Here's this week's column:
THERE'S a new hero in our Lockdown lives, though he's neither new nor heroic. It's Columbo, the down-at-heel LAPD homicide lieutenant; the only man who always wears a raincoat in Los Angeles.
We've tapped into a vast store of his inimitable murder investigations, after She Who Knows discovered the 5USA channel. Do you know, the scruffy detective of Italian heritage has been exposing killers for 50 years? No wonder he's good!
Even if we've previously seen an episode, it's worth watching for all you missed first time, or to be reminded of the show's many attributes.
To start it's relaxing, as the only murder drama where you know whodunnit from the start. But it's fascinating to see how a ruthlessly clever, meticulous killer will be caught, as they surely will, by our hero.
As She Who Knows points out, there are always beautiful, luxury homes to admire and wonderful scenery to go with them. It's a reminder, too, how far ahead of us America has been. They had kitchens and bathrooms – as well as teeth and wigs – half a century ago better than ours today.
Everyone's dressed smartly, except for our 'Lootenant' – who, with his shabby raincoat and ash-dropping cigars, fearlessly stalks the most exclusive haunts. But, at heart, he's an icon of unassuming virtues for our troubled times.
While appreciating the finer material acquisitions of others, along with their skills and achievements, Columbo drives the most run-down vehicle on the programme and happily accepts his lot. He is respectful of all equally, whoever they are, but humble within himself.
Besides, he always has 'Mrs Columbo' to consider, though we never see his formidable partner in life.
Columbo is eagerly observant, patient and, however powerful, famous or wealthy they are, brings criminals to justice and avenges innocent lives callously ruined.
A brave new world? No, it's been there all the time.
* * *
LIKE most people, we're exploring fresh frontiers in home entertainment at the moment – on TV, at least.
Friends are fans of Netflix, with one couple glued to Indonesian mystery thrillers and another pair enjoying a series in a Tokyo late-night bar – a Japanese 'Cheers', though a bit darker. Still, foreign dramas can't be more bizarre than recent BBC ones. Hopefully they'll spread international understanding, from this strange Covid era.
At Edmonds Towers we turn increasingly backward – into archive channel Talking Pictures. Stage-trained actors on old films enunciate clearly; there's no gratuitous violence nor foul language, only 'politically incorrect, outdated attitudes' - which suit us.
Even street scenes, with little traffic and few people, now seem oddly up to date – although in black and white. We record to view later, or She Who Knows does – pouring over TV schedules and zipping through channels on her remote, it's awesome to behold.
Who said watching telly is a mindless activity? Not in our home; you have to work at it. She Who Knows is in such a hurry it often freezes the controls. As a result odd things occur but, to us, they are now quite normal.
Recordings can be incomplete – jumping boring early scenes or halting abruptly before the finale. Episodes might be missing or – an inspired touch this – in the wrong order for the series.
The best example was my all-time favourite film, The World Of Suzy Wong (my treasured book of which is pictured left). Excited with anticipation,I had my drink and snack ready and got seated. Those colourful opening scenes from my youth appeared, with the lovely Suzy by Victoria Harbour – then ended suddenly, after a few minutes.
Still, as She Who Knows says, this all helps deter dementia – having to work out plots for ourselves; fill in those problem gaps and, what's more, we get to bed earlier too!
* * *
SO, we emerge from subdued festive celebrations with, yet more restrained times ahead. Still, staying home's not unusual this time of year.
At Edmonds Towers it went well. Shopping was efficient, too; mostly online for convenience and safety – with thoughtful presents, thanks to extra time to consider and bank balance fattened by staying in more.
This time I only made one error, or two-in-one to be exact. Unlike last year, when mixing up health and glamour products for She Who Knows. I 'd mistakenly bought her anti-wrinkle creams for ageing skin, rather than 'toning' ones. Still, I found them handy.
(Not as disastrous a present as one mate's to his wife – an ironing board.)
Towards this Christmas a big parcel arrived addressed, unusually, to me. I recognised it as a festive hamper my nephew and wife kindly send annually. When I mentioned it to She Who she said, “That's nice but they shouldn't, not now their children are adults.” (We used to give them birthday money.) Anyway, when sending their greetings card, I wrote, 'Thanks again for the hamper!'
One disappointment with my online orders was a gift box of Belgium chocolates, for She Who Knows, which was quite costly but hadn't arrived.
On the big day, imagine our surprise when opening that 'hamper' box. The relatives hadn't sent one after all. It was my box of chox, but not just the dark ones she liked; also a mixed collection, a separate box of truffles, another of 'cookies', plus a big tin of biscuits. No wonder it was expensive! Her disappointment, at not receiving the usual, much adored Hotel Chocolat selection, seemed rather unreasonable to me.
There's so much to munch it'll take us all year to get through them. By then, hopefully, my nephew and wife might have forgiven me, for what they must have thought a very sarcastic card!
'HUBBIES' in my traditional-minded family are reluctant when it comes to DIY. Dad, while tackling most things, also advised, “Never do today what you can put off 'til tomorrow.”
My older brother, Mike, would rather move house than redecorate.
Regarding 'little jobs' at home, my credo is - if it offends the eye or conscience, hide it! Out of sight is out of mind.
However, She Who Knows still says airily at quiet moments in Edmonds Towers, “I was thinking, what we
need to do . . .” The 'we', of course, isn't royal but refers to me. Like her late mother, Wynne, she believes I'm able to fix anything.
Although flattered, I try to stay one step ahead. If spotting a potential problem or blemish upon our comfort and well-being, I 'bodge' it.
With New Year resolutions pending, here are tips for a happier life to all DIY dodgers.
When wallpaper is coming apart, put a chair in front of it . If it's in a higher position, hang a picture there.
Small things, like tiles, are most easily repaired with a spot of plasticine or glue.
Signs of damp about the house? Just leave a window open slightly overnight; if double-glazed, you can even lock it open.
Recent inspired bodges have avoided the expense and disruption of calling in both a tiler and the plumber.
When the border of a bathroom plastic floor tile crumbled, leaving an ugly gap, a strip of masking tape perfectly matched its colour and settled the eye. Then, even better, a hot water tap's worrying dripping was neatly halted – with a discreetly applied elastic band. Being blue it even matched the porcelain!
Finally, as this difficult year ends, my overall winning tip is - make sure neither of you wear reading glasses, when walking about your home. That will only show up more work.
WITH lockdown conditions continuing or even intensifying, we're watching still more TV at home – goggling at the box which, of course, is showing more and more repeats.
We're not Netflix people, more Talking Pictures - the British classic film and drama archive channel.
But today I'll particularly enjoy the Carols From King's, which kick-starts our Christmas while savouring some pâté, relish and toast with a glass of red wine.
It's an honour to be sharing Christmas Eve with you all in this column! Perhaps this could be the start of wider friendships and recognition . . .
“We could be one of those 'Gogglebox' couples,” She Who Knows has suggested, when we're commenting on our diet of telly in Edmonds Towers' cosy, festively decorated living room. There we are - drinks to hand and feet up on what were once called pouffes, if that's not now politically incorrect.
“You'd attract too much hate mail and proles,” I warned.
“You mean trolls!” she corrected.
I've long since given up trying to follow the news or other weighty issues which crop up on the screen. It's always interrupted by comments like, “That's a wig, you know,” or, “I can't believe she's wearing that dress again!”
Apparently, I always complain loudly about audience 'whooping' and certain personalities, like Jonathan Ross, who get on my nerves. “You've told me before, ssh!” She Who Knows will rebuke.
