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Monday, 15 April 2013

My little sister is 60…

and is retiring soon!  Yes, I know I’ve been retired for a few years now, but I can’t believe Jean is at that stage too!  She’s actually taking early retirement.  Working with kids is really stressful these days.  Children’s rights?  What about the rights of all the staff who work with children?

 carlton for tea 001Anyway, when Jean had her 60th birthday earlier in the year, I treated her to afternoon tea in the Carlton Hotel in Edinburgh.  It wasn’t the best of weather that day, as you can see.  The Carlton is a beautiful old building that used to be home to the well known department store, Patrick Thompsons which began as a small haberdashery in 1889, expanding and moving here in 1906.  Sadly it closed in the 1970s.

We can both remember, as kids, the shoe department, having our feet x-rayed to see how our shoes fitted. Were our old shoes squashing our toes and did the new ones give our feet plenty of room?  We stood on a step, tucked our feet into the gap at the foot of the machine, held on to two handles on the top and could look down a tube between the handles to see our bones!  No Health and Safety then, and have we suffered?  I don’t think so!  The hairdresser was on the same floor of the store, and had seats for children in “prancing horses”, to entertain us while the hairdresser cut our hair!  All changed now and the tearoom and bar takes up the whole of the upper floor now.  

carlton for tea 002 From the street level foyer we had a long climb up the elegant staircase to the main level, where the tables  were set for tea.   carlton for tea 008

We were served first with a glass of prosecco each. carlton for tea 003

Cheers, Jean! 

Then the waiter arrived with the tea and the cake stand – bottom tier, sandwiches ; middle tier, scones with clotted cream and jam; top tier, cakes.  (Wasn’t impressed with the cakes!  They were very ordinary!)carlton for tea 005




carlton for tea 006





The sandwiches and the scones were good though, and there was plenty of tea!  carlton for tea 007It was a bit disappointing that there was no-one playing the grand piano behind me.  Afternoon tea in a posh city centre hotel ought to  be accompanied by a pianist!!!  Oh well!  Still it was a good opportunity to catch up, and we did enjoy the experience – It’s not every day your wee sister has a 60th birthday!

Talk again soon.


full river I knew it was windy and stormy last night, but it wasn’t till I woke up this morning that I realised how much rain there must have been during the night.  The river Tweed  was pretty full!

It was still pretty rough outside so I didn’t think our first petanque match of the season would actually take place at Kailzie Gardens in the afternoon.  Checking my emails I found that if the weather was not improved by 12 midday the meet would be postponed till next weekend. 

Come midday and the rain had stopped, the wind had dropped somewhat so I presumed we’d be giving it a go.  whitebridge flood It’s only a couple of miles from Peebles down the back road, but the rain had  saturated some of the fields and in parts water was pouring on to the road from either side.  It was safe enough to drive through though.

Down at Kailzie the Tweed tweed at kailziewas flowing fast and high, overflowing in a grand manner, but at least the petanque pistes were high enough to be dry. 

About 14 players turned up, so teams of 3 were assigned a piste and so play commenced.play is on

Team C – that was us – won the first of our games, but lost the next two!  Hmmm!measuring for shot  






At times it was hard to see whose boule was closest to the jack  - or cochon as it would be called in petanque’s homeland – so out came the tape measure, as it would determine who was next to play. petanque 021

the champs 

We had a great afternoon of play, with many laughs and much banter, and finally the winners were announced – David, TommyO and the only Frenchman among us – Michel, who were presented with a small trophy.

Looking forward to next week!

Talk again soon.

Sunday, 14 April 2013

A Reunion

When I was at college 40 odd years ago, I fell in with a couple of lads at a folk night and sang a couple of songs with them.  That was the start of a great friendship and the folk group.  We called ourselves Contrast  and used to do a few gigs as well as sing at the college folk club!  At one of our gigs at the Burns Club in the town where I had ended up teaching someone took a photo of us and some years ago I made a scrapbook layout with it.  I laughingly called it our LP sleeve, because of course in those days it was all vinyl.Contrast_479x479

Ian and I managed to stay in touch over the years but the last time we met was in 1982, by which time he had two children.  His daughter was about 4 and the son just a babe in a pram.  There were to be two more additions to his family in due course.

Chris was a different story.  He got a job in the west and married about the same time but somehow we lost touch.  It was FriendsUnited that brought us back together about 10 years ago now.   Things had changed in his life with two sons and a new wife.  We meet up a few times a year, as he lives near Glasgow, not that far from Peebles.  Ian is living down in Leeds, and often when Chris and I get together we phone  him, Chris usually pretending he is someone he’s not – last time he was a Mr Watkins supposedly phoning from the BBC to arrange an interview with Ian on folk groups of the 70s.  Silly man, but it’s easy to fall for his jokes - for a couple of minutes.

For the last few years we’ve talked about getting together for a CONTRAST reunion, but somehow we never did more than talk about it.  This year was to be different and we actually managed to agree on a weekend just after Easter!  Chris had offered to be host, so last Friday, after emails flying to and fro, Ian and I both presented ourselves at Chris’s!  It was great to see Ian again, though I found it quite difficult to see the old Ian, he had changed quite considerably!

contrast 3However we had a great weekend, spending a couple of evenings singing all the old songs.  It all came back! though we did have to have some printed words to refer to sometimes!

