Sunday, 13th October, 2019
At 7.00 am, the morning is mild (16C/61F) but grey and monochrome. My head-cold is still fairly monochrome as well. Any Blog reader will know that I live inside routines. Every morning starts at 6.00 am with BBC Radio 4. Up at 7.00 am, Pauline makes me fresh orange juice by juicing 2 large oranges. After that, I am handed a large cup of Yorkshire tea and my Breakfast is completed by some freshly made banana milk shake with fat free milk and calorie-free sweetener. Generally, that will carry me through until our meal at around 4.00 pm. Pauline makes porridge with fresh fruit for herself and drinks a cup of hot water. She hasn’t drunk tea or coffee for almost 2 years now.
While Pauline makes Breakfast, I download the newspapers on our iPads and check email. Our mobile phones tell us what the temperature is outside. The house is so well insulated that it doesn’t provide much hint of external conditions. As I went through the emails, one stood out – You have won a National Lottery prize. Pauline pointed out that it was supposed to €15 million but the a check found our prize was £140.00/€161.00. Still, it’s better than a poke in the eye. It almost covers the cost of our hotel room at Gatwick airport at the end of the month.
This week, we are driving up to Yorkshire. I am looking forward to being reacquainted with my old friend, Harold Wilson, who we left standing outside the magnificent façade of Huddersfield Train Station. Like so many memories, time and distance soften the loss but returning evokes much emotion and so many memories.
Monday, 14th October, 2019
A grey, damp day which didn’t get above 17C/63F. It doesn’t matter. Yorkshire wouldn’t seem the same if it wasn’t like this.
Ten years ago, we were spending a lot of time in Oldham Hospital with Pauline’s little Mum who suddenly had shingles across her eye. It is a horrible, painful condition for anyone but, for someone in their mid-90s, it is very unfair. She made light of it and recovered.
My weather app. tells me that we are distinctly average for rain over the past 30 years and not so far off the average high temperature. Tomorrow should be dry for our drive to the North.
Got home from the Health Club today to find BT Openreach parked in our drive. They were pulling fibre optic cable through the ducts from the street cabinet to our house. Gone are the days when they had to dig up the road and drive. A junction box has been attached to the outside of our house in the flower bed and, next week, they will turn up to install the new hub and wireless extension equipment. A week on Wednesday, we will go from 30Mbs to 300Mbs in the blink of an eye. Apparently, at the same time, it will significantly increase the value of our house by improving its desirability. It will certainly be more desirable to me!
Tuesday, 15th October, 2019
Up at 6.30 am on a grey but mild morning. Final packing of suitcases and the car. Out by 8.45 am and on the road to Yorkshire via Repton in Derbyshire. Our sat.nav. And the AA app calculated 3.5 hours to Repton followed by 1.5 more hours on to Yorkshire. The first couple of hours’ drive were excellent and enjoyable and then we met a motorway closure around Leicester. The reason was a collision between a lorry and a van which completely closed the M1 for an air ambulance to land. The tailbacks were frustrating but we didn’t have a deadline so lived with it and got on our way again.
The changing face of my old, home village was fascinating/shocking. This picture below features a residential property know as The Manse. In the century between the 1870s and the 1970s, it was the manse serving the attached Congregational Chapel which had been central to so many of my family ancestors. The building to the right of the manse is a hair and beauty salon.
Ironically, the left hand side where the brown door now is was a pitch black cave of a place in which sat a grimy, one-legged war veteran who spent his day repairing boots and shoes. It was a place where old men gathered to gossip. For a young lad, it was quite a scary place. The right hand side was Wainright’s Forge where a furnace was constantly being stoked with fire irons and metal was beaten in to shape. The smell of tempered metal haunts me as I looked through the windows.
Today would have been Dad’s 104th birthday. Unbelievable to think he missed 55 of those years. Although I remember him, I often find myself questioning whether those memories are real or received. I wonder how we would have got on in my adulthood. I have a feeling that he wouldn’t have approved of me and my views.
A total of 5 hours driving plus a Coffee/Toilet break, visit to my parents grave and a short excursion around my home village stretched to near 8 hrs. When you haven’t got a deadline, delays don’t seem so important. Fortunately, the holdup didn’t happen until shortly after the toilet break which was lucky. We arrived at our hotel in Brighouse by 4.30 pm. Check-in, a cup of tea and then down to the gym to make sure I achieved my targets before settling down for the evening.
Wednesday, 16th October, 2019
The morning opened dark and wet but soon brightened up. We were up early and down to breakfast and then out in the car towards Huddersfield town centre. We were going to Bolton to visit my sister, Ruth and her husband, Kevan. We had to take them some flowers and we went out first to buy them.
