Tag Archives: Huddersfield

In a New Country Now

9 Jun

On the morning of the the General Election results of 2017, one of my favourite comedians, Mark Steel, declared “We’re in a new country now.”

You can’t help but agree with him. Political awareness and interest has (finally) been pricked here and I take my hat off to the young people of the UK who quickly cottoned onto the fact that their future is now being decided for them and that they can make all of the difference.

But whatever your political leanings on the domestic front and however you think that the terror attacks (at home and overseas) can best be dealt with, one thing is for certain – the UK is entering a new phase of political energy (yesterday the fella on the chicken counter at Morrisons was waxing lyrical about the Constituency Labour Party and believe me, you wouldn’t have had that 2 years ago. You’d have been lucky to get have received some advice on your giblets.)

The week also provoked some stimulating conversation in our household;

9 yr old boy; That election was brilliant! When’s the next one? Can I have one near my birthday?

12 yr old girl; (To me) Honestly! He’s such a dimwit. He thinks we have them all the time.Like, every year!

9 yr old; Oh. But we only just had that one about the Brexit. And there was that David Cameron who I remember. And then Trump the Man With the Dead Cat on his Head. And then Huddersfield Town won the Premiership too.

12 yr old; Look you – you div (gestures at brother, tapping side of head) You’re too young to remember much. And we didn’t *win* the Premiership. We just got into it.  But … but when *I* was growing up, we had elections only ever 4 years. You don’t know what it’s like, you little kids. And for some reason you see to think that Trump has something to do with our country, too!

Politics for the 9 yr old in Huddersfield. Round and round and round and…

9 yr old:  Oh. I just thought it was supposed to go on and on and round and round.

12 yr old: No. We’re living in extraordinary times. But it’s going to be, like, really really hillarious at school when they call another General Election and we have to do another mock one at school. I still don’t think that anyone is speaking to the teacher who had to act as the UKIP candidate, when none of us kids would do that one.

9 yr old: I bet even his own children don’t like him now.

12 yr old: Don’t feel sorry for him. He didn’t have to volunteer. Anyway … you keep on hoping for mad politics-city here in the UK, ’cause you’re gonna get it!

9 yr old: I hope so.  But I did like the olden days when all we did was watch CBBC and no one expected to help around the house. But I hope Jeremy Corbyn comes back to Huddersfield and stands on my foot again, when he launches his next Fannymesto.



You’re So Vane

19 Sep

The other day I embarked on a blog, prior to opening my birthday presents of 2016. Well.  Yours truly was delighted with the fact that even more ‘needed’ and ‘odd’ gifts came her way. So here goes …

I’ll openly admit to anyone that I’ve never been reet-impressed with status symbols, brands, the latest in whatever consumerist tosh that far too many people in western society tend to be. But I’d be a filthy liar if I didn’t confess to you that when my birthday comes around, I do tend to ‘ask’ for a specific present (or three.) Not because I’m Ms Greedy Guts Materialist – honest – but because I simply think to myself, ‘weeeell, if they’re going to be daft enough to get me a pressie, they might as well get me something that I need.’

Little man chops wood! Cuckoo drives husband insane! What more could a girl want.

Little man chops wood! Cuckoo drives husband insane! What more could a girl want.

Do note here – the word ‘need’, as opposed to ‘like.’ It has proven to be the bane of my life and has turned me into the dullard Puritan that I am today. Sadly, my daughter seems to have taken on this very same attitude. A recent visit to her grandparents, ended up with Nan having to practically staple various purchases shop-buys to her grand-daughter’s forehead in order for them to be accepted (‘I’ve never known a child to say ‘no-thank-you-I-don’t-need-anything’, with every other breath!’)

But honestly, it’s not all just self-denial and flagellation here in our little household (for example, child number two is now turning out to be Mr Capitalist Commercial-Pants, as any self-respecting psychoanalyst would have warned me would have happened, years ago). But that blip aside, yeah – we may not chuck money around like some do on birthdays and anniversaries. But we do have FUN and we do BUY STUFF for each other. Still, it’s usually something er… well. To put it in the world of a close relative ‘Something completely weird and odd. Very much like you. You’re special!’

