It has been a whole month since the last time I made an entry into the family blog, but it is not the first time that I have sat at my laptop tapping away at the keyboard, Sarah has been very busy with her essays and it seems that not many days pass without one appearing in my inbox to read and comment on. They have been coming so often that I am even beginning to understand some of what I have to read!
On the 8th of February, we had an eventful Curry Night. For various reasons over the previous few Fridays we hadn’t all met as a family, all but Sarah were scheduled to dine. First to call off was Jamie who was getting himself prepared for an upcoming snow holiday and went to the Snow-dome in Milton Keynes. Soon after Suraj rang in to inform us that his car had broken down in Wellingborough on the way here. Charlotte had already arrived and liaised with the AA to sort him out. The torrential rain we have been suffering from had got into the management system of his car and nadgered (northern phrase) it up. There were plenty of seconds of curry. Afterwards, Sue and I went to see Rush at Harborough Theatre Cinema. Excellent film of James Hunt v Nikki Lauda’s 1974 Formula One battle. What an epic season that was and what two amazing characters. They don’t do races like that anymore.
During the rest of the week, I spent some time (in between showers) at the allotments either pulling up leeks and trying to find takers or turning the soil over for the coming dry season. The ground is very wet and claggy. I have given up going off-road on my bike as I get too sludged up and having to hose the bike down in the rain is a pain. I now brave the rural traffic of Leicestershire.
On the 13th of February Sarah was taken to Dublin to celebrate Valentine’s Day with Lee. Reminds me of when I did the same with Sue, though we went to Paris. Nevertheless, they had a lovely time visiting the Guinness factory and the Maze Prison.
That Friday we invited Jim and Brigitte for Curry Night. They had moved house from Desborough back to Harborough that day and we thought that it would be helpful if we fed them. Luckily for Jim, who cannot take spicy food, I made a couple of Chinese dishes. It was different having friends around with the family to eat, and for once there was very little left over for Sue and I to finish the following day.
The Rugby Six Nations are now on and rather than watching at The Angel Hotel I had decided to canter over to the Rugby Club and use my membership. Unfortunately, the weather has been defeating the playing of any home matches for the last month (water-logged pitches), but it has been great meeting friends I haven’t seen for a while and watching some brilliant games on the TV.
On the 19th Sue and I drove over to Birmingham to have a couple of days seeing the city. We had booked into the Britannia Hotel in New Street. Last year we watched Tony Robinson on TV do a walk along the canals in Brummy, impressed with the sights, we resolved to do the same. I had plotted a circular route from the hotel into my GPS along part of the canal system. Part way round we stopped for a very pleasant lunch at the Malt House. Much of the canal has been modernised, though you can still how on the many information boards that we came across, how it was once. It was a lovely walk and we have resolved to come again and tread another route. On the way back we visited the rather extensive Birmingham Museum, we didn’t do it justice as it is rather huge and it was near closing time. As we passed the rather impressive Council buildings I noticed a very large and shiny chauffeur-driven Bentley leaving, glancing to the back seat I spotted the Lord Mayor resplendent with the gold chain of office grinning and waving to me. As I waved back, I am sure he mouthed the following, “We heard you were coming but I have just had a call from the missus to say my dinner is getting cold. Give us a call and we will see you next time.” What a nice man.
At the hotel, we had an excellent evening meal with a complimentary bottle of Rose before walking to the oldest working cinema in the country, the Electric Cinema. They have their own brewed ale, aptly called ‘The Electric’ on sale in the Foye. After a quick sample, we made our way to see ‘Her’ a quirky Sci-fi romance that was entertaining and memorable for the unlikely storyline. I would put a visit to the Electric Cinema on any must-do list of activities in Brummyland, not just for the ale but for the atmosphere and experience. Oh, and they do serve the beer to your seat during the performance.
The following morning after an exceptionally full English breakfast we had a walk around the shops in the Bull Ring (Sue bought some cherries) before checking out of the hotel and driving back to Harborough. What a lovely city Birmingham is, well worth getting to know better.
Doreen, our next-door neighbour had moved house while we were away. She has only moved up Lubenham Hill, but on the afternoon of our return we popped over to see her. Earlier on in the week I had taken her computer system apart for her and promised to put it back together in her new home. Sue had a tour of the house while I did the necessary. Over the last couple of weeks, Doreen has been salting various items for storage in our dining room and we were hoping that she would be taking them back then, but as she had only unpacked a couple of boxes so far and has no room, we have promised to hang onto them a while longer. We even came away with a nest of coffee tables which were now surplus to requirements. These got re-distributed to Nan.
