It’s halloween again, time to unplug the doorbell…..

 

And so once again halloween rolls around. You didn't see a lot of trick or treaters in the area where I grew up because it was a bit posh and very very Jewish so imagine my surprise when I moved to the decidedly not posh or Jewish estate I'm on now. The first year we were there we anticipated a couple of trick or treaters so had bought a pack of mini chocolate bars. Sweet Jesus, it was like Euston Station at rush hour. By 8pm we were sitting in the dark behind the sofa, having run out of sweets, cash and inexpensive cosmetics which we'd started handing out to miniature witches that arrived at the door. The dog had lost it's voice from shouting at the doorbell.

Last year I was more prepared, the house was groaning with sweets and the dog was at my parents' for the evening. This plan worked well up until about 8pm. 8pm, it seems, is not so much the 'witching hour' as the 'chavving hour'.  This was the point at which the cute little kids in homemade halloween outfits were replaced by 6ft shaven headed youths in pairs or trios who are really not interested in a fun sized Mars Bar. Obviously you can cover more ground if the gang splits up and halloween is the one night of the year that the police don't class knocking on someone's door and intimidating them into handing over money as 'demanding cash with menaces'.  They don't even bother to make an effort either, exactly which horror film featured a bad guy whose outfit consisted of a Kappa tracksuit, Rockport boots and a Tesco carrier bag with eyeholes cut out of it on its head? That's just bloody lazy.

By 9.00pm I only had 2 quid left so when the hairy-palmed lobotomy victim in a tracksuit rang the doorbell and demanded "Trick or fuckin' treat" that's what I gave him. He gave the 2 pound coins an incredulous glance, "Is that it, you tight bitch?" he says. What the fuck were you expecting you ungrateful little scrote? My credit card and pin number? My car keys? A £50 note? Now sod off before I lose my temper and set fire to your polyester trousers. His one functioning brain cell obviously registered my titanic struggle to rein in my fury and he legged it. With my two quid I might add.

So this year I'm trying a new plan. I'll stay in the house until the kids from down my street who chat to me and the dog as we go to and fro have been round. I know they are trick and treating because they collared me yesterday to tell me that I had to be in to see their costumes. I have alerted them that I'll be going to the pub at 7pm so they'll be round by then. Once I've seen them I will sellotape up the letterbox, pack the dog into the car, drop him at my parent's house and head for the pub. No doorbells, no chavs, no handing over all the cash in the house to some ungrateful little bugger who wants to raise the money to buy some cans of Stella and 20 Rothmans, just vodka, chat and a taxi home. And then tomorrow I can clean the eggs off the front windows. Sigh.  

 

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More of life’s little irritations….

Oooh, just realised I haven't written anything here for ages. The simple reason for that is I've been mad busy dealing with life, learning and trying not to get pissed off with the little things that go wrong. Things that have ground my gears this week include:

The inhabitants of Harrogate.

Now I apologise if you live in Harrogate and are not a pretentious arsehole but if that does apply to you I suspect you might be in a minority. This weekend I went on a hen do to Harrogate. It was my friend Sarah's and given that she is a very sensible lass and a lot of her friends are also very sensible lasses I did not expect it to be the loudest and lairiest hen do ever. I was not wrong. The dress code was little black dresses for the evening, no veils, L-plates, furry horns or flashing boobs. Not a one. No stripping, flashing, loud swearing, falling over in the street, singing songs learned from the women's rugby team or the alternative version of Robbie William's 'Angels'. In short, nothing that could get you arrested or slapped with an ASBO. Despite this, the mere fact of 13 girls being together in one spot armed with a glass of lightly chilled chablis proved to be too much for some of the residents of Harrogate. There was the middle aged couple who slammed their forks down in disgust, got up and left the restaurant with their meal only half eaten as we were seated at a table next to them, there was the couple with the child who summoned the waiter and yelled loudly that had they know we were going to be in the restaurant they would never have booked a table. Yes, well, if you don't want to see other people while you're having food, why not fucking well stay home? Then there was the pair of girls who, while Sarah and I were standing outside chatting, proceeded to very obviously look us up and down and begin bitching about our dresses. Listen bint, if you looke dlike you knew the first thing about dressing yourself I might be concerned by your disgust but since you appear to have taken style tips from Cherie Blair and done your makeup in the dark I'm not really concerned. So you might as well fuck off and pick on someone else you stuck up tart. Harrogate is a very pretty place and has some lovely points however its residents and its parking are not two of them.

