Illustrated blog post

Today’s blog post is quite an illustrated one, so apologies to those with slow internet speeds.

We had a very busy and productive 4-day weekend, which started on Thursday evening with us getting the weekly shopping out of the way. On Friday, the poet went fishing, and I spent much of the day faffing with the blog – did you notice? Let me know what you think. My day started with housework, as usual but without the rush to get it done in time for work. I emptied and reloaded the dishwasher – twice – and I put just one washload through both the washing cycle and the tumble drying cycle.

I had intended not to go to my desk, but I wanted to see what the blog can and can’t do and what the website can and can’t do. And while they both have pros and cons, at the moment the blog is winning. There are features not available unless I pay for a premium membership, but the blog facility is by far more superior than the one that comes with the website. So when my website and domain come up for renewal next May, I may move everything over to WordPress.

The poet got back at about teatime, but we went out on a date night just as soon as he was presentable (and not smelling of fish). We started at an old favourite of ours, Pizza Express, and finished at the pictures. There were 3 films on our list, depending on what time we finished at the restaurant, Maze Runner: The Scorch Files; Legend; and Sicario. We came out in time to see the last one and were home by 11:30pm.

P1040179On Saturday morning we went out to get my dad a birthday present and to buy some vinegars and some spices we didn’t already have or that needed replenishing.

When we got back, we used up all of the sloes and more of the apples in a sloe & Bramley apple jelly. We used this recipe from the Cottage Smallholder, but had to adjust the recipe to match the weight of the sloes we had. It seemed to work, though, and we left the pulp dripping through a jelly bag overnight.

We also used some tomatoes and more of the apples to make a ripe tomato chutney, and the rest of the tomatoes to make a basic tomato ketchup. Again, we were restricted by the weight and tried to adjust the recipes to suit, which we got from Easy Jams, Chutneys and Preserves by Val and John Harrison.

The chutney worked really well, but we had to add cornflour to the ketchup as it wasn’t thickening. We’re going to try that recipe again, though, but with the right ingredients because it’s absolutely delicious. We won’t know what the chutney is like for a few weeks, but that’s quite a lot of chutney we have in the spare fridge now. And, of course, we still have apples left …

On Saturday evening, Monkey Dust played a gig in Doncaster. WordPress wouldn’t let me embed a video directly (this is one of the complaints I have with the blog at the moment), so I had to upload it to YouTube and embed it from there. I hope it works for you.

This is a fairly new one for them but a song they got comfortable with very quickly. I think they do a lovely job, even if the video is a bit wobbly (that’s me, as is the phone-freeze at the end of it all).

I drove back from the gig and thought there was something wrong with the poet’s car, so I mentioned it …

Sunday morning we were up early to finish the sloe & Bramley apple jelly. Because of the limits we had with the fruit content, we only managed just under 2 jars. It set perfectly and tastes gorgeous, and we’ll be having it with meat – hopefully at Christmas too. Then we were off to Birmingham, where we had a nice visit with my parents for my dad’s birthday – we even had birthday cake!

On the way back, the poet’s car started to act very strangely. Warning lights started to come on and he thought the clutch was slipping. So we said first thing tomorrow (aka Monday) he was going to book it in. As we slowed down at the next junction, which was literally just yards away, his clutch pedal disappeared. And, still in 6th gear, we limped off the motorway and pulled into a layby on an A-road just as the engine caught fire …

Fortunately I’m in the AA and was able to call them for breakdown rescue. Even more fortunately, he apparently is too. The car is only 8 months old and part of the dealer warranty includes AA breakdown membership. And yet more fortunately still, there was an AA man just finishing another rescue on the other side of the road! He couldn’t do a roadside repair, so instead dragged the car to a garage of our choice, dropping us off at Meadowhall on the way so I could collect my car (which I’d left there to go to Doncaster on the train on Saturday night).

We got home at about 7:30pm. Fortunately again (Fortune was certainly with us on Sunday), while we were out, the poet had left a lamb shank in the slow cooker. He was going to cook it on “high” but I’d convinced him to cook it on “low”, so by the time we got home, the meat was perfect, falling away from the bone. He’d infused it with mint and garlic, and – again – it tasted gorgeous, with baby new potatoes in butter, peas and sweetcorn, and a lamb gravy.

Monday was very much a lost day. We had to get the car keys to the garage where we’d abandoned the car, and we had to wait around until the car hire company (also via Ford’s AA warranty membership) arranged a temporary car for us. Once the hire car was sorted (for a 2pm delivery), off we went to the garage.

We had a chat with the service department, who were shocked that a car only 8 months old had lost its clutch in such a manner. They’re 99.9% sure that it’s covered by warranty, but you know how some of these dealers can be. It’s currently being looked at in the workshop and we’ll find out later today what’s going to happen to it. Once the clutch is fixed, if we book it in for its first year service (which we did), we get another year’s AA membership included.

At about 1:15pm, we received a phone call to say the hire car had arrived, and within 25 minutes we were home to take delivery.

