Category Archives: General

OK, I give up — BBQ it is

After managing only one barbie last summer, I vowed I wouldn’t even bother to get the gubbins out of the garage this year. But have to admit, this really is barbie  weather, good and proper, so I give in …

2013-07-19 19.19.50

Beef shish kebab, by Sainsbury — good, if rather overcooked

Chicken breast kebabs with tikka marinade, by Sainsbury — good

Peppered pork kebab, by me — disappointing (I thought pork tenderloin would barbecue OK, but I was wrong)

Chilean syrah, by Karu ( — very pleasant

Only question now is, have I initiated the end of this rather nice summer weather, or will there be time for another cook-out? — only time will tell.

Our Friends From The South

Last week we had the pleasure of entertaining our friends Chris and Phyl for a few days. We regularly visit them in the autumn, and holiday with them on Lundy every May (as recorded elsewhere here), so it was nice for them to come North for a change.

They arrived Monday evening, after a delayed start — Chris has his hands pretty full with churchwarden duties at the moment, and had some last minute  chores to sort out. Anyway, a couple of gins had him soon feeling more relaxed and we enjoyed a casserole that Phyl brought (with dumplings!) and a glass or two of other restorative potions.

Tuesday, we headed for Chester and availed ourselves of the Park and Ride from Broughton Heath — marvelous things, these bus passes! Not a very nice day for walking, so we went into the cathedral: had thought we might get a spot of lunch in the refectory after looking round, but we were greeted with the news that it was closed for cleaning; still, we paid our dues and went in anyway. Can’t say I’ve ever done the cathedral “as a tourist” before — been to lots of services and a couple of lectures, but never looked round in detail: found it very interesting. As an added bonus, we were able to join in a short service of Holy Communion that took place at noon; just us and a handful of other folk. Afterwards, we repaired to Chatwins cafe for lunch, and then had a bit of a walk round part of the walls. A cold wind made it rather less than enjoyable, unfortunately. Called on on Anna and The Boys for an hour or two before returning home. For our evening meal we had the Aldi Four Bird Roast, which proved to be very acceptable.

Wednesday, Chris was all but disabled with a bad back. A browse of the phonebook yielded an appointment with a physio, and forty minutes and £40 later, he was once more ready for action. We decided to stay local, and headed down to Bridgemere for a visit to the Lakeland shop and (of course) lunch in the cafe. I was most disappointed to find they no longer do oatcakes!

Thursday, we were a bit slow to get going, and so decided to forego either of our planned excursions (Williamson Tunnels, or Port Sunlight) in favour of a trip onto Nantwich on the bus. Enjoyed doing St Mary’s Church, once again in tourist mode. Lunched at the continental-style cafe near the Post Office; I was rather disappointed with it — I’m sure it used to be nicer! To Sandbach in the evening, for a meal with Diane and Les, at The Old Hall, recently refurbished. Excellent nosh and a good gossip.

Friday, we put Chris on a train home to Poole. Phyl set off for a trip to Bakewell in search of an old friend, Sue Cullen. She returned home having successfully tracked Sue down, despite having no phone number or address: just the information that she runs a pizza cafe!

Saturday, we bid farewell to Phyl, on her way to meet up with another friend in Oldham

Altogether a most pleasant visit, even though we never did get the planned outings done.

Alone Once More

So the Christmas  festivities are behind us once again …

It was nice to have family visiting over the holiday, as usual: Mother-in-Law for a few days over the weekend, The Daughter and The Boys on Boxing Day and overnight, and Rosemary and Mervyn the following day.

Traveled up to Garstang on Friday 23rd to collect Mother-in-Law and pick up the pre-ordered food items from E H Booths. Driving conditions were pretty foul both ways, but the volume of traffic was not great, so we managed good journey times; lucky escape coming back, when the traffic came to a dead stop just at J16 of the M6 — we just made it off on to the A556.

Saturday was a quiet day, making final preparations and drawing up my catering plan for the big day.

