With every passing year, it has become increasingly apparent that I have acquired the ability of entering a room and instantly raising the average age. One recent example was when Elaine and I went to see the band Everybody Looks Famous – we didn’t exactly raise the average age of the audience, we bloody doubled it. Not good... (but the band certainly was, I hasten to add...).
Yesterday however was a glorious exception. We decided to pop down to Northallerton for a change – market day, silly move –and for a special treat (and also for the very first time) we went for our regular Saturday “coffee and chat” to Betty’s.
Patience is not a virtue I possess (especially in queues), but I was proud of myself yesterday. Not only did I stand and wait for fifteen minutes... I actually stood for fifteen minutes; there certainly weren’t many other customers who could manage such a feat.
In front of me, to the side of me (and I’m not meaning you here Elaine x) and behind me were doddery old ladies, all it must be said with neatly bouffanted grey hair, most stooped over a walking stick –and each apparently taking their bloody mother out for coffee..!
In their collective defence, they were no irritation at all compared to the student sat on the next table alongside his evidently proud father and clearly deaf and totally disinterested grandfather (and I salute you), telling anyone within earshot (that was capable of hearing) how he “just switches into Chinese when he’s in China” and “how he gets funny looks because not many westerners can speak their language”.
No mate, you get funny looks because you’re a total 屁眼...
Anyway, back out in the open air and in the spirit of London 2012, we were treated to a re-enactment of the 100 metre heats from the 1928 Amsterdam Olympics – featuring two of the actual competitors. Sadly Doris and Beryl didn’t make the final (which as you know was won by Betty Robinson of America, who later opened a hugely successful chain of tea rooms in northern England), but it was nevertheless a joy to see these two athletes of yesteryear tearing down the high street.
Betty’s time of 12.2 seconds equalled the 100 metre world record way back then, but Doris and Beryl didn’t let the spectators down as Beryl edged out her rival to win in a time of 38 minutes 54.4 seconds, but in attempting to recreate her famous lunge for the line Beryl tripped over her walking stick and landed flat (but unhurt) on her triumphant face. Doris was disappointed, but believed she lost her chance of victory when she stopped to chat to Ada, whom she hadn’t seen since the previous Wednesday.
And there you have it. Here endeth the story of my trip to Northallerton... the day we had a Yorkshire cream tea and I reduced a room’s average age. Marvellous...
Footnote: Please be assured that I’m not in any way “ageist”, this blog has been embellished purely for feeble comic effect... and yes, I know it didn’t work...
My life has undergone so many changes in the past ten years, the most significant (and best) of those changes was finding Elaine and being able to be not just a part of her life, but eventually to become her husband and actually share her life.
But ten years ago today, Elaine’s life changed forever... with the passing of her mother Alma.
I never met Alma, or Elaine’s father Terry, but I’ve heard so many lovely stories, seen so many photographs and let’s face it, they brought Elaine into the world, so they must have been a special couple!
It’s hard for me to imagine how Elaine coped with the terrible events of a decade ago – and how she deals with other issues that have cast a shadow on the happiness I so want for her. She’s more special to me than she will ever know and I just want to say thank you to Terry and, particularly today, to Alma for helping Elaine to the person she is... the person I love.
God bless, Alma xx
Last night I ordered a couple of tickets to go and see Bo Bruce at Newcastle’s 02 Academy in June. It’ll be a year – and a far cry – from when I first heard her sing on The Voice and was totally captivated by the exact thing that gave the show its name.
The first glimpse of fame often means an unlocking of the past and this young lady had evidently overcome the trappings of privilege and a fair share of issues –and heartache – in pursuit of her dream. I did something I rarely do and sent a good luck message via Facebook (other social media sites are available) and was amazed to get a reply – a lovely reply in fact.
One or two more were exchanged as the competition progressed and I was struck by her humility as well as an unstated, but clearly underlying determination to get the chance to share the gift with which she’d been blessed.
Bo's life will have changed beyond all recognition these past months. In June, I will stand, watch and listen to a talented and beautiful young woman who I don’t know, have never met and probably will not meet, but who has earned the right to emerge from the proverbial tunnel into a bright light she probably sometimes thought she’d never see.
So I just wanted to say “congratulations” Bo. Good luck in all you do and I hope the reality exceeds the dream x
I was very interested to read that the England rugby union forwards coach Graham Rowntree is “seeking clarification” on a number of decisions made by referee Steve Walsh during the Six Nations decider against Wales last Saturday.
