Thursday, 10 May 2018

"I had this perfect dream..."

"I had this perfect dream..." as it goes in Freddie Mercury's Barcelona and indeed, when I am huddled by the fire in January after two daily dog walks have left me damp and dispirited, my dream is usually not some white sandy beach, turquoise sea and clear blue skies - though I'm not saying that it wouldn't be nice - but a cafe or bar with street-side seating in the warm spring sunshine sipping a cappuccino or even better a glass of something pink and alcoholic in Barcelona.

I know bucket lists are supposed to be full of exotic, undiscovered and distant destinations but my bucket list, which is, like so many things in my life, a work in progress, has an eclectic mix of old and new destinations and the ones that I love, where I have been really happy, are always included for another a visit. I think we've been to Barcelona five times now and each visit shows us another side to this bustling, stylish Catalan city. And this time was no exception. Brilliantly, and by a serendipitous fluke, the Barcelona ATP Tennis Tournament falls fairly and squarely on our wedding anniversary so no surprise that this event is a massive favourite of ours.

But first, easy to get to from Leeds Bradford and an obliging taxi ride from the airport, we opted for an Airbnb centrally located for the four of us because on this trip we were joined by our tennis buds, Nigel and Sarah Mou - a smidgeon of Greek there! Great location near to one of our two favourite tapas bars but four floors up with the sort of lift that would not have been out of place in Thoroughly Modern Millie!
https://www.dailymotion.com/video/x54ddfj. Anyway perfect for us and very well fitted out though my beloved would have liked a bigger bed and there was a fair amount of clinging to the edge of the precipice on either side in the middle of the night!

Our two favourite tapas bars are Cerveceria Catalana on Carrer de Mallorca, literally a spit and a bit from our Airbnb - a buzzy mix of suits and tourists and whether you're sitting outside or standing six deep at the bar pointing at the amazing array of tapas, it's all good. And our other favourite is Irati which is an altogether smaller affair, snugly squeezed between tourist shops on a narrow street not far off Las Ramblas. Here you help yourself to cold tapas from the bar and then prepare for the diving hands when the hot tapas emerge from the kitchen at the back - these are the best! Each tapas has a cocktail stick and the bar staff tot up the sticks when you pay the bill. As ever, fab food and a bottle of rather nice red came to 62 euros for the four of us. Can't be beaten...

The tennis in Barcelona is my favourite of the smaller tournaments we've been to. Each has its own character but there is something friendly and welcoming about the Barcelona tournament. We were booked into men's quarter finals so four matches of the best of three sets including a masterclass from Rafa. And when in Barcelona, he gets the kind of welcome from the crowd that Sachin Tendulkar gets from a home crowd in India. Three top 10 players in action and the weather was perfect. Two minutes from the court to a glass of cool beer - it can't be bettered.

No trip to Barcelona is complete without a visit to La Sagrada Familia - the stunning, and constantly evolving Gaudi cathedral. This is my favourite of all modern buildings. I don't have the words to describe the light inside from the many, many stained glass windows or the incredible ceiling which sparkles and glistens above our heads with each carving and image around us perfectly symbolic. That it is still being constructed to Gaudi's specific plan nearly 100 years after his death is surely the greatest mark of respect of the people. And each time we visit, it shows a new treasure. Find somewhere away from the crowds to sit and contemplate. You won't be disappointed. Top tip: book before you go as the queues can be massive.

There were lots of other joyous bits of our long weekend including two very reasonable pairs of shoes for moi and some delicious meals including Tomate/Fan Ho and a lovely if very windy walk down to the Marina. Also new to us was the magnificent Fonta Magica of Montjuic where the fountains nearly match those of the Bellagio in Las Vegas and play to Barcelona by the much-missed Freddie Mercury and Monserrat Caballe. And not forgetting my must-have Cosmopolitan at a rooftop bar - yeah! All that was missing was one more day. We'll be back next April - love it!
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q0wdxj8-mAU














Wednesday, 18 April 2018

Thirty Years and counting...

You might think, though you'd be incorrect, that when I write my blog, my thoughts just tumble on to the page (well, laptop really) in the same conversational style as if you and I were just having a chat. Actually, the truth is very different and often the gestation period for a blog runs over many dog walks over a number of weeks. Until at some point, like the midwife saying, "You can push now!" I just have to either write it or forget it.

