Sunday, 31 July 2011

Getting there.

Just as the blog was building up a steady number of daily hits I found myself Internet less in the caravan. I've been on to the wifi providers, Caravan Connect, and it seems that they are going to put a new hot spot near to our caravan soon so maybe it will be up and running next time we are here in St Andrews. For now I have to sit outside the cafe with a cup of coffee as the signal is great here and the connection is nice and fast. Fortunately the weather is good too although I do feel a little conspicuous. 

Before long we will be able to take real advantage of the caravan. Sarah's partner Duncan came yesterday and helped me to put up the bike store. Or perhaps I should say that Sarah's partner Duncan came yesterday and put up the bike store for me while I watched admiringly. It's a super and sturdy construction, it looks good and it doesn't take up a lot of space.

After that we went to Dundee and bought two bikes. There are scores of bike stores in the area. I sounded out a couple with what we wanted. One seemed uninterested whilst the other, Nicholsons of Dundee could not have been more helpful. So, despite being thirty minutes further away, we went there and found them highly knowledgeable and as helpful as they had been on the phone. We chose two hybrid bikes and they are being set up for us tomorrow and delivered on Tuesday or Wednesday. We also bought all the extras like locks, helmets (despite Marion's objection that it will ruin her hair - I'd rather her hair was ruined than her head), mudguards, lights and a puncture repair kit. It came to a fairly tidy sum and it just goes to show the importance of showing an interest in enquiries and treat all approaches as a potential sale.

After the bikes it was a trip to a retail park for for bits and pieces - a radio, some cushions, loo brushes and a few nick nacks to make the place look more lived in and now we are pretty much ready to go. The only thing remaining on the wish list is a PVR (a digital TV recorder). They only had a couple in Dundee and I would like a bit more choice before forking out so I will do some research on the net before buying one.  

This afternoon we are having our first break from settling in and we are off to the St Andrews Highland Games. Looking forward to it. Will let you know how it goes.

Thursday, 28 July 2011

Greetings From Camp Granada


As I sit here alone (Marion is out visiting Sarah) in our brand new caravan waiting for the cycle store to be delivered, a glance out of the window immediately reminded me of that old song from my childhood, Camp Granada. You know the one that goes ‘Hello Mother, Hello Father, Here I am at, camp Granada. Camp is very entertaining and I think we’ll have some fun when it stops raining’. But that would be unfair really as the sun was cracking the flags yesterday as we arrived and emptied the heavily laden car’s contents (all that extra weight only resulted in 3 miles per gallon more fuel used than normal which means we used 0.88 litres more or about £1.25). It took us a few hours to get everything straight but it’s now starting to look a bit more like home.



Yesterday evening we dined at the site restaurant. The sign outside said booking recommended but Wednesdays must be quiet days and there were only four others using it. We had a cheap but hearty meal but we’ll be mostly cooking for ourselves from today onwards. This morning the TV Aerial man came and did that engineer thing of shaking his head at all the other aerials on the site and commenting upon how they were all way too big and unnecessary and wouldn’t be right in a strong wind. We would only need a small one. Have to admit that he was right as we’ve got 97% signal strength and a great picture He was a scouser but considers himself a naturalised Scot. It was quite funny noticing all the little bits of Scottish amongst the scouse with regular “ochs” and “wees”. He loves it up here and has even joined the local pipe band where he plays a drum and his young son plays the pipes. I told him about the pipers on New Year’s Eve at The Old Course hotel when we saw Prince Harry attending a famous golfer’s wedding (so famous I’ve forgotten who he was) and it turns out that he and his son were playing. He said it was a bit of a nightmare as the fireworks preceding the pipes were so enormous that bits of debris from them was raining down on the band who were worried about their feather busbies and sporrans going up in flames.  It could have been nasty.

Last night we watched another of the Harry Potter films that we got as a present from a friend and we are now a bit more up to date. I’ve enjoyed them so far but do feel that they are a bit on the long side. Now that the TV has an aerial we can see what Freeview has to offer. However much we may dislike the Murdoch empire we are going to miss Sky while we are here.

