The Lighthouse family…..well that’s a misnomer

For those not encyclopedic of their musical knowledge of the 1980’s, the Lighthouse family were actually a very successful music act.

So successful that now some 30 years later they are just embarking on another tour. And for other reasons as well completely, stuck in my head.

They are however quite a misnomer. Not a family at all, just two guys who happened to be working in the same bar in Newcastle (England) and then formed a duo. To be a family it helps to be related ….just ask the Jackson’s, Osmond’s or even the Adam’s.

Oh yes one other point, they don’t live in a lighthouse either .

So what brings them to mind….well sadly the fact I just cannot get one of their songs out of my mind.

I was using my local mini-cab company to take me to the station. For the benefit of those from outside the UK, a mini-cab is a non fully regulated taxi that has to be booked in advance and cannot be hailed . Not one of these…………….

In reality sometimes these mini-cabs are often old and scruffy, and more often than not very, very old and very scruffy!

Now my local mini-cab company are in all honesty totally reliable. The only time a journey failed for me was one time when said car arrived outside my house in very good time, I jump in and immediately engaged with the driver in some weather related topic as we British people tend to do. He didn’t get a word in as I complained about the rain, sun, wind, snow and fog we had endured all in one day. After some 10 minutes I did challenge his unusual route to my destination…. oops… it seems my neighbour had booked using the same company for five minutes earlier to a very different destination! 😯😯😯…and I had hijacked his car…..

Anyway back to the journey in question…. the taxi arrives and from the driver just a mere grunt of a hello. Contrary to most trips where there is a series of standard questions. Questions? Yes, a bit in a way like hairdressers have standard questions: 1. have you been to work today ? 2. Are you going out tonight? 3. Are you going on holiday soon? In the mini cab world, there are also some old faithfuls:

1. Going to the station sir? (slightly worrying as we have already set off, and that was what was agreed when I made the booking and is actually showing on his display!)

2. Going to London sir? A very standard question and always one that leads to drivers sharing views on London traffic, the price of everything in London and the people of London.

3. Going to work sir? Again slightly of concern as I don’t normally spend my holidays wearing a suit, carrying a laptop and reading meeting agendas on the journey.

Anyway, no chat this time…just a sudden burst of music, not just any music but the Lighthouse family. Ah…the radio I thought. But after 4 minutes, no radio chatter but another 1980’s Hit from the same wonder duo, 4 minutes more and another and so on. With some traffic and roadworks on the way we managed to squeeze in a whole greatest hits cd worth of Lighthouse family..with Ocean Drive getting not one but two plays!

Now one other thing worth mentioning is that unlike a taxi in Germany where you get a smart Mercedes, Sweden where you get a Volvo…in the UK, a mini-cab invariably means a battered Skoda that is well past retirement date. This car was no exception. In fact it would be most unusual for one of these cars not to have at least one warning light showing, an unexplained rattle and threadbare seats. On this journey I hit top score with warning light bingo: Engine management warning light, oil pressure, and three others I couldn’t determine and in fact was rather glad not to.

And the “icing on the cake ” a sixth one flickering on and off in tune with the Lighthouse boys as they belted out Ocean Drive!

Anyway, journey finally over I won’t say I kissed the ground as I exited the vehicle but it was certainly a relief to be on a terra firma.

But the music lives on, staying with me. Three days later I find myself still humming the tune.

The song was actually written about the drive from Sunderland to South Shields along the English North Sea coast (yes, not an Ocean I know, but bracing wild seashore…yes) Worth a visit if you find yourself nearby.

What do I get …..no such visions of wild nature. Just permanent flashbacks of a distinctly dodgy taxi ride!

Youtube has the video..search for it if you dare but the melody will stay with you for ever.

Why this blog? Click to find out why?

Your call is not important to us…..Abigail

Phone conversations are generally between two people, ok there are exceptions and conference calls can be joined by the many, generally willing participants. Having said that my dog used to be part of many a conference call when I work at home and I never remember him agreeing to participate !

Anyway the general principle being that the participants are intended.

It seems though that when on a train, it’s a different rule book.

I now know far more than I ever wanted to know about a certain persons love life. In fact really all I don’t know is that persons name. She looked like an Abigail so that’s what I am going to call her. Abigail was a fellow passenger on my journey from Yorkshire to London a night or so ago. It was actually a very quiet carriage and Abigail is not. I think also technology was fighting against Abigail and it appears Mark was on his balcony.

