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1995 to 1999

dad dies 1998
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HOLIDAYS:

1995- Bridlington - lots of good walking. Nice place. However off-shore work had been causing the beaches to lose sand, uncovering nasty black mud.

And the beach to the South had now been opened up to development with noisy jet skis and power boats and the closure (officially) of the permission for bathing on the beach with no clothes.
Not what it was when we first visited. But still good walking around the Flamborough Head.

1996-Weymouth -expensive but excellent resort with lots to see -eg ancient barn; swannery; Roman temple; Portland, home of Portland Stone; and a long shingle bank (Chesil Beech). If only it was closer and less costly! Very nice place to visit.

As guests of the Tourist Information Bureau we visited the local theatre for one of the very best entertainments I have seen for a while, with comedians "The Chuckle Brothers", much better live than on tv, and songs from two of The Nolan Sisters.

1997-Southport- plenty of walking between Liverpool and Southport. Squirrel sanctuary. Visited the Southport Steam Museum, just months before it was closed (with most stock to be moved to Preston).

1998 Llandudno - lovely walking down the Conway valley; superb castle; old house; visited The Village at Port Meirion (the Green Dome has become a Black Dome this year). We purchased a tape of music from The Prisoner in The Prisoner Shop- the shop run by the Prisoner fan group closed in 1999- and the group's annual meets in the village came to a stuttering halt, and perhaps coincidentally, ownership of the copyright to The Prisoner changed hands...
Rode the narrow guage Ffestiniog Railway (I do not like oil fired steam trains - prefer the smell of coal thank you); visited Caernarfon Castle (boo, hiss, Conway is heaps better!).

Revisited Llechwedd Slate Mine- better refreshments this time. bigger shop. Took BOTH rides and visited the underground lake much used by film makers (Dragonslayer, The Black Cauldron etc).

Visited Betws y Coed. Nice Railway Museum with large small guage garden railway and models of Manchester and Stockport. Why else go to the place? The promised local walking was absent from the tourist information office and local newsagents. May be pretty locale but a car seems to be required. Boring. Shook dust of feet as we left. Not to return. Climbed The Great Orme, Llandudno- great place to wander when not too windy! Rode the tramway.

Discovered a sampler tape of Welsh music- discovered the exquisite voice of Sian James and have now bought all her CDs. She mostly sings in Welsh but has a great voice. In a Welsh shop in Barmouth bought some nice Welsh tapes- Welsh harp, Welsh/Romany music and Welsh-Cajun.


1999- after a ten year break back to Scarborough, this time, booking a self catering room, after our severe difficulties eating there last time!
We had hoped to boat it to Whitby but as the boat company only seem to have sold four tickets it suddenly became too rough to sail. We went along the coast by bus and the water remained dead calm all the way. This treatment was of course in line with the other tourist traps in Scarborough!
In Whitby we went through the Dracula Experience. That really is a con, unless you like wandering in pitch black, with lots of disco smoke and an occaisional strobe. Can't tell you anything about it as none of us saw anything.
What we did find in Whitby was a first class confectioner- we bought a small bar of chocolate from Michel Cluizel, chocolatier, Paris. Probably the best chocolate in the world! (Not cheap, but very nice).
We did enjoy visiting St Mary's (on the hill) and the Abbey.
We really enjoyed a walk and explore in Robin Hoods Bay, visiting the small museum and spending lots of money in the cute shops. We bought a video of a movie filmed in the village, some books by local authors, and the knitting patterns for the Ganseys (fishermans jumpers) of two local families.
Hutton le Hole museum was a treat (and we spent lots in the shops)- one of the cottages from Harome had three rooms, with a parlour, and had all of the feel of Corner House- Gran's house in Northop. Including the steep staircase going upstairs- which we could not use for Health & Safety reasons! Very nostalgic.
The Hutton museum is the location of the World Merrills Championships (Sept 12th in 1999). We also saw at close up some cute little birds called tree creepers, a first for me.