Diploma

When my boss suggested that I do a professional diploma I thought it would be a nice doss. A day off each week to go to college and a couple of assignments to do. I may have made a slight miscalculation. I don't finish till 8.30pm on a monday now and I have 3 assignments to be in by 24th November. I didn't even manage to achieve that much work in that time frame while at uni and all I had to do on a daily basis there was get up. Sometimes I didn't even do that. How in the wide world of sport am I meant to do all that? I have accidentally let myself in for a mental amount of work for the next 12 months. I am officially an idiot.

Wardrobes

We've had new wardrobes fitted. They are lovely. Unfortunately in order to get the wardrobes fitted we have had to move all the miscellaneous crap from under the bed and in the old wardrobe to the spare room and the bathroom. This has led to interesting situations like having to move the stack of shoe racks in order to have a piss, my makeup living in the sink and having to be moved everytime you want to wash your hands, the drying rack taking up residence in the living room, the spare room being quite literally piled shoulder height with shite and thanks to the sodding diploma, me having NO TIME to sort it all out. My house is quite literally a complete and utter shithole and I've no idea where to begin sorting it out.

Still, I suppose it could be worse, I could live in Harrogate. And I have learned how to make a Vodka Sunrise so it hasn't been all bad this week.  

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Trains – bloody ridiculous.

If our government want to get people out of cars and onto public transport then they are going to have to look at the utter ridiculousness that is Britain's public transport system. I've tried buses, an experiment that led to a 14 hour journey between Manchester and Inverness which included such highlights as an hour standing in the sleet at Preston waiting for a bus to replace the one which had just broken down, a 3 hours trip on a freezing cold, buttock-crunching, ancient, crap-wagon from Preston to Glasow and another hours wait at Perth because thanks to all the previous delays the bus company didn't have a driver who hadn't exceeded his legal driving hours. What fun. So when my other half and I decided to go and visit my brother in London we thought we'd take the train. My last experience of the train from London hadn't been that great, thanks to a drunken eejit with serious personal hygiene issues and a salami sandwich. I smiled at him as he sat down, his reply was "I wouldn't be smiling if I was you, I fucking stink, I haven't had a wash in nearly two weeks". Turns out he wasn't joking. Still, I thought, if the other half is with me then I own't have to sit next to a stinking freak because I'll be sat next to him. First I attempted to buy us both a return ticket. I went through the stages on the website and then I got the the 'check prices and availability' page which looked like this:

 

 

If you look carefully you will see that yes, the figure at the bottom is £752.  That is approx $1310 for anyone in the US. It's only 180 miles there and 180 miles back. Silly me, I must have accidentally hit the "I would like to buy the entire train" button. Then I noticed the button at the bottom that said "2 singles might be cheaper". I'd bloody well hope hope so.  So I go through the whole process again for singles. The way out on Friday, fine, train at half ten, gets in at 1pm and will cost us £13. Brilliant.

I should have guessed it was all going too smoothly.

Turns out that thanks to the work on the West Coast mainline that has been going on as long as I can remember, the search for the Holy Grail was both easier and more likely to prove fruitful than attempting to travel anywhere by rail on a Sunday. After many attempts, the only think I had managed to find was a train that left London at 6.20 in the morning, cost £60 each and involved 2 changes. Sod that for a game of soldiers. So I decided to ring the helpline.

"Hello, this is Virgin Trains and this is an automated, voice activated system". Fuck. Oh well, we'll give it a go.

"Please state clearly which station you wish to travel from and to". London Euston to Manchester.

"You said Eurostar to Manchester. Please say yes if this is correct". No I bloody didn't. "NO".

"Please state clearly which station you wish to travel from and to". London to Manchester.

"You said London Euston to Manchester. Please say yes if this is correct". Hallelujah. "Yes".

" There is a train at oh six twenty hours. If you would like to hear a later train please say 'later'". Jesus. "Later"

"There is a train on Monday the 8th at oh six twenty hours. If you would like….." Oh for fuck's sakes, there cannot possibly just be one train from London to Manchester, running at stupid o'clock on a Sunday. Surely there must be an operative somewhere I can speak to.

So I decided to try the National Rail Enquiries because although it's donkeys years since I rang them I distinctly remember them being very helpful. Unfortunately in the 8 years or so since I last required assistence on train times and stations, National Rail Enquiries have outsourced their call centre to somewhere exotic. 

