Saturday, October 31, 2009

holiday ends… but the memories will linger on

We’re back home after a week away in Cornwall. We “organised” the holiday some two years ago (pathetic, I know!) and we’ve been looking forward to it for months and months in advance. Strangely, as the event got nearer, I became really quite concerned that a) the anticipation would be a complete let-down, b) we’d get on each others’ nerves and/or c) the weather would be disastrous. In the event, it was just lovely. SO many wonderful memories in probably the PERFECT location (yes, I realise that one or two people might query this).
Feeling very grateful that everything went so well.
I just think we’ll be “drinking” memories of this holiday for many years to come.
Photo: this was the bay window view from our apartment (Dan wasn’t always there!)… how can you fail when you wake up to this every morning?

Friday, October 30, 2009


Last “proper” day of our holiday and I’m determined to make the most of it… early morning trek along the beach, favourite walks and generally chilling.
As you might have already gathered, if you read my blog on anything like a reasonably regular basis, my family is the most important thing in my life (friends come in a very good second!). It’s been SO good to share this week with Ruth+Stu+Iris+Rosa+Hannah+Fee+Alice+Dave+Mikey+Dan+Moira. It’s been really great to get together and especially to be able to spend some extra time with Alice+Dave and the boys – as we just don’t see them as much as we’d like to. Mikey is as disarming as ever and has calmed down hugely compared with perhaps a year ago (when he would happily throw toys around without a second thought)… I really enjoyed jumping in and out of “sand holes” on the beach and laughing+laughing in the process! Dan is a footballer in the making and seems to have a real “ball” fetish (he has a powerful shot on him and can even perform “drop kicks”!) – lots of athletic goalkeeping ability performed by grandad accordingly (much to the amusement of young grandson). It’s also been lovely to spend more time with Rosa (lots and lots of smiles and happy giggles). Iris has been as entertaining as usual – telling stories and going into lots of hilarious, over-the-top explanations (eg. when her grandfather took her to the loo for a poo and when he asked her if she’d finished, she responded with the immortal words “be patient grandad”!).
One of the highlights of the holiday has been the time spent round the huge dining table at the end of each day (we’ve taken it in turns to cook), after the children have all gone to bed.
Very, very special times.
Photo: compilation of photographs taken over the course of our week in St Ives.
PS: Alice+Dave had to leave on Thursday morning and Moira was anxious to get a “team photograph” (bottom of the compilation pic) before they went (hence jimjams in pic!); unfortunately, poor Stu had had to leave at dawn to catch a train for a business meeting (hence no Stu in pic!).
PPS: Another Iris story: I’d been telling her stories and suggested it was time for her to tell me one. She agreed and started: “Once upon a time”…. followed by a dramatic silence. After a while, I queried why she’d stopped. She responded with: “well, that was just an advert”!
You just couldn’t make it up!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

the idyllic holiday place

This is our fourth visit to Upper Saltings and, frankly, having “discovered” it about 10 years ago, it would be very difficult to come to St Ives and NOT to stay here! The apartment is a second floor, converted sail loft with wonderful views across Porthmeor Beach and over the Atlantic Ocean. Architecturally, the place is just stunning; it’s full of beautiful art and equipped with everything one might need for the perfect holiday. To some extent, we tend to “do our things” during the day and then take turns to cook and relax in the evenings around the huge dining table. Even though we’re so familiar with the place, it still takes our breath away each time we arrive and are hit by the sight of the turquoise sea as we enter the main living space.
Purely on grounds of expense, I suspect that this might be our last holiday here – but the memories will live on regardless!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

magical birthday memories

I think today marked the formal end of my birthday celebrations (at last, some will say!) and the beginning of Moira’s birthday "festival" (which will go on well beyond next March!). At about 5.30pm this evening, Moira and I were ushered out by the rest of the family on to the beach in the dark. Lanterns were duly lit (secret, homemade ones of course!) and two bottles of champagne were opened to celebrate our 60th birthdays (and, of course, our lovely family holiday), but then a very special thing happened….
Two paper sky lanterns were lit and let off into the sky. At first, it seemed as if the lanterns would simply “crash land” a few metres away but, magically, they both slowly rose into the night sky and sailed off across the sea to the horizon. It was really quite an emotional, almost spiritual, time – we cheered, we waved them goodbye, we sang songs and we watched them disappear into the black sky and traced their paths until the tiny dots of light finally disappeared. What a wonderful, memorable, happy occasion. Just absolutely magical!
We are indeed VERY blessed!
Photos: we were concentrating on the moment rather than taking pics (fortunately Felix took some!).