Anyway, two such blogs have been rattling around in the semi-occupied space up top and chronologically this one has to come first - for reasons that will become apparent later.

A little more than thirty years ago, my beloved took his very large wife (great with child - yes, still me!) down a lane, along a bumpy track and over a rattly cattle grid to a small gamekeeper's cottage surrounded by fields, with a garden the size of a postage stamp and numerous very run-down outbuildings including a straw barn occupied by a major rodent population. More honest estate agent's blurb might have read: no heating and a kitchen circa 1960 which should be demolished with immediate effect. I expect it actually read something like: A unique opportunity to buy a period home in need of some restoration with stunning views across open countryside, blah, blah blah. One day I'll find the particulars but in the meantime, I can tell you that my version is a whole lot more accurate.

Also it isn't true to say that we were 'viewing' the property because my beloved had already shaken hands on the deal and if I had imagined that our forever home (for this is what it was always to be) would be in a pretty village with a proper kitchen, heating and somewhere for the children to play in a safe environment, that ship had already sailed. But I knew that this was indeed my beloved's forever home as it was part of the estate where he had lived as a boy (in the posh house, of course) and he had poached extensively here throughout his youth. And this has been our forever home, a life sentence of the best possible kind - probably a lot longer than any custodial sentence dished out in court.

So already purchased by the time I even saw it for the first time, thirty years ago this month we moved in - that is to say, I moved in with the help of a friend at bang on nine months pregnant with number 2, my beloved arriving at about 4.00pm having been held up at work. Hmmmm.... Anyway all that 'Mr Shifta' stuff failed to dislodge number 2 who wisely chose to stay where she was until the central heating was working properly a couple of weeks later.

Various outbuildings were demolished, straw bales removed and the rodent population took over the garden until one day when I had laid number 2 baby on a rug by the front door in the sunshine only to see a very large rat (my imagination says terrier-sized but I may be exaggerating) approaching. The rodent population was well and truly obliterated with immediate effect thereafter!

We had such grand plans back then but never the capital to do more than a relatively small amount of work at a time and friends (who thought we were mad to move here in the first place) always referred to the house as a work in progress which even now thirty years on would be a correct description. We've built and converted, dug every square inch of garden, fenced and cattle-gridded, planted all the trees apart from the two cypresses which is all that remains of what was there when we arrived. It took eight years to get rid of the dreaded green formica kitchen and I still think of my twenty year old kitchen as 'the new kitchen' even though it is now overdue for replacement.

But this is home in every sense of the word. Three of our children never lived anywhere else until they left school and number 1 won't even remember our previous house (with a proper garden and very nice kitchen!). It's a special place to all of us and even though we haven't done half of what we'd hoped, it is, without doubt, on a sunny day like today the best place on the planet. Though I may of course be a bit biased but this is my blog and I'm allowed!








Friday, 16 March 2018

"We are not amused"... It's Snow Time!

When people come to our home for the first time, they often ask how we manage when we are snowed in. In the early years of living in splendid isolation at the little house on the prairie, heavy snow was an almost annual event but we managed pretty well for a number of reasons. Firstly, we had great neighbours who would bring a tractor down the mile of lane between our cattle grid and the crossroads on the outskirts of the village (not that we don't have great neighbours now - of which, more later...). We also had some very good sledging locations which our children and their friends were well aware of and so parents of the friends would skid and slide their way down to ours in 4x4s packed with kids and sledges for some proper fun. And, most significantly, my beloved would be around to join in, ferry anyone who needed ferrying in his own 4x4 and keep us in fresh veg etc until the roads were cleared.

Then came what I shall describe as the 'Las Vegas Winters'. When our four offspring ranged from 18 down to 8, my beloved started attending the Consumer Electronics Show which took place in Las Vegas in January. Of course, it was necessary for him to get himself down to London to fly out to Vegas and regardless of whether any white stuff lay on the ground or was forecast, he was going and the chosen vehicle was the aforementioned 4x4. He would disappear in early January to somewhere warm and carefree whilst I was in charge of domestic affairs. And without fail, the snow, if it hadn't already, would come down in ... well... alpine proportions.

