Thursday, 31 December 2009

A trip to Haworth Moors with an arty type

After all the excitement of Christmas, Sarah announced that she would like to go on a day trip to take some photographs for an exhibition she was planning on entering.

"Yeh, cool. I'd be up for that," I agreed, "what do you want to take photographs of?"

"Dunno really........ " she replied.

"Oi Northerner, you gotta help me out a little bit, I'm an engineer not an artist ........ can you narrow it down to something..... I dunno...... portraits, action shots, scenery........?" I suggested.

"Errrmmmmm, yes actually I do like taking pictures of scenery," she replied conclusively.

I adopted a 'serious pondering pose' [the one where you rest your forehead on a closed fist] and thought about the different options I could put to the aforementioned 'arty type'.

"Bingo! I got just the place," I shouted jubilantly.

"Where's that then?" asked Sarah hesitantly.

"Haworth Moors. It's got everything; bleak landscape, sheep, snow and it's remote...... let's go."

An hour later, and we were stood on the brow of a hill in the bleak, windy and frozen Haworth Moors. And it soon became apparent that Sarah was not one to suffer for her art. After scaling a snow drift and being outside for ten minutes, I heard her shouting to me as I sat in the car with the heating on, "bloody hell, it's freezing out here, I am not sure how much more I can take."

And so the photography session continued in this vein for a further thirty minutes until Sarah declared, "I can't stand it any longer, I need a coffee."

We proceeded back to the town of Haworth (famous because the Bronte sisters grew up there), and walked down the main street until we finally find a nice looking cafe.

Pic.No.1 Me in nice-looking cafe

Pic.No.2 Sarah in nice-looking cafe recovering from frostbite

Despite the cold, and the whining northerner, it was a great day out and I thought you might like a sneaky peek at some of the pictures we took (her's were obviously better than mine because she is an arty swot).


Vid.No.1. Sarah sneakily videoed me whilst pretending to take a picture of the Christmas tree in Haworth

Pic.No.3. The bleak Haworth Moors

Pic.No.4 Remote road on Haworth Moor

Pic.No.5. Lake on Haworth Moor

Pic.No.6. Looks like this picture was taken in black and white, but it wasn't

Pic.No.7 Everywhere I go, I encounter sheep

Pic.No.8 Everywhere I go, I also have to encounter a sheep attack

Pic.No.9. Sarah in action, not suffering for her art

Pic.No.10 Main street in Haworth

Pic.No.11 Me trying to find Sarah a coffee shop because she was whining

Pic.No.12 Bronte Parsonage where the Bronte's lived

Pic.No.13. Church tower next to Bronte's house

Pic.No.14 Church yard with arty bench

Pic.No.15. Haworth graveyard, prompting the joke; 'this the dead centre of Haworth', and 'people are dying to get in here.'

Pic.No.16. I can't belive that some treehugger actually took the time to write this book. What a load of pap, and if you look closely you can see a picture of a guinea pig on the front which makes it even sadder. Who would want to crystal heal a bloody guinea pig?

Anyway, today is the day after boxing day (despite the late posting) and tomorrow I am back off to the civilised south. I hope you have enjoyed your jaunt up north as much as I have.

Tuesday, 29 December 2009

I've gone AWOL.... it is the iPhone's fault

Sorry. I have just realised that recently, I have totally forgotten about my blog.

Having spent the last two days finishing off my Christmas shopping, a blog-void (a bit like a black hole but without swallowing up spaceships whole) has occurred.

The situation wasn't helped at all by my new guilty secret.......... sssssshhhhhh, don't tell anyone, but I treated myself to a Christmas present (only because my last Nokia 8800 Arte mobile phone got nicked of course) ........

Pic.No.1. My new 32GB iPhone with 3G connectivity

Pic.No.2. Just look at it........ it's lush

I am trying to restrain myself....... oh crap I can't.......... mega-gush coming......... my iPhone is my new raison d'etre ....... filling my life with exciting new features and apps on an hourly basis. I just can't believe how I previously managed to survive  without being able to check my email at traffic lights....... or change my facebook status at the supermarket checkout.

It is a gadget extraordinaire. I mean you can talk to it and it responds..... which probably prompted Sarah's comment; "you've bin a reet boring cow since you got that phone."

Not only that, but it looks luvvverrrly. Sleek, smooth white back, light up Apple symbol...... Oh yeh, the designers got it right on every level. Except one. The battery life doesn't appear too great. But that is probably because I can't put the thing down. I have woken up the last two nights with it in my bed, stuck to my leg.

