Despite all, the future is bloody good!

Saturday 12th December
Oh crikey indeed! It’s been many days since I’ve written anything, and I’m sure that anyone who had the slightest bit of interest in foreign tales has completely forgotten me now, But. It’s half past midnight, and I’m feeling like writing a little, so…..
I’m very busy building an Ark at the moment. It’s been raining for the past 324 years here in Yorkshire. Cumbria and the Lake District (God’s Own Country) have already very sadly succumbed to it, and the people there are suffering badly. I’m taking no chances, and filling my Ark with two of every beer that has ever been brewed in the hope that, come the Apocalypse, they will breed. Fortunately, they are non-religious beers and therefore have a good chance of survival.
At risk of massive criticism, what the hell is going on in this world of ours???? We’ve had a lovely year of blissful ignorance, only to come home to find that our Government is hell bent on destroying us with war! WTF! I just don’t understand that a (small) majority of parliament can send us in this direction? What ever happened to listening to the people? Bloody hell, we’ve been in communist countries this year that listened to their people more! I despair!!!!!
Yes, life back in so-called “reality” isn’t exactly what we see as being “good”. And having preached that we don’t actually have to put up with it, we’ve got a plan! And it’s a good plan! And England doesn’t feature in it!(Ok, so it does, for the next 18 months or so, but…) The realisation that this isn’t the only option in life is very freeing! However, when I think about the consistent rainy/grey/miserable days maybe we’re making a mistake in leaving England??? Haha! I think not!
So, only two weeks until I start work. Obviously I can’t wait….. WYP still haven’t had the decency to let me know where I’m going or what I’m doing. But, after all, I only gave them 3 months notice of my return, so maybe I shouldn’t rush them into a decision. The meetings I’ve had with them so far have been, shall we say, disappointing? I know that once I’m eventually back with them, if I procrastinate as much as they have done, I’d lose my job. Actually, that might be a good thing????!!! For me!
But. Life is very good at the moment. Mum is in a very nice nursing home in Guiseley, Dad is doing well, I’m running many miles a week, and I haven’t had a cigarette for two weeks!!! And I get to spend all day with my very beautiful wife Charlotte!
I’m very happy!

Mayhem at The Coach!!

 

Wednesday 25th November
Only a week until we come home!!! Oh, hang on……..
Anyway, here we are, settling back into England. It’s a very slow process! It’s fair to say that the weather doesn’t help! However, we battle on, and think positive! So I’ll outline the good points!
I’ve got massively back into running, and am out most days, never for less than 6 miles, and pushing ten miles now. I find running the greatest thing for getting the mind back on track and out of the doldrums. I’m thinking I should set up a running club for depressives/smokers/drinkers! If I can do it, anyone can! Honest, when I’m down (90% of the time!) Charlotte sends me out for a run, and I come back smiling and full of life! It should be prescribed by the NHS! Myself and Shelley are entered into a 31 mile run in March, basically Manchester to Sowerby Bridge! Can’t wait! Non of these petty marathon distances for us!
With regards to Mum, we’ve finally got her into a nursing home in Guiseley! This is magnificent news, and is the result of visiting 15 homes – several refusals from homes after assessing mum, and more homes that I wouldn’t even put a badly behaved dog in. But, she’s been there for 30 hrs now, which is 3hrs more than she lasted in her initial home! I lay awake at night waiting for the phone call from the home to tell me they can’t cope……. The home itself, Ghyll Royd, is absolutely superb. It’s cosy, comfortable, and the staff are amazing. Me and Charlotte took her there yesterday, and were really happy to leave her there. I’ve been back this morning, and just love the place. I’ve met all the other residents. Mary (I’ve changed her name on Charlotte’s insistence) has declared her love for me and gave me a big kiss before I left! She treated us all to some very badly sung hymns! As sad as it is, seeing as how this is how many of us will end up, I found the care and loving from the staff genuinely touching. It’s not a job I could do. I really take my hat off to them all. And only £895 a week!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! A week!!!!!!!! But to have mum safe and happy is priceless and it’s taken an enormous amount of pressure off the family. And to be fair, after much debate and cajoling, the social services have agreed to pay £695 a week! Who would ever have thought that my wonderful mum would be a tax drain!!!! Haha! She deserves it! Very happy😀 Let’s see how long she lasts there!!!
We’ve discovered a brilliant new game! Musical Chairs Mayhem in the Coach and Horses! So, The Coach has become our pub of choice at the moment (it’s about 30 seconds walk from home, although we do actually pass The Muckles Bar to get there!). Never a favourite of ours in the past, it just now seems much more cosier and welcoming for some bizarre reason. And it has 33 types of gin! Anyway, there are lots of regulars there, who each seem to have their own allotted seat. So when we arrive at 4pm, and it’s empty, we choose to sit wherever we like, but knowing we’re taking a “chosen” spot! The entertainment is fantastic! As the locals arrive, there is a domino effect when they have to change their regular seats! It makes them so uncomfortable and paranoid! Today they sat and stared at us as if trying to intimidate us into moving! Charlotte actually said that we should move, but I said no, this is far too entertaining to let go! Great sport!
On Saturday we had a few drinks with Shelley and her parents Ken and Linda. Ken and Linda have taken some stick from me this year as I’ve referred to their size (they are tiny tiny people!) but have taken it very good naturedly! What a lovely afternoon! And another good pub, Major Tom’s, with superb craft beers! Funnily, I mentioned our missing laptop, and the lovely Linda distinctly remembered me leaving it at Shelley’s for safe keeping! Shelley, in true police style, denies any knowledge of this! But fantastically, Shelley has just contacted us to say that although she hasn’t found the laptop, she has found our two missing coats!!!!!! Brilliant! Great news! We can be warm again!
So, off to London tomorrow to see the boy Sam, Loz and Ali! Happy days!!!!