Tomorrow we are having a base fitted for our cycle store and then we can go and buy some bikes. The caravan site is up a pretty steep hill so we’re going to need some decent gears. Hopefully we’ll find a helpful bike shop. I phoned one in Dundee the other day and they were great on the phone. I found them on the internet but I’m struggling with the internet here. There is Wifi on site and it’s not too expensive (£75 per year) but there’s not a great signal in the caravan and I am finding it easier to log on with the iPhone than with the computer. There’s a great signal in other areas of the site so I can see myself camped out in the open writing my blog and catching up on all the metal detecting forums, or, heaven forbid, going internet less while we are up here.

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

All Systems Go

After discovering a spacious compartment beneath the Prius' boot floor, we've managed to get everything we need into the car in preparation for our journey to St Andrews to set up the new caravan. We couldn't manage the bedding for the second bedroom but we aren't planning on any visitors this time. Otherwise we've got pretty much all bar the kitchen sink in there. I realise that the space in the compartment is where normal cars would have a spare wheel but the Prius designers deemed the weight of  a spare to be inefficient for economic fuel consumption and if we get a puncture we're left with the prospect of either hoping that the emergency tyre repair kit works (it didn't last time) or waiting for the AA. I wonder if anyone has done a study to find out how much fuel is wasted and how many greenhouse gas emissions are created by recovery vans on call to Prius drivers with punctures. I'm tempting fate now. You know what the next blog will be about already don't you? Good job it's summer (it is Scotland mind).

It's not going to be too relaxing for the first couple of days. After getting everything in place we've got a bloke coming on Thursday to fit a TV aerial and then there's someone laying some paving stones as a base for the cycle store and then we've got to go and find some bikes to fit in the store when it arrives and is erected. My eyes glazed over when I saw the twenty pages of instructions for assembly. I somehow think that my tool kit , which came in a Christmas cracker, might not be up to handling it. It's a good job that Sarah's partner Duncan is a bit of a whizz with the DIY and they have all sorts of man things in their house like saws and drills and screwdrivers. Marion's dad once bought me a saw for a present. I think he was trying to tell me something. It did look kind of manly hanging there on the garage wall but it started to sort of blend in with the brick colour of the wall as it became coated in a thick layer of rust. I never did get an opportunity to use it but it was comforting to know that it was there if I ever needed to cut some wood (as you do).

We can't wait to see the family in Scotland. I read on Facebook that our granddaughter managed to put on 7 oz in just one week. It's quite handy Facebook isn't it? Although I'm glad that I'm no longer in the jobs market as I read today that a company has set itself up specialising in advising employers on job candidates' social media backgrounds. It seems that they will trawl the Internet for any salacious photos, pictures of you drunk at the office party, tweets that you made on the spur of the moment, weird religious views, racist remarks, off colour jokes. You name it, it could well come back to haunt you. There's going to be no privacy and even if you think your own Facebook pages are squeaky clean, what about that ex girlfriend who tagged the photo you texted in your own Weiner moment?

I had just about my first contact from Instanta Ltd since I retired in November today. Obviously something important had cropped up (Craig Buckley was inviting me to join the new football score predictions league). I was browsing the Internet to find a photo of Craig to accompany this snippet of information and was puzzled when I found the photo above. That's not Craig, it's Gavin Ford


Those photos just go to show that the world is full of coincidence or maybe Gav's doing a bit of moonlighting under the name Craig Buckley.I've joined the league with a suitably appropriate name and we'll see if I can recreate the stunning form that took me to the top of the league many moons ago.

And finally on the subject of football. I can't believe the fuss being made about young Balotelli's performance at LA Galaxy. It was a friendly. He did a bit of showboating. If it was a cup final maybe there's room for complaint but a friendly? A player trying to be a bit entertaining? Heaven forbid. They'll soon beat that out of him.


Monday, 25 July 2011

Our Hero

It's all go for our lovely daughter in law Josephine. She has developed two new programmes for 12 Yard Productions to be shown on ITV and E4. The first 'Holding Out For A Hero' hosted by Gethin Jones (below) is now being filmed at ITV Studios and her second 'Sorority Girls' is going into production in the very near future. Anyone in the TV world will tell you that's an amazing success. It comes from a huge amount of hard work and an inspired mind brimming with original ideas. We're a very proud mum and dad in law and are looking forward to two big celebration parties when the shows launch. 