Buy one. Buy one now. You won't regret it. I have never been surer of anything in my life........ iPhone rules. And I don't even get commission.

P.S. Will try to get back to normal blog soon.

Sunday, 27 December 2009

It's Christmas Day!

In true British style, I completely expected to wake up on Christmas morning to find that the snow had melted and been replaced by grey sludge and rain.

So imagine my delight when I opened the curtains to find........ my first white Christmas since I can remember! It was proper Christmassy, and if Naughty George hadn't turned most of the snow yellow in Sarah's garden, I would've even contemplated making a snowman.

After a cup or two of Earl Grey (I told you Sarah was arty), she announced, "Come on it's time to go for lunch."

Go for lunch? .......... Result! That means I wouldn't have to go within 200 yards of a potato peeler or have a face-off with a turkey.

After picking up Sarah's sister and mother en-route, we finally arrived at the Cornmill Lodge Hotel on the outskirts of Leeds (next to a frozen duck pond, with ducks walking around perplexedly on the ice).

Pic.No.1. Cornmill Lodge Hotel, and if you look closely you can see the snow

I have to say that eating out on Christmas day was an inspired move on Sarah's behalf. Someone else does the cooking, someone else washes the dirty dishes, and all we had to do was make ourselves look daft by donning those ridulous party hats that hail from crackers.

Pic.No.2. The Christmas buffet at the hotel

Pic.No.3. Me and Louise donning party hats
Actually, I exaggerate. I also had to read the Groucho Marx-esque jokes that come in the crackers; 'what do you get if you cross a fridge with a radio? ........ cool music.' I mean, is that really the best they can do? 

Pic.No.4. My Christmas pudding with a dead garnish on top (either that or it was star-fruit)

Once lunch had finished, we jumped into the car and drove to Sarah's mother's house to exchange gifts. When we arrived, I pretty quickly concluded that they go to town at Christmas, especially when I had trouble getting into the living room because of the drifts of presents. 

Pic.No.5. Sarah and Louise surrounded by a 100 million presents

Yippee, it was great fun opening the presents. Once Sarah and Louise knew I was coming for Christmas, they had embarked on a shopping spree of highly relevant (and therefore thoughtful gifts). Awwwwww...... and they were all presented in their own particular way........

Pic.No.6. A necklace from Louise because she knows I have got a jewellery fetish

Pic.No.7. A spaghetti jar because last time Sarah came to stay with me, a packet of spaghetti split all over my kitchen floor

Pic.No.8. A sheep mug. Because apparently there is a rumour going round that I am obsessed by sheep. I also got a cow mug because everyone knows that I know that cows are evil.

Pic.No.9. A bottle of Coco by Chanel because I had made a comment to Sarah; 'You know when you have been single too long, because you have to buy your own perfume.' She wrapped it in a tampax box so that I wouldn't guess what it was. Ingenius.

Once all the marvellous presents were opened, we entertained ourselves by doing a family quiz with 100 questions. Needless to say, complete and utter humiliation ensued when I came last with a measley score of 64, compared to Louise's winning score of 86. Is it me? I just don't seem to know any stuff.

Actually, that could be my new year's resolution - try and be more observant about life and learn more stuff. Perfect, that's me sorted.

Finally, after a fabulous day, Sarah and I drove back to her house and we decided to spend the night watching the television set.

Pic.No.10 Sarah's Christmassy living room

She picked a television programme called 'Strictly Come Dancing', where famous people engage in dance-offs in order to win a prize. It was most entertaining .......... legs and arms everywhere, and famous people being berated by evil judges.

Pic.No.11 Sarah's Christmas Tree

Well folks, the night is closing in. I hope that you all had a fantastic day like I did, and I wish you a very merry Christmas, or happy holidays if Christmas ain't your thang.

Saturday, 26 December 2009

A night out on Christmas Eve

'There's nowt so queer as folk', as the saying goes. But I would like to distill this further by saying, there's nowt so queer as Northerners.

Not only do they like eating funny stuff (pigeon, black pudding, chips and gravy, and pie sandwiches), but they also have funny pastimes (whippet racing, pigeon fancying - when they are not eating them - and ferret breeding), to name but a few.

So when Sarah said that she had organised for us to go out with her sister, Louise on Christmas eve, I approached the event with a certain trepidation.

"Will I need weapons?" I asked Sarah as I was getting ready.

"No, course not," she answered. Well that's a good start in my book.

