2013 the year dreams came true

I am writing this at the end of what can only be described as an amazing year.

Who knew this time last year what was in store for us??  Well, we did actually, but knowing and actually doing 5 amazing events in as many months was a very different thing.  When we decided to finally get married, after 5 happy years, thanks to the BBC and the Tate Modern and lots of mustard and not any custard, we sort of knew that this was also the year for significant birthdays and another very important wedding, but it is fair to say that we, well I, did not actually appreciate just how much effort, money and all round knackeredness this might involve.

It has been a blast, It started by surprising my lovely hubby by not taking him to a football match that he didn’t know he was supposed to be going to,  racing friends up the highways of North West England in a monsoon like rainstorm, to hosting a surprise party for 20 friends, 30 minutes after getting home from not going to the football weekend.  Next barely a month later the 18th birthday celebration for my lovely daughter, involving at least 2 parties, a visit from grandma and a lot of dancing and shopping, indoor skydiving and surprise presents.  There was just enough time to catch our breath after that when just a week later we were hen nighting it off for a weekend of Giant puppets, blow up men, river boats and not nude drawing.  Are you beginning to see why I am knackered yet?

2013 continued with a June wedding, a beautiful bride, handsome groom and a very proud Mum, and then became a Spanish summer, sharing our house with two lovely students throughout July. They had vacated the rooms about 3 hours when my lovely niece arrived to stay.  Within days she was working and gradually started to put her life back on track, it was no surprise to anyone that she booked her ticket for a new life in Australia as winter was approaching.

It was at the end of the summer that we had the most magical day of all.  Dozens of people traveled across the UK to join in the celebration of our marriage.  It was a day of surprises, speeches, sunshine and smiles.  From the excitement of decorating the venue, to the leaving for honeymoon it was perfect, perfect, perfect.

Now it is almost 2014 and a whole new year is stretching in front of me. It looks as if this will be a year of challenges,there is uncertainty about my work, the very real threat of redundancy, a pay cut or redeployment, looms at the beginning of the year.  In my opinion we can view challenges as disaster or as opportunity and I am going to seize the day.  Whatever happens will be a positive, more time to play, to spend with friends and family.   Choosing happy works and that is what I am going to do.

Happy 2014 to everyone, may it bring you everything you wish for yourselves.

Liverpool the best city in the world?

Yesterday I was speaking to my 83 year old Uncle who is passionate about his home city of Liverpool.  He told me he had been over to town to the new museum and to the recently refurbished William Brown Street Library.  He said the Library was the most beautiful place he had ever been in.  Now my uncle has been to lots and lots of places in his life.  He was a Merchant Seaman for years as a young man and traveled to the Baltic to Russia and beyond.  He now lives close to the banks of the Mersey and goes down to the river at least three times a week.  He knows ships, he understands tides and he is connected to both the city and the river in the same way I feel connected to them.

He said simply, that Liverpool is the best place in the world.  It made me happy that he has managed to spend his life living in his perfect place, and it also made me wonder if that is what brings peace and contentment to everyone.  Maybe everyone could benefit from spending time in their perfect place.  When my Uncle goes down to the prom and looks and the ships, he is without doubt reconnecting with his world.  He has had a full life and has 83 years worth of remembering to do.  He also looks forward, only last year he went on a cruise to the Baltic States to relive the first voyage he did as a junior seaman.

Now I am not daft and I know there are other great cities in the world, I have even been to some of them.  I will argue though that there is a certain magic about Liverpool, and the spirit of the people and the attitude of the city.  Much maligned in popular culture, this is still a city that likes to solve problems and to help itself.  The City of Culture in 2008 saw an amazing change in the city, not only in investment but in the attitude of the world.  Yes we have had the Beatles, the worlds first library, and other great social innovations, but it was in 2008 Liverpool started to look forward.

