Our apartment (Bloomfield House) was huge and very pleasant. We remade the acquaintance of Fredericks Ice Cream and this year enjoyed the Bakewell Pudding flavour ice cream and the Pomegranite ice cream. The River Wye had huge numbers of trout to be seen.
The two Indian restaurants were excellent. Max's had nice classical Indian music, and a superb Shahi Paneer dish (Max made his own paneer) whilst Borivli had Bollywood music and a Chana Puri to die for. They also had the Makta dessert which our meal demanded - kulfi (Indian ice cream) in a pottery dish, the forerunner of the ice cream tub.
The direct Bakewell to Chatsworth bus only runs on Sundays, so our Sunday destination was predetermined. Chatsworth is a huge estate, with the major tour rooms always designed to show visitors, rather than to live in. The 2010 tour includes some 26 rooms, counting as one room the subdivided exhibition area, open as a free extra this year to celebrate the 90th birthday of Deborah Devonshire, who now lives in a nearby village (and opened her house on 3rd July to show her birhday cards). The gardens are huge, although the Southern part was closed for maintenance and the greenhouses are not open to the public. The outer park is immense. After a tour of the house, we listened to the Melbourne Town Band playing on the lawn and then explored a tiny part of the gardens - a day is too short to see them all. A place to visit again to explore the gardens, park, and estate more fully. You could photograph anything and picnic in the gardens. With an amazing throughput of water for the house and garden, since 1983 Chatsworth has again been generating its own electricity after many years of idle water turbines.
On Monday we walked along the River Wye to Haddon Hall, a slightly older house than Chatsworth, and on a more domestic scale. Due to abandonment from the 18th to 20th centuries, the house has many features lost elsewhere, including a full set of old kitchens. The attached church is a real Parish Church. Photography allowed. A lovely old home.
The weather forecast for Tuesday was initially quite dismal so we planned a day nearer base (in fact the weather was quite good). We walked along the River to Riverside, visiting the so called shop at the Thornbridge Brewery. The pump clips are not too fancy, and most wardrobes will have more tea shirts than the shop. Only three varieties of bottled beer were available - unlike their fabulous cask ale I find their bottled beer rather sad. Disappointing. From there back along the river to explore a classical garden we had seen - part of an old house which had no signage but our map told us was Holme Hall. Not open to the public but we did find an old mine underneath- this was the Holme Hall Chert Mine, sealed off (and quite unstable) but we saw the remains of the rails leading in. The house and the bridge leading to it are 17th C. We had a lovely lunch at Byways 17th Century tea rooms - also a very inexpensive place to buy original paintings.
Wednesday and off to the plague village of Eyam (pronounced Eeeam). The restricted bus service only gave us four hours there, so we chose to explore a little rather than visit the museum. There are many plaques and signs around the lovely village, and we were happy to give custom to the local post office and village store, as well as buying a bowl of fresh strawberries from a roadside stand. The church is very old, but does not permit photography nor give access past the chancel steps. We walked up to the Northern well and came back down an old pack horse route through the woods.
Thursday was time to walk along the Monsal Trail from Bakewell to the viaduct. The trail itself is quite flat as it follows the old Midland Railway route but the closed tunnels cause some steep climbs, especially at the section with the viaduct, where the paths are by no means easy. We enjoyed a lovely tea and scone at The Hollow Tea rooms in Great Longstone. The pub nearly opposite was a Thornbridge pub but only had four pumps and no beer we liked so we continued to Monsal Head pub where we enjoyed Thornbridge The Light, a low alcohol rather dry beer, and Lloyd's Brewery special, Monsal Head beer (anyone know where this is brewed? Lloyds seem to have ceased brewing many years ago!).
Friday was our last day so we went off to visit the nearby vegetarian cafe in Rowsley with superb meals. We also explored the Caudwells Mill there. Despite what the publicity may hint at, the mill does not mill flour any longer, the bags of Caudwells Flour contain flour obtained from a number of millers, which is rebagged. We saw several varieties of flour from our own Stockport miller, Nelstrops Flour Mill. Before Rowsley can produce flour again it needs a six figure sum to bring the ancient industrial machinery up to modern food standards. The mill has several functioning machines, powered by water, and also uses electricity generated by the River Wye. The water power is used to operate the hoist to take bags up to the top of the mill.
We did see one roller mill with a Stockport manufacturers address - a 1905 machine made in Bredbury by Briddon and Fowler, whose technology is now owned by takeover and merger by a multinational who have located their UK Division in Bredbury. There were also some Henry Simon machines which could have been made in Stockport but had no visible plates.
Rowsley has an odd out of town shopping centre, in the middle of which is a cafe which looks out of place- it was built by Joseph Paxton as a railway station for a line to head North along the River Derwent and on to Buxton, but there was competition between the Haddon and Chatsworth estates and despite Chatsworth's gardener building a station, the line instead curved past Haddon along the Wye. A line along the Derwent would have been extremely visible from Chatsworth House. The line built after a long delay is the line now closed (1968) which forms to the North the Monsal Trail, and to the South, from a third Rowsley station (Rowsley South) a limited operation steam train service to Matlock.
And so home on the bus. The Bakewell bus stop had a sign to say that there would be no buses in Bakewell for an hour and a half in the afternoon - no alternatives and no indication of what would happen to the poor folk travelling on the once in three hours bus from Manchester hoping to get off at Bakewell! This was for the local carnival.
Good holiday, weather dry and rather too hot, plenty to go back to see some other time, especially Chatsworth!
Part 2- August 2010 holidays
Llandudno - many years back the owners of the apartments we have been staying in previously bought a nearby cottage, and this year at last we had been able to book the cottage for our holidays.
After a lovely July the weather forecast for August was not good so we did not go expecting a week of sun. And we did not get a week of sun, wearing our coats every day and at least some rain every day. Still better than the extreme heat of Russia, the extreme cold of Peru, or the torrents of rain in Pakistan this year.
After a reasonable if crowded train journey in on the Saturday, we spent Sunday exploring the Great Orme yet again, this time exploring paths we still had not walked at the extremes of the North West and South East of the Orme. Our attempt to travel the old Postmans Path was baulked when we could not find its start, and headed a bit more to the centre, from which vantage point we did see the start of the path well overgrown with gorse. About the middle of the Orme we think we joined the Postmans Path- not too sure as there were narrow tracks throughout the heavy gorse more or less in the direction we wanted. We did see for the first time The Path of the Deer stone colonnade leading to the Precipice of the Deer, just below the celtic and mediaeval field systems.
