Monday, July 27, 2009

Westminster Abbey

As I said in a comment recently to Gill – when I lived in London I hardly ever visited galleries, cathedrals etc, and I am only now starting to tick some of them off. It was only last year that I went to the Tate for the first time (shameful I know).

On Saturday Reidski and I made our first trip to Westminster Abbey.
It was a complete revelation. For all the times I must have seen the inside of it on the tele , Di’s funeral etc, I had no idea just how ornate it actually is, with over 600 elaborate memorials and monuments packed into it. Some of them pretty freaky like this one.

And it is a 1,000 years old. A door there is said to have been there since 1050. No built in obsolescence in those days.

As a historian of sorts, to stand next to the tomb of Elizabeth I is pretty mind blowing, as is seeing the spot where Oliver Cromwell lay – for all of two years before he was dug up to have his body well and truly desecrated.

I did have a moment when I nearly had to smack someone. In Poet’s Corner I went to search for the memorial to Wilfred Owen. His is one name in a list of war poets engraved on the floor. Just as I spotted him, some oaf put his foot right on top of Owen’s name. I was outraged! Mind you, should a certain female prime minister ever end up in the Abbey I think there may be long queues of people all wanting to stamp on her grave.

It wasn’t cheap - £15 each, but the website explains that the Abbey receives no regular funding from The Crown, the Church of England or the government. It states “Neither a cathedral nor a parish church, Westminster Abbey was established as a ‘Royal Peculiar’ in 1560 by Queen Elizabeth I. The Abbey is outside the jurisdiction and responsibility of the Church of England and the Government. In short, this means we must seek our own financial support.” It seems that the million plus visitors they get each year are still not enough to meet their overheads. So here’s a suggestion. Seeing as how the queen was crowned there, has many of her predecessors buried there including her namesake, got married there, most probably will have her funeral there, and as she is one of the richest persons on the planet, estimated at being worth around 40 billion pounds sterling (all the residences, pieces of art, royal collection, the lands, the ships and the financial resources hold by the monarch) – how about she dips into her pocket to fund the place?

Yeah right . Dream on JJ. She didn’t get so rich by giving any of it away don’t you know?

Thursday, July 23, 2009

I'm good but....

Caller: "I just found out my dad got another woman pregnant so I have a half brother. Can you find him for me? He was adopted. I don't know what his surname was, but his first name was Kenneth. He would be in his early 20's. "

Me: "Well that narrows it down."

.....I'm not that bloody good.

She did think she knew the woman's first name - but she couldn't be sure.

So I told her to sod off and stop bothering me ;-)

C is for

Cogenhoe which is a village near where I live.

A prize will be awarded to anyone who is able to tell me how Cogenhoe is pronounced.

Decided this is too difficult so will have to tell you that for those in the know, Cogenhoe is pronounced 'Cook - know'. God knows why.

But I am not going to write about Cogenhoe even though I have indeed been there on several occasions.

There are two English counties that I just love which both begin with C and they are Cornwall and Cumbria. I have gone on recently about the innumerable delights of Cornwall, so I am going to talk about Cumbria today, although obviously there will be nothing original I can possibly say that William Wordsworth hasn’t already covered. Such are the little challenges we bloggers do face.

Carlisle is of course in Cumbria. It is not an issue for my family this coming season as by managing to get ourselves relegated we are no longer in the same league as Carlisle, but the last time we went to Cumbria it was on account of the football fixture list. “Can we go to Carlisle away?” is the question I always get asked by my insanely fanatical Cobblers fan of an eldest son. This particular season I said “Only if we draw them away in August. If we do we will have a week in the Lakes at the same time.” We drew them away in the August, and that was how a group of 9 members of my family (it kind of escalated) came to be in Keswick the week leading up to the Big Match – Northampton Town v Carlisle. One of those family members was my niece, then aged 8. My niece will be given the last word in this post. (She always likes to have the last word.)

I have been to the Lake District many times. I’ve been up Helvellyn via the notorious Striding Edge, and I have been up Great Gable, but I have yet to go up Scafell Pike. In common with many other parents over the years, I have taken my kids up Catbells for their first real hill climbing experience. Also in common with those other parents over the years, it was mainly a nightmare of moaning and complaining, until they reached the top and then I had to listen to the bragging about how easy it had been. Choosing a favourite spot in Cumbria would be difficult, but I have to say that I can see why Alfred Wainwright chose Haystacks as the spot where he wanted to have his ashes scattered. The views in every direction are breath taking. I am so jealous of Gill and
Karen who both live in this wonderful county.