On Saturday we had a run out in the car to Callander where we sometimes used to sing at the church youth club. me mary and chris callanderWe had lunch at Chris’s elder son Tim’s hotel, once the home of his grandparents – Tim’s grandparents, and where the old CONTRAST used to practise before our youth club gigs! That’s Mary, Chris’s wife  - the one that isn’t Chris or me, but of course you’d worked that one out already. contrast at callander

  I think it was Mary who took this one of the three of us.  I don’t think I’ve changed that much since the 1970s.  I wonder what the fellas think.

On Sunday morning the three of us went for a walk down to the river Clyde, looking at some of the big houses that were built by the ship yard owners in the 19th century.  The banks of the Clyde were all ship yards in those days, but all gone now. dumbarton 017 Out came the camera again.  That’s Dumbarton Rock in the background, left, and Langbank across the river, below.dumbarton 019

dumbarton 020


 Then we returned to have lunch prepared by Mary, before having a last sing before Ian and I had to set off for home.

contrast 2013 

We tried to emulate the 1970s photo in this one  I just didn’t have the tambourine any longer!

Otherwise not much difference (Ha ha ha!)!

It was hard to say goodbye again but Ian has invited us to Leeds for another reunion next year!  Can’t wait!

CONTRAST THE REUNION Quick e-mail view Oops, nearly forgot!  I made a “CD cover” for us this time!  Crumbs, it doesn’t look so good here.  The transparency is maybe a bit too much!  It looks better enlarged!

Talk again soon.

Friday, 12 April 2013

Easter weekend

I’m afraid I just haven’t felt like blogging for a while.  I suppose editing all the photos, and laying out the page has started to take so long that I’ve spent far too much time setting it all up and it has come to be a bit of a chore.  However, I have decided to try and use fewer photos and not be so fussy about the layouts!

001 easter bunnySo , let’s go back to the Easter weekend which I spent at Colin’s, in Yorkshire.  He was working over the weekend.   It’s not everyone who gets to be the Easter Bunny!  So while he was being the Easter Bunny I went off on a couple of jaunts, into Darlington one day and Richmond another. 006 darlo crocuses




The crocuses were in full bloom along the approach to the town centre.

008 darlo centre

and this is the old covered market  in Darlington, built 150 years ago to house an indoor market.  The clock tower was added in the following year. 

007 high row


When I lived in Swaledale the High Row and the road below the steps were still used by traffic.  I love the old Georgian buildings along High Row.mon frenchgate



In Richmond,  Frenchgate, left, used to be a main road into the town.  We used to visit friends of my mother’s who lived down here on the right, quite far down the hill.  It was sad this time to see the house  all closed up  and shuttered.  I would love to see round it again.  If you look carefully in the distance, you should see the castle in the town centre.  mon richmond stn I spent most of my visit to Richmond in the old railway station down by the river Swale.  It has become a really lively interesting social venue, but I can remember when there were still trains there.  My dad occasionally used to go off on business to Darlington, and I would be allowed to walk down from Frenchgate with him, through the churchyard of St Mary’s and down the hill to the station, where I would wave him goodbye before returning to Frenchgate.  Luckily, after the station closed in 1969, it wasn’t demolished, and now it is a great place to visit.

su escomb church On Easter Sunday the Garden Centre was closed so the Easter Bunny became Colin again and we had an afternoon out to Barnard Castle after a detour to see an old church not far from Colin’s.su escomb ch int It was really interesting  with its wooden ceiling and ancient stained glass in the faraway window.  In the churchyard there were gravestones dating back well into the 1700s.

Su egglestone abbey

Before we reached Barnard Castle we took a look at another old abbey, Egglestone Abbey, once home to the White Canons or Monks, who chose this spot because it is fairly isolated, had a good supply of stone to build the abbey with, and was beside the river.  It was dissolved in 1540 by Henry VIII and a lot of the stone went into building nearby houses.

barney castle And so to Barnard Castle, originally Bernard’s Castle.  The town that grew up round it took the name of the castle, and although it looks to have been some size, there’s not really a lot of it left.  The tower, right, and a small section of wall seem to be the best preserved bits.

barney buttermarket

The Butter Mart, left, was actually the Market Cross but was extended to allow traders cover for their goods, and dominates this end of the main street.  blagraves house

J Just  past it going downhill towards the river is probably the oldest surviving building in “Barney”.  It is Blagraves House, now a restaurant, dating back to the 15th century.  I’d like to know more about the figures on ledges on the front wall.blagraves house zoom

We found a lovely little cafe for tea and cake opposite the Butter Mart, then after a walk round the town and the castle walls, we headed back to the car for our return home. 

bowes museumOne last photo just before we left Barney is  of the magnificent Bowes Museum, built by businessman John Bowes and his French wife, Josephine, in the 19th century.  Sadly neither saw the building finished, but their collection went on show nevertheless.  It’s stunning both outside and in.

So that was the Easter weekend!  I stayed on at Colin’s for another day, and came home on the Tuesday. 

Talk again soon.