I don’t believe it is possible to move forward until the past has been dealt with. One of my favourite places in Liverpool is the Maritime Museum and within it you can find the Museum of Slavery.  Now many cities may chose to hide this terrible time in history, and it is true that Liverpool was built on the profits from this evil trade, but in Liverpool they have chosen to commemorate this.  The exhibition is shocking, heartbreaking and inspiring, I urge you to make time to visit.  A city that is able to face up to mistakes and to say sorry is a city of strength.

So, next time you hear a joke about robbing Scousers, and yes those jokes are still about, remember my Uncle.  Remember all the families who lost their loved ones in a football fiasco and never gave up fighting for justice.  Remember the City that the Iron Lady was too scared to visit, not because she would be hurt, but because the people were unafraid of her.  Remember that Liverpool has more people who will help you that hurt you.

I told my Uncle I was starting a Blog.  He said, ‘no you’re not, I won’t let you’.  I asked him if he knew what a blog was, and explained it was an online diary, he said, ‘you’re not Brenda Jones, I will write to the Daily Mail about you’  I laughed, ‘Bridget Jones???’  he said yes, and then he said ‘the Mail is a hateful newspaper, should be banned’  I do love my Uncle, I love his spirit and his humour, he is the best bit of the best city in the world.

Sales – if something is cheap because no one wanted it, why are people queuing to buy?

I have just come home from the shops, now this is not something I like to do, well I do like to come home obviously, I live here and it is warm and there is coffee and biscuits, I however do not like to go to the shops.  I have never been a natural shopper. As a woman I am aware I am supposed to enjoy this activity but I would always rather be in the coffee shop with a good book. Anyway I was in the shops as my gorgeous daughter is too busy working/sleeping/drinking to go and make her own purchases and I am a good mother.  To be fair I had nothing else to do this afternoon.

I wandered down the road towards the shops expecting it to be a bit busy, it is Saturday after all. On the way I had the surreal experience of joining about 50 blokes all walking the same way I was, as we walked along we were joined at each junction by more blokes, in pairs, on their own and some with children.  It took me a minute to work out I was on the road of our local football team, there must be a match this afternoon, although I thought 12.30 was a bit early, mind you I know less about football than I do shopping, so who knows?

I digress.  I made it through the men and down into the shops.   On the way down the hill I had that unfortunate feeling that something was slipping. By the time I got to Marks and Spencers it was clear my tights were heading south quickly, I have no idea why, this hasn’t happened before.Maybe I have an inferior elastic situation, or perhaps I have lost so much weight over Christmas they are just too big. Whatever the reason it was becoming an urgent situation. I grabbed a top from the first rail and made for the changing room to adjust said tights.  When I got there a sign blocked my way, Changing Rooms closed during the Sale period.  What!!  With no time to reflect why clothes bought cheap need not fit, I headed to another store and another changing room, phew, just in time.  Suitably adjusted I visited several stores selling the goods I desired.  Well, normally they do.  Today somehow they had all completely changed.  There were large empty spaces in the centre of the shops, rails and rails of very odd looking garments around the walls complete with stickers proclaiming 50% off, and many people standing staring at them.   Considering there was less than half of the normal goods actually available to buy, the number of assistants has trebled, People were queuing at the tills, I have no idea what they had found to buy.

So what is a bargain???  When I was on one of my many diets I have attempted over the years, I once complained it was hard to lose weight when the kids left food and I was always tempted to finish it off rather than waste it.  The person in charge of the scales said sternly, ‘it is no less wasted if you eat it when you don’t need it, than if you throw it away’  So I ask, it is sensible to spend money on things you don’t really want just because they are cheap?

