Had a great time in North Yorkshire recently. The weather was mostly kind to us and enjoyed revisiting old haunts and meeting up with the folks.
It's been a while since we were last here and I did experience a few pangs of homesickness when feeling the old sea breeze (or was it just too many mushy peas?). I'll let the pictures speak for themselves.
Had a very lovely day at Blenheim Palace with Mrs C today to celebrate her birthday. For the first time we decided to go into the palace for a bit of culture.
It was a lovely sunny morning and we were amongst the first visitors so we went up to the first floor ( as advised by the plummy lady at the door - I thought it might be her house) where they had an interactive exhibit.
We walked into a dimly lit room which was like something from a Jane Austen costume drama and as the door closed automatically behind us, figures started to move and hologramic images started to talk. We then walked through to a number of rooms as the story of the Palace moved through the ages. It was a brilliant display and very interesting to see although I wonder if it would have been compromised if we were sharing with a crowd of other tourists.
Winston Churchill was quite a good paintist I learned as we saw some of his artwork displayed around the place. Seems he was rubbish at school but it would appear that a credible career in the army (oh, plus a great deal of nepotism) saw him carve out a name for himself in politics. A nice cup of coffee and cake was had before a quick browse around nearby Woodstock to check out the nice shops.
Despite the delays at the airport and a seemingly endless coach journey at the other end we finally arrived in Alcudia to start our much needed holiday.
Despite having to hit KFC at midnight due to extreme hunger and then avoid a crowd of less-than-sober ladies staggering from Lineker's Bar in their matching 'Shiela is 50' t-shirts, we awoke the next morning to discover a beautiful hotel in a great town with views of the sea down the road and mountains all around. The hotel was very quiet, meaning no need for towel antics to reserve sun loungers by the pool and the weather was mostly kind to us. I have to admit that the pool was pretty cold (it reduced me to pre-pubescent dimensions if you catch my drift) but it was great to have so much space to ourselves. We had an apartment with a kitchen so we could please ourselves and there was a small supermarket on site. All in all it was a pretty good place to stay.
There is a very nice old quarter in Alcudia and Mrs C had great fun haggling with the handbag sellers at the Market there. Not sure they enjoyed it so much though. She is a pretty mean haggler!
We had good fun in the hotel bar where the extended Cheese family came out tops in the Pop Quiz for 2 nights running (our rivals were a large table of Danes - fortunately it was all good natured and no Viking tactics were adopted). On another night I ended up well and truly embarrased as I was picked out and had to sing along with the Abba tribute band! Fortunately I avoided further embarrassment when the subsequent karaoke event was postponed due to the Barcelona v Copenhagen game which I watched with great relief. Although it sounds rather Pontins it was all good fun and the 2 Scandinavian reps who were in the last week of their season were very laid back and low key.
We also took a little trip (7 in a 5 seat taxi!) to neighbouring Pollenca which is a beautiful seaside town nestling beneath a backdrop of mountains with plenty of bars and eateries and despite the cold we managed to get our toes in the water!
So all in all it was a great week, and hopefully the 4 Cheeses all felt the benefit of a summer(ish) holiday together. I'm certain that Mrs C had a nice relaxing time away and big thanks go to the Lincolnshire Cheesies for being there and arranging things for us.
Well, thought I'd pen a word or two as I wait frustratingly in the hell hole that is Luton airport for news of our delayed flight. After the second lap of the over priced duty free shops looking at things we don't need and bumping into overstuffed cabin bags left in aisles by overstuffed passengers I'm starting to fray at the edges a bit.
Still, thoughts of a cold cerveza tonight are keeping me going. What time do the bars shut in Spain?
On Saturday we decided to head to the beach for a little R&R as it was a nice day. We headed for Hastings which as we recently rediscovered has had a bit of mini-Renaissance of late with just the right amount of new shops and businesses to make it appealing without the over-development.
That plus the fact that it has a permanent funfair, crazy golf ( with water jets!), good fish & chips and money-wasters (amusements) means it appeals to all the Cheeses.
There seemed to be a lot of pirates in town. I liked the way nobody turned a blind eye (pardon the pun) as they strolled about the High Street.
