Wednesday, 1 November 2017

Northern Pleasures ….

On our recent trip to Ireland, to catch up with Doug’s sister and family in Cork, we took the opportunity to pick some sloes (a pleasure we thought we wouldn’t get around to this year!).c7eec74b-3848-4a74-988f-7307e40fc34a
So – now in jars, it was ‘picked in Ireland and recently brewed in Manchester’ (and may well be consumed in Selsey, who knows?
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Well, autumn came with a vengeance on 21st October - the day we picked to go to Blackpool for the “Funny Girl’s” Halloween show.
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Storm “Brian” hit the the country and the wind certainly blew hard on Blackpool seafront!
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The tide was out during the daytime when we were there so the waves weren’t crashing against the seawall thankfully. The piers were closed and parents were hanging on to their children …….
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…….. and it was ‘any port in a storm’ for us as well as other people! Here’s Doug and Cris (who wouldn’t miss an invitation to join us to go to “Funny Girls”)
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The dear old Winter Gardens was a good place to hunker down from the increasing severity of the storm as the afternoon wore on.
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Inside, even Eric and Ern seemed to be bracing themselves against the wind!
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Having survived the afternoon in the company of “Brian”, the evening came and it was time for the highlight of our trip. “Funny Girls” was packed in an anticipation of what we had in store for the evening’s £8 entry fee (only £4 on week days!).
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Almost immediately we struck up a delightful evening friendship with three people from Bournemouth. James, Cris and Doug with Roy,Tai and Gay, (their lovely adopted mum and Fag-Hag!). Oh, these things can get very complicated (!) but we had the most fantastic evening with these guys who were enjoying their first visit to “Funny Girls”.
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There were seven cabarets during the evening – all headed by the indefatigable “Betty ‘Legs’ Diamond”.
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You’ll notice there’s quite a lot of lolling about on people’s shoulders in “Funny Girls” - here’s three of the Manchester contingent doing just that!.
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There’s quite often a minor celeb or two in the audience – this time we met up with Dan from Dancing on Ice.
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The cabarets are extremely good and great fun ……
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……… but the finale was literally ‘out of this world’ with it’s cosmic, space travel theme. And the costumes were incredible!
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We didn’t stay over in Blackpool but drove back early on Sunday morning (poor James, going without a drink!). In Manchester and we soon had a visit from friends Peter and Margaret (think it was only a week ago we were together at their home!). They don’t live far away so it’s a quick train ride for either of us to get together (such a blessing and very normal in this narrow bit of the country). After the usual drink or two we ventured down to Spinningfields for lunch – the sunshine through the windows prevented a proper pic so this selfie (with James pulling his usual selfie face) has to suffice.
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On our walk back home we popped in to one of the many fascinating old pubs the city has to offer. This one, in this amazing building, is “Mr Thomas’s Chop Shop” ……….
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……… and inside, where you can eat as well, we enjoyed a few very nice gin and tonics proffered, like expensive cocktails, by the obliging barman. Its well worth a visit!
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Halloween was bearing down on us next (not something we’re very excited about accept that Doug likes to carve a pumpkin or two) and he wanted to compete with friend Cris (who, incidentally had never carved a pumpkin before!) for the best attempt. James, who has zero interest in such things, was given the position of judge. Here’s Cris marking out his design …….
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……… and here he is going for it like an expert!
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James’ unbiased opinion was that Cris’ had the best overall effect. Not something that Doug was prepared to accept so they both decided to put it on Facebook and let friends decide. It was like the results section of the Eurovision Song Contest that night – waiting for the results to come in! Doug won by an extremely slender margin – of two!
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This Manchester malarkey certainly is showing it’s benefits – we had a visit from friends Chris and Linda, who we haven’t seen for a year. They too don’t live far away so, another short train journey brought them to us and again, after the usual bubbly at home, it was to Albert’s Shed again for lunch.
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After a short breathing space of a few days we drove up to stay with our Lake District friends Geoff and Pam and, after a painfully slow trip up there (it was Friday!) we went out to dinner that evening at a hostelry not far away. The food was splendid but, as always, the company was better.
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On Saturday they took us on a trip to the northern end of the Lake District during which we passed  Windermere, Grasmere, Rydal Water, Thirlmere and Bassenthwaite Lake. An interesting point – Bassenthwaite Lake is the only “lake” in the Lake District. All the others are either “Meres” or “Waters”. This one in the pic is the lovely little Grasmere. Thirlmere is a reservoir which supplies water to Manchester 96 miles away.  
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Our destination for the day near Keswick was the Lakes Distillery. Beautifully renovated from a dilapidated set of farm buildings it’s been open and distilling for almost three years. During that time it has been producing and selling vodka and gin but, as it’s primary product will be whisky and that needs to have been laid down for “three years and a day” before it can be called and sold as whisky, they are selling a blended product in the meantime.
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We went on a fascinating tour of the distillery – learning all sorts of amazing facts before settling down to a little tasting session. Not being whiskey or vodka drinkers, and only drinking gin (for medicinal purposes) in watered down form, it wasn’t an easy task knocking back the various products that were put in front if us. But we did it nevertheless! Here we all are!!!!
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After a splendid dinner party that evening back at Pam and Geoff’s (with several invited friends to join us) there was no time to lie in on Sunday morning as we were off down the road to Finsthwaite. There we enjoyed a three course breakfast at their annual Big Breakfast fundraising event for St Peter’s Church. We met up with quite a few more friends we’ve got to know in the Lakes over the last year.
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Then, for several of us, it was back to Pam and Geoff’s to spend the rest of the day relaxing (James and Chris were caught enjoying the sunshine together in a lovely peaceful spot in the garden!).
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During the splendid early afternoon sunshine Peter, Doug, Geoff, John, Chris, Geraldine, Pam (and James) all had tea and coffee on the terrace before retiring to the comfort of a roaring log fire for the rest of the day.
At about 8 o’ clock that evening we had to say our farewells, and a sincere ‘thank you’ to Pam and Geoff for their boundless hospitality, before driving down to Selsey and arriving in the early hours of Monday morning.