We don’t know who Mark is but we knew for sure he was not in a contact centre wearing a headset sorting out Abigails car insurance.

I am not sure if Mark was on a balcony in Verona, New York, London or perhaps just Stoke-on-Trent but in any case he has a problem with wind…meteorological not gastro-intestinal as far as I could gather and that was impacting on Abigail being heard…or so he says! So it was a loud conversation. It seems Mark has been a bit cool this last day or so (..and this is romance cool, not meteorology cool). Still following all this….good.

Anyway a lot of detail was shared on this and a lot more. Even the name of a UK celebrity came into the conversation as part of this menage-a-beaucoup….but in the interests of not being sued I won’t mention his name.

It’s about a 2 hour journey and sadly Abigail had a well charged phone and a lot to take Mark to task on. You never listen to me she said…well forgive me but I think he has been listening for close on 2 hours now, or abseiled off the balcony…not sure she would have noticed. Never have I been so relieved for the tunnels just outside London.

Anyway here we are a day later and hopefully they are together with Mark being warmer and Abigail being listened to.

And here I am on the train next to a group of marketing people on an ‘away day’ . So far my recorded score in buzzword bingo is 93..come back Mark and Abigail please…..

Why this blog? Click to find

Blooming lovely…if you can wait until 2020

The RHS or Royal Horticultural Society creates an image of an aged botanist, carefully crafting a selected rose for an ancient vase in a royal palace.

You could be forgiven for thinking this and to those of us resident in the UK the prefix royal will often create an assumption of exclusive, high end and certainly not cool or leading edge.

Yes their origins go back to 1804 when John Wedgewood son of the Pottery industrialist Joshua Wedgewood called together a meeting of like minded people in Hatchards bookshop and things got moving from that.

You can sort of see the connection..often this pottery had beautifully hand painted flowers on them.

But old and stuffy… well think again…

The RHS for sure have not been on a trailblazing expansion rampage of creating new facilities and experiences in the style of Walt Disney or Lego…but when they do something new, they sure do it right.

They literally only have a handful of gardens in the country – Wisley in Surrey, Harlow Carr in Harrogate, North Yorkshire, Risemoor in Devon and Hyde Hall in Essex. Five gardens and a few annual flowers shows each year may not seem like a stellar performance but sometimes in life it really is about quality, not quantity. I am perhaps being a little unkind here…their flower shows are amazing…Chelsea Flower Show, Tatton Park and Cardiff are all sold out events, but you get my point.

However, on the horizon is another. For years the RHS have been looking for a suitable location in the North West of England and they really have struck gold with this next one.

RHS Bridgewater is in the grounds of the ruined Worsley Hall and truly is going to be a jewel in the crown. Not just for the sheer scale and the restoration of magnificent gardens but for it’s inclusiveness and breadth of opportunities for local people to be involved. And that will extend to those on the fringes of society. Yes, this garden is located in leafy affluent Worsley but is located near enough to the more challenged parts of the wider Manchester area.

Sometimes things do take time to be nurtured but when they bloom, they will amaze. I feel sure this will do that and more. 2020 will be worth waiting for.

Why this blog? Click to find out more……

May contain nuts..

We are all familiar with the mountains of form filling that accompanies any request for credit. The guardian’s of these funds will ask searching questions about the state of our bank accounts, how spendthrift our lifestyle is ..do we burn money? or save money?

…and do we have dependants that we need to support.

After some recent form filling I realised that I have in all innocence been not 100% truthful and failed to declare a dependant.

A dependant squirrel..that by stealth has been becoming part of our household.

At first it was just social calls, a little run around the garden, a bit of jumping tree to tree and that was it.

Well nice to have use made of the garden in the winter. So not a problem.

Along comes spring and then he began calling round for meals..very particular to bird seed and peanuts…oh and also the container that they were in as well. Plastic mesh on a bird feeder was no match for him.

And so to summer, my strawberry plants were of great interest. Individual strawberries were picked and consumed sitting on the garden gate staring in at me intently.

Now I am no expert lip reader but at least once I saw him mouth the words..’any sugar or cream to hand?’. The strawberries lasted about two weeks and now it’s the gooseberries. There is a slightly different technique for these. In case you didn’t know it, squirrels love gooseberries but only the inside. So each skin has to be peeled off and discarded in disgust.

Next on the calendar will be the raspberries, plums and possibly apples. This squirrel may not have learnt much from his parents about ‘ask, don’t just take ‘ but he certainly paid attention to the 5 fruit and veg a day message.