P1040172This cut the day in half really, so we weren’t able to go out for the day as we’d hoped. Instead, we decided to do some much needed DIY around the house – only tweaks, but things that have needed doing for a while but been neglected.

The poet started by removing a coat rack that was on this wall in the living room, and replacing it with a mirror that came up with me to Yorkshire when I moved 11 years ago.

The curtains you can see in this picture (in the mirror too) were made by the gig buddy for my last house. She adapted them to fit this house. Her business is The Sewing Room. And she does loads and loads for us, including my wedding dress.

The table you can see is one we got in a swap with son #1 when he moved into his last house. We jokingly call it our “telephone paraphernalia table”, and it matches the television unit and the stereo unit, which we also swapped with son #1. (Not for him, with him!)

P1040175The coat rack was moved to the hall, which to us is the logical place for coats. The picture to the left shows it now, but before, that was just a white expanse of wall. This puzzled us very much, and now we’re half-waiting to see if there was some structural reason for this rather bizarre decision.

He also put in some new hooks for the dog’s leads and collar and for one of our walking sticks.

I went through this little lot before it looked like this and moved 4 pairs of shoes, 2 coats, a hat and 2 pairs of gloves to wardrobes and cupboards upstairs. I also managed to transport a pair of his shoes to the bin … I’ll have to check later to make sure he hasn’t retrieved them … (I did tell him, I even made him take them himself. It was very good therapy for him. 😉 )

Now our wellies are in the hall too, having previously taken up space in the kitchen. Can you guess which wellies belong to whom?

P1040173While he had his DIY head on, he also did a job on this bookshelf, reducing it by one shelf so that the wall-light shows over the top of it. I’d already gone through the books as they originally filled the extra shelf on here and spilled out into the surrounding area. Along with his shoes probably went over 100 books to the bin. Definitely a job I should have done 2 years ago.

This is sort of the poet’s corner … (do you see what I did there?). It’s where he was keeping all of his art supplies too (that’s the current work-in-progress on the easel). And, like the books, this also spilled onto the floor, onto the stereo and under the stairs. Now his current supplies are tucked tidily away in a drawer beneath the stereo.

The easel is a lightweight portable easel that packs down so it can come on holiday with us, or on days out. The stereo unit is another third of that furniture collection we swapped with son #1. The turntable was the poet’s; the mini-stereo was mine; the 7″ vinyl was all his. Now they’re joint.

P1040169While I had my tidying head on (we do need to take advantage of these brain murmurs when they happen), I also de-cluttered what I suppose is “my” corner, for this is where I sit when I’m working on hard copy downstairs, whether editing, reading or writing.

The poet put the floating shelves in several months ago, but he still needs to stain and secure those extra lengths of dowelling he added for extra safety for when there’s a certain toddler visiting us.

Some of the books that were on here also went into the bin, and all of the office clutter was moved upstairs to the office. (Incidentally, I would normally take books to a library or to a charity sale, but many of these would have been of no interest to anyone else and, had we bagged them, it’s likely they’d still be cluttering up the garage this time next year. So we made an executive decision this time to just dump them.)

This corner is stuffed full of trinkets and memories. The painting is the first one the poet did following our honeymoon. If you look closely at the new slide-show in the sidebar, there’s one of the 2 photographs that inspired this piece of work. On the top shelf is an enamelled jug that also came from our honeymoon, but from the Cyprus leg. There’s also a stone jar my mom bought for me from a pottery in Wales and another little stoneware pot.

On the next shelf down, from the left, is a totem pole I bought in Canada when I went to visit my brother and his family, a London clock that my parents bought me a few Christmases ago, a book about Snow Hill Station (lying on its side at the bottom of the pile) that an old writing friend of mine had published in between the station closing and reopening again (the friend was also one of the victims of the Birmingham pub bombings in 1974), a part-works on Scotland I collected many years ago and have used quite a lot in short story work, and a colourful vase that came from the Algarve that we both thinks is quite cheerful.

The 2 hampers were Christmas presents from my sister last year. They’re proving very useful for storing things like birthday cards we’ve received. Then on the bottom shelf, you probably can’t see it very well, but there’s a black enamelled music box that used to belong to my grandma. Her stepson brought it back for her from his National Service in Malaysia – and it still works.

P1040180The final job I did yesterday, while the poet hauled out the incinerator and started a fire in the garden, was another quick and easy job that’s wanted doing for AGES – new batteries in 3 clocks.

The silver clock was just a cheap one I got from Tesco and it sits in my office. The blue glass clock came from Venice. The white wall clock is one another friend made for me one Christmas. They’ve all been with me for a very long time, and I really can’t do without knowing what the time is, for some reason.

Even in this picture is the edge of another memory. The photograph on the wall is one the poet took on our first holiday together. I’d taken him to Wordsworth’s house (for obvious reasons?) in Grasmere, and this picture is one of the garden gate leading to the cottage.

So, in the end, we had a very busy day, and – as usual – a very busy weekend. Our reward was a pizza each from Domino’s.

How was your weekend?