And I’ve only got myself to blame for such back-handed comments. Because I always make a point of remembering to ask my nearest/dearest for what I would most like to see, wrapped in the newspaper (I kid you not on the latter remark.) And the wee wish-list doesn’t usually contain what most women my age are hankering after (or ‘needing.’) In fact, the most bog-standard birthday present that I’ve ever requested was in response to a best friend asking me what I wanted. ‘Er, I just ran out of body moisturiser.’ I told her. ‘Good God, woman!’ she said, ‘That’s the most boring present ever! Are you sure? Last year you wanted me to get you a pair of purple tights. What is WRONG with you?’ ‘Look,’ I replied. ‘It’s what I NEED. Okay?’ She then proceeded to tell me that I was the easiest person ever to buy presents for. Because she also knew that I’ll happily accept second-hand moisturiser from any charity shop at the end of anyone’s street.

But it’s a bit of a different story for the other half and the kids. Because I subtly point out things that I NEED throughout the year. And then they forget. And then I try not to sulk about it. I mean, you’d think that I was the centre of their world wouldn’t you? I don’t ask for much in life. Well sadly, yet again I have run out of cotton wool buds, white knickers and Pears soap. Or perhaps they only tend to remember the much more whimsical stuff that I’ve taken a fancy to. So here – just to prove to you that I am entirely easy to buy for – is my top list of really ace pressies from my family.

1) Headlice Treatment
Purchased for me by Mother. At the time, I had no children, I had never suffered from headlice and I certainly hadn’t indicated in any way, shape or form – that I ‘needed’ the above. However, Mum being Mum – she figured that because I was living in sub-Saharan Africa and working with street children, there would come a time that the little giftie would be both welcome and useful. And yup – what can I say? Mums are ALWAYS right.

2) Ceramic sculpture of a milk bottle

We actually have old-fashioned pints delivered to us. But this artist re-creates both.

We actually have old-fashioned pints delivered to us. But this artist re-creates both.

In Slaithwaite, one of the villages next to us, there exists a little gem of a shop -‘The Emporium’- which displays the wares of talented local artists. One of my favourite shelves contains the work of a woman who studies old milk bottles and the more modern plastic versions. She then makes these incredible ceramic milk bottles, with labels that have very ‘local and political’ messages.

Mum makes the kid drink rancid milk. Allegedly.

Mum makes the kids drink rancid milk. Allegedly.

All about the decline of the local producers versus the scary supermarket stranglehold. My fella remembered how enamoured I had been with her efforts and presented me with one. They are so very realistic and of such good quality, that it has taken my little boy three years to be able to stop saying ‘You’ve left the milk on the book shelf again, Mum.’ And for me to suddenly realise why he always refuses to have milk on his cereal.

3) A Cuckoo Clock

There has always been a deep-yearning in my soul to have something/anything mounted on the wall with a small apparition that pops in and out of it, as if by magic. I would definitely have settled for an old-fashioned wooden weather house. But if I remember correctly, my other half accused them of being sexist inventions ‘because the man is the one who appears when it rains and when it’s sunny the woman appears in a frock. Plus it would be factually incorrect because no matter how warm the sunshine is, you’re always bloody complaining that you’re cold.’ Anyway, I’m equally intrigued by cuckoo clocks and after many years of lusting after the one at Buffers Cafe in Bolton Abbey, I finally got my own. Huzzah! (Although it’s more often ‘yah-boo’ – because my husband doesn’t like the disturbance of the cuckoo popping out every half an hour. It’s like living with a Brummie version of Victor Meldrew, I tell you.)
Still, the cuckoo clock has also provided a bit of inspiration for the title of my next book. More on that soon.

4) A Trip to Bradford Industrial Museum.

One of the best museums in the North. And free, my friends ... free!

One of the best museums in the North. And free, my friends … free!

What else can I add to this? Other than it’s ace. It’s free. And we didn’t take the kids. The only disappointment was that the Toby Inn just next to it was shut. But you can’t have the moon on a stick, can you?

5) A Tour of Wentworth Woodhouse
This year’s birthday pressie and one that was actually suggested to me by a nice chappie at the gym (and no no no … ‘A Tour of Wentworth Woodhouse’ is NOT some sort of Huddersfield double entendre!) https://www.amazon.co.uk/Black-Diamonds-Rise-English-Dynasty/dp/0141019239 Me and some of the gym bunnies in this part of west Yorkshire like to lend each other reading material that happens to stretch our brains beyond ‘Running Like a Loon Weekly’ and ‘Muscles For Brains Monthly.’