Her latest outburst was to call out to me, “There's some slip of a girl on TV, who's supposedly a professor!”
It's true, though, since Covid there appears to be an endless succession of young professors warning about health issues and the state of our planet (along with good, old David). It's all very worrying . . .
Anyway, don't let it spoil your 'holidays', as 2021 should be better.
Merry Christmas to you all!
* * *
IT was sad to hear of another fine Blackpool character passing away this dreadful year. John Moore, aged 86, was landlord of the resort's oldest pub The Saddle on Whitegate Drive, from 1982-92.
I first met John, an imposing but friendly former policeman, halfway through his tenure. However, I'd long enjoyed the cosy inn's fire-lit rooms and old-fashioned style. He also started the 'Seagull Division' of the Manchester-based Honourable Order of Bass Drinkers, of which I'm proud to belong.
(The 17th Century inn is illustrated here in a sketch by Peter Hughes.)
Back in those days, pubs closed for a couple of hours in afternoons and longer on Sundays. When it opened again the welcoming fires were crackling and brass and glassware sparkling.
Come evening, Mister Moore – a traditional landlord - would adopt his position on the public side of the bar, near stairs up to where his large family lived. He'd greet regulars while enjoying a Draught Bass and one of his favourite King Edward cigars.
John also showed me why he stood there. Thanks to ingenious mirrors on the bar, walls and doors, he could see into rooms and also his bar and till. Then he'd roll up his sleeves and descend through a trap door to the cellar, as the popular Bass or Special Bitter barrels ran dry.
You didn't hear shouting or music or TV (but for special sporting occasions). If some got carried away, John need only mutter, “Watch your language, please lads.”
Sunday afternoons he would sit with family and friends in the 'Lords' room, where my naïve, younger self was introduced one day and cheerily seated among his bevy of daughters. John shook my hand at his crowded table, then quietly informed me, “It's your round.”
He also gave me sage, Liverpudlian advice when moving into a nearby house. “Always leave some jobs to do – or they'll keep piling up!”
Top man, he'll be missed.
* * *
SHE Who Knows and myself made an outing to Lytham over last weekend; She Who being in dire need of retail therapy.
It was a shock to see such crowds, with cafés and restaurants open, too; serving takeaway drinks with even a few outside bars, where folk gathered chatting through the busy afternoon.
After quiet Great Marton it seemed decidedly hedonistic. We even had to don our face masks, just to feel safe, though few others on the crowded pavements bothered.
Still, it was good to see people enjoying themselves and a high street thriving.
Then, driving away at dusk, we spotted a huge flying saucer landed opposite Lowther Gardens, glowing in the darkness. Fortunately, that turned out to be a floodlit tennis dome now at Lytham Cricket & Sports Club - most impressive!
Also escaping leafy Lytham's vibrant social life is my local hero Sam Stone. The freelance reporter come investigator, a good-looking son of a gun often in trouble, is now in an eighth, stand-alone book of the popular series.
Happily, in fiction you can escape lockdown into even more exotic places than Lytham. So you may join Sam on an idyllic Greek island, with his new loves but also dangers. The novel is available in paperback or on Kindle.
This latest thriller/romance is entitled The Golden Door. I tell you this not out of commercial greed but because it's good to share feelings and hopes with others, specially at this time. Our light-literary website was started by retired journalists fed up of all the bad news. It's intended to be uplifting and, besides, is non-profit-making – at least so far!
This story also focuses on the plight of today's refugees, as well as our pandemic. We should think of them, too, as we prepare to pamper ourselves and feast; so everyone might share hopes of a better New Year to come.
* * *
AH, some good news at last. Covid infections are finally down by a third or more, locally and nationally, thanks to lockdown and your efforts! Also, the New Year promises to be brighter for Blackpool and our holiday coast.
It was heartening to read of two uplifting projects. The popular Mirror Ball, on South Promenade, is to have its 40,000-plus tiles restored, by our Illuminations team and Blackpool and The Fylde College students.
That stretch of Prom is a favourite walk and the four-ton, 18-year-old artwork is a shining landmark by a great viewing spot. However, the biggest facelift in town goes to a still grander, much older attraction, the Tower Ballroom.
A £760,000 grant from the government's Culture Fund will see the 126-year-old plasterwork ceiling of this world-famous ballroom restored to full glory.
While the Mirror Ball would brighten my spirits during lunch-time strolls when working nearby, the best of our resort's grand ballrooms always struck me with wonder – and my father before me.
When a bachelor, he was one of thousands who regularly got a steam-train return ticket from Manchester on Saturdays, which included Tower entrance and the promise of a romantic, if only brief, encounter. What's more, its famous organist, Reginald Dixon, was a cousin of mine.
I well remember trying out my own dance steps on that vast, sprung dance floor – and running out of moves halfway along. It was as demanding as a length in the old Derby Baths further up the Prom.
There's just one thing I'm wondering. Will anyone think to again open the ballroom's once sliding roof? I know of it because an older friend, who worked at the Tower as a youngster, mischievously operated its rooftop winding gear – to let in a downpour of rainwater puddles.
Still, how fabulous it would be to dance there, when dry - and under the stars!
* * *
'GET fit in 15 minutes a day', invited the newspaper column. I didn't see the exercises, as She Who Knows turned over the page. We were enjoying breakfast in bed.
“I got fit doing just six minutes a day,” I bragged, but she'd become engrossed in beauty tips. (Besides, I'd told her it all before.)
The memory took me back to late teens, when living at home and desperate to attract the opposite sex with a six-pack and beefy biceps.
It was called the Royal Canadian Air Force Workout and those telling minutes got increasingly demanding every day.
“What are you doing up there?” demanded my dad, when I'd just finished the six minutes in my bedroom. “Well,” I explained proudly, “there are press-ups where you have to clap hands, full body bends, then running on the spot with scissor jumps.”
“Well, stop it!” he said, “You're bringing down the lounge ceiling's plaster.”
Back then I was just under 13-stone, now I'm half a stone over it, but I have been 15 stone-plus in my 40s. That was a warning curve, when your waist size matches your age.
Keeping fit now seems all the rage in lockdown rather than, as usual, just following Christmas. Therefore, I offer you the following lifetime's advice.
Firstly, don't believe 'no gain without pain'. If it hurts then you're doing yourself harm.
Secondly, enjoy it! However beneficial, you won't keep up a routine if it's a continual trial; instead you'll slump into a deep malaise. We want happy, not miserable!
Find something you enjoy – walking (not sauntering), gentle stretches like yoga or tai-chi to music, and try to find a balance which fits in with you and is even fun.
Finally, don't stuff yourself later, or sink too many drinks, as you ponder the pandemic.
Consider this your chance to improve yourself!
* * *
MANY of us have taken up country walking during lockdown. The other day we wandered out on tracks by Marton Mere.
It reminded me of past rural outings before we'd hung up our boots and riding gear. Exploring rural Fylde brought the reward of meals in country pubs. Trouble was, our guidebook was out of date. Often paths were neglected, muddy and snared by brambles; or large threatening creatures, like boisterous bullocks, hindered our way. I have a healthy respect for anything bigger than myself.
Our most memorable outing was on Taffy, an ageing cob now at peace. He was a friend's horse we exercised weekly round rustic lanes. I'd cycle or walk part way, while She Who Knows rode, then we'd swap over halfway, just by a farm with a ferocious dog.
“Don't worry,” his owner assured us, as the Rottweiler barked and strained on his heavy chain, “if he got loose he wouldn't know what to do!” I wasn't convinced.
