Friday, 29 June 2007

This is How Summer Should Be...

Remember when summers were sunny?

With all the rain we've had this week and with a forecast for the weekend of more and more, I thought a reminder of what summer used to look like might be timely!

We have a garden party booked for the weekend, if it carries on like this it'll have to be a garden centre party...

Blackpool has had a Veterans Week this week. There was a fly past of Tornado jets up the Promenade one day. There was a tornado of a different kind another day this week as a funnel cloud appeared over the M55 motorway! And I could have sworn I saw a dog looking just like Toto (sorry - "Todo")

Wednesday, 27 June 2007

Wedding Photos at Flickr

I've started to upload the photos of Gill and Eddie's wedding to Flickr

Unfortunately they appear in reverse order as Flickr puts the most recent at the front but I'm sure you won't mind too much!

I've got as far as the reception and there are still over 100 of those to crop and brighten where necessary so more will appear over the next few days and then Jeannie has had her 4 films printed which I am told have come out superb! Stand by for a few more pix then!

The ones up there at the moment were taken by my brother, Frank, who did an excellent job. Many, many thanks.

Tuesday, 26 June 2007

A Bit of Rain...

Phew! I was in Sheffield yesterday at the AoC NILTA CIS Conference for managers of College Information Services.

If you are reading this from the UK, you will have seen the news images of the horrendous flooding. The rain was hammering on the windows and skylights of the hotel venue all day without any let-up.

Several of us were travelling back west from Sheffield and we got to a very crowded railway station to see rows of cancelled trains on the announcements board. Luckily we managed to get onto a train heading for Manchester, but it was a very slow journey home. The knock-on effects of so many cancelled trains was having its effect on trains all over the country and the second stage from Manchester to Preston was a journey of long waits before approaching stations.

Ironically, my final train from Preston to Blackpool was almost empty as can be seen above and it reached Blackpool as the sun came out and I could hardly believe how bad it had been until I got home 20 minutes later and saw the TV coverage.

There must have been a lot of people unable to get home - nothing was travelling south, we saw lots of very agitated people talking into mobile phones and huge queues of people at Sheffield forming in front of any railway official they could find.

For all that the conference seemed to go quite well. I delivered two workshops, one with my colleague Andrew Stewart on the use of Web 2.0 social software, concentrating on Wikis. Only a couple of the delegates in the session had tried it but we got some quite good discussion and ideas from them.

My other session was on Risk Management and that too stimulated a lot of interest.

Sunday, 24 June 2007

Gill & Eddie Statham

The pictures tell the story!


Family and attendants

In the car

Gill's dress

Father of the Bride

Excellent Best Man's speech from Joe

First dance (to an excellent band!)

Saturday, 23 June 2007

Wedding Day Arrives

Gill's wedding day dawns and as I face the prospect of being a father-in-law (Eddie is a solicitor after all), I thought it could be a time to remind myself of the day Fran and I married in March 1976.

Only six of the people pictured above, apart from Fran and myself will be at today's wedding, although I'm sure several of them will be gathered somewhere looking on!

Fran was twenty minutes late - long enough for the vicar to clap me on the shoulder and say "I don't think she's coming, lad...!" Though he knew she would because a few rellies had turned up from the house muttering about hems becoming unstitched and frantic repair work going on.

Ours was an older church with a fascinating legend of a were-rabbit haunting the churchyard. Gill's church is small and modern but with a nice "feel" to it, if you know what I mean. St Nicholas Owen was a carpenter in the 1580s who, at his own cost, travelled all over the country, building secret hiding places for catholic priests in houses. Catholicism at the time was being suppressed under the rule of Elizabeth I; a catholic priest who had been ordained abroad could expect torture and death as a traitor, if found.

That was Nicholas Owen's own fate in the end. He was arrested in 1606 and tortured on the rack for 6 hours at a time day after day until he died under torture.

And on that cheery note, we are getting ready for the day! Fran and Gill are upstairs, with tubes of make-up being batted or carried off by the cats, who know something is "going on" and are both highly excited! We were given some extra flowers by the florist and Tigger has claimed and chewed those as her own...