Great book. A Must-Read for anyone who cares about issues of rich vs poor.

Great book. A Must-Read for anyone who cares about the issues of rich vs poor.

So I was very grateful to be lent ‘Black Diamonds’. It turned out to be a great socio-economic perusal of the Fitzwilliams – the family who made their moolah out of the coal mines of south Yorkshire and of the poor sods who had to do the lumping and the dumping. It’s very rare that Wentworth Woodhouse throws it’s doors open for booked tours… the place is still all a bit cloaked in secrecy. And it’s only taken my other half two years and four reminders of just how much I ‘NEED’ this tour for my birthday present – i.e ‘for my mental wellbeing, dear! And yours – so I stop having to remind you…’ etc etc.

So in a few weeks time I may well be able to tell you a bit more about the experience. And whether or not the Brewer’s Fayre nearby is closed pre or post-tour (I swear that my husband fibs about these ‘closures’ – in order to save himself a bob or two.)

6) The Weather Vane

You have to *see* where I live in order to imagine the climatic conditions that we’re faced with at times here. Slap bang facing Saddleworth moors in the bosom between the ‘Two Valleys’ of west Yorkshire. So Mr and Mrs Wooden Old Weather House would really and truly have been able to stand up to the fast change and pace in the way that the wind direction and force changes here (and that’s before we’ve eaten the kidney beans). And oh, my heart’s desire! For years I’ve secretly been *needing* one of these. And 2016 finally brought me one. Thank you, thank you – one and all. The swankiest weather station that a young(ish) lady could ever have lusted after …

Cannot wait to see this erection in my garden.

Cannot wait to see this erection in my garden.

7) The Dead Pig

And last but by no means least, I was promised ‘A Dead Pig.’ The children cunningly employed an environmentally-friendly approach to present wrapping (a suit protector – now redundant- I mean, who wears suits these days?) And then they more or less convinced me that it was an en0rmous ham joint ‘you know – a dead wild Boar – like in ‘Asterix’.)  Interestingly however, it turned out to be a bulk-win of …. body moisturisers and soap.  The kids it seemed, had swept the boards at their primary school Summer Fair. Just what I always *needed.*

C'mon. It really DOES look like it contains a dead pig, doesn't it?

C’mon. It really DOES look like it contains a dead pig, doesn’t it?


Golcar Lily; Have Yer Potato An’ Eat it

20 May

To be honest with you, I didn’t fancy attending the Golcar Lily Day. Mainly because of the look that flickered across my other half’s face when he heard that there might be an appearance of Morris Dancers. I’ve no idea why, but as he’s gotten older he’s developed an aversion to anyone who wears straw boaters and jangles their bells and sticks at you.

Two of the nicest Morris Dancers in the world. Honest!

Two of the nicest Morris Dancers in the world. Honest! Even if the fella in the flat cap looks a bit dubious…

But hey, we’ve all recently developed a bit of a soft spot for Golcar (pronounced ‘Gow-kuh’ by the locals) which nestles in the Colne Valley of west Yorkshire. And what with the promise of ‘the best chips in the world’, he was prepared to put up and shut up.

So what’s the story behind Golcar Lily Day? Various theories propound as to why the area is associated with this particular flower. My personal favourite is the one that relates to that old firebrand Methodist missionary, John Wesley. Wesley was said to have been somewhat smitten by the ladies of Golcar when he visited the area in the 18th century. Indeed, he compared them with certain other villagers of Huddersfield – remarking that they were “as gentle as Lilies when compared with the uncouth & ignorant peoples of Bolster Moor & Scapegoat Hill.” And for sure, the lasses of Golcar certainly seem to have a way about them, because on Saturday I noticed an awful lot of heavily pregnant women.

If you’re into your history and your traditions and all of that, then there is information a-plenty thanks to Google. But you’d be mistaken to think that Golcar Lily Day is some sort of ancient tradition in the area. Dear me no. The festival was actually the inspiration of a local woman, only some ten years ago. One of those all-round good eggs who not only had a great idea, but who rolled up her sleeves and dragged the rest of the community along with it.