After wandering around a bit we found our way down to the Rest and Be Thankful, opposite which we saw the steep descent of the other end of the Postmans Path. Then around the Marine Drive to take the footpath leading from the track to Grey Gables, clinging to the steep rockface above the Marine Drive. In places the path had been rerouted around collapses, and once portion was a real rock climb but we made it to the Invalids Path, and the hole in the ground marking the former site of the house where Alice Liddell may have stayed once - still recalled by an earless white rabbit in a cage by the boating pond, a stone statue opened by Lloyd-George. It rained as we ate our picnic lunch in the shelter of a porch for St Tudno's church.
The previous week the first part of the Welsh Coast Path had been opened, it passes through Llandudno - but the Tourist Information Centre had no information, and it was not sign posted- apart from one sign right in the middle of the promenade. Along West Shore it follows a route also followed by an Estuary Trail, the North Wales Path, a Cycle Route - with a sign half way down marking the end of a public right of way, leaving you to wonder what the rest of the multiple trails were - there was no "concessionary path" signage.
Monday was probably our last reasonable day so we caught the bus to Abergwyngregyn. After the problems of our last visit we were delighted to find that the buses again went to the village- indeed there has been a step jump increase in the quality of the local bus services, no longer Arriva Buses Wales run from Liverpool but now Arriva Buses Cymru operated from Llandudno Junction, the drivers at last fairly local folks instead of the Eastern Europeans or the earlier English that Arriva put in place after taking over Crosville buses. Hurray!
The waterfalls were not very voluminous but still good to visit. Again the only mobile phone networks available from the falls was the Isle of Man some sixty miles away. We visited the local cafe both going in and coming back - Canolfan Yr Hen Felin. In the evening a very pleasant brass band concert on the front by Llandudno Town Band, this year celebrating their centenary. Purchased their latest CD.
Tuesday was wet and we just wandered around town. Wednesday we walked down the West Shore to Conway and visited the tea rooms there as well as our first visit to the well hidden but central church (St Mary and All Saints), where we were made very welcome. They have a nice little museum of their own with a mediaeval cross, some 400 year old lace, and early pewter and copper collection boxes. The 15th Century rood screen is excellent with varied representations including dragons. Two excellent stained windows from the studio of Burne-Jones.
Thursday a bus to Llanwrst - this year (possibly only for the Summer) an independant operator (Express) is running an almost hourly service on the East side of the river,to replace the once hourly and now only once per three hours train service. We visited the local church (St Grwst) - much renovated and rebuilt (1884), its one beauty an old rood screen, was in dark oak in darkness, unseeable from the Nave and the Chancel had been blocked off. A notice board by the river repeated an old myth regarding the origin of the rood screen, but inside the church this was firmly in denial, indicating it had been built for the church. An odd outbuilding designed (perhaps) like the nearby river bridge by Inigo Jones, erected 1633 as a memorial chapel to the Wynne Family, was full of interesting tit-bits, panelling, memorials, bosses.
As with our other stays in Llandudno, our evening meals (excluding Sunday) were at The Greenery, again excellent except for a shortage of sweets to follow. On the Sunday we ate in an Eastern restaurant near to the station, quite a pleasant meal except that we decided to treat ourselves to some sake. We knew we had a problem when it was brought in a jug held in a folded over serviette - the sake had been heated to near boiling point in the microwave, an horrendous thing to do. The jug was taken back and we were not charged for it.
We had a digital tv available with lots of channels and found little that we wanted to watch, apart from a short childrens program (8 mins per day) and coverage on S4C2 of the main stage at the National Eisteidfodd from 10am to 6pm on Monday to Friday with its very varied and quite unique entertainments. This channel is not available on Freeview in England.
We did a bit of shopping - adding some second hand books and Welsh CDs to the collections, and after some years of looking Cathy found some proper cooking heat protecting oven mitts - not the thin cheap ones, but proper effective ones. One pair had a Le Creuset label. This was in Llandudno, an excellent kitchen shop worth the train journey - we also bought a couple more leaf tea infusers- one a clever silicone one, the other a stainless steel one with an air chamber to keep the top afloat. In Lanwrst in a lovely health food shop was the source of some very green kitchen products - a bunch of sago stems as an alternative to a nylon brush, and a small four inch loofah (luffa) to replace the plastic sponge / scourer.
Notes of drinking beer first-
I have been visiting some of the older pubs that are still left, and have quite enjoyed them- the Little Jack Horners, now an independant with four casks available and some pleasant food (but not too skilled in pulling the beer, due to refusal to relax the sparkler on new casks and possibly incorrect cask keeping); the Pineapple in the centre of Stockport, just Robinson's beers available but as that includes a seasonal beer and their lovely Mild, that isn't a problem. The Pineapple also has cheap and tasty food. Then the Tiviot, Robinson's again so the Mild is available. At the times I like to go, these are quiet restrained pubs, any music being barely audible. Lots of little rooms instead of one big warehouse. And the Nursery still remains a favourite (a Hydes pub).
[ 2017 update: Little Jack Horner- gone, no longer a pub. Tiviot gone- demolished. Pineapple- no mild, no lunches, closed in the daytime (no opening hours displayed. Robinsons no longer brew a mild.].
It is a good job that the modern beers were not available when I was younger, there are some tasty flavours out there - I might have become a drinker! Strange thing is that a half pint of beer can be cheaper than a cup of tea or a coffee at a cafe or coffee house. Indeed one of the cheapest cups of tea or coffee in Stockport can be had in a pub - drinking alcohol is no longer mandatory, especially with so many employers forbidding workers from drinking at lunch time (the other alternative is for pubs not to open until 4pm or even later, a route some take and lose my business).
Several pubs in Stockport are closed in the daytime especially Monday-Wednesday these days and lose my trade. At least one Stockport pub seems to keep to the old licencing hours, closing from 3pm to 5pm. The freedom for pubs to open when they like has left a situation when there is no way anyone visiting a town can have the foggiest notion of when or if a pub is going to be open!