Living with Nigella……

Sunday 15th November
My God. What a depressing day!! Miserable grey drizzle day after day….. Shelley spent ten minutes trying to convince me that going out walking in the rain is just as nice as in the sun. I know it’s each to their own and all that, but frankly Shelley, you’re wrong!!!! It’s bloody horrible! (Mind you, she is from Newcastle….) Anyway, to try and cheer myself up I’ve just been out to run 7.2 miles, and ran as well as I have done for a while. So now it’s time to rely on the anti-depressive qualities of gin and tonic.
We did have a brilliant time on Friday though, when we went to meet my old team for a drink in Leeds, and an extra special surprise to find my old partner Hill waiting there for me! We worked together for a while in Chapeltown as renegade DCs, and were either referred to as highly competent, or Laurel and Hardy depending on who you spoke to. But to see all my old colleagues was absolutely fantastic, and it’s a shame that I’ll probably never get to work with them again.
Ironic really, considering the people I was drinking with, that at that very time all sorts of horrors were unfolding in Paris. Our Sam was working in Paris on a photo shoot, and the first we knew was a text from him saying “Don’t, worry, I’m safe. Trouble in Paris” Well, not knowing what was going on, we just presumed it was women trouble (that’s Sam’s usual problem in Paris!). Laurence got a text saying “Don’t worry about the shooting in Paris, I’m safe” and just took it that it was a reference to his photo shoot! Sam, you have to be much more specific in future!!! Anyway, he wasn’t far from it, but fortunately not involved.
Charlotte has found a new love of cooking, and with the purchase of a new 8 in 1 (?) slow cooker she’s gone into full on cook mode! Today alone she’s baked a chocolate cake (first one ever, and very nice!), sausage and mash for tonight, and chicken casserole for tomorrow. It’s like living with Nigella….. And a bonus about our lovely flat is that the oven seems to cook perfect, hugely-risen Yorkshire puddings. See, it’s all in the temperature.
I knew the gin would do me good! The downside of it is that I’ve just entered a 50km Ultra Marathon in March! The Canalathon, from Manchester to Sowerby Bridge following the canal! Fantastic!! 31 miles of running! So now I’ve got something to aim for! Best get training!

Beers of the day!

Beers of the day!

Sausage, mash and giant puds! Well done Nigella!

Sausage, mash and giant puds! Well done Nigella!

A Virgin Arrives……..

