Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Sightseeing - or not

This post got me thinking about an occasion when I failed to do some pretty basic sightseeing. As I said there, it took Reidski 20 years of living in London before he visited the Tower of London, and in the comments Darren confessed to having lived in New York for almost three years without yet seeing the Statue of Liberty.

This story also involves not seeing the Statue of Liberty. Some years ago, my friend who takes us on wonderful holidays was living in Connecticut and had sent me and some other friends tickets to go and visit her and her then husband for Thanksgiving. I had what was absolutely one of the best weeks of my life. They were very close to New York City so we went there several times as well as seeing some of 'Up State' which was just how New England always looks in the movies. I had never been to New York before and was just blown away by that wonderful city. I was so excited when I there - it was incredible. Anyway, after my first few trips into Manhattan it was noted that I had not yet seen the Statue of Liberty and so it was decreed the three women who made up our Thanksgiving group should go into town so as to show me this iconic symbol of The United States whilst the males did the child minding. (Superb arrangement.)

Now my two friends are not the earliest of risers so a lateish start was made, but never mind - Grand Central Station (- can there be a more beautiful railway station anywhere in the world? -)

was only a 45 minute train ride from where they lived. We arrived about mid morning and were headed for the station exit when Anne said "Oh, I think there is a really lovely little Christmassy market in here somewhere. Shall we have a look first?" Well we are girls - of course we had to find the lovely little Christmassy market. And it did not disappoint. Lots of completely irresistible things to touch, try on, and in the case of the others who are considerably better off than me - to buy. Our visit to the market took quite a while. We then headed once more for the station exit. "Ah", says Anne before we got on to the street; "It might be quite hard to find something to eat down by the Statue of Liberty. Shall we get something to eat here?" We readily agree this could be a good idea, and Anne says Michael Jordan has a bar there and suggests we try there. This meant nothing to me and we are led up the steps to what is Michael Jordan's bar - only we are led past the bar and into the poshest most wonderfully located restaurant I had ever seen before - or indeed since.

We had a little cocktail to start things off rather nicely, the waiter asking of my other friend in a very cute French accent "'As madam got an 'ole in her glass?" as he noted the quite extraordinarily impressive speed she had downed her first cocktail in. We had another cocktail. And we had a starter each. And we had the best steak I have ever tasted. And we had wine. And we had a dessert. And then we thought we really did need to get to the Statue of Liberty.

Only when we finally did get out of the station it was dark. So we went to Bloomingdales instead.

The men were utterly appalled when we finally got home, complete with mountains of shopping, to hear that it had taken us five hours to get out of Grand Central Station, and that it had then been too dark to go and see the Statue of Liberty - but hey - these things can happen. And it was a GREAT day out.

The men made sure that the following day they were the ones that took me into town in order to ensure I did not leave New York City without having had a glimpse of the Statue of Liberty.

Has anyone else failed to see a really obvious sightseeing spot on their travels?

Darren invited me to participate with the following:

"A very simple meme this one. Ideal for when you have no time for blogging but still want to show the world you haven't lapsed into hibernation."

1) What was the last 1980s song you heard?

It was probably The Ruts, ‘Staring at the Rude Boys’ …if that was in fact out in the 80’s? Pause to look it up….. Yes, just checked and it came out in 1980 so just qualifies.

2) What was the last thing you saw on Youtube?

Now this is a bit of a tricky one to answer with any real accuracy. Reidski and I were mucking around with Youtube the other night, and whilst Elected by Alice Cooper definitely wasn’t the last one we played, it was the last one I can clearly recall. Yes – too much to drink again. I am a disgrace.

3) What was the last entry on Wikipedia you viewed?

See the link below as I answered that question before this one.

4) What was the last computer/video game you completed all the way through?

I used to be quite good at Tetris, but naturally I never managed to finish it. It was SO addictive. I stopped playing it when I got a life instead.

5) What did you last pig out on?

We had a curry in Brick Lane last night here. We were with Marc and Deana who are still on holiday here from Chicago. And it was bloody lovely.

6) What is the last undeleted text message on your mobile phone?

It was a weather report - “Absolutely pissing it down here.”

7) When did you last have a conversation with someone other than a family member?

Reidski is always telling me off for talking to random strangers – he says it is just not done in London. (Except in pubs when football is on of course.) However, my last conversation – I don’t actually know if you could call it a conversation but I was just talking at one of the admin women here. She obviously hates her job and she clearly thinks all social workers are prats. Getting a response from her is a challenge I always enjoy of a morning. She did finally condescend to tell me the photocopier was out of order – again. I told her how much I had enjoyed our little chat. (I didn’t really – I am far too scared of her to say anything like that to her face.)

