busy busy busy

All of a sudden, I’ve gone from no life to almost too much life. I want to record it for future memories, so here’s a megapost to bring you up to date.

Freedom Chorus
I started singing again, after a break of many, many years, and I just love it. My first gigs were at the Freedom Festival – we sang a wonderful piece under Myton Bridge (like trolls!), which was bedecked with coloured neon lights; we also sang a selection of “river” songs on the new Stage at the Dock. It was Very Wet Indeed, and we were like a choir of drowned rats, and our second performance on Corporation Pier was cancelled because the floor was too slippy. But it was fabulous nonetheless.

Then, in September, the Chorus performed on stage at the press launch for Hull City of Culture 2017. We sang a glorious arrangement of the Isley Brothers’ Caravan of Love, which has a resonance for the city, given that The Housemartins had a hit with it. We also sang at Paragon station at the crack of dawn that morning, were shown on BBC TV, etc. We were all very proud.

Lots of interesting stuff for the Freedom Chorus coming up next year, but my lips are sealed for now.

I’ve also trained as a Singing Champion for the city, trying to get more people involved in the great social activity of choral singing.

City of Culture 2017
I joined up to be a volunteer for CofC, and got in on the first “wave” – how I wish I’d heard about it early enough to be a pioneer volunteer, but I missed the opportunity.

So far I have done backstage tours of Hull Truck Theatre and Hull History Centre, have worked a few sessions on the information Pod at Hull Paragon station, conducted questionnaires on behalf of Hull Truck at Endsleigh primary school, paraded around the stadium (with other volunteers, not on my own!) at a Hull KC football match, done a guided walking tour of the city, partaken in a Woman of the World thinkin, been part of a workshop with Blast Theory, and probably more. I intend to update this blog as I do more stuff, because it’s going to be a wonderful year, and I don’t want to forget it.

Last weekend, I spent a high-powered and exhausting day doing Volunteer Leadership training, which involved Child Protection, Health and Safety, Discrimination and How to Lead. I now have two new cards to add to my lanyard, and am fully DBS checked (which may come in useful).

When we were volunteering at Cornucopia Festival in September, we encountered Bandanarama; they were so utterly barking that I went and asked them if they’d like a melodica player. It transpired that they would, and so I am now a member of the band, complete with motorcycle jacket (thanks, Ian and Carole!) and boots (thanks, eBay); I already had my own bandana. So far, I’ve played out with them in Beverley at the Flemingate shopping centre, and at St Stephens’ shopping mall; it’s always a hoot, and I’m so glad I’ve become part of the band.

A couple of weeks ago, we posed for a photograph in Quentin Budworth’s Hullywood Icons, and very mean and cool we looked too, though I say so myself.

The Wild One

Got lots of interesting stuff lined up for the next few months – so looking forward to it.

plant identification

sambucus nigra 'gerda'

We brought one of these from OldHouse to Newhouse last year; previously, it was in a tub in the front yard, but we dug a hole for it in the front garden here, and it has absolutely thrived.

A neighbour asked us what it was, and its tag had fallen off, so I couldn’t tell her. She very kindly went to the trouble of identifying it on our behalf, and it is apparently a Sambucus nigra ‘Gerda’, also known as Purple Elder,


This blog has been online since [boggle] 2002, which has come as a bit of a surprise to me, I can tell you – can’t believe I’ve been wibbling here, on and off for getting on for fifteen years!

I’m in the process of giving the site a makeover, so apologies if things don’t work very well on a temporary basis.

The header image is cropped from a photograph I took (with an iPhone!) at Spurn Head in January 2016. The full image is below. Spurn is one of my favourite places in the whole world. Except that Yorkshire Wildlife Trust are trying to wreck it with visitors’ areas, and car parks, and experiences, while painting double yellow lines down the only access road, which means that the residents of Kilnsea will have nowhere for themselves and their visitors to park. Ho hum.

Spurn Point January 2016

love of The Blue Nile

Blue Nile in Edinburgh

In The Blue Nile’s Facebook group (it’s closed, but they’ll let you in), we’re discussing when we saw Paul Buchanan and co play live. They were hardly the most prolific of bands – four albums in about twenty years, and very few tours. But I loved them so, and trundled about all over the place to see them.

