Monday, 26 August 2013

Autumn, blackberries and life...

Ah, Autumn – season of mists and mellow fruitfulness and all that.

I love this time of year.

One of my favourite Autumnal activities is picking blackberries.

I always did this as a child with my family and it reminds me of those happy, carefree days when all you had to worry about was going back to school after the long summer holiday and what your new teacher(s) would be like.

As I was picking this year’s crop, battling with the briars and nettles, I was musing that picking blackberries is a bit like an analogy for life when you think about it.

The best fruit always seems to be on the highest briars, just out of reach.

To get them, you really have to put in a lot of effort.

Sometimes you stumble and injure yourself in the process, but if you persevere it’s usually worth it in the end.

You have to check your fruit though, because even if it looks good on the outside sometimes the one you’ve selected has a grub hiding in it.

Also, occasionally no matter how hard you try, you just can’t get reach the one you want.  That’s when you need to know it’s time to give up.

As a great philosopher once said (I think it was Kenny Rogers in ‘The Gambler’), you got to know when to hold ‘em, know when to fold ‘em, know when to walk away, know when to run.

Or, if you prefer, there’s the Serenity prayer – God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.

Both of which I think are good pieces of advice for life from very different sources.

So, to summarize from my ramblings above, always try your best, learn what is attainable, find out what it isn’t, don’t judge by appearances, know when to give up and walk away to enjoy the fruits of your labours (or perhaps run if a pesky wasp is chasing you!)

Friday, 23 August 2013

It’s my birthday this weekend.

I won’t tell you exactly how old I am, but I’m old enough to remember all of the 1980s and I did ‘O’ levels (just), so you can work it out if you really want to.

I was reading a magazine for women recently in which there was an article entitled ‘Rules for the over 40s’.

Most of it was fairly sensible, although some points made me raise a quizzical eyebrow.

The main piece of advice was to add three years onto your age, when asked.

This is to provoke the response ‘Wow, you look good for that’, but, conversely, how disheartening would it be if you didn’t get that response, and the person you were talking to actually thought you were three years older than you were?!

Other advice included don’t go to nightclubs – well, that’s a given really as I’m generally asleep by ten thirty – wear sleeves to hide your bingo wings (yes, thanks for that) and join Twitter.

Now, I must admit, I quite like reading some people’s Tweets (particularly Rev Richard Coles – God bless The Communards, one of my favourite bands of the 80s!), but I do think that too much tweeting makes a twit, so, you’ll all be relieved to know, I shan’t be following this advice and letting you know my every movement and my thoughts on everything via Twitter.

But I would like to say have a lovely Bank Holiday weekend – remember, it’s the last until Christmas. 

Now there’s a thought – perhaps I should have Tweeted it!  Hx

Sunday, 11 August 2013


There’s a place near here where the white deer roam,
The stag and his herd, they call it home.
Tall trees grow here too, reaching to the sky,
The red kite cry as they soar on by.

It’s beautiful, wild and quite untamed,
Yet lurks beneath buried waste, unnamed.
An industrial past, buried deep,
But nature’s reclaimed it while we sleep.

It was green fields before then, and should stay that way
And should be forever, but sadly who can say?
Greedy developers want to build on it
To construct a waste plant to process .... rubbish.

The trees will be destroyed, gone for good,
A ‘waste recovery park’ instead, replacing the wood.
Where will the deer and the wildlife go?
Ask Corby Council, see if they know.

An industrial past, a waste plant future –
Corby a dumping ground – how does that suit you?
Please say ‘NO’ before the trees are gone for good.
Stand up for your rights, you know you should.

Wake up – save the deer, the birds and the bees,
Do what you can to save the trees.
We need to have green spaces for the future generation,
Let’s make sure we save the Brookfield Plantation!

Thursday, 8 August 2013

Right, I need to talk to you about something important.

Something fundamental – indeed, a recent commentator said it was an essential element for a civilized society.

What is this vital topic you may well ask?  Loos.

Lavatories, WCs, Restrooms (if you’re in the USA), bathrooms, even Toilets if you prefer.

Did you see the story about the lady who locked herself in a public loo for three days as a protest about its proposed closure?