The following Friday the Rothwells went to The Space Museum in Leicester for the day. The boys were full of it when they called in on the way back. Charlotte stayed with us instead of returning to Rothwell with the rest of the family, as on the previous day Nan and I had taken Charlotte and the boys to the Bull at Arthingworth for lunch, we had spotted that there was a Psychic Evening on. Sue was keen to go with Charlotte and after some difficulty getting tickets (it had been sold out), they went. Luckily, the Tigers were playing that night on BTSport so Jim came around to keep me company and we watched the game on the big screen. The Psychic Night appeared to be entertaining though neither of them got a reading as apparently, they were too tight. What did she mean?
The following day Sue, Charlotte and I had a walk with the Council over to Hungarton. It was only around 6.5 miles over easy countryside, but as most of the land is saturated we were glad of it. Lunch was at the Black Boy and proved to be very informative. Colin (the Leader) sat with us and explained the meaning of the phrase “Painting the Town Red”. It was an incident in 1837 when the Third Marquis of Waterford living in Quenby Hall celebrated a successful hunt by daubing red paint onto the buildings of the High Street of Melton Mowbray. Quenby Hall was also the original place where Stilton cheese was made, it got its name from the village of Stilton on the old A1 where it was sold to passengers in the passing carriages. Fascinating. I spent the afternoon at the Rugby Club watching the Internationals on TV. Later that evening Sue and I went to a Comedy Evening at Harborough Theatre. Of the four comedians, only the head-liner was funny. The preceding three acts were too nervous or thin on material. However, we were game for a laugh and though we had to wait a while, it was a nice way to finish off a busy day.
On Wednesday of the following week I took Nan for a blood test in readiness for her Diabetes review, and the following day the engineer came to repair our central heating boiler. It had started to make the strange noise that had first appeared before Xmas and then stopped. Of course, it made no noise when Mr Fixit arrived! I had taught him as a youngster, so he repaid my kindness of years ago by ordering a new part and promised to come back and fit it. And I thought the only perks were chalk and sellotape!
Annoyingly, the following morning I got a puncture! For the first time in weeks, I had braved the quicksand-like mud and ventured off-road on my morning skirmish with the Leicestershire countryside. I had stopped at the viewpoint above Foxton Inclined Plane to scan the horizon and wondered why I had been out for just over an hour on a rare rainless morning and hadn’t come across more than an old couple taking a rather old dog for a walk in all that time. After scanning the empty wilderness of south Leicestershire I noticed my flat tyre and felt deflated. At that instant, my mobile sang into life. Wondering whether it was the psychic of the previous week I was bemused to read a text from Sarah: Sent you an essay, can you check it a.s.a.p. A phone call to Sue, followed by a dismantled bike in the back of the car and a much quicker journey home than planned, saw me sitting in front of my laptop reading another essay, criminal!!!
My Tablet died this week. It switches on, but the boot file refuses to load, I guess it has got like me, corrupted. I checked out the Net for a solution and found it under ‘unbricking your Cube 30gt’. It looked fairly straightforward; take the back off, connect to your PC, short out two terminals, load a couple of files back onto it, and put it back together. Not too difficult, so my solution is, to buy a new one. During Curry Night I explained my problem to Suraj and he has taken it away to see if the procedure will fix it, he also took away my external hard drive as it too has become corrupted and I no longer have access to our really old holiday photos. There was a time I would have found attempting to fix these two bits of kit, exciting, but that was then, and this is now. Fingers crossed Suraj can manage to repair them and go in some small way to saving the planet from being buried under another pile of defunct technology.
That Saturday was a Vice-Presidents Luncheon at the Rugby Club. I organised a table of 10. The food was good, the wine and ale considerable, the conversation predictable and the match, Harborough v Lutterworth disappointingly ended with a very late defeat for the good guys.
On Sunday, Jamie jetted off to Andorra with 8 friends for a spot of snowboarding down the slopes. He flew from Birmingham at 7 am, travelling there with one of his friends whose Dad happened to be a taxi driver. The night before he brought around his pet gerbil for us to look after. Surprisingly he has never given it a name, though he is very fond of it. He wasn’t very happy when we informed him that on Monday we too were going away and that Nan would be looking after him. I am not sure Nan was keen on the idea. The gerbil gets car sick, and on the short drive around to Huntingdon Gardens, he wasn’t well. When I carried his cage into the flats I could see that he had buried his head into the sawdust and his little back legs were sticking into the air. At first, I thought he was dead, but after a while, he recovered.