This particular week was mainly (as is so often the case) wet. In fact it was very, very wet. There was serious flooding and we thanked our lucky stars that on this occasion we were in a house and not camping. I am afraid very few hours went past that week without someone (and very often it would have been me) complaining about why the bloody hell we had to draw a match against Carlisle this of all weeks? Holidays often have a theme. Ours was very definitely the fact that we were in rain sodden Cumbria all on account of a bloody football match against Carlisle.

The day of the match dawned and off we went to Carlisle. My niece and sister for reasons that can only be attributed to sanity did not come to the match, which as you will by now be aware was against Carlisle, but went shopping instead in Carlisle town centre. They came to meet us at the ground after the game which we, and all of 125 other Cobbler fans, had seen us win 1-0. My sister told me that as they approached the ground my niece asked a security guard who had won. ‘”Northampton” he replied. “Oh good, “ she said. “Who were we playing?”

Errh, that would probably have been Carlisle sweetheart.

My niece had obviously spent the entire week managing not to listen to a single word any of us said – nothing new there of course.

Monday, July 20, 2009

In which the past came back to haunt me..

I do not have happy memories of my first secondary school. From September 1970 to May 1974 I was one of the ‘scholarship gals’ (ie I passed the 11+) at Northampton High School for Girls.

It was at the time a direct grant school which meant that whilst it was mainly a fee paying school, under sufferance they would accept a limited number of pupils who did not pay because that way they received some additional funding from the government..

Some of the girls there had been in the school since they were kindergarten age. To say it was a culture shock for those of us joining the school at age 11 is an understatement. I remember a uniform and equipment list that ran to three pages in length. This included both outdoor shoes and indoor shoes, as well as regulation navy blue knickers. All items (knickers included) had to have our name tag sown in them – it must have taken my mother the best part of a week – and yes we did have regulation inspections to ensure those tags were there. Yes – they did inspect our knickers too for goodness sake.

Two memories of my first year – or should I say my Upper Third year (how jolly hockey sticks does that sound?) stand out. One was from our Speech lesson. Yes – they did attempt to teach us how to speak. Only aged 11 I didn’t quite get that bit. We had to learn a poem for homework, and come back and recite it to the class. I learnt ‘I remember, I remember, the house where I was born.’ Word perfect then, word perfect now - it has stayed with me. Anyway, one line in particular stays with me about how the sun never’ brought too long a day’. I had to say that over and again and simply did not understand what the problem was. With the benefit of some wisdom acquired over my years at that school I later learnt the problem was my Northamptonshire accent – with particular reference to my ‘A’s’. ‘ Aaaa Daaaay.’ I also learnt that according to the teachers ‘Off’ was pronounced ‘Orrrffff.’ I did not previously know that!

The other memory was of Writing class (Writing AND Speech!). We never had lined exercise books as lined paper was unladylike (and more expensive). Anyway week in week out my writing was marked B+. Until that was, the day my teacher found out my parents had a pub and thereafter my writing was B- every single week.

We used to get a coach to our sports fields as they were some distance away. Unbelievably, what ever year we were in, we had to get changed into our gym kit on the coach. I don’t think that would happen these days!

I guess one either conformed at the school or one rebelled. I was in the second category, and by my fourth year (Lower Fifth) my card was well and truly marked. My physics report that year noted ‘Jane makes absolutely no effort’. Although it didn’t seem it at the time, my parents moving us to Skegness was the saving of me academically. As a new girl in what was happily a normal fifth year as opposed to a stupid Upper Fifth I got down to work and did well. That would never have happened at Northampton.

So having said all that, why on earth did I find myself on Saturday afternoon at a High School reunion? And how come I enjoyed myself so much? It was all girls who had been in my year. It has to be said that some have aged somewhat better than others. I did feel pretty bad assuming Judith D must have been an old teacher but I think I talked my way out of that faux pas. It was interesting to realise that most of them had hated the place too. Always fun to find yourself with people with whom you share common experiences from the past and to see old photos – I did have the widest pointy collars in the whole world (surely?), and the shortest skirt no question. Looking though at letters sent home that inexplicably some people had kept and brought along it really did reek of a bygone era. One letter warned girls to keep their purses with them at all times as leaving them in the cloakrooms provided ‘Temptation for the weak minded amongst our community.’ The thought that I ever received a letter written in such a style makes me feel far older that I thought poor Judith D actually was.