st ives

Moira and I love St Ives.
Before 1999, we probably hadn’t been back for nearly 20 years but, once we returned, we fell in love with the place all over again. We love the art; we love the architecture and the landscape; we love its comparatively small size; we love the sea and the beaches… and we also love the fact that, now we live in Bristol, it only takes us just over 3 hours to journey here.
It’s also rather nice that our lovely, lovely friends Alan and Gareth adore the place too and desperately try to visit it on a yearly basis.
I wonder when we’ll be back?
Photos: compilation of images taken though the course of the week thus far.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

happy birthday dan!

Yesterday was Dan’s second birthday. He seemed quite impressed that various members of his family had taken time off to help him celebrate on holiday in Cornwall. He certainly had LOTS of presents and took great pleasure in tearing off all the wrapping paper. He also did very well in making the appropriate “coos” of appreciation as he revealed each of his presents in turn (there’s just a chance that Dave+Alice will have to hire a trailer to get the stuff back to Lancashire!). One of the highlights (for all of us) was Dan helping his mother to make apple muffins for everyone!
Photo: Dan and Alice spooning mix into the cake tin (on the floor – as I think they do in all the best TV cooking programmes).

Monday, October 26, 2009

the bunk room at upper saltings

The Bunk Room is just one of the amazing spaces at Upper Saltings. It consists of six architecturally-designed(!), built-in bunk beds (three tiers high). This week, because there are quite a few of us (and because the bunks are not quite yet suitable for Dan and Mikey), Iris, Moira and I are sharing the bunk room together – and it’s all quite exciting (even for a 60 year-old)!
Photos: bunk room images (including one of Iris in one of the top bunks).

Saturday, October 24, 2009

upper saltings, st ives

It seems like absolutely ages ago now, but Moira and I decided to book a holiday for the whole family at Upper Saltings, St Ives to celebrate our 60th birthdays (October is more or less mid-way between or birthdays – obviously, Moira has yet to welcome her next decade!). We last came to the breathtaking Upper Saltings in April 2004 - there were eight of us last time, but now there are twelve! Despite the pretty miserable weather forecast, it turned out to be a rather beautiful day and it is wonderful to be back. We feel very blessed.
Photo: relaxing after the journey - the stunning window views over Porthmeor beach from Upper Saltings.

Friday, October 23, 2009

mr griffin on the bbc

So, BNP Leader Mr Griffin is going to make an official complaint to the BBC about last night’s Question Time programme – saying its normal format had been “twisted” so that it focussed solely on his views and described the audience as a “lynch mob”.
But he can’t have it all ways!
According to the BBC, the members of the audience were invited long before the decision to have Mr Griffin on the programme. In the event, it wasn’t surprising that the audience should focus its questions on the BNP Leader.
In a letter posted on the BNP’s website prior to the programme, he described the prospect of him appearing on Question Time as a “milestone in the indomitable march of the British National Party towards saving our country”. He also said: "Our violent opponents on the far left have promised to lay siege and barricade the studio venue, because they know only too well that this could be THE key moment that propels the BNP into the big time. Never before have we had the chance to present our patriotic, common sense solutions to Britain's nightmare situation to the public at large in such a prominent fashion. It will, in other words, be political blood sport. But I am relishing this opportunity."
I'm happy to say that I think Griffin’s credibility will have been severely damaged.
I’m inclined to agree with Kelvin Mackenzie’s view: “I've never seen a television show in which you felt your stomach turning over. The guy was basically lying his head off to create an image that he was basically a conservative who just had very strong views about immigration”. But, despite this, I also feel that Diane Abbott has pinpointed the key concern: "Everyone is talking about Nick Griffin. The programme has given him unnecessary exposure, unnecessary credibility and giving more credibility to a fascist party in the middle of a recession is a very dangerous thing."