Tuggin' Me Tractor

Tuggin’ Me Tractor

It’s a decade later now and a certain west Yorkshire hillside village with the most gob-smacking panoramic views going, is now so popular on Golcar Lily Day that they have to provide a Park and Ride facility from Scapegoat Hill (which if you ask me, is somewhat foolish because if you believe what John Wesley said about those residents, they’d probably nick your car. Or be unable to drive the buses down the hill because they’re like, sooo ignorant.)

Once we’d braved the Morris Dancers (who were actually superb, even though my bloke had to hide behind the parish church wall for twenty minutes) we were on a roll for the rest of the day. Never had the phrase ‘Good Old Fashioned Family Fun’ been more appropriately used. We were treated to tractor pulling, flat cap throwing, cup of tea races, belly dancing, a coconut shie and Punch n’ Judy. We had a sneaky preview of the Colne Valley Museum before it re-opens after refurbishment and we ate the Golcar Lily Loaf that the ladies in their 19th century frocks were baking on the range for us. We necked a drinky at the dinky but delectable Golcar Brewery. We bought second-hand books, we scoffed the best-chips-in-the-world from The Duck and Spoon, we sampled pies, cheeses, hot dogs. We engaged in healthy activities such as archery and bouncy castles and we categorically LIED to the children about the fact that there was a massive fun fair just around the corner (“Mum – where’s all that loud music coming from?” “Ah, it’s from those uncouth neighbours up the road in Bolster Moor. They’ll be having an ASBO on them by tea time, no doubt.”)

My oldest n’ dearest bus-obsessed chum, the extraordinary and rather-famous Stuart Vallantine caught a total of 6 buses to and from East Manchester in order to attend the day-out. Between us, we all agreed that in fact, there was far too much going on in order to be able to experience all of the funsome activities in one day; a dearth of pop-up cafes, concerts, stalls and curiosities such as the Golcar Lily Ginnel Trail. Indeed, we were left feeling rather light-headed due to the fact that the entire event is free. Yup. Totally free. Brings tears to a Yorkshire-person’s eyes dunnit?

All this. And you paid nowt.

All this. And you paid nowt.

My favourite moment occurred during one of the many concerts on offer to the public. Colne Valley Boys Choir are the most wonderful troop of local lads. Aged from 6 to 18, the boys are trained by top-class musicians, fellas who – unusually – are not remotely interested in the airs and graces of your usual choirs. And the boys just love to sing; they love the fact that they get to choose their own songs and that no one teks the mick at school (because they’re allowed to sing cool songs, y’see?) Anyway, ten minutes into the performance the choir master explained to the audience that the next song was supposed to be led by a soloist. But the lad hadn’t turned up yet. The choir master wondered aloud whether anyone had seen him. A helpful member of the crowd shouted out; “I noor! Ee’s ‘avin’ a putaytuh outseed!” (translation for non-northerners: “I know! He’s eating a baked potato outside.”)

Anyway, a kind member of the public managed to locate the recalcitrant youth, who was soon ushered into the building sans nosh and yet who still managed to regale us with a beautiful solo.

Colne Valley Boys. And not a potato in sight.

Colne Valley Boys. And not a potato in sight.

No one batted an eyelid at this. Nor when another lad turned up late, having forgotten his uniform. He just took his place alongside the rest of the boys. And the performance was only enhanced by this down to earth, ‘we do it – just because we love it’ attitude. Perhaps this phrase marks the true spirit of the Golcar Lily Day – and of the place itself.

And whilst I think on, perhaps it could also apply as to why there seem to be so many pregnant ladies in the village….

West Yorkshire’s *real* Happy Valley?

Even Golcar ginnels have views...

Even Golcar ginnels have views...

Lilies in Wellies. Pure Golcar.

Lilies in Wellies. Pure Golcar.

Bored. Watching Paint Dry Season.

2 Jan

I keep getting nudged as to why I haven’t blogged for a while. But this is the beauty of having your own blog – of having no one to actually pay you, as you offer up your nuggets of wisdom to the rest of the unsuspecting world. It means that can keep your hand in only as and when you feel that you’ve got something to say.  Unless of course, you’re of the opinion that you NEED to blog. But let’s face it, there’s enough guff and frippery out there, clogging up the internet-waves. So in 2016, I’m promising only to blog when I feel The Muse – true inspiration – ministering itself in my general direction.

