industry as "she's wearing one of those weird no-sleeved coats which are supposedly cool at the moment. Nobody non-fashion wears those, because they're silly". I second that ! 

Here's my final bit of silliness for today, a sad bit of silliness: a friend of mine posted on Facebook an item about the shooting in Oregon. A gun shop owner in the USA has been stocking up on assault rifles. Why? Because "there is always a rush after a shooting". 

What can I say?

Saturday, 3 October 2015

Another week comes to a close.

And so the weekend comes around again. The end of a remarkably sunny week. It has been very pleasant strolling around catching up with people in the sunshine. Monday doesn't count as it was only the dentist. Tuesday it was my Italian classmates and Wednesday lunch with a couple of former work colleagues. All good stuff. 

Yesterday I took an old friend for a walk around Dovestone reservoir. There were a fair few people there but not as many as you might see if it had been Saturday. Mind you, today - Saturday - is grey and gloomy and not a good day for strolling round reservoirs and having picnics in the sunshine. 

Having been taught by my daughter in the summer how to take panoramic photos with my phone, I just had to take a couple of the view from the path between the two reservoirs. 


Apart from people's dogs we saw no interesting wildlife, not even the odd rabbit or pheasant. Unlike the other day. Out walking on Monday, Phil drew my attention to something on the hillside opposite: two young deer! A number of people have told me about deer around here but until then I had never seen them. I have no idea where they came from. In the late 1970s, early 1980s we lived in a house in the valley between Delph and Denshaw. From what people tell me, that valley is teeming with deer now. Back then there were none! Strange! 

No animal life to speak of up at Dovestone, but we did see some fine views. 
Now, imagine making your way of the tube station and coming across this view. 

Apparently it is street art. Of a most spectacular kind, I must say. Here is a link to more examples of the same kind of thing.

 Life is just full of interesting stuff!

Wednesday, 30 September 2015

Out and about and some more changes.

I never got to see the blood moon on Sunday night to Monday morning. A friend suggested I should set an alarm but in the end I chose not to do so. I did wake at some point in the small hours and looked out but I could see no moon at all then. My window must have been at the wrong angle. So that's something I have missed. 

I have seen a good deal of the large, bright silver moon since then. We seem to be having one of those clear Septembers when the days start bright and crisp and warm up nicely as the day goes on. This has been good as I have been out and about quite a lot. On Monday I admired the autumn colours in the way to visit my dentist for a check-up and to undergo the almost medieval torture of the "scrape and polish". If my dentist were to ask me to reveal secrets I would happily do so! 

 When I got home I persuaded Phil to get out if the house and go walkabout with me. We saw some splendid sunflowers on our travels. Down in Buckinghamshire, where our son lives, all the sunflowers are past their best and are now turning to seed. Here, in the slower, cooler North West, they are still blooming nicely. 

So, unfortunately, are the Himalayan balsam plants. We found further infestations of these and spent some time uprooting and trampling them along the bridle path. 

Yesterday I went into Manchester and caught up with old friends at my Italian conversation class. Curiously, this year our classes take place in the Institute for the Deaf. The organisation that arranges the classes must hunt around for the most economical venue and this year the Deaf Institute won! 

My return journey took me through the newly airy Victoria Station. They have been working on refurbishing this previously dark and gloomy station for a couple of years now. It was voted worst station in the UK back in 2009, so it really needed some work. I am not convinced that the modernistic roof is the most elegant but the place is certainly a lot brighter and feels a lot safer in the evening as it gets dark outside. 

Fortunately they have kept the facade of the old station as it was, with glass and wrought iron verandahs, advertising trains to Blackpool, Bournemouth and Belgium. Belgium!? Really? Well, they also advertise trains to Ireland! I am pretty sure trains run to none of these places from that station but the old facade is still very fine. 

They have also kept the old buffet bar with its lovely domed glass roof but they have given it a silly new name. And it seems to have incorporated a Starbucks, which is definitely not an improvement. It's good thing there is a Java cafe at the other end of the station. So far the has not become a shopping mall like Piccadilly station at the other end of the city centre. But there is not at the moment anywhere to buy a newspaper and it still costs 30 pence to go to the loo. 