Back from our first holiday break, and quickly to a beer festival in Chorlton. Arrived rather late and the high admission charge (four pounds), non-refundable beer tickets (minimum five pounds), and general lack of beer, made for a very expensive and rather unexciting pint - thirteen pounds for one pint of indifferent beer is heading to extortion territory. I don't think we will be returning whatever the proceeds were used for. It seems that many beer festivals are seen as a quick way to make lots of money and don't begin to offer any value for money nor even a good beer tasting experience. My preferences are coming towards regional brewers with a regular brew, where you can walk into a pub without the oft repeated experience of several beers you dont like - or one you do like that will not be available ever again.
It is interesting that the multitude of new microbreweries and freehouses are rediscovering the weaknesses of the free market that led to the development of the brewery owned tied house which was broken up on competition grounds, and has led to the growth of huge pub-cos and pubs again unable to buy what they want at a competitive price, but this time without the quality control of the brewery tie.
Cask ale is a live product sensitive to its environment, and even a talented beer keeper can have an off cask. An untrained beer keeper can have a number of off casks. This led to complaints to brewers, who took the tied house route to ensure that house-trained publicans who knew how to look after the breweries beer were the ones who sold it. The condition of beer still varied due to the varying conditions of pub cellars and the time it took to sell a cask full in some pubs (a cask needs three days to settle before serving, then becomes increasingly tired from three days after serving) but it was an improvement.
Live ale has many requirements regarding storage including varying the pegging of the cask, handling the cask in storage, cleaning the beer lines, a steady storage temperature, settling and carbonation periods, keeping time - it is little wonder that pasteurised carbonated keg ale became so popular, even if the flavour was relatively bland and the beer gassy and acidic.
With warmer Summers producing many pub cellars above the optimum temperature (54 F), and problems in keeping cask ale from going off, one Manchester microbrewery has a good high tech answer- in its own pubs it keeps the casks on the bar top, with their own electric cooling system ensuring the beer is at all times in optimum condition and served at just the right temperature, close to 12 degrees celcius (NOT fridge temperature!).
Bus pass time! After 9.30 in the morning I can now travel in Greater Manchester for free by bus train or tram. And anywhere in the UK by "local bus" for free too. Cheaper tickets to some events (but not all).
Discovered a nice soft drink in Woodley- Garvey's Ginger Still, made in Nottingham, and good competition for the none-alcoholic drinks made by Fitzpatricks in Rawtenstall (Blood Tonic, Sarsaparilla, Dandelion and Burdock).
Still scanning images at Stockport Library at the start of the year, for their web site, but as the resources are both scarce and shared with library users, the inevitable came to pass and after two years of scanning, by July I found a period of four weeks where I could only book two hours for scanning- which is an effective 100 minutes. I reluctantly gave up. The library now seem to have a lot of paid library assistants scanning images for them.
Apalling mis-management at work at last led to Cathy and I handing in our notice, as we are old fashioned enough to take responsibility for what we do, and to seek to take pride in our work. To be called negative and obstructive just a couple of days before management notice (but of course do not admit) that our comments of the past 12 months were correct, and follow the advice we have been giving, is not acceptable. Now we are economically inactive.
Having given our notice in, the management at last asked what we did for a living, so we copied them the emails we have been sending them for the last two years. At last, after management pulled a long planned IT change two days before it went live I was asked on my last working day for my comments, and just copied the emails I had been sending out for the last year.
Three months of freezing weather is unusual and curtailed our outings just a bit. In March off to Memorabilia at the NEC, to meet Philip Madoc, Victor Spinetti, Alexandra Bastedo and Anita Harris. Anita has had a great career in singing, modelling, film, tv, cabaret, theatre- but remains almost unknown. She is a lovely person. Alexandra is best known for her role in the Champions on tv, but has done much other tv and stage work, for many years running an animal sanctuary. At Memorabilia I bought some really old films, including one by D W Griffiths which seems never to have been certified for a UK cinema or video release, rather strange. One of the earliest horror movies.
My minidisk recorder having become rather old- and no suitable disks being available for it for some years- I had to consider a new recording device. My attention was drawn at two successive concerts we went to, to little devices made by Zoom. These appeared to be a bit fiddly to operate, but I found another potential recording device by Edirol which I nearly bought, but finally went for a slightly simpler device by Olympus (the LS-10). Able to record a WAV file at 96kHz / 24 bit as well as mp3 (to 320 kbps, 44.1 kHz) and wma, I tested it out at a small church concert and it passed with flying colours. It is obviously better to record as WAV files and use your advanced computer software to encode to mp3 or wma. The supplied software on dvd for windows and mac was not required as I already have better, and the device is treated by Linux as a removable mass storage device, no problems. Using the built in stereo microphones is OK so long as you are not holding it (it can be tripod mounted) but it also accepts a plug in stereo microphone for when hand held is necessary.
My collection of Music While You Work recordings grows slowly and I have discovered a new artist in an unusual MWYW program- David Snell, conductor, composer and harpist. His harp music runs from chamber music to funk. I can't recall any other jazz harpist. He has written a lot of music for tv and film soundtracks.
We have watched the German silent film Frau im Mond - the "first scientific science fiction film"- the science was very authentic, and ultimately gave rise to NASA and the moon landing! Made in 1929, it had technical assistance from scientists working on rockets, in exchange for funding. It was only subsequently that the German state showed an interest which led to the V2 and then NASA when the German engineers went to American. The film has a countdown, an unmanned rocket to photograph the back of the moon, and a three stage rocket to get to the moon - in 1929. The evil person (representing big business) had a hair cut later seen on Hitler but no little moustache and in the film is said to be American.
Has there been an election? Our local councillors (Con), local council (LibDem) and MP (Lab) remain unchanged. It would have needed an extra 8.7% swing to unseat our MP but only 1.9% extra swing to change one of our councillors. Tough times ahead. Future prospects are not good - for a lot of people or the country.
On 4th/5th June we went to the Stockport Beer Festival, and were able to buy some beer from Shaw's Brewery. We also bought a litre of Shaw's to bring home to have with a curry meal.
Looking for a new duvet? - something unusual- Welsh wool filled - search on the word baavet. From the shadows of Harlech castle. It is said to be hostile to bed mites and hence good for allergy sufferers. (Bought one in 2011 with matching mattress topper. Cosy and comfy).
Discovered where the opening shots of The Harry Worth Show Season One (1969) were shot- where he does the X in the shop window - first identified the building (Manchester Royal Exchange) and then which side (West side, facing St Anns Church).