But all in all, a great afternoon, and hopefully some old friendships have been truly revived once again.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Guess the price

of obtaining a visa, advertised by the Chinese Embassy as costing £30.00, to enter China as a tourist.

You might suppose as I did that it would be £30.00 but you would be wrong like I was.

Because you were recommended a company called Visa Swift by travel agents arranging your trip you might expect to pay something on top of £30.00 for their service, but you would probably expect that something on top to be half way reasonable. But no.

You might expect that the website of Visa Swift to which the travel agents directed you, would make their charges clear. Wrong again.

You might even expect that if you spoke to not one of their representatives but to two, trying to ascertain just exactly what it was they needed from you that charges might have been explained. Just plain wrong.

You might not expect to be charged £109.14 per visa (My children are coming on this trip too).

It has taken me four days to be able to speak of this. I've done the tears, I've done the blind fury. Now I just want to warn as many people as possible not to use these charlatans who say they can help you obtain a travel visa.

(Not exactly impressed with the travel agents either.)

P.S. Before anyone thinks that if I can afford for my whole family to go to China I can afford the cost of the visas, the same lovely woman who took us to South Africa, Lapland, Dublin and Egypt is paying for this further trip of a lifetime. In that respect I do of course know that I am incredibly lucky, and it is that thought that has just about enabled me to calm down over the visa charges.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

To laugh or to cry?

My favourite obsession - yes, I have been on the Daily Mail website AGAIN - has photos of Jerry Hall on the beach. Aged 53, shock, horror, the Daily Mail who is so notoriously hard to please when it comes to women's bodies, is quite impressed.

But not so all their commentators. I give you the words of 'A' from Aldershot:

She looks nothing at all special to me. And if she didn't have all that money and time to spend on herself i dread to think what she'd look like. Sorry, but it is a fact that a woman's appeal fades away over the age of around 40, whereas a man can remain ferttile and attractive into his 80s. I'm 82, my girlfriend is 29 and a model.

- a, Aldershot, 15/7/2009 8:44

Any suggestions as to how one could respond politely to such a total arsehole/ fantastist?

Or should we just torture him to death?

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Have you seen this chicken?

Police are appealing for information after two men climbed a garden fence to steal a chicken from a Northampton garden.

Witnesses or anyone with information about the whereabouts of the chicken is asked to contact police on 03000 111 222 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

Monday, July 13, 2009

B is for

Is for Brighton, but it always cold when I go to Brighton – even when the rest of the country was enjoying a heatwave back in 2006 it managed to be cold when I went to Brighton with Reidski so I am not going to write about that. It is also for Bocastle in Cornwall, but I wrote about my visit there back in February and one must try not to repeat oneself.

And it is for Beijing – only I haven’t been there (yet, but thanks to me having the most generous friend in the entire universe, I will be going there in August).

So today B is for Birmingham. I went to Birmingham in April. I didn’t write about it then as I needed some time to get over it...and when I was over it, I had managed to blank it from my memory bank, but now it all comes back to me in its full technicolor horror. I do not refer here to Birmingham itself but to the reason that I was in Birmingham....

‘Dancing on Ice Live’.

Let’s get that part over with first. I got stuck with taking three teenage girls to see this show for reasons previously mentioned here. It was, shall we say, an experience of the grit your teeth and pretend you are having a good time variety.
It was taking place at the National Indoor Arena.

Now I freely acknowledge that I am a snob but oh dear! The state of most of the people there was a sight to behold, not previously encountered since last time I was in Skegness on August Bank Holiday Monday. All low life was there. Tattoos everywhere, ill fitting clothes, skirts up past their arses on women who really should have asked the bum question* before leaving home, foul language every time they opened their mouths and disgusting fast food in their paws. Have I sufficiently proved that I am a snob yet? But you get the (not very pretty) picture.

Worse was to follow though as we had – oh my fucking god no! – a warm up man to deal with. I will say something for the assorted chavs and chavettes – they do know how to give their all to the Birdie Song. As I was personally being very closely monitored by my daughter for the merest hint that I was not having the time of my life, I sang
"Hey, hey hey baby!
I want to know if you'll be my girl
Hey, hey hey hey hey, baby
C'mon, baby now..... " whilst waving my arms in the air and shaking my booty with the best (worst) of them.