8) Aside from where you live, what is the last village/town/city you visited?

Well I was in London E1 last night as previously referred to. It was actually the first time I had ever been to Brick Lane to eat which is almost as mad as Reidski taking 20 years to visit the Tower of London, or Darren living three years in New York without ever actually seeing the Statue of Liberty. Reidski was telling us houses in the area are now going for over a million pounds so the expectation is that Brick Lane will lose its curry houses as the rents become unaffordable and all we will get there will be Starbucks and McDonalds. What a depressing thought.

9) What was the last competition you won?

I haven’t won anything for ages, but the last thing I remember winning was well worth winning. I won a weekend for two at Henlow Grange health farm. I took my mum. That was where I found out I could do levitation. Reidski refuses to believe I can do this, and will not allow me to demonstrate on him that I can. But I am a woman of many* talents.

10) What are the last three blogs you visited?

Darren’s, Reidski’s and The Fatalist. The last of these has ensured I will never again sit down on a bus seat without very careful scrutiny of the empty seat first.

And as for who I will positively encourage to do this little exercise I am tempted to say Pixie as she has made it clear how much she loves doing these (not!), but I like her far too much to risk her wrath!

I will say The Fatalist to punish him for the misdemeanours on the buses of his youth.

Also Karen.

And Steg.

* For ‘many’ read 'few'.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

This and that

On Thursday evening Reidski and I met up with Marc and Deana who are from Chicago, and who we met via blogging. They don't even blog themselves, so the fact that we have met up and that we now count them as good friends is really quite incredible. We had such a good night, and I was not sick later. As I had what for me was a very significant quantity of wine on an empty stomach, this counts as a definite bonus. Hopefully seeing them both again tomorrow for a curry in Brick Lane.

On Friday I dragged Reidski along to the Tower of London. He has only lived in London for 20 years, so I guess one can understand how he may have struggled to find an opportunity to visit the Tower before now. It is such an amazing place - the White Tower having been built almost 1,000 years ago by the Normans. The exhibitions seemed to have improved a lot since I was last there and there was a lot to learn. I never knew before that amongst various illustrious prisoners held at the Tower over the years, the Kray twins did a couple of days stretch for failing to report for their National Service*. Although I was closely monitoring Reidski for any hint of boredom, he did assure me he really enjoyed our visit.

Yesterday was a stay at home day, and we did some gardening, as well as some very important football viewing.And I managed to miss the very end of The Assassination of Jesse James, because I fell asleep, but I am fairly sure it was the Coward Robert Ford what done it.

Back home now and writing an essay on Richard III. Well, not exactly writing it, but fine tuning it for my son who is doing Richard III for AS Level. What he has done is really quite remarkably good - considering he has just assured me he hasn't actually read the play.

* National Service didn't stop those particular young thugs from turning to crime did it? Daily Express readers take note.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008


John Arne Riise was arrested on the motorway last night. Apparently he was heading the wrong way.

I might laugh if I had not personally wanted to see a Liverpool win.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

In Bruges

Is a great film and you should see it.

In my opinion anyway :-)

Monday, April 21, 2008

And now for something way more serious.


Oldham Athletic have made an official complaint to the Football League after they were forced to wear Northampton Town’s socks last Saturday.

Club officials were surprised when Town opted to wear white socks as opposed to the burgundy* version listed with the Football League.

Referee Darren Drysdale refused to back Athletic, who had to play wearing the hosts normal home socks with their blue kit.**

The move left chief executive Alan Hardy fuming.

I am not making this up by the way
as this link should prove, if it hasn't been moved.

One can only start to imagine how nice calm Mr Hardy would react if a dodgy penalty was awarded against his side. He'd be really 'Raging!'I would imagine.

* Editor's note: We play in claret, not bloody burgundy.

** Fashion editor's note: Blue and claret did rather clash - it wasn't a good look.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

In which I knowingly break the law

I go to London on the train a lot. What I always used to do was pay for my ticket on line and pick it up when I get to the station. I say 'used to' as I did this up until yesterday but will never do so again.

When you book tickets on line, you have to book a journey some two hours hence as it takes time (god knows why but it does) for the instructions to issue the ticket to arrive at the relevant station. I had never had a problem with this - until yesterday.

I was taking my mum, daughter and niece to London as a birthday treat for my mum. I therefore booked 4 train tickets in my usual on-line manner.