This day I'd cycled ahead and saw an impressive black bull at the farm, safely preoccupied with cows in the field. However, as She Who and Taff approached round a bend, the beast's nostrils twitched and he lumbered purposefully toward the fence.
By the time they'd arrived it was clear from his snorting the bull was steaming with desire, not for Taffy but She Who Knows!
I never discovered what scent she was wearing as, just then, the barking-mad dog's chain broke.
We all stared, She Who, Taffy and me, fearing the worst. But the farmer had been right. His dog halted in its tracks, dumbfounded, then quietly retreated into a kennel.
Wary of a gleam still in the bull's eyes, I urged She Who onward - not pushing our luck any further. It was time to head for comfort and safety, by the snug fireside of a village pub.
* * *
IN lockdown I've been reading much more; mainly novels, which capture the imagination and divert the most.
When younger I read books to learn about life, from Lady Chatterley's Lover to Hermann Hesse's Glass Bead Game. Now I'm content with a whodunnit, preferably without too much violence and gore.
Peter Robinson pens favourite thrillers or, more lightly, Yorkshire-Mysteries maestro Roger Silverwood. I've also enjoyed espionage novelists Eric Ambler and Alan Furst, while Raymond Chandler remains the private-eye master. Among other contemporary writers, William Boyd and Douglas Kennedy are amazingly varied, well-researched and rarely disappoint.
But what continually dismays me, especially in so-called police procedurals, is the image of my profession, the media. We journos and hacks get a terrible press!
Over years, I've worked for many newspapers here and abroad; big and small, high-brow and red-top; also agencies, TV and radio. Most journalists (not all, admittedly) want to right injustice, to ease rather than cause suffering and, as best they can under pressure, maintain a professional sense of ethics.
They take pride in doing their work competently but also responsibly. Headlines are sought, yes, but not at the expense of truth or another person's well-being (unless justly deserved).
I've been personally maligned; once called 'carrion', then even 'not fit to eat out of a newspaper, let alone work on one'! On both those occasions, I – and colleagues - were righting wrongs in high places. Corruption is only painfully winkled out, for all to see then deplore.
Happily, I've also been cheerily applauded, both at work and otherwise in public, for articles some admired or were popularly appreciated. Those occasions I found embarrassing, while the insults surprised, hurt but, eventually, amused me.
These days I'm privileged to write this column, but also my own fiction. Freelance reporter Sam Stone, has romanced and thrilled us through several books now. He's my local hero, so there!
* * *
IT'S surprising how you can manage without items others find essential; or discover you really need something never previously known to you.
I'm of that generation who survived happily without television, at least for several years. At Edmonds Towers, She Who Knows routinely switches on telly just 'to brighten the room'; while I turn it to mute or sub-titles - old misery! However, we're both glad to have not used an iron for years and there's no wrinkles on us, our clothes anyway.
But Covid changes all. Just lately the internet's our best friend, from catching up with news to online shopping or emailing this column; we're both on laptops from breakfast onwards.
Now I'm wondering about 'smart' phones. We've had mobiles, cheap pay-as-you-go ones, for ages but don't often use them. They were handy when driving distances, in case of breakdowns; also to find out where each of us were, when separated.
When I first got a call, playing tennis, I had to ask a 10-year-old on the next court how to open my inbox. Even when I lost my mobile near our home, youngsters found and returned it, rather disdainfully. It was clearly of no value to them.
But in Lockdown we don't drive long distances and there's nowhere open to sneak off to on your own. So, maybe it's time to get 'smart'.
“I'm told they can cost up to three figures,” I muttered to old mate Tom.
“Well, mine was £400,” he revealed, casually swiping its touchscreen, “some are over £1,000.”
“But do you understand it?” I politely inquired.
“Do I 'eck as like!” he confessed.
With so many unknown 'apps' awaiting us, I'm taking a cautious first step – buying an idiot's guide to the diverse range of tablets and smartphones . . .
At least it's something to read, until the pub opens again.
* * *
BLIMEY, it's almost November! Still, for once at Edmonds Towers, we made the transition to British Winter Time with seasoned smoothness.
I should explain. We have copious clocks and timing devices at home, almost as many as She Who Knows has mirrors.
Perhaps it was because her old family house faced a jeweller's shop with a large clock in its window. They relied on that to check the time, letting their own timepieces stop or go wrong - odd, I know, but there you are.
To avoid the laborious winding forward over 11 hours of our own chronometer collection, I made the lazy mistake in the past of just turning them all back one hour.
Afterwards our cuckoo clock called out at unexpected intervals instead of on the quarter hour. Also, a wall clock in our hall with a different birdsong for each hour began playing them at different times – causing great confusion.
Instead of a blackbird's cheerful wake-up call at 8am, came an alarming barn owl's screech. These disturbing shrieks also startled visitors or callers at our door, like the postman, even people just phoning us.
Ah, but this year I out-foxed those birds. Instead of doing any winding or altering timing dials on various immersion and radiator controls, I stopped the clocks for an hour; halting the cuckoo's pendulum, taking out the birdsong clock's battery – along with the kitchen, bathroom and bedroom ones – then switching off plugs of relevant electrical devices.
My Operation Winter-Time began promptly at 2200 hours - much to She Who Knows' consternation. Then, at precisely 2300 (when going to bed), I ran round replacing batteries, switching on plugs and getting the cuckoo swinging again – all with perfect timing!
Happily, readers, spring isn't so far away. Hopefully, by then we'll just move clocks forward one hour – and be enjoying sunshine and better times again!
* * *
EVERY morning when I draw back our curtains I smile. It's the trees, a couple of sycamores and even taller poplar, also the lovely lilac and delicate laburnum. They're so majestic and, well, natural!
The 'back-street' behind our Victorian houses, now thankfully gated, is what's called unadopted. Consequently, saplings sprung up and were allowed to grow. They're an early sign of the seasons, as well as instant weather forecasters. Also, of course, they're a boon to wildlife, from squirrels and birds to insects that feed them and help fruit and flowers germinate and flourish.
They also remind me of my childhood. In our Manchester suburbs there were trees lining every road, avenue and street. We kids and our roaming dogs knew them all! We recognised the leaves, barks, sizes and fruits – specially 'conker' trees – and enjoyed climbing them, too. So much for health, if not safety.
The latest survey on our changing landscape reveals a welcome upsurge in tree planting. It's not only hot countries which gain from their shade and succulents. They help us breathe clean air in polluted cities and that is where the growth has come – in our busy suburbs. If anything, the 'countryside' – especially the intensely farmed part – is to blame for clearing forests.
Now salubrious districts of the South-East are leading the way with trees; while hallowed landscapes like the Lakes or Dales are short on woodland. The breezy Fylde lags behind, too, but we're catching up. Years ago the Clifton family made Lytham leafy, to improve their hall's outlook. Today councils and volunteers, like the Friends of Stanley Park and Salisbury Woodland, are doing the same wherever possible.
Householders, also, have been won over. With the pandemic lockdowns the joy of a garden is the new 'must have' for homes - and why not? Nature costs so little but gives us so much.
* * *
SO, it's change but no change – at least for Lancashire. I'm talking, of course, of the coronavirus which still hangs over us.
Remember when Corona used to make 'pop' and a virus only lasted several days? How the world can change – and yet doesn't, essentially. For while nature has its seasons there is a pattern. We've had pandemics before, far worse ones and 'plagues', yet survived.