Oh crap. I’ve broken that little resolution already. I’m going to blog about being bored. And, therefore, not-blogging.

Because the last few weeks see – have been really boring. V v. dull. Like a teenager’s diary – where you just scribble stuff like ‘BOOOORED!’ and ‘BOOOORING’ and ‘My Fam are like, soooo booooooring!’ And ‘this town is like, so boooring and I like, just wanna DIE.’

But – interestingly – and paradoxically. I’ve been experiencing a really funky kind of boring. Now  – because I’m rarely bored –  I’ve never had any sympathy with people who claim to be experiencing this sensation. This is mainly because I’m a hyper-sorta person who always has a zillion things on the go. Protestant work ethic gone mad. Yet recently, I’ve seen the light. I’ve seen the fun-side of Boredom and yes yes yes – I’m actively encouraging others to embrace my own evangelical zeal.

boring rainbow

A boring rainbow. Turned double a bit later. Progressively boring.

Boredom was thrust upon me. The most recent project that I’ve been involved with involved a great deal of dull, mind-numbingly, requiring patience type of tasks. And patience ain’t one of the attributes that I’ve been blessed with. But I didn’t had a choice. I *had* to participate in the kind of activities that led to a row in B and Q (me stomping out after shrieking; “‘RABBIT’S FOOT? ‘BISCUIT SURPRISE’? HOW MANY STUPID NAMES CAN ONE COMPANY CREATE FOR THE WORD ‘BEIGE’, FOR CRYING OUT LOUD?’)

But after selecting ‘Coffee La Creme’, a pax was created. Or perhaps rather, my will was broken.

I painted. I waited for it to dry. I actually enjoyed watching the damned wall drying. And I’m getting excited about the next layer.

And the new thrill-a-minute addiction seems to have been adopted by the kids. Regular readers of this blog will know that we aren’t the kind of family that go overboard on pressies and consumerist trappings. We’re not the totally anti-gadget, you-only-get-to-play-with-Mum’s-garlic-crusher sort of folks – but we don’t do excess. Mainly because – as previously said – we have so much stuff, so many interests on the go.

But over the last few weeks, even the kids have had a pleasant exposure to boredom. During the festive period, the 11 year old has barely watched any telly other than, “That brilliant, old St Trinian’s film – and ‘Carry on Cleo’. And Chas and Dave. I still reckon they’re Australian though, with those weird accents. And I loved Jimmy Cricket. Even though you said all that stuff would be boring. It wasn’t.”

New Year’s Day was declared by the 7 year old to be “The best day ever! We walked a dog, played in the rain at Scammonden and then got well-scared ’cause all those freaky-lapwing-birds thing appeared over our heads and we thought they would peck our eyes out with their beaks. And then this well-cool rainbow appeared. And we drove through it in the car.”

“Yup,” I said. “Sounds like the perfect day. So you weren’t bored at all?”

“Well – only nice-bored,” he goes. “Till you ruined it. ‘Cause you wouldn’t let us go and find the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. ‘Cause you were going on about needing to go and paint walls.”

Sharing the Joy. Watching Paint Dry.

Sharing the Joy. Watching Paint Dry.




M-Ilkley’ing it

1 Oct

I’m off. Not like the milk (we have a rather fab local milkman, you see) but I’m actually referring to the Ilkley Literature Festival – where I’m going to be doing various bits and pieces; championing pals Bluemoose indie publishers in their ‘Northern – Not Wanted’ session,  as well as working with the amazing Razwan ul-Haq.

I’ll blog about Raz’s work a little bit later on during the festival, but I just wanted to give people a bit of a teaser about our session. We’ll be aiming to share ‘what brought us to creative writing as individual’ but our main thrust will focus on the human connection.  On how friendships and laughter – untampered by the powers that be, unfunded by institutions and organisations – can create better understanding and harmony between people from different communities and backgrounds. In fact, Razwan and I believe that this approach has much better chances of succeeding in healing rifts between communities, than the politically correct overkill and the orchestrated by men-in-suits stuff can. So isn’t this kind of thing more important than ever – in an ever-increasingly Islamophobic world?

I’ve copied the press release for those of you who are interested what The Razster and I do. And why.