First task would be to get all children to school, assuming it hadn't been deemed a 'snow day'. Pause here for great celebrations and giddiness if this was the case. Otherwise we achieved our departure by getting my wonderful neighbour to help me get the remaining non-4x4 vehicle up the drive, into the village and parked in the pub car park just about a mile away. Then, each morning, once schools were re-opened, we would en masse trudge up the lane in our wellies so that I could transport them from the pub car park into school before parking in the pub car park and trudging back the mile back down the lane. Then I would do the same in reverse at the end of the day, with food shopping being carried back. I learnt early on that bags of potatoes, tins and dog food were not life's essentials when you've a mile-long march through the snow. I also gained a reputation as a prodigious drinker as my car was always at the pub!

Each year, having moaned a bucketload during our brief conversations between Las Vegas and Yorkshire about the depth of the snow, impracticality of not having a 4x4 etc, as soon as the due date for his return actually arrived, the snow would miraculously disappear and he would arrive back saying: "How can you make such a fuss? There's hardly any snow!"

The last of these memorable Las Vegas Winters was back in 2009 and since then, when folks have asked about being snowed in, we've just told them that with global warming it doesn't seem to happen any more. What fools we were!

So bringing things back to the present day, my beloved now works 2 hours away and only comes home at weekends. He drives to work on a Monday in the only available 4x4 leaving me latterly with my super-doopah John Cooper Works Mini. When the Beast from the East was forecast a couple weeks ago, I suggested that perhaps he might take the Mini and leave me with the Defender. That went down like, well, a lead balloon and off he went on Monday morning in the Land Rover that he loves more than life itself - well, nearly, anyway. Come Wednesday we are under snow and although I can get up the lane on Wednesday, by Thursday morning, nobody is going anywhere.

"Come home!" I say to my beloved but he is resisting big style. "How many at work today?" "Two," he replies and I know that the other bloke lives on site! Anyway, eventually he agrees to return on Thursday afternoon so he can spend the next three days complaining that I am making a fuss about nothing.

Fast forward to Sunday and, almost in the words of Elton John's hit single, "The Beast is Back" or on its way at least. "So can I borrow the Defender this week and you take the Mini?" As ever, it was not well received so come Thursday when the Beast dumped 4 inches of snow on us in literally 3 hours flat, once again, I was snowed in! Of course, it was all gone by lunchtime but I was, in the words of Queen Victoria, in the manner of Dame Judi Dench rather than Jenna Coleman, not amused.

As I write this, rumour has it that the Beast might be back again next week... when I will definitely not be amused - again!

Footnote: Being a very keen cinema-goer, I have, in fact, seen nearly all the films nominated and awards in this year's Oscars so I was unsurprisingly disappointed to see that my film of the year, Film Stars Don't Die in Liverpool didn't even get a look-in. Do catch it if you can. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt5711148/


And Sir Elt's version of "The Bitch/Beast is Back!" - enjoy!  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rig3tgyYiAM

Monday, 12 February 2018

Don't Look Now!* Two Days and Two Nights in Venice

The long-awaited 60th birthday present from number 1 daughter (not her fault as dates were set and broken on both sides) was an incredibly beautiful and unforgettable lightning visit to Venice. Planned just a couple of weeks before departure but lovingly researched and booked by the aforementioned number 1, this was a visit to the stunningly atmospheric and eerily romantic city of 118 islands.


One of the many things that strikes you as you head over your first footbridge en route from the people mover which transports you from the coach that transports you from Treviso Airport (not the rather handier but much more pricey Marco Polo) is that there is no sound or smell of traffic. From here it's by foot or boat. The narrow streets and alleyways, which in cities like Marrakech with its equally skinny byways are thronged with scooters and donkeys and inappropriate cars as well as pedestrians, are quiet apart from the sound of your own heels clicking on the stone cobbles. Where these thoroughfares are busy is nearer to the Rialto Bridge or Piazza San Marco for though this is February, it is also Venice Carnival and so, though sometimes damp and cold, the tourists will come - and quite rightly so. But in the darkened and narrow alleyways, especially as dusk falls, only the occasional sound of chatter breaks the sometimes eerie silence and the sounds of the water lapping against the stone.

Our hotel for two nights was the Al Duca di Venezia, a boutique hotel with very helpful staff and ornate, if snug, bedrooms. But the name of the game on such a short visit is to dump our stuff as dusk falls and head into the night for wine and tapas (yes, ok, it's Italy not Spain but tapas gets you a stunning selection of brochetta) before a big bowl of spaghetti alle vongole. No late nights for us because we have just two whole days to make this city our own and experience as much as we can of what it has to offer.