We arrive at Northampton station in high spirits. We didn't know that we would not be departing from there in such good moods. We had 15 minutes before our train was due to depart - plenty of time. I went to collect my tickets.

Right - imagine the most miserable, unpleasant, vilest woman you have ever met and then in your mind try and imagine that person being twice as awful as she already is, and then you may come close to envisaging the person I encountered at the ticket office. I gave this Evil Bitch From Hell (EBFH) my reference number and she entered it on the computer. She then looked at me with ill disguised delight to inform me there was no such booking. "Of course there is such a booking," I said - "You've got all the details there in your hand. "There is no such booking", repeats EBFH. "If you want to travel you will have to buy the tickets again." "I beg your pardon?" "If you want to travel you will have to buy the tickets again."

At this point I get just a little irate, on account of I have already paid for tickets in good faith, and now this EBFH is telling me I will have to buy the tickets again. I suggest she has to be joking (this was a stupid mistake on my part as EBFH obviously wouldn't know a joke if it hit her in her ugly and smug face), and that there must be a way for her to issue me with the tickets for which I had already paid. She assures me with relish that there is not. I ask if she could ring up the ticket issuers what with them being London Midland Trains, and what with her working for London Midland Trains. "No" she said in a tone that clearly demonstrated that the last thing in the world she would dream of doing was anything that might possibly help me and that I was obviously insane to think anything to the contrary.

I go in search of the station manager, although I am not after my experience, convinced that such a person actually exists. This involved the four of us being let through the barriers and pointed in the direction of what was allegedly "Customer Services". I explain to a blank looking young man the difficulty and explained that as I have paid for four tickets, and my payment has been accepted, I am therefore not very happy to be told no tickets can be issued and say "Surely there is something that can be done?" He shakes his head and says "No - I don't think there is."

I then see an older, though equally blank looking man. By this time we have watched the train we expected to be on depart.I repeat my tale of woe and he says "Just your luck to get Shirley" for that is the other name of the EBFH. "Surely" (I kept on saying 'Surely') I said, "You can issue a travel warrant as you have the evidence that I have paid for these tickets?" "I don't know" he says and wanders off with my reference number with a vague promise to talk to 'Someone.'

Well we waited, and we waited. The next train came in and was sitting at the platform. Eventually the two blank men return and tell me there is no record of my booking and I can either buy the tickets again or I can wait around until such time as the internet booking reference gets recognised.

It was at this point that a red mist descended on me and I announced "Right, we are now going to go and get on that train and I will sort it out when we get to Euston.Are you going to stop me? " Then they all but read me my rights and warned me I would get fined £54.00 per person for a single journey taken whilst not in possession of a ticket. "I don't bloody well think so" I said as I marched my mum, daughter and niece on to the train and therefore became A Law Breaker.

It was without doubt the most rebellious thing I have EVER done.

(I rang customer services for London Midland from the train. The very nice lady assured me it was not a problem and the tickets would be available for collection at Euston - as indeed they were. And when I told the ticket inspector my story - well, was I fined £216? No I wasn't. He laughed and told me not to worry about it.)

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Windsor Castle is

"The most Romantique castle that is in the world."
So said Samuel Pepys in 1666.

J.J, 2008 "Cool."

Well OK - I love history, and have in my time studied the Tudors in particular, and this tour of the castle brings so much to life, but as with the Eton trip, not life as was experienced by the populace at large. There were several things about the tour that were staggering, but rather a lot of things that were frankly obscene in my eyes, but I do have to declare a certain anti- monarchist bias here.

There was one moment when I felt a stab of pity for the Queen. There is a display where some dolls were on display. These dolls were presented to Liz and Margaret when they were little by the French and came complete with an entire set of clothes, jewellery, shoes, cosmetics you name it these dolls had it. What a GREAT present for little girls. The pity I felt was when it was immediately obvious these dolls had never ever been played with. "Don't touch children!" Oh and to have a doll's house which they couldn't play with either. I LOVED my doll's house so much when I was little and can imagine no worse torture at a young age than to be able to look at the best doll's house EVER, and not be allowed to rearrange the furniture. Anyway, I soon got over the sympathy bit when I saw the conditions the royals have had to put up with over the years.

What is really good about a trip round this castle is that you are given an audio commentary which tells you about each area or room you see so even with purchasing a guide book you learn a lot. I did also buy a guide book and am glad I did for the subtle royalist propaganda. For example it describes the armour worn by Henry VIII thus : "The armour records the King's impressive proportions, which were quite exceptional in the sixteenth century. And there was me thinking all these years that he was just a fat bastard!