We ventured out into the snow and walked the short distance to the venue. I stopped outside and looked aghast at Sarah. We were standing outside a 'working men's club', a concept peculiar to the UK, and the North in particular. Basically these clubs were formed during the industrial period to give the workers somewhere to go when they had finished working 'down pits'. Gastro-pub it was not...... nothing to see here!

"Blimey Sarah," I said, "are you sure that women are allowed in here?"

"Yeh, course I am, stop being a wuss," she replied, "you'll like it in here, the drinks are really cheap." Normally I wouldn't factor the price of the drinks into my rating of a venue, but right now I happily clung onto this virtue. 

And so commenceth my thoroughly Northern night out.

Pic.No.1 Inside the working men's club

"So Sarah," I asked after buying a staggeringly cheap round of drinks, "what do Northerners do for entertainment in places like these?"

"Well, the quiz starts in about ten minutes, then after that, bingo and when that is finished, there will be a disco."

"Bingo!" I exclaimed in horror, "are you trying to annihilate my street cred?"

"Don't be daft," she replied, "you'll enjoy it.

Pic.No.2 The compere reads out the quiz questions

Needless to say, that with me on the team, we did not win the quiz, exacerbated by the fact that most of the questions related to the 1940s and 50s, which seemed to please the rest of the clientele. 

Pic.No.3 Bingo cards, quiz sheets and cheap drinks

Pic.No.4 Louise posing with her bingo cards..... she was quite a whizz at the quiz too

"Right bingo time!" exlaimed Louise, "how many cards do you want?"

"How many are you having?" I asked her.

"Six," she replied, and then after assessing my bingo competence, added "I'll get you three."

Pic.No.5. Louise amuses herself by taking this picture and giving it to me

Pic.No.6 Me playing bingo like a proper Northerner

And so the bingo began. Two games in, I turned to Louise with disgruntlement, "I am not coming close to winning anything."

Louise looked at my card, "I think I know why."

"Why?" I asked.

"You've missed crossing off quite a few numbers," she answered matter-of-factly.

Blimey, things were going from bad to worse. I had exposed my own ineptitude in the bingo arena. I hung my head in shame whilst the Northerners pointed at me and laughed. Hmmmmph, I put my poor performance down to the cheap wine.......... surely I couldn't be beaten by bingo?

Christmas is tomorrow, and here's hoping we have a snowy, bingo-free, day........

Christmas Eve in Leeds

After the trauma of my drive up to Sarah's house in Leeds, we decided to have a chilled Christmas Eve. But then we got bored and decided to go out for lunch instead, and have a look round the shops.

Pic.No.1 Sarah clearly finds it amusing that I view myself as a bit of a clothes horse

After a turkey ciabatta and cappuccino, we browsed the various stores in Leeds, Sarah looking for a new digital telephone, and I needed a Peppa Pig spaceship. I was under strict instructions from Izzy that the Peppa Pig must be removable from the spaceship itself. Finding a phone was no problem, but Peppa Pig and his spaceship were proving more illusive. Everywhere we went it was sold out........ obviously the kid's smart money is on Peppa Pig this season.

After three hours, we eventually located the surreptitious bovine in a store on the outskirts of Leeds. Mission accomplished.

"Fancy going back and taking George for a walk in the park?" asked Sarah.

"Sounds like a plan to me," I replied, "and you could get some photographs of the snow." [Sarah is a bit of an arty type in that she is into photography].

Video. No. 1 Naughty George in the park being naughty

Things didn't start too well, with Naughty George trying to mount (if you know what I mean) another dog as soon as we entered the park. I hadn't noticed because I was taking a video of the snow, but I managed to capture Sarah shouting; "Anne, you need to get control of your dog, he is getting amorous with another mutt!"

Pic.No.2. Sarah being all arty in the snowy park 

Pic.No.3. Me jumping into all Sarah's photographs

Pic.No.4. The parks as the sun goes down

Finally, as the light faded, we made our way back to Sarah's house to get ready for an evening on the tiles..... hope you like my snowy scenes - fingers crossed, if it stays like this, we will have our first white Christmas for years.... it's so exciting!

Thursday, 24 December 2009

Choo Choo! All aboard the Santa Express

Oh, I almost forgot to tell you. Guess what I did on Sunday? Izzy, Steve and I went on the Santa Express, organised by the Chinnor and Princes Risborough Railway.

"What the blazes is a Santa Express?" I hear you cry. Well...... it is a steam train with Father Christmas on it. Sure, the entertainment possibilities associated with this particular pairing did seem somewhat limited, but I was willing to give it a go.

We duly plugged the postcode into the Sat Nav and set off. Forty minutes later, the comedy Michael Caine voice announced. "you have reached your destination." We were on a housing estate with no steam train to be seen.