Christmas Day went to church at St Luke’s for the 9 o’clock service (bit thin on the ground, congregation-wise); then home to implement my master plan for roast goose with usual accompaniments, followed by Xmas Pud. It all went off remarkably well, if I do says so myself.

Boxing Day we were up in good time to await the arrival of Anna and Matt with The Boys: predictably they had a slightly delayed start, but were with us my 12:30. A buffet lunch was followed by present-opening and general mayhem, as might be expected. After tea/evening meal of salmon with asparagus and new potatoes, and once the kids were settled, Anna and Matt went off to the pub with Lucy and Paul.

Tuesday, R&M were here in time for coffee, while The Ricketts went across the road for an hour or two. Buffet lunch and Prezzies again; then Anna and co departed. Haunch of mutton for our evening meal was a success, followed by a couple of puds provided by R&M, accompanied by a very good pudding wine.

Mother-in law was up betimes on Wednesday and ready for the off as soon as breakfast was done. Waved them off about 10.00 and spent the rest of the day putting the house back to normal.

As I said, it’s lovely to have family at Christmas time … It’s also nice when there’s just the two of us again. 🙂

Next week, Chris and Phyl — but that’s another story!

Joseph and the Aliens

To Pen-y-ffordd last Monday, to watch the Nativity play at our grandson’s school.

It was a slightly unconventional production, involving not only the usual participants – Mary and Joseph, shepherds, angels, wise men and a star – but also a new element: aliens !

Here is not the place to go into details about how the aliens were involved in this particular production; but I was interested by the reaction when I posted about this on facebook: nobody expressed surprised. I guess we have all come to assume that school nativity plays will “adapt” the original story to accommodate their own situation — mainly I suppose, on account of the number and range of participants that have to be accommodated.

A couple of people actually seemed keen to validate this particular adaptation. One reminded me that Chris de Burgh has been here already (see youtube). The other pointed out that the mystery of that wandering star might be best accounted for by alien involvement

So here’s my deep thought for today –
The annual juggling act of finding (or manufacturing) a part for every child in the Nativity Play is perhaps a reminder that even the oddest or apparently insignificant of us can have a contribution to make to the rich tapestry that is human life.
Poetic or what?!

On a lighter note, I am also reminded of this thought from Milton Jones:
Sometimes I feel like Joseph at the inn in Bethlehem holding a crib of straw and saying “No – I asked to see the manager!”

RAF Shawbury

To Shawbury in Shropshire last Friday, on a visit to RAF Shawbury arranged by Andy Holly, in company with 44 fellow marshals from BMMC.

Andy, who marshals mainly at Oulton Park and Angle

sey, is chief flying instructor at Shawbury by way of a day job.

The station is home to the Defense Helicopter Flying School and also the Central Air Traffic Control School — both joint-services facilities. In addition, several hangers on thee site house the Aircraft Maintenance and Storage Unit.

We visited all three facilities.

In the Storage Unit, work was in progress to prepare new aircraft for the Red Arrows, servicing and uprating the new planes, and transferring specialist kit,like the smoke generators, from old Arrows craft. There is also space given over to a project to reconstruct a WW II assault glider, where there was an actual DC3, largely intact, and a Tiger Moth.

The Helicopter school has about 38 Squirrel training aircraft, as well as some other types. We had a detailed introduction to the machines, from some of Andy’s instructor colleagues, and had the opportunity climb aboard — I nipped into the pilot’s seat and was able to play with the controls and check out the bewildering array of instruments.

The ATC training facility gave us an insight into the tricky business of making sure aircraft avoid each other. There was a neat simulator mockup with big screens for teaching visual control tower skills, and allegedly they have some equally good simulator kit for radar training, but we didn’t get to see that.

All-in-all, an interesting three hours.

A Welcome Return

The last few mornings, we’ve had the pleasure of seeing a mistle thrush visit the tree with white berries in Mrs Jones’s garden. He/she hasn’t been around for quite a while.