Effectively, Rowntree is pointing the finger at Walsh for what he sees as questionable calls that ultimately had some impact on the outcome of the game –a reaction that is likely to provoke considerable mirth in the Principality.
Obviously I’m English and therefore not entirely impartial, but without being an expert on the technicalities of scrummaging, I certainly understand the frustration at being penalised by a free kick or penalty at eight out of the twelve scrums that were awarded and the players’reactions suggested they were struggling to understand exactly why they were being so consistently penalised.
That said, I would argue that in any team sport, you have to earn the right to play and essentially you effectively have to be good enough to take the referee, umpire or any other official out of the equation. Performances of officials in most popular sports will always come under scrutiny – they will make mistakes, because they’re human... but the media rarely focusses so closely on a player’s missed tackle, wayward pass or any other “error” that proves the human frailties we all possess.
Do I think that Steve Walsh was poor? Yes
Do I think that his decisions affected the game? Yes
Do I think that his performance changed the result? Absolutely not.
I thought the intensity of the Welsh performance was incredible. Their physical strength and fitness told during the second half, their defence was brutal at times (England’s defence was also excellent), their second try was superbly executed and there is no doubt at all in my mind that the best team emerged victorious.
I do think that England have a right to ask for clarification, but when such concerns are reported in the media, they will always likely to be accompanied by the words “sour” and “grapes” and I hope that any ensuing controversy doesn’t take the gloss off what was a truly magnificent effort by a fine Welsh side.
I had a small panic attack last night – not a full-blown one like I used to get quite regularly, but not a pleasant experience nonetheless. I have never suffered a panic attack whilst awake, always when I’m asleep (or falling asleep...). In my semi-conscious state and totally without warning, I feel like I can’t breathe or swallow and I tend to wake with a start, hyper-ventilating with a few panicky-type noises added in for effect.
In the past, I’d be up and out of bed trying to catch my breath before I even realised what had happened and there’s that horrible split second (and it’s no longer than that) when you genuinely think you’re going to die. I’m not trying to be dramatic... ask anyone who suffers from similar attacks and they’ll probably tell you the same. The fact is that as soon as you realise that what you’ve had is a panic attack, you’re not ill and nothing bad’s going to happen, you tend to react better when the next one comes along.
Last night I just remember jumping, looking over at Elaine who was reading and seeing the shocked look on her face (I have this effect on women...), but although it gave her a bit of a fright, she knows now that I calm down pretty quickly and normally just turn back over and go to sleep.
I’m sure these episodes are triggered in some way by stress or anxiety, but I wonder if there may be another cause... chocolate.
Words ending in “holic” tend to be bandied around very easily, but I must admit I find it incredibly difficult to get through a day without some chocolate – a bar, a biscuit... or both... and even though I know I suffer some withdrawal from not stuffing yet another Wispa down my gullet, I want to try and see what will (or won’t) happen if I go without for a while.
By a “while” I’m thinking an hour or so, but realistically I’m aiming for a week. I could cut down, but I’m going to go cold turkey... mmmmmm... turkey - and I will keep you updated about any effect on my miserable demeanour and portly waistline.
If at the end of the week, I have had another panic attack, then it’s clearly not the chocolate and I will make a solemn promise to eat peanut M&Ms until I am violently sick...
Wish me luck...
From the mid-eighties through into the early nineties, I followed horse racing extremely closely. I had a bet (but only a little one) several times a week and regularly trekked up to Gosforth Park for an afternoon of usually chilly and always financially unproductive national hunt racing.
Apart from the Grand National, I rarely venture near a bookies nowadays, but having watched a lot of races from this week’s Cheltenham Festival, I feel compelled to tap away on my keyboard for a few minutes...
For me there has always been a distinction between flat and national hunt racing. Of course I admire the speed and athleticism of the elite flat horses, but half a dozen runs and they’re off to start breeding (and making money) whereas our old jumping favourites often return year after year. These animals may not be able to keep pace with the Frankels of this world, but they’ve got strength and courage in abundance – as have the jump jockeys who risk (sometimes literally) life and limb every time they take to the course.
The perils of national hunt racing were never more evident than with the terrible injuries sustained by JT McNamara during the week. As the stricken jockey lay in hospital, the racing continued, but the genuine concern and humility of those jockeys interviewed after winning major races was incredibly touching and one can only hope that a full recovery is the eventual outcome...