We wandered over the top moor at Blakey on a particularly misty/ storm swept day, finding our way across the heather with the Grouse for company with a spectacular hill down at Roseby (down 500 feet at a sign-posted 1 in 3 gradient but thought to be the steepest road in the country!).
Pickering was excellent with a very nice Norman motte and bailey castle, an excellent museum (with a large collection of photographs by Sydney Smith) and one end of the North Moors Railway which we rode on twice.
The August "Moorsbus" is superb- one day we road over a hundred miles for a fiver for the three of us. And for 60 of those miles we were the only passengers! No-one else was mad enough to go outside in the torrential rain.
Yes- this was our wettest holiday ever, with two days of continuous rain, and rain for some of every other day - but we found plenty of places to return to and intend to go back.
We briefly visited Sutton Bank and Danby, but saw nothing due to the weather. We had a pleasant short walk in Dalby Forest (what a large forest that is!). I did enjoy an unusual pie at Sutton Bank- flan base, curd custard, apple and then a thin caramel top.
We "did" Scarborough in a day, visiting the three museums, the Castle and the Sea Life Centre, the Hologram exhibition, the Millenium Exhibition, and a ride on the diesel powered "steam train". Plus a very enjoyable ride on the old lifeboat, where George and I experienced the delights of zero gravity for a short time as the boat went down a wave rather sharply!


1995

Bought our first PC, a DX2-66 from Tiny. Win 3.11 and Dos 6.22 and a 420meg hard disk. Bought as many pinball programs as I could.

The first UK Babylon 5 convention was held in Manchester, and we were lucky enough to be able to get in! It was here that Joe Straczinski and Majel Barrett (Roddenberry) got together and agreed for Majel to appear in an episode of Babylon 5, the tv science fiction show. We obtained the authographs of both of these lovely people. Also present were Michael O'Hare and Ed Wasser. Michael was out of the show but there was no big announcement- he read some poetry. After his death in 2012 we learned dhe had been replaced due to mental health problems, and was just able to do a final two parter to wrap up his story line. It probably helped the first season to complete that Joe had training in clinical psychology.

In October 1995 I read in a magazine dedicated to SF TV, that the tv series Space Patrol, long lost, had been discovered in a garage. As I was already aware that jms loved this show as a child, I rang the magazine to discover who had the show, then rang them to enquire about availability. I exchanged a couple of emails with jms, then passed his US phone number on to the Space Patrol rights holders for them to arrange something to their mutual advantage. When the videotapes came out, across the front of each was a quotation from Joe's last email to me, and when the DVD set came out some years later, there was jms being interviewed on the set of B5 - to the puzzlement of B5 fans!

The historic Free Trade Hall, which I have visited - lots of times! -for all sorts of concerts, nears the end of its working life as a concert hall, closing at the end of the 1995 season.

7th May 1995- visit to Abbotsfield Park, Urmston for a traction engine rally.

Visit to our second Star Trek convention, Sol III, in Blackpool in May. Erik Menyuk was a delight as was Dwight Schulz. Have both autographs. SF author Harry Harrison was also there and autographed one of his books for me.

Several visits to the East Lancs Railway, also to Hayfield, Lyme Park, and the Chemical Museum, Catalyst, at Widnes, which I found profoundly disappointing and overpriced - wont go there again. Very poor presentation, and most working displays not working. A missed opportunity.

November 1995 saw the first Steam Train to operate a passenger service from Stockport for a very long time (nearly 30 years?) with a special day of operation for 48151 running between Buxton and Guide Bridge - which involved running rare passenger miles along the Stockport Stalybridge line. Enjoyed a good run. The engine slipped badly on wet rails in places, and the final run from Buxton was cancelled- but we cam home on the run before that!


1996

My niece Tracy was married in Fareham in August 1996 and we greatly enjoyed our visit - we went to the wedding on the way to our holiday in Weymouth. Tracy married Christian Cassaro, and they then went back to Paris where they lived and worked.

(Christian's father, Claude, died in 1998 after a heart attack.)

This was a bit of a turning point for Dad, as after making some preparations for him to go to the wedding, he reluctantly decided he was just not fit enough to make the journey to attend his only grand daughters wedding.

We again visited the East Lancashire Railway, where one visiting engine was the US built Franklin D Roosevelt (3278), brought into the UK from Greece.

The Manchester Museum of Science and Industry had a special Star Trek exhibition. As friends of the museum we had a preview visit, and as we went in uniform, had the exceptional honor of visiting the Bridge and Transporter Room (eg standing on them instead of just looking from behind a barrier). Good exhibit with lots of original props and models.

On 11th August 1996, we visited a very unusual rail centre, located behind Cathy's old school, a narrow guage industrial rail centre, with lots of cute little engines.