I'm standing by ready to rush Fran off to the hairdresser. Gill is having hers done here. I'm having the usual spit and polish...

Thursday, 21 June 2007

Happy Birthday Mum

Mum had a birthday yesterday and the family all went out for a meal last night to celebrate.

We went out to the Miller's Arms at Singleton and it was an excellent meal. Mum had salmon with what she said was Hollandaise sauce. It looked a bit like custard to my mind, but tasted very nice with the salmon - I had to struggle to get both Mum and the custardy salmon in the shot but never mind. It also matched her dress - in that it didn't quite cover all the pink bits - dear me, Mother, pull yourself together...!

The rest of the family seemed to spend the night desperately looking the other way whenever I picked the camera up, although Heather had the grace to at least draw a substitute face with tomato sauce on a plate to hide behind...

For the rest of the family - this is how it's done! Fran and I at ease, posing happily, no shyness, trusting to the point of stupidity..

For those who thought they had got away with it... tough!

Wednesday, 20 June 2007

Get Well Soon!

That's the message going to my lovely friend Ingrid Pitt, star of numerous films including Where Eagles Dare, The Vampire Lovers, Countess Dracula, The Whicker Man etc.

Ingrid has endured yet more surgery and is trying her best to get up and about whether the doctors want her to or not ...

Be a patient patient, Flower and we'll come down and see you soon!

Tuesday, 19 June 2007

For the Record

I've always loved music ever since I can remember.

The first records I remember were "78s", 10 or 12 inch bits of shellac, far more breakable than vinyl, sit on one and that's the end of it! Rock and Roll had already started but was frowned at by the Establishment. Elvis, even Cliff, were thought bad influences on teenagers.

I still love to see 78s spinning round so fast that the design of the label blurs and shifts. Buying equipment to play them on these days can be expensive although a few cheap "retro" record players have come out recently. They don't do the sound many favours though! Playing 78s through a proper Hi-Fi amplifier and you go "Wow!"

More about them in later posts - or if you can't wait try my web pages on 78rpm Records and Record Labels.

Sunday, 17 June 2007

Cancer Charity Gig

Last night David and I played at Larbreck Hall Caravan Park. Bob had a prior engagement with The Old School Band but we gave them a good night of music and they got up and filled the dance floor!

We have played there several years - the first one at Larbreck was for the Queen's Golden Jubilee in 2002 - and we usually do an outdoor gig. The weather looked a little suspect yesterday so we were inside a huge barn and with a few pallets, boarded over for a stage and a couple of caravans as a backdrop, we added a few lights and it made for a good atmosphere!

Since Dad died in 2004, Mum (pictured with the band's organiser and fixit, Jeannie) has organised an annual charity event in benefit of MacMillan Cancer Support. The afternoon is spent on the lawn at the side of her caravan, with piles of jumble, bric-a-brac and competitions - a whisky wall, a photo caption competition, raffles, tombola, etc.

Fran spent most of the weekend, making mix and baking scones for cream teas or just for selling. At least 6 dozen went through the oven!

The residents and holiday makers on the caravan site and various family members raised over £500 for the charity. During the gig we auctioned a couple of bottles of whisky and a large dinner service that someone had donated and until Mum does her reckoning today I'm not sure just what the final total will be.

It was strange to think that our next gig will be a spot at the reception of Gill's wedding next week! When we played "Constantly" which is destined to be the married couple's first dance together, both Fran and sister-in-law Joyce had tears streaming down their cheeks! As David said, "I didn't think we were that bad..."

Saturday, 16 June 2007

Your Prayers Please

Your prayers are asked for, to help a young man, Edwill, who fell from a balcony and who has had to have brain surgery and will need some extensive facial repair plastic surgery.

Edwill is the son of Amanda and Paul. Amanda is one of the "Ladies over the Water" with whom I have corresponded daily for years.

Amanda, I so hope for a speedy and full recovery. God Bless.