Along with the “spills” come the “thrills” and in my era, racing was blessed with the charismatic and supremely gifted Desert Orchid, but my favourite horses were the dual Aintree Hurdle winner Aonoch and Gee-A, who won the Foxhunters’ Chase at Aintree in 1992.
That day, the horse was ridden by amateur Paul Murphy and won at 66/1 – I had my customary 50p at 100/1 and, amazingly, was the only person in the bookies to back the winner. The actual reason I followed the horse was that it was often ridden by lady jockey Gee Armytage (although it wasn’t named after her as you might think). Call me fickle, but she was gorgeous...
Back in 2013 and I will admit to watching in complete awe the performance of Sprinter Sacre in the Queen Mother Champion Chase. There were other exceptional winners and great stories, but for me the incredible speed and jumping ability of Nicky Henderson’s seven year old elevated his victory above everything else at the Festival.
There have been comparisons with Frankel – not because they’re valid, but because they make good copy. I know which of the two I’d have paid to watch on a racetrack and just for the record, if you need to reassess the relative merit of older horses to ensure Frankel is the best there’s ever been, then something’s not quite right – for us mere mortals, it’s a subjective argument but I’ve never seen a better horse on the flat than Dancing Brave. His Arc win still takes the breath away...
Anyway, that’s it as far as the writing is concerned, but for now my thoughts remain with JT McNamara and his family...
Not the best week I’ve ever had; work has been better (although from a fullness of glass perspective it has also been worse) and frustratingly, I tweaked my back on Monday morning, simply by bending down to stroke the dog we were looking after.
It was the smallest movement (it was a big dog), but it bloody hurt and really wasn’t the ideal way to start a day that involved driving to and from Newcastle as well as a couple of meetings that shouldn’t have been uncomfortable, but were... very...
I took ibuprofen and paracetamol – together – but they didn’t work. I was offered various other pills that ened in “ol” or “eine” but declined on the basis that silent bravery was a marginally better than an unscheduled hospital visit.
I have occasionally suffered from a bad back, probably caused by a general lack of fitness – that and not warming up properly before stroking a dog. Most other injuries I’ve sustained have been on the cricket field, although I was lucky that none were particularly serious – a cracked rib from landing on a ball after spilling what would have been a spectacular one-handed catch being the most painful.
I did make two hospital visits as a result of cricket-related injuries, both curiously to my right wrist from stupidly trying to field the ball off my own bowling. Those who know me well will realise I rarely got anything in the way of a fast-moving cricket ball.
Happily, there were no breaks, just damaged tendons and bad bruising (which in fairness did extend from wrist to elbow) respectively – I left hospital in a sling after the former, promptly took the sling off and played that afternoon. I guess that’s what you do as an amateur sportsman... and I guess that’s why most of my joints now laugh at me when I consider any sort of exercise.
Anyway, the weekend beckons... I will have wine... it will be in the fridge... and I might just ask Elaine if she’ll bend down and reach it for me. You just can’t be too careful when you get to my age!
I was more than a little disappointed last night as I sat and watched another pair miss out on the elusive bumper Pointless jackpot last night. It was frustrating enough to have a “pointless” answer in the final category of post-war US Presidential running mates (Walter Mondale), but when your application to be on the show has been ignored in favour of seemingly hundreds of others and a significant (if not perhaps completely life-changing... although on second thoughts...) cash sum remains unclaimed when it could have found a perfectly decent home in my bank account... well it wasn’t the happiest I’ve ever felt.
By the time the last question was posed, Elaine was sitting in front of the computer, crushing candy as is her current gaming addiction. She was so engrossed in the game that she totally blanked my requests for some sort of acknowledgement of my top drawer answer... no need to switch on the central heating love, the laptop’s warming up the whole bloody room very nicely thanks.
I rang my father... he would have won too (Bob Dole) and we consoled ourselves in the fact that we’d given a couple of decent answers, even if the ladies in our respective lives were otherwise distracted (or simply not very interested!).
It is certainly not to my credit that I have read virtually no works of classic fiction... but I have always immersed myself in facts, figures and all sorts of trivia in the hope that one day, a quiz show would be created that would offer the ideal avenue for me to pour out some of the rubbish that I have accumulated during my forty... ahem... and a bit years and maybe even win a bob or two...
Well the show does exist, but getting on it appears to be a bridge too far (written by Cornelius Ryan...), so I suppose I will simply just have to carry on answering from the comfort of my living room - although given my “face for radio”, it’s perhaps for the best...