Maybe we’ll see some of you there? If not – bung us message if you ever want me and that dodgy looking fella to appear at an opera house near you.  (NB – *joke* about the opera house. Raz cannot sing for toffee. Although he claims he likes to tinker on church pianos. Which is probably blasphemous. Or something.)


chris n Raz ATTITUDE in black and white

At first sight, it might seem that Razwan Ul-Haq and Christina Longden have very little in common and that ‘Never The Twain’ should meet. But a serendipitous meeting at a previous literature festival founded a new friendship between two authors; one that embraces Islam, Christianity, class and culture – as well as injecting plenty of comedy and humanity into their writing.

Christina, author of ‘Mind Games & Ministers’ brings a bit of Northern mirth to everything she does, whether it be a blogging at ‘funnylass’ or her current role as a Director of Lorna Young Foundation, an international charity based in west Yorkshire. Razwan Ul-Haq, Islamic Artist and author returns to the Ilkley Literature Festival again after his talk last year’s Ilkley Playhouse talk on his “Sultan Vs. Dracula” novel. Both are Lancashire born but ‘saw sense’ but defected to Yorkshire, many years ago, with Chris settling in Huddersfield and Raz in Bradford.

In a world torn apart with opposing narratives, both authors want to offer festival-goers a bit of humanity and freshness in ‘Never The Twain’ – a lively evening conversation which will touch upon everything from religion to politics; on writing about what you believe in and allowing harmony to develop with others, whilst remaining true to yourself. Come along to their FREE session at Ilkley on Sat 3rd October 7.45pm at Church House and find out how to build bridges between some of the gaps that exist between different ethnic groups in the UK, because, as both Chris and Razwan advise others “it ain’t rocket science, you know…”

Too often, projects, programmes and events are built from the outside “looking in.” Isn’t it time we began to heal ourselves through the human connection?

West Yorkshire is not perceived by the media to be the UK’s most racially or religiously integrated region; yet after a serendipitous meeting, Razwan and Chris discovered an unusual friendship and the inspiration to share with others, their stories – of having far more in common than many might think…
Chris’ career has always focussed on advocacy for marginalised people – whether representing the San bushmen of the Kalahari or fronting up to the UK government when fighting the cause of council housing tenants. Her venture into fiction with the Yorkshire-based ‘Mind Games and Ministers’ series uses comedy and social commentary as a way of informing others about the juxtaposition of wealth, poverty and prejudices in UK society
Razwan’s work also seeks to expose some of the incorrect assumptions that we all make with regards to groups of people in society. ‘Black Taj Mahal’ is a mystic love story, set in two continents. We all hear so much about the ‘plight of the Muslim woman’ – however Bradford is home to many newly-arrived oppressed Muslim Pakistani men too…
‘Never The Twain’ at Ilkley Literature Festival, Saturday 3rd October, Church House, 7.45 to 8.45 pm.
Chris blogs at http://www.funnylass.wordpress.com Razwan can be found at http://www.ulhaq.com

ILF Leaflet actual PHOTO

HLF Flyer ILF approved pdf


Bicycles … Yorkshire … Africa?

19 May

Me. Fresh as a daisy! Yeah, right.

Back from sub-saharan Africa … a houseswap … a work-related project … and a ‘holiday’ (employing inverted commas here because is it *ever* a holiday when accompanied by humans under the age of 21 who happen to be your own, delightful offspring?)

So much to report on  and to ruminate over after our little jaunt to The Motherland. To begin with – how we dealt with such an enormous lack of internet, cell phones, a TV, doorbells and immediate neighbours (none within a mile …)

All of this was utterly weird at first. And then it became incredibly wonderful.  And I am missing it already. After the first few hours of adjustment, we began to see it all as a bit like a gift from the big guy upstairs (NB – apologies to my Brit next-door neighbour, Lisa  – who really shouldn’t take offence at the above paragraph. Our Lisa is welcome anytime of the day at our slum – especially if the cuppas are accompanied by our usual bitch-fest with regards to certain Kirklees household refuse collectors!)

But one thing that I am really noticing since we got back is the sheer volume of giddiness with regards to Le Tour Yorkshire here in The Valleys.

Don’t get me wrong – I am chuffed to mintballs about the fact that Le Tour is going to be wheeling it’s way through God’s Own Country. Many of our local writer-sorts worked their batties off in order to get a teensy bit of grant-funding so that we could mix n’ mash writing and the arts and expose the usual wheely-obsessed sorts to our local scribbling talent (YOU GO Holme village and the Yurt and our postcard project!)