Manchester had a new concert hall, The Bridgewater Hall, with a huge new Danish organ. We started the first of many regular visits. It is an interesting building, it does not touch the ground, but sits on a number of large springs (anyone want to see a picture?).

Towards the year end there was a magnificent exhibition at the Manchester Museum of Science and Industry from China, which we much enjoyed.

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WORK - 1995-1998

The Bank suffered a number of reorganisations and there commenced a long period with a continuing real chance I would be made redundant. From working in "Large Advances" dealing with the administration of large borrowing and "contingent liabilities", and analysing the accounts of all the large companies, in 1995 I had to apply for a job in the Corporate Bank. I didn't get it and spent a year in "Retail" servicing the needs of personal customers. In between, awaiting my new retail role, I did some admin work on a parcel of loans the bank had purchased which were not performing well - personal mortgages with many hopelessly in arrears, some only a little in arrears and a few working well - later these parcels became known as sub-prime mortgages. Of course, if you pay a price for them that takes into account the real risks and costs, there is no problem, but a decade later and the whole banking system was brought to its knees by purchasing so many of these and such parcels having been overvalued.

Many of my contempories who had advanced that bit beyond me now found they had no jobs, some took early retirement (if over 50) some left and others took reduced jobs until they could retire. My previous lack of advancement worked in my favour perhaps.
By June 1996 I was sent on relief to the Wilmslow group of branches to deal with personal borrowing- again visiting the branches in Wilmslow, Handforth and Poynton. Only Poynton was still in the same building as the 1970's.

At Wilmslow one of my 1978 customers actually recognised me. At Poynton I met up with a "young" lady, Marina Fowden who had been at Stockport office when I started in 1968. (by 2006 Marina was working at the Bank's Heaton Chapel office).

And a very large bomb took out Manchester city centre. Dad was in hospital after a bad fall.

I again applied for my "old" job and this time got it, acting as "assistant corporate manager" to Duncan Mayall, working in Mosley Street Manchester. I worked with Duncan until October 1997 when I was "appointed" (same job title but more money) and also moved on yet again to assist in a new "Corporate Support Unit" which did the admin for Corporate Managers- back to my role in administering the larger loans.


24/5/1997 a rare visit to the Ballet to see the Birmingham Royal Ballet perform their Nutcracker Sweeties.... cute.

We attended two science fiction conventions in 1997-

May 1997- Star Trek with Richard Herd, Tucker Wilson and Robert Duncan McNeil (Tom Paris). Not much in the way of videos so we spent our time in the main hall or the dealers room. Quite a relaxing convention. Autographs from all three actors.

Babylon 5 convention at Blackpool- with the entire cast and crew, the largest EVER B5 convention. We spent our time in the main hall watching the appearances, rather than q-ing for autographs. We attended a smaller meeting with Mira Furlan (lovely lady). Joe Straczinsky had a bad visit- some series notes thrown out by his Hotel, problems with Claudia Christian walking out without saying goodbye, and he was unhappy with several aspects of the convention.

We hugely enjoyed the reenactment of a spoof script written by Joe, with characters G'Kar and Londo in bed together... (an absolute hoot and all in the best possible taste).

We did not know of the problems with Claudia, but I have to say her stage appearance was the least enjoyable for me. Pat Tallman and Julie Caitlin Brown were great, heck, they all were.

============

We attended a VegeFest in Manchester, organised by the Vegetarian Society. As part of this the worlds largest salad was created by dumping truckfulls of salad material into the (replica) Roman Moat at Castlefield. The food wasnt wasted- afterwards it was help yourself time, with boxes and bags provided. George took and ate a full box of Iceberg lettuce.

August 1997- bad news, our friend and long time pen pal (15 years?) Ray Kazmer died of cancer. A long time supporter of the TI99/4a computer, and helped us in our move to a PC.


By 1997 Dad was having problems even with nursing care in the flat, and he moved to a nursing home in Heaton Moor, Stockport. The level of care here left something to be desired (the owning company went into receivership within the year) but he was better looked after than previously and certainly better fed. Mentally he went downhill, and by Easter 1998 was virtually chairbound. He died of a heart attack in June 1998 almost five years after Mum had died with Cathy and myself by his side.

Like Mum, Dad was cremated in Stockport, with the service taken by the same minister who took Mum's funeral, a local retired Methodist minister, Arthur Connop, who had lived near Gower Road and knew them both.