Horrible journey in heavy rain and even heavier traffic with deep, surface water and terrible road spray. However, we got there and were just parking up when Pauline’s mobile rang. It was our next door neighbour. Our smoke alarms were all going off in the house and he couldn’t stop them. A few weeks ago, he phoned us while we were in Athens to say our burglar alarm was going off. When we got home, our three fire alarms had set of spontaneously for the first time. This time, there was little we could suggest to our neighbour but to turn the mains supply off and let the batteries run out for us to deal with when we get home.
We spent a lovely couple of hours with Ruth & Kev who are both looking extremely happy, healthy and hearty in spite of being so much older than Pauline & I. Annoyingly, I forgot to take a photo before we left. I will do so next time.
The drive back to Huddersfield was totally different. The weather was dry and sunny with blue skies and sunshine. The traffic was much lighter as we drove into Huddersfield town centre and then on through Netherton, Meltham and Helme.
We drove on past a green, Holme Valley as the sun shone over it towards Longwood where we lived until 2010
We left the North of England almost 10 years ago and, although we had spent almost 40 years together there with wonderful memories, it is not somewhere I could move back to now. It feels hard, harsh, lacking in the softness of indulgence. As a beautiful, theatrical backdrop, it has a lot to recommend it. As a place to call home, I have moved on to sunnier climes.
Thursday, 17th October, 2019
Can you believe it? Yorkshire has frost at 6.00 am this morning. It does presage a beautiful morning and this is the carpark from our suite on a the upper storey of our hotel.
Certainly, the onset of Autumn is more pronounced up here than is evident on the South Coast. At around mid day, we drove in to Huddersfield and up to The Manor House Restaurant in Lindley.
We met up with our old friends and ex-colleagues, Little Viv and Margaret. It has become a tradition and Margaret is tasked with choosing a new venue each time. She has rarely let us down.
A light lunch of Caesar Salad and sparkling water but with lots of heavy talking passed 2hrs very quickly. We split after agreeing to meet again in March. We drove in to town where the exciting new university buildings dominate the skyline. Today was Open Day and the town was flooded with hordes of excited young people dreaming of leaving home and setting out in the world.
Negotiating strange people like that, we drove back to our hotel for a cup of tea and to catch up on political events. I still am extremely optimistic about beating this Brexit nonsense!
Friday, 18th October, 2019
Up in the darkness at 6.30 am. It had rained torrentially in the night but was dry now. After breakfast, we drove over the Pennines to Oldham to the Crematorium to pay our respect to the memory of Pauline’s Mum who died 9 years ago today. We have done this every year since and will try to continue to have this focus in her memory. She deserved it.
We drove on to visit my friend and ex-colleague, Brian and his wife, Val, in Shaw. We only meet a couple of times each year. I love talking to him. There is no one more down to earth.
After a couple of hours with Brian & Val, we drove up to see the site of our old school completely covered in 40-50 new, Redrow homes. It felt quite divorced from our long term recollections. It underlined our distance between reality and memory and, without sentiment, we moved on. We drove on to visit relations of Pauline – Joyce & Harry. It was nice to see them and we had a delightful conversation for an hour or so before setting off over the Pennines to Huddersfield.
When we got back to our hotel, the final nail in our run of bad luck arrived. An email from our neighbour said, Smoke Alarms still not turned off but burglar alarms have now joined in.
Saturday, 19th October, 2019
Up early and very light Breakfast at 6.30 am. On the road by 7.00 am. Almost immediately told by our sat.nav. of an accident/holdup on the M1. It turned out to be a 25 yr old ‘pedestrian’ killed on the motorway by a Mercedes. What he was doing there goodness only knows although it was late on a Saturday night.
The diversion, which thousands took, added about 90 mins to our journey and left us exasperated. One thing saved our sanity and you will be shocked to hear what it was.
Today, Parliament met on a Saturday for the first time since the Falklands war. Boris Johnson was trying to get his EU Withdrawal Bill through the Commons. We knew he’d fail but there was always some tension about it. The debate went on for about 4 hrs and was absolutely fascinating. I managed to get live Parliament TV on my mobile and put it through our car Infotainment unit. As a result, although our journey took about an hour longer than it should have done, I hardly noticed any of it because I was gripped by the drama of the debate.
We arrived home about 1.30 pm and took bottles of wine to our neighbours either side to say ‘sorry’ for the disturbance of our smoke/burglar alarms disturbing their week. We griddled chicken out in the garden where the sunshine shone and the temperature made it delightfully warm. We were able to watch the voting conclusion to the Parliamentary debate on television and applaud the Opposition in their victory. Now we have to unpack and get on with normality.