Al Duca serves a good breakfast with a delicious cup of thick hot chocolate which is a meal in itself. Then armed with a map, guide book and our phones we set out to discover the city's secrets. Number 1 has been here once before - and relatively recently. I, on the other hand, have been twice - once on an utterly miserable school trip aged fifteen and then again the year before we were married with dear friends who provided us with an especially memorable moment when we stopped in the Piazza San Marco at Caffe Florian. That day we were sitting outside cafe enjoying the sights and sounds of Venice. There was a string quartet/quintet playing and suddenly our friends vanished and the orchestra moved en masse to our table and played 'our song' - Moon River - as our friends hid behind a pillar giggling and enjoying our embarrassment.


So first it's the Basilica San Marco but not before we've wandered through the fragrant and colourful fish and veg markets. The Basilica is mercifully not too full of tourists to enjoy a quiet moment in its ornate grandeur. Then next door to the Doge's Palace which boasts impressive frescoes and  murals but the most memorably atmospheric moment is crossing the Bridge of Sighs - a last glimpse of freedom - before entering the dank, inhospitable prison. Our plan then is to go to the Peggy Guggenheim Collection - closed, as it turns out, and Ca' Rezzonico, the place where Robert Browning lived and died in Venice - ditto closed. Hmmm... so when in Venice ... it's a very big bowl of pasta and a gondola ride.



This I have never done before but I've checked the gondola stations on our travels and the price is 80 euros everywhere - no haggling. The brightly-dressed gondoliers are in sharp contrast to the black gondolas which number about 400 in the summer. Our gondolier is chatty and informative, keen to take us down the Grand Canal to the 7* hotel where George Clooney got married. He doesn't however understand our amusement when we sail under a washing line of many ladies' knickers and is merely keen for us to know that he doesn't live there!

So our second evening kicks off with a rapid pizza before we head back into the Piazza San Marco to see what Carnival activity is occurring, which, as it turns out, is a disco. But it's the sights, not the sounds that draw us, for everywhere, day and night, the main piazzas and bridges are thronged with masked characters of the seventeenth and eighteenth century. These snappy dressers pose over and over again for snaps from tourists, acknowledging our thanks with an elegant nod of the head.


Our second day begins with a walk to the Jewish Ghetto. In 1516, the Jews of Venice were locked into their ghetto every night as ruled by the Venetian Republic, but though compelled to live an area enclosed by two guarded bridges, the remainder of the time they had the freedom of the city with the other Venetian citizens. The area is dominated by Ghetto Nuovo Square where there is a monument to those who were rounded up to be taken to concentration camps during the Second World War. Of the 243 taken to Auschwitz only 8 returned at the end of the war. A poignant reminder that man's inhumanity to man continues from generation to generation.

Then another brisk walk to catch the boat to Murano, famous for its glass. This is a chilly boat trip to another island dominated by canals and bridges. Every shop sells the famous multi-coloured glass though we are advised by one young shopkeeper, keen to practise her English on a quiet day, that if you can't see the minuscule bubbles in the glass, even here, it is probably imported from China or India. We see an artisan moulding tiny glass elephants, deftly pulling ears and trunks into shape under the pale blue flame. We are advised that glass-blowing demonstrations should be free but the only furnace not breaking for lunch (which apparently starts at 1.00 and ends at 3.00!) expects us to pay so we decide to catch a vaporetto back to San Marco in time for the fancy dress competition of the day.


This is the one for amateurs with prizes of entry to the famous Carnival Ball (a mere 500 euros for a regular punter!). The participants from all over the world claim they have spent literally months creating their costumes and the effect is stunning.







So now there is only time to try to visit Ca' Rezzonico once again but this time we are half an hour too late and are doomed once again to see only the ground floor rooms. "Come back tomorrow!" we are told, but of course, we are now in our last few hours before making our way to the airport. We stop at a pasticceria and enjoy a tea and frittelle (doughnuts) surrounded by young Venetian students from the local university.

We detour en route back to the hotel to pick up our bags, heading through San Marco and over the Rialto Bridge one last time, before the very brisk walk to the people mover. Because we have to wait for it to arrive, we make the coach transfer with less than a couple of minutes to spare. Had we known that our Ryanair (you get what you pay for) flight is delayed by nearly an hour we probably would have panicked less! The net result of the flight delay is a serious dash from Immigration through Stansted to catch the very last train to London. Phew!