It was all completely hideous.

And just when I thought things had got as bad as they were going to get, I found out Andi Peters was our host for the evening.

Oh alright then – some of it was quite good I suppose. Torvill and Dean did Bolero. Todd Carty still couldn’t skate but comes across as a helluva nice guy, and the main thing was that the girls I took loved every single second of it.

But back to Birmingham...that city with such a terrible image amongst those of us who don’t know the place. Here are some random facts about Birmingham.

In the Doomsday book Birmingham is mentioned as a village worth 20 shillings. The city's reputation was forged as a powerhouse of the Industrial Revolution in England, a fact which led to Birmingham being known as "the workshop of the world". Now like everywhere else in this country it is mainly reliant upon the service sector for its economic wellbeing. Crossroads was made in Birmingham. Neville Chamberlain was from Birmingham. So was Enoch Powell - and Ozzy Osbourne. Musically there seems to be some kind of a theme with the likes of Judas Priest, Black Sabbath, Napalm Death, Electric Light Orchestra and Led Zeppelin all hailing from this city. That explains the profusion of Brummie accents when Reidski went to the Download festival last summer. More to my particular liking are The Streets, Steel Pulse, UB40, The Beat, and Editors. (How can the likes of Liverpool, Manchester and Sheffield compete with a musical legacy like that eh?) The city currently has two Premiership football teams - Aston Villa and another one whose name escapes me. We must thank Birmingham inventors for numerous innovations, including custard powder.

The day we went there was spent here, wandering along the canals and stopping off for drinks and pasta en route, and it was absolutely fantastic. I was massively impressed with this vibrant and exciting area, and came away from Birmingham determined to return sometime very soon – only I do not intend to see Dancing on Ice Live again some time ever!

* Answer – yes it does.


We have a family friend called Dot who has recently been very poorly. Luckily she is now on the road to recovery but is at present unable to return to her home while she convalesces.

My mum went to see her at the weekend. As she entered the room she heard Dot flatly refusing to take the medication she was being offered. Mum asked her what the problem was. "Huh!" says Dot. "I am NOT taking any of their medicines. THEY say I have got a heart problem. Doctor P told me there is nothing whatsoever wrong with my heart. No way am I taking any of their so called heart medicine. Look what happened to Michael Jackson."

Dot is 90.

Maybe it is being so careful that has helped her live as long as she has?

Friday, July 10, 2009

Silversun Pickups - "Lazy Eye" (Single Edit Version)

Seen on Tuesday night - fantastic stuff.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

The rewards of friendship

I am always on the look out for good offers.

Gyms are of course often keen to encourage their members to introduce their friends to the joys of gym membership and often offer incentives – eg if one introduces a mate to the gym and they sign up you will receive a gym bag, or some nice toiletries etc etc.

Anyway, in the past two weeks leaflets and posters have appeared in profusion at my gym – Virgin Active – that encourages us to be ‘Active Amigos’. ‘Friendship’ as they say on the front of the leaflet ‘ is so rewarding’.

So how rewarding exactly is friendship?

Well this scheme aims to get four of our friends to join Virgin Active through our recommendation.

I don’t know what the average monthly charge is for my gym, but I pay £40 and have done for years under a scheme that I signed up for ages ago that guaranteed no price increases whilst one remains a member. I assume therefore that the average charge per month is higher than £40 but let’s stick with that amount to discover how rewarding friendship actually is.

Now if I get one of my friends to sign up – and the minimum contract is for 12 months - my reward will be a water bottle. Yes! A whole water bottle all of my own! Virgin Active meanwhile would get £480. So far so rewarding.

If a second of my friends signs up my reward will be a towel. You can see that it is starting to get quite an exciting prospect now. A water bottle AND a towel! I can scarcely dream of such things. Virgin Active get £960.

Friend number three signs up (have I actually got that many friends I am just wondering?) I get a whole hour’s worth of personal training – worth £22, during which I can drink out of my water bottle, and after which I can dry myself on my towel. How rewarding is that? Virgin Active are so incredibly generous aren’t they? They get £1,440.

Anyone who has actually bothered to stick with this will be desperate to know what reward I can expect should friend number four sign up. Well I would get a whole entire month’s free membership which you may recall is for me £40. Now you are talking Mr Branson pal! Virgin Active would get £1,920. This scheme is clearly very rewarding indeed – for some company of other.