I’ve just discovered www.setlist.fm, so I can put together a list of exactly when and where I went to their gigs; this gives me great pleasure 🙂 Except, as I dig, I know I saw them at other places and times … So, without further ado:

My first BN gig was Cambridge Corn Exchange, 10 Oct 1990. I was living in Norfolk at the time, and went to this with Jon Honeyball and Tony Sawford. Jon and another friend, Simon Pride, had both insisted I bought a copy of Hats earlier that year. I did, and fell in love with it instantly. I bought a sweatshirt at the gig, with “The Blue Nile” embroidered on the sleeve; I wonder where it went …

Next up was Colston Hall in Bristol on 19 Sept 1996 (I told you they didn’t tour often). I think I went to this with Jerry Jones who, although not a huge fan himself, was kind enough to accompany me.

Some time between then and 2006, I’m positive I saw them once again at Colston Hall, and also at University of Warwick Arts Centre. For the latter gig, Dave drove me up there in his Impreza, remarking en route that “he could have added me to the insurance if he’d only have thought of it earlier”. Gee, thanks Dave. But I can find no record of these gigs online, and I know I’m not imagining it.

After a slight gap (!), the band arrived once more at Colston Hall (or Colsonall, as Bristolians call it) on 23 May 2006. I think this was the opening gig of the tour, and the Macbook was playing up something chronic and in the end, they cut the performance short. We encountered our friends Pat’n’Dave in the audience, and we weren’t too downhearted because …

Next up was The Barbican, on 2 June 2006. I’d picked up a pair of front row tickets on eBay (looking back with hindsight, that was a damn silly thing to do). I can’t remember what I paid for them, but the gig was sold out through normal channels. So we trundled from Bristol to London, to find that they were … FAKES. I literally wept, and bless the staff, they squeezed us in. I did get to have a chat with Mr Buchanan himself in the foyer, where he was hanging about drinking a mug of tea (rock and roll, eh?).

We went to Edinburgh for a gig at The Usher Hall, on 25 November 2006 (see photo at top of post). This doesn’t seem to be on Setlist.FM, but we were there, honestly – I have a set of Flickr photos to prove it. We spent (I think) five days in Edinburgh, a city I love (I lived there when I was young, a long long time ago). To hear a bunch of happy Scotsmen singing Tinseltown was a great experience – and we joined in. Obviously.

The finally final gig – they never played together again [sob] – was at The Radisson Hotel in Galway, on 15 July 2008. A strange venue, you might think, and indeed it was. Like most of their gigs, it was full of utterly devoted fans, who rarely got a change to see their idols play. Pete and I spent a week in Ireland, starting off in Donegal, then coming down to Galway for a couple of days, just so I could go to the gig.

So there we are. I’d tell you to keep an eye out for any upcoming gigs, but there won’t be any. So you’re too late. Get a copy of Hats and see what you missed.



new surgery

New house means new medical centre, if you move across the city as we did. So I went for my introductory appointment, and that was fine.  Except my blood pressure was very high, and I’ve never had high blood pressure, ever.  And then they wanted to do a diabetic review with the nurse, and that was fine, but the blood pressure was still too high. And she took a load of bloods.

And the next working day I got a phone call summoning me for a medication review. It turns out that my HbA1c is up from 53 to 61(!), and my cholesterol is also going up (7.1%). But my blood pressure is going down, so that’s good.

I haven’t been anywhere near as good at looking after myself as usual this year, it’s fair to say. Stress and worry, comfort eating, not enough exercise. I’ve already taken that in hand; being more careful with my diet, bought a treadmill at the weekend. So I need to keep that up. But … statins. I’m afraid so. Ho hum.

varying costs of work

Regular readers will know that we had a woodburning stove in OldHouse. We left it there, as they are supposed to be attractive to buyers, but in the end the house went to a developer, who beat us down on price; we told him that we would accept his offer, but would be removing the woodburner, and had someone go in and take it out the next day and deliver it to us here, where it resides in the garage. Curiously enough, his solicitors mailed ours yesterday to ask if we’d consider leaving it for an extra £100. We scoffed, openly.

So I’ve been looking around for someone to fit it in here, a rambling Victorian terrace. We were going to do this before the autumn, but having our little Morso Squirrel back has cut the install cost by a few hundred quid, so we thought we might as well get on with it. Plus, as I type, it might be Spring according to the calendar, but it’s blowing a gale with sideways rain outside.