As bouncy Boris told us Brits, yet again but with determination, the people will overcome this. What's more, here on our Irish Sea coast – for the moment - we can still go outdoors or enjoy a drink or meal. We'll just have to be a little more 'distant' and guarded than usual, like southerners!
Soon it will be British Winter Time and our days still shorter, but with brighter mornings. Probably Covid restrictions will tighten further too. It's time to settle in and settle down; to be thankful for what we have and hopeful for the future. After all, spring and next summer aren't far away - tempus fugit, especially for us old 'uns!
At the beginning of this week, during rain, I stayed inside and tidied up remote corners of Edmonds Towers. We last thoroughly spring-cleaned back in March, when all this started. The gardens will be next, for a severe sort-out before winter.
However, as I surveyed the job ahead - from behind the kitchen's glazed door with coffee in hand - I saw our little robin had returned to winter with us. The red breast is a sign of the seasons and always lifts my spirits. It speaks of cosiness and quiet cheer, amid homely winter scenes.
As Wordsworth said, we should let Nature be our teacher. Perhaps we wouldn't be in this mess, if we'd shown more respect for 'her' in the past.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson also said we had a narrow 'path' to walk. Let's do so together, wherever we may live in the world; in good faith and, of course, with some civilised care - and sensible compromise.
Note: Since posting the above, further restrictions have been placed upon Lancashire until Covid cases recede again. What's more, the forecast is for rain! Time, my friends, to start a new book.
* * *
AN unusual event this week, we got a dental appointment! It's several months since last being at the nearby practice, before Lockdown. They were kind enough to phone us and offer a joint check-up. Spouses are in the same 'bubble', so can be seen one after the other without a surgery needing 'deep-cleaning'.
Our dentist is highly qualified and senior but looks pleasantly youthful, with a cheerful, ready manner and, of course, perfect smile. Thanks to an insurance plan, it doesn't cost an arm and a leg for the latest treatment and technology – just, in my case, the odd tooth over years.
Still, this was only a check-up.
“If we were spraying or drilling we'd be in full, protective gear and hardly able to talk,” he explained. All I had to remember was not to touch my mouth, or my hands would need sanitising again.
He said they'd been in the surgery every day of lockdown, furloughing or altering staff rotas, dealing with emergency calls, implementing all that Covid clinical guidance.
“It now amounts to 172 pages,” the dentist groaned.
By this time I'd managed to inadvertently touch my mouth three times and had to be repeatedly resprayed. (“You're always doing that,” said She Who Knows after we left.)
What had shocked and clearly interested the dentist, from a professional point of view, was how routine problems could degenerate into horrors if left untreated too long.
“Instead of an average one emergency a day for surgery, I returned to something like 190,” he revealed. “There were broken teeth, cracked crowns and split bridges along with ulceration and boils – it was positively medieval!”
That showed the importance of regular check-ups; to treat small problems before they worsened, or detect mouth cancers. Thankfully, we have both taken dental care over the years.
We were able to leave with a relieved smile.
* * *
SO, October is here already and it feels like autumn too. What a year we've had! As a writer of novels as well as this weekly column, I'd agree that reality is stranger than fiction.
Meanwhile, the story of the pandemic is unfinished and still playing out. We're all aware of its worst results, as well as the destabilising conditions 'Lockdown' brings.
Along with this scary, science-fiction-like scenario, Covid brought new expressions into everyday life. 'Social distancing', 'shielding' and 'isolation' reflect the tone of a strained 'new normal' best represented by the face mask.
However, it isn't all grim. Lockdown came and, perhaps, sustained a long spell of good weather. It reminded us how therapeutic nature is, even if just sitting in our gardens. The air was cleared of much pollution, if not all the virus; while most homes got a thorough spring cleaning, as we had time on hands to tidy up our lives.
We might even have begun to truly appreciate those nearest and dearest, along with some simple but free pleasures – like time for quiet relaxation.
'Going forward', as politicians now say (to cover obfuscation – I've learned a few other words), what can we look forward to?
Well, for a start, many have saved money by not going on foreign holidays, or even a 'stay-cation'. Christmas, too, should be less costly or stressed than usual, though quieter or lonelier. Still, autumn and winter are natural times to hibernate in our homes; while government, through us taxpayers, has been generous assisting many unable to work or run businesses as before.
After this shared experience, it's time to take stock of what good things remain in our lives, as we look toward a New Year and more freedom and improvements.
Let's keep our heads down but also stay firm, with fresh resolution and those priceless qualities of hope and good faith.
* * *
WE were sitting in the beer garden of a popular Poulton-le-Fylde pub, me and a couple of old mates who live nearby. They had wanted to meet before stricter restrictions came in for socialising, throughout Lancashire - except Blackpool.
It seems extraordinary sleepy Knott End, for example, is in comparative lockdown (for private gatherings at home, inside or in gardens) while bustling, bawdy Blackpool isn't. However, our resort is doubly fortunate, being both a unitary local authority while, also, recording relatively low levels of Covid cases (though now rising).
I revealed to my former Gazette colleagues that not only was I lucky to live in the Blackpool district of Great Marton but, at Edmonds Towers, we also have a magic wand to wave away all those nasty virus-carrying bugs.
The ironic thing is that our battery-operated 'wand', called a 'Foldable Sterilization Wand', was - like most things today - made in China. Of course, this pandemic famously started there. However, I'm prepared to accept any compensations or deterrents they may offer. It was purchased, for £20 or so, by She Who Knows, who is also my health adviser and chief shopper.
You just open the wand and wave it closely over dodgy deliveries and so on; although not, unfortunately, upon our biggest risk – people. Its safely adapted UV-C light then zaps 99.9% of bacteria, viruses, mould and dust mites in seconds. I think it only works on hard surfaces but, there again, perhaps I could wave it at any 'hard cases' down our local pub.
Well, it all helps and I wanted to share this benefit with those unlucky to live beyond Blackpool's famous fresh air and fun. It also makes far less mess of our deliveries than previous gels, sprays and even hand wipes.
So, readers, I wave it, too, over you. May you all stay safe and happy, wherever you reside!
* * *
“I'VE gotten three A-levels!” the schoolgirl told BBC News, amid that fuss over result algorithms. Hopefully, one wasn't English. Her Americanism rather undermined outrage at under-marking pupils.
Then I heard it again from a radio announcer who'd, 'Gotten a spider bite' in her garden. Only a squirrel digging up flowers disturbed the peace of ours, in months of Lockdown which made us appreciate nature. So much so, I looked up a poem learned at school (see 'Leisure' on this website's Poem page).
'What is this life if, full of care, we have no time to stand and stare; no time to stand beneath the boughs, and stare as long as sheep or cows . . .'
I even looked up its author, W.H. Davies (pictured), as is so easy now on Google. Well, what a character he was!
I'd assumed he'd be another well-bred poet of independent means, who loafed around composing dreamy verses beneath the boughs, but not a bit of it.
Welsh William (1871-1940) was brought up in a Newport pub by his oddly clashing grandparents, a retired sea captain and his chapel-crazed Missus. Young Will was a tearaway; messing up at school after 'stealing handbags', then not knuckling down to a trade. In fact, he became a tramp – or 'supertramp', also working his Atlantic passage (several times) to north America and becoming a 'hobo' then gold 'pan-handler'.
What brought him back and set him to writing poems again was a rail accident alongside another reckless vagrant, named 'Three-Fingers' Jack, which cost our Bill a leg.