We discovered late in the day that there was an Open Studio day taking place so we quickly decided to high tail it to the beach to view a number of studios which had been set up in beach huts.
There were a number of painters, sculptors and fabric designers who had thrown open the doors of their huts. With the good weather, some were making a real occasion of it and had the Pimms out and a barbie going.
I don't think these are working studios - just stage sets, but they created a good vibe down on the beach.
This all managed to fit in with the shabby-chic feeling of Hastings and was a great way to end the day.
Now we have been in this house for precisely 3 years we were desperate to rid ourselves of yesterpeoples 'orrid green carpet that we have enduredin our sitting room.
Without any spare cash we decided we would remove said carpet and, if everything was ok underneath, we would sand and stain the boards as an interim measure.
What joy as we discovered a set of pretty decent floorboards underneath, most still untouched by bodgers and with original tongue and groove joints. However as I worked my way across the room, our joy became short lived as I discovered the boards came to a sudden end. Unfortunately, one third of the floor is concrete - and not even nice concrete at that as patches of the previous tiled floor show through in places.
So we will have to live with this for a bit and try and paint over this area to blend in as best as possible. Got any spare green carpet anyone?
My old stomping ground was featured on the news yesterday when it was revealed in a survey that public sector cuts would threaten employment in Middlesbrough more than any other place in England.
Apparently, some 43% of the workforce is employed within the public sector with a particular emphasis towards education and healthcare. This leaning towards public sector employment is said to contrast with a lack of private sector opportunities (Unbelievably, quoted figures of less than 200 private sector jobs created in a decade versus 13,000 public sector I find very hard to swallow).
Of course we all hear of an area that was once reliant on heavy industry and has had to turn to government handouts to create jobs but this is a simplistic view and is often spouted by many in more comfortable positions as a reason for a lack of entrepreneurship and job creation in the town. But opportunity is created in a burgeoning economy where ready access to funds and an eager market exists. Apart from a supply of ready-labour what conditions does industrial decline provide for those looking to start a new business? Many businesses exist to supply goods or services to other businesses, thus their futures are dependant upon the fortunes of their clients. Hence the reason for setting up regional 'government' development agencies such as One North East to act as powerful levers to attract new investment into the area and thus employment and opportunity (to be abolished by the new government soon).
But all too often this allocation of funds is seen by some as 'robbing the rich to feed the poor' and in the case of one caller to Radio 2's Jeremy Vine show yesterday such handouts are the reason for not getting off 'lazy Northern backsides' and a culture of reliance on state aid.
I think it fair to dismiss such attitudes as sweeping generalisms. After all we are talking about an area that provided resources for such giants as ICI and British Steel to grow into massive global players and as well as one of the biggest seaports in the country still remains one of the most important oil refinery/ exporting areas in the world. It is still, to the eye, an industrial powerhouse (but without the smog I'm pleased to say) but plainly employs far fewer people these days than in decades gone by. It is estimated that a net 100,000 jobs have been lost in the area since 1970. Most of these job-losses would have been unskilled or semi-skilled and happened in enormous tranches with a obvious devastating impact upon the local economy, so plainly to expect people to simply start up a new business if they can't find work elsewhere is unrealistic.
What is plain to me is that an area that has been exploited for its vast natural resources to the benefit of the nation and expanded rapidly as a result of the need for cheap and willing labour should not be condemned when remote decision-makers take jobs away en masse. Middlesbrough exists because its people supplied the country and the world with the raw materials it needed, creating wealth in turn. The name of Middlesbrough is stamped indelibly on the steel that makes up the Sydney harbour bridge for example.
The area has faced crisis before and has met this challenge head on. The people, if given a chance, willingly turn their hand to new enterprise. The construction of massive oil & gas rigs in the last decade and the rise of renewable energy technologies are a few examples.
We are a hardy & resilient bunch, self-deprecating and sometimes overly-cynical, but then we would be when faced with ill-judged and poorly-perceived attitudes from other parts of the country. It is rising above challenging situations like this that give a place and its people their character.