“Gigor Mortis”

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Monkey Dust at the Horse and Groom in Doncaster (Picture: Diane Wordsworth)

I don’t know which of our friends was the first to coin the phrase “gigor mortis” in our world, but if I did I’d like to credit him/her here (and you probably know who you are). I’ve tried Googling it, but it keeps defaulting to rigor mortis, or it gives me something in German, or takes me to an empty page. But anyway, basically it sums up how the poet – and many like him – feel after playing a gig.

Sore. All over.

This weekend was no different, but it was compounded by him then getting “fisho mortis”, which is something very similar but this time as a result of sitting on the banks of a fishery in rapidly decreasing temperatures without moving or shifting position.

I know how he feels, but they call mine “arthritis”. And it is made worse after standing up (or sitting uncomfortably) at a gig for several hours, or sitting on the chilly banks of a fishery. I got to sit down quite comfortably at Saturday’s private party, though, and he was fishing a match yesterday so I stayed home. But he was suffering doubly last night, poor thing, so I doped him up and sent him to bed, where he spent much of the night cocooned within the folds of a continental quilt (that’s a duvet to everyone else).

[EDIT] I have been reliably informed that the person who first used the expression in our circle of friends was Mike “Smikus” Stringer of Motus.

We did have a busy weekend again, despite secretly hoping to be doing diddly squat on Saturday (a do diddle day). We still didn’t plan anything for during the day, but when we got up we decided it was about time we went into the branch of our mutual building society to do three lots of admin that we’d been told we couldn’t do online or on the phone. “Just drop into a branch and they’ll do it there.”

Ha! They couldn’t do anything.

I wanted to change the name on my account and had to take our marriage certificate into a branch. But she couldn’t do it there, she had to send it off to head office. The poet wanted to change some details on his bank account. But they couldn’t do that for him, he had to make an appointment. And we wanted to open a joint account, as we both have individual accounts with them already. But they couldn’t do that for us either, we had to do it by phone …

I’ll pause for a moment while you go back and re-read the penultimate and last sentences of the paragraph three above this one …

It was at that point that I said, very loudly (as I apparently do when in public and wanting to make a point without actually directly addressing anyone … moi?): “Nat West said they could do this for us straight away. I think we should just go there …” To which the poet replied (also loudly): “You’re right. You’d think us both having accounts here already, and with all the ID we need with us, and them telling us to drop into branch, they’d just be able to do it. What a joke.”

And, miraculously, the lady interrupted to say: “Well, if it’s a joint account you want, [we did tell her that] you can do that yourselves just over here …”

We couldn’t. We still had to make a phone call. But at least by the time we came out we’d done at least one of the things we’d gone in to do. We had a shiny new joint account … which is where the new tent fund is going. For starters.

I wish we’d known we were going to be in Barnsley, though, as the third of my 3 errands on Friday was postponed due to the other one being brought forward and me being stuck miles away. The outstanding errand was to drop in the heavy proofread to the publisher, but we didn’t have it with us. I can see me taking that to the post office this week after all.

After the bank we had a wander round the town centre, visited the food festival that was on there, and bought some giant pears from the market. Then it was off to the tackle shop to get his bait for Sunday’s pole fishing match.

The afternoon was spent with him doing prep work, cutting the grass, and tweaking a painting, and me doing some reading, making a few notes for some short writing work, and a few hours on one of the many jobs I already have in.

Then it was off to the party in two cars, me 90 minutes after him, for the wedding of the daughter of a friend of ours. The band don’t often like doing weddings because the audience hasn’t chosen to see them or their particular music. But they went down really well with a rammed dance-floor all night. Monkey Dust would like to take that audience with them everywhere they go.

On Sunday, he was up early and drawing his peg for 9am, which was about the time I was getting up. And again, I caught up on more reading, more writing work, and more client work. He won second in his section and we had a takeaway for tea – mostly because the gigor mortis had already set in and the fisho mortis was starting, and he didn’t feel like cooking. (I would have put a ready-made pie in the oven, but he didn’t want to put me out … 😉 )

And so to today and this week. I still have lots of editing work to be getting on with, but with NaNoWriMo around the corner, I also have something percolating for that and may be ready to start prep work either this week or next. It’s all my work this morning, though, and all client work this afternoon, which is what I’ve been striving for. Then this evening I have to go back for the second part of my new patient check at our new GP, and tomorrow I’m dropping the poet off at the railway station at the crack of dawn as he’s off to Scotland for 2 days.

What are you up to this week?

Heavy edits

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Memorial, Moreton in Marsh (Picture: Ian Wordsworth)

Apart from being in the midst of another very heavy edit, yesterday I also disappeared beneath a fug of faff and almost let the entire day run away.

It all started when I tried to tidy my pictures on Facebook, and I was going so fast that FB suddenly stopped letting me update the captions, saying my “behaviour” was intolerable. (Or words to that effect.)

Well, FB, enjoy them while you have them. Because when you start to dictate to me what I can write and what I can do with MY OWN PICTURES, I start to back them up elsewhere and they start to disappear from your platform.