If you used to read my old blog you will know that we spent six months on Tesco Diets last year. And very successful it was too with me losing well over two stone and Marion losing the best part of a stone (that she didn't really need to lose). I couldn't understand why, having finished the diet in October or November, I kept getting emails from Tesco asking me if I wanted to rejoin and making me special offers to do so. Did they have no confidence in their dieters? The answer became clear in a report in the weekend papers. It seems that just 10% of dieters on any diet actually manage to lose a significant amount of weight and, of those who do, almost all of them put it back on again. I'm happy to say that we are in the tiny minority who have both lost a good deal of weight and have managed to keep it off. Having said that, it isn't the easiest thing to stay at a steady weight. We're still counting calories over a year after we started the diet.

We could do with Penn and Teller with us tomorrow as we have somehow got to get this lot (plus suitcases) in the back of the Prius in order to get it to Scotland and start using the new caravan. I don't know if we'll manage to get it all in but we're putting it all in order of priority and we'll have to take anything that doesn't fit next time we go.

I completed all the information needed by the accountant for our tax return this morning. I managed to lose almost £600 on my antique dealing on eBay in the tax year. Paying the accountant to notify the tax man about this is not exactly money well spent. Fortunately I've stopped trading on eBay now so this will be my last year's accounts. Whilst on the subject of antiques I have to have a bit of a grumble at one of the major auction houses. I took a bronze statue in to one of their valuation days recently and they suggested that it would sell for around £300 and they would put an estimate of £200-£300 on it. It failed to sell and I was presented with a bill for £20 for their failure to sell it. Talk about money for old rope. They are in a no lose situation. Sell the lot and get commission from both buyer and seller, fail to sell it and charge the seller anyway. They were the ones who valued it so surely they should put their money where their mouth is.

I'll leave you today with a weird thing found in a pub.

Saturday, 23 July 2011

Where the Wild Things Are

When I came upon this scattered plumage on the lawn the other week I thought it was the work of an errant moggie that I'd seen weighing up our garden's bird population on a number of occasions. The feathers were downy and I imagined that one of the many fledglings nesting here had met an untimely end. I swept the feathers up and considered it an isolated incident. A few days later I saw more feathers but not as many and decided that I probably hadn't done a thorough sweeping job. However all was explained on Tuesday when I saw what I initially thought was a big brown duck at the end of the garden. On a second glance it was clear that this was no duck but a large bird of prey. Beneath one of it's feet was a black blob that had obviously once been a creature of some sort but from the way that the hawk or whatever it was was ripping long red ribbons off it, it was clearly not going to see another day. I called Marion and we tiptoed to the end of the conservatory to have a look but the hawk eyed creature was spooked and flew away. From what was left, I think that it was one of our friendly blackbirds that copped it. It's the first time in over twenty years living here in Southport suburbia that we have seen a bird like this in the garden and it possibly explains why, after having a huge number of species feeding on the food that we put out, the numbers of birds in the garden has dwindled over recent weeks. Perhaps we created the situation - feeding the birds attracts the birds - lots of birds attracts predators. Will try and take a photo if the visiter returns.I know it's nature but it is sad to lose birds that have been nesting here for some time.

I was invited for a coffee by the bank manager this morning (note that now I am retired it's coffee not lunch). We spent most of the time discussing diabetes. She has late onset type one diabetes and my son has juvenile type one diabetes so it was interesting to learn how she was coping and to talk about all the new innovations in treating the disease. She asked me if I was interested in helping someone out preparing a business plan (I had told her that when I retired I might be able to do this sort of thing to keep my hand in). I said that I would give it a go. The only problem is that it's a charity so there's no reward other than the thought that I've done my bit and that if I do a good job they might have other customers that I could help. It's nice to be asked and I'm sure that I'll do a good job for the charity but I really enjoy being retired and I don't think I'll be going back into this sort of thing in a big way.

