Wednesday, 1 January 2014

Happy New Year and Celebrating The Year Just Past

Happy New Year to all my readers! According to the stats, on average the blog is read 200 times a day, that's a bit awesome from my point of view, so a very huge thank you to all of you for helping make it a success and for allowing me to think it's worthwhile!

Whilst it's a time for looking forward - and there are some great things to look forward to in 2014, of which more later - it's also a time to look back over 2013 and celebrate all the things we got up to.

The year started with the release of my book, Blackpool Then And Now and I spent an afternoon in Waterstones, signing copies and enjoying meeting a few people from various Blackpool-related websites and Facebook pages.

I was also getting to grips with a new guitar - looks great, sounds.... well... let's say it had a few peculiarities about it that has since caused me to revert to the red Stratocaster! This was taken down in Wellingborough, Northamptonshire, at the "Remembering Sunnyside" event in March and we are looking forward to going down this year too to meet up with our Billy Fury friends.

Later in March we had a great day up in the Lake District, with snow on the hills and a wonderful meal waiting for us in Kendal at the home of David's sister and brother-in-law, Elaine and Dave. A great night and a very cold and icy getaway around half past midnight, slithering down the roads!

The cold spell lasted ages. The year before at the Northampton do we had walked to the venue from our hotel in shirt sleeves. This time it snowed all the time we were down there. This photo is from Witton Park in May, usually a warm family day out, yet we were layered up and the proceedings came to an end in the late afternoon with a downpour. British weather!

Luckily the weather just a week later was absolutely fine on the Mediterranean as we went off for a week's cruise with Jeannie and David, taking the band on tour to visit Corsica, Italy, France and Spain and sample a few cocktails along the way! This was a glorious week - just don't mention olives to Fran...

June is always the band's busiest month and 2013 was no different. We were featured in this newspaper report of Myerscough's open event, which was just one of several events which drew large audiences for us.

Miss Franny kept up the pressure until I eventually cracked and we added a conservatory to the house. It's a nice quiet place to sit and read and we left things like computers and televisions out of it. The only time it gets noisy is when it rains... oh... it is now in fact...

In August we took a trip to Norway and although the dreaded rain came with us for half of our time there, the other days were glorious and more than made up for the wet days with some beautiful scenery of mountains, fjords and waterfalls. We loved it and a return trip will have to be done at some time or other!

Of course we enjoyed our home town of Blackpool also and there was lots going on this year as always. The Air Show was spectacular and changes in the town centre gave us plenty to watch and photograph. We went to a few shows and continue to delight in the good food and atmosphere in Quilligan's thanks to Sean and his team.

We had an extra trip this year and what a trip it was, taking us to the Holy Land for some unforgettable sights and tours. This really was an experience to remember. The detail of all the travels can be found on the blog, by looking at the navigation in the left hand panel, so you can join us to see more of our time on the Med, in Norway and to the Aegean and Holy Land.

The Holy Land trip also gave us a chance to meet up with our friends, Tomas and Maris who perform in the Horizons Bar onboard Thomson Celebration. This was our third meeting and we look forward to seeing them again in 2014.

Creeping Bentgrass continued to go from strength to strength - we have had strangers recognising us all over the place and have been told were are folks' "favourite band". All very pleasing and ego boosting - we think it must be the way we laugh off mistakes... lol. Christmas 2013 saw us rack up 13 years as a band and we have no intention of giving up yet!

Miss Franny embarked on a massive craft project, to make a quilt for our granddaughter's bed. This took ages and she press-ganged me into helping cut straight lines in material. In the end it all came together after we had to make up a few bits due to some incomprehensible or missing bits from a pattern translated from some obscure dialect of a tribe in the wilds of a hidden forest on top of a plateau somewhere... Grace seemed to like it anyway.

Fran and daughter Gill along with Miss Jeannie have taken stalls at several craft fairs and Gill's "Little EGG Craft Company" (named for her immediate family Edward, Gillian, Grace) has gone online and started to attract a following.

For the second year running we went to see Andre Rieu on his tour of the UK and had a great night just before Christmas, bouncing up and down, swaying and clapping and singing along in half made-up German and Italian that the natives of those countries definitely would not have understood!

Fran's brother Bob turned the big 6-0 on Christmas Eve and we had a surprise party in Blackpool which went off very successfully considering people came from Swindon, Bristol, Belfast, Warrington and Manchester to get there. My niece Sarah claimed to need rescuing and against all expectations he got there all unsuspecting, even to the extent of arriving in the restaurant where she was waiting and seeing our name in the bookings list and thinking "Now that's a coincidence!" before seeing everyone waiting to cheer him!

It will be my turn in 2014 to turn 60 myself. I've taken the decision to retire from my work with Jisc and the University of Northumbria at that time and have more projects lined up, including more books and more gigs and just spending more time with my beautiful granddaughter and family. A few health niggles have proved taxing for the last couple of years. I worried for ages before one was proved not to be too serious and have occasion to grit my teeth more than I used to, so it will be nice to work at my own pace on things I want to do. If they want to call me back every now and then, that will be ok too!

At an engagement party just before Christmas, Grace saw us perform for the first time and we had to try to keep a straight face as she looked, ran away to hide and then kept coming out to peep at us! 2014 will be good!

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