Wedding Rehearsal

It was the wedding rehearsal last night.

Just one week now to my daughter's wedding. Scary thought!

Fran has blue pencilled my speech. I thought it was quite funny but she just kept saying "You can't say that!" and now all that's left is "Friends, Ladies and Gentlemen, join me in raising your glasses to the Bride and Groom..."

The rehearsal went well, the Deacon is very nice and we went through our bits and pieces. David went through his reading and the Bidding Prayers and it all became somehow much more real instead of something that "is going to happen sometime in the future". Hmmm - seven days!

We went round to Eddie's parents for a quick drink and then went out for a meal with Gill and Eddie and Joe the Best Man and David and Jeannie. An excellent night.

Tuesday, 12 June 2007

Back in London

Well here I am, back in London.

'Ammersmiff to be precise. To be even more precise in a bedroom in the Premier Travel Inn on the 11th floor, although the state of the windows makes the view a bit less than it potentially could be. If I crane my neck a bit I can see the Thames though, and look up-river towards Richmond.

The train was delayed by an hour - lightning had apparently struck some signals further north, either in the Lake District or Scotland. Anyway, by the time it arrived at Preston where I'd been waiting, the next train was due to arrive (though that too was delayed by half an hour) and so there were two trainloads of passengers jostling for seats - and so it proved all the way down.

We must have struck lucky in Bispham - didn't see any rain worth mentioning last night, yet Gill, just a couple of miles away in Thornton, said it was coming down in straight lines and then bouncing straight back up.

I'm attending a conference on interoperability tomorrow - the sharing of data between information systems with an educational establishment. That's at the Royal Geographical Society up near the Royal Albert Hall.

Oh, and I didn't bring the camera this time - it's an old photo taken from Centrepoint.

Sunday, 10 June 2007

Craft Workshop

It would make Dawn Bibby proud...

The house has turned into a craft production line with Gill's wedding Order of Service churning out at the rate of knots.

I've been drafted to do any of the computer bits and my printer has run out of magenta ink at least 20 times during the printing of the Order of Service, Place Names, Table Maps, Invites and so on.

I had to buy a long-arm stapler to do the Order of Service and the ladies of the household are now sticking fancy bits to the front of the cards. Gill moaned that the new stapler came without staples but I had a supply, bought in a moment of extravagence sometime in the 1970s before we even moved to Blackpool or had a daughter at all... 5000 staples, size 56, of which about 4900 still reside in the box despite Gill's best efforts - sheesh, she's refilled the stapler twice! In a single day!!! At that rate my great-grandchildren might need to buy another box...

There's only 5000 in the box you know! And it was expensive! One pound and fifty pence!

Bridal (what a) Shower

Gill had her wedding shower last night - something about a "butterfly theme"...

Strange the things women get up to on their own and probably best not to go there. It resembled what I imagine a meeting of a Freemason's Lodge to be like from the photos...

Anyway, this was supposed to be an understated affair with mainly the women from the family and just a couple of friends. Though anything involving wine and my mother and sister-in-law can't ever hope to remain understated for all that long, so Heaven only knows what they got up to.

Mum stayed at Gill's last night and at 11:00am Gill rang to say "Nan's head has stopped hurting now..."

Joyce (sister-in-law) managed to open a bottle of pink cava in true Grand Prix style, soaking herself and half the occupants of the room. There were strange articles - feather boas and masks and when David and I turned up to bring our wives away we unfortunately trod where no male should tread unless in a troupe of entertainers along the lines of hunky, toned and not unafraid to have clothing ripped off. Oh yes... well that's us...

We were never going to escape unscathed and thus...

We had up to then, spent a relatively civilised night, recording more of the band's album. There's only two tracks left to make a start on now but still a number to finish off. Last night almost finished us off!

It took a lot of persuading but David will not be wearing this outfit at the next gig...

Saturday, 9 June 2007


Now if you've been following this blog you'll know all about woggles by now, but if not start by having a look at the entry More from the Ladies over the Water and then have a look at Marlene's blog entry The Story of a Woggle. The sound of intrepid woggle hunting by myself and Marlene way back in 1997 can be heard here. So now that brings all the links together!