I realised when it took me three times as long as usual to get into Southport today that it's the Southport Air Show tomorrow. The coastal road was already shut,over twenty four hours in advance, leaving all the traffic to get down the promenade. Gridlock ensued. I've nothing against the air show. It brings cash to the town and, it looks like they'll have good weather for once. But I was hoping to have a relax in the garden tomorrow with the weekend papers and perhaps a glass of wine and I now realise that the peace is going to be shattered with sonic booms and the drone of vintage bombers. Bah humbug.

I've got to do the journey again in the morning. Marion's mobile packed in last week when the screen went completely blank. We bought a cheap phone as a stop gap and then went into the phone shop in Wayfarer's Arcade to buy a replacement. "You don't want to do that" said the bloke in the shop. "That's a good phone. I can fix it for you for £29.99". We agreed. "One hour" he said. We couldn't make it back in an hour so we went into Southport specially the next day to pick it up. The bloke showed it us working but as we put Marion's SIM in, it packed up again. "Come back tomorrow" he said. So today I went back in at eleven."Not ready yet." I went in again at twelve as I was passing "not ready yet". I phoned at four."Yes it's ready". Drove to Southport (note gridlock above). And yes it's working. Put Marion's SIM in and it's blank again. Now it's going to be ready tomorrow so more gridlock on the cards. Wouldn't it have been better if the first thing he had said when we went in was "Certainly. Which model would you like". I don't know about costing £29.99, I've already wasted £4.80 in car parking.

I was going to finish with one of this week's top twenty viral videos but they were all rubbish so I'll leave you with one of my own. My own wild things. Indulge me.

Thursday, 21 July 2011

This week's movie. Cell 211

We went to FACT again yesterday to see Cell 211. OK it's another foreign film with subtitles that is not on general release but honestly we really aren't going all art house. This is a genuinely tense and exciting prison drama that, but for the subtitles, would be at home at any multiplex. The film opens and closes with an inquest into a prison riot and the riot unfolds in between. Young Juan Oliver (Alberto Ammann) wants to create a good impression in his new job as a prison officer so turns up a day early to have a look around. Unfortunately for him Malamadre (Louis Tossar) a Charles Bronson (the prisoner not the film star) like character has seized an opportunity to slip his handcuffs and all hell breaks out. Not yet in uniform, Juan's only chance of saving himself from the mob of cons is to pretend that he is the new inmate in Cell 211. Does he carry it off? I would spoil it by telling you but it's a film that really puts the viewer into the character's head. Young Juan has an unforgettable taste of unpaid work experience as the film examines the limits that both sides might go to to save their skins. It's fast paced, bloody, tense and has great performances from Tossar and Ammann. It may be a touch unbelievable but you will certainly leave the cinema questioning whose side you would be on.

It sounds very boring to go to the same restaurant every week for four or five weeks but, as it was a Spanish film and Salt House Tapas is close to where we park, it was the obvious choice. We moved away from the set menu which is good value at £8.99 for three tapas plus sourdough bread and dipping oil as we've tried most of it and wanted a change. The individual tapas at around £5 each are larger servings than those on the set menu so, while you would spend more for three, you would also get a lot more. We opted for two each plus some toasted almonds and marinated anchovies as nibbles. I was again impressed by the service which is always friendly and efficient and my choices of battered squid and marinated octopus were delicious. Marion had a goat's cheese tostada and an apple salad which were tasty light bites that didn't over face her small appetite. We shared a sorbet and a bottle of house wine and the bill came to just over £40. I think it is good value for freshly cooked food, nicely served in pleasant surroundings and we will certainly go again next time we are at FACT.

Which may be some time as St Andrews and the caravan beckon. There is a small cinema in the town but a quick glance at the listings suggests that it's not going to have FACT's variety. But we aren't too far from Edinburgh and I see that Filmhouse there is showing Bobby Fisher Against The World, A Separation, Potiche and Taxi Driver today amongst others so weekly trips there are on the cards. We can also visit the Edinburgh Festival and the Fringe. I'll miss our weekly trips to Liverpool but we we'll be back quite soon. We did get our Orange Wednesday ticket yesterday but although I sent my text on Tuesday it didn't arrive until we were home from the film. Hmm.