So we seem stuck with our new dependant and soon need to have a difficult conversation with him about making his own way in the world and becoming a net contributor to our household.

In readiness for that conversation I did research and found there are jobs that squirrels can do. However it seems that these new additions to the workforce are not always well received… let’s just hope he has more success than his American squirrel cousin and doesn’t get fired on his first day…

…even squirrels have a tough time in the workplace it seems.

Why this blog? Click to find out more……

The bees knees….

My grandfather was a doctor and naturally inquisitive and always striving to learn more. Even with something as simple as looking up a word in the dictionary he said you should whilst the book is open read the entry above and the entry below. In this way you will learn more things, admittedly maybe not things you need to know, but that might enrich you.

In the electronic world we live in some will argue that these opportunities don’t arise now…but I disagree. In our news feeds etc. there are often adjacent articles that may catch our eye and will be worth our attention.

I can testify to this as recently as yesterday. The said adjacent article intrigued me…’Large Investment for Bee Network’.

From more detailed scrutiny I learnt of a brave and bold initiative to create 1000’s of miles of cycle tracks in the Manchester (England) area including links to major tourist areas , city centre and outlyng towns to revolutionise cycling in the city.

Now I don’t live in Manchester, not really cycle that much but I do strongly support anything that gets people outside, doing healthy stuff and reducing polution so a tick in all three boxes there. I also embrace any kind of good news story so for this alone, I thank my grandfather. Manchester has been in the worldwide news spotlight in the past but for very troubling reasons – most recently the terrorist attacks at the Ariana Grande concert in the city’s arena.

Oh, and in case you are wondering why the name Bee network? The bee has been the symbol of Manchester seen in city emblems since the 1800’s representing it’s tradition as an industrious city. A very apt name for the evolution of transport in this resilient and growing city.

Sometimes in life you need to go and find the good news, it doesn’t come to you.

Why this blog? Click to find out more….

Dirty old town

For those who are fans of the Pogues, they will know the lyrics of this song are something like ‘ I met my love by the gas works wall, Dreamed a dream by the old canal, I kissed my girl by the factory wall, Dirty old town’ . Now I don’t think that town had a name but somehow I don’t think it was Bellavista, Beaumaris or anything remotely suggesting anything looking nice . Naming of towns isn’t driven by people ..having said that for new towns it perhaps is (we have a few of these new towns in the UK and these probably have had a committee or a focus group to name them).

Yes, unlike children whose parents spend many hours hours of researching popular names. Hopefully being sure that the trendy name you give your child is really what you intended and will survive the years without causing undue embarrassment in the playground or on the school bus. In our family at the time of great grandparents era we have at least one relative who was proudly named Fanny. Say no more..but trust me, it might be not so cool to be called that in North America, in the uk it really is decidedly awkward.

Its not just the names , another example is the regretful parent of David Ian McDonald when it came to initials being marked on schoolwear.

Generally speaking town names have just evolved from some simple geographic description or derivation from a Latin or Roman name from the past. This usually tends to work, but just occasionally you end up with some tidy and pleasant town or village having a name…well that makes it sound rather not so nice, or even having connotations of…well anything but the intended name.

In the UK we have numerous examples of these…I could probably name about 50 with ease…but in the interests of brevity, here is my top 5.

Snodland – as a child when being driven along the motorway and seeing the road sign, for this inoffensive Kent town , my childish brain and equally childish humour saw this as Snotland… causes much hilarity when you are aged 12!

Ramsbottom – include the name ‘bottom’ in any town name and immediately it opens itself up to some suggestion of toilet humour, add the word Ram and you have a sure fire winner. Ramsbotton does have a connection with Rams for sure being in North Pennine sheep country but that is where it ends . Not a bottom in sight and in facts it is a very friendly and bustling market town.

Seaton Sluice – the very name conjures up some kind of porcelain contraption with a not very pleasant function. Now I have never been to Seaton Sluice but I am told its actually a most appealing village on the Northumberland coast.

Grotton – the human brain seems to want to focus on the first four letters here and just think Grot! In reality Grotton is a very pleasant semi rural residential area to the east of Manchester bordering Saddleworth. Nothing grotty about Grotton.

and finally…..

Upperthong – yes, that is the name, not to be confused with nearby Netherthong. Not surprisingly Upperthong residents dread that moment when doing a telephone order for goods or services and being asked their address…. the responses they get back are inevitable and yes probably funny the first time, but I imagine it gets a bit tiresome after 10 years!