A visit to Lyme Park and a trip around the house - the first for some years. The library at Lyme Park contains a rather old printed book - it is the only copy of the earliest known edition of the Missal according to the Use of Sarum - the most popular version of the Mass in use in pre-Reformation England.
At the time of the Reformation the passages referring to Cranmer and the Pope were lightly crossed out, and the book may have been hidden, or at least kept quiet, until a visitor from the British Museum nosed it out at the end of the 19th Century.
They also have a magnificent facsimile copy of the book which you can handle and read as well as a computer version with notes and music. It is the first book printed in Paris using two colours, and the first to bear Caxton's famous printer's device. It is one of only two Caxtons in the world which has remained in the ownership of a single family for 500 years. The missal contains 243 of its original 266 leaves. Caxton went to Paris to learn how to print in two colours.
After a prior depressing visit (due to so little progress having been achieved long term) to The Peoples History Museum, off to another specialist venue, the Working Class Movement Library - initially a private collection, now under the tender if dubious care of a local authority. A remarkable collection of documents (and media), although not fully catalogued, and only fully accessible by appointment. Across the road we made our first visit to Salford Art Gallery and Museum - and found hanging on the wall a watercolour by C W Northing, otherwise Cathy's grandfather.
In July some friends were married, and the evening before we had the stag and hen night out- one drink at one pub and then meeting together at a second pub to end the day. Cask ale throughout. Walking home afterwards past another pub we came across over a dozen police tidying up - could be another pub heading for closure as the following night we also saw irresponsible drinkers going to that pub (which we would never go to as it is known to be rowdy). (Update- the pub closed suddenly in December 2012 and after a period of closure for refitting reopened as a real ale pub WITH its own brewery in the cellar). We had the stag party staying overnight at our house and they left it very clean and unbroken. The wedding in St Anns Manchester was very pleasant and then there was the reception - by the end of the weekend I was beat.
At the end of July one of our former Probation colleagues retired and although we were going on holiday the next morning, we had to go along to wish her well in her new life.
News that the English branches of the Royal Bank of Scotland are to be passed to a Spanish bank in 12 to 18 months time. From Williams Deacons to Williams and Glyns to Royal Bank of Scotland to foreign bank. Foreign bank with more complaints against it than any other bank. The later acquired English branches of National Westminster however are to be retained by RBS who will only be selling the Scottish branches of NatWest.
This is ironic as I trace the downfall of RBS to its hostile takeover of National Westminster, the loss of the more capable National Westminster employees, followed by the replacement of senior RBS management by National Westminster employees, the appointment of Johnny Cameron, and the ejection of experienced staff aged over 50. English libel laws ensured I didn't mention Cameron's name online previously. His agreement with the FSA is now a matter of public record), notably "on the basis of the information available to it, the FSA believes that Cameron would not meet its current standards for approval for a significant influence function. In return for the undertaking given by Cameron, the FSA will not take disciplinary action against Cameron. The FSA has not made any findings of regulatory breach against Cameron and he has not made any admissions". I am assured that my RBS pension will remain with RBS.
My immediate manager at RBS, a Regional Director, formerly from Nat West Bank!- was also made redundant in 2003. By 2004 he was working at the CoOp Bank- then came the near collapse of the CoOp bank, which as a result lost its co-operative status and caused severe difficulties to the The Co-operative Group (CoOp Wholesale Society) (NB: but NO other bodies using the CoOp brand which is also used by well run regional groups). In 2016 he was fined and forbidden from senior work at a bank. (See Official Notice (pdf)).
And just as the takeover of RBS English branches becomes due, with preparation work done, new cards issued (and several customers abandoned ship already)- the foreign bank pulls out of the deal! Leaving the RBS with branches it is obliged to have sold by the end of 2013... not going to get any reasonable offers there then, with a forced sale. Update: Latest "must be sold by" date extended to the end of 2016. Next update 2018- nobody wants it! After money is spent separating "English" and "Scottish" branches, ready for a separate Williams and Glyn Bank, the EU agrees to something very different.
August once more exceptionally wet. One morning we get up with a ban on the use of hosepipes in force and expected to last til February. We go shopping and leave the shop at 3pm - an hour later the road had been closed for three hours due to flooding. And the next day the hosepipe ban was lifted. We have not had many outings this year - just lots to mostly indoor music.
Heritage weekend in September saw us visit an interesting old cottage in Disley, Grey Cottage, trading as a bed and breakfast but the oldest part of the premises date back to 1680 - with several former owners of distinction, well researched by the current owner. Apart from buying a lovely bag of Disley plums we also bought a short drama published by the Grey Cottage, written by one former owner (who has several books on sale online). Whilst in the village we also walked up to the Church (St Mary) and saw the well cleaned water supply for the no-longer functioning village fountain. As the church was expecting a wedding rehearsal we were able to look briefly inside - a very pleasant light church, built 1524 but litle left of this earlier period in the interior due to a significant rebuild around 1830 to 1860
We visited another Church on the Friday - the Roman Catholic Church of Our Lady and the Apostles in Edgeley built 1905. This is a most beautiful church with plenty of light, a large organ, a huge rose window and an interesting reredos. Good friendly reception.
And on Saturday two more churches- first to Cheadle and St Mary, which was fully occupied with a number of displays. Good friendly reception, but to see the church properly we will need to go back on a day when it is not so cluttered. Largely built around 1550, little of age remains in the interior, having been subject to significant changes again around 1860-1880, with further redesigning in 1991.
Then on to Woodford and Christ Church. Again made very welcome. This little church built 1841 and furnished 1868 was a very pleasant surprise, genuinely beautiful and with the internal decor having been mostly designed by its second minister and built by a local craftsman carver, really unique. Basically just a simple oblong with a small one bay chancel. Lots of tasteful woodwork carved and painted with biblical scripts. At the back a small but perfect organ - still with mechanical tracker action. And they even had a short organ recital for us to appreciate this fine instrument - original maker not indicated. Playing a full tracker organ with two manuals and pedals requires some physical dexterity and strength. This was a perfect rural village church.
No information on the organ at the church but subsequent investigation reveals one almost identical at Chard in Somerset built by Alex Young and Sons of Chorlton on Medlock, Manchester. The Woodford organ potentially could be one of the first Young organs, dating to around 1872 or earlier - Young was established in 1872. Young may have earlier been a Renn employee and the organ could be a rebuilt second hand Renn but the similarity to the Chard organ points to a very early Young.