Yep, we had accidentally put the postcode of the ticketing office into the Sat Nav instead of the train station. It  was quarter to two and we had been told categorically that we had to be at the station for 2pm. What a muppet. I needed to act and fast - I found the correct postcode and the journey time was 13 minutes - we could just make it. A mad dash through the Oxfordshire countryside ensued (but I didn't break the speed limit of course) and we finally arrived at 1.59pm. Phew! That was close.

Pic.No.1 Izzy at the train station

So imagine my disgruntlement to discover that the steam train hadn't even arrived at the station. A further fifteen minutes later, the thing eventually chuffed into sight, and I almost missed it because I didn't get my camera out in time. Not being much of a steam train enthusiast, I can only describe it as a Thomas the Tank engine without the face or the heroics.

Pic.No.2 The steam train

We found our carriage and proceeded to board, when a guard appeared and declared that we all had to wait on the platform whilst they cleaned the inside of the train............ which took a further 20 minutes and by which time, everyone was getting cold and tired of standing on a crowded platform.

Finally, we were allowed to board the train, by which time Izzy wasn't looking too amused by the proceedings.

Pic.No.3. Me and 'I am not amused' Izzy

Once seated, the train staff started walked down the carriages handing out mince pies and hot drinks.

"Excuse me," I asked after taking a sip of the insipid liquid, "is this tea or coffee?"

"Coffee," frowned the pensioner in the elf outfit.

Thirty minutes later, after the coffee, mince pies and impromptu Christmas carols were long gone, the steam train was still stationary and the passengers were starting to get restless. Just at the moment I thought a mutiny was going to take place, the engine stirred to life at we finally chugged out of the station at walking pace.

"Can you feel the adrenalin?" I shouted at Steve.

"No, but I think I am pulling serious G," he replied, just at the moment that a bell sounded, signifying the arrival of Santa. Finally, Izzy's moment had come.

Pic.No.4 Izzy meets Santa

"Ho, Ho, Ho!" said Santa. "Have you been a good girl?"

"No, I got told off at school for putting toys down the toilet," Izzy replied sincerely, whilst I groaned in dismay.

Santa looked a little thrown by her answer and began straw clutching, "but you have been a good girl since then?"

"No, I spat out my spaghetti and Naughty George ate it," she answered. I needed to intervene, and quickly.

"Actually, apart from those two fairly minor incidences, she has been pretty good," I stammered. Santa saw his chance and took it.

"Well, all good girls get presents," he said, motioning for 'pensioner elf' to give her a present from his sack, and then beating a hasty retreat.

Pic.No.5 Izzy mood changes once a present was on the table

Finally, after a short (twenty five minute) journey we were back at the station where the next victims passengers, were patiently lined up for the Santa Express experience. 

"Right, shall we go and get something to eat?" I suggested.

"Yep, let's go," Steve replied and we jumped into the car, putting the heating on full blast. As we pulled out of the train station, I spotted a car with a numberplate that I would simply die for dahlink.

Pic.No.6. A Range Rover with the number-plate 'L3DY M'

We located a pleasant looking gastro-pub called the Cherry Tree in a village near the station and had a rather tasty meal before I drove home.

Pic.No.7. The Cherry Tree Inn

So would I recommend the Santa Express? Well it had its own rural, haphazard charm, and did make me feel Christmassy in a way that heaving shopping centres and tacky festive TV programmes fail to achieve.

So it is now Christmas Eve, and I am hoping that you are all excitedly waiting for Christmas to arrive.......see you tomorrow!

Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Christmas mayhem

Jingle bloody bells.

I thought that Christmas was a time of celebration and reflection. Well, I can report that the last two days have been mayhem squared, compounded with a lack of organisation to the power 3.

Oh yeh, I've been busy and it's all my own fault. I left everything to the last minute and suffered the consequences; 30 minute queues for all the supermarket checkouts, 25 minute queues for the petrol pumps and a 27 minute queue to leave the retail park. 

Once my booty was finally ensconced at home, I had to make sure that the house was properly clean and tidy because I am going north for Christmas and can't abide coming back to a mess.

And then what? A three hour journey to Leeds took FIVE hours because of a light dusting of snow.

I can't talk much because I am still traumatised..... but safe to say, I am at Sarah's house in Leeds now, and I have a glass of wine....... things are starting to look up! Hurray!