"Hello, this is National Rail Enquiries and my name is Sunny. Please be telling me what station you are travelling to and from?" London Euston to Manchester, sometime after Midday please.

"There is one at six twenty" Well yes, I know but that's too early, is there anything in the afternoon?

"Hmmmmm…..there's one at 7 in the evening". Well it's not really afternoon, is there anything in the afternoon?

"I give you two trains, one early one not early. You want more trains?" No, I'm rapidly realising that I don't want any damned trains because they are just one big, cruel, joke designed to piss on my afternoon.

"I not understanding. You say again." (sigh) Never mind. What time does the 7 in the evening train get into Manchester?

"Has 3 changes, get into Manchester 5 in the morning." Pardon? I think I may have misheard you.

"Has 3 changes, get into Manchester 5 in the morning. You want book this train?" Oddly enough, no.

In a singsong voice, very fast  "Ok, thank you for ringing National Rail Enquiries enjoy your journey be having a nice day bye bye "

So we're getting the bus back. It'll cost us £8 each and will allegedly take 4 and a half hours. We'll see. Why in the name of god can we not run a decent train service in this country? Every where else manages to run a train 180 miles on a daily basis for less than the price of a small family car and in less time than it takes to cross Russia, why can't we? "Get out of your car and onto public transport"? Ha, not bloody likely.

 

 

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Financial Musings

I listen to the radio and I read the papers. Sometimes I even watch the ten o'clock news so yes, I get it, the money situation is not good. In fact it would be fair to say that a number of major Western economies are really pretty much fucked. I don't pretend to know the ins and outs of it all because to be honest, what I know about economics could be written on the back of a postage stamp, still leaving enough space to lick and stick but I do grasp that things have gone monumentally tits up. What I don't get is why.

Today's new is all about the Icelandic banks and the fact that half our local councils had vast sums stashed in them which are now looking decidedly dicey. Now leaving aside the facts that a) the general public had no idea at all that any of this was going on and that local councils had cash to stash and b) that perhaps if they had all these millions stowed away in foreign banks it was a bit flaming cheeky to keep claiming they needed to hike up our council taxes because it was the only way they could afford to keep services running, why did no one think to pull this money out of the Icelandic banks when the financial dung first began to hit the fan?

The story appears to be that the councils were advised by the treasury to store their money not where it would be at least risk but where it would gain the best return. Quelle surprise. So why didn't the treasury tell them to bring their cash back to Britain when the financial horizon began to cloud over? It's not like this problem has only been created in the last 2 months is it? What exactly are the publicly appointed bean counters at the Treasury doing to earn their vast salaries? If current performance is anything to go by, my guess is playing Solitaire on the computer and discussing last night's Coronation Street.

Maybe the problem lies with the people who have been in charge of the Treasury. First we had Gordon Brown, a man who has managed not only to flog off our gold reserves but also to destroy the pensions of millions of middle aged folk. Well done Gordy, great show. "No more boom and bust" he says. Well yes, he was right but I don't think anyone realised when he said that that what he meant was that there wouldn't be any more boom and bust because now there was just going to be bust. Maybe if he'd spent more time doing his job and less time gazing at Tony Blair's desk wondering what his coffee mug and squeezy stress ball would like on it he would have spotted the sodding great financial crisis heading straight towards him like the screaming mongol hordes coming over the hill.

When he finally got his coveted post (and my, I bet he's SO glad he went for it now), he was followed by the Badger-Faced wazzock, Alistair Darling. Darling was previously in charge of Transport and the main thing that he is remembered for is the creation of Network Rail. Was this a roaring success? Try to get a train from one end of this little island to the other on a bank holiday and then let me know. That's assuming you can raise the price of a family house in Essex to pay for the ticket in the first place. One of Darling's early memorable acts as Chancellor was to preside over the loss of the confidential personal details of over 25 million people as his department attempted to send them to the National Audit Office. Other notable events in Darling's recent career have involved the 10p tax fiasco, the utter balls up that was the handling of the Northern Rock crisis and thanks to his ridiculous budgets which have repeatedly jacked up the tax on booze, he is now barred from half the pubs in Britain. You'd think that in a time of impending crisis the PM wouldn't have appointed someone to run the Treasury who's brain is powered by two arthritic part-time hamsters peddling away on a wheel. You'd be wrong.