I hope to finish my novel while I am at the caravan. I've been working on it when I can but I should have more time up there. It's funny how the advice I have received has been so varied. The last advice from someone high up in the publishing world and who I really respect is the opposite to that received from a professional editor. It reminds me a bit of Abe who went to Lionel his tailor for the final fitting of his new suit.

"Don't you think the arms are a bit long Lionel?" asked Abe.

"It's the way you're holding yourself Abe. Stand with your arm like this" said Lionel leaning awkwardly to the right, arm cocked in the air.

"And the trousers. That left leg looks longer than the right"

"It's the way that you're standing" says Lionel "bend your left knee and you'll see what I mean'

"But what about the shoulders"

"It's your posture. Raise your right shoulder more"

The fitting continued in the vein until finally, happy with the look of the suit, Abe said "OK. I'll keep it on"

As he shuffled out of the shop remembering to carry out each of Lionel's instructions as he walked, two old women standing at the bus stop opposite spotted him.

"Look at that poor, poor soul" said one.

"Yes." said the other............................. "But what a beautiful suit!" .

I'll finish today with some funky kittens.

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Almost There

It's a sign that we're getting old when we are excited about the news that the caravan will be ready next week. What happened to kite boarding in the Caribbean or climbing Kilimanjaro? In honesty it's not something that we ever thought we'd do but the animal instinct of wanting to be near family is a powerful one and wild horses couldn't keep us away from our new granddaughter (and her mum and dad of course). So on Wednesday we'll be packing the car to the roof again and heading up the motorway to St Andrews and hopefully this time we'll be there for a couple of weeks. It will probably take that long to unload the car and set everything up.

Today we're off to Liverpool for more stuff that we've ordered from John Lewis (duvet covers etc) and then I've got to order a Protect-A-Cycle storage unit like this for our bikes and then I've got to order some bikes to go in it. I think we've done a pretty thorough job of fitting the caravan out and if any friends every borrow it they should have everything they need. No satellite dish allowed unfortunately so there'll be no Sky Plus whenever we're there. We thought that we might bring one of the boxes with us when we visit and watch some of the stuff we've recorded and haven't got around to viewing.

I'll be taking the metal detector with me to avoid withdrawal symptoms and I'm looking forward to finding a few friendly Scottish farmers who might let me have a look around their fields. The rules in Scotland are different and I have to report everything I find to the local museum which is no problem and will hopefully add to the local history records. I'l let you know how we get on.

I was on an exercise bike at the gym when Murdoch was attacked by the idiot with the custard pie so I saw it happen on one of the multitude of screens dotted around the place. The Murdochs must have been delighted to have been turned from villains to victims in just a couple of seconds. I was also following the events on Twitter and it struck me that many thousands of people were tweeting during the proceedings. On the assumption that they weren't all on holiday I wonder how many man hours were effectively fiddled from employers as productivity in the white collar world ground to a halt for an entire afternoon.

We're off to FACT again this afternoon. It is Orange Wednesday of course although it seems that Orange may have twigged to the fact that we only use the Orange phone once a week to text for tickets and none have come today. Maybe they are overloaded with Harry Potter fans. We were going to watch Cell 211 but maybe we'll try this instead.

Monday, 18 July 2011

Let's Hear It For Nice

I was listening to Michael McIntyre on Desert Island Discs yesterday and was struck by what a nice guy he appeared to be. Funny, self deprecating and charming he came across as very likable and, although I have only seen him perform on TV for ten minutes or so, I thought that I'd like to hear more from him. The most telling thing that came across in his interview with Kirstie though was his comment on the criticism that he has faced since becoming successful (after an incredibly long period trying to get a break). He was clearly hurt by the nastiness heaped upon him by fellow comics like the hilarious Stewart Lee who suggested that McIntyre spoon fed his audience with warm diarrhoea. He said that he went to  an awards ceremony with his wife (who had bought a new dress for the event) and then spent the evening listening to this sort of stuff directed at him. I wondered what he had done to deserve it. He is clearly popular - sold out the O2 Arena four nights running- so why the knocking from the "in crowd" celebrities, the sort who regularly post their bile on Twitter. What's wrong with being nice? OK we don't want to live on an anodyne diet of nothing but sugar and saccharine but there's nothing wrong with the odd chocolate biscuit. So keep it up Michael. Don't be hit by the bitterness. I will look forward to seeing your act.