Home thoughts from the storm

Woken up today to a storm raging in the Peaks, it is still dark and raining is dashing off the windows.  Lovely hubby has gone off to drive his bus, and I am home alone.  I am thinking today about the jobs people do and the value put on them, in both monetary value and in practical value. Some people do jobs that are almost invisible.  To those of us who drive our own cars, at best buses are a bit of an annoyance, especially in traffic when they keep stopping and starting. For the passengers aboard they are often drafty, running late or expensive, a necessary service to get you where you need to be.  Bus drivers see life, that is for sure.  They go the whole journey, backwards and forwards, picking up passengers without discrimination. Day in day out up and down the roads, they see the older person struggling to get to their seat, the young parents with prams and parcels, the people off to work, half asleep with iPhone plugged in. Some passengers have personal hygiene issues, some are sad and depressed, some are lonely and ride the bus for company. Where we live we also get the tourists, the hikers and walkers, with muddy boots, rucksacks, flasks and maps.  Country buses provide the ideal transport to start that country stroll.  The bus drivers see all of this, but I don’t know how many people see them.  My eldest son also does an invisible job.  Without him and his team, and teams like them across the country, when you go to the supermarket to shop there would be no food on the shelves.  Every night a team of grocery knights work through the night, emptying wagons, sorting produce and placing out for shoppers to choose.  The world of the night shift worker truly is a back to front world.  Sleeping when everyone else awakes, the body clock is altered and family life is made difficult. Yet where would we be without easy access to fresh food and drink do we actually ever think about how it gets there and at what cost to health and wellbeing.  My job can be both invisible and visible, I think what I do will be more noticeable once it is lost.  The people who are most visible in our society are often not the most useful.  I am thinking of the famous, the celebrity, the people who have the opportunity to do great good, and waste it.  We recently went to see Adam Hills live at the Buxton Opera House and he does a great story about the Dalai Lama, and when he once shared a stage with him, if you get the chance check him out his is fab, Adam Hills I mean, although I am fairly sure the Dalai Lama is probably fab too.  Anyway Adam Hills said that the DL said to him something like, ‘ you have a voice, use it’ .   Far too many people who have a voice and are not invisible choose not to use it.  I was thinking of this today catching up on Christmas TV and seeing Russell Brand on with Alan Carr, he uses his voice and he was absolutely perfect in his response to the ditzy girls who are Little Mix.  I hope we see more of the visible using their voice for the good and hope that we all try harder to notice the invisible who day by day improve everyone’s lives

Facebook – who cares??

Advent is over, Christmas has come and almost gone, it is time to start writing again.   Having spent best part of Tuesday cooking and preparing food, and most of yesterday dishing it up to a constant stream of family and friends, it is with relief that today I have not yet got dressed.  Boxing Day is a peculiar day, If Christmas Eve is expectation and Christmas Day, excitement, then Boxing Day must be the anti climax.  Is there anything sadder than a half eaten turkey, languishing in the fridge next to the sherry trifle and almost empty bottle of Baileys?  All items that are only ever in my fridge in December and although much enjoyed do not lend themselves to useful leftover dishes.  I could just about conceive a turkey curry and maybe should give time to the combination of trifle and Baileys, perhaps with orange matchmakers as garnish, but admit complete defeat when faced with the soggy remains of prawn cocktail and cold roast potatoes.

This Christmas I have been lucky to spend the time with most of the people I love, I have laughed at the Queen’s speech with my son and been spoiled by my daughter who bought me the nicest presents.  In the midst of family harmony the most meaningful exchange came, somewhat out of the blue, from the stern words spoken by my eldest, for whom my Facebook use is a disappointment.   To be told, ‘I feel you have let me down Mum, you are the one who has always talked about civil liberties, why don’t you care?’  It is a great question.  Why don’t I care? Maybe I haven’t thought enough about it.  Is it true that social media will corrupt the world, all our private lives will be sold and we will all go to hell in a handcart???  Or it the worst that can happen is that the drippy girl from the class of ’73 will track me down and send me endless pictures of kittens and chickens?

Ok, my lovely son, you have stopped me in my tracks and made me think.  Which is actually what you wanted to happen.  You are right I do care about civil liberties, I care about the world and I have a inbuilt distrust of all things corporate.  Have I been corrupted by Facebook?  Maybe I have.  I know I enjoy communicating with friends across the globe, I like to write and enjoy the feedback, and wouldn’t have considered a blog without encouragement from ‘friends’ on FB.  So shall I stop using it??  Can I stop using it???  I might just try and see.  At least it will give me more time to blog.