On the long and lonely drive to work this morning, I listened to a CD that contained a lot of songs (albeit unintentionally) by bands with female vocalists and found myself mulling over the best – or at least my favourite – female singer. Obviously there are so many types of music, so many types of singer and the choice is going to be subjective enough to change pretty much every day of the week depending on my mood (which is usually “grumpy” at 5:30am).
From times gone by, I love people like Judith Durham of The Seekers, France Gall and Mama Cass Elliott – the last-named was the stronger of the female singers in the Mamas and the Papas, but it would unfair not to mention Michelle Phillips who was as stunningly attractive as Mama Cass had a great voice. My guilty pleasure, France Gall’s “Poupée de cire, poupée de son” was on the CD, but the rest of the songs were more up-to-date... well from the 1980s and beyond.
If I were to choose between a solo singer or a band vocalist, my musical taste would normally lean towards the latter, but probably a sound that was softer than rock... if that makes sense. At the “rocky” end of the scale, Jenn Cherene of The Karma Heart has one of the most amazing voices I’ve ever heard –quite how the band aren’t better known is a mystery to me. Adalita Srsen of the Aussie band Magic Dirt would be high up on my list too as would Dolores O’Riordan of The Cranberries – very reminiscent of Bo Bruce... or should that be vice versa?
I’ve been listening to a load of oldies by The Go-Go’s recently and I like Belinda Carlisle’s voice, but the cheesy solo pop hits rule her out of contention for any award – even if the “award” is such is both intangible and meaningless in the scheme of things. That said, “Head Over Heels” is a belting tune. And if you liked The Primitives towards the end of the 80s, then please try and listen to a song or two by The Flatmates – Debbie Haynes’ band were less commercial perhaps, but better for it and their brilliant single “Shimmer” was also on the CD.
But today, out of so many worthy candidates, the winner should actually read “winners” because the ladies concerned are Miki Berenyi and Emma Anderson from the band Lush (it’s them in the picture). I downloaded an acoustic version of “Kiss Chase” over the weekend and their combined voices have almost a dreamy, ethereal quality to them – perfect for the sleep I wish I’d been having as the clock struck six...
I’m conscious that I haven’t written many blogs recently, so today’s offering is kind of an update...
Work has been pretty intense, but last week seemed pretty positive. Obviously that might all change from tomorrow (the same premise applies to most days!), but for now my anxiety levels are relatively low and I’d really like it to stay that way.
Having to get up at something past five every morning for a 50 mile drive to Newcastle isn’t easy... even after nearly seven years. I find that I often wake feeling troubled after yet another vivid, totally believable but invariably bad dream. Many of the dreams recur... exams looming but I haven’t done any work, last day at school with no real idea what I’m going to do, or being stuck in a former job and/or relationship with no prospect of the happiness that my “real life”contains.
A psychiatrist’s dream I’m sure... pull up a couch...
On the book front, I have done about 18,000 words of the Doctor Who rewrite. The Gateshead Thunder history (1999-2002) is one chapter away from completion and I do have other projects that are either on hold or in the pipeline. One of the latter is potentially very exciting, whilst one of the former was actually a question on Pointless during the week.
The round was famous Romans and the question to which only one person out of the hundred knew the answer was the name of the Roman Emperor who built a palace in the Croatian city of Split.
I visited the palace last summer – Diocletian was the man in question and yes, I was very smug indeed.
I’ve had a week away from the gym due to twinges in my back and a week off the drink caused by the belly I can’t get rid of because I’m not going to the gym. I did fall off the wagon last night, but had a great evening with Mrs K and I have promised to say hello to the cross trainer very soon.
As the blog draws to a close, I will mention the Coronation Street fan page for which I agreed to write a weekly article. Two weeks ago, five out of 500+ Twitter followers were prepared to take five minutes out of their life to read something that took me considerably more than five minutes to write. This past week, one (yes... ONE) person has bothered to read what I thought was quite an interesting piece of Corrie history/trivia.
Now I know I’m not a world famous best-selling author, but I’ve written a few books (actually I’ve written quite a lot of books) and according to reviews I’ve received, some of them are worth reading, but clearly my Coronation Street blogs aren’t so I think it’s pretty safe to say I will be able to stay at the gym a little bit longer tomorrow – and every subsequent Monday...
Anyway, time to go and get on with Desperately Seeking Susan Foreman 3 – the book has its own Facebook page, but the number of “likes” would suggest it’s a well-kept secret that doesn’t bode well for future sales.
Just as well work’s being going reasonably well then!
All my own work... almost.