Anyway, once I got over my little tantrum, I left the computer (and FB) on the office desk and moved downstairs to finish the heavy manual edit. I should be doing the electronic edit on that next, but I need a rest from it so will do a quick proofread for the same client instead, and get that back to them either tonight or tomorrow night, overnight.

Last week got a bit busy as I had another 4-day week (it’s 5 days this week, I hope I can cope). All of Thursday was pretty much written off with appointments, but I did manage more editing in between at least. I just didn’t manage anything else.

At the weekend we had a Monkey Dust gig Saturday night, and we visited both lots of parents – one on Saturday, and one on Sunday. I also had a baking day, making a cherry fruit cake and some cherry buns (we needed to use up the cherries), and I made a strawberry trifle. And on Sunday the poet left a pork casserole in the slow cooker while we were out.

I have at least 2 books I need to clear and get back to the client this week (the 2 already mentioned), but we have a meeting Wednesday evening too for the one piece of “pro-bono” work I’ve taken on. I don’t do work for free very often, but I do like to help out a good cause where I can and this one’s to do with some friends of the band, and it is a charity thing. The band will be doing something too.

Friday is back to being an errand day this week. I usually still work in the morning, but try to arrange any appointments for late afternoon onwards. This week I had to make one appointment in the morning, at 10:30am, and I already had one late afternoon, at 4:30pm. Hopefully there’s still a big enough gap in there for me to crack on with some work.

Extra homework
Today’s picture is another one from our long weekend in Evesham over the bank holiday. We had a day showing the poet some of the Cotswold villages, and this one is Moreton in Marsh. Have a look at it and see if you can come up with a story – either around the memorial or about the people who live (or do they work?) in the little house immediately behind. With Remembrance Sunday less than 2 months away, some speculation – or good, honest research – around the memorial might make something interesting. But so might whoever you decide to populate the house with.

Don’t forget to report back. 😉

Downhill from here …

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At Fleet’s Dam (picture: Diane Wordsworth)

I’m always very, very busy and productive on a Monday morning. I get loads and loads done … and then it’s all downhill from there. I’ll bet this week is no different, although it is a short week due to the bank holiday weekend coming up.

Wednesday and Thursday last week were fairly normal. I finished another editing job and got that sent back to the client and I got some gig list admin done too.

*** potential Downton Abbey SPOILER ALERT ***
Friday was a day off. Carol came to see our house for the first time – I think she liked it 😉 – and then we went to Cannon Hall in Barnsley, which is literally minutes from here, to see the Downton Abbey exhibition. Carol’s a big fan, having watched the entire series, whereas I lost interest when they killed Matthew Crawley … sorry if that’s a spoiler for anyone. I did recognise some of the costumes, though, from the first few series.

We had lunch in the café there and were, quite frankly, disappointed. The place was very, very busy yet staff could clearly be seen both having their break (which is their right, but maybe not in public when the place is so busy) and taking up valuable dining space. It also took 3 of them at once to watch the card reader when it didn’t work … The food was lovely, but we’ve already decided to go to the garden centre café in future.

On Saturday we went shopping for camping supplies for this weekend – blankets, egg boxes, extra single-burner stove, picnic table, frying pan, cutlery, salt n pepper pot, windbreak – and Saturday evening the poet had a gig over in Doncaster, again. He drove up early to help setup, but I caught the train at 8pm as 6:15pm was far too early to be leaving the dog.

I was at the station in the rain with 17 stags (who were all very well-behaved) only to find that our train was delayed. By 12 minutes. By the time we got to my change station, we were 20 minutes late and I missed my connection. I now wasn’t due in until 9:18pm and the gig was supposed to start at 9:15pm and I don’t know how to get there. So he sent their lovely roadie/lights man to fetch me and we got back halfway through their first song.

Following a late finish, we were up Sunday morning and off to Birmingham to see my parents and to fetch them some shopping on the way. We left glorious sunshine in Yorkshire and arrived to torrential rain in the West Midlands. Our plan was to visit Calke Abbey on the way back, but because it was so wet (and we didn’t put walking boots in), we made do with eating our picnic in the car park looking at the view and vowing to go back another day as it’s less than 90 minutes away.

We didn’t get any new pictures, so I’ve shared one of the poet fishing at Fleet’s Dam a couple of weeks ago.

And so to today, and already I’ve had a very busy morning. I’ve got the poet up and off to work, fed the birds and the pets, filled and started the dishwasher, put a washload through and hung it out, I was at my desk for 9:30am, I’ve done more gig list admin and been a secretary for the band, and I’ve re-started the daily competitions. The daily competitions had made way for walking the dog, but the poet felt quite left out not coming for a daily walk with us, so we started to take him (me and Rufus took the poet) of an evening with us.

As I say, it’s probably all downhill from here …

For the rest of today I’ll probably have to fetch the washing back in, as the sky looks fairly ominous (although it has to come in before the end of the day anyway). I have 2 hours of writing time booked in, then I start a new edit for a regular client. I also need to raise 2 invoices for the same client (hurrah!).