But having had many conversations with desperately poor people in southern Africa as to the the tiny things that would improve their lives, I cannot help but have a slightly different perspective on things on my return home.  Apart from food, healthcare and education – one of the things that cropped up time and again was ‘transport’.

“Just a bicycle to share between our families, would really make such a difference,” was something that we heard an awful lot…

Owning a bicycle would mean that those people in Namibia, in rural Botswana, Zambia, Zim or South Africa – those who might live out in the former townships and who are the fortunate ones to have jobs out in the towns – don’t have to spend one-fifth of their meagre wages on transport. Owning a bicycle would mean access to emergency help when problems arise. Owning a bicycle would mean true independence – a foothold on the ladder to dignity. Owning a bicycle would mean having enough food in order to stop your children from dying of malnutrition.

And really, I am not exaggerating this last point. I’ve just arrived back home to the UK. I witnessed a deterioration in circumstances for the poorest people in Namibia since only a few years ago, when I lived there myself. I saw what a difference just a few pennies a week can make. In terms of life and death amongst the bairns in the Kalahari…

But more on that, later.

So. for now.  Let’s celebrate our marvellous chance to show the world how Yorkshire Rocks in terms of our hills and valleys – but let’s also have a serious think about how we can turn some of the media spotlight and the inevitable money involved in Le Tour – into something that will actually benefit the world’s poor.

And yeah. I am inviting Answers and Ideas On A Postcard. Please!

Le Tour Yorkshire – and indeed Holmfirth – came with us. But we would have loved to have left a permanent legacy in a land that so desperately needs two-wheelers…



6 Mar

Everyone in our house enjoys World Book Day. Even more so this year!

The 5 year old’s school requested him to dress up as a character from his favourite book (disappointing me somewhat…I was hoping that he wanted to go as something rather literary, rather serious – such as Aslan the Lion, but no….bloody Spiderman. Again.)

My 9 year old had to bring her ‘favourite book’ into school and talk about it.  She told her teacher “Well, really – my favourite book is my mum’s new book. Sort of. I’m not really allowed to read it as it’s got rude words in it. But mum reckoned the teachers would like it as they read even dirtier things all of the time, when they go home…”

Cheers m’dears.  Happy reading folks!

Find my book here!

Going for A Special Massage…?

15 Aug


INTERIOR: Kitchen strewn with fishfingers, damp washing, playdoh and paperwork. A (still) 30-something mother is attempting to persuade her 6 year old to tell her about the day’s events…

MOTHER: So did you enjoy today then? Did you like Daddy looking after you all day?

DAUGHTER: Yes. Sort of. (Shrugs). It was a bit weird though.

MOTHER:  How do you mean weird?  Didn’t Daddy take you to the park and the carnival? Or the pottery workshop?  All of that stuff I wrote out on the list for him last night?

DAUGHTER: Nah. I told him about the list and he said he had lost it.  I was a bit cross about that actually. But he said we would have fun just doing Our Own Thing, without Being Organised Like Mummy.

MOTHER: Hmm. I can believe that.  So. What did you do?

DAUGHTER: Well. First of all we got on the train to Leeds and that was good as we went down the spooky old tunnels on the way there.  And not everyone on the train was grumpy this time. They’re always cross when they have a little child on the train and they are going to work as it reminds them that life for everyone else outside in the nice world is fun. When they just have to be in work and they can’t ever see a day it will ever, ever all end.

MOTHER: Oh? Did your father tell you that?

DAUGHTER: Well yes, that’s what he said in a loud voice when I was singing The Runaway Train Came Down the Track over and over and this man, just kept shuffling his newspaper and sighing.

MOTHER: Well, maybe some of the people on the commuter train just don’t like children?

DAUGHTER: Don’t be ridiculous. We’re much nicer than grown-ups!  Anyway.  What we did then was get off the train and run for the bus as we were late.  But Daddy left me behind as he ran too fast.

MOTHER: Oh yes? He left you behind? In the middle of Leeds?!

DAUGHTER: Well, he had to run back when he remembered I only have little legs. But the bus driver let us on in the end. And then we went to the hospital and I helped the nurse give Daddy his injections and it really hurt him, as he was all sort of WINCING and I could tell that it stung him badly.  He looked like he was going to have a poo.