Thursday 12th November
Just a little update – so we’ve moved into our new flat, and it’s absolutely magnificent! Overlooking the Stray, and within hopping distance of many pubs! Admittedly, there are 47 steps up to our front door, meaning that moving-in day was a bit of an ordeal, but at least it means we’ll get good daily exercise! It’s a very warm cosy flat, and I’m happy just watching life go by below us. Not sure about our neighbours though – there’s a couple by the name of Rachael and Nigel who live 2 doors away who bring the tone down a little…… still, the adjoining house is up for sale for £2 million, so maybe we’ll get some class moving into there (although at that price it’s most likely to be a drug dealer).
Last week was my 46th birthday, which I was meant to celebrate on a beach in Bali! Oh well, never mind, we probably wouldn’t have liked Bali anyway, far too sunny and sandy for us….. So I’m another year older, and certainly another year wiser! Next week is my dear friend Peter Hopkins’ 66th birthday, and as has become tradition we are having our annual day out next Thursday in which we quaff as much champagne as possible. And then we drink some more! Peter has spent his life in the wine trade, and I used to work for him at The Tannin Level Wine Bar. Very happy days! Going for a drink with Peter is always an education in fine wine!
Speaking of drinking, I seem to have changed my drinking habits!!!! The P and P is no longer my first choice!! Instead, we make the 20 second hike to The Coach and Horses which we have discovered to be lovely and warm and welcoming. And 33 different types of gin. 70 different whiskies!! Due to our new custom they’ve been able to take on an extra 56 staff and make plans to renovate into next door!
We’re still struggling to find a home to accept mum. My daily life usually starts with a visit to a couple of nursing homes, which is never the best start to the day. Earlier this year I devised a TV game show which saw the contestants doing battle with the South American postal system. Now I’ve come up with the sequel – four couples fight to be first to house one of their parents in a suitable place. The criteria for “a suitable place” are
1. A residence that you’d actually be happy to put your dog in, let alone a parent
2. A residence that may have a bed available within the next 8 decades
3. A residence that costs less than £2000 per week
Believe me, to hit these three criteria on the same residence is not easy! I’m not even sure it’s possible! But it’s a fun game that all the family can play, if they so choose.
Dad came to visit our new place today and liked it very much. Now, Dad has a terrible memory for names. Of people, places, and things. So in every sentence there’s a lot of “doodahs”, “whatsits” and “thingummys”. But I’ve discovered today that I have a bizarre talent for being able to translate this! For example, when he talked of “whatsit from whatsit” today, I immediately said “Peter from Harrogate?” Correct. And shortly after, trying to describe a famous person (and I immediately apologise for the language here, but he is 78 years old!) as “doodah, Yorkshireman, poofter!” I said “Alan Bennett?”. Correct. This is a great skill I have! Is there a living to be made from it????
I had a strange text from Charlotte today while I was walking in town. It simply said “Virgin here X”. Of course I rushed home to find out more about this miracle! Imagine my surprise to find a 40 odd year old, moustached Geordie (haha, the description so far could still be a female!) It was of course a Virgin Media engineer, so finally we have a television, but more importantly broadband. I’ve really not missed television one little bit (who needs telly when The Coach is 20 seconds walk away?). Broadband however is very missable, and it’s a pleasure to have it back.
We had a lovely walk this afternoon, and met Lydia’s mum, Rags, which was very nice. And then we went to the new Italian bakery/cake shop, La Bella Bottega on Kings Road, which is owned by our lovely friend Daniella and her brother’s family. Absolutely fantastic! I urge you to try it, not just because they’re our friends, but because it is genuinely a wonderful shop with amazing cakes! Her brother Rafel has been a baker in southern Italy for the past 30 years, and they’ve just moved here to give it a try. Another thought occurred to us – Rafel and his family are obviously classed as immigrants. Immigrants generally get a bad name in the press. But they, like many others, have come here to work hard, and contribute to the economy. In fact I’m sure he works far harder than most of us (he starts baking the bread at 3am…..) I doubt whether the Daily Mail will report this though…… Anyway, visit the shop, and check out their Facebook.
I’ve got very much back in to my running, and am loving it again! Tomorrow I’m running with our neighbour Rachael. I suppose I’ll have to show her how it’s done…… 😊 Following that it’s over to visit mum at The Mount in Leeds, and then on for a “small shandy” with members of my old team! Can’t wait!!!!

The view from our flat, taken during the 7 minutes that the sun appeared this week!

The view from our flat, taken during the 7 minutes that the sun appeared this week!

Our nice cosy lounge

Our nice cosy lounge

There's no reason to stop beer of the day!!!

There’s no reason to stop beer of the day!!!

Good head!

Good head!

Seamus and his family are in town. Do not be surprised if your car is on bricks in the morning...