Which leads me seamlessly to another example of nice prevailing over nasty when Tom Pellereau, the young innocent amongst the wolves on The Apprentice, won against three competitors who would have sold their grandmothers for the opportunity. It's a very interesting tweak to the format with the winner going into partnership with Alan Sugar and I hope that gentle Tom with his holding his hand up before speaking is a big success. Highlight of the show had to be Jim's response to Margaret Mountford's request to describe himself without using cliche "you get exactly what it says on the tin".

Sadly, nasty prevailed over nice when Chris and Colin Weir agreed to publicise their amazing £161 million lottery win and Twitter and the rest of the internet was awash with comments on their size. Let's face it, even if they had looked like a pair of catwalk models, the sort of people who write this stuff would have found an angle to be bitchy about. I'm sure that the couple will have the last laugh. At least £13k per day income should be enough to sweeten the bitterness.

There won't be a lot of nice in this week's film choice. We're off to Liverpool on Wednesday to collect more stuff for the caravan from John Lewis and then off to FACT to see Spanish film Cell 211 which is a prison thriller. Reviews were pretty good. We'd love to go and see the latest Harry Potter movie which is excellent by all accounts but we're still ploughing through the earlier Potter films after a friend kindly sent us a boxed set as a gift. We're going to take them to the caravan for a rainy day.

In the meantime I'll leave you with a bit of Michael McIntyre - harmless enough.

Saturday, 16 July 2011

Dangerous Sports

I know that you wouldn't normally include metal detecting in the category of dangerous sports but my detecting colleague almost came a cropper yesterday. I was chatting to one of the farmers who allows me to search his fields last week and he told me that the local history society had suggested that one of his fields might be a site of ancient activity. He suggested that I have a look over it with the detector so I checked it out on the map. It was about a mile from the nearest road and at the top of a steep hill. I told my pal about it and asked if he was up for it. No problem. He was happy to give it a try.

So yesterday at about 9 o'clock I found myself here, half way up the hill, with an extremely shattered detecting partner. He found the going extremely tough and had to stop and lie down. He's not that old (early sixties) and thought that he was pretty fit. He's not terribly overweight either but, although he used to ramble regularly, he hasn't done much physical activity other than detecting for some time and the climb up the hill was a real shock to the system. I had a horrible vision of him suffering a heart attack a mile away from the car but after a while he recovered sufficiently to make it to the top of the hill. Sadly I can't report that the effort was worthwhile as we only found a button, a buckle, a lead weight and a spindle whorl between us. I think we'll stick to easily accessible sites in future.
Finds to die for?

There's been hardly any time to blog this week as we were up at four thirty on Tuesday and heading back to St Andrews to bring Sarah and our new granddaughter Rose out of hospital. After worrying us all with her sleepiness and failure to feed which resulted in a big weight loss, Rose finally got used to the idea of feeding and is now doing fine. We spent Wednesday in St Andrews in some glorious sunshine before heading back to Southport and arriving home at one in the morning. But no complaints. It's so fantastic to be able to see our family.

And we would drive five hundred miles

You would think that perhaps after such a hectic couple of days we would have a lie in on Thursday but no. We were off to Liverpool first thing in the morning in order to buy what was needed for the new St Andrews caravan. It's like setting up home all over again. This was how the car looked by mid afternoon. The fridge, the TV and the DVD player are being shipped to Scotland and we still haven't got everything with bed and pillow covers and towels still on the list along with a fair bit more. We're off to Southport today to stock up on the missing items.