Mr Connop was the "emergency officer" (by default) when there was a bad plane crash in Stockport back in 1968. These days there are emergency contingency plans but in 1968- nothing.


I have been taking George to musical concerts since he was about six, starting with special afternoon family concerts in the Manchester Free Trade Hall.
We then moved up to attending harpsichord recitals in Heaton Hall and piano recitals in St Anns Church, Manchester. And as George grew older to evening concerts.
The Free Trade Hall is now closed and we attend the new concert hall, the Bridgewater Hall.
We have attended concerts by the Halle Orchestra, The BBC Philharmonic, the Manchester Camerata, and recitals by guitarist John Williams and percussionist Evelyn Glennie.

1998-

Did a bit of spending- repointing the house; bought a new short wave radio - a small Roberts very light and very powerful.

Bought a new PC- from Mesh plc- see separate file!

The weather in 1998 was absolutely awful, setting all sorts of new records. The first time our road was flooded from side to side, and so on. As a result (and with Dads health deteriorating steadily until he died in June) we had virtually no outings.

I only made my third visit of the year to the East Lancs Railway in November.

The one and perhaps only International TI99/4A Convention in the UK was held in Nottingham in October, and I managed to get there for a day. Mike Wright of CaDD Electronics was there demonstrating his emulator, PC99, and I bought a copy. There was also a large group from Germany - Mike indicated we had more attendees that the Chicago TI fair.


George commenced his two year GCSE courses in 1998, opting for business studies, information technology, geography, German, and the obligatory Maths, Science and English. He has been doing very well in all subjects. George is also intent on learning C++.
We bought the NTSC video of Kimba the White Lion to watch over Christmas, and by accident also had the Lion King 2 to watch, some three months before Disney released a PAL version in the UK...

1999

Has so far started as wet as 1998. Ho hum.
Our January visit to the East Lancashire Railway was good fun, with a visit to the Works to see premier loco "The Duke of Gloucester" with a rebuild well under way and several other leading locos on site. For our February visit however the weather was very very wet - so wet that whilst this preserved line carried on, their big brothers collectively still known as British Rail, had no services south of Stockport or North of Blackburn due to the weather...
Hugely enjoyed an NTSC video purchase- Kikki's Delivery Service- bought both the subtitled and the dubbed copies. Would love to see it on a big screen but Disney don't seem to plan even a video release in the UK.

In March I obtained Robert Beltran's (Chakotay, ST) autograph in Manchester (free) which meant I didnt have to pay for it when we bumped into him on the Sunday in Birmingham.
On the 28th March George and I visited Memorabilia in Hall 20 of the NEC, Birmingham. On Thursday I got some magazines together for autographing by the guests- some for Robert Beltran, some for Robin Atkin-Downs and some for Marcus Cole. At a fiver a time I didnt get Roberts autograph again but I did get Babylon 5's Byron and Marcus to sign a magazine.
Also present was Julie Newmar (Star Trek Classic, series 2, Fridays Child, and lots of film and tv work) who was very charming. The "new" Star Wars Darth something was there and also Shirley Eaton (Goldfinger). And another Classic trek guest actor- David Soul.
I was delighted to meet Graham Stark, a UK actor with some 38 films under his belt. He was good to talk with, and I bought a copy of his recorded memoirs of Peter Sellars (also available as a book).
At Birmingham I bought a PAL copy of the Tenchi Miyo Movie video, with music by Chris Franke. This is the only video I have with THX sound- and what sound, excellent quality.

For the early May bank holiday we attended a Star Trek convention in the Jarvis Piccadilly Hotel in Manchester.
The con presenters included a presenter from the QVC satellite channel, and the owner of Pages Bar in London (a byname in science fiction circles).
We had a very good set of guests - Tim Russ from Star Trek Voyager; Chase Masterson and Nicole deBoer from Star Trek Deep Space Nine (which had JUST wrapped the week before); Lolita Fatjo- pre production assistant on the modern Star Treks; Mojo from Foundation Imaging; Michael Sheard- of Grange Hill; and Jason Haigh-Ellery of Big Finish (a recording co).
There was the usual "dealers room" with people selling SF things- we bought a drama tape from Big Finish (a Science Fiction story set in Panto Land- huge fun); a couple of Star Trek drama tapes- one from Right Recordings, from whom we purchased an autographed Graham Stark tape in Birmingham. The Stark tape set was due to be released at the end of May, and Graham had a large number of interviews lined up to promote it.