A little experimentation in the kitchen and I recreated some Malacca Puddings, using Tapioca Pearls rather than the preferred modern Sago Pearls - cassava and tapioca were certainly grown and consumed in Malaya some decades ago, and sago and tapioca are almost interchangeable. Boiling water added to the pearls, heated and stirred until quite thick. Just a hint of sweetening added (brown sugar) and a little more colour, sweetness and flavour with a dash of ginger cordial. Only a very small splash of milk. Set in the fridge and served with syrup thinned in the microwave. An internet search indicates the pudding is nearly unknown in the English speaking world.
Many years back, local trades unionists got together in informal meetings of Trades Union Councils. At Manchester the bright idea of national meetings produced the Trades Union Congress. In 2010 the TUC held its annual meeting in Manchester. In addition to the main business, there were the usual fringe meetings, where people met to talk, discuss and share. We attended one of these, with brief talks by four large union General Secretaries and one regional secretary (National Union of Teachers, Communications Workers Union, PCS (Public Sector and Civil Service union), Fire Brigades Union, and Unison) and contributions from the floor. The main issue was that despite all our political parties agreeing with each other, there are significant bodies of economists and even business leaders who disagree with them, and there are always alternative solutions. The lessons of the 1920s have been forgotten. Our media unfortunately are not reporting the situation on the ground and are reinforcing the unified propaganda of the political parties. A democracy really requires informed consent and alternatives.
Media claims about a union minority holding the country to ransome compare badly with the facts- the Unions have around seven million members (actually growing in the past few months) whilst the party of our prime minister received around ten million votes. This party is planning deep economic cuts, aimed at the poorest in society, at a time when such cuts are likely to lead to a decade of recession - and they have unilaterally cancelled the annual Queens speech to parliament due in 2011.
Back in 2009 the Labour Party (the then ruling government party) held its annual meeting in Manchester, and despite closed roads, diverted buses, many police- it allowed protest meetings to be held nearby. The 2010 TUC meeting in Manchester allowed demonstrations. The following week, the Liberal Democrats conference in Liverpool distanced demonstrations - quote- A police spokesman said: For a number of reasons, including the area around the Albert Dock and ACC Liverpool being private property, the conference venue itself and surrounding area is not suitable for hosting a protest of any size. - unquote - but demonstrations were at least allowed more or less within sight. Those there reported about 5000 attended- the BBC reported over 4000. Murdoch owned Sky reported "hundreds, less than 2000" but may have been confused by sloppy reporting, as North West protestors were joined at the docks by around a thousand local protesters who marched from the cathedral.
We had a sequence of problems with our old IT rig - failed power supply (easily replaced); failed hard disk (spotted in good time thanks to the on board diagnostics, but still requiring time to set a new one up); and a failed monitor (replaced). Add to that we can no longer buy ink for our two ink jet printers. Our computers have serial and parallel ports- but only one has USB2 and we cannot obtain drivers for the operating system on our oldest PC. Modern printers work with USB2, wifi or cabled ethernet. Methinks that by the end of this year we may have a new PC. A new printer at its lowest quality is only marginally lower quality than our older ink jet at its highest quality (but may not last as long).
Then our ISP decides to lie down for quite a bit- slowly fading service with the various bits of equipment at their end apparently turned off here and there from time to time for several days. Time for broadband (and a new ISP). Our exchange has VDSL available but there is no cabinet in our area, so we have ADSL2+ available- requiring the purchase of an ADSL router (4 ports), and several filters for the phones. We have put in place under the floor a ten meter ethernet cable for one PC.
Have had a look at Amazon's Kindle. Very nice, and at a fair price. Amazon have the usual problems with publishers being seriously greedy, but unlike the USA, in the UK they seem able to negotiate some better deals with none-US owned publishers so there are some good prices as well as the free books. The e-ink is remarkably good to read and battery charge life also good. One concern- when is the battery likely to fail and what happens then? The Kindle is a sealed unit.
The Kindle O/S is a fairly unstable version of Debian Linux. The troubleshooting guide implies that freezes are more than possible (I had two on day one probably due to a misformed book file) but there is an easy way out. They have a clever way to ensure that ultimately the virtual machine will exit and restart. Unfortunately having found a way to protect the o/s, Amazon don't seem very concerned at further debugging to avoid the freezes in the first place.
Amazon advertise an email address kindle-feedback, but anything I send to them is bounced, however kindle-support does work, even if it has proven - after many attempts including speaking to someone at Amazon over the phone - quite impossible to pass on to Amazon information helpful to them, due to their cracked record approach, as they claim there is a security risk if I tell them something useful... no, I don't get it either.
Kudos to Amazon for remarkable technology and a nice price but a big BOOO HISSS for failing to advertise that the Kindle as sold is crippled. You can use it to read books you download from your computer, but you lack two settings pages and cannot create collections. When you buy it, the first thing you must do after charging it is allow it to phone home. Amazon don't mention this. After that the Kindle is uncrippled.
We now have a computer running Linux, a printer running Linux, and an e-book reader running Linux. I don't yet feel the need for a mobile phone with Linux, am using a very primitive basic phone. The printer all-in-one was interesting with Linux via USB, as by default Linux can handle a printer or a scanner plugged into USB but isn't ready for one device that does both. Had to set up the device in udev and set permissions at the lowest level required for a scanner. No problem running the device connecting through a router as device permissions are not required, however for wire connection, our version of CUPS did a bad install and we had to manually insert settings using an older ijs driver instead of cups. Photographs print perfectly.
A visit to the Nursery (a Hyde's pub) for their Beer Festival was interesting. To run over four days, by lunchtime on Saturday they were down to just two additional beers. We had gone on Friday and had some very nice beers. The special festival brew was judged to not be good enough and sent back to the brewery - however I did get to taste it, and it really wasn't a bad beer, just quintuple hopped, and rather lacking in any flavour other than hops. A Jasmine IPA was a favourite.
Due to the lack of beers on the Saturday we went to our friends favourite, a multi pump independant pub- and the beer I was served was so remarkably similar to mildew I had to take it back to the bar, quite the worst beer I have ever been served (Silver Tally). I still prefer to drink regular beers at a tied pub, and remain even more suspicious of the beer keeping talents of independents. Then we visit a more distant independent at Disley, the White Lion,with eight pumps on, and tasted five of the real ales, all were in perfect condition. One to revisit.