He returned to London where, now aged 52, he married a girl 30 years younger in a registry office. Then he became a hit with the arty set, living in a Cotswolds cottage and with a statue of himself erected in Monmouthshire.
Why didn't they teach me all that adventurous stuff back in school? I'd have gotten more interested in literature much earlier!
* * *
THIS week saw the dramatic exit of world number one tennis player Novak Djokovic from the American Open, with automatic disqualification for dangerous hitting of the ball.
The moody Serb had casually hit the ball behind him after a point had finished, with him losing, as he struggled in the first set of a match against dignified Spanish opponent Pablo Carreno Busta. The ball hit a female line judge in her throat, making her collapse.
There was a lengthy discussion with officials but the rule held fast; only later did Djokovic apologise earnestly. Earlier he had hit a ball violently against a side boarding, but not received a warning. You wouldn't get Roger doing that!
Hopefully, this sensational incident might make a few more humble tennis players think of something I’ve often complained about on court, what I call 'ball etiquette'. It's a regular sight on our park or club courts, a thoughtlessly hit ball between points hitting a distracted player or bystander.
When this is done in anger and the ball hit hard, it can obviously be dangerous. Many's the time such a ball has narrowly missed my head or, occasionally, connected. I even managed to hit my wife on her head with a service, when we first partnered each other. But that's another story, with a happier ending.
Watch and play that ball carefully, aware of where others are on the court, while either playing a point or just walking around. It's a good lesson in life, too!
Also, another long-term grouse, don't return balls for playing until they're needed. Wait until a player wants a ball then send them one, while they're watching and with a gentle bounce, so they can catch it. Otherwise, it's a waste of everyone's time and energy.
That's simple enough, surely? Yet even the greatest fall foul of safety-first sometimes – then must pay the price.
* * *
BIG chicks are taking over our garden. Not the flirty, short-skirted sort from back in my 20s. These are of the feathered variety, though getting bolder. We've spent so long in our garden over Lockdown, they're becoming used to us.
I can imagine a chirpy conversation in our giant ivy hedge (everything's growing wildly, with this sunshine then rain). “Those two big birds are out again! Still, they seem harmless.” Meaning me and She Who Knows, once more spending a stay-safe afternoon in the sustaining sunshine; feet up after much dead-heading, reading, drinking and snacking.
Yes, Lockdown has been very much back-to-nature with our mean streets off-limits, certainly at night - except to those restless, Virus-fearless youngsters. Our garden's been a life saver, but it's grown so much into my imagination that I'm now having dreams about it – and not all pleasant.
The other night, as I told She Who, I had a nightmare about the blackbirds. These, with the smaller species of sparrows, blue-tits, wrens and robins, all share our garden refuge.
I'd been putting out yet more fast-disappearing bird food (though their only thanks is to leave white stains all over garden furniture), when yet another cheeky, chubby blackbird chick appeared.
They're so accustomed to us now, they practically feed about our feet like park pigeons. I knocked and gestured, trying to get its attention from our kitchen-door's window, pointing out the freshly hung fat balls.
However, its watching parent misread my attentions. No doubt protecting his chick, the 'father' flew at me fiercely. I knew he hadn't realised double glazing separated us. His beak rammed into our closed door so forcefully it then began to slowly open - with madly flapping bird attached. Then I awoke, rather shaken. What does it all mean, dear readers?
Is Hichcock's Birds chiller coming to reality, or maybe Covid Trauma's setting in?
* * *
COVID has made most of us feel more vulnerable in many ways. Things taken for granted aren't there anymore. Then this week we lost our best friend in this 'new normal' – the internet.
How would we get the weather, news or catch up with friends – even email in this column, all once at the touch of a finger?
I tried the usual remedies, re-plugging cables and network connections, even the old slap on the top, but not a glimmer from our devices. There was only one thing remaining, our web master - time to reach for the Sky.
After an anxious vigil of recorded music and apologies our deliverance came, a real person from 'technical support' - Clare. She listened patiently, made remote checks, then solemnly judged, “Your hub needs replacing.”
This wasn't a surprise. As I told Clare,“My hip and knee are going the same way.” She laughed sympathetically, noting also that I was an MP.
“Well, no,” I confessed. “My shaky handwriting when originally filling in the form made my 'title' look more like MP than Mr. Ever since, you've addressed me as a Member of Parliament. My wife was delighted, thinking it got us better service.”
“Not really,” Clare assured, though clearly amused, then added gently, “I'll have to demote you, sorry.”
“I'm used to that,” I told her. “So what happens next, with wifi?”
“We'll send a new router in the post,” she promised, “won't cost you anything, despite demotion.”
Trouble was, we would have to wait up to five working days! But, no, dear readers, you have your column on time. Our hub was delivered next day and, in the blinking of an electronic eye, we're up and running again . . .
Perhaps that bit of humour with Clare helped – even more than being an MP!
* * *
THE summer's not over yet, so why not make more of our beautiful coast and its facilities?
You can also discover what first attracted She Who Knows to become my partner . . .
Blackpool's biggest tennis club is offering a one-day free pass to try out the sport, or renew your acquaintance with it. It's a great way for all the family to get healthier and make new friends. I know, I grew up with tennis, enjoyed some of the best times of my life through it and even 'courted' my wife playing it. What's more, we're still in the game and meeting new people.
Committee member Helen Ashworth explained, “The aim is to open our doors to locals who may be interested in looking at the facilities and, hopefully, having a game of tennis. Visitors may enjoy a game and also chat with members. Racquets and balls will be provided.”
Families are welcome at an open day for the club on Midgeland Road just by Progress Way from 1-4pm on Saturday, but visitors can also come tomorrow evening between 6-8pm, weather permitting.
Helen added, “They can get a one-day free-tennis coupon and discover just how easy it is to pick up a racquet and have fun on court! Refreshments will be available.”
The club will also be offering new members a late-season discounted membership rate.
The long-established site, where there is also croquet, has grass, shale and floodlit all-weather surfaces as well as the coast's only purpose-made indoor court – recently upgraded; along with a tennis pavilion and spacious clubhouse offering regular social and music events. Come along!
* * *
IT'S not often I queue for the barber's, being more or less retired and also follically challenged. I just pop in at quiet times. Of course, after Lockdown, even I was desperate for 'a trim and tidy-up' - as my local gent's hairdresser calls my routine cut.
So, there I was, mask on after gelling hands, writing down name and contact details while also, impressively, getting my temperature read; then waiting with others, all 'socially-distanced'. As one teen had his head partly shaved, Mohican-style, it gave me time to think how barbers have changed since I was a lad.
The pair, one bald but with a stylish beard and moustache, the other swarthy and hirsute, were Greek-Cypriots and the first foreigners to open a business locally, before the Chinese and long before Indians.
Suddenly, the 'barber's' had a continental feel, they even had pictures of 'styles' you could have and I remember people asking for 'a Tony Curtis' with a well-greased quiff. They also brought the trendy 'square-neck' look.
Later came fashionable city-centre cutters, with eye-watering prices to match.
Now, I'm afraid, I've reverted to the trim and tidy-up. The last time I tried anything different was overseas, when a very camp Chinese hairdresser asked me how I'd like it.
“Thicker would be nice,” I quipped, but he took me literally and back-combed it all. I was horrified and looked like an ageing drag artist. Across the road I rushed into a public lavatory and stuck my head in the washbasin.
Now I'm just happy to emerge clean cut and 'tidied up' (eyebrows or other unwanted hair). What's more, even She Who Knows approves.