Tomorrow I add an hour of job board admin and an hour of study work, but still have the 2 hours of writing time and 2 hours of client time. And it’s more of the same for the remaining 2 working days this week.

Gigging again

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Monkey Dust: (l – r) Dave drums, Alan bass, Mel lights, Ian (Wormy) vocals, Tom guitar (Picture: Diane Wordsworth)

This weekend just gone saw the return of Monkey Dust to the gig circuit after, pretty much, the summer off, apart from the Wheel of Light festival, which was a one-off. Here’s a picture I took of the lads at that festival. I think it’s one of very few with them all together.

Friday night we stayed in and watched the telly. On Saturday we drove over to Edale to attempt to climb Kinder Scout … but, oh, what a test of my current fitness (or not). We walked for about an hour and the hill was killing me – I really, really hate big hills.

It was raining on the mountain, which meant we were wearing waterproofs on an otherwise warm day. And that made it quite warm and sweaty going. We sheltered for something to eat, but the rain had brought out every single fly or ant on the planet. Even the dog was getting agitated by them, snapping at them, trying to catch them. And when I couldn’t face another climb up for as far as the eye could see, we turned around and went back down.

While I was a bit disappointed that I couldn’t do it, I wasn’t surprised. But I do need to increase my fitness. So we hope to try it again and again, and see how much further we get each time.

On our way there, my dad called to let me know my Yesterday Remembered story is in the August issue of Best of British. He’s a subscriber, so I think he got his a few days earlier than it appears on the shelves. He was dead chuffed because they chose to use a 1970s picture of him, Mom and my brother on a beach.

On the way back we toyed with going fishing again, but the fishing tackle shop was in the wrong direction and, to be honest, I just wanted to chill on the settee after attempting Kinder Scout. So we watched 3 films back-to-back.

Sunday was that first gig back, and as we had to be out by 1:30pm, that didn’t give us much chance to do anything else. I nipped to the shop, with the dog, to buy the makings of a picnic while the poet Hoovered the house from top to bottom. The gig started at 4pm, so we were home by 7:30pm, and tucking into a salmon tea by 8pm.

We’re fairly busy from now on, gig-wise. There are two gigs next weekend, then we have the following weekend off; there’s one gig the weekend after that, then we have the bank holiday weekend and the first weekend in September off; and then there’s only one weekend off between then and Christmas.

The diet is going well so far. I’ve lost 3¾lb this time already (on top of another 2lb I’d already got off before changing our diet to low GI), and a few inches from various parts of the body. The poet said last night he didn’t even feel as though we were on a diet. (He lost over half a stone – 7lb – before we went on honeymoon, and has kept that off, and lost a couple more pounds too.)

On Friday evening, after an aborted trip to the hairdresser (I went for a drive, parked up in the sunshine – on the M1 – cancelled the appointment, turned around and came back), an unsolicited email arrived asking if I’d like a big proofreading job. I checked their details as soon as I got home, and replied almost straight away – yes please! So that means I now have in one job from lovely-already-boss, two more for lovely-new-boss, and this one for lovely-potential-boss. If I can keep those three contracts going, I’ll never need to trawl for editing or proofreading work again.

It does mean another busy week ahead, but I’ve set my word count challenge for August at 18,000 words. That equates to 18 working days in August, but may turn into 19 days (and 19,000 words) if we don’t end up going camping for the bank holiday weekend. We’d like to take in some of the Evesham fishing festival again this year and, if we camp, we can visit other places too, including my parents, and we can take the dog.

What are you up to this week?

Northern Rail (***rant alert***)

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The poet (in the hat) with our friends Sam and Steve at Tramlines (Picture: Diane Wordsworth)

Tramlines 2015 started on Friday evening in Sheffield, and we had tickets for the whole weekend. We jumped on a train in Dodworth and in just half an hour, and for just £11.60 (apx $18) for both of us return, we were there.

We thought that was excellent value, especially when you take into account the price of petrol and parking, and – of course – vehicular wear and tear. And we wondered why so many people complain about the price of rail fares …

We went to City Hall to collect our wristbands, and it was actually quite hilarious. It wasn’t very busy yet at all, but the organisers still had us walking in in single file, queuing at the right desk, and then exiting via a different door … all 2 of us …

Most of the roads around the festival stages were closed, and quite rightly too, but we were able to get a taxi to the main stage area and pick up 2 of our friends on the way. We’d only gone to see The Charlatans, and they were excellent – my very first time. I recognised the lead singer, Tim Burgess, and when I said to the poet, “That’s the only one I know,” he thought I was being funny … I didn’t realise one of their famous songs was The Only One I Know

It was great to see Sam and Steve, and the rain stopped before we were all drenched, but we had to dash to catch our train back and we had no idea how to get to the station. We were eventually directed to the nearest tram stop and got back to the station in time for a Burger King supper too.