A wonderful, sensually-overloaded trip to one of the most beautiful cities in the world. Venice Carnival simply must be done.


*Don't Look Now is a 1970s classy thriller set in Venice starring Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie. The film features a dwarf in a red duffle coat which made number 1's choice of coat a source of constant entertainment to me. Great movie (though probably very dated now) featuring the city at its eerie best. Catch it if you can!

Wednesday, 3 January 2018

"You say goodbye and I say hello..."*

New years make me reflective - and, no, not in the sense of motorway workmen's jackets but in a rather more cerebral way - and as January begins dark and cold, it's hard not to look back as well as forward. So first a look back on the year we said goodbye to just three nights ago - dressed as angels and demons and quaffing some of my beloved's finest, of course.

2017 kicked off with our holiday of a lifetime to upside the down in Australia. It turns out that most of my best fun this year has involved gadding round various countries or, as they say at work, "Are you off on holiday again?" Australia was a massive wow for me and despite suggesting to my other half that a reprise of the Aussie experience this dark and dismal January would be very well received, apparently the coffers are not full enough for another all-singing, all-dancing trip to the other side of the world. Ah well, we'll be back, I promise.






However, for much of the rest of 2017 I have been gapping like a teenager. Starting with a hilarious weekend in Iceland in search of the Northern Lights with Ebabe and Wheezy, followed by a mid-week jaunt to dear friends in Guernsey, a beautiful island I absolutely love with direct flights from Leeds - hurray (flights have been subsequently discontinued so less hurray). Then a lull before a fabulous river cruise up (and down) the Duoro in Portugal with Lady H, her mum and the intrepid granny who was on especially fine form and then a relaxing week as a guest of Auntie Sue Sue in Sotogrande in her glorious apartment (yes, I am always available for this one!).



Summer was for the most part packed with tennis and both our village teams had a good season with the usual mix of triumph and frustration. It was especially nice to finish as runners-up in the Dales Ladies' where we threw the proverbial kitchen sink at the opposition in the final and were only marginally beaten on count-back. Meanwhile, the fitbit got me walking further and though the dog became significantly slimmer and fitter, it seems the status quo remains weight-wise for me. Note to self: walking further and playing more tennis do not mean I can eat more. Fitness and weight loss featured strongly in my New Year Resolutions this year (and every year - ha!).

Then off to Apartment Antonia in Kalkan in September as guests of number 2 and JS before spending a few days exploring Istanbul. Overall, Istanbul was a slight disappointment to me but, to be fair, by the time we arrived, we had already had bad news from home and were feeling more than a little bah humbug. The good news on this one is that the intrepid granny came through surgery brilliantly and has thrown herself into doing all the exercises set for her so she can rock and roll at the bowling club this year.


One of my plans for last year was to combine our trip to Turkey with a few days in Cyprus. This proved difficult and after a rather heated phone call with the Cypriot Consulate in London, we gave up on the task and instead I hopped on a plane from Stansted in November for a fabulous few days with Nigel and Sarah in their lovely Cyprus home. Great fun, great tennis, great friends - what more can I say? Yammas!


So that brings us to the year end. Christmas was lovely but the children arrived and left, as they have all year, without us gathering the whole lot together at any point. In case they read this (which they generally do because they like to check up on what I am saying about them) what I would really like for my forthcoming birthday is to have them all in the same place for 48 hours. Is that a big ask? We shall see... We did manage that once in 2017 when they all rocked in for the twins' 21st birthday celebration and it will remain the best time at home in a year of hellos and goodbyes and general gadding about.


So what would I like in 2018? Most of all, good health for all my family and a peaceful time for us all. Excitement is all well and good (and there's usually no shortage throughout the year) but actually the joy of just being together with family and good friends (sorry, getting soppy) is the best. Happy New Year!

*https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rblYSKz_VnI

Thursday, 23 November 2017

London: Not London

I was recently trawling through the weekend broadsheets - this process usually takes till about Thursday - when I came upon a headline above a restaurant review. It read something like: "A new star - not London". The restaurant is in Leeds, so I can only assume that as far as the national press is concerned, there is now: 'London' and 'Not London' i.e. the rest of the United Kingdom. Actually there is probably also 'the Home Counties' where people who used to live in London now live but to all intents and purposes, that is also 'London'.