Pity the weather has been so dull — hard to get much of a snapshot: this is the best I could do, using the 500 mirror lens, ISO 1600, cropped madly.

Steve Jobs — A very smart guy

Saddened to read of the death of Steve Jobs this morning. Obviously, lots of people are going to say lots of good things in the coming hours, and more eloquently than I could. Just to remark that I’m pleased to know he was not just a great tech geek and savvy businessman, but also had  a pretty good approach to life …

Our rector, Mike Turnbull (parish of St Mary Wistaston) posted this on his facebook page a couple of hours ago:

“No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don’t want to die to get there. And yet death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be, because Death is very likely the single best invention of Life. It is Life’s change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new. Right now the new is you, but someday not too long from now, you will gradually become the old and be cleared away. Sorry to be so dramatic, but it is quite true.

Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”

– Steve Jobs at the Stanford University commencement address in 2005


Ten Years On

So I guess many of us are thinking of “9/11” (as our dyslexic colonial cousins have it) today and, amongst other things, pondering on what has changed in the last ten years; thinking too, how fast those years have passed, if we are of a certain age!

Certainly, air travel has changed, for a start — as I am bound to note, since we at present on holiday in foreign parts. Have to say though, the security experience at MIA this year was very efficient and relatively painless, when compared to some of the inconvenience we have felt at times in those ten years.

Much has happened on the international scene, too, though whether we have progressed much in the “war on terror” (if you believe such a thing exists) is debatable, I think. Continue to have my doubts about Iraq and Afghanistan; but at least Libya looks as if it may turn out better.

But inevitably, it is at the personal level that one tends to concentrate; and in ten years, quite a lot has happened; most of it good, I am happy to say …
Anna and Matt have married, have given us three super grandsons, and seem to have a good life together.
I survived redundancy from Barclays, had six enjoyable years at Swinton, and managed to retire in modest comfort (so far!)
Mother-in-Law celebrated her 90th birthday and continues to thrive; Rosemary and Mervyn upped-sticks and move from Coventry to Garstang, where they are able to keep an eye on her, which is good for JL and me!
We continue to have good friends and neighbours, who make life pleasant (you know who you are!)
Great Britain may seem to be in a continuing financial crisis, and to have its share of other problems, but yet remains IMHO a good place to live.

There is a temptation, I suppose, to wonder what the next ten years will bring, but I think I’m content to go with Matthew (Matt 6:34) — “Sufficient unto the day …”

Return to Normal

We’ve just passed a “normal” weekend at home, and I realized how long it’s been since we had one of those.

Saturday, I was marshalling a BARC meeting at Oulton Park, and Sunday enjoyed a proper Sunday Lunch after preaching at the 9.00 service at St Luke’s.

Think the last time we had such a weekend was probably some time in June! — maybe even longer ago than that.

Oulton was enjoyable for the most part, if pretty uneventful from a marshal’s point of view. Weather mostly good, though we did get a brief spell of rain mid-afternoon. This caused a big hiccup in proceeding, because the Classic Formula Fords had just formed up on the grid when the rain started; the race was declared “wet” by the stewards, so the cars had the option to switch to treaded tyres — most opted to do so, but had to return to the paddock to do the swap; by the time they had done that, it was drying up, and now they wanted to go back to slicks after all! Chaos! At this point, the organizers decided to bring out the next race instead, while the Classics sorted themselves out. We must’ve lost about 30 minutes with all this going on.

Matt and the boys turned up in the afternoon, with Peter in tow (no doubt called into service to help Matt out, since he had the little one as well as Archie and Jack — Anna at Chester races for the day).

Sunday, it was really rather nice to be doing nothing unusual, though the day was marred slightly by the toughness of the lamb joint — but, hey! you can’t have everything.

Quiet week ahead, with a short visit to Garstang: the main item on the agenda is starting holiday preparations.


Just came across the WordPress facility to “Publicize” blog posts, so I’m making this blog entry to test it.