Tomorrow is a reasonably significant date in my life, being that I emerged, stretched and bawled for the first, but definitely not the last, time in an antiquated ward in a north-eastern hospital forty-five earth-years ago.
Many people are able to recall a list of notable happenings and dignitaries who share their significant date and I decided that perhaps I needed to look into this more deeply as the only thing I recalled was the unfortunate death of Steve 'Strewth' Irwin from an unfortunate encounter with a stingray a few years back.
So without further ado, I unashamedly list the following notable events and people with whom I share the 4th September for the reasons given below. I must admit that it hardly sets the world alight but, hey!
1870 - Emperor Napoleon III is deposed
1884 - The British Government ends its policy of penal transportation to Australia
1907 - Edvard Grieg, Norwegian composer dies
1913 - Mickey Cohen, 'Jewish Mafia' LA gangster is born
1944 - Antwerp is liberated by British forces
1949 - Golfer Tom Watson is born in Kansas City
1951 - Harry S Truman makes first Pan-American TV Broadcast!
1964 - The Queen opens the Forth Road Bridge
1970 - Ione Skye, actress daughter of Donovan is born (no, I don't remember her either)
1972 - Mark Spitz wins his 7th swimming Gold Medal at the Munich Olympics
1975 - DJ/ Producer Mark Ronson is born!
1977 - San Francisco Golden Dragon Massacre takes place in a restaurant in Chinatown. (I have a feeling that this restaurant, now thankfully closed, also massacred Mrs C's credit card when we visited some years ago!)
1988 - Google Inc is founded by Larry Page and Sergey Brin (ironically in a garage)
So not quite an illustrious list. I have cherry picked some of the better entries! It did seem to be a popular date for births of basketball players and obscure Asian singers (MC Mong anyone?)
My favourite though has to be in the USA, on September 4th each year as National Newspaper Carrier Day is celebrated up and down the land!! Go Paperboy!!
When the kids were smaller we used to smile every time they said something that didn't quite come out correctly. Some of these words became quite endearing and ended up being part of our daily dictionary, like the following examples;
Toggler - small child Ude a boon - use a spoon Babbie - muslin square Sheshun - medicine Cowpull - a type of children's sheshun Filou bilou - small children's yoghurt Chicken jam - gravy Salt & vanilleger - unusual crisp flavour.
Now they are older I find myself stuck in the middle, deciding whether to correct their attempts ( and thus confiine any mis- pronunciations to the archives) or allowing them to continue with their errors to keep us contented (thus risking eternal embarrassment should they say such things in front of their teachers or mates).
I know what the kids would prefer us to do, but it always feels like the end of an era when a favourite word or expression no longer enters the conversation.
Perhaps, for the sake of it, I will keep on using these favourite expressions until they catch on everywhere. After all 'wicked' and 'bling' started off somewhere.
Just back from a great week away courtesy of our very good friends who let us use their places in Norfolk.
As Mrs C is now on her way to hospital to start the radiotherapy marathon, we felt it necessary to give ourselves and the cheeselets a bit of a break, so this was ideal.
So we spent time in the country in the Fens and also at the seaside which was just what the Doc ordered. Our chips and ice-cream levels are running just above normal and we have slightly low levels of 2p's. The weather was very kind to us too so we are very grateful to our kind friends for this fantastic week!
Although work is sporadic at times at least it varies.
Working for a famous DIY retailer last week I was pleased to be asked to do something completely different as I was led to the basement area in the deserted part of the building.
Although slightly concerned that I was going to be abandoned for no apparent reason, I was asked to do some merchandising. Basically it was stacking empty paint tins in accordance with a planogram. At least it got me out from behind a desk!
Hey, do you like my latest acquisition, courtesy of Mrs C and SheBay? It's a state of the art map system in a handy portable case which can call up any extract in a matter of a few seconds simply by pressing 2 buttons.
Oh, what do you mean GPS does that? This was state of the art back in the 60's............
Sitting in the hospital again with Mrs C who is just having the final dose of chemo. She is reclining in the blue chair while the poison is being slowly dripped into her arm.