And now, children, for the first time in print, on screen or even in thought - the very first Woggle Story:

Wally Woggle Wants to Wet his Whiskers

Wally the woggle lived in a wet patch of grass near the edge of the school playing field. Living in the middle of a playing field was a risky business for a woggle. There were hordes of humans sometimes with studded boots - his Great Uncle Will had gone that way and it hadn't been a pleasant sight! There had also been the time when a woman had slipped on the grass and sat on Aunty Wendy. There hadn't been a lot left of her either. Aunty Wendy that is... So Wally lived close by the hedge where careless feet wouldn't catch him. Not that he was any sort of coward, he was always quick to point out. In his own words, "I'm a woggle who lives close to the edge..."

Wally sighed. The problem was that humans found it hard to see woggles. They could only see them out of the corner of their eyes because being looked at directly makes a woggle so nervous they shiver. At exactly the frequency that human eyes see straight through. So looking directly at a woggle makes them invisible. That's the danger of being a woggle. People step on invisible things...

Wally decided he would nip over to the school and find the saucer of milk that he knew would be left out for the school cat. "Nip" over might not be quite the exact word to use really. Woggles don't move fast. No legs you see. Well... no legs you can't see because the woggle would disappear if you looked at him anyway. If you see what I mean!

Movement for Wally was a sort of rolling awkward movement, stretching out his normally hunched body at the front, then letting the back part slide along to catch up as his back arched again.
"And that," thought Wally, "will be bloody painful once I reach that concrete playground!" Poor Wally...

To be continued...

Friday, 8 June 2007

Favourite TV Chef

No... I'm not sure why anyone would want to know this either...

But I hope this settles it once and for all...

Wok good will come of it I don't know...

Don't you get some wierd emails???

More from the Ladies over the Water

I've no idea whose this photo is - it was sent by Amanda way back in July 2002, captioned: "Proof that there is marriage in the animal kingdom"...

I've been skimming back through my own web pages of old emails and photos looking for something. It's ten years since Marlene came over for a visit on her way to Canada and during that time we plagued Evy by talking about having seen a load of woggles...

We had - they were round the ties of a coach-load of cubs and scouts on a motorway service station but Evy thought we were talking about some kind of animal and the joke just ran and ran!

Anyway, Marlene had emailed "... ten years since we came to Canada. Can hardly believe it." Evy replied:
"Happy anniversary sis. I remember the day well. There is only one thing I don't remember. I forget what a woggle is!!!"

Tsk! Evy, they have purple fur, live in tall grass, do good turns and drink milk very sloppily which runs down their long whiskers! I can't find the sketch I did...

Get Rid of the Old Boiler!

No, no, no... I was referring to the old central heating!

We've been told for the last few years that if (when!) something goes wrong with our existing heating it will be impossible to repair it so we're biting the bullet, tightening the belt, battening down the hatches and doing lots more things totally unrelated to each other or to heating...

There seems to be a week of devastation and disruption to look forward to during my summer break this year...

Wednesday, 6 June 2007

Winchester (not the rifle)

Remember the old song "Winchester Cathedral" by the New Vaudeville Band? How could you forget?

Well here I am in Winchester - or just outside it actually as I'm staying at a Premiere Travel Inn on the M3 motorway - silly place to put it, cars have to treat it as a roundabout...

I've been in and out of London today. Caught the train from Hatfield. A very busy station with trains passing through every couple of minutes, but only stopping there every now and then! Took me through a few places I've often heard of but never actually seen. "Potters Bar" always sounds a strange place name but from the train it looked quite a nice place...

Met up with some colleagues from the JISC Regional Support Centre for the South East region. We borrowed an office from the RSC for London on Guilford Street and I met a new member of the team, Harold. Good to meet up again with Ann and Adam who I've known for a few years.