There is a section in the book about the 1992 fire. It says the Duke of Edinburgh oversaw the restoration project as a whole whilst the Prince of Wales presided over the Art and Design Committee. I can only start to imagine what a delicate task trying not to piss those two off must have been for the other committee members, especially given Charles's views on modern architecture.

Talking of Charles there is a special exhibition in the castle at the moment about royal weddings from Victoria's onwards, but sadly there seems to have been no space (in the biggest castle in Europe) to mention his wedding (either of his weddings in fact.)A veil also seems to have been drawn over the wedding of Andrew to Sarah (see this link for welcome reminder of her dress sense, which for some reason puts me in mind of Aintree.)

So, in brief now as I am in danger of waffling on for ever and I need to get to the gym, I saw lots of expensive paintings, lots of expensive furniture, lots of expensive stolen goods (nicked whilst we were busy expanding the empire), and a lovely Gothic chapel. Very strange feeling indeed to know that at one point the mortal remains of both Henry VIII and Charles I were below my feet.

But as to which part I liked best - no contest.

The garden in the castle moat was stunning.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

An encounter with an alien life form (for both of us)

I went to Windsor yesterday, and will return to the subject of our visit to the castle but I am still reeling from a conversation I had whilst purchasing a newspaper in Eton.

I hadn't realised before just exactly how close Eton is to Windsor. Generations of royal pupils have had absolutely no excuse for not popping in to see their family - in fact they could probably wave to them on a daily basis from the top rooms of Eton to the top of the castle battlements. I digress. The point here is that mum and I walked over the bridge at Windsor to look at Eton College.

Eton is indeed another world; one of extraordinary privilege. This is reflected in every shop window by the items on sale (like socks for Lower Boating????), and by the fact that they clearly see nothing odd in the name of their primary school. Most obviously of course it is refelcted in the school with which Eton shares its name.

Messalina observed to me recently when we went on a guided walk round London Inns of Court that there must be a whole section of society that thinks that all of England looks the same. They go to Eton for school, progress to Oxford or Cambridge where the colleges look just like school, and then they go on to the Inns of Court which looks just like Oxbridge and there they stay until they die, blissfully unaware of any century after the 17th.

So mum and I take in this world in which we are complete outsiders. It is like being at a zoo seeing these exotic creatures in their strange school uniform,

whilst they presuambly look back and say "I say Miles old chap - is that a common person over there in that ghastly velcro tracksuit?" (For that is the kind of thing I wear.)

There is a Blackwall's bookshop directly opposite the main college building and I decided I wanted a newspaper. I picked one up from the rack outside and went in to pay. The paper was folded up and the very posh young chap behind the counter asked me what I had got. I told him it was the Guardian but I added in what I thought was a jovial and friendly manner "I did think that being in this environment I should have bought the Morning Star." "Oh" replies bloke, "What is the Morning Star?" At first I thought he was joking, but I looked at him and very quickly sussed he was completely in earnest. "Erh, it's a daily newspaper." I offered. "Is it?" he asked. "It's a Communist newspaper" I added for his further information. "Good heavens! I never knew there was such a thing," says posh (and ignorant) bloke. "Oh dear!" says I, and left with the words "Come the Revolution mate....."

I think we both found the other equally weird.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Great Family Day's Out

I have a few days off next week so what could possibly be nicer that taking my daughter and two of her friends to a theme park for the day?

I have such clear memories of my last but one trip to a theme park. Let’s call it Alton Towers for that is its name.

I don’t know which part I enjoyed least.

Was it

a) The happy hours spent in queues for rides manned by semi – house trained bullies. b) The joy for a non smoker of inhaling other people’s poisonous fumes, whilst in those endless queues.
c) The litter that was everywhere.
d) The rip off prices.
e) The filthy toilets.
f) The total lack of shelter when it rained.
g) The amusing way the rides tended to break down after one had been in a queue for the sodding thing for absolutely ages, and the total lack of apologies when this occurred – twice to us on that particular day.


h) The fact that they had the nerve to ask me to fill in a customer satisfaction survey on my way out.

Now Reidski would confirm that when really pissed off I do have a tendency to make my feelings known. In this instance Alton Towers were treated to what was eventually a four page letter of vitriolic complaints, ending with the assurance that I would NEVER return to experience the thrills of Alton Towers again.

They replied with a set of complementary tickets for the whole family, and as the kids found them before I had managed to burn them….yes, I had to go again.

So next week – can’t wait. I take the kids to Thorpe Park in this instance, which I am sure is every bit as wonderful as Alton Towers: by which I mean, it is probably hell on earth.