* * *
IT was like a stroll back into halcyon times at the weekend, as we enjoyed a sunny start to August.
I'd wandered along the side of lovely Stanley Park and found a match in full swing at Blackpool Cricket Club (pictured).
What's more, two of my favourite club teams were competing, the home first XI and Lytham's finest too. On the grand clubhouse terrace, with its panoramic view, I found familiar faces, many old friends from both clubs not seen from before Lockdown.
Some had put on weight, others lost it; some had longer hair, others a fresh look; most were in good spirits although, sadly, there was disturbing news of others who weren't.
The sun shone, while the ale and menu lived up to the award-winning reputation, now with government sponsorship mid-week too.
Our lads were skittling out the opposition, I thought, then realised in the absence of my glasses I'd mixed up the teams.
Time to move on, for recent months have changed everything. Almost outside the gate, a bus was just arriving. There was only one other passenger aboard and both of us were masked,
Then, before home, came a socially distanced, quick shop around the neighbourhood supermarket, but I was still in the garden by mid-afternoon.
We've come to savour its quiet retreat, specially at weekends; relaxing under a parasol far from the madding crowd. Those simpler home pleasures of a more restful past have been rediscovered. Now we've done up both house and garden we appreciate them even more.
Hopefully, our world's still on track to a fuller recovery but, in this indefinite meantime, let's appreciate just what we do have – here at home, on our wonderful, diverse coast.
NEWS of the blaze at Central Pier reminded me of enjoyable visits hobnobbing with – and even entertaining – some popular showbiz stars on our piers.
UP in our loft there's a dusty cardboard box containing my past. There are childhood and family pictures, then photo albums from later working overseas. Their covers bear the logo, 'The Times Of Our Lives'.
“IF you want to know the weather, stick your head out the window!” advises our no-nonsense friend Margery. But we like to plan ahead, specially my wife.
“I'VE got a hairdresser's appointment!” She Who Knows exclaimed, bursting joyously into my quiet study at Edmonds Towers the other day.
IT was midsummer yesterday but our blackbird was still singing from dawn 'til dusk. He's also helped four fledglings grow and spread their wings from Edmonds Towers.
OH MAMMA! As this newspaper rightly said, it felt like the end of an era to hear at the weekend Blackpool's most popular Italian restaurant was up for sale.
From that dais he overlooked both the cosy bar come waiting area then also the spacious, split-level dining room. It worked like a treat, always buzzing but also reliable. Thinking of Mamma's reminded me of other nearby eateries we favoured over the years. Da Vinci, close by in King Street, regarded itself as a cut above other Italians, with its white linen tablecloths and murals of Venice and Florence.
THE window cleaner looked impressed. “Off to play tennis?” he inquired, when I answered his knock and paid for our regular clean. I was wearing tell-tale shorts and sports top, plus he knew we'd been keen players – before 'lockdown'.
“Tried it myself, with a mate,” he told me, confessing, “Our squash club's closed, but we could crawl through a gap in the fence to a tennis court. Difficult game,” he acknowledged, shaking his head, “but I enjoyed it – going to make it my new thing!”
ON my birthday last week, while considering breakfast, I was reminded of some bizarre early-morning feasts during an extraordinary holiday tour, almost 40 years ago to the day.
IT'S my birthday today but this column was written before then. At the time, I'd been glancing over BBC's internet news on a sunny morning hoping for something uplifting - and there it was!
THE strange quiet of Covid life reminds me of walking down Fleet Street, years ago, then turning into sheltered cloisters of the Inns of Court; stepping from noise and congestion into landscaped peace and birdsong.
BELIEVE it or not, there have been some extremely exciting times during our long 'Lockdown', here in Great Marton.
AH, the darling buds of May and my birthday month – although not so merry with our continuing lockdown. But we're still here and okay, so let's not mope!
MANY readers will recall mentions here of my mother-in-law Wynne. Sadly she has passed away from pneumonia but, mercifully, while asleep in the care of family.
(Ironically, Wynne was often anxious about funeral arrangements and pressures they'd place on her daughters, so perhaps might not have minded so much. She even considered leaving her body to medical science, but found that was more complicated than you'd expect.)
LOTS of time to ponder these days, while contemplating spring-cleaning, weeding or painting garden furniture in the sunshine, or later while sipping a pint of Speckled Hen.
DURING 'shutdown' in our Blackpool bunker, there's plenty of time to mull over life and our current affair – for there's only one in the news. It's interesting how diverse nations handle this dire dilemma, but their leaders only reflect their history and culture.
LAST week I compared our present social 'shutdown' with the far worse war years of our forebears, which reminded me of boyhood days. Although a child of the post-war 1950s, there was still rationing, bomb-sites and a stronger sense of community than now. I'd like to share some vague, very early memories before even school years.
WE'RE all going through a historic disaster which has shaken our domestic, social and working lives to the core. Yet, there have been much worse in living memory, so let's not panic or over-dramatise.
AS the dark cloud of pandemic remains over us all, at least our weather has improved. The sun is shining and British summertime arrives.
DON'T despair, it was the first day of spring on Friday (March 20); the season of fresh beginnings. Even our weather now feels like spring!
Nature holds the key to our health and happiness; the food we eat; the way we live, how we treat ourselves. Mankind has advanced dramatically, life is easier and better for most, but we must respect that balance with the natural world around us - or pay a terrible price. What we sow we reap, it was said, and that goes for planting too.
I read in a magazine that the 20,000 leaves of a mature oak release enough oxygen into our atmosphere for the needs of half a dozen people. Trees also lessen storm disasters, preventing ground saturation. A large tree can suck up 500 litres of water a day, through roots to leaves, enriching and binding the soil while drying land and offsetting floods.
AT the weekend we took a short drive to the theatre and a long ride back in time.
THERE'S a spring in my step, lifted by our emergence from what seems the warmest winter yet. Yes, I know we've had gales, sleet and, for many unfortunates, desperate flooding, but I've barely got to wear my chunkier sweaters, let alone heavy boots.
Meet another colourful personality from Blackpool, jovial barmaid Jess . . .
FANCY a lively night out? Perhaps some city 'gig' appeals, or trendy Lytham wine bars, even a wild revel round Blackpool's clubland?
This week's column in The Gazette was pulled just before publication to make way for an interesting 'vox pop' of public views on new attractions to our diverse holiday coast. I'd written about a popular barmaid at a local hostelry, here in Great Marton, who always supported her own district of Blackpool and the Fylde, as Lancashire's Irish Sea coast is named. Anyway, that or similar might appear in next week's paper. In the meantime, it inspired me to write about the coast we both love.
February might still be very chilly, and stormy here, but Valentine's Day adds a warming touch . . .
“WE'VE been reminiscing and might go back to playing squash,” one of two old pals informed me over drinks at the weekend. “We've got the gear, I just need shorts,” he added, “36 inch waist.”
OUR meals and nights out have changed gradually since retirement. It's isn't just being on a fixed income. We have more time for cooking at home and to enjoy different activities during daylight hours.
It used to hearten me to see savings grow but today we're lucky to have any . . .
We didn't exactly whoop it up at New Year but it was a fine time. Now life returns to more normal it's worth remembering that mood.
Tis the season of goodwill . . . let's share those sentiments still!
Boxing Day, as we call the day after Christmas here in UK, brought some touching memories and grateful thoughts . . .
Here's my Christmas message come column, from Thursday's Gazette.