Monday, 21 December 2009

Saturday night fever - a ball in Battersea Park

After all the hullaballoo surrounding my balldress and shoes, I finally set off on Saturday afternoon for the drive to Battersea. The ball was to be held in a big marquee, right in Battersea Park.

As you would expect, after arriving at the hotel it wasn't long before I encountered my first disaster. The lovely shoes that Sam bought me, didn't fit....... they were too berluddy big. And then I remembered that when I first tried them on, I was wearing socks. What was I thinking about, making such a fundamental schoolboy error? Of even greater consequence, what was I going to do?

A quick text to a friend solved the problem, and ten minutes later I was stuffing the toes with toilet paper [ssssh don't tell anyone....... you will spoil my air of sophistication]. Result! I was ready to go.

After a short taxi ride down the embankment, I finally arrived at an impressing-looking venue which was decked out on a Studio 54 theme. I didn't know what Studio 54 was either, but when I wiki'd it, it said that it was a popular nightclub in the 70's and early 80's. 

Pic.No.1 The inside of the marquee

After mingling and margheritas (salty of course dahlink), we were all invited to take our places at the dinner table, and I was seated beside three entertaining dining companions; Dave, Vanessa and Andy.

"My husband is a nightmare when it comes to buying me presents," Vanessa said to me.

"He can't be that bad if you have only been married a year," I replied.

"Oh he is," she replied. "He didn't get anything for our first anniversary last week, even though he remembered. Even worse than that, for Christmas last year, he got me an umbrella, a hairbrush and one of those things for scraping ice off your windscreen."

"Crikey yeh, that is actually quite bad," I tutted whilst her husband nodded with satisfaction.

Pic.No.2. Me looking blurry and interesting

Our food duly arrived, and for mass catering it was actually quite good, well, until we got to the main course which was chicken stuffed with mushrooms and apricots. A chap sitting on the other side of Vanessa was looking worried and was hailing a waitress.

"I'm sorry, I can't eat this," he stammered to her.

"Oh I am sorry, sir, are you a vegetarian?" she asked politely.

"No. I am scared of mushrooms," he replied.

Yeh you read right. It wasn't that the guy just didn't like mushrooms, he was scared of them. What the bloody hell is that all about? Ok, some people have phobias, but for the life of me, I can't see what a mushroom could possibly do to terrify someone.

Pic.No.3 All the dining tables had bloody great flamingoes on them

Pic.No. 4. Vanessa and Dave........ "See that bloke over there..........."

Pic.No. 5 "Well he's scared of mushrooms................"

Once dinner had finished, some fine performers had been lined up for entertainment. In summary, there was a woman who dangled off a sheet hanging from the ceiling, and she turned upside and did the splits, and a bloke who could spin bowls on the end of sticks..... until finally the dancing commenced.

Pic.No.6 A bloke spinning bowls on the end of sticks

Pic.No.7 Let the dancing commence

"So," I hear you cry, "were you up there strutting your stuff?"

Was I heck. I hate dancing, and happen to be very bad at it, so Vanessa and I decided to try and put the false eyelashes on me which had been left as a gift for the guests on the dining table (amongst other things reminiscent of the 70s).

Pic.No.8. Vanessa and me....... You sure you want to wear these eyelashes? Damn sure corporal! Proceed immediately

Pic.No.9 Vanessa tries to work out the false eyelashes

Suffice to say, twenty minutes later, I was not wearing any false eyelashes, and glue that was supposed to attach them, was making it difficult for me to fully open my eyes.

Which probably explains what happened next. Yep, not just mine, but both our mobile phones were stolen from the table, from right under our noses. Oh yes, the beautiful relationship between me and my titanium Nokia Arte 8800 came to an abrupt end....... oh Nokia, Nokia, where for art thou?

To be fair, I got over it pretty quickly with the realisation that this was freedom from the impasse, and that a shiney new Apple iPhone was now mine for the taking. Ok, I may be construed as shallow, but there is no point dwelling on the past.

Interestingly, when Vanessa telephoned T-Mobile to report her mobile stolen, the lady on the end of the phone said that hers was the 32nd phone to be reported stolen at that venue. That's just for T-Mobile, I wander how many phones were nicked when you factor in all the other networks? Hmmmmmmm, we were surrounded by some seriously crafty thieves.

Needless to say, we recovered from our loss pretty quickly and had a marvellous time at the ball, partying until 1am. I know, I know, I am a bit of lightweight, but age catches up on you sometimes.

Pic.No.10 Yours truly ....... stripped of all forms of communication

Pic.No.11. My lovely shoes....... donated by Sam .........lasted the whole night long

Thank you very much. I had a brilliant time!

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