We concluded our business and had lunch together then I headed back to Kings Cross where I was amused to see half a baggage trolley sticking out from a wall labeled "Platform 9¾"! I had my camera with me but I don't have the cable to transfer photos so you'll have to wait until Friday to see the photo! Anyway, good for Kings Cross - far too many companies feel humour is somehow unprofessional or demeaning. We all spend a lot of time at work - it should be fun as much as possible!

Got back to Hatfield to pick the car up and then drove down here - unremarkable journey. An early night is called for - I'm knackered!

Tuesday, 5 June 2007

Tuesday in Hatfield

I've been at the University of Hertfordshire today, delivering a Project Management workshop for some of the university's administrative staff. A familiar face walked in the room and was a touch surprised to hear me recount meeting him 20 years ago on a BTEC Higher in Public Administration at what was then Preston Polytechnic! Obviously he must have made a bigger impression on me than I did on him! :-)

Feedback was good - we have a 3-point scoring system so it's either "poor", "satisfactory", or "excellent" and of 90 possible marks I got 74 "excellent" plus 16 "satisfactory".

Some individual comments under the headings on our feedback form:

Organisation of workshop - order, pace, time spent on each topic
"Felt a bit rushed - a lot to take in"

Appropriateness of content - tailoring of session to audience
"Very good fit to our requirements"

Presentation - style, use of visual aids
"Excellent presentation, made the subject very interesting"
"Lively, funny, and very useful"
"Excellent presentation"
"Very good"

Activities - interactive elements of the workshop
"Liked the small group work"

Additional comments
"Lively, great examples and illustrations. Many thanks"
"Very useful as had an HE (Higher Education) flavour"
"At times felt like a hard sell of infoKits" (our free online resources)
"Good overview of Project Management, good to point to the website for more in-depth stuff"
"John's style, subject knowledge and delivery was excellent"

Many thanks to the delegates for so many comments - one of my colleagues from another organisation was talking to me about feedback sheets the other day and said "Isn't it strange how you can knock yourself out putting on a good workshop and all the comments are about the food or how hot or cold it was...!" I think the University of Hertfordshire staff gave the lie to that one then!

Am staying in Hatfield overnight and then in and out of London for a meeting tomorrow, before driving down to Winchester to deliver a Change Management workshop on Thursday.

Sunday, 3 June 2007

Myerscough College Open Day

Ah... a brilliant day! The weather held off for us as we played our hearts out at Myerscough today. The rain hit with a vengeance as we were halfway home - now that's what I call a result!

We were feeling a bit fragile at first after last night - it was 2:00am when we got back and we were onsite at Myerscough for 9:00am! But once we started we were just on a roll!

We had lots of favourable comments, sold a few CDs, gave autographs and there may be a chance of a booking or two!

We had a guest slot as Peter and Shelagh Cooney joined us - Shelagh sings and plays penny whistle for us on "Fields of Athenry" on our "Kites" album and I joined them on guitar as they sang 3 or 4 songs early in the afternoon. Thoroughly enjoyed it too!

We worked out at one point that of the immediately past 20 hours we had played for 10 of them... We eventually had to stop when my fingers were so indented even despite all the layers of corn, that I was worried I might cause the hard skin to split! We finished with a blistering version of Johnnie B Goode and a chorus of shouts for more.

Many thanks if you stayed to listen, hope you enjoyed it as much as we did! A weekend off next week and then we have one a week for the next 4 weeks or so!

Steam Fair Gig for Rainbow House

Last night we played at Heskin Hall in Chorley for a Steam Fair in aid of the charity Rainbow House.

An excellent night despite the power pack for my guitar effects pedal packing up! I keep batteries in it so thankfully they just took over.

So now I have a spare pack of batteries for today but am hoping I don't need them as if I remove the batteries to change them I might lose all my settings which would be interesting! No chance of buying a replacement power pack before the gig as we have to be onsite by 9:00am!

Anyway, the marquee was packed last night and lots of folk came over to say how much they had enjoyed themselves. One chap came over to help sing Elvis's "The Wonder of You" - didn't make a bad job of it either!