When the car was full we went and had another light lunch at Salt House Tapas. We've become regulars there over the past month as the food and service are great and the portion sizes are small which means that we don't over do it. After lunch we headed for FACT and saw the acclaimed Palme D'Or winning film The Tree Of Life. Now I would have loved to have said that this was as brilliant as some of the critics have said but we found it seriously flawed. The underlying story of a family growing up in the early fifties is good but it's wrapped into a lot of quasi religious mumbo jumbo involving dinosaurs, planets and heaven which drag on for ages and made no sense to me and Marion at all. It was a bit like 2001 A Space Odyssey in parts (and nobody understood that either) and I can't help feeling that a lot of the praisers of this film jumped on the bandwagon for fear of being unable to see the King's new clothes. It's certainly different but I would not recommend it.

Here's something that is not particularly different. It's been done before by a car manufacturer (Audi I think) and OK Go but I think that this one is the best yet.

Monday, 11 July 2011

It's All Go Retirement Isn't It?

It's a good job that we like St Andrews as, after last week's flying visit, we're off there again tomorrow for another day or so. At this rate the Prius will soon find it's way there on it's own. Regular blog readers will know that we left Sarah and Duncan to settle in with their brand new baby on Thursday but, unfortunately, baby decided to hardly bother waking up or feeding for the next forty eight hours and she and Sarah ended up back in the maternity ward where, I am pleased to say, she has decided to wake up at last and has also started to feed properly. This has disrupted Duncan's paternity leave somewhat as there was no point taking leave whilst nobody was at home so he decided to go back into work and we are going up to help Sarah by picking her up from the hospital and doing a bit of running around for a couple of days until Wednesday evening when Duncan is able to get back on leave.

Here's the cause of all the trouble and already responsible for God knows how much greenhouse gas emission - good job the car's a hybrid. I'm looking forward to seeing our beautiful little grandchild with her eyes open this time. She's got a name now. It's Rose Mhairi (that's a Scottish name by the way). I think it's a bit better than Harper Seven which I hear is the latest addition to the Beckham family and sounds like the time we tend to get up in the morning. 

While the mini drama was playing out at St Andrews we were, somewhat distractedly, attending the wedding of our friends Dave and Jane Haworth's daughter Katie to her lovely partner Adam. It was a fabulous do held in a grand and palatial house near Lichfield and everything went perfectly for the couple. The sun shone, the food and wine were fabulous and the setting was outstanding.

The Lichfield festival is on at the moment and, as we had booked a long weekend, we went to one of the events yesterday. It was a performance of As You Like It in the grounds of a large house just down the road from our hotel. Again the weather held out and we were able to enjoy a picnic and an entertaining performance of a play that contains some of Shakespeare's very best speeches "All the world's a stage" the seven ages of man and the excellent repartee between Touchstone and Jacques. It wasn't the RSC but it was a nice way to spend a Sunday afternoon.  

Before heading back to Southport we had a look around Lichfeld Cathedral this morning before making a very short visit to the National Trust and Staffordshire Council's joint venture at Shugborough. The cathedral has some great relics and Shugborough's grounds and gardens were lovely.We didn't have time to go into the house as we needed to get back to Southport in time to buy a baby seat for the car for picking up Rose tomorrow.

On Thursday we're back to Liverpool to buy all the stuff we need for the new caravan - fridge, microwave, TV, bedding, kettle, crockery, cutlery and that sort of thing and hopefully we will find time to visit FACT to see The Tree Of Life. And then on Friday I'm off for a day metal detecting. 

It's all go retirement isn't it!

Thursday, 7 July 2011

Back Home

It really was a flying visit to St Andrews yesterday. I didn't know the Prius would go that fast. I'm normally the world's most boring driver with the cruise control set at bang on the speed limit but with the prospect of arriving at Dundee's Ninewell's Hospital too late to see our new granddaughter I thought "what the hell" and even touched over 80 for the last forty miles. She came home today so we beat a hasty retreat back to Southport as it's a really important time for the new family to get used to life together without any intrusion. However they won't be escaping us that easily as we nipped out this morning and bought a caravan at a site two minutes down the road from their house. It will be sited in a couple of weeks so we hope that we'll be regularly commuting to St Andrews for baby sitting duties from then onwards.
The family back home

In the meantime we're still able to travel to Lichfield  a day later than planned for our great friends' David and Jane Haworth's daughter Katie's wedding. We were going to make a short break of it and still will by stretching our stay to include Sunday night. There's a big festival on in Lichfield this weekend and, weather permitting, we hope to go and see an outdoor Shakespeare performance on Sunday afternoon and possibly an outdoor showing of Casablanca tomorrow night. On the way down I'm dropping off a couple of antiques at an auction in Knutsford as we are doing a bit of de-cluttering.