Wednesday, October 21, 2009


I was absolutely appalled by Monday night’s “Panorama” programme “Undercover – hate on the Doorstep”. The behaviour of the young people featured in the documentary against the two Asian reporters (who posed as a married couple living in Southmead, Bristol) made feel physically sick. I just can’t comprehend how anyone can behave like this towards another human being – it was just barbaric. Yes, I realise that it’s probably only a tiny minority of young people in the area who behave in such a manner, but that doesn’t make it any more tolerable. I’ve just looked on the BBC website and Batook Pandya (Support Against Racist Incidents) is quick to point out that “there's a lot of good work going on in Southmead by the council, the police, everybody else who is with the youth service”. I don’t doubt that this is true, but I found the following quote from Barbara Janke of Bristol City Council somewhat predictable and painfully depressing: “Are we doing enough with young people in schools? Are we doing enough in other agencies within the city to tackle this level of prejudice?”.
It always seems to come down to “are the schools doing enough?”. Very rarely is there ANY reference to the role of PARENTS in all this.
I strongly suspect that the parents of most of the young people we saw on our screens last night are sadly lacking in anything approaching decent parenting skills. The depressing truth is that Monday night’s featured young people will themselves become parents in the not-very-distant future and one can only imagine, and fear for, what is likely to become of their offspring.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

500 posts (oh good grief!)

I recently noticed that I was getting very close to publishing my 500th blog post.
Well, I’m afraid that this IS my 500th post. How scary is THAT!
I started blogging in October 2006 (I blame Ian Adams!). I knew practically nothing about blogworld and simply thought I’d “give it a try” and see what developed (if anything). Posting the occasional blog has now become second nature. As some of you will know, I tend to post a blog very early in the morning (I know this is very sad, but I’m usually up each morning soon after 5am!) and this, together with checking out facebook stuff, is very much part of my daily routine while enjoy my tea/coffee+toast and focus/reflect on the day ahead. For me:
a) blogging is really a bit of a personal diary. Yes, I know it might seem strange to have a diary that everyone can see – but it provides a link for family and friends who I’m unable to see on a regular basis (eg. family activities and photos).
b) it also provides me with a useful aide memoir for various events (eg. a reminder of what films I’ve seen; games of golf; visits to friends; holiday destinations/memories etc).
c) it provides me with an opportunity to comment on things that are happening in the big wide world (politics; environmental issues; art; music etc).
d) crucially, I think it also provides me with an opportunity to focus on the things that are happening in my life in a positive way (usually!) and perhaps helps me to appreciate my family and friends even more!
I REALLY hope that the blog DOESN’T come across as a vehicle for me to say “hey, look at me… I’ve just done this (or whatever). If it does, I’m really sorry – that’s not the point at all.
PS: Blimey!! I’ve just checked my first ever blog only to discover that TODAY is actually my third blogging birthday!! How weird is that?

Saturday, October 17, 2009


My wonderful daughters+sons-in-law and lovely friend Heather gave me £120 worth of cinema tokens(!) for the Watershed for my 60th birthday. They’ve been just the most brilliant birthday presents! Since the beginning of February, I’ve seen some 17 films there (very nearly two a month – which is pretty amazing for me!).
Moira and I have just returned from watching Peter Strickland’s “Katalin Varga” (we were supposed to be seeing Terry Gilliam’s “The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus”, but it was sold out!). I’ve seen it described as a “road movie, a revenge narrative and a compassionate study of the drawn-out effects of trauma”. It’s set within beautiful Romanian landscapes and manages to capture an intense atmosphere which it maintains throughout (heightened by a wonderful use of sounds). It’s a powerful, unsettling, but captivating film and I’m really pleased we went to see it.
Anyway, huge thanks again to Heather+Ruth+Stu+Hannah+Fee+Alice+Dave. You’re all stars!
Photo: excellent Hilda Peter, who plays the Katalin Varga character.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