Thursday, 19 October 2017

A Very Busy Couple of Weeks!

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A short while back we went “over the river” (the R. Erwell) to neighbouring Salford to pay our respects at the funeral of actress Liz Dawn who played the invincible Vera Duckworth in Coronation Street. The press were out in force to cover the event but there was also a nice group of well-wishers in attendance. Very kindly, we were invited to join the family, friends and the many members of the cast in the Catholic Cathedral for the service. We declined the invitation with thanks though.

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The next day we packed our bags and, from Leeds airport, took the four hour flight to Gran Canaria for a few days of sunshine and partying. Our transit from the airport to Playa del Inglis took us alongside some very barren but beautiful countryside.

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The countryside soon made way for four or five days of “pool-parties” – which is a great excuse for keeping the body hydration up due to the hot weather. And for meeting up with friends of course!

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The first party was Ricky’s Pool Party and, as Ricky’s bar is a famous drag / show bar in the Yumbo Centre, there was a lot of glamour around!

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We were entertained by a number of drag artists during the afternoon and one of our favourites has to be Myra Dubois. ‘Myra’ likes to mingle with the crowd during her performance – something we had recently experienced ourselves when she appeared at Manchester’s Eagle Bar “Sunday Service”!

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Two Manchester friends, Dean and Dan, were also out for the week long party and we met up with, and enjoyed their company, several times while we were there. Here we are at Ricky’s pool party – James, Doug, Dean (one of the acts without his wig!) and Dan.

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Here’s Doug, with Dean, cooling off and “swanning around” as usual!

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We enjoyed several more great pool parties but sadly the sunshine was rather absent!  A thick cloud of dust and sand particles, called a Calima, headed across from the Sahara and kept us company for last couple of days of our stay. 

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Although blocking out the sunshine the Calima actually increased the heat to an almost suffocating degree and so the best thing for it was to stop and replenish the fluid levels!

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On our penultimate night (night time partying starts from 11pm and day time partying starts at 1 o’ clock) we managed to briefly meet up with “the award winning, as seen on TV” Myra Dubois before her cabaret performance at Ricky’s bar ………..

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……. where her performance went on so long (she herself described it as more of a prison sentence than a show!) but ended, eventually, with her noisy and deliberately shambolic portrayal of wicked!

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Well, our wonderful but exhausting five days in Gran Canaria went very quickly and back in Manchester again we received a lovely invitation by canal friends Geoff and Mags to join them on their narrow boat “Seyella” for a cruise from Sale into Manchester. After enjoying coffee and croissants on board Geoff invited James to take the tiller for the two hour trip. Here we are having turned right at Waters Meeting and just passing Manchester United’s home ground at Old Trafford. 

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Geoff with James (who hadn’t lost his touch with the tiller) ……….

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……… and “us two”.

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All too soon James brought “Seyella” safely into Castlefield basin where Geoff took over ……..

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…….. for the mooring up.

32db8e95-2a36-47df-8e1f-88c85f7b4108 Geoff and Mags laid on a wonderful lunch of quiche, meats and salad and we all enjoyed the bubbly which we’d brought with us, and as always we had as many laughs as we could fit in the time!  Here’s Mags and James – what a brilliant pic!

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We have to thank Geoff and Mags for the lovely cruise with great food and company. So lovely to see these people again.

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Oh, and of course, we can’t leave out the gorgeous Meg – Bearded Collie and “captain” of the ship.

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And while we were busy mooring up and having lunch our ‘friend’ from Gran Canaria, the Calima dust storm, had followed us home and was now keeping us company in Manchester!

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Our next adventure took us to Westhoughton near Wigan at the invitation of friends Peter and Margaret to join them at home. They met us at the railway station and took us on a short guided tour of the village. The “town hall”, built in 1903 is a wondrous work of art in red brick and terracotta.

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Also in the town is a poignant and heart breaking memorial to the Pretoria Pit Disaster at the nearby Hulton Colliery where an explosion took the lives of 344 miners on 21st December 1910 (3 days before Christmas!). 171 men are buried in the churchyard at Westhoughton and the others in various other churchyards and burial grounds locally. 

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On a lighter note we arrived at Peter and Margaret’s lovely home to an afternoon of chatter, laughter and nibbles - all washed down by a good quantity of bubbly!

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Time goes very fast when your enjoying yourself and soon it was time to walk into town to a delightful Chinese restaurant where there was a lot more chat and laughter. Afterwards Peter and Margaret walked us back to the station for the train home.

We have to say a big ‘thank you’ to P and M for their wonderful hospitality and for a fascinating insight into their local and family history.

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Hot on the heels of our day in Westhoughton was a long planned visit to Manchester’s Palace theatre to see Joe McElderry in “Joseph”. We went with friend Sebastian who’s well on his own way to a career in acting and directing. We thoroughly enjoyed the performance and the stunning vocal performance of Joe McElderry.

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At something like forty year’s old the show still enjoys enormous popularity.

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After the show we held back at the stage door for a quick photo with Joe.

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We met him briefly about four years ago in London and he’s still the same friendly bubbly guy who’s very happy to meet “his public”.