It's hard to believe that we have been coming here for nearly 4 months. However it has been quite an ordeal ( to say the least) and I'm sure it has felt like 4 years at times to Mrs C.
Always the trooper, she is flicking through old Hello magazines and her thoughts as ever are about others. Despite all she is going through she is wondering if she has brought enough chocolates for the nursing staff.
It is not all over yet - there will be plenty of pain and discomfort over the next few days/ weeks and there is the daily radiotherapy to come in a few weeks time.
But despite all this, Mrs C continues to have a laugh with the nurses here and I know that she will continue to keep smiling as she battles with this terrible disease.
Always one to keep an eye on the old homeland, I was really thrilled to hear about a new art project called the Tees Valley Giants which promised 5 stunning pieces of sculpture which would be commissioned by world-class artists.
The first of these, Temenos, has been completed and is sited over the old dock area. Designed by Anish Kapoor it was conceived as 'something huge, ephemeral and mysterious' to suit the industrial landscape it sits within.
It is longer than a jumbo jet and as tall as Nelson's column so certainly meets the criteria in terms of scale, yet I can't help feeling that somehow the finished article misses the mark and appears somewhat lightweight and whimsical, almost a child's plaything compared with the scale of the site and the industrial and steel-making heritage of the region.
Seeing is believing however and I look forward to the chance to see it in the flesh next time I am Oop North.
Staggered to see that I have not added anything to the ol' blog for a while (indeed haven't even looked at it for a while), so felt the compulsion to write (something....anything!!!)
Seems that about 66% or 2.7million blogs get abandoned after a few months so I was determined not to fall into that category (yet).
In light of this, and in order to demonstrate that this site hasn't flatlined I have given it a refresh with new blue-sky background etc etc. I will probably get sick of this in a few days - fortunately technology allows a simple rethink with no lasting effects so it may change again.
Reflecting on why I haven't added to the blog for so long I can only lay blame on a combination of factors - regular commuting to 'Arrow, domestic furniture (re)arrangements....oh and a minor sporting occasion in South Africa. Sad to see Ghana lose last night - they were my wildcard bet to get to the final. At least I won't have to feel so insigificant anymore when considering my flabby white moobs after seeing their toned, athletic torsoes.
At least when the new footy season kicks off in England I won't experience such low self esteem. My Club manager has done his best to fill the team with pasty-faced, skinny Scots who look like they live on a diet of deep- fried pasta and would get sunburn if you switched on a light bulb.
Had a very football-centric weekend. Now as you know I love football (however I haven't yet stooped wear the face paint or to put Engerland flags on the motor) but at one point I could have given up watching the game altogether.
It wasn't the much discussed incident on Saturday night when Robert Green stooped to save a worm that the big nasty ball was about to squash, although that was a pretty incredulous moment, watched by the Cheese family amidst the noisy surroundings of the scout hall, generously hosted by the coaches of young Mr Cheese's football team.
Neither was it the diet of back to back games over the weekend coupled with fantasy football talk and wallchart filling-in as football crazy Uncle C came to stay.
No. It came as I watched a 6-a side football tournament on Sunday as young Mr C's team took on superior opposition in an all-comers competition in town. I vaguely recall a faint cry of 'heads' as a vigourous 30 yard shot on the pitch behind me flew over the crossbar and hit me square in the back of the head!
I managed to maintain my composure and not fall to my knees but the force of the shot was up in the 'did you spill my pint' stakes. The ringing in my ears stopped fairly soon, but gradually a stiffening of neck muscles occurred and I realised as I tried to get out of bed on Monday morning that I had probably undergone whiplash.
Fortunately a breakfast of ibuprofen seems to have done the trick and no lasting damage other than a slightly stiff neck. I know there has been a huge debate in the World Cup about the newly designed Jabulani ball, but I think that the media focus needs to be on the under-11 game and the new concrete ball they are using.