Whilst I wouldn’t quite go that far, I do believe that Public Loos are essential and much needed.

But can I also just say they need regular monitoring, cleaning and maintenance?

Is there anything worse than finding yourself ‘in situ’ only to discover that there’s no loo roll?

I’m sure it’s not just me who first checks to see if there’s paper before committing to a cubicle.

But, sometimes there’s a massive queue in the Ladies’ loo, so you don’t have a choice in cubicle selection.

This is where a packet of tissues – an essential component of my handbag – comes into its own.

Don’t even get me started about where you’re supposed to put your handbag while on the loo.  If you hang it on the hook on the back of the door you risk somebody trying to swipe it.  Yet hanging it around your neck is a potential safety hazard, particularly given the weight of most bags these days.

I won’t name names here, but my family and I recently went to a well-known (in fact, award-winning) tourist destination over the county border.

All was well until we needed the loo.  There we found the most hideous excuse for bathroom facilities I’ve had the misfortune to discover in a long time.

Firstly, there were only two loos at the entire place – one each for men and women.  No paper in the Ladies was bad enough.  But then there was no soap either at the communal sink, and everywhere looked like it needed a good clean.

Simply disgusting, particularly as this place likes to market itself as an ‘upmarket’ day out, complete with a range of dining options and prices to match.  Quite frankly, there’s no excuse either.  It was early in the day, so I shudder to think what they looked like after a day’s use.

Now, I’ve been to other tourist destinations where they obviously take pride in their loos and hygiene.  The facilities are checked every half hour, any ‘spillages’ are mopped up, and the soap and paper is refilled as required.

When you pay a small fortune for the privilege of visiting these places, is it too much to expect them to provide soap and loo paper?

Friday, 2 August 2013

Step back in time...

I must admit, I don’t often go into Kettering town centre anymore.

So when I went there this week the parking charges in the short stay car park behind Marks and Spencer came as a bit of a shock – £3.40 for three hours.  I only wanted to park in it, not buy shares in it!

But seriously, this isn’t going to be a monologue about the cost of parking, although perhaps the council would like to consider how expensive that is compared to the cost of parking in the out of town developments?  Hardly a level playing field for the retailers is it? Ahem, moving on.

This got me thinking about how Kettering town centre has changed over the years, and I’d like to take you on a trip down memory lane, as I’m sure many local people reading this will remember the old shops the same as I do.

The Co-op on Montagu Street – you could just about get everything you needed in there.  Electricals, carpets, curtains, shoes, clothes – it was a proper department store.

Opposite was Burton’s Hardware – a fantastic shop, much missed I’m sure.  I remember buying a kettle in there about 10 years ago, and being given a hand-written receipt and I think it was either wrapped in brown paper or put in a large paper bag, can’t remember which, but both totally recyclable.

Then on Newland Street you had the Button Boutique and Phillips – great for people who liked sewing and making their own clothes etc.

On Silver Street you had Chalkleys which I remember being an official school uniform supplier, and Capps, which marketed itself as a ‘walkround store’ which used to amuse me as a child because most stores you could walk around, but I guess this harked back to a time where you stood in front of a counter and pointed at the goods you wished to purchase.

All of these stores have now gone, which seems a shame.  A little bit of retail history gone for ever, like Woolworths – which I seem to remember had a deli counter as well as a glorious pick ‘n’ mix range of sweets.

It’s not all doom and gloom, though, because I did discover a little gem of a shop that I didn’t previously know about.

Flashbacks on High Street is in what I think used to be Harwayes (the underwear shop which also sold ballet shoes – remember that?).

Flashbacks sells memorabilia-type products, from Star Trek lunch-tins – wouldn’t the ‘Big Bang Theory’ boys love those?! – to film products like Audrey Hepburn and Marilyn Monroe merchandise, and various music-themed items (the Sex Pistols drink coasters caught my eye!) and retro band T-shirts amongst many others.

It really is a lovely little store, very reasonably priced, and I hope it does well.  It cheered me up to see an independent high-street shop offering something different – and yes, I did buy something in there, and no, I’m not being sponsored by them before you ask!