The next day we wanted to see more of our friends, Bang Bang Romeo. The bass player is the son of the bass player in Monkey Dust and the poet has pretty much watched him grow up. This time, however, we were very disappointed with the trains … so here’s that …

*** rant ***

On a Saturday there is one train per hour going from Huddersfield to Sheffield stopping at all of the stations, which is fair enough if people aren’t using them. However, everyone knew there was a major festival happening in Sheffield. Everyone, it seems, except for Northern Rail. Did they put on extra trains for this huge event? No. Did they add extra carriages to the existing trains? No. And I’d like to know why.

Hundreds of people bought their tickets in advance to attend the festival. We had to. They sold out very quickly. And this is a city centre event with lots of venues and outdoor arenas, not just one venue.

We got on the train at an unmanned station, which means that we won’t get arrested for not buying our ticket at the station. There are lots of unmanned stations between Huddersfield and Sheffield. That means lots of passengers get on the trains and buy their tickets from the conductors.

Because there was only one train per hour stopping at these unmanned stations, and because no one thought to add any extra carriages to existing trains already going that way, the 2 coaches were rammed.

They were so rammed, hundreds of passengers didn’t manage to get on – loss of potential revenue #1.

They were so rammed, the conductors couldn’t get through to sell tickets to those hundreds of passengers who had managed to get on – loss of potential revenue #2.

There were no ticket staff installed at any of the usually-unmanned stations – loss of potential revenue #3.

There are no ticket barriers at Sheffield Station – loss of potential revenue #4.

And those who did buy rail tickets in advance and then didn’t get on their train will be reclaiming their fares – redemption of revenue.

Now, I’m not a rocket scientist (no really, I’m not), but even I can see where Northern Rail passed up an amazing opportunity to earn (and keep) money. So many passengers would have got through on those trains completely free of charge. And because no one was policing it, they’ll get away with it too.

If they didn’t have the staff, they could have hired temporary staff. If they didn’t have the rolling stock (excellent excuse usually rolled out), they could have hired temporary stock.

Not only did Northern Rail lose revenue themselves, they also lost Sheffield city centre and the Tramlines festival all of that custom from those who didn’t make it. Not to mention disappointed fans who couldn’t get there in time to see their favourite bands.

The festival itself was excellent, very well organised, very well laid out, very well catered, very well attended. It was a joy to join in. So why didn’t Northern Rail (and others) cash in on that success?

*** end of rant ***

Bang Bang Romeo sounded, looked and were great – the best we’ve ever seen them. We were also able to watch another band straight after them, who we didn’t know, and we had another few hours with Sam and Steve before they headed back to Nottinghamshire. We were close enough to walk back to the station this time and were half an hour early for our train …

*** rant #2 ***

So there we sat, on the designated platform (1b), where our 16:36 train was “on time”. There were 3 other trains at this platform in the time we waited, but they were all previously late trains. At 16:30 we were told over the tannoy that the next train to arrive at platform 1b was, indeed, the 16:36 to Huddersfield …

… only it wasn’t. It was the delayed 16:something-or-other to Doncaster.

And so we sat and waited patiently for that one to clear, and when it did, at the same time that another announcement came over the tannoy, we saw our train … at another platform. At precisely 16:36 we were told that the train now leaving platform 2b was the 16:36 to Huddersfield … and we had to get up the stairs, over the track and down the other side before the doors closed.

Fortunately we weren’t the only ones and the conductor had the decency to make sure there was no one else over on platform 1b. But oh, what a shambles! And our next train wasn’t for another hour.

To say we were disappointed with Northern Rail by the end of the weekend is an understatement, and now maybe we know why there are so many complaints.

*** end of rant #2 ***

We didn’t make it ourselves to the Sunday. We wanted to see Buzzcocks and more of our friends, The Kavaliers (the drummer is the son of the drummer in Monkey Dust … do you see a theme here?). But heavy rain – and the difficulty of getting there on a Sunday, if Saturday was anything to go by – put us off.

Instead we had a trip to Meadowhall where we replaced a silver chain of the poet’s and some sleepers of mine. Then we were home to a pork casserole with parsley dumplings for tea (made in the slow cooker by himself) (and the dumplings – his first ever) (and our own parsley from the garden!), and an evening in front of the telly.

This week, at work, I’ve knocked one of my daily “tasks” on the head – the daily competitions (again). I’ve not won anything for ages, and that half hour I’d sooner spend writing or reading or something else now I’m so busy with work. I still have plenty to be going on with, with several short stories to edit, another technical paper, and 2 books.

I think I have a pretty normal, straightforward week ahead.

Festival weekend

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Two faces of the poet – Wormy (Picture: Diane Wordsworth)

I know I say this a lot, but we really did have a very busy weekend – and there’s another one on its way this coming weekend too.

On Thursday evening we nipped over to see the poet’s dad as it was his 80th birthday. He’d said he didn’t want anything, so we bought him a fuchsia for the garden. He’d not had it 5 minutes before he was deciding where to put it, so we think we made a good choice.

On Friday evening, at teatime, we had a mad dash over to Harrogate for the 2015 Crime Writing Festival. We were attending an event called “Yorkshire Pride” and thought a panel would be discussing crime novels in and about Yorkshire or by Yorkshire folk.