Seamus and his family are in town. Do not be surprised if your car is on bricks in the morning…

One I forgot to post……

Sunday 1st November
As I wake up in fog-bound Leeds, the harsh reality kicks in that our sailing course starts in Langkawi today!!!! Maybe we should go to Pugneys in Wakefield instead???
Already, after only a week, our dream trip is becoming just distant memories. We keep being told “Welcome back to real life”, but I don’t get that. Surely the acceptance that poor weather, inflated prices, the 9-5 slog of work, has to be the norm is the acceptance of a defeated attitude? I can’t for the life of me come up with a single reason why this should be the norm???? Yes, we’ll have to work and earn money, but there is absolutely nothing to stop us from doing jobs we enjoy, in a country we want to be in, with weather to suit! My two new priorities in life have become
1. To be able to walk to walk (I’ve just done 12 years of 2 hrs commute a day)
2. To only need two pairs of shoes – flip flops for everyday use, and trainers to run in. OK, obviously a pair of cycling shoes too…so three pairs.
Although, the above two criteria don’t necessarily fit in with the greatest place in the world…..
Right, moving on, time for a bit of a wrap up of the last year –
The Best Place We’ve Visited:
This is our most oft asked question, and it’s not so easy to answer. Every single country we’ve been to has been amazing, each with its own attributes – the beaches, history, people, culture of South America , the life in south east Asia….. After much thought I’ve come up with these three
3. Peru – beautiful, cultural, cheap, friendly. Macchu Pichu and Colca Canyon alone would make this country worth visiting. A UNESCO site every half mile!
2. Brazil – our first destination, and what an incredible place. The greatest people, the most beautiful ladies!!, unbelievable beaches, a constant carnival atmosphere
1. New Zealand – the most stunning country I’ve ever been to. Beaches, mountains, wildlife, very few people but very nice people, sun and snow! proper seasons, and a brilliant attitude towards outdoor life. An outlook on life of “Yes, that’s probably possible, give it a try!” rather than here “No,that’ll never work!”. Queenstown and Lake Wanaka would be number one choices for us in any future move abroad, which is something we’ll aim for. Yes, it’s expensive compared to most other places, but without a doubt worth paying for! I would move there for the stunning cycling routes alone! Honestly, neither of us can speak highly enough of NZ. A proper gem.
Ok, more when I can be bothered to write..

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Just another Brazilian beach……

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Plan A fails……… bring on Plan B.

Well, the blonde-hair-insanity plan didn’t work. But that was mainly because the person I was dealing with was one of those people who never actually looks at you. Only at the ground. Perhaps I should have worn some 2 foot long clowns shoes instead. My interview lasted approximately 68 seconds, and consisted of me handing over various documents and forms and then asking “Any idea what you’re going to do with me?”, to be answered “No, I don’t deal with that, and the lady that does isn’t here”. Leaving me thinking “So why exactly did you ask me to come here today????????”. Next step apparently is to be assessed by the occupational health dept!!! Oooops! Now that could cause problems!!!! So I’m back on the e-cigarette (until the pub tonight…..).
Two weeks ago I envisaged spending today on a beach in Thailand with my lovely mate Aidy and his family (see how I’ve calmed Aidy! No mention of fatness!). As it transpired, I spent the rest of the day on a grand tour of nursing/dementia homes of North Leeds. Somewhat different from plans. Never let it be said that I’m not flexible.
Visiting these homes is fairly sobering (I’ve actually had only 3 beers this week!! Outrageous!!) and I take my hat off to each and every person who works in them. I know I certainly couldn’t do it.
It did make me think though – the homes are always playing piped music, usually crooners from the 50s, quite rightly aimed at their customers. The dementia issue is only going to increase as time goes by, and it made me wonder what it’d be like in 40 years time. We’ll have nursing homes playing Blur, Oasis and The Happy Mondays! That’ll be brilliant with the drugs they hand out there!! Instead of showing musicals on the telly, they’ll be playing DVDs of One Direction, Take That and Miley Cyrus! No bingo, twerking sessions instead!!! It’s almost worth looking forward to!
I’m working on a final blog – BAFTAS of the Year. Watch this space…….

My natural hair colour. Honest.

My natural hair colour. Honest.

Leeds.

Leeds.

Not Leeds.

Not Leeds.