As you can imagine I was completely enthused when reading about how friendship was so incredibly rewarding and how I stood to receive a water bottle. I was therefore all set to start work on coercing four unsuspecting mates to join Virgin Active – they would not need to know there would be SO much in it for me. But hang on just one moment. What are these dreaded words I see? 'Terms and conditions apply.’

I check out the small print to read that ‘All prizes must be redeemed before 30th June 2009.’
(My highlighting - not theirs.)

So actually should (in a parallel universe where the impossible is possible) four of my friends to actually take up gym membership at my recommendation Virgin Active would get £1,920 – and I would in fact get, rather than the as advertised practically fuck all, absolutely fuck all.

A truly brilliant marketing ploy wouldn’t you say?

Post script.

Bizarrely this post has today attracted numerous visits from the same IP address. Mr Branson is it you? If it is you and you are concerned that I am pointing out just how crap this offer is, please note that I am open to bribery and can easily be persuaded to say how great Virgin Active offers are for a sum of money to be negotiated. E-mail me!

Monday, July 06, 2009

A is for


I am a neglectful blogger these days but I just had an idea for when I am stuck for something to write about. An A-Z of places I have been. The idea may well have been prompted by my walk last weekend that took me to Achurch. That is not (for a change) a typo. The photo is of me at a church in
Achurch. A tiny Northamptonshire village that until my walk took me there (twice) I didn't know existed. The reason it took me there twice was because instead of consulting an Ordnance Survey map, I pulled a pub walk directions off the internet and followed it blindly, but it was still a little bizarre when some three quarters of an hour after leaving Achurch, I found I was back in Achurch and still with four miles of the walk to go (in the rain)(without a jacket)(I don't like to complain).

So what can I tell you about Achurch? The church in Achurch has a well preserved tomb of a crusader from 1200 and something, which is quite impressive, and the guy who designed the First World War recruiting poster 'Your Country Needs You' was from there. I wonder how many men died because they responded to that?* Humm, that's about all I can tell you apart from the countryside around it is lovely.

So let's hope that if this series ever gets as far as B, that place will have had a bit more going on than a sleepy hamlet in the heart of the English countryside has had in the past 800 years.

* Reidski takes the piss out of me as whenever we visit some kind of amazing structure I always find myself asking him how many people he thinks may have died in the construction of the palace/cathedral/bridge - delete as appropriate. I am a terminally boring person to go anywhere with!

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Words fail me

but I am going to have a go at expressing just how angry I feel right now on behalf of someone whose name I don't even know.

All I do know of this person is that she is female, in her late 40's, and she just happens to be the mother of the girl the tabloids tell us is 'The Nation's Sweetheart' aka Mrs Cheryl Cole.

So it seems that last night Mrs Cole had a birthday do and along came her mum. Lots of show biz 'pals' and lots of paparazzi along of course to get the photos of Mrs Cole and show biz 'pals'. So for, so 'Who gives a fuck?' And yet, not content with taking the photos of various members of Girls Aloud and Simon Cowell they somehow feel that Cheryl's mum is fair game too. They take a photo of her sitting in a car,which various papers have elected to print this morning, to graphically illustrate that this woman (who as far as I am aware has never done anything to court any publicity) has come out without knickers under her dress.

I can't start to imagine how humiliated this woman must feel. She would presumably never have dreamt in her worst nightmares that anyone would ever pay so much attention to her that they would even bother to take a photo of her - let alone a photo like that. What has she ever done to deserve such a thing? And what the hell have we come to as a society that not only do they take such a photo, but apparently it is worth good money to the photographer concerned because the papers have paid for it, and they have printed it.

Bad enough that as Gill pointed out earlier this week certain sections of the media are obsessed with printing unbecoming photos of people in the public eye, but when it is some woman who just happens to be attending her daughter's birthday party you have to wonder just how low these scumbags working in this area will end up stooping. What are the limits to ones connection to a famous person that will ensure one will NOT attract the attention of those prying lenses? I'm quite worried myself actually. Does the fact that I met Trigger and spoke with him for all of five minutes mean I now have to build security gates round my garden to prevent the paparazzi taking photos of me sunbathing? "Who is Trigger's mystery female friend, and what does she think she looks like in that M&S bikini?"