On Monday, Sue and I jetted off to Lancashire in the trusty Fiesta for three days of adventure. We stayed in the Britannia Hotel in Standish, near Wigan. It was a nice sunny day so we decided to tackle a walk around Rivington Reservoir following a route plotted onto my trusty GPS, we passed through these the going was steep but easy on the feet. The weather was brilliant and allowed magnificent views all around. We returned to the hotel just before dark and had an early evening meal washed down with a complimentary bottle of Rose. We retired to the bar and played darts for the rest of the evening, getting progressively better as the night wore, but never achieving consistency.
After a very full breakfast, we drove into Wigan. Ever the opportunists we parked in a B&Q car park and had a short walk to Wigan Pier. Again, following a route on my GPS we followed the canal around the town, passing through some lovely water meadows and not-so-lovely industrial wasteland. Returning to the pier (which doesn’t exist) we wandered through the town centre. What a surprise, there was a French market there and it didn’t seem out of place among the Elizabethan buildings that had been tastefully restored. We took our time and checked out all the stalls, mostly food that I have to confess did look very inviting. We next set off in search of the Uncle Joe’s Mint Balls that Wigan is famous for. After a lot of asking and walking, we found the factory. They wouldn’t sell us any. We found a shop that sold them and bought their entire stock, 4 packets.
That evening we ate at a pub in Standish called the Charnley before driving back into Wigan and watching ‘The Book Thief’ at the Empire Cinema next to Wigan Athletics footy ground. The film was probably the best bit of cinema I have seen for quite a few years. The storyline is just brilliant, the acting, scenery and characters are just perfect. When it arrives at the Harborough Cinema Club I shall watch it again. The only downside is that the author of the original book is Australian. So I shan’t read it.
After breakfast the following day we attempted a walk at the back of the hotel around a lake, but the ground was so sodden we gave up after half an hour. We checked out and drove over to Uncle Stanley’s in Salford. The journey took around half an hour. He wasn’t at all well. At 93 yrs he is partially deaf and blind and suffering from an awful raspy chest that you could see made it difficult to breathe. We guessed that he had tired himself out tidying up in readiness for our visit, so Sue made a cup of tea for him and we listened to what he had been up to. I put our phone numbers onto a mobile phone he had bought, but I think it is beyond him to use it. Though he was reluctant, we managed to persuade him to let me contact Social Services and arrange some support for him. When we left around 2 pm you could see that he was exhausted and ready for a nap.
The drive back to Harborough was uneventful. Later that evening (while I was watching England v Denmark) the alarm system went off. The power supply had died and it is, its way of telling you. Lucky we were back. The following morning I found a suitable replacement from one of the many spare/defunct power supplies everyone seems to have nowadays and swapped it. I then spent the rest of the morning speaking to Salford Social Services finding out what they could provide for Stanley. I then rang Stanley and explained that I had arranged for a Care in the Home system to be put in the house. He will have a fob, and if he needs help, he can press it and someone will come and we will also know. He again took some persuading, but I am happy he is going to let it happen. I didn’t tell him that I have got Social Services looking into providing their other services which he is due but refuses. Meals on wheels, housing support etc. When the Home Care System is in place, we will tackle that then.
When I switch on either my PC, laptop, Tablet or Windows phone I am reminded by my ‘synced’ calendar of what is happening today and prods me as to what is coming up over the next few days. It is a brilliant bit of software that I have learnt to rely on, especially as the years roll by and what appears to be happening in the rest of the world seems to have less and less relevance (seen it all before), so I take less and less notice of it. Switching on my laptop this morning, I noticed that last week I had a birthday. The clue was the new Satnav the children bought me, the garden tool-shaped chocolates that Sue gave me, and the cards on the mantelpiece. Oh, and the rather expensive map card I had bought for my GPS as a birthday treat to myself. And the fact that Sue and I had jetted off to another exotic location to celebrate it. Last year Rio, this year Wigan. Birthdays? Been there (too many times), read the book, certainly made the videos and now prefer other peoples’. So, an absence in the family blog of reference to this monumental event in my life must be an indication of something, but I can’t be bothered to figure out what. But I now have gone and spoiled it and given it a mention.