The Last Night In Bangkok!!!!!!i

Wednesday 28th October
Last time I wrote, I was sat at the pool on the 37th floor of the Intercontinental Hotel in Bangkok. Now I’m sitting on my dad’s sofa in Leeds. Its very disturbing.
However, still got things to report!
Our last afternoon in Bangkok was spent at the Chatuchak Market, which is the biggest one we’ve seen this year. Bloody huge! And it was incredibly hot! After a couple of hours of wandering around, and the terrible realisation that, in company with three women, I was facing another couple of hours shopping, I begged and pleaded (for the sake of my sanity) to be cut loose and left to my own devices. Permission granted! Yes, hang out the bunting!!!!! I ran at full pelt to the safety and sanctuary of the Viva 8 bar which I’d earlier spotted, and started glugging beers as fast as possible in fear that the girls would curtail their marathon retail session before I’d “calmed” down. And what a bar it turned out to be! Run by a fat Spanish chef, within the market area but very much open air, what a place! Absolutely buzzing! There was a young English lad DJing, and the music was just sublime even though it was only 3pm! Magnificent! Eventually the ladies joined me, and we kept putting off our departure, and saying “we’ll go after this next beer…” Then, at one stage Sarah and I wandered off to the bathroom, leaving the already-fairly-tipsy Charlotte and Shelley. On our return, we discovered that the two giggling school girls had ordered a 76 pint jug of margarita……. And it just went downhill from there!!! What a great night! The music just got better and better and we had such a laugh! Brilliant! Then, drunkenly we headed off for the Skytrain back into town and to Soi Cowboy (on the way, Charlotte was given some intense CROP training, which basically meant she had to wee in a bush…..). Hmmmm. Soi Cowboy. A street of seedy girly bars. Obviously we were there in a purely research based environment. There is a story to tell, but I’ll leave it there….. all I’ll say is that somewhere in Bangkok is a poor English lad wandering around in a daze having been well and truly lambasted by a couple of feisty Geordie/Canadian girls………..
Amazingly we got back to the hotel (without being violently savaged by irate pimps and madams), and very drunkenly at 11pm it was time to say goodnight and goodbye to our lovely beautiful friends, who had to get up at 3.45am to get to the airport!!!!!!!! Haha! Thank you girls for giving us a superb last few days of our trip! We love you!!
Monday saw us back at Bangkok airport too, (for about the 8th time in a couple of months!) and facing the depressing and sad journey home. In an attempt to cheer ourselves we upgraded to premium economy, and got stuck into the prosecco. All in all, it was a good flight, interspersed with wine and gin.
And then, there we were. Manchester, and good old Joshy there to meet us at the airport! And the end of the greatest ten months of our lives. How incredibly lucky we’ve been. What an experience!
And I do understand it when people tell me that England isn’t actually all that bad.
I understand that the very very basic hotel in Manchester, at £85 a night with no breakfast, £4.50 for a bottle of beer, isn’t actually that bad.
I understand that the thick, unrelenting fog between Manchester and Leeds isn’t actually that bad.
I understand that the over pricing of everything, for the sake of mass profits, isn’t actually that bad.
Honest! I understand!!! 😉
Last night we suffered the effects of jet lag for the first time this year! Went to bed at 8pm shattered, then up at 2am unable to get back to sleep!!! Aaaaargh! We’ve had a long day sorting things out, and visiting mum at the Hotel California….she’s actually much improved from when I last saw her, looking healthier, and no longer wanting to fight everyone on sight! The drugs must be great! However, she still talks mainly gibberish and hallucinates, so I suspect she’s still hoping for a posting to our Senior Management Team…… Right, it’s 7.15pm and its bed time!! Haha! Sleeping tablets tonight!
For anyone who’s interested, my new mobile no. is 07492882221. If you’re not interested, my new mobile no. is 07453288976.
Cheers! Maybe a couple more blogs to come……..

Common as muck these three......

Common as muck these three……

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Quick! Drink fast while they're shopping!

Quick! Drink fast while they’re shopping!

The fat Spanish chef!

The fat Spanish chef!

It's all going to go horribly wrong.......

It’s all going to go horribly wrong…….

Think she just missed me with that punch!

Think she just missed me with that punch!

The Australian And Newcastle Cultural Ambassadors on a fact finding mission in Bangkok.....

The Canadian And Newcastle Cultural Ambassadors on a fact finding mission in Bangkok…..

Brilliant!

Brilliant! And Shelley doesn’t yet look as if she’s wet herself!

The proudest police chief I've ever seen!

The proudest police chief I’ve ever seen!

Joined by a lady DJ!

Joined by a lady DJ!

The terrible after effects of 63 gallons of margarita......

The terrible after effects of 63 gallons of margarita……