New PC at last- an unusual small form box with a "end of life" processor (Intel Atom 330). The box was made in the far East but bought in from Europe - no warranty at all so we rely on the Sale of Goods Act and the retailer (effectively a statutory 6 months warranty). And by April 2011 the supplier had gone bust so no warranty at all. But very cheap and still functioning a year later.
The small box means the CPU runs rather hotter than usual, which will reduce the life of the components, but the cost was low - under 250 pounds. This was the Asrock Ion with a dual core (four thread) 64 bit CPU, which we have put Linux onto.
Our new Linux installation is now onto KDE4 which is very unusual, some odd choices have been made, in use it is less than intuitive. It has been somewhat bulked up (without real need - just unfriendly window dressing) but with a software engineer in the family we have been able to cut some of it out. One poor choice we have not been able to get around was moving power management to a "per user" option- so that a PC left on the log in screen (eg no logged in user) has no o/s power management. The KDE4 team appear to have forgotten effective programming choices. Certainly a strong inducement to consider the alternative Gnome.
A visit to the Manchester Christmas Market enabled us to taste a very rare real ale, J W Lees "Manchester Star" - normally export only, but a mere 10 firkins were available at the market and soon sold out. No great aroma, flavour or finish, but incredibly drinkable. We also bought some bottles of the equally rare J W Lees Vintage Harvest Ale (2007 and 2008).
The end of November means a visit to the NEC for Memorabilia - less to buy but more actors selling autographs - I think I counted 45 actors this time. Can't afford them all, so have to be selective. Of the four oldest I went for, only one was half decently polite, and one seemed a little out of it, but those aged 78 and under were fine. I did buy the biographies (autographed) of two actors. Robert Rietti (aka Rietty) is probably little known but much heard of- his voice is in most of the James Bond films, and in one Maurice Chevalier film he did all the spoken words of Maurice. He was close to Orson Welles and has a very long list of films he was involved with. Deborah Watling is known better to some from the classic Doctor Who, but was earlier in the Invisible Man and William Tell, and subsequently guested in Rising Damp, with a film appearance in a forgotten Cliff Richard film.
There were two "Erotica"s present from Up Pompeii, Madeline Smith (who was also in that Cliff Richard film mentioned above, and many other entertaining programs as well), and Georgina Moon, lovely ladies who remain extremely pleasant. Georgina even sent me a Christmas card- thanks! We were recently watching an old tv program which featured the fathers of Georgina and Deborah Watling - Lord Tramp, most entertaining.
Josephine Tewson (The Two Ronnies) was a jewel, very pleasant, a pleasure to meet. Mark Eden (The Prisoner), Mike Grady (Summer Wine) and Brian Murphy (George and Mildred) were all delightful. Richard Herd was there and although I did not think I could get one of his lovely art prints home safely, I did purchase a radio drama he had recorded, a blues music CD he played bass on, and I paid him to send me a reworked classic silent film that he worked on to add sound, autographed. The DVD did arrive, but no (prepaid for) autograph. Ho hum.
Hyde's Nursery pub had a small beer festival to get December off to a good start with some very nice beers.
The year ended with some very cold weather - the coldest December recorded - and more damage to the pointing on the house. I will be replacing the lover level pointing with more traditional hard sand and cement mortar instead of the linseed oil and sand mix that is being frozen out. Very few times out of the house in December. The virtual closure of public transport over the extended Christmas and New Year period ensures that anyway.
Spend the end of the year tidying up my web site and making good the transfer of the active site from btinternet to zen - still leaving the dormant mirror on Connectfree. We set up the Connectfree mirror back in 2006 when BT suggested they were considering closing their web hosting down. Of course things don't pan out as you might think- Connectfree goes through a huge number of ownership changes and the web hosting is forgotten, finally in 2012 disappearing as the DNS is not renewed. Meanwhile also in 2012 BT send out an email to say they will be ceasing free webhosting at some stage, they'll let us know when... The new Zen URL soon starts showing up on search engines at the number one spot, but there are two important web sites with links to us which seem to have been abandoned - still sending lots of visitors to our old url, but we can't get the links changed.
We went to most of the weekly organ recitals at St Anns Church in Manchester, including the 1000th lunchtime recital by Canon Ronald Frost in October. We also attended most of the monthly lunchtime Wurlitzer concerts at Stockport Town Hall, and most of the 8 concert season by Stockport Symphony Orchestra at Stockport Town Hall. Our theatre entertainments have almost stopped both due to limited fare agreeing with our tastes, and a volume level for live shows which we find too painful.
31st January - our first experience of a Ken Dodd concert, at the newly renovated Plaza in Stockport- started at 7pm and we left at 00.30. I took a leave of absence during some magic act which had what seems to be obligatory very very very loud music. Ken Dodd (now 83) was remarkable, without the screaming insults that pass for comedy today. He seemed to grow younger as the evening progressed. Unfortunately we had to walk home as the last bus had left about an hour before!
7th March - a first visit to the concert hall at Chethams School of Music in Manchester for a Concerto Concert, with three pupils accompanied by the Gorton Philharmonic. Names to watch for are Jason Evans (Trumpet), Anna Douglass (horn), and Edward Pether (violin).
21st March - a very pleasant afternoons entertainment by Pam Ayres, also at the Plaza.
A few brass events early in the year- 28th March - the Tameside Open at Dukinfield, with some 25 bands playing. Towards the end the bands seemed to get louder and louder and we walked out of the championship section before the end, with our ears ringing.
16th April - Our local brass band, Fairey, have a regular quarterly concert booked at the Plaza- at least advertised as the Fairey Band. We went to the first in April, and will not go again, as the band only played for an hour, the remaining time being taken up by a very questionable modern comic, not to our taste (or to quite a few in the audience) at all. Neither the Plaza nor the band responded to emails querying why a concert advertised as The Fairey Band should be only half the band and half something quite different.
24th April - we went to a coffee morning at the Plaza to hear the Compton organ there, and received a pleasant surprise. At 11.30 they received permission to show a film that had been booked for a private showing the next day, so we enjoyed the 45 minute classic silent film "Sherlock Junior" by Buster Keaton, with live organ accompaniment. This was the film where he broke his neck with a badly planned stunt- not diagnosed for another three years.