However, they do seem to have recognised that there are lot of Spanish speakers in Manchester. Those cone that warn you about wet floors now give you the warning in Spanish as well as English. I suppose it makes a change from Welsh, which does appear on road works signs around here.

Sunday, 27 September 2015

A bit of independence!

The weathermen promised us a cold night last night. They were right. There was frost on the grass on the cricket pitch up the road, which was still in the shade when I ran past at 8.30 this morning. But the sky was blue and the sun was shining. It turned out to be a very fine day. 

Towards midday I went down to the crossroads to meet the second grandchild, making her independent way on the bus from her house to ours. Her older sister had been very reluctant at the same age to travel independently (she has no problem with it now) and I wondered about how these things come about. The oldest grandchild had never been obliged to be independent and had been used to being driven all over the place. Her younger sister was forced by circumstances to learn to make her own way to and from school on public transport almost from the start of secondary school. 

I can remember when their mother started secondary school, coinciding with my getting a job on the other side of Manchester, and she had to become a latch key kid. Some people I knew expressed surprise and concern at my letting my eleven going on twelve year old make her own way back and forth. Even more so as she had the key to the house and was able to let herself in to wait for me getting back. 

It's funny how opinions swing to and fro on this question. My sister and I used to catch the bus into the town centre and mooch around town while we were still at primary school. Granted we grew up in a fairly small town but even so we achieved a level of autonomy some kids don't have nowadays. I know people who travelled across Greater Manchester on their own from an early age. On the other hand, a friend of mine taught girls who at fifteen and sixteen had never been on public transport, let alone travelled independently. It's hard to find the right balance in all this. 

Anyway, grandchild number two and I had a pleasant afternoon, baking, going for a walk, making tea for the rest of the family when they eventually turned up. 

Tonight, I have to decide whether I am going to stay up late enough to see the blood moon which is promised for the small hours. Since the weather is actually clear enough for us to be able to see it, unusual for our bit of the world, it would be a shame to miss it, especially as some people are predicting that it is a warning of the end of the world. 

If the world is going to end, I would like to experience the remaining time to the full!

Thursday, 24 September 2015


You go away for a while and discover on your return that some things, but not all, changed in your absence. 

Out running on my usual route around the village, I came across my old friend Jack and his little dog Rosie. We swapped stories of what we have been up to over the summer. His has been damper and colder than mine. In fact, he told me, he had seen statistics that said this summer in the North West of England had been one of the wettest since records began. And I had heard that it had been one of the coldest. So I think I was very fortunate that on my two lightning visits to the UK during June and July the weather was kind to me. 

Continuing my run, I came across the place where there used to be one of those gates that are meant to prevent large animals pushing their way through. You know the kind of thing: the gate opens in one direction but is blocked from opening totally by the edge of a kind of enclosure which you step into and move the gate in the other direction before getting out of the enclosure and continuing on your way. A fairly standard country walk gate. This particular gate has annoyed me for a while because I kept finding that some ignorant person had forced it all the way open, leaving the way clear for cows, horse, people on motorbikes or whatever to get through. Yesterday I found it has gone a stage further and the gate has disappeared! All that remains is the gate post and the enclosure! 

Later in the day I walked into Uppermill, going through Dobcross village en route. Dobcross is an unusual place as the village centre stands at the top of a hill. No fortifications so it’s not a case of an old hill fort or anything like that. There is an old pub so maybe it was a stopping place on an old coaching route. In the centre of the village square stands a monument to some local dignitary. This was carelessly knocked down by a reversing delivery van earlier this year and for months the plinth stood there alone with striped tape around it. We began to think it would never be restored. But yesterday it was back to normal. Phew! What a relief! 

Leaving Dobcross, I walked down the lane past an old house which has stood derelict for years and years. Many a time I have looked at it and thought how nice it would be to have the money to restore it. Now I find that the overgrown garden has been cleared and the property has been sold. I hope the intention is to renovate and restore, not to knock down and build something new. 