Obviously it is that time again and in order to help the uninitiated to understand this global festival of football I thought I would pen a few little pointers to aid your viewing pleasure:
Imagine you are in a packed pub with a queue at the bar. You are standing behind a tall lad at the front when you realise you don't have your wallet. In desperation you call out to your mate who is standing 3 or 4 people further back. He agrees he will chuck you his wallet to get the drinks in. Now there are a few people in between you and him so you know he is going to have to lob this one quite high. To make sure you get it he throws it long into space so you dash in front of the tall lad at the front to grab it. Great, now you can get the drinks in.......only, no you can't because you pushed in front of the person at the front of the queue.
Right - that's offside explained.
No, he's not really hurt, he's Argentinian and the rolling around is a cultural thing.
The Koreans are invited because we like to laugh at commentators attempts to say their names
We don't actually WANT a penalty shoot-out, it just happens.
When they look for penalty takers, its not just 'bottle' we need but the ability to kick a ball. Ledley, sit down...
Out of hospital mid-week, Mrs C and I decided that we needed to get away from it all and our lovely friend Mrs B of Bromley offered us the use of her holiday house in Rye, Sussex.
So we have just had a very nice few days down there, staying in her lovely cottage right in the middle of town. For those that haven't visited before, Rye is one of those historic little port towns that were probably one of the 'major conurbations' of the 17th century. Unfortunately a receding sea put paid to any growth plans which is good news for us today. The walled town is a maze of cobbled alleyways and gardens, with medieval meets georgian buildings and enough olde worlde sweete shoppes to keep our 2 happy.
Look carefully - you can see Sarah Jessica Parker.
We managed to time this with a period of fantastic weather so that it felt like a mini holiday. We had a great afternoon on the beach at Camber and a day at Hastings where we met our good friend Andrew who has a fantastic wholefood cafe http://www.landofgreenginger.org/.
It has been a few years since I have been to Hastings but I have to say it is a great little town. There are a number of good independent shops, lifestyle, antiques, knicks, knacks etc. The kids loved the fishing museum (how did they get that boat in there) and also the seafront funfair which was surprisingly inexpensive. Wish I could say the same about the Crazy Golf, but it did have talking totem poles that squirted you after insulting your putting ability. Sure, it is tattoo and chips but I like the honesty of the place. It was swarming with French tourists and school children too - perhaps checking out what their Norman cousins have done with the place.
So thanks Mrs B - we had a great time and Mrs C is feeling a good deal better. We didn't trash your beautiful cottage too much and we hope we have managed to put all your knicks and knacks back in the right places.
We don't normally make plans to go away during Bank Holiday weekends. Memories of motorway holdups and sheltering on rain-swept promenades usually put paid to any getaway thoughts.
However we would jump at the chance to get away from it all right now. Yesterday, Mrs C was feeling so downright lousy that I thought it best we call the hospital where she is receiving Chemo for advice. They asked us to come in so they could examine her and run some tests. They have decided that it is best for her to stay in so that they can adminster treatment.
It seems that she is suffering from a condition called neutropenia which is nothing to do with shampoo but is a problem with her White blood cells. She has got an infection so needs intravenous antibiotics as well as fluids and pain relief. She will probably be there until Monday at least.
Luckily for us the Cheeselets are blissfully unaware as our kind rellies have come down from t' north to take them into London for a weekend of Hamleys and Nandos. I know they would have been upset to see their Mum in such distress and it would have been hard on them as we spend time in the hospital.
Here's hoping that Mrs C will make a quick recovery. Maybe we can take our Bank Holiday weekend next week and get some much needed time away.
We had a few unseasonal hot days down here this week, which was very nice thank you (normal service has now resumed).
As predictable as melting tarmac when this occurs, we were once again treated to the usual shoddy newspaper journalism. Cue a picture of a very busy Brighton Beach. Cue a couple of 'lovelies' in bikinis and sunnies. And of course, the very predictable and well worn headline of 'hotter than the Med'.
If the sole purpose of these articles is to give you something bleeding obvious to say to your neighbour/ colleague/ milkman etc (coo, isn't it hot) then why not go the whole hog and develop a full series of plainly pointless soundbites to kill off the art of conversation altogether. I give you:
Monday 'Ooh, don't people drive fast nowadays'
Tuesday ' Bah, there's nothing on but repeats'
Wednesday 'Eugh, don't they wear funny clothes today'
Thursday 'Gosh, aren't eggs expensive'
Friday 'Damn, the roads are getting worse'
Saturday (Weekend supplement) 'Well, it might brighten up later'
Its a bank holiday this weekend so they might as well start writing now........M5 traffic chaos, doom gloom....