We didn’t expect to meet Peter Robinson (creator of DCI Banks) or Lee Child (creator of Jack Reacher). We thought they’d just be discussing their work. But they were there and afterwards I was able to have a book signed by Peter Robinson and the poet accosted Lee Child outside and got him to sign another. (Mr Child was supposed to be signing books the following day as he had another event he needed to be at.)

After the event we had a wander around town and decided to have tea in an American-style steakhouse. That was very nice.

Saturday morning we were back in Harrogate and struggling to park, but arrived just in time for the annual “New Blood”, chaired, as ever, by Val McDermid, who signed another book for us. (We’re turning into Val McDermid groupies!)

Because we’d left the dog on his own while we were in Harrogate, we had to hurry back. So we grabbed a sandwich and headed off. The poet wanted to go fishing that evening, but when we got home he discovered that the annual Fish-o-Mania was live on telly and he was having trouble tearing himself away. So we decided to watch that – or he watched it and I caught up on some reading.

Sunday morning we were up-and-at-’em again because the poet’s band, Monkey Dust, were playing at the Wheel of Light charity festival. This was supposed to be at another venue, but less than 2 weeks before the event, the venue pulled out, which was a bit of a disaster. However, while the organiser was on the phone cancelling the bands, Castleford Panthers ARLFC sent a text to say they’d hold it.

Unfortunately the organisers didn’t get as much time as they’d like to promote it (although Diane’s Gig List did their bit to help!), and it wasn’t as attended as it could be. They were also a bit disappointed, to say the least, when they discovered the original venue that pulled out had staged another event instead – on the same day. But the bands had a good time, lots of fun was had, and more friendships forged. Pictures (by Ian and Diane Wordsworth) can be found here on Facebook.

Castleford Panthers have offered to hold the event again next year, so the organisers are going to make more of a day of it and have already started to ask bands.

So that was our weekend. Oh yes, and Rufus came with us yesterday too …

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Two faces of the poet – Ian (Picture: Diane Wordsworth)

Today sees the start of quite a busy period for me. Do you remember that Cosmic ordering I did the other week? Well, don’t anyone try to tell me it doesn’t work.

Last week I did a small job for a new client and already she is offering me repeat work. I also won a regular gig off another new client. And an existing client sent me 4 new jobs on Friday – and paid for the first one in advance. This on top of the work I already have in. I won’t be trawling for new work again any time soon.

I also have writing work to do, as ever, but not so much admin work this week. I have Thursday off, though. The poet is working in Tipton that day so I’m visiting the parents. We couldn’t see them this coming weekend as we have another 3-day festival to go to in Sheffield.

How was your weekend?

Calgary Beach and Tobermory

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Diane on Calgary Beach (Picture: Ian Wordsworth)

After Glencoe we drove up to the western highlands and took the scenic route, and a ferry, to Tobermory on the beautiful Isle of Mull. We adored Mull and plan to go back again very soon. The roads are quite minor, for A roads, and very twisty and narrow in places. But everyone drove with respect and consideration.

On our first day we did an orientation drive of northern Mull and discovered, quite by accident, Calgary Beach.

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Ian on Calgary Beach (Picture: Diane Wordsworth)

This is an area of scientific interest. There are rabbit burrows and quite a variety of birds. We saw meadow pipits and heard a cuckoo. If we’d taken a picnic we could have spent a day just exploring here. But we already had a mission … we were going looking for sea eagles.

In Tobermory one of the shopkeepers told us the best place to go to see the eagles – if we were lucky. We didn’t expect to see any …

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There’s a sea eagle in one of those trees … (Picture: Ian Wordsworth)

… but when we saw a bit of a crowd gathering at the roadside, we thought, eyup … What’s going on here, then? They were all looking at this clump of trees on the road side of the loch. but all we could see was the picture left.

Some had binoculars, some had cameras, and one had a telescope. So we parked up and joined them and asked what was happening. And they let us use the telescope …

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… see … (Picture: Ian Wordsworth)

… and sure enough, there was a sea eagle.

The poet’s biggest lens isn’t quite strong enough to show what we could see. But I think you get enough of the picture. He was beautiful. And huge. (That’s the eagle, not the poet … although he’s a bit beautiful too.) And we felt honoured to see such a majestic creature in its home territory.

That made our day. We didn’t care now if we never saw anything else. We’d seen a sea eagle. Live. 😀

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Picture: Ian Wordsworth

Reluctantly, we tore ourselves away and continued on our orientation drive around northern Mull, slowly heading back to base at Tobermory. We drank in everything we saw, committed it to memory, and took lots and lots of photographs.

This picture on the right is one of two the poet took that he’s using as the basis for a painting. He’s already started it, in acrylic, and it’s already taking shape.

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Sir James Dyson’s yacht, Nahlin, stayed at Tobermory while we were there too (Picture: Ian Wordsworth)

When we originally arrived in Tobermory this rather splendid yacht followed us. After some research (and checking the name of the boat through the binoculars) we discovered it belongs to Sir James Dyson of vacuum cleaner fame. It stayed there the whole time we were there and this was, apparently, the first time they’d seen her in Tobermory. We really, really loved Tobermory. Each of the buildings is painted a different colour, with the post office in post office red and the chocolate shop in chocolate brown.