First call was to a chap who advertised on Gumtree. He came last Friday, and started out by saying that we needed to get the Building Regs people in to certify the chimney (never heard that before). He was a dreadful old woman, stayed for about an hour, constantly wringing his hands and repeating himself, and we got the impression he didn’t want the job. Which is fine – just say so, and leave.

He claimed that our nice fire surround was slate, that he probably couldn’t get it out without breaking it, that he’d need *everything* taken out of the room, and all in all just seemed to make an enormous fuss about everything, He said he’d e-mail me a quote (although he omitted to ask for an e-mail address, which I pressed upon him), and that he would send it this week as it was a bank holiday weekend. We’ll see, but he’s going to pad the quote, I’m sure of it, and if he works as slowly as he surveys, he’ll need a fortnight.

Next up was a youngish bloke, who claims to do sub-contract work for various fireplace showrooms. He came on Saturday morning, on his way to a bike rally, and certainly seemed to know his stuff. He looked up the chimney and said it didn’t need sweeping, he said the lintel was resin, and was no problem to remove and put back, and quoted us £470 without the cost of lining the chimney, which he doesn’t do. We want it lined, so he said he’d put us in touch with someone who did that, and the HETAS cert. Not heard so far, but he was pretty good.

After that, I talked to a company called Ecofit in Pontefract, who were the only people to respond to an ad on mybuilder.com (which seems useless these days, to be honest). He phoned me and asked some questions, and then rang back 40 minutes later with a price of £1,250 (not clear whether that was VAT included or not). I have no intention whatsoever of employing someone to do that sort of work who can’t be bothered to come and do a site survey – how can they possibly price it without knowing what’s properly involved? So they’re out the window.

And they we got our mates John and Paul, the self-named Dead Popes, to have a look. They had the nous to pull the carpet back, revealing some lovely original tiles for the hearth, worked out where the chimney went, had a look at the upstairs chimney for me as well, and this morning quoted me £300 plus the cost of a register plate (because, despite their assurances, I want a lined chimney). So that’s where the work will be going – always been happy with their services in the past.

All I need now is to find someone to drop the liner down a very high chimney – how hard can it be?

yet another diabetic review 13 oct 2014

[note to self – last cholesterol level 6.4%]

Honestly, I don’t think he knew why I was there for a moment. Had to ask me what medication I took! All they’re interested in is pushing statins, but I think he’s given up with me now. I was verging on Polite.

Cholesterol now 6.1%, so improving slowly.

diabetic review 27 aug 2014

Bah and grrr.

HbA1c 53mmol/mo, up 5 from last time. He wasn’t bothered. Cholesterol climbing slowly, where it had been falling – I suspect due to not exercising as much. I’ll tackle that.

LOng conversation (different doctor this time, one who does actually look at you, and pay attention) on the subject of statins. When you look at the statics, they make about 5% difference to your chance of heart attack/stroke, and I’m not sure I want to take more drugs for that result. Have fought him off till my next set of bloods in five weeks time, and see if I can get them down again.

Stupidly, I didn’t take a not of what the level actually *is*, and he didn’t write it down with the others.

As an aside, I had blood taken last Tuesday. She couldn’t get anything at all out of one arm, and I still have a huge black bruise on the other. I do wish my veins would cooperate – resistance is futile, really, the vampires will get me.

Morrisons breakfasts

We were up at sparrowfart this morning, so as to dance the May in with a (rather diminished) Rackaback at Beverley Westwood at 5 a.m.

Somewhere between locking the front door and getting out of the car in Beverley, my house keys vanished. This is beyond irritating. We actually went back to Westwood to have another look, after searching the car and all pockets, etc., but no sign. No dreadful worry, in that there is nothing on the keyring to identify them, but I shall now have to trundle out and get a pair of keys cut.

While returning from Beverley (the second time), we thought Morrisons! Breakfast! The Beverley store doesn’t open until 8 a.m. so we sat in the car for ten minutes, then barged in the direction of the café. Now, according to their menu,

Big Breakfast: 1060 calories

Little Breakfast: 967 calories

Now, given that the Big offers, over and above the Little, two additional rashers of bacon, an additional hash brown, one slice of white toast, one slice of fried bread, and some tomatoes and mushrooms,  I fail to see how the Little can be only 93 calories less. I fed its ingredients into myfitnesspal.com,  and made it 594 calories.  I shall draw it to their attention, via the medium of Twitter. Watch this space.