Tuesday, 30 August 2011

The end of the summer?

As August rushes to a rather damp and dismal close here in Saddleworth, we ask ourselves if this is all the summer we are getting. It has certainly been a bit of a washout so far. Yesterday was a bank holiday so, of course, after a moderately promising start it rained! My tomato plants, which are thriving nicely and producing quite a lot of fruit (fruit? or veg?) need some warmth now to ripen up the tomatoes. Otherwise we’ll be eating fried green tomatoes. So what we need now is a bit of an Indian summer. In the past we’ve had some nice Septembers and I would like this year to follow suit.

It’s no consolat
ion to read that Galicia is expecting rain and lower temperatures today. I’ve even read a report that they have had more cloudy days that sunny but I bet it’s been better than here and that no-one has felt the need to put their heating on.

Not that we hav
en’t had some good days, however. Last weekend offspring number one and his wife came to stay for a few days. We had a long and sunny walk around the reservoir and later along the canal towpaths to the garden centre which was very good.

And then on T
uesday we went off on an excursion to Fountains Abbey near Ripon in Yorkshire. We went in two cars and managed variously to get lost, one load from following SatNav too faithfully and the other from following instinct and getting tangled up in the Leeds one-way system.

Still, we had a good day out and I can heartily recommend a visit to the
remains of what King Henry VIII didn’t quite manage to destroy completely. There was a rather know-it-all chap selling tickets who had been confusing some Japanese tourists by saying odds and ends in Spanish to them. When he started on us I threatened to speak proper Spanish to him and ended up doing so, successfully settling his hash! He then settled down and advised us quite knowledgeably on which was our best route, although he wouldn’t allow the smallest member of our party to ride his bike around the place, another thing which annoyed us somewhat.

We set of
f on a bridle path which took us to the rather charming St Mary’s church with quite excellent stained glass windows, a well-preserved tiled floor which you were not allowed to stand on without putting on protective slippers and a spiral staircase which we all wanted to take home with us.

Leaving the church we admired the view in a straight line down towards Ripon Cathedral, too far distant to appear as more than a blur in my photo.

We went past the rather delightful
Chorister’s House which we were disappointed to find is a private residence as we would have loved to sneak a look inside.

Eventually we made it into the very fine gardens, some of us taking a detour to see the “surprise view” from Ann Boleyn’s seat. She must have visit
ed before her head was chopped off.

And finally
we reached the abbey itself and spent ages exploring the ruins. My children had a trip down memory lane watching the youngest of our party – aged 8 and 6 – running around inventing games in the different rooms of the place, doing exactly what they had done the last time we visited there when they were also aged 8 and 6.

Tired but happy we settled down to tea and cakes in the cafe and then the obligatory visit to the SHOP. No museum visit is complete
without this marketing exercise but we escaped without too much outlay. Don sabelotodo – the know-it-all – from the entrance found us there and asked us if we had had a good visit so we forgave him for being somewhat overbearing at the start of the day. And so we set off for home.

The SatNav followers switched it off on the way back and succeeded in taking a wrong turn in Ripon and ending up going miles out of our way on the Leeds ring road. Such fun!

Arriving home rather later than planned we finished the day with a fish and chip supper. All’s well that ends well.

Thursday, 11 August 2011

Rain and riots and stuff.

I have been rather neglecting this blog in the last week or so.

Partly this has been because I have been busy in an uninteresting kind of way, just getting on with things and helping offspring number two get some decorating done. All in all, not really the stuff of blogs.

Then we had a major internet problem. There was a quite impressive electric storm one day and it appears that our BT internet box might have suffered from a power surge when an enormous thunderclap went off right overhead. Either that or the law of coincidences came into play. Either way, the box was as dead as a dodo and our internet connection went bust. We did manage to piggyback onto the pub next door but the connection was very, very slow.

Eventually the new box arrived and all was back to normal. However, I was still running around cleaning and painting and getting stuff done.

In the middle of all this, total mayhem broke out in London, leaving us in some concern about offspring number one who has made the capital city his home for a good few years now. He was fine, of course, just rather angry at what was being done to “his” city. Understandable I suppose. After all, he had visited some of the restaurants targeted by the mob and that does make it all feel a little more personal. And there were some fine old buildings destroyed; they survived two world wars and disappeared in one night of rioting more or less.

On Tuesday night the madness spread to our own city of Manchester with semi-organised gangs running the police ragged and stealing designer goods from what looked like selected stores. I’ve had an ongoing Facebook conversation with a friend of mine who maintains that this is the deprived underclass striking back. Maybe ... but I note that among those arrested are an army recruit, a graphic designer, a classroom assistant, a university graduate ... shouldn’t these people be a bit more responsible?

Anyway, yesterday I had planned to meet an old friend in Liverpool. We planned to take in the art galleries, have lunch and catch up with our news. It was with some trepidation that I set off to cross two cities which had suffered problems from rioters and looters but there really wasn’t any difficulty. Liverpool looked just the same as it did last time I went, just rather wetter. On my return to Manchester, I walked the length of Deansgate (still in the pouring rain), taking in St Ann’s Square en route. It was all rather sad with boarded up shops and many more taking the precaution of closing early. The place looked rather like a very wet ghost town. I hope it gets back to normal soon.

Travelling to Liverpool from Manchester by train is quite enjoyable, if only for the names of the places you go through. I suppose Eccles is reasonable enough although it does have you thinking of the old Goon Show. But where do names like Patricroft and Whiston come from? Then there is Earlestown which sounds as though it should be in an old western or maybe in a Sprinsgteen song about the working man.

The most appropriately named place, given the weather, is probably Rainhill. It has certainly rained all around here for days and days and days. There were veritable rivers running down Deansgate as I walked along there yesterday. Summer seems to have gone awol once again in the northwest of England. I spotted an article in La Voz de Galicia last week complaining that the summer was rather poor over there as well with temperatures 3° lower than usual, if that’s any consolation for us here. Mind you, I’ve checked the weather online and I see that Vigo is still managing temperatures in the upper 20s so I think it’s rather warmer than here. So it goes.

Finally, a little comment on automation and the job situation. On the train yesterday I read a little item in the newspaper about a town called Hombourg-Haut in the north of France, near the German border. An enterprising chap there has made an automatic baguette-dispenser. Instead of queuing up in the baker’s shop and chatting with the boulangère about the terrible weather we are having, you put some money in a slot and the machine pops out a steaming hot loaf of bread. Some 4,500 loaves were sold that way in July of this year.

What about all the jobs in bread shops? Will they disappear of this new automatic way of selling bread becomes the norm.