Our next gig for the Steam Fair crowd is the first Saturday in August - glad you "reminded" us of it Jack, because we had the September one down but not that one!

Ok, we were in by 2:00am so it must be time now to get off to Myerscough College where we are appearing today from around 11:00am. Come and say hello and help keep us awake! Ageing rockers, eh? Any chance for a moment's rest and they're fast asleep...

Saturday, 2 June 2007

The Tyne Bridge Opening, 1928

I've had an email from someone who had been looking at my web pages on 78rpm Records. It said:

Hello John,
I would be interested to find out if you know anything about a 12" record I have, it plays like a 78, it is the speech of H.M. King George V opening ceremony of the Tyne bridge Newcastle, dated 10th (October) 1928 and, on the reverse side is the address of welcome to King George V by the town clerk ,I would be grateful of any knowledge you may have about this many thanks Ellie Reid

The record is shown above right and is one of a number of 78rpm records commemorating speeches and events. The Tyne Bridge was a marvel of its age, the BBC have a number of short silent films downloadable from this page including the construction (health & safety? What's that?) and one film of the Royal Opening Ceremony.

As with all records of this type, the value depends on completeness (it had its own designed sleeve) and in the end it is worth whatever someone would give for it!

Thanks Ellie for a fascinating journey through a few web pages though!

Were any readers at the ceremony or can you remember the bridge being built? It's almost 80 years ago so this might be unlikely, but is there anyone whose father or grandfather worked on it? Or does the Tyne Bridge have a fond place in your heart?

Send me some memories either by email or by clicking to add a comment to this blog entry!

The photograph right kicks us off - it was the first time I saw the Tyne Bridge, January 2003 and it had snowed. I'd just been appointed to JISC infoNet, an advisory service for colleges and universities that is hosted by the University of Northumbria at Newcastle and was still working my notice period when I came across the country this night for a meeting the following day.

It Was 40 Years Ago (Yester)day

I'm sorry, I'm sorry!

I'm a day late with this I know, but: John, George, Paul, Ringo - sincerely...

Thank You!

Musical Weekend

June is normally a busy month for the band and this one gets off to a hectic start with a gig tonight at a Steam Fair. We've done it a few times before, strange affair - as we play the audience gather round a collection of kettles to watch the steam... oh wait, no, it's one of those traction engine things isn't it?

The organiser, Jack, puts up a couple of marquees joined together. One holds a bar and seating and the other houses us and a dance floor and it's normally a belting night! Last year it had rained incessantly all day and as we drove onto the field the car was going every which way and a spray of mud covered the entire car, the roof, the bystanders, the marquee and anything within 50 metres... Sun shining at the moment so fingers crossed...

Tomorrow you can see us at Myerscough College's Open Day. The college is an agricultural college and will have lots of things for visitors to see and do. There's normally sheep shearing, cows being milked, horse riding displays, tractors, racing cars, arboriculturalists (tree looker afterers - they hate "tree surgeons") making carvings out of (dead) tree trunks with chainsaws, all kinds of flowers shrubs trees in the Plant Centre and just by the side of it will be us, Creeping Bentgrass, playing from around 11:00 until about 4:00. Admission is £8 per car - cram those people in!

Friday, 1 June 2007


I have to admit to being a terrible hoarder. There are all sorts of collections strewn about the house.

I bought a jukebox because I had a load of records I never played and then, having got a jukebox, I went out and bought a load more records... Anyway, I thought it was time to get some reader feedback going here! I'm looking for memories of Dansettes - record players that you could sit on the floor with, perhaps cuddled up to someone or perhaps on your own, playing your favourite 45s or maybe even 78s!

What sort of Dansette did you have? What sort of music did you play? When you wanted to have fun, when you were feeling sad, lonely, rebellious? Email me with your memories or simply add them as feedback on this article. Feedback entries have to be approved by me before they appear - so links to inappropriate websites and to businesses unless relevant will not be approved!

To get in the mood take a look at the web site of this collector who has 150 Dansettes!

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