Dog learns to play trumpet !

My train from Yorkshire to London was nearing the terminus and the guard made an announcement: ‘This is Graham, your train guard. We will shortly be arriving into London Kings Cross Station, please make sure you have all your possessions with you when you leave the train, including your children’. The party of American tourists across the aisle from me smiled..well this was indeed British humour, and Graham the guard had a ‘dead pan ironic style of delivery.’ Graham then went on to say. ‘I am pleased to confirm we are on time and for those travelling on the tube (London Underground), all lines are running well’.

Cue more smiles and nods of approval at this amusing yet helpful man. And then a further announcement from Graham. ‘ The London Underground is great place . I took my dog on it once and he learned to play the trumpet. He went from Barking to Tooting in just 30 minutes ‘.

Now looks of confusion and bewilderment from same American visitors. I did think about explaining to them but I had a tube to catch….to the Isle of Dogs.

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A dog’s life – Border Terriers know best

As another hectic work week ends for many and an equally stressfull weekend starts its time to take stock and be grounded.

With all due respect to other breeds and those of none, the humble border terrier seems to have got life under control and in balance.

They grab every chance to relax and sleep, enjoy the company of those other humans around them but also be content to lie on the grass and contemplate life without the need for electronic interaction.

As 21st century humans we are conditioned to measure ourselves on achievements that are often mere titles or numbers..sometimes at a very banal level.

This dog has no Facebook account let alone any followers. She confided in me yesterday she doesn’t know how to use Twitter and her photos won’t get any likes on Instagram.

Is she bothered…of course not when you can sniff the flowers, chase the occasional squirrel and in her words ‘don’t even venture near my space if you are a cat’ . Yes she said my space not MySpace. (For anyone under age 20 or so, not so familiar on the rise and fall of various social media platforms, MySpace was up there with Facebook..but now very much in decline.)

Maybe that says it all….

Looking for love? …then eat more fruit

In the 1960’s and 1970’s in Britain there was a well used ‘to the point’ advertising strapline of eat more fruit adorning any self respecting greengrocers shop and delivery van. I imagine some civil servant back in the day from the Department of Health had hastily drafted a memo with this suggestion for the well being of the country and hey presto,job done. These days it would require the services of a top marketing company, some focus groups and a campaign project team on a few ‘away days’ to come up with the same…for a mere 1000 times the cost of the 1960′ version.

However put this thought (and strapline) just to the side for one moment……..

A friend of mine has just confided in me her despair with on line dating. Despite signing up with two well known services, she is not happy with the quality. She keeps being sent frogs but not princes. It seems that although it’s accepted you have to kiss a few frogs before you meet your prince, she is not impressed by the ratio of 23 to zero.

Working on the basis of ‘maybe it’s me’ that is wrong, she went on an eat well, look healthy, feel good regime and signed up to daily fruit & veg boxes from a local deli.

Well, it has worked, but not in the way you might think. The deli employs a selection of strapping young men to deliver and for my friend, she has never had so many princes ringing her door bell as of late. No quality issues there and the cost of the fruit and veg works out cheaper than the dating website.

And I can inform you at least one date has transpired…and not of the edible kind of a Moroccan palm tree!

Two cities, two canals , one name

Anyone who has the pleasure of arriving in Venice by train will appreciate the almost mesmerising experience of walking out of the station to see the Grand Canal.

It’s fairly hard to beat that, and really that is just your starting point for the beauty of Venice.

Not been? If circumstances allow then do go. It’s a place you will love despite the crowds and the expensive food and drink (but much cheaper off the main streets), ditto the ridiculously expensive gondola rides (and again cheaper off the beaten track)

If Venice is going to happen for you (and even if it does) have you also actually embraced a waterway near you? Like many cities London has more canals than you might think, ok so not more than Venice which is always assumed to be st the top of the leader board. Although actually Birminham (UK) does have that honour of more canals than Venice being at the hub of the UK’s canal network! Now there’s a fact to remember for quiz night!

So speak to many a Londoner (there are about 10 million of them out there so it shouldn’t be difficult to find one.) Ask them which, if any London canals they use for leisure and it will be a dissapointing answer. Even regular commuters through London Paddington station may be unaware of what awaits them if they were to exit and join the tube at the western end of the station. Anyone there emerging into the sunshine from the gloom of the station will find their way to the Grand Union canal in an area called Little Venice. Not quite the real Venice but cafe culture and an openness for new opportunities in the city abound. Sometimes great things are very near you.