It was all about the UK's General Election on this Thursday and today, of course, we know Boris has won with a national landslide while, here in Great Marton, Labour has also lost to the Tories too. At least it means someone has a working majority in Parliament and can get on with governing. Now it's over to him to deliver all those promises. We'll see!
This week's column had a certain sartorial smugness - or should that really be snugness!
A heavy frost outside, as I add this week's Gazette column, but we're warm and cosy within . . .
Sorry, I'm a day late posting this as we had a busy time yesterday and, come evening, went to see Elton John. (Well, a tribute act where, of course, everyone whooped but, rather romantically, the backing group's drummer came off stage and proposed on one knee to a girl in the row behind us, who accepted him - they did know each other, we presumed!)
This week's column might help you ease the strain of Christmas shopping and electioneering fatigue!
Politics is hard to get passionate about but people used to . . .
A salutary tale this week, plumbing the depths . . .
Not sure I have the right 'nose' for wine anymore . . .
HERE'S the latest report on my snoring. (Sadly, I come from a family of snorters.)
This week's column was a tribute to an old friend, used to harder times. I'll do more on this in next month's Home post, plus a tribute to another great character, a Mossag called Eric.
It makes you want to grit your teeth - dentistry! Ah, it's all done now, why did I feel nervous at all?
Bit of 'local' history in this week's column. You can get in Saddle mood, too, on our Books page, reading '50 Shades of Bass', 'Bright Lights & Pig Rustling' or 'Saddle Up!'
Remembering some old rough and tumbles . . . amongst the cow pats!
Celebrating a large piece of civic pride this week, but there may be changes afoot . . .
Last week's column dwelt upon the drinks side of life, this week's focussed on the way to a man's heart . . . food - about which I'm becoming increasingly less adventurous.
AS the summer sporting season nears its end, last weekend our spirits were lifted by the annual beer festival at Blackpool Cricket Club.
This week's column took a comic turn - but it's never all about laughs . . .
Couple of strange events in the past week gave me pause for thought and undermined my usual cheerful confidence. First was a fall, outlined below, then I nearly had a collision while 'running' a red light behind other impatient drivers - except I hadn't even noticed it was on red, my mind being entirely elsewhere . Happily, I can report that - since then - my driving has been as careful and correct as usual and I'm now back to stylish, winning tennis . . . or losing with sporting dignity.
This week's column is close to home but may ring a bell for couples everywhere. Thankfully, my wife found it funny, which always brings a warm feeling . . .
C'mon sports! Seeing the funnier side of the Ashes . . . and Australia, currently suffering 75mph winds and storm damage from Sydney to Melbourne - but they do call it the Lucky Country.
This week's Gazette column led some to accuse me of being a 'Nimby'. However, 'issues' which affect our homes make us passionately concerned. Besides, there is more here at stake - as I explained . . .
With this week's column, we can all sleep more easily in our beds . . .
Sport not only gets us fitter and offers exciting, shared activity in (mostly) safe surroundings; it also diverts our aggression, creates friendships and teaches us respect for others. In fact sports provide profound lessons for life - if we're willing to learn them!
The column has a highly localised flavour this week, pleasing for me as I can simply stroll around the various attractions outlined. My apologies to others less fortunate . . .
This week's colum took a rather morbid tone but, as in the Bonnie Raitt song ‘Nick of Time’, life grows more precious, the less you have left . . .
* * *
A rare journey out of Great Marton found me locked out with nowhere to go . . .
This week's column is posted a day later than usual as we didn't get back from a grand few days at Ilkley Tennis Tournament until yesterday evening . . .
I must have been feeling good and full of love for all mankind when penning this week's column (see below), then it started raining again . . .
Don't feel down if your summer weather isn't all it should ideally be, storms can be uplifting too!
This week's column, in the Gazette on Thursday, reads like a fogey's rant - but why not? We oldies have earned the right - and time's running out for our wise observations . . .
When not writing columns I used to edit pages and coming up with headlines could be a funny old game, as this week's Gazette column recalls.
HERE's this week's column published in Thursday's Gazette, so let's rock on!
IT was sad to hear of the famous Waterloo crown-green bowling ground (pictured artfully below), in South Shore, being at risk. I hope its supporters win their campaign for more control and funds.
NEWS used to be so important to me. There again, I was a newsman for 40-odd years, odd often being the operative word.
ANYONE for tennis – even in the rain or a gale?
This week's Thursday column from the Gazette calls for a clean-up on our streets and, as posted here, has a twist of controversy in its tail . . .
(Personally, I've given up on Brexit and will be voting Green every opportunity. Call it a protest vote, a plea for genuine ideals, or concern for our beautiful world . . . I might even glue myself to a bar stool.)
WHAT a wonderful week! Did winter pass us by? It seems like that late cold-snap forgot to hit us this year – fingers crossed!
THIS week's column was a bit of a plug for the latest book, but also thoughtful of those among us who suffer from invisible 'demons' which haunt them. We should all try to show more understanding and care.
WE seem to have a new, all-consuming hobby these days – attending medical appointments. If it's not me with some ailment then it's She Who Knows. I won't go into details, except to say we've had our share, thanks for nothing, of viruses plus unpleasant surprises.
WE may have been battered by gales and rain recently but there's a freshness of spring in the air on the Fylde these days and Easter, with its uplifting spirit of new life and hope, is now just a few weeks away.
GOOD news for local sports fans and a boost for our popular holiday coast (see pic below) . . .
SORRY, readers, a day late posting the column this week when the Cambridges, Kate and William, visited Blackpool. Sadly, it poured down but, as the Gazette proudly said, that didn't dampen high spirits on the day and Kate vowed to return - for a royal family holiday! Pictured below is the Comedy Carpet of comedians' catch phrases from the Promenade which the Duke and Duchess enjoyed.
THE subject of this week's column is still ringing in my ears . . .
A SPORTING memory of the Welsh 'dragon' took me back to the mid-1970s and my own mid-20s, partly spent languishing in rural Shropshire on the England/Wales border - as recalled in this week's column.
THIS week's column welcomes the new year . . . you'll see what I mean. Incidentally, outside the sun is shining here - just three weeks after writing our Home page about snow. Still, by March who knows?
MY Gazette column this week offers a personal but heartfelt viewpoint on our biggest political poser of the moment, delivered in a robust, sporting spirit . . .
THIS week's newspaper column was a bit of a rant. It also, incidentally, reminded me of some meals I ordered rather hopefully in Hong Kong canteens and restaurants when missing the taste of home. Sadly, I got only what I ordered back then, rather than what I expected: boiled eggs with toast came out as two cold, hard-boiled eggs and a slice of cold, unbuttered toast; roast chicken with vegetables turned out to be a whole roast chicken, with a few diced carrots and peas squeezed around the edge of my plate. Ah, the joys of travel!
HELLO readers, my apologies yet again - for posting this week's column a day late on Saturday. However, we're still suffering with colds here and I'm busy doing all our shopping, cooking, cleaning - and, of course, the writing. Anyway, here is this week's column - a starry-eyed, local yarn!
MY apologies to readers for posting this a couple of days late on Sunday. I've been struggling with the lurgi (my usual winter heavy cold at this time), which She Who Knows has kindly passed on to me. I hope to be fit for the funeral 'wake' mentioned below and to see other members of the Honourable Order (read on!).
I'M posting this week's column a day early, as we have an early start to our morning tomorrow . . .
ONE of the joys of Christmas has been getting together with old friends and former collleagues . . .
SORRY, a day late posting this week's column for you - pressure of Christmas parties and giftwrapping!