MOTHER: (Interrupting). Yes – well. It sounds like you have had a lovely day. Did you eat your lunch?

DAUGHTER: Er no. Daddy forgot it and left it in the fridge. He said it didnt matter though as I could have a snack at the hospital. So I had some Monster Munch and some loveheart sweets and 3 lollipops from the cafe there.

MOTHER: (Shaking her head) Very healthy.     And then you got the train back again?

DAUGHTER: Yes and on the train these two people were driving me MAD with their stupid music Pie Pods in their ears.  One of them was this lad who was all stuck full of pin things in his face and he had this rubbish music on SO LOUD so we could all hear it.

MOTHER: Yeah – I hate people who do that too.  So rude.

DAUGHTER: I know! That’s what I said! ‘SO RUDE’! Very loudly – about TEN TIMES.  Daddy was saying it too. But he was more annoyed with this woman near him as he said he couldn’t believe that an old person who is probably collecting their Ben-Churn could be so stupid as to be listening to Beyonce. Anyway. It was rubbish and it annoyed me so I sat with my hands on my ears all of the way back.

MOTHER: Collecting their what?

DAUGHTER: Their Ben-Churn! It’s what the Guvvermen give to old people when they decide they might fall over too much at work so they let them have some money and they just lie in bed all day.

MOTHER: It’s pension sweetie.  And did Daddy say that?

DAUGHTER: Yes. He says its funny when I sleep over at Grandad’s as he has to get up before 11 when I am about!

MOTHER: Hmmm (Shaking her head).  And didn’t you do anything else when you came back from Leeds?

DAUGHTER: Yes. We went to the special massage place for the rest of the time.

MOTHER: (Shocked) The WHAT?

DAUGHTER: You know. The massage place. Where you get a special massage?

MOTHER: (Incredulous). No I don’t know. Tell me all about that then…

DAUGHTER: Well, we got there and there was this really pretty lady who said hello to us and then Daddy had to go and take his clothes off and they said I had to sit and wait nicely outside.

MOTHER: (Sounding suspicious) Oh yes?

DAUGHTER: But there were no children’s toys to play with like when you go anywhere else. So I asked her for something to do – you know to draw or make things and all of that?  And she gave me this magazine. It just had women prancing around in clothes in it or pulling faces like a gawpy goldfish, thinking that they’re dead sexy.  But they looked like weird scarecrow trees in tinfoil.  I was bored. It was boring at that bit.


DAUGHTER: So when she was on the phone to her friends and talking all squeaky and giggly, I sneaked past her and went into the room where Daddy was. And you’ll never guess what I saw?

MOTHER: Go on….

DAUGHTER: Daddy was lying on this bed with most of his bum showing, and as I got into the room – this bloke just LEAPT on him!


DAUGHTER: Yes!  This man just JUMPED on his back!  It was so funny! It was a sort of special massage.

MOTHER: Ah. I think I know the place that you went to with Daddy.

DAUGHTER: Yes I remember now. It was called The GYRO-CHAPTER.  Anyway. Daddy said not to call it a ‘Special Massage Place’ or you might get a bit crabby.

Looting Hits Huddersfield!

12 Aug

Pensioner-Plundered Blackberries; The Shame and Desolation

‘It’s KICKING OFF HERE NOW!!’ I heard.  Answering the call of a distressed husband, I dashed to look out of our living room window. Our usual stunning view of the Holme Valley. But a new blot on the landscape….

Immediately I spotted two elderly walkers, behooded in a sinister shade of red Goretex.  They were SHAMELESSLY TEARING innocent blackberries from the wild bushes opposite our house.  I was tempted to knock on the window rather sharply and gesture at them to ‘Oi!  Clear Off Up Your Own End!’.

However, Ian wisely pointed out that they both had Nordic walking poles which could have caused no end of damage to our hanging baskets, had things gotten even more out of hand.

I went to grab my camera to get some evidence to show to the police.  Perhaps someone would recognise them the next day from the Huddersfield Examiner? Or on next week’s ‘Crimewatch’ even?  But the conniving twosome plodded on before we could snap them. Still – you can make out the missing blackberries in this photograph can’t you? And the stains of crushed blackberries which rolled out of their overstuffed pockets looked bloody and desolate across the innocent pavement…

Where will it all end?