blog action day: climate change

I realise that, in these days of public spending cuts, this might be a bit of a pipedream but I really believe that the UK Government should be investing money in making all schools carbon neutral within the next say ten years. At present, if our school is anything to go by, the “heating goes on” on some prescribed day – which usually coincides with the warmest day of Autumn (as it did this year!). There is very little control over temperature – which results in both incredibly hot and cold spots around the school – and levels of thermal insulation that are laughably poor. Here are just three examples: we have an absurd situation in one of the staff/disabled toilets where lights are turned on automatically (whether they’re required or not) as a person enters and this immediately triggers the biggest (and loudest) extract fan in the world into action; there was another loo where the fan operated 24/7 and it took several reminders from me (over a period of some weeks) before anything was done about it; similarly, the relatively new school canteen has a mechanical extract system which is not only incredibly noisy (conversation in some locations really is quite difficult!) but also the occupants feel as if they’re sitting in a fridge! Like an awful lot of schools I suspect, energy and waste seem to be given a very low priority (even though we’re signed up as an Eco-School!).
I know some rare schools already do this, but wouldn’t it make sense if every school monitored its use (and abuse) of energy? Wouldn’t it make sense to make use of the latest technology when it comes to energy? Wouldn’t it make a wonderful educational opportunity? Wouldn’t it be a great way to make young people aware of what might be possible in everyday life?

Tuesday, October 13, 2009


Saturday’s Guardian and Weekend magazine included some fascinating stuff about teenage boys. It pointed to research showing that teenagers felt “wrongly demonised”. Here’s an extract: “The news may come as a shock to those who believe Britain is a broken society menaced by hoodie-wearing yobs, but research commissioned by The Guardian shows that the vast majority of teenage boys are ambitious, career-minded, home-loving and, above all, happy”. 87% are happy at home/with their family; 87% are happy with their social life; 88% are ambitious about their futures; and 88% believe their career prospects are good.
It really was fascinating stuff, but a brief interview of two 14 year-old boys from Kent did make me laugh out loud. It featured two boys named Blue Addison and Barney Hodson Laybourne (see pic) – both boys immaculately kitted out in colourful gear. Blue received £5 a week pocket money from his grandparents (hope that’s not setting a precedent?); Barney got just £3 from his Dad (when he saw him every other weekend). But don’t feel too sorry for Barney (pictured right) because the article went on to say that his favourite items of clothing were the 50 pairs (yes, fifty!) of trainers he owned.
Clearly, our girls were deprived.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

my bruvva and le donk

The picture, I hasten to add, is NOT of my lovely brother Alan in drinking mode – it’s Paddy Considine from the film “Le Donk and Scor-Zay-Zee” (read on!….).
Moira+I met up with Alan+Lesley+Megan+Eleanor for breakfast in Cheltenham this morning – in The Montpellier Wine Bar (great friend Helen has already made a comment relating to my consumption of red wine and breakfast!). It was just a perfect start to a Sunday, although it didn’t actually open until 10am, so it was somewhat later than I’m used to! Great to see the other half of the Broadway clan and to hear all about their latest exploits.
Later in the day, I went to see Shane Meadows’s “Le Donk and Scor-Zay-Zee” at the Watershed (Meadows directed “This is England”). The entire film was made in 5 days and takes the form of a fly-on-the-wall documentary – with Considine playing the part of a past-it roadie looking to steal glory from a “talented, unknown rapper”. It’s very entertaining (apart, for me, from the excessive amount of swearing) and sometimes ridiculously funny. The only real downside was one very large member of the Watershed audience, who spent the entire film laughing out loud (as in LOUD!) in a repetitive, whining, “heh-heh-heh” way! Very, very tedious.