BIT of a rant, this week's Gazette column by yours truly. However, at the risk of sounding a fogey, I wanted to give a respectful cheer for that traditional British manner of reasonable reserve . . .
THIS week's column saw me wearing my civic awareness hat, supporting our local high streets. However, man doesn't live by bread alone . . .
A DAY late posting this week's column, my apologies - but I've been busy ordering Christmas gifts online. Next, though, I'll look round the high-street stores. We want to support our local shops.
BIRTHDAYS, ah, they're not what they used to be - and come round too quickly!
THIS week's column had a refreshing air of nostalgia but also reflected what's often sadly missing in modern, busy lifestyles - peace and quiet in natural surroundings.
MY recollections in this week's Gazette column were of past local attractions recently restored - always good to see. It's so tragic to witness our past being bulldozed for little gain.
wine bar with an old street lamp as a feature, however - says my contemporary source - the vaults were not really 'cosy'.)
THIS week's column springs from the same warm pool of thought and feeling which inspired our November post on this website's Home page. Here, the celebrations have only just begun . . . we say cheers to you, reader, too!
BIT of a rant from me, this week's Gazette column, but it made me feel better . . .
THIS week's Gazette column carried a similar message to this website's latest Home page post for October - a plug for the latest book.
THE political conference season has just drawn to a close in Britain but, in the future, there's a move to bring back the big party gatherings to Blackpool, where much investment is being undertaken. That all prompted a few vivid memories of the resort's glory days . . .
A MOBILE phone proved handy while away in North Wales (see Home page) but I'm still a texting novice, as admitted in this week's Gazette column.
NOW the kids have gone back to school, the weather has picked up and it's sunny outside. This is only right and just, since it gives all us adults, especially retired 'oldies', a chance to relax and enjoy outdoors again - without the clamour of children, bless 'em! Here's this week's column:
ALL that glitters is not gold and that's certainly true today when so much is false. What dazzles us most, it seems, is a mix of celebrity and glamour propped up, of course, by wealth.
This week's Gazette column was an echo of my latest Home page post of this website, though with a little different slant to each. It's food for thought, whatever you're taste is for . . .
JUST time before the summer season ends to squeeze in another tennis tale. Last week I commented on sepia pictures in this paper showing the game played on the Fylde during the last century. How smart everyone looked, fresh and sporting in 'whites'!
As the tennis season nears its end, the local paper took a trip down Memory Lane with pictures of veteran players from their hey days. What a pity they can't be coloured in, as is possible today, but remain black and white - unlike our rich memories . . .
I must have had a 'senior moment' last Friday, as I forgot entirely to put on that week's column to this page. Happily, I can now, therefore, offer this week's then last week's for your consideration. Both make reference to mother-in-law Wynne, who remains a remarkable conversationalist even as she attains great age.
This week's Gazette column was something of an update on last month's Home page post for this website and of a literary mode . . . with a frustrated dig all round at TV book adaptations!
This week's column seems a bit grumpy and fogey-like upon reading it again - my arthritis must be playing up!
Hopefully, they'll do better than ourselves . . .
A sporting theme to the column this week . . .
Incidentally, if you wish to read more of 'If' by Kipling, currently causing some controversy among British students - presumably as being 'sexist', there is an abridged version at item 28 on our Poem page.
This week we're welcoming a cheering development in our nation's high streets . . .
I AM a bit late putting this week's column on the page, sorry. Still, it is also rather similar to this month's post on our Home page. Forgive the plugs and I shall, of course, report back upon meeting Mister R.
We take our hearing and other senses much for granted - until we lose them, if only temporarily. At the moment I'm still taking ear drops and half-deaf. It truly hinders one's social pleasures.
'ONE is nearer God's heart in a garden than anywhere else of earth', so the popular adage goes. The poem was originally found written in a visitor's book at a stately home.
Late again putting this week's column on the website - must be another senior moment, though I have been busy tidying up the gardens after a freak gale. As promised, this week I was putting the boot in - to the World Cup. Just joking, of course, for you real fans . . .
This week's column is appearing here a day late, with my apologies. I was savouring a cup of tea yesterday in the garden. Next week we'll be kicking around the World Cup, not a particularly welcome event at Edmonds Towers!
In this week's column we salute a real Lancashireman, proud of the county where 'women die for love' - though that's another story!
I'M going to write this week about 'Wills' but, don't worry, this has nothing to do with Saturday's royal wedding.
WHAT a sunny bank-holiday we enjoyed! With the garden at Edmonds Towers tidied, its furniture set up and annuals planted, we've also enjoyed some outdoor events. At least, we did when people stopped rudely getting in our way!
A case of momento mori here, as spring heralds new life - but don't be downhearted . . .
Rather late putting this column on this page - I've been waiting for the sunshine to return to our coast!
SINCE my April post (see Home page) the weather has at last picked up, along with our spirits . . .
NOT long ago an old friend asked why I sometimes attended church. His own life is now marred by ill health, but it didn't seem the time or place for religious debate. I just said, "Because I'd rather believe in something rather than nothing." However, afterwards, it occurred to me a more honest answer would be simply, "It makes life happier." Of course, it can also encourage good intentions. Besides, is there an alternative explanation nearly as uplifting?
This week's column took a mixed view of so-called smart phones and their use . . .
A LOOK back this week to nostalgia days of some landmark, local pubs - and curry houses for afters.
Dining out can be a hit and miss experience, as this week's column indicated - with apologies to all stressed-out, young mums . . .
THIS week's column gave a plug to a couple of local musicians. We all knew rock stars liked a drink, along with sex and drugs, but it was a surprise to learn how boozy proper musicians were - those who wear dinner suits and play in orchestras. I remember a session on Boddingtons with a couple of them one lunchtime in Wilmslow, Cheshire, with a rugby mate. We downed 10 pints each in under two hours, before meeting girlfriends. Also, in infamous Cox's Bar, formerly by Manchester's old Free Trade Hall, you couldn't get served in mid-evening although the place was empty except for its braying mynah bird. Two barmaids were fully occupied pulling pints of ale. Then double doors from a back street connecting with the hall would fly open, as a thirsty Halle Orchestra burst in for their interval refreshment. Here's the column . . .
AS I began writing this column earlier in the week there was a late fall of snow, giving everywhere a winter charm. It came as signs of spring were also appearing, with snowdrops and crocuses, bringing two seasons in one!
This is a bit of a rant over modern trends which, my friend Harry says, will pass - but I'm not so sure.
IN the 'old days' of my younger years, sorting out your bins was easy. You just tipped the stuff in, whatever it was you didn't want and couldn't sell or even give away, then the 'bin men' would come along and empty it. You didn't have to even put them out on the street yourself, though the bin men would also appear at your door close to Christmas and woe betide you if they didn't get a tip. Nowadays we are obliged to recycle our waste and, I suppose, rightly so. However, it can lead to tedious procedures . . .
EVERTYTHING in the garden is rosy and there's a hint of spring in the air.
(Note: I include below two weeks columns about my amusing dancing acquaitance named Harry, since the earlier one humbles the ego of columnists. Harry, incidentally, is surnamed Crooks and is a retired council bricklayer, who turned his hands to many other things. These were all legal, though it seems a shame there was never a family firm, such as Crooks Ltd. or Crooks & Sons. Curiously, Harry's dad, who also sounded a real character and, as far as I know, was also reasonably law-abiding and a joker, once told Harry when he was approaching adulthood, "I'll tell you something now, son, which could make you rich. You just have to remember three little words and you'll always have money - 'Stick 'em up!'")