2nd May - on to the Buxton brass competition, with 33 brass bands to be heard for only a fiver. We moved towards the back of the room as the day wore on, and the bands were trying to keep the volume down (the lead instruments were pointed away from the audience for the quieter pieces). Transport limitations led us to miss the first band of the day and the last two, but we really enjoyed some of the best brass band playing we have ever heard, at all levels. We were also able to take advantage of one of Buxton's odd attractions. Buxton is famous for Buxton Water (now bottled by a Swiss company), and it remains the case that one fountain runs continuously and freely - and warmly as the water is always around body temperature, with all the free Buxton water you can drink or carry away. Of course this wild water will not safely keep as long as the commercial bottled water, but it is very pleasant to have fresh water rather than water that has been in a plastic bottle for a year.
9th May - our second attempt to see the Fairey Band in concert in 5 weeks did not happen. It was to be part of the first Spring Brass Festival, following on from the series of September Brass Festivals. We walked into the hall clutching our tickets, clearly marked "Fairey Band" to find the Brighouse and Rastrick Band, who played eleven pieces, with seven of them relying on external soloists. Three pieces relied upon the prize winner of Norway's Got Talent. I kid you not - and she didn't. Listed as a soprano, but clearly a contralto, with no breath control (huge gasps for air) and no vocal dynamics. Not a good concert- it will be many years before we part with cash for a concert by the Fairey Band again. Or pass any money to the Biggs organisation responsible for the event. One of the other soloists was Simone Rebello, whose marimba and vibraphone playing were quite overwhelmed by the brass band (brass bands are best with glockenspiel and xylophone) but as her playing was obviously of quality we have bought her solo cd which is excellent- the marimba can be a very pleasant solo instrument.
The Bridgewater Hall in Manchester have some free Friday lunch time concerts which we are attending (so many concerts!!) including on The Casablanca Steps (they have clips on youtube) who perform 1930's music very energetically.
22nd May - Indian music concerts at the Bridgewater Hall in Manchester included a lovely bamboo flute (bansuri) player Rakesh Chaurasio (on youtube search for "Rakesh Chaurasio" including the quotes) - superb. youtube has a couple of (badly encoded) interviews with the flautist and the tabla player made for Indonesian tv before they played a concert there. We think it was the first concert George has been to where there was a standing ovation.
On Whit Friday 28th May, we all went to Dukinfield for an afternoon / evening of brass band contest. We chose Dukinfield out of 23 venues as it was easiest to get to, and last year had the most bands of any Tameside venue. This year Tameside had a total of 135 bands playing at 11 venues, and again Dukinfield had the most with 53 bands, although we were only able to see 44 bands as we had to get a bus home.
The Whit Friday contests are unique, and require the bands to not only play well, but have lots of stamina, and use plenty of strategy. There are two area contests, one in Saddleworth with 12 venues, and one in Tameside with 11 venues. Bands can play at as many venues as they wish and win venue prizes, but to win an area prize must play at at least 6 venues in the area. Musicians turn up, including ad hoc groupings, and hope to play soon after arrival but there is no pre-booking, and well over 200 bands are on the road trundling from venue to venue. Oddly it seems to work.
Only one overseas band played at Dukinfield, Stavanger who are the 7th world ranking brass band per 4BarsRest. Fodens are 2nd, Fairey were then 12th. The other overseas bands just played in the Saddleworth area. The Whit contests are the only place a school band, a world ranking band, and a group of students dressed as Disney characters can play and compete on equal terms. With 11 or 12 separate adjudicators for an area, a winning band really can be considered good, not relying on the tastes of one person.
Whilst at Dukinfield we saw a small door with a sign reading "Shaw's Brewery".
23rd May - We went to hear Fairfield Band play at Buxton Pavilion gardens.
8th June - One of the lunchtime organ recitals at St Anns was by Philip Tordoff from Halifax, and in the evening there was a flamenco guitar recital by Galina Vale - a Ukrainian now living in Salford.
12th June - A recital by an Indian slide-guitar maestro (Debashish Bhattacharya - available on youtube) who had his self-designed 22 string guitar and slide-ukelele together with a trio of percussionists, which allowed us to see the North Indian and South Indian double headed drums together - the latter has fresh dough applied to the bass head to make it boomier. Nice concert with relaxing music.
25th June - Another unusual Indian music concert in Manchester, the odd looking Tar Shehnai, nearly lost as the number of wind up gramophone manufacturers fell, but seeing a bit of a comeback as fresh supplies of pickups are found in Eastern Europe. This was our first taste of a bowed Indian string instrument. It is essentially an instrument called an esraj, with an added gramophone pickup on one string. As the sound is then similar to the wind instrument the Shehnai, and is produced by a string (Tar) the instrument obtained a new name. The sound ends up coming from a tiny trumpet attached to a gramophone pickup by the bridge, as the string instrument is bowed. Interesting sound.
4th July - we went to a small series of brass band concerts at a Robinson's pub in Marple, the Ring O Bells, next to the Peak Forest Canal. Four weeks in succession beginning with The Marple Band were playing in the beer garden (the pub landlord plays trombone in the band).
The following week (11th July) back to the pub for a further concert this time by the other Marple band, the Hawk Green band. Again the landlord played trombone. Helping out on Euph was Phil Pavey from Glossop. There is something very civilised sitting in a pleasant floral beer garden on a Summers day, listening to a live brass band, as canal narrowboats drift by alongside.
13th July- two concerts at St Anns Church, 298 years old this year - a lunchtime organ recital and an evening organ and trumpet concert. 14th July - Woodley Methodist Church for a concert by the duo Kyiv, Igor Sayenko and Oleksiy Kolomoiets, two button accordion players from the Ukraine, playing classical transcriptions eg Peer Gynt, Carmen, and Vivaldi. Superb playing - and a bought their CDs and also some recordings of Jack Emblow and some other accordion players.
15th July - a concert at Stockport Town Hall with Stockport Schools Brass Bands - the usual lack of publicity kept the audience levels well down but the music was to a high standard. The senior band director Phil Pavey is moving on to become head of music in Bolton so this was his last SSBB concert. Intermediate band director James Holt (Besses Boys Band) is moving up to take on the senior band.
18th July - back to the Ring O Bells in Marple for a concert. This was a charity concert with a one-off brass band made up of players from several bands, many of the players from the 2010 English Champion Band, Fairey. The conductor was Garry Cutt. Phil Pavey was spotted in the audience. Lovely music, well played.