Saturday, October 10, 2009


I can’t find my piece of the Berlin wall!
There have been various trailers on BBC Radio4 recently for programmes celebrating the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin wall. It made me wonder where I’d put my small piece of wall (won in a local Labour Party fundraising draw, I think?)…. I’ve been looking but, so far, in vain.
This seems to happen to me on a fairly regular basis (yes, there will be those who will put it all down to my age!). For example, I haven’t been able to find my lovely (expensive) Gore-tex waterproof trousers for several weeks now – and can’t remember the last time I wore them. Similarly (and I can’t for the life of me recall why I was looking for it), not so long ago, I was searching for a small black+white photograph of me playing football (taken in about 1970). I still haven’t found it. So, for my super power, I’d like the ability to be able to locate such things instantly please.
If found, please return to…..

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

goodbye mr chips

I’ve just finished reading my second book in two days.
Don’t worry, it’s not as impressive as it sounds – the latest was less than 130 pages and “big writing”! I’d read a little before going to sleep, but then woke up just after 2am and couldn’t get back to sleep.
I recently bought “Goodbye Mr Chips” (in hardback, published in 1934 but unfortunately without the wonderful illustrated cover!) from Dave Morgan-Davis’s fascinating Retro/Illuminate shop in North Street. It’s about a teacher at a public school in the early years of the last century – a far cry from the experiences of school today, but almost enchanting nevertheless (have I ever used the word "enchanting" before in my life?!).

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

the wasp factory

I’ve just finished reading Iain Banks’s “The Wasp Factory”.
It’s an amazing, hauntingly beautiful book written with breathtaking imagination and an astonishing eye for detail. It’s been on our book shelves for ages and I’m so pleased I’ve got to read it at last.
PS: Many thanks to Mike for recommending it!

Sunday, October 04, 2009

foundation weekend away

Some 20 or so members of foundation went down to Lee Abbey, near Lynton for the weekend. Leading up to it, I’d had an extremely full couple of weeks and, frankly, by Friday would have been more than happy to have opted for a quiet weekend at home… but, as so often happens when you’re tempted to do so on these occasions, it proved to be a really brilliant weekend. We were one of three groups who were staying at Lee Abbey over the weekend. We were by far the youngest of the three (apart from Moira+me!) and, unlike the painstaking preparation put in by the other groups (probably over several weeks), our “programme” was devised on the hoof over the last few days. In the event, it proved to be wonderfully stimulating, thought-provoking stuff. Last night, we decided to have a “friendly stage” – with people volunteering to come up with songs, poems, some improvisation etc (don’t worry, I didn’t perform – I vaguely acted as MC!). It was absolutely brilliant (an amazing amount of talented musicians and performers!). We were given permission to use the “tower” – a ramshackle shell of a building located high up on the headland overlooking the sea (and about a 10 minute walk through the woods in the pitch dark) as our “stage” and so, at around 10pm, we all disappeared to the tower for the latter part of the evening. There was no electricity, but we managed to light a fire and found a few candles… and then proceeded to sing various “rock(?)” songs at high volume to the accompaniment of Rob’s guitar and Tim’s harmonica. Some of the “party” stayed up until about 3am (not me, I hasten to add!) and, for a relatively brief but rather worrying time, managed to get themselves locked inside the tower! Dylan produced some absolutely wonderful photographs of the weekend (as well as videoing some interviews!). Hopefully, he’ll post them either on the foundation website or the foundation facebook site.
A truly wonderful weekend with a great bunch of people.
Photo: some of the group beside the crosses.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

joan as police woman

Hannah+I went to St George’s last night to see/hear Joan As Police Woman.
I knew it was going to be a good evening, but it far exceeded my expectations.
She’s a hugely-talented musician with an amazing, captivating voice. I came to appreciate Joan through my lovely brother Alan, who introduced me to “Sweet Thing” a couple of years ago – and last night’s version (with just her guitar and her voice) was a real highlight. To finish the evening, she played two piano pieces (“The Human Condition” and “To Be Lonely”) which were simply beautiful.
If you ever a chance to see her, grab it!
PS: It was also great to bump into lovely friends Mike and Paul.