So what is the financial future for us Brits? Who knows, I can't see into the future and I know nothing about economics but what I do know is this – while the rest of us are tightening our belts and counting the pennies the government are still splashing money about as though they've got a cash cow in the garden of number 10 that craps gold bars. And to my mind that is not a promising sign.  

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More than Meets the Eye…

Muriel Cryer was born in 1917, the only daughter of John Henry Cryer and his wife Emily in Littleborough, Lancashire.

 

2 John Henry Cryer 19073 Emily Cryer 1907

She had 3 brothers, Eric, Donald and horold but she was the only girl and she was the apple of her father's eye. John Henry was a big man in the town of Littleborough, he supplied all the coal to the town and surrounding area, a venture which had made him a very wealthy man indeed. He was the first person in Littleborough to own a motorcar.

 

He built the family a large, detached house, set in fields and called it 'Woodside'. Whilst it was being built John Henry would carry Muriel across the field from their current house, with his Airedale dog runing alongside, to see how things were progressing. Woodside is still there today and is still surrounded on 2 sides by fields.

While she was in her teens Muriel met John Mingham, known as Jack, a local lad from a respectable family.

 

As used to happen in small towns across the world, the two became close and gradually began 'courting' as it's known up North. They were a very ordinary couple who did very ordinary things, they went on trips to the sea (chaperoned of course!), they went to the pictures, they visited each other's families.

 

 

 

Everyone expected a wedding and they weren't disappointed.

 

The wedding was on 26th December 1939 but things were not so simple at that time. War had been declared and fabric was becoming harder to get hold of so Muriel's dress was made of parachute silk. The rumours of war had been rumbling around the country for some time before it was actually declared and Jack, in common with so many other young men, had made the decision to join the forces. He was an airman, a sergeant in the RAF and only a couple of months after the wedding, early in 1940, he was posted away from the area and Muriel was left back in Littleborough waiting for news, as so many other women were doing.

Jack was in 59Sqn Royal Air Force Volunteers and flew in a crew with two other men Wiliam Powell (pictured on the right with Jack on the left) and Sydney Collier.

 

On the 28th April 1941 they were sent out in their Blenheim on an operation to the Dutch coast. The place was shot down over the Hook of Holland and none of the men survived. Jack was 26, William was 22 and Sydney just 21.

Muriel wa still back in Littleborough waiting for news. She always said afterwards that she knew when he left the last time that he wouldn't be coming back but what could she do? He was a serving airman and the premonitions of his wife wouldn't have been enough to allow him leave to remain at home. He had to go. So she waited and waited and eventually the black edged telegram arrived, followed by a letter from the Red Cross.

 

 

As more information about the events surrounding the loss of the airmen filtered through to the Red Cross, she received a further letter.

 

 

The grave is at Hook of Holland cemetary and is tended by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, who by all accounts take great care over them. She only visited it once, in the 1980s but flowers have been put on it regularly and every year I dedicate three little crosses in the Westminster Field of Remembrance, one to Jack, one to William and one to Sydney.

 

 

 

After Jack died, Muriel didn't know what to do. She didn't want to stay in Littleborough, thinking about how things might have been different, she wanted to run away to somewhere else but she didn't know where. Times were different then and a well brought up girl wouldn't have dreamed of venturing out into the world on her own. As she was walking through town one day she passed the recruiting office and on a whim she went in. By the end of the month she was in the Women's Auxiliary Air Force (WAAF).

 

 

 

Life in the WAAF was a learning experience for Muriel and an adventure too. She mixed with all sorts of girls, girls she would never have met if she'd stayed in Littleborough. She was a plotter, one of those women that you see in war films moving little planes around big tabletop maps with sticks. It was a prestigious position and required her to sign the Official Secrets Act, after all she was one of the few people who would know exactly where a squadron of planes were flying at any one time.

It was while working at an airbase that she bumped into Vernon Molloy. He always maintained that it was her smile that caught his eye.

Vernon was born and brought up in Salford (back row, third from right).

 

 

His family were poor but respectable and Vernon was clever. He worked hard at his studies and by the time Muriel met him he was a meteorologist in the forces.

 

 

 

Legend has it that he might have been more than a meteorologist, that the weather balloons that he and his team were sending out were more than they first appeared and that they were studying rather more than just wartime weather patterns but I don't suppose we'll ever know for certain.