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We loved Tobermory (Picture: Ian Wordsworth)

It’s also a mini-fishing village. They don’t land much fish here now, most of that is done in Oban. But they do still catch shellfish and specialise in langoustine, a prawn- or shrimp-like small lobster.

In the height of the summer season, one of the fishermen’s grandsons cycles his bike to the top of the hill and sells languoustine he’s caught himself to tourists and other passers by.  This fine young man is aged “about 8” (when we asked at the chip shop on the pier), and he apparently has quite a trade going.

The weather was quite fine while we were there, but it was very, very chilly. And we’d left our hats and gloves at home. But we found a little shop in Tobermory where we could pick some up quite cheaply.

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Tobermory pier (Picture: Ian Wordsworth)

We also bought a pair of binoculars there to replace a set we’re convinced we left in the car park at Haweswater in the Lake District. It was the chap in the binocular shop who told us where to see the eagles.

On our first evening we ate in a restaurant in Tobermory, but on the second evening we ate fish and chips out of paper on the pier, and were accompanied by this mighty handsome seagull, below.

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Picture: Ian Wordsworth

We had just one more day on Mull, but those pictures will appear next time.

Today I have gig list and Monkey Dust admin to do. Then I move away from the computer to do writing and editing work and, fave activity, diary work.

The poet has band practice this evening and I’ll be doing the weekly shop while he’s there.

Enjoy the pictures.

Gretna to Glencoe

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Falls of Falloch, on the banks of Loch Lomond. (Picture: Ian Wordsworth)

To illustrate today’s blog, here are some pictures of our journey from Gretna Green to Glencoe. It took us about half a day, driving via Glasgow, along the banks of Loch Lomond – where we picnicked at the Falls of Falloch and had our picture taken by one of the national park rangers there – but we made very good time.

Our hotel was “okay”, drawing on its stunning location for its 4 stars rather than its own service. It was very clean and tidy, but the bed (or 2 pushed together) was a bit uncomfortable down the middle and we had a 5-mile hike to anywhere in the hotel – pool, restaurant, reception, etc – and the room was a bit chilly. But the location was faultless and the food was very good. (Postscript: Okay, so it may not have been quite 5 miles really …)

We stayed in the Isles of Glencoe Hotel in Ballachulish for 3 nights and I’ll write more about our few days there when I post those pictures. Meanwhile, back to the blog …

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Our first picture as a married couple, after the wedding.

We’d promised ourselves at least one do-diddle-day over the weekend and that day turned out to be Saturday. We’d worked out that we hadn’t had a lie-in for about 4 weeks, because even on holiday we had to get up for breakfast. But we were still up by 10am, pottering around.

We nipped out to get some bits and bobs, and when we got back we walked up to the lake with the dog and had a chat with the one and only angler there that day.

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Our first sight of Glencoe. (Picture: Ian Wordsworth)

On Saturday evening we headed off to find a cinema we’ve never been to before, Cineworld at Sheffield, and decided we’d definitely be back. Parking was difficult, but there were plenty of restaurants to choose from, and we ended up in our old favourite, Pizza Express, because our film was starting at 8:20pm and we know we can always rely on them to get us in and out in time whenever we go.

We went to see Big Game, starring Samuel L Jackson, and had to go there because it wasn’t on at any of our other regular cinemas. We were very impressed with the amount of seating room we had, and the cleanliness of the place and general good service.

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Our hotel. (Picture: Ian Wordsworth)

Sunday morning we were up and off to Birmingham to see my parents, to take them our souvenirs for them from Cyprus, and to do the same on the way home for the poet’s parents in Doncaster.

This also gave us the chance to show them all both the wedding pictures and the holiday pictures, as I took the tablet/notebook switch.

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Around the loch outside our hotel. (Picture: Ian Wordsworth)

Yesterday was a bank holiday for us, and so we went “window shopping” for new settees (as the old ones are nearly 10 years old now and not doing our backs any favours), a new bed (as I think we both need a proper divan now to support our aching, ageing bones) and a trailer tent (because we want to hitch up and take off at a moment’s notice and I can’t really sleep on the floor in the dome tent for longer than 1 day).

I say “window shopping”, but we ended up buying 2 out of 3, and they should be delivered in 7 – 10 days. That’s the bed and the settees. We couldn’t find a single showroom in the area for trailer tents so may go off to Manchester next weekend to have a look there instead.

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The view from our hotel window, at night. (Picture: Ian Wordsworth)

On Saturday my lovely new 2015 – 2016 academic year diary arrived, and when we got home I spent a few hours filling that in with birthdays, bank holidays and Monkey Dust gigs we already have in.

And so to today, when we’re both back at work. It’s a short week and I have a lot to pack in. I’m starting a new edit, which has a deadline date of 3 June, and I’m cracking on with the writing. So keep an eye on those progress meters in the sidbar.

Enjoy the pictures. 🙂