It's been such a hectic week that this is the first opportunity I've had to mention this week's cinema outing. We went to the wonderful FACT in Liverpool again to see the multi award winning Iranian film 'A Separation'. It's not difficult to see why this film has won so many plaudits. It's a gripping tale of a young couple with a problem. The wife wants the family to emigrate. The husband wants to stay in Iran and look after his aged father who is suffering from dementia. Their  eleven year old daughter is torn between the two when the mother moves back to her own family home. Though set in Iran, it is a dilemma that anyone in the world could encounter and, when a problem arises with the young woman taken on to care for the old man, life becomes extremely difficult for all involved. The acting is superb and totally believable and the drama is intense and ultimately very moving. Although I said that the dilemma could happen anywhere in the world,  the Iranian justice system and the religious undertones depicted in the film do add an extra dimension to the story. It is a beautiful study of relationships and you should not be put off by the subtitles.

After another excellent light lunch at Salt House Tapas in Hanover St (where they serve the nicest olives you will ever taste), it was back to FACT for 'Life In A Day'. This is an experimental film made by Ridley Scott and Kevin MacDonald who asked the world to send in their videos of July 24 2010. It was a very brave and exciting idea but was totally dependent upon the clips sent in and the end result is a bit of a disappointment. There are some memorable moments - a segment centering on three African women threshing grain to their own rhythmic singing was outstanding, a teenager's first shave was touching and an old couple remaking their marriage vows were charming but too many clips washed over me without leaving any impression and I feel that it was an opportunity lost. I did enjoy the final clip which may or may not have been contrived but, for me, the fact that a couple of the audience left before the end, spoke volumes.  All credit to Scott and MacDonald for giving it a try.

Whilst at FACT we saw the trailer for Brad Pitt and Sean Penn in 'The Tree Of Life'. An intriguing trailer which certainly whet our appetites and has to be our choice for next week.
Here's a taste.

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Isn't She Lovely?

Our New Granddaughter
With her proud mum.

You'll have to forgive my self indulgence today as it's not every day that one becomes a grandfather for the first time. I was woken by a received message on my mobile at 6.15 this morning. I didn't have my glasses on and mistook it for a wayward tweet, rolled over and went back to sleep. When I woke again at 7.15 I looked at the message again with my specs on and realised it was from Sarah's partner Duncan. It read "at ninewells 8cm ". "Where's Ninewells?" I asked Marion. "And what's 8cm?". Marion who sat bolt upright upon hearing that the message was from Duncan said "she's about to have the baby". I immediately phoned Duncan who told me that our granddaughter had just arrived in the world at around 7.00 am weighing 7lbs 4oz.

We were overwhelmed with emotion. It was such a surprise as the baby was not expected until 13th July and we had no inkling that things had started to move yesterday afternoon - they did not want a false alarm and had not mentioned that Sarah's waters had broken as she did not start contractions until the small hours of this morning.

We had to change plans to travel to Lichfield and instead headed up to St Andrews as soon as Marion had finished a long standing hair appointment (we're going to a wedding on Saturday) and I had been to Liverpool to collect my mum from the airport (it was too late to make alternative plans). We were desperate to arrive before visiting time ended at 8pm and just made it although we would have been better prepared if we had asked which ward she was on (not realising that Dundee is a very big hospital with three or four maternity wards).

A Happy Granddad

And a proud Grandma,Grannie Nanna or Nannie - (not yet decided)

So, all in all, a very hectic day but one that we won't forget in a hurry. We're back off home in the morning to give the new family some breathing space but I'm sure that we'll be returning to St Andrews in the very near future.