25th July - back again the next week for a concert by the Hazel Grove band, and as Garry Cutt was in the audience he was encouraged to conduct them for one number. One of the Fairey Band players was helping out - there is much assistance given to other brass bands by brass players.
17th August - St Ann's Church and the Telemann Baroque Ensemble, Flute, Obo, Cello, two violins and harpsichord. Quite suitable for this building as all but one of the composers was active when the church opened, probably with musicians as the organ arrived some years later. Hands up who has heard of composers Vodicka, Finger or Fasch - I could not find CDs with music by the first two. Pleasant music, not very demanding. I have bought a CD of the complete table music by Telemann and it is excellent.
29th August - to Stockport Plaza for a rare showing on the big screen of two Harold Lloyd silent movies, the 1927 version of The Cat and the Canary, and an earlier short. These were accompanied on the Compton organ by Nigel Odgen, and the performance was excellent. Despite a block booking by the Cinema Organ Society, turnout was disappointing - I cannot help but feel that the printed film listing which indicated you could only get in by paying ten pounds for a seat and champagne was a mistake. We got in for a more reasonable fiver and no horrid fizz but the film listing did not offer that. The film story is now a much parodied cliche, and even the 1927 film was a comedy (Harold Lloyd being a comedian after all) - a group of people in a dark house at night with an escaped lunatic on the prowl (possibly). Nigel's organ playing was completely appropriate and excellent, unlike some of the scores added to commercial DVD silent films.
Due to the barbarian presence of Pure FM outside the church windows, belting out pure noise, courtesy of barbarians Sky, aided and abetted by the cultural ignoramuses, Stockport Council, we did not attend a much looked foreward to recital by Chris Cotton on piano on 1st September.
On the next evening, September 2nd, we had at short notice a pleasant surprise of a free open rehearsal by the Fairey Band at the Stockport Plaza, of On the Shoulders of Giants by Peter Graham, prior to their entry to the British Open on the following Saturday 4th. Interesting piece, the rehearsal was conducted by Garry Cutt, but on the day he was in charge of a Scottish band and Fairey had their senior MD conducting. They managed a pleasing 2nd place, continuing their excellent return to form this year after their problems with loss of sponsorship in 2002. Their new sponsors, announced only in December 2009, must be well pleased.
3rd September and the Bridgewater Hall for a lovely lunch time concert by Bella Hardy, great fiddle player and lovely singer. Much appreciated and bought a set of all of her CDs. She is to be found on youtube.
5th September- back to Heaton Park for a pleasant hour and a bit of brass band playing by Besses Boys Band, conducted by James Holt. Wished them luck for their appearance at the Championship in London next month (they played last and placed second, well done), and bought the last copy of a very old recording of the band.
8th September- Woodley Methodist Church for Stockport Accordian Club and an appearance by Jovan Rnjak who played many light music numbers the audience all seemed to know the words to. I'd have preferred to hear more of the accordion but there you go.
11th September- a short 24 minute organ recital at Christ Church, Woodley which has a small two manual mechanical tracker organ which was played by Andrew Gait, most enjoyable.
12th October - a piano recital by three students from Chethams and their tutor at St Anns.
7th November - eleven hours of excellent brass music for under a fiver. Little time to eat or drink etc. Due to the number of entries the British Open Solo and Quartet Championships took place in two halls simultaneously, and we missed the juniors and intermediates. The senior winners were beyond doubt, and the adjudicators simply indicated the performances as perfect - a rare listening opportunity. The quality of cornet playing was superb.
10th November - two chamber music octets in a short concert at St Anns, students from the RNM playing Woolfenden and Mozart (K388). Very pleasant.
28th November - a return to Dukinfield Town Hall for Tameside Youth Brass Festival. Eight bands competing, each playing for about 20 minutes. One band played a piece with an extended drum solo, and was not placed, another band had someone on drumkit who knew only one way to play drums- hit them as hard as you can - also not placed. One band tried an unusual instrument placement for their opening number- it could have worked for the audience (we found the playing was too confused for it to work) but the adjudicator was off to the side, and they probably lost marks.
The prize winner was undoubted, with a master performance of The Dark Side of the Moon (by Paul Lovatt-Cooper, not the earlier Pink Floyd tune), despite the odd few slightly off notes, this performance had hwyl. We had heard the piece several times, this playing was the best. Kudos to Baretrees Community Band (no strangers to master performances, this youth band have played in the Royal Albert Hall previously). A visitor from over the hills in Yorkshire was the Hade Edge Youth Band, as far as I can tell their first outing away from their home community, and they won the fourth place - we would have placed them third. An enjoyable afternoons brass music.
A December outing to Woodley Methodist Church to hear Nigel Ogden playing their Eminent electronic organ. We weren't the only ones wincing at the sounds produced - not played by Nigel but extra notes played by the organ. As I can't find any negative comments about the Eminent organ on the web, I'm guessing that the Church has done something rather nasty to their organ. As an advert for Eminent - no. Especially as Nigel indicated that their engineer had been in attendance on that day. It sounded like the high notes you sometimes hear on badly encoded mp3 tracks - thankfully now quite rare - suggesting a failure of high frequency filtering. I could not help noticing near the organ a piece of ancient Korg midi kit (not a Korg keyboard) and we were advised the organ had an "extra 26 stops" which is not part of the Eminent specification. Oh well. The churches first electronic organ was a home built valve brew organ...
Despite all the lies made by Royal Mail, postal deliveries in December were atrocious, and they were clearly making the most of the cessation of delivery standards for mail posted between December 6th and 31st. The closure of all the local sorting offices certainly had an impact. We received our last Christmas card on January 6th (sent first class!), and our last pre-Christmas mail on January 14th. Whatever the fate of Royal Mail, must make sure we post our cards very early next year, and not order anything online in December.
Our last Stockport Symphony Orchestra concert for the year, normally a fun concert in December, and always sold out, was not so good as their principal conductor had suddenly left, and his place was taken by an Australian conductor who a) I could not understand one word he said and b) he does not mesh with the players well. The performance of Sheherazade was quite the worst I have heard, ever. Normally the SSO are excellent players but it seems that this conductor brings out the worst in them. Oh well. As this is the second concert conducted by him that I have not enjoyed, I don't think I will attend any more that he is listed for.