Our eldest granddaughter came to see us, complete with small dog. Not the family's small dog but her very own. I thought she had a fox cub in her arms but it turned out to be a fox-faced brown Pomeranian, or some such thing. My knowledge of dog breeds is almost equal to my knowledge of makes of car! In other words, very small! This creature has cost her a large amount of money from her savings. Nobody told us that she had bought it because they knew we would have remonstrated with them for wasting money when there is already a perfectly serviceable dog in their house. So it goes! 

After she had left, Phil decided to tidy up the garden. He did not get very far as he discovered that the bottom section of the garden had been infested with Himalayan balsam, or policemen's helmets as the children called them. The downstairs neighbour who shares the garden with us had left them to spread as she thought they were just rather pretty flowers. Well, yes, true as far as it goes. They are very pretty. Unfortunately they are also aggressively assertive and take over patches of land, allowing nothing else to grow as their root systems demand lots of space and lots of water. In some cases, the value of houses has been reduced because of the presence of this dominating weed. So Phil spent a good part of the afternoon uprooting the things and stamping on them. We might need to rake them together when they have dried a little and then set fire to them to destroy the seeds. 

I was reading about pronunciation changes in an article somewhere. Apparently new ways of pronouncing words are spreading in Britain thanks to the influence of US culture. That 's what people studying language have decided. A study by the British Library reveals that a third of the people taking part in the study pronounce schedule with a "sk", American style, instead of the more traditional English "sh". Other US pronunciations taking root, according to researchers, are “pay-triotic”, in place of “pat-riotic”, and “advertISEment”, instead of “adVERTisement”. 

I was particularly interested to read this: 

"Initial findings of the research have indicated that Britons are also creating a new way of saying controversy which hasn’t traditionally been used in Britain or the US. Three quarters of Britons taking part say “conTROversy”, with the emphasis on the middle syllable, rather than the previously conventional “CONtroversy”. Jonnie Robinson, curator of sociolinguistics and education at the British Library, said the word had undergone a “stress shift”. “The new pronunciation – conTROversy – does appear to be peculiarly British and it is catching on,” Mr Robinson said." 

A new pronunciation? Really? This controversy has been going on in our house for more than forty years. All my life, I have favoured the so-called "new" way of saying it, only to be told by Phil that it is wrong. But then, he also insists that lorry should be pronounced to rhyme with worry, whereas I say it rhymes with sorry. 

What can I say? And how should I say it?

Wednesday, 23 September 2015

Making our way back up north!

Here we are, back in a remarkably mild and sunny Saddleworth. Well, at least Tuesday was remarkably mild and sunny. The forecast promised more cloud than sun but they were wrong. Definitely more sun than cloud! Wednesday promises sun and cloud with an occasional shower. At least it's not predicting rain, rain and more rain! 

It is, however, decidedly cooler here in the North West than it is down south. We spent a few days with offspring number one and his family at the far end of the tube system, in Buckinghamshire, at the point where you can no longer call the underground service the underground. The place was very mild and full of flowers. 

On Saturday we went into London itself. Our plan was to go to see some Botticelli at the Victoria and Albert Museum. A what's-on-in-London website had told us about this; what they neglected to put in clear and obvious large letters was that this exhibition does not start until some time next spring. So instead we went to the Courtauld Institute to admire the paintings. Some Van Gogh, Manet, Degas, Gauguin, Kandinsky, among other stuff. Even a very early Picasso, before his models began to have their facial features rearranged into odd places. 

Goodness knows what the insurance must cost them. The value of one room alone must run into millions! 
The art was wonderful. The building itself is worth visiting, with a most impressive staircase. 

Unfortunately the Institute's cafe leaves much to be desired. Looking at lots of fine art (or Fine Art) is quite exhausting and we really needed refreshment. So before moving on we went into the depths of the building for a cup of tea. Such a refined establishment does not have a cafeteria style service; you wait to be seated and they give you time to study the menu before coming to take your order. We opted for an afternoon tea (scone and a pot of tea) between the two of us. The scone was a great disappointment. more of a rock bun than a fruit scone. No amount of tasteful serving with little pots of jam and cream could make up for the fact that it was difficult to cut the thing in two. We succeeded but felt rather disappointed in the result. 