EDITED SPECIALLY FOR LEESIE
Cameron & Clegg decide on a strategy to appeal to disaffected voters. So they don 'civvies' and decide to pop into a 'normal' pub for a drink with the locals. For good measure they take David Cameron's spaniel with them to demonstrate their 'everyman' credentials.
While they order 2 pints of bitter shandy, a chap walks into the bar and, on seeing the dog, comes up and looks at its back end. Then he wanders off.
Standing, nodding to the non-plussed regulars, C & C notice another chap walk in. Again he goes up to the dog and has a good look at its rear end.
Cameron & Clegg are slightly confused by this but decide it must be 'normal' behaviour. When the barman appears Cameron asks if this is a sort of 'blokish custom'.
'No' says the barman. 'Its just that they have heard that there is a dog in the bar with 2 arseholes'.
Although a very serious subject, I was quite amused by the letter left by Liam Byrne ex-Treasury secretary to the incoming David Laws (lettergate!)
This seems like quite a 'normal' thing to do when you have been displaced from your job, 'friendly' even. It apparently has precedent, James Callaghan getting a letter in 1964 from the outgoing Tories saying 'good luck old cock....sorry to leave it in such a mess'.
Other less friendly things to have done:
1. Block up all the staplers
2. Take the castors off the chairs
3. Take all the lightbulbs
4. Leave crumbs in all the keyboards
5. Hide the keys to all the cupboards
6. Put something nice behind the radiators - a dog turd perhaps?
I'm sure there are plenty of other ways to greet the new administration in a welcoming way.
By the way, I would love there to be some political issue concerning a scandal around a garden gate - just to see someone try to label this 'Gate-gate'.
On 23rd May my mate Ian is insanely riding a bike from London to Chamonix in the French Alps - a distance of some 600 miles (with a sharply rising gradient!) . This is to raise money for a cancer care charity http://www.ucare-oxford.org.uk/, which Ian recently had cause to visit.
Now I'm sure he won't mind me saying that he wasn't exactly built for spending days in the saddle so this is an incredibly ambitious objective. However I note that with an intensive training regime he is already a leaner version of himself and I am certain he can do this in the 6 days he has targeted.
If you want to learn more and support Ian's endeavours, here are the relevant links:
Mrs C is home again after another (long) day at hospital receiving her 3rd Chemo. The process is not so much painful, more uncomfortable - knowing it involves a lot of waiting around and the anxiety around knowingly poisoning yourself.
As with the last treatment she is feeling even more tired (it seems to be building up), and is now feeling very sick. However she was able to have a nice meal before this started - courtesy of Mrs R who left a nice fish pie on the doorstep for when we got home. Many thanks!!
This morning we went to our other favourite hospital so that the nurse could redress the surgery wound which is still not healed and is painful - on balance, probably as bad as the chemo.
On Wednesday I had to drop off the car in Luton and wait around for a service to be done. I can definitely state after three days in waiting rooms that the chairs in Mount Vernon hospital are softer on the backside.
Happy St Georges Day!!
Apparently, being English and too reserved/ cynical we don't celebrate our saint's day enough. Could this be because we have some difficulty associating with our saint (apparently a Roman soldier) and the fact that he is shared with so many other countries (Ethiopia, Greece, Georgia, Palestine etc). Or the fact that as a dragon slayer he has no real sense of purpose for us any more (the dragons have all gone or are living in a commune in Snowdonia).
Therefore I propose that we reinvent St Georges day and attempt to Anglicise our saint with a more personable and representative figure. Here are a few ideas:
George (without Mildred - dragon slayed??)
George Harrison - Noble knight with saintly hairdo (one of 4 apostles)
George Formby - English minstrel
For me - George Cole probably tips it - English gentleman and merchant. Honest, upright, earnest and purveyor of nice watches.