I also completed my set of audio drama recordings of classic science fiction works by the actors from Star Trek (as "Alien Voices").
By canny Qing we managed to be sitting in the 4th or 5th row - in a room with 900 people, that wasnt too bad! Tim Russ gave us some songs and jokes as well as talking of Trek. Nicole had been booked for the Con immediately she had been cast for Deep Space Nine- a diminutive Canadian actress whose only available videos are the Star Trek ones- but she is also in a number of rental only films, including one released here May 24th, CUBE. She looks much younger than her 29 years. Cube is now out on DVD (2002).
Chase is a professional dancer / stage actress who only got into television because she likes Star Trek. Chase usually has little clothing on Star Trek, and did not disappoint her fans at the Con. A tee shirt she wore for a few minutes was sold for charity for over a hundred pounds! She also sang a few short songs and has a good voice. Chase had collected a couple of boxes of props when they were demolishing the Deep Space 9 sets, and sold one (for charity) for over two hundred pounds. Absolutely authentic and quite unique.

Lolita just spoke about Star Trek but also had a bit of the set to auction - a bit of the medical bay went for under a hundred.
A surprise guest was Max Grodchenik from Star Trek Deep Space Nine- he plays an alien and is therefore only seen covered in a rubber mask. He appeared briefly with Lolita (after whom Chase's character Leeta was named).

Mojo started the Babylon 5 computer graphics, and now does work for Star Trek Voyager. He brought along a few videotapes of his work, showing the actors playing on a blue stage, then with a pencil sketch around them, and then with full computer effects.
Mojo entertained us with an expertly made "Star Wars 3.5" in which The Empire sinks the Titanic. Made on a home computer this was easily of cinema quality, with an Ewok sliding down the slanted deck of the Titanic just as if it was there.
A further entry was the Empire battling King Kong on the Empire State Building....

In June 1999 my son George received a further new computer from the LEA to assist him with his schoolwork- a Dreamwriter IT, running WinCE -Handheld PC Pro 3. We also had the news that the examination boards had agreed for him to use a computer in his exams, and also be granted a small time extension.

After seven years using the busses to travel to work, in September it was back to the trains, as the busses had reached saturation traffic levels and no hope of improvement. The train service now much better, and the cost hardly increased - public transport costs have hardly increased, leaving little funding to improve capacity levels.

AS a supporter of registered charity The Humane Research Trust, I was sorry to find no web presence, and offered to set up a web site for them, which I did in 1999. This was referred to by the daily press and also referred to in Westminster, however as the years passed their staff changed, interest waned, and less information was coming my way. By September 2003 my HRT page had nearly 20,000 visitors. Then HRT established their own web site in 2004, apparently unaware I had web pages for them - which I took down. [ archived HRT web pages I published ].

Still collecting Anime video tapes, with a new 1999 discovery- Romeo's Blue Skies, truly excellent. Keeping up with Maison Ikkoku and Marmalade Boy. And wish UK TV would show some more anime! We have had plenty of the childrens anime on tv - Moomins, Dogtanion, Alfred Kwak, Pinochhio - but there is so much more of quality.

At this stage we have, between our operating systems and computers, no less than 84 pinball tables to play. Think how much room 84 real pinball tables would take up. Then there is the cost...
A few games will not operate at all on our new PC, and many older ones have required some significant editing of the .exe files to make them work with a plug and play sound card they never had in mind! We also have a special Dos 6.22 boot disk to help with some pinball games.

Just a few days left in 1999 to finish the year off...
George did quite well with his "mock" GCSE exams before Christmas, can't complain about straight Grade A's. Now come the real exams in May/June 2000.
He was granted an interview at Aquinas, probably the best sixth form college in the area, which will mean some very hard work for A level exams in 2002, but will receive a high level of tuition.

Towards the end of the year my wife Cathy cut her hair short - and I started paying more attention to her than previously. (My first girlfriend ended our relationship just after cutting her hair short so there were emotional overtones there!).
December 10th was a very difficult night for me when Cathy donned bright party apparel, flashy cosmetics, and went off "with the girls", not returning home until 2.30am, long after she had ever been out before. And I was also aware that they had been to one of the darkest areas of Manchester (known for drugs, violence and commercial sex of all persuasions). This led to several very deep conversations and a much better grasp of each others needs.
We go on to the new Millenium rededicated to each other and full of optimism for a happier and closer future together.


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