At another table a lady on her own had ordered the same. She did not succeed in slicing her rock bun/scone in order to butter it. Hers ended up in crumbled pieces and she called the waitress over to tell her that the thing was too hard for her to eat. She was sending it back and only wanted her pot of tea. She demanded to know if it was fresh. With a sniff the waitress told her that all their cakes are freshly baked each day! Now, I suspect that the scones were overcooked rather than stale but whatever the truth of the matter, these were not the standards one expected of a venerable institute such as the Courtauld! 

 Otherwise our trip to the capital was almost without incident and we had a very pleasant weekend, setting off back for the North West on Monday. Disaster almost struck as we strolled down the hill to the station to catch the not-quite-underground to Euston. A few minutes into our stroll I remembered that my mobile phone was still plugged into a borrowed charger in our son's kitchen. Leaving Phil to pull two wheelie suitcases, I ran back up the hill, retrieved the phone, ran down the hill again and reached the station with two minutes to spare before the train set off. 

That was quite enough adventure and excitement for me, thank you very much!

Friday, 18 September 2015

Moving on.

Because we were leaving Vigo yesterday the sun decided to come out again after a fair few days of rather foul weather, the "ciclogenesis violenta" which brought wind and rain and general nastiness. But we left Vigo under blue skies once again. By the time we reached Santiago de Compostela, however, the skies were grey once more and a light rain was falling. This was Santiago after all! 

It cleared up later and we had blue skies once more until the moment came to board the plane. At that point the heavens opened and it seemed that the "ciclogenesis" had returned. It's amazing how wet you can get in a short run to a plane and then a walk up the steps. Inside the plane there was the usual problem, even WITH assigned seats, of people insisting on standing in the aisle to sort themselves out and remove from their hand-luggage anything they might need during the journey before stowing their bags away. The idea that they might move into the row of seats to do this is clearly a concept some have never heard of. Appeals from the cabin crew for people to move to their seats as quickly as possible so that those still standing on the steps in the rain could get inside went unheeded. I'm-all-right-Jack-ism and centre-of-the-universe syndrome was rife. 

Eventually most of the damp people were seated and most of the luggage was stowed. Fortunately we had managed to be among the first to board so we were able to put our luggage above our own seats. Not so a very indignant Spaniard who had to be persuaded by the cabin crew to let them put his bag in a locker towards the back of the plane while he was seated near the front. It was only when they began to insist that if he failed to accept that, the only solution was to put the luggage in the hold that he agreed, still mumbling and muttering about the insecurity of his bag being so far away from him. 

When we landed and as soon as we were allowed to unbuckle our seat belts, indeed possibly a little sooner than that, he had elbowed his way through the passengers in the aisle, almost knocking several over in the process. When challenged he protested that his suitcase was THERE and pointed indignantly to the locker he was aiming to reach. Immediately a chorus of Spanish passengers told him, also pointing, "Y mi maleta está allí", each one indicating that his case was, of course, the most important in the plane! 

We alighted to much better weather, calm and almost warm, as if England and Spain has swopped weather! All went well until we reached a point where the automatic door refused to open. It crossed my mind that we might all have died and gone to a special form of hell for plane passengers, one where you stand for all eternity in a queue of Ryanair passengers waiting to go through a door! 

Our indignant fellow passenger, he of the important suitcase, was vociferous in his complaints and suggested that we should all turn round and go back and find another door to go through. This despite the fact that the remaining passengers were piling up behind us, making retreat impossible, not to mention the fact that we almost certainly had to go through a specific numbered door for security reasons. 

But in the end all was well. At last, after about five minutes, one of the airport employees became aware of our plight and opened the door. All we had to do after that was stand in the enormous queue for passport control, a good half hour of waiting I should say. Eventually we were officially back in the UK and onto the Stansted Express into London so that we could catch the underground train out again to go to visit offspring number one. 

Some ten and a half hours after walking out of the door of our flat in Vigo we walked in through the door of his house. Such are the joys of travelling!