Muriel and Vernon started 'stepping out' together. She had some concerns about it, Littleborough was a small town and some war widows had received condemnation and abuse for entering another relationship, some people felt it was disloyal to the memory of those who had died for their country. She didn't need to worry, her friends supported her, as did her father John Henry, his standing in the local community was enough to stop the gossips and the narrow minded from having words with her. There were probably mutterings behind closed doors but nothing was ever said to her directly.

Muriel and Vernon were married and she remained in the WAAF until she discovered she was pregnant with her first child, Ian, in 1945. Vernon was still in the forces and for most of their first decade together he was posted abroad, awat from her.

 

 

They wrote to each other almost every day, love letters, gossip, news of the children and descriptions of life in India, the Maldives, Gan, wherever he was at the time. The letters are all still together, in a huge box, hundreds and hundreds of them tied together in bundles. No one has ever taken them out and read them although I know they wouldn't mind. It seems like prying, the letters weren't written for anyone else to read.

Muriel and Vernon had 4 children, Ian, Susan and Colin (who are twins) and Vivienne who has born while they were living on the airbase at Buckeburg in Gemany in 1953. Buckeburg was a whirl of social events; parties, balls, dinners and gatherings. They lived well and Muriel used to send parcels of food home with the German lady that worked for them in the house. Germany was cripplingly poor after the war and it was hard for many ordinary Germans to feed their families (Muriel and Vernon are on the far left).

 

 

 

Eventually Vernon left the forces to help set up what is now the Met Office. The family settled in Cheshire and that's where Vernon and Muriel spent the rest of their lives together. They had 9 grandchildren and several great grandchildren who they doted on and who doted on them too, they were everything you imagine grandparents should be. Vernon, in the manner of John Henry, was a pillar of the local community and played the organ in the local church. Muriel was a well known embroideress, her work can still be seen in St Matthew's Church in Stretton. She did marriage guidance counselling for a while and she also used to conduct informative talks for the Mother's Union. Vernon died at home 5 years ago and Muriel followed him 3 years later, although her last 2 years were in a nursing home. They had been together for over 50 years.

Muriel and Vernon were in their 60s when I was born and for many years to me they were just 'Grandma' and 'Grandad'. She was the nice cheerful grandma who lived in a nice bungalow and who painted my nails pink, he was the grandad who used to take me and my brother on puddly walks and not mind if we jumped in a deep one and covered all of us in mucky water. I wasn't until I got older and she started to sit down with me and go through the hundreds of family photos with me, telling me the stories behind them that I started to realise there was more to this woman than I'd originally thought. She hadn't always been 'old', she'd once been my age, she'd done the things I did, thought what I thought and had been through things that I couldn't even imagine. She was more than just 'Grandma', she was also 'Mum' and 'Muriel' too. She was one thing to me but another to my mum and something different again to her brother's wives who had been her friends for decades. Once I realised this I started to see the similarities between us. We have the same eyes and the same shaped legs. We've also got the same sense of humour, the same intolerance for what we think is ridiculous and we've both got the tendency to run away when a serious problem hits.

A couple of weeks ago Baroness Warnock, a leading advisor to the government said that she believed that old people with dementia had a 'duty to die', that they should be put to sleep because of the drain that they put on their carers and the NHS. This surprised me because I would have thoguht a woman of her age would have learned to look beyond the facade of age and see the person behind it but apparently not. No one is just an old person and having spent time talking to the residents in the nursing home that my parents own I could tell you a thousand amazing stories passed on to me by the very people that Baroness Warnock would like to see euthanased. There's a world of history out there if you take the time to talk to those you come across instead of just writing them off as old and worthless. If Baroness Warnock hasn't realised this then I pity her because she's really missing out on a lot.

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It made me laugh!

If you only ever watch one YouTube video in your life, make it this one. I've no idea how to make the video actually appear on here so I've just added the link. If you ever wondered what Barack Obama doing Rick Astley would look like (and I know I have) then wonder no more.

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Little Lunatic.

Whilst trawling news sites in an attempt to avoid tackling my brain-destroyingly dull intray, I discovered this story of how a 7 year old in the Northern Territory of Australia climbed into a zoo, evaded the security devices and went on a killing spree that included stoning some reptiles to death and feeding others to a saltwater crocodile. Jesus wept, 7 years old and he's already a psychopathic lunatic. Doesn't bode well for his teenage years does it? Am I alone in thinking it's a shame that the crocodile didn't decide the reptile was only a starter and the main course was the little sod delivering it?

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