And then I sod off to Windsor Castle with my mum, and pick the kids up again later.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

The sights

to be seen in the women's changing room at my gym are varied. We come in all shapes and sizes, and people can be quite imaginative when it comes to body piercings.

But my question this evening is this:

Why the bloody hell would any grown woman get a tattoo of Mickey Mouse on her arse?

Speaking as a social worker myself

For Fucking Hell's Sake.

Sunday, April 06, 2008


The Frocky Horror Show!.

Well worth scrolling down in order to fully appreciate the dress sense of the young ladies at Aintree.

In which I have my legs waxed.

So anyway, I am having my legs waxed. The woman applying the wax is a friend who lives and waxes in my village, and so we chat away. I ask if she has seen a mutual friend of ours called Jack recently. "Oh!" she says, "He has been really poorly recently!"

So I do the appropriate amount of 'Oh dears!' and enquire as to what was the cause of his illness, and she explains and says he is now on the mend but that he will unfortunately not be able to take part in the Parish Marathon.

"Blimey!" thinks I. "I know I don't get out and about in the village so much these days, but I didn't even realise there was going to be a Parish Marathon." However, I don't want to admit to the level of my ignorance so I go along with the conversation and say what a shame it is that he will miss the marathon. "Yes" continues my friend as she slaps on the wax, "And there were so many people coming along to watch him. Some were driving, some were going on the train and others were flying." "Flying to watch Jack in the marathon?" I ask whilst wondering where the bloody hell they were intending to fly to. We don't exactly live near any major airport - although we are handily placed for the M1. "Oh yes," says she as she whips a load of leg hair off my right calf and I cry out in agony. "But they have all decided to go anyway and will make a weekend of it." "Well", says I - now struggling to prolong the conversation about the Parish Marathon - "I hope they can find enough to entertain themselves over an entire weekend, marathon apart." "Oh" she says, "I'm sure they will. I have never been to Paris myself, but I'm sure there is plenty to keep them occupied for a couple of days."

I nod wisely and say I expect there probably is.

"Bikini line?" she asks.

"Pass" says I.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

What would you do?

You are passing some time on the beach with your kids. You hear them scream. You run to each other. They insist they have just found a head in "that bag over there".

One would surely be inclined to think they were imagining things or making it up. It was after all April 1st.

So may be you tell them to not be so silly and go back to building the sandcastle?

But they insist...plus they are presumably throwing up all over the place.

Do you risk a peek? You wouldn't want to but could you risk calling the police without checking first?

So glad I wasn't the parent concerned. (And how many sleepless nights are they going to have with those little girls from now on?)

I am also grateful that when Reidski and I were on the beach on Tuesday the only dead body we found belonged to a dogfish. (The poor thing.)


Det Ch Insp McMillan ....said the case was still not being treated as murder.

Suicide by wrapping own head in plastic bag and then cutting it off with the slight disadvantage of having already cut off own hands then?

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

North Yorkshire coast.

Yesterday was pretty much perfect.

We went up the coast from Scarborough to Staithes which was once a very important fishing port, and is now incredibly popular with artists for a rather obvious reason - it is seriously pretty.

We were really lucky with the weather as it was clear, sunny, and erh - bracing.

We then made our way back down the coast to Whitby. Here we had a drink and the much anticipated haddock and chips at the Magpie Cafe which exceeded expectations. We also paid homage to Captain Cook and climbed the 199 steps up to the abbey. We were sorry though to have missed
the Goth Weekend.

Then we carried on to Robin Hood's Bay before going back to our hotel in Scarborough.

Our hotel was very odd. It was in many ways a typical seaside hotel. It had a claim to fame as Wilfred Owen had stayed there recuperating from injuries he sustained during the war - just a shame he got himself fit enough to go back to the front from there. Downstairs it looked like it was entirely unchanged since the 1950's, but our room was lovely and newly refurbished. We also had a wonderful sea view. Our three course dinner which we had the first evening took all of 45 minutes from walking through the door to leaving - yes, I am sure it was all cooked to order! We were asked for our sweet order at the same time as we ordered our starters and main courses. I think the kitchen staff were after watching Coronation Street without the inconvenience of having to cook for residents at the same time. We did n't bother eating there the second night - not that it would have been humanly possible after the fish and chips anyway. We gave the tea dance a miss as well.

We were the youngest people there except for the obvious junkie daughter of a harassed looking mother who would seem to have successfully found the least likely place to score drugs in all of the UK to take her daughter.

Although I suppose that tea dance could have been a very clever front for drug dealing? One can never quite tell with those elderly Yorkshire folk.