When I read the national press, I note that ever fewer mentions are made of anything outside London. This either has the effect of making me irritable - do they really think that London is the only place where stuff happens? Or smug - we like it here and we like that perhaps the quality of life we have is our best kept secret. Whatever, it does serve to remind me that the North/South gap is the greatest it has ever been in my lifetime and the resulting rush of our young people to experience everything London has to offer is the net result.

Which brings me neatly to my London double-header - not sure what that actually means but think it might be a sport-related expression - i.e. two trips to London in quick succession. All three of our beautiful girls live in London now and I suppose at least it means I can see multiple daughters at once, or all three in a short space of time. And indeed, all that was achieved last week in part one of the 'double-header'.

Number 1 always meets me from Kings Cross because, I think, she is convinced that I can't manage the Underground. And, it has to be said, I am more than happy for her to continue to think exactly that as she always meets me at the barrier on arrival and waves me goodbye at the barrier on my way home. Let's not tell her that senility hasn't quite crept in yet!


Last week's jaunt starts outside a very nice bar in Kings Cross. Once the haunt of prostitutes and ne'er-do-wells, Kings Cross is so smart now and a great place to meet friends when I am fresh off the train. Number 1 and I are on a mission to meet up with my fabulous godson who is very dear to me and we are hoping to meet his lovely girlfriend too as we were only briefly acquainted at a wedding a couple of years ago. And so we sit outside under the heaters (not great for global warming but the trend for hard surfaces in bars makes it virtually impossible for number 1 to hear inside) having a massive catch up with godson, girlfriend and number 1 and her husband. Happy me! In fact, very happy me after a glass or two of rioja!

It is all going so well so... it is bound to go awry. We are due to meet up - 3 daughters, one husband (not mine!) and me - at a nice Italian. We are a bit late, number 2 is on time and therefore not impressed with the rest of us and number 4 works late and therefore arrives an hour and a half after everybody else. It never works, this family getting altogether thing. And then it is off to the new home of number 2 where Mr Milton (furry friend and ex-lodger) is waiting. This new home is a work in progress so it is sort of camping out i.e. me on a blow-up bed. Absolutely fine for me but this isn't going to work for part 2 of the double-header when my beloved joins us!

Up early and it's off to meet another godchild for pre-work coffee. This is the marvellous red-headed goddaughter who insisted I speak at her wedding and, of course, redheads are not to be denied. So another fabulous catch-up before the two redheads - godchild and number 2 daughter - dash off to run the world and number 4 child pitches up so that we can make our way to the grand excuse for the whole visit - the ATP Year End Finals at the O2.

We are privileged to watch some sublime and very closely contested doubles won by the eventual winners of the whole thing - Kontinen and Peers - followed by an absolute belter of a singles with Marin Cilic and Jack Sock. I now have a tennis crush on Jack Sock who threw the absolute kitchen sink at the match and happily won.

Then it's one of my big treats to myself - the Thames Clipper. I love this way to see London from the water; to admire the sights and see the modern towers of Canary Wharf and the stunningly atmospheric Tower of London. Imagine being rowed in to the Tower and stepping off at Traitor's Gate with little hope of ever leaving alive! Number 4 thinks my enthusiasm for this rather chilly, sitting-in-the-back-of-a-boat-in-the-dark trip is a bit bonkers but she plays along. Equally, I play along when we get in the tube at London Bridge packed like sardines whilst two woman have an argument that almost comes to blows. I want to intervene and suggest they might both chill out but apparently, had I done that, I would probably still be in a high dependency ward in London - aggression or what!




My final morning is spent visiting a cemetery. Sounds weird perhaps but actually it is Highgate Cemetery and definitely worth the trip. Yes, Karl Marx is buried here and loads of others too including some of the artistic giants of the 20th century. I am intensely moved by the poignant messages on the World War 1 graves and fascinated by the extraordinary range of the great and the good, the unknown and forgotten - from the mastermind behind the Great Train Robbery (yes, really) to authors like Douglas Adams (A Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy) where, like Sylvia Plath's grave which I visited a few years ago, people leave pencils rather than flowers. Apparently George Michael is or yet may be buried at Highgate where his mother is already buried. A fitting resting place for a great artist.



So it's back up to God's Own Country now but only for a few days as next up is the sport and music weekend - England v Samoa at Twickenham followed by Phil Collins at the Royal Albert Hall. Well, life is for living and as the Scottish proverb says (and it's probably on a headstone somewhere at Highgate): You're a long time dead.